Tuesday, 27 October 2020

The NOT EVEN GAY Trilogy - My first experience of documentary making

Between 2007 and 2012, I made three comedy travelogue documentaries about the ultimate pursuit of intoxication with a group of friends. 

Not Even Gay – 30 mins. Filmed in May 2007. Edited in 2007 and 2009.

Not Even Gay: The 2ND Coming – 60 mins. Filmed in November 2007. Edited in 2009.

A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME – 150 mins. Filmed in June 2009. Edited between 2009 and 2015.

Making these three films is not only how I cut my craft as an editor, but it was a great opportunity to get my head around the process of being a documentary filmmaker and crafting a narrative from the chaos of everyday life. 

The films do not have over-complicated plots, each film documents a trip me and my friends took to the south coast of England, where we get fantastically intoxicated and then usually managed to cock things up.

We ended up making three because we had tremendous fun each time and we kept trying to improve on the previous attempt.

These three films will never see the light of day because, well, I promised the other participants that I would not broadcast our sometimes questionable teenage antics to the world, which is fair enough. 

Instead, I have edited together a somewhat censored 13-minute showreel of the trilogy. This is adapted from the prologue and epilogue of the third film...

Legends are told of the c-van Artifax.

Not Even Gay

The first film came about not long after finishing the filming on my first short film The Better Villain. My friends asked me to bring my JVC camcorder along on our trip so we could film anything stupid that might happen. 

It was a big deal bringing my JVC along because this was a few months before the first iPhone hit the market, so smartphones with high quality video cameras had not come along yet. 

The film grammar of microfilmmaking - producing short narrative videos on a smart device - had also not been established, so I didn't really know how to go about filming the day's events.

I also didn't think that anything interesting would be filmed, I honestly thought we would be too drunk to film anything comprehensible. Plus, I didn't actually think we were that interesting!

But I bought my camera along anyway. 

We were at my friend's caravan for one day, the weather was good, we all got drunk, did a few stupid adolescent things, for the most part had a really good time and then we all went home the following day.

Everyone else filmed bits here and there. I filmed the majority of stuff, anything I thought was remotely interesting or funny, but I still didn't think we had filmed anything riveting.

And then, after my hangover had gone, I watched through all the footage. 

We hadn't filmed everything that had happened throughout the day and I had about 90 minutes of footage overall.

But when I laid all that footage out in my desktop editing suite and watched it back through chronologically, I was very surprised with what we had filmed!

Not only was there a lot of funny material, full of quirk and character and different points of view, but I started to see a narrative forming from the events captured. 

So I started to edit the footage into a tighter and cohesive narrative structure.

One of the biggest challenges of documentary filmmaking is crafting a narrative from the chaos of life. It's not always obvious what the narrative is or how to your material to best convey it.

However, if you really want to get practice as a filmmaker and as an editor then I can not under emphasize the usefulness of just going out into the world, filming some random stuff and then setting yourself the challenge of turning it into a compelling filmic story.

I was very fortunate with the Not Even Gay footage because me and my friends are very witty (if only in a very crude way a lot of the time), so the footage was full of recurring and related gags that acted as narrative links and developments.

One of the recurring gags was the, "I'm not even gay though," line, which kept coming up again and again. Hence why I ended up titling the film Not Even Gay, it perfectly summed up the day, not to mention the homoerotic undertones of five young men drunk in a caravan together. 

The first edit was 60 minutes long and I finished that one in 2007. 

It was actually the first film with a fully formed narrative structure that I completed. I had yet to finish editing The Better Villain, the first film I had filmed.

Being my first finished yet, it was very crude.

My biggest gripe with that first edit is that the transitions between events and time jumps in the day's events relied heavily on cross-fades, which mostly just look really tacky. I didn't yet have the confidence as an editor to cut straight into and than back out of a key moment. 

Also, I discovered that when you are working with hand held camcorder footage, you're editing options are often quite limited. 

Quite often something would be happening that the camera was not looking at, but you could hear the off camera dialogue conveying what was happening... so then you have choice do keep it in or cut it out?

Obviously, there is a third option which is to take that dialogue and place it over some other footage that is related to what is happening off camera, if you have any footage and if it doesn't jar with what is already happening in that hypothetical footage. 

I didn't feel comfortable about doing that because I felt like it destroyed the integrity and authenticity of what was captured, so I left visual storytelling rough and ready. 

One of my friends said we should film some interview footage at the fact.

I did think about doing recording some interview footage, but ultimately I didn't feel it was necessary to have our talking heads explaining what is happening in the film, when the film does a perfectly adequate job of telling the story, even if the camera is sometimes looking away from the main event.

Editing the first film was a great opportunity for me to be really experimental with how th film was going to tell the story

The first edit told the story, so I let it be.

The first edit also had opening and closing title sequences that I had made and cut to some music. 

I even made a few trailers for that first edit, that I showed my friends in anticipation for the release of the film. 

I also edited together a short video, Pirates of the Caravan, using footage from one of the day's amusing occurrences involving pirate hats and swords, which went down well with everyone. 

When my friends finally saw the film, they all seem pretty pleased, so pleased in fact that we all agreed that we should do it again.

Only this time we would do it bigger and better.

Not Even Gay: The 2ND Coming

In November 2007, with a few new additions to our troupe, on a reading day we had off from college, we set off to the coast again. 

This time, we knew that we were making a narrative film so we all put much more effort into the filming and the content of what was being filmed. 

I also did not have to do the majority of the filming this time around, because everyone else wanted to do some filming. I was actually quite pleased about this because it meant more varied points of view and that I could actually appear in more of the footage this time around. 

In hindsight, going to my friend's caravan on the coast in the winter was a really stupid thing to do because it was bloody freezing. But when your 17 with loads of alcohol and weed... screw it,we still had a fantastically good time. 

We were all still very hyped up about the first film and that fed into the collective energy and frivolity of the day's events. 

Again, we did not film everything, but we did manage to capture all the main occurrences and we were heading towards a pretty epic evening... and then we were kicked off the caravan site. 

I don't know if it was because it was November and supposedly no one is supposed to be on the carvan site out of season or if it was just because the site manager was worried about a group of drunk adolescent males getting up to no good on the camp site, but he kicked us out regardless.

After that we headed to the beach. It was cold, it was getting dark and it ended up being a real downer.

Nearly a year went by before I got round to editing The 2ND Coming together. I wasn't able to do it straight away because I was either at college or working my part time job, so I just didn't have time to edit. 

However, once I had graduated from college and sorted myself out with a job that was only a ten minute walk from my house, I had much more spare time, so I jumped into editing in November and December of 2008 and finished it in January 2009.

I found the second one exceedingly easier to edit. 

The fact that we had approached the second one with the enthusiasm generated from the first one and with the intention that another narrative film would emerge from it meant that we had footage full of pace, character and narratively designed intentions.

Presented together chronologically, the raw footage already had a very strong and cohesive structure and narrative. 

Also, the fact that we had been kicked of the caravan site meant that we had a very different and downer ending compared to the first one. 

Visually the ending was very strong because I had captured a great fade out shot of us all being miserable and lost on the beach.

Overall, the ending felt much more like a decisive and appropriate ending for a film about a group of wasted teenagers who are the architects of their own demise (something the events in the first film had already established). 

The ending also felt like a bit of a cliffhanger, so it left things open for another one. 

It did not actually take me that long to edit the second together, it was more just a case of tightening up the narrative by deleting footage that was not needed to tell the essential story beats. 

By this point, I had grown much more confident as an editor so I was much more ruthless when it came to deleting padding and cutting straight into and out of the main story beats. 

My biggest challenge was constructing the ending.

Between discovering that the caravan's electricity and water had been cut off and us ending up at the beach, there was a huge gap where the site manager actually kicked us out that was not captured on camera. 

Ultimately, I used some intertitles to fill in that gap.

Later when I edited a shorter and censored version of the film that was on my original YouTube channel, I recorded some narration bridging the gap. 

My narration skills are a bit hammy because I was trying to sound like a proper narration artist, but really I should have just used my own voice and accent. 

Personally, I prefer the intertitle version because its quiet and fits with the downbeat mood at the end of the film and the end of our day that had not gone to plane. 

However, there is also an argument to be made for including the narration because it acts as booked with narration that is already present at the beginning of the film. 

The title sequence of the second one is a play on the iconic title sequence of The A-Team, which caused no end of joy and laughter from everyone who saw it. 

I didn't cut together any trailers for the second one because there was no need for them. 

I finished editing the second one a few days before my friends came over to my house, so I just showed it to them then. 

While I thought the second one was definitely better than the first one, I still didn't think it was that good. 

Then I showed it to my friends and their response blew me away, they thought it was amazing!

So amazing, they made me show it to them again straight after we had watched it the first time.

I was intially not that happy with second one because it always felt incomplete. The downer ending, thematically it feels like an appropriate ending for our wasted group - it still comes across as incomplete.

It feels like a cliffhanger.

This is why, immediately after I showed the second one to my friends, we started making plans for a third one.

Re-editing Not Even Gay

I was never happy with the first 1-hour edit of Not Even Gay, it was too long, not nearly as good as it could be and I wanted to redo it.

When I got round to editing The 2ND Coming, I also used it as an opportunity to jumped back into re-editing the first one. 

It wasn't a case of taking the first edit and cutting it down, I went back to the raw footage and re-edited the entire film from scratch. 

The fast paced editing and high energy content of the second one inspired my approach to re-editing the first one. 

I was editing the second one and re-editing the first one side-by-side. When I was getting bored with editing one, I would jump over and edit the other.

I was relentless with re-editing the first one. 

The new edit was 30 minutes long, half the length of the first edit and it still convey the exact same story.

I created a new title sequence and new end credits sequence. 

The most crucial change I implemented was the opening scene.

The first edit had begun with the opening titles and then told the story of the day chronologically.

I was never comfortable with telling the story in a nonlinear because I thought that would be to confusing and would take away from the authenticity.

However, after I had finished the first edit, I started to see that a better way to open the film would be to use a bit of footage from the middle of the day. 

It was a bit of footage where we were in the caravan, already drunk and it was where the recurrent, "I'm not even gay," line was first established. 

It was perfect for starting the film, it was full of energy and it perfectly summed up what the film was all about - a group teenagers getting absolutely wasted in a caravan and making complete tits of themselves.

I further ramped it up by cutting in a few more "I'm not even gay," clips from elsewhere in the film together with some intertitles establishing the context and purpose of the film. 

Then it cuts into the opening titles and the rest of the film plays out with a much faster pace. 

The rest of the film plays out more or less chronologically; I did move a few things around and cut back and forth between a number of events in order to allow the overall film to play with a faster pace.

I was very pleased with this second edit.

The DVDs 

My teenage explorations and experimentations of what you can do with a desktop computer included how to create desktop published DVDs and DVD packaging.

When I was editing The Second Coming and re-editing Not Even Gay, I also edited together some menu videos for the DVDs.

Not Even Gay had one disc which included the new tighter edit with chapter points, a chapter menu and a main menu. The disc also included all the deleted footage in a separate compilation with chapter points and its own chapter menu.

Not Even Gay: The 2ND Coming had two discs. On the first disc was the film with chapter points, a chapter menu and a main menu. The second disc included all the deleted footage with chapter points and a chapter menu.

I invested in some DVD cases, made some covers and gifted a copy to each of my friends who had been involved in the making of the first two films.

A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME

The point of these films was to tell the story of a group of teenage lads who go to the coast to get fantastically drunk - the ultimate pursuit of intoxication. 

In Not Even Gay we went there, we got drunk, we did lots of stupid shit and it ended up being a really good day... but we did not really know what it was we were doing when it came to making a film about it. 

Hence Not Even Gay: The 2ND Coming when we went back to do it bigger and better... but we got kicked off the caravan site, so we didn't actually get that drunk and the end of the day just ended up being a huge downer.

When we started to talk about doing a third one, the way I pitched it to everyone was that it needed to be the first one but the way we had done the second one. 

The third one had to be the one where we got it right, we needed to be like a pheonix rising from the ashes.

About five months later, we headed back down to the coast.

The setup on this one was slightly different. 

This time we were down at the coast for three days, opposed to just one. 

There were even more people involved and each day had a different set of people because people kept coming and going. 

I had a new digital photo camera that also recorded reasonably good footage. I brought it along so we could have a two camera setup.

