Wednesday, 5 August 2009
After finishing a job working for the Students' Union in Lincoln I decided to get back on the long and difficult road to working in film and television. After examining options, I decided to do a Masters in producing. This resulted in a 12 month move back to rural Worcestershire to live with the parents for a year in an attempt to save some money.
Things came together relatively quickly, I snapped up a job in PR and started to save the money to cover postgrad fees. But after a couple of months things did not seem so great. The job turned into the worst kind of corporate hell, so bad that even Ricky Gervais could not have realised it when poking fun at the suited classes in The Office. I eventually felt driven to leave.
There was also the loneliness. My girlfriend has moved to London to work, which meant limited time to see each other. I also went through the realisation that everyone that I have known throughout school or before had moved on to pastures new.
But, after a year of plugging away, the date finally arrived. I put all my things into boxes, loaded the car and headed down to a flat in Stratford, East London. Over the last two weeks I have felt more determined to do things than I have the rest of the year. Scripts are getting written, work and placements are being chased and networking events are being attended.
Tonight is a screening event with a collaborative film company called OTT Films. I will blog about it more when I have had chance to meet the people involved.
So heres to a new flat, fresh start and new found enthusiasm for everything.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Last week I attended an interview at the National Film and Television School for a place on a Masters studying Producing. It had always been the plan to apply for two fantastic courses and if both were offered, to make a decision based on career prospects, student experience and financial implications.
It was also likely a possibility that one or niether of the courses would offer me a place. A couple of months go, Royal Holloway offered me a place and last week I received a letter from NFTS inviting me to an interview.
The interview was with a panel, made up of 3 people, including the Head of the course, an experienced producer and the current Head of Film London. I felt it went OK, a little nervouse to start perhaps but it soon relaxed and a good conversation was had. In all honesty, when you walk into an interview situation, it seems to go well during but little can be remembered specifically from the time spent in the room.
Yesterday I received my answer and it is a no. Well, more accurately, it is a no to a place in the final 16, but a yes to be a reserve incase one of those people drops out.
Of course, being told no for anything is disappointing, but in a large way, I am also happy. It has made removed the difficult decision about where to go extremely easy, it has meant that I can plan to start September (NFTS runs academic years Jan to Dec) and it also means I can budget for costs incurred by attending Royal Holloway.
When I visited the campus back in November last year, I was impressed with its location to Soho, its syllabus for teaching and the Head of Course who took the time to speak to me.
So the plans can begin, starting with a move to East London on the 24th July.
Monday, 22 June 2009
To my surprise, the letter was offering me an interview for a place on the Producing Masters.
The demand is so great for the courses run at NFTS, that this first interview is conducted with a panel of people from the school. After this, 16 successful candidates will be invited to come to the school for a week, to work on a series of challenges. From this week, the final eight will be selected. It all sounds like something from a reality show like The Apprentice, but the process is genuinely exciting.
On the 3rd July 11am, I will enter a room and walk into the unknown. I don't know who the panel is or what I will be asked, but this seems to add to the excitment. I just need to be prepared to answer any questions on television and film with relation to the career and achievements I want.
Friday, 19 June 2009
For someone who wants to work in film, my cinema attendance has been at an all time low of late. This Wednesday I set about changing this with a trip to see comedy The Hangover.
Firstly, this would not have been my first choice film as I have not yet seen Star Trek or Terminator: Salvation, but the person I was going with had already seen these.
With Todd Phillips at the helm, who was the director on 2003's Old School, I thought I knew what to expect. Old School was a fairly standard frat boy comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. It had some funny moments but it was nothing out of the ordinary. With The Hangover being set against the backdrop of a stag weekend, or batchelor party as our trans-Atlantic friends would call it, I was expecting much of the same from Phillips.
And twenty minutes in, true to form, it was panning out that way. But, once into the film, things became interesting. The morning after the night before arrives, with the groom missing, one of the party missing a tooth, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the wardrobe and the father of the bride's prize Mercedes missing (replaced by a stolen Vegas police car). The first device that sets this film apart is the fact that we as an audience are kept in the dark about what happened along with the guys, we are not offered clues or flashbacks, so we discover as they do.
Don't get me wrong, this still has gross out moments but its the banter between the group that draws the biggest laughs. Thw writers have got the characterisation of a group of guys on a 'wild' weekend just perfect.
The Hangover is the best comedy that I have seen in a while, and has set the standard for laughs so far this year.
