The Wrong Stuff

Has anybody ever asked you to work for free because it will give you ‘good experience,’ ‘great exposure’ or ‘would look good on your CV?’  If it’s a yes to all of these, you probably work in a creative industry…

A friend recently got in touch to congratulate me on my Dartmoor Pony footage making it onto Channel 5’s morning chat show, The Wright Stuff.  At first I thought it might have been a mistake as this was the first I’d heard about it, but the following day I thought I’d check it out myself and watch the show online. About an hour into the show, they started to discuss the topic of Dartmoor Ponies being made into burgers, in order to increase their welfare. This is a topic that was being debated at the time of producing my film, but hadn’t really taken off or been implemented at that point. Not long after Matthew Wright had introduced this topic, did images from my film start to appear.

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Most people would assume that I would be elated about this and super happy that my footage has been broadcast on TV which, would be the case, if the production company had paid for the rights to that footage.

Here are my issues with this:

  • They had ripped the footage from my YouTube page. From my YouTube page, and even the film credits, you can read my name clearly. It only takes one Google search to find the same film on my website, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn pages, all linked to my contact details. If they had time to research and rip the footage, they also had time for a quick phone call.
  • They credited me, incorrectly. If you’re unwilling to pay for the rights, the least you can do is credit the filmmaker properly. Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 22.37.19
  • They took the footage from online and broadcast it on TV without paying a penny. My outgoings for the film:
    • A university degree to gain the skills
    • Transport / accommodation / food and drink on location
    • An entire year of research, planning, filming and editing

I got in touch with the production company who produce the show, Princess Productions (PP), to share my thoughts and concerns, and this is the response that I got:

‘I’m sorry that your permission was not sought for the use of this clip, and that your name was spelt incorrectly on screen. We have discussed this with the legal team here and they have confirmed that Under section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 we are entitled to use copyrighted works for the purpose of reporting current events and/or quotation. As a news and current affairs programme, The Wright Stuff relies on this exception regularly when discussing news stories. We did not therefore require your permission in this instance, and there has been no “theft” of your property.’

Here are my issues with this:

  • I was quite shocked to hear that there is such a law, and absolutely do not agree with it. If they need to use something that has cost an individual time and money, the least they should have to do is ask permission for it. 
  • It amuses me that online The Wright Stuff is under the ‘Entertainment’ section, however for the purposes of this Act, is bracketed under ‘News and Current Affairs.’

However, despite these annoyances, my main issue with the response was the word ‘theft’ written in speech marks. I felt as though I’d been undermined and made to feel like I had overreacted.

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Although I am lucky enough to be in a stable job that I enjoy, and not dependant on sourcing different incomes from various places, if I was working as a freelancer, a good source of income could come from selling on footage and photographs. PP, I’m assuming, have no idea what I do as they didn’t even click past my YouTube channel. Therefore I’d also have to assume, that they have no clue as to whether I depend on selling on my footage in order to pay bills and buy food.

You wouldn’t go to a hairdressers / restaurant / mechanic / gym class / post office or any business that offers a great service, and expect to walk out without paying for it. So why has it become acceptable for creatives to be paid nothing for their efforts? If people desire a photographer or filmmaker’s work, they must have the necessary budget to pay for it.

Not only in this case is it apparently acceptable, but also something that they felt they didn’t need to apologise for and make me feel foolish for even raising it with them. As a creative company themselves, I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate another program ripping their content and posting it everywhere for free, when they’ve had to pay for the studio, camera operators, presenters etc.

I emailed them back, expressing my thoughts again, to which they have ‘out of a gesture of goodwill’ paid me a tiny fee for my footage (Not to industry standards). It was a small battle won, however I don’t think they’ll stop stealing people’s work anytime soon.

You’ll get great exposure” and “It will help build  up your portfolio” are lame excuses for companies who want to exploit and undervalue creative work, in order for their profit margins to benefit as a direct result. Exposure doesn’t pay for the camera, the lenses, the microphones, the transport, the petrol (you get the gist), but the work produced will probably make the company money. How is that fair?

A great community has been built up online through  The Freelancer Club where only paid work is advertised. It’s a great way for freelancers to find companies that respect and value their work, but also for companies to make a statement and say that they will never hire someone for free. Check it out here The Freelancer Club.

For more on the Dartmoor Pony burger story, click here.

#NoFreeWork

 

 

 

 

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Behind the Lens: Dogs Do Burghley

How was the idea of Dogs Do Burghley formed?

Earlier this year the fab team at CAA, Burghley’s PR and marketing agency, said they would love to take on the parkour runner film we made for them last year, showing the Burghley cross-country course in a different way.  They thought agility dogs could be a great way to show this, and we loved the idea from day one.  It was just a case of turning a great idea into a film which worked.

In the film there are no humans in sight, how did you manage this?

It wasn’t easy!!  We had to suss out lots of clever camera angles so the dog trainer, Ellena Swift, was not in shot, even though she was with them at all times.  Admittedly, there were a few edits needed to cut out the odd arm or leg.  The team were all so impressed with Ellena and the dogs who behaved impeccably, especially when they had to sit patiently off-camera and watch their canine friends perform a take.  It was a great shoot, lots of fun was had.

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How did you plan for this, with seven dogs, thirty-one obstacles, across 6500 metres of parkland, surely there was a fair amount of improvisation on the day?

