Seizing the Film – A Night and Day Walk Through with Emma Dark

The golden age of travelling to Hollywood with only aspiration and no material possession is long dead. The spirit of that determination still remains true to form but it exists only in that, spirit. To stand out is harder than ever yet to reach an immeasurable amount of people with a single click of a button is the easiest it ever has been. Breaking into the film industry has never been as easy if you have the talent and perseverance to push through and yet the division between the here and now and the almighty throne of fulfilment and to some, recognition has never been greater. Like a peacock’s mating display, we parade our feathers around in the hopes of landing a partner that allows us to progress onwards

And so it begins, the craving to make film – when you’re young it’s a cute thing to perceive by the parental overseers, when you’re older it becomes a pity fest unless you take that initial leap of faith into the unknown. First, one has to hone their craft. You want to learn the technical aspects of your new DSLR so it’s a second nature? Shoot Wedding/Music Video’s. Want to learn about composition and form? Take photographic stills. The point is – experience is golden. Or take a course at University – whatever floats ya’ boat…

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“If you naturally have good creative skills and a technical prowess, and the secret ingredient – patience – it’s probably entirely possible to shoot something beautiful on your mobile phone for web and use phone based editing software. I’ve seen some great direct to web pieces shot on minimal equipment. With my and fellow filmmaker Merlyn Roberts short film Island of the Blind Dead you might be surprised to know that we shot that on a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W630.  That’s a consumer compact camera!  That was purely by chance rather than planned but the results were very effective for the subject of the film, giving the footage an instantly degraded look, before I’d even got on to colour grading.”

Every amateur film maker out there wants the prestige of having their work viewed upon the big screen, to gain a genuine audience reaction for the first time, to be recognised for all the blood, sweat and tears of one’s tenacity. Emma Dark reveals experiences of making her short film Seize the Night and the UK Film Festival circulation.

Hindsight is an invaluable thing, without Emma’s previous ‘lessons learnt’ from Island of the Blind Dead she wouldn’t have been in the position she is now – circulating the Film Festival circuit. Every avenue is a learning curve. “The biggest obstacles for me were time and budget, both being interlinked and a lack of meaning two scene re-shoots.  I don’t see that as a negative, as I’ve said it was a highly complex first serious film and as such if it went smoothly from start to finish it probably wouldn’t have achieved the same end result. As an actor it’s about less being more, I’ve learned that and I don’t think I’ve done a bad job, but people will confirm that (or not) I’m sure when IMDb reviews are open to the public.”

‘With great hindsight comes great knowledge’ – some ventricle Spiderman lore that hit the mainstream glory. But it’s true. It’s very true.

So what could you be lacking? You have the ambition, you have the script you’ve worked tirelessly on that hasn’t seen the light of day, you’ve managed to mentally encapsulate every single shot and tone of said shot yet no one is paying attention. Communication and collaboration are keys to unlocking those proverbial doors; it’s getting involved that makes the difference. Cast and crew are your means to creating your masterpiece – whether it’s you and a long time friend or a crew of semi-professional ten – no one ever ventured an Odyssey alone or made it through that Sex-Ed milestone at school without someone by their side…

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“Most on set crew performed multiple roles and I’m incredibly lucky to have had such a professional and dedicated team on board.  I’d originally planned to have a co-director but that didn’t really work out with limited set time and maintaining my vision as I had intended.  So in the end of it my cinematographer Donato Cinicolo took on more of an onset DOP style role but I was able to ask him to direct me where necessary.  So not a co-director in the true sense of the word but taking my directorial vision and feeding back to me if it looked the way it should from the other side of the camera, suggesting changes where necessary.  Both Donato and AJ Singh took on cinematography roles, as parts of the film required specialist action camera work, something AJ is incredibly apt at.  AJ also helped ensure the fight scenes (coordinated by Hollywood legend Roy Scammell) were executed in the best possible way for a realistic end result.”

If your story shines through anything you have to endure will be worth the end result. We have the illustrious ideology of making it in our chosen field but with limited funding, access to equipment and the people necessary to achieve, it becomes a creative Darwinism, where only the truly passionate and dedicated survive (and if you’re a part of Generation Y – it’s harder more so, said some modern-day psychologist of an online blog) – Emma is a perfect example of this survival. “Apart from that barriers are there to be broken and I’d advise knocking on as many doors as possible and maintaining your strength of character.  No successful filmmaker has gotten as far as they have without knocking on doors, hard work, facing challenges and getting up after knock backs.  Commitment and passion are key.”

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What happens when you hit the pearly gates of Film Festivals? How do you navigate the potential mine fields of faux pas and shed the anxiety ridden first time perceptions of what it could and should be? (If you’ve seen 500 Days of Summer – The “Expectations Vs. Reality” scene springs to mind…) “You send off your material and wait on tender hooks for your judging status.  And it really can feel like you are being judged!  Of course if you receive an acceptance it’s a really uplifting experience but there are the rejections to deal with too.  The most important thing to remember is rejections happen for a number of reasons including available slots, fit with other films and the personal taste of the programmer, and are not necessarily anything to do with the quality of your work.  Of course I’d love ‘Seize the Night’ to get into every festival I submit it to, but that is unlikely.”

No matter how small or humble of beginnings, anyone’s work can make it onto the big screen, if you take that age tested adage’ of work your fucking ass off and you will succeed to heart, the only person that could ever possibly stand in your way is yourself. The UK Film Festivals are another means within our arsenal to gain recognition for the unwavering work placed into projects. Some will bask in the glory of parading their feathers around and mating with the distributors and others will deal with the rejection. I think, it’s a necessary evil, we have evolved from the patriarchal Hollywood days of the one way coach ticket, by rinsing the world of mediocrity, (a thankin’ ya’ Youtube!) what’s leftover is the human interaction we so desperately crave in the supermarket self-service machines i.e. a human judge, a human acceptance, a human rejoice. The times have changed but principles still stand tall.
How many articles have you read about getting your short film idea to the screen, the do’s and don’ts, the tried and tested and the forbidden? The articles, just like that gap, are immeasurable in number. They all have one unifying sound don’t they?

Getting involved will tell everyone you have arrived, collaborating will get you productive, being original will sign post the world you have something different to say and above all being persistent is to succeed.

…What am I waiting for?

Emma Dark are currently promoting Seize the Night around film festivals in the UK.

A J Singh is currently gearing up to promote his short ‘The Recovery’.
(Watch out for these names guy’s because they ain’t going anywhere, the tenacious bunch that they are!)