Forgotten – Theatre Trailer

This month I had the pleasure of being reunited with Cordelia Spence, whom I have worked with before on several theatre trailers for her previous plays ‘The Poisoners’ Pact‘ and ‘The Blacksmith Who Chased The Moon‘. Additionally I got to work again with Thomas Wingfield who stars in my short film ‘Love Bitten‘, as well as Kiara Hawker from the former trailer.

As with my other theatre trailers, I always try to find the film adaptation within each play. With a play as original as this, written by Ray Rumsby, it was exciting and daunting to try and put such prestigious and under-appreciated historic figures on screen. With the brief screen time I get to build, I tried to articulate the emotional intensity of these people’s lives, but focusing on the recognisable: love, hatred, disapproval and defiance.

Love Bitten – Introduction

‘Love Bitten’ started out as an impulsive script off the back of an actual break-up. In a way the making of this movie has been my own vampiric journey, much like Alex’s in the film. Then, as interest in the script grew, things started to move forward. There were several moments throughout pre-production that I thought to myself “I can’t believe I’m actually making this movie”. It’s insanely bizarre. The film starts where every other break-up-movie ends, so there’s an access point to the weird and wonderful which never alienates the audience’s relationship with the protagonist.

Fast forward to the shoot. It’s my birthday. Our lead actor has a sock on his c**k. There’s no other way I’d rather spend the day. Despite the police arriving during one-pivotal-white-van-scene, the shoot was incredibly successful as we worked through 47 slates in the first two days of filming. And the film looked gorgeous.

The film is embellished with cutaways of ‘Nosferatu’, but it never feels like a homage. ‘Love Bitten’ is most certainly its own beast, or rather, demon. It’s referential, but only in a way that shows the inspired mind of Alex.

There’s an innately dark and emotional undertone throughout ‘Love Bitten’. I think this might be the primary link between this film and my previous works.  That, or this is definitely my quarter-life-crises movie.

2015 -> 2016

As I look forward to 2016 and back at 2015, I can’t help but feel I am in the most indeterminable phase of my life: I’ve just left university (UEA), I moved back home; I moved to London; I am getting projects off the ground but around a different lifestyle. In a mode of new years resolution, what I want to do is consider three different aspects of me and my life and try to refocus them.

Larger and smaller projects.
I want to focus on a different large project each month and actually further it, rather than having several features I am working on at any given time. I want to set deadlines for my films, and stop the productions fizzling into a meagre finale of ‘I guess that’s about wrapped up then’. Additionally, smaller short form projects deserve the attention of features from production through to delivery. I have neglected the delivery of my last few shorts and want to ensure they are respected.

Hustle and bustle.
Each year I pledge to meet new people and make new connections as some kind of arbitrary progression to my career. This year I want to get my work in front of as many people as possible, that’s a given, but I want to make new filmmaking friends. I want to meet more people from all aspects of production.

Self.
I want to focus on me. You may be thinking that for an egotistical person this isn’t much of a resolution, but what I realised at some point last year is that outside of filmmaking my leisurely endeavours weren’t particularly interesting. This year I want to find myself outside of what I love to do. At least by the end of this year I’ll know if theres much to me outside of telling stories about other people.

I think the fact that this blog post is coming at the end of January is evidence of its necessity, as I focus and re-hone my ambitions for this year and set out on my quest. I’ve got some really exciting stories to tell, including some of the most personal I have ever put to paper.

Here are some additional creation goals / milestones I want to set myself:

– Write 5 short films.
– Direct 2 short films
– Direct 3 music videos
– Write 2 feature films
– Write at least one more television episode.

Looking towards a brighter new year.

Dan Allen

Tibetan Night Terrors – To Be Trusted

Over the past few months I have been working on my most ambitious piece of narrative storytelling yet. ‘To Be Trusted’ is a music video for Norfolk-based calypso/disco band Tibetan Night Terrors.

