Monday, 30 July 2012

7 Days to Go... Ashes Sound Design

Hey Guys,

   Well, one week to go and we've had a minor disaster. Along the way, myself and the crew have had a lot to face - a lack of funding, locations pulling out, crew changes - and I thought we were overdue for something else to happen, what with this last leg going so swimmingly.

   I was on location for Wasteland today, and the crew had to hop down from a 5-foot wall. When it came to my turn to jump, the lead actor (bless you Sham!) offered to help me down, but I was surrounded by fairly tall guys who all managed it fine, so I was determined to try it. Plus, being the oddball that I am, in my current 'sieze the day' mood, I declared that I wanted to "see what it felt like" and jumped.

   Famous last words, and all that.

   After being semi-carried back to the car, I've been to the doctors, and they've prescribed me some pain killers and a week of bed rest. Which will take us nicely into the Ashes shoot! Luckily I've now done all the things I need to do on foot, and I have my laptop with me (I'll even be appearing on tomorrow's Wasteland shoot via weblink) so it could be worse. I could've damaged my spine rather than just pulling a load of muscles and being unable to bend anywhere.

   So, time to introduce you to some more of the Ashes crew, and with a slight change to the scheduled blog, I'm going to tell you about our Sound Designers.

   I write a lot of my scripts to music, because it always helps to create a mood for me to work too, be it eerie, romantic, funny etc. So I know the power and importance of music in film, and that is perhaps one reason why the people designing the sound for Ashes are also composing the score. Therefore, rather than being separate sound FX and music, all the sound in Ashes will come as one great, all-inclusive package that will enhance the changing moods of the different scenes.

   What's particularly wonderful is that the two Sound Designers come from two different walks of life. Cmore Trix, a techno-whiz DJ and drummer (who composed the music for our Teaser Trailer based on my love of the Torchwood soundtrack, amongst other things) will be collaborating with the classically-trained Adam McCready, who designs 'soundscapes and effects' for professional Theatre and Radio Plays. They're both going to bring something completely unique to the mix, and I can't wait to hear the result!

Co-Composer Adam McCready at one of our sound meetings, earlier this year

    Due to the Olympics, which has a bad habit of stealing creative people, Adam's involvement will now be entirely during the post-production of Ashes. But I was able to catch up with Cmore to find out what he's looking forward to about the project.

    "I've been looking to branch out and work on music for film for a little while now, so when the opportunity to work on Ashes came up I was happy to get involved. After seeing the script and talking about the overall atmosphere of the piece I was totally sold.

    "My aim is to create a lot of the sound from the environmental noise and actors' dialogue so you should hopefully hear some unusual sounds that add to the feel of the film."

DJ Cmore Trix by Emmie Photography

   Right, I'm going to get back to work (and to resting my back, as well) - and if you want to know anything else about my musical inspirations for Ashes, I suggest you check out the song I wrote it to. On repeat:

Sophie x

Sunday, 29 July 2012

8 Days to Go... Ashes Design

Hello Dear Followers!

   Much as I've been yearning to direct again, the only downside is the fact that I can't be 'part of the crew' anymore. I'm going to revel in the one on one time I'll spend with my actors, but at the same time, I'm so used to rushing around on set, not only doing my own job but also helping to lower tripod legs, put up light stands or even offer to do the clapperboard. As they say, it's lonely at the top.
Concept Art by Gina Hames
    The hardest thing for me to let go of has been the Production and Costume Design. I've spent the last few years carving my way into the industry through my specialism of film design, and I've got quite a reputation for being a perfectionist, even positioning twigs to the exact milimetre I think that they will look good in the frame. The idea of standing back and letting someone else do that has honestly made me twitch.

    So, when I offered Gina Hames - my assistant on Wasteland - the opportunity to design her first film, I did so knowing that I would be training her along the way and therefore have a strong input into the design. And I have done bits towards it; there's two costumes in Ashes and we got to make one each, and we've bought a lot of the props between us over the last few months.
    But she hasn't always needed me. I'be taught her technical elements such as camera placement and the effect of lenses on props, but when we were painting the set the other day (with Production Assistant Ellie Ragdale) I found that I was more of a hinderence than a help. I'd put my hand in the paint or trip over dust sheets then look over at Gina's bemused face, and then I knew: the set in progress is no place for the Director.

Ashes Concept Art by Gina Hames

Gina paints her set
   Luckily Gina looks at the experience of working with me in a more positive light. "The chance to work with Sophie gave me an exciting opportunity to be involved in showing a controversial yet important subject – a message that everyone needs to be aware of.  Ashes gave me the chance to use the set and costumes to reflect the stages in the characters relationship, allowing this film to have a strong visual impact.

    "Without giving too much away, Ashes will portray different emotions of the main characters thoughts – it will be shown through four different scenes, each expressing a different aspect of how the main character, Sarah, views her relationship."

    Gina's next stop after this film is the adventure of university, and from then on I'm sure that she will go into the industry (be it in theatre or film) and never look back. She may even outshine me one day!

   And what I've learned from Gina is that a Director's job is as much about creating a world as it is about letting go.

Ellie Ragdale and Gina Hames at the end of our set-painting day
    Now that the set is painted, it will be partly wallpapered and then dressed, ready for the crew to come in and pre-light it on the 5th.

   Tomorrow's blog post will introduce you to our lovely stills photographers.

Sophie x

Saturday, 28 July 2012

9 Days to Go... Ashes Behind the Scenes

Hey Everybody,

   Nine days left until the shoot. That's so crazy, and I still have a fairly big to-do list, but I've promised you all a blog post a day and if I say I'm going to do something, then I'm darn well going to do it!

Lacklustre BTS footage from The Opening Night
   I love behind-the-scenes or making-of documentaries. The plethora of wonderful bonus features on The Lord of the Rings have been inspiring filmmakers for over a decade, almost as much as the films themselves, and there are certain DVDs (such as The Golden Compass) where I didn't rate the film but bought it anyway to get a glimpse into the costume departments.

     And I'm not the only one who cares about bonus features; Going to Hell: The Making of Soul Searcher was almost as long as Neil Oseman's feature itself, and its brave decision to show everything that went into production - right down to the nitty gritty - got it onto Raindance's list of top making-of documentaries.

   When I made The Opening Night, my last directorial short, I got some behind-the-scenes footage -  mostly of rehearsals and b-rolls of clapperboards - which I edited into a little film as a thankyou for the crew. But I always regretted not capturing more of the hard work that went into it. Now, at a place in my career where promotion and marketing is perhaps more important than creativity (sadly), I would be a bit of an idiot if I didn't make sure to get plenty of behind-the-scenes footage from Ashes.

   Regular followers of my Youtube channel will know that I've been covering the pre-production of Ashes in my video diaries, during which I talk about the progress and show a few photographs, but it wouldn't be enough to make a bonus feature on a DVD. I need someone to make a proper documentary - even if it's just compiling scraps of behind-the-scenes and stolen interviews from the set - and for that task, I have employed Lara Elliot.

Lara Elliot
   I met Lara - a Manchester Met graduate - through creative networking (and with thanks to photographer Holly Booth for introducing us), and we discovered a mutual love of film. We both cared about portraying people, although I tend to do that through fiction and Lara through documentary. We both attended 5Lamps Films nights, one which screened the only documentary I've made (Margaret, a collaboration with Danielle Hailstones and Paolo Alemanni), and that went down pretty well with Lara. When she showed an interest in supporting Ashes - originally as a funder - I knew that she would be the perfect person to tackle the behind-the-scenes documentary.

   As well as enjoying my work, Lara accepted the job because the subject nature of Ashes was something she feels should be addressed in film. "I don't think that rape and sexual abuse are taken seriously enough by a lot of people; especially when they occur within the context of a relationship. There's still an attitude out there that there is some kind of distinction between being violated by a stranger and being violated by a partner and there isn't, it's something I feel extremely strongly about. 

    "I was also disappointed to see Sophie struggle to get funding for the film, I think it's quite a brave film so I'm keen to support it."

Photograph of Lara Elliot by Dan Wheeler, 2012

     Due to the rescheduling of the shoot, Lara won't actually be on set with us, but all the footage captured will be sent to her (along with the interviews she'll shoot) and edited into a behind-the-scenes documentary. This will be premiered in part on the Hatch'd Magazine website, a hub for all derbyshire creatives which Lara helps to run.

