Film festival submission

And so it has begins. I’ve never personally submitted to any film festivals before (even if I’ve worked on a number of films which have won awards). Honestly speaking, it can feel a little overwhelming and alien. There are so many festivals to chose from, so many pitfalls. Looking through some of the previous winners you might also be forgiven for wondering if your film is well be good enough. I know we are going to be competing against more technically accomplished films. On the other hand I truly believe our film Emmi has a compelling story with something interesting to say.

A common phrase heard in the film world is “make a list, start at the top and work down”, exactly my approach to festival submissions. Whether this is a good move remains to be seen (my suspicion is that you need to be within the “correct circles” to access to some of these festivals). Even so – if you don’t try, you’ll never get in! I’ve been using Film Freeway for submissions (seems to be the current standard for online submission). I’ve found it easy and intuitive to use.

Emmi on Film Freeway
During the past week or so we’ve submitted to a number of UK film festivals – most can be considered “top-tier” along with a couple which are more specific. I’d like to see how these earlier submissions go before getting too excitable.

I’ve already picked up that time is a huge consideration:

  • You need to send in applications in early. Costs go up over time and once applications reach a certain threshold – capacity is full and chances are you’ll be discarded even if you have one of the better entries.
  • You need to be patient. It takes ages for festival organisers to review literally thousands of online screeners!
  • Can you attend the festival dates, are there going to be any clashes?

There are also lots of rules and regulations which are specific to each festival.

Hopefully we can announce how things go as they develop. Meanwhile if anyone else reading this has any other festival tips that they would like to share, it would be fantastic if you are able to add these in the comments section below.

Finishing Emmi

It’s been a busy start to the year for our latest project Emmi but we have finally finished work on the film. The last slog is often the hardest!

In terms of finishing the film it’s been:

  • Music composing (I’ll no doubt expand more on this in a future post)
  • Special Effects (thanks to frequent collaborator Jim Gwilliam)
  • Creating titles
  • Colour Grading (thanks to Daniel Mac-Gregor Gill)
  • Sound Mixing (thanks to Oxford Audio Post Production who have given us a lovely 5.1 surround mix)
  • Creating a DCP (This is a new thing for me. Pleased to say that the digital projection file works – thanks to The Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford for letting us test this).

Of course the work does not end here, we are currently developing material to help us promote the film – including:

  • The Trailer
  • The Poster
  • The Website

We also will need to work on Festival submissions. We’ll update you with these things in due course, but for now here is the first look at the Poster for the film:

Emmi Poster
To follow live developments on this project, future projects and for any film-making discussion – please follow our new Twitter account here:

https://twitter.com/fernyfilm

The Enchanted Forest

Happy New Year! I spent the majority of my Christmas break catching up on  film watching with the girls. This was mostly a combination of Disney, Harry Potter and Fantastic beasts and where to find them.

My youngest now wants to be a unicorn roaming around in a forest whilst my eldest keeps chanting the “three unmentionable curses” at me all day (thanks very much J.K. Rowling)!

Watching their imaginations grow, I felt inspired to write a piece of music which celebrates these fantasy worlds.

(Direct soundcloud link here)

Deafening silence

You would be forgiven for thinking I’d left my blogging days long behind! I haven’t – it’s just been ridiculously busy! Now that certain milestones (or is that millstones) have cleared I am able to do some composing and film making once more.

We are in the final stages of completing our short film (this was rather shockingly filmed over two years ago). In October I met with Susie Stead (the writer/producer) and we gave ourselves a deadline of finishing the film “before the end of 2016”, the reality is I’d like it finished it even earlier.

This period of inactivity has been helpful in allowing us to reflect with a completely fresh perspective. The most significant change is we have renamed the title from “The Choice” to “Emmi” (the character which the film revolves around). We felt the original title no longer represented the film properly and we wanted something which was short and snappy!

Emmi Title

The film edit is locked but there are a number of post-production elements still to finish: visual tweaks, colour grading, sound. In terms of the sound we are working with Oxford Audio Post Production. They have worked on projects including the Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the forthcoming Netflix “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.

The aim will be to take the film on the festival circuit in 2017, exciting times ahead!

Bourne Again

Last week I watched the new Jason Bourne movie. With no James Bond film on the foreseeable horizon – this seemed the next best thing (aside from The Night Manager).

In terms of Bourne, I’m in the minority who is not a fan of The Bourne Ultimatum (which most people consider the best). Whilst I can appreciate it on some levels (eg. the excellent Waterloo sequence) I’m a far bigger fan of the first two (The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy). Both of these films have the heart and humanity of Marie (Franka Potente) which is contrasted nicely against the duplicitous cunning of Abbott (Brian Cox). These characters are both sorely missed in the later installments. The new film (which isn’t a strictly necessary addition to the series) plays like a greatest hits album but with slightly different renditions. It’s fun, familiar but not as good as the originals – but that’s not to say it’s not still enjoyable.

I’m also a massive fan of the musical scores from the first two Bourne movies. John Powell’s score for Identity was rather unique at the time – mixing throbbing percussion, atonal electronics, stabbing staccato strings against occasional acoustic elements. Supremacy expanded on these themes in the best possible way and introduced some new material (‘To the roof’ being my personal favourite). Much like the films, by the third installment everything was feeling familiar (in fact they even dropped cues from the first film over the top of some parts). The most recent (Jason Bourne) score is credited to both John Powell and David Buckley. I was sad to learn that John Powell’s wife died earlier this year, I suspect this is why David Buckley has also been involved this time around. He does a good job of weaving together some of Powell’s familiar themes.

I decided for fun I’d also like to try to emulate John Powell’s style and create an imaginary Bourne score. Had tremendous fun writing this! That said it tested my playing ability (the end is some of the fastest track work I’ve done – probably a rebellious response to the torn ligament in my index finger I’m still nursing). Hopefully fans of these scores can have some fun trying to see how many of the original themes they can spot!

The Production Process

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.

The Production Process
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.

Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw

Cutting a long story short

After a rather difficult 2015, I find myself entering 2016 with renewed vigor! It feels like I’ve achieved more in a month than during the whole of 2015. If I’ve adopted a mantra this year it would be: “make it happen but keep it simple”. Simplicity often appears graceful and effortless, but the reality is getting there is usually anything but.

After months (indeed a year) tinkering on the edit for our project Emmi, I was going around in circles. During a test screening to the crew – it was clear that the film wasn’t hitting the spot. We discussed it with as many people as we could which resulted in a mass of differing opinions. Time passed – work, Christmas and a distinctly average Bond film all got in the way.

Andrew Carslaw - Director of The Choice
During this downtime, I had a rare moment of clarity. The problem with the film was that it was trying to say and do too much. So away I went and pared everything down to its bare essence, the entire structure was overhauled and streamlined. Recently we re-screened the film and it is now getting the response I was looking for. This hasn’t been an quick or easy process, but I can say it has been an incredible learning experience. We now have a picture lock and it feels liberating to be moving forward again.

Expect to see some new project developments soon, watch this space!