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Journal Of An Amateur, Independent Filmmaker
JUNE 21, Sunday
After I cleaned yet another accident of my puppy, Noodle this afternoon, I was suddenly struck with a brilliant idea. I had been toying with it for quite some time, since I’ve been wanting to join this contest for ‘’youngsters with filmmaking talent’’.
I’m young, but I’m not good at filmmaking, so I dismissed the idea. But now that I’m thinking about it, how bad could it be?
I got the idea of a scene where I brought my puppy Noodle out to potty for obvious reasons, I thought maybe I could add it to this skit of mine. That’s right! Filmmaking is on the go now! It sounds fun, and I like the excitement of it.
Plus, I’m bored at home anyway. My friends are all out on vacation, but the skit doesn’t have to have many people as actors. Besides, the idea that was forming in my head involved my pets, and I’m not so sure about the tortoises, but Noodle’s a pretty good actor. She just learned how to play dead last week.
And I was an actor in my school play, though that was years ago. I can write, though, and even if I have no filming experience, at least I’m creative. I think.
I flipped open a notebook and started writing my script. It had to be a short story, because the challenge was that the film had to stay at the maximum of five minutes. I don’t see how that’s a challenge.
The editing and technical issues were though, and I may have overlooked that. I asked Mom to help me film using my cell phone camera. And so I started by pantsing all these scenes, preparing all the lines in my head. My goal was for this to be fun, and in a way, it was, but challenges came from places I least expected.
Like tonight. I filmed a few scenes for my film. I did it all by myself, but most of it didn’t turn out well because it lacked someone holding the camera for me. Why? Because Mom was the only person in the house capable of filming for me, but she’s having a fight with my horrible Grandpa, and now she’s in an irritable mood.
I also found acting challenging. Shooting and the time of arrangement for all those scenes were difficult, but acting was a whole other thing.
I spent too much time working on the camera shooting part and all that, and when it came to getting the perfect angle, my mind went blank and I would forget all about my lines. Hopefully this contest wouldn’t be presented at my school, or my facial expressions would get laughed at for sure.
My film’s story isn’t even well formed yet, and I’ll explain that tomorrow. I just try my best with whatever line is in the script. The script is still in my notebook, but I might move it to a document on my computer soon.
I realize that I haven’t written about what this skit was even about. But in one of the scenes I self filmed, I had to hold the camera for about twenty minutes, and my hand is tired now. Plus from all this writing. So an explanation can wait.
JUNE 22, Monday
Today was a busy filming day. I have to admit, I was excited about this film making now that I was certain to participate. The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was write the skit’s script on my laptop.
I might as well start with an explanation of this five minute film. It’s basically my character (who’s unnamed but we’ll call her Arielle here) taking my poodle Noodle out to go potty one afternoon. Ironic!
Then the story gets strange. Suddenly, a special rock falls on my- I mean, Arielle’s head, which makes Arielle slowly lose her memory. But in return, my character Arielle was able to talk to animals.
It’s a short story, so the climax is Arielle figuring out what happened to her and how to restore her memory, with the help of her pets (I featured Noodle and my tortoises).
Arielle is pretty thick, and my pets are smarter than her, so they solved the entire story. Also, major decision: the pets are actually going to talk! Afterall, the story is told in Arielle’s perspective, and if she can hear the animals, then so should the audience.
I could do it using this cool editing software my Mom showed me a couple months ago, and I recently learned how to do voice overs and voice effects for my pets. There was this one effect that could turn my voice into a high pitched squeak, so that could work if I want Noodle to sound like Theodore from ‘’Alvin and the Chipmunks’’. Or even Alvin. Or Simon. Don’t all chipmunks sound the same?
And if there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience so far, it’s that I’m a better voice actor than physical actor. My hand movements look like I’m swatting a fly. In terms of writing, I’m a plotter, but not with this short film. I have no idea how to end this, but because it’s so short, I think I’ll do fine.
But the plot. It’s so cliche, I know! But the original idea I had yesterday was worse. That was why I didn’t journal about it last night, other than my wrist that was throbbing, of course.
The original story plan was MYSELF writing ABOUT a girl whose memory was affected when a rock fell on her head, then later I decided to BE the girl. This decision made me have to leave out a lot of the footage I took yesterday.
