My Review of 2017
By Mark Lever
Welcome to my review of 2017 where I’ll be looking back at what I have achieved in 2017 and what my favourite moments have been. Here are just some of my highlights you’ve got to look forward to: an overview of my holiday’s, films I’ve seen, my Big Sesh’s, what I’ve achieved at work, gigs I’ve been to, how my personal projects are progressing and my targets for 2018. With every category I’ve put a paragraph on what I’ve got to look forward to in 2018. Hopefully I’ll write something similar to this in 2019 where I can reflect back on what I’ve written this year.
Since I finally managed to get a full time job in something I love (I’m a Media Technician at Esher College) in late September of 2016, I have strived to go on holiday every two to three months. A goal, I’ve been very pleased to have succeeded in doing. During 2017, I travelled to Amsterdam (a city that keeps on dragging me back), Prague (a lads holiday I’m glad finally came together), Berlin (a trip that has made Germany aside from England the country I’ve visited the most cities in), Bath (romantic trip away with Raven), Toronto (chance to appreciate some of my family history), New York (several years wait come to an end), Edinburgh (I’m very pleased to have got Richard excited for Edinburgh Fringe) and Belgium (overly ambitious trip complimented with my discovery of fruit beer).
In 2018, already booked is Madrid (where I’ll be going with Rajat, Andy and Michael and hopefully be ticking off another two football stadiums off my list – Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid & Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico Madrid), Malaysia (to visit where my brother has been working as a teacher since August 2017), Lisbon (my second Eurovision and time I will have been to the city). Currently in discussion is a holiday with my mum to either Lyon, Rome or Seville in February and Richard’s second visit to Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
When picking a holiday destination, my two criteria’s are whether it has a Hard Rock Café and if there is a football match being played there during the time I’m there. Well, how else can you filter down where to go out of the thousand places out there! A couple of years ago, I decided to switch from collecting university T-Shirts to Hard Rock Café T-Shirts. I thought there’s only so long you can attend university for! I didn’t want to be a fifty year old still wearing a university t-shirt. Furthermore, there’s often a Hard Rock Café in most major cities in the world.
Hard Rock Café T Shirts I Collected in 2017:
August Niagara Falls
August Yankees Stadium
August New York City
From 2015, I’ve been part of what is aptly named Big Sesh, where I meet up with most commonly attended by Jason, Rajat and Tom and sometimes cameoed by Chris and Luke. Most of which I know through Rajat, having visited Ipswich whilst he studied at Ipswich University. Tom, I know through university and Rajat through a college friend. On our Big Sesh’s we like to spice things up, mostly because we only meet up once a month, to visit somewhere different. Throughout the year, Tom and I relived our student years in Portsmouth and gave Jason a Best Of tour, experienced Bromley’s rejuvenation, Rajat became a human cloakroom in Central London and we pretended to be Spurs supporters when we visited Wembley
On our Big Sesh’s, Jason and I like to tick off football stadiums of our list and we are sometimes joined by Rajat and Tom. Even when I get a text from Rajat texts me near half time during a Oxford game “Man, this is a dull game” – little did he know Oxford we’re going to go on to score 3 goals in the second half.
Here are the stadiums I managed to tick off along with the match, the stadium and who I went with:
February Cardiff City (Cardiff City vs Rotherham United), Cardiff City Stadium – Myself
August New York City FC (New York City FC vs New York Red Bulls), Yankee Stadium – Mum
September Arsenal (Arsenal vs Doncaster Rovers), Emirates Stadium – Jason
September Arsenal (Arsenal vs WBA), Emirates Stadium – Myself
September Oxford United (Oxford United vs Gillingham), Kassam Stadium – Jason & Rajat
October Gent (Gent vs Eupen), Ghelamco Arena – Rajat
October Bromley FC (Bromley vs Woking), Hayes Lane – Jason
December Tottenham (Tottenham vs Stoke City), Wembley – Jason & Tom
Towards the end of 2016, my Dad and I signed up to Odeon Limitless, a monthly membership which entitles you to watch unlimited cinema releases. I’m very proud to have broken my record for the amount of films I’ve seen in one year, 48.
This year was a fantastic year for cinema and it’s amazing to not have to rely on Meerkat buy one get one free offer to watch films. Especially as it limits you to seeing films on Tuesday and Wednesday’s. Also, to be able to see those films you aren’t totally sold by the trailer and aren’t willing to fork out £15 to see what will most likely be a waste of money.
Although there are one or two improvements I’d like to see to the service. For starters, if you have signed up to the basic outside central London membership and would like to upgrade, you shouldn’t have to wait until your membership ends before you can upgrade. Surely it would advantageous for Odeon to allow you to upgrade for an extra few pounds a month on the spot. Furthermore, if you have the basic membership and want to see a film in central London, just like when you see a film in Imax or 3d there should be a surplus. You shouldn’t have to pay the full, rather inflated price. Finally, the in-house machines should allow you to enter your Limitless card and pick up or purchase your tickets.
Here is a summary of my cinematic experiences:
Best Film: Spiderman: Homecoming
Best Superhero Film: Spiderman: Homecoming
Best Comedy: Thor: Ragnarok
Biggest Surprise: Harry Styles in Dunkirk
Best Sequel: Paddington 2
Best Sport Film: Battle of the Sexes
Best Action: John Wick 2
Best Horror: IT
Best War Film: Hacksaw Ridge
Best Adaptation: Wonder
Every year Esher College Media and Photography department hold their very own Oscars to celebrate second year students work. As Media Technician, my role it was my responsibility to come up with the Intros, Nominations are…, Winner is… and make sure everything technical went smoothly on the night. It was a stressful month or two leading up to the event, in which I produced over 50 videos and held a couple of rehearsals but it was worth it because the actual night went smoothly apart from a couple of minor hiccups, which were bound to happen it being my first time. Afterwards, we had an after party in a bar by the river in Hampton Court and it was good to relax and talk to the students and teachers.
I’m looking forward to doing my second Oscars in 2018 as this time I’ll know what to export and hopefully there won’t be so much to do because I will have prepared most of the content and will only have to adapt it to make relevant for this year. Although the pressure is quite stressful once the show begins because if something goes wrong, it’s most likely on me but the adrenalin and satisfaction you get afterwards makes it worth it.
In the last term of my 1st school year working at the college, I put on a 2 part mini course of filming and editing a multi camera project. I managed to get 6 students to attend the course, which at the end I gave them a certificate as proof of completion. The idea being it was something they could put on their cv and help them on their university application. It was a really proud moment when an article about the course featured in an Esher College newsletter.
Inspired by how well my first set of workshops went, I put on additional workshops during my second year. I put on a week After Effects workshop every Thursday for four weeks and at the end the students and I agreed we would carry on doing more every other Thursday. The workshops have given me a good excuse to refresh myself on what I learned during the After Effects course Esher College paid for me to take as part of further development. It’s also given me an excuse to keep using the software on a frequent basis, which is important to make the knowledge second hand. Aside from the stuff already learned in the course I attended, I’ve asked students what they want to learn to tailor the experience towards them. This way I’ve taught myself how to do several visual effects including: Teleportation, Screen Replacement and Sky Replacement.
There’s always been one element of video editing that I’ve always struggled with because I’m colour-blind and that is Colour Grading but as it’s been one of the most common questions I get asked by students, I finally managed to crack it and I now feel confident. With my new-found skills acquired, it’s been my most popular workshop I’ve done and students have filled up my timetable with either 1 to 1 or workshops in pairs. I’m now confident enough to take up the responsibility to grade Extra Time, which the majority will be sky replacement.
Up until my job as Media Technician at Esher College, I had not lasted in a full-time role for more than four months. I was beginning to worry whether due to my Chronic Fatigue or Asperger’s Syndrome if I was able to stick at a job and keep up with the pace of a proper job. My previous jobs, were either a seasonal role, the role wasn’t right for me or required me to travel the other side of London with heavy equipment every day during rush hour. That’s why when I reached a year in the job in September, it was a very proud moment. It showed that once I found a job in the field I love, with the right environment, distance from home, I would be able to do the job.
Some of the perks of the job is I get to go on trips such and get paid for doing so. In 2017, I went to see Blade Runner and film students on an military assault course. With the footage of the military assault course, I put it in a shared folder for students to access and edit their own promo video for the assault course following a short brief I had written. Their teachers worked it into part of their editing exercises. It was a great way to test the students skills of structuring a video, telling a story, pacing, cutting to music and learning how to use video to sell a product.
My plan for 2018 regarding work is to definitely finish the rest of the school year at Esher College, especially to get a chance of improving upon the Oscars and because the working environment will be very hard to leave. Going forward, if I was to stay at Esher College, I will feel I need some extra work load to feel like I’m making a step up. There is a potential for me to run my own Complimentary Studies classes where I would get paid teaching wages instead of technician for the hours I teach. Otherwise, I’ve heard that ITV get teachers in to teach specialised areas and as it will be in Central London, this will likely to be a significant pay increase. I need to find out whether it would be part time or full time. If part time, there might be a chance I could do it on top of my current work.
Growing up I went to several performances by artists of my dad’s and mum’s era, such as Gilbert O’Sullivan; Ralph McTell; Elton John; James Taylor. Although I enjoyed going to these gigs and gave me an appreciated of singer songwriters, once I became old enough to go to gigs myself I’ve taken the opportunity to go and see some of my favourite bands. It’s been really nice since university, to join me on my mission to tick off as many artists as possible, I’ve had my university friend, Tom.
