“Out Loud” – The Sequel

At IMIS, we decided to build on the incredible spirit of the first “Out Loud” that culminated in a magical night that performed the winning scripts in a Table Read to an audience.

For the second “Out Loud”, we, again, offered it free to enter, free to attend, and did not place a condition on previous experience, because we recognise the barrier lack of funds can be for participation in the arts.

I also assessed the scripts as they came in and announced winners literally days after the deadline, rather than making writers wait around needlessly for months.

I was pleased to read a lot of really promising scripts with a real diversity of style and approach. However, I wanted to add a few more thoughts on the trends I saw coming through:

Format

Again, a surprising number of scripts, either partially, or completely, did not follow standard script format. When this happens, you distract the reader and make their job harder. Let me be blunt. If you do not follow the format rules, together with the codes and conventions, you really are shooting yourself in the foot.

A script entry is not just a piece of art, it is also an application form. You would not apply for a job using anything other than the potential employer’s standard process and so you should view your script entry the same way.

I go into some more detail about this in my article on the first event.

Comedy

I noticed a number of comedy entrants which shared a similar habit of inserting a gag or one-liner too regularly. This is a similar trend I’ve noticed in much recent British comedy, particularly the BBC, for example in Fleabag.

Although Fleabag built up a loyal following, this was not reflected in the ratings (S2 E1 was 25% below the average for that time slot, according to Chortle) and the show ultimately ended after only two seasons. I think they could have avoided this by making the situations and world-believability king rather than the gags and asides to camera (although the ‘where did you go’ moments were clever).

For another comedy on BBC iPlayer which is still going strong and into its third season, may I humbly submit for your consideration the aptly titled Pamela Adlon-vehicle, Better Things.

Anyone looking to hone their comedic writing in London could do worse than to go to the London Comedy Writers Group. Great people, very supportive atmosphere.

Gender of applicants

Female entrants made up approximately 30% of the first callout and this dropped to roughly 20% for the most recent callout. This split is broadly reflected elsewhere in the industry in available data from other competitions such as the BBC Writersroom, the Nicholls Fellowship and The Black List. Stephen Follows recently conducted a study of the Screencraft competitions which found that female applicants formed only 23.7%.

So my message is clear, it would be great to have many more female applicants!

In Summary

There are clearly a lot of talented writers in the UK and I remain dedicated to helping them focus on and enhance their skills, to give them a real shot in a hyper-competitive business.

I hope more people will enter future call outs – please tell your friends. IMIS is a very cool non-profit which does a lot of tireless work behind the scenes supporting people and the business in general, let’s build together the kind of industry in which we want to operate. Dealing with some organisations often feels like confronting a big wall, but IMIS aim to be approachable, friendly and to demystify both the craft and the business of screenwriting.

The Event

On the 29th June, a table read took place of the winning scripts, sweltering through the hottest day of the year at 33 degrees. It is a testament to the quality of the work that the audience stayed so thoroughly engaged to the end and networked at the end and my big wish is that useful connections were made and the scripts advanced towards production in some way.

Those winners again

Misapprehended – Dorcas Agbogun

2 Shrugs and a Hug – Rasheka Christie

The Sun Will Set – Kevin McCarthy

Flesh and Blood – James Murphy

Reflection – Nick Padmore

Sweet Spot – Yoav Rosenberg

Spatium – Devin Tupper

A big thank you to the actors whose talent and passion brought those scripts to life. I can tell you it is magical watching your script assume form for the first time.

IMDbPro Tips & Tricks – Keep Track of What’s Important To Your Career

Hello again! It’s Jed from IMDbPro and I’m back to share some more information to help you make the most of your time on IMDbPro. My first piece was about taking advantage of your IMDbPro Name Page to promote your career and position yourself for the projects you want. This time I’ll be shifting the focus to how you can use IMDbPro to stay up-to-date on industry updates using IMDbPro Track. 

What is IMDbPro Track?

There’s A LOT of noise in the entertainment industry that we all have to sift through to get to what’s important to us. Our Track feature helps do the sifting for you. You can track the people and titles relevant to your career so that you’re notified when new information is available. You can also customize your preferences to only get the updates you care about.  So whether you want to know when someone specific is mentioned in the trades, an update is made on IMDb, or someone has a new agent, Track can help you stay in the know.

How does Track work?

Whether visiting IMDbPro on your computer or our iOS / Android app (yes, we have an app!), you’ll notice a “Track” button at the top of Name and Title Pages. When you track people, you’ll get notified when they attach to a title, change companies, have a new talent rep or manager, or when there’s been a news story about them. When you track titles, you’ll get alerts on key cast or crew attachments, production status changes, and when the title is mentioned in the industry trades. Once you’ve selected some titles and people to track, you’ll start to notice a red notification dot in your IMDbPro inbox when there are new updates related to items you are tracking. If you haven’t already, try tracking some IMDbPro pages and then check your inbox to see the related updates and news stories.

Can I limit the information I want to track about a person or title?

Absolutely! We understand that depending on your career and role within the industry different information may or may not be important to you. When you click the “Track” button on a Title or Name Page to follow it, click the button again to reveal a drop-down menu where you can select what type of information you want to be updated on.