First up we walked the course, to prepare a plan for each fence, it was a very wet day but it proved incredibly helpful in getting everything prepped properly.  On the day of filming, with glorious weather, we gave a time allowance for each fence and at some points we had two groups on different fences to help speed up the process and keep the dogs full of energy.  It all worked out really well, we just had to keep things moving.

What was most likely to go wrong, and did it?

Time pressure, losing the sun and the rain.  In particular, some of the jumps had become wet and slippery which meant they were unsuitable for jumping on so instead we opted for a ducking or weaving approach!!

Ellena Swift’s dogs were phenomenal and made the four-star track look like a walk in the park, were there any fences they found particularly challenging?

No, they were absolutely fab.  There wasn’t a lead, collar or whistle in sight.

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A highlight of the film has to be Fence 16ab – the Land Rover Diary Farm.  At 1.40 metres high, on an uphill approach, this is an impressive feat for the three Labradors (and William).  How many takes did you need for this?

One, it was a bit of a fluke!!

Jack Russell William had a few ideas of his own, including some sneaky detours – how did he cope against the ‘big boys’?

William was the leader of the pack and his quirky character kept up the laughs.  He had his own style of jumping and on most fences was lifted on and off by owner Debbie Lee – apart from Fence 33, the Picnic Table where he pinged off all by himself.

Check Where’s William, his exclusive here:

What was your favourite moment?

One of the highlights has to be William sitting in his bed at Fence 29ab, the FEI Classics Leaf Pit, just watching smugly as the other dogs sprint past.  Overall, it was incredibly special to watch the relationship between Ellena and her dogs, the trust and love was evident. Of course it was also brilliant to see how well the film went down once we’d put it through edit.  The Facebook comments were amazing – thousands of shares and likes and it’s had almost 400k views to this point which is absolutely fab.

Huge thanks to Ellena Swift, Pumba, Wispa, Nala, Keepa, Tilda, Laddie, Debbie Lee and William.

Interview and write up by Georgie Ward.

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Emerald Isle Exploration

Adapted from Nick’s diary of our road trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Day 1 

Arrived into Rosslare at 4am and drove to Cork as the sun rose behind us. Arrived into empty streets in Cork where we grabbed breakfast and walked around the cathedral. Drove to a park to take part in a ParkRun and soon discovered it no longer took place… Instead we rushed to the Ballincollig park run which had a beautiful, fast course. Nick ran a PB of 19.09 (5k) and took 3rd place and I took 2nd lady…Not bad going for 14hrs of travelling and 2hrs of sleep! We then drove to Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney stone, the legendary stone of Eloquence! We then explored the wonderful gardens before making our way to Kinsale for an early dinner and good night’s sleep.

Total Guinness drank: 1

Day 2

Awoke to sun and blue skies in Kinsale and walked around the coast to James’ Fort. Photography was the aim of the day and we got some cracking snaps of the pretty scenery and landscapes. Drove to Old Head where our aim to make it to the lighthouse was thwarted by old men in Pringle losing golf balls into the sea…Still, their was a stunning coastline to admire and I saw my first ever wild seal! Drove along the coast and it’s many inlets and bays, to Clonakilty for tea and cake (a much needed sugar boost!). After tea we made our way to our overnight stop in Tragumna, a tiny town off the beaten track, with only a small beach and pub to it’s name. Despite this, the pub was rammed with locals playing Irish music and sinking pints. We joined for a Guinness, sticking out like the true tourists that we were, and made a swift exit for dinner in Baltimore. We found a magical Loch on our way, Lough Hyne, and took more photos. Baltimore was thriving and we ate in Jake’s bar, where locals were jamming together just for the love of their music. After dinner we made our way up to the beacon where the wind was howling and the waves were crashing. On our journey back to Tragumna we stumbled across this amazingly steep road leading up into the rolling hills. If only we had brought our bikes…we would have been up it first thing tomorrow.

Total Guinness drank: 5

 

Day 3:

The day started with a drenched walk along the coast from Tragumna. The wind was strong and bringing waves crashing into the rocky coastline. After drying off and a change of shoes, we left Tragumna for Glengarriff Woods. The woods were magical with a prehistoric feel. Moss smothered the trees and rocks, carpeting the woods in a rich green. We photographed the waterfall and trekked up to the Blantry lookout. The rain persisted and we were wet through, but spirits remained high and the laughter didn’t stop. Then began the journey to Valentia Island…and what an unforgettable journey it was! Giant, bold mountains ran into the stormy seas. Vistas every direction we looked. The Ring of Kerry is truly stunning. After crossing the bridge from Portmagee onto Valentia Island we arrived at our AirBnb, Atlantic Villa. The host was lovely and told us of the rich history this small island held. After dinner we rushed back for the camera as we were blessed with one of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen. Another wonderful day despite experiencing all four seasons!

Total Guinness drank: 7

 

Day 4: 

The day started with the disappointment of our boat tour to the Skellig’s being cancelled. However Jackie (Our host) brightened our day with a unique breakfast garnished with homegrown flowers and fruit. We decided to explore more of Valentia Island and it turned out to be a gem in our trip. So much history  in an island only 7miles long and 3 miles wide. We visited the lighthouse and had to dive for cover as a storm rolled in, stepping inside the shoes of the keeper who would have lived there only 70 years earlier. We then saw the world’s oldest in situ tetrapod tracks (385 million years old!!!!) which blew our minds. After staring into the abyss of the working slate mine, we drove around the island and got a beautiful view of the Skelligs. We will be back one day to get a closer look – the Irish weather will not defeat us! We carried on round the Ring of Kerry and stopped at Kell’s for lunch. When we made it onto the Dingle peninsula we took a stroll down a predictably windy, Inch beach.

