Thursday, 25 June 2009

Cannes Day 5

As Brother Pete pointed out the music video we both posted yesterday has been reposted in a different form. Unlike Brother Pete I have amended my previous post so go back to that one to watch it.

I finally saw Eden Lake last night - at the moment I mainly seem to be talking about films that other people got excited about months ago. Anyway, it was really good. If you ignore the subject matter, it's a very slick, well-produced and well-acted horror film that manages to be disgusting, terrifying, thought-provoking and an excellent ride all at the same time. I keep going on about liking my horror films to be about something and this definitely is, which is where perhaps the problems lie. On the one hand it's a film that says the root of the problems with today's youth is the parents, which is straightforward enough. But by the end it seems to be suggesting that all poor people are evil and the middle-classes are ace. Kind of like Gone Baby Gone which, as my dad pointed out, does seem to say that poor people shouldn't be allowed to have children. I'm all for exploring contemporary fears but I think sometimes those explorations can be a bit one-sided. Eden Lake is still an excellent film though so don't let me put you off watching it.

Anyway, here's the next part of the diary, and we're over halfway!

19/05/09 - 01:30AM

Bit of a weird one today. Got into town much later than usual due to hangover. The only thing I could really face doing was watching a film and luckily there was a screening of Catherine Breillat's new one Bluebeard. Managed to get an invite and only just made it into the screening as it was packed full of buyers. Interesting that the first packed screening we get into should be a French feminist art film, but I guess it was the first film of that type we'd seen and we were in Europe. It was actually quite encouraging - I mean, I know Breillat is a big name in French cinema, but after a couple of days in Cannes I was beginning to wonder whether art ever really did have anything to do with the film industry to begin with. Seeing this many people interested in a really non-commercial film was a real breath of fresh air. And it was a great film - great performances, beautifully shot and a really interesting take on the story. If anyone ever buys it for the UK I would seriously recommend it - although be warned, there is a real life duck decapitation so it's not for the faint-hearted.

We then tried to blag an invite to a horror film that looked interesting but they were booked up, so went to see Anvil instead - cheating really as it's been out in the UK for ages and we got to see it for free. It was an entertaining way to pass an afternoon.

Later in the day I sat in on another meeting about one of my projects that was more positive than previous meetings. The feeling I couldn't quite shake though was that the meetings often felt like work nights out - there was a 'let's not talk about work, we're here to get drunk and have a laugh' vibe. And then people promise to read things when they get back to whatever country they've flown in from. This is part of the reason I don't do networking very well - I don't really get it.

Went for dinner, met a couple of UK film people and chatted to them for a bit, then back to the apartment for a relatively early night.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Random post with videos...

I'll finish the Cannes diary and post the final part of the short story soon, but I've hit a kind of meltdown this week - a consequence of working on too many different writing projects combined with studying for an exam at work and trying to plan a wedding all at the same time - so thought I'd just post some videos for now instead.

First off a video my dad's friend put together for one of their old songs. I now can't get it out of my head. There's a full explanation here:

Screaming Till The Sun Goes Down (2nd thought mix) from Extra Familiar on Vimeo.

Speaking of dad, I never did post his 'Year in the Life of a Poundland Buddha Head' video (check out the website for an explanation):

Also, I finally saw The Signal last night which I really enjoyed. It didn't work on every level for me and I'm not sure the 2nd & 3rd acts live up to the promise of the outstanding 1st act, but it's still an awesome sci-fi/horror with a nice Carpenter/Romero vibe. It also manages to be quite funny at times:

Friday, 19 June 2009

Brighton Born & Dead...

So last night I went to the premiere of Brighton Born & Dead, a locally produced horror feature that I'd been hearing about for some time. A few Ten Dead Men alumni worked on the film so I went along to support their work and local filmmaking in general.

It was good to see so many Brightonians at the screening and nice to see people actually supporting this kind of thing. I'm not sure what to say about the film itself. There were moments that showed a lot of promise, particularly the Palace Pier opening sequence, and the look of the killer who had a rather distinctive and creepy looking mask. It needed cutting, and with enough cutting it could have made a really excellent short film. At it's best, it felt like a grindhouse film made by Andrei Tarkovsky, and I think I might just leave it at that.

