The Evolution of Fresh Crew Studios
In the beginning
In early 2014, Spencer, the founder, and CEO of Fresh Crew Studios declared his interest in becoming a film Director. As a result of this declaration, we explored what was needed to kick-start his interest in filmmaking, which, from a timing perspective was excellent because his birthday was rapidly approaching.
Settling on the Canon 70D DSLR, light kit, Røde video microphone, and a MacBook Pro with Final Cut for editing, Spencer started exploring the noble art of making movie magic. Starting out with this basic set of film tools, we became a father and son indie filmmaking team, which many of you reading this have come to know in person.
These were exciting times, as in my past I [Stephen] had been forging a career as an actor - Yes, I really did work with the awesome David Bowie! This wa before other exciting events in my life took my career down a different path, a path that would ultimately see the birth of my daughter Abigail and her brother, Spencer. The opportunity to work with my son, in an industry I love, was not something I needed to think twice about.
Our first event together was in Coventry. We were given press passes to film at Entaplay Live thanks to an invite from CMC Technologies via Entatech. This was perhaps the defining moment, which helped steer Spencer and Fresh Crew Studios to where it is today.
At Entaplay, we met a PR guru called James Mason! James recommended we apply for press passes for Great Britain’s largest comic convention, MCM London Comic Con. James also assisted us with connecting to other key people in the industry, which we were, and still are, most grateful for.
In 2014 MCM Expo ranked as number 13 in the World with visitor numbers at 101,000. However, we have since released official press information where the visitor numbers have exceeded 135,000. These numbers are likely to continue growing, which is a strong and positive indicator of just how much fun, and creative release, comic conventions bring to their visitors.
This global trend in upward visitor numbers to comic conventions, looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, or until they become overly commercial, or something new comes along to replace them. In 2017 MCM Expo became part of the ReedPOP family taking its status in the comic convention space to a whole new level.
First film projects and competition entries
Around the same time as our press applications for MCM Comic Con, which were understandably rejected, Spencer uncovered the MCM 48-hour film race. The entry to the race required a trip to London to collect our chosen theme, confirm our entry, and start the clock ticking.
To make the race more fun we wanted to pick-up our brief in person from the Forbidden Planet Megastore, London. Our excitement was palpable as we made our way on a Friday evening down Shaftesbury Avenue - the start of the race - to collect our brief (contained in a sealed envelope) at the allocated time.
We knew on our way to Forbidden Planet that we had a choice to make between envelope ‘A’ or envelope ‘B’, which contained the same brief with slightly different parameters. Sadly, upon arriving at this iconic store the reception, and entry process, was nowhere near as exciting as we had expected. Nonetheless, we selected an envelope, registered our choice, and with the brief safely stored, thought it a good opportunity to have a quick look around to purchase some cool merchandise to mark the occasion.
With the clock now ticking, we wanted to get started on the project, ASAP, so didn’t take long with our shopping. A couple of items were purchased before making our way to the underground to travel back to Waterloo station. Once safely on the train home, the envelope was opened for the first time, discovering the details of our brief and exactly what had to be achieved.
On the train, the process of outlining a script started. Ideas were excitedly flowing on filming location, fleshing out a story, the actors and crew needed, and how we would integrate our particular brief into the film. Within each envelope (can’t recall if we selected ‘A’ or ‘B) a phrase had to be included. Our phrase was 'Forgotten Mind', which somehow had to be weaved into our short films narrative to meet the exacting requirements of the film race rules.
For anyone not in the know, in a 48-hour or other time-based film race, everything starts from when you get your brief. the clock inexorably ticks down to zero and your final edit has to be uploaded before this time ends. Sadly, in our experience, the rules do not always appear to be adhered to by many people! For example, production items that should be covered during the countdown period appeared to have been filmed beforehand - hey, you live and learn.
Spencer persuaded some school friends - non-actors and non-experienced crew - to help us on this time drive production. Filming was scheduled to take place on Saturday with post-production editing scheduled for Sunday, which in theory would ensure the upload would be before the deadline on Sunday evening.
Our actors had clearly not had any time to learn their lines, they didn't take the filming process too seriously and the crew were not prepared for the time needed to hold the boom or reset lighting. Spencer and I found the process fun, and at times very stressful in equal measure. After all, we knew the time was short with lots to do, plus we wanted to win. Filming under such stressful conditions resulted in some obvious mistakes, nothing too serious, but with only one day to shoot a lot of footage, we had to push trhough and make the best of what we had.
Lessons Learned and Disappointments
We managed to submit our 48-hours film race footage, with literally seconds to spare. During the submission process, there was much excitement, with an equal measure of worry.
Sensibly, we didn't rest on the belief all was well because there was no confirmation the footage had successfully uploaded. An email was sent to the organizers to ensure our entry was registered. Imagine our delight when we received a submission confirmation from them.
Sadly, but understandably our film entry didn't win, however, the knowledge gained from the effort that went into making the film was frankly priceless - not a throwaway comment. Anyone who is serious about anything, not just filmmaking, will know that for every loss a different type of gain, or win, is achieved. These are the lessons on how not to do something, or how to better plan, or whatever is needed, to ensure future success.
Filmmaking is an iterative process, which involves many talents and skilled people working in harmony together - the ones most of you ignore when the credits crawl at the end of a film - and often involves re-shoots, especially if mistakes are spotted during the rushes. Modern technology helps minimize these mistakes, but even the best-of-the-best studios still make them. Some mistakes are minor errors such as continuity errord, others are more complex, such as gas lamps in period films which have electrical wires connected to them and can be seen!
While working on the 48-hour film race, we purchased weekend tickets to MCM London Comic Con. We were not sure what to expect at MCM Expo, we knew it was going to be a fun event, also a bit of an adventure with many opportunities to explore new ideas, a chance to meet new people, and at the time of booking there was a chance we could win a prize in the film race to be showcased over the convention weekend.
What we had not accounted for, or expected, was just how welcoming the cosplay community would be. Spencer had been following Sneaky Zebra, two filmmaking guys (Gary and Nick) from London, who arguably raised the profile of cosplay music videos in the UK, setting the bar for newcomers like us. It was a real pleasure meeting Gary and Nick, talking with them about common interests and passions. They encouraged us to keep making content, further spurring the desire to explore and film more great cosplayers, and their stunning costumes, at other conventions such as London Super Comic Con.
Fresh Crew Studios history could so easily have taken a different path many years ago. Spencer's continued interest in filmmaking has been shaped by some very talented individuals, enhanced through unique events, people, and opportunities, as well as by many lessons learned. Thanks to these events and the opportunities which have come from them Fresh Crew Studios has evolved into the studios you know today, creating a future with so many exciting possibilities.
These key, and sometimes unique, events have opened-up commercial engagement with organisations we would not have dreamt of being possible back in 2014. The knowledge gained has resulted in changes from the original direction we discussed, to the Site you are reading this Blog on, and future plans and ambitions, which have yet to unfold.
The Present Day
The events and experience gained since setting out have resulted in Spencer being sponsored by London Camera Exchange, Southampton, being offered a place on the BA Hons. Film Production course at Southampton Solent University, and more recently at University of Westminster, London, where only 60 candidates are accepted. Today, ahead of publishing this post, we received news that Spencer has also been accepted at Arts University Bournemouth. H's very happy with his hat-trick, and now has to let two of them down.
Our experiences to date have culminated into a business direction, shaped with a laser focus, a website we are very proud of, and client testimonials we are humbled and honoured to receive.
We are still making mistakes, thankfully less than when we started out. We still continue to learn and explore different techniques to make our films more engaging, our photographs more stunning, our editing slicker, and above all, we are still having fun together, as father and son.
The lessons we have learned, and continue to learn, are many and varied, such as the best lenses or camera to use for a production, whether it’s better to hire, or more cost effective to purchase equipment outright, and what batteries we need for maximum results – batteries are always on the learning list. These lessons also cover filming techniques, post-production music requirements, music licensing, crew and talent hiring, and many other areas of production, which makes for a never-ending stream of learning and fun; but never a dull moment.
A quick example of an equipment lesson learned. In the summer of 2017, we bought a well-known handheld all-in-one 4K gimbal for filming on location at London Super Comic Con. We were bitterly disappointed, on multiple levels, at how poor the quality of the system was compared to the specifications and claims made by the manufacturer and online reviews.
The valuable lesson learned with the gimbal has led us to hire equipment where in the past we would have been more inclined towards purchasing. Hiring gives us a great opportunity to evaluate equipment thoroughly without the financial risk. Hiring is something definitely worth considering as a filmmaker just starting out. It is a great way of mitigating against potential loss when the kit does not meet with expectations and is not technically faulty, which can make it harder to get a refund. Hiring also helps to quickly establish if the equipment is as good as the marketing hype claims, or conversely, as bad as reviewers would have you belive, with zero risk.
The future is unfolding day-by-day for Spencer. If you follow us you will no doubt be among the first to read about his and our journey together, perhaps even be part of the work created. Alternatively, you may be supporting us by gracefully continuing to follow our story, as a subscriber, or by occasionally visiting the Site to review new content or blog posts.
The mistakes we make, are what shape and define us. Remember, everyone makes mistakes, it’s an immutable part of our existence. Even those who act elitist make mistakes, sometimes more than others! It’s how you deal with the knowledge you learn on your unique journey that counts, and will ultimately shape and inform your success.
To close, never-give-up on your dreams or your passion to create content for others enjoyment. Every time you feel you’ve hit a wall find a way to climb or circumvent it. Take comfort in the mistakes you make; the lessons learned from them, and the knowledge gained. The knowledge you clean from the issues you encounter has real tangible value, not just to you, but others too.