TUESDAY 14TH JUNE 2016
GO BACK, GIVE BACK
A couple of weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to go back to my secondary school: Robert Clack School of Science to help conduct mock job interviews with the year 10 pupils.
The aim of the exercise was to help prepare the students for what they may face in the future, when sitting in front of a potential employer.
I was first contacted by the school's Alumni Development Officer - Ellen Monk - late last year, she had seen that I was a past pupil and had now gone on to develop my own career in the Film Industry as a Camera Operator & Lighting Gaffer, she asked if I would be willing to be featured on a poster for the school as she thought it would serve as inspiration for the schools Film and Media Studies students. I was very honoured to oblige, the thought of being an inspiration to anyone especially young people is very humbling to me.
I went on to visit the school just before Christmas, the students were performing their annual music concert, and again in the New Year when the school's drama students of varying year groups staged a night of Shakespeare. After the evening had finished my girlfriend and I had the pleasure of speaking to my former headmaster, Sir Paul Grant.
Sir Paul was a former teacher at the school who later went on to become headmaster. Under his guidance and in the years that followed, the school has gone from strength to strength and is at the forefront of secondary education and development in the United Kingdom. Seeing the quality of the work displayed by the students in both the music and drama departments on my previous visits, made me keen to return and give back in some way.
My opportunity came just a few months later in the form of the Year 10 mock interviews. The day was headed up by Mr Hamill, who I knew as an art teacher in my school days, but who is also an integral part of career development for the students at the school.
I arrived at the school at 8:15am and parked behind what used to be my old science block, when I got out of my car it was clearly visible just how much the school had changed. I was greeted by a huge 3G astroturf football and hockey pitch as well as the huge state of the art Sports Centre.
I had known for a long time that the school had its own Sports Centre but until that day I had never stepped foot inside. I made my way to the entrance where myself and other Robert Clack alumni, as well as employees from the Ford Motor Company were greeted by Mr Hamill. It was explained to us what the day would be about and the format it would follow. I was handed a sheet of questions which i could ask the students during their interview.
At 9:00am the alumni went into the huge sports hall, we were each given our own table with assessment papers to make notes of what the students did well and what they could improve on. The great thing about these assessment papers was that not only the teacher, but also the student received a copy meaning that the student could study it to see what his/her strong points were and how they may improve. I felt these were great aids, as it breeds confidence in young people to know when they are on the right track but also instills a drive to keep on improving and developing.
Over the course of the day, I had the honour of meeting some of the best young people I have ever come into contact with. I was stunned by their level intellect, passion for learning and their complete and total investment in their education. The students were clear in where they wanted to guide their futures and the articulation with which they expressed themselves was first class. I was blown away at what the students were able to study now at the school, I spoke to sportsmen and women, students who were able to study and participate in debate at a competitive level and even pupils studying health and beauty.
I was particularly impressed by the amazing individuals I spoke with who were studying Psychology. They were able to engage in conversation at a level that would have been completely alien to me when I was 15 years old. The confidence and maturity in which they conducted themselves was absolutely astounding.
The quality of the students is a huge testament to the teaching staff and facilities that the school provides and I wish to commend Sir Paul and his faculty on the truly fantastic job they are doing. In an age where it is so easy for the media to report how the system is failing so many people, I am here to let you know that with the students and teaching staff I met that day, the future is in safe hands.
In my opinion some of tomorrow's great minds are being shaped at Robert Clack. I believe it is an institution which serves a multitude of individuals from varying backgrounds and cultures and is a working illustration that you can be anything you want to be in life as long as you work hard, apply yourself and keep moving forward.
I walked away from that day so proud that I'd had the opportunity to take part, and with an energy I rarely feel in life.
I look forward to being able to go back and give back.
Forti Difficile Nihil - "To the brave and faithful nothing is impossible."
FRIDAY 8TH APRIL 2016
Last summer I had the pleasure of once again working with Posh Dinosaur productions on their new zombie comedy 'Already Dead' Posh Dinosaur is the company behind the award winning web series 'Cupid'
The company is headed up by creative director Michael James Dean who I first met on director Scott Lyus' short home invasion thriller 'Supernova' in which Michael played the lead role.
Michael later went on to write and direct his first short film under the Posh Dinosaur banner 'Darjeeling' which he invited me to be a part of as lighting designer.
