Eibon Films Horror, Fantasy and SciFi writer / filmmaker and friend of the weird

20Nov/180

Shoot Diary – MR CLEAN

I hope that you are well Dear Reader, if in fact anyone is reading this - in that case, I really appreciate you stopping by to find out more about how our short horror film MR CLEAN is coming along.

mr clean temporary

To bring you up to speed, we did in fact end pre-production officially on the 9th November (although some last minute rushing around to buy props and preparation was still being carried out during the down time of the shoot!) and we shot all of our scripted scenes between the 12th and 15th November. Yep, everything was shot within a 4 day period. And we are now swiftly moving into Post Production, although we may yet need minor reshoots.

The shoot was gruelling, with some dauntingly giddy highs and potentially crushing lows. I was emotionally and physically broken at the end. But, thanks to everyone who took part or helped us during the entire production, I was able to finally capture MR CLEAN on camera. Some scenes exceeded my original ideas and storyboard sketches, thanks to the creativity and improvisation of the team and some failed to quite achieve my lofty [and probably unrealistic writerly] vision. But I think that these failures were mostly down to me being behind the camera and us being up against such a tight schedule, that we had no time to double-check every shot and really push that little bit further to achieve the best that we could possibly do. Oh... And the complete lack of sleep... - with me there is always the inability to switch my brain off and sleep like normal humans. Sadly, this is truly debilitating and means that I really was burning the candle at both ends, and definitely not as focussed as I could have been. However, I am still proud of what we were able to achieve with what was available to us. And I really am impressed by how my team performed, what they pulled -off, and truly grateful for every contribution - no matter how small....

Here's edited extracts from my journal, from those shoot days, to hopefully get across the state of my agitated brain during the shoot and hopefully accurately portray what a no-budget production is like (it was written in the evening hours after each shoot day and my head was all over the place, so apologies for any omissions):

Monday of MR CLEAN Day 1 Shoot stress (12th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep thanks to the weighted duvet I had purchased to help deal with any anxiety and quiet my twisted brain.
  2. That I was able to get through a tough first shoot day for MR CLEAN.
  3. That I was able to stretch and foam roll my sore back afterwards.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get through the first day of shooting without a major fuckup.
  2. Get shots that we can be proud of.
  3. The special effects arrived.

Thanks to

Darwin and Ranniz for their hard work and dedication, and Suss for doing most of the laundry and for putting up with the shoot. And Mike for the special effect props.


I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and felt wrong. The blanket had worked and I had been able to have a sweaty night of feverish sleep. But I had slept, which is always a bonus and I think that I had been able to shut most of my fevered, stressed brain down by using the blanket. It was as if the crushing weight of it takes such thoughts away…

But I was stressed, and I woke up funny, as I said. I needed to have a good stretch, before showering and then dressed and cooked and ate my breakfast.

I raced around immediately after all of that and set up lights and tripods and other essential gear around the first location and organised my shoot papers in the study etc, as I prepared for the cast and crew arriving. I took a pre-shoot instagram moment and asked people in internetland to treat us kindly. Were there any filmic Gods to call upon?

Darwin and Ranniz arrived. So then we were soon in the midst of it and with Darwin all amped up and firing questions - and then also interrupting the answers - meant that I wasn’t the best at dealing with some of it. I wasn't the most diplomatic. I am a grump in the mornings sadly. I apologise, but can't change that aspect. Needless to say, they were both professional, put up with me and were a huge help and helped me to get through the shoot intact. However, my back was soon ruined by the weight of the camera, Sigma 18–35mm lens and the monitor. Especially for those hand held shots. Also riding in the back of the van for some shots, and adopting weird cramped positions without any seatbelts, caused me to smack my head on the van roof and it hurt for the entire four day shoot.

It was a shame that it was so damn dark outside, and it was rainy and I was so not with it mentally. I just felt that I wasn’t getting good material at all. I felt that I was back to my old habits on my shoots and settling for less etc. I hated everything and yet I didn’t know whether it was as bad as I was thinking. But there was no time. Onwards!

We did almost get in trouble. We took advantage of the empty car park to shoot the exterior scenes with the van, and found out that they were empty for an official monthly cleaning. And any vehicle there could get a fine or get towed away. We pushed our luck and got told off by them when the people in charge of the cleaning visited to check the place out. But we assured them that we'd be gone by the time they were done and we soon were.

The special effects arrived, announced by a loud banging on the door as they were delivered at 2pmm ruining a take. I really wanted to open the boxes immediately, but waited until the shoot was done and we were packing up. It was a huge weight off my mind that they had finally arrived, and they were really quite impressive. The only disappointment was that the arm was much heavier than I had anticipated and absolutely solid, so I wouldn’t be dropping it onto any tiles some time soon. It was f@cking heavy too. But also, we would have almost no time to practice. We'd needed it all the week before.

Later, after the shoot, at 6pm, when Darwin and Ranniz left, and Suss arrived we went to do our laundry, and then go into town to buy food and more painkillers for my Shingles [and head] pain and then pick up a parcel (the poster for 'K-WAC' for dressing our radio studio location), but stupidly forget my wallet and ID. Luckily Suss had her wallet. Where was my head?!? It wasn't on whatever we were doing, clearly.

Then, back at home, I was reformatting a drive to wipe it and put the dailies / shoot files onto it for Darwin to have and then that wasn’t working. That was stressful. Then I found that the footage of the largest files was unwatchable, due to the size of the VLOG files, so I needed to learn how to encode proxies and then get that working. Sadly I stupidly set off the encoding of loads of other files I didn’t need first, so everything took so long that there was no time to really watch it. I did make sure to back up all of the footage in two other places, for safety and shared a few instagram grabs of choice shots too.

I watched an episode of MAYANS to try and relax.

