English

By Dan Witherall
English MA Student

So, festival submissions have been made. We eagerly await, and…

We get into Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival. We are ecstatic. I’m not going but Colin is. He will do a Q&A after the showing, and we will have our North American premiere. Lovely.

Then, some bloke who runs a distribution company in the States contacts us. He wants to offer us a deal. We employ the expertise of Pip Piper as our consultant and we learn a bonkers amount about the industry simply from observing his negotiations. We cannot thank Pip enough.

Pip Piper is a human male that I have met due to my time in BCU*. And my time at BCU is a very recent edition to this tale. The tuition that we’ve garnered from Pip’s experience as a producer are of immeasurable importance and quality. The journey that Lost Creek has taken us on has merged with my enrolment at BCU at the perfect time. Like a river, in fact. A creek is a river, see. See? See!?

Anyway, the point is that my involvement with BCU has boosted the momentum of Lost Creek like one of those tsunamis that sort of swell rather than storm through the town and destroy everything instantly. The impact is the same, but the initial wave is less noisy. Nevertheless, BCU has been a serious, serious factor in where we are today. We only wish that I had started the course earlier. The guidance and advice that Screenwriting tutor Andy Conway has given me during my time here has made me a better writer, one thousand percent. We cannot thank Andy enough.

Then, we win Best Feature Narrative at Pittsburgh. Colin sends me a text as I walk through Digbeth at 2 AM. I feel like a total rock star until I observe a homeless man urinating next to me, and I’m succinctly brought back down to earth.

The festival director at Pittsburgh gives Colin a contact to an L.A. sales agent and we give him a call. He sees the film and wants to represent us. We end discussions with the current distributor and go with the sales agent. His plan is to sell the film in as many territories as possible. Sweet.

Lost Creek 4

While writing / filming, we never once discussed “The Amblin Feel”. But when we were editing and adding the score (which is bangin’, by the way), someone said, “Why not give it that sun-drenched Amblin thing?” So, y’know, we did.

Then, Stranger Things came out on Netflix.

It has a similar theme, feel, sound and look. This helps us massively. Suddenly, our trailer is approaching HALF A MILLION views as of October 2016. Also, as I write this, I learn that our film has been cropping up on IMDb watch lists and we’ve garnered a Google Sidebar. It all seems so legit, right? Now we just need a Wiki page!

Then, we get into the International Horror Film Festival (later rebranded as FEARnyc) in New York. I book my tickets. The jury members are people that Colin and I have wanted to meet / work with / exist near for years. They have seen our film, and we’ll get to meet them. It’s also an industry festival which means that we’re automatically considered for distribution. There’s a red carpet event and we will be expected to speak to media outlets at the opening ceremony. Colin will wear a sharp suit and bowtie. I will wear whatever fits.

Then, we get accepted into Freak Show Horror Fest in Orlando. It’s the same week as FEARnyc so we won’t be going (we have a representative going, though).

We are exhausted and elated and terrified and excited and feel slightly unprepared for whatever comes next.

But then, in our sparse moments of clarity and soberness, we are determined. We take the compliments and the criticism (it took a long time to convince Colin to stop reading the YouTube comments on the trailer) and we steady ourselves. This is our lives, and what we want. The only thing we want. We believe in ourselves and we know we are capable. Just like anyone else is. We spent a long, long time saying, “We’re gonna make a film”.

And then we did. Just like anyone can. And seriously, you can!

Next time, I’ll be banging on about my experiences in New York, and whatever else this insanity has dumped on our laps. So stay tuned! Or don’t. I’m not your mother.

—-

*Pip taught me how to make two little shorts on my phone (Where He Is Now, Denizen). Thanks again for that, Pip!

 

 

English

By Dan Witherall
English MA Student

Lost Creek 2
Hi, I’m Dan and I’m a filmmaker. Well, technically I’m a filmmaker, but really more of a screenwriter. I’ll explain:

Me and my BFF (Colin Adams-Toomey – you’ll be reading his name a lot) decided to make a film. We decided this separately, about twenty-six years ago. Me in my South Welsh village of Cilfynydd, and Colin in his Delaware household over in the USA. We were eight years old, and Jurassic Park had just blown our minds, via our eye holes. Ten years later, Colin and his family decided to leave the States after Bush got his second term in office, and thank goodness he did. Because it was that decision that led Colin to enrol in Aberystwyth University back in 2003. There, he met me.

We didn’t get on. He was too loud and me too misanthropic. But eventually we got over that. I bought earplugs and he lowered his standards of ‘friendship’ significantly. Once that barrier was crossed, we decided we would make a film together. And then another. And another. And then more.

Hopefully.

Years later, Colin calls me and says, “Dan, I know what film I want to make. It’s Lost Creek.” I knew the film (we’d been batting ideas back and forth for years) and I was not happy. I’ll explain:

Lost Creek is a fantasy horror/drama that centres on a young boy’s friendship with a little girl in the woods near his house. As his friendship with her strengthens, his dreams begin to come to life. And they ain’t pleasant dreams. It’s basically about the loss of childhood.

Seems fine, right? Wrong. This is our first film, and Colin wants to take three children into the woods of Delaware over the winter months and chuck at least one of them into a river. Why not throw a cat in the mix to make it even harder? But, he was adamant and I’m glad he was. I’ll say it once and once only: Colin, you were right.

I should also point out that if it were not for Colin then I would absolutely not be a filmmaker right now.

