All work and no play makes Jack and dull boy.

Month: February 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Rule 94

Be for the glory, not the degradation

We can work for the glory of humankind or we can try to bring it crashing down into degradation.
Shakespeare is for the glory, a crack house is for the degradation.
A village fete on a warm summer’s afternoon is for the glory, stealing someone’s purse for the change is for the degradation.
And it doesn’t have to be tame; a parachute jump for charity is for the glory, pornography is for the degradation – but an erotic movie can be for the glory. Get the idea?
Anything that makes us more than we are, makes us strive for perfections, improves us, challenges us, excites us in a good way, makes us rise above our base nature and brings us out into the sunshine is for the glory.
So what shall it be? The glory or the degradation?  Well for the glory of course. The fear is that people think this is all about being good and that in itself has a bad press. All our lives we have been told that being good is a bad thing, somehow dull, for the meek and namby-pamby, the sandal wearers, the holier-than-thou brigade. Being good hasn’t got a lot going for it.
Well, being good, being for the glory can be a private thing. Not a soul has to know. Keep it quiet and you can just get on being good. Brag about it and you might be seen as a goody-goody. Interfere with others and try to make them good, you’ll a do-gooder.
Just make a decision – be for the glory. Say nothing.

With thanks to the works of Richard Templar, from whom this is adapted.

Georgia's Angel – original soundtrack

Thought I’d share Dave Walker’s brilliant soundtrack to Georgia’s Angel with you.
Quite a difficult one this – with The Secret I was pretty clear that I wanted a musical piece that echoed Any Other Name from American Beauty and have overtones of Ludovic Einaudi.
But going into Georgia’s Angel I really had no idea what I wanted. I knew it needed to be more melodic and had to be quite uplifting. I’d been listening to alot of Johann Johannsson recently and was thinking along those lines, but really I ended up leaving the score to Dave’s abilities.
Hope you like it.
[soundcloud width=”100%” height=”81″ params=”” url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/10163500″]

Getting On With It

I find myself joining the march again today, in fact for a few days now, the shroud having fallen over me sometime towards the end of last week. It can come over you without warning and more often than not disappear in exactly the same fashion.
But for the most part you have to work at it. I’ve been keeping to a routine, forcing myself to do things with no motivation to do them at all, no motivation to do anything in fact. This shroud of melancholy is actually quite heavy. It weighs you down, oppresses you, distorts your vision and everything you see.
I found some inspiration from the radio yesterday. Ruby Wax was being interviewed on Five Live by Richard Bacon as part of London Fashion Week and she began to relate her long term experiences with depression. It surprised me – I never realised it was something that afflicted her, her public persona being so “up” and comedic. But she spoke about how people perceive mental illness and mental health issues. It’s not a tumour, or a broken arm, or a physical scar that you can see and sympathise with. So people don’t.
Some people think you’re making the whole thing up because they can’t see your illness, which is something I’ve been shocked to experience myself in recent weeks. I said in the other piece I wrote that I don’t really want sympathy. It’s meaningless, condascending even. But I expected some degree of understand, especially from people close to me. Some have surprised me and been more understanding than I ever expected, but some have bitten hard and turned themselves against trying to understand with any compassion what exactly this is doing to me.
It’s all part of the prejudice against mental illness generally I think. There is a generation of people (not necessarily an older generation either) who think you can just shut yourself off to the feelings and emotions and “just get on with it.”
But the illness is an inability to do just that – an inability to have an control over how you feel or what you feel; an inability to be able to shut yourself off; an inability to “get on with it”. It’s a debilitating distortion of your emotions that overrides your entire life and capabilities. Getting on with life isn’t possible, never mind being an option.
(Ruby Wax is currently on tour with a show about her and her audience’ experiences of mental illness – you can visit the site and book tickets here. Might see you there.)

Georgia's Angel >> FINISHED!!

