Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A video for dark dance band Nowa Huta

On the weekend I finally finished a video I have been working on for many months when in between projects. It's a video for a band called Nowa Huta, a dark dance/dubstep/witchhaus band. It's not official, more of a pet project that went ahead with their blessing. However, I don't think either of us expected it to take so long!

I wanted to make an ambient stream-of-consciousness video that lacked a narrative; a visual effect that would work alongside their music. I needed some boundaries though, so I decided that I wouldn't use any stock footage and I would only use imagery that I captured myself on my camcorder. I captured footage at the height of summer and depth of winter (told you I was working on it for ages!) and had hundreds of gbs of video on my hard drive. I only used a fraction of it. It was a long, wide project, I spent many long weeks colliding pieces of footage together until I found something that worked. I got some great effects with liquid ink that I incorporated into the video too.

It's my first attempt at making something abstract, but I hope it works. It was a great learning experience. While working on the video I was getting so close to every frame that I had no idea if I was making something interesting or boring, and it's only now after finishing that I can get some distance, and overall I'm proud and happy with the result.

I never wanted the video to overpower the song, instead I wanted it to be a companion to it, something subtle that doesn't jar too much and that has a similar abstract feel.

Anyway, here it is. All DIY, all shot and edited on consumer equipment.


You can listen to more Nowa Huta here:

Sunday, 17 April 2011



A really cool guide on no-budget filmmaking that utilises a stream-of-consciousness production style to help you flesh out your ideas. Good stuff, with lots of ideas for tapping into your creativity.

Definitely different enough be worth a try!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Casting complete!

Yesterday I met with Fiona, who we are casting as the role of Felicity, the a&r of a record label that shows interest in our down-trodden band, The Electric Edwardians. She has some experience with filming small projects and has even done a little acting work before, so I'm really looking forward to our first readthrough.

On Saturday we met with Tom Edwin-Scott, musician and all around nice-guy, who has agreed to play the role of Archie, the band's um... pharmacist.

That's it, all parts cast! Now just need to arrange individual readthroughs, and then we can start doing readthroughs with everyone present. Sort our locations out, schedule everything.... then? Filming!

Before we do the group readthroughs I am going to arrange a big get-together for all the cast and anyone who will be helping me with filming, so we can all talk and get to know each other over a few cold drinks, just to eliminate the notion of anyone having to work with strangers. I'm envisioning a picnic or barbecue in a London park in the summer. I can smell those burgers already.

Maybe we could go one step further and organise a fight club, you know, help with the bonding and all that. Definitely a possibility.

Monday, 11 April 2011


I must stop trying to sound knowledgeable or authoritative in my blog updates because I'm really neither.

There's a saying, whenever someone gives you advice, they are just talking to themselves in the past. That's pretty much exactly what I'm doing here.

I shall try to sound a little more lost and unsure in future posts so I don't give the wrong impression.

In honesty, I constantly feel like Atreyu in The Never Ending Story, walking through that gigantic statue gateway that laser beams you to a crispy death if you doubt yourself.

Friday, 8 April 2011

scripped.com - browser based screenwriting

How are you writing and editing your script or screenplay? The most common answer is probably Microsoft Word, but you need to know that there are a certain set of formatting "rules" which keep the style of all scripts uniform and makes them easier to understand. It seems a bit much at first, but the alternative is people writing scripts however they damn please which means that things will get confusing, so it's handy that there is a set format.

Unfortunately it's a time-consuming bitch to write a script in Microsoft Word and keep it in the correct format, so I spent some time researching computer programs that will handle the formatting for me.

I found some, including software that helps you do storyboarding and planning as well as scripting, some required a paid subscription, and others would shackle me to my home computer, and as I like to work wherever I am, I wanted something a bit more flexible. I began looking into browser based script editors, and after trying several out, the best free browser-based scriptwriting tool I found was http://www.scripped.com/.

You register with them for free and you can start writing your scripts straight away. It takes a little bit of getting used to but it's pretty straightforward. It might be worth familiarising yourself with basic script formatting beforehand to help you understand the program.

Basic screenwriting:
In depth screenwriting formatting (including the headache of font size and margins): http://www.simplyscripts.com/WR_format.html

  • free
  • browser based so you can access from any computer online
  • automatically formats your scripts as you type
  • you can save multiple drafts
  • export to a variety of formats including text and pdf
  • automatically creates an editable coversheet for your script
  • great user community and forums

  • No undo button
  • It's browser based so sometimes doesn't feel as robust as a dedicated program and things can go a little haywire although I've never had anything beyond a minor inconvenience
  • It was difficult to import the early draft of the script which was written in Word, in the end I had to type it up from scratch
  • Your script is public (with a copyright) along with thousands of others unless you pay for a premium account
So, not as good as a dedicated program, but for me personally, the convenience that scripped offers trumps that. It suits my needs right now as a no-budget filmmaker. Maybe later I'll get some dedicated software, but right now, this is great for me.

