Zayd On Location

Zayd On Location
Zayd on Location

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Men of Convention - Screened at Portobello Film Festival 2011

Thanks to Jonathan Barnett, festival director, my film 'Men of Convention' screened last night at the opening party for the Portobello Film Festival in West London.

(click on for larger image)

It was excellent to see Men of Convention on a large cinema screen for the first time.  Festival Director - Jonathan Barnett's verdict on 'Men of Convention': "That was a mad film" ('mad' being insider code for cool/good) But maybe he was just being polite and encouraging a new filmmaker. 

In general the film looked good. Due to my inexperience in anticipating interlaced/progressive scanning compatibility issues, there were some interlacing scan artefacts on the moving images, but it doesn't really hinder the overall impression and style of the film, and it can easily be adjusted with forced progressive scan in post production editing (I hope) if someone demands those artefacts to be removed. The interlacing artefacts are not a problem in my eyes in my other two films (Surface Blur & Inspired Thought), where the effect adds to the symbolism of the films.

The Pop Up cinema, for those who haven't seen it, is a cross between an open air cinema (a bit like the old American drive in) and a normal indoor one. It sits under the Westway (A40) and it has been cleverly fitted to its surroundings.

I'm sorry to say I was a bit too excited to see my film on the large screen and so didn't take any photographs (also as seeing as my film is only 2:20 mins long, doesn't help when you regularly fumble, struggle and panic with camera settings!) of my film but I did take a shot of another film:-

(click on for larger image)

Filmmakers were welcomed by the film festival team/volunteers (such as the very friendly Maysa Gabrielli and co-ordinator Leona Flude) and free drinks were served, that helped as I'd been fasting for the previous sixteen hours. There was light rain outside which didn't detract from the event (I love the rain anyway).

I also need to give special thanks to Technician Greg Edwards who allowed me to distract him in the projection booth and had my film up and running at short notice.

The Portobello Film Festival which starts properly on September 1st is an excellent opportunity for new and independent filmmakers to get their films screened and unlike most other festivals, there are no fees to pay. The festival also has free entry.

My film 'Inspired Thought' should also be playing at the festival on 6th September between 6-11pm at Westbourne Studios, like the Pop Up cinema its also on the Acklam Road. I will try and get 'Men of Convention' to get another airing along with my other film 'Surface Blur - Jungfrau 2.2 Director's Cut'

[a scene from 'Inspired Thought']

Filmmakers who get their films shown at the Portobello Film Festival need to be grateful to the organizers for a number of reasons:-

1) Film festival submissions are extremely costly, pricing a lot of potential low budget film makers out of the circuit. This is free, big difference.

2) The festival has a relaxed atmosphere unlike some of the more formal festivals which can intimidate newcomers.

3) The festival has volunteers contributing their time, expertise and talents so that filmmakers can exhibit and develop.

4) The festival allows you to connect with a lot of fellow filmmakers, film fans and other industry contacts.

5) The festival allows you to see your movie on cinema scale and discover issues that may not have been initially apparent.

6) The exhibiting of your films allows you to get some non-biased feedback.

7) The festival allows you to watch a lot of new films from diverse filmmakers, this can influence, inspire and encourage your own ideas and visions. 

So once again, thanks to Jonathan and the rest of the film festival volunteers for facilitating this motivational event and opportunity.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Twilight Gathering in True Colour (Men of Convention)

This is a frame from the final twilight gathering scene in Men of Convention. This is how the sky looked in real life and how it was accurately captured by the Kodak Zi8. [NOTE: you can click on the image above, as with all the images on the blog, to display them full size]

I loved the sky colour so much that I considered abandoning my original intention to render the final film into black and white. The scene still looks great in black and white, but there is no denying the added atmosphere and beauty the scene possesses in its original true colour. Compare with the same scene below:-

There is nothing like the twilight to inspire creativity, reflection and the atmosphere of mystery.

It is capturing scenes like these and a sky like this that makes photography and cinematography such a joy. We are treated to a thousand moving paintings a day in the changing colours and patterns in the sky but we are so busy with our lives on the ground with our focus directed down and not up, so we miss the continuous beauty that is formed above us. 

I know this is a filmmaking blog and not an art blog, but the original twilight sky colour reminds me of the atmosphere in one of my paintings 'Faaliqul Habbi wan Nawaa' [Cleaver of the Seed and the Fruit Stone]. See what you think:-

Cameraman Gymnastics for Twilight Gathering scene (Men of Convention)

This shot of the final gathering or 'convening' at twilight  (Men of Convention) was not the most comfortable to film. Like I mentioned in my 'Twilight Gathering' post earlier, this was filmed from three angles, this one above the main angle. 

