September Sun - AE's new (long overdue) short

AvengingEagleAvengingEagle Website User Posts: 33
edited November 2012 in Practical Filmmaking
Hey guys,
Fxhome was the place where I found my feet as a filmmaker and always got the best feedback on my work. Even though I didn't use Fxhome software on this particular outting, I do like to keep up traditions and show what I've been working on to you folks, many of whom have known me since I was just starting out. With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to present my latest short, September Sun.

September Sun is a poetic-drama about moving on to the next chapter of one's life. MARTY is about to go to university and has recently begun to realise that what he will miss most will be the little things, the details of life that we take for granted. When he meets his best friend, DARCEY, to say goodbye to her, it doesn't take her long to sense MARTY's apprehension. She finds out he has written a poem about what he is going to miss.

A long overdue short film originally shot in summer 2011, September Sun is loosely based on a Facebook note I wrote just before going to university myself. Although the characters and situation is entirely fictitous, the poem itself borrows heavily from that original Facebook note. In terms of showcasing my personal development as a filmmaker, this film represents a substantial growth from Roulette (2010), the 70-minute gambling thriller that was my last 'personal project'. Since then, I've been to filmschool and improved my writing, directing and cinematography skills tremendously. Sound is still a bit of an issue but I still feel this one sounds nicer than Roulette did.
As always, I appreciate and welcome the feedback of this community because of its diversity. I would be most honoured if you could watch my film and let me know what you thought!

Copyright © 2012 Scott Tanner


  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    edited November 2012
    Hey Scott! Nice work. This is a technically solid and heartfelt piece that held my attention throughout, not least thanks to decent performances, especially Sez. This is the kind of thing I wrote when I was 20, even though to my cynical 32-year-old self the open tone feels almost painfully melodramatic. But I can't deny that I didn't find myself in such situations back in the day.
    So, firstly, congratulations on making me feel old. :P
    In terms of areas for improvement:
    - The dialogue has a noticeable hiss that comes in and out as the dialogue track is mixed in and out. Given the high technical quality in other areas this is a real shame - I'd either have removed the hiss or, if that wasn't possible, ensured that an ambient hiss was present throughout, which would have been far less noticeable than it going up and down.
    - It's a very static piece. While the cinematography is fantastic, it takes place essentially in two locations - the hilltop, then the bench. There's no real movement in either location: actors enter, position themselves, and stay still while delivering dialogue. It would have helped the pace and tone of the film greatly if there had been some more variety here, whether having the actors stand up and move around more, or even make more use of the surrounding locations which we glimpse in the end credits. The dialogue would have worked just as well, if not better, if they'd been walking through the woods and down the stream, before ending up on the bench.
    - On a similar note, the opening has a clear separation between dialogue and action. ie, they'll approach and hug, THEN speak. Then they'll stop speaking before moving out of scene. This makes it feel a little stilted, as a natural conversation tends to continue while people move and do things. It's difficult to do but can vastly improve a conversation scene - and also gives it a reason to be a film, rather than just a radio play.
    - While I enjoyed all the acting, the ages didn't seem to quite match visually. The guy looked and felt like a young, carefree kinda chap, while the lady feels like a more mature (emotionally) and wiser character - which is actually the opposite of their characters, if anything. It's not about their acting ability but the look and feel, which I know is a horribly superficial thing to say. I wonder almost if their roles had been reversed whether it would have felt more real to me - her being the poetic thinker and him being a guy with a string of meaningless girlfriends.
    Anyway, really good stuff. The last few shots in particular are wonderful. What time did you film those?
  • AvengingEagleAvengingEagle Website User Posts: 33
    edited November 2012
    September Sun is now availabe to watch on YouTube in Full HD 1080p!

    ...or in a lower res if you're boring...
    Thanks Simon, I'm glad you liked it! This film was a very personal one and it relied on it being made while these emotions and experiences were still fresh; if I'd waited any longer to make it, I doubt I would have been able to. I had recieved comments at university that made me question the way in which I directed films, so much so that I gave up the chance to specialise in directing altogether to concentrate on cinematography. After a while, I realised that my directing skills were no worse than most of the student directors around me, and what really made the difference was the scripts I wrote. Basically I didn't write a great deal of subtext in my dialogue, so what most of my characters said was fairly one-dimensional. Realising this allowed me to rewrite September Sun with much more hidden meaning, and I also spend a lot of time rehearsing the scene with the actors. This, of course, gave the actors more to play with. It is interesting that you say Sez was the better actor as other people found her performance a little melodramatic and Tom to be more believable. Personally, I think Sez did a great job!
    The sound is still something I struggle on at the moment. I did make a concerted effort to attain better sound from the shoot itself by using my Rode Videomic on a makeshift boom pole. Upon looking at the footage though, a lot of it was drowned out by wind noise, despite us using the windshield. Some of dialogue could be processed, by the majority of it was ADR. I admit that I could have spent more time removing the hum from these clips.
    I found your point about the static nature of it very interesting. I think I wanted there to be a contrast between the stillness of them talking and the frenetic and layered bits for the poem. They are more than just montages, they are (as I'm terming them) 'motion collages'. In retrospect, yes, having the scene 'on the move' would have livened up the piece a lot. I think another reason I limited it to one location was that I wanted an easy shoot so that I could concentrate on performances. Having said that, I ended up visiting tons of locations right through the summer of 2011 to get the 'second unit' stuff for the poem bits.
    I hadn't really considered the blocking and combination with dialogue either, but now you mention it, it makes a lot of sense. It is fine line between emphasising an action to make it a beat and making for a stilting scene. I will definitely bare this in mind for the future.
    Yeah, I couldn't do a lot about their ages. I was constantly worried that Sez would look older than Tom...because she was! It was a conscious decision to make her character seem more emotionally mature despite being a year younger than Marty. Their relationship at the start of film is supposed to be more like big-sister/little-brother. The arc of her character is that she admits to being insecure; she's not so tough and mature afterall. Marty starts off as the slightly belittled little-brother but faces his fear of rejection, grows a pair, and tells her. Their dynamic shifts towards a more equal footing towards the end. There were younger-looking actresses at the auditions I did, and they might have sold it better...but we went for Sez because of her ability. She even made a point of not telling me her age until I'd cast her! I think the two reasons I didn't swap their roles were that a) I've seen it before and b) I personally don't have the experience of having a string of meaningless girlfriends so would find it very difficult to write, especially for a film so personal to me.
    Thank you for taking the time to give me feedback, I will take this onboard and undoubtedly improve for the next outting. To answer your final question, the dialogue scenes were shot during one Sunday in July 2011. We shot pretty much chronologically, with the last few shots just being squeezed in before sunset at about 8pm. It was the embodiment of the 'golden hour'!
    I'd welcome comments from other people on here too!
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