Satellites & Gambits

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I recently released an album of piano music on streaming services. I wrote these over a number of months, some of them initially starting off life intended for other projects and some purely just to write something original to be listened to. I eventually had a collection of pieces that all had a consistent, relaxing piano vibe that I thought would make great background music whilst studying/working/relaxing etc. I named them Satellites for this reason (things revolving around something larger) and thought that naming each track after Neptunian moons would suit their space-like vibe.

The album is available to listen to in a number of different ways, including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and Google Music.

If you get a chance to listen, hope you enjoy!


A week ago some friends and I participated in the 48 Hour Film Project London for a second year in a row! There were five of us in the team this year and we entered as team "InkyDink", having to write, shoot, edit, colour grade and score a short film in 48 hours (including the mad dash into London to physically submit the film). As with last year there were pre-requisites of what had to be in the submitted film. This year they were:

– A Prop (Sticky Tape)
– A Character (David/Dorothy Cunningham, a Scientist)
– A Line (“What do you think I should do?”)

We used our collective experiences from last year's entry and set to work on a rough outline, script and shot list which we used throughout the day, building in enough slack that we could add in shots on the fly if we thought they were fun and added to the story. We went silly with the tone of the film this year; no doubt exacerbated by the fact that we ended up staying awake for 43 of the 48 hours. I'd be lying if I said I was entirely cognisant by the time I went to sleep on the Sunday night!

Here's a couple of photos from the event. I can't take credit for the first three of these - they were taken by other members of our team:

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Overall it was an awesome, sleep-deprived giggle fest and the weekend no doubt spawned some quotable in-jokes for years to come. The film is above to watch. Hope you enjoy!

Matt Javanshir
Weddings & Space Travel

I've uploaded a couple of things recently to show what I've been working on. Here's a highlight version of a recent wedding I filmed for some dear friends to commemorate their special day.

I had a blast filming, editing and scoring this and continue to appreciate and refine my own filmmaking techniques thanks to wedding videography. Some things that spring to mind:

  • It's fast paced. There's no second takes of the ceremony, the first kiss, the first hugs from friends/family and the speeches. I won't lie, there's pressure to nail these moments, but that all adds to the energy of the day. It forces you to think on your feet and be constantly on the look out for the happy little moments of the day (as well as the happy big moments of the day!)
  • You have the same freedom as other filmmaking areas when filming/editing to tell the story in a variety of ways to suit what your clients would like to have; be it fly on the wall, interviews, set pieces or non-linear. In that sense I'm always thinking about how best to tell the story.
  • It's just generally a really awesome feeling to be around people genuinely celebrating a happy occasion, especially when you're there to capture the memory and bottle up a small part of what it felt like to actually be there on the day.

Also I recently entered a short film competition ran by NASA/CineSpace. The challenge was to create a film (in any style) that uses at least 10% NASA footage. The themes were "the benefits of space to humanity" and "the future of space exploration". I had the idea to interview friends and family to ask them what they thought of those things. What I received back was some incredible, well thought out and beautifully emotional answers. I was pleasantly surprised at how diverse yet thematically consistent the responses were. Here it is below! Fingers crossed!

As I finish these videography and indie video game soundtrack projects, I'm aiming to consolidate all the things I've learned over the last couple of years and challenge myself to make something longer, more intricate, challenging and even more personal.

So far in 2017

Update time! Firstly, thanks to my wife (and the folks at Squarespace!) I have a lovely new website to showcase the things I'm working on. My wife and I travelled to Yorkshire in March and I used the opportunity to do some filming in and around the Yorkshire dales. The colours and score which I ended up with during the post production ended up different to the feel of the place when I was actually there, but the video has a ethereal vibe that I felt was quite effective, so I went with it. Here it is below along with some more pictures on the day!


I've also been voraciously reading away at a number of books on filmmaking that have further piqued my interest in various topics. I'm finding the world of film to be fractal-like in that as I dive deeper into a given subject, I a discover a wealth of research and content available to me that ends up branching me out further and further into more areas to learn and gain an appreciation for - it's challenging, time consuming and above all, wonderful. To mention a couple of books I have read through lately that have stuck with me:

  • "The UK Scriptwriters Survival Handbook" by Tim Clague and Danny Stack - this is a book focusing on a pragmatic approach to perusing writing as it relates to the UK scene. I find this book particularly useful as resources on screenwriting in particular are often quite US-centric. The authors also produce a podcast with various topics and interviews which I find immeasurably insightful.
  • "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder - a book that appears to be so prolific in online screenwriting communities that i'm sometimes able to actually see the eye rolls across the internet whenever anybody mentions it as a discovery. I thoroughly enjoyed it; not because I treated it as a catch all code to write a pain-by-numbers screenplay, but because it highlighted to me the logic behind why certain sequences and events can be effective and how different stories that we know and love are connected with the structure of their respective story beats.
  • "The DV Rebel's Guide" by Stu Maschwitz - this is a reference guide to a wide range of topics as it relates to micro-budget, (sometimes "guerrilla style") indie filmmaking. It focuses on the action genre and visual effects, but touches on many useful topics for any genre. I found this book to be a great reference guide of suggestions to get great production value from indie films using affordable and pragmatic techniques. The author also blogs which is another useful resource on various topics.
  • "In the Blink of an Eye" by Walter Murch - this is a relatively short read (it's based on the transcript of a lecture) but it's one of my most profoundly memorable books on filmmaking that I've read to date. Whilst it focuses on editing specifically, the way that the author postulates as to how film editing can be likened to how we perceive the world (by likening it to blinking), I found to be really effective and memorable. 

I have dozens of more books earmarked in a pile that I'm wading through - thoroughly enjoying the reads so far! I have no idea if to a film student these are considered essential reads or what, but learning through the osmosis of absorbing what they have to say whilst at the same time framing it all in the context of my own individual sensibilities has been really useful to me as I continue to make films.


More recently, I was able to use a bank holiday weekend to do some filming of an original piano composition of mine. It happened to be raining at one point that weekend so I used the opportunity to add in some shots of my garden! I also decided to use a variety of piano shots (in comarison to my other piano videos which focus on the hands in a static position). I had a less than graceful set up for one of the shots but it did the trick!

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Whilst a lot of my time has been invested in filmmaking endeavours, I'm still working away at various video game soundtracks which I'm really looking forward to sharing once they are complete! Some of the titles I'm writing original soundtracks for are Set in Stone, OAOA, Particles and a game I'm working on with my brother, tentatively titled Launch Party! As always watch this space for more info!

Matt Javanshir
London 48HFP – “3.5mm”

A couple of weeks ago some friends and I participated in a 48 hour film competition (the London 48 hour film project) where we had to write, film, edit and score a short film (between 4 and 7 minutes long) and physically submit it in just 48 hours! Each of the teams were given two genres which we could choose from (ours was Drama or ‘Animal film’) – we decided to go with drama. There were also some prerequisites that every team had to include, these were:

– A Prop (Headphones)
– A Character (Henry/Helen Flemming, a Connoisseur)
– A Line (“Don’t feel that you have to reply”)

Even with a cast of 3 and crew of 5 it was an incredibly challenging 48 hours but an immense learning experience. For the music, half of it was scored because we had filmed a second of footage and the remainder was scored during the editing process. We managed to hand it in on time with 33 minutes to spare! All of the films had a screening in a cinema in central London along with the other entries and it was really awesome to see the fruits of our manic and sleepless weekend on the big screen. At the awards ceremony we were given the award for “best use of prop” and also nominated for “best sound” which was awesome!

All in all we were really pleased with what we managed to put together in such a short space of time and I’m sure the next time we try something like this we can use all the lessons learned to submit something even more ambitious!

The film is available to watch on YouTube now – check it out!

Matt Javanshir
Piano Improvisation #2 and More

I made another video of me playing some piano improvisation and also me playing a piece of stock music I wrote a couple of years ago (it’s a little faster and in a different key, but still the same piece!). I recorded this on my Panasonic GH4 and Rode NTG2 via Zoom H4N. I also used this as an opportunity to dive into Da Vinci Resolve to colour correct the videos (with the help of my wife who is infinitely better than I am at it!) – hope you enjoy!

Matt Javanshir
The Life & Times of Robert Du Kay

I made another short film and it’s out in the wild! It’s presented in the style of a children’s bedtime story and is about a rubber duck who leaves his bathtub homeland to go and live in the ‘big wide pond’ with the real ducks. The video is embedded into this post to watch above. This one I filmed with the help of my good friend James all in the space of one day in early April 2016 and it’s the first short film (of many, I hope!) that I made on my Panasonic GH4 with Samyang cine lenses.

In my ongoing quest to continually improve with these short films, this one has more of a narrative base than I’ve made in the past. The finished film is very close to the script that I wrote – although we had to improvise on the day for a couple of shots as the ducks were not as ravenous for bread as I initially anticipated!

The narration is performed by the very talented Shane Morris who I worked with via voices.com. I fully recommend voices.com for anyone looking for voiceovers for their project – It was a quick, easy and pleasant experience and I’ll definitely be using the site again in the future. My wife Lucy also did a wonderful job of providing the cover art for the film.

I have bigger plans for more short films this year; with human actors, spoken dialogue and a wide variety of more ambitious stories and shots. I’m having such a great time writing, planning, filming, editing and composing for these short films – especially when friends who are helping me along the way bring as much boundless enthusiasm as I have to these little projects. It’s really awesome and I have high hopes for what the future is going to bring for more of these short films down the line.

Also as I have said before, as I work through every project (even this 5 minute short about a rubber duck whose name is essentially a pun), it gives me a deeper respect of how each component of filmmaking are a distinct art form in their own right and how even the smallest of projects have such a considerable amount of hard work, preparation and tenacity put into them. Thanks for watching!

Matt Javanshir
Tea Time

I made another short film!

Well, this one I technically filmed back in August before Writer’s Block and I spent the weeks following on the post production. I wanted to make something where I could continue to practice lighting, angles, editing, scoring et al and also make something entertaining to watch too. For practical reason I set it in my home (the next one I make I may actually venture outside!) and made it about something which on the surface is a bit mundane but something that people love talking about (especially in the UK) – making a cup of tea  Having recently become aquainted (and enamoured) with the works of Charlie Chaplin, Tea Time is inspired by the silent film era of the early 20th century.

The person in the film is my brother Ryan, who did a great job and was very patient whilst I filmed the various angles of the copious amounts of tea that we made (and initially drank a lot of before we made ourselves sick of it). The filming took up a whole afternoon which whittled down to just under 2 mins running time for the finished film itself. Hope you enjoy!

Matt Javanshir
Pieces of Quiet

I had a few hours free one afternoon recently and I decided to spend some time playing around on my piano. I ended up recording some of the improvisation from the hour or so I was playing (mostly chilled out, melancholy piano) – so I’ve mixed some of the recording and combined it into one long YouTube video for anyone to have on as background music while they work or relax etc.

Recorded on my Zoom H4N. In addition to YouTube video it’s also available to listen to on SoundCloud – hope you enjoy listening!

Matt Javanshir
Writer’s Block

I made a short film!

Lately I’ve been trying to branch out in my creative endeavours and have started to take an active interest in the world of filmmaking. It’s such a multi-discinplinary artform that the idea of working on a combination of writing, filming and audio into one project felt like a really interesting challenge. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on terminology, technology and the general creative process and I’ve discovered a world of appreciation for things such as screenwriting, lighting, filming, acting, editing, sound effects, scoring and even the more commercial aspects like budgeting, distributing and marketing. Films touch upon so many of the creative and commercial outlets that exist and I have realised (and am still continuing to realise) all of the things that I’ve taken for granted when I sit down to a watch a film (or TV Show, Web-series etc). The more I read, listen and experiment, the more I come to realise that any one of the components making up a given film are a discrete and complex artform in their own right.

My other half came across this short film competition to produce a short film that had to be no longer than a minute and also revolve around the theme of ‘a bad day at the office’. I decided to give it a go and after throwing around some initial ideas, I thought it would be interesting (and practical!) to make the film from a perspective of a freelance composer; whose office would be at home and a ‘bad day’ would be something like not having the motivation or inclination to produce any music – plus I’d be able to make use of my piano! I also happened to be going hiking with a friend in the Exmoor countryside so I tried using that to my advantage by featuring it in a dream sequence of sorts (a friend of mine who I was hiking with happened to take the below picture as I was working on the film – it’s a little self-serving of me but a nice pic either way!).

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The actual filming itself was done on my iPhone 5S with Moondog Lab’s Anamorphic adapter. I know phones don’t have all the bells and whistles of an actual purpose built camera, but as I’m new to all of this I figured that the actual framing, lighting, story and sound are the most important foundations of making a film, regardless of the actual devices used.

