The Flock: Update

 Francesca L White as Isabel

Francesca L White as Isabel

It might not seem like it, but we’re progressing nicely with the crowdfunding teaser film for The Flock. Dubbed ‘Leaving Grateful’, the teaser is a very short prequel to the main film, showing events set about 8 years prior. It also introduces three of the main characters- Isabel, Abel and Vera.

The shoot was broken down into the constituent scenes and shot, as a lot of indie shorts are, over a number of weekends. Luckily, none of the scenes are interrelated; they’re connected by Isabel’s Final Broadcast, used as the linking scene and voiceover to the remaining scenes, all of which show a separate event in the film.

Filming the Final Broadcast scene itself was an experience. A small radio studio, generously offered by Corby Radio, was the location. It was August and, as anyone who was in Britain over summer 2018 would tell you, it was HOT!

 Cinematographer Alex Powell

Cinematographer Alex Powell

This one 90 second scene took us a day to shoot. It has about 20 set ups and technical requirements that made it a more difficult shoot than we originally expected. Luckily, on the technical side, we had Wayne Reay with us. Wayne is an audio recordist and sound designer by trade but he’s also a hero in disguise! Thinking laterally, he saved the day more than once and we will always be indebted.

 Wayne Reay, superhero in disguise.

Wayne Reay, superhero in disguise.

The image at the top of this post is a still from the shoot. Francesca L White played Isabel with an understated gravitas which was a pleasure to watch, especially as she’s a live wire off camera!

Great fun, hard work and now can’t wait to get into the editing suite. More updates soon.



New Developments in The Flock

poster small flock.jpg

The original script for The Flock won a Finalist award in the 2015 Mexico Film Festival, and from that we started on pre-production as outlined in a previous post here. We got quite a way down the road with it, finding a couple of suitable locations (struggling with others!) and building a pretty good cast and crew. Then, things fell apart a bit and, in the hope of not turning it into bête noir, we moved on to another project, Stop:Watch. Stop:Watch is now nearing the end of post production, so we've started looking at another project. 

While all that was happening, we were in discussion with an actor about a long term project, a feature set in Prague. This discussion spread onto other projects and the pitch for The Flock was duly sent over. Knowing the actor's skills had a dramatic effect on the script. Her combat skills, and a recent clip of her knife fight practise, meant we could expand the role of Isabel. This, in turn, cemented the relationship between Vera and Isabel, and also added to the humanity displayed by these characters. The downside? The script is now 18 pages, almost double the original page count!

Recent coverage from Shore Scripts has, however, given us a boost in confidence that we're headed down the right path. With quotes like "The dialogue really jumps off the page"; "The first page is a strong testament of the writer and makes us confident about the script we are about to read"; "If there is one thing this script doesn't lack, it's conflict.", we reckon we have a potential festival contender. No doubt we'll be considering a Kickstarter campaign once we have the main elements in place again and, with luck, the actor that made the script so much better will be along for the journey. In the meantime, here's a clip of us testing out the key location, 3 years ago!

Short Script 'An Arabican Night' Lands Finalist Award at MoMo

Arabican Night MoMo.jpg

The Mobile Motion Film Festival has been running for about 4 years now, and every year we promise that we'll get a short film made on a mobile phone to enter this pretty unique event. We've also happily helped fund the event through Kickstarter as they were giving away brownies. Chocolate brownies. From Switzerland! And man, were they good.

This year, it was different. We were making another short film and all funds had to be diverted to that (we've funded all our own films so far). But, also different from the festival, was that they added a short script competition. We're always writing here, so it was an opportunity we couldn't miss. If we couldn't get a film ready for the festival this year, we could damn well write a script. So we did.

'An Arabican Night' started life after one of those 'what if' moments. A sign in a local café stated it served the best coffee this side of Italy. Quite a bold claim we thought, until that thought went further- 'what if it was the best coffee in the Universe?'. Now we're talking. That's a bold statement. 

What happens? Well, you'll just have to wait to find out. The script has so far got to the Finalist stage, one of three. The winning script is offered up to the filmmakers of MoMo for one of them to produce, if they so wish.