To get this particular angle, you can see by the raised foreground at the bottom of the picture that the camera is actually positioned on the downward slope of a river bank. This was from the Kodak Zi8 on a cheap but decent tripod. I was positioned below that camera having to stoop down low so that the I would not enter into the frame from the overhead shot of this scene taken from the Canon FS200 positioned at the top of a hill opposite (actually about 2 o'clock from the Kodak's position). 

The main danger was falling into the river, visibility was low and I had to keep in an awkward position and the river bank was laden with loose stones, rocks and soil. It was easy to slip and fall in the river, but my main concern was the camera not falling in the river! 

The other issue, was that I had to direct this scene too and this meant at a certain point the gathering disperses (the very last scene of the film). For that dispersal I had to give a signal which would not be seen on any of the cameras. I had to run along that river bank while stooping down and trying not to fall in and run out of any possible frame and circle the side view camera and then give a hand signal to lead actor Amir Ejaz to disperse. I almost fell into the river but held my footing, does this make me a stunt man for this movie too?

The Twilight Gathering - Men of Convention

This is one of my favourite scenes of the film, Men of Convention. To be honest, I thought many of the scenes were excellent, but let us concentrate on this one for now.

For this scene, there were three camera angles, the one above being the main one. It was not intended that we film in such conditions, but we met late for filming (like I said all the actors were called up without any notice nor any knowledge of what they were walking into), and sunset came and then the twilight. I didn't expect the cameras to be able to pick up much and I had brought no lighting along.

This angle here, obviously did not capture much as the camera was distant, up a hill and aimed at the 'gathering' with the grass as the background, so all the ingredients for a barely visible shot, in fact I had to brighten the image in post production editing. However, the murkiness of the picture does not destroy the sequence as again, it adds to the implication of surveillance and the symbolism of covert activity, as well as the multi-dimensional and multi-layered scene portrayal. This was shot on the Canon FS200, but I had not chosen the optimum light capture settings.

This angle above was captured on the Panasonic SDR-S50, and again optimum light capture settings were not selected. The background of thick trees and bushes obviously created the conditions for an even darker picture and less discernible figures. I had to brighten the picture in post production editing.

This though, is the main angle above, captured on the Kodak Zi8. Although the Kodak Zi8 is a high definition pocket camcorder, I did not use its high definition settings, I used it in WGVA (wide VGA) mode, the picture is still good quality and it performed well in the low light conditions. 

The aim of this shot was to capture the gathering silhouetted against the twilight sky and it did that perfectly. Amazingly though, on some displays the brightness of the picture nullifies the silhouetting and all four actors can be made out clearly. When I saw that I was baffled and worried that this shot might be ruined for some viewers if they have bright displays perhaps combined with some software issue that ends up brightening the shot. Therefore, due to this possibility in my final editing of the film I have darkened this shot a little more to lessen the possibility of the silhouetting being lost.

Snapshots of the Cast - Men of Convention

Amir Ejaz - Lead Actor

Amir Ejaz (pronounced 'Aamir' not 'Ameer'), is the main player on the ground in this film, he's the guy introduced in the opening scene, moving with purpose and urgency, the camera zooming on his riverside walk to meet his first contact.

I found his phone conversation portrayal so convincing, I had to ask him whether he was on a genuine call during the filming. He wasn't, it was just a good performance.

Amir is also the first of the four figures convening on the elevated riverbankin the final scene.

Ibrahim Khan - Supporting Actor

Ibrahim Khan, in the real world a fine footballer, who makes a cool looking job of shaking hands here (figure on the left), was pulled in at zero notice but went about his work with good humour and quality delivery. Ibrahim also is one of the four silhouetted figures gathered under the twilight sky in the final scene.

Qasim Ejaz - Supporting Actor

Qasim Ejaz, brother of lead actor Amir Ejaz is a civil engineering undergraduate at the University of Surrey (Guildford). His improvised gestures and expressions here were expertly performed. He made this role his own and now it goes down in history as a five second masterpiece. Qasim appears also strolling to the final twilight gathering of four in the final scene.

Saqib Ali - Supporting Actor

Saqib Ali, fitness fanatic and strength conditioning expert, again, as with the rest of the cast, was pulled in for his acting debut at about five minutes notice. He is our second character to appear in Men of Convention, being our lead character's first contact. Saqib was feeling a bit cold so he commandeered my jacket (he didn't really, I offered it to him, but I have never used the word 'commandeered' in a written sentence before) and it suited his character here well, he also in the second take of his scene put my shades on, and that clearly added to the nature of the meeting and its suggested implications. Saqib is also one of the four figures in the final scene silhouetted against the twilight sky.

