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By midlandsmovies, Sep 16 2019 08:00AM



A Day in the Life of music composer Kirby Spencer


Our fourth entry into our 'A Day in the Life" features follows Kirby Spencer. Leicestershire based Kirby is a music composer and has worked on local short films Thursday and Eve.


From mixing, sound design and composition, Kirby tells Midlands Movies about creating the perfect musical accompaniment to film projects made in the region.


07:30 - Up and at them as they say. The usual get up routine, with a little bit of breakfast possibly - but most importantly coffee.


08:30 - I turn on the most important piece of equipment I have, my computer. From here I produce all of my music and it needs plenty of time to warm up. I never start a day from scratch you see, as I am either loading up work from the previous day or far less frequently, I am loading up a template. This is a tip a few composers use in order to get over the shock of a blank page. The feeling of not knowing what to do to get yourself started. This way I always have something to look at, to point me forward. My template is simply a preset list of tracks/instruments that I use on a regular basis. For example that includes, Violins 1 and 2, viola, cellos, basses, trombones, various synths and sound fxs etc... my main template at the moment contains close to 100 tracks each ranging from a few MBs of memory all the way up to several GBs. Spread this across 100 tracks and my template can take anywhere between 10 mins and 15 mins to load for any given project. So while thats happening...


08:30 - 09:00 - Business hat on. As a freelance composer, you take on the role of a head of department (HoD) for yourself, but also everything else that needs to be done in order to run a successful business. Answering and making Email enquiries, updating social media accounts, marketing, market research, reviewing contracts, dealing with PRS etc etc. I can't get all of this done in half an hour, but I take a bit of time to wake up by reviewing a certain aspect of this side of being a Film Composer - most of the time its either answering Emails (There's a handy setting to send them out across the day) or doing a bit of market research in order to get the creative juices flowing.


09:00 - Time to review the previous days work. When we listen to music, especially the same piece of music over and over again - our ears and our mind can block out noise and frequencies that are disturbing or unwanted. Or simply an instrument might be slightly too loud or soft (most of the time its too loud..). We gradually get used to these imperfections over time as our ears adjust to them. I can get around this by listening to the previous days work with what we call 'fresh ears'. I've not been subject to the piece for several hours or even days previously, and this morning listen can highlight any problems that I may have missed through this phenomena. This can be a tip for any directors or producers out there too - you can usually tell if the music is right or wrong for the project within the first few plays. Its a bit of a balance however, you should give the music some time, but at the same time we can con ourselves into a certain piece if we dogmatically listen to it over and over looking for some profound revelation that makes it all okay. Listen, take some time away and come back to confirm - it works for me. Anything that comes up, I'll do my best to fix.


If I am starting with a new template that contains only the blank tracks that I use most frequently, then I skip to the next stage.


10:00 - Time to actually compose. If its a fresh scene or a fresh piece of music I will again try to remove the daunting aspect of having a blank slate by looking at the Film Composer's guiding light - Story. The music if decided to be present in a scene, must follow the story in some way. It must be highlighting (not adding!) something present in the scene. Through study I use an approach that was highlighted to me by Andy Hill (Walt disney Studios Music Producer) in his book, 'Scoring the Screen'. What is the point of view the music is highlighting? What is the energy level of the music? By that we mean does it work with or against the pace of the scene and the editing, and finally, does the music need to tell us something that the picture does not? Armed with these questions, and a brief from the film makers about what they would like to see (notes from a spotting session work absolute wonders), I can settle on a general direction for the music. From here its a matter of controlled experimentation, and at this point I cannot say how I might proceed as every case is different. But if I ever get stuck, its time to go back to the guiding lights.


12:00 - Lunch and break. Its important not to fatigue your ears, eyes and mind. I might go for a walk after having something to eat or something like that.


13:00 - Back on it in the same manner as the morning. It can be a solitary job this.


15:00 - Mini break usually about halfway through the afternoon - at this point I might go back to doing some of the business side of things, in particular, looking for new projects and productions that I feel I might be able to benefit, and those that might benefit me. Or anything else that might need to be done adhoc.


16:00 Back into the nitty gritty of scoring to a scene. At this point, my ears are pretty fatigued, and the creative juices are going to be running low. This late in the day, I usually focus on the technical aspects of making the cues sound realistic rather than anything creative or experiemental. There are times where I might save the thing I am working on and move back to a previous piece, something fresh in order to again get out of getting too used to hearing the same thing over and over. I would not mix at this time of the day, it always ends up sounding off.


18:00 - Pack up, save - Relax. When it gets close to deadlines, I will work on into the night as late as I feel I can.


