postcards from Norway…Trondheim to the Arctic Circle

Postcards from Norway

I have wanted to to see the beautiful fjords of Norway and the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. So when a dear friends ‘Scandinavian Birthday’ required us to land in Norway I knew I had to sneak in a photography trip!

Below is a photo journal of this breathtaking trip and please do take a look at the gallery for the full set of photos (p.s. there is a little treat for those who read all the way to the end, please do forward if you like it!!)

The journey began on Valentines day with a rather memorable flight from Gatwick, just as the worst storms in years hit mainland UK. It felt like we were in a roller coaster and I ‘calmly’ grasped the arm rests and turned white :-)  Thankfully the gifted pilots got us safely to our destination in one piece (emotional scarring aside!).

We rose early morning to take a walk through the city of Trondheim (or TronDONheim as I kept calling it!). Its the third largest city in Norway, with a Population of 180,000 and was the capital of Norway through the Viking era until 1217. I loved the old warehouses by the docks and we spent some time taking pictures and enjoying the fresh air. My friend noted how the old town reminded her of Westerns. We asked ‘Did the cowboys take after the Vikings?’ Hmm… surely there is potential for an 80′s action movie here!

Trondheim Old Town

At the main square there was a food market with local offerings from the farms and fisheries. I tested my luck with freebies from the different stalls, one could have a full lunch this way!

Trondheim town sqaure

Feeling too tired to venture Trondheim night life (saving myself for the birthday celebrations in Sweden later that week) I revisited the Itinerary for the coming days. A friend suggested I take a Hurtigruten cruise along the coast. A three day voyage from Trondheim up through the Arctic circle to Tromso. My schedule allowed for a night in Tromso before flying off to Are in Sweden.

I confess that after watching BBCs ‘Johanna Lumley in the land of the Northern lights’ years ago I was pining to see them myself. But i dared not to get my hopes up and told myself to be grateful just to see the beautiful coastline glide by. I was booked into the MS Vesteralen, a 108m long cruise ship built in 1984 with a top speed of 15kph and 510 person capacity.

Morning arrived and I sat calmly at the lobby waiting for my taxi and impressed with myself for being early. Until… a kind lady at hotel pointed out the LOCAL time/ that I had forgotten to adjust my watch! Thank heavens for Norwegian taxi drivers disregard for the speed limit :-)

Travel Docs

After a hasty check in the ship left port and I made my way to the viewing deck to spend the next five hours mesmerised by the scenery. With my 5D II at hand and thermals keeping me nice and warm… it was perfect. The ship set course west through Trondheimfjords, up north the North Sea and eventually the Norwegian Sea. I would love to know how many islands there are and more importantly how does the Norwegian Post office address system work?! Impressive when you consider the vast sprawl of islands and fjords. Thank goodness for GPS!


We crossed the Arctic circle at 0705am the next day (the captain held a competition the night prior for passengers to guess the time). Apparently there was a lone buoy and the ship sounded its horns to mark the moment, but I am ashamed to say I was fast asleep! It was a holiday after all.

My first stroll onto the deck revealed a spectacular change of scenery. Something from an epic Hollywood film. The ships captain hosted a ceremony to mark our crossing into the Arctic Circle… by pouring ice cubes down passengers backs! It certainly woke us up and we were each presented with a certificate to record the moment.

Above the arctic circle

The main attraction of this cruise (compared to car or train) is the ease of access to the fjords and vast archipelago of islands.  The ship regularly docks into the major ports along the way (for an hour to half a day depending on the the schedule). I was able disembark to explore several towns prior to Tromso, including Bodo, Stamsud, Svolvaer, Hastard. One of the most memorable was the Ice Museum at Svolvaer. The carvings were fantastic and I tried to spend as much time as I could inside the ‘fridge’ before my hands and face froze. The ‘short’ walk to the lighthouse gates at Bodo was also fun and on the way back we took a detour to see the modern chapel whose spire was situated adjacent to the body of the church itself. I have jumped ahead here and added the beautiful Tromso Cathedral despite it coming at the end of the journey (third row from the top, on the right)!

