Creative Focus Week

This week the University of Central Lancashire opens its doors to the public for its Creative Focus Week from the 16th to the 21st June. A week long degree show exhibition of all its creative final year students individual work with courses stretching across a broad spectrum of subjects from Architecture, Media, Design, Fine art, Performance and fashion across the universities Preston campus.

The week features sculpture, design, paintings, sound instillations, animation, film and much more displayed in various studios located in the Hanover, Victoria and Harris buildings and the universities Media Factory. With the Hanover building also exhibiting work by the foundation year art and design students.

The week also features the Creative Focus Awards on Friday 13th June, with one student from each of the creative courses nominated and a student will be chosen from each area to receive the award. Friday the 20th of June will also see the catwalk exhibition of the UCLan Fashion Design students, many of which showcased their collections at this years Graduate Fashion week at London’s Truman Brewery.

The entire week long Creative Focus exhibition (10am-6pm )  is completely free and guided tours are available for businesses, schools and colleges. Staff and students can also be found throughout each building ready to discuss courses and individual work for any visitors wanting any more information. This highly anticipated event is a chance to see many important names of the creative future displaying their final major projects that their whole three academic years have been working up to.

LUCY BRYDON: WRITER AND FILMMAKER

So It Goes: even though the title could be the one for a contemporary bestseller with a happy ending for bored teenagers to read on the beach, Lucy Brydon’s short film is not one that can be associated to cheap drama. Her work tackles psychological issues and focuses on complex characters that are completely laid bare by her uncluttered style. In this nine minute clip, she exposes the paradox of art, which can be both overwhelmingly oppressive and liberating, through the character of a young woman who is struggling to free herself from the psychological domination of an artist who believes that she is his muse.

You just take from meis her final cry before she turns away from him, and is one of the rare spoken parts of the film. So It Goes is indeed largely speechless and there is not much dialogue or music to fill in the empty silences of the protagonists’ lives. A train passing, a phone ringing, a shower running: the sounds of real life become more powerful and build up a tense atmosphere that explodes at the end. In that way, Brydon’s scenario is extremely close to reality and it is almost as if her camera was stuck to the skin of her characters to reveal entirely their thoughts, their questions, and their emotional identities.

It is clear by the maturity of her style that Lucy Brydon already has experience in film making. She graduated in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick, and then completed a Master’s degree in Film Directing at Columbia University, after expanding her experience in the field in Shanghai, where she worked for five years in journalism, film production and art shows. Today, she has an impressive list of contributions to films, festivals and exhibitions, and even publications (she was a contributor to the 2014 Introduction to Scottish Documentary Film). Her work has received international awards, including the Dewar Arts Award and the Panavision New Filmmaker Award, and she now runs Shy Film Productions in London. The icing on the cake? She is originally from Edinburgh…

 

Find out more on her official website or follow her on Twitter.

Amy Fletcher

We have always had a complex relationship with technology: the dictionary defines the term as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, but technology in its most abstract form could simply be defined as an apparatus or thing that aids us – a functional tool or a way of being. In that sense, we could argue that we have been intertwined with technology since the dawn of man. Artist and filmmaker Amy Fletcher explores these intricate ideas as part of her ongoing practice at Chelsea College of Art and Design.

In her most recent work Let’s Play, Fletcher creates a playful, whimsical space that seems to invite the viewer to interact with the screen even though there’s no viable form of participation. Amy notes that her work “has a childish sensibility to it […] most recently I have been examining the subject of technology within my practice; looking at its constantly evolving presence within society and our innate desire for the next slickest gadget and gizmo.”

As in popular culture, art itself is increasingly enmeshed by and within technology. Using the film medium, a high-tech camera and stop-frame animation, the artist appears in her own work through the form of disembodied limbs: poppy music accompanies a set of magical hands that conjure and play with a set of objects set against a flat backdrop.

As an audience, we know that it is not “real” and that the objects on screen are not really changing from 2D to 3D from one frame to another. Rather than trying to hide its fabricated nature, however, the video actually tries to emphasise this quality through the loud camera clicks that accompany each shot.

