Masterclass with Saskia Sutton


As part of our Professional Experience module we were split into large groups and given the task to host a Masterclass by a guest speaker. We needed to advertise the event, set up the venue, film the full lecture and organize questions for a short recorded interview afterwards.

As I normally direct and produce on most projects I wanted to do something a little different on this one. I really enjoy research so I volunteered to walk with a small group to make a list of question to ask Saskia in her final interview.

We had received a brief resume about Saskia so already had a bit about her background but we wanted to find some questions we could ask that she’d maybe not heard before and make the questioning as relevant to her life as possible.

One of the first thing we discovered about Saskia was that her mother “Heather Sutton was a pioneer female documentary filmmaker” (, 2017) and her father was a painter. We guessed this was likely to influence her career choice and may have also given her a stepping stone into the world of film.

Next we discovered that Saskia had worked on the very first mix of live action and animation, even before the release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). We definitely wanted to ask her about that.

“She worked as his runner on the ITV series ‘All You Need is Love’.” (, 2017)

Along with the questions we had tailored to Saskia’s past and career we also wanted to ask the questions that most of us, as students new to the media world, really wanted the answers to.

How to get noticed, how to cope working with people you don’t get on with, how to get your films out there!

Here is the question list we finally put together. If you’d like to hear Saskia’s answers to these questions you can listen to the full interview using the link below.



Jake Humbles. (2017). Saskia Sutton and Jason Connery: A Helping Hand. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016]. (2017). About Saskia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016]. (2017). Person – National Portrait Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016].

Sutton, S. (2017). Saskia Sutton. [online] IMDb. Available at: [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016].

Zemeckis, R., Wolf, G., Price, J., Hoskins, B., Lloyd, C. and Cassidy, J. (2017). Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). [online] IMDb. Available at: [Accessed 10 Dec. 2016].

260mc tasks: Final task: Western Motel


Task: create a 4-6 minute cinematic response to Edward Hopper’s, Western Motel.

Initial reactions:

  • 1940/50’s
  • bold colours
  • tarantino movie influence?
  • suitcase contents?
  • red dress, representation?

An American New Realist painter, Hopper’s main work reveals the interior of everyday urban buildings and the interaction of that environment with it’s residents. Windows and light are prominent, and the themes of boredom, loneliness and resignation.

The subject seems pensive. Looking out, waiting for something to happen, ‘for the action to begin’. We reflected this in the long pause before our actress moves from the bed. An underlying fear/apprehension is balanced with her strength. She appears to be daring us to lose eye contact, to look away first, and this is where I developed our film’s narrative from.

The setting, the suitcase, the strong female lead and the use of lines and shadow led us to film noir and it’s more recent predecessor, neo-noir. I researched The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Touch of Evil (1958 ) through to modern day noirs like Pulp Fiction (1994), Memento (2000) and Better Call Saul (2015-)

I looked at film noir’s tropes, researched it’s plot lines and pondered whether noir even was a genre in the true sense. Most theorists agreed the majority center around crime, have non classical narrative patterns often using flashbacks, voice overs or montage and have a non-chronological revealing of the narratives events.

Conard, M.T. and Porfirio, R. (2006) The philosophy of film noir. United States: The University Press of Kentucky.
(Conard and Porfirio, 2006)

I selected some stills from classic noir that we kept for reference. Lighting and shadow were going to be the main tools in perfecting our pastiche so I researched the influence Caravaggio and Rembrandt’s paintings and the German Expressionist film movement had on how most noir’s were lit and set. Using strong back lighting and less fill lights, often because low budgets dictated fewer lights available, and using the rule of thirds in scene composition.

FilmmakerIQ (2016b) The basics of lighting for film noir. Available at: (Accessed: 14 November 2016).
(FilmmakerIQ, 2016b)

I developed our plot around a Femme Fatale who shot her husband and was now fleeing with a final piece of incriminating evidence she needed to dispose of. She carries a mysterious suitcase which we never see the bottom of and is never far from her side.


leicaTo recreate the look of film noir we used vintage lenses with a modern dslr. We had a Leica and a Pentacon 50mm but found the Pentacon most adaptable to our shot list.

We researched John Alton’s cinematography style and Saul Bass’s poster and opening titles artwork.

