David Cameron told me to. That’s my excuse.
On Thursday I attended the premiere of Coming Home. Coming Home is a short film that Col and I worked on, about a group of soldiers tracking down a rogue major. Unaccustomed as the director is to public speaking, he asked me to give a talk instead. The aim was to attract more filmmakers to the screening, as well as the business types who normally attend Light Films’ events. I gave a whistle-stop history of my filmmaking experiences in 45 minutes, mainly focusing on Soul Searcher, but also covering Dark Side. Although the audience took a while to warm to me, by the end they all seemed really interested. A few people said afterwards that the talk had inspired them, which was nice to hear.
This morning I uploaded The Dark Side Guide to Shooting on Film. Again, there wasn’t room to include everything; I’m really not joking when I say that aspect ratio could fill its own feature-length documentary. I’m sure there’ll be some people who will take umbrage at my use of the term 2.35:1, when in many cases the true ratio of anamorphic is 2.39:1, but such subtleties were beyond the scope of the podcast. And I hope that the costs outlined don’t put people off, as 16mm can be shot for a good deal cheaper – you could shoot a ten minute short for UKP10,000 (total budget) if you kept your shooting ratio tight and hired a DOP with their own kit.
The partner podcast, The Dark Side Guide to Digital Intermediate, will be coming in January or February, and will navigate the torturous pathways of film post-production.
Aside from a couple of funding applications in progress, things are now winding down for Dark Side until the new year, but don’t worry – I’m sure I’ll still find random things to blog about.
Aimed at filmmakers used to working on video who want to move up to shooting on film, this guide covers all the major decisions you’ll have to make, including gauge, aspect ratio, stock, lens and crew. The costs of 35mm are also revealed. I shares everything I learnt about shooting on film while making the demo sequence for my fantasy-adventure feature The Dark Side of the Earth, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Kate Burdette (The Duchess) and Mark Heap (Spaced, Green Wing).
You have to admire the balls of the 30-odd producers, agents and commissioners who spoke at the London Screenwriters’ Festival this weekend. The event was packed with hundreds of writers, every one of whom wanted to pitch their script to these speakers. You could see the terror in their eyes sometimes – like an animal ready to bolt from a predator at the first sign of a logline.
So I wondered if this brand new festival, brainchild of Guerilla Filmmaker (TM) Chris Jones, was fundamentally flawed. But unlike Cannes, this was not a festival about doing deals. I think what it was really about, was allowing the members of a lonely profession to connect with their professional community. I actually met several other writers who work in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, to my great surprise.
The highlight of the festival for me was a talk misleadingly entitled “How to Write for Hollywood”. One of the two speakers was Michael Bassett (not England manager), who directed a UKP20 million fantasy movie called Solomon Kane, without any of the finance coming from Hollywood. Admittedly I had never heard of the film, but it goes to show that it can be done, and the advice that he gave in the round-table Q&A afterwards was really thought-out and practical.
Elsewhere I was able to connect with several other Screen-West-Midlands-funded delegates, a writer of The Sarah Janes Adventures and a video game producer. I also took part in the fun of Speed Pitching, which is like speed dating but less embarrassing. Five minutes with an agent, then a honk of the comedy horn, then five minutes with a producer, then another honk, and onto another producer (who Carl and I had actually pitched Dark Side to several months ago), then honk again and it was all over. None of the pitchees were seriously looking for acquisitions, but it was good practice.
The build-up to the festival last week encouraged me to have a play around with some new poster art for Dark Side, since the existing image (based on the first photo you see on this site’s gallery page) was likened to a publicity still for a Swedish TV show by someone we met in Cannes. If you fancy some new desktop wallpaper, you can see what I came up with here.