Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Russian AFFAIR

Posted: 17/04/2017 in Uncategorized

Today we finally called it a day and published “A Russian AFFAIR“, our 2015 Sci-Fi-London 48-Hour challenge! Total time to complete: 18,408 hours.

I wrote a bunch about this two years ago, but in summary:

We wrote, shot and edited this short within the 48 hours, and submitted it to the contest. But due to various disasters during the post-production process on the second day, I wasn’t happy with the final result. Since I felt like the finished film did not do justice to the work we had put in, I decided to withhold the short and work on a ‘remastered’ version.

The main issues with the film were:

  1. The ‘studio’ footage was too dark, making it hard to see Zac’s face almost all the time
  2. The dialogue got quieter at the end while the music got louder, so I had to bring the music volume down to hear the final lines, ruining the dramatic build of Drew’s music

Since being able to see and hear the lead character was fairly important for the short, I decided it was worth another shot.

During a weekend lockdown, Chloe fixed the colour and lighting, bringing Zac’s face into the light and hiding some pesky cables which crept into shot. Over the Bank Holiday weekend just passed, Drew remixed the whole audio, improving all the levels and magically removing the sound of Chloe’s light fan which had plagued us during the shoot. The final film doesn’t show either of those improvements, if you hadn’t seen it initially, but in my opinion, the initial version was unwatchable.

This is far from my favourite short, but it was an absolute pleasure to work with Zachary Street, whom we poached from Fallen Soldiers, and I learned from the weekend, as one always does. (You can read about me learning hard lessons in my previous blog posts.)

Also, this marks Chloe Isherwood’s debut performance in one of our shorts, which she was very pleased about.

Jellicle Cults

Posted: 12/10/2015 in Uncategorized
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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.

Step two of our weekend of wonder was a music video.

A few months back Chloe was asked to shoot some footage for Gun Hill Riffs, the band of a friend of hers. They had hired a studio space to record some songs and we decided to mainly get footage from two of them to put together two ‘live lounge’ style videos.

Because of a few last-minute changes of plans, we had basically no preparation for the shoot. As we went along we started outlining very rough outlines for each video, but in general the footage was a bit disjointed and without theme. One idea we decided to go with was a slow rotating shot from the middle of the band into which we would then splice some closeups.

With more time to prepare we would have preferred to have a solid plan for each song down early on, so we could better divide the work between us and give each song a distinct look. Hopefully we’ll have another opportunity to give that a go in the future.

 

The edit itself, our second task of the weekend, did not go as smoothly as the first. I had hauled my iMac to Chloe’s so Chloe could use Final Cut Pro 7 for the editing, but I ended up at the keyboard while we collaborated on the decision process. I felt bad because Chloe had specifically asked to use the programme, but in the long run it did make the actual process faster, which was probably for the best as the creative side was slowing us down. Hopefully we’ll have another chance to collaborate and I can hand over the iMac properly, when we know what we’re trying to achieve a bit better. Chloe had already logged all the footage, which I loved because it’s my least favourite thing to do, and we decided to use one of Chloe’s full rotation shots as a base shot, and choose clips to fade in and out of. Then it was just a case of covering up the bits where the camera didn’t hit the right marks and sliding in other more interesting clips in such a way that they didn’t clash with the base. We had footage from the other songs which we could fall back on in an emergency (I think we only used one in the end).

I was pleased with a lot of the footage I took, once I started leaving the autofocus alone. Some of the shots didn’t come out right, but I could see my intention in them, and I was pleased that I’d spotted them and chosen to try to get them, even if I didn’t succeed at actually capturing them properly. I also managed to nail one or two focus pulls, which I’ve been trying to improve at. I did notice that sometimes the point of focus was not in the right place, so that even though something was in focus, it wasn’t what the eye was trying to focus on, so the effect was lost. For instance when tracking down a close-up of the bass neck, the focus point was too far up the neck, and the middle of the shot (the natural focus point for the eye, I suppose) was out of focus. Hopefully I’ll improve at that over time.

Although the overall process sounds fairly simple, it took us long into the evening and over the next day to finish. Before it got too late we ducked out to make a start on Task 3, then watched “The Runaways” before bed. Maybe after all this we’ll form an all-girl rock band.

A few weeks ago, Chloe and I set aside a weekend to churn through a backlog of editing, colouring, movie-watching and general girl-talk. We had three main tasks:

Task 1: Plans for Crossroads, which we shot in April and which I have since been editing.

