Nikolai Hamelhe, the winner of the Raindance and Collabor8te 48hr film competition for 2013, discusses his short, Move.
YOU WENT WITH THE THEME OF VOLATILE RELATIONSHIPS, CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO US HOW YOU CAME UP WITH AND DECIDED TO GO WITH THIS IDEA?
We arrived at the pre-shoot meeting completely unsure of what to expect. Neither JP Garcia (the cinematographer) nor I had participated in a contest like this before. When we heard the themes we immediately latched onto “volatile relationships” because it seemed like something we could adapt into a conversation scene. We wanted to use this experience as a time to practice shooting conversations. After a little thought on the train home we decided to use our two, recently married, friend’s new home as a setting for a film about what can go wrong when newly weds make their first move.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU WENT ABOUT SHOOTING, EDITING AND COMPLETING MOVE IN SUCH A SHORT SPACE OF TIME?
We waited for the time just before sunset to shoot the film in order to maximise our natural lighting opportunities. This did mean, however, that we had to shoot very quickly. In order to give a shape to the film we scripted a few pieces of dialogue, but much of the dialogue we left to the improvisational skills of our two actors. Fortunately we were able to shoot everything we needed in the two hours before the sun set and then a few shots after the sun went down, which allowed us all of Sunday to edit. On Sunday we woke up early and were able to piece it together before the deadline.
BESIDES THE OBVIOS CONSTRAINT OF TIME, WHAT OTHER LIMITATIONS DID YOU FACE WHEN MAKING THIS SHORT FILM WITHIN 48 HOURS?
Our biggest challenge was deviating from our natural state of working. We are both perfectionists and because of the nature of the contest we were forced to occasionally accept something in the interest of time, money (our budget was five pounds for a broom to use as a boom), or space that typically we would have turned down as unusable. Another point we had trouble with was completing a single edit without a period to reflect on the edit before re-cutting. There was no re-cut so what appears on the Collabor8te site is our first and only cut.
YOU FILMED THE MAJORITY OF MOVE IN ONE ROOM, WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO EXECUTE IT IN SUCH A LIMITED SPACE?
We decided to shoot the film in the space we did because of the light in that room. It was quite nice with out any modification and this allowed us the greatest freedom with the actors (they could move about the space freely) and we could shoot without having to stifle their improvisation.
MOVE LOOKS SLIGHTLY DESATURATED, DID YOU FEEL LIKE THIS WOULD HELP TO ADD A CERTAIN TONE TO THE STORY.
As far as the desaturated effect is concerned, it was simply to help us maintain a sense of continuity between shots that were shot at various times before sunset when the colour temperature of the light was changing dramatically.
YOU ARE CURRENTLY STUDENTS OF THE LONDON FILM SCHOOL, DID YOU MEET THERE AND HAVE YOU WORKED TOGETHER ON PROJECTS BEFORE?
JP and I met at LFS and we have worked together on a number of projects previous to the film challenge. JP mostly sticks to the camera and I pretty much stick to directing or producing, so we find it easy to join up on projects.
HOW DID YOUR PREVIOUS FILMMAKING EXPERIENCE ASSIST YOU IN MAKING MOVE?
Previously, everything JP and I have worked on together has been outside the bounds of school and very impromptu. We’ve grown good at working together to finish projects quickly and cleanly. Often times we will find out about a short or commercial opportunity at the last moment and our main priority is to do as good of a job as we can in a very limited time span. These earlier experiences certainly helped us finish Move with some degree of aptitude in the time we had.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER OTHER FILMMAKERS WHO ARE TRYING TO MAKE FILMS WITH LIMITED RESOURCES?
The only advice we have for film makers working with limited resources is to keep things simple. Actually one more small piece of advice: every decision you make, every shot, every blocking choice or direction should have a specific story telling reason behind it. When we watch other peoples shorts, we often find ourselves asking questions like, “what does that slider shot do for the story?” “Why is there that random object in the foreground?” “Why is there music running in every scene of the film?” Every decision can be made in a way to help the story, especially when you keep it simple. Sorry to be preachy!
WHAT DID YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT THE CHALLENGE?
We really enjoyed seeing such a fast turnaround on the film. Its nice to get out, shoot, edit and see a finished product with in such a short time period.
WHAT’S NEXT, ANY OTHER PROJECTS COMING UP?
At the moment JP and I are entrenched in our term exercises for school. JP is operating a short on the Alexa that takes place in a prison, and I’m directing a sci-fi shot on 35mm. Both are studio exercises that should turn into 10 minute B&W films we can send off to festivals etc. After that we will do one more studio exercise, a 10-15 minute colour short film, before we go off to shoot our thesis projects and enter the industry (hopefully at that time we’ll hit the ground running!).