How I Made my Debut Short Film ‘Black Fish’ for the BBC – by Simi Abe

A still from Black Fish, written and directed by Brunel Creative Writing graduate, Simi Abe.

On September 16th 2019, I was fortunate enough to have my short film ‘Black Fish’ added to BBC iPlayer and shared across the BBC Arts social media pages. It all came about because I applied to the BBC New Creatives development scheme. And I only came across the scheme by chance while scrolling through Facebook. 

The Application 

When I saw the post on Facebook about BBC New Creatives, I was most interested in the fact it was open to both emerging filmmakers and those without prior experience.  I fell into the latter category; I’d only decided I wanted to direct films the year before, just after completing a degree in Creative Writing. So coming across this opportunity to have a short film funded by the BBC and Arts Council England, that could be shared on one of the BBC platforms, seemed like a great learning experience. And fortunately, I had a script for a short film that fit the brief: under 5 minutes. 

Although it looked like the perfect opportunity for me at the time, I almost didn’t apply. I was worried that my script was too ambitious (it was) and that I wasn’t up for the task of directing it. Thankfully, I went out on a limb and sent in my application. 

To apply, I had to send my application to one of the five media organisations assigned to different parts of the country. They functioned as support to the New Creatives, our production partners and they bridged the gap between us and the BBC. These media organisations cover: London, South East, South West, Midlands and the North. Living in the East, I sent my application to Screen South.

The Interview 

I knew the process of making the film would have to be completed within three months, yet I was still surprised to get a response to my application so quickly and was asked to come in for an interview in five days. Naturally, I was nervous; I had little interview experience and this one was conducted by three people. Fortunately, it went well and three days later I heard that I had been a successful applicant. 

The Training 

Three training days were held over two consecutive weekends led by the team from Screen South. The training was held in London and we had talks and exercises about the script: how to approach the story, how to edit it, storyboarding, distribution, working with a crew and the logistics of the scheme. It was a useful three days in which I also got to meet the other New Creatives and heard them talk about the stories they were hoping to tell. We all had varying backgrounds and levels of experience and although I was one of two people that had never made a film, most of us hadn’t been a part of a development scheme. Knowing I wasn’t alone in that sense was encouraging.

Pre-Production to Post

I applied for the scheme in March, the training days took place in April and the films needed to be completed by June. It was a tight deadline and quick turnover but it was necessary to keep momentum. So the Monday after the last training day, I shouldn’t have been surprised (and yet I was) that work would begin at full steam. 

Screen South had set me up with two producers and they had planned for a two-week pre-production period and the filming would be done in one day. Naturally, there was a lot to work out in such a short space of time – the script had to be edited to accommodate the budget and time we had (edited six times, to be exact), the storyboard, the shot list, wardrobe, actors, props, location, etc… all had to be sorted and signed off by Screen South in time for the shoot. 

Filming was a little hectic because we had a number of tight deadlines and time restrictions. The script, although short, had a fair amount of action and would have been more conveniently shot across two days. Yes, it was a stressful day and I went into it a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I was on my feet all day except for the brief minutes I spent having lunch, but in spite of this, I enjoyed the experience of being on location and seeing something I had written slowly come together. It was a long but valuable day for my development as a filmmaker. I learnt a lot from my shortcomings and mistakes, all of which will be informative going forward. Not only that, but it also served as a lesson in trusting my ideas and being sure about how to communicate them.

Post-production began at the start of May and ended at the end of June. It was surprisingly the longest part of the process. It took twelve versions of the edit and many revisions of the score. It was enjoyable working with the editor and composer to rework the film and share ideas. I felt confident in my choices even when they had to be revised after receiving notes from the executive producers at Screen South. It took a lot of back and forth to get the film ready for the colour grade and sound mix at the Post House. At times it didn’t seem like it would come together but eventually, it did and it was a huge relief seeing the film completed.

Post Post-Production

When the film was sent to the BBC at the end of June, I didn’t anticipate that I’d hear from Screen South in September congratulating me that my film had been selected as one of the first to be on BBC iPlayer. And better than that, it was the first to be shared on social media. It has had 46,000 views across Facebook and Twitter to date, which I didn’t anticipate. It’s been humbling and encouraging having seen the response of friends, family and strangers online. It’s motivated me to keep pushing towards my goal of being a filmmaker which feels all the more possible now.

My short film, Black Fish is available to watch online now and you can find out more about the BBC New Creatives here.

Simi Abe

Alternative Comedy Now Conference

AlternativeNowConference

2nd-3rd May 2019, University of Kent, UK

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR)

On 19 May 1979, the Comedy Store opened in Soho, London and precipitated the alternative comedy movement, which would revolutionise the style, subject matter and politics of British stand-up. The current UK comedy industry, from the smallest DIY comedy club to the arena tour, can arguably trace its origins back to the alternative comedy movement of the 1980s.

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) at the University of Kent and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) at Brunel University London, Alternative Comedy Now will be an international interdisciplinary conference taking stock of this crucial cultural movement, forty years on from its inception. In addition to academic papers, the conference will feature involvement from some of the key figures in alternative comedy, a festival of alternative comedy performance, and an exhibition of early alternative comedy material from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

We invite proposals for papers exploring such issues as: precursors and influences; the Comedy Store; the Comic Strip; Alternative Cabaret; the effects of alternative comedy on material and/or performance style; the politics of alternative comedy; the comedy club; individual alternative comedians; the cabaret elements e.g. ranting/dub poets, street performers, etc.; the American alternative comedy scene e.g. UnCabaret, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, etc.; alternative comedy in the provinces; alternative comedy on TV; the legacy of alternative comedy; etc.

We would also welcome non-standard presentations (e.g. performance papers, workshops, etc.).

Please send a 300-word proposal and a short 100-word bionote to Oliver Double (o.j.double@kent.ac.uk) and Sharon Lockyer (Sharon.Lockyer@brunel.ac.uk) by 28th September 2018.

Screening: Xiaolu Guo’s UFO IN HER EYES

What: Screening and Q&A

When: Tuesday 24th May at 5-8pm

Where: Antonin Artaud 003

As part of next week’s Brunel Festival (http://www.brunelfestival.co.uk) there will be a free screening of  Xialou Guo’s ‘UFO in Her Eyes’, a feature film about a peasant woman in a Chinese village who claims that she has seen a UFO. As a result everything in her life and that of her community undergoes a tremendous transformation. The film explores identity, feminism and globalisation.

Xiaolu Guo has created a vocabulary of her own, both visual and linguistic, that reflects her sense of bXiaolu Guoeing caught between Chinese and English, and her experience growing up during her home country’s wild transition from totalitarian enclave to the new shrine of global capitalism. An “alien” at home and in the global intellectual elite, Guo is an ideal interpreter of the sense of alienation generated by social upheaval and globalization“- Toronto Film Festival, 2011

Xiaolu Guo wrote the novel, script and directed the film and will available for a Q & A session after the screening; a great opportunity to pick an acclaimed novelist and scriptwriter’s brains, as well as see an award winning film. Don’t miss it!

“UFO in her Eyes is surrealist and ironic, but also pierced with melancholy and beau­tiful photography. With startling detail, Guo reshapes reality into a hyper-vivid portrait of chaotic contemporary Chinese society.” – Toronto Film Festival

 To learn more about the author: http://www.guoxiaolu.com/index.htm.

 

 

Book Adaptations- Is TV The Future?

Emma Challis

The past few months have been full of news when it comes to the world of book adaptations. For Harry Potter fans there’s been plenty to get excited about, with the release of the first wave of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ tickets, which sold out in minutes, and the first glimpses of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’. Both look to be a promising extension of the much-loved series, with Oscar winning Eddie Redmayne taking the lead as Newt Scamander in the spin-off movie ‘Fantastic Beasts’.

Other exciting news has been the announcement of a BBC adaptation of the ‘His Dark Materials’ series by Phillip Pullman for television. After the 2007 film ‘The Golden Compass’ was generally regarded as a disappointment by fans and critics alike this could be another chance for beloved characters Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon to  delight on screen as they did in the books. There’s also potential for the other worlds included in the trilogy to be seen on screen for the first time.

This announcement follows a recent increase in books awaiting to be turned into TV series; another contemporary children’s classic ‘A series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket is in the running to be a Netflix original series by 2017.

It’s possible that this increasing movement to TV adaptations of books is because ongoing series offer more opportunity to stray true to the original stories than films as each episode allows for a chapter to unravel. There is also potential for character development to be shown over a longer period of time, which has proved popular in other TV series adapted from books such as ‘Game of Thrones’ as well as originals like ‘Orange Is The New Black’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. This also opens up the shows beyond fans of the books they’re based on, which could lead them to prove more popular than spin-off films like ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’.

However, TV series can lack the large budget that the film industry offers which has caused other projects, such as the adaptation of Neil Gaimen’s ‘American Gods’, to be put on hold. There is also the threat of a series being cut half-way through if ratings fall which is a particular problem in the American TV industry.

Whichever form proves more popular it’s safe to say that these upcoming projects are ones to watch!

8 MINUTES IDLE In Cinemas Now

8-Minutes-Idle

8 Minutes Idle is a darkly romantic comedy about the perils and traumas of your first job – when enforced promotion, murderous parents, and homelessness get in the way of true love. Adapted by Brunel’s very own Matt Thorne from his novel, it tells the story of twenty-something Dan Thomas, who finds himself kicked out of the family home and faced with no option but to secretly move into the office where he works. It’s a funny, irreverent and moving UK film that combines a US indie vibe with a very British sense of humour. Watch the trailer here: