ENTRY TWELVE: WHAT A YEAR IT’S BEEN?!

This year really has been nothing shy of incredible. Aside from being exceptionally challenging the SuperfreakMedia team has achieved so much and I will warn you in advance, this entry might get a little lengthy. Since starting the Blog back in October, the main point of it has been to log our projects and document our progress with our endeavours. I feel it’s only sensible that we start 2017 reflecting on all we achieved in the last 12 months.

From the beginning of last year I knew it was important for myself and for the brand to branch out and try new things. Whether we delve into a different genre or try to work with new actors, it was definitely time to change things up. As if by magic we were offered our first project of the year, in partnership with Derby QUAD and funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. The project’s purpose was to bring filmmakers and creative residents over the age of 65 together to create a short film or music video (The Shine a Light Project). It was a brilliant opportunity to reunite some familiar faces associated with QUAD and get to know the wonderful Derby based musician Finbar Lillis. Working together we wrote a treatment for a music video for one of Finbar’s original songs, telling the story of his first love/crush Melissa, whom he fell for when he was a young man. The project now entitled ‘MELISSA’ was a breath of fresh air and although having to be completed under and extremely tight deadline (30 days, start to finish – including pre production, shooting and post) we did it and I am incredibly proud of the outcome. My good friend Drew took on DOP duties having just shot ‘THE FINAL GIRL’ together in October. It’s always a joy getting to work together and this project was no different. The short/music video itself really gave me room to experiment with some stylised slow motion and camera work and is definitely something I hope to do again in the future. It was fun to try something that didn’t involve blood, guts and gore and I loved telling a much more ‘human’ and ‘intimate’ story compared to my usual fare. Due to copyright and such of the track I haven’t been able to post the music video publicly but it is still being screened up and down the country as part of the ‘Shine a Light Project’ and continues it’s run in film festivals. For now you will have to make do taking a peek at some of the BTS images from the shoot below.

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Starting the year I was extremely lucky to fall straight into a paid gig but I knew that this wouldn’t always be the case. Something that I don’t think you can ever be prepared for, or that gets easier in the constant uncertainty you have when working as a freelance creative. However organised or however much networking you do, sometimes there just isn’t the work. I think that in this industry its definitely about the people you know and the connections you have. Nearly all of the work I have had come my way has been as a result of me knowing someone or knowing someone who just needs an extra set of hands on set. Nottingham is a great place for networking and the filmmaking community is a fairly tight knit and friendly one. More than anything this last year I am so thankful for all of the help I have received on my journey into my career so far, you guys know who you are!

2016 was really a year of many firsts. It was the first full year I knew I would be relying solely on filmmaking as a source of income. It was the first year I wrote and directed a comedy short. It was the first year we placed at the Five Lamps 24 Hour Film Challenge. It was the first year a film we entered into Mayhem Film Festival and were accepted into the prestigious line up. It was the first time I had a proper sit down interview as a filmmaker as opposed to over the phone, radio or email. READ IT HERE (shamelessplug). This year has been amazing for so many reasons. I have been lucky enough to see the films’ we’ve made screened in great venues, been nominated for awards all over the world and even win some of them. The most rewarding part of this year however has to be the great worldwide response we’ve had to the content we post online, to hear genuine reactions in the screenings we’ve attended and have wonderful opportunities thrown our way because people love what we do.

 

Each year, no matter how busy the schedule may be myself and the team make sure we enter the FIVE LAMPS 24 HOUR FILM CHALLENGE. It’s always a hell of a lot of fun and it really provides us with an opportunity to try and push ourselves with what we can achieve in such little time. I think that contests like this are so valuable to filmmakers as it really does push you to your limits and force you to get creative. SuperfreakMedia had entered as a team twice before but unfortunately hadn’t placed anywhere against the other entries. This year I knew that that needed to change. Getting an idea together and rallying as many actors as we could I knew that this year I wanted to create a zombie short that had a real human element to it, that had scope which seemed unachievable in just a days’ shooting and more than anything excelled the work we had submitted before. Never being one to take the easy route with anything, I can wholeheartedly say I am so bloody pleased with what we made and think it really doesn’t look like a short made in just 24 hours. Overall we placed 3rd with ‘WRECKAGE’ in the competition and we were in such great company. I know that we couldn’t have tried harder and I am still incredibly grateful for everyone’s time and effort on that day. The cogs are already whirring away with an idea for this years’ challenge, so we will just have to wait and see what’s on the horizon for 2017.