Information you can track for film and TV titles:

·         Cast Updates – find out when a person is attached to any title, even those in-development to keep your lists up-to-date

·         Filmmaker and crew updates – stay informed on who is hired to work behind the scenes

·         News articles – if the title is mentioned in the industry trades, you’ll hear about it

Information you can track for people:

·         Filmography updates – find out when a person attaches to a title

·         Representation updates – if they get new agency representation, you’ll know

·         Client updates – have your eye on a certain rep? You’ll know when they’ve added a new client

·         Employment updates – find out if they’ve changed where they are working

·         News article – if they’re mentioned in the industry trades, you hear about it

Where can I view all the titles and people I’m tracking in one place?

We understand that tracking is not forever. Sometimes a title or person is no longer relevant to your work. At any time you can visit Pages You Track. Here you can manage what pages are still important to you and untrack as needed, ensuring your inbox Track feed stays efficient for your needs.

Can I track myself?

You already are! We understand how important it is to stay informed on your own industry profile, so by default your page is tracked for you. This means that you will be notified any time you’re mentioned in the industry trades or about updates that were made to your Name Page.

Access your IMDbPro Discount

If you’re not yet a member of IMDbPro, don’t forget that you can start with a 30-day free trial. Members of IMIS receive a discount of 30%.

Go to www.imdbpro.com/redeem and enter promo code found in the Member Discount section of the IMIS Website to apply the discount. This benefit can be applied to an annual or monthly membership.

What will I cover next?

Moving forward I’ll be creating more content that highlights different features and tips to help you optimize your time on IMDbPro. If there is a particular topic that you’d like to hear more about, let your IMIS administrator know. I’ll be in contact with them to make sure my content is relevant to your work.

Well, that’s all for now. Until next time, if you’re hungry for more IMDbPro content, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

IMDbPro Tips & Tricks – Showcase Your Career with Your Name Page

Hello there! I’m Jed and I’m part of the team at IMDbPro. My role focuses on connecting with entertainment professionals so we can continue to improve and expand our product in ways that enrich your career. I’ve learned that some people only use IMDbPro specifically for one thing, so I’ve started this instructional series to help members optimize their IMDbPro membership by explaining how to use all of its features, especially those that have launched in the past few months.

As an introduction, I thought a good starting point would be covering Name Pages, the bread and butter of IMDbPro.  So let’s begin with the basics:

What’s the difference between IMDb and IMDbPro?

IMDb has a wealth of entertainment information for fans, which these days is pretty much everyone. Everyday IMDb visitors fall down its rabbit hole of entertainment trivia, videos, and info to jog their memory about an actor or movie’s name, discover a new film or TV show, or view trailers and images. Ask around and you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find someone who has never visited IMDb to learn more about an entertainment program or celebrity, answer their entertainment questions, or settle a wager.

IMDbPro, on the other hand, is an expanded resource of IMDb specifically for professionals working in the industry. IMDbPro includes all of the information on IMDb in addition to contact information, representation details, in-development titles, comprehensive STARmeter data, industry news, box office data, and other extras that are important to entertainment professionals.

What is a Name Page?

Ever wonder how many acting credits Helen Mirren has or how to get in contact with her about a project? Log into IMDbPro (with a 30-day free trial if you’re not already a member), search for her, and you’ll come to her Name Page, which includes a list of her representation and contact details, what in-development titles she’s attached to, how her STARmeter has fluctuated over time, and more professional information to help you make a connection.

Name Pages are how all of IMDb and IMDbPro’s users learn about your career. IMDb and IMDbPro Name Pages are connected, and IMDbPro members can curate how their information is promoted on both sites (more on this below), which helps you manage your brand and position yourself for the types of projects you’re looking to land next.

How do I manage my Name Page?

If you are a current IMDbPro member and haven’t done so already, you can claim your Name Page here. Claiming your Name Page gives you greater access to edit your page so you can optimize how your career is promoted. Updating your info on IMDbPro also affects your IMDb page as well as the details featured on Amazon Prime Video and Alexa-supported services. Below are some examples of these enhanced editing features and how you can use them to your advantage. **Note that the below hyperlinks will direct you to your own Name Page only if you are logged into an active IMDbPro account.**

Known For: The top of each person’s Name Page includes a short list of the titles they worked on and that they are most “Known For.” It’s a career snapshot that gives viewers a quick sense of who you are and where they might know you from. This is algorithmically generated based on the viewing habits of IMDb fans but with IMDbPro, you can customize your “Known For” titles and be more strategic about showcasing the work you’re most proud of.

Let’s say your filmography is primarily TV credits but you’re looking to do more feature films. If you have past feature credits, you can move one or more titles into your Known For section so that viewers get a fuller picture of your work during a quick perusal of your Name Page.

Primary and Featured Images: Similar to Known For, IMDb by default will set a Primary Image for your Name Page and six featured images. It might select the first headshot you ever took, which may have been taken years ago. As an IMDbPro member you can curate the images that best represent who you are and the career you are pursuing. Your featured images can be updated at any time and as often as you choose.

A great tip for talent: update your Primary Image headshot to best match the characters you are currently auditioning for.

