Dragoon Or how I stopped loving Hollywood and embraced European art cinema.


Iain McAuley drawing for VINYL TOUCH

I am now deep into post-production with Dragoon. The edit is coming together and just some voice over needed, possibly. Also currently working on getting together promotional artwork such as posters and filming stills and have a number of artists working on this. Iain McAuley and Glen Kennedy artwork is going into my “film package”. This will hopefully give better advertisement options and also what they produce will look amazing.
What I want to chat about today though is the production side of Dragoon.

The Production

The influences on this piece come from European art cinema. A few years of university, studying film may well have drawn many into the wonders of Hollywood Cinema. For me it was into World cinema and art cinema (along with an unhealthy interest in the representation of Northern Irish protestants on film).
European cinema for me opened up the boundaries of plot, characters and production style. No longer did something have to make chronological sense. Does a character really need defined, loved and developed? Do the audience really need things answered or is the beauty of cinema walking away questioning your own thoughts? And last but not least the production practicalities of European art cinema is something I am very passionate about. Why not try and make a film with the smallest crew if it does not influence the production value?

First poster for Dragoon

Dragoon was this. An idea, a though, a plan. One that I stumbled upon while waiting in Partick Library. I literally threw open a book and there was a picture of a young Scottish paratrooper and the story of the start of Operation Dragoon. I was gripped. How could someone my age cope with being dropped into a foreign country, by themselves, in enemy territory? Stuck with the situation that if you see someone you will have to kill them or they will kill you. What on earth would you do? Morally where would you be placed?
That is where Dragoon came in. I wanted to make a film that made people think about that exact question. I didn’t want it to be pro or anti war. I just wanted it to question the emotions and psychology of a young Scottish soldier and how that would relate to your life.
So where do you start with a World War II drama? I had spent a large portion of the budget of £120 on costume but it was well worth it. We got our full WWII costume from the splendorous Saratoga Trunk. What they don’t have isn’t worth wearing. All genuine costumes and it really makes a difference to know 100% your costume is period accurate.

I was really blessed to have a wonderful cast and crew who kept going on through the rotten weather. It did however make the film even more accurate. During the actual Operation Dragoon bad weather was behind the reason for the troops being dispersed across the countryside.
The wonderfully talented Ross Blackmore was my sound recordist. Some one who I have worked for in the past on short films and in a professional sense. He really went beyond with his skills, some of the folley he created and sounds he captured are just perfect. He also created a wonderful soundscape for the film along with some essential wildtracks. His director experience was something I drew upon which benefited me so much.
The actor was Euan Maharg, someone who is not a professional actor but who had the passion, desire and the exact look I wanted. He brought great enthusiasm for the production and came at it with everything he had. His performance was exactly what I was looking for.
The location I had found was really stunning. I did a recce of it, did a few GV’s and took some photos, I also filmed a short video for the Sponsume page as we were mid crowdfunding.

What I wasn’t prepared for though was that this forest would be being farmed on the day we were filming.The look on a sound recordists face as a lorry trundles by through an empty forest is some what priceless. This alined with a change in flight pattern of planes heading to Glasgow Airport made for an interesting day for sound.
I had written a basic script outlining a number of scenes as well as a in depth step by step script. The basic one was given to actor Euan a few weeks in advance. The in depth one was stored away. I decided to leave a lot of the scenes completely improvised. I wanted to get input from cast and crew, something that is only available with a small tight unit. This made for what I felt was a free flowing feel, with the character able to engage and move within the location without fear of trying to act but literally just being. I know it all sounds a bit theorized and airy fairy but I really think it worked.
We filmed for a whole day, getting suitably cold, wet and muddy but thoroughly enjoying ourselves and having a great laugh. The lighting through out was all natural with a reflector used about once or twice throughout. Filming in a forest is something that I will reconsider in the future. I wanted to use an intense depth of field as much as possible while not having to push up the ISO levels. This was a bit of a compromise on quality and something that I possibly would reconsider. Other than that I am pretty happy overall with the film quality and the 550d really impressed.


