Friday, 30 March 2012

Another injection of cool stuff into your life

From time to time, when I'm a little too busy to spend time on here doing big blogs about sharky things, I like to touch base with you and link up some things I personally think, are monumentally brilliant, creative, cool and fun, so here is another one of those blogs.

Quickly though, the "Of Shark and Man" edit is coming along, I am filming some more for it tomorrow, which I will write a blog about next week, with more filming again during next week and then again, back in Manchester filming again on the 7th of April. When those are done, hopefully it's just a couple more shots and all the UK intro stuff will be done and edited together. Then comes the bit where I put everything together to make a compelling story for you! It's a huge job, I know you know that, I tell you enough, but please, be patient, the days are long, the nights even longer and I am also working on other things at the same time whilst juggling life itself, which is also pretty stressful at the moment. We'll get there!

So, first up, what is this cool stuff? Some videos, some creative, some factual, some hard hitting, some fun, so sit back relax and see what you think.

Ok so zombies are cool, that's just a fact, everybody loves zombies don't they? What about Zombie art house films? What about zombie art house films that look just so sumptuously beautiful, they practically drip off the screen? This is 12 minutes long, no dialogue, just story and visuals which look stunning. I love this. Hat tip to the big man in South Africa, cheers Paul.

So we have established that zombies are awesome, I'll tell you something else which is cool, Heavy Metal, specifically in this case, Pantera, my second favourite band ever. Not so cool however, is heroin abuse, so when I found an in-depth interview with former Pantera vocalist about his battle with addiction, I was fascinated to see what he says now, years after the event. It is brilliant. Honest, raw and thankfully, it seems that Anselmo is finally getting the better of his many, many demons. I really can't think of a more charismatic person in...well, anywhere. It's long, 7 parts in total but well worth the time, especially if you're thinking of giving the big H a whirl, you're probably not, but if you are, you'll think twice after this. Part one embedded above, you can find the rest here.

What else is cool? Awesome people who try to make a difference to the world, people who take that leap of faith and make the world that little bit better. It's also cool when people make beautiful looking films about them. This is the trailer for a documentary out this year which looks both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. I can't wait to see it.

Speak Spanish? No, me neither, I still loved this though. Again, beautifully shot, brilliantly edited and a great story, that's right, despite not speaking Spanish, I can still follow what this is about and what it's trying to say. This is a short about the men who brave towering waves to chisel tiny mussel-like treats off rocks, for people like you and I, every day, with the bare minimum of safety equipment. Great stuff.

Finally, I'll tell you what isn't cool, tyrannical warlords, but what is cool, is when clever men take an opportunity to go to town on them on live telly. "Roasting," "getting merked," whatever you want to call it, here, Steven Colbert dishes out a twenty minute dose of it to one such warlord and the sycophants who allowed him to do his bidding without so much as a whimper. Full version here. Lovely.

Hope you enjoy and you'll be hearing from me soon.

My profiles: Vimeo Blogger

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The life of the lone film-maker. It's hard.

Since I started out on this life altering career change, I have been contacted a lot by people who have offered encouragement and some incredibly kind words, I have also been contacted by people who are also trying to set out on their own path and finally do the things about which they are passionate.

One of those is a guy in South Africa with whom I've become friends, he has big ideas and also the belief that he can pull off what is a monumental challenge which is the biggest part of doing anything like this, you have to believe it is possible, which of course, most things are.

I did the difficult bit in that I actually got to Fiji and did what needed to be done, plus, despite the fact I was working all day, every day, it's hard to look at what I was doing as "work," I was doing what I have always wanted to do, there was always a support system there to bounce ideas off and I was spending every day with sharks!

The reality of film-making though is that the fun part is only the tip of the iceberg, normally after production, most of the crew disband and disappear off to do other things whilst the director and producer take the footage to the post production unit to work on the "back end" of the production, getting it ready for broadcast and that is no different on this production, only I don't have post-production team, I am the post production team.

During pre-production, a team of people sit around a table, storyboarding and bouncing ideas of each other, while a line production team do all the running around and planning of logistics so the creative people don't have to worry about all that. The same or at least similar applies to production and in the post-production stage, a team of editors will sit with the director and they will thrash out the best way to tell the story through image, sound and music, several pairs of eyes and ears digesting every nuance and this is how great things happen, talented, creative people, being creative together.

Herein lies the problem, I had and have none of that.

I love the editing process, from cutting things together to choosing music, to colour correction, the whole shebang, I love it and it seems to appeal to my meticulous nature but there comes a time when inspiration dries up or logistics dictate you hit a brick wall.

I currently live (temporarily I hasten to add) in York, if you don't already know, York is a place in England beloved of American tourists, primarily because it adds to the illusion that England is still very much in the 18th century because York hasn't really progressed much since then, to be totally honest, it is an inspirational void, I don't know anyone here and the only people I see on a daily basis are my parents.

This is not good for the post-production of the most important film I will ever make.