That is just an example of a 'Day in the life of a Film Composer' and I know that it can vary from composer to composer quite drastically, and even for each composer themselves. Some days will be spent more on production (Mixing, Sound design etc) than composition. Some days will be spent on simply upskilling - learning more about the craft of writing music to picture. Some days may be spent on the business side of things, travelling to networking events, meeting clients, attending spotting sessions etc. But this is the general outline I like to follow when creating music for a media project. "


By midlandsmovies, Sep 13 2019 10:21AM



Midlands Spotlight - All That You Love Will Be Carried Away


The premiere of “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away”, which is produced by Harms Way Studios, will be on Sunday 22nd September at the Odeon Worcester.


The film stars Jack Frank, Gabriella Leonardi, Christian Vaccaro, Leona Clarke, Christian Dapp, Carys Jones, Zoe Doughty and James Kay in the lead roles. Writer/Director Hendrik Harms adapted the popular Stephen King story in a unique way with pumping synth, neon hues and noir tones. And the film has a blistering score by Elliot Hardman and visuals from cinematographer Elliot Wallis.




Based on the short story by Stephen King. All That You Love Will Be Carried Away tells the story of Alfie Zimmer, a travelling salesman, who collects interesting graffiti. Every time he finds a new piece he writes it in his book. These scribblings are his “friends”. However, there are darker truths hidden in these words, and it will take all of Alfie’s strength to face what he’s been running from and keep his head above water as his life collapses around him.


Shot predominantly in Worcester at the Whitehouse Hotel and in Birmingham at the bar Subside, this is a film that is all about keeping it local.




Witer-director Hendrik Harms explains, “When making this film we were overwhelmed with the support from the community. We had catering provided by Ma Bakers, Boston Tea Party, Waitrose and Tesco, as well as some delicious home cooked meals. The Whitehouse Hotel could not have been more accommodating too. It really showed us how much Worcester has to offer for filmmakers and why it was so important to screen our premiere here in the city centre".


"This project is the culmination of so much generosity and passion from so many people that I can’t wait for them to see it on the big screen", adds Hendrik.



Director Hendrik Harms
Director Hendrik Harms

The film is part of Stephen King’s Dollar Baby scheme, which gives filmmakers the rights to adapt one of his short stories for just a single dollar. When it’s completed a DVD of the film will be sent to him, prior to its international tour of film festivals.


“We actually shot the film in 5 days, which is a massive undertaking for the script that we had, but thanks to every single person in the cast and crew being on top form, everything was incredibly smooth. It was an electric experience.”


For more information please check out the film's official pages below:


www.facebook.com/harmswaystudios

www.instagram.com/harmswaystudios

www.harmswaystudios.com



By midlandsmovies, Sep 13 2019 09:20AM



Midlands Spotlight - 3rd Annual Q-Film Weekender 8-10 November


The Q-Film Weekender returns to the Northampton Filmhouse from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 November 2019 for its third year.


Running across three days, the festival celebrates queer cinema from around the world, showcasing LGBTQIA+ talent and films with an exciting programme of features and shorts, exclusive previews and complementary events. Highlights of the festival are now on-sale with further films to be announced.


The programme includes award-winning films such as Céline Sciamma’s highly-acclaimed Portrait of a Lady on Fire and the trans documentary Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth, followed by an exclusive Q&A with star Freddy McConnell.


Other events and Q&As include a selection of shorts and a special ‘In Conversation’ with trans filmmaker Jake Graf on Saturday 9t November. Tickets for these films and events can now be booked via the Filmhouse website www.northamptonfilmhouse.com or by calling 01604 624811.


The Q-Film Weekender is also proud to announce its Q-Film panellists: Q-Film’s Cat Nicholas, Co-Chair of Northampton Pride and Community Co-Chair of Northampton Borough Council’s LGBTQIA+ Forum Matthew Toresen, Screen Northants co-founder Becky Adams, Borough Councillor for Phippsville Anna King and Northampton Outlaw’s Simon Chapman.


The full programme is to be announced shortly on the Northampton Filmhouse website and the Weekender’s social media.


The Q-Film Weekender is presented in association with Q-Film and has been made possible by grant funding from Film Audience Network.


By midlandsmovies, Sep 12 2019 12:35PM




Midlands Spotlight - Day of the Stranger


Whilst his other movie The Pocket Film of Superstitions is in full swing, local filmmaker Tom Lee Rutter is closing the book on another film that has had a more complicated journey.


And after a near-6 year battle, this highly unique and ambitious Midlands movie is finally all set to attract a cult crowd...


