Exposures Surpasses its Funding Target

The Kickstarter campaign we’ve been running for “Exposures” has reached – and passed – its funding goal. We’re moving forward into production with a healthy budget to see us through. I’d like to thank everyone who pledged money, pestered others to pledge money, or who shared the links around. Thanks also to folks who responded to us on Twitter, including Duncan Jones and Margaret Atwood! I’m going to figuratively direct my pants off.

Hard Work and Hedonism in Berlin

Well, what a week! I feel like I managed about 5 hours sleep total throughout my entire time at the festival. Loads of incredible work on potential campaigns for films that were showing at the festival, drinking and circular ping-pong in fly-by-night Berlin bars, drinking at warehouse parties, drinking in bars where only the Berliners drink, and the odd film or two. And I never thought I’d get to talk to people from Artificial Eye, Picturehouse, Soda Pictures, Wild Bunch, Cinemoi, and MUBI, but I did.

To all my new film friends: Prost!

The Library of Burned Books Perks are in the Post

When we made “The Library of Burned Books” we part-funded it with donations from people around the world using Indiegogo (our pitch page – including Al’s amazing comedy video – is still online) and so once the film was finished, we were obliged to follow through on all the things we promised people in return for their support.

Al adapted the stunning poster he designed as a prop for the film, and turned it into an image we printed onto the DVD. Then we ordered in some lovely recycled card cases, and hand-stamped the lot of them with our artwork. Finally, Al and his girlfriend Rachel hand-crafted little booklets (made from books we saved from the furnace) to insert into some of the cases for our extra-special donors.

It feels really good to put some hand-crafted love into the packaging of the film. Thanks again to everyone who helped us make the film!

Going to Berlin

I’m heading to the Berlinale with a few other film school colleagues, from LFS and around the world. The main focus of the week for us will be a 5-day course on distribution and marketing strategies called Making Waves. I’m really looking forward to going to Berlin again – such a great city! And to combine it with the Berlinale is going to be excellent.

Link: Making Waves website, Berlinale website

The Library of Burned Books is ‘Basically Done’

I am proud and happy to announce that “The Library of Burned Books” is basically done. We have married the graded image with the final sound mix, and all is looking and sounding as good as it can. All that’s left to do is the final submission paperwork, the disc duplication, the box design and the festival run. You know, all those trivial things. Where’s the whisky?

“The Night of Brian” Needs Your Help

If you’re one of those rare people with money burning a hole in their pockets, a short film I AD’ed during the summer is currently crowdfunding its post-production. “The Night of Brian” (working title) is a touching family drama with comedic elements set in rural Ireland in 1980. It’s about a brother, a sister, a tragic life story, the power of the Catholic church, and the film “The Life of Brian,” which was banned for years in the Irish Republic.

The shoot was great, the rushes look good, and now they need a little help getting the film through post production: getting it edited, colour corrected, sound designed and scored.

The Night of Brian crowdfunding campaign:

The Cutting Room

This is one of my favourite images from behind the scenes of Like Spinning Plates: clips of Kevin (Toby Liszt) hanging above an edit bin waiting to be spliced into the conformed print by the film’s editor, Fateme Ahmadi. 35mm film is magical.

The Frank Sinatra of the Arab World

I’ve just started working part-time as a funding & marketing co-ordinator on Papa Hedi for Claire de Lune Films.

Papa Hedi is Claire Belhassine’s first feature as director. She was in her late 20s when she discovered that her grandfather was the Frank Sinatra of the Arab World. Hedi Jouini’s songs and compositions still resonate twenty years after his death. Reprised as the theme tune for a popular Tunisian soap opera and the holding music for Tunisia’s leading mobile network; covered by pop singers, including international superstar Shakira; and sung by 5 year old street kids as they kick footballs in the streets – they are part of the Tunisian story.

