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.


Fledglings – NYFA

Fledglings Teaser Poster


This year I was asked to take part in National Youth Film Academy’s Introductory Course as a director. I didn’t know much about the course upon accepting my place, only that they seemed to have a good track record of getting exciting industry speakers in for workshops, which at the very least would teach me a thing or two.

I could never have expected the journey ahead of me at the time. What followed were two weeks of intense filmmaking, with a super-talented team, under the guidance of Oscar Nominee and NFTS’s resident Scriptwriting Teacher Rafael Kapelinski.

We were split into four groups, each with a director, one or two writers, crew, eight actors and a group leader. One of the biggest challenges i shared in with the writers was scripting a 15-minute short film with 8 characters; even more so when considering the capabilities of all the actors, which would have been murderous to have underused.

Rafael pushed myself and writers Zoe Hunter Gordon and Emily Rose Nabney further and further to the point where we were still working on the screenplay through the weekend after the first week when all other groups had started filming. We knew that there was not worth shooting, if we had nothing worth shooting. After starting production on the monday we still knew that the project needed work and even changed the screenplay mid-way through the shoot before sailing through the rest of the film with lightning speed as D.O.P Richard Scott quickly worked to discover the set way to use natural light for the visual benefit of each scene.

What was nice as a director was working with the actors front he first day of scriptwriting through to the end of production, building their characters with them from the ground up so the world was shaped around them rather than desperately attempting to give quick in-cognitive instructions for characters they didn’t understand. The work we did with the actors allowed us to shoot the film in an authentic and genuine way which really emphasises the fun and games as well as the darker undertones of the piece.

I will be able to share more on the project soon, as he film is the property of the NYFA and they are responsible for festival submission an distribution, but for the time being here is a teaser poster.

Audition – The Taller Picture (16:9)

Audition - still 24

Audition, why 16:9 widescreen and not 2.35:1 anamorphic?

We shot the film with the view that it was likely to be cropped down to 2.35:1. The Nikon d800, like all other DSLR shoots at 16:9, 1080p. A lot of films, shorts included, are cropped to 2.35:1 (anamorphic). This gives it the distinct cinematic feeling, so why, when most of my earlier films are anamorphic, stick to widescreen?

For those that don’t know the difference, an anamorphic aspect ratio or crop is responsible for the black bars at the top and bottom of videos (such as movie trailers) on websites such as YouTube. This is because YouTube by default features a 16:9 video player.

16by9 2point35by1 comparison16.9 and 2.35:1 comparison. AUDITION vs THE OFFER ON THE TABLE

We framed a lot of the shots for anamorphic, but during the edit I fell in love with the taller picture. It gave a sense of an uncompromising view of the horror, like their was nothing being hidden. A lot of the rooms we shot in were square so to show from head to toe we’d have had to have stepped even further from the action.

There’s one particular shot where Beaufort stands with all these dead bodies in front of him, the initial idea was to focus on his blade wielding hand and the bodies, but there was something more disturbing about the full picture. The 16:9, tv aspect ratio called back to memory older Hitchcock movies and TV movies which use more practical special effects than visual effects, which is exactly what we did with the film.

In addition the main audition sequence is constructed through the use of two close-ups, cross cut, which strips away the environment and focuses on the action. These were purposely framed really tightly so you find yourself, as an audience member, being stuck in the middle of this dark engagement, scared for Cherry the auditionee and seduced by Beaufort the villain. Cropping would have taken away some of the upper forehead detail or lower mouth movement and this reduced the view of exactly what we were focusing on.

In the end the framing and presentation worked better in standard widescreen, and knowing that the film would be released online there was no point in using an anamorphic crop as a shortcut to a cinematic look. The lighting, the performances and the drama should create the performance on their own accord and that’s what we hope to have achieved.

I will be returning to the anamorphic aspect ratio for my next film ‘Glove Compartment‘.

