Video

Studio XO

23 Feb

Video I made for Crane.tv about fashion technology company Studio XO. The film has been screened at Soho House and featured on The Guardian homepage. Great team there doing some great work. Gave us lots of access and the film turned out really well as a result. Hope you enjoy.

Crane.tv

13 Jan

Wow. I haven’t published anything on this blog in almost a year.  Poor show indeed.  The reasons as always are legion. I have been producing lots of content in my new job as a Videographer at Crane.tv for the past 6+ months, which has taken up a lot of my time in addition to still working at the BFI.

However I am about to leave the BFI after over five years of service and will be concentrating solely on my work with Crane.  I thought I would share with you the project I am most proud of producing in my time there so far. It’s a film about Rupert Blanchard, a furniture maker who utilises disused and found objects to create beautiful and original pieces of furniture out of his studio and workshop in East London.  Myself and (then) Crane.tv journalist Holly Fraser spent a day with him, travelling around Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, searching for something wonderful amid the chaos and junk…

ENDGAME

7 Mar

Apologies for not giving you an update for a few months. Had a lot going on recently and not had time to write. I can confirm however that The Projectionists is very close to being finished. Currently the sound is being worked on and I am about to start the grading process. I have also been talking to my good friends over at Riot Digital about promoting the series on and offline. They are an exciting new company specialising in social media, promotions, web, apps and video and have worked with lots of high profile brands and clients.  I’m confident that they will do the series justice and make the most of the hashtag/pin it/click to like word we live in these days!

Our Twitter account – @cinemaobscura – now has over 300 followers, which is a very promising start to the promotional campaign.  It’s amazing how many people are willing to follow an account with no external links and only a couple of lines of description!  Once the website is up and running, we will be utilising the account much more so please do follow it for updates if you are not already.

Currently, Riot and I are compiling a list of websites, blogs, journalists and news outlets to help get the show out there.  If you have any recommendations or suggestions that you think we may have missed, please do let us know!

In the meantime, I leave you with an excellent short film about projection by Ian Mantgani.

BUSY BUSY BUSY

9 Nov

I’ve not written anything on here for ages, which is good and bad.  Good because I’ve been busy but bad because I’ve not had time to do much filmmaking.  September and October are the two months of the year when the London Film Festival takes over my life (via my other job at the BFI Southbank) and doesn’t leave a lot of room for much else. I was lucky enough to see some new films, the best of which were Shame (Michael Fassbender sex addiction drama), The Artist (melodrama homage to the black and white silent era) and Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (two and a half hour Turkish crime epic) – a mixed bag to say the least!  Otherwise my time was taken up mostly by long shifts, Leicester Square premieres (the unglamourous bit where we have to give out tickets rather than walk the red carpet) a few too many free drinks and very little sleep. Thankfully it’s over for another year and I can get back to working on other projects and look forward to getting the rough cut of the web series finished once and for all.

However, I was happy to get to work as DoP on a music video through my friends over at Creative Madam. My good friend Adam Kirby was directing and his partner in crime Matt Walker was producing. The track was Model Behaviour by The Collectable Few and Adam had decided to go for the direct route and make a video about a model and her behaviour across a series of increasingly difficult shoots.  I only got the call three or four days before the shoot and it’s a miracle that I wasn’t working as it was during the festival period.  He even managed to get a photography studio at Tapestry in Clerkenwell to shoot in and roped in ex-Hollyoaks actress Zoe Lister to be the star of the show. Quite impressive for a graphic designer directing his first music video!

The shoot was great fun, partly because the setups were nice and simple but mainly because both Zoe and Adam had lots of energy and kept the whole thing energetic.  For me it was good not to have to worry about the creative side of things and just concentrate on shooting it as best as I could. I think the final edit is funny and snappy and conveys the vibe on set really well. Enjoy.

NEW WEB SERIES PART 3 – LOCATIONS

4 Oct

As the series is all set within the Cinema Obscura, we only had to find four key locations to represent the main areas of the cinema and a couple of minor ones for additional scenes.  The four locations were – Screen 1 Projection Room, Screen 2 Projection Room, the Staff Room and the Smoking Area – the only outside element to the show.

