Thursday, 31 December 2015

Moving into 2016 (31/12/2015)

So another year, another rollecoaster ride in life. Many highlights (like graduation and the birth of my darling little nephew, Elias) and many down points (the loss of good old Keith and the subsequent collapse of original development plans for Very Strange Things) but at the end, still have my family and still have my health. That's what counts.

So, looking ahead, what do I have up my sleeve for 2016? Well first, I'll be pushing harder than ever before for Very Strange Things (even recently put up some new goodies on the official blog for it: http://verystrangethingsanimated.blogspot.com/), and have been sending out submissions to just about every eligible animation firm in the UK, which is no easy or short affair! So far, got a few yes, a few nos and a lot of 'dead silence'. Keeping my fingers crossed that that may begin to change, and serious development can once again re-open. I do have one potentially strong lead, but I can't discuss more as of yet.

Next, I'll doing more drafts of The Master Heist, my comedy play. It's been quite a bit of fun, as well as a bit of hair pulling here and there, to write and I am keen to keep on expanding and experimenting with what a One Act play can deliver. With any sliver of luck, should be ready to start submitting to an assortment of festivals in late January. Similar story with my Doctor Who short story, Iron Joe.


Third, and probably biggest, Econ Films are branching out into commercial features and are testing new screenwriters to write a sci-fi/fantasy comedy, something in the vein of Groundhog Day. I'll be throwing in my hat with a few samples (as per their request) and see where that leads. Naturally, this is a big deal: if either or both this and the play work out, this will be a massive boon to my credentials as a writer, and make the process of getting other material, maybe even an agent, substantially easier.


And well, that's all I can say for now. Naturally, be sure to check out my Deviantart page, SavageScribe, for more writing goodness, including my fan series Black Butler: Blood Winter, now on its fourth installment. Who knows where the road will lead, but all the same, best wishes to all my readers for a truly special and happy 2016!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Another 'Master Heist' draft underway (18/12/2015)

While I may not be working at my ideal top speed, mostly due to a combination of the cold as well as some outside frustration relating to employment, I can announce that work on the second draft of my one act comedy The Master Heist is underway. With any luck, by week's end that should be done, and then a third draft not too long after that.


Hopefully, it should be ready by about mid January, barring unforeseen circumstances, and be ready to go off to a few competitions.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Newest projects and a V.S.T update (7/12/2015)

So then, time for some news. What's going on?

Well first off, an important update on the progress of my animated show, Very Strange Things:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbEtqbxnfak

Second off, my new projects: A family feature entitled Boy in The Garden, where a young girl is evacuated to the country during WW2 and discovers an unusual boy who appears only at night, and a One Act comedy play entitled The Master Heist about what may be the single greatest robbery perpetrated in British History, or that's at least what Barry would like to think...

Progress has been slow, but quite steady, with the first draft of Master Heist in the bag.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Black Butler: Blood Winter - An all new fan series (19/11/2015)

 From the writer of "Black Butler II: Trancy's Tale" comes "Black Butler: Blood Winter", a 13 episode horror mystery-thriller series, set at the tail end of the 1910s, the era of WW1. In 1918, 13 year old Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaevich and his family, the royal Romanovs, are murdered in the cellar of a mansion in Yekatarinberg, Russia, by their guards. Their bodies are disposed of in the freezing woodland. Near dead and badly wounded, exacerbated by his hemophilia, Alexei uncovers a small hut with an unusual old woman inside: she is Baba Yaga, a malevolent demon of Russian folklore. Burning with rage, the boy makes a deal with the crone: she will help him avenge his family, and in return, he will surrender his soul to her.

Now in the guise of an upper class nanny/governess, Baba Yaga, now named Miss Beatrice Yagovich, assists her young master as they travel across 1919 Eastern Europe, hunting down supernatural chaos of every shape and size (from parasitic demons and freakshows to enormous wolves, mad monks and cursed artifacts), all the while pursuing the real architect of the Romanovs' murder, and a very infamous face from Russia's past... 


Like its predecessor, ''Blood Winter'' will be presented as a series of animation teleplays, uploaded bi-monthly. Enjoy the first episode here now:
http://savagescribe.deviantart.com/art/Black-Butler-Blood-Winter-Episode-1-572178709

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Spiderfly - My first written short film, now available (13/10/2015)

So after a few months of post production difficulties, you can finally view my first short film writing credit, the romantic thriller SpiderFly. Huge thanks to the production team for having faith in my skills and seeing this through to the end.


Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/139926786
And naturally, if you can, comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. Sharing helps too!

Friday, 11 September 2015

What's in store - Black Butler, Sherlock Holmes and pilots (11/9/2015)

Okay my dears, I have returned home, refreshed from my little holiday in Spain. Helped clear my mind after a rather turbulent few months, So, I do indeed have a few things in store for you in the near future:

Well, there's one more little surprise as far as my deviantart project, Trancy's Tale, is concerned, as well as more Doctor Who-centric critical content with Series 9 coming soon to the website. Of course, I'll let you know news on the Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes short stories as they develop (the former should have feedback within the next week, while the latter is still in the judging stage), and I'm hard at work on retooling the pilot for Very Strange Things, now that I've gained some much needed perspective. More news here on the official blog: http://verystrangethingsanimated.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/very-strange-things-back-to-fighting.html

So, thanks for all the continued support over the summer and into the future, and hope I continue to impress everyone. I feel I'm beginning to come into my own, and I expect developments before too long.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Black Butler II: Trancy's Tale - Making Of and Sherlock Holmes submission (04/8/2015)

So, what's new with me?


