So What Now?

Reading the module brief, I see that a major part of this module is at this very point in time – at the end, when I explain what I’m going to do in the industry after I graduate. It’s a strange thing to ask, given that we’re in a major recession, and that my skills have developed across a range of platforms, only really specifying in camera operation and direction of photography. I’ll answer as best I can.

I hopefully do not need to research into proving that Britain (nay, the world) is in one of the worst recessions since ‘The Great Depression’. Five years in business school tells me that people can no longer afford their luxury goods at high prices. Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ puts media way out of the ‘essentials’ category, and so people should be more focused on rent, food, and other necessities. DVDs sales should in theory decrease.

Maslow – As wallets tighten, this much-quoted chart foretells that most people will be focusing their lives around the bottom part of the triangle. Media sits around the middle area, keeping people up-to-date and modern, either in world news, or in entertainment. People will not prioritise this over rent, food, or security.

However, I’ve made this mistake before – this statement comes off the back of Avengers Assemble breaking box office records. Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 (and recently released Diablo 3) will likely both be major winners in the gaming sales, despite the fact that most major game outlets are going into receivership. So people do have the money to spend on luxuries, regardless of what they argue… but the recession will still impact the media industry across all fronts.

The things we know: the UK Film Council has been disbanded, with most of it’s influence passing to the British Film Institude (or ‘BFI’). Arguably, the industry went broke because British people focused too much on shorts, and not enough on features (the latter being where the big money is to be made). Anyone coming out of university hoping to become a professional independent film maker is entering into a desolate industry, that can only be revived by making really cheap films of a really high quality.

Independent films still have certain platforms open to them across the country however. My hometown Nottingham features the Broadway cinema, which has actively encouraged independent films since it first started up. I can only assume that since film is a viable and modern form of art, those who can experience independent films will keep the industry going. Aside from a normal job to pay the bills, I’ll also use the income to fund any future projects I have. But this still does not answer the question as to what I’ll do after I graduate.

I’m Watching You – Video games have come into their own in my generation. These are new competitors against the film industry that aspiring film makers like myself will have to adapt to. They are two different art forms that will have to play to their strengths to each successfully compete with the other. Thus, understanding film making and the industry audiences to a high degree is key to competing with this new media front. The two styles are merging and experimenting with each other all the time.

What does my showreel say about me? I have the ‘visual eye’, as quoted in the degree show catalogue. I am a camera operator, and/or a director of photography. I am situated behind the camera, re-creating a world through a lens. With additional leadership skills developed, I will be able to assume the role of ‘director’ more efficiently, but I need a few years of ‘real world’ experience before I can seriously start to enter into that area of the industry (so at this point I shall not even try!).

My visual styles and my versatility mean that I am open to every option that presents itself. One way I could go is to return to my hometown, join the local film community, and get experience through various independent projects. Another way is to strive for a job at the BBC, and become a runner or a camera operator assistant somewhere around the country. Perhaps I could move down to London, or to Manchester (as Media City has just started up there in recent years), though I would need to secure a job there before moving so I could afford the cost of living in such a place. I have plenty of industry contacts across a range of fronts – whether any of these contacts will help me get a job within a year of graduating is something that only time will be able to tell.

I may focus on making videos of my poetry – join a poetry club, then think about how I could use my media knowledge to broadcast poetry. Let’s face it – poetry is free to consume, cheap to make, and can operate on many levels. Most poems can be done in under five minutes, so these films would be easy – or as complex – as you’d like to make them. My hopes of starting up my own company are interlinked with such a project – encouraging other poetry videos, much in the same vein as music videos, from other people, and broadcasting through a mutual online channel that people could pay to be a part of. This type of media would be suitable for the current economic climate.

Ultimately I decided to call myself a ‘Director of Photography’ on my showreel, as despite the fact I’ve usually been a camera operator for most of these projects, I have actually created almost all the visual styles by ‘accident’. Either I have been in charge of all of the other camera angles of the project, or I’ve edited the footage together to create a visual style with what I had.

In order to play about with any sort of visual style in the industry, being with Call The Shots has taught me a valuable lesson – I will need my own professional camera after graduation. The Canon 5D range seems to be the hot stuff at the moment, and looking at the film festivals I’ve been to, not many people actually possess cameras of that calibre. I have some funds that I could use to invest in such a piece of kit – that would allow people to access and use my camera and my own skills behind it. This would be a significant step in getting freelance work in the industry post-graduation.

Get Your Kits Out For The Lads – I wont be making anything at all unless it has a chance of being added to my showreel at this point. I will need a camera kit, and I will need a crew. The kit is simply a question of money, and a crew should be accessible through local Midlands film groups such as Call The Shots. This rest will be down to me, and my own ability.

A lot of the students I’ve been studying alongside with over the last three years are now becoming future contacts (‘Quid Pro Quo’), so it is always a possibility that I could end up as part of one of the companies owned by my friends. You’ll often hear me referencing Prophecy Media or Clever Lens on my blog posts, but these are just names at the moment – they actually need to be officially set-up and running before I can take on big projects for them!

