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Shooting High and Low

A couple of months ago I nipped up to Scotland to shoot a new music video for indie folk band The Low Anthem with End of the Road Films.

Back in 2009 I worked on the animated video for ‘Charlie Darwin’; building sets and doing the odd bit of animating. That video came out very nicely, so I was eager to work with the band again, this time directing along-side Glenn and Simon.

The song, ‘Boeing 737’ is the first single off their new album Smart Flesh, and is based around an imaginary meeting with Philippe Petit in a bar at the top of one of the Twin Towers.

After first listening to the track, Simon came up with the image of high-wire walkers pacing through trees, birdlike in their appearance, stalked by men with axes below. Ben liked the idea, but wanted the axe-men to have more of a backstory. We chatted about the idea a bit more, and then I went off to draw up a storyboard.

I thought it would be interesting to imagine a world where tight-rope walkers were a species -indigenous to certain areas – who were hunted and sold on to circuses. Our axe-men would be from a destitute circus, who had worked their previous walkers to death and decided to catch their own this time (hoping to cut out the hunter’s fee).

We got Leila Watts on board again as production designer, so she got straight to work on the bird costumes. Most of the circus men’s costumes were borrowed from a theatre production my parent’s had been working on, while other bits were also made by Leila – for example both clown ruffs were made by hand.

For this video we also brought in a wonderful DOP, Pablo Rojo Guadarrama. This was my first time not shooting my own work, and Pablo did an incredible job (far better than I ever could have), along with 1st and 2nd AC’s, Thor Eliasson and Poom Saiyavath.

If you ever get the chance to work with any of them I would seriously recommend it, and hope to do so myself very soon.

We also had the opportunity to shoot on the new RED – The Mysterium X. This is the same camera ‘The Social Network’ was shot on last year and it captures a ridiculous amount of image data. That meant a lot when it came to grading the video, but also allowed us to shoot later in the day as the light began to fade. In fact some of my favourite shots in the video were captured just before dusk, as the light turns silver.

Of course you can’t have a video about tight-rope walkers without… well… tight-rope walkers.

Fortunately, we had some of the best out there; Jade Kindar-Martin, and his wife Karine Mauffrey. Both had previously worked as part of Cirque du Soleil and Jade has broken Guiness World-Records on the high-wire. They were brilliant to work with, bravely facing the freezing Scottish weather in little more than leotards, and still giving beautiful performances.

For one shot we had planned to digitally add the falling figure of a walker, not imagining it would be possible to do in reality. That was until we discovered that Karine was in fact a professional stunt woman and would be up for doing in on a harness. Brilliant! One simple wire removal later and we have an absolutely stunning shot.

Okay, before I rattle on any more, here’s the final video. Have a look if you haven’t already, and if you have… maybe refresh your memory.

But what’s that I hear you ask? Who were those dashing circus men?

Well, from left to right; Charles Wemyss, Jimmy, Jason Lehmer, Tommy and Diego Cazzetta.

Diego and Jason have worked with us on videos before, building sets, and are part of the team behind End of the Road festival. We figured it was time to stop wasting their good looks behind the camera, and thrust them into the lime-light.

The woodland we shot in actually belongs to Charles’ family, while Jimmy and Tommy are the past and current generation of groundskeepers.

They all graciously agreed to try their hands at acting, and it turns out they’re pretty damned good at it. For such charming individuals, they manage to come together into a pretty nightmarish troupe.

One last thing before I go. I’m always impressed by how close to the initial storyboards our video’s come out. So here, mostly for my own entertainment, but maybe for yours too, it a short comparison of shots.


That’s all.


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Taking Leave

A few years ago my Grandma sent me this cutting from a newspaper. I had it on my wall when I first moved to London, but thought I’d lost it when I moved house.

Today I found it between the pages of a book I’d put it in to keep safe. I thought I’d share it here before it disappears again.

I always found it said far more than was written… But that might just be because I wanted it to.


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Ferris Bueller Recut

A couple of weeks ago I saw Ferris Bueller at the Screen on the Green in Angel. It’s one of my favorite films, and so I was pretty hyped up after finally seeing it on the big screen.  I’m always struck by how beautifully shot it is for a comedy, compared to those made now. Also how sincere the story is once you get past all the 80’s… ness.

