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Hugo Blick on The Honourable Woman

Hugo Blick’s latest thriller, which airs on BBC2 on 3 July, centres on the Arab israeli conflict and the conflict within its main character. Jon Creamer reports 


After The Shadow Line, were you keen to stay within the thriller genre?
I was keen to pursue the thriller genre. I was interested in exploring the psychology of a character propelled into a thriller that only really reflected upon them and who they were, as opposed to the character just being tested by the thriller elements. The woman and who she is is the starting point from where the thriller grows, and it’s because
of who she is that the thriller emerges, not the other way around.


Did The Shadow Line’s success allow you to add scale to this idea?
To a degree I was aware the scale of this piece would need some international partnerships to realise it and because of previous success there were people out there willing to get involved. But you don’t look for scale, you just look to be sure you tell the story that is in your head. There’s one pulse of electricity that pulses through a story and you have to hold on to it wherever it goes. As long as that electricity is honestly constructed and you don’t kid yourself then it will be convincing and will have authority because it demands it. You don’t just get bigger because you can get bigger, you do it because the story needs it.


The series doesn’t offer the audience the plot on a plate. Is there a greater confidence about audiences now?
To be elliptical and play out the cards of your story in a certain way, that requires a certain amount of patience from an audience. That means you have to have a certain amount of strength and confidence that you know you can deliver ultimately on the story you’re intending. In order for me to do that I don’t start writing until I’ve considered the entire story and I know every significant character’s last line. When I know their last line and the construction of where I think that story needs to go in order for them to say it, that’s when I write it. I use the writing process to discover what I’ve already thought through, so there’s a strong structure from the word go and that somehow communicates a confidence to the viewer that you may not understand it all right now, or until the very end, but you will understand it at the end.


Each shot seems very considered for a TV project?

I work really fast, so there isn’t time to. We shoot eight pages a day. As a writer/director/producer you only shoot what you need. In a way that helps orientate everybody, particularly the actors. They don’t feel that they’re giving all sorts of performances that will be constructed in the edit. They know the tone of voice they’re using in this particular scene because we’re not going to cover it exhaustively. It’s considered only to the degree that there’s not that much else to offer. 


So you don’t pre-plan shots too much?
It’s the revelation of psychology that tells me where to put the camera. I don’t pre-set cameras, I don’t do anything like that at all. I try as much as possible to keep it clean until we walk on to the set. In big set pieces there will be pre knowledge of course, but as a rule I keep it as loose as possible.


Was there a particular style you wanted to achieve?

There’s none. The Shadow Line had a strong reference to noir, of course. Here I wanted to move away to a degree and really just look at the evocation of character, particularly Maggie Gyllennhaal’s. Whatever was best to serve that, that was where the camera would be and how it would look. However, I’ve always admired the work of cinematographer
Gordon Willis. He had a clean way of working which has a great drama to it but it doesn’t have fussiness, it has boldness.


Are you very sparing in what you shoot?
I know what I want and what I don’t want. It certainly gives liberation to the actors. I tend to shoot two takes per set up. It’s very spontaneous, very immediate, very real and if you get to a fourth take it starts to lose that. I have to move fast. I’m a single director across the eight hours. So I move with a certain efficiency and speed. I’m a long distance runner so I’m used to that.


Are you very involved with all the other aspects of making the film?
Once I’ve told you what the vision is you have to contribute to making that vision work by doing it for yourself. I don’t dictate anything then because once you’ve got that, your contribution will be yours. You’ll be free to make it as long as you’ve explored what that vision is at the very start. I often turn up and my designer Chris Roope will have built one of the division walls between Israel and Palestine and I won’t have seen it until the day I set up and it’s perfect. I trust him to do it and the endless other things he’s managed to do. I’ve never once been disappointed by him or any of the other crew.                               


The Honourable Woman is a political thriller set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The series centres around Nessa Stein (Gyllenhaal), a woman deeply troubled by her past who tries to promote peace in the region .

Drama Republic and Eight Rooks Productions

Hugo Blick


BBC2 and Sundance Channel


BBC Worldwide

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Andrew Buchan, Lindsay Duncan, Stephen Rea

Abi Bach

Executive producers
Greg Brenman (Drama Republic) and Polly Hill (BBC)

George Steel & Zac Nicholson

Sound recordist
Glen Marullo

Casting director
Doreen Jones

Martin Phipps

Production designer
Christopher Roope

Location manager
Rupert Bray

Costume designer
Edward K. Gibbon

Jason Krasucki


Posted 02 July 2014 by Jon Creamer

The art of the edit

The editors behind Harry Potter, Toy Story 3, All That Jazz, The Trip and Sherlock tell Jon Creamer about their creative approach ahead of this month's Editfest London 

MARK DAY: “You have to forge a relationship with the director very swiftly. You’re going to be working with this person for hours a day for months on end.