Black Butler II: Trancy's Tale, my 13 episode fan series based on the divisive anime, has enjoyed quite a healthy run on DeviantArt, and to mark that, I whipped up a making of featurette. Covers everything from conception to influences to the actual writing. Enjoy: https://vimeo.com/138458032


And second, I have just submitted to Thebes Publishing upcoming anthology, The Strangest Cases of Sherlock Holmes, with an outline for a short story entitled The Resurrection Men, featuring a more literal sort of these infamous grave robbers, alongside zombies and mad science. Break a few legs and chuck some salt that it makes it, folks!


Saturday, 11 July 2015

New short film, more prose comissions and the near future (11/7/2015)

Been a while, but well, what's new for me and my misadventures in career starting?

First off, you can learn about the progress of my main  creative enterprise, my animated series Very Strange Things, here: http://verystrangethingsanimated.blogspot.com/ New bits of concept art along with some major updates await you!

Next, I am working on a new short film screenplay for submission to an Scottish production company, Encaptivate, who are looking for tight, emotional five minute fare dealing with the theme of loss, and due in towards the end of July. My effort is called Always Tomorrow, and in the span of its five pages, deals with a young writer coping with the loss of his mentor and friend.

Thirdly, on top of my Doctor Who commission, I will also be looking to submit to Thebes Publishing, an independent publisher headed up by Iain McLaughlin, for their anthology entitled The Strangest Cases of Sherlock Holmes. Much like my last submission, they asked for an outline detailing what exactly I had to offer. So, let's see how they like the undead and mad scientists in a story featuring Conan Doyle's most iconic creation! You can find out more about them here: http://www.thebespublishing.com/

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Confirmation - Doctor Who short story comission (26/5/2015)

So, being a young writer thirsty for some credits that could be attained without having to have secured an agent or major clout beforehand, it seems fate dealt me a nice hand for once when this came to my attention. A charity Anthology based on one of my favourite franchises, Doctor Who:


Here' the link to the publisher's website for further details: https://timeshadowsanthology.wordpress.com/about/

So, I threw my hat in and submitted an outline for a Sixth Doctor short story entitled 'Iron Joe', dealing with the Union Pacific Railroad and an unusual and rather alien type of bandido terrorising it. Following a few chats with the publishers, I recieved this message today:

'We'd like to officially commission your story for Time Shadows: Into Abyss. Welcome aboard!
Out first draft submission deadline is Aug 15. Let us know if that works for you.
We look forward to collaborating with you!

Sincerely,
Matt and Sam (The heads of Pseudoscope Publishing)'

Naturally, I'm overjoyed about this. I get to fulfill a teenagehood dream to work on a beloved property that has had a huge influence on me, and I get a published title to my name. Huzzah! 
More details to come as this develops. It will be quite the ride...

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Personal Development Portfolio - Closing Evaluation of MDX University and Future Plans

As part of Elhum's module MDA3300, and as promised before in my final entry on the final class of that section of the BA Film course, there would be a final evaluation on this course and how I have changed and evolved over the course of it. The best way to approach this, considering the amount of time and material to cover, to break it down by each of the three years, giving a quick overview and then detailing how, in retrospect, these years may have helped or hindered my progress and personal development.

Let's begin, fittingly enough, at the beginning:

Year 1 (2012-2013):
Thus began my Middlesex journey. This was a year of introductions: to tutors, to equipment and to the rigors of more intensive film production and study than I had endured back at City and Islington College studying BTEC Media. We took an overview of film history, did a rapid boot camp with all the resources the film department had to offer, and made a succession of experimental short pieces to test different equipment and skills of ours before making a final campaign shot for the end of the year. Mine was on a historical tragedy in Spain that is still ringing throughout the country, even now, of the Ninos Robados (stolen children).



I feel that as an opening year, it did a satisfactory enough job of giving me a good overview, a nice taster platter, of the MDX experience and what I had signed up for for another two years. I do feel though that introduction to how use the equipment, again more sophisticated than the more standard camcorders I had used back in college, was maybe too quick and I never got fully comfortable using the equipment as much as I should have or could have under slightly more generous circumstances. In terms of self growth, other than getting comfortable at university and working with higher grade resources, I can't speak that much on how much I personally developed as far as my own career goals are concerned. Except for what follows.


In terms of what I did after, this was the year that finally gave me a much needed system shock. I was lazy, not taking the time to properly think through my career path, and just blindly sending my CV out to various film jobs under the misguided pretense that I would 'be given a shot'. This was wrong. Very, very wrong, and it meant it was a good three months I had wasted on wild goose chases instead of really knuckling down and deciding what I wanted to gain and learn from these experiences. I set out to remedy that by first applying for volunteer work at my local Oxfam in order to freshen up my CV, which hadn't had anything since work experience I had performed back in Year 11, and then second, asking my tutors, who either had companies or worked in the theatre, for any kind of unpaid work or volunteering. More on that coming up.

