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Friday, December 21, 2012

Podcast Episode 25: Planes Trains and Reviews

Tim and Danny get stuck at the airport and so discuss:
  • News about film funding
  • Red Planet Prize update
  • Topic - time management
  • Topic - being a storyteller
  • Reviews - Royal Affair, Frankenweenie and Beasts of the Southern Wild

Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 Reasons Why Scriptwriters Hate Christmas

Continuing the traditional of a few years now, I proudly present my Christmas film.

Die hard readers of the blog will know that I follow a set of guidelines when making these films. Firstly, to make it in about a day and secondly, with whatever I have to hand. The idea of these guidelines is to recreate the spirit of a homemade Christmas card. Now, I'm rubbish at making cards and I hate glitter, plus I'm too tight to buy stamps. Luckily, I'm okay at making films - hence why you are being forced to watch this.

Which brings me to the film itself - this year something perhaps too close to home, 5 reasons why scriptwriters hate Christmas! Yay, seasonal misery, awesome.

However, please please please absorb my best wishes and goodwill that will seep out of your screen from in-between the barbed satirical comments and downbeat genre.

A note on the audio, I had to use the inbuilt camera mic as Andy Marsh wanted my sound kit for a charity shoot, but that seemed in the true spirit of the season so I let him.

Look out for a cameo from Danny Stack, whose own neuroses came up with the final number one reason!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Film burn style - free HD downloads part 12

These multi-layered film-burn style clips are the last of the uploads for now. Who knows, I may do more if I feel there is an angle or technique still needed. If you feel so, let me know.

These are classic phasing / bursts of colour and light. Handy as there are but sped up to 400% they are more suited for energetic promos.

This set is part of a whole collection of light leaks, flares, film burns, wipes and glows. The whole collection is available here:

This particular set of 6 clips (1080p ProRes) can be downloaded here (113MB)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not show, not tell - but DO! Writing techniques for games.

do or not do
Over in a LinkedIn discussion we've been kicking around ideas based on my recent blog post on the importance of mood above plot in some games and interactive stories.

In film and TV scriptwriting we often use the generally good advice, "show, not tell". Why have someone tell us how they feel, it is better they show us how they feel. Why tell us the prisoner has escaped? Let's see the rascal slipping out.

In games this is truer than ever. The more visual nature of games means there are even more ways to 'show'. And yet it is often a format that features writing using a 'tell' method - as games producers often under estimate their audience.

I feel games is one medium where you can really talk up to the audience (or in this case players / participants). There's no point in doing a dumbed down story for players who don't want the depth (the lowest common denominator approach). These players will ignore the story elements anyway. So, you may as well aim high.

BUT, games have one more benefit. They can go beyond show, beyond tell. They can go to 'do'. That is the most powerful story method. Escaping from the prison yourself and feeling the excitement of doing it is the trump card.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cool light leaks - free HD downloads part 11

These cool coloured light leaks are some of my favourites to use when editing up trailers and highlight reels. They work well at their natural speed - but sped up to 400% they look better and more organic than the 'dip to colour' effects of most edit suites. 

This set is a bit of a random collection - but again, I think that is why it is my favourite as there is variety. Plus, these can complement the other 'cool' effects I've uploaded previously.

If you don't know, this is part 11 in a whole collection of light leaks, flares, film burns, wipes and glows. The whole collection is available here:

This particular set of 7 clips (1080p ProRes) can be downloaded here (116MB)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Podcast Episode 24

This episode myself and Danny were at the London Screenwriter's Festival. A great place to get the audio recorder out and wait to see who turns up. It's a bumper crop of goodies as it turns out.

First up is Darrin Grimwood - who is a writer earlier in his career, but has a recent comedy-horror out with Steve Guttenberg in it called Cornered
Then we nabbed agent Nish Panchal for a take on what he looks for in new writers.
This was followed up by bumping into Jonathan Newman, writer / director, to hear what he is looking for in a pitch.
Fellow podcaster and script guru Pilar Alessandra then interrupted, but that was cool because we could chat about dialogue writing tips.
And lastly, the non-linear expert (and scriptwriter!) Linda Aronson rounds it up with her advice for writers to stay ahead of the game over the next decade.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Best business card for writers 2012

Every year, I try to find a great business card by a scriptwriter. As storytellers we can show off our craft on even a small piece of card. That's how awesome we are.