After his death, Hedi Jouini’s six children stopped talking to each other. Behind the usual story of siblings fighting over their inheritance, lies the powerful dynamic of men’s and women’s roles in 1930’s Tunis and the sad but often funny story of Papa Hedi’s divided family – separated across continents, fighting over royalties, competing to define their father’s legacy.

There is currently a TV version of the documentary, Papa Hedi: the Search for My Grandfather which has already been sold to France Televisions.

I am working on a festival strategy, promotion and sales for the short version of the doc, while also raising funds for the feature version, which we hope to start working on in early 2013.

Papa Hedi website
Papa Hedi Twitter feed
Papa Hedi Facebook page

Check out the pitch page for The Library of Burned Books

Screen grab from the Library of Burned Books IndieGoGo campaign page.

This morning we start fundraising for The Library of Burned Books. I’m producing, and I’m pleased to be working on such a good, solid script, and with a director who has a great eye for fantastic images.

The Library of Burned Books is a short film that combines live action with animation to tell the story of a young girl who sees through the lies of a cruel adult world. We’re shooting in late October in London, and we’re raising funds through IndieGogo.

Credits for Clowntime is Over

I’ve done a credit sequence for the directorial debut of friend and colleague Phil Whelans, Clowntime is Over, which takes its title from an Elvis Costello song. Phil plays a role in my latest LFS film, Like Spinning Plates, which takes its title from a Radiohead song.

The film, described by Phil as “a new genre: sadstick” concerns itself with the last days of an aged stand-up comedian and is a poignant blend of slapstick and tragedy. Ralph H. Levene stars as Maurice Barley, and the film is due to hit the festival circuit any time now.

Attention spans and cutting rhythm

Last week, Mr Gray sent me a photocopy from the New Scientist about a paper from Cornell University that analyses attention span and cutting rhythm in Hollywood movies. Their methods involved analysing cuts and shot length, and comparing them to biological rhythms of human attention span. Essentially what they have achieved is an mechanical version of film editor Walter Murch’s “blink of an eye” theory. He suggests that thoughts and blinking are connected (we blink when we “cut” in our minds from one thought to the next) and by being aware of where one blinks while watching rushes (and also by watching when good actors in the movies blink) you can tell when a cut will feel “right” emotionally.

Some of the sources reporting on this story lazily conclude:

The researchers concluded that over the next few decades film makers may take more care to follow the 1/f law to try to boost audience engagement.

This is almost the exact opposite of what the authors of the paper really conclude:

In no way do we claim that there is any intention on the part of filmmakers to develop a 1/f film style, even if they knew what that might be. Instead, we claim that, as explorations and crafting of film have proceeded for at least 70 years, film narrative has fallen naturally into 1/f shot structure as the myriad of other considerations in filmmaking have played against each other in shaping film form. Good storytelling is the balancing of constraints at multiple scales of presentation. Thus, we view 1/f film form as an emergent, self-organizing structure (Gilden, 2001; Van Orden et al., 2003), not as an intentional one.

It seems to me that the underlying assumption of the paper is, however, that shots in a movie can only carry one idea and need to be cut once that idea has been communicated. This is not a satisfactory way to understand the achievement of films that make use of sequence shots. Many high-grossing Hollywood movies of the “classical” period made much use of long shots with complex camera movements. This style leads – and holds – the viewer’s attention without fast cutting, and in some cases without cutting at all. An extreme example is Hitchcock’s Rope which is intended to be one long sequence shot with no cuts. A better example, because its style was emulated for commercial and artistic reasons, is the following shot from Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm

Between 2:44 and 6:01 of this shot there are no cuts whatsoever. That’s ONE SHOT that lasts 3 minutes and 27 seconds. The Man with a Golden Arm was a commercially successful film which paved the way for Hollywood movies to explore the subject of drug addiction. It would also not fit the cutting model proposed by Cornell’s scientists at all. Why, then, was something so antithetical to natural human attention span so successful?