   Lara hopes, as we all do, that Ashes will be well received by our audience. "I hope people remain open minded and don't shy away from the subject matter, however controversial and difficult to approach. I'll be looking out for the way the visual style represents the shift in Sarah's emotions. I'll also be paying attention to the cinematography, because judging by the trailer it's going to look lovely!"

   I'm keen to see what Lara will make for us. Due to her love of vintage cameras and beautiful filmmaking, I'm expecting that the documentary will be as creative and lovingly crafted as the film that it represents.

   Check back tomorrow for a profile on the Ashes designer, Gina Hames, and an exclusive look at the set's progress!

Sophie x

Friday, 27 July 2012

10 Days to Go... The Ashes Charity

Hey Guys,

   Pre-production is such a mad, busy time. It always stresses me when I'm in the middle of it, but I miss it when it's over. Yesterday, myself and the design team decorated the Ashes set (head on over to the Facebook page for a sneak preview) and today I have schedule meetings with the wonderful Chris Newman. This is on top of all the emails I've been doing to finalise all our kit rentals, get insurance, plan travel expenses etc.

   The last thing anyone wants during pre-production is more things to think/worry about, but let me tell you now, there is one thing you have to think about which won't immediately spring to mind: what will happen with your film after you've shot it?

   Yes, you may be working yourself to the brim making sure your film happens at all, but you still need to think about the future. First off, make sure you'll have enough publicity material captured during your shoot (such as good cast/crew interviews and photographs of everyone at work), otherwise it'll bite you in the arse when you come to do your EPK. But you also need to think about where your film will premiere, and how your work now will affect that.

Meeting Wan 2 Talk. Photo: Rei Bennett
   I've talked at length about how I wanted a charity to back Ashes' production, mostly because of the subject nature of the film, and my desire to be faithful and true to it. After my first charity showed me more silence than support, I was introduced to the much more active Wan 2 Talk, and they've already given me some pointers for the film's edit (a cut of Ashes will also be shown to them before it is locked to check that it's gone in the right direction for them).

   But our collaberation is also useful in terms of the post-production of the film. I'm hoping to work together with Wan 2 Talk to create a premiere which not only showcases the film fully, but also provides publicity and a profile for the great work that they do. This will be done by pulling together our contacts, earning both members of Wan 2 Talk (Dominique Ciupek and Carol Maggs) Associate Producer credits. Hopefully it will also raise some donations for them too, something which me and my little film has failed to do so far. But this is always to be expected with shorts. - a 'Voice for Victims'
   The Wan 2 Talk website has recently gone live, so you can head on over to the link above for more information about them. Since I started work on Ashes, I've had more and more people coming to me and telling me that they can relate to the script, or that they've been through something similar. The hardest part has been when some of these people are those who I have known and cared about for a long time, but who have only told me this recently.  Wan 2 Talk have such stories sent to them every day, and they face them with a kind heart and a practical mind, so that they can help tell these people what to do next. So it's definitely, definitelty work which is worth supporting.

Carol's Book
    As well as launching the website, the inspirational Carol - who has been through such terrible experiences but turned them round into a way to help others - has also released a book. It not only details what happened to her, but also how such attacks can affect people, as well as offering general advice and opinions on rape and sexual abuse in the world. It may not be the most comfortable read, but it should be an inspirational one, so I encourage people to go out and buy her book.

   Although Carol and Dominique are both unavailable to comment at this time, I can assure you that their support has been constant and well-recieved. At one point, Carol tweeted that she was proud to know me. And I just thought, wow, that's crazy - surely that's the kind of thing I should be saying to her?

    Right, that should be everything you need to know about the film's charity connections. I've told you about it's heart, and tomorrow I will continue to tell you about it's production, with a profile about the behind-the-scenes of Ashes, headed by Documentarian Lara Elliot.

Sophie x

Thursday, 26 July 2012

11 Days To Go... Ashes Make-Up

Hey Guys,

   I was on a particularly epic, beautiful, crumbly location with Wasteland the other day, when this doll caught my eye. Or rather, made me jump. It terrified me so much that I had to look down whenever I walked past it. And yet I ended up taking nearly ten photos of it by the end of the day.

