HND – Script Development Process – Dec 2017

The recent development review process has been an interesting experience, opening up your early drafts to review is I guess always going to be a painful and enlightening experience.

The feedback has been both harsh and constructive, as I somehow anticipated.

What people didn’t seem to pick up on was that this is a drama masked as a morality tail using reverse psychology to bring attention to mental illness and the plight of the homeless in London.  It is intended to shock on some levels, and fundamentally to make the viewer think and to feel something (anything) about the subject at hand.

The script is actually a condensed extract from a crime drama series I have been working on over the last few months, and this I think was picked up by at least one of the reviewers.  This being one episode, or possibly a doubleheader pilot introducing our hero detective.  

My original idea for this story was borne from early mornings sat outside Raindance’s London offices in the late summer, waiting for the doors to be unlocked.  Witnessing the homeless going through their motions in the morning, and I did indeed witness (sadly, on more than one occasion) members of the community dropping their trousers and defecating/urinating in the middle of the pedestrian area outside Boots and Next.  What was worse, one morning someone had diarrhoea and that left a lake that ran down the street, around the corner and into the space where another person was still sleeping.  Not pleasant, but part of a morning routine which seemed to repeat on a regular basis.  My describing this event seems to have made at least one reviewer extremely uncomfortable; however it was not made up, it was based on real events.

My intention with this story was actually to highlight the plight of the homeless and to make the audience think.  My main characters are intentionally 2 dimensional as they are not the real focus of the story, but they are written sufficiently that anyone in the audience could identify with them and perhaps consider themselves in that position.  Wealthy, in love, and spending a nice weekend in London.

I tried a simple “save the cat” of getting Roger to give £20 to a homeless person by way of showing “he’s not all that bad” and perhaps getting people to think “he’s better than me; I wouldn’t drop £20 just like that” – but also to highlight how for these 2 dimensional people, money isn’t really something they think or care about.  This seems to have been missed by everyone who read the script.

The inciting incident then leads to the character experiencing a mental breakdown/depression – again something which we simply do not talk about enough.  Grief can have an adverse effect on anyone, it can unhinge the most stable of people.

We end up seeing Roger now destitute and feeling as though he has nothing to live for.  He has left the trappings of his wealth behind and is now sitting on the side of the road, at the place where his love was killed, and he is no longer in control of his destiny.  Struggling to come to terms with what has happened, we see the onset of mental illness and grief at the loss of a loved one.  Having experienced depression and grief at a betrayal/loss myself, I know what it feels like to wake up one morning and suddenly find your own world turned upside down.  Having experienced suicidal thoughts, guilt at surviving and the feeling of trying to find someone/anyone to blame you do some totally irrational things.  Thankfully I had good friends and family who are helping me overcome my grief and try to start living my life again.

The shorts migration into a slasher movie wasn’t my main intention, I actually wanted to leave the audience to decide what they would do next/simply fade to black.  After an earlier review of log lines with Zulf I ended up putting the “slasher” element (from the detective drama) back in, but I’m not happy with it as it stands myself in the short.  For the crime drama, this is the inciting incident which leads to a “Jack the Ripper” style murder spree across London, where someone targets the homeless – London’s most vulnerable inhabitants – and we follow the Police as they initially ignore the problem and then eventually step up and start to investigate the issues, again highlighting how the homeless are treated as second-class citizens.  In the pilot episode, it comes towards the end as we are finally introduced to the murderer and we learn why he has been killing, his misguided search for revenge.  In the short, I don’t think it is necessary and I don’t think it works.

The references to litter and likening tramps to litter is intentionally “provoking” and meant to shock the audience, to make them think, to make them go out and notice the homeless and hopefully do something to help them.  For far too long, the homeless have been ignored and are treated as a scourge.  Our Government doesn’t do enough to help them, and I think people, on the whole, ignore the homeless and walk past them daily on the streets without giving a second thought.  The intention was to make the viewer think about this (in)action and, perhaps, stop and help the next homeless person they see, maybe with a donation, a hot cup of coffee, or even a letter to the local MP demanding the Government step up and do more (and more than just making it illegal to beg on the streets).

