Young, High and Dead Film Blog


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Taking your film to a Comic Con - How to get on and get by

Hello fellow filmmakers,

It’s been a while since my last blog and usually I would do this as a podcast but I felt it was important to include this information as online text because when I was recently trying to find information on this subject I couldn’t find anything specific to film, only for comic artists or cosplays.

I recently attended London’s MCM Comic Con (MCMExpo) at the Excel center in East London, I hadn’t been to a comic con before but I had a rough idea of what to expect.  The plan for me was to promote my debut feature film and hopefully recoup the costs of the convention, so I set about making a plan however when I looked online I found little info that catered for filmmakers doing this.  It suddenly dawned on me that there could be a reason for this, maybe filmmakers don’t go to these places to promote or sell their film.

I am going to dive right in and give you my experience of Comic Con (CC) and how it worked out for me. So here goes.

The hire of a table at London MCM (basic package) with no backing, no extra tables or chairs, no power was £200 incl VAT.  I left my booking very late in the day and there were only a few tables left so I snapped up a  space.  By this point the only thing I possessed was a finished film on Vimeo. I had no promotional material and no idea how or what I was really going to do at the CC, With the film only selling on Vimeo at the time I wanted to do more than just hand out leaflets, I knew to have any chance of recouping the table expense I would have to sell a few hard copies of the film. I did stumble across an article online that although it was geared towards comic book artists it did make a key point of saying that as a seller you should aim for profit not just to break even.

It’s important to note before I get any further, the 3 day event involved a lot of hard work both during the event and on the run up to it. I did have to give up my weekend too and a day off work.

So with all research towards comics I adapted the info for film and hopefully the tips below will help others have a good and successful experience like I did.

Luke’s Top Comic Con Tips for filmmakers

1. Make sure you get your DVD’s and Blu Rays professionally printed and copied. - I was going to burn copies myself and print my own covers/labels etc but I am so glad I didn’t do this! It’s very tempting to make the numbers work in your head for maximum profit, but ultimately one of the biggest selling points for Young, High and Dead at the CC was the fact that every copy looked as good as it would in any high street shop. This includes the disc face and any inlays or inserts. Don’t cut corners by attempting to print things yourself for the actual products you plan to sell. This is even more important with the actual duplication of the discs - I used the following company for all the DVD & Blu Ray duplication, including the inserts and full colour disc printing.

They were by far the most helpful and the cheapest I found, I will definitely be using them again in the future.

2. Seal the DVD’s and Blu Ray’s for cheap yourself - I wanted to number each copy of the Blu Rays so that they were a bit more exclusive and individual, comic artists do this on their products so I figured it might help with the film. But obvioulsy this would need to all be done by hand and I would then have to seal each copy myself. This sound far more complicated than it is, for about £14 you can by an 8” sealing machine from ebay, don’t bother with the one that has a cutter built in, scissors are more effective and easier anyway. Then buy 6”x11” plastic shrink wrap bags. I picked up 500 for just under £10. All you do it pop the DVD or Blu Ray in a bag, plug in the sealer wait a few secs then press it once until the light comes on. Release trim with scissors and repeat. Once you have a few sealed and trimmed grab a hairdryer make sure it’s on hot and then bunch 4 DVD’s together run the hairdryer along the sides first so the plastic shrinks tight, then so each front and back. I was doing about 4 every 40 seconds you can get pretty quick at it. The overall finish makes the world of difference.

3. Print plenty of Flyers - At a CC like MCMExpo 1000 flyers is not enough!  I ran out by the Saturday and ended up having to give out business cards, which was okay but I could have reached out to more people had I had more flyers, I should have had more near 2,500.  Make sure your flyers explain everything in simple terms, mine were not very well thought out. They just had the image of Jenny and the axe etc and a quote from an online blogger, this didn’t really explain A that it’s a horror film, B it’s for sale, C why they should check out more about it.  My flyer was too vague and often I could see puzzled looks as people walked off looking at it. SO make sure your flyers are simple and double sided, I went single sided to save money but flyers are worth every penny when done right.  Make sure you get a good glossy thick card pref over 200 gsm (min) so many people might not have time to stop and chat and often the card goes straight into a bag, thin flyers will always get folded up and probably forgotten.

4. Be creative with your table - Every day I changed the layout of my table, often the same people will walk by and if they see a different layout there is more chance that they will stop, unconsciously they think something new might be there.  This also helps create the illusion that you might be selling more than you are, as it looks like stock levels are changing. I also tried to make YHAD stand out so it was different to other stands. Not just in content but in the way I had the table. I had a giant jar of FREE sweets that attracted a lot of people, props from the film, I wore a YHAD T shirt, waved a wooden axe about. Had an iPad on display, make your table look and feel interactive and friendly.

5. Create the killer pitch - At first I felt very uncomfortable talking about my film let alone selling it, I was very quiet and only spoke to people who seemed to take an obvious interest in my table, this resulted in many potential sales walking straight past, next to my table was a a group of girls who were selling homemade video game themed cupcakes, instantly they had good banter and interacted well with the public, so I simply joined them and joined in.  Don’t wait for people to stop, simply say hello or ask them a question my pitch was a s simple as this.

Do you like horror films?

If they said yes I would then gesture them to come over and say

"Great then you must watch a trailer to a horror film I spent the last 5 years making"

I would then hand them the headphones to the iPad, this worked nearly every single time. Once they finished watching I would ask them what they thought, thankfully most people really liked it, then I would tell them a few facts about the film, like how many days I shot it in, how recently I finished it and how we only have hard copies for the comic con.  It’s important to note that after the trailer they are already making up their mind whether they will buy it or not, there isn’t an elephant in the room, so don’t be embarrassed. My partner Natalie was brilliant at this point, she the second they admitted to liking the trailer she would say

"great so which copy should I bag up for you to buy a DVD or Blu Ray"

This nearly always worked. She would follow up with

"If you like the trailer you are gonna love the film" & "Help support independent film".

If they said NO to my first question about horror films I would then say "okay do you like Independent films?" Often this would sway them or at the very least it would get a smile or a laugh. Either way they have stopped briefly and taken in the imagery and name Young, High and Dead.  I didn’t get properly into this flow until late Saturday but by Sunday I had this technique down.  It’s important to remember that even though you are repeating yourself a lot, the person you are speaking to is a potential new customer. I drank a lot of coffee so was as chatty as hell and beaming like a nutter. It helps to smile a lot.

6. Stand don’t sit - You will see hundred of other sellers kicking bag reading mags and sitting most of the time, only getting up to collect cash etc.  As a filmmaker you cannot do this!  You table is a much harder sell, people know nothing about your product, but for the next bod who is selling hats and T-shirts it’s pretty obvious for the public to make a quick decision from far away if they want to approach the table or not.  A film stall won’t have this luxury. Your feet will absolutely kill so make sure you have really comfy trainers & NOT SHOES as I painfully discovered! Do the odd stretch and move about plus drink plenty of liquids, you are giving yourself a 9 hour workout!

7. Trailer is key - I quickly noticed that my trailer was bagging me a lot of sales, about 70% of the people that watched it ended up buying a copy of the film, so I had to hook them in to watch the trailer. Trailers are FREE to watch so they lose nothing other than 2mins of their time. I had a headphone splitter that I plugged in however I only had my set of headphones, this was a real shame. I wish I had at least 4 pairs as often one person would be watching and listening whilst others simply watched without sound.  This definitely lost me some potential sales, the CC was way too noisy to play audio without headphones, plus the audio really made people quite scared so next time I will have plenty of head sets.  I will also in future invest a bit more in a larger screen and some power, even if I borrowed a 35” screen, I needed something bigger than the iPad, by the Sunday I raised the iPad up higher on boxes as I noticed anyone who was my height or taller had to crouch down. Think about how people are going to view the trailer, can they see it comfortably? Without the trailer I reckon I would have sold less than 5 copies all weekend and it would have involved more talking and more hard sell.  The trailer alone must have sold at least 70 plus copies without me doing much at all other than just saying “watch my trailer”

8. Freebies and whats hot or not - I knew that the FREE sweets would be a good starting point, but I didn’t realise how good it would be! It was especially good for luring in parents, often their kids would come over grab some sweets and at the moment the parent came over I would say to the kid.

"I am afraid you are too young to watch my trailer but Mum or Dad can"

Often the kid would do the rest of the work for me, encouraging their parent to watch. Kids are not stupid, they know if the mum or dad has to watch something that gives them longer time with the giant sweet jar. An accidental piece of genius. I gave away a free A3 poster with every DVD and Blu Ray as well and this surprisingly sometimes tipped an umm and aaahh to a "okay Ill take one". People love to think that they are getting extra, supermarkets do this all the time! I would also give them a  business card and tell them to get in touch and let me know what they thought.  This is a genuine request but it also works well for other people nearby, upon the completion of a sale often others would flock to see what they are missing. So in a subtle kind of way be vocal about the sale. but selling the posters didn’t shift very well at all. I guess people are happy for artwork if it’s something they have seen or are familiar with. By all means hang a few up but don’t expect to sell many unless you already have a wide fan-base.

9. Ask questions and know when to quit - Everyone’s favourite subject is them-self, so often I would ask a simple question about what they are wearing, or how their day is going etc. I would also try and compliment them, it’s the most minute amount of flirting and in the realms of selling it’s a pretty fun thing to do. I genuinely love tattoo’s so If I saw someone with a decent tattoo I would ask them about it or who did it etc. This would always result in someone walking away smiling.  If they come to my table and leave smiling with biz card or leaflet I am doing a good job, if they leave with a copy of my film then that’s a perfect result. Don’t forget to network, I linked and swapped contact details with lot’s of other interesting filmmakers, make up artists & bloggers etc. Ask people for their business card and info.  Also give people an escape route if they need it, some people at the CC might be very shy or nervous speaking to you, if you sense this, don’t make it difficult for them or you. Often you can tell in a few moments if someone is genuinely interested or if they are fine chatting away or not. If they look uncomfortable hand them a leaflet and tell them “you are here all weekend and they are welcome to come back”. Inside they are screaming thank you as they grab the leaflet and flee.

10. Keep it simple, Keep it fun - Comic Cons are really hard work, long hours, long commute, and it’s easy to go overboard, the first day I decorated my table like a Christmas tree but I soon realised that it was too complicated to take in the right info, that night I went home and printed out a few simple signs. One about the iPad, one that included the synopsis of the film and one that mentioned who was in it.

"WATCH THE TRAILER HERE" - You can plug in your headphones so more than 1 person can listen.

This all seems really simple and obvious but I missed this all the first day myself and never underestimate how quick you need to get your point across, imagine every customer is highly important and busy so get the info across quickly and concisely, if they like the idea of the film they will stay and chat.

