‘The Rack Pack’ Review

Well, here’s a first. I’m actually going to do a review of a TV Movie which has been exclusively released on BBC iPlayer, The Rack Pack!

Why am I doing this instead of something more graphic design related? Well… I actually designed some of the props for this film. Specifically, I designed these drinks-labels…

drinks labels
The labels I designed for this movie.

There’s even an old blog-post about the time I spent designing them, and watching the show be filmed. So, it only seemed right for me to review the show I helped created (if only by around 0.2%).

Synopsis

Based on true events in the early 80’s, Alex “Hurricane” Davies is a bombastic, alcoholic snooker-player whose just too good at his craft for anyone to criticise. That is until Steve “The Nugget” Davis comes along, a nerdy, ginger-haired newbie to the sport who spends his spare time playing arcade games and staying clear of the booze.

Steve’s manager, Barry Hearn, knows he has the skills, but not so much the personality for being in the limelight. So, he gives the lad a new haircut, a new suit, and trains him to be the well-manored yet startling snooker-professional we all associate with the sport today. But as Steve gets more positive publicity throughout the tournament, it looks like it may be more than Alex’s championship that’s on the line here.

Davis made to look threatening.
Davis made to look threatening.

The Good Points

Let’s start with the actors in this film, because they all did wonderful jobs. Luke Treadway did really well as Higgins, especially as we watched his life go down the pan. Will Merrick was really good as Davis, too, and it was fun to watch him grow from being the underdog to the quasi-nemesis. Kevin Bishop was spot on with his voice when playing Hearn, as well. Honestly, there isn’t really an actor or actress in this movie who I was swap. They were all right on the money.

Higgins and Davis prepare to lay against each other.
Higgins and Davis prepare to lay against each other.

I also thought this was written especially well, not only for the memorable characters and sequences, but also because it managed to cater to both sports-fans and the general audience. I’m saying this, because even though I’m not into snooker by any stretch of the imagination, I still felt as if I could grasp how rules of the sport worked simply by watching the film. I didn’t have to think too hard about what they were, I could just watch them play and grasp if they were doing well or not.

By the way, were these actors really playing with real balls? There’s one continuous shot I remember in which we see Higgins pot them all one after the other, and I was trying to figure out whether or not this was really him doing it, or whether there were some very clever effects being used in post-production. Either way, it was still very impressive.

Was this moment real, or some very clever movie magic?
Was this moment real, or some very clever movie magic?

Speaking of which, I loved it how cinematic this movie felt. It didn’t feel like the director shrugged his shoulders and said “oh well, it’s only going to be on iPlayer, so we don’t have to work as hard on it”. No, I actually felt as if I could watch this on the silver-screen and be very satisfied with what I saw. I loved the desaturated colour-palette, I loved how the editing flowed seamlessly between all of the different camera angles, and admittedly, I’m a sucker for the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There’s just something about wide-screen that I fall for every time.

I realised this back when I saw this movie being filmed, but what I didn’t realise was that what I actually saw was the movies ending. And I have to say, there’s something really chilling about this. Despite all of the editing in the finished product, I can tell you from personal experience that this scene was actually acted and filmed in one continuous shot (albeit multiple takes), and it really felt like these two characters had been in this mad journey this entire time. They had their highs, and they had their lows, and with the way they were talking to one another and saying their farewells, it actually kind of left an impact on me.

A still from the very shot I got to see being filmed.
A still from the very shot I got to see being filmed.

My Little Criticisms

What, you didn’t think I was just going to be calling this movie perfect on the pure basis I had some involvement in it, did you?!

Well, I for one think honesty is the best policy, and I think it’s only respectful to be honest with the crew of this movie about the little problems I had in order to know what improvements could be made in the future. And besides, it really was only minor problems I had with the show.

Most notably, it was simply that I noticed a few details in the props they used which gave the game away that they weren’t real. For example, when one character stuck a cigarette in his mouth, I could see the indentation of where the fake logo was glued over. I can’t really criticise the show for that, though, because the naked eye wouldn’t have noticed. You’ve got to really know what you’re looking for to spot these errors.

Also, the soundtrack could have perhaps been worked on. Don’t get me wrong, the actual playlist is fantastic. One of the songs they used, Baba o’Riley from The Who, is actually my favourite song (I love songs with a strong build-up). But whenever a song started playing, it seemed to come out of nowhere. Once again, perhaps that’s simply a case of me being farmiliar with the material.

