An overdue update!

Factory 293 man in fake blizzard

23 Jul An overdue update!

Hey Comrades, sincerest apologies for absence of updates. One starts these blogs with the upmost intent of providing regular enthralling posts, but then the project you’re blogging about can often prove all-consuming and the blog posts subsequently fall by the wayside – a truism for FACTORY293! I promise that the posts will be gradually ramping up from now on as post-production progresses!

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Anywho, I’m happy to tell you that the film is coming together superbly! We survived 7 fiercely intense days of principal-photography in June and are now in the midst of post-production! In fact, we’ve almost finished out first rough-cut edit of the film. We still have a few more bits and pieces to shoot, but this mostly consists of live action VFX elements, which will be composited into certain shots. Saying that, we do actually have one short scene remaining from the film to shoot (the opening scene), which we just couldn’t fit into our block of principal photography due to an unforeseeable scheduling predicament. But, it’s all turned out for the best, as principal photography was already jam-packed enough!

So… How jam-packed? To give you an idea, we smashed through over 160 set-ups in 7 days – in some instances tackling 28 setups in a single day. That’s with only one camera, and on top of that… when you’re filming a story set in 1940’s snow-swept Russia (in sun-drenched Western Australia) nothing is straightforward. So overall, I can’t begin to describe just how proud I am of the entire crew. The 7 days pushed everyone to the brink, but no one kicked the bucket. No one walked away. Everyone powered on with vigor and gusto! Not to mention our cast… It’s not like they had an easy job on this gig either. When English-speaking actors take on Russian roles, things can almost inevitably and unintentionally veer into the realms of parody. It’s damn hard to pull off a seamless Russian (and no, that isn’t some raunchy innuendo). But every cast member was inescapably aware of this danger and worked their guts out to avoid it. I’m in awe of what they’ve achieved. So, a baptism of fire (or frost) for all, but I like to think that ambitious projects attract ambitious people.

On the topic of frost… what was it like bringing snow-swept Russia to life in sun-drenched Western Australia? Well, we’re still in the digital part of that whole process, but as far as principal photography goes… It was no small task, but at the same time, entirely achievable. Like anything, the most difficult part is when you’re at the beginning… designing… testing… You’re overwhelmed with what seems like such an immense undertaking. But once you do the research, break the process down into clear steps and stages, things start to come together in the mind’s eye. Saying that, I can positively confirm that sleepless nights were had leading up to principal photography!

One of the more difficult snow components in particular relates to a large, prominent window built into one of our main sets, where the blizzard can be seen outside. It’s featured in almost every shot in that set… Of course, the blizzard has to be seen interacting with the glass panels and beams of the window, but in a manner that doesn’t obscure the bluescreen behind it, so we can still digitally replace the background. This has to be done in layers of both ‘practical’ and ‘digital’ FX and is proving one of the more fiddly technical components within the film now in post-production (among many). But, I’m confident that we’ve approached solving this particular task in the most logical manner, considering the relative constraints of our budget. There’s just no way to avoid what is an innately fiddly job!

Photos by Henry Whitehead

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Speaking of fiddly, working with snow generally means you have another department to contend with at all times. It complicates everything, adding hours to the day, but… it’s a world of fun and looks incredible (if you get the good stuff). Using fake snow really brings out the little kid in you. I guess It’s one of those ‘magic trick’ moments you get to experience when making a film. So despite the added headache, I’d gladly use the stuff again, should another production call for it. I’m not the sure the rest of the crew or the cast would be up for it but?

There were a multitude of other elements surrounding the production that had us all more nervous than the snow but. Even if the story wasn’t set in a blizzard, bringing a 1940’s Russian munitions factory to life in Perth is a tall order across all production departments. Luckily, one of the major catalysts for writing the script and kicking off the entire project, was a love affair with the heritage listed Midland Railway Workshops. I stumbled upon this location a few years back and have ever since been trying to create a project that would draw on all its sheer epiceness. Even with cinema grade artificial snow-FX shipped in from the UK, an amazing cast and crew and a damn decent budget for a short film, there is simply NO WAY we could bring this story to life without the Midland Railway Workshops – the script was written for it. Luckily, the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, who manages the site, has been tremendously supportive of the project since day one. Which is great, because we based pretty much every set there except for two – one, which we had to build from scratch in an ad-hoc studio space at the Film & Television Institute (another hugely generous and supportive group that we couldn’t have made the film without), and the other is another existing location at Whiteman Park (ditto). Saying that, FACTORY293 isn’t the only film to have shot at the Midland Railway Workshops. But, considering the sheer scale of innate production value that’s just… sitting there, I’m baffled that it hasn’t been more utilised.

But even with the epic and operatic Midland Railway Workshops as our primary shooting location, the film’s factory floor set would have looked utterly ridiculous if it were not for two things: (1) The sheer generosity of the Machinery Preservation Club of Western Australia, (2) our utterly enthusiastic and unfathomably dedicated fleet of factory floor extras.

Without revealing too much before you’ve seen the film, the Machinery Preservation Club (MPC) brought a level of authenticity and further production value to the factory floor that we could have only dreamt of. And similarly, our extras, well… they went above and beyond what was expected. I’m still flabbergasted by their dedication. Without them, there would have been no life, no hustle and bustle on the factory floor.

Seeing as I’m on a roll thanking various people and associations, I must sincerely thank ScreenWest, who made the largest cash contribution to the production’s budget via their new bold 3 To 1 Matched Funding Initiative and of course our awesomely generous Pozible Supporters!

OK Comrades, I better get back into it! Stay tuned as we reveal more behind the scenes from principal photography, provide updates on post-production and introduce you to more of the talented FACTORY293 cast and crew. We’ve lots to show you, we just don’t want to reveal too much too soon – you know how it is!

Roderick MacKay

Photo by Christian Fletcher

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Photos by Henry Whitehead

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