Back in April 2017, my brother and I took our mum and our nan to the Everyman Independent Cinema in Esher, to go see the live action Beauty and the Beast starring the graceful Emma Watson and a hairy Dan Stevens. It was only the second time I’d watched a movie at this fine establishment and the first time I fancied ordering food. So, naturally I took a peek at their menu. I don’t believe I actually did order anything in the end apart from maybe a cappuccino but the food did look and smell appetizing. Long pepperoni pizza served on a wooden board seemed particularly popular amid the patrons.
Perhaps boredom got the better of me but I felt compelled to take a picture of the menu and as my location was active on my phone, good ‘ol Google suggested I post it on Maps. The photo isn’t even that informative however, I sacrificed style over substance big time here with an edgy angle and a stylish bokeh effect on the text. I guess it does the trick of drawing people in, enticing them to gather more info on the cinema and what grub is available. The irony is that this picture has been viewed 8,000 times and rising with each day, but I’m pretty sure the menu has changed since. It has been over two years after all.
Google maps contributions is actually quite an interesting way you can promote yourself, or at least your potential photography skills. You essentially become what they call a Local Guide which can eventually lead to points which you can earn through writing reviews, sharing photos and videos, answering questions about places or verifying information through fact checking. These points in turn give you access to future Google features and special perks when you’ve worked your way up the various levels. You can flaunt your achievement by way of a fancy digital badge to show people just how much you’ve contributed.
I’ve yet to jump deep into this rabbit hole but if taking a photo of text has taught me anything, it’s that at least a few thousand people are willing to stop and take a look at it. It’s only a matter of time before the Spielburger category gets a DMCA takedown or something silly like that, if it hasn’t already. Pretty sure the household director has already issued a cease and desist for a similar situation in the States, though I’d love to know the law related consequences of such a creative label if any.
I knew it, today was my birthday! Though not a regular custom, celebrating the day one was brought into this world, the circumstances of my birth are quite exceptional. Mother’s words, not mine. She likes to remind me of how I came to be as often as she can. You see, it is common for people of different lands to live and wonder in this country but ironically the liberty comes not without its prejudices.
Before I was born, the ruler of long ago saw fit to open the borders to the many known races and cultures of the known world, granting opportunity to those who swore fealty to the dominion. Skilled, wealthy and committed denizens who weren’t from an unfriendly nation, flocked to this continent with the promise of a new and prosperous life. With the condition thou commit themselves entirely. It was proclaimed that a grand civilisation of man opened its boarders to the vast world of the unfamiliar. It happened so long ago, history is surely blemished by time and generations of speculation.
Some will argue that it was all a ploy designed to instigate an alien levy on first generation settlers. The same people mutter opinions that this land never belonged to the throne in the first place. Hence the animosity between certain militant cultures, shall we say. But that is a different matter altogether. I for one am certain it was an economical solution to the Grim Deluge. A great flood that killed indiscriminately by means of destruction, famine and plague. Many were met with ill fate, ultimately dwindling the population to an unprecedented number. What better remedy than to replace lost citizens with people from beyond the seas. One might assume much as to say their prospects were better suited before arriving here. Alas, their perseverance and sheer desire to live somewhere anew, paved the way to the eclectic nation we live in now.
You see, my father came to this town an immigrant via the merchant ship called the Cypran, the biggest of which has ever docked in these waters. I am uncertain as to the true nature of his visit but what I can tell you is, my mother succumbed to his charm the moment they gazed upon one another. His skin a shiny bronze from the ocean spray, hair like the sun and eyes like a clear sky in summer. A handsome exotic from a foreign world. He would carry a spear with him everywhere he went as if threat awaited around every corner, besides that he seemed a relatively immaterial man. Yet mother was smitten. Elf kind of any diversity is most unheard of here, for many are said to be illusive creatures who rarely settle in the company of man. Idle talk I am sure but father is the closest bond I have to any semblance.
He would hunt game in our neighbouring woods at the dead of night and one would think made an honest living selling game and pelts to the townsfolk. All the while living on the beach like an irresponsible hermit. They first met formally on one of mother’s barefoot strolls across the black sands, which she still walks this day on occasion. One peaceful evening brought them together and they both bartered memories of days gone. It did not take father long to plot his way to my mother’s heart and from there on they were as good as wed. She insisted he occupy our guest room until the day he found himself in my mother’s. It is rather strange to talk about my parentage in this manner but I am not a child anymore, I am aware of the intimate nature of love. Though the thought of them both committing the act resulting in my existence, does make me a little ill.
The morning after he had vanished, leaving mother alone and with child. I will never forgive him for that, no matter what his reasoning. Mother would never tell me the particulars, should my mind become burdened with more questions.
I would tell you his name but I do not know it. Regardless I would not be permitted to utter it within the walls of our home. I only know this much because our homekeeper Editha told me in confidence. She has been in mother’s employ for almost twenty years and knew father as long as she did. I am so very fond of her and her loving demeanour, she’s an aunt to me in many ways and might as well be a permanent member of the family. She baked us all orange fire cake today, the first time I have ever tasted such a zesty fruit even if they do grow not a day’s journey inland. Editha is a wonderful cook amongst other things, I think I shall request this recipe again for future occasions worth celebrating.
I must proclaim, there is more good news! I have thought of a name for you. Two winters ago, I befriended a girl who was so very fond of climbing. The baker’s daughter, one of five and the oldest of her sisters. She could climb anything from the stone walls surrounding us to the tallest pines along the cliffs. Like a cat, she clawed her way to the apex of her obstacles. But she was never very good at descending. One evening, we both rose to the forest top and watched the sun set on the horizon, the air was clear and all was beautiful.
I could never climb as high as she did but perhaps it was for the best. The fall was long and every branch was disturbed. I can still imagine the pine cones dropping around her like the early signs of heavy rain. Her father, a simple man of salt and rye, could never support a cripple along with four other children. He had little choice but to offer her to the Raffteilis convent where she will be kept whole. If she continues to live, she will be forever nameless under the eyes of their God. I do wish to one day see her again.
