Film insurance is always a quesiton I get asked about – how muhc, where from, what kind of cover… So I asked the lovely people at Performance Media and Film a few basic questions for indie filmmakers.
Q – What are the different types of insurance needed for low budget films?
A – You can cover many things for low budget films, the main things that people cover would be Equipment (Own or Hired), Public Liability and Employers Liability. You can then also cover Business Travel and Production Insurance (Producers Indemnity and Multimedia) which would cover any extra expenses for delays, cancellation and abandonment of the Film and damage to any footage before being backed up.
Q – Can I take out annual insurance that covers multiple shoots? How does that work?
A – Yes you can, a policy with us can work however you want it to, we cater our policies to suit each individual clients requirement, we understand how hard it is to gauge the upcoming year so we would ask for estimates for the forthcoming year on things like Freelance payments and annual Production Spend including Spend on Hiring Equipment, this can always be topped up throughout the year if you get more work than originally estimated.
Q – What is loss of hire insurance?
A – When you Hire Equipment from a 3rd party Equipment Hire Company they obviously make it your responsibility to insure the equipment whilst on hire, if when you hire the equipment it gets lost, damaged or stolen under the Hire Agreement you are responsible to pay for the hire costs until the items are repaired or replaced, this would fall under Loss of Hire cover, we give £100,000 as standard under our policies and do not limit it to 13 weeks lie others may do.
Q – Do I need to undertake risk assessments and have a first aider on the team?
A – Not unless you are carrying out a high risk scenes or stunts etc.. however it is good practice to carry out Risk Assessments for each Film, with stunts, pyrotechnics etc.. you should also seek 3rd parties who are trained in such higher risk activities who will then carry the relevant insurance and take the Liability of any claim falling due to this activity away from you, most standard policies will exclude losses occurring from any stunts, heat, fire and explosives etc..
Q – How can I get a quote fast?
A – You can purchase a policy within around 10 minutes from start to finish via our quote and busy system online for single Production cover https://www.astonlark.com/performance/short-period-insurance providing the cover is no longer than 90 days in duration, although Post Production extensions are also available, we always however recommend to call the office to speak to one of the team who can then advise you accordingly.
Q – What is the bare minimum insurance needed to stay safe?
A – To stay safe we would always recommend at least Employers and Public Liability cover, however when hiring Equipment the rental house will state you need to insure the Equipment whilst on hire, so you would require Hired Equipment also. If you are a Limited company when engaging in others to assist, whether paid or unpaid, it would become a LEGAL requirement to have Employers Liability cover for this period of engagement, there are no other legal requirements on insurance covers.
The Numbers is a supernatural thriller inspired in part by TV shows from the 1970s such as Tales of the Unexpected, and the Amicus and Hammer films of the 1960s and 1970s. It originally started life as a short film script, but as I was doing a re-write, I thought that I could add at least two more stories that I had written as shorts and make a portmanteau film with a common theme linking the stories. Once I had written the new screenplay with the two new stories included and realised that it was now a feature-length project, I contacted professional friends and asked them if they would be interested in getting involved. Thankfully, everyone was onboard, so I went ahead and booked the first location, a local bookshop. At this point, I knew there was no turning back, and that the film had to be made.
As well as the bookshop, I decided to use all local locations, with a mind to save time and money. The biggest lesson that I probably learned whilst making The Numbers was that it is incredibly hard to be both director and producer. With my director’s head, I wanted the scenes to be perfect, but my producer’s head was worrying about running over, or out of, time. Another bizarre decision that I made, was to shoot a day, then leave a four to six week gap until the next shoot day. This was partly due to me working full time as a school teacher at the time, so I scheduled shoot days in school holidays. I thought that leaving such a gap between shoot days may cause havoc with continuity, but as the film comprised of three stories in three different time periods (four, if you include the prologue and epilogue), we managed to not have too many issues. The time between shoot days gave plenty of time for reflection and improvements, but I don’t think I would shoot that way again.
Shooting scenes in different time periods also had it’s own challenges. The first shoot day in the bookshop was set in 1983, and fortunately the bookshop was stocked with plenty of antiquarian and vintage books, and didn’t have any thing that looked post 1983…until we noticed the email address of the shop on a sign on the window whilst editing! We purposely didn’t go overboard with period looks, but did have some nice details such as original pound notes from the 1950s and 1980s, an original 1980s phone, and even curtains from the 1970s, all thanks to my mum and dad’s extensive collection of stuff that they couldn’t bear to part with. Lilly Driscoll, the actor who played Millie in the 1950s story, brought her own, original 1950s costume and accessories, and Tina Wallis, our production designer, had chairs upholstered in original 1970s fabric, and made a 1950s uniform for Jess Collett, who played a tea room waitress, the night before the tea room shoot.
