Oxford International Short Film Festival

Well, I promised a big announcement today, I suspect the title gives it away! After spending most of last year as filmmakers on the film festival circuit, we’ve decided we should now have a go at organising one! To be fair, we’ve already done this on a smaller scale (we just weren’t aware this was essentially what we were doing!).

The big day will take place on Saturday 23rd March 2019 at St John’s College located in the heart of Oxford’s city centre. Films will be played in the newly refurbished auditorium (recently announced as an Architects Journal Retrofit Finalist). A huge thank you to the College for allowing us to use this beautiful and unique venue!

St John's College auditorium

St John’s College Auditorium. Photo credit: David Fisher

Here is the official blurb from the official website:

‘The inaugural Oxford International Short Film Festival (OXISFF) celebrates the diversity and creativity of short films. OXISFF is located in the heart of the historic university city, on the same road where Inspector Morse, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien famously all enjoyed a tipple, a mere stone’s throw from Hogwarts’ Dining Hall.

We believe short films are an art form which deserve to be experienced in unique and beautiful surroundings, on a large screen with an enthusiastic audience. The festival will be held in the beautiful grounds of St John’s College at The University of Oxford in the College’s newly refurbished auditorium. Films will be shown throughout the day, during the evening there will be an awards ceremony before we retire to the College bar.

We are looking for great fictional stories which stir the emotions, have strong characters, and unique voices or evocative worlds. The awards will be judged by a panel of local filmmakers prior to the event across a range of categories. All eligible film submissions will be considered for the Best Short Film award. Submissions can also be entered into 17 additional categories. Film Submissions should be made on FilmFreeway.’

St John's College Gardens

St John’s College: Library and Gardens

If there are any filmmakers out their reading this blog, then please get in contact – it would be fantastic to be able to consider your latest short film.

For more information visit one of the pages below and please do follow us to keep up to date on the latest festival developments:

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Speed scoring

So far this week I’ve only showcased stand-alone music tracks. As a filmmaker, the area which interests me the most is mixing music to picture. Below are a couple of recent examples of this. I’m not seasoned by any means, but these exercises made me appreciate the pressure film composers find themselves under. Music is generally added as one the last element in a production, usually just at the point when energy, money and time have all disappeared. Worse still, everyone seems to love the music when they hear it, but before long they want to start changing things – often people with little-to-no musical knowledge. It’s little wonder so many composers suffer exhaustion and mental disorders!

My first “speed scoring” effort was for a composing competition. I basically only had a day to create the tune. I’m pretty happy with the result considering the time constraints. This said I was a little miffed when they decided to change the goal-posts and extend the deadline by several days (this was just after I submitted the track). There is no denying this track would have greatly benefited from the additional time to improve the clarity of the mix. This said, it was still a useful exercise even if I wouldn’t rush out and do it again.

My second ‘speed-scoring’ experience came about when I was asked to make a video for an art exhibition. Once again, everything was left until two days before the opening (I only had an hour to prep, film and interview everything, after which the window of opportunity was gone). As if the lack of preparation for filming wasn’t stressful enough, the next problem was finding some music to edit against. I decided rather than spent the time trying to find the right tune – why not just write one? Which is exactly what happened.

I hope some of you will tune back in tomorrow for an exciting announcement!

Eye Spy Part 2

Here are a couple of new tracks which probably fit together in the “spy mould”.

His Name Is Bond

The first track ‘Clever Girl’ was intended as an underscore building piece. I had some procedural/hacking montage going on in my head whilst composing, one where the main character is cracking a techno-conundrum or uncovering vital evidence. This one came together quickly – helped by the fact I was exploring some of my downloaded Noiiz libraries (recommended to anyone who likes playing with musical loops). I changed some loop pitches and distorted + mangled things for a more grungy feeling, the majority was still composed in a traditional manner.

(direct link: https://soundcloud.com/satorious/clever-girl)

The second track is actually my most recent track, one which clearly has a James Bond slant. I was just noodling away at the keyboard for fun and this was the end result. I’m going to confess I’m not really a huge fan of the last couple of Thomas Newman Bond scores. He is great at the subtle stuff, but not so great at giving Bond a confident swagger (unless he falls back on David Arnold’s orchestration of The Name’s Bond, James Bond). There is of course usually an exception to a rule, this being the opening track to Spectre. Anyway, I really wanted to bring back a bit of that cool John Barry/David Arnold swagger. Enjoy!

(direct link: https://soundcloud.com/satorious/his-name-is-bond
if you haven’t already, check my other Bond track out here)

Tiny Steps

Following on yesterday, I present a small track called Tiny Steps. This was written for my wife’s birthday and also to demonstrate Spitfire Audio’s British Drama Toolkit to other composers. The flute and piano melody were added in later, the lead instruments in the toolkit aren’t really expressive enough (but they are great for sketching ideas down quickly).

In contrast to Tiny Steps, I’ll also share another track called Attack Of The Kroutons (thanks to Jim Gwilliam for the lofty naming). For some reason I’ve not this shared this older track before. It was intended as some sort of B-movie monster dance track – along the style of Brainbug – Nightmare (which I’ve always been a fan of).

