Bridge to the Moon

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Cinderella Ball

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This weekend I joined the DBA Theatre team as photographer for their Cinderella Ball to raise money for local charity Archie’s Smile.

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The Ball was to start with a stage performance so I arrived to the venue a few hours early so I could watch the dress rehearsal and capture a few photos without an audience in attendance.

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I’m so pleased that I was able to do this as it gave me a much better idea of where to stand to get the best pictures later in the evening and I will try and do this from now on at any similar events I am hired to work at.

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After the dress rehearsal we had some unfortunate news. The stage lighting people could no longer make the event and so all we had available was the venue’s ceiling lights combined with a few party lights the DJ had. As I was already at the venue there was little I could do and I was really kicking myself for not bringing additional lighting, as the corner we were set up in to do carriage photos was really quite dark. I positioned the carriage under the lights the best I could, redirecting a few overhead ones, and crossed my fingers that I could “fix it in post”.

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Thankfully I was able to rescue the photos in LightRoom but it meant two days extra work and has taught me to always prepare for the unexpected. Next time I will be bringing LED lights with me just incase, along with extra batteries, chargers, sim cards, lenses, lens caps……..

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BE FESTIVAL 2017: Opening Night

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This year’s BE FESTIVAL opened to the sound of unraveling red tape. Not the kind brought about by current Brexit negotiations, but a physical red tape that stretched all the way from Ladywood, Birmingham to the Rep Theatre as MAMAZMA completed the journey of ASINGELINE; an art installation re-imagining red tape and using it to connect together art spaces and the local community.

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A solo performance packed with multiple personalities the evening’s first show, INDOMADOR, examined human vanities and the identities we choose to portray. Through the hour long performance Animal Religion led us from rubber chicken comedy to a darker, more sinister, look at the way we view animals and ourselves via precision acrobatics and perfectly choreographed body mimicry.

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The performance asked more questions than it answered and was the main topic of conversation as we took our seats for the interval meal on the main stage. Provided by Birmingham’s renowned Marmalade bistro there were options of Pesto Crumbed Pollock or Citrus Marinated Tofu, both served on generous helpings of vegetable couscous and accompanied by Mediterranean bread and Spanish salad. Gazing around I wondered how many famous faces had looked out to an audience packed theatre from the very spot where I was sat enjoying dinner.

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The second performance of the night, PALMYRA, saw Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas exploring revenge and the politics of destruction through the Greek tradition of breaking plates. Although initially playful and comedic we soon discovered their relationship was harbouring hurt and resentment. Loud and provocative the show harnessed the sound of broken crockery to startle and shock but it ultimately provided a musical soundtrack to Bert and Nasi’s sad and dysfunctional friendship dance.

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Choreographer Paula Rosolen’s goal, to make visible the inherent dance present in everyday life, is certainly evident in the evening’s final performance Aerobics! A Ballet in 3 Acts. Alternating grapevines with pliés Heptic Hide transformed our 1980’s keep fit obsession into a work of art. Precisely timed and synchronized, every move perfectly controlled, Paula’s choreography gave aerobics a fluidity and grace that, by the end of the show, even had an exercise-phobic like me wondering where I’d hidden my legwarmers.

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The atmosphere at BE FESTIVAL is hard to put into words but it’s theme of Crossing Borders may go some way to explaining it. Borders are not only crossed at BE FESTIVAL, they’re broken down and discarded. Performers, staff, and audience mingle between performances in a way I’ve never seen at any other festival. The evening’s dinner started at a table with strangers and ended with a group of new friends. It is, truly, a festival like no other and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us at BE FESTIVAL 2018.

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I wanted to do something a little different for my film about professional experience as I guessed a lot of people would be doing vlog style pieces. I also didn’t have many pictures of myself at work, as I’m normally the one taking the photos rather than posing for them, so thought about doing something a little more experimental.

Travelling to a work placement one morning I began thinking about how much I have grown and developed during my professional experience and realised I had been on a kind of journey from student to tentative media professional. So I decided to look at filming my physical journey to work to parallel my “journey” through work.

I used my phone to film my train journey from Coventry to Grand Central station but watching the footage back I found it wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. So I started to think about how we all view our routine daily journeys. Do we really pay attention to the world going by outside or do we instead occupy our journey time scrolling through Instagram, catching up on Facebook or replying to emails and messages on our phones or laptops?

