Tell us a little bit about your background Mal, and how you came to be involved with directing and making the short film “Double Booked”?
I am primarily a poet and writer, and have been published in various magazines and anthologies; I have had several plays produced, mainly through community projects. I also wrote two tourist guides for North Warwickshire Borough Council which resulted in the project to build The Polesworth Poets Trail which I have been working on since 2008 and am about to complete in 2012. It was through this project that I was asked to write a film script to tell the history of Polesworth Abbey, which was to be used as an interpretive film for tourists.
They could not pay me for producing the script, but offered me some free training with the film maker, Peter Ralley, on the basics of film making. I jumped at the chance and after the first day I was hooked and decided to add film making to my portfolio of activities. The films I have made to date have been short poetry films using landscapes, music and the poetry as the narrative. My first completed film was Yell! in 2009 – it is available on YouTube here. Since then I have made a couple of documentaries, Pollysworda which documented the making of the poetry trail and Wallpapered which documented a mix of art and theatre in empty shops, a project funded by Derby City Council.
My involvement in “Double Booked” happened purely by chance, I first met Keith Large a couple of years ago and we met again at a meeting of writing groups at the Grace Dieu Writers in November 2011 when we had a chat about writing projects, I gave him my business card and he became interested in discussing a film project which a few days later resulted in the commission for “Double Booked”.
Take us through the planning that went into the project before the actual evening of filming?
The process started with the script, which Keith had already written, with discussions on how it could be realised. I added the shots and scenes to the script, adding in a few establishing shots before the dialogue begins. The script is a dialogue driven piece, delivered in one scene and therefore we had to be careful not to overdo the establishing scenes.
The next step was to find a location, which Keith did, he looked at various possible places, mainly existing hotels that would have the set up so that we did not have to create a set. However, we ended up back in the room where we had met in November at the Constitutional Club in Coalville, who were not only happy to host us, but were very accommodating in what would be some disruption for them.
We used their DJ console with a slight, temporary, modification as the reception desk which was the main set dressing.
I took some photos which I used to create the story board and started a planning document with the plan, a resources list (props, set dressings, sound effects etc) and technical equipment list (Camera, sound equipment, lighting etc).
The Story board was spilt in scenes and shots they were mapped back to the script and also to the camera positions on the floor plans which I had also produced.
I normally work with a small crew, and so I had to engage them for the shoot and to brief them on what we would be doing and how we would go about it.
Keith and I met several times; I was keen that Keith agreed to everything that was proposed.
We went through who could provide what, between us we gathered the props and set dressings, borrowing where ever we could.
|The Crew - Mal Dewhirst, Jimi Dewhirst and Jack Heathcote|
Testing and practice with the new equipment was essential which was all completed over the Christmas period. During this time, I also made various set dressings and props, signs and the key fob that Helen used as a prop.
Check lists became an obsession – checking and rechecking.
So it was a very busy time but very worthwhile as all this planning paid off on the night.
What was it like working with Keith Large, the Producer, who is also the writer?
Keith is fantastic to work with, we got on straight away, we are both doers with a massive amount of enthusiasm for what we are doing. He has a vast amount of experience in producing films and therefore knows what is required. I was honest up front with him, that I had never filmed a drama or directed actors before, my previous films all being landscape based. So he took a risk with me, which I much appreciated. He also let me drive the process forward and was very open to some of the ideas that I bought to the project.
If he didn’t agree with something he said so and we looked for a different approach, when potential problems were aired we worked on them together to overcome them. It was good to have a producer/director team approach, I really appreciated the support.
Keith had written a very strong script, there were very few dialogue changes made from the original, only things to make sense of the establishing shots and any potential noise in the location. This was great for me as it meant I could focus on the visualisation. I would really like to work with him again; he has so many fantastic ideas for projects.
|Helen Bolitho, Keith Large and Mal Dewhirst|
Who did you have on your team on the night?
For my film crew, I like keep it in the family, I had my son Jimi Dewhirst who produces all the music and sound for my films and my nephew, Jack Heathcote, who is a student, as the production assistant. Harriet Warner was also invited to help out on the production.
And the actors, was it easy directing them?
This, as I said was my first experience of directing with actors, so was a big learning curve for me. Helen Bolitho and Kim Joyce were both wonderful and very patient with me, they were very accommodating, and did what was asked from them. Both of them are very professional. I could not have asked for anyone better to work with on my directing debut.
|Kim Joyce and Helen Bolitho|
Were there any mishaps, or funny incidents on set?
When I work, I tend to become very focussed on the job in hand and can often miss the funny incident, so others may well have other stories, probably about me.
My main memory on this score was the shelf on the reception desk moving – it was taped to the disco unit from the underneath and this wore loose as Helen lent on it during the filming. The whole unit began to creak which was picked up in the sound track. Nothing major that could not be fixed, but it meant we had to shoot it again.
What happens now the filming is done?
The Post Production activities, which in the main is the edit, taking the footage and creating the finished film using the editing software. This involves sorting the footage into the correct order adding in music and sound effects that were not captured on the day.
The film will be broken down into sub-films each of which will be edited and rendered before being put together in the master for the final render.
|Kim Joyce and Helen Bolitho|
I will initially produce a draft cut which I can show to Keith and we can discuss changes which will be made to the appropriate sub-film before being put back into the master.
Is there anything you wished you could go back and do again, or anything you would do differently next time?
Lighting – I like to understand the equipment that I am using so that I can instinctively place it in position at the right angle to get the result I want. With a small crew people have to double up on jobs, this can sometimes be a Jack of all trades and master of none.
Lighting was down to me, no excuses. Film lighting is an art and science in itself. I previously have only used natural light most of my film being shot out in the landscape. It was clear to me on the shoot that although I had researched this element of the shooting process, my knowledge was not what it should be.
When do you think we might have a sneak preview?
I should have the first draft cut ready by the end of January – with the plan to get the final film completed by the end of February. As to when you can have a sneak preview that will be up to Keith, when he is happy for people to see, then I am sure we can arrange for it to be shown.
And your next project?
As a film maker – I have three poetry films to produce to be shown at the Polesworth International Poetry Film Festival in September.
As a writer – I have a commission to write and edit an interpretation of place with poetry for Pooley Country Park from Warwickshire County Council.
I will be recording a series on lost poets for Radio Wildfire in February, taken from my blog over the last year.
I am also about to start the role of poet in residence on a historical research project and later in the year I will be poet in residence at Dig the Abbey – during the Archaeological excavations at Polesworth Abbey.
Thank you Mal, you have certainly given us an insight into film making. It sounds as if you are going to be very busy during 2012. Exciting times ahead! Good luck with your projects, and I look forward to seeing a clip of Keith’s film, “Double Booked” soon.
If you would like to keep up with Mal, here are the places you'll find him.
Poet - Writer - Film Maker
Blog - Pollysworda
Twitter - @MalDewhirst
And Keith’s website, Carrot Napper Productions is here, where you will find information about all his past, present and future projects. Keith is also on Twitter @KeithLarge3