11. Keep it professional - Finally most days I saw a lot of tired, bleary looking folk. It’s very tempting after a day at CC to have a few drinks and celebrate your hard work and earnings that day.  I stayed in every night and allowed myself a couple of beers to wind down, despite it being the weekend I treated the CC like work, no-one performs well stinking of booze or looking like death warmed up.  Get a good early nights sleep, the CC is tiring for filmmakers we are the minority at these places so we have more work to do. Don’t make it even harder than it already is. every second at CC is potential selling time, so as tempting as it is to get photo with a hot looking Lara Croft I would save all that for another time. I took my camera and had every intention of checking out other stalls, but the reality is this just isn’t possible for filmmakers at CC, especially if you hope to sell well.


I didn’t sell enough films to retire, that was never going to happen but the CC was a great opportunity to reach out to an audience I would never normally have access to.  I did make a fairly decent profit and still came away with some hard copies that I plan to continue to sell online through the films website

But I can easily see how many other filmmakers could really struggle and even lose money at a CC.  This isn’t because I knew what I was doing or got everything right first time, far from it.  I honestly believe the CC worked well for me because I adapted constantly and treated the event like a professional job. If you have the right attitude and follow the steps above there is no reason why you can’t turn a good size profit from an event like this. It’s not even about quantity. I nearly forgot to mention, the hall I was in, was one of the smallest and quietest ones!  For a filmmaker you have the harder sell, you have to attract them to your table, show them the trailer, then secure the sale. This takes you a lot longer per customer than other sellers do with their products, so large quantities of passers by means nothing.

I hope this info is useful.  I might add to it further down the line if I think of anything else but hopefully the info gives you a good base to start with if you plan on taking your feature to a CC.

Hard copies of my horror film can be bought from the films website just visit please feel free to send any feedback to or you can link with me on twitter @rumpunchprods.

Many thanks

Luke Brady (Writer/Director) of Young High and Dead

Sep 3
The Young, High and Dead UK release one sheet poster

The Young, High and Dead UK release one sheet poster

Jun 5


Episode 03 - Casting and setting off on the right foot

In Episode 3: I chat about how I managed to get a solid Cast together for the film, my unique Casting methods and the importance of this part of pre production.

The blog will precede each episode so if anyone has any questions or wants me to go into more detail on a specific part of the subject they can email me on or message me via twitter @rumpunchprods or FB.


Lets jump right into this weeks blog.

Acting for Auditions - Flipping a coin and gambling.

Who would be an actor? Not me, that’s for sure.  I am happy behind the camera, and because I spent near on 6 years running a Casting Studio in London I have seen and heard a lot when it comes to the casting part of the business.  There are a million idea’s and opinions online about the audition/casting process and for actors this can be information overload.  It’s really important that I mention right now that I personally feel the information and advice found below should be available to talent for FREE!  Setting up or starting off as an actor for many is not cheap and sadly for many out there, the costs involved in pursuing their dream leads to them stretching their purse strings to the point of snapping,  I hope this blog finds those very people and more importantly that they benefit from the advice below.

Know who makes the decision

So many actors simply don’t understand how the casting process works so they often go about the whole process with the wrong attitude and pick up bad habits.  Firstly the Casting Director has huge clout in who gets in the door and their opinion is often considered when the decision process happens but they don’t necessarily get to choose which actor gets the part, even big named Casting Directors don’t have that much power.  These decisions are made by the clients, aka those signing the cheques.  It doesn’t matter if the project is a huge $200 million feature film or a commercial, whoever pays often gets to be the one who has the final say in who gets the job.

The Director, Producer, Writer and Casting Director will always fight to get the best and right people but no contracts get signed until the money heads have approved and had their say.

I really think this is a huge key factor for actors to understand.  So even though the REAL decision makers are impossible to get to how can you increase your chances of winning jobs?

Never turn down an audition just because you don’t think you’re right for the role or because you don’t like the project!  

Actors unfortunately get given the least amount of information and for most actors you are fighting against a numbers game.  You have no idea what other projects people are working on!  It doesn’t matter if you hate the project at least audition yourself and get your face out there.  As an actor whether you like it or not you are a product!  You are your own walking and talking business card and you need to advertise yourself constantly!  If you really hate the project and you DO get the job, then politely turn it down.  At least you have proven yourself and met some new or important faces.

But you must be aware of the following.  Many filmmakers like to work with familiar people and not just crew.  A director who is doing some cheap tacky advert might actually be about to do a huge big budget feature, or the DP might be about to work with a massive studio.  These heads of departments will remember good actors for future stuff and they are KEY people to know, but just like you they too have to get paid and pay bills etc so never look down on a project, unless it goes against religious or moral beliefs.

Actions speak louder than words!

Most Casting Directors have to operate a safety zone around their work, no Casting Director wants to run the risk of sitting in a room full of clients and have a nutter turn up.  Casting Directors have their own brand and company to protect, so they will tend to bring in people they trust and know will do a good job.  If you book a job or get pencilled/short listed you instantly get in the Casting Directors good books.  It’s great if you can build up a friendly relationship with a Casting Director but actions speak louder than words, once you begin to get pencilled or booked on jobs and you meet the brief of their next project, the chances are you will get called in!  Pestering, begging or trying to convince them to give you a chance is time consuming for both parties, something Casting Directors don’t have much of.

Prove how serious you are about a job.  Learn the lines.

If you are lucky enough to get script pages ahead of an audition (also known as sides) then LEARN them, get off the damn page.  If you stand in the room and say “I only got these yesterday”  We know it’s bullshit!  The person reading in with you, might be the very person who physically emailed the script to your agent, so never lie, we will find out!  Even if your agent did only send them at the last minute, you should at least learn as much as you possibly can.  Otherwise you will become 1 of 5 people that day that also happens to have a broken printer or run out of ink!  Clients value their work and they might spend years getting the project of the ground.  Respect that fact!  Most importantly I can count probably less than 20 actors I have met in my entire 6 years casting who have come in, not learnt a sausage and done a decent audition.  You would not believe the amount of excuses that actors give when they turn up latching onto a script.  Watching an actor physically reading words off a page is BORING!  Your entire syntax is lost and any thought process gets lost and no matter how hard you try, the dialogue and structure becomes flat and the audition quickly gets painful to watch.

Turn up on time!  

Oh my goodness I shouldn’t even have to list this one but it has to be one of the most common things that sends a Casting Director insane.  Every minute that passes by when you are running late could be costing someone money!  Hiring a studio is not cheap and sometimes this hire cost will be coming out of the Casting Directors budget for the job, you are literally making them pay for your delay!  Believe me you better act your flipping socks off when you turn up late because you will have already pissed off pretty much everyone in the room.  

Don’t ask for another take!  

If a Casting Director asks you if you would like to have another go at a scene then of course that’s fine, reset and go by all means do the scene again.  But it’s incredibly annoying when actors ask to ‘go again’ assuming we have the time for their mistakes.  Think about it!  You straight away put them in an awkward position by even asking, and by doing the whole thing  again, this will delay the next person.  It only takes 3 people to do this before you are running behind, thus making even more actors wait.  Casting Directors will always give you another shot if they think it’s worth it, if not today, then they will bring you back in when THEY have the time.  This is ALWAYS much better than just banging the same scene out there and then.


Well actors seldom make a decent enough improvement after messing up a take or make enough of a change to the performance to make a REAL difference.  You wouldn’t do this on set, so I wouldn’t advise that you do it in an audition.  

This issue is common amongst actors who DON’T learn the script!

Don’t direct yourself or ask too many questions!

You will instantly rub a Director the wrong way by self directing, or by asking for more notes.  It’s important to note that sometimes Directors won’t want an actor to nail a performance in the Casting room,  there are a lot of key people involved with the project at this point and the Dircetor may want to hold back on certain notes or ways he wants the piece to go at this point.  No one wants to peak too soon or too early.  Also another huge factor is that often the main heads of departments like the Casting Director, Writer or producer etc may not have all the answers at this point.  No actor gets better notes than another actor.  In all of my 6 years I have never seen this!  So trust the information you ARE given and go with it, too many times actors who fish for too much info wobble their own performance, worse still with fresh notes in their head so many actors ‘mark’ these specific moments to try and convey that they understood the note.  this puts a blatant ‘prick/spike’ in the performance, we can actually see the note’s and we dabble in an un-natural world.   

Never comment on your own performance.

From my experience actors make the worst judges for what is a good audition, especially when they aren’t even looking at the screen, you don’t know what the camera is doing, so you won’t be aware of all the details getting picked up in a performance. Even if you are convinced that what you just done was absolutely rubbish, by announcing it to everyone in the room, you are quickly convincing everyone that you are no good.

Clients and Casting Directors buy into confidence and charisma, they want people who know how to handle themselves and show professionalism, theatrical outbursts are cringe worthy to watch.  You might be able to do better but the 10 people before you might have been worse!  By doing the above you just ranked yourself bottom of the list. 

I have NEVER seen an actor who comment’s poorly about their own performance end up on a select list or get booked!

Never lie.

This is the BIGGEST one!  You will make an enemy for life if you lie to a Casting Director just to get seen for an audition or to get an acting job.  This instantly shatters any kind of future relationship you might have and you run a huge risk of driving wedges between, Agents, Casting Directors and Producers.  Casting Directors despite being in competition with one another are generally a friendly bunch  who look out for each other, they know each other very well and talk far more often than you can imagine, even by working together on projects.  Lie on your CV or to a Casting Director and very soon others will find out.  This is a serious and critical part of the pre production stage, what might seem like a harmless white lie could have massive ramifications on set and cost money or in some cases cause physical injury.  Fellow actors that tell these anecdotes are talking nonsense or utter bullshit!  

This COULD be the single one thing that has the potential to KILL your career!  NEVER DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!

Don’t ask about the frame size.

This one is simple,  as an actor if you adjust your performance according to the frame of the camera you instantly increase the odds of getting it wrong!  This I can promise you.  The truth is you won’t know what the clients are always after, go off of instinct NOT what you predict the camera is or isn’t picking up.  What an actor perceives to go down on tape is entirely different to what actually DOES go down.  Concentrate on what you are doing not what the camera man is doing.

On set when it matters you have to hit marks, time walking for crane shots blah blah blah.  There are so many other annoying things an actor has to concern him/herself with, and give  a natural performance etc etc.  The casting studio/space allows you to be free from these things.

In an audition we rarely trouble you with these kind of distractions, so don’t start creating them for yourself.  

Don’t apologise or ‘Cut’ yourself.

This is a BIG ONE!  Actors forget we have the power to edit with digital technology, nowadays this is super quick and easy.  If you mess up or stumble a line etc, NEVER cut yourself, apologise or make a big deal, always STAY in character.  All you need to do is pause for few seconds, take a deep breathe and overlap the bad or broken section.  It pains us when an actor doesn’t do this, before that mistake the work you might have been doing could have been exactly what everyone was after!  If you cut yourself, or swear or snap out of it, not only do YOU RUIN that particular take but by making such a big deal out of it you will struggle to replicate it smoothly, by simply pausing and taking a moment you allow yourself to remain in the ‘ZONE’ and keep all the feelings and thought patterns intact.  I cannot stress this enough, if you get into the habit of doing this you become an editor’s dream, you also give yourself more control over your performance.  

