It's been a good long time since my first film Plastic Shores was screened anywhere. It was released in 2012 and has been shown all around the world now. Perhaps it is because World Environment day this year is focussing on plastics that there has been a sudden interest in the film, which looks at the problem of marine plastic debris. Friends of the Earth are holding a screening in Chester tomorrow (18th January) and then there is another in the Cayman Islands not long afterwards. Although there are many things about Plastic Shores I cringe out now being a more experienced film maker, it will always have a very special place in my heart and shows what you can do if you see an idea through its creation.
I've just returned from my first posting abroad with CNN and it was quite the experience. We were in Greenland with CNN Travel, mainly to do a piece on the shortest football season in the world: The Greenlandic Men's Championship. However, as we were on the ground we covered far more than football. In the end we shot everything from dog-sledding champions to Inuit seal-hunters, shaman-experts to how to make the perfect Greenlandic coffee. Only two films are out so far (unfortunately they don't have embeddable video): a short film on the football (to be followed by a feature piece) and one on the furthest north contemporary arts festival.
It's hard to keep this website updated as I am now full-time but this is something to shout about. E-LIFE has won its first award! The Impact DOCS Awards have granted it the Award of Excellence Special Mention: Documentary Feature. Impact is a Californian based organisation that hands out awards to films that try and change the world, which is why it is hugely complimentary they have given E-LIFE won. It is always nice, after investing years of your life into a project, to have it recognised and therefore I am incredibly grateful for the guys at Impact.
Further news is that E-LIFE has secured distribution! I can't quite reveal the details yet but they are soon to come.
So yes, this is the big news. I have started as a content producer at CNN as of Monday 3rd April. The freelance life is at an end for now but the first few days at CNN have been quite a whirlwind, what with the St Petersburg bombing on Monday and the chemical attack in Syria on Tuesday. Today comparatively was pretty calm and saw the release of my first piece for the news corporation.
In one day two other commercial projects go live. The first is a linear 360 experience of the new David Hockney exhibition at the Tate Britain. Presented by Sara Cox, the viewer gets an exclusive view of the empty gallery as Sara chats to curator Chris Stephens about the artwork. It was released on Facebook today and has received 30,000 views in 15 minutes.
The second, a major VR commercial for O2, went live in store this week. Unfortunately it is not live online yet but I'll post about it as soon as it does. The blurb from O2 reads as follows:
"Featuring a cast of over 100 and filmed by a crew of almost 30, the experience offers two experiences in one – allowing users to live through a pre-performance at an O2 Academy venue as either a music fan or a member of a band.
Using a unique, interactive and switchable storytelling mechanic, users can constantly swap between the music fan and band perspectives – experiencing first-hand how the excitement builds both in front of and behind the stage.
The experience is the first time an O2 Academy venue has given 360° ‘behind the scenes’ access, with the band point-of-view showcasing how musicians build up to an event – from leaving the tour bus to being backstage in the dressing room – eventually building to a crescendo of the band walking on stage to an onslaught of noise that transports the user directly to the live music arena."
My second project with Happy Finish (first to be released) is now live. Ted Baker: Meet the Bakers is the new campaign from the British Fashion brand. The cinemagraphs were just one aspect of it and they are one of the world's first 360 videos of this high quality. Filmed in the Ukraine towards the end of last year, it was a hugely enjoyable job to work on. Only a shame I'm going to be moving on from working with these guys at the end of the month to go to a major news network (to be revealed soon).
Back in August, I won Dell's Legacy of Good Film Competition with my short doc idea Circular Cellular. We have now launched the film and have great feedback so far. It'll be showcased by the Disruptive Innovation Festival next week, and then by the Guardian shortly after. You can view it here in all it's glory!
As part of the awards package from Dell's Legacy of Good film competition, I was given the new RED Scarlet W, as yet unreleased in the US and UK. With film capabilities of 5k and 300fps (at 2k), it's a great piece of kit and I have decided to list it with my friends at Kitmapper. If you're interested, or just intrigued, just go through their website or email me directly.
Production for Circular Cellular has kicked off in earnest with two weeks filming in California. Interviews with Chris Guenther from the Ellen McArthur Foundation and Anthony Borges of Electronic Recyclers International. The deadline for completion of the project is mid-August and so things are moving along at a cracking pace. The Chase Films, my agency, has kindly said they will manage the post-production, with Patrick Fry taking control of the graphic element of the film.
