October is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, the perfect time for us to release our documentary, Still Loved into cinemas across the UK.
We are currently planning our cinema tour which will involve one night only screenings at independent cinemas followed by a post screening Q&A with our filmmaking team, baby loss support workers and experts and some of the families featured in our film. Our booker, Martin Myers of Miracle Communications is currently booking the venues. We have our first few screens confirmed and will have our full schedule soon. We will publish venues and dates shortly.
We are working with Publicists MulitudeMedia to maximise publicity for the film in national and local press, radio and TV. We are also working in conjunction with Tommy’s Baby Charity, Sands and Our Angels to promote the film to their networks.
Keen an eye on our website for dates and times of screenings and we look forward to sharing this beautiful film with you.
We’re very excited to have three new films in development. Two documentaries and one feature film. We’ll be posting more information about these soon on their own dedicated pages. To give you a little taster, here’s a brief outline about them.
The Ten Human Years of Preta Eshana
This is an art documentary following artist Stephen Givnan, who will be working with internationally renowned artists and musicians as they produce works of art or music inspired by the story of Preta Eshana, a female hungry spirit.
People are desperate for change. Beyond the world of a cynical corporate media, thousands upon thousands of are eschewing conventional politics and ways of living and are looking for new stories to inspire and motivate. The documentary will focus upon poets, writers, philosophers, crazed visionaries, artists, activists, voices of the marginalised and unheard as well as those who have spent years in seclusion meditating on the nature and functions of the mind. It will discuss what brought them to this project. It will chronicle lives full of sadness, anger, love and loss, of people who, in their own unique and often humorous way have deconstructed the illusion that believes in commodities as a true source of happiness and instead has invested time and faith into creating a more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
The main tennet of the project is the value and life changing capacity of small stories. The documentary will act as a propagator for these stories, with the hope that it will inspire those who watch it to believe in the power in their own ability to sow the seeds for future positive change.
The documentary will be directed by Debbie Howard. A close personal friend of Stephen Givnan for 25 years, she will have great access to document this project thoroughly and gain great insight into the artists taking part and who they work.
We are currently in pre production on this documentary and aim to begin filming later in 2016.
The Ten Human Years of Preta Eshana follows the story of a female hungry spirit who is granted passage to the human realm for one spirit day, (the equivalent of ten human years) to learn how humans cope with conflict and pain.
Preta spends her first year inhabiting the dreaming world of humans. It is not until she begins to investigate their waking world that she realises how much suffering people have to endure.
She realises a commonality: all living beings regardless of wealth or status, experience ongoing dissatisfaction.
She watches humans experience the grief of separation and the precariousness of dependancy upon reputation and power. She witnesses, on a daily basis, the battles people endure in their elusive search for happiness.
Finally she is faced with a choice, to join in with these battles or to find new answers to age old problems?
Artists are also asked to examine whether our current, often adversarial approach to inequality is the most effective way to bring about lasting change? Also, what role, if any, does a less material outlook play in reimagining a future free from the horrors found in today’s world?
We are to produce a limited edition vinyl album, the contents of the album include separate pieces of music, artwork, prints, and a book.
We are taking a high-end limited edition crafted product that, although on the surface ticks all the boxes of style, quality and artisanship, goes on to challenge some of the thinking behind a culture that prefers spectacle over content.
The end result is to forge a piece of multi-platformed art that has the ability to ignite conversations and inspire others to find creative ways to make internal and external transformations on both a personal and societal level.
In this sense the album ceases to be a mere commodity used for temporary escapism and acts as a potential focal platform for meaningful change.
Waiting is a quirky, independent, character driven feature film written by Debbie Howard and Dominique Lutier. The story is centred around the main protagonist Claire, and her friendships with Cal, a café owner on the bounce from a family break up and Tariq, a young boy trying to figure out life the best way he knows how. This upbeat film looks at themes of friendship and compassion through both big and small life events mixed with black comedy and a sprinkling of magic.
