Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tip #58: Give actors what they need

(Interview with 'Ambleton Delight' cast member Andrew Elias)

Following on from our interview with leading actor Jos Lawton, we have asked supporting actor Andrew Elias, who provided a memorable performance as Town Clerk Colin Wilkinson along side the Mayor played by Brian Capron, regarding practical ways of making life easier for an actor on a low budget film.

What do you need from a director prior to filming?
I really appreciate being able to sit down with the director to discuss my character. It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many directors send supporting actors a character description, and then expect them to turn up on set and ‘act’ without any further character discussion, whilst focusing entirely on the leads. Every director works differently, but being able to sit down (even just for five minutes) and chat about the character is essential. It helps the actor know what the director’s expectations of both the actor and the character are. It also means that there doesn’t need to be any ‘what is my motivation?’ questions on set during filming, which can be infuriating to a director trying to stick to a tight schedule.

What do you need from a director on set?
I like to feel that my contribution to the production, no matter how small, is integral to telling the story and fulfilling the director’s vision. A great director is one that makes an actor feel important no matter how small the part. Contrary to popular belief, most actors are insecure about their abilities, so a bit of praise after a shot is also really helpful. I personally liked to be pushed to my limits as an actor. I worked with a director years ago who was making me repeat the same scene over and over, and the rest of the cast said to him ‘Give him a break’, to which he replied: ‘I will only push Andrew as far as I think he can take it, and he’s got a little way to go yet’. How right he was.

What do you need from a director afterwards?
Evaluation is always helpful, especially in a social setting (a pub!) away from set, where you can both relax and discuss informally how the scenes went.

What should they not do?
Break down in tears, smash things up or hit people. happens, and it doesn’t inspire confidence! A pet hate of mine is when directors say ‘do it like this’ and do a specific action, or ‘say it like this’ and adopt a strange accent/intonation. Not only does this make a mockery of the casting process, it is also incredibly soul destroying for an actor and has nothing to do with building character. As I’ve already said, I do liked to be pushed, but there’s a big difference to being stretched as an actor and being asked to do an impersonation of the director.

What can filmmakers/producers do to make your job easier?
Detailed call sheets and frequent correspondence are incredibly helpful. This helps concrete the feeling of ‘belonging’ rather than just ‘passing through’.

What should actors do/not do to make filmmakers' job easier?
Where do we start? Well, Spencer Tracy famously said that to be a good actor you merely have to learn lines and not bump into the furniture! Patience, flexibility and a good sense of humour go along way on a film set. It’s also very important to know where you, as a performer, stand in the ‘pecking order’ on set. For example, the Star can make Big suggestions, a Supporting Actor can make Small suggestions, but an Extra should keep schtum! Patrick Tucker’s Secrets of Screen Acting outlines basic, accepted, screen acting etiquette and is an essential read for actors wishing to avoid any faux pas on set.

For more, check out Andrew Elias' insightful acting blog:

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Tip #57: Film day-for-night

(By Dan Parkes, Director)

As mentioned in the previous post, night shoots are never easy, so it is sometimes more practical to film day-for-night. By means of camera settings and filters and then some post-production colour correction you can take a shot filmed during the day and turn it into night. In Ambleton Delight all of the exterior night shots of the restaurant and Chris' house were done this way. But remember that day-for-night does not always work. Depending on the scene sometimes sunlight can be too strong, building or street lights are not turned on and it can become a post-production headache.

  • Underexpose the image, and then add different filters such as graduated filters to change both the quality and sharpness of the image
  • Use ND filters so you can shoot at or near wide open as you would actually at night
  • An overcast day is generally better -less shadows. If strong sunlight attempt to turn this into moonlight by underexposing.
  • At night colour has less contrast and is more subdued, as it is lit by moonlight. White balance on a yellow or orange card to force a blue tint.
  • Blue gels on lights can also help sell the effect (especially when filming night interiors).
  • Day for Night effects can be added in post in compositing programmes such as Adobe After Effects (check Andrew Kramer's tutorial on this here:

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tip #56: Surviving night shoots

By Dan Parkes (Director)

Even for those who consider themselves 'night owls', filming at night is never easy and poses numerous challenges. But before we look at surviving night shoots, let's establish two key reasons for doing so, which are:

1. Filming an exterior night scene at night
2. Filming interiors at night due to cast/location availability

The first, also described as 'night-for-night' is likely the most obvious reason. The rain scene in Ambleton Delight was filmed this way. It is good to note that our eyes see night in a very different way from how a camera does as our eyes naturally adjust to the low light levels while most cameras struggle to compensate. The two key mistakes filmmakers can make is to either force the camera to see more light (using a wide open aperture or a gain increase) or by overlighting the scene with too many lights. Both will make the camera see more, but the result will not look authentic, either being overlit or too grainy.

