Innocent film making workshop with Ben Wheatley

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a chance to learn something new, meet some lovely people and create stuff together and come away with a proper tangible thing we made at the end of the day. Not too shabby!

Innocent linked to a blog post about a film making workshop in their newsletter a month or so back, and to apply for a place, you had to send them a story / idea for a next superhero smoothie advert.  I think my entry was pretty bland and pretty close to the current ad, especially after exchanging stories with people I met yesterday who got on with their ideas too, there were some quite out there and funny ones.  Anyway, I managed to get a place and went along yesterday with no expectations.

The day was split into two – the entire morning we had Ben Wheatley, an amazing lo-fi director who made the latest superhero Innocent ad, talk us through the principles and a few techniques of lo-fi filming and shared with us some of his brilliant work.  I thought I’d just jot down in bullet points the main points I jotted down in my notebook yesterday.  Just a few things I didn’t know before and found interesting:

  • Storyboards are really important. They are a chance to practice the film in your head. To imagine shots and flow.  In advertising they can be a legal document
  • You have to have a vision. Literally. Not just an idea of what you want, you have to see it, then try and make it. Spend walking time daydreaming
  • Camera plans can save you time. You save time if you know how you’re going to set everything up beforehand, or have at least thought about it a little beforehand
  • Minuteage is the term for how many minutes of the final movie you can make per day. Kind of like the directors forecasting tool
  • Coverage is lots of shots and options. Like ‘filler’ footage – wide pans of a room, lots of quick shots of nothing. Editors and producers like coverage apparently. It makes things look like TV. You need coverage with weak scripts and weak performances
  • Play your storyboards to music. This allows you to test the time each shot needs, how long it will / should be, and test how the shots flow
  • He described the journey of the progression of film and his involvement as: Film cameras > Internet & flash animation (3 year bubble) > YouTube
  • Lo-fi is a can-do attitude. Not making things look ironically bad, but making stuff work and effects with whatever you have and with strictly no CGI.  It’s about you deciding what is good, and telling a story without worrying too much if it looks right
  • Download sound FX from the internet.

Ben’s talk was fascinating and he’s a really nice speaker. Just natural and humorous. I was particularly impressed that he made the Alan films for Modern Toss, and he references his style as in the same area as Michel Gondry. The Science of Sleep is my favourite film aesthetically.  Ben also made a feature film, which won lots of film festival awards apparently called Down Terrace. I’ll be checking that out.

The second half of the day were were split into groups and tasked with making a mini movie.  It was designed really well – the majority of people there got a place by applying, but they also invited just the right amount of young, talented film students so that each group who had someone with some experience and talent in this area.  In my team was Dan, Luc and Flora, who was a film student.  They also gave each group a runner in the form of an Innocent employee.  We got Joe, who was amazing. He had brought in props from home, a mini bottle of whiskey so we could kick off with a cheeky sip to tickle our senses. I’m pretty sure that gave us an edge.

We were given the genre of ‘slasher horror’, and each got a box of props which included a few of the little superhero fellas, like the one in the picture above.  We managed to get the kitchen as our location, the one used for testing and formulating new recipes, so it had lots of clinical looking machines and kinda looked more like a lab.  The perfect location for a slasher horror!

We had lots of fun making zip wires for flying smoothies, splashing about a deep red smoothie for the gore effects and doing silly voices.  We were given the first half hour to brainstorm and make our story board then we had to shoot it within an hour and a half.  We managed to get into a flow pretty quickly, and sequentially shot different scenes all in one take each!

It was so much fun watching the results of everyone’s movies – each one was hilarious. They be up on YouTube over the next few days and the one with the most views at the end of the week wins a case of smoothies for each member in that team.  That kicks of a wider competition, open to everyone and with a bigger prize.  This video tells all about that:

A thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring day.  Thank you Innocent for making us feel so welcome and at home, for getting some really excellent people together and making creativity happen!

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