Skip to main content Skip to search


Community films spotlight borough housing

Club members have been closely involved  with documentaries about local architectural and planning issues. Subtitled “An Oasis in Suburbia”, our 10 minute film about the Hamptons housing estate in Worcester Park has been received enthusiastically by area residents and other interested parties. The film depicts the social and environmental impact of a project  which started in the early 2000s on former brown-field (sewage farm)and features New England style clapper-board buildings, virtually traffic-free roads and extensive areas of grass and wetland. The 645 home mix of privately owned and social housing, plus community buildings, are the subject of interviews and original footage, much of it filmed via drone-mounted cameras.

Two other local community documentaries  are currently at the post-production stage.  “Daisy Fields” provides both nostalgic and contemporary accounts of  the Reigate Road Recreation Ground, including the sporting teams which have used it, the pubs which have sponsored them and nearby Copthorne School. Not far away, North Cheam’s controversial cross-roads features in another Club documentary. Victoria House, the large building on what was formerly the Queen Victoria pub site between Malden Road and London Road, has been derelict since 2006 and is widely considered by locals  to be ugly and potentially unsafe. SFM’s film considers the available solutions.

All three films are grant-funded. SFM regularly gets approaches from charities, schools, neighbourhood associations and other local interest groups needing assistance in the making of professional-quality videos, which the Club provides  on a free, grant-aided or part-funded basis. Notable examples over the past decade include a film about the culinary and cultural diversity of the London Borough of Sutton, extensive coverage of the borough-wide Imagine Festival in 2009 and an investigation for the national Hyperactive Children’s Support Group into the adverse effects of food additives on juvenile behaviour. Currently in production is a Borough-funded documentary on this year’s refurbishment of historic Beddington Park.

Versatile gimbal adds super-smoothness to DSLR filming

The extensive library of filming, sound and lighting equipment available freely to SFM members was expanded in April with the addition of a Crane 2 Gimbal made by Zhiyun. This new item of portable kit is particularly useful in providing steadi-cam style multi-axis camera support, especially when filming with DSLR and smaller format cameras such as those of Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Lumix and Nikon.  Image sharpness is greatly enhanced by a servo-assisted Tactile Focus Wheel which provides three levels of focus adjustment. and permits both digital and mechanical real-time follow focus to 0.02 degrees. The battery powered unit can be used hand-held or on its own fold-out feet. Costing around £600, it joins several professional tripods and ride-on dolly-and- track in the Club’s kit list, available freely to fully-paid-up SFM members for use on approved projects. The full range, which also includes HD cameras from Sony, Black Magic and Go-Pro,  was demonstrated at a Club Meet-up in May.

Club films score in local competition

SFM swept the board at “Sutton the Movie!”, a national short film competition sponsored by the London Borough of Sutton. The event’s organiser, Arts Network Sutton, handed out top prizes to three very different  movies created by Club members:

– Luke Baumkotter won the under-18 prize and Best Film overall for his horror series “Boy in a Suitcase”, which has done well in a number of competitions, both in the UK and internationally.

– Michael Franklin’s “Master Builder – NOT”, a 3-minute comedy in silent era style, gained the prize in the 19-69 age category for its depiction of female empowerment. Larry Large, played by Franklin, taunts a young woman (Jennifer Davies)to the point where she retaliates.

– “Xmas Robot”, made by Bruce Whitehall, won the Senior category. A housebound pensioner, played by Harry Lynes, faces a dreary Christmas until an unexpected guest arrives down the chimney.

Arts Network Sutton aims to foster borough-wide arts and cultural initiatives, providing funding when available. Recent  recipients of ANS grants include CAOS (Carshalton Artists Open Studios)and the Wallington Music Festival.

