Sunday, 25 December 2011

Footage From My Horror Film! Merry X mas!

I've been talking about it for so long, I wonder if people doubted whether i was actually making any real progress with the film, so it is with both joy and trepidation that I have premiered some footage from my horror film 'Beautiful' on YouTube this Christmas day! It's nerve wracking as I'm unsure how people will respond to it, if at all. Also, unlike previous YouTube videos, I've shared this one quite openly with friends and family. But, most of all, it is rather exciting!

To accompany this preview, I have also posted an update video, as you can see below. Enjoy, and a very Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

On Not Becoming an Arsehole

It's funny how easy it is to become something you don't want to be. The impatient, self- centered arsehole director is a stereotype we are all familiar with and the idea of transforming into such an egotist is not at all appealing to any of us- unless you're the kind of person who admires contestants on The Apprentice.

A week or so ago I discovered that, after a frustrating time of trying to coordinate filming days at a distance, the one date I'd set was going to have to be cancelled because of an actor's personal circumstances.

I was furious! I literally felt my heart racing. Partly this was because it meant that two weeks of annual leave and a return to Birmingham would result in no substantial scenes being filmed- something that felt a dreadful waste of opportunity.

On a deeper level it made me question whether this horror film was merely a silly dream and that the idea of completing it was completely unrealistic. The fatalist in me wanted to give up there and then. I also didn't like the idea that I was the only person invested in this film project- I didn't want scheduling filming dates to feel like I was dragging children to the dentist.

So I did something very silly and threw my toys out of the pram. Text messages along the lines of 'Oh don't worry about filming dates, I can't go through this again' were sent and locations cancelled. There was also a lot of muttering of 'Fuck them.' And I cried. I'm not painting a very pretty picture of myself am I ?

What a difference a good night's sleep makes. By the next morning the anger had subsided and there was a real urge to put things right- a hope that I hadn't burnt bridges. I suppose I was struck by the realisation that, in being insistent that one day of filming took place,I had jeopardised the whole film. That was frightening.

Thankfully it would appear I have friends far more understanding than I deserve, and apology texts were greeted with humour along the lines of 'everyone creative has to have at least one diva strop.' And (all going well) Christmas filming may go ahead yet.

Imagine if I'd been working with more delicate people? It could all have been over, all because of one moment during which I'd decided to throw my toys out of the pram. That's a frightening thought. I don't want my blog entries to sound too 'Moral of the Day' but there's something to be said about the value of taking into account perspectives other than my own. An acknowledgement that the film isn't the centre of other peoples' world, and that their lives go on in the absence of myself and my camera. On the flip side, not being able to make a day of filming does not mean the film means nothing at all to people. Perhaps I've identified a tendency to see thing in absolutes- very black or white.

The unspoken dangers of party inflatables.
So yes, it would appear avoiding becoming an arsehole may be about monitoring the small slip-ups rather than merely holding a sense if ourselves as fundamentally nice people. It could happen, almost invisible in its process, to any one of us.

On a lighter note, I hope i'm able to actually hold the camera come filming day, because of a rather unfortunate twisted thumb. All courtesy of not being cautious of my activity on an inflatable during our Christmas party at work. I'm sure I can see the Milky Way in my bruise. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A New Vlog, Joys of Technology and On Not Being Discovered!

Above you will see my latest vlog, placed on YouTube around 12 hours ago. It has, at the time of typing, received a whole one view (my own.) By the time I finally decided to set up a YouTube Channel, Twitter and Facebook as a way of drumming up some interest in my film project(s) and linking with others, I think I'd been seduced by ideas of being 'discovered.' Now I'm not talking about fame or fortune- I'm simply talking about viewing numbers. And even then, I think I was never so deluded to think millions, or even hundreds of thousand. No. I was merely expected more than one view in 12 hours!

This is by no means off putting (yet!) I've befriended a handful of friendly fellow filmmakers, and so on a small scale there is a sense of community and mutual support. It has felt warmer and, dare I say it, far less pretentious than some video production forums and groups I've attended in the past. It does make me wonder, however, if somehow I have 'missed the boat' when it comes to getting some kind of online presence. Or if simply the level of 'competition', in the form of established vloggers, tv channel content and more mainstream appealing content (like videos of cats and babies) means a newcomer is going to be relatively invisible.

Of course my videos may simply just be rubbish. A relative stranger I shared my YouTube link with commented that my videos had the feel of a 'late night skype conversation with someone you're trying to pull.'  The moral? Don't share your YouTube links with an arsehole, but more than that perhaps there's something about not being able to please everybody. Time will tell if things shift, and I am still currently enjoying my online presence, so I'm willing to hold on in there.

Iphone 4s- my new best friend.
My last Blog entry was a short complaint about feeling very cut off from the world due to a lack of broadband and a phone network that had very little in the way of coverage here in the South-East. In complete contrast I would like to take a moment to praise (read: gloat about) my recently purchased Iphone 4s. Despite being away from my video and sound recording equipment, I was able to film, edit and upload the above Vlog in the course of one evening, with the only additional expense being a purchase of the iMovie app. There was something very liberating about that. It's amazing to think of how much (and now I officially begin to sound ancient) phones have moved on since I was younger, and just the level of possibility it opens up in terms getting information out there. Hopefully between this phone and my trip back and forth to Birmingham will enable at least some consistency in placing content online.

I'm thinking ahead to Christmas and what I hope will be a successful period of filming. I've actually missed it, and the people, alot so it will feel like a real homecoming, despite having only last been there in September! Expect an update soon!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Far from technology

Away from Birmingham. Away from my camera. And away from a decent Internet connection. Roll on Friday. Broadband and finally back in touch with the planet. Well at least some of it.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A busy day of Youtube uploads.