It was really important to have a strong core team to work with, and I was very fortunate to have Dan Parkes onboard as DOP/Editor/VFX wizard. Both Dan and Tina were our core crew on all shoot days, whilst we had other crew members on various shoot days that weren’t involved for the whole shoot, but all worked brilliantly within the team. On most shoot days there were no more than 5 or 6 cast or crew members, which meant that catering was home-cooked meals, or in the case of the restaurant shoot, Latin American food. I had worked with all of the actors before, apart from Jess, on various projects, so I already had a relationship with them, which I hope helped them trust me and the project. However, one of make-up artists Saffron, did think that she may have been turning up to a porn shoot as we were filming that day in my flat, and I had been quite vague with the details of what was required.
At about midway through the shoot, my faith started to falter a bit, and I felt as if we would never complete the film. What I found really useful was, like on the first shoot day, to set firm deadlines. Before we had even reached the last shoot day, I hired a cinema in Worthing for a premiere screening. With that deadline, we had to absolutely complete the film or risk financial loss.. Thanks to the efforts of Dan and our excellent composer Reg Length (who is based in Norfolk, so involved a lot of sending files back and forth), we competed the film on time for the screening, although we actually sneaked in a couple of drone shots for the opening scene of the film just two weeks before.
I had planned to release the film on a variety of Video on Demand platforms a month after the screening, but I was diagnosed with an aggressive tumour in my neck shortly after the screening which put me out of action for several months. I did manage to submit the film to a couple of film festivals before my operation, and we picked up two awards; one for Best Thriller, and one for Best Original Score by Reg Length. By March 2019 I had made a good enough recovery to look into uploading the film to Amazon, which was a very simple process, and The Numbers went live on Amazon on the 15th March.
Martin Gooch is a VERY old friend of mine, and his latest SciFi movie is premiering in London as part of SciFi London. He will be there to answer questions and you can get tickets HERE. I asked him to share his thoughts on making low budget SciFi as his experience and wisdom is gold dust. Over to Gooch…
There are a thousand books and articles on directing and making short films, and a whole load on making sci-fi shorts and low budget feature films, but how many of them are actually written by film makers who have actually made sci-fi?
Well this one for start and also another one I wrote in dimension 37b (which is written in 4 dimensions) But, we’ll come to that earlier, or maybe later.
Sci Fi is a hugely popular genre, Now the Avengers have gone into space so many of the top 100 movies of all time and box office are sci-fi (Star Wars obvs) or have sci-fi roots. (Eg: ET).
Generally when we think of Sci-Fi we immediately think it is going to be expensive, huge CGI sections, VFX, SFX and epic battles etc. I have been in pitches with Producers and sales agents where as soon as I say the word Sci-Fi their faces fall and they simply think: Too expensive.
The simple fact is that we as film makers cannot complete with the studios in terms of quality and money, they just have such bigger budgets there is no way we can make a $100Million movie on $150K (or less).
But we still love sci-fi and we still want to make sci-fi films so here are some tips on how to make totally cosmic low budget sci-fi films.
1) The beginning
Question: what do the following films all have in common: Alien, Star Wars, The Terminator, Brazil and Bill and Ted’s excellent Adventure? It’s not the director, it’s not the cast, it’s not the setting or the location or even the budget. They are all awesome sci-fi because they all have an excellent kick ass script. It’s the script it’s always the script. Script, script, script. And their scripts fit their budgets. There are no scenes where you watch the film and think – they couldn’t really afford to do that, or that scene is a bit dodgy.
Your script needs to be A1, write it, re-write it, read it out loads, gets some actors in to do a table read (always good fun) and you will learn so much from hearing your script read out load, you’ll notice repetition, which can be cut, and you’ll notice the dull bits which need to be spiced up, and the missing bits which need to be added. You’ll hear when chunks of dialogue are too long and see when a character is hanging around for ages unused.
2) If you think about the Theatre there is the foreground and the background. Film (and TV) is the same. The foreground is the actors, wardrobe and props, and the background, the location, the world and the VFX/CGI/SFX.
With a big Hollywood production it’s all about the background, the huge CGI scenes, the cosmic battles, the massive expensive shots, the space stations and the robots and what-nots. That’s lovely, but very expensive or very time consuming to do. Look at the credits on any Hollywood sci-fi and see how many people work in the various GCI departments.
But you can’t afford that expensive background so focus on… The foreground.
2) Foreground VS Background
Have you ever come away from an expensive Hollywood movie and just felt that you saw an epic adventure but felt no emotional connection with the characters and actors? Well that was because the film makers were concentrating on the Background and we were lost in a world of CGI and SFX. This is what happened on Mortal Engines, John Carter (on Mars) and Jupiter Rising (looks amazing, couldn’t care less what happened to any characters) and why ET works: we really want Elliot and ET to win. Foreground. I’ll say it again: Foreground.
