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.

Call The Shots – Where Have All The B’zzs Gone?

Since joining Call The Shots back in February, I have been extensively networking and getting to know all the various film makers in the group (as I’m sure such knowledge will come in handy post-graduation!). It was only a matter of time before I was able to get on board with one of the many projects that the independent film group were developing, and I got my chance in April over the Easter break.

‘Where Have All The B’zzs Gone?’ (that’s pronounced ‘bees’) is a quaint little tale about a woman reflecting on her past youth. Whether these memories were the real memories of director Rita was something we never really worked out – it added to the mystery! The relatively simple construction on the screenplay involved a woman walking around various locales in Coventry and Kenilworth, talking to herself as she remarked upon her past experiences at different places. The script was rather cryptic however, sometimes referring to romance, whilst at other times referring to satellite emissions and light beams (Twin Peaks, anyone?) The shoot took place over one weekend, with only two and a half pages being shot on day one, and the other four and a half pages on day two.

Day Two – I took photos on the first day, so typically I wasn’t in any of them! On day two I was the sound engineer, and here I am (far right) with the DoP and the actress (middle) and director Rita (far left)

The first day of filming had several problems arising early on. Rita had mentioned when pitching the idea that she had wanted to film the audio on set, meaning despite the film’s narrative premise, she wanted the audio captured on the day of the shoot with a rifle mic, and not captured separately in post-production (which would make this film styled with a voice-over narration). This was my initial idea upon reading the script, as I know from experience that voice-overs can work well, and often the sound is better. However, I also know the importance of ambience, and considering the cryptic script, I didn’t want to challenge a style I didn’t fully understand.

However, when the 1st AD turned up, he said exactly the same thing, and regardless of capturing the voice on set or not, audio capture on Kenilworth Road (one of the main roads into Coventry, and a pivotal part of the screenplay) was going to be a disaster. I was actually in the area of where I’d filmed my own FMP – I had ventured deep into one of the nearby woods specifically to avoid the noise of the freeway. The road is one of the busiest links to Coventry’s ring road – as Rita had lived in the area a long time, she must have known this.

We cancelled the Kenilworth Road shoot, and moved at nearby lane called ‘The Spinney’, where most of the day’s shoot took place. We got shots of Kenilworth Road, and captured the audio separately further down the lane, away from the traffic. We did some shots in my own FMP location Wainbody Wood, and also did a scene with a local person who was just walking her dog (we got her to sign a release form as well).

Rita and her 1st AD were suffering from creative differences throughout however, and this became more apparent as the day went on. I was brought in as a focus-puller, but the DoP was too professional to need one (if there is such a thing as that!) Much like him, I figure it best to focus your own camera on shoots – after all, ‘if you want a job doing right’

However, this left me on photography duty, and since the location of ‘The Spinney’ didn’t change, my work was done in roughly one hour. Food and drink were in the backs of the cars, so catering was handled well (there was another team member driving supplies back and forth from the set). But at one point in the day I found myself just eating Dairylea Dunkers and sitting in the car whilst the rest got on with the film making. I know that it wasn’t any good standing around on set – I’d just be in the way and distracting people. I guess the few people who had had to stand around for ages on my own film production can consider that karma repaid the debt in full!

I did get the job of ‘lighting engineer’ a few times, using a reflector to illuminate the face of the actress. Lighting has never been my forte, but I think I did okay under the circumstances. We ended the shoot at five o clock, and finalised meeting arrangements for the next day. I was originally going to be a camera operator for this film, but was not able to do the role as I had no camera (the university is pretty much fully-booked until hand-in dates at this point). The lesson was that if I want to be a camera operator after graduation, I am going to need a camera, and a good one at that. It is now time to start thinking of investments!

Another Rainy Wood – Rita was not as lucky with the weather as I had been. Still, it was nothing that an umbrella couldn’t solve!

The second day of the shoot was a lot more productive. I switched roles with a crew member who couldn’t make it and got the role of sound engineer. This was the first project I’d used an ‘Ediroll’ on before, and I could understand how they were loads better than the Marantz 660 model which I usually used. I set the kit up and recorded the sound to the best of my ability, which shouldn’t have turned out too bad as I’ve often been complemented on my hearing as well as my sharp eye.