As we arrived in Dingle, Nick was getting itchy feet for a run so we did a couple of laps of the town (Still the best way to explore a new place, in my opinion!). Pizza and Jazz provided us with some well-earned grub and a pint of Gneas. We then headed to Dick Macks afterwards which had the most incredible whiskey selection. Dingle Single Malt for Nick and another Guiness for myself. The pub had a typically Irish decor with small booths to drink and chat in. We’ve labelled it our favourite pub so far, despite a drunk American insisting on singing ‘Leaving on a jet plane.’

Total Guinness drank: 10

Day 5:

Another day, another cancelled boat trip due to windy weather. This time to the Blasket Islands. After coffee and scones we dropped into Carol Cronin’s art gallery. She paints large, emotive ocean scenes which she was more than happy to talk us through. A really nice, genuine person. We decided to head back to the Ring of Kerry and visit Killarney National Park. The derelict Muckross Abbey provided the perfect photography experience. After walking around the Abbey we took a stroll through some adjacent woods, I proclaimed the walk would be made perfect, should we see a deer and merely moments later, one appeared! We stared each other down and then the deer bolted across the river. As we exclaimed with joy and carried on with our walk, a deer calf then appeared and even started walking towards us. It fled but moments later reappeared and crossed the river in front of us…A truly wild and magical experience.

Ladies View at the top of Killarney National Park graced us with magnificent views across the mountains and lakes and a bagpiper provided the music. After dinner we went to Murphy’s bar for a Guinness and live music. The very talented Shenanigans, played a mixture of Irish and American country music (crowd-pleasers) and looked very happy to be doing so!

Total Guinness drank: 14

Day 6:

We started the day with the sole goal to explore all that the Dingle peninsula had to offer. We drove along the south coast towards Slea Head. The road was perched on the cliff edge with views of steep cliffs diving into the Atlantic Ocean. We found a small sandy core with big waves, perfect for a little stop-off and some photography. As we looked across the ocean towards North America we could see Arctic Terns diving into the frigid water. The closest we made it to the Blaskets was the educational visitor centre that overlooked them. We learnt about their rich history, mostly via an 80’s documentary which interestingly interviewed former residents of the islands.

Due to the low clouds, we couldn’t summit Mount Brandon but made it as high as we could (about 1300ft). Breathtaking views only made us wonder what the view would be like from the top on a clear, sunny day. On our descent I slipped on the wet grass a couple of times making for much amusement and a swift costume change in the car park. Before we left the Dingle we drove over the Connor Pass through the clouds and had a quick Geography lesson on glaciers. Limerick, our overnight stop has certainly seen better days…but we had a nice hotel and Da Vincenza, the Italian restaurant owner, was like a duracell bunny, trying his best to please everyone, if anything he was a little too much!

Total Guinness drank: 15

Day 7:

We made a swift exit from Limerick and headed for Loop Head and the Bridges of Ross. Beautiful drive through less mountainous terrain than the proceeding days. The Bridges of Ross (really just the Bridge of Ross and 2 have collapsed) was a marvel of nature and shows the true power of the oceans. Being able to walk over a natural arch with the Atlantic waves below, was truly amazing. We sat and took pictures of a few of the small sea birds which added to the tranquility and peacefulness of the area, something we would look back fondly on, later in the day.

The surf town of Lahinch provided a great spot to people watch whilst enjoying an ice cream, however we didn’t stay for long because the Cliffs of Moher awaited. As we arrived, we were shocked by the vast numbers of tourists, something we hadn’t experienced all trip. The cliffs, though, were spectacular, rising like giants out of the ocean below. What awed us even more was the bird life. Fulmars, Guillemots, Puffins, Herring Gulls, Razorbills; the cliffs were alive. Our favourite had to be the Puffins, who would all dive off the cliff edge in unison and dart away into the distance. Looking over the edge was quite scary, with a 500m drop below, and made us both feel a little queasy. They really were a natural wonder and a place where photos can do no justice to their scale. Dinner was eaten in a small pub in Doolin. Filled to the rafters with Americans, we were squeezed onto a small table which later turned out to be front row seats for the Irish music. Many pints later, we stumbled back to our Bnb.

Total Guinness drank: 24

Day 8:

Feeling a little weary after the night before, we made the short trip to Doolin Cave. Descending down under the Burren, nothing could prepare us for the spectacle that awaited. A giant stalactite hung like a chandelier from the ceiling above. The third largest in the world, and only discovered 50 years previously. After tens of thousands of years the structure that had formed was bright white with a curtain like appearance and stood out against the pitch black cave behind. We even touched a centipede fossil thought to be from the equator, 356mya! Rising out of the cool, dank cave we were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day for the end of our trip. If only the sunny weather had of arrived sooner! The luck of the Irish wasn’t with us this time.

We started the long drive back to Dublin and on our way navigated some tiny country roads in pursuit of the Burren National Park. And as if out of nowhere, it appeared with vast limestone pavements. I have never seen such a landscape and it looked as if we had landed on another planet. Large limestone mountains surrounded us, devoid of any large vegetation, a limestone desert. I spotted a small frog that must have lived within the crevices of the pavement.