Monday, 1 June 2009
Dear [your name]
We are sorry that [insert the job they cannot offer you, their reason and usually a line like "the standard of candidates was very high" or "we received a great number of applications"].
[Insert name of employer]
This letter will become what feels like a daily occurance. The only way to take it is with a smile, good grace and a response to thank them for considering you. I do this as a rule, and today I have received an e-mail back stating that they will be keeping me on file for future projects.
The general rule of the industry is to be polite to everyone, as you never know who the next "big thing" will be and who will be recruiting for a project in the near future.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
3D Film is the future. That seems to the message coming from every piece of movie press and every film magazine. Now this opinion facinates me as someone who wants to work in the motion picture industry, as it could either be the biggest technical revolution since colour, or it could be all hype and end up as the visual version of the Minidisc format.
Last weekend I decided to pay the extra to see the animated film Coraline (above) in 3D. The first thing that is different about the whole experience, is that it is between £3 and £4 more to see a film in the new format! The next notable change, is when you are handed your brand new 3D glasses in a sealed bag. Gone are the days of cardboard frames with one red lense and one green lense, these are sturdy, black plastic frames that look a little like extra wide Rayban Wayfarers.
The film itself never really fully flexed its third dimensional muscles, with the only really amazing moments when birds or flying objects appeared to jump off the screen. The reason I know that there is more to come, is that it was shown by the trailer before the film, which was for the Jonas Brother's live movie. One particular wow moment came when ripped up paper appears to be thrown at the camera and float gradually towards the viewer.
Many of the summer blockbusters are not going to be available in 3D, such as Terminator: Salvation and Transformers, which is a real shame as this technology utilised by an action film could create staggering results. There are many reasons for this, cost and the lack of knowledge about what people think of 3D cinema going are two of them. But, in my mind, the studios and directors have two other reasons for holding on, James Cameron and Avatar. James Cameron astounded audiences with the two first Terminator films and then walked away with eleven Academy Awards for Titanic. Since then, he took time out, but while he took hiatus, he found time to invent and hone the principle of modern 3D cinema. Now he is back, and he is due to unleash sci-fi action film Avatar into the world, and with all of his productions, epic things are expected. As the father of the new technology, it seems that everyone in Hollywood is waiting to see what Cameron's new film looks like before commiting to projects themselves.
But two things are for sure. If Avatar hits at the Box Office, expect nearly every film to be released from the back of 2010 onwards to be in 3D. And the second is, that despite the lack of usage in Coraline, 3D cinema is the future for cinema goers.
Friday, 22 May 2009
One is an update of a much loved British 1960s television show. In the past, this has be risky territory for the movie business, with The Avengers, The Saint and Thunderbirds reimaginating all taking a critical beating and floundering at the box office. But something about the one I am working on really makes me think that it could work for a modern audience.
Currently it sits at about 20 pages into the process, and so far feedback received on the concept behind it as been great.
Obviously, at this early stage, with no rights secured I need to be protective about the source material.
After an initial draft is complete I will be creating a treatment and some supporting documents and making an approach for the rights to use the characters and other names used throughout the show.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
As I already have a place secured at Royal Holloway, University of London, the time has come to start giving serious consideration to how it is going to be funded. After much research, it seems that there is limited support for anyone who wants to study a media or humanities based masters degree.
A mixture of savings and selling my car will ensure that I can pay my fees in full at the beginning of the academic year (which brings a £300 saving).
That just leaves the small matter of living and eating! The last few days have been spent researching and applying for part time work that I could fit around the degree. So far, HMV, WH Smith and Blockbuster have been applied to (well I did say I wanted to work with film!). As well as this, various feelance catering and event stewarding posts have been applied for. Hopefully this will yield some results.
Of course, there is always the long shot of a funding application to the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which will award one person on my course the cost of their fees and a further £10,000 towards their living costs. Well, I can but hope!
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Television has realised this and a trend it appearing of characters who are constantly close to the edge. This allows for these people to say outlandish things that secretly we would love to try and get away with and to act in a completely unorthadox fashion.
Some of the best:
Ari Gold from Entourage: Super agent Ari has a fast mouth, quick wit and no sense of the politically correct. Despite the massive personality defects, he seems to be the most popular character from the HBO show.
Example: "A wife is like a herpes sore. She comes and goes as she pleases".
Malcolm Tucker from The Think of It and In The Loop: The foul mouthed government spin doctor from the BBC series and recent feature film.
Example: "I'd love to stop and chat but I'd rather have type two diabetes".
Mark Corrigan from Peep Show: Seems to be the more normal and level headed of the two lead characters in the Channel 4 sitcom, until pressure is applied. So far has taken a wee in the desk of a fellow employee and poked a colleague through his front doors letterflap with a broom.
Example: "Very funny every, I can take a joke. But if it happens again I'll take you to a fucking industrial tribunal".
Reggie Perrin from Reggie Perrin: Although resurrected as Martin Clunes in the current BBC sitcom, Reggie Perrin was at his best when played by Leonard Rossiter. A mundane life leads to thoughts being vocalised and an impending midlife breakdown.
Example: (Dictating a letter to secretary) "Your complaints about late delay are not only completely unjustified, but also ungrammatical. The fault lies in your inability to fill in an order form correctly. You are, in effect, a pompous, illiterate baboon".
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Have been reading back my posts since returning from Sins of London, and realised that in all of the excitment that I had forgotten to post anything about the open day I attended at the National Film and Television School.
It is difficult to describe this place, but the best way is part university, part mini film studio. It is like a shruken Pinewood, complete with sound stages, post production facilities and even recording studios for capturing scores.
The Producing course is 2 years in duration, with the first year about learning the ropes and the second about collaborting with other Masters students to create a working crew. One of the last tasks is to go on a networking exercise to the Cannes Film Festival.
One of the main things I noticed about the whole school is the quality of the students and the work produced. Nothing less would be expected from a place that takes only 8 Masters students from well over a hundred applicants every year.
Even though I am delighted with the place already granted to me at Royal Holloway, University of London, I am still preparing my entry documents for consideration in May. Even though the chances of a place are slim, the motto that you have to be in it to win it ring true. All I can do is work my very hardest on the application tasks and then equally hard in any subsequent interview should I be lucky enough to get one.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Like a band that spends its own money touring and recording when the chance of a pay day is quite slim, a similar feeling can creep in when making movies. Spending money attending meetings, spending time on script development and also emotional investment into a project all can take their toll, resulting in stress, uncertainty and doubt.
I imagine the answer to this question is different for everyone. For me, it is the need to tell stories, to entertain and to make people believe the unbelievable. Because of cinema, millions of people have all been united in laughing, crying and feeling other emotions in a dark room. I thoroughly believe that a film has only truly failed when a viewer leaves feeling numb. The final reason, is wanting to give back to audiences what cinema has given to me.
The time after a project is the main time when doubt begins to try to grab hold. This is because as a crew, everyone bonds and comes together for the sole purpose of making the film as good as it can be, and then after spending ridiculously long hours together every day, it stops. There is also the fact that once the project is done, there may be another battle to get the next job/ commission.
I think at the moment it is that time when a little bit of a reality check is occurring, constantly reminding myself that for every Jerry Bruckheimer there hundreds who pedalled ideas and never got one made. It happens every now and again, haunts you for a day and then leaves.
But I wouldn't change these feelings for the world, as with every arrogant or cocky person I meet in this industry, I feel assured that this thought process acts to keep me grounded and appreciate when things are going well.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
The first two days were standard pre-production jobs, such as visiting a location to double check facilities available to us.
The first two days were spent shooting the first installment called Man In The Road. My alarm sounded at 4am and I headed to Woolwich to pick up a great young actor by the name of Merveille Lukeba, who has recently been on television as Tommy in the new series of Skins. The setting for this part of the films was a bleak industrial estate in Perivale, West London. Not only was time against us in filming roughly eight minutes of footage in two days, but the weather remained a constant threat. When time and money is tight, a heavy day of rain can signal the death of a project. Each evening, we wrapped at 5pm, home and sat down for 7pm.
Monday signalled a welcome move to an indoor setting for Connoisseurs. That morning was a 6am start to collect Stacey Roca and Laurie Hagen on the way to the set. Stacey has recently finished filming for the ITV series Waking The Dead, while Laurie has a host of credits such as Eastenders on her CV, as well as performing burlesque with the group Hurly Burly. We arrived at a beautiful house in Wimbledon Village where the scenes were to be shot. We shot 10am until 9pm Monday to Wednesday (home for 11pm).
The final scene is an actor called James Frost and Laurie arriving at the house. As my car was being used as the "hero" car, I ended up giving James instruction on how to make it look like he has been driving it for a while, which took eight attempts at getting right.
I left these three days seriously impressed with the character and attitudes of all of the actors (expecially James and Laurie), not only are the very talented people, but also genuinely lovely people.
