Friday, 30 March 2012

No Wrist for the Wicked!

Hey Guys,

   And hello to my latest follower, Samantha Eynon. She makes the cutest hand-made old fashioned toys, often out of paper, and she's a good illustrator too. So check out her work!

   It's been a very exciting time down my end. There's been a couple of great bits of news to hit me, one of these being the fact that I am now (finally) on IMDB!

   Although I was pipped to the post by six other Sophie Blacks (and another popped up STRAIGHT after me), I am still delighted to be on there. Being on IMDB has been one of my life-goals, and it's finally been achieved thanks to Light Films and their decision to hire me last year! Plus Se7en was an amazing film - and there were seven deadly sins - so I'm happy to be Sophie Black VII (particularly if you say it in a Len Goodman voice). I will now strive to be the biggest Sophie Black on IMDB!

   But the main thing that happened recently was the end of the Ashes Crowdfunder campaign. I've finished riding the emotional rollercoaster with most of my whits in tact, and - in spite of technical problems with the website that were beyond my control - we have certainly got some money out of it. However, I lowered the total midway through the campaign from £1,500 to £800 to make sure that we got something out of it (with Crowdfunder, if you don't reach your target, you don't get any money at all). People assumed, then, that when we hit £800, we had enough to make the film. And I was thinking, nooooo...

    This isn't to say I'm not extremely grateful to everyone who donated. You will all be forever in my debt, and I will get some presents sent to you after the film is made. Because of you, I was finally able to change out of my Ashes campaign shirt after nearly three weeks, and lots of messy sauce! 

   So we have enough to start the film (hurrah) but not enough to finish it. Particularly when you consider the fact that, after cuts, our total from Crowdunder was closer to £700. If anyone still wants to donate to the project then you can do so by getting in touch with me, and I will get a paypal button on here as soon as I figure out how. For now, I'm having to figure out where to use the money we have raised, until the 9th when producer Chrissa Wadlow (nee Maund) joins our team.

   According to Wasteland director Tom Wadlow, being a filmmaker means having to be prepared to 'kill your babies'. Not literally, thank god, as his baby is gorgeous. Rather, you have to be prepared to make major changes to a script, particularly when money is involved. And the first thing I thought might be able to 'go' was the scene where the floor is covered in 'a sea of ornamental hands'. This would be visually inspiring, and a great (albeit obvious) metaphor, but it's not vital to the script. Certainly not compared to many other things which we also have to pay for.

Concept art from scene four in Ashes, where the floor would be covered in a 'sea of hands'.

    I had already sourced a few hands, as you can see in the picture below. A couple of these were borrowed, and Production Designer Gina had managed to borrow another one. The smaller hand was a bit of a 'pity buy' - it is probably too small to use for the shots I had in mind (see my latest video diary for more info on that) but, at around £2, it didn't hurt to give it a home!

   The one larger hand I did buy gave me an idea of the cost. Altogether, including postage, it cost almost £5.00. Individually this isn't bad, but when we need 50 - 100 hands to cover a floor space (depending on which lens is used for our wide shot), you're looking at serious amounts of money for one gratuitous piece of set dressing!

 Four of the hands collected for the 'hands' scene in Ashes, which may have to be cut.

    Just when I prepared to cut the scene completely, my mother came up with an interesting idea. She loves anything crafty so the prospect of making hands seemed like a great option, particularly in place of having no hands at all. So the two of us went out and bought a 'test bucket' of plaster of paris, and set about moulding our own hands:

Our first attempt at Plaster of Paris hands

      The hands ended up looking pretty good, so once we'd figured out the perfect plaster-to-water mix (and once we'd stopped laughing at fat palms and broken plaster fingers), we were able to figure out how much it would cost us. One bucket of Plaster of Paris cost us £3 - although it might be cheaper elsewhere - and, with the right mix, you can get three hands out of this. The moulds were rubber gloves bought from Wilkos, around 50p for a pack of four, and we can re-use these for every hand we make, at no extra cost.

   So it's certainly much, much cheaper than buying hands online. The only downside is that it is time consuming, although that time is very enjoyable. The cost of the hands is still not as important as things such as food or travel, either. So we made a second batch of hands, and we'll leave it at that for now, perhaps coming back to it when we can. 

