Isle of Man Film Industry Changes

ImageIt’s been a very interesting week for filmmakers on the Isle of Man, with the announcement of the Government’s plans for the film industry (which you can read about here). There are plenty of things that could be said/read into the Pinewood deal and we’re not going to pass comment until we know more ourselves – it could end up being a good thing for the Island, who knows! But the primary questions for us here at MShorts must lie with the £25million Media Development Fund, and whether there is any thought to how we can still build our indigenous film-making skill base and whether this is going to mean more or less on-island production.
 
Once the fund is controlled “off island” will there be any thought as to the secondary additional benefits we get from a local spend. Will they not just look at the bottom line and look at the initial cost of filming here. After all, there have been few official moves to build a sustainable infrastructure here and if no one is blowing out trumpet loudly, they’ll shoot where the costs are lowest, the skills and infrastructure are abundant and the incentives are high.
 
We are doing our best to find out what this will mean to us, the Isle of Man film-making community and what potential the future holds. Regardless of Government support and encouragement, I am sure we will always make films ourselves. However, it would be good to know that they are serious about this Island being a film-making centre. The Isle of Man Arts Council, have been extremely supportive of us as far as they can be – but their contribution alone will only help us fund the projects themselves, without additional support their is nothing to cover admin and training.
 
 Of course, if there’s no training & no administration, there’s no scheme. And therefore no films to fund. Can we profess to having a Manx Film Industry if there is no support or basis for films to be shot on the Isle of Man and no homegrown product to show anyone?
 
The good thing is though, the industry is in the limelight and we’re finally creeping into that light 🙂 Watch this space, we’ll keep you posted….
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Lee Boardman Acting Workshop

Just a quick pre-blog to show you some media from our PokerStars-sponsored Acting Workshop this past weekend with Lee Boardman (HBO’s “Rome”, and yes, Jez in Corrie 😉 )

We will blog about it properly soon, but in the meantime, you can watch Paul Moulton’s interview with Lee for MT TV here and see the photos of the weekend – which we think tell a pretty good story in themselves – below.

Enjoy..

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Danny Stack Screenwriting Tips!

We had a fabulous weekend with Danny Stack. At our PokerStars sponsored Screenwriting workshop on Saturday, we started out by looking at the history of short film, watching clips from the inception of the movie industry with the Lumiere Bros films, right through to the likes of “Alive in JoBerg” (Neill Blomkamp’s astonishing short that led to the making of his feature District 9).

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Danny then shared his journey as a Script Reader, Writer and, more recently, a Director – even allowing us a special screening of his excellent 2nd short and Directorial debut ‘Origin’ – inspiring both our new and established writers to just “GO OUT AND DO IT!” His anecdotes from the industry were great; Danny’s own ‘story’ is a rollercoaster of a biopic in itself – honest, humbling, inspiring and hilarious in equal measure.

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Then on Sunday, Danny took time out to meet with four of our Finalist writers from the MShorts 2011 Screenplay Competition. Zoe, Nat, John B and Chris are all well on the way to shooting their films in the coming months, and benefited from Danny sharing excellent hints and tips about their work and how to progress in the industry.

Do check out Danny’s excellent blog, and his now legendary podcasts with BAFTA nominated writer Tim Clague. In the meantime, took copious notes from both days with Danny, and thought it would be useful to share some of the choice soundbites – below are the notes from Saturday, not in any particular order, but all extremely insightful. Sunday’s notes to follow soon. Enjoy!

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  • READ TWO SCRIPTS A WEEK (there are thousands readily available online); analyse them, look at their format, structure, style dialogue etc it’s the best training you can have
  • A script, like a film, should move – should flow down the page; don’t introduce too many characters at once, have a consistency of style
  • STORY! STORY! STORY!
  • “TV is meant to be listened to and occasionally looked at, cinema is meant to be looked at and occasionally listened to”
  • Acceptable character introduction: NAME (Age) – and three words to describe – eg “overweight, divorced, grumpy” ; then you want examples of the character being grumpy within the script
  • You have to be able to express your idea succinctly, in a log line or a pitch, if not, it’s usually a sign that the script is in trouble in some way, too difficult to pin down

Generally, any film can be broken down into:

  • – there’s a character who wants something, who has an opportunity or goal, BUT there’s this thing that’s in his way and this is what he does to get over the conflict and succeed
  • Have a strategy beforehand & a natural passion – why do I want to tell this story? why do I want to make it? Then you can translate to the people you’re making it with – maybe you just love the genre, are passionate about it
  • The more pro-active you can be in any capacity, the more it will inform your writing
  • It’s easy to get indulgent about our stories
  • You have to find the right approach that suits you – could start with beat sheet or index cards, or could just launch in & improv entirely
  • You could use index cards – list the scenes you want to write, pin them on a board – bit of fun & useful too
  • Watch programmes with subtitles switched on – it’s a good exercise for writing dialogue
  • Subtext – you want the audience to get it without telling them it’s there – slight of hand – ‘do “A Derren Brown” on them’
  • Audiences WANT to work things out, we WANT to be engaged, to second guess, to be surprised by the reveal
  • The industry needs to be told what to do, it’s passive, it waits for other people to validate things – “I want that guy because he won a BAFTA” ; the industry wont take risks – it should be doing more to help new writers
  • It’s all good karma – help other writers if you can in a creative capacity
  • “If I can be responsible for my own work without being reliant on other people, my work will be better – if my work isn’t getting made its because of me, I have to take responsibility and do the best I can”

Short film history:-

  • In 50s and 60s short films took a hit, they were mostly serious so, versus the Hollywood glitz & glamour they couldn’t survive, they didn’t have a healthy audience; there were only really experimental shorts

Gaspar Rainbow Dance – brilliant short!

  • The rise of pop video in the 70s and 80s re-introduced short films
  • Natural visual grammar develops even in pop video
  • The advent of broadband introduced online series – first real hit was ‘Lonely Girl’ – video diary, which gave rise to Kate Modern, then Sophia’s diary
  • Online content was something new – it ‘belonged’ to the viewer; teenagers found the show themselves, felt like they owned it, they weren’t TOLD to watch it by broadcasters
  • The internet gives us a sense of ownership; we can create the content, we don’t need permission, we don’t need to pitch; hopefully, people will find it and share it and build it from there
  • You must ask yourself – why are we making this? what kind of audience do I want to reach? what expectation do I have in making this short film?
  • Film has to be all consuming, that’s the passion and vision you have to apply to it, it IS stressful; you need friends, family, partners to support that
  • You would never tell somebody to ‘just cheer up’ if they’re depressed, so don’t tell somebody to ‘just write something’ if they have writer block
  • When asking for things – people’s default position is to want to help – the first 20seconds of that phonecall is the hardest, then it’s generally alright
  • Networking – don’t expect immediate results from a new contact; display the value in what they can get from helping you, the value of the project (ie who else is on board, how good the script is, your background/story)
  • Remember; we’re just dealing with people – generally they’re decent, normal individuals
  • When writing emails to people – especially to ask for things – write GOOD emails, craft them, take time over them, be professional – first impressions count
  • People in the industry respond to the script – they don’t work on any old sh*t!
  • The attitude and language that you use with people is very important – don’t be negative or passive aggressive; rather, use language like ‘my short is going to be great; it’s a passion project; it’s unique etc – “I AM going to make it – so are you in, or are you out?”
  • BE EXCITED ABOUT YOUR WORK – not arrogance or delusion, but confidence; you can still be honest, eg. “I’m stuck but I know the story is there”
  • Music should respond to story
  • Actors bring their own logic to characters
  • Soderbergh said “filmmaking is just about getting inserts so you have something to cut to and something to cut from”
  • Making a film is easy, getting it finished is the hardest part – so much money, time and energy goes into post production
  • Biggest costs: Insurance, food, film stock, travel
  • Festivals – you have to accept that nobody cares about your short film, no matter how good it is; it’s not a negative thing, it should inspire you to be more passionate, have more conviction about your project, but to be surprised or to take it personally when you get rejected
  • The audience is either going to be quick disposable internet viewer, or people like US (filmmakers), or the industry (so use it as a calling card)
  • Its useful to make trailers to promote your work – to convince investors
  • LOGLINE. 25 words or less – give a flavour, don’t give entire story away
  • See if you can write a one page synopsis. Back of a DVD cover has it down to 100 words so you should be able to, too.
  • OUTLINE – between 3 and 6 pages, long synopsis – broadstrokes
  • TREATMENT – 6-10 pages, present tense short story version of the script, might include some dialogue, key scenes etc try to make them visual – give the imagery of that seq or scene, then break it down
  • BEATSHEET (eg John comes in and tells Jane he wants a divorce) / SCENE BY SCENE
  • BREAKDOWN – bit more description
  • Readers aren’t judging YOU personally – don’t be too hard on yourself
  • When writing for TV/existing shows, producers & script editors know the show inside out, so even if you’re a fan of the show, they know more, they know under the skin of the show
  • Often, the kind of short films that stand out are ones that make good use of visual effects
  • If you have a read through with actors, it’s important to see that their performance tells the story without needing direction/description
  • Cinema is the movement of camera for a purpose, every cut every edit every close up should be for a purpose – it’s all about how good your visual grammar is
  • Our creations, they matter and are important to us, are part of us
  • It’s important to have content available, in terms of what you can see (something on the internet that you’ve worked on or created yourself) its so easy nowadays to do it there is no excuse
  • You script should show clear character development, clear change
  • When writing for the web (eg. webseries like Danny’s “Liquid Lunch”), change your approach – shorter chunks of narrative that end on a hook to lead on to next ep
  • Theres a fine line between delusion and talent
  • DISTRIFY is changing the arena for distributing short films
  • BBC Film Network is a great place for getting your short seen and respected
  • Think BIG; think professional ; you can do ANYThing
  • If you’re gonna do  it, lets do it, and stop wasting time; If its what you want to do, then you just gotta do it – it’s the best fun ever
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Oscar and the Empire

