In Transition – Moving from Documentary to Fiction Filmmaking
Documentary has always been the most natural way for me to make films. Documenting and filming friends and family in the music and art scenes got me started and having a camera allowed me access into a lot of clubs and venues which enabled me to shoot DJ’s, rappers and more.
Documentary has taught me a lot about the major aspects of filmmaking. From doing a lot of the production myself (sound, edit, shoot, produce, hustle etc), working a skeleton crew, working internationally, patience, getting the story down, understanding what is real and authentic in the footage plus access. And it’s this great access i’ve had through the subjects i’ve covered over the years which has given me a lot of writing material and has helped me shift my thoughts towards fiction.
As a first time fiction feature filmmaker with a micro budget i’ve decided the best thing to do is learn by doing. My latest film SODO EXPRESS is quite freeform – i’ve been shooting and writing and editing as I go along and its given me the freedom to combine what I know from documentary with a fiction storyline.
Struggling artist Ezra becomes obsessed with the prolific and talented Zacher1 who seemingly has made it in the art game. When Ezra drops everything and follows Zach’s work in the streets and online, a game of cat and mouse ensues causing his behaviour to become unsettling and dangerous as the hapless artist’s plight grows steadily more desperate
SODO EXPRESS is a black and white, neo-noirish thriller that incorporates animation and combines a naturalistic documentary vibe with a subject I know well; street art and graffiti.
I’ve chosen black and white to limit decision making over the grade in post, plus to give a neutrality for the animation to work with. I’ve gone for a noir vibe so it’s not about heavy or stylised lighting, it’s just natural, relying on time of day and location which I know well from my doc world. I’ve chosen to write a simple script, but just as a guide and as I shoot and the footage comes in, i’m very happy to change the script. I’ve also chosen to limit dialogue so I don’t have to always have a sound person around which also forces me to concentrate on plot and progression via picture.
Having already got a few shoots down, it feels good stepping out of my comfort zone. Working intensely with an actor/performer with a lot of stage experience can be daunting, but it’s been great hearing his point of view. Being in a new city for me as well has also given me fresh eyes and having a range of real creative people around me has also helped me step up my game. The low budget has given me a lot of freedom to work the storyline and correct scenes as I go along but the pressure to create something seriously good is on.
And if you would like to see more of what I do, check out my print shop here.