Well, here we are at the close of Awards Season and as always we go out with a bang at the 87th Academy Awards. To some it is folly, to others it is their wildest dreams... Regardless of your thoughts about them, you cannot escape the fascination with all the pomp and razzmatazz that goes with the territory. So as Neil Patrick Harris warms up his vocal chords and the conductor readies his baton, here are my predictions for this year's winners in the main categories:-
Birdman or (The unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Theory of Everything
So there they are - my humble opinion on who will be fortunate to receive that gold statuette. Many will disagree with my choices, but I shall open my defense by stressing that they are not necessarily the choices that I WANT
to win - merely the ones that I feel the Academy will vote for. I feel that it will not go the way of the British this year and that the voting will make a conscious step away from the "play famous or disabled or both" stereotype that can criticize an actor's win. We all know the voters for the Oscars love a comeback story, or a sense of reward for a long-praised career and the Screenplay awards will be the consolation prizes for the runners up this year.
The very best of luck to all the nominees, my commiseration to those who didn't - and should have - been nominated (I'm speaking to you Mr. Turner
!) and regardless whether you win or lose, just remember that everything is awesome!
Photograph courtesy of Tomás Amaro ©
"Sometimes the view out there is fanny-tastic!"
Zac (Idge Logan)
Photo courtesy of Tomás Amaro ©
That was an INTENSE 48hrs!
Yep, you heard me - 48hrs. In that we had 5 locations scattered over a 10 mile radius, nearly 150 slates, complicated sequences involving children, animals and a Meatloaf impersonator... and a healthy dose of "liquid sunshine" (we were shooting in Wales, so what were we expecting?!). It has taken over 48hrs to just recover... Yet I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
To say that this has been one of the most enjoyable shoots is to understate the emotions at work. It had been a fair while since I had braved the stress and pace of an independent film set... The last couple of times had been particularly problematic for me, as I had taken on the burden of far too many roles - writer, director, AD, Producer, Director of Photography, Editor. I am sure I have missed a couple out, but I think it is clear that I was the driving force in each department on the last one (a road movie across the country too - no small feat!).
So what made this one different? As I may have mentioned before...
It is all down to the team!
Everyone (and I really mean it when I say everyone) was on their A game during the shoot for The Busker. Our lead and writer Idge provided the exact balance of cocky street-smarts and romantic naivety I had envisioned from his words on the page. The long-suffering housemate played by Shelly provided the perfect sardonic foil for our hero on his quest for a date, while Mel was a true inspiration - with so little dialogue of her own, she gave our hero's love interest an unspoken sweetness and charm that would enchant anyone. In fact, every single member of our cast made their marks on our film - I really hope they are proud of their work, because I cannot have got through the shoot so smoothly without it! Photo courtesy of Tomás Amaro ©
And then there was the crew. As I mentioned above, I was pretty much a jack of all trades but a master of none on the last couple of shoots... Here I had a crack team of guerilla film makers that were on it like a car bonnet! Our producer Lisa, having put so much work into the film, has been our driving force... Her reward is an entire crew providing such overwhelmingly positive feedback that she will have little trouble setting up the next one with these guys if she needed them! Backed up by her trusted assistant, Production Manager Hayley, they proved a force to be reckoned with. I have to say a special thanks to Hayley as she was the one who brought me to the project - ladies, my gratitude knows no limit!
Our 1st AD Tom - without this lad, I would have internally combusted. He ran our set with expert precision and skill... This lad is going to go far. DoP Chris knew exactly what I needed and duly captured it brilliantly... This lad is going to go far. My Assistant Luke worked so hard to do all the little jobs that needed doing and did so with speed and efficiency... This lad is (OK you know where I am going with this!)...
Not only that, but everyone was phenomenal - Marta our script supervisor and continuity, Jon our 2nd AD, Charli with wardrobe, hair & make-up, Kris on sound, Tomás our stills photographer/brolly holder, Travis our runner/other brolly holder... The list goes on! It is a rare thing when people work hard on a project together and everything flows as smoothly as one could ever hope for!
