Friday, July 31, 2009

Ask Daniel Barber

Virgin Media Shorts are running a Q&A with one of this year's judges, Daniel Barber.

As well as winning numerous prizes for his TV ads, Daniel’s short film "The Tonto Woman" was nominated for an Oscar last year. His first feature film, "Harry Brown", starring Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, is currently in post-production and is tipped to make a splash when it’s released later in the year.

Feel free to ask Daniel about his career in short-film making, the Virgin Media Shorts competition or indeed anything else.

If you’d like to submit a question to Daniel, please leave your question in the comments section or mail here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Q&A: VM Shorts '08 Winners

Ever wonder what happens when you win a competition like Virgin Media Shorts? Well, here are some questions asked and answered...

Q&A with 2008 winners, Phil and Olly:

1.1 Making a film can be equally a challenging and enjoyable. Although this was your first film, excluding the benefits £30k can have on your next production, what other tangible benefits do you feel winning this award offers filmmakers? (question asked by Nicola at 100prints)

I guess other benefits are that you feel encouraged by the fact that people have enjoyed your work, in itself this spurs you on to challenge yourself even further in your next project. The support of the film council is also a great way to work through new ideas, they have so much experience with writing and short film production that the input they can offer to a first time writer is invaluable.

1.2 …and if you were to mentor another filmmaker, what would be the key piece of advice you would provide?

Don’t rush things, enjoy it, and keep questioning yourself, so that you are constantly challenging what you are making and why.

1.3 In your film, a man gets access to a lot of money through something quite special and simple - but as a result ends up in a box. Does recognition for a short film box you into a category - or is it the portal to bigger and better things? (question asked by Josh at Chew TV)

The game is to always move on from what we have already done. All of the projects we do and learning experiences, and each one is different. Our first short was 2:30mins long and silent. Our next film will be 10-15mins and a written dialogue script. These are stepping stones, not pigeon holes.

1.4 Did the money change how you felt about making the film or even the style it was made in? (question asked by Natalie at Chew TV)

You can do a lot more with 30k than with nothing. We really wanted the chance to make a bigger short so we definitely thought about what kind of idea and shooting style would give us the best chance of winning the prize money. The PG rating was the hardest challenge.

1.5 Although you say you hadn’t made a film before Black Hole, what experience(s) helped you create your short? – which experience(s) have proved most useful?

Music videos have been our film school, trying out ideas and techniques, our jobs art directing and editing inform our work massively. We have been on film shoots since we left art school in one guise or another, nothing beats on set experience.

1.6 How long did it take you to make Black Hole? How long do you envisage your new project taking you?

We made The Black Hole from concept to finished film in 2 weeks. 1 day shoot in a friends unused office, a week in the edit, a touch of post production and a few hours in a grade. The next film will take much longer and has been developing since Christmas. Working through ideas, then fleshing them out, picking one to run with, then scripting, re-drafting, casting, location scouting and so on. We are shooting for 3 days with 2 days in rehearsal and a days prep on location then edit, post, grade, print etc. We have had to take 2 months off from earning any money to do it properly. We should be finished by the beginning–middle of September all things going well.

1.7 Do you consider it more worthwhile to make one really complex (in production terms) short film a year, or create 5 -10 simpler films per year when you’re starting out?

It’s good to have practice, but important be considered. Short films are not something we have ever wanted to make lots of. We see these as an exercise in film-making and place more importance on them being of quality than quantity. Music videos are throw away things for someone else, short films are much more personal and hopefully mean something, so we would suggest only making films you really believe in and practise your art in another format.

1.8 You say that you will be ‘picking over it [the script]’ with the UK Film Council and Virgin Media; who specifically have you received support from, what format has that taken and how useful have you found their input?

We have been working with a team from Virgin who have been making sure we are spending their money in the right way, and Rebecca from the UK Film Council who’s advice during the development of our script has been great – offering a wealth of experience to aid us in the process. We have also had friends, family and people in the industry read things through and offer up some often-insightful suggestions.

1.9 Working as a 2 man team seems to have worked really well. Did either Olly or Phil have specific roles e.g. writing, photography, etc whereby their respective skill sets complimented the other’s or do they have similar skills that are enhanced by the other?

We have a pool of experience in the industry which allows us the privilege to know what the other one means when we are taking things through. Both of us have a history in art directing and making, and building things - Phil is a freelance editor and Olly an art director. Our skills definitely compliment each other, allowing us to get involved in every aspect of the production. We both write together and have done for years on other projects, its good to have someone to throw things against and bounce ideas around with, no matter how silly. We collaborate on most things in our productions and with the team around us. Other peoples' skills are very important when it comes to using your own to their fullest.

1.10 Roughly what time and budget, as a percentage, will you put against the various aspects of making your film from concept and pre-production right through to filming, editing and post-production?

3-4 months script development, 2 months pre-production, 1 week rehearsals and 3 day shoot, 2 months for edit, post, sound, delivery.

Time wise that’s: 50% script development, 24% pre-production, 2% shoot, 24% edit, sound, post.

Money wise: 5% pre-production, 75% shoot, 20% post production.

Most of the money will go on the actual shoot itself, next biggest cost is the edit and post production.

Phil and Olly’s new short film, Diamond Dogs, will be out Autumn 2009.

Interview courtesy of Ryan*MacMillan Ltd.