Here are the gigs I managed to see in 2017 with the venue and who I went to see it with:
February Ladies of Soul. Ziggodome – Dad, Jessie, Karen, Lynn
February Fratellis, O2 Forum Kentish Town – Myself
June Take That, O2 Arena – Myself
July Green Day, Hyde Park – Michael
July Lionel Richie, O2 Arena – Dad
July Blink 182, O2 Arena – Dad
July The Killers, Hyde Park – Tom
September Foo Fighers, O2 Arena – Nick & Stephen
November Royal Blood, Alexandra Palace – Tom
November James Blunt, Eventim Apollo – Thomas
December Kasabian, O2 Arena – Tom
December Queen, O2 Arena – Dad
Gigs I’ve got to look forward to in 2018:
February Franz Ferdinand, O2 Academy, Brixton – Tom
April Flight of the Conchords, O2 Arena – Myself
My Favourite Gig
My favourite gig was Queen with Adam Lambert at the O2 Arena. Although, I’m sure nothing beats seeing Freddie Mercury with Queen, it was still fantastic to see them perform loads of my favourite songs. Especially, Bohemian Rhapsody and Don’t Stop Me Now. Practically every song of theirs I knew and are what I would definite as classic. So it’s only natural this has hit my top 5 gigs I’ve been to ever. Adam Lambert had amazing vocals and sounds a lot like Freddie Mercury, he even had all the costumes. Apart from that, he didn’t try to be like Freddy Mercury to him too much and paid homage to him several times throughout the concert. A highlight was when they played Freddy Mercury on the big screen of the historic moment when he got the audience to repeat what he was singing at the original Live Aid.
During my time as a Freelance Filmmaker from 2012-2016, I self-financed several productions e.g. Moving In, If This Isn’t Love, Extra Time. One of the benefits of being in regular work is I now know how much money I will make month to month and in effect I can plan my personal projects much easier and on a more frequent basis. For example, when filming Extra Time, on average it took 6 months to a year to do the next filming day because Gary and I would have to save up money from our various jobs as a freelancers. Now, I have a steady job, Richard Holliday’s and my fan made project of Doctor Who will have taken just less than a year from the first day of filming to the last day of filming. Hopefully things will carry on like this and I will be able to produce my own material at a frequent rate.
At the beginning of 2017, Richard and I started Pre Production on the fan made Doctor Who episode written by Richard. We decided to split the costs and aim to do as low budget as possible without sacrificing the professionalism and the quality too much. Where possible, we got people who would do the project for the love of the show, because they enjoyed working with us or as a favour for a friend. When needed, we hired freelance filmmakers at a reduced rate to help us out.
The first filming day of Doctor Who happened in April and since then we have gone onto do filming days in July and October. The fourth and final day will be in January. We’ve ended up filming at Epsom Coaches, due to change of ownership at Epsom Coaches, we had to move the majority of filming to Storage King in Epsom and we’ve also filmed at Elliot’s house in Ewell.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to take part in each filming day as we’ve got together the best of the cast and crew we’ve worked together on previous projects such as Gary Thomas (Extra Time, Moving In & If This Isn’t Love), Anthony Styles (D.E.A.D & The Wrong Date), Charlie Ross (Extra Time & Don’t Marry Him, Have Me), Rene Toussaint (If This Isn’t Love), Stephan Burn (Extra Time), Thomas Parker (Extra Time) and John Bagenal (Extra Time). We’ve also welcomed to our network of filmmakers who I very much hope to work with again in the future – Elliot Stammers, Elise Stammers, Luke French, Thomas Chee, Paul Valentine, Michael Holmes and Rob Lever.
One of the biggest selling points about the fan made Doctor Who episode that sold putting my time and effort, let alone my hard earned cash towards was we would get to film with a life size Dalek and TARDIS. It was very surreal filming with a Dalek. Especially in between the scenes the Dalek wasn’t needed, to walk past a dark storage room with a gold Dalek waiting in the midst was a very odd experience. Also, towards the beginning of the day, to be corrected by the Dalek when I kept on calling it “Dalek” by screeching at me “I have a NAME”. I can’t wait to film the more action based scenes on Day 4 and to film the materialisation with an actual TARDIS rather than CGI model it in later will be a Doctor Who fantasy come true.
In 2018 I aim to finish off Extra Time, which we currently only have the Sound Editing, Music and Colour Grading left to do. My target will be to finish it by March/April. Then it would be great to hold a dedicated premiere and start sending it off to festivals and finally get it seen by the industry. On top of that, we should also finish Doctor Who around a similar time and hold an Extra Time/Doctor Who Premiere at Elliot’s aka The Doctor church in North London where we plan to show both films, hold a Q & A and have a chorus sing tunes from Doctor Who with a cake and tea break in between.