3) Foreground has three elements:
A) Cast/Actors. Always get the best actors you can get. I know people are always banging on about using ‘real’ people and keeping it real, but honestly trained and experienced actors will bring more to your set and they will also be aware of stage craft, which will help your continuity no end, and they will hopefully turn up on time and know their lines, which is the basic of all actors and what I expect when they walk on set.
B1) Wardrobe. Wardrobe is SO important and on low budget films almost always ignored or overlooked. A good costume will tell you so much about a character and can even become iconic, think Star Wars or even The Tin Man from The Wizard of OZ, the whole world of Cosplay is based entirely on wardrobe. Think of Alien: Every character has only one set of clothing in the whole film, but The Engineers are a bit grubbier, one wears a Hawaiian shirt and the Science Officer Ash is a bit more pressed and tidy, and Captin Dallas wears a Capt’s cap and that’s it. They even have their names on their uniforms and Nostromo T-shirts: Brilliant!!
B2) Make UP, often part of the Wardrobe team on low budget and also very important. A talented make up designer will bring your characters to life and also make great suggestions. In my last film Black Flowers I hadn’t; though about hair styles for my characters at all, and my designer came up with all sorts of post apocalyptic tribal looks which were awesome. Remember good make up takes time, so schedule that in to the morning of your shoot.
C) In low budget films the art department is always one of the first to suffer or even go. But this is a terrible error. To create that willing suspension of disbelief that you need to convince an audience of your story you need good props and great art department. A good art department will even save you money but creating wonderful things you’ll want to focus on, so you can stick the rest of your set in the background where it belongs. Give the art department time to prepare, if they can have a week to make and collect props things will only be better. Lord of The Rings spent two years in pre-production and looks fantastic as a result. The art department also tend to have the best parties, so make sure you have them on your crew.
Foreground is where you emotionally connect with the cast and characters get it right and the audience will care what happens to them.
If your foreground is interesting enough then your background is almost irrelevant. I have filmed whole scenes where the background is just one lamp pointing at the camera with the actors in the foreground creating awesome silhouettes and looking very sci-fi.
4) Technical stuff
a) Cameras. These days almost everyone has a high def camera that records sound in their pocket. Whole feature films have been shot on an Iphone and screened in the cinema. You quite simply do not need a huge Arri Alexa with prime lenses to shoot your low budget film, yes it is cool, and will look awesome in your Behind The Scenes photos with you standing next to the camera doing the ’director pointing shot’ but you just don’t need it. The truth is that no one actually cares what a movie is shot on as long as it LOOKS COOL (see foreground above). In all my years filming 26 years of it, the only people who ask me what something was shot on are filmmakers at a Q and A, sales agents, actors and most crew don’t care and the audience certainly don’t care. Just shoot on the camera that means you can still afford to spend money on Art department and everything else. Technically you must shoot at least 1920 x 1080, or possibly 2K. But if you shoot 4K (or more) it will drastically slow down your editing process as not only will the files take up a huge amount of speace (four times as much as normal HD) you’ll have to make a proxy file for each shot and then re-conform them once you have finished. All very tedious. There are a thousand films out there that never got finished as they are stuck in hellish post as they shot too much (or not enough) and can’t get the film finished.
b) Sound. Good sound is essential. Try to film in locations that are quiet, get a proper sound recordist in and then be prepared to re-record everything again later on in ADR. Good sound is expensive, but essential. People will turn off and festivals will not program a film simply because the sound is bad. Don’t forget there is On set sound recording (Sync sound), foley (made up sound) Sound design (Made up sound to emphasize emotion and atmosphere) Post re-recording (Re-recoding the sound that was rubbish on set) and of course music and score. (Music is music and score is written for the film). All of this needs to be mixed and a good mixer will elevate your film 100%. There is a reason Radio is popular but there is no silent moving picture medium.
c) Lighting. A lot of directors leave lighting to the DOP and the Gaffer and don’t offer up much thought, but lighting in many ways defines a genre and defines a films look. As a director all my films have colour themes, we are after all ‘painting with light’ on a huge canvass, so should consider the overall aesthetic as well as the performance, composition, tone and blocking and everything else. Working out how you are going to light a scene and where the lights are going to go will save you valuable time (sometimes hours) if you can find a place for the lights to go which you can shoot around and means you don’t have to re-light. The gaffers and sparks will also appreciate it.
If you are filming in the middle of a wood or a long way from an electrical source then you will probably still need lights, especially if filming at night, and for this you’ll need a generator (probably petrol driven) generators are heavy and make a lot of noise. If you are filming with a generator you’ll probably need to fix the sound later.
These days many people say that ‘This camera has a twelve stop dynamic range and I don’t need to light anything.” When they say this what they mean is they don’t actually understand cinema at all. The dynamic range just means how well it can see in the dark and still get a good exposure which isn’t all grainy when looked at later. But lighting will raise your film from looking OK or Rubbish to amazing. Lighting is why Hollywood movies look like Hollywood movies and low budget student films look like student films.
