Transmission

Check out a 48 hour film that I did sound recording on.

Transmission

And check out the poster!

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This is our teams entry to U48 2016. Our genre is “Eeppisen elokuvasarjan ensimmäinen osa” which translates to “A first film of an epic film series.” Mandatory elements were a prop – “A miniature” and a character – “An idealist.”

The film was shot in Uxbridge, London, UK. Production was 8.00-18.30. Writing and planning took 9 hours (17.00-02.00.)

Cast in order of appearance

Scientist #1 (and her twin sister) :::Anna Britton
Scientist #2 ::: Christian Evans
Manager ::: Liis Mikk
Executive ::: Stine Olsen
Resistance leader ::: Manrina Rekhi

Director, Colourist, Graphics ::: Jani Sourander
Camera, Editor ::: Eero Vihavainen
Script Supervisor ::: Sanna Peltola
Writer ::: Zulf Choudhry
Co-writer ::: Heather Speake
Clapper Loader ::: Azad Sachedina
Focus Puller ::: Milena Rutkowska
Location Sound ::: Patricia Hetherington
Composer ::: Jonne Kytö
Music ::: Kalle Hahl

The vlogging journey

I’ve been all ‘heads-down, tails-up’ with my master’s studies, working 4 days a week, running the March 2016 AOTS project, running the business and doing general filmmaking stuff.  In the lead-up to the June 2016 AOTS project — two weeks away! — I’ve started vlogging.

Check out the first one below:

In one of my master’s modules (not this one, but the next one), I’m going to be developing my mentoring and training skills through vlogging. I’m starting now with promoting Action On The Side. Expect more to come.

And, click the Closed Captions button — isn’t that nifty?

Building your own website

Picture this. Someone posts on a film forum that they’re looking for a crew or cast member. They’re looking for x, and x is what you do. Your friend recommends you. It’s a professional gig — yay, you could get paid.

The first thing this potential client is going to do is check out your website. They’re going to google. They’re going to see if you have a twitter, a blog, a Vimeo or youtube channel, a facebook page. Basically they’ll check your online presence, to:

  1. see if you have one (an online presence that is);
  2. see examples of your work; and
  3. decide if they want to work with you.

(I suppose there is also 4: find your contact details.

Three of my friends have had this situation in the past two weeks. If you don’t have a website, then you could be missing out on work.

Filmmakers nowadays have to be their own brand. In every meeting, you could be meeting a potential collaborator or a potential client. You are effectively pitching and selling yourself as a commodity with every interaction. There is a lot of competition in this industry, and it is difficult to break through that noise.

Film is a relationship industry. When hiring cast or crew, producers make their decisions based on the following, in the following order:

  1. people they have worked with before (and like);
  2. people personally recommended to them (by collaborators they trust);
  3. people who look professional.

This latter point can be covered by people who have a good amount of credits, credits from reputable professional projects, and people who have a personal brand.

This could be through having a social media presence (twitter, instagram), by having a reputable blog, by having an up-to-date profile on industry pages (shooting people, filmandtvcrewpro), or, most importantly, having a professional looking website.

You need to develop a personal brand identity. I’m not going to go into that now. If you’re interested in finding out more about personal brands, check out this post from Raindance.

But what I am going to cover is the basics of setting up a website, and some of the pros and cons of different social media.

Continue reading Building your own website

London Film Communities

My most recent project for my Raindance MA was a Research Methods Report. For this, I researched the Film Communities currently available to London-based filmmakers.  This was aimed to help me place Action On The Side within the market, and to determine its USP (Unique Selling Point, or Value Proposition). My overall MA goal is to develop AOTS into a sustainable short film business model.

After doing all the research, I had a large appendix with details on film organisations. And why not share that information?

Here is a list of the London Film Communities…

Of course, since writing the report, new communities have cropped up, or I found ones I should have included. Please add a comment if you see any errors or omissions and I will amend them accordingly.


 

Continue reading London Film Communities

Copper at Seattle Deaf Film Festival

We are proud to announce that Copper has been selected for the Seattle Deaf Film Festival 2016.

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The 3rd Seattle Deaf Film Festival will run April 1-3 2016 at the Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave, Seattle, WA, 98122, USA. Make sure you get along. Like their facebook page here.

What is Action On The Side?

At the London Screenwriters Festival this past weekend, I met six brand new people who, when I said I run Action On The Side, knew what it was.

So, let me answer: What is Action On The Side?

In July 2013, James Doherty, a motion designer who wanted to direct, set up a project for filmmakers. Get together and make a short film in a month. This was Action On The Side.