When you get the dailies you do your version of the scene. That could be totally wrong, but you have to go with your gut instinct. It’s quite nerve tingling showing your work. Even with [director] David Yates who I’ve worked with for a long time, you’re still nervous you may have misinterpreted what he wanted.

You’ve got to have empathy with the characters you’re editing and with the script. Hopefully you’ll love the script you’re working on.

When a script’s written it’s one thing, when it’s filmed it becomes another and when it gets into the edit it changes again so it evolves over the months you work on it.

Patience is one thing you definitely need as an editor and diplomacy obviously. Sometimes you look at something and you think, ‘That’s not a brilliant scene you’ve directed there,’ but you don’t want to say that to a director especially if you don’t know them very well. It’s amazing what you can do to change a scene by re-editing. It can make a bad scene pretty good and a good scene brilliant. But you’ve got to be diplomatic.

I’m sure some directors are total autocrats and don’t listen to a word you say no matter how much you try to help them. Luckily I haven’t worked with people like that but I know there are people around who are like that.
For the first assembly you want the director to see everything that was shot and the whole script as it was written. That’s when you discuss it closely and scenes start to go.

Over the weeks or months it gets moulded into shape and then you show the producers and they have ideas on it and you cherry pick from those ideas. That’s what’s good and collaborative about filmmaking. Some people think nobody else can have a good idea but show a film to anyone and they’ll have some idea on how to improve it. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees because you’ve seen it so many times.

With vfx heavy films you get pre-vis to use as a guide. Then you pass that back to vfx and gradually over the months it will evolve and the character becomes lifelike. When I first started on Potter it was weird but I’ve done it a few times now so it doesn’t faze me.”

KEN SCHRETZMANN: “On live action they shoot first and you edit later, on animated films you edit first and they shoot later. The films take about four years and the first two are just editing storyboards.

In animation nothing locks down. You have to accept that the cut is in constant flux and not even under your control.

The beauty of working in animation is if I’ve got a two shot but what I really need is a close up I can just make a phone call and they’ll give me a close up. Or I can say this is all great but let’s nudge the camera over. Unlike live action where you’re stuck with what you have I can constantly ask for things that 
I need.

In terms of pacing, when you see multiple characters in the scene all the dialogue has been recorded separately on different days. As the editor, all that pacing is where I’m placing dialogue and deciding where action happens. I’m not relying on the actors’ pacing I’m building that from scratch.

Editing animation is a marathon. You have to approach it differently as an editor. You can’t just be working long hours and burning yourself out.

The most important things are a story sense, getting in synch with the director’s vision and understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with the latest revision of the script. A lot of it isn’t even technical, it’s being sensitive to the dialogue and rhythms of speech.

I come from a live action background and I was used to having discussions with the director alone behind closed doors. At Pixar, you never get alone time with the director. It’s usually you, the director, the story artist, a whole team of people in the back of the room watching you guys. There’s a whole formal review process where you’re showing cuts and discussing it and everything’s in public. Every time a director says something a whole bunch of people are in back taking notes because everything ripples out to other departments.

Sometimes it’s hard to say that the work is mine because so many hands have been on it. I would like to try a small live action film just to have the simplicity of having a choice of five takes and it doesn’t change. You can cut it and it stays there. Also looking at the screen and reacting to actors faces. Leading up to animation I’m cutting things imagining what it’s going to be and waiting for the day of actually seeing that performance.”

ALAN HEIM: “A good editor trusts their initial feelings when he or she first sees the dailies. You must be open to flexibility and be willing to rearrange and change almost anything.

The editor is interposed between what was shot and what the director thinks he shot so a certain level of tact and patience is required.  That doesn’t even include the producer’s input, which can be strange.
Storytelling is the key to editing and I like to tell a story with as little exposition as possible. It confuses the audience.

I usually cut a full-length version while shooting is going on, which includes all scenes, even when I’m sure certain ones will go. Then the director will look at it and consider another occupation, at which time the tact comes in and we settle in to making the movie move.

Editors like to think of the process as the “final rewrite” so it really is a key part of the film where some errors can be covered or removed.

Good editing fits the material.  Film, digital or not, is a plastic medium and it can’t be forced where it doesn’t want to go. The director of Godspell was thinking of hiring a “flashy” commercial editor to do his project.  I said, “give me flashy shots and I’ll give you a flashy film”.  And I did and we were all happy.”

MAGS ARNOLD: “The first-time viewing of the rushes by the editor is critical, because the response you have to those rushes is most likely the response the audience is going to have. You are the first member of the audience.

So, for me, the starting point is watching the material with an open mind, reacting instinctively to the emotional truth on the screen, committing that first feeling to memory and writing it down if that helps because when you watch it again later that first impression has gone. And in the act of manufacturing the cut, technical considerations like lighting, focus and continuity can sometimes supersede that first response.