All I wanted to get across in my showreel is that I can use a camera artistically (this is a BA course after all!), and that I have some experience in leadership and travelling. I believe my showreel does this – I am more than a camera operator at this point. Somebody once told me that he’d never known anybody start out as a camera operator and ended up being a director. Well, Stanley Kubrick – there’s one. It can be done, and I’m still aiming for somewhere ‘around that area’ of film making. I have all the ideas, so with income, I will simply need to orchestrate and execute a film that will win festivals and get my name noticed. What job I get to fund such projects is what will influence my progression in the ‘real world’ – media careers pay high, but will have me occupied constantly as I work to the premium of my ability in my given job role (hence why I am passionate about the industry!).

I guess that is how I shall end this post – ‘it depends’, basically on what job I get within one year of graduation. If I am lucky enough to get employed within the industry, I will continue to chase my ambitions through those channels. If I don’t get employed in the industry, I will join local clubs, and go by way of film festivals. I’m a cool customer and an easy rider – either way works for me.

A Lot Of Fun: Here are my three years at university. Most projects on this showreel are actually Years 2 and 3 (not a lot of high-quality stuff made in the freshmen year!). I took my favourite and most visually engaging projects, cut out the best bits, and slapped them on an FCP timeline with a Free Play Music tune. I added little parts of audio where I felt it would benefit the visuals, or add to the story that the visuals were telling (i.e. give context to the audience).

Some of my favourites:

Short Films: Peter Has An Angel, The Job Interview, Grandiose, The Brick

Documentaries: Shooting The Sunrise, Another Revolution, ‘Our Life, Our World, Our Autism’

Formats: One Mic Nights, CVTV (with Paul Gambaccini), Peace Through Poetry

And, of course, the Katrin boat promotional video made in Tenerife, and the experimental film Solveig’s Homecoming made in Iceland – two very exotic and unique pieces that single-handedly make this showreel come together!

As a final note, there is a lot of emphasis on having a web presence nowadays. As I don’t have my own company, and am not a celebrity yet, it is arguable what sort of web presence I could possibly have. Type ‘Adam Broome’ into Google however, and you may find that I seem to have developed a little web presence completely by accident!

Third In Class – I’ll answer this picture with another one…

‘Academic Populous’ – The Grand Finale

Not strictly professional experience as far as conventional students go, but I referred to this project during my time in Iceland, and now with only days left to go before I leave Coventry for good, I decided to finish what I’d started – the final artefact of my poetry trident here at the university.

Two Minutes’ was for a little project in my second year, based around ‘time’. ‘Mr Nice Guy’ (or ‘The Original Mr Nice Guy’, depending on what your preference of titles is) was for another project in my third year, based around innocence, and the false perceptions of it. To close the show, here I finish with ‘Academic Populous’ – a short summary of an average student’s entire time in academia.

The content of the poem ranges from Year 11 at secondary school, right through to the days just before graduation, and accounts for all of the varying rites of passage that have been experienced along the way. It was not really written from my own experiences (some of it was), but rather from the view point of my generation as a whole. In the original version of this poem, no names, places, or titles are mentioned. The poem stops with ‘to remember them well’, and that’s simply it. Any student anywhere can apply this poem to their own feelings.

However, I added an extra two verses at the end, as I changed the purpose of the artefact to something else after writing it – I made it a homage to my entire social circle at the university. The people I had gone through my own rites of passage with. Thus, the last line was extended to something that would include ‘Coventry’, to represent this as a poem written by a Coventry student, for his friends that he’d met in Coventry. Ultimately, I liked this idea a lot, so that is why it is included here in this video. The original ending is marked with a slightly longer pause, symbolizing where the original ending was, and where the extra part is added (you can also tell that the context changes from looking back at past events, to looking forward at the events to come).

Unlike ‘Two Minutes’, this poem took longer than twenty minutes to write. Several years may be closer to the mark, as I originally wrote a similar poem for my college friends three years ago, entitled ‘The Clock Was Never Broken’. I was never happy with it though – ‘Academic Populous’ is a much more mature outlook on academia as a whole (but note that the ‘clock’ line remained from the original version of three years ago, as did the opening and closing lines ‘remember them well’).

Whether people who have never ‘done’ academia understand the emotion of the words in the same way is something I’m most interested in. This is really aimed at university students of a certain age at an exact moment in time. This is probably the first time in our entire lives when we have had to look back at something, and understand with perfect certainty that it will never happen again. I like this poem because there is something very final about the words. Depressing and simultaneously optimistic. But a hundred percent final, and non-avoidable (this poem is about ‘time’ as well, it seems!). It was written in the most sentimental and understanding way I could muster – my abilities as a poet usually have my poetry either revolving around myself, or founded on a purely descriptive basis. That I wrote this poem in appreciation of others made it something of a challenge for me.

I would imagine it will make most of my friends extremely sad – I know when I first read this poem back to myself, the line about the photographs certainly left a lump in my throat!

In terms of creating the artefact though, I didn’t want myself to be on screen doing a recitation – I’ve done that already, and I wanted to do something else. Given the content of the lyrics, what better way than to mash my entire three-year collection of photographs of some of the ‘best student moments’ together, and link them all in chronological order. Learning kung-fu and attending the summer ball… having my radio show and completing a work placement in Tenerife… heading out to make a movie in Iceland… This was not about the experiences themselves – it was about the people I’d met during them. I recorded this the same way I did with ‘Mr Nice Guy’ – a Marantz 660 and a reports mic.