Billed as the only British Guerilla Acid Western ever made, new film Day of the Stranger was full of filming obstacles and hardships. With a traumatic behind the scenes story as dramatic as the movie itself, the film finally looks set to be unleashed upon the world.


In true guerilla fashion, filmmaker Tom Lee Rutter and his crew took to the sand-stoned countryside of Worcestershire to achieve the unthinkable - a West Midlands psychedelic, horror Western.


True to form, what started as a group of enthusiastic individuals making a film turned into an ordeal which spanned nearly 6 years of obstacles to get the film finished.


''Several times it nearly never happened, I was ready to bury it", says Tom.


"Everything you can imagine that went wrong went wrong - from erratic behaviour of certain individuals, constant re-shoots and re-casting to hard-drives dying on me. We had it all. Your classic underground film-making horror story.'' explains the director.


With the help of the enthusiasm of individuals and the recent involvement of new talent, new life has been breathed into the film and seen it to the finish line. 'It's a miracle we have a film at all, but such is the journey on the front-line of underground film.''


Now a trailer has been released along with an official poster. The film is a throwback homage to the sparse run of the acid-western sub-genre which included films such as Monte Hellman's The Shooting (1966), Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970) and Robert Downey's Greaser's Palace (1972).


Aiming for an early 2020 world premiere and starring a wealth of talent including Gary Baxter (Beyond Fury), Richard Rowbotham (White Goods) and a special appearance by Gary Shail (Quadrophenia, Metal Mickey) Day of the Stranger looks set to offer something different to the world of cult and horror indie cinema.





By midlandsmovies, Sep 11 2019 11:02AM



It Chapter Two (2019) Dir. Andy Muschietti


The success of the first IT film came as a bit of an industry surprise with the best opening of a horror movie at the box office ever. The inevitable sequel was not just because of that – the book is “essentially” two parts anyways – so now we follow the Losers Club as adults as they return to Derry to fulfil their promise to each other to stop Pennywise the (killer) Clown if he ever returned.


Director Andy Muschietti builds upon the good work of his first film which, for me, is by far the best of the recent glut of mainstream Hollywood horror. But this time we have a selection of adults embodying grown-up versions of the child actors from the previous film.


Jessica Chastain/Sophia Lillis star as the old and young versions of Bev respectively, James McAvoy/Jaeden Martell are Bill, Bill Hader and Finn Wolfhard play Richie, Isaiah Mustafa and Chosen Jacobs are Mike, Jay Ryan and Jeremy Ray Taylor act as Ben, James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer are Eddie and finally Andy Bean and Wyatt Oleff play Stanley Uris.


As the gang reunite, the film sees their memory of past events slowly return and the success of the excellent young actors’ chemistry from the first film has led to the director inserting plenty of flashbacks to flesh out the story.


And of course, the fabulously malevolent Bill Skarsgård is Pennywise the Dancing Clown with his piercing eyes, child-like voice and drooling smile all coming back to scare the adults who are all dealing with their personal past demons too.


As well as the actors, the film is shot superbly and the glowing cinematography during the flashbacks harks back to the innocent past whilst the modern versions have a more contemporary look. And a smattering of humour, mainly built around the excellent Bill Hader helps keep the protagonists likeable.


However, despite some excellent work from the cast and filmmaker, there are some problems with that. The film is not really scary at all. A Thing-inspired spider-head and a tense meeting between an old lady and Jessica Chastain’s Bev are superb but an over-use of CGI and the humour is tonally a little off. There are also some “meta” moments with a film set location, a Stephen King cameo and constant references to McAvoy’s writer who is known for the bad endings of his published books. This makes the film feel more like the satirical Scream 2 and these self-references took me from the movie completely.


Also, we must talk about the runtime. At 169 minutes (!) it’s AT LEAST 30-minutes too long. The great drama played out by the gang works well but by the cataclysmic and over-the-top end confrontation, I was actually yearning for a conclusion. A Return of the Rings-style multi-ending added another 10 minutes on that and it soon became quite comically misjudged.


The cast (did I mention them at all?) really help the slightly ramshackle film from falling apart but with its aim to be “epic”, it falls flat at times despite the interesting dark themes of dealing with the past sitting nicely with some more positivity set within fun 80s retro references. In the end though, IT Chapter 2 is a more than solid 2 hour sequel with an added 50 unnecessary minutes that ideally could be wiped from your brain like a memory from Derry.


