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What makes a film “British” or “American”? Recently sparked up this debate over kickass, someone commented on the spelling of “ass” and the difference between American and British and then people saying the movie isn’t British. But the Director Matthew Vaughn is British, he’s also an autuer with directing British Gangster flick Layer Cake, as well as producing a large number of British set and toned films (lock stock, snatch, Harry Brown, etc.

Then again the production company for kickass are American, and the film’s set in America with mainly American actors and a few British ones. Release date might also play a part with the films release in the UK 20 days before the US release.

Look at the Dark knight though, some say it’s an American film even though the director’s British

Sherlock Holmes even though that has a British setting and British director is backed by a list of US production companies, so even though it’s “British” some people will see it as more American.

Then again, Alexander Mackendrick who’s the big name nationality film maker, born in the US but from Scottish decent and grew up in Scotland.. He’s a British film maker making American films some people say.. Or British films until he went to Hollywood.

To be honest I have no idea what makes a film “British” or what makes a film “American” because the debate about everything is so awash with who’s in what company, where it’s set, the mood and the tone.

Some people may say it boils down to the FEELING of a film, US films have a very distinct feeling as aposed to British films which have a different atmosphere… Then again, Slumdog Millionare, is completely British, Danny Boyle British director, and all production companies are British but it’s set in India and has a very LARGER THAN LIFE, American style feel to it, this is the reason people associate Slumdog with Hollywood even though it has NOTHING to do with the US at all.

Likewise Black Hawk Down which some people call an American propaganda film making the Americans out to be the best and kicking ass, but directed by Ridley Scott who is British and made with 2 US companies and 1 British one.

A university did ask me if I’m British or Scottish and asked me how I view myself but what kind of a question is that, especially in film making when there is no real distinct nationality between film or if there is I have no idea what it is since it’s not the director, not the production companies, not the setting or the feeling.

Then again people contradict themselves, if Michael Bay an obviously American style director, directed a British tone movie people would still say it’s American or some may say Americans should make American films, British should make British films and not try and imitate because imitation doesn’t work… it obviously does because of the massive list of directors adapting styles. So if Matthew Vaughn can make an American film, Michael Bay can make a British one

My work is much more “American” something my tutor criticized me for, I should be more British but there is no definitive film making nationality so having this little film war weather it’s American or British is weird… European cinema on the other hand is set aside by style but even some French style films still have a little touch of American going in to them.

So yeah, I think the only thing DEFINITIVE enough to judge a films nationality by is that of the director…

not setting because settings change, not tone, mood or atmosphere because they differ and it’s narrow minded for film to stick to one medium (British being gritty, US being larger than life) not judging a nationality by production company either because they vary depending on a number of things…

So because it makes the most sense I would say the film shares the same nationality as the auteur (the director) – ergo, Kick Ass is British

But that’s my opinion which doesn’t count for much considering other people would argue tone.. but you can’t make a good argument out of tone because of films I just mentioned, blackhawk, slumdog, etc.. The only thing that stands firm is the directors nationality

Script, budgets, locations, casting, props, meetings, equipment and the list goes on.. so got my Recon script about snipers that I’m rewriting some dialogue, just contacted all my actors and people involved with production scheduling meetings.

Couple of things this week has in store besides a massive amount of meetings, got about 3 meetings this week, if not more.. but my budget also came through £985 budget for my film. Hey if you want it to look good you got to be willing to spend the cash.

So equipment, although I’ve already spent £3k on equipment so far I’m dishing out £400, likewise props and costume I’m guessing will take up £300 – 400 that’s pretty much of it all gone..

Spending this amount of money is EXTREMELY HARD! unbelievably so! You have no idea how much it pains me to spend £900 within a few days, especially when the money has just gone in to my bank acount… :*(((((

So call sheets something I’m working on, who’s doing what, when and where.. Scheduling everything, probably one of the most important things, I’m meeting with actors, going over lines, and blocking, scene mood and reaction. Fine tuning the storyboard and adding in shots, planning my visual FX

but the big one and the PAIN of everything to come FILMING ON AN ISLAND… A small sucluded island off the coast of Edinburgh, Cramond island, have to wait for the tide to go down to get there… filming then wait for the tide to go down to get back..

the reason I chose this island beside the fact it is secluded.. Military bunkers… but it also means I have to rewrite the script since I’ll have no acess to cars, also means I might need to bring lights and a generator which means walking across a mile with all this equipment could be a massive strain. Then again Michael Bay did film in the desert with his crew walking over massive sand dunes in blazing heat carrying 10x heavier equipment.. This is film making and got to do this kind of thing.

