10 Tips on Driving a Production Van – Runner Driver

Intro

Being able to drive a van is a very useful skill to have as a runner. In the UK, if you’re over 25 with a full manual driving licence, chances are, you’ll be more likely to get that runner driver job.

But what if you’ve never driven a van before?

On one of my first runner driver jobs in film, I was required drive a van. During a phone interview with the production manager on the phone, she asked if I could drive a Luton. “Yes no problem!” I said, and I got the job.

Then I googled “what is a Luton”

 

 

“That’s a Luton?! How am I going to drive this beast??” If you’ve never driven a van before it can seem a bit daunting, at the time I had only driven small cars.

I’ve done a few jobs now driving large vans and I still get a little bit nervous getting behind the big wheel but I’m a lot more confident. The more I drive a van, the more I realise that essentially it’s just a large car and pretty much the same as driving a car.

That being said, other than its size, there are many other things you have to consider with hire vans as opposed to cars.

Here are 10 tips that I wish I had the first time I drove a large van on a production:

 1. Checks

When booking out a hire car, the hirer will walk you around the vehicle pointing out any current damage, the same is done with a van. I’d recommend taking pictures of any visible damage to cover yourself and the production from getting charged for damage that wasn’t your fault.

Before you drive, it’s essential that you know the fuel type and the height and width of the vehicle. You don’t want to kill the engine or decapitate the van under a low bridge, you, and or the production would definitely get charged for that.

2. Get Comfortable

Take the time to adjust all of the mirrors and the seat positioning to what’s comfortable for you, also familiarise yourself with the van’s controls such as the indicators, headlights, hazards and radio.

A van’s engine can pack a bit more of a punch than a car, so when you first try to pull off it’s possible that you’ll shoot forward and stall. Don’t worry, just hope someone wasn’t watching and try again. Before hitting the main roads, it’s a good idea to drive round a block a few times just to get used to the engine power, biting point, and how the gear changes and brakes feel.

Soon it will feel like just driving another car.

3. Mirrors Are Your Best Friends

They’re not just your best friends, they’re you’re only friends. In a van you don’t have the luxury of a rear view mirror, and you’re definitely going to miss it! However, in a van you have a higher viewpoint of the road and large side mirrors to make up for it.

You’ll need to be checking your side mirrors much more frequently than you would in a car. Bearing in mind the cumbersome size of a van, the side mirrors are your main guide when parking, manoeuvring, changing lanes, turning corners and driving in general.

When turning corners in a van I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the side mirror to see when if I’ve got enough turning space, taking into account the longer length of the vehicle.

4. Know Your Blind Spots 

There’s been a few times when I’ve forgotten about my blind spots and nearly caused a collision. I recall two occasions, on a dual carriage way and motorway where I checked my mirrors and saw no other vehicles, then proceeded to change lanes. Both times I nearly drove into a car, putting me on the receiving end of panicked car horns and very angry drivers.

Because of the van’s height smaller cars may creep into a blind spot under the view of the side mirror. Ensure your mirrors are adjusted to give you the maximum view possible, when changing lanes indicate early and turn gradually. Leaning forward and checking the mirror also gives you another perspective.

5. Ask for Help with Manoeuvres

Most people (including myself) find it difficult to parallel park in a car never mind a van. In my experience manoeuvring and parking in a van is more difficult than in a car.

Simple tip, take your time with manoeuvres and don’t be afraid to ask another crew member to help guide you.

On a shoot in the countryside, I had to park the van on a small drive on a very narrow road that was next to a ditch. When it was time to get out two other guys from the crew had to help guide me through a 37-point turn. Don’t risk doing difficult manoeuvres alone.

6. Watch Your Load

When driving a van, it’s important to always think about the load you are transporting. This should affect how you drive the van, if the back is full, then drive as gently as possible, turn corners more gradually and slow down even more on speed bumps. You don’t want anything to get damaged or to tip the van over by handbrake turning round a corner (even if the back is empty, don’t try that).

When loading a van, you need to consider the distribution of weight. Make sure the weight of the load on both sides of the van is approximately equal, this is to avoid the van leaning or tipping and makes it easier to control when driving.

On an indie short I worked on, production hired a man and a van to transport some lighting equipment to the next location. The driver did not distribute the weight and was stopped by the police and fined, also the shoot was delayed.

7. Take Your Time

If you’ve never driven a van before, the last thing you want is to be in a rush. It’s a good idea to give yourself extra travel time so you can focus on driving rather than worrying about a call time.

To avoid accidents or damage, it’s best to drive a van at a considered pace; accelerating and braking gradually, turning slowly and always being aware of other vehicles.

8. Bring a Portable Phone Charger

Thanks to smartphones, gone are the days when most people understood road names and could get from A-B without a sat nav. Navigating with your phone will avoid getting lost on unfamiliar routes, but you’re in trouble if the battery dies.

Most modern vans have a USB socket allowing you to charge your phone, however it’s best to have a portable charger in case.