I invested in some bigger batteries for my camcorder and an external battery charger so that we could film for long and also have a spare battery in reserve.

I also brought my laptop with me which meant we didn't have to worry about 30GB harddrive on my JVC or SD cards for my digital camera filling up, because I could just empty their contents onto my laptop.

I was adamant that we should film everything non-stop and we did, we ended up with about 36 hours of footage. 

With the third one, we achieved what we set out to do. We did not get kicked off the caravan site again and we ended up having a fantastic time.

The problem with the third one arose when I sat down to edit the thing, because we had shot 36 hours of footage on two cameras. Not only did it take forever to review all the footage, it took even longer to edit my way through!

It was good though, because suddenly I had so many options as an editor about what material to use, from what angle and how to structure it all. 

I decided to structure the film into three parts to reflect each day that we were there. 

This is how the name of the film came about - A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME - it was the third film comprised of three parts.

I knew it needed a prologue to encapsulate the first two films, recap the cliffhanger of the second film and establish what it was we were trying to achieve with this ultimate pursuit of intoxication. 

I also knew it needed an epilogue to wrap everything up - this film and the first two as well - because we had achieved what we set out to do with this one and it was very likely this would be last one we did.

I started with cutting down the three days into three narrative structures that had many links and references between the three days, because, like the first two films, me and my friends were very good at introducing lines, jokes and happenstances that all built on each other as we went through our time there. 

Then once I had the three days edited in reasonably good shape, I jumped into making the prologue and epilogue. 

My intention with the prologue was to make it epic beyond belief. 

It needed to feel like summer at its finest and it had to elevate what we had done to legendary status.

By the time I had included the material from the third film necessary for setting up the third film, plus summarising the first two films, and then added the opening title sequence onto the end of it, I had a prologue that was 15 minutes long. 

I used some pretty epic and euphoric music to ramp it up even further and I recorded narration which I did in the style of your typical film trailer narration. 

I wanted to get the third film off to a rocket blasting start. 

I did start to piece together the epilogue, but I couldn't finish it because I didn't yet know what exactly to include and how exactly to wrap up the THRE3SOME and the trilogy.

The problem was that I had spent so much time cutting the three days down into narrative structures - it had taken me a year - that I had become so accustomed to the material that I could no longer see it objectively. 

I figured the best thing to do would be to show it to my friends and get their input, so I compiled everything I had edited, plus a very short and very quickly edited "epilogue" together into a 5-hour final cut.

Yeah, 5-hours! 

I had so much footage, I even made the trailers for the rough cut 7-minutes long.

Trailer 2 for the rough cut

The length of the rough cut was a problem. 

I knew it was too long and that it needed to lose some material, but because I could not longer see it objectively I wasn't able what needed to be cut in order to tell the essential quirky story. 

Showing it to the other participants was the absolute best thing to do, because it became immediately obvious what needed to be cut based on their reactions to the material and the pacing. 

I still didn't have a strong feel for the epilogue, but I wasn't worried because once I had removed all the material that needed to go and I had massively brought the runtime down I had a feeling that the epilogue would present itself. 

Before that, I needed a break from editing it because I was exhausted and a little sick of doing it. I did little bits of trimming when I could but it wasn't until 2 years later that I got back to editing it. I was at university during this time and the only time I could devote to projects outside of my studies were during the summer holidays.

During the summer of 2012, I removed anything that was not needed or had not received a good response. I was absolutely relentless and surprisingly quickly I managed to turn the 5-hour rough cut into a new 2-hour and 25-minute cut. 

Then I focused on editing together the epilogue which I still wasnt entirely happy with, but I did manage to do a better job than the one in the rough cut. 

My biggest issue with the epilogue is that it needed to re-address that we had been kicked off the caravan site at the end of the second film and that we hadn't been kicked off this time. 

One of the reasons we all wanted to do the third one was because it would be like a redemption and the epilogue needed to bring all of that together into a satisfying conclusion. 

There were a few instances where us being kicked off last time had been referenced, so I put those in the epilogue and together with my voiceover narration, I established that we had avoided being kicked off this time and had restored our legend. 

But even so, it still felt very thin and tacked on at the end. 

The solution was to re-establish the threat that we could easily be kicked off as a recurrent spectre within the main bulk of the film. 

I did this by taking the footage from the second film where we discovered the water and electricity were cut off. I split this footage into two segments. I placed one segment in the transition between the end of day one and the beginning of day two and the other segment placed between the end of day two and the beginning of day three. 

Both segments I tinted in grayscale, I set them back into a reduced screen size against a black background and altered the sound to give it a far off echo of the past quality. 

The incident these two segments convey had already been established in the prologue, so now I had a narrative thread that started all the way back in the second film, was picked up in the beginning of this one, carried through via various references and two significant punctuation segments as a background spectre and was all brought together and resolved in the epilogue. 

Now I was very happy with the epilogue and the 2-hour and 32-minute film as a whole.

However, it wasn't actually until 2015 that I finally burned off the final cut for the other participants to see, what with university, graduating and setting myself up after university, the THRE3SOME just fell to the back of the queue.

The trailer for the final cut

I had produced some video clips to act as DVD menus in 2011, but I never got round to producing the DVDs because, well, what with age of online streaming and cloud storage taking off in the second decade of the 21st-century, I didn't need to. 

Aside from fixing an export error in the 2015 version for when I wrote this post in 2020, the only other time I returned to the third film was in 2017. 

I briefly toyed with refining the 2-hour and 30-minute, but ultimately abandoned it. 

Theres a point where you have to move on from these things and just let them be.

The stuff of legend

This blog post has been a long time coming and I am glad to be able to finally include The Not Even Gay Trilogy as a part of my film portfolio.

Making this trilogy of travelogues was a hugely valuable experience for me.

Not only because it allowed me to grow as a filmmaker, but because the trilogy chronicles some of the best times of my life, from long ago, in a caravan far, far away...

We are the stuff of legend.

For more on my early documentary filmmaking and to see the sister project of The Not Even Gay Trilogy and where the "NEXT FRIDAY" joke comes from, check out Down A Word: The Story of NEXT FRIDAY.

Keys / Busybody - An award-winning script I wrote


Keys is a short film screenplay about the dangers of private renting and how our obsession with watching other people can sometimess go a bit too far.

