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By midlandsmovies, Sep 19 2017 10:07AM



Midlands Professional - Birmingham actor Andre Pierre


Our Professional series continues as Midlands Movies chats to Andre Pierre – an actor form the region who shares his background and experience in the industry.


Mike finds out more about his past projects as well as his new major 2018 film “15 Minutes of War” directed by Fred Grivois.


The Midlands

Andre Pierre is a professional actor from Birmingham (West Midlands) and is represented by IPM (Imperial Personal Management). With over 7 years of acting experience, including workshops at The Crescent Theatre and Millennium Point, he took his experience to the Birmingham Theatre School before moving into short and feature films, TV and theatre.


“I have a variety of upcoming films coming up including sci-Fi drama “Graycon” directed by Duaine Carma Roberts, superhero TV pilot “Lucid The Dreamwalker”, an action thriller feature film “TONY” and an urban drama feature film called “Blitz In The Bitz” which are all premiering in October”.



Acting beginnings

“My foundation for acting in general started when I was 13. My first role into films was an educational short film called “My Life My Choice” and it was the first time I auditioned for any kind of film project. At the time I had no clue to how big and how much attention this film was going to receive”.


The trailer to the film went viral which was closely followed by a premiere at Star City in Birmingham. Andre Pierre continues, “Being part of this made me realise the power a film can have on people and was the turning point for me to become a professional actor. Since then I’ve had numerous leading and supporting roles”.


Exclusive Shot From Short Film “Last Night In Freedom” Directed By Click Jones Coming Soon
Exclusive Shot From Short Film “Last Night In Freedom” Directed By Click Jones Coming Soon

Overcoming Hurdles

“Staying committed regardless of how many no’s you receive sounds like a cliché but it’s very true in this industry. You have to have thick skin because part of your job is dealing with criticism from your audience, critics, directors, casting directors etc. You are going to judged by everyone and it’s something you cannot get past so you have to whole heartedly believe in yourself, believe in your talent and believe in your work ethic to reach the goals you set out for yourself”.




Superhero TV Pilot "Lucid The Dreamwalker" Directed By The Johnson Bros Coming Soon


Acting methods

“I always analyse the script and talk with the director first and foremost to make sure what direction they want the character to go in. But I always bring honesty and authenticity to my performances so want to make sure that you see the truth in the characters I’m playing. This needs to be related to the story so you are invested in them along their journey. I always try to see how my character moves and talks, how does he react in various situations etc so a lot of research in one or another. I always want my characters to be relatable, interesting and as grounded as possible to give the best performances”.


Challenges faced by actors on local films

“There are so many challenges it varies but it could be from noise being too loud on the location, actors dropping out at the last minute and filming days going on longer than expected. I would say, for actors, just prepare yourself for anything on an independent or short film because it’s all training grounds for the bigger platforms and it only helps you to get better at your craft when you go through these experiences”.

Andre Pierre Playing James From Feature Film “TONY” Directed By Jack Veasey
Andre Pierre Playing James From Feature Film “TONY” Directed By Jack Veasey

Acting experiences

“I think my best acting experience was filming in Morocco for the feature film “15 Minutes Of War” (15 Minutes De Guerre). It has been my first role filming abroad but also my first big role on a film on this scale with so much action, working with a Hollywood actress and rising movie stars as well as a critically acclaimed director. It’s been like nothing I’ve ever done before. I was developing the character, learning the language and filming the first week in Casablanca before shooting the rest of the film in Marrakech in the desert which was challenging within itself but also a pure joy I will never forget. The worst experience was not being fully prepared for an audition when I was starting out. It was so horrible [laughs] but it was also a learning curve for me to always to be ready and give yourself enough time to prepare for auditions in the future. I made sure that never happened again”.


Advice for beginners

“The best advice I can pass on is to try and get some form of training whether it’s in drama or theatre school, performing arts courses or acting workshops. This training gives you the foundation and tools to become the best performer possible. Using Star Now or Mandy (Casting Call Pro) are good for getting started to find some form of work as well. Another alternative route is to find friends that are making films and get involved - or even just create your own films”.


Best advice from others

“I was told to ‘risk everything’ and what I take from that is you have to risk looking like an idiot at times to bring out the best performance. There’s been many times where either the director or I had to push myself even further to bring out my full potential and sometimes you might think that’s not normal or you might be self conscious. That is the very thing what pushes it from good to great so I would always say push past your comfort zone. Now, when I’m usually fearful of something I haven’t done before, it only encourages me to do better and discover new skills about myself I thought I didn’t have”.


