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To Build a Home - Joseph Van-Bergen

on Monday, 25 March 2013.

still---to-build-a-home

Q1: Tell us about yourself. what's your background and how did you get into film-making?

I've done some form of creative writing as far back as I can remember, but I first started helping out with film making when I was 16, mainly parody stuff, no script, shot in a friend's house etc., but I also did a few projects with my friend's brother, and he made this hour-long film and got it screened in a building at the local college, and 50+ people showed up to watch it, which was amazing to me. That was the first time where I thought it would actually be possible to pursue this as a career. It was a few months after that when I made my first short.

Q.2: How did the idea for 'To Build a Home' come about? 

I first wrote the idea for the film in my first year of University, as part of an assignment where we had to write a three minute film about "the other", I still don't really understand the assignment, but I wrote a story about a man and a chair. When the Virgin Media Shorts entries opened last summer, I thought it was a good opportunity to make a film myself again, rather than just writing. With the film, I've tried to make a point that everyone places value in different things, maybe not always the things we expect, and we can't possibly know the kind of stories that the strangers we pass on the street have to tell.

Q.3 : Casting for films when you have a very low budget can be difficult. How did you overcome this problem and do you have any advice for anyone in a similar situation?

Budget wasn't really the issue for this film, though the £16 for hair extensions may have been the entirety of our funding. The big problem was time. I only decided to make the film for the competition about four weeks before the deadline, and producing the project myself as well as rewriting the script and storyboarding didn't really leave me any time to use Casting Call, which I had intended to do. Thankfully my house-mate was helping on the project anyway, and stepped up to play the lead character as well. It was helpful in the end to have an actor who had been on board with the project from the start, because he knew what was important to me, and the vision I had, so I didn't have to direct him all that much. I would usually advise that even without a budget you use a website like Casting Call Pro, or Spotlight, if you have an account, as it is so easy to advertise your film, browse actors and contact them, and you can say from the start that you can't afford to pay anyone!

Q.4: What is it about the writing process that you enjoy, what first attracted you to it?

 

Writing has been my passion for a long time, I don't remember exactly when I started, but I wrote my first short at 17. It's also one of those things that gets to work across a range of different media, so you're not restricted to film only with it. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially with longer films to make everything work structurally, and for it to be constantly entertaining in some way while still meaning something, but the end result is worth the struggle. The best thing about writing for me, is that the world is completely of your creation, you make the rules, the environments, and characters that (hopefully) stick with people. Characters have always been my favourite part of any story. I like to tell stories about people rather than events, but with the intention that it has a wider message.

Q.5: Having written and directed this film how do the two things differ and which do you prefer?

Writing, definitely. I often find myself wanting to spread my wings and get on the set directing, especially with my own scripts, but if I had to choose to only do one it would be writing. The two require very different skill sets. Though as a writer you have to think cinematically, and create a story that is visually interesting, the director has to actually execute that, and decide what the best way to tell the story is. Writing is very introverted, whereas as a director you have to be very social and good at communicating your ideas verbally, and know how to work with the camera. The two are completely different experiences.

Q.6: When working on a film that you have written do you like to work closely with the director to keep the story as close to your original idea as possible or allow the director some free reign to create his own vision? 

I try to work with people who I think share the same creative vision as me. Obviously, I think that the story should be kept as close to the original as possible, but that's because I'm a writer. The less egotistical side of myself realises that other people can really bring something to the table creatively, but I like to have the script as a base to build on top of, rather than change fundamentally. I'm yet to really clash with someone creatively, and on my current project, I've enjoyed a really close working relationship with both the director and the DOP, who've both been on board since the early drafts.

Q.7: How do you feel the film industry is changing? Particularly with regards to technology, social media etc.

 I'm not in a position to comment with any real insight unfortunately. However I do think social media is fantastic for independent film makers, it's so easy to network and promote yourself. That, combined with crowd funding websites like Kickstarter, and the quality and affordability of digital cameras means that it is just easier to get a film off the ground now. I think these advancements are definitely favouring the independent film maker, and it's becoming a much more accessible medium.

Q.8: What advice can you give to people wanting to become writers and film-makers? 

It has to be something you actually want to do. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I've met a lot of people, who say they want to make films but don't actually have the drive or desire to follow through. It's a very time-consuming process, and a lot of hard work, and I think that's something a lot of people don't realise. Always have a script you could show someone, or an idea you could pitch if the chance arises. Practising talking about your work is helpful too, as it is a very social industry, and you need to be able to sell yourself.

Q.9: What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us a bit about?  

I'm shooting a film later this month that I wrote, called Surf, which is a short drama about a cynical man pretending to be a self-help guru, and how he is affected by meeting one of his 'fans', which I hope to be able to circulate at festivals and competitions sometime in the coming year. I'm also currently working on a feature length script, but I can't say much about that, as there aren't enough finished pages to bother saying anything.

Magic Show Richard Wheatley

on Friday, 22 March 2013.

Luckily we had no problems on the Magic Show shoot, it went suspiciously well actually.. oh apart from a grip being hit in the groin by a log wielding Labrador but I got over that pretty quickly.

magic show

Q1: Tell us about yourself, what's your background and how did you get into film-making?

From a very early age I've always had a passion for the visual arts. I've tried my hand at many art forms over the years and finally felt at home with film making. Some years ago I made some rather odd experimental films which included some rabbits hopping around an installation of optical illusions… the films were diabolically pretentious and just generally bad but I was fascinated with the process. After that I ended up going to the northern film school where I worked in various roles on many projects, gradually building up knowledge and confidence to direct. In my final year I wrote and directed a short film named 'Let me go', although being quite proud of it at the time in hindsight it was sentimental soup… but I learnt invaluable knowledge and skills in the process. Since then I've wrote and directed 'Magic Show', which was again a massive learning curve but it's visually and narratively more accessible for audiences, so it's had much better reception in the festival and online communities. 

Q2: How did the idea for 'Magic Show' come about?

There was a scheme called "Languages through Lenses" which funded short films which promoted multilingualism.  I had watched some of the previous films commissioned by the scheme and thought I'd send them a script. The look and feel of Magic Show was greatly inspired by the film maker Georges Méliès, his films are vibrant, eccentric and beautiful pieces to watch. I took inspiration from his settings and characters and applied them to a story which would convey the idea that multilingualism was beneficial and sometimes even life saving.