The shoot mostly took place in Crackley Wood, although we barely went into the area and shot most of the footage in and around the entrance. The shoot lasted several hours, with constant interference from cars, the nearby road, and people walking around (this wood was more popular than Wainbody). I did wonder why the location of Crackley Wood had been chosen instead of Wainbody Wood – I think it was to do with meadows of bluebells that should have been in bloom. On a return trip to Wainbody the very next day for my FMP ambience, I actually found lots of bluebells in Wainbody as well – unfortunate!

The weather also came into play half way through the second day – namely, it threw it down, and we only just managed to get out the woods before the storm fell on us. Rita altered the script in parts to adapt to the conditions, but luckily the sun came out not long after the rain to dry everything up (at least giving the illusion of a dry day!) Breaks were more scarce on the second day, but it was no big issue – we soldiered through, eventually grabbing the four pages of script that we needed to get done. The shoot ended at Rita’s own house in her backyard, and we finished just in time for the actress to get back home. I was given a pack of Dairylea Dunkers in the wrap party, apparently due to my large appetite!

Backyard Shoot – With less than an hour to go, and a whole page to shoot, the final shoot in Rita’s back yard had to go right first time with minor, if any, hiccups. It did.

Overall, the shoot went well. Everything got filmed, everything was done to a high degree, and a high level of professionalism was maintained throughout. I think there was a certain level of personal self-expression in the script belonging to the director, which meant the meaning of the script was lost on some of us. Better explanations and summaries of the scenes could have simplified shooting some scenes, as well as guided the actress better in her role.

Despite some tense moments on the first day, there was no major quarreling or awkward moments, meaning this was also a project that was executed smoothly. It may be ironic that the director tried to capture dialogue audio on a busy road, or that we filmed in a wood on a day littered with rain on the weather forecast (though they’re unreliable anyway), but every problem that arose was met and overcome, even at times when I was sure the shoot was going to be postponed!

I am curious to see how the finished piece turns out – it should clock in at around five minutes, and will feature our actress walking, talking, and interacting with a few things in the environment. My only worry is the script, as in a film like this it needs to be good. Any self-indulgence could be problematic – if the crew had difficulty understanding some scenes, then an audience definitely will (and I am aware that this, although unlikely, could also be a problem in my own FMP). Much like the film I made in Iceland, this film could sit better in the more ‘avant-garde’ circles of the media showcasing industry! It is, however, another key moment in my overall professional experience gained at university – the first film I’ve assisted in being a part of with an independent film group!

Neck It – Once the wrap had been called, we hit the champers. I drank a little bit more, as unbeknown to most, it was actually my 22nd birthday on this day!

Coventry Blaze – Ice Hockey

One of the more intense shoots this year for my Professional Practice Portfolio came in the form of an invitation to film the Coventry Blaze ice hockey team from a friend, whilst I was just simply queueing to hand equipment back into the university! I took him up on the offer for one main reason – I’ve not got any sport-orientated videos on my showreel at all (despite being involved in a variety of sports and societies during my time here at university!)

The shoot was simple enough – I was a camera operator using a Z1 camera, and I was to be set up at one side of the ice rink. I knew next to nothing about ice hockey, and didn’t do any research prior to the event itself. All I knew was that Coventry Blaze are a team that are well-respected in the sport. The ice rink (also known as The Skydome) was also more or less opposite my house – a prime location!

Several things struck me about the sport – first, it all seemed very ‘Superbowl’ (that is, ‘American’ in nature). There was lots of booming music, lots of drums, lots of chanting, and then when the sport began, it was brutal! People skating around at speed whacking a puck into each other’s faces at high velocity with sticks, and occasionally skating into huge groups of people and smashing them into the side barriers.

My role was simple – follow the puck. There was a ‘safe shot’ that I established early on, just of the goal area. If the puck got lost amidst the hockey sticks near the goal entrance, I moved to the safe shot in order to capture the goal as best I could. Following the puck was difficult because there was a lot of glaring white ice to film through. When the puck went to the other half of the rink opposite my position, it often disappeared into the white on the screen, meaning I’d have to take my eyes off the video screen to try and see what was happening in the game with my own eyes.
There were also several blind spots to contend with – notably any shot taking place in a far corner, as the posts that connected the different parts of the barriers blocked a straight shot. During these periods, I was relatively helpless to do anything else other than try and predict where the puck was going to go next.

