A SPECIAL INVITE FOR A VERY SPECIAL CAUSE

On Wednesday, 2nd September, the Pixel Revolution team of directors Ian & Dominic Higgins and producer Nigel Martin Davey were invited to represent the field of film in Birmingham, and be among 250 specially selected recognised dignitaries from all industries, to sign ten Limited Edition Prints of the ‘Forward in Unity’ Graffiti Art by renowned Birmingham street artist Gent 48.

From the official website:

This epic depiction is of the City’s NHS and front line workers fighting back against the evil grasp of the virus that has taken hold of the social lives and economic well being of the residents of Birmingham. You can go and see this current masterpiece by Gent 48, in the flesh, on Meriden Street in Digbeth.

All proceeds from the selling of the prints will go Acorns Children’s Hospice, St Mary’s Hospice and SIFA Fireside.

Also, among the dignitaries yesterday adding his signature to the prints, was advertising legend and BAFTA winning film producer, Trevor Beattie.  

It was a great honour to be invited! A huge thank you to Prof. Paul Cadman and Nick Herd.

Also to top the week off, our most recent short film, OF WOLVES AND MEN has picked up it’s second award, Best Animation at the New Cinema Lisbon Monthly Film Festival.

ANIMATED SHORT – LOCKDOWN FILM MAKING

We’ve always said limitations are essential for creativity, and are very often the genesis for some of the very best ideas we have as filmmakers.

However, in the current situation of a national lockdown, with its ultra-strict limitations on human interaction, making a film, even a short one, would seem to be an impossible task.

But it was perhaps because of this seemingly impossible set of limitations that we felt the creative urge to make one.

We decided on a short film that would be connected  to the feature project we currently have in development, Fleur, which tells the story of a rescue dog. So, it had to be dog themed.

We’ve always been fascinated by how humans and dogs became the best of friends, so it didn’t take us long to decide on what the film would be about…

OF WOLVES AND MEN tells the story of an imaginary first encounter between humans and wolves and how this meeting would change both species forever.

Watch the trailer below:

To make the film we mixed specially created CG animated sequences and illustrations with stock footage and outtakes from two previous films we had shot, All That Remains and Evolution.

Actor Leo Ashizawa in make-up to play a prehistoric man for our short film Evolution.

Actor Leo Ashizawa in make-up to play a prehistoric man for our short film Evolution.

We were very excited to cast Peter Egan as the narrator of the film (thanks to our amazing producer Nigel Martin Davey). As well as being a respected actor and very well known face on TV (staring in shows such as Downtown Abbey and After Life), Peter is a passionate animal rights activist, so we felt he was the perfect choice from the moment we started penning the script.

We are also very pleased to be able to use the film to raise awareness and support the great work done by Birmingham Dogs Home. Please do check out their website and consider lending your support.

Below are some stills from the film:

A huge thank you to Tony Ellis, Sally Humphreys Wood and Andrew Whelan and Rachel Frost of Birmingham Dog’s Home, and of course, special thank you to Peter Egan, Leo Ashizawa and Kanae and Anna Kimura for helping make the film possible!

Watch this space for news on when OF WOLVES AND MEN will be released.

7 DAYS NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE

Making 7 DAYS – THE STORY OF “BLIND DAVE” HEELEY has certainly been a long journey. A journey that started over three years ago when our producer, Nigel Martin Davey first approached us with the idea of turning Dave’s incredible story into a film.

But more than just a journey, as every film should be, it’s also been a process of evolution for us as film-makers. Through the process of making this film, we experimented with our approach to working with actors, our reliance on storyboards and we’ve embraced new technology, particularly with our extensive use of smartphones to shoot several of the scenes.

So, as this journey finally comes to an end, we find ourselves even more excited than ever to begin all over again!

BBC West Midlands talk about the launch of 7 DAYS below:

Here’s a link to an article in the Express and Star  and Athletics Weekly on the release of the film.

 

There are so many people we are indebted to for their assistance and support, but in particular we would like to thank the Heeley family, the late Sir Doug Ellis, Tony Ellis, South and City College, Hillscourt Conference centre, Kay Wilton, Antony Bowater, Moondog Labs, BBC Midlands, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Express and Star Newspaper and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

7 DAYS – THE STORY OF BLIND DAVE HEEELY is now available for download at REELHOUSE.

The film is also available here with Audio Description for visually impaired viewers.

7 AWARD NOMINATIONS FOR 7 DAYS

7 Days – the Story of “Blind Dave” Heeley has just picked up it’s seventh award nomination!

This time it’s the LOS ANGELES CINEFEST, an international event, consisting of live screenings (and of course a red carpet!) scheduled to be held in Los Angeles in January 2020. Fingers crossed!

