Sunday, 17 November 2013

Stories from the Set: Sheena Holland Promotional Video

Cleo Kinsey-Lyons in one of Sheena Holland's bespoke pieces

  Hey Guys,

   Well, this is a rare thing; two blog posts in the space of two days! But I haven't been posting much lately, and it's something I want to make up for when I'm free to do so - particularly if it deters the barrage of spam comments I get when I leave this blog unattended. To said spammers; this blog is still active, and I do not appreciate your garbage!

Photo of the crew by Sheena Holland
    Although most of my intended client videos have now been pushed back to 2014, leaving me time to focus on Night Owls and two other fiction films I'm attached to, I did produce one promotional video recently. Back in September, myself, cinematographer Lucy Young, and stunning model Cleo Kinsey-Lyons, created a little video for the wonderful Sheena Holland.

   It was a relatively easy shoot. We started early (although I'd been working until 1am the night before, so I was beyond shattered) and finished by lunch time, all the while working to a schedule which worked around Sheena's loyal clientele; the shop had to remain open, so I'd planned for shots which captured the entire shop interior to be done first, before the shop got too busy, even if this meant shooting the 'story' of the film out of sequence.

   Of course, cinematographer Lucy was in no way restrained by my schedule. She is a talent beyond her years, and certainly one to watch, although with her youth comes unquenchable enthusiasm; I'd be setting up the lights for the next scheduled shot, or Cleo would be changing costume, by which point Lucy would've got five or so unplanned cutaways which she'd been inspired to capture in the moment. So I certainly had plenty of footage to work with in the edit!

Me slating up in Sheena's lovely little shop

   We did have some minor issues to overcome, as no shoot ever runs perfectly. The main problem was the lighting. I knew the post-production effects would require bright images, with fairly flat shadows, and the natural lighting wasn't bright enough to achieve this. But, due to the size of the shop, it was difficult to turn on my redheads (a naturally bold, yellow-coloured light at the best of times) without washing out the room. Sometimes, the shop would look perfectly lit... but the moment Cleo stepped forwards, her face would burst on the screen, and her cheeks disappear in the overexposure. It was such a pain. But we worked with it the best we could, opting for a two-point lighting system rather than three-point (which was more than enough) and plenty of greaseproof paper layered over the lights.

   Yes, greaseproof paper. A budget marvel! I've been using it since I started out filming as a teenager, and I'm sure I'll buy some proper diffuser at some point soon. But if you don't have any diffuser to hand - or if you don't have enough - then it can be a godsend.

    Anyway, the size of the shop wasn't also an obstacle in terms of lighting. We could barely move our equipment anywhere without being in danger of knocking some of Sheena's beautiful and often fragile stock. I always try to be careful and respectful when working in someone else's space, but when working in a vintage store, or similar, you need to take extra caution.

    We also had to abandon our planned dolly shots (the kit for which was supplied to us by Enigmatic Productions) due to the shop's bumpy flooring. The boards looked original, and certainly a feature which suited the aesthetic of the shop, but cameras can be overly sensitive about the slightest things. So Lucy opted to do all of the moving shots handheld, which required some minor stabilising in post-production, but which turned out well enough.

Sheena's own hands had a couple of cameos in the video!

    Minor challenges aside, we had a great shoot. And what's more, it was one of the girliest shoots I've been on. Everyone on set was female, and we got to film beautiful things twinkling in the over-bright lights as though we were shooting a Christmas advert. So it was extremely fun - particularly for Cleo who got to try on plenty of Sheena's stunning handmade headpieces.

   Once I'd rested, and edited the footage, I handed it over to the talented VFX whizz Scott Nolan, who I'd worked with previously on Ashes, to give it the old film effects and near-sepia colours which Sheena had specifically requested. And here's the finished result:

     Around the time the video was finished, Sheena's business came into a little trouble. Scheduled scaffolding work took over the street her store was on, and this badly affected the number of people visiting her shop. Numerous letters were sent to the council, but it's up to the public to help her now. Sheena Holland is not only Derby's premium retailer of vintage and antique items - she also makes a lot of her pieces from scratch, featuring pieces of jewellery dating back to the Victorian times in some cases, and everything in her store is a one-off original - like Sheena herself.
    Independent shops are dying out in the looming titan of mega-chain shopping centres, and if we're not careful, we'll lose them forever. So, if you like any of the items shown in our video, or if you know of someone else who might like them (Christmas is coming, after all) then please, please check out , and share the video around. She needs your support - so stand up for the 'little man' while you can!



Saturday, 16 November 2013

Review: "Drained" by Nick Peterson

Andee Tims in Drained, dir. Nick Peterson 2012
Hi Guys,

    With little over a week before I tackle the necessary evil that is crowd-funding once again (this time for Night Owls), I've been researching other projects which have found success using this method. One such film - Drained (2012) by Nick Peterson, which was funded via Kickstarter - also happens to be one which I've been meaning to review for a while. Because, and I can say this with all honesty, Drained is not only an example of what people can achieve with online income, but it is without a doubt one of the best short films I have ever seen.

   Drained was first brought to my attention by Chris Newman; I was waiting at St Pancras station when he sent it to me, which he did because it tackles a similar subject, and in a similar style, to Ashes, which I was working on at the time. Both films use fantasy elements to represent how a man's addictions can affect his relationship, but no film out there does this in the way that Drained does. It is a film which is completely unique - indeed a rare find in modern times!