When Claire turns up suddenly on the street corner near where Tariq lives and Cal works, she is a catalyst for change in their lives, as well as other people she comes across. A bit of an enigma, Claire brings a certain magic to the lives of those she encounters and leaves a memorable impression that will hopefully stay longer than she might do.
The script is currently in development and we hope to go into production within the next two to three years.
Meg is a documentary we will film over many years, following the career of an incredibly talented young singer Meg Birch as she tries to make it in the music industry without compromising her sexuality, which as a feminist, is something she believes passionately about. Will her talent and determination alone be enough to succeed in this competitive and difficult industry? Only time will tell.
We are currently in production on this documentary and will be filming over the next five years following Meg’s career as she leaves ACM with a new EP under her belt, and begins the long and complicated path to achieving her ambition of becoming a singing star.
The film will be directed by Debbie Howard. The bond between the filmmaker and the artist is strong being that Debbie is Meg’s aunt and has always had a close personal relationship during her growing up. Using home video of Meg performing since the age of three and a lot of self shot material, this will be an up close and personal account of the reality of making it as a successful singer.
I’ve recently been working with Hilltop School in Edlington, Doncaster for the past few weeks on a film project with Y3 and Y5 primary school children. This has been fantastic fun.
I have taught the children all about the filmmaking process from start to finish, and even though they are so young, they have done incredibly well to grasp this information and take it all on board. We watched many short films, looked at different genre’s, shooting styles, types of shot, casting, sound and music.
Children then worked together in small group’s to come up with their own original film idea. Some chose animation, others documentary, comedy and drama. They developed these over a number of weeks, created storyboards, tag lines, synopsis and posters and scripts.
We then ran a pitching session where each group had to pitch their films to me and the class teachers, Nichola Clark and James Hissey. They did incredibly well and it was difficult to select the seven films we chose.
In the end we selected two documentaries, one animation and four dramas. We have just shot our first documentary, ‘A Day in the Life of Hilltop’ which went brilliantly. The animation ‘Dogship’ was shot with guidance and expertise of animator James Reynolds and went really well. Over the next few weeks we will shoot the other five films. I will also edit a ‘making of’ documentary, about the entire project.
The children have loved the project and worked so hard and really well on this. I think there are definitely a few budding filmmakers within their midst.
When all the films are edited, which I will work on throughout June and July, with help from James Reynolds and James Hissey, we will be having our own ‘film festival’ where the children will bring their families and friends to the screenings. There will be awards for ‘best of’ in many categories, and some very worthy winners!
It’s been so much fun to see children as young as this embracing filmmaking and coming up with such creative and imaginative ideas. Especially the children that don’t usually do so well academically, many of them have really found their moment to shine on this project.
Well done to everyone at Hilltop school for making this project happen. With thanks to Grimm & Co and Cape UK for funding and overseeing the project.
I recently got a call from Directors UK, telling me I had been selected to take part in a week long course training in multi camera Directing at ITV, at Media City in Manchester. The course was funded by Creative Skillset. I readily accepted the place and was intrigued and excited to get started. I had previously only ever Directed single camera so I was keen to get stuck in and learn a new skill. Here’s how it went…
The course leaders were Kay Patrick and Ian Bevitt, 2 long standing Directors on Coronation Street, as well as many other programs. We were being trained to work on Coronation Street, using their house style, which I soon realised meant much more than using 2 cameras at a time! We were introduced to our 1st AD for the week, Woody Wade, and all the Heads of Department and Producer of Coronation Street, a really lovely, friendly bunch of people. They each explained their own roles and how things work on the show. We looked around the studios and galleries to see other Directors at work and get an understanding of the work flow and speed with which it is all put together. At the end of the day we were given our first script of the week, which we had to go back to our hotels and study ready to hand in our plans for the first shoot.