One time on a night shoot, I was sent to pick up some equipment from a storage unit. On my way back to the location, my phone battery died and I had no way to charge it. I ended up getting lost and delayed the shoot, the producer was not happy.

 9. Accidents Happen

Unfortunately, sometimes accidents happen. Scratches and dents on a van can be difficult to avoid when you find yourself in tight spaces.

While working on a feature, I managed to make a huge dent in the lighting van after getting it pinned round a corner.

 

To say I was nervous about telling the production manager is an understatement. Being charged for the damage and never working in the industry again were among the many scenarios that went through my mind.

In the event of damaging a vehicle you should inform your production manager or supervising crew member at the earliest opportunity. For production and insurance purposes, you will need to fill out an incident report with details on how the damage occurred.

Production will usually have a contingency budget to cover incidents such as this, so it isn’t the end of the world or your career. A lot of the crew had their own stories to tell about accidents they’ve had in the past, so do your best to avoid it but if it happens, it’s not the end of the world.

 10. Relax! 

If you feel intimidated the first time you drive a van, just remember, fundamentally it’s not that different to driving a car, as with anything, it gets easier with experience. However, while you’re still getting used it, be prepared for the possibility of making mistakes and annoying other drivers, especially in the city.

If you’re having trouble with a turn or manoeuvre, finding yourself in the wrong lane or accidentally cutting someone off, you might get frustrated or trigger another driver’s road rage. As a first time van driver these things will happen, but don’t let these situations break your concentration or panic you, it’s always best to keep calm and relax.

The Effects of the Financial Markets on the Film Industry

The foreign exchange markets have become more and more liquid over the years as global trade has increased, with a daily volume of US $5.3 trillion. The increase in international trade presents some exciting opportunities for both large and small companies across a wide range of industries. For people working in creative industries, it could open up possibilities for international collaboration – and increase access to overseas funding.

But, as last year demonstrated, foreign exchange exposure can also present risks if the rate moves against you. And because exchange rates are a ratio between two currencies, fluctuations can be caused both by events both at home and overseas. So if something happens overseas to strengthen a country’s currency, the Pound can weaken as a result. This can have an impact on costs and profitability for companies that need to make payments in foreign currencies.

Chris Towner from international payments specialists HiFX discusses these issues further and specifically how they could impact the UK Film and Production sector.

 

BC: What is the main cause of currency fluctuations?

CT: Political and economic events both in the UK and overseas can cause exchange rate fluctuations, which can impact how much it costs to make foreign purchases, how competitive companies can be in foreign markets and how desirable companies are to overseas investors.

For example, in the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound against the dollar fell 12 per cent within hours. Three months later that figure had reached 15 per cent. That can be devastating for a business with exposure to foreign currencies.

But there have also been events that have helped to boost the pound. For example, there have been some fluctuations in the US dollar as a result of Donald Trump’s actions since he became President in January, and again following a less positive than expected message in a recent US Federal Reserve announcement.

Meanwhile in Europe, the pound experienced a boost against the euro in the run-up to the recent elections in the Netherlands, where there were concerns that far-right candidate Geert Wilders could gain ground.

 

BC: Can we expect similar uncertainty throughout the year?

CT: There could be a similar effect around the French elections in April and May, and then the German elections in September.

However, there is always the risk of an ‘unknown’ event, which would also impact currency. These events, (sometime referred to as the known unknowns!) such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks and unannounced Central Bank decisions pose a risk to the currency markets.

And as Brexit negotiations progress, these also have the potential to cause fluctuations in the currency markets as investors in the foreign exchange market are likely to be closely following developments.

 

BC: What is the potential impact on the film and media industry?

CT: If you need to spend money in another country, perhaps to purchase equipment from a foreign provider or if you are planning a trip to an overseas location, the recent weakening of the pound means this could become more expensive for you than it would have been this time last year.

For example, if you needed to pay an invoice to a US supplier in dollars when the pound was at its lowest point in January you may have ended up paying almost 20% more than you would have done 7 months earlier.

 

BC: Could currency volatility impact funding into the UK film and production sector? Will investors shy away from the UK?

CT: The weaker pound could potentially make the UK an even more attractive place to invest, as currencies such as euros and US dollars are stronger against the pound so foreign investors could get more for their money. Also, given our film industry is exported overseas, we could also look to benefit from the weaker pound by offering lower cost services.

 

BC: What steps can a business take to protect itself from the impact of currency volatility in the future?

CT: The first step is to understand your exposure and the potential risks to your business. Once you have an understanding of this, you can develop (or review) your company’s Foreign Exchange policy to ensure you have a plan in place, whatever happens next. Then you can start to take a look at the various products on offer that could help you mitigate your risk – these include forward contracts, FX options and FX structured products. These products have all been designed to help companies hedge their risk in different situations. The best time to develop your policy is during calm markets – try not to react to events but plan for them in advance.

 

Let us know your thoughts as well as how your productions handle money between countries below.