Mainland Excursions

By the third day we were quite far up into the Arctic Circle and the weather had got much colder with the occasional snow showers. I tried my best to stay out on the viewing deck and take pictures and make the most of my last few hours on the ship (we were due to dock at Tromso at 2pm).

At the beginning of the cruise the captain stated that they don’t provide in house entertainment on the ship, because the real entertainment was outside. Pretty much everyone I met agreed with this and was braving the winds to soak up the views and atmosphere up on the ‘Sun deck’. As the ship rolled into the port of Tromso I felt sad that this leg of the Journey was over.  Three days was not enough and I would have loved to spend more time on board (from Bergen to Kirkenes).

Destination Tromso

Despite spending several hours at night on the deck of the ship staring up into the crisp cold sky, I had not seen the Northern Lights. Tromso is hailed as the city of the Northern Lights due to its proximity to magnetic north. However I just had one evening and  it being so cloudy was killing my chances :-( Well I had the city tour to join and maybe something good would come my way…

And a good thing here meant the fantastic folks at arcticguideservice! After seeing my seeing my sad face gazing into the sky during our city tour, the guide suggested I come along as a guest to their ‘Six hour Northern Lights Chase’ that eve :-) The cloud cover meant almost zero chance of seeing anything in Tromso but the tour often drove several hundred miles away from the city in search of clear skies thus maximising our chances. It was all very Hi-Tech, akin to scenes from the film Twister with radar maps and solar activity charts! If you ever find yourself in Tromso I would suggest dropping by their office (located behind the SAS Radison hotel, by the port). I will be forever grateful to their two ‘Light Guides: Dan & Nau’ for finding the perfect site in the middle of nowhere for us to see …

[ thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the little time lapse video I made below !!! ] 

film funding guerilla tactics…

I had the pleasure of attending ‘How to Fund a Film’ workshop by Producer Ivan Clements and Director-Producer Chris Jones.

Chris is the inspirational filmmaker who’s short film ‘Gone Fishing’ was Oscar Shortlisted in 2009 and author of the Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook.

Ivan is a multi award winning Producer (winner ‘BEST FILM’ Producers Guild of America 2009 for ‘Gone Fishing’) with a long and proven track record in raising film finance, cashflow and tax credit structuring.

Film financing is a complex field and there are a plethora of resources online to pool information. Not all these sites are catered to filmmaker’s creative backgrounds. Indeed the last time I spent an afternoon on the HMRC website to consult UK Film Tax laws, my desire to commit Internet Hari-kari was overwhelming (and I have spent 13 years in Finance)!!

Ivan and Chris have managed to inject a much needed dose of ‘fun’ into Film FUNding (confession, I have stolen borrowed that from Chris :-) . Their combined experience and expertise makes this a fantastic workshop where audience engagement and networking is actively encouraged.

The pool of creative talent out there surely surpasses the elusive pool of funding for films. I.e. filmmaking is an expensive business and most projects struggle to raise the finance required to bring their projects to completion. Ivan outlines a realistic funding structure for independent filmmakers:

Making a movie in 2013 on a lower budget will mean you need to get funding from a number of key sources. No one source will be enough: “

• Some of your own cash, friends and family (say 10% cash budget)
• Some ‘in kind’ stuff, getting freebies etc (real money saved)
• Some crowdfunding (say 20% of cash budget)
• UK film tax credit at 20% (we show you how to do it, though it wont be 20% of your budget, more like 15% of cash budget)
• Grants and sponsorship (forget it unless you know someone)
• Pre-sales and MG with a sales agent (possible but project and team dependent)
• Private investment, protected by SEIS / EIS (the balance of your outstanding budget, usually around 50% to 60%)

At the workshop, Ivan showed us how to set up SEIS and EIS schemes through a detailed 27 step process and also how to apply for Film Tax Credit. The complexities of the content are handled with due care and enthusiasm, taking plenty of time for questions and fun ‘memgem’ breaks! All sample materials and links are made available online to the delegates.

