Professional Practice 2012 Reflection

Iceland

I’ll start with Iceland, and the production of the short film ‘Snowblind’. This was an exciting project which enabled me to develop my skills as an assistant director. This project made me truly understand that I am on the right course in terms of a career. I loved every bit of shooting in the harsh climate in Iceland – it was different, it was challenging and there were problems which I had to solve. It was stressful at times but I loved solving the problems we came across, whether that be freezing cold storms affecting the equipment, wild huskies pissing all over our set, or attempting to communicate with the crew over long hours in the dark where I was unable to see 2 metres in front of myself. It was an incredible experience which allowed me to communicate with the head of each department: lighting, cinematography, sound and with the director and cast themselves.

This project caught my eye as it was really different – I enjoy travelling outside of the norm, and Iceland sure is outside the norm. Coventry is a boring city, so any excuse to get out of it, and I’m on it. I have plenty of experience within team-orientated work – for example when working in studio based environments – documentary and film production and photography projects. I feel that I have good interpersonal and communicational skills when working with new people and I have the ability to collaborate efficiently and confidently with others. I feel my directing and co-ordination skills have greatly improved as a result of this project and I feel confident that I could do it again, but even better.

I got to know the actors really well during the production which I enjoyed; we had a laugh and I managed to keep them entertained even though it took the crew a long time to get organised – this was because it was most of their first times shooting a short film, and to make things more complicated they were doing it in a foreign country. Additionally, I found that by being punctual, reliable and highly motivated, I helped motivate others on set. Taking all the problems we came across, and how well we solved them as a team into consideration, each and every person involved did a fantastic job.

Elin Dead in The Snow

BMW Mini/Synter/Olympics Work

Recently I have been working as a camera operator and cinematographer for BMW and Mini in relation to filming some promotional videos for the Olympics. I feel like this experience has vastly improved my skills as a cinematographer, as I have produced some beautiful scenes for the promotional videos. I must say the glide tracks and cranes vastly helped produce these, as I find movement adds a whole new layer to visual beauty.

BMW Filmshoot

Clearing The Shot

I have pushed myself to the limit in terms of achieving new and breath-taking shots. On the Mini shoot, myself and Jim were leaning out of the window of a speeding car travelling at around 75 MPH around a race track, ensuring we didn’t drop the Canon 5Ds. These shots were incredible to be a part of and we can’t wait to see the finished result.

As well as filming BMW and Mini I have also ben interviewing Olympic athletes. These athletes will be shown alongside the car – the car being a personification and being connected with the specific athlete. For example the other day we were filming a shoot involving the BMW 1M (of which there are only 490 worldwide); this vehicle was then connected with British athlete and pole vault world record holder Steve Lewis. We interviewed Steve Lewis the other day regarding his thoughts on the Olympics and his personal achievements.

Steve Lewis

BBC Big Screen Olympics Videos

I am the producer for one of the crews helping film various sports for the BBC in regards to the Olympics this year. So far we have filmed handball, shooting and artistic gymnastics. For these shoots I doubled up as presenter, which, thinking back I probably shouldn’t have done, as I needed to remain as producer behind the camera. This is perhaps due to the fact that through0out this process I discovered that I did not want to be a producer, and I quite enjoy being in front of the camera. My work as a producer on this project has improved my organisational skills as well as my team building and leadership qualities.

Culturae Mundi

The Culturae Mundi projects have enabled me to express my desire to travel and also have improved my knowledge of various cultures here within Britain. I think it is amazing that in such a small country, our range of culture is so diverse. It’s remarkable. It may not be relevant to me as a media producer, but I feel proud to be part of a country that is so open in it’s view towards accepting the cultural differences of others.

MotionHouse Production

In June I will be helping film the final performance for the MotionHouse ‘The Voyage’ Production, whereby a large ship is built from shipping containers and ‘sailed’ through the streets of Birmingham. All details can be found on their website: http://www.motionhouse.co.uk/

With all the projects mentioned above I have improved my abilities with equipment and software. I am much more confident with the use of all DSLR cameras, rigs, cranes, glides etc. to create beautiful and visually stimulating images/videos and edit these visuals to a high standard on Photoshop CS5 and Final Cut7/X/Adobe After Effects. With sound design I am improving my skills on Soundtrack Pro, Garageband and am now confident in using the Zoom H4N and H1, after using in in several interviews over the course of the year.

