Peer pressure is a wonderful thing…
Peer pressure is a wonderful thing…
Christmas Eve 2014 in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Emily told me to go jump off a bridge, so I did.
43 metres above the glistening blue waters of the Kawarau river I perched on a wooden ledge – a towel tied around my ankles with a flexible cord dangling from it and a guy stood behind me telling me to jump. This wasn’t some sick nightmare, I’d actually paid to be here. And despite what my stomach was telling me, I was about to jump.
I took my last look down, the water looked so inviting, but I’m sure there were better ways to go for a dip in it. Nethertheless, I jumped. I had wanted to scream “YIPPIE KAI YAY” or yell out a manly roar, but in the moment all I did was fall – which came very naturally, I might add.
The water was hitting my hands before I knew it, cold and refreshing, but most importantly – I’d made it. I swung back up again, being tossed around by physics like a rag doll in a washing machine – and I loved every second of it. The smiles were all real.
I finally got into the support boat, and it was to be another 5 minutes before my heartbeat would return to its resting pace. Another New Zealand memory I won’t forget in a hurry.
Our New Zealand Adventure.
5.5 hours of video.
Auckland, Hunua, Karangahake Gorge, Matamata, Hobbiton, Tirau, Otorohanga, Waitomo, Rotorua, Tongariro, Taupo, Napier, Hastings, Wellington, Nelson, Abel Tasman, Punakaiki, Hokitika, Franz Joseph Glacier, Fox Glacier, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Paradise, Milford Sound, Dunedin, Moeraki, Christchurch, Sydney, Blue Mountains.
in 3 minutes.
Let’s talk about lenses. Well one in particular – and how it’s going to help achieve a cool look for my upcoming horror short.
Firstly, I should say something about the camera. My Sony NEX-5D is looking a bit dated now against the newest model in the range, the NEX-5T, but they are very similar. Sony, in my opinion, are the leaders in this new digital camera space that’s opened up in the last few years – something smaller than a DSLR, but still with interchangeable lenses. They’re called Mirrorless interchangable-lens cameras, and every camera company worth their weight in salt has their own product line. Check out that link for the full definition, but the bottom line for me is a compact camera I can realistically and casually carry around that takes superb photos and video. According to filmmaker Benedict Campbell, who’s worked with the likes of Harley-Davidson, it’s the next big thing for Hollywood.
One of the major benefits of these cameras is the fact you can buy additional lenses for different purposes, but until now I’ve only had two – the stock 18-55mm lens and a flat 16mm which was good for when I wanted to turn the camera into something no bigger than a compact camera. These lenses are great for a wide range of everyday shots, but they are limiting in some conditions. The 18-55mm zooms from a wide-angle (18mm) to something at the start of telephoto (55mm). Sony offer a zoom-ier lens in the 18-200mm, that gets a proper zoom going, but it is about twice the size. The 16mm lens is very-wide, edging on fish-eye territory. But neither offer a wide aperture…
Why is a wide aperture desirable? This is where you need to read my blog post about aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Essentially, aperture lets you control the depth-of-field within your photo – a shallow depth-of-field can give you a blurred background. I recently found a really good video explaining this, maybe that would clear up any confusion. I want a shallow depth-of-field look for some of the shots in my short film to accentuate the isolated-ness of the character, to pull the audience into his mindset and really focus our attention on certain details within the scene. This new lens lets me do that.
Let me explain in pictures… The pictures are captioned with more information.
Now I have this lens the next step is to experiment using it for video in the shooting locations to see what can be achieved. I’ll let you know how I get on with that!
Off the back of my last post about idols and heroes, here are a few videos made by people that have inspired me to make this horror short.
1. The Tonmeister course at the University of Surrey is highly renowned in the professional audio industry for equipping students with the theory and practice of sound recording and audio engineering. Andy Land was such a student, and quite a success story after the video he produced above, a cover of Magnetic Man by Crossover, was loved by Radio 1 DJs and the band itself! The video features the University of Surrey Orchestra and is a great example of what Tonmeister graduates are capable of producing! It’s very inspiring to see one of the people who went to the same university as me at the same time producing something so brilliant. Also, we put things into space.
2. I first saw this after Bloody Cuts were interviewed on Film Riot a few months ago. Bloody Cuts are a small group of guys who have decided to produce 13 short horror films, all on a low budget. They’ve completed 9 so far, but Suckablood (number 5) was by far the most expensive one thanks do a generous donation from Stephen Fry! Their behind the scenes are really in depth too, I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future!
3. Some of you may know that about a year ago I bought a ukulele. While I’m still not very good, I love playing it after a long day or a relaxing morning. It gives me time to think, time away from work and any distractions. A few of my workmates have recently got them too, and have found UkeJam, a ukulele troupe based in Guildford. But by far the best ukulele thing I’ve ever seen is this guy. I mean, the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody!? Crazy. I know, it’s not directly about making videos, but it’s a discipline that I find fascinating regardless.
