The Human Fund said my cheque for the year has been received - what can I say ... I was feeling extra generous after a couple strong nights on the pole. 2018, like every year, has been off the chain. But, in proper Festivus tradition, I still have a couple of grievances to air.
Here they are in no particular order:
Heating. Why do department stores, offices and just about any other place in London need to have the heat that high? Will a bit of cold or the fresh air kill you? Set the temperature to 18 Celsius and if you can’t hack it put a jumper on. Nuff said.
As a purveyor of media and the owner of a modern handheld device I respect the desire to watch videos, Skype your cousin in Bhutan, fight with your ex on FaceTime, listen to a Mexican metal goth band's latest single ... but for everyone’s sake make sure you have headphones on NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE (this was literally happening when I typed this).
Roundabouts in Australia. If it has two lanes, the outer lane has to exit on either the first or second exit … it’s a given. If there isn’t a first exit directly on your left, then you can proceed straight ahead safely. It’s the rules ... so there’s no need for road rage. A bi-partisan individual witness this and confirmed my grievance on two occasions.
People. Well that pretty much covers anything I missed.
Anyway, the bagel shelves might empty, but my devotion to Festivus is stronger than ever … and like most beliefs, I managed to convince some peeps to help me create the above masterpiece.
Big ups to Matthew Meadows for the Illustrations and Grace Cross for the ‘I have a serious cold why are you bothering me’ Voicing. Love yous dearly, and I will be sure to go easy on the feats of strengths.
I’ve probably said more than I should so ... Happy Festivus and all that other hoo-ha (if that's your thing) and as always, catch each of you on the flip side.
P.S. Find my beliefs odd? Clearly, you're new to the ever-growing list. Visit 2015 or 2016 or 2017 to see how much fun you’ve missed out on.
I'm dropping some new work, so get ready for another one my lengthy diatribes.
Let the games begin!
Every so often I get a loosely translated script or a board for a job in the Ukraine via my Eastern EU Rep. To be honest, most of them are usually very much in line with my so-called 'odd' sense of humour. So, when I open up the PDF and find myself reading a story about a Police chase with one officer refusing to let go of his wife's cherished wardrobe, which, in-turn, causes the robber to get away and reveal his wife's lover who ends up buying the damn thing ... I think one is compelled to say 'yes'. Right?
Welcome to the insanity that is: Market.kz - 'Chase!'
My gut reaction was many things ... night shoot, helicopter, 60 sec, but my biggest ache was how the hell was I going to do this board with only one shoot day? Everyone in the UK I showed the boards to thought I was nuts, and I honestly agreed with them. Clearly, you have to be a sucker for punishment if you want the impossible to be possible.
Sidebar: We wrapped as the final filter was pulled. Apparently, production had scheduled us for 3hrs after the fact, I'm still not entirely sure how that would've worked.
All of this reminds me of the balance of 'art and business' Charlie at Indy8 keeps talking about ... for some reason, I expect champagne, but at this moment have to make do with beer - watch out cause the scales are set to tip soon.
Back to the task at hand. It was going to be my the fourth treatment for this agency/client, I'd already won one and lost two ... so, I was pretty keen to translate this enthusiasm into a win. After a short, but fruitful conference call in Russian I was writing a treatment, but still confused by the agencies description of the 'Pom Trotter' character in the wardrobe - so, I used my best judgement.
A partial version of the 30-page treatment is below ... I've let you have some of the words this time. Click the image below to walk through the pages.
Even if the client and the agency made some changes to my direction [the things you agree to when you're moments away from confirming the job], I still had a lot of fun doing this document. In fact, I love doing treatments and want to keep getting better with them ... it's an evolution each and every time.
Anyway, long story short I got the gig The schedule was tight as I was finishing another project here in the UK and my time on the ground was limited. So, it was a pre-production of hundreds of emails and Skype calls - plenty gets lost in translation. I imagine it's a tough position, they want to do right by their director and, probably, more importantly, to their client ... regardless, the lovely ladies [Nataliya and Anastasia] at Toy Pictures fought the good fight.
Again with that balance mumbo jumbo.
Not sure how it's come about, but it's becoming more and more common to do storyboards before finding locations - it has to do with how quickly we're turning projects around these days. This, as you can imagine, is a double-edged sword ... on one side you get to draw your perfect ideal and let the location scout find it, on the other side they have to find it before there's any chance your happy. It get's stuck in your head and there's no looking back. I'd wager that I saw 75+ alley locations and amongst all that I needed to appease a client who had something different in their head - in the end, we nailed it.
If you're a regular reader [you two know who you are] then your probably pretty familiar with me flashing my perfectly executed storyboards. This is a dramatically reduced version - my original boards would've made a tidy 60sec.
Sidebar: I pre-sketch every frame for every job and these ones, in particular, were done the morning of a shoot at 3 am. Remember: Punishment + Sucker = Moi.
Anyway, I think it's a fascinating insight into, how not only I work, but also how closely it represents the final edit. Hitchcock was, and apparently, Spielberg is a madman when it comes to storyboarding ... I like to think I'm a little more open-minded, but with less than 12hrs of daylight, I needed to be specific.
With picture locked on my other job I jumped on a red-eye flight from London to Kiev and landed after a Rosh Hashana fuelled party at 36,000ft. Let's just say I wasn't the happiest of chaps as I tried to sleep on the plane. Oh and some girl vomited everywhere ... must've been that bottle of white wine I saw her swigging in the queue to board the plane.
The things you see while being severely sleep deprived at Boryspil International Airport. There was a brief moment when I thought it was 'Vandelay Industries' à la Seinfeld ... oh so close.
The following days were literally a whirlwind of 'on the ground' Pre-Production. It was moving fast, but as always we got it done ... we always do. I think that's one thing I love about the industry. The speed and last-minute way we work begs for decisions to be made and, most importantly, you need to own them whether they're right or wrong. Plus, Director's can always change their mind.
