top of page
My first, and still biggest solo short film project. Disconnected was one of my favourite films I've made, because of how much I learned and enjoyed making my first fully original short.
I started writing the script back in August 2019, myself and Noah (who plays the lead role in the film) wanted to make a short together so I decided it was no better time to write and attempt an original one of my own. I worked on the script a lot over a month or two, drafting it by people and letting the writing flow where it needed to. I was quite free with the ideas, other than the usual limitations of no budget films - so the key was to write to my strengths. I was inspired to include a lot of the outdoors in this film as my local area has an abundance of that. I was also inspired by Noah's massive collection of vintage antiques, so some key elements of the film include those. The plot developed a lot, from a more thriller type film to a much more wholesome narrative. I knew from the start I wanted to write a plot twist into it, and making a plot twist both surprising and logical (I found) is not easy to do...
Final Script for Disconnected
The script ended up being 15 pages and divided into 16 scenes. Noah's character 'Ethan' also ended up appearing in every single scene, so the two of us had a lot of filming to do!
I did not story board the whole film, but as filming progressed and bigger scenes were filmed, I made sure to have a written shot list for all scenes and a story board for certain ones also.
The film was written around locations I had access too. This included relatives houses, fields and moorland, forestry and a walled garden all around North Ayrshire (Scotland).
Location Scouting - Hunterston Estate
The main character of the film, Ethan is a kind and quiet character who is quite socially outcast since the disappearance of his beloved Grandpa. His love for the outdoors inspired by his Grandpa, encourages Ethan to put up with the bullying from his peers to attend an outdoor skills development course. Over the course of the film, Ethan's becomes much closer with his peers, and understands what has happened to his Grandpa.
Initially a mocking bully to Ethan, Abby socially flows with the crowd - and like her friends - are ignorant to people that appear different to them. However during the course of the film, Abby becomes stuck with Ethan and learns that her initial assumptions of him are wrong, and that not being short sighted over what friendship really is is key.
Ethan's beloved grandpa is not present in the film until the end, however he still has an important role. Through flashbacks, we learn this character is a positive and inspiring outdoor enthusiast, and clearly has a strong relationship with him. When we learn later that he has been missing with dementia, Ethan is able to learn from what grandpa once taught him to help him cope with the discovery.
The teacher and leader of the outdoor trip, Mr Hunt is a fairly basic character, who wants the best for his pupils. He is supportive towards Ethan and helps him when he is being left out.
Lewis represents the group of close knit school friends who bully Ethan. Like Abby, Lewis doesn't think about his actions towards Ethan's feelings, but eventually comes round by the end of the film.
Scenes and Filming
As this film had no budget, filming was difficult as days were chosen that everyone involved was free on - this meant filming happened on separated days over the course of about a year, so continuity was difficult.
When filming began, the ending of the story was still in a level of uncertainty, so this was one of the first scenes I shot right at the start from a variation of the script where it was more mysterious and thriller styled. After reviewing and rewriting, I cut this scene from the final film as it didn't make sense anymore.
A collection of outtakes, insight, laughs and processes from the production of Disconnected.
The Opening Scene
Probably the scene that changed the most over the course of filming, I think we re visited it 3 different times. This scene was essential for setting up the tone of Ethan's life. The scene was also key for establishing the bond between Ethan and his grandpa through his belongings and photos. The props shown in this scene are also important for giving the climax of the film context.
Walking to School
A short scene that establishes the relationship Ethan has with his peers. The scene establishes Abby who becomes a main character.
This scene was written to set the context of the outdoor trip. The conflict between Ethan and his peers is developed, and the character of Mr Hunt is introduced. This scene was filmed in my local arts centre out of hours.
A scene that further develops Ethan and the friend group that bullies him. The scene also introduces the next big plot point which is the outdoor trip. This scene I arranged to film in my school at the time after hours. My music teacher also agreed to play the role of the teacher.
To break up the linear pacing of the film, I wrote in a faster paste montage which covered the preparation for the outdoor trip from each character.