So..it’s a bit late, but HAPPY 2012! At least we just managed to sneak this through in the first month of the New Year 😉

And already we’ve been busy!

Before we go on, though, we have to extend a mighty congratulations to long time MannIN Shorts supporter – and the designer of our logo, no less – the lovely JUAN MOORE.

Juan Moore conducts 'Storyboarding' workshop


Juan not only led an excellent workshop for us in the art of Storyboarding to round of 2011, but just a few days ago was notified that a film he worked on – the fabulous ‘Chico & Rita’ – has been nominated for an Oscar!! A large portion of the animated film was created here on the Isle of Man over a series of months in 2010, by Juan and a small group of fellow hard working artists. We will have our fingers crossed for him and all those who worked on the film on Oscars night!

Speaking of Oscars, our most recent workshop was with the the extremely talented and very determined filmmaker Danny Lacey, who came over from Leeds last week (Jan 26th)

Writer Director Danny Lacey shares his experiences of low budget filmmaking

to share his experiences making three highly anticipated low budget shorts in the course of just 18months. He shot one of them – “Love Like Hers” – immediately after visiting the Isle of Man for our MannIN Shorts launch night in Sept 2010, where he appeared on a panel alongside Hamish Morrow (FutureShorts) and Chris Jones (Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook). Since then, Danny has also written, shot and almost finished cutting ‘Host’ – with DSLR guru Philip Bloom as DP – and is on the final draft of script ‘That Day’ which is due to shoot next month (again with Bloom on board).

Thanks to our sponsors PokerStars, we were fortunate that Danny was able to take the time out of his ridiculous schedule to return to the Island and speak so openly and at length with our crews; sharing his mission to win on Oscar within five years – and seeing how close he has come already – left our would-be Producers inspired, enthused & determined to make their own marks in the industry.

