Tag Archives: filmmaking

Change, Please

Nerdly shut down last month due to some Google Adsense bobbins that is far too dumb and arbitrary to go into here. Short version is…don’t feature pictures from gory horror movies on your horror/genre blog, I guess?

The first review I wrote for them was a review of Warren Ellis’ novel Gun MachineThe last was a piece on the Criterion edition of It Happened One Night. Technically I started writing for the site in 2009 when it was Blogomatic 3000, but I don’t have access to the archives so you’ll just have to use your imagination until I get my hands on those old (maybe terrible?) pieces.

I’m considering starting a side-blog exclusively for my writing on film. This place has been cluttered with stray notions and cobwebs for a while now, and I might even be able to maintain something with a single focus far better than this brain dump.

[Though, of course, now I’ve mentioned that it may be doomed never to happen.]

A panel from Plutona #5, written by Jeff Lemire & illustrated by Emi Lenox

In the meantime, like any good scavenger I went looking for other places to ply my wares and found Flickering Myth, where I’m doing comic and movie reviews for the foreseeable future.

So far I’ve covered new issues of East of West, Cry Havoc, the brutal finale of Plutona and the promising first installment of conspiracy thriller Throwaways. The pay is peanuts and I know that “hey, free comics and movies isn’t a bad deal” is a chump’s line, but deadlines keep me working and – for now – it’s far better than not writing.

In other news, my dad died two months ago today. I wrote something about that on Medium; grief and learning and realising he was probably not the man he presented to me for 25 years.

I turned 26 two weeks ago. I just connected those dots and realised I’m now in a post-dad era. Numerically speaking, anyway. Well, I had him for a quarter century. My guess is that people who get a hundred years tell you it’s still not enough time.

Speaking of time constraints, I and my friends Dave & Alice went on a [THOUGHT BUBBLES] hiatus almost a year ago. Yesterday our first new episode since September 2015 went live, and it’s a doozy. This one’s a departure in many ways that I’ll go into in a later post, but I’m pretty thrilled with how it turned out (but mostly just that we’re making these things again. I’d recommend short bursts of creation to absolutely everyone) so yeah, go and watch it.

Alice, the musical side of the project, creates beautiful, dreamy synth pop under the name Mayshe-Mayshe. You can listen to one of her tracks above. I’m biased but I think Alice is great; she’s putting out two EPs and going on tour in the next couple of months so you’ll have plenty of chances to judge for yourself.

I’m going to update this blog more frequently. I know I say that every time and then you don’t hear from me for three months but I’m trying out this whole “discipline” thing and I think it might stick.

The current state of British politics

Oh, and my country’s about to collapse under the weight of its own apathy and xenophobia, the economy’s in freefall and the British political arena is looking more and more like Thunderdome every day.

Plus I’m quitting my job and leaving my flat within the span of two days in August so I might have some spare time on my hands. Gulp.

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What’s in a Thought Bubble?

I helped launch an art project on Tuesday. Well, I don’t know if you’d call it art, exactly, but it does have a manifesto; that’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, this venture of dubious worth is called [THOUGHT BUBBLES], and it’s all about impulsive creative expression.  You might want to go check out our first post before reading any further. I promise you it won’t take more than two minutes of your time. Go on. I’ll wait. Welcome back! See? That didn’t take so long. As you can see, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is all about brevity: we’ll be putting out videos of one minute (or shorter) in length once a week for as long as we can keep it up. There are certain other rules that apply – as seen in the aforementioned manifesto – but we can go into those another time, particularly as we’ll start breaking them pretty early on. But who is this “we”, you ask? Am I not the sole architect of the project, filming, composing and creating every atom of beauty that makes up the very being of [THOUGHT BUBBLES]? Of course not; don’t be ridiculous. I make up one third of a creative trio I am perpetually humbled to be a welcome part of. My fellow bubblenauts are none other than musician Alice Rowan and filmmaker Dave Beveridge. They’re both much more than that, obviously, being dear friends of mine, but for the purposes of this introduction that’s your key to understanding the basis of a Bubble’s creation. Here are a couple of brilliant things they made:



I know, right? I’m sure you now want to see and hear a lot more from them. Rest assured – you will. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • Dave films something that speaks to him. He shoots a single shot for however long he feels is necessary, then cuts the resulting video to a minute or under.
  • He then shares the video with Alice and myself. Crucially, this is the first time we’ll have ever been aware of this footage or the context in which it was created so that we can proceed unbiased.
  • Alice composes a piece of frustratingly marvellous music, records live as quickly as possible and adds it to the video.
  • Then your humble narrator takes one look at the piece and declares it finished, stating that any contribution he made would only lessen its stupendous value.