I don’t think I’ll make a habit of naming inanimate objects but henceforth, you shall continue her name. Yes, Heidi sounds nice to me, I do hope you like it.
Not too long ago I was commissioned to take a bunch of photos for a little company called John Lewis & Partners. The principle idea was to capture a tiny portion of the monstrous distribution sector of the business, more specifically, customer delivery. I was tasked with taking photographs mostly following the process of stocked goods, to collation, to delivery and overall, I believe I achieved that… With just a bit of staging.
The company or ‘Partnership’ as it is preferred, had just recently rebranded and while many were a fan of the classic British Racing Green colour scheme they adopted for so long, black and white was the new way forward. It’s a lot trendier you could argue and perhaps down with the kids as they say but I used it as an excuse to process the images in a similar likeness.
I’ve always loved black and white photography but I’m still figuring out why. Perhaps it’s the mysterious sensation of perceiving monochrome lines and shapes far reaching from our usual sight, or maybe it’s the vintage look that exudes classicism and evokes an unwarranted notion of nostalgia?? Though honestly, it’s a good way to fix poor lighting and shoddy colour balance in post.
The final images were printed on quality laminated canvas to be hung in the lobby of the Brooklands branch. The wide-angle lorry shot was blown up and covered five vertical canvases for a huge split canvas effect. They were all but perfect, if it wasn’t for the one in the centre that was slightly misaligned during the printing phase but only the eagle-eyed will spot it hopefully. That took care of one of the two walls I had to jazz up at least. The other wall was way trickier to plan for.
17 of the photos I’d edited and picked for the wall, were to be cropped and printed individually but somehow occupy a 1.90m squared area while simultaneously being 1 inch apart from each other. As if using two systems of measurement wasn’t hard enough, half the canvases needed to have a black colour wrap while the other half needed to be white and not only that, they had to be dotted around to vary it up a bit.
It took me so long to suss out the best combination, and in the end, I made an equivalent version on another wall using brown packaging paper, just so I could get it into the skull what it may look like. This visualisation helped a bunch when it came to ordering the canvases but I ended up inputting the wrong dimensions on one of them by a bloody inch! I tried to see if I’d get away with it but nope, it looked so out of place. Ordered a replacement and although it fit perfectly the quality of the print wasn’t as nice. It doesn’t hurt to be meticulous with this sort of thing to avoid such setbacks.
A few of the canvases were destined for the upstairs canteen but this feature wall was going to be somewhat different. Brooklands has quite a lot of engineering history from way back when it was a motor racing circuit in the early 1900’s and then later Britain’s largest aircraft manufacturing centre. The local area also accommodated one of the country’s first airfields and has since been transformed into a museum worth taking a gander.
With this trivia in mind I decided to mix and match my current photography with classic racing photography of the era. A bit of a then and now kinda thing. I’m no stranger to the local antiquity but I was fascinated to see how many women drivers there were back then. So, I thought John Lewis being the forward thinking, diverse business it is, might appreciate this delightful piece of olden times up on the wall as well. My favourite was of the respected mechanic, Miss J Alwyne, dressed in her jumpsuit half underneath a dinged-up motorcar, cigarette in mouth, making adjustments to the rear wheels. Health and safety were definitely not chief priorities back then.
Every one of these photos was edited in Adobe Photoshop and shot on a Canon EOS 6D MkII DSLR using a Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM Lens, a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens and a nifty 50mm Prime. My grip gear consisted of a Manfrotto Aluminium Monopod, a Manfrotto Aluminium Horizontal Column Tripod and a cardboard box.
This series of posts depicts the epic journey I’ve taken across the land of student filmmaking. From the deep-rooted plains of the 4:3 aspect ratio to the wonderous tundra of half-decent modern indie cinema, you’ll read about the trials I endured throughout my years of learning.
The wonderful adventure of non-compulsory education continues…
Okay, so this wasn’t strictly a college assignment that contributed to my college education but I did end up using all the equipment at my disposal, provided by the college. At the time, Doritos launched a Super Bowl ad competition targeted towards budding filmmakers and a huge cash prize of about £300,000 for the winning ad they picked. Now, the dormant cynical side of my brain should have seen this as more of an opportunity for the favoured crisp brand, rather than some dude in his late teens thinking he’s surely going to win more money than he’d know what to do with.
It was quite a genius business strategy by Doritos, one I believe they peddled for about 10 years. They literally own the rights to every entry including those that were not picked (mine) but it wasn’t like it we were all unaware. By now they must have decade’s worth of ideas that in the grand scheme of things, cost them hardly anything. You need only search YouTube for the copious amounts of diverse videos made by all sorts of filmmaking talents across the spectrum and a lot of them are true masterpieces. Comedy was the general consensus as far as genre was concerned and aptly so, because it’s quite difficult to paint junk food in any other light.
Obviously, I thought I had the best idea going and thought for sure I was going to win that money, just like now I’m sure I’ve purchased the winning lotto ticket. It’s hard not to dream but sometimes harder to accept the fact that it is just that, a dream. Anyway, I began to throw ideas around and eventually had something tangible.
They offered a really cool media package with logos, music and sound effects that could all be used to the creator’s advantage. There was a lot of variety to put it mildly and I was grateful for it considering I was a one-man crew. Honestly, the only real production value came from this package, other than the premises if I do say so myself.
If memory serves me, I shot it on a Canon XM2 Mini DV camcorder with onboard microphone. Didn’t have time to faff about with a boom pole wielding sound person because I was greedy and wanted that sweet, sweet prize moolah to myself. In a way this was my first solo project not mentioning the performers, which as per usual, were my reluctant buddies. An old friend of mine from school, Keval, between him and his family ran a newspaper shop in Chertsey called Chandlers at the time and it wasn’t the first occasion he had offered the place as an authentic backdrop. There was a student film production held there called Jimmy about a psychotic curly redhead axe murderer and his overzealous father. The film was given the Sin City treatment I way of grading but the only colour shown on the spectrum was orange. I actually assisted a bit on this production as we all come from the same friend group, even to this day just about.