The hands drying on the washing line in their 'moulds'. God knows what the neighbours thought!
     So, where do we go next? Well, apart from scheduling and buying set-dressing, the main thing now is promotion, particularly if it can get us more money for the film. Luckily the Crowdfunder campaign itself gave us some good publicity. It pushed the viewing figures for the trailer up to 700 on Youtube alone, and we had two higher-profile supporters. Clothes on Film (voted the top blog of its kind by channel 4) sponsored us financially, and the gods at Raindance gave the following tweet:

    You can imagine my happy reaction when I saw that...!

    In terms of the media, this is probably a good time for us to make Ashes. I hope that it will succeed on the merit of its visuals, but the subject - although taboo - is turning out to be its biggest marketing tool. The recent acclaim of Shame has filled me with hope (and provided a good source of inspiration to our lead actor, Adam Lannon) and the BBC has recently released a new advertising campaign about rape amongst young couples. Following on from this, they also broadcast a short documentary called 'I Never Said Yes'. This was presented by a woman called Pips Taylor, who I quickly found on Twitter and sent her a link to the trailer. Her endorsement certainly wasn't on parr with Raindance's, but she did reply:

    I'll let you know if anything else comes from this.

   We now have our shoot days, too. Originally we were going to shoot on the 5th and 6th of April but, due to crew availability, we are now to film on the 28th and 29th of April, with the rehearsal/set dressing day on the 27th. Just under a month to go and a fair bit to sort out, but it's still exciting!

   The only down side now is that these new shoot dates fall only TWO DAYS after the end of Stop/Eject. Although I think I can handle the stress of a quick turn around - particularly if we prepare everything in advance - it does mean I won't have time to apply for the BBC Costume Trainee Scheme again this year. That sucks a lot but I think the sacrifice will be worth making, and luckily these chances do come every year.

   Speaking of Stop/Eject, that's still well into Pre-Production too. Director Neil Oseman came down this week to give a talk at 5Lamps Films (who also screened the Ashes teaser trailer), and we raised a bit more towards the budget that night. While he was down, we also had the most amazing location recce around the Peak District, in the sunshine, with my Grandad (and his old stories) as our chauffer. It was an enjoyable day and also a productive one because we nailed all of our locations, some of which were literally handed to us on a plate.

Stop/Eject director Neil Oseman on a location recce in the beautiful Willesley, near Matlock.

       Inspired by our new locations, and by what I believe will be the perfect room for our characters, I did an updated piece of Concept Art for 'Dan and Kate's Living Room'. Doing concept art on photoshop, like here, is not always an option - but it certainly makes things easier and quicker when it is!

My new concept art for 'Dan and Kate's Living Room' - Stop/Eject 2012
    So, that's you pretty much up to date, apart from the news that my Costume Advert will be finished and online VERY SOON. I was able to sit-in while it was edited yesterday, and it's looking stunning. If you can't wait for a taster, then some screengrabs from the raw footage are on the Triskelle Pictures Facebook Page now.

The AMAZING Halo Haynes in Chris Newman's raw footage screengrabs from the upcoming Costume Advert.

   Right, now I need to go clean out some animals before getting back to work. I promise to blog again soon!

 Sophie x

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Sophie On: Funding, Promoting, 1 Stinky T-Shirt & 2 Amazing Women!

Hi Everybody!

    First thing, my latest video diary is up, so please give it a watch:

    That video says lots of things I want to say about funding - including information about what I'll send you in exchange for your donations. But, with just over TEN DAYS left on the funding campaign, myself and the crew are working rediculously hard to pull everything together, so there's plenty to tell you about.

    Although the campaign has been a bit of a slow-starter, last time I blogged we had stopped on £10, and since then we've raised more than £300, so that's definitely something to be thankful for! If you have any spare pennies you want to chuck my way in exchange for exclusive merchandise, then you can do so here:

    But back to what the crew's been up to. And speaking of crew, we have a few new members. I had a great response after I posted on here that I needed a Sound Man. I now have three; wicked DJ Cmore Trix will be composing the Ashes score (you can hear his work on the trailer), and we'll have Adam P McCready and Chris Stanley on set as Sound Designers. On top of this, I can confirm - with delight - that I have a 1st Assistant Director in the form of Chris Newman. I've worked with him on my costume advert as well as Wasteland, and he always makes me smile, so hopefully he'll keep me sane on set!

