Taking it to the next level

P1020462Meanwhile … across town in another darkened room … sound engineer Gareth Van Niekerk is working on another piece of the Every Little Thing jigsaw.

In his edit suite at Northwest Digital in Ellerslie, Gareth is adding the sound effects which – along with the music – will bring the film to life.

“How important is sound? Very. Music and sound design add to the overall feel of the film – taking it to the next level.”

Ironically, though, the audience shouldn’t really be aware of the sound effects he provides. “If it’s a good soundtrack you don’t notice it.”

Usually when a project reaches Gareth, most of the other work – editing, visual effects, colour grading – has been finished. He relishes the opportunity to “help with the storytelling. To bring life into it with the sound of the world.”

Some of the sounds Gareth uses are simply plucked from a sound library. Others, he creates in his Foley suite. (Named after its inventor Jack Foley, this is the room equipped with everything from gravel to china cups, where a Foley ‘artist’ creates everyday sounds like footsteps and hand movements to match the pictures.)

DOGS OUT, INSECTS IN

Every Little Thing brings its own challenges: like removing the ‘echo’ from the actors’ voices (the film was shot in a large warehouse), and taking out the sound of the neighbours’ dogs barking and cars driving past. He also has to create believable sounds for the movement of a beetle and a weta as they scuttle through long grass.

Gareth is tweaking some of the actors’ voices, too. The main character Harry Thorogood is pinned under a car in the middle of nowhere, so Gareth aims to give his dialogue “the sense of isolation. To make it feel as if he’s alone, and you are there with him.”

Gareth has a BSc in computer science from the University of Auckland, and he studied sound engineering at Auckland’s School of Audio Engineering. A decade ago he set up his own company, Northwest Digital. He does film editing and motion graphics as well as the full range of sound work – design, editing, mixing, Foley and ADR (additional dialogue recording/replacement).

THE BIG MOMENTS

His first job was as ‘nightshift sound assistant’ on Spartacus, then he moved on to doing Foley and dialogue editing on that series. This year his big commissions include the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series (editing sound effects), and the NZ-Chinese coproduction The Wonder (for which he is doing the Foley work).

And, of course, the big one! – Every Little Thing.

“The nice thing about Every Little Thing,” says Gareth,is there’s a lot of space so you can build to the big moments then drop back to nothing.”

And with those words, Gareth is back at his desk and his Protools software, working on a tapestry of sound effects which most of the audience will never notice.

 

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Playing with colour and light

Alana Cotton in dark

Every Little Thing continues its magical journey towards completion. The film is now in the hands of colourist Alana Cotton, who is adding her own brand of magic to Fred Renata’s pictures.

Step inside her darkened room at Images and Sound in Grafton, and you’ll find Alana surrounded by screens. There’s a wave form monitor, a vectorscope and a histogram – but that’s just the technical stuff: the means to an end. Alana’s real mission is to focus on the emotional impact of a scene: “What is the point of the story? What are we trying to say?”

It’s fair to say Alana’s job is a bit of a mystery to people outside the film world. When she specifies her occupation as ‘Colourist’ on official forms, people usually assume she’s a hairdresser. “But if they took one look at me they’d realize I’m not,” she jokes.

Alana Cotton at work

Colour grading is a time-consuming process that would drive some people crazy. But Alana loves it. “It’s hard to believe it’s a real job,” she grins. And life in a dark room? Well, she listens to a lot of music (see ‘Favourites’ below) and steps outside every couple of hours to ‘reset’ her eyes.

Alana uses Baselight grading software to match the colours in various shots, to highlight or subdue parts of a picture, remove distractions, draw attention to the important details, and change the hues.

“My job is helping the director and DoP to visually tell the story. To find the mood and tone.  To make sure the audience is looking at the right thing.  If the audience isn’t feeling what they’re meant to be feeling – I can help.”

OTHERWORLDLY EFFECTS

On Every Little Thing, Alana is having fun on some of the more unusual scenes, like those involving a celestial being. “We are introducing some subtle haloing and promist – bringing that otherworldly presence.

Every Little Thing is the kind of film we can really play with. It’s not immediately clear if what Harry is seeing is real or not, and we are playing with that idea in the grade – gently. Everything through Harry’s eyes feels a little different. It’s not necessarily obvious what or why that is … but on a second watch it would become more obvious.