The film should be released to the general public and available for purchase late September – so stay tuned for more info!

TWO MORE AWARD NOMINATIONS FOR 7 DAYS!

7 DAYS picks up more Laurels as it makes official selections in two international film festivals.

We’re excited to announce that 7 DAYS has been chosen to compete at the 2019 Oniros Film Awards which will be a live televised event held on August 24th in Saint-Vincent, Italy.

Back in April we picked up the”Best Inspirational Film” in their monthly awards. This time we’re competing in the “Best Feature Film” category.

According to their official website:

The Oniros Film Awards® is all about Dreams (ὄνειρος = oneiros, dream in Greek language) and is conceived by Dreamers for Dreamers. It encourages filmmakers to “dream big always” and that’s certainly a philosophy we believe in!

7 DAYS has also made the official selection in the Indo Global International Film Festival in Mumbai, home to Asia’s Biggest Film Hub, Bollywood. In their own words the film festival is dedicated to supporting the filmmakers, “dream-weaver’s journey”. 

We’ll also be announcing another special public screening of 7 DAYS very soon – so stay tuned!

Blind Dave Heeley film screening

7 DAYS SCREENED AT WEST BROMWICH ALBION F.C

On Wednesday the 12th June, 7 DAYS – The story of “Blind Dave” Heeley had a special charity screening at the West Bromwich Albion Football club.

Originally it was intended to show the film on the two huge screens on the pitch itself, but heavy rains meant the screening had to take place indoors instead – in the Hawthorns suite.

7 Days screening
Dave Heeley with young Charlie Boswell, actors Robert Harrison, Jane Campion Hoye, Producer Nigel Martin Davey and WBA director Rob Lake. Image courtesy of Express and Star

The rain didn’t stop play and it didn’t stop people from coming to watch, in fact, the 220 plus capacity room wasn’t big enough to seat everyone that came, with several having to stand at the back!

Once again, the film received a tremendous reception and Dave Heeley was there to take a Q and A session after the film.

Thanks to the Albion Foundation for another fantastic night!

For more about the night check out this WBA news article.

Also here’s a great article about the screening in the Express and Star Newspaper.

Dave Heeley

7 DAYS SCREENED AT SOUTH AND CITY COLLEGE BIRMINGHAM

Last Friday 7 DAYS – THE STORY OF BLIND DAVE HEELEY was screened at South and City College Birmingham.

We have worked with students from South and City College over the course of several years on various projects, and it’s always been a pleasure to have them on set. It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to help new and emerging talent. Indeed, our head make-up artist, Tania Ashworth, is herself an ex-student of the college.

It was a great turn out on the night once again, and the film had a great reception!

Dave and Deb Heeley
Dave and Deb Heeley

Among the guests attending the screening, was another Midlands born legend. Trevor Beattie is considered one the leading figures in advertising in Britain and is a prolific film producer, whose credits include the Bafta award winning Moon, staring Sam Rockwell and the feature documentary Spitfire, narrated by Charles Dance. It was a great honour to have Trevor in the audience and to spend time with him afterwards.

It was also great to finally meet Alan Sharman from the Alan Sharman Agency, a casting company that has supplied many young talented actors for our productions.

Blind Dave Film
Producer Nigel Martin Davey, director Ian Higgins, Dave Heeley, director Dominic Higgins and Alan Sharman

Below are more pictures from the night. Many thanks to ex-South and City College student, Abdoul for taking the photos!

A huge thank you to South and City College Birmingham for hosting the night. Special thanks to Steve Dourass, Mike Hopkins, Dawn Edwards, Grant and his team behind the scenes, and Hollywood Monster for making the night one to remember!

7 DAYS WINS AWARD

We’re really pleased to announce that 7 DAYS – The Story of Blind Dave Heeley has just won this months Oniros Award for most inspirational picture.

The Oniros award is an International Monthly and Annual IMDb qualifying competition based in Aosta, Italy, which celebrates films from all around the world with awards in different categories and genres. 

As a monthly winner, 7 DAYS will automatically enter the “Best of Year” competition as Annual Official Selections in a televised event. Fingers crossed….

THE BIG NIGHT

Friday 1st February 2019 was the big night. After more than two years of hard grafting, sleepless nights and flying by the seats of our pants, 7 Days – The Story of Blind Dave Heeley was to have its first public screening, with a specially invited audience of nearly 300 people!