    The reason Drained is so original is mostly down to its shooting style. Peterson, who cut his teeth in the VFX department on films such as Constantine and The Ring, has used his visual experience to full effect here. Knowing that the film would feature stop-motion effects later on (and what wonderful effects they are too), Peterson wanted the animation and the live action to flow seamlessly together, so he developed a shooting technique to accomodate this. Using strobe lighting, and with his Canon 7D in still mode, he used the stop-frame technique on the live action elements, shooting over 254,00 still frames at 8fps. All of which he and his crew basically had to do blind due to the "headache inducing" shooting conditions.

   The result is at once jerky and fluid; unnatural without the movements ever looking forced. The only thing I can compare it to is watching an interpretive dance, or ballet, on stage (and the gentle piano score helps to support this comparison) - movements which are at once beautiful and unsettling.

Jennifer Alford and Daniel Ball in Drained, dir. Nick Peterson 2012

   The minimal set (apparantly a warehouse with a white-washed exposed brick wall) allows for the actors to be the main subject of the image, and lets them tell their story interrupted. The couple - Andee Tims and Daniel Ball - stand naked, painted as white as the wall behind them, and start the film in innocence. The colour black is used, in a treacle-like oil subject, to represent human flaws, and lay a striking contrast on their white skin when it starts to creep onto it.

   The man in the story literally wears his flaws - representations of addictions worn as clothing as he shows them, or rather admits them to the female character, openly inviting her judgment. She finds some addictions easier to accept than others; when an addiction to alcohol is shown (the man's body covered in dirty cans and beer labels), she is initially shocked but embraces him, at once affectionate and understanding. She finds his addiction to porn slightly more alarming (again, the man is dressed by his addiction, wearing layers of scrap paper torn from pornographic magazines) but, after a moment's contemplation, she tries to become like the women shown in those images. She douses herself in the black grime, literally inviting his vices onto herself, then poses for him (the role now played by the curvaceous Jennifer Allford). She mimics these women as her way of acceptance and understanding, as many women have done before her.

Amanda Chism in Drained, dir. Nick Peterson 2012

   As the man shows more flaws to her, he admits even more troubling vices, each one more terrifying than the last - each one more difficult to stomach. Which is never more apparant than when the man's final addiction - drugs - literally causes the woman to reject and throw up all that she has mentally digested, in an moment of stop-motion technical brilliance. What's left after that is a thinner woman (Amanda Chism), her empty body straining against the greasy black paint on her skin - it is at this point that the incredible sound design really comes into its own, grating on the audience and enhancing the visuals' feeling of unease.

   The thing about addiction is that it consumes people, and it isn't long before all of the man's flaws, (built up on the ground in a puddle, where the woman had set them aside like putting bad thoughts to the back of her mind), start to take hold of the woman as well. Literally, in fact, due to another great piece of stop-motion animation. The woman is bogged down by them, her body blackened by the grease and the rubbish. The man's vices have now become her own, through her desire to support him, and to be part of his world. And what has become of the man? Well, you'll need to watch the film to find out:

   Drained has, rightly so, been screened at a variety of film festivals, and taken home some awards, including 'Best Experimental Short' at Irvine International Film Festival. You can find out more about the making of Drained in this useful little making-of featurette than the team posted online:

   Nick Peterson's next project, The Visitant, (another film which was successfully funded online), has just been completed, and I for one look forward to the finished result. You can also watch his earlier short film, MuM, (which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival that year), on Vimeo or Youtube - and you can find out more about Nick at

   Right, now I need to get back to my funding prep for Night Owls. I hope you all wish me luck, and that you show your support when the time comes!


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sophie On: Her Future Projects

Hey Everybody,

    Things seem to appear a bit quiet from my end these day. It's not that I haven't been busy; I spent all summer moving house and setting up a home for myself and Edward Harvey (which has given me a new outlet for my set dressing skills). And both Ashes and Stop/Eject are bobbing along nicely, with myself and Neil preparing DVDs and entering the films into festivals, although this process isn't really worth blogging about.

    As for the other projects, Jar of Angels was completed this year but remains in temporary obscurity as everyone involved pursues other things, myself included. Light Films' feature Wasteland, which I worked on for nearly two years, also finished this year, and I got to see all of those memories together on one screen when I attended the film's VIP cast and crew screening (photos from which are online now). As for the other projects I worked on recently, as a costume designer, The Trial and Love & Other Chairs, I am still waiting on these before I create my designer's showreel because they're still in post-production.

   Meanwhile, I'm turning my attention to projects which I can make money off whilst still exercising the creative muscles. Back in January, I worked as a designer on a commercial for a creative software plug-in called Widthscribe (which Neil directed, and which you can still see online here). That was great fun to do, and the type of thing I wanted to do as a 'day job', but things went a bit quieter after then - which gave me time to focus on my house - and it's only now that clients seem to be wanting promotional videos from me again. A recent surge which, I have no doubt, I owe mostly to the hiring of my PR girls, Charlotte Ashton and Laura Cann.

   So, with things getting busy again, here is my plan for the coming months:


Sheena Holland's stunning shop
    September - After much chasing, I have finally persuaded Sheena Holland to let me capture her beautiful handmade tiaras and vintage clothing on camera. I'm very excited to do this promotional video - we have emerging talent Lucy Young behind the lens, and Cleo Kinsey-Lyons, who I've wanted to capture on film for a while, in front of it. Since Sheena also wants to evoke the feeling of the era her produce is from, it's also given me the opportunity to collaborate with Ashes VFX Artist Scott Nolan again, to create some filmic effects. We're only a few days from filming this video, so watch this space for more information.