Vanity URLs: IMDbPro members also have the ability to create a custom URL that links to your Name Page. IMDbPro members are directed to your IMDbPro Name Page and everyone else will go to your IMDb Name Page. These short, manageable URLs are perfect to add to resumes, business cards, and other print materials as well as your social media bios, email signature and more. To create a vanity URL, click “Edit your page” at the bottom of your Name Page.

Access your IMDbPro Discount

If you’re not yet a member of IMDbPro, don’t forget that you can start with a 30-day free trial. Members of IMIS receive a discount of 30% off. Go to www.imdbpro.com/redeem and enter promo code found in the Members Discount Section of the IMIS Website to apply the discount. This benefit can be applied to an annual or monthly membership.

What will I cover next?

Like I said, this is just an introduction. Moving forward I’ll be creating more content that highlights different features and tips to help you optimize your time on IMDbPro. If there is a particular topic that you’d like to hear more about, let your society administrators know. I’ll be in contact with them to make sure my content is relevant to your work.


Well, that’s all for now. Until next time, if you’re hungry for more IMDbPro content, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Reflections on Running a Screenplay Competition

I am proud to have facilitated the Screenwriting Community within IMIS for the last year.

This Community was set up to offer something powerful for Screenwriters, with a focus on skills and opportunities.

It has become clear to me over this time how much this initiative is needed, particularly as an alternative hub to current big-hitters such as the BFI and BAFTA. How does a Screenwriter with little or no connections – but with a really original well-written project – breakthrough? Our purpose is to tackle that question head on.

Screenwriters have to navigate a mass of “opportunities,” many of which have strong brand recognition, that offer hope – but little else. A profit-making cottage industry of middlemen have come to dominate the space and this is why I feel non-profits such as IMIS can really make their presence felt and start to facilitate exciting writers, scripts and projects.

In an industry and culture that has yet to fall out of love with reboots, remakes and franchises – “copyright exploitation” to give it its technical, somewhat sinister, term – we aim to identify, and provide platforms for, the truly original voices of the future, with a singular passion. We want to spark a new golden age of British Cinema, which is why @IMISWriters uses the hashtag #britishfilmrenaissance

In the last year, the Screenwriting Community has hosted events led by Leah Middleton, agent at Marjacq, Rick Harvey, MA Course Director at Raindance, workshopping theme and others. We always aim to give Screenwriters practical tools to advance their writing and career, while eschewing hollow platitudes.

The Table Read Event was a continuation of that purpose and was meant to provide a platform for and feedback to a select number of promising scripts with an unerring focus on encouraging originality and driving excellence in the craft side of screenwriting.

With “craft” in mind, I also want to provide some general feedback to everyone on some of the major trends which cropped up from the 70 entries we received.

(And by the way, as a Screenwriter, I’m sure I have made all of these mistakes and many more, besides!)

What to Do and What Not to Do:

Format

This was undoubtedly the most noticeable issue.

A mandatory industry standard layout has evolved, the purpose of which is to help the reader focus on the story elements of each script consistently. It dictates, for example, that the font be 12-point Courier, with a whole set of very specific rules around spacing, indents and elements.

As there is an important reason for this format, my recommendation is simple – write in industry standard always. To help you in this, use software such as Final Draft or Celtx so you minimise the chance of any errors. Your individuality should be in the story, not the layout.

Rules

Not story rules, but screenplay rules. A series of ‘best practice’ conventions have sprung up around writing a screenplay, which, if not followed, can be equally distracting for the reader. A few examples:

Passive vs Active Voice

Screenplays should be written in “Active Voice,” where the subject is the person that performs an action, usually in present tense. This is the most immediate way of writing – important, because screenplays rely more on action and less on description than other mediums.

Passive Voice version: He is slapped by her.

A reader reads that sentence “he IS slappED BY HER” – this formulation JOLTs the reader out of the spell you are casting.

Active Voice version: She slaps him.

As a general rule, avoid the verb ‘to be’ and -ing words as much as you can.

Believe me, you can tell a professional-standard script from this alone, in the first few sentences.

Action Description

As a general rule, you only describe what the viewer can see and hear, because of the nature of the medium. Some writers wrote, “she feels” or “he remembers.” There is no way we can know what someone “feels” unless you describe the physical effect of that, or what he “remembers,” unless you include a flashback, or they talk about it, or it otherwise produces an observable physical effect.

Character Intro

First time is in CAPS. Again, you cannot describe their personality directly, you can only describe what we can see and hear. And what is seen and heard should mainly be that which indicates the kind of character they are.

Someone who fidgets may indicate a nervous person. This will also create a useful Active Question – in the audience’s head – why is this person fidgeting? Let’s find out…

“We”

This is a particular bugbear of Robert McKee’s and once you notice it, it, again, becomes a distraction for the reader. When you write “we see” or “we hear” in the action description, you put the reader in the story, you break the “fourth wall.” Find another way, don’t break the spell.

Titles

Maybe this is my personal taste, but I love clever titles, specifically ones which have a double meaning, one of which relates to some kind of theme. If a script is called “Penny” because it is about a protagonist called “Penny,” this usually does not bode well, unless “penny” also relates to some kind of story, let’s say about money or luck. But there are notable exceptions to this in the film world, such as “Carrie,”. Like I say, this could be my personal taste.