There’s something clever in the film’s careful positioning and flickering frames that captures the eye: like a deft magician, Amy uses the stop-frame animation genre to create an illusion the viewer is willing to invest in – despite, and perhaps because, of its honest and effective duplicity.

Take a look at Amy Fletcher’s online behance portfolio to see more of her past, current and ongoing work.

INTERVIEW: GHAZALEH GOLPIRA, FILMMAKER

My good friend Benjamin Franklin once said: “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins”. To me, this perfectly sums up the personality of Ghazaleh Golpira. It is crystal clear when she talks about her work that she is driven by an immense passion for filmmaking, but this does not mean that her decision to make a career in cinema was not a down-to-earth one. 100% aware of the fact that, as she puts it, “you can’t start right at the top and you need rejections to succeed”, Ghazaleh has a genuine maturity of thought that strongly appears in her work and in the themes she tackles. Today, Ghazaleh is adding the final touches to the first short film that she entirely wrote, directed and produced herself. Ángel Viajera is an eight-minute film set in Spain that portrays the relationship between a young schoolgirl and a negligent adult going through an emotional crisis. Find out more about it in the following interview!

Can you tell me more about your academic background and professional path?

I graduated in French and Spanish but I always made sure during my time at university that I incorporated courses focusing on cinema and filmmaking. After university, I did internships with independent production companies for five or six months, which allowed me to try different arenas of work within the cinema industry. I also built up my skills, my portfolio, and just my general knowledge of the industry. Now, I am considering an MA in film schools for film studies.

Was your decision to make a career in cinema a difficult one? Was it natural for you or were you drawn back by the competitiveness of the milieu?

It was natural in the sense that I chose it purely out of passion. I realized that at the end of the day, nothing makes me more enthusiastic than the perspective of creating films. And I think it is important to see it as a passion more than a career. It can become so corrupt if you do it for no other reason than the money. But I do realize that you can’t start right at the top, you need rejections to succeed and it requires a lot of discipline. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and I think it’s important that you see every position. People are not going to invest in your talent if they don’t see you as capable of doing different things. You have to persist and persist, but in the end it all comes down to “I do this because it is my passion”.

What is it exactly that you want to show in your films?

I realized over the years that I love writing about social realism and things that we can identify with. When it comes to me, I like watching films because I take a lot of meaning from them.  I identify with films that take on society, that have to do with family, politics, ageing or relationships. I really think that getting as close to reality as possible is essential in filmmaking.

Can you tell me more about Ángel Viajera?

It is an eight-minute film about a young girl who has a turbulent relationship with her mother. As she is walking in a park, the daughter encounters a man in his mid-thirties who is going through an emotional crisis. Gradually the man recognizes the wisdom of the young girl and he opens up to her. At the same time, he becomes the father figure that she never had. I wanted to show that wisdom doesn’t depend necessarily on age but on life experience, and that connecting with someone can bring chemistry and identification.

How long did it take to produce? How many people were involved? What were the challenges?

I had the idea back at the end of April and I wrote the script, knowing that I was going to get a break from work during which I could make the film. It was tricky! We had to do it in a week-end because the cast were working or studying. So we originally planned to shoot the film over the course of one weekend but due to some technical issues, we overran a few days. Luckily we shot it in six days or so. The main challenges were the lighting and the temperature (34°C in Valencia,). I was also concerned with the fact that the young girl is only 9 years old, so I didn’t want to overwork her. I’d like to praise her for her hard work, I am really proud of her and of all the actors! All of them are Spanish, I met the main actor, José, when I went on an exchange to Valencia, and the little girl is his niece. Even though they are not related in the film, I think that it is important that they are family because it means that they were comfortable acting together. It was a very intimate project, for example I had friends collaborating to help me out with technical and equipment challenges. It was more of an experimental project to see how far I could go with minimal equipment in a foreign country. I wanted to focus more on the creative process than the commercial process.

Why did you choose to set it in Spain?

