Final Media Project: Reflection and Evaluation

It’s funny to think that all the way back in October, the ‘Latitude’ crew was around 25 people – people who had shown interest in the ‘California Road Trip’ project organised by the University. Over time it became evident that it was actually much less people than that who were truly interested in the project once money and time devotion became heavily involved. The idea for a feature film was thrown out to the small group and everyone who remained interested in the project (the current Latitude crew) relished the fact at being involved in their first feature film.

In hindsight it would have been so much better if we had begun planning much, much earlier, as it wasn’t until November that we started to have meetings in our ‘secret basement’ which we called Latitude HQ. Also at the time the project was entitled ‘Lattitude’ with two T’s, hinting to the ‘attitude’ of the story, but this was soon scrapped as we weren’t sure as to how much attitude there would really be and also because to others it appeared as though we just spelt Latitude wrong.

Latitude HQ

The ideas came in swiftly for what content could be in the film and it was soon suggested by Pete (the director) to base the film around the theme of Geocaching, a treasure hunting game using GPS devices. After doing a little bit of research into the nature of Geocaching – and looking into it’s audience worldwide – the rest of the team agreed that this was the way forward. The Geocaching site alone has over 5 million registered viewers, with 2 million hits monthly. Initially we thought there is our target audience! There are also no real feature films relating to the theme of Geocaching, so we were sort of entering a new market so to speak. As the world is rapidly changing and the hype of social media and the web is hugely effecting our daily lives, the themes in Latitude reflect that ever changing lifestyle – it questions whether we depend on social media, networking and browsing the web to survive. Could you survive without your Facebook page?

We soon decided it was time to select roles within the Core Team. I applied for the role of First Assistant Director and got it, as this is the direction I want to go in to after University – learning the necessary tools to be a director while working closely with the cast and crew. I’m experienced in all departments within a crew: lighting, cinematography, direction, presenting, sound engineering and camera operation, so I was delighted when I initially got the role. It was around this process that Pete started forming a script.

Funnily enough we promoted the project from day 1 through the use of social media and networking (in particularly on the web), so the main issue in the theme of ‘are we dependent on social media?’ is quite ironic. It wasn’t long before we set up the website http://www.latitudethemovie.com and formed a small following from friends and family. This was also enhanced by the creation of our Twitter @LatitudeMovie and Facebook, Latitude The Movie on 23rd November. Social media took a huge part in terms of gaining the project some exposure. This later led to press releases in the UK and the project being advertised not only in newspapers in the West Midlands, but also by producers in Hollywood and Geocaching podcasts in America (PodCacher).

We soon created some content for the website, including a treatment of the film’s story, as well as the roles of the crew involved. These were so we could interact slightly with our potential audience and give people a little more information on what the project actually is. These videos were important later on when starting our crowd- funding campaign. We perhaps should have posted an update every day going over what progress had been made, but that leads on to my next point: we took a long time to get the ball rolling.

Initially there were doubts as to whether we could pull off a feature film, due to the sheer size of the project as well as having limited funds. At the time literally everyone in the crew was in debt, being students in our third year, and when we began adding up just how much everything was going to cost us we began questioning if we were doing the right thing in regards to our final media projects; could we create an incredible short instead, along the same lines?

On 5th December the whole crew went out Geocaching for the first time. This was important for all of us, as none of us had done it before and it formed the outline of our plot. We all soon became engaged in the ‘nerd sport’ as it was really fun – we thought it would be innovative to potentially think of distributing the film in one way by hiding parts of the film or links to the film (via QR codes) within Geocaches hidden around the world. This has not been done before.

Around mid December I began researching into Apple and Windows, as the two main characters were decided on being based on an Apple Mac (Max) and a Windows PC (Percy) – clever right? I initially went and had a look at the early Mac adverts of ‘I’m a Mac and I’m a PC’ just to vision the two characters – both are huge geeks who enjoy the same thing but are different in so many ways. This immediately became interesting in terms of character development, as the two characters were to be best of friends. Friends with differences; this allowed us to be creative with the building of the two – we wanted there to be clashes, arguments, fights and separation, but also humour, friendship and loyalty – all while being incredibly geeky and technology orientated. Percy was a World Of Warcraft fanatic who worked in his dad’s computer shop, was always ill (had a virus) and was a bit scruffy looking. Max was to be an Apple fanboy, geeky hipster, with quite modern clothing and pretend he was a social networking hero on his blog, but really he’s just on the dole. Another character was mentioned at this point – a God-like character ‘loosely’ based around Steve Jobs – who would interact with Max throughout the film whenever he bit into an apple.

Percy (Left) and Max (Right) – The Early Stages

As the development stage went on, it was decided in late February/early March that the Latitude crew was to be made even smaller so that in California the production would consist of  a skeleton crew – to reduce problems with travel, accommodation and cost. Unfortunately the need for an assistant director was not required so instead I was given the role of location scout for the UK and California shoot, and later on producer and director of ‘The Making-Of’ Latitude, a side project running parallel to the main production, and a film that would be produced and distributed alongside Latitude. Originally I was not happy with this decision as I felt I had given a lot of time and effort into the production, not to mention I have no interest in going into locations, documentary film-making, editing or producing… all of which now make up my final project, but for the sake of the reducing arguments I accepted it as I wanted the project as a whole to be a success.