Here are links to past years; 2011, 2010, 2009

This year I felt it wasn't the strongest selection however, a step back in fact. Mostly very standard cards with no creativity. Now, sometimes you want that, to look professional and serious. I'm not saying go crazy. But I think a small amount of creativity, that matches your personality and style, can help.

Imagine a few days after a busy networking event. You have so many faces  and anecdotes in your head and they are starting to merge together. And you have all these cards. Which is who and what is which?

A good tailored card helps folks remember you!

My fave this year was the one above by Michelle Goode - if you know her, you know thats a good likeness. Yet, it remains enigmatic.

Here's my top tips for a card at the moment - beyond the issues above.

1 - keep empty space so people can make notes (so no double sided laminate either)
2 - keep contact details clear and in a clean font (people try to read them in crap lighting)
3 - keep to a standard size (people have card shaped wallets)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cool Wash - part 10 - free HD compositing download kit

Cool tones, that sweep from blues to greens and yellows. These are for use when compositing in your favourite editing software or in After Effects. Similar to film burns and light leaks - but more suited to lens flare colouring and for hi tech modern composites. Can be used in Premiere, Final Cut Pro or any editing package that can use Quicktime.

If you don't know, this is part 10 of a whole collection of light leaks, flares, film burns, wipes and glows. The whole collection is available here:

The set of 7 clips (1080p ProRes) in this kit can be downloaded here (84MB)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cool blue wipes - free download set 9

These light leaks use cool tones of blues to greeny / yellows.  I find they work well with hi-tech / matrix style compositions and the cyan tint compliments lens flares.

They can all be used as wipes to move from one image to the next. Best way to use them is to place then over a wipe using the 'screen' option of the composition / layering tools.

If you don't know, this part 9 in a whole collection of light leaks, flares, film burns, wipes and glows. The whole collection is available here:

The set of 7 clips (1080p ProRes) in this set can be downloaded here (105MB)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to do this impossible mirror shot

One of the most difficult aspects of shooting POV is when the subject looks in the mirror. This is a big issue with my all-POV feature film in pre-production; Friend Request.

Why is is tricky? Well, obviously the main character / actor has the camera rig on them. So when they look in the mirror, we see that rig. That kind of ruins the illusion!

The test shot above was done to explore one way to overcome that. Not too bad I think.

How is it done?

The classic way to achieve this is to build a set. In effect, the solution is that the mirror is a window. We didn't do that. While it would work for this one example, I need a solution that would work in shop windows, car mirrors etc. for the feature.

Instead this is a complex post-production method. It uses two shots. A main POV shot and a tripod mounted reverse. In post, the POV shot has a whole cut out of it, the same shape as the mirror. This mask / hole is kept in place despite the wobbles via the 3D motion tracking feature of After Effect CS6. The reverse shot is then placed behind the mirror, in the 3D space. Lastly, a layer that mimics the effect of glass was put in. This layer adds some dust and a bit of green (as glass does in real life) and is put where the glass would go. The hole by itself is too clean.

Job done. The hardest part was dealing with a heart shaped mirror. A square shape would be easier. But maybe less convincing because of that ease.

This shot is from a longer test short out soon called Everyone's Alright With This. Here is an interview about it...


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Editor's download kit - part 8 - crazy colour burn out and flares

This set of HD ProRes downloads are a bit different. They are all super crazy colourful, but vary in pace and style. I can see them being most useful for fast paced edits and for music videos - but of course, use them as you see fit.

Some are bright fast colour (or color if you are from US) flashes, almost strobing. Others are pulsing. Some almost burn out and flare. But all feature a variety of high saturation / chrominance.

As with my other sets, they are all 1080p HD and in ProRes format for the highest quality.

I've collected all of my free video clips on one page here, for ease of downloading.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Podcast Episode 23: Writers charging writers

A special Skype call episode where we talk to the co-founders of the Great American Pitch Fest (who are also writers themselves) Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz.

They're in the UK promoting their new feature, Below Zero and also talking about a pitchfest spin off being held at the London Screenwriters Festival. But we wanted to ask them about a controversial issue.

Is it right for writers to charge other writers for events? Why do they cost so much? Could they be cheaper? A big concern for writers is; are they being ripped off? Are they being exploited? As people on both sides of the equation we were all in a good position to really explore this thorny and hidden issue.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Free downloads for editors - Part 7- pastel shades

This is the latest in my series of free HD downloadable clips for editors / post production people and compositors. 