A Shot From Short Film “The Glove Game: Beginning” Directed By Josh Bliss
A Shot From Short Film “The Glove Game: Beginning” Directed By Josh Bliss

Future plans

“The future is looking very bright for next year and beyond. I’ll be in a lot more feature films and TV shows. My work is already opening up more opportunities than I ever imagined so I will be in fewer short films than before. The journey has been full of many surprises and I feel very blessed and thankful to be in this position right now”.


Final words

“I would say that you have to believe in yourself first and foremost and love the craft because this journey won’t be easy. It’s not going to happen overnight so enjoy the process, enjoy the journey and learn as much as you can from other creatives. Don’t wait on that big opportunity to come to you work towards it now whether it’s being part of theatre or short and independent films but get yourself out there and make your career happen!”.


Check out more from Andre Pierre on his Spotlight page here: https://www.spotlight.com/interactive/cv/0811-3493-3372


A Shot From Horror Short Film “Bless You” Directed By Daryl Grizzle



Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Sep 17 2017 10:54PM



Midlands Professional - Film Event Organiser John Currie


Midlands Movies speaks to event manager and festival organiser John Currie as part of our Midlands ‘Professional’ series. In this latest feature John talks to us about his experience and career arranging one of the best festivals in the Midlands film calendar - the Beeston Film Festival.


At age 53 and the father of 5, Beeston Film Festival director John Currie is originally from Liverpool but has lived in Beeston now for the best part of 20 years and (in his words) now very much regards it as his home. Firstly, alongside raising his children, John explains that far from being solely local, his festival is now both local AND global with entries from 37 different countries.


“At our last event we ended up screening films from 22 countries and we have an award panel from America, Africa, Asia and Europe! The point of the festival is to connect, to reach out and bring global stories to Beeston and in return celebrate filmmakers and honour them with B’Oscars”.


Inspired to set up the BFF when he attended the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival, John was there for the screening of the first film he produced called ‘Go with God’.


“And guess what? It was an international short film festival held upstairs in a pub! A model we’ve replicated at the White Lion thanks to our awesome host Sergio”.


And what has been the most difficult hurdle John’s overcome as the organiser?


“We have overcome so many problems but the biggest problem was finding a venue. Unsurprisingly Beeston doesn’t have a cinema of the scale of Showcase, Cineworld or even Broadway (in Nottingham City centre). Luckily one of our friends mentioned that Sergio at The White Lion was interested on setting up a cinema in his upstairs function room. The room has a wonderful retro feel with lush red velvet chairs and benches surrounding the room. Getting the projector and sound to good standard was challenging on a low budget but proved to be successful. Not only has the festival been hosted their but many other events adding to the joy of Beeston”.



In the past John has hosted a number of other film events such as showcase nights, taking part in the D H Lawrence festival and Scarlarama as well but is more than happy to pass on his experiences with others.


“Clarity of vision and determination to succeed [are skills needed] plus the help of loads of talented filmmakers otherwise there would lots of people staring at a blank screen”.


“We are also blessed by finding some great partners such as the B’Oscar sponsors, who are local Beeston businesses; the fabulous review team of Beestonians who review entries and make selections; our awesome global award panel who decide B’Oscar winners; Sergio at The White Lion and of course the students from New College Nottingham who volunteer their hard work enthusiastically to make audience and filmmakers as welcome as possible. So appreciation of those who share your vision is vital”.


John goes on to explain that there are two keys challenges faced by film festival organisers:


“You need to appeal to filmmakers and appeal to the audience, without these people excited by what we are doing there would be no festival. For filmmakers we offer a platform, an audience to industry judges, and of course the chance to win a coveted B’Oscar. For the audience we need to provide an exciting programme, in a convivial atmosphere rubbing shoulders with as many filmmakers as we can attract”.


And how does John balance the financial aspects with the creative side?


“Well, we are self-funding, and get great support from local businesses, so each year to grow the scope of the festival to ensure that we are sustainable. We are also aware that festival audiences are looking for surprises! Short film festivals are the platform for filmmakers to take risks, develop their skills and surprise the audience! So far we have had plenty of surprises and that’s why our audience numbers keep on increasing year on year”.


And what advice would John give to like-minded people thinking of setting up their own festivals?


“Ensure you clarify your vision, be certain sort your festival should be, so once that is honed, work incredibly hard to make it happen because it is an amazingly rewarding process”.


“For us, in 2018 we are expanding by adding a section dedicated to Women’s Voices. This is a very open definition: films made by men but tell a woman's story in a good way, with a great leading female actor, can still be considered; as long as the film has a good mix of women and men working on the crew, and as long as they tell a good woman's story, it can be submitted”.


In the festival’s first year they screened 70 films over two days and in 2018 John plans to run the event over 4 days with hopes to screen 130 films making it the biggest international short film festival in the Midlands.


Finally, we ask John if he has any final words to give to fans/organisers of regional film festivals. “Well, a short film festival offers 2 hour programs that are constructed from a mosaic of cinematic genius rather than a single overarching storyline. This provides a platform to emerging filmmakers from Beeston to Bangkok and enriches the lives of everyone involved”.


Big thanks to John Currie for his time and check out the Official Festival website here and also our coverage of 2017’s event.





By midlandsmovies, Sep 13 2017 10:37AM



Caroline Spence is a producer and screenwriter based in the Midlands and as part of our 'Professional' series we ask Caroline about her roles, experience and advice for readers interested in developing their career in this interesting and varied job.


Background

I am a screenwriter and feature film producer. I came to this profession fairly late in life as compared with other people in the business. Previously, I worked in various administrative roles in so many different industries that I’ve lost count, from law to the defence industry, accounting, finance and the mental health sector. All sounds impressive, but I was predominantly sat in front of a screen typing - always restless, always dreaming of breaking out and doing something else. In a way, this has been an advantage in my current profession – I know business, I know accounts, and I’ve met many people from many different walks of life, and so I have a wealth of inspiration to draw on when scouting for locations or writing new characters.


How Caroline got into film producing

I came to film producing through a series of events. I've been a writer since childhood and went on to write published articles based around natural history, science, and ancient history. In 2004, I was invited to appear on a TV show about international property as a realtor, because the actual realtor didn't want to appear on television! Although I knew little about selling properties abroad (in this case, Spain), I thought it would be a great experience. Unfortunately, when it came to the shoot, I wasn't too impressed by the (unprofessional) behaviour of the film crew. Nevertheless, this odd experience inspired me to write and present my own documentaries.


So, James Smith (director) and I set up Raya Films and we won a number of awards for our documentaries as well as enjoying sell-out theatrical screenings and international broadcast. We moved into commercial work and then experimented with short film, but it wasn't until I started penning screenplays that I knew I'd found my forte: feature film.


Training

I didn’t go to film school or go on any courses relating to the film industry. I learned on the job. As I already had over twenty years’ experience in a variety of industries, communication skills became ingrained in me, and I have become almost OCD with regard to organisation. In my opinion, these are two of the most important attributes to have as a film producer. I studied screenwriting religiously. I read (and continue to read) dozens of Hollywood screenplays. In the early days, I gained many tips from a highly-regarded screenwriting book (sorry, I seriously can’t remember which one!), I studied the screenplay for Ronin (1998) and The Firm (1993) on screen. I’ve been working toward achieving the standard of those two masterpieces ever since.



Experience in the film industry

In terms of feature film, there have been many ups and downs – there are many rogues in this industry and I’ve experienced my fair share of them. One of my first screenplays came to the attention of a sales agent/producer in Hollywood. We had various phone conversations – he loved the screenplay and was interested in working with us on it. Unfortunately, when he learned we hadn’t produced a feature film before he pulled out. This has been a repeated theme. The movers and shakers in the industry liked my screenplays, but with a lack of track record they didn’t take the risk. But the tide slowly tips in your favour if you keep going and build up experience - at last, my work is being taken seriously by established companies.


We came very close a few years ago with a movie set in Spain. I won’t go into detail but I had attached a named actor, a sales agent was coming onboard as executive producer, I had financiers … we were so close. Unfortunately, I brought in a producer to help me on the project who disrupted everything and caused setbacks. The film had to be put on hold. Despite this, I am now back in the driving seat. As a result of this experience, however, I am now very particular who I work with. In hindsight, this ‘producer’ did me the biggest favour ever: made me aware of rogues and the value of due diligence.


The demands from a filmmaker

Through experience, I am very strict on communication and insist people working on my projects tell me what they are going to do and who they are going to talk to before they do it. I’m not super-bitchy about this, just quietly insistent. I feel it’s important for all filmmakers to know exactly what the production team are doing – you, as a filmmaker, have worked hard to build up a solid reputation and good body of work and you can’t afford to be misrepresented to financiers, sales agents, producers or even your potential audience. It could set you back months or years.