Chris gave a presentation on crowd funding and how that is changing the landscape for Independent / Micro Budget filmmaking. Noting that crowd funding has been around much longer than Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Their hugely successful short film, Gone Fishing, was crowd sourced. He notes the importance of constantly engaging your audience and giving them creative incentives to participate. That crowd funding should be treated as a project in itself, separate to and before Principal Photography. The success of Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign (raising over $5 million!) shows the power of an existing fan base. And the increased awareness of these platforms can help new filmmakers raise funds outside the studio system.

The Veronica Mars Movie Project on Kickstarter

The workshop drew a very diverse set of delegates and the hosts insistence of moving seats after breaks was a great idea. I met some wonderful Producers, Directors and Actors and was great to hear about their stories, projects and their experiences in the industry.

Delegates at the workshop (held at Regents College Film School).

The (encouraged) networking element is a fantastic feature of this and future events. The after drinks session gave me time to have a chat with Ivan, fellow delegates (and Chris though far too briefly since I had to leave early. Looking forward to the Filmmaker Master Class in a few weeks!). Ivan has just made his directorial debut on a short, written and acted by his daughter. He said that it was a lot more fun being on the creative side of the line.

I would like to thank both Chris and Ivan again for hosting this fantastic event, sharing their knowledge and inspiring a new generation of filmmakers! And would strongly recommend any of their future events. Also a thank you to all the delegates I met for giving me your time and sharing your stories. It would be a pleasure to write future posts about your projects so please don’t hesitate to contact me!

…can you keep a secret ?

Apologies for the radio silence the last couple of weeks, it has been hectic juggling some exciting developments

We are very honoured to announce our collaboration on the feature film ‘Necessary Secrets’ written and produced by a dear friend Michela Scolari, founder of Bradamante Entertainment!!!!

In the coming weeks we shall release a video interview with the cast and crew to introduce the wonderful team to our followers and shed some insight into the independent film making process.

Tomorrow morning we fly off to Florence to attend some production meetings and… ahem… strategic shopping :-)

In the mean time here is a trailer image we produced for the P&A package… Happy Easter to all !




digital cinema versus film… who is the fairest of them all?

In the documentary Side by Side, Keanu Reeves asks some of Hollywood’s top directors and cinematographers their thoughts on recording in digital and what it means for traditional film cameras. The film gives a fantastic exposition to the production process and how some of these have changed due to the digital pipeline.

Side by Side is now available to rent in iTunes

One major difference is that film footage has to be developed before it can be reviewed. Thus a day’s shoot would be developed overnight and watched the next day (‘dailies’). This required a lot of faith in the Director of Photography. With digital cameras, the footage could be reviewed on set and adjustments made where necessary.

Another consequence of ‘film rolls’ is that a typical shoot would last 10 minutes before the roll had to be replaced. Film itself is extremely costly so those 10 minutes became highly charged and demanded focus. But a natural pause would arrive whilst the cameras were reloaded; allowing cast and crew to take a break. With digital, takes could be repeated over and over with minimal overhead. This has caused frustration and relief! Frustration for some actors and crew since concentration has to be held for much longer, relief for Directors wanting to take ‘Just ONE more take!’.

Two summers back, I was Assistant Director on an independent film. After two weeks of intense shooting we called a final wrap (after the sixth take on a scene). We all clapped and cheered and I could see the relief on our actress face. Just as everyone was about to leave the set, the Director (and also a dear friend) asked me if it would be a good idea to do ‘one last take’… I smiled and gently said to him ‘sure, but only if you don’t mind the crew throwing you into the lake!!!’

In the documentary, Martin Scorsese points out that ‘you can review the footage straight away. But maybe having that time away will give you time to gain clarity on other things going on…’. No doubt the changes in the shooting process have affected the final performance. But I believe that the advantages outweigh the cons, especially for independent cinema and terms of opening up the creative process without the prohibitive costs of film.

