Tom Tokeley talks about his filmmaking experience with Lesley Pinder and Drive Forward.

What’s your favourite movie? Do you even have a favourite movie or at least a preferred genre of movies? Action, romantic comedy, drama… Would you rather watch Russell Crow fight the Roman Empire, have a laugh with Hugh Gant and Julia Roberts, or follow Leonardo DiCaprio as he dives into the world of dreams? Or, are you the kind of person who enjoys watching wild animals on Discovery Channel and the stories of Making a Murderer on Netflix?

No matter your taste, if you’re really into film, then you’re most probably also interested in how those memorable scenes you love so much come to life. Me for one, I want to learn all about the different aspects of creating a film, and I hope that one day I’ll be working within the filmmaking industry. When I heard about the filmmaking course Drive Forward was offering last month, I signed up straight away.

As I would soon learn, there are many young and talented people out there, who, just like me, were hoping to get one step closer to understanding the daily workings of a filmmaker.

Imagine the scene

A group of introvert outcasts thrown into one room to talk about creating a movie together. There was the street girl, passionate about filmmaking with an attitude of knowing it all; the funny guy, who talks so much that he gets on your nerves sometimes, but secretly he’s really clever and might just bring the extra edge to the project; then there’s the a bit weird guy, foreign with a sharp accent, who has his own particular views, is a good listener, and able to bring together different ideas in symbiosis; the quiet guy, who always surprises you with his wisdom and creativity the moment he speaks up; the passionate artist, who is like an all-round genius, never tired and never missing out on an artistic experiment; and then there’s me, the slightly nervous creative brain, that needs a bit of time to open up and get my head around things. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I admit that I’m still puzzled about how our tutor, Lesley, managed to see through each and every one of us and not lose faith there and then!

Apart from being a professional filmmaker, Lesley (she worked on Casualty!) is also an experienced participatory art workshop leader. Our small group of highly different individuals didn’t scare her, it rather inspired her! Or, maybe she just liked the challenge!

You would think that the first day would start out easy, but given that we only had two weeks (!!) to develop and produce a movie, Lesley got straight into explaining the different camera shots to us. Medium-shot to capture an intimate scene, Close-up to build tension, Two-shot to establish a connection between characters and Group-shot to, well, capture a bunch of people in one frame.

To test our newly gained knowledge we quickly filmed a couple of scenes depicting nothing in particular. Put together though, the five shots suddenly told a story. We added some background music and the result was a proper silent movie – not quite The Artist, but still!

What story is worth telling?

We knew that we wanted to produce a mockumentary, a sort of satire documentary, but we didn’t know what the film was going to be about. We spent the whole of day two collecting ideas and mapping out different story lines. By the end of the day, we decided on the basic theme, a London tour guide, who, in fact, knew nothing about the city, and spends his days ripping off innocent tourists. The next day was dedicated to writing a script and drafting the individual scenes of the film. We spent another day planning each scene and putting the final touches to the script and by Friday, we were out in central London already filming our first scene!

Out and about

Having spent the last couple of days planning and getting familiar with the equipment, going out seemed like a nice change, especially with the sun shining. However, we soon encountered the perils of ‘artistic creative eccentricity’. Some of the members of the crew began to challenge our initial motives and aspirations for the film. Lesley had warned us that ‘nothing is ever set in stone’ and that we would probably deviate from the script and plan we had all previously agreed on. Whilst it was challenging, we managed to listen to everyone’s ideas and incorporate the diverse perspectives into the final product. Something, I think, we can be truly proud of!

We then spent the next three days filming. We went to various locations including St Paul’s Cathedral, Cleopatra’s Needle, Shakespeare’s Globe and Leake Street in Waterloo. Lesley would tweet at the end of each day how much her feet hurt from running across London the whole day!

Final touches

After hours and days of filming, acting, and directing, endless discussions and many, many ‘takes’, we finally moved on to editing our movie. Compared to the time we spent on filming, the editing process actually took a ridiculously short amount of time. It appears that editing was the easy part! Even though there were some disputes over which scene was better than the other, what music to go with what etc.

“Tore Gide”

After two weeks of working on this project every day, our film “Tore Gide” was finally ready to be shown to a perceptive audience, the Drive Forward team. It went down a storm and everybody enjoyed it, including the crew, who had already seen it like a thousand times during the editing process.

“It’s very witty and fun to watch. I give it 5 stars!”
“It’s amazing what the group put together in just 2 weeks. All that effort and creativity, it’s fantastic!”
“Very well done. And it’s super funny!”