Speaking of which…thanks to the forward thinking of MannIN Shorts Finalist Ady Hall, we could be on our way to winning our first award! A small group of workshoppers had great fun on a one day shoot to bring Ady’s tongue-in-cheek minute long version of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ to life, which we entered into the Jameson sponsored ‘Done in 60 Seconds’ competition (championed by Empire Film Magazine). At last count, it was looking like there was a good chance of the video getting into the next round…we’ll keep you posted!


Look out for our next workshops, which are ‘Scriptwriting’ with Pathe/Working Title/UK Film Council story analyst Danny Stack on March 3rd (still a few places left), ‘Directing for Screen’ with Writer/Director Lesley Manning who also tutors at National Film and TV School (which is now full and closed) and we also have Cinematography and 1st AD workshops being planned for next month.

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Next workshop – Production Design!

Thanks to our recent sponsorship from Poker Stars, we are able to hold our next MannIN Shorts workshop over weekend of Nov 12th/13th; it will be in the fascinating art of Production Design and is being run by Lynda Reiss of Lynda’s Prop Shop.

Lynda lives on the Island but has a career in the industry that’s taken her all around the world. She will be passing on her experience and knowledge from having worked on everything from no-budget to blockbuster films (Iron Man, American Beauty and most recently Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

She will be using two of our MannIN Shorts ‘Finalist’ scripts as case studies for the workshop -partly to help the writers/teams associated with the scripts to realise their vision, but partly so the workshop attendees can see the process from the very early stages – how you can bring the words from a page to life through design.

Catering is being provided by the wonderful Molly Reiss, who has even promised cupcakes from her bakery business!

Video and pictures to follow…

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In the end, all comes down to…

..money.

Tis a sad fact, but it’s true – you can’t run a film scheme without it. Money for equipment, money to hire venues, money to pay professionals to host masterclasses/workshops, money to cover the cost of flights and accommodation for aforementioned professionals – hell, I’ve not even mentioned the most important expense yet – you gotta have cash for coffee & biscuits!

Until yesterday, the funding we’d been expecting for the past year had yet to materialise. The Isle of Man Arts Council has been continually supportive (we love them lots :)) but the truth is that we were STILL running the scheme from our own limited resources. Yesterday, we finally received a generous sponsorship grant from the scheme-saving folk at Poker Stars Isle of Man, and this will pay for future workshops, (hussah! bring on the training!!) but this money is not to fund the short films themselves.

We have to admit we were extremely disappointed when, after over a year of meetings and attempted communications, we were finally told recently that apparently, the relevant area of Govt couldn’t support the scheme. We are still endeavouring to make direct representations, to find out who could (or should) be supporting Mannin Shorts. We will persevere, as we believe 100% in the passion and dedication of our trainees – their screenplays, their vision, their potential – and in the value of helping to build a community of well trained film makers on an Island that promotes itself as a ‘great place to make movies’.

Our plan was to have finished three shorts by Sept of this year, after having run half a dozen intense weekend workshops on the major areas of filmmaking (Directing, Design, Editing, Producing etc). Although we haven’t had the budgets to produce the shorts, we have held several technical workshops using gear loaned by DAM Productions (which led to our crews being able to cast, produce, shoot and edit short scenes); we have had writers meetings/discussions and worked with 30+ screenplay entrants to help hone their scripts down to what is now our final 6; we have trained Editors in the marvels of Final Cut Pro; we hosted a Film Tent at The Garden Party music festival in conjunction with Future Shorts; we held another Short Film event to open the IOM Arts Council Film Festival 2011; and we assisted in the production of ‘Hide & Seek’.

As mentioned in previous blogs, ‘Hide & Seek’ was one of our finalist 6 scripts. The enthusiasm of the writer (Ady Hall) and his production team led to them raising private funding for MannIN Shorts so that the film could be shot in August of this year. The shoot was fantastic; crewed by MShorts trainees, shadowed by a number of experienced professionals, they are now well underway with their edit and the cuts we have seen are brilliant. It will be a perfect ‘first film’ for the MannIN Shorts scheme and we’re extremely grateful for their hard work (and very very proud of them, awww!)

Now to make another one! 🙂 Our remaining five writers are currently putting together ‘production packs’ so we can find out how far along they are with planning and pre-production on their shorts. Whichever one is most advanced, will be the one we make next…. As soon as the funding is in place.

In the meantime, we will at last be able to hold some more workshops – thanks to Poker Stars. The first will be in Storyboarding (with Guardian contributor/ Chico & Rita illustrator Juan Moore), then two in Directing (‘An Introduction to Directing’ with Lesley Manning from National Film School) followed by a masterclass to be led by an internationally renowned and influential Director (who we cannot name yet, but is very exciting!), and we’ll also have a workshop in Design with Lynda Reiss (of Lynda’s Prop Shop, who worked on films like ‘American Beauty’, ‘Iron Man’ – and most recently supplied materials for ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’).

So, although its been a hard slog to get this far, we are finally making *some* headway. We hope to hear final confirmation about one part of the funding for our shorts before the end of this month. Either way, we’ll keep you posted. Funnily enough, it all sounds rather like the frustrating but ultimately extremely rewarding process of trying to make a film…

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IOM Film Fest 2011 and ‘Hide & Seek’ preview

"Hide & Seek"

It’s been a busy few filmmaker days on the tiny Isle!

Firstly, “Hide & Seek” wrapped just over a week ago, which means the very first MannIN Shorts shoot ‘proper’ is finally in the can.

The team are now well on the way with editing the footage, which is looking excellent and which had it’s first public preview just a few days ago…

This preview was at the Isle of Man Arts Council Film Festival 2011. As with last year, MannIN Shorts was asked to host the opening night. As we’re yet to fully complete any of our own films, we called on the services of the brilliant FutureShorts.com to put together a bespoke programme of their favourite shorts especially for the night. To that, we added a selection of shorts by exciting young Manx based / born filmmakers:

  • Will Sutton – free runner and filmmaker; we showed his excellent narrative short ‘Rail’ and his latest film made in collaboration with The Play People performance group, the hilarious ‘Operation S’ created to promo the group’s involvement with Mannifest 2011.
  • Danieyl ‘Ducky’ Lowden– freelance fashion/youth photographer and filmmaker, whose recent shorts ‘Beat The Night’ and ‘Streetlight Diaries’ are a beautiful, beguiling comment on life as a teenager growing up on the Island.
  • Daniel Lumb – Manx filmmaker, initially trained at the Manx Multimedia Centre, now based in London and working on award winning film & animation for th1ng.com. He made the stunning ‘Extrajnero’  with fellow Manxie Andrew Blackburn.

"98..99.." Tilly as Young Alice

These films were followed by an introduction to the ‘Hide & Seek’ project from Producer Debs Gwinnell, Director Laura Jones, Writer Ady Hall and Designer Lynda Reiss, then a short clip from the behind-the-scenes video before the exclusive preview of the opening sequence of the film itself.

The standard of film making from all contributors in this IOM section of the night was staggering, & hugely inspiring to those in the audience and the excitement building around ‘Hide & Seek’ was palpable.

DP John Craine and MannIN Shorts' Dave Armstrong

The FutureShorts reel was a superb selection of shorts from the international film circuit – funny, beautiful, moving, surreal, dark, empowering – but all from filmmakers at the top of their game and hopefully inspiring to those in the audience.

Yesterday was the Arts Council’s Young Filmmaker of Mann and Short Film Competition, at which Will Sutton won two awards – one for his Free Running reel, and the ‘Best Comedy’ prize for Operation S. Congrats also to long time MShorts supporter Emily Cook, who’s come a very long way in the past year and won Best Documentary for ‘Unkept’.

IOM FilmMaker of Mann & Short Film Comp 2011 winners

Next for MannIN Shorts, we hope to run our first Director’s Workshop, and will soon have a workshop in storyboarding courtesy of excellent IOM based artist/illustrator Juan Moore

Keep checking our social networking sites for updates:

facebook.com/manninshorts
twitter.com/manninshorts
http://www.manninshorts.com

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