Yes this may all sound like a massive love-in... But I do hope that this underlines my main point. When you surround yourself with talented, enthusiastic people the work does not need to feel like a burden. If there had been one loose cog anywhere in this machine, the film would have had to go into the 3rd day... Something that none of us really wanted. Thankfully I had this cast and crew working so hard in order that I may provide the vision that was required as efficiently as possible. It is also important to mention the very generous backers on our Kickstarter page - our initial target was hit in under 3 days! Without their support, the cast and crew could not have worked so well!
The next stage is approaching and I look forward to sharing the progress as it all happens. It has been a fantastic endeavor - one of the most enjoyable film experiences I have had. I only hope I was not too tyrannical to my crew (those of you who have been on one of my sets know what I mean!)...
I think I did OK - when our writer/star tells our producer that I was "much better than the last tw@t
who directed my work", I shall take that to heart with a very big smile!
"Film making is a miracle of collaboration."
OK... Now this is a very weird feeling...
Here I am, on the verge of stepping back onto a film set and I am feeling... Calm. Now for those unfortunate few that have been on one of my short film sets (and that is such a small percentage of the populous, let me tell you!), this will be a revelation. Usually I am still buzzing away at something - be it the script, the call sheets, the risk assessments, something. And yet as I take my first steps back into film making, there is an unusual sense of serenity. Why? What makes this so different?
The answer is simple - the team.
This evening, we had our pre-production meeting - the evening before start of shooting. For me, it was a chance to meet some of the key members of the crew - especially the guys I will be working the closest with. So Chris the DoP, Kris the Sound Recordist and Tom the 1st AD are on board. And I hope they know what they are in for!
What really came across from the meeting is that we are all on the same page! My God, this is a first! It has been a long time since this has happened. I am so used to having to argue on the little points that don't really matter, that when agreement is reached so easily I almost did a double take. Not only that, but I believe that I can fully delegate responsibility to these guys with 100% confidence. Again, having had to do each and every aspect of the shoot on my Todd has resulted in my lowering of expectations. After this evening, I am confidently raising them. One thing is certain - this is not the film crew I am used to... And I like this!
I have never believed in the auteur theory. No one person can be seen as the author of the film. Yes, some have larger responsibilities on the shoot than others, but there is no doubt that everyone's contribution is important to the film's success. Of course, a whole new level of chaos has the potential to rear its head when we get to filming - but for now, I am feeling very confident that we have a great team working on this lovely little film.
Wish us luck - Day One of Production begins in the morning!
What a response to news about our short film project! We cannot begin to express how grateful we all are for the support and words of encouragement we have received via our Facebook page
. The project is gathering steam and we will be shooting in less than 2 weeks from now. Thank you all so much for your help this far... And I hope you don't mind if I ask for a little bit more too!
Thanks to our producer Lisa, we now have a Kickstarter page, which can be found by clicking on this link
. All we are asking is for a small donation for the cast and crew - all of whom are working free of charge - so that we can keep everyone watered and fed when on location. We do also have a scene that requires a certain level of stunt work (don't get too excited, it isn't Die Hard
or anything!), so anything that can be offered will be extremely well received! There is a lot of fine packages to obtain, so please do take a look and see if you can spare a bob or two!
Once again, you guys are fantastic - thanks again for all your help and support!
Since the wonderful select few that read my blogs (I must thank you from the bottom of my heart!) know from my last post
that I have been blessed with a fantastic opportunity to jump straight back into the director's seat with a lovely little comedy called The Busker. Over the past year, I have been posting my humble critiques of movies that have been playing in the local flicks - promising that I will be making the leap into production myself.
Well we are now just under 2 weeks till photography on The Busker and to say that I am nervous is less an understatement and more of a given! But any nerves that I have allowed to creep into my psyche are easily outweighed by my enthusiasm for the film - so much so that when my producer Lisa asked for help with some preliminary artwork I raced to the computer, dusted off my Shop of Photos and came up with this within the space of an hour:-
The teaser poster... Simple but effective (I hope!).
In all actuality, I offered up 3 different styles of poster and Lisa picked this one (it was my last attempt too, so practice does make perfect!). Hopefully this little teaser poster offers just a tiny hint of the film itself (guitar = music, tagline = romantic mishap - you get it, right?). I just wanted to share this with you guys and offer it up for criticism!
Also for those of you that are signed up to a certain Book of Faces, here is The Busker page
on that website too - please feel free to like and share with all your friends!
"When you're feeling sad & blue... You know Love's made a fool of you!"
Earth Angel (Tim Swallow) - Ready Teddy
For those observant amongst you (few!), it might have been noticed that the last post in my Film Maker's Diary was nearly 4 months ago, when I had attended British Indie film guru Chris Jones' 2 day masterclass. And I freely admit that, despite coming fresh out of that weekend feeling the call to arms, I have not been too speedy in making any headway into my cinematic journey. Now while I am not one to make excuses (I can hear my wife sniggering in the background as I read this aloud!), there has been a series of events that have blocked my path to some degree. A move from the Capital, the subsequent loss of my job (thanks to the company falling into long-gestating insolvency) and the constricting red tape in order to obtain the money owed to me, from both my employers and HM Government. Now that I am tackling a new vocational path (no more working for the Man!), the dream of making that all-important cinematic masterpiece seemed to be put on hold. My recruitment film!
So when I opened my Book of Faces to post my daily movie news and funny video clip distractions, I did not expect a message from one of my friends from my Higher Education days to let me take that first step towards big screen glory! Of all things, it was my final film for my degree, from way back in the Good Old Days (2001) that was playing in my friend Hayley's mind when one of her closest friends told her about a short film that she was producing. Was it co-incidence, or was it fate? Honestly I believe it is the former, but I'll happily take the latter! Either way, an offer to meet her in Cardiff and discuss the possibility of directing this project was on the cards and I didn't hesitate to take it. By the end of that week, I was heading down the M5 towards Cardiff on a baking Friday morning to see what would come of this exciting opportunity. Nearly 6 hours later, I had somehow managed to convince producer Lisa that I would be the right guy to sit in the Director's chair - despite a re-screening of my student film that could have put her off completely!
A week later Lisa had sent me the latest version of the script and it is a bit of a corker - a musical comedy following the romantic endeavors of a down-at-heel Busker in Cardiff. With my student film/recruitment piece following similar themes, it is understandable why Hayley would think of me as a potential director. A further meeting with the writer/star and my assistant (Can you believe it? I get an assistant on set!) last Friday went swimmingly, with plenty of positives discussed on how to tighten up the writing and help find a flow to the script. With the writer Idge carefully scrutinizing each suggestion, the resulting nods and smiles suggest that we are on the same page (excuse the pun).And with just over 2 weeks to go until the film goes before the camera, I am quietly confident that there is a little gem of a short film in this project. And with any luck, this will prove to be the first of many projects to come!
Stay tuned for all the updates as I write them - this one is gonna be fun!
Taking action... Movie making can become a reality.
"I don't know where to begin…" "Go further than you are prepared to go..."
"I am afraid that I will fail…"
"My wife is holding me back…"
This is just a choice selection of "reasons" that I heard when I attended the 2014 Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass at Regent's college, London and was asked, "What is stopping you from making your movie?" Led by low budget filmmaker guru Chris Jones, this intensive two day workshop brought together over 170 filmmakers of differing backgrounds and experiences and allowed each and every one of us to move forward with a unified goal… To get that film made and have a career in the movies, no matter what it takes.
Unlike some of the "How To" film classes that I have previously attended, this is one of the first that actively engages the class - directly addressing some of the red lights that stop people from pursuing their aspirations to make a film. Right from the off, we were tasked with jumping straight into a confessional with a fellow delegate and opening up about our thoughts and fears to making our film. I had to apologize to the guy I spoke to as my brain-pounding hangover incapacitated me for much of Day One - damn you, wife's birthday the night before (Oh dear, I have let slip one of my excuses!). The breaking down of barriers even in this small way allowed us to be more open to what we were to learn over the next two days.
