Watching the movie Super 8 recently set off one of my regular and fuzzy waves of nostalgia about the low budget films I used to make as a student. I’ve talked about some of them on this blog before – links below if you’re interested. This time I’ve dusted off a still from a 16mm movie made by friends Phil Tuppin and Andy Wicks during their time on the Film and Photographic Arts course at the Polytechnic of Central London, way back in the mid-1980s: an Orwellian future-fable called This Bloodless Age. On this occasion my contribution was mostly limited to a bit of casting and location support, but I also supplied the film’s opening shot of a futuristic building. (Please forgive the quality of this particular image – all I had to hand was the DVD transfer. Trust me when I say the original looks a lot cleaner.)
As you’ve probably guessed from the picture, the shot was a
shameless rip-off of homage to the Tyrell Pyramid scenes from the opening of Blade Runner. Once we’d worked out a design that would satisfy our sensibilities without (hopefully) triggering a lawsuit, I painted the building with acrylics on cheap card, then cut out windows in a random pattern and backed up the apertures with tracing paper. When we stuck a big backlight behind them, the windows burned out, giving the whole thing that authentic Ridley Scott lens flare vibe.The backlight worked pretty well, but the shot still looked a little dead. So I made a slot gag on the back of the painting, sliding a card mask vertically past a column of apertures to create the effect of an elevator climbing up the side of the building.
We had one more trick up our sleeves. When we shot the painting, we boiled a kettle in front of the camera lens. It didn’t quite create the smoky industrial miasma we were looking for, but it did soften the shot a bit. My only regret was the schoolboy error I’d made in painting the building almost up to the edges of the card, which gave us limited framing options.
Still, having the kettle on hand meant it was easy to make the tea.
The first shows a couple of frames from another opening shot, this time from a plasticene animation epic I made with the same reprobates mentioned above. This Lucas-inspired adventure was called Matt Line Tidies Up The Universe. The titular hero wasn’t the only character named from a movie-making glossary, by the way – the film also featured Princess Arriflex and the Evil Lord Multiplane.
The second set of stills is from Fever, which Phil and I shot on Standard rather than Super 8 and managed to get placed in the BBC Screen Test Young Filmmaker’s competition, back in the days when we all had big hair and wore flares. As far as we know, it’s the only film they ever had to censor in order to protect younger viewers …
And, yes, in case you were wondering, the frames really do show a dressing gown crawling across a bedroom floor. Well, it’s only logical – the article of clothing in question was possessed by a demon after all.
If you like the pictures, the links below will take you to a couple of short behind-the-scenes articles explaining how we did the shots. The articles are recycled from my old blog, so if you’ve read them before, this is now the perfect opportunity to go and put the kettle on yourself.