UK FILM REVIEWS

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
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Howard-Smith
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UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Howard-Smith »

www.ukfilmreviews.co.uk
This website offers to review your film free of charge, but it takes a few months for this to happen. The review can be sent more quickly if you pay a fee.
A few weeks ago I received a pretty good review of my film TOPPY from them.
In 2016 I completed an 11 minute film entitled THE SONS OF NATALYA PETROVA, a re-edit of a film called AVOIDANCE filmed the year before. Both versions gained 3 stars at BIAFF. I always though that it was one of my best films and had been undervalued at BIAFF and elsewhere. How delusional I have been. The review I've received for it from UK Film Reviews is one of the worst I have ever had.
Clearly it wasn’t proof-checked with errors including “The Songs of…” and “Weatherspoons” and it’s a pity that it’s a review by someone who finds the film “not to my taste”, indicating that his review is more subjective than objective. The thrust of the review is that I shouldn’t make films as a one man band. Well, Mr. David Richards, for good or bad, that is what I do and what I will continue to do….

The Sons of Natalya Petrova - Short film review
★★
Directed by: Howard-Smith
Written by: Roger Lawson Noons
Starring: Zdenka Kitkova, Nikita Artjuhhov & Simon Hawkins
Film Review by: David Richards



‘The Songs of Natalya Petrova” directed by Howard-Smith is the re-visited take of ‘Avoidance’ which stands at two minutes shorter in length. Smith takes on the mantle of most key roles such as story, photography, editing, sound and music which serves as a prime example of why filmmaking should be a collaborative effort and not a one-man band. This short film, although not to my taste, does however show a true passion of cinema and an admiration for what film could achieve.


Despite the serious and dark tones of murder, drug abuse and suicide, the poor filmmaking of ‘The sons or Natalya Petrova’ portray this film as comedic in scenes such as the “drug deal gone wrong”. This unfortunately comes to play from the poor performances and stale shooting style. The director however does have moments of success such as his decision to use black and white. At first it seems as though they transition from colour to black & white to showcase moments of the past, however as we process through the narrative, we discover that in actual fact the colour format switches in moments of trauma and devastation. The critical choice of formatting works to the films advantage in aiding the emotional intentions of the script.


The script is well worked and holds a strong sense of family, desperation and trauma which could potentially work better as feature so that the filmmakers could explore each character in greater depth. Unfortunately, the performances are weak. From a plot which clearing represents a string of emotions from the written characters, the actors show little to no emotions failing to draw the audience in.


Smith’s cinematography falls flat in moments of colour and sometimes overcompensated with exposure in the monochrome. If compared, the monochrome does stand taller and achieve more than its counterpart. The sound is inconsistent when cutting from one location to another. In addition, with the exception of some voice-over dialogue and score, there seems to be little to no sound design added in post which with bad on location audio is a must.


The Locations are not in good taste with the opening scene being shot at a Weatherspoon’s pub as well as other plain and bland locations. The pace of editing within the opening conflict is fast which draws intrigue to the scene while displaying the amount of coverage the filmmakers had from the shoot. Although this works successfully it does somewhat take away from the subtitles and in turn the dialogue, however this could prove to be my own disadvantage for not speaking the Russian spoken language of which this short it primarily spoken. The VFX of Dmitry laying on the tracks with the train incoming is executed perfectly.


Overall, ‘The sons of Natalya Petrova’ is not well received with some particularly bad aspects of filmmaking made even worse by the performances. The script and editing helps carry the audience through to the finish. With more hands-on deck, this film could have been greatly improved. Many Thanks to the filmmakers for their time and passion in trying to produce this film.
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Martin Evans
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Martin Evans »

Hats off to your courage for posting this Howard. And I, for one, am glad that you are not put off making your great films. And here's to the one-man-band filmmakers of the world.
Michael Slowe
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Michael Slowe »

Goodness Howard, I've had worse reviews than that, even for some highly graded films. We mustn't be too sensitive, that's what I tried to explain to the lady who doesn't like competitions. I'm with you on solo film making, I much prefer that mode of operation.
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Howard-Smith
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Howard-Smith »

Thanks Martin and Michael for your comments. Yes we solo filmmakers must carry on regardless. I get more satisfaction from making a modestly successful film by myself than I would if I made a very successful film as part of a team. I’m just not a team player and that’s the way it is.
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Simon Sumner
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Simon Sumner »

(First time posting - please be gentle :) )

I would echo Martin's point: hats off to you for posting this. The review was quite brutal, and I wonder if it made a difference that the author would never have to look you in the eye; when I write BIAFF crits, I always do so with a presumption that I will one day meet the filmmaker!

I wonder though Howard, whether less grip on your projects would result in films that you are just as, if not more, satisfied with? Whilst I really admire your work ethic and drive, I do wonder sometimes why you usually take on all the creative roles. I'd be tempted to hand off a little more and let another editor, for example, pick up the footage and cut it in a way that I had never considered before. If the film did well, I would still take credit for it of course. And so could the editor - the film would help them in their own filmmaking journey. Your films could help dozens of other creatives get their feet on the ladder.

