Did you know that Cannes is actually a fairly boring city? All eyes are on it during those ten days in May, after all that’s exciting, isn’t it?
Ken Loach flies in to collect a prize for a surprise-late-career angry social drama. Woody Allen just stands there, still jet-lagged from the flight, looking bored at his own premiere with an ingénue on his arm. Jane Fonda appears on the red carpet to remind you that you can still look fabulous when you’re pushing eighty and sponsored by L’Oréal.
Some of those thousands of pictures that were taken during those ten days will be dug up later by journalists profiling this up-and-coming filmmaker who actually was in competition once and only a few people noticed. You can see the jitters in their eyes.
That’s only ten days of the year though. Otherwise, it’s a resort town on the Cote d’Azur, akin to so many others you cross when driving along the coast -albeit perhaps richer and more boring. You feel like you’re in a movie yourself. Isn’t it wonderful that something as quaint as a film festival could bring the attention of the world to this smallish town? As the song goes, “there’s something happening here/ and what it is ain’t exactly clear.”
Let’s figure out what it is, exactly.
Showing your film
Congratulations! You’ve just finished your film. You thought you couldn’t feel more excited than when your crowdfunding campaign reached 143%, but now that you’ve got your film in the can (so to speak), you’re elated beyond words. You can’t wait to show it to the world!
Except you’ve already figured out that the world isn’t waiting for anyone or any film, however brilliant your flick is. Everyone in the business is looking for content, but you’ve got to prove that what you’ve got is worth their time and that of the audience. The industry is crowded and the sound of everybody going about their business as usual is very loud.
So your business as usual will have to make dissonant noise. That comes from finding your voice beforehand (Xavier Dolan broke out because his first film was so singular).
But how do you reach your audience? If you’ve done things right, you already have a strong following on social media. (If you don’t, start now!) Now you, an indie filmmaker, need to find your soulmate, an indie film audience. Where are they? They come flocking to indie film festivals, and they’ll be excited to shower you with compliments.
Indie film festivals are, generally, more accessible to audiences than the biggies (Cannes or Toronto, for instance). It’s fairly common for audiences and filmmakers to share a drink with you afterwards, and chances are that a suit on the prowl for content will come up to you in the queue afterwards.
Filmmakers are a community of passionate people, breathing and living for film. Raindance is one such idiosyncratic community in London, with our film training programme and our industry-facing long courses, embedded in our yearly festival.
A festival is also an occasion to network, booze and schmooze, and meet new people. Perhaps new collaborators, or people who just want to have a chat or congratulate you.
You’ll also meet the people you’ve trained all your life to convince – not producers, the other ones: sales agents; they will have loved your film. Also bear in mind, they’ll want to know what’s next for you, be ready for that.
All in all, independent film festivals are here to nurture you and to make sure that you get the best possible experience when screening your film, especially if it’s for the first time.
Discover. Be discovered.
The industry is changing fast. There are so many trends you need to keep track of and be on top of. A great first festival screening can be an incredible asset in your film’s career, that’s why you need to choose your festivals wisely. Many festivals are focused on a given niche market, such as a specific genre, for instance, or LGBT films, or highlighting women in film.
You’ll also get to see other films that you wouldn’t see anywhere else, and you could stumble upon what will become your new favourite film of all time.
Make sure that you submit your baby for the festivals that will take the best care of it. This will only enhance your festival experience: you’ll meet like-minded people who only want to exchange and confront points of view and as a bonus, you may also get to travel all the way across the world to talk about your film. Isn’t that something?
What’s essential in choosing your film festivals, is making sure that they are a part of a clearly defined strategy that will push your film forward. It’s fine if you have decided that you’re not going to go for traditional distribution.
Some films are made only to run on the festival circuit and will collect a bunch of awards, and will never be seen by the public. They will, however, be used by the filmmakers as a calling card for their next project.
Some films have a career that start in the middle of the summer and end up at the Oscars: if you look at La La Land, a film that cleverly subverted its genre tropes, it premiered at Venice, then went to LFF and Telluride and built a buzz that led it to garnering as many Academy Award nominations as Titanic.
So what do I do?
A film we had at the 24th Raindance Festival didn’t have the legal authorisation to get distributed.
Maybe you want your film to get picked up for distribution when you’re going around the festival circuit. Maybe you just want to reach out to audiences and try a new digital distribution model that no one has thought of yet, and that will be just one of the ways for which your film will be remembered as groundbreaking.
