Wigilia: Interview with Producer Steven Moore. How To Make a Feature in 5 Days!
We were very lucky to have Steven Moore as one of the producers on Wigilia: A Christmas Tale.
Steven's been a large part of the Scottish Film Industry over the last few years, with a wealth of experience to bring to each production. He's currently the assistant Production Manager on US TV Show Outlander and you can see some of his other credits on his imdb profile - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3483807
Here he shares a little bit of his experience in working on a micro-budget feature (Graham Drysdale's Wigilia) which was shot in 5 days - with no script!
You've worked on a number of micro budget features shot over a short amount of time. This one was different as it had no script to schedule – such an important process of producing a micro budget. How did you deal with that?
This was by far the biggest challenge. Usually for my job everything comes from the script in terms of budgeting and scheduling. Without that you are lost. However we set out with a very clear remit. Keep things small, minimum cast and contain it to one location if you can. Graham had a framework for the film so we knew roughly where he wanted to go with it. We scheduled our days around the key stages in the framework. Such as “Robbies Arrival” / “The Dinner scene” etc. Once we recognised these key points we then allocated time to them.
What were your crewing considerations?
We were very lucky on this film and managed to get a highly skilled crew together. Everyone was taking a step up within their departments. This is usually one of the biggest attractions to a crew member for this type of project. After having many meetings with Graham and Grant I got to know them both very well and from that you can try and figure out who would work well with them. Obviously you want crew that are technically good but for a rather sensitive project like this we had to make sure that the crew we picked would fit within the dynamic and tone of the film.
What did you take to Wigilia from your previous experience that you may not have had if you'd not worked with experienced producers in the past?
I think the key thing was making sure a clear structure was in place and managing personalities. Also managing the directors expectations is a key. Knowing when to intercept and when to sit back and let others give their input.
How did the shoot go? Were there any problems and if so how did you deal with them?
Overall the main shoot went very well. I don’t remember there being any problems with the filming process. However there were issues after filming that we can get into later.
On any size of production there's always the conflict of the practicalities of a production – i.e. getting the film finished and complted on time and budget versus the artistic integrity of the director/writer. How did you deal with this?
Luckily we had a realistic and practical director on this shoot. As we were self funding this one any compromise we had to make was discussed and resolved amicably. The key skill I think I learned on this production was the need to make sure the little funds we did have went to making a difference to the end product. The cliché of spending money on screen makes sense but sometimes it isn’t that simple. The fairly big proportion of our budget went on crew welfare such as catering. I don’t think it would have been the same production if the crew didn’t feel looked after. Also issuing key documents such as schedules and unit lists make the crew feel they are working on something slightly more polished and not a student film.
What contracts did you have to produce for the film?
The main contracts we issued were for cast and crew. These were very standard generic contracts.
Why do you feel it's so important to try and stick to tried and tested methods of production, even when working outside of the conventional film industry on independent productions?
I think by sticking to these methods set level of attainment that is recognised by all crew members. People are generally more confident in the production if these methods are used. Providing a structure especially in pre production such as: Recces / Production Meetings / Tone Meetings / Pre Lights not only benefits the smooth running of the shoot but also gives confidence to all crew that we are going through the proper channels.
Why do you feel productions such as this have a place in the film industry?
I feel the way we now consume content make these types of productions even more attractive. I don’t think this type of filmmaking is ever going to sell out cinemas but a voice can now be found by having it available on Amazon and Netflix. It seems budgets for high end TV and film keep getting bigger and in my opinion the market will soon be saturated with these shows. I think there will always be a need for these productions but I think audiences will be much more susceptible to less polished perhaps more authentic films.
What's the most important aspect of shooting a micro budget feature from a production perspective?
I feel the most important aspect is that although there is little or no money on the production but that it is being ran well and professionally. There is a danger to have a make do type of attitude when making such films but that can sometimes lead to laziness and corners being cut. Such as the health and safety of the crew. If things are well planned and properly thought about rash decisions can usually be avoided.
What advice can you give to emerging producers who are considering making a micro budget feature?
Although this film is perhaps not a good example.. but get the script in shape well ahead of filming. Being involved in the process at a very early stage can manage the expectations of the director. Also try and come up with solutions rather than just say something just can’t be done. Stick to a couple of locations and be as self contained as you can. My biggest advice would be to set a date to deliver the film and stick to it. Make sure enough money is allocated to post production. The main shoot of this film went very smoothly however we made the error of not setting a date for completion. Even if its just as a small gesture try and pay your crew.
Wigilia: A Christmas Eve Story will be screened in December. Details to Follow.