Thursday and Friday came around, signalling later starts, 11am until 10pm shooting days. Another house, this time a pretty suburb in Earlsfield to shoot Infidel.
This time the cast included Dan Fredenburgh (Love Actually, Bourne Ultimatum), Elize Du Toit (Hollyoaks, The Bill), Orla Fitzgerald (Shaking The Barley) and William Beck (Royal Shakespeare Theatre's Hamlet). All of them contributed a massive amount to the scenes, of what I have seen look incredible, fizzling with tension and unease.
The final day of shooting was a night shoot. We all met for 4:30pm to have dinner together and then proceeded to a car park near Wimbledon to meet with the crew from Bickers Action. Bickers are the number one authority on vehicles used for shooting, and for this we would be using their low loader.
A low loader is basically a trailer, that a car can be loaded onto. The core crew of Director, Director of Photography, Script Supervisor and 1st Assistant Director all sit in a booth at the front of the trailer (near the lorry pulling it), while the actors perform their scenes within the car. Being low to the ground, it creates the illusion of the actors driving, but allows them to concentrate on acting. This is still not the main reason for using a low loader, which is that it allows cameras to be placed nearly anywhere around the car without causing obstruction or danger to other road users.
The low loader performed many circuits, with the cameras angles being changed between takes. Bickers finally took the vehicle away at 1:30am.
One final static in-car scene had to be captured before we could wrap on the project. This was Laurie holding a bottle of wine while sat in the car. Finally at 2:30am, we were wrapped!
After dropping James and Laurie home and saying some final goodbyes, I headed back to East London and finally managed to clamber into bed at 4:30am. Now there is just the wrap party to survive on Weds 18th March and then Sins of London is officially closed.....just post production to go!
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Uploaded Twitterberry to my phone, so can also do live updates from shoots and sets.
On the project formerly known as Who Killed Randall?, I am meeting the director Benedict Sampays in Birmingham tomorrow evening to discuss final script revision and to see a draft of the first 60 pages. Again, more details to come.
Finally, the series of short films known as Sins of London starts filming this Thursday. I will be heading down to London Wednesday to get ready for the 12 days of early starts and late nights that will obviously come from such a short shoot. It will be exciting but very very hard work. I will try and add things on here about it when I get a moment.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
On Monday I woke up to find an envelope carrying the stamp from Royal Holloway. I opened it and.................I have been accepted on the MA Television and Film Producing course.
So now I will be looking for part time work in London, as well as applying to bursary schemes.
Due to have a phone call later to clarify deadlines on two projects I am currently working on, which is great to see things coming together.
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
After a discussion about Who Killed Randall with the writer/ director, Benedict Sampays, it has now evolved.
While driving back from London, a discussion about where the storyline could be tightened or tweaked started, which ended 2 hours later with a new twist, new character profiles, new ending...in fact, all that remains is the main spine of the story. Around this spine, there are now numerous sub-plots, that twist and turn around each other. The synopsis now reminds me of early Guy Ritchie plots, with all characters interacting and eventually meeting at key points.
Benedict is now turning this new synopsis into a first draft of the script with a deadline of the 1st March.
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
But a day into being home, I received a phone call from a man by the name of Martino Sclavi. Networking is important in any industry, but especially so in film and television. While out and about in London, I met a script writer called Mark Tilman who has written a number of short films that have been featured at festivals and online. I mentioned what areas of film I worked within and left my contact details with him.
Martino Sclavi is the Producer, working for 2 Many Executives Films, creating three ten minute shorts that will all be screened under the banner of Sins of London. He was ringing to ask whether I would be free to take up a position as assistant during the shooting.
Pre-production is well under way, and I will be joining them as an assistant on the 5th March, though until the 12th March, which will cover the primary shooting of all three scripts.
Thursday, 29 January 2009
After scouring the internet for placements and opporunities for what seems like an age, I was starting to get jaded.
That was until I received an e-mail from Benedict Sampays. Benedict is a director who has produced short films on both 16mm film and digital formats, as well as recently completing his first 16mm feature. I answered his advert looking for producers and assistants on industry website mandy.com offering any help I could.
The e-mailed asked if I was free for a phone interview to do with helping with his next feature, which has the working title of Who Killed Randall?
The phone interview also took a turn for the surprising. After discussing the project, budgets and any ideas I had for the projects, Benedict offered me a position as a full producer. This will mean budgeting, scheduling, casting, hiring crew and organising the logitics of the shoot. There will also be the role of marketing, organising festival screenings and atempting to sell to a distributor both the new project and Benedicts last feature Queen of the Forest (now in post production).
