Frankie Got The Junk is informed by my love of film and my influences as a filmmaker. When reading the original script and being offered the opportunity to direct it; I had to try to figure out how to relate to the script, what could I bring to it and how could I make this my own.
I looked at the elements of the film and picked out the things that resonated with me. The key themes were immaturity and addiction and having had my own problems with both I soon looked to expand upon these.
I started to think about films and filmmakers who had influenced me and the more I developed my shot list and storyboards, the more I found opportunities to include intertextual references to pay homage.
The film had two other major components, video games and drugs. I looked at two very influential films that deal with these subjects, Requiem for a Dream (2000, Dir. Darren Aronofsky) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010, Dir. Edgar Wright). Whilst researching these films I watched the behind the scenes and several interviews with both of the filmmakers.
I started to list the films that I felt could help me to decide on the visual aesthetic for the film; it then became quite apparent that the film itself began to create a look of it’s own organically.
I looked at the restaurant scene from Heat (1995, Dir. Michael Mann) for my key conversation scene in the pub, using almost identical angles as a starting point for the scene structure. The reason for doing this was that I saw similarities between the characters involved in Heat and my film. Both characters are complete opposites of each other in lifestyle choice, but incredibly similar in the way that they view the world.
I looked at comedy films such as Shaun of the Dead (2004, Dir. Edgar Wright) and Pineapple Express (2009, Dir. David Gordon Green) to understand how to edit comedy and decided to use a key shot from Shaun of the Dead in Frankie Got the Junk. in an important moment as it had the desired effect I was looking for and it also paid homage to Shaun of the Dead a film which has influenced me heavily.
To conclude, this film has been inspired by my love of films and influences that have been sat waiting to be expressed until I had the opportunity to do so given the right context and genre.
Within this project I was trying to achieve something that had a strong visual/thematic/narrative and intertextual style that would draw attention to the people that had worked on it. I was keen to show off my ability as a writer/director and editor as well as showcase the talented people that I have had the privilege to work with in the past. I wanted to create something different and interesting that could convey my skills as a filmmaker. I also was keen to get some experience as a director and learn as much as possible with a crew that I was comfortable with.
The visual aesthetic of the film is fairly hard to explain. I wanted to create a film that had a similar look to the video games of the late 80s and early 90s (mainly NES games). I wasn’t necessarily looking for the cleanest and sharpest images, I was instead looking for more pixellated and blocky images with a large amount of visual references to the past.
I wanted the mise en scene of the film to be strong and I feel that we achieved this, there was a lot of prop sourcing and time that went into creating sets that had a strong visual presence.
I was keen to use long take cinema as much as possible because when it is used effectively I believe it is the purest form of cinema. This can be difficult to translate to comedy, as the editor is always claimed to be the funniest man on a film, this meant that this would not be the case on this film.
I feel that this film is very self aware of it’s visual style and and takes advantage of it’s odd storyline and quirkiness of the concepts. Colour has a huge part to play in this film and with a trustworthy DOP, I felt that this was conveyed very well indeed. The film has many practical elements to it, from the small budget and huge ambition of the project in a very short space of time, it came together effectively. There were also various lighting effects that were created practically involving logistically difficult situations.
I feel the main strengths of the film are the crew behind it. I had a resourceful crew who supported me well, offering help and advice when it was needed. The film also has a good sense of itself and I don’t think it strays away from it’s intentions. There are visually interesting moments and concepts that are explored in interesting ways.
The film suffers from some weaknesses that I did get to fix due to a four day re-shoot. There are still some issues that remain and as far as I am concerned the biggest issue with the film is down to myself and my limited ability to work with actors effectively.
I find it very difficult to express how I want the performance to play out, I feel that now that I understand this weakness I can work hard to improve this. I believe that technically I am strong, I get good visuals and the concepts I deal with can be interesting. I am very aware that I have pacing issues in my films as I tend to be self indulgent and subjective, this is another thing that the film suffered from, I do believe that in the re-shoot I managed to deal with a lot of this.
I believe I have achieved what I set out to achieve, in fact I would say that I have achieved much more than I had hoped. I consider this my first film, any other short project I have done has not been handled with this level of focus and commitment. There are issues and there are things I wish I could change but I believe with the very small budget and time pressures that were in place, this very ambitious project worked out very well and I am proud of my cast and crew. I feel that the conceptual, visual and technical aspects of the film have really worked above and beyond what I originally desired.
I have always felt that comedy and horror are subjective and I knew that I would encounter people that would not find my film funny or interesting. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a financial flop that returned just over $47 million back from it’s $60 million production budget worldwide. It received a lot of negative reviews from people that did not understand it’s humour and subject matter. Yet this film has become unbelievably popular with a cult audience due to this specific humour and subject matter. The point I am making is that I do not consider mass appreciation to be the sign of success; I was keen to make a specific likeminded group of people laugh and be entertained, so, not appealing to a mainstream target audience does not phase me.
The problem I found with this initial screening was the confusion the film caused, it seemed to throw people off and not make sense. I felt there were pacing issues and that it needed more energy. I released a trailer that had a great deal more energy in it and that received a great deal of positive feedback. Upon receiving this feedback I decided to reshoot the opening of the film and do a serious rewrite.
This is something that I never thought would be possible due to the huge (at this level) scale of the filming process. This second chance was made possible due to at a very late stage in pre production, I started a Crowdfunder campaign and secured some extra budget money. This allowed us to pay for the lead actor to travel down and to help fund the cast and crew for a further four days, on top of the previous seven days.
If I had more time I would have spent it working with the actors more intensely, this was the main intention for the re-shoot but yet again, time ticked away and I was unable to spend as much time working on their performance as I wanted to. If we had more money I would have liked to have expanded a scene from the film that takes place in an office building, to buy better props for this scene and also to find more practical and suitable locations for it too.
Results of group screenings
I have taken on board many of the comments I have received from the two group screenings. The first screening resulted in me reshooting 75% of the film so I believe that is self explanatory as to how I felt about it. The second screening was much more positive and the main comments I received were to do with audio issues. I had to dub the tracking shots at the beginning of the film due to unusable audio because of the traffic, this resulted in me needing a fair bit of time to sort out the levels and create a believable wildtrack. After comments from the group, I managed to improve this and sort out any peaking that happened within the edit. I am hard of hearing so I find this to be quite challenging but I think I managed to fix most issues.
I received some advice from Andy about pacing issues, I made a change to the opening shot of Frankie with the sombrero, I feel this cuts together much better now. I was advised to shorten two clips, one of Frankie walking into the pub and one of Frankie and Jerry having a conversation in front of the machine in the alleyway. I decided not to cut these down as I feel the pace needs to be slower at this point in order to highlight the shift that happens when they take drugs later on. I like to keep the audience waiting at times, there is a fine line where the audience could get bored, I don’t think I crossed it this time. I also feel that cutting out dialogue that doesn’t advance story is counter intuitive in this film’s case. I want to basically let the audience hang out with these characters before shifting them to a different gear in the second act.
I also made a couple of tweaks to certain shots that I felt could have been better. I put in some new sound effects and swipes to make the cuts slicker.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this module and the trials and tribulations that have come along with it. I feel like a much stronger and intelligent filmmaker coming through this process. It has helped to cement my ambition of being an editor/director.