Sidebar: the location was agreed without question, noyce ... oddly it was behind the old Soviet-era Cinema Building. No one could explain more than that, but like most trivial things I found it interesting ... the mystery will live on.
After getting lost, walking down some laneway to an unmarked door [seems many of the good things are hidden in Kiev] we found ourselves eating some incredible Ramen [see photos] ... Grits, the 1st AD, downed a Carolina Reaper Hot Shot. He looked as white as a ghost for a brief moment; until the sweats kicked in. WTF?
With Ramen swashing in our bellies were finished and ready for shooting the next day ... well, at least I was after a massage in the hotel spa.
Enough with the words, take a moment to check out the iPhone photos below. These are the highlights, but they wouldn't be complete without a few extra location pics, my Borjomi sparkling water from Georgia, Kocatka [my favourite watering hole/casual dining location with the DP] and of course my mind-blowing green beer, green borscht and cabbage rolls courtesy of Kanapa. Mom, you need to lift your game.
P.S. I snapped several rolls of Fuji 250D 35mm film on my Nikon and will be uploading them once I get them back from the lab!
... AND CUT!
So, what's all the fuss about? The Borjomi? Yes, but more importantly this 30 secs of love.
Director's cut in Cinemascope and subtitled for your viewing pleasure.
With 6,484,550 views on YouTube and counting, my best guess is it's quite funny in Russian or at least someone in a click farm thinks it is. Maybe my joke of doing a rip-off of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' isn't such a bad idea after all ... 'KZ Nine-Nine' does have a nice to ring to it.
Two final points before I do the 'thank yous'.
Cast - this is a serious sticking point it seems in Kazakhstan. Whatever the politics are the choices for all the cast that was eventually agreed upon were fantastic. I'm going to fly my own flag for a second and say from the moment I saw each of their casting pics, even though the briefs swung dramatically throughout pre-prod, I knew there was something to each of them - I could feel it my loins. Big kudos to the boys who stepped up as Dimitry and Rival ... you guys were a blast.
Edit. In my two experiences in Kiev, it seems commonplace to edit the day immediately after the shoot regardless of what time you wrapped, and generally, you have hours, not days. You do manage a rough assemble on set in FCP 7 [the dream of the early 2000's is alive]. But, the next afternoon I had about 4 hrs with the speed machine known as Euri [see the back of his head in the photos above]. He had the latest MBP laptop a massive TV and FCPx. I've never had anyone cut for me in FCPx and let's just say I was seriously impressed. Euri knew his shit, and knew how to use FCPx to smoke through an edit while still giving it the time it needed. I was left speechless and ask him to come over to the UK.
Anyway, as always it was a blast - great crew, great cast and unbelievably good food. Thanks again Market, Shots and Toy Pictures - see you on the next one I imagine.
As you many of you may already know I've been busily writing a short film entitled 'RASH'. Curious? See below:
It's April 1st, 1997 and Zeg Robertson is the undefeated champion in the sport of competitive drinking.
He's a man of the people, an idol to all drinkers. Unbeknown to them, he's been cheating, or 'cathing' as it's referred, for the past five years. Zeg and his lie have grown to the point where they need each other to survive - the people depend on him, and he depends on the lie.
During the final match of the year, Zeg's conscience is finally getting the better of him. To continue the lie and suffer the heavy burden or reveal the truth and shatter the people's hope, that is the question.
And all this happens with adult men ... in diapers.
About a month back I finally earmarked the project as finished and started entering the script into a variety of writing festivals on FilmFreeway. As it turns out entering festivals on this site is very addicting ... like CRACK COCAINE addicting!
A small, personal festival with the most engaging avatar I've ever seen. Is the tall Amazonian prostitute giving the small elf-like prostitute chewing gum cause her breath is bad from having to do too much you know? Or is she just being friendly and helping her out with a light for her ciggy?
Something spoke to me, so I entered.
Well, ladies, gentlemen and prostitutes it seems this addiction has steered me away from a dark, ominous path and lead me straight to the path of being a WINNER!
Image courtesy of whoever I 'borrowed' it from, design courtesy of me.
That little dual laurel looking image isn't a mirage. It's the real deal.
Sidebar: FilmFreeway actually has a laurel creator. Dangerous.
Officially this makes 'RASH' an award-winning screenplay - which makes me an award winning screenwriter. My stock is on the rise ... watch out. Jokes aside, big thanks to the Sunday Shorts Film Festival and the team behind such a unique homegrown offering. I'm honoured and excited to be part of it all.
Well, there's a couple more festivals in the mix [Daddy's trying to save up some cash to make this bad boy], I'm hunting for a cracking producer to help make me bring 'RASH' to life [hit me up if you're keen] and I'm working on a TV Series.
There's no rest for the wicked or maybe I'm just not working. Who knows.
... or how I made a series of ads in a very reasonable amount of time and loved every minute of it.
It's pretty safe to say that this post is long over due [what's 25 weeks in internet years?], but it feels fitting as what I'm writing about made it's way onto the airwaves the other night.
As you may know, these types of posts have become a bit of normal on this Scrapbook [See here and of course here]. You see, I love doing a funny, odd piece of work and then finding the time to write a 10-page dissertation about the trials and tribulations of the entire experience - it's part of my cathartic process. Luckily the viewing numbers are up - I’m aiming for a solid audience of 3-4 people this time round and a comment would put me over the edge ... BOOM💥 !
Ultimately, what’s different about this long winded post and, ultimately, the job I’ll consistently reference is the fact that it was an actual gig, with actual people, who actually got paid … including yours truly.