We attended a lecture by Reed O’Beirne who explained that a short film’s credits need to be as good, if not better, than our films and we have taken this to heart.

Emerald Reels presents Reed O’Beirne (1995) Available at: (Accessed: 8 December 2016).
(Emerald Reels presents Reed O’Beirne, 1995)
We booked out the green screen in the TV studio and filmed a silhouette of our actress and suitcase that we could incorporate into our titles.Although we would have loved to totally step back in time for our film the lack of locations and budget let us down so we opted for new meets old style, like the remake of Psycho (1998) where the setting was present day but the wardrobe and some props were vintage.


The opening scene was to feature our protagonist looking down the barrel of a smoking gun. The gun and smoke were to be of main importance so needed to stay in sharp focus, and have the most light, while our actresses face needed less light and could fall into soft focus, just enough for her to be recognisable to the audience as the shooter when we see her in the following scene.


I secured a hotel room to film our second scene and the bed, carpet and wallpaper really echoed Hopper’s use of strong lines and colour.

I tried to use the natural light from the window along with lamps in the room. Adding an LED and small spotlight for emphasis when our protagonist finally discovers the lost handkerchief at the climax of the scene.


The final night scene proved most challenging but filming in November was an advantage, drizzle and light fog made our dark cobbled street very atmospheric. We used the street’s overhead light as back lighting with an additional side light. Two LED panels mimicked police search lights. A strip LED was used for fill lighting on the face and we tried to harness the dark shadows as a background for our femme fatale to merge into.

My role was as Producer/Director/Cinematographer and helped to direct the editing process. As a group we rotated many roles and everyone tried to input as many ideas as possible. This seemed to work really well and I am proud of our final piece.

If I could improve anything I would improve time management. We needed longer to perfect our edit with attention to color grading and contrast. I’d also like to add in an additional shot of our actress stepping into the doorway before the close up. It would give the audience more information, yet something we didn’t consider until the edit when we had no time to shoot additional scenes.


184jkim• (2014) Edward hopper – ‘Western Motel’ 1957. Available at: (Accessed: 5 November 2016).

30774, fra (2012) 26 movie opening sequence with a great idea. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

Artist, C. and work, orphan (1957) Western motel. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2016).

Bass, E. of S. (2013) Film posters. Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2016).

Block or Die: Lessons from Orson Welles (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 17 November 2016).

Brown, B. (2011) Cinematography: Theory and practice, Second edition: Image making for Cinematographers and directors. 2nd edn. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Focal Press.

BUFVC (2002a) Home · BoB. Available at: (Accessed: 20 November 2016).

BUFVC (2002b) Home · BoB. Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2016).

Bunge, M. (2014) Psycho (1960) vs. Psycho (1998). Available at: (Accessed: 26 November 2016).

Conard, M.T. and Porfirio, R. (2006) The philosophy of film noir. United States: The University Press of Kentucky.

Crowther, B. (1989) Film noir: Reflections in a dark mirror. New York: Continuum Intl Pub Group.

Double Indemnity (1944) Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2016).

Edward hopper (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2016).

Film noir – films (2016) Available at: (Accessed: 1 December 2016).

Film noir | the movie title stills collection (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 4 December 2016).

FilmmakerIQ (2016a) 5 elements of a great Chroma key. Available at: (Accessed: 1 December 2016).

FilmmakerIQ (2016b) The basics of lighting for film noir. Available at: (Accessed: 14 November 2016).

jfkturner and profile, V. my complete (1922) Light and dark. Available at: (Accessed: 13 November 2016).

JOHN ALTON (1955) Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2016).

Kaufman, D. (2015) ‘Better call Saul’: The formats, framing and film noir influences of the series. Available at: (Accessed: 8 November 2016).

Late work (2013) Available at: (Accessed: 5 November 2016).

Mc, W. and profile, V. my complete (2013) CHARACTERISTICS OF FILM NOIR. Available at: (Accessed: 8 November 2016).

Naremore, J. (2008) More than night: Film noir in its contexts. 2nd edn. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Renée, V. (2014) Fog, smoke, & haze: The Swiss army knives of cinematography tools. Available at: (Accessed: 27 November 2016).