For a long time digital camera footage was widely viewed as technically inferior to Film. The initial cameras lacked the resolution and more importantly the dynamic range of film. Purists would note that films organic grainy look due to the irregular silver halide crystals cannot be replicated by the ‘pixel’ representation from a CCD, that the tonal range of film was not matched. However the last decade has seen considerable improvements to bridge the gap. Since the arrival of the ARRI ALEXA and RED EPIC more films have been recorded in digital than film in the last four years. Even the film devotees have complimented how ‘close’ ALEXA footage is to film and may even supersede it in some areas.

Academy award winning cinematographer Roger Deakins talks about the ARRI ALEXA

It is fascinating to note that major film camera manufacturers (for cinema) are NO LONGER developing new film cameras! Christopher Nolan has consistently voiced his reservations to shooting in digital. For the Dark Knight Rises he insisted that the studio allow him to shoot most of the film using IMAX cameras. Indeed the resolution and fidelity of IMAX simply cannot be matched by any digital camera out there at the moment. The film looked fantastic and I loved every one of the Batman movies. At the same time, it is INCREADIBLY difficult and expensive to shoot with an IMAX camera! And most studios would have declined this request, were it not for the fact that Christopher Nolan was one of THE most successful directors of our time with an incredibly successful franchise.

Also note that so far we have only talked about the acquisition of footage. Nearly all productions are now edited in DIGITAL! Film footage is readily scanned into a digital intermediary format. This allows the addition of special effects, sound, colour grading and editing. After which the footage may be output back into film. This has been happening for decades and not many are calling for a return to pure analogue pipe line.

The advent of a complete and AFFORDABLE digital production pipeline is helping a new wave of film makers come onto the scene. A decade ago, the production costs for cinema grade footage would have set back many projects from the get go. Advancements in Digital imaging coupled with massive computational horse power/storage at substantially lower costs have raised the bar for independent cinema.

Whist the RED cinema camera was causing shock waves in Hollywood; in 2007 the ‘micro budget’ scene was set alight with the arrival of the Canon 5D II. A professional full frame SLR which could also record 1080p at 24 fps, HDSLR had truly arrived when Vincent Laforet showed just what was possible with Reverie.

The short video that launched HDSLR into the mainstream

Since then the quality of HDSLR has improved incrementally, and it drew a new generation of photographers into film. As the audience learned the new craft their demands grew and the manufactures listened (Cannon and Nikon). However despite opening a whole world of creative possibilities, HDSLR faces technical constraints which DPs must respect. The lack of available dynamic range, rolling shutter and moiré are the main complaints. Compressed 8-Bit footage can be very difficult to ‘correct in post’. Thus it becomes very important that lighting and exposures are set as accurately as possible when shooting.

Thus a ‘second’ revolution was hailed when the Black Magic Cinema Camera was launched in 2012. Recording 2.5K in 12-bit RAW; compatible with EF / 4-3 mount lenses… for just $3000! That’s less than the Canon 5 D MK III and offering a resolution and dynamic range not found in cameras below $10k. The footage from this camera is simply breath taking and a level apart from others in a similar price range.

Comparing Black Magic Cinema camera to the 5D MK III ( 12-bit RAW v 8-bit )

It does have its quirks which no doubt will be improved via firmware over time plus dealing with RAW footage requires massive storage space and computational power to manipulate. 30mins of RAW footage takes approximately 250 gigs! Also the sensor crop of 2.4 dramatically reduces the field of view and depth of field for the same lens compared to a full frame sensor. To quote Philip Bloom ‘the day they release a version with a Super 35 sensor, it will take over the world’

So digital cinematography is here to stay and whilst film reached its technological peak a long time ago, digital technology continues to improve. Will it replace film? I feel it is more worthwhile to ask ‘Does digital add to the art of cinema?’. By allowing a new generation of talent to bring their story to the silver screen due to lower production costs… YES IT DOES!

a night out with the stars…

and by Jove did the stars come out to shine on that particular eve …

I was watching an old episode of ‘Wonders of the Universe’ by Professor Brian Cox this evening. I LOVE that series and it reminded me of  some long exposure photos of the night sky I had taken a back in 2010.