The initial idea for the ad actually came quite quick to me but the final product was an evolution of that first spark. I wanted the ad to be about the Chilli Heatwave flavour to begin with, mainly because it’s my personal seasoning of choice. Anything hot and tangy is usually my jam when it comes to snack food so naturally, I wanted to pay homage to this beloved flavour. Throwing concepts around regarding hot stuff, red stuff and tasty stuff I originally thought of the jolt you get when you take a bite out of that first nacho. A jolt lead to a kick and then a kick lead to a punch. Boxers punch, and boxers wear boxing gloves…
Sooner or later I narrowed this mess of ideas down. It started with a man purchasing a 230g shareable pack of Chilli Heatwave Doritos, to later stepping out into a bright and cheerfully lit high street, opening the packet, taking that delightful first bite while basking in the sunlight, then BAM! A boxing glove erupts from within the packet and punches our unsuspecting crisp muncher in the teeth. Sprawled out on the pavement with crumbs and God knows what else on his chest. The image of a night out well spent. Some might say.
Not only was this a bit violent I thought, I tested it at home and no matter how small the glove was, it just wouldn’t pass through the bag’s opening. Luckily a couple of my housemates were into their taekwondo so I had a surplus of gloves to requisition. I had some crappy catchphrase put aside like ‘They pack quite a punch’ but it just wasn’t meant to be in the end.
It later occurred to me that not everyone likes the spice and perhaps a broader appeal was needed to win the hearts of the judges. So, I picked the cheese flavour instead but it meant changing my approach to the idea. I still wanted to take the comedy angle and I was still adamant to involve the packet in some way. Much like a boxing glove, it hit me, and the answer was obvious.
The story is simple. A young gentleman (my old mate Aaron) goes to his local corner shop, purchases a packet of Tangy Cheese Doritos and heads home to sit in front of the box. What’s he watching? Who cares?! He’s got a big bag of Doritos to keep him company and that’s all that matters to him. Those tasty triangles of powdered delight, the vibrant orange glow of the foil packet, a small moment of personal bliss…
But it’s ruined by a swift and unforeseen enemy in the form of the dude’s flatmate. Like magic this predatory guy (my old mate Matt) appears beneath our hero and snatches his prize, quite literally from under him. There are no more snacks left to snack upon, he is defeated and left hungry. ‘Settle the Craving’ felt like a natural slogan to superimpose over the end. It was a quick and quirky ad that I enjoyed making if anything.
Most people I’ve screened this to laughed at it and got the message and I stick by the concept like cheese dust on fingertips.
Your memory drifts, Blattbyte. If perchance it has strayed too far, gather what faculties remain and learn from this. I am not known to believe in wonder but should you not have forgotten the workings of your cryptograph, read, read and read once again until you have discovered.
Take heed, your former self demands it.
The following texts interpret the necropsy report and study of whom one believes to be the Illusive Damon Si. A thorough examination is necessary to make certain the subject is in pertinent condition for the disputable, rite of influence. Regrettably, all hope of any wisdom hinges on this very element. An undemonstrated method for a desperate man.
I have precluded the exact location of the proceedings, should any being decipher this tome and discover what I have learnt. If eyes other than my own bear further witness to the potential knowledge inside, know now, that you are my enemy. I will not hesitate to hunt you to the corners of this world and melt your balls into candle wax. This will be my only warning. Leave what you have found or suffer peril.
Very well, I shall begin.
I first came to the vast wintered shores of Manelci upon hearing fishermen’s tales of the Sailing Soul. A face in the bark of an upright floating tree stump, to be unambiguous. I have removed myself from the comfort of what I call home and found a suitable compromise on the island. No simple task but my life may very well depend on it, so it is necessary. The risk is all mine but I am confident I have found what I seek.
BEFORE ALL ELSE
The stump was retrieved from the eastern coast. At dawn, near three full days ago. Fascinating how the waters carry it along its current. Weeks may pass before setting eyes upon it again but with a consistent speed and direction known to be natural to the indigenous. They do not fear it, nor do they attempt to understand it. It simply, is.
It was not difficult to anticipate its migration over time. Bringing it to shore proved more intricate however. Many nets were cast over to secure and bring it to the beachhead. A sense of urgency was needed but I could not bring myself to look away from what clearly resembled an iron skull than the likeness of a face. Notions of a body cocooned within bark and sap provoked me to press on but I must confess, my excitement was difficult to contain.
Nearby cliff dwellers offered much assistance in hoisting and securing the stump onto a horse-drawn wagon for amidite parting. Paid handsomely in black pearls for their assistance but more notably, their silence. If this procedure is to succeed in any form then inconspicuousness is of paramount importance. Traversal across the coastline to my cavernous retreat proved most uneventful but for the adverse weather conditions. I would stop at nothing.
1st DAY, NECROPSY TRIAL, Winter’s End,
The year of our rebirth 1199, Brake of Dawn
Performed solely by S. Blattbyte
Upon arrival, the tree stump remains intact and well-preserved, however a small quantity of bark had shed away along my travels. I shall keep these samplings for later use should the moment arise. The colouration is, unusual to me, with veins of lavender beneath the tree’s most outer layer. A foreign strain indeed that refines the senses at a whiff. I dare not consume it in any form at such a premature moment in my findings.
Chipping away at the bulk has revealed an inner layer of faint crystallized lavender sap, that is seemingly uninterrupted by the new change of surroundings. The very same form of sap that masks the iron skull. This will take time to strip bare.
Fascinating, little to no wood remains and my preliminary examination has revealed what I had hoped, for so long. A body, idle and cocooned but further still, adorned in a complete suit of armour. The helm is partially detached from the rest revealing the lower facial features of a face. An unkempt ebony beard, left ear and left ruby red eye are clearly visible, as is the snarling expression. Both hands have a firm grip around the hilt of a worn bastard sword, held in what appears to be a roofguard stance above the head. Sap has formed significantly under the feet suggesting the subject may have leapt, or perhaps been knocked back with measurable force prior to its now suspended position.
Curious, it is as though he was frozen in time of impassioned conflict.