Story

Of course, there are all sorts of rules, conventions, principles and theories about how to write the story part of the screenplay, too. This is much more subjective, so all I have to say about this is in the scripts I read, where there was a sense of surprise – a great twist, or an intrinsically poetic approach, or dialogue pregnant with subtext it pushed a script to the top of the pile. This is where you can subvert audience expectation and/or cast a magical spell.

Summary

In order for the spell to stay, the format and conventions need to be adhered to dogmatically. This is so that it is in the story itself that you set your voice free and take us on a journey that will move us emotionally and transport us to another realm.

It was a pleasure to read these scripts and I hope that we run another event such as this one, soon. We want to make London a global centre of excellence for Screenwriting. #britishfilmrenaissance. Join us.

The Event

On February the 21st at Zero One, Soho we hosted a table read of the winning scripts, which enjoyed a very positive reaction from the audience and the participants. Bringing together quality writers and actors is only one stage in the process, but we hope to have facilitated the future production of these scripts into stunningly realised projects. The winners again:

  1. No Man’s Land by Tom Canning
  2. The Big One by Michael Lavers
  3. The Pact by Olu Alakija
  4. Psalm of the Sawist by Asia Nichols
  5. The Talk by Jonathan Hughes

Our sincere thanks also to the Actors who came down and brought these scripts to life and to Zero One for their support.

How to Nework

A solid network is an ideal foundation for a career that’s going places.

In this fast-paced industry, a good network is essential. With more and more people working freelance or on short-term contracts, jobs are often given to contacts. Your peers will also keep you up to date with the latest trends and teach you about how your industry works. Networking can also give you ideas for projects and exciting career paths.

This is why the International Moving Image Society puts great emphasis on networking. All of its events offer networking opportunities and the smaller IMIS communities groups are perfect for getting and staying in touch with like-minded people.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the secret to good networking is not to perfect your sales pitch, but to build mutually beneficial relationships, which is also much more enjoyable. Here are eight tips that will help you build a network that will work for you.

Nurture your contacts

Whether these are your mates from uni, former colleagues, friends of friends or university professors, try to stay in touch – that could be just by connecting on LinkedIn or other social media, or meeting up for the occasional drink, chatting about projects and news in the industry.

Go to industry events

Any work-related events, such as discussions, workshops, union gatherings, trade fairs or seminars can be brilliant opportunities to nurture old contacts and make new ones. It’s easiest to meet new people at events for professionals, as many people will come on their own. It’s much harder to network at social events, such as private views or parties, where most people arrive with a group of colleagues or friends.

Consider going to networking events

Have a look for relevant networking events on www.eventbrite.com. While some comprise members of all industries, others target specific professional fields. Although entering a room full of strangers can be intimidating, these events are designed to make it as easy as possible to get chatting. Some networking events follow a programme, where members meet a set number of people (a bit like speed dating), while others are less structured.

Introduce yourself

The easiest way to get going, is to just introduce yourself to somebody standing on their own. You can also wait until somebody approaches you, which often happens very quickly. Think of a brief introduction beforehand. It needs to explains in a couple of sentences who you are and what you are looking for. For example ‘I’m [your name] and am looking to expand my network’, or ‘I’m [your name] and work as [job title]. I’m now looking for my next career move’, or ‘My name is [your name]. I’m a film graduate, looking for opportunities within TV’.

A couple of sentences at a time is often all people can take in at a busy and noisy event, so keep your introduction to a minimum and start asking about their work.

Focus on building rapport

When you’re chatting to someone, focus on having a good conversation and finding common ground, rather than just giving a presentation. Try and find out what your new contact does and is looking for, regardless if they’re a movie producer or assistant – you never know who can connect you with just the right person. Explain what would help you in your career, but also find out what their goals are. Share sources, experience, advice and offer to connect them with other people in your network. It’s not only lovely to help others, but they’ll be happy to return the favour.

Keep it brief

Once you feel you’ve had a good chat (or if the conversation doesn’t get going), ask for their card, tell them how nice it was to meet them and offer to stay in touch, before moving on. It’s often best to keep it brief. If you’ve started discussing a possible project, or there is something both of you would like to talk about in more depth, arranging to meet up again is often better than to spend all evening talking to the same person.

Follow up

Always follow up with a LinkedIn contact request and message or email. Making introductions can also be very helpful and is an excellent way of making a positive impression. If relevant, try to meet up with your new contacts, suggest ideas or send your CV.

Stay in touch

Even with the best intentions, most people will forget the majority of people they meet at networking events, unless they make an effort to stay in touch. If you want to considered for that perfect work opportunity a few months’ down the line, you need to remind them of your existence.

How you do this, depends very much on each contact as well as the field you work in, but again, the best way is trying to be genuinely helpful. Make introductions, share relevant professional information or forward work and funding opportunities. The occasional email can work as well, and many swear by interacting with your contacts on social media, such as LinkedIn.

Stick with it

Building a good network takes time. It’s a skill, and the more you do it, the better you will get. You will also find the style of making and nurturing contacts that works best for you. And remember, that you will never know when you will meet the person, who will put your career on a new trajectory.

Getting Your Insurance in Order

Hello all – we’re pleased to be writing our first piece on the IMIS blog.

As Insurance Brokers with over 20 years experience in the Film and Media industry we’ll be providing some insight into some key topics over the coming months.