Keys - A Short Film Script ... by Peter O'Brien

The original script was called Busybody.

I wrote Busybody for one of the filmmaking assignments of my BA (Hons) in Creative Writing with Film and Screen Studies, and it was awarded a first. 

The adaptation of that first script won the Critics Choice Award at the end of year showcase.

Busybody went on to be used as the university's go-to practice filmmaking script and it now has something like twenty different adaptations made from it.

However, I was never happy with the intial and rushed Busybody script. 

Eventually I got round to revising it into Keys, the new (and better) script that is featured here. 

The story between the two scripts is exactly the same, the Keys version just presents it in a polished way that I would be very happy to film. 

You can read the original Busybody version here.

The idea for the script was developed from a true story I heard about a landlord in Bristol who had installed secret cameras in his properties. 

It is also written as a partial homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window

In the video below, which I recorded shortly before I jumped back into finishing the Keys script, I talk about how I developed and wrote the Busybody script...

Google stabilization algorithm went a bit haywire on my vid.

To find out more about the development of the Busybody script and the various adaptations that have been produced from it, check out..

Story is everything: developing and writing a script - Busybody

Developing a Script, Part 1: Outline - Idle Time

The First Adaptation: Busybody

Busybody: The other adaptations

Busybody: Martymachlia - The best adaptation yet!

Living With Hammy - A documentary about being homeless


Living With Hammy is an abandoned documentary I filmed in the Summer of 2010 and ultimately never ended up editing together. 

To make my friends laugh, I did edit together a short teaser trailer. 

Living With Hammy told the story of a week I spent living with my friend Nick Hammond, a.k.a. Hammy, during my university summer holidays in 2010. 

I was living with Hammy because, outside of my university housing, and due to the loss of my family home after my stepfather's death, I did not actually have a home to go back to during the holidays. 

Living With Hammy was envisioned as being something of sequel to Down A Word: The Story of NEXT FRIDAY

In the footage I played a very annoying version of myself who was constantly winding Hammy up, so this documentary is slightly edging into being a mockumentary. 

I portrayed myself as being hugely annoying partly because that was just the way I was, but I also did it as revenge for how annoying Hammy had been to me over the years and because I knew it would provoke some amusing responses from him. 

The reason why I had returned home during the summer holidays was, firstly, to see my friends and family and, secondly, to show my friends the rough cut of A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME

I never planned on shooting a documentary. 

The idea only occurred to me when I got to Hammy's house and I started to think that maybe there was something in filming my week living with him.

Plus, I wanted to flex my filmmaking skills a little further. 

Ultimately, I didn't edit the footage together because it got buried under all my other university commitments and, after viewing all the footage, I didn't think what I had filmed was all that interesting. 

If I was to redo it, I would certainly think out my intentions for the end product beforehand. 

Also, to give the overall documentary a more enthralling narrative, I would much more so have focused on the fact that I was homeless and the reasons behind me being homeless.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Breaking Cinema - A podcast about experimental filmmaking and our relationships with multimedia


Breaking Cinema was a documentary storytelling podcast project I started developing in 2014 and abandoned in 2016. 

My vision for Breaking Cinema had been to do something experimental, educational and entertaining that would break new ground.

A considerable amount of work went into developing the format of the podcast. I recorded a great deal of content for it and even had some theme music made before I abandoned the project.  

A rough sketch and colour palette indicator of what I wanted the final logo to look like

The project was heavily influenced by my own creative relationship with film and my experiences as a film studies student. It picked up a few of the loose ends in my BA (Hons) theoretical dissertation, Ways of Being: The Spectator and the Spectacle, and its more broadly media focused successor blog, Ways 2 Interface.

Breaking Cinema mainly developed out of my frustration with the dominant complacent thinking of film theory; as well as my dissatisfaction with the lack of film podcasts that went deep into analysing the workings of cinema and our relationships with multimedia. 

I didn't want to listen to yet another film podcast where a group of people sat around discussing topics and ideas that have been discussed before.

I had listened to a lot of film podcasts that were group discussions, some good, some not so good. The Hollywood Gauntlet is a REALLY good one!

I wanted to get away from simplistic group discussions and, if it was going to be a group discussion I wanted it to be a group discussion that was at the level and quality of podcasts like The Hollywood Gauntlet.

I just wanted to say something new and I wanted to be highly experimental in the way that I did it. 

I didn't know exactly what form it would take when I first hit upon the idea of creating a podcast, but I started recording material to help me focus my thinking and decide upon the style of the project.

I recorded sixteen test epsiodes, varying between 30 minutes all the way up to 90 minutes in length.

Some episodes I did solo and others I recorded with colleagues who I thought would bring insight and differing perspectives to the discussion. 

For the most part, the test episodes started out as a group of people discussing cinema, but my approach was to be increasingly controversial. 

So if we were discussing a film or topic that I felt was just regurgitating film theory or film thinking that had been said before, I would jump in with a curve ball to inspire the discussion to go in a fresh direction.

Sometimes this worked, but quite often I would experience a lot of resistance. 

The most infamous example of my controversial style can be found in the episode about Christopher Nolan's Memento in which I claimed the film was a one hit wonder, much to the annoyance of my co-hosts.

As I have grown older, I have come to learn that human beings are very good at holding onto their deep-seated beliefs... and are very rarely willing to step outside their comfort zones. 

I have also discovered that it is incredibly exhausting trying to get someone to step outside of the comfort zone. 

As I progressed through the test episodes, my thinking for the format of the podcast shifted from moderating fatigue-inducing group discussions to individual interviews that would be interspersed amongst a bigger, constructed audio documentary presentation. 

By this point I had transitioned onto listening to more storytelling podcasts that used dramatic narratives to explore their topics. 

Two of the absolute best film storytelling podcasts I had listened to (and I still think are the best) are The Secret History of Hollywood and You Must Remember This by Karina Longworth. 

I wanted Breaking Cinema to be much more of a storytelling podcast in the vein of The Secret History of Hollywood and You Must Remember This.

But I didn't just want to tell the stories of the people in front of and behind the film camera

I also wanted to tell the stories of the people watching the film content and interfacing on their smartphone.

This is how I came up with the first ten episodes of Breaking Cinema as an experimental documentary storytelling podcast that constructively explores cinema, multimedia and human psychology from a lucid and lateral, but highly entertaining and quirky perspective. 

