So, the world hasn’t ended yet but there’s still time…
We hope not though, because although 2012 was the first year we haven’t filmed any Zomblogalypse since we began in 2008, it’s been Zomblog-heavy with the planning of the feature film. With our Producer, Steve Piper, taking the web series to Cannes to pitch the film version, things really started entering the big leagues for MilesTone Films.
We also filmed a music video for the wonderful Nine Black Alps, and additional scenes for our follow-up to CrimeFighters, Dogme-esque comedy drama Amber, to create a 70 rather than 60 minute feature from the improvised material.
2012 was also the year we had the most extraordinary time filming Whoops!, our most ambitious feature to date, with a fantastic cast and crew. You can watch Charlotte Boyle‘s EXCELLENT video blogs on the making of the film here and here.
Without further ado, here are 12 pictures that sum up our year of filmmaking. It’s been amazing. As for next year… that’s going to be amazing…er.
And as per tradition, here’s all the stuff we put online this year. Quite a lot of stuff, actually:
When you’re a filmmaker with little to no startup money, what better way to show investors the kind of film you plan to make than to put together a no-budget ‘trailer’ to give them an idea. It’s worked for us several times and as they say, pictures speak a thousand words.
If you’re proposing to make a film, there’s nothing like showing people a film about your film!
Our buddies at Glass Cannon Film have just put out this POC trailer for Frostbite, an action horror feature they want to make next year. As you can see, it’s a great mix of maritime adventure, thriller (or should we say chiller) and horror.
We can’t wait to see this go into production:
Here’s one of our favourite POC trailers: Neill Blomkamp’s original test film for District 9:
Although POC trailers, out of necessity, generally feature your actor mates rather than a final cast, and rough versions of special effects, music and cinematography, they serve as a cinematic ‘sketch’ of intent that can really help convince people how the film will work, as well as helping the filmmakers start thinking about how the film will look and sound.
A moving, speaking storyboard.
Here are proof of concept trailers for a couple of films we’d like to make in the future:
Comedy crime thriller A Simple Investigation:
Live action/anime apocalypse feature Journey’s End:
Fantasy comedy Bob The Great:
Depending on how the next few years go, we may make some or all of these films, we may adapt elements of them into other films.
One we did end up making was Whoops! in the summer of 2012. Here’s the POC for that:
…and here’s a snippet of what we ended up making:
In the meantime, if you’re a filmmaker planning a feature, we can highly recommend making your own Proof of Concept trailer. It’s a strong first step on a long journey.
Not entirely sure we’ll end up making this one though…
Can you name your favourite ten short films? Or perhaps even five? I’d have to think quite hard about it.
As Sarah Morrison suggests in this Independent piece, Britain is in a ‘golden age’ of short films, with more films being made and ever more opportunities to screen them to audiences, online or in person.
‘The short film,’ she writes, ‘with its capacity to convey ideas concisely, is capturing the mood of an increasingly time-pressed, information-hungry generation.’
Maybe in this attention-deficit age, this is just what audiences want: short films. The shorter, the better. (aside: so why did everyone go and see Avatar? You don’t have to answer that.)
My own opinion of short films is pretty ‘love-meh’. I’ve seen some – what I thought were – memorable ones and then promptly forgotten about them. That could be my incredible ADHD or it could be that they were too short to remember. But that’s silly isn’t it, because you remember songs that are a few minutes long, so why not short films? Possibly because you only see them once, not time and time again?
In the Internet age, you can see shorts, web series and music videos all day, every day if you want. Has this resulted in oversaturation or too much choice? Everyone’s a filmmaker now, and they’re all vying for your attention.
But that also means a huge variety and diversity of new short films to choose from every year, whether online, in a cinema or at a festival.
The first short I made was a very silly one, but one that people remember if only for the amazingly nutty performances and the catchphrase, ‘EH?’.
The Planetarium by mileypiley
I attended a seminar on short films at the Leeds Film Festival a few years ago and met a few people whose job it was to watch dozens of short films a day. Their advice was to make sure the concept was strong and to include a terrific, eye-catching photo in the brochure to make the film stand out as something they wanted to watch.
They also said that after watching 400 short films, the two or three they remembered were all comedies: ‘Go for the laugh’ they advised. This is something that creators of ‘virals’ know all too well. The last few shorts we made were either cheaply made for the gags, or rather more stylish attempts to work in several genres, rather than an attempt to make ‘short versions of features’. Is that merely what short films are, or are they much more?
While the comedy approach makes a lot of sense – short drama films can either be literally too short to make an emotional impact, or they can take themselves too seriously – one of my favourite shorts is Hotel Chevalier, technically a part of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Express but in its own right a memorable account of painful, destructive love that most humans can relate to.
Its use of Peter Sarstedt’s Where Do You Go To My Lovely helped to nail that one to my bedroom wall, along with the fragile, bruised performance of Jason Schwartzman who tells Natalie Portman, ‘I promise I will never be your friend’. So much said, and not said, in so little time.
I’m also rather fond of this little masterpiece, directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt:
Yes, technically it’s a music video for Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him, but a lovely short in its own right, brimming with character and leaving one with a certain sense of uplifted emotions.
The modern showcase for short films, other than short film festivals such as York’s recent Aesthetica Film Festival, is of course online or in such initiatives as Virgin Media Shorts, whereby filmmakers get the chance to submit their short films for possible screening before major films in the cinema. Some of these have been great and some have been akin to those annoying ‘Sponsoring Independent Cinema’ shorts which play over and over AND OVER, FOR YEARS.
So are we in a ‘new golden age’ of short films? Several filmmakers I know seem to veer between thinking short films are a waste of time and money, or a powerful and pure expression of cinema. Some think they’re pretentious or pointless.
As someone who has made a good 20 or so short films ranging from the decent to the craptastic, I wouldn’t now wish to spend several years trawling a short film round festivals, marketing the same few minutes over and over. Nor would I necessarily want to sit through dozens of shorts myself, though I am often surprised when I do watch a bunch of them by the range of skill and talent on show.
For me, mostly, it’s all about features, and I know many filmmakers who feel the same way, turning ideas for shorts into full-length features to make more impact or serving as a ‘tester’ for a proposed feature such as the film that eventually became District 9:
After all, if you’re going to spend a few thousand and a few years on a film, it might as well be a feature, right?
The flip side is that I also know some filmmakers who have trawled their short films round festivals, and in the process have gained something in the way of reputation and/or industry contacts so that they may make another film, perhaps a short or a feature, and advance their career. A great example of this was Oscar Plewes’ Gin & Dry, a beautifully made short I saw at a London screening in 2010.
Then there are some makers of short films who produce something memorable every time, like London-based Alasdair Beckett-King, whose latest short film The Library of Burned Books looks set to be a typically majestic, visually stunning affair to follow up his beautiful short film Netty Carlisle:
So do you go for the heart, the belly laugh, or employ stunning pop culture geekery and fantastic effects like Patrick Boivin or Freddie Wong?
…or perhaps a stunning graphics demo that’ll get you noticed by Mr. Steven Spielberg, as with this excellent Tintin sequence:
Maybe the answer is all of the above, depending on your own personal taste and ambition.
And if you’re a filmmaker, how do you make that transition from shorts to features? Maybe something like this:
If you’d like to share your own or your favourite short films with us, please feel free.
We decided recently that if we have any ideas for silly, quick films, we’ll leap on the opportunity and just make them for fun.
So here are two we made recently. One in response to that awful Phantom Menace 3D trailer for kids, and the other a dark, twisted idea I had. More to come in the year. Enjoy!
Here are two action shorts we made last year.
The first, Leaf, was devised by CrimeFighters stunt co-ordinator Chris Smith as a thundering extended fight sequence, and got a great crew together for the first time since making that vigilante epic to create something cool and violent with a wry sense of fun.
The second, Journey’s End, was made as part of Tony’s MA in Film Post Production and combines his love of anime, fighting and post apocalyptic wastelands.
We hope you enjoy them both. Please share them around with everyone you think would enjoy them.
Here is our new showreel containing clips from things you’ve seen and some things you haven’t yet.
Among our features CrimeFighters and Amber, moments from our short films Bob The Great, Gallery and some concept work, you’ll find clips from our short fight film Leaf and our anime-style apocalypse short Journey’s End… with a soupçon of our technicolour noir A Simple Investigation.
If you look carefully you’ll also spot tiny cameos from Tony and I, and some truly artful camera, lighting and effects work from our esteemed filmmaking colleagues including Paul Richardson, Jenni Suitiala, Tom Dunne, Tom Kirby, Rich Bennett and Alasdair Beckett-King.
Hope you enjoy. We’ll be back soon with exciting things and stuff.
So here’s a thing.
A few years ago, after graduating from their film course, many members of what are now MilesTone Films’ alumni made this little beauty (WATCH IN FULL HD!)
Kudos to Tony, Alasdair Beckett-King and Paul Richardson, among others, for the amazing special effects and cinematography. All I can claim to have done on this film was help glue some of the castle together.
‘It’s only a model.’
Originally Bob The Great was intended to be a self-contained short film, but as time has gone on, Tony and I have decided that, since we want to make Bob as a feature film one day, we’d put this forward as a ‘Proof of Concept’: essentially a promo trailer to show to fans and investors that might wish to become involved in its future production.
In fact, this approach, which worked very well for District 9 after all…
…is something we’ll be doing for several of our features from now on.
At the end of February we’re filming a promo for our proposed feature film A Simple Investigation, as well as releasing several short films that are self-contained, but will certainly help in gathering interest for feature versions.
I think personally it’s the way to go these days. There’s no better way to sell people on the concept of a film by showing them rather than telling them. It’s what cinema is all about, after all.
When it comes to the Zomblogalypse movie, we will be filming a Proof of Concept but with that particular project, we’re hoping the series might go some way in promoting that… anyone got half a million?
Pounds, not zombies.