Pip, Behind the Scenes

For the making of my documentary film “Pip”, I mostly used archived footage and photos that I or my husband took of Pip when she was still alive. The footage required us scanning in negatives and transcoding old digital tapes. It also required combing through thousands of digital photos from 2002 – 2018.

If you haven’t seen the film I would recommend you watch it before you continue reading.

This required a lot of time and patience. One thing that really helped a lot is Google Photos facial recognition which also working on pets. I was able to go through a bunch of photos identified as Pip. In that category, there were also some pictures of Brat, our cat Spot’s mom. She was also a tortie, but she had a lot more orange than Pip.


How Did I Make the Documentary?

I started with a slideshow, using an After Effects template from StoryBlocks. I had to modify it a lot to get it the way I wanted it to look but it still was quicker than doing it all from scratch.

Spot & Pip

Next, I took video of the places Pip was in some of the photos and made a before and after shot for each location. This was to show how all the places in my home, made me remember Pip and miss her even more. I used sad music which I also got from StoryBlocks.

The Cat Condo

The last part was the hardest. I filmed myself talking about how Pip made me feel. How her life affected mine. The talking wasn’t too hard, it was sad and I rambled a bit. It was the editing that was the hardest. Watching it over and over and over again. I had to cut 30 minutes of footage of me talking down to 10 minutes.

I also needed b-roll to cover some of the cuts. A lot of it was archive footage of Pip, but I also took out my Insta360 One X and filmed some b-roll outside my house to do a POV of Pip walking around the yard like she used to.

Camera Rig

I filmed all my talking using my Canon M50. I used a Sennheiser wireless lavalier that I borrowed from Keene State College which I plugged into my Tascam audio recorder. I also borrowed RGB LED lights from KSC. All the equipment I own was purchased from Amazon. The links are below.

Visual Effects

After Effect VFX

I did one visual effect which I have photos of Pip floating around me. I did this in After Effects and I used the tutorial below to make it.

I hope you enjoyed this look into how I made the film “Pip”. I plan on posting for bts posts about future films.

Shot-by-Shot Analysis

For my Intro to Film Analysis class I had to analyze a scene from the film The Man From U.N.C.L.E. shot-by-shot. We all had to analyze the same scene. Below is my shot-by-shot analysis of the scene.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) Action, Adventure, Comedy | 116min | 14 August 2015 (USA) 7.3
Director: Guy RitchieWriter: Guy Ritchie, Lionel WigramStars: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia VikanderSummary: In the 1960s with the Cold War in play, CIA agent Napoleon Solo successfully helps Gaby Teller defect to West Germany despite the intimidating opposition of KGB agent Illya Kuryakin. Later, all three unexpectedly find themselves working together in a joint mission to stop a private criminal organization from using Gaby's father's scientific expertise to construct their own nuclear bomb. Through clenched teeth and stylish poise, all three must find a way to cooperate for the sake of world peace, even as they each pursue their own agendas. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (


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The Scene

The Scene

Shot-by-Shot Breakdown

  1. Long shot of dock. It is dark with natural-key lighting from a spotlight across the water. Solo is coming up the ladder on screen left and crossing to screen right, the camera follows him to keep him left of center by panning right. Non-diegetic music plays in the background.
  2. Medium tracking shot following Solo as he is running towards a truck in the background, only his back is visible until he turns to look behind him. It is dark with natural-key lighting from an overhead light off-screen to the left.
  3. Long shot of Illya in a motorboat as it drives by a man with a machine gun. In the foreground, we see the docks with crossing bars obstructing part of the view. The man in midground is out of focus, and on-screen left with parts of his off-screen. The boat is center screen. Natural-key lighting is from an off-screen light from above left. Diegetic sounds of gunfire can be heard.
  4. Long tracking shot following Illya on the boat as it gets shot up.
  5. Long tracking shot of Illya on the boat.
  6. Medium close up of Illya as he looks over his shoulder.
  7. Long tracking shot of Illya on the boat.
  8. Medium shot of Solo in truck from the side.
  9. Medium Shot of Solo in truck from the front.
  10. Long shot of Illya in boat with Solo in truck in the foreground, out of focus.
  11. Medium shot of Solo in truck from the front.
  12. Extreme close up of Solo turning keys in the ignition.
  13. Extreme close up of radio dial and it lights up.
  14. Medium shot of Solo in truck from the side.
  15. Extreme close up of radio dials as Solo changes the station.
  16. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  17. Close up of newspaper on basket.
  18. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  19. Long shot of Illya in boat with Solo in truck in the forground, out of focus.
  20. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  21. Close up of wine bottle in basket.
  22. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  23. Close up of wine bottle.
  24. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  25. Medium shot of Solo in truck from front.
  26. Medium shot of truck side mirror with the reflection of Solo drinking wine in the mirror. In the background, out of focus, is Illya in the boat.
  27. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  28. Close up of the basket.
  29. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  30. Close up shot of Solo as he tucks in the napkin.
  31. Medium shot of Solo in truck from side.
  32. Close up of Solo.
  33. Extreme close up of sandwich.
  34. Close up of Solo as he takes a bite of the sandwich.
  35. Medium shot of Solo from the side.
  36. Close up of Solo eating. It refocuses to a long shot of Illya on the boat.
  37. Medium long shot of the truck pulling away.
  38. Medium shot of Solo driving truck.
  39. Medium long shot of bad guys on boat making sure Illya is dead.
  40. Medium shot of Solo in truck.
  41. Medium shot of Illya sinking in the water.
  42. Medium shot of Solo in truck.
  43. Medium long shot of boat.
  44. Close up of guy with gun.
  45. Long shot of truck driving off dock and falling onto boat.
  46. Medium shot of Solo in truck as it sinks.
  47. Long shot of truck sinking.
  48. Medium shot of Solo in truck as it sinks.
  49. Long shot of truck sinking.
  50. Medium long shot of truck sinking from underwater.

The Analysis

Solo and Kuryakin have a like-hate relationship which is evident in the scene. Solo is on his own and finds refuge in a truck with food, wine, and music, while Kuryakin is left being shot at and chased by a patrol boat.

The scene comprised mostly of short takes, except for Solo in the truck. Those takes are longer, which creates an absurd feel to the fact that Solo is safe while Kuryakin is still in danger. It also releases the audience from watching repetitive action shots of the boat chase. Ritchie structures several long take scenes where we can see what Solo and Kuryakin are doing in their separate spaces. Solo sits in the truck, and we see Kuryakin in his boat through a window or reflected in a mirror. This setup shows how Solo is reacting to the chase that is taking place not that far from his safe location. The camera changes focus from Solo to the boat chase and then back to Solo, which creates a closer relationship between the two characters. If there had been cuts between shots of Solo and shots of Kuryakin in the boat, it would have been a more disconnected relationship in the scene.

At first, Solo is detached from what is going on. He focuses on his desires and enjoys some wine and a sandwich. It is not until after the boat explodes that the audience sees an emotional response to Kuryakin’s struggles. Solo seems concerned for a second but then decides to drive away, leaving Kuryakin behind. However, he stops, and the audience can see an internal struggle happen, he has grown to like Kuryakin, but at the same time, he is a loner. Finally, he decides to help Kuryakin, but we do not see him come to this decision, it is shown to us when he unexpectedly drives the truck off the dock and onto the patrol boat.

When Solo turned on the truck, and the radio plays, he changes it to a station playing a romantic sounding song sung in Italian. This song later overtakes all other sounds, which strengthens the visual connection between the two characters by removing the sounds that would add audible clutter to the scene.

When Solo is in the truck, and it is sinking in the water, he continues his unconcern nature as he removes the napkin from his shirt and rolls up the window. These shots are still in longer takes than the action shots. The use of long takes here shows that Solo is confident in the choice he has made.

