Monday 31 August 2009 Podcasts 2 & 3 in review...

Having talked about the first one, I figured I'd blog a bit about the second two, so here goes:

Podcast #2:

Gary is at the Fright Night Film Festival, and after a run-down of some Deadlands 2 related festival updates, we get some interviews with Gary's friend, operator of Hagerstown 10 Cinema, and festival new-comer - then an interview with Chuck Skibo ("Dead Air"), and then a round-table chat with Amy Steel ("Friday the 13th Part 2") and Megan Franich ("30 Days of Night").

The audio quality is variable as they're at a busy convention, and perhaps Gary could have pushed the microphone a little further away from him as his passionate and booming voice is at odds with the quieter (further away) voices of the interviewees.

Also, with Gary's passion and fervor, he can sometimes hi-jack the conversation at times as he goes off in different tangents (and even rants, entertaining as they may be), whereas being an interview you go in expecting more succinct questions from his side and collectively more talk-back from the interviewees.

All-in-all, a good listen, it has a good structure throughout to keep the flow going over the generous-but-not-over-long running time, and it illustrates the promise of things to come.

Podcast #3:

Well, he said it himself, this one gets raunchy, and features Gary, Brian (who was also in the first podcast) and Brian's wife Michelle (who was in both Deadlands movies).

After a relatively calm opening (compared to later in the show when the atmosphere gets raucus) in which my short "Skinner" gets some chit-chat about it, we move swiftly into the aforementioned zone of raunchy chit-chat.

I felt somewhat sorry for Michelle as she tried to get a word in edge-ways between Gary and Brian's laughter-ridden rants and tangents, but fair play to her, she fought her corner and provided entertaining listening.

Did I mention it got raunchy? Perhaps I should point that out again - and indeed, Gary's open honesty (sometimes brutal honesty) never fails to raise your eyebrows ... perhaps he's a bit too honest sometimes, though.

While not as structured as the first two, and perhaps a bit over-long at two hours, it's a fun listen.

Sunday 30 August 2009 Podcast #3...

There's a new podcast from, in which my newest short film Skinner gets reviewed.

Download it here (either stream it online, or download the High Quality version):

And while you're there, you can also listen to Podcast #2 from last week, which features interviews with Chuck Skibo (creator of the cool-ass-looking Dead Air) as well as Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2) and Megan Franich (30 Days of Night).


At the time of writing I haven't had a chance to listen to this week's podcast yet, but will do ASAP (and comment on it in another blog post, naturally), however I just wanted to pimp the latest episode of this new, quality podcast. The info for this week's show is as follows:

08/29/09 - Episode #3 is here and this week I am joined once again by co-host Brian Wright and his wife Michelle. This
week we review, Nick Thomsons short film SKIN-NER (just kidding) Skinner, as well as talk about Twilight, True Blood,
and a slew of other personal things. Michelle gives us the females take on what women want in men, and what we do
wrong. Basically it is 2 hours of mayhem, madness and laughter... right here on WNWR.

Saturday 29 August 2009

August 2009: Flavours of the Month Pt. 2: Indiana Jones...

I really don't understand why people bitch-out Crystal Skull so much - have they seen Temple of Doom lately? As I got the double-disc DVD of Skull recently, I decided to do a retrospective of the movie saga. It's been a number of years now since I've seen the first three, so let's have a gander across the series.

Raiders of the Lost Ark:

When all is said and done, this is probably the best of the lot - filled with moments of cinematic history, moments that are universal ... like Star Wars universal.

By today's standards, in terms of action, it's somewhat light - but that's what happens with the action and/or adventure genre over the years. For example, go back to Batman 1989 and compare it to The Dark Knight - it's quite surprising how sedate Burton's flick is nowadays.

Regardless, it's a great adventure flick - but it's got it's own share of silly moments. I do think some, even many, people have unfairly and harshly judged Crystal Skull and remained looking at the original flicks with rose-tinted glasses.

Throughout the series, there are plenty of "why didn't they just...?" moments, or "how did they not figure that out?" or "how did they miss that?" or "how is that going to work?" moments. Hell, in Raiders there is a monkey - a Nazi monkey - a Nazi monkey that heils Hitler at one point! To think people bitched about three quick shots of gophers in Indy 4...

It's still an absolute classic, and thank fuck Spielberg & Lucas didn't revamp it digitally - such stuff is disrespectful to the original (think what happened to E.T. or the original Star Wars flicks).

Anyway, moving on - Temple of Doom:

Having completed by retrospective of the series, I can definitely say that Doom is the least of the series for me quite easily. It lacks the suspense and interest of the original movie, the prequel aspect is pointless (how on earth does it provide any character background to Indiana Jones at all? They managed all they needed to do in the first ten minutes of Last Crusade for character background).

Kate Capshaw's character is a useless cardboard cut-out cliche that bumbles from one scene to another screaming incessantly and getting in the way, while providing a luke-warm 'love interest' for Indy himself. Then there's "Short Round" who, while providing the odd moment where you let out a giggle, is just a high-pitched nuisance. A child side-kick was really not what Indy needed.

Temple of Doom is also surprisingly dull for the most part, it feels like everybody was just cruising along - or at least that's what I found - I found myself struggling to really care what was going on, like I had with Raiders.

