Motion House – Days Twenty to Twenty-Four

I was personally asked by my lecturer to executively produce the Motion House Project. This was quite a privilege to be honest as I was being asked to manage a huge project and deal with a lot of responsibility before anybody else. I must have proved myself in Iceland and also in my short film that I am competent and reliable enough to take on this role.

I had learnt so much about producing the Iceland films and also my short film for my module that I felt I could get the job spot on this time round. I had made mistakes in the past and not done things properly but it was a learning curve for me and I ironed out my creases and did the job more proficiently this time. I am not saying I am an expert executive producer or the best but I have certainly learned the role better and am more experienced at it. I am more confident about my skills. When I Exec Produced Gryla Productions, I was learning the job as I went on. This time with Motion House, I am developing my learnt skills and ways of thinking even further.

I am in an exec group of three people; myself and two third years. As they are finishing their FMPs and their big projects and the end of the year, the workload got shifted on me. It was down to me to find out everyone who wanted to be part of the group and when I could use them.

I set out making a database into which I put everyone’s names and availability which I had asked for. They were originally grouped by the role they wanted. I decided all I needed was a handful or directors and producers, a lot of camera operators and a few sounds technicians. As I read into the brief MH had sent me, I realised I would need three different crews. As their effectively ‘stage’ was going to be a huge ship they would build out of wood and large shipping containers and they had asked for a time lapse of it being built, I allocated a “Ship Build” group to tackle the filming of this. They would be tasked with going to wherever the ship was being built or deconstructed or stored and documenting this. They were not needed as much as the other crews but when they did work, it would be the most intense. The second group I created was a “Motion House” group. They were tasked to document the dancing rehearsals and performances as well as interview the dancers and the organisers, the crew and people behind the scenes. They are needed frequently and sometimes for long periods of time so I had to create a bigger group to make sure someone on each role was available. Their main crew of six would shoot as much as they could but if they were unavailable, I had reserves on standby (a few people from the Ship Build offered to be stand bys as they were not needed all the time). The third group were pretty much the same as the MH crew but instead they concentrated their filming on the “Legs on the Wall” aerialist and acrobats that had come across from Australia to be part of the project. Again, I had reserves for them too. To be honest, one massive crew could have covered both MH and LOTW however, Tim my co-exec decided that they be split as they could be in different places at different times.

For the big final performance, everyone who wanted to be part of the project will get to go to Victoria Square in Birmingham to film or record etc. I will have to manage this effectively nearer the time when we know more about the event.

On a separate note, I also have group members who will also be responsible for photographing or filming our work there and documenting our process and development with the project.

After I had established the groups, I met with Tim and Laura my co-execs. We decided that I and only I will solely be the liaison with Motion House. Obviously, the crews will get to know people they are filming but any contact between the two parties will be through me. This prevents communication confusions, people getting wrong messages or not knowing information and also it is more professional to have just one contact with us. Once I find out information, I pass it on to the producers who in turn pass it onto their respective crews. It is a very effective method of working I think although I constantly have to be on the ball, working hard and actively talking to the producers and crews. It is also good because any feedback, problems or questions get directed to these producers and they get back to me and let me know. Then I can sort the situation out or get things done for them.

My next task was to meet the contact within Motion House I will be dealing with. I got hold of Justine and started emailing her to establish a contact with her. However, I always feel it is both professional and just good relationship wise to physically meet people in person and so I strove to do this with Jus. Instead of waiting on emails, I got hold of Jus’ telephone number and rung her to establish a proper contact with her. She was impressed from a professional point of view that a young person learning the trade was so bold and confident enough to make an effort to make this connection. Once I in regularly communication with her, I could get hold of more information and paperwork I needed. I had to obtain risk assessments, health and safety paperwork, more detailed schedules, parking permits, insurance documents (including their public liability insurance) and details of whom I need to contact regarding different issues. Because I made sure I spoke regularly over the phone to her, this was much much easier than the exchanging of information I had done with Gryla Productions. I could chase up things I needed as could she. I was prompt to send her information as soon as she asked for it and if it was not to hand, I would get it as soon as possible and then tell her when I had sent it to her. We needed a copy of the university’s Public Liability Insurance as well as a complete list of everyone who would be working with us. This was mainly for H&S as well as passes to the NEC (where we were/are filming) at her end.

During my talks with Justine, I asked whether there was any budget available to cover our costs. This was not paid work but I was hoping we could get reimbursed on travel expenses. Jus said there was some available and after I had worked out a deal on the mileage it would take to drive there and train ticket prices, we came to an agreement that we could get reimbursed.

Within a week, I had formed teams ready to go. I sent the Ship Build crew over first; unfortunately I could not accompany them. They met with Jus and got things rolling filming wise. The feedback I got back from MH and the crew was great – everyone got on and things went smoothly. Then a problem hit me. Due to the nature of their work, their schedule can change very last minute and at the beginning this was not made clear to me. I was given one day to scramble a crew together and get them over to the NEC. This posed a problem as that particular weekend, nobody was available to go. I managed to get one producer and a camera op that thankfully had a car to transport us. The NEC is easily accessible by train but I would rather take kit in a car so it doesn’t get lost, stolen or broken. Myself and the two scrambled crew made our way over the NEC to film. It was also my chance to meet and make contacts there.

My policy of knowing something about everything and everything about something came into light that day as my producer had no camera skills and my cam op was not trained on the camera we were using, the JVC. I taught her how to set it up and use it effectively. On the day I also directed her whilst I went about doing my producing duties of meeting people, talking to people, finding out what was going on, where we could and could not film etc. Ideally these tasks are better done by two or three different people but I am confident enough that I can do it all on my own – just as my resources are stretched out, I am not as effective.