My view...every day

I made a specific decision to edit in sequence, that is, to edit the film in the order in which I want it to run, there are a few reasons for this and one of those is the highly stylised and conceptual intro to the film. That intro sets the tone for what follows and it is imperative I get it right. Most of the shots for the intro have been done and have involved repeated trips back to Manchester on the train, lugging a camera, lenses, tripod and slider around all day, hoping I can find the images I need. The shots I still need to get are shots which I simply cannot do on my own, they either feature me in them or require actors and locations. I am awaiting confirmation of two locations but that of course is out of my control and Liam who worked with me on Behind Blue Glass is booked in for April 7th to shoot the stuff with me in, stuff which pretty much has to be done in one day only.

All these shots have had to be conceptualised in my own mind with nobody there to offer alternative ideas, suggestions, criticisms, encouragement or to simply listen to me describing them. Such an internal and insular approach to what is intended to be expressive, thought provoking and fresh is not conducive to the process moving quickly and as such, this process of putting together the intro is going painfully and frustratingly slowly.

Since returning from Fiji in August, I have had sole responsibility for converting every single shot from up to four cameras, logging and editing that footage into manageable Premiere Pro folders and syncing up all the sound from two mics, that took until January to complete. I have put together two short films I was commissioned to make, negotiated my way around a distribution deal for "Behind Blue Glass," started sourcing and recording music, written, re-written, re-re-written and re-re-re-written scripts and structure notes, written a five page magazine article and in amongst all of this, navigated my way around basic survival and getting money in any way I possibly can.

What I will say that is more positive, is that what I have of the intro, looks superb, I mean really, really frickin' good, the music is amazing (done by an incredibly talented musician I stumbled across online) and the concept is getting there, it's incredibly complex and every single shot has to be nothing less than perfect so if my two location requests happen, Liam and the Banter Media crew can help me get these shots done with me in and if I can nail the images to fit three specific narrative points, then I will be in a position to crack on with the actual sharky stuff! It will also mean that the trailers will be forthcoming...

If I could, I would get myself back into 21st century civilisation and surround myself with things which inspire me but until then, I'll be burning the candle at both ends to get this intro sorted as soon as possible. One good thing to come of the obstacles and barriers which have been out of my control, is that it has afforded me opportunities to let ideas breathe and develop and for opportunites to arise to shoot some amazing things. I said from the offset that I won't consider this film finished until I am certain I cannot improve upon it, no matter how long it takes, so please be patient, I'm not just obsessing over details for the sake of it, this film is as much for you as it is me, I also owe it to the people of Fiji to do the job properly.

If I could offer any advice to anyone reading this it is to think ahead to when you will be in the lonely part of film-making, can you ensure you will be in a good location with good enthusiastic and supportive people? If so, get that nailed down and build a team around you who you know have the best interests of your film at heart because they will be your most valuable asset. If you can't guarantee that, steel yourself for months and months of long, long days, for challenges, obstacles and for the kind of frustrations that at times, make you want to scream but...stick with it!

And to you, the people who will actually watch this film when it's done, please be patient, it will be worth the wait.

I never said this would be easy...

My profiles: Vimeo Blogger

Friday, 9 March 2012

Nice video but don't get carried away...

Mark Healey seems like a pretty cool dude, he's a surfer, spear fisherman and general all around waterman, he's also the focus of this short video currently doing the rounds on Facebook.


Patric blogged about it and I have to say, I agree with him completely, first off, it's a nicely made little film, some of the shots are great, Mark is great on camera and it is obvious he's a straight up, genuine guy with a love of the ocean borne from spending most of his life on or in it.

The problem is, I have seen this being spread around as "proving that Bull Sharks aren't dangerous" but it doesn't do anything of the sort, it does though prove one thing and please, read this carefully;

You can take a measured risk with big, dangerous sharks, you can stack the odds in your favour and you might just get away with it.

That is what this video proves and nothing else, I don't even think the premise of the film is to prove anything about sharks, it's just been chucked in there as justification for someone doing something a bit gnarly, that's not Mark's fault, it's just the done thing these days.

This is an advert for Monster, an energy drink, something which gives you a buzz, henceforth, imagery which extols the virtues of being a bit extreme, a thrill seeker, an adrenalin junkie, help sell what is an (sickening marketing speak alarm!) "aspirational lifestyle" brand. Monster don't want to get actively involved in changing perceptions of sharks, they want people to watch the video, go on Facebook and say, "Shit! check out this crazy dude diving with Bull Sharks!" I would wager that not one single person's perceptions of sharks were changed by this film.

As an aside, at least Monster are showing sharks in a better way than most brands, especially more so than the energy drink "Shark," a brand which calls itself "Shark," has the logo as the word "Shark" shaped like a shark yet who told me they "do not want to associate themselves with sharks because of the negative stereotype," hmmm, go figure...

Which brings me on to my next point, the obsession with having to redefine sharks, what was once a supreme example of evolution, an icon, a cultural behemoth, is now seen as one of two things, teeth or fins, and that, to me, is really, really sad.

