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We had our cast and crew screening last night in Central London. Thanks AGAIN to all the marvellous people involved in Cancer Hair and helping make it happen to date. You guys rock!
Our film gave us a quandary from the off. With such an in your face title, how do you manage to build and sustain suspense about what is going to happen with the artwork?
Good film posters give away the essence of the film without revealing the end - it may perhaps hint at how you get there but not actually show it.
Our poster kinda does. We felt with a name like "Cancer Hair" we could afford to be a little bolder than we ordinarily would and put the issue and the hair loss front and centre.
The original photo was taken by our photographer Mel Cunningham on set, touched up and treated for the poster by designer Rebecca Pitt the central image for "Cancer Hair" shows a strength and a vulnerability which we wanted to convey.
The red lettering for us was to touch base with some of the big romantic comedies which use such typeface in their poster.
Rather than just have the central image for the poster, we decided that the two or three stills down the bottom showing David and Laura at various stages of the date allowed us to show potential audiences a little bit of the film without revealing too much.
So far Cancer Hair has been submitted to over 20 festivals worldwide.
It is a weird thing submitting and then *almost* forgetting about the film for a few months until the selectors decide where your film is going to screen.
The whole process is incredibly nerve racking. *Have I sent them the right details? Will they like it? What happens if NOONE screens it*
Not hearing back as quickly as you would like means you spend a long time questioning whether you should submit to more, more, more...I am assured it is a waiting game. But goodness does the waiting make you bite your nails!
I consider myself artistic until it comes to trying to style anything - myself, a room, a person. I'm a self confessed dud.
Luckily for us our Art Director, Annalisa Andriani has an eye for the detail we needed for our set.
We had a couple of locations in the shoot. Principle of which was Claire's house and bedroom, i.e. where she gets ready, where her clothes are and where she is comfortable enough in her own skin to alone with herself tending her wig.
There was a lot of detailed character touches that Annalisa played with on set, very few of which made it on screen but the essense of that room was feminine and characterful which is exactly what we wanted.
At the bar. Hey, a bar is a bar right. Actually no. The set was dressed to make it look and feel soft, intimate. Even the bathroom had a splash of colour that wasn't there before.
When creating the look and feel for your set, as with all parts of the film process, it's about collaboration. Finding people whose judgement and suggestions you trust in order that you make what is on the screen the best it can be.
Throughout the shoot, we tried to professionalize every part of what we did as part of that we wanted to make sure that we had a professional photographer on set to take photos. We wanted someone ho would get in there and take the necessary photos for any marketing we would need down the line.
PICTURE - Mel on set - in the high viability vest - with our art director Annalisa.
We asked Mel Cunningham to come to the set and do the honours. Mel is just the kind of stills photographer you need on set. Someone who will tap your shoulder and remind you you need a photo of this key scene or of the set, the actors or whatever in a specific pose.
We've kept some of the more marketable photos back but have a look through Mel's online gallery and you'll see the set madness. http://vivaciousmelphotography.com/cancer-hair-film-set-photography-a-short-film-by-gail-hackston/
I've been delighted to be working with a number of top notch professionals in the post process.
Dean Harding - who is currently cutting his teeth on BBC's Atlantis - has been doing the honours in the editing room. Dean, bless him, has had to contend with me asking for a zillion different things a zillion different ways and has done it all with exceptional good grace. He has also had to contend with me asking the most stupid, techie questions about the process that he has answered in a manner that even a techo-dunce like myself can understand.
Jon, Chris and the team at Encore Post Production have helped enormously and completed the conform, grading, online edit, visual effects, titles and in the new year will do the sound mix and track lay. Finally they will get all the deliverables together.
I'm working with composer Stephanie Taylor on the final music for the film. We have some good holding music in now but Stephanie will be putting the final touches on the score for the final mix.
...and the final cut isn't always final.
Anything beyond "that's a wrap" has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Part of making Cancer Hair has been the big opportunity to see the process from idea through to completion and festivals - including the "dark arts" of post production.
Editing - in my mind - has always been that thing that boys do at the end of the production process to get the lovely bits of footage that have been shot into some semblance of order. While it is in its basest format this, I have a whole new appreciation for what goes on in the editing suite now I have been through it with a project that I care about.
We started with an assembly edit which came in just about ten and a half minutes. The assembly edit is where the editor more or less matches the footage to the script. It is here you can immediately see what is working and what is not. For me at this point, the film was sagging in places and there ere a couple of shots that - although in order - just didn't work.
So, we started hacking. Five edits later. I thought we had locked. Dean, my editor and I sat back at just over eight and a half minutes and felt pretty damn proud of ourselves.
Then I showed the film to my friend Chris Jones. Chris is known for not pulling his punches if you ask him for feedback, and although I wasn't really looking forward to getting smacked in the face I did want his opinion. He's been doing this far longer than I have and I needed an objective set of eyes on the film.
He watched the film as soon as I sent it over and then gave me feedback. We went through it line by line, scene by scene and he pointed out things that were a)obvious b) that I knew but I didn't want to admit and c) that I plain refused to see. Frankly, it fucking stung. But as Chris said, in order to protect the film I needed to make the big and difficult decisions now or I'd look at it on the screen at whatever festival it screened at and see the problems identified amplified.
And while I didn't incorporate all his suggestions in the film I did take on a fairly good chunk of them. So, Dean and I went back to the edit and unlocked the picture and took another minute off.
And what do you know - I think it looks hell of a lot better. Less is definately more.
As for editing, I have gained such a respect for this art. Creating pauses, cutting lines, creating a rhythm for the film. The editing brings it alive and allows you to tell a story from the footage you have. It might not neccessarily be the story you thought you'd tell - line for line - in the shoot but with any luck it still has its emotional resonance.
The Cancer Hair shoot, 12th and 13th October, went exceptionally well. With the weather holding, an amazing cast and crew and everyone working towards a great goal - we got some great rushes in the can.
And now for post. We have several meetings signed up this week to get the post production timeline in place. The ideal is that we aim for a complete film by the end of the year and in time for festival submission.
This weeks meetings will allow us to see if this is a do-able timescale. From what we have seen of the rushes, it's looking good - now all we need to do is collate it into a quality narrative with the help of an exception editing team.