Fingers are crossed, it's a long wait and we're already on tenterhooks (arguably a hook used for stretching stuff, in this case, our nerves), but the final reveal comes at the festival in June. Wish us luck!

 

Beastgrip Depth of Field Field Test

Following on from Mobile Messing, we invested in a more substantial mobile filming solution- the Beastgrip Pro, Depth of Field Adapter and rig

IMG_0916.JPG

The Beastgrip is probably familiar to most of you, it's been around for a while now and has been used in many a film. The Depth of Field Adapter has also been around for some time but this newer version has only recently been delivered after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Once a lens in fitted, the set up can pull heavily on the threaded mount, hence the rig that basically supports that weight.

How does it work? Very simply, the lens projects its image onto a fresnel screen in the adapter which, in turn, is the image the iPhone camera focuses on. 

Does it work? Hmm, yes and no. Due to the variation of smartphone lenses, the DoF adapter may show some vignetting when used straight out of the box. It took a few emails to Beastgrip to find out this was normal and that in some cases, (we were using an iPhone 7 Plus), you'll need to zoom in slightly to remove the vignette. Not ideal but we understand the limitations of this system are actually the vagaries of smartphone lenses.

Once we took it out to test the set up (with a Canon 50mm f1.8) it took a couple of shots to remember to zoom in. Duh! 

What we found was that the lens you use has to be fast. This 50mm was used wide open in order to get enough light (on a cloudy day) down the tube to the fresnel. Using it wide open also gave a better result with the depth of field. Obviously. However, there are issues with shooting with the lens wide open on an iPhone. The depth of field is so narrow it's easy to screw up the focusing, as you can see in a couple of the shots in the video below.

The set up also creates issues when doing anything from a low position. There's no way to get a live image feed from the iPhone to a monitor that could be better positioned to view the scene. And that iPhone screen is REFLECTIVE!! So it definitely takes time to create the shot from any position where you can't easily see the screen, or with a bright sky behind you.

Having given you a few negatives/limitations, here's the positive. The depth of field effect created by the adapter is REALLY COOL! It'll take time to familiarise ourselves with all the quirks, but having such an effect from such an easy to use tool will undoubtedly make some elements of filmmaking better. We're definitely looking forward to using it for a couple of commercial pieces we have coming up.

 

 

Stop:Watch Update

We last shot a scene of Stop:Watch before Christmas. Since then, we've all found ourselves involved in 'the day job', family events, holidays and new relationships. We've also had issues with locations and, a biggy, prop vehicles. With time rushing past, ironic given the title and story of the film, we had to make a decision on how to complete it. Being a Producer is pretty tough. All the bad stuff heads your way, with occasional great moments where everything has gone right. Those moments are more a feeling of relief than sensations of joy.

 Prisoners Question Time!

Prisoners Question Time!

 

So, another tough decision had to be made on the film. It wasn't easy to cut a scene but that was the best way to see the end of the tunnel. The scene we eventually decided on added weight to the story, it was a visual favourite and would have displayed a high degree of skill for a number of the cast and crew. However, location was very difficult and came with a financial burden. Ultimately, it was this that killed it. The film wasn't crowdfunded, the budget came directly from the pockets of those involved and for that we're grateful. Now though, we're ready to shoot the final scene!

 Hopefully, the final scene will be an easier than shooting the Mad Chaplain. Space was truly limited.

Hopefully, the final scene will be an easier than shooting the Mad Chaplain. Space was truly limited.

 

It'll be a difficult shoot; the time of year most suited to what we're doing, is long past, so timing will be critical. The location, due to the timing, will be busier than we initially planned for. Things are already not going our way. But we only need a total of 90 seconds to go absolutely perfect. Then we're done. How long will that take? Probably longer than we'll have. But that's okay, we're independent filmmakers and it would just be too easy if everything went swimmingly. But it would be nice to experience that, just once for a whole scene.

 The Last Meal? Hope not.

