A Day in the Life of….a Diverse Film Fund Filmmaker
The life of a filmmaker can be enigmatic to those of us who haven’t dabbled behind the scenes and on set. Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund supported five emerging filmmakers with a £10,000 fund, mentoring and training. 2021’s filmmakers are Ikram Ahmed, Alexandra Genova, Sheila Kayuma, Jason Osborne and Blaise Singh. The filmmakers had a varying level of experience, but this was to be their first TV credit. We sat down to hear first hand what a typical day looked liked for them.
Morning! What time do you wake up?
Jason: Shoot days are notorious for their early starts and today was no different. In fact, today wasn't too bad as I woke up at 6am. An absolute lie-in compared to some shoot days. With adrenaline coursing through the body, there is little need for caffeine.
Alex: I generally wake up at 7AM or slightly earlier depending on start time.I practice transcendental meditation so before I do anything, I brush my teeth and meditate for 20 minutes. If I have time I’ll do some yoga but if not just some stretches. Then I’ll shower and get dressed and run through my script and shot list over a strong coffee and some breakfast.
Blaise: On the first day of filming I woke up super early to catch a train into London. It was a challenge for sure to get up at 5am but I was excited to get the ball rolling after months of planning. I arrived at Liverpool Street at 7am.
Sheila: After getting to bed at 2am, I’m back up again at 6am (I don’t advise script writing instead of getting the recommended 8 hours sleep!). I jump in the shower and reflect on the day ahead. That’s followed by a quick 10 minute makeup tutorial that even Jackie Aina would be proud of! I grab a Starbucks Frappuccino (I’m obsessed with them) from the fridge to wake me up a little.
Any hiccups first thing?
Alex: I always like to leave ample time to get to set; I prefer to be the first there so if there are any issues with access etc. I can sort them out early on!
Jason: I received delivery of all the camera and lighting kit to my home the evening before the shoot. For all the advantages of this, I live on the first floor which meant the numerous trips up and down stairs with heavy equipment the night before is now to be repeated when the van arrives to be loaded at 7am. 45 minutes later, the van is packed and I already feel like I’ve accomplished a day's work! We set off for the short 15 minute journey to Hackney from my home.
Blaise: On the way out of the station I took a wrong turn and ended up having to do a 15 min walk around to the contributor's house. Luckily the call time was 7:30 so I was still early on arrival!
Sheila: I leave home at 7am and give myself an hour and 30 minutes to get to the location, but London traffic usually has other plans for me!
How does the filming for the day commence?
Jason: I meet the crew on set at 8.00am where it’s all hands on deck to unpack the equipment. Many hands do indeed make light work and what took me 45 minutes now only takes 10. My producer and Project Must Entertainment partner, Steven Eniraiyetan, and I take a walk around the Kingsmead Estate. It’s a good opportunity to chat about the day’s filming, re-familiarise myself with the specific locations of where I’d like to shoot the more narrative sections of the film, and also remind myself of the driving motivations and purpose behind the documentary before filming begins.
Alex: I’ll brief the crew about what the day’s filming will look like and talk through covid safety. If it’s a complicated day, I might meet the DP (director producer) slightly earlier over a coffee and talk through the script if we haven’t had time before that. The DP and sound recordist will be setting up the equipment ready for filming.
Blaise: I get to the set and meet the crew outside. We take COVID-19 lateral flow tests along with the contributors and are ready to start. It's a busy day for our main contributor Aaron, who is creating promotional material for his performance at this year's UK Black Pride. We start off following Aaron taking his four pugs for a walk followed by a photo shoot in Aaron's basement/home studio.
Sheila: The first thing I do when I arrive on location (or before) is ask the runner to get coffees, teas and breakfast for everyone. People are usually ready to get stuck into work once they’re fed! Whilst they eat, I brief them on the day ahead and what we’ll be doing. Trying to manage the owner or operator of the location/event whilst the crew needs you, can be a challenge. But I always remain calm and make sure I’m available when I’m needed.
Was it smooth sailing from then on?
Alex: I used an EyeDirect camera for the master interviews so that the contributors were looking straight down the lens (and therefore straight at the audience) to get a more intimate feeling. It’s quite a fiddly bit of kit so that takes time to set up the first time round!
Jason: We encountered a slight hiccup quite early in the day. I’ve been coming to the community shop every Saturday for the past 2 months so have become accustomed to the routine. The Rise 365 young leaders arrive from 9.30am, food delivery from 9.45am. Yet today at 10.30am there is no delivery. We eventually received word that today’s delivery will be 2 hours late! No shoot is without its challenges and I’m actually rather relieved that ours has revealed itself so early in the day. We switch our schedule to ensure that time isn’t lost. In a strange way, it works to our advantage as there is a hive of activity when the food delivery does arrive and we’re able to capture this palpable energy on film. The delay also allows for the crew to interact with the Rise members. Many of them have an interest in film so we get them practicing pulling focus, recording sound and taking stills. The crew were absolutely amazing and truly engaged with all the young Rise leaders, making it a fun day for them all. Thank you guys!