I think it is because the story is quite an intimate, sweet, nurtured, warm one. It’s a nestled story, a cute, romantic one and I thought that the openness of the culture and of the people in Spain was perfectly adapted. And the weather of course!  London is too much of an urban, metropolitan, crowded place, it’s too big, too grand to capture the intimacy of their relationship. And also, very importantly, Spain is the natural habitat of my actors and I wanted them to feel comfortable.

Finally, a difficult question: if you were to describe your work in one word, what would it be?

That’s tricky! I would probably go for existential impetus. I focus on the idea that life has its ups and downs. It reminds me of the film Gravity, which is all about existentialism: when the characters are about to die, they find the strength to try to survive. They can’t give up because there are people waiting for them and needing them. I think existentialist ideas are always going to be beyond my mind and existentialism is very central to my work.

GLTI.CH Karaoke

To mesh music, performance and collaborative participation is no easy task, yet it’s what artists/writers/wannabe hackers Kyougn Kmi and Daniel Rourke (who’s currently completing his PhD in art and writing practice at Goldsmiths) set out to do in GLTI.CH Karaoke. Most of us have half-baked childhood fantasies about becoming rock stars that we live out in our showers to an imaginary audience. The fundamental human desire to make lyrical noise and its power as an intimate social experience is, perhaps, best seen in the karaoke social phenomenon, which originated in Japan in the 1970s.

The word karaoke originates from the Japanese character kara or “empty” and ōkesutora for “orchestra”. Strangely poetic: empty orchestra. Karaoke’s pop-culture existence feeds on and is inseparable from technology: a dark, faux-luxurious room and microphones connected to the mother womb of the TV screen, which flashes music videos and proclaims lyrics across its face as we belt out songs (badly), sycophants of desire. Why do we do it? Maybe because singing is a cathartic experience, or because it gives us access to our deepest fantasies.

GLTI.CH Karaoke takes this one step further. Their website, Glti.ch (in itself a whimsical play on words), sets out an unofficial manifesto for their intentions:

“Since April 2011 we’ve been exposing the course of accidents, temporal lyrical disjoints and technical out-of syncs. GLTI.CH Karaoke breaches hopeless distances with cultural and technical make-dos of readily available technology, to kluge people together in glitchy songfests.”

Their ultimate aim?

“To bring people together and have them collaborate on karaoke duets. […] Using free versions of Skype, Youtube and collaborative web software TinyChat, we orchestrate duets between people who have never met each other, who don’t speak the same language, bypassing thousands of geographic miles with glitchy, highly compressed data and a bit of patience.”

There’s something altogether wonderful and utopian about the idea of singing together with strangers across the Internet, our voices traveling through electric wires and pixelated through the winds of the earth. Our imperfection is moving, our technological and organic errors a fundamental part of what it means to be homo sapien. Thus, the glitch or “glti.ch”, either aesthetic glitches or broken translation in the filtered collaboration between people, represents our contemporary human condition.

GLTI.CH quotes Iman Moradi, “In a sense we are cherishing the little idiosyncrasies that are absent from the soulless machines churned from the production lines.”

We can read this as a simultaneous celebration of and reaction to the glistening Internet, which brings us together virtually but also limits our interaction with each other in RL. Is this a bad thing? What is GLTI.CH Karaoke, really? Its medium revolves around the Web and site-based events; its outcome encompasses social media platforms, blogs and video compilations. Perhaps what the project ultimately aims to achieve is to forge a new way of seeing, evoking a new simulative way of collaboration with other people in a brave new world.

“GLTI.CH Karaoke not only inhabits the errors, the time delays and compression artifacts, but the ultimate variable of human interaction. Here, we believe, a neutral collaborative space can be mapped out, free to transcend markets, locations, time zones – free to roam between abandoned city basements, student bed sits and internet café laptops. GLTI.CH Karaoke events revel in the slippery nature of the web. Our manifesto asks to be written and rewritten as it gathers cracks, bruises and mistranslation errors.”

Enchanted yet? Read through GLTI.CH Karaoke’s previous events and keep a look out for its next virtual intervention on their website, flickr, twitter, facebook and youtube. Let us know what you think of glitch aesthetics in the comments below.

