Author: Will Pattenden

I Filmed the Foreign Secretary

I Filmed the Foreign Secretary

I filmed the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announce his candidacy for Prime Minister.

As the Publicity and Marketing Videographer for Haslemere Festival I was the only ‘member of the press’ and ‘media-type person’ allowed into the venue to watch and record his political speech.
It was a great opportunity to film a Member of Parliament and an experience I doubt many other media graduates or videographers in general will ever get, especially with what was announced during his speech, so politics aside I am incredibly grateful and proud of what I achieved.

On Friday 24th May 2019, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, gave a talk about the state of Brexit and the current political scene in Westminster. In the morning, just hours before Hunt would be in Haslemere, Theresa May announced she would be stepping down as Prime Minister. So this talk would suddenly be that more topical as the nation wanted to hear his thoughts on the matter as Foreign Secretary and whether he would take her place.

This was a localised event and had not been advertised outside of Haslemere however it generated a packed venue with tickets selling out the previous day. For security reasons though, the location of the event was not revealed until the night before, and kept secret during the event.

An hour ahead of Hunt’s arrival to the venue, two of his security team had come to assess the location and make sure everything was in order. I’ve never been in this type of situation before and didn’t quite know what to expect, so to make things easy for them I was super polite and open about what I was doing. I assumed they wanted to search my bags too so I took them to my set up and showed them everything I had brought with me, along with detailing how the talk was being filmed and why. They were cool with everything and let me get on which was great! Naturally I don’t want to cause any grief (especially when they’re armed guards) so if I build a rapport and be open and polite about what I do then everything can continue to run smoothly. I even got to ask them questions about being security guards and get a couple of jokes in. However, there was one issue which we had to deal with…

To get usable audio from Jeremy Hunt I needed to get a lapel mic on him, however these two security guards would not allow it. Their reason (which is fair) was that if a security threat were to happen and they needed to get the Foreign Secretary out of the building in a hurry, they don’t want to waste any time taking off a microphone pack and return it – they would just up and go.

I was in a bit of a dilemma, without a lapel mic how would I get clean and clear audio?! I did have my Zoom H4n and Rode NTG2 with me that I had been using as a reference mic through the whole festival, and I could easily fashion a mic stand from things around me, but as to how close I could get it to Hunt would be another question as I did not have a long enough cable to have the mic directly in-front of him while connected to my setup at the back of the venue to easily monitor sound levels.

I even thought of using this ‘reference mic’ as my main source of sound (keeping it on my setup so I could monitor the levels) but I knew no matter how high I could push the input level, the physical distance from microphone to Hunt would be too far to guarantee good, clear audio.

Thankfully, when Hunt and his entourage arrived, I introduced myself to them and explained my situation and they were happy for me to attach a lapel mic to him. And that’s when I actually got to meet Jeremy Hunt. We shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and I attached a microphone to his tie. And I am so grateful I was given the okay to attach a lapel mic to him – The difference in audio quality is palpable!

ISO set to Auto due to constantly changing lighting

I was set up at the back of the venue out of the way of the audience and was using my Canon EOS 650D powered though mains adaptor, with my 80-200 f/4 zoomed in to make a mid-shot, Rode NTG2 phantom powered from my Zoom H4n as a reference mic, and a Tascam DR-08 with Lapel Mic on Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy spoke for half an hour on Brexit and the current political situation and then went on to answer questions from the audience – and it was here that he announced that he would be throwing his hat into the ring and run for Prime Minister – and I got it on film! The audience in that venue were the first to hear of his bid to become Prime Minister and somehow I was the only person in that room to have it recorded – A tiny piece of political history as it would later be him and Boris Johnson as the two main candidates for Prime Minister.

This was big news and I knew my footage would be highly desirable by the media, so as soon as the event was over and Hunt returned my lapel mic I packed up and immediately began editing to have it uploaded by the afternoon. Obviously it was used by our town’s local newspapers, but also BBC, Channel 5, and ITV.

Mockumentary Filming

Mockumentary Filming

On Sunday 7th April 2019 I travelled up to London to film a short comedy skit for a friend. This was an interesting shoot but revealed something about me that I need to change.

An old uni friend of mine, Finn, reached out to me the week before the shoot asking if I would be able to help out on his short film. I was hesitant to reply, as travelling up to London for a day with only a week’s notice was very risky – I would have work that entire week and would struggle to find the time to digest the script, recce the locations, plan the logistics, or channel my full focus on the story in that time. But I needed to say yes to this, whatever the cost. Up to this point helping out on sets had been sporadic to say the least, in my spare time I did keep myself occupied with making my own films, but working on other people’s projects was something I begun to miss; so getting an opportunity to collaborate again was something I could not afford to pass.