After a long day of filming I realised a very important factor. I needed a more broken down schedule of each day Motion House were active so I could use my crew most efficiently. It was no use sending a crew to film for 8hrs if only a couple of hours are film worthy etc. I got onto Justine about this and she started sending me schedules with complete breakdowns of the days. As I still had not met her, it was tricky going through the schedule and deciding when we would definitely be needed. I emailed her back an edited version of the schedule she sent me which had dates we would definitely be there to film.

Whilst I was there, I strove to meet everyone important to the running of things as I could. I developed a list of people to contact regarding certain things which I posted on the Facebook group. One of the key people I met was a security guard to the NEC itself. Tony was not part of Motion House but was in charge of the building itself. He was a cracking chap to chat with but building up this relationship with him has given me lots of benefits. Firstly, if there are any issues whilst we are there, Tony would either help me or sort it out for me. It made getting access to places in the building easier. It made our storage of kit easier. I also developed such a good link with him that he said if our crews were not filming, he would slip us in to other exhibition halls personally. This was great as it was something I could give back to the crew and also a resource if moral gets low.

I met the stage manager, Barbra, who is in charge of everything whilst working around the stage. She was friendly enough to meet with but not too approachable with things we wanted to do filming wise like getting on to the ship to film or filming the rehearsals on the ground from the ship. However, through building a personal relationship with her and building her trust in me I have managed to more access filming wise. We are in discussion at the minute of this more exiting style of filming; we are also looking at potential places to put static cameras to film the performances from an insider’s point of view. Barbra is also trying to give us time to film interviews with the dancers. As they are constantly working in the hanger and must have time for breaks, it becomes difficult to get interviews but we are working on facilitating these. She is also helping me to organise a day when we can go to Birmingham and film the Legs on the Wall guys in their long term accommodation they are staying in (they are away from their homes in Australia for about two months). I suggested this as it would be great to get a more personal approach to the final films. Barbra is also in charge of health and safety on the set. One part of this is making sure people sign in and sign out of the building. Last Friday, my crews went home whilst I was still talking with Justine and I could not enforce them signing out. When I realised after they had left as I went to sign out myself, I had to deliver a firm word to the producers of each crew to make sure this is done. It may seem trivial but it is important that we abide by their rules and act professional.

The Motion House work is ongoing and is a brilliant opportunity for me to hone my skills as an executive producer. I will strive to do the best job I can and in the end have some work I am tremendously proud of.

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Iceland Recci – Days Ten to Fourteen

It was decided a couple of weeks before we went to Iceland that it was imperative to send over a recce crew to finalise and sort out logistics. The crews needed actors and were short on them. They needed to see the locations and have them locked for definite. They also needed transport and some spare equipment they could not carry over on plane.

It was decided that myself and three others – Chris the Outdated director, Alex the Snowblind director and Nick the location scout – jet across to Iceland two days before the main body of the crew got there to sort these things out. At this point I was in constant email contact with Jon, a fixer I had come across in Iceland, as well as the Icelandic Film Commissioner, Einar Tómasson. They were helping me sort some things out before I went. Einar couldn’t really do much until we got there but it was still nice to be in contact with the man in charge of films in Iceland – I could never get a private email address for the English Film Commissioner. Jon put me in contact with the Icelandic Film School and I managed to make contact with two girls who were willing to help as our line managers and fixers whilst we were over there. Edda and Hulda were their names and they ended up becoming very close friends.

The mission of our recce as stated above was absolutely paramount to making sure the films happened. Actors were the main issue for all three films as we were unsuccessful in finding any before we went over there. Nick had an idea of the locations he wanted us to use but without seeing them in the flesh he could not be definite. We were taking over a lot of bulky, heavy filming kit and therefore we needed to secure some sort of transportation to lug this around; we aimed to get a minibus. We had booked out some big, powerful lights to use whilst we were over there from Pegasus Rentals – it was also our job to pick these up. These needed generators too so we had to get them as well. I felt really nervous at this point as getting these things organised before our team got there was imperative and if we failed, the group would point the finger straight at us and be outraged as to why we had gone over in the first place.

I had to organise our flights and accommodation before we went. This was very tricky to do as it was all over the phone and the hotel in Iceland didn’t speak great English. But I persevered and managed to wiggle our flights and get them changed for a small fair (this saved us a lot of money). Basically, they changed the dates from the Friday evening to the Wednesday afternoon. I asked our group if anyone would be willing to drive us to Gatwick and back – Tik kindly said he would and we would reimburse his petrol money. It was up to me to manage all this money exchanging en route. We got to Gatwick with plenty of time to spare before our flight. Thank God we did because we were not on the flight details as the booking had been changed so late. At this point everyone in the recce crew was panicking so I had to calm them down and explain to the check in lady that we had paid to be on this flight. After a bit of persuasion, I got her to check the flight manifesto and low and behold, our names were on it. After a big sigh of relief, we checked in. We had taken with us a D90 SLR camera for recce photos and also a tripod – Nick and I used the spare space in the tripod to fit our socks in as our suitcase. Anyway, after a short time in departures, we hopped onto a 737 and set off on our journey to Iceland!

As we landed in Keflavik airport my mind was blown at the sheer magnificence of the landscape accompanied with the most beautiful sunset. After collecting our baggage, I rang Jon the Fixer to arrange a meet once we had got into Reykjavík, another role of a producer. We paid for the coach into Reykjavík and were there within the hour at our hotel, Hotel Cabin. We got into the hotel (it was at this point, I realised I had left my waterproof jacket on the coach) and went up to the desk to pay for our rooms. I had been told over the phone and email that we would get two cheaper double rooms. They had not been very clear in our pre-contacts and we were looking at spending 18,000 kroner on the rooms for two nights; a preposterous amount and everyone back home would be angry that we took such a huge chunk of the budget up. Jon arrived in my moment of panic as I was trying to find alternative accommodation. He mentioned that there was a youth hostel about a mile away that was great and a lot cheaper. We decided that this was a brilliant option and set off to the hostel. Jon kindly gave me a lift where we could discuss our action plan. I had emailed Edda and Hulda about meeting up when we got into town and gave them a call en route to discuss where and when. I was surprised to hear Edda down the phone as she had, what I thought, was an American accent! They arranged to meet us later for dinner and to get to know us. We would also plan what we would do over the next few days.

