Penny Black Post-Prod begins ~ Joe

Thanks to all the musicians sending us tracks for potential inclusion in the soundtrack.
I haven’t had time to reply to everyone but will get there eventually!

Here’s an update on where we’re at and how we got here…

Penny Black Lacie Hard Drive

Fish 1: “Ça va ?”, Fish 2: “Oui”.

Data management is the most boring and important part of post production, but it’s kind of fun if you tie it in with dailies (watching the footage you shot that day). So every day after filming, I logged clips into scene folders, which gave us a bit of a head start on post (Our footage folder has 7551 items so it’s a big job).

Penny Black Crew Watching Rushes. Photo by Fiona Jackson. Brands removed.

Penny Black Cast/Crew Watching Rushes in Taupo. Looks like a pretty funny movie.

We didn’t waste time with action continuity during the shoot, which meant actors could change things up and go in different directions every take which is great cos’ it doesn’t lock you into blocking from a master wide and the scene can improve while you’re filming.

Martin Scorcese agrees: “Continuity is for pussies”

We didn’t use a camera slate for principle photography, so when the audio was recorded externally, I had to sync it visually (which takes a while but we couldn’t afford to take another crew member on the road). It helps when actors clap on “camera rolling”.

Anton squashes Toni's beak with a camera slate during pickups in Pukekohe.

Anton squashes Toni’s beak with a camera slate during pickups in Pukekohe. We used take shapes instead of take numbers.

IMPROVISATION

Although every scene in a script has a specific role to play in the story, I knew from the start we’d be doing a lot of improvisation to interact with things we found on the road, which is why we didn’t give actors scripts before auditions. Astra McLaren and Anton Tennet were quite exceptional with improv so I’m pretty grateful we found them. I also think most of Cameron Rhodes ranting dialogue was improvised around a few key lines we gave him.

It’s interesting to see these famous film improvisations:

OFFLINE EDITING

Our editor (my long time friend and collaborator) Brad Davison came on board without any editing notes (just a few reference movies), and went with a “last take is probably the best” approach (which is usually always right).

Since the first assemble edit I’ve been slowly changing performance takes and working through it with him and I’m pretty excited about what we have. It’s been quite fun looking back to see what was left out of the edit like obscure movie references. Some people think it’s clever to reference a lot of movies, but really it just means you’re too lazy to be original (unless you’re putting a new spin on the content).

DURATION

I like Alfred Hitchcock’s idea that “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder” so we’re aiming for 95 minutes duration – although Peter Jackson would disagree with this. Our first “assemble edit” was 126 minutes. Our “rough cut” is now under 110 mins, but we still have a few months ahead of us!

HELP WANTED

We are currently looking for:

  • Graphic Designers (for VFX advertising in the film and promotional posters)
  • A Web designer (we can do better than this and have more features to add)
  • Web Hosting
  • Foley Artist
  • VFX Artists (for one or two shots)

Please get in touch if you are keen to help. 🙂

TECHNICAL (FOR NERDS)

  • We’re editing on a year-old bottom-of-the-range iMac computer (2.5Ghz, 4Gb Ram). I figure if Rian Johnson could get away with using a shitty iMac to edit Brick, so can we. (We’ll use a better computer for the online edit)
  • We’re editing in Final Cut Pro with 720P Prores Quicktimes from Red Cine-X (Brad wanted Avid but I set it up in FCP before Brad got to it)
  • Files are stored on 6Tb Lacie Thunderbolt hard drive and backed up on USB drives (yes, this was a significant part of our budget)
  • We’ve done colour grade tests with DaVinci Resolve software which are looking good.
  • Visual Effects Pre-Vis is being done in After Effects but VFX software is TBC, depending on who we get to do the online edit.
  • Final Output could still be in 4K, but most likely 2K or HD.
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It’s a Wrap! (almost…) ~ Joe

We’ve filmed in Huntly, Hamilton, Taupo, Napier, Wellington, Te Aroha, Auckland, Pukekohe and lots of small towns and roads on the way. Of course the small towns are just as important as the cities, but we often didn’t know where we were. We took a “this location looks good for this scene” approach, and often took detours to find quiet roads.

