|Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad.|
Having recently completed my first short film, Vampire Story, as writer and director, I now appreciate more than ever how much work is required to make a movie. I'm convinced that, having been through the mill, I genuinely enjoy quality work in a way that I couldn't otherwise. Making a film, however short, is a great way to learn, to develop new skills and to appreciate others' talents. If you're considering making a short film, here are some tips:
1. Story is king
Vampire Story is about a writer of vampire literature, how he deals with rejection and the pain of living forever. There's a nice twist when we discover who the writer is and it was this twist that made the film worth making. Breaking Bad is unique story-wise in that the good guy, Walter White, becomes the bad guy, while Jesse starts off as a (vaguely) bad guy who turns good. This story arc alone makes the project different, compelling and intriguing. The script for Vampire Story was rewritten many times during filming and the story was changed even more during editing. So be prepared to change the story as you go, but have a clear script to begin with.
2. Acting is hard
Bryan Cranston's performance in Breaking Bad has been described by Anthony Hopkins as the best acting ever and it is certainly that good. In making Vampire Story, I learned that acting is tough, so tough. The ability to say a line so that it means something more than words, to communicate an emotion with just a look, to have a genuine presence on screen and to do all these things take after take after take is a true skill, is art.
|Philip English on location at Poolbeg, Dublin with Marcus filming.|
3. Lenses matter
Breaking Bad was shot on 35mm film. This would have accounted for a fair chunk of the $3 million per episode budget but the payoff was gorgeous depth and rich colour. We didn't have the luxury of film for Vampire Story, shooting on Canon 5D HD digital SLR cameras and using some of our total €1,200 budget on lens rental. Lenses, or glass as they're called, add real depth to digital film and can cost more than the camera.
|Mark filming Wendell outside Anglo Irish Bank, St Stephen's Green, Dublin.|
4. Planning is everything
Between cast and crew, we had about twenty people on set for our main interiors shooting session. It was across four sets and was planned out shot by shot. It still went from 6.30pm to 2.30am, much longer than anticipated. It could have been better planned, as some of the actors had to hang around for hours until they were needed. When nobody's getting paid to make a short, you need to not squander their time. Making a film is a really complex project, so talk it through, plan it out, make schedules, use common sense.
|Planning shots in Crumlin, Dublin.|
5. Sound and music are as important as visuals
Breaking Bad set up every episode with that theme. It worked. But it also had perfectly fitting music from ZZ Top, The Monkees, JJ Cale, Bach and many more artists. Songs really matter and when a TV production doesn't have a budget to stretch to some classic or specifically-penned songs, everything suffers. Vampire Story was lucky enough to have singer Carol Keogh team up with synth legend Aidan Casserley.
|Aidan and Carol perform music from Vampire Story, live at Night of the Machines, Dublin.|
Another aspect of sound is recording dialogue. We had some technical problems while filming one scene, so couldn't record dialogue. I assumed it would be easy to record later and match it up (this is known as ADR - additional dialogue required). Wrong. Matching dialogue later is seriously tricky so do your utmost to record dialogue while you're shooting. You can worry about all the other sounds later.
So go. Go make a film.
You can see Vampire Story on YouTube at http://youtu.be/mtbuLxOcHLo
You can see Vampire Story with French subtitles on YouTube at http://youtu.be/INUWBrwrMb0
You can connect with and comment on Vampire Story on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vampirestorymovie
Cast and Crew
Director of Photography
Philip English as The Writer
Jessie Doyle as The Woman
Damien Murphy as The Singer
Wayne Fahey as The Bank Manager
Wendell Marinho as The Vampire Hunter
Bernadette Byrnes as The Vampire Hunter
Jenny Doyle as The Vampire Hunter
Tara Fahey as The Vampire Hunter
Matt Houlihan as The Slaughterman
Kieran Woodfull as The Victim
Eden Byrnes as The Captive Child
Molly Doyle as The Captive Child
Gary J Byrnes as The Bank Worker
Editor and Second Camera
Marcus P Campbell
Pyrotechnics & Effects Ltd
Marcus P Campbell
Hair and Make-up
written and performed by Damien Murphy
"What a Pain"
written and performed by Carol Keogh and The Wazp
"Season of the Wolf"
written and performed by The Wazp
written and performed by Carol Keogh
Suzanne Thompson Fahey
Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams
The Producers Wish to Thank
The Shelbourne Hotel
The Sugar Club
Alan Hanna's Bookshop
Rage Records, Fade Street
Dublin City Council
Filmed in Dublin, Ireland
Written and Directed by
Gary J Byrnes
Padraig Darmody and Gary J Byrnes
Copyright © Gary J Byrnes, 2013