The Making of ‘The Man Without a Laptop’

Computer Aid has recently launched an appeal for laptops. Large requests from the National Teacher’s Institute, Nigeria and The Oasis Group Foundation, Ghana who empower underprivileged societies have left us very short of donated laptops. To this end, we created a short film in order to try and engage potential laptop donors into using us to dispose of their unwanted or surplus ICT equipment.

Concept

With the marketing team being based in London, we knew that anything we produced here was likely to be Anglo-centric in its content. So we decided to create a parody of the usefulness of laptops. We started off with the idea of highlighting how difficult it would be to attend meetings in different locations without a laptop. The idea was to have a universal meeting setting, where one of the staff would be carrying around one of the big old CRT monitors, keyboard and assorted cables. They would be late for the meeting, disrupt everyone with having to unpack and boot-up, and on top of it all have not been able to finish their work on the commute to work like their colleagues.

Filming

All filming for was done using a normal digital camera, a borrowed tripod, no budget and no experience! With such constraints it is perhaps too easy to jump to making a bad parody of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (a future project maybe?). Instead we went for a silent comedy theme, ala ‘The Gold Rush’ to get our message across, although scenes of Jon eating his boots were left on the cutting room floor.

Filming started with some shots of the meeting, with everybody using Computer Aid refurbished laptops. Next was Jon bustling into the meeting late, and having to make someone move in order to have access to a plug socket. The stairs and corridors of the office were used to emphasize what a struggle it is for Jon to make the meeting on time.

We were looking to have a variety of different shots for the sequence in order to keep it visually interesting. Filming consisted of wide shots of the meeting room and close-ups of people’s faces for their reaction to the dialogue. This was particularly important due to the silent film era theme – I don’t think any of us will be leaving to become a street mime anytime soon, but we all got into the spirit of it. Filming the scenes was a lot of fun – we often had to do a few takes if we were looking for a deadpan reaction!

Editing

As with any piece of work, once you have finished writing or filming, you are still far from having a finished product. All the footage was reviewed and either selected for a place in the sequence or discarded. Once all the footage had been trimmed and ordered, we created the Charlie Chaplin-esque captions so that the basic storyline of the film would be easy (and humorous!) to follow.

As you may know, musical accompaniment was very important in silent films to emphasize the moods and feelings of the characters or the situation. Two piano pieces were chosen to fit Jon’s comical and clumsy entrance, and everyone working hard at the meeting.

Following the tongue-in-cheek black and white scenes, I wanted to have pictures of people in developing countries using donated laptops in glorious technicolour! These are interspersed with information about Computer Aid and our Laptop Appeal. This is the serious take-home message we wanted to portray in our short film: any laptop donations would be gratefully received!

Once we had the music, we had to make it gel with the visuals. Getting the timings of all the sections right and making sure we were still making a *short* film was a lengthy but enjoyable process.

Post-Production

I have seen the film many times but I can say with some confidence that we have had a lot of fun in our briefest of forays into filmmaking, and hope that it will get across our underlying message.

See the film for yourself here, and let us know what you think on Twitter @Computer_Aid. If you or your company are replaced any laptops in the near future and would like to donate them to Computer Aid, please contact enquires@computeraid.org. Alternatively, you can fill out the equipment donation form, or call us on 0208 8361 5540. We look forward to hearing from you!

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