The Calltime Company Film Runners

Looking to get your foot into the door of the film & TV industry? Meet The Calltime Company run by Tamana Bleasdale and Vicki Allen!

The Calltime Company is pleased to announce their 5th Annual Runners Training Day on Saturday 18th March.

 

 

An Introduction:

Vicki and I are former Assistant Directors. We both studied Media/Film/TV at University and then worked our way up the AD ladder. We only stopped ADing due to both of us starting our own families. Once we had children we still wanted to be part of the Industry, that we are passionate about, but couldn’t see how we could work as an AD and be there for our children in the manner we wanted to be.

Whilst working as 2nd AD’s we experienced how hard it can be at times to get good, reliable Runners without lots of time consuming phone calls checking to see who was free and good.  We then had the idea of an Agency, a database of experienced Runners that are personally interviewed and then mentored by Vicki and I. By doing this we can be confident that any Runners we send out on a job will be more than capable of handling the job required. We also believed that it could be a very useful and time saving resource for Productions and individual departments to book their Runners/Pa’s/Marshals through.

Whilst setting up and planning for an experienced Runners Agency we also recognised that it was very hard to get that first job in Film/TV unless you were lucky enough to know someone working in Film/TV or had a lucky break.  So we came up with a plan for CallTime Company Trainee Scheme, through this we could help people leaving education, wanting a career change or changing focus within the Film/TV/Commercials and Corporates to get that first crucial job and help build up contacts, so CallTime Trainee Scheme was launched as a kind of ‘Grow Our Own Runners’ idea.

What is the role of the AD department? 

The AD department is the logistical side of film making. I would describe it as the Back Bone of the film, along side the Production Office, dealing with each and every department along the way.

Could you explain the differences between the roles of a floor runner; 3rd AD; 2nd AD and 1st AD?

First Assistant Director along with the line producer and production manager begin the job by producing a schedule (a running order of the shoot) which is put together from breaking down the script. As the departments come on board a Full Breakdown Schedule is produced showing what is required from each individual department to make the shooting of that scene work. The 1st AD liaises between departments during pre production to make sure that everything that the Director wants for the shoot is being discussed and put into place.

When on set the First Assistant Director is the right hand person and mouth piece of the director. They run the set and make sure that the crew know what is happening when and that everything required for the next shot is in place.

A key role of the 1st A.D on set is to keep a pace of work and to make sure that the film is on schedule. They also make sure, along with the Script Supervisor and Director of Photography that the Director has got enough coverage on a scene for the Editors to cut together.

The 1st AD is also responsible for Health and Safety on set.  

Second Assistant Director deals with the Cast from pre-production. They arrange fittings, rehearsals and readthrough attendance. Once shooting begins they liaise with the Cast on the day to day filming and up coming schedule.

The 2nd AD is the main point of contact fo the Cast regarding pick up times in the morning, when they are required in costume and make up, to what time they are needed on the set and when they can go home.

They also communicate with all Departments regarding what is required for the day to day filming and are responsible for putting together the call sheet. This document tells the Cast and Crew what is required for the following days filming, at what time and who is required when. During Pre-production the Second AD will work closely with Costume & Make up departments regarding Cast and Background Artistes fittings. They will also help plan the rehearsal schedule with the First AD & Director.

The 2nd AD and/or Crowd 2nd AD is also responsible for casting, fitting and booking Background Artistes – with the approval of the Director, Costume and Make up/Hair departments. .

Third Assistant Director is the right hand person to the 1st AD. During pre- production they will generate a radio breakdown for each department including charges, ear pieces (and type), spare batteries and wallets or clips. They will also help the 2nd AD with any rehearsals or fittings taking place.

On the floor the 3rd AD is responsible for looking after the cast once they arrive.

They keep the 2nd AD and Production team informed about filming progress on set, especially how many shots for each scene and when they have completed a shot.

The 3rd AD distributes the radios to all departments and sides to Director, Cast and Crew. The crew will usually go to the 3rdAD with questions and information before the 1st AD. The 3rd AD also communicates with all departments on the floor and Cast members to let them know what the next shot is, who and what equipment will be required.

The Floor Runner works on set, either in a Studio or on Location. They work with the Assistant Director team also known as the ADs.

The AD team consists of the 1st AD, 2nd AD & 3rd AD. There can also be a Crowd 2nd AD and/or Crowd 3rd AD and often on bigger mainly American Productions the role of 2nd AD is split in to two, a Key 2nd AD and a Floor 2nd AD.

The 1st AD is the first to start on a production and closely followed by the 2nd AD usually of their choice then their 3rd AD joins them a few weeks before filming starts, depending on the sale of the Production.

The Floor Runner is usually interviewed by the 1st  & 2nd AD and is often one of the last to start the film before shooting begins.

The Floor Runner works directly with the AD team on set and at the unit base. Taking instruction from the 1st and 3rd AD on set and the 2nd AD at the Unit Base.They are a crucial member of the team. They will know and interact with all Crew and Cast Members on a daily basis throughout the shoot.