…Just kidding.

  • I look at the video and add one final layer of interpretation – a spoken word recording. It could be overwrought narration, a clutch of whispered dialogue or even field recordings of overheard conversations in retirement home cafeterias.
  • All of this is put together, mixed ever so slightly so that one element does not drown out another (any more than intended, at least) and put into a digital box to await its release.

And really, that’s about it. Oh, except that it almost never occurs in that order. Everyone takes turns beginning new bubbles and contributing at different stages to make for ever more interesting interpretations; there’s no single authorial presence pulling the strings, which is exactly how we like it. I have no idea how a bubble I initiated is going to end up, how it’ll be interpreted, if a joke I wrote will be turned into a tragic note or a heartfelt declaration turned into a punchline. That’s really scratching the surface of what happens with the finished products, but I’m sure you get the picture. And this isn’t a project that benefits from over-explanation, anyhow. Which is mainly why I’ve chosen to write this here and not on our shiny new official site – [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is about short, spontaneous creative expression and, above all, not overthinking things. If you’re a long time (or an anytime) reader of this blog, you’ll know how hilarious it is that I’m a part of something like that and how crucial that these two outlets never collide. [Of course, there’s nothing to say I can’t dot a few links here and there.]

I think that’s all I have to say for the moment. Part of the reason I wrote this was to have something to direct people toward when they ask what the project’s about, at least in the early days before the (fingers crossed) vast library of content speaks for itself. The site’s a little austere at the moment, and I get itchy when I think people might be confused about something I’ve done. Another part is that I like to ramble about myself and my talented friends, but you already knew that. Oh, one other thing – we launched the site and the first video on 21st April 2015, which is exactly a year after Dave, Alice and I conceived the project. A lot of things happened in the interim – some good, others not so good – and the effects of those will likely (in some cases, will most definitely) be shown in future bubbles. It’s personal and epic and tiny and heartbreaking and life-affirming and ultra-camp. Mostly, though, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is indefinable. Stay tuned to find out what the hell that means.

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Nights at the Round Table #4

The fourth episode of Nights at the Round Table – on which I recorded the sound – has just hit the airwaves:

My favourite parts of the episodes are often when the actors add tiny little embellishments to the written performances, and this time around is no different; Max’s “my new inbox” schtick is so understated and throwaway but it gets me every time.

Um, not that I don’t appreciate the non-throwaway (i.e. permanent) parts of the show, like the writing, performance, camerawork, graphics, musics and *straightens tie* crisply captured dialogue that are the foundations upon which such moments can sit.

Why are you looking at me like that?

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A Coupl’a Cool Videos

So last week Redshirt Films launched our new webseries Nights At The Round Table, which I contributed material to, recorded sound on a couple of episodes and occasionally made attempts to stop things falling apart (mostly by heading to the shops to buy flapjacks).

It’s picked up a fair few fawning reviews and a ton of steam (at the time of writing the view count’s pushing 1100, which is excellent news for a video posted five days ago), and I hope everyone who worked – and is still working – on it is as proud as I am that it’s finding an audience, especially the show’s creator Jamie, who regularly comes close to killing himself at every stage of production so that not only can an episode be finished but to such a high quality that it astounds people to learn that the only budget we had was for tea.

Anyway, if you’ve somehow missed my laser-guided social media bombardments of the first episode until now, here’s your chance to catch the premiere episode:

And if that didn’t whet your appetite for the next episode, perhaps the tantalising promise of a cameo from your humble blogger will suffice? Yeah, I thought so.