Lighting can create mood, enhance a performance, and even influence your directional decisions when you see a certain part of the set now looks so awesome that you want to film there instead.
5) Other stuff
Smoke machine. The single most useful additional piece of kit is a smoke machine. There are Hazers, which gradually fill a room with a haze and give Ridley Scott his beautiful wide shots in his films where cathedral style heavenly beams of light drift in from above. A big smoke machine is essential if filming outside and you want to create any sort of atmosphere at all. You can hire a hand held smoke machine, which is like the flamethrower from Alien, but throws smoke instead. This is also great fun to use. Find someone on your set who likes stuff like that and give them the smoke thrower to use all day, they’ll love it and your film will look so much more expensive.
There are many people who have doen a 48 hour film challenge film and made a great short (Ive done 4!) but on the hwole it’s best to give yourself as much time as you can. The ‘sweet spot’ for shooting it 6 pages a day. Any more than that and it’s really tough. Less is better and on a big film (Eg: harry Potter we did about 1-1.5 minuets a day!) The more time you have the beter it will look (on the whole).
If you want to make a ten minute film, two long days is better than 1 horrifically long day, but two weekends will be even better and you’ll have more fun, and more footage to edit.
7) To CGI or Not To CGI.
Everyone now has seen everything. Spaceships, monsters, dragons attaching a WW2 bomber, dinosaurs wandering around, see it done it. This means the public are somewhat jaded about CGI, but what it also means is that they have all seen it at it’s highest possible standard, where millions of dollars have been spent on a single shot and a thousand people have worked on it for year. They will spot bad CGI immediately and it will kick them out of the film. If you can’t afford good CGI then work out a way round it. It if far better to just have 1 awesome CGI shot in your entire film than 20 bad ones.
You may have spent a whole month doing a single shot yourself and be very pleased with your work, but is it really any good? Because the audience don’t care who did it and how long it took, they just want it to look cool. Avoid bad CGI and try to get things done in camera when you shoot it.
8) The edit.
Edits are brutal. My advice: once you have finished your shoot, watch all the rushes and then leave it for a day or two (or even a week) and then start editing. It’s important to distance yourself from your emotional connection to the shoot and just look at the rushes. Even if you had to get up at 4am and stand in a muddy field for 12 hours to get a shot no one cares!! What matters is: does the shot work in the film? If not cut it.
Only vary rarely does anyone come out of a film and say that was too short. But they often come out and say – that was too long. If it doesn’t work cut it. In my third movie we cut the whole B-story which meant one brilliant actor was cut from the whole film.
This was a script fault and if we had nailed the script at the beginning I wouldn’t have had to phone that actor and told them they’d been cut. A horrible call to have to make.
Always give yourself as much time as you can have. If you rush an edit you’ll always regret it and will want to go back to your film time after time.
Once you have a reasonable edit with temporary music show it to a few people and get feedback, if everyone says scene two needs work, then do the work, no one apart from you knows the back story. Make sure titles and credits are polished and high quality and check all the spellings a dozen times. Nothing worse than seeing a spelling mistake on the big screen at the premiere.
9) The End
Remember the best films are about people (IMHO), and what we emotionally engage with is interesting people doing interesting stuff. Science fiction is not all about entire worlds doing stuff and galactic wide mega things; it can just be about a Hot Tub Time Machine, or a man who is invisible. Keep it simple, and remember, Act 1, Act 2 and the twist. What makes your film different from all the other ones?
Science fiction also known as speculative fiction can be simple, Hollywood have all the money and time and CGI, we have all the creativity and imagination, and purity of direction, use that freedom to experiment and remember necessity is the mother of invention and go and watch Dark Star: John Carpenters ‘student’ film, and see what he did with no CGI, no SFX and hardly any money.
10) Over and out
Being a director can be physically hard, long days on set, working weekends and holidays, I am always the first on set, I like to sit there and think and walk through the action without the actors and work out where I am putting the camera (if I haven’t already with storyboards, shot lists and camera plans) what lenses and what grip kit is required, whilst everyone is getting ready and so as soon as the actors arrive on set I know what I want to do with them and how I am going to block the scene (and where the tea is).
But for me there is no greater sense of accomplishment than completing a movie and showing it in a cinema to an appreciative audience.
I hope my suggestions help you make a better movie!
Tickets on sale for the UK premiere of my 4th feature film: Black Flowers on 16th May from The Prince Charles Website here:
Martin Gooch: At 19 Martin went to Modoc County California USA to work for the US Forest Service, which gave him a love of the outdoors and a passion for new worlds. Martin then spent 15 years in the camera department on films like Judge Dredd, Harry Potter, James Bond: Goldeneye and The Muppets as a 2nd and 1st AC (Assistant Cameraman), more than 1000 days on set as a training ground before becoming an award winning writer and director in his own right. Martin has since made more than 20 short films and directed Doctors (BBC), Hollyoaks (C4) and Spooks Interactive, which won a BAFTA and was nominated for an EMMY.