Finn’s script was a short comedy about a ‘posh’ boy trying to blend in with a London gang and was to be filmed in a mockumentary style – similar to The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or Reno 911. In what time I could spare leading to the shoot day I studied the script and re-watched mockumentary shows to understand the shooting style and how I would implement that on the shoot. Something I noted and had to keep in mind on the day was how natural they felt, as if the acts were happening in real time and the camera was just a fly on the wall.

These shows would typically be single-camera set ups and cuts were kept to a minimum allowing for dialogue and performances to play out. The script had definitely been written with that in mind as there was a natural pace to things and moments in there which screamed “sitcom”. I drew rough ‘storyboard’ sketches on sections of action and dialogue I thought would suit the film and when I finally arrived on the day of the shoot, Finn and I had almost exactly the same drawings for scenes of the mockumentary.

Finn's Cancellation TextThe day of the shoot had a rocky start. Just as I was leaving my house to walk to the station, I got a message from Finn saying his lead actor had bailed on the project! Finn’s message said filming might have to be postponed until the following week but was definitely not the desired outcome. I immediately messaged back asking if he really couldn’t do today as I was legitimately bummed out by this – I was excited to not only go up to London for the day but to spend it filming as well. But then a miracle happened, Finn replied saying how one of the other actor’s dad was with them on the train and would be happy to step in! We had a full cast again, no need to panic anymore, which was great – it would just mean this actor’s dad would need to learn the script on their way up but that was fine.

St John's Wood Tube StationIt takes me about an hour and a half to get to the shooting location in St John’s Wood – just over an hour to get into Waterloo, a 15 min tube ride on the Jubilee Line to St John’s Wood, and then a short walk from the underground station to the location. It’s a lovely area and the underground station is beautiful with its brass escalators and vintage up-lighters.

Arriving at the location I’m met with a plate of pastries for breakfast and a group of actors going over their lines. I’m introduced to everyone before shortly being taken to familiarise myself with the equipment. For this shoot we would be using the Canon 5D mk4, shooting in 4K, and primarily using the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L Series lens. Even though I use a Canon 650D, all Canon cameras function pretty much the same with slight cosmetic changes here and there, so ‘familiarising’ myself with this model took no time at all.

GoPro Controlled Via Mobile PhoneShooting went pretty smoothly to be honest. The first shots were static GoPro setups from inside the car which we controlled remotely on Finns mobile phone. No one apart from the three actors were in the car, and because of how wide the GoPro’s line of sight is, it was funny seeing all of us run alongside it as it drove down the street.

Though what was even funnier was the banter we were all having with Nayana, one of Finn’s friends who helped on the film and had kindly let her car be used for the mockumentary; let’s just say she was nervous of someone other than herself driving her nice BMW.

The day continued to run smoothly and progression was made at a good pace. Everyone seemed to be enjoying it which is always a good sign. However, near the middle of the shooting day I began to be too self-critical and as a result come across overtly grumpy or curt. We had just done two long takes of the police officers leaving their vehicle and confronting the gang and I just started to hate what I was doing. I really wasn’t pleased with the quality of what I was shooting. It was nothing to do with the actors, I thought they continued to give a stellar performance each take, nor was it any outside factor like time or location as we were all chilled and running with great time to spare; instead it was my own self doubt in my ability to achieve good coverage of the events unfolding and satisfy anyone with the footage. As a result I became frustrated with myself and came across very grumpy to those around me and complained to Charles (lovely guy on sound) how nothing was working for me, ultimately bumming out everyone around me to the point one of the actors asked if there was anything he could do to improve the situation. This is something I definitely need to improve upon. Let this be clear, I wasn’t angry at anyone, I was angry at myself. Angry for thinking I wasn’t getting the best result I could be getting and that I could do so much more. Ultimately nit-picking every action I took and questioning why I was even asked to film this short. It wasn’t until the next setup that I felt comfortable again as I begun to picture in my mind the big picture. Finn is a nice guy and really has a way of keeping people happy on set; he chose me for a reason and was ultimately (hopefully) happy with the footage I got, and amusingly knows how I work and that I get like this; other people may not understand this ‘grumpiness’ and if I don’t change now it will have repercussions for me in the future.

The shoot was drawing near to an end and the final shots were set up – talking head interviews of the two actors in that classic ‘The Office’ mockumentary style. Easy to set up and got them in a couple of takes and even had time to fit in a quick photo op. We wrapped, transferred the footage, and said goodbye to the actors. It’s the small things that make a great shoot – saying thank you, umbrellas, charging sockets… and feeding your cast and crew. I’ve talked about the importance of feeding your cast and crew before and the importance of what constitutes as food, especially if you can’t afford to pay them, but Finn provided and ordered just what we needed after a day’s shoot – three Dominoes Pizzas. After a nice refuel, it was back home for me.