In other York-related movie news, local production company Parashoots just posted this trailer for a Blade Runner-inspired advert that looks (predictably) pretty incredible. I thought you might like it:

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A Short Film Experiment Update (#4)

So today I finally got round to actually scripting this chase film, after several weeks of ‘outlining’ (read: procrastination) and the realisation that I won’t have any idea what it’s going to look, sound, smell or taste like until I get the words down on the page – and even then it’ll only be a guess.

It’s actually been a pretty strange process this time around: usually with shorts I list all of the scenes then write all of the description or action that needs to happen in the first pass, and once I’m satisfied that everything’s where it’s meant to be, I take a run at the dialogue.

It’s not that I’m scared of the dialogue and writing it is like producing wine from my wang – quite the opposite. I love dialogue, actually, and often the problem is that I have so much fun getting the characters talking to each other that it completely derails any momentum that might have been built in the action until they opened their dumb mouths.

So I get the action in place as markers to essentially remind me THIS IMPORTANT THING HAPPENS HERE and that all the dialogue really needs to be is informative colour for each scene, rather than an actor’s showcase. So if I can’t see a sentence that runs the width of a page anywhere onscreen, it’s usually a hint that my guys are getting a little carried away.

This time, though, I wrote the first couple of scenes fully – chatter and all – then got scared of the middle and decided to write the end. After that it came to me that I wasn’t exactly clear on what my characters wanted to talk about (the plots of most chases aren’t particularly oblique, so the only expository lines that are needed are just to flesh out the world and characters, and can run almost separately to what’s on screen). So I opened up a scratchpad on Celtx and got Natasha and Clint – those are their names, FYI – yakking.

[I also made a playlist tailored to the genre for the first time. Have a listen if you like.* You can pretend you’re in my head and start pulling at the wires:]

Turns out the pair had a lot to say about things I didn’t know they would. Not too much, thankfully, but there’ll likely be fat to cut off as ever. Dialogue may well be my favourite part of the writing process, which might be a subconscious hint that I should think about seriously giving playwriting a go (though the lack of boundaries may result in a little overindulgence…).

Now it’s just a matter of deciding when they say the damn lines. More as it happens, but I’m hoping to have this first draft done by the end of the night, with my playlist to guide me.

*Oh, and if you have any suggestions for good chase music from movies or anywhere, I’d sure appreciate it.

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The Short Film Experiment #2 – Notions

So it’s a CHASE MOVIE.

Reasons to make a short chase film:

1. I’ve never seen a live-action one before, and I’d like there to be a really good one out there.

We should bear in mind that I am a criminal underviewer of short film in general and have probably seen >1% of all the short films out there on the interverse. But that said, I have seen a bunch, and none of them was a kick-ass chase movie.

2. Chase scenes in features are a) usually pretty damn cool and exciting and b) reasonably hard to pull off successfully. If I’m going to be telling you all about this process, I might as well make it a challenge. I’m not saying it would be necessarily easy to make a Coffee and Cigarettes-style dialogue-heavy vignette (for one thing it could be really boring, as per reason 3). But it’s certainly less likely to reduce more than half of the on-set crew to tears and/or fits of rage*.

3. More than half (made-up statistic) of all short films suffer from a lack of visual flair, which is sad and irritating because you’d imagine that with a significantly shorter running time than a feature you would want to pour every stylistic technique you’ve got into that single-figure timeframe.

Again, it’s not guaranteed that the film’s going to look interesting or be in any way compelling, but it certainly forces you into a situation where you know it will definitely look absolutely rubbish unless you up your game.

4. Chase scenes make perfect sense as short films to me. The goal of the main characters is clear: either they want to catch somebody (or something) or not get caught themselves, and by the end they either do or don’t. Some action movies just stretch this premise over 100 or so minutes and add nuances of plot and character amid varying action set-pieces, but when it boils down to it, The Bourne Identity is a chase movie, as is Vanishing Point – some would argue the chase movie – and I don’t think it’s too crazy a notion to suggest that pertinent points of either flick could be condensed into a killer chase short.

5. Chase scenes that drag on suck, as do short films. The lesson for both? Brevity rules. So that’s what I’m going for.

Good reasons all, I’d say. In the interest of transparency, here are the key ideas I’ve come up with for the story so far:

  • A couple.
  • A bathtub.
  • A clothesline.
  • Some nudity.