This time I have collected together 4 longer clips - all pastel shades. 

Sometimes you need a more gentle effect, just to tint a static image or to act as a background. These are designed to add colour and a dynamic feel to your edits and are best used throughout a shot to tint them. 

Some of my other light leaks are better to be used as transitions as they 'max out' to full white - these don't. They are more about adding tone / chrominance / colour.

As with my other sets, they are all 1080p HD and in ProRes format for the highest quality.

I've collected all of my free video clips on one page here, for ease of downloading.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New ideas - on how to 'tell' interactive stories

So, while its been fun working on the light leaks and the free goodies or exploring previous projects - its also good to get back to new ideas, the best-est free-est of all goodies! And the cornerstone of this blog.

The new idea that's wrestled me to the ground and won't let go - is interactive stories. New ways of telling stories is kind of what I'm all about - it's interesting to me and its how I paid; whether that's for scriptwriting for games, creating e-learning, or producing videos for games companies (which is on the increase right now). And of course, I have a POV feature film which also explores a kind of middle ground.

With new forms of narrative, like interactive stories, there is still a bit of pioneering to be had - all the rules aren't in stone yet. Cool. So to recap. Interactive stories, they could be my kind of thing.

HOWEVER, I really, really dislike the branching story as a format in itself, bummer. Not my kind of thing. Perhaps that is why I spoofed it in this bit of fun interactive adventure for Mr Vista. I'm not 100% sure really why exactly I dislike it. I think because it seems so artificial, so logical. People make decisions on emotions, rather than outcome-focused actions. Branching stories are a very mechanical method. Yes, there is fun is exploring the mechanics of the engine and how it works, but not really losing yourself in the characters and story.

It is an often stated opinion that games (as the most popular form of interactive story) don't really 'move' you in the same way as other formats. I'm a game fan, but I also know what they mean. It's rare. But does it have to be like this?

All this was rolling around in my head when I got a link to an article that explores all this, via Rudolf Kremers - a writer and games producer. The short article is called The Self, Presence and Storytelling and is by Thomas Grip, who made this game - Amnesia.

To paraphrase his whole work (and all the errors that come with such a task) he concludes two things:
  • The main purpose of interaction is to create presence (in the story world).
  • Keep systems simple, and extend them using imagination.
In other words, interactivity should be there to create mood and not just the plot - PLUS leave room for the imagination, just as other forms of media do. Well, that's what I took away. In true interactive style, read it and pick up your own gems.

The article mentions a couple of examples. The clip at the top of the post is from Dinner Date - a game where the lead character is stood up for a date, and what runs through his mind (mood, not plot). The other example I liked was the Mr Vista-esque Every Day The Same Dream (all mood, no plot)

The most up to date example that I found is today's (as I write this of course) XKCD cartoon. It's about exploring. It's big. It's amazing. Check it out first.

Just about everyone, as soon as they use it, wishes for a mapped version. "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could navigate around this easier, zoom out, see it all". So someone did it (yes, in the same day!) and made this. BUT, the experience has gone.

The fun was in exploring, of finding. As JJ Abrahams says, the fun is wanting to know what is in the box - see the clip below. The original version of the experience leaves holes for our imagination and focuses on mood. I think there is something in all this.

I'm meeting up with Rudolf next week to see if there is a practical outcome. Maybe.

If you're interested in all this on any level and are going to the London Screenwriters Festival then a/ myself and Rudolf are on a panel together, so come along. And b/ try to get on Steve Ince's practical workshop on games writing. He isn't chatting about it like I am - he'll be making you do it! Now THAT's properly interactive.

Free pulsing / strobing light leaks - download series part 6

A series of film burn or light leak style clips that pulse and strobe in and out. These are designed to add colour and a dynamic feel to your edits and are best used to highlight key points in your edit. I've had a lot of success by also speeding them up to 300 or 400%. Some of my other light leaks are better to be used as transitions as they 'max out' to full white - these don't. They are more about adding tone / chrominance / colour.

There are 9 clips in the set. As with my other sets, they are all 1080p HD and in ProRes format for the highest quality.

Download here (124MB) -

I've collected all the free video clips on one page here, for ease of downloading.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eight - and the Hillsborough report

The release of the Hillsborough papers is good news and overdue.