The Last Meal? Hope not.

Fingers crossed we'll have it all shot, chopped and scored by the end on November. That'll be a year then.

 

Mobile Messing

There's a strong and still growing trend toward shooting films of all types, cinema/corporate/doc etc, on the humble smartphone. Perhaps the best known recent example of this (and feel free to call me out with a better known example) is 'Tangerine', trailer below.

Hypereal colour, leftfield story and all shot on an iPhone 5, (sound recorded separately). Since then, there have been numerous others released, some of which take it to another level. Check out some examples here.

Clearly, this gets you thinking. Why not shoot on an iPhone (other smartphones are available) rather than the thousands of pounds worth of kit you'd normally have to shoot stuff like this? Well, that's what we thought. But, having just sunk some cash into another lens, some lights (more on that in a later post) and the short film 'Stop:Watch', we didn't have much left over to get the latest in smartphone cinematography. We went cheap. Hey, it's Indie folks! Use what you have, not what you think you need, right?

So we had a look at what's available. A lot. There's a lot of stuff out there to make your smartphone movies look like a Hollywood blockbuster. Lenses, rigs, gimbals etc. You could actually spend almost as much on this stuff as you would with a decent DSLR. We spent £50.

What did we get for that?

Some plastic. A Klyp case that you squeeze your iPhone into. A smartphone holder that fits to a tripod, and some lenses. Manfrotto lenses. Are they glass? Dunno. For £30, probably not. 

We haven't used them yet, at least for filming, but here's a couple of shots to show what the lenses can do to a standard phone camera shot.

 Director Joe- normal iPhone shot

Director Joe- normal iPhone shot

 Same shot with Manfrotto 'Landscape' lens.

Same shot with Manfrotto 'Landscape' lens.

 Same again with Manfrotto 'Portrait' lens

Same again with Manfrotto 'Portrait' lens

 And again with Manfrotto 'Fisheye' lens.

And again with Manfrotto 'Fisheye' lens.

As you can see, Director Joe had had enough by the end of this wee test. And who can blame him? Anyway, why we need to be told which lens is for what purpose is beyond me. If you only have a portrait lens, doesn't mean you can only shoot portraits. Lens categories aside, you can see there are some interesting issues with the lenses.

Standard iPhone shot is okay so you can see the colour shifts in the other lenses, mostly a greenish tinge with 'Landsacpe', yellow(?) in the 'Portrait' image and back to green in the 'Fisheye'. Exposures are all over the place as the angle of view brings in different features such as light source. There also seems to be a touch more contrast in the images through the added lenses.

Would we shoot a short film with this set up? Why not. There are a plethora of film festivals catering to this 'genre', personal favourite of which is MoMo Film Fest, started by the fiercely determined Andrea Holle. One of these days we'll shoot a film on the iPhone to enter this awesome festival. Till then...

 

Stop:Watch Doesn't Stop

Colour temperature, fluorescent lights and slo-mo capture. Not forgetting redhead bulb failures and minimal work space. We've learned a great deal over the last few weekends as we shoot more and more scenes for the film. If money were no object, which it always is, we'd have ditched the hot lamps for balanced filmmaking LED's. As it is, we have 5 redheads and 2 blondes. In one day we had all five redhead bulbs blow. The first two weren't a problem, the rest quite clearly made things difficult. Especially when one of the new bulbs also blew. 

DP Alex Powell duly kept his cool and swapped out to the Exposure LED bicycle lights we had and added the relevant gels to correct the colour temperature, so all was not lost and, in the footage, it's difficult to tell anything changed. Awesome result.

In the image above you can see what the bike lights do to the smoke, a slight blue tinge, but elsewhere in the shot (side of face and jacket) it's unnoticeable. The smoke was slightly bluish naturally and, to be fair, we liked what the colour temperature of the lights did to it.

Fluorescent lights are less an issue with green tints these days and it's not hard to correct the white balance in-camera. But when you turn up on location for a pick up shot and one of the unique (therefore hard to replace) bulbs has blown (what is it with bulbs?!?!) it's hard to fill in with redheads and bike LED's. Reshoot the whole slo-mo scene, add time to the day and, in true Zen style, accept that things change. Done.

