"Optimus" update: 26/10/2015

I went way over the word limit on IndieGoGo so I had to post this here.




Look, we had some mishaps. We had some setbacks along the way in post-production. They're all incredibly boring. I'm bored thinking about them.

Essentially: there is a guy in Germany, somewhere, who has the masters for the soundtrack, and if you see him kick him in the back of the knee and tell him Jamie sent you. Then explain who I am. And also why you're doing this, I guess, so he knows what he did.

He disappeared off the face of the Earth with our masters and the masters of other folks, is what I am saying to you. We got scammed a little bit. It seems like a weird and convoluted scam -- if you're recording anyway why not just give people their masters and build, I don't know, a reputable business for yourself? -- but I'm not the criminal mastermind here. I don't know how to run a scam.

And, I mean, this is all on top of what I can only truly describe as a "motherfucker of a year," work-wise. While that's nice and a freelancer can't really complain about the amount of work he's been getting -- which, again, a motherfucker of an amount -- it does mean I got dragged away from working on this ten-minute film for months at a time. Then I literally exhausted myself. No, I don't mean "figuratively." I have to take multivitamins now, you know? Like I'm 70 years old. I passed out during that Cumberbatch production of Hamlet; I thought maybe I was anaemic; but my blood tests came back normal; and it's like, "Jamie Drew, when was the last time you had a day off?"

To which, I don't know. Like, two years? Three? I've been living a weekend-less existence since 2007. Without checking, I couldn't tell you what day it is right now.

One of our bit players, John, literally got cancer in this time period as well. You probably know this already; he's raised, what, £85k for Anthony Nolan? Just a huge, ridiculous, wonderful amount. And there was a moment there, back when that all kicked off, where I was on my way home from the shop and I had this thought that I might need to get a new mix because what if I had to put in an "in memory of" slide in the credits. Then I had a little breakdown because at this moment the key to my front door wouldn't work and I spent ten minutes yelling at this bunch of inanimate fucking objects for being a piece of shitcollectively, why does nothing work, why do awful things happen to good people, etc.

I think I had some emotions to work through, there.

Full disclosure: I also played a shitton of Dishonored.


We're like a couple of weeks away from being done, tops. You'll get a link when there's a link. Optimus is still a thing that's happening. It needs grading, and a DCP needs assembling, but that's about it. I'm aiming for "the end of next week," but give me a nudge if you don't have anything by March 2017. It's happening. It's coming your way.

We had a screening back in June for the cast, crew, and some of our backers. While I'm too close to make a judgement call on whether this film is any good or not, I've been told it's "great" by more than one person. Let that be our review for now.

I mean, honestly, I have no idea. At this point Optimus is a series of shapes, sounds, and visual effects that won't work properly sometimes for absolutely no fucking reason whatsoever.

Here's what I know: it's a film, it's about 12 minutes long, and it's a film featuring a bunch of amazing people who worked very hard to be good at what they do for long periods of time, both in front of and behind the camera. It's got a great soundtrack, a scrappy bluesy thing recorded in Mike's bedroom because some guy stole it, which is kind of a great story? It's got robot sounds that I asked Adam to replace after our first go because the first ones were cute and hilarious and ended up stealing every scene to that scene's detriment. It's got my friends, and they're still my friends even though I spent days, weeks, months, yelling at them.

That's all I know, and that's kind of enough for me.

Rachael & Lia

I've been trying to get out of my creative comfort zone lately. A lot of what I do is straight editorial-style portraits, but recently my friend Jo has been doing these wonderful boudoir shoots, and while I don't think that exact sort of thing is my style, particularly, I've never really shot anything intended to be "sexy," you know? I don't know why I put that in quote marks. The point is: you've got to expand your horizons.

First up we have Rachael, who works for Buzzfeed and got talking about Front magazine while I was asking her Very Serious Questions for a film I'm working on. Rather than go down the serene/complex road boudoir photography traditionally treads, we thought it would be fun t do something more, well... fun. She made a Spotify playlist of mid-2000s pop-punk and bounced on our friend's bed for a while.

That's the creative process, dudes. That's how we do in the biz.

This second set I've had in mind for a while and I convinced Lia to do it ages ago (you know Lia? Yeah, you know Lia). But she's always on holiday, so we only got around to it last week. Lia is a beautiful woman whom I've seen devour a 12-inch pizza in seconds. Like, literal seconds. Like she was shotgunning it. "Could you do that in front of a camera?" I asked her.

"What kind of pizza?" she asked.

And of course we took this more traditional portrait on the couch because sometimes you have to do what you're best at.

So, what did we learn? We learned that pizza is nice, and Fall Out Boy's first album totally holds up. We learned that it's fun to muck around with your friends, and maybe that's an attitude and ethos to bring into professional work, going forward.

I mean, it's not like I'm the most professional photographer in the first instance, but still.

There's more of this kind of thing coming up in the future! I've actually managed to convince a few male friends to pose for me in similar shoots. I mean, I say "convince," I mean "they were all in before I finished asking the question." May you all have friends like these, readers. It's a pretty good life.

The Manhattans Project

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice there's a food & drinks section in my photography portfolio now. There on the left. You see it? Okay, hover over the word "photography." There you go.

Included in this page are some photos from my friend Felix's bar in POND Dalston, the Manhattans Project. His own bar! I know! And it's only an Overground trip from my house!

You can see more at the Manhattans Project's website, and if you're ever in the mood to buy your most favourite and most handsomest photographer a drink, you know where to go.

Romantic Misadventures

My friend Kit Lovelace runs an evening called Romantic Misadventures every month or so, always on a Monday and usually in a room above the Black Heart in Camden, which is a nice place that serves Camden Hells! That's really all you need in a pub.

Sometimes I write things -- I used to be a writer before I decided taking photographs was way, way more fun -- and sometimes I read those things aloud for audiences. The other day I read the story of my worst birthday, my 16th birthday, and Kit recorded it. Now it's on Soundcloud and embedded below:

Full disclosure: I'm not the best public speaker in the world. I have verbal dyspraxia and it's come back with a vengeance recently; sometimes I talk too fast for you the listener and for me the speaker, and I trip over my words.

Also, my friend Duncan tells me that I do a "sexy voice" when I give talks. Another friend, Joel, compares my public speaking voice to "a drunk Elvis." I was fine with "sexy voice," Joel, but thanks.

I Have Lost My Eye More Times Than A 28-Year-Old Man Ought To Have Lost His Eye

My friend Sarah has taken up special effects make-up and prosthetics recently, so I spent the day having her remove my eye. Why, you ask? Well, it's because I look fucking great with one eye. I don't know why this is. It's just a thing we all have to live with.



Right? I found this out at Sarah's time traveller-themed birthday a few years ago, when I wore an eyepatch. The photos have since been lost to the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2012, but luckily for you I will wear an eyepatch at any given opportunity. Here I am drinking in my bedroom, where the light was good:

Here I am on my way to a Hallowe'en party dressed as Grunkle Stan from Gravity Falls:

You're welcome, internet.

Sarah also turned Norma into a burn victim. Norma also looks good. It takes less for Norma to look good, though, so she isn't the focus of this blog post. Nevertheless:

We Made A (48-Hour Sci-Fi) Movie (As We Were Challenged To Do So)

Every year, Sci-Fi London host a 48-hour filmmaking challenge, in which, unsurprisingly, teams are challenged to write, produce, edit, and submit a short film over a single weekend. And Jamie Drew is no chicken no sir.

Jamie Drew is no stranger to 48-hour challenges. Jamie Drew will rise to whatever the fuck you want to challenge him to. He can eat more Twiglets than you can. He will prove it. You're in trouble now. You shouldn't have challenged him to a Twiglet-eating competition.

So, we chose a name by mashing a phone and seeing what autocorrect thought we said -- hello, good ship Sleepy Barfly -- and rose to the challenge. Sharan produced and directed; James and Raj wrote the script; Sarah stepped up to do some make-up and prosthetics; I became director of photography for the weekend; we dragged Top 30 Funniest Woman On Twitter and soon-to-be-seen-in-Optimus Lia into it to perform for our pleasure.

"Like, 10pm," we said. "You'll be finished at 10pm, latest. Don't worry about it." We did not finish at 10pm.

Here is the short we did. As is standard, we got a line -- something about evolution, I don't remember, I didn't sleep; a prop -- a jigsaw piece; and a Title -- You Are What You Eat. We made a film about a small-scale alien invasion. I don't know why the preview frame looks so weird, colour-wise. It's not that colour in the final film. That is going to eat at me forever.

On Low-Low-Low Budget Cinematography

If you're interested (i.e. if you're me), we lit You Are What You Eat with two household lamps, which we named Hero One -- a German lantern wrapped mostly in tin foil -- and Hero Two -- a floor lamp lined with more tin foil -- as well as a couple of smartphones, an iPad, and my small LED video light.

"Why did you do this, Jamie?" I imagine you're asking right now. Well, the only rental house that could deliver on time wouldn't take our insurance. Or, "technical limitations can boost creativity." Whatever makes me sound smartest. Your choice.

Here Are Some Behind-The-Scenes Photos

Damn, It Feels Good To Have A Side Blog

One of my favourite parts of pre-production is making mood boards, which out of everything I do in this ridiculous job I made up somehow feels the least like actual work. Not that any of the rest of it feels like actual work; I feel kind of bad when I say "I've been swamped" to people who go to an office every day and have titles they didn't make up for themselves.*

Making a mood board consists of the following steps:

  1. Sit down with a cup of tea
  2. Make sure your wi-fi works
  3. Look at pictures that are sort of like what you want to do
  4. Put those pictures into a single Photoshop file (Optional, for the lazy)
  5. Send them along to your team

I understand that from the outside, this does not look like real work. I understand that to the untrained eye this looks like I regularly spend an evening scrolling through Tumblr, and Flickr, and the gigabytes of miscellanea stored in a folder on a computer marked "FUEL."

Okay so this is mostly half-naked ladies but I promise you it's not all half-naked ladies.

Okay so this is mostly half-naked ladies but I promise you it's not all half-naked ladies.

Anyway, a couple of months ago I accidentally found a way to streamline the process. I have this mutant power, you see, wherein I form a kind of "entropy field" around myself that breaks everything I come across that's more complex than a Game Boy. My friend Carl wouldn't let me near his computer for years because every time I sat down at it, Windows would crash. I keep losing that "FUEL" folder every time a laptop breaks down for no apparent reason.

So I made a Tumblr to keep it all in.

Now, of course, I can just direct people to it, vaguely waving my hand in its direction when someone asks if I have any ideas for this shoot. "Of course I have ideas," I say, implicitly. "I stole them from a bunch of different people. That's how creativity works."

(A piece of advice: never, ever tell anyone that this is how creativity works. If anyone asks, tell them you're inspired by the world around you; by its people; by your mentors, who are your friends and family and the pack of wolves that raised you. Never tell anyone the secrets. Never pull back the curtain. It is too late for me, but you can do better than I have.)

(And maybe it is how creativity works! Who knows? Smarter people than you or I have tried to unpick this whole "art" thing, and we're still no closer, really, to figuring it out on a generic level. "Maybe it's built-in," the smarter people say, "fuck, we don't know.")

Goddamn I love You're Next. Why am I going out tonight? Why can't I just watch You're Next?

Goddamn I love You're Next. Why am I going out tonight? Why can't I just watch You're Next?

*A couple of years ago I got a call from my friend Leanne, who is a speech therapist. She was applying for a new job which required a reference from somebody who held one of a selection of pre-approved occupations. And although she obviously knows a lot of people in the healthcare business, none of them could do it, and so Leanne offered me a pint in exchange for my good word. This because "professional photographer" was on the list, whereas "actual speech therapist" for some reason was not. "This is riduculous," I said. "I literally made up this job. One day I said to somebody, 'hey, I'm a professional photographer now' and it was true." Anyway, thank you for the pint, Leanne.

A Very Short Video with Boom Nails and Peatree Productions, or, Let's Never Make A Stop Motion Film

I worked with my friend Sharan at Peatree Productons recently to make this wee stop motion animation for Boom Nails. I've never done anything stop motion before, but I've definitely thought about it for up to five minutes after seeing ParaNorman.

This was a lot of fun, but I don't think I hate myself enough to make a feature-length stop motion film. Not yet, anyway.