Over the hours of filming, I gradually got better at the job though – if I lost the puck, I’d follow the general movement of the players (as they were usually making a beeline for it!). I also realised that if the puck hit the side of the rink hard enough, due the circular shape of the rink, the puck could effectively ‘orbit’ around the goal posts, being shot to the left of the goal, and appearing at the right a moment later.

I was complemented on my skills by Chris, the man who ran the shoots (which is always nice!). The main key with filming sport is to have the white balance sorted. This is even more important than usual, as if it’s off then the whole thing just looks… odd (and it also hampers your ability to follow the puck on the video screen).

I enjoyed filming it, as it was a new experience. I’m not much of a ‘sports’ fan myself, but I did enjoy watching the games unfold over their sets. You could tell that the sport meant a lot to the fans in Coventry – the city isn’t known for all that much, so to have an ice hockey team that is feared and respected throughout the country no doubt gives people an uplifted spirit.

I filmed two days, both of them Saturdays in February. On the second shoot though, I was the only camera operator on the ice rink level, which no doubt gave the editor a bit of a headache. I was only called in initially because camera operators hadn’t turned up, or had let my friend down. This is a shame, because although this was a very simple thing to film (or could be as complicated as you made it), it was certainly a memorable experience. It tested me more on my endurance levels of filming than anything else. This style of filming doesn’t develop you creatively, but it helps you get a job after graduation. For this module, who could ask for more?

Coventry Blaze – This video shows snippets of just one of the two games I filmed. Note the blind spots, and how my ability to follow the puck gets better over time. Also note the ‘safe shot’ of the goal nearest to me, and how I shoot the score board after any goal has been scored.

As mentioned, there was a lot of loud, booming music played during the games. Here are two tunes that were played that sum up the spirit of the game and the experience pretty well!

‘One Mic’ Nights

“One Mic. One Love.” 

Those words now forever etched into my mind with regards a club off Fleet Street in a dingy London back alley, where a clandestine nightclub operates underground. This club, every month, hosts an event called ‘One Mic Night’, where local urban artists take to the stage and display their talents to a panel of judges (industry experts, coincidentally). Sound like The X Factor? Yeah, it pretty much is! My friend Abu (who has helped me a lot with my own FMP) chanced across me one day when I was feeling low in university, and gave me the offer to go to London with him immediately.

We took half of the entire university media loan shop equipment down with us, with the intention of setting up our very own ‘TV Studio’ within the club itself. It was to be a mammoth undertaking – luckily we had four hours to set up. Trusted work colleagues Yasmin and Gov (of CVTV fame) were also around, as were some students I hadn’t worked with before. Needless to say, my day went from ‘boring’ to ‘exciting’ in the space of ten minutes!

We had a lot of fun experimenting with jibs, slide tracks and all other manner of equipment during the set-up. Eventually we managed to get a lighting set-up that we liked, and I in turn recommended camera locations. Interviews were to be done at the back of the club, whilst one camera was on the judges, one was on the stage, and one was simply roaming free and getting the more visually interesting shots for the cut-aways.

Despite only being drafted in at the last-minute, I was casually placed on the camera directed towards the stage – catching all the acts of the show was now my responsibility. I was perfectly able to do this, but there were subtle things I did not know that affected my ability to meet certain criteria – for example, I didn’t know we were filming four separate episodes in the same night. I tried to keep my style consistent throughout, until the finals when I changed my style to set it apart from the rest. This was an accidental mistake – one of the problems of using a person fresh into the group I fear.

However, all things considered, the shoot went really well. Given the two hour drive down, the four hour set-up, the four hour filming, the one hour pack-up and the two hour return journey, this was also an endurance test of my media production abilities. As always, I came through just fine (though my lens-zooming abilities became more limited towards the end).

The first shoot was in February, the second in March – before and after my Iceland trip respectively. The first shoot was littered with problems that we corrected with the second shoot – the editor was most annoyed with two main things:

  1. After we’d set up the lighting, the lighting throughout the club changed. None-student staff then moved what dedo lights we’d set up, which clouded the judges’ faces, and made my shots look like some sort of blue Italian giallo film from the 1970s.
  2. Camera formats. It’s hard to know who’s responsibility this was – for argument’s sake, I’ll chastise myself for having not brought this up in time. Every camera filmed on a different format setting for some unknown reason. This quadrupled (at least) the length of time for editing, due to extended rendering times.

