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Me and Mr Stephen Woolley
I've noticed something. Stephen Woolley, the British Film Producing legend, has been appearing at significant points in my career to sprinkle magic on it. I've never worked with him, probably only exchanged a few sentences with him in the space of 21 yrs and yet he's played a part in a number of the highlights. Has Stephen got special powers?...
Anyway, here are the markers in mine and Stephen's relationship
In 1990 I made my first film - a half hour documentary about the Scala cinema (aka Sodom Odeon) in London's King's Cross. Stephen was one of the founders of the cinema and therefore responsible for its distinctive programme and all night culture. He'd moved on to Palace by 1990 but kindly gave an interview to a very nervous young director.
Cut to 2004. Stephen was a panel member for The Turner Classic movies shorts prize. They gave my short film 'Brown Paper Bag' third prize in the competition. Although we didn't win, the resulting exposure almost certainly helped raise the film's profile in the run up to the BAFTA's which we most certainly did win!
2010 After years of development hell and unfulfilled expectation created by the BAFTA wins, myself and the producer of Brown Paper Bag, Natasha Carlish decided enough was enough, we were gonna 'just do it', a decision which led to making 'Turbulence', my first feature film. It just so happened that Natasha had been able to secure Stephen as her mentor (I had no part in this) on the guiding lights scheme at that very same time. She showed him the rough cut I'd mostly put together (no money for an editor), which was painful but turned out to be extremely useful. Stephen declared the film to be not at all his cup of tea, then went on to say something like the following (I wasn't there you see)
'but its not really about me, who is your target audience? Show it them and see what they make of it'
We went away and set up test screenings for Turbulence, there were none in the pipeline before this moment. I've written some blogs about them and the experience of that. Let's just say it was a total revelation, not only one of the highlights of making the film, I'd go so far as to say it has completely shifted the way I see the film making process. I had no idea that was coming. Its too early to say what the result will be of this particular revelation but it feels significant.
So, Mr Woolley, I thank you very, very much and look forward to seeing you for the first time in seven years at this Saturday's 'Scala Forever' event at the Cinema Museum in London this Saturday 17.9.11. They're showing my documentary and there'll be a panel talking about the cinema's legacy and what not too. Cant wait!
A constant companion for any creative is the question 'Why on earth am I doing this?,' a close cousin of ' and Am I any good?'. In recent years, with little to show in the way of money or success, the question has been a regular visitor to my frontal lobes. Had I chosen a more sensible profession, I would be able to provide my family with more, perhaps even be useful to society. At times, to my mind, my only saving grace has been that throughout this period, I've always paid my taxes.
But just lately I've had a new reason to carry on. My son Jackson, nearing eleven years old, has a developing love of movies and indeed all things moving image. Although we don't like all the same things, there's plenty of taste cross over and we can pour over all the new releases and endlessly discuss their strengths and weaknesses. For the time being at least, we have a shared interest. And it's a wonderful thing.
But that's not all. He really likes my new film 'Turbulence'. And recently, as we have been editing and I've been bringing home different versions to watch, he has watched them with me. He's seen the film evolve over the past year, seen it shot and edited, refined and polished. This weekend we watched the final version of the front titles, which features animated versions of the characters. He whooped with joy as he spotted them appearing one by one. It was an awesome moment and very, very validating.
So... Jackson, I'd just like to say thank you very, very much for making this fathers day special.
Lots and lots of Love, Daddy (aka 'The Zids') xxx
Oh and p.s - thanks for the pumpkin heads and Homer corkscrew!!
The film awards season is now beginning in earnest. BAFTA have published their long list, from which the 6,000+ membership will choose the nominees and then the winners. I'm one of the voters. The trade press say that less films have been made this year but those completed are of higher quality. Having less films to consider is certainly a blessing and I have to say I'm really enjoying my movies at the moment. But, the big question - how am I going to vote? Tricky, with a lot of good films on offer. I think in my top three though contains two films based on true stories, the third is directed by a Brit in his 70th year. Can you guess the films?
One of my day jobs whilst we are making 'Turbulence' is running a Thursday evening film course at The Midland Arts Centre or MAC. To celebrate the awards season, I am going to dedicate each week to a different category. There'll be evenings on cinematography, actors, script, costume etc. I'm hoping to include special guests and even a special awards ceremony on the final night!
So what do the awards actually mean? For me I'd say being nominated is the most significant thing and being on that list year in, year out certainly does no harm to a career. The actual winner is much more of a lottery and ultimately less significant. Also there tends to be the lean towards one film picking up nearly all the prizes. Whilst this makes a good news story, I have to say I do think it's a shame and generally doesn't reflect what's out there. For my own work, I tend to think about the words of Martin Scorsese, famous for not winning an oscar for most of his career. He always said its not the prizes that matter but being able to make the next film. Here's to that.
