Deep underground, away from the world, people struggle to survive. The outside world has nothing for them. Their survival depends on each other and their determination to keep going. Sounds almost like an analogy for the independent film scene. We sat down with producer Nicholas Andrew Halls about his first feature, the tense and contained post apocalyptic thriller, 54 Days.
Shot mostly in one location and funded by a crowd funding campaign, 54 Days exemplifies independent film. The project started with an award nominated short film by the same name. It was then developed into a feature-length script and eventually a multi award-winning feature film.
54 Days Trailer:
Nicholas Andrew Halls joined the project right from the start. Working with Writer/Director Tim Lea (You can read Tim’s article on crowdfunding here) Nick brought together the team to make 54 Days happen. Right from the start coordinating 30 odd crew and around 15 cast members was a challenge. On top of that Director Tim Lea had put forward a very ambitious goal of completing the film ready for distribution within 8 months.
Early on the decision was made to build a set rather than find a bunker to work within. Nick cites this decision as being an instrumental factor in getting the film done on time and attaining a high production standard. Independent film tends to make people wear multiple hats and 54 Days is no different with Nick and the art team doing a huge amount of the set building and painting.
The thing that slows you down is when people are unprepared.
This hands on approach gave Nick a great insight into what was actually getting done and what was on schedule, something that can be hard to keep in view for many producers. The man on the ground approach also gave Nick a very clear overall perspective on film making in general, demystifying many of the facets of the film making process. This has led Nick to become quite fearless in his approach to projects in the future.
Producer Nicholas Andrew Halls on 54 Days part 1
54 Days was shot over a staggeringly short 14 days in total, with 11 days spent on the bunker set shooting an average of 10 pages a day! This was only possible by having all the requirements for each scene ready to go bang on when they were needed. Makeup, Armourer, Stunt coordinator and extras were just some of the extra elements that needed to be planned in advance and organized to be in and out on the scheduled times.
The set itself was built at the C3 studios in French’s Forrest NSW. Walls could be flown out and port holes were cut into hidden locations all to enable the camera team to be able to fly the camera into position with a minimum of fuss and wasted time.
Each day’s ambitious page goal was reviewed at the end of the next day and adjusted as needed to facilitate fast pace.
Producer Nicholas Andrew Halls on 54 Days Part 2
Nick’s tips for bringing your film in on time and under budget:
- Be flexible and have a backup plan.
- Focus your story on to its essential elements.
- Reduce your locations and shoot with an average size crew or shoot on as many locations as you like but with an absolute skeleton crew. Big crew and lots of locations makes you a poor boy – if you get the film across the line at all!
- Rehearse a lot before shooting.
- Plan as much as possible. Preparation makes everything easier. Your cast and crew need to be able to see the film play back in their heads before you roll.
- Organize contracts and anything logistical early. No one should ever be concerned with these sorts of issues on an independent set.