Wheels Within Wheels

One of the great things about DSLRs is that, being so small, you can put them in all kinds of unusual places and, being so light, you can rig them to things with relatively little hassle. Stop/Eject is not the sort of film where we’ll being doing a lot of this (unlike Act of Valor, which I strongly suggest you check out), but there is one shot that needs a custom rig…

Shot 69, as drawn by Sophie Black
Shot 69, as drawn by Sophie Black

In this shot, the camera needs to be attached to the bike in some way so it moves with it, maintaining the same framing on the wheel throughout. This is part of the film’s visual theme of circles, which I discussed earlier this year on the blog.

Rigged for the rear wheel
Rigged for the rear wheel

If the shoot had gone ahead last October as originally planned, this shot would probably have got dropped or replaced with a similar but less effective version achieved by simply steadicamming along next to the bike. But one great advantage of a shoot being postponed is the opportunity to prepare so much better.

To that end, Colin and I borrowed his mum’s bike this morning to test the shot. Under the pressure of a low budget filming schedule, you can’t mess around trying to figure out a rig like this. You have to work it out in advance.

My plan was to use a C-stand arm and a cheap tripod to get the camera in the right place. First of all we tried clamping the arm to the frame of the bike, but it was too thick. So then we clamped it to the pedal (which meant roping or clamping the pedal to another part of the bike so it wouldn’t turn). The bottom of the tripod was clamped in turn to this arm. The handy thing about using a tripod, of course, is that you have a pan-and-tilt head for easy adjustments and a quick-release plate too.

Rear wheel shot
Rear wheel shot

Initially we filmed the rear wheel, but then I realised filming the front wheel would allow us to get a wider frame, since the pedals (which had to be framed out because the arm was clamped to one of them) were further away from the front wheel.

The rig worked out really well. We had to use a lens with an image stabiliser, and when we shoot it for real we’ll put someone on the bike to weigh it down and reduce the bumps further. I’d imagined we’d have to use a second clamp and bungee cords to keep the camera in place, but the sturdiness of the C-stand arm and the low weight of the camera made this unnecessary.

Yeah, we got a bit of the pedal in shot, not to mention Col’s feet. But those things are easily fixed.

Just before I sign off, I have to give you a link to Tony Hill Films, a site I came across while researching bike rigs. He’s built a number of unique and fascinating camera rigs which you can see in action on the site: http://www.tonyhillfilms.com/rigs

Front wheel rig
Front wheel rig

Wheels Within Wheels

Advance Preparations for Stop/Eject

Alright, so you’ve seen the podcasts on making a wagon light and sandbags, but what else are we doing to specifically prepare for Stop/Eject, now that most of our funding is in place?

Firstly, we’ve pencilled in some shooting dates: April 21st-25th. Hopefully by then the weather will be nice and the trees will have leaves on.

We’ve also been sorting out cast and crew, as much as is practical this far in advance. For the most part this is the same line-up as last year, but the crowd-funding campaign did bring a few extra people to our attention.

(As time slips away and you hurtle towards production on a low budget project, you often wish you had had more time to prepare. But the reality is that when you’re not paying people, you can’t plan too far ahead, because a key person might suddenly get some paying work that clashes with your dates, and then everything’s thrown out of whack. It’s just the nature of the beast.)

Sophie Black's alcove design
Sophie Black's alcove design

Colin has priced up the alcove set which needs to be built. It’s a fairly simple piece, not much bigger than a portaloo, but hopefully more enticing. But it does raise further issues of where to build, who can build, how to transport and where to shoot, all of which we’ll gradually be addressing over the coming weeks.

We’ve already started weighing up the costs of hiring a van, to get the equipment and set around.

Sophie has written off to local food businesses in the hope of getting sponsorship to help feed the cast and crew.

And finally, as the podcasts make clear, I’ve been thinking about the equipment we’ll need. I have some, Colin has some, we’ve built some, we’ll borrow some, and if we can afford it we’ll hire some.

As things progress, there will be detailed blog entries about many of these topics. For example, I’m planning a run-through of all of my equipment and what it does, a look at the ins and outs of scheduling a shoot, spotlights on some of the crew and their roles (if they let me!) and a blow-by-blow account of the set build. And I expect there will be some more podcasts too.

So stay tuned.

Advance Preparations for Stop/Eject

Homemade Sandbags

Recently Colin suggested I talk my wife Katie into making some sandbags to weigh down lighting stands on set. One of us also had the idea of making them out of canvas shopping bags. Like me, I think Colin envisaged Katie simply filling a canvas bag with sand and sewing up the top.