Task 2: Edit the music videos for Gun Hill Riffs, which we shot in June.

Task 3: Fix the colouring for A Russian Affair, which despite being technically finished has yet to be released (see here, here and here for details).

 

Task 1: Crossroads

Crossroads is a potential series originally pitched as a “Supernatural/It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia” crossover which turned out more like a “Shaun of the Dead”-style fantasy comedy. I wrote the pilot and we hired our first ever ‘studio space’ to shoot it over two days in March. I’m not really sure what the endgame for Crossroads is because I’m not really down to make a webseries and it isn’t entirely competition/festival quality, but I like the characters and the concepts so I’d like to keep making them.

The edit for Crossroads is more or less finished, but it has a few gaps. One of the decisions we made early on was to shoot in single takes (originally in a “Green Wing”-like style but it ended up more static), which meant that shooting went a lot more smoothly but that ‘problem’ takes are much harder to deal with in the edit. When I chatted to Bill about this, he pointed out that we were going out to shoot a final flashback scene anyway – why not get some pickups? Reaction shots can cover a cut between two versions of the same shot, and I realised there were a bunch of places where I could really use them. And we were already getting the boys back into costume…

One of my primary concerns with the edit was the second scene. It was one of my primary concerns on set, too: scene 2 was shot halfway through the second day, when people were justifiably losing a bit of momentum, and about ten minutes in I realised that my plan for the scene wasn’t going to work. It took us a short while to sit down and re-plan the scene, and then shooting it became a real headache. Although I was still fairly optimistic, I knew everyone around me was getting fed up, and I had no way to bring them up or make things right again. In the end all we could do was push forward with the new plan, and although it was difficult and painful, we got the scene shot. Thankfully the boys really turned it around and came through in the following scene we shot (almost in one take, first time).

The lack of prep for that scene really showed in the edit. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t make it flow. There wasn’t enough footage, or the angles didn’t line up, or people moved differently from shot to shot which meant they couldn’t be used together. Eventually, with Bill’s words of wisdom in my head, I hashed something together that ‘would do’, just for rough cut purposes. So I was not confident at all when this scene rolled around when showing the edit to Chloe and Matt. But Chloe was fully behind the scene, and I quickly realised that half of my issue with it was that it went some way off-script (and, consequently, off the vision I had in my head). And Matt, who hadn’t read the script and wasn’t on the shoot, also took no offence from the scene, and so I realised that despite its issues, it told the story fine.

And so we moved on. I pointed out the places I wanted to stick pickups in, and where Drew would be inserting his special effects, and Chloe offered a few suggestions as well. We talked quickly through the scene we still had to shoot, and then we put Crossroads aside for the night. That was one (admittedly the easiest and quickest) task off our list.

Next was the real editing…

Bill Thomas, professional director and all-round top bloke, recently celebrated the release of his first feature-length film FALLEN SOLDIERS, now available to buy at many online and street retailers. It’s best described as “Sharpe” meets “The Walking Dead” and it’s got zombies in it, so you should get a copy.

A few months back when Bill was going through the acquisition process, there became an opportunity to add some special features to the DVD, and Bill asked if I’d like to make a behind-the-scenes featurette and a director’s commentary. Of course I hadn’t been there to shoot anything during the shoot, but there was a handful of behind-the-scenes footage already, and we decided to shoot some interviews with the cast and crew, then stick them all in a room to record a commentary track. Phil set up the camera and Drew recorded the sound externally.

You can see the featurette and hear the commentary on your DVD, and I won’t go into huge detail about the decisions behind how we made it (on another blog, maybe). I did a chunk the edit, and as it got closer to the hand-in deadline, I gave it all to Bill to take over and finish up. As ever, there wasn’t enough time for me to get it as tight as I wanted. When I sat down to watch the final product for the first time on my copy of the DVD, I made a list of things I wanted to do differently next time I have the opportunity:

  1. Put each interviewee in a different place – even if it’s just the other end of the sofa – to give it a sense of variety and also avoid the sense of jump cuts when changing from one to another in a near-identical shot.
  2. Vary the background – having a selection of posters, or maybe screenshots from the movie, would have helped instead of always the same one. The white wall also appeared completely washed out and didn’t look effective, so some wall hanging behind would have helped.
  3. Music – if we’d had time I would have liked music from the movie in the background of the whole doc, either a hash of various tracks or one central theme.
  4. Jump cuts – when I began editing I tried to make an effort to cover any cuts in the dialogue with other footage or images, but didn’t have time to fix them all. I personally don’t like the effect of the ones which are left so I’d make more effort on that.
  5. Images – something else I didn’t have time to finish was throwing in effects on the images, probably just simple pans and fades so they aren’t too static or abrupt.
  6. Camera angle – in future I would definitely have either a) tried the interview setup at home in advance, to work out the best angle and distance etc., or b) turned up an hour earlier than the interviewees to work it out. We could have made much better use of the space and made the look much more interesting.