The first ten episodes were a varied mix of topic focuses and presentation formats...

Ep. 1. My First Education  

A self-reflexive documentary about my relationship with film interspersed with an examination of the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, that was a key milestone in forming my understaning of cinema.


Ep. 2. Triumph of the Willful Blindness and its Great Dictator

A documentary that would have used the rise of Nazi Germany to explore the concept of willful blindness in relation to mass media. 

Being polar opposites portraying the same set of events surrounding the allure of Adolf Hitler, Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will and Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator were the two film texts that would have been analysed in relation to larger mass media, cultural, historical and psychological relevancies and media text references.


Ep. 3. Pride and Prejudice and Smartphone Zombies

A documentary that would have explored the mass communications phenomenon and technological obsession of the smartphone. It wouldhave touched on how the smartphone has become an additional and inseparable limb-interface of the human body and what impact this is having on our ways of being. 

The smartphone revolution would have been explored in relation to the biases around using or not using a smartphone; as well as in relation to the smartphone as a new form of cultural artefact, lifestyle connector and status symbol. 

The episode would primarily have been a central group discussion with cutaways of vox pop material and other relevant media content. 


Ep. 4. In an Auditorium Darkly: The Terror of the Eye-Phone 

An audio drama that would have been made in the style of old time radio dramas with vintage 1950s advertising included.

The plot would have taken place in a cinema 1953 during a screening of The War of the Worlds. Specifically, the plot would have concerned the protagonist being on a date, popping out for a toilet break during the film, wandering off to have a bit of an explore in the dark recesses of the cinema and then finding the terrifying "eye-phone" and its orchestrator therein... 

This would have been the first of a planned five In an Auditorium Darkly episodes that all take place in cinemas at different points throughout the 20th-century. The point of including fictional audio drama episodes was to use the fictional storytelling format to stimulate original thinking and to explore the concept of hypertextuality.


Ep. 5. Gamer Girls Galore

A documentary that would have explored the topic of adult females who play video games, a demographic which now comprises the largest collection of gamers. It would also have explored female objectification in the media and how the empowered female gamer stands in contrast to that objectification. 

The female point-of-view is far too often overlooked in regards to media research and I wanted to open it up and present a thorough exploration.

This episode would have been a combination of my linking narration, contributions from the interviewed guests and excerts from other related media texts. 


Ep. 6. Spectators of the Spectacles

A documentary that would bring film theory into the real world by starting with an analysis of the spectator, not the spectacle. It would have explored the larger psychology of the film experience, as being heavily determined by the psychology and personal history of the individual spectator.

This episode would have been a combination of my linking narration and contributions from a range of interviewed guests who would all have varying interests in film. It probably would also have included clips from other related media texts and some vox pop as well.          


Ep. 7. The Slow Motion Picture Entity

A documentary that would have used a very thorough analysis of the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Often referred to as The Slow Motion Picture, due to it's slow pace, the first Star Trek film would have been used to emphasize the point of slowing down our thinking and expectations when analysing a film text.

Another key point of the episode would have been establishing the difference between a film text, the two-dimensional images on the screen, and the film entity, the larger culturally embellished version of a film text as it exists in the collective consciousness. 

This episode would have been my narration analysing The Motion Picture that would have included clips from the film as well as other related media texts. 


Ep. 8. Microfilm in a Day

A documentary that would have chronicled a group of participants being brought together and set the challenge of going off to make a short film in a single day using nothing but their smartphones.

The point of this episode would have been to explore the idea of using practical filmmaking to better understand film theory and increase the effectives of the education of film. 

The episode would have been a combination of my linking narration and the reflections of the participants of the filmmaking challenge. It probably would have included some vox pop.


Ep. 9. The Media is the Mentality

A documentary that would have been structured somewhat like a news report and would have analysed how mass media and "the news" voices and dictates the status quo and collective consciousness in both a negative and positive sense.

The episode would have been a combination of my linking narration and contribution from a range of interviewed guests; as well as excerpts from other related media texts and probably some vox pop too.


Ep. 10. This is Breaking Cinema

A self-reflective documentary that would have brought together all the threads of the nine previous episodes and, together with an overview of the development of the podcast and its episodes, would have presented my intentions for the Breaking Cinema podcast.   

My intention was to orchestrate the podcast in this particular fashion in order to illustrate and inspire a broader and more flexible approach of thinking about cinema, the media landscape and how human beings play into and grow from these things. 

This episode would also have established anticipation for the next season of Breaking Cinema

It would have been a documentary analysis using a combination of my narration and excerpts and elaborations of the nine previous episodes.

You can read my highly detailed 48-page podcast overview document that includes the outlines for the first ten episodes right here

I also started writing another document, Pulling Teeth & Breaking Blindness: The Detailed Overview & Vision Document for the Breaking Cinema, that focused and presented my thinking for the podcast as a long-term project that would have successive seasons of episodes after the first ten. 

In this overview document, I started to think much more broadly about the potential of the Breaking Cinema brand as being something that could eventually develop into a YouTube channel that would feature experimental filmmaking content and video essays that would expand on the podcast.

I never finished writing the document because I shifted to turning it into a video essay that illustrated my thinking. 

I never finished that video essay either, but you can view what I did make of it...

Ultimately, I abandoned Breaking Cinema because my focus shifted more so towards the mammoth studies of my self-directed Masters of Transdisciplinary Application.

It was just a case of being economical with my time and energy.

The production and postproduction on producing the first ten episodes would have been hugely time-consuming. 

The podcast was not a commission and I would not have generated an income stream that I could have used to me support me through all the time it would have taken me to produce its content. 

It's not that I did not want to produce the podcast, I just didn't have the time, energy or financial resources to prioritise it above everything else I had going on.

Abandoning the project was not an easy decision to make.

I was incredibly passionate about this project and I felt that I had crafted it into something that would have been quite ground-breaking. 

But I had to let it go. 

So here it now rests. 

My thinking for the Breaking Cinema podcast and my ideas about what I term as being "constructive film studies" are explained and summarised in a random 40-minute reflection I made while I was still developing the podcast and was experiencing a bit of the flu...

