Event Review: Scannain @ Digital Biscuit 2015 – Day 2

The second day at Digital Biscuit covered a lot. From early to late evening there were a plethora of speakers. Session one titled Weird Science began with Professor Charles Spence who talked about food, theatre and the curation of a meal. It was an interesting concept and the idea of people in the restaurant business borrowing from directors is fascinating but it was probably a little too tangential to film for me. This was followed by Doctor Brian Vaughan who discussed speech technology in the creative industries. He talked about it mostly in relation to the gaming industry and while it was interesting it got a little too hi-tech for me. After this film critic Donald Clarke (now we were in my wheel house) gave a presentation called Computers versus Movie: Aesthetics gone bad which began with a smart and witty comparison between the Sidney Lumet film Network and the David Fincher film The Social Network. Inevitably Skynet got a mention as did the underrated War Games which I see almost as a spiritual sequel to Dr. Strangelove.

The second session began with a talk called the Art of Pre-visualisation with Vincent Aupetit. He talked about how Pre-visualisation was becoming an essential tool for filmmakers replacing storyboarding for films such as Gravity which he had worked on extensively. The fact that you can now pre-visualise whole sequences saves money as you know exactly where to light and where to put the camera. It is another example of how technology is an increasingly important tool to filmmakers. This was followed by production designer Tom Conroy who similarly to the previous speaker talked about recreating the past with cutting edge technology in TV and film productions. It was fascinating to see the results of the work from shows he had worked on such as Vikings and The Tudors. Session two ended with one of the highlights of the two days with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and digital colourist Peter Doyle. This was an enlightening, hilarious and interesting talk, with both of coming off like modern day Laurel and hardy type double act. Some fantastically indiscreet stories (Harry Potter!) from Delbonnel added to the brilliance.

After lunch we began session three with an animated character called Fleak and a presentation by Antti Haikala. This was mostly about a technique called Glove animation and was interesting for the most part but again I was lost a little on the technical side. This was followed by a presentation by acting coach to the stars Gerry Grennell who talked about helping bringing characters to life. This was particularly valuable for the directors in the room. He was very entertaining with a lot of expertise to share.

Session four was both entertaining and richly informative. It was presented by Nick Meaney who introduced two excellent speakers. First up was Debbie Vandermeulen with an essential guide to Independent film funding. She gave some brilliant advice and you could visibly see filmmakers sit straighter in their seats when she went through various schemes to get funding. This was followed by one of the highlights of Digital Biscuit 2015 when we were introduced to Franklin Leonard founder of The Black List. A self-proclaimed poor public speaker he was anything but. Instead he was funny, smart, passionate and hugely intelligent about film and the importance of writers and their screenplays. If only more people in Hollywood cared this much about the written word.

Finally session five rolled around and with it one of the most anticipated speakers at the event. David Chase creator of The Sopranos sat down for a talk with writer Peter Mc Kenna. Chase was in great form with some excellent anecdotes from a long career working on various TV shows like The Rockford Files. His story about how HBO hated the title of The Sopranos and wanted to rename it Family Man was hilarious. This title was then withdrawn by HBO when Family Guy started on TV. He also talked about other superb writers that worked on the show including Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) and how they helped shape the show in later seasons. There was one more session with Chase and Neil Jordan that followed this that unfortunately I had to miss.

Overall Digital Biscuit was a terrific way to spend a couple of days. The scope of the programme meant that a lot of areas were covered, most of them excellent, the rest never less than fascinating. I would heartily recommend attending. Roll on 2016!