I love behind-the-scenes features, and I quite enjoy commentary tracks too. My favourites respectively are from Lord of the Rings and Shaun of the Dead. I’d like to get really good at them because it’s something I’d like to do again and be considered to do for other people.

And my favourite part is that the featurette says “Directed and produced by Ceri Williams”. So my name is on the DVD of a feature film which a bunch of people have bought. It’s a tiny thing but it’s exciting to tell people.

P.S. Buy Fallen Soldiers!

In the spirit of collaboration which I have been pursuing so vigilantly lately (and by ‘pursuing’ I mean ‘throwing things at my collaborators impatiently until they meet my demands’), I thought I would mention some of the recent postings and goings-on of avid gamer and fellow blogger Dave Thompson.

I’ve spoken about Dave before, as one of my main influences in starting a blog in the first place, and his blog features updates (far more regularly than mine) regarding fitness, dieting, martial arts and, most prominently, a sandbox-style tabletop game of epic proportions called 13th Age, played with the rules of the same name.

The game works like this: twice a week Dave emails us asking who is free to play, where we would like to go and what we would like to do. We all have a copy of the map of the game world, which is began blank and has been slowly filled in as we explore, discover, and choose to define things ourselves. Each week the party might be different, and the actions of one party might affect the situation of another in the same world.

Dave’s latest instalment to the enriching and expanding of the setting is a collaboration of world creation. He has posted a hex map of the land the game is set in, along with a Google Doc open for editing, and has invited anyone to take a hexagonal spec of the world and define it however they see fit. This can include adding buildings, locals, backstory or politics, with the intention of all of this content from so many people creating a vast, diverse and unexpected landscape for gaming in. I love how this method of combining the elements of GM-created plotlines vs. fully collaborative storytelling to give players that extra level of input over their own adventure.

I’d highly recommend following Dave’s blog, To Hit Arse Class 0, to keep up with his updates and insights. Other posts of his which are worth a read are on Dreamlining and Harajuku moments. On a vaguely-related note, a bit of link-clicking led me to this very cool article on how to cross anything off your bucket-list, which is worth a read for anyone trying to achieve something big and scary.

“If a zombie apocalypse broke out in Middle-Earth during the Third Age,
would they overcome Sauron’s forces?”

For the purposes of tackling this question we make the following assumptions:

1. That the zombie virus originates in food supplies and is transmitted by bite
2. That zombies move at half-speed and are killed by removing the head
3. That zombies are mindless and immune to the call of the One Ring
4. That all living races, including Elves, Orcs and Men, can become zombies
5. That the Armies of the Dead and the Nazgûl cannot be come zombies

Scenario 1: Outbreak in Hobbiton

Infected grain arrives in the Shire. The Hobbits waste approximately no time in demolishing it, immediately turning a third of Hobbiton into zombies. Caught off guard and with no forewarning to call up defences, the rest of the Hobbits, including Team Frodo, are quickly turned as well. Though wearing the Ring on its chain when he is turned, zombie-Frodo is now immune to its powers and therefore has no inclination to take it anywhere. As Hobbits have basically no inclination to go anywhere anyway, the spread from this point on is slow. One or two Hobbit survivors are able to flee on horseback and warn the Men of Bree, who march back on the green pastures, slay the reanimated halflings and successfully quash the outbreak. But despite the escapees, the halfling race has taken a blow from which it is unlikely to recover; it is expected that Hobbits, of the Shire at least, will be extinct in the next decade or so. Meanwhile the Ring lies dormant at the bottom of a heap of chargrilled Hobbit, waiting for the unfortunate Gandalf to arrive and seek Frodo’s remains from those of a thousand identical cremated zombies.

