How 'One Flat Note' was made - Development and pre-production

The short movie on the home page (One Flat Note) was made specifically to enter the Virgin Media Short Film Competition although the script was originally for a longer version than the two minute, twenty second limit for the competition.

Through friends, a group of actors from stage musicals in London's West End were persuaded to come to a read through of the script when it was just six pages long. They were so good that the script was subsequently doubled in length to 12 pages with the addition of new dialogue.

Based on the read through, the main characters were cast and included performers from Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. Getting such amazing performers was the first lucky break but they all wanted to be in the movie and they loved making it.  They had all been to acting school as well and were amazing and very easy to direct.

Next step involved location scouting while the script was developed for filming. This proved difficult as the script required a florist shop and a cafe that were next door to each other. 

There also needed to be room to park a car outside and enough space in front of the cafe to allow the fight over the money to take place.

Take lots of photos of your possible locations so you know which is which later. In the end, the locations were found but they were at different ends of the same street so a lot of camera positioning had to be planned to make them look like they were next to each other.  In the short version currently edited, this results in at least one bad edit which I will talk about much more in a later post.

A simple set of storyboards was put together and used slightly. This just about worked because the movie was short but the storyboards should have been much more detailed and followed much more closely to have avoided some of the issues experienced on location. 

Based on the sotryboards, the script was pulled apart and a shooting list put together. This is another important document on set as it lists every shot you need to get to ensure you capture your whole story on film (or tape in this case).

Your shooting list also puts your shots in the order they need to be filmed so you need to spend a lot of time getting this right and breaking it into chunks you can shoot in a day without killing your cast and crew. 

The shot list order might result in shots being filmed out of sequence because an actor is only available on one day or you might decide to shoot the interiors one day and exteriors the next. This works quite well as you can match weather conditions more easily.

In 'One Flat Note' the first day's shooting was the exteriors with the exception of the fight over the money. The second shooting day was two weeks later and covered the interiors and the fight. 

Consequently, the shot of the best man and groom walking towards the cafe entrance was shot two weeks before they entered the cafe!

If you look very carefully at this picture, you can see that there's no-one at any of the tables!

If you have a shot list that you've spent a lot of time on, stick to it closely on set because all you have to do is film each shot and tick it off. When you've ticked everything off your list, you're done for the day.

One of the biggest mistakes made with 'One Flat Note' was that the long version of the script didn't just have more dialogue, it also had a few subtle differences from the short version. On the day, some of the additional shots needed for (ironically) the short version were missed and this made the editing process much harder.

So that's a starter on how this short was made. Next time we'll cover the location shoot and start to go through the lessons learnt during the project.