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

Friday, 9 January 2015

Cinematography and Emotions

There are many ways that emotions within a film scene can be implied and intensified through the use of cinematography. The way a camera moves directly affects the way in which an audience views and connects with a character. Emotions portrayed within a scene are strengthened through a combination of several film-making techniques including sound design, editing, cinematography and colour grading. Although the use of one technique would enhance the intended emotion, the use of all four would increase the feelings portrayed by the character both visually and sonically.

Focusing on cinematography alone, there are many ways in which the camera angle, positioning, framing and movement can affect emotion. Here are a few examples:


1. Wide shots - can be used to create detachment, to create a sense of emotional space between the audience and the character.
     When it came to some emotional scenes within this film from the point of view of the main character, the audience was often left to watch at a distance instead of being thrust into the moment. A sense of detachment was created because of the positioning of the camera which in turn allowed a sense of privacy for the character.

2. Close ups - can help intensify scenes of emotional responses.
    One of the most emotional moments in this film is Rue's death. The scene focuses on close ups of both Katniss and Rue; occasionally a mid-close-up is included but the camera soon reverts to close ups. In doing this, the camera doesn't leave enough space for the audience's attention to be diverted elsewhere, which then directly involves and affects the audience in the characters emotions.

3. Dolly Zooms - a technique in which the camera pulls back from the character whilst zooming in. See here:http://film-forensics.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-dolly-zoom_24.html
     Originally, the Dolly Zoom appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's film 'Vertigo' where the technique was used to create a feeling of vertigo. It was also iconically used in Steven Spielberg's Jaws where it was used to portray the moment in which a character has a sudden revelation or realisation. It has since been used in various other films.

4. Super close-ups - an investigative shot. Can also be used in scenes of suspense.
One of the most suspenseful scenes in this episode uses super close-ups to intensify the characters' (Amy Pond and the Doctors') emotions (both fear, suspense and curiosity). The audience is suddenly intimately involved with the sensations the characters are feeling, and therefore share in those feelings.
The Doctor: Look
Amy Pond: Look where?
The Doctor: Exactly where you don't want to look, where you never want to look. The corner of you eye.

5. High-angled shots - used to isolate and belittle characters. These shots are often used when adults talk down to children.
     In this scene, Sherlock goes into his mind palace and memories emerge from when he was younger. A young Sherlock talks to his older brother Mycroft; the camera's point of view of Sherlock is held at a higher angle than the character which creates a sense of isolation and belittlement. The opposing low-angled shots of Mycroft only intensifies those feelings.
[See low-angled shots].

6. Low-angled shots - can be used to make the character look disproportionally larger for the purpose of creating feelings of suspense, or memory, and sometimes for showing that a figure is powerful.
     This scene is a memory sequence where Captain Picard accompanies Dr. Crusher to view her husbands body. The camera follows them down a corridor, angled at a low-level. It tracks them as they walk forwards, creating an atmosphere of suspense and anxiety. The entire scene is focused on reliving a moment of worry and fear, and the camera angles turn these emotions into real, tangible feelings by altering the audience's perspective.

5. Arc shots (Pan rounds) - in which the camera circles a character. This technique is often used to create a sense of disorientation and panic/distress. It can also create scenes of joy and excitement; anticipation for what might happen next.
     In this particular scene, the Avengers are standing in the wreckage of new York City side by side. The camera pans around them as they take a stand against the enemy, creating an overview of the newly determined team. This technique incorporates the sensations of excitement and adrenaline which gives the audience a sense of belonging.

    Another example of an Arc Shot is used in The 2nd Hunger Games film when Katniss enters the lift and enters the arena. The camera pans around her as she moves towards the surface and continues to rotate as she enters the arena and discovers what she's up against. The camera pulls back to reveal the location and then zooms back in to her face to show her emotions in comparison. This technique helps create an atmosphere of suspense, anxiety and disorientation, which thereby gives the audience the opportunity to live the experience with the character.

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.