Sidebar:I'm loving my new 24k gold chains, paying for a 2nd class stamp with a fifty-pound note and the perfectly chilled Champagne in my organic hand harvested Frosted Flakes.
This was actually my second project with the super-cool kids over at Mindseye. It goes without saying that this outfit and their roster of directors are seriously off the chain … if you haven't seen their wares I suggest you take a moment and have a solid laugh.
Anyway, that's enough of a prelude ... it's time to put on some music, sit back and enjoy the show.
I'll start at the beginning as it seems to be the logical place to start.
It was a very typical London day [it was probably raining or at the very least overcast] ... I was in the middle of another smaller project with Mindseye. A shoestring budget, and my penchant for creativity, forced me to play Sushi chef with an x-acto knife - you can enjoy my knife skills here.
Please note:My hands have never fully recovered.
Anyway, Hughie [Mindseye MD] provided some respite when he dragged me down to his 'den' of an office [it has bookshelf wallpaper, a portrait of a hamlet like figure and I'm sure I saw a smoking chair in there - he's a classy guy] ... anyway he showed me the printed version of this:
My first taste of the Unshackled.com 100% yellow ...
... the Parrot of Truth ...
... and of course Vinny.
These are just the first three pages, but the following 12 pages read like a crazy bee-inspired dream come true. It felt as if the creatives had tapped into my YouTube browsing history, it's a bit scary, and pasted it into this fairly well-designed document.
But what the heck is Unshackled.com you ask? Good question. Join the club cause at this point I still didn't quite understand what it was either.
The brief was a starting point and it had me dancing in my chair ... but for those who know me, I played it cool [phiff ... hardly].
It pretty much went down something like this:
Hughie: The budget is a bit tight, but you interested?
Moi: [I'll leave it to Kristen Wigg to formulate a decent version of my response].
The people in charge [aka. Hughie and the Agency] battled out the details for a few weeks ... and next thing I know we've agreed to six scripts, a two-day shoot and I'm on a conference call with the boys and girls at Love Creative in Manchester. This is where I first met Jonny Kight - literally the best-looking producer in the business, but don't let his looks fool you ... he's a take no prisoners kind of guy.
I've learned a few things about conference calls over the years ... basically it goes something like this:
The nervous feeling in your stomach is always a good thing - this quote sums it up.
Prepare yourself for the worst hold music in existence ... I'm talking to you Powwownow. Seriously WTF?
If you don't remember a name just speak to the speaker based machine and let the right person answer. People know their roles.
Unlike radio or live TV 'dead air' isn't a bad thing ... it means they're thinking.
The call went swimmingly.
They loved the ideas I put forward, pushed back on others and we agreed the scripts needed development - which they wanted me involved with. I walked away with two words on my notepad: 'BE FEARLESS' ... this was in regards to my treatment that was due in 35 hours and counting.
I’m a bit of an odd duck in that I love writing treatments and love it, even more, when they have serious deadlines. Luckily, I was in the middle of another edit ... the treatment gods were about to make it rain.
Sidebar:I remember getting a brief at 4:00pm on Thursday and delivered the treatment at 10:30am on Friday. The only problem ... I was on 8:00am flight to Sydney. I pulled up my bootstraps did an all-nighter only taking a short break to shower and pack. I continued writing in the back of the cab to the airport, on a full economy flight and for the last hour I sat in the terminal finishing it ... thank you daylight savings, free WiFi in the terminal and very patient girlfriend. Needless to say, I won the job ... booyah.
That night I spoke to Grace [you might know here from previous posts ... she's kind of big deal around here] ... I was pretty enthusiastic about it all and told her they wanted me to 'BE FEARLESS'. "Ummm, babe ... they may have said it, but I'm pretty certain they don't mean that." was her response. I think it safe to say she's use to me getting a little carried away with things.
Regardless, I went full tilt. The next morning I had a plan, a young image research to hand and my fingers were tapping fastidiously away as I watched an edit progress in my peripheral vision. The final version ended up something a bit like this:
I've intentionally left out pages with words ... those kind of belong to Moi, but apparently it read as if I was speaking to the reader. I'll take that as a compliment, thanks, Max.
The treatment was submitted and I crashed out after several pints in Soho ... I blame the MSG in Wong Kei's food, not the sleep deprivation or the numerous beers.
A sunny long weekend in the South Downs and a few days later we got the job - high fives all-around. It's really exciting winning a job, even more so when you've just come off the back of another ... I think Publilius Syrus said it best with "a rolling stone gathers no moss" - momentum is a gift of the gods. Although, without this downtime I wouldn't have had the time to put all of this together. Dam.
Anyway, Jonny and I jumped on Virgin Train north to Manchester for a preliminary development meeting. We had few goals.
It literally got grey and greyer on the train up to Manchester. Note to self: Bring a better jacket next time.
We arrived in one piece - it was surprising fast and enjoyable. Jonny was a bit busy, producers always have a bit more on their plate than us director's give them credit for, regardless I made use of my time be reading and doing the work provided by John Vorhaus and his book: The Comic Toolbox. If you haven't read it ... do it.
This brings me to The City of Manchester and Love Creative.
Manchester was plenty cold, wet and grey - London was starting to feel like the tropics. But, within a few minutes of leaving the station it was clearly the place is seriously un-touched. The industrial revolution may have ruined a few things for us in the past, but it left us with some gorgeous architecture. It actually felt a bit like East London, but without the over-trended, try-hard lumberjack and jill, pointless beanie wearing, black and white copycats that occupy most of the decent spaces in the area. Trust me when I say "I'm not bitter".
