Over the last few weeks, I have been working as the production assistant on ‘TRIGGA’, which is a Creative England and BFI Network supported short film that follows a young girl who confronts the bullies with the help of her horse.
I absolutely love short documentaries. The format lends itself to experimentation and also forces filmmakers to make tough choices when it comes to the edit. For me, a good short doc is concise, moving and narratively whole. There are a lot of great short documentaries online but they rarely are seen in a cinema/communal screening environment despite the fact cinema was built upon the screening of short films.
During my first year at uni, I was saying to friends at the student union pub that they should come around to mine for ‘cocks and docs, long cocktails and short documentaries’ and the idea stuck with me since then. It took two years to actually do it in a public space for a larger audience but yesterday myself and my friend and collaborator, hosted the first ever ‘Cocks&Docs’ event at the Falcon Tap basement in York. The basement seemed like an unlikely screening room as it is typically used for sweaty club nights. But working with a shoe string budget we managed to transform the room using old tea lights and a shower curtain we fashioned into a screen using some string. Once all the seats were in, the pop corn machine was on and the lights were down, the room felt like it was built for the job.
We screened a total of 6 curated short documentaries covering topics including: pop culture, women’s issues, art, animal welfare and crime.
I am thrilled with how the event went, the audience seemed to enjoy the selection of films and we were sure to provide time for discussion during the breaks. ‘Cocks and Docs’ taught me two important lessons:
- You never see a short film and wish it was longer.
- You need to be mindful of the order you put films in, think about the mood the film provokes. We nearly made the mistake of finishing with a film that really brought down the guest’s mood. Instead we chose to play an upbeat, music driven documentary which stirred an applause from the crowd the end the evening.
DIY film screenings are a bit tricky to organise, when it comes to licensing the shorts and the venue and actually getting bums in seats but it was also a very rewarding experience.
“Our industry is aggressively, quickly, and creatively evolving the various ways episodic stories are told, Our Board of Governors felt that this expansion of short-form categories begins the process of ensuring that Emmy-worthy creativity will be rewarded, irrespective of format or platform.” – Bruce Rosenblum, Television Academy Chairman and CEO
“These category changes reflect the broader opportunities that emerging networks and distribution platforms … are seizing in choosing innovative formats that enable our television community to share stories in novel and entertaining ways,” Rosenblum said.
Although the award will not be presented during the telecast in September (it will be given a week earlier at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards) it is still a major coup for the short form. They will be peer-voted awards which allow Youtubers and Internet shows to be seen as professional, legitimate forms of entertainment for all. There are already awards recognising the work in this area such as the Webbys and the Streamys (both open to public voting) but the Emmys inclusion of this category is a real signifier of the changing landscape of media. Youtube stars such as Tyler Oakley are already expanding into television and Netflix original series. Youtubers are becoming as important, arguably more important, than traditional stars and this recognition has a big impact because it means the Academy is actively interested in representing changes in the media landscape. Creator driven short form content is a major force because of its accessibility for young audiences.
“While we like to say awards don’t matter or that we think our fans are the real award, this kind of external, institutionalized recognition always makes you proud and a little more ambitious. I think this will help people start to understand what makes a good short form series and what excellent talent looks like.” –Kathleen Grace, Chief Creative Officer at New Form Digital
Our latest production is in full swing and we will be filming in the last week of this month (January).
We asked drag kings and academics from around the world to tell us more about what drag performance means to them…
The documentary will explore the resilient spirit of the people who perform masculinity on stage. If you don’t already know, Drag Kings are male impersonators, often women, who embody the mannerisms of men. Our film will follow myself and a young performing drag king, Benjamin Butch, as we uncover the core reasons that performers choose gender impersonation as a form of artistic expression. Other contributors will include drag kings Sammy Silver and Wolfy .
We have 9 days left to raise the rest of our budget and we are offering a variety of fabulous reward in return for donations. If you would like to support us please visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1300988717/king-doc-uk-a-short-film-about-the-uks-drag-kings?ref=discovery .
We are also hosting a drag night in my university town of York, in a wonderful LGBTQ+ friendly venue Thomas’s of York . If you are in the area and would like to attend your name can be added to the guest list as a ‘reward’ for donating.
While the film project is still dragging on…. You can follow our progress (and see pictures from the event) on our social media pages.