DANIEL NICKSON: FILMMAKER

In the exotic world of cinema, some like to create another world that couldn’t be more remote from what we humans are familiar with. Randomly speaking, this can be a world where it is fine for parents to transform into pigs and for little girls to work for faceless divinities that eat their employees to calm their nerves – yes, the trauma caused by Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away on eight year-old me WAS great. Others, like Daniel Nickson, prefer to focus on the everyday. In Foxes in the Underground , his very impressive graduation film for the University of Westminster, he depicts the coming together of entirely different men to save their jobs at a British news broadcasting station. With this short film, Nickson surpassed academic expectations and reached international recognition as he was nominated for a number of foreign festivals like the Cannes Court Métrage or the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Today, Nickson is studying in Columbia University Film School but his life in the Big Apple does not keep him from staying true to his mother-country. He was born in Manchester, studied in Westminster and now claims that he is working from both New York and from London. Focusing on masculinity and ordinary episodes from the everyday lives of the British people is central to his work. He is successful in rendering his stories touching without over-dramatizing them. From Shadowboxer, the story of a father pressuring his son into being a boxer, toThe File, which portrays the absolute alienation of an employee because of his bureaucratic job, Daniel Nickson impresses by his technical skills and by the maturity of the themes he develops. There is almost a James Joycan spirit to his short films as they highlight the tragedy of the protagonists’ lives like Joyce did with his Dubliners. Fine with me, as long as Nickson doesn’t start getting his inspiration from Ulysses.

His next project, Ferry, is a short film about migration and trafficking in Eastern Europe, that he is making in collaboration with Reka Posta and that should be released by May 2014. It focuses on how car trafficking is changing the lives of migrants in Hungary, and was funded entirely by donations. To find out more about this project or to donate, you can visit the project’s fiscal sponsor’s website. To be kept updated of Daniel Nickson’s latest news, you can also visit Brainwash , a cultural blog that he co-directs and that organizes film events every month. Or follow him on Twitter. Or visit his official website. Your call!

Diogo Guerner

Diogo Guerner caused rather a stir recently among the press at my university after winning the prize for best fiction in the Yorkshire Region for his film Snapshot at the 2013 Royal Television Society Awards.

Diogo is now a third year student on the BSc in Film and Television Production course at the University of York and directed his winning film in his second year. The judges said Snapshot stood out because of the way “a simple story was so effectively told with assurance and real skill, with the quality of the script matched by the quality of the camera work”. They also commented on the great use of special effects and overall high standard of direction.

When asked, Diogo said: “It was a great honour to receive the prize for best fiction film at the RTS Yorkshire Television awards. I’m really proud and excited to have Snapshot representing Yorkshire but also the University of York at the RTS national competition.”

He also wanted to thank everyone involved in the project and thanked his department and fellow students for their hard work and commitment to the cause.

The head of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at York, Andrew Higson, commented on his pride in his student. The aims of the course are to create world-class film-makers of every kind, and he commented that he was happy his students were rising to the challenge.

To check out Diogo’s other work, check him out on Vimeo. http://vimeo.com/user4403019

ARCHIBALD PHOTOGRAPHY

Most of us are pretty much content with the three likes we got on Facebook from the Instagrammed picture of our feet sunbathing in front of the sea last summer. When you entrust Mark from Archibald Photography with a phone that has a decent camera, the result is not exactly the same. Who knew that you could master photography to the point that shots taken with a phone camera look like a professional photo shoot?

In Mark’s Nokia Lumia 920 Camera Project, the conventions of traditional photography (convention n°1: use an acceptable camera) are successfully subverted and it is a combination of both talent and technique that allow him to capture the beauty of Scottish landscapes. They say you can tell a good workman by his tools, but clearly Mark doesn’t go by old sayings. The 32 shots taken from his phone positively show that he has an impeccable eye for photography as they take us on a journey through the colorful, vibrant – and sunny – Scottish countryside.

