Outstanding first feature films...

It's well know, that directors of feature film only really get one shot... approx 70% of feature film directors never make a second feature. But these recent films from first time directors raise the bar. Lady Macbeth is a great film with amazing performances and a clean lush look. 'In God's Country' is a brutal look at rural life and the first love of a damaged young farmer.

We're off to Nairobi and West Pokot

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Recently we were  commissioned by the Start Network to produce a film about their global programme DEPP. Early next week, we'll be heading off to Nairobi and then West Pokot, close to the border with Uganda.

A bit more about the programme - 

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme works to develop effective humanitarian response where it is needed most. It aims at a major improvement in the way countries cope with people caught up in a disaster or conflict. This ground breaking programme, one of the largest investments of its kind, is funded by UK Aid and managed collaboratively by the CDAC and Start Networks, leveraging the expertise of more than 50 member organisations.

We'll be completing the film early in March 2018.

Exploring the London Library

Recently we were commissioned by The London Library to make a series of short films to showcase this unique location in central London. If you've never been, you should! It's the most atmospheric unique place I know. Here is a brief intro to the issue hall, the reading room and the Times Room.

The Issue Hall, The London Library (2017).

The Reading Room, The London Library (2017).

The Times Room, The London Library (2017).

Ten tips for making better films for international NGOs

 Cattle Herder in North Western Cameroon

Cattle Herder in North Western Cameroon

  1. Think visually - ensure that there is enough actually happening on the filming day
  2. Your audience wants to understand the issue - show them why the problem exists
  3. Your audience is even more interested in people than ideas or organisations 
  4. Tell the story of 1-2 beneficiaries only, don’t try to include everyone…
  5. Ensure that the filming schedule established by the local team gives the filmmakers enough time
  6. Keep any NGO branding out of the film as far as possible
  7. Film any NGO staff interviews out of their office location
  8. Make sure that any case studies used are very recent
  9. Don’t think you can be 100% comprehensive in a 2-3 minute film
  10. Leave the finer details to the impact report you’re going to write

UK Box Office Breaks Record in 2017

UK Box Office Breaks Record in 2017

2017 was another great year for UK and Irish cinema after it broke the yearly box office record for the third time in a row. The total box office number was £1.38 billion, which is a 6.1% increase on the previous year. This is seen as a major boost to the film industry as it competes with the growing competition of online streaming services. 

Phil Clapp, the chief executive of the UK cinema association stated: “It’s clear that the UK public still turns to cine to get the ‘wow’ experience they can’t enjoy anywhere else”. Clapp also touched on the positive ramifications for the British film industry: “The growing success story of the UK cinema industry means that it now contributes half a billion pounds to the UK economy each year, employs more than 17,000 people directly, and supports countless other local services.”

The record was on track to be broken as early as October last year when The Film Distributors Association revealed that the UK box office had already passed the £1 billion mark. That was the earliest that British cinema had reached the billion benchmark. In comparison, to the same time last year, the UK box office was £60 million behind. 

The top 5 films in the UK and Ireland were Star Wars: The Last Jedi (£73.1m), Beauty and the Beast (£72.4m), Dunkirk (£56.6m), Despicable Me 3 ($47.8m), and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (£41m).

The UK's success at the box office is in stark contrast to the U.S. 2017 takings, which were recorded as the lowest in 25 years. 1.239 billion tickets were sold in 2017 compared to the 1.315 billion in 2016, and the average ticket sale of 1.422 billion since 1992. The decline in ticket sales has been put down to the rise of online streaming services which have evolved from being rental platforms to film and television financiers in their own right. While Netflix has a lot of great films and series in its library, it has, along with Amazon Prime and Hulu, become hugely successful by creating original content. For instance, Hulu did well at this year’s Golden Globes picking up two wins for The Handmaid’s Tale (for Best TV drama, and Best Actress for Elizabeth Moss).

The question of where this leaves the film industry is a valid one. The film industry is struggling to keep up with new viewer habits. Variety suggests that there is also a financial issue with less investors willing to take on the risk of putting up money for films. In UK, the recent Brexit votes is also going to have ramifications on the industry post-2019. In response to these changes more studios are looking to platforms outside of cinema to promote films and generate revenue. Digital entertainment platform Foxy Casino has two officially licensed film games (The Big Lebowski and Ghost in the Shell) in its catalogue. It is through these digital outlets that studios hope to introduce new fans to their films and ensure that films like Ghost in the Shell, which was a big box office flop, continue to finance future projects.

With 2018 looking to be even bigger, it is likely that British cinema will continue to buck the trend and break box office records. In the current political and economic situation it is reassuring that the British public still seeks entertainment in the country’s cinemas. 

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What does the world think of the EU post brexit?

It's a fast changing world right now. Technological change is increasing and politics is seemingly unpredictable and different. The British Council, a long standing Sketch client, asked us to produced an animation about recent work they have done on the perception of the UK abroad.

