Off to France!

 

ferry

At 8:15 tomorrow morning my senses will be interrogated by the big screen, yet this is no ordinary big screen, it is one located on a ferry. “A cinema on a ferry! That’s just awesome” I blurted on discovery. France won’t seem so far away at all.

Where is the ferry heading? Yes, France. I’ll be spending a week on my stepdad’s boat with my girlfriend on the west coast of Brittany – I’m getting the feeling that blogging may become more restricted than normal! (hence the departing blog post). Nevertheless it will be a productive week of beautiful photography alongside plenty of reading and writing and walking with my girlfriend – I’ve discovered this to be a real great combination!

See you at the internet cafe.

What would you like to see the end of?

end7

“We want you to make creative videos to the theme ‘What would you like to see the end of?'” This is the project brief set about by genero.tv – a great hosting site for video contests that I’d highly recommend checking out.

END 7 (the curator and partner for the project) are aiming to help kill 7 deadly deseases by 2012 via the promotion of a special pack of pills. It definitely sounds like a worthy cause to me – here is their website END7

But, more importantly.. JOKING.. here is a link to my video entry:

http://genero.tv/watch-video/36135

 

Wish I Was Here

zach braff

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Zach Braff’s recent kickstarter campaign for his new movie Wish I Was Here. The campaign raised over 3 million dollars in the space of 30 days with over 46,000 individual backers. Definitely impressive figures. I backed the campiagn having been a big fan of Zach in Scrubs and his first movie Garden State, it was also a no-brainer to support considering the generous perks involved – including updates from Zach’s personal production diary on the website – Wish I Was Here Movie – for just a fiver.

However, like with all these miraculous things, there are the ‘haters’ – those who view Zach as a rich star ‘milking’ the general public for their pennies (a long and jubious debate). What I want to ask is has this campaign among others (Veronica Mars, Spike Lee) changed the face of independent crowdfunding? Have people like Zach promoted the platform and encouraged the public to flock in waves of generosity or have they furtively caused people to look away with advocated disgust? I’ve got a mixed mind state over this one, but if people want to give to the rich and famous then so be it, let’s just hope the causes stay true and desirable.

For filmmakers like us however, I can’t help but get excited about the Kickstarter revolution. It seems possible that Zach’s lovely 46,000 backers could scroll down a couple of pages and find a cosy little independent film they’d like to back. Lets be positive about this one!

kickstarter logo

 

Mental Illness in the Movies

I have always been fond of movies attempting to depict mental illness, it calls for much controversial debate as to surrealism vs. realism and social stigma vs. the individual character. I’m sure psychologists would raise an eyebrow or two over the decade of cinema aiming to convey mental illness and its vast complexities. But, right or wrong, I love a movie that keeps you guessing over whether a character is a ‘psycho’ or if the plot is intended to make no coherent narative sense at all. These are cinematic delights.

Below is a long list (316 to be exact) of movies dealing with various themes of ‘mental illness’. I’ve stolen this list from MUBI and give full credit to Kenji for coming up with such a phenomenal collection. It’s certainly worthy of a share. Here’s an extract of what he has to say about his list:

“I’ve been given pause for thought on this list, in connection with oppressive ableism. My intention here is not to promote ableist views of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, as marks of inferiority, absurdity or faultiness, often leading to casting out as “other”, but the opposite. However, precisely by placing dangerous and abhorrent bigotry, racism, sexism, nationalism alongside individual mental anguish, i may be also casting the latter into disrepute rather than deserving help. There is a difference between society’s damaging attitudes and irrational actions and those who suffer yet are considered ill. I’m against society condemning certain groups- and beyond mental health- as “abnormal” and better out of sight or done away with altogether. There’s far too much stigma attached to people with certain mental health problems or who have needed professional help. As well as arbitrary or damaging cut-offs between mental normality and abnormality, dominant notions of “handicap”, “impairment”, compared with socially-imposed disability, still need to be challenged. Greater empathy rather than disparaging assumptions would help us all.”

The long but charming list:

 

Watering Can Media

WCM

Tell your story with style.

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of doing a couple of weeks practical work experience with the crew over at wateringcanmedia. They offer awesome video productions services to a huge range of clients, a few of which I was grateful to meet – the World Barista Champion included!

This blog post is frankly just something else to blog about but more importantly to send my gratitude and thanks over to the guys (Nick, Ben and Matt) who made me feel so welcome and hit me up with some top industry/craft intel.

Watering Can Media Showreel from Watering Can Media on Vimeo.

Meeting The Blaine Brothers

The Blaine Brothers

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting The Blaine Brothers – a great British filmmaking duo. Incase your unaware, they have conjured up numerous award winning shorts and are currently cutting their debut feature, or rather art-house masterpiece, Nina Forever.

The pair showed me the ‘ropes’ and gave me great insight into the working life of an independent filmmaker. More than this though, I got to see the rushes of Nina Forever and watch the edit come together for a couple of days. I don’t want to give anything away, but from what I saw I will be rushing to the picture house for this one.

The primary reason for this blog post however is to share the answers to a few questions that I asked the Blaine’s alongside my own opinions. As we know there appear to be seamless questions to ask about the film industry and art of making films and a million different ways to answer them, though the Blaine’s have given me some very well-respected advice.

As I have recently established crbfilms in the hope of setting up my own production company I saw it worthwhile to ask the Blaine’s opinion. It’s always hard starting out, especially when funding is minimal, so keeping low overheads was mentioned as number one priority alongside finding a passionate partner to go into business with. Finding someone with a likewise mind to work alongside can be a wonderful thing and spur on creativity and motivational workflow. Myself, I am yet to discover the true potential of this, yet I do have a list of possible collaborators. So, if you’re sitting in the same position as me and reading this, get in touch!

