Category: Behind The Scenes

FST: Shoulders of Giants – Series Trailer

Following my announcement last post that this project will be a series rather than a single movie, I’ve put together a trailer:

“Almost two years in the making, FST: On the Shoulders of Giants is Stewart Robson’s intimate portrait of life in a modern, highly respected, world-renowned tattoo shop.
Spread across four parts, Stewart interviews resident tattooers, guest artists, customers, and staff to offer a glimpse into what makes Frith Street Tattoo tick. With no candy-coating, the FST crew shares their views on tattoos, the people who do them, the people who get them, and the world of tattooing in general.

Entirely self-produced, directed, and edited, this film stands as an honest portrayal of Frith Street Tattoo in 2012 and 2013.”

Please share it, tell your friends about it, post it to your blogs and tumblr, watch it and wait for the Part One…

Part One: A Film for All and None is still a couple of months away. There are a few conventions coming up and I’m editing this thing in my spare time, whatever that is. Keep your peepers peeled.

I have a new member of staff to help me speed up the production:

I’ve wrangled Harry Bland (FST shop helper extraordinaire) to be a cameraman for B-Roll footage. Thanks Harry.

Less exciting but I’ve also moved the site to a real domain name instead of a name.

Assembly Edit – August 2013

I have Assembly Edits of each section of this film completed.
What’s an Assembly Edit? Well, it’s the sequence of clips I intend to use, assembled in the order I intend to use them.
This is a major milestone in the development of this project. After weeks (months) of logging footage, marking transcripts and moving pieces of cut up paper around, I finally have something that resembles a film. Albeit without any supporting images, footage or graphics but it’s still possible to watch it, rather than imagine it. As it’s been up until this point.

News 2!
Yes, I said ‘each section’ up there.
My original plan was to make a film that served as a portrait of Frith Street Tattoo as it stands today. It seems I made four films.
While organising footage and making notes I wanted to divide the film into four subject areas to make it easier to watch. After I assembled the footage, weeding out extra repetition and less interesting parts, I was left with enough useable footage to make 4 films each at least 20 – 40 minutes each. I hope you lot have the stamina to sit through them all. Each one has a different feel and flavour.

Here’s a run-down of the working titles:

Part One: A Film for All and None
This film centres around the Frith Street Godfather, Dante (Danny) and the family atmosphere of the shop.

Part Two: The World is Watching
This one highlights the position of Frith Street Tattoo in the world of tattooing as a whole and the responsibility that entails.

Part Three: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
A film about the direct lineage of Frith Street Tattoo and the tattooers and people who allowed us to be where we are.

Part Four: We Never Sleep
(my favourite section so far – I’m really pleased with the way this one came together)
This film spotlights the work and effort that goes into striving to make each tattoo better than the last and the results of that effort.

I never planned to sell this project but because it’s turned out to be way bigger than originally intended (and thought possible) I’m considering various forms of distribution. My favourite at the moment is to have each section free for a limited time, then offer high quality downloads or a DVD compilation with tons of extra footage that just didn’t fit with the themes of the films.

Right now I’m working on a trailer for the series. As soon as it’s finished I’ll post it here and on Youtube.

In the meantime you can check out some behind-the-scenes photos of how I got to the assembly edits.

Marking the Transcripts:
This took a hell of a lot longer than I originally expected.
I had a huge folder of transcripts to wade through. Each colour pen pertains to a different theme. Yellow – Part One, Pink – Part Two, Green – Part Three and Blue – Part Four.