Save for the fun mine cart scene, and the cool bridge scene at the end, there's nothing in Doom which truly grips or interests, and the elements of dark & violent, as well as light & comedic, are just clunky or ill-fitting.

Next up - The Last Crusade:

For a long time this was my favourite of the series, but I think Raiders has just pushed it back into second place again, but that said, it's a bloody good ride, especially after the lacklustre second outing.

Even still, it has daft moments too - I'm sure people would have been bitching about Indy 4 if a character had ran off to gather a few camels in the middle of a firefight, but here it's fine (not that it bothered me - but you know how stupidly picky some folk have been about Indy 4).

People moaned about the whole refridgerator scene in Indy 4, but what about Indy wading through a river of petroleum with a lit torch that's dropping several, very noticeable chunks of flaming cloth into the river - then when it does all catch fire, he swims with his eyes open just fine and doesn't have to wash them out.

Then of course there's that bit with Sean Connery downing a fighter plane with a flock of scared birds...I wasn't bothered, but again - the Indy 4 complainers really need to look back over the other three flicks without the rose-glasses on.

Finally - The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

It's a bloody good effort I'd say, and a rip-roaring fun ride with a consistent and unrelenting pace. It's faithful to the original films (none of which really moved into any new territory from each other back in the 1980s), but also does a good job of updating things. Indy is now 20 years older, Henry Jones Senior has passed on, as has Marcus Brody (both dealt with efficiently, and respectfully).

Being set in the 1950s also gives it an injection of something different, as well as fun to play with. We get a veritable Top Ten list of 1950s icons - Elvis, the Cold War, Area 51 (kinda), McCarthyism, nuclear testing, the birth of "the teenager", greasers vs lettermans, and so on. While the original three were distinctly 1930s, so the fourth is distinctly 1950s - a decade though, that had a lot more going for it's culture in terms of standing out than the 30s, which might explain some of the complainer's complaining about the first 40 minutes.

I really enjoyed the nuclear test site segment, even with the daftness of the fridge part - but do remember that Indiana Jones is based on the serial adventures of the 1930s-50s, where some pretty daft things would happen. It's just supposed to be FUN, it isn't supposed to be 'post-9/11' or 'gritty' or anything else which colours many new franchises and summer blockbusters these days.

I loved the comic book Russians (replacing the equally enjoyable comic book Nazis), the discovery that the Ark was housed in Area 51, that whole action set piece with Indy cracking out the whip ... indeed, it's also great to see Harrison Ford getting so much screentime during the action sequences thanks to developments in stunt work and safety - he's still in great physical shape and can therefore get really stuck in to the onscreen action - and this works great.

Shia Labeuf does a spiffing job as Mutt, and his time with Ford on screen throughout mirrors the father/son play-off of Last Crusade. It's great to see Marrion Ravenwood back again, John Hurt is wonderfully nuts, Blanchett has fun chewing the scenery and, well, it's just a bloody good fun time.

As for the jungle segment ... yes, the bit with the monkies is probably the worst bit of the film - but at least they weren't saluting Hitler this time round - and yes, the waterfalls bit is hard to swallow ... but only if you're seeking realism, which Indiana Jones was never, ever meant to be.

Indeed - look back at Temple of Doom - the trio leap out of a crashing plane with no parachutes, just an inflatable raft, land on a snowy mountain, slide down it, then fall over a cliff and crash land safely in a river. If you've got no qualms about that, shut the fuck up about the waterfalls sequence in Indy 4!


In closing though, there is one significant difference between the films of the 80s that I grew up with, and the new flick which I got to see on my 24th birthday in the cinema. The original three are rated PG in the UK, but the fourth is a 12A ... and yet it's nowhere near as violent as the original three. More action packed, sure - but not more violent - for instance:

Raiders of the Lost Ark - at the end, one guy's head drains of all fluid and collapses inwards, the famous Nazi's flesh melts off in a really gory few seconds, and Indy's archeological nemesis' head explodes graphically into the camera lens.

Temple of Doom - hearts are ripped out, monkey brains are eaten, rotten corpses lunge at the camera, Indy gets whipped graphically, and people are devoured by crocs ... or aligators ... whatever.

Last Crusade - Indy shoots three Nazis in a row, and we actually get to see the bloody bullet holes, and at the end that treacherous side-switching greedy bastard grows horrifically old in seconds as he screams in terror, eyes dissolving, flesh shrinking, grey hair shooting out of his crusty scalp, as he holds the Nazi femme fatale, who is screaming wildly, in his grip. That one in particular freaked me out as a kid - but you need to give kids a scare now and then, and at least The Dark Knight deserved its 12A rating (Two Face's reveal even gave me a shock - it was awesome though).

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, however, has a tribe massacred offscreen with barely a sight of bullet wounds, a couple of CGI Russians caught in the jet flame of that supersonic thingymajig at Area 51, and a couple of dudes (one more graphically than the other) swarmed by giant CGI ants. Indeed, the goriest part is when Spalko crushes a giant ant between her knees and a gooey mess shoots into the lens.


These days we can get more action and punching into family films, but it seems you could never have what you got at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark - a movie I watched numerous times as a child, and it did me no harm at all.

Anyway, Raiders first, Crusade second, Skull third (in respect to the Raiders & Crusade for their history - but it is bloody good fun), and Doom fourth.

August 2009 Flavours of the Month Pt. 1: Censorship...

I've ranted on so long for this second "flavours of the month" blog, that I've split it into two parts.

"Friends" censorship on E4...

As I'd said on a previous blog post a while back, I got back into Friends as it was showing from the beginning just when I got back from the hospital and began my (slow and painful) recovery - I was in need of something comforting and genuinely funny (fuck the haters, Friends is a great sitcom).

Anyway, it's been showing on E4 here in the UK, and this channel has been showing Friends on an endless series-in-entirety repeat from start-to-finish over-and-over since the show ended in 2004. At the moment they're getting through a season every 8 days pretty much, but what has really struck me now that I've been re-watching many of these episodes so consistently - is the sheer amount of censoring that E4 does to Friends nowadays.

There have been a whole list of examples over the past couple of months that I've been consistently watching these repeats of cutting the completely innocuous - and sometimes REALLY BADLY.

It is common for such an edit to leave a scene ending without a joke at all, indeed this sometimes leaves a scene falling flat, or in one recent example, leaving Monica apparently laughing AT Joey for no reason. Instead of a gag, it just seems like she's deliberately mocking him, due to the cut re-contextualising that whole section. Other times they skip the scene-ending gag and just cut awkwardly to the laughter - but what on earth are the audience laughing at?!

Well, comparing the E4 repeats to the uncut versions of the episodes, it's astonishing how in-offensive the excised content is, regardless of what time of day it is (these repeats are shown anywhere between 5pm and 10pm) ... some examples are:

Joey saying "no, I had sex in high school" - with that cut out, the scene ends with Chandler asking a question in a somewhat dismissive manner - no laughter - cut to the next scene.

Joey & Chandler's apartment gets robbed - this is the worst editing I've seen from E4 in these past weeks, truly awful. We don't see Joey being locked in the entertainment unit - instead the puritanical, censor-crazy morons at the E4 edit suite do a hack-job fade-in/fade-out quickly, horribly butchering the scene as if a child had been let loose with an Avid. Then when Chandler comes back home, he bizarrely teleports - thanks to yet another pointless edit - across the room in a split second - truly, truly awful censorship.

Joey also can't exclaim "you got porn!" to Rachel, nor can she lunge at him saying "sex me up, Joe".

Ross can't call Joey "V.D. Boy" when they get into a fight over a girl, nor can he say "gonorrhea".

Nor can Monica giggle and say "plus everyone's gonna see your thing!" when Joey discusses a potential nude scene he'll have to shoot - nor can we see a handful of frames of a blurry pink-ish faux-foreskin fall between his legs during the closing credits (although this is the best example of censor-crazy editing exhibited in these last few weeks - the cut works well, but still - the cut footage is completely innocuous).

These are just a few examples that spring to mind right now, but believe you me there have been many, many such pointless and puritanically sensitive cuts from these episodes. It really is ludicrous - in fact it's offensive - what's being cut isn't offensive, but E4 seem to think that the public - most of whom will have seen every single one of these episodes at least three times by now - can't handle dialogue you could easily hear during lunch time television.

It's also really odd coming from E4 - part of the Channel 4 group - who a few weeks ago did a week-long special of lunch time art programmes featuring long, uncut, static shots of nude people for the purpose of those at home joining and drawing. I was all for that show, and thought it was a genuinely good idea - that went off without much of a hitch, not even the Daily Mail got exceptionally riled up about it like you'd expect them too ... but still, E4 insist on butchering the totally inoffensive from a family friendly sitcom.



"Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious"...

The Americans got their panties in a bunch over the title of Kevin Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" - but us Brits had no issue with it, but then in a bizarre case of inversion, the British advertising gang got really hot & bothered about a low-grade, mis-spelled swear word in the title of QT's latest offering.

Not on bus shelter adverts they say, and certainly not on television until after 10pm (the watershed is at 9pm) - you can say "fuck" repeatedly on Mock the Week which starts at 9pm, but you can't say "basterds" until after 10pm. Clearly, the moronic lack of common sense and joined-up thinking espoused by the Labour government since 1997 has truly infected our society further than any sensible person would have least in my view, but you all should know by now how much I loathe Blair, Brown & their gleefully-dumb-but-dangerous gaggle of hypocrites extraordinaire.

However, at 10pm you can only show "Basterds" on the screen (rather than it being censored by bullet holes punctering the poster), you still can't say it - the name remaining "Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious" on the voice over.

Stupid ... really bloody stupid ... and to think us Brits laughed in exasperation at the Americans after Janet Jackson popped a nipple out.

Friday 28 August 2009

Inglourious Basterds...

Some people have a problem with Tarantino - I don't. Some people didn't like Kill Bill 1 or 2 - I really enjoyed both. Some people also hated Death Proof - I absolutely loved it.

Likewise, some folk haven't taken kindly to Inglourious Basterds, but I can't understand why. You know what to expect from Tarantino, so you shouldn't be all that surprised, and it possesses QT's best dialogue since Pulp Fiction.