Moving along. Love Creative was a serious sweet studio ... the door was a bit confusing but seriously, it was pretty slick. There's something about raw brick, large windows and wood floors that makes me get a twinge of an erection - hopefully, no one noticed. Either rent must be low in Manchester or Love makes some serious profits - definitely a bit of column "A" and "B" me thinks. Regardless, the meeting room was filling up with people and the sandwich levels were quickly depleting. If your not familiar ... free food in an agency is like watching seagulls fight over that one greasy chip at the beach - it's fun, awkwardly disturbing and somehow makes you feel like not eating.
With mouths full the team introduced themselves ... it was a full house.
Introducing Patrick and his nostrils ... the enormous Post-it note symbolically represents a sandwich.
After the pleasantries finished we asked the tough question ... what exactly was Unshackled.com? I guess that's the drama of working with a completely new brand ... there's no existing short-hand how to understand them. I'm not sure if that's an omen or conundrum for agencies and production companies - curious on people's thoughts [this is me fishing for comments]. Luckily, we learned plenty after Trevor [Love Creative CEO] spiled the beans and now I'm going to over-simplify it for my audience:
"It's like giffgaff, but shitloads better."
Unshackled.com basically exists to stick to the big boys. They hunt for the best no/low contract deals on SIMs and sells you the mobile phone of your choice separately - hence Unshackled. That was both Jonny and my "Ahhhh I get it now" moment.
Sidebar: Curiously you can finance your phone, among other things, using Zopa - which is an interesting Peer-to-Peer approach to lending. I'm no FA, but seems like an interesting investment ... maybe I switch to Cava with my cereal?
The dialogue continued for several hours. I even popped out for a quick walk around the block - it's a thing I'm doing nowadays ... clears the head, gets the blood moving. Now I'm not blowing smoke up mine or anyone else's ass, but the workshop was very successful ... it is really great meeting and working with people who genuinely give a flying f*ck. Everyone in that room just wanted the best for the scripts and it was clear that they genuinely wanted our help.
So, we ended up a bit like this:
It was a script/schedule plan, but somehow Jonny and I agreed to seven scripts instead of six in two days. Madness, but it seemed doable ... if I was on my "A" game. It appears had achieved two of our three goals ... now to the pub.
This leads me back to Jonny.
We had several recommendations for a couple pubs in the cool NYC Soho looking area where Love Creative was based, but for some reason, we were coming up stumps. One of us found The City Arms, a pub on the 'Ale Trail' whatever the f*ck that means, it seemed close and we both has "the thirst" [I'll do a blog post drunk one day on this subject] ... so we pushed forward to Kenndy Street with vigor. This is when we got lost ... or at least Jonny got us a lost on more than one occasion. He said something along the lines of "Google Maps isn't displaying directions how I'm accustom to navigating" this was quickly followed by "I took orienteering in Cadets". Sounds like a line I'd use on Grace when we'd be lost in backstreets of Rome or even worse Barrio Gothica in Barcelona. You can't bullshit, a bullshitter. Regardless, we found it ... seems Manchester was a little bigger than we thought.
To be honest, drinking is the catalyst to most male bonding and no matter how 'modern' the modern man becomes drinking will always be there to bring us together - unless of course it's dry January. Here's what I learned from my 1st of four drinking sessions with Jonny: He can seriously drink, for a health conscious semi-vego he loves crisps and he's still fucking ridiculously cool when he's drunk. As you can imagine the drinking quickly got out of hand ... mostly due to the lack of food, but luckily trains in the UK serve a plethora of crisps and more importantly booze on trains. Nothing like arriving at Euston nicely smashed ... that's me in an uber.
Sidebar:The Hemingway quote above was painted on the wall just above Jonny's side of the table. I'm was probably the only person there that realised it existed.
I'll fast forward past the script development and introduce the players. After two rounds of casting we ended up with this lot:
I love how casting stills have this intrinsic ability to make even the most attractive person look like a dog's breakfast. Clearly, there's an art form to making beautiful people completely unattractive.
You might be asking yourself who the heck is Jonny Freeman? If your not asking yourself then clearly you've worked out he's the man inside the 7ft Parrot suit. This was a seriously tough ask for anyone, but Jonny made it look easy. The suit, as most of them are, was a total pain in the ass and with hardly any vision, beads of sweat rolling down his black make-up'd face he pulled it off. Kudos to you sir.
It's a rare thing these days, but thru the magic of Patrick and Chris I managed to wangle a rehearsal with the every funny frontman Adam Fox. This guy is seriously one of the most loveliest hardworking actors I've met. The rehearsal was exactly what we needed ... we didn't beat it to death we just played, explored and found a few rhythms. I love building characters and part of it is taking about how a character stands, moves, his 'isims' so to speak. It was a few hours, but I think the proof is in the pudding cause anyone who's seen the finished product has repeated told me that Adam is 'brilliant' and 'he's going places' - I'd like to think I had something to do with it.
As all of this was going on and we were still deciding which scripts we were shooting I was pushing forward with my boards. This was my introduction to Dan Painter (the irony of his name gets me everytime). Dan is a legend. Not only is he funny, he's quick and just gets it. You see I obsess over my boards ... I've got kick ass templates, I build the edit on the page and keep tweaking them right up to the last moment - maybe it's my inner-Kubrick coming out - who know's.
The only issue was location.
Generally speaking, I prefer doing Storyboards after finding a location, but it seems in the strong UK economy [cough ... at the time] it's tough to find a double width shop that's empty. It's funny how much room we need to make something look the way it does ... I think there's a meme about how even in the biggest location imaginable the camera will still be parked in the farthest corner right up-against the wall.
Anyway, we ended up in Croydon after days upon days of scouting ... in-fact I remember it actually being Jonny's suggestion during the brief ... everyone should always listen to the producer. The shop was bare empty. Perfect. But, it had bare white walls ... not exactly what I wanted. We rolled with it and I think it may have worked in our favour.
Loading Bay - Previous, Previous Tenant (aka. Location Irony)
So everything was in check and we were ready to shoot. This is the fun part. I love being on set with new people, old friends and 12 hours to do the almost impossible.