   I seem to be drawn to things that scare me. When I dressed the Stop/Eject location, I was alone in a Victorian B&B - everything creaked and there were three stories of creepy old paintings. I flinched at every noise but I faced my fears and hung the scariest painting on the set, forcing myself to stare it out.

   Jar of Angels scared me twice. When I wrote my second interpretation of Crash Taylor's original script, the content unnerved me so much that I took an extra hour or two to get to sleep that night. Then, when we filmed in the main garage location, the walls were dark and crumbling, and the toilet ceiling was hung with spiders, but it is one of my favourite places to have filmed in.

    And, when I made Deep Red Sun, there was a scene where actor Danielle Clark moved exactly like the antagonist in The Grudge, because that film had terrified me for over a year at the time, and I wanted to share that sense of fear with the audience:

    Ashes is going to be a scary film. The lead character, Sarah, faces something which no person wants to face, and it's particularly horrific because it is real.  The drama will be there and I think that the rawness of it will seriously hit home to the audience. But I'm a creative worker, and I've always tried to go beyond reality and use mise-en-scene to enhance emotions. In simple terms, when Sarah is afraid, the look of the film are going to reflect that.

Rena at work on the Ashes Trailer
   One way in which those scenes will particularly shock the viewers is through the make-up, and so I am very lucky to have Rena Kalandrani on my team. I met her on the Jar of Angels set when she filled in for another MUA last minute, and not only was I impressed by her abilities, but also by her warm personality. 

   We worked together again that Autumn, and I asked her then if she'd be interested in working on Ashes. Rena, as the loyal trouper that she is, has been working on the project ever since, and is one of only three of the original crew line-up. 

    Rena even went so far as to watch over the audition tapes with me and help me to make the difficult decision of who to cast. On the teaser trailer shoot, she was very bubbly and motherly to myself and Sarah Lamesch, and she was very much a rock to me that day.

   Rena studied Make-Up at college, during which she had one-on-one lessons with the special effects teacher in order to hone her skills. After college she taught herself wig-making, which got her a place at Shepperton Wig Studios. If that wasn't an impressive-enough resume, she then took a Special Effects course at London College of Fashion. All this and more makes her more than qualified to tackle the macabre but beautiful make-up I want for Ashes.

   So what's in it for Rena? "[Ashes] is so different from other projects that I have worked on before.  Shooting four different 'worlds' gives me so much creative freedom and allows me to literally paint the characters deepest, most raw emotion so it can been seen by the audience, which is very rare in film. 

Prototype Make-Up for Scene Three
    "The script is done so well - a real insight into the great things that Sophie Black will have in store for us now and in the future. It was refreshing to see someone deal with the real gritty emotion of a relationship and how is can develop in a negative ways, and the effect that it truly has. How could I not be part of that?"

    For a blog-exclusive look at Rena doing Sarah's make-up, check out the post I did about the Teaser Trailer Shoot.

   I'm looking forward to having the exuberance of Rena on set with me again, almost as much as I'm looking forward to showing you her finished Make-Up designs for the film.

  For now, I'll leave you with the most recent photo of her Make-Up tests for Scene Three. You'll see the final result next month on the lovely Sarah Lamesch. I hope that it will make people shiver in the same way that porcelain doll made me.

Ashes make-up test by Rena Kalandrani, July 2012

   Tune in tomorrow for a profile on the charity Wan 2 Talk, and why they are backing our project.

Sophie x


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The 12 Days of Ashes

A tender moment from Scene Two of Ashes, 2012

 Hey Guys,

The Ashes Bed
   The evening I wrote this post, I was in the garage, painting a paper maché dragon (seriously, I love the stuff I get paid to do sometimes. He's called Malcolm, named after the Light Films boom). I looked over and saw the main piece of set for Ashes in one corner - the bed, where almost all the action takes place.

   This bed is made of wrought iron, sprinkled with rust and is ridiculously heavy. I remember the first time I brought it home, and the efforts taken to put it into the car. Back then it was ready to be assembled. Since, it got put in the garage, and stuff piled up over time, so now it is almost impossible to get to, due to the amount of crap in front of it.