My own short film, from many a year ago has been connected to this event. Personally, I've never linked the two together in a formal way and the script makes no mention of any tragedy directly. There were lots of incidents in the late 80s and 90s - including almost weekly bouts of hooliganism somewhere across the country that innocent people often got dragged into. So I kept it vague and could do so.

But the real reason I made no specific reference was so I could focus on the small story and the emotions. I didn't want this to be a film where an 'adult' issue over-shadowed the child's search for his own personal and intimate answers.

As someone disconnected to the tragedy first hand (and a tragedy that was kept raw due on ongoing cover-ups it seems) I felt on shaky ground to offer any insight or perspective. What did I know of the lives of real-life Jonathan and Mum?

Jonathan would now be 22. He would now be an adult himself. So I'm pleased that in the real world he would now get the answers he was looking for.

I used to have a page on my website that linked to the script and had some behind-the-scenes shots. This came down a while back. So find them below. The script is my final draft. This differs from the final film due to poor weather meaning one days shooting was ruined.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Free film burns to download - part 5, warm sweeps

This latest set of clips (6 in the set) are a little different. These sweep and pan across the screen, but in the same warm hues and colours. They are designed to add colour and a dynamic feel to your edits and are best used throughout a shot to tint it - as in used on a single shot. Some of my other light leaks are better to be used as transitions as they 'max out' to full white - these don't.

As with all the sets I've done them in the best settings I can, ProRes 1080p HD in this case.

I've collected all the free video clips to download on one page here.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Free Light Leaks - part 4

So here is the fourth part of the free light leak giveaway. As before, free to download and use. This set are based around a look I'm calling "Warm Exposures" - not as exciting as it sounds!

Here's a taster...

A few people have been asking how compatible they are for certain editing packages. The good news - you can use them with just about every piece of editing software. That's because these aren't plug ins that only work with certain set ups. They are footage clips that you layer over your material and edit. So if you can layer one clip on top of another, you can use these. That can be in Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Avid, Media 100. The only criteria is that the software can use Quicktime as these are HD ProRes clips.

Download this set from here -

Or, if you've missed them, the full collection (all free) is here -

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sparkle backdrop - free download

This sparkle backdrop can be used either as a background for titles or used to composite over other footage, to give it a shine. The colours in this are really rich so they will shine through into the final edit.

Download the ProRes mov version, in HD, from here.

Or get more from -

As always, free to download and use.

Friday, August 17, 2012

More free to download light leaks, in high-def

These beautiful light leaks are like pulses of light moving across the screen. Similar to lens flare / film burn effects. These are also suitable to be used as wipes, if composited over the two images as I have ensured the brightness levels max out as they pass across the screen. Composite using the 'screen' style for best effect.

There are 9 clips in the set. As before, they are all 1080p HD and in ProRes format for the highest quality.

I'm collected all the free video clips to download on one page here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Free light leaks and film burns to download - ProRes HD

This blog post started to collect together in one place my light leaks and film burn style clips for you to download and use. FOR ALL OF MY LIGHT LEAKS IN ONE PLACE - GO HERE.

What are these?
These are short high definition clips for use by editors and compositors. They work with any editing package - however I am delivering them as Quicktimes. By layering them over your images, using a compositing style such as 'screen' you add colour and interest - reminiscent of old style film effects.

What's different about these?
I use these kinds of clips a lot in my work. There are a lot of them online already so I've tried to do something different. Firstly, I've tried to have a slower, more elegant style to these. Secondly, I've made sure they are in the top HD ProRes quality. Thirdly, I've collected by style so you don't have to search through loads of clips to find the one you want. Lastly, there is no audio track for these clips - so when you drag them on your timeline you won't interfere with your audio.

How do I get them?
For each collection I've put up a sample via youtube. There is then a file to download.
  • 1080p HD
  • ProRes format (Movs)
  • Zipped together in batches of 6 or 7
I will add more over the next few weeks via blog posts - but will update this page also.

How did you do them?
I took the lens off of my camera and added various glass objects to the front instead - then combined that with lamps and light sources.

Are they free?

Creative Commons License
Light Leaks by Tim Clague is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported LicenseBased on a work at

So, in short, yes, free to use and download etc. They are released under creative commons - so free to use for your own projects. If you make money with them then donate. If you want to do me a favour - that would be great. Cheers. A few suggestions.

