Friday, 28 March 2014

Three Months Later.... Film Release!!

It has been a VERY long time since my last post. Or at least, it feels like a long time. More than anything, I have wanted a piece of work that I can use to demonstrate the kind of films I want to make. I have been determined to get my first proper film complete, and I took the decision to focus my efforts, where I had time, on the editing of the Grey Seal film. And, three months later, I can officially say it is finished!!

The YouTube link is live here:

What an incredibly rewarding experience. I have learned a hell of a lot in the process, which I will apply to forthcoming films I have planned over the summer.

I have some huge thank you's to make. Firstly, Tim Precious. A great friend who came with me and assisted with a lot of the camera work and was a great creative input into getting the styles of shots and story that we were after. You can follow the plant loving environmentalist on twitter @TimmyP123

Could not have done it without this man! (He doesn't always look like he is on drugs...)

Next up, Sam Smith and Harriet Young, who were immensely useful when it came to editing and creating the story line. It really helped getting opinions of scenes throughout the process.

Basil, Sam's cat, lends a paw or two during the editing process!

And lastly, but not least, Kitty Macfarlane, for the use of her incredible music! Her song is essentially the theme song for the film, and is perfectly appropriate. If you have never heard of her, please do check her out!

Tide and Time by Kitty Macfarlane

I made a short film of a brown rat, called A Ratty Afternoon, which was a quick distraction from the intense Grey Seals. I plan to do a bit of a behind the scenes storytelling of how I made the Grey Seal film in my next blog as well, for any filmmakers that may be interested, or wildlife enthusiasts that may be tempted to make a film!

There is a hell of a lot to take in here, so I will call it a day, and be sure to keep more regular updates with forthcoming films and the developments I have made on the Fall for Nature series as well. Oh, and a potential website!

I hope everyone is well, thank you for reading, watching and if you could share the film or blog with any like-minded people, that would be hugely appreciated!

Once again, Thank ya'll !

Tom, Beyond the Riverbank Movies

Facebook: Riverbankmovies
Twitter: @Riverbankmovies

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Interview, tits and progress...

January has been fairly busy in terms of filming and editing. I am trying to finish off a short first episode to introduce the project and the series. Currently, I am waiting for the opportunity to film in a downpour of rain, which feels strange as I am sitting here looking out at a grey, drizzly day wishing for a sudden deluge that I can get out in. I do not think I will have to wait much longer.  

A rough storyboard for the Intro film

The edit for the Interview for the Shark Trust has finally been completed! I could not embed it into the blog for some reason, so for anyone that has not seen it, it is up on YouTube here: Shark Trust Interview.

A huge thank-you goes out to everyone that has helped get the project kick-started so far; from Sam and Tim who have been great companions, inspiration and camera operators; Cat and the from the Shark Trust; and to all the photographers that kindly gave me permission to use their photos to enhance the interview - notably Lauren Smith of Sharkiologist and Kat Murphy, an old friend from Plymouth Uni.

Inspired by the Big Garden Birdwatch , I got a short clip put together of my favourite small garden visitors, it is not much, but I could not resist, with their small round bodies, long pointed tail, and those lovely subtle pastel colours. 

And for those viewing on mobile devices, you can watch it on YouTube here: Long Tailed Tits

Quite a common theme for discussion by independent filmmakers seems to be budget, or the lack of one. I now see why, and do not want to make a big deal about it, but I am in the same boat - scraping by for the time being. Which means you will often find me looking a bit tatty, and finding obscure, home-made ways to cut costs. Which is where having a carpenter for a Dad and a mechanically-minded Uncle comes in really handy.

I made a shoulder support out of an old rifle I salvaged, and took my dodgy design to my uncle, who kindly sculpted it and fitted appropriate screws in the right places, and came up with this...

I have always preferred practicality over image...

Although, I may have to paint it yellow and tie pink ribbons to it as a few people have already thought I was walking with a rifle of some kind.

Filming from the garden shed, I came across this very sleepy peacock butterfly which has decided to use the shed as a safe place to overwinter.

One of few species to  overwinter - the peacock butterfly

The introduction film is coming along nicely, with filming at sunset taking place up at the top of the hill in Stotfold Cemetery. Which could not have gone better, as rain clouds drifted across the setting sun, creating shadows and back-lit shafts of rain.

Haz and Sky join me up top of hill for some filming

Filming the sun as it sets

Doing a bit on camera...

In my attempt to show people that you can connect with nature whilst doing pretty much any daily activity, I spent some time filming in the garden, having a cup of tea, watching as the robin, blackbird, dunnock and wood pigeons foraged from the food I had put out. I wanted to include a shot of myself drinking tea, with the feeder in the background. Three cups of tea and twelve takes later, I was finally happy with one of the shots! 

One of many cups of tea in the garden

Robin taking the cheesy remains in the bowl

Planning for a filming schedule for the months to come is extremely exciting. Writing the stories I want to tell, and researching the places and people I want to visit, keeps my mind constantly ticking until the moment I fall asleep. Soon I will be editing the footage from the seal trip to Norfolk from way back in December. Hopefully, by the end of February the Intro and Seal episode will be complete.

It was not until I tried to plan, film and edit the interview, and the forthcoming episodes, that I realised just how much effort, time and commitment is necessary to produce films to the standard people envision. It is a recipe of hundreds of minute details that make the whole, as the tiniest element can change the feel of the entire production. My respect for filmmakers, presenters, editors, writers, cameramen and soundies has gone through the roof. As I begin piecing them together, I am now getting in  touch with musicians about doing soundtracks - another vital ingredient to the process!

Friday, 3 January 2014

And so it Begins...

I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Sky the husky-collie cross in the festive spirit!

Filming for Fall for Nature has begun. I have thought about making films for years, and what better place to start than by filming myself looking for native wildlife around the UK. It has been a flying start, getting footage for my little intro film that I hope to finish in the New Year, interviewing with the Shark Trust, filming at Plymouth Natural History Museum, and heading to Norfolk to film the Grey Seal pups and anything else we came across.

Taking to the River Ivel to get some footage of the river, traffic and wildlife above and below the water, I used my old fish tank as an effective (once cleaned up!) underwater housing. Waterproof to the mind-boggling depths of 10 inches...

Fish tank
I am over the moon with the footage, and cannot wait to get the ideas and shots I envisage edited into the film.
Above and below the Ivel
Shoal of fish! 

Filming in Norfolk was the first time I properly set-out on a shoot to get enough footage to make my first short film. Tim, my good friend, joined me to help with the filming. The trip was incredible, witnessing the pink-footed geese as hundreds of thousands of them took to the skies from their overnight roost on The Wash, births of beautiful grey seal pups, and some spectacular sunsets. As I have never been one for enjoying being in front of the camera much, my presenting skills were put to the test, and I have to say once myself and Tim got going, I actually found myself enjoying it a lot! Although I am no Steve Backshall yet...

On the way to the seal colony
Many thanks to Tim for his help! 

Up at the crack of dawn, we witnessed the pink footed geese leaving roost in the wind and the rain. We were cold, and wet, but we managed to get some dim footage of the birds. If you can, have a quick gander at this short clip I have thrown together of the event:

If you cannot see the video here, follow this link over to youtube to have a quick peek: Pink Footed Geese

The Christmas period has been extremely busy. In between festivities, family and friends, I have almost finished editing the interview for the Shark Trust with Cat Gordon, their conservation officer, about shark and ray eggcases found around Britain. The interview is packed with lots of great information, and the Shark Trust have kindly provided supporting images. Many thanks go out to all the contributing photographers, with special thanks to Cat Gordon and Lauren Smith for their contributions. Lauren is a marine biologist, and runs her own diving and marine conservation business. It is definitely worth checking it out here: Saltwater Life.

Rescuing the eggcases as they got blown away in the wind!

Screenshot at Wembury Beach, Devon as Sam and I eggcase hunted!

I have decided each episode will be no more than 5-6 minutes long, focusing on individual species and themes. The films will be filmed in the same spirit as the message I am trying to put across: cost effective ways of connecting to wildlife. Wildlife you see regularly, as well as wildlife that you might believe to be more exotic and that may surprise you at the possibility to enjoy them here in Britain. Admittedly some of the species and some of the themes may involve a bit of travel and a bit of effort, but I do hope that it is worth it. Most of the time, it is a matter of just being more aware whilst doing ordinary things. Whether you are walking on the beach, out with the kids down the park, driving to work or washing up by the kitchen window.

I look forward to being able to share them, and hope updates become far more regular as things get going this year. I already have some shooting lined up for the summer and cannot wait! I am excited to be working on these projects, along with a healthy dose of nerves as I hope to share them with everyone to see.

Any thoughts, feedback, advice and help would be much appreciated, so please feel free to get in touch!

Thank you for reading,


Beyond the Riverbank Movies

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Falling for Nature

Beyond the Riverbank is expanding. I thoroughly enjoy writing about and photographing my wildlife adventures, and will continue to do so. Now, I have made the decision to start making wildlife films. I have never made one before, properly at least, so will be starting from scratch. My first aim is to create a series of short films under the title 'Fall for Nature'. A series about inspiring people to love nature, by showing you how easy it is to connect with incredible wildlife. Leading by example, I will hopefully show how it is done. In the most simple of ways. You do not need lots of money, and you definitely do not have to travel far, to engage with and enjoy spectacular wildlife. Essentially, it is free. And all around us. You just have to look, listen and make yourself aware of it.

Listen to the bird song at first light. Look for kestrels on your way to work as they hunt over the roadside verges. Walk to the local shop instead of driving and see how many types of birds you see. Smell the flowers growing on the neighbours wall. Touch the moss and lichen growing on trees. Put a feeder up and keep a list of how many species visit your garden each year or season. So far I have had 24 species in my garden this year. And that isn't including any winter visitors like redwing, fieldfare and waxwing. Watch what they are up to. Are they feeding? Courting? Defending territory? Don't worry too much about names. Names are literally just that. People have different names for the same animal anyway. Enjoy the animals for what they are and not what they are called. Don't be put off by box ticking twitchers. I love kestrels and barn owls. And would sooner sit and watch one of these hunt over the fields all day, than travel 200 miles to see a bird that has blown over from the USA and is the first in the country since 1952. And it is such a rare sighting here, simply because it should not be there. Now, where are those magpies fighting over the parsnip I put in the garden?

Plans for my first two short films are under way. This blog will keep a record of the progress I hopefully make as I begin a new venture. Details will follow!

Thank you for reading.