It’s my biggest project yet and as time winds down to the shoot week everything becomes more intense but I have no doubt it will all be worth it in the end.

Something I’ve been pondering over for a long time and after seeing recent advances in computer game technology and stories (TOM CLANCY – SPLINTER CELL) I think it’s pretty inevitable I’ll be filming something of this kind of genre in the future.

Got to give praise to the Splinter Cell franchise, the story that unfolds over a large series of games that started in 2002 and the story line’s turned personal. It’s a great step for gaming series and one that makes Sam Fisher possibly the strongest computer game character evers created.

Splinter Cell Double Agent being one of the best games I’ve ever played, also giving the feeling and intensity of a movie it did lead me to come up with stealth movie ideas at the time about car thieves. The story for conviction now has taken a larger than life kind of feel and Sam Fisher turning in to some kind of one man army, which is exactly the sort of thing I really enjoy.

I do get a lot of game inspiration probably just as much as from movies. Inspiration for my movie “Recon” about a sniper and a spotter was heavily inspired by Battle Field Bad Company 2… well the whole recon part was, and the fact that Sniping is a type of soldier everyone seems to love.

Also inspiration from Modern Warfare 2… Although I’ve lost complete respect for IW because of their greed I did like the idea of not actually seeing one characters face and that character being niether good nor bad… Leading for some interesting character development. Well that was me but from MW2 I did borrow the idea of never seeing the snipers face, taken from character in MW2 “Ghost”

The main idea behind the Sniper character is that you don’t know him and you don’t feel any empathy.. You don’t like him because he’s heartless but you do like him because he’s efficient. There’s something about not showing the characters face and only showing his eyes that’s good. When the character does decide to f*** orders and go in, you enjoy it… because through the script he obeys the rules making him heartless, you don’t like him.

I’ve talking about this character development before, not liking a cool character but loving it when he comes together with the good guy.

Anyhoo, getting a little side tracked but I do have plans for a stealth action thriller

REALLY quick update here, wanted to leave a heads up about a book I’ve been reading.. Cinematic storytelling by Jennifer van Sijll.

Incase you aren’t in the know, Michael Wiese Production (film making books) has the best collection of film making books I have perhaps ever read. I’ve already piled through “Directing Actors” by Judith Weston.. I’ll cover that in a different post.

Today I shot through Cinematic Storytelling and it’s one of the most informative, easy to read film making books there is. Likewise, “Master Shots” by Christopher Kenworthy. You can get these books off amazon and they’re real keepers. I’m still going through Master shots so I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I love the ways these books have been designed, it tells you what you need to know, gives you all the right information and then gives you great detail of how the audience reacts to the story telling of film… for example how the audience may react to certain sound, types of sound, how the audience reacts to time, what shapes audience reacts positively and negativity towards.

It’s been created in such a way that the information comes across extremely efficiently, you could skim through this book in a couple of hours and come out vastly more knowledgeable about film. It’s books like these that I study and revise until I know them back to front. Definitely reccomend this one

A nice subject for film.. or any project in general I guess.. I always try and boost the scale of my projects and up the ante with everything I do.

I think a lot of film makers hold themselves back due to what they believe are “limitations” or when people say “you can’t do that” or someone tells you something isn’t possible… You have the right to prove them wrong… If they say something isn’t possible you should prove them wrong, there are a lot of film directors that feel this way.

You shouldn’t limit yourself, as soon as you become safe and don’t take risks with projects you can fall in to the category that is mediocrity and create a mediocre film. Student mediocrity is bad. If you look at the students in around Hollywood right now and the students with films and videos that REALLY impress the audiences, they are way above mediocrity because they challenge the thought of not being able to do something.

I started off setting the bar pretty high with my very first project which was a short film (Tried and True) with gun fights and 1,200fps video and visual FX.. Then I went to work with the MoD and Turner Estate helping them out with a video project which was great fun. Then on to my Stella Artois advert directing 15 actors inside a Church I hired out

Moving on to my final film now, recently because of my personal life and because of everything happening I wasn’t motivated at all, and I tried to push things off my plate and not do work. So I thought it would be a good idea if I toned it down a little and went with a quiet drama… Well now that I’m back in full swing I’ve put my drama script in a box for now and I’m working to increase the scale of my projects.