After driving across the span of Ireland, we arrived in Dublin to see Connor, the man who provided us with many of the locations we visited. His knowledge of this fine country helped form the many amazing memories we will forever cherish from this exploration of the west coast of Ireland. It was a great way to end such a wonderful trip. We will complete the second half of the Emerald Isle in the not too distant future. Great craic!

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feat. Dartmoor Ponies

Since setting up this website, I have gained quite a bit of interest from overseas about my film, Dartmoor Ponies: The Final Round Up. People get in touch simply just to comment on my film or they talk to me about similar situations happening near them. I thought I’d write an ongoing blog about the people who have either written about my film in their blog/website or included it as a reference, as it’s always very interesting to see how different people have interpreted it.

Below are 2 examples of people who have included my film in their own blog/website. I will continue to add to this page as and when I’m contacted!

The Inside Rein – A website dedicated to releasing the latest news about equestrian sports and equine welfare.  They launched a ‘Monday Night Movie’ series which features films touching on various issues facing horses today.  Whether it be the plight of wild mustangs, horse slaughter, or more light-hearted subjects, they cover almost all horse-related topics. Each film featured on the site also includes an interview with the filmmaker and/or subjects of the film. Click here to read more.

Deloise in America – Deloise discusses  the jumping and hunting industries in America in her blogs. In one her most recent posts she discusses the vast numbers of ponies living in North America and the reasons for this. She has also noticed a similarity between the management of the ponies over there and the management of the Dartmoor ponies and uses my film as a reference for readers to find out more.

Take a look at her blog here.

“I am writing a blog piece for my site and am including your Dartmoor Pony film, it was beautifully done, congrats on the hard work!! I hope it will bring you some more attention to your accomplishment!” – Deloise

Croissants, Coffees and Cameras

Back in May 2016, I began working for Equine Productions and after only a few weeks was given the opportunity to go to Chantilly, France, to help them film a promotional film for France Galop. I wrote a blog post about my trip there but never got round to publishing it! I’d now like to share this with everyone as people are always asking me about what goes on behind-the-scenes at shoots and I think this sums it up quite well! (It’s not as glamorous as you may think!)

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As first month’s go, this has got to be one of the best I’ll ever have.  When I was first asked if I’d like to to join the filming team in Chantilly, to help produce a promotional video for France Galop, I leapt at the opportunity…..and this is my account of how our week went!

Day 1 – Travelling Day

I had packed my bags the night before and had slept as little as I did the night before my first trip to Disneyland, but when I woke up I felt fresh and wide awake.  I did one last little check before leaving and made sure I had the call sheets and shot lists at the ready! Dave picked me up just outside of Bristol and we set off for Nathan’s house in the centre of Lambourn. We had a long journey ahead of us but since I had started in the office, both Nathan and Dave had been away for most of it so we had a lot to catch up on! When we arrived in Chantilly, the sun was setting and the race-day goers were all flooding out of Chantilly racecourse in their top hats and floor-length dresses – a great scene to witness on our first night there. We unloaded the kit and settled down for our first nights sleep….as it turns out – the only full nights sleep for the rest of the week!

Day 2 – Exploring

We woke up to rain on the Monday, which wasn’t how we’d envisioned the week to begin, but stayed optimistic as we drove to the France Galop offices, just a few miles south of where we were staying. We met Matthew and Marin, the director and deputy director for France Galop respectively, and made a master plan with them of how we would execute our filming ideas. A few hours, croissants and coffees later, we decided to go out and explore the France Galop training ground for ourselves. 1900 hectares in total, 145km of sand gallops and 120 hectares of turf gallops, the training ground was like nothing any of us had witnessed before. Standing in the middle of the tracks, you could look both ways and not see the end, the sand was perfectly harrowed at all times and the lines of trees following the tracks were thick and lush, full of wildlife. It was just amazing. Having never been to a racehorse-training centre, I was blown away, but even for our former jockey crewmember, Nathan, the place was heaven. We explored the whole centre, making decisions that would make the rest of the week flow smoother such as where to fly the drone, where to place the cameras as to not disrupt the jockeys and horses etc., and generally used the day as a recce day. Sometimes when you go to a new location to film, it can be difficult to imagine the shots in your head, or how you’re going to make it look beautiful on camera, but this place was the opposite. The leading lines created by the trees and tracks, the sunlight flooding into the forest floor, even the sound of the horses galloping past – it was all a filmmaker’s dream. We literally couldn’t wait to get up the following day and press record.

Day 3 – Dollycam

Our optimism was running out. We had all woken up at 4:30am ready to begin filming at 5am, expecting a ‘booming’ sunrise, but instead woke up to more rain and grey, dingy clouds. It wasn’t what we’d hoped for. But still, we made our way to the training ground and set up the cameras on the turf gallop. This was only one of two mornings that the jockeys would be using this track so we had to go for it, just in case the weather for the rest of the week had also been forecasted wrong! Dave went on the FS7 and got close –up, high speed shots of the horses galloping at speed around the corner and I set up the A7S on a low, wide-angle shot so that we had two different viewpoints. The shots we got looked great as there was a slight mist rising from the ground and the horses came around in strings of about 4 or 5 at a time, meaning that we could have up to 16 legs all moving in slow motion together. However, the footage still didn’t have the look we’d hoped for and we decided to call the morning early again as we were filling up the memory cards, knowing full well that it may all get scrapped if the sun appeared.