Chris Jones is one of the leading voices of independent cinema in the UK. The stories and life lessons that he recites during the workshop demonstrate that once upon a time he was just like us, trying to get a film made without really knowing how to get there. He's hit highs and lows over a career that spans over 20 years; some of them hilarious, others rather frightening. But with a guy who can literally say he's been there and done that with pretty much every low/no budget scenario thrown at him, you know that this course is stamped with hard-earned authority. Above all else, Chris instills a much-required shot of self-motivation into the workshop, driving the sense that everything you need to make your movie is out there and potentially up for grabs… The only things stopping you are your own inhibitors. "I have been there, done that... Got the T shirt."
Sitting in that auditorium for two days was quite an eye-opener for me. Here was a guy in crumpled fatigues and an OCP T shirt ("I'd buy that for a dollar!") telling me that the opportunities for indie movie makers have never been greater. It was clear from the outset that many people were here to network and meet like-minded individuals (a key component to success is to meet potential cast and crew). But this was not the real reason I came to the class. For me, I needed that mental push… That notion that I really could achieve my dream. And with the right knowledge, mindset and game plan I can go further than most others to achieve my goals. What is more, I was not being lectured by a stuffy film school professor. Here I was surrounded by people telling me about their artistic passion projects ("It's like Joe Orton meets Derek Jarman!") - all noble endeavors, I am sure. But in front of me was a guy secretly confessing to watching Steven Seagal movies! Now this was more like it - someone who watches (and I suspect secretly loves) the same crappy movies that I do. In fact, when I was able to assist with recalling shitty Bruce Willis actioner Striking Distance for Chris (seriously, don't bother with that one), his exclamation of "Movie geeks of the world unite!" confirmed that I was thankfully not alone!
By the end of the course, I have to admit that I was beginning to show signs of information overload - the workshop could have easily filled up a third day. And yet many of my own red lights had been changed to green. A clear game plan has now formulated, s positive mindset is now engaged and I know where I need to go from this point on. Thanks to Chris and his team, a path to chasing the dream that has forever seemed like a mere fantasy can now be taken. Interactive exercises, guest appearances from professional working film makers in the industry and key information to not only making a movie but selling it too - this class is an excellent first step for anyone looking for the basic tools to create that magnum opus. I wish my fellow delegates luck with their various projects - I look forward to buying my ticket and seeing them on that big screen. But first, I must put my own game plan into action. What is stopping me? Now, only myself… And that is not going to happen!
Class of 2014 - Come The Day...
A fine example of what a British low-budget thriller is capable of...
It was just over a month ago that I was introduced (via the magic of Facebook) to Omid Nooshin's runaway train thriller Last Passenger. This was a movie that I was neither aware of nor privy to the fact that a former colleague of mine was one of the co-writers! As soon as I found out (another former workmate posted a link to the film on his status page), I raced online and ordered my Blu-Ray copy. A coupe of days later, it arrived and was immediately slammed into the player. An hour and a half later, I was not only very happy with my new purchase but I was also intrigued to how my cohort in retail television was now a budding new voice in British cinema. A quick email later and he told me how the positive response he has had from the experience has certainly helped move future projects forward. Why not Do It Yourself?
So how did they get the film into production? Well, thanks to development backing from the UK Film Council the screenplay was placed on the 2008 Brit List of the best unproduced screenplays. The script attracted the attention of Dougray Scott - a strong negotiation tool when you have a name actor attached to your project. But for me the most intriguing technique was that the director and his producers made a £500 trailer on a disused train carriage in Sussex! The ability to demonstrate tone and style with a homemade trailer certainly accelerated the bidding process - within a couple of months, the film makers had raised the full production budget. The trailer was also instrumental at the 2011 Cannes Film Market, where the project raised plenty of finance in pre-sales.
The end result is a fast-paced, character driven action thriller - and one that is all too rare for our cinema screens. With the possible exception of London (and even then, it is Central London), it is nigh on impossible to walk into a local multiplex and find a low budget British genre movie among all the latest big FX-laden popcorn pictures from Hollywood. And this really needs to change. It is alright for Loach, Leigh and the established British auteurs to complain against David Cameron's idea of trying to make blockbusters over art films, but when all you want to do is make a good old fashioned thriller, perhaps a little more help getting them screened would help everyone?