The sap itself makes very little sense to me. It pains me to defy all I have learnt in my years as a scholar but one must not rule out the possibility of, capable sorcery, if such a thing truly exists. In time I shall learn. There are no signs of measurable damage or imperfections to its exterior, in spite of my tampering. More like diamond than hardened sap and extremely cold to the touch even still. No amount of flame nor any momentum of blunt force can bring it to ruin. A more methodical approach is required. Come first light I will have devised a plan but for now, I grow tired and must rest.
2nd DAY, NECROPSY TRIAL, Winter’s End,
The year of our rebirth 1199, Brake of Dawn
Performed solely by S. Blattbyte
Salt of Moira has been applied to surgically melt the sap composed cocoon. Enough to completely remove the body from within. In doing so the salt appears to have exuded a cool vapor almost as cold as ice itself, refreshing with a vinous fragrance, odd as it sounds.
The sap has been successful in preserving all within. Nothing has been exposed to the elements, nor have the elements disturbed anything in any way. Though clearly worn by time, the armour displays little rust and must have been wholly shielded from the harsh salty waters surrounding this land.
The body however, has now been stripped and cut away from the armour but its appearance puzzles me further.
It is as though the skin is made of sap. It resembles a close colouration to the sap but not quite as rich. Be that as it may, further study of the veins bears similar in colour to the main body of the sap itself. The toughened molasses has affected nothing else to the extent of the flesh.
Heat from many hot coals has been applied close to the subject’s joints and with great ease this has granted a more manageable alignment for continued study. It would be apparent the harshness of the sap is weakest in these areas and at a great convenience to me. It now remains merely as a gloss.
PHYSICAL KNOWLEDGE COLLECTED
One (1) Old suit of armour, partially maintained?
One (1) Bastard sword of considerable quality with custom Pommel
One (1) Throwing axe
One (1) Scarf, aquamarine in colour
One (1) Utility belt containing a wet stone, a lump of bread, dried meat of unknown description, a sprig of sky herb and two gold pieces. Nothing otherwise of importance.
Seven (7) necropsy drawings.
As foretold, the body is indeed that of a man at least forty years of age. Adult male genitalia confirm this. The subject measures somewhat above average for a human male in height but it is difficult to determine an exact weight according to retained sap. Despite several examples of lividity across the face, arms and upper torso, the body shows no peripheral signs of catastrophic damage. Notwithstanding there are several scars spread about the body, consistent characteristics of beings with a martial stride. The face is now more visible. The black of the eyes are wide open and the colour displays a natural red, not common amongst human kind. The hair is long and not particularly well-groomed showing traces of lice close to the roots. The sap has done well to keep any stench or aroma at bay though the general cleanliness of the skin may propose otherwise.
Calluses are present on the soles of the feet and also the palms and fingers of both hands but predominantly on the left.
The head displays a large scar from the left temporal to the chin, the largest on the body in fact. His teeth are in surprisingly good condition with the exception of two wooden replacements to the rear of the top left row. No major abrasions can be seen on the flesh and bone surrounding the top of the skull. The brain it would appear is untouched and perhaps within the correct parameters for the purported ritual.
Name – unconfirmed at present
Race – Human (Emanated from Namorithia?)
Sex – Male
Birth Year – Unconfirmed
Age – Approximately four decades
It is quite impossible to conduct a thorough examination of the subject’s inner workings, without causing a considerable degree of irreparable damage, or worse still. For now, he shall remain untouched in this regard but for a small vile of blood extracted by needlepoint. It is tough to penetrate the thickened skin with such a delicate tool but I endured. Five samples have been taken from the neck and all four limbs.
His blood gives the impression of a healthy man of his figure. Crimson in colour and an ordinary consistency akin to that of the living and breathing. Quite unusual for certain, considering the circumstances. Could it be?
Placing one’s ear upon the subject’s breast, I am beside myself with both worry and ecstasy. His heart beats still. At first, I gathered it was the deepness of the cave playing tricks on my senses but the man lives on with but a flutter.
This series of posts depicts the epic journey I’ve taken across the land of student filmmaking. From the deep-rooted plains of the 4:3 aspect ratio to the wonderous tundra of half-decent modern indie cinema, you’ll read about the trials I endured throughout my years of learning.
The wonderful adventure of non-compulsory education continues…
I’ve always felt that producing a zombie movie is a certain rite of passage into independent filmmaking. Either that or a film about teenage depression that always begins with the monotonous wakeup ritual of getting out of bed and eating a bowl of cereal.
What started as an overly ambitious short film of around 30 minutes in length, ended up a trailer for a non-existing feature length film. This was going to be epic! More epic than anything we had ever attempted in our short introduction to filmmaking and boy did it hit us hard when we discovered our limitations. Of all the low budget shorts I’ve gotten involved in over the years, this one failed to meet our unrealistic expectations the most. ‘Unrealistic’ being the operative word we obviously ignored at the time. Dead Nation was supposed to be a thought-provoking zombie film set in a near future United Kingdom half way through World War Three. Several years before our story begins, an unknown nation had dropped nukes of some description on this former Land of Hope & Glory. The film intended to explore a team of military and civilian personnel, tasked with entering the restricted fallout zone (now apparently safe to enter with no scientific explanation at all) to relieve a previous team who set out to survey the areas. Like true horror movies that begin this way, the previous team had stopped responding to all communication and nobody knows why they’ve gone dark.
I might add that we only wrote half of this epic short and planned to wing the rest. The main protagonist was a wildlife photographer who was supposed to document the birds and the bees of the fallout zone while leaving his two young girls behind in the safety of civilisation. That was pretty much all we had in terms of character development and you could tell he had children because of a conveniently placed story mechanism in way of a polaroid picture he kept close to his heart. Cheesy like Red Leicester but we weren’t to know better until it was too late. It was set in the near-future so god only knows why he’d have such a retro print on him.