Finding part time work in the field such as in a camera hire shop or postproduction house is a good way to meet like-minded people as well as earn money to put towards your first film. Or offering freelance services is a good way to craft your skills alongside earning money and meeting new people; both are ideas mentioned. Alongside this, the Blaine’s homed in on the fact that making actual friends is more important than establishing so called ‘contacts’. Friends are the people you’ll end up working with and who you can actually rely on to do anything forward moving etc. Likewise marketing yourself in the right way is also crucial, be friendly not overtly business-like. What I take from this is that at film festivals and other film friendly places, one should chat about filmmaking and cinema interests with fellows rather than throw a contact card in their face for example. After all, this is surely the best way to encourage a potential audience to interact with your work?

A prominent question entering a lot of young filmmakers minds is the importance of a theoretical background and academia versus the practical approach i.e. school versus self-learning (learning from mistakes), or at least this has certainly been at the forefront of my mind. What I learnt from The Blaine Brothers here is that film credits, who you’ve worked with and who you know is really what it comes down to, more so than any degree. However, unless it’s a prestigious school such as The National Film and Television School (NFTS) then this would be worth noting. It really appears that practical work ethic is make or break for a film entrepreneur; no new conclusion by any means.

Important skills for any director is to be able to successfully communicate with a crew on set as well as enforcing creative boundaries and authority in such a manor that everyone feels the same positivity towards the production. The Blaine’s thoroughly agreed with this statement adding that one should always be honest and respectful to crew members even in the most tender of situations. Rehearsals are very important, even on lower-budget productions where there commonly isn’t the same lengths of time for production, “Space to play” as Ben put it. It allows for actors to build confidence and just as importantly, allows crew members to set up their shots, design, direction etc.

Intention and meaning are two key purposes on every filmmakers mind on a day-to-day basis. Ben exclaimed that a film director should always have a meaning behind everything that happens on set and followed on from this an intention. Every shot, every cut, every movement – what’s the intention? This is definitely something to keep in mind and absolutely something I will work on myself, after all how can you create a film with meaning without understanding the intention; art (cinema) is built through meaning.

Online media is another fundamental area inflating around the industry, or rather taking over the industry; one only needs to look to Netflix to see evidence of this. Online media and social networking is “good for independent filmmakers” says the Blaine’s. Only if it’s used correctly however, pieces need to be quickly engaging and interesting, if so, people are far more likely to follow your tweets (posts) and in turn follow through to links of your work. This stuff is common sense right? But it seems so many people do otherwise. Engaging with your audience is also important, let people know you’re interested that they follow you.

Crowdfunding, another emerging area of importance for independent film, especially considering the celebrity status it’s gaining through campaigns like Veronica Mars and Zach Braff. There are two reigning sites for crowdfunding – Indiegogo and Kickstarter – though both have a very different method. “Kickstarter appears more successful,” says Ben as it has a “hit or miss factor” – unlike Indiegogo, Kickstarter won’t give the campaigner their funds unless the target goal set at the start of the campaign is fully reached. Advice for starting a campaign is that one should have a unique, original proposition and a significant audience already in place. Rather than just seem like another hopeful filmmaker proposing another film like the other 1000 film projects on Kickstarter, Chris says you should aim to “make a story from your pitch”, something innovative that will attract attention and envelop that desire in your audience to donate and see the picture come to life. Also, having money invested into your film from the get go makes it appear successful, so those first funds are all important to attracting more investors to your page. It’s a sticky business crowdfunding but one worth learning as The Blaine Brothers, like many others, have been successful in doing so. Ben and Chris were also both sure to point out that you should search through other innovative campaigns and network on the site supporting projects other than just film, “there are plenty of inspirational campaigns around.”

I asked the Blaine’s their opinion on short films versus the holy feature and when, if ever, a small time independent filmmaker like myself should tackle one. I received a look of slight perplexity; “write for a feature straight away” said Ben. This is an encouraging statement to hear, though I tried two years ago and gave up after 50 pages. Keep making and writing they reassured me. The key here of course is to keep what you write transferable to a low budget production; a task in itself, but a task certainly worth striving for.

Interestingly, Chris said that “shorts aren’t calling cards” and that filmmakers should “use them as a piece of art” to craft their skills and meet contacts to carry over onto a feature production. This statement, though contradictory to how many filmmakers pursue their endeavors, makes complete sense on a scale of success and diversity. How many filmmakers have broken into the industry from a single successful short film? Undoubtedly not more than who have a great feature at their disposal. Creating numerous short films for artistic purposes calls for great diversity in filmmaking technique, and thus is a great way to experiment and once more craft a filmmaker’s style. I believe this is what Chris was getting across to me. In terms of meeting contacts and crew members, short films are definitely a great place to start and I’m sure the more you make the more trust you’ll envelop within your crew to commit to a feature.

Finally, I was keen to know if there stood any particular online resources that The Blaine Brothers would concur useful. Shooting People and Creative Skillset Academy were the two prominent websites referred to. Links below:

Shooting People

Skillset Academy

Here is one of my favourite short films by The Blaine Brothers: Free Speech.

Check out the website for Nina Forever.

Oh and if you don’t follow Ben’s blog then get going because there is some great advice and seasoned opinion to plough through. Ben’s Blog.

Thank you Blaine Brothers.