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Tropfest Shooting for Success Part 3 – Allan George

SOUNDS_PERFECT_STILL1This is the third of a three-part series of articles Wave provided to VIEWFINDER print and online magazine on the Tropfest NZ Short Film Festival 2013 winners. This final profile looks at filmmaker Allan George and his ‘last minnit’ production of ‘Sound Perfect’.

When studio producer and field director Allan George was at film school, a class on foley for porn films lodged in his mind and eventually became the inspiration for his Tropfest NZ 2013 comedy entry Sounds Perfect. It went on to win Allan the Best Maori Director Award and his collaborator and writer Greg Stubbings the Best Actor Award. While the film was perfect enough for Allan to make the finals and garner further accolades, the way it came together wasn’t—it was ‘last minnit’ every step of the way. Allan believes this helped to make Sounds Perfect the unique and personal film from that he had always wanted to do.
In earlier efforts, Allan had made a number of dark short films with an emphasis on the cinematic, but with Sounds Perfect he was after something different. He challenged himself to make a comedy, to shoot it handheld and without a focus on creating beautiful pictures manipulating depth of field. With Sounds Perfect, Allan succeeded on all counts.

The Script
The porno foley class and its unforgettable imagery of a cucumber and a mayonnaise jar made a great story for Allan SF to tell chicagobearsjerseyspop his mates. But some years later when official he suggested it as a basis Goose for a short film, they panned the idea. Pitching it to work colleague Greg one day, the response was immediate and positive. Greg was adamant that the film had to have heart though, and not be just a series of gags strung together. They exchanged ideas over a number of months, eventually coming up with seven pages of notes about someone who loved his work and gave it his all, but was surrounded by others who just weren’t that interested in their jobs. Eventually, his over zealousness sees him replaced by a useless sidekick. He takes the same work ethic to his next occupation where he finds himself in a similar situation.
Allan hounded Greg to produce a script, but they shot with a fleshed out treatment. In hindsight, Allan believes that this gave the actors more room to improvise; something he feels significantly added to the strength of the film.

The Team
Allan and Greg committed to making Sounds Perfect just two weeks before the shoot. Greg joined Allan’s production company partner Ben Fowler to produce. Allan’s other partner Isaiah Vainga was designated gaffer. Allan would operate, direct and do sound. Another mate, Adam Peri, a sound engineer at audio post house Native Audio, was drafted in as was Adam’s art director girlfriend Maha Albadrawi. Alex Jones as makeup artist rounded out the team.

The Talent
A week out from the shoot and Allan turned his thoughts to cast. He had always envisaged Greg as the lead. Actors that the team had worked with previously were called upon. A contribution from Isaiah was a male stripper and actor he thought could fill the male porno star role. Pretty soon they had their nine cast. Or so Allan thought. The actors were sent a short synopsis of the story, told the character they would play and where and when to turn up. There was no time for rehearsals.

The Shoot
Allan did a ‘last minnit’ on the location as well. He was lucky to secure Native Audio as the primary location for most of the three day shoot. Gear was an old Canon EX1 with audio kit and a couple of LED lighting panels.
On Day One Allan decided to do the fun stuff to generate a good vibe on set. Unfortunately for him and everybody else, he chose the scene using a trevally to create a butt-slapping sound. With the scene done the fish was set aside and forgotten, leading to the studio stinking of fish for the rest of the day.
Greg was the main talent and his performance generated huge amounts of laughter, a lot of it Allan’s. Many a great take was ruined because Allan burst out laughing, creating camera shakes and spoiling the audio.
Greg was in his element and he more than any of the other actors improvised a lot of his performance.
The loose approach to the shoot allowed Allan to adapt on the fly. He was always on the lookout to visually enrich scenes, make changes and adjust to unexpected situations—something he was faced with on the last day.
Ready to roll on location the third morning, Allan realized he’d forgotten to cast a bit speaking part for the scene they were about to shoot. Isaiah saved the day by calling on a mate who lived nearby and they had an actor on set in 10 minutes.
Being the sound recordist as well as directing and operating were for Allan highly stressful and not something he wished to repeat.
A behind-the-scenes video of Sounds Perfect would likely have been as funny as the film, but Allan believes that in the end their casual approach enhanced Sounds Perfect rather than took away from it.

The Post
The edit for Sounds Perfect started straight away. Allan would do his shift at The Crowd Goes Wild, and then go straight onto his film, working A into the early hours of the morning. Allan’s experience on a ‘run and gun’ show like The Crowd Goes Wild was a benefit as he had learned to get enough coverage to work with. Two days later Allan had a roughcut of the film to share with Greg, who had a lot of enthusiasm and ideas to share. for They laughed a lot and didn’t have a single argument. In the end though Allan felt it was hard work as cutting comedy to make it look and sound good was difficult, particularly as they weren’t working to a script.
After a week of editing, the picture was locked off and it was time for a ‘last minnit’ score. Allan got on Facebook and messaged friend Ryan Youens, saying he had just finished a film and asking for an immediate response as to whether or not Ryan would do the music. Once again luck was on his side.
While Ryan was composing the score, Allan graded the film and Adam cleaned up the audio and did sound design.
The film was finished from go to whoa in 12 days and off to Tropfest in the post 3 days before the deadline.

The Afterlife
Sounds Perfect played on the Rialto Channel with other finalist films and joined another Tropfest finalist short at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. At Wairoa, Allan met Filipino filmmaker Auraeus Solito. Auraeus encouraged Allan to enter imagineNATIVE, the world’s largest indigenous film festival. Allan promptly did and got in. Two days later, Allan was told his submission to the Austin Film Festival was successful as well.
Going to imagineNATIVE and Austin opened up a whole new world of filmmaking for Allan. At imagineNATIVE, he got to rub shoulders with the indigenous filmmaking best and more importantly, attended a story lab where his film was broken down and examined by more experienced filmmakers, providing valuable insight.
At Austin, Allan got his 15-seconds of fame when audience members from the packed out screening of the comedy section cornered him to ask questions about his film. A great learning curve came from attending panels to hear speakers the likes of Peter Mehlman, EP and writer of Seinfeld who later gave him advice on writing for characters and actors, and director Robert Rodriquez of Sin City and El Mariachi fame.
While Allan has submitted Sounds Perfect to other festivals, he feels it’s time to move on and focus on his next project.

The Career
When Allan graduated from film school he always wanted to direct, but looking around he realized so did everyone else. He thought pursuing directing was a fast track to the unemployment cue, so he switched to camera operating, working on music videos and corporates. Landing a job with the Crowd Goes Wild has added to his skill set.
With Sounds Perfect Allan stepped out to direct his first short posologie viagra 25mg. His success with the film encouraged him to apply for New Zealand Film Commission Fresh Shorts funding and for Make My Horror Movie, without success.
Allan would like to create and produce a comedy series to maintain a regular income while pursuing his desire to direct features. He has already made his next short for Tropfest 2014, a significantly bigger comedy, trying to avoid the ‘last minnit’ approach.

Thoughts to Share
Allan believes that you have to make something that you want to see rather than setting out to win a competition, otherwise you will likely censor your creativity and destroy your chances of winning. He encourages everyone to make their films for themselves. Even if your film doesn’t get accepted, he thinks that you’ll still get an amazing film that you will enjoy.
With Sounds Perfect, Allan loved his idea, so he set out to make it and he did, having fun along the way even with all the hardships. He feels his passion gave his project heart, which is where he believes films need to come from.
Allan thought his film extremely funny and felt validated at Tropfest when the 8,000 strong audience laughed at the comedic moments he and his team had created—a unique experience he will always remember.
For Allan, it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded creatives you enjoy being around because you inspire each other. And not to forget them. He says you may end up being the face of the film, but without the people behind you it would not have been possible.
Tropfest made Allan’s dream a reality. It put him on the map das as a filmmaker. It allowed him to travel the world with his film. And he learned a lot. He encourages everyone who wants to be a filmmaker to give Tropfest a go.

You can watch ‘Sounds Perfect’ here.