AOTS_Avatar_Sub_Larger

The concept is simple. Get together and make a short film in a month of weekends.

  • Weekend 1 is preproduction
  • Weekend 2 is production
  • Weekend 3 is postproduction
  • Weekend 4 is the screening

It is designed for people who make films in their weekends and evenings. Those of us with day jobs or who study.

It also recognises that we need deadlines to finish projects; otherwise they will just drag on and on.

I took part in the first event. A group of 25-30 of us in the Medicinema in Westminster broke into two groups and produced two films. James produced one, I produced the other.

I got to talking with James about promoting Action On The Side (AOTS), and was invited to co-organise the project. James and I co-ran the projects until he stepped out to direct ‘Breathe‘.

AOTS has run seven projects, has entered one competition, and has produced 11 short films. Our 8th project is November 2015 — and it’s starting in 8 days!

Since I’ve been running AOTS, we’ve been developing our community.

Social Media

Our facebook page has 330+ followers, and our twitter has 480+ followers.
Every day we share links to articles, tips, tricks, and inspiration to our social media followers.
9am every Monday we share a scriptwriting challenge: write a 3-6 page short film in x genre. Include a x prop. The challenges are designed to inspire scriptwriters to write a short within a week. If they take up the challenge, they develop their writing skills (just by the act of doing), and develop scripts that they can bring to our script development meetings.

Script Development

We trialled script development meetings last year, and started running regular meetings earlier this year. The script development group has been named ‘Screenwriters On The Side‘, and now meets fortnightly. Any one can join us, and can bring their scripts or ideas for feedback.

Our February short, ‘Arms Trade‘, was developed by three regulars (James, Chris, and Josh) at our script development meetings. Our July short, ‘Drunk Dialling‘, was an idea that Rosie brought along to our first regular script development meeting. The subsequent meeting she had a first draft. The next meeting she had her second draft. And so it continued until the July project where the film was pitched, selected, and made.

So why the blog post?

I recently started my Masters degree with Raindance. The MA is negotiated learning: meaning we negotiate what our focus is going to be. My masters is designed around Action On The Side. Specifically, my learning goal is to develop AOTS into a sustainable film business model.

“How can I develop Action On The Side into a sustainable film business model?”

I’m currently working on a Learning Plan, whereby I outline the steps I’ll be taking to achieve my learning goal.

Part of this process is working out what I want to do with Action On The Side. What does it mean to me? Why do I want to develop it?

So what does AOTS mean to me?

Action On The Side is a collaborative filmmaking model. You get to make a short film with a new network of people. You see who you like working with and you work with them again. There are people I met through the project who are great friends now. There are people I will work with and recommend for jobs (and I have).

You get to try new ideas out. A lot of the ideas that get pitched are ideas that people have had percolating in their minds for a while, but have never had the chance to get out and make.

And you actually get to finish a film. You get a product out there with your name on it. Something you can show people and say “see what I can do!”

When I look at the people who take part in AOTS, they fall into three categories.

  • Filmmakers who are new to London, looking to develop their network.
  • Filmmakers who know one aspect of film but want to learn another (quite a few who want to direct, but want to learn other roles first).
  • People who are new to filmmaking but want to get into it.

That’s 2/3rds of the members using AOTS as an educational model.

Now, what do I get out of it?

I’m a Producer. I love producing films. I love getting people together and sharing a love of film. I get to produce content. I think every film is a learning opportunity – so I learn from the films we make as well. I get to learn from the people who join our group, who have different (film) backgrounds. I get to learn from others who are passionate about film.

I get to experiment, try new things out.

But also, I’m like the educational aspect. I taught film for two years, and I love sharing my passion for film. I’ve trained in many different film departments, so I get to teach people what I know. Don’t know how to use the sound kit? let me show you. Want to know how to schedule a film shoot? let me show you. Don’t know how to pitch? let me help you. And, as a producer (and writer), I get to help develop writers and their scripts. There are writers returning to the script development meetings with better and better scripts, all getting closer to being ready to be shot. I helped with that.

But what do I want out of it?

I think the AOTS model is a great opportunity for filmmakers. I want it to grow.

I want to grow AOTS in London. I want more teams taking part. I want more filmmakers taking part. I want multiple films being made during the projects so when we have the screening at the end of the month, there are more films being screened.

I want to take AOTS outside of London. I want to run AOTS in other UK cities. Hell, in other countries. Let’s get a few AOTS’ running a month. And then, when we have multiple films being made in a month, we can have screenings showing all the films that were made that month during the project. Imagine the London shorts, the Manchester shorts, the Berlin shorts all being screened on the same day!