Some times on Commercials there is no 2nd AD and it is often the 1st AD and 3rd AD. The Runner may then also work to the Production Manager’s instructions.

What skills do you need to be a successful AD? 

Diplomatic, calm, focused, a people person, punctual, diligent, thick skinned, a good sense of humour and to be able to prioritise your time and tasks successfully!

For young people with little to no experience wanting to get into AD work, what advice could you give them?

With Social Media it is a lot easier to find work/helpful sources with groups such as People working in Television: Runners, The Unit List, The Callsheet – are all free to Runners. Sign up to Creative England if you live regionally or Wales Screen plus Film London and Creative Skillset. If you have no film experience at all highlight on your CV the work you have carried out working with people and the general public, such as bar tender, shop assistant, waiter or waitress, as these Roles all provide transferrable skills.

Where did the inspiration/idea to create Calltime come from?

I had wanted to do something for a long time as I was lucky enough to get my first job through my Dad, who is a playwright, and I understood that it wasn’t as easy for many others. Vicki got her first job through being a student in Manchester when a film was looking for Background Artistes for a Crowd Scene and she was employed to help, which started Vicki off on her career and many trips to London later she became established with a great AD team. When we were figuring out what to do with our working lives, post having children, that could combine our previous careers, a good friend of both of ours suggested we work together and CallTime was launched! It’s been a fantastic journey so far and we are really excited about the future of the Company.

What are the main aims of Calltime?

There are several main aims: 

For Productions to have large resource of good reliable Runners, varying roles and grades available to them whenever they are needed. To also support individual departments, as we know it can be time consuming booking crew when under pressure.

For our Members it would be to expand their contacts, help them gain more skills and experience on different levels until they can confidently move up to the next grade of Role that they are aspiring to within the industry.

For our Trainees it would be to help them gain their first and subsequent work in Film/TV, boost their confidence and contacts, to help train them for the next level in their career path.

For CallTime Company to grow as our Members do providing them with key career advice and mentoring through out their career.

Can you describe the application process of applying to Calltime? 

We ask everyone to fill in an application form and send this in alongside a CV. If you pass this section you are invited to an interview with Vicki and I.

What job roles does Calltime offer? 

We offer Location Marshal, Lock Off PAs, Additional Floor Runner, Key Floor Runner, Runner Stand In, Location Assistant, Production Runner, Costume Runners/Trainees, Art Dept Trainee, Trainee Grip and we have also been asked to supply: 3rd AD, 2nd AD, 1st AD, Production Secretaries, Assistant Co-ordinators and even Caterers!

How far does Calltime support career progression, specifically in the AD department?

We try and support people along the way, we know how hard it is to step up the ladder and as CallTime grows as a Company and our Members move up the ladder we help by offering them Training to take them up to the next level. We also know that working as a Freelancer can be lonely at times, often you have choices to make and it can be hard to know what direction to go in, we always listen to our Members, we won’t tell them what to do but we will listen to the Pros and Cons and discuss each situation with them.

Can you tell me about the training and events hosted by Calltime, such as The Crowd AD Trainee Day?

We host a Runners Training Day yearly which we run to coincide with annual Trainee Scheme, this usually take place in early Spring.

We have also hosted a 3rd AD Training Day and a Crowd AD Training Day – these days came about mainly due to our Members wanting to step up and we thought it would benefit a lot of them to know what exactly is required of them as a 3rd AD and also with the Crowd AD day, alot of people don’t fully understand the basics of the FAA agreement or have the opportunity to set back ground so we felt this day was really needed, we also know that there is a real lack of Crowd ADs at the moment and it is a great Role to do especially as it’s more creative than the standard AD route!

Six Ways Film & Television is Embracing Women and BAME

 

The most prominent debate in film and television in the present day is the representation of women and BAME. In this article, I hope to present schemes and organisations that are dedicated to creating diversity and equality in the industry.

 

ONE: NFTS Directing Workshop

The National Film and Television School provides teaching and training for those wishing to work in film and television. They run several diplomas; masters; certificates and short courses.

This new initiative for directors has been launched by NFTS aiming to increase the number of women, BAME and people with disabilities.

The six selected directors will take part in a 2-day introduction in March followed by an intensive 4-week workshop during summer culminating in the production of a short film.

The course is free and the deadline is 19th February.

Apply here: https://nfts.co.uk/directing-workshop

 

 

TWO: CREATIVE ACCESS

Founded in 2012, Creative Access aims to provide young BAME people paid training opportunities in creative companies and supporting them into full-time employment.

With over 200 media partners offering opportunities including ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and many more. This organisation is paving the way to creating an industry that truly reflects British society.

Want to sign up? Check out the website here: https://creativeaccess.org.uk/

 

THREE: Women In Film & TV UK Mentoring Scheme

Women In Film & TV is a membership organisation run by women supporting women working in the creative media in the UK.