I was anxious accepting this gig at first but I went with an open mind and am glad I said yes. It was an enjoyable day and I came home with some definite food for thought.

DIY Boom Pole

DIY Boom Pole

The easiest and cheapest piece of filmmaking equipment I have ever made!

Boom poles will cost you anything from £80 to £200 depending on what material the pole is made of, its length, and if it has any advanced features like an internal XLR for what is essentially a long stick that holds a microphone. Filmmaking equipment is already an expensive niche so why does something so simple have to be so expensive?

Amazon Search Result for "Boom Pole" 2019
Amazon Search Result for “Boom Pole” 2019

My simple DIY solution is just a 2m broom pole and a 1/4 inch bolt. Total £10.25 broken down to £10 for the broom pole and 25p for the bolt.

Drill a hole at the top of the pole and put the bolt through, then attach your microphone holder onto it, and presto! One boom pole.

Problem, solution. THINK! I’ve seen students on my course fork out big bucks for a Rode Boom Pole only to try and sell it once they’re done with it, not knowing they could have saved all that money if they found another way of getting a boom pole in the first place.

Student Selling Boom Pole on Course FB Page
Student Selling Boom Pole on Course FB Page

Like a broken record I’m going to repeat my mantra on filmmaking equipment and the reason a lot of my gear is either DIY or second=hand. I follow two rules when it comes to growing my filmmaking arsenal; The Law of Diminishing Returns, and The Broken Hammer Analogy. The Law of Diminishing Returns is that the first £1000 you spend on equipment is going to do so much more for you than the 2nd £1000, or the 3rd £1000 and so on until you get to the 6th or 7th £1000 spent on equipment and it doesn’t do anything for you as you’ve already learnt so much from the very first instalment you invested. The Broken Hammer Analogy is taken from one of my favourite people Adam Savage, and it is so relevant it’s annoying when I see film students go against it, and the analogy is like this; go to a junk shop, thrift store, or charity shop and buy the cheapest, nastiest, and broken hammer there is. If you use that hammer every day on every project you do until it can be used no more, then you are entitled to purchase the fanciest new hammer there is. If you’ve only used the old hammer maybe a couple of times, then there is no reason for you to fork out on something expensive and fancy.

The boom pole is a prime example of the Broken Hammer Analogy – I am not a sound guy and never will be, I may only use my DIY Boom Pole a handful of times, therefore I have no reason to spend £80 and up on an actual Boom Pole. But if it turns out I use this DIY piece of kit at every shoot I go on, then I might be inclined to invest in something more professional – and thus the Law of Diminishing Returns then kicks in.

I’ve seen students purchase Drones, Gimbals, Boom Poles, Sliders, and all sorts of ‘unnecessary’ expensive filmmaking tools to only use them once or twice and shelve them indefinitely as they have no further use for them on a daily filming basis. They think “oh I NEED this expensive piece of gear therefore I MUST have it” without thinking how long they may use it for, what this investment will do for them in the long term, and if there are any alternatives. Identify your problem, find a solution, and THINK.

My Robot Friend – Film Festival Circuit

My Robot Friend – Film Festival Circuit

Film Festival Circuit.

My Robot Friend has finished its festival circuit and was an incredible experience. It went full circle getting shown in Spain, Italy, New York, and Bournemouth (its place of origin). I got lovely feedback from audience members and festival programmers and got to see first hand reactions when I attended its screening in Bournemouth.

The original intent for my graduate film was always to have it screened at various film festivals around the world. Since attending my first ever film festival back in 2015, I have dreamed of one day showing a film of my own at a festival and reliving that experience. This grad project gave me the opportunity to do just that, and focus a year of planning and filming to create a short worthy of presenting at festivals.

Part of the graduate project forces you to find a hypothetical client for your work – for students making content for TV it can be as simple as saying their client is BBC or ITV – but for me I had to focus my attention to specific film festivals that would suit my film. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of film festivals in the world ranging from generic screenings to niche genre festivals. As much as I wanted to submit to as many festivals as possible and see who would accept my film, I would have much better results tailoring my film to specific festivals, and finding festivals with connections to the themes already in my film. This would also prove that there would be an already established active client and audience for my film.

From this I decided to make a three-pronged approach to getting my film its festival circuit by dividing festivals into three tiers, with tier one being festivals renowned for their prestige, potential exposure, and track records. Tier one festivals considered are The Berlin Film Festival, London Film Festival, South By South West, and my personal goal of getting accepted into the 2018 Raindance Film Festival.
Tier two are local festivals on or near the south coast such as Bournemouth Film Festival, Southampton Film Festival, Solent Film Festival, Portsmouth Film Fest, and Brighton’s Cine City Festival.
The third tier to consider, are festivals which have connections to the themes I am raising awareness of in my film. Such festivals include Le Temps Presse which focuses on sustainability, the Illinois Sustainability Film Festival, the UK Green Film Festival, The ROS Film Festival which is devoted to Robots On Screen, and The LA Robot Film Festival.