On top of that, you've got Brad Pitt playing the endlessly entertaining Aldo Raine (although I would have liked a bit more of him, and the other Basterds too), and unknown-to-most-until-now Christoph Waltz playing QT's best bad guy since ... well ... ever, in the guise of Col. Landa - "The Jew Hunter". Oh, and Til Schweiger does a great job as Hugo Stiglitz, if only there was more of him in the Basterd sections (but he does get a superb introduction). Previously I'd only ever heard of him via the trailer (as seen online) for FarCry (yes, the sure-to-be-shitty-like-all-the-others Uwe Boll movie).

Ahead of it's release, the inclusion of Eli Roth created a bit of a storm online with fanboys groaning in anticipation - I was one of them - I always found his cameos to be clumsy (such as Death Proof, or his own Thanksgiving trailer - but not Cabin Fever, actually) ... however, Roth does pull out a good performance.

In the words of Total Film, Roth isn't given "enough rope to hang himself with", which makes sense when you see the movie. The Basterds, while providing the title, are really only one third of the whole movie itself - it is them, Shoshana, and Col. Landa, and their interweaving plotlines.

I do feel though, that Tarantino could use a bit more discipline these days - although interestingly he himself addressed this issue in an interview he did with Charlie Rose (it's a good interview too, and it's nice to hear him talk at length about the film). QT talks - a lot - about his movies, but I feel that some critics use this as an excuse to ask of QT certain things without seeking a direct answer, or they demand certain things when they're not face-to-face with him ... or they simply don't bother to see what QT himself has to say about his own film, in an interview such as that with Charlie Rose, which covers a lot of ground.

Back to the discipline issue though - while I was glad to see QT is aware of it, and even addressed it in the aforementioned interview, he really does need to regain more of it.

A couple of times during Basterds (or just "Inglourious", as the lame-ass UK-but-no-US advertisers would prefer), I found myself waiting for the protagonists to get to the punchline of their (gripping) war of words. I get it, he's a spy, the other one thinks he might be a spy, but they're both pretending to assume the opposite of what they think to each other ... now can we get to the crux of the scene, please?

Increased discipline from QT's part - at a script stage - would solve such an issue. While the dialogue is excellent, it could have easily been boiled down a bit to get to a purer form of the same thing without compromise - indeed, it would improve the already rather bloody great dialogue-heavy scenes.

It would also help redress the balance of chit-chat-to-action. While it was suitable for Death Proof to have a lot of talk (many such exploitation flicks would be loaded with dialogue - which was nowhere near as good as QT's - but would advertise on the basis of the few action scenes throughout). Also, while I really enjoyed Kill Bill Vol. 2, it was too wordy at points - great flick, but a bit on the too-wordy side. My point being, since Vol. 2, QT has been getting wordier and wordier - he needs to reign himself in and pull back slightly, because it would actually improve things.

Speaking of action though - when you get it in Basterds, it is often swift - but brilliant. Speaking of action, that means violence, and speaking of violence, that means special make-up effects, and Nicotero & Berger return to provide the grisly - and man alive, it is some of their best work. Whenever the violence would erupt (especially two shots towards the end of the movie), my eyebrows would leap up my forehead. Bloody good work from the KNB boys.

Oh and yes, the choice of music throughout (especially the key set piece tracks, such as Bowie's "Putting Out The Fire") is great. QT's choice of music is always great, and it often introduces the mainstream audience to something new - which is no bad thing, is it?

All-in-all, I really enjoyed Inglourious Basterds, and I do hope it gets the proper coverage on DVD. Both Kill Bill movies were stuffed on DVD with sod-all extras, which was a damn shame ... however, his first three flicks, as well as Death Proof, have all been given solid double-disc treatments.

As such, a double disc treatment with plenty of interest, making ofs, and behind the scenes stuff please!

Finally - I've read that Tarantino has a bunch of scenes shot, which were removed with the intention of putting them into a second movie - that sounds cool-as-hell to me. I most definitely want a sequel (and please, take note of the discipline issue), and I would quite like one that filled in those three years we don't get to see in this flick.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

"Skinner" is now online!

You can watch my latest short film online here (5:22 in length):

"A forensic detective attends the latest in a long line of grisly, unsolved crime scenes - murders committed by the titular serial killer whose modus operandi remains so varied and vague that those tracking him have been unable to gain any traction on the case. It is here that we see a gruesomely festive tableau set aside for the detective - a tired-eyed, noir-like protagonist - replete with a note left at the scene; the product of a diseased mind that continues to goad those who seek to bring him to justice."

Write-up with screenshots coming soon.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Vehicular drama...

It was one of those days today, I guess.

I had a meeting to go to, and just before leaving I noticed my phone was down to one bar of battery life left - "bugger, but nevermind, I won't be gone long, it's only a 30 mile round trip, what could go wrong?"

Well the cam belt could break, that's what could go wrong - and it did.

About 8 miles into the journey there's a sort of "phffisht" noise, a little jump, brief whiff of an oil smell, and then no power at all. With a BMW right up my arse (as if the speed limit wasn't good enough), the hazards went on and I sought a place to pull over - on a rural road.

I thought maybe selecting a lower gear would help - not really knowing anything about cars - so I could limp into the nearest lay-by or pub car park. Naturally this slowed me down and I decided to crap-out on the safest stretch to hand at that moment.