   The last time I was in the garage for any length of time was the late nights I spent building the Stop/Eject alcove. As I was doing that, I kept looking over at the Ashes bed and thinking "soon...". Of course, back then, soon meant a week. I didn't expect the complications which would cause us to cancel the shoot yet again. (And when that happened, I didn't even want to look at that beautiful old bed).

   But now I can say "soon" and mean soon, because it's time for me to move all that stuff out of the way and release the bed. Finally! Go back two blog posts and you will see the official countdown timer to the Ashes shoot. As I release this post, it is twelve days away, and so I wanted to do something official to celebrate this fact. And no, it won't be involving partridges in pear trees...

Bit of a teaser shot from Scene Three

    Every day between now and the Ashes shoot, I will be releasing one blog post, each of which will introduce you to a different area of production. This may be a bit of a mean feat for me, particularly with all the prep still left to do, but I want to create a bit more excitement on the run up to the shoot (well, I'm already excited, I just want to spread those feelings around) and I particularly want to give shout-outs to every member of my crew in honour of all the hard work they've done so far - and will continue to do.

   A lot of pre-production has already been covered in my blog posts throughout the last year, but there are lots of bits that people don't know about. Not only will these new blog posts profile my crew (with background information on their training), but I along the way I will be announcing technical details like which camera (or cameras) we will be shooting Ashes on, as well as giving the final line-up of the cast and crew. There's been some changes recently, and I can hardly wait to tell you what those changes are

   ...But you'll have to wait until the 2nd of August for those particular changes to be announced...

    So, today's profile, as you may have noticed, releases glimpses from my official storyboards for the first time. I don't want to give too much away, but the three on here show you a little of what you can expect from a change in tone, plus it's always nice to showcase storyboards, even if they are my own work.

Storyboard from scene 1b - Sarah has something difficult to face.

    The run-down of special Ashes profiles continues tomorrow with a (proper) introduction to our Make-Up Artist, Rena Kalandrani, with exclusive glimpses at her designs for the shoot. She - as with the rest of the principle crew - has also answered some questions about the film, which I will be revealing within tomorrow's profile. Rena's been on board since this project started (she's one of the only remaining crew members from back then, now) so it made sense to let her go first!

   My plan for now until the shoot is to plod on, keep calm, get every job done one at a time, and breathe. I'm going to finally get that bed out of the garage and absorb every moment of being a director again.

   ... Okay, in truth I'm probably going to freak out and drink far too much coffee - and there's always something which ends up being left until the last minute to do, no matter what I do to pace myself.

  But thank God I have a wonderful cast and crew around to support me. I look forward to introducing them to you over the next 12 days!

Sophie x

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Zombie Days and Summer Showers

Hey Guys,

   Just over a year ago, when Wasteland was in pre-production, I did a fair few blog posts about it, mostly showing you all how I got the costumes ready. Since then the production hasn't exactly stopped but it's bobbed about at a steady, enjoyable pace. This pace was rattled a couple of days ago when it suddenly got epic - we went from early mornings filming one actor (the wonderful Shameer Seepersand) in one setting, to 15 - 30 zombie extras per day and hilly derbyshire locations to put Braveheart to shame.

   The change of pace has been a jolt to everyone's system, but in a good way. The footage is looking amazing and all this recent activity has caused a bit of a "we're still here!!" shout for the production. Plus there was only so long we could film quiet dialogue scenes in a zombie film. The people want blood, and we have delivered.

  So, with this recent explosion of activity, I decided to take Cameron the Diary Cam on location with me and capture a special edition of my Filmmaker Diary (with a big thankyou to Light Films Ltd for allowing me to do this). I captured some behind-scenes-footage on our first big zombie fight day - although their have been a few since - and it is online now. Although I have two words of caution for you: 1) We spent most of the day atop a hill amidst relentless rain, so my lens is often streaky from droplets. 2) The cast and crew on Wasteland are not only interesting to film, but also a riot, so I seriously struggled to cut it down to youtube-length (it's still my longest video diary to date) and the whole thing races along at an MTV-style pace. Enjoy!

