This is a guide to 'sweding' a favourite film. But what is sweding, I hear you ask?
The origins of sweding go back a long time to... well, actually no, not that far – the term actually comes from Micheal Gondry film called Be Kind Rewind (2008). In the film two friends who work in a video store (back in the days of VHS tapes) accidentally wipe all the tapes in the store. So, they decide to recreate the films themselves and the results are amateurish but very creative. In the film they tell customers the films are from Sweden, hence the term sweding.
Basically, sweding is when you recreate a famous film, scene or film trailer using household objects, homemade props, and a lot of imagination.
To see what we mean, watch the example below, a sweded version of Jurassic Park.
Suitable for Year levels: 3-10
Learning areas: English, Drama, Media Arts
So why should we swede?
As you can perhaps tell, it’s a lot of fun. Recreating scenes, locations, props, music and visual effects call for creative solutions. Through the process of sweding you can learn about:
- Camera shots
- Story structure
- Visual effects
- Film score
- Prop and set design
1. Where to begin
Choosing a film
Picking a film you actually like or know pretty well is a great start. As is picking a classic film, one that a lot of people have seen. Remember though, not everyone has to have seen the film, that’s impossible!
We recommend not choosing an animated film, instead, choose a live-action film. The reason being, the whole fun and funny thing about sweding is recreating elaborate, often big-budget live-action films in your living room. It’s not quite as good if you tackle an animation. That’s just our recommendation though.
It doesn’t matter how long the film is, you’re not going to recreate every scene and second of that film, in fact, yours might only go for a couple of minutes. The Jurassic Park example we watched goes for 3 minutes and that would have taken them a long time to make.
So first you’ll need to break down the film into smaller pieces.
Break down the film
Which scenes and moments were the most important to understanding the story?
What were the most memorable moments in the film? These can be from your above list or new ones.
|1. Make a list of the 10 most important scenes and moments|
|2. Add any other memorable moments to your list|
|3. Go through your list and select no more than 10 moments you want to film for your swede|
Create scene cards
This is what professional screenwriters do! They have a small business size card for each scene, and they include the location of the scene (the movie world, not ‘my bedroom’!) whether it’s night or daytime. You can also add who is in the scene (characters) and then just a short sentence about what happens in the scene, or the part of the scene you'd like to show.
In the example below, instead of summarising the entire scene we have picked out a moment or two that sums up that scene pretty well. The 'EXT' stands for exterior (outside).
Recreating a trailer
Instead of condensing a whole film into a few minutes another popular approach is to recreate a trailer for a film. These are usually ‘shot-for-shot' remakes though, so if you take this approach you should still follow the steps below. A trailer might sound easier, but there are often lots of shots in trailers so there might be just as much work! It will be still be super fun though.
Check out the shot-for-shot example made for Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. You watch a side-by-side comparison in the following video.
2. Getting ready to film
Come back to your scene cards
Get your scene cards, flip them over and create a list of all the props and costumes you’ll need for each scene. You can always lose props you can’t source or find difficult to make if they’re not important to the scene.
To script, or not to script?
Turning a 90-minute film into a 2-minute film means you might also condense a lot of the film's dialogue, so it’s worth writing a simple script. Learning how to write scripts properly can take a while, so as long as you have something that describes the ACTION and movements that take place in the scene, and the DIALOGUE you want your characters to say, then that will work.
With dialogue, you can use lines from the real film, or you can write your own dialogue inspired by the real film. Like you condense scenes from the film, you can pick out and condense lines of dialogue from the film so suit your shortened version!
3. Special effects
Sweding requires some imagination when it comes to recreating visual or special effects from films. Go through your scenes and make note of any points where you might need to recreate a special effect or location.
Here are some common approaches in sweded films for challenges you might encounter.
Do you have a giant or monster in your film? Want to make them look huge compared to your human characters? Forced perspective is where you have one thing close to your camera (the thing you want to look big) and the other thing further away from the camera, so they appear small in comparison.
It doesn’t just have to be monsters though, you can do with all kinds of objects and characters.
You'll see an example of this from the Jurassic Park swede below.
Shot-reverse-shot (with camera angles)
You can also get a similar effect using a shot-reverse-shot combined with a low angle and high angle shot.
So if we place the camera high above the character we want to look small, with them looking up towards or past the camera, they’ll look small and afraid. Then you’d get a shot looking up at the monster, with the camera low angled upwards towards them. This way, they’ll look huge in comparison. If we then cut back to the small character and get their reaction to the monster, then the effect will be complete!
Miniatures and close-ups
Have a scene with a spaceship? Or even a simple establishing shot of a castle? Go miniature.
When you want to show the characters inside or within a setting or location, you can combine a miniature shot with close-ups of your actors. This way you don’t have to turn your entire living room into a massive jungle or whatever, you can show the audience the miniature setting, then frame your actors tightly so you don’t have to do as much work in the background of their scenes.
In the Star Wars: The Force Awakens swede, we see a close-up of an actor inside an X-Wing, and then we see a miniature of the X-Wing immediately after. The audience then connects these two shots and they understand easily that the pilot was in that ship.
Nearly everything can be recreated using cardboard. When sweding, cardboard is your best friend. In the Jurassic Park example, there are plenty of dinosaurs and other props recreated with cardboard. In fact, paper and cardboard are also used to create backgrounds like deserts and snowy mountains.
So now you should have an idea of props, costumes, sets and visual effects you need. You can make one big list or go through scene by scene and pull together all the things you’ll need.
Visualise before you film
Often filmmakers will create storyboards for their films, so illustrations of what the key shots will look like.
You can storyboard your Sweded film if you like, but at the very least we recommend sketching out how you will achieve your visual effects shots.
Let's use the Jurassic Park T-Rex scene again, and break down how we plan on achieving the look of having a giant T-Rex!
So by now, you should have:
- Scene cards for each of your scenes
- A script or descriptions of actions and dialogue for each scene
- Sketches of your special effects shots and how you'll achieve them
- Props, costumes, sets
Using the camera
Before you get started, you might want to think about how you will shoot your scenes. As your scenes are quite short you might not use a lot of camera shots for every scene, but it’s good to get a variety of shots like close-ups, mid-shots, long-shots, angled shots. Your camera might be ‘static’ or locked off at times, other times you might use a ‘tracking’ shot meaning, the camera moves around or follows characters.
Check out the shot types below and have a think with each scene, which might work best.
Music and editing
In the spirit of Sweding, don’t use a recording of the film’s actual music, recreate it yourself! If you have and can play an instrument, great, but it’s often more fun to just hum the music.
You can do this in the scene, so have someone close-ish to the camera’s microphone humming the music for that scene.
Or, you can do it later. So once you’ve filmed and edit, you can lay down an audio track of the music over your film. With most editing software, you can record an audio track straight into the timeline of your film. Easy!
Putting your film together should be easy, but you’ll need editing software! If you shot on an iPad or iPhone you can use iMovie, it’s free. Not on an Apple device? Here are some other suggestions for different devices and operating systems.
|1. Get all your scenes in the right order before you do anything else|
|2. Pick the best take. If you had to shot a scene more than once to get it right, make sure you pick the one where you got it right! At the end of the day though, if all you have is the take where someone broke character or made a mistake, then that’s OK when you’re Sweding a film|
|3. Trim the starts and ends of your clips so you don’t hear ‘action’ or ‘cut’|
|4. Only use transitions when there is a change in location or a dramatic change in time|
Want to learn more about filmmaking?
How did you go?
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