A quick phone call home in case the battery in my phone was about to go (it started beeping to alert me of impending shut-off after said call), and then - wait.

Testament to modern society, not a single person pulled up to lend a hand - the best I got was a semi-sympathetic look from a woman in a van, otherwise I just had to stand there looking sad and useless like all the other people I've seen in my time standing by the side of the road next to a crapped-out car.

Fortunately my Dad came to the rescue with a tow rope - just as a policeman happened by and offered to help (if only he'd come along 20 minutes earlier), but it's always the way, wait for one tow rope and two come along at once, haha.

Fortunately there was a pub car park very close, and I have to say being towed is a weird experience. It just feels wrong. Anyway - into the car park, and then on the phone to the rescue people (easier said than done what-with signal drop-outs and the typical sort of call centre phone call experience).

So finally the van came, the man tried to start it and immediately said "yep, cam belt's gone" (a potentially pricey breakage too) - towed home, and here we are.

My first ever roadside breakdown experience ... the blown tyre from earlier this year doesn't count as a breakdown really, that's in a slightly different category ... so yeah, a bit of adventure for today then.

Also, it's odd really, it feels cliched in a movie when someone's phone battery runs out - but you know what, today was a lesson in how easily that situation can arise.

Showing in Lithuania...

I've heard today that apparently "Contempt of Conscience" is going to be screening at the 2009 Inconvenient Films Human Rights Film Festival - in Lithuania.

From their website:

The festival, organized by Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights in cooperation with “WatchDocs: Human Rights in Film IFF” will be held October 22-30, 2009 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Additional screenings will take place in Kaunas, Klaipeda and other regions of Lithuania during the following month.

Ad Hoc: Inconvenient Films” is the first and so far the only one human rights film festival in Lithuania as well as in the Baltic states. The mission of this festival is to raise awareness of human rights issues around the world and to connect them to those that are present in Lithuania. By presenting various documentaries on main human rights topics organizers hope to encourage public debates on human rights issues and ways to address them. The festival became one of the biggest film festivals and cultural events in Lithuania with “Ad Hoc: Inconveninet Films 2008” being visited by 13 000 viewers.

Thursday 20 August 2009

"Gaia & Genesis"...

That's the official title for the new educational DVD - all about the environment from philosophical, religious and scientific perspectives all rolled into one jam-packed DVD, replete with student discussion on each of the five separate films.

We're also going to cut the five films together to form one full-length version, which we're then going to submit to film festivals.

Video clips coming soon (they'll be found on, naturally), and of course I'll be pimping up a film summary with screen shots for this 'ere blog you be readin' ... oh yes indeedy.

Of course, I'll keep on updating info about this and other projects as-and-when.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Blog updates...

I've bashed up a bunch more summaries for the credit list on the right hand side of the blog, so I'm caught up for now (will have to do one soon for "Skinner" and the environment educational DVD).

I've also gone back over a bunch of the other summaries I've previously posted, and included embedded YouTube videos for those films (which are already on my YouTube Channel that is) - but you know, it's ideal for those who like to be a bit lazy from time to time.

Or - it's convenient - depending on your outlook on life.

Anyway - ah yes, I'm deep into the editing of "Skinner", and the aforementioned educational DVD is coming very close to completion - it's always nice to get to the end of a long project, but that last 2% is always a slog as your brain starts thinking you're finished when you're not, so you have to work harder than you had already been doing ... weird.

Back to "Skinner" though - the editing is going well, and rather than using two pieces of software to edit it, I'm using just the one (which I haven't edited a whole project in before) - so it's a learning curve at the same time - nice.

Sex & Ethics (2008)...

This was my first educational DVD, and I was charged with the task of filming and editing the whole thing. At this point it was the biggest filmmaking project I had been involved in, and it was great experience.

The DVD consists of eight films (four topics split into two films each), with added student group discussion (and teacher’s notes too). The DVD is about ethical theories and issues related to sex and relationships.

It was a great opportunity to really come up with arresting visuals – personally, my experience of educational videos (that dates my education, haha) was usually one of boredom, of something rather staid. Obviously I didn’t want to be responsible for filming and editing something that wouldn’t keep the students interested in watching – so I was able to come up with an interesting style.

We not only used a whole wealth of Public Domain stock footage (to use as-is, or re-cut and re-contextualise), but I also got to put together colourful and interesting sequences through various means (layering video, colouring, shooting re-enactments/scenarios in different ways etc).

The project wasn’t the most organised I’d worked on, so that was an education in itself – but it has helped to improve my own organisation, shooting, editing and filmmaking in general – plus, it also acted as a testing run (in a way) for the next educational DVD, which was all about the environment from a theological stand point.

Follow the below link to the official website, where you can also see four video clips:

Contempt of Conscience (2008)...

This locally produced documentary about conscientious objectors The Peace Tax Seven had been a few years in the making by the time I joined the project as cameraman and additional editor.

Thanks to my new equipment it was at this point that I was able to move forward again and set myself up officially as a Freelance Filmmaker (prior to this point I had been gaining expenses-only work experience in between my own little side projects).

Contempt of Conscience” premiered in its finished form at the Milano Film Festival in Italy, 2008. It was also shown at the Reality Uncut film festival in New Delhi, and the Beyond TV film festival in Swansea.