We had to finish the laundry and make the bed, and I finally managed to wipe that damn drive and encode all of the proxies by the time we were heading to bed.

It was sadly still raining so I could not open the window and cool the room down. I foam rolled the kinks out of my back and neck and meditated in bed with headphones on, under the new weighted blanket. And tried to wipe my mind of stress. (fat chance...)

Tuesday of MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot (13th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep, if only a few hours.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That the blood FX worked a treat.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Find the last props for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for finding me a syringe for blood FX, Terese for taking part in the film and my patient cast and crew for a great shoot day on MR CLEAN.


I managed to sleep a few hours again. This was good. I woke up feeling like ass [and remained half asleep the whole day], and had to force myself up out of bed at 7am to stretch my aching body and put it all back in the right place, as Suss got ready to leave. I dove into the shower for a quick wash and then dressed and wolfed down my breakfast, before preparing the papers and gear for the shoot.

Darwin and Ranniz were here early. So we had a quick update, with a donut and coffee for breakfast, for the guys as a treat. Then we took a look at the footage from the day before. However, although we were slow to go and start work on the shoot, it was the right thing to do, to regroup.

I even showed them the old first cut of BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR (an earlier film of mine). And they liked it.

The shoot overall seemed to go well, despite me being a little sore, tired and snappy in places. But my mood improved as the day improved, as more shots were done and they were ones that I was more proud of generally. We shot scenes 8 and 12 I think - the shot in the car park with bloody overalls, Ranniz becoming a black bin and bucket, body bag combo, decorated with some fake blood, and the Estate Agent shoot with Terese in Stureby. Both were quick and efficient.

However, I think I did trip and kick the HDMI cable from the Smart HD, poking out of the GH5 and bent it. Luckily, bending it back seemed to fix it and I was able to get through the shoot with a functioning monitor.

Darwin and I did fit in a walk into town to take Ranniz to the bus station, so he could get to Stureby before us and I could pick up the K-WAC poster.

Afterwards, Darwin and I drove back to the house, Ranniz went back with Terese, and we copied the files onto the hard drive for Darwin, and backed them up twice for me and discussed the plan for tomorrow.

Darwin then set off to go and pick up the Smoke machine and take the van back. Then I went into town. I called Suss and asked her to see if she could get me a syringe for shooting blood. She said yes. And then I went and bought a red curtain, a sign you pin letters on and lighter fluid for the Zippo. Some hurried inspirational props for the Studio segment.

Felix was his usual nosy self and really enjoyed the excitement of the shoot and constantly fussed around us and tried to get in on the action. Damn cat.

Darwin liked the quick and dirty graded shots I sent him from Day 2. We then had a catch-up planning session, before I then went to make a sign for the studio shot, and then went to watch TV for 30 mins to try and relax.

I just couldn’t relax. There were lots of messages flying around. And yet I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I foam rolled my neck to finish, and rehydrated, but my stomach wasn’t happy and I felt dehydrated, despite downing much water. That burger was dirtier than I thought...

Wednesday of Day 3 MR CLEAN shoot - armless (14th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite no sleep and a splitting headache.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to get a few more shots that I’m proud of.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Sort the black sand and use my intestines for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for the excellent blood FX syringe and pressure spray, and not freaking out at the blood covered bathroom. And to Jaba for taking part in the film and being such a great victim and my patient cast and crew for MR CLEAN.


I didn’t sleep last night, not really if at all. The magic blanket aka the weighted duvet couldn’t deal with my dodgy stomach and my restless stressing brain.

I got up, after meditating [to try and get my shit together] and started stretching my body back into position, after the weight of that duvet had reset it, and then showered, dressed, breakfasted and I prepped / moved some gear back into position for the day’s shooting when Darwin, Jaba and Ranniz arrived.

We were trying to shoot the victim scenes, this meant Jaba was being abducted from outside the house and we were then eating his intestines and then chopping his arm off in the bath and sacrificing him to the Old Ones. A normal day right? No. Sadly a good one and productive, but not all the way through as I had hoped. Felix didn't help when crashing the scenes, so much so that Ranniz had to carry him (as pictured above). And we didn’t get to do the tentacle stuff that day. And we got to use a lot of blood….

Darwin had brought black paint for the sand, but it was quickly found after one quick test to not be working. The brown sand looked grey and it was very matt. Then he had to go and pick up the stuff I’d wanted in the first place.... Sadly, this was part of the shoot, where better communication between us during pre-production would have saved time on the shoot... Luckily, Jaba had fish and knew exactly what I needed. He and Ranniz convinced Darwin, although he was very reluctant - and then they went off to bring it back. It cost us an hour and cost us valuable daylight. But it was totally worth it!

Also, the fact that Darwin did not take part in the rehearsal, that took place before the shoot, meant that we lost valuable time blocking out the scene and explaining what we were going to do, for any scenes that did not feature in the test shoot we did previously. He did a great job when we were doing those scenes that were new to him, but then he inevitably picked the worst moments to then ask what he was doing - usually during a take, while the camera was running, so that it became impossible to keep track of the shots and so going through all the takes would not be as easy. Once we do it it will all work out. But at the time I was often just saying 'f@ck it!' and ignoring the need to use the clapperboard at all.

So that was an issue, but the fact that the arm was not soft and light and slightly rubbery, as I'd envisaged, and that it arrived during the previous day, meant that we had to improvise the shot as we had no time to rehearse - so no time to make it feel more natural - and that also cost us another hour.

Despite all that, I am really grateful for everything they’ve all done and Jaba was awesome. He was a real star. But it was frustrating not getting all of the shots this day. Instead we elected to keep the smoke machine an extra day and get the tentacle shots the following day. We also didn’t get much foley for the afternoon stuff. We’d need to do that another day.

