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.

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

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Hobbit - Defining the Look

A look into the use of lighting and colour to create emotion.

Originally published in 1937, The Hobbit was written by J. R. R. Tolkien.

It has since been made into a Trilogy by the film director Peter Jackson consisting of:
  • The Unexpected Journey
  • The Desolation of Smaug
  • The Battle of the Five Armies
What is most notable about these films is that they are very different to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Although set in the same universe of Middle Earth, there is a tangible contrast between them. The Hobbit, some might say, is lighter, funnier and more suitable for children when compared with The Lord of the Rings. This being said, J. R. R. Tolkien did write the book for children and it was aimed at young readers around the ages of 9 and 10.

One difference, for example, is the use of lighting and colour - which is used as an extension of a particular character - to provoke an emotional response from the audience.

In general, the film is brightly lit, and, visually, light is used in contrast to the darker elements within the films in order to represent the running theme of hope. Darker scenes, from a lighting point of view, are specifically used for the literal dark characters - such as Orcs and Wargs etc...

It could also be said that the colouration of the film changes depending on the character to create a specific emotion or atmosphere. For the dramatic, danger-approaching, dark-and-evil sort of scenes, the tonal colouration used concentrates on mainly blues and greys. Deep, dark shadows are created in contrast to bright, highlighted or over-exposed areas such as the sky. (See above).

Locations that are deemed 'good' or used in the more peaceful and happy scenes are therefore the complete opposite. Hobbiton and Dale (that is before it was destroyed) are very brightly lit and contain a wide spectrum of colours that linger on warm rather than cool tones. The temperature of these tones reflects on the mood of the image greatly.

In general, the film is quite contrasty in the sense that the shadows are vivid against the highlights; the colours are over saturated and, where appropriate, have a romanticised viewpoint.

Even in the darker scenes, there is a level of fantasy that does not inflect a realistic atmosphere. These scenes also appear desaturated, and use very few warm  tones. Although the images are dark, there is a stark contrast to how the darkness is represented. For example, today's fantasy stories are very dark in comparison and there is a level of darkness that they cross where it becomes disturbing, instead of remaining a fantasy; it becomes all too real.

Whilst The Hobbit is dark in places, there is a certain boundary that the filmmakers do not cross in order to retain the film's childlike quality. Perhaps this is why the use of lighting and tonal values are so incredibly important.

And yet, even in the darkest places, there is still light where logically there should be none. It is this very reason that the film acquires a child-like quality, using light and colour to remind it's audience that even in the darkest of times there is still hope.