Get this right and we simply edit/cut out the few seconds where you take a moment and we send the client the best performance of the day.

Don’t make it harder than it already is.

This I have seen too many times, I am bamboozled at why an actor thinks it’s a good idea to bring along to an audition their ‘Friend’ who also happens to be a ‘Great Actor’.  Firstly.  Congratulations you just gave yourself less chance of getting the job and at the same time you just PISSED of the Casting Director!  You might as well have just said to them,

“Thanks for getting me in but I am not hugely bothered because I bought my mate along and just bypassed your system.  Oh and by the way I think I can do your job better than you!”

Would you do this in a job interview scenario?  Of course not!

Come in with the right attitude.

NEVER be rude to the receptionist or a casting assistants. We communicate all day with each other on skype and we talk, if you are sat in the waiting room laughing loud and generally annoying others, we get told who it is instantly.  Piss off the receptionist and that message comes through too.  This info MIGHT get relayed further up the line or even back to your agent, or the Casting Director.  Staff are simply trying to do their job so there is no reason to be rude or obnoxious.  Casting Directors will not want to put their clients with difficult talent, don’t be that person!  On the plus side, be nice and a stand up person and we will go out of our way for you!  

Here are a few more quick tips.

  • DON’T chew gum

  • DO bring water with you

  • DON’T wear a too much make-up, keep it natural - Never wear Red Lipstick unless asked.

  • DON’T wear bright red tops or stripey outfits - they look terrible on video, or scarves, or big earrings, or anything that could distract the viewer.

  • ALWAYS switch off your phone!

I could ramble on for pages and pages, but these are most obvious things that spring to my mind.  As always with such a subjective & creative business these are just my opinions.  Hopefully this article gives you a different and useful perspective about the auditioning process that goes on to serve you well.

As I mention often, I am love working with and watching actors work, so if anyone has any questions they would like me to answer feel free to hit up the website and get in touch.

Don’t forget to check out the YHAD podcast about the filmmaking process.  This Sunday is all about Casting!

Luke B


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YHAD shoot Marks it’s 1 year Anniversary - DAY 9

Day 9 - Tuesday 28th September 2010

We are up early despite another late night of minimal sleep. I feel awful this morning, cold sweats throughout the night and coughing. I ache all over and the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. Today are due to do a days shooting at our pub location, I am glad we don’t have to go to the forest today and that most of the day we will be warm and dry, this is just enough motivation to get me out of bed.

Once again the good ol van gets loaded again. The pub location is about a 30 minute drive from where we are, but is worth the journey. When scouting for this location, I must have seen about 50 pubs, none of them right for the film.  This was a really important location to get right and the second I saw it, I knew it had to be in the film.
I’m in the rickety red car with Portia, we make a quick stop to get sweetener, I need to replenish the fake drug bags. We arrive at the pub and are lucky enough to have a huge function room as our base, which is separate from the pub. The actors arrive soon after and so does Edward Law who is playing our pub landlord character. It’s not long before the cameras are rolling. Unfortunately we can’t use Edward at the moment as the pub is quite busy so we just get the shots from his POV. I have good feeling about today, we have about 12 pages to get through and a lot of dialogue but I’m feeling positive about the scenes and what we have to shoot. We have Thabo & Daniel on camera, Jonathan on sound and Portia as 1st AD. Whenever Portia is 1st AD’s we seem to get well over 10 pages, she has become our page count mascot and lucky charm in this role.

Andy the owner of “The Fountain Inn’ is really accommodating so we quickly get the first scene of the day done with Nigel. The pub has quite a few locals there so we explain what we are doing and that if any of them wish to be in the film they need to sign a release form. Its pure fluke they all agree and not one of them looks out of place, well why would they? They are locals after all.

Thabo and Dan get to work, getting lot’s of nice shots of Nigel. It’s supposed to be a slightly comical scene, it was the first scene I wrote for Nigel’s character ‘Gary’ and knew if done a certain way it would work. Nigel reliable as always makes the comedy go far, he totally utilises his surroundings and hits each moment with perfect timing.

We then head outside to get some external shots of the pub and Nigel arriving at the pub in Sam’s car. On the way down Sam’s car got a puncture, I only found this out after we shot the scene of NIgel pulling up in his car. It’s things like this that make you realise Sam has been the one dealing with all the stressful cock ups that had happened each day so we don’t have to worry about them. I would bet that there are many more that I am still not aware of.

We have a big scene to shoot before lunch which involves Nigels character revealing something for the rest of the group that he has in his car boot. It makes sense to shoot this quickly now and that should cover all the outside shots, the weather looks a bit moody so if stays dry for this scene then it doesn’t matter after that because everything else is to be shot inside. We are on quite  a busy country road so sound is tricky to get right. It’s a lengthy dialogue scene but all the cast get the scene down quite quickly, we get a few hand held shots and we are done. David & Gemma have already taken everyone’s lunch orders, today as we are having a lunch at the pub, I for one am extremely excited and looking forward to this, I opt for the easy but biggest thing I have been craving all week a simple cheese burger and chips and with a super malt  and it goes down so well.

After lunch we jump straight into getting our next big scene which is where Hannah, Matthew, Philip & Louisa meet Nigel at the pub. We get all of Edwards shots done straight away, it’s a really simple job for such a great actor like Edward and I feel bad that he’s travelled far for a short time on set, but I have no regrets with his performance, he brings a lot to the role without over doing it. I know these scenes are going to cut really well in the edit.

With two camera units we seem to be flying though these shots. I still feel like a calm Director and despite being up against a fast schedule everyone appears to be handling everything easily. The rest of the afternoon is spent getting more group dialogue, I play about with some of the dialogue and we also include some improvisation. With everyone nodding that the picture and sound is good once again we move on. I think having done so much filming in the forest and outside all internal shots feel like a luxury. None of today feels like hard work.

The final scene in the pub is a tricky one, it’s where Louisa is in the bathroom upset after Philip’s character makes fun of her. It’s cramped being in the ladies bathroom, so there is only room for Jonathan, Daniel, Louisa, Hannah & Me. This is one of them moments where I know we won’t get loads of takes, I want the Louisa in the scene to be really upset, all actors deal with crying scenes in different ways and today we have been having so much fun I know Louisa isn’t anywhere near upset. We try a few times but Louisa and I know it’s not where it needs to be. She want to go and get tear sticks to help her cry but I don’t allow it, for me personally just because someones eyes are watering that’s not enough to register what’s really happening. I take Louisa to one side privately and shortley after we turn over. This will be one take only on this and as I call action in a few seconds it all comes wrenching out of her. Hannah & Louisa get through the scene and I think we got it. Daniel nods happy with the visuals, Jonathan edges slight concern about the sound in such a confined space. I quickly decide that there isn’t much we can do about that and that hopefully the performance will be what counts with this scene.

I go see Louisa and she’s still really upset. The thing with actors who really connect and commit is that if they actually go through these emotions for real, it’s not easy to just suddenly switch off. This is testament to how great Louisa is as an actress and that with the right sort of guidance she can go anywhere in a scene. I take her to one side and I unravel my notes from her head. It’s important as a Director to help get actors both in and out of a state, in a few moments we are both laughing and joking, she’s still a bit shaken but I know she’s proud of what she did, we didn’t result to any trick or tear sticks, when you see that scene she is genuinly upset and it reads just so.

After a long but fun day, we all treat ourselves to a couple of drinks in the pub (we couldn’t go all that way and not have  abeer!). We take lot’s of pictures and relax for a while. It’s so nice to all sit around chatting with no shots lingering around the corner.

We head back and are at the accommodation before it even gets dark.I think the few drinks we had got most peoples taste buds going, I know I had quite a few beers that evening. We data wrangle all the days footage and have a snack. It’s quite late before we get to bed and tomorrows schedule is really busy again. By this point of the shoot my voice is on tipping point one minute it’s fin and the next it feels like it’s going. I am feeling extremely tired too and know that having an off day could put the film in jeopardy. On top of a few beers I dose up on cough medicine and slap on some Vics I don’t want another sleepless night. My suitcase is now unpacked because I seem to have run out of clothes. I’m not sure if this counts? I guess I need to do some washing tomorrow.



YHAD shoot Marks it’s 1 year Anniversary - DAY 8

Day 8 - Monday 27th September 2010

A full week now and non stop work for my crew and me. We have managed to give the actors days off, but unfortunately there is no stopping for us. Daniel is back today, which is great news. Hopefully he will be impressed with the change we have all made to how we work. The past two days have been really solid on the page count. This morning we are having a bit of a lie in. We are doing another evening/night shoot with all the main cast, we also have managed to schedule it so David gets a much needed day of rest. Hopefully he can shift that cold. I even have time to cut my hair, It’s a rushed job and Iv’e gone a bit short on the clippers, I look like a pineapple, oh well.

Dan is picked up from the station and he’s loaded with more bun, the prospect of ‘Bun and cheese’ for lunch puts an instant smile on my face. Daniel catches up on all the latest news etc, I think he’s looking forward to the film taking his mind off of things, I know he’s had a difficult weekend. We spend the morning cleaning the tents and ground sheets etc everything by now has got quite muddy after a week.

The morning goes quite quickly so we load the van and once again and head to the forest, we won’t be back until quite late tonight. We have 14 scenes to do today, and it we’ll be rolling two units for about 12 hours straight. We stock up on red bull and supermalt. Philip Barantini is on rations with the malt as he keeps caning it. Luckily we bought tons of the stuff.

We set up camp near the forest entrance and begin rolling camera, Thabo is Directing, with Dan on sound, Jonathan is 1st ad and Portia is on second unit. The first few scenes are really easy we quickly shoot all the inside tent shots, It gets a bit cramped having me and Thabo in the tent with the girls (lucky us eh?) But it doesn’t take long and we quickly get the shots.

We then head off into the forest to get all of Hannah & Louisa’s running shots, more running through a forest. Poor Louisa has to run with a metal tool box. Why on earth did I pick a forest as a main location? didn’t really think that one through very well. Hannah & louisa do a grand job we get some really creepy footage and it works just how I had imagined it would be when I wrote the script. The afternoon is long, but we are crashing through the page count, it’s not long before we have most of the scenes done, My mum and my aunt arrive with more soup and fresh bread, again a real treat, it’s dry today but the chill factor is there and it’s a bit windy. The soup goes down a storm, I think my aunt and my mum are starting to worry about my health, I need to conserve my voice as it’s beginning to go. It would be a disaster if I can’t talk to my actors, so I keep my chat to a minimum. It must be bliss for everyone else at least.

