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The making of Rent-A-Mate

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Behind-the-scenes when shooting 'Rent-a-Mate'.Rent-a-Mate by Nigel Barton, Southport MovieMakers got a 5-star award, Best Affiliated Club Entry (Denham Gold Cup) and the Best Humour Prize at BIAFF 2009. It represented Britain at UNICA 2009 where it was awarded a unanimous gold medal and Best Film of the Festival.

We had to wreck Ashby's house ... twice

I am 39 years old and made my first film at the age of eleven. I joined Southport MovieMakers when I was thirteen and continued making films throughout my teens.

Later in life I studied Media at College and University. Currently I am busy making Wedding Videos for an income. I attend Southport MovieMakers every week during the season and really enjoy working with the other members on various projects.

Still from 'Rent-a-Mate'.Rent-A-Mate was an idea that I have had for many years but avoided making because I thought it would be difficult to set up - finding actors and particularly locations for instance. I spoke to Southport MovieMakers about the idea a good year before the film was made.  Some of the members were interested in getting involved, particularly Munro Teale who liked the idea so much that in the end he co-wrote the script with me.

Rent-A-Mate was quite a big project to set up because it needed several elaborate locations and many extras. Most of the locations came from friends of mine as was the case with the extras. For the home of Clarence Leek, the main character, we used the house of Ashby Ball, Southport MovieMakers' Chairman and one of its founders. Because of scheduling problems for the shoot we had to wreck Ashby's house twice. The first time was on weekend-one of the shoot - we trashed the place to create the party feel. Tidied it up and then did the same thing again the following weekend. Ashby was very patient with us.

Behind-the-scenes when shooting 'Rent-a-Mate'. The actors for the film responded to Casting Calls I put out over the Internet. I always audition for my cast, it is time consuming but guarantees good performances in the finished film. Stuart Hudson, who played Clarence Leek was a great find and totally transformed himself for the role. Behind-the-scenes when shooting 'Rent-a-Mate'.

I shoot quite slowly getting many takes of the various performances. I always like to use one camera rather than two or even more. Again, this is more time consuming but I believe you get better results. Rent-A-Mate took four and a half days to film. I plan my shoots very meticulously with overhead plan views of the various locations detailing the different camera positions I will use. I also schedule the shooting days so that I know roughly how long everything is going to take. Sometimes I do a rough practice shoot to work everything out before the proper shoot begins.

I think everything in Rent-A-Mate was shot with the camera on a tripod or dolly. There was no handheld filming. I am not against handheld but believe it should be used to create an effect rather than just because it is quicker. The film's camera operator, Oliver Morris, supplied the dolly for the tracking shots. A filmmaker friend of mine, Paul Bagshaw, lent us a steadicam for some shots in the film.

Behind-the-scenes when shooting 'Rent-a-Mate'. Still from 'Rent-a-Mate'. Behind-the-scenes when shooting 'Rent-a-Mate'.

Jonathan Ball (Ashby Ball's son) who is a country member of Southport MovieMakers did all of the elaborate lighting in the film. For some scenes. when Jonathan was not available, we simply bounced a red head  lamp off the ceiling which gives a reasonable result and is very simple to do.

Generally we used a gun mike to record the sound for the film which was held by a boom pole.

The film was edited on an Apple Macintosh using 'Final Cut Pro' which is the editing programme I always use. The first cut was around twenty two and a half minutes without titles. Tightening the edit got the film down to its final length of nineteen minutes thirty including titles.

I am delighted with the result that Rent-A-Mate has achieved and am really looking forward to the Festival.

- Nigel Barton

Still from 'Rent-a-Mate'.You can hear extracts from Greg Patmore's music for the film at www.gregpatmore.com

You can see the film at www.stockmovies.co.uk on the same site you can see Nigel's notes on directing for film and TV here.

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