But I’m okay with that, since it’s a stepping stone. It gave me more experience so it wasn’t entirely a waste of time. That’s the mindset I want to have with this film.
Coming up with the story isn't my main priority because this was to showcase my filmmaking skills, but still, I could’ve done better. I was less focused on the storyline because this isn’t something I normally do, and writing is practically like breathing for me.
Anyway, today I spent the entire morning working on this skit. That’s how bored I am. After breakfast, I filmed separate video shots of the tortoises, named Marble and Pebble, outside in the garden. The camera angle was shot in first person perspective because it would fix this major problem for the filming.
The issue was that my cell phone camera couldn’t take in all the motion of my pets. They were the only other important characters other than Arielle(me) and Arielle’s mom (me wearing glasses and a sweater). I was on a low budget, so it’s not like I had a crew of cameramen with ten professional cameras shooting every detail.
I constantly reminded myself that this was supposed to be for fun, though I’m not gonna lie, I’m getting a bit intense about this.
For the rest of the morning, I asked Mom to help me film. My Mom’s fight with my Grandpa is over now, at least they left each other alone, so she can be my camera woman. But now I’m realizing that this isn’t a very good thing. I hate to sound whiny or ungrateful, so don’t get me wrong. I love my Mom and she’s amazing- just not with cameras.
We had a bad start. I knew this wouldn’t end well when we had to retake the first few scenes because Mom’s thumb was in the camera or it was faced the wrong way.
It didn’t help that I myself was too focused on the technical part, and I didn’t memorize my lines very well. The Google document I had with my updated script was copied hastily by me on a sheet of notebook paper, and I was too busy with everything going on to memorize them.
I guess that’s the hard part with doing everything myself. It still is even if mom’s helping me, though, because if I’m being honest, she’s not helping that much.
She kept bursting into complaints or muttering something about what a waste of time this was. I tried explaining to her that if you’re the camera man, everything you’re whispering would be heard.
I got distracted and I couldn’t remember my lines well, so I constantly checked the notebook paper. I figured I could crop those scenes out easily, but mom got frustrated with it. Later today, when I checked the footage, I realized my face couldn’t be seen. The angle was shooting from my neck and below, which meant that I had to refilm again.
I did not want to believe that. But I had filmed too much to go back to call this off. I’m not that type of person.
So after lunch today, I filmed a few scenes of Noodle alone in the garden. She was wearing her leash, but I might edit that out later on. I hate to brag, but I’m quite a decent editor for someone who doesn’t do it professionally.
It was a first person view shot for the overlay on the ‘main’ footage. What makes me nervous is that I haven’t filmed the main footage yet, and that was like, the base of the most important scene. It was the scene where my character, Arielle, is in the garden and talking to her pets (she can do that after the rock hits her, remember? I guess she must’ve gotten a concussion too or something, because boy was she stupid).
2pm. It’s hot outside, so I decided to edit and work with the scenes I have then reshoot the important one I filmed this morning.
I was about to film that this afternoon, but I faced a major setback. The scene was in the garden, and it RAINED. It’s already late June, but this was the first time it rained in months. What was with this horrible timing?
So I was stuck at home, rethinking this entire idea. I also realized how the shooting of my film, at least with the footage I have so far, is in random order. That’s because Arielle is outside the house or facing the window to determine several things in the scene, so the weather and time plays an important factor.
All the jumbled up footage made things confusing, so I figured I could use the time wisely and edit all that footage in whatever order worked best.
It was a stressful and chaotic three hours of me rearranging clips in my laptop, but I managed to get some transition edits and even text involved. I was happy with my editing, and I was starting to feel more hopeful about this thing. Afterall, it was only a five minute short film. Who would’ve thought it was so much work?
I was impatient with the release date of this one TV show, and even if they have professional lighting and large casts of people working on that project, it was still a lot of work and I can appreciate that now.
Tonight, after LITERALLY taking Noodle out to potty in the garden, I planned what I would film after dinner. The sun was down, afterall, and nighttime was an opportunity for filming this one scene I had been putting off as well.
