Phone Whore Performances

Tuesday and Wednesday marked the two night run of ‘Phone Whore’ at the Alma Tavern & Theatre, where I was hired as part of my freelance theatre technician contract with them. When I arrived on Tuesday I decided to arrive slightly earlier so I could take a good look at the theatre facilities.

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Lighting – Aurora 12 lighting desk. 8 lamps on stage, 3 Strand Quarter 22/40 from back of venue. Very limited, purely the case of fading up and down the appropriate channels.

Sound – Behringer 24-bit multi-fx processor (12 channel input), comes with CD player and 3.5mm for music play out, no microphones or additional sound kit provided.

All of the kit appeared to be in working order. The venue is very technically basic suggesting most clients will bring additional gear or run with a narrative intensive play so that tech is forgotten.

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When Cameryn arrived we started loading props onto the stage, also sourcing an additional table and chair. She gave me a copy of the script to read through and note the lighting and sound cues, very simplistic. Once the set was assembled I started to light for a “cosy room at night” feel, putting particular emphasis on the three elements featured. This was the case of direct spots on each element with some dimmer fill light to illuminate the entire stage, I also used one of the Strand Quarters focused on the chair where most of the action was happening to pull it out slightly. I discovered a stash of gels in the venue so I used full straw gels to warm up the stage, however this was too ‘sepia’ so I dialled down to half straw (R09) gels assorting colours between these gels and bare lamps.

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Having noted down the lighting and sound cues Cameryn and I ran through each of these elements:

1 – Fade house music and start phone ring as Cameryn is speaking to audience. Fade house lights down and bring up stage lights. Cut phone when answered.

2 – “He’s putting it all out there”, phone rings.

3 – Cameryn outside door “…bend them over the dining room table, but they don’t. It’s too threatening”. Leave a beat, toilet sound.

4 – “someone’s dick in their ass is the best I can do”, phone rings.

5 – “I was out like a light”, toaster sound.

6 – “…big boy now! You must be really excited”, phone rings.

7 – “…guy rummaging cans in my recycling”, Cameryn goes to take a drink, phone rings.

8 – “Desires are some of the most personal thoughts we have”, phone rings, dim volume as it continues to rings. When she answers dim house lights.

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After one last rehearsal of the cues prior to the show we went straight into the performance, the same deal with Wednesday night. Both performances went flawlessly without any technical hitches. The audience appeared to enjoy the show, it definitely sparked a lot of conversation as intended due to the subject matter. The Q & A following the performance was really interesting and I’ve definitely taken a lot away from the experience. Over the two nights we had one audience member leave during the hardest part of the show, this was something Cameryn had warned me.

The show itself is an insight into the life of a phone sex operator, Cameryn herself actually does this as a profession so its based on real life experience. The idea that everyone thinks phone sex is ‘vanilla’ is far from the truth as we explore four phone calls amongst monologues into the mind of the character and her struggle. The content of the calls get progressively worse until the point children and illegal activities are involved.

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The bigger debate centralises around the difference between thought and action. How we cannot limit our thoughts and fantasies, whether they are right or wrong, but as a society we know not to act on these due to the nature of them. Using sex as the device to explore this issue is really interesting, it makes for an uncomfortable performance but waiting until the end and understanding the life of the character reaches a form of resolution. Whilst there is no happy ending it brings to life a social issue and questions whether fantasies are actually wrong and how we shouldn’t feel suppressed by what society deems as taboo.

Over the two days I had the chance to discuss this further with Cameryn and its a real eye opener. She has some fascinating stories and I feel this work is a great reflection of her thoughts and feelings. After the show we discussed further with audience members at the bar, it was great hearing their reactions and getting their feedback. I ended up giving out my number to someone whose son was interested at getting into live sound engineering. Admittedly I am only starting out professionally myself, but I feel I have a good source of knowledge that I can share out about the Bristol performance landscape.

I’ve notified Holly of my hours for freelance work, I’ve also expressed my interest in future projects. She will notify me of anything upcoming and I’ll be eager to jump in. I’ve also let her know of my experience in PAT testing, rigging, etc, so hopefully some additional work can come off the back of it.

It’s a shame the show only ran for two nights, I would have loved to continue it. Admittedly it wasn’t a strain on me technically, but I loved the conversation that accompanied the piece. I really feel at home in this environment and love taking apart these texts alongside my technical and creative crafts. If this is only the start of my professional journey I am eager to see what else is to follow.

