Final Media Project: Reflection and Evaluation

It’s funny to think that all the way back in October, the ‘Latitude’ crew was around 25 people – people who had shown interest in the ‘California Road Trip’ project organised by the University. Over time it became evident that it was actually much less people than that who were truly interested in the project once money and time devotion became heavily involved. The idea for a feature film was thrown out to the small group and everyone who remained interested in the project (the current Latitude crew) relished the fact at being involved in their first feature film.

In hindsight it would have been so much better if we had begun planning much, much earlier, as it wasn’t until November that we started to have meetings in our ‘secret basement’ which we called Latitude HQ. Also at the time the project was entitled ‘Lattitude’ with two T’s, hinting to the ‘attitude’ of the story, but this was soon scrapped as we weren’t sure as to how much attitude there would really be and also because to others it appeared as though we just spelt Latitude wrong.

Latitude HQ

The ideas came in swiftly for what content could be in the film and it was soon suggested by Pete (the director) to base the film around the theme of Geocaching, a treasure hunting game using GPS devices. After doing a little bit of research into the nature of Geocaching – and looking into it’s audience worldwide – the rest of the team agreed that this was the way forward. The Geocaching site alone has over 5 million registered viewers, with 2 million hits monthly. Initially we thought there is our target audience! There are also no real feature films relating to the theme of Geocaching, so we were sort of entering a new market so to speak. As the world is rapidly changing and the hype of social media and the web is hugely effecting our daily lives, the themes in Latitude reflect that ever changing lifestyle – it questions whether we depend on social media, networking and browsing the web to survive. Could you survive without your Facebook page?

We soon decided it was time to select roles within the Core Team. I applied for the role of First Assistant Director and got it, as this is the direction I want to go in to after University – learning the necessary tools to be a director while working closely with the cast and crew. I’m experienced in all departments within a crew: lighting, cinematography, direction, presenting, sound engineering and camera operation, so I was delighted when I initially got the role. It was around this process that Pete started forming a script.

Funnily enough we promoted the project from day 1 through the use of social media and networking (in particularly on the web), so the main issue in the theme of ‘are we dependent on social media?’ is quite ironic. It wasn’t long before we set up the website http://www.latitudethemovie.com and formed a small following from friends and family. This was also enhanced by the creation of our Twitter @LatitudeMovie and Facebook, Latitude The Movie on 23rd November. Social media took a huge part in terms of gaining the project some exposure. This later led to press releases in the UK and the project being advertised not only in newspapers in the West Midlands, but also by producers in Hollywood and Geocaching podcasts in America (PodCacher).

We soon created some content for the website, including a treatment of the film’s story, as well as the roles of the crew involved. These were so we could interact slightly with our potential audience and give people a little more information on what the project actually is. These videos were important later on when starting our crowd- funding campaign. We perhaps should have posted an update every day going over what progress had been made, but that leads on to my next point: we took a long time to get the ball rolling.

Initially there were doubts as to whether we could pull off a feature film, due to the sheer size of the project as well as having limited funds. At the time literally everyone in the crew was in debt, being students in our third year, and when we began adding up just how much everything was going to cost us we began questioning if we were doing the right thing in regards to our final media projects; could we create an incredible short instead, along the same lines?

On 5th December the whole crew went out Geocaching for the first time. This was important for all of us, as none of us had done it before and it formed the outline of our plot. We all soon became engaged in the ‘nerd sport’ as it was really fun – we thought it would be innovative to potentially think of distributing the film in one way by hiding parts of the film or links to the film (via QR codes) within Geocaches hidden around the world. This has not been done before.

Around mid December I began researching into Apple and Windows, as the two main characters were decided on being based on an Apple Mac (Max) and a Windows PC (Percy) – clever right? I initially went and had a look at the early Mac adverts of ‘I’m a Mac and I’m a PC’ just to vision the two characters – both are huge geeks who enjoy the same thing but are different in so many ways. This immediately became interesting in terms of character development, as the two characters were to be best of friends. Friends with differences; this allowed us to be creative with the building of the two – we wanted there to be clashes, arguments, fights and separation, but also humour, friendship and loyalty – all while being incredibly geeky and technology orientated. Percy was a World Of Warcraft fanatic who worked in his dad’s computer shop, was always ill (had a virus) and was a bit scruffy looking. Max was to be an Apple fanboy, geeky hipster, with quite modern clothing and pretend he was a social networking hero on his blog, but really he’s just on the dole. Another character was mentioned at this point – a God-like character ‘loosely’ based around Steve Jobs – who would interact with Max throughout the film whenever he bit into an apple.