There was a funny incident earlier, when choking Jaba out - when a sweet old lady walking her dog came up to us and asked if we were committing a crime. In our bad Swedish we explained it was a sort of 'Veckans Brott' (The week in crime) a local popular TV show that old people like, and she seemed happy with that, so we carried on choking Jaba.

MR CLEAN - 1 of 1.jpg

They did help me clean up some of the mess, but then they left and I spent hours scrubbing as much as I could to clean the blood off the bathroom. But some of the spots of calk between the tiles were still pink. Pity. But I will work at it. Suss came home at 6pm and was very forgiving, but I felt bad nonetheless.

I backed up all of the footage, twice, created proxies and then carried on cleaning, before we ate pizza for tea and then I cleaned some more, before charing all the things and taking a few nice quick and dirty graded shots to share on social media: these were also kindly received.

I sat and watched FURY to try and relax at the end of the day. I was feeling beat up, and Darwin felt the same after an intense day. However, it didn’t work, soon I was too overtired and had to foam roll my neck and meditate in bed with the headphones to finish, to try and wipe my thoughts. (spoiler - it didn't work)

Thursday of Day 4 MR CLEAN shoot - it’s a wrap! (15th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite little sleep and aches and paints
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 4 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to see it all through, thanks to my cast and crew.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in all of my shots.
  2. To get the tentacle and Studio and street shots that I had dreamed of.
  3. Backup my footage up in multiple places.

Thanks to

My entire cast and crew for helping bring MR CLEAN to life.


I was exhausted by the time that I needed to get up for the last day of shooting on MR CLEAN. Weirdly I had been awake most of the night, restless [and my brain full of me composing shots in the film], full of stress. And I only actually got any real sleep from 6am; a nice 1.5hrs of rest. Soon I was waking up with just half hour to get frantically showered and dressed and ready before they would arrive. Luckily Darwin and Ranniz were delayed in traffic so I could have breakfast too.

We started with doing the internal shoot for MR CLEAN, as he is leaving and taking Jaba’s watch and rings with him. We made it look like night time by taping up the windows and over the double doorway in the hall. Felix of course wanted to get in on the action.

After that we did the tentacle shot. And it was a bit of a farce, but eventually went as desired. The sensitive or movement specific stuff really required subtleties of that movement. But as we had little control or practice of it some of the movements were jerky and off. Sometimes when I was directing the shot, Darwin would sometimes be giving his own direction. So I had to stop him and I felt mean doing it. But once he listened, he understood - as we had discussed this before the shoot [only one director on set] and we soon got much better shots - and then we were no longer confusing poor Ranniz.

After that part of the shoot, poor Ranniz had to race off to drop off the smoke machine and then meet us at St Eriksplan, while I hurriedly packed up all of the gear and Darwin loaded the car. I then cooked and ate, while chatting briefly with Darwin, while trying to get my food down me.

Then we were off and driving, and I found that I couldn’t shut up. I was invigorated by the shoot, crazy with a second wind. And soon also dizzy with tiredness and knew that I needed to keep moving to stay awake.

We had to dump the car and switch the gear to the van and drive to the studio. There we met Ranniz and Sofie, who were both waiting outside the church. And Darwin and I had to find how to get into this one way street outside the studio. Luckily, I convinced Darwin to ignore his instincts to not follow the electronic map and trust me and we got there. It wasn't easy to find. Then I had to unpack my gear from the side of a van and assemble my rig, while dodging cars coming up alongside me and then I could finally say hi to my actors and get ready for the scene, as it started raining.

First we did the scene in the street. We had no choice. The engineer, Gabriel, was not at the studio yet and we couldn’t get access to the building / get the door code. So we improvised. I set up across the road and held an umbrella and tried to set up my master shot, while Ranniz filled-in as her co-worker and Sofie walked off up the road and Darwin followed in the van.

Then we did the reversals up the street from both sides and lastly the interior of the van. This was problematic. Darwin was stressing and trying to get me to hurry things up and it was as if he was almost unintentionally trying to sabotage the shots - as crazy as that sounds. And so when I was finally almost wound down by his intensity, and I caved, he finally tried to urge me to keep going and spur me on to finally nail the shot. And just when I was recovering from the twists and turns of the emotions, and was suddenly grateful in a way, we were then going into the studio. I still don't understand what happened. It's like we were a functioning bipolar production team. Crazy. But it mostly worked!

Now bear in mind that we were booked from 5–7, but wanted to get in early to get started early, so when Gabriel came out and let us in early we were setting up for 3.30pm. So I hadn’t used up much time at all, and yet Darwin was really driving me mad by pressing me to crack on. Again it was confusing to my analytical brain. So when he was trying to contradict me in the shots that I had wanted to get, I had to put a hand on his shoulder to get his attention and remind him about what we had agreed and discussed, that there was only one director on set. However, once we’d dressed the set and got things set up - the only thing that was lacking was the lighting. Everything else was going well - including the curtain, poster and other props and wardrobe etc. It was mostly looking great, but a bit dark.

It was funny and touching how Gabriel was celebrating his birthday that day and then two women came in to sing him happy birthday. And we were there. I bet he felt like a celebrity.

Gabriel was up for being in the shoot, but at first he couldn’t switch off from doing the sound. So it may have looked like his quest for perfection was driving Sofie to the point of frustration and it was at risk of getting in the way of me getting my desired performance. But we got it. At least I think we got it. We certainly got nice shots. I’m not sure in hindsight about the lighting. And I didn’t like that I was being rushed. And yet, just when I thought I was about to give up, spent, Darwin spurred me on to get the money shot, the closeup of Sofie’s mouth and the microphone. Again I was confused by this. - obviously as creatives we attune ourselves to the unique qualities of the other, with more time and practice. But it was perplexing all the same.