Interestingly, you will notice that there are several recurring course-mates throughout the photographs. This was not really intentional – they are simply people I’ve gone out with lots over the years. In some ways, not only can you see the changes I’ve gone through, but also the changes my friends around me have gone through as well.

I was very selective about what shots I put up on this video… as mentioned, this is a rather sensitive poem for anyone in the target audience, so the last thing I would want to do is annoy or provoke any of my friends with a video of them being sick in a toilet (not that anybody else would want to see that either!). I think the ‘drinking culture’ of students was something I needed to capture though – the messiest and craziest videos are of my original flat mates from my first year, most of whom have not been around for my third year (they all left Coventry). I look back at them and laugh at the great nights we’d had. I hope that when people see the photos, and hear the words, that possibly they will feel the same way I do within their own memories. If they do… then the poem is a success.

Most photos are my own, with only a few exceptions (including one that is slightly stretched, but I thought was important to include). On the theme of being ‘final’, the last shot is not in ‘Ken Burns’ – it is static, showing the end of the memory, and the movement of sight towards the future.

2Weeks 2Make It – ‘The Navigator’

Something that I had hoped to do all year round was join a group for the competition ‘2Weeks2MakeIt’. This was a music video competition, where media groups were paired up with random musicians, and the pairings then had just two weeks to make a music video. The best ones won cash prizes.

I was keen to get a group together, but lo and behold, I was unable to dedicate nearly enough time to this event, particularly considering the competition was being held within days of our final degree hand-in date! Being part of Call The Shots, however, I was lucky enough to ‘sneak’ into another group at the end of their formation. Team ‘Adagio Media’ was formed out of several Call The Shots members and university students. At one meeting of the film-making collective, I was told that they may need another pair of hands. I jumped at the chance.

We had no idea what was in store for us – the only given thing was that our chosen director was experienced in making music videos. We had a few meetings before the actual competition started (most of which I missed due to what is commonly referred to as ‘assignment overload’), at which I opted for the duties of behind-the-scenes photographer. Granted, I knew absolutely nothing about music videos. I have creative flare, and good communication and leadership skills, but having just tagged onto the end of a group just days before a competition, the last thing I was going to do was turn up and start rocking the boat.

On the day the competition started, we were introduced to our artist – local Coventry musician Matt Lakey. Matt is an acoustic indie-rock style artist (though he considers his music genre a hybrid of many other styles), and I knew from the moment we first met that we had a really good musician, and a competent crew. Nobody wanted to say we had it in the bag from the word go, but we were optimistic of our chances, and we had high hopes.

Matt Lakey – Our musician!

The second meeting was when we had was to choose a song. This led to what was an opening error that I think caused a bit of a set-back – we chose a song called ‘The Navigator’, because the director told us he had an idea for the video, he knew exactly how to film it, and it would be something that could be achieved in a single day shoot up in Liverpool at a place called Crosby Beach. The problem was that ‘The Navigator’ was the longest song of the set, meaning we would have the most to film, and we’d have to keep our audiences entertained for longer. The song was also slow, like a power-ballad – I had warned at our first meeting (having attended the ‘2Weeks’ event last year) that we needed something lively, foot-tapping and simple to win the event. Even Matt himself had half-jokingly cringed when the group decided to go with the power ballad. This had possibly been another error – Matt had given us eight songs by which to choose from, out of which ‘The Navigator’ was chosen by democratic vote. However, if Matt himself thought it was not a great choice for the competition, it may have been better to narrow his songs down a little more.

Word on the street was that some artists entered into the competition knowing exactly how they wanted their video to be. They pay for everything and book everything beforehand, and the moment they meet the media team on day 1 of the competition, they tell the team that they paid £50 for a kick-ass video, and that they’ve sorted it, and now the media team are going to do exactly what they’re told to do, and film everything the way the musician wants (a slight exaggeration, but I’m sure there’s truth in the rumor).

That sort of approach can indeed be restricting – depending on characters within the media team, it can create bad blood between the musicians and the film makers from the word go. It also limits creativity – usually musicians are best at music, whereas the media team can be better at visuals. Of course, musicians have done music videos before (presumably, if they’re taking that sort of approach), but they better be darn sure their idea is going to work.

We had the polar opposite – we were given a choice of songs, and basically free rein over the entire project. As mentioned, the crew was quite competent, so there shouldn’t have been any problems. I was really confused by the end of the meeting before the shoot however – we needed an actress, but we didn’t have one. The idea the director had was based around a compass, and we didn’t have one of those either. So we were going to Crosby Beach, but we basically had no story. We did, however, now have five minutes of filming to get done. In a crucial motivational error, thoughts turned towards making a really kick-ass video after the event, with the shoot on Crosby Beach turning more towards the ‘we’ll wing it’ approach. Usually this is where I’d step in and inject some life into the project – unfortunately though we’d got the power ballad, so there wasn’t really any input I could make other than to change the song (and yes, I did put an idea forward for one of Matt’s other songs, but the song didn’t get enough votes out of the choices for my idea to be considered!). As it turned out though, the song I wanted to use for the competition I got permission to use in my Final Major Project!