In other news, it will be interesting to see how the EU referendum affects the artistic community in the UK. I returned from California yesterday in time to vote and was genuinely shocked by the disparity between London, which was very much in favour of staying in the European bloc, and the rest of the country (England that is). Demographic trends in the country seem to imply if you are white, of lower income, and live outside a major urban centre then you would have voted My own personal point of view is that an issue like this should have never been put to the vote. The sentiment of people having "had enough of the experts" is terrifying, and mirrors the anti-intellectualism of Trump's politics in the US. What on earth are experts for if not to listen to them?
It has been quite the week! On Friday, I was announced winner, alongside my LA producer Tom Fox-Davies, of the Dell Legacy of Good Film Competition for my entry Circular Cellular (trailer below). I've worked with Dell through my feature doc E-LIFE, and they pointed me in the direction of the competition. We beat over 200 other applicants to the winning spot, receiving $25,000 to complete a short documentary on the circular economy, along with additional support in the form of cameras and work stations. I've chosen to make Fairphone, the incredible Dutch start-up, the topic of the film.
In other amazing news, the short fashion film on Private White V.C. I produced for The Chase Films has been nominated for a Drum Design Award (Moving Image category). The event is in London on Wednesday (27th April), and I am attending alongside the talented DoP Fernando Ruiz. As I said, it's been a good week!
Over the past few months I have been working on a new TVC for The Chase Films. The client was ZSL London Zoo, who have just launched their latest attraction: Land of the Lions. As part of this launch, they wanted a magical commercial to be shown in cinemas, TV, VOD and online. The final version is below. It was directed by Mitch Walker and the production was great fun to work on, filming across the country. Word to the wise, if you need a cheap version of central London, use central Liverpool.
And finally! our short fashion doc on Private White V.C. is now up on Hypebeast. Alongside the Oscar-nominated duo Mark Gill and Baldwin Lee, edited by Alex Roberts, and DoPed by Fernando Ruiz, this was the first production I oversaw for The Chase Films. And it was one of the best shoots I have been on.
2016. January is typically a dead month for freelancers in the film industry, or it has been for me for the past 2 years. Possibly something to do with mince pie hangovers and short cold days. This year though it's all a go. The Chase Films is keeping me on my toes with producing my first TV ad and E-LIFE has entered post-production. This invariably means a lot of long long days as I work for the agency during the day, and on E-LIFE by night. Finally though, the first draft of the E-LIFE script, co-written with the journalist Huw Poraj-Wilczynski, is out for comments. With 3 distributors already interested, things are looking pretty fair-weather for the doc. After 2 years of work on it, this is a bit of a relief I can tell you.
Here is an online ad I did for Artists & Engineers last year. What an awesome shoot.
So it is my great pleasure to announce that I have been taken onto the mothership that is The Chase, an creative consultancy based out of Manchester. The Chase has recently opened up a film arm, The Chase Films, headed by the Oscar-nominated team Mark Gill and Baldwin Lee, alongside Alex Roberts. Despite knowing Mark and Baldwin for several years, I only had the privilege of working with them for the first time in August this year for a fashion documentary on Private White V.C., a clothing brand also based in Manchester (or Salford if you want to be precise). The film is due to be released imminently. Following this shoot, I was offered to come on board as a producer for the agency, and I'm tickled pink!
For now though, it is full steam ahead on E-LIFE. I am currently in Austin, Texas, meeting with Dell computers as SXSW Eco rages all around. This trip to the US should be the last location we visit for this production as we're planning on beginning post-production in November back in the UK. In early September, I was again in the US with E-LIFE's US producer Tom Fox-Davies to film e-Scrap in Florida. e-Scrap is the world's largest eWaste recycling conference in the world and we met many fascinating individuals and organisations there, one of which was the Goodwill Industries International, who have partnered with one of the world's biggest computer manufacturers Dell computers. Goodwill collect used electronics which Dell then repurpose, repair, or recycle into a new consumer product in the closest thing to the circular economy we have seen so far filming for E-LIFE. We plan to film with both organisations in Austin at the end of the month.