Weaknesses To Improve

To be a successful media producer I think it is important to first recognise my flaws. My time-management skills are mediocre, I often leave things until the last-minute which sometimes the quality of my work. My skills within lighting and sound is also quite limited. I have no real interest in venturing into sound design or lighting – I can recognise good sound/lighting but not the best at setting this up. Another area I am weak in is editing (this may be clear with my work). Editing makes me ache, cringe and all in all stress out… I can’t be doing with it in my life. At the start of my University degree I couldn’t turn Final Cut on, now I know it like the back of my hand – though still hate editing. Having said this I do want to improve it, as, at the end of the day I feel so proud once I have completed an edit – perhaps more so that I have successfully survived the process than the actual outcome. Overall, the series of things that need improving have given me the motivation required to further develop my skills in the areas I enjoy and to turn the issues that need working on into a creative learning process, that I can only improve on.

Social Media Networking

I have started to disburse myself into the industry by gathering professional contacts. I have been a member of FilmCrewPro and FilmCrewHQ for a while now and have produced a LinkedIn page with references to my professional work: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-davies/51/8a3/a28.

I have engaged much more with social media than ever before in the past few months, in particular with Facebook and Twitter, thanks to promoting the feature film I was working on as well as sharing photos and experiences with others. I’m starting to get the hang of it I guess.

Twitter

Facebook

You can find me on Twitter @Adm_Davies and on Facebook HERE.

Latitude: California Recce

Myself, Sam and Alex flew out to California on 10th April to do the recce, test shoot, location scout and time-lapse recordings for Latitude. I’ll start by mentioning that it was an incredible experience to be in the thick of it all, filming in Hollywood, San Francisco and other various places along the Pacific Coast but also a success in terms of we got the time-lapse footage we went out there to get, as well as obtaining quite a few cutaways for the main feature. This was our aim, as due to the limited time the rest of the crew have out in California (10 days) they will not have the time to capture anything but the footage involving the actors, whereas we had the time to sit on Hollywood Hills for an hour admiring the glorious view over Los Angeles as the sun set.

Sunset Over The Hollywood Hills

Sam did a fantastic job of booking hostels, car hire and planning a basic route to follow. She worked hard on this as it was difficult to find a rental place that would allow an under-25 driver, as Alex is only 22. Not to mention the car we got was a shiny white Jeep. Not bad.

After a long day travelling, having to stop in Detroit before arriving in LAX, we were shattered, and as much as we wanted to roam around and have an adventure, we fell straight to sleep in order to have an early start in the morning. The rooms in our Inglewood Hostel were nice and spacious in regards to housing cast crew and filming equipment, so thought they could potentially be a potential location for any hostel/bedroom scenes in the film. The Inglewood area itself however seemed to be a little run down and dodgy, so we didn’t feel too comfortable staying there. But we had comfortable double beds so it was all good.

DAY ONE – INGLEWOOD/SANTA MONICA BEACH/HOLLYWOOD

We woke nice and early (5am in fact due to the time difference) so we grabbed breakfast – which consisted of donuts and frosted loops – packed our equipment in the Jeep and headed down to Santa Monica State Beach to record some soundscapes and capture some time-lapse footage of the beach and fairground which was located on the pier.

Alex on Santa Monica Beach

Setting Up The Sound

I spent half an hour or so recording sounds of the seagulls, the waves lapping, crowds of people – general ambient sounds to use as background filler sound for the film. I wouldn’t go as far to say I enjoyed doing sound, but hey, with there being just the three of us we each had to double up on roles we weren’t particularly fond of at times. I had issues with wind noise at times but this was resolved by my makeshift wind-brake – my hoodie.

Once we decided we had recorded enough we headed over to Hollywood Boulevard to meet up with our american actors – Rachel Adams and Josh Ubaldi. These two guys are fantastic, they are really enthusiastic about working with us on this project. We went through their scenes in the script with them and discussed their character traits, possible costumes to wear, and availability for shooting – Josh playing the villain of the film, Zuck, and Rachel playing the role of Evi, Max and Percy’s love interest. This was great meeting the talent and we can’t wait to work with them.

Meeting Rachel and Josh in The Griddle Cafe

Shortly after this we decided, while it was still light, to head up to the Hollywood Hills to see what the view was like and set up another time-lapse of not only the sign but the city behind us. However we soon lost our blue sky as well as light and camera battery so we made a note that we would have to come back for a second take later in the week. The footage from this take just appeared dull and saturated on screen, with no real contrast, so thought it would be best just to head back to the hostel and plan the route for the next day when we would be travelling up to San Luis Obispo.