<- Our location map looks a little something like this.

We’ve now wrapped our principle characters, completing our “Principle Photography” storyline with the exception of a few VFX shots, and our LAPWING superhero unit.

It’s been crazy.

It’s been dangerous.

It’s been fun.

Penny Black may be the first feature film I’ve ever directed, but it’s also the best one.

Now we concentrate on the Hamilton production of LAPWING. More info on that soon.

In the meantime, here are some interesting numbers:

PRINCIPLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Days Filming: 27 (including part days)
Weeks: 16 (2 full time)

Vehicles: 4 (3x Wicked Campers ~ Cast, Camera, Art Dept, and an RV for unit/production)

Cast: 38 (5 Principle, 8 Supporting, approximately 25 extras)
Crew: 10 (6 core crew, 4 off-set / or one-off rad people)
Road Distance: 1385Km (first 2 weeks only)

Police warnings : 1 (swinging hockey stick out window)
Speeding tickets: 1 (plus 2 for me in the week before filming)
Parking Tickets: 1 (Fiona made it as a prop, surprising we didn’t get a real one)…


Cars beeping at us: 30 (approx – most were angry locals in Hamilton and Taupo, I think the others were just teenagers excited about the Red Camera)

Near Death Experiences: 6 (Approximately – Astra says 7, Anton says less, I only endorsed 2)

Near Death Experiences caught on film: 1 (almost crashing on motorway – it looks rad)

Highest number of takes: 14 ( Moehau getting hit in the head with a tennis Ball )

TECH SPECS FOR NERDS

Data Size: 4 Terrabytes (plus a backup hard drive the same size)
Cameras: 4 (but really just 1)~ Red Scarlet-X, Canon 5DmkII, Canon 60D, GoPro
Resolution: 4k (4096 x 2048 pixels) & HD for other cameras (hopefully won’t use them)
Aspect Ratio: 2.41
Redcode Compression: 6:1 (low light) and 8:1 up to 12:1 (Ext Day).
Shooting Ratio: 15:1 (estimated by file size which includes all wild footage).
Longest Take: 34 mins (GoPro on vehicle in front of Zebra Van on State Highway 1)

THANKS AGAIN

To all the kind folk who have volunteered their time and effort into making this project get this far.

“It’s not nailed down in stone yet” – Lapwing

You fullas are awesome. ~ Joe

Good, Fast, Cheap. Filmmaking priorities.

It’s said that you can’t make a film good, fast and cheaply, you can only pick two. It goes without saying that we choose ‘good’. And we choose cheap out of necessity, so we have to sacrifice speed. And for Penny Black, and I would think most self-funded films, this works pretty well.

Most of our travel shots were in the can after our road trip to Wellington, but we still have the first act to shoot around Auckland. We all have jobs (not ‘real’ jobs, necessarily 🙂 ) so we’re mostly shooting on the weekends, and though I am inherently impatient and in fact EVERYONE is hanging out to watch the movie, I have to admit that this is an easier way to make a film when you have a small crew, several of whom are doing more than one job.

From my position, having 5 days to prepare for the next weekend shoot gives me time to address any script issues and print new pages for the cast and crew. I unpack the boxes of props, set deco, and other random stuff I always take to set. And, of course, locate and wash the wardrobe, towels, blankets, rags, etc that we’ve used. I have time to confirm any new cast members we have joining the team, double check locations, book vehicles, sort catering, replace anything broken or lost, drop the expenses into the budget, touch base with sponsors (including our pledgeme peeps), break down the scenes we’re filming next and get all the props, wardrobe, and set deco packed, post new pics on facebook, and update this blog.

So in my experience it’s true. You can’t have good, fast and cheap. You can only pick two.

And I think accepting that has given us time to plan, to organise, and to refine our ideas, and overall, to make a better film.

~ Fiona

Feelin’ the love in Te Aroha

We had a great weekend shooting in Te Aroha despite the lack of continuity provided by the typically changeable New Zealand weather. We filmed in Chances surf shop, and started the big chase scene involving many locations and a lot of precision driving (for me – such fun!!)