I am deliberately skirting around the issues with the film, but I've made my thoughts on internet criticism quite clear. However, there is one issue I can't ignore and it relates to a larger concern with independent film-making in general. It's also an obvious point for me to make.

Micro-budget films need scripts. They probably need scripts even more than bigger-budget films need scripts. I'm not even talking about good scripts - micro-budget filmmaking is often about learning your craft by practicing it and like the films the scripts are going to reflect the experience level of the writer. But a writer at any level will still give your film some structure, some sense of narrative coherence. For all the criticism of Ten Dead Men, I can say one thing with absolute certainty - the structure is sound. It works and flows as a film. Getting people to sit through a micro-budget film is already a big ask and at least with a competent enough script in place you make the ride a bit easier. But so many low budget films fall down at this first and obvious hurdle because there is a misunderstanding that scriptwriting is about cool dialogue and quirky characters and not about structure and pacing - the things that really determine above all whether a film is watchable or not.

There is a certain arrogance I find with independent filmmakers who don't seem to feel the need for a script. So many independent filmmakers go out and shoot thinking the shooting itself is the important thing. And so many independent directors do their own producing and writing too thinking it's all part of their job description. With the exception of the other blogging writers, I've only met a few people in filmmaking circles who have chosen to concentrate on writing as their chosen craft (even fewer who've chosen producing). Most people seem to see it as an extension of directing. It's not, and when it's treated as such it shows in the films. And that singular vision of a director who refused to compromise (i.e. collaborate) becomes something that only resembles a film in that it has pictures that move and it makes a noise.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cannes Day 4

Been a few days since my last post but I've been super busy, mainly doing awesome things such as going to Paris and getting engaged!

And staying in a hotel that really did look like the place where Roman Polanski lived in The Tenant. Here's the view - I swear I saw myself looking back from the opposite window a couple of times!

First off, I'm going to plug a couple of other people for a change. Went to Moviebar in Brighton and saw a 40 minute short by Brian Mayfield called Gorilla My Heart which was rather excellent. It's kind of an oddity in that 40 minutes is the perfect length for the film, which also puts it in an awkward position as far as festivals are concerned. But you can check out the rather pretty website and hopefully the film will get more screenings soon as it's worth seeing.

Also, blogging scriptwriter Phill Barron has posted the trailer for his latest feature Just for the Record here and it looks pretty special - check out that cast!

Anyway, it's been a while so here's the next part of the Cannes diary...

18/05/09 - 11:45AM

I'm rather hungover today hence not having left the house yet. Yesterday was a bit of a weird one. I had a proper go at networking in the morning, doing the rounds in the Palais, but most of the people there were sales agents looking to buy and sell finished films. A couple said they'd be interested in developing projects in the future so I've got some leads to follow up when I get back. There's a sense that a lot of companies are just working through their back-catalogues, so maybe in a year or so the pool of finished films will dry up and we'll start making new ones again!

Then we went to see Uwe Boll's latest film Rampage. The man himself was on the door handing out invitations and once inside proceeded to deliver perhaps the greatest introduction to a film I've ever heard. And the film itself was really good - well-acted and hard-hitting with a really interesting if controversial point of view. It was more arthouse than action and closer to the other really great Boll film Heart of America. I hope he continues to make more films like this one (couldn't find a trailer but it's worth looking out for - I know Boll has a bad reputation attached to his videogame adaptations, but Rampage is completely the other end of the scale and deserves some attention). The other cool thing that happened in the screening was that I spoke to a German producer who'd seen Ten Dead Men - it's the first time I've ever spoken to someone who's seen it that I didn't already know which was cool.

In the afternoon I sat in on another meeting in which the producer claimed he'd been in the business long enough so he didn't read scripts anymore - which made me being there feel a bit redundant. He was more interested in whether we had names attached or any other investors. Interestingly he did say it was possible to get names attached without money upfront. Also, once you start shooting you may end up with a completely different cast due to scheduling or whatever, but it doesn't matter - you just need the names to generate the interest in the first place. And to be fair, in order to get actors interested you need a really good script (presuming actors still read scripts!). So us writers are useful for something.