Short-term outcome: Gandalf must find a new Ring-bearer or risk the Ring, through him, wielding a power too great and terrible to imagine.

Long-term outcome: Hobbits become extinct; less pipe-weed in the world.

Scenario 2: Outbreak in Moria

The Great Halls of Dwarrowdelf are more or less self-contained with little to prevent the speedy spread of a zombie outbreak. Swiftly and quietly a whole ecosystem is transformed into an undead horde, with neither resistance nor outside awareness.

When the Goblins descend on Moria, they are not expecting this shit.

A horde of Dwarvern zombies quickly becomes a horde of international zombies. When the Fellowship finally arrives, everything is much the same, except that the entrance hall is not so much littered with dead Dwarves as crawling with them. Balin’s Tomb goes from skirmish dungeon to full-on boss level, complete with reanimated Lord of Moria. The race to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm runs roughly the same but with twice as many monsters. Frankly, the appearance of the Balrog is something of a relief. They make the bridge, Gandalf falls into shadow (spoiler alert) and Aragorn leads the remaining party out of the undead-infested halls.

Short-term outcome: The story continues as standard, except the Fellowship probably levelled up a bit quicker.

Long-term outcome: Moria becomes a renowned zombie grind for thousands of adventurers to come.

Scenario 3: Outbreak in Lothlorien

The Elves are a sharp bunch. When the first of them start to fall prey to unassumingly green-tinged Lembas, they swiftly conclude the possibility of biological warfare on the part of Sauron. Unwilling to sacrifice their regal dignity to a mindless shambly fate, they quarantine the infected and bolster the security around their borders. Their quick-thinking and swift-acting successfully contain the outbreak, but the arrival of the Fellowship coincides with this heightened security and prevents the party crossing the borders. Frustrated and grief-struck, Aragorn gives in to Boromir’s insistence to simply move on and head for Minas Tirith; thus the journey southwards takes place along the banks of Anduin, minus boats, cloaks, supplies and the Phial of Galadriel. Saruman’s forces bypass Amon Hen and instead run into the party further north. Having missed their supply stop in Lothlorien, the hungry and exhausted party are no match – all but for Boromir, who, encouraged by the increasing chances of making it to Gondor, takes advantage of the ambush and springs upon Frodo. Leaving the Fellowship to their fate, he walks away alone and alive with the Ring in his hands.

Short-term outcome: Boromir delivers the Ring to Minas Tirith, and immediately proclaims to the city that he will use the weapon of the enemy to overcome Sauron.

Long-term outcome: Sauron quickly locates this highly-publicised weapon and its new bearer, and sends his Nazgûl to eat him.

Scenario 4: Outbreak in Gondor

Denethor is too proud to eat of the same grain as his subjects. He is the first to turn.

Boromir and Faramir arrive at the throneroom for Isildur’s Heir dream therapy. Their father is waiting to strike like a coiled undead python. Boromir slays him, but not without suffering a mortal wound. With his dying breath he beseeches two things from his beloved brother: 1) to ride in his stead to Rivendell to seek help and answers from Lord Elrond; 2) to paint the walls of their father’s throneroom with his blood. Faramir preserves his brother’s honour and dignity by beheading him at the foot of the throne of Gondor, then rides north with all haste, while behind him his people slowly succumb to their zombie fate. He requests a place in the Fellowship, on the initial grounds that the Ring might help reverse the evil which has awoken in Gondor. However, his good-natured little-brotherly mindset helps him to understand the plight of the Ringbearer, and instead of making an attempt on Frodo at Amon Hen, he instead warns the Fellowship to avoid Minas Tirith at all costs.

Short-term outcome: The Fellowship escapes the Uruk-Hai and they cross the Anduin together, cross the Dead Marshes, barrel into Mordor and save the world in brothers-in-arms-y glory.

Long-term outcome: The epidemic of zombies spills out of Gondor, replacing the recently-solved Sauron problem with a brand new undead problem. Sequel trilogy probable.

Scenario 5: Outbreak in Isengard

Luckily for the Hobbits, that infected grain all happened to be contained in the Isengard shipment. It arrives sometime between Amon Hen and the Ents. Poor Gríma Wormtongue has the happy job of poison-testing Saruman’s food, so the Wizard himself is safe to sit on his balcony and watch as Man, Orc and Uruk alike slowly sicken, die, then rise again to fill the pits of Isengard with their groaning and biting. Encircled by walls and out of reach (because everyone knows that zombies can’t climb), Saruman placates himself with his Palantír and waits for all this to blow over.

