Testimony Films – Independent Documentary Producers

Testimony Films

Testimony Films are a Bristol based life story documentary production company. They have won a number of awards, most notably for their documentaries that focus on the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.  ‘9/11 Firehouse’ Won the International Documentary award at the RTS Awards and was the 2013 Winner of the Gold World Medal for History & Society at the New York Film Festival.

Testimony films make documentaries that tell real life stories of past events, they rely heavily on well researched interviews with contributors mixed with archive footage, re-enactments and present day observational images.

Testimony films create a large number of their films through self research and they they hold a vast amount of recorded interviews with contributors that are ready to be used for stories that they may not have been commissioned yet; They also produce a number of documentaries that have been commissioned to briefs sent out by television companies such as the BBC.

I like the approach to documentary film making that Testimony has, they have a team of researcher who are skilled at finding stories. The actual technicalities of making the documentary really come second to finding a great story which they can tell passionately.

 

 

 

Oblong Films

Oblong Films is a Bristol Based film company specializing in observational documentary. The company was set up in 2009 and has had a number of documentaries presented on television including ‘Prom Queen Divas UK’ (channel 5) and ‘The Naked Rambler’ (BBC) The Company was nominated for 3 RTS West Awards for their documentary ‘Millionaire Boy Racers’ an unscripted documentary that provides an insight into the influx of super cars and their wealthy owners in central London each summer.

The company hasn’t posted any recent updates of work online and they haven’t posted on Twitter for the past 6 months.

Wildscreen Work Experience Final day with Floating Harbour

Today was my Final day of work experience with the Floating Harbour team. We started once again at the boat at 8am, kitting up. Our main focus of the day had moved from the Arnolfini to the the Watershed where we had to film the days Wildlife Photography seminars.  After the seminars we had a quick turnaround of locations as we had to film a final presentation at St Georges Hall which is about a 10 minute fast walk from the watershed.

After filming Seminars all week the final day was pretty straight forward. I took control of the back camera next to the stage which was a new Canon 5d mark 4. This was my first time using this camera and it seemed a lot better than i had been led to believe. It’s still really a stills camera but does have all the video functions you’d expect.

At 5pm we had to rush everything up to st Georges Hall for the final presentation. I had to leave at 7pm but agreed to help with the setup as we had a lot to do before the presentation as we were filming with 4 cameras. By this time in the week as a team we knew exactly what to do and with this in Mind Rich suggested that we could up the aunty a it and try to live mix this presentation too, this would require laying cables around the hall from the cameras to the mixer. We also had to consider sound capture too as the Hall wasn’t able to offer a live sound feed. I left the team after setup was completed just before the presentation began, we had worked well as a team to complete such an elaborate camera setup in record time.

Summary of the Week

I Really enjoyed my time at Floating Harbour, particularly because this is the area of the media that I feel most comfortable working in. When thinking about life after university and the growing trend for online/corporate video I feel working in this area to be an achievable ambition.

The team at Floating Harbour were very welcoming and the work I was doing helped introduce me to the workflows of a professional company. I learned new camera positioning skills, Scheduling and got my hands on some of the latest equipment which will stand out well on my CV and I learnt some new Editing workflow techniques such as creating selects of good footage which will make my own editing quicker.  During the week I also learnt more about working with people and networking, how to act professionally with clients and how to promote yourself when working in order to plant seeds with potential clients in the future.

I’d  like to thank the Floating Harbour team for this amazing opportunity.

 

Wildscreen Work Experience Wednesday Day 4

Short one for me today, I have Work tonight so had to leave at 2pm. We had an early start interviewing Jonathan Dimbleby. A really nice man who has recently moved to Bristol. Our set up was similar to Hughs last night on the same balcony but in daylight and an opposite corner.  The Image coming out of the Panasonic Varicam LT is stunning and I can’t wait to see the final result.

