Friday, 15 March 2013

'The Last Man on Earth' gets a touch up

A while ago I mentioned doing an intensive After Effects course and my intention then to use my new skills to go back to one of my earlier films and 'improve' it.

I think I compared my mission to George Lucas going back to touch up 'Star Wars'. Well my 'Star Wars' was 'The Last Man on Earth'. Perhaps my mission wasn't as ambitious but like George I imagine I was as frustrated as him about certain shots in our respective films. For me it was the reflections of crew members in the beer taps in one shot that made me wince every time I saw the film. Some people never even noticed them. Some did. Some took great glee in telling me they had seen some reflections in the beer taps and then asking me whether I myself had noticed them. Yes I said, I had, thinking it must be like being asked if you'd noticed the elephant in your living room if you were indeed unfortunate enough to have an elephant in your living room. Unable to reshoot at the time and with the original Virgin Media shorts deadline looming I lived with my screw up and had it on my to-do list as something I would soon revisit and remedy. Well that time had come. So I had a go and er, failed.

I soon concluded that the shot was somewhat trickier than I had thought. Indeed, I'm not too bad with After Effects but I quickly realised that I needed the equivalent of a black belt in After Effects to sort this one out. I needed Bruce Lee. Or Chuck Norris if you really mean business. So it was at this point that I brought in the talented John Sellings. Within a week the reflections were gone. Now but a distant memory. Phew. Thank you John.

Do check out the old version on the BBC Film Network and then watch the version below. But if you have some VFX work to be done and you don't know who to call, then you'd better call John Sellings (or probably just email him in this day and age).

The Last Man On Earth (2011) from carlo ortu on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

HONEYTRAP and Rebecca Johnson

I'd like to draw your attention to an upcoming feature film shooting this summer in Brixton. It's called HONEYTRAP and will be the feature film debut from writer and director Rebecca Johnson. 

I first met Rebecca on the Think, Shoot, Distribute scheme a few years ago and was impressed by her intelligence, passion and talent. She recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help raise money to make the film and like her short TOP GIRL and the other films she's made over the last 10 years, a training and mentoring programme with local young people will be an integral part of the production.

I really do think this is one talent to watch and a worthy film to support.

I also had the pleasure of catching up with Rebecca and asking her a few questions about the film.

You recently launched an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money towards making your feature film debut  HONEYTRAP. The story is inspired by true events. Could you elaborate on this and how it led you develop it as a script for your film?

Honeytrap was initially inspired by one case but as I continued to write it, over three years, I branched out from there. I work with young people so their input has been instrumental, as has my own creative imagination. Honeytrap centres on a set of characters but it’s much more widely about the pressures on young women growing up in a confusing, pornified culture where they feel they have to be tough like boys but that their worth is also measured by their sexual attractiveness to men.

I am also particularly disturbed by the way the media can portray young girls as sexually manipulative, knowing femme fatales. A young girl may use her sexuality to manipulate people but she is not in control and she is not ‘knowing’ – she is still basically a child.

On your indiegogo biography Paul Greengrass and Chris Rouse are described as you mentors. Sounds interesting. How does that work and did they advise you on HONEYTRAP?

I actually realised that I wanted to tell the story of Honeytrap when I was in conversation with Chris. We were talking about some recent high profile cases where young people had killed other young people for the most tragically trivial reasons. I realised that the way these cases were reported presented an image of these kids as inhuman but that, through my work with young people, I knew this was not the case. I felt there was an important part of the picture missing and I wanted to address it. Both Paul and Chris have shown and taught me an enormous amount about storytelling and about filmmaking. It has been a great privilege to share and develop my ideas with them.

You yourself run a not-for-profit company Fierce Productions that itself is a training and mentoring organisation. Can you tell me a bit more about how you came to be involved with setting this up and helping young people in Brixton?

I fell into working with young people by accident when a friend asked me to work on his summer project about 12 years ago. I found that I loved it and have been doing it ever since. I love the energy teenagers have and I really feel for them because so many are having to fight such huge battles just to survive and keep afloat. My own life as a teenager was a very intense time and left its mark on me forever really. I wasn’t very happy - I was very angry, a bit nutty to be honest! And when I see what some of the young people I work with are facing – 100 times harder than anything I had to face - but coping so much better – I just think they deserve support and encouragement and whatever we as adults can give them. I try to do my bit through filmmaking projects which are fun and bonding as well as a tremendous outlet for creativity and self expression, but using those projects to try to help them on to the next step – whether that’s continuing to carve out a film career or helping them into work or training in other spheres.

Who or what are your influences as a writer and director?

I just love stuff which moves me and takes me on a journey which is intense and all involving! I am quite mainstream in my tastes really – not that arthouse. I loved Monster and Boys Don’t Cry, City of God and Festen. Goodfellas and Alien are probably my favourite films.

What format are you shooting HONEYTRAP on and is this a creative or
financial choice?

I am still exploring different possibilities with regard to format and will be meeting with my DOP David Raedeker next week to start going through them. Creative and financial criteria can’t really be separated though I don’t think. Part of the skill of making the film will be to use the resources we have as creatively as possible.

Your finance plan involves grants from foundations, equity from the
British Film Institute and other UK film funders as well as the automatic UK film tax relief. How important do you think crowdfunding has become as an additional form of funding?

Crowdfunding is a really important part of a new, emerging model of filmmaking – which of course will no doubt keep changing. But what’s great about crowdfunding is that it makes you find and start building your audience for the film - before you even start to shoot - in a grassroots way which is labour intensive but doesn’t involve the huge costs of a P and A spend. And of course showing that we have an audience for HONEYTRAP will, I hope, help us to secure other kinds of finance and distribution.

Why should someone contribute towards HONEYTRAP?

I hope because they think it’s going to be a good film – and an important film which looks at ‘gang’ culture (I use that term here to mean urban young peoples’ lives, not organized crime syndicates) from a female perspective. That hasn’t been done in the UK before. And also because of the way the film is being made. I’ve been working with young people in Brixton for more than 10 years now and a Training and Mentoring programme will be an integral part of the production of HONEYTRAP. Find out more here:

What do you plan to do with the film once it’s complete?

The festival circuit will be important as I want to build international awareness and, hopefully, positive critical attention. I want us to secure theatrical release for HONEYTRAP but in terms of how that happens, we will have to see where we are when we’re at that stage. The market is changing so rapidly what with online release sometimes coming at the same time as theatrical or even before it – and all the other platforms emerging. We definitely want to be responsive to our market and think about how best to release the film with them in mind…so watch this space!