The Subjects is a short film about the pressure students face choosing what to study in VCE. The film, which was written and directed by Anna Diacos, was selected for Top Screen 2015 and quickly became a crowd favourite, snaring the coveted People’s Choice award.
Before embarking on her screenplay, she found inspiration in the films of Edgar Wright. “I kind of felt like his style of film really leant itself to my film,” she said. “I wanted to create a film like his because I really enjoy those techniques like whip pans, crash zooms and all that sort of thing.”
Her production was also inspired by former Top Screen films like Sock Doc.
Anna encourages students to check out old Top Screen films to get a sense of what is possible when undertaking VCE Media.
Pre-production for The Subjects started with a screenplay. Anna spent considerable time crafting her dialogue and imagining what VCE subjects would say if they could speak for themselves. The screenplay turned out to be a little long, weighing in at an impressive fifteen pages.
When it came to casting, Anna selected actors who were available and willing to spend the long hours required to shoot her film. Her main character, played by Toby Hall, was in Year 10 which meant he was available for the long and demanding shoot.
“When I was planning, I wanted to have the most convenient cast possible,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of help during production and I wanted to have the best and easiest people to work with.”
Shotlists were particularly important, helping Anna to manage a bewilderingly complex shoot that resulted in over nine hours of footage.
She also thought practically about her locations, shooting most of the film at school to avoid transporting the dolly tracks and crane long distances.
Although the shoot was extremely well planned using a meticulous shooting schedule, Anna still ran into issues. “I decided to film in my school holidays because I thought that would be really smart and there would be no noise outside,” she said. “I was wrong. There was a man removing gum outside and he said he’d be twenty minutes but he lied. He was actually two hours.”
“Plan for things you just can’t control,” she warns other student filmmakers.
During principal photography, Anna encourages students to log their shots as they go. When she started post production, sorting through the nine hours of footage she shot proved more than a little difficult. “Because I was silly and didn’t log my footage,” she said. “I highly recommend you log your footage so you don’t have to go through what I went through because it was a little bit painful.”
During editing, she spent a lot of time split screening and j-cutting audio to make the interaction between the multiple shots of Toby appear seamless.
Anna encourages students to seek out royalty free music on sites like freeSFX and FreeSound. She also suggests that students look for local bands who are willing to have their music feature in short films. In the credits of her film, Anna used the song ‘All in Good Times’ by Melbourne band The Darjeelings. Because she knew the band, she was able to get permission to this track in her work.
“Stop stressing about trying to think of some original, crazy idea,” she recommends for students struggling to come up with an individual concept. “Your interpretation will always be different.”