After researching these festivals, and their respective programmers, correlations between film expectations began to show. In technicalities, festivals ask for films to be made from January 1st 2018, some festivals approve of screenings prior to their own whilst other festivals state that only theirs may be the premiere screening, and their attendance policy – and submissions in general – are marked with an eighteen certificate no matter what the content (limiting those who can see it legally). These rules are clearly listed on each festival page or Film Freeway (a submission platform used by many of the festivals).

I now had my clients, all I had to do was deliver my product – a six and a half minute family friendly adventure film which features robots and themes of sustainability.

FilmFreeway is the place short films and features are submitted to festivals. As a first time user, it was incredibly easy to navigate and shocking to see the never-ending list of film festivals on offer. Festivals from every country were open to submissions and it was easy to lose your head thinking you could submit your film to every festival imaginable. But again, I would have better odds submitting to specific festivals my film is tailored to than the generic ones.

The first step to submitting your film to any festival on FilmFreeway is creating an account and writing a short bio. Here you’ll have a chance to give yourself a label like “Director” or “Producer”. The profile you create is the face you will be using to sell your film to festivals.

Festivals may charge a submission fee and changes depending on how close the submission deadline is – Early Bird fees may be as little as £5 while Late Submissions may charge over £50 – but even paying a submission fee DOES NOT guarantee your film will be selected into the film festival.

After submitting your film to your chosen festivals, all you have to do is wait for them to reply if you’ve been successful or not; and there’s no consistency on notification dates as they can vary by months at a time.

But the feeling of being accepted into a festival is fantastic; it’s truly overwhelming that someone in another part of the world liked your film enough that it’s worthy of being shown to an audience with other films. It’s hard getting your film into festivals, I was rejected many times before I got my first selection, but just one selection was enough for me to feel really pleased with what I had produced and proud of all the hard work put into the project – and to come away with four festival selections, that’s just tops!

Super 8mm Social History Project

Super 8mm Social History Project

In October 2018 I found something really cool on Facebook Marketplace and decided to turn it into a mini project for that month.

I love looking around charity shops, thrift stores, and junk shops alike to see if there are any good things worth having. Usually camera related, but anything old or could be useful to me tends to be what I look out for. I have the privilege of having six charity shops in my town and one junk shop which has an amazing name of Come in an Rummage, with an being a typo on their sign. Most of my film equipment has come from these shops so it’s great to wonder around every so often to see if anything new (or old) comes in.

But recently in my spare time I’ve began looking on local selling groups online with Facebook’s Marketplace being a great browsing experience for anything out of the ordinary close to my area. And one day I stumbled across a user in town selling 15 reels of Super 8mm home movies!

Super 8mm Facebook Marketplace


Five boxes each containing three reels of Super 8mm film. And she was selling the entire collection for £10! I’ve had my film projector since uni and a handful of movies but never anything shot by someone. So seeing this collection for such a low price and in walking distance from me, I had to have them.

Meeting the seller in town with cash in hand she asked why I was interested in them. I replied I’m a filmmaker freshly graduated from uni and have always had an interest in film. She was pleased to hear this as when I asked her reason for selling this collection of essentially ‘home video’ she replied with how she’s selling the house and moving out and needed to get rid of everything inside. The seller was against throwing anything in landfill but wanted to see if anyone would be interested in what she has and maybe earn a few pennies on the side. When it came to the reels of film, the story takes a different turn. The seller had recently divorced, hence the moving out, and said the reels were shot by an aunt on the husband’s side. Neither her or the husband had any contact to this person anymore so had no need to keep the films; and the seller’s son was described as indolent and a bit of a loser so naturally didn’t want the films either. So when someone like me with an actual interest in movie-making and history came along , she was thrilled they would go to a good home.

Super 8mm Social History GIFI guess that’s why she priced the group of films so low, she didn’t know who would be interested in such a niche collection. And who would? Firstly you’d need a projector to view them (which she or many others don’t have) and they’re someone else’s home-movies from a bygone era. But to me they were an amazing glimpse into someone else’s life and a ticket to the past documented in colour.


My love for electronic music

My love for electronic music

I love music but I’m too scared or embarrassed to share my tastes with other people; it’s the type of music I listen to that makes it difficult to share with others.