There was also a campfire scene which introduced the zombies and ended with our dysfunctional group half getting eaten and half splitting up in different directions. We had a sequence in mind which sent our fleeing characters into a maze of apocalyptic buildings whilst being hunted by the hoard. We actually took a long time and much effort to research locations for said sequence and really came up trumps. We discovered so many listed/abandoned Pripyat like buildings that were all too perfect as a backdrop but for a lot of them, it meant we would have to film guerrilla style. Trespassing to be more exact and although we were committed visionaries, we weren’t ready to commit to a criminal act and involve several cast and crew members in the process. Although abandoned buildings have a certain aesthetic appeal to them, most of them were fenced off with added guard dog security. Filming there (if we made it in to begin with) would surely lead to a prison sentence if we were caught.
These buildings are also extremely unsafe. Just because they are listed, doesn’t mean they aren’t dilapidated. Though we might have been willing to shoot at these places illegally, we’d have to try and wear safety gear at least. The urban exploration appeal wore off eventually and sadly we were simply too unprepared and poor to pull it off. The closest place to fit the description was actually right around the corner from one of our houses and if I recall, it was a former football club house that burnt down some time ago. Lots of rubble and lots of burnt wood! We shot a sequence there for the trailer in the end so it wasn’t a totally wasted venture.
Speaking of illegal acts, we also had a bunch of plastic toy replica guns at our disposal that in hindsight, we really shouldn’t have used in public forests. Those zombies aint gunna shoot themselves though, so we asked around and found quite a few willing enthusiasts that didn’t mind volunteering their guns for a cheeky props credit. Everything we scrounged looked pretty real to me, hence the potentially illegal part but it was so varied that I came up with the idea that the war has pushed the country back a bit progressively and like us, the military would have to use whatever weapons they could get their itchy trigger finger hands on. One of our performers actually tripped up during a running segment and landed barrel first into the dirty forest floor. He was holding an AK47 replica that broke coincidently. We managed to fix it but to this day I don’t think the owner new what we did.
You can’t have a zombie film without blood and for what we wanted; we would need a lot. We first looked into buying it in bulk from a theatrical prop company but considering we had no money for this epic, it wasn’t very economical. So, we thought we’d make it ourselves from a funky recipe we found on the tinterwebs! Lots of corn syrup and red food colouring was about all I remember for the gruesome concoction but I remember the delivery mechanism for the fake blood very well. This was from an equally helpful website illustrating how to make a DIY blood cannon for gunshot exit wounds. I was so excited for this as it involved general gardening tools that everyone seemed to own already. Some sponge, a length of hose, a pesticide pressure sprayer and some duct tape were all we needed and luckily, we had.
Before we committed entirely to this cowboy method of practical special effects, we wanted to test it. Our cameraman Matt had a young model friend who said he was more than willing to help us out in this endeavour and quite frankly I was amazed that anybody would volunteer at all. There were zero complaints from me, I just wanted to see how this thing looked through a lens and needless to say, I was far from disappointed. We figured we’d shoot the test in the woods surrounding the college on a quiet day when we wouldn’t be disturbed. Last thing we wanted was to frighten the shit out of any passers-by so this spot in particular was great for privacy. As the camera was being set up, the co-director, Chad, proceeded to hook up our volunteer with the blood cannon by feeding the hose up his trouser leg to his chest. The guy was wearing a cheap t-shirt we bought with a cross cut out where the hose ended. This was so the blood had someplace to go and not build up underneath. The other end of the pipe was attached to the nozzle of the pesticide sprayer which was cleaned out and full of fake blood. The American gentleman on the tutorial video said that to really pull off a convincing gunshot blast of crimson mist, we needed to pump the sprayer about 50-100 times. Chad did this without effort but the more he pumped the greater the resistance and all were worried it might go off by itself.
The moment came and everyone was on standby waiting for Matt to press REC. The camera was rolling and Chad counted down before pressing the release button. What happened next, I can only describe as unrelenting. The effect I had in mind might have been similar to that of an average pistol shot. What we achieved was more in relation to somebody getting shot point blank range with a 50-calibre sniper rifle. It was like the guy was exploded in half, even more so when we played the footage back in slow motion. You know that sound when it just begins to rain and you’re surrounded by foliage? The pitter-patter of water droplets on leaves? Well, that’s the sound that came immediately after we pulled the trigger on our dismayed performer. It was quite literally raining fake blood on the trees around us. Chalk it up to a miscalculation on the hose length or the viscosity of the blood concoction. Either way, we messed up and it was brilliant.
That test footage actually ended up in the final product eventually because it was so absurd. It was just as well because weeks later when principal photography began, we discovered the tubes were clogged and created a dribble and spurt rather than the desired red haze. You had to laugh at the whole situation, it was doomed from the moment we formed any expectation.
What we ended up presenting to our lecturers was a pretty shoddy trailer, a couple of minutes in length starring half the students in my class acting like cheap zombies to the piece of music Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell, which was featured in Requiem for a Dream and completely overused for heroic advertising appeal ever since. So, I can’t even show it to anybody on the internet, out of fear of receiving a copyright takedown notice.
Three years ago, I imposed a question on the popular social
media site, Reddit. What is the appeal of a coffee shop?
For context, I posted this on the screenwriting sub-reddit
where lots of aspiring and professional screenwriters come for a chat about
writing resources, feedback on their work, advice and general questions about
the industry. The question I threw in was in relation to why writers often
decide to write in a coffee shop. At the time I had never given it a try and at
best, the only public establishment I had written in was a library which isn’t
really a fair comparison on account of the hush, hush enforcement.
It’s hard not to conjure up the thought of a conventional
hipster, barefoot, wearing a pair of thick empty frameless glasses and a beanie
on his head at the peak of summer, beard down to his bollocks, sitting on his
MacBook, sipping a soy latte. Ah, who am I to judge? I love me a soy latte. But
at least this guy’s trying his best to write that next big thing and for some
reason chose to do it in this popular public establishment.
You can follow the link for the complete discussion and accreditation but here is a breakdown of what I discovered…
In this day and age, you have to travel pretty far and wide to avoid the internet and let’s be honest with ourselves, it might as well be the number 1 source of all global procrastination. Say for a minute you don’t have your phone on you but just a laptop. If that laptop’s only hope of reaching the glorious Elysium fields of the internet is via a decent wi-fi connection, then try and pick a café that doesn’t provide one. If you are prone to reaching for that monolithic device in your pocket or clicking on those social media shortcuts lingering around your search bar, avoid the Internet altogether. That one is pretty simple to understand, which kind of seeps into the next point.
SELF CONTROL APP
If you have little to no will power when it comes to deviating from the task at hand, there’s an app for that! For Apple users there is an open source application which will allow you to tailor a suspension of internet functions. For a limited time of your choosing, you can have the app prevent you from using anything on your internet fuelled device that might harm your efficiency. If you are hard pressed to find a café a million miles from modern civilisation, maybe this is just the ticket.
HARNESS THE NOISE
There is a truly fascinating study which in summary suggests that our brain is capable of processing distracting sounds, channelling the energy into creativity. Or at least that is my thin paraphrasing of the concept. When I was a wee lad, I often watched the old man manage to read a book in a room full of people talking with the television on full blast and seemingly ignore everything but the page. I suppose reading is a little different from writing in that respect but it is similar. I can’t make the assumption that this works on everyone but it is an interesting notion. YouTube offers an oddly varied range of background coffee shop ambient videos, that you can listen to on whatever platform supports it. So, you don’t even have to leave the safety of your own home to experience the pandemonium of chatter, clanging and steam wands whistling. Might be worth trialling it this way first before committing to braving the sunlight.
LESSER OF TWO EVILS
Distractions are everywhere but you may find that there are
more distractions at home than at a coffee shop. No matter how similar distractions
may be in form, whether it’s sight, sound, smell or touch or anything that tweaks
the senses, there is always a more personal bond with home distractions that can
appear absent in a public place. If a relative is present at home, you could
easily engage in conversation with them but if an espresso enthusiast speaks at
a café you don’t even need to acknowledge their existence. It’s not rude, you’re
a stranger to them! Plus, there are some things you can get away with at home
that might be frowned upon out in the open. Don’t think I need to mention what
that might be. Think about it as preventative treatment.
Nobody is going to scrutinise you for being nosey or
eavesdropping on conversations people are having around you. If what they are
discussing is private, they shouldn’t have chosen to conduct their business in
a place full of members of the public. People are a great source of inspiration
and you might be amazed what observing them will spur on creatively. Got a touch
of the ol’ writers block? Watch and listen.
This one is particularly relevant to aspiring screenwriters living in Los Angeles but I guess it could apply to anyone anywhere, given the right circumstances. If you’re watching people, people are likely watching you and if you’re there sitting on your laptop going ham on that keyboard, you’ll likely turn a few heads. I live in the outskirts of London so this is completely out of my personal experience but the theory is sound. Hollywood is filled with creatives in the Film and TV industry and although the obvious sight of you working on your project isn’t uncommon, there is great opportunity to network and perhaps one day you’ll connect with the right person who’ll offer you that big break.
Lastly, if you like coffee and writing, a café is probably the
place to be. There is nothing quite like a professionally crafted mug of
artisan coffee brought over to your table with a smile. It sure beats instant made
with water from a limescale-ridden kettle of eight years.
Why do you write in a coffee shop? Leave a comment and let’s find out.
You’ve probably already guessed what gave me the inspiration for this short script. It’s been on my mind ever since I saw The Force Awakens and I often express this theory to anyone who shares a love for the universe George Lucas sparked off those many years ago. For the uninitiated, this little story is part of my Anecdotes of an Extra series where I completely make up the lives of screen extras both in character and actor form, from popular television and cinema. An industry standard format of the script written in Fade In can be found below, with correct spacing and margins and such. Or you can just scroll past that and read it here. Enjoy!
INT. LONDON – THE ESCAPOLOGIST COCKTAIL BAR – NIGHT
It’s a quiet Thursday and the night is young with only a few patrons present.
A young couple (early 30’s) sit close to each other at a high bar table. The man, TREVOR, a tall square shouldered gentleman, rests his arm on the shoulders of his girlfriend BETH, who is contented in his embrace.
They’ve come straight from work and remain mostly in their office attire. Both have a pint of local ale nestled between them, Trevor’s is almost empty and Beth isn’t far behind.
BETH A what? -You mean from Star, Trek? -No.
TREVOR (shakes head) The other one. Spooky white plastic armour.
BETH Yeah… No way you played a storm trooper.
TREVOR I bloody did, the Force Awakens. I was a storm trooper, man! It must have been… two years before I asked you out I reckon. I’d just been made redundant right, from that long printing stint I did-
BETH -You worked in print?
TREVOR … Yeah. You knew that?
BETH I thought you said you worked for a newspaper, assisting columnists weren’t it?
TREVOR (jesting) I did, they ain’t gonna print their work are they.
BETH (laughing) That’s not the same thing.
TREVOR That’s not important – let me finish what I was saying.
Beth gives a cheeky grin before taking a sip of her ale.
TREVOR So, I got a nice payout because of how many years I worked there. I was an apprentice straight out of school more or less so they owed me big. I made more than enough money to mooch about for a few months, and it happened just when my cousin Jim mentioned he was gonna have a go at film extra work. You know Jim, you met him at the wedding.
BETH (nods) Hmm.
TREVOR Well Jim ain’t got a theatrical bone in his body, so I’m thinking I can do one better because I learned guitar an-that.
BETH I do go weak at the knees when you break out the Yamaha.
TREVOR It’s in my genetics, I love to entertain babe. Stop taking the mick. Anyway, I join this agency he recommends, and who at the time were looking for tall blokes. Told them I was interested and available to work straight away, on anything they had to offer -proper get stuck in. When they eventually tell me more about the gig, I hear it’s a job on the new Star Wars, playing a military role. I’m beside myself at the prospect of being the most iconic goon in cinema history.
Beth takes a second to process this new fact about her boyfriend.
BETH You were one of, like hundreds though right? And you never see their faces, they always keep their helmets on don’t they? Like a unified faceless terror.
TREVOR That’s not the point. It was all about the experience of living a childhood dream… To begin with anyway.
BETH You enjoyed yourself then?
TREVOR I did. It was the maddest thing I’ve ever done. And I must have been half decent at it because I was picked to say a couple of lines. Beth raises her eyebrows in bemusement, turning to face Trevor proper.
TREVOR A load of us were asked if we were comfortable and capable enough to speak on camera. I put my hand up along with like eight other troopers, and one by one Mr. Abrams tells us in our best American accents -all storm troopers are yanks for some reason, don’t ask me why -to repeat the sentence… (with an American accent) ‘I’ll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum’. (back to British) Wicked line, did not have a clue what it meant but still wicked. When he gets to me, I smash it don’t I? The director loves it and I get a chance to up my rate a bit, everyone’s happy… So it’s all very secretive, I’m not told a lot until the day of this scene I’m in, quite on the hush hush -I don’t even know who, if any, is gonna be in the scene with me. They bring me to the sound stage, this is the first time I’ve seen this awesome set that looks like a space interrogation room -hearts racing, shitting myself but never been more excited. The AD blocks the scene out with me, showing me where to stand and that.
TREVOR Like one of the assistants to the big boss director. Shares some of the work. Real nice person, makes me feel right at home while we rehearse the sequence before the top talent are ready for us.
Trevor leans closer to Beth.
TREVOR Now from behind the camera I can hear a crew member say double O seven is in the building. There are celebs all over the place at Pinewood and if it really is the gentlemen in question, he probably wondered over from the Bond sound stage they got over there -which actually burnt done once I might add. But I digress. There’s me trying not to get distracted but now I’m thinking of Daniel bloody Craig as well as the epic sci-fi I so happen to be a small part of. At this moment I’m just waiting around and trying to stop my brain from melting. Then, from behind one of these mental backdrops or whatever, I hear more talking. It’s the big boss himself having a conversation with… (opens his hands) Daniel Craig. There’s loads of people chatting among themselves but I can still hear what they’re talking about. I could even see them both just about, through a gap in the partition wall like a real creeper. It’s the usual stuff I’d reckon film-stars spurt about to each other, but just when I’m thinking this could be some big break for me, J.J. shouts ‘Hey Dan, I’ve got an amazing idea’-
BETH (sympathetic) -Then you got replaced.
TREVOR They fucking replaced me.
Trevor smiles and shakes his head, a self-deprecating charm.
TREVOR …How’d you guess?
BETH Saw it on a top ten twenty celeb cameos vid.
TREVOR Bloody-hell. Feel like an arse now, thought you might have liked that one.
BETH I did. A near claim to fame.
TREVOR …Who was only I kidding really? Probably would have dubbed over my voice anyway. Least I took home a few quid more. For-ma troubles. Trevor looks down at his pint glass that he hasn’t touched during the whole anecdote. The golden liquid is near spent and the thin layer of foam sitting on top, somewhat depicts the Mickey Mouse symbol. Beth notices her boyfriends light somber mood, a sympathetic grin on her. She steps up off the stool behind him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
BETH (whispers) I still love ya.
She plants an audible cartoon kiss on Trevor’s cheek, picks up the glasses, then heads over to the bar.
What did you think? Drop a comment and if you’re interested in short films or screenwriting or whatever, share your work!
I suspect Countess Manfrah will sleep well this evening, having been reunited with her stolen creations, if only in part. Though a site untoward usual woman of her posting, she looked colourful and out of place among the grim tapestry of weathered storehouses. As payment for our services we received the gold as promised, which I will see none of, of course. She has wealth, that much is certain for any who know of her family’s lofty stature. I should feel grateful for receiving anything at all being an apprentice, a mere neophyte at best, but her generosity stretches only as far as her embrace and the lady has but only one arm. A small price for ingenuity.
Praeceptor Arttura, my mentor and provider, reminds me often of my place beneath his wing and that any form of praise or dues will come from him and him alone should he see fit. I can still see the steadfast gaze on his face when coin crossed his palm. It is the same as always. I know my place and I am grateful for it, if a half full belly and a choppy education has anything to say. But I did not expect a gift, least of all from the one-armed countess.
Arttura would never allow it under normal circumstances but this affair was far from normal and he would not dare argue with a member of the Makers Guild. They are an unpredictable bunch with little patience, all of them. I am told this contrivance is the future of warfare, a combination of exotic materials and an over productive mind. Weaponry with a purpose, to distance oneself from the enemy, to put restraint on the intimacy of killing. A pitfall in dwarvish tinkering, if my word is worth a damn. Or perhaps an ideal harmony between unstable people. The appellation ‘firearm’ was used in abundance during our discourse. It is aptly named.
I am far from a marksman and I have never hunted for a meal, that I will sadly admit but it appears to be a cumbersome substitute to the simplicity of bow and arrow. At present I see it as nothing more than an ornate arbalest and just as troublesome to operate but it is quite pleasing to the eye. The woman said it was a precursor to something far greater. Something tells me she wanted rid of it, or at least it no longer served her a lucrative purpose other than to curry favour with me. A fitting gift for a young man supposedly destined for better things and the first gift I have ever received. I relinquished the rest to her attendants of which there were plenty and in much finer condition by a glance. She declared that I should call it Cardinal. Swords and metal alike are given names all the time and considering there are none in my holding this seems appropriate I gather.
A brief schooling of the mechanism was given over the bustle of men at work but I retained the instructions as best I could. The process is akin to lighting a fire with flint however black powder is used in place of bone-dry roughage. I have heard very little about this pepper like substance used overseas in far-reaching conflicts and likewise in the advancement of mining. Though I cannot say I would ever sprinkle it on Marcellas humble turnip stew. Once ignited, it creates a fiery force strong enough to send a lead ball down its bored-out metal neck and if one is skilled enough, it will land true. Will it stop a man dead in his tracks? The thought of being on the receiving end transfigures the imagination. I will need to take considerable care of it I fear but not before learning how to use the bloody thing.
Damned now are the men who stole these contraptions, though I doubt they had much notion of what they pinched. Guild sigils adorning locked crates attract thieves like a moth to the flame but this one burnt them and burnt them proper. They will be less careless in their coming days, should they escape the rope and public scorn. But only a twit would think that.
She is a curious being, the countess. Forthright, dangerous. I believe she may require more of us hereafter.