Logging the marked transcripts in the edit software:
Each marked section is given a number. In the edit software, I select the same range and give it the same number.
PaperEdit_July2013_06  PaperEdit_July2013_08 PaperEdit_July2013_03 PaperEdit_July2013_04  PaperEdit_July2013_02

Arranging the Paper Edit:
After numbering each marked clip I could cut out the marked sections of transcript and begin to arrange them into sub-categories.
Some are for the intro to each section, some for the middle, end, etc.
Then I can start moving them around and deciding how the narrative flows. Once I’ve arranged each section, I paste them onto sheets of paper. These sheets serve as a ‘script’ to the film.
 PaperEdit_July2013_10 PaperEdit_July2013_11 paper_edit_august_6 paper_edit_august_5 paper_edit_august_2 paper_edit_august_3paper_edit_august_4

Then it was a matter of finding the numbered clips in the edit software and placing them on a timeline according to my paper edit.
Now comes part where I re-arrange things a thousand times and make transitions and edits smoother, add photos and supporting footage than I’ll be ready to show a rough cut to friends and family for them to review.

Keep your eyes peeled for the trailer.

Portraits and Panoramas

Well, not really panoramas, but it’s the same idea.

I mentioned in an earlier post about a photo book I’d like to release when this film is complete.
I’ve been trying out different ways of taking photos around the shop.

Here’s a few portraits of some of the guys at the shop that I used to test how I’d use the look.
Dante was the first one I shot. When stitching it together I realised I could tell a story or at least emphasise elements by shooting from different angles.
With this portrait of Emiliano I tried to capture different points in time in the same final image. Sadly, I didn’t get chance to stick around until he finished the tattoo.
Jesus & Mary. These guys watch over the shop every day. Anyone who’s been in to our basement shop will recognise this statue.
I decided to get shots of The Shop when it was empty. I hope to take one during a busy work day once I get comfortable with this technique.
Even though the space was tight, I managed to get most of the angles I wanted for this portrait of Valerie.

I look forward to doing more of these in the future. I really like the way these pictures have some of the same feel as getting tattooed or doing a tattoo. There’s multiple things to think about, lots going on and it’s a little overwhelming at times.

While Valerie was painting a sticker design to promote this film, I did a quick & dirty test with my iPhone to see if I could use the same idea with video. I uploaded these clips in HD at 1080p so they’ll look great full screen.
There’s a white version that emulates the look of the photos.

Then there’s a version with a black background that I think suits video better than the white.

These are early versions and tests. I aim for the finished products to be much better looking and more interesting.

Stickers, the photoshoot.

Everyone loves stickers, right?

I’ve designed a couple of stickers to get the word out a bit about the film.

globe & beau comp2 globe & beau comp2

I haven’t decided which design I will print but I hope to have it ready for the Paris Tattoo Convention next month. Hopefully I’ll have them available at the Frith Street booth. I may do flyers based on this design too.

Beau Brady was in town for the Brighton Tattoo Convention last weekend. We were chatting about the film and he joked that I could have him parody the classic Atlas pose. It was a funny conversation and I thought it was a great idea.
The day before Beau flew back home we did a quick photo shoot. He spent the best part of a whole day “getting vascular” by eating chocolate, drinking milk and protein shakes, lifting heavy things and doing push-ups.

Beau used water bottles and our shop helper Nicholas, as weights:


He gets posture advice from Jordan during training and the shoot:
BeauAtlasfeb13_03 BeauAtlasfeb13_04
Blue Steel.

We tried to find gold briefs but alas, shiny black leatherette was all we could find at short notice.

Shane and Nicholas hold the backdrop while Jordan and Chad watch from the sidelines.

Which way is the beach?”

While taking posture advice from Jordan and art direction from me, Beau’s expression is “Are you fucking serious?BeauAtlasfeb13_10

 The chosen shot, unedited.

Thanks Beau!


FST: Transcripts on the shoulders of giants

Yawn, more posts about transcriptions? where are all the videos?

Well, the sad truth is that I’m at a stage of production where that’s what’s happening and there’s not much to show for the work I’m doing. Danny is working on the transcripts as I film new interviews. I can’t do new interviews as often as I’d like because I have to work around everybody else’s schedule. Frith Street Tattoo is still running as usual and I can’t conduct interviews in a noisy tattoo shop. I have to do interviews after work or during tattooer’s days off. To add to the difficulty, there’s been a few conventions recently where nobody has the time to get interviewed because they are preparing for, or traveling to to conventions. I’m also preparing for upcoming conventions.