I couldn't have done it without Sam Goldie, Will Jasper, Jonny Kight, Carmen Siu and of course Michelle Sotheren. Thanks guys for making me look good.
Here's a few pics from the two days and a couple during post:
Please note: My monitor on set becomes a piece of art / practical joke / lolly holder / workstation [I'm going to bore you with this on a later date]. The joy is I take a photo of each and everyone I sit in front of ... love the test photocopy of my face. Wish I kept it.
After a tight week of editing with the talented Keith Wright and a bit of TLC with the kids at UNIT we finished up and several of them found themselves available to the world online.
Sadly, only 'Contract' made it to Channel 4 the other night. It seems the advertising standards bureau has a bee in their bonnet about the ads ... a couple of them have been banned from the air [I'm starting to get a reputation] and they've f*ck with Scott Harris' grade. I'll give them 10 points for creativity though.
In the end the masses have started to see all of this hard work and hopefully it will inspire them to stick it to the man.
Here's the first 5 with the banned grade and end frames ... and in-case your interested there's two more lurking.
[I can't wait for those other two to get banned, I mean released.]
So, how bout another watch, a like or even a share ... these spots aren't complete without people like you seeing them.
Well I just finished a massive post summer run and it seems I've discover what it's like to have free time again - working from home is already starting to loose it's appeal. Anyway, expect to see bucketloads of new content soon and like every December and January I'm hitting the keyboard ... except this time I'm actually going to make something of it.
So, watch this space.
Before I go there’s a couple kudos in order.
Mindseye, thanks for throwing me a bone and letting me do what I love. Jonny, thanks for letting me have a Winnebago ... even if it wasn't for me. Tom and the kids at UNIT, you guys nailed it and it was great to be back in the saddle again with Mr. Harris. And to everyone else, I owe each of you a seriously big THANK YOU for helping me make the madness a reality - I've never enjoyed making a series of commercial projects more than I enjoyed making these.
It's been a blast,
CREDITS (only you can make it scroll)
CAST Vinny: Adam Fielding Parrot of Truth: Jonny Freeman Alison: Molly Roberts Uni Boy: Simon Christian MILF: Charlotte Morgan Biker: Patch Hancox
AGENCY Love Creative Creative Director: Dave Palmer Writer: Patrick Harvey Art Director: Chris Jeffreys Agency Producer: Fiona Williams
CREW Director: Jonas McQuiggin Producer: Jonny Kight Production Company: Mindseye Managing Director: Hughie Phillips Head of Production: Max Yeoman Executive Producer: Charlie Phillips Director of Photography: Sam Goldie
POST UNIT Producer: Tom Igglesden Offline Editor: Keith Wright Grade: Scott Harris
Well it's official ... everything on the internet is fake [yes I'm only just working this out now].
I just started watching Season One of 'Nathan For You' - a seriously amazing series recommendation from Riley Madincea [that ridiculous human next to Dolly in Zipcar]. It might sound overly simplified, but the show can be easily summarised as a hilarious blend of gut-wrenchingly awkward performance comedy from Nathan Fielderand slathering of reality ... I'm not sure LA is reality anywhere other than in LA, but regardless it works.
What the show does more than anything is provide an insight into how dumb and/or gullible people really are. You could argue that most of the concepts hinge on the fact that it's people's livelihoods at stake so they do anything to make them more successful or at least marginally better. I sniff a waft of greed and TV cameras ... me like it.
Episode 2 is where the show went next level for me ... to be perfectly honest it was actually the poo flavoured yoghurt ice cream of episode 1, but that's a different article all together. Back to episode 2, in which Nathan devises a plan for a small petting zoo to drum up more business ... he's giving, as he puts it, her very own 'Shamu'. The owner obliges.
Enter a baby goat, a pig named 'Vince' and a SW500 Magnum wielding Santa and about 9,488,354 suckers.
Well, I've finally found a definitive list of the funniest comedy films of all time. The beauty is the list is from a writer's perspective - specifically the Writer's Guild of America. It's a pretty tough ask, but I think they done a solid job of it.
So, I have set myself the lofty mission of watching all them before the year's end - regardless if I've seen them or not.
Here's where I'm at to date:
Nation Lampoon's Animal House
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
As you can tell I'm a little ahead of schedule (thanks holidays) and I'm watching them in no particular order. At the end of watching the above, as with just about every film I watch, I devour the film's IMDB page until there's no stone unturned. Can't say I remember every detail, but it's gratifying to learn that Blazing Saddles was the first time a fart joke was used in a movie. Who would've thunk it.
Sadly, I have a confession.
For the past several years I've been watching movies and TV series on a .... iPad mini ... I can just hear the hisses and screams from all the DPs. So, this list, and the fact that Grace got an new AppleTV for Christmas from her work, means I/we are going to do the done thing and purchase a TV. I know what your about to say ... so you can spare the lecture.
What to expect ... besides me getting a TV.
Well, I'm going to do a review, breakdown or visual look-in on one film each week. I'm not exactly sure what I'll do, but I want it to be creatively fulfilling for both you and me. Variety and unorthodox are my guiding principals - expect the unexpected. I figure approaching one film a week gives me the choice between the two films I need to watch in order to succeed at my mission before the year-end. I'm aiming for a Monday evening posting ... I expect you to hold me to it.
Great little watch from a very intelligent young filmmaker ... if only I was that smart in my early 20's.
Like Simon I've never immediately 'loved' anything I've done, I'm never disappointed, I just always feel like I could've done better. For me the notion of failure usually happens during assemble edits [which I refuse to attend these days], but it always works-out in the end - even if it meant I needed to bust through the pool to get there.
