Documentary & Short Film Case Study

The brief

Naked Frank Theatre are a physical theatre company, who specialise in arts engagement to support mental health recovery. Naked Frank Theatres approached us when they wanted to film a short documentary on an ‘In the making of’ style video for their upcoming production ‘The Angel of December’. We had previously filmed with them in the summer for a production called ‘Tales of the monsters in my head’ but got back in touch during Christmas as we were already familiar with the work the produced and thought we would be a great fit for what they wanted.

The production was due to take place the weekend before Christmas at a mental health facility in Kent, which they do every year as most aren't able to leave or see family during this period.

The rehearsal period was three weeks long, so Naked Frank Theatres wanted to document as much as possible and show the highs and lows of the process before performance.

How did we deliver?

We filmed with Naked Frank twice a week during rehearsals from 6pm-9pm, as well as filming their dress rehearsal the day before their main performance. It was important to capture this last rehearsal, as we (the film crew) weren't allowed to film within the mental health facility due to restrictions.

Within the 6-7 sessions of filming, we captured everything from interviews to behind the scenes and documented every element of the process with the cast and the directors.

We wanted to keep the feel of the documentary very organic and natural, so we did not plan any scripted elements. The entire filming process told a story - we could see how they play developed and what strategies they used in such a short amount of time, perfect for what the short documentary was to showcase. We built a solid relationship with the cast and directors involved, which made it much easier when it came to one-on-one interviews as it gave genuine responses from the performers. During interviews, we would ask the cast how they were feeling emotionally, what they found interesting about the director’s methods, how they taught the cast and what they found difficult about learning their characters. We held a few of these interviews throughout the filming process in order to build a narrative, rather than doing the interviews all in one go. This again provoked a natural response.

Once they had completed their final performance at the mental health facility, we arranged a follow up interview day a month after, enabling the cast to reflect and review on the production. This also gave the documentary a round-up to end the production in the final cut.

Post-production

When moving onto the edit, cutting down the footage deemed difficult due to having a lot of great footage to choose from. We started writing a rough structure for the documentary, noted what shots and interviews we wanted to start with and how to introduce the cast. We sectioned the documentary into various parts from sections covering directors' methods to sections about how the cast felt on the day of the performance. As we were collating footage filmed over a couple of months, it was important to nail the structure as we wanted to have a cohesive narrative.

The next step was to arrange the footage chronologically into days. This would help when we started to rough-cut the footage as we can keep the highlights from that rehearsal. Once the footage had been arranged, we started a rough-cut. This made the process easier due to having notes and an idea on the sequence we had in mind; therefore, we were able to look out for relevant footage to include. We started a rough-cut on the interview first as this is the foundation and narrative of the documentary.

After this, we sorted through various b-roll shots, and picked out relevant shots to what the interviewee was talking about (e.g. a cast member would mention how important it was in the early rehearsal process to build trust with her other cast members, we would then find a shot of the directors performing a trust exercise with the cast).

In this rough-cutting process, it was also important to include music. Music is an extremely important driving force within a narrative, so it was vital we considered this before starting the editing process. Music choice also reflects the mood a certain scene can portray, which was why it was so important the balance was right,or it would throw the whole scene off.

This process was repeated until a rough order was in place. After, finishing touches were added, included titles, colour grade, audio level tweaking, transitions and so on. Once happy with the finishing touches, the first draft of the documentary was sent to Naked Frank Theatres.

Upon sending the first draft off, we received very positive feedback – there were very little changes within the edit. A few trimmed shots were added, more b-roll shots and a request to integrate more shots of the filming crew!

Once Naked Frank Theatres were happy with the final cut, we worked on a shorter cut that could be used on social media as a 'coming soon' teaser. We also cut a 'bloopers / bits you didn't see' video for the team and social media, as this was really engaging content. The documentary has a fairly serious tone with emotional aspects at times, so including this blooper reel as an extra reminded everyone involved the whole process a fun experience and had a great time with all the cast and directors!

The final cut

Social media highlights

The bits you didn't see

Client Comment

Digital Pie have been the most collaborative team that we've worked with. The type of work we do certainly, we're all about working collaboratively, connected with our cast and crew and for us as a company, they have been not just a part of the process but have been integral to our process. And their professionalism, their conduct and the way they work, there's a reason why we have worked with them a number of times. When a team can do that with you that is something really precious and very unusual, they're brilliant and we're all pals!

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