    October - Soulful siren Lauren Lovejoy found out about Triskelle Pictures at a car boot sale, of all places (it's weird how far word travels)! After an initial meeting in Derby, she's hired me to create a music video which presents her wonderful mix of sixties style and modern relevance  I've got a couple of cinematographers in mind - I can't make anything official until I sort out contracts and such - but, in the meantime, you can hear Lauren's powerful vocals here for a taste of what we have to come.

   November - After all the support Wan2Talk gave the production of Ashes, I was more than happy to help them in return when they came to me, wanting a promotional video for their website. This will be fiction based as with the others, but I'm keeping things toned back, simple, and straight to the cause. Lara Elliot (who has been working on a documentary about Ashes for a while now) has signed on to shoot this, and I'm in talks with a well-known local actress to come on board and add some gravitas to the film.

   At some point this autumn, I've also agreed to work as a costume designer on a locally-shot music video, under director Riccardo Servini. I haven't seen him since we were at university together, although I worked with him from afar as a costume adviser on his short film Assessment. It'll also give me chance to work with some of the guys from YSP Media again. Plus it involves scarecrows, which should be fun!

WINTER 2013/2014 - "NIGHT OWLS"

    This has been a long time coming. Longtime readers of my blog will have seen me mention 'The Infamous Script' from time to time. This script is actually a feature script I've been writing since I was 15, and nicknamed 'infamous' because I referred to it from time to time without anyone having seen it. Plus I've done various drafts of the film without finishing one since 2006 (when I actually made a bad version of the film with my friends in place of actors, and myself as a one-man-crew). 

    The story - which I've been keeping under wraps for so long now - is of two lost souls coming together and finding a natural connection between them. These two people are Mari, a bullied, extrovert teenager who doesn't get along with her conservative family, and David, known as 'Kent', who has lived alone in a big, old house for years, following the death of his first child, and the separation from his fiance. Neither character has any real friends until they find each other, and both have dreams, but not well-planned or realistic goals for their lives.

    They come together when Mari runs away from home, and breaks into Kent's house for
Concept art for Mari (Night Owls)
shelter from the elements, and other characters which might hurt her. After initially having Mari thrust upon him, Kent softens towards her, and lets her stay in his house as an unlikely friendship blossoms. But the longer they stay together, a dangerous attraction forms between them, which neither character fully understands or can control.

   It's a story I keep going back to, and which I'm dying to direct as my first feature because it stylistically mimics all the low-budget, independent romance dramas I've been so addicted to lately (Like Crazy, Blue Valentine, To The Wonder etc) whilst still invoking the mythical, classical stories which influenced me throughout my youth (the story of the young girl making her way into the large house of a lonely older man drips with the essence of Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast. And, as actor Mark Drake put it to me, Mari is like 'the fairy at the bottom of the garden' to Kent). It's a gentle, simple story, but equally as controversial as Ashes, and another chance for me to explore that film's theme of how two people act behind closed doors.

   But taking on a feature film is a big venture - and it's particularly difficult to make myself take the plunge back into pre-production after four films I worked on have only just been completed, having started them in 2011 - so it's a long time before I can announce jobs on this for everyone I know! However, having worked with Neil Oseman, and having explored the stories behind such films as Tyrannosaur, Mama and Beasts of the Southern Wild, I've learnt that many feature films have got off the ground following on from the production of a short film in a similar vein.

   So this gave me the chance to collaborate with Tommy Draper again, this time on a joint script for Night Owls - which features the same characters as what is known as 'The Infamous Script', but it takes place all in one night, with Mari and Kent coming together then passing again, without taking the time to explore their relationship as fully as the feature version does. I'm still reluctant to announce official pre-production, but this is a film which I am itching to direct, so it can only be a matter of time. I've already been in talks with potential producers (one of which has signed on for now), and I've had an unofficial audition for Kent. I will be offering the role of Mari to an actress at the end of September - and anyone who knows me need only guess who that person is.


    I want to keep the client videos going if I can, and to look into making Triskelle Pictures official in some way, although only as a small business. I still want to be open to moving onto bigger things - and bigger films. It's too long since I've been on a studio set and I miss that feeling. I want more studio experience, and I'll happily do smaller roles to make that happen.

   I'm still attached to Matthew Simmond's feature film Junction 6 as an art director, and there are design bits in my home for that now. It got put on hold earlier this year, but should come back onto my radar again soon - be it this autumn or later into 2014. Although the design work is fairly standard (it's all set in one modern house), the script is fantastic, and I'm keen to do more feature films because this should hopefully give me more of a springboard for addressing agents.

Concept art for 'Iris' (Butterfly)
   I also want to do films which challenge me in a new way, rather than doing the same things I've done before (although I doubt I'll be able to turn down anything with a great script, good design opportunities, or pay). Every year, I tell myself I'll do one of the local 24 or 48-hour filmmaking competitions, to challenge myself to work quicker. I never seem to have the time when they come around, although I do have a script idea for one (based on a story by Claudia Codiroli) and it would work equally well for a Virgin Media shorts film, so hopefully I will get it made for both events in 2014.