 

To start with, as we move into Autumn I thought it would be worthwhile to provide some reminders of certain things you should review and keep in mind from an Insurance perspective;

1. Understand your figures

Your insurance policy may contain elements that require an estimate of your wage roll, turnover or hiring fees for the coming year.  Again, these figures should represent your estimate for the COMING YEAR, as last year may have been a different story.  Reviewing these periodically will help you ensure that you have sufficient cover in place at all times.

2. Do an Inventory

Whether you are a Limited Company with a fixed asset register, or a sole trader or partnership, keeping track of what kit and other assets you have, what you have disposed of, and what you are likely to purchase in the coming months is important.  For insurance purposes, you should not allow for depreciation as most policies provide cover on a “New for Old” basis, meaning that the value of your assets that you provide to the insurer should be the value to replace everything you have, as new, at today’s prices.  If you have some items that you do not wish to insure, you should specifically mention these to your insurer, otherwise their value could be counted in the event of a loss, leaving you under-insured.

3. Consider where you are likely to use your equipment

Whilst we at Performance automatically cover your equipment on a Worldwide basis, some policies stipulate that you can only use your equipment in certain territories (usually at your Premises only, UK-wide, in the EU, or Worldwide) and travelling outside of these territories can leave you uninsured.   If you are likely to go abroad, ensure that you have cover for your kit on the right basis – you can split your kit between territories and don’t need to have everything covered at the same location (e.g. you can have £10k at Premises, £50k in UK and £20k in EU).  Just make sure that the sum insured you have in each is sufficient to cover the jobs you have, and that you amend these if an unexpected opportunity comes your way.  Remember to also count any accessories for your kit, as these can add up.

4. Think about any changes to your business

As a Policyholder, you have a duty to disclose any Material Facts to underwriters.  Material Facts are usually defined as “Any fact that may influence a prudent underwriter in the acceptance of or rating of your policy”.  Over the last year, has anything occurred that you may need to tell your insurers about?  Is anything going to happen in the foreseeable future that may?  Examples of Material Facts could be convictions, changes to the security or construction of your premises, insolvency, other policies being cancelled or restricted in some way, changes to your business activities, etc, etc.  The golden rule here is that if you are in any doubt as to whether a fact is Material or not, you should disclose it.   If there is a possibility that something may occur in the future, discuss this with your insurer advisor in advance, so there are no surprises down the line.

5. Review your Contracts and Terms of Business

Always a good idea is to review your own terms of business and those of anyone you do business with, just to make sure that they are still robust enough to offer you the protection they should, and that nothing has changed over time that may invalidate any of the terms.

6. Review your working practices (Risk Assessments, Disaster Recovery Plan, Health and Safety Policy, etc)

If you have recently reviewed your policies and practices, it is a good idea to let your insurer know, as some may give discounts for having these in place.  It is also imperative that if your insurer has previously asked for a copy of, for example, your Health and Safety Policy and this has changed, that you provide them with an up-to-date version.

7. Check your supporting documentation and organise your papers

You may also have certification that requires review or renewal and it is a good idea to get hold of the most recent copies of these and retain them on file.  In addition, if you have any valuations or purchase receipts that need updating, copying or finding, then there’s never a time like the present to get these together, as you may be required to provide these in the event of a claim under your policy.   Most business records need to be kept for a certain period – seven years is usually long enough (most are six, but if the paperwork straddles two accounting years, then seven is safer) but your accountant will advise you on this.  From an insurance-perspective, this same period is fine, although it is good practice to keep hold of your Employers Liability Certificate for as long as possible. The most convenient way to do this is to scan the papers into a PDF, as there is no need to hold on to the original.  Just ensure that the PDF is backed-up somewhere.

However you review your business at the end of the year, organisation and taking time to do this is the key, as well as seeking advice from your insurance advisor, accountant, and any other business support services you may use.

For more information please visit www.astonlark.com/performance call me on 02082564929 or Email me at Gareth.graham@performance-insurance.tv

Also, IMIS members are able to receive an exclusive discount with us on all your media and kit insurance needs. Find out how to take advantage of the discount in the Member’s Section of the website.

Best Wishes

Gareth Graham

The Importance of Filters

The look of a production is a key element of the same that is usually taken for granted. This is however a good sign, as this means that it has been seamlessly integrated with the tone of the story. But to achieve the perfect look for a production, there is a piece of gear that might seem menial but that is actually very important.

What are filters?

Filters are rectangular or circular pieces made of glass that allow for manipulation of the light coming through the lens. Some are also made of optical coatings placed inside said glass. This light manipulation capability helps dealing with unwanted lighting conditions and allows for adding creative effects, modifying colour, depth of field and in general, adjusting the image. Filters are usually placed in front of the lens, but can also be placed after the lens and sometimes inside the lens – certain cameras include built-in filters as well. The most popular brands are Tiffen and Schneider, companies with a proven record of know-how, experience and presence in the industry.

How to use them

In order to place a filter before the lens, the most common practice, a matte box is required. Matte boxes come with filter trays designed to hold these in place right before the lens. Except for screw-on filters, which are naturally circular ones like polarisers that screw onto the front element of the lens, filters are placed in the matte boxes’ filter trays, and should cover the diameter of the lenses’ front element.