One of the last shots to get during the day is one of my favourites in the whole film, we dig a large hole in the ground and sink the camera into the floor, covering it with perspex, Louisa stands over us and we load the blood cannons. Every stamp she makes to the camera, a hose full of fake blood explodes all over her. The light is fading but thankfully we all nail this in one take. Louisa looks a blood mess, great fun.

Getting ready to fire blood at Louisa

Louisa Lytton as Jenny - about to get violent

The day seems to fly by and we’re done before it gets dark, so we set up early for the night scenes. We have a lot to do but if we can get it all it done, we won’t need to do anymore late nights, plus we will really knock off a lot of pages.

Luke Talking to the cast - Socks worn like this became standard attire in the forest

I don’t want to rehearse these scenes too much as I have lot’s of impro notes and idea’s already lined up in my head. Once again we bring out the alcohol too and it’s not long before everyone is in full party mode. We light the fire, that Gemma & David had set up again, it’s so warm, there is no chance anyone will get cold. I want specific hand held shots so I grab the other camera and Thabo and I set to work. We have a really great system and everyone is on point, we are turning over so quickly, the first few scenes are really funny to watch, the footage looks great and most importantly we are all having so much fun. I hope the film continues like this to the end.

Gemma Chitty (Production Assistant)

Natalie Guest & Bogi (Make Up & SFX)

I play a few underhand games with the cast, to tweak the performances to how i want them. It wasn’t in the script but I wanted Matthews character in one of the campfire scenes to feel a bit left out. Matthew is such a happy go lucky guy and gets on with everyone, he was having such a great time and being the life and soul of the party. I tell him I need to get a few shots from his POV, so I move him out the scene completely, we run a few takes, I already have the footage I want for this scene, but we do it a few times anyway and I deliberately make Louisa, NIgel, Hannah & Philip go over the top, Matt I can tell is itching to get involved. I tell him on the next take that I don’t need his dialogue. I can tell he is a bit nervous like he’s done something wrong, not once have I sat in the same position with camera and kept doing this amount of takes. We go again, and again. The final take I tell Matt to hop back in but that he won’t be in shot. WIth the right combination of alcohol and the feeling that he’s not wanted, he instantly goes into his own world, something I have rarely seen him do. My main focus on this take is him, but he doesn’t know that. It’s cruel but the scene works perfectly and by this point the others had come down to the right level having done three over the top takes. I could have just given the Direction to Matthew but I like to do things different.

Matthew Stathers, Philip Barantini & Nigel Boyle

We finish with Louisa and plough through the other scenes. Everyone gets on so well as a group it reads so well on camera, it’s just like watching my mates as they roll through the dialogue I have written, Even though it’s getting late I could do this all night. We are shooting a lot of stuff, but our wood supply begins to run out. We don’t really have time to mess about chopping up wood etc as this will cost us valuable time. WIthin five minutes Richard from from opposite the forest arrives witha  wheelbarrow full of wood thats been soaked in paraffin. He joins in with a beer and watches us work.

Sam Alani (Producer) Richard & David C (Productions Assistant)

We are soon onto the last scene, my voice is getting worse especially with the smoke blowing in my way. I know we are pushed for time as we still have to go back and capture all the days footage. Sam is sat in the forest already doing the schedule on his laptop. It’s almost perfect timing as we get the last take the beer runs out. NIgel, Matthew, Philip look quite pissed by this point. Even Hannah & Louisa are giggling away merrily. It feels like De Ja Vu as we pack the Van in the dark, it’s nearly midnight and a quick page count indicates a very successful day. We got all 14 scenes done. With the whole crew now all back together and another great days shooting the possibility of us actually finishing this film is getting really close now. The day when we got rained off seems like a long time ago now. It even feels like we are on a different shoot.

Midnight supper - from left, Nigel Boyle, Matthew Stathers, Philip Barantini & Luke Brady

Data Wrangling from left - Sam Alani, Portia Barnett Herrin & Thabo Mhlatshwa. Notice how Thabo is donning the Big Lebowski jacket.

We are up quite late data wrangling but it’s an important task that has to be done. I go to bed not feeling to clever, I think I inhaled too much smoke from the fire. I give Daniel a low down on ow the past two days have gone and he agrees that the difference in everyone today was fantastic. I have a sleepless night, I wake up several times hot and then in cold sweats, I feel in a daze. I can’t even begin to think about being ill tomorrow. This is not good. The suitcase looks like it’s grinning at me with it’s open zip, payback time I can hear it say!


YHAD shoot Marks it’s 1 year Anniversary - DAY 7

Day 7 - Sunday 26th September 2010

I rise from bed and the sun is beaming through the window, Im really tired today, it was another late night trying to figure out the schedule, but without any of the big arguments. With Daniel still back in London we are a man down again, but today should be highly productive. Thabos is 1st AD today with Portia on Sound and Jon Directing, plus I will be shooting the second unit if needed.

We load the van again and make an early start. Today we have two locations to get done, we need to get all the final shots of Lara’s scenes as this is her last day on the shoot. The schedule is largely based around her stuff so we have to get all her shots done today. First we head to the new location that I found the day before. Sam clears the location, thankfully the road is private land so we have free reign over the entire location, how lucky is that?!

Today we have lots and lots of small scenes at various points of the script, lots of running about scenes and a few action sequences. In some shots Louisa has to run about with a giant hunting knife. I have two large knives and both are real, sharp and extremely dangerous. My first task is to blunt and make them safe. I whip out the angle grinder and grind the edge of the blades flat, sparks fly everywhere and I can sense my cast all watching thinking this fucking guy has lost the plot, if he’s not chopping down trees or waving axes about he’s cutting or grinding metal. This is not normal behaviour for any film Director I’m sure, but then again this isn’t a normal shoot either.

I actually love this, it gives me something to focus on that I enjoy doing, I love making things and love DIY so grinding metal is a good way for me to clear my mind before directing. I round the tip of the blade and attempt to stab myself with the large knife, great no blood or holes in my belly, I run the blade firmly along my arm, brilliant no blood I call Louisa over who gingerly approaches. I show her the blade, she’s clearly not as excited about the knife as I am but she tests it out and is happy it’s safe to use as a prop.

Gemma found the chain yesterday, which I immediately spray with several different shades of silver to give it a galvanised look. It looks really great. As soon as it’s dry, we get Louisa chained up, It’s a big weight off her mind to be using a fake chain, as it would have been impossible to run with a real chain.

This morning is not a huge page count so we whizz through the shots, Lara and Louisa make a great team, and Lara again could not be anymore perfect. I get some amazing cutaway shots of her screaming into the camera (you may recognise this pic).

It really feels like we have a slick operation happening, we’ve split both camera’s up so we can get through the shots much quicker. It’s hard not being their to over see everything but I trust my crew. We get an amazing shot of David running towards the car in the rear view mirror, it’s one take and it’s timed perfectly, David is so fast at running which adds to the fear factor in the shots. David is making my main killer really creepy it looks effortless. Today Davids not feeling too well he has a touch of flu, but is so dedicated he presses on, I think he’s more unwell than he’s letting on.

In about 3 hours ish we’re done so we quickly pack up and head back to the forest.My aunt and uncle live in the village around the corner and have turned up to the forest with home made leek and potatoe soup, with loads of crusty bread. All the veg is from the allotment, it’s gotten quite cold today so this is a real treat for us. She’s even thrown in a load of home made rock cakes! She looks a bit concerned for me as by this point in the day my voice is croaking really bad, Iv’e lost a lot of weight too and look really gaunt. Iv’e not eaten a huge amount I guess I’m just burning off way more calories than I’m taking in. My other cousin Carly, her husband Tim and their son Finlay pop by the forest to say hello, another nice surprise. I’m glad they have turned up on a relatively sane day unlike earlier in the week.

Lara and her mum have driving really far about a two hour journey so I don’t want to keep them here late. I aim to get Lara’s stuff done by 4pm. We have a quick bit to eat, and quicklys et up for shots of Lara running about a bit. She looks so great running about we make the shots as fun for her as possible by turning everything we do into a game. She gets a little tired so we give her a break. Thabo Jon & Portia get some shots of David and Louisa running.

In the next main scene we need to hold one of the large hunting knives to Lara’s throat, I show the blunted knife to Lara’s mum and she seems fine with it. Before letting Lara see it I talk to her about film making and how they make weapons look real in films but in actual fact they are perfectly safe. I show her the knife and get her to poke me with it to show it doesn’t hurt and cannot do any harm. Any strangers watching would be calling the police no doubt. This poor kid is going having to do some bizarre things. Lara seems a little tired and isn’t sur eshe want’s to do the scene. I tell her that’s it’s totally fine and she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to. I tell her she’s the boss and is in charge of us so, I don’t put any pressure on her, I just sit there and play a few games with her and her mum. It’s not long before she gets bored of me talking and decides she wants to do more filming. She’s the boss so I don’t argue. We quickly get the camera’s ready, tehse are her final shots and the window for this could be short. She has no problem with the knife, David is great with her and we get some really great shots.

Lara is done for the day and it’s sad she’s leaving, she tells me she’s had lot’s of fun and that she wishes she could do more. We get a few pictures taken with her and all say our farewells. She’s a genuine talent for such a young kid. I don’t know how many kids would let me tape up their mouth tie them up in a sack, get chased my a big man weilding an axe, and get a knife held to their throat. Never work with children? Whatever!

We retreat back to the caravan as it begins to drizzle. Louisa is done for the day but I have one more important scene to get involving David, Hannah & Philip. Everyone is tired and poor Philip has been waiting all afternoon for this scene, David’s cold is getting worse. He doesn’t look well and I’m worried about him now. The rain is on and off. I give them all the option individually to see if they want to do this, we have just about enough light to get it done as the sun will go down in about an hour. They are all up for it, It’s gonna be hard going as this is a major running scene. I have a route worked out it’s  afull sprint handheld long take, with David chasing Hannah & Philip and me. I’m gonna grab the camera as i know exactly what I want to get, we only carry the bare essentials and all head off into the forest. WIth the camera set, on our marks go…..

We are running full pelt, David is so fast we really have to run to get away, this is actually quite scary stuff, Philip nearly slips but manages to stay up somehow, we head fast and deeper into the forest and jump into 4 foot high bracken, It’s dark in this point of the forest and David’s torch pans near us, the footage looks great, Philip and Hannah and me hide. as David follows behind as Philip, Hannah and me creep further into the forest, with the camera still rolling we get the scene done. We don’t have a walkie talkie and have been running for a long time we can’y see anyone but can hear everyone in the distance, I think they are just the other side of this dense part of the forest. It’s really tricky to manouvre through all this and we get kind of stuck, we are surrounded by thick brambles, Hannah only has leggings on and will get scratched to hell, I don’t want to go back the way we came, In all honesty I’m a bit lost all the running and filming has me disorientated. I hand Philip the camera and Hannah hops on my back, this part of the forest is really dense but finally we make out way out and back onto a path everyone else is there, phew. Hannah’s wieghs next to nothing but I’m absolutely knackered, running & carrying another person, this is like training for the army.

