Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Writer's Block - Part 2


The reality sequences were filmed over two days in West Bromwich Central Public Library and The Pavilion Café in Stoke-on-Trent. These scenes made up the beginning and end of the film.


In the library the character (Kim) introduces the audience to her world. Scenes of books and pages are shown, and a ghost-like time-lapse was created.  Extra sounds were recorded for the library scene in which Kim hears whispers coming from the books like the moment in Inkheart.

We had to create a sign for the cafe as there isn't yet one at the library, which then cut to the location in Stoke.

The library was really helpful when it came to filming, and the whole scene was shot in about 2 hours.


The cafe scene was filmed on a different day to the library.

In the cafe Kim meets the Barista, or Atsirab, and orders a cup of tea and a muffin.

The timing for the shoot was limited and as we worked on the lighting outside lessened. In the end we had to use artificial lights.

The cafe was closed when we got there and we couldn't gain access to the actual cafe area, so we had to create a cafe counter using the props we had bought and using whatever we could find in the area such as fliers and a trolley. Thankfully we had brought plenty of tea and cake!


The dreamscape was filmed entirely in a green-screen room in one day. Using the storyboards and a shot list, we figured out what scenes needed to be done first.

When it came to sound the room was very echoey and we could hear noises coming from outside. It was due to this that we decided the sound could be re-recorded, and perhaps dubbed over the final sequence.

The flying sequence was particularly hard to achieve. A variety of camera angles were used to suggest floating, and points of references were made to make the transitions between shots flow easily.

Please click here to see the final film: https://vimeo.com/124669359

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Writer's Block - Part 1

How it all started...

Last year my sister wrote a 1000 word short story for the BBC Young Writer's competition. Meanwhile in university the current assignment was to create a short narrative film. At the time I was thinking of creating a half stop-motion animated short, and when I read my sister's story I found great potential. We then collaborated and created a script based on her original piece.

In the interview below she talks about her inspirations and how she came up with the idea:

Q1: How did you come up with the idea for Writer's Block?

A1: Coming up with Writer’s Block was a funny process really. I was trying to come up with a story for a writing contest and nothing I came up with was good enough. I said to my mom I had writer’s block and being the sarcastic lady that she is she said to me "I've never been there, what's it like?" And I thought: ‘What if the Writer’s Block was a place!’

Q2: Were there any other novels, artworks or films that inspired the story?

A2: The main inspiration I got was from the book ‘Inkheart’ by Cornelia Funke as the girl is going into the other world. And she loves writing. I was also inspired by the film adaptation of ‘Inkheart’ and also by the TV series ‘Once Upon a Time’ for the place where the girl originally ends up. I based the Barista character on Rumpelstiltskin in that there is something sinister about him.

Writer's Block

Writer's Block is a part film, part animated short:

‘When an aspiring young writer visits her local library in search of inspiration for the novel she is trying to write, she suddenly finds herself trapped in a world of imagination: The Writer's Block. The only question is will she be able to get back to reality or will she have to fight to gain her freedom and find inspiration?'

The basic meaning of the film is to face your challenges and learn from your experiences. It is about looking back at where you’ve come from, and having hindsight. You cannot see the wood for the trees at the time, but in the end it all makes sense and the purpose is revealed.

The second meaning is knowing when something is real or not. When in a dream, how do you know what is real and unreal? Writer's Block explores what happens when realistic elements leak into the dreamworld - this is called Magical Realism.

The film focuses on the point of view of one person: the main character ‘Kim’. In a way, it’s like a book written in the first person. You can’t observe the story from other character’s perspectives because you are travelling through the story with and at the same time as the main character.

Testing/ Pre-production:

I drew up the storyboards first to figure out how best to portray the dreamscape:

Once the script had been completed, I started to test ways of creating the dreamworld. My influences were Copy Shop, by Virgil Wildrich, and the music video 'Take on Me' by Aha. This led me to the Rotoscoping technique, and I began to test ways of manipulating an image.

 There were five steps to the testing process:
  • Filming – The scene was first filmed and then edited together. Without the editing it would mean that unnecessary frames would have been used and manipulated, which consequently would take up more time.
  • Framing – Every second or third frame was taken and framed separately using ‘copy and paste’ from Quick Time Player into Paint. These were then numbered accordingly.
  • Filtered – Each frame was then colour graded and altered.
  • Manipulation – The frames were printed off (two to a page) and then painted and drawn over. The characters were not drawn over, but had a thick black line drawn around them.
  • Scanning and re-animation – All of the frames were then rescanned into the computer and individually cropped. The sequence was then reanimated.
The first test was carried out to ensure that the process would work and to figure out the average frame rate (8 frames a second). Originally, the whole sequence was going to be in black and white, but after seeing the tests it was decided that the characters should be kept in colour because this would add to the theme of Magical Realism.

Below is an example of the first test:



Please click here to watch the finished film: https://vimeo.com/124669359

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


All filmmakers are influenced by other people's ideas and creations. If one was to watch what everyone else was watching, then, in theory, one can only think what everyone else is thinking. This is why individual ideas and viewpoints are so important. A world where everyone has the same opinion would be a boring world indeed.

My current influences are as follows:

Film Directors:

  1. Peter Jackson
  2. J. J. Abrams
  3. Ridley Scott
  4. Georges Melies
  5. Tim Burton


  1. Henri Cartier-Bresson
  2. Dorothea Lange
  3. Joel Robinson
  4. Ansel Adams


  1. Oliver Jeffers
  2. Alan Lee
  3. Beatrix Potter
  4. E. H. Shepard
  5. Judith Kerr


  1. Jane Austen
  2. J. R. R. Tolkien
  3. Michael Morpurgo
  4. Noel Streatfield
  5. Suzanne Collins
  6. Agatha Christie

Classical Music:

  1. The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit Soundtrack (Howard Shore)
  2. The Kings Speech Soundtrack (Alexander Desplat)
  3. Raindrop Prelude (Frederik Chopin)
  4. Dance of the Cygnets (Tchaikovsky)
  5. Mars/Jupiter (Holst)
  6. Liebesträume No. 3, Notturno (Liszt)
  7. Violin Concerto in E Major (Bach)
  8. Night on Bald Mountain (Mussorgsky)
  9. The Four Seasons (Verdi)


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

2 characters 1 light

The concept for this assignment was to create a one minute film using two characters and 1 light. The camera was handheld throughout, and captured one character’s point of view for the purpose of building an atmosphere of intensity.

The chosen light source was a torch – which directly interacted with both characters – and was used to reveal things hidden in the darkness and create ghost-like reflections.

Sound effects were recorded on location using radio mics, and additional recordings were made (such as footsteps) for foley design. These were the intentionally added in order to achieve the desired effect.

In post-production, a static effect – which both incorporated the visual and audio aspects of the film – was added to help achieve a ‘poor quality’ look that also provided a way of piecing the footage together.

As we filmed the short in a ‘haunted’ part of an old Pub, it was a little terrifying at times. There was little natural light to film with, so we had to ensure that we each had some sort of torch or mobile phone so that we could see what we were doing between takes.

The camera - a Panasonic 151 - was held by one person who used the camera as their POV. Two people acted, whilst the other two members of the team created sound effects by slamming doors and dragging chairs. Most of the film was entirely improvised which meant we occasionally did something unexpected and spooked each other.

Here’s a short vid of the Behind the Scenes – we really couldn't see a thing, but thankfully we’d covered that in the risk assessment.

You can view the finished film here: http://vimeo.com/113023839

Dawn till Dusk

THE BRIEF: Advanced Film Production Module - Assignment 1: 'For this assignment you will need to shoot, edit, grade and sound design a short film detailing the journey from dawn to dusk.'

Dartmouth Park
Considering that 2014 was the 100 year anniversary of the end of the First World War, I wanted to create something that tied in with that theme. Although I wanted to concentrate on the First World War, I also wanted to remember every soldier who fought for our country in the many wars previous and since. I researched many of the cenotaphs and memorials around the Black Country, and decided to visit and 'catalogue' each one.

FILM DESCRIPTION: Dawn till Dusk is a short 2 minute film that takes the audience on a journey around the Black Country, visiting all of the War Memorials in each borough over a period of time. The phrase 'Dawn till Dusk' is taken literally in several ways: the period of time; the beginning and end of the First World War; the narrative - a letter from a son to his mother during his time in the trenches.

Mitchells and Butler's Brewery
Dawn till Dusk was filmed on a Canon EOS M over the period of 3/4 days in the morning, afternoon and evening. The locations included:
  • Dartmouth Park Cenotaph - West Bromwich
  • Wednesbury Memorial
  • Langley Memorial
  • Victoria Park Memorial - Tipton
  • Smethwick Memorial
  • Mitchells & Butler's Brewery Memorial - Smethwick
  • Oldbury Memorial
  • St. Giles Memorial - Rowley Regis
I decided to begin and end with Dartmouth Cenotaph as this is the closest memorial to where I live, and I thought it appropriate to end full circle.

I had several issues whilst filming - the most prominent being time. As dawn was at around 6/7pm it took a long while to wait for the sun to come out, and as I catch the train to University everyday it was difficult to find time where the times of day could juxtapose together without too much of a difference in the colour of lighting.

I had some trouble in the filming of the memorials themselves due to wet and windy weather, and - as I was filming the week of Remembrance Sunday - quite a few of the memorials were in the process of being cleaned.

Originally, I recorded a performance of 'The Last Post' played by myself on the trumpet to accompany the piece. But after reading the brief again, I realised that no musical instruments were allowed, and therefore opted to have a voice-over instead.

You can view the music version here: 
The password is: DawntillDusk

The over-voice was a letter was written by my mother and was read by Dave Morgan, Joshua Dowse and Josh Clark. These voices were then laid over one another to represent the many soldiers who wrote letters home to their families.

The ending voice-over is an excerpt from the poem ‘We will remember them’ which is read by Gordon Turner. I recorded this over a phone call in order to achieve an old-fashioned ‘radio’ type sound.

Although there are several issues with the sound and colour-grading as pointed out by my University Lecturers, all in all, I am happy with the final result and feel that the film communicates the theme of ‘Dusk till Dawn’ well.

You can view the finished film here: https://vimeo.com/111227931

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Skype Call with Dennis Kelly

Dennis Kelly is a British scriptwriter, playwright and producer who is perhaps best known for writing the TV series Utopia (2013) and Black Sea (2014).

Last Friday, a group of Year 2 Film Production students were given the opportunity to talk with Dennis Kelly over Skype, specifically focusing on script-writing. Dennis shared his writing experiences with the group, and gave tips and advice on how to better their writing skills.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down from the conversation:

  • I'm not interested in what other people want me to do.
  • Part of the (scriptwriting) process is not doing anything and messing around.
  • If you sit in front of a piece of paper for two hours, eventually something will appear on it... I think.
  • I tend to hear character's voices. I don't know a character until they start speaking. Sometimes the situation determines who the people are. Each character needs to be bespoke, not stereotypical. You write accordingly to what the characters say.
  • The trick is not to panic.
  • Fear is a big thing in writing - you're putting your thoughts onto a page only for people to tear it into pieces. But within that comes useful information.
  • Before doing a second draft talk to other people, and get feedback.
  • If you write by hand start with a new page. If you start with a brand new document all the things that need to be on it will appear.
  • I don't like to know too much, but just enough to know where the story's going. As you're writing, ideas come up that might be useful in the future.
  • Forget your future, what are you writing now?
  • I like to do research, but only after I've written something.
  • My perfect writing environment is where people can see me, but don't know what I'm doing.
  • You can't wait for inspiration; you make inspiration happen.
  • Find out what you want to write most in the world, and write about the things that matter most to you.
  • You have to be brave and not be too worried about what people are going to say. We make decisions to be scared, but we shouldn't. It's better to fail at something because you tried, rather than fail because you were to scared to try.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Coverage Assignment

What is Coverage?

The original storyboard
In professional filmmaking, 'coverage' is a term used to describe the shooting of a scene from various different angles and perspectives. This gives the post-production editor a variety of options when putting a film together. If a scene does not have enough coverage it becomes difficult to make a sequence work. The less footage one has, the less options there will be. Creating a scene with a broad amount of angles is far more likely to keep it's audience engaged than one with just two. In general, good coverage includes a variety of close ups, medium shots, wide angles, establishing (setting the scene) and cutaway shots.

The assignment criteria was as follows:

"Shoot a short scene of your own devising that will last for around 30 seconds. This must involve 2 characters and must involve a small narrative between them. Shoot the scene with enough coverage that you can provide 2 totally different edits of the same scene that convey different meanings."

The Idea

The basic idea for the assignment was to film a roadside incident involving two characters. It was therefore necessary to film from both perspectives so that the blame could be shifted between them.

Still from Coverage Film
The main shots from the driver’s angle were close-ups and medium shots that were kept motionless to create a sense of calm. However, in the alternate film, the driver is seen to be detached from the situation (texting on her phone, and messing with the radio); the still shots then create a suspenseful atmosphere instead. The audience would be in a panicked state if the shots were jolty, whereas still shots keep them waiting in suspense.

When filming the runner’s point of view, the camera language varied from moving close ups (that were purposely shaky) and wide angles to give a larger sense of space. The close-ups were filmed out of focus to stimulate a rushed and pressurized feeling and also centered the character in the middle of the shot so that the audience could - literally - follow them on their journey.

A shot used in both versions was a shaky video of a flock of black birds all calling out, which is interlinked with the running girl because it gives the scene an uneasy atmosphere as if the birds are an irrational fear. Although this shot was initially completely unintentional, the fact that the scene could be interpreted in such a way that the girl is seen to be running away from her fears only enhances the suspenseful atmosphere further.

Although both versions of the film are similarly paced, each contains a broader variety of shots to enable a tenuous change in angle.The changes between both films are subtle, but on closer inspection there is a significant difference:

  • Version 1 shows a driver starting her car, and, at the same time, a girl runs down a road. In this film, the driver is seen to be concentrating on where she is driving, trundling along the road quite calmly and in no rush at all. This is in stark contrast to the runner, who is bolting down the street in a hurry with only a few quick glances behind her before running across the roads. The film is broken in pace by one shot of the car's indicator, which gives a pause in which the audience should feel something is about to happen.

  • Version 2 starts in the same way as Version 1, but the driver is now seen to be detached from the scene: she is texting on her phone and messing around with the radio almost carelessly. Ironically, one shot of the radio gives an audio clip of the lyrics 'I'm wide awake' from Ellie Goulding's song 'Human'. Although it is only just audible it is meant to act as a reminder for the driver to pay more attention to the road ahead. Although Version 2 is edited in a similar way to the first film, the change between the clips is only subtle.

But what is interesting is that although the driver isn't paying attention to where she is driving, the audience doesn't seem to register this information as dangerous, as (when asked) they thought both films were almost exactly the same. Whilst the first film insinuates that it could have been either characters fault, the other leans more towards the driver because of the amount of shots that convey a different perspective. 

You can watch the finished film here: https://vimeo.com/109916692