The following day was a slow Sunday, and since I had little else to do I decided to have a play with some of the shots and maybe make a trailer which could cut out all the comedy, and make it look more like an indie coming-of-age film. This is what I ended up with:

I hadn’t intended to put it online, but I showed it to a few people and they like it. Aidan Hornsby said I should put it on YouTube, so I finally got round to doing it a couple of days ago.

Then in the past 24 hours I got nearly 100,000 hits, beating the view count of just about anything I’ve put online before. All over something I made with a few spare hours on a Sunday.


EDIT: Earlier today I did a short Q&A for Steve Spears blog which can be seen HERE.

EDIT 2: 600,000 views. Not Bad.


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Trees Above Abney Park Cemetery

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This is the second film in an ongoing series, focussing on woodland within urban environments.

A squirrel is the star of the show here.

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Best Coffees of 2010

I think it’s important at this time of year, to create meaningless ‘Top 5’ lists. And so, here are my top 5 (London) coffees of 2010.

5. Monmouth Coffee

Monmouth Coffee is kind of a given on any coffee list. If you’re buying ground coffee, this has always been the place to go.

Recently they refurbished their Covent Garden branch, and its a pretty nice place to sit if you like being surrounded by wood, which I do.

That being said, the best place to drink Monmouth out, is still at Cafe Oto, in Dalston. Oto offers free (if a little wobbly) wi-fi, and is relatively toddler free, making it a nice place to work from. It also turns into a music venue most evenings; hence the name ‘Oto’, meaning ‘Sound’ in Japanese.

4. Kaffiene

Kaffiene is a great little place to escape to when you’re in central London. It offers great Aussie Coffee alongside the best pastries I’ve found west of Covent Garden.

Like most centrally located coffee houses, Kaffiene doesn’t offer much in the way of space, but is still a great place to meet for quick chats and meetings.

For a bit of joy, try their portuguese tarts.

3. Rough Trade East

The best record store in London, if not the world. Rough Trade East also boasts a little coffee bar at the front of the shop.

Perhaps it was more that I was surprised by the standard of my first coffee than its actual quality, but I’ve never been let down since. And besides, what could be better than listening to new music with a good coffee in hand?

2. Super Pizza

This is a surprising little place. The outside boasts an ancient ‘Antiques’ sign, and the only clue that anything else may lie inside are the words ‘Super Pizza, £3′, scribbled in white across the window.

Pass through the doors though, and you’ll find yourself in a lovely little cafe, somewhere between Twin Peaks’ Mar-T Cafe and the Shining’s Overlook Hotel. No really, go there, and you’ll see what I mean.

They serve great coffee, have free wi-fi, and yes, the pizza is super. It’s also pretty quiet during the daytime, so ideal for both meetings and work.

Winning factor: they put cucumber in the water.

1. Fernandez & Wells

Winner! This has always been my favorite place to get coffee in London, having discovered it shortly after moving here. I rarely get to visit now, as it tends to be out of my way, but when I do I’m reminded quite how good their coffee is.

Another Australian place, they were doing the best flat white’s long before most people even knew what one was. They also do the best espresso’s I’ve found; with the strongest taste without being slightest bit bitter. Fantastic.

It’s a small shop, and is crammed most hours of the day, so your best bet is to purchase your coffee and take it for a walk. If however, you’re lucky enough to get a seat at the window, you can simply watch the world and their shopping bags pass by… Lovely.

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The End of a Decade

As another year draws to a close I feel I should look back at what I’ve done.

2010 was a big year in many ways. Firstly, it saw the end of my degree.

January arrived mid way through my dissertation, the final challenge in my three years at SAE London.

I had started my degree still unconvinced of it’s importance; I have always, and still would try to dissuade any young film-makers from starting a traditional degree course. What most colleges offer in ways of education seem little more than academic pontification, and a series of chinese whispers about on-set decorum.

Not that I would completely rule-out the value of academia within film; simply that it is little more that what could be found out by actually WORKING on set. And what any film graduates will soon find out, is that having a diploma means nothing to potential employers. It may impress your parents, but for the rest of the industry it’s your skills that count.

This is where SAE really proved its worth, focussing heavily on technical training and skills development. And everyone knows, girls like guys with skills.

