What a heavy toll cancer has exacted on culture this week, with the death’s of David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Both masters of their art, both 69 and both internationally respected.
Their voices were immediately recognisable. Bowie’s, loaded his music with a sense of untouchable mystique, while Rickman’s gave us exasperated arrogance, whether discussing the wallpaper, or threatening to cut out ones heart with a spoon. Snoovies would like to show our respects for these gifted performers by comparing their last (short) works.
Everyone’s been talking about Bowie’s extraordinary “Blackstar” video. No doubt it will soon be listed as one of the greatest moments on film that no-one understands. While it is an outstanding series of unselfconscious imaginings, I couldn’t really call it a short film. It’s heavy symbolism and lack of linear narrative fix it firmly in the ‘music video’ camp and I’m ready to face the firing squad for saying so. But creatively it’s so exciting we’re going to break our rules (we’re such rebel rebels):
Now, if you feel like it (but no obligation), how about comparing it with Alan’s last short film from 2014. Alan strolls effortlessly through the narrative as a very normal seeming man, following a young girl and her mum home. No attempt to make him worse than he appears. Like many good shorts, there’s a twist (that isn’t predictable… even when you think it is).
These films are both a testament to the fearlessness and honesty of these two great men, sorely missed.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all film makers are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creativity with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty of Expression and the Pursuit of a Reasonable Net Income ; that whenever any Form of Distribution becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute Snoovies, laying its foundation on such principles and organising its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Exposure and Happiness.
It was on the Fourth of July two years ago that the seeds of a new independent entity, called Snoovies, were sown. Lovingly nurtured by creative enthusiasts, those seeds quickly developed shoots, that sprouted and blossomed. What started as a dream of a brighter future; a future in which independent film makers could fund and control their own visions; a future in which people of all creeds, hues and genders could be a part of those visions; has developed into the Snoovies you see today. We still have a long way to go, and that way is strewn with obstacles, but we are strong. We have Right, we have Justice and we have You, The People on our side. We shall prevail. This is our Declaration of Independence.
In a remarkable coincidence July 4th was also when another entity called the United States of America also proclaimed their Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Did you know that at the start of the American revolutionary war most Americans weren’t actually fighting for independence? Loyal to Britain and King George III, all they wanted was to govern themselves locally, rather than be bullied to by an onerous, tax hungry parliament in which they had no representative. Thomas Jefferson himself wrote in 1775:
“Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.”
As a tribute to the free thinking Americans of yore, and in the spirit of continuing trans-atlantic friendship, we’d would like to honour the Snoovies made by our Independent American brethren.
Stefano Formaggio – our latest film, and again with top production values – the director and writer, Darren Darnborough, is actually a British immigrant but, despite the accent, he is Hollywood through and through. Aside from film making he also is an entrepreneur and works closely with Richard Branson on Rock the Kasbah – “one of the best parties I’ve ever been to” and is currently developing WeRehearse.com which helps actors find rehearsal partners to work with online.
The Candidate – our first American Snoovie and a film of such extraordinary quality that it propelled its director, @DavidKarlak, into the sphere of Fox and Warner. David has completed his crowdfunding for his pilot, Rise, which is now in development at Warner Brothers. And it is going to be HUGE!
You There – Quirky and brilliantly formatted film about online dating. We just loved this from the opening shot. Stanley Brode is New York based and multi-talented but is focusing on his first feature Maggie Black which is in post-production.
Blessing in Disguise – this one has a very defined indie feel with some lovely performances all round. The director, Eric Kissack, is already well known in Hollywood having edited Brüno, The Dictator and Horrible Bosses II. Currently he’s the editor for Daddy’s Home which is filming with Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and Linda Cardellini. He’s also very funny.
Mentiroso – this is a sumptuous Snoovie, filmed in Texas with a gentle narrative style. Will Shipley is in pre-production on his first feature and is also building his portfolio as a Multimedia Professional.