"There ain't no party like a Liz Lemon party, 'cause a Liz Lemon party is mandatory"
So last week I had a party to finally thank some of the talented people that made Zipcar 'Gaslighting' happen [you may have seen the invite up here a few weeks ago].
In my opinion there is no better way to thank a group of people then to get them properly intoxicated, sing Karaoke and stay up dancing until 6am.
Was it a success? Hell yeah it was.
Here's a few pictures from the evening to prove it actually existed ... Tattoos were mandatory.
Karaoke highlights include Ollie and Jono's rendition of 'Ice, Ice Baby', Riley belting out 'Kissed by a Rose' and my partner in crime Grace Cross singing 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' without even looking at the words. The Dolphin was left speechless.
It was an epic party and to those that couldn't make it ... you were greatly missed.
What's next? Well I need to finalise Kickstarter rewards, get myself signed and a holiday.
... or how it took me 745 days to finish an ad and I loved every minute of it.
As you may have already guessed from the title I love what I do. The problem is doing what you love is even harder when so many other people, ideas and money get in the way. It’s the cross commercial director’s have to bear in the ruthless world of advertising, but I’ve realised it only seems to happen on the lower end of the spectrum … the big time is like the wild west … everything goes or at least it seems like it does.
The low down: I wanted my big time.
Directing comedy is a bit like exercising … you need to keep doing it to stay in shape. I wouldn’t say I’m flabby, but I decided to hit the gym and dedicate a lot of my own time, money and other people’s generosity to achieving a new piece of ridiculousness for the reel. It was time to flex the muscle and do something I’d never done before.
Enough backstory … I'll let you dig into this meat and two veg - settle in this is going to be a long chew.
I’m an avid reader and sometimes my reading takes me to some pretty disturbing and intriguing places. Sometimes it leads you to a Huffington Post Article about a man having an intimate relationship with a dolphin [http://huff.to/1H6qWzY] which than leads you to buying his book ‘Wet Goddess’ on Amazon [http://amzn.com/0615334601] and then reading it [links are provided for you the reader to part take in the fun].
After all this reading I walked away with a couple of thoughts:
Dolly was a really great name for a Dolphin.
How would the ‘Sex’ work … this was later explored, but will never be fully understood.
People make some seriously funny comments on Amazon … see if you can find the one about a guinea pig named Fluffy - it had me in stitches.
Finally, all this reading would be a waste if I didn’t make something from it.
Most people would make a 10 minute short film on a shoestring budget and enter it into a prestigious festival. Not me … I did what most people would regard as tasteless or crass and made a TV advert from it. I took all this research and dedicated it to a brand I loved and actually use on a regular basis.
[Update: While writing this piece it appears I’m not the only one who found all of this a bit interesting. See: www.dolphinlovermovie.com]
So, I called up my writing pal Matt Gray and I pitched him a lose as idea …
“So, I read an article about a man who had intimate relationship with a Dolphin named Dolly … now imagine if this relationship continued and she decided to migrate from the sea and they both became characters in spec advert for Zipcar.”
His first response was: "What’s a Zipcar?". After about 3 minutes of explanation we got stuck into a brainstorming session. 5 pints later we stumbled away champions with a bible of ideas and one seriously tight tagline.
Couple of days later we had this:
As you can see it wasn’t good, in-fact it was god awful … like most first drafts should be.
Matt and I continued to massage the script like a Japanese farmer massages a Tajima-gyu cow and in the end we had ourselves something a bit more marbled than your average 60sec script - well at least we thought so.
It's all well and good to write a crazy idea without thinking about how to finance it. This is what I like to call ‘The Filmmaker’s Dilemma’ ... it's a common problem.
I actually swear there is three types of pricing in the world … the ‘oh it’s a wedding’ price, the ‘oh you don’t speak [insert local language]’ price and the most dangerous of all the ‘oh your filming something’ price. People have this hair brain idea that we’re all backed by a bottomless money pit of studio … if only this was the case.
Look I was happy to throw money at the wind, but unfortunately my pockets aren’t that deep.
So, I did the done thing at the time and crowdfunded it. Genius. All I need to do was beg my friends and family to help finance this beast and if they didn’t they would be publicly shamed on social media. And you know what … it worked. I was seriously blow away by the generosity of my friends and family - Kickstarter you should think about doing crowdfunding for birthday gifts, weddings ... maybe even deposits for a house. Missed opportunities.
[On a positive note I’m currently in the process of delivering on my promises / gifts to my backers. 8hrs of Dolphins sounds isn’t easy, but my word is my bond.]
With partial financing in place [aka. a percentage of Grace and my savings] I plotted ahead ... except there was one very large issue. In order for any of this to happen we needed a Dolphin - not a stuffed toy or a cartoon character an actual real to life looking Dolphin. Google "Dolphin Aquarium UK" and you'll come up with nothing. So, stealing a Dolphin wasn't going to work.
Luckily, my Swiss Army Knife of mate Gareth Ward has friends in some seriously high places and arranged a meet-up with Absolute Post in Soho.
A quick sidebar.
With all the people I’ve meet in the London Film Industry I have discovered two very important things:
Everyone will give you all the time in the world and there’s no wadding thru piles of bullshit.
Someone knows someone who already knows you - so behave.
Nervous as hell, but with blind passion, we met with Phil Oldham from Absolute. I wasn’t exactly sure what he did there, but it was clear he was a dude and sounded like he knew his shit. During our meeting it was quickly worked out that we were both close friends with Matt Bennet [a god of an editor walking amongst men] and we both had a thing for off-the-wall comedy.
This was especially apparent when he said he loved the idea and wanted to throw Absolute’s full weight behind it. I was floored. I was effectively asking for at least £200,000 - £300,000 worth of post for free. I felt it was necessary to repeat that I literally had £2 for a budget ... he said he would get back to us.