After Christmas we have the final three scenes to shoot in three different locations. Undoubtedly they'll throw up some similarly unexpected challenges and we'll post them here as our continued learning curve. 

Have a great festive season everyone!

Stop:Watch Update

If you've been following the trials and tribulations of SteamWork Film at all, you'll know that The Flock was put on hold for a number of reasons and we moved forward with another SteamWork original, 'Stop:Watch'. Thanks to the involvement of friends both new and old, the main body of this short sci fi has been shot. A huge thanks, from all of us here, has to go to Northampton County Council who allowed us the use of their amazing, but little known, prison cells beneath County Hall. If you want spooky, you got it! We didn't but we got it anyway. What we wanted was a brutal prison set in a dystopian near future. And that's what we also got.

 Guard 1 & 2. Feel the Faith chaps!

Guard 1 & 2. Feel the Faith chaps!

What we also wanted was a simple shoot. Mostly, we got that too. Apart from setting off the fire alarm with the heat from a big light! It was okay. Roger, the Council Sergeant, was very cool about the whole incident and promptly reset the alarm. Thank you Roger.

We also had spine tingling performances from everyone, cast and crew. A massive thanks, and we look forward to seeing you all for the next stage of the shoot.

 PenFX and Alice Barry worked long hard hours on make up and SFX.

PenFX and Alice Barry worked long hard hours on make up and SFX.

U turns, dead ends and diversions

How things change. Day to day, minute by minute and project by project. 

So, upon further consideration, we've postponed development on "Before You Set Out' due to the not inconsiderable challenge of creating the very technical central prop. Some things just slap you with their cinematic impact when in reality their hidden demands are the things you need to keep an eye on. There's a saying that goes- "With enough time, all things are possible." This, presumably, also means time travel will make it's way onto the iPhone but, currently, time for most folk is linear. (You can argue about this amongst yourselves). But that leaves us with too little time to create the item necessary to make sense of the short film.

 

As you may have seen in the Current Projects page, we're not without options when it comes to what to shoot, and with this change of focus from 'Before You Set Out', (not sure about that title), to 'Stop:Watch', comes new blood in the form of Producer, Abbi Williams. Abbi has a wealth of experience in both life and art having been actor and producer in previous productions and is also a mother of three! Hats well and truly off.

 Abbi Williams- Producer

Abbi Williams- Producer

 

Abbi's focus and determination are clear to all who meet her. Incisive questions,  clear understanding and firm decisions characterise her working practise. Awesome and great to work with.

'The Flock' is once again taking a back seat while we hone the skills required for that sizeable production. It's still on the slate and we're still developing it but while that happens we still want to create at least one short film a year. All of these projects are self financed, indie film productions, so it's no surprise that things change. And it's often when you're forced on a diversion that the U turns and dead ends suddenly make sense.

We'll post more on 'Stop:Watch' as we progress. Stay tuned!

Time and Consequence

Well, as you can probably tell, we're a long way away from where we thought we'd be by now. 'The Flock' has proved difficult to manage, with day jobs, creative differences and communication issues all lending a hand to derail the project. It's been some time since we started pulling the various strands together and, while we creating an exquisite braid at one end, the other unravelled continuously. The longer these things are left unresolved, the bigger the effort required to start again. But, start again we have.

 Don't put your nuts on The Flock.

Don't put your nuts on The Flock.

We lost some people along the way, so now we're looking for some help. The role of Vera and Isabel need to be filled, with Caitlin focusing more on schoolwork (wise move at her age maybe) and Veejay leaving acting for good. We're sad to see them go but happy that they feel these decisions are the right ones. If you're walking a path you don't choose, the bumps can be obstacles rather than opportunities. Don't hesitate to contact us at andrew@steamworkfilm.com if you're interested in getting involved.