Overcoming challenges

Shooting a film is like fighting fires – especially a zero/micro-budget one. Making Do Something, Jake – my debut feature - was tough. We had no budget for this production, so I had to wear many hats. As well as producer/production manager, line producer and screenwriter, I was script supervisor, location manager, sound technician, caterer and part-time driver. Many of our crew willingly doubled up duties as well, and even some actors lent a helping hand, which means a lot in terms of moral support for everyone. So every day was beset with problems or obstacles to overcome.


One of our locations was in a derelict pre-Victorian primary school. James, the director, asked me to prepare what was once a pantry, to shoot one of those scenes, and that meant sweeping up piles and piles of dead wasps. Not often found in the job description for a film producer.


Skills and experience

You need to multi-task and be mentally and physically fit because the whole process of filmmaking can be gruelling – with or without a good budget behind you. You need to be slick on communication. This is imperative, and in this day and age there is no excuse. You need to be able to get out of bed in the morning – if you don’t ‘do’ early mornings, go work in another industry.


You need to be tenacious. You will be knocked back time and time again, but you must bounce right back and turn those knocks, rejections , and criticisms into motivators. As Frank Sinatra said, “The best revenge is massive success.” I also read plenty of advice from other successful directors and industry professionals and take that onboard.


Advice to others

If you’re new to the industry, read as much as you can. Go on YouTube and watch as many ‘how to’ videos as you can, and then get as many screenplays as you can and read those. Whether you’re an actor, producer, director, editor, or clapper loader, it’s important to know all facets of the industry. Watch movies. All genres, from all decades and all nations. Become a movie geek. Study them and learn how to ‘read’ a movie.


After all the reading, watching movies, writing and studying, the only way to get anywhere is to go out and make a film. Thanks to Sean Baker (Tangerine, 2015) it’s now considered cool to shoot a movie on an iPhone, so take whatever you have and go and film something, learn from it, then go do it all again.


I learned invaluable lessons when producing and shooting Do Something, Jake not least about scheduling. Looking back, I realise that the schedule I drew up was incredibly tight - it's amazing we didn't run over-schedule. Full credit to the cast and crew for taking my gruelling demands in their stride. But I only learned this by doing it for real – learning from experience is the only way to progress.


Read about Caroline's latest project Do Somthing, Jake on by clicking here and check out Raya Film's site at https://rayafilms.wordpress.com/


By midlandsmovies, Sep 9 2017 08:04AM



Director Sophie Black is a Nottingham based filmmaker with many shorts to her name and in the latest of our ‘Professional’ series, she passes on her experience and advice about directing behind the camera. Want to get into directing yourself or learn more about the profession? Sophie, take it away...


To start with? Well, go for a walk, people-watch, whatever it is that inspires you. Collaborate with your friends if you need to bounce ideas around. Even if you don't have a camera yet, write stuff down, sketch things. I didn't have a camera until I was fifteen years old, so a lot of my early inspiration came from writing novels and physically making things with my hands. But to be honest, everyone has access to a camera these days (unlike when I was young!), because they come as standard with phones, so there's nothing to stop you just shooting something to find out what you like, and who you might be as a filmmaker. You're not going to find inspiration unless you go out and experience the world, decide what it means to you personally, and really get to know how you see the world as an individual.


But if you are the type that needs to research, then read books on filmmaking, or just watch films and make notes about certain stylistic decisions that inspire you. I first realised people could make a career out of films - and decided that was the career I wanted - when I read Peter Jackson's interviews in the Lord of the Rings visual companions, but there's lots of great articles out there to give you an early buzz if you need it.


This is different depending on the filmmaker - which is why it's good to spend some time experimenting first, to discover what kind of director you are. Definitely shoot something by any means necessary, even if it's just trying to recreate shots that inspired you, or even if that means directing your friends in amateur roles.


I've always been more of an actors' director than anything else, and if that's the same for you then I really recommend joining local drama or theatre groups, to practice working with actors in a focussed, technology-free environment. That's how I got my start. But either way, you will need to learn the language of cinema eventually, so studying technical filmmaking in some form - be it personal study or a structured course - is necessary at some point early on in your career.



Formal Eductation vs. Hands On Experience


You definitely need to know how to make films, but the way you learn is up to you. If you have family members or other peers who already know the language of cinema, and you grow up learning everything from those people, then it could be that you don't need to go to film school. The best way to learn things is by doing them, so nothing beats practical experience - plus, these days, you can learn a lot through YouTube tutorials. A lot of the best filmmakers I know are completely self-taught.


But if you've never learnt the basics of film production - e.g. 'this is how a camera works', 'this is how to light the average interview' - and if you learn better in an academic environment, then definitely take a course. It gives you a great foundation (not to mention the all-important life skills you get with any level of further education!). You also meet a lot of people on your course that you could end up working with in the future.


Motivating a Team


It's all about creating the right environment for people to work in. Morale always needs to be up, particularly if people aren't receiving payment. I think it's important to mix solid grafting on set with a sense of fun as well, whenever appropriate - so don't always take yourself too seriously. This film may be the most important thing in the world to you at that moment - but your crew needs other reasons to feel inspired. Listen to your crew when they're unhappy; join in with a joke or even a hug when they're in need of a break from the hard work. Good food helps as well, particularly if there's no money to give people - you won't believe what a bacon butty on a cold morning can do to lift the spirits!



General Skills


Leadership skills, confidence and belief in your vision are all important factors; if people don't respect you, they'll start listening to the next loudest voice in the room. But confidence doesn't come straight away. You need to build up your craft first; practice and learn every day, and start with small, independent crews before building up to full teams.


As I've said before, it's important to have a technical knowledge of film production - but you also need to admit which areas aren't your strong point. In the past I've given wrong information in this area; I've said that directors need to learn every aspect of filmmaking before they can direct their team - but do you really think that James Cameron knows which make-up to use to make a face look rounder, for instance? The truth is that everyone has some things that they're stronger at than others, and if you're focussing on every little area of a production, your skills will get stretched too thin, and your work will suffer because of it.


The trick is to make sure your weaknesses are covered; if there's something you're not so good at, make sure there's someone better at it to handle that area for you. (To give an example, I learnt that whilst I'm confident directing dialogue and small physical interactions, I'm not as good with scenes that involve more detailed choreography, such as stunts. So in the future I'll always hire a stunt co-ordinator when the scene requires.) It's not a sign of a weak director to admit you're not great at something, as filmmaking is a collaborative process after all; what is weak, however, is if someone ignores their failures and lets them show in the finished film when it could've been avoided. That makes the director look bad.


One of my favourite things about film production is the fact that you're surrounded by brilliantly talented people, all experts in their field, all brought together to make your vision a reality. You need to learn how to get the best out of these people, and how to keep them at their best - but you also need to learn to listen to their ideas and let them have an input into the film. It will help give them a sense of ownership over it too, which will encourage more loyalty to the project. And trust me, you definitively need loyalty - particularly in the long slog of post-production, when the work feels less structured, and you need to find other ways to keep your crew engaged.


It's also important that a director rehearses everything with their actors. Absolutely everything. It's tempting to think that you only need to rehearse dialogue, or complicated action, like fight scenes. Even wordless moments need to be polished by the time the cameras roll, otherwise it will cause delays on set and your actors might feel uncomfortable. I've made this mistake in the past, thinking "this is a basic movement - we can just put a camera on the actor now and let them go for it". I was very young and arrogant back then!


Director Advice


Firstly, don't be a director until you've been a crewmember. I've said this a lot. Too many people think they can go out into the world as a 'director' without hands-on experience behind them. Those people often don't get work. But being a member of the crew - starting low down the ladder, and building your way up - will help you to learn more about the practicalities of film production, so that you understand exactly what you'll be asking your crew to go through when you direct them. It's also the best way to meet people, to create a list of future collaborators for when you move onto your own projects. That's what worked for me.


Secondly, make sure you really, really love a project before you go into production. People don't realise how much commitment goes into a successful short film. There can be a year between writing a script and shooting a film, particularly if you need to raise money, and you can spend months in post-production too. On top of that, the average festival run lasts for two years - after a festival finally accepts you. So you're realistically looking at four years' worth of work on a project, and if you don't care for it or believe in it, those four years can feel even longer. Can you guarantee that you won't abandon your film when something shiny and new comes along? If the answer is no, then don't start it in the first place.


And finally, don't ask people, cast or crew, to do something you aren't willing to do yourself. You need to be a leader - not a dictator! If you expect people to work long hours, or stay later than expected, be there with them. If they need to be in a scenario where they are cold or uncomfortable, show that you would willingly do the same for them. It's for this reason I starred in a music video, playing a prostitute, shortly before I directed my actors in some sexual scenes on the set of Ashes - I needed to understand how awkward or uncomfortable they would be feeling on the day.




Finance


Commercial and corporate work is great, when you can get it. You need something to fill the gaps in between your short film projects, and it's really satisfying to have a job that utilises your filmmaking skills. Plus there's nothing like working with clients to prepare you for the amount of say commissioners and executive producers will have, should you approach them with feature film ideas.


Leaving your day job for film production is hard. You certainly shouldn't do it unless you know you'll have money coming in - or unless you have contacts and a strong business plan in place. Do it when you're young; fresh out of university is the best age to try things. The older you get, the more responsibility you have, and the more chance you have of becoming homeless, should it all go wrong!