Whatever you decide, make sure that it’s the best choice for you and your film in the long term. We look forward to seeing you at the 27th Raindance Film Festival.
Patrons and Benefactors
All festivals seek funding. Raindanceis no different. We have not received a single penny in public funding since we started way back in 1992. If you believe in what we do, and would like to assist Raindance by enabling us to amplify our voice, visit our Partons and Benefactors page. Or call me at +44 (0) 297 930 3412.
Find the Easter eggs hidden around the Raindance website
In celebration of Easter (and the long weekend, obvs), we’ve hidden four Easter eggs in images around the Raindance website. They could be on any page on the website, including course pages and blog posts.
To be in with a chance of winning some top prizes (worth over £1100!), you need to find where the eggs are hidden and redeem the free gift.
Whether the film is a 2-hander in your parents front room or your new £5m genre film, this is the ideal evening course for you – packed with hints, tips, and approaches based on the author’s own experiences in making films over the last 20 years.
How to Enter
Find the eggs on any page of the website, either by following our clues or with a lucky break! By clicking on the egg, you’ll be redirected to the course page on Eventbrite and you’ll be able to claim your free spot.
Anyone close to the organisation of Raindance will wonder; time and time again, year after year, why the tireless staff at the Film Festival subject themselves to the stress of organising this annual event. The answer is simple. We at Raindance believe strongly in the importance of film festivals.
1. Expose independent cinema to new audiences
Most of the general public are bombarded with marketing messages about mainstream movies. A good festival shows films and related content that are resistant to the commercial pressures of the standard mainstream fare. It is through independent films made by independent voices that new ideas are expressed. A great film festival champions these ideals at its core.
Over the decades we have seen many filmmakers use the platform of our festival as a test screening. They attend and canvas the audience in much the same way as commercial film production companies test screen their films. After weighing and gauging the audience reaction at a film festival screening, the filmmaker may choose to re-edit their film prior to a commercial release.
The importance of film festivals to a filmmaker rests in the marketing nous of the film festival they attend.
Any filmmaker, large or small, needs to raise awareness of their film. Large studios use large-budgeted public relations and marketing campaigns out of the financial reach of an independent filmmaker.
There are three ways a film festival strives to assist the filmmaker in their film’s marketing:
Winning an award is a great reason to put laurels on a festival poster. Of course, the stature of the festival will determine the importance of the award. But does a passerby really read which festival has awarded the film? And if the laurel comes from a prestigious festival like Raindance – wouldn’t the filmmaker make the important laurels larger? Raindance Film Festival has a wide range of awards, from its features and (OscarTM qualifying) shorts, to its dynamic Virtual Reality strand.
b. Reviews and interviews
One of the great reasons to attend a festival is to start the hype of the film. Getting local bloggers and reviewers to view and comment on a movie is one way filmmakers start the buzz about their latest projects.
c. Selling the film
Certain festivals are really good at attracting film acquisition executives and commissioning editors to their screenings. These film buyers attend hoping to discover and acquire the latest hot property before their competitors do.
Many festivals have engaging panel discussions and masterclasses on aspects of filmmaking. These are of interest to both filmmakers and to the general public. Events like these are a useful way to promote the filmmakers and their films, as well as to help attendees learn about what goes on behind the mysterious black curtains shrouding the film industry.
A good series of learning events at a festival will also strive to create debate about important issues facing not only filmmakers, but humanity in general. At Raindance festival past we have engaged on panel discussions on a wide range of general interest topics: everything from climate change, to racial and sexual prejudices and social injustices.
The film industry is a people industry. It’s not what you know, but whom!
Attending a festival with an audience of like-minded people from all walks of life is a great way to expand your circle of influence, underscoring again the importance of film festivals.
Whatever your position in the film industry, or whatever your interest in filmmaking, a film festival is a terrific place to meet new people.
6.Platform for new talent
Festivals have traditionally been the place where professionals and filmmakers alike go to spot new talent. I can remember the first time I went to a film festival in my native Toronto and was completely swept away by Jim Jarmush’s debut Stranger Than Paradise. The fact that he attended in person, adorned in black with a mop of prematurely white hair was an added bonus to his 1984 TIFF screening.
Raindance itself has championed new filmmakers like Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan and many others since it’s launch in 1993.
7.Tourism and the local economy
Any community with a successful film festival prides itself in the artistic, cultural and commercial kudos a festival brings. For a local community, it’s not just the red carpet and all the hype surrounding a festival. It’s the jobs the festival creates, the hospitality provided to visitors and the buzz around the commercial establishments in the festival area. Not to mention the hotels, snacks and meals festival attendees use while at the festival.
