Thursday, 11 December 2014

London Short Film Festival 2015


The programme for the 2015 London Short Film Festival has been released and I'm pleased to announce that Windowpane will be screened in the 'Father' category.

Screening - Monday 12th January (9pm) at Hackney Picture House.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Facebook page...

Check out my page on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/markdugganfilms

Monday, 8 December 2014

Weekend viewing...

Saturday

First up was St. Vincent. Slightly manipulative and sentimental but it worked for me! The ending really moved me...

A tense, claustrophobic thriller; real edge-of-your-seat stuff! Good direction from Kevin Macdonald and a great performance from Jude Law (even with his slightly distracting Scottish accent)...

Jennifer Lawrence
Really enjoyed this! A pleasant surprise after the less than impressive Catching Fire. Jennifer Lawrence is magnetic and quite a singer too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3hTW9e20d8).

Sunday

The heartbreaking story of Alan Turing. An enjoyable film with a touching performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.

Loved this! I need more time to digest it but it may well make my 'films of the year' list. Some beautiful moments; made me reflect on the world in which we're currently living…

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Best of 2014…

Month by month, these are the films I enjoyed the most this year…

January

February

The Lego Movie


March


April

May



June



July




October



November

Interstellar

My top 3? It's a tough one; I was particularly fond of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Her, Apes, Begin Again and Blue Ruin.

However, my top 3 is as follows:

3. Nightcrawler 
2. Gone Girl 
1. Interstellar…a film that moved me in ways that very few films ever do.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

GoPro - test 2

Some images from another GoPro Hero 4 test, which I did yesterday in Nottingham…as you can see, there is some image distortion due to the extra wide-angle view that the camera adopts when shooting at 4k. Subsequently, I'm looking into software that will "correct" the image: I'll post the results.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

GoPro 4 - test shoot

Yesterday I did a test shoot with the new GoPro Hero 4 (Black Edition), which I intend to use for my next short film. 

I'll provide more details about the film (plot, shooting dates, crew, etc.) in due course but, for now, all I will say is that the script has a number of logistical issues that I need to work out in detail prior to shooting...hence the test shoot.

So, the camera arrived in the morning and I quickly I downloaded the GoPro app onto my iPad. The app allows the user to control the cameras settings via wi-fi, and, I must say, I'm particularly impressed with it. Despite the lag, I can now use the iPad as an on-set monitor, which will prove invaluable once I start shooting.

I must say a big thank you to Katie McMillan, who will feature in the project, as she agreed to stand in and help during this test shoot, which proved to be very helpful.

The test

The main aims of this test was to see what the GoPro image looked like at different times of the day and, most importantly, what I could achieve with the camera in low-light conditions. 
  • The first image was taken late afternoon (you can see the iPad in shot). 
  • The second shot was taken at dusk, with no lighting.
  • The third image was taken at night using two tiny LED lights from B&Q


Overall, I'm very happy with the image that the camera has produced and I now have a better idea of what I can achieve/how many lights I will need in each lighting context.

Unfortunately, it appears that my copy of the camera is faulty as a number of the files were corrupted! As you can see below, the footage was damaged and completely unusable (I've contacted GoPro and I'll hopefully receive a new camera very soon). This 'hiccup' is an example of why test shoots are so important - it was better that I discovered this problem now.


Summary

Maybe I'm completely mad to attempt to shoot a short film on a GoPro camera - fellow filmmakers certainly seem surprised when I tell them of my intentions. However, I'm fond of a challenge and enjoy doing something different to what everyone else is doing. Most importantly though, I actually believe that the camera will add to the heightened sense of realism that I'm hoping to achieve in the telling of this story. 

As ever, I'll keep you all updated…

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Interstellar…and IMAX

Interstellar...Wow! I was very impressed with the latest blockbuster from director Christopher Nolan. A very moving film (it's no surprise to me that Steven Spielberg was once due to direct it) that deals with the passing of time and the connection between parents and their children. Needless to say, I thoroughly recommend seeing it and seeing it on the biggest screen that you can find, as it is a truly cinematic experience.


Which brings me to my only issue with the screening I was in…and it has nothing to do with the film itself.

A little history

The first feature film I saw at an IMAX theatre was Batman Begins (2005) at the The Printworks in Manchester and I fell in love with the scale of the experience - the screen filled my peripheral vision! Subsequently I made sure that my first viewing of The Dark Knight (2008) & The Dark Knight Rises (2012) were also at the IMAX in Manchester.

