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Archive for April, 2017

Women in Film: From Her POV Week Seven

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features an insight into production design and filmmaking theory. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

Week Seven

Week Seven was a pretty exciting one, as we are getting ever closer to the crews being able to commence shooting on their films!

Thursday’s session was a mix, partly devoted to more pre-production prep: talk about locations, shot lists, shooting schedules, props, production design and script drafts abounded. Team Blood Warriors were also abuzz with excitement about finalising their upcoming audition workshop at the weekend to find their three leading ladies! We also had a masterclass in Feminist film theory, exploring such things as how the “male gaze” dominates the film industry and how the “female gaze” differs… one might say incredibly appropriate for International Women’s Day, right?

Being the publicist on the project, I had an idea of conducting/filming a mini interview with each of the ladies, for our readers to get to know us all a little better and what attracted us to want to be involved in From Her Point of View. Florence, Blood Warriors’ Director of Photography, even bought her camera in and we had an awesome black and white photo shoot of team and individual portraits.

Gallery

Production Design

Friday’s session saw us joined by Carrie Love, for some insight into production design. Carrie has worked as a freelancer in a vast range of TV and film projects and been everything from a runner to prop-maker, designer and Art Director. She spoke with us about her creative process when she designs the look and feel of a set and how it might be useful for [our] Art Department to make themselves a spreadsheet for the duration of shooting, to make notes of anything they need for particular dates, scenes and so on.

Being involved in this side of the industry is probably the one I find most appealing beyond writing, but I’ve never found myself as the kind of person who is good at the practical side of making things and I’m not much better when it comes to the programmes on a computer that let you do […] this kind of thing!

That in mind, I watched in adoration as both teams set about making props to dress their sets – Black Cherry were working on posters for [their character] Ben’s room, record sleeves, and patches for Ben’s costume, while Blood Warriors were also working on posters for bedrooms and BMX competitions!

Next week I found I would be more hands-on as we ventured out to KWMC The Factory, where all kinds of building and making type magic happens. Our kind of magic? The puppetry kind…

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.

Women in Film: From Her POV Week Six

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features an introduction to visual storytelling and a run-down of animation techniques commonly used in film and TV. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

Week Six

Week Six saw us ladies delve into the realms of visual storytelling and animation. As has been the awesome thing about this course, it’s given us the opportunity to learn so many new skills and once more I was a complete novice (been a bit of a habit this, eh?) to animation beyond appreciating the final product and not really knowing much about the depth of the process it takes to put one together.

First though, we began with visual storytelling. This is essentially about the choices the creative team make and techniques they use that allow them to tell their story and convey their message in the best possible way. For example, do they have dialogue? No dialogue? Music? Do scenes refer to earlier ones, or foreshadow later events?

Shot Choices will often be important to your storytelling and we focused on wide shots and close ups. We explored their significance to a film’s tone (for example, wide shots are useful for comedic scenes) and how such choices affect our reaction to the scene.

Films we looked at in relation to many of these techniques included: Braveheart, No Country For Old Men, Harold & Maude, Up, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We also looked at a couple of commercials, including one for furniture that threw us all a total emotional curveball! 

As an aspiring professional writer, I often find it difficult to think of my work in visual terms instead of words on a page. After this session though, I began to think that if I shift my focus and try to imagine these words on film and how certain “scenes” look rather than just read on the page, I might become a more rounded writer and better storyteller. I was even beginning to think I should try my hand at writing a screenplay, a desire I’d only briefly indulged during our screenwriting session a few weeks back. The session generated some lively discussion of some of our favourite techniques, directors and styles, and once more left me with a raft of works to check out, as it seems I have lived a very sheltered film viewing life to date!

Introduction to Animation

BAFTA winning Bristol-based filmmaker and animator Emma Lazenby joined us a little later on in Thursday’s session, to give us a crash course introduction to animation. This included a little history and a run down of the types:

3D stop motion (everybody say: Wallace & Gromit!)
2D Computer cutout
2D Computer
Cell Animation
2D Drawn

We also had a practical where we got to try our hands at PIXELATION, which was great fun!