   Although I don't feature as much in this video diary as I usually do, the part where you see me the most is when I'm ageing and distressing the zombie extras' clothes. Back when I arranged the costume for one of the lead characters - Lolli - I did a blog post about how to make it look realisticly aged and distressed. However, when ageing a great deal of clothes in little time, and none of the characters will have extreme screen time, you need to aim for decent and fast rather than flawlessly realistic. You don't even have to reach for the coffee. 

   So, if you get didn't it from watching the video, here are my main pointers for distressing zombie clothes:
  • When ageing a lead character's costume, you can spend hours, days or even weeks scraping the fabric down with a sandpaper block. If you have to be quick and effective, use scissors. Close the blades down to the fabric without cutting into it, then scrape. The bigger the scissors, the better.
  • Particularly distress areas which would come in contact with the ground most e.g. knees.
  • Don't leave any edges neat. That is the first thing I look for when people do Zombie clothes. Whether using sandpaper or scissors, particularly scrape the bottom of T-shirts and jeans, as well as collars and cuffs. Cuffs on long-sleeved shirts will be more aged than short ones.
  • Don't just cut holes in clothes - it'll look like a hallowe'en costume! Any holes/tears you make (and do be creative with them), make sure you fray the edges. Scissors will do that fastest for you but fraying by hand always looks best.
  • Any hole you make, make it an extra centimetre bigger than you think you need to, because everything shrinks on camera (ignore the weight rule!). But, if you are making big holes, look out for nipples or other areas sticking out and distracting from the action. Unless your extra is up for it - then just make sure all exposed areas are very, very bloody!
  • Mud is your friend - caking someone in mud, even thinly, will make them look mad and savage. The muddiest place should be the bottoms of trousers; if they have exposed ankles then muddy them up as well. The best thing I've found is to mix compost with white poster paint - that way it'll spread easier, stick to the fabric and show up more (particularly with black clothes and shoes). Don't put too much white paint in though, otherwise it'll look like a bird pooed on them.
  • Avoid white clothes. White t-shirts look effective when they're blood soaked but unless you have Deborah Bennett-grade fake blood, it'll just turn pink. Not a good look for a zombie!
   Follow those rules and you too can make your friends look like zombies!

   The other thing I got from these recent epic shoot days has been lots of wonderful photos. Added to all the ones I've taken over the months, I'm struggling to cut them down to fit into a cohesive album. Plus I got part way through the editing and my eyesight literally went. It came back a couple of days later - turned out I had eyestrain - but it's made me a little cautious ever since.

   Once I've finally sorted and edited the best of my photos, I'll be putting them onto the Wasteland Facebook Page, so give it a like and keep checking back. But, in the meantime, here's one which I couldn't resist editing and sharing:

Shameer Seepersand in full action hero mode! (Wasteland, dir: Tom Wadlow 2012)
    I'm back in London on a corporate shoot next week, but with the Ashes shoot dates looming ever closer, keep checking back for updates. Because I've planned something special for my followers, and there's going to be some announcements coming up which I really don't want you to miss!

Sophie x

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Sophie On: Her Brief Stint With Acting

Teaser Banner for Bed of Nails by Pete Riley, starring me!

Hey Guys,

   You could say that I was a bit of a theatre baby.  I come from a musical family (my uncle is a proffessional organist and some of my earliest memories are of me sitting being bored whilst my parents rehearsed with their Christian band), and I did ballet and tap aged six, then again with ballet and Modern when I was in my teens, although I was never very good at it.

   Amongst all this, I was very much into acting, perhaps because I was such an extrovert child. I was part of my school's version of a Glee club (before it was cool!) and performed in all the shows it put on outside of regular drama classes. I have a variety of embarassing photos to prove it, and my memories from that time are what inspired me to make The Opening Night (see the trailer below).

   I never really pursued the acting after a certain age. This was partly down to the fact that I wasn't exactly 'lead actress' material, physically, but I didn't have the shameless abandon needed for character acting or movement theatre.  Although I think the main problem was that I loved dialogue, but it didn't love me; I've always had trouble with my speech - I've even had speech therapy, a fact which I've never really broadcast - and one of the smaller highlights of my job(s) now is that I get to subtitle myself.

   They say that those who can, teach. Well, those that can't, direct. Which is why I first gave it a go, but discovered a love for it and a natural instinct for it, so I never looked back. I've certainly never watched A-Listers like Angelina Jolie and regretted not aiming for what they have.

   But, in spite of all this, you may have recently seen me star in a certain video that's online:


    Shot and directed by "Spooky" Pete Riley, to the beautiful music of Joel Wildgoose, Bed of Nails is a wonderful post-watershed mix of prostitution, (suggested) nudity, drugs and general griminess (although it does have some happy/cheesy counter scenes thrown in, which I actually found harder to do). So, after years of not attempting any form of acting, why did I choose to appear in a video of this nature? There are five reasons.

   1) I knew that Pete was a talented filmmaker and Joel and equally great musician, so I wanted to help them out. You have to support your local creatives when they need you!

   2) For the first time in my life, I'm comfortable and excited about my own sensuality, after years of being slightly afraid of it.

   3) Ditto, I'm finally at a place where I'm happy with my body and my figure (it's just my face I still have issues with now!).

   4) I thought that playing a prostitute would be a 'laugh' (it was).

   5) The most important part of all. Next month I will be shooting a film with nudity and sex scenes for basically the first time, and I believe that no director should make an actor do something they wouldn't do themselves. I wasn't nude in any of the scenes - it was all implied - and the actors in Ashes will be in the same situation, but I needed to know how it feels as an actor before I turn around and ask someone to do it for me.

   I think I definitely learnt a couple of things which will help me to direct those impending scenes. The main part being that, particularly when there's two of you involved (as there was in this shoot, although it's hard to tell if the scene I'm thinking of was cut in Bed of Nails, as it's wonderfully dark in places), it can feel a bit awkward. There's a forced intimacy element which can feel a little alien if it's not something that you're used to. But, if you're the more relaxed out of the two of you - as I was - it's also your job to calm your partner and bring them to your level of comfort. I found that making a joke about the bizarre nature did the trick, but always judge the mood of the crew around you before bursting into laughter!
On Location in Burton for a cold night's filming. Photo: James Reader

     So, what did I think of the finished Bed of Nails video? I'd actually sworn not to watch it, a la Johnny Depp, but the curiosity got the better of me. Joel's song still sounds as beautiful as the first time I heard it, and Pete has created a striking little video for saying he had such a short piece of music to cut it to. Plus, due to the colour grading, my face was mostly in darkness for a lot of the film, so I find it somewhat easier to watch!

  That's it then - the last hurdle I felt I had to go through before I felt ready to direct Ashes. All that's left now is to bring everything together in time for the re-scheduled shoot dates at the start of August. We have a guaranteed location now, funding or no funding (although I think fire might still stop us), so it's definitely going to happen, and we're all getting a bit excited now.

   Stay tuned for a series of special blog posts as the Ashes shoot dates approach, in which I introduce you to my cast and principle crew, and in the meantime, make sure you give Bed of Nails a watch and a like on vimeo or youtube.

  For now, I'm sticking to my various day jobs!

Sophie x

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sophie On: Her BBC Debut

Hey Guys,

    As I discussed in a rather word-heavy blog post recently, I spent the first month of summer creating Electronic Press Kits (or EPKs) in the hope that these would get Stop/Eject some televised publicity.  I'd made follow up calls as well, but had been told - as often is the case - that we were much less likely to be featured on the news than mainstrain films.

On the set of Ghost Train Spotting. Photo: Katie Lake
   Then, on the last Sunday in June, we were half way through the Ghost Train Spotting shoot, and I'd left the others to prepare the flower shrine for the next scene. Since I was away from the sound recording danger zone, I decided to check my phone; lo and behold, one answerphone message from the BBC, asking myself or Neil to come in for an interview. When? The very next day!

   As all the lovely Stop/Eject fans know, we were featured on the news before, when Neil went on Midlands Today to raise more pre-production funds. It was a wonderful piece but the whole thing was a bit of a waiting game, particularly when it came to the broadcast itself. This time round, they couldn't see us quick enough, and both myself and Neil were in Hereford when they rang - 100 miles away from the studio we needed to get to!

   There were two reasons that muggins here - undoubtedly the less well-known of the two producers - ended up being the one interviewed this time. Firstly, I would be back in Belper by then and therefore considerably closer to Nottingham, and secondly - and most importantly - because Neil was being interviewed by the local paper that day. So it was a doubly good day for Stop/Eject publicity, and keep checking the Facebook page because we upload any newspaper scans that we have.