Percy (Left) and Max (Right) – The Early Stages

As the development stage went on, it was decided in late February/early March that the Latitude crew was to be made even smaller so that in California the production would consist of  a skeleton crew – to reduce problems with travel, accommodation and cost. Unfortunately the need for an assistant director was not required so instead I was given the role of location scout for the UK and California shoot, and later on producer and director of ‘The Making-Of’ Latitude, a side project running parallel to the main production, and a film that would be produced and distributed alongside Latitude. Originally I was not happy with this decision as I felt I had given a lot of time and effort into the production, not to mention I have no interest in going into locations, documentary film-making, editing or producing… all of which now make up my final project, but for the sake of the reducing arguments I accepted it as I wanted the project as a whole to be a success.

Jonathan and Andy

It wasn’t until early March that myself and Sam decided to take control of the Making-Of therefore there’s quite a lot of gaps up until this point in regards to filing the pre-production process. So the documentary, in effect, does not begin until then. Sam and I documented the majority of meetings, interviews the crew along the way about how the film was developing. We still had some say in the main feature, as we attended all the meetings they did, and knew the film as well as everyone else, as well as some of the actual production – in particular the God shoot. It helped as well that everyone involved in the project filmed their personal input into the film – this became helpful later on when myself and Sam gathered the hundreds and hundreds of Megabytes of footage from peoples cameras and iPhones. It was nice that a lot of the footage of the Behind-The-Scenes was filmed on iPhone. It relates nicely to how we are reliant on modern technology, and also the character of Max and his dependence on Apple software. The equipment the crew used was like looking at an Apple advert, as there were 3 iPads, 6 Mac books, 6 iPhones etc.

Sam and I travelled around England and Wales in search for potential locations. All the locations in the UK we said we would get, we got, so that was a success. Again, in hindsight, I would have started to edit much sooner, as in during the process as soon as we had the the footage, mainly because we had not calculated the sheer amount of footage we have of collected (there was over 20 hours). In regards to this, if there were things I would change, it would have been to edit during the process, not once I had collected all the footage (which was this past week), I would have also liked to have started documenting the process from day one (though I did not know this would be my role back in October), and I also would have filmed everything on iPhone instead of on a variety of DSLR’s. Producing my final media project entirely on iPhone would have certainly been a risk, but I like the idea of how it relates to how technology is changing – things are available to us now which weren’t years ago – we now have the ability to produce great content from something in our pockets.

For the submission for my final media project I would like to make a point that it will not be completely ready in time for hand-in as there is still much more to film, similarly to the main feature. We have only recently filmed post-production interviews with the crew and are yet to formally interview the cast. Therefore the film I will be handing in on Monday will not be finished at all, as the structure needs more time – after all it’s a feature film in itself. However, regardless of this, myself and Sam have put together an assemble of some footage to be included in the final Making-Of. We tried to make this around 20 minutes. We wanted to really portray the comedy element of our documentary by showing a glimpse of some of the hilarious mishaps, accidents and problems encountered in the Behind-The-Scenes of Latitude, as I for one know when I watch a documentary I want to feel engaged and amused by the content. We felt that these factors were the selling points of the film that are really going to generate more of an audience. We did some research into similar Making-Of films, in particular ‘Lost In La Mancha’, as we had problems during pre-production, production and I’m sure soon in post-production. Not to the extent in ‘Lost in La Mancha’, but you get the idea. It would be great to be just as successful in the Behind-The-Scenes production as the actual film we have been documenting for months, as we have been involved right from the start and spent just as much time helping promote, sell and produce this film as any of the actual crew. We have spent just as much time and put just as much of our own money into the project as any of the main crew, therefore I feel it is only fair that we get similar credit to them.