Then, when we were in the moment of a wrap, and congratulating and thanking each other, and yet we also then had to suddenly pack up, remove all of the set dressing and props and lights and pack up the gear etc and get the hell out of there. And then we were on the street with a packed van, saying goodbye and hugging. Sofie and Ranniz walked off to the tbana, Darwin and I went to drop the van off. Gabriel went to finish his broadcast - after giving us the audio.

I had hoped to have a mini wrap party right after the shoot in a local bar, but sadly it wasn't to be.

Back at the car park, we pulled the MR CLEAN ident from the van, and transferred the gear to the car, before we then drove back to mine - via the pizzeria, to buy burgers for both of us [a less dirty one for me]. Then we got home to have a beer, transfer the footage to the different backup drives and look at a few shots, eat and chat.

Darwin left around 8pm. I then set about cleaning up, moving the gear back into my studio or the spare room, and finding random spots of KY Jelly and blood, and trying to clean them up.

I tried to relax, showered and put red heat on my shoulders, and back and then sat and tried to watch a bit of a film to relax.

I foam rolled my neck and went straight to bed and meditated myself to sleep. But then after being disturbed, I was lying awake…

If you want to see more shots, check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lee.bailes.writer?


Some observations / lessons learned:

Had we done some of these things I truly thing the film would be better and have gone smoother, and I think that they will be my focus for the production of MR CLEAN 2 and 3:

  • More people. We needed a larger crew. Having people around means less space and more mouths to feed and more people to direct. However, the lack of a script continuity person and a dedicated cinematographer, and a knowledgeable lighting person, meant that we were all having to perform multiple roles to fill in on the day. Believe it or not, but most of the shoot we were literally only three people.
  • More lighting gear. You can never have too many lights. We really put every light that we had to use, but we needed more. Some shots were too flat as a result.
  • Less locations. We were ambitious and creative and maximised our locations. However, the distance between them and the time to strip everything down, pack it away and then reassemble it, only to strip it back down again and move on, was a huge factor against efficiency. It's why most horror low budgets are one-room / location efforts.
  • Our special FX props arriving far too late - this meant that there was no time to practice beforehand. Not really. So we may need to reshoot the tentacle scene.
  • Rehearsals and blocking are key - The fact that I was not able to block out scenes and rehearse with my main actor before the shoot, meant that essential time was lost communicating what I wanted and that ate into the shoot time. I will not shoot a single scene of the next films without ample rehearsal time.

Anyway, I'm sure there is always more to share. But this is already of an epic length. If you read it all, I hope it was illuminating. If you didn't and skimmed it, I don't blame you. Thanks again for stopping by! Just think of me, being ill, after having worn myself down through lack of sleep and stress. And I hope that if you come back in the future, you'll think that it was all worthwhile!...

MR CLEAN - 4 of 4

And please do think highly of my cast and crew! They're awesome!

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7Nov/180

Update – the ups and downs – MR CLEAN

Wow. Filmmaking is tiring. You forget this, when you don't do it for years. I mean real filmmaking, which involves putting a full production together, and building a crew up from the ground, because you're living somewhere where you don't know anyone in the industry and have to start from scratch. And you are trying to wear so many hats and perform so many different tasks, and all while doing a day job with urgent aggressive deadline requirements. Kudos to anyone who does this and doesn't whinge about it and takes it on the chin and gets it done!

Anyway, this time since the last update has been fraught. It's been a real rollercoaster of ups and downs. Where one minute we have 'this' and then we lose 'that'. Where 'that' is back again and 'this' is now missing. The twists and turns of real life filmmaking are more exhausting than the plots I can contrive. But that is what pre-production is like.... One minute I want to do a feature film already and the next minute I never want to pick up a camera or plan a shoot, or break the bad news to an unsuccessful auditioning actor again....

Here's a quick summary of what's gone on:

  • We completed our casting process - seeing a surprising number of dropouts and no-shows, compared to the actresses applying for the same types of shoots in the US and UK. Basically it would seem that Swedish actresses either have more self-doubt or less motivation to actually learn lines and audition, or are really busy working actors because there are less of them per population? I'd hate for either to be the case. But based on the data, there's no other call to make. However, the outcome is that we now have our lead actress, who will rise from the ending of this current film and lead the next two planned sequels. And we've found two more actresses, that were runners up, who we'd really like to also work with. Huge props to Pontus for sorting the best casting venue. That was also a mission for uneducated Stockholmers such as ourselves.
  • We reached out to the Swedish Film Board, to find out about permits and the like and have received zero replies. To be honest, I'm not surprised. There's a lot of filming going on right now and they must be very busy. I saw two film shoots going on in my neighbourhood alone today.
  • We formed a skeleton crew. And we lost our cinematographer, due to a clash with dates. Then we moved the shoot and gained the cinematographer again and now that we're a week away from the shoot we unfortunately lose them again. You can't lose what you never really had right? - but all it means is that the small crew will all wear more hats. it'll slow us down a bit, but make the logistics easier in some ways, e.g. less vehicles to use to move cast, equipment and crew around when needed. It's a real shame, but it's happened on so many films I've experienced and to be honest, I knew it would be foolish not to assume that something might go wrong.
  • We put a shoot schedule together and then had to completely move the whole shoot, due to failing to get a minor location one that suddenly became much more significant as the script evolved - and now, when we were just about to move the shoot again, we finally get our location with one week to spare. Cue much frantic scurrying to get everything else in place. But huge very-grateful thanks to Darwin and Terese for calling through a list of 60 locations to get the one we need! - Especially as Darwin is finishing of the post production of DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE.
  • We used the extra time to redo the bad intestines I made, to create some much better ones. We've antiqued our Cleaver, which finally arrived. But we've still not received our main show piece FX. Although the workshop pics look awesome. The pain I went through just to buy candles I wouldn't wish on anyone. But still a few props to track down.
  • Trying to write a sequel, in between texts and calls and while builders are jamming crowbars into the wall by your head, or hammering and sawing outside....
  • We have the artwork that we needed for set dressing, and now that we have another location, we suddenly have to create more stuff to dress that location and weave it into our filmic world.
  • Meanwhile, I've been trying to create briefs to help form the characters, and communicate the origins of the story and why a character needs red hair and what shade of red hair, and why some are naked and some are not... and all of this gets in the way of the planning and headspace you need to create that filming world in your head all over again. Because you had to put it away when the shoot got pushed back and now you must dust it off again. And the doubts are back... have you planned enough? Do you know what you're doing?

