MR. Books moves to Tonbridge High Street

One of The Last Bookshop’s filming locations (MR. Books in Tonbridge) has closed its doors in the last few days. But fear not, owner Mark Richardson has opened up a brand new MR. Books just round the corner!

The original shop leapt out at us during our location scouting last year for its cosy and welcoming atmosphere. Under the glow of angle-poise lamps, shelves heaved with Beano annuals and hardbacks, while tucked in the corner Mark sat at a desk, scouring the Internet for stock and blogging his thoughts.

Mark describes the new shop as much brighter and more modern, and quite unlike the original, but promises “I’ll do my best to mess it up given time.”

If readers need an excuse to head to Tonbridge to visit the new MR. Books shop, what more do you need than The Flame, a film event taking place on Sunday 17th June as part of Tonbridge Arts Festival. Rumour has it that a certain bookish film will be screened at that very event…

We wish Mark the very best of luck for the future of MR. Books on Tonbridge High Street!

MR. Books can now be found at 142 High St. Tonbridge, TN9 1BB

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The Last Bookshop on IMDb

Click here to visit the Internet Movie Database’s new entry for The Last Bookshop.

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The Last Bookshop is complete!

We are delighted to announce that post-production on The Last Bookshop has now officially concluded, with the successful burning of an inaugural DVD!

The last few months have been a real challenge. The Gods of Editing threw everything they could at us, as we leapt hurdles and dodged obstacles, so now – a few months later than planned – the film is ready at last.

The coming months will will see film festival activity and promotion, after which will come free online availability via YouTube. And for those lucky few involved in the making of the film, your preview DVDs will be making their way to you soon! Please be patient while we brave Post Office queues, we can’t wait to show you all the finished product…

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The London bookshop map

Back in early 2011, as we embarked on our bookshop tour to find filming locations for The Last Bookshop, I remember wishing there was some kind of map or guidebook for bookshops.

When I later mentioned this thought in passing to Sabrina Izzard of Hall’s bookshop in Tunbridge Wells, she very helpfully provided us with a copy of the 2010-11 edition of the Directory of Antiquarian and Secondhand Booksellers. It’s a handy volume, indexed alphabetically as well as by speciality and geography. It covers the whole of the United Kingdom as well as a smattering of European and American shops (plus one Australian and one South African shop!). But it’s still no map. A map, I thought, would be just the thing.

Imagine my delight then, when yesterday afternoon – whilst browsing the shelves of the Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace – I spotted a complimentary folded white rectangle entitled The London Bookshop Map. Now, as it happens, the majority of our filming took place in Kentish locations (some excellent bookshops outside the South-East of England sadly proved a little too far away given our crew’s severe shortage of cars!) but this map is just the sort of thing we could have done with last year. It is ideal for anyone seeking independent bookshops in the capital.

When I showed our producer Rose, she was saddened by the swathes of Greater London marked with no bookshops whatsoever. And though I agreed, it occurred to me that perhaps the map was not comprehensive.

You see, I discovered a couple of new bookshops in South London this weekend. The first of these is Chener Books on Lordship Lane in Dulwich, which was on the map. But the second of these (a nice little shop and gallery called the Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham) was not on the map.

I wondered if Kirkdale was a new establishment, but a glimpse at their website showed me that – far from it – they are possibly the oldest bookshop in South East London, having been open since 1966!

But I was in luck: it appears the London Bookshop map will be reprinted every six months to address any omissions, new openings, or (hopefully not so many) closures. And as fate would have it the next edition is due out this coming weekend, on Saturday 17th March!

So while my map bears the subtitle 87 independent bookshops, the new edition rather promisingly proclaims 96 independent bookshops. Meaning that, from next weekend, you can pop into one of the capital’s independent bookshops and pick up a freshly up-to-date London bookshop map.

The official site is 

Who fancies doing a national map then . . ?

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That synching feeling

This weekend I caught up with my co-director Dan Fryer, the one man audio editing machine, to see how close we were to unleashing The Last Bookshop. We had been hoping to announce the film’s completion in February 2012, but somehow the calendar is now saying March.

Dan fixed me with the shell shocked expression of a man who had just spent several hours trawling through web forums searching for solutions to complicated IT problems.

He explained that The Last Bookshop is indeed, ostensibly, finished, but that the data is sitting in two halves: the audio half and the visual half. The audio half sounds brilliant, and is finally finished after the mammoth edit and polish mentioned in my last post. The visual half also looks brilliant, and was finished last year. The problem came when Dan put these two halves together…

They don’t fit.

Things start off fine, but gradually the audio and the visuals become less and less synchronised until you start to feel you are watching the dubbed Kung Fu version of The Last Bookshop. Seeing as Alfred Hoffman doesn’t actually have any ninja fight sequences in the film (more’s the pity) this is very definitely an issue.

Not Alfred Hoffman

So, how has this happened?

The Last Bookshop was shot at 24 Frames Per Second (FPS) which Dan faithfully assures me is actually 23.98 FPS – the kind of pedantry I enjoy.

The film has been edited in Final Cut Pro, while the audio has been edited in Adobe Audition – to get the best out of both packages. In their separate halves, the audio and video match the right length, and all is fine and dandy. However, when the finished audio is exported from Audition into Final Cut Pro to be reunited with the visuals something odd happens. Final Cut Pro seemingly assigns our audio a Time Code rate equivalent to 25 FPS. Which is especially odd because audio doesn’t have a frame rate. Audio doesn’t have frames. Nevertheless, the resultant discrepancy knocks the audio and visuals increasingly out of synch

How do we solve this? Altering things in the ‘Easy Setup’ area hasn’t helped. Dan’s not sure. Maybe we can process the visuals to match the new rate of the audio? Or perhaps we should cut the film into 30-second chunks and painstakingly match the audio up a step at a time, until the whole film is synched up.