Q3: How was shooting on location? How does it differ from shooting in a more controlled environment like in a studio? 

Shooting on location will always be difficult, so many elements are out of your control and there's a real possibility,  almost an inevitability that things will go wrong. I've actually been on a couple of shoots where members of the crew have been assaulted by furiously drunk delinquents. Cameras and lights attract it. Luckily we had no problems on the Magic Show shoot, it went suspiciously well actually.. oh apart from a grip being hit in the groin by a log wielding Labrador but I got over that pretty quickly. 

Q4: What is it about the writing and directing process that you enjoy, what first attracted you to it?

Thats a really hard question, mainly because there are so many elements to it which I love. I'd say the overruling attraction would be the process of seeing characters and settings come to life. Each performer cast and each location locked is a part of a puzzle, it's really amazing watching a film come together. 

Q5: Having written and directed this film how do the two things differ and which do you prefer?

Well each of these disciplines require two entirely different skill sets,  they both however require a lot of passion and caffeine.  Overall I prefer directing over the very solitary job of screen writing. I love working with actors and shooting, nothing beats it. 

Q6: What advantages do you think short films have over feature length ones?

Short films are great ways to develop your skills and knowledge about the film making process.  To make one, short films are a lot more feasible and cheaper than feature length. The majority of fiction directors start off in shorts, it's the only real logical way of developing your craft. As well as defining the requirements of your own discipline it also forces you to work across many departments. This might make the whole experience more challenging but it will only make you a better, more considerate film maker in the future.

Another great thing about short films is that they tend to have small budgets and not that many people involved in the process, so the chances of the film keeping its artistic integrity, or its "voice" is a lot higher than a larger scale production. I think this is very important because short films are perfect to figure out how you work and what kind of film maker you are. 

Q7: How do you feel the film industry is changing? Particularly with
regards to technology, social media etc.

Recent developments in film making technology has made the film making process a lot easier and cheaper than ever before.  This is great! you can shoot it on your mobile phone, cut it on your tablet and then upload it to youtube all on the move. But when it comes to really learning the craft I think a more methodical approach is better, with all these corner cutting opportunities I think its important to go back to basics and learn traditional techniques.

The same rule applies to short film distribution. Over the past few years we've witnessed an incredible flux of short films on the web. Websites such as vimeo.com, youtube.com, dailymotion.com have made it easier than ever to share your work. However we see this divide in the different standard short films, a lot of the higher standard shorts go to festivals and don't appear on the web. I think its important to know from the start what you want your short film to become.. a viral hit? or a festival contender. 

Q8: What advice can you give to people wanting to become film-makers?

Build strong friendships and working relationships with passionate people and keep in contact with them, film making can't be done alone.  Also as most interviews and seminars with film makers say to this question,  go out and make a film! it's the only real way to learn the craft. 

Q9: What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that
you can tell us a bit about? 

I've got a couple of scripts in the bottom draw at the moment, I've recently been applying for various short film funds, hopefully someone will fund my next escapade soon.

Northwest five

on Wednesday, 20 March 2013.

northwest

North West Five

Q1: Tell us about yourself.. what's your background and how did you get into film-making?

I studied Film Production at University, which is the place that let me figure out my voice, what stories I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell them. Before that, it was Fistful of Dollars that made me interested in film. That was the thing I’d seen where I realised film wasn’t just a medium for keeping me entertained for an hour and a half, you could tell an interesting story with it. From that, strangely, I made my way into quite minimalist cinema - or I guess what I’d call minimalist - Dumont, Bartas, Tarkovsky, Alonso, those kind of film-makers. I produced a few shorts that are probably online in that kind of way, but nothing I was completely happy with. I have a feature film in post-production (39 Years) that is very minimalist that I think may have been what I wanted to say in that format. I think now I fit stylistically probably somewhere between a more traditional form of storytelling and that minimalist, stripped back
approach.

Q2: How did the idea for 'North West 5' come about?

That was the writer - George Miles. I don’t want to say anything on his behalf but he had a story he’d wanted to tell for a long time, I think. There were things I latched onto when I read the script that I think were a bit at odds to what George had, but somewhere in the middle we were able to
make the film I wanted to make and the film he wanted to make.

Q3: How was the film cast? Did you have actors in mind for each role or was the process more flexible?

We had a casting for Brian in London, met quite a few potential people and in the end settled on Paul Easom. What I felt was we had people coming in doing an interpretation of this character, Actor X doing his version of Brian, but when Paul came in you felt it in the room. He had a level of
vulnerability under a tough exterior - which was exactly what I was hoping to get. He has a voice gruffer than it sounds in the film, and a presence. I think when you see him on-screen though in his paint-stained jumper smoking a cigarette, he becomes Brian. He looks like a man who knows his
way around a fight but Paul was able to make those opening moments, lighting and smoking a cigarette, in my opinion at least, a little more tender than we might have expected. Sam, who played Shaun, I’d known before for a while, and seen him in a couple of short bits of work. Again for Shaun we did an audition, but  no-one managed to give the same wounded reading that Sam did. It was just seeing who felt right. I try not to go in with too many ideas already of what I’m looking for, but just see who interests me on the day. If I can sit and be entertained by an actor coming in and reading a scene, I think they can grab me when they are on-screen.

Q4: Filming at night comes with its own problems and challenges. Did you have problems because of this, and if so how did you overcome them?

We’d scoped out the area for a while, luckily. It would have been fairly impossible without doing that - looking for where street lamps were, what sort of textures and lighting could be achieved and how we could shape it. For the high-contrast look the overhead lighting was perfect. So we used
all natural sources, except for the park flashback scenes where we threw a few million candle-light power torches just to throw some texture in. The biggest problem was the cold. It was a few nights in November in London, absolutely freezing. I felt sorry, you know, that’s probably the worst thing making a film. Forcing these actors to do things in sometimes pretty terrible conditions, and I’m stood there in my jumper and coat and scarf asking for another take. We did have a nice moment where a woman living in the block of flats offered us all a hot drink at about midnight. Shooting in London was an absolute nightmare anyway, we were within Camden, so getting permission to film there took a substantial amount of time, then obviously there’s a host of issues around having a knife there and filming with that, and a fight scene on a street in front of a block of flats. I think by the time we’d got past all that and we were actually able to shoot the thing the cold was the last thing to worry about. For the crew, anyway. Sam and Paul will probably never forgive me for nearly freezing them to
death.