 

Soon after the 24 Hour Film Contest, an opportunity came our way that differed a lot from our usual enquiries. We were asked to shoot a promo for a theatre production of Anthony Horowitz’s ‘MINDGAME’ to be published online to promote the event at The Theatre Royal Nottingham and other regional theatres. This whole project was a complete dream come true as we had the room to shoot something with a heightened style and similar aesthetic to the visuals on display in American Horror Story (a favourite show of mine). Shooting and editing the promo we were then asked to shoot some visuals that could actually be projected behind the actors on stage to add to the uneasiness of the entire piece. I was lucky enough to head along to one of the performances of the show and it was so great to hear people murmuring about the visuals in the interval. Right there is an opportunity that came my way I could have never anticipated. At this point in the blog I feel it is important to thank the Theatre Production Company TABS’s for all of their help and support this year. Offering me the opportunity to get as involved as I did with ‘MINDGAME’ was amazing and they helped us out so much with props and costuming in shoots throughout 2016. More work is on the cards in the future with TAB’s and I can’t bloody wait!

In the run up to Halloween I noticed that popularity of our short ‘MR CREAK’ began to grown online having been uploaded to YouTube in April. Following a successful run at festivals in the previous year I thought it best to post the short online while we continued to plot the course for the feature. As the months went by I noticed the views going up by thousands a day. Waking up one morning in October I had a couple of messages from friends telling me that they were sure a short I had made had just been featured on BUZZFEED. Sure enough I had a look and ‘MR CREAK’ had made it onto their list of ’16 Terrrifying Horror Movies You Can Watch In 20 Minutes Or Less’ which was insane! In the month of October the views were flying in, surpassing 10,000 a day on some days. The response was incredible, people loved the short and the comments continue to come in with people loving the short. So far the film has been uploaded several more times by other horror fans and has even been translated into Italian, Vietnamese and Korean. We even made it into a Countdown on IGN of ‘9 Scary Shorts That’ll Give you Nightmares’ as seen below. As of writing this post the short has surpassed 180,000 views on YouTube which is crazy and completely unexpected. If I wasn’t confident before in the potential of the short this and the fantastic response from our viewers has confirmed it and I head into the New Year pleased with how the feature version of the film is shaping up. More news on that to come!

 

‘SANDMAN’ I knew would be the big project of the year for us. Having made ‘MR CREAK’ in 2015 and having enjoyed the success that followe, I was keen to get a short we’d made accepted and screened at Mayhem. When ‘MR CREAK’ was selected for the line up on THE FEAR on BBC THREE we had to pull out of Mayhem due to the BBC’s request. Every year we create a short for release at Halloween and I know that that will be a tradition we will keep up for years to come. Last year we had ‘THE FINAL GIRL’ which has enjoyed an impressive run on the festival circuit this year. We even bagged ourselves a couple of nominations for ‘BEST SLASHER’ ‘BEST SHORT’ ‘BEST DIRECTOR’ and of course ‘BEST ACTRESS’. This year nonetheless I wanted to showcase a different avenue of horror, which led me to conceive the idea behind our short supernatural tale ‘SANDMAN’. Soon after we submitted the film to Mayhem for consideration we received an email of acceptance. Having the film screened as part of the ‘Scary Shorts’ Line up this last year was an incredible achievement and I was so unbelievably proud of everyone involved. The festival was a sure highlight of the year for me, so if you fancy a recap check out my previous post about the entire Mayhem Weekend HERE. Since I was at college (all those years ago) I wanted to have a film I had made screened at Mayhem. I have entered for as long as I can remember and finally getting in was an aspiration of mine come true. Mayhem is the first rung on the Horror Film Festival Bucket-List so it’s only onwards and upwards from here! ‘SANDMAN’ created somewhat of a reunion for a lot of the people involved in shooting ‘WRECKAGE’ earlier in the year, and it truly was a pleasure getting the clan back together. I honestly think that filmmaking is like collaborating with family sometimes, especially when you get it right. Every shoot however challenging is guaranteed to be full of fun and laughter and those are the moments I live for, aside from scaring you guys shitless! That’s another passion of mine of course!

