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.

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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)

Entering Fictional Worlds

The thing that I love the most about reading, writing and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is that they introduce me to new worlds, ideas and people that I never would have known otherwise. They completely sweep me away. It’s not that I’m not satisfied with the world I live in now because I freaking love my life, but fictional worlds give me a sense of exploring my world deeper.

One of my favourite questions to ask people (and I do ask it quite often) is which fantasy world they would most like to visit: Narnia, Hogwarts, Neverland, Wonderland, Panem, Middle Earth or Westeros? All of the characters from that world would be there for you to interact with. You can explore the worlds to your heart’s content. I think the answer that people give is always interesting. It says something about the person – not only that they are a fan of the story, but also what they want out of life. The kind of people they want to mix with. The kind of adventures they want to spend their lives having.

My answer is Hogwarts. Make of that what you will.

Just think. When you’re standing in the middle of a library, you’re surrounded by thousands of different worlds. Thousands of different characters to get to know. Thousands of adventures to be had. And when you write, more worlds, characters and adventures spill from your fingertips.

Everyone has a story in them. A writer’s job is to dig deep and pull them out in as many different ways as they can want. An artist does the same thing. So do actors, directors, musicians, chefs, builders, and basically every job you can think of. Everyone’s story is different. So is everyone’s world.

There are over seven billion people on Earth. That’s seven billion different stories. Seven billion different perspectives of the world they live in. I once read that every single person you meet knows something that you don’t, and I think that is a magical sentence.

What’s your story?