Q5: As a film-maker do you feel most comfortable working on films with a similar dark gritty atmosphere as 'North West 5' or are you just as happy taking on any project of any style?

I don’t see North West 5 as a gritty film, for me the film is about Brian, this man who can’t help but put himself into situations where he keeps letting people down and hurting his family. The grittiness of it, the conflict, the fight and all that, is all just there because of Brian. I was concerned slightly that the film might get pigeon-holed, and some interest lost because it’s so near a cliché - gritty urban drama with a youth wearing a hoodie. It was about trying to take that style of film and inject some story on a smaller scale. In 7 minutes I don’t think you’ve got enough time to say something meaningful about society on a larger scale, but you can give a small personal story that maybe in people’s mind can start to stretch out. The gritty urban feel was there to drop you into one night of heightened emotion and rushed decisions, these two characters converging at this central point of a block of flats, and let you latch on to these characters straight away. Giving a genre, or a look someone can identify with quickly helped us with this film to grab an audience and place them in the scene as quick as possible. What interests me is character, well-written characters that a film can
sink their teeth into. The follow up film I did again with George as the writer, Treading Water, is almost the opposite of this. It’s not gritty, mostly all daytime, set near a beach in the South West. But what interested both of us to that project again was crafting two compelling characters that we could build a story around. Without that for me it’s just not that interesting. Whether we did craft compelling characters is down to an audience to decide I guess.

Q6: Do you like to work closely with a writer whilst filming to create what they envisioned?

I have a tendency when writing scripts to write them as barebones and minimalist as possible, and it limits an audience. It also restricts me in the way that I want to tell stories, and I realised at University that there are plenty of people out there who can write a compelling character drama a thousand times better than I can, and George is one of those people. His scripts are fantastic, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to work with him on two shorts. The way we worked with North West 5 was very closely, too closely probably. There were a lot of arguments and storming out of rooms and shouting at each other about this. It’s hard, particularly when you’ve got two different viewpoints on the film, and you’re each selecting different meanings and parts that you feel are the major moments. Eventually we managed to work together to bring the script to   we both felt worked well, and all those arguments worked, you know, it was a tumultuous
relationship each time but I think the work we created was born out of that. It wouldn’t have been the same film if he just handed me the script and let me at it, and I’m grateful for it. The other thing I will say I had a close partnership with was editor Leanne Hayes. Leanne has a good quality of reigning me in, again, having produced two shorts with her as the editor, I’m grateful for both those chances, as no doubt the film produced would have been a lesser one. These partnerships in film making are what make it such an exciting and interesting medium for me, it’s not “A Film By...”, it’s every name you see at the end, and that’s what makes me want to make more.

Q7: How do you feel the film industry is changing? Particularly with regards to technology, social media etc.

It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to make good films. Camera tech is dropping price day by day, the tools are becoming cheaper, you know, so it’s just easier for more people to make films. Social media allows you to build and develop a base of people who are interested in your work and interested in working with you, and that’s amazing. I don’t know how people did it before social media - I don’t really want to have to worry about doing it without that. But everything is just converging to make it easier for people to make good, compelling films. Things like YouTube and Vimeo have also created a space for people to make different types of film. No longer are you limited to a 90 minute film or a 10 minute short - you can make a 7-piece series without worrying how people are going to see it, or a 30 second film or an 18 minute film or whatever you need to make, it can be done. Things like Catfish are showing as well that people aren’t worried about having the most expensive cameras and the best lenses, even using small compacts with movie record functions are fine as long you’re telling a good story. It’s an exciting time.

Q8: What advice can you give to people wanting to become directors and film-makers?

The obvious one I guess is just to make stuff. Find people who are similar to you in that you have  the drive to create something. I don’t think you need to like the same things, it’s better in my opinion if everyone’s influences are different, it makes a better environment for creating work. But just create things, go out and shoot and make and show it to people. North West 5 cost next to nothing to make, and people seem to be responding well to it. It’s not about money anymore, it’s about who is creative and driven. To be a director specifically, that’s a harder choice. I think indulge in all media, more than just TV and film, but read books, play games, write, study photography. The more you can understand about media and storytelling and characters, the better equipped you will be. And talk to people, understand what makes people tick - the easiest to do is yourself. Figure out what drives you, what makes you interested and bored, what drives you in life, and that’s what you need to apply to your direction of actors and film. The better you can understand people, the more realistic, or the more you can extract from a character on-screen.

Q9: What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us a bit about?

I’ve recently finished a documentary on British wrestling and I’m in discussions with a few places about what can be done with that. It chronicles what a life in wrestling might be like, with interviews from wrestlers as young at 17 through to those in their 70’s. It was sort of a passion project for me as a bit of a wrestling geek. I’m also in post on a feature narrative called 39 Years that hopefully will be completed soon. It’s a silent contemplative film about the breakdown of a couple’s marriage. - currently we’ve got a really talented musician scoring the film. The next project to shoot is a short web-series focused on a small family and their interactions, set over a few days. 

enJoy Film - Window

on Wednesday, 13 March 2013.

Q1: Tell us a bit about 'Window' Where did the idea for the film come from?

Window is a short stop motion animation about a little girl who visits her Grandma's old house and her unsettling surroundings begin to creep into her dreams. The film focuses on the idea of how the sights, sounds and experiences of your environment can affect your subconscious. We wanted to make a film that involved multiple animation styles and challenged us to use more complex filming and editing techniques, and we felt that representing dreams was the ideal way to do this. Window uses three different animation styles; claymation, hand drawn animation and 2D puppetry. We made all of these by hand and shot each sequence separately in stop motion, we then layered each set of footage on top of each other using green screen and motion techniques within the editing software.


Q2: Sound design is one of the major factors when producing an animation, do you create all your own sound effects for your films, if so how do you go about it?