Set One: Warm Light Leaks - for using as wipes.

These fade up from black to pure white making them ideal to be used to transition from one clip to the next in your edit timeline.
Download here (156MB) -

Set Two: Warm, Shuttering Light Leaks - for using as wipes.

These beautiful light leaks are like pulses of light moving across the screen. Similar to lens flare / film burn effects. These are also suitable to be used as wipes, if composited over the two images as I have ensured the brightness levels max out as they pass across the screen. Composite using the 'screen' style for best effect. There are 9 clips in the set.
Download here (189MB) -

Set Three: Multi-coloured sparkles

This sparkle backdrop can be used either as a background for titles or used to composite over other footage, to give it a shine. The colours in this are really rich so they will shine through into the final edit. This is a single 1080p ProRes HD MOV clip to download.

Download here (115MB) -

Set Four: Warm Exposures

The warm exposures are a softer gentler kind of effect. These are more suited to putting over the top of longer clips rather than over edits.

Set Five: Warm Sweep

The warm sweeps flow across the screen and add colour and texture to a clip. These are more suited to putting over the top of longer clips rather than over edits.

Set Six: Warm Pulses

The warm pulses fade in and out. Place over key points in your timeline to highlight them. They also work well sped up to 300 or 400% to create natural 'flashes'.

Set Seven: Pastel shades

The pastel shades are more suited to subtle shading of still images or as backfrops and backgrounds.

Set Eight: Colourful strobes and burn outs

These colourful pulses and flashes are ideal for fast paced, bright edits or music videos.

Set Nine: Cool wipes

These fade up from black to pure white making them ideal to be used to transition from one clip to the next in your edit timeline. The cool colours are ideal for high-tech edits or to complement lens flares.

Set Ten: Cool wash

The cool colours wash across the screen. The cool colours are ideal for high-tech edits or to complement lens flares. The luminance range makes them ideal to be composited in the middle of clips.

Set Eleven: Cool light leaks

The cool colours leak across the screen - ideal for showreels, trailers and highlight reels, especially if you speed up 400%

Set Twelve: Film burn effect

The colours flare in and out - ideal for starting or ending a promo, especially if you speed up 400%

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lucky 7 (years)

Yes, the blog is 7 years old! Crazy. For those that have just joined... here's the top 7 posts of all time, purely in terms of page visits. At the bottom of the main page, in a separate area, I keep a list of posts that I like and / or got lots of debate going. Check it out.

So here's the top 7, in countdown order
(add your own minor celebrity interview segments if you wish to recreate a Channel 4 list show)

How to be creative and think of new ideas.

This post features a video with John Cleese. It's great. But I also think because it got views because it aligns with the topic of the blog so well. Give it a watch if you've not seen it before.

Scriptwriter business cards

Every year I do a 'best business card' award. What do you win? Nought - except the glory. Here is the latest, but most of the other years also show up high in the ranking. Interestingly, a lot of views come from random google searches indicating that people in our line of work and in other businesses worry about this a lot. Maybe too much.

A new way to write

This post has lucked out thanks to its double appeal. Firstly, it does feature an interesting idea about swapping the order of film making. Secondly, it has a cool graphic to steal which draws folks in.

Why people will invest in your film

If you talk about money, and how people can get it, blog readers seem to love it. Of course, in this case, it was done with a healthy dash of realism. The post was featured on a few other sites too, which helped spread the word. 

Best scriptwriting advice ever

I think the title helps here. But at least the content does kind of back it up. Its a free download to Alexander Mackendricks teaching cards for scriptwriters. Really good stuff. Get it, print it, refer to it.

Craziest news story ever

This is a recent one. It got spread all around on twitter. The point was about storydust. But I think people just liked the oddness of it. Fair enough.

Free storyboard template for microsoft word

By far the most popular. It combines a few good things that helped to make it popular. It is about getting something free. Beginners can use it - as you use the standard, boring, Word - nothing new to install etc. And the title is spot on so it ranks high in Google search.


More cool free stuff to come. Everyone loves the freebie downloads.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Podcast Special Episode - its a long one

Here it is, the full interview. In the previous podcast myself and D. Stack were interviewed by Melissa, a writing student doing an MA. In that podcast we only had a chance to feature a few extracts - here is the whole interview, uncut.