Right now in the town where I live many structural changes are being made. Once buildings are knocked down people often complain about places being missed, but do we ever really appreciate the architecture around us until it is gone?

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This lead me to thinking about viewing my journey each day a little more clearly and trying to watch and appreciate the small changes around us.

When I view the world through the viewfinder of my camera I notice so much more beauty in every day things so decided to add an additional lens in front of my camera and revisit a previous project where I had designed my own vortograph to slightly skew my view of the world.

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I added narration to the film to explain my personal journey and I hope it will inspire people to think about their own “journey’s”, both physical and personal, after watching it. 

If you look closely while watching the film you can see that at some points my reflection can be seen in the train window, so despite my intention to leave my image out of the final piece it turns out I’ve managed to make a cameo appearance after all.

Swingamajig Festival

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A few weeks after working at the Flatpack Festival I was contacted by Lauren, the festivals co-ordinator, to see if I might also be interested in volunteering at the upcoming Swingamajig festival.
Last year I filmed a television piece there, as part of our formats module, and I really enjoyed the festivals carnival style atmosphere. The festival celebrates all things swing and retro from music and dance to circus acts and big band performances. It’s very different to any festival I have ever been to before. Despite it growing in size each year it still manages to retain it’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

I arrived at Digbeth’s Rainbow Arches in full 1920’s attire, as I’d felt quite left out wearing normal clothes last year and dressing up was encouraged in the volunteer information so I thought I’d have fun with it. I’m so glad I made the effort now as how I was dressed ended up making a difference to the job I was given, so I’d definitely consider this when getting dressed for future job roles. I’d say, always ‘Dress the Part’. So if it’s a wedding or formal occasion, don’t turn up in casual clothes; if you’re going to be filming in the woods in autumn think about walking boots and waterproofs. It may seem like it doesn’t matter what you wear as a filmmaker or photographer but, sadly, we are still often treated how we are perceived and dressing appropriately can help to give an added air of professionalism. Even the simple, accessory filled, apron I wear on set helps to identify me as a crew member and it gives me a little more confidence and somehow makes me ‘feel’ more professional.

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There were five of us in the Stewarding team but as I was the only one totally over dressed they decided I should be at the front of the festival welcoming guests in and directing them in to the entrance gates.

This job was quite different to my usual roles but really allowed me a unique view of the festival itself. I got to talk to artists and musicians as they arrived, meet the photographers and filming crew, spend time with security and find out what goes on behind the scenes of running a festival that size but I also got to interact with the public and feel their excitement and enthusiasm for the festival itself.

Swingamajig festival is a true love affair of it’s creators the band Electric Swing Circus, who orchestrate the whole event with a very hands on, personal approach. During my time at front of house I saw Tom walking past again and again. Meeting and greeting musicians, carrying equipment, and even bothering to stop and make sure myself and the other volunteers were being taken care of and enjoying our roles on site.

After seeing Tom’s approach I feel that this is the type of director or producer I also hope to be one day. Someone who doesn’t think they are above everyone else; someone who gets involved and helps out when it is needed; someone who cares about the people on set and ensures the crew works together, looking out for one another, with one combined goal in mind; the success of your team and your final project.

Just Us

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This week I was lucky enough to join the crew of the film Just Us (2017).

My main role on set was to be the film’s Continuity Supervisor. This is not a role I have undertaken before so I did quite a bit of research into what it would entail before I started work.

I also spoke to a few friends who had looked after continuity on other sets and they gave me a lot of helpful tips. One insisted I “photograph everything from several different angles“, so I always had a clear photo of my actors and their previous scenes to refer back to. This advice proved invaluable as it is very easy to forget exactly what props were in each shot, or which exact way an actor was sat, and having photos on my camera to check really helped.

Another friend advised me that “Tape and chalk, anything that won’t blow away, are also useful for marking first and last positions if you can do it without the camera seeing it.” Again this was great advice as the crew needed to mark the trees in the forest so they knew exactly where to return to the next day and we ended up using tape to do this. I also brought tent pegs with me which could easily be pushed into the ground to be used as an actor’s spot marker but wouldn’t be noticed on camera.