For Window we were intending on recording as much of the sound ourselves as possible, however the project was taking longer than we expected so to save time we ended up using royalty free sound effects as there are many fantastic online resources for these, and it meant that we could pretty much find any sound that we wanted. Sound does play a massive part in our films, especially as they have all been non-verbal so far so the storytelling relies entirely on visuals and sound. We have used original music in a couple of our films; for our first film, Joy, we employed a freelance musician to compose an original score that helped drive the story along and added to its emotive nature, and we have also created an animated music video. With Window we wanted to generate a more experimental soundscape, rather than using a musical soundtrack, to represent the disconcerting atmosphere of the old house.

 

Q3: The sets And Character models look like they have had a lot of care and attention put into them, how long does it take to build all these things?

The making process took a lot longer than usual for Window as we have had quite a busy year, we spent around ten months making the set model and character. As there is only one set in Window we could have made this within a couple of months if we had been working on it full time. In the end our procrastination turned out to be rather beneficial as it gave us more time to develop the ideas and storyboard, so we feel that we have a better end product for taking our time. We are both trained in model making so having detailed models is particularly important to us and we thoroughly enjoy the process and giving ourselves new challenges, like having a moving prop for example.

 

Q4: 'Window' deals with the idea of dreams, is this something that you are interested in when it comes to animating because of the surreal possibilities it comes with?

Yes definitely, we wanted to do something slightly more experimental. We dabbled with the idea of dreams in our first film, Joy, where we had string puppets representing dream characters and we liked the scope this gave us for using a different animating technique within a claymation film, to represent a subconscious world. We wanted to try out drawn animation and felt that using this style would enable us to create something more abstract and surreal, as there's no end to the possibilities of what you can draw, but keeping this within the realistic framework of the bedroom setting to distinguish between reality and dream.

 

Q5: What advice can you give to people wanting to become an animator?

Just animate something! With the exception of our first film we are entirely self-funded, and both have day jobs as well as animating. It can be done on the cheap, there's some very reasonably priced animation software out there, we paid around £20 for ours and it gives you the ability to edit the whole film including sound, although we prefer to use Final Cut Pro. We do have to pay for model making materials but we spend less than £100 on materials for each film and we recycle a lot of our materials, I think we have used the same set base in 3 films now, but other forms of animation are even cheaper on materials. There are also lots of short film competitions online where you respond to a brief, this gives you a starting point and helps to generate ideas. Four of our films are responses to online competition briefs, which are between 10 and 25 seconds long. Once you've got a film just get it out there, make contacts and have it shown at local events, make good use of social media and online arts platforms to drum up some interest. Neither of us trained in animation, so for us it's just a matter of trial and error and experimenting, if it's the process of making and animating that you love you don't necessarily need to do it as a job, just do it for yourself.

 

Q6: What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us a bit about?

We have two film ideas that should take up the rest of this year. We are currently starting work on a very short animation that will be around 90 seconds long, after spending a long time on Window we just want to do a short project to keep the momentum going. The story is inspired by our travels to China, but we don't want to give too much away! After that we have plans for a series of very short animations that will eventually be put together to create one film, and this will be very character driven, focusing on facial expression and perhaps even including some speech for the first time. We will also be releasing Window online at some point in the summer, once it have been shown at a few events. 

Dermot Daly - One Life For Each Of Us - Chocolate Bear

on Thursday, 28 February 2013.

onelife6

Tell us about yourself. What is your background and how did you get into film-making, and do you prefer acting or directing?
I started to pretend to be other people in my early teens. Like many film-makers I got into this world of storytelling almost by accident. I understand the process of film making from the front end of the camera. I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing creatives and talent, but was always intrigued by the production process, so much so that I had a go, and really enjoyed it. I started an affiliation with a video production company we made a few corporate shorts, a music video/mini doc and a few short shorts. A sharp, steep learning curve. I learnt a lot from the association and also from just watching and listening; it all just went from there. I'm lucky to have some really good contacts in the industry who have lent a hand and offered advice. The first short we made as Chocolate Bear travelled the seven seas and won us our first award! That said I wouldn't like to choose between working in front of or behind the camera, each area has its own inherent pleasures and hangups.

Tell us about 'One Life For Each Of Us' Where did the idea for the
 film come from?
I try to make films that examine the human condition, which sounds a damned sight more grandiose than it actually is. The idea for this film came from a myriad of sources. The title is a truncation of 'There's just one life for each of us our own' which is a quote attributed to the Greek tragedian Euripides which should give you a good idea of the films subtext. The idea that we all create the world in which we live, literally and metaphorically, can be quite tragic I think but sometimes is almost a necessity. The name of the lead character, Rhea Atë, literally translated is 'mother of delusion'.

How was the film cast? Did you have actors in mind for each role or was the process more flexible?
I was casting for a short with the video production company and Beth came in and was brilliant,  although not quite right for that gig. I knew at that point that I had to work with her so always had her in mind for something. That something just so happened to be this. As for the rest of the casting, it was based around who was right. That said, Gemma Head, who was one of the casting associates on this one, gifted us Simone (Lewis) who is a phenomenal actress and massively changed the dynamic of the last scene, so much so that we moved things around to get more of her on screen!

'One life for all of us' seems to have quite a muted colour palette, would you say this an intentional stylistic choice?
Completely intended. The story is king and the look of a film is an extra actor. I absolutely adore Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy so I am constantly aiming to make films as beautiful and loaded as those three masterpieces.

The film is quite dark but understated at the same time making the darkness of it more subtle. Was this intentional?
I think that if you make something overtly obvious it takes away some of the viewing pleasure, I like films that allow you to think. The best films, in my opinion, are the ones that you can't quite shake the day after. The ones that challenge your preconceptions, or demand another view, or simply, the ones that can still yield something after repeated watching. Audiences deserve respect, and a challenge. Life isn't always black and white and the grey area is where the fun is.

How was the filming process?
The shoot was fairly painless and worked perfectly on schedule. We shot in Halifax, Elland and Leeds (prizes for anyone who can name all of the locations) and wrapped in two days. I think that if you get your casting right you needn't really do much and the style of filming that I'm aiming for gives actors the space to perform. That said, we could probably do a small blooper reel with just Beth, she has a very expressive face and knows how to use it, there was most definitely laughter. And swearing.

