Monday, 2 March 2015

January/ February

As ever, plans to keep this blog updated never seem to happen.

I was hoping to try and do a monthly update at the end of each month this year, but that obviously didn't happen at the end of January, so here I am at the start of March looking back on the first two months of the year.

The first two months of 2015 have been equally rewarding and frustrating - in January I shot a commission for Worthing artist Jessica Gill - I randomly met her before Christmas in the fabulous pop up bar "Bar Zaar" on Worthing seafront above Coast cafe and near to the East Beach Studios where Jess has her workshop and sells her creations.

She needed a video making for her crowdfunding campaign, which was to raise money to create an interactive art installation on Worthing seabed - in effect a circular table and bench which would be covered up by and revealed by the shifting tide. I loved the idea of something in the sea slowly revealing itself, the air of mystery it would give to anyone who wasn't aware what it was and why it was there....there are also some incredible bronze heads in Worthing town centre near the Laura Ashley shop, which I had heard were originally intended to be placed on the seabed and would have been revealed by the tide. As these bald heads are imposing and enigmatic it would have been incredible to see the tide slowly reveal the top of the head, then the brow, the eyes then the rest of the face...

So I offered to make this video for her at a reduced initial rate, as I wanted to do it to help get the ball rolling on doing promo/ corporate videos but especially for local businesses, artists etc. Luckily over Christmas thanks to my wife, family and friends putting some money in a pot (along with selling some vinyl on Discogs) I was able to buy a Canon 70D, a digital recorder, microphone and some other small bells and whistles with which to start this video.

After some discussions with other people, Jess decided that she wanted the video to be in the style of a news feature, like something you'd get on the local news - a bit of q and a, talking head, some manufacturing footage, shots of the seafront, maybe some artist impressions or CG mockups of what it would look like - which I was happy with, as it's a pretty formulaic template and so easy to follow - being my first production of this style and knowing I'd be the cameraman etc I wanted it to be as simple and clear as possible.

There was some back and forth over who was going to be asking her the questions and she wanted to shoot it at low tide, which meant we were restricted on when we could shoot. Eventually we shot on the Lido boardwalk above the beach, firstly shooting with David Sumner from the Worthing Society, who was to appear as a talking head offering the society's support, then we did Jess' answers, even though we had no official interviewer, so the plan was to shoot these at a later point.

Following this there was an hour spent at the manufacturing plant in Lymington, which felt quite fraught - I had no idea what to expect but there was some pouring of metal happening that I had to race to try and capture, which involved me fighting back and forth with aperture and ISO to get the footage, very run and gun and handheld...made me realise I needed a monopod for such circumstances! Nonetheless, I managed to get a good overview of aspects of the manufacturing process and towards the end I also got some footage of molten white hot metal being poured, which looked good, especially the fierce red glow when they first opened the small furnace. There was an interview with one of the heads of the company who Jess had been dealing with and then we were done.

Jess decided she wanted to reshoot her interview footage as she felt she'd missed some important details, so we attempted a rescheduled reshoot which again was difficult due to weather and tidal conditions. One particular day was scrapped but I still used the time to get some b-roll footage of the seafront with the tide out - even if it didn't all get used it felt like good footage to have, possibly for another short which I'd written over Christmas ("Early Birds") which I thought would have been my first test with the camera.

We then managed to do the interview on a very windy day, which had me concerned about the sound - it was also bitterly cold and uncomfortable by the end of the shoot, with my shaking fingers barely able to press the touch screen of the camera. Afterwards we scuttled off to the Lido cafe for a coffee before Alan Presencer, a local art expert, came to do a small talking head piece.

Plans for further talking heads of random members of the public were scrapped for the time being and I got to work editing it. The sound was an issue but with the help of Audacity I managed to remove some of the noise without it sounding too weird (noise removal software seems to create a strange autotune/ mechanical underwater effect if not fine tuned, which was beyond my ability but seemed to do the trick enough.)

I'd hoped to have used some of the 3D pdf which showed the cad drawings of the installation which were rotatable and zoomable - I'd hoped to use some of the seafront footage I'd got to show the installation from various viewpoints of the beach, but in the end I wasn't able to do that. I was able to crudely add the artist's impression of the table over a shot of the beach and I was pleased that the pier in the background of my shot pretty much lined up with the same angle of the pier in the artist's impression.

I used some royalty free music from which seemed to fit well. Jess had written "Decide Before The Tide' in the sand at the end of the last shoot - unplanned and I filmed this and it seemed to fit as the ending for the piece as a nice coda.

Jess was happy with the finished video and within a week it had received over 300 views on Youtube, so fingers crossed it helps her achieve her fundraising target. Myself and film making friend Mark Tew, who helped with the video, pitched to Jess a documentary covering the making of the installation should it go ahead, so if she gets the money that's another project for the future.