Our main concern with the Making-Of was that it had no structure, it was just a jumble of clips taken on 5 different cameras between 10 people, and there were huge gaps in the documenting of the production, mostly when myself and Sam were not present. In order to obtain some organisation to the structure, I organised a day towards interviewing by booking out one of the photography studios in the Ellen Terry building. We had a three point lighting and 3 camera set-up ready for interviewing the crew. We decided to interview in pairs so that each person had something to bounce of in terms to replying with a creative and engaging response. This also enabled some jokes to be made and laughter, which came across nicely on film. this sure helped a lot as we could use the voiceover of the interviews to relate to the footage we had already collected.

The film itself, along with ‘Lusharama’ – The Making-Of Latitude is to be continued and distributed after submission. Me and Sam will be condensing the edit into smaller episodes, and including a bloopers section, interviews with cast as well as crew. We will be labelling each section with a title relevent to the Behind-The-Scenes (in-jokes with the cast and crew) but also relative to the content of that section, for example ‘Don’t Turn Left At Lunchtime’ for the San Francisco section. For instance, one will be about the California recce myself, Adam and Alex went on earlier on in the year, another will document the shoot in England etc.

In conclusion, I am pleased with what myself and Sam have produced, as we have essentially produced a feature film with just a crew of two. Alex, Jake, Mick, Pete, Bex and Ross helped supply a large part of the footage when we weren’t on set, so credit goes to them. The Making-Of advertises the film nicely, though it is probably one to watch after watching the main feature, as may contain some spoilers, however could provide a hint of what to expect if watched prior to the film. I feel the submission could be much more  developed in terms of it’s full potential, however, we did not comprehend just how long it would take to organise and structure a feature – this did not help that we had such limited time – we only managed to obtain all the footage from the California shoot two weeks ago, and the interviews 3 days ago. I have learnt from this that it is important that when working on a project so big, that it is important to organise well in advance, and give yourself much, much more time. I have only ever worked on short films before, and this is my first feature. This is much different to anything I’ve ever produced before, and I’ve loved every minute.

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Final Media Project: Making An Impact

With the production of ‘Lusharam’a and ‘Latitude’, we want to make an impact in the real world we don’t just want this to be a student project, we want to take t further, in terms of developing ourselves as professionals. It’s new, it’s innovative, it hasn’t been done before. There’s a gap in the market for social networking and web-based films, and this is the future for film. I did a little bit of research into how we accept technology and came across Sherry Turkle on TED Talks:

She mentions how digital media erodes our empathy – this is evident with Max in the film, he grows to despise people, he only sees people as they are through the internet, he has no idea how to respond to people in the real world.

Andrew Keen’s book ‘The Cult Of The Amateur’ reinforces Sherry’s point that technology encourages people to be selfish and hateful. Think of all the YouTube comments and comments on Facebook Status Updates nowadays. People are full of resentment, jealousy and selfishness. Is this what technology is doing to us? Are people becoming so lost in the social media world that they forget to look up to see how it’s effecting the world around them?

This video is worth a watch on the subject of the effect of internet culture on our lifestyle:

And another form Eli Pariser on TED talks. He talks about how we all live in our only little bubble, isolated from the rest of the world. We don’t interact with ‘real’ people. The web we use is personalised towards us as individuals, not as a society. We are made to agree with only those things that relate to our views. Again this can relate back to the relationships that Max and Percy have with each other, as well as others.

The cult of Apple itself is also known to exploit workers and not question authority.

To finish on the great Marshall McLuhan and his views on how we are each determined by our technology:

“The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way.” – 1995

“As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of “do it yourself”.” 1957

Professional Practice Portfolio: Reflection and Evaluation

Looking back to the start of the year, I am proud to say that I took part in almost all the projects that I said I would, regarding those offered to me by the University, as well as other professional work that has passed my way. I think it’s noticeable as well that travel has heavily influenced my work; travelling is a passion of mine and I intend to continue travelling for work for many years to come. New cultures and places inspire me to think more creatively about my approach to filmmaking – I like to stand out and express myself, and travelling internationally this year in particular has enabled me to portray some of my ideas through imagery on screen.