This track is really a companion piece of sorts to Diggin’ Dirt, one of my earlier tracks. As a track, it was an absolute pain to mix. Being honest I’m not entirely happy with end-result! Perhaps the fact it’s not right lends it more authenticity to the original source inspiration.

I rather like the idea of filming a cheesy music video (ala Brainbug) to accompany this, and perhaps giving the the track a nicer mix (being as I’m now a little better at mixing than I was a year ago). A future project perhaps?

Stay tuned!

It’s been ages since my last blog post, lots has been happening behind the scenes (expect a few announcements soon).

I’ve also started composing music again and contributing on the VI Control forum (which has many insanely talented members and high-profile film composers such as Hans Zimmer and Charlie Clouser). The forum really is an excellent place for upcoming film composers to talk online, I’ve learned a lot since joining.

For me, composing brings a tremendous buzz and sense of joy. That said I’m glad I’m a hobbyist: when you are not feeling ‘in the zone’ it can be absolutely debilitating. Composers often question their abilities and suffer other problems such as sleep deprivation and stress. There is a recognised link between creatives and mental illness, especially composers. Even some of the greats like Bartòk, Mussorgsky, Schostakovich, and Tchaikovsky are believed to have suffered mental disorders of various descriptions. My broken finger has allowed me to take a break (bad pun) from composing and to rediscover it. Once the joy wears off I’ll step away from keyboard again. But for now – all is good!

As I’ve not posted for a while, I will share a new tune each day this week before making a ‘big announcement’. Stay tuned!

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Love thy neighbour – Stills

Good morning! Before we really get started on the post-production phase for Love Thy Neighbour, I though I’d post some (low quality) test snapshots taken from our final take. Enjoy and follow progress on the project here

One Take Wonder

It’s been an intense week leading up to the filming of ‘Love Thy Neighbour’.

Aside from the usual production headaches just before a shoot – we had one tiny issue to resolve: the script! We loved the concept of the story but had too many script variants.

A few days before filming I had a go at streamlining the latest 16 page draft into a snappier 9 page version. I was expecting Stan to hate it but aside from a few tweaks it essentially formed our shooting script. We also wanted the actors to workshop so they could bring their own ideas and interpretations to the table. Ideally you’d do this before the shoot date but time was not on our side.Slate

It was great to learn that Melissa Dalton (playing Kelly) and Louis Bernard (playing Rob) were traveling together on the same train. They had both bonded during the journey and had already come up with ideas and back-stories to their characters.  This allowed us to hit the floor running!Louis Bernard and Melissa Dalton workshopping

Natalie Martins (playing Michelle) arrived shortly afterwards, it was lovely to be working with her again after ‘Emmi‘.  We all bounced ideas around, fixing issues and occasionally adapting character motivations – it was a really productive morning! We encouraged everyone to improvise so they would react to situations at key moments (the script was more of a guideline), quite an exciting way of working!

After lunch, Daniel Epih (playing Harv) and Jacqueline Dunning (our make-up artist) turned up. We starting to doing some technical run-throughs to figure out how the camera needed to travel (and pick the camera we’d be using). We shot tests on a Canon C300 using a shoulder rig and a Panasonic GH5S on a gimbal. Personally I loved the look of the Canon more, but the Panasonic was shooting wider and seemed to be more forgiving (we settled on that).

Originally the film was going imply more than it showed, but our DOP Danny MacGregor pushed us to get more on screen. This created more headaches: additional make-up effects, costumes and props. Stan and I raced around charity shops and supermarkets sourcing items whilst our make-up artist Jacqui started getting actors ready. During the trip Stan confessed that it was madness doing this as a single shot film (oops – that might have been my idea!).Jacqui and Daniel Make-up

It was almost 4pm and we still weren’t quite sure if it was going to be more ‘Birdman’ (cheating by breaking the film into smaller chunks and matching the cut points) or Victoria (a true single take with absolutely no cuts). After practicing a few times without make-up effects we decided we could do it as a single take (no cheating). Maybe it was the euphoria of being on set, but it seemed to go extremely well – the only concern was it was all moving a little too quickly and we needed to slow things down. It feels somewhat alien trying to control everything in real-time when you are more accustomed to controlling the pace in an editing suite.

It took a few moments to readjust and reset after each take. The second take was better paced but it had a few technical issues. The next take was going really well until an air ambulance started hovering over us (a hazard of filming next to a hospital). When things had calmed we did another take which (wasn’t quite feeling it as we’d lost some of our momentum). We expected that one to be our last take being as light was starting to go and Jacqui had to leave to catch her train back. We decided to give it one final shot (just as well, this is the take we’ll probably use)!

I’m rather impressed with what was achieved in just a single day, the whole team was nothing short of amazing! There was a really excitable buzz on location, we all got along even though we were all being pushed outside of our normal comfort zone. Hoping the end-result will be worth it! The Team

Well done team, awesome work – we did it!!!