Hello, Christian here.
I’ve just got back from a self-funded trip to Malawi with charity, Be One Percent – my head is still spinning from what we saw out there. The trip was rewarding yet humbling, we saw lots of happiness but also great sadness and hardship.
Be One Percent are a collective of individuals who give 1% of their income every month to help the world’s poorest people.
We went to Malawi as quite a motley crew. We were Steve Pilgrim – Co-Founder and drummer to Paul Weller, Matt Johnson – Co-Founder and CEO of Mando Group, Ben Waldron – Be One Percent website creator and Creative Director at Igoo, Chris Norman – Photographer and Owner of Oomoo Coffee shops, along with myself who was tasked with filmmaking duties.
I went equipped with a backpack stuffed with a Canon 5D along with 3 lenses, audio recording equipment, lightweight tripod. At Curly we are used to working with a minimum of a 3 man crew, so this was going to take a little bit of getting used to!
Once out in the country, we visited a huge range of projects that Be One Percent supports or is looking to support. We visited:
- an irrigation system that helps a village farm their crops 3 times a year as opposed to just once
- Several villages that now have water bore holes installed, meaning villagers have access to fresh & clean water.
- Micro Finance initiatives that allow villagers to lend and borrow money to increase savings.
- A stove project that teaches villagers how to build clay stoves themselves, which are much more efficient than cooking over an open fire, saving firewood and reducing accidents.
- School feeding programmes with Mary’s Meals. They are able to feed a child a school lunch every school day for just £7.00 per year – incredible. This means children actually want to go to school as this may be the only guaranteed meal they get in the day, meaning they get a decent education.
I was blown away by the friendliness of the Malawian people, and the welcome that we got in each and every village that we visited. The people and children of many of the villages that we visited literally have nothing except each other. An empty water bottle was a prized possession for many children, yet they all had a huge grin on their faces for us. Talk about putting things into perspective.
Over the next few weeks we will be posting a series of videos filmed at these projects. If you would like to find out more about Be One Percent, please visit http://www.beonepercent.org.uk
Photographs courtesy of Chris Norman.
Deciding which is your favourite Christmas film is tougher than deciding your favourite film.
It’s harder because it has to be perfect; you can watch most movies any day of the week but Christmas films only have a short window in which it’s acceptable to watch them.
A chat at Curly Production towers revealed that the majority of Christmas films at the top of our lists have really great visual effects, motion graphics and animation. This probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Filmmakers are going to be putting their biggest budgets into movies that are released when people are off work or school and are actively looking for something to do. Big budgets, increased production value, the belief goes, means bigger audiences.
Visual effects are about more than having more cash to splash around though. When they work well they elevate the story. Even if you’re making a short film or an online promo, visual effects can help make your audience feel like they’re part of a different world; they are immersive and make it easier to articulate ideas.
This Christmas the cinemas will hope we’ll all flock to see The Hobbit but having special effects on at Christmas is nothing new. Here are our top Christmas films with the best visual effects;
1. Die Hard. Yippee Kai Yay Melon Farmers!
Yes, Die Hard IS a Christmas film. John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, obviously, fights to save his wife and her colleagues who have been taken hostage during their Christmas party. Sounds quite dull when you read it like that. It is the visual and sound effects though that lift this film and make it a classic. It won two Oscars for sound and visual effects. The best effect is when the top of the building blows away as McClane jumps from it. Astounding.
2. The Snowman
There are many who will shed a manly tear when they watch The Snowman. It’s such an important part of our childhood we can sometimes forget that it’s an astonishing piece of animation. It could be argued that the stripped back graphics are what makes it so personable. A silent film with just a few sketches and beautiful music. When it’s one of the key ingredients the animation had to be a step above the rest. The effects are done using traditional animation techniques with pastels and crayons drawn onto celluloid and then traced over hand drawn frames. It makes it timeless and nostalgic, as the best children’s illustration should be.
Pixomondo, who worked on the visual effects in Hugo, won their first Oscar for the film. Directed by Martin Scorcese it’s a story about the birth of cinema so it seems fitting it should be the first film that uses 3D in the most successful and arresting way so far in film. The inspiration for the visual effects was the “persistence of vision” of early filmmakers. It mixes homages with a use of innovative technology. The film creates a new world in the train station it’s filmed in and the shots as the camera ducks and weaves to follow the action – reminiscent of the epic Orson Welles shot as the camera flies through a neon sign – which makes it immersive as well as thrilling.
￼4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Christmas films don’t have to be mushy. Tim Burton taught us that. The film tells the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King who presides over a world of ghouls and goblins who celebrate Halloween. Disillusioned with the holiday Jack explores the world outside his own front door and discovers Christmas. The film uses stop motion animation which is the perfect video production technique to bring the weird and wonderful creatures to life.
What are the three rules for looking after a Mogwai? If you know that without using Google then you’re probably aged between 28 and 35 and you grew up with Gremlins. Written by Chris Columbus the movie won the Best Special Effects Oscar in 1985. The guy who worked on it, Chris Walas, also worked on The Fly and Arachnophobia. Perhaps that’s why the Gremlins are always a little creepy. Who wouldn’t want a Mogwai for Christmas?
Merry Christmas to all our lovely Blog readers.
The Curly team x
Curly Productions are online video production specialists based in Liverpool, UK.