I successfully filmed a drama short in Iceland, for which I was First Assistant Director – at the time this was my biggest and toughest challenge throughout my degree as I had to adjust to shooting in a harsh and unfamiliar climate and work with people I had never worked with before. I also took part in the filming of cultural events around the United Kingdom which was truly engaging and really enabled me to open my eyes to the beauty of this country as well as it’s vast diversity.

Over the past 3 years I have witnessed myself develop not only as a media professional, but as a person – I have come to realise the difference between good and great, and the evidence is noticeable in my work. When I pick up a camera I feel at home and I wish to take my passion and enthusiasm for film and share it with others. I don’t want to say confined to the boundaries of where I live; I want to experiment with the tools that make up the world around me. Studying Media Production has enabled me to recognise my place within the media industry as a cinematographer. Art interests me and thus helps support my love for film and visual beauty. I want others to see what I see when I look through the lens of a DSLR.

I have enjoyed working with staff from the BBC and Coventry City Council in producing video blogs for some of the Olympic sports. The videos are soon to be going online and screened on the BBC Big Screens in Coventry, Birmingham and all over the country. My role as producer/presenter was something I enjoyed, though I do not want to do into producing, it was good fun to experience that role first hand. When entering the real world I always think it’s good to have a diverse skill set when applying for a specific job within the media industry in order to relate to others working close to you. Through this I have further learnt about the importance of teamwork and also enjoyed the leadership aspect of being producer.

Taking part in the BMW film shoots were also an incredible experience, not only in terms of working with a wonderful group of professionals, but also in regards to developing my skills as a camera operator. Using glide-tracks and cranes to experiment with shot types really has reinforced my initial decision to study a degree in Media. I took a risk with a few shots, for example when I positioned the crane and 5D in the middle of the road as the car drove towards the camera, swiftly moving the crane above the speeding vehicle – this produced some money-shots.

Of course, being involved in Coventry University’s first feature length film has been a large part of my professional practice and without a shadow of a doubt has been the largest and most engaging project I have had the pleasure to be part of. To turn around such a huge result in such a small amount of time with limited resources was no small feat and hats off to all those involved, everyone did a fantastic job. There were even doubts towards the start of the process as to whether the challenge of a feature was too much for a bunch of students, but through it all the team pulled through and the footage is looking extraordinary. All the long hours seem to have paid off.

As well as being part of Latitude, I have been working on the Behind-The-Scenes documentary of the entire process, from pre-production all the way through to post-production and distribution. So my work has not finished yet, my hand-in for my degree was just one of my deadlines, we plan to take this film further and see where it can get us. The Making-Of is looking hilarious, so we can’t wait to get it out to people.

I am a huge fanatic of social media and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t help guide me through my final year at Coventry. Up until January I wasn’t really in to Twitter or Flickr etc. perhaps due to the limitations of my mobile phone (it’s one of those that if you drop it, the floor breaks); but now I thrive off it #JustSaying. I love how vast social media is becoming; it is fair to say that it is the future of the media industry, specifically in terms of advertising and distribution. Social networking is a field I would love to venture in to should my path lead me there, as I love communicating with others, in particular those that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach due to distance/difference.

Here is my current show-reel – bare in mind it is currently in the development stages still as I have work going on currently:

All that’s left for me now is to head out into the working world with my head held high knowing that I’ve accomplished a great number of things at my time here, and there’s nothing that I would have changed. After all, I’m happy with what I’ve produced and excited with the prospect of what I’m to produce in the future. Every piece of work I have done has been more professional and more beautiful than the last, and I aim to stick to that until I have reached my limit, and even then I will strive to surpass it.

Lusharama: The Making Of Latitude

Lusharama‘ was a phrase used by cast and crew throughout the whole production process, in regards to shots looking ‘lush’, so we thought it would be ideal for the name of the making-of documentary. The behind-the-scenes is a feature film in itself essentially; with over 20 hours of footage recorded and hundreds of stills needing condensing down to form some form of structure. This has been a difficult process as both myself and Sam are not editors so to speak. It has been quite difficult to piece together a structure, as there are often large gaps. In order to solve this, Sam and I booked out a photography studio today to capture some interviews with the crew, so we could use voiceover as a chronological structure to aid the visuals. Another slight issue is that the quality of the footage varies as such a wide range of cameras were used (iPhone 4S, Canon 60D, 550D, 5D, 600D, 7D) so the visuals do not quite match up. This sort of makes me wish that we filmed everything entirely on an iPhone 4S (not to mention the file sizes would be significantly smaller in terms of rendering/transferring).

With Final Cut X crashing on me every 20 or so minutes, I decided to do 2 things: go out and get hold of a TB hard-drive to work from instead of my Mac and also use Final Cut 7 instead. Both resulted in faster results and less problems.

The biggest issue I have now is producing something worthy of a good mark regarding the deadline, as there is no possible way that what I hand in for my degree will be the finished piece – we are still in the process of filming. I have come up with a strategy around this; instead of handing in a complete assemble, I am currently piecing together some of my favourite parts recorded thus far and cut together small segments offering a little hint as to what the finished product will contain. I want to include the humour but at the same time stay focused on the structure of the film and the seriousness of the project as a whole.

Concept Film Poster/DVD Front Covers

Sam came up with the following concept design for the poster of the Behind-The-Scenes Making-Of Latitude. We knew it was never going to be the actual poster it was just a basis to form some ideas. The original name was ‘Don’t Turn Left At Lunchtime’, but we decided to name that after one of the chapters instead as it was a bit irrelevant to the film as a whole.

First Draft

We then started to play around on Photoshop CS5 experimenting with different styles for potential posters. Unable to decide on a name, we came up with a basic poster with a collage of some behind the scenes photos, including a couple from the increasingly popular instagram:

Second Draft

We liked the choice of images but weren’t impressed with the font or overall layout of the design. We also thought it would be best to come up with a specific name for the documentary, as ‘The Making Of Latitude’ was a bit too ordinary and didn’t really offer much in regards to being its own film separate from Latitude. We wanted to portray elements of the crazy nature film by giving a hint in the title. Taking this into consideration, we started on a new draft with a more simplistic approach. We named the documentary ‘Don’t Eat The Apples!’ relating slightly to the main feature as well as the behind the scenes – this is due to the fact that in the script eating apples made the individual see visions and go a bit mad. Mad being one word to describe the behind the scenes…

Third Draft

I preferred this poster to the first and second  draft; the simplisity really portrayed the style I was going for, but the rest of the crew did not want it to be called “Don’t Eat The Apples!” as it gave too much away about the plot of the main feature. I intended it to be a hint to the plot, not as a giveaway – I wanted to relate the Making-Of to the film a bit more, but the idea was shot down so we moved on to try a completely different approach, which was amed to bring out the wild and ‘crazy’ elements of the documentary.

We did a little more research into posters and such and decided we would try out a ‘Jackass’ approach, with images of those involved all protruding from the centre of the page with a lot going on:

We were also considering including warning signs and explicit content, which we may yet do, as there are times in the Behind-The-Scenes where things get a little heated; there is also gore and bloodshed. LUSHARAMA was also a quote thrown about by cast and crew throughout the production process, and became somewhat of a slogan in itself. Ideal for the Behind-The-Scenes. This is what we came up with:

Fourth Draft

We knew there would be issues with how crowded this draft was – we just wanted to include everyone – but we showed it to the group anyway. They liked it but agreed that it was too crowded, so we remade it. Also we thought there was too much black, and the quote was a bit extreme. We also swapped the tagline an title around, so it was more clear as to what the title.

Lusharama

Latitude: Concept Trailer 1 (2012)

Check out the first concept trailer for Latitude the Movie. Like, share and enjoy.

With over 20,000 miles travelled, 1800GB of footage collected, 9 exhausted crew members, 5 great actors, 1 feature film and £0 in our bank accounts, Latitude is almost here, featuring a hilarious Behind-The-Scenes.

“Most low budget features get made for millions of pounds – we did it for less than £5000” – Peter Woodbridge.

Check out how you can get involved on www.latitudethemovie.com and subscribe for updates on future screenings.