Also, Ang Lee walked past our table in the Carlton before we went into the meeting and I wondered how many famous people you would see if you just sat in the hotel bar all day. Then I saw the price of the drinks and understood why you would never do that.

The rest of the day was taken up helping to get the Stealth party ready - getting last minute supplies and helping set up the apartment. It was very reminiscent of one of those episodes of The Apprentice when they have to put on an event, only without the firing bit at the end. The party itself was good fun. I met some really interesting people and ranted about films a lot. Drank far too much but still managed to help clean up at the end. Went to bed at about four in the morning. It was great to go to a proper Cannes party, but it has meant that I've lost a good portion of the following day. Looking forward to watching more films later as it's about all I can manage at the moment!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Martyrs and Ten Dead Men stuff...

...the two aren't connected.

Been too busy to write up another Cannes diary this week, but I will get there by next year, I promise.

If anyone is a member of LoveFilm and has seen Ten Dead Men we could really do with some reviews on there. As always, you don't have to like the film, please be honest. It's just at the moment we only have one poor and badly written review and it would be nice to get some balance.

Aside from LoveFilm, we're doing okay for customer reviews. On Amazon they're 100% positive (so to be fair I should be asking people to go on Amazon and give us some bad reviews), and Play and IMDB are pretty balanced now. It's given me a pretty good idea of how the film splits audiences into groups.

Group 1 are the people who aren't used to seeing low budget films and get inexplicably angry at people who even try to make films when they don't have billions of dollars. I'd say this accounts for about 50% of the audience.

Group 2 are the people who don't mind that it's low budget, enjoy the action but are put off by the voice-over and structure - there's a lesson here but it's a lesson I choose not to take on board. I'm still glad we attempted something a bit different with the film and I'm not sure I'd be able to live with myself if I had written some kind of sweary cockney rant as a few people have suggested.

Group 3 are the people who get on board with the whole thing and do seems to genuinely enjoy it - I'd say stages 2 and 3 account for 25% each.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the response and with how well the film has been doing. I do finally feel like the whole process is finished now, which is both a relief and a bit strange as it has been such a huge part of my life for the last three years. Even when I wasn't working on it (which I haven't been for most of the time I've been writing this blog), it was still there in the background and I was still talking about it. I guess that's what I'm missing really and what I'm looking for - something else to talk about.So I'm going to talk about films I've seen instead.

So last week I finally got around to watching Martyrs, another film from the French new wave that includes Inside, Switchblade Romance and Frontière(s) (all of which I blogged about here). I had high expectations, although most of the things I had heard about the film were to do with how extreme the violence in the film was rather than the film itself. I'd heard of hardened horror fans not being able to watch and in some cases even fainting. I don't know what this says about me, but I didn't find the violence too bad. Two disclaimers here 1) I was watching in the comfort of my own home and although I tried to recreate the effect I can see that watching something like this in a cinema where you can't turn away or take a break is very different and 2) when I say it wasn't that bad I really mean I thought the violence in Inside was for me much harder to take, but it's still about ten times more brutal that most mainstream horror films. And to be honest there was a point about an hour in when I knew the next half hour was going to be really unpleasant, but at least watching at home I could see from the DVD player display that it was only going to be another half an hour.

But that's not the point - I'm not a hardcore gore fan particularly and I don't want to put people off. What's great about Martyrs, just like the other French films I've mentioned, is that it is quite simply an amazing film. It film looks great, the performances are flawless and most of all the script and structure are almost groundbreaking. Martyrs does a great job of turning a corner whenever you think you know what it is or where it's going. They're not plot twists exactly, just abrupt turns or sidesteps that fit perfectly within the story. The characters have a depth to them that becomes important in the story itself - a story that deals with religion and faith and how we deal with suffering. And that's what's ultimately so refereshing about it - it's a horror film about something. When you're watching annoying pretty people getting picked off by CGI in PG-rated modern 'horror' it's easy to forget that horror can occasionally be a proper genre.

It's also properly scary in places - to the point where I really didn't want to turn any of the lights out afterwards. Here's the trailer, but if you're interested I advise just going out and getting it. Although preferably not from HMV as it's just below us in the charts at the moment!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Day They Tore The Dark Room Down - Part 2 of 3

I posted the second part of the short story here.