“Suspense” by Lois Weber (1913)

My short film “Suspense” is inspired by Lois Weber’s film of the same name. Lois Weber’s is a testament to women filmmakers and that they can be just as good as or better than male filmmakers. Check out the film below:

Suspense (1913) Short, Drama, Thriller | 600min | 6 July 1913 (USA) 7.3
Director: Phillips Smalley, Lois WeberWriter: Lois WeberStars: Lois Weber, Val Paul, Douglas GerrardSummary: An isolated house in deserted area is too remote for a servant, who leaves a note, quietly exits the back door, and puts the key under the mat. Alone in the house is a mother and her infant. A tramp watches the servant leave, then begins to skulk. The woman sees him outside as he discovers the latchkey. She phones her husband, who's working in town, and he jumps into a car idling in front of his office. He races toward home while the car's owner (and the police) are in pursuit. The tramp grabs a knife and heads up the stairs toward the defenseless woman. Can the husband elude the police long enough to rescue her or will the tramp have his way? Written by <>


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“Suspense” Short Film

WOMAN is placing freshly made COOKIES in a COOKIE JAR. She completes her task, turns off the LIGHT and heads upstairs.
MAN is at the BACKDOOR of the house, in the kitchen. He picks the lock and makes his way inside.

Above is an excerpt from my new film “Suspense”. Right now I am in pre-production, but I start filming next week. Want to see all the behind-the-scenes details? Become a patron at the Great Fan level to get access.


Casey has duplicated herself, but Liam gets upset. Will they ever solve this situation?

This film stars my kids who are in no way actors of skill. They kept forgetting their lines and looking at the camera. My daughter wouldn’t stay still, which made duplicating her (with my limited skills) very hard. I had to add some interesting cuts to make it work. I hope you enjoy this short film.

What are Structure and Story Beats?

While I was reading about scriptwriting, I also learned about structure and story beats. The structure is like the framework of the story while story beats are the emotions of the story.


When it comes to learning about story structure Syd Field’s book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. He talks about the paradigm.

The Syd Field “Paradigm”

Some other story structures are:

Linda Seger “Story Spine”

Source: Dramatica From: Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

John Truby’s “Twenty-two Building Blocks”

Source: Dramatica From: The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

Christopher Vogler “The Hero’s Journey”

Source: Dramatica From: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Micahel Hauge’s “Six Stage Plot Structure”

Source: Dramatica From: Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge

Dramatica Act Structure

Source: Dramatica From: Dramatica: A New Theory of Story by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley “Three Act Structure”


Story Beats

While learning about beats I found that there are many different names for the beats but they all are about the same. The most important and used beats are addressed by Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat!

Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat!”

Act I
  • Opening Image (pg 1)
  • Theme Stated (pg 5)
  • Set-up (pg 1-10)
  • Catalyst (pg 12)
  • Debate (pg 12-25)
  • Break Into Two (pg 25)
Act II
  • B Story (pg 30)
  • Fun and Games (pg 30-35)
  • Midpoint (pg 55)
  • Bad Guys Close In (pg 55-75)
  • All is Lost (pg 75)
  • Dark Night of the Soul (pg 75-85)
  • Break Into Three (pg 85)
  • Finale (pg 85-110)
  • Final Image (pg 110)

StudioBinder has a great post about the Save the Cat! Beat Sheet (bs2). They also have a free template for using the beat sheet. “Movie Beat Sheet” “The Original Story Map”

Here is a story map (which is the same as a beat sheet) from They have an article about the map with examples here: Script Outline: Free Story Map Template.


It doesn’t matter what structure or beats you use, as long as you follow basic story points. You can find those in every movie and novel. You might even find them in your own life.

Further Reading

Why I am a Student in my 30s

When I went to college after high school I wanted to study film. For several reasons I was unable to. Instead I decided to study Theatre. Then I switched to English Teaching (Why? I have no idea. I failed those classes.) I then finally settled on Graphic Design. When I graduated, there were very few entry level jobs and they all required experience. Also there were a lot of graphic design graduates looking for jobs that had done internships. I didn’t do an internship because I didn’t own a care and the nearest internship was about a 3 hour drive from where I lived.