Crosby Beach – Arrive. Film. Go home.

The day of the shoot went more or less exactly as I’d expected. First off, the quintessential students of the group unable to attend at all, due to said ‘assignment overloads’ (though fair play to them, as mentioned this was rather bad timing for a film competition for us students!). Myself and a few members of the team managed to make it to Crosby Beach with our kit successfully, but when we got there we didn’t really know what we were going to film. We picked a monument, and filmed in front of it. We got Matt to walk up and down the beach a bit, and sit on some steps. Normally I’m not this blunt about things, but in this case that was pretty much the whole shoot.

What I was most interested in was how the music video was actually synchronized to the song. I forget that music video visuals lack any form of audio, so obviously you just play the song out in the open and the singer mimes the track (should have figured that one out myself really!). But to add to our problems, we had no such device to play music, so Matt had to sing the five minute song several times over, simply using his own memory of what the studio version sounded like.

It was a windy day at Crosby Beach, and it was a very surreal place. It’s littered with statues all facing out towards the sea, that get completely submerged in less than an hour by one of the quickest incoming tides I’ve ever seen. The tide kicked us off the beach as the evening crawled in, forcing us to the pub, after meeting who was seemingly Matt’s new ‘biggest fan’ as we came off the beach (we couldn’t shut him up!). I had a tower burger – one of my last as it was way too greasy – and then Matt kindly gave myself and my friend a lift back to Coventry. I’d done my job pretty well, and amassed some nice behind the scenes photos. As usual, none were graded or tampered with – they were just the raw forms, to be edited if any of them needed to be (for a singles cover, for example, such as the one I considered below):

Statues – These weird artistic monuments certainly gave the beach character.

We had some great conversations in the car on the way back. It was clear that the group could work with Matt, and Matt could work with us. I was sure that later on, if we did do another music video without the constraints, we could make it really awesome (no doubt of it in fact). My thoughts of the current project though were still a little uneasy – luckily, our ‘ace in the hole’ was our editor. He was the same guy who had edited the ‘One Mic’ shows, which had eventually been screened on Sky TV!

We gave the editor the footage, and found that some of the ad-libbed lip-synching had gone awry (inevitably). Not only that, but there were some continuity errors as to where Matt had put his guitar, over his shoulder or down by his side. Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, the file exported to the competition actually had a ‘Media Offline’ segment about three minutes in. That, in essence, was the final nail in the coffin.

It was a project done in good humour, and I’m not out to bad-mouth anything that happened. I think we chose the wrong song for the competition, but that was down to democratic vote, so it was fair and square. I don’t think we should have gone to the beach without a plan. If the director has a plan, he should have a plan (namely, he should have everything ready to go by the day of the shoot). In this instance, the director was very busy as well, which made us up as a team of busy students and busy industry professionals. We were all pre-occupied – there was nobody there to bring everything together (heck, we even had a producer at one point who disappeared before the project – no idea what happened to that guy… ‘assignment overload’?).

The project ended on a very comedic and ironic note – as far as I’m aware not a single member of the team turned up on the evening of the award ceremony (we were all too busy – including Matt himself!). Make of that what you will, but as it stands our video has one of the highest view counts from all the videos that were made – nearly six thousand!

Aside from what I’ve described, there’s little else to add. It was not a particularly educational experience, but it reinforced what I already knew about music videos and student film makers (not a dig – I’m one as well!). The most I learned was in the philosophical conversations with Matt as we returned to Coventry – nothing like some pre-graduation ‘real world’ prep talk!

To confirm, Team Adagio still plan to make Matt another music video. Without the constraints, I’m sure we will be able to make a much better video based around our work schedules. Moral of the story to be learned – if you’re this busy as we are, don’t even attempt a two-week competition. You don’t have the time to commit. Common sense really, but we all like to give things a go from time to time (Only those who go too far… find out how far one can go-however-that-quote-went’). If anything, another golden rule:

Never. Go for the power ballad.

Even. If you have a plan.

The One-Minute Video

A piece of work that most believed to be part of a separate module ‘Professional Practice Portfolio’ was realised mid-way through the final week of 361MC. This video was a one-minute short about you as a person and as a professional film maker. It was important to note this was not really a professional showreel to show to employers – it was designed more as something for our degree show.

Luckily for me, I’d been working on my showreel for another module anyway, so automatically my ‘best bits’ of university were already on an FCP timeline. My showreel was at three minutes, so all I needed to do was to cut it down to one. The opening and closing shots of my video would be of me helping to film a music video on Liverpool’s Crosby Beach (something yet to be blogged about on my 364MC blog), so people could see what I looked like. I decided to make the rest of the one-minute piece out of footage of my work, complete with a voice-over.

The voice over was recorded using a standard Marantz 660. I’ve always used these, complete with reporters mics for best sound. However, my response was rather… ‘dry’ in relation to the cheesiness of previous efforts at videos like these. I have recently discovered Karl Pilkington and the ‘An Idiot Abroad’ series, but to be honest I’ve always been a fan of deadpan comedy (Jack Dee, Dylan Moran, Larry David etc.) This was a typical project where everyone would naturally say ‘I’m wonderful at this, I’m creative, I’m really enthusiastic and engaged with the work of… ‘so on’). Of course, me being me, I completely contradicted this, and purposefully opened with the line ‘What’s ‘creative’?’ to demonstrate this point. After the visuals and voice over were sorted, I used some stock music from Free Play Music to play over the background.

