“Good luck is a residue of preparation” Jack Youngblood

Making a film is a massive undertaking. When your not paying people you can’t expect anyone to put in the same effort that you do (or should you) but you still need people to help you realize your goal. The key is to identify the areas that your unable to do yourself and to find people to fill in those spaces.

On The Richmond Family Massacre we took on a large number of the roles ourselves. Our reasons were twofold. Firstly we were going to have to be flexible with our cast and didn’t want to have to be dependent on more people and secondly we wanted to experience what it was like to do a number of positions ourselves so we could better understand our crews positions in future. This meant that I as a Producer had the lucky chance to learn how to operate a camera and shot a large amount of the film myself. Lance having studied camera, lighting and audio did the bulk of the technical roles himself.  We had an amazingly dedicated make-up artist Jessica Bell who brought on a second make-up artist Clare and a couple of other lovely ladies who assisted in this area. We also had Alison McMinn who was consistently on set to assist with catering, stills photography and anything that was required.

There were a couple of other regulars, Dan and Mark, who slotted in where they were required and helped the days run smoothly when they were there. Everyone one of them brought something to the table and the film would not be the same without any of them really.

When we had pretty close to the full cast on board we started the rehearsal process. This started with a basic table read and then broke down to running through the scenes with smaller groups of characters. We focused on those earlier in the schedule.

We managed to finalize our costumes, dressing twelve characters pretty much from head to toe with only $600 is quite an achievement. Of course if you added up the amount of time we spent scouring shops all across Auckland for the perfect ensemble it doesn’t seem that cheap, but when working on a low budget you have to decide where to spend the cash and where to spend the time.

For me the most important thing I did at this stage was break the script down every possible way. Knowing the script inside out and backwards, who was in which scene, the costume and prop requirements for everything and what aspects were going to be technically difficult was incredibly helpful. Creating your own notes to be able to read this information quickly can prove to be a massive time saver.

Before shooting the other critical step was to test out the effect. This was a two part test. Firstly, since we owned the camera (HVX202), I spent a long time reading through the manual and creating a scene file that would complement the style that we were going through the best. We then tested this scene file as well as a number of others with the effect to ensure that it would work. We also tested various lighting set-ups, shots and costumes to ensure they would work. The second part was obviously testing the post process and the best way of achieving the effect. This was obviously an evolving process that changed when we finally got to post, but it was important going in that we knew we could achieve the look we were after in some way and that we had actually tried it out.

In all there were over five different tests conducted each one involving multiple sequences using multiple settings and they fill up over 11 back-up DVD’s with files, footage and notes! Having the test footage also came in handy in selling the effect to those working on the project.

After putting most things into place we were ready to roll…


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