I had to compress the audio a bit more than normal but it still seems fine. Take care, its a long one! But still quicker than listening to all the previous podcasts and in a way, in forms a good summary.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Creative Skillset - Leadership Course

Here is a recent video I did for Creative Skillset - or Skillset as you and I know it. It's changed its name, but the remit remains the same; to offer training and advice.

Personally, for me, I can find it a bit formal in nature. But overall that is probably a good thing - someone needs to provide learning in that style for those that prefer it.

If you are unaware of Skillset then you should have a look at it. They offer courses and funding for courses - and are the training body for our industry. They started out by providing entry level entry, but now its about retraining and ongoing training also. The video above covers a new certificate on Media Leadership - but that's only one very small element of the full offering.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth? That's small.

Kind of a good sentiment for thinking about story I feel.'

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Making Of... Black Rain video for Keane.

So, my film making friend Andy Marsh recently created the official Keane video for their song Black Rain.

As he is helping me out with my feature, Friend Request, I said I would help out on his production in return. Music videos aren't my own personal 'bag' with regards to directing so it was interesting to see how it was drawn together.

As a writer / directior I look at Andy's work as something both similar to my own output (I've done silent pieces too) but also very different (I tend to be more story based). So this blog post is about those similarities but also my observations on the differences - and a few tips I picked up along the way.

First thing to say, which may be a surprise to some, is to mention that Andy did a lot of homework. He looked at most of the previous videos that the band had commissioned and looked for trends, before spinning those off in a new direction while keeping his vision within the "Keane house style".

For Andy, getting the look is key. All else seems to flow from that. Andy is really a big fan of all elements of good Art Direction. We had a good day together looking around the location, trying to get a feel for the opportunities within it. The location is an ex-RAF base, where our film making friends BH24 Productions are based, and it has certain areas have fallen into disrepair so you get a distressed and decaying appearance.

Keane promo

Straight away you can see how the textures there create visual interest. Such visual interest is, of course, vital for what is in effect a dialogue-free film with minimal narrative. Your key tool is getting the audiences' eye to constantly move across the frame and detail helps in that. In my mind I've been calling this, "keeping the eye dancing" but there is probably a proper term used by people in this field.

making of Keane's Black Rain video

The next visual element was costume and make up. Sally Winter created the outfits that seemed ethereal yet also matched the distressed look of the location. Make up was by Francesca Bernardelle who continued the theme.


And the last part of the look comes from the props.  Now Andy collects this kind of stuff anyway, he loves cool looking objects. His previous films have had a shared style. So he gets to reuse them. Just as well as I must have helped to shift over 100 items onto the location. Purchasing or hiring all those from a standing start would be exorbitant. This is a great example of where, as a director, you build up a tool kit that helps you over time.

Now, a big part of me says that this is over the top, the audience can't tell. I was especially feeling that as I shifted around cinema chairs, a piano, a massive radio and countless other items into place for the final scene - as seen above. But Andy is clear, even if things are glimpsed in the distance or on the edge of frame - people 'feel' the richness even if they don't notice it consciously.

shooting Black Rain video

Camera wise, nothing unique was used. Good equipment though, a Canon C300 which can shoot all day and is robust. Operated by Chris Fergusson who knows his way around a camera very well. 720p resolution, shooting at 60fps for slo-mo. It may have been better to swap cameras to go for 1080p giving more flexibility in the edit, but I don't think Andy regretted that in a serious way and obviously the results are great.

So the camera didn't really add a look, nor did the lens and no lighting was used. What did add a look was the smoke. If you have ever used a smoke machine you know the smoke jets out of a short tube. Not very atmospheric. The solution was a "wafting" method where the smoke was then dispersed by waving a large piece of card around. Low-tech, yet effective. My own innovation in this area was to devise a way of putting my large fan in front of the smoke machine, so the blades did something similar when it was set on slow speed.

The falling ash was a special kind of material. Mid grey in colour it reminded me of the shredded foam you get in old-style padded envelopes. Again, the fan came in handy here for getting this over a large area.

The smoke and ash bind it all together for me. They bring constant movement to the shots, which is ideal for a music video, thinking back to the "dancing eyeballs" idea. They break up the wide shots and give them depth and layers by acting as either close up movement or mid depth movement. Plus, they allow the props to become 'hidden treasures' in the shot that appear and disappear into the mist.