A couple days past and than we got an email or maybe a call [I can't remember it was so long ago] asking us to come and meet the team at Absolute for a Friday client BBQ. The English use the word BBQ, but what they really mean is pluming smokehouse of charcoaled meat and lukewarm beer.
Regardless, it was on.
‘Don’t get too drunk Jonas’ was on continuous loop inside my head as I walked down Poland St. with Gareth that afternoon.
Phil showed us around, introduced us to some of the people who we'd be working with and we proceeded to enjoy the hospitality for most of the afternoon … luckily the plume of smoke wasn’t to be seen and my drunken behaviour was kept under raps. Anyway, everyone was super excited about the project and we all high five’d as the sun was setting - pretty certain I dreamed this.
Back to reality.
Kickstarter was turning over some nice numbers, casting options we're flowing in - this ship was sailing. Things were looking up ...
... except we had no location.
And this when I was fortunate enough to meet a producer named Jo-Anne Norman. Chris Randak [A usual player on my jobs] recommended her and Gareth repeatedly told me a producer was a must. I tend to glaze over at these types of suggestions, but in this case I caved and I'm dam glad I did.
Jo literarily walked into to Yum Cha Soho grabbed ahold of the wheel and steered this misguided ship to it's intended course. Her first waypoint was a location and she nailed it.
I imagine Producing is a bit of a thankless job and to this day I'm not even exactly sure why an experienced Producer such as Jo was keen to help-out ... she's a unique breed and I owe her.
Thoughts:Is just me or does Gareth look worried in the first photo? And how much latex did Michelle inhale? Look at those homemade Dolphin fins shimmering in the light.
Anyway, two things were fast approaching … the shoot date and my Parents 4 week trip around Europe.
It was looking like we weren’t going to make the original dates - finding a location is really tough with a picky director. So we pushed the shoot. Which meant I had to work while trekking around the continent with my senior citizen Father and spry Mother [I think I broke both of them with that trip]. And this is one thing about my job that I cherish … I can pretty much be anywhere and do my work as long as I have a laptop, iPhone and some half decent WiFi. I honestly can’t imagine how this industry worked before the invention of these three things - that sounds like a scrapbook post in unto itself.
So I walked the sites, ate the food and found plenty of time to approve the location in Rome, review the props in Florence and craft the storyboards while lounging on the caldera in Santorini - which were drawn by a talented Malaysian in KL [see below]. Clearly I'm a "Human of the World" - mention it to Grace and watch her eyes roll.
Pre-Shoot Highlight:Sometimes in moments of intense pressure you get a tiny release from the places you least expect it … an insurance company. I had just submitted storyboards and safety reports, etc. to them and a few hours later I received an email stating that my insurance was in place providing I wouldn’t be using a real life Dolphin in the car. I was beaming from ear to ear … underwriters must have a pretty good sense of humour.
A few days after my parents jetted off we descended upon a quiet suburban street in Harrow.
Like most shoot days it was a early call and the sun was shining ... which in England means it's going to rain.
The sun lasted just long enough for me to grab a shadow selfie and then it proceed to rain for most of the day. All this money, all this time and all these people ... I've felt this pain several times on previous commercial shoots, but this was supposed to be 'my big time' - I was literally pulling my hair out.
This wasn't meant to happen, but it did and I got over it ... quickly.
Michelle [my long time friend and amazingly talented Art Director] dashed to the nearest B&Q and got us some waterproofing material ... we were shooting an actual Zipcar Volkswagen Golf and we had the windscreen removed.
[Please note that we had their permission and they we're totally wicked about the entire thing. I'm not even sure how Michelle convinced them, but serious kudos to Zipcar and their customer service team]
The rain continued and every take the car was wiped down by a team of people - even Barry, our Gaffer, was in there making it all happen. I love it when a team just clicks. Water dripped into the car interior, droplets were all over the rear and side windows, you could see it raining above the car ... i couldn't believe my luck. But you'd never know it cause Absolute 'fixed it in post' - bless them.
Here's a few pics I manage to snap on the day with the old iPhone.
Please take a moment to appreciate the lovely individual sitting next to Riley. Her name is Anne Zander. She played the live action reference for Dolly ... a realistic 3D Dolphin [more to come on that later]. Big ups to her for sporting the silly grey suit and having dots place all over her forehead. Your champ and I love your work.
It was a hard slog with the rain, but in the end the shoot was a win. Dean, our 1st AD, pushed us thru and Gareth, our DP, made every frame sparkle. We walked away with some serious great footage and we didn't have an ounce of overtime.
It was now up to the gods ... or some guy named Christian.
Christian finessing the shit out of the edit.
I'd meet Christian once before at the Absolute BBQ and the next time I met him was in a dark room in Soho. The red light in the photo above makes it look like a brothel - with Christian, and the state of his couch, it wouldn't surprise me.
He was clearly pumped with the footage and was ready to sink his teeth into something a bit ... different. I actually think we opened Pandora's box that evening and both of us haven't looked back since.
Hightlight:We collective struggled imagining a 600lbs Dolphin in the frame so Christian had the genius idea of rudimentary cutting one out from a Google image search and pasting it on-top of Anne.
Who needs 3D ... when you have a garbage matte and a image off Google.
With the offline locked and a deadline of February 2014 in place I was pumped.
Now I've done a few 3D jobs in my day ... nothing on this level, but I have a decent understanding how it works and how long things take - especially with a love job.
February came and February went ... but we were progressing.
Grading with Adam. I call this the Mona Lisa ... everything else after this Dolby Monitor is just a cheaply printed postcard.
Layer after layer Dolly was taking shape - from basic 2D animatics to modelling and rigging.
