In the production of my group’s short comedy film Pooh I effectively had creative control as the writer and director of the film. We faced a number of issues in the production of our film, but despite this I am quite happy with the outcome.
As a writer the core idea of the story was greatly altered twice during the development of the script. The story always featured characters from Winnie the Pooh depicted as humans, but in original pitch and treatment these were middle-aged characters and the narrative focused on serious drama, exploring issues in the lives of adults. Due to constraints both in the project (the video having to be only three minutes long) and in our access to middle-aged actors and suitable locations as students I decided to alter the story when writing the script to focus on young adults and be more comedic.
I didn’t really like the first version of my script, however, it worked well as a way to pick out character traits that relate to the original characters, but the story was too long, too episodic (Pooh visited the characters one by one) and not very engaging, it lacked action. I was also concerned with locations for the original script, as each scene was either set on the street or in a student flat which is not visually engaging.
The issue of location actually inspired the new version of the story, the engaging imagery of shooting in a wooded area inspired me to alter the story so that the characters were on a camping trip. This resolves many story issues as it brought all of the characters to the same location from the start allowing for better dialogue and less time spent transitioning between characters. This also allowed me to add more action to the script, particularly a scene drawing inspiration from the horror genre in which Piglet is lost, alone in the woods and is frightened by a scary noise which turns out to be Tigger.
During both production and post-production, we faced a number of issues which affected the quality of our film. On the day of filming one of our actors failed to show up which meant a member of the crew had to take over the role of Rabbit, unprepared, although she did a very good job of it. The actor failing to turn up also meant that filming was delayed later than intended, this caused issues with lighting as the sun was going down in the middle of shooting a scene. This is noticeable in the final film where immediately after Rabbit kicks the log the shot appears somewhat over-saturated and very grainy. The lack of light caused the graininess and we had to use colour correction to brighten the image, which caused some colours to be over-saturated.
On the day of filming we did not complete filming of the last two scenes before we had to go. We had planned to go back on a later day to re-shoot some of the earlier scenes and to film the last two scenes, however on the day we planned to shoot two of our actors were sick which meant we were unable to film. Ultimately this loss of shooting time was not the worst thing however, as when we edited the footage we already had it amounted to three minutes so we had enough content for the time frame anyway.
A major issue we faced in post-production was the discovery that the camera had not been picking up audio. We were recording with a rifle mic on a boom pole with a zoom recorder and the cameras were meant to have their internal mics on so we could sync up the audio. Without the camera audio it was extremely difficult to sync up the audio and video and in places in the final film it doesn’t seem quite in sync.
Other than these issues however, there’s a lot of stuff I’m really happy with in the movie. For one thing I think the narrative works really well on screen, the dialogue flows nicely with the shots and create humour. I’m also pretty happy with the cinematography, particularly in the early scenes where I had a very specific image in my head of how the shots should be composed.
Some of those shots were difficult to shoot too, particularly in the first scenes where Will, the camera operator, did a tracking shot of the characters from the side as they walked through the woods. Will had to keep pace with the actors while operating the camera and keeping the shot properly composed, as well as the boom mic operator having to keep up with him. I also really like the shot during the scenes where Rabbit lays out the rules and the camera moves in a circle around the group, getting different characters in shot as it moves. This shot worked nicely when combined with the two-shots used to focus in on the characters individually.
I’m also really happy with the editing in the scene where Piglet is alone in the woods, which went through many revisions to reach the level of tension and fear that I wanted to achieve. We took inspiration from movies like Friday the 13th here, switching between close-ups of Piglet and POV shots from the unseen Tigger’s eyes, the shot moving to view Piglet from behind a tree and then moving towards Piglet before we cut to an extreme-close up as Piglet screams.
The tension in this scene is complimented by the soundtrack which I created. I created three different pieces of soundtrack for this short film which appear at the start, when Pooh and friends reach Rabbit’s camp and in the horror-esque scene with Piglet. I think the first two bits of soundtrack, which primarily use English Horns, create a natural mood which suits the forest setting, and the third one works well to create tension.
Overall I like our final movie as a piece of comedic fanfiction. I think it works well visually and narratively, even if we had issues with lighting and occasionally the acting falls flat, it still works. I also think that for the most part we got a good sense of the original character’s personalities in the movie, particularly Piglet’s nerves, Rabbit’s tight-woundedness and Tigger’s eccentric personality. I would love to revisit this project in the future, possibly reshoot some scenes and film further scenes as well to create an extended version with higher production values and a narrative that is developed further.
Andrew Sheller is a Media Production student at Coventry University. You can see more content from Andrew at their Facebook page through this link.