This is the reason why they normally come in two sizes: 4”x5.65” (also known as PV or Panavision size), which are rectangular filters that cover the diameter of most prime and zoom lenses, and 6.6”x6.6”, which are square filters normally required when working with big zoom lenses such as the heavyweight Angenieux Optimos or when working with full frame. There are also filters in 4”x4” but this size is not so much in use anymore.

Filter trays are normally horizontally oriented, however there are also vertical trays for portrait settings and rotatable trays, which are most commonly used with graduated filters and polarisers. The former is a type of filter that gets gradually darker from one edge to the other, thus the angle in which it is positioned makes one side darker – this can be used for example, to make the sky look darker.

The latter refract the light evenly in different directions depending on the angle, getting rid of glares and reflections. Rotatable trays make it easier to position the filter in the best way to achieve the desired effect.

Types of filters

Filters can be classified in these main categories:

  • Protection: such as the Optical Flat, a filter with no modifications – just a piece of glass for protecting the lens
  • Polarisers: as described above, these refract the light evenly getting rid of glares and reflections in the sky, glass and water.
  • Neutral Density (ND): these reduce the amount of light passing through the lens without modifying colour and are particularly helpful to avoid overexposure. ND Grads as mentioned above also belong in this category.
  • Infra-Red Neutral Density (IRND): same as the NDs, however these help control the amount of Infra-Red filtration on blacks and dark colours.
  • Diffusion: these help diffuse the light to create softer images or distribute the light across the image while controlling sharpness and can also add glow and enhancing traits to skin tones.
  • Special Effects: these add special effects to the image, such as light streaks, fog or day for night.
  • Colour Effects: these are tinted filters that help enhance certain colours on the image or add a tint to it.
  • Diopters: these filters behave similarly to magnifying glasses and are designed for close-ups and extreme close-ups as they allow for close focusing. Split diopters are diopter filters that only have half the glass, enhancing depth of field and increasing the amount of the image that is in focus even at a very close distance from the subject on the foreground.

Even though the final look of a production is achieved during post-production, the use of filters is key to achieve certain effects or image traits that could not be created digitally. This is especially true with polarising, skin tones, flares and bokeh control, particular lighting setups and colours. For this reason, it is not uncommon for DOP’s and camera assistants to carry out filter tests during prep to see how filters behave under the conditions they are going to work during the shooting. The footage of these is then taken into the editing suite, to check how the final result would look like in post-production. At this stage, producers, executive producers and director will also have their say in the choice of filters that best represent the desired look for the production.

Filters can alter an image so much in terms of lighting, colour and skin tones that even some actors and actresses are known to regularly have taken their own filters to the set. One actress that is said to have done this was Joan Collins, who allegedly handed her own filters to the crew for them to use when shooting her scenes, so her skin tones looked to her taste.

New Member Perk: Discount with Performance Film and Media Insurance

Hello everyone,

We have some exciting news to announce!

We have partnered with Performance Film and Media Insurance to provide our members with access to a variety of insurance options and with a  special discount for members.  Whether you are a freelancer, limited company, or short film to feature film, Performance has you covered.

 

Performance insures:

  • One off Productions whatever the size of budget – films / tv / commercials and more!
  • Production Companies
  • Post Production Companies
  • Freelancers (Filmmakers, Camera Operators, Sound recordists)
  • Equipment Hire companies
  • Studios
  • Animations

Members can find out how to take advantage of this discount by logging into the Members Section and then clicking on the Discounts page.

Stay tuned as we are working closely together with Michael Wood, Head of Film & Media, to provide our members with articles, videos, podcasts and more in learning about how to ensure you’re properly covered.

Striking a Balance Between Visual and Narrative Scripts

Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling refers to the images screenwriters use to convey a tone, emotion and style of a film. They show – rather than tell – the reader what’s happening in that scene and describe the character’s actions in such a way we know exactly what’s going through their minds. So, although it’s the cinematographer’s job to visually support an idea in practice, the basis comes from the screenwriters themselves.

Visual moments are the hallmarks of the film industry – they depend on a writer’s ability to write visual moments that are aesthetically appealing. As a scriptwriter, you should define what it is you want the director and actor to express – visually. Give them the general idea and a good director and cinematographer will know how to follow your train of thought, or even better, provide a new direction that feeds off from your original one.

Narrative Writing

Essentially, all screenwriters set the scene (pun intended) in their scripts. The point of any film is to provide a visual medium, and while this sounds like common sense, it’s easy for scriptwriters to muddy the waters between visual and narrative storytelling.

Of course, you’re going to need narrative writing, as this is what you’ll use to create the action, but be aware that an overuse of it can lead to an awkward amount of description. This doesn’t make sense when we think that we can’t see into the character’s head, the way we can in books. And too much description denies the pace of a film, it needs constant action to keep it moving forwards. This means that longer stretches of narrative belong more in the world of literary writing, rather than film.

Take a look at these five rules on how to successfully balance visual and narrative scriptwriting in your script:

Five golden rules to achieve that healthy balance

1.Notice the world around you

The space you use as a writer or the location you’ve imagined for your scene says a lot about the style you’re trying to convey. For example, a desert scene might portray loneliness, or a specific coloured set design might convey a character’s personality. Subconsciously, when we read this in a script or watch it on a screen, we usually understand this, be it on a conscious level or not. It works. That’s why scriptwriters like Wes Anderson or the Cohen brothers are so powerful when conveying tones. They take advantage of specific spaces.

