Breaking The Scene: Shield 5

Just recently we posted an article about how the new Instagram series Shield 5 has been making headlines and how the series can be opening to doors to the TV Series genre. Let’s skip ahead of all the success and focus on how one of our favorite episodes got made. We caught up with the creator and director of the series Anthony Wilcox to talk about episode 4: Coffee Break.

Here is the 15 second episode, and the in-depth interview with Anthony below. We urge you to follow @ShieldFive on Instagram and watch the complete series.

How was this scene scripted? Did you script scene by scene or did you write a full script which then got cut up into segments?

Anthony: The script was very carefully broken down into 15 seond episodes by Adam Dewar, the writer and co-creator – and the stills that appear with each episode were written into the script from draft one too.

Shield 5 Episode 4: Coffee Break Script

The explosion was the first major thrill in the series, I’m assuming this is one scene you wanted to get right. Tell us about how you pulled it off, were there pyrotechnics or was it all CG?

Anthony: It was entirely CG. I’ve worked previously with a great company here in London called The Brewery VFX and called on them for some help here. Shield 5 was put together like a short film, with no budget, so I was reliant on friends and previous collaborators being generous and supportive to the project.

I always wanted to play the explosion in one shot and for it to be more about the protagonist than the explosion itself. This was in some part to do with the time constraints but also I always prefer when these kind of FX are throwaway, rather than seeing them from multiple angles and in slo-mo! I think the explosion is on screen for under a second here.

When I saw the work The Brewery had done I had an added surprise: they’d made John’s cap fly off, towards camera! It’s a brilliant, subtle touch which probably goes completely unnoticed as a CG effect.

What was the thought behind the man facetiming his grandmother with a selfie stick? Did you purposely go humoristic on this to create a bigger unexpected moment?

Anthony: It’s actually a plot necessity. We later see an angle of the aftermath, filmed from the abandoned mobile phone, which makes John look like he’s shooting his colleague. The detectives present it as evidence. We had to establish this phone but yes, I also thought it was a chance to inject some humour in a piece that otherwise had little.

And we did want the explosion to be a surprise too. We’ve had reports of people dropping their phone and cracking screens while watching this episode so we must have done something right!

Behind The Scenes on Shield 5 - Selfie Stick

Timing on set for 15 seconds must be crucial, how did you make sure everything you needed fit in the scene?

Anthony: This particular episode took quite a bit of blocking with the DP (David Pimm) and actor (Christian Cooke). We wanted to make sure the camera reacted in the right way to the explosion, as well as Christian’s character. We also wanted to make sure that all the moves we needed were possible within our time frame. We knew we had about 13 seconds, as the episode would begin on the mobile phone close-up before cutting to our hero shot. I can confirm this was one of the shots when I had to use my stopwatch!

What’s the process for creating an episode, from production to post, to posting? How long did each part take?

Anthony: As we were relying a lot on favours from post houses, we weren’t able to dictate our schedule. So the post process was quite drawn out. We shot for four days in late October. The episodes were ready in early Jan. We’re still working on the last still posts even now – we’ve tweaked those throughout the release.

Are all your episodes exactly 15 seconds?

Anthony: I think there are a few which land somewhere between 14-15 seconds but a remarkable number are exactly 15, to the frame.

Why did you opt for the cinematic 16:9 rather than the 1:1 Instagram format?

Anthony: From the outset I wanted Shield 5 to feel as cinematic as possible. 16:9 I thought would be one important factor to help us achieve that.

Are the episodes filmed on mobile devices? If not, what are the cameras and equipment used?

Anthony: We shot entirely on a Canon C300 camera.

What made you create a series that people can watch in the palm of their hands?

Anthony: I made a feature film that had a very small cinematic release in the UK. It struck me that I’d expended a huge amount of time and energy designing a production for the big screen that most people would ended up watching on a small one.

So I thought it would be fun to flip that mindset and deliberately make something big for the tiniest screen imaginable. There was very little in the production process that would have differed if Shield 5 was going to be seen at the cinema.

If someone, somewhere has watched this and said “I wish I could see Shield 5 on a bigger screen” then that would make me very happy!

Behind The Scenes on Shield5

Are there any flaws on Instagram for this new type of entertainment? What would you change or add to Instagram if you were able to, to make filmmaking easier?

Anthony: I have been keeping a whole list of simple tweaks that could be made to the platform which would improve the experience of making and watching an Instagram series – in the unlikely event they ever ask me!

We tested and tested uploads but sadly there is always a tiny bit of compression on the final image – and some colours go a little off too – which is a real shame when you’ve put a lot of effort into making something look right.

But there are practical things too, like ordering and labelling episodes, which could make it simpler for a viewer.

I know the series is not over yet.. But any plans for season 2?

Anthony: There aren’t at the moment but never say never. Maybe season two could be a rom-com with John and Amy!

Anthony, we couldn’t thank you enough for taking the time to break your scene with us. Although it was only 15 seconds, we can certainly see the amount of work that has been put in behind each episode. We are exciting to see the final episodes of @ShieldFive and really do hope we see a rom-com with John and Amy soon!