Mother said it would be wise for me to write down my thoughts. The words are to be written exactly how they are in my head now, so that I may look upon them as I grow and learn how dreadful I once was. She says I have a fiery spirit and an escape like this would help to extinguish the flames. It is hard not to agree with her, but dreadful? That is entirely a matter of perspective.
I almost blinded a boy today, with a pebble from the river. Cannot imagine his perspective will sway in my favour, however. The sun caught me at a disadvantage, which made me miss his eye by a fraction. He’ll have a lovely nick on the side of his head to remember the occasion and that thought makes me smile. He pushed me too far this time but I think the unbearable heat has contributed somewhat. Bochy is his name and he never wonders anywhere without his three younger brothers. He takes great care of them but has little care for anyone else in the settlement, especially a half-blood like me. “Wide Eyes” the zealots call me but not for the reasons you might think. I barely look any different from them. Do they fail to see that my ears are a little pointier than theirs? Or would that be too obvious an insult from those unbathed creatives.
I’m not naive, I know they torment me more for coin in my family’s coffers. Just because we are more fortunate than most, does not make me any different them. Or perhaps it should, perhaps they should hate me? Nonetheless, I shan’t wright about this gloom any further, my head aches from it.
I suppose I should introduce myself to you? Is that how this practice works? It might help you to understand me a little more. Then I must give you a name. Should I be naming you I wonder? Perhaps that it is not the best of ideas. It is one thing to confide in a book of empty pages and another to make one appear more, civilised. I will decide in the morning, it will give me time to think of a good title should I be that way inclined. Speaking of which, where are my manners? My name is Reshana Tinchild and I live on a small patch of earth called Yetna Falls. It is a town perched on a coast of ash coloured sands and a canvas of ancient red wooded pines. The mighty Yetna river spans for weeks until it reaches its end here at the falls. Everything inland eventually finds its way to the sea and it is truly a sight to behold. My home rests right on the edge of the cliff and offers quite the view from my bedchamber. I look out upon the vast waters as this is written, the sun beats hard on us this summer and I embrace it arms open mostly. It’s warmer than past years but it still feels good on the bones.
Mother gave birth to me on a bright day like this, twelve years ago next week. She is unaware I know. Thinks I have lost count of the days but I know full well. It is a key requirement for a diary after all is it not? One hopes she will gift me the books I requested. Body Beyond Steel, a comprehensive study of unarmed combat from the anchorites of the winter provinces and a copy of Tyrannical Botany by Lady Jayne Borrers. Those are what I desire the most. An odd combination I realise but such are my interests. Though the practice of putting my own thoughts to paper is not beyond me, I would rather read about the minds of others any day. Great literature is few and far between out this far west, and I only know of these books through voices of travelling merchants and Lord Tene’s scribe. I consider it a treasured gift that I was schooled at home and if there is any given thing, I take for granted, my education is not it. It was mother who is mostly responsible for my undying tolerance for knowledge, barring the odd mentor here and there. Between them, they taught me to read, write and question just about everything.
I do try my very best not to upset mother, she works so tirelessly in the running of the Crystal Caravan Company. That’s what I call the family business, consequently for the decades of beautiful wares we’ve shipped for the glassblowers. Our wagons are built with an original spring design that absorbs more roughness of the cobble and dirt, thus allowing for an increased average speed and cargo capacity. We also use only the best quality sawdust and hay to hug the fragile cargo onboard. It guarantees their goods will reach inland swiftly and securely. That is the melody we sing to them at least, but it is mostly true, especially if our vast patronage has anything to say about it. Traders will always consider us first and foremost where speed and precision is of the utmost importance. An all-encompassing arrangement, just the horseflesh which gain no real profit. Though we do try our very best tending to their needs. The company’s real name of course is Tinchild Haulers named after my Grandfather Ser Avery Tinchild. I think mine is better but this is the official title. He built our family business from nothing but what little he had as a young travelling field worker, or so mother tells me. Came to this place when it was barely chartered on the map, finding his feet as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Always building and always tinkering until the day he parted from the world, apparently. If it was not for the fair-minded nobility of this community, he made his home, a poor man with radical ideas would never have achieved anything above his precedence. For his ingenuity and service to the Falls, he was granted a knighthood by the Lordship and for that we are fortunate indeed. It is a rare thing for such a title to be bestowed upon a being who has never witnessed nor fought heroically on a battlefield. He earned his, for his mind and ability to turn a steady significant profit and frankly expanding the constitution of local commerce. I just wish I had gotten the chance to meet the old fellow.
That being said, I always speak more highly of him than my own absent snake of a father. Though I have never met him either. But it is only proper I mention the man, he did bring me into this world too it pains me to say. My distaste for father began when I first enquired after him. It’s odd but my first experience of a father figure was seeing a child struck by a man in the roadway heading to prayer. Unremorseful, the man did not bat an eye to the grief he had caused this child yet appeared to see it more as a fulfilment of duty. The child was scolded for their mischief, but not by their mother.
To this day my mother has never hurt me, at least not physically. I tell myself she would not ever keep secrets from me even if I am too young to understand the trials of parenthood. However, I fear there are other contributing factors to her methods of upbringing. I am born out of wedlock; it is no mystery. If it wasn’t for my family’s long standing in this community, I am positive the circumstances would be more trying. For mother especially. And as for that dirty charlatan of an elf I refer to as father, he has ceased to exist my whole life. I know almost nothing of father, part from the few belongings he left behind and the even few details mother wishes to share about him. Everything is locked away in the cellar and mother holds the key. I do not know why she doesn’t simply give them away. Will she eventually pass them down to me? Or perhaps part of his charm leaves a mark on her still.
Absent husbands should be lost at sea or fallen in a skirmish, not disappear forever like a fiend in the night. I hope he is dead, not to ease the pain with some semblance of closure but because he doesn’t deserve to come back to what he abandoned. Enough of this colourless drivel, I won’t let the thought of him upset me.
I believe these words will suffice for one day. Think I’ll enjoy this writing babble after all, whether or not I’m going about it the right way. It has been quite a remedial experience telling you of bliss and woefulness.
Perhaps I will share it tonight with the friendly voice in my dreams.