Archibald Photography was created in 2003 by Donny, who is in charge of marketing and client contact, and her husband Mark, the photographer. Both born and raised in Scotland, they have done some projects at home, but their main focus is travel documentary photography. Mark’s work is already recognized in the United Kingdom and he has won many awards: the 2009 Best Complete Wedding Photographer, the 2010 Scottish Fashion Photographer of the Year and the 2012 Scottish Portrait Photographer of the Year. He and Donny are now based in Biggar, in Scotland, and have specialized in wedding photography, along with portraits, commercials, and fashion and music photography.

Interestingly, Mark’s shots of Scotland strongly contrast with the rest of his work – and whether his vision of Scottish weather is accurate can become a subject of serious debate. In his travel pictures particularly, he makes a strong use of black and white that gives a dramatic and almost tormented atmosphere to the places he shoots: even an innocent palm tree in Lagos becomes threatening from the perspective of his camera. This is because he works a lot with film and not digital cameras, which is quite an unusual initiative that lends more authenticity to his work. His photos seem like they are from another age and in this sense, they allow us to travel not only through space, but also through time.

To be kept informed of Mark and Donny’s projects, you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or visit their official website.

Luke Tristram Malkin

A talking squirrel isn’t what everyone looks for in a friend, but ‘Gary the Party Squirrel’ and his African adventure is what Luke Malkin is currently shooting in Tanzania. Luke; a film-maker originally from Stoke is currently living in Tanzania and working as a teacher. Some people just have all the fun!

The film he’s currently working on is a spin-off from a show that was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011 called “Squirrel Party”. It was an extremely successful show parodying Saturday morning children’s television, and Luke’s puppet, Gary, has since taken on a life of his own. Luke is the fictional children’s entertainer and Gary is, well, Gary, and they are struggling through the jungle in a futile search for the non-existent ‘Dark Green Squirrel’. Sounds a riot!

Luke did an MA in Digital Film Production at the University of York, and his final project, “Shed” (see production still far left) was a stunning and very moving piece of cinema. The 30 minute film was an adaptation of a play by his friend Tom Crowley, and followed the lives of a group of friends who had grown up visiting a shed in the woods in a small dead-end town. It was about growing up, getting out and letting go, and was a fantastic production. The whole film was shot inside a wooden shack they built within one of the York production studios and the logistics of the build were incredible.

Since that project, Luke has worked in Spain, making virtual learning films with the Virtual School as well as advertising films for a large independent Seville hotel. His portfolio is building and is set to be a big name in the film industry in a few years time.

If you want to check out more of Luke’s work, including his digital show reels, visit his website: lukemalkin.wordpress.com. There’s links to a lot of his films on youtube as well as an up-to-date blog of what he’s up to at the moment.

Will Sweeney

There are fewer greater places to discover illustrative talent then at a celebrated institution like the Design Museum in London: it was there, during Vestige’s technology-based event, that I discovered the eclectic work of artist Will Sweeney. Treading somewhere between the mainstream and the obscure, Sweeney’s work nevertheless captures the popular imagination with elaborate drawings and renderings of fantastical alien landscapes and hybrid creatures – something Japanese, something 60’s inspired, something that entices and arrests your senses.

Some of Will Sweeney’s most commercially successful work includes his music videos for Birdy Nam Nam and his comic Tales from Greenfuzz. Watching Birdy Nam Nam’s music video The Parachute Ending is like taking a short acid trip: the colour positively pops in a psychedelic tableau of Iron Maiden-esque statues, flickering sci-fi screens and symbiotic plants in what Sweeney calls a “meat versus vegetables” kind of story.

Another of his works, Purposemaker, is a stunning pencil work of such detailed precision it likens itself as a futuristic interpretation of famed Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel’s Dulle Griet. A diorama of surreal characters juxtaposed on a flattened landscape, both works seem to reference allegorical interpretations of life and death – in times and places both real and imaginary.

Illustration, prints, comics, videos, toys, clothing and even exhibitions: the prolific artist has extended his incredible style to incorporate all aspects of commercial design and co-runs his London-based outlet Alakazam with Ayako Terashima. For more information or to see more of Sweeney’s portfolio, check out his biography on Big Active.