He wrote/produced/directed his first feature film Death (2012) starring Paul Freeman (Raiders of The Lost Ark) and legendary British actor Leslie Phillips, then directed The Search for Simon, (2013). Lionsgate has, just released his third feature film The Gatehouse, a gothic fantasy, in the UK. His first 3 movies have won or been nominated for 44 awards including numerous Best Director and Best Film awards.
His fourth feature film the female led post-apocalyptic sci-fi Black Flowers had its world premier at the Sitges International Film festival and will be released internationally in 2019. Martin has a master’s degree in screenwriting from the University of the Arts (London). He has spent his life making films and wishes to continue to do so.
I love this video essay by Alex Ball with long term, John Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth. It harks back to a time when innovation was profoundly inventive and deeply analogue, even though of course the score is ‘digital’.
John Carpenter was a massive influence for me as a kid and while I was making Zombie movies, I was simultaneously writing and recording very basic synth horror music. Sadly none of it exists now, but I loved being locked away over long weekends with a Korg, drum machine, mics and a four track.
Looking back I realise that the act of creating, when the act in of itself required innovation, challenge and patience, was a brilliant way to discipline myself. Of course you can download an App that does 85% of the work now, which is possibly why very few ever managed to top Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Halloween, The Fog (my favourite) and of course Escape from New York.
One extraordinary man fights for lives, reform and justice in the most forgotten jails in the world and I want to help. Will you help too? LINK HERE
This is the cause we have chosen got Talent Campus 5.0 and it’s very personal to one specific screenwriter in our community.
Imagine you had a daughter, son, brother, sister, wife, husband, friend, neighbour on death rowin Indonesia. That’s the situation a close friend of mine finds themselves in. As you read this, that person is sat in a cell most people would never even house an animal in. Under constant fear of possible torture and… much worse.
When I heard their story, I knew I needed to act.
When I heard the story of their lawyer, who works for free AND also fights to save the lives of marginalised people, the innocent, and the vulnerable, I was set on fire with a desire to act now.
So in invite you to support Ricky, an extraordinary lawyer, who is FIGHTING tirelessly to improve conditions, saves lives and make an enormous difference in his country. Listen to him speak in the video on this page, it will move you deeply.
This whole experience has helped shed light into a deep shadow and I am deeply grateful for the perspective that helps me see just how good my life is, and how I enjoy liberty and freedom from tyranny. CONTRIBUTE HERE
Join me in my goal to raise £3k for an amazing human being, to pay to keep the lights on (and remember he takes no fee for these cases). Give what you can, it will remind you how wonderful life is for most of us. Then let’s smash that £3k and stretch to £5k…
The film market can sometimes be seen as a battle for eyeballs between the studios and lowly independent filmmakers – a kind of David versus Goliath showdown. There is no way your no-budget indie will ever make as much money as a studio film. No way you’ll ever be as well-known, and no way you’ll ever be as popular.
Therefore, in this landscape, what does success look like for your no-budget indie?
I found part of the answer to that conundrum by reading Chris Jones’s books and attending his Guerrilla Film Masterclass a number of times. To say he’s been a major catalyst to me in my filmmaking career is an understatement.
He was the man who inspired me to believe that I could actually make a feature film in the first place.
But, more than that, Chris and other mentors taught me that one of the first things you need to do when undertaking a big project like a feature film is to define your success before you start. What will a successful outcome look like for you and your film?
Chris encourages you to visualise your success. See yourself standing on the red carpet at your premiere with flashbulbs popping. I visualised that. I wanted that for my film. That was what I was aiming for.
And I didn’t want just any old film premiere. I wanted mine in the flipping West End of London! The Big Boys’ Playground. We successfully crowd-funded, sold out and held a West End Premiere. That box has been well and truly ticked!
Beyond that, we’ve had lots of other unexpected successes. Horror maestro Kim Newman said that ‘The Redeeming’ ‘Delivers some subtle chills’. The BBC described our film as ‘Psychologically terrifying’. BritFlicks crowned us 2018’s Number 3 Trailer on their website. We were the number 1 thriller on Amazon Prime UK for 6 weeks and we peaked at number 7 thriller on Prime US. We’re making some steady income on VOD and on track to be in profit in about 3 or 4 years.
For a no-budget indie film shot for almost nothing, being listed with a couple of mega-budget films such as the US$40m ‘Annihilation’ and US$20m ‘Final Score’ is an extraordinary outcome. As Chris would say, ‘Truly remarkable – as in worthy of remark.’ Win or lose in this particular awards race, ‘The Redeeming’ has been a very successful no-budget indie film.
If you want to make no-budget feature films, then maybe you should attend the class.
But, if you want to make SUCCESSFUL no-budget indie films, you absolutely NEED to be at the Masterclass.