I blasted through some of the things I’ve done during my time here at university (though as I say, this was essentially one minute of a three minute video – possibly a sample of the ‘best of the best’ of my work). The humour – as all of the comics quoted – is an acquired taste. It is not designed to be offensive, just humourous. I’m sure people who see this will think it’s something more important than it actually is, which makes my closing line ‘I’m passionate about media’ when I’m very dull-faced even more humourous. This was not accidental! (And also quite representative of how tired I am on the lead-up to hand-in!)

Old Versus New – My old ‘one minute video’ above, taken at the start of my second year. My new one minute video below, taken at the end of my third year. See how far I have come as a media producer! (And do note that the monotone voice was actually intentional this time around!)

PHAA – Marketing

The final part of the FMP production came in the form of marketing. My marketing campaign was formed into three areas:

  1. The DVD – This needed a box sleeve, and an image on the disc.
  2. The Poster – This needed the title and the release date.
  3. The Trailer – This needed to summarise the film.

In terms of The DVD, my first film ‘The Job Interview’ was also done as part of a university module, so I was vaguely familiar with how to create all the relevant designs. I looked up the size of a DVD box cover sheet on the internet, and then split the cover into three parts – ‘front cover’, ‘back cover’, and ‘middle strip’.

The front cover consisted of a still from the film, with a ‘gothic’ text font (Monotype Corsiva) used to advertise the genre through the words. I put ‘a short film by Adam Broome’ on the front because my name is – essentially – all over this work.

However, I have noticed that most other people have created some sort of fake company logo for their projects (‘Samantha Ryan Media’ presents, as a fictitious example). Maybe I’m just too straight-laced for this sort of thing, but unless I genuinely do have a company like Clever Lens or Prophecy Media backing me, then I treat this film as what it is – something I made myself, to demonstrate my ability and pass my degree. Maybe one day I will have a production company (or at least one sponsoring my production costs). But until then, this is simply a film made by a student. I don’t think that this fact makes it any less professional – in my eyes it’s more professional if anything, as potential contacts wont be looking on the internet for my non-existent corporate partners.

With this in mind, the back cover was equally simplistic – another still from the film (desaturated completely, because the half-and-half colour thing just looked odd on photographs), and some text under it in the same font style, explaining the story (reminiscent of the pitch and the outline I did all those months ago). I chose a black background to bring the two covers together (black for obvious reasons), and then added both covers onto my main template. All that was left was to add the title, rotate it, and space it out the middle strip. Et viola:

Note – I have since noticed a small red smudge on the front cover, on Amy’s head (no idea where that came from), that I will try and correct before the hand in.

The disc image was another production still from the final film. After playing about with the master black and white levels, I managed to create a black and white print, again using using the same font face to place some white text in the corner of the image. I chose black and white colours so it would suit the white top of my DVDs better. However, when it came to finding a printing station to actually print the image, I later found out (after a lot of footwork) that there were no printing stations in Coventry that provided those services! I have a friend who may may have to equipment to help me with this – if not, I have no choice but to hand in a blank-top DVD!

The poster was done in Photoshop on-campus. The major problem was that due to our tight schedule on the second day of the shoot, we had forgotten to get any marketing or promotional photos after the wrap had been called (plus, it was raining!) Thus, I had to make do with what I had. The final result turned out like this:

The image of Amy is actually the actress on a break from filming. She has a script in her left hand, which has been cut out of the picture. This image was graded to give it  purple hue. The text was the same as the DVD cover, and I made the text stand out more by adding a drop-shadow and making the letters glow. The text at the bottom was a little less fancy (‘Copperplate Gothic’ if I recall correctly), as the release time is quite important, and needs to be easier to read. The lettering was all made large so people could read it from a distance. The tag-line ‘Innocence Wears Many Faces’ was something I just added to make the poster look more complete – the date alone was just a little too minimalist. I avoided putting my name on the poster as well – my ego is not that big yet!  The last addition was the border at the top – taken from a Google stock image and cut out. My skills in Photoshop have never shook the Earth, but for me at least, this poster is actually pretty good!

The trailer was the final part of my marketing campaign. I simply used some of the rough cut exports to piece together some of the nicest shots and best acting featured in the film (to show off some of the best bits!). The use of the text (again, keeping the theme with the font style) was difficult for me to construct, as there wasn’t really anything to say about the events of the film. After the initial cut of the trailer, it was simply ‘A boy meets a girl for a chat, but nothing is ever that simple.’ I think that sums the film up pretty well, and still leaves a sort-of mystery to the main events of the film.

Trailers – The rough cut (above), and the final cut (below)

I decided to choose more emotive shots in the final cut (not just the biggest close-ups!). The scene where the two characters both look down to the floor worked really well, as did the scene where Amy grabs Peter. I wanted to include the flashback scenes for the same reason they were in the film – to add a little variety. And also, much like the film, I ended the trailer on a happy note, with the two first meeting and introducing each other. This almost introduced the audience to the film by setting them up up at the beginning of the story – if they want the rest of the story however, they’ll have to watch the film!