In the great tradition of Epic TV serials – To Be Continued …
But in the meantime if you want to watch these films and read about their productions then you can download Snoovies on
There is nothing quite so satisfying as having your belief in the ability, and talent of someone you’ve extolled, vindicated. Not even a cream tea. So imagine our delight when Anthony Scott Burns, whose film Manifold we had already discovered for Snoovies, sent us an email, via the writhing guts of the world wide web, to let us know that his pitch to Plan B had been successful. He was soon going to be directing his first feature, Alpha – a Sci-Fi project written by Daniel H. Wilson. In case you have no idea why that’s exciting, Plan B is the production company owned by Brad Pitt, and the source of a ridiculous number of successful films including Kick-Ass, 12 Years a Slave, The Departed, World War Z and Kick-Ass 2 (cue sudden sound of record scratching) … well, we all make mistakes.
Anthony is originally from Vancouver and, in an incredible coincidence, we have another film maker from a different city altogether, which is (…you’ll never guess…) also in Canada! But that’s not the end of the matter. We have just interviewed yet another filmmaker from a completely different city that is (yes, you’ve got it) in Canada. What are the odds? It felt like we were being given a sign. Someone (or something) was trying to tell us something. Then we realised. Of course! We should write a blog about film-makers who live in cities. Eventually we realised that nearly all our film makers live in cities so we adopted contingency Plan B (see what I did there?) and decided to feature film makers from Canada.
Here we offer three that we think give an idea of the range available, but Canada is actually flooded with quality talent. It was only recently, in our global search for short films, that we came across a company called Bravo… and verily didst our eyes shoot forth from our sockets, and our tongues did unravel unto the ground. For it was good. Since 1995 Bravo has helped 1500 short film makers based in Canada. They are responsible for a huge amount of output every month and, although they have a team who vet pitches from potential producers, the range and styles are impressive. From experimental, through to music videos, comedy and drama, the shorts are usually well filmed and very slick. Anthony Scott Burns is one of their beneficiaries as is Simonee Chichester, who shot Captivus. Simonee is releasing Along for the Ride this year, which was shot in Brazil with Arts Council Funding (I think I want to move to Canada), and it’s a follow up to her very successful first feature, Chichester’s Choice, about re-connecting with her drifter father. She is also working on her original screenplay MERV, which won the 2012 Women in Film and Television Kodak New Vision Mentorship Award – now that’s what I call a title. As it happens our next big campaign is ‘Women in Film’, and BravoFact is also commissioning a special season of shorts by female directors.
Meanwhile, across town, our other Canadian producer, Gregory Gan (Ghost in the Machine) comes from a thoroughly academic background, and his films tend to be ethnographic projects related to his PhD, so he doesn’t qualify for Bravo funding. Gregory, however, is our most recent addition to the Snoovies family, and produces very thought provoking and beautifully shot films. Gregory has completed his post-production on The Theory of Happiness and, according to his website, will have some exciting news in the next few weeks. This film is a kind of companion piece to his earlier Turning Back The Waves, in that it was made as a result of his time spent in Russia. At the moment neither of these films are available on-line but we’ll keep an eye out for them.
I tell ya – it’s all happening here at Snoovies – the happy, happening happ… hap … app (sigh).
Anyway, don’t be surprised if, over the coming months, we shall be featuring quite a few Canadian shorts. You’ll be able to see them and all the shorts mentioned above on Snoovies app – available to download here.
Last night Channel 4 showed a creepy drama, simply called Cyberbully. The whole film took place in one room and, apart from the beginning, only one character, Casey, was ever on camera. Maisie Williams (who you will recognise from Games of Thrones) gave a sterling performance, especially when you consider that her acting partner was a disembodied computer voice. Although very much set in the modern age, Cyberbully reminded me of the Play for Today dramas that used to be shown on the BBC (by the way, they were usually brilliant and ran for fourteen years – surely there’s enough material out there for another series?).
