The Summer Update 2018

   Well, I have no idea how it happened, but we are now half way through 2018! Although it's been a bit of a mixed year so far, with some months I was happy to see the back of (May brought with it the loss of my guinea pig, Carlton, which really knocked me for six), there have also been some great times worth celebrating.

   Every year, around this time, I always do a quick rundown of what's going on with my life and my projects - and there's plenty to report on this month! Let's start with the short films, and lead onto some bigger news towards the end of this post:

The Poison Ivy Fan film 

[The first behind-the-scenes photo we released from Poison Ivy. Credit: Anna Lucia Sadler]

   As you may have seen, the first behind-the-scenes images from my Batman fan film, taken by the fab Anna Lucia Sadler, are online now. We released the first one (above) in May. Doesn't it look lush? I'm happy to say the footage itself is equally atmospheric, and I'm excited to share more with you all.

   The shoot wrapped in April, and editor Arthur Harrison was brought on board in May, once I'd had chance to go through all the rushes and share my thoughts. So things are progressing well there; hopefully I'll have more of a solid update for you guys soon. In the meantime, we will be releasing more behind-the-scenes images, and we've already started shipping out some of the Indiegogo backers' rewards. 

   Speaking of Indiegogo, the campaign is still open, so you can still get your hands on some exclusive merchandise (and help us complete the film in the process). We've also added two new rewards, so do take a look.


[Songbird's laurel from the lovely Fastnet Film Festival in Ireland]

   Although Songbird's festival run has started slightly quieter than I'd hoped, it's still fairly early days, and we should have more screening dates for you soon. The team at Festival Formula  (who are administrating the film's submissions on our behalf for the first year) have a great track record, and they've sent it to many festivals already - we're just waiting to hear from them, now.

   Songbird did screen at two festivals in the first half of 2018 - most recently at Fastnet Film Festival in Schull, Ireland. Although I hadn't heard of Fastnet before working with Festival Formula, I definitely recommend the festival now. We got four screenings for our submission money (whereas some festivals don't physically screen your film at all!), and it's so lovely to think people watched Songbird in a beautiful village on the Irish coast. 

   Producer Laura C. Cann and I have recently met up and discussed the future of Songbird. I get a lot of requests for Songbird DVDs (some which are more politely phrased than others!), and we will look to sell them in the future. But we want Songbird to have the same opportunities as any other film; we want it to reach new audiences across the world, and we want it to be experienced to its full potential on cinema screens - so the DVD release won't be for a few months yet, and may not even be this year. 
However, in the meantime, we may sell some of the merchandise offered in the film's funding campaigns (such as T-shirts and posters), to fund the next batch of festival entry fees - if that's something our followers would like.

   We've also received the first three reviews of Songbird, which you can read online herehere and here.

Night Owls 

[You can catch Night Owls at Roots to Shoots in Coventry this month]

   I think it's fair to say that Night Owls has finished it's festival run now. The film is screening at Roots to Shoots film night in Coventry this month, and we're still waiting to hear from another festival, but the result of that won't be announced until Autumn this year. One blog post I plan on releasing soon is a breakdown of the film's festival run, where the money was/wasn't spent well, and how we used the run as a big marketing asset for Night Owls.

   I'm still so proud of the film (for one thing, we still get the odd lovely review sent to us, even now) and I'm still pushing hard to get the feature-length version - Night Owls & Early Birds - off the ground. Tommy Draper and I did another tweaked version of the script at the start of the year, and there's a couple of tiny bits I'd like to rewrite before the shoot goes ahead, but I can honestly say that the story has been developed to within an inch of its life (without me ever losing my love for it). We have a full pitch document and budget breakdown in place, plus a recently re-edited sizzle reel, and there has been some interest from distribution companies. I just need to keep going and find someone who'll make a concrete decision. Wish me luck!


[Jess O'Brien with her excellent young team on location for Hidden. Photo by Tylar Dunnan]

   The final short on my list (for now) is a bit of an anomaly. This time last year, I wrote a screenplay - one which had been in my brain for a couple of years - and then I instantly gave it away to the more than capable Small Person Productions & Badshoes Film. The script was set in a school, and it told the stories of three teenagers, so I could think of no one who would do the film justice more than the young director Jess O'Brien. 

   Hidden was shot between April & May, and it's been wonderful to see behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot. Not only does the production have a young cast and director, but most of the crew are under 20, and it's such an incredible feeling to think that this may be the first film production for some of them. Working on this shoot, with my screenplay, they may get the filmmaking bug, and go on to pursue creative careers. It doesn't get much better than that. 

   The edit for Hidden is starting shortly, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished film. 
I already know that Jess O'Brien is going to go far.

Personal Training

[Left: The Rich Mix Cinema, where I attended the Wired Women Weekender.
Right: my official acceptance 'pin' from BAFTA crew!]

   Since 2016 (in particular), I've made an active effort to continuously improve my directing skills, and to increase my film & business knowledge wherever possible. I'm still seeking out new opportunities whenever I can, and I recently learnt that it's good to apply for every scheme or funding pot you see, because it's good practice for pitching (and for working to deadlines).

   At the start of this month, I attended the Underwire Wired Women Weekender, which was a fantastic experience. They created an environment for industry professionals to speak freely, so I won't relay everything they said. But I will share my two key takeaways:

  The panelists addressed issues that my comrades and I face on a daily basis: film isn't just a man's game, it's also a rich man's game, and it's so hard for the everyman to jump at the next 'amazing opportunity' (aka unpaid/ low paid work) when they have families and/or rent to pay. And unless we get more diverse employees on the film funding level, the same type of people are still going to be the ones who can get their films off the ground. It was amazing to hear that people at a higher level than me still tackle the same concerns; even though these issues shouldn't be commonplace, there is a sense of solidarity among us.

  But there were some positive outlooks too: one woman shared tips on how she finds the perfect balance between proactive (and award-winning) work, and exercise! Most people don't even mention health when sharing success stories. It was a wonderfully frank discussion. I've since sought out and 'followed' every single speaker from the weekend's programme, and I urge you to do the same.

   Then, just one week later, the really good news dropped: I was accepted as a participant in this year's BAFTA Crew  (now run by BFI NETWORK and BAFTA Guru)! This is the 'next step' I've wanted to reach for a while, and I didn't think my application (or, to a degree, my work) was good enough for me to be accepted, so I was both surprised and delighted to receive the news. I can't wait to get started on this year's training sessions, and I'm going to use them to push myself as far as I can. 

Upcoming work

   As I've said numerous times before, I was planning on cutting back and doing a bit less this year. When I finished shooting Poison Ivy, I told anyone who'd listen that it would be my last fiction film for at least 12 months. I want to focus on building my own business, and I have various unfinished sewing, painting & photography projects that I'd love to finally return to.

[I first shared the news in
my Instagram story]
   But plans change. Opportunities arise when you least expect it. So, although I have made time to see my family and friends more recently, I am now in the writing stage of my next short film, due to an incredible meeting with a potential funding source, which popped up out of the blue. Tommy Draper, of course, will be working on subsequent drafts with me, and it's been wonderful to share ideas together again.

   The screenplay - which I've mentioned a couple of times in this blog - is currently called The Barn (although that will definitely change - The Barn is a rubbish title!). It's kind of a fantasy/horror film, but it's also my first return to the psychological thriller genre since 2012's Ashes. The Barn will explore the human psyche, but rather than entering dreams, this time we'll be visualizing fears, and touching on some stereotypes about toxic masculinity along the way. If we can get the funding, that is. I'll share more updates if they happen. All I'll say for now is that I've had this script in the back of my brain for a long time, yearning to come out, and I've never felt this confident about a concept before.

   So, The Barn might be happening sooner than expected - but around that, and around pushing for the Night Owls feature, I'm still working with some wonderful clients. The videos I edited for Towersey Festival appear online on a regular basis, and I hope to work with the charming Apothecary Mead again soon. On top of that, I'm about to direct a music video for a new client, a gospel pop group called Heaven's Delight, which should be a really fun experience. But I'm still looking for new clients to collaborate with. The more the merrier! If you are, or if you know of, an independent artists or business, please get in touch. Let's see if I can tell your story.

   There's one more thing in the pipeline, and it feels somewhat overdue. I create films with  incredible, inspiring people on a daily basis, but there's one member of my 'film family' who's been sadly absent from my network in recent years, and that is the inimitable DOP Neil Oseman. Since our busy period of working together (mostly around 2011-2013's short film Stop/Eject),  Neil has gone on to do incredible things across the world, working with artists such as Shirley Maclain and Paul McGann, and you can see Neil's cinematography in the much-discussed upcoming Little Mermaid adaptation. But I'm happy to say that we do stay in touch, and we are planning on doing another little project together in the near future - but we'll both have to fit this around our schedules, so it's a matter of 'watch this space' until we have some availability.

  That's all for now - an update on my mad, but wonderful, creative year. The sun's set outside my cottage window while I've been writing this, so it's time for me to rest up, then face tomorrow's tasks anew.


p.s. If you haven't done so already, go catch up on Flowers on Channel 4. It's the best thing on television right now - apart from possibly The Handmaid's Tale. I'm completely besotted with both series at the moment, so I can't recommend them enough!


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