We did go a bit too far sometimes though maybe.

Black Rain video promo

Perhaps the only disappointing element was the weather. Being overcast suits the low colour look. But the sun also adds better definition to the smoke, stopping it from being a grey blob. But such things are out of anyone's control on a one day shoot.

There were so many other excellent crew and cast that I could mention, too many to highlight everyone here. I've concentrated this blog post on the visual and art direction elements, as is this where I picked up the most new ideas. Of course, for a successful production you need the great production help and cast also pulling in the same direction.

You can see the film video here...

Here is what Tim from the band said...

We loved Andy Marsh's video for Black Rain. There's a heartbreaking sense of a young boy's dreams gone awry, a yearning for innocent times and high hopes, of love and kindness remembered in the face of violence and fear. Of course, I can't say whether that's what was intended at all! But either way the atmosphere of this story fits beautifully with the sense of the song, and even the sense of Strangeland as a record. The ghostly and surreal mood of the video also works perfectly with the feel of the music itself - sound and visuals complement each other and give each other more power, which is the ultimate achievement for a music video.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Double anniversary podcast

Hi folks. Today is my birthday AND the podcast has two years old (give or take a couple of days). So have a listen - but only if you wear your party hat.

 It's a slightly different podcast this month. MA student Melissa Hermanny has some questions to ask for her essay and comes down in person to hear our ramblings. We include a couple of highlights here, with the full interview to come later. So in all we cover...

NEWS - there are currently 50 opportunites for writers out there. See Kulvinders list at 
QUESTIONS - What do you get out of a festival?
What do you do with your spec?
How should you conduct yourself online?
Who should you send your script to?
AND remember to keep in touch. Find us on twitter and facebook.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New video for Keane; Black Rain

Andy Marsh, colleague on Mr Vista and art director of Friend Request, has had some good news. His production has been chosen by Keane to be their official video for their new song "Black Rain".

Check it out above. As you can see, his keen eye for an interesting aesthetic is in action as always.

I helped him set up the final scene on the shoot. And here is what I got up to in between takes while he was doing all the hard work!

Friday, July 13, 2012

8 top tips for writing a great short film script

Now, these 8 pieces of advice were originally offered up by Kurt Vonnegut when he was talking about short stories.

I think they work well for writing short films too. Or, heck, any cinema.

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
But for films I'd maybe add say number 8 feels like it should be challenged. The 'twist ending' being a classic of short films more so than even short prose.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Will people steal your script and your ideas?

copyright film script


Good advice to writers as well as to technology pioneers. You may know writers who spend more energy on looking over their shoulder than on writing good scripts. This message is for them.

It's another little gem out of the storydust folder, like my previous post.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Craziest news story ever

I keep a storydust folder of interesting things I find. I was going through it recently and rediscovered this. It is a storydust overload! It's at least 5 stories in one. Although what a great biopic in the making! Surely the maddest news story of all time.

 I was going to attempt to write it into the script for Friend Request, my nano-budget feature film, but decided it was too zany even for that!

Thanks to Suki Singh for handing me the cutting many years ago!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

What is this Scriptwriters' Life thingy anyway?

I've not done much to support the Scriptwriters' Life diagram in a while, even though it continues to get interest from many writers who find it useful. So here is a brief overview from myself talking about how to get the most from it. As ever, totally free to use and share.

In the video I look at what each of the three circles mean and challenge you, me and all writers to think about the balance of where they spend their time. Most of the writers that I see struggling aren't lacking in skills or talent - but instead they are often not spending their time and effort in the right place.

Print out the diagram or pop it on your desktop or even get it on a mousemat - to keep it as reminder that the big picture of your career is as important as each script is.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Bless you script readers

script reading

I've got two scripts in my inbox (not sure why it's called the inbox and not the in-tray, but anyway) and these scripts have been there a fair old while.

I toy with the idea of reading them. I should do. I want to. They task me. I want to get involved in the projects, I want to be exposed to the writing, techniques and themes of others. I even like reading scripts when I get into them. But something about 100 pages stretching out in front of me puts me off. It is almost a little microcosm of the issues of starting to write a script.

So what nuggets of advice do I have for myself? Or with what should I kick myself up the ass with? I don't know. This post isn't about that. It's a thank you to the script readers out there.