Apologies for dumping that huge mental list on you. But that really is what it's like. You create a huge list of tasks, and the team tick them off as they go and then things change and you discover more tasks that need to be completed and so on, and the clock slowly runs out and the shoot date looms....

But we'll be fine. Things will and can go wrong. But if we can keep our heads and keep our humour, hopefully we'll remember to enjoy the process and we'll end up getting all of the shots we need in the can, and be surprised and spoilt for choice for how much material we can choose from in the edit... and not wishing for shots we had to compromise on. And more importantly, raring to go on parts 2 and 3 - which I really need to finish writing, as soon as this one is shot.

A huge thanks to anyone helping us on this crazy journey. I love you all. <3 🙂

 

 

 

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6Oct/180

A busy week – Pre production diary

Pre-production fun

 

So it's been a full-on week of pre-production on MR CLEAN (click to read more):

 

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27Sep/180

MR CLEAN

So... I've been neglecting you. Sorry. Will it happen again? Probably, if past behaviour is anything to go by....

So quite some time has passed. And during that time I've been through the ringer, health-wise. Let me fill you in on what you've missed:

  • Worked a lot. And was exhausted by the end of it. This including making a short promotional film for a friend, to promote the release of his computer game.
  • Went to Japan in March and April for the trip of a lifetime. Had an amazing time, 17 days travelling across Japan and came back exhausted through lack of sleep.
  • Got a stomach bug, while still exhausted from Japan. This weakened my system so that I then got Shingles. It took months to recover from and I am still daily suffering from random attacks of chronic pain from it.
  • Had a lot more work to do and had to do it while battling the pain and the heat of the hottest summer on record - while sweltering in my pants (there's an image you didn't want in your head). Cue a lack of sleep and a complete neglect of all creative activities until the worst of it subsided.
  • I managed to edit the photos from that trip to Japan, but haven't finished editing the 4hrs of footage down to something more palatable. Essentially the VLOGs are dead for now.
  • I also finished writing a new short, called MR CLEAN, at the start of August.
  • I went to the Lake District and to visit friends, and then to Skiathos, where upon my return my cat got himself lost for a week.
  • During that whole period, from April to September, I had been suffering a massive depression. I had become burnt out through the demands of work and my ill health, and I had also seriously considered ditching all social media; this poor neglected blog included. I tried not to wallow, to turn things around and get my shit together. As a result of a new regime of behaviours I've tried to cultivate, I've lost some weight, I am more productive and marginally happier. Will it last? Who knows... but I'm not giving in easily!

What is Mr Clean?

So, now that you're up to speed, what is MR CLEAN? Wasn't this post supposed to be about that? - Yes. Right you are then...

I had written a darkly fun short about a nice guy who breaks into people's homes and cleans them up, to explore why he might be doing such things. It's a variation of an old idea, fused with a bit of inspiration for adding something new and also seeing if it could be done for a very low budget, perhaps even shot at home.

After spending some time over the holiday to do a few storyboards for the film - actually part of an exercise from the Martin Scorsese Masterclass - and yes I am crazy enough to want to do this while on a beach, with a beer in hand. So it was homework essentially. But made fun. - I then shared the storyboards with my good friend Darwin Reina, to see what he thought.

Darwin and I were both in a creative rut of kinds. I went around to view the rough edit for DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE and showed him the storyboards and let him re-read the script. He was immediately enthusiastic about it and asked a very poignant question: "Why aren't we making this?" To which, I had no answer. I had wanted to do it earlier in the year before I got sick...

So we talked it through.... Could it be done? If so, how? Where? When? With who?

And that my friends brings you fully up to speed. At the end of October, we are shooting MR CLEAN. We're going to shoot it mostly at my place, shoot it with the GH5, in 4K, and we're going to try and make it as great as possible.

Here's a quick and dirty test shot - where we just looked to take the storyboard frame and plan which lenses to use and where to put the camera, to get the shot on the day - because we're crazily going to try and get it all done in 4 days...

Here's a screen grab from a test shot of Darwin as MR CLEANHere's the cruddy storyboard of mine, below (top left) that we've recreated above.

We've broken down the script and done a test shoot - so we can perfect our workflow for the edit as well as not dick around too much on the day of the shoot. We still need to sort our lighting. Special FX are being prepared. We've sorted vehicles. We may have a composer and we're searching for an actress. It may just happen... but still so much to do and to fall in place for the shoot.

Wish us luck!

And if we pull it off. There are already two planned sequels. Yes, this might just end up being a small short film web series.

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28Dec/170

new iMac Pro – it arrived!

thumbnail for youtube video

New iMac Pro box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I got the new iMac Pro - it arrived a week earlier than expected and I had to unbox it immediately.

Here's the rushed video of the unboxing: https://youtu.be/psENjn3CbT8

I'll do a review of it soon if anyone's interested. But for now, I'm very happy with it.