After checking into our rather superb hostel, we literally dumped our kit and set out to the Icelandic Bar in downtown. It was situated opposite the Parliamentary building which was completely strange as you can’t get with 100yrds of our one in the UK. Jon joined us for a drink but then left shortly after and said he would meet up the next day. Edda and Hulda helped us order the most fantastic meal and beer I have ever had and then we discussed our action plan. They would aid us in every way possible and set up connections, meets and auditions for us. Fantastic, we had just arrived in town and things were getting done. It really paid off seeking these people out in advance before we got over there. I recorded a short clip of Edda saying hello to the guys back home then Hulda kindly gave us a lift back to the hostel. I decided that instead of writing feedback of our day to the rest of the crew, I would record a Vlog and post it on the Facebook group. It was basically a run down of what we had done with a bit of comedy from the day to get people excited and also to prove we had already started working.

Just  a note on the social aspect of our meeting with Edda and Hulda; it was a good move to meet them in person and build up a relationship with them as it made life easier, we had a better time there, they stretched themselves as far as they could for us and it was a pleasure working with them. It really pays to take time out and get to know people who will be working with you on a more personal level. One must be careful not to be too personal though as a professional manner still has to be maintained but I feel it is better to get along with people and show them heart because their work back to you will be even better as they actually WAT to do it.

In the morning, our real work started. The girls first took us up to the NOVA shop – the Icelandic equivalent of Orange or T-Mobile etc. We purchased four NOVA sim cards so we were contactable whilst we were over there. This was one of our best decisions as long-range communication was our greatest asset. Wars have been won and lost from communication and so I knew it was a great decision to get our phones working. It also meant we could contact Edda and Hulda constantly. We then set off on a location scout. First down to the major bus station (a scene of Outdated was actually filmed there) where I also tried to get my coat back from. They did not have it and so offered me an alternative jacket which I have grown rather attached to! I digress; we set about travelling to different iconic locations the girls thought suited our script (which I had given them a copy of the night before). We hit the coast, the centre of town, the observatory, the huge concert hall, the harbour and some houses just to name a few. Nick took photos to show everyone so decisions could be made as to where to shoot. The girls also took us up to their film school where we arranged auditions and looked at borrowing some of their equipment. We met other people in the school who said they would lend a hand. It was a real opportunity to explore the differences and similarities in our cultures and schooling. On the final note of the day; Alex and I rung up a minibus renting agency in Reykjavík to obtain us some transport. They offered us a minibus for £3,000 for the week. Our budget definitely would not stretch that far so we hackled and begged and sold ourselves as a company until finally, we made a deal that we could rent the minibus for the full week for £1,000. I was learning how talking to people and making them feel part of the project was an exceptional part of producing and we greatly benefited the crews.

Alex and I then went over to Morgunblaðið to conduct an interview with their chief reporter. Morgunblaðið is Iceland’s national newspaper – the equivalent of the Daily Telegraph or The Guardian here in the UK. We had a fantastic interview with the reporter who was also a high ranking editor for them too. We had to sell ourselves as a fantastic project that wanted to film in Iceland so passionately and wanted to create connections between our two nations. This publicity stunt proved invaluable as when we were making contacts later on in the week, we could mention we were in the paper and were immediately thought of as commendable and ‘famous’ to a degree.

Morgunblaðið Article

The Friday was a very long and hard working day. We had our auditions in the morning for the lead roles in Outdated and Snowblind. I was also looking for women and men who could play the leads in Cats although without a boy, we were stuck. We managed to get through about 40 auditions in the morning and Alex and Chris were confident they had their stars. My job on the day was to ensure we had records and paperwork of all our auditioned actors as well as taking a photograph of them to show back to the crews. I also asked for their performances to be filmed so we could look back at the footage if we needed. Edda arranged for an audition with a semi-professional actor who had starred in many short films and music videos (as well as a small role in a feature film) called Haffe. Ironically, he used to be a child physiotherapist and along with his outstanding acting skills, he would be fantastic to work with both us and a child actor, once we had found one. I also stumbled across a few potential actresses who could possibly play our mother in Cats. Ross, my director, later chose Vildis whom I had auditioned, to play the part.

Auditions at the Film School

I also got the chance to audition a young boy for the role of Pall, the lead character in Cats. He was slightly disappointing and didn’t quite cut it as the actor we wanted however, he was a last resort. The approach I took toward auditioning him was completely different to how I had to act with the adults we were auditioning. I didn’t sit behind a desk; instead I sat crossed legged on the floor. I encouraged him and entertained him all whilst testing out every emotion the character needed. It was very hard to do especially since he didn’t speak very good English. However, I am used to being with children and can interact with them easily so this did help. Also, Edda (whom I forgot to mention had Canadian accent after living there half of her life – she also spoke better English that I did!) translated my directions and also got very much involved with the boy. She had done acting in the past and knew exactly what I wanted to her to do with the boy after I had given specific directions. I suppose I was a director for the day and I know I have the skills to do it – I want more practice in the future.

We then had to go pick up the equipment from Pegasus rentals. Jon helped us with this and put the kit in his garage for the night for us. This was great because we didn’t have anywhere to store it as yet. We managed to wiggle off a few hundred kroner as well which we were proud of!

We called the day to an end and headed back to the hostel. Our next plan was a logistical one. We had to get our kit and luggage from the hostel to the Hotel Cabin. I managed to arrange the hostel to lock up our kit in a safe room so we had to collect it all then take it to the hotel. Then we briefly went out for dinner whilst Chris went to meet some other Icelandic student actors (where he later found his lead female). We headed back to the hotel and prepared ourselves to great the main body of the crew who were arriving.

