Wednesday, 18 September 2019

You've got to get this ...

This illustrated recipe book will be a production that is guaranteed to make you smile -

If you read my blog from 10th May this year then you'll already know that our historian and costumier Julia Gant is in the throes of preparing a very special recipe book to accompany the Heartsfelled film production.  The recipes are being chosen by Heartsfelled himself as being his favourites.

To fill you in a bit further - Heartsfelled is a Storyteller who is timeless and ageless which means he has been around since time began and collects his stories from across all times and places.  So the recipes he is choosing are genuine, historical dishes with wonderful stories behind their development and the illustrated book will explain the ingredients, how they are made and so-on.
To give you an idea of just how seriously good the authoress Julia is, only four years ago she catered "The Grand Ball at Villa de Molina"  that was in the ground floor of Napoleon's villa on Elba; she's lectured for academic circles and field cooks and the public at large and she's managed kitchens in some very fine historical homes  and shared pies with some pretty highly titled gents!

So, what's got me all excited this week?  Well,  I spent an hour with Heartsfelled himself and he, along with his amanuensis and muse Mnemosyne, was busy writing down anecdotes and tales of how he came to be there when each of the historical dishes was served.  I could sit and listen to these two historians, historical food experts and most literary people tell their stories and experiences for hours.  So, not only are Heartsfelled's musings and recollections historically fascinating, introducing us to a range of wonderful people from the point of view of their fine dining habits - but Heartsfelled has a glorious sense of humour and his writings are witty and funny too.  I had such a happy time listening to previews of the anecdotes that go with the recipes, smiling and laughing even gasping at Heartsfelled's life experiences.   I will add that there is some pretty smart research and a whole lot of real-life fun and games by lovely Nigel Gant behind Heartsfelled's musings . . . but don't tell Heartsfelled that I let on!

If you are interested in being told when this book is available (latest release date is August 2020 but it could well be available before that) them leave me a message here and I will be in touch.

Nigel Gant as Heartsfelled 

Friday, 6 September 2019

The Science of Story Telling

If you enjoy this blog entry and would like to read more or want to read about some different aspect of what we do, then why not drop a note in the comments box at the end and let me know what you'd like to read next.
When my good friend, orator and highly well-read gentleman, Nigel Gant, first stepped on set into the Museum of Stories he said, very quietly, "I am standing inside somebody else's imagination, it's humbling to think that!"   Actually Nige, it's humbling to be the person whose imagination you so willingly agreed to bring to life ... but let's leave the mutual appreciation there.    Throughout the day I noted that between filming sessions, whenever Nigel was sent outside to get some fresh air (it was well over 30 degrees on set on the hottest weekend of the year!) he would doggedly read, re-read, recite and practice the lines word for word.  
"Perhaps you don't have to be word perfect if there are phrases that give you trouble?"  I suggested.  
"Oh no!" he insisted "A lot of trouble and thought has been poured into writing this, I must do it justice and get it right." (I am abashed)
As you know I am a scholar, a PhD and an eternal student of all things human.  I love history, psychology, physics, maths ... you know?!  So, I would go so far as to suggest that our dear Nigel, without realising it, has understood an important scientific principle of good storytelling.  The science of what happens deep inside your brain makes for a fascinating study;  When you listen to a story that’s being told, or read, to you the auditory cortex of your brain become activated to receive the sounds and tones and interpret what is being said.  Engaging with a story also fires up your left temporal vortex (I fell like I'm writing an episode for Star Treck now!!). Your left temporal vortex is the region in your brain that receives and interprets language. This part of your brain is also capable of identifying overused words or clich├ęs and allowing you to understand the point without becoming bored by repetition or annoyed by the over-use. An innate understanding of this is why the most skilled storytellers are careful about the language they use, employing a host of literary techniques to keep your brain engaged.  Sitting in the shade on that hot sunny day I joked about how my frequent use of alliteration was challenging Nigel's skills, but I also admired how he set the paces and poetic rythmns of the story as he told it. 
And once your temporal vortex is activated other regions of the brain soon begin to participate in the process too!  When you are immersed in the story you begin to feel some kind of emotional engagement with what is being said because the frontal and parietal cortices have been stimulated. Have you ever noticed how descriptions of food will also stir up your sensory cortex so that you feel hungry and can almost smell or taste what the storyteller is describing?  Passages that describe movement or action will get a response from a bit of your brain called the central sulcus (yup, I'm pretty sure that's a Dr. Whovian monster!), actually, the central sulcus is another primary sensory motor region of your brain. Indeed, just thinking about running can activate the neurons associated with the act . . . try it, some hypnotherapists and psychologists reckon you can actually lose weight by thinking about exercise but I've never managed that!
Researchers also tell us that this kind of brain activity can continue on for several days.  This goes a long way toward explaining why what we perceive as "good stories" stay with us, often in great detail. Additionally, stories also improve our ability to recall any information embedded in them. Scientists and psychologists suggest that people can recall facts up to 22 times more efficiently when those facts were heard as part of a story. 
Furthermore, all this brain activity will also bring about changes within other parts of your body. As I'm sure you're aware, if you listen to (or watch) scenes of high action or tension, the stress hormone cortisol is released into your bloodstream.  This, in turn, leads to you becoming more deeply entrenched and responsive to the story as it unfolds.  Apparently, more stories which are more heavily character-driven, that is where the characters are more prominent than events or plot points,  will cause the release of oxytocin into the blood. This is also called the “empathy” hormone because it helps people to bond with other people.  Unsurprisingly it's the same hormone that's released into the bloodstream of breastfeeding mothers.
Speaking of mothers - there is a lot more I could say on the science of storytelling and its relationship with childhood.   If you are interested and would like to read more on this then why not make a comment on this blog so that I know what you'd like me to tell you about.  
Nigel diligently studying his lines to get the words and the rhythms exact -
it's so hot he has a wet towel on his head!