I received an email today saying that I have been accepted to attend FirstLight’s Documentary training in Birmingham. I’m so excited!
In other news, my DSLR (Canon 550D EOS with a 18-55mm lens) has arrived. Which means as soon as my exams are over I can really commit to producing some videos and improving my operating skills.
As part of the Flatpack Festival The Birmingham International Film Society screened the 2010 documentary about the short lived but influential underground scene, No Wave. It explores filmmakers living in 70s New York when rent was cheap, drugs where accessible and there was a feeling of ‘anything goes.’. The movement righted the commercial elements of the New Wave genre which was popular at the time. It was an eclectic mix of filmmakers, abrasive musicians and artists. It was heavily influenced by funk, jazz, blues, avant garde and punk rock.
Director Céline Danhier showcases the filmmakers guerrilla tactics and drug-induced creativity, interviews with the prominent figures in the ‘No Wave Cinema’ movement narrate the film and give the audience an insight to what the filmmakers,artists and musicians have gone on to become.
Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Micheal Oblowitz, Nick Zedd, Amos Poe, Fab 5 Freddy, Jim Jarmusch…are just a few of the big names that are part of the documentary. It really inspired me to look into the lives of these ‘DIY’ filmmakers. I think it was because they were part of a group of like minded creatives the content they produced was so amazing. They were able to bounce ideas off each other and weren’t afraid of taking it ‘too far’.
Nick Zedd’s work in particular stood out for me, his experimental films pushed the boundaries of what was accepted. His films have been shown around the world and have been banned, admired and inspired many. His work includes ‘They Eat Scum’ and ‘Thrust In Me’. The latter was particularly shocking because Zedd played both of the necrophilic male lead and the suicidal female lead, the film depicts his two characters having sexual intercourse. It was incredibly controversial at the time and he was nearly arrested.
Nick Zedd worked with cult musician Lydia Lunch, who he dated for a while. During their break up he followed her to London and made a film about her ‘The Wild World of Lydia lunch.’ You can sense the musical influence in his and the rest of the movement’s films. The chaotic, underground music was often used as the soundtrack to their films.
Amos Poe’s work was also really inspiring. He co-directed one of the earliest punk films called ‘The Blank Generation.’ He is still part of the film making industry having recently written the screenplay for Amy Redford’s film ‘The Guitar.’ He manages to evoke strong emotions in his audiences and at the same time challenge them. I can’t wait to watch the whole of his feature film, ‘The foreigner’ and ‘Unmade beds.’
To be continued…
Yesterday I took part in a free DSLR Filmmaking workshop in London. It was really interesting because in college we only really use larger cameras such as the JVC GY HMC 750E model. I’m about to update my Skills development page with all that I learn from the workshop. Check it out: https://elizabethvalentinasutton.wordpress.com/skills-development/dslr-filmmaking/
It spurred me to find out a little more about the film’s director, Drake Doremus
One of the first websites I stumbled across was one with advice he had for aspiring film makers. I found the interview to be very interesting and thought I’d share it on my blog. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/29/idUS312131098320111029
I found a useful series of videos from Vimeo’s Video School.
Useful titbits from the video:
ISO: – light sensitivity setting. Keep it as low as possible for the clearest looking image. Avoid using :
125, 250, 500, 1000 <—TOO MUCH NOISE. Ideal are 160, 320, 640, 1250, 2500.
White Balance: Making the colours look natural, slightly warmer balance, not to take away what the sun is giving you.
Focus: Making sure your images are always in focus / crisp. Use digital zoom in, get the focus you want and then come out.
Depth of field: how much of your image is in focus. Deeper depth of field = more things stay in focus. Narrow depth of field = only a small amount stays in focus, very hard to stay in focus but pretty shots.
Stable Shots: Tripods/monopods are advisable.
Time lapse: To record a time lapse – an essential tool is the timer remote. (set camera in stills mode, attach remote and adjust setting, shoot in aperture priority when doing it over a long period of time i.e sunset etc.)
Controlled movement: count 10 seconds….start a gentle pan…wait another 10 seconds. Giving the editor 3 shots 2 static shots and one movement.
Room Tone – the ‘silence’ recorded in a location when no dialogue is spoken, because of how it’s shaped/indoor or outdoor.
Ambience – overall background sounds of a space.