I decided we should meet with them before they went to bed (they got into the hotel quite late) and so I managed to blag the hotel’s conference room to do so. They arrived and although completely shattered, they were extremely excited. I helped a lecturer sort out their rooms and showed them round. We had our meeting in the conference room at 22:00 and told them what we had done on that day and what we had been arranging for them. They were given hope that the films would be very successful as we showed them how much work we had achieved in just two and a half days. I redelivered a Health & Safety brief and discussed with them as to what days they would be shooting and what they needed to do before then which I think they all took in quite well.

We were nearly ready to film!

Four Days: three day recci and one day planning the pre-trip


Iceland Pre-Production – Days Three to Nine

When the opportunity arose to be part of a film making task force in Iceland, I dived straight in! For a start, I have always wanted to visit Iceland, a mystical country of spectacular scenery and amazing adventures. Also, the chance of having “I made films in a different country” would look like gold dust on my CV so I thought it would be both a fantastic experience and incredibly beneficial to me. But finally, the most significant factor was the fact I would be working with lecturers who have both experience and knowledge that I could learn from.

At first, we had to apply for roles. I had just finished producing a documentary and quite fancied doing it again on a bigger scale. However, my history as an Air Cadet and my passion to always push myself made lead me to asking if I could overall manage the productions. I was used to managing people and junior ranks to me in the cadets as I progressed to the highest levels of the senior roles and I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to implement my abilities. I felt that my leadership, level-headedness, initiative and people skills would be a great aid in a producer role and I knew I could be relied upon to co-ordinate the other crew members. Initiative is something I have always had a knack for but I am constantly rethinking my ideologies and trying to make myself even more initiate. I feel this is a very valuable and sought-after skill and therefore I constantly push myself to get better at it. Composure is also something I am gratefully gifted with; even in the thickest of disputes or chaos I still manage to think straight and instead of complaining about a problem, I set about fixing up a strategy to overcome it.

I was generously given the role of Executive Producer. My charismatic approach to my peers quickly let them approve of me being given this prestigious role which put a lot of responsibility on me to inspire confidence in them that I was competent and could bring together the projects. The first job I had was sitting in on the interviews for other top roles (Director, DoP etc). This felt strange and very imposing on me as in all fairness I felt I had no right to be the one to decide whether people got the roles they applied for. However, I had to be confident in my decisions whilst at the same time hold valid reasons for my choices. I tried to be as unbiased and fair as possible – this showed people that I did not favour friends etc. If it was my choice that somebody did not get the role they wanted then I would have to state a reasonable argument as to why. Joining me on the board were Bex and Ross, my instructors and lecturers with a lot more seniority and experience than myself, so I thought that despite my opinions, their word was final. However, Bex and Ross were extremely democratic and took into account everything I said during the interviews and the feedback I gave them afterwards. When we allocated roles to the group, this gave me a power of authority; I wouldn’t be challenged by people thinking I was incompetent. Although this statement comes across as big headed, I don’t mean it too. It was more the fact that people didn’t feel the need to undermine me before the project kicked off and therefore I could apply myself with the best of my abilities. It also gave me a huge confidence boost that people trusted my opinion and also accepted me as a leader.

Now was the challenge…to prove I met their expectations.

Before roles were given out, we had to research as much as we could about Iceland; it’s culture, food, people, lifestyle, stories, previous filming work that had occurred there, trade, politics etc.  My research stemmed from films that had been made there to their national cuisines (I wanted to try whale and rotten shark!) to their historical stories. I also looked into the weather conditions, terrain and what the chances were of seeing the Northern Lights.

When everyone pulled their research together, people went off to write pitches. These were then narrowed down and developed into treatments. The favourite four ended up being “Cats”, “Outdated”, “Snowblind” and “Together”. It was decided that these scripts be written by the people who came up with the ideas.

I put fuel into people’s drive for the films by creating another group who would document our trip to Iceland as well as all the pre-work we did before hand. They were coined “The Making Of” crew and ‘borrowed’ camera operators and sound techs from the other crews. I wanted this documentary to have its own director, who would conduct interviews with the cast and crew, and producer, who could manage where the crew needed to be and when. This would also support our IEMS funding as we would give them back something for assisting in our paying of the trip.

To brand ourselves and have some sort of uniformity, we discussed names for a production company which we could operate under. It also gives our project a sense of professionalism as well as a title to which we could assign our work under.  “Gryla Productions” was put onto the table. The name Gryla came about from our research into Icelandic mythology and legacy. Gryla was a witch who lived in the mountains and terrorised children’s dreams. The story itself of Gryla was not that important to our company name. Instead, it was a name that would grab attention; Icelanders would identify the name Gryla and therefore be interesting in what we produced; Non-Icelanders would look at the name and be curious as to what it was and therefore pursue looking into it. Also, since we were making the films in Iceland, we decided that we wanted an Icelandic feel to our company and Gryla suited perfectly.

The film “Cats” was set to have animation in it. The story (in a nutshell) is about a boy escaping his life filled with sadness by imagining he is a cat and prowls around with other cats. These dreams are envisioned on screen by animation. We enrolled on board an animator, Sasha, of incredible skill and talent. To give her opportunity to be part of the pre-production stage early on, I asked her to construct a logo for our film company. It would make us even more professional and hopefully get us recognised as a brand. After a view edits and reviews back to the main group, we decided on one of her designs. We all now felt part of something that was really happening.

