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UNIT 3 - Synthesis Portfolio

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

In the knowledge that November’s Splint was set to be my final production at the Manchester Film School, it has been the ambition of this term to shift focus to external work. Establishing a balance between my university life, my job life, and my industry life. This is a balance that will continue after the course, setting the groundwork for what the next few years will realistically look like. In this, my final report, I will be providing an overview of these advances – including the finalisation of Splint’s Post-Production – as well as some closing thoughts on my time at the Manchester Film School more holistically.

Leading Splint into post-Production, I made it my ambition to continue to meet standards set in Pre-Production, particularly when it came to crewing. Indeed, in-whole, the editing team consisted of nine people, including an Editor, Assistant Editor, Sound Designer, Graphic Designer, VFX Technician, Colour Grader, two Composers, and myself as Producer/Post-Production Coordinator. Making Splint, to my knowledge, the largest and most holistic edit during my time here. My personal role in which consisting of streamlining a vision, pitching, and ensuring that each respective brief is met, and flows into the next. Given that multiple courses and differing universities had been employed, communication on my part was inequitably paramount to the success of the project. And a success it was. Though the footage was, as expected, limited, ambitions were quite the contrary. Interest in the idea seemed unsubdued – even with the two-week delay working out how to assemble the film – and I have been impressed by people’s commitment to the project. Sound Designer Ben Beckford, in particular, brought a lot of creativity to the work, and arguably salvaged the project. As it currently stands, Splint has yet to go through VFX alterations and a Colour Grade. However, I am more than confident that the cut I have submitted reflects the higher standard of producing I have held myself to this term, exploiting all resources at my disposal. And in addition, I have received positive feedback and excitement from those who contributed to it. With thirty-two roles credited, ten of which from foreign studies, I am sure there are few short films that will have been submitted as a part of so many a different coursework. I am proud to hold that as my firm achievement.

My consideration of work following university came about as I continued my email correspondence with freelance Producer Dominique Molloy. Inquiring into her current projects, she informed me of some number of productions she is attempting to get into development. Should this happen, I been assured that Dominque would find me a place as a Production Runner. My CV further qualifying me for such a position in the time between this email exchange and now…

This, the first, external film job materialising as my dad discovered that a colleague’s husband worked as a 1st AD on BBC’s Death in Paradise. Talking to 1st AD Davey, he was keen to find a place for me on the set of Sky1’s Brassic, currently filming in Stockport. Due to the remnants of Covid precautions, it took several months for an appropriate placement to be found, setting me up as a Floor Runner for two days. As such, my work entailed of me wrangling SAs on and off set. I did find that Davey and other crew members pushed me most notably to the Camera Department. It is reasonable to presume that most students in Film School are at once interested in Camera, and on an academic course in which they have never seen one. Though neither statement applies to me, I made the best of the situation, glad to be on set at all, and took the opportunity to talk to departments I usually wouldn’t. There were no specific incidents for me to draw upon or cite here, as I spent most of my hours not doing anything at all (much as I would ask if there was anything needing doing). Following my two days, Production Coordinator Adam Pursey instructed me on my pay slips. At which I point I stated my ambitions in his department, to which he told me that he had not been informed of my administrative interest, and would have found me somewhere else had he been. Telling him I was just glad of the experience, Adam offered to answer questions and share advice, so I arranged a phone call with him. Asking him about his department, ethics, health and safety, entering the industry, working freelance over in-house, and many other topics. It was by far the most practical and informative conversation I have had to date had with someone from the industry, and I have taken every word to heart. Furthermore, Adam and I got along well; Adam asking for my CV should someone ever be a Runner short, and he even offered to supervise a shoot alongside me. My only regret being not taking him up on this, though this is because I was on no further productions. Truthfully, I could have been a better Runner, especially as it is to be my only position for some time.