The above shot of a camp near Kings Canyon-Uluru Australia was taken with a EOS 5D MK II and  16-35mm f2.8L MK II @ 39 Sec and ISO 1600.

After dinner the camp site lights were turned off (bar a few safety lights) and I set the camera on a tripod to take several long exposures of the night sky. I was in awe of the amount of stars you could see with the naked eye… it was mesmerizing (in London, the light pollution makes this impossible).

The shot below was taken with a 50mm f1.2L prime lens @ 2 sec and ISO 1200. You can see the Milky Way span diagonally across the image. I was amazed by the sheer number of stars that came up in the image. The attached ‘higher res’ image has more detail but still does not do the 16 bit RAW file justice.  Not bad for a little SLR! Mind you… I did need to be in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the planet :-)


from ships to shores…snippets of Dubai

Please take a look at the new album ‘Dubai’. These were taken in the old city back in 2011 a few days before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The old port of Dubai is a stark contrast to the soaring skyscrapers of the new city. I loved hopping onto the ferries which linked the old and the new city and took some of these photos whilst on board.

All the photos in the reportage section are available for purchase in print or digital license form (just click the ‘Enquiry’ button).

Baftas, Golden Globes and Oscars…whats the big deal?

The film award season kicked off last week with the Bafta nominations, Oscar nominations and the Golden Globe Awards.  These coveted nominations, awards and ceremonies attract global media attention and no doubt cause many a nervous nights as participants wait in anticipation.

Just a nomination alone can help secure distribution (due to the media coverage) and awards help to secure longer showings in the cinema, foreign network purchases and DVD/Blue-ray sales. Do not let the glitz and the glamour hide the fact that it’s still a ‘business’! As the following clip shows, Sony decided to delay the release of Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ till after the Oscar nominations to maximise the reach of the film :



So which films have done well so far ? Here is a quick summary of nominations and awards won so far:

  • Lincoln - 10 Bafta, 12 Oscar and 7 Golden Globes /  Won 1 Golden Globe
  • Life of Pi - 9 Bafta, 11 Oscar and 3 Golden Globes / Won 1 Golden Globe
  • Les Miserables - 9 Bafta, 8 Oscar and 4 Golden Globes / Won 3 Golden Globes
  • Argo - 7 Bafta, 7 Oscar and 5 Golden Globes / Won 2 Golden Globes
  • Silver Linings Playbook - 3 Bafta, 9 Oscar and 4 Golden Globes / Won 1 Golden Globe
  • Anna Karenina - 6 Bafta, 4 Oscar and 1 Golden Globe Nomination
  • The Master - 4 Bafta, 3 Oscar and 5 Golden Globes Nominations
  • Amour4 Bafta, 5 Oscar and 2 Golden Globes / Won 1 Golden Globe
  • The Hobbit - 3 Bafta and 3 Oscar Nominations
  • Skyfall - 8 Baftas, 5 Oscars and 4 Golden Globes / Won 1 Golden Globe
  • Zero Dark Thirty - 5 Bafta, 5 Oscar and 4 Golden Globes / Won 1 Golden Globe
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - 1 Bafta and 2 Golden Globe Nominations

* Bafta , Oscar , Golden Globes full nomination lists

Steven Spielbergs Lincoln has swept the board so far with 29 nominations and 1 Golden Globe award.  It is widely tipped do very well at the Baftas and Oscars, but it faces stiff competition from Ang Lees Life of Pi. The once proclaimed ‘unfilmable’ book has graced the silver screen with spectacular results thanks to Ang Lees vision.

The British films Les Miserables and Skyfall have been phenomenally successful with 38 nominations and 4 Golden Globe awards between them. Fingers crossed that they go on to win at the Baftas and Oscars.

Argo won 19 nominations and 2 Golden Globes but Director Ben Affleck was still ‘snubbed’ by the Academy for Best Director nominations. Tom Hooper also missing out on a Directorial accolade this year despite Les Miserables getting 21 nominations and 3 Golden Globes. Oh well better luck next time guys!