Logo Ideas

Early on, as part of my Exec role, I wanted to make sure people had plenty of time to get their paperwork in order to travel to a foreign country. Iceland is not technically in the EU although it applies its policies etc. I made sure everyone either had or was getting a passport so they could travel to Iceland. From my research, I learnt that the expiration dates had to be at least 6 months after we got back to the UK so it was my responsibility to check everyone’s details. One girl had a passport from a different country and therefore needed to apply for a visa to be able to travel. I researched what she needed to do and sent her to complete this task herself. Next, we all had to have European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) to cover medical costs outside the NHS. Again, it was my job to make sure everyone had one of these and they were all in date. I myself had to apply for a new passport and EHIC so I did this promptly as inspiration to the rest of the group. I had to check both student and lecturers – no one dodged my checklist!

Our next step was to pay for the trip. It was decided that this be paid in January and it was my job to check this was done. Steve, the trip organiser, took care of documenting people’s money but it was down to me to make sure they did it. To support us financially, we applied to IEMS to help us pay for some of the trip or give us some spending money whilst we were out there. Once again, I had to make sure this was done by everyone. We all had to write a brief to IEMS stating why they should give us money. But it paid off in the end as we were all offered a small chunk of reimbursement.

Budgeting was a big issue for the films. We had to pay for the films off our own backs as we were not employed or being given money from an institution. We estimated a budget of around £4000 and decided that fundraising was a way of going about obtaining this target figure. I decided with Steve that everyone must raise £200 each to go into the pot and pay for the films budgets. This would be split as equally as possible over the films. At this point (mid January), we decided that we could not afford or crew four films in the time we had. We decided to drop a film and we voted to lose Together. I would like to produce this film in the future however as it is a beautiful story.

Fundraising was slow to start off with and many people needed a good kick up the backside to get a move on. I asked for a day walk where people could get sponsored and delegated a predominant member of the group to organise it. We set a theme – film characters, being media production students – and proceeded to get names on our sponsor forms. Despite the cold and horrendous downpour of rain, we persevered and had fun with the walk and raised a fair bit of money. But we needed more. We started kicking other people into gear to do their own fundraising events which we helped with. Cake and bun sales went down a treat and brought in a nice chunk of money and we continued to do this for a few weeks. As we drew nearer to going on the actual trip, we needed a big event that would bring in people and therefore money. A few group members organised a night out at a local bar/club. They arranged the deal that we take the money on the door and the club takes its money behind the bar. However, it costs us £100 to use the club for our event I think which meant we either had to break even or gain a profit or risk losing money we didn’t have. The gamble paid off and through immense promotion and word-of-mouth, we managed to get a tonne of people there and raised a huge chunk of money. Just to point out, I managed myself to raise just over £300 which I am very proud of.

A third year then told us about a method of fundraising called crowd sourcing. Basically, we ask a lot of people for a little bit of money each. We used the website IndieGoGo which specialises in crowd sourcing and uses a pay-pal account to gather funds. Our target was $500 (it’s an American site) and we had two weeks to raise the money. Word of mouth, constant emails, messages and phone calls eventually helped us raise our total. It was a great achievement; we managed to hit our 4K budget in time. However, to help promote our film and to give something back to the people we were asking money off, I organised a short promotional video. I delegated people to book out the photography studio, a camera operator and a photographer. I wanted people to sell their film and make the viewers as passionate about it as we were. The key players in each crew were filmed; the director and producer of Snowblind, Outdated and the making of, the animator of Cats and finally myself as the executive producer. We filmed this promo in a matter of hours and it was edited and online the day after. The money started rolling in as people who donated also got a chance to see what our films were about and who would be working on them. We also did portrait photos of every crew member so our audience could see who was making the films happen.

IndieGoGo Link http://www.indiegogo.com/icelandshorts

An executive producer regularly meets with their crew to discuss what their next plan of action is and find out/chase where we up to in pre-production. I organised weekly meeting for people to do this. I had to resolve a lot of issues in these meetings and also plan how to get to our next stages. After Christmas, I made the crews organise and conduct test shoots. They needed to know exactly what they were doing and how they would film their shots before they went over to Iceland. One of Snowblind’s shoots was outside and involved a car. I went along to this to show my support and also to help them – I chose not to actually help film but to observe as an outside eye. I could then feedback the points I felt they needed to work on and also the things they did really good. It was looking optimistic for them. Originally, in Outdated’s script, there was an ice skating scene. This would need a careful but precise form of filming and we headed to the local ice rink to test it out. I was going to be an observer there too but ended up filling in as an actor because firstly, they needed every one of their crew and secondly, I was competent on the ice enough that I could skate around for them whilst they tested shots. I am no Robin Cousins but I can maintain momentum and not fall over. A third year in the crew, Sam, also volunteered to go on the ice and we kept spirits high when things were not going to plan. Take after take we strove to keep our performance the same so the crews could get the shots just right. For the next few shots, I was needed to purposefully fall over on the ice. This was probably harder than staying up on the ice as my brain kicks in and tells me not to do it because I could hurt myself. But it needed to be done so time after time I threw myself to the floor, fell, dove – anything that was a losing battle between me and gravity. It proved to greatly aid the crew however as they practice catching the event from different angles.

As well as executively producing Gryla Productions, I was also the sole producer for Cats. My role was to organise and plan how we got from script to shooting the film. It was my job to organise meetings and sort out what my crew would do in the lead up to the trip. Part of this role was finding actors for the film. This proved near impossible as the lead role was a little boy! If we flew our actor to Iceland we had three problems. Firstly, we would have to pay for his flight and accommodation. Secondly, we would have to pay for a chaperone for him as well. Thirdly, we would have to look after him whilst over there. We scrapped this idea as our budget didn’t stretch far enough (we were tight as it was). I started looking for child actors in Iceland as well as someone to play his mother and father. This was also tricky as I did not have a fixer over there that could help me and getting hold of the Icelandic film companies and acting agencies was just not happening. I was stumped with a problem – however, I used my initiative and came up with a solution which I will divulge into in a different post.

