A Dream within a Dream, based on the poem by Edgar Alan Poe, is a haunting short film created byRenan Ramadan. In recognition of its stunning visual style, it was selected for the prestigious VCAA Top Screen film festival in 2012.
Renan developed the idea for his film after a friend suggested he read Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream within a Dream. “As I was reading, I visualised scenes in my head which I thought would work well as a short-film,” Renan explained.
The production of A Dream within a Dream, according to Renan, reinforced the importance of carefully planning such projects. Renan suggests that aspiring filmmakers should always write an outline and prepare a script for their films.
“I used to think it was never important as I could just make up the shots on the spot; however on the day of filming you can easily forget things,” he said. “I always referred to the script to make sure I had filmed each and every scene; it also helps you be more efficient when filming scenes, as you can film all the location shots at once, rather than going back and forth when filming chronologically.”
When planning a film, Renan suggests developing a solid idea and organising the shoot meticulously. “Always have a solid idea from the start and a notion of how you want the film to look,” he said. “Make sure you do a lot of planning before you start filming, such as setting a time and date for filming so you can make sure that all the actors can make it. And if you’re borrowing equipment, guarantee you have access to use it on the date of filming.”
When he was shooting A Dream within a Dream, Renan got into the habit of collecting additional footage which proved invaluable during the editing process. “I use B-roll a lot to fill in spaces between scenes and to add atmosphere to the shots, additionally it’s always good to have a lot of extra video, just in case,” he said.
Renan realised he’d need to get his hands on some decent royalty free music if he wanted to enter the film in festivals. While early edits of the film used Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception, Renan managed to find some excellent tracks from Audio Network, which offers a discounted rate for student productions.
“For the voice over, I found a site which had royalty free narrations of various books and poems,” he explained. “After adding it to the music, it sounded very monotonous. So, I asked a family friend to help me out.”
They recorded twelve different takes of the poem so that there was plenty of material to play around with. “Make sure you always try and use an external microphone when filming and recording audio, I was lucky enough to have one at school that I could borrow.”
For those who are impressed by his use of visual effects, Renan suggests spending a lot of time developing an understanding of Adobe After Effects. Renan spent hours learning how to use the industry standard software by watching video tutorials.
“I find just messing around with different functions is the best way to learn,” he said.
If you’re a student who is working to a deadline, Renan suggests that you plan to complete the film two weeks before the due date, giving you time to polish the production further. “I went through a couple of iterations before being happy with the look of the scenes,” he said. “Also, never leave rendering to the last minute!”
Meticulous planning and a little flexibility helped Renan overcome some of the problems he encountered during principal photography.
“I had to change some scenes and completely remove others as to the actor’s reluctance,” he said. “Case in point, one of the scenes at the start, where he kisses the girl on the head – it seemed completely unnatural as they felt uncomfortable when initially filmed, so I had to slow it down tenfold to make it look more naturalistic. Other than that, everything went fairly smoothly due to good planning and a surplus of footage.”
For any students feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of undertaking a film production while keeping up with their other subjects, Renan has a few words of wisdom: “School is a means to an end; grades are not relational to creative skill, opportunities come and go, anything that can go wrong may go wrong, find something to be content with in the now, and most important of all; don’t stress!”
If you’d like to see more of Renan’s work, check out his website: www.renanramadan.com