   On top of the usual things such as breakdowns, prop-buying and pre-visualisation (check out Carl Cropley's awesome sample in the video above), there have been lots of acts of pre-production which I couldn't fit into my latest diary. I've been emailing/ringing round anyone I can to promote the film, including local councils and radio stations. I also went around handing out flyers (which a few Midlands Theatres and Cinemas have proudly displayed):

     These flyers led to my next hair-brained scheme; I was at a Sound Design meeting with Adam McCready, with the flyers in my bag, and I joked that I should carry one with me all the time as a walking advertisement. I did this for a few hours before I realised I could turn myself into a walking advertisment. I have transfer papers, and I have fabric pens. All I needed to do was buy a £2 white strappy top... and viola!

    As soon as the top was finished, I put it on, and declared online that wouldn't stop wearing it until my film was funded (although I'll admit that I don't sleep in it). The plus side of this was the £200+ that subsequently got donated. The down side?

    I am naturally very clumsy. I can't make a cup of coffee without spilling at least a little, so I am probably the worst person to wear white. Within hours of wearing the shirt, I had a little incident with tomatoes. That following evening I had a little bit too much red wine and not only did some of that end up on the shirt, but some pizza did as well. I hadn't even taken it out into town by that point!

    Since then the main problem has been chocolate crumbs but, needless to say, stain-remover and febreeze are wonderful things. So the shirt is still in one piece, and I am still wearing it as I type this, even though I am seriously sick of it already.

   So what else have we been up to? Well, after a series of pre-production meetings with the crew, and one visit to the (possible) location, the shots were planned, which meant I could get on and do the storyboards:

    When I took that photo I was down one page with 17 more to go. Since then I have completed 4 pages and they're looking pretty good, so far. If you're reading this and you love storyboards (a little bit strange, but I won't judge) then I'm happy to give you the complete set once we've shot the film. I'm willing to sign them and everything. Just let me know how much you're willing to donate to Ashes and we'll come to an arrangement.

   In fact, as I've said in my latest video diary, I am willing to do/give pretty much anything to get this film funded. Just comment below, say how much you'd donate, and I'll see what I can do. As long as it doesn't involve me being nude, or any kind of animal violence/death, I'll probably do it. Even if that thing might be don a leotard, film myself dancing to Gina G's "Ooh Aah", and post it on Youtube (which I will do for £1000 without a moment's hesitation!).

   Although I have figured out a lower, worst-case-scenario budget for the film, I'm still going to try and get as much as I can so that we can do it well. One of the things that we will get if we raise all of the money is our dream location, the Rose Room at Stanford House, Nottingham:

    Not only is this room a beautiful and believable flat for our characters, it also has all the practical features that we need, such as natural light sources, furniture, many power outlets, and a green room/ off set space included in the quote. A good chunk of the crew filmed at Stanford House before (it was one of the main locations for Jar of Angels) so we have a good working relationship with the owners, too. 

   I did another recce of the Rose Room yesterday, so I managed to get this little 360 on my Powershot to show you guys:


    So that's all the pre-production news for now. My amazing actors, Sarah Lamesch and Adam Lannon, are having their first improv session tonight, so my next post will probably be about them. But now I need to tell you about another, slightly more serious area of this film.

    Ashes has a dark subject nature at its heart. There's no denying it, and we certainly shouldn't fear it, but we do need to tackle it well. Sexual abuse - and the darker areas of sex in general - are still relatively taboo subjects in the media but, if we can do them justice, that shouldn't put us off. Certainly with the release of Sleeping Beauty, Shame and even the new anti-rape advert on television, our timing is good, and Ashes could even be seen as topical.

    Myself and the crew are going to lengths to nurse the subject matter through careful planning. In particular, I've been talking to the cast to develop their back-stories and their mentalities (this is most important in the case of Adam's character, Mark, who could be at risk of coming across as a one-dimmensional villain in other people's hands). Also, since the beginning of this project I've tried to work in collaberation with a sexual abuse charity so that we won't offend anyone unwittingly, and also so that they can help to promote the film.

   Today I had a meeting which sealed a charity collaberation:

(Meeting with the Wan2Talk ladies - photo taken by Rei Bennett at her studio).

    Wan2Talk is a new charity which acts as a listening ear for victims of sexual abuse in any form. Much more than that, they also go on to help their victims wherever they can. Although the charity is still in the development stages, their website will go live this summer, around the same time when Ashes is scheduled to be finished. So, basically, we will be launching together.

