Redemption has Arrived

You may remember two or three months ago I said that I had been working on a project with the living dead. Well eventually after a great deal of editing and polishing here is the film in all it glory.

The film is a culmination of months of planning and hard work, which a team of thirty three Students and Industry professionals carried out during a two month period this summer.

Now many people who watch this epic with think its just another student film, but I can assure you that its not the finished film that makes this project amazing. Its the fact that a group of students given the right amount of support can achieve great things. Not only to arrange the locations, costumes and actors but also up to that point the only two sunny days we had witnessed up to that point in the year.

It is also testament to Oldham Councils Parks Department who were trusting enough to let us loose in Alexandra Park which is arguably the best location for a film I have ever worked in. Not to mension the Staff at the Boathouse Cafe for the endless cups of Coffee that kept everyone going.

So thats another year of grey hair making production over with, and I enjoyed every minute of it. So all that remains for me to say it thanks to those really nice people at Baker Media in particular Andrew Corrie, Ben Mann the Director for making two days filming with a rookie crew seem easy (which it wasn’t), to Fatima for allowing us to trample all over her story with the calm and grace that most professional writers could learn from and finally to the student crew who make every day an adventure, which makes it all worthwhile.

So after months of waiting it is here, ‘Redemption’. This years film by Oldham College Media Students which by any measure is a great effort.

Working with the Living Dead

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Making films is a painstaking slow business which takes a small army of people with various skills a great deal of time. You start with a story, which in itself is getting increasingly hard to find. It should be original, entertaining and when read through should be thought provoking.

I have been lucky this week to be part of this process which has seen very inexperienced young people produce a piece of work which they should be proud of. Our script was developed from a story by a young writer called Fatima Al-Kassem, a second year media student from the college which I work at.

Many writers quite rightly are very protective of the story they are telling but to Fatima’s credit she allowed us to use her story and embellish it a little to help us enter this years round of film festivals.

So armed with a great script and a cast and crew of twenty eight people we embarked on a challenging two day shooting schedule nearly all of which was outside in the beautiful Alexandra Park in Oldham.

Now living on the edge of the pennines its a brave producer who envisages that it won’t rain at some point across the production window but we decided it was worth the risk. We had tried to arrange shooting at the start of March but we were beaten by snowdrifts, fog and Ice, so we postponed it until this week.

To enable our band of inexperienced students we added experienced seasoned production professionals who helped our guys to produce something quite magical.

Even the weather was more than kind, although I did get my head sunburned and I can do a great impersonation of a very red person. Now to those of you who are saying I should wear a hat, I did have one in the car boot but I inadvertently dropped the Camera Case and Tripod on it this morning making it into a a heap of shattered straw.

Now the aim of this exercise isn’t to make the students experts in camera work, make up or even directing actors. Its about them learning how to behave, respect each other’s abilities and work together as a team.

On the first day it is always like what could be described as a schoolyard football game, twenty two people running around after a ball with everyone expelling a lot of energy with little progress being made.

By lunchtime on the first day something magical happens, they start to delegate and get involved and that is what is needed. These young people worked relentlessly for eleven hours a day during this period and they enjoyed every minute of it.

The Director Ben Mann who is highly experienced and very patient gave them the confidence to make suggestions and was courteous enough to listen and explain the process and why maybe things might not work rather than dismissing ideas out of hand.

The Cameraman Chris Stonnal also allowed them space to get involved and explained what makes a great shot and the highly experienced Andrew Corrie the Production Manager gave them the opportunity to make decisions that helped deliver a great production.

What I mainly remember about the last two days is the youthful enthusiasm that young people bring to any project, The sheer bravery to try things that any seasoned professional would  think twice about doing,

The understanding of the Actors when we had to pour buckets of water over them (that was more preferable than throwing them in the lake) and the young Actress who in full suicide corpse makeup caught the bus home because she thought it was a cool look.

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I am very fortunate to work at a college that offers young people these types of experiences, who are visionary enough to think we should be developing character as well as promoting academic study. But one thing I am sure of is that our students will probably be the only students at an FE college doing this exercise this week, or for that matter any week.

The production will be ready in around three weeks and I will post it here for your perusal. So look out for our film ‘Redemption’ and see if you can spot the living dead.

Park Life

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I have been on a location recce (reconnaissance) for a film that will be in production the first week of Easter. Most of the film is set in a park that needs to have a secret garden feel but with enough features to make filming scenes interesting.

After much racking of brains and ringing of hands someone in the production team suggested Alexander Park in Oldham. So for an hour this afternoon in the freezing cold we embarked on our location spotting exercise.

Now I personally have not been in the park in years and what a pleasant surprise I had. Even in the cold blue light of this wintery March weather it still was fantastic. On a warm sunny day I can image it would be great for a walk through the grounds littered with very interesting statues and bridges.

I was told that one statue in particular is the only one in the country who wears a top hat, how true that is, I am not sure. The whole place has a great gothic feel about it and should make the film look fantastic.

It only goes to show that you don’t have to travel too far in our wonderful country to find hidden gems, how lucky we are.

The Shoot From Hell

This week has been hectic and as weeks go its been a challenge to get to Friday in one piece, something I didn’t quite manage. 

 It all started on Wednesday when a group of students arrived at the council chambers to rig cameras and equipment to broadcast the local council meeting on the Internet something we have done every month since February.

The only difference this time was that the crew were a group of first year students who had taken the place of our more experienced second years who have now left to start University in September.

We arrived at around one in the afternoon and set about installing cameras, vision mixers, graphics computers and all the associated equipment to carry out our task. So far so good until whilst setting up the cameras I noticed that one of the students had inadvertently  failed to lock one of the cameras onto the tripod, and whilst telling him I carried on walking not noticing the two small steps directly in my path and stepped out into fresh air fell over and hurt my arm.

This resulted in my trip to casualty who dutifully prodded and poked my arm and sent me for an X-ray. They confirmed that I had fractured my elbow and that I needed to return two days later for the consultant to see what action would be taken. So armed with a sling and a box of pain killers I dutifully returned to the shoot. By this time it was about five o clock and we were ready for the six start.

What was about to happen took everyone by surprise.

Six o clock arrived be started the transmission bang on time through the titles and got ready for the ceremonial mace to knock on the door before being allowed into the chamber. Unknown to us the Council had installed a sophisticated alarm system to deter thieves from helping themselves to the vast collection of civic treasures. One feature of the system was to pick up any unusual activity through vibration sensors which would trigger the system which would flood the hall with dense smoke and sound a high pitched alarm to confuse the would be robbers.

You can probably guess what happened next. The vibration from the mace knocking on the door triggered this alarm flooded the hall with smoke, which in turn set off the fire alarm which meant everyone had to leave the building until the smoke had dispersed. We started again at Six Thirty with one of the crew asking “is it always this exciting”? to which one of the councillors replied, “unfortunately not”! 

Never Work With Children and Animals.

Its not often I find myself short of words but today was one of those times when there are no words to describe what happened. The day started well apart from the weather which left a little to be desired after all I was shooting a typical Vets working day visiting farms and treating sick animals.

So after taking some very nice landscape shots of green fields (and they are green with the amount of water they have had recently), people with horses, cute lambs and then we visited a farm which specialises in Pedigree Cattle. 

So we got the gear out of the car, set up a great shot of The Farmer, the Vet and a Pedigree Cow and her Calf.

This calf was that cute it could quite possibly be single-handedly responsible for me turning into a vegetarian. This little scenario looked like it was going to be the best farm shot ever (excluding the ones in All Creatures Great and Small which consisted of Christopher Timothy, a cow and a rubber glove).

So the scene was set and I was about to hit the record button when the cow turned through 180 degrees and produced an island sized dump on the head of our well-manicured Calf. I stood transfixed to the spot, as I said speechless, I couldn’t have been shocked if it had done it on my head!

My clients found this very amusing, The farmer said something along the lines of never work with Children and Animals and walked away shaking his head. What I am more disappointed about is that the camera wasn’t running when It happened, I could have made a swift £250 on You’ve been framed!