Luckily, James already had somewhere in mind for the locations before he wrote the series proper.  Some friends of ours live in a disused building on the Old Kent Road called the Livesey Museum.  It was once a children’s museum and has lots of rooms with vibrant colours on the walls and weird and wonderful pieces of furniture and ‘props’ lying around. In recent years has been inhabited by tenants renting the property, who enjoy the unique spaces the building contains, with it’s open plan living area, bright and colourful interior and large outdoor courtyard to the rear.  One of the rooms was not in use when we initially brought up the idea of filming there.  It had lime green walls, a lot of shelves, a multicoloured pattern on the floor and a sink and tap set up in one corner.  It had ‘staff room’ written all over it. As for the exterior of the building, it had a heavy corrugated black metal industrial door at the rear of the building, which looked like a loading bay of sorts and was probably the delivery entrance to the museum.  With the overgrown plants and weathered brickwork, it was perfect for the smoking area.  There are some photos of the museum at the bottom of this post.

I have mentioned previously that both James and myself work at the British Film Institute and so we’re familiar with the trappings of a functioning cinema.  It also means that we are friendly with the staff and so when this project came up, it was a no-brainer for us to try and film the projection booth scenes on location in a real projection room.  The difficulty of course was that the BFI’s cinemas are in use almost all the time, whether it is for educational events or corporate hiring, private screenings or testing a new print, not to mention their regular film programs being shown every evening. The question was not so much whether we could film there, but when on earth would we find the time to do it?

We first approached the events and education departments and requested to book out the cinema space so that we would be able to have the cinema and the projection rooms to ourselves. Despite our close links with staff members from both departments, neither would let us book out the cinemas without some sort of money involved.  Unfortunately, due to the severe arts cuts introduced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government, the BFI was trying to cut staff numbers (something which affected the technical department, including the projectionists – I will touch upon this in a later post) as well as use their cinema spaces as effectively as possible during the period we were in pre-production.  As a result, we were refused on both counts and began to think about what other options we had – independent second run cinemas, universities and colleges with screening rooms, or possibly creating our own projection booth either in the museum, or in another location altogether.  It then occurred to us that we didn’t actually need to use the cinema space but just the projection booths (in particular the booth of NFT3, which would double for Screen 1 in the Obscura), as that was where the scenes were set.  We spoke to the technical team and some of the projectionists themselves and after a few discussions about health and safety and who would be our liaison with the department, we received a verbal agreement that we would be able to film in the mornings on four days over the long bank holiday in May, from 7am through until 1.30/2pm, the time the projectionists would usually come in to test the films before the first afternoon screening.  It meant that we had to fit an 8 hour shoot day into 5 hours, but it was our only option.  Trying to get into the BFI’s smallest cinema, the Studio (doubling for Screen 2 in the series) wasn’t as tricky as it’s closed every Monday and due to it’s size, it isn’t used for education or special events as regularly as NFT3.  It is a digital only cinema and was the inspiration for the digital only Screen 2 in the series.  There were other scenes that take place in corridors or in fire exits through out the series, but these amounted to so few pages that we decided to lock in the museum and NFT3/Studio dates and play each day by ear – if we couldn’t film something in the projection booth, we knew there would be something small we could get done in a corridor and make sure everything was getting covered.

Below are photos of the museum exterior, empty space to become the Staff Room and both NFT3 (shady camera phone photos) and the Studio (crisp DSLR photos) at the BFI.

NEW WEB SERIES PART 2 – CASTING

30 Aug The Projectionists

So we had a script. Now we needed to get some actors involved. And get a crew. And decide on our locations. And work out our funding. And transport. And catering. And kit. But first we needed some actors.

The first person we approached was a mutual friend of ours, Matt Noble. He had been in a few projects I had worked on in the past, including the short film Fanatic from 2009 (a mockumentary about James Bond fans).  Last year he wrote, produced and starred in Dodgers, a black comedy about instant gratification, the welfare state and the role the media plays in today’s society.  The play was showcased at the Landor Theatre in September 2010.  As a result, James wrote the part of Ben Holland, the ‘protagonist’ of sorts, with Matt in mind.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding for the series (and the fact that James and Iwanted to save as much money as humanly possible for the shoot itself) auditions were not really an option. Luckily, as Matt has been in the business for a number of years and knows a lot of actors, he already had people in mind for each of the main parts. I had received casting ideas from him in the past and we decided to let him do the initial casting and we organised a read-through for everyone to meet up and see what the group dynamic was like.