Year 2 (2013-2014):
This year proved to be a tumultuous one, starting out fairly benign with a slightly more detailed exploration of film movements across the medium's history, induction into the world of screenwriting, and then doing a short film based off of an existing work. But then, once Christmas passed, everything cranked to eleven when I became producer on a dramatic short film, Shattered Reflection, following the rejection of my own script, the slapstick 40s-fused Eye in the Shadows. This proved to be a grueling and dare I say, rather disheartening task as many things went wrong during production and though we produced a decent film at the end, I felt like I had not fulfilled my own quota.


Indeed, mixed bag is the best way to describe this year, as it had many fun moments and bright spots, but I felt like I let myself down and did not produce a film that was worthy of my hardworking collaborator who cared so deeply about the subject. It marked a very personal shift for me, and paved the way for many of the decisions I would make in third year. I knew then that the role of producer, and indeed handling the more business-y angle of film, was just not within my skillset. I'm more of a creative than an organizational type, but I also knew that nobody hires just directors,so it was with this that I decided to more squarely focus on screenwriting as my future career path. Even if I don't end up making films, I can still use this to get work in television and animation.

This summer proved to be significantly more productive, as I served as a production assistant on not one but two stage productions (Flowers in the Field and Revolution Farm, both directed by course tutors David Cottis and James Charlton respectively), and began submitting to screenwriting contests and opportunities. Specifically, I submitted a feature length crime actioner entitled Cops (looking at a superhero world from the perspective of the police) to the 2014 ScriptPipeline Screenwriting Contest, and then submitting a children-s action mystery series pilot, The Oddities Bureau, to the BBC Writersroom Opportunity For Children's Television. Neither made it past the first round, but just the experience of having to write much more than I had been used to beforehand, and how these stories changed and evolved with each draft, did leave an impact. Furthermore, this was also the year I uploaded The Lone Ranger 2 Fan screenplay to Deviantart, my first collaborative writing project that started out a simple joke with a friend, but then, several months and five drafts later, became a reality and has since scored over 500 views on Deviantart, and along with Cops, marked my first feature writing credit.


Year 3 (2014-2015):
As if trouble hadn't stalked me enough during the second half of the previous year, it seemed like 2014 on the whole would prove to be a very finicky year for me. Be it the questionable methods of Sharon Tay on the Film Theory module, the rather unbalanced and oddly organized trip and film festival over in Riga, or my own difficulties finding a script idea I liked enough to develop into a 30 minute piece. However, with the turn of the year again, came a slight shift: Sharon was replaced by Patrick and Film Theory moved back towards the theory aspect, I had settled on a children's fantasy drama dealing with divorce in the form of Little Visitor (redubbed Little Friend not too long ago), and even got the chance to write for someone else's dissertation piece in the form of Spider Fly, a psychological erotic thriller dealing with two lawyers who are going through their own personal trials.


Despite the rocky start, I feel like this year reached an agreeably even enough plateau to close better than it had started. I don't want to excessively regurgitate what I've just covered in more recent entries dealing with the final classes of each module, but sufficed to say, I feel like this year helped me iron out exactly where I want to go with my career, and what the steps are that I need to take to make that a reality.  These primarily came to manifest themselves in the MDA3300, headed up by Elhum, which covered a lot of areas that enabled one to get work and get noticed in the ever growing and ever more competitive film industry. From websites and organizations that can help you get work or build contacts (ShootingPeople, FirstJobInFilm, Stage32 etc.), to building your online presence and using social media to your advantage, to sprucing up our CV and learning how to pitch succinctly and effectively for your project. Indeed, all this proved to be useful, and while the specific companies we were asked to research in earlier lessons didn't quite line up with my own interests, it was still interesting to go out and learn that there were all these resources out there for us to tap into.


As for my MDA3400 Dissertation, I feel that Little Friend was, and I can say this without much doubt, and bearing in mind that it was so late in the process that I opted to tackle it, proved to be a worthy task. Naturally, like any young writer, I'm surprised to see the mainly positive reception it has gotten over the course of the half dozen drafts, and that despite the rollercoaster of an writing experience it has been, that I feel so strongly about the work. It wasn’t easy, in fact often frustrating, to always keep the original goal of making something accessible for a family audience without dumbing down the subject matter, but I feel that I achieved it about as well as my present writing skills would have allowed me to.

And well, my plans moving into the future germinated within this year, as it was there that I decided to redo The Oddities Bureau, rewriting the pilot from the ground up, rechristening the show as Very Strange Things, and even started up a production blog for it which is available in a past blog entry. I am in the process of preparing a demo audio recording of the pilot, which I can then use as an additional marketing crux as well as possibly use as the base of an animatic to show off how the episode may potentially look.


Looking forward:
On top of that, I am looking into the ProductionBase Graduation Scheme, which enables me to access their database of work opportunities for free for two years, which as you can imagine would be an enormous benefit. I am also a member of Stage32, which is an international network for various media individuals to come and collaborate, including filmmakers, producers, actors, musicians and playwrights among others. I have even entered one of their contests and scored as a quarterfinalist.I also use the BBC Writersroom, who offer opportunities to submit both to the BBC as well as to various festivals and countless around the UK. With these, I can begin to spread myself and start getting work out there without the constant worrying of the barriers that are thrown up against newcomers without agents. Plus, having a filmed writing credit in the form of Spider Fly is a nice plus too.