You can view the full film online (in 3 parts) at Ethics Online's YouTube Channel - or via Top Documentary Films.

See the IMDb page for this film here:

Below is a clip from the film - an original cut of the 'bailiff sequence', which I was able to direct, shoot, and edit.

Sabrina and the Engineer (2008)...

Similar to “Sturgeon Moon” the previous year, this was another town-wide performance from the Arts Council. It was great to bring the experience from previous Arts Council projects onto this one and further hone my ‘run & gun, from the hip’ filming skills.

It was also a great opportunity to get some fantastic looking shots – giant water jets shooting into the air, dancers, fireworks, the whole kit and caboodle.

Below is a video about the project, as put together by Silva Productions:

Visit the below links for more information, and lots of pictures of the event.

And here are some screenshots from a musical montage of some of the footage I shot during the Bewdley performance.

Great Malvern Christmas Lantern Parade (2007)...

This was my first solo effort for the Arts Council, and it was one that came to me on the very day it was taking place. I got the call in the morning, and was at the location by the early evening, and then filming moments later. The whole day would prove to be a series of valuable lessons in the world of freelance filmmaking.

I was tasked with, at the last minute, shooting and then editing a five minute piece that covered the Lantern Parade and turning on of the Christmas lights in Great Malvern.

In the end the film turned out quite nicely, especially for the amount of chaos involved – the very last minute getting of the job, wrestling with trying to find the location without SatNav, then dealing with constant rain (which made the journey there ten times more stressful, confusing and occasionally dangerous), huge crowds, and a general sense of chaos … but like I said, the final product turned out nicely.

Sturgeon Moon (2007) & The Handless Maiden (2007)...

Acting as second cameraman for Silva Productions, these two films were my introduction to putting together documentaries for Arts Council projects.

Sturgeon Moon” took place in Bridgnorth – all over the town during the day (in the blistering hot summer of 2007), and culminating in a multi-staged performance on the town’s sports field at night. It was an opportunity to employ those ‘shoot from the hip, as it happens’ skills that I acquired on all those videos I made at university, but it was also a robust experience in terms of patience and especially endurance.

The Handless Maiden” was a Covent Garden Street Opera production (performed by, and aimed at, people with disabilities) at the Trinity College of Music, London. It was a further lesson in working with complete strangers (there’s a big difference between just being around strange people, and having to film and direct complete strangers). Additionally it was a continued lesson in filmmaking endurance – “Sturgeon Moon” was a 20 hour day, and “The Handless Maiden” was an exhausting 21 hours.

Interestingly, with these sort of projects, you have a sense of nervousness and anticipation leading up to the main performance – you’re obsessively going over the little, and even simple, details (batteries, tapes, camera settings, what’s roughly going to happen etc), but when the actual performance gets going time stops existing except for the time code on your camera’s flip-out screen. Everything comes together during the performance, and especially on outdoor shoots, it becomes a case of ‘run and gun’ filmmaking. Responding to everything happening around you every second and having to get a whole range of quality shots – indeed, it’s quite thrilling.

This first video is a little short piece I put together using my own footage from the performance:

Below are two videos about the "Sturgeon Moon" project, as put together by Silva Productions:

Friday 14 August 2009

Show & Tell (2007)...

This was another chance to work with the Rural Media Company in Hereford, this time on a government sponsored research project (mediated through Bristol University School of Policy Studies) into rural poverty. It covered the following topics:

Necessities of Life, Isolation and Powerlessness, Accessing Services and Opportunities, Denial of Rights, Aspirations and Opinions.

The project involved solo teams getting video diary footage from those who took part – at this point the footage was handed over to me, acting as footage loader & logger. I was, put simply, responsible for getting all the footage (hours upon hours of it – there were around 50 tapes if memory serves) loaded onto the editing system, while simultaneously logging the content (what’s being said, quality of footage, overall score etc).

For my part of the job at least, it was a good lesson in patience and endurance. It’s really surprising how worn out you can get loading and logging footage, seriously.

Even though I was doing a fairly process-based job, it did allow me to see a hell of a lot of response to the issue of rural poverty from those affected by it - from their mouth, to my ears - every single tape, uncut. It really shows you what some people have to get by on, and how they struggle, and most importantly of all, how it affects them personally.

Via the Guardian link below, you can view a trailer of the project, or alternatively via the Rural Media link where you can watch a fuller version.

BBC Local TV (2005-2006)...

This was the first time I worked with the Rural Media Company (based in Herefordshire), and it was for the BBC Local TV Pilot project. I was one of a number of filmmakers brought on to make 90 second short films which would be played as part of each day’s rolling 10 minute (every hour) segment for our county (the project was operating in six counties in the Midlands).

I put together a number of videos for the project – “Coming Home” was a poetic short that I wrote, shot and edited about what it’s like to return home from university to a small town. “The Green Life” was about one local woman’s commitment to living an environmentally friendly lifestyle (with a large and sophisticated solar panel in her garden), while “Caring Kids” was about a local group set up to provide young carers (who care for unwell siblings and/or parents) with the opportunity to let off steam and act like everyday kids.

Inside Hereford Butter Market” (which was (as well as myself) featured in an internal BBC video report) documented the life and goings on within the city’s indoor market. “Making Japanese Edo Kites” on the other hand showed one primary school class making their own kites.