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

The venue was the iconic Birmingham Rep theatre, in the heart of Birmingham.  It was the perfect place. Huge thank you to Ruth Morgan, Lynette Dakin and the rest of the team for their generosity and for doing such a splendid job in helping to organize the night.

It was two very nervous directors and one very nervous producer that walked into that theatre. The film had only been seen by a handful of people. What was the reception going to be like? It was classic first night nerves.

We arrived early, eager to run sound checks and to make sure everything was set up for the night. But with the local news due to arrive before the screening, we didn’t have long to take a breather. The Express and Star and ITV News were keen to cover the screening, and ITV was going live! So, no pressure then!

By 6.30 pm, the guests were arriving. It was great to have all three “Daves” together again! The real Dave Heeley, Jack Lane, who plays him in our film, and Charlie Boswell who plays the young Dave aged 11.

The main cast were all in attendance for the evening, including Sarah Manners who plays Dave’s wife, Debbie and Birmingham based actor Robert Harrison, who plays “Mac”, Dave’s running guide during the Sevens.

They were joined by Larry Rew who plays Dave’s granddad, Carl Wharton who takes on the role of Dave’s dad and Jane Campion Hoye who plays his mum.

TV reporter and presenter, Suzanne Virdee- who plays herself in the film, also came along with husband and top photographer Andrew Fox.

Directors Dominic and Ian Higgins with Producer Nigel Martin Davey and Dave Heeley
The three “Daves” with directors Ian & Dominic Higgins and producer Nigel Martin Davey
The real Dave with young Charlie Boswell and Jack Lane being interviewed by Yasmin Bodalbhai from ITV News
Actress Sarah Manners who plays Debbie Heeley with actress Hannah Roberts and Jack Lane. Photo courtesy of Express and Star.
Producer Nigel Martin Davey with actors Jack Lane and Oliver Phelps.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a cast and crew screening without our A-team crew. These are the guys that graft away on set, behind the scenes, putting in the long hours right beside us.

We were honoured to have Dr. Phil Glasgow, who had flown in from Belfast, join us for the night. Dr Glasgow was the Physiotherapist that accompanied Dave on his 7 Day Marathon. Just another impressive achievement in a career that has taken him to every major event in the world of athletics, from the Commonwealth Games to the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he was lead Physiotherapist for Team GB.

Dr. Phil Glasgow

He’s played in the film, by actor Ian Mairs.  Ian actually spent time talking with Dr. Glasgow before shooting and spent the entire shoot speaking with a Belfast accent! A natural actor, with a great sense of screen acting.

Rik Jones

It was also great to finally meet Wigan based singer-song writer, Rik Jones. Rik, who is also blind, wrote and performed the final song in our film. It’s a very touching and beautiful song and was a natural fit for our film because the lyrics mirrored Dave’s story perfectly.

Rik’s song, Walk A Mile In My Shoes is taken from his album The Hotel With No Name and is available on iTunes.  Check it out, he’s a very talented guy!

Directors Ian and Dominic Higgins share a joke with "Blind Dave" Heeley
“Blind Dave” shares a joke with directors Ian & Dominic

The guest of honour was the man himself, “Blind Dave” Heeley. And it seems that Dave was as apprehensive about the first screening of the film as we were. Now, Dave is a humble man, but everyone who meets him, knows he’s a living legend, so he was at least guaranteed an eager audience with the waiting media and fans.

Speaking of fans, it was also great to have Harry Potter actor Oliver Phelps attend the night with us also. Both he and his brother, James have roles in the movie.

We were also joined by,  West Brom Chief Executive Mark Jenkins and from the Albion Foundation, Director Rob Lake and Media and Marketing Officer Craig Punfield. It has been a real privilege to have their support on this project.

At 8 pm the doors to the screening room opened, it was time for our private premiere.

Audience members take their seats

After a brief introduction, led by producer Nigel Martin Davey, it was time to settle in our seats and press play.

When the credits finished rolling the reception was incredible and quite emotional, it proved how much Dave’s story resonates with people and it validated all the hard work we put into the film.

After the screening we invited Dave on stage for a Q & A, hosted by Birmingham South and City College’s Steve Dourass . It was a fascinating, insightful and entertaining chat. Dave has some great stories to tell!  

It was a very emotional moment though, when Dave spoke about the recent passing of Seamus, Dave’s Guide dog. Seamus was more than just Dave’s support, he was his friend. Seamus actually appears in our film, playing Dave’s first guide dog, Peter.

He was joined later on stage, by his screen-self, actor Jack Lane. Jack delighted the audience by giving us some insights into how he manged to step into Dave’s formidable shoes.