By now I understood it’s all about the planning. Using a plan of the set, you plot your 3 camera positions and where you want your actors to be. Shooting 3 cameras means you have to be super careful about not crossing the line when there is a lot of movement within a scene. You also have a very short time to film. What I didn’t realise was that you also have to have plan the edit, before you shoot. So you mark your scripts up with each cut, when you want to cut from say a close up on camera 1, to a 2 shot on camera 3 etc. So it’s quite mind boggling to get your head around, but it was starting to make sense. We handed our plans in for the first scene and then were given scenes 2 and 3, which were much more complicated and we had the weekend to prepare these.
It was pretty nerve wrecking for the first time walking out onto the studio floor. We were filming on the Bistro set. There was a much bigger crew than any I had worked with before and I walked out and introduced myself to them and then met the actors. From that moment I had an hour to complete. We had been trained extremely well by Kay and Ian and their words were resounding in my head. “You have to appear confident and in control. If you’re not, you have to pretend to be”. We were advised to have no more than 20 minutes on the studio floor. We did a couple of line runs and blocked the scene. It was a nice simple one on the first day. Then I checked things through with camera, then you go into the gallery, a studio, from where you direct the scene. You sit in front of 4 screens, these relate to camera 1, 2 and 3. The 4th one is the mix. On my left was Linda, the vision mixer, who is following the marked up script, cutting from one shot to the next as they are acting out the scene. On my right was Eileen, the Script Supervisor. Both of these women were incredible and fantastic at their jobs, working at lightning speed. Over a mic you communicate with the crew and rehearse until you are happy with everything. You then go for your first take. Time is of the essence on Coronation Street, so as soon as you are happy you complete that pass. If you need to pick up any shots you do this quickly. I felt very time pressured . If we hadn’t finished on the hour, we would have to stop. As it happened I completed it in 40 minutes and was very happy. That afternoon I had one hour to edit. Because Linda had vision mixed so well, according to my plans, it meant that it was pretty much edited as soon as it was shot so we just had to tweak a little bit, making minor adjustments to pace etc.
I was second up again this morning. This scene was way more complicated and I had put in a lot of movement, unlike the first scene. It was in the Rovers. We started blocking, but I got a bit confused because the choreography of the scene was quite complicated and I did start to panic inside. Woody our 1st AD was on hand to support me, and she was an absolute rock, keeping me on track. The team do work incredibly well together on the Street. We had to make some adjustments to my camera plans and then it was into the gallery to shoot the scene. This one was complicated and difficult and I did find it a real challenge but with great back up from Linda and Eileen, I finished on time. The edit was straight forward.
I was first up today. This was the most complicated scene as it was longer and there was a fight, with 4 actors, and 4 extras. We had an hour and 15 minutes. I felt really in control today. Everything was making sense, it all flowed really well and I hit my stride nicely. We finished just on time and I was really happy with how the scene had gone. Again the edit was swift and I was pleased with the outcome. I observed for the rest of the day and was relieved my three scenes were in the can.
This morning we watched some very experienced Directors shooting their scenes and was relieved to see how relaxed they were and how much fun they all had. It hadn’t been relaxing for us! It felt a bit like having your first few driving lessons when everything is unfamiliar, then after a while you can drive without thinking anymore. In the afternoon, we all had watch everyone’s three scenes back to back and critique them. It was fascinating to see seven very different versions of the same scene as we all put our own unique marks on them. We were all given fantastic feedback. We were told that every single scene was broadcast quality, good enough for the show. They course leaders were really happy with them all. We each had to then pick our favourite scene to show to the bosses for their feedback. Funnily enough, the scene I selected was the second one, that had been the most difficult shoot and the one I thought was going to be a disaster. But it worked really well in the end and had a good energy and pace. We then showed our selected scenes to the bosses and the feedback was great. Again we were told that all of them were excellent and good enough to be broadcast. The wine flowed for a bit after that.
I’m really grateful for the opportunity I had to learn multicamera. As an independent filmmaker, I’m not sure how much I’ll use this, but it’s good to know how to do it, and maybe I’ll do some television Directing at some point where I can put it into practice. If nothing else it’s increased my confidence and shooting single camera will seem quite easy after this!
