Lights, Camera, Action, and Me

I have been fascinated with the ‘silver screen’ ever since I was little. From the earliest age I would spend as much of my day as I could watching Disney films on VHS tapes instead of playing outside like other kids. I loved how films could transport you to a new world; I could be in the vast green jungle with Mowgli, or exploring under the deepest sea with Captain Nemo.

As I got older I was determined to become an actor. I was that annoyingly geeky kid who would always put abnormal amounts of effort into school plays, memorising everyone else’s lines as well as mine just so I could show off. But I really wanted to act in the blockbusters of Hollywood. Christmas nativity? Pah! My final goal (which seemed doable to an eight year old) was to play the next James Bond. I could see myself flying across the screen in the swanky cars, defeating the bad guys and saving the world…

I then reached high school and opted to take drama as a subject. That was when I realised something that put my dream into perspective: I was a terrible actor. Back to the drawing board!

Despite being a miniature action junkie, I still loved animated comedies. I remember being perched on the edge of the sofa watching ‘Creature Comforts’ with my parents when I was about six years old. Of course, as a six year old, I didn’t quite understand the rules of the Grand National, or really care about what people thought of the current financial situation, but I thought it was really cool how they could make the dogs and cats talk. Wallace and Gromit was another favourite. At nine years old, I got curious and wanted to know how the world worked:

“Dad, how do they make Wallace and Gromit? I mean I know they’re made from clay but how do they move them? You don’t see their hands?”

Naïve little kid that I was. That day, my dad explained to me the idea behind stop motion animation, handed me a camera and a bucket of clay, and like a fish to water, I was hooked. Poor fish.

I made my first short animated film that day and a little while later it was featured on a quiet corner of the CBBC website. My first glimpse of stardom! Or that’s what it felt like to a nine year old anyway. The year after I received a clunky, low-res video camera for Christmas, which at the time, I’m sure was the bee’s knees. It was my absolute favourite thing and went everywhere with me. By this point, I had changed my mind: never mind being an actor, I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg.

I continued making films throughout school and as a friendless nerd who had no one to do it for them, I learnt how to direct, edit, use a camera, edit audio, place lighting, and everything else you need to create a film. Despite this lone wolf approach I’ve had to filmmaking, one of the most fun projects I’ve been involved with was last year when a group of young folk from here, there, and everywhere, worked with a professional filmmaker and a professional dancer to create a short film about our relationship with the city we were in. After an intense week of learning, filming, and being rained on a lot, the team had created ‘OWN’…

One of the greatest things about being involved in making this film was that we were all invited to attend a fancy pants premiere in a proper cinema. It was incredible to see our project on a real cinema screen, and all of our names appear in the credits at the end. I had finally attended my first film premiere and it was amazing.

Now however many years since that first day behind a camera at nine years old, I still make films when I can. I’m slightly limited by time and resources – my main camera is my phone – but my head continues to swim with ideas.

And now I’m off to study Film and Television at university (more on that in a later post) and I can’t wait!

Okay, so in some ways that has felt like a slightly pointless post. The whole time I was writing it I kept thinking ‘and the really useful point I’m trying to get across here is…?’ Honestly, I’m not sure there is one. However, it has perhaps acted as an introduction to a series of potential future posts about making films. Who knows? If nothing else, now you know a little bit more about me. And I have learned to plan posts next time instead of just writing them…

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365 Seconds – A Second a Day for a Year | 2016

A year and three months later, this post is finally here! Yay!

It would have been up at the beginning of 2017 but my video software broke in the Christmas holidays just as soon as I’d psyched myself up for the big edit. But now it’s done, uploaded, and waiting for views.

On the first of January 2016, after seeing a similar idea on Facebook, I decided to film one second of video footage every single day for a whole year. So I did. And boy was it harder than I thought it would be. Only filming a second worth of footage sounds like a relatively easy task, and it was. What was difficult was actually remembering to do it and finding something vaguely interesting to film. There were a few times when I would get to the end of the day, about to go to bed, and I suddenly remembered I had completely failed to film anything at all, let along anything interesting (as you will be able to see).