So, I'm off to vote! You can see the BAFTA 'long list' using the link below, these will become nominees, and after a third round of voting, winners. Can you see any of your favourites from 2010?
Also check out MAC's evening courses and of course, our film Turbulence. We are now looking for completion finance of ÃÂ£75,000. if you know someone who might like to invest, please ask them get in touch. Businesses can invest in the film and offset this against corporation tax before April 6th 2011.
About Turbulence http://www.turbulencefilm.com
For Turbulence investment e mail Natasha@dreamfinder.net
For MAC's courses see http://www.macarts.co.uk/page/3704/Learning+Participation
To follow me on Twitter it's @bikefilm
I have just found myself in the peculiar situation of simultaneously making my longest and shortest film. My longest film is 'Turbulence', which you will be familiar with from previous blogs. It currently weighs in at 2 hours - the assembly edit. The assembly is your very first edit, basically an 'assembly' of all the scenes, in the order of the script. It's as rough as Desperate Dan's chin but basically offers you a starting point out of all of those hours of material. I'm now looking at it to see how well the story works, bringing down the length through tightening and deleting scenes and adding in music. There's a lot of music. I decided that the best way to deal with such a length is to take it 15 minutes at a time. So far it seems to be working!
This is all in marked contrast to my shortest film - 'How to Speak Big Cat'. This is a one take wonder, me and my daughter pretending to be lions - shot and edited in 30 minutes on a flip camera and running at a mere 55 seconds. I made it for a competition - Land Rover and Biosphere's 'Go Beyond' with the prize a place on an expedition to Namibia. Well, after being put through my paces on a selection day involving driving Land Rovers down rivers, imagining scenarios like being stranded in the desert and spotting lifesize cardboard cut outs of Zebras in the Herefordshire countryside (to name but a few tasks), I am glad to say that they have decided to put me on the plane! Yahoo! Thanks to little C, Aquila TV, Land Rover and Biosphere.
September - back to school and time for a spot of reflection and forward planning.
As they say at American Vogue, September is our January.... So, here goes.
One year ago I read an Observer film magazine special on the British Film Industry. It was sobering (even before the demise of UKFC) but very good, especially the Jason Solomons article and the interview with Michael Winterbottom.
The latter article contained two major nuggets:
1. If you want to emulate Britains most prolific director then stop waiting (see my earlier blog 'the waiting is kiliing me')
and 2. Behind every successful director, there's a great producer.
As soon as I put the article down, I called my long time producing partner Natasha Carlish and arranged to meet for coffee. We sat down in Maison Maici and I pitched my vision of the future, with the two of us working more closely and hurtling towards glory.
She told me that she was in fact thinking of knocking the whole film making business on the head...
Oh... I smiled bravely, asked her to think about it, then went home to think of plan B. No plan B came.
Tis the time for football quotings, tra la la la.
Anyway, so spoke Alan Hansen about Alex Ferguson's Manchester United side ahead of the 1995 - 96 season. United went on to win the league and cup double.
It's now one of the greatest footballing clichÃÂ©s of all time.
I'll be shooting a movie with a 'bunch of kids' from Birmingham School of Acting very soon indeed.
We have no money, the script is still being written and there are a million and one things that we need to find.
Right now I have a lot of reasons to be very, very scared but I don't feel that way.
This is one of the most exciting things I have ever done.
Most people in the British Film Industry are waiting. Waiting for a phone call, an email, a sign. Anything that says their film will get made.
In my case its been more than five years since winning two short film baftas and the waiting is killing me.
Ok, they told me it would be like this but I thought well, I got me baftas, that's got to make a difference.
Well er no, just get to the back of the queue Mikey Boy. And wait.... and wait and wait some more.
Brumcast 159 'Wrong Side Of The Tracks' was broadcast live on http://www.rhubarbradio.com on Monday 26th April 8pm GMT. Featuring a new one from former Sunset Cinema Club chap Greg Bird & Flamingo Flame, irreverent (Not irrelevant) noise from Blame Keijo, acoustic from Tiny Cinema, Live indieness from Calories and a bunch more good stuff. All written and performed by artist from Birmingham and the UK Midlands. Download free and direct from here or stream the show from RhubarbRadio.com
Here's this show's playlist :-
1. The Electric Blues Reaction - Wrong side of the Tracks (4:19)
2. Robot Disaster - The New Campaign for more sound (2:51)
3. Health & Efficiency - Yes I walked alone (4:23)
4. Tiny Cinema - From The River (4:04)
5. ComicbookHero - I've done better things in 15 minutes (4:21)
6. Greg Bird & Flamingo Flame - Autumnal Funk (3:29)
7. Blame Keiko - Mr. Shit Flicker (4:35)
8. The Maffa Kings - Haunted (3:46)
9. Calories - Forests of Varg (4:46)
10. The Lucky 27s - Die A Little Bit More (3:52)
11. Savant - Little Omar Little (5:45)
12. Fields of Ypres - A Bird in Hand (4:25)
Brumcast is broadcast on Rhubarb Radio http://www.rhubarbradio.com Mondays 8-9pm GMT. Brumcast on Twitter http://twitter.com/brumcast
Myspace - www.myspace.com/brumcastbirmingham
Brumcast RSS feed for itunes etc - http://brumcast.podOmatic.com/rss2.xml
As part of this years Flatpack festival the screening of Burning on Saturday 27th March at Ikon Eastside will be introduced by Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai, and will also include a selection of videos from the band's Rock Action label as well as five recent promos by French collective Megaforce. I will also be holding a Q&A session with Stuart about the film and Mogwai.