For example, We would sit in a car together travelling on a nice day out and the phone would be passed around for songs to be played on the journey. I would just pass it to the next person without adding anything to the playlist. I get way too nervous playing any songs I like to others, especially friends, and especially over speakers. I either get scared they won’t like what tracks I add or embarrassed they question my taste in music. To be fair, it would be very jarring to go from one upbeat modern pop song to a song with no lyrics and just experimental sound, but that’s why I find sharing my taste in music with others difficult.

That’s not saying I don’t like music though, I love all music! Any genre of music I’ll find a way to enjoy it. The amount of stuff I Shazam on a daily basis and ask people what’s playing is staggering! And I love that people love different genres of music; I’d never go out of my way to personally attack someone for liking something that’s different or not to everybody’s taste in music.

So what is it I listen to? Electronic, synth, and techno. Music made by machines and computers that I can turn the volume up to 11 and feel reverberate in my chest as I listen though headphones. I listen through headphones as I feel it’s the best way to experience this type of music and sense every change in rhythm, tone, and frequency – identifying the single layers in electronic beats or components of the track, remembering them for next time or forgetting they exist as a new digital bit comes in. I love this electronic music of the future because it redefines what a musical instrument is and what we classify music itself as a whole. With headphones on and the volume at maximum, I close my eyes and picture stories that blend with the tones of sharp stinging electronic signals. If jazz is the sound of the past, pop the sound of the present, synth is the sound of the future. I am entranced by synth and computer-made music. This false music, played through electronic instruments or programs not only fascinates me on the technical level, but projects the sounds of the future.

I’m not 100% certain on how it came to be that this type of music would be my jam, but I have a pretty good guess. As a child I only had two CDs and they were probably rejects from my brother – they were Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400 and Eiffel 65’s Blue – I would have been maybe five or six years old at the time, but I listened to these albums constantly. This was my first taste of music, but somehow it stuck – maybe through influencing me at such a young age when my mind was still malleable.

Then as I grew up through secondary school and college, I started to source out similar artists on YouTube. I discovered Daft Punk when I started secondary school, The Temper Trap was big for me in 2009, and in 2011 Drive had the biggest musical influence on me with its soundtrack consisting of stunningly composed ambient synth by Cliff Martinez and French electronic artist, Kavinsky. Tied with the occasional recommendation from my brother, my love for this type of electronic music was cemented.

I’d say my brother helped me get into this type of music as he was always the one with access to it – even if now his tastes have completely changed. But I must acknowledge my Dad as well, as just like the connection of listening to Zombie Nation at an early age helped influence me, Dad has had a interest in this type of music his entire life – as I only discovered that when I shared with him what music I was in to and that I had Shazammed a track he was listening to. The story goes, Dad was listening to Kraftwrek through speakers, I liked what I heard and didn’t know what it was so I shazammed it in secret, and later burned the disc to my iTunes. We then talked about them afterwords and he showed me that he owns Kraftwrek on Vinyl!

Let’s not ignore what influence film and TV had on me though, with Doctor Who being the best example of electronic synth and music concrete, and one of my favourite films of all time, Blade Runner having a killer ambient score by Vangelis. When I went to Brighton for the Story of Sound I met Martin Stig Anderson and experienced his moody acousmatic score for the game Limbo.

Since then I’ve gone through a rabbit hole of electronic discovery, building collections of Daft Punk, Kavinsky, College, The Glitch Mob, Com Truise, Avicci, Fuckbuttons, Vitalic, Kauf, Flashworx, Sonic Youth, New Order, Empire of the Sun, The Chemical Brothers, Gary Numan, Vangelis, Bonobo, Grimes, Chromatics, Kreftwrek, and the creator himself Giorgio Moroder.

There are tonnes of other electronic artists out there it’s hard to take a wrong turn. Again, I do love music and not just this electronic stuff, it’s just this happens to be the stuff I listen to most. I adore Art Garfunkel and Metric, and will always give other stuff a go.

My advice for listening to this type of music; put on headphones, crank up the volume as high as it can go, and feel the music inside you. Share at your own risk because it’s not really dancing music… Case in point, Kraftwrek live… keep an eye on the audience and the one dude waving his arms…

I Was In The Top Gear Audience

I Was In The Top Gear Audience

On Tuesday 17th April 2018 my friends and I went to Dunsfold Aerodrome to be audience members in an episode of BBC’s Top Gear. It was a surreal experience but highly enjoyable, and being a media production student I got to see how a show like this is recorded.

Tickets were offered to all Bournemouth Uni Media Students thanks to a current crew member reaching out to Nick Bamford, who used to work on Top Gear as a producer, and now leads the MA Directing course at Bournemouth Uni.

