The 11/30 March in Northampton [2011]

As part of an assignment for my university course, our goal was to produce a two-minute fly-on-the-wall documentary. The topic was our own choice. However the idea was eventually dropped, but I still insisted on making this documentary. This was because meanwhile, at the time, I was a member of the Socialist party and various regions around the United Kingdom arranged a local protest in response to the pension cuts.

The Socialist party were to be involved in the march and I saw this as an opportunity to film the event due to occur on 30th November and use the filmed footage to create the two-minute documentary. My fellow party members gave me permission to film the event. All I needed to do was to ensure those involved in the march pretended I was not present and to film various parts of the events, so I would end up with enough footage to demonstrate what the event included. These included the march itself and the speeches made.

Editing the footage down to two minutes proved to be quite a challenging experience. Editing the speeches was especially hard, because I needed to listen to any pauses in-between the sentences spoken, to avoid too many jerky sound effects through the next shots. I used Final Cut Pro to edit the entire footage. Because this is a fly-on-the-wall documentary, the process mainly involved trimming down the shots and adding titles. I left the audio alone, because I felt that once I edited the audio, the audio would disrupt the documentary’s codes and conventions. Also, because the march was operating as scheduled, I would have been unable to direct the protesters; i.e. instruct actions and dialogue.

This is the extended version;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd5z7aHMma8

This is the two-minute edit;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1A1wuSK78A

This is the two-minute edit;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1A1wuSK78A

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The Coils Of A Blue Snake [2009]

The Coils Of A Blue Snake was the first stop-motion film I worked on. I had always expressed interest in stop-motion and am especially a huge fan of Aardman Animations and their works; Wallace & Gromit, Creature Comforts, Morph and so forth. Aardman had left an impact on me since childhood.

So one day, I decided to follow Aardman’s footsteps and began production. It started on 19th November 2009 when I formed a snake out of blue tac and coiled it up. Then I used the simple technique which involves moving the model into a particular position and photographing the image each time.

The synopsis involved the ‘snake’ uncoiling itself, performing a short sway and escaping from the screen to avoid a large human finger threatening to squash it.

Next, I uploaded the images onto my memory stick. During a lecture at my college, I uploaded the images onto Windows Movie Maker and trimmed each image down to shorten the images’ motion and to achieve the 24-frames per second technique. The titles and closing credits were also created using Windows Movie Maker.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7y1PjQ5348&list=PLJsnRn1VHnwp2FZ_K69xyvcwy8FI2NzuA

Gerry is a Genius

Three months ago, I took part in a sponsored walk in aid of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a disease, related to dementia, and affects ones mind. Many people with Alzheimer’s have died due to the complication. During the day of the walk, each of us were asked who in particular we were walking for. I walked in aid of two people; one of them was a film/TV producer whose works I admired ever since childhood. His name was Gerry Anderson.

It’s two years since Gerry Anderson’s passing due to Alzheimer’s at the age of 83 and some fans still find it hard to believe that one of the greatest British film/TV producers is already dead. I am one of those fans, even though I’m mature enough to accept that people can’t live forever. But this doesn’t mean Gerry can no longer be hailed a hero. As the old sayings go; A) “his soul’s in paradise” and B) “the good old memories still live on”. This is why I intend to explore why I consider Gerry Anderson to be a genius.

Gerry Anderson’s early productions hark back to my dad’s childhood. He was a fan of The Adventures Of Twizzle, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds and so forth. More than 25 years later, he and some neighbours and family friends introduced some of the programmes to me and my brother. My God I enjoyed them so much. My brother especially remembers the time he watched Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons and Stingray, hoping the villains would win the battles. Personally I didn’t mind either way. I especially remember when I was ten when Thunderbirds was digitally remastered and each episode was re-broadcast on BBC2. Afterwards the corporation repeated the same procedure with Stingray and Captain Scarlet.

