Filming has just wrapped on the Isle of Rum for Bass Rock Films’ new short documentary ‘Outlying’ after being successfully commissioned by BBC4 and the BFI.
Rum is one of Scotland’s most isolated and breathtaking islands. At 40 square miles it is home to red deer and golden eagles, with basking sharks and killer whales inhabiting its waters. The ferry runs three times a week, providing a lifeline to its 30 permanent residents. Remarkably, however, Rum is embarking on a super-fast fibre-optic broadband rollout.
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web and to celebrate, ‘Outlying’ is one of a number of short films commissioned as part of the Born Digital series. The film will premiere at the BFI Southbank and then be broadcast on BBC4 in March 2019. The film has been directed and produced by Kieran Hennigan, with cinematography by Thomas Hogben and sound by Pete Smith.
Roger Stone is a notorious Republican political strategist and self-described ‘provocateur’ and ‘dirty-trickster’. He’s significantly responsible for creating Trump as a political figure – and pushing him to run for President.
Throughout the film, Stone clearly loves the fact that he’s being followed around by left-wing filmmakers. He’s delighted with today’s politics and is overjoyed that people hate him for it. He’s ashamed about nothing – and brags about it with a martini in hand. As Roger Ebert said: “It would be hilarious … if the consequences weren’t so appalling”.
Icarus won Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards – and there’s not a lot I can add. it’s simply a brilliant film.
Cyclist turned filmmaker Bryan Fogel sets out to expose the impacts of doping in his sport. However, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist turns the story into a geopolitical thriller. The film led to Russia being banned from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. It’s a rollercoaster.
JonBenet Ramsey was a child beauty queen who was killed in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado in 1996. The case garnered nationwide attention at the time – with multiple theories on who did it. No one has ever been convicted. I’d never heard of the case before (probably because I’m in the UK) but the way the story is told is original and inventive.
The filmmakers set out to remake the events of the fateful day but, during the casting process, they ask the local auditionees who they think did it. The film culminates in a wonderful staged re-enactment.
Casting JonBenet trailer:
Scotland begins to change in September. Leaves turn amber and red as Summer falls rapidly away.
We wanted to make sure we caught the Highlands at their colourful and vibrant best – so we quickly travelled North to shoot aerials for our latest film. We primarily shot on the DJI Inspire (a beautiful piece of kit) with the talented Scott Remy and Thomas Hogben (also talented) at the helm.
At this year’s Academy Awards Roger Deakins finally won Best Cinematography for Blade Runner 2049. A beautifully shot film – and one of my favourite movies of the year.
The craziest thing about his win is the fact that it was his first. Deakins has been nominated 13 times before for films including Shawshank Redemption, Fargo and No Country for Old Men. The imagery is unbelievable. That single shot of Tim Robbins in the rain is arguably the most powerful in the history of cinema.
This video essay by Nelson Carvajal gives me the goosebumps.
So, it turns out we’ve got around 21 hours of footage from Loch Ness spread over a similar number of SD/CF/Micro-SD/SSD cards. All of this, for what will probably end up being a 30-minute documentary. So… I’ve been having to get seriously OCD about preparing for the edit.
Each shot is renamed by project, day, scene, camera, then native file name, so you end up with something like:
Then you start importing into individually organised libraries and events on a plethora of external hard drives. Then, and only then, can you begin the creative editing process.
“Wow” I hear you say… “that’s not, in even the slightest way, interesting to me”. And you’d be right. And guess what – it’s not, in even the slightest way, interesting to me either.
But the good news is that I’ve not had to do it for the past half hour because I’ve just written this blog.
Well, that was quite possibly the weirdest week of my life.
Most of it was spent on a boat in the middle of Loch Ness, filming a top-notch team of scientists in their search for Nessie. We’ve emerged with the makings of a really strong documentary – with much more chat on that to follow ;-)
We had a blast chasing the story – and met some truly unique people. The weather was absolutely glorious and both Zander (on camera) and I emerged with significant sunburn.
Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world when the sun is shining.
A couple of years ago I made a short documentary about Scottish painter, Derek O’Rourke. He was a gifted artist - but the reason his work was so remarkable was the fact that he was registered blind. He created beautiful and haunting art through the blurred corner of one eye.
Unfortunately, Derek passed away earlier this year. He was a relentlessly positive person and I really enjoyed spending time with him. Making the film was a real learning curve for me - but it ultimately played at a number of UK festivals and won the Documentary Award at Cardiff Mini Film Fest.
It hasn’t played anywhere for sometime, but last week I was approached by Blueprint - Scottish Independent Cinema - and asked if I’d be happy screening it next month. Sometimes, the right thing comes along at the right time. I’m looking forward to watching it on the big screen again - and thinking of Derek while I do.
Thursday 21st June 2018 (8pm) - Glasgow Film Theatre. Tickets £6.
Here are some to try out:
If you like historically dark, scary tales – then this is for you. Myths, legends and true-crime stories from around the world are explored – including a few from Scotland’s eerie past. The Mackenzie Poltergeist in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is featured in Episode 19 (Bite Marks). The older episodes are the best.
Here’s The Thing, with Alec Baldwin:
These are simple (but usually fascinating) conversations between Alec and his guest – usually an actor, artist or politician. He’ll frequently take them back to their childhood and find out what early events helped shape their future direction. A good starting episode is the chat with Bernie Sanders (3rd Oct ’17).
Ok – so this might not be the most exciting thing you’ll ever listen to, but these 30 minute episodes help to explain stuff that we really should have been taught in school. Subjects include ‘Seven Money Mistakes (and how to avoid them)’, ‘How to Invest’, and ‘How Much Money Do I Need to Retire?’
There were some really deserving Oscar winners last night. Standouts include Jordan Peele winning Original Screenplay for Get Out, Frances McDormand for Three Billboards (obvs) and Roger Deakin’s stunning cinematography for Blade Runner.
Overall, however, a little disappointed with this year’s Academy Awards. The Florida Project, a film about poverty and inequality as seen through the eyes of children was grossly overlooked at the Oscars. Its sole nominee – Willem Dafoe, lost out to Sam Rockwell for Best Supporting Actor (who, in fairness, was superb).
I’m also really gutted for Lady Bird. I thought the film was perfect. I felt like a teenager again, growing up in the early 2000s. I really thought it had a chance of creating an upset – but it walked away with nothing.
The Shape of Water won Best Picture, of course. My expectations were high – with Pan’s Labyrinth being one of my favourite films. But despite borrowing many ideas from it – I felt The Shape of Water didn’t surpass this earlier Del Toro masterpiece (which didn’t even receive a nomination for Best Picture at the time). Pan's Labyrinth truly was a ground-breaking piece of cinema - but was much overlooked. Maybe this year's success was partly a result of previous short-sightedness.
I’ve just finished reading a book called ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’. It’s not unlike me to read this type of ‘self-help’ book, but I really connected with this one. In particular, author Mark Manson’s ‘Do Something’ principle.
The ‘Do Something’ principle encourages you do something – anything, in fact. He suggests that action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
Whenever I’ve been lacking motivation (unfortunately far too often) I’ve tried to put this into practice and just do something. Taking the camera out on a cold Sunday morning inspires me. Even writing nonsense like this inspires me to some degree. Action generates inspiration. Inspiration generates motivation. If you, like me, lack motivation from time-to-time, do something. Anything.
Resolution number one: publish the new website. Done!
Resolution number two: reduce facebook addiction. Status: uncertain.
Resolution number three: give more compliments. If you are reading this, you are awesome.
Resolution number four: smash 2018 out the park. In progress.
The Bass Rock is a striking lump of igneous rock that rises out of the Firth of Forth, a few miles East of Edinburgh. Bird poo gives it its distinctive white hue.
Every summer growing up my parents would rent a flat down on the coast - and I grew quite attached to the view.
Incidentally, it's pronounced 'Bass' like the fish - not like the musical instrument. Even if you get it wrong though I think it still sounds ok.
The Bass Rock has identity, character - and it's visually striking... something that I want to embody in all our films.
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