Due to these errors, we were sure to do a thorough lighting set-up on the second shoot. This is the first project in which I’ve (almost) used Blonde and Redhead lights (and I might add – they are BRIGHT!) Sadly, they were too bright, and we decided not to use them in favour of not dazzling the stage performers or the crowd. Formats were also set out very clearly before the second shoot began, solving the problem of export settings.

The Interview Area – We used posters to create a backdrop, but the posters reflected the ‘Blonde’ lights we were using to illuminate guest’s faces. We overcame the problem by pointing the beams towards the walls, and reflecting their light off the walls to create a wider flood of light.

Generally, I was on the same camera as before during the second shoot. This time I knew what to expect, and did the job almost on autopilot – not in a bad way, I was still ready to respond to any problems. I’ll say I was more ‘at ease’ during the second shoot, which was probably more beneficial than not!

One problem that constantly arose was our use of the attached card readers. We primarily used ‘Z’ cameras – predominantly tape-based video cameras. Tape uploads in real time, which means when you tape forty minutes of footage, you need to replay the tape to upload the video to the computers, meaning uploading the video takes forty minutes as well. Usually, you’d just swap tapes during a shoot and upload it all for hours when you get back.

However, during my time at university, media production has changed – most notably in the rise of DSLR cameras becoming the new ‘Z’ cameras. DSLRs do not use tape – they use memory cards. You capture forty minutes of footage, upload the files to the computer in about ten minutes, and then wipe the card and go again. The haste could mean you end up wiping a card and losing everything if care is not taken (i.e. it’s more difficult to completely wipe a tape, as it would take your forty minutes to lose on a tape what takes ten seconds to lose on a card). It was a risk we needed to take though, as we needed to upload complete ‘episodes’ at every interval. Upload times were always up the wire, and several times the host comedian had to stall for five minutes whilst the cards finished uploading (another problem here – we couldn’t continue our filming without the cards. We had no spares!)

Food was one of the less-important issues – after such hefty travelling, we were supposed to have chips and chicken ‘on the house’. Unfortunately, others members of staff kept eating our food, so on the second shoot, we kept the food at the interview area at the back to stop people accessing our food table so easily!

‘Urban’ was once upon a time my area of the music scene (which transgressed to alternative through the ‘scene kid’ movement in the late ‘noughties’). As a result, there was a nostalgic feel to this project for me – ‘Dominizzle’ was a great name (albeit for the cheesiest reasons!), and the artists vying for top spot were actually pretty solid performers all round.

Ultimately though, all credit goes to the editor who sifted through all the hours of footage to make the finished pieces – he did a solid job, and clearly demonstrated his ability as one of the best editors on the course. This was definitely a team exercise, and we really needed each other to rely on during these shoots (and I did discover the talents of other students I hadn’t worked with before during this project as well, which could benefit future productions).

All this said though, I didn’t really develop any industry contacts, nor did I develop any professional contacts on the London scene. The glitz and glamour of the urban scene was great, but as aforementioned, this was nostalgic to me. I have moved further afield since my ‘ghetto’ days with the likes of ‘Dogg’ and ‘Slim’.

The shows made it onto OH TV (channel 199 on Sky), making this the first project I’ve ever been involved with to be broadcast on a wide scale (with the exception of previous radio projects). Director Abu also did well to plug his own company Prophecy Media in the deal as well – things are looking up for all concerned with this project.

A third shoot was scheduled, but has been called off due to FMP-related time constraints. However, I will be happy to film for Prophecy Media or OH TV in the future. Trips down memory lane like this are always groovy – especially when new talent are trying to break new ground in the platform.

Conclusions

Conclusions of the Culture

Well, Iceland as a place has exceeded expectations to say the least. It is as weird and wonderful as it claims to be – built upon super-heated volcanic rocks on the edge of an arctic wilderness. Reykjavik seems to be the only real city on the whole island – the rest of the country is built up of tiny towns roughly the size of our university campus.

Crucially, everyone is very friendly. Even those living out in the wilderness seem familiar with tourism – I haven’t come across one angry Icelandic person in the entire trip, not even in the airport!