“I work for Top Gear and we are currently filming the studio segments of our episodes with the presenters – when the studio audience has the chance to see the films we’ve shot throughout the year, watch the celebrity guest’s lap and interview and have a look at the vehicles we have in the studio. I notice that you used to work on Top Gear – I hope you don’t mind me emailing you but I thought coming down to watch a record might be of interest to some of your students studying TV Production, so I would like to offer free audience tickets for any of the upcoming records to your students and faculty.
There’s 40 tickets on offer per recording – possibly more if you want them.
The studio is in Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, audience members would need to arrive around 12pm and the record should wrap around 1730″.

I’ve never been a fan of Top Gear, I would watch episodes in the past when it used to be Hammond, May, and Clarkson; but it never really did anything for me like it does to other viewers, so I’ve never been invested in the show. But as a media student who wants to work in the film and television industry, passing an opportunity to be present at a recording and see how something like this is made would be foolish. You can never learn too much about an area you’re interested in, and for me, attending this recording would provide a new insight into how this form of content for TV is made.

Top Gear Audience Wrist Band

Naturally, there was huge demand from students to attend (and there were multiple days on offer), but luckily we got to go.

The whole event is so organised and regimented. We arrive at Dunsfold and drive in single file to to the parking spaces, wait with everyone else there at a pop-up bus stop, to then be taken by double-decker bus around the airfield to the hanger where Top Gear is filmed. We’re ushered into the hanger and told to switch off all phones and refrain from taking pictures whilst inside.

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the set and how many people attended as we’re shuffled around. Nestled by the audience are the cars that’ll be talked about on the show – squeaky clean with signs on the floor saying “Do Not Touch” which naturally people ignore and proceed to spear their faces all over them as they peer in the windows for a closer look of the dashboard.

As said, I’m not interested in the cars, I’m here to see how it’s done. And looking around there are maybe four active cameras. There’s one on a crane flying over the audience, two on pedestals filming the presenters, and one handheld for quick setups. I only saw this handheld camera once as it was quickly placed on a high hat near the end of the show to achieve a low-angle shot of the leader board for best lap times.

Looking from a semi-audience-simi-media student perspective, working on a show like Top Gear would be fairly straight forward. All the shots and direction come from someone in the control room telling the operators where to point the camera next. The presenters memorise their scripts and read off a teleprompter, so the only direction to them is which car to stand next to. They’ll inevitably fluff up their lines, but everyone knows exactly what they’re doing they just pick up where they messed up and do it again without cutting. There are no slates, just continuous rolling of sound and camera and endless retakes. Retakes themselves may not be due to mistakes made by the presenters, but reactions not being good enough from the audience.

The producers and people on set want a flawless performance from both the presenters and audience on each recording. Therefore, they want full engagement from us, the audience, to make this show look like it’s worth watching. We’re supposed to look engaged and constantly smile, as we’re told at the beginning that “we WILL be seen on TV” and they don’t want it to look like a room full of bored people. There’s no point in shuffling closer to the ‘action’ as the combination of cameras make it impossible not to be filmed and end up on the show. How they get these responses from us though is probably the funnest part about the recording – they have this entertainer to warm up the audience before takes with jokes and competitions. He stands up and asks people the distance they’ve travelled, what excuse they’ve used to leave work early, and has general banter with audience members to get a rise from us. He’s funny and puts everyone at ease. And it’s him who asks us to look fully engaged in the show, as he points out different levels of audience laughter – he says something like how ever crap the joke is, it’s our duty to laugh and really sell it as a funny joke.

The presenters come on stage, we give them a HUGE round of applause and proceed to watch the live show. Pre-recorded VT’s play a certain intervals and the crew take the opportunity to set up for the next segment – the audience may get shuffled around too at these points. It goes so quickly, you’re just standing there for maybe an hour watching them present the show. I honestly didn’t realise how scripted it was until seeing how many attempts it would take to get certain bits right. But it’s fun and a real privilege to have been there – especially getting to go for free and stand with my friends.

I say it looks like an easy job to do, but I guarantee you there’s more to it 😉

My Robot Friend – Painting the Robots

My Robot Friend – Painting the Robots

Painting the Robots

The robots were painted in bright colours to emphasise the toy-like nature of their designs and the happy mood this family-friendly short film promotes. Even though each robot was designed and built differently, they still needed to look different and distinct from one another in terms of their colour, use, and age.

As a family-friendly and child orientated film, basic primary and secondary colours were used to paint the robots such as red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and white.

Robot Claw Progression

Painting was a three step process as each piece needed to be primed with a base-coat of white emulsion, then painted their respective colour, and finally weathered to look real like metal and used.

White Undercoat Painting

Painting in itself took a couple of weeks to complete due to the amount of paint required to cover the total surface area of the robots and the inconsistency of the weather. Naturally, painting had to be done outside to keep the house clean and paint free, but also because like the solvent glue, this paint was an emulsion-based paint which meant it needed to be used in a well vented area. A respirator was worn at all times as a precaution.

