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How do you keep going when you have a day job, busy family schedule and financial commitments that just can’t be put off?

I came into this world of film making a little later in life than most, having not attended film school and spend my 20’s working on my career in IT. At the age of 30 I decided to give it a shot, so built a small team and made my first short ‘Question’ which was quickly followed by the much more adventurous ‘Sunshine’.

I always thought my next move would be a feature length affair but with new day job responsibilities and problem after problem with the house I just simply couldn’t commit the time, energy and money to making anything like my previous two shorts let alone a feature. That’s when inspiration hit via Mark Duplass, I won’t go into the details here but the bases of it was take a small amount of money, some friends and just go make something, and so Five Pound Shorts was born.

The concept was to take £5 and develop an idea over the course of a couple of hours, no fancy editing and no effects beyond what can be achieved simply. Great I thought low risk; it lets me hone my craft all I needed was a game plan! So following Duplass advice I wrote a list of everything I had access to for free this list included

  • Equipment

  • Props

  • Locations

  • Transport

  • Cast and Crew

The only issue is that no one thought that I could pull it off (with the exception of one of my main collaborators). Off I went on my own playing about with the various cameras and props I had trying to come up with a workable concept that told a complete story in a couple of minutes. I spent a couple of hours messing around with the variety of cameras I had access to recording random shots and watching them back to see how it looked. While struggling with my aging PC to upload and edit these short clips the story came to life – If my PC had a voice…what would it be saying right now!

I threw together a one page outline of the story and set about focusing on shooting clips to tie into the story. Once I had the story pieced together I called my only ally in this exercise while he talked to the footage I had shot. I scribbled down ideas as he was talking to guide him in what to say – I had only two rules keep it funny and no swear words – I wanted this to be at worse a PG rated flick.

One award and a host of festivals later and The Ghost in the Machine is arguably my most successful piece yet, ok so I’ve only ever released four shorts so far but still not bad going for a little over three hours work.

I guess to summarise what I’m saying is all the people that say just pick up a camera and do it is telling the truth. Use your family camcorder, use your phone, make something in your budget and timeframe. Use the materials you have available to you and just make something… you never know if you don’t try.

Written by Michael Tracy, Director of The Ghost in the Machine

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