Every year they run a mentoring scheme designed for women with more than 5 years’ experience looking to take a significant step in their career. Over six months participants receive six hours of mentoring contact with an industry figure. There are also seminars, training workshops and networking opportunities.

Free to apply and participate. Find out more here: https://wftv.org.uk/mentoring/

FOUR: BAFTA

In 2019, BAFTA will be adding the BFI Diversity Standards to the eligibility criteria for the Outstanding British Film Award and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

This decision has been controversial in the industry with some parties believing this is a step too far and restricts filmmaking. In my opinion, it is a bold and much needed move towards creating an inclusive and equal industry. My only issue with it, is the fact this is even needed in the 21st Century to promote diverse filmmaking.

Considering that in the 2015 Oscars no non-white actors were nominated for an Academy Award, a change in criteria for these awards is definitely overdue.

FIVE: DIRECTORS UK

In 2016, Directors UK released a 10 year study on women directors in film revealing the shocking truth that only 13.6% of all directors working in the last decade were women.

They aim to use the findings of this study to improve the industry for women by campaigning for these 3 specific goals:

  1. 50% of films backed by UK-based public funding bodies to be directed by women by 2020.
  2. Development of the Film Tax Credit Relief system to require all UK films to take account of diversity.
  3. Industry wide campaign to inform and influence change

Find out more here: https://www.directors.uk.com/campaigns/gender-equality-in-uk-film-industry#support-our-campaign

 

SIX: GAME CHANGERS

In 2016, BFI Film Forever and Creative Skillset launched a workshop called Game Changers specifically for women and BAME filmmakers.

Run by Kymberlie Andrews who is a master trainer and communication coach. The aim of the two day workshop was to boost confidence; teach pitching and make contacts with like minded individuals.

For myself, this workshop changed my game by opening my eyes to my personality strengths which has affirmed by future career goal.

Hopefully this opportunity will be renewed for 2017 but only time can tell!

Find out more here: http://gamechangeruk.com/

 

If you know of any opportunities for women and BAME in film and TV then please comment below!

 

 

 

The Basics of Radio Speak & Etiquette

You’ve got your first runner job on a big film or television set and you want to make an impression! One of the best ways to stand out as a new runner, is to know how to speak on the radio. 

RADIO ETIQUETTE

On my first floor runner job, Cuckoo Series 3, I was a complete newbie to running on a big production. I had no idea about radio speak or etiquette. Luckily I had a supportive 2nd AD who sat me down and went through the basics with me.

The most important thing is too never speak unless spoken to on the radio, exceptions are when you need the toilet (10-1) or have been asked to find someone (Eye’s on) or need to do a radio check. Never talk on the radio during a take, if you aren’t sure whether they are rolling then do not say anything until you hear either we’ve cut there or turning over or general chatter.

Keep radio chatter to a minimum, answer instructions clearly with copy that. Or if you have to give an instruction then keep it concise. Never discuss lunch orders or tea/coffee orders on the radio. If you do need to talk with another runner/AD about lunch/tea/coffee, then always radio (Charlotte) switch to 2 (or whichever number is the private channel) and ask your question there.

When you are called (Charlotte to Curtis) always reply (if you are able too) clearly (Go for Charlotte) and listen to the instructions carefully. If you miss part of the instruction, then ask them to repeat the task – it is better to get the correct instruction before executing it. Film and TV sets are fast paced environments so you need to be alert at all times with your radio.

As a runner you will always end up locking off at some point during a shoot so always been aware of being called to lock it up and reply with locked off.

When escorting the cast/talent from make-up/hair; costume or their dressing room to set keep the 1st AD up to date on the radio. As soon as the cast member steps onto set, call it on the radio (Charlotte stepping on).

Please note that this article covers the basic radio speak used by all departments, particularly the assistant director department. However, different departments may have extra terms. As this guide is directed towards new entrants whom will be most likely working as runners, I have only covered basic radio communications.

Setting Up Your Radio

For most new entrants in film and television running, you will not have used a radio before. Possibly when you were a child you may have used a walkie talkie but it’s not the same thing.

On arrival on set you will be given a radio either with a clip or a case – a case only works if you have a belt on.

 

 

You will then be asked if you prefer a covert or D-ring ear piece. Covert ear pieces are like in ear headphones, they can be uncomfortable and make you feel as though you are underwater. D-rings ring around your ear. My preference is a covert because I find that the D –rings tend to fall off my smaller ears.

 

 

Once you have chosen either a covert or D-ring then simply plug it into the radio. Switch on the radio and set it to the correct channel – the 3rd AD will direct you accordingly. Do a radio check by pressing the speak button on your covert/D-ring wire.

 

 

 

THE DICTIONARY OF RADIO SPEAK

Action – after turning over, the 1st AD will call action when the scene begins

Back to one/two/three – cast and supporting artists return to the numbered position

Background Action – ‘action’ call for supporting artists to start movement

Calling Crew Member (Charlotte to Curtis) – always clearly say your name and the person you are calling too.