 

New iMac Pro

New iMac Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes it is expensive! Yes it is a huge financial investment. But I have been waiting for this machine for a good two years, and carefully saving my pennies and biding my time. I last bought my MacBook Pro in 2012 and so after 5 years, it's finally meeting its match when trying to be my main writing machine and video editing machine. It was time to invest in newer kit for the video editing side of things. Especially now that I'm playing around with 4K footage. And the MacBook Pro will mainly become my backup on the move machine for writing and only occasionally editing - until that too can be replaced (as it's not really good for more than 30 mins long HD projects). But this new iMac will be my main workstation from now on.

It looks kind of small in the picture, but that's only because there's a new 32" 4K monitor next to it.

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5Dec/170

Things to get used to – import costs and a lack of manuals

As an aspiring filmmaker, there are two things that you have to get used to, if you want to be able to obtain the gear that you drool over in other people's social media feeds:

  1. Import costs: everything that I can only buy on the internet and not through an approved local retailer comes with an added random cost imposed by the tax office / csutomers. Joy! This usually means that your parcel is held hostage until you can pay the ransom, so that you can take it home. Because, after all, no Swedish hands had anything to do with putting half of my imported items together, but of course I'd be defrauding the Swedish government of money by not paying them for the fact that no bugger already legally imports these items and sells them within Sweden, right? And it's cheeky, because you're already paying a premium to ship the damn thing to yourself, and the seller gets to mark up your item in the currency exchange too. Now you have to pay a third cost and you have zero say in the matter. Fun times!
  2. A lack of documentation / manuals: Usually, such items either come with an incomprehensible manual (either in a foreign language or merely some dodgy sketches and no words at all), or no documentation at all. As happens with my latest purchase. This is ok when you can figure out from website pictures how to assemble and use your items. However, if something were to break, do you know how to ask for a replacement part, if you don't know what the parts are called? and if you break it through accidental misuse, then it's all down to you.

I bought a Lan Parte GH5 camera kit / rig (http://www.lanparte.com/product/info_45_itemid_483.html) for my camera and I love it. However, it really would have saved me some time and some head scratching to get a piece of paper with it / booklet that explains how to assemble it all! And it would have been great not to have to pay an extra 440 SEK in ransom, to take the item home.

Of course, now that I have this, I realised that I also need to order the camera shoulder rig (http://www.lanparte.com/product/info_45_itemid_493.html) and the follow focus... some nice early Xmas presents for the Swedish government....

PS - it's worth saying that no one has forced me to buy these things. However, when a local retailer failed to fufill my order for the 8Sinn cage and handle, and I couldn't find any other options, I decided to chance buying it abroad. Also, I bought it in the full knowledge that I could have been ripped off or it might have been faulty / incorrect. You pays your money and you takes your chances basically. Luckily, I was very well taken care of by HMI US (https://www.facebook.com/HypermediaINTL ). I just wish these guys had a local Swedish reseller. 🙂

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25Oct/170

Camera swap – time for 4K

Gear porn is a hard addiction to fight. Our desire to stay ahead of current trends in video production, to produce something that can hold its head up high in an ever changing media landscape is tough to keep apace. And I know, in that regard, that I'm an addict. And it's hard to deny the urges that stem from creative desires...

It's little more than a year that I've been playing with and trying to master working with HD video - namely 1080p. Trying to shoot for web delivery and produce videos that can hold their heads up next to the kind of visuals that we can see on the small screen. Although I am obviously not a professional cinematographer, in the traditional sense - as in someone that almost exclusively studies their craft and is hired to capture a marketable vision for others - I do hope that until I can get the chance to work with a professional, that my own visuals will hold up along side that of my peers. And until then master the pesky world of DLSR videography, at least to a point that i can be proud of the results. Currently, I'm not near where I want to be. I'm still a beginner.

But when I wanted to shoot a new film - and was deciding, during pre-production, what I was going to do with the film, I found that there was a little voice that kept talking about not doing the film in 1080p and trying 4K...

The use of 1080p is clearly waning. Now is the time for 4K... and then what? 5 or 6K? lol. No I won't chase every passing bandwagon. But I do think that 4K should be with us for a good while yet. So now is the time for me to invest in it and learn how to use it. My problem is that I don't currently have a computer powerful enough to handle 4K yet. So I'm waiting for Apple to sort their lives out and hurriedly release the new Mac Pros. It's been a long time coming and if they disappoint, I will have to jump to another PC manufacturer, after years as a loyal Mac fan, as they've already wasted enough time and ignored their pro customers long enough. So until then, I'm focussing on the camera - to worry about the edit later.

So why 4K?

4K (3840 pixels wide × 2160 pixels high) is a much bigger frame than 1080p (1920 pixels widw and 1080 pixels high). Even if you plan to release a 1080p movie, that bigger frame gives you plenty of options to crop creatively, to compose artful frames, that were better than that shot on the day. It also gives you more power to stablise unintentionally jerky shots in the edit. But it also future proofs your footage, assuming that 4K TVs become the new mainstream home viewing format.

So what camera have I chosen?

Z-PANASONIC-GH5-BEAUTY

It was a tough decision. I loved the ease of use, using my Canon 70D. And for vlogging, my point-and-shoot G7X MKII. However, Canon seem unwilling to solve the 4K riddle for their lower end semi-prosumer clientelle. I waited and they failed to deliver a good affordable 4K camera. Yes they've delivered what they call 'affordable' models in the C200 MKII and the C300 etc, but they're hardly affordable for people on lower budgets for anything other than as a rental. And I don't see much to like in their other DSLR range. So even though I love the way they do things and their glass, it was time for a change.

Now I loved what I saw in the Canon C200 MKII, the Panasonic EVA1 and the Black Magic Ursa Mini Pro. But if you buy those, then you still have to buy more gear to go with each. And you'd have automatically doubled your costs before you've even invested in storage to capture your footage on. I just couldn't justify the investment right now. Also those cameras are big. for my needs, right now, smaller is better. But in the future?...

