This post was written by Jean-Paul Ly.
Hi, everyone, my name is Jean-Paul Ly, and I am the producer/writer and director of the action comedy short film, Speed Dating, which is the second short I’ve directed, which was released on YouTube on Dec. 10, 2022. Watch it below.
The idea of Speed Dating, which tells the story of a secret agent reluctantly participating in a speed dating event, is a blend of different movies and genres that I liked, from K-Dramas (don’t judge me) to thriller, anime, romcom, and action movies, which I’m the most familiar with.
While working on Doctor Strange 2 in early 2021, I used some of my spare time to develop and write a simple story and mixing genres in a short film, pretty much influenced by South Korean cinema. I was always fond of the James Bond/Bourne kind of movies but with a twist—it would need to be female-centric and female-led.
The script took a total of four months with the help of Mia Foo, who’s also an actress in the short, a formidable theatre actress, and a script editor on the short. Being French, she was an invaluable partner to guide, finesse some lines, and transition/adapt some dialogue and ideas.
Credit: Jean-Paul Ly
I’ve always had the main actress, Eloise Lovell Anderson, in mind. I’ve seen her work and knew that she would be able to pull some great action scenes with good direction but mainly, I never wanted to hire a stunt performer in the fear of not getting the acting and the drama right. And to this day, I believe it was the right decision.
After deciding on the shooting dates (July 2021), we decided to train Eloise for one full month prior to shoot, with the help of my action team, for about 3 training sessions per week + some personal training aside. The idea was simple: create the fight choreography first and coming with our own previz (previsualization: shooting the fight ourselves), work on the camera angles, and then have a meeting among us to plan a specific training for her, exclusively based on the moves she will perform for the short.
I wanted every single move to look believable to the audience, closing the “gap” when a punch didn’t go through, or when the energy needed to be raised, but Eloise did her best and it shows.
Credit: Jean-Paul Ly
We decided to have four days of shooting—two daytime shoots and two night shoots, shot back to back, from Monday to Thursday.
The two daytime shoots were focused on the acting in the restaurant, while the two other nights were for the action, in a different location with a much bigger kitchen space and corridors. We also had no choice to shoot at night since the restaurant and kitchen were busy during the day, at quite a high rate but we didn’t have a choice!
Day 1 and 2
As I prepped the shoot starting on a Monday, I learned that my 1st AD on Sunday at 11 pm couldn’t attend anymore, basically 6 hours before going on location. I remembered laughing at that time due to the amount of trouble and issues that I faced and the irony of all the prep flushing down the toilet, but I said to myself that “the show must go on”. We shot in a restaurant in Croydon. The shoot was slow to start with, as I had to wear several hats but luckily for us, at lunchtime, we were able to have the great Barnaby Boulton, the new 1st AD, who literally saved the shoot and took control at the right time.
Because we lost some time in the beginning, we couldn’t get all the coverage I needed but it didn’t have any choice again, we would have to adapt and cut some scenes and dialogues to run it smoothly. By the end of the day, I knew I had to cut an entire fight sequence involving high heels, which was the coolest one in the short, but oh well!
Nights 3 and 4
We’re in a different location now for the night shoots in Shoreditch, in a restaurant that’s going to close their doors permanently due to bankruptcy in the following two weeks. The fight scenes weren’t too difficult to film thanks to the previous work done on the previz, but because of the nature of filming at night, the energy of the entire crew took a toll, so we had to stay focused to deliver the planned four fight sequences!
The first three were all the fights involving Eloise fighting the goons, meant to be shot on the third day, and the finale fight scene in the kitchen for the last one. Eloise and the stunt team gave all they have and we can see it on screen, which makes all the efforts and hustle worth it in the end.
Credit: Jean-Paul Ly
I couldn’t work on the short film post for several months as I started another job that took most of my time. I’ve started editing it myself on Premiere, which took at least one full month to get the first cut, initially lasting 17 min. After doing some private test screenings with some established directors, most of them advised me to trim it massively.
I completely understood that perspective, of course, and had to remove a lot of jokes too, even though very cool, were not useful in order to keep the tension and the danger feeling in the movie.
An entire two-minute dialogue, with Emma and Julian at the bar, had been cut too. It served initially to know them more, and empathize too. But for the sake of the length of the project, I’ve decided that that part needed to be gone, which also meant that a lot of jokes in the initial dialogue didn’t have a payoff, but in the end, the current cut works well as a short film format, rather than an “extract” of a scene from a feature film, for example.
Regarding the audio, I was able to work with British composer Andrew Chappell, who did an amazing job making this movie sound great and believable. We started with the dialogue and ADR, then onto the sound effects, and finally the scoring. Andrew, being a one-man army, managed to successfully turn it into something really cinematic.
The VFX were done by Alexandre Prodhomme, who took care of all the blood and muzzle flashes, again an amazing job. The grading was provided by French director and colorist Haroun Saifi, known to direct viral and trendy YouTube clips, and was able to execute a fantastic grading overall.
I wouldn’t be able to deliver that short film without these three gents, who built the movie alongside me and am forever in debt to their work.
Credit: Jean-Paul Ly
I am glad to be releasing our work on YouTube, and preparing some more, as I’d like to develop a YouTube channel out of it, with great quality and production value, which was always the goal, to create a “mini feature” rather than the usual “fight short film” shot in a forest or under a bridge (don’t get me wrong, I respect these films especially because I’ve done it myself before).
I wanted to show that even someone with a stunts background can focus on the story and not only on action, mirroring the great such as Chad Stahelski (John Wick) and David Leitch (Bullet Train), but from the UK!
Thanks a lot for reading.
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