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By midlandsmovies, Jun 16 2018 08:21AM



Songbird (2018)


Directed by Sophie Black


Written by Tommy Draper

Produced by Laura C. Cann.

Triskelle Pictures


Starring Janet Devlin (from ITV’s The X Factor), Songbird is an enchanting new short following a female singer who encounters a wicked stranger set on stealing her talents.


A folktale that jumps swiftly between reality and fantasy Songbird comes from Nottingham filmmaker Sophie Black and her Triskelle Production company who has already seen success with the 2016 film Night Owls.


With a feathery familiarity, here our red-headed heroine is Jennifer (played with a subtle vulnerability by Devlin) who is dropped off near a forest at the film's beginning. But as she holds up a writing board which says “Thanks for the ride”, we get the impression that all is not as it seems in the woods today.


Heading into the countryside, the eerie sounds are well edited as the crunch of leaves by Converse-wearing feet introduces us to the tone of the film which mixes a modern hipster vibe with fairy tale folklore.


Cutting to 3 weeks earlier at an open mic in a local café, a chattering and chirping audience isn’t paying a great deal of attention as Jennifer plays a soft rhyming ballad with her acoustic guitar. A wonderland of poetical lyrics sends us down an aural rabbit hole complimented by Black’s potent cinematography with its dreamy visuals and hazy glow.


As the audience warms to her soaring vocals we cut to a set of crusty finger nails drumming on the bar to reveal an evil dark-eyed woman. Whilst Jennifer is spotted by a local producer, all looks well but she is soon confronted by the ominous lady in an alley outside the venue. As a strange powder is blown over her by the old crone she awakens at home, yet an uncomfortable phone call reveals her inability to speak. Black invites the audience to ask if this is a medical condition, but a visit to the doctor finds nothing wrong and her frustration kicks in with her vocal wings wholly clipped.


However, a handwritten book of spells and rune symbols is discovered and we are migrated back to the film’s opening as Jennifer begins collecting frogs and mushrooms to concoct a potion that perhaps can release her from this spell.


Black alludes to well-known fairy-tale myth from Sleeping Beauty - as Jennifer passes out - to Devlin’s auburn hair which plays to the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood’s adventures in the woods. As well as this, Therese Collins is excellent as a classic villain keeping her victim in a state of bondage with her incantations. She mixes a dash of Helena Bonham Carter witchcraft with fellow vocal-thief Ursula from The Little Mermaid as she incubates her stolen voices in jars amongst the trees.


2018 has had a fair share of similar cinematic encounters with fantasy voices, from the silent creature in Guillermo Del Toro’s aquatic fable The Shape of Water, as well as Duncan Jones’ Mute. Black tackles some parallel themes using well-shot special effects, gothic make-up and a superb choral score at its conclusion to deliver a bittersweet fairy tale.


Like all good fairy tales though, the film could be interpreted with having a number of symbolic undertones including an allegory of stage fright. As a musician myself, the fear of losing one’s voice can be difficult to swallow and here the film showcases a strong female trapped in a cage of insecurities.


Songbird is a tremendous short that shows the importance of voices and how they can truly transform and heal when you are filled with doubts and a lack of confidence. Sophie Black demonstrates a skill for the craft of filmmaking and, others take note, has created an artistic short with a raft of narrative to keep an audience captivated. With a selection of thematic and emotional beats, Songbird therefore takes flight with a magical trip from the mic stand to wonderland.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Dec 30 2017 10:12AM

The Hot List - Midlands Films to Look Out For in 2018


With 2017 nearly at an end Midlands Movies spotlights a number of local projects due for completion in 2018 which have us excited for the region’s filmmaking as we head into the new year. Please check out each of these individual films using the links provided as we highlight 7 of the most anticipated films coming up from the region in the following 12 months.




Songbird by Sophie Black

Described as a ‘modern fantasy for music lovers’ this new film from talented Nottingham director Sophie Black is an exciting new short starring musician Janet Devlin. Songbird comes from multi-award-winning screenwriter Tommy Draper (Stop/Eject, Wasteland) and tells the story of a shy open-mic-night singer called Jennifer, who has her voice stolen by a an ancient creature called The Collector. Also a film for music fans the short is set in the world of the underground music scene and features brand new songs by Janet Devlin herself. As a group of experienced, passionate, award-winning and slightly eccentric filmmakers based in the East Midlands, Songbird will be coming next year with high expectations from filmmakers who have consistently delivered. Catch their latest news at https://twitter.com/sophieblackfilm



The Return of the Ring by Abdulrahman Ugas

This unique take on the world of Tolkien is set right here in the Midlands as new fan-film ‘The Return of the Ring’ is a movie based on Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’. In a unique twist on the genre, the story has moved its fantasy world to modern day Britain where it will follow a resilient Elf who finds out the Ring has returned and sets out to re-claim its ownership. With the film planned to be released in early 2018, Abdulrahman hopes his exciting new project can bring the tales of Tolkien back to their roots in the West Midlands. Follow here for updates https://twitter.com/AbdulrahmanUgas




Patient Zero by Pathogen Films

After meeting up at a Business networking event, the 4 members of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Pathogen films have combined their talents to begin producing their own film web series. Their forthcoming set of zombie shorts follow a group of survivors who become involved in a deadly game of betrayal in an attempt to stop a maniacal group bent on turning what's left of humanity into mindless mutations. With their first film Patient Zero: Dead at the Gates premiering in Autumn 2017, the crew are now deep into production on the follow up titled “Semper Protegens”. Follow their updates and future crowd-funding campaigns at https://twitter.com/Pathogen_Films





UK Superhero by Rotunda Films

Rotunda Films is an experienced and creative film and video production company who have over fifteen years experience in production and who are now tackling an original superhero series in the region. The Birmingham filmmakers feel the UK deserves its own superheroes as they launch a new project to create a series of films featuring a unique range of characters. With a new selection of local superheroes in their own shared universe, they are starting this ambitious project with their film Mystic Highway, where they will be creating the first characters in this exciting new world. Follow the production here: https://twitter.com/rotundafilms




Brumville by Grant Murphy

Described as a film full of local people and local locations, Birmingham’s Grant Murphy hopes to utilise the West Midlands and Back Country’s pool of talent for his upcoming film Brumville. With filming recently concluded, Grant is not only writer director and producer on the film but will be playing the lead role of Connor as well. With a passion to give local actors more opportunities, the film will show just how bad it can be when friends are mixed up in drugs. The shooting of Brumville began in March 2017 after self-funding and crowd-funding campaigns and you can keep informed of their progress and release plans at https://twitter.com/brumville




The Law of Noir by Duaine Roberts

The Law of Noir started production in September and we cannot wait to see what's in store for this upcoming law-drama story. After the success of Graycon (review here) which saw Duaine Roberts branching out into sci-fi, the Birmingham filmmaker is getting back to basics with his this new drama short. Telling the story of a young law intern who is tasked with defending a client accused of human trafficking, the filmmaker is another trailblazer who is passionate in promoting Birmingham’s acting and production talent. Follow updates at https://twitter.com/CarmaFilmUK




Dead Quiet by Alex Withers

This forthcoming horror drama is another survival film where the last person on earth struggles to stay alive and attempts to hold onto his humanity. Produced in Nottingham the film is written by Dan McGrath who will explore the “importance of the sounds we create and experience as humans in order to connect with each other and the world around us”. Director Alex Withers and a team of talented filmmakers are bringing this unique world to the life on the big screen and wrapped production in August of 2017. Both a “disturbing horror and a bittersweet drama” follow the film here to get updates on its impending release https://www.facebook.com/DeadQuietFilm


Midlands Movies Mike


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, Mar 27 2017 10:18AM

Midlands Spotlight – The beautiful ballad of Songbird from Triskelle Pictures




Midlands Movies Mike hears the sweet sounds of a new production nearing completion in the region from filmmaker Sophie Black. Her company Triskelle Pictures are putting the finishing touches to ‘Songbird’, a new short made in the area. Read on below to find out what the director is currently composing.


Sophie Black describes her new short Songbird as a Fairy Tale. In true fairy tale tradition, the Midlands based filmmaker explains it contains magic, adventure, peril, a villain and a heroine but unlike most fairy tales however, it begins at an open mic night in a 21st century bar.


Beginning life when local award-winning writer Tommy Draper (Stop/Eject, Wasteland) began working with Triskelle Pictures, the film was shot amongst forest locations in Derbyshire and what Sophie explains as other geographical “hidden gems”.


Currently crowd-funding for further support and finances, ‘Songbird’ is hoping this final round of finance raising will help with its festival campaign and promotion.



“We (also) need a little movie magic to enhance footage we are truly delighted with; we will use visual effects and a professional colour grade to make the witch creepier, the woods more ethereal, and Jennifer’s adventure all the more intoxicating”.


The protagonist is Janet Devlin (who rose to fame as a singer/songwriter after appearing on ITV’s The X Factor) and the talented musician has also written two original new songs for the film which are being released to backers as part of the campaign.


She plays Jennifer (the songbird) who takes a journey in the film to regain her voice which has been stolen by an ancient creature known only as The Collector.


The film has recently passed one of their targets £1500 and with that, the production has released the first footage of the film by issuing the first trailer which we have linked to above so please get viewing and sharing.


With everything coming together nicely, Sophie and her team are just months away from the release of this fantastic looking melodic movie and you can find out more about the project and the team behind it over on the official website: www.triskellepictures.co.uk




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