Duet Shoot 2

Today Will and I returned to finish filming on ‘Duet’, a short independent indie film produced and directed by video artist Matt White (http://www.matt-white.org/). I started this opportunity as an opportunity for work experience, as the length of the project has increased I have continued to commit professionally. Admittedly I am no longer looking for a role on a film set, but I appreciate the experience it offers and it is always another useful tool in my arsenal.

Alistair (DP) was running a little late due to traffic so I started unpacking all of the gear. Time was of the essence today, Matt and I went ahead and shot on a Canon 5D a point of view shot peaking through a crack in a bathroom door. I shot several versions varying in pace and composition.

Once Alistair arrived I helped to unload kit, I went ahead and rigged a KinoFlo 1K in the kitchen to match the natural light and fill out faces. Alistair decided to go purely for natural light in the end, however I was able to easily move the KinoFlo into the corridor for the proceeding shots.

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The shots in the house were relatively simple, once the KinoFlo was rigged it was the case of bouncing some light with a reflector. I ended up pulling focus for some shots, generally assisting wherever possible to help for speedier turnovers.

When the unit moved back to the original hotel room I went ahead and started to rig light to mimic the previous shoot. This consisted of a KinoFlo 1K in either corner with CTB gel and diffusion in variation of the shot choices. Once again it was the case of assisting wherever possible to keep turnovers as fast as possible.

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I had to leave set a little early due to commitments with my job at the Alma Theatre, Matt and Alistair were all okay with this as I helped rig the lighting for the final couple of shots. The entire day ran really smoothly, keeping a good work ethic as Alistair and I continued to collaborate well. He has mentioned about additional work opportunities to me so hopefully he will keep me in the loop regarding it.

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Matt now has all of the footage and my input in the project is complete, it is now the case of awaiting the final export. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Matt and Alistair once again and they continued to be pleased with my work ethic. I very much look forward to seeing the final project and have my fingers crossed for any future opportunities from Alistair.

Total Theatre

Total Theatre was an organisation someone mentioned to me following Cameryn’s performance of ‘Phone Whore’ at the Alma Theatre. They recommended it as a website worth looking into regarding events and employment in Bristol and the general performance scene.

Total Theatre has been around for more than three decades, but only recently has taken its operations online as a resource for practitioners of contemporary theatre and performance. The company continue to host the ‘Total Theatre Awards’, an annual event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to recognise marks of excellence for performance projects.

I’m not sure how much this will relate to my desired role as a Lighting Designer, but it is definitely a rich source of content to explore. This is the sort of site I am likely to loosely follow in the future simply to see what is going on in the industry.

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Contributions Completed

Amongst all of my grading roles this year Implication has offered me the most valuable experience, truly testing my skills as a colourist and building a deeper understanding of colour and representation that can transfer directly to my career path in lighting design.

Being able to work on a film so stylised and focused on visual design was my ideal opportunity regarding my role as a colourist (or for that matter lighting too). Driven so much through its use of colour made me investigate the meaning and associations behind tones, playing on these in order to enhance the narrative and build on the combined vision of Director and DP. My personal approach to lighting with heavily stylisation has really helped me to engage with this piece of filmmaking, and now I feel I can tell the entire narrative purely by describing the changes in colour and equilibrium.

The ambitious nature of the grade made it feel like the most ‘real’ experience of being a colourist to date. It felt like working on an industry production and made me engage with the content, rather than “making things look nice”. The late delivery and inexperienced editor was frustrating at times, thankfully I managed to work my schedule so I could continue to put my fullest efforts into colouring. It will be great to see how my grade couples with the sound design, hopefully both elements will work in harmony and enhance the narrative presented.

Colour Narrative

With Implication fully complete and approved by Tom (Director) I can now reflect upon the final representation of colour in the film in relation to the narrative. The whole idea with colouring the film is to focus the palette on expressing the narrative and an extension of the films themes emotional transitions.

Constructing the palettes each colour embodied a emotional state of play in the film. ‘Gold’ was the warming palette of relationships, starting with Leo & Ingrid, soon progressing onto Leo & Lindsay. The ‘Cold’ palette focuses on blue hues and desaturated tones, associated with the emotional state of individuals (e.g. Ingrid as her relationship deteriorates). ‘Soft Blue’ acts as a natural and neutral palette to contrast stylised sequences. ‘Pink Passion’ is dynamic as it is introduced during moments of passion and intimacy. ‘Dynamic Purple’ and ‘Muddy’ were two unique palettes devised for particular sequences.