I have two daughters who I am immensely proud of. Parents are usually always credited (or blamed) for how their kids turn out. But I know their behaviours are not just the product of parenting. Teachers, girl guide groups, neighbours and friends (and their parents) all have a huge influence. You don't have to be a hard-working, home-schooling single parent to your films Howard! Let them be influenced by others from time to time - they may thank you for it.

Anyway. Shoot me down...
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Howard-Smith
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Howard-Smith »

Thank you Simon. I see where you’re coming from and understand what you’re saying.
But…
There’s no way on earth that I would allow anyone else to edit my films. For me editing is the most enjoyable and most satisfying part of the whole filmmaking process.
The only aspects of my filmmaking I would consider allowing other people to help out with are:
(A) additional camerawork. Michael Finney has already agreed to help with a multi-camera shoot for an improvised drama at some point but not sure when.
(B) sound recording
(C) lighting
Otherwise a one-man-band I shall stay!
Michael Slowe
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Michael Slowe »

I absolutely feel the same way as Howard as regards solo film making. I try and craft a film rather as an artist paints a picture. It is in my thoughts 24/7 and I'm constantly forming ideas in my head. When I'm shooting I'm editing at the same time and there's no way I could explain to an editor how I'm thinking. Simon, I appreciate that a full scale 'dramatic' fiction film needs a multi talented crew, but with most other genres one man can usually do a better job on his own.
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Dave Watterson
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Dave Watterson »

Each to his own ... but I keep thinking of my old friend, Oskar Siebert, who made many award-winning films which were at BIAFF, Guernsey and Malta festivals among others.

When a shoulder problem meant he could no longer hold his camera, he stopped making films.

But it was the plots, the actors and the cutting which made them special. The camerawork was fine, but not outstanding. He could have delegated that and kept producing interesting work.
Michael Slowe
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Michael Slowe »

Absolutely Dave, you have backed up my point. Of course fiction films demand more diverse talents than docs or' impressionistic' films. Howard amazingly, manages all that virtually on his own. My type of productions are, as you know, typical 'one man band' efforts, for good or ill!

I well remember Oscar Siebert with all his great prize winners, a name from the past like so many others of my generation (Gillham, Manesseh, Sewell). Silly old man I hear the younger ones mutter!
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Willy
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Willy »

I agree with you, Howard. I am very happy that you have written this: "There is no way I would allow anyone else to edit my film. I would consider allowing other people to help out with are A. Additional camerawork. B. Sound recording C.Lighting.

Camerawork has always been fun for me. Oskar Siebert decided to stop making films because he had shoulder problems. I think it was a very wise decision. Now I should do the same. Perhaps you know that I have a back problem. Some days it is really unbearable. On other days I don't have any problems. I can hold my camera, but not every day. At the end of next year I am going to stop. This time I don't hesitate anymore.

What happened to me the last few years? In 2020 before corona time I asked a friend to do the camera work. He is a real amateur, but he also works professionally... I wrote the story. I made a picture story. I made about 135 sketches to create a very visual development of my film to help the cameraman I wanted him to do what I desired. I told him what facial effects I wanted. I chose my actors. They are both members of a drama club in our village. I also told him that I would direct the feature film. However, he started to be very dominant and I already felt very fustrated after a short time. I felt being pushed away by him. I am 15 years older and I felt the young man did not respect my skills anymore.

Moreover he insisted to use his own camera that he had just bought. About 5,000 euros. He also had an excellent video camera just like my older one: a sony S5. I asked him to use that one. But he became extremely pushy. His new camera is one to take photographs, but you can also film with it. He told me that it had a big advantage: colour grading! You can change the colours he said. It gives a more professional look! After some time I gave it up. But the result was that the images were slightly different! The format in my casablanca was different and the quality was less brilliant. I insisted to edit my own film in my casablanca otherwise I would not feel to be the maker of it anymore.

I also asked an other clubmate to create a few functional visual effects. The result was wonderful in my opinion. But the one who had done the camerawork said it would be stupid not to let him copy my film with his adobe première editing programme. Now I am still waiting for my own film, an entry for BIAFF next year.

A long story, but I am as stubborn as a Guernsey donkey. I have started to make my very last documentary. It's one about Saint-Hubert, a little town in the Ardennes in the French speaking part of Belgium. It's called the European Capital of Hunting and Nature. Perhaps very stupid of me: I asked the cameraman to help me again. He is the only one who has a drone and I need one for my documentary with the working title"Au Coeur de la Grande Fôret", the legend of a noble hunter. I will tell you about it in a next message.
Willy Van der Linden
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Willy
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Willy »

Imagine you are an artist. A painter. You are sitting at your easel. You want to show your feelings on canvas. You are happy with the end-result. You have been creative. You let your piece of art admire. Some may appreciate it. They can empathize with it. I means that you have been able to make your feelings radiate with success. But others don't like it at all. Then you must accept this. Very simple.