I want it to be a training ground for filmmakers. I want the returning filmmakers to be making better films that we submit into film festivals and win competitions. I want new filmmakers to come in, learn, and develop their filmmaking talents so they grow with the organisation.

I want people to come regularly to the script development meetings and develop their writing skills so they are producing great work.

I want to run film screenings and q&as and workshops so people can learn their craft. I want to run a vlog on filmmaking, producing content regularly, which Actioners can help to produce.

I want to run our own film competitions. A 48-hour film competition. A one-minute movie competition. Cinema SoundEX.

I want to run funding for short films.

I want people to come up to me in a few years’ time and tell me they took part in AOTS in x city, and developed their craft, and now have an awesome network of filmmakers they work with all the time, and now they’re working commercially, and winning awards with their films.

So how is does the MA help me?

Over the next two years of my MA (which I’m doing part-time whilst running my business and running AOTS), I’ll be developing AOTS into a sustainable business model.

The skills that I’ll be developing are two-fold:

  • I’ll be developing my entrepreneurial and business skills
  • I’ll be developing my teaching and mentoring skills

These skills are closely related to my role as a producer and educator.

Now I don’t know exactly what will come with this business plan. I’m still working that out. But I think these skills are being developed so I can be the Executive Producer to other Producers running the project.

So here’s what I’ll be doing over the two years

  • I’m going to doing market research into other film communities within London. What are the opportunities available to London filmmakers? And from this research, defining Action On The Side’s unique selling point (USP).
  • I’m going to be running a vlog on filmmaking. I’ll be interviewing people making films, running film communities, showing what goes on behind the scenes and what every ones role is on set. I’m hoping regular content creation will be developing our audience and brand awareness, not just for AOTS but for me as a producer and educator as well.
  • I’ll be developing resources for the project, and trialling them with the projects (we’re running AOTS in London every 4 months). This will include meeting with a Media & Entertainment Lawyer and developing the project’s IP.
  • I’ll be developing a handbook, outlining how to run an AOTS project, so someone else can produce a project. This will include defining the AOTS brand and outlining its management.
  • And then, with all of these resources and research and development, my masters project will culminate in a Beta test — running AOTS in a new market, outside of London. And making sure that the development that I have done until that point results in a sustainable project (e.g. a project that gets good feedback, and that breaks even or makes a profit that we can invest in the next project).

It’s a lot to do.

So what do I need?

If you’re in London, join us for this November’s project.

Sign up here.

If you’re not in London, but have friends who will want to take part, direct them to sign up. Or at least join our mailing list.

If you don’t live in London, but like the idea of Action On The Side and think there’s a community of filmmakers near you that will want to take part, send me a message. I can bring the project to you.

Now this November is the first time we’ve asked Actioners for a fee up front to take part in the project. Previously we’ve advertised the event as free, but then, once we had selected the film and knew the budget, would ask for £30 or so to go towards catering and equipment and transport. Sometimes people would pay; often times they wouldn’t. This was fine – the Executive Producers (me and James) would pay a bit more because, hey, we were making movies.

Since quitting my job in July and going freelance, that’s impossible.

Our costs have gone up, so now the fee is up front. It’s £40 to take part in the project this November.

My MA is focused on how to make this great filmmaking project sustainable, so it can keep growing and developing and supporting filmmakers.

If you like what you’ve read, and you want to support Action On The Side and this filmmaking journey that I’m going on, then sign up to the next project and let your friends know too.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

An influential director

This blog has been written as part of my MA degree for Raindance

PARK Chan-Wook

Master of Mise-en-scène

BACKGROUND ONE

In 2005, as part of my undergraduate Film degree, I had one course remaining. The only option was a course in Contemporary South Korean Cinema. It turned out to be one of the best courses I had ever taken.

During the course, we were introduced to a wealth of cinema. Starting with IM Kwon-Taek’s ‘Sopyeonje’ (2000), the course introduced us to the work of directors LEE Chang-Dong (Peppermint Candy, (2000)), KIM Ki-Duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring (2003)), BONG Joo-Ho (The Host, (2006)), KIM Ji-Woon, (A Tale Of Two Sisters, (2003)), and the work of one of my favourite director’s of all time, PARK Chan-Wook.

JSA Accessed from http://koreangrindhouse.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/jsa-joint-security-area-blood-on-border.html

The first film of his to which I was introduced was ‘J.S.A. Joint Security Area’ (2000), a thriller based in the DMZ. We ended the course with a screening of ‘Oldboy’ (2003), one week before the film was due to screen for the first time in New Zealand at the International Film Festival.