★★★½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 11 2019 10:06AM



John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019) Dir. Chad Stahelski


Keanu Reeves returns once more as the eponymous ‘hero’ John Wick in this third instalment of the hyper-violent neo-noir action series. The movie picks up immediately from the previous sequel where the ex-assassin is in New York escaping from a $14 million hit put upon his head after his unsanctioned killing of a member of the “High Table” – a seedy cabal of hitmen and women. But before you can say “parabellum”, Wick is involved in bloodier fist/knife/gun fights than ever before.


Influenced at times by old gun-slinging westerns – (Wick-y Wick-y Wild Wild West) he uses 6-shooter guns and tomahawks, rides a horse through Manhattan and there is a distinct steel-guitar vibe on the soundtrack. Technical wise, the lighting is beyond fantastic with the gorgeous visuals, neon lights and heavy rain giving the locations a classic cinematic feel in comparison to other genre films.


The culture continues (as first seen around Rome in Chapter 2) with scenes set at theatres, museums, libraries and art galleries setting the somewhat low-brow fight action against more civilised environments.


During a ballet rehearsal, a rare but welcome Anjelica Huston appearance explains “the path to paradise begins in hell”. This is one of a number of religious nods alongside a crucifix necklace, stained glass windows and later on a cross is seared on Wick’s back before a gruesome scene of anatomical sacrifice. And redemption is a big theme too. Wick wants out but is drawn back in – not just by his guilt – but by a sense of obligation to the codes of conduct the High Table group enforce.


Support comes from an excellent duplicitous Ian McShane as the manager of a hotel refuge whilst Laurence Fishburne brings his mouthy gravitas to underground crime lord, the Bowery King. The excellent Halle Berry is sadly wasted in a silly shoot-out sequence in Casablanca. The bland gun action is not helped by some CGI dogs - however, those waiting for some long overdue dog revenge will lap up the hounds’ killing spree.


What doesn’t work? Well, the action – as good as it is – is constant. And relentlessly so. Characterisation is kept to a minimum but expected I suppose and the much-lauded motorcycle chase is a poor facsimile of the superior one in The Villainess.


Also, and I’m not sure if it’s because I watched this recent video breaking down stunt choreography from an expert, Keanu was starting to look his age as the overly-choreographed fights seemed to have a few missed marks. A minor gripe I admit.

Whilst expanding the mythos Wick has also lost some of its initial Taken-style charm. The two films were never realistic per se but in Parabellum, murders in public at Grand Central Station and bus-loads of SWAT push it a little bit too far into fantasy. Heck, it even bordered on WANTED (2009) territory with its clan of shady assassins clinging to their historical rules of engagement.


All that said, Wick does what it sets out to do with no apologies. A few nice nods to The Matrix are a nice inside-joke - Neo, I mean Wick, is asked to make a choice by a monologue-ing mentor in a video-screened room and also asks for “Guns. Lots of guns”. And not to mention that Morpheus is in it of course!


And so, genre fans will lap up the explosions, punches, martial arts, gun-fu and the well-executed stunt work. But Wick goes beyond b-movie staples with a film that not only delivers on its action but is a feast for the more discerning viewer with its eye-wateringly impressive lighting, cinematography and production design.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 11 2019 09:41AM



Midlands Spotlight - Beginners Youth Film Academy


The Beginners Youth Film Academy (BYFA) is a new after-school Academy that focuses on both acting and filmmaking that has been recently launched by Midlands-based Country Star Productions.


Run by Sharni Tapako-Brown and Gary Rogers, the BYFA is moving to a weekly academy running initially from Haybridge High School in Hagley, Worcestershire with a view of expanding to other areas.


Company founder Gary Roger’s early working career started in electronic engineering and software design where he helped develop a technical background which would prove very useful in later years.



After this, Gary became a qualified teacher of PGCE status spending around 10 years teaching ICT, DT and Media whilst developing his filmmaking career. And as he got more involved in indie filmmaking the demand also grew to a point that it became his full-time career, starting his own company Pixel Perfection Media.


Since then, a new production company was started with Sharni Tapako-Brown called Country Star Productions with the aim of producing high quality films, some of which have gone on to be multi award winning films and include a wide variety of projects such as music videos and corporate and commercial work.


From working in the industry professionally and drawing on her teaching experience in schools and drama Academies, Sharni Tapako-Brown wanted to expand and share her knowledge too. "Drama and film helped me to express myself, giving me the confidence to succeed, and so I want to implement that to all students I teach".



Sharni has now expanded her profile by becoming a producer and writer for Country Star Productions alongside Gary Rogers. As a woman in film, she believes that there is no limit of what you can learn from others, and thus no limit of what you can achieve for yourself.