With film gone, there are no selected/printed takes – everything merits a look. It’s important to watch everything in real time. Some directors shoot cover systematically, for example, a wide, followed by mids, then close ups etc. This makes it easier to remember and locate the bits you liked later on. But others shoot really long takes with the shot changing size throughout. Sometimes the dialogue is improvised and changes occur from one take to the next. This makes it more difficult to recall where the best bits are. If there is a lot of cover, there will be more, harder, choices. Getting to know your material is paramount.

Myself and the director usually try to have a conversation after I have seen the dailies. I find it more useful to watch the rushes cold and as impartially as possible. Talking afterwards is very useful, because I can discover what the director wants, and hopefully, between his vision and my reaction, we are off to a good start with the assembly.

The editor has to tell the director that something might not be working. You are duty bound to let them know as early as possible that you have concerns. This is one of the most perilous parts of the job. It often causes you great stress, particularly when working with a director for the first time.

An editor needs an organised mind, a great memory, good sense of rhythm, resourcefulness intelligence, a sense of humour (especially for comedy), the ability to work with other people without being an asshole, to not be an egoist, to stay calm and see the bigger picture (often literally) and diplomacy.

A good edit is when the emotional as well as technical reasons for an edit coincide. No compromises have been made. It’s deeply satisfying when that happens.”

TIM PORTER: “Some directors like to see assemblies on a Friday, others have no interest in seeing anything until it’s in a complete structure. Everyone’s different. Some directors like to be all over it, others don’t want to see it until it’s in really good shape because it’s too painful to watch with too many lumps and bumps in it.

Usually a director’s got a point of reference for either the whole piece or a particular sequence. People reference a lot, it’s a shorthand.

It’s about using your instincts and trusting that you know what’s good, just don’t doubt yourself. You’ll have 60 times more material than the length of the actual scene. You’ve got a lot of choices to make so you’ve got to use your instincts and commit to your choices. Edits go on for months so you’ve got time to refine. You cut it and cut it again.

It’s important to know when it’s your turn to say your piece. You don’t want to be the loudest voice in the room when you’ve got all those execs in. They haven’t come to listen to you necessarily. You support the director in those situations.

Showing it is nerve wracking. I’m not the director but I’ve still lived with this thing for weeks and months and you’ve still put your hard work and energy and focus into something.”

The editors featured in this article will be speaking at ACE’s EditFest London on June 21, sponsored by Televisual –

Posted 11 June 2014 by Jon Creamer

Interview: Luther creator Neil Cross

Neil cross, the writer of Televisual Bulldog best drama series winner Luther, tells Jon Creamer about working across novels, TV and movies

His third season of the Idris Elba cop show Luther has won best drama series at the Televisual Bulldog Awards; the big budget NBC adventure series Crossbones starring John Malkovich, that he wrote and showran, goes to air this month and along the way he’s written Doctor Who episodes, movies for Guillermo del Toro, a Triffids reboot for Sam Raimi and a feature version of Luther is now in the offing.

But up until a decade ago, British crime novelist Neil Cross hadn’t even considered writing a script.

In fact he describes his entry into screenwriting as a “series of lucky accidents” followed by “recognising that luck, grabbing it and running away with it like the Andrex puppy.”

He’d picked up the ubiquitous Story by screenwriting guru Robert McKee and “I could not make head nor tail of it. And the degree to which I didn’t understand it intrigued me.” He adapted his own novel Always the Sun as a way to learn and “through a series of Carry On or Hammer Horror coincidences, whichever way you look at it” the screenplay wound up in the hands of agent Michael McCoy, leading to a beauty contest around the London production houses where Kudos “took a punt on me” and gave him the chance to write episodes of Spooks. “I didn’t think of it as a career move but in the process of doing it I found out I loved it.”

And, he says, his novels and screenplays began to inform each other. “As a novelist I was still learning my craft – how to strip story down and be as unencumbered as possible. What I learned fed into storytelling on screen. Then what I learned about screenwriting fed into the novels.”

And the gulf between the two forms is not as wide as it used to be, he says. “TV has become, in a sense, a literary form of expression. The Sopranos was year zero in as much as it was approached by its audience in the same way as a Dickens part-work was approached by its audience - a big, long, fat story eaten up in chunks. The Wire clearly exists in cultural space that was, in the Victorian era, inhabited by the novel.”

So if that’s the case, why don’t more novelists cross over? Novelist ego, he says. “When screenplays are at their best the writer is invisible. You’ve got to be content with that. Even if you’re David Simon you’re still overshadowed by Stringer Bell. You’re part of a large corporate effort to make a thing rather than having your name in gold embossed type on the front cover.” And that doesn’t sit too well with most novelists. “They’re too encumbered by this notion that they have something important to say. I’m dancing around the fact that most novelists are scum. If I was stuck in a lift I’d rather be with a bunch of screenwriters than a bunch of novelists. Most novelists are carping, self-obsessed bores. With a bunch of screenwriters it’s like Easy Company in Band of Brothers. You’d just sit in that elevator and swap war stories for hours.”