After brainstorming the look and feel of the animation we produced a segment (30 secs or so) for their approval. Here is the animation with some stills from it. 

Kit for hire - the Ronin-M and the A7rii

We're based in Central London but can deliver our kit all over the capital. We have cameras that you can't always find easily at the large kit firms. Recently, we acquired the excellent discreet powerhouse - the Sony A7rii. It's a fantastic camera, extremely versatile and easy to operate. It allows you to film almost anywhere. Great for docs, corporate or commercial shoots. It's not going to break the bank either and uses hi speed SD cards. It comes with 4x batteries.

Also available is the lightweight C100 - a solid camera that produces great results and gain is easy to operate. It's stable and shoots with standard SD cards.

The Ronin-M is a revolutionary bit of kit and works brilliantly in conjunction with the the A7rii. We also have the DJI OSMO, a small and smooth bit of kit that produces very stable images in 4K.

Sketch rents out its kit at super low rates. All that we require is decent hired in insurance. Take a look at what we've got and get in touch....jeremy@sketchfilms.co.uk or call 0778 213 2146

 Sony A7rii

Sony A7rii

 Ronin-m on location

Ronin-m on location

What to Watch on Netflix!!!

Before Artificial Intelligence takes over completely (and it will be sooner than you think) we are all left scrolling through Netflix, looking for something decent to watch amongst the barrage of shows for 16 year old boys. It's still a bit primitive - the 'what you might like' can often be wide of the mark. I'm going to recommend 3 films that you may have heard of once but just forgotten about. 

 Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More

Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More

1. A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS.  DIR. FRED ZINNEMANN

Summary: When Henry VIII seeks approval from the aristocracy to divorce, Sir Thomas More finds himself caught between the king and the Roman Catholic Church.

This is terrific. Feels a tiny bit dated, but if you've been a fan of Wolf Hall and want to see a terrific old school actor like Paul Scofield, check it out. Shows you a severely reduced London where everyone got around on the Thames and a lovely brown faded look.
 

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2. Lo and Behold dir. Werner Herzog

Summary: Filmmaker Werner Herzog examines the past, present and future of the Internet and how it affects human interaction and modern society.

A fascinating documentary about the looming technological changes - from artificial intelligence to self-driving cars and the internet of things. It was originally made for release online, hence some chapters feel a bit incomplete, but it's still a great primer for what you need to know about the future.

 

3. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICAN DIR. SERGIO LEONE

Summary: While ostensibly an epic gangster story, the film is about friendship, love, betrayal, history, class, memory, and time. The narrative structure is non-linear, starting in the 1930s, moving forward to the 1960s, back to the 1920s and shifting several more times between the three periods. A Classic.

An epic film that requires some commitment but hugely pays off. The story of Noodles (Robert de Niro) and his friends living on the Lower East Side in the 1920s. The film is breathtaking and would be even better in the cinema - but it's worth watching at home on a large telly, even if you might need a few tea breaks.

Comment with any suggestions of your own!

How to get in touch with people you don't know...

 We make films for NGOs internationally that are usually focused very much like documentaries and observational. Every day, I receive an email or two from people wanting to work for Sketch. And every day, the email is left unread or briefly scanned or binned immediately. We are a small company and we do need extra freelancers but not often. But what's shocking is HOW people get in touch and WHAT they say to you. So I've come up with some ideas that I've made into a brief list.

  1. Please bother to find out whom you are writing to. Don't just put HELLO or HI. Then I know that you're firing off emails like a spammer who's had ten coffees and doesn't even have time  to see who they should be writing to.
  2. Keep it short. Don't tell me your life story. It's not that I'm not interested, I might well be. But I don't know you. I have nothing yet to tell me if we could work well together. What I need to know is what you can do - what your capabilities are -  as quickly as possible. So give me the chance to see what you can do. Like decent script writing, SHOW don't TELL.
  3. TELL ME WHY. In the first sentence, explain why you're writing. Be specific.
  4. PICK UP the telephone. It's well known that people don't know how to make calls or leaves voicemails any more. I'm always impressed when someone calls on spec, even if I don't have any work for them. It shows they've got initiative. They're not going to sit there sending emails all day. 
  5. GIVE EVIDENCE. I can smell a rat a mile off. Avoid the generic 'I love your work'. Be specific in order to show that you have actually bothered to find out what kind of films we make and what you like about them. 
  6. Finally, tell me very briefly what the next step is. Give me an action, a link to check out and tell me how you want things to proceed. And keep it positive and friendly.

Filming with the Ronin-M

#ronin #filming #sketchfilms #onlocation

A photo posted by Sketch Films (@sketchfilms) on

The Ronin-M is a sleek and sturdy contraption that whirs your camera into a very still place. It takes its toll on your arms after a while but you it gives you enough time to grab some dynamic shots. This version takes smaller cameras and you've got to be careful not to overload it with long lenses that make it very tricky to balance. Overall a great bit of kit and with time, I will master it completely.