Short Film Shoot: Drowned At Birth

Bobby Walsh, a talented writer from Belfast, turned up at the studio door in February with a script that blew me away on the first read. The story was based on true accounts that happened twenty five years ago and very close to his home. It was gritty but the story had heart and it was achievable for The C Project. I was even more excited when Bobby informed me that he wanted it to be a silent black and white film. I love going back to basics and I knew that it was important for us to be patient in finding the right locations and the high quality actors that the script deserved.

Whenever I receive an actor’s showreel, regardless of how experienced they are, I always watch it with the sound turned off. I could be the only one who does this but I’m looking for an actor who can act with their eyes. ‘Drowned at Birth’ is a silent film after all so top performances were crucial.

I scheduled a script development session with Bobby and then the Pre Production stage began. After a few setbacks with locations and actors we finally had the cast, crew and location. By going for the silent film option I knew that it had to be all about the visuals and the performance. I had used Belle McClenaghan on the ‘Desecration’ trailer shoot before so I knew that she could deliver. Belle is an unbelievable talent at six years old, not just because of her confidence, but the fact that she is so intelligent and surprisingly directable for her age.

It was my first time working with Rosie Pelan so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It only took till the end of the first scene to appreciate the fact that we had another extremely talented actress in front of the camera. Many actresses would have turned down the role due to the subject matter and many did along the way, but Rosie delivered, what I can only describe as a “Master class” in performance. The sort of performance that gave me goose bumps from behind the camera.

As Director, I had to be careful not to expose Belle too much during the more gritty scenes with Rosie.  So I removed Belle physically as much as I could, as I felt Rosie would have held back her performance if I had not. My main priority with the actresses was to keep the communication channels open throughout. It was important for me to read body language and act accordingly if required. I like to keep the relationship between actor and Director relaxed and open but every Director is different I suppose.

Through the power of social media I found a MUA for the shoot. Dana Kane delivered the goods and I was so happy with her results. It’s important to have people skills in this line of work- you could be the best MUA for example but if you can’t get on with people or establish positive relationships with crew or cast you better not bother yourself. Dana is a skilled MUA, she’s punctual and she’s also a great people’s person. She was awesome around Belle and made everyone feel at ease when in and around her company. I can’t recommend her enough and I’ll enjoy working with her again in the future.

Although I wanted the crew to be small due to the nature of what we were filming, I still needed a Director of Photography on set. Belle’s father had a keen interest in building up his experience in DP work so I got him onboard. I’m a fan of his photography anyway and he didn’t let me down. Each scene was logically and creatively lit which was exactly what I was looking for. Big thanks also to my wife who helped out in the costume department.

I opted for a “no frills” approach to the shot list. I just wanted the film to be what it is and I didn’t want any fancy shots getting in the way of the story telling. However, the last scene was filmed from the boot of a car – the good old fashioned DIY Steadicam way! Post Production of ‘Drowned at Birth’ has now begun and the short film will be submitted to local and international film festivals. My aim is to showcase all of this year’s C Project films at a screening event in January 2012. Please check out our Facebook and Twitter accounts for news and updates. Behind The Scenes photography and film poster designs by Christopher McClenaghan. The film also has a personal Facebook Page.

2 Responses to “Short Film Shoot: Drowned At Birth”

  1. Rosie Pelan says:

    Loved reading this blog and had an incredible experience working with Marty Stalker, a fine director indeed on this dark, haunting piece. He was so right about Belle – I could let go without worrying about upsetting her, knowing Marty would seamlessly link everything together. So enjoyed this.

  2. Gary says:

    Sounds like a great film and hopefully I’ll get to see it sometime up here in sunny Mansfield. Be great to get to work with Marty one day :)

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