But while the role of screenwriter may require a lesser ego, the power it affords is growing. His latest series Crossbones, a pirate adventure show for NBC starring John Malkovich, saw Cross take on the very American role of showrunner – and, he says, that was a huge leap for someone who only a few years before led the solitary life of a novelist.

The big budget, five-month shoot ran from a recreated 18th century town built on a disused naval base in Puerto Rico [“I thought the chances of it turning into Apocalypse Now were pretty high.”] and was a baptism by fire. “I took a certain English reticence to my role. I knew I was showrunner but it took a few weeks to realise quite what that means in the States. You’re the person where the buck stops at every level. You’re the boss and that was liberating and terrifying.” And something he coped with by “happily admitting that I was massively unqualified to take those decisions. But that’s how you learn, by consulting with people who know what they’re doing.”

And a development of the showrunner role in British TV drama can’t come soon enough, he reckons. “The position of showrunner is much to the benefit of television” because when “a writer develops a show and it’s filtered through another producer, there’s a pressure for a reversion to the mean. With something truly extraordinary that varies from the norm in any number of ways, there’s going to be a tendency to push it back into what’s more mainstream, more expected.”

Not that control is the be all and end all. He’s also written movies – horror film Mama for Guillermo del Toro and he’s scripting a Triffids remake for Sam Raimi along with his own Luther feature script (of which “there will be news soon”). “In features you have no rights at all but that’s how it should be. It’s a director’s medium. If you accept the necessary condition that a film script is not there as an expression of your vision, it’s just you telling a story as well as you possibly can for the director to interpret according to his or her vision, it becomes weirdly liberating.”

Born in Bristol in 1969. Cross lives in New Zealand with his wife and two sons. His novels include The Calling, Captured, Burial, Natural History, Always the Sun, Holloway Falls and Mr In-Between. On TV he wrote Spooks episodes in series five, six and seven and Doctor Who episodes The Rings of Akhaten and Hide as well as single film Whistle and I’ll Come to You. He created and wrote Luther series one, two and three and his NBC series Crossbones goes to 
air this month. His movie, Mama was released in 2013. 

Posted 04 June 2014 by Jon Creamer

Behind the scenes: From There to Here

Director James Strong tells Jon Creamer about going back to Manchester in the 90s and a pivotal moment in the city’s history

Peter Bowker’s From There To Here spans four tumultuous years that changed Manchester and Britain forever. The drama starts with the IRA Manchester bomb and the Euro 96 tournament and runs through the hope engendered by New Labour’s 1997 landslide election to the hangover of the Millennium celebrations. It focuses on two families from different sides of the tracks who are brought together in the aftermath of the bomb.

Why did you want to direct the show? I was actually in Manchester on the day of the bomb. Back in 96 I was training as a director at Granada. It was a sunny morning and I was walking into town towards the Arndale Centre and almost got blown off my feet. Also I’d wanted to work for Peter for a while as he’s a brilliant writer.

What’s the story about? It’s the story of a family and of the city. In the years we cover, the city went under more change than at any point since the industrial revolution. But it’s also seen through the eyes of a family. We start at the fag end of John Major’s government that gave rise to the excitement surrounding New Labour and then we see how that turns as hopes started to go sour.

Is it harder doing period drama when it’s very recent? It’s hardest on the design team. They don’t get the budget for a Victorian period drama but its period detail is still massive. You’ve got to pay as much attention as if it was set in the 20s or 200 years ago.

What did you have to watch out for? Cars are the main thing. And the Manchester skyline too. A lot of our cgi budget was spent removing buildings. Part of the story is the huge amount of building that went on post millennium with the rebuilding of the Arndale Centre. The majority of that happened after our story.

Was it difficult to shoot the ‘old’ Manchester then? You’ve got to be careful how you frame things. You’ve got to be really selective and do your homework. There are still fantastic bits that haven’t changed in 50 years but you’re removing rather than building. The Northern Quarter is redeveloped now. It’s about finding those back streets and bits that haven’t been redeveloped and just dressing them to take them back. The Boo Club [owned by Steven Mackintosh’s character] is in an old alleyway. That block was about to be redeveloped so we got in there quickly. A lot of the clubs back then were just warehouse spaces the promoters had walked into and stuck a sign on the door so we adopted that model.

Where did you create the main set piece IRA bomb explosion? The main set piece of the explosion and its aftermath was shot in the centre of Manchester. We adapted certain streets to make them similar to the actual place where the bomb went off.

