The Making of Wake Up

Halloween has come and gone for another year. And as per our annual tradition, Newforge Studios released another seasonal short. This year brought “Wake Up”, a four minute short film set in my late Grandfather’s house, centred around a character alone in his newly inherited property, though strange occurrences lead him to question whether he is truly alone. Or something along those lines. It is only four minutes long, after all, and it’s not quite the film I set out to make. For a film that was shot one day and edited the next, I was reasonably happy with “Wake Up”. I had hoped to produce a more visceral, psychological thriller exploring the anxiety I feel when alone at home on a cold, dark country night, but the script went through a number of changes due to time pressures and availability of cast and production crew. My ambitions often extend beyond our current capabilities!

Stephen on Sound
Stephen on Sound

I came up with the basic premise and hashed out a rough idea with Calum one evening before the production weekend. The script itself was drafted on the morning of shooting, and a shot list produced from said script. When you’re working within a tight timescale, you have to be organised. In previous years we’ve tried shooting without shot lists and proper scripts – it’s a surefire way to miss out on important linking shots, and generally makes editing even more of a headache. A proper script and well organised shot list makes life more pleasant, along with a crew member to keep track of it all. Alan was on the clapperboard, and keeping track of the shot list. Stephen was on sound. Brian on camera. I was directing, and Tom was starring. With folks coming and going we had to chop and change roles, and I stepped in for sound and camera from time to time. I haven’t had a lot of directorial experience, so it was challenging keeping everything moving along and getting the shots I wanted. We were also working against the light, as a number of the initial shots required daylight. Shots were roughly grouped into setups, and we shot the beginning and end at the same time, along with the in car shots.

The director...
The director…

The indoor shots weren’t as time sensitive, as the lighting could be easily controlled. We had a number of LED lights in addition to the house lights, though we weren’t planning on any complex lighting setups. I had to limit the number of shots and cut a few from the list because of time pressures, and because I wasn’t sure how much they would’ve added to the story. The scenes in the attic were slightly rushed as it was towards the end of the shoot, conditions were cramped, and I hadn’t properly scripted out that section. In retrospect, I should’ve explored the attic before the day and figured out exactly what I wanted to do, but chalk that up to experience. The end needed some work as well, but we filmed a few potentials and went with the one which felt the most natural. We filmed primarily with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5K and a Canon DSLR for the space restricted shots in the attic and car, mainly using a 28mm f2.8 lens. Sound was recorded with the Zoom H1 and Sennheiser microphone, and synced manually in Adobe Premiere Pro at the time of editing. My trusty clapperboard was invaluable, and would’ve been even more helpful if I hadn’t forgotten how to use it properly. Half-filming, half-recording sound, and half-slating is just too many halves. And you know what they say about that…too many halves spoil the broth? This confusing message is trying to convey the point that you do need a reasonably sized crew for most shoots – it’ll help everything run smoothly. At least a cameraman, sound man, assistant camera/clapper loader and director.

It was great getting back into filmmaking, particularly with our most ambitious film since Slasher Flick a few years back. One full day pre-production and filming, and one day post-production. Let me know what you think of our effort for Halloween 2016. Here’s Wake Up:


Wake Up from Newforge Studios on Vimeo.

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