And so, as I my dissertation approached I started to wilt. I feared several months of tedium. All books and no camera’s? All work and no play…

But it did not work out that way. Yes, it was bloody hard work, but also extremely enlightening. I am reminded now of some advice given to me several years back: that it would be better to do a degree in something completely separate to film, because then I might have something to make films about.

Focussing my study on the depiction of childhood in cinema, I found myself looking into a whole range of subjects that would never have crossed my path had I not strayed a little from film. Area’s of phycology, philosophy, and literature became my focus for weeks on end, and the British Library quickly became a second home for me.

Somewhere in the midst of all this I still managed to find time for some practical work, braving arctic temperatures to shoot this little scene for a friend. It’s taken from a play written by Phil Porter called ‘Stealing Sweets and Punching People’ and stars Hasan Dixon and Georgia Christou.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I received a First for my dissertation, and a First for my degree as a whole. Since then my dissertation has been put up on the SAE London website, so if you’re interested, you can go have a read online, here.

On the very day that I handed in my dissertation, I travelled down to East Grinstead to discuss a new project with Simon Taffe (of End of the Road fame). I had worked with him the previous autumn, working on the music video for the Low Anthem’s Charlie Darwin, as well has being a regular at the festival, running an animation workshop.

I quickly went to work co-directing the new video for Efterklang’s ‘I Was Playing Drums.’ I brought Leila Watts on board for Production Design, and cast Andre Alen as the lead.

I’d worked with Andre before, on a project for my Degree, and I was glad he agreed to work with me again. I think his performance is really what makes the video. That… and all the rope and scary bird people.

If you haven’t seen it already, have a look at the finished video below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As post graduate life goes, I think it’s fair to say I hit the ground running.

Having completed that project, I went back to finishing up some major compositing work for director Neil Oseman’s new film ‘The Dark Side of the Earth’. I had been working on this project for several months alongside Aidan Hornsby, under the supervision of John Galloway. John is an extremely talented compositor who works for Double Negative. His past work includes films such as Harry Potter, Iron Man and Inception, and working with him was an incredible experience. I think it’s fair to say that both mine and Aidans learning curve went near vertical over the course of this project. A short video explaining what we did can be seen below. Excuse the tired eyes; this was very late in the day…

Over the summer I took a bit of time of, in the loosest sense of the phrase.

I shot another video for musician Charlie Atlantic, on location at Kimbolton Castle. We’re still waiting on a final cut of the song to edit from, but the footage looks great.

I also worked with old friend David McGillivray from Pathetique Films, working at first as AD, and later as a compositor on a 1 minute horror film. I’ll upload a better quality version soon, but for now, this is the only copy online:

Then came my big project for the summer; Ladakh.

This was an idea which had been bouncing around for a few months, but finally came to fruition in late July. The aim was to take a camera, and follow Sonam, a Tibetan man, on a journey through Ladakh, to the chinese border. As a Tibetan refugee, he cannot re-enter Tibet, however Ladakhi culture shares a lot with Tibetan, thus gaining the nickname ‘Little Tibet’.

I was out there for a month on the road, filming with a group of Tibetan men. I won’t spout some tripe about a ‘life changing experience’, but as time passes, I become increasingly aware of that journey’s effect on me as a human. Don’t worry. I won’t go further than that.

I saw some beautiful things. Filmed some beautiful things. And returned home…

If there was one thing I missed while away, it was good music. Something which was immediately cured by returning to The End of the Road Festival. Another fantastic year.

From there I went into my third project with End of the Road Films, co-directing the video for Allo Darlin’s ‘My Heart is a Drummer’ with Simon.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The video went on to win ‘Video of the Week’ on 6 Music, and I was consequentially invited on to Nemone’s show to talk about the video with Simon and Elizabeth.

Since then I’ve been editing the Ladakh documentary and working in pre production for a new video for The Low Anthem. This one entails tightropes…

I know it’s a cliche, but this year really has been one of endings and beginnings.

I hope the seeds planted over the past 12 months keep growing throughout this new year, and that I may find a few new ones along the way.

Happy New Year!

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A Date with the BBC!

Today I had the pleasure of appearing on BBC 6 Music to talk about our latest video for Allo Darlin’!

I was joined by Simon and Elizabeth and we got to chat with Nemone for about 5 minutes about our cardboard shenanigans.

For those who missed it, I’ve cut out our little segment for all to hear.
Have a look below.

BBC Interview for ‘My Heart is a Drummer’ Video.

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