Maybe I’ll meet you there and you can tell me all about your plan to make a no-budget indie?
In the meantime, please help us show the world that no-budget indies can take on the studios at their own game by voting for ‘The Redeeming’ in the National Film Awards. You can find the voting link on our website at http://www.theredeeming.com
Brian Barnes is a London-based director whose debut feature film ‘The Redeeming’ was released in early 2018 on worldwide VOD platforms. The film peaked at number 7 on the Prime US thriller chart and was the number 1 thriller on Prime UK for 6 weeks. The trailer has now been watched nearly 160,000 times. Brian’s short film ‘The Urge’ won a Best Film award under jury president Timothy Burrill (producer of Roman Polanski’s ‘The Pianist’).
We just ran our fifth Talent Campus and the first emailed fedback is coming in. If you want to know more abotu Talent Campus 6.0 and apply, you can do that HERE.
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‘The whole experience took me to places I would never imagine going. It shifted me to the next level and re-ignited trust, confidence, hope and gave me wings to fly. It was life changing.’ Deborah Hodgetts, Screenwriter
‘I was reluctant to apply as I thought I’d never be offered a place. I’m sooooo pleased I ignored my inner misery gremlin. I loved it. I met some gifted and talented people, heard from professionals at the top of their game and was treated to delicious daily doses of challenges, fun, focus and inspiration’ Teresa Bailey, Screenwriter
‘Talent Campus ended three days ago and I’m still absolutely buzzing. Holy shit, I had no idea how much I would grow/learn/change over the course of the week. I fancy myself a fairly bold, confident person, but TC helped show me just how much fear was still in control of my life. I started the experience as one of those introverts who prides themselves on how much they don’t need people, but that was just fear of rejection talking. I don’t think I would have figured that out so profoundly without Talent Campus. I learned just how much my own brain was stopping me from experiencing the joy of this career and I got practical methods to help dismantle that fear. I feel like a new person and a new writer and I know that that thanks to TC. Next year is going to look radically different and about a million times more exciting than it would have otherwise.’ Aydrea Walden, Screenwriter, Los Angeles
‘The whole event is like a huge invitation and reminder to ‘seize the day’ Desi Lyon, Screenwriter
‘Talent Campus is everything you expect from a professional course but so much more. Expect it to change your work, your confidence and your ability to succeed. I am planning to do things this year that I would have never even considered without this Talent Campus. So a word or warning, don’t even consider applying if you don’t want it to change your life.’ Jacqueline Davis, Screenwriter
‘Thank you to you and your team for the most amazing, transforming week I’ve ever had! You are an inspiration, a facilitator of dreams and total hero! The TC experience and love continues in the What’sApp group which is awesome and certainly helping with life on the outside! I am now a fearless screenwriting warrior – the future is now full of possibilities. Enormous, heartfelt thanks’ Ros Jones, Screenwriter
‘I was blown away with talent campus, I’ve felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz from day one and I haven’t stopped spinning yet – In fact I know it won’t’ Chris Lang, Screenwriter
On a personal note, it was a challenge AND a privileged to run Talent Campus 5.0. Only directing feature films pushes me SO far out of my own comfort zone, and the energy generated when I do, makes the whole experience fizzle for me. Awesome.
Over the last week or so I have been doing some soul searching, as well as building the curriculum for Talent Campus. By chance, during research an idea I came across resonated with something I did over a decade ago and have done many times since (I even posted about it here in 2010!)
Three words. Describe it in three words.
Your story. Your career. Your business. Your… well pretty much anything that you actively put energy into and want to improve.
I first did this process when making my Oscar shortlisted film ‘Gone Fishing’. At that time I taped Cinematic, Sensitive and Confident to the front of my script binder. This would be how I approached the entire process of making the film.
Everything I did, every choice I made, creative or practical, had to serve these three words. If it didn’t, I was the wrong choice.
I cannot tell you how much this helps when under massive pressure, as well as at the other end of creativity, when there’s no pressure and shiny distractions everywhere.
Of course I don’t really mean ‘forget a logline…’, but I do think these three words are WAY more helpful than a logline during the long act of creation. They are flexible enough to unleash the full creative potential you and your work offers, yet clear enough to result in focus, often laser focus when combined with pressure (real, imagined or self imposed).
It doesn’t need to be the same words for everything. The London Screenwriters Festival is ‘Experience, Inspire and Connect’ for instance.
For me right now, I am considering a bold creative step, and with limitless opportunities, I need to focus on what really resonates with me and floats my boat.
My three words for what I want to do next creatively would be…
Certainly Rocketboy which I have been writing with Judy has all three. And I am at the tipping point now where I think I will revert to the original title too, ‘Rocketboy and Vampire Girl’.
There are other words too, words I would love to add, maybe Magical, Melancholy, Entertaining, Touching… Constellations of emotions.
