The saga continues

One final post. ECA asked its BA3 film students to continue their weakness projects beyond our hand-in date and so for the past few weeks I’ve been carrying on re-drafting the script (and coming up with better titles – Kris’s New Boots is the current one!) with help from new tutor David Cairns.

David’s advice has helped me refine the characters – particularly the President and General, who now only reveal their true military identities at the film’s climax. Prior, they’re now disguised in football garb and called ‘The Manager’ and ‘The Coach’. This revision will hopefully now allow the army/recruitment subtext to start off less obvious and offer a more impactful revelatory moment.

I think I’ve also managed to de-clutter the ending where Marianne reappears and make clearer that Kris is dead and that the bad guys are seducing Marianne just as they did Kris. David also suggested a more appropriate death for Kris would be by being killed – ala on the battlefield – rather than killing himself. I was reluctant about this particular change since I felt the prior hanging scene offered some good suspense over if Marianne sees him dead or if she now sees the two men’s illusion of him alive and happy. I decided to go with David’s suggestion, but also tried to add a new method of keeping the same suspense over whether Marianne has discovered Kris’s body or not.

Throughout this extended work period, ECA also encouraged us to film something and so I had planned to shoot another test scene – but this time more detailed with the actors in costume and at a location, trying out some of the surreal moments which could benefit from rehearsing. This seemed like an agreeable idea, but unfortunately work on other projects took up too much time to organise filming.

To conclude, I was pleased the extra tutorials allowed me to build on my confidence with the script and look forward to finally going into production with it during my graduation year.

Final reflections

The weakness project dealt with my self-belief in my skills as a writer/director. In developing my idea for New Recruit and writing several script drafts, it was my hope to improve my screenwriting and end with a workable script to pitch as my graduation film project at Edinburgh College Of Art, which I’d direct (I’d previously resigned myself to graduating as an editor, a role I’m more adept at).

The project definitely helped me to gain worthwhile experience in researching and assembling materials to more clearly realise my idea and visual style (exploring similarly-themed films, finding images for mood boards). My directing skills also had a chance at expanding by working with two actors for a brief test shoot, but lack of time and my own choice of scene (too limited in its action) meant that this exercise didn’t provide as much benefit as it could have.

For most of the project, I had believed the script itself was constantly going through a very productive evolution, thanks greatly to the helpful feedback received from my tutor Catriona MacInnes. My 4th (and planned final) draft felt strong up until the last week of the project when a mock pitch of sorts took place. My description of the story to my class was confused and lacked enthusiasm – and was met with the same reaction. This concerned me very much and made me re-evaluate the state of the script and even the entire story idea itself. However, after a tiny re-write and a final 5th re-draft, I still feel the script is in decent shape and that is more likely my communication skills that are lacking. Another weakness discovered!

Overall, the project was helpful in making me more aware of the areas in my filmmaking skills that I still need to improve upon if I’m to pursue graduating as a director.

Final draft, for now

A 4th draft of the script to end this ‘weakness’ project:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/z6nouwatf8keuu5/NEW%20RECRUIT-%28Working%20Title%20-%204th%20Draft%29.pdf?dl=0

More drafts will doubtless follow eventually, but I feel confident enough to submit this one and end the project committed to the idea of directing this story as my grad film next year.

Changes for this draft were all in the final scene, to bring in some dramatic tension of suggesting Marianne perhaps initially seeing Kris as dead. Also to try and make clearer the idea of her being brought into the dark world of the two men and agreeing to follow them after being shown her own wish – Kris alive and happy.

Test scene

Finally met with my two prospective actors and had a chat about their characters (Kris and Marianne) and the story. Time ran out unfortunately and we only managed to try out one scene:

I think the rehearsal was only partially successful. I was pleased with how Elias and Lila interacted and enjoyed their chemistry, but part of the reasoning behind this test was to expand my directing skills – to give my actors a bigger variety of ways to execute the scene and to be less controlling. In reviewing the footage shot, I don’t feel as if I pushed these methods enough. While there is improvement in each ‘take’, I feel like I should have added suggestions that provoked more variety.

However, another aspect of this test was to make the actors feel at ease and comfortable in their roles, which I think I achieved at least. In our discussion, they seemed to understand their characters well from what they had read from the script and, straight away, embodied them very well during filming. The added direction I did give after each test appears quite clear in the takes – I was particularly pleased with the final take, in which I asked Eli to give Lila a look that would get across Kris’s adoration of Marianne more. I think he managed this well.

Again, I wished I had pushed these kinds of added direction more, but it felt a hopeful start to the shooting process overall.