Regan Hall: 'Don't wait for that perfect idea'

18 June, 2012 11:09am

Last week we caught up with Regan Hall, director of Fast Girls, to talk about his success since being a Virgin Media Shorts finalist back in 2009. Today we're back with top tips from Regan, from how to come up with an idea for your short, to where to find your music.

 

You're working with slightly bigger budgets now than when you were entering Shorts in 2009! Does it make it easier?

Fast Girls was still a very tight budget! I was allowed a crane for one day, a steady cam for five days, so I had very thin resources that I had to maximise very carefully. I think my experience of low budget film making helped me learn how to make something look good with little money. Actually I found a few people were scared of giving me the job on Fast Girls because they thought I was a commercials director. They thought I was used to having all the toys and money at my disposal, and that I didn’t know how to tell a story cheaply. And I was saying ‘no no you don’t understand! It’s the opposite!’ Really I’m a low budget film maker who just happens to make a commercial now and again. If you don’t have the money it makes you improvise. In the case of Gunslingers I had a very small budget – it forced me to improvise. We were in the middle of winter, trying to tell a story which meant immediately you’ve got to make it in a studio, and we couldn’t afford to build a set so how do we do something interesting. Which is why we shot against a green screen and I composited stuff. Not having money can be a really great creative benefit.

Last year, Federico Forcolini (who made Coasting) told us he spent most of his budget on securing a great cast. Do you think it's worth paying for good talent when you're on a shoestring?

Oh wow, it’s a really tough one. Nothing beats a good cast and if you’ve got a good actor, no matter what quality camera you point at them, it will be engaging. Yes, cast is very important but at the same time if you get good cast you need to be able to look after them. You need to ensure they have a space for makeup, feed them well, you can’t expect a great actor to come on to a low budget student set and be treated badly. Having an important actor requires they have a taxi home at the end of the day, you don’t put them on the train! It’s more than just saying can we pay you £1000 to come and spend two days making a movie. Having said that, our cast on Fast Girls were very understanding of the tight budget we were on!

 

Don’t underestimate post production. With Fast Girls, we really benefited from having a great sound mix, and time for some colour grading, so you really do need to cut your cloth proportionately, as opposed to putting all your money in one area.

How did you find the music for Gunslingers?

A friend of mine is a composer, his name is Jon Boorman, based in Brighton. I told him I was making Gunslingers and needed a track, did he have anything in his library. He composed a little something for us which was fantastic. A big shout out to Jon!

There are online music libraries like Sound Dogs and so forth where you can get a track for £100 or so. Or, in the same way your DOP needs exposure, your actors need exposure and you as a director need exposure, composers need exposure. So making contact with composers early on is a great idea. But then again it’s a lot of time and effort composing something. Quite often they’ve been playing around in the studio and have something they’ve already done, so make contact with an up and coming composer early on, have a listen to their music and say 'hey I’d like to use this in my film. Can I just give you a little bit of money and give you a big credit on the end of my film in order to use it?' That gives them exposure and it gives you great music. Plus when you choose music early in production it often influences the way you film a scene. With Fast Girls I was looking for music while I was still choosing my actors, it’s so important to how you finish a film.

Do you have any advice for film makers who want to enter Shorts this year and are still stuggling to get started?

The great thing is you’ve got a deadline now, and nothing helps a film maker more than a deadline. Even if you don’t win, the fact you’ve got an excuse to make a film is great. Get it up on the website, get some exposure, get your team together and just do it. A lot of time people are hanging around for that perfect idea, and there never is one. If you’ve got something that you think ‘hey that’s kind of cool’, I’m telling you, that’s 9/10 of the work done. Go with your first instinct! Do it.

A blank canvas can be really difficult. When I was at film school I had a trick. We had a short film to do and none of us had an idea, there was a group of nine of us and none of us could ever agree. So what we did was opened a dictionary and chose three words – we just opened it at a page and found three words, and we put those words on the white board and came up with an idea around that. That’s it. A blank canvas is impossible.

 

What’s next for you?

The great thing is, off the back of Fast Girls I’ve signed with an agent in the UK and a film agent in LA,  and they’re starting to send me some really great scripts. So I’m choosing project number two – watch this space. Maybe a Bond film one day, who knows! License to thrill.

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