Locations also work to convey polar opposites. Take Toy Story for example, in it we have Andy’s bedroom, the walls are painted in baby blues with clouds stencilled over them. It’s safe and conveys a sense of Andy’s personality. He’s a dreamer. Sid’s bedroom on the other hand, is far more sinister. The lighting is dim and morbid, with angry black posters and a junkyard of broken toys scattered across the floor. It’s violent, scary.

‘Shame’

2. Externalize internal tumult in your characters

Novels – or narrative writing – can take us into the mind of our characters, but the most important thing to remember is that scripts can’t do that. We can’t see into their heads, so scriptwriters need to work to condense thoughts and inner struggles in a few seconds of impactful visuals. This is organic and natural, because of course in real life we don’t go about our day communicating our inner most thoughts to those around us: instead we portray gestures and facial expressions that communicate – accidentally or not– these for us.

Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan’s Shame uses shallow depth of field – the main character looks like he’s ashamed, and the backdrop of buildings and life going on behind him only serves to highlight his tumult.

3. Be visual without a single camera movement.

View the screenwriter as a visual guide, if you will, and a professional one doesn’t necessarily let the director fill in the blanks from nothing because a lack of information was provided. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should put ZOOM or LOW ANGLE into every other scene. This is the director’s job and looks amateurish. Screenwriters provide just the stage directions for other professionals like set designers, directors, actors, dressers…

4. Use visually stimulating vocab and verbs

This is such an effective technique. If you use active, demanding verbs like peer, toss, snorts and so on, this creates an instant visual that people can follow, and says more in just one word than noun+verb+adjective. It also helps to put your characters into motion and have them walk and move as they speak, as this is visually stimulating for the viewer.

‘Her’

5. Be concise but specific in the pictures you paint.

Pinpoint the most important features of a scene in your mind, what sticks out? Is it a club in the corner? The vast stretch of stormy sky? A car in the background? Put these in your writing. Scripts are celebrated for being succinct and to the point, so just choose the most important objects or actions in your scene – you won’t be able to say it all, so the ability to summarise is a must for any scriptwriter.

In one of Her’s scenes, a film by Spike Jonze, the main focus is quite obviously the screen portraying an owl about to attack – it’s set just behind Theodore, and looks as if he’s about to be captured – it’s a wonderful visual moment.

 

So there you have it, five golden rules to achieve a healthy balance of visual and narrative writing. Just remember: proper illustration on the page leads to proper illustration on the screen.

The Clapperboard and its Language

The clapperboard, or slate, is one of the most iconic symbols in cinema, yet it presents a vague notion to those who don’t know its specific use in filmmaking. Beyond its very simple, recognizable appearance, lies a more complex system which is key in the filmmaking process – and still remains relevant to this day since its invention some time around the 1920s.

What is the clapperboard and what is it used for?

The clapperboard is a device of simple construction, consisting of a small board – that is nowadays made of translucent acrylic glass, but used to be made of slate, hence its alternative name – attached to a pair of clap sticks, usually made of wood. It is held in front of the camera before (sometimes after) every take and the sticks are clapped before the action unfolds.

These elements fulfil the two main uses of the clapperboard. On the board, information about the production and each take is written, so every shot is easily identifiable by the editor. The sticks are clapped with the purpose of being able to sync audio easily in post-production, as in a professional environment video and audio will be recorded separately.

Who uses it?

The person in charge of the clapperboard during a shooting is the 2nd Assistant Camera (2nd AC), as per its US denomination, or Clapper Loader, a name that tends to be used more frequently in the UK. The job description in regards to the clapperboard not only entails operating it, but also filling out camera sheets. As part of its operation, it’s necessary to understand what to write on each section of the clapperboard and know how and when to call out the right instructions.

What to write on it?

The clapperboard is divided in different sections as can be seen in the image below.

  • Production: Name of the production
  • Roll: Identifies each roll of film, tape or media card (depending on which format the production is being shot on) the camera is recording onto. If there are multiple cameras, you will need to label the primary camera as ‘A’ camera and the second as ‘B’ camera.  Your roll on A camera could be A004 while B camera will start back at 1 such as B001.
  • Scene: Identifies the scene being shot, normally the scene number according to the shot list. (Pro tip: skip the letters “I”, “O” and “S”, as they could be confused with the numbers “1”, “0”, and “5”.)
  • Take: Identifies each take – every time the camera records and stops is considered a new take, always starting at 1.
  • Director: Name of the Director – do not misspell!
  • Camera: Name of the Cinematographer – do not misspell! – depending on the production, sometimes the letter assigned to the camera that is being used in a particular moment on a multi-cam shoot.
  • Date: Shows the date of the shoot.
  • Day/Night: Shows whether it’s a day or night scene.
  • Int/Ext: Shows whether it’s an interior or exterior scene.
  • Mos/Sync: Mos should be circled when sound is not going to be recorded, conversely Sync should be circled when sound is being recorded.
  • Filter: Shows whether filters are being used on the lens.