As you can see, she went to a lot more trouble than that…

Some of my new sandbag collection
Some of my new sandbag collection

Considering that you’ll pay the best part of £20 on eBay for one of those, I think £3.55 is a pretty good deal.

Once Katie had started making them, she couldn’t stop. I ended up with five of the one stone saddle bag kind shown in the video, and three smaller ones for counterweighting arms. Thanks Katie!

If you want to see some prettier things Katie has made, be sure to visit her shop at Katiedidonline.

And once again, if you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful, please do consider clicking the Donate button in the righthand column. All the money goes into making Stop/Eject and you’ll get a credit on the film, an invite to the premiere and access to my super-useful indie film budget exposé How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie for £28,000. (UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE THIS OFFER IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.)

Homemade Sandbags

Setback

This blog is intended to be an honest and (as far as reasonably possible) transparent record of the high and lows of filmmaking. This entry is unfortunately about a low.

Sometimes stuff doesn’t work out, despite your best efforts. This photo shows how many people turned up for Tuesday night’s Soul Searcher lecture in aid of Stop/Eject:

Hereford lecture
Hereford lecture

Yep, none.

Empty
Empty

Was it not promoted well enough? Did the fact that it was free make people think it would be rubbish? Are there just not enough filmmakers in Hereford? Was Pancake Day a bad choice of date? Did everyone stay home to watch the Brit Awards? Who knows?

Whatever the reason, the donations bucket remained empty.

Okay, technically a couple of people did turn up. Nathan, the Rural Media employee who was responsible for the projector and other equipment, and my friend Johnny from The Picnic. So we went back to our flat for coffee and a chat about Soul Searcher.

The Derby lecture, as part of Five Lamps’ Film Night on March 27th, is still going ahead, and should have no trouble attracting an audience as Five Lamps is well established.

But it’s back to the drawing board for fundraising ideas to close the gap of a few hundred pounds that will remain before we can shoot.

Setback

Deleted Scenes

Hopefully you’ve already enjoyed Soul Searcher now that it’s online in full for free. Now you can enjoy the deleted scenes too…

Right, I have to get back to preparing my lecture about the making of Soul Searcher for tomorrow night (Tuesday). It’s at 7pm at The Rural Media Company, 72-80 Widemarsh Street, Hereford. Entrance is free, but satisfied attendees will be encouraged to donate a little cash to Stop/Eject at the end.

See you there.

Deleted Scenes

Suit You, Sir!

Benedict Cumberbatch as Max
Benedict Cumberbatch as Max (photos by Richard Unger)

As regular readers will know, Sophie Black and I have raised over £2,000 for Stop/Eject through crowd-funding, and we’re doing some filmmaking lectures soon which will serve as fundraising events to increase that budget. (Don’t forget the Hereford one is next week, Tuesday, 7pm at The Rural Media Company.) The third and final piece of the fundraising puzzle is the sale of the “germ suit” worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the pilot for my in-development fantasy film, The Dark Side of the Earth.

Benedict was playing Maximillian Clarke, a paranoid hypochondriac who’s so afraid of germs that he lives inside a sealed suit that filters all the bacteria out of his air and food. Isabelle Vincey, the heroine, finds him surviving in an igloo on the Dark Side of the Earth and he joins her on her quest to start the world turning again.

The suit was built by FBFX, whose credits include armour and special costumes for such films as Troy, Gladiator, The Phantom Menace and Event Horizon. Here’s the podcast about them building and testing it:

Getting into the suit
Getting into the suit

Benedict was a real trooper on the shoot. He was trailing cables and pipes, carrying all the weight of the suit, blinded by the fogging visor and deafened by the compressor that kept the suit inflated. Every time Katie took his helmet off he was sweating buckets. But he never complained. (By contrast, after he’d left – to go to the BBC for the first read-through of Sherlock – we put crew member AJ Nicol in the suit for five minutes for a wide shot and he came out swearing and cursing and moaning.) Here’s the podcast about shooting with the suit, featuring an interview with Benedict:

Suited and booted
Suited and booted

Since that shoot, in December 2008, the suit has been in a box in my loft. I always hoped one day I would live somewhere with enough space to display it on a mannequin, but there wasn’t much chance of that in the foreseeable future, so this year I figured it was time to trade it in for some filmmaking cash. If The Dark Side of the Earth ever gets off the ground, we can always build another one – an even better one.

Originally I planned to sell the suit on eBay, promoting the auction to Benedict fan sites and the like, but then Sophie put me in touch with David Bidwell, owner of The Monster Company. This Nottingham-based company sells movie props and memorabilia.