Cameras up – camera is up to start recording

Checks – hair/make-up and costume checks

Copy that – you have understood an instruction

DFI – forget last instruction

Eyes on (Charlotte) – radio shout out to find a crew/cast member

Flying in – object is being hurried onto set

Go for (Curtis) – responding to a crew call to say you are listening

Going again/for another take – filming the same scene again

Good check – confirms radio is working

Hold the work – all movement/work on set must stop

Lock it up – stop public/crew/cast entering a shot/room whilst filming

Locked off on one/two/three – numbered roll call of lock off positions

Martini – last shot of the day

Moving on – either moving onto another shot or onto another scene

On the day – usually follows an instruction for a task that needs to be carried out during a take, most likely a lock off

Ones/Twos/Threes – depending on the length of the scene cast/supporting artists may have several starting positions, these are numbered from one

Quiet on set – all movement/chatter to cease

Radio check – checking radio is working

Release lock off – public/crew/cast allowed to enter

Reset – cast and supporting artists to go to starting position

Scene complete – whole scene has been shot

Seconds away – seconds away with a cast member

(Charlotte) Stepping on – cast member is stepping onto set

Still turning/rolling – camera and sound are still recording 

Swinging the lens – changing the lens

Switch to (2) – changing to a private channel for a discussion

Switching – confirms that you are switching channel

That’s a wrap – finished filming for the day/shoot

That’s a wrap on (Charlotte) – wrapping a cast member

Turning over – camera and sound are recording

Turning around – camera will be shooting the reverse shot

We’ve cut there – camera and sound have stopped recording

Numbers

10-1 – going to the toilet

 

‘Winged Warriors’: From Short Script to Film Festival

Drama and documentary filmmaker Evy Barry talks about her experience with the film festival circuit and her successful short period drama Winged Warriors, which has proven itself in the lime light.

Barry’s background is in documentary film making in television, for which she has shot material for over ten years.

 EB: ‘The amazing thing about doing that job is that you get to go places and meet people that you wouldn’t normally meet, and ask them some incredibly personal questions. I like talking to people, I like finding things out and I think if you’re a creative person as well and you get to do that for your job, you’re quite lucky’

After completing her training at The National Film and Television School, Barry followed her first passion: Directing drama.

EB: At the end of the course, the tutor said to me: ‘You’ve got it’ I said: ‘What do you mean?’ And he said: ‘Whatever a drama director is, you are it’ and I thanked him.’

Barry’s Winged Warriors confirms this statement on every level. Together with BAFTA winning cinematographer Fred Fabre and a professional cast and crew of 20 people, Barry shot her 12-page script inspired by her Great Gandfather’s experience in the First World War, over the course of two days. The synopsis: The remnants of a British Army platoon reach the enemy trenches. They have three chances to get out: The three messenger pigeons.

The production was challenged by weather, time pressure and not to mention: The pigeons.

EB: ‘Pigeons get stressed if you handle them too much […] The shot came for the actor to launch the pigeon in the air, and he threw it upwards, all of the cast and crew cast their eyes to the heavens and there was nothing launching itself towards the horizon at all. So all eyes dropped down to the floor, and the pigeon had just kind of plopped in a lump onto the ground. Apparently it had been a bit stressed by being handled such a lot, and it stood there for about five minutes and then it finally flew off… and we had to wait. The handler was on set to help us, but I have to say there was great hilarity among everybody on set and 20 people killing themselves laughing, was quite a loud thing to behold. It was quite funny.’

Barry addresses the messenger pigeon as one of the main challenge, however she also points out that attention to detail is vital when shooting a period drama. She speaks about the specific uniforms and ways of wearing them, having similar looking pigeons for different takes of the same scene and last but not least, having the correct gun fire sound added in post production.
After finishing it, Barry arranged at cast and crew screening and received great ovations.

EB: ‘They applauded wildly and I thought ‘Yes!’ Perhaps this is the way it’s gonna go, and that it was gonna play all around the world on the festival circuit. And it didn’t quite happen like that […] It’s taken 18 months or so, you can’t predict the festival run for your film. You don’t know what the festival strategy is for that year. As filmmaker it is quite easy to get disheartened. You just have to remember that feeling that you had when you shouted: ‘Wrap!’ Because you did it.’

Winged Warriors has shown in various film festivals around the world, such as GI Film Festival in Washington, Veteran Film Festival Australia, Canada Film Festival where it received a Rising Star Award, Manchester Film Festival where it received an honourable mention. and so on. In order to find the right festivals for her film, Barry used the strategies and expertise of Katie McCullough and Festival Formula. Festival Formula is an organization, which provides film makers with submission strategies for festivals. Barry outlines the importance of analyzing festival’s strategies for each submission year.