   Wan2Talk has been set up by Dominique Ciupek and her mother, a lady who is beyond incredible. Because of her, the rape law was changed to also help those who weren't penetrated by male genitalia. What happened to her was terrible but it's helped to change lives and make the world that one step better. She carries this knowledge with a dignity that I couldn't help but be inspired by. She was strong enough to say that what happened to her was meant to happen because it helped to improve the lives of so many women. And it will continue to do so! After that, how could I not make this film in collaberation with Wan2Talk?

(Myself with Domnique - right - and her incredible, inspirational mother. Photo by Rei Bennett.)

   So, ten days left on the Crowdfunder campaign, and over £1000 to raise before I can make this film properly. That sounds like impossible odds but nothing good in life comes easy. The best things are worth fighting for, and nothing's over until the dietly-challenged woman sings!

    I'm going to keep fighting until the last minute. Please stand beside me by donating just a few pounds to my project. Generosity will recieve generosity in turn.

Sophie x

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Sophie On: Trying to Fund "Ashes"

Hello guys,

    This is going to be a long, wordy post. There's no way to avoid it. But please bear with me, read on, and I'll show you lots of pictures in the next one!

    The first thing I have to say is a mini success story. After the efforts of my great crew and actress Sarah Lamesch (in a feat that was covered two blog-posts ago), the Ashes trailer was shot and edited, then uploaded on Valentines Day. Whether or not this date was appropriate, it has since had over 200 views on both Vimeo and Youtube. That kind of a result in the space of a fortnight is something a small-town girl like me certainly isn't used to, so thankyou all for the viewing figures!

    If you haven't seen it yet, you can add to those viewing figures here:

    Although I'm still not quite used to the idea of filming a trailer before the film itself, I can't deny the value of doing so, and these pre-trailers can sometimes serve as little films of their own, which is no bad thing. This teaser trailer was shot for one reason alone: promotion, specifically for funding.

    Without a second thought, I have set up an online funding campaign on Crowdfunder. For those of you who don't know, there are other websites where you can apply for funding from the public, but Crowdfunder served me well on two previous occasions and I now know a contact by name, which tends to help. The only difference before was that the funding campaigns I did were on behalf of other directors - Jar of Angels for Crash Taylor, and Stop/Eject for Neil Oseman.

    Both Crash and Neil are very talented, and they have years more industry experience than me (both are around a decade older), so they have a considerable amount more fans than me, and higher paying clients/contacts. Therefore both their funding campaigns were successful - each making more than our intended goal - and I think that gave me a false sense of optimism.

    Within a few hours of the Ashes funding campaign going live, £10 was donated. I knew the funder by name (my writer-colleague, Tommy Draper) but my heart still rose. I promoted it happily and regularly over the next couple of days but got on with the rest of my work as normal - with the addition of the OSCARs excitement and a pesky cold which cleared up after days. I even signed onto a couple more costume projects.

    As I write this (and I do so with upmost shame) I have had no more donations. Not a single one.

    It seems an unsual thing to admit failure online. I've spent the last few years building up my virtual persona and trying to make myself sound as talented as possible - not because I believe it to be true, but because that is what your PR and such tell you to do. However, although I am deflated, I haven't failed yet, and that's why I'm writing this blog post.

    Last time I checked - about three or four month ago - this blog had recieved about 35 views. Pretty small, but no more than I expected. I looked last week and the stats had raised to over 2000. I can't even begin to comprehend that many people stumbling upon my blog or even deciding to read it (and yes, I know it could be the same people reading it repeatedly), but it tells me that you guys are out there, and you are reading this. What's more, I love you for doing so. And if I can get just one of you to donate to my film, then this blog post will have been a success...

    I make no secret of the fact that I never intended to put Ashes on the screen. Almost four years ago, when I was doing my degree, my classmates and I were given a simple task: write about love. That's not exactly a subject I'm an expert in (not in the traditional sense, anyway) but I got a story in my head, and I couldn't get it out. I did try, though. A small drama piece about a man who goes to sexually abuse his girlfriend in her sleep, but is caught in the act, is certainly not comfortable reading. And it's not something I would've wanted to watch on screen back then (yesterday I watched 2011's Sleeping Beauty and that was much darker). But it got to the night before the assignment was due in, and I had no other ideas, so I basically said "fuck it", wrote it, and handed it in.

    It caused what could only be described as a 'micro-stir'. A couple of guys got uncomfortable - one crossly exclaimed "this should never be a movie". But someone else told me it was "rock and roll" and a girl even hugged me!

    Micro-stir over, I filled the script away and forgot about it for years. Then I met Crash Taylor.

