WHEN MAKING A STUDENT FILM
BACKFIRE was the assignment of my fiction project course at RMIT university in 2014, for demonstrating our capabilities of visual storytelling and directing. Plus the producer as well as my classmate, Backfire only has four crew, and all actors are no experienced students and volunteers. I had gains and pains during whole process of producing. I was painful dealing with accidentally troubles such as actors quit, or weather/ camera issues in producing, and I was excited gaining experiences, making a tangible thing and the most important, friendship!
Our team members are all media students, which means for a fictional film we don’t have too much experience and knowledge if compared with those who are studying at film schools. What we all had was infinite passionate about moving images.
Before I prepared script, I watched various 10-minute long short films on youtube and vimeo, and I found that most of those films, structurally, are actually telling one-man story with a few turning points or single events/sequence in limited time. Then I started challenging myself---in a 10 minutes long film, what’s gonna happen if I create as many events/ characters as I can? Would it still be compelling or distracting? Eventually, for number of characters I built five, and there is no protagonist in this story, or, every character is the protagonist. These five people are interwoven by a kidnapping. Because I am an international (China) student studying in Australia, writing a script entirely in English was not an easy task. Thankfully, Samantha Ooi, who was responsible for sound recording for our film, helped me checking grammar problems.
It was a good start, then things became complicated. Even though we uploaded parts of the storyboard, description of opening scene and how the money would be used, we failed getting fundings from Pozible, and not even a dime was put into our project. What else can I do ? Funded by myself and move on. We planned costing about AU$350 for whole process of filmmaking. Good news was that we don’t worry about gears as we were allowed to borrow them from the uni, and I had my own Blackmagic Pocket camera. It saves money. The majority of the budget would be used for actors’ catering.
Starnow.com is a good resource for searching actors who volunteer to work with us, and we got over 20 applications after the casting call posted. We did two rounds of auditioning and it went fluently. However, due to they volunteered to join the team, a few of them didn’t feel too much commitment to us. It brought us in troubles: we had to delay the shooting plan, change actors. We sent each actor shooting schedule, whereas the day before we were going to film, an actor just informed us, that he joined another film in Sydney (our film sets were Melbourne based), and he quit. I felt like being fooled, and we were upset. I and crew comforted one another: we are just lack of lucks,and everything is gonna be fine. Then days past, another actor quit. Well, something just happened, and we gotta have plan B. One day morning I posted plot attached ads around the university, and luckily we got 2 actors that afternoon.
The editing of the film went smoothly though it was entirely edited on an old 2011 macbook, which I had to build proxy files while editing.
I learnt a lot during making Backfire, and I am looking forward to stepping into next level in future.
Written by Jiang Naizhong, Director of Backfire, Festigious' official selection in Indie category.