The first actor he suggested was Oengus Macnamara for the part of Ray, the grizzled veteran projectionist who has worked at the Obscura for his entire life. Oengus is a founding member of the London Irish Theatre and one of the original members of The Godot Company. He also has numerous television credits, ranging from Play For Today in the 70s and Shakespeare’s Richard III in the 80s to episodes of The Bill and Casualty in the 2000s.

Next up was Sian Breckin for the part of the usherette Sophie, fashion student by day and object of affection for two of the main characters by night (or at least when she has a shift!).  Sian has been acting in film and television for the past few years, most notably in Donkey Punch and the upcoming Tyrannosaur.

Another Matt, Matthew Fraser Holland, was his recommendation for the part of Jonny, East London hipster and wannabe coming DJ. The two Matts had worked together on the television series Is Harry On The Boat? from the early 2000s and Matt Fraser has been working solidly in theatre ever since, most recently for the Oxford Shakespeare Company in The Tempest.

It was whislt working on Is Harry On The Boat? that the two Matts met the final actor to join the main cast, Steve North, as science fiction enthusiast and amateur script writer, Marcus.  Steve was a series regular on London’s Burning in the early nineties and has numerous television credits to his name, including Eastenders, Midsomer Murders and Doctor Who.  He also wrote and produced the feature film, South West 9.

I have to say that having little experience with casting and also working with working profession actors, I was amazed that Matt was able to get these guys to read the script.  I was even more amazed when they turned up for the read through!

We met in mid-March and read through all six episodes with a custard cream and cup of tea in hand.  I must confess I was bricking it going into the meeting as I knew that these were serious actors who had impressive credits to their names.  Now that we had them all in the same room, I didn’t want to mess it up and for them to lose interest in the project.  Matt had asked them to be involved and I didn’t want to show him up either.  The biggest challenge I had was trying to explain exactly what a web series was.  They knew what I was talking about but I could tell by the look on their faces that it was just as new for them as it was for us.  Matt Fraser talked about the sub culture of vlogging (which is something his character actually does in the show), Sian and Matt Noble asked who the audience was and how we would reach them, while Steve asked how James and I had come across existing web series for us to even have an opinion on the subject and feel like there was an opportunity to do something interesting with the medium.  Oengus, being the classically trained theatre veteran, asked whether his character should have long or short hair.  I knew then that he was commited, whether he knew what a web series was or not!

We filmed the read through so that James and I could watch it back later.  It was a relief to see that each of the actors had got their characters right about 75% of the time and I knew that it wouldn’t be a stretch to get them to refine their performances.

And with that, we had our cast.  They all had experience in very different areas of the acting world, but that just made it more exciting.   I couldn’t believe Matt (Noble) had picked out actors for us that suited the parts so well and if it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t have had such a great cast.

Below are some pictures of the cast in character as well as a group shot of the four projectionists sitting in the front row of the Cinema Obscura.

SUMMER IN SLOW MOTION

27 Jul

Seeing as the single is out this Monday 1st August, I thought I would do another plug for the video for My Tiger My Timing‘s ‘Endless Summer’ which I shot a couple of months back.

I’ve since seen the band play at Glastonbury, in June, first thing on Sunday morning in the John Peel Tent. I’d not had a lot of sleep and was nursing a nasty hangover but was glad I made it down there. The band played a great set and got a brilliant response from the crowd even at that time in the morning, which means they must be doing something right! I even got a little shout out before they played Endless Summer, which made my hangover much more managable.

We shot the video over a couple of weekends in the keyboard player Seb’s back garden and Hilly Fields, a park in Brockley, South London. Good honest fun was had by all and I think that comes across in the footage. All the stuff in the park was shot at 50fps(frames per second) on the 550D and then put through Cinema Tools (which comes with Final Cut Studio) to convert the footage from 50 to 25fps and get that great slow motion effect. It’s amazing that you can get footage that good from a mid-range DSLR by changing a couple of options on the camera. One thing that I would recommend if you are doing it for the first time would be to make your shutter speed double the frame rate of the shot. So if you are shooting at 25fps, you want your shutter speed to be at 50 and doubled to 100 when you’re shooting at 50fps. These are of course the PAL frame rates so alter accordingly if you are filming with your camera set to NTSC. Essentially, you want to calculate what the frame rate of the finished edit will be and work back. As 50fps is double the norm, you therefore need to double your shutter as it will be halfed in the conversion. I think that slow motion can work wonders if used in the right context. The Phantom Flex camera from Vision Research is something I would love to get my hands on. It can shoot from 5fps up to over 10,750fps, which is just rediculous. There is a great example of what it can do in this video from a guy called Tom Guilmette who specialises in slow motion cinematography. If anyone has a spare £50,000, just let me know, yeah?