Maisie was an inspired choice, having herself been the victim of teenage cyber bullying in school after being cast in Games of Thrones – honestly, bloody kids. You can read Maisie’s bullying article in The Telegraph here.
It’s not just a teenage problem
Of course, the focus of media reports about these kinds of abuse has been on teenagers. Teenagers are the easiest to target, due to their voracious appetites for all new things social media. They are also an easy target for vilification when they are the perpetrators. However, the line between victim and perpetrator isn’t as clear cut as all that. It is also a growing phenomenon amongst adults – perhaps it’s just a behaviour you don’t grow out of. We put out a call on Facebook and Twitter for anyone who wanted to share their experience of cyber bullying, and of all our respondents, not one was a teenager. Fame certainly doesn’t help. As soon as your image is broadcast it seems that some people out there have a need to target you. Dare I say that the source of this behaviour is understandable. Don’t we all have a nasty little monster inside of us who doesn’t find it hilarious to disparage a performer for their looks, voice or wooden acting. Even Maisie admits that her response to being attacked online was to give as good as she got. She was only thirteen, though. Campaigns like the NSPCC ShareAware are there to help parents better understand the problem and how to help their children.
One of the people who contacted us was Helen Raw. Helen is an actress, singer and producer with ten films in post-production, and one about to run the festival gauntlet. She has two projects in pre-production, and is also studying forensic psychobiology. Phew! She is also a voluntary secretary to one of Equity’s Scottish branches and campaigns for fair pay, and blocking dodgy agencies charging upfront fees. It was particularly this latter issue that drew ire from the web. After an article in The Stage, a bizarre series of comments started flowing and quickly became personal attacks. Most of the worst have been removed now, but we’ve included the link to show how a mild initial comment can escalate to trolling. Although she found the experience upsetting at the time, she feels that just ignoring trolls is probably the best solution. If you don’t nibble they can’t reel you in. Another comment came from actress and author Tracy Whitwell, known for her roles on tv and her novels. Tracy swiftly dealt with trolls in a similar way. As she says: “I have been told that I behave like a drunken harlot on Twitter by an uptight loony woman. I blocked her and that was it.” However, both of these women have been in the industry for a while and it is a tough place to be even at the best of times, having to constantly deal with negative criticism of your work. Doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt though.
Teenagers are a different matter. Bullying at school has always been an aspect of childhood, but in the past the unfortunate victim could at least return home, and feel safe in the company of parents. That’s no longer the case, as the bully can follow them into their own bedrooms, pursuing them relentlessly via online chat forums and social sites such as Ask.fm and Formspring.me (now changed to Spring.me), which both allow anonymity. The cyber bully attacking Maisie showed the kind of hacking skills that would make an entire department of MI6 proud, but the fact remains that victims, so desperate to fit in, make those kinds of skills irrelevant. In trying to defend themselves they merely encourage the offender.
How to defeat the cyber bullies
So, as promised, here are our 10 suggestions to help combat The Cyber Troll.
1. Think about what you post – Do you want the whole world to see it. Every one person you tell a secret to increases the risk of being passed exponentially.
2. Check your settings – use privacy and security settings so that only friends and family can see it.
3. Don’t use mother’s maiden name as a password – use a random generator and memorise it or write it down and keep it where no-one even your BFF or Dog knows about it.
4. Don’t post or register any personal information – age, birthday, address, phone numbers or emails. Your real friends already know them.
5. Delete old accounts
6. Direct message when having a private conversation
7. Get a good anti-virus software
8. Be careful what apps and programs you download – check reviews with a cynical eye when downloading from file sharing sites.
9. If you think you might be a victim of cyber bullying, tell someone you trust – and get practical help or:
Snoovies has a short film by Nathan Byron and Theresa Varga, featuring the brilliant actor Isaac Ssebandeke, called YouTroll. It takes an alternative view of this grim issue by showing us (not sympathising, I hasten to add) the thoughts of the troll. It’s a perfect example of how a short film can say so much. It doesn’t allow you the option of simply lumping trolls as evil entities that must be destroyed. It’s cleverly written, well acted and wonderfully directed. Initially this was going to be an in house experiment in technique, but has been so popular that it has only just finished the festival circuit, and has put the producers well and truly on the cinematic map. Don’t have the app? Then click one of the icons below.
The last week has seen us preparing for our new, improved (surely that’s not possible) and accessible Snoovies. Exercise and diet regimens have been put on hold as we sit in front of computer and tablets and stuff our faces with pizza, smoothies and venerable fermentations. Roger has been in New York preparing for our expansion into the Wild West, Viana has been slogging away on improving her skills on digital marketing and I (for that is my name) burrowed into a dark and swamp like area, officially called the Editing Suite.
And verily it was here that I constructed ….
THE VERY OFFICIAL 2015 SNOOVIES TRAILER!
This has been an epic process in itself and deserves its very own The Making of Snoovies 2015.
For it must be said that this has also been a frustrating process in which I learnt to be a better editor but where I became so involved in the minutiae of the work that I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
Five Points that Helped Me
Roger thought that what was needed was something bold and brash. A blockbuster epic with a power voiceover that would inevitably lead to people checking out our app or face certain death. Roger suggested checking out the trailer for Exodus (hmmmn – ’nuff said). So I decided that the starting point should be the music. It needed to be powerful and driving and I spent one day just trying to find something that had a free license. Those last two words are the tricky part and if you’re new to this you might want to pay attention here. Luckily, in the course of her researches, Viana discovered this very useful sight for info regarding royalty free music. One of the important points is that for most video work that isn’t commercial or money making, the music on these sites can be used for free and doesn’t even always need to be credited (though I think it’s just nice to support these guys). I spent ages trying to find something contemporary but I already had an idea that I wanted the tempo to increase throughout the piece. While I discovered some great artists out there, such as Gramatik, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Until, that is, Edvard Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King. It’s ridiculously over the top and perfect. I found it on Kevin MacLeod’s site which is a pretty awesome place for royalty free music. He just has a great attitude. It’s great for accompanying music but you might want something more authentic for a title sequence.
It turned out that choosing the music was the easy part.
2. Editing software
The next three days I spent trying to get the video clips from our short films to flow with the music. Luckily there is a natural, completely mad, almost chaotic climax at the end which naturally called for ever shorter cuts (about a half second). I have to say that FCP 10.1 is a pretty awesome piece of kit and anyone who wants to do anything with video other than splice together a holiday montage really needs to invest in FCP (£230) or maybe Adobe’s Premiere Pro (which you rent by the month). You might think professional software is more complicated to use but I actually find it easier to achieve what I want than by using iMovie or the free software that I’ve tried. If you’re not sure what a button does, FCP will explain its function when you hover over it. Do you want a title from the database but the dynamics or colour are a bit off? You can simply adjust them as you would a clip either globally or with keyframes. By the way, everything I’ve learnt has been by trial and error so some of my terminology may be off. Also, FCP is very good at offering different approaches to the same task so I’m sure that some of you will have more efficient techniques.
You know, I’ve worked on a couple of films that were well directed, well filmed and well edited. But the sound was crap. And you know what? That immediately made all that effort look amateur. In general, I would say you don’t have to have the most amazing microphones in the world but you do need the best you can manage and, more importantly, you need to constantly be aware of sound while shooting your film. Does the sound match throughout the scene? Are the levels correct? Is the microphone too far away and the sound tinny? What about background sound? That said, great recording isn’t the end of the problem. One of my early painful lessons was that FCP doesn’t always work well with all sound files (even if recorded on the iPhone!) and that you only discover this after you have completed a project and exported it to discover clicks at every sound peak. I’m not sure if this is still the case with the newer version but I ain’t takin’ any chances. Before anything else I import the sound from all clips that I’m going to use into Audacity (see free resources below), then I export them as AIFF files with 48kHz. I then match the clips and .aiff sound in the timeline, detach the original sound from the clip and erase it and finally make a new compound clip with the .aiff sound. Obviously for precision I have the sound waves to help me.
Actually this is something I still haven’t learnt properly but it’s so important it should actually go first but hey, I wanted to keep the best ’til last. This is the real key to editing. I use a bottom of the range iMac which is a thing of beauty but it only has 500Gb of disc space. As time has progressed I have learnt to use less space each time I edit and I will continue to do so but for now a couple of useful tips.
If I need to use a lot of original source clips I would import them into my FCP Event , bring them one by one onto the timeline, replace the sound with .aiff sound, chop out what I need and, if I have enough memory, repeat along the timeline. Once I have a time line with all the clips that I’m probably going to use, I might place blank spaces between them, so they’re easier to find, and create one great big new compound clip or leave the spaces out and make individual compound clips. Either way FCP has just created optimised media in the library from scratch (so no referencing to the original media) which means you can bin all the originals. Empty the bin and suddenly you’re only using 10Gb instead of 100 and your computer works properly. Sometimes life is just too good.
Every now and again I would backup your whole library on to a DVD and date it so that if there were any disasters (hard drives do just fall off the bearings sometimes – I managed to knock the computer over this week) your whole existence hasn’t been for nothing.
5. Getting a second opinion
Well, finding music was tough. Editing the clips was intricate. Finalising the sound was a pain and organising everything was a flaming’ nightmare. But the toughest part is when you’ve finished your film and are ever so pleased with all that fancy stuff you’ve been working on, those days coming up with voiceovers, the intricate matching of sound and video and then you show it to THE BOSS.
And he doesn’t like that bit or this thing.
So, be warned. When you think you’re done, you probably aren’t and you need to tear it up and redo it. Not all of it. But it will feel like it. The irritating thing is the people seeing it with fresh eyes are usually right.
Handbrake for Mac – Once you’ve exported your .mov videos you’re probably going to need to compress them. Handbrake is brilliant and offers lots of tweeking so quality can be maximised as much as possible.
Burn for Mac – I prefer this simple utility for burning files onto DVD’s.
And, of course, Snoovies – free to download and watch straight away!
Many of you will have heard of Jimmy Akinbola thanks to his appearances in Rev and Holby City on UK television. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so here he is looking dapper.
Some of the fortunate few will have seen award winning Fraser Ayres perform his Edinburgh Fringe show Stuart: A Life Backwards last year for which The Guardian named him one of the best theatre actors of 2013. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for him, he was away filming during the TFSFF2014. Here is a video of Fraser in action.
There probably aren’t that many of you (actors excepted), who have heard of TriForce Promotions – yet. This is the company that Fraser and Jimmy founded 8 years ago with the aim of helping actors and creatives network and make new things happen. TriForce promotions started out from humble beginnings with events in dark and dusty pub back rooms but it has steadily grown thanks to the dogged energy of the founders, the support of friends, family and of course the formidable Creative Director Minnie Crowe who makes things happen. This year they also had the help of Festival Director,Morgan Tovey-Frost.
They now have over 12,000 members and hold events all over the UK and will soon be branching out into LA – that’s Los Angeles not Luton Airport.
TriForce really blossomed after they bought Monologue Slam UK four years ago. The concept for the slam is simple: give twenty actors the chance to perform a monologue in front of an incredibly lively and supportive audience, top casting directors and industry notables. With Jimmy acting as compère the events are big, brash and unlike anything we have seen in the UK – it’s like X-Factor but with kind people. As Monologue Slam grew they started to ping on the event radar of cities outside London and decided to take Monologue Slam UK out to Birmingham and Manchester.