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After an early-afternoon nap, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the aerial team, Paul and Karim from Construct Creatives. They were coming with the DJI Inspire 1 drone and the cable dolly equipment, which was very exciting for both us as the filmmakers, but also the clients, as they had never worked with equipment like it before. We met them at our hotel and took them to the training grounds to show them the locations for both the drone and cable dolly filming. On this evening we wanted to set up the cable dolly so that we could begin filming with it early the next morning. Once everybody was on board with the plans, we set to work.

This is where I really saw equine productions come into their own. Nathan, being a jockey himself, knows what it’s like to be on 1000+ pound animal, galloping at 40mph and knows how easily horses can be distracted. Dave, having been a cameraman around horses for years, knows that the camera cannot be in the eye line of the horse and needs to make as little sound as possible. As a team, they can assess and analyse a filming situation, weigh up the risks and safety measures, and then reassure the clients that a 50m cable running over the top of a gallop track, isn’t going to affect neither the jockey, nor the horse when they are galloping underneath it.  It would seem like an impossible task to most but with their knowledge and experience of working around horses and cameras, they really know what is best for the jockeys, but also for themselves, to get the best footage possible. 

Whilst setting up, Paul received some news from home, which meant that he had to leave immediately, but his assistant Karim really stepped up to the plate and got the job done. It took around 2 hours to get all of the wires up in the trees, which included using 6 pairs of hands, 2 stepladders, 1 chainsaw and 100 slaps to the limbs (the midges were out due to the wet, warm weather!). Once it was up and running we were happy to leave it there overnight, ready for filming with in the morning and all went for a well-deserved cold beverage!

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The Dollycam with an FS7 attached

Day 4 – Race Day

The sun came out! Waking up to an orange-tinged, cloudless sky was such a great feeling. We knew that we were running out of time for filming days and that the weather may not last, so this day was all about being as efficient with our time as possible. We decided to split up into two teams. Team one was Dave, Nathan, Karim, Marin and Matthew, who would all be filming and helping with the cable dolly and drone, and team two was William, an intern at France Galop, and myself, who would be filming footage on the ground. As daunting as this was for me, filming alone on my first shoot with EP, I had done a lot of filming myself and was more than happy to be able to get behind the camera again! Whilst I was walking around with the FS7 collecting high speed, ground shots and getting creative with angles and foregrounds, the aerial team, meanwhile, were creating a bit of hype in the woods…Not one horse had flinched at the wire or the camera, I’m not even sure some of the jockeys had even guessed that there was something going on! The whole shoot went very smoothly and the results were epic. One of the horse trainers came to see what we were doing and uploaded a behind-the-scenes video of the camera running alongside the horses. It went down so well on France Galop’s social media sites that they had phone calls from other media companies asking who we were!

After a spot of breakfast (croissants were on the menu again much to everybody’s delight) we then set up the drone. Karim was the pilot and Dave was the camera controller. Working with the drone is quite fun for the client too, as we were able to set up an external monitor for them to watch. This meant that whilst the drone was in the air, they could watch the footage live as it was being recorded into camera. Up until this point they hadn’t been able to see much of what we had been capturing, so this was a great start to the afternoon and got everybody involved. 

From around 11am all of the horses and jockeys had finished their training for the day so we packed up at the training ground and headed over to Chantilly racecourse where there was a race day taking place. Marin was able to get us access into the middle of the racecourse so that we could film with the ‘grande ecuries’ in the background of our shots. Whilst waiting for the races to start we filmed a couple of timelapses and also set up the microphone. With us being so close to where the horses would be galloping, we wanted to take the opportunity to get the sound of dozens of hooves thundering past. Once we were happy with the set-up, we had to leave the equipment next to the fencing and move ourselves away so that we wouldn’t distract the horses during their race. The footage we got from the first race was spot on, but we decided to stay for two more, just to be certain we had the perfect shot (Or absolutely booming shot in Nathan’s words!).

Shortly after this we were invited to have lunch in the pavilion with our clients, which was amazing and extremely kind of them. We were all very grateful for a three course meal and it set us up nicely for the rest of the afternoon’s filming.

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Day 5 – Goosebumps galore

Day 5 began with a timelapse, which means only one thing, a very early start. We headed out across the training ground so that we were facing the sun rising behind a well-placed group of trees in the centre of the gallops. For the sunrise we were using a Syrp genie attached to a slider, which gives a great effect of the camera moving slowly across, as the timelapse happens. Whilst I waited for the timelapse to finish, the boys were on the cablecam again, shooting more footage of the strings of horses cantering past. With the morning sun shining through the canopy, it was the perfect light for shooting down onto the track.