Another great thing about the people as well – they seem to be happy. Of course, everyone living in Tenerife was happy too, but that was a different style. Hot sunshine with beaches and cocktails makes everyone happy – up here in the cold and the dark, it was a different kind of happiness. I also noted a ‘oneness’ with nature – all the water was heated by nature, and all the energy used was either solar powered (like the cottages), or thermal powered (like the majority of Reykjavik). This meant that people left the lights on all the time – there was no need to conserve power, as the power was from nature anyway. It formed a guilt-free existence.

Although I was rather low-brow at seeing whale on the menu, I did some research and found that not the Minke Whale, nor the Puffin, nor the Arctic Char, were endangered. All the food on the menus – although they sounded like endangered species, were actually completely legit. One tourist t-shirt in the tourist centre actually had a picture of a whale ‘fluke flapping’, with the words ‘Kill Em All’ under it. But it was a joke – a joke Iceland can get away with. The people here seem aware that nature is their friend. It’s almost a country of hippies – but happy hippies at that. They seem to be living life the way it should be lived – no war, no politics, and hardly any financial trouble.

Yes, this may just be the way I am supposed to see it, but certainly it seemed a very relaxed place – with auroras over your head at night, and so much beautiful scenery and natural spas around you during the day, who wouldn’t be? The seemingly self-sustaining guilt-free existence is the cherry on top!

 

Conclusions of the Genre

I had a chance to study Experimental Narrative last year, but turned it down for Short Film because I didn’t think the former was marketable to a wider audience (and thus not financially beneficial in getting a job post-graduation). I have to say, after this project, I still feel exactly the same way.  Martyn’s project ‘Solveig’s Homecoming’ will clock in at around an hour, but he has a clear vision about what he wants his audience to feel. His story is ‘experimental’, but it still has a ‘narrative’.

That so many students had left their films until this point, and decided to make their artefacts up overnight, was sort of a shock to me – is it really that easy? When I visited the Tate Modern, I said that “everything in it was so reductionist and simplistic that anything could be classed as art, so long as you put the correct amount of bullsh*t in text next to it”. In visual and audio forms, audiences should never have to read what they were supposed to feel – they are simply supposed to experience it for what it is.

Thus, this genre treads a fine line between being interesting and being boring. Those are really the only two responses you can get. I asked Martyn where he planned to show his film, and the verdict is still out on that one. I thought a decent art gallery, such as ones in Nottingham, Birmingham or Manchester – I think it would fit nicely as a film that people could wonder in to, and sample the voice over and beautiful scenery (and the visuals are indeed beautiful – it was hard not to take a bad shot in Iceland!). The beauty of the piece will hold people’s attention, but the verdict is still out on whether it will hold them for an hour. I’m pretty sure there will also be experimental film festivals around the UK and abroad, where people are willing to see film more as an art form than a money-making process (which is, sadly, what I’m being trained into developing).

When I tried to suggest ideas for student’s experimental films, they just turned me down by saying my ideas ‘made too much sense’. But at least they understood my ideas. Understanding in turn makes my ideas understandable to an audience, and that makes them marketable. Marketable means money, and that means I chose correctly in my eyes. My own art (and indeed heart and passion) is in another style of film making entirely. I was curious to see if my thoughts would change during this project, but all I can think about is Broken Flowers every time a project of this style appears…

 

Conclusions of the Course (This is a brave one!)

If Iceland and the experimental narrative genre were not the only things I was sampling out there, it was the CCM students and their course as well. There is a lot of sibling rivalry between their course and my own, and I’ve never known why – CCM students have always been classed as the academic equivalent of the ‘working’ M-Pro students, which has needless to say given birth to this one-up attitude which was always going to surface during this project.

For starters, I’ll say I’ve just played in a fencing Varsity event at Warwick University – CCM students are nowhere near as academic as those lot. If there is some stigma about CCM being posh, let me tell you – they ain’t. Warwick Uni is still relatively fresh in my mind, and the students there are worlds apart from anyone at Coventry Uni. Not in a bad way, they’re  just different. They seemed friendly enough (perhaps a little tantrum-ish at times), but they got the job done, and so did we. Out in Iceland, despite the fact that there were two self-proclaimed CCM ‘divas’ in the group, I’m sorry but I don’t buy it. Time to hold the hands up and say that Coventry University is not the best university in Britain, and we’re all ‘in it’ together after graduation, regardless of course. There are no divas here, just us students.

