A Partner in Crime – A Short Sketch

This week I directed a short sketch. The film stars Nicky Murrary and Charlie Field, the latter of whom you may recognise from my short film ‘Data Protection’.

Charlie introduced me to the script and we put the scene together and shot it in an afternoon.

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Glove Compartment – Now Online

I am thrilled to finally be able to share Glove Compartment with the world. It sounds bizarre to say that I am sharing it with the world and sometimes I have to pinch myself when I am reading the viewing statistics on YouTube. For those that don’t know, YouTube provides detailed analytics for each video you upload. So I can see how many people and from what countries (as well as what gender) each individual viewer is. Before you get creeped out, I must inform you this is all anonymous data, but it does allow me to see specific regions and countries where my videos are popular. I’ve always said, I make movies to tell stories and stories have no life without an audience.

Every time somebody clicks play, they are allowing my story to be retold to them, on demand, anywhere in the world. Whilst I love cinema and consider it the ultimate viewing experience, the ability to tell stories directly in peoples homes or to their mobile phones and computers breaks down the congregational pull of cinema but offers a new kind of shared engagement. I have the time and space to engage and respond to viewers, discuss the film, its strengths and weaknesses, with everyone. The development of YouTube, a website I have been a part of since 2007 has allowed for a completely new kind of shared experience of stories. Geographical restrictions and cultural segregations play no part in the obstacle of finding and watching my work. With this, each viewer has their own experience of each of my films, bringing to it as a viewer something new and taking away from the film something different. This opens up the world for discussion that is rich in ideological and cultural differences. But for 13 minutes, what we see is the same.
Thank you for watching and thank you for engaging.
Dan Allen

Three Cheers for Three years

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Next month I will be graduating. Over the past three years I have been studying Literature at the University of East Anglia (UEA). For me, this has been a transformational period of my life, stirring me intellectually, creatively and emotionally.
Whilst I studied Literature, in my first two years I was allowed to choose one module from another school and I naturally chose film modules. My second year film module was ‘Film Adaptation’. I admired the seminar leader, Michael Lengsfield, and the module content. Having previously dabbled in adaptation, this was an exciting opportunity to expand my understanding of film structure and adaptation theory which has laid the foundations for some of my recent creative ventures.
One of these ventures is my adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus’. But I really can’t say anymore at this point in time because it is still very early days and it is still coming into its own fruition. I started working on the adaptation as my creative writing dissertation which I was allowed to do in place of a traditional literary dissertation due to my first class grade in the second year adaptation module. I worked under the supervision of the great Steven Waters to create something really special and I am so thankful to him and proud of myself. It is my most accomplished piece of writing yet it still feels like I have barely scratched the surface of this project.
In my first year I was introduced to Judith Butler. The first half of her text ‘Gender Trouble’ is filled with my scribbles of frustration and disregard as she beautifully deconstructs the status quo and lays the foundation for new wave feminism. The second half of the book is filled with ticks and ‘smiley faces’. By the end I wanted to read the book again. Its disgustingly wordy but wonderfully eye-opening.
Along with this profound reconsideration of gender norms and societal construction of gender, I was exposed to so many rich stories, texts and literary movements which have, as I look back over my bookshelf (which has doubled in size over the three years), had an immense impact on me and pushed me communicatively. By this I mean that despite the topics getting bigger (ending with the never-ending plethora of Virgillian research) I have finessed, but by no means perfected, myself as a communicator. The parallel between filmmaking and essay writing seemed to me to become tighter and tighter over the three years. There is a vastness to the world which requires an acute and directed vision in the world of cinema. One must be punctual, confident and purposeful with each and every stroke of cinematic form, ensuring that even ambiguity is artfully reflected and directive. I could babble for ages. The point is that I don’t.
The first day I arrived at university I met some of the people who I now consider amongst my closest and most loved friends. I hope that my occasional retreat into my room to work on a screenplay or develop a film idea was never considered a reflection of my affections for my friends. I remember thinking in first year that we must all be pretending to like each other, and secretly we couldn’t wait to leave halls. But then, after speaking with some other UEA friends, and learning of their less than enthusiastic inter-flat relations, I realised that what we had in Paston House, Flat 25, was genuine.
Whilst I still have friends at UEA who will be studying for their masters or are in their fourth year, it pains me every time I remind myself in my head that it is over. Even when I visit. I will never get a casual message asking “who is on campus” again, or “who wants to chill for a film night”, or “who wants to go to a house party”. I hope you see the trend of non-academic related activities. None of us studied the same subject. We all had very little in common. But boy did we fucking click.
I’m not going to name anyone because there were so many friends, film comrades, literature buddies and LCR party pals who made my university life. You literally made it. If you’re reading this and thinking “I knew Dan, but he’s probably not talking/thinking about me”,  you are exactly who I am talking and thinking about. You were part of my time at UEA and I wouldn’t change a second of it for the world. None of it. I made sacrifices and tough choices along the way. Some of love. Some of pain. But all of which made me who I am now. I have so many fond memories. I have a whirlpool of experiences that I can only hope to be able to give some of it back to you all in the form of film and storytelling, the way I can.
In the mean time, Thank YOU.
Dan.
PS. Stuff I made whilst at university:

New Showreel

I decided to have a bit of fun. I decided to juxtapose my darker-themed content with some more joyous music. I also wanted to do a similar thing as last time, showing extended sequences form my films to give viewers a chance to experience my scene compositions and the tones I have created in several of my films.

Looking back at 2014

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This post has taken me a bit longer to get around to writing than I had originally anticipated. Christmas has been a lot more relaxed this year than it has in the past. I have never really allowed myself time off, but this year I tried it. I certainly enjoyed it whilst in the middle of it but now I have come out the other side and I can’t say I feel cleansed so much as eager to get back to doing what it is I do.

In 2014 I shot three films and several trailers for theatre productions.

It’s not bad going. Lets compare this to the aims I set in my last blog post.

“• Produce and Direct two new unique short films

• Pollish the screenplay for my low-budget feature

• Attend more events and meet more people

• Make 2014 the year of Audition

• Be healthy and concise (Ambiguity intended)”

So I definitely over achieved in terms of number of films shot. That’s good news. Although Glove Compartment is actually just a few tweaks away from being done, it is my largest film yet in terms of scope and character focused narrative which was one of my focuses of the year.

I shot my second film as part of the 48 hour sci-fi competition. I’ve really enjoyed taking part each year as it kind of forces you to just get down and make a movie and the end result could be anything but it is always something. It’s too easy to lapse. It’s too easy to get hung up on what you’ve been working for so long or preoccupied with what is next. I hope to take part this year, and in addition I hope to address the areas I have lapsed in.

Glove Compartment should be finished. There. I said it. There is no good reason why it isn’t done other than other projects and studies. I am going to be much more rigorous with deadlines this year and set myself lots of small deadlines within those larger ones. If I can make a film in 48 hours, I can hit intermediate deadlines.

Similarly, whilst planning the larger picture, it’s really important that my array of ideas for the future translates into actual development on some of the ideas. My pet projects, my actual projects, they need the aid of deadlines too. Even if they are dream projects; lets get them on paper.

My third short film Fledglings was shot at the National Youth Film Academy which was one of the highlights of the year. When I was asked to attend as a director I was thrilled that my online presence had resulted in a new experience and interaction and, even more, a film. I met some amazingly talented actors and filmmakers that I hope to stay in touch with, so long as they understand I am not so good at replying on Facebook and texts all the time! Call me and I’ll pick up. My: “I’ll reply in a bit” never pans out.

My biggest shortcoming of the year was my YouTube channel. I neglected my subscribers this year. There’s no other way to look at it and I am very sorry. I could delve into what went wrong and what I would change but my foremost response is to simply attempt to do better from the off this year. That’s what I want to do.

My health that I considered last year has been okay. I certainly feel good but my conditioning is up and down. I was running one month and eating too much the next. Overall I think I maintain myself well so I can’t be too disappointed.

It hasn’t been the year of Audition. That said, Audition has enjoyed a healthy online viewing and is now up to around 15K views. I am thrilled. I have such a fantastic audience online and I want to treat and thank you all much better!

The feature film screenplays are being re-evaluated and are being waited on better ideas and perspectives. I am not overly concerned however, as I have a few really cool things lined up for the start of the year.

I’ll be finishing university this year and want to attend the National Film and Television School more than anything in the world. I just think the way my career has unfolded that it would be such a logical and powerful next step for me as both a person and a director. The average intake age is really high however, though I like to think that, for my age, my experience is considerable.