Zayd Depaor - Supporting Actor

Well this is me, playing here Mr Stripe Shirt (as seeing as none of the characters in this film have names). I had to shoot all these indoor scenes the night before the film was completed, I thought these indoor scenes up at the last second as a gel to bring the outdoor scenes together. Mr Stripe Shirt seems to me like a No.2 in a hidden hierarchy. The man in the shadows in a hat being No.1

I meet a sinister looking figure in a black leather jacket, at the beginning of the film and again towards the end (in this scene above), who remains faceless for the whole film. In the scene above I stare across at him as I receive the notebook, a look to confirm the seriousness of the work and the mutual desire to see the next phase smoothly implemented.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Why do I keep praising Linux & Linux based apps in my movie credits?

If you have seen any of my movies or youtube 'half baked videos', you will notice there will often be credit given to Linux operating systems or computer applications for Linux.

Why do I do that? I do it because we often take for granted the efforts of those programmers, designers and developers who are facilitating so many things in our lives these days.

Programming and coding is a long thing, takes precision and expertise to be done well and takes a lot of work. But there are those out there who do this for the love of it. Takes all sorts to make a world, thank God.

If you have not taken a look at Linux as an operating system for your computer, I suggest you do it, you might be pleasantly surprised and wonder why you did not try it sooner. Whenever I turn on my pc now, as 'sad' as this seems, I look forward to it. Why? Because I have Linux and I like it. My computer starts up fast and it closes down fast and I don't get any of those hanging shut downs, no waiting for minutes as the computer struggles to close short, Linux is fast, efficient and stable. But not only that, its free (in monetary terms) and open source....meaning the code is open for all to modify, improve etc. Now being open source does not directly excite me because I am not a programmer and wouldn't be able to tell the difference between morse code and C++ code. But indirectly, it does relate to me, as it means all the coders and whizz kids out there are constantly improving and correcting the various Linux operating system distributions and all of the programs that are developed to operate on it.

This means if you want to do graphics, video editing, image editing and all sorts of other things through a computer, then there are hundreds or even thousands of free and quality options available through the platform of Linux. In Linux Mint or Ubuntu, just open up the software centre and you have access to thousands of safe, secure and free  categorised software applications that will be fully integrated with the operating system.

After my third harmful computer crash on MS Windows I decided to make a clean break, a fresh start and look into Linux. Before I had looked I'd always assumed it was only for computer geeks, professionals and programmers. But no, they have developed several (in fact, dozens) strands of it into highly user friendly versions. You can go to the website of any Linux distribution and just download an ISO file which you can burn onto a DVD or CD (or even you can download some versions onto a USB) and can try it out. 

Linux is so cool that you can even be installing it and be browsing the net at the same time (a bit different from being glued to your computer for two hours having to spoon feed info to it every couple of mins as the install program takes over your whole computer, as is the case with some well known dominant operating systems).

If you want to go ahead and install Linux then I advise doing it as a dual boot. That means, keep windows on your machine (just in case you need it for anything, due to its market domination and all things being made to be compatible with it). And you can use Linux for most things while not having any of the hassles and dangers associated with Windows. e.g. On Linux you don't get viruses, this is for a few reasons such as the structure of Linux and administrator permission needed to change key parts of the system. Imagine browsing the net and not having to worry about viruses. You don't have to imagine it, just install Linux.

I am waffling on so that this entry is becoming neither this nor that, not a good listing of why you should have Linux nor a good explanation of its link with my filmmaking. Anyway, the point is all of my film editing as all my other computer related stuff is being done through Linux.

I believe in giving credit to those unknown designers and developers who have made the various Linux distributions (especially my two chosen ones Ubuntu and Mint) so flexible, effective, efficient, stable and cool.

There are quite a few video editors on Linux, keep in mind the developers behind them are usually not getting paid for what they do, they don't have large corporations behind them. Nevertheless, some of these Linux video editors are quite impressive and will probably serve most of your video editing needs.

The main two I use are called OpenShot and Kdenlive. Kdenlive is the more advanced of them but OpenShot is very good and does have its advantages. As seeing as this is not a video editor review, I will just let you take a look yourself if you have a Linux distribution installed. They are both available through the software centres in both Linux Mint and Ubuntu, but you may be better off installing the latest versions by following the installation instructions on the respective websites:-

Here are all the relevant links:-

And for the coolest operating systems:-

And if you need more convincing about the computing reasons to try Linux, then look here:-

Final word of warning, some Linux distributions are so cool and exciting, that with some of their enhancements, such as Compiz desktop effects (hundreds of useful, cool & customisable features like writing fire on your screen in any colour, wobbly windows, desktop cube workspaces etc), you might end up playing with the effects and desktop features all day and not get any work done. This may give you some idea:-

Friday, 5 August 2011

Inspired Thought - How was this flower filmed? And what did it mean?