The sun as all but gone time for a quick cigarette and a check of the footage. The scene looks great but hold on a minute, wheres the sound? I glance at the camera and notice a switch on the side, it’s off. Fuck, after a brief panic, I decide we can get away with it as this will all be lined up to music anyhow, if I need any dialogue I can ADR it at a later date. There is no-way I could do all that again.Thank goodness it was me who messed, I’m not likely to shout at myself. I realise at this point that the past two day’s have been so different since Dan’s wise words. He’s back tomorrow and I can’t wait to show him what a slick happy crew we have become.

Back to the accomodation and Nigel and Matthew have had the day off so we have a few beers and catch up. David gets an early night, I hope he feels better tomorrow. Then it’s back to that bloody schedule, It’s getting easier though now that we have got well over half the film shot.

I fall asleep as soon as my head hit’s the pillow, The suitcase is well and truly forgotten today.


YHAD shoot Marks it’s 1 year Anniversary - Day 3

Continued blog of last years shoot to mark it’s 1 year anniversary

Day 3 Wednesday 22nd September 2010

Despite another late night I wake up feeling charged for today. So far everyone seems to be relatively happy, each day so far the real world seems to move further and further away from me and I become more and more immersed in the film, it’s amazing to see the scenes that I wrote come to life, for split moments I allow myself to enjoy this.

We have a system now where we make our lunch the night before, we fill our giant hot flasks with tea and coffee as today will be the first whole day we spend in the forest, it’s also the first time all the 5 main cast are together. The night before we set ourselves an ambitious schedule, if we can get most of it done we will have caught up on page count. Today we have Thabo Co Directing, Daniel on Sound, Portia as 1st AD and Jonathan helping out anyone who needs it. Sam as always is making various trips to make sure we have enough food, money, and he’s busy setting up the next schedule as well as looking for a new location.

As the cast go into make up at the acommodation we load the van and cars and head back to the forest. Its about a 20 minute drive to the location so we use this time to go through shots and set ups etc. An extra nice surprise today is that a friend of Gemma’s is going to join us to help out as an assistant - David Courtneidge. Once we arrive everyone gets straight to work unloading the van and setting up camp. We also had to go and retrieve everything we chained up the night before, whilst everyone does this Thabo and I head off into the forest to plan out our locations and shot list.

It’s easy to get lost in this forest and one of my favourite things about this location is that it never fails to surprise you. Whilst heading slightly off our normal route we discover a new part of the forest, straight away we agree to shoot one of the scenes here. The plan is for Thabo, Daniel and me to go with the cast and shoot all the scenes where the characters arrive at the forest including some impro footage, hopefully by the time we get back everything will be set up so we can shoot the groups scene where they all set up camp.

Daniel Fenton came up with a great weeks ago on a recce to split the camp locations, basically when the group arrive they set up camp in a part of the forest that looks nice and more open with huge pine trees, he suggested that when the group wake up aftera  night of drink and drugs they awake to find themselves in a darker, damper and colder part of the forest, in the script they awake in the early hours of the morning so it works great. We therefore have to have two different camps, one thats near to the forest entrance a 30 second walk the other where we were the night before. Today we are shooting at the near camp so we won’t have half the trouble shifting and moving boxes etc.

With various people armed with the all important walkie talkies and the cast arriving we quickly go through what we plan to do and Thabo, Dan & I take the cast deep into the forest. Just how it would be in the script they have to carry stuff so it’s quite nice to see our actors lugging stuff too. Thabo doesn’t hold back and shoots super fast, he knows what he wants so we move really quickly through the scenes, Dan on sound with his shades on even makes holding a boom look cool. I too am really happy with my notes and the performances we are getting, Luckily the sun stays consistent and all the shots look amazing. Off camera we are all having as much fun as when the camera is rolling. This is the first time that not only do I see how close my characters are as a group but how well the actors are getting on. This could be such a different atmosphere but this is the moment when I know I have the perfect cast for YHAD.

After locking down the scenes we head back to camp, we decide to do the entire journey back with the camera still rolling and the group all staying in character. Impro is tricky one it can either go really well or really wrong, there is rarely anything inbetween. Hannah, Louisa, Philip, Nigel & Matthew pull it out the bag, they create ideas and dialogue that I could never come up with, stuff thats true to the story and feels real. Heading back we had a blast, completely free from any script or structure. I think everyone enjoyed this a lot.

We get back to camp and stop for a quick lunch, whilst everyone finishes dressing the camp area for our main scene.

We get a few shots of David Partridge’s shot for the top of the scene. It’s a breeze for David and the footage looks great. Easy stuff.

I sit down with the cast and we rehearse the main part of the scene over and over, I make adjustments to smooth out some of the clunky writing, The comedy in the scene is really working with everyone is laughing and joking. It’s a big scene and we have lots to cover but we will be shooting with two camera units for this one and pretty much non stop until we have covered everything. I grab the other camera and we get started. We seem to run like clock work, shooting quickly and I get my notes out fast and concise. As each take goes on the scene gets better and better.

For YHAD in most cases we shoot scenes in their entirety, This ensured that if we did run out of time we would have minimum coverage so the film could be edited. We also shot the whole film hand held which allowed us to set up and change shots in seconds. The afternoon is a great success, Portia does an amazing job as 1st AD, we never see Dan as he shadows in the background rolling sound. Jonathan and the rest of the team whizz about making sure we have everything and that everyone is looked after. Thabo and i have a quick discussion about coverage and we agree this scene is locked down. Kapow, we smashed the shit out of that.

Feeling double pleased with ourselves we have one more scene to shoot and thanks to everyone we are bang on time. We just need to wait for darkness to arrive so we can shoot the scene where Matthew, Nigel & Philip discover something in the bushes.

As the guys rehearse we pack away evrything thats not needed. As soon as weve got these shots we wanna get home asap for a late dinner. As the sun dips the bugs come out, big bugs and flying beetle I never have seen before. We become a beacon for every living creature in the forest with our giant torches, everyone tops up on deet, this needs to be quick before we all get bitten to hell. David has had a lot of waiting around today for only two small scenes so we shoot his stuff first. Like an absolute trooper her is happy to be creeping about the dense forest in the pitch black. The shots look really good so we get a bit more coverage than needed, thankfully David exits the forest intact.

We crack on with the final shots of the three guys. it’s quite late so we decide to run this in one long take, no need to keep clapping. David Courtneidge is in charge of holding a reflector whilst we shine a torch at it to bounce some light onto the three guys. All the bugs go for the light and David keeps it still whilst we roll despite all sorts of horrible things crawling over him and biting him.We have a few false starts due to sound but we get the shots. Its really late but everyones pretty tired so we wrap for the day. It doesn’t take long to load the van and we head back.

Natalie & Bogi her make up assistant have a hot dinner ready for our arrival, what a  great way to finish a hectic day. Tomorrow is going to be busy again and Sams schedule looks great. Hannah’s first episode was on tv with her starring in ‘The Inbetweeners’ Sam got her a bottle of champagne to celebrate, after a brief catch up with my cast I go back to my crew to have some well deserved beers.

With the data wrangling already going, we do a quick page count. We did 5 scenes, about 11 pages, if we can do this every day it might just be possbile to actually get the whole film done. It’s another late night but everyone is in good spirits. Once again I climb into bed with the suitcase looking at me all neglected.


YHAD shoot Marks it’s 1 year Anniversary - DAY 2

Day 2

My alarm buzzes away it feels like I have only slept for about 3 hours. I glance at the time it’s 6:00am and I HAD only slept for 3 hours. I head straight for the shower, and run through the first eventful day/evening.

Upon returning from our triumphant 1st days shoot Sam gave us bad news about a main location falling through. One we were due to shoot today. It knocked our entire schedule out for the entire 10 days. Sam worked so hard drawing up a ‘doable’ and complex schedule now it was gone. It ment that over the next 8 or 9 days we need to find a new location to shoot all our country lane scenes. But it’s way more complicated than just that, we need to shut off a road for some stunts and action scenes. Plus all the cast had their days off scheduled and oh my I need to stop thinking about it.

I click on the ever trusty kettle, no tea this morning it’s coffee all the way, so tired and it’s only the second day! Portia, Sam Dan Thabo and I were up really late working out which scenes we would shoot and all the logistics. It took ages because it’s not as easy as just randomly picking another scene, We didn’t have Nigel Boyle (Gary) or our other main member of the group until the afternoon and neither Su Elliot or David Partridge (Mrs Venner & Charlie Venner) so we had to be careful what we shot in the morning. Lots of the other locations were not available until specific days like the pub scene and the petrol station. So we sat up very late trying to figure it all out, everyone was stressed and annoyed that something like this could potentially stop us from getting the whole film shot especially if we lost a lot of time. By 3am though we finally had a list of scenes and shots that we could do for today and still keep our page count high. We only had 10 days to shoot so we need to shoot at least 9 pages a day on average. Doesn’t sound a lot but for in the world of film 9 pages (all equal to a minute of screen time) is a huge amount to do especially if you want to get lots of different shots etc.

Also my Brother Jon who is also Co directing won’t be down to join us until tomorrow, that extra pair of hands would make a huge difference.

All the crew start to get ready, I haven’t even had time to unpack my suitcase, I’ll leave that till later. We snack on breakfast and begin to check list equipment we need and load the van. Everyone greets each other with a bleary eyed yawn, not much talking going on, after last night we are tired of talking.

Natalie our make up artist will get everyone ready at the accommodation first. Whilst we head to our first location at Pretty’s Petrol station in Ashurst. All good horror films have a petrol/gas station stop it’s text book writing HA.

Portia is Co Directing today with Thabo on sound and Daniel as 1st AD. Portia and i discuss the shots in the van, it’s a shame we didn’t have anytime the previous night.

We arrive after a short journey noticing an epic amount of roadworks heading the opposite way (must plan a different route back). We begin to set up as Portia and I go through the shot set ups. We cheekily hop over a fence to use the pub opposite’s garden as a green room. Lets hope they are in a good mood when they wake up to discover a bunch of filmakers have set up camp.

Portia is Co Directing today with Thabo on sound and Daniel as 1st AD. Portia and i discuss the shots in the van, we have quite a lot to do today to be in with a fighting chance of completing the film in the ten days, the pressure is on for Portia to work fast and get her vision set for this scene it’s a great location but the better the location the more you want to shoot so she has to be very selective of the shots and coverage that she’s going to get.

