Category Archives: Short film

Real Stories at Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema

We experienced some success last weekend when Emmi was selected by two film festivals (one in Belgium, one in London). Whilst browsing festivals over Easter, I spotted something called ‘Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema’ in London looking for ‘real stories’ to shown. Being as Emmi is inspired by a real story we decided we should give it a go – I’m glad we did!

Susie and I set off to London for the event (wrestling rush hour traffic, underground cancellations, problematic ticket barriers – arriving with 5 minutes to spare). When we arrived we were greeted by Ashley Jackson the festival organiser. There were seven films in the line-up (we were programmed to be the last film before the interval).

Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema postcard

The quality of the films shown were great, it’s nice to think that our rather personal little film might be considered alongside some of these. Let’s go over them one by one:

Grandmas Big Schlep:
Hannah finds out that Grandma wasn’t actually Jewish and can’t be buried next to Grandpa as planned. She must go on her journey with her sister Rivkah to make things right before it’s too late.

Although this was the longest film of the evening (20 minutes), it was also the most uplifting. The time bristled by and there was a lovely warmth and humour to the film. Both of the girls put in great performances and the whole thing had a polished and lavish feel. Nice to see it was made by a female team also.

 

Girl:
An Experimental drama about a young homeless woman who spends her days chasing a feeling.

From the longest film shown to the shortest, I found this particularly interesting to contrast against our homeless short film “Spare Change”. A couple of minor details were lacking authenticity (indeed the same is true of Spare Change), but I liked the overall message of the film. It was also interesting that it was shot in “Portrait” rather than traditional Widescreen which helped give the “Girl” a sense of isolation and a different perspective.

 

Husky:
Marcus, a boy on the brink of adulthood struggles to decide where his loyalties lie.

In some ways this gritty drama was a little similar in tone to our film, although the canvas felt slightly larger and the end result is more cinematic. There are two great performances in this short: the antagonist Dan (suitably loathsome) and the downs syndrome character Mary (who is the true standout of the film). Extremely well made and at a couple of points an excruciating, a testament to its power. I’d say this was my favourite film during the evening and again nice to a female team at the helm.

 

Emmi:
Keeping with the darker theme, we were next. We were pleased about being just before the interval as it gave us an opportunity to invite feedback. It was also a good opportunity to see the film on a different system (note to self: dial down the sound mix for future screenings). It was amusing to hear one audience member humming Emmi’s main theme at the end of the film.

 

Kitty’s Fortune
Based on Kitt Hart-Moxon’s first night in Auschwitz when Kitty encounters a palm-reading Gypsy who hones in on her lifeline. The film is a glimpse into a touching encounter between two people amidst the brutality of their surroundings.

On a technical level this was by far the most polished of the films shown, it was beautifully filmed. Yet despite the haunting performances/worthy subject matter, something didn’t quite click (not just me – Susie thought the same). We found the atmosphere in the first half extremely moving and well paced with a palpable sense of dread. This isn’t sustained after the initial gypsy encounter and the film felt like it needed a stronger ending. That said, this is still an impressive film, especially in terms of what was achieved for the budget.

 

A Six and Two Threes:
Two kids from different sides of the tracks meet when one goes in search of their father.

Again there was some very impressive cinematography in this piece. Some of the dialogue in the film was difficult to hear, but what I really liked was the authenticity of the film. The performers felt genuine and were around the right age. The two main performances were nicely handled and the younger kid in particular is a hoot. The language was also very crude, I was thinking Emmi would easily win the swear count until this film’s colourful language took things to the next level! Very well done and strangely touching.

At this point we had to leave to get back, but during the interval we caught up with the Writer/Producer (Ellie Gocher) and Director (Jimmy Dean) of the final film ‘Offside’. We spoke a bit about finding funding and what they had planned as their next project. They also told us that the film was online (so I’ll share it below).

 

Offside:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/03/28/offside/

Offside tells the story of 11 year old Kirsty who struggles to accept her looming femininity as she learns she will soon lose her position on the local boys football team.

Having now seen the film, I’d say that the film was slower paced than many of the other films shown during the evening, but the pacing was deliberate and the story works on multiple levels. The central performances felt genuine and authentic and it particularly resonated being as I’m father to a 10 year old daughter who also currently enjoys playing football. Of course being as the film is shared online you can make your own mind up!

The programme for evening can be downloaded here.

This was a great evening and I’d like to extend my thanks to Lo-No for selecting our film and making us feel welcome. We hope to return for the next project!

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

Cityscape 9

Recently I had the privilege to work alongside Artist Gareth Jones (1965). Gareth studied Fine Art during the mid 80’s before moving on to varied projects such as a new edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (with Four Corners Books) and a solo exhibition at the Milton Keynes Gallery. In 2006 he received a Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Arts.

It was quickly apparent that Gareth influences are Utopian architecture, in particular Milton Keynes where he grew up as a child. In 2011 he produced a short film entitled “Looking for Milton Keynes“.

Spending time in Oxford provided him with the opportunity to explore this further. Rather than focusing on the traditional sandstone views of Oxford, Gareth wanted to showcase the city’s modernism, a side often overlooked.