It's the same with making a movie.

But imagine you are sitting at your easel and a friend is behind you all the time. He gives you advice. He even overwhelms you with advice. He says "If I were you I would do this. If I were you I would do that!" In the long run he wants to take your brush away. Then you feel sad and you may even want to stop painting. Or you try to keep calm, but inside you are discouraged. If you explode you can lose a friend who is always pushy and bossy. When you get a bit older and are dominated by perhaps physically more energetic young people then you have to make a decision because making films is not fun anymore. You can also run away and do your own thing, but actually you also love socializing. I mean you love a nice chat with friends over a Belgian beer or a cup of tea.

That's how it goes sometimes when making a movie and you are a member of a club.
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Jill Lampert
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Jill Lampert »

Willy, I find your description of trying to delegate the camera work very moving.

I wonder whether there is any way that it could have worked for you? Or whether under any circumstances you'd have felt as if your creativity had been taken away from you?

If you asked a quiet, helpful person to operate a camera of your choice, and you prepared a shot list/storyboard and asked them to stick to it, do you think that would have worked for you? I mean would it have worked for you if this imaginary dream camera operator had actually allowed you to be in charge and he/she'd just done the physical work for you?

I think it would probably be quite easy for filmmakers to delegate the audio? But that with camera work/lighting the person who's conception the film is, really wants to be in charge even if they have camera operators to press the buttons?
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Willy
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Willy »

Many thanks for your good advice, Jill. Yes, that would have helped. I should have asked a quiet, helpful person to operate a camera of my choice. There are some quiet helpful people in our club who can help me.

I forgot to tell you that I asked the obtrusive man, who is always very friendly when not filming, to use my TV-screen as a monitor. In that way I could better direct my two actors. The distance TV-screen - actors was only 5-6 metres. He accepted it, but he said that he needed a special cable to connect his brand new camera to my TV-set. So he bought a cable for me. It cost about 50 euros. Unfortunately he himself started to direct the dialogue between the two actors after a short time. I didn't feel to be the director anymore, but I didn't want to have a discussion with him in the presence of my two actors. There is one good thing: I had given them my storybook with pictures some weeks in advance. So they could already prepare everything at home. They knew that I was the real boss of the film. The young lady and the young boy are very good friends. That was an other advantage. But there is also another problem: the cameraman is also president of our club. If he would stop nobody would be willing to substitute him as a president That would be the end of our club. Anyway I still feel I created the film myself, the movie that you will see at BIAFF next year. For my next and last documentary I will try to change my team.

In the course of 22 years I have always worked without a team or together with a few English friends. I was the only cameraman when making my films about the First World War (for instance "Will Ye Go to Flanders" ... "On the Road to Passchendaele" ... ) Also "His Royal Highland Laddie"... "I made Guernsey I Love You" with my close friends Mary and Pter Rouillard" and Ron Prosser and David Fenn helped me quite a lot to make "Marc Remembers Sarah" and "Hop Around the Weald". I have good memories of Geoff Harrison who helped me to find excellent actors for "Say Wensleydale Cheese, Please!" I never had problems with my English friends, but now... Though I can't call the cameraman a bad man. On the contrary! He is only a little too pushy because he is perhaps too enthusiastic. And I am too soft.
Willy Van der Linden
Michael Slowe
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by Michael Slowe »

Willy, yes of course you are too soft. I am amazed at this guy's behaviour and would have grabbed back possession of my film immediately he started taking over. You can always find someone to operate the camera for you surely, maybe your wife or someone in your family? Anyhow, if you back will allow you can still operate the camera. The only time I ever involve others is when I have a rough cut of a film, I then sometimes consult respected people for a rough guide whether I am being really stupid or not. Amongst these nice people is our mutual friend Jill.
ned c
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Re: UK FILM REVIEWS

Post by ned c »

First Howard; all criticism/reviews good or bad have to be taken with a pinch of salt which you have done in this case and not let it influence your film making; carry on with the good work. But imagine the impact on a beginning film maker! Remember you are in good company as the critics panned a number of films that went on to be cinematic classics.

Regarding Willy's experience; I reaiise that working with a fellow club member does impose some relationship problems but the director is in charge and although he may take suggestions from the crew if they become intrusive then it is time to advise and then replace that crew member. Difficult in a club setting but it is important to select a crew very carefully and agree responsibilities and methods in pre production. Willy; there are moments when being a gentleman is inappropriate!

I have made a few solo films but I do enjoy being part of a crew; as age and infirmity reduce my activities then I suspect that solo film making will be a more important part of my film making.

Michael; where do you find your subjects/inspiration?

ned c
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