The music in the trailer is another of Free Play Music’s, used previously on a Tenerife project that didn’t make the final cut. I think the magical ‘ballroom’ style tune fitted the theme of the film very well. It was also light-hearted – something that all trailers need to be to a certain extent (heavy-handed trailers usually put me off, either down to directors trying too hard to make their film look good, or making the film look too intense). Needless to say, my trailer was more of a back-seat approach. There was not a lot to report, advertise, describe, or explain. The visuals summed up the whole thing!

There was an initial rough cut designed for feedback. During this time period, I deleted the entire bin as I cleaned out the original cuts of the film (whoops). I managed to recreate the entire trailer again, and it looked a lot better the second time around. I saw an example of a previous student’s work, which ended in the style of a hollywood blockbuster like this:

Again, I could put ‘in association with Final Cut Pro’ and things like that. But again, I think that detracted from my film if anything. Once I’m operating at that level within the industry, hopefully I will have demonstrated enough talent for employers to know that I can create a closing still like that with little fuss!

Distribution brought the marketing together, and as of current, Peter Has An Angel has successfully been entered into Roots To Shoots, a local film festival in Leamington Spa. It also has a seat at our degree show, and other entries into other showcases are still ongoing. At this stage, there is little else left to worry about other than the production folder and the actual hand-in!

Peter Has An Angel – The Final Cut

After the music was added and the sound effects finalized, it was time to finally export the final cut of Peter Has An Angel. As I had such a major role in it’s production process, I decided to put my name at the front of the film. Happily, it is a project I am proud of. I’m glad of the way it turned out, and it is something I will show to potential employers to demonstrate my wide range of abilities in the industry.

However, as always, I am critical of my own work. It’s far from the best film ever made, but I do believe it is probably the best I could have made the film after the main shoot, and I couldn’t ask for more than that at this stage. For errors, there are a couple that stick out for me, but they are only minor.

The Presentation – Where it all began. How accurate were my predictions? It is not really for me to decide… but I think I did pretty good!

First of all, the good things. I think the acting was well-handled throughout the production. People have been critical of the opening sequence, which I’ve cut out as much as possible. I thought the theatrics worked quite well, and I’m sure in some films they do (they just didn’t seem suited to this particular one). In future experiences, how ‘theatrical’ to make the facial expressions on your actors requires some revision on my part.

The saturation levels reflecting the mood works really well (as I’m sure everyone will agree), and the sound is top-notch throughout. The forest was an ideal setting to place isolated characters, and the cut-aways give the forest some character traits of it’s own. The ‘twisting tree’ shot is probably my favourite, blurred in the middle by the change in saturation. I think this added to the imagery, which is why I decided to leave it in. All these elements come together well in the closing parts, which are always important as these are the parts you tend you remember a film the most by.

However, despite the audio of the dialogue being relatively consistent throughout, those with acute hearing will notice the ambience changing drastically at certain points in the film (not to mention some moments of evident peaking!). This was down to the segregated way the film was shot – namely, with three different sound engineers (three different levels of experience, and three different levels of hearing). The background ambience will change from hardly noticeable to overpowering in the change of a single shot. I created a backing ‘wild track’ to reduce this effect (as it merges all ambience into one background sound), but the shifts were too drastic in some parts for this to work. Thus, I resorted to ‘audio fades’ – gently rising and lowering the ambience in accordance with the dialogue. This was not an option at some parts however – I said “Cut!” too early, or the conversation was continuing at too fast a pace to fade. Basically, fading around quick conversations means you can hear the next part of the conversation ‘echo’ over the next shot (which, in the case of this film, was usually using a different audio track altogether!) The constant birdsong was also pretty annoying too – particularly in the darker moments of Amy’s monologue!

Special effects are not really my forte, as I’ve said many a time, so Amy’s introduction when she’s towering over Peter was purely down to grading, de-saturation and music. All the same, I would have probably liked to use special effects here – for a price, I will certainly consider using professionals for such cinematic moments in the future. I am not going to be a special effects designer in the future, so therefore this hasn’t hampered my professional development in any way. It was just something that could be improved upon for future projects (though in all fairness, I tried to use trick-photography to make this opening sequence more epic, but failed – I must learn from my errors there).

You may notice at the line ‘The day I lost my virginity was the day I died’, that the subsequent shot has raindrops in it. This was on Day 1 and Day 2, hence the change in weather. I didn’t think the light rain would pick up, but inevitably it did. Films in locations like this are always weather dependent – I think I got quite lucky to be fair. No matter what post-production trick I used, there was no denying that Amy Carter was briefly a lot soggier for a single shot!

During the extensive cutting out of certain scenes and dialogue, you may notice the conversation advances quicker at certain points than others. This was unavoidable – I always intended to cut the film after I’d got a rough cut. The problem was that this film revolves around a single conversation. You cannot simply cut parts out without a ‘chaos-theory’ effect down the entire timeline. If I cut out the part about her having black wings, the ending makes no sense. If I cut out any part of the flashbacks, the end of the conversation where these memories culminate has less power. Most of the editing came from the first half of the film – not only the entire chase sequence, but also any mention of the recession or the fact that Amy’s parents were bankers. The feedback I was given was that the script needed ‘less meat’, so this was the sub-plot that I scrapped altogether. There was also a scene where Peter tries to leave before returning to the log to talk about his family. This was cut, as I repeated some shots used later in the film. Again, something I must learn from, and avoid doing again in future projects.