As of writing this Blog Post I am pleased to say that ‘SANDMAN’ has been nominated for a Fright-Meter Award for Best Short Horror of 2016. The competition is international so entries have been ‘selected’ by the board of judges, bloggers and film fans from all over the world. Hearing we’d been nominated I honestly thought that that might be the last we heard of it. Not because I don’t have confidence in the film we made but because the competition was steep and as I said, international. Low and behold I was then delighted to find out we had made the TOP 25 SELECTION and were listed on the website and Facebook Page as official contenders. A month or so passed and I get another message telling us we had made it to the TOP 5 SELECTION. What a way to wrap up the year eh?! The contest is one that I have followed and admired for years as it really is an initiative ran by horror fans for horror fans so to have a piece of work I created acknowledged is an unbelievable achievement. I am sure if we hear any more news about how ‘SANDMAN’ fares you guys will be the first to know!

 

Having not satisfied my appetite with the FIVE LAMPS 24 HOUR FILM CHALLENGE in late April. I decided it would be a fantastic idea to enter our first ever 48 Hour Film Contest and boy am I glad that we did! This year I managed to tick so many things of my personal filmmaking Bucket-List (mainly zombies, séances and exorcisms – I have always wanted to shoot and exorcism, god knows why) and this contest alone made my horror fiend heart so happy. Having been asked if we wanted to screen our short ‘SANDMAN’ at the Grindhouse Planet Film Festival I immediately accepted as the event sounded wonderfully insane. Grindhouse Cinema has always been a guilty pleasure of mine so it was an honour to join the line up with our own little slice of terror. Looking into the event some more I saw they were also hosting a Grindhouse themed 48 Hour Film Challenge. The task was to either make a short film or faux trailer in 2 days for consideration. Upon reading it my mind went into overdrive and I knew we had to create a faux trailer full of insane and crazy moments that I would never normally get the opportunity to film. The whole contest was honestly a dream come true, and the shoot was as f**king insane as I had imagined. To see how we got on with the shoot and the challenges we faced with having 48 Hours this time check out my previous blog post HERE. Going to hell and back we finished the cut of the trailer and submitted it for consideration. Having entered our faux trailer ‘NIGHT OF THE DERANGED VIRGINS – FROM HELL’ in early October the results and screening were not until November. Heading along myself and the team loved the event so much and were delighted to hear we’d only gone and bloody won the 48 Hour Film Challenge (you guessed it, we have a Blog post about that HERE). Winning the award was again an incredible achievement and I was so happy not just for myself but for everyone involved as so many people came on the day of the shoot to donated their time and energy to film some absolutely bat-shit crazy scenes. Having people believe in the story you’re trying to tell, however outlandish is an amazing feeling, I honestly couldn’t be more thankful.

 