With 20,000 attendees in 2018, Raindance estimates that the boost to the Central London economy to be in excess of £1,000,000. In 2019, for example, Raindance has engaged with the local businesses to amplify the festival, and to bring business to the local area of London’s Leicester Square that hosts the festival.
8. De facto theatrical release
Distribution expert Jonathan Sadler will confirm how difficult a theatrical release of an independent film has become. He has assisted many filmmakers who use the whirl of excitement surrounding their festival screening as a precursor to their home video and/or online distribution release. And why not? Film festival run in movie theatres. And it’s a great opportunity for a filmmaker to strut their stuff in front of the public. And who knows? They might win an award as well!
Film festival are a great way to unite a community. A festival can get a wide range of people to enjoy films, engage with the filmmakers, as well as celebrating the stories told with the verve and enthusiasm of the filmmakers. Festival create a sense of community, where locals mingle with visiting filmmakers and share their experiences, and react to the work they have seen.
We do live in very troubled times. Polarisation is a trend best opposed. And what better way to break down prejudices than through cinema. Is it not that most of today’s troubles are caused by misunderstanding of how different people live? Or how they love, work or pay in different cultures with different religions? And what better way to break down this misunderstanding than to take an audience to these different world and show how life really is?
Why we Raindance
We love cinema at Raindance. And we love when an audience comes out form a screening feeling as if they have seen something cutting edge, or something just plain straight entertaining. Raindance is known for showcasing issues and ideas that cannot be mass-communicated due to local laws and cultural taboos. And thats why we continue, year after year, to bring the very best of independent cinema to the heart of London.
If you want to help is continue to expand our programme or our reach, please have a look at our Benefactors page , or call us on +44 (0)2 207 930 3412 for a chat.
Filmmaking can sometimes lead to the depths of isolation. Every waking moment is spent chained to a never-ending film project. The inability to edit one’s own life is undeniably frustrating. Unshakeable focus and unwavering passion can generate feelings of captivity.
This solitary darkness can be soothing to the artistic soul, for sure.
You know what else is good for the artist? A colossal party brimming with fellow film enthusiasts. But where on earth would you find all these film lovers under the same roof at the same time?
Put on your best threads, leave your basement and join us for a night of frivolous tomfoolery designed to support and acknowledge Independent Film.
If you still need some prying away from all that hard work, here is a list of five reasons to join us.
If you are amused by people who find film trivia too abstract or people who find commentary on every feature/short/documentary/Game of Thrones episode irritating beyond belief, fear not! We have rustled up a space for you and your fellow film aficionados to join together to talk about all things film. If you’ve been banned from speaking at the dinner table then welcome to your arena of adoring listeners.
If you are one of the lucky few who hasn’t managed to offend your friends/family/colleagues/pets with your inane film chatter, of course, you are also welcome.
There is also Cannes to think of. If you are heading off to France in a couple of weeks time and would like to make some allies on home ground before the departure, this could be the time. Alternatively, if you want to forge the path for years to come or meet some British filmmakers who are a part of Cannes, the Independent Filmmaker’s Ball is a great night for making friends.
As well as throwing you a great big old party, we’re going to give you some things as well.
At the Independent Ball, there will be a raffle with prizes from some of the top companies in the film business, totalling over £7,000! There will be some lovely people wandering around at the beginning of the evening selling tickets for the raffle. Find out about the prizes here.
Proceeds from the raffle will go to Emerging Filmmaker’s Day at the 27th Raindance Film Festival. Launched in 2018 as a day of free events aimed at 18 to 25 year-old filmmakers, the aim is to expand the initiative to a programme of free events across the 2019 edition of the festival, including masterclasses, workshops with industry experts, networking sessions and free screenings of cult indie films.
Last year’s Emerging Filmmaker’s Day included a screening and Q&A organised by VICE Film School, a Pitching Skills class with Raindance Founder Elliot Grove, and special guest Amanda Seyfried, who presented her recent short Holy Moses.
4. The Party
Everyone loves a party, especially one that is held at one of the most famous entertainment venues in London: Café de Paris. Everyone knows that the film industry has the best parties, and everyone knows that Raindance has the best parties in the film industry because we’re not snooty.
Louise Brooks made history when she worked at the Café de Paris in December 1924, introducing the Charleston to London. Other famous guests have included Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly.
Let’s make new history on the 1st May!