    I'm also more and more intrigued about improvisation. I did a little in developing Sarah Lamesch and Adam Lannon's characters with them for Ashes, and I'm keen to work a little bit of that into a natural style for Night Owls' characters as well. But I've also been thinking of an experiment which merges together improvisation and a 48hour production schedule. This is something I may tackle next year, or it may be five years in the future, but I've drafted out a rough storyline and characters (the working title for this project is 'Butterfly'). If I do make it, I will be using all the locations, costumes and actors I currently have to hand already, to make something very intimate and inexpensive, at the same time as being ambitious.


    At the start of this summer, I considered taking a break from filmmaking, to give myself some personal time and to evaluate where I wanted to go next (and moving house forced me to take that break). By the looks of this blog post, it looks as though I'm starting to figure it out!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Stories from the Set: Halo Haynes Music Video

Hey Everyone,

Our Location (All photos by Sam Tansley)
   For a while, there were two things I really wanted to do. One was to film something in the 'piano room' of Derwentside Antiques Centre, an old factory filled with old wonders in my old hometown of Belper. The second was to make a music video for actor/model Halo Haynes ever since I saw this creaky -sounding webcam-captured video of her singing on youtube.

   Finally, in February of this year, I got my act together and combined the two. Joined by my two then-housemates, Chris Newman (cinematographer for the project) and Sam Tansley (who came along as a production assistant and stills photographer), we embarked on this fun little passion piece, and spent the day in the antique centre - which turned out to be very drafty in February, and the kind of cold which meant Halo frequently appeared to have steam coming out of her mouth as she sang.

   So, for the first time, here is the story of that shoot:

Me and Chris on location
   MORNING - We had a few grumpy faces first thing; not only was it colder indoor than out, but I had also made poor Chris carry a big bag of my redhead lights all the way from Derby to Belper! But the staff at Derwentside were very friendly, and even found a kettle for us to plug in amongst the old pianos and carpet tiles.

   From a cinematography point of view, the location was fairly difficult to work with. On my location recce months previously, I'd been impressed by the way beams of light shot into the room from either side. But it turns out that there needs to be bright sunshine for this to happen, and we were shooting on a cold late-winter day. Also, this kind of light is never constant unless you set up artificial lighting outside the window, and we were four stories off ground level! So Chris had to compete with a naturally very dark location - but luckily my redheads counteracted that, and the contrast of the dark shadows with the bright lights looked rather lush in the end!

   Halo's opted for an upbeat song first, which helped to raise all of our spirits: Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. Chris set up three shots for the one set - a close-up, a wide-shot, and a roaming close-up which worked as cutaways too - and Halo performed once for each shot. This worked pretty well so we repeated the pattern through her other performances too.

Halo performing Sunday Morning, before the frostbite set in!
    I hadn't heard her perform Sunday Morning before, but because of the youtube clip which had inspired me to do this video, I insisted Halo did a performance of Katy Perry's Extra-Terrestrial (I was recording the whole set on my Fostex, which I still had back then, so I knew I'd get a copy of the song to put onto my Walkman afterwards!). Halo was so cold by that point that she was finding it hard to sing; I agreed when she wanted to put a coat on before singing that second track, but we made sure to get a shot of her putting the coat on to help cover continuity.

A close-up for Extra-terrestrial
   LUNCHTIME - Halo was rehearsing for her third and final song of the day (I think it was a Gershwin piece) when I heard her singing a different song. She was just playing around, I think - strumming to herself and quietly singing a few notes - but my ears pricked up. On not one four four consecutive times at the start of this year, Halo's set being one of those pieces, I have heard versions of Chris Isaac's Wicked Game in a prominent way. I'm not sure I believe in fate or signs, but sometimes your gut tells you to go for something, and you have to listen to it. So I asked Halo if she would at least try performing Wicked Game instead.

   She hadn't rehearsed this at all, and she basically had to make up the guitar accompaniment on the spot, but I wanted to use that spontaneous element to our advantage. I wanted it to be as raw and vulnerable as possible, which inspired Halo to go wigless on camera for the first time since we started working together; this in itself seemed very powerful to me, as though she had taken away her armour, revealing the natural-coloured little bob she had underneath. It ended up being a seriously beautiful performance; after playback, Halo joked that she should have me with her when recording music in the future!

Chris, the Eskimo cinematographer!
   There was a fourth, unofficial song which Halo performed for us that day. She was playing Fly Me To The Moon to herself as I was setting up the microphone, so I made sure to point it at her and hit record, even though the camera wasn't rolling. It was a sweet, short rendition which ended with some silliness akin to the ending of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi. When it came to the edit, this song provided the perfect backing for the end credits.

   We stopped for lunch at George's Tradition, whose chips are the pride of Belper. It's good to be home!

    AFTERNOON - With the songs in the bag, we were able to relax and focus on getting cutaways with Halo. Although, having dedicated the majority of our time to recording the songs themselves, we hadn't left ourselves ages to get the cutaways before the shop had to close. Luckily these cutaways weren't too complicated.

   Whenever I do music videos, I suggest that the client wears their own clothes - perhaps in an exaggerated version of their style - so that the video can say who they are in a personal way. Halo grabbed a big bag of clothes and accessories which said something about her, ranging from the delicate to the extrovert, and we made three outfits out of this collection. The first was a mix of cultures, where Halo wore a beaded Indian-style tunic with a native American feathered headdress. We got some of our most beautiful shots with Halo in this outfit - first we took advantage of the pianos and stained glass windows in our base camp by having her walk past these. Then we found an old bed frame to have her sit and pose inside (I couldn't help but have Ashes flashbacks when we did this); while setting up this shot, Chris had a bit of a 'Eureka' moment when he discovered that shooting against the light source gave the most stunning, gentle, semi-silhouetted look.

