Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Last Blog of the Decade

Plans for 2010 are off to a good start with the notebook of my dreams:

That's pretty much my year in filmmaking planned out.

Things I'm looking forward to this year:

- Post-production and screening of CrimeFighters
- Planning and filming Season 3 of Zomblogalypse
- Releasing the Zomblog graphic novel, the new badges and announcing the winner of the t-shirt design competition
- Finishing two short film scripts, one for Paul to direct, and starting work on a new feature script for sometime in the distant future

And last and possibly most, Hannah coming back for filming and fun (and possibly a chat or two about the Zomblog movie), hanging with old friends & meeting new ones and spreading the word about Zomblog and CrimeFighters.

I have a very good feeling for 2010, so many opportunities to make it an amazing year.

Happy New Year everyone, see you in the Tenties.


Friday, 25 December 2009

2 Christmas Links

Nothing to do with Christmas, but I found these interesting as we go into the third year of our web series:

The Top 10 Web Series

Felicia Day & The Guild's Success

I always find Miss Day inspiring. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

CrimeFighters Rough Cut Screening

Not only has Tony been editing CrimeFighters, he's been doing his MA and holding down a full-time job, so, kudos. And the 76-minute cut he's done is terrific. I was glad to see from the edit that the script stands up, but mostly that the characters are ones you can root for and the whole thing looks amazing.

It's a weird experience watching a year of your life whizz past in just over an hour, but this is the most satisfying rough cut of my work that I've ever seen. Lots more to do, but there's time to do it.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Constructive Waste of Time

A classic day of working, and working to avoid work. Managed to do a bit of writing on one short screenplay, and started writing dialogue for the other. The way I usually work is to write down all the ideas for the screenplay with dialogue excerpts and then build them up into scenes, so for example these are random notes:

So he is cleaning up one day and the girl appears and they talk
Looking for something
Needs a lot of help

(and then here is some dialogue thrown in)

What about this line, where did this come from?

That comes from... (whatever the character's called)

(and then another scribbled note):

Sometimes you know what to do.

So that's how I work. And then also, while checking Facebook and making lots of plans for the months ahead:

I also take time out occasionally to design something like this, which is what I like to call a constructive waste of time, as in, worth doing, but something to avoid what I'm supposed to be doing.

I've really enjoyed the whole Grindhouse thing, and recently saw a website with Grindhouse-style posters of famous films. Some great ones in there, here are some of my faves:

I think I love them because they remind me when cinemas were grubby and slightly squalid, rather than the swish, high-tech movie theatres we have these days.

That's it for now. Tomorrow, a CrimeFighters screening and video blog!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Directing Fiction: A Book We're In

I bumped into Rob Edgar-Hunt, a filmmaking tutor at St. John's Uni, yesterday and he reminded me that the filmmaking book he's written has now been published.

It's called Basics Film-Making: Directing Fiction and if you follow the link, you'll see it's a beautifully designed book; you can also have a peek inside.

Among all the invaluable information on directing fiction, there's a double page spread on Miles To Go, with a interview I did about writing and directing low budget films.

Now, obviously this is nice for us, but this really is a great little book which lays out very clearly and intelligently the techniques, scope and minutae of modern filmmaking, and I recommend it heartily for any filmmaker.

Zomblogalypse Season 3 Donation Button

Want to donate to help us make Season 3? Just hit the button between the two photos below and donate anything you want!

To see the notice about investing in Zomblogalypse, check out THIS LINK.

Thank you. We rely on donations to make all our projects and we appreciate any help you can give us.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Life Lessons = Script Material

My brain is working overtime picking up on a lot of my deep-seated anxieties and sensitivities recently. But instead of dwelling on them or turning them against myself, I'm finding them very inspirational for two short film scripts I'm writing.

Some of the things I'm dealing with have been:

- The meaning of love, and how friendships are different from relationships.
- Communicating a lot about what I'm doing via the Internet (like in this blog) but being frustrated by communication problems in my real life.
- Talking too much about things to someone.
- Not being able to talk about anything with someone else.
- Feeling a sense of accomplishment and purpose one minute, having really bad self-esteem the next.
- Wanting success but wanting to earn it, not beg for it.
- Seeing a kindred spirit in someone who simultaneously makes me feel like a failure.
- Being very wise, and yet also very childish, scared and stupid.
- Feeling a sense of hope for the future, then feeling scared and hopeless, as though things will never change.
- Missing someone who's far away, and being glad about someone else being very near.
- Fear of loneliness, fear of having to join in.
- Waves of joy, blinding terror.

