About a week ago, Gabby, Keely and I were approached by a group of film students to work on their comedic Dorito ad named ‘deathrito.’ The story is of a man ‘Michael,’ who dies while eating Doritos because ‘Grimmo’ (the Grim Reaper) wants the Doritos.
The original plan was to film Sunday and Monday, with Tuesday as a contingency day. I was unavailable until 1 on Sunday, as I could not get anyone to cover my work shift that knew how to open the store. This was a bit annoying because I didn’t get to be involved in the set-up of the shoot and of our equipment, however I still learned a lot from the hours I was there.
Now, a few things did go wrong. First of all, Keely got sick a couple of days before the shoot and told us the night before that she wasn’t going to be able to make it, which meant that Gabby was by herself until I was able to get there. Out of the three of us, Gabby has the least experience with working the location sound equipment, but fortunately she was able to work out how to set it up and use it on her own. The next issue we had was that the mother whose house we were using as a set apparently was unaware that we were going to be using a smoke machine for the scenes, which she wouldn’t allow. She then got angry and said that we couldn’t film the following day (Monday) which meant that we had to get all of our filming done in the one day. It was tough but we actually pulled it off!
In a way, having to complete all of our filming in the one day worked out well for me, because I got to have more experience during that day rather than showing up only for a few hours. I arrived at 3pm, and we didn’t finish packing up until 1030pm. It was a massive day! When I first arrived, I was put straight to work with the boom which is a lot harder than it looks! The first scene that I arrived for was of course the one that they were having the most trouble with, we ended up spending an hour on it and doing 11 or 12 takes. At first I found being boom operator to be pretty painful, but once I got into the rhythm of what I was doing it really wasn’t too bad (although my muscles really hated me the next day) and I learnt a lot from the experience.
For example, there are many cues on a film set that are called before filming for each take. It goes like this:
Director: Quiet on set! Sound?
Boom operator *presses record*: Speed!
Camera Operator *Presses record*: Rolling!
Camera Operator: Set!
Director: Slate it!
Producer *Grabs slate with pre-written scene and take number*: Scene x take x *claps slate*
Also after each take of each scene, the producer writes down in a table comments about the take, whether the director wants to ‘print’ it which means that take(s) goes through to post-production for the editor to use.
I also found it really amazing how much effort really goes into each individual scene. It was tiny little things like the lighting on the right side of an actors face, or thinking about particular shot sizes and how they would look sequencing from one to the other, the composition of the scene and all the while also remembering to check continuity: holding objects in the same hand from scene to scene, having everything in the scene in the same place, having the exact same lights. It’s insane how many things there is to consider to create a realistic viewing experience for the audience!
I also learnt a lot about the different roles of the film crew. We had Jono as the Director, Bella as the Producer, Sarah as the Camera Operator/Head Photographer, Josh as the Gaffer or Head Electrician, a make up artist and of course the actors, all for a 30-60 second ad.
Jono’s job as Director was basically to run the show, call the scenes, ensure everything was running smoothly and also making sure that all the shots were continuous.
Bella’s job as Producer was a lot of the pre-paperwork: noting down each scene and saying that slate line. A lot of the producer’s work is done before filming such as sourcing actors and crew etc.
Sarah as Camera Operator/Head Photographer was in charge of making sure the scenes all looked right: continuity, lighting, composition and ensuring you couldn’t see anything you weren’t supposed to (eg. mics). There were so many different rules to remember about different size shots and which way actors were facing in order to make the scene look realistic.
As the Gaffer, Josh was mostly in charge of lighting the scene in the correct way, using obviously the lights and also reflectors or ‘fleccies’ to make the light face the right way. Josh is also the editor for the production so he gets to do all the fun stuff post-filming.
It was incredible to see the amount of effort that actually goes into even just a 30-60 second ad. I can’t even imagine a full-scale project. I personally really enjoyed the feeling of being on set and being a part of the making of the film, although if I was going to do it as a career I’d definitely need to get fitter! I’m going to keep an eye out for any similar opportunities to work on projects like this because even though it was a really long day (and I was only there for half of it) I really enjoyed the experience and would love to learn even more about it. Also now that I’ve seen behind the scenes of film it might help my in my next project, which I am hoping record my own composition and film and edit my own video to go with it (for more info keep an eye out for a blog soon!).
As always, thanks for reading!