After the montage the group begin their outdoor trek into the hills. This scene establishes the outdoor wilderness setting that continues through the film. The actual location was the site of an old quarry half way up a large local hill.
Filmed on the same day as the moor scene, I left those scenes to the end of the shooting because they involved the most people for longer scenes in outdoor locations, and I wanted to go into filming these scenes confidently. This scene sets up Ethan and Abby being stuck together and having to make do while the rest of the group is away. Filmed at the base of a waterfall in the same area as the previous two scenes.
Moor Walking Scene
A time cut through the groups journey, a scene of dialogue between Ethan and Mr Hunt develops the story between Ethan and his disappeared grandpa. This scene was filmed without the rest of the group on a hill track near the previous quarry.
Getting Lost Scene
A large outdoor development scene which develops the bond between Ethan and Abby. This scene was actually filmed at locations only accessible by foot in some local remote forests. We filmed it over two visits to the location in the winter. Instantly making it difficult to match with the summery prior scenes.
After the two characters get lost and Abby injures herself, Ethan remembers an outdoor trip he had with his grandpa. In the flashback we learn Ethan and his grandpa are experienced outdoors, and Ethan knows Abby's injury isn't serious. The scene also subtly sets some clues that grandpa may be developing dementia.
A longer flashback, this scene was written to really develop Ethan and his Grandpa. Their shared love for the outdoors is expanded and what Ethan learns here helps him and Abby get out of their situation. Further hints are dropped about grandpa having dementia. This scene was filmed in a glen not far away during the winter.
Getting Lost part 2
After the flashback, Ethan reassures Abby she will be okay, and sure enough she is. When the fact they are properly lost now finally kicks in, Abby begins to grow more respect for Ethan. This scene was filmed in summer and had to take place right after a scene filmed in winter. Both characters had to wear winter clothes, and I had to colour correct all the greens in the scene and pull the saturation way down.
The Hut Scene
The scene that required the most planning to film. I had access to an old hut in a walled garden, so I arranged with everyone involved the schedule for the night of filming. I had access to a powerful blue light which dubbed as the moon. We moved this light around this garden to make it appear to light various locations. This scene links up every clue about grandpa and answers a lot of unanswered questions for Ethan.
Conclusive Montage Scene
This montage was made with a collection of timelapses and shows a clear time jump from the previous narrative. We learn Ethan has made friends with the group that unfairly judged him at first. The scene also confirms that Ethan's grandpa was in fact missing with dementia.
The original edit of the film was 27 minutes, which was way down from some of the first drafts and I do think it works well at this pace, however practically this film was too long to do much with. A year later I revisited the project and created a shorter cut bringing it down to 18 minutes.
Ethan returns home and we see his grandpa has been brought home, however is quite far on with dementia. This scene was written to mirror the opening scene so while they can't talk to each other, Ethan now has certainty with his grandpa, and a new social standing with his friends. He listens to the music like he did at the beginning of the film, and grandpa listens with him. Making this scene a satisfying conclusion to the plot in a provocative way was a difficult writing job, but very satisfying to make work.
Behind the Scenes
Pictures from the making of Disconnected...
Each shot in the master edit page was then colour corrected and graded to a matched colour palette.
The post production of Disconnected was a big job, especially as it was just me working on it! However this film taught me so much about all elements of post production. From simple things like managing a whole film's worth of files - to cutting and mixing.
I approached the editing scene by scene. Cutting each scene as an individual piece and then slotting them together in a master project. As the master project began to take shape, I could then refine my cuts after seeing how each scene influenced one another. This process worked quite well, but was quite messy as I trasnsitioned between two different editing programmes.
Each scene was edited and mixed individually and stacked together:
I composed the sound track to the second last scene myself to fit the pacing. I edited all my music work on Cubase Elements.
This film was in part written around the music I had access too. Most of the music in this film was composed years before by my mum, and she gave me access to her songs to use in this film which I wanted to make the most of.
The climax hut scene in the film was written around the piece of music used in it. I wanted to make the most of the musical build up and wrote the scene around that. Similarly, when Ethan hits his head, that idea came about purely because of the spiralling musical decent that follows it.
bottom of page