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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I've Seen Posters and DVD covers

Whilst the slog continues in post (getting the visual effects shots 'perfect',
developing, scoring and recording the music etc.), I've also been taking
time to develop the poster designs (internationally) for "I've Seen Angels".
After much creative thrashing, arguments and discussions, our colleagues at
Grafig have delivered a stunning set of posters and design work - the buzz
from the world-wide film festivals has been very positive and encouraging
which is always an added bonus for any film.

The DVD design has also been developing at a pace - I'm especially happy
with the onbody design - think it looks really memorable and iconic and
compliments the poster design work brilliantly.  Currently at work on
developing a slightly different (limited edition) cover for the very
special (limited edition) DVD which only very special (limited edition)
humans and angels will be able to get their hands and wings on!

If this isn't exciting enough for you, then there's the extremely special
limited edition digital book (running at 42 pages at the moment) which
is packed full of information, behind-the-scenes insights and images
and general all round cool stuff - just a few little sample pages included
here - all virtual of course and virtually carbon free too!

Finally, just to completely blow you away, the official "I've Seen Angels"
website is under construction - the concept behind this is that the
'webspace' is similar to the 'angel space' in the film, but with added unique
content, galleries, info and video material.  The site is now in the
final stages of coding, programming and testing - check out some screengrabs

Finally - the T-shirt - who wants one of these then?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Word from our Producer

Since starting the blog for "I've Seen Angels", I'd always
envisaged that other members of the cast and crew could
write their experiences about the film.  So here, a few
months later, Mr.Reliable himself, our producer Steve Sellers
is the first one in.  Hopefully this will nudge the other cast
and crew members into doing theirs!

Whenever I am asked to Produce a Project I always start with
"So what's the Budget?" With "I've Seen Angels" there was no budget
and although we didn’t have the restraints on equipment and
resources that Major Studios have, we still needed props, getting
to locations etc. The crew that we had for the film were amazing.
Everyone pitched in. Whether it was offering lifts to locations,
securing locations for free having begged and borrowed or even kitting
out a set so as it looked like a Hospital room. And no one was
“big headed about it”. For me, this was the first film that I enjoyed
going onto set, pitching in and making it, well, come to life. I think
for "I've Seen Angels", this was the Unique selling point. "I've Seen Angels"
 touches people in different ways, for me it is a reminder that life is
too short. This became even more apparent when I lost my Grandad in the course of
the shooting.

For the first time, I experienced as a producer what it was like working in
an enjoyable environment. Everyone just got along. Producing I've Seen Angels
was an absolute joy and I have to say that throughout the course of the filming,
a few crew members shone through and seem to relish the chance at working in a
professional team. Everyone always says that the Actor brings the Script to life.
But, where would they be without the crew. The actors are only on screen and don’t
experience what the crew do.  This is evident in Cath Morris for instance.  She is
dedicated beyond reproach and never waits to step in, make you feel good about
yourself and is good at what she does. I remember on set when we closed the set down
for the famously dubbed “saucy” scene . Me and Cath were outside the door just
chatting  when she takes a crisp and pretends that the shoe is going to eat it.
Cath was 1st Assistant Director on set, but in the true sense of the word, she was
the mother of the Crew.

Another person who shone was Cai Thompson, the DP. I have worked with Cai on
various occasions before but with this film he was just  enthusiastic, dedicated and
excited about filming it. To this day, Cai says that what he did was rubbish, in
all honesty he thinks all his work is rubbish. But what he did on set and off it was
truly shocking. He was able to think up shots, visualise them and then get on with it,
even arguing with the director about shots and ideas which he thought were good. Whether he just has a thirst for Cinematography, or is just good at what he does, we will know,
when the audience view the film.

Producing Ive Seen Angels, has given me the chance and without sounding to cheesy to work  with some talented Young People, and to get my own quote. In Lord of the Rings Gandalf has a classic quote, which I adpoted with a little adjustment.
"A Producer is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to””
And lets face it Who knows there may be another Roger Deakins or a young David Lynch in
the group. Young people have always had bad press. But when someone asks "what have young people done that’s so good?" Just take a look at this group of young people, who have collectively made a Short Film, in West Wales with no budget and with a lot of time
restraints on actors with the support of their peers.

We Are Slaves and It Is The Master

Whoa!  Long time no see!  Yep, it's been quite a while
since the last blog entry, but as is often the case
there's a reason - in the case the rather mental pace
of post-production work on "I've Seen Angels".