Cityscape 9 - Viewing gallery

The end result is part meditative science fiction travelogue steeped in mid-21st century pop-culture and part art-house (in the style of La Jetée). If you are unfamiliar with La Jetée, its director Chris Marks didn’t have money to shoot on film and instead used black and white photographs to tell the story (with music and a voice over). La Jetée would go on to form the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s film Twelve Monkeys.

We decided to use a similar stylistic approach but with colour. I admired Gareth’s photographs taken from his tiny Olympus pocket-cam (the way he used composition, geometry and the contrasts between light and shadows). The rest of the film (scripting, sound recording, audio sound-scape, editing) all needed to come together very quickly being as Gareth was planning to show the film with his exhibition.

Hopefully we succeeded in showcasing a less familiar (and occasionally alien) side of the Oxford city landscape.

(Vimeo link: Cityscape 9)

Day 25: Christmas Teaser

Well sadly there just wasn’t enough interest in the Christmas song (thanks to those who did vote however). In place of this – I’ll share the teaser I previously mentioned on Day 18. It’s only rough but features some new music and I hope you enjoy the very first glimpse into the project. Meanwhile I’d love to know what you think, so please feel free to leave a comment below. And with that, I wish you all a very merry and peaceful Christmas!

First teaser for The Choice

 

The A-Team

In due course I’ll post my experiences about filming Emmi. Before I do that however, I would like to thank the amazing team who helped make it all happen:

Adam Radley:
Adam Radley
Thanks for your friendship over the past 20+ years (feeling old now) and offering support whenever filming happens. You have been invaluable over the past couple of weekends (as you proved during both Etiquette and Spare Change). It’s great to see you flex those prop-skills again!
Alex Abbey-Taylor:Alex Abbey-Taylor Welcome to the crazy world of film-making! It was fantastic to see you tackle all the challenges, even if they involved redressing/painting one of your bedrooms as a set and letting a bunch of mad people move in to cause mayhem!
Amy Harris:
Amy
Thanks for being our amazing Sarah and bringing her to life, giving her the warmth you naturally exude (which wasn’t always written down in the script). Sorry for making you traipse around in PJs in the dark. Was a real pleasure collaborating with you on this. And you’re a Spooks fan, so can do no wrong!
Barbara Deane:
Barbara Deane
Thank you for coming in at the last minute and being so patient with us, despite all the waiting around and dreary weather conditions. I’m really pleased we were able to give you a bit more to do and hope you found the experience enjoyable.
Dan Edwards:
Dan
Thanks for your offer of help at just the point we needed it (ie. extremely short notice). Really appreciated all your logging/scene lighting efforts (that damn stairwell!). It was great to have you along for the ride.
Daniel McGregor-Gill:
Danny
Mr Gimble! Thanks for all those wonderful smooth shots you produced for us, plus occasionally scaling dizzy heights so we could black things out (having tree surgeon skills obvious helps). Your good humour was infectious and kept the whole team going through-out.
Diego Carvalho:
Diego Carvalho
Brilliant having you back helping with make-up after Etiquette. Really sorry you missed that Halloween party and your car misbehaved on the first day 🙂 Great to have you in the film as an extra this time also.
Gillian Kirkpatrick:
Gillian
Loved your insights on other productions, dread to imagine what you’ll say about our production! Thanks for hitting your marks absolutely spot on during that amazing mad dash at the end. I’m expecting to see you on an episode of Doctor Who in the near future.
The Hoodies:
Hoodies
Adam Gilday, Ben Wooding and Lara Stead – you all look menacing on camera, but were all extremely polite and patient with us behind the scenes. Sorry to get you all out of bed early on a Sunday morning just to be rained on and stand around in a grimy underpass.
Jo Lewis-Wood:
Jo Lewis-Wood
Thanks so much for allowing us to film your little one and being so calm, patient and understanding with us. Without your adorable (and amazingly tolerant) little girl this film simply wouldn’t work! There is a toy penguin heading your way soon!
Laura Jones:
Laura Jones
You contributed a lot during the initial stages of the project, then other things then came up. It was wonderful to have you and your enthusiasm back with us for the actual shoot.  Thanks for your cat-wrangling skills and all the lovely food you brought along to keep the team going – massively appreciated!
Mel Cunningham:
Mel Cunningham
Thanks for all your lovely photos and offering to help out in any way behind the scenes whenever the help was needed (occasionally in the form of cconfectionery). It was awesome to have you back on this shoot with us! Can’t wait to see the poster concepts.
Natalie Martins:
Natalie Martins
You knocked the character of Emmi (the script’s most difficult character) out of the park! Thanks so much for doing this, making it all seem so graceful/effortless and being game for pretty-much everything we threw at you. You were mesmerising to watch and hope we can give your performance the justice it deserves.
Oliver Richards:
Oliver Richards
Thanks for just being there and jumping in for whatever we needed help with, be it logging or the occasional bit of sound recording. I’m hoping we can put some of your after effects skills to good use in the not-to-distant future. Meanwhile Salsa!
Philip Hind:
Phil Hind
You were there from the very beginning. Thanks for all the lovely camera work, focus pulls and fastidious attention to detail (during both the production and pre-production). Loved your dry wit and no-nonsense attitude, can’t wait to see that assembly edit.
Polly Biswas Gladwin:
Polly Biswas Gladwin
Thanks for being our ears (usually in more than one way) and recording the majority of the sound for us. Your diplomacy was much appreciated on many an occasion and it was brilliant have another “original member” help us all the way through the project.
Rachel Pooley:
Rachel Pooley
To think we thought you might be the quiet one in the team before we started shooting – haha! We really missed your on-set banter and antics after the first day of shooting. Thanks for playing Ali, carrying buggies/babies all over the place. Wanting to play that 1 second music intro game again now.
Susie Stead:
Susie Stead
Last but by certainly no means least! The whole project would have never happened without all of your enthusiasm and last-minute problem-solving. And of course your script which attracted everyone to the project in the first place. I feel we complimented each-other very well, not sure this is how writers/directors are supposed to behave on set according to film-making folklore. It feels strange not speaking to you on a daily basis about “the next set of obstacles we’ll need to over-come”.