    Crash and I had met once before but we properly talked to each other, for the first time, during slightly odd circumstances, when I slipped outside for some air before the Shelf Stackers premiere. When we chatted I explained that I was an indie filmmaker as well as a costume designer and he asked me to send him a sample of my work.

    I don't know why I chose the Ashes script. Back then it didn't have a name, and I certainly wouldn't have sent it to him as it was. Knowing his penchant for the dark and visual, I wanted to experiment with visualising emotions - such as fear - to create a short horror which was at once original and relatable. To do that, it needed a real, emotional core, and that's what the original script became. I had a little fun with it - I gave it a creative (and slightly odd) twist - and called it 'Mark II' to try and be clever. It was ambiguous - it was mark 2 of the script, the lead character's name was changed to Mark, and it was to be shot on the Canon 5D Mark II.

    Shortly after I gave him the newly-vamped script, it was shelved again. Crash introduced me to Rik Winter and we set about creating Jar of Angels for the next six months (encounting). But something about that script must have resonated because it came back around, and now I am directing a film I tried hard not to write in the first place.

    But the fact is, once you start making a film, it no longer belongs to you alone. I have a wonderful, talented crew who bring their own ideas to the table; my actors, Sarah Lamesch and Adam Lannon are both so dedicated that they always find brand new ways to impress me. None of them signed on asking me how much the project would pay - they did it because they loved the script and because they wanted to make it into a film. And now, in turn, I want to make it for them.

    Also, whenever you deal with a subject matter such as sexual abuse, the project becomes so much bigger than you. I have to portray and represent a (wrongly) large percent of the public who have had something shit happen to them, and that's a bit of a weight to have on your shoulders. But, so far, I appear to be faithful to them. When I put the finished script out there I was shocked and incredibly moved by the amount of actors and crew who told me that something similar to the events in the script had happened to them. I want to make the film for these people too. So much so, in the rare event that I make a profit on this film, I want to share some of that money with Rape Crisis.

    So those are my reasons for wanting to make this film. Here is why you should want it to get made, too:

    With retrospective, the trailer is slightly misleading. I wanted to play up the victim status of the lead character because we only had about a minute and we needed something that was sharp and shocking. We also played up the sexual appeal of the character because, again, I thought that would get it noticed. To be blunt, it sells.

    But let me be clear - in spite of the subject nature at its heart, Ashes is not a rape movie. It is neither feminist movie nor porn film. The lead character is not a victim. She is a normal girl faced simply with the moment when she doubts the person she used to trust most in the world. What's more, it is like no other film you will have seen. It's a mad little piece of original cinema - and that's a thing which is unfortunately rare these days.

    It's going to be emotional (for those watching and also for me to direct) but it's also going to be stunning. We don't just show the drama on a surface level - we go deep into the girl's mind to portray her emotions as visual truth. When she's happy, the world is filled with a beautiful golden glow, and the lovers appear perfect to one another. Then, when she starts to have her doubts, the world starts to crumble away - in more ways than one - and the once-familiar faces start to distort...

    But do you want something more solid in exchange for your funds? Presents for your generosity? You've got it. Depending on how much you give, starting at £10 (you will get something small for less), you will recieve DVDs - some with bonus features - plus posters, signed art cards, screen used props, and invites to any premiere that we have.

    Convinced? (Or just want more information) Here is the link to the Crowdfunding campaign:

    At the moment, I still can't be certain that we'll make all the money. If we don't, the sad fact is that we won't be able to make the film (at least not for the foreseable future). I have some more crazy promotional ideas ready in case it gets to the eleventh hour and it's still looking bad. For now, all I can do is keep spreading the word, wait and hope.

    Whatever the outcome, once this campaign is finished, I don't think I will fund films in this way again. Crowdfunder have been very good to me and their communication is great, but there's just too many people trying to get money in the same way now. When I did the Jar of Angels funding campaign, just last year, it was still a relatively new thing. Now with every person with a great film idea searching for funds this way (and even those without great ideas), it seems less likely that people will pick my projects amongst the masses. I can shout as loud as my little, dodgy lungs will let me, but I still won't stand out.

    Perhaps the trick is to start putting money aside for the next one. Maybe we should only rely on online funds for half of our budgets, at most. Besides, when I was at university we had lecture on lecture on all the ways to raise money, and now we all seem to be doing it in the same way.

    We work in a creative industry. I think it's time for us to get creative again.