That's about it. I think that's enough to be getting on with. Jesus...

I watched a very inspirational documentary about J K Rowling today. Inspiring because she made a complete mess of her life, suffered, struggled, and turned it all around. And boy, how she turned it all around. I find her journey, and George Lucas's, have many parallels, not least because they were turned down by many, many people before Harry Potter and Star Wars were accepted. And it was because they believed in themselves, and one day so did someone else.

Sometimes inspiration is a gentle and kindly friend, and sometimes it's a terrifying, burning enemy, and thank heaven for those opposing sides.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Sound Design 3: Garage-phonics

Dan and I headed to my garage this afternoon to make lots of stupid noises with various props. Or foley as it's called.

CrimeFighters has great on-set sound but there are always things missing when it comes to edit, like background atmosphere, chatter (since you spend most of the shoot telling people to make no noise at all) and various clunks, thunks and everyday noises that aren't all there on the original soundtrack and have to be added.

One of the effects we wanted to get was the sound of Emma's rollerblades as she skates along, a memorable clack-clack-clack that we can speed up and slow down depending on whether she's idling through the park or escaping bad guys. Here's the kit we used for that:

We also tried this:

We tried a few different things for the sound of a knife being caught, and who would have thought that a banana sounded LESS like a knife being caught than an actual knife being caught. Hmm.

As the list grew...

Miss Batty turned up to do some walking and heavy breathing noises from the very first scene in which she's mugged, which we shot without sound.

This was the most fun thing to do though. Destructive by nature.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Thank you, Tree, of This Writer's Life fame, for nominating me for this :

To honour this award I must do the following 7 things:
-thank Tree
-link to her blog
-copy 'Kreativ Blogger' image to my blog

-tell you 7 interesting things about me:

* I have always felt like a complete outsider in just about every situation.

* I can do the best Homer Simpson impression.

* Outside of filmmaking, I have been a video store clerk, a waiter, a cinema usher, a theatre box office manager, a theatre marketing assistant, an art salesman (for a day), a record store clerk, a marketing manager for a publishing house, a bookseller, a University lecturer and a twat.

* From 1996-2000 a friend and I ran our own theatre company and performed a two-man comedy show at the Edinburgh Festival.

* The first feature film I edited was called 'Al' and screened at City Screen in 2000.

* I have three scars on my head from childhood; one from falling onto a brick wall, one from falling off a climbing frame, and one from falling out of a tree. Also a scar on my nose from falling off the stage onto the corner of a metal table during a school play, another on my arm from falling onto a nail, and two on my left hand from falling through my glass front door. I was a clumsy child.

* I have visited Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Florida, Crete, Italy and France, but still long to visit Japan & New Zealand.

- nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers and link to their blogs. Here goes, and don't forget to click on all the wonderful links:

* Miss Teresa Stenson, a fellow writer and an inspiration to us all. Tree has proved to everyone, and more importantly herself, that stamina and luck are a writer's best friends. I adore her.

* Elle is an artist, singer and all-round awesome lady who deserves to get where she's going and then some. She fronts the band Honeytone Cody, loved by and recently played alongside Charlotte Hatherley and who are in my opinion the best band in York, but also anywhere in a while.

* Mr. Ben Popel is a gifted artist who is terrifyingly talented for one so young. He creates wonderful images of wit and beauty that should and will be gracing posters, books and walls the World over.

* Darren and Ian at 2 Baldies FX, two gentlemen who are, may I say, SHIT HOT at what they do, even though they don't do it for a living. They joined our filmmaking team this year on our zombie web series Zomblogalypse and have astounded me with their skilful, gory make-up effects. Plus, two nicer and more down-to-Earth chaps you could not hope to meet.

* The Sorry Kisses, a wonderful band made up of Hayley Hutchinson and Sam Forrest, who are not only fantastic musicians in their own right, and not only make insanely catchy songs, but also just created the entire soundtrack for my new feature film CrimeFighters. At home. In a shed. Why they don't rule the planet by now is quite beyond me.

* Ceri is one of the loveliest chaps I know, and always turns up when we're filming our zombie web series to be a classic Romero-esque zombie, but also creates a very funny comic strip called Blake & Tyson (Link not working at the time of posting, sadly).

* Finally, I'm going to nominate a gentleman who is an inspiration to all of us filmmakers, both in his wonderful creations Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, but also in his blog, which he rabidly updates while still finding time to make one of the most eagerly anticipated films of my lifetime, Scott Pilgrim. All hail Edgar Wright.

- now go and tell those 7 people that they are Kreativs.


Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Short Film About Women

The short I'm writing for Paul to direct next year is proving pretty theraputic to work on.