The weather wasn’t exactly co-operative, that’s one of the things I really miss about filming in California. With rain about one week of the year weather continuity isn’t much of an issue there. But we filmed between the heaviest rain and figure that Hollywood folk will assume we paid out big for a water truck to wet the streets for aesthetic reasons 🙂

It was a great, but strenuous, weekend for our actors. We know we ask for a lot from them, and they tirelessly come though with great performances. We feel amazingly lucky to have found them. Thanks, guys!!

~ Fiona

Windy Wellington

Wellington was our last big stop on the road trip. I changed our accommodation at the last minute and we were totally psyched when we pulled up at Jeff and Chrissie’s cottage in Granada North. Hanging out on the deck we all gazed over the rolling hills and had the same thought. We HAVE to get this in the movie. So one day was spent filming on the small road leading up to the powerstation behind Woodburn Cottage.

With the least amount of locations organised in Wellington I was set to hit the ground running, knocking on doors in the city trying to find someone who would let us film on their building. Absolutely amazingly, the first person we met in Wellington shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Sure, I can get you onto pretty much any building’, and proceed to do so.

We picked up a couple of featured extras in Wellington, including a Spanish guitarist, German, but there was one scene that we didn’t think we could expect a stranger to perform, so Joe and I reluctantly agreed to play the roles of “Jerks”. It’s payback time for the actors… Anton was so psyched about the opportunity to douce us both in coffee that he completely forgot to say his lines 😀

People often ask the differences between filming in New Zealand and California and honestly, we couldn’t do this in Hollywood. It would be a logistical nightmare, we’d need a crew 4 times as big, a budget 10 times the size, and it would all take at least twice as long to film. We’ve found New Zealanders to be so welcoming and interested in the filmmaking process that making Penny Black has been a logistical breeze. Sure, we don’t make union wages, but I can’t imagine anything more fun than making movies in New Zealand with our awesome cast and crew.

We were all sad to be leaving Wellington and heading back north. But, this is only the halfway point in our shooting schedule so still 12 days left. Whoop!!

~ Fiona

Three Nights in Napier!

I think the thing I love most about filming outside big cities is how relaxed and helpful everyone is towards filmmakers.  As soon as we arrived in Napier we looked around for a location to film our beach scene and decided the beach at the end of the Bay View Snapper Holiday Park where we were staying would be perfect. I hesitantly approached the owners to ask if we could light a fire on the beach, ready with reassurances of how careful we’d be, water and fire extinguishers on hand, etc., and was greeted with a encouraging “Yes! That’s a GREAT idea! Go for it!!” They even offered to supply us with firewood.

As Toni (playing the role of Alex) was away for the weekend rehearsing a show in Te Aroha we had a pretty relaxing time in Napier. With this in mind, a few of us decided to go swimming at 3am, and within about 30 seconds we were all skittled by an enormous wave, soaked from head to foot, and freezing. Such fun 🙂 I, however, was the only one who managed to get knocked down yet again the following day while trying to collect water to put out the fire. This time I was fully clothed, so I figure I get bonus stupidity points for that effort 😀

~ Fiona

 

Taupo!

Up bright and early we cruised down to the lake and were greeted by a blanket of fog. And drizzle. Seriously? There’s stunning mountains on the other side of that water?? Undeterred the crew shot a few fun scenes on the shoreline, while I strode off pseudo-confidently to find a café for us to shoot in.

The first café seemed perfect. The exact layout we had in mind, and red chairs, fitting the colour pallet we’d chosen for the film. Within two minutes of walking into Taste  I not only had the perfect location, but the barista had also agreed to play the role of… ‘Barista’ in that scene. It’s always a bit of a concern casting ‘off the street’, particularly when they have dialogue, but Laura completely nailed it, every take.

Our cottage at the All Seasons Holiday Park was amazing. So comfortable it made me start panicking that I’d set the bar too high and the rest of our accommodation would be disappointing by comparison (Fortunately – this didn’t turn out to be the case). With the computer set up everyone gathered around to watch dailies and be impressed by the performances and the quality of the footage we’d captured.

Never fails to get us psyched for the next day 🙂 ~Fiona