Good Times

I feel that moving forward, my main aim is to find work and to find it in a capacity where it's not merely a grueling 9 to 5 job, but also a legitimately creative and engaging learning experience that will enable me to grow as an artist and writer. I feel that, despite a handful of shortcomings and tribulations, my time at Middlesex did set me on the right path and encouraged me to go out there and try my hardest. It's not an easy road, that I've known for years, but like the old saying goes, 'Nothing worth doing is ever easy'. And this blog will remain to chronicle that and be used as an active means to promote myself and show my experience in a manner more appealing than just a written list on a CV or IMDB. Time will tell...

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Yr3 Week 26 (Thurs 21 Apr - Final Teaching week and Final tutoring session for Little Friend)

This marks the final proper teaching week of the course, though my class are already done. Thankfully, the library will be open until July, and I've still got a good two weeks before deadlines, so I'll be putting that to good use.

Anyway, today was the final tutoring session with David Cottis, who has been overseeing the development of my dissertation script, Little Friend, now in its sixth draft. His final feedback was that it was pretty much done. Maybe do a final proof read and correct one slightly off line concerning potential friends that Bobby may have, and that was all. So, what is m closing statement as far as this module is concerned?


In the end, I feel that the Screenwriting pathway on this course was decent, with regular tutor support, but lacking in feeling like an actual educational experience. There was no real study of screenwriting on the course which I felt was a missed opportunity as that would've benefited some of us who may not have been yet as confident in our skills and perhaps wanted to examine the artform in more detail. As for Little Friend itself, I can say without much doubt that considering it was so late in the process that I opted to tackle it, I'm surprised to say that I feel strongly about the work and given the mainly positive reception its gotten, that I was very much on the right track. Would I have liked to perhaps expand it further as a feature? Definitely, but I understand the limitations and the challenge of tackling this type of story was an interesting one, and I certainly believe it did help me evolve as a writer.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Yr3 Week 25 (Thurs 16 Apr - MDA3200 Film Theory - Nature of Film 2 & Final Class)

And today marked the last day of full, on campus classes as well as the final lecture and seminar of MDA3200. To cap it off, we returned to discussing what is film is, and what it can do.

First, we opened on the notion of film and the 'real'. When examining this, the first place to turn was to antiquity with Plato's cave story and the 'Invisible Real': when a group of people are only exposed to the shadows of objects, and then when they are shown the objects themselves, they are disconcerted and question which is the genuine article. In a straightforward analogy, this is like the mechanism of projections in the cinema, but looking a bit deeper, one can read the cave dwellers reactions akin to that of cinemagoers who come to believe in the illusions on the screen and how they cannot reconcile the two possibilities.


Another reinforcement of this notion come from an extract of Bergman's Fanny and Alexander (1982), where the children play about with a magic lantern, and actually get scared by the ghost story it presents. Here in we see how the show is outside of regular space and time, the ghosts are not an actual presence, yet the children's imagination is such that they become terrified. They effectively reconstructs these fragments as a sort of reality to them.

The philosopher Lacan argued the 'Real' was outside of our comprehension, our language, and only erupts when we question the materiality of existence, something we've covered in past weeks when we discussed the always already and how to move past it. This then lead into the field of the digital, specifically virtual reality, which is an entirely sensory experience, a total environment that is artificial and machinic, but not indexical. Deleuze, whom we'll return to in a moment and is no stranger on this blog, said that the present was the actual/real, and that the past and future were the virtual.

But returning back towards the digital in a more general sense, it presents a challenge: in general, film was understood to perceive reality as indexical, while in grand theory, film is seen as the product of ideology and socio-political mechanisms. The digital blows both of them out because of its malleability and unique properties that celluloid and the theories built around it can't quite match up to. Be it in in image processing or CGI, there is another dimension that digital can provide in its seamlessness. For example, the 1995 animated Pixar film Toy Story was the first entirely digital film, and it presents the notion of toy coming to life (which one can easily read as allegorical to the shift from analogue to digital, and self reflexive in the change from human to non-human).

Theorist Steven Prince states that there are two applicable models when discussing the virtual/digital: the correspondence based model, which uses links within a piece to our own reality to anchor us (i.e. Toy Story is all digital, but familiar sights like a child's bedroom and toys help 'ground' it), and then perceptual realism, which is how we see things and adheres to the idea that we can accept something if it looks real, and conforms to our notions to space/time (once again, it's fairly evident how Toy Story or any bit of CGI utilizes this). One can also see this in a phrase often applied to discussions of the virtual, Cogito Ergo Sum (I think, therefore, I Am), locating experience within the subjective.