The interview with Jonathan Dimbleby went well, after a number of setups we were now quick at knowing how to approach this. Jonathan was very co-operative and knew what was expected from him so overall it turned out to be a great interview. I once again gathered behind the scenes images and videos that can be used by floating Harbour to create a show reel of the event. This week has really taught me how to set up for this kind of interview, how to choose a location and the problems that will be faced such as noise and members of the public, also the speed at which this has to be done, interviewees really don’t have time to wait for the crew so it’s important to be professional and be ready to go when the contributor arrives, also to have researched your contributor so you don’t look uninterested when asking questions.

We had a busy morning, we had to film a talk at the Watershed then move all the equipment back to the Arnolfini for the rest of the day. Luckily we had some new crew members. Joe and Tommy who would take over later in the day after I left. I felt a bit sorry for both Joe and Tommy as the rest of the team had become comfortable in our new roles and they seemed a bit lost as there wasn’t a lot for them to do. I just tried to explain what I had been doing  to tommy so that he could learn as I did and get comfortable in the role and with the equipment.

I helped move all the equipment back to the Arnolfini for the rest of the days talks and then headed home for some rest before work tonight.

Wildscreen Festival Day 3 Work Experience

Later start today, But caught in traffic so we were a bit late arriving. The Boat is lovely to work from but it’s right in the centre of Bristol so is a nightmare if you’re in a car during rush hour. On the plus side, I have free parking which is a rarity in the centre of Bristol, well more than rare, it just doesn’t happen at all.

Today we had to film more talks and couch sessions and later had to do an interview with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Rich suggested we split the team up today. We had a team working on filming the coach sessions and another starting edits and gathering some more GV footage. This was a great opportunity for me to get behind the camera and film using the Panasonic during the talks. I was in control of the main close-up camera using the canon 70-200mm lens with an extender making it 400mm. Jake was on the back stage camera and Rich/Tom took control of the safe wide and the vision mixer. Using such a long lens at a ow aperture was tricky keeping focus, especially as some of the talks had moving guest speakers. The couch sessions were much easier as the speakers remained static. Working with Tom on Vision mixer was great, I could keep an eye on the camera that was live by looking at his screen and he allowed me to use my intuition to find him suitable shots to cut to.

The live mixing became sort of a game, we were trying to complete it in the apollo to save us time in editing and the further we got into the talk with no issues the more challenging it was not to mess up a shot. Unfortunately we still had sound issues which means the recordings will once again need some re-editing. The sound issues are stating to frustrate, especially as the sounds team don’t seem very approachable, i’d expect them to be a bit more professional.

In the afternoon I went back to the boat to start work on the Highlights film edit. I was given the job of creating a timeline of ‘Selects.’ This meant going through the footage so far and picking out shots that could be used in the highlights film. I had to trip out bad bits, shaky footage so that the timeline only contained usable footage. This process will make creating a highlights film a lot simpler, the editor will know that all shots can be used and won’t have to root around in different folders to find footage as all the good stuff will be in one place. This is an idea I will now adopt in my editing workflow.

This evening we had to pack up quick and take our gear to the Watershed Cinema. We had a 5 minute slot with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for an interview. We quickly scouted out a location, a balcony with a view of the harbour and we set up ready to go. We used the Panasonic Varicam for the interview and a Sony A7r2 for some behind the scenes footage. The interview was short and sweet and Rich managed to get Hugh to give some sound bites that we can use in the highlights video. We seem pretty slick now and are producing some really nice content. The team seem to be feeding off each other which is great for Moral.

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We ended with a Pint and Ben and Matt went off to film one of the evening events while myself and Jake packed up and headed back to wales.

Wildscreen Festival Work Experience Opening Day

The Wildscreen Festival got underway today and this was our first day of propper filming. We arrived at the boat at 8:30, grabbed the cameras and headed straight over to the registration area to meet Rich and gather some footage for the promo video. This was a great chance for myself and Jake to get a go on the Panasonic Varicam LT. We spent half hour gathering shots of delegates registering for the event and then we headed over to the Arnolfini to setup the cameras ready for the first talks.

The schedule is very tight and luckily Anne has been working to sort our timings out for us so we know where we should be at specific times; we also have a WhatsApp group for communication on the go which is good idea.

