The Ferryman

This is a film that has essentially been two years in the making. Ever since 2009 when myself and Co-Director J.A. Taylor had the idea to create a dance film. We both came up with separate ideas and both made our own 2-3 minute dance video, with a bit of help from each other on the way. We really loved the experience we had working on these dance films but they were both a bit rubbish so we wanted to up our game if we were to do it again. We then spent the summer working together on the script for a film we wanted to make, when we started university again in September 2010. Unfortunately our film was not chosen to get made, but we still had such great fun writing together that we wanted to work together in the future, which is when we were approached by Paul Healey who wanted a DVD making, that would teach salsa dance to beginners. He created a lesson plan and we filmed the whole thing using an infinity wall exactly as requested. We were then approached again by another dancer, this time to film a short ballet. And this is what we came up with.

Whilst we were making this film we came up with the idea for The Ferryman, and this time we managed to get our film picked. We were really pleased that we’d finally get the chance to direct our own narrative short film and we really pushed ourselves with this one because we knew we would have no second chances. We drew on all of the things we had learnt from working with dancers and how to film them on our past projects, and felt quite confident we could achieve what we wanted. We by no means expected the film to get the response it has though. We were expecting it to be quite a niche market/marmite sort of film that you either love it or you hate it. And so we were really surprised when people that said they don’t normally watch or even like dance films said they felt quite captivated and even moved by it.

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It’s been a really incredible experience over the last 4 months working on the film. The first month was spent in pre-production; the second in rehearsals, filming, and editing; the fourth month continuing editing and the third month we had off due to the easter break. The Ferryman is definitely the best film that I’ve ever made and to share that experience with J.A. Taylor was amazing, I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own (although I’m sure she could have ;)) and I’ve loved every minute of it. It was also really nice to end the project with watching it on the big screen at Cineworld in Cheltenham, where we watched all of the films that everyone from our course had made over the last year. And we managed to get a very close 2nd place for the best film award which was chosen by the Cheltenham Film Society. So we’re both really pleased with the film and just hope that we will manage to have some success with it on the festival circuit.

If you want to know a bit more about the film including cast and crew bios and a short behind the scenes doc you can view all that here.

The State Of 3D

3D films have been around since the 50s, but were pretty niche market and predominately in America until it came to the 80s. Apparently there was some sort of worldwide resurgence in the 80s where the movie industry tried to go 3D. But who cares…? Anyone that does needs to get over it. That was then and this is now, hell I wasn’t even born then! 3D is here to stay whether you like it or not, so quit pussyfooting around and comparing it to the last time 3D was “here to stay” and get your 3D glasses on people.

So you’ve been to the movies and seen a 3D film, and yup you’re right they suck. The 3D is crap and doesn’t do well with heavily moving images, and the most of the time hurts you’re eyes, that’s if you even need the glasses, because there are some “3D” films that I’m pretty sure are just 2D films that they make you wear the glasses for, yes I’m looking at you Tim Burton. If you forgot to convert Alice In Wonderland into 3D then I will forgive you, but if you didn’t then you really fucked it up because it was as flat as a pancake!

As far as I’m concerned there are only two 3D movies that I’ve seen, that I would actually class as being 3fuckingD, and they are Avatar and Pina. If you think 3D is shit then you’ve obviously not seen Avatar in IMAX 3D because I’m telling you that it is more 3D then real life. And if you thought the film was shit because it was “just about the 3D and had exactly the same story as Pocahontas” then you obviously need to get over yourself. 3D is not just a gimmick, it is a tool used to tell emotion. When done properly it takes you inside the film and you stop believing that you’re watching Sam Worthington give a shit performance, and instead just think hey maybe this guy is just naturally a bit wooden, cos I’m pretty sure we’ve all met some people like that, I know I can think of a few. And the Pocahontas thing… if you hated Pocahontas then fair enough you should hate Avatar too, but I thought Pocahontas was awesome and the fact that they’re blue? Really? Talk about being racist! And I’m pretty sure no one had a problem with the green (green? blue? she was one of them colours) chick in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek?

But maybe Avatar’s not your thing. You’re not a mainstream kind of person. Maybe you’re a film purest and think 2D is the only way? If that’s the case why are you watching colour films? Or maybe you just prefer art house cinema to the money hungry machines that are the mainstream studio films? Either way you need to see Pina 3D. This film is about as far away from Avatar as you can get. It’s an independent documentary film about dance. The depth to this film is just incredible, it’s like you’re actually right there watching the dance. If it wasn’t for the 3D this film would probably be a bit boring I think because dance is a three dimensional form of art, and when you lose the third dimension on the transition from using your eyes to viewing the dance through a camera, you need to bring something else in to bring back that third dimension, and Pina doesn’t bring anything new to the table in that regard. Instead it never loses that original third dimension, it is like you are actually there watching the dance with your eyes and you’ve got the best seat in the house. But somehow it looks better in 3D via a camera than simply just using your eyes. The depth to the image is again more 3D that real life, in some ways it lets you appreciate the 3rd dimension that we take for granted in our everyday lives, and brings a whole new beauty to it.

So if you think 3D is a load of bullshit, unless you’ve seen both of these films you don’t know what you are talking about. Every other 3D film has failed in my opinion, but just because they have failed doesn’t mean that they should stop, because it is for the films like Avatar and Pina that 3D is made for, and it is there job to show the other filmmakers how to do it right. 3D is an amazing tool that needs to be pushed. The potential is incredible. Imagine 3D films with incredible depth where you can go to the cinema and view them without glasses. This is the future. But it won’t happen unless people like James Cameron and Michael Bay push the technology. I just hope that Transformers: Dark Of The Moon will be joining Avatar and Pina among the great 3D films, and not join the rest of the crap that are more like 2 and a half D!