5. The Band
Live Act by Natty Congeroo & The Flames of Rhythm
Get set to be blown away by DJ, singer and frontman Natty Congeroo & The Flames of Rhythm. A sizzling sextet of killer diller thrillers, mixing red hot swing, jazz, rhythm & blues, this is the live show that’ll have hands clappin’ & feet tappin’!
6. The Theme
Fitting perfectly with the venue, this year’s ball is back for a swing-era special, inspired by 1930s and ’40s musicals – think Broadway Melody and Top Hat, or more contemporary reinterpretations such as La La Land. Get some outfit ideas here, and make sure to add these classic musicals to your viewing list.
What are you waiting for? Buy your tickets before it’s too late!
Meeting Patrick Tucker is an experience that you will never forget. He is a tutor at Raindance and is teaching masterclasses on directing and screen acting. A master of his field, he has directed over 200 theatre plays and around 200 television programmes for over 40 years, and he has taught screen direction all around the world for a large period of his life. His expertise in the theatre has given him a golden touch for getting the best out of his actors. As well, his prowess with the camera itself comes from an early background in physics.
When I took my very first class at Raindance (a very enjoyable Saturday Film School), he arrived as a guest lecturer to educate us on the most effective way to use our actors in front of the camera. He is a man who taught us as a consummate professional, as well as being highly entertaining. I am very happy to be able to review his book Secrets of Screen Directing as through it, I have picked up many tips and ideas for film direction. As someone who constantly reads about cinematography and working behind the camera, it is a fantastic advantage to be able to learn more about filmmaking from the adjacent viewpoint of a director (and a skilled one at that!).
The content of the book itself concerns the skills and attributes needed by directors to get the best results possible for their work. Going from planning, to production and editing, this book focuses on the craft of storytelling, the career of a director and much needed practical problem solving methods. For example, the book’s introduction discusses a foundational truth of filmmaking: that the concept of truth can obscure the artistic and dramatic tension of the screen. Rather, Tucker expresses that an excellent artist bends the truth to fit their means. Furthermore, he discusses the importance of counterintuition in order to find more effective practices in screen directing. However, these discussions are just settings for the main course! Throughout the book, Tucker explains how to use the 180-Degree rule effectively, how to create and perform different types of shots, getting the best out of the cast and the crew on a shoot, as well as working well with an editor, plus much much more.
Throughout the book, Tucker expresses all of these complex concepts using common sense ideas weaved together with varied examples from cinematic history. He also uses handy diagrams and examples to further illustrate his points. While these are simple drawings, they are an easy guide for understanding the set-up of shots, how they are achieved, cutting from one shot to another, and other practical functions. The book has a wide range of examples from film/television and most are cited with a time code pointing to the scenes relevant to the chapter. This is very useful if you feel the need to do additional research on the topics that are discussed in the book. There is also a brilliant appendix which outlines phrases and ideas that will be useful for those starting out in the industry or simply need to learn more about the technical details.
While the book has an obvious focus on screen direction, Tucker discusses how to work with DOPs and other crew members. Unfortunately, there is a little less information on the relationships between crew and director that I would have personally liked, compared to the information about how to direct actors. However, it is also possible that there is simply not enough space in the book to be able to talk about every little idea that a director must learn in order to be an effective filmmaker. Furthermore, I also understand (especially considering Tucker’s perspective) that this is the director’s burden- that you can’t expect to always be friends with your crew and you must know when to be a tough taskmaster, or just “a good Mummy to them all (the producer, of course, is Daddy)”.
However, the positive aspects of this book far outweigh any small gripes. It focuses on immediate and simple solutions – it is a great resource for filmmaking students, early career directors and amatuers looking to find more out about the role of directors. The combination of experienced advice and practical examples has created a fantastic guide. One which is both a great handbook for screen directing, and an interesting exploration into filmmaking.
The Long Night of wait is over and we are just one day away from quenching our thirst for Game of Thrones’ last chapter. The eighth and final season is all set to go air on 14th April, 2019, as confirmed by the official channel for the broadcast, HBO. The show will be aired on 9 p.m. EST on HBO in the US and at 2 a.m. in the UK on Sky Atlantic as a result of the Transatlantic simulcast happening in 2019.
With the roll-out of the 2-minute trailer, fans have been more like a cat on hot bricks and conjectures have started to begin as to how will Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and the Westerosi be fated? The seventh season ended with a remarkable final episode depicting the true parentage of Jon Snow and also showcased the Night King and the Ice Dragon demolish The Wall and head to Westeros.