I can't tell you exactly how to make it work. Some people take a leap of faith, and it works out for them; others take a long time to build up their contacts and personal clients before becoming self-employed. If you need a bit more confidence and structure before you take the plunge, there's nothing wrong with taking business classes - it can all be applied to freelance filmmakers. All I will say is, only you will know the minimum level of success you are comfortable with - and whatever happens, you need to have a plan B.


I get asked about crowdfunding a lot, and although I've had some success with it, I'm not the biggest fan. It's a necessary evil - but people can rely on it too much. What people don't understand is that the moment you receive crowdfunded donations, unless it's going through a business, an accountant will see you as self employed. You need to be prepared for the implications of receiving this money. If you don't declare £1,000, you might get away with it - but I don't recommend you risk it. If you don't declare £10,000, that's a completely different kettle of fish. Crowdfunding has been very popular for the last few years, so of course the HMRC are aware of it, and they do have their eyes on the filmmaking community. So definitely declare your earnings, but if you can, get an accountant or a financial adviser who can help you declare it properly. Because you don't usually get to keep the crowdfunding money for yourself, you really don't want to end up out of pocket through tax implications.


Inspiration


I've used "film is temporary, film is forever" a few times. Who hasn't? I first heard Peter Jackson say it to Miranda Otto, in a making-of-documentary, during a long, difficult scene in The Return of the King - but I know he wasn't the first person to say it.


I also loved it when, on the set of Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann declared "I challenge you all to make me say 'you've gone too far'!" That's a bit mad, but it's braver than I can be, so I applaud that. Incidentally Baz's company motto is "a life lived in fear is a life half-lived", and I think of that whenever I face the next, daunting project.


I have a plaque in my office that says "keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground". I don't know who said that, but it always reminds me to stay humble and remember the little things in life that matter the most.


Sophie Black


Check out Sophie Black's Production company Triskelle Pictures here:

https://www.triskellepictures.co.uk




By midlandsmovies, Sep 3 2017 05:55PM



Midlands Professional – Camera operator Mbili Munthali


In a brand new series of articles Midlands Movies is talking to a range of regional experts who are sharing advice and hints and tips from their particular field in film. Second up to pass on their knowledge and experience is cameraman Mbili Munthali who currently works on a range of projects across the Midlands.


Midlands Movies Mike: Hi Mbili. How’s things?

Mbili Munthali: Great cheers. I’m very busy as always [laughs].


MMM: We can tell from your IMDB! Ha ha. If we can start at the beginning, your background is first and foremost in camera operating. How did you get into your current role?

MM: Well it was a mix of education and hands on experience. I studied at De Montfort University and not knocking the academic route but being on set has helped me develop a lot faster and a lot more instinctively than the formal education part. However, both have great merits though and the combination of each works extremely well.


MMM: And what happened after that?

MM: I graduated in Media Production in 2009 but photography was my first foray into using professional visual equipment. We developed 35mm film and I tell my friends there’s still nothing like a tactile experience and understanding the medium at its most basic. There’s a kind of disconnect with digital and the old way just gives you a good grounding for moving forward – especially as photography is the basis of how you use a film camera. Photos are just individual sequential frames. You naturally progress from the still image to moving pictures and if you learn the basic rules, it translates from one to the other.


MMM: And where did that lead you to?

MM: After the photography I used DV tapes and believe it or not I edited and structured my first films using Windows Movie Maker. Before long I got DSLRs and would take them out every day. I recorded test footage at different frame rates and in slow-motion and the like, which allowed me to experiment without any consequence. With my original course being more on post-production I learnt camera work in order to get the best out of the images I would end up using for visual effects.


MMM: So the two link well together?

MM: Yes, having the foresight to shoot in the correct fashion to give you the best possible outcome later on in the production is the approach I like to take.


MMM: What were the first projects you worked on?

MM: I started worked on Doug Cubin’s The Fort as a runner whilst at the same time Kenton Hall was preparing A Dozen Summers and asked me to join that production too. I did a Steadicam shot on that film actually – they’re not too heavy but it’s quite restrictive with the counterweights so you need to be quite physically flexible. I also helped on other projects and it all snowballed from there!


MMM: Were there any memorable moments from these varied shoots?

MM: After a while, Doug asked me to be more extensively involved in his movie and we ended up at a real fort in Dover. There were times where we filmed in a spiral staircase in the complete darkness and one time I was walking backwards with a ‘fly-cam’ and trying not to fall down and break my neck! On another shot we placed the camera down lower to create a certain feel but there were steps and features that were half my body size which I had to get up and over whilst keeping the camera steady.