Friday, 23 October 2020

The Miracle of Crowdfunding & The Miracle Mockumentary - A masters campaign and a film about survival


The Miracle of Crowdfunding is a crowdfunding campaign package I created for covering the tuition fee of a masters degree I never ended up undertaking.

Later, I reformulated it into a feature-length mocukumetnary about someone trying and struggling to crowdfund the tuition fee for their masters degree.

The original campaign was an ambitious package that included...

  • A social media campaign
  • A website called www.miraclemasters.me
  • A campaign pitch film
  • 10 additional campaign videos

The campaign was primarily filmmaking focused, because that is what I knew and had been the dominant focus of my BA (Hons).

I created the campaign content with my colleague George Oram, who I had worked with on a number of projects during my undergraduate studies.

We spent the spring and summer of 2014 filming footage in Bath and Bristol.

I had secured a place on an MSc in Creative Technologies and Enterprise at Bath Spa University and the plan was to secure my £6,250 tuition fee on a now defunct student crowdfunding platform called StudentFunder.

This was before the UK government introduced state-funded postgraduate student loans, so the only option I had was to fund my degree myself.

I was very keen to have a crack at crowdfunding my tuition fee because my prospective masters degree was creative enterprise based and I figured orchestrating an ambitious crowdfunding project would be a brilliant way to kickstart my postgraduate studies.

My vision was to have a very open campaign message that would take you through what crowdfudning was and my creative process of bringing the thing together.

So you wouldn't just see the end product, but you would also see all the hard work I had put into producing it.

This is why the main campaign pitch film had a very meta tone to it that very consciously examined what crowdfunding was and why it is a brilliant way to get passionate and value-creating projects off the ground.

My campaign pitch angle was that if you contributed to my campaign you would be investing in me, not my masters.

The positioning of the marketing of my campaign was all focused on selling me, my prior creative portfolio and the new enterprises I was proposing to ignite with the opportunities my master's degree would open up for me. 

I never got round to editing the campaign film together because we never finished filming all the footage for it.

You can read the script for the campaign film here

Ultimately, I didn't go through with the crowdfunding campaign because, during the course of constructing it, I had been studying a number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and the more of these courses I studied, the more I came to realise that I could just build my own master's degree.

As I had been excited by the prospect of orchestrating my own crowdfudning campaign, suddenly I was even more psyched at the prospect of building my own postgraduate studies.

I had got into the habit of working for myself and I was loving it.

My self-directed Masters of Transdisciplianry Application in Sustainable Globalisation and Creative Enterprise, a.k.a. my MTA Portfolio, was born out of The Miracle of Crowdfunding

Not only has my MTA Portfolio proven to be a vastly more ambitious enterprise than what my crowdfunding campaign was promising to be, but it also covered the curriculum of my original master's degree and has launched more projects than what I would have been able to do with the scope of my original master's degree.

You can find out more about my MTA Portfolio at IBuiltMyOwn.Education

It was great that The Miracle of Crowdfunding enabled me to study my ideal master's degree, but it never sat well with me that all the material that George and myself had spent four months creating for the campaign was now going to be unused. 

We had filmed a lot of really good material and I wanted to use it.

It wasn't until the beginning of 2015, while I was undertaking my 365 FRAMES 2015 experimental filmmaking project, that I started to think much more ambitiously about how we could salvage all the material we had created.

The Miracle Mockumentary was to be a film about me and George playing exagerated and self-mocking versions of ourselves while we went around Bath and Bristol filming material for The Miracle of Crowdfunding campaign. 

However, the real focus of the film would have been the struggles of surviving and thriving as a young person in today's complicated world... based upon the real life financial and personal struggles George and myself had had to overcome while filming the original crowdfunding material in 2014. 

I wanted The Miracle Mockumentary to tell that story, or one very close to it. 

It's the story of how do you stay relevant and follow your dreams in a complex world that demands so much of young people today. 

My incentive for wanting to undertake a masters degree has always been one of relevancy and basic survival.

As I have said with my MTA Portfolio, I built my own postgraduate education because I wanted to future-proof my life. 

You survive and thrive by being a flexble thinker and proactive problem solver who can always create new opportunities out of the personal, professional and planetary challenges we will all face in the fast-evolving 21st-century.

I felt that with the similar but differing perspectives of George and myself - George was setting himself up with a new job, living situation and sorting out his interpersonal relationships whereas I was trying to reach for the sky by asking random people to fund my masters while ignoring my interpersonal relationships - we had a good canvas on which to tell a quirky and relevant story that would resonate with any young individual trying to find their way in the world. 

I pitched the idea to George and he seemed pretty sold on the prospect of doing more filmmaking.

Then I started to outline a rough script that would integrate with what we had already shot, but would leave a lot of room for improvisation. 

The plan was to head out in the spring and summer of 2015 to film the new material.

However, it never came to be.

I never actually finished the new script because the building of my MTA Portfolio kept getting in the way.

Plus, George became uncomfortable with putting himself out there. He didn't want to portray himself on camera, even an exaggerated version of himself. He wanted to keep his personal life private, which is fair enough. 

Ultimately, The Miracle Mockumentary was put on the shelf and now it is completely dead in the water.

However, the material shot for The Miracle of Crowdfunding campaign and the idea of conveying how bloody hard it is to survive and stay relevant in today's world may yet still see the light of day. 

I've been developing another feature length documentary project - Outside the Box Inside the Box - as part of my MTA Portfolio. 

Outside the Box Inside the Box is envisioned to tell the story of my MTA Portfolio and - like how the Miracle Mockumentary was about The Miracle of Crowdfunding, but also not actually about The Miracle of Crowdfunding - Outside the Box Inside the Box is the story of the struggles and breakthroughs I have gone through to future-proof my life while undertaking my MTA Portfolio.

I should stress that while I have a rough and fluid narrative structure plotted out as well as a fair bit of new material already filmed throughout the course of building my MTA Portfolio, Outside the Box Inside the Box may not happen.

It's a potential candidate for either my MTA thesis or another of the portfolio's final projects. I need to finish a few of my MTA Portfolio's other projects before I can even begin to look at maybe bringing Outside the Box Inside the Box to full actualisation.

However, it would be nice to because then it would mean that The Miracle of Crowdfunding footage was finally used for something.

What I love about The Miracle of Crowdfuding is that even though I never finished or went through with using it to crowdfund the tuition fee for my masters degree... it has still empowered me to study my ideal masters degree which is allowing me to future-proof my life. 