The initial talk was an introduction to the Festival for new delegates, it was hosted by Laura Marshall, Managing Director. of Icon films. She seemed like a really lovely lady and gave some useful tips on how to get the best use of the festival in terms of networking, most importantly not to interrupt people who are talking as they my be in the middle of an important one time opportunity pitch to a potential backer. Very good advice I though. Laura seemed really approachable and so maybe I will contact her in the future for more work experience or even film ideas, she seems keen to nurture new talent.

This initial talk was mainly a live test for us. We seemed to handle the mixing well, myself and Jake watched from the seats while the Floating Harbour team took on the important roles. We did have an issue with communication with the camera operator on the stage. We did have talkback units but we didn’t have an easy way to communicate and tell the op not to move as they were live in the mix. I had a torch with me and covered it with red gaff tape, from my position I was able to see when the camera was live and lit my touch so the operator on the stage had a visual indication to tell him not to move, this seemed to work well and was a good on the spot problem fix.

The introductory talk was followed by some ‘on the couch’ sessions with big name industry professionals and a number of other seminars. These were interesting to watch as well as film. I felt privileged to be able to attend these talks, not just film them. They were full of good advice from people who work in this industry.

While our technical end seemed to run smoothly we did have some sound problems, this was not our department as we were receiving a feed from the sound guys but it didn’t seem professional and means we’ll probably have to re-cut the days talks to fix the sound, this isn’t ideal on such a short turnaround time. Hopefully the sound problems will get sorted for tomorrows talks.

After the final talk we packed up for the day; returned the cameras to the boat and had a quick de-brief and planning session for the next day. Overall all seemed to go OK for the first day. We had some GV shot and worked well to capture all of the events, the only issue seemed to be the sound problems which was out of our control.

Overall a good day.

Floating Harbour Day 1 W/E Setup of Equipment

Today we started setting up equipment ready for our week of filming Wild screen. During the week we will be filming most of the talks at the Arnolfini Arts Centre so we moved all the equipment we needed for the talks over to there, It’s a short walk from the boat where we will be using as our main base for the week.

The filming of the talks will be a 3 camera live edit we set up two cameras in the stalls to act as our wide and closeup cameras and we also had a camera on the stage behind the guest speakers to gather audience reactions and a different angle for the gust speaker.

Today was very much a technical rehearsal, we ran BNC cables from all of the cameras to the apollo recorder which we’ll be using for the live edit. We also linked in with the centres sound and visual department to arrange feeds for from the microphones and the projector where guest speakers will be displaying work.

Setting up the cameras was a daunting experience, these cameras (varicam lt) are worth around £15,000 so dropping it would be a complete no no. The ursa was also brand new and worth around £5000. Getting this hands-on experience with the cameras was very useful, we got a feeling for the settings and capabilities of the camera which will be essential for this weeks filming and for my general development.

The apollo recorder seems like a great tool for live editing, it takes in all 4 of our feeds and you can live edit with the touch screen. The Apollo also records all 4 of the feeds along with sound onto SSD drives and can be edited again later if there are any mistakes. I wish I could use this workflow for my Weddings, it would be so much faster but unfortunately we’d never have time to run all the cabling in a church.

Once setup was complete we de-rigged the cameras and took them back to the boat for safe keeping, luckily we were able to leave all the grip in situe ready for filming tomorrow. Today was really exciting, we seem to work well as a tam even though we have only just been introduced, looking forward now to the actual recording days.

Floating Harbour Production Meeting Work Experience

Really excited that the folks down at Floating Harbour have invited me to do some Work Experience with them as they document the Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol.

Today we got together for a couple of hours to introduce ourselves to the rest of the team and to go over some plans for the filming week (next week.) The team seem really tight-knit. There is Rich who is the boss, Ben and Tom who seem to take on the technical roles of camera, edit and general organisation alongside Rich; and there is Emily, Alex & Ann who work on the administration roles. The team really do seem to get along well and everyone pitches in to help with tasks that need completing.

On the Work Experience team there is myself, Matt and Jake. Matt and I are both in UWE and have worked together before on projects, Jake has come from Bournemouth Uni for the week although He lives in Newport so we could possibly travel together.