MMM: Sounds exciting! We’ve talked about the physical side of things but what other kind of skills in general would you say are needed?

MM: You will need a lot of patience! Things can get frustrating but sometimes the magic happens on the first take which I’ve had several times. Also, ask plenty of questions and be curious. And I don’t just mean camera operating but everything else. You have to work with so many people and anticipate movement and all that will influence how you work. Obviously don’t ask questions whilst ‘doing’ a take [laughs] but during the downtime have conversations with others so you can use their information to get better at your own role.


MMM: Outside of a working set can people learn more elsewhere?

MM: Yes, as you are one link in a long chain I recommend budding camera operators shoot, plan and edit their own footage to go through the whole process. You then have an understanding of each step and the easier you make everyone else’s life, the smoother the production. You are there to provide the footage in the best possible way. And, oh yeah, don’t get precious if they don’t end up using your favourite shot. I would however recommend you ask for the footage for your own show-reel. Seriously though, I want to be able to provide what serves a story best.


MMM: Do you mind straying from storyboards or planned shooting?

MM: Not at all, you have to understand that all plans can change too. In fact it actually pushes you to be very versatile in your camerawork. I advise that if there’s a suggestion to do the shot another way then just do it! Some of the best times are when you are on the limit of what you think you can do. It may take a bit of practice and time but all the while you are learning along the way. Some will naturally find their best, or favourite, way to shoot but personally I like to be on as many different kinds of shoots as I can to expand my knowledge.


MMM: And what about low/no-budget short films – are there different challenges?

MM: With shorts there’s so much to do in so little time. And often with no money! I worked on Capricious by Jordan Handford and we got a very complicated shot completed at 2.30am but it’s about perseverance and patience but I advise others to stick with it through the frustrations.



MMM: As well as camera work, you’re also adept at turning your hand to sound and special effects?

MM: There’s a big crossover and although I am no sound expert I try to understand at least parts of other roles on set and will try my hand at them when required.


MMM: Is that because the nature of low budget filmmaking i.e. less crew available?

MM: Yes. Although I wouldn’t take, or advise people to take, roles they didn’t think they could fulfil. Rather than one good job you could end up doing two jobs poorly. That said, sometimes you have to find creative solutions to logistical issues that come up.


MMM: In the case, what pitfalls do people need to look out for when approaching low budget filmmaking?

MM: Well, the technical aspects can sometimes be an issue. As I said earlier, if you can get your hands on equipment then you can practice in your own time. Also, an appreciation of technical speak is needed so people can understand the basics of terms like aperture, f-stop, shooting modes and the like. To help though, people shouldn’t underestimate the power of the internet, especially YouTube, where you can view and learn about different cameras. And I do mean literally the button and menu placement which vary on different cameras on low-budget shoots. The manuals are also online and if you can’t practice with the camera you’ll end up using it’s the next best way to learn.


MMM: That’s a fantastic tip! Moving on though, you also work with young people at the Pauline Quirke Academy. Do you enjoy passing on these skills as well?

MM: Yes, when I was asked about helping out at PQA, I never really thought about teaching but it became appealing as you find out a lot about how much you know when you teach. So I started and it was a very positive experience. The children have a great idea what a camera is, it’s on all our phones, but not the best idea about what it can do. The things I’ve learnt to do automatically had to be explained in a way they would understand. The kids came back with photos they never knew they could take – they looked like magazine covers!


MMM: And what’s next for you?

MM: I’m working on Rhys Davies’ Acid Daemons as well as starting a new venture in special effects. I have recently built my own render farm and production space to work on CGI and visual f/x which I hope to get going very soon.


MMM: Huge thanks for meeting and chatting today, Mbili. Any final thoughts?

MM: Thank you. It’s been great and I hope it can inspire more people to get involved in a role I find so fulfilling.


FInd out more about Mbili and his projects below:


Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mbilimunthali

Follow on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5946474/


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 30 2017 05:55PM




Midlands Professional - Set-maker and Prop Designer David Hardcastle


In a brand new series of articles Midlands Movies will be talking to a range of regional experts who are sharing advice and hints and tips from their particular field in film. First up to pass on their knowledge and experience is set-designer and prop-maker David Hardware who currently works at Roasted Studios in Leicester.