I was also in charge of the script development (well, making sure it happened and fitted the director’s choices), making sure costumes and props were taken by (which I had an artistic director for). Other things under my stead were keeping the crew members on tasks that they had been set and chasing them up when they hadn’t. This happened a lot and required a lot of work. I was also required to keep an up-to-date production folder with all our plans, script revisions, storyboards and the like in. Every member of the crew needed to know it all backwards so when we were in Iceland, we could film exactly what we wanted with speed.

Just before I went to Iceland, I delivered a Health and Safety brief. Steve had to deliver his own which was signed but I had to make sure people were prepared for it. Over the weeks leading up to the trip, I had given lectures on appropriate kit needed for the Icelandic climate and terrain – my research right at the beginning of the production as well as my experience with outdoor activities in the Air Cadets greatly aided me here. I told people to buy hats, gloves, scarves, waterproof coats (not just water resistant), walking trousers (jeans chaff and get heavy when wet; trakkie bottoms/joggers offer no water or wind resistance), fleeces and most important of all, thermals! I made it very clear that if the kit was not obtained for each person, then that person would not be leaving the hotel in Iceland. Keeping warm and safe was a priority. I taught people how to layer their clothing to provide maximum warmth yet the least amount of perspiration. I taught them what type of walking boots they should buy (ankle support, thick tread etc) and what type of socks they should wear in them. I instructed them on kit they should carry on their shoots or when they were just walking around Iceland – torch, water bottle etc. I went out to an outdoor excursion shop and bought in bulk (for a cheeky discount) a large number of emergency blankets which would be distributed to people. I stressed how important all this kit was for people but I also told them why it was needed. Two weeks before we went on the trip, I held a kit check meeting (which was accompanied by a final paperwork check) where people either brought in or wore all their kit to prove physically they had it. Until I had seen the correct kit in the flesh, I would not tick them off my list and therefore they would not be allowed to leave the hotel in Iceland. This sounds pedantic as on one day most people walked round in just a jumper or t-shirt – it wasn’t always cold. But when it got cold, it got dangerously cold and they had to be prepared for this. As the exec, as the leader, I had to make an example of myself and strutted into the meeting (on a rather unpleasantly warm day) in my full kit to show people that I too had the correct gear. Once the kit was all checked and ticked off on my list, I conducted my health and safety lecture for when we were over in Iceland. I went through every detail I could think about regarding keeping each other safe, fit and well. It had to be done and I made it light-hearted and humorous so people weren’t bored and retained the information I gave them. I have always strived to have that approach to teaching (I’ve done a lot of it in the cadets) – keep it jovial yet get the exact point across. I finished my lecture with a very detailed lesson about hypothermia. We would be facing cold and exposure in Iceland – that accompanied with exhaustion and tiredness (two separate things I might add) could end up with someone in a very dire situation. Given the time and money we put into making the films happen, we couldn’t let something as preventable as that happen to ruin the whole thing however, people needed to be prepared to know how to spot it, what to do if it occurs and how to deal with it.

The preparation for Iceland was a long and arduous process but I learnt a lot from it. I made tonnes of mistakes but I learnt from them and know how not to let them happen again.

(Days: – countless meetings, two test shoots, two fundraising events, lectures and kit/documentation checks)


Iceland – Days Fifteen to Nineteen

Learning the Sound EquipmentI had my work cut out as an executive producer in Iceland. Everything that went wrong was my responsibility and I had to deal with it. Any issues I had to sort. Any conflicts I had to resolve. I also had to arrange meetings and schedules and ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone. This was no easy task I can tell you. Despite being one of the best experiences of my life, the trip drained me of life and energy. It really took its toll on me but it has prepared me for the future when I will be working professionally. I don’t want to start on a negative work but people’s laziness and lack of commitment really made the work harder.

I will cram a few days into this blog post as I am unsure of dates and also so much happened in such a short space of time, it’s a blur!

The first weekend the whole crew were there, I delegated them to get out into the local surroundings and familiarise themselves with locations and logistics. We picked up the minibus we had blagged for cheap. We also picked up some spare equipment from the film school which greatly helped us. I had personally organised a meeting with Einar Tómasson who is the Film Commissioner for Iceland. I had arranged a meeting with the top player in the film industry in Iceland and Alex accompanied me as I travelled to meet him. Ironically, his office building was 50m opposite our hotel which made the meet so much easier. We were greeted by him as friends and taken into a private conference room with him just to ‘chat’. He was so interested in what we had to say and what we were doing in Iceland and was utterly thrilled for us that we had managed to get into the national paper.  We talked for about an hour and he offered to help promote the films in Iceland once we had finished them. He also gave me personal permission to use the “Film in Iceland” logo and brand to use on our film. Some may see this as him trying to get his mark on our work but we actually asked if we could use it because it would give our films so much more credit in Iceland, the UK and around the world. I can now say I have produced films which were branded by a country’s institution for film!

Also on the Sunday, Edda helped me arrange an audition with her nephew who ended up playing the part of Pall in our Cats film. She could work with him effectively and get a better performance out of him because she knew him. Also, his parents were happy for Edda to chaperone him on set which was fantastic as she was family so we were legally covered but it also meant we didn’t have people clogging up our set. I arranged for us to start filming on the Thursday evening and a full day on Friday. This was a very short space of time but we were confident we could do it.

Snowblind would start shooting on the Monday evening. I was able to go along to the shoot however; on set I would only be runner.  We set out the tent we had taken as a base whilst it was still light; in it contained the first aid kit and the ladies she-wees! We designated a toilet area and also set up the minibus to hold everyone’s snacks and hot drinks in. The shoot was along a stretch of road. The only problem was it was completely pitch black so we were in radio communication. I had a radio at one end and had to warn the crew of approaching traffic. I also had to flag down cars at speed using my torch and glow sticks.