The Job Interview – It’s been referred to enough, so now you can see for yourself the quality of my first film, and how the quality of my second film – Peter Has An Angel – holds up against it.

The quality was too noticeable between the Canon 5D and the Sony Z5. I was always aware of the risks – I just wanted to see the effects first hand. That 5Ds cannot operate slow-motion effects simply and efficiently is a big problem for me – I was intending to purchase one post-graduation, but set-backs like this make me not so sure. The trained eye can notice de-interlacing issues, but all eyes can see that the overall quality drops. I will need to investigate if any DSLR video cameras actually have the ability to perform smooth slow record, as my movie-making style relies on slow-motion quite a bit! (Think of it, slow-motion can add tension, horror, or humour to virtually any scene!)

The music is top-notch throughout and I have no qualms with any of the additional audio. It is yet to be seen if I incur any problems with the track I got online, and although Free Play Music has benefitted my projects tenfold over my time in academia, it is looking like I will employ professional singer songwriters and music designers for future projects – to put my mind at ease if nothing else!

The grading in this film works a treat as well – it was always my intention to play with the saturation levels. Bringing everything back to black and white at ‘the threat’ was something I added during the post-production process, and I think that added a lot more meaning to the script, and to the visuals in the film (it made the ‘saturation gimmick’ less linear). The colour and the music at the end work well, and I added ‘three weeks later’ just to make it absolutely clear that we were at a different point in time (as feedback had suggested this was not clear enough in the initial cut).

Several points in the film cut to shots of the forest – ferns, logs and the like (among them, some of my favourite shots in the film). These were to bridge gaps between the conversation. Rather than trying to carry on like nothing had happened, I forced a pause in the dialogue. Pauses work well in documentaries – they work less well here. But they suited my purposes of slowing down a conversation that was becoming increasingly accelerated in post-production, during my attempts to cut down the final running time (yes, adding footage actually cut the running time!)

On a final critical point, although it took me a while to even notice it, the text of ‘three weeks later’ may have looked better in the same font I’d used for the titles, or for the marketing materials. Something gothic may have been more beneficial than the overly-simply font face that I’d used (though in all fairness, this text as only there because feedback said the time change wasn’t clear. The text is only up for a few seconds, so people need to be able to read it quickly).

There is a saying in film making that one should always ‘show’ the audience, rather than ‘tell’ them. Looking at my finished piece, I have to say that there is a lot of ‘telling’ going on here. When pitching the script, a lecturer did tell me that the idea was more suited to a style of a theatre performance or a play. The idea was based around the notion of K.I.S.S (keeping it simple), yet I somehow managed to craft an idea so visually simple that just two people could handle the entire behind the scenes area of production. It was hard work knowing how to make a conversation between two people interesting, but that is why I chose to do this project as my FMP. Filming the conversation was one half of the production, and making it interesting was the other half. Music, effects, grading and camera angles were all additional to the narrative, and in their execution, you are able to see very clearly my current strengths and limitations as a director and a media producer. If I failed at any point, there is simply a well-written and well-acted conversation in the place of my failure to keep the audience engaged. This was in essence a fail-safe my for FMP, in contrast to having a film based entirely upon my ability to find creative shots or use lots of locations.

The brief placed emphasis on originality, and although I quoted several films in my research (notably ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’), I believe I have created an original film that has not been made by many people who have ever ran the Media Production course at Coventry University. Gothic movie-making is an expensive and dangerous area to delve in to, as it pushes your ability to ‘create’ and ‘be eccentric’ further than any other genre. This perhaps puts people off making films of this sub-genre, which is why my film should (in theory) thrive when drawn alongside other, more well-known genres. Peter Has An Angel is a weird and quirky little film, that was designed not only as a showpiece for employers post-graduation, but also as an experiment into the visual medium to further my own creativity. It is a massive improvement on my previous short film, and is thus one of my most accomplished works to date. I came to university with the hopes of making one of my short stories at the end of the course, and I have achieved that goal. Whether I did it well or not…

is now for you to decide:

The Final Cut – An entire academic year of work now holds up to scrutiny across the board. It’s got good points and bad points… as long as I know which ones are which, I’m on the right path!

The Music – Why Do It That Way?

As I cut my FMP down more and more, the time drew ever closer to the tense moment when I would have to start adding sounds and music tracks not recorded on-site to my film. These varied from sound effects like mobile phone ringtones, to music by sound designers and musicians. My main fear of this part of the post-production process is that I lack any ability to create audio – thus, I would have to make do with whatever I found, or whatever I had arranged in pre-production.

Early on in the pre-production process I recruited a sound designer – another student at the university. I gave him a relatively ‘free-reign’ brief (the assignment briefs I issue are usually relaxed to give artists the most artistic control over their productions), with the only points highlighted that it was a gothic film, it needed background music for a rather downbeat conversation, and come up with as many tracks as possible. Some edits were given to me in March, which allowed me to provide feedback regarding which things I liked, and which things I didn’t. It put my mind at ease though, as it demonstrated that I was in successful communication with the sound designer, and that the sound designer understood what he’d been asked to do. The quality of the music was of a very high standard as well – the rough edits convinced me that he was a good sound designer capable of making my FMP better with his works implemented.