   Speaking publicly about the film is part of the job (I can reel off the plot overview in less than ten seconds. Seriously, try me.), and I'm starting to get used to being on camera due to my video diaries and appearances in other people's behind-the-scenes podcasts. But going on the BBC? That was pretty darn daunting and exciting all at once!

My BBC visitor's pass, which the lady on reception kindly let me keep.

    Before I go any further I really should say thankyou to all the team at BBC East Midlands Today, not only for inviting me along, but for being so friendly, and interested in everything I had to say. While I was there, they gave me a little tour of the place, including a brief glimpse at the studio itself. When we walked past it, my guide said to me, "recognise anything familiar?" And by god I did - a massive blown-up still of the main prop in Stop/Eject, the tape recorder, stood behind the signature BBC sofas, along with our S/E logo:

The Stop/Eject-ified BBC studios. I'd be happy if it always looked like that!

    I was also introduced to the BBC-standard equipment by a cooly silver-haired cameraman, who gave me a proper look at a camera which was at least four times bigger than anything I'd ever shot on. Apparantly a bunch of the guys there had seen the camera we used on Stop/Eject and were shocked by how small it is, but were also impressed by the quality we achieved (clearly the DSLR revolution hasn't hit the BBC yet). When it came to my interview they actually had to tell me not to look at the camera, to which I said, "I can't help it - it's so beautiful!!" (Yes, that is a Bug's Life quote and it always will be, but I couldn't resist).

   I was a lot more nervous than comes across in the interview, but all in all it went okay. Afterwards I asked when it would go out, and the answer - to my absolute surprise - was, "in about an hour's time". Seriously! Can you imagine that, having to churn out a perfectly cut interview in less than an hour? it also meant that I had to jog back to the train station and actually stop a train from leaving without me, otherwise I would've had to wait for the next one and missed the interview myself!

   It was an epic piece. Shown on prime-time BBC1, featuring almost the entire trailer and with the address on-screen throughout. Afterwards, presenter Dominic Littlewood even said, "that looks really good, doesn't it?" I was on cloud nine!

Even the Triskelle Pictures logo got a split second of screen time!

   So why did we get the BBC interview? Well, I like to think that all my efforts with the EPK helped - once they actually watched the DVD contents it was clear that we weren't amateurs and that we also used a lot of locations their viewers would recognise. But the main reason is that our timing was very, very lucky. They just so happened to be doing a feature on films being made in the East Midlands because the Dark Knight Rises had filmed in part at a national landmark in Nottingham. (I actually said The Dark Knight during my interview like a right spanner. This was an accident, I wasn't just being ignorant!). This recent Hollywood interest has inspired the goverment to get more films made here. A big Bollywood production was also shot here recently, so me talking about Stop/Eject would represent the indie world choosing to film here too.

   In turn, I had to play the game and make sure that most of my answers related to those aforementioned news stories, so I mostly talked about why Goverment support would be a good thing, and how beautiful the East Midlands is to film in, rather than talking about Stop/Eject as much as I would've liked to. Perhaps responding to these questions so compliently gave them enough content to make my interview a whole feature, rather than just a talking head amongst the other articles. But, again, the main reason is that we were really lucky!

   I still don't know if any of the other EPKs I sent out will get us anywhere. In any case, with them - as could've been with the BBC - we will have to wait for a slow news day that may never come.

   The interview was on Iplayer for 24 hours, but you can still catch it in other places if you missed it. Although I won't be uploading my copy onto Youtube for obvious legal reasons, my old Shelf Stackers assistant proved that he still serves me well, because he filmed the whole thing on his phone:

   And if that wasn't enough video goodness for you, the recent surge of publicity meant that we raised enough for me to finally publish the Podcast from Day One of the Stop/Eject shoot that I edited:

   Want one more? Oh, alright then - here's a video of Neil releasing a poster competition for all of you creative types to get involved with:

   Right, I'm signing out of "Stop/Eject land" for tonight, but keep up the love you've been sending to us lately, and I hope we've caused some creative juices to start flowing in return.

Sophie x