Anyways, enough techno babble for now. Don’t forget to click the 360p tab at the bottom when you start streaming the video and bump the resolution up to 720p so you can watch it in glorious high definition. Enjoy.

NEW WEB SERIES PART 1 – DEVELOPMENT

2 Jul

This is the first of a number of posts about the web series I have been working on for the last six months – The Projectionists. We shot it back in April and I have been sorting the clips over the past month for my editor whilst doing other projects on the side. I aim to share the process with you step by step and hopefully it will provide both amusement and an insight into the process of making a new type of film. One that is marketed and distributed online in a viral capacity and for which there are currently no rules or structures to adhere to. The easiest way for me to tell you about it is probably to start at the beginning…

Back in January of this year, I had a quiet post-New Year pint with a friend of mine, James Vincent. We sat down with our drinks (beer for him, cider for me) and he proceeded to tell me about a play he had been trying to write in the latter half of 2010. It was about cinema projectionists and would be set in a projection booth over the course of one film being shown during an evening screening. The changeovers between the film reels would happen in real time and be performed by the actors. Various members of the cinema staff would pop their heads into the booth and get involved in the drama over the course of the two hours. The central idea or theme would be change – the change from analogue to digital film projection in cinemas and the effect that it has on the staff. However he had become stumped when he got about thirty pages in as he couldn’t decide on how the main plot should proceed.

James is a member of the band My Tiger My Timing and is quite a creative guy. He had written a couple of scripts before then in his own time, whilst still working on material for the band. He didn’t want to write another feature length script which would require a lot of work and probably not see the light of day, but to write something short and to the point that would get made. Then he could experience the whole process as a writer, from the inception of an idea to the completion of a project. Most importantly, it would allow him to see the reaction to it from a real audience.

At that point in time, I had just made my fourth or fifth (unpaid) music video, shot in December 2010 and put online in January 2011. Now, don’t get me wrong, music videos are great fun (and I have since shot one for James’ own band – see previous post!), they can look cool and you can experiment to your hearts content, but they are a lot of hard work for something that is promoting the musician and not the filmmaker at the end of the day. I was looking for something with a bit of depth (and some interesting characters to explore) that I could get my teeth stuck into and so I was intrigued by this idea for a play that he had. However, rather than work out the problems with the play and finish it in that format, James thought we could turn the play into a number of episodes and to put them online as a web series. This instantly got me excited as it was exactly what I had been looking for – without even realising. Something that would be episodic, with a storyline and real actors? I thought that if we did this right, it could turn into something special and if not, it would be a great calling card for the future. I told him to sign me up.

After I read the play version of the script and we had a few lengthy discussions about what we wanted from the series, some things were made clear to us about the project. Firstly, we wanted to avoid the usual pitfalls of many web series, which can often feel like a series of jokes with nothing connecting one episode to another except the initial premise of the show itself. Secondly, we wanted it to have some pathos and not to be an out and out comedy as we didn’t want the central message to be lost amongst the laughs. We wanted the audience to follow the show because of the story and characters as much as for the writing and jokes. Thirdly, we wanted it to feel as credible and ‘real’ as possible. Rather than filming in our flat or in someone’s garage, we knew we needed to source real locations and get professional actors involved instead of casting so-and-so’s mate from uni.

Luckily we both work part time at the British Film Institute on the Southbank in Central London. We work for the Front of House team and usher films, sell tickets through the box office and deal with lots of customers as well as the wide range of staff who work for the BFI. One of the reasons the show came about was due to the BFI’s recent cuts, which were due to their government funding drying up, resulting in both a loss of staff and a change in the way films are screened at the venue. The BFI is a membership cinema, which means members of the public can pay a yearly subscription and save money on the films that they go and see, whilst supporting the company at the same time. It currently has over 20,000 members, which is a lot of people who care about film. One of the main reasons people attend the BFI is the wide range of films it puts on as well as the respect it gives to the history of film and it’s dedication to their presentation, from the cinema space itself to the method of projection. This was the key to the series and we had first hand knowledge of both the type of person who loves film projected on celluloid and the type of people whose job it is to make sure that happens each and every day. They were the people whose story we wanted to tell.