Do you think if you had a higher budget the aesthetic of the film would change?
I don't think the aesthetic would change but I'd definitely love to have an outside caterer. Having a limited budget forces you to be more creative.

How do you feel the film industry is changing? Particularly with regards to technology, social media etc.
The film industry will always exist; we will always need to tell stories. I am, however loving the fact that films made away from Hollywood, in addition to art-houses, are being shown at sensible times in multiplexes, and getting coverage in the mainstream media, it's vital that we share our shared humanity as widely as possible. Technology is definitely making it easier to make films (that said, is a film still a film when its made digitally?), and easier to distribute them, but, like the music industry, there will always still be the monoliths who will dictate what is mass marketed. Social media, however, is really helping to circumvent that trend and helping to connect people. We had a film screened in South Korea last year and got instant feedback from the screenings, This would never have happened even 5 years ago!

Do you have any advice for aspiring film makers?
To quote Yoda. "Do. Or do not. There is no try".

What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that
 you can tell us a bit about?
There's always something, but isn't that the way? There's talk of getting at least two (narrative) shorts out this year under our own steam and working on at least one co-production. We're currently working a triptych series based around poems and sonnets - we're one and a half in.

Tom Didlock - Chicken Shop Shakespeare - King Leah

on Monday, 25 February 2013.

tom-didlock-

We first discovered you in the works of Rob Blake. Could you tell us how this came about?

I first met Rob and Silas Parry through an old friend of mine who had spoken to him and mentioned that he was looking out for actors in Leeds as he had a film company with some other people. They were looking to make new projects in and around Leeds, so my friend took his card and it went from there really.

Start by telling us a little about yourself and how you got involved with acting?

I’ve always been into films first and foremost, when I was a kid I was always learning huge monologues from films if I connected with the material, or if it inspired me it just stuck in my head. Strange how the human brain works like that. Theatre would be my second choice but only because film was a world outside of the normal world. As a kid in South Yorkshire imagination is an important thing, so running round your garden thinking it is a jungle can be lots of fun. Theatre and film both have qualities and differences which is why they are both so unique. From working on projects in both theatre and film you get to see the other side of how things get created to the final end product, as opposed to being an audience member.

For the people who don’t already know, could you tell us a little about what ‘Chicken Shop Shakespeare’ is all about?

It all started (roughly) from two talented actors named Tyron Maynard and Lldel Bryant who wanted to film some Shakespeare monologues and sonnets with Rob, but in an urban setting, and it kind of evolved from there really I guess.

So what chicken shop is doing is basically bringing Shakespearean words to urban settings, which is interesting to see as a lot of the issues in Shakespeare are still relevant today. In the end people are people and we ALL go through these feelings and emotions in our lives, which is why I feel Shakespeare is still so relevant today.

As an actor however the process (for me) for doing chicken shop involves a lot more than just learning the lines it’s more like this:

1- Learn the lines and transcribe it into modern language.

2- Understand what it’s about.

3- See how the performance would work in a modern setting, IE an argument in a bus stop, or a monologue in an office, that sort of thing.

The more you research the more ideas are there to be tried out.

I think those guys are aiming to take this urban style of working into schools. 

Rob Blake’s film work definitely has its own particular ‘gritty’ feel about it, which to us seems quite relatable. Do you prefer to work with films of this nature?

In some ways yes, and others no because I love acting in a naturalistic style because it feels more real to me, but as an actor I feel it’s important to try out a whole range of different genres to open up your abilities as a performer. The process and journey can take you to different places, to find the real depth of a character or a storyline whether its through  personal experience or not. Through this you keep things exciting as opposed to being type cast; although having a certain type can sometimes work in your favour for casting directors.

It is at this point that I must mention that working with Rob Blake is always both a joy and a challenge as he always pushes you in different directions as an actor , he’s someone up north who makes work I just found an instant connection with. All the projects I’ve worked on with him big or small are always interesting and inspiring. 

We understand that you are not just an actor but also the drummer of the band Oblong. Do you have a preference over acting or music or are they both equal passions?

Oblong, wow you’ve done your research there, that was years ago. That was a strange time for me, loads of things all seemed to happen at once A brilliant singer, a girl named Tracy Deakin told me she needed a drummer for her band. It was the launch night of this is England 86, we talked about music at the after party for hours and got along really well. I said I hadn’t played in a long time due to living in various rented houses and so on, I told her of course I would love to play. Playing drums is hours and hours of fun, one of the few things I don’t seem to struggle with. So yes there both just as much fun in different ways, if I could only choose one we could be here all day.

How do you relate to the king Lear piece you are performing?

I suppose it’s that feeling for him of alienation, which everyone has felt at some point in their life.

How do you feel Shakespeare translates into the 'gritty' style in which the film is done, what do you think makes it work well?

I did have a few beers before we shot that thing, and I think it gave me the rage. On a serious note I just reacted to everything around me while it was there in front of me and that’s just how it turned out, an in the moment kind of thing.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring actors, and any advice in how to get involved in films?

If you want to get noticed then realistically you need to make a show reel and send it to all the casting directors and agents. In regards to theatre I would say try and get involved in loads of plays and or performances, people will see you there and treading the boards is very important for an actor.  But really just try and make lots of work, the more you do the more you will understand your craft  I suppose.

Are there any projects you will be working on in the future we should look out for?

Me and an old friend who produces, DJ’s and makes artwork have been making music together down at the enjoy art space. We go down there and just see what comes out of playing around with sounds. We have around 6 or 7 tracks that are more or less finished, so were hoping to send them off to some labels once they have been recorded.

Acting wise I did a project  with Rob Blake  but it’s not finished yet. I've been speaking to some new and upcoming directors in Leeds so hopefully we should have some new stuff out soon.  

Sean Conway Alex and Her Arse Truck

on Thursday, 14 February 2013.

alex1

Q1: Tell us about yourself, what's your background and how did you get
into film-making?