After 'Darjeeling' was finished Michael & myself went separate ways, with me pursuing a career as a gaffer to learn the technical side of lighting, and Michael going on to grow the Posh Dinosaur brand and work on other projects.
Fast forward to 2015 and I had been in contact with Michael in regards to a project he'd just written called 'Already Dead' he was interested in me coming on board as cinematographer for the film. I read the script and fell in love with it instantly, it was so well written. The characters were well fleshed out (no pun intended) the comedy was both contemporary and intelligent, and after talking with Michael and him telling me that George, the lead character of the film was to be played by Darren Ruston who we'd both previously worked with on 'Darjeeling' it was a no brainer for me (again no pun intended)
We began filming 'Already Dead' in August that year, I remember it so vividly we were shooting in this large house in Brixton in the height of summer, it was a lovely cool morning when I turned up at the address. I was first greeted on the doorstep by the make up artist and script supervisor, I then headed inside to see Michael.
We began in the living room, where I started setting up equipment, Darren then arrived and the make up process began. 'Already Dead' was under way.
We shot the project in installments over a couple of months, it was tough at times, as with most independent films we worked on a very low budget, we shot the entire project on a canon 5D with a combination of available light and the assistance of a few soft boxes to light the green screen visual FX elements of the film. We shot the film as a documentary, using a combination of sit down interviews mixed in with fly on the wall footage of the character's daily lives, which stylistically gave us a lot of creative freedom.
I recently got to see the finished film in it's entirety and I couldn't be more proud of the work everyone put in. It had been skillfully edited, the performances and comedic timing of all the actors involved was perfect. The current socio economic themes the film deals with were handled both sensitively and with great humour. I can't wait to see how the film performs on the festival circuit.
Check out the trailer for 'Already Dead' as well as the other projects mentioned in this article on the motion reel page of this website & please support the independent filmmakers by following them on Twitter.
Posh Dinosaur Productions - @Posh_Dinosaur @MichaelJDean_86
Crossroad Pictures/Scott Lyus - @Crossroad_Pics @scottlyus
MONDAY 21ST MARCH 2016
NEVER GIVE UP
Life as a freelancer in the film industry can be tough but then again I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know.
It started for me way back in 2008, I had just written my first short film 'The Stranger' and was on the road to bringing my vision to life. I had a wonderful experience on this film, I had a great team of supportive, hard working individuals who helped to make my script a reality.
Fast forward a year and 'The Stranger had been making it's rounds on the festival circuit, it featured in around 10 festivals and was screened on Sky televisions now defunct channel Propeller TV, where it was shown on repeat for a good 6 months. I know this as my father would watch it every time it was on.
With 'The Stranger' behind me I went on to write and direct my second short that year 'Chain Mail'. Feeling confident I went in guns blazing with much of the same team I had with me for 'The Stranger', this time around though I didn't find as much enjoyment, everything that could go wrong in production did and it ultimately turned into a completely different film than what I had first envisioned.
I reluctantly began sending it out to festivals after it was finished and it was accepted by a few and again it was shown on Sky but my heart was just not behind this film as it had been with my first. I showed it to a few people who said they had liked it, but I thought they were just being polite and didn't want to offend me so I decided I would take the plunge and screen it to a completely unbiased audience.
I remember turning up to the venue where the film was going to be played, and being quite a self deprecating individual and somewhat of a perfectionist I always sit at the back of the screen so i can gage audience reactions and criticise myself for not doing this or that differently, but this time around I thought I'll sit at the front, I don't know why I made that decision I just did.
The screen goes dark, the film plays out and is met with what I can only describe as a polite applause. Unfortunately for me at the time there was a producer sitting behind, who not realising I was the filmmaker leaned over to his friend and said 'Well that was shit wasn't it'
My heart sank and from that night on I never made another film or attempted to step foot back on another set, it was over for me, in my head I'd had this dream and I'd failed at it, I simply wasn't good enough.
I then spent 7 years not doing anything in the film industry. I wrote a few scripts that have collected dust over the years, the rest of the time was spent doing mundane jobs that I hated just to pay the bills, all the while knowing that I wanted to work in the industry but by doing nothing I tricked myself into somehow protecting my dream because if I didn't try I couldn't fail.