Overall Opinion

On the whole, I found this to be a really well-produced, cared-for, enjoyable TV movie, and surprisingly enjoyable for those not into Snooker. If it comes out on DVD sometime soon, nothing’s going to stop me from buying a copy.

Now, I’m not exactly the best person for making predictions for award-season. I thought Inside Out might have been a contender for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, and it wasn’t (good grief, will an animated movie EVER win Best Picture?!) With that said, this did remind me quite a bit of another TV movie I found to be exceptional, Murdered by my Boyfriend, and that had its fair share of BAFTA nominations.

So, keep your eyes peeled, folks, because this might be a BAFTA contender.

Keep your eyes on this, Higgins!
You heard me, Higgins!

If you fancy watching this movie, feel free to click here and experience the rack pack play the game the only way they know how!

Why I Love ‘Design Swansea’ Meet-Ups

I was absolutely gutted last week when I missed a‘Design Swansea’ meet-up for the first time. Ever since I first learnt about them, I’ve attended every single month. It’s just a shame that the date of this months clashed with pre-booked events.

So, to make up for it, I thought this’d be a good time to explain why I love going to these meet-ups. Furthermore, it might be nice to give you, my readers, an insight into why going to any sort of meet-up is worth the journey.

I Always Learn Something New.

Every time I attend, I always make sure to bring something I can write on. There are so many new things I can learn, and perhaps even research into further, I just need something to get it all down on. I find it hard to think of a presentation I’ve seen which I didn’t find to be worth listening to in one way or another, which shows you just how intriguing they are.

After all, my blog post before this one was actually inspired by a statistic that was mentioned in one the talks I listened to. He might have talked at the speed of lightning, but, hey, he’s a highly enjoyable character, and it allows me to practice my short-hand!

I Can Get Some Free Advice.

Nobody is perfect at their profession. Even those who are most dedicated to their work can either make a mistake or just not know where to go. So, it only makes sense, for when someeone in a profession like mine gets stuck, to turn to someone I can trust for advice.

These meet-ups are fantastic places for that. I was struggling one time to get a piece of HTML right, and after a short conversation with Gareth Evans (who I believe also designed the meet-up logo), I asked him if he could think of where the problem was from the screenshot I showed him. Kindly, he offered me some advice as to what the correct code to enter was. If I didn’t meet him at this meet up, I’d still be struggling right now.

I Can Get Away from the Computer.

This isn’t just a concern for graphic designers, as at least half of all jobs now requite some sort of computer work. And even if you’re on that computer doing a job you enjoy, it’s hardly ideal to be stuck in front of a screen, day in and day out, for the rest of your life.

That’s why it’s nice to have an event for us designers to go to where we can break the deadly cycle and actually interact with others. We can talk about how we’re doing in life, and as mentioned earlier, we can bounce both advice, and opinions, off one another.

It Allows for a Friendly Rivalry.

Seeing as the majority of us are either freelancers or working for rival companies, it can be easy for us to start bearing grudges against one another. After all, business is based on competition. With that said, it’s always wise to avoid making enemies as much as possible, since the majority of job opportunities come from those we know.

That’s why it’s good to have an environment were we can interact like this, because it shows that we’re comfortable with being where we are and not fussed as to whether we’re better or worse than any of our competitors. Nobody goes to these meet-ups just to wine and moan, we all go to to just relax and talk about the jobs we love doing.

I Can Be Myself.

I know it’s a cliched thing to say, but I can really be myself. These meet-ups are far less restrained than an office would be, not requiring me to conform to a dress code or work to a deadline. Plus, I don’t just have to talk about graphic things. The first day I ever went there, I spent a whole hour just talking to Gemma Williams about what kind of films we enjoyed.

And why is it good to be myself at a place like this? Because by showing the kind of person I am, it helps me to befriend those who share the same love for the design industry that I have.

And A Bonus… Free Pizza!

Hey, you can’t really go wrong with that!

Why Do We Lose Our Creativity As We Grow Up (And How We Can Prevent It)?

During a presentation held by a highly enthusiastic Dan Spain at my nearest meet-up, he talked about a 2006 survey held by Sir Ken Robinson. In the survey, 1,600 children were tested to see how many of them were ‘highly creative’ (or more specifically, how many could think in “divergent or non-linear ways”) at various stages of their life.