This year then. 2015. Wow.

  • Two new films
  • Meet even more people (Stomp my Feet)
  • YouTube
  • Be better at online communications
  • Read more

I hope you all can feel my irritation and eagerness bursting through this very blog post which stands in the way of me and working right now. So without any further ado: let’s get to it!!!

Happy New Year!

Dan xx

Photo by Tristan Syrett

The Home Front Line Theatre Trailers

Over the past few weeks I had the pleasure of directing for screen three teaser trailers for three individual stage shows as part of a collective works ‘The Home Front Line’ UEA Third Year Drama students’ final production. With a a few weeks of working with the marketing team and planning, I shot and edited three trailers within 7 days.

It was intense but so worth it. Below you can watch all three with some of my notes on each one and how the style developed from teaser to teaser.

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The idea was for each video to play out like a scene from the movie adaptation of each play. For me it was important to delay the music to establish this effect.

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Due to limitations the images became slightly more visually abstract but it we managed to get a sense of flow and intimacy by retaining the tight farming used in the first teaser.

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We played off the heavier involvement of war in the play featured in the third teaser by using it as a narrative frame to recall some of the images and events of the main play.

I think that as a collective these teasers paint the bigger picture but individually they also offer a tonal and thematic representation of their respective plays, and the stylistic choice of creating scene teasers over fully fledged trailers allowed us to move quicker and get all three made effectively and efficiently.

Love and Money Trailer

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Last week, I directed for screen, shot and edited a trailer for UEA Minotaur Theatre Company’s production of ‘Love and Money’.
‘Love and Money’, written by Dennis Kelly is a play I was unfamiliar with, but after spending some time with the director of the play, Martha Geelan, we discussed its aesthetics, its style, and worked on a way to translate that to screen.
I suggested an intercutting of contrasting images of lifestyle, the difference between love and money, as if they were different genres of film. Martha helped create the striking images which symbolised some of the key events from he piece.
We created something rather ambiguous in an effort to evoke intrigue and we hope that is its resulting effect.
Enjoy the video below, it might be on my main site soon!
Dan

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.

Glove Compartment – An Introduction

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Over the past few years I’ve been playing over this bizarre situation in my mind; two assassins who take a little girl for a milkshake.

Fast-forward to 2014 I I’ve just finished principle photography for my 16th Short Film since 2009, ‘Glove Compartment’.

‘Glove Compartment’ is an exciting new thriller which follows two assassins who decide the fate of their targets daughter, over a milkshake.

Long-term hitman Frankie takes untrained killer Jacob under his wing for his latest instruction, but Jacob’s psychotic tendencies lead him to taking the daughter of their targets captive. When Jacob insists on treating the young girl to a milkshake, the whole series of events threaten to unravel Frankie’s humility and psychology barriers, which hold the past at bay and have allowed him to become so successful at his profession.
Just before christmas I started to explore this central situation and question the kinds of characters that would organically evoke such a situation. Having recently read a lot into story structure and character evolution I wanted that to be a key part of my new film; I needed a sense of development for both character and plot.
I thus spent the christmas period writing and re-writing until I got it right.
I was lucky enough that the the script excited Jamie Weston, who Co-Produced my previous short ‘Audition’ and Charlotte Palmer, both whom agreed to come on as Producers for the film.
Actors Jon Campling (Harry Potter, Sleeping Dogs) and Andrew Coppin (Karen’s Room, Four for a Boy) came onboard the project quite early on, both being interested in the project it was great to have two such talented actors involved.
Although not my first time working with children, the incredibly talented Libby was a joy to work with. So natural and precocious, easily slotting into such a dark-themed film.
I’ll be posting lots of behind the scenes pictures on my Facebook page http://facebook.com/danallenfilms over the coming months. The shoot itself was incredibly tense, as we essentially shot a five-day-shoot into three days; difficult but we made it.
Theres one more scene to shoot for the film with an entirely different cast so we will be attacking it like it is its own production and we are also looking into film, namely super 8 as a shooting medium which will make sense as I share more details eventually.
I’ll have more production updates in the future but in an effort to blog and post more I want to keep these concise, and soon I’ll share the exciting stories such as how the vehicle in the film broke down with one more shot still to film of it…
Trailer coming soon. Post is going swell.

Audition – The Taller Picture (16:9)

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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‘.