From Buses to Broadway to BFI BFFs

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Three months. It’s been three months since I last wrote to you. It’s unforgivable, I know, and I apologise profusely from the bottom of my heart. However, I do have an excuse: I’m a filmmaker now.

Since January, I have been attending a BFI Film Academy at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham (a lovely place by the way, with delicious cakes in the café – you should go there if you’re ever in the area). I honestly don’t know how I got onto this course. I remember my Media Studies teacher telling me about it after I moaned about the fact that I didn’t know what to do with my life, and then the next thing I knew, I was filling in an application form. I think I knew this was going to be an amazing thing when Ella (a tutor on the course), replied to thank me for the application and wish me happy birthday for the next day.

And then I got in! And so began the panic. I had only been to Nottingham maybe once in my life before, and my memory of getting the bus then didn’t go too well (cue lots of running and panicking and no money and no time and it was the last bus, and I didn’t know where I was or who I was with and gah! But that’s another story). I don’t know why I always panic about public transport so much. It’s not like anything bad has ever happened to me on a bus (touch wood!), but never mind. It turned out, as I was on the bus on the way to my first day of Film Academy, Dom, a guy from my drama group, was also heading to the same course. So I didn’t have to worry after all. Who’d’ve thought it?

I was so nervous on that first day, surrounded by a bunch of strangers (and Dom) who I was going to be working with for the next three months. I remember we had to write something down and I already had a pen in my hand, but Ella was handing them around and in my panicking, blustery mind I tried to take it from her, fumbled and dropped it, and wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was weird back then.

On that first day, I also met Shannon, who it turned out also went to my college but I’d never seen her before. We had to film a three-shot silent film with only one character and one prop, on a mobile phone. Guess who ended up as the actor. (Me.) Shannon was filming it. I think it might have been the scene where we left the lift and I had to turn dramatically to the camera that might have been the moment we clicked. Or it might have been the unstoppable laughter that came after that.

Over the next few weeks, we were given various lessons on things such as how to use the equipment, how to structure a story, how to dress a set, and many others. I don’t think I was particularly good at any of these things, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. And before every weekday session, in the time between college and Film Academy, we would gather in Broadway’s café and take advantage of our magical free teas. Those were the best.

The actual production project happened all of a sudden. One moment, 10968036_1069429213082493_1286670538_nwe were learning how to turn on the camera. The next, six of us were in a small, hot, smoke-filled room full of equipment, telling actors to make life difficult for each other. It was actually amazing to see the script that I had written be brought to life. I also brought in some props, which included a disgusting yellow blanket to go over the back of the chair. If you ever see the film, please ignore the continuity errors that occurred because of this prop from hell.

We had so much fun shooting this film, and our group was brilliant. Eleanor, Ben, Jordan, Finn and EB – if you ever want to make a film, these are the people to call. And the actors were amazing!

After the shooting was done, so began the editing process. As far as I know, the film is still being edited as we speak, and then the sound will still need doing afterwards. But once that’s done, the film will be all finished and shiny, and that’s when we’ll have our premiere.

The premiere is what I’m looking forward to the most. Not only will it be our chance to show off all of the hard work that everyone at BFI put into these films, the group will also be reunited.

Our last Film Academy session was pretty epic, and I think it stands to show how much we all loved this opportunity, because Joe Dempsie was just down the road giving a presentation at a local college, and no one ran away to meet him. Well, Jordan did, but he came back. One of the best moments was when, because we had bought a thank you card for the tutors, we all had to sneak out to sign it, but instead of going to the ‘toilet’ one at a time like normal people, we all went at the same time. As all of the girls crammed into a tiny public bathroom to sign the secret card, the boys were left to cover for us in the workshop. I’m not exactly sure how or why they chose this story, but they decided that when we came back in, we all had to dance. I did not.

But Sophie and Finn did! With a few of the classic dance moves (the shuffle and ‘reel him in’ included), they successfully distracted from the fact that we were blatantly doing something secret. The best part was when they began to feel awkward and decided to ‘teach’ us like Al and Roger, our tutors. Sophie snuck away in the guise of Roger by saying, “Roger would sit down and stroke his beard,” and she did just that. And then, of course, there was pizza and drinks, and lots of hugs and a little bit of crying, as we all departed from BFI for the last time.

Until the screening. Has it really only been three months since I didn’t know these guys?

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Why the ‘Strong Female Character’ is Bad

There is a real problem in the film industry at the moment regarding the idea of the Strong Female Character. Particularly in the sci-fi genre. The reason I am discussing this at the moment is because I am currently studying the A2 Media course at college, and this is the problem that I am exploring for my coursework.

The three films that I have chosen to analyse for that case study are The Hunger Games, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. In this post, I will be talking primarily about Guardians of the Galaxy.

I won’t spend too much time explaining the Strong Female Character, as I think this article does it perfectly. Basically, the problem is that the Strong Female Character is being interpreted in the wrong way. Female characters are too often being created simply because the creators believe that they need them. If a film is made with no female characters at all, it will be rightly criticised for it. What the ‘Strong Female Character’ should mean, is to have a ‘Well-Written Female Character’ or a ‘Three-Dimensional Female Character’.