We would also like say a big thank you to Tim Andrews and Hollywood Monster for creating the wonderful Media Wall for us. It looked amazing.

7 Days film

Below you can see a few more great pics from the night!

A huge thanks also to the Burlington Hotel, Birmingham for putting up some of our cast and crew for the night!

MORE ON THE SMARTPHONE FILM-MAKING REVOLUTION

“There are many things that have stayed consistent. But the biggest change, of course, is technology, the way it’s used, the way films are shot, the format that they’re shot in, and the way films are edited.”

-Howard Shore

Filming with the iPhone and Zhiyun Smooth Q
Filming for 7 Days – the story of “Blind Dave” Heeley

With the film making spotlight on smartphone cameras right now, there is no doubt that we’re in the middle of yet another exciting new era of film making and photography, which also means there are a lot of exciting developments and new products being released.

Of course, what makes it extra appealing for low budget filmmakers, is the affordability of this ever advancing technology.

Now, one thing we have been meaning to add to our own smartphone filmmaking kit is a good portrait/close up lens, and after a bit of research and comparisons online, we decided to settle for a 60mm lens from a company called Sirui.

Sirui 60mm Lens for smartphone
The Sirui 60 mm lens (with clip for attachment)
Sirui lens attached to iPhone
The Sirui Lens attached using supplied clip

Like the  Anamorphic lens from Moondog labs, this lens has a great build quality, and more importantly, the results it produced, impressed.

It can be a bit fiddly to make sure the 60mm Sirui lens fits perfectly over the camera’s lens using the supplied clip, but you can get a cheap mobile lens mount adapter on ebay, which ensures a perfect fit.

The Sirui lens attaches with a cheap mount adapter we picked up on ebay

Talking of Moondog Labs, we were honoured to discover our current film, 7 DAYS, made their pick of #BestOfMobileMovies2018! Be sure to check out the other movies on the list for more examples of just how good the results can be when you have the right accessories and know-how!

Camera rigs are an essential piece of equipment for adding lights, microphones and other accessories to a camera, and in the case of smartphone filmmaking, really help turn the phone into a more professional camera. There are plenty of rigs to choose from now, but we we went for the Dreamgrip Evo Pro due to its versatility and build quality.

The Dreamgrip Evo Pro rig in action
The Dreamgrip Evo Pro unit with Moondog Lab’s anamorphic lens attached

Also on the new development front, Filmic Pro has just updated its popular professional camera app with a significant upgrade to the Cinematography Kit (an in-app add on purchase). LogV2 has been designed to further increase the levels of dynamic range captured in footage.

The more dynamic range, the more detail you can capture in the both the shadows and highlights, so this is exciting news for those of us who like to push our images in the grading.

Image courtesy of FilmicPro

In their own words:

“As the lines between professional cinematic cameras and mobile devices continue to blur, LOG V2 for FiLMiC Pro elevates the mobile filmmaking experience by delivering up to 2.5 stops of additional dynamic range for mobile devices.”

In fact, they claim that when used with the newest iPhone models, the footage will rival that shot on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

To quote the company again:

“the culmination of years of work done on a proprietary computational-imaging module that we internally call “Cubiform”. Cubiform creates a mathematical environment where we can process the luma and chroma of an image with 64-bit precision.”

We’ll certainly be putting this new version through its paces when we get a chance.

Another camera app worth mentioning (as we have before) is the MAVIS PRO. We haven’t tried this one yet, but definitely will at some point, as we’re keen to try the “zoom focus”, a feature we loved on DSLRs.

Be very interesting also to compare the quality of captured footage side by side with that captured using Filmic Pro.

As passionate photographers too, we’ve been so impressed with the results we’re getting with the iPhone’s camera it’s fast replacing our DSLRs as a still camera.

One of the best apps for photography, in our opinion, is the camera app from Moment (a company more well known for its top quality smartphone lenses). This app allows you to capture images in RAW format, which, for us, is the most exciting feature it offers.

RAW format is uncompressed, unlike JPEG, so allows for higher quality images and much more creative freedom in the post-production process. For more on what RAW is, check out this article.

Below are some images we’ve captured using Moment’s camera app.


Taken with the iPhone SE with the Moondog Labs Anamorphic Lens

We’re certainly living in exciting times to be a low budget film-maker.  However, with all this ever evolving and increasingly affordable technology, it’s even more important than ever to not lose sight of the most important aspect of our art, actor and director Robert Redford said it best, “The technology available for film-making now is incredible, but I am a big believer that it’s all in the story.”

See our blog on our first foray into smartphone film making here