Drawing on my own befuddled attitudes toward relationships of any kind with the opposite sex is a lot of fun and is also allowing me the chance to work out the kinks in the single life without resorting to morals like 'There is someone for everyone', and other sentimental views I have been known to lean towards, that aren't helpful or even that truthful.

Being single is deeply misunderstood, by me I have to confess. It is often seen as the less desirable alternative to being in a relationship. But when you weigh up the pros and cons of being with someone or not, it's often a case of 'Grass is always greener'. See, there's another cliche that is also not going to be the moral of the script.

I want this film to be food for thought as well as an entertaining and honest account of a guy who has some very close and very awesome female friends, and what happens after speaking to all of them about love and relationships. There is a little bit of hopeful dreaming thrown in there of course, but at the end of 20 minutes or so I'd like people to go away with a few suggestions of what it all means, rather than trite answers.

So a first draft should be finished in the next couple of weeks, along with the full rough cut of CrimeFighters, thanks to Tony. All very satisfying, and not just creatively, since both projects represent considerable emotional investment. That's why I love writing. It's a chance to make sense of things that often don't.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Sound Design 2: Pubs, Squirrels & Automobiles

We gathered at the Minster on the first decent sunny day in ages to get sounds of various things, including pub atmosphere, park sounds, cars and such.

Always time to feed the squirrels:

Then weirdly we bumped into an ITV crew filming a period drama on exactly the spot we did a lot of the CrimeFighters shoot.

CrimeFighters 2: The Early Years?

They had some nice kit... after that it was off to the library to record the exciting sound of books being flicked through.

Finally, I wish I had one of these:

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sound Design 1: The First 40 minutes of CrimeFighters

So the first 40 minutes of CrimeFighters is rough cut and I just watched it, which was amazing, seeing the first act and a half of the film without any scenes missing.

And it's not that rough either; Tony has done a terrific job cutting it together, having taken in my persistent comments and suggestions during production of how he should do this and that. I needn't have worried.

What's clear from the rough cut is that sound and music are going to play a HUGE part in the character of this film. Without sound mixing, sound effects and a music score, it's pretty bare. What I realised is that York itself will need to take on a character of its own in the film, with shots around the town not just there to look pretty (and they do) but to add - along with the music - to the tone of menace and excitement that builds up for the first half an hour.

Here's Dan Vivash recording sound on the set; he did such a great job that in terms of sound, we're already halfway there.

Starting tomorow, we begin foley, which is pretty much sound effects and atmosphere. Can't wait, as one of my heroes growing up, and still is, sound designer Ben Burtt. When it comes to sound, you don't get much better than him or Randy Thom.

MilesTone Studios

This is the closest we’re going to get, for now, to a production studio. Over in Tony’s room, he’s hard at work editing the pickups footage into the CrimeFighters rough cut, which currently stands at an hour:

Meantime, down the hall I’ve been designing prop newspapers with headlines about our vigilante heroes:

…and compiling and editing Hayley and Sam’s awesome music:

I’ve also been going through the script with a fine toothcomb to make sure we haven’t forgotten to film anything. All those coloured tabs represent a shot that we need to pick up in January; most are shots of things like newspapers and buildings.

Look at the state of that script. That’s just from pickups, not even the main shoot. Disgracefully grubby business, filmmaking. Tomorrow, we’re going to be doing one of my favourite things; sound effects!

Friday, 27 November 2009


It's amazing to have finally moved after waiting out the year in a house I didn't want to be in, and seeing my new place gradually take shape. So it's an escape from sights like this, the end of Citizen Kane:

God it's bizarre, packaging all your stuff into boxes. We've essentially lost a month, in moving house, of working on CrimeFighters, but the new house is everything I hoped it would be, complete with new bedroom, and very importantly, work area:

So I've started on the short film script for Paul to direct next year, and remembering how much I love the writing process...

...not to mention the editing process as we get the rest of the CrimeFighters footage captured and arranged. Still some random shots to get here and there, but the hard work of shooting is done.

So now, Tony and I actually live in the same house, and next year Hannah will be visiting, at which point you should all quake in fear for the zombie apocalypse. Or at least, Zomblog Season 3. Because one or both are coming...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Silently working...

...on designing a funding pack for MilesTone Productions, and have already had some potential investment interest. It's a start... also moving house, so once I'm installed it'll be blog central, with CrimeFighters editing, Zomblog planning and general noses-to-the-grindstone-ness.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Reality Bites

One of the hardest things about being an indie filmmaker, apart from making films for little to no money, is the bits when you're not filming.

My first couple of shifts back at the cinema this last week have been dotted with delightful little moments, like someone I hadn't seen for a couple years coming in and saying, 'Oh, still shuffling popcorn eh?' When I cheerfully nodded they asked what I'd been up to, and I told them I'd been making a feature film and a web series, to which they replied, 'Oh, you're still making that film?'

Now, I didn't have the energy to say, 'Actually that film was 2 years ago, and since then we've made a cult web series with the most awesome fans and I've just spent the last year prepping and making a kick-ass professional feature film that comes out in January and hopefully will take us to the next level as filmmakers'. So I just said 'Nah, different one' and watched them walk away with their 2 kids in tow.

First of all, I get it. To non-filmmakers it may seem like I spend my life always filming filming filming and never having any money, working at the cinema and staying in the same place. But I know that there's a plan, a very slow trajectory that we're all hoping 2010 will see rise more steadily. Whereas some of the people I went to school with are getting married and having kids and company cars, that's what they want with their lives. I want to be a film director, and this is the first time in my life that I can say that I am, and I'm following the dream I've had from when I was 12. What I didn't realise is how hard it would be in its various ways, but also how rewarding and amazing.

And I keep having to remind myself, as I'm shuffling popcorn, of what we have ahead to look forward to: CrimeFighters theatrical release, Zomblog Season 3 and the movie. I just have to stay focused, and convince myself - and my mum - that it'll all be worth it one day.

So screw you, reality. This is me, this is what I'm here for, even though you may try to remind me of 'my place' from time to time.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The 'York Film Collective'/MilesTone Productions

Early last year I suggested to my filmmaking buddies that we should organise ourselves from several disparate small film companies into a collective organisation, with the intention of making some really big film projects that took us to the next level of being filmmakers. Whatever 'the next level' meant but it kind of made sense. To me anyway. It was hard to explain quite what I meant actually, until now.

Previously, between us, we'd made a bunch of accomplished short films, music videos and a feature and were doing pretty well at being filmmakers that got things made and screened. But gradually, from making BandWagons to the Hum-drum shorts, a sense of personal frustration began to build, a sense of impatience at having only tiny little snippets of success at small film festivals and not really feeling like I was progressing towards what I always thought filmmaking was about or what I wanted out of it. We needed to go larger.

Watching a great documentary about American Zoetrope, the early but failed company formed by Lucas, Coppola et al, was a turning point as I realised that when filmmakers get together, magic can happen. So out of that came the 'York Film Collective' idea. And now finally, with MilesTone Productions, comes a version of the Film Collective Idea. We now have a collective of writers, actors, directors, producers, editors, special effects wizards, make-up... uhh, witches, composers and artists. When you list them all, you suddenly realise that we're a pretty awesome company.

So what's missing? Well, it's green, it's vulgar, it's... not bogies, no. It's money.

And that brings me to a major new initiative we're embarking on. And it's one of those 'There's never been a better time to invest' type deals. Thing is, there really HASN'T been a better time to invest in our small-but-perfectly-formed film company, and here's why.

- We've just made an awesome feature film for £6000, which is about a sixteenth of what most SHORT films are made for, and we now need to spend money on t-shirts, badges and some other merchandise so we can earn some money to take CrimeFighters to cinemas around the country. It will cost. We have nothing.

- Our web series Zomblogalypse has a small but loyal cult following, with new fans every day. To make Season 3, which is more ambitious and larger scale than the first two, we are going to need an effects budget. We also need printing costs to make the sell-through DVD as well as more tees and badges, and the graphic novel which are all out in 2010. These are things that will, we hope, make money, but we need to spend it to earn it. Again, we don't have it.

- The Zomblog movie. We're in the very, very early planning stages right now, but we want it to capitalise on the cult following of the show and the increased awareness we hope to gain during Season 3.

We're putting together a funding package that people can digest and decide if they want to help us, and this will materialise soon, but the basic premise is this:

- Any donation is welcome. Last year we received several small but very welcome donations from a dozen or so individuals who helped us buy some essential materials like tapes and t-shirts.

- For a donation of £100 you'll receive an Executive Producer credit on Zomblog Season 3. That means you'll see your name after every episode. And bask in the warmth of helping us into production.

There is more, but I'll wait until the funding pack comes out. There will be an online shop where you can buy the merchandise to own a piece of CrimeFighters or Zomblog, and a link where you can donate money to help us continue to make our films and series.

I think people who've already been involved in helping us make Zomblog and CrimeFighters have started to realise that we are all hardworking, ambitious filmmakers who are deadly serious about filmmaking and aren't going to go away anytime soon. Making films is long, hard, stressful work but well worth it for anyone involved. We hope that means you.

That's it. I hope this has been riveting reading for you all, and that if you believe in us and our flourishing film company, it may well be worth investing in us and the 'York Film Collective'. Thank you.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Winding Down

The best thing to do after finishing a big project is to celebrate and party, then the next day have a quiet few drinks and a meal. You can't just quit the craziness and the people cold turkey or you get all lonely and down in the dumps and start craving it again. From tomorrow my house will be empty of cast and crew and it'll be back to work and real life again.

Kind of.

Today was Adam's birthday and we went for a curry followed by some apple beer:

Yum. Adam, Anna and Tony discovered something...

...and then we all went back to Ad's to play Wii Mario Kart.

This is just the right way to come down gradually from the insanity of a film shoot. You don't want to suddenly be alone and bored, but you don't want much more stimulation because exhaustion is the overriding feeling at this stage. Thankfully I'm moving house in a week and that gives me something else to focus on.

I've inevitably started thinking about what I'm going to miss and not miss at all about making CrimeFighters, and here's what I'm NOT going to miss:

- Those little production problems, power points being a prime example.
- Worrying about the weather.
- Worrying about time running out.
- Having to think constantly about the scenes to come.
- Constant fatigue and never getting enough sleep.
- Mess, everywhere, and no time to clean it up, do my laundry or cook a decent meal.

What I AM going to miss is the cast and crew being around all the time, solving problems together (& suffering together), laughing and talking shit with everyone, seeing how all the departments work to make the film, and lots of other things I can't remember right now through the sense of relief.

Above all though, the sense of accomplishment and pride overrides everything, and despite how glad I am to have finished, and despite this being a tough ride, it was all totally worth it.


Today was the day I've been looking forward to for weeks, and it didn't disappoint. City Screen bar was the venue for the Season 2 Finale of Zomblogalypse, complete with bespoke pumpkins:

Thanks to Rob from the kitchen for these, they're awesome. By half ten there was a crowd of 70-80 people in the bar, baying for blood, and some of them covered in it:

This is Tom from the kitchen. Should we be worried? Actually, the kitchen staff really came through tonight, check out Elliot's Rorschach costume:

Thanks must also go to James for organising the event, and Kate, Neil and Arran for putting up with huge crowds of people wanting drinks in the last hour of their shift. Thank you guys.

And so, after some sound problems (we're low tech for god's sake) we screened the finale to a very appreciative crowd. It was really wonderful watching a new episode with a big crowd laughing at all the jokes and cheering at the gore, and it was just great to hear the big cheer at the surprise ending.

Afterwards we dithered about where to go, but everywhere was chock full, so some of us ended up going back to Dave and Sheena's:

Touching, eh. I mean, a touching sight, there was no actual, you know, touching. Everyone involved in Zomblog and CrimeFighters deserved tonight as a huge treat, a wind-down, and a big sigh of relief at all the hard work we've done this year. It's been the toughest and most rewarding year of my life, hands down. And what I think and hope is that we've paved the way for some incredible opportunites in 2010. Good times to come... :-D

Friday, 30 October 2009

Day 8: It's a WRAP

Most assuredly, that is it.

We were all up at 4am and in Purple Haze (that describes the location and our collective mood) one last time, to finish off the last few scenes of CrimeFighters, two of which I'd hastily scribbled on a scrap of paper to accommodate a location change (this was to have been filmed in Borders but we used up our time there) and given to the actors this morning to learn and do.

Jenni, who'd now done 2 weeks filming on this and another production without a break, had a smashing time...

...and Paul decided he'd create a sit-on dolly:

...while sporting a flat cap. Yes folks, we've reached THAT stage of the production.

Today was pretty hilarious actually, I think once we got onto the second scene of the day and realised we were going to finish the film, fatigue gave way to fits of giggles and stupidity as the weight gradually lifted from the stress and anxiety of filmmaking.

So, after wrapping Debbie, then Paul and Georgina for the movie, we went to Bootham Park to film Emma and Harry's last scene, at which point Paul wished we were making a colour film since the autumn leaves were so pretty.

A couple of hours later and that was it, we were done, and here's what cast and crew we had left:

We few, we precious few, we band of buggered. The wrap usually comes with a whimper rather than a bang, and until January, all will be quiet in Camp CrimeFighters as we tinker, edit, sound mix and generally faff. Oh, and party like we've never partied before.

Well done everybody on the cast and crew, you can all be terrifically smug with yourselves now, we've all just done something awesome :-D