I have always admired the creativity Gerry put into his shows and films and I especially love the way the vehicles are designed. For instance, whenever I watched the launching of Thunderbird 2 in Thunderbirds, I was constantly thrilled by the pod selection and the way the palm trees clear the area. I also love seeing Thunderbird 1 launching out of the swimming pool. I am also amazed at how the characters in Captain Scarlet drive the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle backwards. Another thing I’m hugely fond of is the music. Barry Gray’s music is so thrilling and unforgettable! I used to go to some firework displays and they played the Thunderbirds theme tune.

But I’m also keen on the issues and themes each show covers. Stingray was about exploration of undiscovered items/living things under the sea. Thunderbirds was about the right to live. Captain Scarlet covered the struggles to tackle terrorism. Those three shows are probably the best remembered, but I also remember watching Gerry’s other puppet-based programmes such as Joe 90, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Terrahawks.

But it isn’t just the marionette-based productions that signal Gerry’s genius. His live-action programmes including U.F.O, The Protectors and Space 1999 deserve some credit. They were produced with a more adult approach. U.F.O contained scenes of adultery, divorce and drug use. There’s one episode I remember (‘A Question Of Priorities’) when Straker was provided limited custody with his son John, following his wife’s divorce. John was to show Straker something, but Mary shooed him, before John could do so, resulting in him getting injured by a car. Then Straker ordered some drugs to make John better, but due to a delay, John died and Mary blamed Straker for the death. Like Captain Scarlet, U.F.O focuses on an emotional war between humans and aliens, who want the humans’ organs in order to save their world. The Protectors is one of Gerry’s most underrated productions. It is also one of very few not to relate to science-fiction, but is actually a present-day-set crime programme about three London-based detectives who are charged for protecting a group of innocents. Somehow, the programme reminded me of Charlie’s Angels and The Professionals. It was about an independent crime-solving organisation and occasionally quite gritty. Space 1999 was about a crew from a scientific research centre on the moon, which is blown out of orbit and hurtling across the universe following a nuclear waste explosion.

There was one other programme Gerry Anderson produced which I remember watching as a kid; Space Precinct. Space Precinct is a contrast between U.F.O and Law & Order. It’s basically a live-action sci-fi police programme set in a fictional solar system which indicates humans and aliens living and working together. Space Precinct was a fantastic contribution to society and signified the racial tolerances that were occurring during the time of its productions. Like certain other sci-fi programmes and films, it predicted that humans and aliens would eventually interact with each other. To me, Space Precinct looked more like an American programme. The atmosphere and locations were epic, even the action scenes were fantastic. Although there was only one series, Space Precinct is an underrated flick which I would definitely recommend you check out.

I would also recommend some of Gerry’s feature films; Thunderbirds Are Go, Thunderbird 6 and Doppelganger also known as Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun. This one is a unique movie concerning a fictional planet which is a mirror image of the earth and at the other end of the sun, hence the title ‘Doppelganger’. The film is in the same boat as Fahrenheit 451 and can be challenging to watch, but it is very cleverly scripted. As for the two Thunderbirds movies, they’re not as brilliant as the show, but are still fun to watch. Plus, they are way better than that live-action version, which was directed by Jonathan Frakes. That is not the worst thing about the movie, but it left poor old Gerry out of production. No wonder he called it a load of crap. Relating back to the other two movies, did I mention that there’s a cool song in Thunderbirds Are Go that Cliff Richard sings? It’s called ‘Shooting Star’ and it certainly got me into the groove.

Throughout his productions, Gerry has experimented with various formats including Supermarionation, live-action, stop-motion (Dick Spanner P.I, Lavender Castle), anime (Firestorm) and CGI animation (Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet). Many of his productions have covered a variety of social and emotional issues such as terrorism (Captain Scarlet, U.F.O), the environment (Stingray, Thunderbirds, Space 1999), crime (The Protectors, Dick Spanner P.I, Space Precinct) endangered lives, natural disasters, family matters (Thunderbirds, U.F.O) and sometimes politics.