Frighteningly, he discovered that despite 98% of them being highly creative aged 5, that dropped to just 2% by the time those same children were 25.

(AUTHORS NOTE: I’ve since been corrected that it was in fact George land who did the survey, not Ken Robinson. Thanks a lot, Google!)

As I left that night, I asked myself why we drastically lose our creativity as we get older. What I came up with were a variety of factors and a variety of ways we, as grown ups, can get around it.

We’re Not Looking After Our Bodies As Well As We Should.

lossofcreativity_yoga
We privileged westerners often end up living unhealthy lifestyles, which can include too few vegetables in our stomachs, and too many un-earnt pints at the local pub. And, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that having an unhealthy body can lead to having an unhealthy mind.

Furthermore, graphic designers can spend long, long hours sat in front of the computer, staring at bright screens with square eyes, and eating way more carbohydrates than one can burn.

This is why looking after your body is important. You don’t have to be a health-fanatic by any means, but little things like keeping an eye on what you eat, exercising, quitting bad habits, and only treating oneself in moderation, can make a big difference. Keeping your body and mind healthy will allow you to hold onto its creative juices the longer you live.

We Have a Dumb Idea of What Makes Someone ‘Smart’.

lossofcreativity_apple
Whilst I’m probably more respectful for our education system than most of my friends are, mainly because I’m just glad it’s compulsory, I do think it can do with some patching up.

Partially to blame on society, it tends to be overly dependant on revision and memory, when rationality and innovation are greatly underrated aspects to ones intelligence. One of my ongoing clients explains this astonishingly in one of his articles (and if having a grizzly-bear alter-ego isn’t a creative outlet, I don’t know what is).

Slowly but surely, our society needs to change the way we classify ‘intelligence’, and see that there’s more than one way someone can be smart. It’s not all about remembering the facts, it’s also about experimentation, discovery, defensive skills, and determination.

Computers Have Made It Too Easy to Find Answers.

lossofcreativity_calculator
One of the biggest faults of the Digital Age is that, quite literally, we can Google any question for almost any answer. Problem-solving is a vital part of divergent thinking, so the fact that we live in an a time where programs solve the problems for us means we’re not exercising our brains for finding the answers ourselves. Some professions require problem-solving skills as standard, but that’s a rarity.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but if your job doesn’t require those skills as much as others do, brain-teasers and puzzles are a good way of entertainingly training your head (Sudoku is a favourite of mine). Or, rock-climbing and orienteering can challenge your brain whilst giving you a breath of fresh air.

Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure you exercise your mind to avoid taking everything at point blanc.

We’ve Put Our Lust for Money Before Our True Passions.

lossofcreativity_coins
If you ask me, society has wildly over-glamorised money. From what I see, most high-paying jobs are extraordinarily stressful, and people in these positions barely have the time or energy to enjoy the things they buy. Furthermore, it’s not helped when those in higher positions disregard creative roles as ‘proper careers’.

So for one thing, let’s realise that the creative industry is perhaps more valuable than one may have first thought. To put it bluntly, it’s worth £71billion in the U.K., and $698billion (approx. £453billion) in the U.S.A.

Secondly, perhaps we should start measuring wealth by how much life one has lived. You really don’t need to buy 1,000 things you’ll never use! If you have a creative job you genuinely enjoy, so long as you can earn enough to survive, you’re better off using the rest of your energy living the short life you have with your friends and family.

After all, if I can survive with just Nokia 130 and without the latest iPhone, I think you can too.

We’re Scared of Trying (and Understanding) Anything New.

lossofcreativity_bohemianrhapsody
I have come to discover that even the most open-minded people, despite good intentions, can struggle to look at creations which aren’t ‘standard’, and realise that it might have been beneficial to break an unwritten rule to two.

A fantastic example of this is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Extraordinary and unconventional, it originally received mixed reviews, and a comment from Elton John saying “you’ll never get that on the radio”. 40 years on, it’s one of the greatest pop-songs of all time, as well as one of the most played ones on British radio.

This might be challenging, but if you see/hear a piece you don’t like, don’t just give it a thumbs down. Take a moment to question why other people enjoy things you don’t like, and not only will it allow you to see understand from a different point of view, but it might even turn that thumbs down upside-down.