An opportunity to rectify this presented itself as external work was once again offered by a freelance Producer, though this time with better luck. Lucy Lincoln managed to find me a Runner job working with freelance Director/DOP/Cam Op Aaron Hussein, getting stock footage and interviews making up a football segment of SKYFYI. Though this was only to be three hours of work (paying day rates), I feel I gained far more experience working with Aaron, as there was more to do compared to the two days combined of Brassic. The work consisted of fetching and carrying, as well as social relations with the children featured. I learnt a lot about this side of the industry, and could see the appeal; suggesting certain shots to Aaron, and assisting the lead girl with her script. Though my research into commercial work is lacking, it is an avenue I would happily go down on the way to television given this. Aaron, however, insisted that few avenues of the industry are permeable, and it would be wiser to keep my sights on TV. Again, my main line of enquiry concerned ‘freelance vs. in-house’, as is my current deliberation. Aaron, however, suggested in-house would better suit my department. Working my way up one company, as opposed to gaining varying experience nationwide as a freelancer. The former provides more security in the long term, additionally, it would seem. I am told Lucy received positive feedback for the day, and – especially once I have a Driver’s License – I am hopeful that I will gain more experience akin to this over the coming months.

My most recent project, alongside all aforementioned, has been adapting Splint into a feature-length script. Altering the creatures (now ‘The Surro’) to be made of hardened light; black glass in appearance, existing in silence on a glass moon, where a lighthouse stands. One of the conditions I set myself when applying for film schools in 2020 was to continue my practice of writing. I believed this at the time to be the smartest course of action, as there are many roles within TV that make for more accessible and viable careers. However, screenwriting has always been noted as my greatest skill, and it is not something I would ever easily rule out entirely. I am glad that I have been successful in keeping up this practice in my spare time, and have continued to develop my style and form. Even with Lucy Lincoln and Splint who, though she was unsure as to how well the gimmick had been implemented, celebrated the script (a rare reaction, she emphasised). I can only assume from what she told me that it was the structure, form, pace, and establishment of tone that appealed to her. I am confident to say that all of which meet or exceed industry standard. Now is the matter of practicing discipline, pitching, and actualizing. No small feat in any instance. What I feel this feature-length proposal demonstrates above all else, is the marking of the progressions I have made as a Writer. Now capable of adapting a smaller idea, to a much larger scale. Certainly, the faults revealed in the making of Splint have been a great assistance in bringing me to this point.

Being that this is my final term, it is natural that I have taken time to look back on my years spent at the Film School. The support I have had, or lack thereof in my opinion, standing out to me. Though the Production Department is agreed to be the hardest working and most instrumental to the realisation of student films, this attitude has seldom materialised, with merely one freelance Producer having visited the Film School in this, the final year. Barring this, it is apparent that no finance has been reinvested into the Production department. Any money directed back into students by means of funding projects is gifted to a Director. A Director who will then choose a Producer to manage budgeting for them, conditional to their being fired should things not go said Director’s way (though this has never happened to me). An attitude in-fitting with the most indulged department at the Manchester Film School. Attention is a different and yet identical matter. The most disheartening moments frequenting my time on the course being when I observe a Director sat in the staff room, hanging back in the studio, invited to a private one-to-one, in offer of advice, support, and reassurance. A luxury I have not afforded once in my three years here. And yet…finance lacking has been found (costing me an estimated £600 total). Attention has been forced. And assurance has come not from the tutors of the Film School, but from the freelancers visiting it. “I can tell the ones who will make it, and the ones who won’t,” freelance Producer Dominique Molloy once told me. “And you’re one of the ones who’ll make it.” I remember it well, as it is one of only two times it has been said to me. The second by freelance Producer Lucy Lincoln. Both of which have acted upon their words, making efforts to secure external work on my behalf, as previously cited. Freelance Writer Richard Davis, too, has spoken highly of me and my scripting work, which has won awards; most notable of which being the sixteen-to-eighteen Sky Atlantic Writing Competition of 2020. And even the very week I write this report, freelance Sound Designer Andy Low informed me that he was impressed by my staying with Splint, sitting in on edit days at every stage for notes and direction. And ended the conversation by sending me links to the crewing Facebook groups he uses to find work. It is not with ego that I reiterate these testimonies, but of assurance. To work as hard as I have worked, for as long as I have worked, and as well as I have worked, can feel at times an imagination. For seldom am I told it from those who should.

Concluding the term, I am hesitantly confident at my chances of successfully navigating the industry. Encouragingly, it is my opinion that the countless ways in which I need further develop as a filmmaker could only ever begin after leaving university. I am thankful for the advice I have received from freelancers, and amazed at the opportunities gifted. And indeed, my biggest hope for the future at the Film School is for Splint’s legacy to continue; marrying the courses of UCEN, thus elevating The Manchester Film School’s productions, and the wider university’s educative experience. Led by Producers perhaps more attentively praised and scrutinized.

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