Upon review I feel I have stayed true to the emotional play of colour in the film. This works in combination for the three colours Tom uses to define his characters: Leo – Blue, Ingrid – Yellow, Lindasy – Red, as all are dressed in these iconic colours so I could pull them further out from the frame using qualifiers.

Implication Colour Storyboard

Viewing the grade as a series of scene stills I feel the emotional transition through colour is easily apparently. Starting off as a yellow warm/natural state the threat of blue is introduced leading to a growing intimacy and passion as red begins to dominate. With this shift in colour there is a jump between colours as emotional turmoil occurs in the middle, this is reflected through natural light and individual appearances of yellow, blue and red. The third act sees the red character embrace the warmth of a golden palette and further build on the intimacy between her and blue. As this shift in colour occurs simultaneously the coldness of blue starts to surround the yellow.

Towards the end red and blue battle it out inside the blue palette to win the character. This leads to a complete breakdown in colour as darkness surrounds the emotional state of blue. The end suggests a return to the original equilibrium as we are presented with an golden palette again, but the overly stylised nature is sarcastic as it is a faux ‘happy ending’ with red removed from the palette.

Whilst this is a slightly confusing concept to grasp the more you think about these three iconic colours the more you can release their journey in the narrative. At times colour meanings do swap such as blue representing Leo and blue representing coldness, despite this it is still relatively clear.

There is still the ability to break down each sequence individually aside from this overall colour narrative. The initial palettes are still relatively prominent, though at times they have broken away from the intended treatment due to adapting for the state of narrative and film. Colour association continues to be a dominant factor throughout the grade, relying heavily upon western cultural semiotics in order to read the meaning behind their inclusion.

Ultimately the grade is an extension of the narrative and I feel I have encapsulated this effectively. Whilst I had constructed palettes I feel the dominant colours associated with each character is the best connotation for reading the narrative rather than deconstructing colours in each scene. The whole purpose behind this film was its unique visual emphasis commonly associated with fashion and photography, I feel like the grade has fulfilled this production criteria perfectly and I am extremely proud of my input on the film.

Phone Whore

Today is my first shift working as a freelance technician for the Alma Tavern & Theatre, I’m really excited to get down to the venue and prove my ability. I still need to find out all the details concerning contracts and payment, hopefully I can speak to someone during my shift today (3pm – 9.15pm) or tomorrow (7pm – 9.15pm). Holly Newton (Theatre Manager) got me in contact with Cameryn Moore who is responsible for the show ‘Phone Whore’, an intimate experience following a sex line operator.

Gmail - Phone Whore Technician
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I felt it was worth contacting Cameryn prior to the performance to make sure there was no special requirements I should prepare for. Her only enquiry was regarding sound play out, as I’m yet to explore the technical setup I have recommended she bring a CD having also sent me the audio files and sound cues. I have loaded up all of the files onto my iPad in two separate playlists, one for the pre-show music, the second with duplicate files to mimic the exact sound cue list Cameryn sent me.

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I honestly have no idea what to expect, no matter what is thrown at me I will tackle it and demonstrate knowledge, understanding and confidence to the role. I have prepared a small kit pack to take with me, judging it by previous experiences working as a theatre technician for North Somerset Council and Timber Lake Camp. This consists of a battery tester, multi-tool, screwdriver, lighting gloves, full stage blacks, etc.

BAFTA Crew Membership

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The BAFTA Creative Skillset comes around every year, I was not aware of this scheme until James Helps brought it to my attention. When he mentioned about the initiative to me during rigging for ‘E Bristol’ I liked the sound of it so he forwarded across all of the relevant information.

The scheme ‘BAFTA Crew’ brings together a professional network of industry talent in film and TV. By joining the crew it gives you access to a range of benefits including exclusive access to live masterclasses, interactive Q&As, online social networking and physical networking events. The main selling point of the scheme is getting exclusive access to some of the biggest names behind the camera involved with BAFTA, along with supporting up and coming talent. The content prices at £25 for a years membership.

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If I was asked this six months ago I would have jumped at the opportunity in hopes of the connections and opportunities it could lead to. However now I know I want to be working towards live events and theatre, breaking away from the film and TV industry that BAFTA offers. Now I should be looking for networking opportunities in the field of work I strive to further a career in, this BAFTA opportunity I will pass on.

http://www.bafta.org/initiatives/supporting-talent/bafta-crew

Post Production & Grade Update

I’ve generally stepped out from overseeing the post production process as Dan (Director/Editor/VFX) is in charge of the majority of the processes so has a best gage on the work flow. Unfortunately it appears none of the intended deadlines have been met concerning the edit, partly due to having to re-shoot footage, partly due to a lack of time to work on the edit. Jordan has been sound editing part of the film whilst he awaits the rest, I have been unable to start grading as I’m awaiting on a cut with no transitions.