Two major shoots over two weeks, both with incredible production companies. At the end of August I had the privilege to work as production manager for the creative wonder house that is Artists & Engineers. A&E are a pretty unique company, as a quick glance at their website will show, as they aren't a regular film production company at all. They describe themselves as a "production company offering technology and production services to artists, brands, and cultural institutions" and film is only one small cog in the great machine. The client this time around was Native Instruments, although what we were filming, or who, has to remain a secret for now.
The second shoot was the long planned shoot with Chase Films with Private White V.C. The seed for this was planted at the beginning of this year and the shoot finally went ahead last week. With oscar nominated director and producer team Mark Gill and Baldwin Lee at the helm, along with myself, it was three days of journeying around the Lancashire countryside visiting the supply chain of the Private White brand, from sheep, to mill, to factory, to shop. It was an incredible shoot focussing on the ethos behind the brand and the importance of localism and quality in the manufacturing process. Their motto is "from sheep to shop within 10 miles" and they really do live by that. The workforce is local, the wool is local, and the weaving is local. It's a model by which more should operate! No photos to be released yet but expect a completion date for end of October.
With all the travelling I seem to have been doing outside the UK, it was high time I did some within the country. I have just spent the past three days in Sheffield and Manchester, for two very different projects. The first was for E-LIFE, yet again. At the University of Sheffield Hallam, situated bang in the middle of the beautiful city, resides an academic called Hywel Jones, a material scientist of some repute (he has just been awarded the Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize for developing a new lighter weight ceramic body armour). Hywel specialises in what materials are in things and, a few years ago, did some interesting research into what is in electronics. It was on this subject we wanted to talk to him about so the E-LIFE team, reorganised yet again, headed up North. The time is was Alex Kryszkiewicz and Huw Poraj-Wilczynski (there are a few Polish names in the E-LIFE crew but none of them seem to speak Polish).
We spent the day with Hywel filming deep within the underbelly of the university's Material & Engineering Research Institute (MERI for short). Surrounded by brand new labs and equipment, Hywel took us through just how difficult it was to get into the average electronic item (laptop, phone, camera) and what elements are actually used in their manufacture. Fascinatingly, there are as many as 40 elements from that are used, almost half of the entire periodic table. He demonstrated this using a futuristic machine called an X-Ray Flurorescent Analyser, which could list all the elements within a thin sample. Unfortunately less than half these 40 elements are actually retrieved in the recycling process as most are present in such small amounts that it is not financially worthwhile to extract them.
Following Sheffield, Alex and Huw headed back down South while I took the beautiful train ride across the Peak District to Manchester (beautiful because of the scenery, not because of the train itself I hasten to add) for a production meeting with the clothing brand Private White V.C. In the near future I will be producing a fashion documentary on the company, whose company motto is from Sheep to Shop in 10 miles. The motto sums up the ethos behind the company well. They use local materials from local farmers and mills to make high quality and durable clothing in their Manchester factory using a local workforce. It is an old model that is not at all that common today as the vast majority of clothing brands look for cheaper manufacturing alternatives far far abroad. On board is Oscar nominated director/producer team Mark Gill and Baldwin Lee and it is shaping up to be quite a project, although hunting down the perfect sheep field in Staffordshire may prove to be quite a task.
As I prepare to head up to Sheffield to interview Professor Hywel Jones of the University of Sheffield Hallam for E-LIFE, my documentary on electronic waste, I realise that we have reached quite an amazing milestone in the project. Almost a year and a half exactly since we began, we are now half way through production. The start of the UK filming means that we have now ticked off 2 of the 5 countries we plan to film in (having been to Ghana and Holland so far). Following the UK, we have a last few weeks in the USA followed by Mexico, hopefully (all being well), wrapping the production in September.
Last week, the E-LIFE team in the form of myself, James Bulley (composer), Alex Kryszkiewicz (camera), and Julia Schoenheit (Assistant Producer) made our way over to Holland to film a little about what is being done about the eWaste problem. We had four days to film with, in chronological order, Fairphone, Closing The Loop, Sims Recycling, and Phonebloks.
The Fairphone offices in Amsterdam are a stunning loft conversion on the edge of the canals to the East of the city. On the verge of releasing their 2nd phone, the company are progressing in leaps and bounds, proving that an ethically manufactured cell phone is a desirable product. Fair phone operates under the banner of four main tenets: mining (only sourcing from conflict-free zones), design (changing the way people relate to their phones thereby reducing the desire to upgrade and replace at every opportunity), manufacturing (good working conditions with low environmental impact), and lifecycle (concentrating on facilitating the 3Rs: waste reduction, reuse, and recycling).
