Interview with Mick Child & Dane Foxx, director and narrator of ‘This Bee Movie, Our Future’

Filmmaker Mick Child, founder of Forge Photography & Film Production, first graced our screens at Brighton Rocks in 2022 with his live action short ‘Villa’. He is back with a thought-provoking micro movie, ‘This Bee Movie, Our Future’, focusing on the increasing strains on our climate. Mick has been tinkering with photography since the age of 12 and now works with his son George, currently studying film at university, to bring his passionate filmmaking to the next level. Mick is very much a self-taught talent and after dabbling with a few film styles and forms he has recently discovered a fervour for macro photography and documentary filmmaking. Mick has a fervent eye for detail and a true zeal for filmmaking, and we hope to see a lot more content from him over the coming years.

‘This Bee Movie, Our Future’ is wholly immersive with incredibly detailed and considered shots of bees at such a precise level you really feel as if you have been shrunk down in size. The concise levels of care and preparation involved in this type of filmmaking mean it is not for the impatient, but patience has certainly paid off for Mick. Whilst he knew his footage had something special, it needed another layer to truly bring it all to life. To this end, Mick employed the services of friend and actor Dane Foxx to narrate. Dane’s gentle intonations and dulcet tones further envelop the audience into the story whilst keeping the gravitas of the message. Allow yourself to be engrossed by these fabulous little workers and, as the film asks us to do, consider their significance to our lives and future.

The way I’ve approached the macro in this film is very different to other filmmaking I’ve done.

Apart from the obvious and worrying environmental impact, why bees?

A while ago I read that the government had issued temporary authority for the use of a neonicotinoid pesticide treatment for sugar beet which is sadly again the case for 2023. I understand the need for sugar in our modern world, but at the same time read about the overall importance of bees as “critical pollinators”.

What first got you into macro and how do you think it differs from other filmmaking you have done?

I have always been fascinated by the photography in the David Attenborough programs. I was featured as an apprentice in a Canon magazine back in 2015 shooting some friends who had won gold at London 2012. Around that time I saw someone featured in the same magazine doing macro photography and I was looking for a new creative outlet. Out of the blue, my stepmom also a keen photographer, sent me some macro images she’d taken on an experience day and the penny dropped. I did however feel that the images we were seeing weren’t particularly clever, they were being captured in controlled environments. The lighting and camera controlled and it took a lot of time, but ultimately the images we were seeing weren’t of animals and insects free to roam, they were in captivity.

“In terms of focus, a lot is done by eye because my subjects are so erratic and this takes a lot of practice to perfect.”

The way I’ve approached macro in this film is very different to other filmmaking I’ve done. Firstly, I like to win over the bees. I slowly introduce myself and kit over the course of a day or two. The kit becomes heavy so I have to come up with solutions to help me with the camera’s weight. This can include temporary supports for my slider, a strategically placed line to suspend the camera from and wearing a body vest or using a handheld glide. I have to shoot some handheld shots or place the camera rig on the ground. In terms of focus, a lot is done by eye because my subjects are so erratic and this takes a lot of practice to perfect. I work out roughly the shot I want, set the focal length manually and away we go. You need a lot of time and patience.

How much footage did you end up with over the months you were working on this and how was that then pared down into the edited film we see?

Whilst I was perfecting my skills I deleted an awful lot of footage. Shooting this stuff in raw light or even 4K XF-AVC is very memory hungry. We didn’t have the resources available to keep large amounts of data so we had to be brutal. My workflow involved colour grading and sharpening, then stabilising if necessary before saving as smaller ProRes clips. I was spending 4-6 hours a day and 2-3 days a week filming and amassed upwards of 20 hours of footage. It took 6 months because some of our flowers that the bees like are not always in bloom so there were quiet periods. Then, out of the blue and totally unexpected, the solitary bees turned up in September, thousands of them. What a treat that was.

Bees are known for their hard working ethic not dissimilar to your approach to filmmaking. How did you decide on what to focus on in their numerous activities?

I was going to film a friend’s hive but that didn’t really support my message. I was concerned with the contradiction to my ideals of not necessarily wanting to shoot animals in captivity. Honey bees are really a domesticated creature, much like livestock on a farm. I was almost giving up the idea when the solitary bees turned up. Pure luck for me, I spent a week with them just relaxing in the autumn sun and watching what they did.

“The hairs raised on the back of my neck the first time I heard that because that’s exactly how I feel about photography. Sometimes it’s my moment, nobody else’s.”

There is a passage in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ by Ben Stiller that I really connect with. In the film Walter Mitty tracks down photojournalist Sean O’Connor who is shooting a rare snow leopard in the Afghan Himalayas. When the Snow Leopard walks into frame the photographer lets it walk away without taking the shot he says; “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it” The hairs raised on the back of my neck the first time I heard that because that’s exactly how I feel about photography. Sometimes it’s my moment, nobody else’s.

How did you work together with Dane to write the narration and at what stage was this done?

Normally when I work with Dane he will give me feedback about the script and we adjust it accordingly. On this occasion however, he was totally happy with what I’d written.

What tone were you looking for in the writing and why did you choose Dane to narrate?

I was looking for a sense of fun. I believe that if you relax your audience they will hear your message, and this is a message aimed in equal amounts at children and adults alike. I felt Dane’s style which we’ve used before was perfect. Like I say softly, softly with a strong message.

Dane, you are brilliantly factitious with a playful little background notes. How did you approach this narration?

“I think I viewed the script as if through the eyes of the bee. How would that feel for the bee?”

The only subjects I have previously narrated are for children and subconsciously, I think I viewed the script as if through the eyes of the bee. How would that feel for the bee? I have played the victim in film before and find it holds a vulnerability I can relate to. The bee has no choice in its destiny, it is in the hands of humans who are destroying their environment.

Were you watching the film as you recorded? How did you find the right nuance with each little subject matter?

I had seen the film but I didn’t want to watch it as I narrated it. I really believed in the script as it was written and found myself empathising with it. I was supercharged to get it recorded and felt affected by the subject. Because I enjoyed learning about the subject, particularly the bee’s struggle, I thought it was important for me to focus on my larynx as I recited the words to ensure a gentle projection of my voice.

What are your hopes for ‘The Bee Movie’

Mick: I really enjoy documentary making and hope that people can see that I’m sincere and professional in my approach.

Dane: I would like to be involved in subjects that emotionally move me. The bees gave me warmth, rage, frustration and suffering. If I have the ability, as you imply, to be factitious whilst being playful so I hope dark subjects should be something I can help people find easier to digest with my approach.

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