With the shorts I make and release online, I was beginning to get a little bored. Not because I don’t love what we do, but because Horror was no longer feeling like a challenging genre for me. I was really keen to place myself out of my comfort zone and create something that showed my versatility as a director. To me the complete opposite genre of Horror is Comedy. 2016 was the year I took the plunge and directed my first Comedy short. I had been toying with the idea for ages, even nearly doing something the year previous but when discussing another potential collaboration, an idea was mentioned and the ball began to roll on our first comedy short ‘OH SHIT!’ Admittedly I was terrified going into it, I was scared of how different the energy would be on set, how the audience would respond and more importantly if I discovered that I was just a one trick pony. Horror is my passion, it’s where I’m comfortable and that’s what worried me. Writing the script and finally securing the locations we needed, it came to the day of the shoot and I was so pleased with how the cast gelled together. The script was littered with genuine comedic moments that were really brought to life by the talented cast we had involved. The whole process was such a joy as explained in my blog post HERE. Releasing the film online and even sending it to a few local film screening events for consideration, the response was far from good and admittedly it did cast some doubt in my mind. I knew it wasn’t the cast as they nailed everything I wanted on the day of the shoot, and everyone on set was finding it funny when we were filming. I was really confused. Negative comments began to appear on the video and I really thought no one liked what we had created at all. Soon however giving it a little time the negative comments were replaced with positive ones and more and more people saw the short online. The short is now doing really well and I think I really came to appreciate that Comedy is such a subjective genre, even more so than Horror. The loud and out there comedy, akin to our own short is what I love to watch. Other people have an appreciation for more subtle or intellectual comedy, ‘OH SHIT!’ is neither of those things. Having had my confidence knocked a little, will I attempt Comedy again in the future? Hell yeah. When I look back on the first Horror’s I created way back when, the only thing scary about them is the writing and poor camera work. To me those weren’t the flaws I saw in ‘OH SHIT!’ – I think all I really need is more practice. Filmmaking will forever be a learning process and delving into another genre is no different. It’ll take time but I’m so happy I finally took the plunge and think everyone involved did a killer job. Plus a little bit of Triva for you guys out there, ‘OH SHIT!’ has to be one of the only films I have ever shot were someone doesn’t die! I probably need to address that.

This year for sure has not been all fun and games. I think from the first post I made on here I assured you all there would be no bullshit. Filmmaking is hard, being a filmmaker for a living is harder. Harder in fact than I could have ever anticipated. The work hasn’t always been flooding in, there are plenty of people out there who don’t value what we do as artists and want a hell of a lot for nothing. I’m not saying this so that anyone out there who wants to start freelance loses faith, it’s just you need to be prepared. I’ve only been at this for a year so I didn’t expect everything to come up rosy right away and I still have a hell of a lot to learn. Filmmaking is one of those unique careers where I don’t think you’ll ever stop learning. There will always be new techniques to master, new equipment to become accustomed too and don’t get me started on how saturated the market is. I think the most important thing I have learned this last year is that in order to progress in the market you have to be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. If you have the passion and drive to succeed you’ll get through it. I’m still here.

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* IMAGE COURTESY OF – MOTION CLICK PRODUCTIONS

Aside from the work we’ve done in house with SuperfreakMedia, 2016 has brought with it plenty of exciting opportunities to collaborate with other filmmakers and production companies. Triskelle Pictures were shooting their successfully crowd-funded short ‘SONGBIRD’. Director Sophie Black asked my other half Charlie to AD on the shoot after seeing her work AD’ing on ‘WRECKAGE’. Having just been asked to film something for the first two days of the shoot she needed to AD on I offered to cover and help out. Now the paperwork side of things had all been covered so I didn’t have to worry about that (thank you Charlie) but managing cast and crew on set I knew would be a challenge in itself, but one I was extremely excited to undertake. The shoot was incredible fun and I know that everyone involved was super happy with the footage shot on the days I was there. Credit goes to Sophie Black (creator/owner of Triskelle Pictures) for having such a clear vision of what she wanted. I always love getting to watch other director’s work and I think there is a hell of a lot I could learn from such an incredible lady. The ‘SONGBIRD’ shoot really was my first AD experience, but one I really enjoyed. It is definitely something I would consider doing again in the future as I learnt so much and the feeling you have being on a film set can’t be beaten!

This year I also got to help out on some corporate gigs with the guys at FUTURE PROOF FILMS. If you haven’t already you should check these guys out as the work they create is fantastic. I always jump at the chance to get to work with these guys whenever I’m asked to help out on one of their shoots. This year alone I got to help out shoot a conference for a new product launch at the European LG Headquarters as well as shooting some instructional material to be used by The Church of England. I really have a lot to learn when it comes to the freelance game but the guys at FPF have helped me so much and seeing them do well is so inspiring. I can’t wait to see what the new year holds for these guys!

