Chocolate Films has had the pleasure of working with the brilliantly creative folks at Jacksons Lane again for a tantalising treat of a film (see our fabulous youth led film Finding Keats from 2016). Working with 13 young talents, our Chocolate Films facilitators have transferred filmmaking skills, including using professional filmmaking equipment, storyboarding and editing to create their very own epic film.
Wordsmith workshop participant Abraham has kindly given us an insight into the project and the hard work the group put into researching and creating their very own film.
You can watch Playhouses, Pickpockets and Plague here.
Monday 16th October:
Today we began our Heritage Horror Project at Jackson’s Lane Theatre. We began by introducing ourselves to one another and saying a little bit about our experience within the film making industry and what we are most looking forward to in this project. We discovered that we will have a huge range of talent on board this project! We learned that our film will be based on Doctor Faustus which is an Elizabethan tragedy by Christopher Marlowe.
We were then introduced to Eleanor our acting coach. She ran a session on Elizabethan acting styles and we learnt how to be dramatic – but not over the top – and we even played the classic “zip, zap, boing” game with cool Shakespearean words instead!
Our last session of the day was a presentation by Marine from Alexandra Palace. She taught us all about the history of the palace which covered everything from the fire that destroyed the first palace to the use of the palace by the BBC. This gave us a good idea about the place we will use as our films location.
Monday 23rd October:
Today we met at Jackson’s Lane Theatre and started by being asked to write any words or phrases that we associate with the horror genre on post-it notes. Lots of people associated horror with blood, suspense, monsters and even little children! We then got into groups and created mind-maps of the horror genre with Lisa and George which helped us think about what we could include in our film. To help us with our horror research, we watched a clip from Jekyll and Hyde and the epic “Thriller” video by Michael Jackson.
A specialist in costumes called Laura gave a presentation on Elizabethan costumes and props. We learned that young boys would dress up as women in plays because women were not allowed to act and that the make-up used was actually poisonous! We also learned that the stage set up and props were very basic as it was up to the actors to “set the scene”.
We were then put into groups and given cards on different topics – Elizabethan Theatre, The Admiral’s Men acting troupe and the play “Doctor Faustus”. We discussed these facts and then told the rest of the team about what we had learned.
George then ran a session on camera handling using Chocolate Films’ professional equipment. He showed us the Canon cameras and the different lenses. He told us what each lens would be used for and showed us how to safely handle the equipment like how to put the lenses on and how to change the settings. We also learned how to attach the camera to the tripod. George then showed us how to use the audio equipment. In our groups, we used the tripods, cameras and audio equipment to create a quick 5 minute improvised scene based on our research. There was a director, a cameraperson, a sound person and actors.
We finished the day by watching some funny Horrible Histories clips as an example of entertaining historical documentaries.
Wednesday 25th October:
All photography courtesy of Tracy Anderson.
Today we met at Jackson’s Lane Theatre for an acting session with Eleanor and learned about Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameters and how to speak in that way. We then looked at the staging of the witches’ scene from “Macbeth” and in groups we practised the scene by speaking in the way of the iambic pentameter, this was hard as it is very different to how we usually speak!
We then left and met actor Declan McHugh at Blackfriars station to begin a guided “Shakespeare in the City” walk. Declan explained about all the different places Shakespeare lived and even showed us the church he prayed in! We also saw “The Seven Ages of Man” sculpture which is located at the front courtyard or the Baynard House in Blackfriars. The sculpture is a tribute to Shakespeare by Richard Kindersley. It’s like a totem pole and starts with a baby and goes through 6 more stages of life, ending in death. On the tour we learnt interesting facts about Shakespeare’s life like how he was rich and owned parts of the theatres and how some of his love poems were actually for men. We were given information on Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway and their 3 children – 1 of which died aged 11 (Hamnet) and another whose marriage was in bits and led a tragic life losing all 3 of her children (Judith). The tour was tiring but interesting!