I'm 32, I come from Batley West Yorkshire, the best town in the world.
I fell into film-making by accident. I had always loved writing, drawing and thinking up little scenes, but didn't think it was something someone could actually make a career out of. I come from a big family where the men have "real" jobs, they dig holes, they fix things, they do things with their hands, and I was always shit at stuff like that. So in order to avoid getting a "proper" job I went to University in Manchester to do English Literature. I got kicked off that course. I then did Film & Visual Media. Got kicked off that course too. Then I moved to Newcastle and
enrolled in a Media Production course, it was a real eye opener, all the kids there seemed to know what they wanted to be, what they wanted to do. I got my head down and started writing. I ended up writing a feature film script that I sold to Rankin (the fashion photographer) and got an agent straight out of University. I also wrote and directed a short film there that won a few awards and did pretty well on the festival circuit, and things went from there.

Q2: Tell us about 'Alex and her Arse Truck.' Where did the idea for the
film come from?

The title is a really obscure reference, Alexander Astruc is the
French film critic who coined the term "caméra-stylo" auteur theory, that a
director should write the camera as a writer writes with a pen. Initially I'd wanted to do a character study about a dude who gets aroused by his own jealousy, but I kept having all these crazy visual ideas, crazy dialogue ideas and thought "fuck it" throw them all in together. I think you can afford to do that in the short form. Throw enough shit, some of it sticks. I don't think Arse Truck would work as a 90 minute feature.

Q3: How was the film cast? Did you have actors in mind for each role or
was the process more flexible?

I found the cast wherever I could, none of them are actors. I'd known Danny (Baby Shoes) for years, he's from Batley, and I just knew he was perfect for the part. I'd seen Gina modelling for a clothes company. They're both perfect for their roles.

Q4: 'Alex...' has a similar feel to it as work by writers like Irvine
Welsh or Chuck Palahniuk. Who would you say are your inspirations?

I think I am more influenced by (literature) writers rather than
(film) directors, not sure why that is. I love Welsh, Palahniuk, writers who punch you in the face and then run away, leaving you feeling like what the fuck just happened? Short films and short stories are a better comparison than short films to feature films, different beasts. To me, Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson is perfection.

Q5: 'Alex...' contains fairly taboo subject matter. What is it about
darker subjects that appeals to you as a film-maker?

The subject matter is a little taboo but who cares? Let's just do
it, sexual desire frames our behaviour, controls our moods. I always found it odd at festival screenings when people objected to the sexual nature of the film yet didn't say anything about the other short where one guy kills another with an axe or whatever. We have an odd attitude towards sex, especially in the UK.

Q6: How did the BIFA nomination come about? How did it feel to be
nominated?

I can't remember how the BIFA nomination came about, but it felt
great. I went down there with my producer Ash Horner, Danny and Gina,
and we all got shit faced and danced.

Q7: How do you feel the film industry is changing? Particularly with
regards to technology, social media etc.

I am scared to death of technology, I am scared to death of social
media, I'm a total Luddite. I love my pen and paper. If you have a
camera, point it at something, if you have a platform to show your films,
then do it.

Q8: What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that
you can tell us a bit about?

After Arse Truck I wrote a feature-length movie called Brilliantlove
which screened at Tribeca, but other than that, films (shorts or features)
are so hard to get financing for, especially in the UK. I've been developing a feature film Young Gods with Pinball Films (the company I work with in Newcastle) for years, but no one seems willing to take the risk,
its frustrating, so I've been working in TV quite a lot. Paul Abbott
saw (and loved) Arse Truck and took me on as a writer at his studio in Manchester  the first thing I worked on there was Hit & Miss, which ended up being a series on Sky Atlantic starring Chloe Sevigny. I'm currently living in LA, writing on a new series for Showtime called Ray Donovan.

Ed Greenberg (Beyond The Bar) - The Renata Road

on Monday, 28 January 2013.

ed greenberg renata road

Tell us about yourself. What's your background and how did you get into filmmaking?

I actually began my career as an actor. I lived in London, where I did my training, and stayed there for the best part of eleven years. It was whilst I was living there that I had the good fortune and opportunity to direct a number of plays and from there my career just took off in a totally new direction. I moved away from the stage and on to film, eventually moving back up North to re-study, completing a BA and MA in film production.  I started up my company Beyond The Bar in 2008 and never looked back.

Tell us about 'The Renata Road.' Where did the idea for the film come from?

I’ve always had a great interest in human psychology and of our instinctual drives and desires. The mind is a fascinating place. So much goes on that we have no awareness and no control over. With The Renata Road, I wanted to explore what could happen when the conscious and unconscious mind had opposing desires, how could that conflict be resolved? What kind of effect would it have not only upon the individual but also on those around him?

There's a level of mystery to the film ('The Man' having no name and his lack of dialogue, for example), how do you feel this affects the film?

When it comes down to my own style of filmmaking I’m certainly not an advocate of passive viewing. One of the major aims of this piece was to ensure that the audience were provided with both an entertaining and challenging narrative and something that would activate the grey matter and encourage interpretation. There is an underlying truth to the film, but it’s never made explicit, it presents itself as a mystery that can be solved by the viewer, that wants to be solved by the viewer - we just don’t highlight the clues or provide the map.  The fact that no one is referred to by name and that the protagonist never speaks are both vital elements required to unlock its secret.

How much pre-production goes into your films?  Do you go in with a set story and script or is there flexibility in the filming process?

It can vary from project to project, but it always boils down to one thing; what is best for the film. It doesn’t matter if you’re making a film for £5million, £5,000 or for £5 (which this was); it is always about the best way to treat the material or brief. 

On the whole, that will involve plenty of pre-production and planning and yes, this will mean that the story is set and that the script is thoroughly researched and prepared but there is always some room for evolution. Until that first day on set I am always open to playing with new ideas, as long as they are justified. 

I have a very organic way of working with my crew and my cast in particular - we explore the characters and situations together and often new elements will grow out of the rehearsal process that had never been considered before, elements that ultimately enhance the final film.

How do you feel the film industry is changing?  Particularly with regards to technology, social media etc.

I’m sorry, what is this CGI and Facebook?

What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us a bit about?

The biggest news we have this year is that a feature film version of The Renata Road is on its way. It is in pre-production at the moment and is scheduled to shoot in June.

One of the most exciting aspects of the project is that it is 100% home-grown - all cast, crew, services, everyone and everything is being sourced from the North West.