Lunchtime! How does that work on set?
Jason: We break for lunch at 2pm, a little later than expected due to the unforeseen circumstances in the morning. It’s the hottest day of the year so we eat as a crew outside. When possible, I think eating as a crew is important. Filmmaking is a real collaborative process and eating together provides opportunity for everyone to bond. It also gives me an opportunity to discuss the schedule as well as hear everyone’s feedback and thoughts on how the morning went and how to get the best out of the afternoon.
Alex: I’ll always build in a lunch break in the schedule, but timing will depend on what we’re filming. We all eat together. If we’re on the allotment then Robbie (one of the contributors) and his friends have been known to put on a fantastic bbq spread for everyone; otherwise I will pick up some wraps or something from a nearby shop.
Blaise: I took lunch with the crew by ordering food at a local takeaway restaurant. It was a good opportunity to get to know everyone better as well as bond with the collaborators. During filming days I normally eat pretty light, with lots of coffee or an energy drink (which I've since stopped drinking).
Sheila: Lunch is really important to the crew! So to stay in their good graces, I tell them where we’re getting lunch during the morning brief. Lunch is always between 12pm and 1pm. We eat as a crew, I think it’s the only time we really have to get to know one another during the work day. I try and get us a warm lunch where possible, but if not then some gourmet sandwiches work just fine too!
After lunch, it’s back to filming. How does that pan out on a busy day of filming?
Jason: Afternoons on set can often be fraught. You’re behind schedule, there’s fading sunlight and you’re having to make tough decisions on what shots can be cut from the schedule. Unusually, for once, we were beset by neither of these concerns. A rare occurrence indeed! The afternoon was spent filming the narrative sections of the film. Our biggest challenge was keeping our young contributors on set. Understandably, no teenager wants to hang around to shoot film on a hot and sunny Saturday. The great thing about close knit communities such as the Kingsmead Estate is that there are always things going on and today word is out that there’s a barbecue happening. It takes all of my gentle persuasion to convince them to stay a little longer. I hope they’re pleased that they did.
Alex: As much as I carefully draft my script, schedule and shot list, inevitably something unexpected will come up that throws that slightly off. But often this unforeseen element elevates a scene to something even better than I could have planned for.
Blaise :We had a few setbacks with rain in the afternoon but once we started filming it all went smoothly. It involved our main contributor walking down Brick Lane [in London] in drag to a local park to take part in a promotional video shoot.
Sheila: By the afternoon we are in the flow of the day, so things are usually smooth. There’s slight hiccups here and there, but there’s always a solution!
What time do you tend to wrap up for the day?
Alex: Depending on start time, we tended to shoot into dusk if the weather was good to get those lovely ‘golden hour’ shots. My DP, Alfie, is very dedicated and will stay as long as there is beautiful light! The crew and I tended to go for a beer after wrapping!
Blaise: We wrapped up around 7pm that day. Usually when I wrap I get this strange feeling of adrenaline/excitement that gives me this burst of energy... The dancers invite me to join them for dinner, but I politely decline on the off chance that I have one too many and lose the footage. I reach home around 9pm. After a filming day I usually back up the rushes on two separate drives, then convert them to proxy files. During dinner, I'd watch the clips for a few hours and generally settle any anxiety of whether or not what I shot was adequate. I'm usually pleasantly surprised with the content.
Sheila:After we have all the shots we needed for that day, we wrap around 5pm or 6pm. I fight the London traffic for the second time in the day, I get home and unload the car. I then b line for the gin and tonic! If we are filming the next day, I will ensure everything is prepared for that. If not, I’ll catch up on some shows whilst I make dinner. I'm a huge horror fan so it’s usually American Horror Story or something else I shouldn’t be watching so close to bedtime!
After such a busy day, how does your day end?
Jason: As I make my way home, I notice scores of people outside bars and pubs. Enjoying the weather, drink in hand. As appealing as it looks, I have an evening of preparation ahead as we’re filming interviews the very next day. Drinks in the sun shall have to wait. At least until tomorrow.
Alex: On a non-shoot day, I would’ve fitted in a second meditation by now, so I’ll do my second 20 minute meditation and then a bath and collapse into bed!
Blaise: I'll head to bed around 1am, but will write a to do list on my phone for the next day. I may also create some social media posts before finally falling asleep at 2am. If I'm not shooting the next day I'll wake around 10am ready to take on the world!
Sheila: I tell myself I’ll be in bed by 10pm, but one episode usually turns into another and I eventually force myself to turn it off by midnight. I take a quick shower and jump into bed, ready to do it all again tomorrow.
The Diverse Film Fund films will be premiering on Together TV’s channel throughout October. You can also read about what it was like for Together TV's content team organising and assisting the filmmakers in the last blog. Follow us and the filmmakers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to discover more about each film and when to tune in, or check our TV guide.