It was a tossup between Sony or Panasonic, for me. Sony seem to have mastered the low light capability - something the guerilla filmmaker needs to deal with every day. But after using the RX100 MKIV and trying to Vlog with it and seeing how they p*ss battery power up the wall in minutes, I was not keen to invest in a more expensive camera that might have had similar issues. Also, their cameras tend to have a softer look that didn't quite do it for me. Instead, I went for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 - mainly because I heard much of the previous GH4 model - as a go-to for many wedding videographers and low budget filmmakers. They tend to bea bit more vocal about this camera than I tend to see in the Sony world. Having an active community to support you and advise you is key to me, as a learner. And I will just have to be creative when it comes to getting enough light.

The GH5 isn't cheap. Nor is it a simple proposition to switch format and then invest in new gear. Everything comes with a little risk. But so far I am happy. And before I committed to my chosen path I wrestled with the decision for a couple of months and did so much research that I felt incredibly depressed by the thought of doing any more.

For me, I was lucky in that I chose to switch at a time when my Canon gear, although it had depreciated in value, was desirable enough to give me a decent sum in a part exchange. So I had a good starting sum to play with. Then I waited for the new firmware update for the GH5 to come out - as there had been many criticisms of the camera on it's initial release earlier this year. And then I pounced. 🙂 At least it felt that way.

I purchased the body and then of course, unless you want to also invest in a speedbooster adapter, so that you can use your existing Canon glass with the different format camera - the GH5 is a Micro 4/3rds format - you then need new lenses. Lenses are not cheap - not if you want to invest in Pansonic lenses with inbuilt image stabilisation, so you fake a gimbal-like smooth moving shot. Although there are many cheaper 3rd party lenses that don't have that stabilisation - as well as 2nd hand lenses that do, but have dropped in value. Also, if you want to shoot in V-Log (a professional video codec that enables you to shoot in a professional format and then colour grade the footage later), you then need to buy the license key to unlock that pro format in the camera. The SD cards needed for that V-Log format at 4K are also very expensive, and have recquired SD card manufacturers to develop a new way of marking their cards, to guarantee that they can handle the footage. You need lots of them too, as 4K will eat up lots of storage in the shoot, nevermind the hard drive space you'll need when you take it into the edit. In short, I could go on with what I am learning, but it is truly dizzying to see how much other gear costs need to be factored in when building a kit - e.g. lights, sound gear etc. So I won't bore you any more. But suffice it to say that this camera, with a few more lenses will complete my basic kit and give me plenty to learn and keep me plenty occupied for a while now.

So far I've only had the briefest of time to play with the photo capability, to try out the new lenses and installed the new firmware update - I've purchased but I am waiting for the V-LOG key and have yet to put try editing any footage. But soon! First I need to go through the manual and play play play!

For now, my gear porn addiction is sated. Now comes the post purchase guilt and the need to shoot this damn movie. And then will inevitably come the post-production issues that I need to research and rehearse before the shoot. It never stops. Right?

Links:

Some video links that might be helpful:

GH5 Cinema Set-up & Tests: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0btY-irwawk

Panasonic GH5 - Everything I found out that you should know:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6O0XrHzGgk

Pansonic GH5 6 months later: https://youtu.be/N6BcaykMp88

4 Best Video Cameras for Indie Filmmakers in 2017: https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/4-best-video-cameras-for-indie-filmmakers-in-2017-aec

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15Jul/170

Don’t Forget To Breathe – in production now

Film poster for DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE

DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE

DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6207538/?) - a film I co-wrote with Darwin Reina, is being shot right now in Barcelona, and I'm not there. It's a weird feeling. On the one hand, I am super stoked that the film is going ahead - after a lengthy but much needed pre-production period. On the other, I'm feeling a bit disconnected from it - a social media lurker, merely peering in through the lens of posts on Facebook and Instagram and checking up on progress. It's strange... so why am I not there?

I've been working my fingers to the bone recently - I had some very tough script deadlines to meet and some business travel to conduct. All of that is now done. And soon my holiday starts. But right now I am exhausted. Any creative will know that feeling of having recently achieved something significant, but then being in a weird limbo of not knowing if it is even any good? If people will even like what you've created? And having given everything to hit that deadline and to then be utterly crushed as the weight is removed from your shoulders - and the rest of you sags to the floor. The fact that I am able to sleep right now - in my new house and new bed - is propping me up. My brain is firing on all cylinders creatively, having been well-warmed up by the recent productivity, but I need to allow myself to rest and not dive into the next big thing right away. And that also means that although I technically could jump on a flight to Barcelona.. and book a hotel... should I?

Image of a magnetic whiteboard

Creativity lives here... or does it?

I've worked on films before and it is exhausting. It's an amazing process - long days, lots of standing around, great camaraderie etc - but although it can be incredibly rewarding and give you a chance to forge new creative relationships, it can also be very draining. If it was in a week, I'd be there. But right now... I need to cling on to rest.... My holiday starts then. But right now, I'd be no good to them. I'd be the worst kind of on set hanger on. A sleepy and irritable guy,  and feeling like a zombie the whole time, trying to follow what's going on and needing everything to be explained to him again in another language - and merely delaying and exacerbating the inevitable crash that will follow. After all the film is being shot in Spanish and although I did a year of it in school, it was 35 years ago and I can only order a cool beer right now. I'd only have to get people to use English, and it would bring the wrong kind of vibe to what is by all accounts an otherwise smooth production. So despite being torn, and really wanting to be there, I must give in to my need to rest. After all, I've been working crazy hours, often 7am to 1opm all week round for weeks on end, and doing this since November!

