Lights, Camera, Action!

November 07, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

It's in the can!  I've written and directed my very first short film!

Shot on location around East London over two days, You Only Yolo Once features two bright young stars in Kaitlin and Alex, and tells a charming tale of new friendship, the sadness of separation, and doing what it takes when it matters.

To pull this off I worked with some of my very favourite people in all the world, and i'm so proud of everyone for getting involved.  A real talented bunch, them friends of mine.  Smug, much.

The movie can be seen after the drop, but first I want to tell you a little about the sum of its parts!

Thanks to The Stagecoach Agency, Kaitlin (8) and Alex (11) both auditioned in London for the star parts

About the title: "Yolo" is an acronym overused by a lot of yoofs and stands for 'you only live once'.  Its popular on t'internets and is often misused in punctuating banal or mundane rubbish.  That's only my opinion of course.  'You Only YOLO Once' was a line Kelsey came out with one day, and very proud of it she was too, because when said as a whole sentence it makes no sense at all.  She laughed, I laughed, and then it ended up as the title of this film.  Consider it a catchphrase. 

The film was in fact intended as a trailer for a movie that would never be made, a kind of spoof, revealing how two people come to meet and become best friends but then deal with being forced apart.  It would run for 90 seconds, with fast paced editing to mimic trailers for genuine movies, and ultimately ending with some hint of salvation.

All in the detail: small touches such as this doctored intro screen gives the spoof trailer a much needed authenticity

I threw in some fake production company title cards... here,'big surprise' in Spanish with a chihuahua in a sombrero... no reason

Here's the scoop: the script was in every sense autobiographical and recounts how I met my girlfriend Kelsey, how we fell in love, and since she's in California and I'm in London, how we deal with living continents apart.  Its not an easy life, so I figured this was the nicest way to honour Kelsey's place in my mind.  And it kept me busy... real busy!

I decided early on that using child actors to portray our storyline would gloss over my lack of actual comedy with a new charm of its own.  This also works since the narrative focus was upon friendship rather than other motivations, and generally I think this is more appealing to the audience.  Kaitlin and Alex understood this right away and had lots of fun acting in their debut roles.

Art imitating life: dealing with being so far apart is hard!  Movie framestill above, our real life below

With a talented team you can achieve anything.  Kelsey is amazingly fashionable and so costume was a particularly colourful department.  Pro costumer/stylist Florence Jones went all the way to get Kaitlin looking fab, right down to neon hair pieces, bright psych punk outfits and even tattoo'd arms!

Ok, so they're just water-based transfers, but when you're 8 they are tattoos ok?!

Fancy work in the edit: a clip from the movie Clueless is later dropped into footage of a TV to complete this quick scene

Art Department: a bit of crafty design to produce this prop plane ticket, not seen on camera in the final cut, but neat all the same

The movie concludes with a scene in Los Angeles, and despite intense protest from the crew I just couldn't afford to fly everyone half way around the world to shoot it.  Instead, art director Mikey Taylor pulled some genius and had us green screen the kids at his studio.

The composite footage of Los Angeles, including Kelsey's very own real life car and real life front door, was shot by her remarkable brother Alex.

Palm trees = LA

Kelsey's actual front door

The reverse view, showing Kelsey's real life car in real life Los Angeles

In the dialogue there are whole lines from Kelsey's favourite movies such as Casablanca and Pulp Fiction, and the whole thing is themed with musical favourites such as Jay-Z, Radiohead and Billie Holiday.

I also spent a whole day building the animated end credits, looking to match the bright style of another Kelsey favourite, Clueless.  This meant learning the ropes with a cool Apple programme called Motion, figuring out the basics of text animation, and putting together the credits in a seamless and funky finish.  The letters and words tumble in and out of the screen and I think its pretty cool!

What followed was an intense couple of weeks in the edit, pulling the best takes from hours of footage and tweaking the pace to fit with the running time.  For this I worked with my friend and master editor Matt Owen who showed me just how skilful this kind of work is.  It is a real privilege watching someone else express their craft, and a great relief that Matt understood my idea and helped finish it to such a high standard.  Great work.

For the full low-down on production and how we made the film, check out the making of below.  Thanks to Rob A'Court for shooting most of it, and thanks to Matt for showing me editing fundamentals so I could put this video together.

Genuine thanks to the whole crew: Alex Newton, Rosie LaugharneMatt OwenMikey Taylor, Florence Jones, Jarryd Leader, Anthony Moore and Rob A'Court.  I love you all from the marrow of my bones.  Please click and visit my friends, they will do you right.

Thanks to the serene talents of Kaitlin and Alex for being the stars, and to their mom's for being super stars by tolerating our demands and fuss for a whole weekend.  Thanks to The Stagecoach Agency for enormous help hooking us up with the kids for no motivation other than to be kind.

Thanks also to Craig 'Bish' Bishop for stunning work on the golden-piped voiceover, Alex Rubenstein and John DeWhitt for LA Unit assistance, Tracy Aston for CGI wizardry, and thanks to countless others without whom this project would not have become anything more than a silly idea in my head.

OK, now here's the movie!  ENJOY!

The whole crew on location after wrapping the final scene at the end of a long weekend



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