This is a major step forward for Northern Independent cinema and we’re looking to give our region a global, not just a national voice.

The film sources the same premise from of the original short (i.e. the stranger and the hotel) but the content has evolved considerably. It took over a year of research and development to get the script to a point where we were happy to go ahead and green light it.  One developer had this to say about the film:

“If Lost Highway, Exterminating Angel and Lost in Translation were ever to procreate; this would be their bastard offspring.”

Thanks Ed for telling us about The Renata Road.  The Renata Road will be screened as part of the Hush Hush Film Night on the 31st of January at The Base.

If you would like to get involved in the feature length production of The Renata Road the project is still fundraising and will benefit greatly from anything that you can contribute.  Crewing and casting has also begun and Beyond The Bar would love to hear from anyone who would like to be involved.  For more information visit the film site at www.beyondthebar.co.uk/renataroad, or you can meet Ed at the Hush Hush Film Night on Thursday 31st January.

Rob Blake – What You On About

on Monday, 21 January 2013.

rob blake what you on about

Tell us about yourself. What's your background and how did you get into filmmaking?

I started in art really, went to the Art College in Leeds, then Glasgow School of Art. I worked in a lot of places and always organized events - free parties, club nights, boule tournaments etc. and was a projectionist and sound engineer in east London for a bit then came back to Leeds, did another degree and built a company, left it and now I’m skint and working on zero budget projects.  I should note here that pretty much all my best work has been in collaboration with Silas Parry, who is a bonafide living genius.

Tell us about 'What You On About.'  Where did the idea for the film come from?

We just wanted to make something really, I loved the cast that we’d built up through chickenshop ( www.chickenshopshakespeare.com ) and wanted to make something quick and cheap.  Me and Silas Parry had a week spare and basically forced it to happen. It’s based very loosely on the lives of our friends - it feels true to my world in Leeds.  The cast were great, special mention to Laura Mills (who hadn’t acted since school, and was brilliant www.soundcloud.com/mting ) and big thanks to Senseless Records (www.senselessrecords.co.uk) for providing the music and the Hyde Park Picture House (www.hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk) for letting us screen it there for cheap. Thanks to everyone else involved!

Did you decide from the start that the script would be improvised?  

Yeah, it just makes things a lot more real – I cringe at awkward dialogue, where an actor recites someone else’s words. In low budget productions you’re better off getting the point of a scene over to the actors so they know what has happened and what needs to by the end of the scene.  I think actors should be involved in the process of defining their own character.

Did you feel this offered more flexibility when filming? Were there any problems or times when a written script would've worked better?

The opposite – it makes it really difficult to cut because it’s never the same, but the trade off is with a more convincing performance and it’s much quicker because mistakes aren’t mistakes, and I like that POV one take style.  Its all well and good having a proper script when you have money and when cast have time, but everyone had other jobs, so we just workshopped the scenes based on a story structure and refined the improvised rehearsals.

We heard the film was made for just £8, was the lack of a budget particularly limiting or did it inspire you to use what you had in a more creative way?

I’ve never had much money to make projects with so it’s not a massive change.  I always try and share cash equally – generally everyone gets paid the same on my shoots, which is stupid but I’m militantly ethical about such things.  Money is weird because a little bit is worse than none – if you start to pay people then it doesn’t stop, especially because none of the films I like making generate income.

Has moving to Berlin offered any new opportunities or a change to your style of work?

I guess, I’m still settling in over there, it’s such a fun city.  Gritty realist drama is not really on the cards because it’s a different society, and thankfully they don’t seem to have the class based inequality that has been a focus of some of my recent work. The level of talent over there is phenomenal and there are so many people to collaborate with. I’m looking forward to making much more imaginative films, sci-fi etc.

What was it about Berlin that inspired you to work there?  Do you still feel a connection to Leeds?

Leeds is home and I’ll always want to go raving and make work there but everything is becoming a fucking Tesco Metro.  People are genuinely excited about the new shopping centre - I’ll never understand that.  There are advantages of course, space is cheap, the people are great and it’s a good place to start a career because you’re not swamped by competition as you might be in London for instance.  Berlin is incredible, that’s all I can say about it.

What are your future plans?  Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us a bit about?

I’m working on some fairly graphic stuff, taboos that existed before seem laughable, and it’s a good time to mess with them. Another sci-fi film, some music videos, a commercial or two, some documentaries and maybe some art based projects as well just to keep life fresh. Exciting times.

Finally, what advice would you give to new and aspiring filmmakers in Leeds?

It all starts with actors.  To me a good performance shot on a camera phone is better than something average shot on a Red camera with a track, smoke machine and lighting set up.  Just make stuff I guess. Get on with it!

www.robblake.tv

Lauren Pissochet - Reflections

on Thursday, 17 January 2013.

lauren pissochet reflections

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.  What’s your background and how did you get into filmmaking?

 

Primarily I'm a Fine Art Photographer, concentrating on personal work, reflecting upon the emotional and psychological well being of our human condition. When I am not creating, I am working for an Arts charity that supports individuals with acute & enduring mental ill health through artistic recovery.

I studied at Leeds College of Art, graduating with a photography degree in 2011. I also minored in videography and experimental drawing. Before this my life revolved around Art, Dance, Performing Arts and taking photos of everything. 

I've never wanted to be a filmmaker, I just happen to be very much in love with two art practices that are opposite, photography and dance, one is still and the other live. I got into filmmaking because it gave me the power to make imagery move. Another thing that is fascinating about filmmaking is that it totally relies on team working, it has taught me a lot so far and I try to bring those lessons learnt into my photographic practice where it fits. Making photography/art independently can be quite lonely sometimes, so it's always good to bring in different influences. 

What were the ideas and concepts behind reflections?

So many things combined. It was originally made for the '2.8 Days Later' Film Challenge in association with Trinity Leeds and Left Eye Blind. It was choreographed, directed/shot & edited in 2.8 days. 

The short film is about fusing visual and performance art together to show different peoples views of themselves whilst not being to literal to the stimulus ‘Reflections’. We see individuals looking at internal reflection and duos commenting on each other in the environments they were given. The film juxtaposes different environments from several performances to add overall reflection to the short as well as in the individual movements the performers display. 

