Due to re-arranged classes and prior travel commitments, it wasn’t possible to pitch to the class before I flew off for Xmas with the family.
To ensure potential Directors get a chance to find out more about my planned short film, I have put together a short piece to camera and a slide deck which hopefully outlines the idea and will be enough for potential Directors to come forward and put their hat in the ring.
So the first year of study has completed on the BTEC Higher National Diploma in Creative Moving Media Production I’m studying with the Raindance Film Trust.
At the end of my first year, I have mixed emotions. By all accounts, it looks as though I’ve completed the year with a Distinction, it has taken the tutors longer than anticipated to mark all the assignments, more than five of them had been completed before the first was returned – which made it difficult to know if all the right boxes were being ticked in respect to the format and layout, writing style and so on. With a few small adjustments and exceptions, it seems that the style was acceptable (thankfully!).
The first year of study has been a mixed bag. I’ve had to learn some humility and to learn that there is more than one way to do things. For the last 20 years I have pretty much been the one everyone came to for the answers and I had to know, or at least seem to know, the answers – often having to invent a solution as we went along putting out fires or coming up with a bit of code to overcome whatever the issues were. No matter what the problem, the buck stopped with me – and if the business was to continue and the customers were to be happy, I could not just say “I don’t know” or “ask someone else”.
Filmmaking is much more of a collaborative affair, there are many ways to deliver the finished project and there is rarely a “wrong” way, everything is much more subjective – so long as you get the take and you have a finished project at the end. There are often times when you think (or say) “we could have done that better” or “if only we had more time / xyz resources / etc” .. However, each experience is a chance to learn and to find a better way of doing the same thing next time (and/or not to repeat the same mistake twice!)
We are working out who has strengths and weaknesses in various areas, and unlike “the real world” where we cut the chaff from the wheat or focus on the strengths, being a learning environment we get to focus much more on the weaknesses too, making them stronger (hopefully).
From my perspective, I feel as though a certain part of the “magic” of film has died, I am now pretty much unable to look at a scene in a TV programme or film without thinking “what was the Director’s instruction to the cast” or “their motivation” … I look at a scene and think “why on earth did they light it like that” … or “I can see the camera reflected in that window ” .. or similar.
Sometimes I despair at what I’m watching, mainly because the film cost $5m to make, grossed $20m and is still a mediocre piece of work (in my humble opinion) .. that does, however, fire me up to think that I could certainly do better.
I confess I was disappointed that my first narrative short film didn’t make the selection grade for screening at RDFF26, however, I take responsibility for that; in not taking along anyone from the cast/crew/family/friends/etc (well apart from Miky) so there was little chance of winning the popular vote. That said, the competition was tough and the quality of the films that were made was incredibly high, and I did find myself voting for other student’s work as well as my own, and I’m sure other students and visitors ended up doing the same.
Only 12 of the 23 short films were selected in the end, I would have liked to think that my film was somewhere in the top 10 however this ended up not being the case. On the plus side, everyone in the room laughed at the right places and seemed to get the joke. There were other films that I thought were just as good (if not better) than mine which were also not selected. This however just fires me up to go out and produce a better film, and I have already started work on a horror genre script, as well as an idea for another comedy.
Juggling a full-time job as well as a full-time course has been taxing at times, however as they often say, if you want something doing quickly then give it to a busy person, and on the whole that has worked. I have been able to adequately segment my time between Fido and HND assignments and only had to request an extension on a couple of tasks due to conflicts with pesky things such as VAT returns and such like.
On the whole, I am looking forward to year 2. The first year covered the theory of film in much more detail than I would have been able to do on my own, giving pointers towards topics for additional research as well as helping me better understand concepts such as mise en scène, chiaroscuro and French new wave. Next year we have more of the same, plus documentary filmmaking and sound design. So lots to look forward to!
It took some tinkering, but after jumping through a number of hoops and making changes as requested by Amazon’s systems, Dating Dilemmas is now officially viewable online as part of your Amazon Prime subscription, and if you don’t have a subscription then you can buy / rent the film too!
I have mixed feelings about this, yes this is my first ever short film and I’m quite pleased that it has been so well accepted, but also this is my first short film and I know I can do better .. much better!
So, enjoy … hopefully it will make you laugh … but don’t take it too seriously .. and watch this space for the next short film .. which will hopefully be considerably better in both story and technique!
In class today we were each set a topic to research, and given 40 minutes to research. Fundamentally this wasn’t long enough to actually research the topic, however, it was an initial sprint to gain a basis for further research. The result was that we had sufficient time to scratch the surface, and this leads to several strands to follow towards the complete research process.
Topic: Celebrity and Stardom
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
– William Shakespeare (1601)
I started by referencing written works on the subject including Stardom and Celebrity (Redmond and Holmes, 2007), Framing and Celebrity (Holmes and Redmond, 2006) and used chapter headings and selected sections as source material for further investigation through Google and Wikipedia, as well as personal knowledge, which I researched and verified through the above sources.
Specifically, I searched for individuals to use as effective case studies in order to prove/disprove the theory being posited by those authors, and my own prior knowledge/beliefs.
During my research, I discovered that “IT” girls actually originated from the 1920’s and were first brought into the public consciousness in the film IT starring Clara Bow which debunked my original belief that Tara Palmer Tomkinson was one of the first IT girls!
Conclusions and Learning
This was a useful exercise to highlight the “sprint process” which is part of the SCRUM Framework technique when applied to research. Take a brief window of time and force yourself to work within the finite timeframe, and then reflect on it. There is a wealth of information out there, especially these days with the advent of search engines such as Google/Bing/YouTube/etc. Refining this information into usable streams efficiently can be a challenge, and as with all processes, practice makes perfect.