4. This is a great little video about how to be a creative person, from someone who’s been doing it their whole life. So true. Another big inspiration for making this horror short – “If you want to do something, do it”. An interesting aside to this is this video about “free time“.
5. Charlie McDonnell comes across as a great guy. He know YouTube. He started out as a blogger, and last year reaches 1 million subscribers. Now he’s switching his ideas into short films. And for a first short film, this is brilliant! I know I won’t be able to achieve anything this good with mine, but it’s an inspiration nonetheless.
So there you have it. 5 videos that inspired me to get off my ass, stop just talking about doing something and actually do it. What are your 5?
Next time I should have my new lens to show you!
In my last post I explained that I am producing a horror short in the coming months and I want to bring you all on the journey with me. Today I want to talk about the scriptwriting process.
I had never written a script before so I was apprehensive about how easy it would be to put ideas on to paper. I had several pages of notes scattered around my desk detailing the storyline as well as key aspects of the set or sound that I wanted to be used to sell certain moments, but when those ideas need to be focused into a script I realised just how much detail was going to be needed throughout in order to get my point across.
From my experience, I can say that if you are going to write a script on a half-baked idea, then the process will really get you to think about every aspect of your scene and exactly how you want your audience to understand this story you are telling. Everything from sounds, costumes, movements, framing, pacing and scene focus, to what the actor in the scene is thinking and how the audience will know that. Be prepared to do battle with your idea. You will soon find out if it can stand up to the scrutiny you will put it through to get it on to the page.
I used a program called Celtx to write the script. It’s a free word processing program that auto-formats the text as you type to match the industry-standard script layout. This saved me a ton of time I’d otherwise have spent in Word trying to mimic the style, and it helped me keep in the flow of writing without having to constantly worry about formatting. The final script can be exported as a PDF so anyone can read it, which has been great to get friends to peer review it. I highly recommend using something like this if you are writing a script.
Having a properly formatted script means anyone who picks up my script can straight away understand how to read it. Script formatting also gives plenty of white space on the page which will definitely come in handy once I get on to set and start making corrections or adding footnotes. Hollywood script formatting is also well known for a page of script translating to roughly a minute of screen time, which is very useful for working out how long a scene is going to be, and therefore what kind of preparations will need to be made.
I’m going to be a massive tease and show you the first few lines of my script…
That’s all for this post. I’m in the process of getting the camera gear I want to use for filming, as well as figuring out who I can use as my actors. Steady progress.
2013 has already been a big year for broadening my video production horizons. It all started with The Arrest, a two-part documentary about my friend spending a night in a police cell. The intro especially was something I really loved putting together. From there, Only Flirt In Flirt was my first foray into fiction storytelling with a short piece about a couple who are struggling to find love. Then, Ze NSS finally got finished after years of delays, another fiction story this time centred around dialogue, that saw a Mafia-like gang kidnap a student and force him to answer the National Student Survey. Finally, my Stop Motion Japan attempt, aiming to focus on telling the detailed story of an exciting journey using no words, instead focusing on visually-striking compositions.
Together they have developed my story pacing, eye for cinematography and emphasised the importance of sound. After Only Flirt In Flirt, I started work on developing an idea a few friends and I came up with a few years ago to produce a psychological horror-type web series. The story followed the new editor of the student newspaper as a series of more and more horrific kidnappings and murders were carried out in and around the University of Surrey Campus. It was to be a 7-part series, with each episode 5-10 minutes long. There are a lot of brilliant ideas in the series, and it would be really fun to film and work on at some point, but the scope is just too much with where I am right now. It would involve months of full-time planning and then weeks of shooting with good actors to pull off well. So I had to tone it down.
I was still captivated by the idea of producing a horror short, I just needed something that was a smaller step forward. One of the anchors of the web series story was the idea that campus is actually a pretty freaky place at night, especially if you’re on your own. So I took that idea and started to think about how it could be turned into a short story…
It wasn’t until July, after speaking to a few friends about ideas I’d had that we came up with a story that ticked all the boxes. After a few weeks of writing and perfecting a script, I’ve finally got to a draft I am happy with; and got people on board to help with make-up and lighting. There are a lot of aspects to this project that are new to me, such as cinematic lighting, and areas where I can really hone an old skill, like editing the piece together. The plan now is to shoot towards the end of October, and use the time between now and then to compile a really comprehensive shot list and play around with some of the ideas we’re going to use during the shoot.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because, unlike my previous projects when it’s all been very hush hush until it’s finished, I want to bring you guys on this journey with me . I’m going to try and cover everything from the scriptwriting process, filming and camera choices, to casting, music and gruesome make-up. I’m really excited about this project and I hope you’ll learn something with me as this adventure unfolds…