  • Only illuminate key objects or areas - for example using practicals from logical sources (i.e. real lights within the scene, such as streetlamps)
  • Use reflectors and white cards to reflect light
  • Use natural elements such as snow if filming during winter, or rain (or by wetting the ground) to create natural reflection and illumination
  • Use natural light -shoot during dusk or twilight -although remember this lasts for less than an hour!
  • If possible do some test filming beforehand at the hours and location you intend to film
Overall night filming survival tips:
  • Preparation/planning -treat it as a normal day with a 'lunch' scheduled
  • Have a well thought out schedule that wastes no time...dead time at night is demoralising and can cause people to go to sleep
  • Make sure actors are scheduled only where necessary (it is good to schedule scenes with the most actors first so that some can go home earlier and only those who are required stay for the whole night)
  • Food and drink are important -liquids such as water and coffee can help keep you awake
  • Consecutive night shoots can for many be easier than one-off shoots, as you can get your body into a pattern
  • Prepare the day before by getting more sleep (like travelling overseas try to adjust to the time zone before you arrive)
  • 4am - 5am is the most difficult hour both mentally and physically -schedule easier scenes to be filmed at this time or have this as the 'lunch' break.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Tip #55: Prepare for the prima donna actor

By Dan Parkes (Director)

If you are a filmmaker chances are, at some point, you will come across a "prima donna" actor. Although a small minority of the acting community, due to their personality the probability of encountering them is in fact higher. For a low budget filmmaker it can be severely detrimental. All three of the Ambleton Delight production team shed literal tears during its production due to the behaviour of prima donnas in various forms (not any of the main cast I hasten to add!) and in the last three years I have personally had to handle three such actors.

Originally an operatic term, prima donna literally means "first lady" in Italian and designates the leading female singer. In modern times it has also become widely used to describe a vain or "temperamental person; a person who takes adulation and privileged treatment as a right and reacts with petulance to criticism or inconvenience." (Random House Dictionary, 2010)

Several actors have openly said they perform because they 'crave attention' which in itself is not an issue (a camera shy camera actor is a different problem!), unless it leads to egotistical behaviour. In the case of the three prima donna actors I had to deal with they were, somewhat surprisingly, all male; two were in their seventies and the other middle-aged. The causes for their behaviour, although quite different, have one common thread: money and unjustified allegations of ill-treatment. Two were aging actors who to be honest had not "made it" but relied on unknown bit-parts in TV shows or films to boost their egos; the middle-aged actor on a similar path (an unknown actor yet complaining for receiving 'only' £250 an hour).
So how to handle such an actor? You might think the answer is not to cast them in the first place. However, while warnings and references may help, any actor has the potential for this behaviour (the two aging actors mentioned previously were incredibly 'nice' to us and then seemingly 'snapped' over perceived ill-treatment). And unlike the workplace environment where a prima donna can be reassigned, you will most likely not have that option, especially if footage has already been shot. This 'cannot be done without' factor can also be one of the principle causes for their behaviour; they think they can get away with it.

So here are 10 factors to think about:
  1. Treat all actors as special, have faith in them, make them feel wanted and secure, allow them creative space and value their hard work and input.
  2. Pay your cast as well as you possibly can.
  3. Make sure you are not the prima donna! If you are a dictatorial director who lacks respect for cast and crew then you will only make matters worse.
  4. Prepare for it. It does happen and it could potentially ruin your film. Have contingency plans. It is always dangerous to be relying on one actor alone.
  5. Make sure actor's contracts and agent negotiations are comprehensive and signed, so there is no potential for confusion that can lead to unnecessary issues.
  6. Have a balanced approach. Make sure you are not being walked over or conversely making unreasonably demands. If required, be assertive and stick up for yourself and the team.
  7. Try to understand their point-of-view or motives. They may well have a good reason for complaint that should be addressed.
  8. Make room for it -the moment may pass. It could be just a phase and everything may be fine the next day. The actor could possibly be suffering from mental health issues.
  9. Find compromises. If you can calm them down by finding some middle ground then do it rather than needlessly fanning the flames if you also feel wronged.
  10. If the behaviour has got to the point of being detrimental to the project, make a final decision that is best for the film. That could simply mean recasting.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Tip #54 Becoming a successful actor

(An interview with actor Jos Lawton)

In part two of an interview with Jos Lawton, who won a Best Actor award (International Filmmaker Festival, 2009) for his role as John Miller in Ambleton Delight, we explore reasons for becoming an actor and some general acting tips.