From the very outset I have said that I do not think this story can be made into a 5 minute short, but I have been encouraged to work on it – whether this is as an exercise to experience failure, or whether an exercise to try to bring the best out and find a way to make it happen I’m not sure.

There was mention of high concept budgets in the feedback and comments that this would cost at least £30,000 to film, needing lots of extras.  I, on the other hand, thought that this short could actually be filmed for £500-£1000 (and probably a lot less if we switch from The Savoy as that is likely to be the largest expense).  This, of course, relies on the “student” film approach of £0 cost in salaries, a small budget for craft services and a lot of guerilla filmmaking.

Where do I go now?  I don’t think this will work for a 5 minute short.  Not with the resources, time and budgets we actually have available – which includes the weather and the fact that I had relied on capturing the real homeless of London in the film.  If it could be sold to Shelter as part of an awareness campaign then perhaps we could get some funding, but I don’t think they will be happy with the negative imagery of the homeless, even though it is intended to shock viewers into action.

I have an alternative “comedy” script, although I can guarantee that this will inflame and infuriate feminists and vegans alike.  I think no matter what I do on this project, I’m going to offend someone .. but then at the same point, are we not mean to make people think and to garner a reaction?  If everything we did was “warm and fluffy and sweet” then we would all be Disney and there would be no shade, just light – which would be pretty damn boring don’t you think?


HND – Week 6 – Genre Studies and Themes

This week was more on Genre studies and introduced themes into the equation as well as discussing cliches, the general “rules” around comedy, thriller, horror, etc.

We also worked on movie posters, designing posters for our upcoming short movie and other projects.

The practical exercise on Thursday seemed to be a bit chaotic and unplanned –  Made worse by only half the class having actually turned up 🙁

We were told to think of sci-fi story ideas over lunch, come back and pitch them and the winning one would then be chosen (which then meant we had 5-10 minutes to come up with a script), and the crew were chosen by Zulf using the age-old “spin the bottle” trick. (Talk about cliche’s 🙂 )

The brief was to use “unique” applications of light and colour and to make full use of the gels and lighting kit.

Arabella was selected as Director, Asaturs got Cinematography, Josh on camera, and as the writer, I was told to sit back and let the Director get on with things (this was difficult!) without interfering but to answer questions on my “vision” if asked. 

I quickly defined how I thought the “transport” sequence should work, which everyone bought into, and then I sat back (in my “trailer”) and observed – until asked to help with one of the sub roles (be it sound, lights, etc) – and of course started to get into character.  It was my intention to channel Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) from Back To The Future.  You can judge how well that worked (or didn’t) when you watch the clip!

As we were a total of 5 for the afternoon and we needed 2 in front of the camera, one operating the camera, and one directing we found that we had to double up on most roles.  Due to technical difficulties with the sound equipment (and the distinct lack of a boom operator), Arabella made the decision to shoot just using the on-camera microphones.

The whole shoot was pretty shambolic to start with, although after a patchy start Arabella quickly gained confidence and started to take charge.  The shoot would have gone better had the Director spent 10 minutes planning, drawing up a scene and shot list to communicate to the crew, however after some confusion things started to happen and we managed to shoot the (roughly) nine scenes within the allotted 2-hour window (just).

I have edited a rough cut together.  This is definitely not our best work, but it stands as a record of what happened in the afternoon. 

Transporter Accident (Short)


Bloopers and Outtakes

HND – Week 5 – Genre and Horror

This week we started work on Genres, discussing the various types of genre and where they fit into the film world.

We covered the basic format of a screenplay and some of the conventions, however I felt the lesson wasn’t overly informative or clear and think we need to spend more time on this important subject.

We worked on our script ideas and filmed our own little horror story where we ended up decapitating a stuffed toy (“Mr Fluffikins”) on a project called “Under Duress” by Josh Farrell.

The filming exercise went well and with Orlando in the Director’s Chair, myself as 1st AD, Chessie as Sound, Santi as Clapper Loader, ?? on Camera and Josh and Arabella in front of the camera, we worked efficiently to shoot the various scenes.

The evening was more time spent on script analysis led by Elliot Grove as part of a five week foundation course on script writing.  The foundation seems to be mainly analysis of other scripts, how they are translated into film and then a bunch of tools for story generation, as well as Elliot’s rules for story types.

Stories are based in one of four arenas, Wilderness, Village, City and Oppressed City.


HND – Week 4 – Story Telling and Colour

This week we learned more about storytelling, pace and tempo. We reviewed the use of colour in films (both in camera and in post) as well as the differences between subtractive (CMYK) and additive (RGB) colour references.

We discussed Plutchick’s Wheel of Emotion and how different Directors/DoPs use colour to enhance their story

Over at we referenced two films (Gridlock and The New Tenants) which both tell stories in different ways.ën.html

This is a rehash of an old joke but the pace and delivery are well done, leading to the punch line which is left for the audience to fill in the blanks. A great use of suspense, anticipation and drama. (The version I had heard years ago asked the child to go get Daddy’s gun and shoot “Uncle Bob”, mommy then runs out onto the balcony and falls into the swimming pool .. but I guess this is less “traumatic” as it isn’t enticing a minor to commit murder) 🙂

This opens with a lot of dialogue. A large amount of exposition .. something which many people may not sit through considering today’s Facebook generation where attention spans are down to just a few minutes at a time.

We spent a great deal of Wednesday planning/mind mapping ideas, themes and resources. Again aimed to a) get us using a new piece of software and b) to start to get ideas down on “paper” – a resource we can refer back to when trying to come up with ideas for stories.

It worked quite well as given the theme of “knife, abduction, 2 characters” I spent the train ride in Thursday morning drafting an outline for a new horror/drama. The story is quite dark and has me wondering about my psyche .. but I guess it is good that I’m able to write this stuff down and that I find it disturbing rather than “normal” 🙂

Thursday afternoon we had to come up with a short story idea which we were then going to film using one of two shoulder rigs. We were again split into a team of 4 and very quickly found our niches with Arabella choosing to “run and gun” on the camera, Josh came up with the story which featured Martin and himself, this left me to do what I enjoy the most and “Direct” (and also DoP – yes!!).


We discussed the premise and did a quick walk through to rehearse and design the story and shots as we walked. During the rehearsal phase, one of the Raindance interns (Dora) came to watch and we quickly roped her in as an additional character in the film (which she was very keen to do!)

We were going to have Josh following Martin and then as Martin followed Josh into a room Martin turns and attacks Josh. We would then cut to Josh being tied up in a chair .. we didn’t have much more of an ending planned at this stage, but again it was more about familiarity with the equipment than the story.

One of Zulf’s instructions was to consider the use of colour, and we came up with the idea of using the character’s clothing to denote their intentions (as Edgar Wright does in Baby Driver), we also quickly decided that we would play the “racial stereotype” card and had Martin and Josh switch roles. Josh wearing a white hoodie with a dark red t-shirt and Martin wearing a dark hoodie with a lighter colour t-shirt underneath worked out nicely, as did Dora’s black coat. Martin’s t-shirt was a lighter blue and we used this to highlight the change in his perceived character from the “villain” to the victim.

We had originally intended to use the rope to tie Martin up, however, Ana’s group were quick to commandeer that particular prop, so we opted for the packing tape option instead.

Dora got into her role really easily (perhaps too easily!) and Martin being the soldier that he is told her to not to hold back (we were talking about staging the slaps and using sound effects in POST .. as it was, we didn’t need to!)

Through the 1 minute short, you will see initially a dark shadowy figure following the young (innocent) student down the stairs at college. Furtively he follows our “hero” around the corridors and into a classroom. We know he is up to no good just by looking at him! Suddenly we see a fire extinguisher rushing towards our head and our “hero” in the background but then we’re unconscious!

Cut to the “villain” being tied up and beaten by this woman whilst our “hero” stands at the side watching and laughing. The villain is now our hero and the hero has become the villain. I also wanted to try and play with the shadows being cast by Dora and Martin to try and show a “duality” although I’m not sure how well it worked in the final product.

We end with a pantomime villain laugh and the strange and eery sight of “big brother” watching through the doorway in the distance. (I felt this was a nice twist, and I’d originally tried to get Zulf to stand in the doorway in shadow but he wasn’t playing the game, so we used the Raindance poster with the camera/lens to symbolise “Big Brother” watching on)

A fun exercise … made, even more, fun by the challenge of trying to edit and put the first assembly together for a screening before the end of the class at 5:30 … I made it just and that first cut can be seen below.

Subsequently, I’m working on colour correction and colour grading and the finished version will be embedded towards the top of this post when it has been completed. The idea is warmer glow when the students are in their safe college environment and a colder harsher “reality” when we “wake up” and see Martin bound and being beaten by our “new” villains”.

First Assembly –
Final “Director’s Cut” after colour correction –


What could I have done better personally? I had some issues explaining my “vision” to Arabella and ended up getting a little more involved in camera op than I should have done (I guess I doubled as 1st AC) .. otherwise I think we worked well together and I’m quite happy with the result considering we only had an hour to plan, rehearse and shoot the scenes. We have a few nice camera angles and pickups, and the finished edit does a nice job of telling the story – at least how I envisioned it as the Director 🙂

HND – Day 6 – Three Point Lighting

Thursdays lesson with Zulf is scheduled to cover three point lighting.  Sadly I am going to miss this lesson due to my being in Mexico.

My understanding of the lesson plan is that Zulf will spend the morning going through the history of 3 point lighting, how it originated in the theatre and how it has developed over the years for film and the afternoon in a practical session showing how to set up a basic 3 point lighting setup, what happens if it goes wrong and what it should look like.  As they say, do it badly and it shows, do it right and it is cliché 🙂

I expect/hope time will be spent discussing the father of cinematography (Georges Méliès*) and his contributions to the techniques which many film makers now take for granted (he discovered and exploited the basic camera tricks: stop motion, slow motion, dissolve, fade-out, superimposition, and double exposure all with a magician’s intuition), as well as time covering some of the basic techniques and terms of reference (fill, hair light, rim light, etc), as well as reinforcing how lenses work, the effects of prisms, as well as depth of field and compression; which were all introduced in the previous weeks lessons.

* Georges Méliès (born in Paris, Dec 8th, 1861) made over 550 films between 1896 and 1913 including the worlds first known sci-fi movie (Le Voyage dans la Lune / A Trip To The Moon, 1902), and the worlds first horror movie (The Haunted Castle /  Le Manoir du Diable, 1896) and Many of his films were less than 20 minutes in duration.  His films are some of the most imaginative ever to be directed, even by today’s standards. His innovations in the field of cinematography were groundbreaking and paved the way for future directors… DW Griffin remarked “I owe him everything”, whilst Charlie Chaplin dubbed Méliès as “the alchemist of light”. Praise indeed from the greats of the time.

Cinematography is a passion of mine so I am sad to be missing the class, however I look forward to the next opportunity after half term!

I hope the guys enjoy the practical and manage to take away some understanding of the magic of cinematography as a result!

References include

  • – url
  • encyclopaedia britannica – [url]
  • The Alchemist Of Light by Osie Turner Smashwords Edition, 2013

HND – Day 5 – Film Roles

Wednesdays  lesson with Patricia is apparently about roles in the film industry.  I’m on holiday in Mexico which was a previously arranged trip booked before Raindance accepted me into the HND course

My understanding of today’s lesson is that it will be spent describing the various roles in the industry and then the afternoon spent in role play so the class starts to get a better understanding of the various roles.

Speaking to group A, it sounds like it was an amazing lesson and I’m sad that I won’t be able to join in with Group B this week.

The crew roles as I understand them are

  • Director
  • Producer
  • Sound Designer
  • First Assistant Director
  • VFX Supervisor
  • Executive Producer
  • Editor
  • Production Assistant
  • Key Grip
  • Post Production Supervisor
  • Line Producer
  • Make Up Artist (MUA)
  • Director Of Photography
  • Colourist
  • Second Assistant Director
  • Production Designer
  • Gaffer
  • Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
  • Art Director
  • Best Boy
  • Data Wrangler
  • First Assistant Camera
  • Second Assistant Camera
  • Script Editor
  • Script Supervisor
  • Dolly Grip
  • Spark
  • Stills Photographer

Many of these roles are currently a black art to me, and I need to understand more about what they do. To this end, I look forward to reading my classmate’s reports on the roles! 🙂

HND – Day 3 – Nic & Sam Scene

Today’s practical exercise was to plan and shoot a scene based in a school corridor with dialogue between Nic & Sam (two characters) written by Patricia Hetherington.  Due to diary clashes, I attended the Group A class instead of my usual Group B.

The planning exercise went well and Leanna (camera) realised exactly what we wanted almost immediately and then drew up some amazing storyboards which we shared with the rest of the team.

Elena and Jonny agreed to be the “talent” for this exercise whilst I directed.

The exercise was fun and we managed to shoot the whole sequence in less than 25 minutes, almost exactly as we had planned it – with the exception of two shots which we agreed would be better as a single “medium two-shot” instead.

I then edited the whole piece together in Final Cut Pro (which took another 30 minutes) and as a homage to Grange Hill found a copy of Phil Redmond’s theme tune online to finish off the clip.

As before, several ways this could have been improved by enhancing the sound (use of proper sound equipment), and lighting (rather than relying just on practical lighting).

The team worked well and it was a pleasure to shoot.  Even Jonny’s acting skills improved as we ran through rehearsal and then filming.

Without a slate to mark the scenes I used a book to split takes where we kept the camera rolling to help the (none professional) actors be more relaxed.

Jonny and Yelena took directions well and we worked together as a cohesive unit quite well.

We also decided to challenge ourselves and try to use every lens in the box, which is why the PoV shots look a bit weird, we experimented with the 24mm lens … probably should have stuck with the 35mm but then this was an experimental shoot as much as anything!

The finished video (at least my edit of it) is below … Leanne will hopefully be putting her version online in the next couple of days



Planning went well as did the rehearsals (one or two rehearsals before each shot/segment)

Yelena said that she would have preferred more interaction / rehearsal with the Director to see what I wanted from the actor which I have taken on board for next time

Considering we’re using the onboard microphones on the cameras, the sound didn’t come out too badly.

Things to improve / remember for next time

  • Buzz track
  • Better sound equipment
  • Better lighting
  • Continuity 🙂
  • Foley


HND – Day 3 – SWOT Analysis and Personality Types

Today was much more of an introspective day.

We performed a SWOT analysis on our skills which we then discussed in class, and completed questionnaires to identify our character types


The SWOT analysis highlighted that I feel I have a number of strengths (not surprising as one of them was confidence, and a few weaknesses including over confidence) .. but as a film maker you need to be confident, especially when all those around you are tutting and saying “it will never work”.


The results of the personality tests highlighted that I am a Kinaesthetic learner (heavily kinaesthetic) – which means I’m hands on .. no surprises there. I am also fairly balanced between a reflector and pragmatist, although pragmatist won through at the end of the day.

I found that through all my strengths and weaknesses, the ideal way to address them is to simply get out there and start working on film projects.  Practice, Practice, Practice!


We were tasked with setting ourselves 3 SMART Goals.  



S – specific, significant, stretching.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational.

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented.

R – Realistic (Relevant)

T – Time Based


Short term – by 15th October 2017

Medium term – by 15th December 2017

Long term – 1st June 2018


Short term – sign up for a Raindance short class

Medium term – produce a short video blog about my holiday

Long Term – Make a short film of at least 5 minutes duration


This will help develop my video editing, screenwriting and story telling skills .. will have me working with actors (improve my patience/tolerance levels), require me to plan, develop, edit and publish a video .. and use the skills learned on the course(s) I’ve attended



Casablanca – Rick Blaine


Casablanca (1942) is one of Hollywood’s all time great movies.  Written by Epstein and Koch (Epstein being the Epstein twins Julius and Philip – the first twins to be awarded Oscars, which they won for Casablanca), it is a tale about an American ex-pat who has tried to get away from it all by moving to Casablanca.  As the story unfolds during the early stages of World War II, we learn Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is “world weary”, tired of  authority and has had his heart broken by the love of his life Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman).

Rick has opened a bar (Rick’s Place) which has become a haven of sorts for refugees, and a home for black marketeers selling papers of transit (forged and real) which they hope will allow them to escape to America.

Sam (Dooley Wilson), the piano player, is the heart of Rick’s – playing music every night on an upright piano.  He will play any song you care to request, save one – one which has special meaning for Rick (and Ilsa) – which Rick has banned from ever being playing again.

Cue Ilsa Lund (Bergman) who asks Sam to play the song (As Time Goes By) and one of the most immortal (and mis quoted) lines from the film “Play it again Sam”.

The lines are actually “Play it once Sam, for old time’s sake, Play it Sam” spoken by Bergman and Bogart (Rick) play “As Time Goes By,” saying, “You played it for her, you can play it for me… If she can stand it, I can! Play it!” Bogart’s line is often misquoted as, “Play it again, Sam!”.

The return of Ilsa brings all the emotions flooding back to Rick and the one hard exterior melts and the true man emerges.  We see Rick surprise the Police Chief (as close to a friend as Rick can get in these shark infested waters) and develop a conscience, eventually letting go the love of his life and helping her escape the Nazis with her husband as they fly to America.

The character progression for Rick is revealing, as we discover that he isn’t the hard businessman we met at the beginning of the film and that he had once loved, had his heart broken, only to then meet the woman who broke his heart and to realise that she did the only honourable thing in leaving him when she learned that her husband was still alive and had not been killed in a concentration camp as she had been lead to believe.  Rick in turn, initially conflicted by his love for her, and also his wish to return to America, results eventually in true gallantry and plot twist after plot twist until we reach the movie’s end where the freedom fighter (Victor Lazlo) and his wife (Ilsa Lund) escape into the sunset.

Casablanca has been famous for a number of sayings, some of which have (allegedly) even spun off into films of their own.

Classic lines such as

  • “Of all the Gin joints in all of the world, you had to walk into this one”,
  • “Round up the usual suspects” (which eventually lead to a film called “The Usual Suspects
  • and of course “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”

American Beauty – Lester Burnham

American Beauty at first seems like a modern day Lolita in which we meet Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a sexually frustrated middle aged man, going through marital issues, separated from his wife (whilst still living under the same roof).  As the story progresses we discover it is less a Lolita and more the simple search for a better,  more fulfilling life.

Burnham is a sexually frustrated, lonely man who’s only highlight in the day is masturbation in the shower.  Depressed, repressed and subjugated by his wife and daughter, he tries to find ways to turn his life around.  Sadly, Lester only seems to be competent at making enemies and we are introduced to several characters who would willingly kill him it seems given the right opportunity.

Burnham blackmails his supervisor into providing a healthy severance package.  Working as a teller in a drive through burger restaurant, Burnham finds his wife is cheating on him and jokingly, even his daughter hires a drug dealer to kill Burnham!  At the same time, the next door neighbour thinks that Burnham is corrupting his son into prostitution.

All the way through, Burnham is trying to break free of the depression, the mid life crisis, and to improve his inner happiness. 

Burnham’s moral challenges are numerous.  Does he “de-flower” his daughter’s best friend, does he indulge in drugs and potentially corrupt the neighbour’s son, does he blackmail his boss or walk away quietly from a job he hates?

In the end we see a vulnerable man to whom fate or circumstance has dealt a bad hand to, and there but for the grace of god could go you or I.  A bad marriage, a bad job, a beautiful girl .. all of these “challenges” could befall any one of us through our life. Like any human being he craves love and friendship.  He wants to be happy, and wishes to be young again / experience life through young eyes just once more.