Dan Ojari

Animators exist and work in a pocket of time quite different from that of other filmmakers – a dimension where time wheezes and slows down to miniscule second by second, frame by frame. Take the words of award-winning animator and director Dan Ojari, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011:

“What a second is… Brief? Insignificant? Short? Most people don’t really pay too much attention to one.”

Blink, and another second has past that you will likely never miss. It may be argued in reality that sequential time is fabricated, but that’s exactly what an animation is: a sequence of events flickering by, capturing moments in time.

Perhaps Ojari’s keen insight as cinematic keeper of time is why his RCA graduate short film Slow Derek was a tale about the quintessential everyman: an office worker going through the gestures of every banal second of the day even as he begins to suspect that Earth is, slowly, leaving him behind. Slow Derek has garnered numerous awards and critical acclaim, from the Visual Science Award at the UCD Imagine Science Film Satellite Festival to the Grand Prix of Animayo and Animated Encounters.

As Derek rides his scheduled train or sits at his desk, we feel a sense of complacency that is suddenly interjected with uncanny visions of a spinning void. Ojari comments that the film is “very much about relativity and the contrast between the mundane and the colossal. The starting point was after I became particularly fascinated with how fast the earth is travelling, especially because we don’t feel this speed. We are literally hurtling through space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour and yet don’t feel a thing. I felt this was, aside from being an amazing actual fact, also was an interesting metaphor for modern day life.”

We feel aligned with the protagonist specifically because he is a vessel for our contemporary fears and suspicions that the world is somehow not what it seems. As we lead what philosopher Henry David Thoreau might call “lives of quiet desperation”, we believe there is a “true” reality slinking amongst us, just out of our grasp. Ojari’s character takes his destiny into his own hands by climbing out of the literal and metaphorical train window and plunging fearlessly into the void.

Red pill or blue pill? In a short eight-minute film, Ojari bundles all of these philosophical questions into a cinematic feast of modeling-clay beauty that mirrors our world and our contemporary neuroses.

To see more of Dan Ojari’s work, visit his website or follow him on Vimeo.

Joe Cole

In Matt Smith’s haunting directorial debut, Cargese, the perpetual grin of Joe Cole provides a portrait of skewed morality that most actors take a lifetime to successfully evoke. That it came so early in his career is testament to the talent of an actor whose recent run of performances have established him as “One to Watch”

That particular tagline doesn’t really do him justice though, especially as his recent activity includes work on the Emmy-winning The Hour and the elegant and gruesome Peaky Blinders.

Cole isn’t just “One to Watch”, he’s one to admire, one about to explode.

Despite piercing eyes and cheekbones that cut could glass, Cole’s propensity to opt for uncomfortable and uncompromising roles render him as anything but a typical star. His sited admiration for fellow Brit Tom Hardy might give an indication of the potential trajectory of the young actor.

That is to say that there is a ruthless streak evident in his current dramatic output that sees Cole consistently involved in innovative or original projects.

One of those projects is Peaky Blinders.

On Peaky Blinders, Cole, 24, plays John, the youngest member of Birmingham’s foremost feared family, The Shelbys, with a wild blend of sharp-suited bluster and dangerous doe-eyes. Widowed and weary but still laced with the cold malice that the Peaky Blinders built their reputation on, it’s an enormously mature performance that holds up against Hollywood heavyweights Sam Neil and Cilian Murphy and comes to represent a crucial part of the narrative arc.

Working alongside the likes of Smith, Neil and Murphy will only enhance the credibility afforded to Joe with the next co-megastar on the horizon Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, in a film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down. As well as this Cole has just completed filming Pressure, a film about a group of divers who get stuck under water in their diving bell when a storm on the ocean surface sinks their mother ship. Another genre, and a genuine thriller for Cole to sink his teeth into then, but for Cole pressure is only the title, not an overriding concern.

The time to print out pictures of him, declaring the rising star as your new favourite actor, is probably now.