That is, of course, until Wormtongue shuffles up behind him teeth-first. It turns out that come zombies, floods or big walking trees, Saruman is probably still going to end up with Wormtongue’s knife in his back. (Or teeth in his neck.)

Short-term outcome: The Hobbits arrive home to a lovely homely un-Saruman-ized Hobbiton, removing two or three chapters from Return of the King.

Long-term outcome: Zombies are contained within Isengard’s walls and become an interesting tourist attraction.

Scenario 6: Outbreak in Mordor

An Orc falls ill. He is slain instantly for not pulling his weight.

A second Orc falls ill. Slain instantly.

Third. Fourth. Fifth. Slay, slay, slay.

A fighting Uruk-Hai falls ill. No one is sure what to do, so they avoid his heaving body lying prone at the side of the road for a few days until it finally falls still. Then the prone body lurches back to its feet.

Across Mordor more Uruk-Hai have turned, and the Orcs are not strong enough to slay the zombie-Uruks. While they are busy becoming Zuruk-bait, Orcs start to succumb without being routinely beheaded for insubordination. With no grunts to keep them in check, the Mûmakil begin to wreck havoc, smashing towers and bridges and generally causing a scene, until one of them seizes a zombie-Orc as a snack. At the same time, rampaging Trolls with no agenda start fights with Orcs, Uruks, Mûmaks and each other without prejudice, and eventually some zombie or other lands a bite.
Very quickly the legions of Mordor are decimated, and the rest become a full-force multi-cultural fighting zombie horde.

Mordor is almost completely sealed, with the Black Gate no longer manned. The outbreak spreads like wildfire, and within a week, all that is left of Sauron’s army are shambling around and shuffling into each other and bumping into walls again and again. The Nazgûl pop back to see what the hell’s going on – bam, zombie Fell Beasts. And all the while, King Elessar and a host of Men, Elves and assorted Dead warriors are fast becoming an unencumbered pain in Sauron’s disembodied neck. Eventually, Sauron makes the best of a bad situation and opens the Black Gate, unleashing tens of millions of zombies onto the Free Peoples.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam slip through an empty and desolate Mordor, swiftly outrunning Gollum, and triumphantly slam-dunk the Ring into Mount Doom.

Sadly, Sauron’s downfall has no effect on the battle outside except to release the Army of the Dead from Aragorn’s control, removing the only thing causing a vague inconvenience to the zombies and leaving an unstoppable force of undead Uruk-Hai, Orcs, Mûmakil, Trolls and Fell Beasts to swarm out over Middle-Earth in all their biting, smashing, trampling, winged horror. There aren’t enough Men, Elves or Dwarves to withstand the zombie-Orcs or Uruks – not to mention the backup of zombie-Aragorn and zombie-Free Peoples – and not even Legolas, zombie or otherwise, could decapitate a rampaging zombie-Mûmak. And even if the remaining forces of Middle-Earth did put aside their differences and band together to make one final heroic stand, what good could they do? This shit’s just been given wings.

Short-term outcome: Frodo and Sam have a long and lonely walk home.

Long-term outcome: Short-term outcome unlikely to be relevant for long.

Project Two-Min-Max

Posted: 26/11/2012 in Uncategorized

Here are some things I will be doing in 2013:

1. Watching the movie “2012” in an attempt to be ironic and clever;

2. Convincing as many members of Surrey Rollergirls as possible that ‘Roller Derby: The Musical’ is a good and plausible idea;

3. Starting a new movie project with the working title “Two-Min-Max”.

After taking part in the shooting of the upcoming trailer for Profound Decisions‘ new LARP system Empire as 3rd Assistant Director, several people have heartily encouraged me to take some steps towards what I would really like to do with my life, which is to find a place in the movie-making industry. Since that weekend I have struggled with various strong impulses to buy a lot of expensive camera equipment and editing software and instead focused on drawing up some plans to set this in motion. Project Two-Min-Max, short for “two minutes maximum”, is the first of these: a series of super-short movies designed to allow the director (that’s me) to make a lot of stupid mistakes and hopefully learn something from them.