Friday 26th October:
Friday we started with a tour around the Globe theatre. Our tour leader was an actor with in-depth knowledge of the theatre and its history. He was able to show us incredibly specific details whilst showing us around the Globe. We were able to walk around the groundling space and sit on different seating levels. After this we walked around to the space and began working to understand the characters in Macbeth. We did some exercises in characterisation; learning to change how we walked and talked and interacted with others based on character and power. After this (and a quick lunch break by the river) we did a sword fighting workshop where we learned how to fight with daggers and swords on stage as well as slamming heads on floors (safely… of course). The final workshop was creating a soundscape with text from Macbeth and Dr Faustus in two groups. We ended this as whole group using Dr Faustus to create a piece. After leaving the Globe we spent a little while taking pictures of historically relevant parts of London.
Wednesday 1st November:
Today we met back at Jackson’s Lane Theatre. We started to think about what kind of scenes we could have in the film and where these could be filmed (the setting). We began improvising some sketches and this wasn’t too hard as we had plenty of inspiration and information to pull from. We created scenes that seemed really funny and silly, but were what would have happened back in Elizabethan times!
Wednesday 8th November
We were back at Jackson’s Lane today and were given lots of research material that we used to start a storyboard and to improve the improvised scenes we had done the previous week. The research gave us important information such as the fact that there were laws about clothes and what people could and couldn’t wear in Elizabethan times! We also learnt more about the Admirals Men acting troupe which inspired more characters. The most interesting was learning about Christopher Marlowe and the many conspiracy theories about how he died…that’s if he did really die that night outside the tavern!
Tuesday 14th November
Today we all met up at Jackson’s Lane and got the bus up to Alexandra Palace. We were scouting for locations that matched the scenes we had planned or had a scary vibe! We then went inside the transmitter hall and created a list of all the cool, creepy or old looking locations that Alexandra Palace has to offer e.g. a dimly lit path that had a bridge on it, dimly lit paths lined with trees, several different sets of steps and benches. It was really interesting to see how a filmmaker would have to find their location and taught me that filming Elizabethan scenes in modern day London is tricky!
Wednesday 15th November
We were back at Jackson’s Lane today to look at the storyboards and see how they would fit with our locations. The structure of the films – which scenes were going to be where – was decided and we chose the main things to focus on in our film. These were the story of the Globe theatre and Fortune theatre, the Admirals men and the part they played in Elizabethan theatre, Doctor Faustus and how the audience actually believed there were devils on stage and Marlowe’s death….or presumed death! I was shocked at how much information we would be fitting into our film, but was glad as I didn’t want to not show all the really interesting facts we had learnt.
Tuesday 28th November and Wednesday 29th November
We filmed all our main scenes over these two days. We all got to wear these cool, realistic costumes that made us look like we had time travelled from the Elizabethan era! We filmed inside using a huge green screen which was an amazing experience as most of us hadn’t used one before! We also filmed outside, using Alexandra Palace and its scenery. It was super cold but we stayed professional and carried on because we had to make sure we got everything filmed! We had to always check our lighting, sound and that the area we were filming in looked like it could at least sort of be from Elizabethan times. This challenge taught us a lot about shadows, angles and what lenses work best.
Tuesday 5th December and Wednesday 6th December
We focused on editing the scenes, filming one last main scene and some extras over these two days. Most of us also got to have a go at doing a voiceover. When editing we realised that using the green screen came with one teeny problem – the Joker’s costume had green on it so this meant it was mistaken for the screen and the digital background appeared on the costume too. We used Final Cut Pro to edit and had to concentrate really hard on when/how we could connect scenes so that we made the best version of it.
Friday 8th December
Today we were back at Jackson’s lane for the Rough Cut Screening of the film. A small audience were invited to give us their opinions. We all then discussed ideas for the film title and thought about how we could further edit the film.
Wednesday 13th December – film showing
Today was the final film screening at Alexandra Palace. All of us got to invite people and there was a lot of people here to see the film. The room was decorated with paper skulls, devils and spiders to show that the theme was Heritage Horror. There was lots of food and drink too. To start the show, Jacksons Lane Youth Circus did a circus showing inspired by horror and Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. All of us that participated in the film then had the opportunity to share some of our experiences with the audience. The film was then shown and I was very proud of how amazingly good it turned out – and the audience was blown away! Finally, we were all given certificates from Chocolate Films.