Shooting A Short in Central Park Last Weekend

Last weekend my production team and I went to Central Park in New York City to shoot a short film we recently wrote. It's untitled as of yet, but I like the title "Poppy and Poodle" after the two main characters, which if that gives you any indication (and hopefully excitement), one of the main characters is my little poodle, Henry. The other lead character, Poppy, is played by myself. It's a match-made in heaven (as they say.)

During one of our recent bi-weekly production meetings, the team brainstormed ideas for our next short. Inspiration can come from anywhere, it doesn't have to be complicated, and we were immediately focused around the beautiful Fall foliage happening right now, so shooting something located in Central Park seemed ideal. We were meeting in my and my partner Graham Burns' (coolburns.com) apartment, so Henry was there hanging out with us, and that was the beginning of the story: Henry the miniature poodle in Central Park. But how did he get there, and what is he doing there? He happens to cross paths with Poppy, a young woman in the midst of a breakup, and a friendship is forged. 

Our production team is a small group of young freelancers; we became friends at a previous job and eventually connecting through our love of filmmaking and wanting to produce as much of our own content together as possible on the days we're not working freelance gigs. With that said, organizing our schedules on these off days so we can shoot can be difficult, as was the case with this shoot. We rescheduled many times over the course of several weeks until finally we were all able to lock down last Sunday to shoot, and had planned it so we could get all the shots we needed in one day. We were restricted by the script and location to shoot only in daylight as well, so we had a very early call time, and had to get all of our shots completed by 4pm (because it's winter now and the sun sets so very early) to be on track. 

With all this planning and pre-production and a shot list set, we were ready to go on Sunday to get this little short produced! We had 2 actors (one of them a dog, and one of them me) our DP (Director of Photography) Graham Burns (coolburns.com), our Writer and Producer Michelle Michelson (see her LinkedIn Profile here) and our other collaborator, co-Writer and co-Producer Blair Aubrey (see her IMDB profile here), as well as a Production Assistant, NYU Senior Quinn Gundersen. Despite our good intentions, planning and pre-production, the odds were not in our favor (sorry for my over-utilization of clichés today, they just seem so fitting)...we had set our story outside and the weather was ultimately not going to cooperate. 

I had been Executive Producing this short, doing most of the pre-production and getting all of the props and costumes straightened out, organizing the shooting schedule around everyones respective availability, and sending out the Call Sheet as the shoot date got closer, which typically includes the day's weather forecast. It had consistently said, up to 2 weeks prior and day of, that it was going to be a high of 61 F, mostly cloudy, with a few patches of quick rain throughout the day, and heavy rain in the evening, but after sunset when we'd already be wrapped. However, on the day of the shoot, it was incredibly cold (low 50's, maybe even 40s), cloudy, and consistent rain all throughout the day. Therefore, despite our hard work and how much we had done to get to this day, the weather literally "rained on our "parade"". We shot as much as we possibly could, especially in the morning when the rain was at it's lightest, but by 2:00pm, we were getting pretty soaked, and Henry was becoming more and more fidgety (such a diva.)

It was an incredibly frustrating decision to have to wrap early on our short after not getting all of the shots we needed. This means having to find time again in everyone's schedules to go back (before the leaves leave) and shoot in the park, trying to re-create the look of that day as much as possible so it will match the look of the original footage we shot from our first attempt. We really didn't want to have to call it quits, but we didn't want to compromise the day any further either. And it was a great learning experience as well, as we always find these little adventures in filmmaking to be. I know that the sacrifices we made and the troubles we faced on our little shoot like this will help make us better, more resourceful and problem-solving filmmakers when the time comes for us to be on even bigger, more expensive and liable shoots in the future.

We look forward to getting back out in the field and being able to finish what we started. This is a funny, special little short film and we want do it right and then share it with the world. So please stay tuned, the rain didn't officially wash away our film...it's still in the making. 

Click through the photos from set below, taken by our set photographer for the day, Blair Aubrey. 

Short Film Contest Results: Storyboards and Director's Vision

A few days ago I put up a post about a short film I submitted to for the opportunity to direct the winning screenplay as part of a contest hosted by the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF), made possible by one of their sponsors Shamin Hotels

This weekend I was emailed by the Founder and Producer of RIFF, Heather Waters, who told me the results of the contest and the winning selections:

Bad news is...

"After careful deliberation with the RIFF Committee and Shamin Executive Staff, we have come to a decision on this year’s winning director for our in-house short film production award. While you were not selected as this year’s winning director..."

Good news is...

"You made it into the top 3 due to your wonderful work.  The Committee and Shamin very much enjoyed your take on the project, so the festival would like to award you with an Honorable Mention at the red carpet awards ceremony to recognize this.  You will receive an award certificate there, and we hope you are able to attend in person to receive the honor. Again, a wonderful job, Noel & we thank you for your participation!"

So I didn't win the official selection, and won't have the opportunity to go out to Virginia and direct this short film and receive the cash prize package at the festival in March, where it will be presented. 

But I did receive and HONORABLE MENTION which I do consider an achievement in itself, and am very proud that I took a chance and submitted to this contest, even though the outcome wasn't exactly what I wanted in the end. 

As I mentioned in my last post, the reason why I was able to submit to this festival in the first place is because I submitted my auto-biographical short film My Aura's Echowhich I wrote and directed, to RIFF. I have yet to find out if my film has been officially selected into the festival yet, announcements go out in mid-December. So there's a chance I might still be going out to this fest to screen my film, as well as receiving my Honorable Mention. I'm keeping my fingers crossed my film will be selected so I can go out and screen it, as well as receive my Honorable Mention in person.