After some further discussion on notion of digital cinema as machinic and post human (discussing further the idea of the subject to object/human to non human dynamic with reference to Pixar), we moved back onto Deleuze, a man whose works now are regarded with greater reverence than in his own lifetime as,despite having died before the digital became mainstream, many have taken to applying his ideas to the digital debate, primarily in the form of his books Cinema 1 and Cinema 2. Such immediate applications include the idea of 'Cine-Becomings': that film can go beyond our limitations and create whole new worlds/be a radical tool for expression. There is also the Power of the False, which Deleuze says is a questioning of the world and what it dictates, asking what something is or isn't (not far off from discussions about breaking through the always already), and then the Spiritual Automaton, whereby film can create a trance that frees us to think and consider, elevating us following a shock (the film) in conjunction with our own intuition.

To cap this off, we watched an extract from a video essay on Vimeo, conveniently titled The Powers of the False, where by old interviews of Deleuze are spliced with footage from the Orson Welles documentary F or False, and involves the two questions notions of truth, legitimacy and the false.


Then, the seminar was a relatively brisk affair, discussing the final 2000 word essay band what topics we could pick (relating to question of ethics, film history,applications of differing or contradictory theories etc.) and just getting us comfortable with the task ahead. And with that, we brought to an end our classes for MDA3200. So, what can I say in closing about this module?

I feel that it has been a rather mixed bag: I feel the first half of the module up to Christmas was badly hammered by an improper tutor and lack of actual application of criticism beyond an overly generalized view of film history that was not terribly helpful when actually trying to understand the actual film theories. With Patrick's arrival and a refocusing of the module priorities,I do feel it has gotten to be a lot better, and I feel like I am learning about proper theories instead of a tired and hackneyed retread of film history with some extras like before. However, this is the approach we should've had from the get go, and I feel like ultimately, this module was not as engrossing or as intricate as it could've been, and it feels like a missed opportunity. An opportunity that went some way towards rectifying the problem, but still missed nonetheless.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Yr3 Week 23-24 (Reading Week(s) - Mon 30 Mar- Fri 10 Apr)

During this slightly longer than normal reading weeks, or weeks rather, it went down as one would expect it to: aside from plenty of rest and the indulgence in chocolate as part of the Easter festivities, the blog was being updated and assignments were slowly, but surely, being worked away on. The final essay for Film Theory was beginning life, as the final script, Little Friend, for MDA3400 was nearing its end in its fifth draft, carrying out the suggested revisions from the past sessions and aiming to make a more emotionally rounded and impactful piece.

Speaking of the end, my romance thriller short Spider Fly finished its writing at the seventh draft, and is currently in production under the direction of Florentina Iordache, and the producing talents of Ruben Duarte. Finding a nice little property by the Thames (which necessitated just a slight weak to the opening), they began filming during the first week, and aim to continue after Easter. How they will also manage to edit it in the time left will be nothing short of a miracle, but I truly wish them the very, very best of luck.

Yr3 Week 22 (Thurs 26 Mar - MDA3200 Film Theory - Nature of Film 1)

Today was our penultimate lesson with Patrick, the next happening after Easter on the 16th of April. Anyway, today we decided to turn to the question of what is the nature of film?


To answer this, or at least examine with detail, we must delve into film history. We've discussed the divide between the Grand Theorists of Europe, and then the Post Theorists of the US, most famously the Wisconsin School. These challenges to the old, more philosophical guard, lead into the re-evalutaion of the work of the first Theorists from cinema's first 60 years of existence. Within come the questions: what is film (ontological), what is its knowledge (epistemological), and what are its values (ethical)?

We took a look at the 1944 propaganda short film Springtime In An English Village, which is exactly what it sounds like: showing country life, as well as the crowning of the May Queen. Of course, there's a little bit of a twist, as the May Queen is a black girl, and she is chosen by popular vote of her young peers. The message is pretty apparent: it paints Britain as a tolerant and progressive society, and it sends out a positive message to the colonial peoples about their masters, and thus, is pretty clean cut in how it corresponds to the three questions above.


Next up, and more explorative notions, are The Five Propositions (five different theories to examine the nature of film and what it does):
  • Films are Documentaries
This may seem like a 'no-duh' thought, but this doesn't refer purely to just documentary films. Theorist Gilberto Perez posited in 1998 that 'Every Film is in some way poised between the documentary and fictional aspects of its medium'. In essence, film 'documents'/captures something and presents it, regardless if it's out to be educational and informative, or if it is fictitious. It's basically a type of archive, if you will.

  • Films are Ghostly
Films are at once, alive and dead. When we watch old films, or see past times, they are in that inbetween state where we know they are all long gone, yet they come back to life before our eyes. It-s fascinating yet also melancholic and morbid. One such example was early documentatiarians Mitchell and Kenyon, whose short films from the early 1900s detail everyday events like parades and townsfolk going about their business in Northern England. They have been preserved in time and can seem alive to us, despite them not being so.


What's more, in Death 24x a Second (2006), Laura Mulvey states that 'The New technologies work on the body of film as mechanisms of delay - most obviously the pause and rewind facilities'. In essence, through film, we master time and can even turn it back. Certainly puts a new spin on pushing a button on the remote, doesn't it?

  • Films are Sublime
Basically, the 'Wow' factor of film. As Paul Coughlin states in Senses of Cinema, 'That indefinable moment in modern life or art when sensation consumes the spectator with an overwhelming and indescribably profound intensity'. It's the pure delight, the inexpressible, and one could even argue, tied to the 'excesses of film' which we've discussed in past weeks.