A lot has changed since that night in 2008, I now work as a freelance lighting gaffer and camera operator and have over 60 credits to my name. I have worked on award winning films and music videos with some of the most talented people in our industry. I've got to meet people I never dreamt I would ever be in the same room as. I worked as chief camera operator and lighting technician for 7 seasons on a successful professional wrestling magazine show called 'Wrestle Talk TV' and have just begun venturing into feature films. I left my nine to five job and now make a living as a full time freelancer.
My advice is read, get smart every day, ask questions and always make sure you work with people more experienced than you are, everything I've learnt and everything I've done so far is from being around people with much more experience than myself. Never be afraid to put yourself out there, leave your comfort zone and whatever you do always believe in yourself and your ability. I can't begin to tell you how much time I've wasted believing I'm not good enough or that I'll fail at the job I've taken on.
Always be confident in your abilities but also be humble and appreciative. I always remember being told 'You have two ears and one mouth, so do twice as much listening as you do talking'. Don't make empty promises, and if you don't know something, say you don't know. People are much more forgiving if you say you don't know something rather than if they waste a lot of time, money and resources only to find out you don't know as much as you say you do.
It would be naive of me to think any of this would have been possible without a huge support network, I have an amazing partner who supports me every day, who is the one who gives me the courage to chase after my dreams and who doesn't allow me to rest of my laurels. Friends who believe in me and encourage me every day in my pursuits, as well as a family who have always let me know I can be whatever I want to be in life, just as long as it makes me happy.
I've always been someone who doesn't believe in writing something unless I have something to say, today I felt as though I had something to say, something to say to that person who maybe feels they are not good enough to do something they've always dreamed of doing, to anyone who feels that it's impossible to get to the places and have the things you want from life, it's not impossible, nor is it easy you just have to keep going.
So many people will shut the door in your face, tell you you can't do something especially in creative industries, but you just have to keep going. I'm not at the level I want to finish at not by a long shot, but you just have to keep going, and eventually you get to where you want to be.
Never give up.
WEDNESDAY 5th MAY 2015:
THE STRANGER: THE JOURNEY SHOOTING MY FIRST FILM:
Today’s post is all about my first short film entitled ‘The Stranger’ which i shot way back in 2006 (my God time has flown by) Anyway, I wanted to give you the entire history of the film from it’s initial conception all the way through to it’s completion, I hope you find it of interest.
Part 1: In The Beginning:
It was 2006, I had long since finished college and knew that film was going to be my calling, I sat pondering for a long time, thinking what kind of films I would make, what kind of films should I make. Having very little budget, I knew i would have to work to my means. I had these grandiose ideas all flying about in my head but nothing i could formulate into a living, breathing idea. I am fascinated with Sci-fi and have always dreamed of one day shooting a picture in the genre. I remember when i was younger seeing ‘Back to the Future II’ and always thinking of the day where I’d see flying cars going past my window…….anyway I digress. The long and short of it is I had next to no money so had to keep chipping away at the old brain until something popped up.
Then one day it came to me, I always remembered loving action films when I was a little boy so i started there. Over the years I’ve learnt that my best ideas seem to come to me when i’m sitting on the toilet, I know, strange isn’t it?
I was still looking for my idea when Bang it came to me. I quickly began scribbling down my musings on a piece of toilet role (of all things) every avenue I seemed to explore in the idea linked into the next idea, like a mental jigsaw puzzle. That was it, I was super excited and couldn’t wait to get tip tapping on my laptop.
So with my wrapped up pieces of idea laden toilet tissue, I grabbed my computer and away I went and within 4 days i had a rough draft of the script. The next few months I went over and over and over it, trying to get it perfect. I realised later on that no matter how many times you write and re-write, your never going to have something absolutely perfect, and to be fair I think I was dragging my heels a little as 1) I was totally nervous and 2) I had no fucking idea what I was going to do next, or if this thing was even going to work. Anyway after some slight hesitation I moved onto the next step of the process. For the next two weeks I sat in my room planning out the kinds of shots I wanted in the film and how I wanted each one to look, I penciled storyboards and corroborated my shot list and by the time I was finished I knew there was no going back.