Halo's first cutaway outfit was a mix of cultural styles
    With Halo in her second outfit (a ghostly white lace ensemble with a Lana Del rey-style floral headband), we explored the rest of the building, spending a great amount of time in Derwentside's 'room of doors' (which is exactly as it sounds, a room filled with antique and reclaimed doors, where I had gone about a year ago to buy the walls for the Stop/Eject alcove!). This room was difficult to shoot in because there were no available plug sockets, meaning Chris had to shoot in natural (dim) light, which was leaving us by the minute. But these shots looked wonderfully haunting, and we were able to use the redheads again as we posed Halo in the other rooms, sat on old antique beds and other furniture.
Halo in the 'room of doors'

   We created a third outfit with the last of the clothes Halo had bought, which included a luminescent gypsy skirt, striped 'Beetlejuice-esque' jacket, cybergoth goggles and comedy rabbit ears. Halo and I nicknamed this look 'Techno Bunny', which came about because neither me nor Halo had had much sleep the night before, and our brains had gone slightly mushy by this point. Which also meant we broke into inappropriate giggles during the final shots, but since we had exhausted most of the cinegenic parts of the location by that point, we didn't film much with this third and slightly bizarre look.


   So, that is the story of the shoot. Once we finished, neither Chris nor I could decide which of us should edit the piece (both keen to have a go as well as both being ridiculously busy on separate projects). Eventually I found time this Summer to put it together, then passed it back to Chris to colour grade. And hey presto, the video was finished. With a massive thankyou to all at Derwentside Antiques Centre for hosting us. It's a shop I seriously recommend you all visit!

   We've released the first two tracks - Sunday Morning and Extra-terrestrial - online, which I hope you will enjoy watching again, taking all of the above into account:

   As part of a mini marketing strategy, we are going to wait to release Wicked Game until the above video has had 2,000 views across Youtube and Vimeo. This third track is absolutely stunning and quietly powerful, so please, please share the above video around so that I can show it to you all!

Halo's raw cover of Wicked Game in the edit stages

    Halo's video has marked the start of a new era for Triskelle Pictures client videos, as next month I will be creating a video for vintage & handmade store Sheena Holland, then in October I will be returning to music video territory for 60s-style siren Lauren Lovejoy. And I will be sure to tell you all about these projects when they happen!

Sophie x

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review: "Dad" by Michelle Bailey

Hey Guys,

    At the end of last month, as I do every two months, I attended Five Lamps Films - an evening which celebrates independent filmmaking talent in Derby and beyond. Myself and my fellow filmmakers settled down with a glass of wine (or four) and prepared ourselves for whatever they had to show us. Amongst the line-up, Lucy Young was introduced to me as an emerging talent with her film Unused, and Sascha Zimmerman's Die Box reprised Pro Kopf's performance by blowing all the other films out of the water. But the film I want to talk about today is actually one which I had seen before that night.

Poster for Dad - Baileyface Productions
   Back in December, Neil Oseman and I travelled to Wolverhampton for a networking evening hosted by Underwire Film Festival, where the trailers for Stop/Eject and Ashes were screened. Amongst the other films which were played that night, we instantly took notice of a film called Dad by director Michelle Bailey of Baileyface Productions. It grabbed our attention firstly because it starred George McCluskey in the lead role, an actor we've both worked with before (he auditioned for Jar of Angels and had a main role in Ghost-trainspotting as well). But the film caught our eye beyond the familiar face, and ended up being one of the stand-out films of the night.

   Usually, when I go to Five Lamps Films and spot a film I've seen before on the line-up, I get a little disappointed. But I was intrigued by a second viewing, in case I could spot the wonderful ending twist sooner. A repeat viewing certainly didn't ruin it; as one of the other film's directors commented that night, there's no film out there like Dad.

   The story itself is relatively straight-forward, and although it's shot perfectly adequately, it's not usually the type of thing which I would dedicate a whole blog post to. McCluskey ably plays a main who moves through life as though lost within it - attending a church service, walking through the streets, before finally finding comfort within his home sofa and unending quantities of beer.

   A film about a man who likes his drink is nothing new, but little things pop up throughout the film to suggest that all is not as it seems. The first of these being a shot of a film crew acapturing McCluskey as he enters his house - a shot which, on first viewing, confused me as to whether these were supposed to be paparazzi filming a celebrity, or if it was simply a piece
George McCluskey in Dad - Baileyface Productions
of B-roll footage which made its way in to the film to be slightly avant-garde. Another similar shot appears later on when we see a bespectacled woman watching McCluskey go into his fridge for another beer (a woman I now know to be Michelle Bailey herself, monitoring his performance). We are reminded throughout that we are watching a film (an interlaced, 'tv' effect is added to these shots to reaffirm this. This filter is my only - minor - criticism of the film, because I believe the choice of a visible older camera may have been better); what we do not know until the end, however, is why we are being reminded of this fact.