Every hour or so, I would wander down to the set to deliver moral boosting warm drinks. People were cold and tired so I went round checking everyone was okay and hypothermia was not setting in. Despite getting a beasting for this, people’s wellbeing was my primary concern. I took the telling off knowing that if someone had got in a bad state, the crises would be much more severe so I made sure nobody got into that state. At one point I came across Sunil who had been standing around for a length of time not doing much; not moving much to keep warm. His lips were starting to become blue and he was slightly unresponsive. I instinctively dragged him to the minibus and wrapped in my spare warm clothing and got two hot drinks in him. I cuddled him and rubbed his body to pass on some of my warmth. He started talking a bit more and coherently but I knew he had to get back to the hotel. Steve also came down with some stomach cramps and with my depleted and exhausted collection of hot drinks I agreed with Bex that we head back to the hotel to drop off Sunil and Steve as well as resupply the flasks with hot water. I telephoned ahead and ordered everyone to get into reception to help us. As soon as the bus wheels stopped moving, I was out the door handing out flasks to get hot water poured into them. Steve went off to his room and I got Sunil in his bed with an extra duvet. He still had all his clothes on including his hat (though we took his boots off) to get him warm. I asked that someone stay with him until I got back which they did. Once I had restocked the flasks thanks to everyone’s help, Bex and I set off back to the set. I started adding coffee and soup sachets into the flasks. We got back to set and I went around forcing everyone to drink something warm and acquired a couple of packs biscuits and chocolates that I compelled people to eat. It may only have been little but it boosted their moral and gave them a short energy boost. Once everyone was recharged, Ross, Bex, Clifton and I walked up the nearby hill to get some beautiful shots of the Northern Lights. It was also incredibly amazing to watch the shoot from such a remarkable viewpoint.

As the shoot drew to an end, I raced toward the set. I knew people would be cold and tired and therefore mope about so I took complete charge of the packing up of equipment. What took them 45minutes to set up, I packed away in 10. I delegated tasks to people – “you get the all the lights”, “you collect all the reflectors and bring them over here” etc. I feel my inspiration and leadership was needed here because everyone was at rock bottom. The shoot had gone badly and not enough had got done. People did not challenge me, instead they just got on with that I ordered. It needed to be done quickly and efficiently so people didn’t get even colder. I asked Bex to bring the minibus down from base camp to the set. This made packing away a lot more rapid. Within 20 minutes, the kit was all packed, everyone was in the vehicles and we were ready to leave. Filming was over for the night. But my job was not done.

We got back to the hotel and there was an issue between the director and producer of Outdated I had to resolve. Egos clashed and I had to diffuse the situation and resolve the conflict. I then had to have a quiet word with the boasting the Outdated director was doing toward the defeated, moral-broken Snowblind crew about how bad their shoot had gone. We were all in this together and that did not help the situation. I expect if I was a producer in the real world I would have to deal with similar scenarios and this was preparing me for the future. I’ve done plenty of conflict resolutions and bollockings with the cadets but never in an environment where I was working with people. I feel I handled the situation with delicacy and composure.

The day after, Snowblind went on their day shoot. I took it upon myself to boost morale back up with them as they were filming that night and needed lifting. I drove the point into them that they would learn from the night before and their shoot on that evening would be successful. In the end, Snowblind finished their shoot 2 hours ahead of their schedule although I was not on that shoot.

The next couple of days I spent finalising locations and searching for props for the Cats shoot. My role had gone from executive producer of Gryla Productions to producer of Cats. As I was also the sound technician on the shoot, I had to get out and master the kit I would be using. I set off with my rifle mic and Z44T with an XLR wrapped around me. In a day, I pretty much had my head around the equipment and knew what to do with it. I did spend a lot of time helping Outdated with issues they had (one of their filming days was lost because of horrendous weather conditions). I then went from scolding to consoling their director and had to spend a lot of time with him proving his film was still possible and could be achieved.

On the Thursday afternoon, the Cats crew set out to the location we would be using for the majority of filming. We managed to get both our internal and external night shots. It was a small cramped house and actually had a little cat in it – he played havoc with my allergies and my boom mic. The external sound was tricky because of the weather conditions. Wind and rain gave my rifle mic a hard time and I returned it to the improvised loan shop blown and soggy. It dried out nicely however and still worked fine.

On Friday, I spent the day recording the sound in the house. I was trapped under a bed in a stuffy room with a constant need to sneeze and was completely shattered by the whole week. But I persevered and got the job done. We went outside for an external scene where Pall rides around the town on his bicycle to the chemists to get his mother’s medicine. This was tricky as I had to constantly take sound however, the wind was blowing a full on gale. At a later stage when I went through the sound clips, most of my audio was useless.

We also went down to the beach to film the final scene of Pall and his Father. It was an emotional scene to me and I reckon it will spark a few tears when people watch it. Once again however, the full on gale the wind was racking up as well as the inbound coastal wind made my audio useless. I gave up on using it and instead assisted in making the sure the track (from which a wheel had been lost on the second Snowblind shoot) ran smoothly. My frozen fingers hardly felt pain when the track crushed over the top of them however, I got the job done. We had to battle appalling wind levels but triumphed in the end.

My last few days were spent exploring Iceland which was truly amazing. I had tried to do as much of this as possible during my recci’s but I got to visit the places I had missed. I also had to organise the logistics of getting the borrowed and rented kit back the Film School and Pegasus Rentals respectively as well as get the minibus back to the place that hired it. After one of the most exhausting but rewarding trips of my life, I made my way back home.

But my job didn’t stop there. I am currently promoting the films and getting people hyped up for their release. I am also chasing up the editors for their rough cuts as well as keeping all the paperwork in check.

Iceland was one of the best experiences of my life. I learnt a great deal. I learnt about myself and I learnt about working with people. In my opinion, if you want people to do a truly grand job, you either selectively work with certain people or pay them. I have built up quite a lot of respect for me and my work and people now look to me for similar roles. I am not trying to be big-headed but it is nice to know that people trust my reliability and consider me for work. This will help tremendously in my career.


