This is All You Left Me
UPDATE #2: This Is All You Left Me will be released to the public very soon! It didn’t make it into any festivals, so I took some time to re-cut the film and tighten it up a bit. I’m still quite proud of it, and I think it holds up even though I’m looking back on it nearly a year after filming it. Details to come soon on where you can view it. Tentative release date is Tuesday, February 26th.
UPDATE: This Is All You Left Me is now complete! It’s been submitted to the latest round of the Celtx Seeds contest, as well as the YouTube Your Film Festival. I have two other festivals I’m thinking of submitting to. At some point in the future, I’ll be making it public, though at the moment it’s being kept private due to restrictions by some festivals regarding online screenings. I did not end up getting the music I wanted but found some fantastic Creative Commons-licensed songs through freemusicarchive.org.
This is All You Left Me is a short film about loneliness, sadness, and, to an extent, the pointlessness of everything. It started out as a six or seven page script back in September 2011. Then, in February of 2012, I rewrote it as a shorter, more compact script of about 3 pages.
The story revolves around a woman who has a box that contains things left to her by a loved one who has committed suicide. She goes through the box, pulling out these knick-knacks that are basically meaningless, wondering why they were left to her. At the bottom of the box is a letter, one that she is hesitant to read.
Things are left very open-ended in the film. We never see the woman’s face. We never find out who died. And we never find out what the letter says, or why the things were included in the box. And this is all done on purpose. Because when someone we love dies, nothing else really matters. The things they leave behind never give us a clear picture of who they were. Whatever words they have left us with don’t really matter, because we can never know if they were truthful, or just written to appease us. And that’s really what this film is about.
The filming of This is All You Left Me
When I first wrote the script, I knew that I wanted the option to film it entirely by myself. And that’s exactly what I did. I acted in it. I’m doing the voice over and all the sound. I did the camera work (which is why there’s no real motion in most of the shots). I’m doing the editing.
Filmmaking is a collaborative art, but I hear beginning filmmakers who talk about how they don’t have friends or others that share their interest in making films, and so they give up. Well, this film is proof that while it’s nice to work with a team, you can make films without one. Just don’t expect a solo feature any time soon!
As far as my exact setup goes, I used my hacked GH1 with a Helios 44-2 lens, which is a 58mm f2.0. The aperture was set right around f2.8 or f4. I didn’t record production sound, because I don’t really have a good system for doing so at the moment.
Lighting was entirely natural. I am lucky in that respect, because the room I was filming in has pretty much ideal lighting conditions. There are large windows on one side, a small window on another, and a large doorway into another room filled with windows on the third side. Given that the day I filmed was overcast and snowy, and the main windows are north-facing, the quality of the light was ideal. I actually had to pull the shade down on one window because I was getting too much light.
The entire thing was shot in about three hours. That included three camera setups, and about 20 minutes of raw footage. I only did one take for most of it, because I had a very clear idea in my head of what I wanted. If I was recording sound, I probably would have done a couple takes for each shot.
This is simple, DIY filmmaking at its best as far as I’m concerned. I had fun doing it. It wasn’t stressful at all. And it’s coming out exactly how I’d pictured it in my head. I managed a rough cut the same night I filmed (the rough cut is about 5:30, but I’m going to try to trim that down a bit and tighten things up in the final).
I still have to record sound, which I plan to do this weekend.
Music licensing headaches
The only thing that’s been a real headache in this entire process is attempting to license a particular song. Now, because this short is being done just for entry into film festivals, there’s a thing called a “festival use” license that’s often available to small filmmakers. These licenses are much more affordable than those used for commercial release.
So I tracked down the publisher for the song to get clearance for the arrangement and lyrics. That was relatively easy and only took about 30 minutes of searching and a couple of emails (I’m waiting to hear back on whether I’ll actually get clearance or not, and how much it would cost me).
I already knew the record company that owned the actual recording of the song (EMI/Virgin), but damn if it isn’t almost impossible to actually get in touch with them. After many attempts, I finally managed to submit a form through OpenEMI (which isn’t the proper licensing division, as far as I know, but I’m hoping they can at least point me in the right direction). I have yet to hear back.
I’ve already got backup music picked out, and will likely cut the film with that to start with, and then just replace part of it with the song I want if I can get the appropriate clearances. I want to enter the YouTube Your Film Festival contest with this short, so I’ve got a limited amount of time to finish it up (less than a month now).