What reference material of the bomb did you use?There is a lot of reference material of Handycam footage that was shot on the day. The police themselves went out with cameras that day to collect evidence so there’s a lot of poor quality but useful reference material from the police archives and there’s news camera footage too. The photos remind you of 9/11 which obviously happened afterwards. It’s that caking of dust when a building implodes which you associate with 9/11 but you look at the Arndale bomb and it’s very similar. There’s lots of paper in the air, twisted metal and plumes of dust in the air.

How did you shoot the actual explosion? Our characters experience it inside a pub. All the explosions we did for real and then we enhanced them with bits of glass and stuff. We wanted to make it as real as possible so we put the actors right in there. They were told it’s safe but because it’s a one shot only thing due to the cost of it, those moments focus the minds. Even though it’s been prepped, the size of the explosion was pretty big so everyone’s concentrating hard. It was a complicated process putting that sequence together. We only had one chance so we had four cameras on it. Then when they’re walking through the aftermath that is a big set and we extended it with cgi to match the angles of where it was in Manchester and its relationship to the Arndale.

How did you want Manchester to look? I lived in Manchester for a couple of years and it rained most of the time but that summer it was hot and summery. Manchester can be portrayed as a bit grim and a bit bleak but it’s full of colour and life and vibrancy so we went for that. It’s a city in the summer and we were being true to those days when everyone was watching Euro 96 in their t-shirts and England shirts. We didn’t want to be too depressing and bleak about it.

Did you try to capture the period in the shooting style? We did that more in the music and the look rather than the camera style, which was fairly classic. We didn’t go too close up, we kept it wide and looser so you can see the landscape and see the people. It’s about a city so you want to see the city. We worked hard to find locations that let the city come through. 

Broadcaster BBC1
Production Kudos
Writer Peter Bowker
Producer Tim Bricknell
Executive producers Derek Wax and Peter Bowker for Kudos. Stephen Wright, head of drama, BBC Northern Ireland.
Director James Strong 
Cast Philip Glenister, Bernard Hill, Steven Mackintosh, Liz White, Saskia Reeves, Daniel Rigby and Morven Christie.
Production designer Catrin Meredydd
DoP Stephan Pehrsson
Editor Mike Jones
Composer I am Kloot
Line producer Sue Dunn
Camera Arri Alexa

Posted 14 May 2014 by Jon Creamer

Storyboard: best of the month in vfx, animation and motion graphics

In this month’s Storyboard, a Renaissance for Huge, Wonky gets writer’s block and Stink heads to a swingers’ pool party

Huge designs
Da Vinci’s Demons titles
These are Huge Design’s titles for the second season of the Starz network’s US show Da Vinci’s Demons, a retelling of the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. The director of the titles was Paul McDonnell with art direction by Hugo Moss and Tamsin McGee. The lead illustrator was Nathan Mckenna and the composer Bear McCreary.

Da Vincis Demons titles season 2 from HUGE on Vimeo.

Titanfall intro movie
Spov mixed archive and cgi for its intro movie for the Xbox One First Person Shooter game, Titanfall
For the intro movie for innovative Xbox One multiplayer game, Titanfall, Spov’s Dan Higgot and Allen Leitch decided against the traditional “performance capture and dire dialogue” route often followed by game intros. Instead, the film is a mix of space-race archive and stunning cg vistas of alien worlds.
 “It was our job to put some meat on the bones of where the action’s happening and the universe it was all happening in,” says Spov founder Allen Leitch. “Respawn [the game’s developer] were adamant that it was a human universe the game was talking place in. It was our world not a parallel dimension. That’s why we kicked of with archive footage of the space race and life on Earth.”
The look and feel they wanted was “much more about describing the beauty of space,” says md Dan Higgot. “We’d actually watched Lawrence of Arabia when preparing the pitch thinking about the beautiful strange places on Earth that we could use to film this plausible alien environment, rather than making it fantastical or Star Trek-y.”
An influence also came from shots taken on Nasa’s Cassini mission to Saturn that had a “really peculiar and particular quality,” says Higgot. They had a “very subdued colour palette and a very clear light. Because it was authentic footage from space we felt that we could use it as part of our aesthetic. We weren’t trying to make science fiction but for it to look, to the best of our knowledge, like space travel would look like.”
The sparse subdued palette also extended to the script, which contains only a tiny amount of dialogue. “You need something enigmatic, not something overly expositional,” says Leitch. “We were pushing for it to be devoid of dialogue, but I can see why it needs to be there.”
“You have to be economical,” agrees Higgot. “You have to tell the right amount to set the scene but not too much. With this movie as with many others we had a back and forth conversation with the client about what should be in the script. There’s a tendency to want everything but if you have too many narrative points to hit it’s just rushed and overwhelming.”
And in the end, the client gave Spov a lot of space. “One of the main points in our brief was ‘don’t fuck it up.’ We’ve been assured that we didn’t,” says Leitch. “They trusted our judgement and vision and processes in terms of how we were going to make it look and what the final result was going to be. They placed a lot of confidence in us.”