Getting back to my own freelance endeavours this year I launched FREAK GRAPHICS and FREAK-TOGRAPHY as side branches within the SuperfreakMedia Brand that focus purely on the graphic design and photography needs of potential clients. I thought it was important to distinguish between the services I offer as I know Superfreak ‘MEDIA’ can seem a little general. For years I have been doing all of the promo and design work singlehandedly so it only made sense to offer this service out to those who might need a hand. FREAK-TOGRAPHY has also really taken off this year, my headshot bookings for actors have gone up. I was lucky enough to get booked for an editorial shoot at Ealing Studios down in London in the middle of the year (read all about it HERE) and have since received bookings for more shoots of a similar nature as well as being asked to photograph weddings and live events. At the start of the year I knew I wanted to push myself with my photography and I feel incredibly fortunate that this has also led to some paid gigs where I have been able to try new things and get to meet new clients. Both FREAK GRAPHICS and FREAK-TOGRAPHY will be avenues of the brand I will continue to explore and learn within as more work comes our way in the new year.

 

Wrapping up 2016, we entered the #15secondfilmchallenge over the summer. From the start of October results started to be announced of audience favourites from the guest judges asked to determine the winners of the contest. Throughout the coming months we made a few of the Top 5 selections, landing on the top spot a few times too. A highlight for us was receiving the news that Troma creator Lloyd Kauffman crowned our entry ‘NAILED IT!’ number one on his Top 5 Selection. Troma films for me fits right into that Grindhouse Cinema Guilty Pleasure I mentioned earlier so that was a real treat. Just knowing he’d seen our work, never mind loved it was such a crazy feeling. At the end of November the final results were announced and out of over 450 entries worldwide, ‘NAILED IT!’ placed 10th. I was absolutely over the moon when I heard the news and again the shorts we were up against were of an extremely high quality so I was incredibly proud that our little horror gem held it’s own. The short itself has now been uploaded onto the official Tromo Youtube Channel and the praise continues to pour in.

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This year hasn’t just been an incredible year because of all the incredible filmmaking opportunities but also because of the great people I got to meet and interact with. Anthony Horowitz, an author I loved growing up acknowledged and complimented us on the promo we did for his stage play ‘MINDGAME’. At a Macklemore concert earlier in the year we were lucky enough to meet him and Ryan Lewis back stage and for a moment or two I got to talk music videos with them which was incredible. I got to work with Janet Devlin over summer whilst AD’ing on ‘SONGBIRD’ which was an absolute pleasure. Lloyd Kauffman declared his love for our micro short ‘NAILED IT!’ in the #15secondhorrorfilmchallenge. But more than anything the moment that has stuck with me was getting to meet my idol this past Halloween Night which completely blew my mind (read about it HERE). Meeting the man responsible for my passion and love for film was insane and I will never forget it. John Carpenter, I know for a fact you will never read this but thank you for all you do and it was an absolute pleasure getting to shake your hand, awkwardly hug you and tell you that “you are the reason I make films…” I don’t know about highlight of the year, this will be a frigging highlight of my life!

With the success of 2015, having one of our first ever music videos aired on TV and placing 5th Nationally on THE FEAR competition on BBC THREE, I knew that we’d struggle to top all that in 2016. In many ways I think we did, we certainly explored our potential a lot more and created a whole host of shorts, promos and commissioned work for national clients. We won awards, our work has continued to be seen all over the world and the following for what we do has only continued to grow. I got to meet some incredible people and I feel so incredibly lucky to have got to work with so many amazing people personally. You all know who you are and you are a credit to the industry. Looking back at the year as a whole I could not be more proud of all that we have achieved or be more thankful for all the great people we have had the chance to collaborate with. 2016 saw us create some of our most outlandish and diverse content and that is something I want to push even more in 2017. We have plenty planned for the New Year and we will be sure to bombard you with all of it on every social media channel possible. For now however, cheers to 2016! You were a bugger at times but somewhere along the way you ticked some incredible things off of this filmmakers hit list and I couldn’t be more ready for what is set to come next!

Thanks as always and until next time…

– LIAM

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