After my part 1 interview with Emmeline Kellie (Siskamedia) on the release of Cadence, I caught up with her again but this time, to get the low down on the three stages of production of the Cadence short film. Here’s an exclusive behind the scenes interview on how the film was brought from idea to on-screen.
– PRE PRODUCTION –
Q: What was the scriptwriting process like?
A: I wrote the first draft in about an hour as it was all in my head and I wanted to get it down on paper. Whilst drafting the script, it was difficult to ensure there was enough character development in such a short space of time for the audience to really care about Alice and Billy. The other difficulty I had was making sure the story was engaging whilst keeping the characters likeable enough for the ending to still work. I sent the script to a few people working in the industry who I really trust and look up to, and they were very honest, gave a lot of advice and it was all extremely helpful but I struggled to implement a lot of it as, when I changed one thing, another didn’t work and so on. Then, our director Jason came up with some great ideas that meant we ended up doing a complete re-write of the script, which allowed all the previous advice to fall into place quite nicely. That re-write was about three weeks before the shoot so it was a bit of a risk in the timeframe we had, but I genuinely believe it was worth it.
Q: What about finding location settings?
A: Alice and Billy’s flat was actually a hall at the University of Derby, and the first gig scene was shot in the Student’s Union bar at the University too. We shot the wedding scene at the Cathedral Quarter Hotel because it was genuinely the best-looking place I went to when I was sourcing a practical function room, and we got some beautiful shots in there – especially on the staircase! When drawing up the schedule, there was only one day we could shoot the wedding stuff on – the last day – and so it was about finding a room that was available on that day too. Being a bank holiday Sunday, most function rooms in the city were already being used for weddings. In fact, the Cathedral Quarter Hotel was as well so we shot in there from 6pm until about 3am after their function had finished!
Q: How did you source actors and extras?
A: Every actor in the film (apart from Luke who plays Billy) either went or still goes to The Actors Workshop Nottingham which is a weekly workshop run by Tim Bryn Smith. There’s a lot of talent there and the primary focus in the workshops is naturalistic screen performances. Most of the extras were just friends and relatives of the cast and crew, but we also had a few people come down from Derby Academy of Acting which was great. They were all brilliant.
Q: Tell me about your production crew..?
A: Well, when I was working on the film and had everyone around me, I realised that I’d actually worked with pretty much every single one of them beforehand. So when I was sourcing crew, I was approaching talented people who I’d worked with before. Jason (Director), Will (DOP) and myself had worked on several projects together and were very close, so they were naturally my go-to guys for making a cinematic piece. Siskamedia, my production company is new and this short film is the first thing I’ve done under it’s label!
Q: How did you source the equipment?
A: The University of Derby are to thank for the amazing equipment we had on the shoot. They threw a bit of extra money in the pot so that we could go out and hire an Arri Amira camera, a set of prime lenses and some other bits and pieces. They also gave us full access to their equipment centre where we hired a track and dolly, tripods, sandbags and some extra lights.
Q: What props and costumes were key to the story?
A: The car was the biggest one. I bought a car for £100 that was due to be scrapped. It wasn’t roadworthy at all but still could drive. Derbyshire fire & Rescue Service lent us their low-loader which meant we could put the car on the back of it for the driving scenes. Other than that, the wedding costumes were key – I bought the bridesmaids dresses for cheap on eBay and I borrowed the wedding dress off a friend. The other things were probably the music equipment. Luke brought his own guitar for shooting and we borrowed a keyboard from a school. The stand didn’t quite work though but I think we managed to keep our makeshift one out of shot.
Q: Overall what was your idea for the production design (art direction)?
A: I had so much already on my plate that I completely handed that over to our Production Designer Abi Howarth. She was initially going to be a runner on the shoot and then, 10-days before we started filming, our production designer and our wardrobe girl both dropped out! Abi stepped in straight away and took on both roles, and then did an absolutely incredible job of both of them – it was insane. Every single little detail was covered- things that I’d never have even thought of. The wedding looked stunning, the car crash looked so real and the flat looked really homely. Alice & Billy’s bedroom was shot in the same room as the hotel bedroom but Abi completely changed the room around (with no notice, as the hotel room scene was added in last minute) and made them look worlds apart. She’s brilliant and has had a lot of work off the back of Cadence. I think Cadence was the first thing she’d done of the sort.
Q: How did you allocate a budget for different departments?
A: About a third of the budget was actually spent on the expenses for all cast and crew to ensure that absolutely nobody was out of pocket on the project as they were all putting their time in for free, and also on ensuring that they had plenty to eat and drink, and two hot meals a day (kindly prepared by Diane from Derbyshire Catering). I really wanted to look after them and make sure that they knew their work was appreciated. Another third was spent on the equipment hire to make the film look as stunning as possible, as well as all the insurance to cover the equipment and also our backs. The final third was spent on props, locations, costumes, decorations, makeup, SFX glass and other essential bits and pieces, such as a first aid training course for a member of the crew – again, to cover our backs!
Q: How did you execute health & safety?
A: The road we used for the driving scenes was a private road in Allestree that belongs to two lovely farmers who I spoke to and got permission from. The fire department visited it and carried out risk assessments to ensure we could drive the trailer back and forth with people and equipment on the back. The road where the crash scene was filmed was a private road at the AA Training Centre in Melton Mowbray, which was suggested by the AA themselves when they funded the project. And the car park was at the headquarters for Derbyshire Fire & Rescue so we obviously cleared that with them too! We had the fire crew on set most days overseeing everything, especially on the day we had the low loader, and we also trained our 3rd AD in First Aid to ensure there was a first aider on set at all times. On the crash day, we had a highly experienced stunt coordinator with us who ensured our safety at all times when climbing in and out of the car and being strapped upside down.
Q: How did you balance part-time work and producing your vision for the short film?
A: I took two weeks off work for the shoot for prep time as well as principal photography. I was back in work the very next day after we wrapped. That was all covered by holiday pay. For the two months leading up to that and the two months of post-production after it, I dropped a lot of hours in one of my jobs and really watched my spending, lived off beans and Weetabix, and continued at my other job where I worked 16 hours a week and focused on the film at every other waking hour.
– PRODUCTION –
Q: What was a typical film day like?
A: Twelve hours long, usually two locations a day, apart from the crash day where the entire shoot was in Melton Mowbray for that scene.
Q: How was the car stunt filmed?
A: I purchased the car and arranged to shoot on private land and then I hired a stunt coordinator. I spoke to him beforehand about the requirements of the car to ensure that everything was safe. We shot the driving scenes on the first day, then on the second day, the fire service took the car to Melton Mowbray where the AA took out its engine and all of its windows. They also emptied it of all its coolant and fluids so that nothing leaked when we flipped it. On the day we shot the crash, about 6 of the crew pushed the car into position and literally pushed it over onto its roof with their hands! Our gaffer then smashed the crap out of all the paint work with a brick while the stunt coordinator went round with gaffer tape ensuring that all shards of glass were removed because quite a lot fell out of the doors once it was overturned.
Q: What was it like liaising with different people and giving people responsibility to work on their role for the film?
A: It was great. Everyone was amazing and very willing to muck in and get their hands dirty. I handed over production responsibilities to Lia Wilson (assistant producer) and Ashley Carter (production manager) a few days before the shoot and they were brilliant. Ashley gave a wonderful health and safety speech at the beginning of the first day which everyone will fondly remember for years to come and it was really liberating to be part of such a talented and dedicated team.
Q: Did you find other creative ways to tell story whilst on set?
A: Yes. For example, the whole hotel bedroom scene was written and added in on our third day of filming and shot on the fourth (and final) day!
Q: Were there any issues in production?
A: The weather was just dreadful. We did two interior days and two exterior days. The two interior days were blissful. Beautiful weather, so hot and sunny, the kind of weather you pray for every summer. Then on the two exterior days, we had this treacherous downpour of rain that just flooded everything and soaked everyone. It meant that we never got to fly the drone and get the aerial shots of the car driving, and meant we had to move the green screen stuff to another day. The crash day was the worst though. Not only did we have this freak heavy rain, we also had constant thunder, lightning and winds. You can actually see lightning in the very last shot of the film- it’s real! It was risky being out in it with all the equipment, especially the rather long boom pole our sound guy was using. Our gazebo was a wreck at the end of that and we lost four hours of filming which meant we really lacked coverage on that scene.
Q: Did your Media Production skills learnt at University of Derby come in use?
A: Yes, to an extent. Mostly experience from working on other movies and producing a couple of shorts before this one, but I’d never have been able to do them if it wasn’t for what I learnt at university.
– POST PRODUCTION –
Q: What were the creative decisions behind the actual edit?
A: This was mostly about pace and length, but we also had to focus on developing the characters in the edit to a point where the audience cared about them. Billy’s character starts off a bit cold towards Alice in the beginning, but you soon realise that he really does care for her but obviously, once you do realise that, it’s a little too late! However, when we were going through all the footage, we realised that he still had a bit of a cold side to him later on in the story too which detracted a bit from the message at the end, so we took a lot of that out and added stuff in that warmed it up.
Q: What video effects were used to create the car spin?
A: This was really tricky to get right but we had an amazing VFX artist come on board called Steve Askey, and he spent days on it getting it as real looking as possible. I didn’t really have much of a say in how we did it – Jason and Will worked it all out before the shoot, and Rich (our editor) decided to have the black gaps cutting into it and our sound mixer designed the sound to Rich’s vision – I think Rich’s inspiration was actually from the movie Whiplash. It was very cool seeing the boys work though and watching it all come together! If it was down to me, I’d have just cut to black and had loads of car crash sounds! They went for the braver option and nailed it.
Q: What about the edit for ADR and sound?
A: We ended up having to ADR quite a bit of the film unfortunately. There were two scenes that we knew we’d have to ADR anyway as there was a lot of background noise, particularly with the low loader. We also did some to warm a couple of performances up and also added in a few lines of dialogue. It’s actually amazing what you can do in post!
Q: The production of the sound score..?
A: Luke Pickett (played Billy) wrote and produced the score as well as all the other music you hear in the film (the two tracks and the background music in bar and wedding scene). It’s a beautiful piece of work and we all genuinely felt that his score completely lifted the film and really made it what it is. That guy is so unbelievably talented.
Q: Who produced the teaser clip?
A: I actually cut this together myself one night. It was difficult to make a teaser out of a film that’s already really short, and draw people in without giving too much away! But I think I did the best I could and was pleased with it.
Q: Finally, what have you taken away from producing this engaging short?
A: A lot. I’ve learnt so much about budgeting. There’s so much before that I would never have thought to take into consideration when drawing up a budget like insurance, hard drives, first aid kits and petty cash. The list of things I learnt from that shoot is literally endless, but it probably will be on every shoot I do.
If you would like to contact Emmeline Kellie or Kellie or know more about the film, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Emmeline Kellie and crew for the interview.