That sounds like either madness or genius. But then I’m not overly technical. When I put this to Dan he said, “I’m not really sure I know what I’m talking about either. It’s all very mathematical and annoying.”

The Bakery: refreshingly honest about our collective technical incompetence.

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Sounds of The Last Bookshop

The final leg of post-production on The Last Bookshop has proved a mammoth undertaking. Perhaps even slightly more mammoth than we were expecting, hence the slight delay. Personally, I was expecting a reasonable sized elephant of a task – but no, this has definitely been a full-on prehistoric woolly mammoth of a job. With massive tusks and an attitude problem.

I suspect a number of you are wondering what we’ve been up to of late.

The film has involved a collaboration between all sorts of talented people, friends old and new. From our actors (Joe and Alfred) to our fabulous musicians (Arlet) not to mention Bakery regulars such as Adam Droy and his band of Millers (Mikey and Chris) and of course the West Country powerhouse that is Alaric. Last but by no means least, the friendly bookselling folk who all kindly donated their glorious shops as filming locations for our film.

But the time comes when all these people have made their worthy contribution, and all that remains is for myself and Dan Fryer (the directors) to tackle the aforementioned mammoth alone. Truth be told, audio editing is – more often than not – a one man job. So it has frequently fallen to Mr Fryer to wrestle alone with this elephantine beast.

And so, on odd evenings and occasional weekends here and there, Dan has been staring at hypnotising banks of soundwaves and faders that look something like this. Dan Fryer is a man who has been known to fall asleep at his computer, wake up the following morning, curse those lost hours and resume editing.

Long-term followers of The Bakery will be aware of our famous whiteboard which is often the key to unlocking whichever project we are currently working on. Of late, I have been using it to build up an index of sound effects and their timings.

It has then fallen to me to consult this, and attempt to replicate these sound effects within the confines of the house.

First of all, this always needs to be done at about 3am otherwise there is simply too much background noise, either from the outside world or from housemates cooking and generally thundering around. Secondly, it requires a lot of initiative to make sounds with limited props at your disposal. Sometimes it has been easy to flick through some books to provide the sound of pages, but I have also had to run up and down our staircase, and indeed stroll in circles around our landing in order to have enough footstep sounds.

Yes, that’s right: I’ve had to foley almost every single sound effect heard across the whole 20-minute film.

Incidentally, the word “Foley” is named after Jack Foley (1891-1967) and refers to recording sound effects especially to match up with film footage. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing: watching the film and attempting to record sound effects that match the movements seen on screen. Easier said than done. Especially when – after I proudly deliver a folder full of mp3s to Mr Fryer for him to throw into his audio cauldron – he informs me that there are problems with some of the recordings…

Some of you may be wondering why there aren’t already sound effects in the film. Well, in some instances there are. But generally (especially in the case of footsteps) they are of too poor a quality. In other instances, the sound effects are missing altogether. This was usually because on location the sound simply wasn’t good enough (due to road works, shouting in the street, or even cases of real life weirdly not sounding as good as a sound effect would). Also, our microphone set-up was geared towards picking up dialogue when we were filming in the bookshops, with Gaetan pointing his boom at our actors’ mouths rather than at any additional noises going on in the scene.

Ultimately, we want the sound design on The Last Bookshop to meet the same standards as the visuals, and that takes time. But the hard work is nearly all behind us. So we hope you’ve not been getting too impatient for the announcement of our film’s completion. The hour is near at hand…

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National Libraries Day 2012

Fans of basic cultural amenities will today be celebrating National Libraries Day. A tide of support to remind those in power that it is a very good idea to keep as many of these places open as possible.

Of especial note this year is the publication of The Library Book a collection of writings from authors such as Alan Bennett, Julian Barnes, Zadie Smith and others, exploring the importance of libraries through memoir, polemic and short story alike. Proceeds got to the Reading Agency‘s library readings programme.

For my own part, I’d like to chip in with two particular memories which, in their own small ways, hint at the greater good of keeping books available to all of society.

First, a memory from the early 1990s: Myself and my brother are visiting South Yardley Library, where we join a crowd of supervised children in a corner, all putting blindfolds on. We are given blindfolds too. As we plunge into a disconcerting world of darkness, we follow instructions to walk carefully forwards and duck under an unseen entrance.

To this day I remember the hesitant steps we took, as the storyteller guided this unexpected Fellowship down deep ravines, through thick forests and across dead marshes. At first, our imagination was stimulated with words alone, but soon our faces were being brushed by the tendril fingers of Ents or the trailing webs of vast spiders, as we stepped over bridges and crawled down mining tunnels.

Or perhaps we were simply clambering around strategically placed tables and chairs, scattered with cushions, dangling ropes and half-filled washing up bowls? Either way, what the clever organisers of that modest weekend amusement achieved with words and some basic props has stayed with me all these years later. It was as vivid an introduction to Middle Earth as anything Peter Jackson would conjure up a decade later.

My second memory comes from years afterwards, when academic libraries had become a familiar sanctuary for my studies. Searching for some book or other that the campus library did not have, I visited the public library on Canterbury High Street.

Inside, I was struck to see a familiar homeless man, who I was used to seeing begging on pavements outside, quietly engrossed in a book at one of the reading tables. With his scruffy unkempt appearance he was a striking sight in this context. I couldn’t help thinking how excellent it was that everyone, no matter how down on their luck, should have somewhere in the warm and the dry to while away some time picking from a selection of books.

Put simply: libraries can help the disadvantaged, and inspire the young. Reason enough to keep them open in my books.

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