Give my film My Aura's Echo a watch, do you think it deserves to be in a film festival? The film is about the struggles I faced during the course of last year when I was 25 years old and was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and epilepsy. Go to my last blog post and look over the Storyboards and Director's Vision Statement, which are the one's I submitted for the contest for RIFF. Do they deserve the Honorable Mention I received? Would you have selected me as the winning director, was my vision clear, did it seem compelling? 

Some how, some day I will make it to the red carpet. Maybe RIFF will be my chance. Maybe not. I'm doing whatever I can right now to make it happen though. RIFF is not the only film festival I've submitted My Aura's Echo to. My Aura's Echo is not the only short film I've directed recently that I'm submitting to film festivals to try to get exposure.

It feels like I'm pushing, pushing, pushing and nothing is getting any easier. But I know the day it does, it will all be worth it. And on that day I'm going to be on the red f*cking carpet. 

-NDB

Storyboards and Director's Vision Statement by Noel Day for a Short Film Contest

Throughout this past year I have been entering my short auto-biographical medical-documentary film My Aura's Echowhich I wrote and directed, into film festivals around the country. As of yet, I've only heard back from one, the LA Femme Festival, that it were not selected, boo-hoo. But it's okay, I've submitted to many, and the festival circuit is a hard game to play. You submit to a ton, you get into a few, if any. It doesn't mean your film isn't any good, it just means that festival wasn't right, at that time, for your film. There's a lot of rejection in this industry, it's good to remain positive. 

So on a positive note...another great festival I submitted my film to is the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF) in Richmond, Virginia. I find out in December if my film is officially selected (so keep your fingers crossed!!) but in the meantime, I had another great opportunity given to me through this festival just because I submitted a film to it:

RIFF is putting on a short film contest for their festival, made possible by one of their sponsors Shamin Hotels. The contest is for both screenwriters and directors, the winning submissions will have their work produced in December and debuted at the Festival in March, along with access to the festival, IMDB credit, and a cash prize package. As a director, I knew this was a contest I would want to take part in.

The contest started with a call to all screenwriters to submit a short screenplay based on the given theme of "pay it forward" and a few other details, based on the the backstory of the Shamin family and business. Once the winning screenplay was selected (the winner is Kathryne Isabelle Easton for her script "The Hospitality Effect") RIFF then put out an announcement for director's to submit their vision of how they would tell this story. The requirement's for the director submission were storyboards illustrating how the story would be told, and a one page Director's Vision Statement, articulating the vision the storyboards conveyed, as well as any additional technical/sound/editing techniques. I had only 10 days to submit before the deadline, and boy was I nervous! 

Firstly, I have never done a storyboard before. I studied them in film school and why they are useful for filmmaking, but I am no artist, so I've never completed one personally. RIFF specified that they could be completed electronically or hand-drawn, and because I don't have any storyboard software, I drew out the entire 10-page script; which came out to be 6 pages of storyboards with 36 hand-drawn frames. This took me about 7 days to complete. Whew! Like I said, I'm no artist. But you don't have to be Michelangelo to draw storyboards, and I really started to enjoy the process, it was very helpful to begin drawing out my ideas rather then just trying to verbally explain them to someone (my usual process.) I could show what the shot should look like, camera angles and movement, character movement within a scene, even character, all within these small frames. It was amazing, and really convinced me of how necessary and beneficial storyboarding can be for a project; both for getting my ideas as a director out in a visual way, and in a way for others to visually see my inspiration. 

The second requirement for submission was the Director's Vision Statement. Again, this was not something I had formally ever been asked to do before. I've verbally given my vision statement many times before on a project to my cast and crew, but I had never been asked to write one out. I had to Google examples to first to make sure I was doing it correctly before I completed it. A Director's Vision Statement, written out, specifying your vision, identifying your protagonist/antagonist, your theme and when the story is taking place, then going into more specific details on how some of the technical aspects might be handled with camera and movement, and how you might like to see it edited/sound etc...is a very useful tool. Writing it out to present is so much more concise and efficient and productive then just having it bottled up in your head, to then blurt out to your cast and crew and hope they can comprehend it all. Usually it's all done within one page, so it's a lot to fit in but it helps you get everything across without saying too much. I found this incredibly helpful in sharing my vision, keeping it straightforward and concise, and again, a brilliant tool in directing that I think I will continue to use in my future projects.

Now everything has been submitted and I am eagerly awaiting the outcome. It would be wonderfully amazing if I was selected as the winning director for this contest, and was able to go to Richmond to shoot this short film in December, from my vision, to be premiered at the fest in March. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as they promised to tell us within the next day or two the winning selection. 

If I am not the chosen director, then at least I learned to storyboard and writer a proper vision statement, which will undoubtedly help me on my future endeavors. Always look to the bright side of things, right?

-NDB

Storyboard for "The Hospitality Effect", screenplay by Kathryne Isabelle Easton. For RIFF Short Film Contest, Director Submission.  October 2013_Noel Day Bishop

Storyboard for "The Hospitality Effect", screenplay by Kathryne Isabelle Easton. For RIFF Short Film Contest, Director Submission.

October 2013_Noel Day Bishop

Director's Vision Statement for "The Hospitality Effect" for RIFF Short Film Contest  October 2013_Noel Day Bishop

Director's Vision Statement for "The Hospitality Effect" for RIFF Short Film Contest

October 2013_Noel Day Bishop