Each animator I meet beamed with excitement and each of them contributed something to how Dolly looks as she does today - ups to Huggy and Christina. I was amazed at the passion and how detailed the entire processes was. Pages and pages of notes were passed back and forth ... every nuance was questioned and considered. Creating something from nothing takes a lot of patience and hard work.
She was growing before my eyes ... just at an incredibly slow rate.
As time passed I grew more and more anxious. The flowers blossomed, the leaves turned green then to orange an winter begin settling in. I'd just finished Doritos 'NSFW' and Tint-A-Car 'Sunman' with Christian and I was starting to feel like Zipcar was never go to see the light of day.
That's when self doubt settled in.
Thanks for the support Francis ... I knew you of all people would understand.
Suddenly, it all changed after a night of serious drinking. Christian and I watched Zipcar again and we didn't laugh ... not even a peep. So we tore into the edit and trimmed it from a fatty 65 second spot to a tight 45 seconds. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Suddenly, it was punchy and made us laugh - most importantly it breathed new life into something that I was sure was going to die.
New edit in hand the 3D and compositing ramped up again and I was in almost daily for the month of January 2015.
Dolly was alive and kicking.
There was one more extended hiatus, before I emailed Phil and said I needed it done for Cannes Lion Festival at the end of June - I promised hand jobs if needed. I was heading to the festival to slut myself out (aka get myself signed with a production company) and I needed a calling card - Zipcar was going to be it.
My wrists were primed.
Apparently awesomeiness takes time and lots of rendering ... at one point we reached 45mins per frame even with 66 computers behind it.
The man, the myth, the legend Phil doing god knows what. Notice how you only ever see the back of a post person's head ... it's so they can curse your name in vain without you knowing. Clever.
I'm not sure if it was the deadline or the promise of hand jobs, but it got the motors running.
Phil and the kids at Absolute jammed this puppy into 6th gear and handed me over to a compositor named Carl. For the next several weeks he literally sweated [26° is a serious heatwave here] over every 1125 frames that make up the final piece.
Carl seriously listened to me wank on for hours about how the little black dots around the windscreen needed to look and remained calm when I said I think we need another week ... week after week. Even at the peak of the heatwave when the computer crashed and we lost a render he remained as cool as cucumber.
This guy is a legend ... he was the final push.
Carl sweetening the sweetness in Nuke. Foundry I want to make love to your software. Call me.
We missed the new deadline as I got thrown into a job. Sadly, the only bit of Cannes I saw was on Instagram ... next year I guess.
But I could see the promised land off in the distance.
To be honest I'm not entirely sure how many times I told people it was 'almost finished' ... I think people just accepted the fact that I was most definitely lying to them and carried on.
After a slightly tipsy viewing one Tuesday afternoon the composite was signed off and we jumped back into the grade to tidy things up a little. Adam hit the render button, Phil and I hugged and Carl ran off to Thailand - it was a momentous occasion.
Job done? One would think so ...
But, we still needed the slick 3D end frame I had in my head. Phil was back on the case after a little begging and pleading. Luckily, I didn't need to promise hand jobs again - carpal tunnel is a bitch.
The end frame animations were smashed out at a breakneck pace by the folks at Blind Pig and after 4 revisions I was finally ready to accept that it was done.
So, after this mammoth 745 day effort here it is.
Please enjoy. 🐬
How bout another watch ... a one for the homies kind of thing.
This time be sure to click that heart shaped like button on the upper right corner … come on you know you want to.
So, what’s next?
Well I want to make sure this beast gets seen and not just seen by the cast, crew and my generous backers … I want it to seen by producers and production companies. I’m hoping that I can leverage this and my existing portfolio as a calling card to getting myself signed in the UK and perhaps somewhere in the Americas.
And last but not least I want Zipcar to see it … as I said before I love the brand and in a perfect world they’d ask all of us back to make another one. How bout a IKEA trip in a Zipvan? Or asking for directions in Barcelona … I’m sure Dolly could brush up on her Spanish.
Update: The lines of communication on Twitter have been opened. Watch this space.
But before I go there’s a couple parting words that need to be said.
Making something like this isn’t one of the those art forms that you can do all by yourself. Some people defy that statement, but generally speaking you literally need a small army of highly skilled people working alongside you to achieve your vision. So, I owe a seriously big THANK YOU to each and every one of you who made ‘Gaslighting’ possible.
You know who you are and as always you’ll be on the next paid one. How many times have you heard that?
CREW Writer/Director: Jonas McQuiggin Writer: Matt Gray Producer: Jo-Anne Norman 1st AD: Dean Noutsos Prod Co-ordinator: Camille Wilks Director of Photography: Gareth Ward Focus Puller: Steven Watson 2nd AC: Chris Randak DIT: Ashley Hicks Gaffer: Barry Read Spark: Heath McWaters Key Grip: Ken Ashley-Johns Grips Assist: Colin Brown Sound: Dave Briggs Art Director: Michelle Sotheren Art Department Assistant: Gia Mitchell Wardrobe: Grace Cross Runner: Becky Blount Runner / Unit: Rory Mayfield Storyboard Artist: Liew Lowloader: Bickers Action Grip: Panavision London Lighting: Panalux London Camera/Lenses: Brownian Motion Council(s): The Boroughs of Ealing & Harrow
POST In debt for the rest of my career to Absolute Post and Phil Oldham Producers: Dan Bennett, Caroline Shakespeare Editor: Christian Lyndon Grade: Adam Clarke 3D Artists: ‘Huggy’ Stephens, Christina Castelo-Branco, Jamie White, Phil Oldham, Dorrell Lynch Compositors: Carl Godwin-Alvarez, Phil Oldham End Frame Graphics: Tom Cardo-Moreno ex. Blind Pig Sound Designer/Composer: Pete Jones Music
KICKSTARTER Bigups to Ryan Marshal, The McQuiggin Clan, Peter Carter and all of the other 48 Backers