EB: ‘Katie said to me to not enter my film at Sundance, because it’s not their type of film. I think a lot of filmmakers just enter their film for the top festivals without possibly looking at the type of films that they accept. So you could waste a lot of money doing that,’

After completing Winged Warriors she has moved on to her latest short drama called Exposure, which explores the relationship between an ailing mother and her two adult daughters. Barry’s essential advice for filmmakers whether they are at submission stage for festivals or at script writing stage, is to keep on going and keep on learning.

EB: ‘I think there is nothing more crushing when youre starting out than being rejected. You think that you’re no good and maybe you should give up. But actually: No. You made all this effort and you want people to watch your film. So there you go.

Game Engines and MoCap Suits – The Rise of Instant Digital Visual Effects

Animation director, VFX supervisor and director/producer Mondo Ghulam talks about creating digital visual effects using game engines such as Unreal and motion capture suits. Ghulam has worked on several high end games, as well as film and television productions. He has gained over 20 years experience currently focusing on his first passion: Filmmaking.

The Use of Game Engines and Motion Capture Suits – A Common Practice?

In this day and age, on-screen storytelling is able to take advantage of a large range of technologies used to create visual effects in and video games. Two of the most striking methods adopted by filmmakers are the use of game engines and motion capture. Ghulam highlights the economical and creative progress these technologies have brought to VFX in films on nearly every budget level. In early days such as those of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001) a game engine was used in order to combine live action elements with a virtual set.

 

MG: ‘In order to give everyone an idea of what they were looking at [on the virtual set], they were tracking the camera in real time and then displayed a low detail version of the background from a game engine that was synched to the camera. It meant that they could look through a monitor and see a composite of the live action against the fully 3D CG background in its early state. So they can set composition, they can work out exactly where to place the camera and how to move it.’

Ghulam explains that game engines have become so far advanced rendering the quality undeniably high and the production costs comparatively low.

MG: ‘A project that I’m interested in doing will use a game engine because it will be long format and animated, and I don’t want to have to look for the money to render everything out. So with a game engine, you don’t need to do that, it will just play in real time. You just record it straight out of the computer, and all you might need to do is to buy some graphic cards that will power that to a high degree.’

Another technological key element in visual effects is motion capture. As one of the kickstarters of a new inertial mocap suit, Ghulam talks about how quickly body motion can be recorded with this compact piece of technology.

MG: ‘Ultimately if you can take the heat, you can wear this under a set of clothes, and it works wirelessly. So I can be sitting in this room, doing this interview whilst being recorded for my body motion in regular clothing.’

The animator outlines that although the footprint of a motion capture studio with dedicated rooms, expensive equipment and a large team of VFX artists and technicians who work hard to calibrate the environment before shooting, will create a high quality end product, the single person in a suit shows you how the level of compactness and mobility this technology has already achieved.

MG: ‘Eventually there will be no suits, it will be any room that you like, and things like Xbox Kinect are kinda already doing that. You can sit on your sofa and you can track your movement, it can tell where your hands are, it can see your face, it can even recognize your voice and distinguish you from someone else sitting there with you.’

Accessibility and Limitations- Possibilities vs. Perception

Talking about the rapid transformation of large and powerful computers running expensive software to substantially more compact gaming engines, as well as the internet as a key element for sharing and accessing information, Ghulam addresses the technical curve that has happened over the past three decades. Game engines have been around for quite a while, yet the possibility for
individuals to use them easily and economically has not.

MG: ‘In 1994 there was one magazine, that we could get hold of in Glasgow once every quarter, which had articles dedicated to little 3D projects but ultimately that was it. Now any laptop will run, for example, Unreal who have thousands of excellent videos all very well aggregated within sections, so if you’ve never even touched a game engine before, there is a whole series of very easy to watch videos that will walk you through it and get you doing things, that two hours before, you had no concept of, or any idea that you might even be able to do.’

Despite the progress there are limitations. One barrier, the animator believes, is perceptual. He argues that although high impact visuals can still take a huge bite out of the filming budget due to the high cost or complexity, making minor corrections and replacements for example, is possible to do for anyone on a much more economical level.

MG: ‘I’m gonna make a bold claim here, but you could subscribe to Adobe cloud, download Adobe After Effects, spend a couple of days looking at tutorials, learn how to track, put it an element in and get your shot. Now these are pretty common tools now, that had once been the preserve of a very few people in the past.’

Another set of limitations can be found in facial capture. Whereas motion capture suits are far advanced in their ability to instantly transfer an actor’s movements to a highly accurate level, capturing facial movements and expressions is a different story. Ghulam addresses the fact that although your face can be recorded, there are still overarching problems with deadness and inability to capture not only the physicality, but also the psychology of human facial expressions. At the moment, he adds, it is still the prerogative of the high end productions to animate emotions to a believable extent.

MG: ‘When we are talking about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, 2014) and Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), there is a percentile at the end of it the quality scale that just pushes pushed it beyond anything that anyone else was doing at that particular time. And that takes lots of talented people, there is no automated way to get to where any of those films ended up. It takes a lot of really good artistry […] You look into the eyes of those characters and they are real.’