While we haven't been blogging, we've certainly been
busy - not only working on editing, visual effects,
sound design, sound mixing, music creating and recording -
there's also the promotional work - press releases,
marketing materials (especially excited about our limited
edition 'digital book' - it's rather special and beautiful),
posters (will post some of these up soon), and today we
finally managed to get round shooting interviews for our
EPK (Electronic Press Kit for you non-film marketing
people).  What was very special today was meeting up
with Sam Ward, Emily Graham and Jordanna Moran again, and
revisiting the whole experience of making the film, re-living
and recounting things.  It was very humbling to hear their
answers and insights and coming to a realisation of what the
process of making the film meant to these brilliant young
actors.  It was all a truly genuine privelege.

But before all of this has been the intricacies, fixes,
frustrations, inspirations and sheer head f**k of bringing
"I've Seen Angels" to a close.  The film has been shaped
and polished frame by frame (literally pixel by pixel some days!),
audio sample by audio sample.  Sounds, lines, words, colours,
contrasts, sequences, moments, fractions have been cut, recut,
erased, redone - now it feels like the film is making us rather
than we have control over it.  We are slaves and it is the master.

To add to the mix I've also been writing the possible sequel (which
is kind of a prequel - I call it my 'prequel/sequel') - it feels
like there's unfinished business with this story.  It's something
I'm very much looking forward to doing if there's the time - the
most precious commodity of all.  Again, it feels like it is
writing me rather than I have control over it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Still, sad music of humanity

I began writing the screenplay for "I've Seen Angels" at the
start of the summer of 2010 - largely as an exercise to work
with young actors from West Wales and to create a piece which
would hopefully engage them, challenge them and develop their
understanding of the visual techniques and processes they'd need
to develop for successful screen acting.

I also knew the film would be shot by a very inexperienced (but
talented) crew and there was absolutely no budget whatsover.  These
factors help to temper and, hopefully, focus the writing.

In my screenwriting work, I've also tended towards the creation
of feature-length, highly realistic and usually historical subjects.
Many of these are now caught in 'development hell'.  Producers,
associate producers, script editors form an army of critics who
question, ask, and demand changes.  Timescales as measured in years. 
So it was refreshing to have complete control of the creative writing
process and fly solo for a little while.

So even though the writing began last summer - the themes of the story
have been with me for many decades - it's impossible, and irrelevant
to determine where these have come from.  Like Ingmar Bergman's 'snowflake'
the themes and ideas in "I've Seen Angels" have grown consciously,
mysteriously, untraceably, rationally, visually,
a snowflake which becomes a snowball which runs downhill, gathering form
and momentum.

Consciously, however, I can pinpoint some key moments and memories which
inform all of my screenwriting work.

The first was the notion held in the title of this blog post:-

"The Still, sad Music Of Humanity"

written by William Wordsworth in his poem, "Lines written a few miles
above Tintern Abbey".  The poem itself, one of the greatest in the
English language, expresses ideas of time, place, memory, loss and most
importantly two ideas - the triumph of human imagination over death and
the discovery of an ethical imperative at the basis of all great art.
What I've tried to do in "I've Seen Angels" is find a form of cinematic
expression to the idea of a life, and lives both tragic and beautiful at
the same time: that out of death a compassion is born, and a recognition and
reconcilliation with the Other - in the same poem Wordsworth decribes this

"...little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness, and of love."

I assume I've blended this idea with another phenomenal passage from "Tintern

"...And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things..."

There's nothing original in the idea of the young girls becoming 'angels'
(they lost their 'wings' in the first draft of the script thankfully) -
Wenders's "Wings of Desire", Powell and Presburger's "A Matter of Life
and Death", and a dash of Hirokadu Koreeda's "Afterlife" to name but three.
What I hope is different in "I've Seen Angels" is the development of
character arc's which explore and express ideas of forgiveness, remorse,
guilt and acceptance - all acts which depend on reflection and understanding
being developed (and in the case of a scenario, shown through action).
Ultimately, these lead to the film's nameless and possibly unremembered
acts of kindness and of this case, I hope, remembered by an

Another huge influence on my writing is the work of the great philospher
Emmanuel Levinas.  I could also rationalise that a theme I've continuosly
explored is held within the following quotation:

"...Do you want me to tell you something really subversive?
Love is everything it's cracked up to be.  That's why people are so cynical
about really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything
for.  And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more..."

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Shoot Day 1 In the beginning...

First days of shoots are always a bit nerve-racking, a bit slow (everyone is trying
to figure out and second guess everyone else, the actor's are usually a bit nervous
etc.) - but we got through the schedule just as we started to lose the light.

However, encouragingly there were some excellent signs emerging from Day 1.  Firstly,
the crew got on really well, established a lovely rapport with each other and the
actors - all good stuff.  Secondly we had our first 'magic take'.  This is a take
where something quite special, dare I say, magical happens.  Today, it was Stacey
Edwards's voice over work in the morning - she plays the part of a young girl who
commits suicide.  What she's reading, and what all of the 'dying voices' in the film
contain, are the words of actual suicide victims or people close to death.  The
'magic take' is characterised by an incredible silence on the set - it's literally
hear a pin drop time.  So Stacey's reading in the morning created this wonderful
intensity and makes you really listen carefully to the words.

