Archive for October, 2015

Jellicle Cults

Posted: 12/10/2015 in Uncategorized

Imagine a secret cult, led by a wizened elder who is flanked by two charismatic lieutenants, one of militant precision, the other of rock-star-like status. The cultists who follow them are each given a mysterious cult name by which they are known amongst themselves, and in addition they believe in a third ‘true’ name which each keeps secret for their whole lives. Once a year, the cult holds a gathering under a full moon. The night includes a great dance, the recounting of thrilling and endearing stories of former and current members, and culminates in the selection of one among them for a ritual sacrifice. So revered is this opportunity, so deluded are those who aspire to it, that the cultists spend much of the night trying to learn who it will be this year, and even the elderly and enfeebled members will strive to take part in the dancing and frolicking for a chance to be chosen.

This year will be different. A known renegade, perhaps a defector, is stalking the perimeter of the merriment waiting for a chance to strike, to save the life of whichever tribute is to die tonight. He and his two fellow defectors finally steal their chance to break in and kidnap the cult leader in the hope of cutting the head off the snake. However, in trying to escape, he comes face-to-face with the militant lieutenant who stands his ground and makes him fight. With the renegade distracted, the cult reveals their ace in the hole, a young cultist with mysterious psychic abilities, so deeply enamoured and damaged by the cult that his eyes are misted and his demeanour childlike in his detachment from reality. He swiftly dispatches of the renegade with his psychic powers and restores the cult leader to the gathering. The elder decides to make a point of solidarity by choosing one of their elderly outcasts as this year’s sacrifice. She weeps with blind delight as she is led to the slaughter, and the renegade is nowhere to be seen as the elder leads the cult in one final song of how they are the truest of people.

And now you know what to say the next time someone asks you, “What is the musical ‘Cats’ actually about, anyway?”

Task 3, which we began on Saturday evening and finished on Sunday, was re-colouring A Russian Affair.

I don’t need to talk too much about this because all my previous blogs talk about it. The short story is that our submitted version was not up to publishing standard, as far as showcasing the work that went into it was concerned. It did not do justice to Zac’s acting, Chloe’s camera work, Drew’s recording, any of the script work that went in… etc. etc. Suffice to say the learning curve here is that our editing model for Sparkle was the closest we’ve come to ideal, and we’ll be working on a post-production location for next year too.

Chloe, as you will all know, is a photographer at heart. This means she is well experienced at colour and lighting corrections in photographs. My copy of Final Cut Pro 7 came packaged with various other programmes from the suite, including Color. I’d fooled around with it a bit before, although I quickly learned that learning how to use Color and learning how to grade and colour effectively are two very different things. With the very basics of the mechanics in my head, I handed the iMac to Chloe to work some magic.

She got the gist of it very quickly – I guess Color (in its essence anyway) is similar to most other colour-correction image manip programmes. The main thing to be fixed was the interview scenes. In their original form, the lighting didn’t catch Zac’s face whenever he moved and we lost his expression. In my horrible attempt at fixing it, the background is washed out and the mic setup becomes visible in the left-hand corner (poor framing choice on the day – but it was very late in the evening). So the trick was to highlight Zac but not the background, and account for him moving around. Chloe knocked up a basic shape where the lighting should change, feathering it so Zac wasn’t too starkly different to the background, and then was able to tweak that shape for each shot.

Then, because she was having so much fun, she did a bit of tinkering on the flashback scenes too. The final effect is something a bit more saturated, a bit grey-er, more mysterious, more flashback-y. She showed me each version and asked for my opinions, as well as slightly tweaking the colour of the interview sequence, but more or less was able to handle the process while I happily knitted beside her. My knitting is coming along pretty well, by the way.

(Russian now needs to go to Drew to fix the audio balance. Again, on my awful hash attempt to fix it, all I could do to make Zac’s final lines audible was pull the music right down, completely negating the rising effect of the track, and generally sounding pretty awful. Drew knows more about properly balancing audio so we’ll be able to hear both at a good volume. That, and some new titles and credits, will be the extent of edits to the ‘Remastered’ version of Russian, and hopefully will be online soon.)


I think the #WeekendLockdown was a real success, not least for our fans who got to follow the whole thing on Instagram and Twitter. I have found that, with these projects which involve a lot of people, it’s easier to make progress when everyone else is making progress together. That’s the difference between Sparkle and Russian, or the 48-Hour challenge and most of our other projects. It’s partly deadline-related, but it’s also being surrounded by people who share your energy and goals and are also being creative and productive. Chloe has talked about a shared space for shooting and editing and general discussion – if such a thing could be pulled off, I’d be very excited to see what effect it had on our work.

My next stage is to write a proper shotlist for the Crossroads pickups and then arrange to meet with Chloe for the second Gun Hill Riffs music video we have yet to edit. Maybe the #WeekendLockdown hashtag will be back soon.