Sadly I was absent for Friday’s session, but team Black Cherry seemed to have a lot of fun experimenting, so I was informed ?

Next time, it’s Art Department’s time to shine as we are joined by Carrie Love to talk us through Production design!

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.

Women in Film: From Her POV Week Five

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features a lesson in copyright and some practice working with actors to help them inhabit their roles. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

Week Five

Thursday’s session began with Noomi, the mastermind behind From Her Point of View and Knowle West Media Centre’s Creative Skills Co-ordinator, giving us a presentation on copyright. This grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution.

For filmmakers like many of the women here, copyright can be a bit of a minefield so it’s imperative we tackle it correctly; finding out who owns the rights, acquiring permissions, protecting our own work and so on.

Copyright covers a pretty broad range of elements in filmmaking:

1) Stills
2) Moving image or archive footage
3) Music
4) Brands
5) Artwork

After this presentation, I snuck away and had a chat with Thomasina Gibson, a producer who has recently completed her first feature film. Thomasina is also a prolific author and has been a director and journalist but started her career as a publicist. Thomasina has worked with the likes of the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 to name a few, and she talked with me about her career path and gave me some insight and advice – with me being an aspiring writer and journalist – about the next steps I could take to get my foot on the ladder of the industry.

The biggest thing I took from our conversation is how useful it is to have the confidence to put yourself and your work out there and reach out to people in the industry who you aspire to or want to work for, and see if they can offer you some experience or point you in the direction of ways you can. They may not give you the time of day, but it’s important to persevere and have a sense of pride in your aspirations and your skills. I’ve never been great at networking or initiating this kind of contact, but Thomasina was welcoming and her enthusiasm infectious; I left the meeting feeling inspired and that I should try putting her advice into practise. The worst that can happen is someone rejects you and in that case you will dust yourself off and try again; because, eventually, somebody somewhere might take a chance on you, and that could lead to amazing things.

Working with Actors

Esther May Campbell joined us once more on the Friday for a more in-depth look at working with actors. Intention and Obstacle were once again the order of the day, but we looked at them in terms of how we approach discussing scenes with an actor, and how our approach might change if we are working with non actors, leading us to ways of introducing scenarios and how we might want the scene to be approached:

  • ‘As if…’
  • ‘It’s like when…’
  • ‘Imagine…’

This gives us context, and sets the scale and energy for the scene. Esther worked with team Blood Warriors on a read through of a particular scene and talked about what worked well and what could be improved and how, while we watched team Black Cherry run through a scene for blocking and how a good director can bring out the best in their cast performances.

We ended the session with a kind of meditative technique with Esther talking us through a scenario in order to get us into the heads of characters from their films: their emotions, what makes them tick. If you didn’t want to be a character, you could do it as yourself. I’d never done anything like this before, but I found it to be an interesting way of getting under the skin of your ideas – I’ll definitely apply it to my own writing!

Next time, we head into the realm of animation with a little help from a Bristol-based BAFTA winner, and Noomi tells us all about visual storytelling!

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.

Women in Film: From Her POV Week Four

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features a return to screenwriting and an in-depth exploration of sound, microphones and recording. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

Week Four

Week Four of our endeavour to create two amazing short films and shout about how talented and creative us ladies (and women in general are, of course!) began on Thursday with a brief return to screenwriting to reinforce what we have learned so far in terms of our old familiar friends: Intention and Obstacle and how important these are to developing our ideas and projects.

We were split off into pairs and had to choose a mystery scenario from a selection and then talk in our pairs about how we would explore these on film. A character would have a particular intention and we would have to come up with the tone, obstacle and plot idea, and also have a go at fleshing out the characters a little more in terms of personality.

I paired up with Ellie, producer on team Blood Warriors. Our scenario involved character A wanting to get money from Character B, and we came up with the idea of a crime drama or thriller piece, with Character A maybe in deep debt from a loan shark, who reunites with  an old friend, who is now trying to distance himself from his former criminal life, now settled, maybe married with a child.