I ended up getting married and my husband joined the Air Force. We then started a family. I did some web design for friends and family (and alot for myself) and settled into being a full-time mom. I also tried starting a sewing business. I found I enjoyed sewing as an occasional hobby but not as a full-time job. What I really wanted to do was make films.

Now that my eldest child is going into high school, I decided I wanted to go back to school to study filmmaking. I first applied to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) for their Communication Arts Major: Cinema and Media Arts. However, they turned me away because I already had a BA and they don’t allow a second BA. What? Still confused over that one. So instead I applied to Keene State College (KSC) and have completed my first semester as a Film Studies: Film Production major.

I got all A’s! I felt alive again. I found a part of myself I had lost along the road of life and feel rejuvenated by it. I am so glad I made this change in my life. I can’t wait until the next semester. This summer is going to feel so very long.

Fractured Foot

Last week I fell and hurt my foot. It turned out I have a Jones Fracture, and I need surgery. If I don’t have surgery it can take 6 months to never to heal. So while I wait for my surgery to be scheduled I am keeping myself busy with editing videos.

“Mortal Engines”, a Steampunk Remake of “Star Wars”

Mortal Engines (2018), directed by newcomer Christian Rivers, is based on a young adult novel of the same name by British author Philip Reeve. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that was destroyed by a “60-minute war” some thousand years ago. Those that survived created steampunk like mobile cities that go around devouring towns and minor cities for their resources, with the citizens being integrated into the dominating city.

Mortal Engines (2018) Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 128min | 14 December 2018 (USA) 6.1
Director: Christian RiversWriter: Fran Walsh, Philippa BoyensStars: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo WeavingSummary: A mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw, emerges as the only one who can stop a giant, predator city on wheels devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy, an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang, a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.


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The most exciting part of the story is the beginning before the title even appears when the roving city of London devours a mining town. It is filled with beautifully interesting CGI with high action chase scenes until the mining town is engulfed by London. After that point, all the action scenes seem overdone with CGI and predictable fight sequences.

The main characters, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) could be exciting if they were allowed to develop some depth. Hester is depicted as a revenge crazy loner who eventually learns the power of friendship. Tom is a budding historian who wants to be an aviator and who is completely lost at what to do when he is pushed off his traveling home of London.

These heroes have a lot to contend with. There is the power-hungry Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) who throws them both off London and who has a plan to build a weapon to destroy the wall that protects Asia from cities like London. There are the cannibalistic southerners who try to sell them at auction as meat. And then there is Shrike (Stephen Lang), an undead cyborg, who raised Hester and is now trying to kill her for breaking a promise.

The story is not only predictable, but it is also highly derivative. From the budding love story between the two heroes to Hester having the only solution to save the day, it feels like they took all the tropes from good action adventure stories and made into one high adventure, overpacked, steampunk, post-apocalyptic narrative. The story is a combination of Star Wars, Mad Max, and The Terminator. After all, London is a “Death Star” destroying other settlements in a dystopian resource depleted landscape. There is even a rebel alliance, called the Anti-Traction League, that saves Tom and Hester from being auctioned to cannibals. The rebel who is most prominent is Anna Fang (Jihae) who looks like a character straight from The Matrix. The league needs Hester, an orphan with daddy issues, as she is “their only hope.” But she is too busy running away from the killer cyborg.

This film could have been great if they focused more on the main plot and less on the subplots. Shrike was more of an annoyance to the story than an exciting subplot and obstacle. He almost needs a film of his own. The southerners are superfluous to the story as they only there to add another obstacle that has nothing to do with the main plot. Supporting characters like Katherine Valentine (Leila George) and Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery) almost get forgotten in parts, so that they can fit in Shrike and the southerners, even though they are essential to the main plotline.

If you love CGI and impressive world building and don’t mind stories that don’t have much depth, then this is a great film to watch. Otherwise, you might as well save your money and go see the next Star Wars installment.