Thursday, 1 August 2013

THE SOLDIER - Did That Just Happen?

Article written by Bulent Ozdemir
(DisclaimerThis article contains words and phrases that some people may find offensive. Please do not continue if easily offended)

Directing Actor Oliver Park

Where to begin...

OK, let's take it from the top. The Soldier is a script I originally wrote for the Virgin Media Shorts competition (2013). I'd entered my previous short film 30 Seconds 2 Late in 2012 but had zero intention of entering this year. That is until around 4 weeks before competition deadline. I suddenly had this idea about a lone British soldier who makes a last stand against enemy forces. I knew I could make it work, shit, even make the tight deadline if I just kept things super simple. One location. 2 actors, max.

It took me around 2 days to complete the script, leaving roughly 3.5 weeks to turn the barely dry ink into a completed short film. This wasn't the kind of story I usually tell, setup or structure, but it felt right for the occasion.

Framing Actress Isabelle King
The next few weeks was a mad rush to find the actors, helping hands, location, shot list and yeah, a little bit of money to feed mouths and pick up some props. £250 to be exact.

As with my previous outing Promised, I knew from the offset that I was going to shoot, direct and edit The Soldier. It just made sense both financially and in terms of time. But again, it had to be a super simple setup. How simple? Well let me tell you, you curious lot, you:

1 Camera
1 Lens
1 Tripod
1 Slider
1 LED Light (with makeshift stand)
1 Reflector
2 Batteries and 1 Memory Card.

No filters, no matte boxes, no shoulder rigs, no external monitors, no generators, no additional gear. Just a little extra help from Mother Nature.

Oh, and you you wanna know what cutting it fine is? Finding a location you're happy with 2 days before you're scheduled shoot and 7 days before deadline. So that's a 1 day window of opportunity to shoot the film and 4.5 days to turn it around (12:00pm deadline) ---> Noooo, you're crazy ;)

Let's get to the juicy stuff. Saturday 13th of July 2013. Principle photography. 9:00am meet up time, couple of hours to setup. So in my mind, we'd be good to go for around 11:00 am.

My actor, Oliver Park, was busy putting the Lee Enfield replica rifle through its paces when the sound of a helicopter grew louder. Thought nothing of it at first, until 5-6 minutes had passed and the fucking thing was still hovering over our heads! Think I remember uttering the words "shit, I think that's for us." I carried on setting up, but in my heart I was praying that it wasn't.

Circled: Armed Police Approaching
Long story short, soon after came the police sirens, followed swiftly by an armed response unit. What makes matters worse is that we were just about to start shooting!

Besides that fact that we could've been shot, the rifle was eventually confiscated and I was left with a dilemma. What now? That prop was an integral part of the story I'd written. What the fuck now? There was a silence. Is that it? Everybody go home? After a few minutes of dismayed head-bowing, people started to throw ideas around: "Why don't you... How about if... You could also..."

What struck me the most was the fact that we couldn't just abandon the shoot. Re-scheduling wasn't an option because of the deadline. Eventually, I was able to kickstart my hazy thoughts and come up with an alternate story dynamic. Just to give you a comparison, I've attached the original sequence below:

And here's the final cut. The important lesson to learn here is that although things didn't go as planned, we were still able find a way of telling a story I believe everyone can be proud of. Until next time folks... What? What about the Virgin Media Shorts Competition? Oh right, yes! You are a clever bunch arn't you :)

THE EDIT. I transcoded the clips and threw them onto the timeline of an editing system way past it's prime. And guess what. The moment I completed the first pass, is the moment I realised this wasn't going to be a 2 minute 20 second film. Even if I butchered the second half of the edit. It was just not enough time to let the story breath. I sat there, staring at the 5+ minutes worth of footage shrugging its shoulders back at me.

After all the kerfuffle of the shoot, this was taking the fucking.... No, no it wasn't. I didn't feel angry, annoyed or upset. I actually felt good. Wanna know why? I would've made the deadline. Still had a day to go. Script to screen in 3.5 weeks, that is an achievement in itself. At that point I decided to give the edit the TLC it deserved. So I took another 4 days to enhance my sound design, finalise the grade and lock the edit with the intention of releasing the finished piece online. And here we are.

I hope this experience inspires fellow filmmakers to push through and tell their story no matter what happens. Filmmaking is not the easiest process in the world, but one that can be rewarding to those willing to put the work in. Without further ado, here's the final cut of 'The Soldier'.

Until next time folks.

THE SOLDIER (Short Film)

1944. The last surviving member of his unit, a lone British Soldier struggles to cope with his fears as enemy forces advance.


Bulent Ozdemir Director Filmmaker
Bulent Ozdemir is a self taught Writer, Director and Filmmaker who left his day job as an insurance broker back in 2010 to pursue a career in film.


e: bulentfilms[at]

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