David Hardware has been a creative force for many years yet there's none stranger tale than his background in cake decoration where he excelled before hitting the film industry later in his career. After joining the Army Catering Corps at just 17, David explained he “learnt how to pretty much cook everything”. The talented set designer would eventually went on to use the creative skills from that role in film where the elaborate gourmet buffets were displayed on stage or based around specific themes.


Unbelievably some of these food courses were interactive which David says “made them magical” but after redundancy in 1995, David moved on to work for Location Catering and here was his true crossover with the film industry. “Location Catering was owned and run by Phil Hobbs who was married to Stanley Kubrick’s daughter. That company catered for a number of productions including Linda LaPlant’s Trial & Retribution, Nike adverts and A League of Their Own”, explains David.


“Then came along Eyes Wide Shut and I was to be the chef on the craft vehicle, feeding cast and crew including Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman! We moved considerably as well – The Lainsborough Hotel in London and Pinewood of course. And it was there where I stood on the New York street film set in absolute awe! I saw many things behind the scenes and Kubrick being Kubrick extended filming to 18 months. Filming was pretty much always a closed set, so the craft vehicle was sadly axed early”.



He didn’t realise at the time but David had caught a bug, and not a man-flu bug, but “one that suggests you have found a passion” he remarks. So it was then when David opened his own catering company and inadvertently met with celebrities and enjoyed the magic of film sets.


But soon, after a desire to move from behind to in-front of the camera, David learnt many things by simply being on film sets. “I got the Lead role of Black in a very small independent number, zero budget, you know the score. This production had animatronics, many outfits and masks and a full head cast was needed for my character”.


Then after gaining a small role in the Hamill Brothers’ The Wrong Floor (aka Toxic Apocalypse) and subsequently practising face and body casting for masks, David the prop-maker was born. During the production of their following film, David was asked to create a prop of a special book to grab an audience’s attention.


“I also made other props too which created the need for film sets, so I offered, at no cost other than materials and I was of course allowed to play with ideas based on the script. And so the set-builder was born too. As the writer adapted the script he asked for a statue of Jesus, with an arm that moves like a fruit machine and a compartment that opens revealing something. I duly obliged, I just made it 5 foot tall!”


When Roasted studios moved to new premises, David realised what his passion was all along and David says the best prop-maker can make things out of stuff other folk may throw away - certainly advising to check out free-cycle and up-cycle sites.


“Freebie sites are a fabulous way of finding props for sets. Especially on a zero budget one. I am currently coming to the finishing touches to what I call our shopping alley. It will be very Victorian, Harry Potter-ish, if I dare, once it’s complete. It’s allowed me to play and build based on what free materials I could find”.



David also recommends getting the basics right in terms of asking the right questions of filmmakers as well as maintaining the standard of the set-maker’s own skills and ability.


“You must first consider the space that you have, and what is required in that space, followed by how are they going to film in this space? Ask yourself if it can be built, what is the budget, is it enough? Also consider when is it required for and for how long? If you are making a set, and especially if it’s a copy of something, then you will need a fundamental skill set – from basic DIY skills, to painting, decorating and awareness of how it will be lighted”, say David.


His most recent creation is a police station cell. Currently without a door (!) David says that it is sometimes about what the camera can’t see and getting the information from the filmmakers as early as possible even if the story boards have not been completed. David goes on, “I need to know how interactive the set is going to be and how many scenes the set will be used for”.


Durability, the use of moving parts and level of detail are also key to the success of the set-designer’s role so those looking for a future in the arena should get used to asking lots of questions. The build space will obviously dictate what angles are available, although moving walls and interchangeable doors is something David is trying to achieve at Roasted Studios, which will allow for the more discerning director to have more options.



“What we are offering at Roasted has not been readily available before. I aim to build sets that are not generally accessible to the independent film production company. The first one is of course the cell, and we have a fabulous stairwell to accompany it. Hopefully once the writers out there find out about what we’re offering, they can then write it into their stories”.


With future planned sets including a night club with working bar, a boxing gym and maybe an airport check in desk with conveyers and scanners, David encourages budding young filmmakers and creatives to get involved. “We have many opportunities for upcoming prop makers or set builders, where they can see their own handy work in future productions from the studio”.


David finishes, “I am also very keen to get media students aware of where we are and what we do and link with any colleges on a course opportunity level. I have no formal qualifications in set building but with the things I have built I have had an impact on the stories filmed here themselves. I always aim to ‘add the magic’”.


To find out more about the magic at Roasted Studios, or to take a tour round their sets, or to even chat to David and Marc about the opportunities please contact them at https://www.roastedstudios.co.uk


Also check out David's Prop-making Facebook Group page: https://www.facebook.com/FilmPropMakers

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