I guess I can have these additionally IF I can first pass through my three words. Again, this is a flexible enough guide to encompass so much, but also rigid enough to keep us on the creative straight and narrow.
The words… mystery and awe… are what I loved about movies as a kid. That sense of magical reality created awe, and all told through the lens of mystery.
I have taken Confident again, not as a way of being for myself (though it’s a good reminder), more about the story and treatment of the narrative. To avoid clever, tricksy, over engineered solutions. Keeping it simple yet bold.
Just writing this have given me tons of clarity an ignited the passion.
What are the three words that describe your next project? Your career? Heck, even your website…? It works really well, like ever finer filtration.
We could have done more. We should have done more. Everyone else seems to be doing so much better.
Social media amplifies this as we watch other people share their successes with us. Even though we know these are often rose tinted, heavily edited, photo filtered versions of reality, they often serve to remind us that we may be under achieving, even when we are not, or didn’t feel like we were until we jumped onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… your drug of choice.
All too often we can end up focusing on the result and not the journey.
We long for the moment of success, because when we get there, everything will be different.
Maybe any given success, failure or conclusion is more like a plot point on the BIG journey of life, and never a conclusion.
Of course, we get a short buzz when we do ‘get there’. And then, for that moment, we get to be that person on social media that makes so many of our ‘friends’ feel that little bit less.
Social media or not, that buzz around success and achievement is short lived. Very short lived.
And once again, and all too quickly, we find ourselves gazing up at the mountain and wondering what the hell we are doing?
All too often we find ourselves in a state of anxiety, FOMO, and general unease.
And paradoxically, these feelings of anxiety, generated by our success, or the success of others, often lead to greater creative shutdown.
So what is the answer?
First, I believe we were evolved in small social groups. For many many thousands of years we developed our social skills and relationships in groups numbering many tens, perhaps even a hundred. Now we live in an interconnected world of billions. If you have a news app, BBC, Daily Mail, LBC… we are bombarded with fear. It’s relentless. And that’s BEFORE we even get to social media. We are NOT evolved to cope with the quantity and relentless messages of fear. Maybe its time to delete those apps, yes delete, not just stop looking at them. Like crack, they are designed to lure you back in.
Second… Social Media. FOMO, the fear of missing out. Yes everyone appears to be enjoying a better life than you. Aside from those who are not, and posting about how they are not having a good life. Both extremes pull us in emotional directions while at the same time often leave us feeling a bit helpless. Maybe it’s time to break up with your phone entirely? Or at the least establish some healthy ground rules?
Third… Acknowledging and celebrating successes. This is perhaps the most paradoxical. When we look back at our year, we often find that we actually achieved a great deal. We should celebrate that. We should acknowledge that. And we should take time, effort and compassion to edit, design and create powerful memories around these successes. Once the experience passes, which is all too brief, we are left with memories. Often, we allow these memories to fade away. Or because we don not consciously edit our memories, we can focus on the wrong bits, less inspiring bits.
Perhaps over these next few days, you should do a success audit and list all the things you achieved that meant something. Some small. Some large. And relive the memory, look at photos, read blogs, watch videos. And consider what you learned. What was the meaning? It’s THIS meaning that defines the quality of the achievement, not the achievement in of itself.
Design the meaning behind the success.
Make that the memory… of choice.
And so I want to reflect on my own personal successes this year and what they mean to me…
Shooting Never Too Late Over the spring, we shot a VERY ambitious short film to highlight the need for exercise in older people, especially in the winter. Memories… A very intense shoot that pushed me to the limit in terms of coverage, scene and costume changes. Meaning… Trust the process, shooting an impossible schedule, trust the process. www.LuminosityLondon.com
The Impact50 Trailer Finally we had enough short films submitted to The Impact50 that we could cut a trailer, a trailer that became instrumental in taking this project to the next level. Memories… The buzz of people finally seeing something that represents the ambition of the project. Meaning… Always wonderful when creations are released into the wild. www.Impact50film.com
Shooting The Presidents Speech Shooting the ambitious opening for Impact50 really stretched us, but getting Olivia Williams involved proved a lighting rod for getting the killer location, working with a worldclass team and crowdfunding the budget fast. Memories… Bringing it all together for a single memorable moment. Meaning… Aim high, work hard, get the result. www.Impact50film.com
Talent Campus 4.0 Running the fourth iteration of Talent Campus was perhaps the most fun yet. An amazing group of people who bonded, with the most moving of human challenges. The experience pushed my to go way outside my comfort zone and boy was it worth it. Memories… A specific exercise I don’t want to share, needs to stay in the room. Meaning… Deep human connection manifests courage and the most extraordinary storytelling. What a privilege. https://www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com/whats-on/sessions/the-screenwriters-talent-campus
LondonSWF 2018 The ninth festival was our most challenging, for a number of reasons. But the team was the most experienced team to date, and it showed with a near flawless three days. Memories… The best team ever. Meaning… Trust in your gut. https://www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com
The British Screenwriters Awards 2018 The fifth outing of the Awards was the first time we ALL felt we could nail it 100%. Memories… Under-rehearsal terror Meaning… Experienced team plus a little under-rehearsal creates the magic. https://www.britishscreenwritersawards.com/
Jerusalem Awards Our Christmas film from 2017 ended up winning best film at the Jerusalem Awards at BAFTA. Memories… Seeing the film on the big screen, always a revelation. Meaning… The magic lies in the dynamics between the push and pull of creative tensions. www.LuminosityLondon.com
Launching Never Too Late Our Christmas film about Santa needing physio launched in early December and reached over 1 million views over multiple platforms. Amazing. Memories… Edit after edit after edit after edit… Refine, recut, polish until the diamond shines as brightly as it can. Meaning… The joy of moving peoples hearts never gets old. www.LuminosityLondon.com
Twisted50 and Singularity50 Book Launches The Awards and Book launch began with a haunted house experience where we terrified our guests. Memories… Ghosts and exorcisms in the dark, and the thrill of horror in the real. Meaning… It’s SO much fun, this is not work! www.Twisted50.com
As for next year…? Well there are plans afoot as ever. Let’s see how the game evolves.