". . . so too, so beautiful boy!"

Telling stories by candlelight in the Museum of Stories

Friday, 30 August 2019

Through the Long Forgotten Door:

One week ago, in the spot where I now stand, was the Museum of Stories.
Here we stood inside Heartsfelled the Storyteller's magical lair.  Here is where his collections of stories, portals into stories, and little clues and artefacts belonging to lost or forgotten stories were all to be found.  But like many magical and special treats - the Museum of Stories will only stay in one place for a little while.  When it's ready it will dissolve away and if you wanted to visit again you'd have to know the secret and how to step through the "long forgotten door".
As I stand here now I see only the grey, empty square building.   I look around, here is where I  built a hollow cardboard wall to dampen the sound for the film crew.  Here is where the woodland corner was built, and over there Heartsfelled's table ....  I kick over the traces of dust, bark and sand.  I try to recall in my mind's eye the island beach and the little boy's bedroom all ready for bedtime stories to be told. And, feeling quite sad as it turned out, I start to sweep away the last dusty reminders. 
The floor and walls echo now as I step around the empty room. 
Zak adjusts the "white" and gets ready to do some pretty clever stuff with his camera

Testing the framing and lighting
- it takes skill to get it right.

Heartsfelled gets ready for the next "take".
Zak in his element - look at that smile.
Assistant Director, Tina, making sure the angles are correct.
Is the pen (quill) mightier than the sword?
Blue screen . . . coz Julia's not really transparent!

Getting ready, trying not to melt - it's over 30 degrees in there by now. 
Hottest weekend ever!

Checking his Anglo-Saxon pronunciation perhaps.

Clapper Board Girl - the Assistant Director on such a small crew gets to do it all!

He's picked an interesting volume off the shelf there.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Things are hotting up here at the Museum of Stories

The crew, Zak Wylde Productions,  are getting the equipment ready;
the staff (that's me and Richard aka Brother Scuttle) are setting out the catering and comfort facilities; the artiste Heartsfelled (Nigel Gant) and his amanuensis (Julia) are preparing to fill the Museum of Stories with myth and magic  ...
the next round of filming starts tomorrow and it's going to be fun.
Zak and a random Dalek check out new camera equipment.

Storyboards - the director and cinematographer create these and then
either totally ignore them or use them as working guides to the shoot.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Here comes the next spate of filming!

Hold your breath folks - at the end of this week (that's next weekend!) the Heartsfelled crew will getting it together in the mystical, magical Museum of Stories somewhere in the heart of deepest Lincolnshire.
Zak Wylde Productions will be filming Heartsfelled himself as he recounts the tale Fyrdhwaet, The Identity Stealer.  During the week I will try to give you sneak previews of some arts of the Museum and let you know how things are going, after next weekend there will be more teasers and tit-bits available to whet our appetites.
Keep checking in for updates .....

Sunday, 21 July 2019

On being the writer . . . .

It is quite a thing to be the person that wrote the poetic saga which, years later, becomes realised in film form.   There is a big helping of responsibility attached as I see this as an important (not at all irreplaceable but I would go so far as to say significant) step in the development of the very talented young Zak Wylde Holland's career.  The director, makeup artists, costumiers, actors, and so-on all heave expectations. I may steer the ship alongside the Director from time-to-time, however, I am not to be lauded as anything more than a willing project assistant with a clear view on how things can be progressed.  I am the writer and that is my raison d'etre.  I look forward to the production with unbounded enthusiasm but the depth of my pleasure will be felt equally when the special edition book is released and I am holding it in my ink-stained hand!

            On the matter of being a writer, I have been creating stories and poems since I was a very small child.  I can recall back to when I was four or even younger, when I couldn't get to sleep (which seemed often in the way of my recall) my mother would say to me "Lie down, close your eyes, and tell yourself a story!"  So I did.  And I have been doing just that ever since.  Songwriters and sometimes poets will tell you that if you can remember the words in the morning then it's a good piece, worth developing!
            Of course the greater majority of what I have written in my adult, professional years has been textbooks and academic work.  That's what happens when you go and get yourself a PhD (mine is Law and Business would you believe!) they expect you to research in-depth, write with great clarity and have a good, strong sense of purpose.  Now that I have moved on and can fully indulge my passion for writing fiction I am finding that research habit very enriching.
              Being a writer to the core also means that I am entrenched in the new book I am researching and creating as well as keeping a weather eye on my duties towards this wonderful Heartsfelled project.  In time my role on this particular Heartsfelled film will melt away and I will sink down deep into the depths of being a writer once again.  The fantasy fiction that I created in a previous life, under a different name was well received so, although I have no wish to revive that series or be that person again, I am very much enjoying the escape into my worlds and the people who come to me there.
               In the meantime, out here in the real world, sets are being built, choreography is being refined and all things are making excellent progress.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Magical things are happening . . .

Hi there,
It's been a little while since my last post as I have been busy set-building and writing.
Whilst I've been busy doing that, the rest of the crew have been busy filming elsewhere as well as practising their martial arts skills and winning wonderful medals.  Well done to all the Aisle O'Var Backsworders, Old Gamesters, and Team TE-MA Combat folks.
Yes, that's Zak Wylde Holland, our Director of Photography in the middle with some of his trophies and medals from this season.  His radiant smile even more handsome in the sunshine at the Oyster Fayre.

And despite the bruises, oh yes, they have the bruises "the Kiss of The Ash" it is all done with an admirable spirit of sportsmanship, fair play and gentlemanly conduct.  So proud to know them.

But, coming back to my main item for today, as I said I have been set building here in Lincolnshire along with my partner and Ghost from Times Past, Brother Scuttle (aka Richard Buck).  As we have been building we've also been writing, Scuttle and I ... you see it wasn't until we stood inside the Museum of Stories that we realised what a mystical, magical place it really is.   When you find your way there - and you have to remember to go through the "long forgotten door" with your heart and your mind open to the stories and the magic that lie beyond - when you find your way there you find that you are standing among a myriad of portals.  Each portal leads to more than one other place where stories have been born and, if you know how, each story can be visited . . . But that's as much as I can tell you for now.  I can sense Heartsfelled the Storyteller putting down the lap dogs and coming to put me in my place (gently of course) if I give away too much.  
The film and the accompanying Special Edition Book will tell all, all in good time :)

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Storytelling at its very, very best.

Today I went into the studio and listened to Nigel Gant, Heartsfelled himself, read the story of The Identity Stealer.  I knew it would be good, but I hadn't appreciated just how beautifully captivating he would make it.  What a wonderful and gifted storyteller we really do have.  I can hardly wait until I can share it with you so that you can sit, spellbound, as we did.  This was storytelling at its best.
Apart from anything else the lines in Anglo-Saxon were delivered so very beautifully, lyrically and with perfect rhythm and pronunciation.  And the switches from enthralling storytelling to verse are done so well that it is all pure pleasure to listen to.
My thanks go out to Carl Frearson at Solo Studios near Spalding too.  A talented and gifted producer-editor and, as I discovered, an award-winning filmmaker himself.  I am just knocked out by the wonderful people this project brings me into contact with.
Thanks, everybody.
PB (Writer)

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Who is this 'Heartsfelled' ?

Coffee Cup Available from
 Grab yourself a nice cuppa, sit back and let me tell you about Heartsfelled.

As you may have gathered, if you've read previous blog entries here, the film we are making is based upon an epic, saga style poem called "The Fyrdhwaet Saga".  In real practical, down to earth terms, it would not be so interesting for so many people if we had just got somebody to sit and read out the poem on film with, maybe, a few flat illustrations.  So, being the writer of the project Patrisha Buck had to find a platform from which the tale told in the poem could be delivered.  But - poetry and performance poetry lay at the heart of this project's inception so Patrisha looked for a way to avoid just filming the story as a standard, linear, dramatic narrative . . . and that was when she met Heartsfelled!

Star Carr deer mask 
 Heartsfelled is the most intriguing fellow.  He is ageless and timeless and his soul raison d'etre is to gather, preserve, store and tell stories from across all of time and space.  As I've discussed in prior blog entries, stories are fundamental to humankind.  Our news, our education, our communications across all levels of encounter are all based on storytelling.  Recently our Director, Pete Buzzsaw Holland, was discussing the 11,000-year-old deer masks found at Star Carr in Yorkshire.  These are artefacts which represent the long-ago spiritualisation of nature and the telling of stories to encourage ritual and good behaviour among people who were struggling to survive an intense and significant climate change (Sound familiar?)  And d'you know what? Yep, Heartsfelled was there 11,000 years ago collecting those stories and storing them away for posterity.  Soon it will be time for those particular stories to be brought back into our life's repertoire, but not quite yet.  
Faith, religion, moral standards, cultural identity - these are all shared and passed down from generation to generation through stories.  But what of Heartsfelled himself, what kind of a character is he?  Well, he is a very gentle, very wise person.  He has a cheeky sense of humour and masses of charisma. 
Heartsfelled and his love
When Patrisha first met him he gave her a fold with his stories about the goings on of a particular garden gnome community (pretty racy stuff as it turned out!) and told her three beautiful love stories, two his own and one from an ancestor of his from the days of the Viking raids ... and through sharing these stories Heartsfelled effortlessly let Patrisha know him to be 
unselfish, altruistic, self-sacrificing, self-denying. considerate, compassionate, kind, decent and noble.  He is a person of boundless generosity with a  raucous love for laughter!  He's also a lover of fine things, silk hats, fine clothes and, oh how he loves food and wine!
Patrisha also heard Heartsfelled read Dickens for the 350 years old Gentlemen's Society in Spalding, and she knew then that he was the one to represent her poem for the film . . . plus it turns out that he has studies Anglo-Saxon language and pronounces it perfectly ... what a bonus!
The Museum of stories
The Museum of Stories is where Heartsfelled resides and it's very interesting. It's hard to find because you have to believe in it and you have to "step through the long forgotten door" which is harder than it
sounds!  But, once there, you'll find glorious stream-of-consciousness displays that draw your eye and your imagination from one story to another.  The artefacts represent diverse tales  taking you from as shipwrecks to African jungle camps, from childhood comforts to creepy forests, through artefacts that tell of Roman, Greek, Egyptian or ancient Antipodean, Asian, Norse or European  tales you can linger on one or pass by and just let your thoughts take you wherever they will.  If you look hard when you first enter you might even catch a glimpse of one or two of the Ghosts for Times Past (as seen in our opening sequence for the film) as they are just a few of the people whose stories are there to be told ... or not, depending on what the viewer tunes in to or focuses on.  And, of course, you'll find Heartsfelled, if he's not out gathering more stories or walking the little dogs with his lady-love.

** If you would like a copy of food historian Julia Gant's collection of Heartsfelled's favourite recipes (genuinely authentic historic recipes) with illustrations and anecdotes all manner of good things included, or any other movie memorabilia or even a pre-order copy of the film .... you can get these by visiting

Monday, 3 June 2019

Brother Scuttle's Reflections.... Spalding Priory

One of our Ghosts from Times Past is just loving the opportunities to visit with us and have a look around . . . .

Hello again ghost watchers,

Richard had to return to his Dentist to have a rather large tooth removed, so had not the motivation to evoke my spirit from the depths... but here I am a wandering ghost, once again free from the Netherworld and able walk quietly amongst the living.

As you know the Priory was my home for many years and was a big feature on the landscape of Spalding. It was demolished well after my death... yet today, feeling melancholy and having a need to reunite myself with my former home, I am searching modern Spalding for traces of the former Priory.

From talking to Richard recently (in between bouts of toothache!) he was telling me what survives of our order's holy places in the area. Peterborough still has Abbey remains near the Cathedral, Crowland is still used as a Church and has recognisable remains from its time as an Abbey scattered 'round and about...
Even dear old Thorney has a few remnants left, used today as a fine Church. But alas Spalding's magnificent construction is ne'er to be seen evermore... Heartsfelled remembers it well, and the stories we both could tell...  But look a little deeper and you shall find pieces...

As I wandered along Spalding high street I saw a strange looking building that drew memories long distant... It has been a forge and a bakery, a hostelry and a shop that sells those square things you modern people like to talk into...  It is still known affectionately as 'The Prior's Oven' and I love it! From the oddly shaped exterior to the vaulted ceiling.
In my day it boasted another story and was used as a sort of prison for Monks not keen on moral behaviour... Brother David for example who couldn't keep his hands off the local girls of ill repute, and impregnated one of them! He was sorry after that I can tell you and Brother Ignatius who put his hand into the poor box...
There was a bell tower on that second level that, when tolling, told of imminent execution, usually some poor Saxon who had fallen foul of the Normans, who was hung from a gibbet in the Market Place. It sent a shiver along my ghostly spine just thinking about it I can tell you!  Sadly the grand entrance no longer exists, but as you walk into the area known as 'The Crescent' it all began to feel very familiar...

I was excited to discover a row of houses at the back of what Richard describes 'his favourite charity bookshop'. It was not known if they were from the Priory or not, but I was sure they were what was left of the Monk's sleeping dorms...
Inside they had changed much but little hints still showed through the fabric...  I was sure I had found the old block again!
As I travelled I saw little hints remaining in walls and in other buildings. Stone blocks that were recognisable from my time at the Priory.

I am settled again now. My beloved Priory still exists in some form or another and I am content to return to my domain happy...

I will return...

Brother Scuttle.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

How to be a film or tv makeup artist!

Hi there!
If you're a film studies student or somebody who loves to understand what you see in the movies, then you'll be aware that even the most ordinary looking person on film has been made to look the way they do.

From the very earliest days of moviemaking, cosmetics artists have had to refine their skills to make movie makeup work.  And the makeup artist is a true artist!  They have to understand colour, light, shade and many aspects of photography.

For example, actors in silent films often had to wear very yellow makeup to compensate for the "orthochromatic" black and white film that was not able to capture anything red.

The first make-up range ever designed just for movies was launched in 1914, Max Factor's Supreme Greasepaint . . . you wouldn't want to name any cosmetic product anything-"grease" nowadays I guess!

 1969 saw the longest ever single make-up application for a movie.   For the "Illustrated Man" actor Rod Steiger had to be, well, illustrated!   Applying those tattoos took a make-up artist and assistants 10 hours on the torso and another full day on the lower body, hands and legs!  Personally, I cannot imagine being that patient.
On the other hand, where a film has many extras and special background actors, there needs to be a fast technique, you can't do everything by CGI.   Frank Westmore had to make up several thousand extras each day for "The Ten Commandments" (1956). The spray-painting technique he developed to do the job quickly is still used.

Types of Makeup Artist:

Nowadays Hollywood's union regulations classify movie make-up artists based on the area of the actor's body being made up! A make-up artist is only allowed to apply cosmetics only from the top of the head to the top of the breastbone, from fingertips to wrists and from toes to ankles. On the other hand, a body make-up artist applies cosmetics as required to any other areas of the actor's body. While the regular make-up artist generally works throughout filming, the body make-up artist is hired per day when needed. The key make-up artist, or make-up designer, is the person in charge of the make-up department for a movie.  During pre-production, the designer reads the script and meets with the director and screenwriter to discuss their needs and ideas for the film. 
The key make-up artist also will work with the key hair designer, costume designer, set designer and director of lighting throughout the film.  After that, the key make-up artist researches and determines how to design the make-up and special make-up effects for the film. 
GoT actress, Natalia Tena (property rights Game of Thrones / HBO)
Sometimes the MUA just has to prevent an actor or actress' features from bleaching out under the lights, sometimes enhance their beauty and sometimes, well, to switch off the beauty and dirty them up!
Often complex effects or prosthetics are handled by a special effects department or a consultant company. The key make-up artist also brings together additional make-up artists for the film, sets their work schedule and supervises them during production. She or he then has to check everybody's work, make sure the make-up applied matches the agreed style, and that continuity is maintained every day during shooting. 
In addition, the key make-up artist develops and stays within a budget.  Once prosthetics, hairpieces and other make-up elements are finalized, they all must be inventoried and stored when they are not in use.
Where there is a big team the key makeup artist might have a senior makeup artist under them who has responsibility for continuity as well as ordinary makeup artists and assistant makeup artists.
It's a long but creative day, finding solutions to make the 'look' and make that look work on screen.  Putting it all on the actors from extremely early in the morning and then taking it all off again after the end of the working day.
Annual earnings for makeup artists seem to start at around £14,500 per annum and can rise, over time and experience, to anything around £62,000 per year.  A practised eye, skilled hands, creativity, determination and a splash of luck are required to get into this field, so it's a good thing to have a focus of interest like our Key Makeup Artist, Nealy Horsfield who really aims to get into blood scars and injuries for tv! 
Nealy is already superb at what she does, now that I know her I'm excited to watch her career blossom. Here she is talking to me on the day she agreed to join our team: