About Me

Welcome to a blog about a film-maker, one who could be described as a story teller with an experimental approach to technology.

Hello, my name is James Tomkinson and this is my microscopic slice of the world wide web which should give an idea of what I do.

I think we can agree that people make films in a number of different genres. Mine is drama, a human story of either fact or fiction recreated in a gripping performance. Although that isn’t a dictionary definition it is what I write and capture either ‘in camera’ or on-stage.

An interest in building things has stayed with me throughout my younger years. I have to admit my DIY skills could use a little polishing yet that didn’t stop me from designing and refining the designs for my stereoscopic 3D rig since 2010 the results of which are on my YouTube channel.

Feel free to have a look around.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Lighting The 39 Steps


I enjoy a technical challenge as much as any geek does and I can only describe this play as a melody of technical difficulties and unexpected occurrences which ultimately resulted in a brilliant and memorable show.

Any technically demanding show requires skill to light but the difficulty level is increased when there is a shortage of the necessary equipment.

For this production I was the lighting designer as well as the technician so it is up to me to meet the demands of this Patrick Barlow adaptation.

The fact that the play was performed in the round made the lighting that much harder. The director wanted a diagonally split stage which isn’t as simple as it may sound, especially with only eight lanterns and the audience seated right on the edge of the stage, more on that later. Plus an explosion effect and a central spot light.

The design I finally settled upon (illustrated) was; mount one lantern on the end of each lighting bar. Four lanterns would handle each half of the split stage and by borrowing a technique I had used in my AS Level drama exam, of directing each lantern in a spiral I could keep the glare out of the maximum number of the audiences’ eyes whilst ensuring that all sides of the actors face would be lit. Four spot lanterns would also be used to make up each side the centre stage spot plus four flood lanterns to create the effect of an exploding biplane (not-illustrated).

These were the “technical difficulties” however they were nothing that couldn’t be solved with good planning. The “unexpected occurrences” for me, came in the form of a rather temperamental smoke machine. I say “temperamental” as it had a of releasing tiny puffs of smoke at random intervals, after which it would refuse to operate as required for about thirty seconds.

Fortunately the play was a spoof so this occasionally added some hilarity.

With well over one-hundred lighting cues this was a joy to design and operate whilst being very funny.

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