Titanfall intro sequence from Spov Design + Moving Image on Vimeo.

Loud Like Love
This is Stink director Saman Kesh's latest video for Placebo for the track Loud Like Love. It's a follow up to last year's Too Many Friends and again features the voice of American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis who reveals another unfortunate sequence of details and events – this time at a 1960s swingers' 
pool party.

Placebo // Loud Like Love (feat. Bret Easton Ellis) from Saman Kesh on Vimeo.

Wonky Films
Writer’s Block
Writers’ Block is a short film written and directed by Tom Gran and Martin Woolley (AKA The Spin Kick Brothers) and produced by Wonky Films with the support of IdeasTap. Set in a prison for criminally poor writers, it follows a gang of cons who get hold of the script to their own lives and attempt to re-write it in order to make their escape.

three mobile
Blinkink’s The Layzell Brothers transformed real telephone conversations into a surreal animated series for Three Mobile through Wieden + Kennedy London. Clips were taken from real customers calling Three Mobile’s free compliment line, the nickname line, the time-wasting line and the lullaby line, and transformed into animated vignettes.

3 Mobile - Nicknaming from Blink on Vimeo.

3 Mobile - Compliment Line from Blink on Vimeo.

3 Mobile - Lullaby Line from Blink on Vimeo.

F1 opener
Intro designed the opener for BBC Sport’s 2014 Formula One coverage. Idris Elba voices the film that introduces the new era of turbo-charged, power-train-driven F1 cars which means F1 must be 'sculpted from scratch' with a new 'Goddess of Speed standing on the start-line ready to blow you away…' It was ordered by BBC Sport's Richard Gort and directed by Julian Gibbs.

F1 Australia Goddess of Speed from Intro on Vimeo.

Tiny Worlds
Tiny Worlds is an in-house project by the Rushes cg team and shows what  happens to the litter on London's streets when we're not looking.

Tiny Worlds // Bulldozer from Rushes on Vimeo.

Tiny Worlds // Submarine from Rushes on Vimeo.

Tiny Worlds // Logging Truck from Rushes on Vimeo.

Royal Observatory
These films, designed and directed by Beakus’ Amaël Isnard were aimed at young kids visiting the Royal Observatory.

How Do We Know How Old The Sun Is? from Beakus on Vimeo.

What's Inside A Black Hole? from Beakus on Vimeo.

How Big Is The Universe? from Beakus on Vimeo.

Jelly London
Hack a Chuck
Jelly London made this stop frame film to kickstart Converse’s dedicated  ‘Chuckhackers’ Google Plus page, dedicated to users’ films.

Converse #ChuckHack from Sam Burton on Vimeo.

Not to scale
T Galleria films
Not To Scale and Big Active’s Mat Maitland collaborated on six films for airport retailer T-Galleria featuring Karen Elson.

T Galleria Boutiques - Mat Maitland from Not To Scale on Vimeo.

T Galleria Boutiques - Hawaii from Not To Scale on Vimeo.

T Galleria Boutiques - Singapore from Not To Scale on Vimeo.

Posted 16 April 2014 by Jon Creamer

Dramatic and in tents

For BBC1’s WW1 drama about a military field hospital, the production team built a frontier town from scratch. Jon creamer reports

Writer and executive producer Sarah Phelps and production designer Cristina Casali explain how they brought a 1915 First World War field hospital to life with contemporaneous photographs, plans and diaries and US drama Deadwood as inspiration

How did you initially think the camp should look?
SP These hospitals grow like mushrooms. They start off in 1914 as a few tents, an operating theatre, a couple of wards and ‘we’ll be home by Christmas having spanked the Hun’s arse and sent him home without his tea.’ But they grow and grow. I looked at maps of hospitals and plans and by the end of 1918 they are like cities. So I thought about it like Deadwood in that every day it changes and grows and builds and gets new little nooks and crannies and dark corners where things happen. It’s such a rich environment. There’s always people coming in, and everyday people are leaving.

What about the detail of the camp?
SP It’s very ‘army’ but at the same time hotch-potch and mend-and-make-do. Everything’s stuck together and comes from other campaigns. They were these formal army spaces but people lived in them and amongst all this army discipline and teetering towers of paperwork there are odd little objet trouvé that people had picked up. Anywhere there’s a war there’s stuff left by the side of the road – pianos, an ornament or bits of china and it drifts its way into this formal military atmosphere of the hospital so it is both utterly army and at the same time messy and chaotic.

How did you find the location?
CC We went for a recce to Le Touquet in northern France. It’s this Victorian rich persons’ playground in the grounds of a beautiful pine forest. The sea and the pine forest were what we were looking for. Then we looked around Bath, Bristol and Wales. We eventually chose Charlton Park in Wiltshire because it has got a big pine forest, mature pines, and it’s quite flat. It worked really well. We did a fair bit of work to it, we put a big road in and then built our camp with its perimeter walls and tents and buildings.