It’s amazing that even though only 14 years after Thunderbirds’ remaster, the show and certain other shows by Gerry Anderson are not receiving much credit nowadays. If not them, why are shows like The Good Life, The Office and Friends getting so much attention? They’ve finished ages ago. So why not any of Gerry’s stuff? The material produced by Disney includes plenty of things for both children and adults. That’s the same with Gerry’s works. In fact, I believe his productions have left a huge impact on many people. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police was heavily inspired by the puppet shows. The Nintendo 64 game, Star Fox, was also inspired by Gerry Anderson, hence the way the characters’ mouths move when they speak. Even Aardman Animations referenced Thunderbirds when they made Wallace & Gromit; in A Close Shave, Wallace uses Thunderbirds style slides to get to his motorbike. And yet, who can forget the rotating pond? Speaking of Disney, I always wonder in Ron Clements and John Muskers were Gerry Anderson fans. For instance, the bond between Prince Eric and Ariel in The Little Mermaid reminds me of the bond between Troy Tempest and Marina in Stingray. Plus, considering the maturity of the dialogue in Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and so forth, it’s the same as in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

There are a few of Gerry Anderson’s productions I never watched, but let’s face it, there are a lot he’s contributed to. These include The Adventures Of Twizzle, Torchy The Battery Boy, Four Feather Falls, The Secret Service and Firestorm, plus what is probably regarded as one of the most forgotten about feature films in film history, that is Crossroads To Crime. Funny thing; I recently watched a short documentary on YouTube, based on the making of and the producers views on the film and their reactions made me laugh. Yet, it sounds understandable that they had a bad experience with Crossroads To Crime, but for some reason, I obtain a desire to watch Crossroads To Crime at some point. I don’t think it’s ever been broadcast on the television, not even BBCs 1 & 2. I felt the same way when I first heard of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Yet I’ve seen it and I understand why it was hated, but I find it hard to hate whatsoever.

Gerry Anderson is one such film/TV producer who should never be forgotten. He should receive as much praise as Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean and various other film-makers. I am extremely glad I saw some of his stuff and I’m sure my future kids will too. In fact, before his death, Gerry planned to produce a CGI series adaptation of Thunderbirds. In 2005, he did the same with Captain Scarlet. Having seen a few episodes of the remake, I have to admit it isn’t as brilliant as the original series, but among many CG cartoons from that period, Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet is one of the most unique. I wonder what Gerry Anderson’s New Thunderbirds will be like; probably not as memorable as the original, but I’m sure it’ll be way better than that movie.

Gerry, though you are gone, you were and always will be a genius!

Is There A Santa Claus?

