Hello James. You recently shot and edited two short films. First there is “We Were Wanderers on a Prehistoric Earth” and secondly there is “The Isle of Langkawi”. Can you start by telling us a little more about how you got these two projects off the ground?
Through Vimeo, Tourism Malaysia approached 5 different filmmakers to make a selection of films to promote Malaysia. They approached me because they had enjoyed a film I made called called Splitscreen: A Love Story. Each filmmaker was given $12000 and commissioned to make two films on different subjects, we were given Nature and History. The briefs were wide open so we could do whatever we wanted.
Let’s go into a bit more detail on your film “We Were Wanderers”. Here is the short film (below):
What fonts are you using in your opening title sequence?
Gill Sans and Edwardian Script.
Your opening shot (above) is amazing ! Did you add anything to any of the shots, or are all of the atmospheric qualities and visuals real? Did you use any special effects beyond basic post production work?
I worked a lot in post to get each shot exactly as I wanted it. The whole film has been colour graded which means not only enhancing and adjusting the colour, saturation and contrast but also darkening and brightening specific parts of the image to lead the eye to specific areas. I also changed the speed of some shots. The first two shots have been increased in speed so that you see the mist moving through the trees. Also some shots were slowed down using Twixtor. Apart from that, everything is real, there were no special effects involved.
Your sound design is incredible. Did you use real recorded sounds from your trip or did you build the soundscape from the ground up in post production using library sounds?
I did take a Tascam sound recorder with me to Malaysia, but we could only really take the bare minimum with us into the jungle due to the weight of our bags, so unfortunalty we couldn’t record any jungle sounds. So all the sound you hear was designed by our sound designer Mauricio d’Orey, who did a fantastic job.
It seems like you would have had such a small window of opportunity to capture those atmospheric images. Everything seems “just right”. Am I wrong in assuming this? Did you feel pressured to move quickly before the atmosphere or lighting changed?
For some shots we had to make sure we were in the right place at the right time, for example the two opening shots were taken very early in the morning so we would see the mist. Also occasionally we would set up a great shot only for the sun to go behind a cloud at the wrong moment. However, Malaysia is such a beautiful place that its hard not to get great shots. We were shooting every single day and almost every daylight hour so we had a lot of footage, editing was easy because it was a matter of ‘cherry picking’ the best shots.
Beautiful movement at :24 (above). How are you stabilizing your camera for these long movement shots?
We hired a boat to take us along a river through the jungle. We just set up the camera on the tripod and shot everything that looked good. It was a very calm river so we managed to get some great shots, that was one of them.
:38 looks slow motion to me. How are you slowing down these shots?
We planned to shoot slow motion right from the start but we had to be wise in what we could take while trekking through he jungle, so obviously we couldn’t take a specialised high speed camera. So we shot at 50 fps then slowed it down even more using Twixtor.
You used Excerpts from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. Did you find this text after you shot the film or were you inspired to shoot the film because of this text?
I knew I wanted to use some kind of poetic voiceover throughout the film but I didn’t settle on Heart of Darkness until I was editing. For a long time I was planning on using excerpts from ‘The Malay Archipelago’ by Alfred Russel Wallace. Its a book chronicling the scientific exploration of Russel Wallace around Malaysia and the surround area from 1854 to 1862. It has some very interesting writing but just wasn’t ‘poetic’ enough. I had been aware of Heart of Darkness but was wary that it would be too negative towards the jungle, when I decided against The Malay Archipelago I reread Conrad’s book and found the excerpts that I finally used.
Is “Heart of Darkness” now in the public domain?
Yes it is. Heart of Darkness is in the public domain because the author died more than 70 years ago. I was aware of that law but I also double checked with various copyright agencies and the publisher of the book. Anyone planning on doing something similar with another book should always check before they use it.
The narrator’s voice is fantastic. How did you go about looking for a narrator?
Finding a voiceover artist can be an annoying subject for a young filmmaker with a small budget. If you go through a specialised voiceover agency they’ll not only charge you the artists fee but you also have to purchase a license to use the recording for a limited amount of time. So I decided to put up an ad on Casting Call Pro, thats were I found Terry Burns, who has an incredible voice and actually much better than the VO artists I was looking at on VO agency websites.
What microphones were used to record narration?
I dont know exactly what microphone but it was recorded digitally in a professional recording studio. The old analogue quality of the voice was added later in Logic Express.
Okay, now a few technical questions. What camera did you shoot on?
Canon 1D Mark IV
What lenses did you use?
Canon 2x extender
What was the total budget for this project?
How long from idea conceptualizing to final edit did this project take?
About 1 month
Thank you greatly for sharing your work and insight with our Lights Film School blog readers James. We really appreciate it!