Case Study of a Short Film: “The Man With The Spying Glass” part 1
Below is the case study I created by my last short film as well as my general experience as a filmmaker on this production.
“The Man With The Spying Glass” is a self-financed short film.
Post-production: 7 weeks
Length: 13’51 min
Placit lives in a dreamless society where people have to take pills to stop dreaming and thinking. Almost everyone wears helmets, which gives the global government access to human thoughts.
Placit’s most profound dream is to be a puppeteer, an artist, someone that the official government disapproves. However, he is afraid to go against the system which was created by his father and strongly guarded by Placit’s cynical self.
- First I had an idea about a man living in a hotel room and spying on people using a spying glass.
- I started playing with the spying glass idea.
- Then I started asking myself questions… what if my character would do this or that? What if? Why do I make the film is the most important question one can ask while making one.
- I started wondering what do I want my film to be about.
- Inspired by one film I gave my character a name, which was Placit.
- I decided that Placit was going to live in an oppressive society.
- I also decided that it was going to be a one-man film.
- To create some conflict in the story, I decided that Placit was going to try to go against the system.
- I didn’t know that Placit was going to live in a dreamless society until I started writing the script.
- Remarks, notes.
- Anything can trigger the initial idea for the script.
- Don’t be afraid to play with ideas in your mind.
- Give yourself time to get acquainted with the concepts & ideas you have, let them grow inside you.
- You don’t have to know all the details right away and how the story is going to evolve before you write a script. Many issues get resolved during the writing process.
- When all ideas and concepts have rested and grown (just like dough) for a while in my head, I sit down and start writing.
- I write anything that comes to my mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect, not from scratch at least. Anyway, often the concept changes and evolves while writing.
- Writing is nothing more than rewriting. So I revise whatever I wrote and then rewrite whatever I rewrote before.
- I don’t think about structure. I just let the creative part flow.
- When I have each scene roughly described I start rewriting.
- If any new ideas or concepts come up I decide to follow this lead, sometimes it’s a cul de sac, but mostly it is worthwhile.
- At some point after working on“The Man…” For a very long time, I discovered that I hated everything I wrote apart from the character’s name.
- After my meltdown, I got stuck and didn’t know which way to go. I decided to move to another project and give“The Man with the Spying Glass” a rest and let it grow again.
- I went looking for some inspiration in books, films and everyday situations.
- After I cooled down, I went back to the first step, which is the primary concept. I started wondering what are the things that I care about the most and I’m afraid of the most.
- I started writing the script once again, and I found the new focus for the story.
- And rewriting again…
- … until I was happy enough to make a film out of it.
- During production, we added one sequence of the script.
- During post-production, the order of two scenes was changed and some of the dialogue cut out about the script.
- Don’t be afraid to still work on the script and add or delete scenes etc. during the production and the post-production.
- I knew the actor I was going to work with so I didn’t need to hold a casting. If I hadn’t had an actor, I would have organised casting then. And probably I’d have gone to see a few theatre plays.
- Since I had an actor, I started looking for the crew when we were pretty early in the pre-production process. I knew the DOP I was going to work with since we had worked together before and he had brought a lot of his crew with him.
- My producer started negotiating dates and money with the crewmembers (make-up, camera operator, lights, sound, etc.
- We (me and my producer) started looking for a studio where we could build our set.
- The most problems we had were finding the right sound recording team.
- We also had a very long search for the right production designer. But it was worthwhile since he turned out to be a professional, inventive and dependable guy & managed to build the whole city in 2 days.
- I got all the contracts ready for the key crew members. You have to sign contracts regardless whether you work with friends or not, just in case. You may stop being friends one day.
- I prepared all the production documents thought I might have needed during the production.
- I started working on the script analysis.
- I started visualising the shots I would like to have in the film, and I made a shoot list.
- I started thinking about the set design and which way I would like to go.
- I watched a lot of movies for inspiration.
- I had meetings with each crew member. So once on the set, we all knew which way we were going to go.
- Once again I thought that I wasn’t going to have any music in my film. But I was lucky enough to meet an amazingly talented and incredibly openhearted composer Jan Broberg Carter. Jan agreed to write the music for “The Man with the Spying Glass” free of charge and even paid her travel expenses to be on the set with us.
- Design a proper storyboard together with your DOP and production designer. Don’t work from your notes and your shoot list. It’s not reliable material to work from.
- Remember that the better you are prepared for the pre-production, the easier production will go and the more time (and money) you save.
Working with the actor.
- Generally speaking, I like to be prepared (and I mean PREPARED), so I start rehearsing with the actor/actors as soon as I can.
- Preparing for“The Man…” at the first meeting we talked about the script and what it meant to us. [If we can (me and the actor/s), we try to find in the script references to real life. I usually ask a lot of questions so the actor/s can start thinking about the answers in their “free” time, when we don’t see each other]
- Next meeting we had was all about answering the questions we spoke about previously as well as analysing each scene.
- The third meeting was all about reading the script. We often stopped and talked about the meaning behind each scene. We tried to do a few physical actions at the end of the meeting.
- Our next rehearsal was all about physical action. We weren’t able to work on the set unfortunately which makes working out the physical action so much more difficult. But it’s still worth trying out a few things.
- Since Pawel isn’t a native English speaker and the script was in English, I arranged a meeting with a native speaker who helped Pawel with pronunciation.
- We had our last rehearsal the day before shooting, and this time it was on the set. Working on the set is extremely vital for the character development and the actors’ security. That was the time to work out the physical action and make Pawel acquainted with his character’s natural environment.
- Remember that even if you don’t have the time or money to rehearse with your actors, still try to find at least some time to have a cup of coffee with your actor/s. These people are going to represent your film on the screen.