Creative Activism – Evaluation

Looking back over the whole project, I feel I could have been more active in it. I could have produced more content that created and impact.

The module on a whole was interesting and challenged my pre-conceptions of being an activist. There is so many different ways to be an activist and in the digital era, so many ways of getting other people involved. I have learnt how to operate a large number of people in demonstration to put a point across whilst doing so from a creative manner – ie the Ikea Flash Mob as we were making the point that people should be independent and not have Ikea design how they should live.

Looking back over my work, I can see I have learnt how to make an impact with it and how to construct my arguments and approach people with them in the best manner.


Short Film – Final Cut and Evaluation

The film is finished. We conducted the final edit, tidied up sloppy shots and graded the whole thing into a nice warm tone. We filmed our pick up shots, added some additional audio and a score and produced “Roadtrip”.

At the beginning of the project, I felt it was important to be uniform and have a brand. Once we had come up with a name I asked one of our group to create a  moving logo to be put in the film. There was a bit of miscommunication in that we didn’t also have a still image but this is not too much of a problem, it only applies to the press release. This went on the beginning of the film creating our image as an institution, far more professional than a student film as we are not students, we are practitioners who happen to be at university!!!

The opening sequence needed to be slow to set the pace of the film. We used a panning shot of a mantle piece which was a slow, smooth transition of movement and also helped give a bit of background to the characters and their life – not much, just a hint. We achieved this with myself holding the camera on the shoulder mount and carefully rocking backwards and sideways at the same time (makes sense when footage is seen). It was a bit wobbly however so we used the SmoothCam function on FCP7 to stabilise the shot. This then led into the opening title, simply Roadtrip (white on a black background – this represented the simplicity and unrushed pace of the main characters lives). The music over the top of this was a simple guitar riff that really suited the slow timbre and mood of the piece. http://soundcloud.com/radicchiomusic/1950s The 50’s theme came from how we imagined the couple to have met in the past; this was the time that they were growing up and therefore meeting each other and falling in love.

The kitchen scene required a lot of grading and colour correction but looks really warm and bright in the final product. There are subtle hints to Geraldine’s forgetfulness in this shot that the quick eyed viewer will pick up on. It is her that leaves the sandwiches and her glasses are on her head despite sending Harold upstairs to get them. The 50’s music can just about be heard in the background and we gave it an effect to make it sound like it was coming from the radio we had deliberately got in shot. This nice transition gave the piece a sense of realism.

We managed to trim parts of the film off that people didn’t think worked all that well (received in our feedback) and fill in some extra pick up shots. We had to film a lot of these extremely close up or at a great distance because we did not have the same actors and had to stand in ourselves. Only after watching the footage very closely and repeatedly will you be able to pick up on these shots. We managed to get our man on the bicycle again for these shots to add continuity.

One of our praised techniques whilst filming was from the utilisation of the jib. People really loved our opening jib shot and we slipped another one later on as the couple pull into the car park. There is a slight continuity edit here as the car park wasn’t as busy when we filmed the pick ups but it’s not too noticeable. On a note of our earlier jib shot, we felt that it was needed but it was too long. I asked to film a cutaway shot and insert it here of Harold’s items being placed in the boot.

The car interior shots were a bit too long and shaky. We managed to stabilise them but required a few more external shots to break up the action. The dialogue rolls over the top and flows rather beautifully. We also got a nice shot over the steering wheel of the cyclist going past which added more to the comedy of them going so slow and being overtaken by a normally even slower form of transport. Him whizzing past added a bit of pace to the visuals which was nice.

In the script, the film was meant to end with Geraldine shouting “Harold, you forgot the sandwiches!!!” however, our actors improvised a bit and left us with a lovely extract of dialogue we could play over the ending credit. It really brough this beautiful story to a finale worthy of it’s own nature.

On reflection, there are some things I would like to change with the whole film. Firstly, I did love doing sound, camera, lighting etc (all the technical roles) but I feel I wanted to direct this film in my own way. I would have done a lot differently and would have loved the opportunity to do this myself. I aided in the pre-production side of things as I was needed as I have a lot of experience and did enjoy it. But my passion for this film would have been to direct it.

There are some sound drops I would like to include in the film (of the car driving with the jib shot and also the items being placed in the boot) however, I am really happy with the finished product. The professionalism of the project is something I highly admired; the fact we went and found old actors (completely different to standard student films) and also paid them is something I think will reflect well on us. We took the time out to act more professional than we had ever done before (something I think the group as a whole picked up working in the Gryla Productions films in Iceland) and if you want to a job well, you have to do it properly. I gained so much more experience handling sound, lighting and filming equipment and brushed up my skills as a camera operator (although most of the shoot this was not my responsibility). I helped form the paperwork and production side into something in line with real world film productions (although there is so much room for a great deal of improvement here). I also helped with the directing in some areas where ours was flacking a bit and tried my hand at it, feel I am competent enough and definitely want to take on this role in the future.

Enjoy Roadtrip! :


Creative Activism – Jamming and Remixing

I’ve waited to hear about the 2012 Budget proposals for my remix. I’ve decided to go with a clip from the House of Commons in which Ed Milliband openly mocks David Cameron and his party for their intentions with the cuts. Everyone knows that these bureaucrats will benefit immensely in terms of wealth and finance from the Income Tax Cut and Milliband strives to coerce them into admitting this. But they will not. Their silence is enough to confirm this.

This is a very striking issue especially after the politician expenses scandal and one with I think will provoke a strong reaction. The clip actually speaks for itself however, with subtitles detailing what is actually being said (through a comedic front) viewers can see how I understand what is going on and hopefully agree and support my thoughts. The fact that Cameron and his party simply do not retort to Millibands accusation is camouflaging the truth and I think people need this to be made obvious.

I have uploaded my video to YouTube as here it can be viewed by anyone with access to the internet and shared and distributed as and when people want to. This helps spread the meaning of the piece.