If you need to catch up you can read Part 1 here or the intro in script format here.

'The melting man nudged Django, clearly wondering why he wasn’t applauding like the rest of them. But Django was too busy staring at the floor beneath her feet, and the deep red blood that was dripping so frequently now the sawdust was no longer soaking it up. And he wondered if there would be clowns.'

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Silent Flute...

This was one of my favourite films when I was growing up and still is today. The difference between then and now is that it wasn't until I watched it as an adult that I realised David Carradine played four parts in the film. An amazing performance from an amazing and often underrated actor who will be sadly missed:

Short Script Competition results...

So I didn't get through to the next round, but I came fourth in my heat. You can read the full results here. The way they've laid it out is a bit annoying as I was super-excited for about ten seconds when I saw my script on the list, then slowly realised only first and second got through to the next round.

I am a bit disappointed I didn't get further and this is why I never usually enter script competitions - as much as I'd prefer not to be I'm a bad loser. But I did only spend three evenings on it (which might have been my problem!) and I came out with something that I hope I'll be able to use further down the line. I'm happy I got into the top 5 and I got what I wanted from it which was to work on something different that was completely my own.

In the end only two people gave me feedback on the script in the competition forums. I might have brought that on myself by posting a rant about people criticising script format here - sometimes beer and blogging don't mix, although I think the point I made is still valid which is why I left it there. I also stopped giving feedback on other peoples' scripts after the ninth one and probably would have had more in return if I'd read more. I'm apparently due some official feedback from the judges so I'll let you know how that goes.

The link to the PDF will have expired by now, but if anyone is interested in reading it feel free to send me an e-mail.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Cannes Day 3

Here's Day 3 in which I mostly watch films. I get a bit miserable at the end of this one - I did start cutting the more negative bits out, but then realised the whole point of this was to give an honest depiction of my experience so here goes...

17/05/09 - 01:15AM

Spent most of today watching films which was ace, particularly as they were all really good.

Got up too late to see the 3D sci-fi promo we intended to see, but as a result made it to a screening of Shinjuku Incident - Jackie Chan in a dramatic role as a Chinese immigrant who gets tangled up in the Japanese underworld. Here's the trailer:

Excellent performances from Chan (who is surprisingly good as a serious and often unsympathetic character), Daniel Wu and Masaya Kato plus a really awesome script with some of the most complex characters you'll ever see in a gangster film. I've only ever seen one Derek Yee film before, One Night in Mongkok, which was great but I think this may be his masterpiece.

Had lunch, then went to a screening of Salvage - couldn't find a trailer but there's a website here. This was the film we had tried to see the previous day but been turned away from. The same person was on the door and glared at us as we approached, but the distributors had given us invitations this time which we waved victoriously in the door-person's face (well, we talked about doing that but were really just grateful to get in). It was worth it - a neat little British horror film set in a cul-de-sac. Shows what you can do on a low budget when the script is good and you have some great actors. Won't say too much as I don't want to ruin it, but it is one to look out for.

On the way to the next screening we got stuck behind Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci on their way to a press conference for Don't Look Back and got pulled along with a mob of photographers. Also saw a handful of screaming fans outside a shoe shop earlier in the day, but there were so many people we couldn't see who was inside. Struck me that it might actually be quite annoying causing this much chaos when you just want to buy shoes.

Next film was Blood and Bone, a straightforward martial arts films that does exactly what it's supposed to do and does it very well indeed:

Great fights, Michael Jai White is ace and there was a superbly creepy villain performance from Eamonn Walker that stole the film for me - one of those bad guys who's so cool I secretly wanted him to win.

After that we took a chance on a screening of Eyeborgs which had no info on it in the dailies at all so for all we knew could have been an obscure art film about artificial eyes or something. It wasn't:

It turned out to be a rather effective sci-fi thriller with some excellent special effects on what I presume was a modest budget. The lead actor, Adrian Paul (most well-known for the Highlander TV series but also excellent in The Breed), was sitting in the row behind us and we got to chat to the director afterwards (although he seemed quite keen to move us on so he could speak to the buyers).