Far from being a failed project, The Miracle of Crowdfunding has been a huge success!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Down A Word: The Story of NEXT FRIDAY


Down A Word: The Story of NEXT FRIDAY is a 1-hour accidental documentary I made with a group of friends in 2009 and 2010. 

It chronicles a night when I got drunk - far too drunk, don't ever get this drunk - lost my mind, went on a verbal rampage, proceeded to destroy the porcelain of my friend's toilet and completely blacked out with no memory of what a complete idiot I had made of myself.

Fortunately for the existence of this film, but unfortunately for my conscience, it was all captured on camera. 

Being the creative and self-mocking person that I am, I decided to make a documentary out of it.

In January 2010, I invited my friends over to my house so that I could record some interview footage, which I then cut together with the original incident footage and delivered the film in February 2010. 

The original incident came about during the editing process of A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME, the third film of The Not Even Gay Trilogy

Me and my friends had shot about 36 hours of footage for the third film and editing my way through it was causing me no end of stress. 

Not to mention, I still had two months before I started university and no current job together with no money.

Basically, I just wanted to have a nice relaxing party with my friends, which I suggested and which we did over my friend Matt's house. I assumed we would all get fantastically drunk, maybe play some drinking games and it would be a great night. 

Clearly, I misread the situation because I was the only one who got massively drunk.

I think at one point I dared myself to finish the entirety of my bottle of Jack Daniels and after a certain point, I can't remember anything.

Watching back the footage was absolutely bizarre because, from my point of view, I can only remember about the first ten minutes... and then waking up ther next day.

Just imagine my shock and surprise when I watched the footage me making a complete drunken tit of myself. 

I wasn't annoyed with my friends, because I can see the funny side and I'm pretty hilarious in the footage.

Whenever I would film my friends and they hated it, I would always say that, "It makes great footage!"

So they were just returning the favour this time.

Plus, the footage of this incident allowed me to fill in the massive gap in my memory... even if I would rather have fogotten the fact that I put a massive crack in the porcelain toilet. I never did get round to replacing it, whoopsie-daisy!

Watching the footage, I was mostly just amazed with how utterly insane I became after finishing a whole bottle of Jack Daniels.

As my friend James comments in the film, "I think we've broken Pete."

Seriously, though, don't ever try to drink a whole bottle of Jack, or anything else with a high alcohol percentage, in a single go. It's really not a smart thing do for your dignity or your wellbeing! 

A piece of unused art I generated for the film

The film is called Down A Word because that is something I said while we were in the kitchen playing a drinking game. 

I was completely misunderstanding how to play the game and at one point I suggested that to spice things up we should all, "down a word."

Oh, down a word!

Judging by the response of my friends in the footage, it was definitely one of the highlights of the night and, by far, one of the funniest things I said.

I have never lived it down either.

The film has the subtitle The Story of NEXT FRIDAY because that is all to do with me editing A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME

In the footage and in my heavily drunken state I claimed to be able to get the editing done within two weeks so that film would be ready to view next Friday... "Not this Friday, but next Friday."

Which, of course, was ridiculous considering it actually took me a full year to finish the rough cut of A Not Even Gay THRE3OME.

But in Down A Word, I was adamant that I could have it finished by next Friday, so much so, that I keep saying it, over and over and over again. 

"NEXT FRIDAY," was definitely another highlight of the night and something else I have not been able to live down. 

But even I embraced the joke, I used it in the trailers for A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME. It's why I gave Down A Word the subtitle The Story of NEXT FRIDAY, I wanted to link the two projects together... 

As with the making of the three travelogues that make up The Not Even Gay Trilogy, the spontaneous production of Down A Word was an invaluable exercise in documentary making. 

The film doesn't need to be an hour-long presentation and had it been made for a more general audience, I would have cut it down into a much shorter form. 

However, I promised my friends that they would be able to enjoy the footage again, so, aside from a few eliminations here and there, I presented the majority of the footage. 

I was very keen to film some interview footage with my friends. I wanted to have their points of view to tell the story of the night. 

I typed out the questions I wanted them to answer in relation to the rough structure I had already assembled from the original incident footage. 

The questions were...

  1. Who are you and how do you know Short?
  2. How did this series of events begin?
  3. Why was Short determined to finish a whole bottle of Jack?
  4. Can you fill us in on Short’s relationship and history with Jack Daniels?
  5. Beerfest and Anchorman?
  6. What was so special about next Friday?
  7. Steve Carell sitting in a tree with a banana?
  8. How did the drinking game fiasco begin?
  9. My house has four corners?
  10. Down a word?
  11. In what state would you describe Short’s condition when you were in the kitchen?
  12. What was going through your mind immediately after he smashed the bottle of Jack Daniels?
  13. Why did you stop filming?
  14. Can you describe the sequence of events that then occurred once you stopped filming?
  15. Black Puke?
  16. How did Short manage to break a porcelain toilet?
  17. What was Short’s reaction the next day?
  18. Anything else about that night you would like to point out?
  19. What have you learnt from this experience? 

I let the other guys give it their own spin by filming the interview footage themselves in my living room. 

I think the interview footage of the other guys gels brilliantly with the original incident footage and, a lot of the time, intercutting what happened together with my friends' comments actually makes the original footage even more amusing. 

It is also handy having my friends' testimonies of the night because it enabled me to fill in the gaps when the camera had not been rolling. 

I wasn't interviewed and I didn't want my point of view included with the original incident footage because...

A) How would I even justify how crazy I became that night.

B) I was an unreliable source of information because I couldn't remember what had happened.

That being said, I did include myself at the beginning and at the end of the film. 

The beginning was just a bit of voiceover narration essentially saying how I had a habit of causing ball aches and broken toilets for my friend Matt.

The ending was a short interview with myself in which I admitted I would forever be haunted by that broken porcelin toilet! I also said how I wanted my experience in this film to act as a cautionary tale about what happens when you drink too much.

When in doubt and when getting drunk, always remember the guy who thought he could down a word. 

From my self-interview which acts a conclusion to the film

I would just like to add at this point that I very rarely drink alcohol these days, I've learned my lesson, promise.

My gripes with the film are mostly technical and aesthetic ones. 