We've also had a delay in the final production of the comic but that seems to be heading in the right direction again. We're looking at a possible 24 pages, full colour cover with B&W story pages. This comic game is more expensive than you might imagine but, as our first effort, we thought it would be best to go with the quality we envisaged the final film to be.

Maybe rather stupidly, we've also added to the slate we have planned. 'Before You Set Out' is a recently finished script (is it ever, no it's not) with the title taken from a quote by Stephen Hawking. From that you may guess that it's sci fi, and you'd be right. But can you pinpoint the quote the title comes from? Answers on a post card...

 

So here's to the next few months getting 'The Flock' back on track, shooting another shorter short and limiting the effects of time and consequence.

The Flock Comic Is Almost Done!

The Flock has been in development for quite some time. The story has been rattling around in various heads for about two years, the script has been through several revisions and the locations are in flux. However, the comic has kept on going. Nick O'Gorman, a Canadian guy with awesome skills with the pencils, has doggedly slogged his way through from Page 1 roughs to the full colour cover (a section of which you see here), in order to create a crowdfunding campaign perk, the like of which is rarely seen. We'll have both digital and printed versions of the comic as perks, and we may continue the story in future issues on the way to producing the feature length film.

This image depicts the two heroes of the film, Vera and Isabel, who are the backbone to the full story. The term "Take no shit" was coined for these two.

Northants Film Location Database

As part of the ongoing development of the Northampton area as a creative hub, the folks behind the soon to be launched Location Database, shot some interviews with local filmmakers and photographers. We were lucky enough to be involved and, in doing so, discovered a new location ourselves. The Guildhall in Northampton, where the interviews took place.

The guys from Movie Hub were instrumental enabling the use of this location, as you can see from their blog. It's an amazing place whose exterior hints at what lies beneath; treasure trove of cinematic elements!

The Flock Script Wins Award in Mexico.

A while back, in 2015, the script for The Flock was entered into the Mexico Film Festival. Nothing ventured... It was the second script entered into a competition. The first, Making Darkness, got through to the semi-finals of the Blue Cat Screenplay Competition in 2014. Blue Cat was a little confusing, with the two reader feedbacks having very different conclusions. The award at the Mexico Film Festival was pretty clear though- Finalist. Okay, there were another 10 or so Finalists plus one Winner and possibly a Runner UP. But we're happy with Finalist.

So that's two scripts and two, sort of okay results. What did we learn from this? Write more. Don't stop. Even when you are a Winner. 

SPRITE WINS THE PUBLIC VOTE AT NORTHANTS FILM FESTIVAL

Back in October, before we had a website, we entered our second film, Sprite, into the Film Northants Film Festival. The festival has some rules that are designed to help showcase the filmmaking talent in the county, and encourage the Northants population to get involved in creative endeavours. For instance, all films eligible for the awards have to be made within Northamptonshire's borders and preferably with Northants talent. And there's quite a bit of it if the films on show are anything to go by.

There are two main awards for the films. The Public Vote and Judges Choice. Obviously it would be ace to be recognised in both, as happened to Joe Burden's film, Beneath The Wormwood Trees, did last year (2014), but recognition in either was our goal. Although we posted on Facebook and Twitter, there were a couple of films that we thought may have a bigger following, so it was a nice surprise to not only be recognised here, but to actually win.

 Credit: Film Northants

Credit: Film Northants

We'll be making another short film for entry into this unique festival, later in 2016. After, of course, The Flock.

MIKE PEEL OF ROGUE CREATIONS TO JOIN THE CREW OF 'THE FLOCK'.

We're beside ourselves with excitement to announce that Mike Peel, a make up and SFX master with many credits to his name, has kindly agreed to join the crew for our next film, The Flock. Having a number of scenes heavy with the undead, we're overjoyed to have Mike with us and lead the make up department to create a horde of zombies.

Mike has been involved in make up and SFX for a number of years, working on such titles as  "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "Casino Royale" and "The Descent". The list of credits with his company, Rogue Creations SFX, is extensive and includes such films as "Rise of the Krays" and "Unhallowed Ground".

We'll have some clips of Mike in action soon.