“There’s also this lovely golden yellow tail light that pulses like a heart beat through the film, faster at the beginning with the adrenalin of what is happening and then slowing down and fading some. It seems to follow the pace of the film – and I look forward to accentuating and playing with this idea too.”

Unsurprisingly, she loves movies – across many genres (see Favourites). “When there is a strong grade specifically created to drive the story – like in Inside Llewellyn Davis or the latest Mad Max – I think it enhances the experience overall, and reinvigorates my passion for what I do.”

She admits she is ‘hyper aware’ of the colour grade of a movie she’s watching, but says it doesn’t distract her as long as the film is engrossing.

TRUE CALLING

Over the last eight years Alana has worked on a wide range of commercials, TV series (including Power Rangers), documentaries (including The ground we won), movies (including Deathgasm) and short films.

She could easily have followed another career path – “at high school I was a bit of a maths nerd”. But instead she went to film school (South Seas). She enrolled in writing/directing – “but very quickly realised I belonged on the post production side.” At Images she found her true calling as a colourist.

The best part of her job – besides the satisfaction of fixing problems – is working on exciting new ideas with directors and DoPs. “Perhaps bringing something to the project that hadn’t been thought of.”

She says that “as always” DoP Fred Renata has shot beautiful pictures for Every Little Thing, “and it’s an absolute pleasure to collaborate on this.” Alana is also working in with composer Karl Steven to create the right mood for the film.

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FAVOURITES

  • FAVOURITE BAND: Currently Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (soul/funk) and Freddy Fudpucker (folk with punk roots) – a Dunedin local, now based in Berlin.
  • FAVOURITE FILMS: In Bruges, Boy, Bad Education, Pan’s Labyrinth, Whiplash, anything by the Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson, Amelie. She also watches a lot of feature documentaries.

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TOP COMPOSER JOINS TEAM

One of the country’s most prolific composers of original music for film and television, Karl Steven, has agreed to write the music for Every Little Thing.

Karl Steven

Karl, a key member of the popular 90s group Supergroove, has created soundtracks for many documentaries, commercials and TV shows.  Recent work includes the drama series 800 Words and telefeatures How To Murder Your Wife, Venus and Mars, and The Monster Of Mangatiti.  (PICTURED: Karl Steven in the studio. Photo – Paul Taylor)

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have Karl on board,” says director John Harris. “Music is hugely important in any film, and Every Little Thing presents quite a challenge because it encompasses life and death, beetles and birds, love and deception. Not to mention a car crash and a supernatural encounter.

“Karl is the right man for this challenge. He’s a brilliant musician and an extremely perceptive composer. I like his quirky sense of humour, and he’ll bring a light and intelligent quality – and some extra magic – to Every Little Thing.”

LIKE A PARABLE

Karl says he aims to preserve and help set the “dreamy, almost magical mood” that surrounds Harry’s unusual experience, “as well as striking the balance between the subtle humour in Harry’s situation and his response to it, and their high natural and supernatural stakes.

“To me the story is something like a parable, so I’d also like to give it a sort of timeless quality.”

AWARD AND DOCTORATE

In 2013 Karl was the recipient of the APRA PDA award for film and television and attended the celebrated ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop at New York University. During a break from full-time music work, Karl studied philosophy at the University of Auckland, and completed a PhD in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy at Trinity College Cambridge.

Karl is the son of a filmmaker and a writer, and trained as a sound engineer on both tape and digital media. He has a passion for the marriage of music, imagery and story-telling.

POLICE DRAMA

Karl’s earlier work includes the score and music supervision for Desert Road Films’ acclaimed police drama series Harry (a finalist for best original music in a TV series – APRA Silver Scrolls 2014), and the score for South Pacific Pictures’ drama The Blue Rose.

Karl is one the creative sparks behind Auckland’s “surf-noir weirdos”, The Drab Doo-Riffs. He collaborated with iconic New Zealand guitarist the late Ben Tawhiti on the soundtrack to Nova Paul’s experimental short film This Is Not Dying, which has screened at the George Pompidou Centre in Paris.

 

 

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And now it all comes together.

Paul Sutorius at work on ELTIn sunny Wellington, work has begun on putting EveryLittleThing together. Experienced film editor Paul Sutorius (War Stories, Ruby and Rata, Filthy Rich, 800 Words, White Lies) is locked away in an Avid suite at Park Road Post (pictured), selecting the best takes from the shoot. He says: “We’re trucking through. It’ll look really good, ultimately.” Mmmm!

Director John Harris, sitting anxiously at the back of the edit suite, is encouraged by the progress they’re making. “But the proof is in the pudding,” he says. “Are there enough ‘events’ in the story to sustain the audience’s interest for half an hour? We may have to get ruthless and take out some scenes.”

But one thing’s certain – the beetles, weta, morepork, thrush and ants will get plenty of time on screen. “They’re fascinating when you see them up close,” says John.

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EveryLittleThing photo finish

ELT crew 1Here they are – the people behind EveryLittleThing. Bridget Webber took this shot in front of the cottage which features in the final scene of the film. The impromptu photo session marked the end of an intense week of filming in West Auckland, mainly at the Propellor Studios. Editing begins next week.

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Worth getting up before dawn!

 

Upturned car + drone

The EveryLittleThing team staggered out of bed before dawn to film an upturned car in the middle of nowhere.

“But it was worth it,” says director John Harris. “Director of photography Fred Renata captured some evocative shots of the car and the silhouetted fence line as the sun came up. And those shots will help make this film look magical.”

The beautiful images also owed a lot to the ELT crew who laid on the car, shrubs, fence, smoke, car lights – and breakfast. And Mother Nature came to the party with a glorious morning.

The photo also reveals Graham Morris’ drone, which flew overhead to get God’s-eye shots of the scene.

EveryLittleThing tells the story of Harry Thorogood, a brash young salesman who is pinned under his crashed car and starts to ‘see things’. Editing begins soon.

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A magical shoot

beetle2

Filming has been completed for EveryLittleThing, and director John Harris has sent a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the actors and production teams who made the shoot a success.

“This was my first film and I was in awe of their energy, creativity and attention to detail,” he said. “They put their heart and soul into the production, and made the story come alive in a magical way.”

One of the themes of the film is appreciation of the small creatures around us, and Mother Nature was on the film makers’ side during the shoot. “We had eight straight days of sunshine,” said Harris, “and our cast of beetles, ants, birds and wetas were splendid performers.

“We used a macro lens to enter their world, and although we had to be patient we were captivated by their antics.”

•  Bridget Webber’s photo shows Brian Lawton of Creatures Unlimited with one of his starring Mexican dung beetles.

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Crash start to short film

Car crash studio

Filming has begun on EveryLittleThing … and according to director John Harris ‘it’s going exceptionally well”.

The crashed car which features in the story was put in place (upside down) in the studio on Saturday, and designer Emily Harris and her team have spent hours surrounding it with realistic terrain.

When filming began today, the value of having experienced professionals quickly became apparent. “Fred Renata and the lighting and camera teams are fast and efficient, and they’re giving us great shots,” said Harris. “And the actors are a joy to work with.

“Emmett Skilton spent most of the first day lying under the car, uncomplainingly, and his performance was utterly convincing.”

Filming continues until Saturday.

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A work of art is?

MoonAngel wings10Mexican dung beetle

‘A work of art is an accumulation of details.’ Someone famous said that. And in our attempt to make EveryLittleThing a work of art, we are certainly having to take care of a lot of details.

Our shopping list this past fortnight has included two BMW car bodies, a Monarch butterfly, a set of angel wings, a photo of the moon, a bag of dry leaves, an owl, a weta and a Mexican dung beetle.

And that’s besides all the normal movie stuff – finding locations, sorting out costumes for actors, and booking camera and lighting equipment.

“At first I was calling EveryLittleThing a ‘short film’,” says writer-director John Harris. “But when you get into the detail, you realise there’s almost as much to organise for this film as there is for a full-length feature. Still, we believe it’ll be worth it.”

As Vincent Van Gogh said – ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.’ And Hyman G. Rickover – ‘The Devil is in the details, but so is salvation.’

Filming begins in 12 days.

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Angels – what do they look like?

Angel feathers and Sarah Burren

Let’s presume angels exist: do they have wings or jet packs? The team behind the short film EveryLittleThing have opted for the former. So, should an angel appear in their film, there’ll be feathers involved. That’s quite a challenge for costume designer Sarah Burren. She’s been charged with designing and building a believable set of wings for actor Neill Rea who plays the role of the mysterious Stanley Bracewell in EveryLittleThing.

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