Early last year Scottish post-rockers Mogwai were filmed during their residency at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The resulting document is directed by NathanaÃÂ«l Le Scouarnec and Vincent Moon, known for some of the best music videos of the last couple of years (including Moon's work on The Take-Away Shows, short impromptu performances by bands on French music website La Blogotheque). Shot over three nights, this black and white film captures the beautiful intensity of Mogwai's performances.
Well the Oscar nominations are in and though they have shown a small level of risk in the nominations for best film, once again the Academy have shown a total lack of imagination and buried their heads in the sand when it comes to the field of fantasy and commercial success.
The Dark Knight is not mentioned in the categories of best picture and best director. The film is a stunning piece of film making and whether or not you liked the film or refused to get sucked into the hype surrounding it. It is a brilliantly made film, if Christian Bale's over blown Dirty Harry voice impression got on your nerves, its still a brilliantly made film, if the film was over shadowed by the untimely death of Heath Ledger, it is still a brilliantly made film. But the academy has chosen to over look this fact, Nolan should have been nominated for best director, there is a question mark over whether he would have won, but he should have been at least nominated.
Now this is may be just my opinion, but I have seen all but one of the films nominated as best picture and Nolan should have been among the list of directors up for the prize. It as a piece of work is stunningly well made, all of the reviews referring to the film have praised the level and skill of the direction and for many critics and audiences alike, it was regarded as one of the best films of the year, so why does the academy choose to ignore what so many see as obvious.
Now the current favourite to win best picture is the Brit flick Slumdog Millionaire, which I think is a fantastic film, it's full of everything that I like about film making, a good narrative, strong performances, witty and intelligent direction and a sense of originality that is lacking in most of your standard Hollywood fodder. Danny Boyle is without doubt one of the most talented directors around when he is left to his own devices, from he first burst onto the scene with Shallow Grave, he has shown that he knows how to communicate with the audience in a way that will engage and entertain, he then moved onto what I consider one of the best British films I have seen Trainspotting, original, funny, shocking and still brilliant, the only thing wrong with the film is that it put the director onto the radar of some of the big film studios, now for some there is no down side to that, but with the big investment comes big involvement, and the next couple of films A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach show a lack of Danny Boyle in the end product, they compromise on the dark side of humanity and a flair for depicting what exists in all of us in favour of a more straight forward approach to story telling and the results are there for all to see.
I have to say that I think that Slumdog Millionaire is a real return to form for the director and the leads in the film are just great, I had the pleasure of meeting two of the stars of the film at a special premiere screening of the film that took place at the Odeon Birmingham a couple of weeks ago and both Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor were both funny, entertaining and very humble about the success of the film.
For one of the biggest stars in the world of Bollywood Anil Kapoor shocked me by being nervous about the reaction of the audience to his film, this is a man behind some of the biggest Bollywood films and he stood there in a corridor physically nervous about his film, it gave him a really human quality and though his role in the film doesn't require him to really bond with the audience or to have them siding with him, it made me think that he was a nice guy, there were no photographers around, no screaming fans, just me, him and an event manager, it was actually really refreshing to see him ask one of the people involved in publicising the film to wait while we finished our conversation. Dev Patel on the other hand was full of wonder and instead of the audience being star struck, he was blown away by the level of attention he was getting, he quite simply had no clue as to how the audiences had bought into the film and how successful the film had been in terms of winning awards, at the time the film had won 63 awards from New York to Florida, Chicago to Berlin including a number for himself as best newcomer, Now do I think Dev will win best actor over Mickey Rourke or Frank Langella, no I don't, but I think his performance is great and perfectly and in line with the quality of the film, Is it a good leading actor performance, but its not a show stopping performance like that of the lead character in The Wrestler, which is probably the best performance as a leading man in contention for an award, but the performance of Dev Patel should not be overlooked, it is fresh, naive and ultimately perfect for the film and it would be criminal if he didn't get the recognition he deserves on this side of the pond as well as the rest of the world.
Which is exactly what should have happened to The Dark Knight and Christopher Nolan, maybe he should have played it safe and made an epic, historical, biopic which based on the security blanket the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wraps itself in would have been guaranteed to take home the big prizes.