After having now used more advanced filmmaking gear and practice, things I don't like stick out like a sore thumb. 

The sound could use a lot of work and the standard definition image with its really bad unbalanced lighting looks horrendous.

In hindsight, I should also have got the other guys to interview me for the conclusion. I feel like it would have been in keeping with the rest of the film and it would have generated some quite funny responses from me. 

However, I am still pretty happy with the 1-hour cut of the film. It's a good representation of where my craft and thinking was as a filmmaker in 2010.

Down A Word was another handy exercise in learning how to edit and construct a documentary narrative.

I still think I could do a bit of work on the opening and ending. I don't actually think they set up or close of the film in the right way. To me, they feel a bit tacked on. 

Maybe at some point I will jump back into the editing suite and do a refined and shorter cut of Down A Word

But for now, here's the full first edit...

For more on my early documentary filmmaking and to see the sister project of Down A Word, check out The Not Even Gay Trilogy.

Friday, 9 October 2020

The Cinema Complex - A documentary about the cinema building and the love of going to the flicks


The Cinema Complex was a feature length documentary I started developing in 2014 and abandoned in 2016. 

The film would have examined a number of cinema theatre buildings - their architecture, their mechanics, their history and their future - to determine what role they play in our love of film and why going to the pictures can be such an enjoyable experience. 

Ultimately, I think the eventual documentary would have featured three cinema theatre buildings...

  • A large format cinema theatre building, such as the BFI IMAX
  • A multiplex cinema theatre building, such as your standard Cineworld or Odeon complex
  • A small scale independent and heritage cinema theatre building, such as The Little Theatre Cinema in Bath or The Everyman in Clifton, Bristol. 
The documentary would have presented each building and explored how each compliments and threatens the existence of the others all while presenting the case for viewing films in the cinema.

The idea for the documentary developed out of my theoretical dissertation, Ways of Being: The Spactator and the Spectacle

Specifically, the idea found its life in Chapter Two - Hypercinema: The Implications of the Spectacle as a Hyper-Immersive Commodity and what was originally Chapter Three, but for various submittable word count reasons, which I won't go into here, ended up being Appendix F - The Multiplex is in Trouble: The Aesthetic Downfalls of Low Standards and LieMAXes. 

Between these two chapters I did a lot of research into the different types of cinema theatre buildings and the different film experiences they can give to the film viewer.

Viewing a mind-blowing experience of being catapulted through a wormhole on a massive IMAX screen, as was the case with Interstellar, is a very different experience to watching Fantastic Mr Fox in a small and intimate and retro setting like The Little Theatre Cinema in Bath. 

Furthermore, I found the writing of these two chapters somewhat frustrating because all the time I was describing these different cinema settings with their different architectural mechanics, I kept thinking to myself, "This would be so much easier to convey if I just went and filmed then and cut together an illustrative video essay."

Plus, I love cinema theatre buildings, I have always been fascinated with all their nooks and crannies. 

So the idea of making a documentary about the cinema building was an obvious filmmaking project for me to pursue.

I developed the documentary alongside The Miracle Mockumentary, my 365 FRAMES 2015 experimental filmmaking project and my Breaking Cinema podcast project (which also developed out of my theoretical dissertation).

As with The Miracle Mockumentary and the Breaking Cinema Podcast, I developed The Cinema Complex with my colleague George Oram, who I had planned to film it with. 

The initial development period was concerned with focusing the original idea into a filmable end product; as well as looking at various different cinema building filming candidates. 

Throughout 2015 I was a member of Cinema Theatre Association which is an organization that draws attention to all cinema and theatre buildings that have ever existed, from the humblest converted hall to the most modern multiplex.  

Membership in the association gives you access to their archive; as well as a number or magazine publications that are delivered to your door and proved invaluable for further immersing me in love and enthusiasm for cinema theatre buildings. 

Ultimately, the project just never came together. 

But it's still a good idea that may yet see the light of a cinema projector!

Friday, 2 October 2020

A Machine to Listen to the Sky... and a videographer to film it all

A Machine to Listen to the Sky an audio-visual installation revealing the unheard sounds of the earth’s ionosphere and beyond through custom built Very Low Frequency (VLF) antennas elevated through the use of a tethered weather balloon. These antennas reveal the electromagnetically produced sounds of lightning, the northern lights, Jovian radio, sun activity and man-made technology.

I was lucky enough to be invited to film this project one day in May 2013.

A Machine To Listen To The Sky from Dan Tapper on Vimeo.

A Machine to Listen to the Sky was orchestrated by my peer Daniel Tapper as his final year project for his BA (Hons) in Creative Music Technology. 

Daniel also served as the sound designer on my EYES web series project and in return for his services I agreed to film his final project event. 

Daniel then took the two hours of footage I had shot and edited the above two and half minute overview video.

Dan and his father setting up the balloon antenna 

I really enjoyed filming Daniel's project! Firstly, because it was a super interesting and super quirky project to film. Secondly, it was an insanely nice day to do some filming. 

Overall, I found it a very relaxing experience where I could just take my time filming the subject and further honing my videography skills.

You can find out more about A Machine to Listen to the Sky on Dan's blog.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Remember This

Remember This is a short film I co-produced during the final year of my BA (Hons).

It was written and directed by my peer Matt Coot for his final year creative enterprise project/practical dissertation.

Remember This was produced in co-operation with my EYES web series project, from October 2012 to May 2013. I served as the co-producer on Remember This, in return for having Matt serve as the co-producer on EYES

Two photo props... in case we lost one

Mykel and Claire who play the main characters in EYES also appear in Remember This. I pinched them for EYES after I saw their rehearsals for Remember This

Mykel, Claire & Sarah

It was also based on his work on Remember This (and a version of Busybody he made) that I decided to recruit George Oram, the cinematographer for my Miracle of Crowdfunding project

George getting the focus right

I was heavily involved with the organising and co-ordination of Remember This during the pre-production phase before Christmas (Oct - Dec 2012). Throughout 2013, I devoted more of my time to my own projects.

My producing role on Remember This was consistently concerned with motivating the members of the project and keeping everything on schedule. 

I also offered additional technical support during the production phase. 

Me, Matt & George

Overall, it was a refreshing and focusing experience wearing (mostly) only having to wear one producing hat in the making of Remember This. With EYES, I was all over the place!