In the afternoon, France Galop had booked a group of jockeys from a nearby racing school, AFASEC, to come and help us film some shots that we needed actor horses for. Having actor horses means that we can direct the jockeys as to where to go and how fast they go so that we can get the shots that we need. We had already filmed footage going over the top of the horses with the cablecam and close up footage of riders on a long lens, so with this shoot, we wanted to take the chance to get up close and personal to the action, but on a wide lens, so we had the horses in full frame. We drove across the training ground to a 4km straight sand track and had the jockeys warm up the horses whilst we set up the cameras. We set it up so that we had Dave harnessed to the back of a Land Rover, with a stabilised camera, Nathan in the front with the driver so that he could direct both the riders and the driver as to what speed he wanted them to go, and myself in the back to communicate between them (and take behind-the-scenes photos!).  Personally this was my favourite part of the trip. To be sat in a car, at speed, 4 metres away from 3 galloping racehorses, is something that I’ll never forget. The best moment was when Nathan asked them to pick up the pace. I thought they were already going full speed but when the riders nudged for more, it was as if the horses went up to 6th gear. The power and strength you see when you’re travelling beside them, at that speed, is phenomenal and the fact that they weren’t distracted or frightened by us moving next to them, made me appreciate them even more. 

Day 6 – That’s a wrap!

Our last morning in Chantilly consisted of collecting any footage that we had not managed to get during the week.. We decided to go into several of the trainers’ yards, all magnificent and unique in their own way, to capture the jockeys coming in from their morning rides. It’s on the yards where you truly appreciate the work that the groomsmen and training jockeys do for each horse too. The stables were the equivalent to a 5* bedroom at the Ritz for the horses, thick with straw and buckets full of food and water. After each ride they are taken into a sand paddock where they can have a roll and wash down before heading back into their stalls. When the trolley of carrots went around, all eyeballs were focussed on it, including our cameraman Dave’s, who took one for himself!

After being more than satisfied with the footage we had from the yards, we then had one more round of filming in the forests. I was on the slider, hiding the camera in the trees and then pulling it out to reveal the long sand gallops or a string of horses trotting past. Willam was by my side again to advise on where I could go and what to look out for. Just across the track were Dave and Nathan with Mathieu, recording more high speed shots of horses galloping past. They wanted to capture the smaller details many people don’t get to see at the races, purely because of the speed they go. Seeing the horse’s muscles pumping or the focus in a jockey’s eyes at 160fps is a rare sight, and they spent the final few hours shooting these moments.

At 2pm it was time to say ‘That’s a wrap!’ and we headed back to the offices to pack up the equipment, back-up the footage and prepare for our journey home. Between naps in the car (except for the designated driver, Dave – sorry!) we had time to reflect on our trip. Considering the circumstances we had had to overcome at the beginning of the week, we were all very happy with the progress we’d made to make up for the lost time.  I also have to say that as an equine – lover, from a non-racing background, I have never put too much thought into how racehorses are trained, but after my visit to France Galop I have a whole new level of appreciation for the sport and staff that work behind-the-scenes. Every team member, from the grounds men to the jockeys, work extremely hard to make the life of the horses the best it can be. If every person put that amount of dedication and commitment into their work, the world would run as well as a racehorse!

Check out the final film here.

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The Chantilly Crew

Restrictions

This blog post stems from when I watched this video by ‘Any Frame a Painting’ on YouTube and I’d like any filmmaker to also take a look:

The bit I find most fascinating is at 4.57 when they mention that Chuck Jones had disciplines which he set himself, in order to made his work more creative. I.e. The example where he has a character with no mouth which means that he has to express the character’s thoughts without any words. He didn’t have to do this, but by doing so, he created very unique and interesting characters which engaged and humoured the audience.

This got me thinking. How can I set myself disciplines and restrictions in order to make myself think more creatively.

One of the pieces of equipment many filmmakers have access to is a range of lenses. Wide lenses, long lenses, prime lenses etc. and depending on what they’re going to film, they will pick the most suitable lens. For example, many wildlife filmmakers will have long lenses because most of the filming they do is far from their subject. I thought that a good way to challenge myself  was to take this luxury away and film solely with a GoPro (a very wide lens). So that’s what I’ve done. Over the past few months I have restricted myself to only taking a GoPro away on holiday with me. (Not only does this cut down on suitcase space), but it has also had me thinking in ways that I may not have done, had I of taken my other camera with me.

With a wide-angled lens, you have to be very close to your subject to be able to get a good shot of it and sometimes with my GoPro, it has actually surprised me how close. For example I took this photo of a ferris wheel at the Berlin Christmas markets and was stood approximately 3 metres from the ticket box you can see. When I switched my GoPro on and turned it upwards, I was shocked that it could fit the entire wheel in.

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I was expecting to be able to capture up to the middle of the wheel, however when I saw that it had fit the entire wheel in and even included some of the surrounding buildings, I was genuinely impressed.

This brings me to another characteristic I’ve found with using a wide angle. When you take a photo, you usually have in your head a basic idea of what it will look like through the lens. However with a GoPro, it never fails to include other objects in, which I hadn’t noticed with my eye. Here’s an example:

On the left is what I imagined the photo to look like. From where I was sat, the boats were right below us and I loved the view we had of the hustle and bustle going on, on the pier. On the right is the photo I took with the GoPro. It had managed to include the top of roof of the restaurant below where I was sat, and the roof of the restaurant I was in. These two roofs almost frame the picture. Although what I wanted a picture of was the pier and the boats, and in the GoPro picture the pier is barely visible, I actually preferred it. I thought that it added so much more depth and texture to the photo. After this I started looking out for other scenarios where I could frame the picture with my very close surroundings.