It’s the one where Arielle finds out she keeps forgetting things and losing
Noodle(who was a better actor than I am) told Arielle
And for future wonderings, yes, Noodle is also the name of Arielle’s poodle. I decided to do that to keep things simple, since I might accidentally call her by the wrong name. I’ve already typed ‘’Arielle’’ as my first name in the contest submission form earlier by accident.
I filled out some details for it and saved it as a draft, merely because I felt like I had to get more work done. I think I did get work done today, and I have to watch this Youtube video of scriptwriting. Maybe if this short film turns out well, I could consider directing or scriptwriting a real life job….
It has been taking my interest after two days of filmmaking, though. Maybe someday. Anyways, goodnight journal!
(I’ll use the term ‘journal’ now instead of ‘diary’ because it sounds cheesy.)
JUNE 23, Tuesday
I was ready for a long day of filming. Last night before bed, I was musing about all the possibilities if my skit got ‘discovered’.
That sounds pretty steep, but if I know myself well enough, it’s that I want the best possible option for everything I do. That’s my type of ambition. Not for this project, though.
Watching what I have of the film disheartened me. It was a boring six minutes, but the contest guidelines say it’s supposed to be five or less. It’s probably longer because last night, while I was editing, I added unnecessary scenes with too much purple prose in it.
Some of them were the ones I filmed before, with the original (and horrible) storyline. So this morning, I saved the video with all my edits so it doesn’t get jumbled up when I delete the ‘filler’ clips. Then, I imported the video I had so far and cut off all the clips I didn’t need. It was left to be two and a half minutes long.
And most of it was the extra bits of the story, and the overlay clips of my pets. The important scenes were absent, and I was getting grouchy. It was probably because I was hungry, so I went down to have breakfast.
Downstairs, I was met with some suspenseful news. Mom got curious about this film project I was working on, so she checked the pamphlet for it online. Apparently it was due on June 26, Friday, which is three days from now!
If I continue with this speed, I might not finish by then. And even if this started off as a joke, I really, really want to submit my work. So I knew I had to be productive today.
It turns out that when Mom’s interested in something, she can learn how to be good at it. My skit got her attention, and this morning she watched a Youtube video on how to up her camera game. And she did! It wasn’t raining outside, but the grass looked damp and I reminded Mom to be careful with all the puddles.
So I added how it looked wet outside to my storyline. Today I had to film the most important scenes of my skit and fast, because the less crucial ones could be filmed at home, and it might rain again soon.
The scene I was filming is the one where Arielle goes to the garden and talks to the pets (me talking to the camera and Mom who’s trying not to laugh), and then Arielle realizes how to turn back the curse the rock put on her. She does this by throwing the special rock back on her head, a suggestion from one of her wise tortoises.
How I filmed this was by getting mom to film an angle where I could throw the rock in front of my head, but it would look like Arielle hit her head with it.
I watched a movie behind the scenes where actors film the same scene over and over again. That was how they chose the right take. I wanted to do that, too. So I installed this backup drive on my phone, then I recorded it there because it has more storage.
The first half hour of filming was chaotic and Mom became grumpy from holding the camera so long. In order to help her, I chose to have a ‘’rehearsal’’ where I would practice without the camera. Mom was satisfied with that idea and she went in the house as I practiced. I was getting the hang of this already. Maybe I could have a future as an actor?
Afterall, it was the third day of working on this project, so I got better at memorizing my script. My strategy was that if I forgot a line, I wouldn’t go to my notebook anymore. I would just continue on with how I picture the scene to be. I didn’t count, but I did my scenes enough times to recite my lines even after I woke up from a coma or something.
Afterall, I wrote the entire thing, and I already got used to getting into character. It probably isn’t too healthy, though, because Arielle is so thick. I guess the lesson of this skit is that you should listen to animals, because most of the time, they're smarter than you.
The two major garden scenes I filmed required some creativity, though, because I was all alone in the garden, talking to the misty air that still smelled like rain. The video clips of my pets talking were first person, separate film shots, so the major clip of it was just me. I would add them as an overlay while editing later on.
Mom kept reminding me that this is all just for fun. She’s more relaxed now that the fight she had with Grandpa was out of her mind. I couldn’t have done it without her. Her camera quality was so much better since she was willing to learn. Another lesson I got from this.