This time I want to increase the quality of writing and the quality of visuals, the real test for this film is to bring it up to broadcast quality. That’s my main goal, to have something that looks, feels and plays out like a real movie. I don’t want something that people would normally associate with student films.

Student films usually have bad locations and bad acting, bad framing.. bad locations come through using your house to film, or your friends house, bad acting comes from using your friends (unless they’re actors) but framing just comes from using wide lenses all the time. You should find actors, go out of your way to get great locations, and don’t spend £45 when you can spend £200 even if this is costing you in your social life the end result of your film will be so much better. Point being, don’t make life easy for yourself, just because you can make it easy doesn’t mean you should… You put in the extra hours of work for hiring proper locations, using proper actors and setting up the frame properly the film looks 10x better

You look at any of Will Smiths wisdom videos he will tell you the same thing, never think you can’t do something, once you decide you want to do something, it’s already done.

Trust me, not blowing smoke with this, I applied this scale during my first year and it managed to impress, and through my second year every project just gets better. Don’t think too much scale though, being a little critical of my inspiration here… Michael Bay loves scale but perhaps loves scale a bit too much… he loves scale so much that he manages to miss small details within a film that would give the film depth, this is why some of his films are critisized for being shallow..

GTA’s a good example, the scale of san andreas was massive but had bad details, Rockstar recognized this and created GTA IV, which was much smaller in size, but the amount of detail within the game was mind blowing, the scale of the detail rather than the volume of the game was what made it shine.

Had a show reel building shoot today, nothing planned just go out and film, pretty successful day! Good prep for my new film

I’m talking about Eminems new song Beautiful, I just watched the video and I was pretty blown away by the visuals in this, there’s a lot of time spent setting these up and it makes it look that much better.

He’s definetly come a long long way since the days of Slim Shady, feast your eyes upon some of these screens from the music video. The dude seems to have matured a lot and it really shows, although he’s always been a really clever guy his raps now are a lot more true to life

anyway, the shots here are great, especially the one where he’s silhouetted against the smoke back ground. Can’t say I was too keen on the lens flare shots because I thought the flares were pretty strong and they weren’t actually that good looking, cool effect though.. I did take a screen of the flare that I did like, when he’s standing beside the fence.

You learn a lot from watching these, like how the footage is pretty dark.. Made me realise some of my footage is a little bit too bright.

EXCELSIOR!









I’ve been over colour in a previous post saying how important it is, I didn’t get in to colour too much I’m leaving that til later and until I have time. Just quickly I’ve been editing some footage to go on my show reel for my university application and I came across so footage I shot and the colour is completely off, so I thought I would share some tips on how to correct it in After Effects using a method that I always use
Other people use different methods, I do this, I like the control I have and I love the way I go about grading the footage so yeah. This will also help you with that film look and show you how to restrict your pallet.

Very quick tutorial though because I’m just going to the gym, good times!
Here we go, the original footage in After Effects

As you can see the red is extremely ugly, very quickly you can get rid of this.
There are a few ways to do this, the way I did it here was quickly add Magic Bullet Colorista

  1. Push the highlights towards blue
  2. Push the mid tones towards blue / green
  3. push the dark tones towards green

You can see how much I did in the example below (look at the colour wheel on the left and look at the difference it makes

Another way of doing this would be just to add a blue filter over it… Perhaps a blue solid, change the opacity value and fiddle with the blending modes you would get a quick fix.. Or you could use Colour correction > Curves.. and fiddle with the red and blue values

Or you could even use Magic Bullet Look Suite and select the preset “Berlin” which is a nice blue shade and it would colour the footage well and give you a lot of control but this way’s pretty fast and it’s adequate for what I want to do here

But it’s still quite ugly because her face is very red, a handy trick I’ve been taught by other tutorials is to restrict your colour pallet… What I’m doing here isn’t so much restricting it. Usually with this term it would be like getting rid of an annoying colour that draws attention away from the video… Here I just want to slacked the reds off a little

  1. Effects > Colour Correction > Hue & Saturation
  2. Place it ABOVE all of your effects (This is very important!!)
  3. Click the drop down box and select the red (or just highlight the red area (so that the only colour we’re effecting is the red channel)
  4. Then de-saturate the red channel… This is a visual thing, depending on your footage the values will be different.. you just have to play around with this

There we go, a little bit better… Perhaps a little too heavy on the green but it takes fiddling with.. You push the colours around until you get the look you want. Here the colours are quite saturated, quite Michael Bay esque, very heavy in the shadows very saturated.. I’m more of a bleach bypass kind of guy but I like this look too.