Thanks to films like Last Passenger, despite the limited cinema release it may have had, it is both re-assuring and inspiring to see that such movies can still get made and also attract an audience. My own review of the film can be found in the Reviews section - and thanks to the glimpses I have been given into the process, I can positively move forward with my own planned projects... Knowing that perhaps the dream of seeing my own feature film on a big screen is not that ludicrous after all...
Time to dust off my old camera and get to work!
One of the production stills from my final year project at University... So long ago...
When you wish to break into the film industry, where do you start? For many of those with a love of movies but no contacts or experience, it seems a very daunting task. However every successful film maker working today had to start somewhere. It is true that there are some who have been fortunate to come from movie making stock, or have been financially strong enough to attend film school, where contacts and experience can be nurtured. But with today's technology, almost anyone can produce something for viewing. Those that wish to work in the industry may have to work infinitely harder than the aforementioned lucky ones, but there are some truly unique voices out there and some may very well break through and form a successful career.
So where to start? For me, it is to address the issue of British film in general, in accordance with my tastes. Personally, have always favoured genre movies over artistic works. Now I am not saying that I don't like art films - some of the works of Greenaway and Jarman are very good - but I have always enjoyed a great thriller, or a hilarious comedy. And if I wish to make movies, I am naturally drawn to these types of film. My early short films clearly fall under this bracket and the ideas that I am currently developing are following in their footsteps. But one thing troubles me when considering British genre films... Why are there so few shown on the big screen?
There are some fine examples of British film on the big screen that fall into the genre market - Edgar Wright's The World's End is one of the most successful examples in recent months. But an established film maker like Wright would no longer have trouble funding a high profile movie. How does a new independent film maker get their film into the movie theaters? This is when the artistic hat must be put aside and the business hat comes into play. It cannot be forgotten that this is show-business - when you are recognized by your peers as a success, then the more personal, artistic projects could come forward. Until then, you must surely work towards a film you can sell.
Perhaps a re-think on tactics is in order... As you will see from my next entry...
"To begin at the beginning…" Dylan Thomas
Thomas' words from Under Milk Wood are the solution to my troubles. After nearly ten years of hard labour in the dark recesses of Retail Television ("You can now own this fabulous pair of scissors with additional laser guidance for only $19.99!"), I have felt the cold palm of my Future Self slap me across the face. This was never in my Great Life Plan! This was never even in my peripheral vision of career expectations! So why have I let go of my dreams? And then I realized that the answer was obvious - to survive.
There is no film industry in the UK. There is no entrance for a new creative that has no contacts, no money and no idea on where to start. At least, that is how it looks from the outside and that is how it looked when I first tried to enter the industry. And in all honesty, that still seems to be the case.
However, there IS a thriving film industry in the UK. Of course there is. Just look at the number of big movie productions are made in the UK. As an outsider looking in, it still seems impossible to break into the industry without money and contacts behind you. But some people have managed to do just that, so what is their secret? Perhaps the idea of trying to break down the doors to get noticed seemed too threatening or too risky a prospect that I felt the need to settle for less than my dreams.
But not any more.
Yes, income is still an important issue - how does one live without it? But it is now the time to really follow my heart and pursue the work that I have always wanted. Sure, earning a wage is still a necessity. But this should still allow me the spare time to chase my dreams and not de-moralize me to the point that all I want to do is sit around and feel sorry for myself. No, I am using my 14-day life-back guarantee from this vocational black hole and re-invigorating my passions for film making.
This is my mission statement - I will attempt to try and get a film made and on the big screen in the next 5 years. Right now, I have very little idea on how to get there. I don't have the financial backing , nor very many contacts within the
industry. But this is what makes the prospect of the independent approach rather enticing. With this diary, I hope that the peaks & troughs of my journey will keep you all entertained, as well as offer any insight to anyone with a similar dream to mine.
Wish me luck!