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At BIAFF 2010 John Taff, Norton College Media Department, won a 5-Star, Best 16-21 age group and Best British Young Film-Maker Awards with Courier. The film is one of Britain's representatives at UNICA 2010.

I found an article about drug dealers using kids to deliver drugs as they were less likely to be apprehended in the street than adults.

After all how many police officers are going to stop a child walking down the street with a school bag on?

Courier was our Final Major Project for college, and the brief was to make a 5 minute film that was to be aimed at a child audience.
It just made sense for the film to be about children, I couldn't see it being a successful film for its audience with older people acting in it.

Still from 'Courier'.Still from 'Courier'.I was interested in a quote I'd seen somewhere online, "In a time where children are expected to be adults before their time". So I planned to base a story on the pressure put on children in today's society and the hard time they have making decision.

I was looking through the BBC website and found an article about drug dealers using kids to deliver drugs as they were less likely to be apprehended in the street than adults. After all how many police officers are going to stop a child walking down the street with a school bag on? This was the basis of the idea. I wrote the script in just under two hours one night, and then began asking people to read through it and make suggestions on what they felt worked, didn't work, what they understood and what they felt was missing.

After printing off the final draft of the script when I felt it was ready, I sat and read over it one more time, realising that everything I had been told to avoid when makingStill from 'Courier'. a short film, I had pretty much included. The script had two kids and was largely dialogue, meaning one bit of bad acting would ruin the whole thing, but I decided to go on with the idea at this stage, not wanting to change the idea and 'play safe' so to speak, I liked the fact it was ambitious. From their I did a shot list, and originally had planned for over 100 shots, which instantly I realised was way too much.

Getting the young actors was fairly simple, one was my cousin and the other was a family friend. We didn't do any script rehearsals before shooting, I just trusted that they would both learn their lines. After the first day of shooting we did realise that they were playing the wrong characters and so switched them around.

Nothing could go wrong ... ?!

Lots of things went wrong, I guess all were my fault for the lack of planning. When I set about doing the final project I intended on doing so much planning so that nothing could go wrong, happy with the amount of pre - production done we began shooting. Then realised there were so many other things that I had just completely forgotten about. Simple things like a school bag for a prop, or the fact that one of the characters had a black eye in one of the scenes. Luckily my sister wasn't too angry when I woke her at 8am on a Saturday to ask her to do the make up for the black eye. The shot where the Nathan's character delivers a bag to somebody's house, I had to ask my Dad to quickly stand in, as again there was no prior planning to who was going to be in that shot.

Still from 'Courier'.Still from 'Courier'.The only thing that wasn't included from the script was we had another character written in to answer the door at the dealer's house, it would have been Johnny's daughter, but when we got round to shooting it we decided it was just adding another character for no reason. (Really we had forgotten to arrange for somebody to do this.) I guess the problem was, as shooting went on, I was coming up with more and more ideas as to what could have been included into the film. One thing I really do wish I had organised was for Nathan's character to be walking down the road with a bag making a delivery, and have two police officers walk past to show how nervous the character was about the whole situation he was in.

Logistically the shoot did work out a nightmare!

We could only film on the weekends as we didn't want to take the two kids out of school, so it was shot over 4 weekends, one day per weekend. I planned a schedule that would get us through the entire shoot in those 4 days. We wanted to start early in the morning, 9am was the earliest we were going to get. Jonah lived 10 minutes away in the car, so my Mum would go and pick him up, whilst I did the 5 minute walk to Nathan's house to get him. This happened every morning over the four days. The locations were all in walking distance from my house, we used my house, my Auntie's across the road, and my Grandma's and Granddad's which was a 2 minute walk away. The park we used did turn out to be a problem. The first day we got there at about 9.30am and there were already parents with their kids in the park! So we had to work around that and just shoot in parts of it where there were no other people. Props we were getting hold of as and when we needed them, which is really inadvisable as it does waste time when shooting.

Funny Moments

There were lots of funny moments throughout the entire shoot, from the first day until the last.

Still from 'Courier'.Still from 'Courier'.The two that stand out most are when we filmed the scene with Nathan's character being held up against the wall. He laughed so many times when Marcus was shouting at him. The lines of dialogue for that part were too long. Marcus couldn't deliver all of them before Nathan began to laugh. In the end we had to split the lines up and do takes from either side, from over Marcus's shoulder and then back to facing Marcus over Nathan's shoulder. The other one was the final shot, as Nathan began to tell me how I should cue him before the take, proceeding to tell me I should say "Lights, Camera, Action! because that is how they do it in Hollywood."

Editing

The editing process was my favourite part of the whole project.

Still from 'Courier'.We were able to shoot at the weekend, then go into the college and through the week edit what was shot over that weekend. This meant we could pretty much see how the final film would look as we were going along, and were simply each week just adding to the edit with the newly shot scenes. This worked out really well, as anything that was missing or needed to be re - shot was identified before the next weekend of shooting, rather than getting to the end of production and then starting to realise that we needed to re - shoot. I really did like this way of shooting, but guess the luxury was only due to shooting at weekends with at least 5 days before the next shooting day.

With the flashback transition I wanted to do something that showed we were going to be going back to a previous day,. Rather than just a standard fade I wanted to do something a bit different. It was really when playing around with the edit, sliding the cursor backwards and forwards across the timeline played all the edit fast and you saw glimpses of the story but not so much that you would know what it was about or was going to happen. I sat there and thought that looks really good and then went about creating it in the edit. The sound then came about, once I'd sped up the shots, making the audio sound like a video tape rewinding.

Still from 'Courier'.The film was heavily colour-corrected, to give that grey bleak look. The actual park we shot on for the first and final scene, was brand new and was bright with contrasting colours so something had to be done to make it look more ominous. The jerk zoom was an idea I had after seeing the technique used in the series Shameless, although the idea to break the 4th wall came from a schoolfriend. This was to emphasise the question he had just delivered to the audience and leaving the film with something to think about.

After making the whole thing and seeing the final cut, I was really pleased, and at the same time thankful that it was over. Just having the worst part of the whole process to go ... with people actually sitting and watching something that I had spent from script to final edit, 8 weeks working on.

The whole process of making this film was rewarding, learning so many things on the way, and it is something I wish to keep on doing.

- John Taff.


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Page updated on 03 October 2011
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