Been a week or so dedicating my time to Georgia’s Angel, the short film I made last year. The completion process picked up quite radically in November when Larry Anderson and LIAP Media Corp. from Canada came on board, providnig some completion funding for the film, which had until that time been on hold due to lack of money.
Larry contacted me originally through this blog and I got back in touch with him in October. He was willing to fund the completion of the film, including soundtrack and promotion at festivals in return for a credit and for the opportunity to utilise the film in his own work.
One of the things I’ve had the chance to do in recent weeks is get the “look” of the film right. I blogged earlier how I had been grading and colorizing the picture to give it the look I wanted but during that process what became apparent was the limitations of the Sony Z1 camera in low light conditions such as those we filmed in. The Z1 leaves a lot of noise on the image and it gave the film a kind of “dirty” look that I didn’t think did it any credit. I was also seeing alot of blocking in the various renders I did and needed to do something about it.
Looking back over the grading effects I’d applied in After Effects I re-set the black and white outputs to their respective extremes and tweaked the curves a little, which more or less did the trick to reducing the blocking, especially at the darker sides of the image.
I then came across a brilliant noise reduction and de-artefacting tool from Neat Video that did a fabulous job of clean up the picture quality. Have a look at the “before” and “after” shots below (the left is “before”, the right “after”):


I really cannot praise this little plug-in enough – it was so easy to use and the results were really impressive. It gave the kind of noise reduction you’d expect to have to pay big bucks for and yet it was relatively inexpensive at just £80. Definitely a must have tool for me now particular shooting with the Z1.

Testing the waters

Just before I completed this final grading of the film I put it to a test audience of about 40 or so people, some of whom I knew well, some of whom I knew a little, and some of whom I knew  not at all. Larry Anderson, the associate producer from Canada, also gave the link to the film to some of his contacts. Basically we uploaded a 720p copy of the film to YouTube as an unlisted entry and sent the link to people. I then set up a survey using Survey Monkey to ask the viewers what they thought about the film, what they thought about the acting and production values and so on. The point of it was to spot an glaring failures in the film that I couldn’t see by virtue of being blinded somewhat by my own creation. It’s also been useful in finding out any common opinions of Georgia’s Angel that can be used to promote the film at festivals.
The majority of the feedback was positive about the film, with just over 80% of the viewers enjoying it. It scored highly in questions about the cinematic “look” of the film, and also in the acting stakes with half of the people questioned feeling that the film and the actors deserved some recognition for the role. Sophie Platts was postively rated in almost all of the feedback with comments from some reviewers such as “Sophie was stunning”, “despite being new to the filming industry, managed to give an innocent, but firm and confident performance” and “Sophie has a great career ahead as a budding young actress.”
Wayne Russell’s turn as Clarence also drew plaudits, with a massive 60%+ of the audience instantly identifying with the character and recognising someone in their own lives as like him.  “Wayne was just right as Clarence. You hoped he was what he appeared and were not disappointed” and “the strong lighting on Clarence immediately changed my view on him, from a possible antagonist to the possible ‘angel’ Very well done altogether” were typical of the comments left by reviewers.
Dave Walker’s sound design and incidental music also received plaudits with people saying it was just right and helped set the pace nicely.
There was some criticism of the film, almost exclusively from outside of the UK, which in itself is something I find unusual. A handful of commentators (literally 4) suggested that the dialogue was difficult to understand and hard to grasp; and criticised the general direction of the plot and story as unoriginal or not realistic. I can take on board some of what people were saying – but Georgia’s Angel is not a social lesson about running away from home. It was made purely as entertainment, an up-to-date interpretation of It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. In that sense it was never going to be original, just a different take on an old idea.
Either way, the criticism has made be aware of two things: 1) the need to think about how to promote this film in North America; and 2) it focussed me on the positive responses, which far outweighed the negative!
As part of promoting the film I’ve designed a promotional poster and also finished the DVD disk cover. I’ll be getting some duplicates done this week for film festivals, and sending off for some A1 posters of the promo poster.

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