What advice would you offer those thinking about becoming an actor?
First of all, decide if you want to do it just as a hobby, or professionally. Think about why you want to be an actor. What motivates you and excites you about acting? If you want to do it professionally, you have to really, REALLY want it more than anything else. Consider how much of a priority it is in your life – if you think it might get in the way of your social life, other work commitments, drinking habits etc, then I advise you to pursue another career, and enjoy acting as a hobby.

What if you want it to be more than just a hobby?
If you think that acting could very possibly be the most exciting, challenging and rewarding job you could ever have, then throw yourself in with total conviction. Invest in yourself and get training at a drama school. Here in Brighton we are lucky to have an excellent school called the Academy of Creative Training where I trained for 2 years (as did several other Ambleton Delight cast members). In addition to drama school, immerse yourself in movies and theatre, plays and scripts, and books about actors and acting.

What about those interested in screen work?
It’s essential to familiarise yourself with film and screen techniques, as drama school training will usually only provide an introduction to this, rather than go into serious detail. After completing my training, I was aware that I needed more experience in this area, and there were several resources that I found particularly helpful: First was Patrick Tucker’s book ‘The Secrets of Screen Acting’ which is a veritable goldmine of practical advice and techniques, as is Michael Caine’s book ‘Acting in Film’. Also, the workshop run by the director Andrew Higgs, called ‘The Alchemy of Screen Acting’ – again, this comprises really useful and practical advice, and you will get great quality showreel footage from it too. I landed the role in Ambleton Delight just over a year after finishing drama school, and I feel strongly that I would have been much less prepared for the demands of a lead role in a feature film without those resources.

Any general acting tips?
  • Be spontaneous, open and flexible.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Be fearless.
  • React truthfully.
What should actors not do?
  • Waste time or drop your concentration on set or in rehearsals.
  • Dwell on negativity, whether due to lack of work, or dissatisfaction with the acting work you are doing.
  • Be late for work. Ever!
  • And don't forget to remember why you love being an actor and above all ENJOY IT!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Tip #53 Creating a character -an actor's perspective

An interview with Jos Lawton (actor)

In a two part special we interview lead actor Jos Lawton, who won a Best Actor award (International Filmmaker Festival, 2009) for his role as John Miller in Ambleton Delight. In part one we focus on creating characters and using production difficulties to your advantage.

As an actor, how do you go about creating a particular character?
I read the script again and again - the text can give you so much information about your character. Also, I like to create a back story and some history for the character, thinking about the life they have experienced before we see them in the film.

How did you go about creating the character of John Miller in the film?
With Ambleton Delight, I was already provided with some back story for John Miller and I just expanded on that. I also listened carefully to Dan’s direction regarding John in order to make him outwardly calmer and less demonstrative than I had originally done so in the first audition, and to focus more on his internal state.

Did Ambleton Delight present any particular challenges as an actor?
One personal challenge I faced was injuring my leg a week before the start of the shoot. It was very painful and I found it difficult to walk or even stand without the use of a crutch. The team was very understanding, and luckily, the first scenes I shot involved being seated (the council scenes), but there was a shot of me walking outside the council building. Obviously I couldn’t use the walking stick I had been using and tried to walk as normally as possible. If you look carefully, you can see I’ve got a slight limp in that scene...

And how about the weekend night shoots? Those must have been difficult....
Using the ‘down-time’ in the restaurant and kitchen meant we would work from approx 10pm-6am at the weekends. I’d often find it hard to get much sleep after the first night’s filming, so by the second night it could be quite gruelling! In fact, this was in some ways a blessing for me as my character John Miller becomes more unravelled as the story develops. Michael Caine is fond of advocating the idea ‘always use the difficulty’, meaning any situation in life that's negative, there is something positive you can do with it. So having no sleep for a couple of days and being frazzled when trying to deliver my lines for take after take at 4am was actually really useful in portraying an edgy and paranoid John Miller!

