Thursday, 22 December 2011

Wheels, motion and daylight beards.

It's almost Christmas time! Looking forward to a nice long break. So what's been happening? Why, let me tell you!

Last night Frazer and Mark came round for a cup of tea and a script edit, and we finalised the exact story. We also worked out some of the logistical problems we'd be facing, coming up with second strategies for uncooperative cats and a complex formula for what we call the daylight/beard light ratio. We also agreed (at least I was immediately convinced) that Daylight Beard is a killer band name, and if nothing else, we will always have that as a fall-back.

We've set our date for the rehearsal filming (early Jan) and the actual filming (late Jan) and we'll have about a month to put it all together in post. It is a short film, probably only ten minutes or so in length, but I will be working on it only on evenings and weekends so I'm glad to have the time and not feel rushed. We may also have a title for the project but we're probably going to keep it under wraps until our first screening as it is tied in to the story itself.

Now that we have a solid foundation I can't wait to start storyboarding and working out all of our logistics, such as cat stunt doubles, shot order and editing plans. Typically, the pre-production (which for me means sketching and looking wistfully into the distance in deep rumination at the office) and post production (editing and sound) stages are the most creatively joyful, while the actual filming is the most stressful. When I say most stressful, I mean that relative to the stress levels of the rest of the project, which are practically zero, save the odd software crash or spilled tea. I love the filming days! And I'm getting better at being organised not getting overwhelmed.


I won't be posting again til after the holidays. All this fancy wine isn't going to drink itself.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

And keep one eye on the horizon for the upcoming album...

Friday, 16 December 2011

As of today, we have a date set for the filming of our short. Mark, Frazer and I originally planned to shoot over the Christmas break but there is just too damned much Christmassing going on, so we will be shooting in late January.

Our deadline for completion is the end of February, by which point we plan to have the film ready to show and also to put online, so that all four of you reading this can watch it too!

Looking forward to setting sail for sunny Watford, where Frazer's home will double as our glamorous film set. I'm meeting Mark and Frazer on Wednesday to finalise the script, then I can do a final draft of the storyboards and (with a little luck) we can get together in London (probably either my place or Mark's) to film a test-run. This will give us an indication of how long it will take, what problems we will hit, and how the whole thing edits together. I really can't stress enough how useful I've found these informal filmed dress rehearsals to be, so many wrinkles get ironed out that it makes the final shoot so much simpler - but still of course, not without complications and troubles - I've learned to accept that nothing is ever going to go fully to plan, but as long as you're prepared then you can deal with problems as they arise, and there will be blood problems!

In the run up to the shoot, feel free to enjoy this sexy shot of our principal cast members, Frazer and Boppy, chilling in the sunshine.

Sunshine seems like a distant memory...

More to come soon, until then, here's a clip of a waving bear.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Happy Monday Everybody!

Going to try to keep a Mon/Thurs update schedule for the blog. Got enough on at the moment to keep this up, it should be a good motivator for me, too! Thought I'd give the blog a cleaner, less cluttered look too. I've got a couple of new pages up as well, including a friends page on which I list people I work with, want to work with, or recommend. Check it out, I'm sure it will grow as time goes on.

Codename: "New Project" 

Got the majority of rough storyboarding done for this now, just working during the evenings sketching out ideas with a biro and clipboard. Some scenes are going to be re-worked but I should be meeting with Mark and Frazer soon over a beer to discuss the exact changes, and then I can prepare a storyboard that we can shoot our rough cut to!

We plan to be finished by February.

I've been cherry-picking bits on shot grammar and shot formation from some books in the library. I used a browser-based brainstorming tool ( to create a handy visual flow chart that I refer to when I storyboard scenes. This is my main board for that purpose:

(click for larger)
Obviously this is something I've put together using my own shorthand so it might not be as useful to someone else, but I'm including the image as it's an exercise I highly recommend (popplet is a great site for creating something presentable, alternatively many people prefer to brainstorm more creatively by hand. There is no right or wrong way to do this!). It really helped me crystalise the process I need to go through when thinking about my shots. It's so easy to forget to be mindful of everything you need to pay attention to, especially when you're working essentially as a one-man crew. Of course, my shots and framing are usually far from perfect, but I am working on this! It's a good thing if your own work disappoints you, it keeps you moving forward. Here's that excellent Ira Glass quote on the subject of self-disappointment from a previous post if anyone missed it.

Bacalao Performance Company

The talented people at Bacalao have their own website up and running and you can find it here:
You may remember I shot the trailer for Sofia The Show for Bacalao, and not too long ago I was delighted to be invited to a special one-off performance of the show. Sofia The Show is an autobiographical performance by Sofia Marques that takes place in her own house as she celebrates her birthday, and looks back on the particular tragic connection she shares with the date, as well as events that shaped her childhood in Portugal and her adult life in London. It was certainly the most intimate show I'd ever seen, and very moving! The whole evening was wonderfully put together and rather than slip out after the show ended, as I expected I would, Dee and I stayed for drinks and to talk with the other audience members, as well as the talent themselves, Marianne and Sofia. I felt honoured to be able to sit in on such a wonderful show.

