Fan Film Flailings

A few years ago, a call was put out by a Film Studies University student. They wanted volunteers to be a part of their Doctor Who fan film featuring original characters. Alarm bells might have rung in my head about how this would pan out when I realised the script hadn’t been finished. Effectively, by the time the script was finished, nearly all of the volunteers had dropped out and had mostly been replaced.

I don’t know how relaxed Film Studies is at this particular uni, or if it’s a reflection of the student, but my two experiences of filming have been interesting.

The first experience involved going to Cardiff. They brought coffee and read the script to me, and highlighted my parts. I found a location where we could shoot a scene that involved walking – no dialogue. Then we had a sit down meal. Then, while the light was fading, we walked to the Doctor Who Experience and filmed another short scene where their character answers a phone. That was a day of my life and £70 in food and travel costs.

The second experience came from my recommendation of Coventry Cathedral ruins as a backdrop for the main villain’s headquarters and a battle scene. The night before, I asked them to email me the script so I could learn my lines as I didn’t want to read through the entire manuscript looking for the few pages I’m in. They asked me when I was arriving at the location, and I said I had an open train ticket. They had done some research to discover the venue closed at 5pm, and decided they would arrive at the train station at 3.30pm as the tickets were cheaper. This gave us 90 minutes in Coventry. A good proportion of that time was spent with them struggling to put their costume on, asking where the hotel was, where the ruins were, how to hail a taxi, checking into the hotel. By the time we got to the ruins, they were closing the gates.

I suggested we use the exteriors as filming locations. We managed an hour due to the cold. We managed one page of script, as they didn’t know how to set up the tripod for the camera. They only had one camera. They didn’t know their lines. Some of my stage directions said “chants in an unknown language” for which they had no suggestions. I chose part of the All Blacks Haka. They had brought a tube of fake blood, which they hadn’t skin or screen tested beforehand. They didn’t take photos for continuity.

I went back to the hotel and stayed in my room all night. Mostly I spent it in the bath defrosting my hands. While I’d remembered to wear a thermal base layer, my hands were exposed and my hot water bottle went cold very quickly. We agreed we’d meet in the foyer at 9.30am, as that would give us chance to set up and then start as soon as the gates opened at 10am. I had a social media message at 9.12am asking where I was. I replied I was in the foyer having checked out.

They were on a fixed train, so we had 3 hours of filming and 40 minutes to get to the train station, get lunch and change into normal clothes. The day went like this:

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When Your Best Friend Gets Married…

… and asks you to be the photographer.

I said yes.

It’s no secret that I don’t like weddings, both the concept* and the photography. During my photography training, I quickly realised that “Christian” weddings are an industry of mass production. Essentially, I was looking at the same thing with slightly different faces. Thankfully, my friend wanted a Gothic Halloween themed wedding, which reflects the personalities of the couple. She also opted for a kids party rather than a formal sit down reception.

My friend and I have been photographing each other in various locations and outfits for nine years. I knew that aspect of the day would be fine. Managing everyone else to be photographed was like herding cats. Cats that don’t like being photographed. The Registry office also had strict rules about photography, beyond “Don’t photograph the real registry book as it’s a legal document”. During proceedings, I could feel the anxiety sweat dripping down my back, and I hoped the energy tablets would get me through the day. I slept a lot afterwards (still am).

Due to a decade of friendship, the groom being unconscious for a month, and a DIY wedding, I was involved in the preparations for the six month run up. Laptop, speakers, and a music playlist on shuffle. Pumpkins painted. Fabric hoarding finally put to good use. Confetti bags were upcycled Valentine’s Day gift bags. Food balanced between price and time to make. This was a masterclass in what can be achieved with essentially rubbish – empty coffee jars, empty medicine jars, empty wine bottles were transformed into table decorations with black spray paint, ribbon, and labels printed from the Internet; becoming candle holders, light holders, paper flower jars (also home made) and sweet jars. All the guests took the decorations home. Most people were stunned silent when they entered the party venue.

Pretty much, everything that could go wrong leading up to the event did go wrong – the groom nearly died, no venue would allow skull decorations, the ordered catering wouldn’t deliver to the venue, and the taxi firm frowned on filled trunks as it slowed their turnaround for other clients (even though they were told what the hire was for). A quarter of the confirmed guests became ill, and the balloons just about floated with helium. And yet, the day itself went with the one intended hitch.

I’m not one to miss an opportunity to dress up. At one point, my friend and I were on the wedding steps together, and it looked like we had just got married! (To be honest, this would surprise no-one.) Other guests were under orders to take photographs of me, as the photographer is seldom photographed.

I knew from listening to other people’s wedding experiences that I wouldn’t have much time with the couple outside of standard shots, so we had the reception hall the day before to do relaxed shots without the demands of others. The day after, I could do arty shots of the jewellery and remaining table decorations in the comfort of my pyjamas and photo studio.

I’ve learned many things:

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Another Solar Return

It was my birthday this week, clocking up thirty four free trips around the sun since my Earth debut.

A few years ago, I opted for a “memories not merchandise” policy. I tend to give physical things to charity shops from lack of use or lack of space. This year, my present to myself was seeing Professor Brian Cox talk about the wonder of the universe at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Listening to people talk about their passions is a gift. You can see the delight, and I wish for everyone to do what lights them up inside. But seeing someone fanboy over the origin of the universe and if we really exist wasn’t the personal highlight. There was a social media Q&A session over the interval #briancoxlive and someone said, “Can you wish [Temple] a happy birthday, please?” I spent a good portion of the second half contemplating the odds of two people sharing a name, sharing a birthday, and ending up at the same event on this pale blue dot. But, like inflation theory not being invented for explaining the origin of existence but it fitting perfectly, I simply appreciated that the universe got Professor Brian Cox to wish me a happy birthday by proxy.