Creating a Virtual Skin- Futurism or Future?

Looking at the processes that have shaped virtual realities and storytelling in the last decades, many of the things we associate with futurism are already possible in the here and now. Ghulam uses Xbox 360 and Xbox Kinect as prime examples for the level of accessibility motion capture has moved into, given the fact that those devices can capture 3D performances and data in the comfort of a living room at very low cost. The animator believes that although, at that low-budget level, the quality of the characters are somewhat inaccurate and the resolution is low, in the near future, actors will be able to scan their bodies and save their digital selves, then 20 years later, when a role requires a younger version of them, they rehearse the part, put on their motion capture suit and virtually perform in their younger skin.

MG: ‘There is no reason why this couldn’t be done now in fact. What we lack is the library of all these great actors, that are alive today. We don’t have their 360 degree images from 30 or 40 years ago’

Ghulam explains that technology which can record the facial performance of an actor and translate it into a virtual character that doesn’t need prior calibration already exists. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) developed a particular program that studies the face of the actor who presents himself to the camera:

This form of capture has also manifested itself in the idea of face-exchange.

MG: ‘There was a research paper earlier this year, it’s a different kind of technology, but they can record your face, then they can record my face, and then I can puppeteer your face with my face.’

The animator highlights the many facets of the use of such highly developed technology and states that futuristic elements conveyed in early sci-fi films such as identity theft and stealing a persons face have potentially become very real. Whilst recognizing rapidly improving technology as vitally important to filmmakers, Ghulam is very clear about the fact that without dedicated people there would be no progress. He highlights the essence of having skilled and motivated artists, whether they are on the creative or on the technical side of things, on a VFX or VR project.

MG: ‘A very common question I would get asked has come from actors: ‘This stuff is gonna replace all of us, isn’t it?’ and I would say: ‘You’re in the middle of the floor, there are a hundred cameras around you and 40-odd people behind the scenes. All that technology and all that effort is about capturing something that only you can do. Which part of this tells you that you’re being replaced?”

Ghulam strongly outlines the convergence of storytellers, technicians and actors on visual effects productions and the importance of individual input. He stresses the fact that with the popularity of video tutorials digital artists have the opportunity to gain and improve their skills on a rapid speed, valuable knowledge is shared instantly and evolving communities of artists are trying new technologies and push their development to new levels. He uses the realtime cinematography example of Hellblade (Epic Games, 2016), a video game where a large number of digital artists capture a character in real time into the Unreal Engine by leveraging the unique qualities of the actress.

MG: ‘I’m not trying to paint a utopia here. Obviously there are competitive  aspects to this, but there has always been a lot of people (in the cg community) willing to share it and it’s these people who are making it possible. It’s also someone that will step on the set and say: ‘I can do that.’ Although their minds might be screaming that it is impossible […] but there is nothing quite like seeing it all work in the end. You’re creating things, or helping to create things, that could not be created anywhere else in that way’

Making the Magic Happen- What’s Next?

Mondo Ghulam is currently working on several short film projects as writer, director and VFX artist, and is planning on moving into feature film production very soon.

www.mondoghulam.com

The Runner Diaries: What is a Production Runner?

 

The Runner Diaries: What is a Production Runner? from IMIS on Vimeo.

Charlotte Taylor is a freelance runner working in production and on the floor. She is studying film production at the University of Greenwich. Prior to freelancing she worked as an office runner for a well-known comedy production company.

The Production Runner works in the production team to provide administrative support the Production Manager and Production Coordinator.

Key Duties:

  • Picking up and dropping off equipment, props etc.
  • Creating and printing sides
  • Printing callsheets and movement orders
  • Filing purchase orders
  • Shredding confidential waste
  • Sorting out post
  • Handling petty cash
  • Updating unit list and facilities list

Making tea and coffee

TOP TIPS for succeeding:

  1. Be proactive and positive2
  2. Work hard
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  4. Listen

To get work as a production runner check out these talent websites/agencies:

Talent Manager – https://www.thetalentmanager.co.uk/

The Unit List – http://www.theunitlist.com/

Calltime – http://www.calltimecompany.com/ 

The Runner Diaries: What is an Office Runner?

Reece Gibbons is an office runner at Hungry Man Productions; a commercial production company. He graduated from the University of Greenwich in 2015.Prior to working as an office runner he worked as a freelance runner in the industry.

The Office Runner is a full time in house position. Most production companies employ an office runner to support in administrative office duties.

Key Duties:

  • Greeting guests
  • Taking calls
  • Handling petty cash
  • Keeping kitchen stocked on tea, coffee, sugar & milk
  • Scanning, photocopying, printing, shredding & filing
  • Setting up conference calls
  • Booking taxis and couriers
  • Assisting on productions
  • Filling out post production paperwork

Check out the APA Website Jobs Board: http://www.a-p-a.net/jobs for work incommercial production companies!