In terms of grading I was supposed to get a copy over Easter but this never happened. I’m still waiting on this copy but as I’ve been occupied with other projects this hasn’t been the biggest priority for me. At this late stage I have decided I might as well wait on all of the VFX. Once Dan has got this complete I will then work on the grade, by the looks of the footage there is little I have to do other than balance shots and maybe some added darker tones. Currently due to the schedule being back logged by several weeks I am no longer able to grade on a dedicated DaVinci Resolve suite so will now be using the Lite version on my iMac. This will slow down the grading process as I have to “point and click”, but as the footage is HD it will not effect the final export.

I’ve mentioned my concerns to Dan about the timescale, there is little else I can do as he is working as fast as he can on the project. Jordan has also raised concerns, once again I passed this onto Dan. As a result I have pushed back the screening date for the project, Nathan is in conversation with a venue about this. I think at this stage in our careers with so many projects on the go a delay in the schedule was bound to happen, all I can do is continue to push everyone on this final stretch and grade the project as quickly as possible as soon as I get it.

Final Grade Export

After all of my various grade export tests I came to the verdict to deliver an Uncompressed RGB 10-bit and a MPEG4 as reference. The debate between RGB and DPX was difficult, but judging by the experience of Tom (Director) as an editor I felt delivering a self-contained MOV file would be an easier concept for him to grasp. I decided to split the film into 4 sequences so no single file would be too large to cause the system to freeze or crash.

The final export took around 16 hours. I also colour-traced a couple of grades for the pickup shots Tom has spoken to me about, one didn’t appear in the sequence whilst the other was a misunderstanding when making continuity edits in DaVinci. Everything is clearly labelled on his hard drive, he now has all of the files so my role on this project is completed.

This project has been a fantastic opportunity to push the grade right to the limits of what is considered ‘natural’ and what is ‘surreal’. I love to push colour to become very stylistic and definite narratives through expressionism, this project has enabled me to work this into my craft as a colour grader. Tom took the time to tell the story through colour so I had solid guidance, but at the same time I was able to provide my own creative interpretation and at times break away from his initial verdict (e.g. making shop blue rather than yellow). I really enjoy the subtly of colour at times and think this is a great reflection of my personal feelings and approach to colour grading. I look forward to seeing it alongside the sound to see the final interpretation of the content throughout the film.

Formatting Hard Drive

Due to the large file size of the export Tom needed to buy a separate hard drive in order to get a copy of the film. Whilst I copied the footage through ‘EditShare’ to get the rushes from Mac to Windows I am unable to repeat the process due to disk space filling up and the large export, predicting around 1.2TB.

Mac hard drives will default to OS Journaled as a partition meaning they cannot be read by Windows.  Macs read and write to a format known as HFS+ (Hierarchical File System) supporting file sizes of 8 EiB. Windows drives default as NTFS, this can be read on Macs but cannot be written on, this supports a much smaller file limit of 16TB.

Alternatively you can install open-source software on either operating system in order to enable it to write to the opposing disk format. For Mac something like ‘MacFuse’, for Windows something like ‘HFS+ Explorer’. Whilst these will fix the problem the open-source nature of the design can be susceptible to bugs and errors, results vary between users.

Another suggestion is to partition the hard drive into two separate formats. Effectively creating two hard drives by splitting the capacity to a ratio of disk space. In this scenario it still won’t remove the problem of being able to write on the opposing operating system so it you can’t copy files across partitions.

Partitioning the disk as FAT will resolve the problem as this formats it so it is read and write compatible across both operating systems. The first style of this format is FAT32, this has a maximum file size of 4GB and can be susceptible to disk errors. This is nowhere near the file sizes I will need to copy across.

The second version is exFAT (or MS-DOS FAT), compared to FAT32 this isn’t as common meaning it may not be compatible with third party devices such as games consoles or camcorders. The other problem with this format is its lack of compatibility with older operating systems, only working with OSX 10.6.5 and Windows Visa SP1 or later. However it does offer larger file sizes so I will be able to copy across the relevant files.

I have asked Tom to format the drive as a exFAT. The purpose of the drive is to be able to copy large files between a Windows and Mac computer, this is the only format that can achieve that purpose. This can easily be done through ‘Disk Utility’ on OSX by erasing the disk and partitioning it to the new format.

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