The music video tells the story of Jessica and Carly (Elizabeth Hope and Gemma Barnett): Two girls who are young and in love but separated by their ambitions. Jessica has dreams of space travel whilst Carly’s dreams are for a family. A letter arriving in the post spells good news for Jessica but bad news for their relationship…

To me this is a very contemporary central delema: the choice between a relationship and a career. Is it possible to have both? Evidently in this instance the story takes long-distance to a whole new level. But what I tried to explore was how it’s never black and white, as Jessica can’t entirely leave behind Carly. I don’t think this kind of decision can ever not be regretful.

The video is set in the late 1970’s. Jessica and Carly  are fans of the band Tibetan Night Terrors. They listen to them on TV and on the radio; but in the nether-space of the music video, the band bleed into their reality. It sounds like the science fiction of ‘Doctor Who’, but is rather inspired by the live acoustic narration found in ‘There’s Something About Mary’, and it is aesthetically bridged by Zoë Seiffert’s production design.

The ambition was to create a dialogue between the music (Tibetan Night Terrors) and the audience (Jessica and Carly). It says something about how integral the work of musicians and artists is to their listeners, even when being played over Spotify or YouTube these days. In the music video, as the girls grow and evolve emotionally, so does the performance of the band. The story becomes both a ballad for Jessica and Carly as well as for the girls and Tibetan Night Terrors.

In today’s landscape of sexualised and objectified sexuality in music videos, I wanted to tell a story about gay women wherein their sexuality wasn’t important. It is about the relationship and the emotion. Additionally, avoiding anything that felt like it was designed for the male-gaze was important to me as a feminist. The story needs to be clear, not sexy.

Stylistically this feels afar from most of my storytelling ventures to date. However, there is a thematic sense of loss and change which is very much in sync with my previous films. The visuals, whilst largely different, has comparable flat and symmetrical framing to ‘Glove Compartment’ in certain shots. I worked with the same Director of Photography, Tom Allen (my brother) to build upon our previous work and create something unique. My love for handheld camera work had a far more angelic and serene result filming in slow motion. We shot at a variety of frame rates, from 25fps up to 300fps, enabled by the RED Epic and lighting equipment generously provided by Quinpix Digital.

Rory Lowe created some of the most ambitious visual effects shots we have ever undertaken, in a production which Charlie Field oversaw as producer, with a shoestring budget of only £500. Although this was only possible entirely because such a great team gave up their time and their talent for free.

I have released a behind the scenes video which  features some pictures from the shoot and I go into some more detail about the production. Whilst I have mentioned just some of the amazing team involved in the project, I have credited everyone on the official production pageHERE. Without everyone we could not have pulled it off.

Dan Allen

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Writing a feature

In September I completed the first draft for my feature film, currently titled ‘An Odyssey’. This is actually my third feature film I have written, although I sincerely hope my first two do not see the light of day…

Whilst the first draft is always a mess, there is a cohesion to its emotional centre. I’m really excited to see where my science fiction thriller goes from here and over the course of the next few re-writes.

In the mean time all I can tell you is that it is something to do with aliens.

Thoughts on FCPX

Ever since Apple’s introduction of Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) in 2011, it has been divisive amongst the editing community. The magnetic timeline was such a radical departure from preceding non-linear editing (NLE) platforms that editors could literally be seen running naked down LA streets, tearing out their hair screaming ‘I wanted a faster horse’. This is of course in reference to Walter Murch’s comments about editing platforms from his fantastic book ‘In the Blink of an Eye’: Before the invention of the car, if you asked someone what they wanted for better transport, the’d tell you ‘a faster horse’. The point is change is always divisive, inevitable and necessary. But the central question is does it even matter?