   It is when the match-cut shots start appearing that the true meaning is drip-fed to us. When McCluskey is sat on the sofa, watching old home movies of a little girl, we cut to another man sat in the same place on his own sofa - a man of similar appearance and mannerisms. The first time we see this man, it's initially confusing, but it's important as well - even more so on a second viewing - and it all makes sense at the film's climax. I would not spoil that ending for anyone for the world, and I encourage you all to watch it if you can. It's one of the bravest things I'v ever seen in cinema.

George McCluskey in Dad - Baileyface Productions

   I applauded Michelle Bailey for her bravery in person at the Underwire Networking Night, and asked her about her influences, immediately jumping to comparisons of This Is England and Tyrannosaur. But Bailey informed me that she had no prior influences, having simply shot the film from her heart. And that's the important factor which makes the film what it is.

   If you want to find out more about Michelle Bailey and Dad, head on over to the Baileyface Productions website. They have the cutest signature logo I've seen for a while!

  I'll be back to talk about my own projects and news next time.

Sophie x

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Independent Film Production Companies in Derby

Hi All!

    Guillermo del Toro is a bit of a hero for me. Not because of the films he makes (although Pan's Labyrinth was particularly phenomenal) but because of the direction he took his career. He keeps his film career going around making his own films by putting his name to other peoples'; he produced Troy Nixey's Don't be Afraid of the Dark because he loved the original, then he executive-produced Mama to give AndrĂ©s Muschietti his first big break in mainstream film. This is to name two recent examples.

    Helping Jigawatt Pictures to create Stop/Eject, the short film, made me realise that I would love to 'do a Guillermo' - to one day have the money and the means to help other people make films which share the style and goal of Triskelle Pictures. This dream is a long way off, but - combined with the replenished drive I got from my visit to Cannes this year - made me want to push Triskelle Pictures into a functioning business, and a studio, all of its' own.

    I'm a long way off being able to run my own business, and I'm certainly keen to get more experience working with other people in the meantime. But the first step is to establish the current market for film production companies in the area; to see what is already out there, and how my little company would sit amongst them. Which also gives me the chance to give a shout-out to the other businesses and lovely people I've had the chance of working with over the last few years.

    So, here is my overview:

Name: Triskelle Pictures
Overview: New girls on the block (my PR/marketing team is also female), but with some good film production credits to their name, having co-created Stop/Eject and created Ashes, both of which were well-received at the short film buyer's corner at Cannes this year.
Specialty: Narrative promotional videos and music videos. Plus the 'company' can offer design services - such as costume creation, set design and storyboards - through me!

    So that's me. And here's the A-Z directory of the other local film production companies, all of which I have the pleasure of knowing, or have worked with at some point:

Name: All Doors Lead Somewhere
Overview: A friendly trio of guys who make their own narrative films (which often showcase the local area) as well as working for clients. They frequently enter film competitions and have been shortlisted before, too.
Specialty: Music videos, including live events. They also create their own visual effects through the skills of Rob Dawes.
Twitter: @adlsproductions

Name: Anglo Klaxon Pictures
Overview: The company mostly focusses on fiction/narrative-based films, although I have seen them put these skills into cinematic promotional videos for local businesses. Their most recent project was Sci-Fi film The Trial.
Specialty: As well as the above, co-director Phil Arnold is a useful guy to know because he's a professional sound recordist who also does sound for events/installations.
Twitter: @AngloKlaxonPics

Name: Enigmatic Productions
Overview: A cool little team who also focus more on producing fiction films, although they have worked with musicians and actors to help promote them too. And yes, I do happen to be living with one of their team, Edward Harvey.
Specialty: Dark, creepy films which are inspired by Tim Burton and David Lynch amongst others. They also compose and compile the scores for their own films.
Website: In progress.

Name: Lara Elliot Moving Image
Overview: A member of the Hatch'd online magazine team, who has experience covering events for them as well as shooting her own projects. Lara was also the official documentarian for my film, Ashes.
Specialty: Naturalistic footage shot with a "relaxed approach" (in her own words). She also works with 16mm and super-8 film, and is in the process of getting her own developing tank!

Name: Light Films Ltd
Overview: With a few successful business years under their belt, and a director who was trained at Universal Studios, they set the bar pretty high for everyone else. Their first feature, Wasteland, was completed this year and received a lot of interest from buyers.
Specialty: Corporate films for classy clients. They also have enviable marketing experience so they know how to make your video get the best publicity.
Twitter: @LightFilmsLtd

Name: Sam Jordan Films
Overview: As well as making his own films, Sam is a good name on the local filmmaking scene because he co-runs 5Lamps Films, a bi-monthly showcase for Midlands talent (with the occasional drop-in from London as well!)
Specialty: Wedding videos and scenic music videos - he's even had one played on Scuzz!
Twitter: @samjordanfilms

Name: YSP Media
Overview: After going on to win multi-awards for their student film Caught In The Headlights, the team went on to create films for clients around more fiction offerings, with Love and Other Chairs about to be released and Jobseekers - the Sitcom (Pilot) about to be released.
Specialty: As well as having a bit of a rep for being the nicest guys to work for, their director, Chris Bevan, gets work UK-wide as a professional producer and assistant director on other peoples' films.
Twitter: @YSPMediaFilms

   I'm sure there's other film production companies in Derby and Derbyshire who I haven't given a shout-out to here. There's a few which I don't know personally (if that's you, please make yourself known to me - I'm always open to new creative contacts! In fact, I encourage you to comment on this blog posts with links to your websites so that people can see for themselves.)