My last thought. It’s been a pleasure to write down the main and public achievements of the year. Of course there have been failures (an opportunity to learn) and small personal successes also. All just as relevant.
But to revisit the big successes reminds me of WHY I do what I do, and why I love it.
Why not write your successes down, listen to music when you do, and celebrate like a five your old.
Yesterday I got some very sad news. Filmmaker, friend and passionate advocate of storytellers Anil Rao passed away in the early hours of Christmas day.
I got to know Anil very well through Create50, mostly during the 50 Kisses production.
His film version of Neil won best film, you can watch it here on my blog, and you can see why he won. It’s startling as well as made on zero budget.
When Anil won best film at the awards for 50 Kisses he was delighted. He shared with me later that it was his dream come true, to be acknowledged this way AND to have his mum present, to share this with her. He was over the moon to have been able to bring his mother as his guest for the evening. Here’s what he wrote about his film…
I found in Nigel Karikari’s script NEIL, the opportunity to relish my film theory of image montage as haiku, the connection of disconnection, to reference and keep the traditional aspects of cinemas heritage in silence alive.
Image as meaning, meaning as story, and story… as a timeless, tailored and organic understanding on the humanity of who we are, in ourselves. A non-linear experience exposes us to discover and seek a reasonable truth, truth as a memorial jigsaw we ultimately know how and yield to put together, because we demand an outcome to the intellectual questions raised and placed before us, because the surprising thing for all of us to discover when we do this is that we are all actually non-linear in our thoughts, in our memories, in our actions, in our reasoning, and that by being linear, we embrace a mechanical idea, not an organic one.
N.E.I.L. is a story of both hope and hopelessness, of faith and courage and ultimately pain and loss.
Anil also won another competition we ran in the early years of LSF, a one page script written by Milethia Thomas, and directed by him, based on the riots in London in August of 2011. We called it ‘Four Nights In August’. Again you can see the film here.
Anil spent a great deal of time reading scripts and feeding back on films during 50 Kisses, his responses always considered, constructive and again, perhaps his signature way of being, passionate.
Like so many filmmakers of our generation, Star Wars was a significant part of his life. I know many of my filmmaker buddies feel that they are the champion of the Star Wars universe knowledge, but few, if any, could beat Anil in a head to head. So much so, his son has a middle name inspired from that universe that will I am sure always remind him of his father.
Getting news like this is always a shock and a reminder of our own mortality.
Anil I am sure would be the first to offer up wisdom about how to receive this news, by keeping the focus on what is important to us, about clarity on what we really want, about taking more time to reflect and refocus, and of course, to spend time with those around us who we love the most. He was wise and generous in that way, and you could always count on him to offer deeper insight into any event, good or bad.
I don’t know the specifics yet of his passing, but from conversations with him over the last few years, (and after he suddenly withdrew from Social Media three years ago), maybe I can throw a little light in that direction. His passion drove him to overwork in 2015, which in turn drove him to drink too many energy drinks. Those drinks led to a catastrophic cardiac arrest around three years ago, an event he was very lucky to survive according to his doctors. That’s right, energy drinks caused a heart attack in an otherwise healthy and fit man in his forties.
In his passing, I know Anil would like me to share this as a cautionary tale. His parting gift to us perhaps. We would be wise to accept it.
I will miss our conversations Anil, I will miss your boundless enthusiasm and deep insight, and the world has lost a filmmaker of great passion and courage.
He was a spiritual man, but I don’t know if he held any specific faith, except perhaps for ‘the force’. So I like to think of him now, watching over us, with Luke, Obi Wan, Anakin and Yoda…