Well, put simply, cutting isn’t the only way to direct a viewer’s attention. As for why it was used, and why this style has fallen out of use, attention span is only half the story. In this period of film history the studio system was at its height. Camera crews worked together regularly in the same sound stages, and it was easy and – as Preminger proved – cheap to shoot movies using this extended take sequence shot style. An added artistic advantage is that it allowed actors time and space to create subtle, nuanced performances. Furthermore, this style allows the viewer time to investigate the space within the frame, picking up on small details.

It is notable that the films that fit most closely with the attention span formula of the Cornell team are action films. Certainly when you’re planning to cut very quickly, you seldom have time for more than one idea per frame. As Mr Gray noted in biro on the bottom of the photocopied article:

[Is it] that modern films have less to look at, that their compositions and choice of inclusions have grown simpler due to a simplifying market?

It is worth noting that the film the Cornell scientists observed to adhere most rigidly to the 1/f shot sequence structure was The Phantom Menace.

The New Scientist: Cine-Maths grabs our fickle attention
Attention and the Evolution of the Hollywood Film

Wind in my sails

It’s funny how humdrum everyday employment manages to eat up so much mental bandwidth. I’ve had almost no brainwaves worth blogging in months. Dull, dull, dull. But now the becalmed feeling is GONE. The day job finished over a week ago, and since then we’ve shot a music video and I’m about 70% through editing it. Fantastic! It is so good to be master of my own schedule again, even if it’s just for a few weeks.

Fewer kids = greener?

I love reading well-written arguments from different sides of the global warming polyhedron.

First: Contraception Fights Global Warming from Salon.com

Second: The Population Myth from Monbiot.com

Personally, (and, I confess, as someone who has no plans to procreate) I found the Salon article quite convincing at first, but was wondering how the numbers stacked up. It was reaffirming to read George rightly pointing out that the groups experiencing the largest population growth are normally the ones who contribute the least per capita to carbon emissions.

A Lesson in Framing and Disclosure

Chris Marker’s Junkopia is watchable online. I really love the framing and the rhythm of the cutting in this piece, and the way each shot of an object reveals a different aspect depending on angle and context, both spatially and within the film’s own timeline (“narrative” seems too strong a word). There is something reminiscent of Ozu’s little transitional sequences here.

A rainbow-coloured fish in Chris Marker's

The film was shot in Emeryville, near the east section of the Bay Bridge, but unless I’m mistaken the co-ordinates in Marker’s intertitles appear to be for somewhere in Redwood City.

Shooting Bulletins Website Now Live

Screenshot of Shooting Bulletins blog.

This weekend Courtney and I launched the Shooting Bulletins blog. It’s where we’re keeping a record of our progress as we attempt to make a short movie that will prove my worthiness to be admitted to film school. Check it out if you’d like to see how we’re doing and to find out how you can help us do what we need to do!

We’ll be putting the third bulletin up some time today.

Playing catch-up

Recently I’ve had ideas for posts, but I’ve either been at work, visiting family, or too tired to be bothered blogging.

I’m determined to make time to write, produce, shoot and edit a short before the year is out, so I’m slotting in screenwriting time when I can. I’m also helping a couple of friends out with shorts, and still trying to finish off editing another couple of projects – one’s work related, the other is not.

What else? I snagged myself a copy of Lindsay Anderson’s If….. I enjoyed it, but would have taken even more from had I not been tired and corpulently well-fed the night I watched it. Court and I rented Truffaut’s Day for Night the other day, and both loved every second, which is rare, and we just watched Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, which was delightful. Now I’ve consumed two feelgood movies in a row, I feel my next cinematic entertainment should be thoroughly perverse.

It will please certain people to discover that Courtney’s been renting DVDs of the re-made Battlestar Galactica this week. I’ve been watching a few with her, and I’m actually really quite impressed. There’s a sense of restraint in the action sequences and with only one real exception, the tension and plotting is good. It also gives a lead role to the guy who played the origami-making cop in Blade Runner.