Take £50,000, a good idea, network a renderfarm, call in your mates and work non-stop for three months. The result? Hollywood on a shoestring.
It hasn’t got a TV slot yet, although Mather believes it will be broadcast on TV at some stage. “I couldn’t tell you when – but I understand that some ‘individuals’ who shall remain nameless have put the film on the Web. A quick Google would throw it up.”
One of the movie’s USPs is it’s the first low budget short film to attempt Hollywood standards, although Mather is reserved about claiming as much. “Whether or not we hit ‘Hollywood standards’ is debatable. But theoretically the film uses reasonably new techniques to create sets and environments that would have been difficult or expensive to create physically.
“I work as a cameraman, Stephen works as a commercials director and we’re both very aware of what is going to take time or cost money. Night exteriors, helicopters, pyro and stunts are prohibitively expensive to shoot.”
He continues: “We opted to stage the whole film so the look would be consistent. No flip-flopping between physical and digital shots. We decided to shoot everything greenscreen because we felt the biggest enemy of believability is direct contrast. For example, when Ger Carey gets into his car in a wide shot and then you cut to a driving close-up which is shot in-studio using back projection – the cut is jarring.
“If, on the other hand, the whole film is back projection, then you just assume it is the look of the piece. It seems like an aesthetic choice, rather than a necessary evil.”
The shoot proved uneventful he says, “Save for the actors, Ger Carey and Andy Moore, who took an enormous leap of faith and were fantastic, given they were sitting in a sea of green with one or two props.” Given that most of the film was being made in post, wasn’t there a temptation to design the film around the technology, to make it easier?
In short, no: “We didn’t moderate shots to suit the medium in photography. Some of our worst problems were because me, the cameraman, opted to shoot one sequence handheld, thereby shafting me, the compositor and matchmover.”
Early on, the post was fraught with teething problems Mather says: “Renderfarm and networking issues on the one side; deadline versus creativity on the other. All that plus the demands of having people in your house for a few months – I’m surprised my long-suffering girlfriend didn’t cut and run.”
The eleven deep renderfarm and slow network hub was also frustrating. “They were in the study in my house and managed to heat the place,” says Mather, “which was nice save for the fact that it was the hottest summer on record – again, this often led to fights.”
The film was shot on film, not the cheapest medium when making a low budget movie. Why not shoot in HD and post the ‘film look’? “I don’t believe that you can do that,” says Mather. “Our producer initially mentioned HD which we didn’t feel it was going to work. It’s still a video look contrast-wise and there are strobing problems – it just looks cheap.”
“The post production systems and plug-ins that apparently give tape the film-look seem to make video very smudgy and degraded whereas if you’re sitting in a telecine bay looking at 35mm film on a high grade monitor, there’s nothing smudgy and degraded about it.
“HD, despite having progressive scan and a big resolution chip, may ostensibly look like film, but only to those who are not too discriminating. HD systems are in their infancy and still possess a kind of tape-look unless certain very narrow photographic margins are adhered to. Having gone to all this trouble and then spend your time working around the photographic medium would be messy – so why not just shoot film?”
So there you have it: Get a great story, ask your mates to chip in, get some money from a local film board (in this case the Irish Film Board), work round the clock, fight, test your girlfriend’s patience, and maybe Hollywood will come calling. “We are lucky enough to have been approached by some people to see if we are interested in pursuing further projects,” Mather says. Better book that limo…