All in all, as my first commission as such (although I guess I did do a video for the RSPCA but that was over 8 years ago) I'm pleased with how it came out and Jess' positive response is a real confidence boost. The previous weekend I was back in the bar where I met Jess before Christmas, where Tom (another local artist and who runs the bar) gave his approval to the video, where he said there was a real art and eye to some of the footage, especially the manufacturing sequence, which again is a boost and suggests I have got the skills to do this! Phew!

Here's the finished video...

I was hoping to try and have such a project every month so by the end of the year I've built up a good showreel of a variety of work, but unsurprisingly February has come and gone swiftly with no such project. However, I have hopefully got a project lined up for March which is for a Brighton fast food company who want something bright, positive and very fast - their reference points are Man Vs Food and the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives so it should be a definite contrast to the Decide Before The Tide video. There are a few other leads I need to instigate, but off of the back of the February Worthing Creative Entertainment Movement meeting there's a chance I maybe involved in something for the council in the middle of the year, which would be a fantastic opportunity to cover for this aspect of my film making.

Back on the usual film shenanigans, things have been slower. The post production on Pick-Ups hit several bumps - I'd been very very keen to try and get the film finished for the end of January, then that became apparent there wasn't much chance of it happening. I signed off on the score, but sadly Mik, the sound designer and composer, told me he had an issue with the dialogue we'd recorded and that there was a strange knocking sound across the files, as well as an issue with the fish tank in the background of the sound. I'd also re-recorded the sound for one small but important line of dialogue for the film (in fact THE last line of the film) but he said my recording sounded weird...guess it was in a different flat, different microphone and I don't have the skills to match it up.

As a result of all of this Mik bowed out as the sound designer (an ever recurring problem for me - hmm, perhaps I should look into that) so I quickly did my best to try and find a replacement. After a few dead ends of some composers getting in touch despite me clearly stating that the score was spoken for I've hopefully got a replacement on board, ironically a sound designer who I asked to be involved with Goodnight, Halloween about 3 years ago, but as that's never come to be finished we never got to work together. Fingers crossed with her now on board the film can get moving and, who knows, could be finished for the end of the month...

Goodnight, Halloween is still....somewhere....luckily my make up/ SFX artist is now up and running again after a car accident though it's taken some time for us to get together to discuss the project, but having now had that meeting I'm hoping he will be able to get together the full pumpkin head latex mask and costume for a mid April date ready for filming in hopefully May.

Knock Knock...well, I knew that January into February was a bit of a no go as my lead actress has fantastically been in a West End play in London (bizarrely with Katie Price's ex-husband in an X-Factor piss take) and I'm hoping to be getting back on with it next week, though worryingly news of access from the location has been a bit difficult to confirm...and after a blip with communication at the end of last year I'm very worried I'm running out of favour with the flatmates, despite my best efforts to keep them happy.

Lastly, I've submitted a film for a small grant - it's only £500, but with it I can pay for some much needed props and costumes that without would mean I couldn't do the short film as intended. It's a short splatstick horror called Snore, one which I've had rolling around my head for a few years and which I'd hoped local writer/ actor friend Simon Messingham was going to have a go at, but due to his own massive commitments it never happened. Luckily I met a local horror author and fanatic Gaby Robinson-Wright at a Worthing creatives exhibition in September, so she has come on board to co-write this and hopefully another short. At the very last minute I managed to get the submission form, a 2nd draft of the script, some creature concept art courtesy of Gaby's husband and my good friend Richard May and my ever rudimentary storyboard as a PDF which covers up to the appearance of the creature. I was hoping to submit a small animatic of the same sequence, but as I couldn't find anyone at short notice to do the voices of the characters I instead tried using some free speech synthesizer software which, unsurprisingly, sounded flat and very odd...and in all honesty the lack of time crashed the animatic idea too, but I will look at completing the storyboard and animatic ready for if the funding does come through and if it doesn't, well, the film is prepped and ready to go, I'd just need to find the cash to cover the sorta unique approach I've got for the film.

So the next month is potentially busy with hopefully more filming on Knock Knock and maybe the fast food video shoot towards the end of the month...and as I write this I've been waiting on footage rendering from my shoot with a cult actor from last August, a project which ground to a halt around November time and which I haven't been allowed to speak about...I wasn't entirely sure if the project was dead in the water but after re-communicating with the actor I'm hopefully having this project boxed off and finished in the coming weeks. Somewhere amongst this I want to also start writing the other short for myself and Gaby to work on - another horror/ comedy-ish film set in a barbers which I think could have some League Of Gentlemen type peculiarity to it.