Their school focuses on not only acting and live performance, but also acting for camera, film and TV as well as how to use top end camera, lighting and sound equipment. The BYFA also have ties with known actors such as Michael McKell who is their official patron, stunt coordinators, casting agencies all of which gets you closer to the industry you are striving to be part of.


So the end outcome of the year will be the students’ involvement in film development which will contribute towards receiving a professional looking portfolio, consisting of showreels, films to keep, IMDB credits, film festivals and much more.


Finally, the academy offers Trinity Arts awards as part of the course, which are industry-recognised qualifications; giving students UCAS points towards further education. BYFA is not only qualified to deliver the award but are also a registered Arts Award Centre.


To join and find out more information head to their official website: www.byfacademy.co.uk


By midlandsmovies, Sep 10 2019 09:25AM



Midlands Review - Keep Breathing


Directed by Mark Corden


2019


Siska Media


Keep Breathing is a new independent short film exploring the consequences of a drunken night spent together between a man and a woman, highlighting the complications and emotional aftermath from a night of questionable sexual congress.


Director Mark Corden starts the film after the event, we see a man (Damien Molony) attempting to fix a broken lift inside an office building. Meanwhile we are also introduced to a woman (Emmeline Hartley) who is busy working away at her desk in the same building. As the man finally mends the lift to make his way down to the reception area, we see the woman finishing work rushing to catch the lift, which is kindly held so she can enter.


They glance up instantly recognising each other, and after a moment passes the lift breaks down again and with the power off they are now trapped together. The man radios his colleague for assistance but this will take a few minutes.


What follows in the short is an awkward, dry exchange which he mistakes for flirting. They discuss their first meet and how much of a fun time he had, however the woman balks - she is uncomfortable with both his advances and the claustrophobic setting.


To calm her down he tells her to “keep breathing” and goes to comfort her, his contact catapults the audience into her memory of the night they met.


The grey, airless setting is then replaced with a colourful, vibrant club atmosphere. Our protagonists meet at the bar, their eyes fixated on one another. A fun night of dancing, drinking and flirting ensues ending with a kiss and an exit to the nearest taxi. Corden and editor Drew Davis move skilfully within the film, briskly switching from their night out to the tense elevator where our main characters break down that evening’s events.

Stumbling out of the taxi and into her flat, the viewer can start to tragically see where this night is heading. The next few minutes make for an uneasy watch as Corden isn't afraid of showing those dark, tough moments as the woman is pressured into sleeping with this man. Molony and Hartley give great performances throughout Keep Breathing but it's here where they showcase their talent, turning their irresistible chemistry we had seen minutes before into something more alarming and daunting.


An impressive element within the film is its ability to ground itself within most of the audience’s experiences with life. The main characters are unnamed, they could represent all of us at any time. And not too many people can say they haven't had too much to drink in a club and clambered into a taxi with someone they've just met. Making Keep Breathing universally familiar will no doubt resonate massively with the audience, a huge achievement for the film.


Written by Corden, Hartley and Tommy Draper, their words manage to capture a real issue that has been ongoing for decades but seems more relevant now than ever. Bringing the world to life on screen is cinematographer Beatriz Delgado Mena who gives it that sought after cinematic shine, making it a film that looks at home on the big screen. I enjoyed noticing certain behaviours which were explored and magnified. The unnecessary contact with someone or invading one’s personal space – these small moments haven't been often captured on a short film I’ve seen before.


However, Corden, along with his collaborators, keeps the film in a neutral space. He seems to want to educate and listen rather than lecture and sermonize. Both characters’ reactions are up for discussion which will undoubtedly create much needed debate amongst the audience. Surprisingly Keep Breathing isn't a clear black and white, it is a grey, subtle study of consent in the modern world and how if ignored can have a vast, prolonged impact on the parties involved.


Breath-taking, tense, topical, Keep Breathing is the best short film I've seen for years, it sets a benchmark for how strong and culturally relevant modern filmmaking can be. Watch it, question it, watch it again with friends & family. This film demands to be seen.


Guy Russell


Twitter: @budguyer


Future screenings of Keep Breathing to look out for.


Underwire Festival ‘Boundaries’ programme:

Weds 18th September 6:45pm

The Castle Cinema (Tickets available on sale on their website)


BFI London Film Festival ‘In An Age of Consent’ programme:

4th Oct, 20:40 Odeon (Tottenham Court Road)

6th Oct, 12:20 Cine Lumiere

Tickets for London Film Festival go on sale on 12th September.


For more info, follow the official Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages @kbshortfilm

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