Look out for part two with some general acting tips coming soon...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Tip #52 Directing basics - Blocking, eye-lines and takes

By Dan Parkes (Director)

We have previously mentioned the importance of the director having a vision and being able to communicate this effectively (depending on his style of directing). But we must also not overlook some basic tools that all directors should use:

1. Blocking and shot selection
While 'blocking' is originally a theatre term this is equally important for film, as it involves not only the positioning of the actors within the frame but also the movement of the camera. This often first occurs during rehearsals when the director works with the actors to establish how they might stand or interact with each other. However this becomes far more critical on set, as the contraints of the location and props etc may dramatically affect the feasible logistics of the blocking. Not only that, but it will also be necessary for camera positions, lighting and focusing to know where each actor will stand, and in some cases these positions may be marked on the floor (hence the need for actors to 'hit their marks').

Along with blocking is shot selection using different lenses (wide, medium and close up). A 'master shot' will often include all of the blocking as decided from one camera position, then allowing for filming of medium and close-ups later. Once the master has been shot the blocking cannot substantially change -otherwise it will affect the conintuity.

2. Eye-lines /180 degree rule.
Once the blocking has been decided and a master shot is about to filmed it is important to consider the actor's eyelines and future camera positions so as to not "cross the line". This is also known as the 180 degree rule. It can sound more complex than it really is, but is all about spacial relationships and continuity, so as not to confuse the viewer. Ulimately it means that the camera positions consistantly remain on one-side of the action (similar to a theatre audience). It is as if the scene has an imaginery axis, and if the camera was to suddenly pass over that axis it would disorientate the viewer. The end result should be that the actors have the same left/right relationship to each other.

Take a look at this practical example from a scene in the 'Ambleton Delight' and notice how the camera stays on only one side of the invisible line between the two characters:

A master shot of both John and Chris (28mm wide lens)

A medium shot of John (50mm lens)

A reverse medium shot of Chris (50mm lens)

Of course these above 'rules' are made to be broken if a conscious decision to do so, but if done accidentally will cause confusion and look amatuerish. In the case of crossing the line there are ways and means of getting the camera over the line if required, such as cutting to an image that is not spacially related to the action.

3. Takes
Stanley Kubrick apparantly holds the record for the most takes of a scene with 125 for the scene were Shelley Duvall climbs the stairs in The Shining.

But while it can the mark of a perfectionist, a common trap any director can fall into is filming several takes out of 'habit'. In reality it is important to reflect on the purpose of another take, which should ultimately be due to improve on the previous one (or filming one for 'safety' if there was a possible issue). Before filming another a take a director can ask himself: What can I do to improve? What isn't working? Should we change the dialogue, the blocking? How about trying it faster or slower to provide pacing options in the edit? How about changing camera positions or framing?

Note: It is also good for the director to reassure the actors the reason for another take -especially if it not due to an issue with their performance which they may assume if no reason is given and thus be waiting for direction. Too many takes without clear differences will only exasperate the cast and crew and waste valuable production time.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tip #51: Directing - The art of communication

By Dan Parkes (Director)

Directing is primarily about efficient communication so that the all-important overall vision (as discussed in the previous blog) can be achieved. There are three main aspects to this:

1. Communication style

There are 5 different types of directors (other than of course those who specialise in features, TV, theatre etc) and thus five different working methods (these are basic generalisations and the examples only guides as most directors frequently reinvent themselves):
  • The Actor Director. This director works very closely with the cast, is good at developing solid characters, works well with ensembles, and leaves the technical aspects of filmmaking in the hands of his crew. These directors often come from a theatre background or were/are actors themselves (example: Mike Leigh).
  • The Story Director. This director is propelled by narrative, is a storyteller and often works very closely on the script. Some of these directors may have started as writers. (example: Chris Nolan)
  • The Auteur Director. Often described as having 'complete artistic control of the film' and also used for directors who are also writers, cinematographers and composers on their films. Their work can sometimes called 'passion-pieces'. (example: Alfred Hitchcock)
  • The Visual director. A director whose primary concern is the look of the film. Often a lot of emphasis on the technology and special effects to achieve it, with story and acting taking secondary roles (example: James Cameron)
  • Franchise director. A director who is called in to direct an already established franchise (book, cartoon, film) and often ends up having little control over the look and feel due to certain branding guidelines and audience expectations (example: Chris Columbus)
It is important for everyone including the director himself to recognise what type of director he is, as this will assist with effective communication, levels of expectation and personal areas for improvement (for the director that is!).