Taking the various Exmoor parts into account, I ended up shooting for around 3 hours (with my other half Lucy helping on the indoor scenes) and then spent another 2 or 3 hours editing, colour grading and adding sound. The fact that it had to be no longer than a minute was an interesting challenge for me too as I was forced to try and make every moment relevant to the story.

I’m pleased with the finished outcome and even though it didn’t make the final picks (the ones which did are some really well made, interesting takes on the theme) I am still really happy with finishing it and making something that I felt also fit the spirit of the competition well. I’ve already filmed my next short film (with the help of my brother), inspired by the silent movie era which i’m currently scoring and hoping to be done with in the next few weeks!

Writer’s Block is available to watch above. Hope you enjoy, thanks for reading!

 

Matt Javanshir
Into Blue Valley (and beyond)

A few days ago, my brother's first major indie game was released on Steam. The game is called Into Blue Valley and is a first person exploration game drawing upon themes of mystery and curiosity. It's available on Steam now! I had the pleasure of writing the soundtrack.

We wanted to be as ambitious as we could with the scale and feel of the game whilst still giving the player a polished and enjoyable hour-long experience grounded in the indie roots it came from. We also had no dedicated in-game artist (which is where the wonderful Unity asset store came in helpful) and just my brother on the programming/development side – he certainly had his work cut out for him!

In August 2014, We put together a Steam Greenlight application together with a video of a (very) early build of the game. Around this time, following the advice of some friendly indies at one of the London Clapham meetups, we also decided to add Oculus Rift support to the game given the immersive/exploratory feel we were going for. To our amazement (given this was our first ever foray into Greenlight), Into Blue Valley was successfully greenlit in around 3 weeks. We were understandably thrilled with the news and it was a huge confidence boost for us.

The music for Into Blue Valley was written over the span of a few months. The soundtrack is predominantly piano based peppered with ambient sounds, choirs and strings. I actively avoided quantising the notes and instead opted for a more natural sound (recorded on my keyboard live where possible). The soundtrack is available to listen to on bandcamp here. Music aside, the sound effect production was more or less a brand new experience for me and I had a great time experimenting with different methods of Foley. If anybody ever feels that the wind is actually little more than me emphatically blowing out invisible candles, then you wouldn’t be too far off!

We want the people who bought Into Blue Valley to enjoy themselves playing and experiencing it but regardless of the commercial or critical success it receives, I am really proud of the game and especially super proud of what my brother was able to achieve on the actual development side in such a relatively short space of time. Though it was in many ways a team effort (as we all had our parts to play), this is really his crowning achievement given he was the solo programmer/game designer/developer and worked solidly on this for a substantial amount of time. I had a great time working on it and looking forward to us working on our next title!

Matt Javanshir
Smash Bros. Love - Retrospect

Super Smash Bros. is my favourite video game series for a number of reasons.

At the forefront of it all is the love I have for the series being intrinsically linked to the people I play it with. The anticipation of a new Smash Bros. game and the nostalgia I get from playing past and present games with the people closest to me remains my most prolonged and cherished video game experience to date. When I think of an individual Smash Bros. game on it’s own it reminds me of different parts of my life so far. The Nintendo 64 version harkens back to my childhood; I was just twelve when the original came out and I can remember playing it intently with my brother and friends. Both Melee and Brawl were a staple of spending time with my friends in my teenage years (the latter being the cornerstone of a University Computer Games Society where I met some of my best friends). Now that I commute daily it feels fitting that the latest iteration is on a heldheld device.

Sentimentality aside, I am also continuously amazed by the sheer volume and quality of content that each instalment brings. Every new release seems to transcend the one that has gone before. The music in particular leaves me in awe every time; a staggeringly large number of original arrangements of some of the most recognisable themes (by so many great industry composers) that encapsulates the beauty and wonder that I have come to associate with Nintendo games.

So here is a small token of my love and appreciation for Smash Bros. in the form of a chiptune remix. It’s more or less a fanboy-fuelled arrangement that highlights a selection of some iconic Nintendo themes (including the Pokemon theme song melody!) in a simple, clean, happy-go-lucky chiptune aesthetic centered around the opening melody of the Super Smash Bros. Brawl menu music. Aside from the actual melodies being arranged there is a homemade sound effect of ‘excellent’ from the WarioWare game series thrown in for good measure as well as a brief nod to the DK Jungle Japes drums. Thanks for listening!

Matt Javanshir