I had such a phenomenological response to the film that for one whole month after seeing it, I would flash back to its penultimate scene, (involving scissors and a body part), as though a nightmare was haunting me. I have not, to this day, been as affected by a film as I was with that.

Until I saw Cut, his section of The Three Extremes (2004), an anthology horror film with shorts from Takeshi Miike and Fruit Chan.

Three Extremes “Cut” Accessed from http://www.modernkoreancinema.com/2013/07/revenge-week-filmic-self-reflexivity.html

What attracted me to the work of Park Chan-Wook was not just the violence in his films – those who know me can attest to my love of all things violent in films. I think there should be more violence in films. I love it. MOAR! – but his mastery of mise-en-scène.

Lee Yeong-ae and Choi Min-sik in Lady Vengeance Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/entertainment/park-chanwook-on-stoker-femininity-and-his-vengeance-trilogy-2013081311#ixzz3oTal9PmQ

BACKGROUND TWO

During the production course as part of my Honours degree, 2010, our teacher, Alex Funke, gave the class an exercise that Sergei Eisenstein gave to his students in 1933.

“He required his pupils at the USSR Film School to stage the scene from Crime and Punishment in which Raskolnikov murders the old pawnbroker. He added a crucial proviso: it had to be filmed in one shot and from a fixed camera position.”

– Bordwell, 2005, pp. 17-18

It was a challenge. The actors entered had an interaction at a door, moved into the room, came towards the only window, one bent down to pick something up, another murdered them from behind, and we saw the lifeless body on the ground. All of this had to be seen from one angle.

After trying so many different angles and lens lengths, we were finally shown the way the scene was shot.  The exercise was to find the one angle to shoot and block the actors so that all the action could be seen. What we learnt was to focus on the actors, direct their movements to help tell the story. We also learnt, again, that our default reaction as young filmmakers is to come up with a long list of shots, rather than telling the story in an efficient and concise way.

David Bordwell. “Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging”. 2005. University of California Press. p. 18

This exercise was borne from Eisenstein’s research into mise-en-scène and mise-en-cadre (otherwise known as mise-en-shot).

Ever since being introduced to Eisenstein’s exercise, I have wanted to analyse Park’s films through the lens of Eisenstein’s research into mise-en-scène.

MISE-EN-SCENE

Mise-en-scène translates to “putting on stage”, and has been used within film to denote the placement of key elements within a scene. It includes blocking, camera angles, camera movement, lighting, art design, props, costume. The stage is the screen in cinema. Mise-en-shot, by comparison, is the shot composition; what is placed specifically within the frame of a shot.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Accessed from http://www.gmanreviews.com/what-ive-been-watching-mar-3-mar-9/

In ‘Sympathy For Mr Vengeance’ (2002), the first film of his Vengeance Trilogy, I noticed that he was using shot setups and character blocking in a way that enhanced his telling of the story, and in a way that I had not seen before. In one scene, deaf-mute Ryu tries to get Yu-Sun, the young girl he and his sister have kidnapped, into crying so he can take a photo to send to her father for ransom. This was done in one shot (31’26 to 33’36), with Yu-Sun running off-camera, Ryu chasing her but remaining within the frame, taking a photo of her off-camera, and she runs back into frame.

The director’s choice of how to tell the story includes setting up the frame and directing the actors Every one of Park’s films includes stunning setups and shot compositions that aid in telling the story. His framing and blocking actors are quite simply beautiful and show a mastery of filmic vocabulary.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Accessed from http://hellonfriscobay.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/adam-hartzells-two-eyes.html

BACKGROUND THREE

In one of the classes for my undergraduate film degree, in 2003 or so, we were given a shooting exercise. Take the below script excerpt – a piece between two characters – and, in groups, shoot it with a maximum of four static set-ups. The excerpt was from ‘Lone Star’ (dir. John Sayles, 1996, see Appendix One below).

All of the groups struggled with keeping to four set-ups. We all had wide shots, close-ups, a mixture of 2 shots. Then we were shown the scene as it was shot in the film.

It was one shot. One static shot.

The purpose of the exercise was to show us that new filmmakers always use too many shots, more than are needed. Simplicity is important; choosing the best shot, rather than too much coverage. Let the actors dictate the performance rather than your camera shots.

Oldboy. Accessed from http://www.hollywoodchicago.com/news/11001/blu-ray-review-park-chan-wook-s-vengeance-trilogy-earns-amazing-release

There is a famous scene in ‘Oldboy’, clip below. In it, our protagonist, Dae-Su attempts to escape and has to fight through a corridor of henchmen, armed only with a hammer.