Fairphone have recently started working with an organisation called Closing the Loop, who we met on the second day of our trip. Run by Joost de Kluijver, CTL has a unique perspective on how to deal with eWaste is developing countries. In Ghana for example, where E-LIFE filmed in May 2015, CTL have collected 70,000 discarded cell phones with the help of a local organisation Recell Ghana. These cell phones are currently on route back from Ghana to a Umicore recycling facility in Belgium where they will be recycled in the safest and cleanest possible way.
Following this we left Amsterdam and headed to Radio Kootwijk, a shortwave radio transmitter formerly the Netherlands main communications mechanism to its colonies. This detour was unrelated to E-LIFE but our composer James Bulley, a successful sound artist, is considering doing a sound installation there so watch this space on a possible film on the subject!
Finally we arrived in the South Eastern city of Eindhoven, a city built around the factories electronics giant Phillips. The irony of this little fact was not lost on us. Also recently ranked the 'World's Smartest Region', Eindhoven is a very different kettle of fish to Amsterdam, mostly consisting of very modern architecture and industrial estates. Our first part of call was the electronics waste recycler Sims, who have an enormous facility in the city. The contrast between their heavily mechanised complex and Agbogboshie in Ghana could not have been more striking. Very little was done by hand (although the mechanised changeover only happened 5 years or so ago) and the scale of the operation was vast. What was fascinating was the level of healthy & safety evident at the site. Air quality monitors measured levels of pollutants on an hourly basis and workers are blood-tested yearly to make sure they aren't being exposed to high levels of the toxic materials associated with electronics manufacture.
Our final day was spent in the smaller city of Helmond, home to the innovative organisation Phonebloks. Founded by Dave Hakkens, Phonebloks is the ideal Fairphone in terms of repairability and recyclability. Still very much in the concept stage, Phonebloks is a 100% modular phone that can be tailor made to a consumer's wishes. If you're a photographer for example, you can install a bigger camera by reducing the size of your games component. If you want more better sound quality, increase the size of the speakers while decreasing memory. Although still only an idea on paper, Dave has been working very closely with Google's Project Ara, which is close to releasing it's first modular phone. The creativity in Dave's picturesque workshop, shared with two close friends working on solutions for plastic waste, was truly inspiring.
As I sit in The Perfectionist Cafe in Heathrow Terminal 2 Departures, it dawns on me that I've been at this airport a fair amount over the past 2 weeks. This is trip number 3, the first two being the toing and froing to Ghana for the second location shoot of my doc E-LIFE. Accompanied by co-producer Huw Poraj-Wilczynski, cameraman Alexis Wilski, composer James Bulley, and toxicology consultant Markella Koniordou, I was in the country for 10 days investigating the problems of electronic waste.
The first trip to Accra was back in Dec 2013 when the film received its first installment of investment from Barchester Green Investments. Although successful, we felt we missed a few things, the most pivotal of which was testing the soil at the eWaste site of Agbogbloshie for toxic heavy metals. This time around, Markella (from the London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine) lead the research on this front alongside Sampson Atiemo from the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. This allowed us to use their facilities for processing the soil samples we took at Agbogbloshie, which has recently been ranked in the top 10 most toxic places on the planet by Pure Earth (formerly the Blacksmith Institute).
My London stopover has lasted a grand total of three days, which has been taken up solely working on a new documentary project for one of Scandinavia's largest media houses MTG. Now onwards to LA for pre-production work (mixed with some leisure time) on E-LIFE with out US Producer Tom Fox Davies. Onwards and upwards, care of Air New Zealand.
So on Friday, I was called in a little last minute to 1st AD a music video for a production company I haven't worked with before called Shape History, a social impact creative agency. The music video was with Boy in a Band to support a campaign for somewhereto_, a fantastic initiative that offers free creative space for 16-25 year olds all over the UK. The location was two derelict buildings in Peckham, previously gutted by fire and therefore perfect for creating the gothic ambience to reflect Boy in a Band's music. It was the most fun I have had on a shoot for a long time, and we ended up wrapping early, a very rare situation to be in on a film set! Film to follow.