DAY TWO – SAN LUIS OBISPO/MONTEREY BAY/ROUTE 101 NORTH

While in San Luis Obispo the weather was horrendous so we didn’t end up doing any filming. We searched around for some potential diners to ask about filming there but to no avail. The April showers really hit us hard, so we decided to move out of there swiftly on to some coastal locations, one being Monterey Bay, a small port on the Pacific Coast. We filmed small segments here, but again, the weather was against us and we just made the choice to head up to San Francisco as early as we could – we wanted to get there while it was still daylight as the drive up to San Luis Obispo from Los Angeles was tiring in the dark, more so for Alex who was driving. The 101 Highway was definitely where we spent most of our time in California, unfortunately. In hindsight it would have been much better logistically and in terms of cost to fly in to San Francisco and fly out of Los Angeles – we would have been able to get a LOT more done, as we wasted so much production time travelling.

DAY THREE – SAN FRANCISCO CITY CENTRE/APPLE STORE/PIER 39

Now I know Chicago is labelled as ‘The Windy City’, but San Francisco must come close… As beautiful as it is, the tunnelled roads sure do cause some bursts of cold wind. We spent the first of our two days here capturing time-lapses of the busy city centre including the trams passing by. It was all very interesting to watch as we don’t quite get anything close to it in Coventry. I managed to get some soundscape recordings too, however did get hassled by some homeless people of several occasions who would just not leave me alone while I was trying to record sound. As well as do all that, we looked around for possible locations, primarily a diner, sports bar and Apple store.

San Francisco Streets

When checking out sports bars we found it difficult to find one that wasn’t completely packed or really noisy – perhaps it was a large sporting day and there was a big American sports game on but we just couldn’t find a bar that wasn’t busy.

One Sports Bar

We saw a brilliant 50s diner on Powell Street which would have been fantastic for a location. We chose to eat here for lunch; all part of our tactical plan to persuade the manager to allow us to use the location – we wanted him to see us eating at his business before we go up to him asking for his help. After our meal I spoke to Pablo Francisco, the manager at Loris, who offered $300 per hour, which I immediately said was too much, as that would be too big of a chunk from our already low budget. We managed to obtain all our UK locations for free, we wanted to do the same in California. I then suggested that the whole cast crew would eat here which would be at least $150 for just half an hour but he was adamant in his original offer – he mentioned how film crews have used his location before and caused problems for him. I mentioned how it was only a small crew with small DSLR cameras and no lighting equipment, but he was having none of it, so we soon moved on.

Loris – 50s Diner

We also journeyed to the massive San Francisco Apple Store to see if we could use that as a location – we knew the chances would be slim but thought we’d give it a shot anyway. The manager gave me the email contact to write to asking for permission but so far I’ve had no response, so it isn’t looking promising.

The Apple Store

The next day we woke up at 4:30 to head over to the hills and set up our time-lapse for the sunrise over Golden Gate Bridge and the city. We didn’t manage to get both the bridge and the sun in the same shot however, as our widest lens wasn’t wide enough and also we ran out of time to get a further distance away before the sun began to rise. Also, the automatic function on the time-lapse wasn’t working for some reason, so we had to manually take a photo every 3 seconds for about 30 minutes. Luckily we took shifts.

Capturing The Time-Lapse Over Golden Gate Bridge

The view was just stunning, and it just reinforced my need to travel in terms of  producing media after University. After we captured the sunrise we started to head off back down the 101 Highway, soon choosing to veer off on to Pacific Coast Highway for a more scenic view. The journey was longer, but wow, so beautiful. The sky and sea were so blue; Sam and Alex were laughing at me for how much I went on about it. So on Pacific Coast highway we passed through Big Sur, a huge forrest and national park, which Pete wanted to use as a location for a hidden Geocache in the script. We stopped at a couple of points during our long winding journey back down to San Luis Obispo. There were some fantastic ‘side of the road’ places to use in the film, as well as a stunning bridge and railway, with the sea just metres away.

Pacific Coast Bridge

Here is just a small glimpse at some of the footage we collected:

Latitude: UK Locations

One of the locations required for the film was a beach/pier/promenade, so after doing a bit of research into nearby seaside resorts, the most beautiful and logistically viable option was Llandudno in Wales. Myself, Sam and Jake (the Director of Photography) had an early start meaning when we arrived in Wales we could spend a fair amount of time there. The journey was long – about 3 hours each way – but it was necessary research. Due to the distance away from Coventry it was important to be sure that it was suitable to shoot there, so we took a Canon 5D, 60D and 550D and took some footage for a test shoot to show to the rest of the team. Here’s a little glimpse at some of that footage. It’s quite cinematic.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/39789209]

While we were here we locked down the B&B for the cast and crew to stay in when they came across for the shoot and also managed to sort the B&B as a location itself for one of the scenes. We found a suitable cliffside location (where the characters peer down at the beach and see the ‘code’ dug into the sand), sorted the pier and in general it was a very successful day location scouting.

Llandudno Pier

Another important location is the woodland area, which originally was thought to be best at Coombe Park, however we decided it would be more ideal, logistically, in terms of actors, travel and cost, that it would be easier and quicker to shoot nearer to the city centre at Memorial Park. Myself, Sam, Jake and Pete went out to find the perfect location setting for the scene – somewhere that was isolated, without many passers by that had a big nice tree with an open area around it for camera set-up. I don’t think we could have found a better spot than the one we did find, other than it was reasonably close to the road (though no issue really as sound is monitored closely). We did a nice test shoot here, discussed shot types and got a feel for how the shoot was to take place. We found test shoots vastly improved the professionalism of the crew on set for the actual shoot – reducing set-up time (important especially in-front of the actors).

Woodland Test Shoot

I sorted the ‘old photography store’ location quite easily. I gave Lionel Hughes a call who owns a B&B in Balsall Common, but as a hobby also sells old film cameras, of which he has a stock of hundreds at his disposal. Myself and Sam visited his house and him and his wife were kind enough to show us around to have a look at some cameras. They were also happy to provide their house as an actual location – a beautiful and quaint old wooden house with low ceiling beams – ideal for a set. I took this information to the rest of the crew who were willing to change the script from an old camera shop to ‘their granddad’s house’. His website can be found HERE.

Lionel Hughes’ Photographica

For the computer shop, where one of our main characters (Percy) works, we did not have to look far from the University building we are based in. We literally had to walk for about 10 seconds outside the front door of the building we have our production meetings in to come to a small computer shop, ABC Computers. For obtaining this as a location I just walked in, talked to the guy at the desk, he gave me the number for the owner of the business (Mr Zarandove) who I then contacted to arrange a meeting, met with him the following day and discussed when we would require the location etc. and it was all sorted within 3 days. At first payment was discussed, though I managed to persuade him that we would offer advertisement on our website and hand out their flyers around the Student Union and Media Department in return for their help on the project. The ABC Computers website can be found HERE.

ABC Computers

The newsagents/job centre/cafe locations have all been converted into one location – The Deli. The team did well to secure this as a location, as not only were they happy to allow us to film there in return for advertisement, they have also given us £500 to put towards our budget. This was an incredible moment for the crew as we were in desperate need of funds to cover logistics for the UK shoot. Their website can be found HERE.

The Deli

The countryside location is flexible, therefore we decided that it would be best to shoot this on route to Llandudno, or on the way back whichever was more ideal at the time. The amount of countryside lanes that we saw while travelling to Wales was incredible, therefore we all agreed that it would not be worth spending the time scouting for a particular location when we were surrounded by more than enough possibilities.

Also the bedroom location is fixed – a large room within the Art and Design Building – it’s empty, plain, with white walls and a wooden floor, just what we need for Max’s bedroom which is supposed to be plain, clean and very Zen/Apple influenced.

Another important couple of locations that have been confirmed recently are the Canal Basin and The Apple Orchard. I can’t really say much about them as I haven’t seen them myself, but they are apparently perfect for what we need.

Oh and did I mention we managed to obtain all the locations for free… BARGAIN.

Latitude: ‘The Making Of’ Documentary

Myself, Sam and Alex have been given directors rights on ‘The Making Of’ Latitude, which is yet to be named. Over the duration of the pre-production process we have been documenting the progress of our team, taking cameras with us when location scouting, interviewing crew members and recording meetings. So far it has sort of been a roller-coaster ride, with ups and downs, huge changes to planning, with certainly more to come. We will be filming the build up to the UK shoot, the shoot itself and the same for when in California, but it won’t stop there. We will be filming throughout the post-production process, through distribution right until the film is screened. I have researched into a few different documentary styles, the most influential of which has to be Lost in La Mancha which I watched last night.

If there is one thing I’ve learnt from watching this hilarious yet devastating documentary it is that it is always a good idea to document EVERYTHING you film, as you can never be certain that things will happen the way you’ve planned. In the case of ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ they fell back on the making of when their film never got made, and look at it’s success. I will be updating the blog with regular posts regarding the making of, including interviews from Pete (Director), Mick (Producer) and Rich (Editing/Casting) shortly.

Latitude: More Fundraising

I have organised another night event for Coventry University students at The Castle in Coventry city centre. This fundraising event worked really well last time for the short films in Iceland raising just over £400, therefore I thought it would be a great idea to try it again for Latitude. I’ve contacted the Castle and booked the place out for Monday 2nd April. Here is a short video one of the second years put together for the Iceland event.

We’ll be producing a higher quality video of the Latitude fundraiser night which will potentially make it into ‘The Making Of’.