After two hours of practicing and filming outside, it was noon. Mom and I went back to the house for lunch. Right when it started raining. I couldn’t express how grateful I was that it didn’t happen this morning.
In the afternoon I worked on editing the footage, but I realized I was one scene short. It wasn’t a long scene, but it was important. I groaned, although a part of me was glad I could resume filming. It was stressful, but I had fun.
The issue with that scene, though, was that I still didn’t figure out how to shoot it. It was the clip where the rock hits Arielle’s head. I couldn’t delete that from the story, but-
OH. MY. GOD.
This isn’t a VERY good idea, but it just might work! Midway through writing an update of all this, I just got an idea on how to film that scene! No, I’m not planning on asking my mom to throw a rock in my head.
I don’t want any idea that had to do with the rock actually falling, though, because there’s a big chance I get concussed like Arielle, a smaller chance I lose my memory, and ZERO chance of being able to talk to animals. If the latter was possible, I would’ve dunked the rock on my head in a heartbeat.
But my idea was to film a first person view of how Arielle sees the garden when the rock hits her (she doesn’t have an eye problem, good for her), then I could make a sound effect like the rock actually fell on her head. The scene where Arielle wonders where the rock came from would be Mom filming me in third person again. Genius!
It wouldn’t be as cool, but at least it’ll be realistic. I already had the footage of first person in the garden from a fail of when I was supposed to be filming Noodle yesterday, and I added a voice over to it for the last scene I need.
Well, almost. I still had to film a short, third person scene of Arielle. It was still raining, though, so I had to wait until it died down. Mom predicted it might be later this afternoon. So I edited the loads of footage and played with Noodle while waiting.
The footage from today was an hour long, but at least they were all repeated. Eventually I lost my mind watching them all. The lines kept buzzing in my head. So I went with the third to the last repetition. It was a major scene, and I could see how important it was to the time count when I started editing. So I was glad I didn’t give up and stuck with it.
At about four in the afternoon, the rain stopped temporarily. I got excited and asked Mom to quickly film me. The last scene I need, the third person one, was incredibly short, and we finished it in no time.
I was enthusiastic to edit it all together and see the final product tonight, but then Mom said I spent too much time working on a five minute skit. She thought it was good for me to stop editing and not be Arielle for one second. I was reluctant, but she suggested we go out for a walk with Noodle, and if you ask me, I didn’t really have a choice. I guess I could continue tomorrow. It just kills me that there was a only a little bit left of work to do, but it would be finished after one last sleep.
JUNE 24, Wednesday
Well, after four hands-on days, I finally finished the short film. Or skit. I use those two interchangeably, mainly because one is just more professional sounding than the other. But in my case, they’re both the same thing.
It’s noon while I’m writing this entry, unlike in the previous ones. Why? Because this morning I kept watching the short film over and over again.
It’s safe to say that I was proud of it. The storyline was pretty much the way I wanted it to be, and I expected a lot of it. The transitions, like where I went from Arielle to Arielle’s mom, was satisfying.
The voice effects of Noodle and the tortoises were adorable. I’m giving them treats for doing an excellent job.
But even if the quality was good and the editing was great, I don’t think the storyline is strong enough to win this contest. It’s in two days, and I almost forgot all about it. That stupid contest was what led me to this whole thing, I’m still submitting, of course, or that would make me a loser.
I sure didn’t know what I was signing up for when I decided to start the short film, though. It took up most of my entire day. I’m incredibly grateful about this short but tacky journey it took me on, though.
I watched other people’s submissions, the ones that had been submitted so far tonight, and I have to admit, several short films were better than mine. At least in the way that was not low budgeted. This one skit had a cast of people involved, and the end of the video even had a credits list, like in a movie.
But I’m fine with that. Now, here’s my cheesy journal reflections, just to practice my skills on these before I get back to school:
I didn’t know making a less-than-five-minute skit could be so time consuming! It was a joyride, a hectic and chaotic one. But I had fun, even with editing.
I will definitely find this film corny and cringe in the future, but it was a memory to remember. I mean, how could I forget? There was an entire video on my phone!