Party Pills

Documentary, New Zealand, 2007. 3’00 mins.
Team: Helen Grace, Zelia Horrell, Amy Keach, Darryn Soper, Emily Wragg.
Winner of the Jury Award of the True Lies Festival 2007!

Summary

BZP. Dangerous party pill, or new-age miracle worker. That is the question being uncovered on Channel 17 news tonight. Associate Minister of Health, Jim Anderton has announced that the Cabinet has agreed to his recommendation to ban BZP and related party pills. However, since this announcement new research has come to light about the benefits of party pills, including dramatic weight loss, cures of neurological disease and even an answer to world hunger. The story follows reporter Marion Carbuncle in discovering these astounding benefits. See it to believe it!

Team

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Helen Grace, 20, born and raised in Rotorua, finishing this year, with a major in design and minor in marketing.
Zelia Horrell, 21, from Riversdale, currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Otago, with a double major in Design, Film and Media, and a Minor in Sociology.
Amy Keach, 21, lived in Rotorua before heading down to Otago. 3rd and final year studying design and film.
Darryn Soper, 21, from Nelson, attaining a Double Degree in Design and Marketing.
Emily Wragg, 21, hails from Nelson, 4th year BA student majoring in Design, minor in Music. Also BCOM, majoring in Marketing.

All team members contributed in the making of the film. All of us had a turn at filming and basic editing of video and audio tracks. Darryn played the main role of ‘Nigel McNab’ the narcoleptic patient, while Emily was the reporter. Originally Zelia was the news anchor but due to technical difficulties she was cut. Generally it was a well-rounded team effort.

Behind the scenes

Our original script had more then 10 minutes worth of content. While writing it we were unaware of how long it would be when spoken aloud, but after an initial read through we realised it would have to be cut down significantly. Our original script included interviews with a teacher talking about the introduction of party pills into the classroom so that students were able to stay awake and concentrate all day long, and a factory manager who claimed the productivity levels of his workers had skyrocketed since he had began supplying them with daily party pills. We also had to cut down passages of dialogue for the reporter, Nigel, and the scientist.

We originally filmed an opening and closing sequence which featured a news anchor speaking in a news room-like setting, however due to some technical difficulties concerning a green screen these scenes had to be cut.

During the filming stage of production we also faced a few ‘challenges’. During the shooting of footage for ‘Nigel’s narcoleptic moments’ (played by Darryn) we ventured to the Meridian mall in downtown Dunedin. While filming Darryn ‘asleep on the escalator’s’ we were chased down by the Meridian security guard and asked if we had permission to film on the premises because it was lunchtime, ‘the Meridian’s busiest time of day’ and he didn’t want us ‘to interrupt the customers’. We were advised that we would have to go and talk to management, who turned out to be less than obliging. We left the office dejected and… continued to film what we needed anyway.

A theme began to arise in our filming. Despite the fact that next time we asked permission before instigating filming at Cosmic Corner and Funk That, we were once again turned down, and once again stealthily captured our required footage regardless.

Towards the end of our filmmaking process we decided we needed some extra footage of the reporter so as to fill some visual gaps. But… unfortunately we got back to the studio to discover that there was no sound. We still remain adamant that we tested before wrapping things on ‘set’ and it was fine! So needless to say a second take was in call for.

We had loads of fun making this film. Highlights were the filming of Darryn making a fool of himself. During the editing phase we had to cut out minutes worth of laughter over the awkward positions that we put him in (eg. falling down stairs, tangled in a bike, and with his head stuck in water fountain). The rest of us found this funnier than he did. As a group we all generally found our footage funnier than anyone else did, even after watching it for the 50th time we still cracked up at ourselves. The other highlight was the True Lies Festival where after all our hard work we saw everything come together, and of course winning was an unexpected bonus!

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Production

The production of this film was a long but fun process. In the beginning, after a lot of brainstorming (a lot) we decided on making a news style ‘true lie’ film about the benefits of party pills. We then got to work on developing a humorous yet believable storyboard and script; however, we didn’t exactly end up sticking to the original version of either. Most of the originally intended scenes were cut.

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Once we had sorted out our ‘plan of attack’ we started filming. This was the best part of producing the film. To film our project we used a standard digital camera, a tripod, and a microphone, but we also downloaded real news footage and pictures off the Internet. Our choice of camera worked well for our cheap Dunedin based news programme.

Once our filming was complete (or so we thought) we started piecing together and editing the footage. This was a long and frustrating process. We used iMovie to put together some short visual sequences within the film, but most of our editing was done using Final Cut Express. After already recording our sound we decided on some small changes we wanted in the script and used Final Cut to edit the voiceover. This sound sequence was then imported into iMovie to be matched up with appropriate visuals. The use of various programmes enabled us to have people working on various parts of our film at the same time.

Our biggest technical glitch was concerning the green screen capabilities on Final Cut. We filmed opening and closing scenes of an anchorperson (played by Zelia) in front of a piece of green fabric with the use of an overhead projector for lighting. However, due to the somewhat amateur nature of filming we encountered complications. There was a shadow behind her head on the green screen and we couldn’t extract all of the background without chunks of her hair also being removed. After a lot of deliberation we decided to cut all scenes involving the news anchor because it ended up looking slightly ridiculous with her having either a giant green shadow behind her head, or “shimmering” at the edges when too much colour was removed. We were reluctant to do this as so much time had been spent filming and editing this sequence, however, in the end it was the right decision and made the whole movie a lot more cohesive.

We felt that we kept to our ‘time schedule’ pretty well over the entirety of this project; we made sure we met up at least twice a week to discuss and work on all stages of production. It wasn’t until the last week of editing where we came across some technical hurdles, but managed to over come these in time and created (what we thought anyway!) a fun, entertaining film for the True Lies Festival.

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