My projects


A young media graduate thinks he’s found his big break when he secures a week of interviews with former SAS soldier and current bestselling author: Terry McMannaman,  As Steve drives him around on his weekly errands, Terry discusses his life and work…

Chauffervision came about from discussions with Trev Fleming about the best way to do character-based improv to suit web-based video.  Trev is one of the core performers with Liverpool-based improv group Impropriety who I was involved with before moving to London.  Eventually we cem up with an interview series where I could play the straight-man to a character Trev and I would develop beforehand.

These 2 episodes of chauffervision are us experimenting around that idea with a plan to end up,  not only with a few episodes of a series we could show but also having developed a workflow for shooting and discover what the problems and limitations were for this kind of show.  It was also the first time I had shot with that camera (Canon EOS 550d) and I was keen to use it as a field test.  So here are the episodes.  Enjoy (and please like/comment/share etc if you do enjoy them).  If you’re interested in shooting something similar then Ill put some advice/lessons learned after the vids…

Day1…

Day2…

Lessons learned (in no particular order)

1 – Workflow – We probably lost quite a lot of valuable filming time because our workflow was too unwieldy.  Something I hadn’t taken into account was how long it would take for the memory card to back up to the laptop and because I didn’t have a separate SD card reader I couldn’t charge the battery until we’d finished uploading meaning we had to spend twice as long as planned on our visits to base-camp.  Speaking of which…

2 – Batteries – you never have enough when you’re shooting on the road, especially as the charger I was using took ages to add any decent charge and we would always run out of juice just as we were in the middle of something brilliant.

3 – Practice driving – it may seem simple in theory (driving while having a chat – what could be more natural?) but early on it was very difficult to simultaneously act (listening and reacting to what Trev was doing), direct – (thinking about how it all fits together, planning ahead and judging where to guide and interrupt) – and also not drive into oncoming traffic.  It took me about an hour to get into the swing of it but that meant I had an hour where I found it difficult to properly guide and react to Trev’s improvising.  This meant I let him develop long monologues, which were often funny but far too long to be used in these relatively short films.

4 – Short and sweet – We aimed for 12 minute episode lengths (the maximum Youtube will take) It was way too easy to let Trev monologue in the early stages at least partly because I was enjoying listening to him but also because, as I already mentioned, I was trying not to kill us.  The problem was, I ended up with 7 minute continuous rants that took up too much of the run time and wouldn’t edit down.  The best material was the short little anecdotes, where I interrupted and asked questions.  As we went along, I also got better at identifying bits that could be quickly refined and done again and so we got more of this kind of material.  These bits edited together more neatly.

5 – Planning – We found that the best material, certainly the most useful in the edit, was the material that loosely adhered to a pre-existing script.  That was the case in episode 2 and although we still had to cut a lot of good stuff, what was left flowed neatly.  The stuff from episode 1 was much more of an effort to get into shape.

7 – the vehicle – We had to get a hire car in the end which was fine except what we didn’t realise until we were setting up, was that the car manufacturer made the dashboard out of some strange science fiction material which neither blue-tack nor gaffer tape would adhere to.  I didn’t even think such a thing existed – a problem that couldn’t be solved with gaffer tape!  So we wedged the camera as best we could but if we hit a bump it rattled around and whenever we had to start/stop the camera it was impossible to get it back into exactly the same position again.  As it was a hire car we didn’t have any time with it before-hand but if we’d had time to sort out the mountings it would have saved us a lot of headaches.

6 – Limitations of the Canon EOS550d – the biggest one was the 12 minute shut off.  The Camera has a memory limitation where it can only take about 4 gigs of continuous footage before it automatically shuts off.  This was incredibly frustrating as the car’s non-stick surface meant it was hard to restart it without changing the shot.

7 – Backup camera!  Our plan was to cover the main wide shot with the Canon and use some mini cameras to pick up the close-ups.  Unfortunately they were incredibly unreliable and it was hard to tell if they were even recording.  As a result we didn’t end up getting anything useful on either of them.  The end result was that I had to cheat the edit by adding close-ups in post-production which leads to some uncomfortable edits.  If we do it again we’d make sure that we end up with a far more reliable camera for the second angle.

My biggest piece of advice if you are planning something similar is to have a full rehearsal.  You’d be able to iron out all of the things above if you do a days test and then try to edit the result.  We’re really happy with what we’ve got in Chauffervision but we know that when we make more they’ll be a lot smoother.

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You know that short film I shot about a year about and have been awfully quiet about recently? Well here it is! The Brinkmen! Please watch it, several times if possible (those micro-payments finally add up). If you do like it please point people towards it.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYKUugUA%5D

Why the delay? Well my secret name for the Brinkmen is also “My year of post-production hell”…. Its a long, long boring story but the short version is that there was an issue with some of the footage meaning it’s never going to look good on a big screen.  However it does look pretty good on a computer so I’m going to be fairly enthusiastically pimping it online over the next few months.

There’s also a pretty good chance that Nico (Brinkman Javier Costa) is going to be in Britain’s Got Talent so there’s a good chance we can get a wide audience for it and hopefully also for our other projects including the pilot for our improvised comedy: Chauffervision.  With a bit of luck it could be an exciting year.

A few pictures from the last year or so of me working on various projects

Directing the scenes in Laura’s house From the Brinkmen (August 2009)

Observing rehearsals for the Fight Scene in the Brinkmen at Wolstenholme Square in Liverpool (August 2009).  Moments later it had to be moved in-doors due to heavy rain.  A shame as it’s an amazing location.

Lining up the final shot for the Brinkmen (August 2009)

Interviewing one of the Directors of the Liverpool Improvathon for a Documentary by Opiate for the People Films (April 2010)

Crewing for Backyard Productions on their short – Sugarcubes (June 2008)