Monday, 18 July 2011

05 So You Wanna Make a Movie

The summer break gives Eki and me a chance to start thinking about our next project. “marihuanaland” has been exciting and fun but a long slog so maybe it´s time to do another “homemade”: projects I shoot and he edits (and does the music). Like a lot of things since we first began we sort of slid into it. After living in Finland for 28 years I wanted to visit my own country and film it.  We bought a small Canon HD video camcorder HV20 and Eki gave me lessons* at the café we sometimes use as an office. He also gave me a lightweight tripod and interview equipment. I set off with one suitcase and a backpack. We called the project “Back in the USA”.

Reality set in when I was on my own.  My Monday morning phone calls to Eki were usually cries for help (“Apua!” in Finnish). With Eki trying to calm me down and walk me through the lessons. Again. And again. I criss-crossed the US for three months by train (mostly broken down). Almost got frost-bitten in -17 degree weather in Chicago (longed for my crew) and totally gave up on the interview equipment (too many switches, cables and lights). But it was fun to film my family and friends and meet new (sometimes wacky) people. Came back to Finland with 17 hours of footage.  Eki groaned but got to work – not only on the edit, he had to straighten most of my shots.

“The Old Gray Mare She Ain´t What She Used to be”, is the theme song (out of copyright). Eki, Era and I sat around like we were at a campfire or on a creaky wooden front porch on a hot summer night in a tiny backwater town in the old West (actually Spacewhale, their studio in Lauttasaari). They played guitars and sang. I tried to sing along with them. Loved every minute, but when I heard the results was mortified at being so off-key. The two guys over-ruled me and it went in the film.  I learned a lot and was ready to try again.    

So last year when I was in England (Oxford) for several months, decided it would be fun to make a short doc (20 min) about their famous (or some would say infamous) class system: Posh Poor & Middleclass BRITS: an outsider´s view”.  My entrée was Richard Bailey, who has a posh eccentric hobby: he owns one of three working Venetian gondolas in Great Britain. One thing led to another and I got invited to film Wotton House – an 18th century country estate. And a Rolls Royce picnic on the grounds. It was easy to find a young homeless guy selling magazines on the street in Oxford, there were so many. It turned me into a temporary investigative reporter because his plight was dire.The middle class turned out to be the biggest problem – they were the most self-conscious. And by this time I had learned to use the interview equipment so people got to tell their own stories and I did the linking voiceover. The documentary got into the OXDOX film festival and was picked up by Journeyman Pictures, a film distributor in Great Britain.  Since April 1, 2011 it has got almost 6,000 hits on youtube. A drop in the bucket for YT but a step in the right direction for little Margie productions “homemades”.

EKI´s Lessons:

01 Use the tripod, hand-held for style only
02 Frame your shots
03 Hold the camera and shoot for at least 10 seconds
04 Take the wide shots then the details.  Lots of up-close details
05 In most cases it´s good to have something moving in the shot
06 For “Homemades”: one hour of footage for each 5 min edited
07 Limit unedited interviews to 10 minutes
08 Pay attention to the audio – it´s half the film
09 Never “zoom in” for style.
10 After 5 shoots clean your camera
11 Make sure you have EXTRA batteries
next week:  06 Shooting Venice Vivaldi Versailles & two Gondoliers


  1. love your "Old Gray Mare" at the end.
    It was perfect and it sounded like everyone had a lot of fun.

  2. Yeah. Now I like to learn how to sing. Eki says I could use some lessons.