Saul Bass title sequences 1959 – 1962 | the movie title stills collection (1964) Available at: (Accessed: 3 November 2016).

TheOnlyZaboy (2015) Memento, the neo noir. Available at: (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Touch of Evil (1958) Available at: (Accessed: 17 November 2016).

Verstappen, H. (no date) Saul Bass. Available at: (Accessed: 3 December 2016).

www, P. (2009) Western motel, 1957 by Edward hopper. Available at: (Accessed: 4 November 2016).

260mc: Remake

I wanted to remake my soundscape task for several reasons: I didn’t dedicate as much time to the original piece as I would have liked; I was quite disappointed with how it had turned out and had definite ideas of how I’d like to improve it; I have recently learnt more about using audio effects; but most of all I really enjoy making my own foley so knew it would be lots of fun.

Before I started I went on Amazon and invested in a few props. A plastic watering can, a jaw harp, a small metal slinky and a metal ruler.

The first sound I worked on was the rain. I needed a good clear sound to replace the shower sound, with it’s added water pressure noise, that made my whole piece sound like a poor quality recording contaminated with background noise. I used the watering can to sprinkle water onto the side of a plastic bucket. After several attempts I managed to get the can to the right height to produce the correct sound, but it was only right for about 10 seconds so I looped the track and added a little reverb to make it more natural sounding.

I wanted to introduce a little thunder to the beginning of the sequence. My friend suggested dragging a wheelie bin for a short distance as she often mistakes that sound for thunder. I tried this out but sadly the recorded noise was quite different to the one my ears picked up. If I had booked out the boom along with the H5 I think I may have captured a more accurate sound, so will definitely remember to book that out for next time.

I researched how to make a thunder tube and set about making my own with the materials below.


Unfortunately the only spring I had was too wide to produce the correct sound but it made an amazing space invaders/light saber sound which I have added to my sound bank for a future project.

Back to the drawing board I thought I’d try out the marbles rolling in a wooden box technique. Minus any marbles or a wooden box I resorted to some chunky beads in a shoe box. I slowed the sound down to half it’s normal speed and cut it to just a few seconds. This seemed to work well and I was pleased with the final sound but felt the rain and thunder should maybe not play all the way through the track. I wanted to emphasise the children’s boredom so recorded a clock ticking which would come in as the rain faded out.

Some of the original sound effects I had used were good but just not loud enough to have the impact I intended. I turned up the audio gain on both the bouncing ball sound and on the BUMP noise. I also removed me saying the word BUMP so the noise stood out more and almost ‘spoke for itself’.

Now to introduce the more comic/Looney Tunes sounds I had been inspired by on researching my first attempt. These noises seemed to have more of an affinity with The Cat so I chose to introduce them as he stepped in on the mat. After about half an hour practicing with the harp jaw I managed to produce quite a good BOING noise so recorded this along with a BOING from twanging the metal ruler on the side of the table. I placed both noises over one another and really like their combined sound. I slightly tweaked the TA-DA noise to make it a bit more mechanical sounding and then looked at the music I used to end my original recording. I was happy with the original closing music as it seemed to match well with my other sounds but it came in abruptly and ended too quickly, in order to keep to the one minute time limit. To get around this I introduced the music a lot sooner with a gradual fade and then faded it back out over a few seconds.

I replayed my soundscape to my class on Friday and this time no one had a single criticism. In fact, everyone really seemed to like it. They may have just been being nice but it really made me feel like the extra time I invested in the piece was well worth it and I would love to go on to record the full story with more handmade sound effects.


fartfx3 (2009a) CRASH! BANG! BOOM! The wild sounds of Treg brown part1. Available at: (Accessed: 8 November 2016).

fartfx3 (2009b) CRASH! BANG! BOOM! The wild sounds of Treg brown part2. Available at: (Accessed: 12 November 2016).

Greg Wilson Honrado (2012) How to make a thunder or lightning sound. Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2016).

Hermann Huber (2014) Best of coyote and roadrunner (2) – cartoon (english). Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2016).

Peter Brown (2015) Making a thunder tube. Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2016).

Smith, J.P. (2016) DIY sound effects | make: Available at: (Accessed: 25 November 2016).