Writing Lost Creek was arduous in the sense that we were on different sides of the planet, but we’re kinda used to that, so by then we had a formula. Colin’s idea, Colin’s lead. That’s how we work – other scripts have been vice-versa. So, Colin writes a chunk and sends it to me, I send back detailed notes. Rinse. Repeat.

Then, of course, we needed money. I chipped in a chunk (hence the Exec Producer credit), Colin dumped a load in, and the rest was garnered through good ol’ Kickstarter. Without it, the film would never have been made. No chance.

We got $30,000. It’s a lot of money, I know, I get it. But to make a film? It’s pennies. But Colin was smart and had help projecting a budget and we wrote with budget in mind. If you’re planning to make an independent film (and please, please do!) then you will need to do this.

Colin and I are very much a team, but he is certainly more the director, and I the writer. This will change, but it was handy at the time because I don’t love filming. And they shot it in the States, so I was only there for one day of filming. Colin did a handy – and lengthy – blog here about the practicalities of making the film. Check it out. It’s genuinely great!

Lost Creek 3

So, the film was made. We cut a trailer. We made a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. We submitted the film to about forty festivals. Then, some bloke called Trevor approached me on Twitter and told me that he has “an in” with some YouTube channels and asked if I’d be okay with him promoting our film. I said yes.

The trailer is suddenly viewed 20,000 times in its day of release. Our festival submissions mean that IMDb have set up accounts for us* (my picture is rather fetching). The trailer gets over 100,000 views and then suddenly fake torrents of the film are showing up on illegal download sites. The film isn’t there, so don’t try. But, this made us think that people were actually starting to want to see it.

That’s gotta be good, right?

So in the next edition, I’ll be talking about the madness that came next. And it is madness. I’ll explain:

—-

*My IMDb page also features Cunning Stunts, written for BCU and used as a showreel for the actors involved.

 

Lost Creek 1

 

 

English

Hi! I’m Isaac and I’m a third year student studying English Language with English Literature here at the School of English. My journey to university began when I signed up for an A Level evening course studying English Language and Literature. Whilst there, my lecturer suggested I should take my studies to university… and here I am in the final few weeks of my degree!

What really make BCU stand out from the crowd was the possibility for students to take a major in Language and a minor in Literature. There was also a huge variety of Language modules to choose from unlike other universities I had visited. In first year, every student took the same modules to make sure that everyone was at the same standard before choosing modules in second and third year (this will change a bit when the new curriculum comes in, but the basic idea for semester 1 will be the same!).

There have been three strands to my studies throughout my second and third years. The first was the building blocks of Linguistics: Studying Language, Describing Language, Grammar and Vocabulary, Language & Social Identity, Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Language and Cognition. These modules helped me to build the foundation of my linguistic knowledge and helped me get to grips with the fundamentals of language.

The next strand allowed me to take my linguistic studies and put them into practice in the study of Literature in modules like Literary Linguistics and Narrative Analysis. When I say ‘literature’, I don’t just mean books like Great Expectations and Jane Eyre, but also newspapers, comics, TV series and films. The assignments for these modules gave me the freedom to choose what to investigate – in Literary Linguistics, I looked at Politeness Theory in Star Trek!

The brilliance of this course allowed me the freedom to choose two very diverse modules, which brings me to the final strand of Literature modules: Children’s Fiction and Drama Workshop. Children’s Fiction gave me an insight into how childhood has been viewed throughout the ages and reflected in the literature available for children. In Drama Workshop, we were given the task of choosing and producing a play from scratch. This allowed me to develop my creative thinking and performance skills and working with a group of 12, team building was essential.

Outside of my studies at the School of English, I was elected Student Representative for the class of 2017 in my first year (now called Student Academic Leaders) and have supported students and staff in improving the learning community, addressing issues with staff members and making sure the School runs smoothly.

Another big part of my life at BCU is the part-time jobs I have undertaken while studying. My main role is the Library Peer Mentor at the Curzon Library where I support students who want to improve or are having difficulties with their information literacy skills (locating, evaluating and effectively using information). I give one-to-one tutorials, hold drop-in sessions outside the library, and support the activities of the Learning and Teaching team.

In my second year, I took on the role of Student Academic Mentor for a group of first years in my second year. My role was to welcome the new students to the school and help with acclimatising to life at university. With the group of mentors for the entire school, I helped plan introductory sessions throughout welcome week to give students the best possible start to university.

My final job at university is a Student Academic Partner on the organising committee for the School of English Undergraduate Research Conference 2017. In this role, I am responsible with the rest of the team for the planning of the conference – from room bookings to choosing the research papers for presentation – as well as making sure that the conference day runs as smoothly as possible.

I have learned a great deal from these roles, from planning and organisational skills to event management. Plus, I get to see a glimpse of what life is like behind the scenes of university which adds to my appreciation of all the staff members who work to give us the best university experience possible.

Of course, life at BCU is more than just studying! I have been involved with the Students’ Union through the societies I joined and have remained at throughout my time at BCU. I even stood for election at the Dis.Cover society (for students with disabilities) and was the President in my second year. This brings an extra layer of experiences to add to my CV.

As you can see, my life has never been dull at university and there are so many opportunities and experiences to be had. I highly recommend taking up as many as you can but the trick is to find the right balance between your studies, work and extra-curricular activities. You’re usually at university only once in your life and the best piece of advice I was given, and I am now giving to you is: savour the experience – never let a second fall from your grasp and enjoy it!