David was excited when I told him about the suit and Dark Side in general, and this morning he paid me a visit to check out the suit and watch the pilot. He loved the pilot so much he asked to watch it a second time. He went away with the suit tucked under his arm (alright, draped over his arm and with me following carrying a couple of boxes with the rest of it in) and the Stop/Eject budget looking a little healthier.

Additional: Here’s an interesting article on The Benedict Cumberbatch Situation, which suggests he’s getting quite a following on the other side of the pond.

Suit You, Sir!

Blackout

A shout out today for Blackout, a short film written and directed by James Bushe, and DPed and edited by Gerard Giorgi-Coll, two of The Dark Side of the Earth‘s brilliant behind-the-scenes camera ops. They’ve already shot their film – and damn nice it looks too, as you can see from the video above – and are now seeking funds for post-production. I’ve put in what I can and I hope you’ll all do the same. I can”t wait to see how this project turns out.

Visit the Blackout campaign page at http://www.indiegogo.com/Blackout-1

Blackout

DIY Cyclotron

Superglued. Photo: Colin Smith
Superglued. Photo: Colin Smith

Last time I tried to help build something for one of my films, I ended up supergluing my fingers together. (A couple of hours later, after the rest of the construction crew had laughed themselves silly and placed bets on how long it would take me to separate my fingers, I finally parted the digits by sawing through the join with a disposable plastic knife.)

Which is why you may be suspicious to see that in this new Stop/Eject podcast I apparently display perfect competence in woodworking and associated arts, and manage to produce a decent-looking item at the end of it. Is something fishy going on? I couldn’t possibly say.

If you enjoyed this, please consider clicking the Donate button in the sidebar to the right and helping to fund the film.

DIY Cyclotron

Distrify

Filming with the full-size train and the Mustang
Filming with the full-size train and the Mustang

Today I want to explain a little about Distrify, the on-demand video platform which Going to Hell: The Making of Soul Searcher is now hosted on.

When selling films on-demand on the internet became a reality a few years ago, it wasn’t that different to other modes of distribution. The filmmaker licensed the exclusive IP (internet protocol) rights to their film to the platform – Joost, Babelgum, whatever – and it was then largely up to the platform to bring in the traffic. The platform then took a big slice of the financial pie and passed the dregs onto the filmmaker.

But in the last couple of years a different model has emerged, championed both by Distrify and Dynamo Player amongst others. Their set-up is more a like a YouTube with money. You upload your film to their site, you embed the film on your own site and wherever else you want, you drive traffic to it, and they take a relatively small cut of the money the film makes. No exclusivity, no middle men, no chasing sales reports – just log in and check the stats.

Distrify in particular has two unique features that appealed to me.

Firstly, the Distrify player doesn’t just allow the viewer to watch a free trailer and pay to stream the whole film if they like what they see; it lets you sell anything you want – other films (perhaps behind-the-scenes featurettes), downloads of films or any type of file, or physical objects which you mail to the buyer like you would with eBay.

Secondly, Distrify encourages people to promote your film by giving them a cut of the profits; anyone who shares your film by embedding it on their website, posting on Facebook, etc, etc, gets a percentage of the money the film earns through this embed/post/whatever.

So what this means in practice is: if you click the Share button in the player below you can earn yourself some easy cash – a 10% cut for doing pretty much nothing….

Distrify

Soul Searcher Released Online

Soul Searcher. Photography: John Galloway
Soul Searcher. Photography: John Galloway

The wait is over. Soul Searcher is now available to view in full for free at neiloseman.com/soulsearcher

Here are some of the lovely things reviewers have said about the film:

“A fantasy action movie in the grand style… It looks great and moves beautifully… As a statement of potential, Soul Searcher must be one of the best-value films ever made.” – The Guardian

“This is ground breaking digital film-making, it has heart and soul, and action and excitement.  You should be watching this George [Lucas]!  If it doesn’t get itself a cult following, I’ll eat my keyboard!”  – Impact Magazine

“British low budget film at its cheekiest, but at times breathtaking, best.”  – Shooting People Review

“Miles ahead of some of the multi-million dollar blockbusters I’ve seen.”  – Disorder Magazine

“Oseman’s film is entertaining, beautifully directed, well acted, and spins one hell of a fantasy yarn that you’ll dig.”  – Cinema Crazed

“An enjoyable triumph of a piece.”  – Rogue Cinema

“Soul Searcher defies its limitations to show itself as the work of a director and his crew genuinely intent on contributing to cinema.”  – Frightfest

“I’m a little bit in love with this film.”  – Horror Talk

So what are you waiting for? Get on over to neiloseman.com/soulsearcher

Soul Searcher Released Online