Sunday, 15 May 2016

Making '100 Years with the 8th'

After the success of ‘The Camp’ (the Senior produced documentary about summer camp 2014), I wanted to set myself and the Seniors a bigger film project so in January 2015 we started working on ‘100 Years with the 8th’; another documentary film shot over the course of one year which captures what the Group does.

Planning was fairly easy. We knew that the combination of filmed events overlaid with interviews, and a tear jerking, slow music montage at the end, worked (as that is what we did in ‘The Camp). That basic vision offered a perfect foundation for the film which could easily be built upon.

By April, that skeleton had expanded to include scripted interviews. These were sometimes for comic effect but sometimes simply so information could be given in a concise but natural way. By November, we had written and shot a fictional prologue set in the year 2082 which included spaceships, walking sticks, and dodgy moustaches. And by December, the voice overs for the fast-paced 100-year history section had been recorded.

Making the film feel smooth and not sporadic was an initial challenge. There were over twenty 8th events which were covered in the film and ensuring that there was some sort of continuity throughout was something identified early on. We didn’t want the movie to seem like 20 separate short films stitched together so I did two things:

The timeline

  • In January, I made a hybrid linear/modular timeline. This meant telling the story of the centenary year in chronological order (from January to December) but making chapters for each section (for example the Cub sports day, laser wars, and Jay’s animals are in the same chapter although they happened months apart).
  • I conducted most of the interviews at the end of the year so even when footage of different events is shown, the interviews have some continuity as the interviewees are sat in the same location with the same people.

Recording the plethora of events and activities that the 8th Darlington Scouts were doing to celebrate their centenary year, as well as their usual programme, was easier than you’d expect. It entailed just shooting random things on our smartphones, point-and-shoots, or the camcorders that the group purchased during the summer and praying that we can edit them together later in some orderly fashion. In the twenty-first century, it would appear, equipment is not an issue.

The storyboard for the opening scene
When I first pitched the opening scene set in 2082 to the leaders they were somewhat sceptical. I envisioned an 84-year-old member of the group returning to the Den to reminisce and finding the 2015 log book. He opens the book and what he reads is illustrated in the footage from 2015 making the actual film some kind of prolonged dream-sequence of what he is reading in the book. In November 2015, a basic storyboard was sketched, spaceships were generated over the den using an 89p movie effects app, and the 84-year-old man was created by giving Maverick a pound-shop moustache and a walking stick. Seeing the surreal opening sequence, rather than just hearing a pitch for it, convinced the leaders that it was appropriate for the film and we were allowed to keep it in.

Editing at the Den
Editing some 40GB worth of raw footage was a five-month task which began in December 2015. It was a gruelling job which was frustrating at times for example when someone had said something dynamite in an interview but was being shouted over by someone else rendering the footage unusable. Nevertheless, the editing was a joy. Most of the editing happened at home with the exception of three days that happened at the Den. The days at the Den were also when the voice overs were recorded. This sometimes meant listening to Poppy and Maddie attempting to pronounce unexpected tongue twisters such as ‘at Oxford’ and ‘Harrison’s laundry’ dozens of times until they got it right. Despite the slow progress at times, it was good fun.

The pre-premier was in April 2016, this was an opportunity for me to show some leaders and the Seniors a first draft of the movie to get their feedback before the final cut. Unsurprisingly, they asked me to remove lots of swearing, some inappropriate bits, and some scenes which dragged on too long. Though, on the whole, they seemed to like it.

The actual premier was on May 4th at the Scout HQ. Over 50 people turned out to watch the 43-minute-long movie which was projected onto the wall behind the stage. One day later it was released on YouTube and it has thankfully met a warm reception. Since the release, viewers have called it ‘fantastic’, ‘excellent’, and said ‘It really shows what a great Scout Group the 8th is, always has been and hopefully always will be.’