Whining aside, I’m still enjoying myself and within my very loose schedule and I still expect to have this film finished late this year.

Transcripts of Giants_CoverWhile I don’t plan to sell this film or charge people to view it, (I’ll dedicate a post to the reasons for that at a later date) there’s a strong chance that I’ll offer things for sale that have things to do with the film: T-shirts, stickers, drawings, tattoo flash etc. Some other things I’d like to share and offer for sale would be:

  • A photo book including work produced at Frith Street with other behind-the-scenes type shots. I’d like this book to also include some of the planning notes I’ve made during the production.
  • A book of the edited interviews that will be used in the film.

In preparation for the kind of organisation those things require, I put together a book of the interviews I have so far. This book is around 170 pages. I expect the finished one to be around 250 to 350 pages if I include a few images.TranscriptUN_mockup02b I used the publishing service at I just ordered two copies on Feb 13th, one for me and one for Danny Woodruff. These particular ones won’t be available to anyone else because they are totally unedited, often difficult to read and possibly libellous in places. I will produce a real one, with every interview when the film is finished. At the time of writing the books hadn’t arrived so I made a few mock-ups, as you can see in this post.TranscriptUN_mockup03

Late January 2013, Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted.

I don’t have a lot to show from the work I’ve been doing on this project over the last couple of weeks. Danny Woodruff has transcribed the last of the interviews that I shot last year and he’s waiting for me to shoot more. The reason I haven’t shot any more just yet, is that as well as setting up reliable backups and other post production tasks, I’ve been working on new ideas about the questions I want to ask the guys at the shop. I hope that the new angle to the interviews will be much more interesting and further away from the standard tattooer interviews that we’ve all read or watched many times, as well as being more interesting to the interviewees. Hopefully it will be stuff the guys at the shop like to talk about too.

So there’s something interesting to look at in this post, here’s a teaser I put together with some footage of tattoos (for a change)

As soon as I shoot new interviews I’ll put short clips here along with updates on the progress of the film.

Maybe the next post will be about the slightly less exciting part of which software, apps, hardware and equipment I’ve set up to deal with the myriad of tasks making a film requires.

In November I mentioned transcribing interviews. When it became obvious I wasn’t able to do it on my own, I posted on Last Sparrow Tattoo asking for help from that community.
Quite a few people responded and offered to help – for which I’m very very grateful.
I now have a ‘reserve list’ to call on in the future – thank you all.

A long-time customer of mine emailed me with an offer to help transcribing the interviews. I sent him a couple of audio files of interviews just before Xmas 2012 and on New Year’s Day 2013 he sent me back the first transcription. His name is Danny Woodruff. I guess he’s the only other member of ‘staff’ on this project so far.
I couldn’t have been happier with the results of his work. He did a much better job than I could have, naming each speaker, marking laughter and audio problems etc. He even managed to deal with multiple accents. My northern English, Chad’s north eastern USA and Alex Reinke’s German accents didn’t seem to phase him.

It’s a hell of a lot of work, with more to come but all this effort will pay off when it comes to the editing stage.

Danny is away from the UK so he and I are keeping track of files and our progress using the project management site – it’ working great so far. I can sign in with my gmail details, attach files within the online software or link to files stored with Dropbox or Google Drive. The checklists there really make communicating remotely much simpler than doing it via email.

Here’s a glimpse at the “Transcriptions” folder on my hard drive. You can see the interviews Danny has transcribed and the ones he’s still got to do. In the coming months the “To Do” folder will get fatter too. I just need to make sure I update the boards at each time I finish an interview.


Here’s some close-ups of the transcription pages from Alex Reinke’s interview.
The eagle-eyed among you might notice that these are the bits from Alex’s Blog Clip last week.

The blank boxes to the right of the sheets are for my notes while re-watching the clips. Then I select the sections I want to use, cut them out and assemble a ‘paper edit’. I’ll use the paper edit to assemble the first cut of the film, so this project is still in the very early stages.

Thanks for reading,


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