In Inspired Thought & Inspired Thought - Jungfrau Director's Cut, there is the scene where the 'hat guy' runs past a flower, the flower being in focus and himself and the background trees being a blur. This was deliberate symbolism alluding to beauty in this life becoming the focus for many of us while everything else in life can become a blur. This can have a negative material meaning, i.e. when someone concentrates on the outward beauty and attractions in life and neglects the soul of life or more important deeper issues. It can also have a positive spiritual meaning when the flower is taken as a symbol for true spiritual beauty. When someone discovers the true beauty, meaning and purpose in life or recognizes matters, people or things of genuine value and inward beauty all other matters can become part of the background and almost invisible.

In photography, cinematography this can be achieved by manipulating the aperture, filming distance and zoom. However, when in automatic settings on auto focus (depending on scene mode, [try portrait first], and some other auto settings) you can simply bring the foreground subject to fill the frame and bring it into focus, then just move the frame to include the background which will now be blurry. To achieve the opposite (blurred foreground and focussed background) then do the opposite, frame the background into focus, then pull the foreground into frame.

To be honest though, if you have the time, doing this with manual focus and varying a few other manual settings will be more satisfying to you and will help you understand the underlying reasons better, concerning depth of field etc.

Inspired Thought - What is this in his hand?

In Inspired Thought - Jungfrau Director's Cut and the longer version, there is a scene where there is silence as the sole character runs over the second bridge. A few scenes earlier he had removed his hat while running along the river pathway.

The scene here although appearing in the film 'Inspired Thought' & 'Inspired Thought - Jungfrau Director's Cut' was not actually filmed for those titles. Rather, this filming was extra unintended filming from the film 'Men of Convention'

The assumption on seeing this scene, in the frame above, is that the character has removed his hat and is still carrying it in his hand. In the film, because the scenes change so fast and the character is running, you can't tell what he is holding in his right hand, but you naturally assume it is his hat, removed from the previous scene. But in real life this filming had no connection with the scene of 'hat removal river run.' 

So this was unintended footage, so why is Mr ponytail running? In real life, simply to quickly turn off the camera, it saves memory space on the SD card. And why is he running in the movie? The same reason he is running in all the previous scenes.

I'm quite sure that, if I didn't mention it no-one would ever know. But what is the guy holding in his hand in the frame above anyway?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Men of Convention

This is a link to my film 'Men of Convention' at the Virgin Media Shorts 2011:-


I would like to know what you think about this film, please register as film fan at the Virgin Media Shorts website, and leave a comment on the film page for Men of Convention. 
Please leave any comments or questions on this blog also. Thank you.

Surface Blur - Jungfrau 2.2 Director's Cut

This is a link to my film 'Surface Blur - Jungfrau 2.2 Director's Cut' at the Virgin Media Shorts 2011:-

Please register as a film fan at the Virgin Media Shorts website and let me know what you think of this film. Also leave a comment or question on this blog. Thanks.

Inspired Thought - Jungfrau Director's Cut

This is a link to my film 'Inspired Thought - Jungfrau Director's Cut' at the Virgin Media Shorts 2011:-

Please register a film fan account on the Virgin Media Shorts website and leave a comment, letting me know what you think, or what you get from the symbolism, scenes of the film. Its very interesting for me to know what different people think and what people from different backgrounds think. 

Please leave a comment or question on here too.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hello everyone, someone, no-one or just myself

Hello to you all, or myself, if no-one is there. This my blog dedicated to issues around my filmmaking.

So far, I have made three short films or four if you include two different versions as two different films. The films I have made are:-

1) Inspired Thought 
2) Surface Blur - Jungfrau 2.2 Director's Cut 
3) Men of Convention

I made another version of 'Inspired Thought' namely, 'Inspired Thought - Jungfrau Director's Cut'. It is significantly cut in size and has a few different sound edits and a couple of scenes have been removed and the beginning differs, the moment of 'Inspired Thought' differs.

This is my first blog page, so I don't really know what to do, it feels like I'm writing a diary or speaking to myself. Well no, it doesn't feel like that, rather that's exactly what I am doing at the moment. This is gradually veering towards some sort of auto-psychotherapy.

Another thing, Ramadan has just started, no food or drink from dawn 4:10am-ish until Sunset 8:50pm-ish.....that's long and in this heat it's quite a mission, likely I will be lacking a bit of energy and stamina for this month, so perhaps a good job, most of this year's film festival dates have again today, for the tenth time, I struggled for (all my film entries this year have been last nanosecond dot com) cycling like mad to the latest collection post box to get my entry in on time to be postmarked to meet the latest festival deadline.