2. Communicating with cast/crew

Effectively communicating the overall vision to cast and crew can sometimes be no easy task and in recent times storyboarding and computer pre-visualisation tools have certainly assisted with this. However, ultimately this comes down being able to describe in precise ways what the objectives are. I once attended a discussion with director Stephen Frears who made the interesting point that the secret to directing is to surround yourself with people who are very good at what they do and then find a way of being able to effectively communicate what you want with them. He used music as an example and said that he cannot write a note of music but can express himself well enough to the composer so that they know exactly what he wants.

3. Communicating with the audience

The director must not overlook the fact that they also communicate via the camera. In many ways the camera is like another character in the film, and so the framing, lens selection and camera movement can all dramatically affect our interpretation of what is happening. For example, the use of wide shots can create distance from the characters, while extreme closeups can feel quite intimate. Subjective or objective angles can also make a character look superior or inferior.

While communication is vital, a director also needs some basic on-set tools such as blocking, the use of 'takes' and eye-lines, which will be discussed in the next blog.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Tip #50: Have a director with a vision

By Dan Parkes (Director)

"What is the difference between God and a director? God doesn't direct".

That was a sarcastic comment made to me after a recent blog which mentined that in addition to directing I also sometimes DoP. Of course the inference being that directors believe themselves to be "God"! And with the symbols of directing often being the cap, the beard, the megaphone and the chair, this egomanical stereotype has also unfortunately been impressed into the general public's consciousness by several high profile directors so that their real role on set is lost to such clichés.

In reality a director has an extremely difficult and mostly less-than-glamourous job of being ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the film, and often working on multiple levels at once: helping actors create realistic portrayals while at the same time taking into consideration technical options and limitations, scheduling and budgetery contraints. He or she is a conduite of collective creativity, the one who hones this into a single unified vision. Their passion and subsequent direction of the production can sometimes be misinterpreted as 'ego' -especially if their vision does not agree with cast or crew who become disgruntled due to being overworked or their creative input being ignored, something which directors should be keenly aware to avoid.

When the word "director" is used in another setting -such as a company director, or directing traffic- few would attribute this purely to ego, but out of necessity of having someone who has a clear vision and helps unify everyone towards that objective. Rather than fighting with a director over the vision it is important that cast and crew realise the necessity of having a director in the first place and their responsibility to trust -rightly or wrongly -that they have a strong overall vision and hence in many respects the final say. Films -like some other aspects of life- are difficult to make by committee.

It is hence the manner in which a director goes about that process which can dictate their success in achieving a unified vision. It is absolutely vital to the production that they have a strong and clear vision of the film. They should be able to describe the look, feel and message of the film in detail before a frame of film has been shot. But then also be flexible enough to encourage cast and crew to have creative input, and try to include it as much as possible.

In the following blogs we are going to look at the different types of directing styles, the art of communicating with cast and crew, and some basic creative considerations such as blocking, eye-lines, crossing the line, and filming several takes of the same shot.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tip #49: Get film and production stills

Having an onset photographer for at least one day of the shoot is not only a worthwhile investment, but with a bit of forethought can be extremely valuable. While you may think that any cast or crew member can take their own photographs at any time, there are some good reasons to have a dedicated photographer. They will (hopefully) know what they are doing and what to look for. And often the best shots will be when the cast and crew are too busy to be taking their own photographs!

All in all you want to make sure you have a photographer who can take decent images and understands what you need to get and their purpose. It often requires more standard framing rather than fancy or artistic flare. More importantly the resulting images need to be good enough for print, at a high resolution and professional standard for poster designs and other future multimedia applications.

These can be divided into four basic types of photographs:

1. Film stills
Film stills are photographs of the actual film, of the actors in character and costume, on location. You may well think that you can simply grab a film still from the actual completed film. But those 'frame grabs' are often never good enough quality -even at HD resolution- for what you will require for the poster or press kits. It is much better to have the photographer primed to shoot the actors either just before or after you have filmed the scene. The photographer we worked with, Bharat Ram (below), would also sometimes take the actors away when they are not required and pose them in a similar way to what he had seen us filming them, or ask them to get into character. He would also try lots of different poses unrelated to the film, but still in character, poses which could say for instance be used for the film poster.

