Thursday, July 7, 2011

Carter Ferguson on "Fast Romance"


What was your filmmaking background before Fast Romance?

CARTER: I have been working in film and TV in Scotland as an actor at first and then mostly as a fight director since 1995. This has given me the opportunity to work with and observe some great actors, directors and crew up close.

In 2007 I produced a short film directed by Colin Ross Smith of Foghorn Films for a Battlestar Galactica short film competition run by scifi.com. Colin had been making very low budget stuff for a while, but which has a real quality to it. I directed my first film, another fan piece put out on YouTube in 3 episodes called The Rage. This was made for a bit of fun just about the same time the nazi zombie movie Outpost was being shot (I’ve just finished working as FD on Outpost 2 btw!). The Rage’s episodes have been viewed over 800,000 times now. I made another couple of more conventional short films before moving on to Fast Romance in 2009.

How did you get connected to the project and how did you work with the screenwriters?

CARTER: The project is my own. The executive producer title is not an honorary one in this instance. I had work shopped the concept of a romcom with 7 actors as early as 2006, but it wasn’t until 2008 when talking with my friend Ross Gerry (The DOP) that we decided to move the concept to production.

I simply had been too busy to develop it further but Ross’s friend James McCreadie was suggested as a writer and we met with him in October to pitch the idea. As a writer I knew from River City (A BBC Scotland soap opera I had been an actor in) I was happy to hand over the reins. James brought his wife Debbie on board and script writing began at that point, from “an idea by” Carter Ferguson or words to that effect. The actors I had originally worked with were credited and paid as “consultants,” and I even offered the parts that they’d helped to create to them when we were casting. Derek Munn who plays Kenny, Lynn McKelvey who plays Fiona and Lawrence Crawford who plays Spence were part of the original 2006 workshop team. A few others appear in smaller roles.

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

CARTER: We raised the micro budget through private finance. Most of it went into fees for cast and crew. Raising the money was a time consuming task led by the producer Amanda Verlaque, who had come on board during the scripting process. Amanda tirelessly sought out potential investors.

In addition, through a series of money raising events organised by the Ickleflix team, we were able to bring the film to completion. We planned to raise £50,000 in this manner and by the time we completed principal photography the film had cost us just £41,000.

The planned pickups, which happened in March of 2010 brought the budget up to £50,000. Recouping costs is the tricky bit of course as we now need to sell the film. We go into cinemas in Scotland on the 1st July 2011 which will be the start, we hope, of money beginning to flow the other way. We plan to release the film on multiple platforms in multiple territories following the Cineworld release.

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie – and what did you love and hate about it?

CARTER: We used a JVC HDY 251e which is a tape based HDV camera. It shoots natively in 720p. It wasn’t our first choice of camera but it’s what we had at hand and was quality-wise at least up to the job. Our cash flow early on was so poor that we had to shoot with what we actually owned and this was Ross Gerry the DOP’s own camera which he uses for event work.

I personally loved the fact that it was tape based. I knew that at the very least each day our rushes were safely secured on tapes. This also removed the need for a work flow person on the shoot days. If I were to choose something to hate it would be that the entire film is shot on one lens. In order to get the filmic soft focus thing on background and foreground we had to pull the camera right back and zoom in whenever possible. In tight locations this just wasn’t possible and resulted in some scenes that feel somewhat flat photography wise.

It’s worth noting that we bought a second hand camera, which was a lower end JVC of a similar type from the forums on Shooting People in order to cross shoot and utilise as a tape deck. This camera was filled with problems, had dead pixels and a number of other serious issues, and in short we got conned and lost a couple of grand and a lot of time and emotional energy on trying to resolve the issue. Lesson here – Don’t buy second hand kit off forums if you can avoid it. This was one of our worst experiences of the whole film.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? What was the dumbest?

CARTER: The smartest thing I did was to find locations that were within a stones throw, whenever possible, of my own home. That way my own home could be used as a unit base to get folks ready for shooting. It was also the location for Spence’s house. A high percentage of the locations utilised in the production are within one mile of a line between my own and Ross Gerry’s home. This saved a lot of time and money but did leave me personally to cover the costs of two broken picture frames, a broken tap and a broken toilet… so maybe that was also the dumbest ;-)

This whole project has been like a mini film school and I most definitely have regrets. To choose one thing I would do differently is more than a little difficult, but I think I’ll say that even the mistakes I have made had to happen in order that I could learn from them, so it’s all good.
What did you learn from the film that you have taken on to other projects?

CARTER: To be honest I’m still utterly entwined in Fast Romance and it’s production admin that I’ve not got any other projects on the go. Something however I will take on is in regard to contracts. Reading the fine print and taking care of contracts personally is no bad thing. We have recently done a huge review of contracts and this was time well spent.

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