Category Archives: Emmi

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
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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!

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!

Day 22: Going underground

There is something very cinematic about a subway, not that I would ever look forward to filming in one.

Directing the Subway scene

By October we had picked the subway location we liked and worked with Film Oxford and the city council to secure it. The good news was it was near to our main base, reasonably quiet and generally one of the safer environments we might have used (helped by the fact we shot it early on a dreary Sunday morning). The bad news was it was still pretty grim (if only you could have had “smell-0-vision”).

Directing the Subway scene 2

Ultimately it provided us with some pretty moody and menacing footage. In fact I think my favourite shot of the film was filmed here (even if it did need a fair bit of rehearsal and some pretty meticulous timing).

Subway Scene

Day 21: Bedroom antics

Sunday: day of rest. Thought I’d use this as an excuse to cover some of the fun we had dressing bedroom locations in Emmi. The first was a teenage bedroom. We were able to gain a brief insight into “the real thing”. The obvious conclusions were white walls are unpopular, posters need to be plastered everywhere and it shouldn’t be tidy. Pretty-much as you’d expect – so this came together surprisingly easily (with the exception of needing to find the right material to plaster the walls with).

More problematic was the bedroom for our main character Sarah. We almost took an easy option, but something was nagging me about it – it wasn’t quite right for Sarah’s character. In the end crew-member Alex kindly allowed us to come in and use his spare room for the location. There were a couple of small issues to overcome before we started filming however:

Bedroom pre-dressing

Pre-dressing Bedroom wall

It wasn’t just his nephew’s artwork on the walls, the funishings, a lack of curtains, doorways in the wrong place and windows going full-width across the room (the windows are square in the establishing location shots). We only had two days before we needed to start filming!

It just goes to show how some organisation, a lick of paint, a bit of set dressing and boarding up of windows can transform things dramatically in almost no time at all.

Set Dressing ideas

Fully Dressed

Thanks to Alex for this one, I’m definitely glad we went the extra mile to achieve this – it really made all the difference.


Day 20: Fully equiped

As a film-maker it’s easy to chase your tail in terms of equipment. There is so much amazing kit out there right now and it’s getting better and more affordable all the time! One of the nice things about working with the Film Oxford Production Group is getting to share and play with each others kit.

Setting up kit

In terms of Emmi, for lighting we had softboxes, redheads but the real winners were the portable LED panels which threw out a fair amount of light in a confined space and were used in all exterior shots.

For sound we had used a Zoom H6 to record the audio. We had access to wireless lapel mic kits, but in the end opted to record everything with an Rode NT2 shotgun microphone on boom for a more natural sound.

Then there was the camera (or rather cameras). We used a combination of the Panasonic GH4 and GH3 with various lenses. The two worked very well together, I have to say I am particularly impressed with the GH4 for the price. That said it isn’t a low-light camera and you need nice lenses (and ideally the Metabones speedbooster so you can attach faster lenses with less crop on them).

Making everything look more impressive were monitors, matte boxes, follow focus, stabilising gimbals. Toys toys toys!
Toys Toys Toys

I have a GH4 on my Christmas list, but sadly I don’t think I’ve been quite good enough this year!