What was the overall feel you wanted to create?
CC The feel I wanted to capture was that it was a frontier town, so everything’s made locally from the same type of wood. The camps had to be extremely organised in their layout and be as efficient as possible in terms of not wasting money so they have a starkness to them. From the photographs in The Imperial War Museum, it’s like watching Deadwood grow. There’s nothing in the distance just lines of tents going up. It’s the frontier and they’re pioneers, they’re making things with their hands out of bare wood. The photos we found in the Imperial War Museum were a constant source of inspiration. We had them all up in the design office and made a bible from them and distributed to them to everybody. I relied on them.

How did you find the medical equipment?
CC For the medical instruments there are people who collect stuff and they are willing to hire it out for close ups. There’s a lot around but there were various things we had to invent. Traction was just in its infancy. That was fun to try to work out. The start of the series is set so early in the war when everything was quite ad hoc. They had people in the UK knitting blankets and gloves and scarves and sending their old blankets and eiderdowns and things. It wasn’t just the bog standard get 500 beds all the same as they didn’t have enough resources to do that. There are plans and handbooks about setting up camps that we found but they are an idealised version of what really happened.

What about the tents and buildings themselves?
CC We were going to be outside in a field all through the summer, autumn and winter so the practicalities of filming had to be looked at. The tents had to be a certain weight as they had to survive us filming in them as well as the winter. They had to be completely watertight which most canvas tents aren’t so we used a new fabric that’s completely waterproof but looks like canvas. It’s made in Denmark and we had it made in various colours and then brought it over to a guy in Bradford who stitched it all together. He had to pattern cut each tent. When they arrived on set they were crisp and lovely so we had to break them down and age them.

The Crimson Field is BBC1’s First World War drama set in a burgeoning field hospital in northern France in the early days of the war.
BBC Drama Production
BBC executive producer
Anne Pivcevic
Writer and executive producer
Sarah Phelps
Commissioned by
BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson and Danny Cohen (when BBC1 controller)
Suranne Jones, Oona Chaplin, Hermione Norris, Kerry Fox
Annie Tricklebank
David Evans, Richard Clark and Thaddeus O’Sullivan
David Head, Peter Oliver, Victoria Boydell
Rob Lane
Vince Narduzzo
Tim Flemning, Matt Gray
Production designer
Cristina Casali
Post production
Outpost Facilities
Arri Alexa

Posted 04 April 2014 by Jon Creamer

Storyboard: best of the month in vfx, animation and motion graphics

In this month’s Storyboard, MPC built this kitty for Three; Art & Graft takes a trip for Virgin and Glassworks keeps it Raw for G star

MPC and Traktor
Animating Bronte

MPC animated the singing kitty for W+K and Traktor’s brilliant new Three Mobile spot. MPC’s vfx team developed and animated a digital double of the real cat, Bronte, complete with skeleton, muscle structure, luxurious fur and singing talent. As the real Bronte has fur with substantial depth, the team looked at other breeds for reference like the hairless Sphynx as their shoulder blades and wrists are easier to study. Bronte was also given a bath so MPC could study him while he was wet to better see his joint movements. MPC used proprietary software tool Furtility to develop Bronte’s fur, and filmed an actor singing the song’s lyrics, along with references of cats yawning and snarling, to capture the mouth movements for Bronte.


Peppermint promo

This is Blinkink director Noah Harris’ “psychedelic and elemental promo” for Julio Bashmore’s track Peppermint. It’s billed as an “extreme descent into a deep, immersive chasm of in-camera graphic design and propulsive stop-frame animation.” The execs were Bart Yates and Nathan James Tettey and the producer was Debbie Crosscup.

Julio Bashmore - Peppermint from noah harris on Vimeo.

G Star RAW film

Glassworks made this film for The New York Fashion Week launch of G Star denim’s ‘RAW for the Oceans’ line – denim made from plastic bottles and junk littering the oceans. The film’s simplistic style was created using traditional hand-drawn, cell animation to bring Otto the Octopus to life. Pharrell Williams provided the music.

Art & Graft
Virgin Atlantic 

Virgin Atlantic’s new inflight safety film Trip, was created by Art & Graft. The film combines an illustrative approach with 3D and 2D techniques. All the character animation was made using traditional frame-by-frame techniques. “Elements were modelled in 3D, allowing us to ’wrap’ our illustrations around them giving the scenes fantastic depth and space,” says Art & Graft.

Trip : The Virgin Atlantic Safety Teaser from Art&Graft on Vimeo.

76 Ltd
Honda spot

76 Ltd director David Mould created this slo-mo spot for Honda through agency Karmarama. Ramon Ricard was the  producer.


Vision Express

Fieldtrip’s 1st Avenue Machine made this ‘journey through the eye’ for Vision Express with a mostly in-camera approach.

