Fire Power (1999)

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Ever since finsihing my course at Panico, I wanted to make a short film. I wanted to take the things I had learnt and put them in practice. I aslo wanted to prove to myself that I could actually direct a film. If the finished film was no good, I would of been happy working as crew.(Thankfully, it turned out good) So I had the will, I just needed a story to tell.

The idea of Fire Power came to me as a dream. The dream was of two men sitting in a cirlce of light playing Russian Roulette. Usually the memory of dreams fade away, but this one stuck with me. I wrote the script quickly. I decided straight away that there was going to be no dialogue. I didn't think I was up to the task. A decision that worked out for the best.

Back in 1998, every production I worked on was film. It was either 16mm or 35mm. Students would shoot 16mm and the high end productions would use 35mm. Film was and still is expensive. I couldn't afford 16mm. So I decided to go back to a format that I used before, Super8.

I still needed money. I wasn't earning much, as most of the shoots I worked on was expenses only. In early 1999, I worked on a feature called "Dope Opera". It was directed by Julian Doyle, my tutor from Panico. It didn't pay much, but it was enough to make my film.

I want that gun, not excuses!

The next step was to put together a cast and crew. The first person I got onboard was Reg Cameron, my friend from Panico. He would record the sound, and play one of the heavies. Next I got my cousin, James Kay, to play the other heavy. David Hastings I found through a friend of mine, Chris Watson. He was casting his own short film and he let me go through the actors resumes he received in the post. Mark Grant would do the editing for me. Andrew Lawden, well that's deseriving his own paragraph.

I used to attend the club night at Panico every Thursday evening. I would go there, look for work and meet up with Friends. After one club night in February 1999, My friends and me went out to the arcade on Wardour Street, and standing there was Andrew Lawden. He was playing a Star Wars game, wearing a Star Wars Episode 1 crew jacket. This was in the days before it's release, so we were excited to meet someone who had worked on the film. We asked him a lot of questions, and he was very happy to answer them.

As he left, I released that he would be perfect for the part of the Boss. I had a copy of the script on me, so I ran after him. I was really nervous as I handed him a copy of my script, but he accepted it and told me he would read it. I didn't expect him to get back to me, but he did. He loved the script and wanted to do it. We Andrew onboard, I had everybody in place.

My plan was to shoot the film over two weekends. I had access to a warehouse, that my dad worked at, and we were going to shoot there at night. I wanted it to be dark. Also during the week, I was working on a feature film, called "Cold Fish". A good move really, as that way I wouldn't fret or worry about the shoot. Also that film was a lesson in not how to make a film. (Listen to the podcast I did about that film)

Directing the actors

It was great fun shooting Fire Power. All the cast and crew were great on it. It was a good thing I had no dialogue as I couldn't record sync sound with the Super8. It would never of matched up. But having no dialogue meant that I had to tell the story through gesture and imagery.

I shot the whole thing with available light. i shot the whole thing with available light on a film stock with high iso. I was leant a light meter by a DOP friend of mine. The readings on it was low. So low that I didn't know if the film would have anything on it. When I finished the shoot, I sent the reels off to be processed. I had to wait 2 weeks for them to come back. I then had to get the footage digitised onto mini DV, so Mark could edit the footage on his computer. That was another week. All that time I didn't know if I had a film or just a lot of black.

You can gather that the film was all there, but up to the point I saw the footage on Mark's computer, my heart was in my throat. It was the most stressful time I've had on a shoot. You can imagine the relief I felt after watching all the footage. Apart from one shot, it was all there.

Shooting from atop of a ladder

Mark edited the film very quickly. We had a finished cut within a month of me giving Mark the footage. I just needed the music. For that I was recommend Max Somerset to score the film by Reg Cameron. Max was the organist at Reg's local church. I showed the film to Max, who was sat and watched the film on the edge of his seat. (As he told me) Max then he sat at his keyboard and played the whole score with the film. He didn't stop the film once. (I never seen anybody else do that in the whole time I have been a filmmaker)

The recption I got to the film was really postive. I had a load of showings around London and they went down really well. I even won an audience award at one screening. I was able to show it to my tutor at Panico, Bob Doyle. Afterwards, I asked him if he liked it. He did. He said I had done a hell of a job with such little resources. After he said that, I knew that I was good at this and it's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I just want to add that 4 years later, I had the sound mix to the film redone. I met a sound designer, called James Berkeley, who asked if he could have a go at the film. I said yes, and he really added to the mix. He took the original sound and made it better. It's the sound mix you hear on the film below and I wanted to highlight James work.