Watch "Inside Hereford Butter Market" here:

Watch "Coming Home" here:

Planet Sci-Cast (2008)...

A friend of mine (who has been in a few of my short films) asked me for a bit of help with filming a little video for the Planet Sci-Cast competition (make a 90 second short film which demonstrated something fun to do with physics that you could try at home).

I did offer to film it on my camera and edit, but to make sure we stayed within the rules, we just filmed it far more simply (hence the comedy 'back of an envelope' idea ... although seeing other entries we could have gone further on the look with ease).

Anyway - it took a fun idea (to do with friction), and it was a simple demonstration of the principle. There was another video that was inspired by the same 'try this at home' segment on some physics magazine (I forget the name now), which won out over us - but even still, we were nominated in the "best film by an adult team" category, which was nice.

Monday 10 August 2009

Ali & G.I. Joe...return of the movie musings!


I'm years late for this one, that's for sure. Anyway - you see the DVD for proper cheap, you dig Michael Mann, you dig Will Smith (best when he's doing something that doesn't involve the line "aww hell naw!"), so what are you gonna do - you buy it of course.

Of course I know of Ali, but I've really only ever known of him as "that boxing hero who now has Parkinsons" - and not being a boxing fan (not a critic of the sport either), this was a good chance to get the 'crib notes' run down of this sporting legend.

I guess the film didn't quite pop as much as what I felt it should have - but it's really hard to explain that point, so I won't try to - put simply, there was just something (for me anyway) that was missing.

That said, it was still a rather good film - Michael Mann is a great filmmaker, and Will Smith is superb in the role of Ali. He could do with more of these kind of roles - something meaty to get his teeth into, but something which is also open and inspiring to a wide audience.

I've not got much to say about it really - man, it has been a while since I did one of my "movie musings", eh? Anyway - I liked the flick, Mann & Smith were great, nuff said.

G.I. Joe...

I'll put this right up on front street - Transformers (the first one) was considerably better than GI Joe. Transformers 2, purely because of the first one, was also better than GI Joe (although not necessairly by a lot).

I was aware of Transformers, but never watched it as a kid, and didn't have a lot of interest in it - but certainly never begrudged those who were all about it, I never do, as I have many things I'm all about - a mutual courtesy of fan respect, I guess.

I was also aware of GI Joe (but perhaps a bit later) ... in fact I think I got (and still have) a couple of action figures from the GI Joe range ... in fact I think I might have (whether it was official, or a knock-off) a MASK motorbike with some spiked-armour-wearing dude that goes with it ... such was my sporadic toy-getting life outside of my real 1980s childhood cartoon passion - The Real Ghostbusters.

Anyway - it's been seven weeks since us lads had a cinema trip (annoyingly I was physically unable to get out and see Public Enemies, and I don't think Moon ever showed at our Cineworld).

Let's lay this out simply though, just like the movie...

1) Rachel Nichols is fit - "tick".

2) Channing Tatum, I found, was insufferable and, at least in this movie (the only time I've seen him) acted like a concrete block set atop an oak pedestal - "cross".

3) Most of the action was between standard satisfaction and actually quite enjoyable ... but said wham-bangery was far too frequent. It's like ACTION - 2 minutes of dreadful dialogue - ACTION - ACTION - two people look at each other - ACTION ACTION ACTION - bit of plot - ACTION - the end ... "check-minus".

4) It's violent - "tick" - but perhaps, due to the frequent action, a bit over-cooked on the punching ... which feels at odds with the 12A rating at times ... "check-minus".

5) The aforementioned dialogue is dripping with greasy cheesiness - "cross".

6) What the fuck was the accent coming out of Ecclestone's mouth? I've never heard Scottish like that before - "cross".

7) "The Doctor" was awesome, and a much better villain that Ecclestone - "tick".

8) The (very frequent) CGI was of varying quality - sometimes it was fine and what you'd expect, but other times it looked positively 1995 - you know, when CGI was more popular, the 'new toy', but was oftentimes poorly utilised and looking really obvious (otherwise known as "The Phantom Menace effect", ha) - "cross".

9) Why couldn't "the rise of Cobra" have come much sooner, and then have the rest of the movie as what I assume the inevitable sequel will be about - the parts put into play at the end of this movie looked far more interesting for two hours than 'threatening missiles which we do practically sod-all with' (seriously, what you see in the trailer is it with the missles) - "cross".

10) Dennis Quaid is awesome - everybody knows it - so why was he so relegated to the background in this flick? - "cross".

Not sure why I'm grading this like an American school kid's essay, but whatever...

Yeah ... it has some good & enjoyable parts, but it's also got about three tonnes of cheese, and a script that doesn't convince anywhere near as much as that for 2007's Transformers - which did a far better job at explaining the mythology, setting up the protagonists (both Autobot and human), having a lot of fun along the way, and maintaining a consistent pace.

GI Joe is really big, really dumb, really loud ... but it's not really fun. It's sometimes fun, and sometimes yawn-inducing (I did yawn a surprising amount, and I wasn't even tired) - and like with Transformers 2 (which sadly didn't convince the audience as much as the first one did) there were plenty of people heading outside for a slash during action scenes.