Finally thanks to everyone in the production group and Film Oxford who all helped out behind the scenes. My hope is that everyone on the shoot had fun making it and what an amazing team you all made!

If you’d like to keep up with additional information about this and other projects as they happen, visit the Ferny Films page on Facebook.

The Flat, The Cat, The Penguin

Yes the post-title is referencing the original tag-line from Batman Returns (which whilst not the best film in the series, is definitely the most stylish and under-rated). Although this isn’t really going to be a post covering the caped crusader (this time).

Batman Returns

This blog has been very quiet recently, but not down to any inactivity on my part. We will be filming our mini-opus in 3 days time (I’m not sure why I think I have time to write this entry really, I just need a break and this is as close as it will get). The film is by far the most ambitious thing I’ve attempted to date. On paper it all sounds so deceptively simple, in reality it isn’t.

The Flat
Most of the film takes place in a block of flats. So the first decision is do we go for grim/gritty (in which case is it safe?) or do we go for somewhere a little nicer (safer)? As most of our characters don’t really want to be living in this place, this  influenced our decision. Cue fun times scouring around the city in all the lovely glamour spots trying to find something suitable and hobnobbing with the locals (one of whom introduced himself with “You don’t know me, but I’m the bad boy of this area.”). Nice!

Towerblock location

We did consider filming in the above location (which may still be used for exteriors), but the place was both unsafe, unclean (the room we looked at is to be fumigated this week) and we didn’t have any real control over the environment. So we have been frantically looking everywhere for suitable locations which can double as flats without upsetting the locals. Hopefully it’s mostly together now, although we still haven’t finalised all locations (yes, I know – we are filming in a couple of days – but a lot can happen in that time – right?!)

The Cat
There is a popular show-biz saying “never work with small children or animals”. Nothing like a challenge, we are doing both (young baby and a cat), not only this –  in the same scene together. Goodness only knows how this aspect will work out! But at least we *do* have both a cat and a baby, we just need them to perform on cue and on camera together (laughing maniacally to self).

The Penguin
The Penguin is just one of the many props we need, (and perhaps the easiest to source). We are now frantically flapping trying to get all the set dressing, props and  costumes ready for the shoot. A lot is dictated by the actual locations. One of the biggest problems with filming in more than one location (aside from the time it takes to move a small army from A to B) is making sure everything appears to be part of the same environment. This is a massive headache (it’s not as if I don’t already have enough to sort without worrying whether the carpets/doors/windows match across the locations – newsflash – they probably won’t!). We also have limited kit available, but to be honest this is probably a good thing considering some of the confined areas we are going to be working in.

Did I mention that most of it is also set at night? I’m pretty sure I said after Spare Change, that I definitely don’t want to do another night-shoot again!

So at the moment, disorganised chaos (even the crew aren’t entirely finalised), although the reality we are shooting in a few days has definitely kicked in (I need waaaay more sleep!!). The one thing which has clicked however is our amazing cast, who I couldn’t be more thrilled with!  Small victories such as this are just the beacon we need to counter the fact we are lacking money, time, space, sleep and whole bunch of other things which will need to happen before the weekend. Once I’ve recovered from the first weekend of shooting, I’ll aim to post an update on how everything went. That is – if I make it that far!

Rebecca Hind: watercolours video

Last week I was fortunate to spend time chatting with local artist Rebecca Hind from the Ruskin School of Fine Art. She has a watercolour exhibition called ‘Leaves from a Book of Hours’ which is open to all by appointment (at The Kendrew Barn, St Giles Street, Oxford – running for three weekends).

RebeccaHind-Flyer

To be honest I tend to think of watercolours looking pretty washed out, but her work is an explosion of colour influenced by the elements. She kindly allowed me to interview her and film the creation of a sketch-book piece:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcffzDkmWrQ

If you would like to view the exhibition, please visit the here for further information.