   If you're looking for a film production company, I suggest you check out the links and browse around to see which one would work best for you. But, for now, how cool is it to see everyone's logos together? It's always fun to compare logos!

    So, what's next for me and TP? Well, we finally have our music video for Halo Haynes (made with the wonderful Christopher Newman, which is why he gets a production company credit on there too) coming out this evening - which I hope you'll all enjoy - and some more client videos booked for this Autumn.

    Also, due to a recent sports event, #Ashes is trending - which is very good as this is the same hash-tag I've been using to promote my latest directorial offering. It means that the trailer has gone up to over 10,600 views on Youtube, due to people stumbling across it by accident! This is particularly funny when confused comments pop up such as "how does this have anything to do with Cricket?" 

   Now, I need to get back to cheating on film with furniture, as I'm currently busy moving into my new house!

Speak to you all soon,


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sophie's BBC Radio Derby interview with Andy Potter

Hi Guys,

The BBC Radio Derby building
    Back in May, when I was excitedly preparing for my first trip to the Cannes Film Festival (and my first time abroad), part of the aforementioned 'press boom' for Ashes included a trip to BBC Radio Derby. There I was interviewed by the lovely Andy Potter - and given free coffee by some other equally lovely staff - and told him all about myself, my films, and particularly Ashes.

   The interview was then available to listen to on iPlayer for one week, and I promised to do a transcript afterwards for those of you who missed it. Now, I may be a busy beaver, but I don't break promises, so here is that transcript - better late than never!


Andy Potter: Now Derby, and Derbyshire, when it comes to the Cannes Film Festival this year - we're going to have so many people there (including me, just for a couple of days). But, you may have been watching East Midlands Today last night and heard all, and seen all, about Sophie Black. Her short film Ashes is going to be in Cannes, but before she packs her case, she's come into the studio. How are you?

Sophie Black: I'm not bad, thankyou.

AP: Ashes, then. And Cannes! Did you ever think?

SB: I always dreamed, obviously, as everyone does. It's an absolute dream come true to be going. It'll probably not going to sink in 'till I'm there, to be fair. Until I'm on the plane, maybe!

AP: How does it work, then? Because you go away and you make this film...

SB: Yeah.

AP: How do you know that you're going to take it to Cannes?

SB: You don't. You don't even know it's going to be any good until anyone's seen it! I mean, you yourself think it's great, and you put your heart into it, and everyone involved puts their heart into it. But it's not 'till people see it and go "yeah, go for it, it's good", that you think, "oh, okay, it might actually go somewhere". So we don't set out knowing it will go to Cannes, but you always hope it will.

AP: Are you nervous about this whole thing, then?

SB: Kind of. I'm one of those people where I just, sort of, do stuff without thinking about it. I just go and, you know... face the fear and do it anyway, if I can! But I probably will be nervous when I get there, definitely.
The lovely Andy Potter

AP: We were talking to Dominic Burns on the programme last week. The guys from Wasteland, which is another...

SB: Yeah.

AP: I'm thinking, slightly bigger budget, but not that bigger budget! That's in Cannes as well. You are there as well. What is it about Derby and filmmakers?

SB: It's just... it's a wonderful atmosphere. It's the network that's going on - everyone, sort of, revolving around QUAD. And all the local creatives, they're just so supportive of each other. It's this wonderful, huge network that we've got, and it's... it's wonderful, definitely.

AP: How did you get into filmmaking?

SB: I've been doing it since I was fifteen, when my parents bought me a High-8 tape camcorder [for my] birthday. And I set out filming my friends, and trying to recreate Lord of the Rings in our back gardens, with some very dodgy costumes! And I've been making them ever since.

AP: You've just said something else there: costumes. Because you are a costume designer, as well...

SB: I am a costume designer, and I do production design, which covers set design, as well.

AP: So are you a one-stop shop when it comes to any film, then?

SB: [LAUGHS] I don't know, I do... well, I think all filmmakers have to be able to every area, but then there's stuff we specialise in as well. So...

AP: Tell me a bit about Ashes, then. What can you tell me about the storyline, and how long is it?

SB: Well, it's a seven minute film, and basically it's about a relationship at breaking point, and the moment when it can go from something wonderful and so treasured, into something quite sour. And  basically, using the camera techniques and the production design, it visualises all the emotions which go through the young girl's head at this time of extreme change in her life.

AP: Seven minutes long, but it took significantly more than that to make, didn't it?

SB: Oh gosh, yeah. Two thousand pounds for a seven minute film. That's... I'm still paying that off. I probably will be paying that off 'till I'm thirty, to be fair!

AP: But when did you start to make it?

On the Ashes set. Photo: Rena Kalandrani
SB: We cast it in 2011 - cast two great actors in it, back then - and then we had a long haul trying to get it made, trying to get people to notice it. [We] had a very difficult funding process, we had crew dropping out, we had locations pulling out two days before the shoot when we were all ready to go, so... We finished it, we finally shot it in August last year, in my uncle's living room - because that we could get in the end! - and then we finished editing it in February of this year, just in time to get it in for Cannes. Literally a couple of days before the deadline!

AP: Did you ever think that it was never going to get made? Did you think it was cursed, having gone on for so long?

SB: Oh, we all did! It was so disheartening, because we'd all be ready to go, and the actors would be ready to come from London, and then we'd have it taken away from us again. So there were times when we just thought, "this is impossible - no one cares about this film, and it's never going to happen." But yeah... but the fact that we went through all that, getting it made, it just made it so much more rewarding, I think.

