Category: Short Films

Fight Or Flight

Fight Or Flight

Nicola directing with me on camera and Ian observing my progress.

On the 31st October 2016 I helped out on another short film. This project was really intriguing and ended up being an incredibly fun piece to work on. The basic premise for the short was a choreographed dance-fight scene. The two that would be performing would be dancer and actor Hannaj Bang Bendz, and MMA Jay Jay Ferguson. And it was working with Hannaj on Flawless that I was invited to work with her again on this. Oliver Eefesopolous, director for Flawless, said Hannaj was in need of a camera assistant and put my name forward to her which was a lovely thing for him him to do.

The director for this short, however, was Nicola Hoskins who wrote and directed the short film Stay With Me and Pike Dream which both won awards internationally. Nicola was lovely to work with and was a breath of fresh air in the film-making community as sadly only “13.6% of film directors working in the UK are women” and “21.7% of publicly funded films of 2016 had a female director“. Seeing Nicola direct with such passion was super encouraging and brought so much humanity to the set.

The set we shot at was New Era Gymnasium in Bournemouth Square – great place to be too as all the floors and walls are covered in padding for safety and the owner was great as well saying he often gets filmmakers using his gym for a filming location.

Jay Jay Ferguson and Hannaj Bang Bendz
Jay Jay Ferguson and Hannaj Bang Bendz

The day went really well. Hannaj and Jay had been choreographing their sequences for days and the script itself was nice and short. Our equipment was minimal with only sound, two DSLRs, LEDs and a Movi for free and fluid movement. All we needed to do were different shots and multiple takes to get the required coverage for the final edit – hence the two cameras.

Ian F. Hunt was the main camera operator and cinematographer and I was the camera assistant and second camera operator. Ian, too, was great to work with. And thanks to him, I got more filming jobs! He was impressed with the equipment I had brought with me, my attitude and professionalism on set, our shared knowledge of filming tech, and our appreciation for movies in general. I am really grateful that this short Fight or Flight had such a nice crew working on it. We bonded well and made connections for the future.

Someone who really surprised me though was the sound recordist Dave Harrison. His experimental work on acousmatic sound and his ability to hand build synthesizers and theremins had me talking with him whenever there was a spare moment on set. It’s sound experimentation and abstraction that I have a particular interest in and was exciting finding another creative with a similar mindset.

An unexpected pleasure on this shoot was getting to work with Rachel Collins again and see her impressive skills at makeup and prosthetics. Like Hannaj, I worked with Rachel on Flawless. Over the course of the day, Rachel’s challenge was to make both Hannaj and Jay appear more beaten up and bruised and she accomplished this with little hassle.

Rachel Collins applies makeup to Jay Jay Ferguson
Rachel Collins and Jay Jay Ferguson

There is not much to talk about the production side of things. Ian and I were stood on opposite sides of the choreographed performance so we could have enough coverage. It was just down to knowing when things were going to happen and where the two of us should be. With Hannaj and Jay both being professional athletes, we were all very sensible when it came to safety. The two knew how to do their stunts and both knew their limitations. There was only one instance when an actual punch made contact and that was from Hannaj to Jay. But he took that in good light and we all had a laugh from it. This also connects back to why Ian and I were on opposite sides to the dance-fight, none of their punches made contact but our camera angles, along with a good sound design, will trick the audience into believing Hannaj and Jay are actually hitting each other.

There was one sad thing about this project. This shoot was done on the 31st October, Halloween in the UK, and also the day our Audio Production unit at university would exhibit our radio dramas. For our radio dramas were individual chapter interpretations of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and would be exhibited in succession to the entire year. Unfortunately, we were too late finishing the film that I missed my groups chapter be broadcast in the lecture theatre.

Other than that, I hope to work with these people again and wish them well for future projects.

Ian F. Hunt, Nicola Hoskins, Jay Jay Ferguson, Hannaj Bang Bemdz, Will Pattenden
Ian F. Hunt, Nicola Hoskins, Jay Jay Ferguson, Hannaj Bang Bendz, Will Pattenden

Photographs taken by on set stills photographers Laura Harvey and Tim Way


I’m Endangering The Mission. I shouldn’t Have Come.

I’m Endangering The Mission. I shouldn’t Have Come.

This was one of the best film shoots I had ever been on, and is an example I constantly go back on for how things should be done. However, like most projects, this one does come with complications – which only adds to the story.

Guilt And Denial is an independent student short film written by Dan Tonkin, directed by Hamish Gough, produced by Shelbourne Productions, and stars Sam Klein and Alex West.

The split egos of an offender are forced to confront each other in a nightmare where only one can survive.

Planning was key for this project to be a success, for this film had a fare few risks involved. Namely, being caught. The location the crew had chosen was fantastic – it was an old, derelict warehouse factory in Holton Heath on the outskirts of Bournemouth – but not open to the public. I think four recces were conducted before filming to make sure this location would work. The two who conducted the recces (cinematographer Dan, and Director Hamish) were very open with what they saw, posting and informing us with potential risks, possible entrances and exits to the site, where set ups would be and how ultimately this location would work for the film. Numerous photos and videos of of the location came in – telling us where rooms had collapsing roofs, broken doors, or uneven floors. They were thorough in their findings – because they knew the risks, and we knew the risks. If a wrong step were to be made, there was a potential danger of injury and destruction to the site. But we knew what we were going in for and they were transparent in what this location was. As such, in a meeting further down the line, we discussed what we would wear to the location – and I ended up wearing my steel toe boots and clothes I did not mind wrecking.

Many more meetings were conducted before filming to finalise everything and make sure everyone was on the same level. A script, shot list, and call sheet had been made and amended numerous times to get everything to a level of coherence and reduce the amount of alterations when shooting would come round. Time would be a definite factor at this location, for we could be caught and thrown out at any time. The people in charge had even gone out of their way to secure a hire van to transport all of the equipment and most of the crew so when it came to the day, only a van and small car would arrive at the location.

Spacious Van

Unit Call: 07:45

Van loaded, crew strapped in, and all systems go. We are now on our way to the location. I am in the smaller car with the rest of the crew and as such arrive before the van. We park in the lot near the site and eagerly wait for the van to show up but we see something go wrong, we see the van go up the location road, then exit the other side. What has happened? The van got caught going in. The road the location is on happens to also be a private residential road, and one resident sees it strange a van driving up it, so questions the driver thinking he might be lost – thankfully, their swift reaction was to lie and say their GPS took them off course. The resident buys it, and the van drives off, kills some time, and makes a second attempt to getting to the location.

We’re in.

It’s a scramble to get all the equipment over the fence. Alex and Sam jump over first and take the equipment from us as we pass it over. We then hop over and run through no mans land (an open area between the fence and derelict) and enter the building and immediately begin setting up. The hard part is now over, all we need to do now is shoot the film. And that’s what we do.

It was such a lovely experience being on this project. Everyone knew what they were doing and how they were to do it, we all new the story and we all liked each other and get on well. It’s a really pleasant time we all had.

Besides the thought that went into the recce, the attention towards the script and shot list, and the constant communication; there is one reason why I continue to use this project as my example of good filmmaking and my best experience in the field so far – and that is what I was handed when we all met for the unit call… Like a good guy I am, I had printed myself the script and call sheet ready for the shooting day, but when I arrived for the unit call, I was given a personal production pack with my name on it. The folder was new and had my name on a printed label. Inside was not only another copy of the script and call sheets, but finalised shot lists and to my surprise, MAPS and floor plans of the derelict. No production I had ever been on before or since has ever provided me with maps and floor plans of the filming location – and as such, is now a technique I use on my productions. A floor plan is (and was) incredibly useful. It allowed me to know not only what rooms and areas were inaccessible, but also where and when each set up and shot would be. Example, shots 14, 15, 16, 32, 40 take place in the corner by the door etc. But what really struck home was that these guys cared for their each other and it was so nice seeing everyone respected.

That’s me on the right operating the camera (C300)

Filming had finished, lunch had been eaten, and it was time to pack up and go home. But this story plays out like a real film as there’s conflict inbound! We’re plain sailing, everything has gone to plan, we’re golden – which in a film can only mean the heroes are going to face another challenge or spout of conflict – for us, it was capture again. We had packed up and removed everything from the building and we were now at the fence quickly passing kit over to get out of there. The driver had already jumped to grab the van but before it could collect us, another resident of this road came driving up. He got out of his car, with his dog, and questioned us being there “you know you shouldn’t be in there, that’s private land” – all we could say was “sorry” and “we we’re just leaving actually”, I think we came up with some excuse like “we actually couldn’t get further than the fence, it’s all locked off”. What I do remember though, is that the man got back in his care and drove off but forgot his dog! The dog followed behind as he drove further up the road. We were just grateful that he had caught us at the end of the shoot whilst we were leaving – rather than halting production during.

Shaken, we regrouped at uni and discussed what had just happened and he possibilities of future filming. Having been caught twice, everyone was now concerned as to whether or not it would even be possible to continue filming the next day. It was put to a vote, and sadly, postponed until further notice. We all felt that we were lucky to get away how we did, and that it would have been to risky to return the next day. For all we knew, the people who had caught us going in and out could have informed their neighbours to keep an eye out or even the local authorities. In retrospect, it was good we let the heat die down before returning to the site.

But even with being caught going in and coming out, it was still an amazing experience and a fun film to shoot. As always I wish these guys all the best for the future and hope to work with them again.

Guilt And Denial Clapperboard

Continue the story here as we return to the site in the winter.