The other thing that was quite tricky was trying not to film things twice. I tried to make sure every shot was unique, but by the time November came around, I had mostly forgotten what I’d filmed in March, a whole 2.102e+7 seconds ago…

One of the things I enjoyed most about making this video was reviewing everything that had happened in 2016 when going through the footage. For many people, 2016 was the year of catastrophes. Meow. But going back through it, it was funny seeing all the great new things that did happen last year…

  • It snowed!
  • I went to Glasgow to see my very good friendly friend
  • I attended the British Juggling Convention
  • I finished school
  • I ate cake
  • I started learning to drive
  • I read a lot of books
  • I went to Italy!
  • I caught up with the family in England
  • I tried sushi
  • I started two new jobs
  • I attended a premiere of a film I worked on in a proper cinema
  • And I got to work with professional filmmakers
  • I went to the Circus Works festival in Edinburgh and met some awesome people
  • One of my best friends started university
  • I was involved with another massive Halloween spectacular
  • I won a bowling game
  • I travelled abroad alone for the first time
  • And I went grape picking in France and got to see some old friends
  • I swung a lot of fire about
  • I had a great Christmas with the family!

And yes, 2016 had its moments: we said goodbye to our dog and Grandad, Trump was elected, and Britain voted to leave the EU. But hey, we live and learn and ultimately came out the other side having been able to eat a lot more comfort cake than we would have done had these things not happened.

Finally, thanking you muchly to all those who appear in the video. Oscars all round. However, if anyone objects to being on screen for a second, do feel free to contact me at: littlemishaps@if-I-remove-you-it-will-spoil-it.com No cake for you…

Anyway, I’m already three months late, and all this waffling isn’t getting anyone to the video any quicker. So here we go. A year of my life in six and a half minutes. I’m not saying it’s going to be interesting, but there’s the occasional giggle worthy clip…

Hoping you enjoyed, dear chums. À bientôt!

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

[Contains no spoilers]

Ready Player One can be summed up quite simply as ‘the ultimate geek book’. I’ve heard other people describe it as a ‘nerd utopia’, and they’re certainly not wrong there.

The story begins in 2044 in an almost dystopic world. Climate change and global warming has taken its toll, civilisation is in decline, and most of the world is over populated and penniless. In these dark days everyone looks for a distraction – something that can make them forget about the real universe they live in, and provide some sense of hope and happiness.

Enter, the OASIS. The OASIS is an online massively multiplayer simulation game that allows the players to create an account and login for free to control a virtual avatar of themselves with their headset and haptic gloves. Through the OASIS, players can do any number of things whether it’s attend school, go to work, watch films, read books, or explore the huge world and complete various quests, challenges, and games.

The story focuses on the main character, Wade Watts, in his attempt to complete the biggest quest of all while battling enemies, living in poverty, and trying to impress the girl he loves. When the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he leaves his entire fortune to whoever manages to find a hidden ‘egg’ within the simulation. To do this, players must use clues and riddles left by Halliday to find three keys and unlock three gates in order to reach the end of the game and find the prize.

Now jumping straight into it. One of the biggest parts of the plot to Ready Player One is all of the references to 80’s pop culture. James Halliday was a teen of the eighties and so uses films, games, TV, and music references to create the ‘Easter egg’ hunt and leave behind clues. Initially I wondered if this would just make it a very boring read to anyone who didn’t understand the references – but how wrong was I?! I was born in the 90’s so completely missed the decade that the book so frequently references, and somehow, through Cline’s brilliant research and explanation, I was still able to laugh along at the inside jokes and find the book incredibly exciting!

I think the whole idea of Ready Player One is very clever. If you want to write a book where the story involves wizards and aliens and dungeons and robots all in one chapter, then set it within a game where anything can happen. This allows it to be believable and take place in the real world. There’s no need to create alternative universes that often appeal only to the geekiest of geeks.

Ready Player One also addresses some interesting subjects, the biggest being how we have come to rely upon technology. The main character describes how, with the energy crisis, people have come to rely solely on the simulation to find any kind of happiness. The book is set in the future so is by no means a description of how we use technology now, but perhaps could be used as an allegory to describe how it could become.

The great thing about Wade Watts, the main character, is that for a lot of teenagers, he is very relatable. He prefers to spend his time playing games and watching films instead of being outside. Wade struggles at school and has found it hard to make friends, especially in the real world. However, what really makes me like this character is his determination to stand up for what he believes in. This is what sets him apart from being the antisocial school dropout and instead turns him into someone who is relatable, but equally someone we can learn something from.

I have seen a lot of people say the endless references in this book to 80’s pop culture can be a little unnecessary at times. I say nah! Okay, some of them do not hugely add to the story, but 9 times out of 10, they’re really funny.

This brings me onto my final and possibly only semi negative point. Who is this book for? The style and plot of the book makes me think it fits into the young adult category. But the references, humour, and jokes are clearly aimed at folk who remember the 80’s. Yes, it’s all understandable and funny to anyone not from that decade, but I still wouldn’t be sure what section to display the book in at Waterstones.

In conclusion: I loved this book. It held my interest the whole way through and I thought it was brilliantly witty, exciting, and full of action. It’s incredibly well researched and the descriptions are written in a way that makes you feel like you’re in the simulation yourself. So nerds, geeks, gamers, teenagers of the 80’s, and anyone who just fancies reading something a little different, I would highly recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – and you can buy it off Amazon here.

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It feels like my reviews are getting longer. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does anyone have any suggestions? Is it just getting boring halfway through? Or is it okay finding out a little bit more about a book? Help!

Terrible, Terrible, Terrible…

That is what I am. Terrible. I haven’t posted anything for months! Terrible!

So everything has been a little busy. Or that’s my excuse anyway. November to Christmas was spent trying to keep my eyes open at my desk, over Christmas we had the whole city of Bethlehem come to stay, and in the New Year I was desperately trying to get a tedious application in for university!

I had been planning that my next post would be all about the video project I have been working on. However. I haven’t finished it yet. While I had time over Christmas and was all raring to go, my editing software broke. Terrible.

So then I planned to put up a post about applying to university when I had got my application in. Then I realised, hidden in plain sight – that’s my excellent attention to detail – that I had less than two weeks to submit an accompanying folio. Terrible.

After that, I thought I would put up a post about becoming a trainee adult since I had suddenly out of nowhere turned 18. But as usual, time ran away and I got completely distracted hunting for film and youth circus jobs around the world. Terrible. (But if anyone knows of anything…)

And now here we are. With a post after three months that only tells you lovely readers that I’m incapable of making good excuses.

So excuses aside. From now on, I will try my hardest to have more adventures, write more regularly, and share snippets of what I get up to on this funny little blue rock we live on.

In the meantime, here’s a chilly picture of a lighthouse…

Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

[Contains no spoilers]

I surprise even myself saying that A Walk in the Woods is the first book I have read by Bill Bryson. With his reputation for being such a hilariously witty travel writer, surely he would be an immediate go to for someone who longs to be churning out some equally creditable pieces of work? But nope, this is indeed my first Bryson experience and I must admit it wasn’t what I was expecting.

This non-fiction book follows Bryon on his attempt to walk America’s Appalachian Trail with long term friend, Stephen Katz. The trail spans 14 states covering 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine. For an experienced hiker to go the full length, it would take around 6 months, all the while battling mountains, bears, hunger, snow, and heat.

To hike the whole trail, you are expected to be young, fit, and know exactly what you’re doing. Bryson quickly demonstrates how he fails to be any of those things, adding a whole lot of humour to the book straight away. He is relatable in his writing and that’s one of the things I most like about him. I think of myself as quite the outdoorys type – that is until I get outdoors. But he wants to change this, and sparked something in me which agrees with him. One of my favourite quotes in the book explains this quite well…

“When guys in camouflage pants and hunting hats sat around in the Four Aces Diner talking about fearsome things done out-of-doors, I would no longer have to feel like such a cupcake.”

However, a short way into the book and I realised it wasn’t all going to be quite as relatable and witty as this. His reputation and type of books he is known to write had me expecting hilariously described experiences, scattered with little trivial thoughts, and details of all the things that inevitably go wrong while travelling; making us feel more connected to the writer. I was very surprised to find this book rather missing these little things.

Instead Bryson intersperses his experiences with long details about the history of the trail, the nature, and America. While I found all of this quite interesting, it was not what I thought a third of the book would be about. The factual chapters were still funny for some parts, but I wanted to hear about what it was like to hike the trail from someone I could relate to, not how someone ended up destroying acres of woodland 60 years ago, partly because it really wasn’t very cheery…

In some ways Bryson made up for this with his brilliant description of people he met on the trail. While they weren’t all necessarily thought of as a valued addition to his experience, the characters came to life on the page. From Katz’s lowbrow personality and interests to the infamous Mary Ellen forever nattering away about something unimportant. To read it, it felt like these people were stood in front of me and I could share in Bryon’s laughter or frustration. The stark contrast in character between Bryson and Katz and the different ways the two of them saw the world created quite an amusing read as well.

In conclusion: even though this book wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting, it most certainly won’t be the last Bill Bryson book I read. Between the factual parts of it, the descriptions of Bryon’s experiences were still gripping, funny, and have most certainly rekindled a wanderlust that had me Googling how much it was for a proper backpack. The book interested me despite the slower parts but if you’re in it just for the humour I would suggest trying another one of Bill Bryon’s books first. Otherwise, go buy it, make yourself a cup of tea, get reading, and enjoy the bumpy ride through the Appalachian Trail. Just keep an eye out for the bears…

 

First book review… ooh. Hopefully it made sense and helped a few folk who weren’t sure decide to read the book. Or not? This is the first post in a rather long time. Oops. ‘Excuses, excuses.’ But plans are being made and adventures are on their way so check back for more soon!

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The Road to… Etsy!

After months of thinking, planning, putting it off, thinking some more, and eventually beginning to create, I have finally got my first items for sale on Etsy!

I’ve title this post with “The Road to…” because it has really been a bit of a journey – and a long one.

Sometime before Christmas I realised that taking a gap year comes with its expenses. Having no job and not really any time to have one being in my last year of school, I rekindled an old entrepreneurial spirit that had been buried inside me since my various made up companies and businesses had failed to take off at primary school, and decided to get creative.

I’ve always loved making things but I’d never felt I had been all that good at it. However, it was the only idea I’d got and with 6 years of school art classes and a rather crafty mum (take that as you will) behind me, I forced myself to get brave and start brainstorming.

Hours were spent coming up with impossible ideas which seemed great at the time, but then I remembered I don’t have the required laser cutter or 3D printer or even just the patience and the right skillset. I was also terrible for coming up with things in the middle of the night – always seems to be when I have most of my ideas – feel too tired to get up and write them down, and foolishly believe I’d remember them in the morning. I never did.

These actually came about by accident. At the beginning of this year me, my mum, and my brother were cleaning out a shed full of all sorts. Amongst the piles and boxes we found an antique key. “You could make something with this” mum said. I had no idea what. So I put it to the back of my list and hoped it would unlock a new box of ideas in my head.

Sure enough it did! I can’t remember the thought process exactly but more keys were found, rubbed down, painted, and varnished. And the quirky vintage key necklace was made.

Of course it didn’t stop there. They had to look presentable to go on Etsy and that meant I had to get good at taking photos. I experimented with all sorts of shots and in the end decided that outdoorsy, natural shots looked rather good, as demonstrated here by my friend Rachel who very kindly agreed to be a model for the day…

(Thank you Rachel!)

But the photos didn’t stop there. To capture the final detail, I needed ‘studio shots’, and for that I needed a lightbox. I didn’t have one. So I made one! And I filmed the whole thing for some reason. You can watch that here…

(And… that’s my first YouTube video! Yay!)

Finally they were finished. And this post should be too because it has become very long. So without further ado, my first Etsy items are available to buy… here!

(And here, and here, and here, and here, and here!)

Up, Up, and Away!

It was the last few weeks of my 7 years at primary school before we left for summer and I was going on to ‘big school’ as my mum insisted on calling it. I remember sitting at my desk with the classmates I had grown up with since I was 4 and feeling rather sad. Not because I was leaving them and my school and progressing into the scary ‘adult’ world as you might think, but because I had just spent 7 long years in education… and now I was going to have to do 6 more!

I felt like I was going to be stuck at school for the rest of my life; gazing out the windows at the blue sky while I was inside trying to get my head around long division instead of being out there and seeing what there was to find. How wrong was I?!

My last official day of school was in June. My exams were over, leavers form was signed, and library books were handed back. I shook my head teacher’s hand and walked out of the front entrance, not exactly thinking, and expecting to be back on Monday morning. Of course I wasn’t back on Monday morning, and I haven’t been back since.

It has definitely been odd. I haven’t had any homework to try to keep up with. I haven’t spent those long hours in the library concentrating on dissertations. I’ve missed the drama department and getting to bounce about on stage. I’ve missed the bright white and strange smells of the science corridor. I’ve missed speaking French and German. I’ve missed the noise and bustle of the canteen. I’ve missed my teachers who became more like friends. And most of all I’ve missed my classmates and seeing them in registration every morning and planning what mischief we would get up to that day.

It all went so quickly. After thinking at primary school that it would feel like forever I was always shocked at the end of each term that the time had just disappeared! Sixth year went the quickest of all. It’s a shame really, it was definitely my favourite.

Surprisingly, I’ve kept relatively busy! Going places, planning things, seeing people. Trying to organise a gap year is pretty tricky and takes a lot of time! I’ve got a job too and continued volunteering when I can. It’s mostly felt like a long summer holiday.

Apart from on those less exciting days – sometimes I miss the routine and the ease of having a timetable and not having to think too much about what you were doing that day. But I’m getting used to it. The uncertainty is quite exciting and the freedom is great! I just need to make the most of it. Go travelling. Make things. Write. Meet people. Spend a gap year like it should be spent! Now isn’t going to last forever…

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Last day in the sixth year common room: we followed the tradition and all signed our hand prints. Good luck in whatever is next guys… up, up, and away!