For the day/night, int/ext, mos/sync, most AC’s will put a piece of tape over each element that isn’t in the shot.  For instance, if it is an INTERIOR scene, then put a piece of tape over the Ext mark on the slate.  If you have any doubt to what to put on the slate, reference the shooting script as the heading of each scene will label what scene number and whether it is int/ext.

How to operate it?

The 2nd AC would normally wait until the AD calls for slate. Then, walks into frame, positions the clapperboard where it can be clearly seen by the camera (or cameras), and calls out the instructions. Once the camera starts rolling, they call out “Mark!” and clap the sticks.

When calling out the instructions, it’s very important to be familiar with the difference between the UK and US slating system.

In the UK, every single shot has its own unique ‘slate number’ starting from 1, regardless of the scene.  A new shot can be defined when the position of the camera changes, the subject or focus of the camera changes (for instance on a different character), when a lens change occurs or when any other major change happens. Take this example: let’s assume the scene order of the day is Scene 14, 27 and 6. The system would go something like this:

Scene 14, Slate 1, Take 1

Scene 14, Slate 1, Take 2

(New setup)

Scene 14, Slate 2, Take 1 – whatever the setup doesn’t affect the slate number

(New scene)

Scene 27, Slate 3, Take 1 – whatever new scene doesn’t affect the slate number

(New scene after a few slates)

Scene 6, Slate 17… and so forth – the slate never resets.

In the US however, every new scene has its own number and then each new shot has a character, that goes the alphabet, with takes starting from 1. If the end of the alphabet is reached, the letters are doubled-up (AA, AB, AC, and so on). With the same scenes as the previous example, it would look something like this:

Scene 14A, Take 1

Scene 14A, Take 2

(New setup – e.g. from Close-up to Wide)

Scene 14B, Take 1

Scene 14B, Take 2

(New scene)

Scene 27A, Take 1

(After 28 new setups)

Scene 27AB, Take 1… and so on.

In the US system, it is common practice for a 2nd AC to use entire words when reading out the slate – either using the military alphabet or made-up words. For example: “Scene fourteen alpha, take 1!” or “Scene fourteen apple, take 1!” so there is no confusion.  It is even more common that you will not use the word ‘Scene’ when calling out the shot and may simplify it to “fourteen alpha, take 1” instead.

Useful terminology and situations

  • Soft Sticks

In a situation when the 2nd AC has to clap very close to talent, they would call out “Soft Sticks” instead of “Mark” not to distract the actors.

  • Second Sticks

If they clap incorrectly, they call out “Second Sticks” instead of “Mark”.

  • End slate/Tail clap

When for whatever reason it’s not possible to use the clapperboard at the beginning of a shot (for instance if the shot starts on a high crane and the slate is not possible to be close enough to the camera), this will be held upside down first, then rotated back to its normal upright position and clapped at the end of the shot.

 

  • MOS

This stands for “Motor Only Shot” and it means recording without sound. The clapperboard should be held with a finger or hand between the sticks or alternatively with your hand over them when they’re shut.

  • Pick Up

When another take occurs and the actions starts halfway through instead from the beginning, the take number increases but PU should be added to the number.

  • After False Start

If both sound and camera are rolling but the take is cut before action is called, AFS should be added to the number.

Tips

  • Keep the slate as still as possible when clapping the sticks. If you move during this action, you risk the sticks not being clearly visible at a particular frame to sync the sound.
  • When the 1st AD begins calling for turnover, already have the slate in frame and ready. You will waste time and/or film or memory by not being there.
  • Try to find out where the slate needs to be beforehand.  You can do this by referencing the monitor.
  • However, don’t just stand there with the slate in frame while the 1st is pulling focus for refence marks–you will get on their nerves very quickly as they cannot see through your slate!
  • You want the slate to fill as much of the frame as possible without it being too big.  The easiest way to determine the proper place is for every 10mm of the focal length of the lens you stand approximately one foot away from the lens.  If you are filming with a 50mm lens then you should stand 5 feet from the lens and the slate will be the proper size in frame.  Knowing distance and anticipating this will help serve you as you move up the chain to become a focus puller/1st AC. Even if you live outside the US and use the metric system, it is common that lenses will still use the imperial system for the witness marks (distance from the optical plane).
  • If you buy a labelmaker it makes it incredibly easy to label things that are consistent like the production name, director, cinematographer, etc.
  • Some 2nd AC’s use pre-written tape with numbers and letters to fill out other boxes like the scene and take and borrow these from the back of the clapperboard as needed.
  • In most instances the slate should be perfectly parallel to the lens, however there are instances when lights bounce off the slate and may reflect this back into the camera. Investigate this beforehand so you will be ready and not need to adjust.
  • Anticipate changes ahead of time. While the shot is being recorded, go ahead and *quietly* erase the previous take and write the next one there.  You will then be ready for the next take if it is needed.
  • It is a best practice to plan your route away from the camera before the 1st AD calls for turnover. You may have to tuck into a corner of the set that isn’t being used or find a way around obstacles.  If you mark the slate and then panic for how to get off set or disturb a piece of the set, you will look like an amatuer or you might make enemies of other departments. Further, you should stand on the side that you will exit—if you were to walk across the frame then this is time taken instead of shooting.