This week I was fortunate to experience four and a half minutes of pure enjoyment. Now before you go assuming that this experience probably resulted in yet another addition to my extensive collection of restraining orders, well you can go and clean your dirty presumptive minds. If you must know, my legal team is still fighting the last restraining order. I mean, who knew that writing 145 emails a week to Helena Bonham-Carter in which one suggests that she meet me at a Travel Lodge hotel of her choice while wearing her Bellatrix Lestrange outfit, actually constitutes a criminal offence? No not me either!
However, once again I digress. No, the four and a half minutes of pure enjoyment came from the running time of a rather fine piece of film making - The Clearing. Some time ago I was asked by nearby (ish) Scottish film company, IronStar Films, if I would like to watch and review (as best as my lack of discernible would allow) their debut short feature......and so I did. The film was BloodLoss, which is remarkable a tale of retribution and redemption among a group of friends who find themselves in too deep. These friends are forced by a local criminal to sort out a potential problem, their plans end in a horrific accident destroying their lives forever.
If you want to read the full review and my usual personal envious rantings then you can find it RIGHT HERE
It seems that the good people at IronStar Films weren't overly put off by my attempts at a review and so earlier this week I was contacted by Dean Pearson, writer, producer, director, cinematographer and tea-maker at the company, who asked whether I would like to view his new five minute short film. I thought about it for a moment over my early evening (1st) glass of red wine. I then spent a few more minutes pondering while I had my second glass.
"Ah", but I said......"You'll need to tell me a little more about the film first before I commit myself"
It seems that Dean was expecting this clever line of interrogation from me as he cunningly had a reply in readiness.... very sneaky.
"The Clearing runs for 5.5 minutes and is a visual narrative which explores the very essence of life and death. Without giving to much away here is a brief synopsis. After waking up in a strange and otherworldly place called "The Clearing," Chris soon realises he is not alone and must unravel the mysteries that have lead him to this point before its too late."
"Hmmm, that's all very well and good", I replied. " But being the consummate blogging and reviewing professional that I am, I would appreciate a little more detail. For instance, how much did the movie cost and who made it?"
For some reason there was a slight delay in Dean's response to my question. In fact there seemed to be some sound disruption or even a crossed line as all I could hear was some faint muffled delirious sounding laughter each time somebody tried to say the word 'professional' ....... very strange.
Once the disruption finally eased Dean managed to give me an answer.
"The Clearing was done for £120 and half of that went on the rental of a van! The rest of the budget went on some wood for making the doors and a few other bits and pieces as the scales and table which were bought from an awesome local yard sale called Steptoes. Any other props etc that were needed were either borrowed from friends and family or we had had ourselves."
I always tend to think that calling a film maker a bloody great liar might not always be the best thing to do, so I managed to stifle my reaction of "120 Quid???!!! You must be bloody well joking mate, you can't tell me that's all it cost because looking at the film stills I just don't believe you!!!" So I slightly amended my actual response.
"Wow, £120 that's impressive, just how did you manage to do that!"
"We had a small but effective crew of 6 on the day including myself. We had Graeme Carr as first AD, Peter Birnie as a production manager. Allan Jennings who recorded the production sound and assisted Peter. Martin Groves was the drone operator and production assistant and our actor Chris who got stuck in and helped when he could!
Bugger, it's almost as if Dean had an answer for everything. I desperately needed to come up with a question to regain my innate need for a feeling of superiority. I decided to fall back on my legendary cutting wit. "Erm, what about the film equipment that you used, I bet it wasn't exactly an iPhone was it?!"
Once again there was a pause, though this time there wasn't any laughter. Again the line became a little distorted and I could swear the person on the crossed line was muttering about some blogging fool of a buffoon. Blimey, it's a small world, I thought..... Another blogger, I'm glad that I don't know him as he sounds a bit of an idiot though.
Dean managed eventually to reply. "The main equipment we had on the day was a BlackMagic Cinema Camera 2.5k on a shoulder rig which could easily be broken down to go on the Manfrotto 501 Fluid head and tripod. Our lenses consisted of a Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 as our work horse lens and a tonika 11-16mm f2.8 for the wide shots. We had the privilege of using the DJI Inspire 1 drone which was owned and operated by Martin Groves. We also had one 650 Watt fresnel and a custom made dolly and tracks."
I really didn''t understand a single word of that technological mumbo jumbo, so it was at that point that I decided to cut my losses and so found my way to the super secret online link that Dean gave me and watched the film for myself. The thing is, by the very nature of the length of the movie's running time, it's not particularly easy to review a film that lasts a little under five minutes......but I'll give it a go.
In truth, The Clearing provided a totally unexpected richly visceral experience, both on a visual and auditory level. For a start it looks wonderful with a rich tone of colour, texture and lighting which all serve to very nicely enhance the atmospheric narrative. The quality is such that visually the film completely belies the fact that it cost so little to make, it simply doesn't look cheap at all. In fact, so impressive is the visual element that I've now watched the film a couple of times without the sound and the overall effect is still striking.
In terms of the sound, well the quality is quite simply superb. When I told Dean that I was about to watch the film he advised me to listen to it with head phones or good speakers for the full immersing experience - and boy was he right! The soundtrack and acoustic effects combine beautifully to provide a haunting and evocative texture that completely envelope the auditory senses. The result is to transport the viewer along the same confused path as the protagonist himself. The music, by Mattia Cupelli ' You'll be live a man can fly' - is simply beautiful.
As for the plot? Chris O'Mara who was in the company's previous short film, Bloodloss, does a fine job of carrying of carrying the sole acting responsibility. He nicely portrays the sense of confusion at finding himself in this strange situation and the choice he has to make to escape - or simply to just simply progress. Having watched it now a few times I will readily admit to sharing some of the same confusion as the protagonist in fully explaining what is taking place.
There are distinct elements of fantasy and horror that continually simmer just under the surface; there are hints of a fantasy world, or maybe of a space and time between worlds, or even symbolic connotations of the after-life. In all honesty, after numerous viewings of The Clearing, I've thought about it a lot and I'm still not 100% sure of what is actually going on - and do you know something? I like that, I like that a lot!
IronStar films, are an independent production company set up in 2014 in order to produce a variety of media content. As a team they are passionate about film making and are working hard to reach their goal of producing their first feature film. You can find their website at http://www.ironstarfilms.com/#!about/cee5
You can find the Facebook page for IronStar Films RIGHT HERE
Their Twitter handle thing is @IronstarFilms