Making Kidsmoke’s ‘Heartache’ music video.

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Kidsmoke – Heartache artwork by Mike Payne.

A couple of years ago I went to see Satellite Stories at Soup Kitchen. The opening act blew me away and I just had to buy them a drink and offer to collaborate. Kidsmoke is an indie-pop band from Wrexham/Manchester, and we finally had the pleasure to work with them.

Originally, we were going to shoot the video for Cut Yourself Loose, but we had scheduling issues, so we planned to shoot Heartache instead. They are two very different songs, so we had to rethink the whole filmmaking approach. All the band wanted was to be featured playing the song and a similar aesthetic to Joy Division’s Love will tear us apart, so there was no need to include a narrative in the traditional sense.

Songs are constructed in a way that feels like a story, at level of composition, regardless of the lyrics, so it was easy to think of a visual narrative to complement each part of the song. The track itself kicks off in a sudden, with a strong bass line. The first thing I thought of when listening to this track was The Stroke’s Reptilia, which inspired the opening shots of the video. I love the slow reveal of the band and it fit Heartache perfectly. What resources could I use to achieve this? Featuring the instruments instead of the musicians and using extreme close-ups and very shallow field of depth.

I collaborated with Stefanos Aktipis and Angus Graham in the making of this video. Even though I knew exactly how we were going to shoot it, they helped polish those ideas for shots and improve them when needed. The process was very smooth and the video was shot in about 3 hours at Bonerooms rehearsal rooms in Brunswick Mill. We put a lot of effort into the planning stages, being the first time we worked with a band, with a deadline and in a rented location where time was of the essence. It was all extremely worth it.

Moving onto post-production, the editing went smoothly. I wanted to capture each member of the band individually when possible, as it would allow me to cut to them when a particular part of the song stood out, kind of like a visual equaliser. A good example would be the drum fill before the chorus, or the climactic bridge before the last chorus. The tempo of the editing also picks up the pace as it goes on and when hitting the chorus.

Graded footage comparative
Stills from flat profile footage on the left – Colour corrected and colour graded on the right.

Colour correction and grading were probably the most intense parts of post-production. We shot in a flat profile so we would have more room to move around, especially at the colour grading stage. This was the first time I worked with DaVinci Resolve for grading the video, and I am very happy with the results. It is such a powerful tool and very versatile. As you can see in the before and after images, we really had a lot of room for modification. After finishing the grading, we added a 35mm film filter and some vignetting.

You can watch the music video below:

This video was shot on a Canon 6D and GoPro for the mounted shots.

Truth through film

One of the first things you are going to find out about me is that I am Chilean. I tell everyone, all the time. I have almost become more Chilean now that I no longer live there, but it is probably because the distance allows me to analyse Chile in a more objective way.
It was living here in the UK when I first heard about Patricio Guzmán, a Chilean

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Patricio Guzmán (Radio U de Chile)

documentary filmmaker. A Chilean friend who also lives in the UK mentioned him in passing and told me all about his work. It was interesting to me, as he appeared to deal with the two biggest issues in Chile, the second one being the Coup d’état.

Shortly after being exposed to Guzmán’s work, I was asked by my tutors at the Manchester School of Art to introduce Nostalgia for the Light to the rest of the filmmaking students. Life is full of coincidences like that. I was happy to do it, but as I was speaking about it in front of everyone I realised how textbook -like my knowledge was. And I grew up there!

 

 

I was born in ’89, the beginning of a new era in Chile. My working class family struggled as most working class families did, but they were very fortunate to never have experienced the horrors of the Pinochet‘s military government directly. The ’88 plebiscite changed Chile forever. Pinochet was no longer in power, but the damage was already done as Chile continued to be divided, politically and culturally, going beyond social status. This is Chile’s number one problem.

Patricio Guzmán’s approach to these issues is perhaps the best way to approach them. His documentaries are tackled in a rather poetic way, making them very effective as it proves the problems trascend politics. It should not be a case of whether you are conservative or liberal, rich or poor, educated or ignorant or whether your family was affected directly by the derranged military government or not. It is an issue that concerns everyone and should be accessible to everyone. This is why Patricio’s work is important. The human approach to these horrors trascend everything else. His works are a testament to the power of film.

Nobody talked about politics in my family and we only needed to know the basics: democracy is good, tyranny is bad and money is a necessity. These are the ingredients for conformity, forcing yourself to play the game even if you don’t like the rules. Patricio Guzmán has taught me more than just facts and has revealed more than buried secrets, he has made me care about the division that tears our country apart everyday, politically and socially.

Recently, Home organised a preview screening for The Pearl Button, followed by a Q&A with the man himself. This is where I was able to ask him if we could ever fix this problem of estrangement in Chile and his answer put my worries to rest. We must work hard to dig up the truth. The memories that had been hidden from us, away from reality. Only memory can unite a country. The goal is to move forward by remembering the past.

You can catch the Q&A from Home below. My question is towards the end:

CineSpace
NASA – CineSpace

As an external project, we will be submitting a short film for CineSpace. I am using Guzmán’s approach to documentary to explore the spiritual drive behind space exploration and how it it uses science as a tool for emotional discovery. We are hoping to use resources such as poetic imagery, thought-provoking voice-overs and minimalistic soundtrack.

I will be blogging about that project soon.

 

 

 

 

Unit x – Research

Research is hard. Especially hard when your goal is not clearly established. This was the biggest problem I ran into when trying to get inspired for this particular task. We are to make a piece of work for Akram Khan’s Giselle (English National Ballet), as part of Unit X for the Manchester School of Art. The team I’m working on consists of students from filmmaking, photography and animation, so finding a way to balance all practices without making the final work feel cluttered was one of our main concerns. Too many cooks can indeed spoil the broth!

For this assignment, we will be focusing on the theme of the underworld, and more importantly, Giselle’s transition into the underworld. The underworld is a concept that has been explored in an infinite amount of media, so we took inspiration from a particular aesthetic, such as a blue/purple and washed-out colour palette and the idea of inversion. We wanted to mirror the real world in this underworld.

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First Draft for Unit X. Drawn by Anita Kwiecien.

So this is our first draft. We decided that we wanted to turn this piece vertically, as it conveys the idea of worlds divided, coexisting with eachother, and also allows for an interesting and less common presentation. The underworld would be a mirroring of the real world, using a different colour palette and alternative representation of elements. In terms of narrative, our character would die at the top half and transition into the underworld by literally crossing the division line.
Our approach for this, in terms of practice, will be to use photography to create the backgrounds, animation to showcase the character and  sound design to create an atmospheric soundscape.

See a concept image created by Lucy Adam below:

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Background Concept – Lucy Adam

For the approach of animating the character, we will be using Ryan Woodward’s Thought of You short film.

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Ryan Woodward’s sketches

 

This way we can get a result that is beautiful, simplistic and fluid. I will help the animation specialists in our team in anything I can, as I have experience with frame-by-frame animation, and it will be perhaps the more taxing process of all.
I will particularly be in charge of creating the soundscape, which will be influenced by bleak and droning sounds as well as broken music boxes. The combination of those two puts me in the right frame of mind for this story of love, betrayal, revenge and absolution.

We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do from the very first meeting we had as a team, but these concepts did not materialise until we decided the format. The idea of it being presented in a vertical fashion instead of horizontal was crucial here, not only did it lead to making the work split-screen, but also it aids us to circumvent potential technical limitations. This way we can showcase the work through a projector, a single monitor or two monitors.

Personally, I am very happy I took a Experimental Portraiture workshop at the Manchester School of Art, as it taught me to think how to convey several complex ideas into one image. Without this workshop I would not have realised it was possible to construct tand balance a piece with all the ideas we had, nor have the confidence to know that we could execute it in the way that we have planned.

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Experimental portraiture workshop – Tom Warburton, Sarah Palmer & Leo Astudillo

Greg Daniels: Defining TV comedy one word at a time

The other day I met Greg Daniels. Not casually though, it was part of the Salford Comedy Festival, organised by the BBC. In partnership with the University of Salford, they set up what they call Comedy Masterclasses, in an effort to promote comedy writing and the function of the BBC Writersroom as a facilitator of opportunities.

salford comedy festival

One of these sessions was In Conversation with Greg Daniels. Now, you may not know who he is by name, but I am willing to bet actual money* on the fact that you have indeed seen his work. Saturday Night Live? Seinfeld? The Simpsons? King of the Hill? The American version of The Office? You can tick all those boxes.

I have not encountered a lot of people who are into Seinfeld here in the UK. We, on the contrary, love the show in South America. Something to do with being America’s backyard, I think. I don’t know for how long Seinfeld was aired in the UK or if it was aired at all, but not only is it a funny show, it’s a smart one too. I will use some resources to elaborate on this, first the video below and Greg Daniel’s anecdote.

Seen the video? Great! This episode was written by Greg Daniels and it was based on something that happened to his father, who used to live in New York City and spent hours just to find a parking space. Now, we all have funny anecdotes, but stuff that’s happened to us, family members or friends may not translate well onto the screen and resonate with audiences around the world. “It’s all about the characters” Says Mr Daniels. In the scene shown above, it is funny because of who George Costanza is, and how he reacts to everyday situations. This seems like a rather simple thing to learn when writing comedy, but it is vital. This is why good character-based comedies don’t do well in the beginning. According to Greg Daniels, this is because you need to develop and build these characters first in order to understand why the funny bits should be funny. The audience needs to know who these people are in order to laugh, if you want to have a solid comedy programme.

“Good character comedy takes a while to get going, because you have to get to know the characters”

He moves on to speak about the differences in the original The Office and the American adaptation and how the audiences want different things from the characters. In the UK, people are into the fact that everyone is very incompetent at what they do and at being social. The sarcastic, pessimistic, dark, British comedy had to be cheered-up for the American audience, as they prefer something more optimistic. He goes on to say that the Michael Scott character gets into problems and uncomfortable situations, but because he means well. He gives the example that Michael Scott promised to pay for the University tuitions of several under-privileged children, but is unable to keep his promise as he hasn’t become as successful as he thought he would. He meant well…

“US audiences struggle with the lead character being incompetent at what they do, but British audiences like this”

Greg Daniels also wrote for The Simpsons in a period I like to call the Golden Age of Simpsons. He wrote classics like the one where Bart sells his soul or when Apu moves in with the Simpsons. Just straight up classics!

To wrap things up, here’s some of the jargon he has come up with to assist his team of writers:

  • Walnut: A joke that required a lot of work to get and the reward isn’t that great.
  • Goldilocks: A principle used as a resource to pitch your story in a simple manner.
  • Fat Draft: A script that has multiple possible jokes that could potentially be used.
  • Candy Bag: Excellent jokes or lines that are not used go into the Candy Bag for later use.

Yet again, nothing but high praise for the BBC for organising an event like this. Did I mention it was free? It was an amazing experience overall, being able to learn from one of my heroes. Just wish it had been longer. There is so much more to learn from a giant like Greg Daniels.

*Not actually willing to bet any money at all, you can stop sending emails now. Thank you.

The dire situation of Jonathan Creek’s inevitable future

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while. BBC’s Jonathan Creek was a little gem for us South Americans. A novelty. Not to say that Britain always took it for granted, quite the contrary, I am just elevating its achievements. So great were these that they translate well even outside Britain, considering differences in culture and language. But upon watching the latest iteration of this series and its blurry intentions, only one thing is clear: its demise.

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Title Screen – BBC

Jonathan Creek used to be charming, cheesy (in the best way possible) and above all, intelligent. Not only were the stories well written, but the characters where interesting and strangely believable. I would not employ any of these sentences to describe the latest series, which at the moment has delivered two episodes that leave me wondering what went wrong. More importantly, why did they decide to name this Jonathan Creek as it has nothing to do with the previous series?

We see it all the time in video games. Nintendo comes up with an interesting new idea, a fresh mechanic that provides unique gameplay, but the idea is hard to market. This is why we have so many Mario spin-offs. Mario Kart, Tennis, Strikers and even the Super Smash Bros franchise were ideas so bold that had to be re-skinned to something the audience was familiar with. The big difference here is that the people at Nintendo knows what they are doing.

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The good ol’ days. (BBC)

This new Jonathan Creek feels like a different series that just uses the name to draw in viewers. The charm is gone, the characters do not have chemistry and the mysteries are simple and uninteresting. Even Alan Davies seems to be playing a different character, one that just happens to be named Jonathan Creek. He is no longer the awkward but witty magician’s assistant that lived in a windmill, he is now a humourless man who works for an ad agency. Everything that made Jonathan Creek what it was is gone. Even if they are not just using the name to draw in viewers, this is exactly how it feels. It would not be as bad if the “mysteries” and storylines were interesting and smart , but they are mundane and uninspired. They have to be interesting enough for the audience to care and the reveal must satisfy the expectations. The quality of the writing has gone down and it seems the writers are trying to compensate with more instead of better, as both the new episodes had at least three mysteries each, as opposed to older episodes that had just the one, cohesive mystery.

In my opinion, Jonathan Creek did not need reinventing. Both the format of the programme and the character himself would have been fine if no changes were made. It would have made perfect sense if an older Creek was still single, still had a partner he had chemistry with, was still a magician’s assistant and still solving crimes the way he used to. It would have made sense because it would have stayed true to the outlook he had of people and the world. If you wanted to introduce a more mature version of him, maybe make him a magician running his own show. Delivering illusions and tricks with awkward humour would have made his show unique.

