“Houston International Film Festival” is a film festival for independent films only. They are the only one in the world like it. We got to go to the Johnson space centre which is part of NASA. I realised that when someone says “Houston we have a problem.” It is from the astronauts in space radioing down to the Houston NASA centre with a problem. We also got to have a Texan barbecue after a yacht regatta. The boat we were on was called “We’ll Sea.” The people who own the boat were so friendly. They owned a dog like us who is a “King Charles Spaniel.” Every day at the festival they had master classes/ seminars.

The first one was about making films, run by the film critic and actor “Nick Nicholson.” I will tell you one thing I learnt in each class. In the first class I learnt that when writing a horror film that you should not have jump scares because it releases too much tension so the climax or most scary part isn’t as scary as you thought it would be, like earthquakes but backwards.

The second seminar was about how to make a DCP. I learnt that you should always put your films on a DCP before screening in a movie theatre because it looks better on the screen and some movie theatres only take DCP.

The third seminar was about equity crowd funding. I learnt that when investors put money into a project in normal crowd funding they don’t expect anything back but they do get a T- shirt, equity crowd funding means that when investors put in money to a project they expect to get the money paid back with interest (with extra money added) instead of getting a T- shirt.

That was the first day.
Second day.

The fourth seminar was about writing scripts with Casey Kelly. I learnt that when you are writing scripts you can’t think about the technical things like “He picks up a cup” because that is for the shooting draft. Just write it like a story, your reading draft. Only write the really important stuff like “She picked up the hand painted mug her daughter had given her and gently placed it on the shelf away from her dog.” I also learnt that don’t state the obvious like “I don’t like your jacket.” Just write in a look instead like “She looked at his jacket disgustedly.”

The fifth seminar was about Drones with Shawn Welling. Drones are the equivalent of using helicopters except they are less bouncy and less noisy. When we were there Shawn wanted to show everyone when you would use a drone and he needed a volunteer so I got up and acted on stage as if a drone was following me. I learnt that when using a drone you have to be familiar around there speed before using them around other people or it might crash into the actor it is following, I also learnt that the only sound you get is from the camera being used and the noise that that picks up it just the noise of the drone’s propellers.

The sixth seminar was about casting. It was with actress Mykle Mcoslin and casting director Donna McKenna. We got to read a scene with a partner, my partner was Mykle. It was a scene about a waitress and a customer who didn’t like each other. I was the waitress and Mykle was the customer. We played it that Mykle was a famous movie star and I was a fan. Her character wasn’t that nice and it disappointed me because I thought she would be, by the end of the scene we were both frustrated with the other. When Donna asked us to improvise, my character burst into tears and started complaining that she thought that the actress was going to be nice and then she wasn’t. Mykle’s character asked me if I wanted an autograph and then took a selfie with me. I learnt that when you go to casting director evenings they are very important, lots of casting directors do cast from their classes, the best thing to do is to be different in order to stick out and stay in their minds.

We only stayed for one more seminar the next day because my mums short was screening and so we went and watched it.

The seventh seminar was about a NASA photographer who worked on the media side of the space centre in Houston. He showed us incredible video footage that the orbiting space station sends down to them every week. The orbiting space station is where the astronauts go if they are practising for the trip to mars they will make. They showed us a video of Orion in space without any astronauts in case something went wrong. The Johnson Space Centre lost connection with Orion twice during its first practised orbit. Once during its first orbit and then the second as it started its land and they didn’t get signal back till it had landed in the ocean. When a space module is landing it releases the first large parachute that slows it down, then the second 2 parachutes which slows it down even more, then it release the last 3 parachutes that slow it down to 20 miles per hour as it comes to an in the ocean. Everything worked as they had hoped aside from losing connection. I learnt that the mars trip would take about 1 year and 3 months because the trip there is 6 months, we would have to stay there for about 3 months and then the trip back would take 6 months.

My mum’s film won an award at the festival for best family and child friendly short in that category for gold. She went up on stage and collected her award with my dog Chai. The awards were bronze, silver, gold, platinum and a REMI statuette. The REMI statuette looks like an oscar except its hands are above its head holding a star.
I hope we can go back next year.

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