In the film it is about watching a sensitive and brash look at 6 peoples inner feelings, both independently or with someone else. On the other hand, the making of the film was about the practice of merging dancers/performance artist with filmmakers/ visual artists. Though the live/visual concepts created between myself & the performers became the core of this experiment in order pull everything together.  

 

What is it about dance and performance art that inspires you?

 

Doing it makes me feel alive and watching it make me feel alive. Since I was really little I would spend hours and hours daydreaming (without controlling it, like a meditation) and dancers would appear constantly bringing me ideas. I've always said that real dancers aren't fully human, there is something quite mystical about them, they push real physical boundaries making them look easy. Dance and Performance can make you forget what is real and what is not, what is possible and what is not, for a moment, and I love that. It's nurturing for me. Another thing that inspires me about dance and performance art is that it's a universal language, anybody around the world can watch the same thing as you and understand it in a similar way (like music without lyrics) I like that it encourages you to use a different part of your brain, translating symbols the same way you do after waking up from a dream. 

 

What are your future plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?

 

I've recently started to focus on a new conceptual project I've been wanting to create for quite a while. Exploring wildness and the deep psychological rooted side of femininity through photography and perhaps video art. It's at the beginning stage so I'm not really sure where it will go… I made 'Reflections' for fun and experimentation when I had just graduated, since then I have travelled India for a short time and want to go back again for a longer period of time (which can feel like a creative project in itself!), I made bits of photographic and film work (alone and with others) here and there and now I'm trying this thing where I am slowing my creative process right down so that I can be more concise and inject more quality in what I do "Less is More" as they say. 

Enjoy Films Interview questions

on Monday, 14 January 2013.

Monday, 14 January 2013

enjoy film burnt trees

Tell us a bit about yourself.  What's your background and how did you get into filmmaking?

We both come from an art and design background and both separately studied Performance Design and met whilst working as design assistants on a site specific performance for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009. We were both trained in model making on our respective degrees, but Elizabeth specialised in filmmaking whilst Bob developed more puppetry skills, so animation seemed like the natural progression to culminate all of our interests. We formed enJoy in 2011 when we received funding for our first animation project.

Tell us a bit about 'Burnt Trees.'  Where did the idea for the film come from?

The band had very specific ideas as to the direction they wanted the film to go in, but they were very flexible on the style of animation so we had a very solid starting point to progress from. The film essentially expresses the main theme of the song; the cyclical nature of destruction and re-growth. The film sees a soulless character wandering through a desolate landscape that has just suffered a huge fire. As she wanders the earth begins to repair itself and flowers and trees grow in her wake; once the character sees the beauty that has grown from destruction she lights a match to continue the cycle. This was the first time that we had animated objects as well as an armature, and the trees were a massive test of our patience but we were pleased with the results, particularly the flowering buds. 

How is ‘Burnt Trees’ made?  Is it all through the use of models and stop motion or is there a certain amount of computer editing involved?

Yes, everything you see in any of our films is hand made and manipulated by hand whilst shooting in stop motion. We do use some computer editing techniques to enhance the aesthetic or create effects, but we don’t generate imagery through computers. In Burnt Trees we simply added an effect to our footage to give it an older, crackling feel to complement the music and tint the colouring. In other films we have utilised green screen techniques to layer footage; but whatever footage we layer is also hand made and shot separately in stop motion.

What is it about the use of models that appeals to you as filmmakers?

We are very interested in using more traditional methods of animation in a time when computer generated imagery is taking precedence.  The fact that the filmmaking process is evident in the final film really appeals to us, as it’s the imperfections that come out of model making and shooting in stop motion that gives claymation such strong character, which is sometimes lacking in CGI films. We also like the idea of using a technique that is most often used in children’s film for making films that appeal to adults and tackle difficult or obscure themes. Adam Elliot’s ‘Mary and Max’ was a massive inspiration to us in this respect. As with any method that is no longer the cutting edge, there will always be nostalgia and an audience for stop motion and traditional crafts, and we aim to continue working in this method.

How is it working in a partnership? Do you find one of you will naturally take the lead on a project or do you both have equal creative input?

Our partnership works really well. We had worked on live performance projects together before forming enJoy, so we knew we would make a good team. We do have our specific areas of responsibility in that Bob manages the technical areas whilst Elizabeth manages the admin and promotional side. In terms of the projects usually the initial idea for a film will stem from one of us, but from that point on we have equal creative input in developing the idea, storyboarding, designing and making. We both have our creative strengths and they complement each other very well, so we don’t have too many arguments about who will make what!

How did you get involved with Heavy Dials?

The band had initially expressed an interest in composing the soundtrack to our first film, they were on our short list as we liked their style, but weren’t quite what we were looking for at the time. We kept in touch through Twitter and when the band put out an advert for an animator to make a video for the track we responded straight away and it went from there.

How do you feel the film industry is changing?

Social media has definitely provided a massive platform for independent filmmakers; you can effectively promote yourself for free. We’ve gradually built up our contacts and had our work screened at many events, and most of these are arranged through Twitter or Facebook. Video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo also open your work up to a massive global audience. We have entered a few short film competitions and responded to briefs set online, and we received funding for our first film through an online arts organisation so it enables filmmakers to set up new partnerships, projects and collaborations as well as promoting the end result. If you don’t have an online presence these days you may as well not exist, but it’s easy to get lost in the online world; it’s still just as important to physically get out there and network.

What are your future plans?  Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us a bit about?

We are currently working on another stop motion animation called ‘Window’; we’ve been making the models since the summer and are hoping to have completed the filming before the New Year. We are using three different types of animation: models, puppets and drawn animation, all shot in stop motion that will be layered on top of each other. So in effect we’re having to shoot the film three times. Using different techniques in the same film is something we have tried before and found effective so we are taking that to the next level with this film. We will submit the film to various events to hopefully be screened in the new year, then we will release it online.

Thanks to Elizabeth and Bob of enJoy for taking the time to be interviewed.  Come along to January’s film club to see ‘Burnt Trees’ and many other great short films!

Follow enJoy Film on Twitter: @enjoy_film

Like enJoy Film on Facebook: Facebook.com/enJoyfilm