Dragoon has been a great learning curve. I would recommend making a short film to anyone and everyone as a great way to experiment, learn and develop. I am currently finishing up the edit and trying to polish it off with a view to taking it to festivals in the new year. I will aim to apply for as wide a spectrum of film festivals. I will eventually have the film available to view online for free after it has done a few film festivals.
What I am hoping for is a bit of exposure, a chance to show my ideas and thoughts to the wider world and get a few people thinking about their lives, their beliefs and where they are going. Not a lot to ask for ey?

That is really it. A blog post explaining a bit more about Dragoon, where it is at currently and where it has come from. Leave a comment if you have a question.

Keep your eyes peeled for new updates


Skyfall (2012) – A view

I went to see Skyfall at the weekend. Having not been a major Bond fan ever and failing to see one in the cinema since the late 90’s I wasn’t expecting much.
I was however expecting a lot from this man, Javier Bardem.
Having been mesmerised by his performance in No Country for old Men (2007) by the Coen brothers I was excited to see him in the bond villain role.
He did not disappoint in the slightest.
I felt he played the roll to perfection. If you are not a Bond fan go and see it for him alone. The film portrays a gritty type of Bond. Some beautiful cinematography and a few great action scenes but its mostly the usual unrealistic bond cant die action adventure. With a bit of hand to hand combat for added intensity.

I was rather shocked during the Glencoe scenes to see a few rather annoying telegraph poles. Often behind Bond and M during what was meant to be a “take in the beauty” style scene. A slight camera repositioning and the scene is perfection.
Perhaps this is the gritty Bond look, telegraph poles and all.
Overall I am going for a well deserved 4/5 on the Guy scale. God only knows what that means.

A relaxing weekend.


A tough week had by all so we went out and adventured. When I say we I mean the lovely lady above and myself. We went out and had a walk around Glasgow on the first day of Autumn. What a great start it was, to say a fond “Where were you?” to Summer and head out wrapped up warm.

DRAGOON – Teaser

So finally the day came last week and we had our principle day of filming for DRAGOON. It was a wet and miserable one which was tough to work in but suited the historical events of the day. One of the things that I was gladdest about was doing an in-depth rece the week before. This enabled me to pick exactly where my locations and action would be right down to the twig and stone.
I will post a more detailed blog regarding the production side, for the mean time though take a gander at a teaser I have put together. Currently now trying to chop the film down to around the five minute mark. So much great footage and a lot of great improv scenes from my young actor Euan.

The joys of working for free in TV and Film. A @dragoonTheFilm production post

There is quite the issue at the moment with young people or even just people working their butts off for free to get into the media industry. This is not a post suggesting that is a good thing, its just some personal experience.

So I have been posting, tweeting, FB’n and spamming people about my short film, Dragoon.
This week I have had a few pre-production meetings to try and get dates, equipment and thoughts all together.
The latest of these was yesterday with friend and colleague Ross. We first worked together when I was the 3rd AD on a short horror zombie film he was co-directing, A Relative End. I worked for free for a few freezing nights in the Glasgow snow. It was great fun, not because it was some epic film that we all thought we could retire off. It was because everyone was volunteering their time to help a few great fellas make their ideas become a reality.

The A Relative End set.

We filmed A Relative End towards the end of January 2012. Unknown to Ross and I we would then spend the next six months or so traveling together as part of crew on a Cbeebies production. On this we had a chance to get to know each other and our passion for film. So when I said to Ross I was making a short film he straight away volunteered his experience and equipment to the shoot. He appreciated the time and effort I had put in for him and wanted to “pay” me back in a way.

Production meeting in a Brewery……hmm

So a four hour production meeting passes and I have a friend who has over a decade of sound production experience working for free on my short film. This is why I think its invaluable to work for free on short films. Not just so people owe you one, but because its a hobby, one you make friends doing, its great fun and if its what your passionate about then its what you should do. It also gives you a chance to step up. I was working as a runner but was given the chance to be a 3rd AD. Something in the big bad world that just would not happen.

If however you are doing runner work and everyone around you is getting paid, then you my friend are getting done over. Get onto sites like The Unit List or Media Muppet and get some entry level paid work.