That said, Transformers 2 was in a bigger screening room and had a far denser audience ... at least the air conditioning was working for GI Joe ... although I was a bit on the cold side ... but when we went to see Transformers 2 it was stuffy and hot ... and crowded.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Contempt of Conscience 2008 showings...

No, not a typo, I am indeed talking about 2008.

I'd already mentioned a few times here on the blog that Contempt of Conscience was shown at the 2008 Milano Film Festival in Italy, but it was also shown at another couple of festivals in 2008 - for which I now have the information on (it was just one of those things, I never got around to getting the information until today when it happened to come up in the conversation).

Anyway, the two other showings in 2008 were as follows:

Reality, Uncut - New Delhi, 15th September 2008
"Contempt Of Conscience, 4 pm - An attempt at decoding UK's Peace tax problem"

Beyond TV Film Festival - Swansea 22nd November 2008
"Contempt of Conscience by Clarity Productions (Scotland)
Filmed over 5 years as British conscientous objectors refuse to pay tax supporting the War on ‘Terror’. (50min)"

Memories of Falling Ash (2008)...

This short was made for the 2008 Frieze Film “Road Movie” YouTube project. They were looking for YouTubers to submit their own 3 minute long films, taking inspiration from Cormac McCarthy’s excellent book “The Road”.

From the submitted shorts, those behind the project selected a number (of which I was one) and proceeded to use the wealth of footage to put together four 3 minute shorts, which made up the aforementioned “Road Movie”. It was a really fun and creative project to get involved in, and it was a real joy to put together some really strong images in high contrast black & white (which suited the tone of the book perfectly, in my eyes).

The four segments were shown in October 2008 on Channel 4’s “3 Minute Wonder” showcase programme.

View the full length version of "Memories of Falling Ash" here:

Finally, you can view the Frieze Film 2008 YouTube channel here:

Signing Off (2008)...

Following on a few weeks after “VHS: Long Play”, I set about putting together my next zombie-related film – although this time there were no on-screen zombies. Instead it was a one-hander, so the primary focus of this film was working with an actor who would convey a large story all through dialogue in a simple setting.

The UK has been ravaged by a virus that has turned the people into flesh-eating zombies, and this film’s lone protagonist is the sole survivor of the last outpost to fall to the undead – he’s the last human in the country – but he’s dying, and he now must deliver his parting message to whomever may one day find his body.

I was very pleased with this short, not only the performance (which was the first time I had been really able to work with someone who was a student of acting), but the visual presentation also.

View the film, posted on YouTube, via this handy embed here:

VHS (2006) & VHS: Long Play (2008)...

VHS (2006):

My first narrative short since “Trapped” the previous year, this quirky horror story is about a guy who unceremoniously ditches VHS in favour of a rapidly expanding DVD collection. This film was inspired by my own disliking of how the industry so unceremoniously disregarded VHS as soon as DVD came along – dismissing it harshly and indeed unfairly (the industry insistence on making the vast majority of videotapes ‘pan & scan’ presentations was one of the main reasons the picture quality was comparatively poor).

In the film, the DVD fanatic ends up transported into a hellish limbo world by a rogue VHS tape, where he is bound to a chair (with videotape) amidst the broken shards of his DVD collection. He is taught a lesson or two by his captor and seemingly sent back to his own reality … or is he?

This short was shown at the Bristol Bloodbath Film Festival 2006, and the Borderlines Film Festival 2007.

VHS: Long Play (2008):

Spurred on by those who really enjoyed the original film, I was able to create this part-remake/part-sequel to 2006’s “VHS” in the summer of 2008. Having not made any of my own indie shorts since the second Zombie Man, it was great to get back into it.

I wanted to put together something simple, and something stylish, the plot this time centring around the first film’s protagonist trapped within this torturous limbo world of the rogue VHS tape that captured him in the first one. I was very pleased with the final product, and it was a simple, quick and easy short to make.

This film was shown at the 2008 Phantasmagoria Film Festival.

You can watch the original VHS here:

And you also watch the sequel here:

I Am Zombie Man (2006) & I Am Zombie Man 2 (2007)...

Inspired by the original idea for 2005’s “Trapped”, and following on from “VHS” a few weeks prior, I set about putting together this cheap & cheerful zombie comedy short. The film is about a zombie who now lives alone in the woods, and him telling us about his undead existence – how he dealt with becoming a zombie, and how he likes to pass the time.

It was a very quickly put together little short with its charm rooted in idea, rather than the presentation. The original “I Am Zombie Man” is an extra feature on the Tempe DVD release of American indie zombie movie “Deadlands: The Rising”, and appeared (alongside the sequel) as supporting material during the local theatrical run of “Deadlands: The Rising”.

Six months later, spurred on by the online success among fellow ‘zed heads’, I put together the sequel – “I Am Zombie Man 2”. By now I had bought my Panasonic DVX100B professional camera and equipment, and set about putting together a far better looking Zombie Man flick than the first. It was at this point that I was finally able to move on in my own filmmaking thanks to the new equipment (and a certain editing software plug-in called Magic Bullet), having gone as far as I could with my previous camera and equipment.

Watch "I Am Zombie Man" here:

Watch "I Am Zombie Man 2" (split into 3 parts) here: