Working with the Living Dead

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Making films is a painstaking slow business which takes a small army of people with various skills a great deal of time. You start with a story, which in itself is getting increasingly hard to find. It should be original, entertaining and when read through should be thought provoking.

I have been lucky this week to be part of this process which has seen very inexperienced young people produce a piece of work which they should be proud of. Our script was developed from a story by a young writer called Fatima Al-Kassem, a second year media student from the college which I work at.

Many writers quite rightly are very protective of the story they are telling but to Fatima’s credit she allowed us to use her story and embellish it a little to help us enter this years round of film festivals.

So armed with a great script and a cast and crew of twenty eight people we embarked on a challenging two day shooting schedule nearly all of which was outside in the beautiful Alexandra Park in Oldham.

Now living on the edge of the pennines its a brave producer who envisages that it won’t rain at some point across the production window but we decided it was worth the risk. We had tried to arrange shooting at the start of March but we were beaten by snowdrifts, fog and Ice, so we postponed it until this week.

To enable our band of inexperienced students we added experienced seasoned production professionals who helped our guys to produce something quite magical.

Even the weather was more than kind, although I did get my head sunburned and I can do a great impersonation of a very red person. Now to those of you who are saying I should wear a hat, I did have one in the car boot but I inadvertently dropped the Camera Case and Tripod on it this morning making it into a a heap of shattered straw.

Now the aim of this exercise isn’t to make the students experts in camera work, make up or even directing actors. Its about them learning how to behave, respect each other’s abilities and work together as a team.

On the first day it is always like what could be described as a schoolyard football game, twenty two people running around after a ball with everyone expelling a lot of energy with little progress being made.

By lunchtime on the first day something magical happens, they start to delegate and get involved and that is what is needed. These young people worked relentlessly for eleven hours a day during this period and they enjoyed every minute of it.

The Director Ben Mann who is highly experienced and very patient gave them the confidence to make suggestions and was courteous enough to listen and explain the process and why maybe things might not work rather than dismissing ideas out of hand.

The Cameraman Chris Stonnal also allowed them space to get involved and explained what makes a great shot and the highly experienced Andrew Corrie the Production Manager gave them the opportunity to make decisions that helped deliver a great production.

What I mainly remember about the last two days is the youthful enthusiasm that young people bring to any project, The sheer bravery to try things that any seasoned professional would  think twice about doing,

The understanding of the Actors when we had to pour buckets of water over them (that was more preferable than throwing them in the lake) and the young Actress who in full suicide corpse makeup caught the bus home because she thought it was a cool look.

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I am very fortunate to work at a college that offers young people these types of experiences, who are visionary enough to think we should be developing character as well as promoting academic study. But one thing I am sure of is that our students will probably be the only students at an FE college doing this exercise this week, or for that matter any week.

The production will be ready in around three weeks and I will post it here for your perusal. So look out for our film ‘Redemption’ and see if you can spot the living dead.

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