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Short film: creating Another World

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23 February 2012

Two years in the making, Piers Leigh’s directorial debut Another World is a 15-min sci-fi thriller that’s taken two years to make for £3,000 thanks to the help of friends, social networking sites and industry contacts.

As such, it’s a classic example of the determination and flexibility needed to get a short film off the ground. Leigh reckons that the true budget of the film would have come in at £100k if it hadn’t been for the favours and support he was able to draw on.

Another World centres on an affair which has unexpected consequences, and is written by Leigh, who is also an experienced director of photography with credits including BBC Horizon and The Link, a new science series for National Geographic.

“I’ve shot a number of shorts which have had success on the short film circuit, but was finding that the scripts I was getting sent were of really poor quality,” says Leigh. So in April 2010 he began writing a script, with the aim of producing it with his partner Alice Sheppard Fidler, a designer and art director.

Leigh’s next move was to approach actor Gareth Glen, who he had worked with before on short film On The Verge.  “Gareth liked the script and it was Gareth who cast the other roles through his contacts.  Ollie Chris (The Office, Green Wing) came on board early on and his name has helped us generate a lot of interest throughout the project.”

The production then evolved step by step, starting with a four day shoot for the five main cast in September 2010. With that footage in the bag, he worked with editor Anna Dick who shaped a rough edit in her spare time, working from home where she has a full Final Cut Pro suite.

“Alice and I then looked at what Anna had produced and decided to commit to the next phase, which was to spend some money building a key prop. And that really was our approach: once we had something in the bag, we’d see how it stood-up and whether or not we wanted to proceed.” And they proceeded by keeping a close eye on expenditure and asking friends to help out. Beyond the core production crew, however, he had to advertise for help. All the post-production and visual effects team, for example, were found via Mandy.com or shootingpeople.org.

The entire film was shot on Leigh’s own Canon 5d. “The look of the 5d is fantastic because the chip has such a lovely, shallow depth of field.” But the main thing the 5d gave Leigh was freedom. “It meant that I could move quickly and approach the shoot with a slightly guerrilla style.” For example, Leigh secured official permission to film throughout the City of London because the camera was hand-held and the film was shot in doc style with a crew of three.

Vfx was also crucial to the film, with over 40 shots requiring work or needing to be created from scratch. “There was no way one person could deliver that volume of work in their spare time. So I broke the effects into five areas and allocated each area to one of five digital artists.” In all the vfx took about 9 months to put together, but the cost was minimal as the artists worked on the basis of expenses only giving anything from 5 to 15 days of work to the project.

To finish the film, Leigh also sought the help of some top end facilities who gave time and machines, including Mayflower Studios for the 5.1 Surround  Sound Mix, and technicians whose day-jobs are at Technicolor and MPC among others. He now plans to roll out the film via the festival circuit with the help of festival producer Laia Enrich.

So what are the key lessons Leigh has learnt from directing and producing his first short film? Leigh says that being able to draw on the internet film-making community for support has been crucial. But, ultimately, he says: “It all comes down to the script. If you have a strong script you’re halfway there because there are so many people in our industry who have a passion for film-making and are willing to give their skills and time. At every point in the project the feedback from those involved drove us to carry on.”

DETAILS
A short film about a compulsive love affair which seems blissful and happens in a space free from constraints. But when the consequences inevitably appear they do so in terrifying and unexpected ways. Brought face-to-face with someone much more powerful than himself, Arthur is dragged into a startling confrontation with his own lack of control.
Writer and director
Piers Leigh
Producer
Piers Leigh and Alice Sheppard Fidler
Editor 
Anna Dick
Music
Joe Ankrah
DoP
Piers Leigh
Location sound
Pete Cowasji
Sound Mix
Paul Darling
Make-Up
Hayley Jones
Camera
Canon 5d
Edited with
Final Cut Pro


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