I saw Life of Pi over the holidays with the family and we all agreed that it was spectacular. If you have not seen it yet – PLEASE GO SEE IT ! I adore the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but The Hobbit left me feeling underwhelmed (without going into the HFR debate, I saw it in 3D 24fps). Argo was a surprise. A thriller, that keeps you on the edge of your seat till the end. Director Ben Affleck deserves the accolades and shame on the Academy for their snobbery. As I mentioned in a previous post, Skyfall is now my favourite bond film of all time. It may be also be the most visually beautiful Bond film, with the Academy nominating Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography.

So before the clocks count down to the Bafta Awards and then the Big One, I hope to catch the remaining few from the list that I havn’t seen yet.

Which film did you like or dislike? What was your favourite film at the cinema last year? Is there any film that you are rooting for at the awards? Please share your thoughts!


SKYFALL through a billion dollars…

Skyfall has just passed One Billion Dollars at worldwide box office and it’s yet to open in China.

This makes Sam Mendes’ directed film the most successful bond film of all time and the 14th most successful film of all time. It had already become the first film to break the £100 million mark in the UK, now joining the ranks of ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ this year to pass the billion dollar mark.

The decision to reboot the franchise with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale proved extremely successful with $599 million worldwide box office takings, despite the reservations of ‘die hard bond fans’. The  second outing, Quantum of Solace, fared less well in the reviews but still pulled $586 million at the box office. When it was announced that Academy Award winner Sam Mendes was to direct the third outing, many a eyebrow (and curiosity) were raised.

I was lucky enough to attend the Skyfall world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall last year. Very quickly into the film I realised that this was my favourite Bond film of all time (with Casino Royal a close second). This is a personal choice and no doubt many may feel different. They clearly took a big risk with the direction of Skyfall and upset some established views of what a Bond film should be. However this change has now brought a whole new generation to the world of Bond in the present setting.

At a recent conference I was honoured to meet the screen writing guru Robert McKee and asked him ‘… if every story has already been told. If there is nothing new to be said… what is the hope for filmmakers..?’.

To paraphrase his eloquent reply  ‘…maybe the essence of all the possible stories has been written. But with the passage of time, there is a whole new generation who will need to be reacquainted with this message. And that requires the story to be recast in the present setting so that the new audience can relate and connect to the story…’

Hence franchises which hope to stand the test of time and engage with a new audience will inevitably have to cast aside some of the old to make room for the present. I for one am extremely excited to hear that Sam Mendes may be directing the next Bond film (not officially confirmed yet)…

Here’s to another 50 years of Commander Bond!

The Primacy of Story by Robert McKee (Left). Walking the red carpet with Mr Bond at the Royal Albert Hall (Right)

mistletoe at the ready…

Its time to dust off the party hat as we count down the last few hours of 2012!

Hope that you all enjoyed the festive week that was and as you contemplate the year ahead its time to jot down some resolutions. Well it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t right?

More and more I come to relish the start of a new year. Not so much to wish the previous away, but more as a fresh start. Although it is also true that one need not wait for the turn of the year! If we are present to notice the passage of any moment, then we are present and can still make a difference…

Wising you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

just wanted to say…

a quick post to wish you all the very best for the festive season!

I managed to do zero present shopping this week courtesy of the flu! Grrrr!!! So I have given myself two hours to hit the high street and see what’s left on the shelves before catching the train south to meet the family. Kids – its about spending time with your loved ones OKAY ? !!!

I would like to thank everybody for their support in the launch of the website. The response has been amazing! We have been online for just one week and the website has had over 3,150 hits!

I am extremely excited about the year ahead and very grateful to the close friends who have helped me realise the projects so far… THANK YOU!

A little teaser for what we hope to bring you in 2013 :

-           a series of short films as a primer to our feature film (currently in development)

-           a photography gallery exhibition in London of our work

-           more news, reviews and interviews here on the blog!

So thank you again and here’s wishing you all a very Happy New Year!