AP: What keeps you going?

SB: [Sighs] 'Cause it's all I want to do. It's all anyone wants. It's... I get up thinking about films, and I go to sleep thinking about films.

AP: But if there's a point where you're making Ashes, where you think it's never going to get done, do you have to start looking elsewhere, and put it on the back-burner?

SB: Hmm. It is disheartening, definitely. But, I mean... I've not really stopped working for the last few years, on films. So I always had plenty of other films to work on. And working on those, with other people, inspired me to keep going - and seeing how they worked definitely inspired me to keep going, and pushed me on. So... yeah, I don't think there's ever a point where we stopped trying to make it happen.

AP: We'll talk more about what you went through to make this film after a bit of Status Quo. Sounds a bit apt, this - Whatever You Want! More with Sophie Black and Ashes after this...


AP: My guest in the studio at the moment, Sophie Black. Her short film Ashes is going to be in Cannes next week. Sophie's going to be there as well. You're flying out, what, Sunday?

SB: Yeah, Sunday, early morning, 6am flight!

AP: What do you want to get out of Cannes, then? What is it for the film - or what is it on a personal and professional level?

 SB: Oh, on a personal level, it's just experiencing it, being there and learning. I've not got as much of an action plan as some people might have, because I just... I want to take it in and learn everything that I can... excuse the pun... But, erm... while I'm over there, myself and my colleague Neil Oseman - also known as 'the Spielberg of Hereford' - have arranged... we're meeting three short film distributors. We're taking Ashes to show them. We're also gonna show Stop/Eject, which was filmed right in Belper and Matlock. So we're going to take that over with us as well, and [try] to see if there's any interest over there, definitely.

AP: And this is basically putting your CV on the line, isn't it?

SB: Absolutely, and just... getting that accreditation on the short film. Because there's so many short films out there, distinguishing which ones could actually, you know, be something is so important. And just saying, "yes, this was shown at the Short Film Corner in Cannes" - having that on it can help it go further. Which is what I want not only for myself, but also for the crew and the cast as well.

AP: It's a real struggle for any filmmaker in this country. Whether it be finance, or whatever. Why do you do it?

Me with one of my first cameras
SB: Because we're crazy. We're crazy people and we can't help it. It's like breathing, I don't know! Well, I think it's just such a wonderful thing. For me, the best thing about directing or producing a film is... not for yourself, but bringing together so many disciplines, and everyone showing the height of their talent, bringing it together in one format. And no film belongs to one person. It's just bringing out the talent of all the different people, in all the different areas - it's just the most wonderful thing to see happen, definitely.

AP: So for you, then, is it big screen features - is that the way you want to go? Do you want to work in television? Or do you just want to be somewhere where you're behind the lens?

SB: Well, if a studio production came knocking I would just revel in the experience. Even in a low-down job, anything, getting coffee, I don't mind. But, at the same time, I wouldn't want to go to a big film and leave the people I've worked with behind. So the dream for me - I mean, for any filmmaker - would be to not only write and direct your own films, but to pick who you work with, and to find work for all the people that have supported me along the way. Definitely.

AP: Is it nice to see so much of Derbyshire now, on film?

SB: It's wonderful, yes. It's such a rich area. We've got everything you need in the heart of Derbyshire, particularly... I'm from the Peak District, I was raised in Belper, and just the surrounding area offered so much to myself and my films over the years.

AP: Do you look at life, then, as if looking through a lens?

SB: Absolutely!

AP: Have you got filters on this afternoon? Are you looking at the studio thinking, "well this is how I would shoot it"?

SB: Give you a close-up, definitely!


SB: I don't know. Ooh, definitely, I can't shut it off. Ask anyone that knows me - I can never shut it off.

AP: And do you storyboard? Do you sketch what you're going to do, then?

SB: I do, yeah. Because I've had paid work as a costume and set designer in the past, I've obviously got a basic level of art skills. So I do bring that into storyboards - not just for my own films but other peoples'. It helps me plan exactly how it's going to look, and then I can show people how I want it to look, and they can help make that happen.

AP: When will we know, then? If you fly out Sunday morning...

SB: Yeah.

AP: When will we know if we're moving forward?

SB: [PAUSE] It's take them a while to decide. As soon as they let us know, I will let all my followers know, definitely.

AP: Will we hear the cheer from here?


SB: I don't know - I'm quite a loud cheerer! Possibly.

AP: So, you're out Sunday - when are you coming back?

SB: We're coming back on the 22nd, in the afternoon.

AP: And you're hoping not to come back with a tan, but with a contract?

SB: Hopefully, yes. Or just having had a wonderful experience, and ideally getting Ashes into more festivals. 'Cause I don't just want to stop at Cannes, I want to get it into any festival I can do over the next two years.

AP: Listen, I wish you every luck.

SB: Thankyou.

AP: Hopefully I'll bump into you as well, with my bucket and spade, on the beach! Sophie Black, her short film Ashes, then, going to Cannes this coming week. As soon as we get any news about what happens - hopefully it's going to be good stuff - we'll pass it on to you here at BBC Radio Derby.


    So, there we have it. A massive thankyou to Andy and all at BBC Radio Derby. And I apologise now for my overuse of the words 'definitely' and 'wonderful'!

Sophie x