Using Adobe Tools on Husky

I used Adobe Premiere to cut Husky for two key reasons:

  • I was doing all my own visual effects, and knew that dynamic link would speed up my production workflow dramatically.
  • FCPX had a few too many glitches and no xml + FCP7 was starting to feel dated in comparison with the mercury playback engine in Premiere.

One of the biggest problems I’ve always had with premiere is that it has always felt slightly clunky: it was like a big powerful lorry but not nimble enough to enjoy the editing process. However CS5 seemed to me to be a lot more fluid, a lot more powerful and ran beautifully.

After each day of filming the clips were renamed using ‘A Better Finder Rename’ and then imported into Premiere. after most of the edit was done i would send clips to After Effects, work on the visual effects, and then they were there waiting for me in Premiere without having to render or export. This to me was the most powerful and used function in my entire editing process. particularly towards the end of the project, as i used AE for colour grading and conforming, so the ability to take advantage of AE’s compositing tools efficiently was great! In fact, it was a bit like using one program; similar to Autodesk smoke, in which you can create compositions in your timeline. However i’d say that Adobe has some significant advantages over Smoke: being able to create new AE projects for different scenes or even singular visual effects, allowed me to send the AE file to my brother who also worked on some of the VFX, without having to send him any timeline stuff or any other AE compositions.

Understandably, after grading the entire film, premiere got bogged down. The finished project takes a good few minutes to load up. this isn’t exactly a problem, but it does force you to make sure you work proceedurly: e.g. edit, vfx, grade… it makes it extremely hard to go back and make small adjustments to the edits.

I’d say dynamic link was the most powerful feature –  allowing to send a work on clips in AE, Photoshop and improve sound in Soundbooth…

For Husky Adobe Production Premium was definitely the best choice.

My last couple of projects i have used the new Final Cut Pro X:

Once your in the Apple way of thinking, its a breeze to edit with; super fast, slick and powerful. Now that it has XML, i can use the third party tool ‘Xto7’ to send my FCPX timeline into premiere and conform in After Effects. This is long winded, and removes the option of using FCPX’s grading features. But it is a valid workflow.

Alternatively, using After Effects to create the visual effects and then export them and import back into FCPX. This doesn’t give you the flexibility of the Adobe workflow, but it all depends on project-by-project basis, and whether one prefers the new FCPX editing system – which i do love, but if i have got a considerable amount of VFX shots then Premiere is the easy victor.

An example of a significant benefit: In previous projects in premiere, I’ve been editing a film with minimal VFX, but then i spot a thing i don’t like. So, i send it to AE and paint that thing out! REALLY QUICKLY! In my old FCP7 workflow, it was like ‘that’s a shame, i’ll have to conform in Adobe then, which adds another extension onto the workflow.

So? Well, i personally love having the choice of editing system on each project. I fear one day in a the near future Apple may throw a curveball with ‘FCPX is now exclusive to the iPad’, so  for me i am always going to be getting Adobe tools, as they are rock solid and have a promising future ahead. FCPX also appears to have a promising future ahead. I like this new way of editing. Its logical. Adobe is like the ‘faster horse’ editing system; power, beauty and solid muscle power. FCPX is like a cheetah: nimble, quick, a new way of doing things, nice to look at, blazingly fast etc. TBH. I think they are both great systems, and as said before, having both at ones disposal definitely helps. Throwing a quick edit together is faster in FCPX; collaboration and VFX integration is superior in Adobe.

My only other point, as that given the consumerisation of Windows and Mac OS X, i would not be tremendously surprised if editing became a ‘linux thing’, in that, both windows and mac have recently been flooded with great new features that tremendously boost the user experience, but at performance costs due to resource hungry fancy-stuff. Is it possible that Ubunto or another strand of Linux reinvents that standard GUI of Desktops, focused on the pro market that seems to have slipped from the focus of Computer companies? Or does the future lay in the tablets? Personally, i think editing on tablets will become more and more popular, but for 3d  and VFX work, i think desktops have the upper hand for the time being, given that so many are driven by keyboard shortcuts (and right clicking)

Anyway, ramble over.

New films in production.

Dan Allen