When the cast arrive we jump straight in firstly getting a wide on the car arriving. Then we hopped inside to do the internal scene. Rob Lyndon does a great job as our weird Petrol Station attendant ( a role well beneath his acting skills, sad there wasn’t more for him to do) and Philip and Matthew are solid in a lengthy dialogue scene. Before we started filming Philip and Matthew rehearsed a lot then showed me what they had prepped, we adjusted some of the clunky dialogue and figured out the actions/timings.

We were getting some great footage but the clock was against us so we had to whizz through the scene. I begin to think that maybe this kind of time pressure is not feasible. Especially as my notes now need to be streamlined and fast so as not to hold anyone else up, everyone is working so fast but to get enough coverage and different shots it’s tough going.Ideally we would have a whole day at this location instead of 3 hours.

During filming an angry pub land lady wasn’t so chirpy, but with some sweet talking on Daniel & Sams part she agreed to let us stay, phew. Her dog seemed happy we were there though!

Thabo had to do a lot of tricky work with a boom pole in a shop with very stacked shelves, it was hard to get the sound close enough without getting in shot. Plus we had a few re-starts due to heavy traffic noise coming from the road. The shots we got look great but do we have enough to cut the scene, it’s a close call and time is running short. We decide to move on 80% confident that we’ve got everything.

I feel bad for Portia as I know she felt rushed but the stuff she got looks great so I’m happy.

Sam arranges for cabs to pick up our cast and meet us at our next location in the forest in Brockham. Opposite the forest is a family who have kindly agreed to let us use a caravan as a green room and their facilities. On a shoot with our budget glamour goes out the window, soon basic needs become luxuries as you will soon discover. We rock up at the Small holding opposite the forest and set up the caravan, Richard & Diane are the owners, and have been really helpful since we found the location, unbeknown to us they will often save our bacon over the coming 9 days.

First thing to do is to set up a base in the forest by where we are filming. Location is key and finding the right spot in a forest is not as easy as it sounds. Lucky for us we had done plenty of recce’s in this forest and knew it well. Not so lucky was the fact that the perfect spot for us to shoot today’s scenes was not near! A good 7 or 8 minute walk with not so easy access and we had a whole Van full of stuff to move. For a crew of 40 you could do it in one trip but theres five of us. SO it’s lots of back and forth. Carrying boxes of so much stuff. It takes just under an hour to get everything there before setting up. WOW that was hard going, we are gonna struggle to do that every morning and after shooting.We need more hands on deck!

The first scenes for the afternoon are slow to get going, Nigel needed to have some sfx make up applied to his hand and working out the logistics of what we had to shoot was very time consuming.

Good Ol dad arrived in his cab with Su Elliot & David Partridge (Mrs Venner & Charlie Venner), I think they picked up Nigel Boyle (Gary) too, by this point so much is going on it’s difficult to keep up. We also had Paddy my parents dog on set (playing the role of Paddy) who had one scene to do. He seemed very happy to be stuck in a cold damp forest, he enjoyed plenty of attention too from everyone. With everyone stinking of Jungle spray and a large amount of set dressing we were finally ready to start shooting. I won’t say what we did as it’s bound to give stuff away, but we got some great footage, Portia, Dan & Thabo pulled out all the stops we feel like we got a lot of pages down. Gemma our Production Assistant worked non stop and Natalie did some amazing sfx make up on Su Elliott, we over ran and it started to get dark, with no lights it’s touch and go if the footage will match up. We won’t know until we check the rushes.

Even Paddy the dog does a one take wonder, he is normally incredible disobedient but today he did exactly as he was told, even hitting a mark not bad for an untrained dog. Never work with animals? Rubbish.

On the final shot Louisa hurts her ankle, I gave her a note without really thinking and she did what I said and plenty more. I didn’t expect her to go so mad, it looked great on camera and everyone was shocked to see her do it and I didn’t realise she was hurt until a few minutes later when someone came over to inform me. Like the multi tasking man I am I am also the only first aider on set. How fucking ironic the only time I need to use this stuff taught and it’s on my own film. All the immediate negative thoughts flash through my brain as I imagine the worst case scenario and an end to Louisa being on set. Louisa is upset and clearly in pain, I take of her shoe and get to work. She appears to be fine but is struggling to walk fully on her leg. Then out of the blue her good friend Jason Maza turned up, Jason and I helped Louisa out of the forest, by this point Jason definitely lifted her spirits and she was oon laughing and joking like normal, They headed back to the accommodation to get some rest. It was definitely not broken but I told Louisa & Jason to get Sam to take them to hospital if it gets any worse.

The sun very quickly disappears and suddenly we realise it’s very dark. We quickly get the rest of the cast out of the forest and begin to pack the gear back to the van. We only manage one trip before it’s pitch black and the torches come out. I’m not scared of the dark but on these trips more often than not you are on your own and this old forest is really fucking scary, You take a lot of comfort when you see a torch in the distance and hear familiar voices.

After several trips we decide to chain up the tents and easily replaced props in the forest. It’s really late and we still have to figure out tomorrows schedule as well as eat.

The drive back is relaxed and everyone is in good spirits, I am worried about Louisa’s ankle. If she is injured and cannot shoot anything else the film is well and truly DEAD.

We get back to the accommodation and Natalie has done dinner, wow it’s nice to get a hot meal, I realise that I hadn’t eaten all day! Today flew by and when we count the pages despite shooting so much we realise we are down on pages we only did about 6 pages. Not good, it now means we have a lot more to shoot and the page count has gone up. We had very complicated action shots today and the footage we got is great. As we finish dinner and start capturing all the footage, we notice some shots might not match up. It got too dark at the end. On a good note Louisa is totally fine her ankle is a tad bruised but otherwise fine and Jonathan my brother has arrived. Now we just need to figure out what we are gonna shoot tomorrow. Lot’s of raised voices and disagreements. It’s 3:00 am again before I crawl into bed, speckled with fake blood and stinking of Jungle spray, I set my alarm and look at my suitcase.

I will definitely unpack you tomorrow!


YHAD shoot Marks it’s 1 year Anniversary

On this very day exactly 1 year ago the first day of priciple photography started on ‘Young, High and Dead’. To mark this occasion I thought I would blog each day of the shoot and what happened including all the things that went right and wrong. Well everything that I can remember that is……

Day 1

I wake up uber early It’s Monday the 20th of September and after 9 months of pre production, 18 months of re-drafting the script there’s no turning back. I get up and do my two most important chores to start the day, I stick the kettle on and have a fag. My dad is a black cab driver so has kindly got up super early to pick up our cast (who are dotted all over London) and bring them to the first location i,e my very own bedroom. Now before you all freak out and moan how cheap that is, yes it’s cheap but weirdly the location actually fits the characters and was what I had in mind for my two characters John (Philip Barantini) & Jenny (Louisa Lytton). My partner Natalie wishes me good luck as I won’t be seeing her for ten days and she heads off to work, I know she thinks I’m mental but I can tell she’s gonna miss me and my annoying habits for the next ten days. My crew begins to arrive, Daniel Fenton (Co Director) Thabo Mhlatshwa (Co Director and 1st AD today), Portia Barnett Herrin (Co Director and sound today), Natalie Guest  (Make up) & Gemma Chitty (Production Assistant). Normal everyday doubts set in like ‘is the house tidy enough?’. Not to worry as it’s not long before my entire ground floor flat quickly resembles a set and green room, the kettle worked extra hard that day and my crew cracked on with the task in hand of shooting a film.

Dad arrives in his cab with Philip & Louisa, everyone meets and greets, on this first day everyone is slightly apprehensive as to what lays ahead for the next 10 days. Dad heads off in his ever trusty cab to go and pick up Hannah Tointon (Katy) & Matthew Stathers (Dan). We are a little slow to set up, Louisa & Philip go straight into make up with the lovely Natalie Guest. The first day was scheduled to be quite easy we just needed to get 4 scenes in the can about 6.5 pages if I recall quite a lot for some shoots a breeze for my Guerilla Film Shooting team.

The first scene is simply Jenny getting ready putting on some make up. Dan Fenton is on Directing duty this first day, he gets some really nice shots of Louisa with the camera raised high shooting into a make up mirror and some cool low down shots of Louisa, the sun is beaming through the large french doors in my living room so the footage looks crispy white and warm. Wow thank you MRS DOP that is Mother Nature. That was pretty darn easy we don’t over do it I’m really happy with how the first few shots look so we move on the next scene.

The next scene we do is where John gets stuff ready for Jenny (I need to be careful with my descriptions not to give away spoilers) Jenny walks in and the audience witness a frosty atmosphere the aftermath of a couple’s argument. Both Philip & Louisa make it look very easy, I barely have any notes to give. We simply do the scene several times to get plenty of coverage with different shots. For a moment this is almost too easy. I know things will be very different starting from tomorrow as the schedule gets more intense with lot’s of complicated set ups. Hannah & Matthew arrive so far everyone is getting on really well and excited about the film. Sam our Producer is out and about all day sorting out the accommodation and doing a million and one tasks ahead of the rest of the week.

By this point we’ve waltzed by with lot’s of tea drinking and snacks and the first two scenes are looking good. We quickly pack up everything and move onto our second location of the day. I do a quick spring clean and try to leave the house in a decent state. I say good by to my cat, my home and do a double check I have packed everything I need for the next ten days. I jump in the rickety red car (more info on this in later blogs) and make my way to Horley.

The next location is an external shot at my cousins house Joe and his wife Rachel (and pets) where Dan & Katy pack a car before heading off to pick up John & Jenny. My cousins road and front garden look perfect for the script, little concrete pathway they even have plenty of cats too, a cat is in this scene so it’s all working out fine until we discover most of the cast and crew are allergic to animals. At this location there are 3 cats (Bella, Boris & Caspa) and 2 dogs (Tikka & Tilly). Louisa and Philip begin to suffer a bit, the excitement of Nando’s soon switches everyone mind to food instead of pets. Gemma our amazing runner goes off to get some food. Matthew & Hannah go into make up whilst we set up.

It’s all running smoothly as Dan & I go through the shots, Portia is on sound and Thabo has been great as 1st ad for the day. For those unsure a 1st ad (assistant Director) is in charge of the whole set making sure we stick to schedule and that everyone knows what they are doing. We run the scene and have a couple of glitches with the radio mics. we decide to stick to the directional/shotgun mic for cleaner sound. In a quiet little county road in Horley may cause quite a stir with lots of curtain twitching. Everyone is really interested in what we are doing. Mainly watching Thabo eat biscuits it seems.

The first load of shots go really well both Hannah & Matthew putting on the characters like an old pair of comfy socks, the end of the scene involves a cat. They say you should never work with animals and children. Rubbish just make sure you write in the difficulties. In the script Katy picks up a cat that looks like it wants to run a million miles away. As if by magic both of my cousin Joe’s cats ‘Boris & Caspa’ did exactly that. There are some hilarious out takes of Thabo chasing a cat with ham, but I will leave that until the dvd extras I think. Poor Hannah suffered a few scratches but the look on ‘Boris’s face is worth it.