The Bull Shark is a big, powerful, potentially dangerous shark which every year, bites some people and usually kills one or two as well. However, anyone with any proper experience or knowledge of these animals, which I am fortunate enough to have, including experience with the sharks in the video above, will tell you that whilst they are all the above, they are also a measured, an often cautious and astute shark. The Bull Shark is not at all impulsive, it is not some raging testosterone filled bully, it's a big, badass shark which knows it's a badass and therefore has the presence and confidence to weigh up any situation before deciding what to do.

I have done almost fifty dives with the Bull Sharks of Shark Reef (a mile away from Lake Reef, the location in the video) and can attest to the intelligence, charisma, power but also individual personalities of these sharks. Every dive was different, each shark was different but if we are going to make generic statements about a species of shark, then I would say they can be best described as a heavyweight boxer during the first thirty seconds of the first round of a fight, weighing up an opponent, he knows he has the tools to do serious damage but he doesn't just go hurling himself into battle without thought or consideration for the consequences.

Many of my dives with these sharks involved me being placed in isolated and vulnerable situations but there was always a safety blanket, a diver watching my back, an aluminium pole to fend off those that came a little too close (and that did happen much more than once) and it was always a case of stacking the odds in my favour, yes, the risk was there but aside from a catastrophic stroke of bad judgement, bad luck or just one bad tempered shark, we knew we were well placed to deal with any situation.

One big thing to bear in mind as well - These sharks are conditioned, try this in a place where the Bulls aren't conditioned and you have a very different kind of video.

There are two dive operations on Shark Reef, I spent the month with Beqa Adventure Divers, the other operator there and and I am confident I am not speaking out of tun (Mike please correct me if I am) but I do not for one second think B.A.D would have facilitated a shoot involving a free-dive at thirty metres, amongst approximately 40-50 of the world's biggest Bull Sharks for the simple reason that one wrong move, one lapse of concentration, one bite and it's game over for Mark Healey and it's all been caught on camera. Oops, I guess that means Bull Sharks are dangerous after all, try explaining that one when the footage goes viral.

Chances are, we've all seen videos of people doing retarded things around sharks and this isn't on the same scale of idiocy as the Mermaid and White Shark or Great White Shark Song stunts it must be said. Also, someone like Mark Healey taking a risk like this can almost be forgiven, after all he is an expert waterman, the problem arises when Joe Diver thinks he or she can do it too, after all, "Bull Sharks aren't dangerous, the guy promoting that drink proved that, plus everyone on Facebook says sharks all just want a cuddle now and if one gets too close I just need to turn it upside down, go on mate, I'll give you some extra cash to let me do it too..."


I don't blame Monster for making this viral, nor do I blame Mark Healey, like I said, from what I've seen of him, I really like him, he seems pretty cool to me, they're just doing what they do to help them make a living. It's also not for me to start shouting the odds against the operator either, they obviously thought the risk was worth it, I might not agree but that's not really the point of this post.

Please can we stop trying to redefine what "sharks" are? I have never once that I can think of, seen or heard anyone with anything approaching expert or at least well informed knowledge of sharks trying to convince people that sharks are something they are not. I understand the motivation of those who do however, they mean well of course but telling people "Bull Sharks aren't dangerous" is no different to telling people "all sharks are evil killing machines," the simple fact is that neither statement is true and neither helps the conservation of these animals. I could film myself running into the middle of oncoming traffic and get away with it, does that make running in front of cars not dangerous because I got away with it the time I gave it a whirl?

We don't have to make people believe sharks want to be our friends, they don't, people who are of any use to any conservation initiative don't need to be lied to because, guess what, most people aren't complete numb skulls. It also does no justice to the awesomeness of an animal like the Bull Shark to dilute its innate personality and nature. It might all be very right on for people to claim they first became attached to sharks "because, you know, they're like, so important to the eco-system and they're like, so misunderstood and stuff," but to be honest, I don't believe a word of it, just tell the truth...

Sharks are cool, they are awesome badasses that scare most people half to death...

The other stuff comes afterwards, how many of us developed a fascination for sharks after JAWS? I know I did. My nephew loves sharks, he didn't even get it from me either, he formed his opinion all by himself, sharks and dinosaurs, why sharks and dinosaurs? Because they're frickin' cool that's why.

I enjoyed watching the video, it has sharks, a likable protagonist and a light pro-shark message but I don't think any concerted effort should be made to make it out to be something it's not. With shark conservation being a current cause celebre, it's not unusual for companies to want to get on the bandwagon but we also shouldn't make it so easy for them, attaching a brand to a conservation message because someone got away with something pretty risky isn't enough, pumping money into manageable conservation efforts like the provision of resources to help the stewardship of shark sanctuaries, now that's corporate involvement in shark conservation.

Anyway, as always, your opinions are welcomed and highly valued, you may even disagree with me, please feel free to do so in the comments section, nothing wrong with some intelligent discussion!

I would also like to see more of Mark in pro-shark media, god knows the scene needs a fresh injection of new blood, figuratively speaking though of course.

Have a top weekend!

My profiles: Vimeo Blogger