This began after managing to get some experienced, hard-working and very talented faces in the actual movie-making industry to agree to help me make my first short, the screenplay for which I wrote myself. At the same time, I was introduced to a recently graduated screenplay writer who had decided to write several screenplays based on the same concept of being simple, short and easy for the newcomer to hit head on. After agreeing on one of these screenplays for me to tackle after my own piece, I decided that two is a stupid number and I’m the director and I can do whatever I want.

From that point, I started approaching any amateur writers and film enthusiasts I could find to see if they would knock together something for me to shoot over the next year. The criteria for material was as follows:

  1. No longer than three pages (average of two minutes)
  2. No more than two or three main characters and minimal backgroundies
  3. No more than two easy-access settings
  4. Minimal dialogue for the most part, not including voiceovers

And, on top of that, understanding that the project is completely profit-free and next-to-no-budget, and that creative licence may be taken with the submissions in the interest of feasibility. The point of the project was not for me to be lazy (I am), or because I didn’t have many original ideas for screenplays (I didn’t), but for two reasons:

A) It would push me out of my comfort zone to direct someone else’s screenplay, not to mention be more interesting

B) More people being involved means more people benefiting in the long run (assuming the overall results are good, and time will tell on that one)

Essentially one of three things could happen in 2013: I could walk away from this with a showreel and beg people to watch it and love me (that’s if I do everything on my own, the first thing I learned from Bill Thomas of Savage Media NOT to do); or, I could get a showreel and some very experienced people might fondly remember teaching me lots of things; OR, a whole pack of amateur enthusiasts trying to break into a big, scary world could all learn a bunch of stuff, make some new contacts and come away with a showreel, however terrible, of their work to show the world that they are putting in effort to make what they want a reality, that someone was interested enough to work with them to make it happen, and that they believe in their ambitions so much that maybe others should, too.

At time of writing there are four confirmed participants to Project Two-Min-Max on the writing side, myself included, along with several wonderful people who have already agreed to help in various other ways. Here are the screenplays already in place for the project, in reverse chronological order, and I will update this list as and when I get more participants.

> Battle Brothers, by Andrew Cunningham – one I commissioned because the stupid idea made me laugh

> Awaiting a title from Alex Twinn – he claims he doesn’t write any more, but I set him straight: once a writer, ALWAYS…

> Out of Breath, by Ben Daly – whose first submission inspired the whole idea

> Strings, by Ceri Williams – which will hopefully start this adventure

INTERESTED? Submissions are totally open to anyone in the world. I want as many people as I can find to be as keen as me. Email me at cnhwilliams88@googlemail.com if you have a two-min-max screenplay to offer!

During an interview for a roller derby documentary I ended up voicing some poignant and heartfelt (read: cheesy and lame) ideas, of which the following was my favourite. It sort of got put in my mouth by the interviewer, who brought the word ‘philosophy’ into play after mentioning that something they noticed about the way I play was that when I fall, I get back up very quickly. Between us we strung this together.

“Falling over when skating is scary at first, because you don’t want to get hurt. If you’ve ever fallen over when running fast, or off a bike, you know that it hurts. But you forget that you’re wearing specially-made protection, and it isn’t until you take that first fall that you find that it doesn’t hurt at all. Once you realise the worst you’ll end up with is a bit of a shake and maybe a bruise or two, it stops being scary, and becomes pretty funny. I’ve turned around in the pack and found my teammates sprawled on their backs with their legs in the air, and I’ve watched the pack maneuver around and over me from my belly in the middle of the track, and it’s hilarious. And once you realise that, the falls, even the fast and hard ones, stop being frightening and become nothing more than a hinderance to the game. You didn’t come here to lie on the floor and watch wheels whipping past your face – you came here to, in the words of a musician I know, ‘derby hard or go home’. So you trust to that protection, and you get back to your feet, and you skate back into the pack. And when that becomes your aim, you get better and better at it, until you can roll with the fall and bounce back onto your wheels with more dexterity and grace than you actually skate with. And one could, indeed, see this as a philosophy for life: missing goals, falling off the track, losing your way, can be scary at first, but with the right setup and surroundings to protect you, it needn’t be painful. When you realise that falling over isn’t something to be dreaded, rather something to skate headfirst at, then when it does happen, whatever track you fell from, whatever goal you missed or path you lost, at least you know how to roll with the fall, bounce back up and rejoin the pack. What you do once you’re back in that maelstrom of blockers and jammers might be a mystery, but it’s one you can tackle whole-heartedly without worrying about what will happen if you get knocked out again. You just knock your way back in.”