Several months ago I introduced Sofia and Marianne of Bacalao to a friend of mine, Andy, who runs his own website development company. Andy worked closely with Bacalao to build the website they needed and his dedication and talent are not to be overlooked. If you're ever in the market for a professional website, I highly recommend him. Here's his site:

Poetical Cabaret

One more very worthy plug! As well as being one half of Bacalao Performance Company, Sofia also co-runs the Poetical Cabaret, a multi-faceted performance night that runs a few times a month in London. It's free (although you can make a small donation to children's charities on the door) and the night features everything from poetry to comedy to burlesque to bands. It's a wonderful night out and I really recommend you go if you are ever in the neighbourhood! Regular nights are held at the excellent White Lion in Streatham and the Moustache Bar in Stoke Newington.

Well, that's me spent for today, check back on Thursday for the next installment. I hope you like the new look. Also, feel free to send any sympathy my way, I'm currently suffering under a heavy cloud of illness that has kept me out of human circulation for far too long. I will also accept cash, liquor, miniDV tapes or Xbox games.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cats, Lamps and Links

New Project

We have a deadline for our new project, the whole short should be ready to show by the end of February. We plan to do all the filming over a weekend during the Christmas break so that should be plenty of time to get all the post production done. I don't plan to talk about the details too much, as the video won't take long to put together and I'd like people to see it with fresh eyes and fresh minds, so I hope you don't mind if I talk around it enigmatically.

I can say that there is a starring role for a cat, so I spent today filming my cat, Sir Digby Chicken Caesar, as he walked around the house. All he wants to do is hide in dark corners and under tables though. He's not our star for the project, but he is the stand-in for "rehearsing". 

Rehearsing what I can make a cat do. 

Which is not a whole lot, it seems! 

"far out man."

Amazon UK Links

You might have noticed the Amazon box ---> over there. I've also been adding links to any books I review that will take you to the relevant Amazon page. If you buy something on Amazon after clicking through on my page, then Amazon pay me for the traffic. Hey, if it can help keep me stocked in MiniDV tapes, it's worth a shot! 

I have tagged any posts with book reviews with a "book review" label so you can see all my reviews/recommendations. Click here to see the posts.

If you're interested in any one of my projects more than others, each project also has a label, for easy reference.

Clamp Lamp

Remember my clamp lamp I bought in order to have a cheap n' cheerful spotlight in my toolbox? You might recall from this entry that the lamp cast a horrid light, owing to it's super reflective dome, as it is actually designed for reptile vivariums and not for lighting. Why did I choose it? Some American brands of these lamps are perfectly suited to film-making. But this UK one was just too shiny. I decided to paint the inside of the dome to make it matte, using a spray can of grey primer car paint we had in the shed (just the cheap generic car primer from Halfords).

Here's some before and after pics:

The metal dome, very reflective.
The light shining on a wall, horrible!
After a quick spray-paint
So much better!

It's not going to outshine any professional equipment, but it's a light I can use! It also comes with a clamp so you can fix it onto certain surfaces and edges, which saves someone from holding it.

Right, well I'm off, Dee's cooking pizza and I really should get over there and start chopping some peppers! Is anyone else watching Community? God damn, I'm loving that show. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Ira Glass - Why Your Own Work Disappoints You

Here is a quote from American public radio star Ira Glass, a man who has been in the business for decades, talking in an interview about creativity - specifically about storytelling through the medium of radio but equally applicable to story based film making, or just about any creative field.

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me... is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Man, that is a good piece of reading! I have felt this way about my own work for a long time but he puts it so magnificently. If you're disappointed in your creative work during your early stages, this is a good thing. This shows that you are holding yourself to a high standard. You will only get better with more experience.

In short, don't give up. Keep pushing, keep learning.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Surviving The Toilet Circuit - A Brief Retrospective

These are some pictures that my partner Dee took while we were filming our first full scene for now-defunct project Surviving The Toilet Circuit. 

It was a great experience. We were shooting in a stunning Whitehall block right on the riverside that we managed to get access to thanks to a friend. As you can see, when you're working without a crew, any moment that the cast aren't performing they will be holding lamps or microphones or operating the clapperboard. Dee found herself doing a lot of this too, when she wasn't taking pictures she was invaluable as my AD! I just want to add how wonderfully open, honest and helpful everyone was. I really enjoyed working with these guys.
Big thanks to the ever pleasant and ever hard-working Diana, Brian, Fiona, Vince T, Vince N, Pablo, Frazer Neil and Mark. An extra big thank you to Kitty for securing the flat for us to film in and for tarting up to play our working girl! You all gave so much time and energy to the project and I am so grateful for that.

The pictures are testament to how beautiful the flat and the building itself were. A really great location and opportunity. It doubled as label manager Clint Coxon's opulent pad for the purpose of the shoot.

If you're interested in what went wrong with the project, or why it ended up being unsustainable, I have written about it in a previous entry here.
Click for larger images.

Brian's scene - Clint: the decadent alcoholic label manager

Setting up the corridor entrance

Brian stepping in for soundman duties 

Fiona (playing the A&R agent Felicity) on soundman duties

Neil - playing guitarist Mitch - relaxing in between scenes

Frazer and a hard earned beer for his duties as co-writer and cast member

The writers behind Surviving The Toilet Circuit, Frazer and (the unphotographed) Mark have co-written another project, a short film which we will be shooting this Christmas. One location, one main actor, ten minute running length. That sounds a little more digestible!

Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for the new project (as yet untitled) and also for the recurrence of the STTC cast, as I will be calling them again for future projects (if they are up for it)!