While there is still one day to go, fans over social media are having a whale’s time sharing and talking about the GOT brouhaha for a long time. According to Twitter, there have been more than 15 million tweets about the fantasy series in 2019. So far, the tweets about the hit HBO series have surged to 200 million since its very beginning in 2011.
The stats are only showing the veracity of the GOT fandom. Twitter claims that busiest days on the social media site have been 5th March, when the last season’s trailer was launched, 14th January, when the premiere date was called out, and 3rd April, when the red carpet for the show began in the New York City.
What Game Of Thrones Season 8 Trailer Has In Store For Us
The two-minute trailer of Game of Thrones has built the fervour leading to the final confrontation between the living and the dead. This will very likely turn the Battle of Bastards out of the water.
Injured Arya Stark is shown running away and in another flash, she is shown as uninjured carrying a dragon-glass dagger in her hand. The best part was Daenerys and Jon Snow visiting the Dragon and Rhaegal which could portend that Jon might ride the dragon named after his father.
Access Dubrovnik GOT Costume Special Tour
Indubitably, having been aired in 170 countries, Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows in the world. And since it is the final season clocked for Sunday night, the gust of emotions is very high among the fans.
Fans have started brushing up the stories of the previous seasons, watched the trailers and teaser over and over again, and surmised all sorts of theories to conclude the end of the epic TV show.
As eagerly as everybody wants, will Jon Snow be enthroned as King? Or Will the Night King vanquish his rivals and kill everything? We are too excited as to what answers will unfold for our queries!
The bitter pill to swallow is that as the last season hits the television, the show will hit the sack! We know that as an archetypal GOT fan, you will be watching and re-watching this show even after it ends. At this juncture, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you can take fans away from GOT, but you cannot take GOT out of the fans.
But what if we tell you that you can relive the memories of this popular TV series? What if you could enjoy the resplendent sceneries and attractive costumes of the show in reality? Yes. You heard it right!
Locations of Europe and Africa have served as the backdrop for Game of Thrones and gave a new impetus to the tourism of these places. Out of the 7 countries in which GOT was shot, Dubrovnik in Croatia is the place where the popular shots of King’s Landing were filmed.
Tour Operators are organizing GOT-themed tours for people who want to holiday in places where their favorite TV show was shot. There is much more to GOT-themed tours than just visiting the place.
One such tour operator, ACCESS Dubrovnik is offering Dubrovnik GOT Costume Special tour for the Game of Thrones fans starting from 1st of April this year.Those orange roofs and streets of twists and turns were actually shot in Dubrovnik.
As a part of the tour you will visit:
Dubrovnik which was used as the setting for King’s Landing, the capital city of Westeros.
Pile Gate where dung was thrown at King Joffrey during citizen’s riot.
Lovrijenac Fortress where the attack on King’s Landing was oiled in the Battle of Blackwater
At the Lovrijenac Fortress, you can witness fortified walls where Tyrion Lannister and Varys strolled. It is that place where Tyrion said the immortal words, “Where is the God of Tits and Wine?”
What Else Can You Expect On The Tour
Learn all about the Targaryens, Baratheons, Starks from your expert local guide.
As you go to the filming locations, you will be shown screenshots from the corresponding episodes that were shot at the place you are visiting.
You will also hear some behind-the-scenes stories from the guide who could be an extra in Game of Thrones.
Sail the same ship on which Daenerys Targaryen sailed in the TV show.
Learn about the shooting of Game of Thrones from your tour guide.
Wear the GOT costumes on the ship and click pictures of the Iron Throne.
Talk a walk down the Old town.
Relive the memories of your favorite episodes.
How many episodes are there in season 8 of Game of Thrones
The final 13 episodes of Game of Thrones have been divided into two shorter seasons. Season eight will have six episodes having a duration longer than the average episode length of Game of Thrones seasons so far. HBO has confirmed the running time for the six episodes.
It’s World Day of Human Space Flight and so many of our favourite movies take place up in the final frontier. Hollywood has been taking film-goers into the sky for decades to give us a taste of what life in zero gravity is really like. Whether you’re excited by the infinite expanse or afraid of what could be out there, Space captivates all of us. But how do filmmakers do it? How do they create Space down on Earth? There are a variety of ways to film in Space, from the practical to the digital, to just going up there yourself.