 Today I uploaded  a vlog about the short film, Dead Things, that I made in Ethiopia, a film I've mentioned in previous Blogs;

I've also uploaded both parts of said film. Enjoy! If you're a YouTube member feel free to subscribe and comment on my videos. Thanks.

Dead Things Part I
  Dead Things Part II

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A bedroom scene

Today's shoot- Lizzy's room.
I've just returned from the fifth day of filming. It was, on paper, a short scene. A character sat in her room. A little glimpse into the things that matter to her- items on her desk and wall.

Despite the lack of action, the level of detail I wanted to capture meant that, once again, I'd underestimated the amount of time needed- so three hours became closer to six! Still I'm very happy with the footage we've captured. Some concerns about the sound- the room faces a very busy road. My friend James, who essentially converted his front room into a bedroom set for us, has worked so hard in doing this, right down to the little details and trinkets, that even with the sound challenges I can't think of a more perfect location.

My father as guinea pig when my lighting kit arrived.
Today was a day that almost didn't happen. Lizzy's bus wouldn't start. As well as being my lead actress, she also acts as our taxi driver in collecting cast and crew in the converted bus that is also her home. I, in a moment of sheer stupidity left both a prop and light stand at home. And who was it who saved the day in both cases? Dad.

My father has actually been hugely supportive of my video production. Strange because he was the kind of dad who would ask 'how is this going to help your education?' when I spent money on films or games whilst growing up.

Today's shoot- soiling posters to give them an aged look.
I remember him saying 'i'm proud of you,' after having seen my Ethiopian horror film, and I wonder if that warmed him to the idea of film making as something valid. I was similarly surprised when he didn't freak when hearing I had spent the value of a car on my camera, and the enthusiasm and time he's given me in taking me to locations, acting as guinea pig a I experimented with lighting, and bought food for cast and crew. It's nice to believed in and to have that support.

Today's shoot- Debra in the garden
I think filming is also not just a means to an end but also a fun experience in and of itself. I'm lucky in that my cast and crew are friends and we laugh and joke and have patience for each other. I've seen the confidence of each of us grow as time has passed.

Though I have used storyboards in the past I've found I quite enjoy arriving at a scene and thinking on my feet about what would look best. I hope that's not just laziness, but it also means I share ideas with others about what may or may not look good. It's taken time to stop worrying about not having everything meticulously plotted out, though I also think we're far from sloppy also.

Today's shoot- Lee gets the giggles.
It's a fantastic process but also a draining one. I always collapse into a pile after a filming day, but, more often than not, a pile that feels some sense of satisfaction.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Biting the Bullet

It's strange to think that I'm actually here. That is to say, actually filming. For the longest time I felt destined to be the person who talked about wanting to make a film, rather than actually doing it. Part of the delay was about cost. Video production isn't the cheapest of hobbies and, as a relative newcomer, I was starting from scratch.

First shoot- 13th July 2011- Lee, Debra, Poonam, Carol and Rafi
My only previous experience of video production had been while volunteering in Ethiopia just over 4 years ago, at the age of 26. This is something I'm sure I'll share more about in a future blog as it is one of my fondest memories. It was also undeniably low-tech. I was using the video function on a digital photographic camera. But we worked with the limitations of the camera. There was no external mic and sound was tinny and ugly, so the film was edited as a silent film with subtitles. I'm very proud of that film- 'Dead Things.'
I knew in order to take film making more seriously, it would require investing in some decent equipment. I was quite conflicted about the camera I should get- I didn't want a format that was verging on obsolete, but I had to be realistic about the expense too. It's also difficult to know how much money you invest in a relatively new passion, even when you are earning and saving.

There was something else too. At the end of 2010, I'd saved enough to buy a camera, tripod and sound equipment. I'd found a decent deal on a great camera I'd previously felt was out of reach- the Sony EX1R. But I was paralysed. There was a voice in my head telling me that it was complete foolishness to spent so much money on a hobby. That I should be sensible and put it towards a house deposit. That something bad would happen and I would inevitably regret spending the money.
Lizzy playing the main character in my film.
I think there was also a assumption of failure.

We often hear stories about people who 'always knew' they wanted to make films. Nostalgic tales of being given 8mm cameras or VHS camcorders and the films they would make as 10 year olds. But what of those of us who have discovered our passion later in life? What about those of us who simply want to try, rather than having an innate sense of talent or entitlement?

I went for it and I'm glad. My script's first draft was completed in April and at the time of writing, I have 4 scenes filmed and am preparing for another shoot on Sunday. I'm still hit by occasional moments of blind panic. During my first shooting day, when everyone fell silent as I was prepared to shout 'action' I started sweating and a loud voice in my head told me that I was a fool for doing this, that I should run away.

Me on the first day of filming.
What helped me are the reassurances of friends, who felt I had stories and ideas worth exploring. Watching other low budget horror films also allowed to get away from the idea that visual story telling has to be completely polished and glossy in order for draw an audience in. Camp Kill, Spoils and Hellbride are examples of films that I have a lot of affection for despite, or perhaps because of, the roughness around their edges. I wonder if there's a lesson there about letting go of ideas of perfection, and embracing the possibility to just try. Several scenes in and I have made mistakes, and I'm certain I will make more. But I'm enjoying it. I think I'm even enjoying those panicked moments when I think I'm having anything but fun. Here's to everyone who is scared but tries. Here's to biting the bullet.