Prior to FCPX, Final Cut Pro Studio was, for some, a saviour from the monopoly of Avid over the professional editing world. However, Avid isn’t going anywhere. For the same reason RED cinema cameras will be second to Arri’s (indefinitely): The film business is about relationships. Arri and Avid have been in the industry a long time. Sure, Final Cut Studio made for a financially obvious decision for indie-filmmakers, but the elite of hollywood filmmakers need the support and assistance of those behind the tools. Avid are ready to support any technical issues that the most renowned editors on the planet may come across. I’m confident that Avid would like the sales numbers which FCPX and Adobe boast for their software but they are feeding a different market. Adobe claimed that their sales jumped following the release of FCPX. I’ll bet they did. Obviously FCPX wasn’t what everyone hoped it might be. It wasn’t a faster horse. And horse customers were waiting with their wallets open, so when race day came they left with somebody else’s faster horse. The irony is ever since FCPX’s release, Adobe have been converting their editing software, Premiere Pro; adding mechanical limbs and wheels to their horse so to match many of the great new features Apple unveiled. Adobe’s rhetoric seemed to conflict with their actions. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Premiere is fantastic – Avid’s doing its own thing (good for them) – but Premiere Pro is great because it knows that it appeals to a different market to Avid.

Final Cut on the other hand enjoys its former laurels and always paints itself as revolutionary high-end software, but it lacks the infrastructure and development of hardware that is familiar to Adobe, Avid and now, Blackmagic, a new contender in the NLE market.

Apple is in the fashion and consumer industry. I think this still scares editors. Rightly so, perhaps, given that at any moment Apple could pull the rug from under FCPX users and invest the resources into a new Apple Watch. But never forget that artistry and productivity are still key to Apple’s appeal which they generate for their products. Look at the marketing for the iPad along with countless other Apple products. In so many of Apple’s adverts and promotional videos, productivity and creativity are part of the central message. Many of Final Cut’s features empower creative individuals, akin to the way their hardware is marketed. FCPX has the basics (including amazingly cheesy transitions) one may need to complete an entire creative video project.

Final Cut is open. Say what you want about any features Final Cut Pro originally lacked, third parties have come onboard and turned FCPX into a powerhouse primed for the highest end solutions. In this way Final Cut Pro acts as a software platform comparable to Apple’s own hardware such as the iPad, Mac or iPhone. A centralised core experience which is opened up by the developing community to be whatever one may need it to be. In my head I’m hearing the old iPhone adverts ‘there’s an app for just about anything’… and now there’s a plugin for just about anything for FCPX too!

Apple doesn’t appear to be investing in the infrastructure (such as standby tech support and online platforms) in the way Adobe and Avid are: The community is. When I had questions or queries about a plug-in for FCPX, I emailed the small-ish company behind the plug-in and within 24 hours I had their support. This may not be much use for any cataclysmic errors one may encounter with the editing software itself; but I’m yet to come across any that weren’t solvable in under ten minutes thanks to the community (and their forums). What we have here hence is a piece of software that is a platform rather than an end to end solution. By the time it is your solution, you may have spent more than double the original price of FCPX on plug-ins and add-ons but you’ll only bring the price up to matchor less than Avid or Adobe’s ‘solutions’. Oh you need more than one USB-C port? Sure thing, that’ll be extra. Very Apple. But for most people getting into video editing, they can start using amazing software affordably. With this community based infrastructure I think FCPX is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

In this light, accessibility is key to Apple’s productivity empowerment. For students, its very affordable. I’m not a fan of subscription models for students. Because you throw the students in a load of shit when their course finishes: Pay more now you’ve graduated, or lose access to EVERYTHING you have worked hard on during your studies. No thank you. That’s why I never upgraded from CS6. Avid do offer an accessible price for new filmmakers. But the learning curve may be too high and get in the way of a fluid creative experience which stood be focused on learning to tell stories. If you want to be an editor, learn Avid and as many platforms as you can, if you want to be a filmmaker, make films. This might seem contradictory, but I don’t think it is insensible to suggest that an editor who is ready to work regardless of the system in front of them is well prepared.

With all said and done, as the dust settles on the battle between the editing platforms, remember that solutions, regardless of manufacturer, are only temporary and relevant to the problem, the story, you are trying to solve. Never forget that you are here to tell stories. As a filmmaker, the choice of editing software should sit somewhere between which manufacturer of C-Stand and tripod to choose. It’s not an artistic decision like camera and lenses. The solution is relevant only to the production, not to the product.

 

Dan Allen.

 

If you are interested in learning FCPX, I have an array of free tutorials on my YouTube channel.