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I also had the opportunity to be gaffer on a few scenes, which I really enjoyed. Six months ago I was totally clueless about lighting, but after working on so many different films this term, I’m now a lot more confident lighting a set and feel like I have a much better idea of where to position lighting to make it as natural looking as possible.

Law Conference

While filming for the DMLL I was approached by a Law lecturer who needed a film crew to photograph and film an upcoming conference with a visiting speaker. I jumped at the chance as this was the opportunity to do similar work to the events I had helped film for the University but I would get the opportunity to produce the whole thing myself.

Knowing I needed a talented and reliable team I immediately contacted Dana, Lavi and Victoria. Three extremely talented people who I reguarly work with and who are at the top of my recommendations list whenanyone ever asks me about the best people to work with.

Victoria was going to be out of the country on the day of the conference but was happy to edit any footage we captured and Dana and Lavi soon set to work outlining all the equipment we would require.

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Arriving at the venue we were quite surprised by the shape of it. The lecture theatre was very different to any in Ellen Terry as it was very steep and circular. This meant we really had to reconsider where we would position out cameras and where we could stand ourselves and not obstruct anyone’s view or end up on camera.

I think we really could have benefited from a meeting with the event organizer a week or so before the scheduled filming date to survey the venue and discuss any key points. This would have prepared us for the venues unusual shape and i would have maybe thought about bringing one more camera or even incorporating some 360 footage in using the Ricoh Theta to take advantage of the circular space.

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At one point Mitch, the visiting speaker, was presented with a gift Brethertons present to him and it would have been great to have had an opportunity to both photograph and film a simple shot of the gift before the conference started so we could have cut to it when the box was opened so viewers could also see what was inside.

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After the event I managed to speak to one of the partners and request his introductory notes from the opening of the conference. I am so pleased I thought to do this, it wasn’t planned and was just an idea that popped into my head at the time, as it really helped with putting names to faces in the edit and giving everyone their correct job title so it is something I will definitely try to do from now on.

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I really enjoyed photographing at the after party as everyone was so more relaxed, laughing and smiling and I felt i could capture a lot more natural interaction between the guests.

It wasn’t until I had a quick flick through my first lot of photos that I realized a lot of them were unusable as people either had cheeks full of food or had been capturing pulling some rather unattractive faces while eating. To counter this I concentrated on photographing the tables of food and wine and people’s hands and plates until people had finished eating.

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The other thing I had not considered was people shaking hands. As this was a business conference hand shake shots would be particuarly useful but as they are so fleeting it seems to be that as soon as I focused on two people’s hands meeting I’d already missed the shot. Next time I would get my videographer to film these shots and then we could use stills from the hand shakes instead.

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Fire Drill

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A few months ago I took some portraits for the Health and Safety team and now they have come back to me to ask if I would be able to put a Health and Safety video together for them.

They don’t need the video completed until later this year so I can start on it once my term finishes but they asked if I could capture some photos and footage of the university’s annual fire drill this weekend to put in the film once it’s finished.

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I normally would have liked to have one or two other people with me for a shoot like this but as it was over the Easter holiday most of the other students had returned home so i had to film alone. I took two cameras, one on a tripod to film with and a second to capture photos and any close up moving shots and I would have to sacrifice sound and add it in with foley.

I set my tripod up where the fire engines were planned to pull in so I could get a good shot of the them arriving and waited with my other camera. What none of us had been told was that the fire crew were being followed by another camera crew as they were having a documentary made about them. This made it particularly difficult for me as there were two camera people and they seemed to always be stood where I wanted to film or in shot filming so stopped the scene from looking natural.

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Obviously I couldn’t ask them to move as they had a job to do as much as I did so I just tried to ensure that I kept out of their shots while getting the best photos and filming i could from some more imaginative angles.

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I really enjoyed today’s filming. The fake smoke and sirens and the ‘injured’ casualties all added to the atmosphere of the event and I felt like I was on a professional film set, if a little under staffed.

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Today’s filming really taught me to expect the unexpected and that you can’t always control your set. Not only did I have a film crew often getting in shot but also members of the public as the surrounding area was still open to everyone. It reminded me to stay patient and to think my way around things and be quick to find a new angle or subject to focus on.

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