DVC19 - Swapsies by Henry Williams at DVinfo.net

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Old October 26th, 2010, 11:16 AM   #1
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DVC19 - Swapsies by Henry Williams

I took the liberty of starting your feedback thread so I could comment on your entry. Hope you don't mind.

You presented a most interesting and imaginative premise, delivered by very well done strong visuals. Your actresses did extremely well conveying strong emotion with facial expressions.

The editing pace built strong suspense as it went on and I really enjoyed watching what you achieved.

The music set just the right mood and worked just the way it should because I had to watch it a second and a third time to pay attention to the music and how it worked with your visuals.

I assume David Burns composed it just for your project. It "fit" just that way.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 11:38 AM   #2
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Great film, nice use of shallow depth of field. Premise is cool, and sound track is cool too. Great looking film.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 11:52 AM   #3
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I like the idea of this, "Quantum Leap-ish" :) Facial expressions carried the story forward very nicely! I also find the light-dark allegory appealing. You are on the right track with this should you develop it more someday.
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Old October 26th, 2010, 11:55 AM   #4
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I'll add my "wow" to build a chorus. The plot was simple and yet unexpected, and you put in atmosphere in spades. You also compose your images out of balance, to add tension, which is something I like in photography, and the score by David Burns was spot on.

Probably my monitor, but the night scenes of the actress and the mask were a little dark, so it took a heartbeat longer to "get it", but your two actresses did a great job in conveying bemusement, curiousity, trepidation, suprise and, in one case, relief. I used to go to the Cannes film festival every year, and I could see this short being developed further and screened in one of the side competitions. There was a certain poetry to the mask in the tree, and it was great you in no way sought to explain this impossible occurrence. Maybe you should look at buffing up this piece and trying a short film festival somewhere?
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Old October 26th, 2010, 07:18 PM   #5
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Sorry I haven't posted yet but as a relative forum noob I'm only just getting the hand of sub-threads.

Thanks for all the lovely feedback. I'm really glad people enjoyed it- the cast and crew will be thrilled to bits!

As a general comment thanks so much for saying such nice things about the actors. I was really impressed by what they came up with, especially considering they had to sell the whole thing entirely visually. They were both absolute troopers on the day and I was very lucky to work with them.

I'll try and address everyone's comments in turn...

Bruce, thank you so much for the kind words. The music was indeed composed to fit. I'm a producers assistant to a feature composer/producer by day and I twisted his arm to spend a few hours of his Sunday composing something bespoke. I was a bit blown away by what he came up with...

Chris, thank you so much for noticing the DoF. It was a bit of a pig to achieve with the Canon XH-A1 but we got there in the end. Lots of waiting for the sun to go in just the right amount that I could keep the iris wide open and rely purely on ND so as not to overexpose the image too badly. Used a fair bit of minus gain as well. Rather a fun technical juggling act. I think my poor actors had to bear the brunt of it, with me yelling cut every time a cloud came over/went away! I didn't really have much time to create a bespoke "look" (I had 11 hours from the start of the edit to final output including capture/export/render times) and so relied on the three way color corrector in fcp coupled with some off the peg preset grades in Colour.

Mugurel - Thank you! I guess we did make sort of an evil version of Quantum Leap. Although I think a television series where the main character jumped through time inadvertently killing people because of his own cowardice might not make for a bestselling show ;)

Marc, Thanks very much! I tried to use an off kilter shot selection, wides held too long after the subject left the shot, extreme CU's etc, a subjective "drunk" camera for the office girl coming home after a night out and snorricam shots to add to the sense of dislocation when they both jumped to the "wrong" place. I agree that the night scenes were a little dark. I ran out of time to go in and bring up the highlights more. I'd have loved to have made the nighttime stuff more high contrast and less grey generally.
The original plan was to shoot in a well lit alleyway, but then the lights failed to come on for the first time ever (I've done several night shoots there before) and it started chucking it down with rain, so all we had was the small covered section of sidewalk we ended up shooting on. We had one security light about 30ft away on the side of a building that just about managed to bring up the actors faces enough to make the footage usable! As pleased as I am with the finished thing, (and I'm massively flattered that you think it potentially festival worthy) I'm inclined to move on to the "next" big idea rather than retread old ground bringing this film up to scratch. Now I've just got to think what the next idea is!
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Old October 27th, 2010, 12:03 AM   #6
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Wow...Henry, I really LOVE this film! What a great story, and you did an excellent job of telling it without one word. Great use of theme, too.

Looks like you and I did the same thing with our nighttime scenes and pushed our cameras beyond what they can do in very low light. I watched your movie on my laptop with the bright monitor and the alley images break up a bit, just like mine do from bumping up the levels. But when I watch either of them from my other computer the scenes are too dark. Very frustrating, but we just have to make sure and light next time! Sorry you had bad luck with the existing lights that night; otherwise, you would have been in good shape.

Had to smile that your family was so involved in the making of your film because that's what happened with mine, as well. Don't ya love it?! :)
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Old October 27th, 2010, 02:31 AM   #7
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Thanks Lorinda. Really glad you liked it!