It wasn’t the only unexpected delight this year. I had a routine eye test the day before. In my family, one parent had an eye removed due to cancer, and ultimately it killed them. My other parent has needed glasses since they were six. My eye test showed an improvement in my vision. It took longer than normal, as it’s rare for eyesight to improve when there is no specific condition beyond ageing. The optometrist couldn’t believe it. I overcame my family pattern. Genetic lesson learned.

My cat also let me have a lie in, which is always appreciated. She lay on my chest at 8am and purred loudly, while my alarm played Better Than TV by Neil Finn.

There was a beautiful wide rainbow while I was waiting for the bus, which terminated on Dudley Castle.

My fiction muse came back, in the form of X-Files fanfic. It’s on here and Tumblr (templedragon).

I belatedly realised 1013 continues to pervade my life. The X-Files aside, it’s Kevin Clifton’s birthday. Mr Clifton is a professional dancer currently on Strictly Come Dancing. He’s seven days older than I am, and sometimes I wonder what my life would have been if my health had been different. Dancing was a huge part of my life when I was young. Essentially, I stopped dancing because a family paedophile took my body confidence away, so I found the X-Files, and I stopped the X-Files when my CFS/ME gave me debilitating fatigue. I started belly dancing when I could afford that many energy tablets (2011), and now the X-Files has come back. Dancing, then fiction, tied together by 1013.

I’m very late to the party that my birthday can fall in Asexual Awareness Week. In case you weren’t aware, I identify as both aromantic and asexual. Ask me questions, or pop over to the AVEN site to read about other people’s experiences and perspectives.

This week will culminate with me photographing my best friend’s wedding. Nine years ago, when we agreed to meet up at the Blackpool Illumination Switch On with David Tennant, little did we know all the crazy things we would do and where we would be now. We met because of Doctor Who, but naturally we are both hard core X-Files fans. My new year always starts on my birthday, but Celtic New Year starts on the new moon closest to Halloween, which is my friend’s wedding. I’m going to be capturing the start of her new life with her husband to be on a day that is already special because of our Celtic beliefs.

 

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Product Review: SAAL Digital Photobook

I found an advert on Facebook – a £40 voucher for a photobook in a 14 day period, in exchange for an honest review. This yielded a 30 page A4 sized hardback book in gloss finish. The pages are very thick and heavy – they lay flat at the open page and do not bend. I ordered it late on Saturday and it arrived from Germany to the UK by Thursday. Paypal and Visa were accepted as payments, and the upload of the completed book took a minute over Wifi. Numerous emails informed me of each step in production.

The software is easy to download and install. As a semi-professional photographer, I’ve used many photobook online services. This has the familiar set up of tools – accessing files from multiple sources on the left, a central window for the book, quick page access at the bottom, and various layout and tool options to the right. There are numerous options for text. Each used image has a handy “tick” next to it to indicate it has been used. I had much fun trying different patterns and gradients for the backgrounds. It is possible to have a “spare” photo which you can fill with a background or gradient in order to make a unique border around each image which you drop on top – the software lets you decide which images are on top or sent behind.

My file sizes are very large, and the software coped quickly with them, telling me the image quality was “very good”. Out of habit, I cropped and lightened the images in a different software. It is possible to crop the images (and keep the aspect ratio) within the book. Handy guidelines appear when you align photos with other images already across the double page spread. A word of advice: It doesn’t seem possible to change the “centre” of an image – this is the point that all the sides references – decide your centre in different software. Also, lighten the images in different software – I couldn’t find an option for this. This is a photobook creator rather than a photo editor software.

It is possible to create a base for similar projects and then change the project by saving it under a different name. This also allows you to go back to an earlier saved version if your experiments don’t turn out the way you hope! Previewing the whole book is possible, to see the balance of images throughout rather than focused on the two-page spread.

My only concern is the thickness of the paper for when I’ve chosen one image spread across the centrefold. I worry that over time a crease will appear here after repeated opening of the book.

I will be using SAAL again.

@saal.digital.uk” (on Facebook)

@saal_digital (Instagram)

#saaldigital (Twitter)

 

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X-Files Revisited Challenge: This Wasn’t The Plan

What if Mulder stayed dead in DeadAlive?

 

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X-Files Revisited Challenge: Skinner Fights The Future

 

What if Skinner had gone to rescue Scully in Antarctica in Fight The Future?

 

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#OnePulse – Vigil for Our Human Family

Today I attended a vigil for the people murdered in Orlando, Florida in a gay nightclub this week. For the most part, it looked wonderful while I was on a bus stuck in traffic. This is the nature of city centres in urban conurbations on a Saturday afternoon.

It was held on a subway roundabout, with a giant rainbow flag stuck to a Chinese pagoda. Rainbow choirs sang, solo violinists played, elegies were said over a loud speaker. Most people stood silently listening, breaking the silence with applause. Leaflets were offered to attend discussions to end hatred and Islamophobia. Fifty-one white balloons were released for the people murdered by a solo gun person who had issues. Fifty-one white roses were laid outside the Birmingham LGBT Centre. We tried to light candles of all colours, but the wind had other plans.

People leaned on each other. Strangers hugged strangers who were overcome with emotion. None of us knew who the victims in America were. None of us knew the people standing next to us in contemplation, in their rainbow sashes and dyed hair. But we were all human, and we all wanted to be ourselves, without fear of self-expression. This was a safe space. Everywhere is meant to be a safe space.

I walked through the Chinese quarter to the rag market, where most of the stall holders are Indian in ancestry. Black and white college students asked the price of fabric. It’s one of the few places left where people are looking around them rather than at their smart phones. It was a normal Saturday, with families queuing out the door of the Disney Store in the shopping centre. Life goes on.

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