It’s about finding the right team, the right passion, and a story that’s worth tellingDerek Griffiths, Creative Producer, Visul
Derek Griffiths operates under the Visul banner as a solo creative producer. He wants to tell a great story and he cares about the people that walk the journey with him. Talk with him for a few minutes and he starts naming people involved in the project and the special thing that they bring. He’s not going to let you forget that making a film is a team effort.
So when we spoke about ‘Jacks’, the crime comedy short film written by Joel Stephen Fleming, it’s no surprise that a post about Derek became a post about the crew that worked with him. Derek is as proud of what went on behind the scenes as he is about how the film turned out.
“For ‘Jacks’, you’ve had such a great experience, because we pulled together a great team. It’s very special to see so many talented people giving up their time and getting involved,” he said. He went on to explain the filming process.
“This is everything that happens before the cameras roll. You find your cast, you find your team, you workshop your script and make sure it’s strong, you do all your design for lighting and costuming. All your planning is done in pre-production.
“Once the cameras start rolling you’re in production and you are in the physical process of making the film. Once that’s done, you wrap it up and leave the set.
“That’s when you start building the film from everything that you’ve just created. The crew you hired goes back, and you bring in your post-production team. This is your editor, who works with the director to put the story together. For ‘Jacks’, our editor was Charnstar Anderson. Then you add in the extra elements in post – sound design, music, and your colour grade, and any visual effects that you need to do.”
In Jacks, it worked like this:
“Joel is the writer, the director, the captain of the ship, and his partner Sian Laycock took care of Production Design. Sian’s team included Susanna van Aswegen (Art Assistant) and Zoe Evans (Make-Up Artist). First Assistant Director (1st AD) was Karl Redgen, who kept us all on track. Connor Armitage of Trimedium headed the Camera Department. He created the look of the film and spent a lot of time pre-planning his lighting, and designing computer simulations to rebuild the set and see which lights would work well where, and what colours he wanted to play with.
“Rebecca Evans was our 1st AC, First Assistant Camera – she’s Connor’s offsider. She looked after the camera and made sure that the lenses were clean and ready, and that the focus was sharp, and helped Connor make sure everything was in focus. Typically there would be a second or even a third camera assistant for doing other things like clapping the slate, but we were running a small crew.
“The lighting team was led by Nathan Byrnes, they set the lights according to Connor’s planning. Jacob Shrimpton, Corey Jay-Walker and Hannah Smith-Roberts worked with Nathan to make that happen. Some of them were students. It was great to be able to give young people some experience. They were fantastic and I would happily have them on board again.
“Michael Angelo Monaco of Aldergrove Studios is one of the go-to sound designers and recorders in Brisbane and he is handling the post-production sound design and mixing for this film. He was there on the first day of shooting Jacks. Due to other commitments we couldn’t have him for the whole thing so Richard Lawton took over for the next two days.
“In post-production sound, Michael will go through and make sure everyone’s levels are even so it’s all nice and consistent. When somebody yells it’s loud, and when somebody whispers it’s quiet, but you can still hear everything without adjusting the volume.
“Then he’ll layer in all the diegetic sounds. Diegetic sound happens in the world of the film and all our characters can hear them. An example of diegetic music would be if the boys were driving in the car and the radio is playing and they can hear the song. Non-diegetic audio is music that we as an audience can hear, but the characters don’t because it’s not in their world. Michael will add in diegetic audio: footsteps, doors opening and closing, gunfire, all those audio things you hear in the real world.
“Music is separate. There’s a nightclub scene where the boys start the film, in the heavy metal bathroom, so we’ll see if we can use a song or two from local artists. Composer Jeremy Neale will create the score for the rest of the film. Then we will go back to Michael in sound who will do the overall mix, all the sound effects, all the dialogue and the music to make sure it’s all nice and consistent, and that everything can be heard properly.
“While that’s all going on with the audio, we get the colour grade done. This is basically tweaking the colour and adjusting so that it looks exactly how you want it to look. The camera shoots it very flat, and takes a lot of the colour out. The lighting is all there and you have a lot of control in post production to adjust the whole look of your film. You can make it darker and grittier, or bright and sunny, you can accentuate certain colours. There are all sorts of different things you can do. So a special colourist will go through and work with Connor and Joel to make sure every frame is consistent and it all pops and looks exactly as we want it to look. Which is quite bright and colourful in this film.”
If that wasn’t enough, ‘Jacks’ has some Mandarin lines.
“We have to do the subtitles, and we want to make sure that what is said is correct. Once we are happy with our edit we will ask Sen Shao to check the Mandarin.
That adds a unique challenge to our post-production. Generally with editing you look for the best performance, and everything else is secondary. If the camera is slightly out of position or out of focus, or if the dialogue is a tiny bit not right but the performance is there and the emotion is there, we can work around the other things. In this case we are looking for the best performance with the Mandarin spoken correctly. We were very lucky to have Sen as an asset – to teach you guys how to say the Mandarin, and then to work with us in post-production to make sure what we use is correct and we aren’t butchering anything.”
Behind The Scenes (BTS)
“BTS is a standard thing that happens for every shoot. For BTS you’ve got a still photographer and a videographer, and you’ve got the combination of candid BTS photos of people working, and production stills – which can be split into multiple roles. We just had one person each day covering all of it. Gabby Zussino was with us for 3 of the 4 days, then Flynn Clarkson joined us on the last night. They filmed lots of action shots of people setting up the lights, tweaking the cameras, testing the rain and all that fun stuff. The BTS content is what we use to build our audience, We kick that off with an Instagram account @jacksthemovie, and on Facebook pages, to show off all the awesome stuff we did on set.”
‘Jacks’ was Derek’s ninth film as a producer. His last film ‘True Blue’ is premiering at the film festival ‘Dances with Films’ in LA.
“I’m very selective about the projects that I commit to, because once I decide that I’m going to join a project, I’m going to see it through to the end, no matter what. I put everything I can into it. For me it’s a combination of things: the writing has to be there, it has to show some natural talent, creativity and intelligence. Ideally I have something that I can connect to in the story, not always, but it helps. Then speaking with the director and or writer, usually the same person, and being able to determine where their passion is and that their heart is in it. So that – no matter what – we are going to get it done.”
Commitment to the project undertaken, caring about the art and watching over his team. It’s called Leadership.