Yep, the XH-A! was never really much of a low light camera. That said the images held together ok inside my NLE. Any blockiness in the final uploaded version is more down to compression- I had to render out a much smaller file than I'd normally upload because of time constraints and my res. took a hit.

Glad to see someone else s family get similarly co-opted into the film-making process! Frankly anyone who expresses even the vaguest murmur of interest in film to me is liable to find themselves co-opted into holding a boom pole a couple of days later ;)
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Old October 27th, 2010, 03:47 PM   #8
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Great tense film.
I love science fiction.
To me this had echoes of an old book 'The Stars my Destination' by Alfred Bester.
Daylight and night, opposites sides of the globe, and a instant jump.
I don't know how you guys are going to judge these, since there are a few real good ones like this.
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Old October 27th, 2010, 05:56 PM   #9
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Thanks so much for the kind comments Bill. Really glad you liked the film and incredibly flattered by the Alfred Bester comparison. - I'm a bit of a classic sci-fi/horror junkie (Philip K Dick, Richard Matheson, and particularly Lovecraft's "The Color Out Of Space") but hadn't read any Bester until now. Off to buy a copy of "The Demolished Man" tomorrow. Really look forward to reading it!

I think the heaviest influence on this for me was "Color Out Of Space," (genuinely one of the finest, if not the finest things I've ever read) simply for the idea not only of existential horror but also the fact that neither the switch nor the origin of the masks are ever explained (although I hope the film holds up to its own internal logic!); the idea of something properly alien which is beyond our comprehension and instead simply has to be dealt with as bravely as we can.

I guess all horror/sci-fi like this boils down to something similar- a horrible reminder of how little we'll ever truly understand the true scope of the infinity of existence and just how insignificant and transient a cog we are within its indifferent machinery. The idea not so much that the universe is hostile as that it simply doesn't care.

I was also riffing pretty heavily off Richard Matheson's original run on The Twilight Zone and very conscious of his legendary "Nightmare at 40,000 feet," and the short story of his (the name of which temporarily eludes me) where a group of pioneering time travelers willingly doom humanity to an endless mobius strip.

If you're after contemporary authors who explores a lot of these ideas it might be worth giving Ian M Banks a look. "Consider Phlebas" is a very good place to start although the short story selection "The Sate Of The Art" would also make a decent introduction. Michael Faber's "Under The Skin" is deeply unsettling and occasionally veers into pure horror but is another excellent read that explores similar themes. Film wise Cube, Phi, Cypher/Brainstorm and Imposter all blew me away when I first watched them (but then I'm sure that being a sci-fi buff you've seen all of those already!).

Apologies for rambling, you were unfortunate enough to set me off on a pet topic and I'm very grateful to you for being introduced to such a legendary author in the genre that I'd inexplicably missed until now.
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Old October 28th, 2010, 08:44 PM   #10
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Henry this was an excellent film. People already mentioned its simplicity but it is what makes it so effective. There is something so truly magical in the moment that they both put the mask on, I think that the idea of two people in different places doing the exact same thing at the exact same time is wondrous, and to lower the mask and be somewhere new (without knowing yourself what happened) is a very surreal yet somehow imaginable sensation. Watching that scene unfold made me really "feel" it. Well done! I would have to second every positive comment already posted, from the photography to the score and acting.

I have two minor quibbles and obviously they are your choices and not mine, so take them or leave them. 1) I felt that the color correction on the day footage was just a little too "bloomy" and soft. I like the general idea of where it was going, but it was just too much of the effect for me.
2) Your title. I feel that your film has such a defined and somber tone, and the title is silly and cavalier and detracts from the mood of your piece. Essentially it puts me in the wrong head space before I begin watching and I feel like you could come up with something that really contributes to the film instead of just describing it in comical terms. Swapsies to me sounds like a drinking game played in frat houses.

Again, both of those (minor!) comments are really just my personal taste and we can happily agree to disagree. Other than that, congrats on such a magic and haunting piece.
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Old October 29th, 2010, 03:01 AM   #11
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Hi Mitchell, really glad you liked the film. It was one of those ideas that took a couple of inspired minutes to come up with, three lines to write... and then about two solid days to shotlist and storyboard ;)

I'd have liked to have pulled the effects in the daytime grade back a touch on some of the shots but just ran out of time.

Swapsies is, certainly in the UK, a regular cry in playgrounds and involves permanently swapping an item you own for an item another child owns. It seemed to hint at the theme of the film without giving the game away and there is some precedent in the Sci-Fi/Horror genres for authors to use innocuous, prosaic or willfully obscure titles to hide their story's malice. Sorry it didn't work for you- has the word lost something in it's journey across the Atlantic or have I missed an unsalubrious alternate meaning?

Many thanks for taking the time to write such detailed feedback.

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Old November 6th, 2010, 04:57 AM   #12
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I went back in and made some changes in light of everyone's feedback. Here's a "final" version of the short:

YouTube - SWAPSIES short film - Directors Cut
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