Film’s fascination with space travel was alive even before human’s first flight. The 1902 film A Trip to the Moon is a perfect example of this. Often regarded as the first science fiction film ever made, A Trip to the Moon tells the story of a group of scientists who use a cannon-propelled oversized bullet to shoot themselves to the moon (as I said, we hadn’t even nailed down planes yet. Give them a break). Clearly, director George Méliès had never been nor seen the surface of the moon but he was able to recreate it using stunning and intricate visuals. Back in the early 20th century, Méliès relied on painted set design and staged backgrounds that were common in the theatres of the time. While not being the most accurate, it’s still one of the oldest and most successful attempts at filming Space.
In the 21st century, we know what Space looks like, and we know that the moon isn’t inhabitable by strange creatures (at least until they decide to make themselves known). Filmmakers now have a more accurate perception of Space. They also have the technology to recreate as best as they can practically. For 2018’s Lunar Landing film First Man, director Damien Chazelle decided to film in a grey Atlanta quarry. He and his team were able to sculpt and terraform it into a landscape that most resembles the surface of the moon. They then filmed at night using a single light source (perfectly mimicking the Moon’s only light source: the Sun). Chazelle was even quoted as saying “It’s just like the real shoot on the moon.” First Man’s decision to use practical set design for the Moon shows that we have not strayed too far from sci-fi’s first man George Méliès.
While practical effects are still in use today for recreating Space, digital technology and CGI have allowed filmmakers to recreate Space without lifting a paintbrush or going outside. All that is needed practically is the actors suspended in front of a green screen pretending to interact with objects that aren’t even there. From there, a dedicated team of VFX artists is tasked with constructing the world for the audience. The most famous example is Cuaron’s Gravity. Most of the film takes place outside of a space station in the vastness of outer space. The film features stunning visuals and action sequences that just could not be created practically (I mean, how many takes could you actually do of a one-shot space station destruction?).
Digital effects often allow for more creative freedom when it comes to showcasing Space. However, a drawback is that actors and directors often have less to work with in return due to all the green screen work. Take this clip above, for example, in which Sandra Bullock has to mime turning a nozzle. Of all the CGI in this film, you would never expect the nozzles to be on that list. Regardless, digital effects are still an amazingly complicated feat that often makes us feel as close as we can to Space. It adds a feeling of realism when we can’t actually film up in Space.
Or can we?
That’s right. You heard me. Just go to Space, bring your camera, and get to filming!
Ok so maybe it’s not as simple as that. Yes, it takes millions of dollars just to get a ticket to the ISS, yes, you’d have to times that by the number of people in your crew, and yes, you’d have to pay an exorbitant amount per pound to send your equipment up with you. But it can be done! And it has! In 2008, English-American entrepreneur Richard Garriott spend $30 million dollars (told you it wasn’t cheap) and underwent nearly a year of extensive training to prepare himself for space travel. The result of all this time and money was the short film Apogee of Fear, the world’s first, and currently only, science fiction film actually shot on location (that location being Space). You can watch the film above.
It’s no Interstellar, but that’s not the point. The point is that Space travel is becoming more accessible every day. And, if there’s one thing filmmakers love, it’s to push the boundaries are far as they can to make the art of film the best it can be. So don’t be surprised when you see people like Alfonso Cuarón or Damien Chazelle boarding a commercial flight to Mars. They’re just on their way to work.
Ahead of his Steel Country Masterclass on 18th April and of the upcoming release of Steel Country, we sat down with Academy Awards and BAFTA-winning producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin (The King’s Speech).
What intrigued you most reading the script of Steel Country? Did the original script undergo any significant changes throughout the production process?
When Simon Fellows (the director) first brought me the script, what struck me was this underlying principle of “a good story told well”. At the time I first read Steel Country, I was getting pitched about 20-30 ideas a week at Bedlam Film Productions. Some fully formed screenplays, others just treatments and concepts. So many would perform these incredible written gymnastics but ultimately fail as a good story. An unsatisfying read. It was the clarity and focus of the story that attracted me. A 9 piece jigsaw, as Simon puts it.
What are the factors you consider when selecting the right director for a project and what did it bring you to work with Simon Fellows?
It was Simon’s project so he sorta came with the script ! We had however known each other from before, I had (during my 1st AD phase of career) budgeted and scheduled his film Malice in Wonderland, sadly dates and production schedules meant I couldn’t work on the film. But we remained close and he pitched me Steel Country some 8 years later. It just goes to show how persistence is important in our industry.
The town that contributes to the atmosphere of Steel Country is Griffin, Georgia (USA). How did you choose this location and did you have to face any challenges during the shootings?