It was great to spend the day doing fun stuff and seeing films. I do feel like maybe I'm missing out a bit on the networking side, but as the director of Eyeborgs pointed out I'm not a buyer and I get the impression that's all people here are interested in - buying and selling product. I mean I know that's why people are here, writing it down it seems kind of obvious, but faced with the reality of it has changed my perspective a bit. I'm hoping I'll have it changed again tomorrow...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Cannes Day 2

My desk does badly need tidying, look:

I was going to make some kind of point about the state of one's desk mirroring the state of one's life but that's a level of self-analysis I don't really want to get into right now.

Random stuff 1) Ten Dead Men has gone down to No.13 in the Asda chart (boo!) but has entered the HMV chart at No.20 (yay!). Although now I'm suggesting that somehow being No.20 in HMV is better than being No.13 in Asda, but that makes me sound like a right snob.

Random stuff 2) Started work on a new film project this weekend. I'm not going to go into detail or summarise the various things I'm working on as it even confuses me these days, but this one has been going pretty well so far. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's writing itself, but it's certainly been fun.

Random stuff 3) The first part of my short story isn't going anywhere - it's still here. I am determined to mention that in every post from now on. I'll be posting the next part soon.

Random stuff 4) There's a review of the Birdeatsbaby album launch I went to on Saturday with pics here which sums up the evening in much more detail than I did. And you can find out more about their album here.

Right, I keep telling people I'm posting my Cannes diary so I guess I should actually get on with it:

16/05/09 - 01:40AM

Came home early (compared to the others) to get some more sleep than last night as I stayed up really late in the end despite plans to the contrary. First full day was a bit overwhelming. Met lots of people I already knew though which made me feel a little less out of my depth. Some from Brighton too which was cool. Also got introduced to loads of new people and started a collection of business cards. Got turned away from the first film we tried to get into despite the distributor of the film trying to get us in - most of the staff in the Palais seem really polite and friendly, the odd one is pretty harsh. Did get to see one screening in the end - a 25 minute promo for an amazing-looking Indonesian film called Merantau. Looks a bit like Ong Bak but might even be better.

Will write more about today when I'm less exhausted...

16/05/09 - 08:00AM

Got some time before we leave the apartment to catch up properly on yesterday. So it started off with rain. Lots of rain. And I didn't pack a coat. Suddenly the 30 minute walk into town seemed like a real problem. So we took the bus. Later on I gave in and bought an umbrella at which point it stopped raining - I think I'd broken the curse.

We started with a meeting with David Hannay - he has an executive producer credit on Ten Dead Men and is a bit of a legend in Australian cinema. We then went to the Stealth apartment where they would be holding their meetings. It was super-posh and had this view:

Then we headed to the Palais (which is the huge main building where everything happens) to register which was far easier than I imagined it would be. After that it went a bit mad - here's when I got introduced to loads of people. Ran off into the Short Film Corner when I thought I spotted a couple of people I knew. Luckily they were people I knew so I didn't look like a complete lunatic. Then followed people around the Palais being introduced to more people. At one point I gave my card to a design company and started to feel a bit self-conscious about giving my card out to people who were not likely to ever require the services of a writer. That didn't last.

Had lunch, realised my French isn't as great as I thought it was - I was feeling quite good about it until I noticed that everything I said in French was replied to in English. In the afternoon I was introduced to more people (there's a pattern here) including a couple more British filmmakers who I will definitely e-mail when I get home.

Went for a walk along the beach, stopped off at the UK tent and met more friends from England. I know a lot of people would say meeting people you already know isn't the point of going to Cannes, but for me being shown around by people who seemed to know everybody it was nice to have a few of my own contacts there. Went back to Short Film Corner for free drinks (awesome) and then headed home to change for the evening, mainly as my clothes were soaked.

Caught a screening of a promo for Merantau (see above) which was pretty amazing and beautifully shot. I wanted to applaud at the end but no one else did so I decided maybe it's not the done thing - it certainly was applause-worthy. Then it was dinner with friends - we hooked up with a couple of American film-makers, Dianna and Michael, who were very cool, and while I mention it here's the trailer for their film No Time to Fear:

That pretty much covers the first proper day in full. Now heading out for the next one...