Don McCullin

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with Don McCullin. The bleak, black and white photography of this melancholic man got under my skin somehow and, even now, I have goosebumps just thinking about some of the confrontational images he created. When I was younger I wanted to be just like him but I soon found out I didn’t have what it took to be, as the legendary Harold Evans described him, ‘a conscience with a camera’.
I have two earlier books of his ‘Perspectives’ and ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ that are like truth seeking missiles in my photographic world – and I take them with me wherever I go.
Throughout time and trends his work endures and this month McCullin – an independent film documenting the life of Britain’s greatest living photographer of war and so much more, is released.
I can’t wait to see it…..

Don McCullin

via The Smalls

Lights, Community, Action!

The Smalls is excited to announce the UK premiere of our first in-house film production The Actress, created and presented together with visionary director Ben Charles Edwards.
In an effort to showcase the talent of our community The Smalls set out to make a short film that would do just that.
We gathered a strong crew of more than 30 Smalls members who had only 4 days to shoot and 3 weeks to edit a 20-minute short film. We faced many challenges, but with some hard work, team spirit and the wonderful Sadie Frost onboard we knew it was going to be pretty special.

With The Smalls Pitch Room launching in mid-October, allowing patrons of film to present film and music video briefs to our community, we see The Actress as a great celebration of all of us together entering a new era of filmmaking.
This film shows not only what is possible through collaboration, but also illustrates the incredible filmmaking talent within our community. We are convinced that through the launch of our Pitch Room, we will see many new patrons come to connect with the world’s best short film creators here at The Smalls.

john hicks DoP

john hicks DoP

About The Actress

It is the twilight of a grand old movie star’s life. Poor health and old age have robbed her of her glamour, her career and now – probably within hours – her life. The end is near. She arrives, surrounded by her parasitic entourage, at a cinema for a private showing of her greatest screen moments. Kicking out her hangers-on, she sits alone in the dark as the light of the projector illuminates the silver screen and her previous youth and beauty. In a daring escape from the inevitable, she enters the screen and is suddenly back in her movies – a star once more. She tumbles from genre to genre in scenes taking in the silent era, film noir, ’70s sci-fi sexploitation and ’90s sitcom land. It is a desperate attempt to outsmart and outrun the apparition of death itself, which pursues her through the scenes. Inevitable or not – this old movie diva isn’t going without a fight. This is the story of a shooting star who refuses to fade away or go gently into that good night.

What the crew had to say…

“The overall experience during production was so amazing, it’s hard to pick highlights. Probably the look on Johnnie Furnivalle’s face after spending three hours on the roof with the rain machine. I was perpetually impressed with the dedication of all the crew in bringing the script to life.” – Martin Hickford, Editor

“The future of successful independent filmmaking is all about collaboration. It’s about positivity and self-belief and freeing your mind to think outside the box to make a film no matter what. Ben Charles Edwards and The Smalls took a big risk with the filming of The Actress – only 4 days to shoot just under 30 minutes of edited film, a limited budget, a crew that had never worked together, and a large cast. This film proves that when a talented group of like-minded people come together and are prepared to overcome all obstacles there is only one outcome – and that is the true success of this film.” – John Hicks, Director of Photography

“The Actress is a wonderful short film, and a great example of the level of talent within The Smalls community. It shows the power and reach of our network, the courage of our members, and how we as a digital platform can bring creative individuals together to make a world class short film.” – Kate Tancred, Producer and Managing Director of The Smalls

john hicks DoP

john hicks DoP

john hicks DoP

john hicks DoP



Produced by
Ben Charles Edwards
Kate Tancred
The Smalls

Directed by
Ben Charles Edwards

Written by
Al Joshua

Cinematography by
John Hicks

Edited by
Martin Hickford

Music by
Paul Honey

Sadie Frost, Perry Benson, Sally Phillips, Morgana Robinson, Irwin Sparkes, Jack Guinness, Lola Coca, Kaylee Cooper, Jason Dack, Sorcha Finch-Murray, Jack Gow, Richard Jenkins, Al Joshua, Zara Martin, Gerard Mcdermott, Carl Prekopp, Michael Sani, Fabrizio Santino

Natalie Greenwood, Renee Tillot, Tom Bacon, Louis J Parker, John Hicks, Tim Deiling, Niall Green, Deborah Bucket, Stefan Hornig, Marcin Szumilas, Rob Hurtt, Holly Jade Finlay, Mary Davidson, Mikkel Eriksen, Robey Albert, Oscar Alexander Lundberg, Yasmin Francis, Hannah May Khan, Aaron Blondell, Nicola Hill, Tristan Lee, Emma Savill, Chris James Edwards and Georgina Walsh

john hicks DoP

john hicks DoP

john hicks DoP

Directing the Light Fantastic with Conrad Mess of Me.S.S. FilmMakers

Following on from an introduction at The Smalls Film Festival 2012, I’m excited to be working with the legendary Conrad Mess of Me.S.S. Film Makers on a new film project provisionally called ‘Dead End’ about lives tragically caught up in a ‘no win’, ‘dead end’ situation.
Conrad Mess is a prolific writer, international award winning director and short film maker who has just returned from filming Russian Roulette in Hollywood and is about to release his latest short The Asking Room.
What’s most interesting for me about Conrad (aka Luis Mieses) is that he has no formal training in film or photography but more important than any written qualification is his ability to see, feel and capture dramatic images with a cinematic vision that instinctively knows how to tell a great visual story…..I can’t wait to start shooting my friend!!!

The Pure Vision of John Hicks

The Pure Vision of John Hicks – Interview with The Smalls

We tend to forget that the sport of boxing is inherently lonely.
The fighter – even though with an opponent, and surrounded by supporters, fans, and detractors – is really on his or her own journey.
John Hicks’ ‘The Hardest Fight’ looks at a former champion in the autumn of his life, and we can almost reach out and touch the solitude of this quiet hero:

The use of voice over further enhances the atmosphere of this beautifully put together film. While his body may only be a shadow of its former self, it is still formidable, and incredible to watch. With Dave Payne’s own weathered voice narrating as he trains by himself in a warehouse, we gain incredible insight into his background, drive and state of mind in a mere three minutes. Kudos.

An award-winning DoP and film director, John Hicks continues to stun us all with his sharp eye for story and character. We asked him to share a little bit of himself and the story behind The Hardest Fight.

John Hicks The Smalls

” I started out in photojournalism before realising that the cut and thrust world was not for me and then moved into a very successful commercial career in fashion and sport advertising. Along the way I dabbled in film but wasn’t able to get seriously into it until the Canon 5D burst onto the scene. Before that video was not a cinematic option and 16/35mm film was just so expensive and involved such a big team that I couldn’t dedicate myself to it along with my photography career. So to have a professional level film option like the Canon 5D in the camera that you use for stills and to be able to employ the same lenses to create amazing quality HD footage just made filmmaking accessible to anyone with a camera and a computer.

Technology helped me get back into film, but my photography already had a very cinematic style. I’ve always like to shoot stills on the horizontal because and I’m known for shooting motion capture on location so all this combined to make my move from stills to film that much smoother. I think my background in photography is a strong element in my style of film making and the way my eye sees the world. I want to tell visual stories and the first short film I made was the story of Dave Payne – a 70 year old champion boxer and bare knuckle fighter.

First I set out to find a location because visually I wanted to avoid the cliché of the gym or the ring and to look beyond the brutality and violence associated with a sport like boxing. I found the abandoned warehouse and one of the first things that struck me was the incredible light it gave – it was almost cathedral like. It seemed like a lonely place – a place where a man like Dave would go to train and instinctively I knew straight away that I would film the solitary figure skipping from that high observer vantage point as the intro to the film.

I made up a storyboard – which is something I always did as a stills photographer and that really helped with the edits. I knew I wanted to film certain sequences but it was the work I put into the storyboard that enabled me to piece it all together like a jigsaw.

At first I made the classic mistake of working like a stills photographer but I soon realised that to tell a story it’s not enough to simply record the action. You have to create drama and suspense by moving the camera, you have to involve the viewer emotionally as well as visually and you have to get as many interesting angles of the same shot as you can to sustain interest.

So primarily I worked the images because I’m visually minded, then the edit pretty much followed the storyboard and finally I worked on the narration and music. I knew from the outset that I wanted a voiceover but Dave was reluctant so I just got him to talk by asking him a series of questions and recorded his responses. When I asked him about the hardest fight he ever had his spontaneous reply sent shivers down my spine and I knew I had my title and a killer quote.

For me it’s a very personal, honest film and I made it because I wanted to so I was surprised when it received such a great reaction – first from the Converge Film Festival 2011 where it was selected as one of only 3 finalists to be shown on the big screen at the British Film Institute and then again at the London Short Film Festival 2012 and just recently at The Smalls Film Festival 2012.
Because of its success and the emotional response it gets I’m about to embark on a fund raising campaign to source finance to make ‘The Hardest Fight’ into a full length feature film. The brutally honest true life story of a boy born into East End post war poverty who survived bullying, cruelty and rejection before finding some kind of redemption through the noble art of boxing and the journey that it took him on is a fascinating account of one man’s trials and ultimate triumph over adversity.”

The Hardest Fight by John Hicks

The Hardest Fight by John Hicks