The main reason we shot in Georgia was the cash incentive and the fact it was a great match to Pennsylvania where the script was set. They have a very robust tax credit available for filming, and knowing a few friends working on The Walking Dead I knew the crews were great. It also satisfied a long-held ambition of mine which was to get to shoot a movie in the U. S. of A. We worked closely with the Georgia Film Academy – it’s important to me that every production of mine works towards creating opportunities for the next generation of filmmakers, and after scouting we landed on Griffin. It’s an amazing town, in many ways down on its luck – the textile industry left 50+ years ago leaving the town now with 2nd and 3rd generation poor families, but a brilliant sense of commitment to returning to former glories. It warms me to know we had a positive impact on the town.
What do you look for in a story? Do you have any tips for screenwriters who would like to pitch you their scripts?
Audience. Audience. Audience. If I can’t understand from reading the script who it is going to appeal to, it’s dead before it’s started. The writer has to tell me who the audience is going to be. I have to feel and know who the film will play well to, who is likely to finance it, and what the thing is likely to (or should) cost to see into production.
Given your experience, what are the most common mistakes a producer should avoid?
Forgetting to be a decent human being. Thankfully we are emerging from a period of time where bullying behavior, getting the shot at all costs, and a fairly toxic working atmosphere was the norm. We tell stories, that’s all we do. No different from the minstrel or the jester in the town square 200 years ago. We are not saving lives. I know we play a high stakes game, but I always chuckle when I remember what a wizened studio exec once said to me: “Son, you make movies. If they remember your movie in 5 years, you get to call it a film. If they remember it after 20 years … then it’s fucking cinema.”
With an unlimited budget at your disposal, what would your dream production project be?
Without being contrary, I don’t think I’d want a limitless budget. Budget seems to drive how big or bold you can make the movie, but does more money available guarantee an increase in quality? It might take away some of the funding nightmares and getting to a successful financial close. But what are you going to do? Pay the actors even more? Blow more shit up? Spend a load more on VFX or even better … craft service? If I had that much money I’d spend it on creating a time machine… and get to be the 3rd AD on Jaws, ET or Jean de Florette.
Don’t miss Gareth’s Steel Country Masterclass on 18th April, followed by a preview screening of the film and Q&A with special guests.
Hello, I’m Ivan! I’m the new intern here. I am very interested in cinematography and would love to show you some fantastic examples of the art. This week I would like to talk the 2011 film, Drive directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
The director of photography for the film was Newton Thomas Sigel. He has been working in his field for more than 40 years. Futhermore, he has helped create the visual style for films such as The Usual Suspects (1995), X-Men (2000) and Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). His cinematography has been a massive influence on the superhero, crime and war film genres. This understanding and experience of the rules of cinematography are exemplified in Drive. It is a fantastic study into creative lighting, thoughtful composition, economic shot and camera usage. Therefore, film is a must watch for anyone who wants to see fantastic practical application of skilled cinematography. Before I go into more detail, please have a watch of this short scene in which some of the movie’s core photographic aesthetics are laid out.
One of the things that I find most impressive about this scene is its ability to form meaningful narrative progression without dialogue. This is in part because of the composition of each shot! Notice as well the slow-motion from shot 6 through to shot 8 as it dims the light in combination with the kiss. Through camera action and disjointed rhythmic editing in 26 shots, a story beat (of the main protagonists romance) is established, followed through and completed.
Deep Shadows and Bright Lights
Preparation and planning of lighting in scenes was essential to create the dreamy look of the film. The urban environment of the L.A. night-time setting has a fantastic atmosphere, with dots of neon piercing the darkness of the city perfectly representing the film’s lighting philosophy.
In many interior shots and exposition scenes, a stylised lighting system is used, which often suggests emotional reflections in the characters. This system priorities deep shadows and bright lights to create high contrast ratio lighting in certain scenes.
The lighting system transforms even the most dry exposition scenes into something quite interesting as every facial expression and reaction is given a dramatic twist.
Moving onto the action set pieces, the three car chase scenes in the film stand out for multiple reasons as all require radically different lighting scenarios. Lighting gels and other LED uses were designed by the camera department to be used on car bonnets and dashboards without being particularly visible. Other cameras were set up in fixed camera positions in order to avoid re-shooting costly stunt scenes.
Shot Economy and Camera Usage
The film was shot primarily on an Arri Alexa. While shots on car dashboard and hood are Cannon 5d MII and Iconix HD-RH1 (because of their smaller size). Prime lenses were used for the car interiors, as it allows for a bit more light to get into the camera compared to zoom lenses. Placement and shot amount was also very important to provide coverage for a shoot with a limited amount of time to pre-produce and film.
