Spotlight on Sparky

What led you to get involved with machinima?

I got involved totally by accident. I was in my local video game store back at the start of 2006 and spotted The Moves on the shelf. I had played a few tycoon games over the years and becoming a movie mogul tickled my fancy. The deal was sealed when I read on the back of the game box that it was possible to make your own movies and add voices to them! I was hooked straight away and made 12 or so 'amazing' movies with a buddy of mine. This was before I even know the forums / TMO really existed and I sure as hell hadn't come across the term 'Machinima' at this point. One thing led to another, I uploaded some movies, people commented on them, liked them and suggested I join the forums (in fact as I recall it was Dulci that suggested one of my early films for Jase180 to watch. Jase then told me about the community and my Machina Life was born)

What aspects of movie-making do you enjoy the most?

First and foremost I am a writer. I have always written screen plays, short books, stories etc so that is still my #1 passion. In terms of actual movies making, I enjoy the visual aspect of setting up each scene and shot. I'm a very visual person and try to shoot my films like I would shoot a picture with a still camera. Hopefully then, people will get to see a really interesting and eye pleasing final piece.

Over the last 6 months I have been experimenting with Outside editing techniques. One of the reasons I didn't make more films that I have is because of the arduous process in The Movies AMM (Advanced Movie Maker) and PP (Post Production) - and then to get the thing exported without glitches! Nightmare. Learning to Outside edit means I can make films more like a real life production company and gives great flexibility for effects etc. I enjoy learning new things, new techniques, new challenges/

What programs do you use to craft your work? Why did you choose these?

Currently all of my visual animations are done using The Movies, more for convenience and finance than anything else. I am very familiar with the program and know how far I can push it to create the scenes I desire. I am experimenting with Iclone and Moviestorm and will no doubt branch off and away from TM software gradually.

For sound I use a combination of Mixcraft for scores, loops, sound fx and other music. I use Audacity still for recording my voice overs as it gives a very high quality recording with some easy to use, powerful editing and cleaning features.

I use Celtex when I am writing scripts because the formatting is so easy and straight forward, plus you can save your script as a PDF file from within the program itself giving a professional looking script to send out to a cast.

I also use various combinations of Fireworks, Photoshop and Paint for other visuals such as posters, stills and other advertisements

How would you describe your movie style?

Hmm, not sure I have a particular noticeable style. It varies more depending on the subject and style of the film I am making. One Last Breath for example was a Noir movie and so had certain style elements attached to it. These elements wouldn't work as well in other movies.

I always try and inject certain things into everything I produce; originality, quality, creativity and enjoy ability. I will always try and make sure each element is completed to the same standards as everything else. For example, there is no point in having great VO's if you make a hash of cutting the scenes. No point having cool special effects if the music sucks.

Which of your movies best depicts that style? Why?

The Hitman Strikes was a movie I made for A TMO competition. I chose this because it has a number of key elements as described above. A lot of detail was put into the sound design of this film, most of which you won't even notice when watching it, but every sound you hear was placed by hand, nothing stock. The music was carefully selected to compliment the action and the editing had to be clean and crisp to achieve the kind of stylish movie that I hope it is. This was also my first experience using MED to create some original sets.

What are your proudest achievements in this field?

My proudest achievement to date in movie making has to be One Last Breath, a film noir and at about 35 minutes long, its my longest work to date. This was a risky movie to really make my mark with because of the genre. Not everyone like black and white, 'talk' oriented films but it was very well received. Every major element of the production received praise from people across the board which tells me that I got it right. If everyone complimented the visuals but no one mentioned the sound or writing for example, then I would have to question if I had fallen short in those areas. This movies was help hugely by having a first rate cast, many of whom had never worked with me before, but all of whom have worked with me since. Says a lot…..

Have you worked on projects with anyone else in the community?

Yes, in lots of different ways. The most well known were Trewill7's violent comedy shorts which we worked quite closely together on. I have worked with a lot of people as a VA and have worked a lot in the background of various productions giving script/plot advice. I have never done a true collaboration though, not sure why - I guess I like my creative control too much!

Do you have any projects on the horizon?

Always. Next out of my studio will be God, We Play? - this is my HP Lovecraft inspired movie that will be out some time in the first half of 2009. it's a very strange movie as anyone who has read the full script will confirm - relying heavily on visuals which is something I don't usually do (normally let the dialogue lead the film). I also have The Man in The Cheap Suit coming out in the next few weeks. This is a short for Ravensfan's LNEYME contest. Also, I have recently announced that production has begun on First Impressions - this again wil lbe a rather strange movie and I am making a point of keeping people in the dark about the plot at this stage. There are 2 / 3 other ideas in the fire that may or may not come about - one will be a British Gangster movie taking influence from Guy Richie - again something I haven't really tried before.

What advice would you give someone starting out with machinima?

First of all, have fun with it. Don't try and run before you can walk. If you try and take on overly ambitious projects to compete with some of your favourite machinima movies, chances are you'll be out of your depth and get frustrated and disheartened. Get to know people - a great production involves many other people from musicians to VA's, modders to conceptual artists. Make contacts, make friends by getting involved in machinima communities and other peoples projects. Don't expect anyone to show interest in what you are doing if you don't show interest in anyone elses projects. Lastly, have fun with it!

You are also a voiceactor and musician. How do you balance all of that with movie-making?

Well, I try and combine it as much as possible. Use what you have at hand - if I need an original piece of music, or a cover of a well know song, I can record it myself. I try and let things balance themselves rather than trying to alter the flow. So If I have a lot of voice acting work on, I'll let it take me where it does and let the movie making take a back seat for a while. Again, I'm in it largely for the fun of it, so if I have some vo's to record, some music to write and some outstanding footage to shoot on a ,movie I'll chose the one I fancy doing the most. No point trying to force creativity.


Matt Kelland said...

Celtx is a fantastic tool. Once you've used it to write a script, you never want to go back! It's also great for assembling visual references and other aspects of pre-prod.

Ricky Grove said...

Great interview. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to watching more of Sparky's films. Many of his comments fit right in with the kind of filmmaking I'm trying to do myself. Inspiring. Thank you.

sisch said...

Great informative interview!

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