Jonathan and Andy

It wasn’t until early March that myself and Sam decided to take control of the Making-Of therefore there’s quite a lot of gaps up until this point in regards to filing the pre-production process. So the documentary, in effect, does not begin until then. Sam and I documented the majority of meetings, interviews the crew along the way about how the film was developing. We still had some say in the main feature, as we attended all the meetings they did, and knew the film as well as everyone else, as well as some of the actual production – in particular the God shoot. It helped as well that everyone involved in the project filmed their personal input into the film – this became helpful later on when myself and Sam gathered the hundreds and hundreds of Megabytes of footage from peoples cameras and iPhones. It was nice that a lot of the footage of the Behind-The-Scenes was filmed on iPhone. It relates nicely to how we are reliant on modern technology, and also the character of Max and his dependence on Apple software. The equipment the crew used was like looking at an Apple advert, as there were 3 iPads, 6 Mac books, 6 iPhones etc.

Sam and I travelled around England and Wales in search for potential locations. All the locations in the UK we said we would get, we got, so that was a success. Again, in hindsight, I would have started to edit much sooner, as in during the process as soon as we had the the footage, mainly because we had not calculated the sheer amount of footage we have of collected (there was over 20 hours). In regards to this, if there were things I would change, it would have been to edit during the process, not once I had collected all the footage (which was this past week), I would have also liked to have started documenting the process from day one (though I did not know this would be my role back in October), and I also would have filmed everything on iPhone instead of on a variety of DSLR’s. Producing my final media project entirely on iPhone would have certainly been a risk, but I like the idea of how it relates to how technology is changing – things are available to us now which weren’t years ago – we now have the ability to produce great content from something in our pockets.

For the submission for my final media project I would like to make a point that it will not be completely ready in time for hand-in as there is still much more to film, similarly to the main feature. We have only recently filmed post-production interviews with the crew and are yet to formally interview the cast. Therefore the film I will be handing in on Monday will not be finished at all, as the structure needs more time – after all it’s a feature film in itself. However, regardless of this, myself and Sam have put together an assemble of some footage to be included in the final Making-Of. We tried to make this around 20 minutes. We wanted to really portray the comedy element of our documentary by showing a glimpse of some of the hilarious mishaps, accidents and problems encountered in the Behind-The-Scenes of Latitude, as I for one know when I watch a documentary I want to feel engaged and amused by the content. We felt that these factors were the selling points of the film that are really going to generate more of an audience. We did some research into similar Making-Of films, in particular ‘Lost In La Mancha’, as we had problems during pre-production, production and I’m sure soon in post-production. Not to the extent in ‘Lost in La Mancha’, but you get the idea. It would be great to be just as successful in the Behind-The-Scenes production as the actual film we have been documenting for months, as we have been involved right from the start and spent just as much time helping promote, sell and produce this film as any of the actual crew. We have spent just as much time and put just as much of our own money into the project as any of the main crew, therefore I feel it is only fair that we get similar credit to them.

Our main concern with the Making-Of was that it had no structure, it was just a jumble of clips taken on 5 different cameras between 10 people, and there were huge gaps in the documenting of the production, mostly when myself and Sam were not present. In order to obtain some organisation to the structure, I organised a day towards interviewing by booking out one of the photography studios in the Ellen Terry building. We had a three point lighting and 3 camera set-up ready for interviewing the crew. We decided to interview in pairs so that each person had something to bounce of in terms to replying with a creative and engaging response. This also enabled some jokes to be made and laughter, which came across nicely on film. this sure helped a lot as we could use the voiceover of the interviews to relate to the footage we had already collected.

The film itself, along with ‘Lusharama’ – The Making-Of Latitude is to be continued and distributed after submission. Me and Sam will be condensing the edit into smaller episodes, and including a bloopers section, interviews with cast as well as crew. We will be labelling each section with a title relevent to the Behind-The-Scenes (in-jokes with the cast and crew) but also relative to the content of that section, for example ‘Don’t Turn Left At Lunchtime’ for the San Francisco section. For instance, one will be about the California recce myself, Adam and Alex went on earlier on in the year, another will document the shoot in England etc.

In conclusion, I am pleased with what myself and Sam have produced, as we have essentially produced a feature film with just a crew of two. Alex, Jake, Mick, Pete, Bex and Ross helped supply a large part of the footage when we weren’t on set, so credit goes to them. The Making-Of advertises the film nicely, though it is probably one to watch after watching the main feature, as may contain some spoilers, however could provide a hint of what to expect if watched prior to the film. I feel the submission could be much more  developed in terms of it’s full potential, however, we did not comprehend just how long it would take to organise and structure a feature – this did not help that we had such limited time – we only managed to obtain all the footage from the California shoot two weeks ago, and the interviews 3 days ago. I have learnt from this that it is important that when working on a project so big, that it is important to organise well in advance, and give yourself much, much more time. I have only ever worked on short films before, and this is my first feature. This is much different to anything I’ve ever produced before, and I’ve loved every minute.

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