Some readers may remember a blog, which I based on Easter. At one time, I debated the Easter Bunny’s existence. Well since another Christian vacation is coming up, and just to point out that I love the vacation as much as anybody does, I’m just going to come out and say this;
I believe that Santa Claus is totally make believe.
Audience: Boooooooo!
Alright, alright. I can tolerate that certain other people do believe in Santa Claus, because it isn’t wrong to believe. Everybody has their beliefs. I just feel that there should be a logical explanation in regards to Santa’s existence. Call me a grumpy guts if you want, but in my defence, I enjoy celebrating Christmas, as much as I celebrate New Year’s Eve, Easter, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, most holidays, one exception including Valentine’s Day. But do I really have to believe in Santa to enjoy Christmas? That’s like believing in the Easter bunny or God or tooth fairies.
First of all, we all know it wasn’t Santa Claus who invented Christmas in the first place. The origins actually date back many years ago when a boy was born in a stable; I think many of us know his name by now, on Christmas Day. The reason was because the innkeepers were so unsympathetic that they wouldn’t let his parents in and probably didn’t care that the mother was heavily pregnant at the time. Logically, I don’t think story involved any angels. I think that particular angel who delivered the news of Mary’s pregnancy was actually a friendly doctor. I’m not jumping to any conclusions that Jesus’ birth didn’t really happen, because I’m sure that story in the bible was based on something. But we’re not talking about the nativity story right now. We’re talking about Santa Claus.
Secondly, if there really is a Santa Claus or as the person is also known as Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas/Chris Cringle/Le Pere De Noel, why do we never see him or her doing the delivery business? Some of you may be wondering why I mentioned ‘or her’ when I referred to Santa, but we’ll get to that bit later. In the meantime, let’s stick to calling Santa ‘he’ for now.
Where was I? Oh yes! Why do we never see Santa literally delivering the presents? Simple; because when I was a kid, it was my parents who snuck into each others’ bedrooms to slip something into my stocking. It’s also vice versa now, but this proves another logical explanation why I never a heard a thud on the roof. That thud would signal Santa’s entrance. Even my mom debated Santa’s existence when she was a kid. One night, she looked out of the window and decided not to sleep until she saw the guy. It lasted the whole night and she never caught a glimpse of him. I distinctly remember her telling me that story. I believed her and I still do. This was a story from an expert on history. Even one of my friends, who is a year younger than me, never believed in Santa and he was only nine when he told me that. He doesn’t believe crazy stories about a guy flying a sleigh pulled by reindeer, one with a nose like a LED light.
This brings me onto my next point; Santa’s residence, transport and employees. First of all, how do we know Santa lives in the North Pole? I guess the theory is that the North Pole is an isolated area and its residents do not include as much humans as wild animals i.e. polar bears. Plus Christmas takes place during winter and the Pole is quite a wintry place since it’s nothing but thick ice. Well gee, I guess it makes sense considering that Santa would want to keep a low profile considering the celebrity status, but I’m just wondering now where the Easter bunny resides. I doubt the bunny would reside in the same area as Santa considering how glacial the area would be for a bunny. Sometimes I wonder what Santa does if the present making/delivering business takes place during less than a quarter of a year. How do he and his employees make and earn a living during the summer?
Speaking of Santa’s employees, another myth is that they are elves. This is just insane. Elves are as made up as unicorns, harpies and centaurs. Who do you suppose cleans the lavatories? Goblins? Even as a kid, I never thought elves would construct. I had thought that Santa ordered the gifts from particular companies that make them or hired real humans to do the constructions. I never thought elves. The thought of that sounds creepy to me.
The fact about the North Pole’s wintry atmosphere shares similarities to why reindeer are associated with the myth of Santa Claus. The theory is that reindeer are adapted to wintry areas; Siberia, Canada, North Eastern Europe, etc. But what about the crazy thoughts of reindeer being used to pull Santa’s sleigh, ready for delivery, and fly? Reindeer can pull sleds, but they cannot fly! They don’t have wings. They don’t even have helicopter rotors. Even if reindeer could fly, they most certainly wouldn’t be able to keep the sleigh parallel with them, as you can see in the image below;

santa and the reindeer

See? I’m talking about a bunch of reindeer pulling a very heavy sleigh, which not only has Santa Claus on board, but his full ‘sacks’ of presents, which can very easily weigh the sleigh down. If Santa Claus was real, Santa would probably use either a type of large aircraft, say, in the style of the vehicles in Thunderbirds, or he would use some sort of time machine. It probably would be more logical considering a heavy load of presents and also considering Santa has way over a trillion places to make the deliveries. The world is not a small place. Simple as that.
Relating back to why we never see the actual Santa Claus, we all know that each ‘Santa’ we meet (and possibly sit on one’s lap) is a man (or woman) in a suit. I remember when I was a junior high school student, there was a ‘Santa Claus’ and I could tell it was the history teacher, because I recognised his voice. I wasn’t dumb enough to think that was really Santa. In fact, many people jump to conclusions that Santa is a fat white man with a beard and red jacket aged over a hundred. How do we know? We never see it. Is it because of the other alias i.e. Father Christmas? Or it could be Mother Christmas or Grandma Christmas or Aunty Christmas. The ‘Chris’ in Chris Cringle could be short for Christine. Santa Claus could be a woman; a medium built black woman in her late forties wearing a gold jacket, something like this;

stock-photo-woman-wearing-red-dress-and-santa-claus-hat-while-smiling-117131929

Well there you go. Those were my thoughts on Santa Claus’ existence. If I was a killjoy I apologise for that. But kids, if you’re reading this, don’t feel put-off. Everybody’s entitled to opinions. You are too. I’ve shared mine and you can share yours if you want. Just remember that just because one says there really is a Santa Claus, doesn’t mean you have to believe them. Believe in what you believe in.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas (even if there’s another three weeks to go)!