During the meeting we discussed some other scheduling for next week. Team availability and locations we’ll need to film. The Brief is to create a number of short promotional videos for the Wildscreen Team to be used for online promotion and also as a record of the event. We also have to film a lot of the seminars and talks that are taking place throughout the week so that they can be made available online for delegates to view later.

The plan is to split into small teams to cover all of the filming. The FH team will take lead roles but will have assistance from us on W/E for help with gear, finding suitable shots/locations and dealing with any contributor issues.

Rich explained some of the equipment we will be using and this made me quite excited. As a Panasonic fan I am thrilled that we’ll be using the brand new Varicam LT cameras for most of the event, along with the new Black Magic Ursa Mini. These are professional cinema cameras which of only just been released, they will be great to get my hands on and see how they compare to my GH4  and G7 Mirrorless cameras. We will also be using a Convergent Design Apollo to live multi-cam record the talks along with a Canon 5d mark 4 and Sony FS5 cameras. I’m pleased to be able to get the chance to work with such high-end equipment and i’m sure it will help when building a CV for future jobs.

Really looking forward to next week.

Bracken Films – Corporate and Documentary Small Film making Company

UWE Industry Talk – Bracken Films

Bracken Films is a small Corporate and documentary film company headed up by Two ex UWE Film making students Jim Smith and Zander Mavor. They created the company after leaving UNI and have secured a number of contracts with high profile customers to create promotional videos and internal team videos for company training and information.

Jim and Zander came to UWE to give an industry talk. he main focus was of their experience since leaving UWE and how they went about setting up their company; they also showed us some of their past work including Jims documentary ‘The man who fell from the sky’ which documents the story of immigrants fell from a planes landing gear onto a London street.

This talk was very useful to me because it’s the sort of area I wish to go into after finishing in UWE. While I feel many people will turn their noses up at corporate work, i think it’s a good way to build a brand and a reputation which could in tern lead to bigger more creative documentary work, Also I think this steady work offers stability while still offering the opportunity to work on passion projects for low or no income.

Jim and Zander explained that they have a good working relationship because both of them specialist in different aspects of the film making process. Jim is more of the DoP while Zander takes on the sound roles, I think having these specialisms is a real asset because it means that both parties need each other which will help strengthen the bond of the owners while also easing the pressure on each person.

Jim and Zander explained some of the pitfalls of setting up their company and things we might avoid. they explained how they contacted a number of companies to offer their corporate video services and that this didn’t get them much work; the work they currently get comes through networking and through contacts through friends so this is something to think about when I start my business. The boys talked about some of the processes such as invoicing the company (40% pre-production & 60% on delivery) and the importance of contracts to protect yourself. They also explained some of the other work that may be involved including pitching ideas from a brief to potential clients.

Zander and Jim also stayed behind after the talk for a beer and had some great personal advice for myself and Hanna-Jane.

One criticism I do have around Bracken Films would be the lack of online presence, while the boys had business cards it is very hard to find any information on the company and there is currently no website to get contact information or view the companies show reel of past work. I think when building my company this will be one of the first things I should look into initially.

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Floating Harbour Films Work Experience Meeting

Today I had a meeting about possible work experience with a Corporate/Events Company called Floating Harbour Films. They are a small company which operates from a boat docked in Welsh Back, Bristol Harbour.

I got the contact through a uni pal, Alex who has been working there over the summer. The company are looking for Camera operatives for an event they have to film in the next few weeks called ‘Wild Screen’. Its a film festival focused on Wildlife films and photography.

I met the owners of Floating Harbour on their boat, we had a brief chat about my background and the sort of work i’m interested in, the boys ( Rich and Ben) explained to me that I will probably be acting as a runner and camera assistant during the week and possibly have to do some data transfer and running about with memory cards as we had such a tight schedule.

The thought of doing some running work and data wrangling really appeals to me right now, I have a heavy edit load and this would give me the opportunity to learn more about the back end processes of a professional company; how data is stored, logged and how they manage quick project turnarounds.

The meeting went pretty well I think and the owners seemed pretty fun to work with so I’m hoping to hear back to see if they will take me on for the week.