It looks a lot better than the original, it still needs some work but this is enough to get you started, these colour correction and grading techniques are extremely handy… Especially Hue and Saturation which is extremely simple but incredibly powerful when making movies or just correcting footage!

Anyone that knows me know I go on about film grammar all the time, it’s EXTREMELY important though.. The reason I’m bringing it up just now is because I’ve just watched a clip from a short film and it’s created by another student that can really speak the language of film.
check it out

I’m keeping an eye on this guy, he’s got a really good visual style. Most student films I’ve seen look like home videos, one thing that I love is when I see films like this and they’re filmed like proper movies. It’s because they’re made by people that can speak the language of film.
For most people learning film grammar takes a very long time, there are a few people who are naturally talented with movies and their films look like high production value films even though they are students. When you see this talent in student films you know the person that made it is way ahead of the curve.

I don’t know much about the story, in fact all I know about the story is from what I just watched but this post is really commenting on the way this has been filmed, not the story behind it, I imagine the stories pretty good though, in this short scene you can see they managed to write in some dramatic irony through exposition which is really good.
Kudos to the guy that made it, good thing about being a film student is we have loads of time and room to improve so I really can’t wait to see what this guy does next

Colour in film is extremely important, I do a lot of my colour correction and grading in Adobe After Effects. It’s extremely important to get it right and know what kind of mood you’re creating. Although there’s a lot of different moods you can create all the different moods use the same colour pallet. (Darks to teal, mid tones to blue, high lights to orange)

This is some footage I shot about a month ago, (this is before I had my HD camera so this footage is from the DVX100B, it’s standard definition.

The orange is REALLY ugly

I use the presets within magic bullet look suite to give me a rough look and I change the values (mainly gamma) to suit the footage. After it looks ok I add colorista, combining the two you can create some amazing colours, filters and moods.. Here’s a few I made from the original footage

This is a Bleach Bypass, I almost always use some kind of bleach bypass, I like the gritty look and the fact the footage looks sharp.


You can also use ramps within Magic Bullet to create interesting looks, I don’t use these a lot, I also wouldn’t reccomend using them unless you’re cameras on a tripod and there’s no dominant foreground objects, it looks a bit off.
You see ramps a lot on TV shows like Top Gear. They can be created in post or on camera, you can buy grad filters for your camera, they go for about £5 on ebay.
It’s debateable to what’s a better way of creating a gradient, different situations would mean sometimes it’s better to use the grad on the camera, in other situations it’s better to do it in post.


This is almost completely made through a preset in Magic Bullet called “basic warm max” (which is actually an orange filter) which makes it VERY orange, but combine it with colorista and push the colours in to the blue you can create a nice warm look.

Obviously lighting plays a massive part in mood, you would use a soft light combined with the warm summer look to create a happy or romantic scene. You can get pretty creative with all this, it’s all up to planning, a lot of cinema is lighting. Colour is extremely important to light.

Colour’s very important with composition. If you’re filming a very monotone scene, you would find a very monotone location, not a lot of colour, ideally you want a place where you can control the colour pallet of the location.
With student film it’s VERY unlikely you’ll have complete control over a location, I shot a short film in one of the scenes the colour pallet was really restricted but during filming a bright red car parked in the back ground. During post production the car stuck out like a chav at a dinner party.
There is a way to get around this problem, you can “fix” things in post production, a very bad way of making movies is to film something wrong and say “fix it in post” you do that I guarantee it will eventually trip you up. But there is a quick fix for colour, a good tool called Hue & saturation… the name explains it. I add the effect, I find the colour red in Hue and then I desaturate the reds so they appear grey. An obvious problem with this is that if anything else in the scene is red (actors face) they also appear grey but you can use masks in AE to help with this.

AE is an extremely powerful tool while working with colour. After you use colour grading you can never make a project without it.

For the lens people the DoF adapter I used to film this was an Sgblade and I used a Nikon 200mm, f3