White Undercoat Painting (2)

“Russian Red” paint was a lovely and vibrant red paint used for one of the robots and unlike the white emulsion, only needed one layer for it to give full coverage.

Once all robot parts had been painted their respective colour, stencils were made and applied to provide additional detail. These stencils were made from paper and masking tape and painted over with spray paint.

Paper stencils and masking tape applied to robot parts.

It is through painting the robots that I was able to include Easter Eggs into my film. The serial number on the military robot is my university i-number (i7627961) and the white robot showcases “B2”which is my production group I have remained in since second year. The stencil for the serial number was made from a magnetic scorecard given to me as a promotional item from Amazon’s Top Gear the Grand Tour.

Top Gear's The Grand Tour Number Magnet - with 762796 punched into the digits.

Finally, when all robots had their respective colours and their designs stencilled on, the final stage of painted could be completed – the weathering process.

All props, sets, and costumes in film go through a process of artificial weathering where artists will try replicating dirt, rust, and age through paint and other techniques. This is most notable in Star Wars where we are lead to believe it is a lived-in universe. If things aren’t weathered or given a hint of age, everything looks new and fake and thus removing from the believable fiction it resides.

It was a great technique to learn and experience but also a very upsetting one – for these robots have been beautifully painted and look incredibly smart, and now have to be ‘dirtied up” to make believable. It is hard to go wrong with this technique, as you’re trying to make it look believable on screen, so things may look too dirty in real life, but may not come across on screen. It’s a real balancing act to get the right proportion of dirt to where it would be most used if it were real on the robots and all to make look right on film.

The technique learnt is a combination of dry brushing and wet wiping. Dry brushing is where the minutest amount of metallic silver paint is applied to a very dry brush and vigorously bashed back and forth on any hard edge of the prop in question. This gives a scratched-away metal look.

Dry brushing technique and example.

Wet wiping is done after the dry brushing, and is a technique were you spritz water over the prop, put some black acrylic in the centre, and using a brush soaked in water spear the black acrylic all over. Then quickly wipe off the paint with a cloth and whatever remains on the prop gives a much dirtied look.

Dry brushed and wet wiped B2

B2 went from three layers of crystal clean white to dirty and almost grey after it was weathered using these techniques.

My Robot Friend – Building the Robots

My Robot Friend – Building the Robots

Building the Robots

The robots are made from EVA foam mats – similar to the ones found in a gym or children’s playpen. A suitable material had to be found for the construction of these robot suits – the original plan was to use cardboard and papier-mâché, however this was not a workable material as its flimsy construction lead to prominent creases and folds when worn or moved about. I had to consider how these suits wold be worn on set and transported to the filming locations, and cardboard was not strong enough to withstand the constant battering and reforming it would face during these days.

So a new material had to be found that was as easy to work with like cardboard, but strong enough to keep its structure when worn. When researching prop and costume building techniques, I discovered a material generally used on amateur or professional cosplay – EVA foam. Although this material is used for flooring gyms and soft play areas, it is a suitable material for making things with as it can be moulded with a heat gun, fused with solvent glue, and cut easily with box or craft knives. Therefore, if assembled correctly, this material is sturdy enough to be shaped and worn numerous times without taking damage. Additionally, for the amount of material you get, it is relatively cheap – this is because it is intended for flooring rooms so the more you purchase the cheaper it becomes.

EVA Foam Tile

EVA Foam tiles are 2ft by 2ft but must have their connecting jigsaw edges removed before use.

EVA Foam Template

Templates are used for specific or repeated shapes to aid in the final assembly.

Even though EVA foam is thought of as an ‘adult’ version of papier-mâché, this was still a new learning experience for me. Not only did I have to figure out how to correctly scale up drawings to human measurements and transfer them to the foam, but I had to understand how this material works. After each cut with a knife, the blade had to be sharpened as this material was so dense it would dull the edge with each incision. The fusing process took a long time to properly get right as a two part solvent had to be used to glue the parts together. At first, large quantities of the solvent were smothered on each piece and held together until the solvent latched to one another, but this proved ineffective as the solvent would be used too liberally causing me to run out quicker and the
fusing process not working as that was the wrong way to use it.

After this had been discovered, light coatings of the solvent were applied to each edge, allowed to set for five to ten minutes, and then pressed against each other to create the bonding process – they would fuse immediately when done like this and not come apart. These would then be left for a day for the curing process to complete.

EVO-Stick Solvent Cement

A two-part solvent is need to bond the foam pieces together. The bond is instant but takes at least a day to cure.