A few of the kids in the street stop some of the actors for autographs and pictures, at this point I know how lucky I am to have really down to earth actors on board.

Having survived a duel with Boris and co we evacuate the cast and crew to our final location of the day. Everyone looks a bit ‘petted out’ I haven’t the heart to tell everyone the next location has two cats as well. My other cousins house Lucy and her husband Andy (Smithey & Mitzey i think?). It’s all good as we are mainly outside with onoe shot looking outside from the kitchen. First problem we can’t find the clapper, we use this to mark each clip so in post we can sync sound, we packed the van too quickly and with so much stuff it’s lost in there. We don’t want to waste anymore time so we use our hands. Crude but it works just as well. Matthews driving skills prove a tad sketchy but he safely roles the car to a stop for a one take wonder with the rickety red car. Lucy’s husband Andy arrives back from his work and not long does Lucy a nice reminder the day is nearly over with filming. When your on set and wrapped up with scenes and acting and shooting it’s so easy to let time escape you. Luckily my crew are on form and we are bang on schedule. Iv’e hardly thrown many notes or many changes to the cast as they seem to be nailing the characters really well. I throw in the odd idea but on a whole despite being very busy it’s been an easy first day shoot. We take a few still shots for continuity with the car and cast and pack up the van. The van is a complete mess we need a system to make sure we don’t lose things so easily.

We jump in the cars and Dad takes the cast in the cab and we head to our accommodation down in Horsham.We are all sharing 3 large luxury log cabins, all the girls in one and the boys splitting the other two. Theres a lot of unpacking to do (including finding the clapper) and making sure everyone has everything they need.

It’s too late to do any cooking so it’s pizza’s all round and a few quick beers before we re-group. Everyone seems happy with the accommodation so Sam my Producer, Dan Portia, Thabo and me begin to data wrangle and discuss the next day. Only moments last of us all being chuffed with how well the first day went when Sam breaks some bad news We lost a main location which we were due to shoot first thing tomorrow morning……..

SHIT!!!!! Now we have problems.


YHAD - Marks 1 year since shooting

As a whole year very nearly passes since filming YHAD I thought I would blog a recap of where I am now and where I was back then.

I would like to project you back in time to………

September Wednesday 15th 2010 - Luke 30th Birthday !

After spending the past 9 months with pre production it’s only now 5 days to the shoot of ‘Young, High and Dead’! Panic begins to set in a bit as there is still a huge amount top do despite it being my birthday. Yesterday I was supposed to hop on a plane to sunny Ibiza for one of best mates stag do’s everything was paid for including a huge luxury villa for myself and all my mates, I am gutted I’m not there. I had to abandon my flight and holiday because of all the things that need doing for Mondays shoot. I had planned to have everything sorted so I could go away for his stag do and come back rested and ready to jump into the shoot, also it would have been amazing to have had my 30th birthday in Ibiza! Ive never been and now im pretty depressed, the weight of a ten day shoot hangs over me like a huge shitty black cloud, will we shoot all 90 pages in ten days? What if things go wrong? I still haven’t got all the costumes or props. What if one of my cast backs out? All these crazy thoughts whizz round my head as I sit in an empty Burger King at lunch in Sutton. Sat all on my own even more angry at myself for being so stupid that a ‘Murder King’ might cheer me up! I think one more time about how much fun all my mates are having at the same precise moment whilst I’m stuck in Slutton. I throw the rest of the food away and head to next doors pound shop to do more film shopping. Don’t underestimate the great things you can get in these shops when faced with such a small budget. I exit the shop with bags of stuff for the film and head home. Every moment that day I reassured myself that it was the right thing to do by not going to Ibiza. If I had gone there is no way on earth things would be ready for the shoot. I get home and chase up the late delivery of my shackles and chains that are being custom made by a bondage company in Newcastle. Good news they left despatch today! Phew a film about people being chained to trees without chains and shackles would be impossible to convince without these vital props. I head to the shed to make some more props for the film and begin to make fake axes.

Most days on the run up to the shoot seem to blur into one another, all the jobs slowly get ticked off the ever growing schedule and by Friday Ibiza is as far away in my mind as it is in centimetres. I feel bad for the soon to be groom. I feel like I have let him down but I know he understands how important this film is to me. After the 10 day shoot I have one day off then go straight to his wedding! Hopefully I can attend his wedding a happy film maker and not a broken man! I force myself to not think about things so much and just concentrate on making sure I have everything I need for the shoot.

Shooting a low budget film is like moving house when you own nothing. You have to hire a huge van and then fill it with every possible item you can think of and afford. We were self catering on the shoot so we needed washing up liquid, tea towels, a cheese grater, tuppaware, foil, the list is endless not to mention you need to obviously load all your film equipment, costumes, props, tools etc etc. I took everything. from spray cans, to shovels, to saw, an angle grinder, axes, medical kit, fire extinguisher, pegs, bin liners, chairs, gazeebo’s, umbrellas, wellies, ground sheets. I could go on forever. We had a large van and I intended to fill it! Classic hoarding for a mobile film maker.

The Sunday night before the shoot, I went through the check list one last time. It took hours but I feel confident I have everything I could possibly need. Whether we would be able to use it all to make a film was to soon be discovered………

Jumping a whole 364 days forwards………

September Wednesday 14th 2011 - Day before Luke’s 31st Birthday !

Virtually a whole year on so what’s different? Most importantly I won’t be in Sutton’s Burger King tomorrow having lunch on my own! My amazing girlfriend is taking me to lunch in a fancy restuarant up town.

Instead of a van full of shit I now am the proud owner of a garage full of shit. I daren’t get rid of anything just incase we have to pick up a shot, once a hoarder always a hoarder.I still have everything from the shoot minus all the alcohol that we drank during the shoot. That was a key essential ingredient to us surviving the ten days. It’s pretty amazing what people are willing to put themselves through if there are a few drinks at the end of a days filming.

Knowledge has changed. I am a year wiser but ultimately my knowledge of film making has grown in so many ways I never knew possible. Before the shoot I had plenty of ‘on set’ experience but ‘Young, High and Dead’ was a master class, a PHD in film making. There wasn’t much that didn’t get thrown at us in the way of obsticles but we managed to problem solve our way through everything, technical and logistical. To the untrained eye it we must have looked like kids running around with a camera and axes. The untrained eye is not wrong on this occassion. Boy did we do some running!

When doing a project of this scale ‘a feature near on 90 minutes’ unlike short films or commercials you very quickly realise that the word ‘quickly’ will not be of any use to you whatsoever. Especially when it comes to Post Production. It’s a pain stakingly slow process, imagine trying to paint a large room with a cocktail stick.

But a year on and the film is done! It’s cut, graded with a 5.1 surround mix on all the dialogue and effects. The only two elements missing are the music (being worked on right now by Blue Daisy) and the title sequence (being animated by my brother Jonathan right now).

As well as the physical making of the film, we have come a long way with the promotional side of things hopefully leading to them all important sales. Slowly we have been gaining interest in our film, it’s now up on IMDB with various articles in online horror sites. Our website will continue to grow and change and we are gearing up for a full scale attack of how we might actually get people to watch the damn thing.

After this weekend we will begin to orgainse a screening for our wonderful cast and another screening for friends, family, cast and crew and any potential people who can help bring YHAD to the masses. Autumn is always a great month for celebrating, most people are experiencing some form of ’ a sunshiine come down’ so I think a huge knees up celebrating the film is needed too. This important night has also been a year in the making.

The most important things to reflect are that making a film is probably the hardest thing I have ever done, both physically and mentally. I don’t expect anyone to understand the amount of hours put into YHAD but for the past few years now I have had 2 full time jobs. YHAD has led to me missing out on lot’s of social events and for any budding film makers about to do a similar project you should perpare yourself for a few years of solitary confinement within your film. YHAD has eaten lot’s of financial holes in my tattered bank account but hopefully It will pay off. I never risked my mortgage or anything silly but I have had to be extremely frugle with pennies and I do believe I haven’t been clothes shopping once this past 12 months, or bought a cd or dvd or anything deemed a luxury for me. Any spare money after bills have gone into the film. Pretty much the same financial struggle I was in a year ago as a would be low budget film maker.

Now I intend to wrap the project, sell YHAD and go back to leading a normal life but If the film works out where people like it and we get paid well enough, I guess I might be doing all this over again pretty soon! I better start clearing out my garage. :)


Sep 8

YHAD Colour grading blog 001

What ya doing?

Not much online activity from me of late due to my eyes suffering some form of screen stress. No I have not been looking at Internet porn (I’m not that lucky). Every spare second this week has been spent plowing throught the final grade of ‘Young,High and Dead’. I am doing the last 8 minutes of the film now and will be finishing it this weekend.

Not many people know but:

Not very Interesting Luke fact #1 I have a scar on my left retina, which basically renders everything in one eye extremely distorted and with colour damage. When I look at things with my right eye shut, the world becomes twisted with what only can be described as a distorted black hole type effect everywhere I look. It’s pretty trippy but not good for someone who spends most of their life looking at screens and video monitors like i do.

For me Grading/Colour correction is a big challenge because.

A)  I don’t have access to a fancy grading suite or a bucket full of gold coins.

B)  I probably lose all judgement of colour quicker than people with 20/20 vision

C)  in the world of Indie film making you simply do not have much time. Unlike the lucky folk who get paid to do a job like this. I have to juggle a full time job and try and make a film.

D)  a feature film that’s 90 minutes long has a shit load of shots to fix and make good.

Sigh, enough of the whinging you one eyed freak what the fuck have you been doing?!

Lots and lot’s, let me see if I can keep this informative and not too geeky?

So we shot YHAD with no Lighting, two camera’s and a bag full of optimism. Was it enough? Hopefully yes. We relied on our lighting from a more natural source called the sun, it’s way brighter than any man made lamps but a downside is that you can’t control it’s position.So in post production we aimed to get the ‘look’ that we were after in the grade rather than waste time on set. That way we shot super fast and virtually non stop over a shorter period of time. Grading & Colour correction is where we hopefully make the film look not only consistant but with some edge of style that unaware to the audience creates a mood and tone to the drama on screen.

So what is colour correction and grading?

They are two different things, colour correction is there to simply match different shots to look like they are continuous within the edit. On a film shoot you rarely can shoot in sequence with the script and you  find that you have to shoot the same parts of a scene on different days.

Grading is where you begin to give the shots a desired ‘look’ this can range froma  haunting cold blue feel to a warm rich orange tinge. When you think of the millions of shades of colours (Hue) there are and the different levels of exposure the possibilities of different looks quickly can be in the millions. Most of them will look shit but many will give a different feel and vibe to what you are watching particulary at an unconscious level.