My usual process is to sprint for between 45 minutes and an hour, make notes and bullet points as conversational references and then assign a sprint to each set of notes to drill down and reference them further. I then take a break and allow my subconscious to absorb the data, and then return to the subject matter a little later to further research. I will often digest the information and then sleep on it to allow my mind to process and understand the information in more detail, sometimes finding a quiet room to simply sit in and think through how I would write up my notes. I feel this is a sensible way to undertake research, and would strongly recommend attacking future research projects in a similar way, assuming deadlines permit.
One thing I did find was the distractions and noise from the room next door (Rocky Horror “The Musical” auditions) were very distracting, and it made concentrating much more difficult. I do sometimes use noise-cancelling headphones to drown out noises, or sit outside (if the weather permits) to get away from noises and other distractions, however, this wasn’t possible in the classroom setting as there was the possibility of additional instruction/guidance being provided during the research window. I personally find that a quiet, distraction-free, environment is usually a must for effective research and writing.
Whilst I usually find a 60-90 minute “sprint” gives me ample time to research, highlight and categorise research, allowing for subtle distractions which always crop up, the 40 minute window we had, coupled with the external distractions and battle for reference materials (not to mention the lack of searchability with traditional printed books) means that the 40 minutes we had felt more like 10 minutes “real time”. Modern search methods including Google, Bing, Quora and similar coupled with iBooks/Kindle, PDF and other electronic documents which are searchable mean that usually, I can be considerably more productive in much less time finding reading topics.
Frankly, whilst a useful introduction to SCRUM, I felt the way it was introduced and the time allowed really didn’t give anyone a chance to experience the process. In industry, a typical sprint is usually 2-4 weeks, not 30-40 minutes.
My outcomes from the exercise were limited, I don’t feel I had sufficient time to identify any targets properly for further research and I felt unsettled by the end of the process; which I’m sure was not the object of the exercise. The exercise felt like a high energy competition, “running” to an undefined (not clearly defined) goal, seeing who could get the most useless data to present for a Q&A at the end rather than focus on quality and accuracy of the data presented at the end of the period.
Auslander, P. (2009). From acting to performance. Abingdon: Routledge, p.vii-x.
Holmes, S. and Redmond, S. (2012). Framing Celebrity. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, pp.355-369.
IMDb. (n.d.). It (1927). [online] Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018033/ [Accessed 23 May 2018].
Redmond, S. and Holmes, S. (2007). Stardom and Celebrity A Reader. London: SAGE Publications Inc, US, pp.v-viii,219-228,126–131.
Shakespeare, W. (n.d.). Twelfth night. 1st ed. London: John Bell, British Library, p.Act II, Scene v.
Nabokov once wrote that reality is one of the few words which means nothing without quotation marks. This probably applies well to film.
With my first short I had attempted to parody”reality”, or at least my perception of it, and highlight (all be it in a slightly exaggerated fashion) the fickle nature of some human beings and their choices.
The vegans who still eat fish, the vegetarians who still eat bacon, man’s quest for a woman who ticks all the boxes, and so on.
Through the process I have taken on board criticism of the script, criticism of my ideas and I have listened to other people’s opinion of what my film means to them.
Everything from “what genre were you going for, this isn’t really a comedy” to “this annoyed me because it was saying Vegans can’t get dates”.
It seems pretty much everyone missed the social commentary aspects, the subtle dig at “fashionable” veganism and the like … the statement that women can be as predatory as men when it comes to one night stands and simply using someone for sex/money/etc.
Perhaps I have been simply unfortunate in my dealings with people over the last 20 years, or maybe I’m simply more perceptive (cynical?) and see the negatives in people more easily / am not simply blinded by the first impressions and facades everyone puts on in their daily lives.
As for my short film, the general feedback has been that the tempo undulates and that for a short film it should just build and build until climax. I guess I had looked at this more of a mini feature and built in lulls and troughs as well as peaks, although on rewatching, I agree that there is a central section which is way too long and dull. With this in mind I am working on a new edit which is looking to be roughly 2 minutes shorter. This should make the whole film snappier and punchier.
The edit does away with some of the character design, it’s hard enough to introduce a subtle character type in 5 minutes, let alone 2-3 minutes …
This whole process accentuates the whole “death of the auteur” theory, which basically postulates that the work is what ever the viewer interprets and decides, and rarely ever that which the auteur intended.
Am I pandering to the lowest common denominator? Yes. Am I dumbing down so that more people “enjoy” the film? Yes.
I once said, I want to make films for me, not for anyone else. I’m making films to make statements, social, political, ecological … not to become rich, successful or “famous”. Am I selling out, and if so why so early on?! Well no, this is a further social experiment. Dumbed down, yes, but hopefully it still gets some of the message across, and in a way which reaches more people … maybe.
Besides which, this was always more of a technical exercise to show that “we” know how to make a film, can produce, direct, wrote, etc and to highlight our weaknesses where they exist.
I have enjoyed the process, and am not giva no up yet, however I may have to wait a little longer and probably learn a little more subtlety in my story telling before trying to make such a tongue in cheek attack on society again. 🙂
The first edit was scored as a “merit”. Apparently, I need to show more creativity to obtain a distinction. I’m not sure I can, although I am certainly going to try to do something through the edit process. The edit is after all the final place where you can mould and write the story, and as the “auteur” ensure the closest semblance of your “reality” is seen by the widest audience possible.