Many directors, when faced with an action scene like this, would have come up with a long list of shots. An action scene always takes a long time to film, as there are so many different movements and angles to capture. Park did shoot different angles, but in the edit, decided to go with this – which is much more exciting and effective.

Park likes film “where stories mostly take place in a confined space, turning it into a small universe unto itself.” (RedCarpetNews Extra), and, in the same interview, films that have little dialogue. This affords him the ability to tell the story visually, with mise-en-scène, rather than with words.

Oldboy. Accessed from https://whatspikelikes.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/spikes-top-20-films-of-the-00s-20-oldboy/

When I run the Action On The Side projects, one of the exercises that I give directors is to write out the shot list and draw storyboards. Inevitably, as with any project, the director wants more shots than they need. I tell them to cut the shot list by half. It is better to combine shots now than on set. My rationale comes from my classes on mise-en-scène and from the work of Park Chan-Wook. He has inspired me to develop my visual vocabulary and have amazing mise-en-scène in my own projects. I now challenge every director to really think about their shots and how to use the information held within to tell the story.

And if you want your own inspiration, turn to the work of Park Chan-Wook.

Continue reading An influential director

Pitching a Produceable Film

Last night I attended a Film Matters talk run by The Pitch. It was presented by Jackie Sheppard, a feature film producer with Footprint Films. The topic was Pitching a Produceable Film.

The Pitch runs the Film Matters series regularly and promotes their events on Eventbrite.

Jackie is a wealth of knowledge, both as someone who has pitched in the UK and Hollywood, and as a Producer who is pitched to. I would love to share all of her tips, but will limit myself to a couple of snippets. Believe me, I have many pages of notes from this. I also found it relevant as someone who is getting into more and more pitches, and who hears a few pitches.

If you’re going to be pitching your film for the November 2015 Action On The Side project, keep these points in mind.

When you’re pitching, the buyer will ask themselves three questions:

  • does it get them excited?
  • does it suit their business needs?
  • how much money are they willing to invest?

The investor wants to know the answers to the following questions. You have to answer these in your pitch.

  • What’s in it for them?
  • What’s so special about your idea?
  • What makes you the right person to make this film?
  • Who’s on the team?
  • How much is your film worth?

After your pitch, you want the investor to think two things:

  • This is a movie I want to see.
  • This will make me money.

Questions investors will ask:

  • What other films is it like? (we discussed comps in our most recent script development group).
  • Why now?
  • Why is it relevant? Why will it be relevant in the 2-3 years it will take to make the (feature) film?
  • Why is it a feature and not tv?
  • What’s the budget?
  • What certificate will it be?
  • Who’s going to be in it?
  • What’s your finance plan?

I also learnt a new term last night: the rip-o-matic.

So, when you’re planning your next pitch, think of the above points.

Questions in your audience’s mind

As I am a glutton for punishment, and as I am focusing on continuing my education and mastery of all things film, I have recently signed up and started an online course. The course is run through FutureLearn, and they have a series of free online courses across a range of topics. I have signed up to two courses –

Digital Storytelling, by the University of Birmingham, is run in association with Creative Skillset and the BBC Academy. It started on 28 September, and runs for four weeks.

Digital Marketing, by the University of Southhampton, starts on October 19.

I’m hoping that what I learn in these two courses will help me with my Masters focus, with my freelance producing work, and my work with Action On The Side. I’m looking at online education and pedagogy as part of my upcoming vlogs on filmmaking.

As part of the Digital Storytelling course, one section is on answering the audience’s questions. This comes from a video by Peter Ash, a consultant with the BBC. He says there are four questions the audience asks that you need to know.

Scriptwriters, this is your exercise.

What is the story?

Its type or genre; issue; content. Can you focus your story into one sentence? This is the Topline (in film terms, this is the one sentence logline).

Whose story is it?

Who is the protagonist? If it is unclear whose story we’re seeing, rewrite.

The audience relates to the protagonist, so this builds anticipation and suspense, as the audience asks ‘how will it all turn out?’.

What is the big story question?

This relates to the universal themes of the story. What is it actually about?

How will this story relate to me and my life?

The audience needs to be able to relate and connect to the story. They will put themselves in the situation, imagine themselves in the world, responding to the same issues. This will build a stronger connection to the story.

With these four points in mind, I’d like to invite the people who attend our Scriptwriters On The Side sessions to consider these four questions in particular with their scripts. I know it’s something I’m going to be working on.

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