So you want to do both. in order to make your film look as good as possible. No matter how amazing the raw material may look it will always be exactly that ‘RAW’ so you need to dress it up with lot’s of different looks no different to how you keep your wardrobe and dress yourself, fashionista’s will agree what colours you wear can affect your mood the same goes for film.

I think grading can be quite a scary place if you know fuck all about it and more importantly it can take forever and sometimes lead you down a path that gets you lost.

Hopefully this blog will be of some help to those about to dabble in this addictive rainbow of joy.

I will be using FCP X to give the basics but most software will do the basics at the very least. And all principles remain the same.

Waveforms and Blippy looking monitors:

First thing about colour correction & grading is that you need to know these are your best friends, ignore them at your peril because just like best friends they have the power to make you an outcast from your film!

So on the right hand side you can see the frame of a clip in your timeline (not from YHAD BTW - a straight google lift - it’s a dog sniffing at the camera wearing a red collar). On the left hand side you can see a waveform monitor look carefully at it for a sec.

So you can see numbers going up and down the left in stages (or was you looking at all the funny patterns? The numbers are what counts and this is why?

Regardless whether you are doing something for youtube, TV, Iphone etc. the numbers remain and they represent a huge amount.

All imagery is made up of levels of darkness and brighness and various Hues/shades of colour. On the left the numbers represent what level that is. For example the -20 value is discarded Black information everything that is below the number 0 gets lost this value represent everything dark in the picture (Blacks ETC) zero is where true black lies and at 100 further up is where true white lies everything inbetween is exactly that in between.

So if your levels peak above or drop below you are losing information. When the white levels peak above 100 they ‘burn out’ and below the blacks get ‘crushed’ (this aint a race thing it’s just grade talk). For safety you should aim to get your blacks in line with 0 and your white peaks in line with 100.

Technical note for various different systems the no’s will diff - this example is going by a PAL 0-100 IRE monitor, for info on PAL & NTSC ask and I might do a blog on the reasons why TV looks a funny colour in the USA and why your DVD from Amazon in the US wont work in a UK dvd player that is not region free.

So look at the pic and you can see that the whites peak above 100 and the blacks are way above 0/zero mark and it can be seen in the image where the middle of the waveform peaks is a spike that has a blue tinge to it look at the picture and you will see this object next to the blue door, it’s bright and quite harsh on the eyes because it has ‘burned out’. By bringing the exposure down you will correct this and make it look more natural. You can also see the dogs red collar down and to the left the way to imagine a waveform monitor is to imagine the picture like one of these below (younguns might not know what these are).

If you were to lay the dog image flat you would see the brighter parts of the picture raised and the darker parts flat now because of all the tonalities in the picture you get a more varied range going on similar to the pinpoint gadgets. And in a waveform monitor we have colour. Make sense?

If you lowered the exposure heavily you would begin to get a very dark and greyish image you can test this on your tv with the remote, push up the exposure/brightness and eventually the picture will burn out to a pure white.

Going back to filming. If one day is a tad darker than the previous or your lighting was slightly darker. You would want to match them so you would change the exposure. Light affects how we see colour less light the darker the Hue/colour. So once the exposure is balanced you would want the colour levels to be equal, if the second shot of the dog was darker and his collar lees red the red marks in the waveform would be lower and maybe even a slightly different Hue.

SO as boring as waveforms may appear at first they actually can be extremely informative (unlike this blog HA)

Most decent graders will start off purely looking at the waveform and making sure all the ‘Blacks are ‘Black and the ‘Whites are White’ the monitor is far more accurate than your eye. Especially a wonky one like mine. This is just the first stage of the process and if you can imagine in the 90 minute film I have over 1,000 clips in the edit this takes quite a while.

I have realised that this blog could go on forever, so that is probably enough boring info on grading for one day. If people want to know more and believe me this is just the beginning I will happily post more info about this matter, I might even use some stills from the my computer with graded clips of the film? Hit me up on the following for more info.

Hopefully you will have enough money to get someone else to do all this for you.


Film making nightmares - 30/08/2011

I thought I would do a blog that gives people an insight into a subconscious part of film making.

From the moment I decided to pen ‘Young, High and Dead’ I embarked on a journey that would challenge me unlike any other experience in life so far. Throughout life you have ups & downs, many of these moments come out of the blue and shock you to your core sometimes you don’t know how you will move on but you do. Film making is not life or death, but it can certainly test your sanity.

The writing process of YHAD gave me countless sleepless nights and some messed up dreams plus many, many nightmares, when you force your brain to think about something every waking minute of the day for 18 months it’s no surprise your thoughts begin to seep into your dreams, great if your film is a love story with Jessica Alba! Not so great if your film involves a Pedophile kidnapper, a brutal rape scene and people running through a pitch black forest at night being chased with an axe. One of the worst dreams was when I uncovered a sack full of childrens limbs in a forest, when I looked around there were child corpses hanging from hundreds of trees all around me and as I began to walk away a weird looking old woman with no eyes followed me wherever I went. Needless to say this didn’t end up in the film!

I was quite relieved when I stopped writing the weird dreams stopped too. But then came the actual shooting of the film. I didn’t really get any nightmares as such, but I would often dream about things going right or things going wrong. I genuinely now believe that film making at such a low fi level can be damaging, If YHAD was made on a huge budget with hundreds of people to help I guess my brain would have had more time to switch off. But throughout the whole process it’s been impossible to escape the constant stream of thoughts that surround the film.

After the shoot all form of nightmares take place. The bank balance nightmare that is your online statement, the failure of a hard drive nightmare, the will we ever finisg this nightmare, the nightmare of trying to get people to know about the film. The list is endless.

For every good piece of news you tend to get a setback, otherwise this part of the process would be plain sailing. Completing a film with no money has been the most challenging part, writing was easy and so was shooting. Finishing a feature film is a marathon not a sprint and it’s certainly an endurance test. A test on your sanity to stay with it and to keep the positivity that you started with when you started writing the piece.

The pressure is what gives me nightmares now, although my dreams are no longer filled with twisted images, these nightmares can be even more scary. Waking up at 4am with the throbbing thought that you have made a huge mistake and that the whole thing is a disaster. These thoughts can either do destroy you or make you work harder to better the film. At present I run with the latter. At this crucial stage near the end of the film making process you become extremely tired and worse you find it impossible to be objective about anything! One day a look at the film and love every second of it, the next day I see all the little niggly bits, then the next day I love it again and so on. Your head spins at night, “is this a cult classic?” or “is this a mess?” you don’t know the answer, all you know is that too much time and effort has been invested to give up and that’s what keeps you going.

Although I have had many doubts about what the hell I am doing, positive thinking and hard graft should see me through to the end and hopefully with all my marbles and and nightmares locked away securely in a bag………………… until the next film.


The Art of Grading

Just a teaser still of a before and after of the latest grade for YHAD. So far 20 mins of the film has a had a more intensive grade (i,e below) 70 mins to go but it’s really starting to take on it’s own style and look now.

As always let me know if you like or dislike. I welcome all feedback good and bad. Don’t forget to hit us on the following:




Final Cut Pro X - Review/thoughts - don’t be a hater


Ok thought I would do a quickish blog about Apples latest addition to the final cut family.

All over the internet are harsh reviews and some less impressive tutorials with lot’s of editors slamming Apple & the software. I have been using FCP X for a few weeks now and just wanted to highlight how FCP X is working for our film ‘Young, High and Dead’

We cut YHAD in Final Cut Pro 7, which worked really well for the edit. Normally if you have bucket loads of cash (which we don’t) you then export the EDL (edit decision list) and create an online master, which is then used create the Sound and Grade.

At this point final cut pro 7 could only take us so far, it’s ability to do colour correction & grading is pretty clunky and you have no ability to easily create a 5.1 surround mix and monitor the mix on a home system.

Now lot’s of professionals will scream out that home systems are not calibrated etc blah blah blah. I know this I used to work in a VT department in Post Production so my knowledge of legal levels etc in both audio and visual is probably more advanced than most guerilla film makers.

SO just as we tightened up our picture edit Apple release FCP X, everyone bitches about it and complains. But this actually could not have worked out better for us. We already had our edit so I just exported the film as separate chapters for each of the following:

Video Track

Audio Dialogue track

Audio Effects track

Guide Music track

I needed extra drive space but the outcome so far has been totally worth it. I then imported everything into FCP X using it’s transcode method - (more details about this below) and very quickly compiled the whole film together in the timeline. So despite not being able to import the original EDL I have my picture locked edit in FCP X.

One of my favourite features with FCP X is it’s surround sound panning box, It’s extremely easy to use and allows me to quickly create keyframes and pan the audio which ever way I want. Even more important is that somehow Apple have fixed it so you no longer need any additional hardware to monitor 5.1 in real time. I just hooked up my laptop to an optical cable and plugged it into my home cinema system. OK just to note I am lucky enough to have a decent amp with a great KEF surround system at home, allowing me to mix everything at home instead of an extremely expensive sound studio. FCP X can be a little buggy at times and has crashed a few times on me, however Apple have made FCP X so it auto saves with every click, no need to remember to do this or wait for the program whilst it saves everything is done as part of the ‘Background Process’ another key feature.

Of course like all software the system is only as good as the operator and I don’t pretend to be an expert in sound - but for Independent film makers like myself struggling to finish their film for little or zero budget this is by far the fastest and most cost effective way to do it.

In FCP X the colour correction tools are basic but actually allow you more control than any other FCP program that I have used. I used to grade on Avid Media Composer and by comparison previous Versions of FCP have been shit! Of course you have apple Colour but in my opinion FCP X can give you a great style and look quickly and cheaper. If we manage to get any money for YHAD I will probably get someone to do a full grade on something like ‘Davinci’ but right now I FCP X is doing a fair job so far.

By transcoding the raw Pro Res footage FCP X works a lot faster and considering this is Apples new version of ‘Offline’ media the quality is actually really good.

I don’t know how I feel about using FCP X to edit an entire film in, but I think so many short sighted editors have been too quick to dismiss this software. I think many fear that Apple are giving a huge amount of control to ‘Non Professionals’ I think Apple are highlighting that good story telling and cutting doesn’t need to be complicated and that we should all be open to changes to Post Production. Many ‘Offline Editors’ I have worked with over the years have very little or no knowledge about ‘Online Editing, Sound Mixing & Grading. The same goes for Online Editors not knowing about Offline etc.

For me all that matters is the result not what software you used to do it, I have heard shit sound mixes coming out of Pro tools because the editor rushed the job. The same goes for Grading in some well known London Post facilities.

FCP X has giving me the control I needed over my film and solved lot’s of headaches and money that I don’y have.

There are lot’s of decent tutorials on Youtube however it’s such an easy program you will grasp it pretty quickly like I did. I am about to have a play with Motion 5 after the grade on YHAD and see how it fairs, I will also keep you updated with how I get on with Apples newest version of Compressor.