Nolan is a huge advocate of shooting on film and utilising IMAX cameras in particular; for the Batman sequels, the director shot a number of sequences in the IMAX format (detailed in the video below), which lead to a changing aspect ratio throughout the film (2.35:1 and 1.44:1) but meant that some sequences were truly breathtaking due to the size of the image.



Nolan's experiment with the switching aspect ratios worked for me (although the Blu-Ray experience of The Dark Knight/Rises can be quite distracting) and it has obviously influenced Hollywood as, since then, I've seen Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (video) and Guardians of the Galaxy (video) both utilising the IMAX format (M:I was particular impressive). 

I love the IMAX experience…or so I thought.

The Lie-Max

My previous experiences with IMAX were at the BFI London, National Media Museum (Bradford), and the previously noted screen in Manchester. However, I'd heard that there were a number of IMAX screens popping up that were less than impressive - and these screens were quickly dubbed "Lie-MAX". The problem? Regular cinemas were converting standard screens into Digital IMAX screens, which were far smaller than the "proper" screens (e.g. Manchester and London) and were not equipped to project a feature film on 70mm. 

As this article on Slash Film notes…

"The system was designed to be installed in existing multiplex auditoriums — moving the screen 30 feet closer to the audience, covering more space from ceiling to ground and left to right, which is said to be perceived as 75 feet wider than before. So while the screen seems much much larger than your normal multiplex screen, it still doesn’t compare to that or a “real” 70mm 15 perf IMAX theater.


Also the aspect ratio, 1.9:1, is much closer to that or a traditional movie theater (1.85:1) than a 70mm 15perf IMAX screen (1.44:1). So while the image on the screen should expand some during the IMAX sequences in films like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, it is nowhere near as dramatic as a real IMAX theater. More subjectively, the lower resolution is not quite as breathtaking."

Other pieces on the problem of the Lie-MAX:

LA Weekly - IMAX or Lie-MAX
Roger Ebert - That's not the IMAX I grew up with
Den of Geek - The Incredible Shrinking IMAX Screen

The problem with the Lie-MAX had been discussed quite a bit during the release of The Dark Knight Rises and rightly so as these cinemas were, and still are, exploiting the fact that audiences were/are keen to see a film in that format. This bothered me quite a bit as people thought that they were having a certain experience, they were paying for that experience…but they weren't getting that experience.

And so…

I'll be honest, I was always going to watch Interstellar but I didn't have the level of excitement that I did prior to The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises and so I didn't pre-book IMAX tickets for Manchester or London. However, I had nothing to do yesterday and so I thought I'd go to see Nolan's new film and the new Mike Leigh film, Mr. Turner (which features a great performance by Timothy Spall).

I noticed that Cineworld in Nottingham had the film playing in their IMAX screen. I knew it wasn't a "proper" IMAX screen as I'd previously seen Bridesmaids in the same space (Screen 10) but, as I wasn't that hyped for the film, I thought I'd take a look at how different these retrofitted theatres really are.

I arrived at the cinema, collected my ticket, grabbed a coffee, entered the theatre and as I popped my head around the corner to see the screen…I couldn't tell the difference between this "IMAX" screen and a regular cinema screen. Don't get me wrong, it's a large screen but nowhere near the scale of the screens in Manchester or London.

The film itself contained the switching aspect ratios but as the screen wasn't that big I found it distracting as the image didn't "open" up that much (as noted above by Slash Film). However, I must say that the sound in the theatre was very good and much better than a standard cinema screen.

When I got home I did some research and found this post, which has a list comparing the IMAX in Nottingham to the screen sizes of other IMAX theatres…


Now I don't know how accurate the other screen sizes are but the BBC also quotes the Nottingham screen as being 30ft by 62ft. Now when you compare this to the size of the screen at the BFI - "over 20 metres high and 26 metres wide!" (65ft by 85ft) - you begin to visualise the discrepancy between the two products.

Conclusion

As I have an Unlimited Card I only paid £4.14 to see the film but a regular ticket for this experience is £14.60. By comparison, the price for an Interstellar ticket at the Manchester IMAX is £16.30. Now £16.30 is undoubtedly an expensive night out (interestingly, I paid less than £15 to see Guardians of the Galaxy) but when you compare the Cineworld Lie-MAX to the full IMAX, I'd personally rather pay the extra £1.70 - especially as the Manchester IMAX is projecting the film in 70mm…

twitter - @ManchesterImax
I loved the film! My only regret is that I didn't see it at a "real" IMAX theatre…but I will be doing as soon as possible.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Nightcrawler

So I caught Nightcrawler over the past weekend…thoroughly recommended!



Sunday, 26 October 2014

Behind the scenes...

Below are some of Marie Holliday's photos from the Colchester 60 Hour Film shoot. I'm a very big fan of Marie's photography work - I think she has a great eye and I'm sure you'll agree that the images below are very nice indeed.

Marie is currently launching 'PIGEON' - "an art studio within Burton run by Mark Davies, Stephanie Bonner, Tom Bell and Marie Holliday." Their first exhibition opens on Friday 31st October (details HERE), so if you're based in the Midlands be sure to check it out... 

A photo posted by O marie (@omariemarie) on

A photo posted by O marie (@omariemarie) on

A photo posted by O marie (@omariemarie) on

A photo posted by O marie (@omariemarie) on

A photo posted by O marie (@omariemarie) on

A photo posted by O marie (@omariemarie) on


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

60 Hour Shortlist

The shortlisted films for the Colchester Film Festival 60 Hour Challenge have been announced and, unfortunately, my short didn't make the cut…you can see the films that have been selected for screening below.

In all honesty, the films that have been selected are not the type of shorts that I would choose to make. However, from the shortlist, my personal favourites were 'Red Herring' and 'Normal People'.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Gone Girl

Yesterday I watched Gone Girl, the new film from director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network). It's actually a very difficult film to write about without spoiling the story but I've boiled it down to the following equation:

Blue Valentine + Zodiac x Fatal Attraction = Gone Girl


The plot itself is pretty crazy but I went along with it as the filmmakers were attempting to make a comment on real-world relationship issues. These issues and themes may be heightened (at times it plays more like a black comedy than a thriller) but they are still very clear... 
  • The notion of unconditional love - should you have to change who you are in a relationship?
  • The loveless marriage. How long can passion last?
  • The faces that we present in public and behind closed doors
  • The battle for power / control / freedom
  • The intense scrutiny of the modern media and lack of context in news coverage
For me, more filmmakers should be attempting to tackle the ideas and themes that Fincher is presenting to audiences…

The cast, particularly Affleck, are excellent! The film is brilliantly paced and the direction is flawless. Needless to say, I'm thoroughly recommending it!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

60 hour challenge…behind the scenes

Some behind the scenes images from the Colchester Film Festival 60 hour film challenge…images by Katie McMillan & Lewis Martin.

Katie soaking up the sun
Overseeing a shot of Marie Holliday
Lewis Martin grabs a close-up of Marie
Perfect light
Marie snapping the locations on her iPhone

Cast & Crew (Mark, Marie, Adam Collins, Katie, Harrison Conner, Lewis Martin)

Monday, 6 October 2014

60 Hour Challenge…done

So I completed the 60 hour film challenge for the Colchester Film Festival and I'm very pleased with what has been accomplished.

As with many 24/48 hour film competitions, there was to be a title, prop and line of dialogue that had to be included in the final production. The details went live at 8pm on Friday and, initially, I thought that everyone had to use 'Under Age' as a title as it was listed as the example on the festival website.


Fortunately, I quickly realised that each team had been assigned an individual title, prop and line of dialogue (which must have taken the organisers an age!), all of which were available in a pdf.

Title: Turning
Line of dialogue: It's free every two weeks
Action: Attempts to juggle apples

…and off I went. Filming was done on Saturday, post-production began on Sunday and was completed during the early hours of Monday morning. I hope that it will be shortlisted for screening on the 26th October but who knows given the vast number of entries. Either way, I feel proud of the film and it most definitely fits into my body of work.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Colchester 60 Hour Film Challenge

In May, I completed Windowpane for the Five Lamps Films 24 Hour Film Challenge, which I enjoyed very much...

 

Subsequently, I have decided to take part in the Colchester Film Festival 60 Hour Film Challenge. The competition begins this evening at 8pm and lasts until Monday morning at 8am.

The Rules: 
  1. The finished film must be a minimum of two (2) minutes and a maximum of five (5) minutes in duration.
  2. Credits at the beginning and end of each film should total no more 30 seconds and make up part of the overall running time. The provided title card should be displayed before the film for 5 seconds, followed by your team name, title, line of dialogue and action for 5 seconds (examples will be provided).
  3. Films submitted to the ’60 Hour Film Challenge’ must either be in English or have English subtitles. 
  4. All footage period including animation and special effects must be created during the 60 hour period. 
  5. Pre-recorded music must be accompanied by the relevant signed clearance, or proof you have the rights to use it. The same rules apply to sound effects.
  6. Overall content of the movie, beyond that specified at the launch, is at the discretion of the participating teams. The organisers reserve the right to not screen any film that would attract an 18 certificate.
I will be shooting tomorrow and editing on Sunday…wish me luck!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed

Some excellent quotes from Werner Herzog, which completely resonate with me as a director…

  • "Filmmaking - like literature - must have experience of life at its foundation"
  • "I have always sought to transform my own experiences and fantasies into cinema"
  • "My job as a filmmaker is to look into the deepest recesses of the soul"
  • "I need people who see and feel things as they are, not someone concerned with creating the most beautiful images possible…"
  • "I don't give much thought to the composition of the image; instead I focus entirely on what that shot is about and how it fits into the overall story. Everything else is irrelevant."
  • "The most important thing to say about editing is that it isn't a technical process...it comes from something much deeper, from an understanding of the vision behind the images and the story you need to tell"
  • Musical influences? "These have always been strong, maybe the strongest. People might think it strange that music could make such an impact on a filmmaker, but it's quite natural to me"
Considering the final quote, below is a cover song that has inspired me quite a lot over the past year. Whenever I felt that a project was going off track, this song helped me regain certain thoughts, emotions and ideas - the instruments and the lead singer's voice are very moving to me…there is a genuine sense of longing, loss and isolation - key themes in my work.  


Monday, 29 September 2014

Raven at Aberdeen

The Raven on the Jetty will have its Scottish premiere on October 10th as part of the Aberdeen Film Festival

Tickets are available from the Cineworld website: http://www.cineworld.co.uk/whatson/aiff-the-raven-on-the-jetty

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Casting Actors

I am currently moving into pre-production on a new short film and, subsequently, I have been thinking about the characters & the type of actors that I'd like to play them. In order to find the right people I will be going through an auditioning process. But it is more than an actors ability to deliver a performance that I'll be looking for...

Working with actors is one of the key collaborations during the filmmaking process. Therefore it is important that an actor understands the importance of the work being undertaken and that they are completely committed to the project. It could be argued that working with relatively small budgets makes this understanding twice as important...there simply has to be a mutual respect between an actor and director.

As an example, Terence J Corbett has always been fully committed to the films I have produced, which is why I've often found myself working with him. We've often joked about some of the scenes I've had him act in - a mouth full of rice pudding at 1 in the morning; stepping off a pavement into the path of a moving car; drowning in a reservoir; trudging over snowy hills in freezing conditions...the list goes on. I know he is willing to do almost anything to facilitate my vision for a particular project (though I have never put him in any physical danger). 

Terry vomiting and drowning
But how does one know if an actor is committed to a project? Trust your instincts! If an actor is failing to respond to emails and phone calls, in a reasonable amount of time, then the chances are that they are too busy to be involved in the production. If they are telling you that they can only shoot for an hour on a particular day, then, again, they are probably not committed and/or are too busy. Find out all you can about the person during meetings. If necessary, go one step further and take a look at their social media output - do they seem interested in their craft or fame?

Believe me, if you find yourself in the position of making a film with an actor who is only giving 10% of their time, effort & soul and/or they seem to have their own superficial reasons for being involved, then you are going to have a very, very stressful shoot. If you proceed with the wrong person, then you will find yourself receiving a text that they are unable to get to a location 5 minutes before shooting is due to commence. Even worse, they may refuse to finish the film altogether! Filmmaking is difficult enough without the presence of a half-interested cast member. 

I have recently been reading 'Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed' and, amongst many wonderful quotes, tips and anecdotes, read the following: "A project can become a cul-de-sac and your life might slip through your fingers in pursuit of something that can never be realised. Know when to walk away." 

My point is this - cast well! That doesn't just mean finding someone who is talented in front of a camera but finding the person who is equally as gracious before the camera rolls & long after it stops. You will discover who is in possession of these qualities, and whether you can trust them, early on - send emails, make phone calls and insist on face to face meetings. If your cast make excuses during pre-production then sever their ties to the film, as you will be setting yourself up for a difficult shoot. Remember, there is someone out there who is equally as talented and will be far more committed to your cause. 

What the director has to decide is whether they are prepared to do the tough work during pre-production, or suffer the consequences of poor casting with a nightmarish production. The answer is obvious to me...though we often learn such things the hard way.

I'll be sure to keep the world posted on the casting process…wish me luck!