2. Production stills
These are photographs of the cast and crew at work on location, of the equipment, of the sets, of the buildings and areas where we filmed. It is essentially a record of the behind-the-scenes process.

3. Mug shots
Head and shoulder shots of all cast and crew involved, useful for references, production notes and CVs etc.

4. Continuity shots
An additional useage is for continuity -if you need to check how a location looked or what costume an actor was wearing at a particular time, photographs can be a valuable and irrefutable source of information.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tip #48: Try 'Guerilla' filming (if appropriate)

By Dan Parkes (Director)

The style of 'guerilla filmmaking' does not suit every project. Few would have thought it would suit a gentle relationship-heavy drama about English village politics...!

Technically, as definied in Wikipedia, it means independent low budget film making using "skeleton crews, and simple props ... shot quickly in real locations without any warning, and without obtaining permission from the owners of the locations." It is usually because filmmakers "don't have the budget to get permits, rent out locations, or build expansive sets." This often means handheld 'gritty' shots with no artificial lighting, make-up or large cinematic cameras that would draw obvious attention.

Anecdote: Wikipedia states that this style is not used by studios as they could be sued or fined. But I know from personal experience this is not always the case. I worked for an overseas studio who because clearance for a particular shot in a UK railway station was astronomically expensive, successfully filmed it guerrilla style by wandering in with a large cinematic camera in hand looking like they were about to catch a train. No one noticed until they had got 3 takes done, were questioned briefly but left with staff none the wiser that they had filmed what they wanted. I am definitely not recommending this course... but would recommend certain locations made themselves more helpful when it comes to doing some simple non-instrusive filming and are willing to pay for it.

For us, guerilla filmmaking was perfect for our black and white flashback scenes which details the main character's backstory in which he gets involved in a gang and drug culture that dramatically affects his future reputation and perception of life. Crew only consisted of myself with a shoulder mounted camera (without the 35mm lenses) and I worked with the two actors, Dan Smith and Pete Allen filming almost whereever we felt like it: running down a main street, through parks, down alleyways, even beating up a Chinese actor with an ever-increasing audience watching us. We were never once stopped!

A very simple tip is to be very well prepared. We spent a lot more time rehearsing the scenes than we ever did filming them. An interesting device we used is that the camera was actually the main character's point of view (POV) so we spent time practicising how to interact with the camera as you would a person, talking to them, passing them items, being carried around (such as during the overdose sequence). It meant as a director I became part of the action -in fact one of the actors- so was a fully immersive and at times quite frightening experience.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Tip #47: The art of filming rain

By Dan Parkes (Director)

For some reason there is nothing like a good rain scene in a film! It often serves as a dramatic juncture in a character or plot development. One may think you only need to wait a few days before it rains in England... however a little known fact is that natural rain does not show up well on film, other than making surfaces appear wet. Which of course can be a good thing if there is light rain when you don't want it -although it depends on the shot, chances are you may be about to get away with it. But what if you want rain? How did we film our dramatic rain scene on such a low budget?

To start with we made a make-shift 'rain machine' which simply consisted of a garden sprinkler on the end of a long pole. The water becomes more realistic the higher above the actor or area it is, giving it enough distance to fall evenly. Obviously a proper rain machine would have been better...however this was easily accessible and even better... free!

Our boom operator/sound recordist Colin Bradley became our 'rain operator' which also made sense, since were unable to record live sound anyway due to the sound of the sprinkler water -which because of the hose and large droplets did not sound like realistic rain. So in post we added the sound effects of real rain and recorded the actor's lines separately (ADR).

The next and most cricual factor is that rain will not show on screen sufficiently unless it is back-lit. We placed a large 2K light behind the actor just off screen and found it was enough to light the rain.

Of course, having large lights around with falling water is a health and safety nightmare and a recipe for disaster, not to mention ensuring you have towels and a change of clothes for the actors. In our case we have the added danger element of filming in January when it was near enough snowing let alone raining, with ice forming in the puddles we were creating and sometimes blocking the hose pipe, then our young actor realising that his actor parents were 'splitting' in the scene and getting upset, plus a growing audience of local youth intent on interrupting the shot.... so in fact the simple trick of back lighting rain pailed into insignificance!