Here are a few more of my favourite GoPro photos:

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I have learned a lot by limiting myself to just a GoPro and have enjoyed the challenge of finding other ways to capture my images. I have had to think about things that I could usually dismiss by zooming in with my lens or knocking out of focus with my aperture. Aspects of photography like the lighting, angles and composition have all been more prevalent in my mind when taking a picture.

I am going to continue to use my GoPro on trips as well as my other camera, as I have learned to love how it interprets the scenery in a way that sometimes I can’t imagine. I am also going to continue setting disciplines for myself with the films that I produce. For example, instead of showing the passing of time with a timelapse, or panning across a landscape to set the scene, I will try to think more creatively in order to showcase the same sequence to the audience, but in a way that they wouldn’t expect.

Cape Verde #NoStress

When you arrive at your holiday destination and realise that the country’s motto is ‘No Stress’, it definitely puts you in the right mind set for a very relaxing week…

Nick and I decided to go to Cape Verde in October as it is guaranteed sunshine for that time of year, and since we hadn’t been away since the ski holiday, fancied somewhere a bit more secluded but with an element of adventure. Cape Verde was exactly that.

We visited Sal island and chose to stay in an Air BnB apartment in Santa Maria. This has to be the best way to do it, rather than staying in a large hotel, as I felt we saw a lot more of the island and the local culture than if we had of been hidden away inside a complex.

Our first few days there were predominantly spent lying on sun beds with the occasional snorkelling in between the reading and the naps. It was great to see how the locals and tourists shared the same beaches, there was no segregation like a lot of places are now. We were able to witness them going to the gym, catching fish, surfing, walking their dogs and just carrying on with their everyday lives, whilst the tourists took advantage of the sunshine and their chance to escape everyday living. After a few days of rest we were ready for some exploration. We got a taxi to a place called Buracona, located in the North West of Sal, which is renowned for having one of the few recognised tourist attractions on Sal, the ‘Blue Eye’. The ‘Blue Eye’ is a natural pool formed by the ocean, into the lava rocks of the lagoon, and when the light hits the pool from a certain angle, the colour of the water turns into a magical turquoise blue. I would definitely recommend this place as watching the waves crashing in and out of the lagoon was just as fascinating as the blue eye!

 

Once we’d marvelled over the ocean, we then moved on to the other natural wonder found on Sal and where it’s name derived from, the salt mine. The mine is actually situated within the Pedra de Lume crater and consists of salt evaporation ponds that are built over a natural volcanic salt lake. The water in the ponds is 26 times saltier than sea water which means that when you lie in it, you float effortlessly. The unsinkable feeling that it gives you is difficult to explain. You feel weightless and light but also stable and relaxed. The ponds aren’t deep either and if you feel the ground, the sand is hot to touch beneath you. Again, another big recommendation if you ever visit, however don’t make the mistake I did of wiping your face with your hand – it felt as if I’d eaten a bag of salt!

 

The following day we decided that we’d like to have a go at surfing. Cape Verde is renowned for its water sports and many world champions in kite surfing and the alike have come from, or trained in Cape Verde. The beach they took us to was on the east coast and although the waves looked metres high to my amateur eyes, in reality they were actually only half a metre tall. The morning session went well for Nick but not so great for me. I got up on my board a couple of times however in the excitement of standing up, I’d punch the air in celebration and quickly lose my balance again, toppling back into the water full of disappointment. On one of these occasions I made the mistake of trying to put my foot down to push out of the water. What felt like standing on sharp, broken glass, was in fact a sea urchin. I brought my foot out of the water and there was a circle of black spikes sticking into my skin, just below my toes. I was told to return to the beach where the guys from the surf hub attempted to extract each spike with just a safety pin… Despite this, I got back into the water in the afternoon with booties on, and didn’t give up in my attempt to look like one of the chicks from Surfer magazine. (I’m still pulling spines out now!)

Essentially we had a great holiday and had some amazing experiences. There were a few bumps along the way (dodgy yoghurts and sea sickness to name a few more) but they only make for great stories afterwards! As the holiday was spent around water and sand, I decided to take my GoPro Hero 4 to record on, as I thought this was the easiest camera to use with no stress over it getting damaged or wet. It does add the extra challenge of only being able to film on a wide angle lens, therefore I had to be close to my subjects for them to look good and be clear on camera, however I do enjoy the flexibility and ease of filming on a GoPro. Enjoy this mini film which documents our little adventure and as you can see, we definitely had #nostress whilst we were there!

Music – Django Django – Default

Campaigning for Comedy!

Last year during my MA I was asked to help film and edit the Bristol’s Slapstick Comedy festival. Never did I think that during a wildlife course, I’d be getting involved in a comedy festival and yet it’s given me some of the best experiences and filming practice I have had.

Bristol’s Slapstick Comedy Festival has been running for more than a decade, presenting over 150 events to more than 36,000 people and introducing rare archive and silent comedy films to more and more diverse audiences. However, being a not-for-profit limited company, the festival team are always looking for new ways to raise the funds that they need, to keep Slapstick special.

Back in November 2015, they decided to set up a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of reaching a £5000 target that would be used to fund extra treats for their audiences, such as  live music in the foyer before the shows 🎤. To help the campaign reach out to a wider audience and to give people a quick overview of what the festival was all about, the director of the festival approached me and asked me to produce a video to go on the Kickstarter website.

