Skip to main content

Directors (and learning new things)... The Road to Sonnigsburg, Part 4

Ian Stenlake as Frank, episode one of Sonnigsburg

I was recently asked about the challenges and benefits of making an independently produced low budget TV series. It might be easy to say that everything was a challenge, because with a small amount of money, everything is a bit harder than when a show is fully funded. On the other hand, it also made us think about how to make things work with no money. It forced us to come up with creative solutions in how to depict large scale events that were baked into our plot.

It was great that Fiona encouraged us, in the writers’ room, to tell the story without worrying too much about how we were going to make it work. In some cases, though, we did find fixes in storytelling terms to make production easier. Other times we had to change locations or which characters were in certain scenes, based on actor availability. Having no money and limited resources is a challenge, but in some ways it’s a benefit. It makes you think more creatively.

The other benefit of doing everything ourselves is that it allowed us to try our hands at new things. Director Glenn Triggs has made a number of movies, but the first episode of Sonnigsburg is his first episode of television. Director John Erasmus had mostly worked as an editor and director of photography before directing three episodes of this series.

Two of our writers, Alex Scott and Meaghan Bell, directed two episodes of the show, because when else would they have an opportunity to direct television, if not on a series they helped create? We all got to learn things about pre-production, production and post that we hadn’t known before.

While I was originally planning to direct episode five, based on my own schedule, I had to back out of that commitment. I still had a chance to learn a lot about script editing, giving feedback and collaboration in script writing. I was committed to making the scripts the best they could be; if that meant I needed to re-write or be re-written, then that happened. If another episode needed a polish, I was happy to lend a hand.

I even ended up directing parts of episode one. Having a second-unit director is not unusual on feature films, but in this case it was a matter of scheduling and I was free to help out. I have a lot of experience working with actors in theatre, I just had to get my head around where the camera was going to be. Thankfully, we had director of photography, Bernard Winter, on board. His work on Sonnigsburg is outstanding; we might have had a small budget, but from a visual perspective, you cannot tell. The show looks amazing.

So even for someone inexperienced in film/television directing, the support from cast and crew made my first experience directing television very smooth.

Working in independent theatre and film/television, we all learn to pitch in and do whatever needs doing. Ferrying actors to and from set. Buying lunch for the cast and crew. Helping to set up or pack down lights. Last minute re-writes. Press releases. Producing. Directing. Background acting. Everything that needs doing gets done when we’re all committed.

Getting to learn new things while on the set of your own TV show, that’s a challenge but a huge benefit.

By June 2014, we had the first episode written by Fiona Bulle. We had our director in place. We wanted to start shooting in July.

In May, we started the process of casting. That’s the next step on the Road to Sonnigsburg.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel and our Facebook page.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Thing Isn’t Beautiful Because It Lasts: Avengers in the AGE OF ULTRON

The latest film in the Marvel Universe series feels like nothing so much as a season finale. And since Joss Whedon was once the master of creating season finales that were both emotionally satisfying and thematically resonant, it’s good to have him in charge for the second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron.
I’d like to compare it to the epic scope of Buffy’s “The Gift” but it feels more like Angel, if anything. Things change, the world moves on – and the best you can do is keep fighting. And embrace change.
Tony Stark has always been flawed, but by the third film in his own trilogy, he seemed to have found an emotional peace. But with that peace comes the idea that he can use his technology – his faith in machines being his tragic flaw – to create a replacement for the Avengers. He births an army of robots to calm the populace and fight alien foes.
Robert Downey Jnr’s Stark is such a towering figure in the Marvel Universe films – and to make him partly the villain of this new film is a s…

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return, the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago.
It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head.
Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did.
Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it.
Agent Cooper, the third part of this T…

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Garry Starr Conquers Troy

Last year, Garry Starr explored every genre of theatre in order to try to save it. Now that he’s saved theatre, he wants to make sure actors out there know how to be the best skilled actor (or, skactor) they can be. Garry has written a book called “An Actor Pretends” about the history of pretendism.
Chapter by chapter, Garry’s vast knowledge of being a triple threat is explored on stage in front of our very eyes. He explains how to audition for a director when you’re waiting on them in a restaurant. He tells us how to act when we inevitably move to Hollywood and get botox and we can’t move our face. And then there’s his unconventional method for learning lines by osmosis.
Rubber-faced actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith is so damn charismatic that he’ll have you on his side within minutes – and have some of you up on stage as part of Team Garry, if you dare. If you don’t want to participate, don’t sit in the front row like I did; though my moment in the spotlight only consisted of…