This is why I keep wondering what happened. Maybe the people writing it have conflicting interests, or do not have a clear vision of what they want the programme to be. Maybe the people writing it are unfamiliar with what made Jonathan Creek work.

Tomorrow night BBC will be airing the third and final episode for this series. I don’t have high expectations, but I would really love to be surprised.

At least the technical aspects are top notch and it is beautifully shot.

Jurassic World Speculations

Have you got 10 minutes to spare? If so, dig in!

I remember Cloverfield.  I remember the marketing campaign for this film. It was not really a surprise, coming from producer JJ Abrams, a man who enjoys secrecy and the power of curiosity. Way before we had a proper trailer for this film, we had a website slowly feedings us information as if it were a real event (This is known as an ARG) and thus creating pretty much the greatest hype ever. If you remember this website, I’ve got excellent news for you.

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Patel Corp’s Website

Anybody who knows me is aware I love all things Jurassic Park. That film is the reason why I wanted to make films (of course, after realising being a dinosaur was not a possible career path). Even though the last film was a disappointment, I still love the franchise, and man, does it seem like the marketing team behind the upcoming Jurassic Park instalment, Jurassic World, is ticking all the right boxes.

There is, once again, a very peculiar website. Patel Corporation seems to be a redeveloper of large business ventures. They are currently working on an undisclosed project in Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica Development

There is also an interesting video embedded on the website, that you can also view on YouTube. It appears Patel Corp is trying to, or already has acquired the site located in Isla Nublar and all of its contents from InGen, a company founded by John Hammond.

There is not much more information on the website, but they should be releasing new videos in a standard ARG fashion. In the meantime, you can follow their Twitter account for little gems like these:

https://twitter.com/Patel_Corp/status/440478443474808832

https://twitter.com/Patel_Corp/status/442549069060132865

UPDATE: They are advertising a job vacancy on their website. I have emailed them regarding the position. We’ll see what happens.

UPDATE 2: It has come to my attention that this is, in fact, a fan-made website and not affiliated with any official Jurassic Park or Jurassic World IPs. #NoFunAllowed

In the meantime, here is a picture of an inflated version of me at Jurassic Park in Florida.

Jurassic World
“Jurassic Fat”

Viva 20th Spanish & Latin American Film Festival

Viva Film FestivalLast Friday 7th of March was the Opening Gala for this year’s Viva Film Festival (stylised ¡Viva! for you snobs perfectionists out there) organised by Cornerhouse in Manchester. The Festival focuses on bringing attention to Latin American and Spanish film in the UK, as well as addressing the cultural background these pictures provide. Definitely an effort that should not be underestimated, as the festival attracts different kinds of audiences interested in learning about these geographically and metaphorically distant lands.

The 20th edition of the Viva Film Festival welcomed its audience with a Screening of Dias de Vinilo (Vinyl Days), Argentine director Gabriel Nesci’s first feature film. This was also the UK Premiere of this film, even though it was released in 2012. I had seen this film before, as it was part of the on-board entertainment on an Air France flight I took last year. One of the festival’s organisers said she had seen it under the same circumstances and decided to consider it for the festival. An excellent choice.

Gabriel Nesci
Gabriel Nesci, Argentine director
A Q&A session with director Gabriel Nesci was held on Sunday 9th of March and I can only describe the event as a privilege. Mr Nesci spoke about the existing difficulties and lack of opportunities in South America when it comes to making films for a living. It is extremely hard to get funding, find an audience and to convince producers your film is not just a big risk they would regret taking. Even successful Argentine directors like Eliseo Subiela make TV adverts to make a living.

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Cornerhouse

If you ask me, this film was a huge risk to make, and that’s why it is so exciting.

Dias de Vinilo is a romantic comedy about the love of friendship, the love of music and about love itself. Sounds like your average Hollywood rom-com? Prepare to be surprised. This film finds a way to make cooky characters feel real and a seemingly typical premise feel fresh, all while making an spot-on portrayal of Buenos Aires. It was a treat to see some familiar back streets of the Belgrano neighbourhood where I attended Film School. I don’t want to say any more about the film, but the soundtrack is great. This low-budget South American film found a way to use only original songs. None of them were covers. Nesci states he managed to convince music labels by begging them to please grant them the rights to use the songs. Filmmaking doesn’t get any more passionate than this!

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Dias de Vinilo (Vinyl Days)
If you have the opportunity to catch this on the big screen, please treat yourself. Treat your family and friends too. This is a must watch.

As a bonus recommendation, El Fondo del Mar (The Bottom of the Sea) is another contemporary Argentinian gem with a similar setting, although with darker humour.

If you have already seen this film, please share your thoughts below.

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