James re-write the script into six short episodes, forwarding each draft to myself so that I could give feedback. To his credit as a writer, he had the whole series written in about six weeks. During this time we had been keeping the idea to ourselves as we didn’t want to tell our friends and colleagues at work about it. The BFI was making massive changes to it’s infrastructure and we didn’t want anyone to think we were trivialising a very serious matter. This has been an issue which we have had to tip-toe around through out the entire process.

Now we had a script, we needed to find someone to read it.

ENDLESS SUMMER

14 Jun

Sorry I’ve not posted anything in a while but I’ve had a busy month. Shot a music video and some corporate work and I’ve spent the last two weeks chained to my Mac in order to get some editing done. It was painful at first as I had healthy deadlines for both projects. However, light is at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve just finished the edit of a new music video for My Tiger My Timing. The track is called ‘Endless Summer’ and they are hoping to get it out there in time for their appearance at Glastonbury Music Festival at Pilton Farm, which kicks off next week. If you haven’t heard of Glastonbury, stop reading now you heathen! I will be in attendance too, cheering them on during their set at the John Peel Tent on Sunday. It will be the third time I’ve been to Glasto but none of the band have been before, which I found shocking, so I will make sure they feel the full force of one of the biggest festivals on the summer calendar!

As for the video, I planned to get some help with it but in the end had so little preparation time that I ended up shooting the whole thing on my own, as well as doing the edit and grade. So it’s been a one man band for the project, which I must admit I find difficult at times, especially when you have ideas you want to try out but don’t have another filmmaker to talk through them with. I’m not complaining though! It was good fun shooting the shit with the five piece from South London. I’ve known them for a couple of years now but never had the chance to work together on anything so I jumped at the chance to get involved. They have their debut album coming out later this year so keep your eyes and ears open for that.

The video is exactly what it says on the tin – a straight up summer affair with some frisbee action, waterfights, bubbles and lots of soft but bright colours. The colour grade is courtesy of Magic Bullet which I was only introduced properly to (I had heard of it previously) at the end of last week and it is an absolute joy to use. Really simple plug-in for Final Cut Pro which already has a million pre-set grading schemes for you to choose from and apply straight away to your footage. It was perfect for this project as I needed to get the video finalised as soon as humanly possible so I stuck on the ‘Epic’ grade and that was that. I applied it to the entire video and it finished the video off perfectly. Grading is something I hope to get into more this year, with Apple’s Color (sic) program the classic method of grading your footage as you can transfer your edit straight from FCP and vice versa. It’s on my ever lengthen-ing filmmaker do-to list.

I hope you enjoy the video when you see it. It should be online within the next week but I thought I should share a couple of images from the shoot as a little teaser until then.

THE CINEMA OBSCURA

12 May

The shoot for the web series is finally wrapped.

Well, we actually finished it over a week ago but I’ve been on holiday in Paris with my girlfriend for a few days in between the then and now! Feels great to have it in the can though. Everyone pulled out the stops for the last block of three days filming and we smashed through it. We were working really well as a team and when a problem came up, we found a solution without slowing down and letting it compromise the production. Big thanks to all the cast and crew for giving us their time and skills. There are so many people to thank that I can’t list them all here but they will all get due credit when the show goes live.

The above image is the logo for the cinema in which the action of the series will be set. The Cinema Obscura is a second run cinema in Central London, sort of a grindhouse type place, with lots of cult screenings as well as odd arthouse pictures. it has two screens, one of which can show digital and analogue and one which is just digital. It is the future after all. The show deals with the change from analogue to digital in cinema exhibition and the effect is has on the characters.

Thanks to Adam Kirby of Creative Madam for the design. We tried to go for a seventies/eighties vibe with the logo, partly referencing the old National Film Theatre logo as well as getting in a cheesy film reel for good measure. I think Adam did a great job and he ended up having a cameo in the show so keep your eyes open for that!

I will post up some photos of the cast soon so you can see who was involved.

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