Creating A Music Video

Bit of a late post this month but I’ve had a lot going on. We’ve finished shooting on The Ferryman and are now heavily into the post-production phase. We should hopefully finish grading this week and have the soundtrack done by the end of next week. I’ve also been working on a couple of music videos.

I went to visit my friend Tom Law in Bath for a couple of days last month where we teamed up and combined out passions, my love for filming, and Tom’s love for music. Tom’s a singer/song writer who’s currently recording his first EP as well as gigging lots in London and Bath, and has asked me a few times to help him shoot a music video. But as we’ve been in different parts of the country it’s been hard getting together, so me visiting him in Bath was the perfect time and place to make some.

Tom was very specific as to what he wanted. A single take where the camera simply floats around and that just looks awesome. In one word… simple. And to give the videos more of a natural feel he wanted me to record the music videos with live audio instead of lip syncing them. So we went to a couple of locations and set about shooting our videos guerilla style.

This one happened to be the first take. The second take I tried with a longer lens and we agreed that the wider lens used for the first take looked better. And then before we could do any more we got shouted out to move on by some grumpy woman as we were playing opposite her house. Guess she wasn’t a fan!

The second video we shot at Bath train station at 2am. We managed to get into the station as there were builders at work on the opposite platform. It took us about 45 minutes to shoot the video as we had to shoot when the builders weren’t making noise, which meant we were waiting around a lot of the time. But eventually they left and locked the gate behind them. So once we finished we found out that we were actually stuck inside the train station and ended up having to climb over the spiky fence. Tom being very tall found this no problem. Myself being much smaller managed to get stuck halfway, something Tom managed to get a great little photo of (you can view it on his blog here). But I think the end result was worth it as we’re both really happy with the video.

I shot both the videos on my Canon 550D. What gives the movement its smoothness though is my steadicam. Steadicams are extremely expensive but I managed to get mine for £10 because its not a proper steadicam. All it is, is my monopod with my small camera bag, filled with stuff to make it heavier, hanging from the bottom of it. I’ll post a little video of what it looks like sometime soon. As for editing all it needed was the beginning and end trimming, grading and then just adding the titles.

Beautiful Illusion

This film came about when myself and co-director Jessica Taylor were approached to film a short ballet for a graphic design student at our university. The student, Olivia Ratcliffe, was an ex-professional ballet dancer who unfortunately had to retire due to injury. However, she decided to put on her ballet shoes again for her project where the aim was to show the beauty and the pain of ballet. The project started out as a website (which you can view here), but she also wanted a film making to accompany the website, which is where we came in.

We shot the film in 4 hours, which required us filming it again and again simply going up and down on the tracks which we shot it off. It was an interesting and fun experience and is our first collaborative dance film, which also gave us the inspiration for our upcoming film The Ferryman. This film is quite different to The Ferryman as we didn’t have any influence on the choreography, however, it did help us when it came to thinking about how we wanted to film The Ferryman. So for us it was an essential film for us to make as it has provided us with so much more knowledge and wisdom for us to apply to our own film, where we have had a creative input on everything.

With Beautiful Illusion, the music that the dance was choreographed and performed to was written by Max Richter. However, this music was copyrighted and so for us to submit our film to festivals we would have had to get permission to use the music which would have cost us quite a bit. Instead we decided to get original music written for the dance after we had finished editing it. The music we had written for us was by Rebecca-Kate Leach who we think has done a wonderful job. It’s an approach I would use again, but not in a rush, as I like having the music that you will use in the end there at the beginning, as otherwise you can become too attached to the original music. For The Ferryman we managed to secure our music before we started choreographing so for our next film the music will be the same in the end as it was at the beginning. But we shall have to see if it makes a difference to the finished piece.

We have also entered a one minute version of the film into the competition which you can view here.

If you want to know more about Beautiful Illusion I have created a page specific for the film containing a synopsis as well as cast and crew bios which you can view here.

The Last Sound

As well as working on Subject 27 before Christmas, I also was the sound man on the short film Blind. However, it was very different working on this film to Subject 27 as I didn’t do any post-production sound and was simply the boom operator on set. It was a fun shoot though and the came out really nice in the end which we’re all pleased with.

Let us know what you thought in the comments below, or by leaving a comment on Vimeo.

You can read the script for the film here: Blind (Script)

As there wasn’t much for me to do on set whilst the shots were being set up, I took lots of photos and shot a few timelapse videos of the behind the scenes on the film. The timeplase video only shows you us working on three shots in the film, the first of which didn’t actually make it into the cut, but it is still quite interesting to watch.

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This is the last student film I will have done sound on as I am directing the next film with Jessica Taylor, which we are currently in pre-production on. It’s called The Ferryman and is a dance film about the day a human fell in love with death. Shooting should hopefully take place later this month, and the film is due for completion on 24th May 2011.

There is still the feature 39 Years that I need to do the sound for, which I’ll be working on over the easter break, but otherwise I’m happy I no longer have to settle for being the sound man and can finally do what I want to do and direct dance films.

Since I’ve now taken down the John Gimbie talk on freelancing as a sound man, which I posted last month, from my SoundCloud account to make space for other things, I’ve uploaded the file here instead, so you should still be able to download it for the next few months. That concludes the little lecture series.

And if you’ve got a spare minute have a listen to this and/or download it. It’s a song by my friend Tom Law who you can also follow on twitter: @tomlawmusic