Then it was outside to shoot the scene where Rebecca, the maligned and dangerous
angel shall we say (played by Jordanna Moran), 'hears' the young girls words and
follows her.  Apart from getting shat on by a flock of starlings(!), the scene worked
well.  Then it was down to the roadside to shoot the final section.
Again, visually and casting wise it's nice to see your plans reach fruition - in
this case it's Jordanna's eyes in dark shadow making her look menacing - you can't
see her eyes (our 3-stop ND filter helps this!).

Finally, when it's time to wrap, I suddenly have an idea to shoot a little sequence
in a nearby small forest - I wanted to have a visual idea of the preditory nature
of Rebecca's character, so we see her following Stacey's character.  Worked a treat.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

In Praise of Steve Sellers

Producer Steve Sellers - A.O.K!

Some people have a sense of destiny laid out before them - in the case
of Steve Sellers that destiny is that he'll be a film producer.
It's obvious - he has all of the social, intellectual and creative skills
to achieve this - and that's why he's my producer on "I've Seen Angels".

Steve has produced before, and last summer developed his talents further
working on the BBC Wales/It's My Shout short films training scheme.  Here he
unsurprisingly impressed everyone - so much so that he now has further
production work lined up with them. 

He's always up to something...a restless soul is our Steve.
Steve has the important ability to be able to be learning and developing
consistently - he listens very carefully, reads, researches, watches and is
in that stage of his life where he is cramming his mind full of all kind of
creative influences.  He has a phenomenal work rate, and during the making of
"I've Seen Angels" was ill for a while...but still managed to get through
everything with determination, flair and enthusiasm.  He is also a bit of
a rarity in this day and age - a true gentleman.

When you put carbon under pressure you get diamonds.  I've got Steve Sellers.

Shoot Day 2 Donkeys and Bento Boxes on the Hill

The mystery of the Blue Bento

Today was, like Day 1, very much a settling in day...for today was
lead actress Emily Graham's first day, and the relatively young and
inexperienced crew are also, often quite literally, finding their way.

First up today though was to start work on the very important voice
overs - in "I've seen Angels" a central story motif involves the
"Angels" hearing the voices of suffering, dying people.  The first
time this occurs is when Ariel (Emily's character) hears a cacophony
of voices, out of which emerges the voice of a young girl dying
in a road traffic accident (played by Becky Turner).  Emily also had to
record a voice part, a very moving prayer at the end of the film in which
she comes to terms with the major events that have altered and affected
her life.

Looking South to the Gower Penninsula

Becky and Emily read these beautifully...I know this element is going to be
very powerful in the final film (especially in a 5:1 surround mix).

After these recordings it was out to a nearby hill, Pwll hill to be exact,
where we wanted to get the backdrop of the magnificent Burry Inlet looking over
the town of Llanelli and out to sea.  But it didn't quite work out like that...

Firstly we got lost going up the hill, before encountering a herd of extremely
friendly donkeys.  On coming back down the hill, I decided to shoot in a slightly
different location - in this instance looking straight across to the Gower
Penninsula as Ariel first hears the 'voices of the dying'.  Incredible light,
fantastic contrast and shallow depth of field (the lovely ND9 filter!).  Most
importantly was just seeing how Emily performed some quite tricky bits of
visual acting: she did it fabulously, with a lot of coverage being shot of her
just reacting to the voices.  It was in profile that I suddenly realised that
Emily bears a striking resemblance to Bibi Anderson, a brilliant Swedish actress
and star and muse to the late, great Ingmar Bergman (one of my all time favourite
directors - a cinematic genius in my opinion).

Richard Lewis directing Becky Turner and Emily Graham

Finally it was back down to a layby on the Coastal Park Road, where we shot the scene
where Ariel goes to help the injured girl as she dies.  This was beautifully played
by Becky Turner, and created one of the emerging motifs of the film - a dying young
woman's face in close-up (when I think about it not dissimilar to the way Bergman
shot women giving birth in his masterpiece "Brink Of Life" (1954).  The themes of
the pain, horror, beauty and mystery of death are, partially, I think, what this film
and a lot of my films are about.

"...There is a secret with life, with life and death, a secret as to why some of
us are called to live, while others are called to die.  We may assail heaven and
science with questions - all the answers are only partial.  But life goes on,
crowning the living with torment and with happiness..."
Ulla Isaksson.

Emily Graham and Becky Turner mid take

Cath Morris 1st Ad and Angharad Irving, Associate Producer