With this success and with a full time team now running the events, TriForce decided in 2012 to run the first TriForce Short Film Festive (TFSFF). Initially at the Mayfair Hotel in London, it re-located to BAFTA at Piccadilly in 2013 and in 2014 they had over 800 submissions. With a keen eye on diversity, film-makers who submit to TriForce can come from more varied and under-represented backgrounds than the usual festival circuit. The atmosphere is still that combination of fun, oomph and support for which TriForce are now well known.
Snoovies has been all about helping grass roots film-makers emerge into the industry and so it seemed a perfect opportunity when we were asked to attend the event after being a sponsor last year. So we packed our kit and headed over for a day of networking, promotion and discovery. One of our discoveries was that our table was right next to the giant BAFTA face and it felt as if God her/him/itself was watching over us as we interviewed and chatted with the mostly young crowd who were attending the pre-gala seminars.
Almost all of them were directors, actors or producers and were there to find potential contacts or learn something at one of the meetings. Many were friends of Jimmy (aka Mr Nice) there to show support and discover new talent. Everyone we spoke to had something to say about short films.
“You can get away with a lot more, stylistically and artistically, with a short”
We also managed to interview a couple of the festival contenders – Chris Chung and Connor McKenzy who had entered their mini character piece called Lux. I’m not giving too much away to say that it has something to do with starlight and is a visually very beautiful film with a simple story arc and nice understated acting. Because it’s on the festival circuit we won’t be able to have it on Snoovies for a few months yet but we have interviewed Chris about his other Virgin Media Shorts shortlisted submission (Handuken. We also met producer Laura Manners and director Dean Otusanya Wood who hadn’t entered the festival but were about to launch their project with Sony and Slenky. Who are Slenky? It turns out they are an organization that link young people to their ‘shots’ or opportunities. Similar to Talenthouse it’s a way for big brands to connect with the next, media savvy generation of creative’s. The film is called Outsiders and will be premiered online in the new year.
“It’s a combination of arthouse and scifi.”
You know, writing about all this glitz, glamour and Harold Robins style rags to riches fables, it’s easy to forget that TriForce is also about promoting diversity. This year they won £250,000 from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund which was set up to respond to the drive, talent, vision and determination of exceptional individuals in the role of cultural entrepreneur. Diversity is a word that is being thrown around the theatre and television circuit at the moment – as it is about once every decade. One of the ways to deal with the obvious lack of an accurate portrayal of modern society is to stop talking about how rubbish we all are and to just get on with practically challenging the entrenched system. Check what Jimmy had to say about how Triforce is tackling this issue.
TriForce’s Fraser Ayres was recently nominated for the Unsung Diversity Champion Award at The Excellence in Diversity Awards 2015. He’s achieved this for his efforts with TriForce to help promote the work of ALL actors and other creatives.
Here’s what some of the visitors to TFSFF had to say about diversity and the challenges they face.
“To… have people that are there already trying to fight our corner for us… is a great feeling.”
“There is a big difference between me leaving [drama school] as a black actress and my colleague leaving as just an actress.”
This year the TFSFF lasted the whole day with Seminars on Diversity in the Film Industry, Career Development and Film Production from Scribble to Screen. Then the Gala event in the evening with drinks, interviews and a screening of the finalists films.
The main room was full of seminar and expo supporters including Channel 4, The BFI and the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. We were particularly interested in speaking to Breakin’ Convention, The Mama Youth Project and a lovely, dedicated devotee of the media world who shall introduce herself.
“If you get lucky you can hop on one of them and start your career. ”
If you’d like to find out more then go to www.triforcepromotions.co.uk where you can learn more about Monologue Slam, TFSFF or indeed one of their fabulous Welcome parties. TriForce has had a long journey to reach this stage and it is now marking its territory in the media world. With the Hollywood style boom of the big screen visuals and the supportive humour of Jimmy Akinbola or Chizzy Akudolu they are not likely to have any competition for a long time yet.