We imagined Character A being very charming, smooth talking and manipulative. When Character B refuses to hand over the money, the tension and drama comes from how their relationship has changed, we thought perhaps that character B used to look up to and admire A in their younger days, and would normally have done anything for his respect, but the stakes are now too high and he knows it’s the wrong thing to do, so he has a moral dilemma. A can see this, and so uses it to his advantage.

It was a fun little exercise to get the creative juices flowing. Other scenarios from the group included someone trapped in a room with no clear means of escape beyond a rope and barred window, and car trouble whilst making your way to a destination!

The group then split off into their crews for a pre-production meeting. The major element for both crews was the fact that a rough draft of their script needed to be ready for the following session, as Esther would be returning to work with us more after her Intro to Working with Actors a few weeks back.

For Blood Warriors and Black Cherry, the focus was on fine tuning the ideas and the direction they wanted to take their projects in, but they started thinking about other elements as we’ve had a little more insight: going around I heard talk of ‘we could shoot this scene like this,’ ‘I’d light it like this’, ‘how do we want this look,’ dipping our toes into art department and talking about ideas for locations. It was all very encouraging to hear everyone so enthusiastic about what we have learned so far!

Sound

This leads us on neatly to Friday’s session, where at least as someone who has no experience of what we were going to be learning, I felt thrown in at the deep end! Having said that, this course has thus far taught me to embrace new things and hit the ground running.

Friday’s workshop was devoted to sound, led by composer and sound designer Laura Izzard. Laura’s impressive portfolio of work includes a wealth of commercials and animations, and I was astounded to hear the extent to which women working in sound are a very very rare thing indeed.

When you work in sound, the main tool of your trade is the microphone. These can appear in many different sizes, and used in different ways.

When you record dialogue your best options would be directional, shotgun or boom mics. The longer the mic is, the better it is at getting rid of extraneous noise.

Stereo mics come in three categories:

  • Omnidirectional will give you an equal 360 degree recording of all sound
  • Cardioid is useful for recording in front, but will pick up some sound from the back
  • Hypercardioid used mainly for recording close to.

Whatever kit you use, follow this rule: the camera is king. Always match your sound to your camera and shots, for consistency.

Levels of sound and sound quality
  • In this industry, the level of sound will impact the quality, and you work on the signal to noise ratio. Levels will either PEAK (be too loud) or be too quiet, so it’s important to get the levels right.
  • Sound is in bits, or kilohertz
  • Highest quality is 192k
  • Broadcast standard sound is 48k
  • CD Quality – 44.1k, 16 bit

More bits give you a smoother sound.

Methods to record sound
  • Recorder to mic to camera
  • Recorder directly to camera via cable
  • Recorder with a mic to camera via wireless connection
Timecode
  • Set your audio and camera to the same time, so everything will then be in sync.

 Laura let us all play around with her kit and I joined Blood Warriors to record one of their scenes.

Next time, we delve deeper into working with actors, and learn a little about copyright along the way!

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.

Women in Film: From Her POV Week Three

This week’s blog from the From Her Point of View programme features a behind-the-scenes look at camera and lighting techniques. Catch up with Kerrie, one of the young women taking part in the training who is also acting as Press Agent for the films…

Week Three

Before I tell you all what we got up to this week, I’m thrilled to say that now things are a little more settled I think it’s time I tell you a little about the films! Firstly, I can reveal there’s been a change of plan from one of our production teams. Their original idea – “Where I Came From”, exploring the story of a female refugee with a mix of drama and real life testimonials – was proving a challenge due to our time frame: not having the time to build up trust and relationships with individuals and charities to the extent that would do justice to their idea and, more importantly, the stories of the people the team wanted to approach. It is an extremely sensitive subject and would no doubt involve some incredibly traumatic experiences that people might not feel comfortable sharing with a film crew – and the last thing the team wanted was anybody feeling uncomfortable. Luckily, you might remember that Writer/Director Kam had two ideas, and the team decided that it was perhaps time to make a change!