And that’s it. There are other, less clear images of running and yelling and falling but I’m sure you already saw that coming, you smart buggers.

I guess we’ll next talk when I have a clearer idea of who/what/where/why. I’m toying with the idea of writing an outline – a short (less than a page) prose synopsis of the flick which I sometimes like to do if the idea isn’t already crystal clear in my head – but I think I’d rather go from story ideas to the first draft to give more a sense of progression. And besides, writing chase scenes in prose can be really bloody boring unless you’re Cormac McCarthy.

‘Til  next time, folks.

(Yes, the rubbish title stays. For now, at least.)

*Actually that depends on how much of a Jim Jarmusch fan you are, I guess.

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Sheeple on Toast

Last night my house was assaulted by a possessed toaster and a few dozen browned, sharpened slices of bread. There were many casualties, both physical and psychic. Oh, and a film crew was there too. It got messy, including (but not up to) an actor replacing a perfectly reasonable line* with the word ‘potato’, resulting in the complete and utter abandonment of professional composure. Not that we had that in the first place.

Which is about par for the course for an I Am Tim shoot. As are the many, many puns (mostly condiment-related, natch).

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but if you liked this:

Then you’re pretty much in for a treat with Episode 2.5: ‘Night of the Living Bread’.

Oh, and did I mention that 2.3 came out on Thursday? How silly of me. Here it is:

It’s essentially An American Werewolf in London by way of The League of Gentlemen, with a slight detour in Black Sheep country.

I’m sure you’ll figure out why pretty quickly.

[I realise I haven’t posted in a few days and that my output’s been pretty erratic of late. I’m trying to sort out my headspace and I hate announcing that ‘normal service’ will resume and never coming through on that front, so I’ll just say I’m doing my best…and that there WILL be a post tomorrow.]

*There are no reasonable lines in Tim.

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So last summer I produced a lovely little short film (written, directed and edited by Jamie “I Am Tim” McKeller) which was released on YouTube in October. Why am I telling you this now, you yell risibly into my bleeding ear canals? Well, there are two answers:

1). I plum forgot to blog about a single part of that process, bewilderingly. Yes, I’m that good at this self-promotion business.

2). It was screened a couple of days ago at the Up North film night at the White Cloth gallery in Leeds, to an apparently packed house of about 200, AND it won the inaugural People’s Choice award.

Which is pretty neat. The award’s no Picard-headed statue, but it’s got a certain rickety charm:

Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see the reaction, but it was either train fare to Leeds or eating this week, and I do so love the bittersweet taste of life.

The film’s called Hooped, and it looks a bit like this:

Hope you like it.

A giant chunk of the credit goes of course to Jamie and the film’s two stars, James Rotchell and Anna James, who all took a fun idea and made it not only hysterical but also (I don’t care if it’s corny, I’ll say it) heartwarming, but it wouldn’t be the same thing without the contributions of everyone involved, who sometimes get pushed aside when the accolades come a-callin’.

Michael Howe and Sebastian Synowiec (who makes an unfussy but enjoyable cameo the eagle-eyed among you may spot) kept us all on track as relay assistant directors – just when you thought you’d gotten rid of them, another comes out of the woodwork to make sure you’ve finished the job you’re on ten minutes ago. Delicate souls, them.

Chris Atkinson, who had a large part in getting Dead Man Working made all those moons ago, did a great job of capturing the summery, sepia-tinged feel Jamie wanted as our director of photography, and the ever-dependable Natalie Roe was on hand for camera assisting and general cheeriness. Who doesn’t want that on a set?

Nat was there at the screening along with Jennifer Jordan – I Am Tim‘s Anna (she was also in a little-known work called Pieces Falling Into Place), general stand-up gal and inarguably the main reason for Hooped‘s success that night, being that she was the one who submitted the film in the first place. I suppose it helped that it’s a cracking little movie as well. So yeah, thanks, Jen – you rock.

And me? Well, I did what any producer does to get the film made, really: buy people drinks and say things like “We definitely don’t have that in the budget”.

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Watch this.

And this:


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This Is Your Brain On Night Shoots

Feat. one James Rotchell, Esq. Photo by Natalie Roe.

Posts to come with more words (and more frequently) when I get de-sectioned.

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