I used archive footage that I had filmed at previous events, as well as clips from interviews with well-known comedians (and fans of the festival) to produce the video and we uploaded it onto the Slapstick Kickstarter campaign page. In less than a month, the campaign had attracted donations, both nationally and internationally and by December 1st, it surpassed the target. Altogether, £5372 was raised by 103 backers, many of whom had paid for experiences that money can’t buy (or in this case, can! 💰) such as lunch with The Goodies and being custard pie’d in the face by their favourite comedian….

Well done to the Slapstick team (and a massive thank you to everybody for donating!) for raising the funds to keep silent, visual and classic onscreen comedy alive for future generations. 🎬🎩

Slapstick website: http://www.slapstick.org.uk/

Watch the Kickstarter Campaign Video here: https://vimeo.com/152275524

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Mini Adventure In Alp D’Huez

Ski holidays are just the best. Ever since I first went to Alpbach in Austria when I was 14 years old, I have fallen in love with the snowy mountains and fresh, crisp air.

Going on an active holiday can seem like some people’s worst nightmare – holidays are for relaxing and doing as little as possible without the usual guilt that follows…. But being an active person myself, I get bored sitting around for long periods of time, so summer beach holidays (although nice for a few days) can get a bit tedious. Ski holidays, on the other hand, offer everything I look for when I need a break from everyday life. Waking up and looking out to a stunning mountain range…an active day fooling around with friends and family and then of course, apres ski which can consist of either a hot chocolate or vodka, depending on the mood of the evening! 🍸

Last year I was introduced to an incredible ski film, ‘Into the mind’ and ever since, have been hooked on watching adventure films. One of my favourite filmmakers is Dave Cornthwaite, who films every adventure he goes on, both individually and in groups and lives by the motto ‘Say Yes.’ (Check him out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/davecornthwaite). 🎥 My point is, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make my own adventure story.  A video that’s fast – paced, exciting, and will inspire others to go on their own adventure. Unfortunately I don’t own a helicopter (or a RED camera ) but with 2 GoPros and a Canon S110, my partner and I tried our best to make a mini ski film on our holiday this year. 🎿 Although it’s not long and there’s no jeopardy, I’d like to think this is just the start of something that will grow and a place from where we can build and learn from.

Filming these types of videos can be hard because not only are you physically active all day, but mentally you’re always trying to think of the next best shot, or the next angle or looking out for a timelapse opportunity. It’s not like the big budget films where they have a director and a cameraman and the talent can just concentrate on doing their thing…you’ve got to be doing all three jobs at the same time (as well as enjoying the holiday, of course!).  Still, being a filmmaker these thoughts do come naturally and even if at the end of it all, we haven’t quite got all the shots we initially wanted, we still have a video to look back on to remember the ski holiday by! (which is much better than boring everyone at home with a photo album of hotdog legs and local cuisine). 😐

Check out our video here: Alp D’Huez Ski Video

 

Dartmoor Pony film hits the headlines!

Dartmoor Ponies: The Final Round Up – In The News

After releasing my film, the response was truly amazing. In just a few days it had been shared over 200 times on Facebook and had reached over 1500 views on Vimeo. It was great to see how many people had genuinely understood and taken an interest in the subject matter – including some of my most anti-equine friends!

It wasn’t just family and friends who were sharing it either, a few journalists and newspapers from Dartmoor were also interested in sharing the story and highlighting the issues I had raised in the film. They wanted to know why I had chosen Dartmoor ponies as my main subject matter and what the filmmaking process was like. It was great to be able to talk about my film and share some of the behind-the-scenes stories so that I could give people an insight into what it was like filming on Dartmoor and documenting such a complicated issue.

Here are just a few of the articles written about my film (Click the highlighted text)

Western Morning News – Film on Dartmoor pony round-up gets showing at US film festival

Western Morning News – Dartmoor Ponies

“A film capturing what could be the final instalment of a Westcountry ritual is to be shown at a prestigious American film festival next month.”

(178 Facebook shares and 27 retweets)


The PRSD – Dartmoor Pony Crisis Featured In Striking New Documentary

The PRSD – Dartmoor Ponies

“Wonderfully shot throughout, the film beautifully captures sixth generation Dartmoor Farmer Steve Alford as he attends to his ponies on horseback for what could be one of the last times. Watch the film, and join the debate.”

(57 Facebook shares)


D&C Film – Dartmoor Ponies on the brink: documentary ‘gets people talking’ about their uncertain fate

Devon and Cornwall Film – Dartmoor Documentary

“It was worth it – it’s a wonderfully evocative scene that captures the essence of the Dartmoor ponies and how they interact with the moor. And it was ideal that up-and-coming natural history filmmaker Kathy, with her long love for all things equestrian, was able to capture it.”

(38 Facebook shares)


People4Ponies blog – Dartmoor Ponies: The Final Round Up

People4Ponies blog – Dartmoor Pony Film

“We’d like to bring this short video to everyone’s attention – It does a very good job of explaining to everyone the situation on Dartmoor right now!”


Mid Devon Advertiser – Big Apple airing for moor ponies movie

Mid Devon Advertiser – US Film Festival

“The film, which explores the reasons for slaughtering hundreds of healthy foals, has been viewed nearly 2,500 times online.”


If you would like to keep up-to-date on the situation in Dartmoor, or simply to see some behind-the-scenes videos and photos, please ‘like’ and follow the Dartmoor Ponies: The Final Round Up facebook page.