BLACKOUT BANDITS is a multi-plot feature comedy that incorporates seven, discrete and self-contained shorts presented not as an anthology-type film (as in Subway Stories, for example) but intercut to create a cohesive story larger than the sum of its parts. Nine individual writers originally undertook nine shorts, but only seven scripts were eventually completed and shot, and of these, five were woven into the feature that was eventually produced.Upon the completion of the first round of scripts, it became clear that it would be necessary to devise and write a longer, “spine story” that would suggest the cause of the blackout and its consequences on the character who believes his actions are responsible for it. Initially developed through group discussions, the spine story script, “Troy’s Story”, was written by three writers. As the longest of all the segments, it features the main character of the overall film, though each of the other stories has its own individual narrative arc and protagonist/s.Most interesting, was the discovery of the way in which a scene’s placement among scenes from other stories multiplied their significance, humor and emotional energy. Quite a lot of script editing was required to maximize each scene’s impact as one story segued into the next.
As production units were formed to shoot the various segments, the special challenges of shooting at night in conditions that approximated a blackout, became apparent. The logistical problems created by the lighting limitations produced a number of original, out-of-the-box lighting solutions.
The various crews worked cohesively and smoothly for the most part, often starting well into the night and finishing closer to daybreak. As the shooting progressed, we opened up our homes, squeezed together film gear and broke with convention, producing an edginess that created the kind of raw energy and excitement that makes film-making such a worthwhile experience.
In the midst of shooting the “spine story”, an invitation from a Chinese film school encouraged us to think of ways in which we could incorporate China into the evolving narrative, not simply as an added story, but as a dramatic element that would effectively bookend the story of the blackout. That script was completed in the week prior to leaving for China, shot over two weeks in Shanghai, and included in the feature.
The post-production phase of the project saw an editing team of four form and evolve through a unique and unpredictable process. Although the feature-length version of the script it became more of a guide than a strict blue-print, as the editing team entered into yet another story-writing process. The final sequence of events was built from the ground up as determined by the mood and rhythm of how each scene worked in concert with those around it. Beginning with a solitary edit of the feature, three editors eventually pieced together their individual versions of the overall story, which allowed us to view the various scenes and sequences in different contexts, and choose the one that was working best.
An intensive round of professional level color grading, clever and imaginative visual effects, and post-sound, including an original score and a dazzling 5.1 mix, brought Blackout Bandits into its ultimate form.
Whatever you do, don’t press hash!
The Film-makers, Blackout Bandits
The Sydney Institute of Film Academy (SIFA) at Randwick – unlike any other film school in the world – has dedicated itself to the writing and production of long-form dramatic stories, including feature films, television drama and comedy series, and long-form documentaries. READ ABOUT SIFA’S NEXT FEATURE PROJECT HERE.