If you'd prefer a program rather than a browser based editor, then I recommend you have a good look at the following:

FinalDraft: a professional screenwriting program and an industry standard.

CeltX: Free software, basically a free and less glossy version of FinalDraft.

I hope this has been moderately helpful.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Praise be to Google Documents

During the planning phase of a project I like to be - or at least feel - organised. On my first projects I began by having lots of stuff written down which I would lug around, but not often reference. Sometimes while at work shooting something I'd realise the one thing I really needed was on my home computer and inaccessible from my current location.

Thank the cosmic valkyries for Google Documents. You work on your files from any computer via your google account and they will be saved among your google documents for access from any computer. This is great news for me.

I use a lot of documents during prep. Mark has made frequent reference to the barrage of documents and spreadsheets I bring out during rehearsals or when script editing. I have spreadsheets that I reference frequently, such as the invaluable Locations spreadsheet, which lists out all the scenes and locations for the filming. It also tells me who appears in which scenes and also allows me to see which scenes have the most actors and which actors have the most scenes (really useful when planning a shoot).

Then I have spreadsheets I don't reference much beyond making them, such as the character relationship sheet, which has all the character names going up the side and along the top, and I write about character A's relationship with character B where they intersect. Interestingly, but crucially, A's relationship with B is often different from B's relationship to A. It's rarely the same relationship from both perspectives. Although I rarely go back to it, the act of writing it is invaluable and revealing, and also lets you know pretty quickly which characters you don't have a grasp on, and where you need to do some more exploring.

I also have a spreadsheet with all my extras and their contact details, a document outlining issues that crop up when planning certain scenes, which is a really great place to put all my ideas and solutions for working around these problems. I have one containing ideas for the current project and another for music video ideas (best to write them down before they disappear into the ether). I have some "drawings" on google documents as well, looking like a big flow chart which allow me to visualise the scene flow and the throughlines for each character as well as their objectives in each scene.

Sure, sometimes the google versions of spreadsheets and word documents aren't exactly perfect or fully featured, but it's a small price to pay for the convenience of accessing them anywhere any time, without having to spend time copying everything over to a memory stick every time you change something. I know a lot of people find word processing cold, and prefer to work with pen and paper, which is (of course) preferable when working with the creative side of things (I do this too, I always keep a notebook handy, doodling seems to unlock the inner artist), but for organisation and planning, sometimes you can't beat a good spreadsheet, much maligned as they are! It also means I can spend downtime at work tinkering about with all the difference facets of the production, which keeps me immersed in the project and keeps my thinking up to date.

So, spreadsheets! Pretty boring subject matter, I know! But sometimes it really pays to have this stuff available for quick reference, and it also means I feel a hell of a lot less stressed about the project. You start finding problems that you didn't even realise existed yet, and you can apply a little creativity and solve them before you even get to shooting, which, speaking personally, is liberating.

Be as prepared as you can possibly be, but make sure you're still flexible and open on the day. You will still get hit with a lot of unexpected issues, but you'll be in a much better position to deal with them if you're not fretting about everything else.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The location massacre

On Monday evening I met with Mark and Frazer and we began to attack our locations sheet. We axed a scene, re-wrote two others, came up with new locations and ideas and pencilled in new possibilities. We are now down to 9 locations which is far better than the previous 15.

We still need to fix a few things, but right now things feel a lot better. A lot more "travel sized" than before.

Friday, 1 April 2011


Right now we film 18 scenes in 15 locations.

That's a HELL of a lot of locations for a no budget movie.

On the one hand, having that amount of variety might make our short film look less "cheap" but on the other, I might be biting off more than any of us can chew. I don't want to be making this movie forever, so I am taking a look at our location lists and seeing where I can move things around and re-use locations. Sometimes we can even use one location but film it as two, for example, seperate rooms of a house could double as completely different locations.

Some scenes can be quite easily tweaked, for example, instead of the band members visiting a friend, he visits them, as we've already got a scene based in their flat. That takes one location out of the equation. The scene might need a tiny bit of a re-write because of that but doing so also enables us to get creative and see old lines from a fresh perspective. I think I'll go over this in detail with the writers, we can get together over a cold one and work out some solutions.