Script readers in consultancy firms like Industrial Scripts, or Sarah Olley. Or the scriptwriters' best friend, advocate and champion Danny Stack - or the writers who do a bit of reading on the side like Dom Carver and so many others.

Cheers to you all - cheers for just sitting down and reading the damn things. Awesome.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What should go in a pitch video?

I've been getting some very kind and positive feedback about the pitch film for my new feature Friend Request. The majority of this feedback has been around the fact that it feels specific to the film. This seems obvious of course. But if you look at a lot of the Kickstarter-style videos online you'll see that a lot of them follow a set formula, whatever the genre.

This can be useful of course. A formula means your video delivers what people want to get from it - with no surprises. But does it fit your project? That's the question that must sit in your mind as you work out your approach. Just as other elements of the film (script, casting, art direction) must pull together to create something more than themselves, so must this kind of video also slot into that overall theme.

Is it exciting? Or the same as the rest?

It is a shame when the pitch video consists of people talking to the camera in a monologue. Well, it is if this doesn't reflect the attitude of the final piece. If you are making a very reflective quiet piece, then it could well be ideal. If not, think a bit more creatively. After all, that's what you are selling.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Podcast Episode 21: Visual Storytelling

Myself and Danny discover there is little screenwriting news out there, so we focus instead on 3 items from the mailbag.

  • Show not tell, but how do you keep your script punchy?
  • Historical research, how much to do?
  • Working with actors, the benefits.
The last few episodes have seen a trend for us to cover questions in the mailbag more and more. So subscribe and stay in contact if you have any script / film making relating questions - the trickier the better really. Email us or leave comments.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Understanding the whole process

China and UK

I had to get an educational video I am working on translated into 6 languages. Now I can't do the translation myself or the recording myself. And there is little I can do to help the experts that did the job either.

But I was still keen to attend at least one of the recording sessions. So I went up to see the Chinese Mandarin version recorded.

Obviously, in the short term, this is a money-losing venture for me to do this. I could be doing something else and I had to drive a couple of hours to attend.

But a direct knowledge of as many parts of the film making process as possible is always to be recommended. Seeing it in action, seeing what is simpler than you thought, seeing what is more complex and seeing the skills of all involved is never a waste of time.

The impressive part for me was the ability of the voice over person to time her voice to the picture pretty much as she went along. I wouldn't be worried to challenge her and the team with tougher projects in the future after what I saw. But an eye-opener for me was that actually the really hard work was done in the transcription / translation stage beforehand. It is in this stage that the timings are worked out in a very detailed manner, taking into account that different languages take different amounts of time to say the same thing. If anything, it is this stage that it is more crucial to take an interest in. A lesson learnt.

To writers, I say try to do the same, see as much of the film making process as possible. It helps you do your work better too by knowing where you fit into the whole scheme and what impact your rewrites may have and on whom.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When to use Crowd Funding

friend request film crowd funding

The time is getting nearer to thinking about crowd funding a portion of Friend Request. We have a good portion of the budget but a bit extra will mean we can lift our ambitions with regards to locations and cast. Crowd funding can tricky. For every film with extra cash there is a case of $100 pledged and looking lonely. What I have learnt (and what I see others not doing) is getting the timing exactly right.

Too many film makers try to almost seed fund a film or kick start it. Not a surprise, after all they are probably using Kickstarter so the name makes you jump to this conclusion. But where I see the crowd funding really work is later in the process. This is where you let people come in early on the film but late in development and pre-production. This seems to be the funding sweet spot.

It is easy to see why. Potential funders are still getting in at the ground floor where they can follow developments and get involved. But they also can see and feel the quality so far and know the damn thing will actually happen. This can be during the scary final run up to the shoot so I see why people don't like to do it.

Of course, there will be exceptions to everything I say - but I am trying here to outline trends rather than one-offs.

So, expect to see more on my adventures in this landscape (when ready!) and in the meantime bits and bobs are leaking up on the Friend Request facebook page. Give it a thumbs up.

Summary on Friend Request: 
1 - a fresh approach to the road movie genre - a great story, female lead, set in world of aerial images. Nerdy in a good way.
2 - shot entirely from the main characters point of view - bold storytelling technique to make an impact and stand out in fests.
3 - uses specially designed and built camera equipment - sharing lessons learnt as we go
4 - great people involved, award winning etc, everyone experienced but up for new challenges - with more to come on board
5 - all UK, keeping it local