Safety had to be considered too when making these robots as the solvent used to fuse the EVA foam together was highly toxic and could only be used in well ventilated areas. As such, the windows would be open all day, and the gluing would only be scheduled for certain days to allow time for the curing process and fumigation of the room. Naturally, a respirator was worn at all times during the gluing process.
Starting in late October and finishing right before the shoot in April, these robots took months to build. But they were made with passion and due care and was a tremendous learning experience.

This was the first attempt at building the robot suits. Taking an image of a vintage toy robot and finding its simplest feature to scale up to my measurements was an interesting process, but the result turned out great.

Articulation is limited at the elbow but is more fluid at the shoulder. As the first full scale test, this build took over five hours from design to assembly.



New techniques in joining pieces together were discovered whilst building these robots. These shoulder pieces connected to the body from the side and needed extra reinforcement to make sure they would not fall off under its own weight, or be torn due to its location on the body – at the shoulder the arms would be moving constantly and could cause these piece to rip off entirely. Therefore, these pieces were cut with ‘jigsaw’ teeth that would slot into the body and be reinforced by their extra centimetre into the body – a joining method similar to comb joints or dovetails used in carpentry.

To give a sense of scale and how much material was used in the construction of these robots, on the left is a stack of ready-to-assemble pieces that would soon become thighs and shins, and on the right are the thighs mid-assembly.

Building these robots myself and not having the luxury to assembly or store these in a garage or shed meant that I had to live with these in my bedroom at all times. These robots would take up more space the further I progressed with them until eventually I was living with four fully assembled robots – these robots were all built slightly larger to my measurements so it was if I was living with four other people in my room.

If I wanted to work, all the robots had to go on the bed so the floor would be free for me to continue cutting or gluing, and if I wanted to sleep everything had to be moved to the floor.

Building these robots was a learning curve that I had to overcome and hurdles did present themselves. When starting out, I wasn’t careful and rushed the cutting process which caused me to slip with the knife and cut my fingers – losing a chunk of my nail. Thankfully the knife is sharpened after every incision to the foam so it was an incredibly clean cut to my fingers.

The message of this short film is to use what you have to make something great and that is even represented in the construction of these robots as certain designs or components were too difficult to make out of EVA foam so things had to be scavenged to work in the build.

For the child’s homemade robot, and the green military robot, their heads required a dome or half sphere. Unfortunately, the thickness of the EVA foam hinders the creation of spheres in general if one were to try and assemble one with segments. I had to be resourceful and find something that would be a suitable substitute so I ended up using lids from recycling bins.

After all the robot body parts had been cut and glued, it was time for assembly and test fitting. A fatal design floor in these robots however is that they were built to my measurements, so finding someone similar in size to me, willing to act in these suits, and be free on the shoot days was another challenge to overcome. However, Bradley Wyatt agreed to be the robot actor and was the perfect size for the suits.

Robot Test Fitting

It was wonderful seeing these robots fully assembled and finally come to life! There were still improvements needed though when testing these suits with Brad. Namely in what order the pieces would go on and how long it takes for the robot to go together. Additionally, as pieces were cut to my measurements, some were just a bit too small for Brad, so needed minor tweaking.

Robot Test Fitting

The shin pieces need to be completely recut to accommodate for Brad’s knees, and all shoulder or arm pieces needed small pieces to be cut out of them for his arm to go in easier.

After these adjustments were made, the next step would be to paint these robots.

Scrap robots which the protagonist scavenges from the bin also had to be made. As these were designed to look damaged and broken and never from close up, these were made out of cardboard and did not need to be precise in their construction – hence the greebling of yoghurt tubs and egg

Scrap Robots - Made From Cardboard

My Robot Friend – Designing the Robots

My Robot Friend – Designing the Robots

Designing the Robots

Robots were a large factor in the production of this film. They represent the excessive consumer choice in our society – there are so many robots to choose from, that once finished with one robot or it becomes ‘obsolete’ one can just discard it and move onto a newer model.
Our world is trapped in a throwaway mind-set with our technology of mobile phones, tablets, or computers, discarded without hesitation when the opportunity rises to get an update. Film allows the extraordinary to be brought to the ordinary; so robots are used to replace and represent our most advanced yet mundane ‘disposable’ technology – mobile devices.

Vintage Toy Robots

The robot designs are based off of vintage toy robots from the 1960’s to counter hyper-realistic designs in contemporary science-fiction. They have also been made to evoke nostalgia in viewers to when robots used to be colourful, playful, and happy.

Rough Sketches and Designs of Robots

Sketches were made to see which robots would be the best fit in the real world and the simplest to build. The sketches helped me discover limitations in time and construction as I was able to see how much material would be need to build them and how much or little detail each would have.