But let me take that acronym ‘CCM’ – Communications, Culture and Media. The word I was drawn to here was ‘culture’ – I was thinking they’d be a lot more engaged than I was about the new and wonderful things around us. Actually, I was quite surprised – margarita pizza and spaghetti bolognese were the order of the day a lot of the time, as were Chinese dishes and any variants of Italian restaurants. Comfort and happiness are key on trips like this, that’s a given. I was just expecting… I don’t know, some greater level of engagement. Everyone was enthusiastic about the Blue Lagoon spa, but that was a spa. Anyone can be enthusiastic about a spa! Sometimes you have to take a bullet for sampling new culture, because that’s what’s part of the fun. I would recommend for future experiences for the students to push themselves out their comfort zones more – start with different foods, but then go to unusual places. Don’t say that you ‘don’t ‘do’ mountains’ – just walk up, experience, see, and feel. If it is the chosen profession to study culture, it is almost imperative that this happens.

Spotlight on the director, and I owe him a big debt of gratitude. Not only has he delivered to me the first university-fronted professional experience that will further my showreel and portfolio, but he has also added one CD to my collection, and got me out of financial trouble when it arose on the last day. Never mind the whisky in the lagoon, or the epic amount of driving he did to get us where we needed to go – I think we should all be very thankful to have had a lecturer as solid as him fronting this project. Given the isolation involved in the second half of the trip, we really needed one!

Although our number was small – which made this project a lot more intimate than a lot of others – I got the feeling that he had our backs, and although he gave us room to do ‘what students do’ (i.e. get drunk, get lost, fall out, make up etc.) he was always around if we needed his help. I am always a ‘lone ranger’ on this sort of expedition, but it was nice to know the support was there (as I did indeed need to fall back on it eventually!) It’s also funny that although two of our group were only briefly with the M-Pro group, they claimed to have been effectively abandoned after only spending ten minutes with them (Cringe!)

And to bring Media Production into this – yes, everyone had their fall-outs on this trip (my blog naturally shows me getting more and more agitated in the later days!), but this would have happened with my own course mates anyway ( / has happened in the past). We were in the cottages, and we were trapped. No room to maneuver. We’ve all gone into the arctic, and we’ve all made it back alive without killing each other. For that we should be proud – we all did very well!

The most wound up I got though was when others thought they could do my job without me. It is a common misconception that anybody can pick up a camera and make a film. There is truth in the statement – anyone can pick up a camera and make a film. A sh*t one. I have been making films for over three years now. It is my profession – it is what I am depending on to pay my debt off when I leave. I am experienced at directing, producing, and film making. Thus, if I say you can’t make a steady shot with my camera over undulating marshes, it is insulting to me when people claim they can do it better, and try and do it themselves. Twice the pride, double the fall, certainly. But if that had anything to do with this sibling rivalry of ‘CCM can do M-Pro work’, again let me tell you – you can’t.

Media Production is about producing media. CCM is about studying it. Without us making the films, in this aspect of the industry all CMM students are out of a job. I have no doubt that CCM is the more academic course, but this does not mean they can operate cameras and direct films as well as we can.

Small rant over though, I think we are not so different. Without CCM students, us M-Pros would be producing out of date stuff, as we wouldn’t know what the media of tomorrow would be (thus we’d be out of a job too!). All they need to do is ‘RTFM’ on some cameras, and all we need to do is just ‘read’ – but neither of us will, because at the end of the day, out there in the world we’re going to need each other’s skills to get into our professions. This makes the underlying rivalry a little dumb and professionally pointless if you ask me – see, Warwick University have hardly any media courses, probably because there’s ‘no room for media in proper academia’. THAT’S RIVALRY!

Hopefully though I have represented my course in a good light – I’m not always the most sociable, but always reliable, dependable and (evidently) honest. I hope I’ve done Martyn’s project well and done it to the degree he wanted – I always do my best at everything I do, but this project had some very strange and testing film work going on, not least trying to steady-cam in a car on a gravel road! This project has given me a good run-through of the Canon 5D, and using DSLR cameras to make feature films – namely, a pivotal technological step forward in my career and my professional practice portfolio! For that, I am grateful – it has been a wonderful project, in a wonderful country, with some awesome people!

 

…But What About The Poem?

The poem never got made (semantics). But I still hope to make this poem before the PPP deadline, although that will be some time after my FMP ‘Peter Has An Angel’ has been filmed!