Using video to reinforce marketing

Video, especially when viewed on mobile devices,  is now the single most effective tool for the marketing of branded goods, according to “Video Marketing Strategy” a new 270 page paperback from Kogan Page. The book’s author John Mowat, a former BBC producer/director who is now managing director of specialist agency Hurricane Media, believes that mobile video  now out-performs other screen-based media (such as TV and computers) in terms of raising brand awareness, magnifying “brand voice”, increasing sales and driving website traffic, as well as offering exceptional speed of delivery and measurability.

While many of the complexities of on-line marketing are probably outside the scope of most hobby film-makers, the book includes practical tips in areas of  content control, including the best equipment for filming, lighting and editing interviews. Mowat also theorises on why promotion via mobile video has added power. The key, he suggests, is emotional connection. People tend to see smart phones as an extension of their personal selves, so a stronger connection is created between buyer and seller. “The fact that we physically touch what we are watching makes it feel that we already own it”. So people view content more favourably, thus valuing it at a higher price. Filming and editing films shot on smart-phones was the subject of a Club night in mid-June.

Projects in progress

Tim Goodman, a long-time SFM member who is also active in two mid-Surrey writers associations (Mole Valley and Phoenix), writes  for both stage and screen, usually under the nom-de-plume Kenneth Clelland. He has rarely attempted to combine work for both media but a well-attended enactment of his stage play  “A Delicate Balance” at St Michael’s RC Church in Ashtead on Good Friday raised the prospect of adapting the work – which follows the Easter story as told through the eyes of Pontius Pilate – for filming by SFM members.  The 40 minute play was in Tim’s “Words in Edgeways” series of plays inspired by Alan Bennett’s “Talking Heads” TV monologues. It featured a single professional actor (John Griffin) within a cloistered setting but test-filming at Cheam has suggested filmic enhancements such as an entirely black background. Griffin demonstrated the play’s movie possibilities at a rehearsed reading using Club equipment and is enthusiastic about his first role in a filmed drama.

“Autumn Sonata” is the provisional title of an experimental music video commenced at the end of last year by four Club members (Bruce Whitehall, Patrick Bloomfield, Harry Lynes and David Gent). The team used a variety of cameras, props and techniques, including slow-mo and reverse-action, to film apples and other fruit dropping from trees. The project, envisaged as a homage to autumn, does not have words or actors. A musical sountrack  is created by the fruit dropping in various ways, in some cases ricocheting off props such as steel bins, solid objects and even a xylophone.

Cinematic enhancements at Cheam

Ways of expanding the suitability of the Club’s main hall as a film exhibition venue are currently being evaluated. A promising approach is to obtain a new projection screen for non-invasive wall-mounting, enabling the full-length of the room to be used. Result: more viewing seats, better viewability and minimal walking in front of the projector. Until now, a transverse arrangement has typically meant projection of videos, films and Powerpoint onto a wall.

Club screenings of members’ work increased this year with two cinema-length features getting early outings at Cheam. “Redwood”, a thriller set in a demon-filled forest in Poland, was shown by George Burt, a former Club member who is now an award-winning DP and professional cinematographer with a portfolio spanning feature films, music videos, commercials, broadcast TV and documentaries. “Redwood” won European Cinematographer Awards and was official selection at Frightfest London 2017.

The 90 minute crime drama “Nefarious Consortium” was premiered at Cheam in April by its writer and director Stephen Foster. During preparation for the film’s two-week shoot using professional and amateur cast at locations in Merton and South Wimbledon, Stephen spent time at SFM. A Canon 5D DSLR camera was used to shoot the movie while editing was on iMovie; “I know that it tends to be seen as something for amateurs but it worked for me”,” he commented. The central character in his hard-hitting narrative is a happily married family man hospitalised after an assault. Awaking from the consequent coma, he is unsure who attacked him and initially looks to his faith for help. But he finds that a close friend has gone into business with local drug dealers, from which point he and his family are forced into a dangerous spiral. The film was Foster’s first attempt at a cinema-length movie and, while he went well over his original £14,000 budget, he has several other projects in his sights: “I just love filming; it’s in my blood”.