So all I can do right now is urge you to check out the social media feeds, follow and share the posts and await the eventual film - as I am doing.

I'm waiting in case the cast or crew have a question about the script that I can help with. I'm going to be there to help Darwin with the edit and the post production. And when we make the next films that I am writing for him, we'll do it together.

For now, I have a big magnetic white board to fill, and it's crying out for some index cards, some story beats and some fresh ideas. I can do this from an arm chair. It's a kind of rest. It's creative. But I'll also be hawk-eyed on my social media feeds...

Good luck guys! ¡Buena suerte!

 

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11Jul/162

Of Vlogging and gadgets

So I've been busy. And it's been a fun kind of busy - which is good, because life really isn't fun right now. But I have been productive and tried to find excuses to stay busy and create something. So what if a little retail therapy is involved, right? So what if it is draining my bank balance? (Seriously, this sh*t can get really expensive!)

But - I have been busy, playing with iPhone videography, learning more about DSLR video and playing with my Go Pro. I've been doing it under the Vlogging banner - yes I now Vlog. It sounds like Blogging, but it feels more like flogging - as in a punishment; creating footage and waiting for someone to view it and like it or hate it. But it's great because you get to experiment and be creative, all without narrative restrictions. I've set a few restrictions of my own, merely to see what I can do with whatever footage I've collected. I'm terrible at it btw - at the Vlogging part. I just can't seem to get comfortable talking to and being on camera. Will I ever? But hey, it's something, right? And it helps me reach out my family and friends in distant climes and tell them what I'm up to. The other main restriction is not worrying about the perfect shot or the perfect anything - I am currently editing them all within iMovie, just to keep it simple and limit my choices. It's more about speed of the workflow right now, before I start worrying about colour grading and tighter edits. Until then I'm not worrying about dusting off Final Cut Pro or Premiere and After Effects again. And it's very much about the gear I'm shooting it with. Right now I am mainly evaluating what gear performs the best in the right situations and the ease of getting it into a finished video.

So for iPhone videography, I am using:

  • Filmic Pro - app to control exposure and white balance while shooting
  • Beastgrip Pro iPhone camera mount, both with DOF Adapter (for the cinematic look) and with the Wide-Angle lens
  • Rode Video Micro microphone / Smart Lav + lavalier Mic - for better sound
  • But I've also ordered the Moondog Labs Anamorphic Lens Adapter
  • Joby Phone Mount
  • Joby Grip tight gorillaPod stand

For DSLR video, I am using:

  • the Canon EOS 70D - for amateur to semi-pro level filmmaking
  • Rode Video Micro Pro / Smart Lav + lavalier Mic
  • Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens - for Bokeh
  • Canon 10:18mm lens - for arm-length selfie mode filming
  • Sigma 50 mm f1.4 prime lens - for proper filmmaking, it's too heavy for anything else
  • Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom tripod

And lastly, for Go Pro / action cam footage (predominantly timelapses), I am using:

The keen-eyed knowledgeable types will notice that there's no fancy tripod or fluid head, for smooth panning and tilting, or other pro audio gear, lights etc. These are all other issues to resolve for more dramatic shooting. Right now, it's about speed and it's about getting the shot - as life is happening. That other gear will come. Of that I'm sure.

With all this type of gear, don't underestimate the shots you can get with an ipad, or an iPhone / smart phone or just with a GoPro / action cam. You don't need half of that other gear. It's just so easy to film with a Go Pro or a phone and get it right into your editing system. Trust your eye and whatever device you have with you just use it! There's no point to any devices or gadgets if you don't use them. The other gear comes in as soon as you start thinking about achieving different / better aesthetic / quality levels - but you don't need to buy it all now. Play and experiment and choose wisely. And always have one of your devices with you. The iPhone obviously wins out for always being with me, but the GoPro is also very portable and fits into a pocket (although is chunkier).

As soon as you add in DOF adapters and lenses you add a f*ckload of weight to your bag / carry around weight and the potential for grasping with and failing to focus, as soon as you deviate from automatic settings. In fact the DSLR automatic mode is great for Vlogging, and brilliant at keeping you in focus, but scary when you step outside of it, until you learn what you're doing. Again the iPhone wins out as long as you just use fixed lenses / the lens it already came with. As soon as you add the Beastgrip Pro to the iPhone you need a microphone, as the mount gets in the way of the phone's microphone, also - for any decent sound quality just don't rely on the built-in mic, and you need to preset the focus to ensure that you are in focus when talking to the lens. Add one mic on. If you do one thing, add a mic. You seriously can't rely on built-in mics for sound.

The GoPro is awesome. And you can get rid of the annoying fish eye effect in the free GoPro Studio app. Its timelapses and other modes are great - as is the ability to conect via Wifi to your iPhone, so you can see what you're capturing in real time, like a monitor. Also it's small, so you can leave it in public spaces and get unobtrusive shots. Covert guerilla filming is definitely more achievable.

Anyway, I could talk about this for ages. I'm still playing though and still learning. And I have a few more bits of gear to use first before I share more findings.

This is all going to help when getting back into filming dramatic material. Vlogging is about playing - for me anyway. It's about taking risks in a low risk environment and having fun with it. It's about forcing me to create footage and to edit it, quickly. It's about retraining my eye. And it's about relaxing. Soon this will pay off when shooting the next short film. More about that later. But join me, have fun, try it - and let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tagged as: 2 Comments
3Jan/160

2016 – My creative resolutions and goals

Last year, I did one of these posts, explaining what creative activities I was planning on focusing on in 2015 (original article HERE). So how did I do with those resolutions and goals and what will 2016 bring?

The short version:

  • Not so well. 5 out of 8 aint bad.
  • Will tackle the other 3 this year.
  • Still fighting the good fight.
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