COFFEE FILMS

Director's Notes

3 came about because I never got sent the sort of scripts that you could shoot in just a couple of days. In almost every short film there's some complicated location, difficult prop, animal or child that you just know is going to be that nightmare element. I wanted a film which could be shot with no more than an everyday location and a few good actors but which didn't skimp on a solid dramatic storyline. I also wanted the experience of writing a real short; anything short I'd written previously was really just a slimmed down feature, I'd never accomplished a true short and it bugged me.

After a few nights of sitting with pen and pad staring into space I hit on an idea which all fell together quite comfortably and got good feedback from a couple of readers. How To Disappear Completely and Dealer were in full flow at the time so the script joined a mounting "in development" pile and stayed there for about a year. As Disappear made it's way to the festivals David House suggested making another short together, 3 immediately came to mind and we agreed to shoot it. David's availability was all over the place but he had a few days free about a month away so we hurriedly went about pre production.

I had most of the kit I needed already, planned to shoot on DV and edit with Premiere (something else I really wanted more experience of as well), I'd also just bought an old Super-8 camera from Ebay that had yet to be used so decided to kill plenty of birds with one stone and shoot with that as well. David suggested Mat and Sarah for the other parts and everyone seemed to fit well. We planned a days shooting at my place in Kent with David and Mat, and a brief one hour shoot in London with Sarah for her part.

Shooting with the boys came up first and we were joined by Adam Clements, a young local AD looking for some extra experience who ably assisted me all day operating cameras and taking stills. Gelli Graham also put praiseworthy time in dealing with the Coffee Arts and Media mascots: Coffee; 4 kilos of moody cat, and Baron; 50 kilos of excitable puppy Akita, both fascinated as ever by the emergence of funky smelling camera equipment and new people. The day went smoothly with David and Mat both grasping their characters quickly and providing some great takes. Shooting on Super-8 proved to be a tad uncomfortable (no tripod mounting) and stunningly noisy, but it was kind of cool to actually have to wait for the camera to crank up to speed and so on; simple pleasures. We still used DV for rehearsals and as a back up in case the film didn't come out (which was just as well, it did come out, and it did look cool, but in more of a Harold Lloyd way than anything).

I'd decided to film Sarah just with DV, her scene was supposed to be a serious contrast in volume and pace and it just made sense that the sharper picture of DV in full colour would contrast well against grainy black and white Super-8. Rob Fairlie had secured a flat in London to shoot at and we met up with Sarah for less than an hour to shoot some stills and get a few takes of her screaming into camera. By take 3 she looked ready to grab the camera and beat me over the head with it, Rob looked pretty harrowed by the whole thing.

Shoot over and done with in just two days I sent off the 8mm to be developed and started cutting the DV footage to use as a guide. I planned to get the film transferred to something digital so I could just swap the clips over in Premiere, plus we had the film market MIFED coming up and it was unlikely I'd have the 8mm footage ready in time; we wanted to take something of the film along even if it was effectively a working print. The edit went fine with my self-imposed 3 minute run time providing a few challenges. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of picture grading and adjustment you could accomplish doubling up Premiere and Photoshop, I wasn't pleasantly surprised by the vast rendering time and repeated crashing but I guess you can't have everything. The icing was as ever in the music, I've known Ed for years and have amounted a vast pile of his mixes and tunes, "Now John" had always been a favourite and it fitted very nicely.

We screened the working print a few times at MIFED where it attracted all kinds of attention, not least because the sound mix was still a little off, and every time it played the collective burble of executives buying and selling films across several hundred square metres of exhibition space would be silenced by Sarah's voice booming out of our huge TV set, several hundred decibels above broadcast safe limits, with the immortal words "F*cking loser! You were the worst shag of my entire life!"

The film went on to perform pretty decently with festivals and reviewers; Disappear was always going to be an impossible act to follow and with so much of 3 designed to test out new ideas and new things we didn't expect too much and ended up pleasantly surprised. Most of all, after spending almost a year doing Disappear it was a good feeling to nail something entirely in less than a week and an all round confidence booster as we started looking to longer and more ambitious ideas.

Steve Piper
Director