Speaking to the ASC, Sigel explains that he “was intrigued by the look I could get shooting available light downtown”. The Arri Alexa was used for its ability to shoot high ISO exposure without producing much noise. This was essential for having a large dynamic range of light in the nighttime shots.
Compositional Theory: Opposites and Reflections
One more important aspect of the film is its use of composition. Using both sides and the top/bottom of the frame to show information acts as a quadrant system for the film. It also shows off the complex shot divisions while telling the audience much more than what can be said through dialogue.
Tony Zhong expresses this well in his Every Frame a Painting video: “The director, by emphasising different quadrants, can create shots that are both tightly composed and weirdly unpredictable.”
Drive is an accomplished piece of work from a fantastic director working alongside a pro cinematographer with 40 years of experience. The director, Refa has gone on to make some very interesting films such as the Neon Demon (2016) and Only God Forgives (2013). Seigal brought his artistic intuition and professional experties to express the director’s vision of a modern L.A. mythology.
If you enjoyed reading more deeply into the art of cinematography, you may be interested in some of Raindances’ courses on the technical processes of filmmaking. Interested in learning more about using DSLR cameras? We have just the course for you! How about exploring the mysterious practise of editing? There is a brilliant editing basics course for that. If you want to learn the foundations of cinematography from a fantastic and experienced cinematographer we have a basic course coming up soon!
Art and politics have a very long, intertwined history, and the past week has added a few lines to that book. Art as an illustration of what life is at a given time is not a new phenomenon by any means. However, in politically turbulent times, when activism takes time and forward motion seems like wishful thinking, art can be a source of hope. Creators can use their art to make sense of the world, and audiences can find solace in a creation that helps see the world in a new, not-so-grim light.
Politics and art
This week, as the protracted exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union faced yet another dead end, a photograph taken in the House of Commons became the perfect illustration of the entire Brexit process, and the dysfunction of Parliament. Photojournalism at its best illustrates a moment in time in an instantaneous way that manages to illustrate a situation with vivid clarity. That particular picture ended up having resonance about the general frustration around Brexit, and quickly became a sensation on social media.
Given the composition and the moment it illustrated, people quickly noticed that it could have been a 19th-century oil painting. It is worth remembering that, before photography, and for a time daguerreotypes, art was the only means to illustrate historical moments. For centuries, the powerful used art as a means to further establish their legitimacy.
For instance, it is a classic example that Napoleon had his official painter Jacques-Louis David depict the pope in a gesture of blessing towards the emperor in the coronation painting in order to reinforce the message that he was in his role by the will and grace of God. In reality, Pope Pius VII had been coerced into travelling to Paris and had taken measures to step down from the papacy should the French emperor imprison or harm him.
Thankfully, the 19th century was an era of liberalisation of morals and of greater freedom of speech. The press was able to widely distribute caricatures mocking the powerful. Thus the power struggle in the public sphere has since been readjusted.
It is a longstanding tradition for politicians to be patrons of the art, and for artists to tacitly agree to represent their patrons well. A number of those artists still managed to hide subtle criticisms of political situations, yet few dared to do so. But nowadays, art has taken its independence from the politically powerful.
Art and economics.
The art form that concerns us most at Raindance, cinema, is not just one of the most recent art forms. It is also a gigantic industry, and the most widely accessible form of art nowadays. Even more so with the advent of streaming platforms, which have taken a leap forward in terms of representation. Therefore cinema, and television, have been prime mediums for social and political impact. That is even more the case now with streaming platforms that advertise as socially conscious companies.
This has meant that representation has become a debate in and of itself. In this day and age, the focus of the matter has moved towards the politics in the art instead of the art in politics.
Art, politics, and social media.
Social media has become the vehicle for those conversations. While it is a means for companies to remain zeitgeisty, it is also a powerful tool to hold entertainment companies accountable. This past week, again, calls were issued to companies that did business with Brunei-owned establishments after the country passed horrendous homophobic laws. (Raindance has joined those calls.) People also held to account London’s National Theatre for announcing a season of plays written only by men.
Because art has an innate ability to not just represent the past, present, and future, but also to inspire forward motion, it is essentially intertwined with politics, in the larger sense of the term. This is why cultural institutions, be they a festival like Raindance, or otherwise, have an important responsibility. In the best instances, both art and politics represent the best of what human imagination can bring forth. In our turbulent political times, our politicians don’t seem to have understood that. Hopefully, artists have.