The films are both ‘coming of age’ dramas but explore their ideas and themes in different ways. Kam’s team are now working on “Black Cherry” – a film that explores race, class and sex, all through the relationship that Ange, a young woman of Indian/South Asian descent, has with her boyfriend Ben. ‘Throughout the story this subtext is held back, but as tensions rise [there is] the sense that these issues may erupt, breaking through the veneer of tolerance, adding a dangerous and contemporary feel.’

The other team are working on “Blood Warriors  directed by Rosa. The film centres on ‘an incredibly unique self-styled all-female Bristol BMX crew. The film spends a day with the young ladies as they face the trials of being a teenage girl who demand[s] to be heard.’

You could say that the week of 9th and 10th February was Lights, Camera, Action week as we were joined by camerawoman Sarah Edwards, who took us through the basics of camera and lighting. I’m a complete novice to lighting and my experience of camera work is limited to in front of it, and then only very briefly as an extra and a challenge competing for the most Youtube hits in a set time frame. That in mind, I was blown away by the sheer amount of kit Sarah has in her arsenal to do her job as a camera woman, which greeted us as we walked in. But never let it be said I’m not willing to try new things!

Camera

Thursday and most of Friday were devoted to camera work. For the “theory” part at the beginning of the sessions Sarah wanted to cover a few of the photography basics. These included:

The rule of thirds: this is one way of producing a photo or piece of film that will draw the viewer’s eye and engage their attention. Divide everything into thirds, with two horizontal and two vertical lines so you have nine parts. The idea is that you place the object/person you want your audience to focus on in that scene along those lines, or at the points where they meet.

Depth of Field: this is the distance between the nearest object in a frame and the farthest. It will affect how sharply your subjects appear in focus in a frame.

ISO or International Standards Organisation: in photography and filmmaking, this is the industry standard that measures the camera’s sensitivity to light and is measured in a numbered scale. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive. Most cameras now allow for the photographer to change the ISO settings to what they require depending on the surroundings.

f stop: in this industry, f stops are used to quantify ratios of light or exposure.

Focal Length: simply put, this tells a photographer the angle of view and the magnification.

We also explored camera angles, colour and camera movement, with a little help from clips from Luther, Marvel’s Jessica Jones and the movie Drive, to name a few examples!

After Thursday’s theory, to help reinforce Sarah’s introduction, each team was given a camera. The idea was to play around with Focal Length and Depth of Field, by having one of the team “model” for the camera, moving it further and further away, and each time switching to a lens with a higher focal length and seeing how the image is affected. I got to model for Team Black Cherry.

Lighting

For the beginning of Friday, we shifted the focus to lighting. Our eyes will adjust to changes in light and for a Director of Photography on a shoot, the tools of your trade are usually in three categories, measured in Kelvin.

3200k: this is known as Tungsten and is orange.

4300k: florescent or mixed colours

5600: “daylight” – this is blue.

We also looked at White Balance – making the colours in the frame appear as natural as possible by removing unwanted colour casts. The light you choose will evoke tone and atmosphere in your piece, whatever genre it might be.

Sarah also explored Documentary Lighting, and how a great Digital Imaging Technician can be very helpful on a shoot, including how imperative it is you make two copies of everything you do!

Tying both camera and lighting together, Sarah once more sent us out with a camera. This time, we could also experiment with different types of lighting and colour, and show her what we’d learned throughout the two days she was with us.

Again, I was on team Black Cherry. We had producer Holly making tea using different kinds of camera angles, decided to be a little ‘out there’ and lit the toilets in such a way to make them look like a jail cell, and I made my camera woman debut filming Holly come down the stairs with the help of some coloured gel. It looked like something out of a horror movie, in the coolest kind of way!

Stay tuned for Week Four, where we moved away from the camera, to focus on sound.

This programme is supported by Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, with BFI’s Film Forever National Lottery funds.

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Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
Bristol
BS4 1NL
+44 (0) 117 903 0444
enquiries@kwmc.org.uk

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