In return I will be entitled to phone calls and petrol used on the shoot, food during the shoot paid for and 10% of any profit from the hopeful sale of the film.
The film will be low budget (although the official term for any production under $100,000 is no budget), coming in at between £10,000 and £40,000, which all depends on the level of equipment selected and the outcome of potential investment.
But right now, in the space of a day, I have officially become a film producer!
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
When trying to get ahead in any industry, there is nearly always the debate about whether education is worth more than hands on experience, or vice versa.
After looking at all of the possible routes to become the best producer I can, a compromise answer has been reached. I will apply for every piece of experience I can find, while also applying for a position on a Masters.
In the UK, there are only 3 producing Masters courses that are Skillet and UK Film Council accredited, Bournemouth, Royal Holloway and the National Film and Television School (NFTS). NFTS has a two year Masters, where as the other two courses are a more traditional one year set up. This is not the only major difference, with NFTS running on calender years (Jan to Dec) rather than academic years (Sept to Aug)
Royal Holloway has its producing building based on the corner on Bedford Square, behind Tottenham Court Road in the centre of London. This gives it fantastic access to Soho, the centre of UK film and TV producing. There were no open days sceduled for the Producing for Film and Television course, so I e-mailed to see if I could visit the building. A week later I found myself sat opposite Gillian Gordon, the head of the course, discussing the course structure and film making in general.
Another week after that, I managed to get myself on an official open day at Bournemouth. Despite its great reputation and knowledgable staff, I have been discouraged by how far it seems from London and the fact that the head of the course admitted that the structure concentrates more on television and digital production.
NFTS has yet to publish an open day date for its producing course, although a massive discouragement has been the £7500 a year fees!
At present, a formal application has now been made to Royal Holloway for September 2009 entry, and an application to NFTS will be prepared and submitted in March/ April for a January 2010 start.
On the experience side of things, various website, such as Mandy.com have provided places to network and try to offer services as a runner or assistant on music videos, short films and even low budget features. We will have to see what this yields for someone such as myself with limited experience.
Networking through sites such as Facebook has also introduced me to friends of friends with aspirations of working in film. From this I have been working on the idea of creating a crew all willing to work for free for mutual experience and their name on the credits.
At present, a short play has caught my eye that was written by someone I know, so I will be asking whether they would grant me the rights to create a screenplay based on their work.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
The first of these meetings was with Professor Brian Winston. Professor Winston is the Lincoln Chair of Communications at the University of Lincoln. He won an Emmy in 1985 for documentary script writing and has worked within current affairs programming. We met at the Brayford Campus of the University of Lincoln and discussed the difficulties of working within television. I found this insightful and sobering, and it illustrated to me how tirelessly I was going to have to work to even be given the opportunity to work.
Through a purely chance discussion, I found out that living in the next village to me was an American TV producer. Cyrus Yavneh's two most successful projects are Season One and Two of 24 and Seasons One to Three of Supernatural.
I wrote a letter to Cyrus, explaining that I wished to be a producer and that any advice he could offer would be greatly received. Knowing that 90% of letters written to people in film and TV end up in the bin, I did not expect to hear anything more about it. Two months after the letter was sent, I received a phone call from Mrs Yavneh explaining that Cyrus was in America and would be free for a chat when he arrived home for Christmas.
Three days before Christmas, Cyrus rang as promised, and we discussed the various roles of producers and the different ways to make yourself appeal to the 'suits'. This phone call was followed up with a coffee and a meeting in a local cafe. Since then, Cyrus has returned to the States to try to secure funding for a feature film he is currently working on.
In both Professor Winston and Cyrus, I feel that I have experienced contacts that I can get in touch with should I have a question that I need answered.
Since I can remember, I have wanted to work in television or film, but due to advise given while still at school, I was discouraged from taking this career path.
As the undergraduate degree came to a close, the urge and need to make movies or TV started to creep back in.
Two years later, after working for the Student's Union at the University of Lincoln, a few people who knew me well commented that the skills earned during my degree and time at the S.U. would set me up well for a career in producing.
Another six months has passed, many books have been read (including the excellent 'Raindance Producers Lab' by Elliott Grove), many web pages viewed and various industry people spoken to.
In trying to reach my dream career, I have applied to various posts and taken on a few opportunities to expand my experience. This blog was the idea of one of my former journalism tutors, documenting the journey, whether that be a successful one or not.