It’s not enough to simply stick a character in there for the sake of it. They need to do something. They need to be wound into the plot. And while being a love interest is fine, if they have no character outside of that romance, then she loses all credibility. Where’s the gender equality in having a female character who simply follows the men around? Where’s the equality when her character is defined by the kiss scene, when she gives herself to the male protagonist as a trophy?

Guardians of the Galaxy is an extremely male-dominated film with only two memorable female characters: adopted sisters, Gamora and Nebula. Gamora, who is quoted as saying “I’m a warrior and a weapon”, is a trained assassin. She is actually a fairly well-written character, with her own motives, wants, needs and fears that become apparent throughout the film. But what is she doing there? She could very easily be replaced with a male character, and the other members of the cast would probably manage just fine without her. After all, it’s really the talking raccoon and animate tree that hold the group together. Of course.

Clearly, the retailers didn’t think she was particularly important as they left her off of their merchandise.

gog merch1 gog merch2

When confronted by a twitter user, the clothing manufacturer ‘The Children’s Place’ responded with this:

gog merch3I am sure that you can see the problem with this. Mothers of young girls who wondered why their favourite character wasn’t on their new pyjamas, had to be told that they’re not good enough to be on their clothing. Attitudes like this are adding to the cultural idea that women cannot equal men in a male-dominated genre.

There are still no female main characters in superhero films. Black Widow is the closest that we have got at the moment. There is currently a film out where a talking raccoon is considered to be more inspirational and have more purpose than the female character. What does this say about our society? What is this teaching children?

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I think it’s something extraordinary that, while I’d usually have about five books on the go and switch between them, as soon as I started reading The Maze Runner, all other books were forgotten. Honestly, this book is something special. From the moment I opened it, I fell in love. The moment I closed the last page, I felt like I had been told the meaning of humanity.

The book opens with the protagonist, Thomas, waking in an enclosed space with absolutely no memory of his identity, pulling us in with the first and possibly most important mystery – Who is Thomas? Soon after, we are introduced to the other characters: tough Alby, sweetheart Newt, scary Gally, lil’ Chuck, and later, superhero Minho. And let’s not forget the plot’s trigger, our gorgeous, independent lady whose name I shall not mention.

It is impossible not to become attached to these characters, even the most despicable of them. They all have their own set of unique traits and flaws, and Dashner builds the different relationships between them beautifully.

Quickly, we learn that nothing is quite right in the Maze, a horrible place with seemingly no escape, where the boys have been living for years. And not only are they trapped; they’re trapped with the Grievers! The Grievers are awful, half-machine half-animal creatures that stalk the maze, coming out mainly at night. You don’t want to get stung by them (although they also offer worse ways to go), or you’ll have the Changing to look forward to. Not much is known about the Changing because the only ones who have been through it refuse to talk about what they saw, but their pain is obvious. No one is the same after the Changing.

The entire book is a thrill to read, with twists and turns right up until the last page. Nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

Who would I recommend this to?

  • Sci-fi fans
  • Hunger Games fans
  • Anyone who is interested in seeing the film (read the book first!)

Star Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

(The Maze Runner will be in cinemas from 10th October, 2014)

Photoshop Fun

I seem to have developed a rather tender love for Photoshop. As far as I can remember, it began while I was scrolling through beautiful images on Deviantart. If you have never come across this website before, you are missing out. Both amateur and professional artists post their work onto the site for exposure, and can even sell their art there! I found the site a long time ago, although I didn’t post anything for a while.

Eventually, I decided to tentatively dip my toes into the waters and began posting my extremely amateur attempts at art. Over the years, I’ve become acquainted with some very interesting and talented people through the website. If you’re ever wondering how to make friends out of strangers, a compliment can go a long way.

But back to Photoshop. I was inspired by a few stunning pieces of photomanipulation. Try CindysArt and EnchantedWhispersArt – both of these artists left me in absolute awe with their art. So, me being who I am (the kind of person who wants to be amazing at everything first time), I decided to give it a go.

My first attempt left a lot to be desired.

Marius and Eponine are my Les Mis OTP and you can’t change my mind that they were meant to be.

My next go was much better although still needed work. It wasn’t based on any fandom either, so that’s good!

‘Don’t Look Back’.

My recent goes were different but I’m proudest of them, especially my Harry Potter-inspired Witch Weekly magazine (even though I used the wrong Weasley twin, as a few people have pointed out; let’s just pretend, ok?)

George Weasley on the cover of Witch Weekly post-DH.

This one probably only makes sense to Once Upon A Time fans, but I spent a long time on it and like it. It’s supposed to look like pages out of Henry’s fairytale book.

My most recent. Again, it’s a Once edit, but I’m so proud of it. I was doing a lot of experimenting with tools I’d never used before.

I’m planning on making the Witch Weekly magazine covers into a series featuring different members of Dumbledore’s Army. I hope you like them.

Here’s the link to my Deviantart profile if you want to look at the pieces of ‘art’ that I’m too embarrassed to put up here (don’t even ask about the username. I can’t change it.).

