Pearls of Wisdom from the Raindance Saturday Film School

Having attended the Raindance Saturday Film School, led by Elliot Grove, a few weekends ago, I thought it worthwhile to jot down a few of the handy insights I picked up on the day. Although there were four sessions to the day, I have chosen to only include three as the first session, Writing your Screenplay, is more theory based and less easily broken down .


  • The trick to make your low budget film look more expensive? Keep the camera moving; tracking shots over zoom.
  • Push your cameraperson along the floor on a skateboard for a cheap but effective tracking shot.
  • When shooting in public, you don’t need a permit for handheld cameras or monopods.
  • The money made from films is more likely to come from its soundtrack than the film itself. (They tell a very interesting anecdote about Quentin Tarantino and his trick to securing great soundtracks that was worth some of the ticket price alone!)


  • Who chooses the shots on set, Director or DOP? If you know what you are doing, the crew will let you choose them. If not, the crew will direct it for you.
  • In short, go on set, prepared and with a plan.
  • Directing for screen is all about cheating. It needn’t look realistic in real life, so long as it looks right on camera.
  • Theatre deals in breadth, film deals in depth.
  • For any aspiring screen actors, apparently it’s “more important to hit your mark, than to act well.” Probably best to aim for both!
  • Mirror shots are bullshit! For the audience to see the actor on screen in the mirror, the actor won’t be seeing themselves but the camera.
  • Another one for actors, measure the volume of your voice according to the size of shot, as opposed to where your co-star is.
    E.g. Even if your co-star is on the other side of the room, if there closeup is on you, whisper!


The Producers

  • If someone leads you to talent, this makes them an Co-Producer.
  • If someone leads you to money, this makes them an Associate Producer.
  • The person with the money is an Executive Producer.

Your Showreel

  • Show some variation. If you wish to be a DOP, show range of light and dark shot, indoor/outdoor, etc.
  • Put your name and contact details in a (news) ticker, running along the bottom of the screen, so they are visible throughout

Publicity Shots

When shooting a film, be sure to get three types of photos whilst on set.

  1. Staged publicity shots from the film
  2. Cast & crew shots e.g. actors in the makeup chair
  3. Photos of yourself, as the director, producer etc.

Be sure to hire a stills photographer who understands movement.

I learnt considerably more from the day than the above but perhaps this will help to give you a taster of what to expect. If you are novice film maker, like myself, this course is a great starting point. Even if you have a short or two under your belt, it is useful in determining whether you may be interested in any of Raindance’s other courses.

And if you are thinking of attending, set up a news alert for a Groupon deal, or similar, as most people there, like me, seemed to be there on the cheaps!

The Perfect LinkedIn Custom Background

Talk about First World Problems.

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from LinkedIn inviting me to add the latest feature to my profile – the custom background! The email came complete with a black and white gif featuring inspiring photographs of the New York skyline, sailboats in the distance and vintage stamps. Being the social media keen bean that I am (read: wannabe influencer), I instantly pressed the big yellow “customize now” button.


Firstly, the word “background” is a misnomer. This isn’t a background but rather a cover or header photo. Yes, exactly like the thing Facebook had that Google+ and Twitter also incorporated into their designs. It’s hardly a new notion, web design and advertising has been capitalising on this coveted position for sometime. When it’s the first thing you see when you open a web page and it can subtly, or dramatically, influence how you perceive the rest of the content. Just ask anyone who has to read CVs for a living. A good header, and people barely notice it. But a bad one?

Which brings me to my FWP. My Facebook, Twitter and Google+ cover photos, which I update fairly regularly, are usually photos of friends or some geekery from my latest convention. I never have a problem replacing them when I fancy a change. But the moment I opened my files to upload a image to LinkedIn, my mind went blank.

This is my professional profile, one that I have spent sometime on and have secured two jobs from. I need something that represents me professionally but also offers up more of my personality than my profile picture. It needs to be interesting and the same time, avoid being cheesy (an idyllic seascape), predictable (a city skyline) or quirky (vintage stamps). I’ve used LinkedIn’s image as examples because, despite them looking great in the email, in reality they would look ridiculous on mine or your profiles. So what is the perfect LinkedIn custom background?

Personally, I’ve no idea but I reckon there are only a few choices if you wish to keep it appropriate and relevant:

  • Your job – A photo of you doing your job! The next time you’re running a presentation, celebrating a new client win or just look particularly great in the office(!), ask someone to grab a quick pic (in landscape!). Pro Tip – point at something out of shot! See all onset pictures of film directors and you’ll know what I mean.
  • Your work – Similar to the above but if you would rather not feature in the image, let your work do the talking. Ideal for those in creative/designer type roles but also anyone in event management, advertising or similar.
  • Your desk – If you are one of those cool kids with a particularly good looking desk, snap that! Just be sure to give it a clean beforehand.
  • Your Hobbies – The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can include all the hobbies that would be wasted on your CV. Unfortunately they are usually relegated to the bottom of your profile, where they may be missed. Highlighting this activity in an image could add intrigue into a sometimes dull layout. Just don’t be a douche with it!

Not having any images like this to hand, I have not practiced what I’m preaching and instead gone with something irritatingly quirky. But I will be on the lookout for such photo opportunities when I begin my new job in October.

Have you been offered this new feature yet? What image did you go for?

Short Film: Ballad of a WiFi Hero

This is a corker – a modern fairytale for Generation WiFi.

“In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero”

Story by Mike Lacher.

Animation by Jesse Benjamin.

Together Again: ‘Potter’ stars win at the WhatsOnStage Awards

Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint at the WOS AwardsTwo Sundays ago, I was once again on MuggleNet duty at the WhatsOnStage Awards. Celebrating the best of Britain’s West End, the annual ceremony is voted for by the public.

Whilst I didn’t stay for the whole event, what I did see was a lot of fun. My priority for the night, however, was to cover the attendance of the Potter alumnus, in the form of nominees Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe. Fortunately they both won – queue me manically rushing from the theatre to the press area – and rather conveniently, their awards were announced consecutively resulting in a rather charming reunion backstage.

I say all this, and more, in my MuggleNet report, which can read right here. If you’re after photos, why not peruse a Storify feed of my tweets from the event.

Short Film: RPG OKC

Some things, once experienced, simply have to be shared.

I came across this short animation at a screening for International Women’s Day, organised by Birds Eye View and hosted at the BFI. Whilst great seen on the big screen, that certainly isn’t essential. So sit back, and prepare for 9 and a half thoroughly enjoyable minutes!

Two 8-bit video game characters enter the world of online dating.

Directed, Written and Animated by Emily Carmichael.

Game of Thrones Season 3 Blu-ray and DVD Release Event

It’s no secret that I love Twitter. However this past week, my activity on the network has culminated in a few treats that have intensified my adoration for the platform to quite a level.

After a some mysterious tweeting with HBO’s UK account, I was subsequently invited to celebrate the release of Games of Thrones Season 3 on Blu-ray and DVD at an exclusive screening.

As a result of this, I found myself, this Tuesday evening, in the rather smart basement rooms of the Soho Hotel, drinking wine and making small chat with strangers.

red wedding cakerThat said, small chat was pretty easy to make when in the presence of the monstrous creation on the right!

The Red Wedding Cake was made specially for the event by the extraordinary team behind Choccywoccydoodah. In honour of the tragic penultimate episode of Series 3, the creation was a pretty macabre take on a traditional wedding cake. Swords, daggers and arrows, created from chocolate, gave the illusion of tiers, whilst a conjoined Stark and Frey shield took centre stage. With a chocolate, raisin and rum centre, the cake apparently took four people and twenty hours to build. (And mere minutes for us lot to eat!)

However we didn’t have too long to appreciate their creation before being ushered into the screening room, where it was revealed what we were about to watch. Before that got under way, however, we were offered yet another surprise.

Maisie Williams, better know as Arya, the youngest Stark daughter, arrived to chat a little about filming Thrones. From scenes with Rory “The Hound” McCann – “she’s not trying to kill him anymore” – to learning to sword fight, she seemed pretty ecstatic with the whole experience. Despite myself being rather torn on the character of Arya, Maisie has brought Arya to life brilliantly and it was great to hear her talk more about the role. She, herself, seem intrigued by Arya’s journey from the tomboy child she first auditioned for, to the bitter and angry creature she has transformed into in Season 4.

The Rains of Castamere

The footage we were shown on was a making-of documentary for the penultimate episode of Season 3, featuring the aforementioned Red Wedding.

In an effective mix of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, the film makes for a sort of visual commentary. By splitting the screen, you are able to see various scenes from the episode whilst also watching interviews with the cast and crew.

I was far too enraptured to remember all the little details but I can ensure you it provides a great insight into the filming process. Despite only focussing on one episode, the plots and characters featured provide such a range, that you certainly feel as though you are getting an insight into the making of the entire series.

From fake rain for the wildings at the windmill to the faux leather walls of the Twins, the viewer is thrown quite brutally into the realities of producing television. Yet you never once feel as though they are ruining the magic. Even when it is shown, in quite some detail, how they achieve a wolf attack, you are left marvelling at the team’s skill, as opposed to sulking over revealed secrets.

Another pleasant surprise is just how funny the actors can be. As insightful as the interviews with the creative team are, the cast naturally stand out. The packed screening room was regularly in fits of laughter.

Everyone loves a goodie bag!
Everyone loves a goodie bag!

Overall the film runs for around an hour and is certainly worth watching, should you be purchasing the Blu-ray.

Of course, the end of the film meant the end of our time spent at the event. We didn’t leave empty handed however…

All in all, a bloody good Tuesday evening. Thanks for the invite HBO. And may the gods of the internet bless Twitter!

p.s. The cake tasted great. 

Review: Coriolanus

Just in time for tomorrow’s NT Live screening of the Donmar’s Coriolanus, here is an extract from my MuggleNet review of the production, starring Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss.

As one of the few Shakespeare plays to be banned in modern times and a large scale epic, Coriolanus, at first glance, a questionable choice of play for the intimate, 250 capacity Donmar Warehouse. Throw in the casting of Tom Hiddleston, best known for playing lovable rogue Loki in Marvel’s Avengers universe, as the cold, opaque titular character, and the scheduling sounds even more bizarre.

Yet this production embraces these contradictions, using them to manipulate its audience and turn a controversial play into a big hit.


To read the full review, please head over to the MuggleNet blog. To find a screening near you, see here.