So with my finished script, shot list and storyboards ready to go, I knew what I needed next was…
Next: Part 2, Casting…
The funny thing about wanting to work in the film industry is that you never quite know where to start first, it’s a lot of ambling around blindly and trying to find your way as you go along, there is a lot of trial and error, pitfalls and failure but through it all it is very important to keep a positive outlook and above all else NEVER GIVE UP!
The next step for me was to find the actors that were going to bring my character’s to life. I started where most people do when they need answers, ‘Google’. I began by researching websites where I could find actors and it wasn’t long before I came across a multitude of sites. Now the thing to remember here is that although most websites can help you find what you are looking for, many will charge you either a one off payment or monthly fee for the privilege , these charges as I learned will eventually all add up, and before long you’re spending money that you may never get back, especially when making short films.
Eventually I settled on two sites: Shooting People () and Talent Circle () Now as I mentioned above, some of these sites will charge you a fee and Shooting People () is one of them but in their defense they are very good value for money, as it costs just £25.00 for a 6 month membership. Not only can you find actors on the site but they offer a plethora of information and help when it comes to anything regarding films and film making. You can subscribe to daily bulletins where there are production jobs both paid and unpaid on offer as well as forums to discuss and ask questions on anything you may be unsure of, and as well as actors you can also find crew for your film projects, so they come highly recommended by me.
Talent Circle on the other hand is a free to use website which offers similar services as Shooting People minus the membership fee.
So now with my forums to post I set about writing my adverts complete with character breakdowns and the physical characteristics and age ranges I would require of the actors applying, and within two hours my posts were live on the Internet, I just had to sit back and hope that people were going to find my film interesting enough that they want would to offer their services.
The next day I woke up around 8:00am and to my amazement there were 50 emails sitting in my inbox, clicking through each one individually I could not believe the response I had got. If 50 CV’s were all I was going to receive I was happy, actual actors had taken an interest in me, a 22 year old kid from Essex with a dream to make his own films. But it didn’t stop there, as the morning progressed the AOL email chime would continue to ring out ‘You have email’ and by the end of my first day of applications I think i had somewhere in the region of 105 CV’s.
That night I called my friend Jeremy Chopra also a budding filmmaker who now runs his own Visual Effects and Post Production company Cascade Pictures () and told him how many replies I had received just from ‘Shooting People’ and ‘Talent Circle’ he then made me aware of another avenue I could use for casting, when he was shooting his first short he used a company called PCR which produce a weekly magazine that is sent out to actors and casting agents. I quickly set about formulating an advert I could send to them, and the great thing about PCR is that if you are a student filmmaker they will list your advert for free, I highly recommend these guys also, although i’m not sure if they’re still about or are operating under a different name. The following week I could not believe the response, I had upwards of another 50 e-mails and also 30 CV’s by post.
Over the next week or so I worked through all of the CV’s, now don’t get me wrong casting is very fun and selecting the actors and actresses that you wish to call up to audition is both exciting and nerve racking, especially if it’s the first time you have done this, but it is also very tiring. Nobody wishes to think that they’re not suitable for a role, but some of the applications I received made me wonder if the performers had even read the character breakdowns or what I required from their physical appearance. Anyhow I don’t wish to swerve into that topic as it is something that you have no doubt encountered yourselves. So of the close to 200 CV’s I received I managed to narrow it down to 75 people i wanted to see. I spent the coming weekend glued to my mobile phone from about 10am until 4pm making phone calls to all the different actors and actresses requesting that they come for an audition, it was very nerve racking for me as i wondered if they would remember me or my film and to be fair actors apply for so many roles per week that it must be difficult for them to remember who is who.
I was very well prepared, and made sure to give the performers a choice of dates and times that would best suit them to come down and audition, I put each one into a daily Excel spread sheet so that I would know who they were as soon as they came into the room. I organised each audition slot into 15 minute increments and asked each actor if they wished to perform their own monologue or something from the script, although saying that the script was very sparse in terms of dialogue so i was happy for them to perform their own material.
With all this done I was set to rock and roll, and whilst waiting for CV’s to arrive by e-mail and post I had found a perfect little place to carry out my auditions called ‘The Rag Factory’ which was just off of Brick Lane, the owner was very gracious and generously offered me a large room for my auditions, and because I would be there over a three day period I was offered a cheaper rate to rent the room. I was set….