Still River Films was fortunate to have worked with Gareth Burns to film his recent title fight and to tell his story. This case study highlights some of the strategies we use in all the films we make. We’ll give a break down on many of the decisions that were made and when combined together, all help in how the film feels to the viewer.
Gareth is an inspiration to many in the Mixed Martial Arts community. He fought for the Punch Up Promotions British Amateur Welterweight Title; and this story tells of his mindset and commitment to learning, the technical skill, the importance of training and the desire to win and to never give up! Gareth won the title fight on the 11th April 2015.
The strategy of telling a great story
Plot: To win at competition requires relentless pursuit of skill.
We needed to identify what it was that we were trying to say. This took a little more thought and another cup of coffee. This is what I wrote in my notebook:
Purpose: Developing skill only comes from hard work, sweat and commitment.
These messages are universal and could be applied to any story. In this film the message would be communicated in the backdrop of a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. The fight was still months away, so we proceeded to storyboard the various shots that we would need. It seemed to make sense to film the fight first. As much as I had confidence in Gareth, I didn’t know if he was going to win. The story might have changed depending on the outcome. So it was best to do the interview after the fight. The world of film is a lot more complex than most people realise. Every aspect of filmmaking affects how the final film will feel. Every setting in the camera, the composition, the colour, the camera movement, all affect how the film will be interpreted subconsciously. We use a set of keywords to help guide us through a maze of options. This was my set of guidelines for the fight night:
unpredictable, commitment, pushing limits, humble
It was unpredictable because we didn’t know if Gareth was going to win. His commitment to skill, training and learning is unquestionable. It was clear that Gareth always pushes the limits of his capability. And finally, he is very humble and we wanted this to come through in the film.
The fight scenes were filmed with a deliberate controlled movement to make the footage appear uncontrolled. A fight is unpredictable and this being one of our keywords, reminded us to film the scenes with a sense of unpredictability. We also made a series of adjustments to the standard camera settings to help provide the footage with a sense of energy. Utilising the pushing limits keyword. We had 5 cameras rolling for the fight, but used footage from 3 of them for the final edit. It was amazing to see Gareth win! It was a tough fight and soon afterwards, we organised a day to film the interview and to also capture the b-roll we wanted. Our keywords had changed after the fight because things were no longer unpredictable. So that keyword was dropped and replaced with never give up. At no point during the fight did Gareth give up! He continued despite having a broken nose and another injury incurred during the fight.
commitment, pushing limits, humble, never give up
The interview was hampered by the ten pin bowling alley on the floor above, so arrangements were made and we had 25 minutes of quiet to conduct the interview. The best way to look at the interview is that it is a casual conversation. It may seem daunting at first for the interviewee, but after the first couple of minutes, it settles down into a nice chat. Once that was over, it was on to recording specific scenes. Some choices had to be made early on about the film, one of those was colour. I decided that all the training elements of the film were going to be in a blue colour tone, representing hard work. And the fight scenes were going to be overly warm to represent the success, the pay off of all that hard work.
Let me explain some of the decisions we made during some scenes of the film below:
The start of the film
The film starts out with sound and close ups of Gareth punching the bag. I didn’t want to give the story away too early, I wanted to leave the audience wondering for a moment. 10 seconds into the film, we see a wide shot that gives context of where Gareth does his training (which is at the N-MAC gym). While he’s still punching the bag at 21 seconds, Gareth talks of bettering his skills. We then see a medium shot moving up slowly from his waist to his head. The movement is upwards because he is continuously bettering himself, and its slow because it takes time and hard training to get better.
Gareth continues that on the day of the fight, you are a solo fighter. To picture this visually, we show a shot of Gareth centre frame and alone. The lighting is very dramatic to reflect an edginess and that he’s ready to fight. But the split lighting on one side of his face highlights that things can go either way. Its 50/50.
Its you that puts the work in, and its you that gets the rewards out, Gareth explains. Visually this is represented by a wide shot with a large segment of negative space. This accentuates Gareth’s training which can only be done alone. Nobody else can do it for you.
We then see a scene of Gareth doing push ups as he talks about pushing yourself mentally. The composition is very deliberate. The top of Gareth’s head is chopped off to highlight that Gareth is not just pushing the limits (one of our keywords), he’s gone beyond them!
Gareth continues that he feels comfortable when he’s pushing himself out of his comfort zone. We show this as he’s doing sit ups. The focus point is placed at the point where you would feel the most uncomfortable, at the stress point, however, that is where Gareth feels the most comfortable.
The teamwork between all parties
There are so many more decisions that went into the film, but this should give you an insight of how I approach some of my storytelling. If I was telling your story, this is the kind of decision making that will go into it.
All films are a collaborative effort… Many thanks to Gareth for allowing us into his world and to Graham Law for his help and camera work in making the film.
- Gareth in action
- Gareth fighting in cage
- Gareth training with ropes
- Weight training
- Lifting weights
- Focused on training
Below is a video of the whole fight from beginning to end. Segments of this footage were used in the main film.
How can video production help your brand?
Most people don’t think they have a story to tell, but that’s where Still River Films comes in. We help in finding the story and telling it. A good story can connect your view of the world with your audience in a new and engaging way.