  • Films Directly Represent the Real
Sort of an extrapolation of the first idea, only more about the actual capture instead of the documentation angle. Andre Bazin, a film theorist who was none-too well liked by his peers in the 40s and 50s, believed that the camera captured a 'purity' and that 'Only the impassive lens stripping its object of all those ways of seeing, those piled up preconceptions, that spiritual dust and grime etc. etc.' could break and see what something truly and simply was.

  • Film Stages Desire
Exactly what it sounds like, and a topic that we've covered before on this blog. Film enables us to indulge and see things we would not normally be able to. Walter Benjamin in the 1930s said 'Then came film and exploded this prison world with the dynamite of the split second... close up expands, slow motion, movement is extended', effectively, marvelling at the wonders of the camera and its powers. This neatly dovetails back to questions about the 'pleasures of film' and the psychological implications of that, which, again, we've covered at great length in past weeks.

Then, in the seminar, following some technical difficulties, we viewed Le Pleasure (1947), a short tale of prostitutes in 19th century France going off to attend the Madame's niece's first communion. The point here was to look more at 'visual emotion', and how film can communicate ideas and themes without dialogue (Ontological/what is film: a visual medium).

The film does play with the contrast of these city women vs the country life, especially when it comes to space: director Max Opphels really emphasizes in his direction and cinematography how much bigger the country and the house are compared to the smaller, more intimate brothel. He achieves, not just through larger sets and more wide shots, but also a camera with lots of movements, gliding around the sets to create that sense of size. Furthermore, despite the religious connections, the film is not so much about faith or redemption, as much as it is about generosity and being good to others, be it through the dress they give the young girl, or the renewed energy with which they return to work.

This was a pretty hefty discussion, and while it doesn't drastically break new ground when it comes to what I know and think of film, it is always interesting to just go back to the basics and what what something is, irrespective of what it may have become since. It's always interesting to revisit the origin point and see how something evolves or changes, or perhaps simply adapts and, for all the whizzbang and polish applied since, does the same fundamental job it did over a century ago.

Yr3 Week 22 (Wed 25 Mar - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Final class)

Today was a fairly brisk affair, so this will be a fairly short post. Today returned to the topic of building an online presence, and so we took a look at some online portfolios by various young filmmakers (Cecile Emoke, Desire Pikhaven and Jack Weatherly), whose sites catalogue their work and contact details, often in an easy to use and inviting interface. We also took a gander at online film sites that serves the same function but also allow for networking too with other filmmakers. Some of the potential sites, some of which I have used before, include FirstJobInFilm, Stage32, ShootingPeople, UKFilmAssociation, ProductionHub, Creative Skillset, Artshub etc.


And well, aside from a low student count today (maybe four or five tops), this was the end of our time with Elhum. I will be posting up a more detailed final entry on not just her class, but a full reflective piece to detail my closing thoughts and my development over my time on the course. In terms of just an evaluation of her class on its own merits, I feel like it did what it said on the tin: it was about looking at the workplace side of film and really coming to understand the more business side of the medium, and I felt like I learnt a decent amount and was able to even sharpen up on some things I had known before but not given as much mind to (such as CVs).

Yr3 Week 21 (Thurs 19 Mar - MDA3200 Film Theory - Ethics 2)

We carried on from last week on the topic of ethics, though this time we also broadened up to representation once again. As discussed before, ethics do not fold back into the commonplace 'always already', the way morals do. Rather, they invite discussion and evaluation. Sometimes, such a course of action can be labelled as 'immoral', as as a demonstration of this, we viewed an extract from The Act Of Killing (2012), which deals with ex-authority figures in Indonesia from the old military regime, and how they look back on their genocidal acts. The ethics here deal with both, internally, the men's own realisation of what they did when faced with it again,literally here as the film stages reenactments, and then externally, in the way they are portrayed. They are both killers yet also goofy, doting older men with a degree of charisma.

There is also the question of semio-ethics, which leads us back into representation, given what is representation if not the ethical choices of using signs to create a certain type of character, and the above is an example.

Branching off from that, we had a look at melodrama, a type of storytelling popularized in 19th century France, and still remains a dominant force in modern literature, film and television. I is less of a genre and more of a 'mode' that relies on suspense to generate emotional intensity and 'moral legibility', generating a response in the difference between the sides in the story. Here, desire is the driving force (most of these stories tend to be romances, where are inherently about the desire of affection between two individuals), so then this begs the questions of the ethics at play. Theorist Slavoj Zizek argued that we must be true to the 'real' of our desires, the opposition to the moral is the meeting to the challenge to the authentic, and one can easily see how this would play into the nature of melodrama.


There also exists the question of if cinematic styles involve ethics. Godard in 1959 claimed that even a tracking shot could be viewed as a moral choice (the notion of the camera as perhaps an intrusive entity). In essence, one can see where he's coming from: both tie back into choice, and the use of a particular shot like say, tracking or a dutch angle, creates a certain effect that then in turn, creates a certain type of representation to the audience. This then neatly segwayed into the question of the ethical problems of a filmmaker: he looks through a camera lens, and thus does not truly engage with the subject. He is distant, removed, almost clinical, and putting reality at a safe distance.

Lars Von Trier, no stranger to controversy and debate in what film is and isn't, demonstrated this notion when he challenged fellow Dane Jorgen Leth to recreate his famous experimental piece The Perfect Man under five different conditions. These were documented in the film The Five Obstructions, in which we viewed the second challenge where Leth recreated the dining scene in a squalid street in Mumbai, eating fine food before the poor locals.


After, in the seminar, we viewed an extract from Roberto Beignini's 1999 WW2 dramaedy Life Is Beautiful, and took to task the ethical questions raised by using the backdrop of the Holocaust as comedic ground when Beignini's character, a Jewish Italian, comforts his son by making it seem like the concentration camp is just one big game, mocking a Nazi soldier with incorrect translations for his son bout rules and candy. Certainly, one can argue the camp maybe looks a little too clean and bright when compared to historical photos, but one has to remember that this is a film, not a documentary, so story comes before the facts and as Robert McKee has often said, 'life is not story'. Furthermore, the film doesn't ignore the realities of the camps, showing the forced labour, as well as the extermination of people in the camps.


I think the take-home message is all the discussions we've had in class: that is ethics at work, reflecting on and evaluating the choices that were made and why, and it is something, even in more benign affairs, that we regularly conduct on film shoots.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Yr3 Week 21 (Tues 17 Mar - Little Friend feedback & Wed 18 Mar - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - Michael Pearce)

So I decided to compress these two into one post, namely because both are pretty straightforward affairs and don't give much material for lengthy individual posts.

First up, and the shorter of the two, was my Tuesday tutorial with David on my dissertation script, Little Friend, now nearing its 6th draft. His view was generally along the lines of the feedback James had given me in the last workshop: stronger emotion, better characterization, Bobo feels important finally and it could use some dialogue punchups. However, he did add that the big argument between Carl and Maria felt a little too expositional, and that adult arguments tend to be more about petty things that then spiral up, and that the ending, though fitting, was still maybe a little too sweet and did still need a tone down.


And now, onto Wednesday, out in the MDX Barn, we had a guest lecture from up and coming filmmaker Michael Pearce, whom I have mentioned before on this blog (director of Keeping Up With The Joneses, Madrugada and Rite). He took us through his films,playing extracts of each and talking about his journey from film school to finding industry work, touring the festival circuit, and the challenges each film brought to him. He often spoke also of the importance of working with actors, going over a character with them to find the truth of it, and what is the 'unseen', as well as being prepared before the shoot and having a gameplan.


He was an energetic speaker, very clear and soft spoken and very thorough in his points.The fact that he was also not that far away from us in terms of age also gave him a relatability that I felt enhanced his points and made him more on our level as young filmmakers.

Yr3 Week 20 (Thurs 12 Mar - MDA3200 Film Theory - Ethics)

Today we began looking at Ethics in film. Note however, there is a difference between ethics and then morals, contrary to how the two are commonly meshed together. Morals are eternal, something that is indoctrinated into us by the rules and values around us, whereas ethics are basically, the active choices we make recognition, realisation and reflection, as the mantra goes).


Of course, it's fitting we move onto ethics given that it does tie back into Post Theory, which we've been discussing in recent weeks. Something levelled at prior, more philosophical schools of thought was ta the were repressive, negative models with a lot of talk but not much substantial evidence, and so cognitivism came in, and began to talk more about the practical side of film making and asking more midlevel questions relating to elements such as genre (known as Piecemeal Theory). There can be a synthesis/relationship between the old and new schools, given some of the areas are similar or have a link (systems vs people, semiotic vs cognitive, the economic/determinisitc vs. the production pragmatic, the nonhuman vs. human agency), but there is a clear shift.

So, getting onto ethics, when it comes to film, there is the professionalised/routine ethics, where you do something contractual, and is more complicit, closer to morality than the active challenging of regular ethics, and then there's the more pragmatic kind, which requires active thought in order to solve the issue for example, the pragmatic is whether to pay someone high or low wages, and then the ethical question is if either is the right/fair thing to do. We watched an extract from Wim Wenders The State of Things (1982) a dramedy dealing with a troubled film production and how a producer harangs a director with constant problems, like when they run out of film stock and how does the director solve the issue of getting an important shot in.


Of course, the real demonstration of the idea of ethics came with watching the Pier Pasolini short film La Ricotta (1962), dealing with a film shoot of a production of the Easter passion, and what life is like on set. We have an exploited extra who doesn' get to eat, a pampered actress and then somewhat indifferent crew who just want to get the thing done, and then decide t just muck around and torture the extra by taunting him with food and drink.

In the seminar, we discussed the film in more detail, both in terms of its critique of the indifferent and stuffy bourgeois of 60s Italy, and how unethical their treatment of the extra was, ignoring him or even taunting him while they themselves were able to enjoy a veritable banquet as he literally died before them. This then led into more a look at the differing portrayals of film sets, such as the nicer kind is Fancois Truffant's La Nuit Americane (1973), which was more about the communal and family dimension of filmmaking, whereas Living in Oblivion (1995) by Tom Dicillo was a little more scathing,looking a the stress and hijinks on the st of an American indie film and how a director could not control his main actor. However, one can still wring ethics here, such as questions of how the directors treat those around them, or how much control/say should an actor have on set.


Today's session was rather brisk, in part due to a time crunch as everything happened in the afternoon as opposed to being spread out like prior weeks. Despite that, it was interesting to really stop and think about ethics in more detail, as well as really distinguish it from morals, which so often the two get fused together in day to day conversation. In filmmaking, being so much a group/team based type of creative medium, the choices made are paramount to everyone, and even the slightest hiccup or bit of poor judgement can have disastrous repercussions. Be it pay, feed, hours, even the mood on set, decisions have to be made and made thoroughly to create the best environment possible, and I know that all to well from experience.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Yr3 Week 20 (Wed 11 Mar - MDA3300 Film Research and Context - CVs and Resumes 2)

Attending the smaller morning class once again, today's seminar was pretty simple: we went over our CVs, Elhum coming to each of us and seeing what progress we had made, and then we would practice writing some more based on the feedback. After, we then had a brief pitch of pitch practicing for those who had not attended the previous session, and gave some quick feedback, though I did not pitch this time.


The class was also rather small today, so I´m afraid this will be a very short entry, as there isn´t much to comment on today. Oh well.

Yr3 Week 19 (Thurs 5 Mar - MDA3200 Film Theory - Representation 2)

Today, we kept on the topic of Representation but moved more towards a Post Theory approach, looking more at the cognitive/communicative element than any sort of philosophy or abstract psychology. Theorist Gilles Deleuze described something called the Movement Image, which is tied to a topic we´ve covered before: the Sensory Motor Mechanism (the Always Already - limiting and controlled). This notion was birthed from a maturation in American Cinema towards the end of the 1930s, and was centered on action-driven/cause and effect trajectories in films (a clearly focused story with goals, the mainstream/commercial approach).


As a sort of demonstration of this concept, we watched the first of two extract's from the cheery 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. It´s a pleasant clip, dealing with a young man trying to court her and then shyly departing. It's pretty straightforward, the sets and costumes are colourful, and the subject matter is very agreeable and we even get a pretty song in there.

This in turns easily links into ideas such as the schema (our brain recognising familiar patterns) and cognitivism (response tracked and explained by reference to conscious mental activities and routines), both dealing with how our minds recognise, process and then place stimuli based on experiences. In fact, the first proper film theorist, Hugo Munsterberg in 1916, said that film can be realist and offer parallels to everyday life and mental routines. Of course, the downside to this train of thought is that it doesn't account for ruptures, when the common language is challenged and broken.


And since we're on the topic of routines/patterns, that brought us back to the oft-discussed notion of hegemony, a Marxist-born system view that dictates the way of things and can assimilate anything new and make that part of itself, thus creating an illusion of 'choice'. Indeed, it´s easy to see how one can view the ways of popular culture and media in this fashion, as things that start out as independent and rebellious, like punk music or indie filmmakers like Tarantino, become embraced over time and absorbed into the mainstream.

One means of communicating any sort idea is through imagery, which then led us into discussion about 'lack', a psychological term that when applied to film, primarily Grand Theory, states that the image is an empty shell, and we project onto it. By contrast, in a sort of defiance of the 'void', Post Theory argues that the image is the opposite: it´s brimming to bursting point with depth and possibility, and is not banal in the slightest, resisting the closure of definition. We viewed another extract from Meet Me in St Louis, this time of the famous trolley song, which produced a very joyous and warm reaction among the viewing class, some even dancing to it. Interpretation is the key word across all of this, since representation functions in relation to the audience's capacity for meaning making, except...


Theorist Susan Sontag argued in the early 60s that 'Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art'. In her mind, interpretation was a confining, restrictive notion that did not enable one to enjoy the art as art. This is, is  part, something I´ll return to in the seminar, as is a notion derived from this, which is about the poetics of filmmaking (how it is made) and the idea of 'excess': something that the filmmaker uses to that is perhaps more grandiose or extravagant than may be needed for the core nuts and bolts mechanics of the film to work..

And so, moving onto the seminar, we took a look at three film extracts from Charles Laughton's amazing 1955 thriller The Night of the Hunter, and discussed the idea of 'excess' as pertaining to each of them: the first time the boy sees the Preacher, and then their meeting at the town cafe (the set design and use of shadow, Mitchum´s grand performance, especially with his hands, and the use of the boiling fudge as symbolic of the tension), the sight of the Mother's murdered body in the lake (the beauty of the composition and set work, the use of sweet singing against such a morbid sight), and then the children's escape (the use of sound to create a very vivid landscape around the children at night, the 'Universal monster' style treatment and framing of the Preacher, the set design and use of forced perspective creating an almost storybook feel).


Another beefy seminar, but certainly a rather interesting one, and I feel I have not much more to add with being repetitious. Being an amateur online critic, the debate over the artistry in film, what it is, who its for and how it can work, is a very, very active one across many circles, and it´s interesting to see a perspective that essentially says: stop arguing and just enjoy the damn thing! Usually, that argument gets shot down as the 'turn your brain off' spiel, but to hear it in this rather eloquent guise is certainly intriguing.