1st Avenue Machine | Vision Express 'Baby' from FIELDTRIP on Vimeo.

Quite Frankly
Prime Focus/Omega

Quite Frankly and Prime Focus created this high speed and cg film for Omega to promote its involvement in the Winter Olympics.

Trainor Davies
Macmillan campaign

Inspired Films and Trainor Davies Design completed this paper-based animated campaign for Macmillian cancer charity.

BDA Creative
Fine Living rebrand

BDA Creative has rebranded the full on-screen and off-screen design system for lifestyle channel Fine Living. The idents show various objects from the five Fine Living pillars – home, travel, cuisine, wellbeing and style – floating elegantly through different bespoke environments before coming together to create the master channel logo.

Posted 12 March 2014 by Jon Creamer

Big Picture: Olympian filmmaking

Director Daryl Goodrich and Centre Screen had to sum up what it really takes 
to be an Olympic athlete – in 180º. Jon Creamer reports

Production house Centre Screen won the bid the create the AV content for the newly re-opened Olympics Museum in Lausanne. They brought in Daryl Goodrich, the filmmaker behind the London 2012, 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Qatar World Cup 2022 bid films, to create the centre piece of the museum. Goodrich raided the Olympic film archive, projecting key moments on to various surfaces mixed with new timelapse and high-speed imagery to create a 5K 180º surround-sound film that could sum up an Olympian’s experience.

Goodrich has an enviable track record directing sports films having made the bid films for a run of successful World Cup and Olympics bids including London 2012. For Inside the Race, he had to create a museum-based film that could play on a 180º screen and encapsulate the pain, determination and elation of an athlete performing at the Games.

What was the brief?
The film was to be the main attraction for the newly rebuilt Olympic Museum and had to be about everything the Olympics stands for including the Winter and Summer Games with a balance between men and women, individuals and teams.

What was the idea behind the film?
Within the narrative we focused on five different emotions – focus, concentration, pain, desire and determination – reflecting the stages that an Olympian goes through while taking part in the competition. The film is almost like a three act structure and within those three acts there are the moments that every athlete goes through – preparing themselves psychologically and physically, the barrier that every athlete faces and the difference between crossing it and not crossing it.

What was your starting  point?
Given the budget we couldn’t recreate the Olympics. There was no way we could recreate the 100 metres final and make it look convincing so we knew we were going to be working with archive material. But everyone’s seen a lot of this material before so I was really keen to take ownership of it and make it look original and give it a whole new life.

What archive was available to you?
We had access to the whole back catalogue so there was a lot of material from the Olympic Broadcast Service and the International Olympic Committee. We were quite specific in what we were looking for though – moments that would fit in these chapters we were creating.

What else did you want to do with the archive?
Once we got a core series of clips together we started to do a rough offline to build this narrative structure. But we still needed to be able to create ownership of this footage. That’s when we started to project it against other materials, materials stretching and being torn to represent the sinews of muscles pulled to their max. We set up a whole series of rigs with materials in vices so they were being tightened and stretched. We had tabletops full of pins and projected the archive against them, we had razor blades, paint bubbling under heat. It was like being a student again.

Was projecting the archive a practical consideration too?
Some of it’s in 16mm, some of it’s in 8mm, some of it’s black and white, it’s a whole mixture of things. It was going to look like a mish mash. We projected it and then reshot it in HD as it gave us the ability to be able to blow it up to the size required. This approach meant that it didn’t matter what format the archive footage was in, it would be given a new lease of life and shown in a completely unique light.

What did this 180º format entail?
I’d never worked on this format before. In the exhibition, everything’s being projected from five projectors to make the format. So for the time-lapse stuff on the mountain at Jungfrau and the Rome Olympic stadium we shot on a rig with three HD stills cameras. The archive projections we reshot at 5k but also we created compositions so you’re focusing in and then exploding it out to full frame. Editorially and visually it just adds to the drama and impact of the experience.

Could you use the width of the format much?
Early on in the process I wanted to take the viewer on a journey across the screen but actually that’s almost trying to be too clever. It can be a bit of an overload. The viewer’s focus is on the middle of the screen and everything else becomes a bit peripheral. It’s too distracting and you can lose the focus of the story.

Was it a steep learning curve to make this instead of a standard format film?
Luckily I made sure I had a DoP who’d done a lot of wide format museum films before and the editor was also technically very good, so I just minced around in the middle.

Executive director and producer
Dave Postlethwaite (Centre Screen)
Daryl Goodrich
Jon Pegler (Centre Screen)
Motion graphics
Ben Adam Harris  and Daniel Lusby (Centre Screen)
Paul Trewartha
Sound design
Bent Ear
Exhibition design
Mather & Co
Canon 5D’s (timelapse), Phantom (high speed), Red Epic (filming the projected imagery)

Posted 19 February 2014 by Jon Creamer
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