For most of the production process, we were out of contact, which left me to focus on other aspects of the sound scape. As the final ‘dialogue cut’ came to completion, there were several parts of the film I needed to take note of in terms of sound:

  1. The Chase – Peter jumps, he runs, he falls down. This was meant to be an exciting opening, and it still had that purpose, despite being heavily cut. The music needed to fit the mood of this part of the film.
  2. The Flashbacks – Ambience and / or music was needed for both Peter and Amy’s recitations – the rest of the main conversation was to be diegetic.
  3. The Threat – The shot I commonly referred to as ‘The Threat’ in the later weeks of production simply refers to the scene where Amy grabs Peter and warns him not to make passes on her. This was one of my biggest concerns, as it did not require music alone – more like a mixture of music, ambience, and effects at the same time to get the tone of the moment correct.
  4. The Ending – This was the smallest and biggest problem of them all. The final shots featuring Peter three weeks after the main events was to be accompanied by an acoustic / indie rock music piece. The sound designer would not be able to make this, and nor would I find anything like this in simple sound effect sites. I knew of a site that could give me some really cheesy indie tracks with no lyrics, but this would end the film on a goofy note rather than a happy one.

The ace in the hole from the beginning was a site called Free Play Music – it supplies loyalty-free music tracks to any who want them, and I’ve used the site extensively throughout all three years of my course. Sadly, the tracks are usually loyalty-free for a reason, but if you’re a good enough editor, you can make the music fit the mood of your film. The terms of use of the site were applicable to film festivals, but as far as I could tell only in the USA.

I had one track already that I knew would come in handy – ‘Witches Approaching’, which I’d used previously for my ‘Montage Of Beautiful Things’ project in Year 2. I figured I would use it in some way during the opening scenes (which I did indeed do eventually), but only partially, as I wanted to use as many different audio tracks as I could in the final cut (to add variety to the feel of the film regarding the fluctuating emotions).

I was keen to approach a local artist called Kristy Gallacher regarding the film’s closing track – her song ‘Fending Off The Frost’ suited the themes within the film well. However, as time went on, I realised I may well have had to pay to get the usage of the song. This was not guaranteed, but I wanted to investigate another option first – that of a local music video competition called 2Weeks2MakeIt, which I was hoping to help out with. If I could meet a musician through the competition, I would possibly have been able to secure a suitable track for a lot less trouble.

As it transpired, I did find an artist at the music video festival to help out with the final track – an artist called Matt Lakey, who we subsequently did the music video for. The song was called ‘Motive’, about love and ‘troublesome women’, which I again thought suited the theme of the film pretty well.

Battle Of The Bands – Kristy Gallacher and my initial idea for the end track, and Matt Lakey below, who gave me the final song I used for the film (though it is not the one here – the song I used was called ‘Motive’)

Once the final dialogue cut was done, I contacted the sound designer and asked him to send everything through. Within a week I had everything I needed (with the exception of the final track). I queued all the tracks up in the FCP bin (even ones I didn’t think I’d need) and began adding them where I thought appropriate. The film starts off rather depressed, and so all the more melancholic tunes were placed at the start of the film. These were mostly in the form of slow piano tracks. Sharp ambience served to play over the transitional period during the middle of the film (i.e. Amy’s recitation of her death), which was neither sad nor happy – rather, indifferent or horrific! This led for the aptly-titled ‘fairy-tale’ sound track to be added over Peter’s confession of his love for Rebecca.

Atop the music I added some basic titles and credits (I told you they’d be basic!), but I don’t think their simplicity detracts from the film in any way (I never do!). ‘Motive’ was placed at the end, the ambience was sorted at the flashbacks, and the ‘Witches Approaching’ track was placed very strategically at the moment when Peter ‘jumps’ upon first meeting Amy face to face during the opening scene.

The final things to be added were the sound effects, notably during ‘The Threat’, and also some of the cut away shots (such as the ‘twisting tree’ shot). Most of these were actually taken from iMovies and distorted using the speed modifier function in FCP (slower speed equals higher bass, but it can distort the sound too much if not used sparingly).

I really liked the metallic sounds in the ambience – it sets up Amy’s flashback to her death subliminally before her character has even been introduced. It also added a layer of threat and danger on top of the moody and isolated atmosphere. Black and white visuals, a deserted forest, and the melancholic and industrial music all fused together to create a unique mood for which the film was to operate in throughout. This complemented the gothic nature of the narrative, and made the film feel more complete, and together as a whole working artefact.

Overall, the music really changed the film on every level. The threat scene makes you sit up more. The loud music during the chase makes Amy’s towering form over Peter seem more epic. Matt Lakey’s track ends the film on an even happier and chirpier note. The industrial sounds make Amy’s recitation more harrowing. The ‘fairy-tale’ track makes Peter’s love for Rebecca seem even more fantastical. The audio make this film complete as a stand alone piece, and as my FMP. I owe all who helped with this part of post-production a big debt of gratitude!