RIP Robin Williams

aladdin miss you genie me too

On 11th August, 2014, we received the devastating news that actor, Robin Williams, has died. Immediately, the internet burst into outpourings of grief and condolences from fans, friends, and everyone whose lives he had touched. It is believed that he committed suicide after suffering from severe depression.

Of course, Williams’s most memorable role for me was the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin. With such an iconic role, he inspired millions of children to be the best person that they can be. Other roles included Flubber (1997; a film that has stayed in the back of my mind since the very first time I watched it as a child), the unforgettable Mrs Doubtfire (1993) and the heart-warming Hook (1991).

As well as all of his films and comedy work, Williams also worked with charities. While supporting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for many years, he also worked with Comic Relief, as well as other charities.

While it is devastating that the world has lost such a remarkable, inspirational man, it is important to remember that he has left behind a legacy. He has brought laughter to generations of children, and his films will continue to bring laughter to the lives of future generations. The term ‘legend’ is thrown around rather loosely these days, but I think we can all agree that Robin Williams has more than earned this title. Robin Williams was a legend of comedy, and a spark of hope in many lives.

Watch this and enjoy.

If you feel like you need help or someone to talk to, the charity Samaritans is available to talk to at this number: 08457 90 90 90. Or you can email them at: jo@samaritans.org.

Sherlock, Enchanted 2 & Once Upon A Time News

So in less than 24 hours, I have discovered that Sherlock is absolutely, definitely coming back, we’ll get to see the latest instalments of Giselle’s life in the upcoming Enchanted 2, and Once Upon A Time has officially cast Anna and Kristoff for the new series.

Sherlock

Let’s start with Sherlock. At 2:21pm (see what they did there?), various BBC social media accounts, including Twitter and Tumblr,  announced that (in my opinion) the greatest television drama that the BBC has ever produced will be making a comeback with a special, followed by three new episodes. Shooting is set to begin in January 2015, to be shown later in the year. It is likely that this means that there will be a 2015 Christmas special and a new series possibly around Easter 2016. At least it’s not another three years, right?

In the new series, Sherlock will be faced with “one of his biggest mysteries yet”, and we will all be treated to the return of television’s (and literature’s) greatest psychopath, Moriarty. We are being promised the “most shocking and surprising” series yet, and I am entirely willing to believe them on that. To read, the full press release, follow this link.

Enchanted 2

Back in 2007 (can you believe it was seven years ago?!), Enchanted hit the cinema screens to great success. It was really Disney’s first venture into the unknown, beginning as a parody of the traditional Disney princess, and developing into a heartwarming classic. Combining elements of various classic Disney films (Snow White’s poisoned apple, Sleeping Beauty’s dragon, general singing shenanigans), Enchanted lifted the spirits of millions of people.

Now, Disney has announced that they are planning it’s sequel. According to reports, the screenwriters, J. David Stern and David N. Weiss, have been hired to write the script, and with credits such as The Smurfs and Shrek 2, I think we can count on them to keep the heartwarming, wry humour of the original. There has been no word yet on whether the original actors have been called on, but I for one would love to see what the future has in store for not only Giselle’s new family, but also Prince Edward’s. Babies, anyone? The voice of Frozen’s Elsa, Idina Menzel, who played Nancy Tremaine in the original (which also has a nice little nudge to Cinderella, as the evil stepmother’s name is Lady Tremaine), has previously responded with “bring it on” to the possibility of an Enchanted sequel, so we’ve got that to look forward to.

Once Upon A Time

Season 3 SPOILERS AHEAD. Read at your own peril.

If you’re up to speed with the ABC series, Once Upon A Time (dropped from Channel 5 late last year, but available on Netflix), then you might have had the same reaction as me to the end of the last episode: squealing at the screen and fighting the urge to race around the house shouting, “YIPPEE!”. We were all surprised by the majestic appearance of Frozen’s great Elsa.

The showrunners were able to present her right at the end of the episode without showing her face, as they have yet to cast the perfect actor. I imagine that it will be quite a task. However, two other characters from the Disney film that everyone was talking about, have been cast. Anna and Kristoff will be taking to our screens in real-life form,  with a delightful Once twist.

Anna has been described as “a fun-loving, fearless optimist who often gets herself into situations where she is in over her head, yet is able to triumph due to her resourcefulness and can-do spirit. She values her relationship with her sister Elsa above all else.” She will be played by Elizabeth Lail, a newcomer whom I think bares a striking resemblance. Once does seem to have the ability of casting brilliantly.

'Once Upon a Time' casts 'Frozen' characters Anna and Kristoff

Once‘s Kristoff will be played by ABC’s ‘Greek’ star, Scott Michael Foster. His character is described as “a hearty, salt-of-the-earth ice cutter whose sometimes-gruff demeanor can hide his deep love for Anna and her sister Elsa. When we first meet him on ‘Once,’ he is adjusting to life at the castle — including sleeping indoors for the first time in his life.”

Scott Michael Foster and Kristoff from Frozen

*attempts to disguise girlish squeals with coughing*. That sounds like a character we could fall in love with.

Season four of Once Upon A Time will air in September. There better be an Olaf reference, or a character telling Elsa to “let it go” or I might cry.