Kay, Ian, Woody and the whole team at ITV were incredibly supportive and accommodating. Big thanks to Directors UK and Creative Skillset for enabling this. It was a total baptism of fire, but incredibly well worth it!
Talya Stone from the blog Motherhood the Real Deal has written this article about our documentary, Still Loved, interviewing 4 of our mum’s, Mel Scott, Louisa Evans, Michelle Hemmington and Julie Cooke about dealing with the loss of their babies and what it was like for them taking part in our film. They also asked us about making the film and how it all came about.
This week our Sales Agent and Distributor CatnDocs will be promoting Still Loved at IDFA (International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam) at Docs For Sale. We’ve heard whisperings already of news of a broadcaster overseas wanting to buy the film, more news on confirmation. It will be great to see how CatnDocs have got on after the festival is over. Find out more here
In other news we’ve just completed an applicaiton to The Wellcome Trust for our outreach campaign on Still Loved, so fingers crossed for that! It will help us to get Still Loved out to audiences far and wide.
We’ve also had a new poster designed which we’ll be able to share with you very soon.
Debbie has also been mentoring with the BFI Film Academy Sheffield this weekend, the students did incredibly well, especially working outside in sub zero temperatures. Looking forward to getting the film finished next week.
This week we had our third private preview screening of Still Loved at The Void Cinema, part of Hallam University in Sheffield. This was an opportunity for friends, family and sponsors who had missed the last screening to catch the film.
We did a short Q&A after the film with Director Debbie Howard, Producer Colin Pons and one of the mum’s from the film Julie Cooke.
Once again the film was incredibly well received by the audience and we got some fantastic feedback. Here are a few of the quotes from our audience:
“A brave, heartfelt and beautiful film with an honesty and integrity like nothing I’ve seen before.”
Leon Lockley, filmmaker
“So raw, true & honest.”
“A beautiful, touching and poignant film.”
Thanks to everyone that came along and suppored us. And a special thank you to Dave Chapman for your incredibly support recently in these later stages of the film.
In other news, we’ve finished the picture edit on the 52′ broadcast version of Still Loved now, and just have the sound mix to complete. We’re also a few days away from a new 2 minute trailer and a new poster. All will be revealed soon!
On Wednesday 21st October we had our London preview screening of Still Loved at Molinare, Soho, where we did our post production. They have a gorgeous cinema where we held the screening.
Our audience arrived at 6.30pm and we had a couple of drinks in the bar. Our guests consisted of two of the families in the film, Beth and Steve Morris and Michelle and Paul Hemmington Buckley, some of our crew, sponsors and film industry and friends. It was a fantastic turn out.
On Tuesday 6th October, we had our first preview screening of Still Loved in Sheffield at the Showroom Cinema with cast, crew, friends, family, sponsors and film industry. We had an amazing turn out.
“Debbie Howard’s documentary Still Loved really moved me. It was as much about human connection as it was about loss. It deserves a much wider screening. A brave and tender film.”
The audience arrived and had drinks and there was a chance for the families in the film to catch up with each other, and to meet and greet.
Kate Linderholm from BBC Radio Sheffield introduced the Filmmakers on stage and our Director, Debbie Howard gave an introductory speech and thanked our wonderful families, crew and sponsors for all their input.
We’re absolutely delighted to have picture locked on Still Loved. This is a massive landmark moment for us and it’s fantastic to have reached this point.
We now have a three more weeks until our on line begins, to give our composer, Jack Ketch, time to complete the score. We’ll then be moving into Molinare to complete our sound mix and grade.
Enormous thanks to our Editor, Joby Gee for all the many months of hard work and dedication getting Still Loved into shape, the team at Molinare for all the technical support and to Blue Spill for their VFX. We had a couple of glasses of champagne yesterday while making the finishing touches.
We feel we have a really beautiful film. The participants in the film have watched a preview and are all very happy with their stories and that the film has been sensitively put together. We look forward to sharing it with the world very soon.
Huge thanks to everyone that has supported us. To keep up to date with us day to day, join us on Facebook here.