screen • experience • collaborate
Cineformation and Birds Eye View invited us to spend an inspiring evening in the charming and self deprecatory company of renowned BBC director, Philippa Lowthorpe, in discussion with her friend and fellow film maker, Anna Farthing for October’s event.
The evening started with a reminder from Birds Eye View that there is still a real imbalance in the film industry between genders, women still being grossly underrepresented.
Fifteen years ago, Philippa Lowthorpe arrived in Bristol after taking a law course at university (which she said she found uninspiring to say the least). She enrolled as a researcher for a BBC TV programme called “Where there’s life” with Dr Miriam Stoppard. Her job consisted mainly in dealing with real people, getting to know them and encouraging them to open up for interviews. She realized how much she enjoyed that aspect of the work and that she felt genuine empathy with these people.
Although she had no training, she decided she wanted to direct her own documentaries. To do so, she set up an independent film company with a female friend. They made some films for “First Tuesday”. She explained, however, that it is only when she joined the BBC that she really learnt how to make films, under the guidance of Peter Symes, her mentor. He taught her, for instance, the importance of having a real personal take on your subject instead of just amassing random material.
For her 1994 BBC documentary entitled “Three salons at the seaside”, she spent a lot of time in Blackpool finding the right hairdressing salons for her film. http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/storyville/philippa-lowthorpe.shtml
Casting, she said, was very important. She also spent six weeks building a relationship of trust and friendship with her subjects. It resulted in a marvellously natural and spontaneous film. Moreover “Three Salons” ended up being much more than a fly on the wall take on a dying breed of resilient old ladies, it became a poetic and empathetic look at grief, loss and human dignity.
Philippa explained how her work was the result of much more than observation. It was also about finding imagery that lifts the story to a more universal level ¬— for instance, the close-ups of the ladies’ well cared for if modest boots adding a real poignancy. Similarly the recurrent shots of one old lady’s long white hair, which her late husband loved and which she kept in his memory, provide a poetic and gripping human motif that runs through the film.
To Philippa there are two schools of documentary film-making. The first one does not feature its author and extracts all its meaning from its images. The second one is full of authorial commentary. The former style is sometimes criticised as artificial, but it is the closest to cinema, expressing itself first and foremost through images.
Her filming style and her deep personal involvement with her subjects (which she found in time
emotionally draining) eventually led Philippa away from documentaries and into drama. “The Other Boleyn Girl”, her 2003 BBC film inspired by the novel by Philippa Gregory, offers an original and modern take on the costume drama genre. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Other_Boleyn_Girl_(2003_film)
Having to film it on DV cam, she was inspired to experiment in order to combat “the flatness of video”. Although she criticised her film for being too grainy, the vividness and spontaneity of its camera work as well as the high quality of its performances made it a memorable experience which attracted much critical acclaim.
She told us how the script was devised by her with the actors, who worked on their characters in great depth. They did a lot of improvisation around the story and ended up with an unwritten yet structured script which was then filmed. This method left a lot of space for the actors’ creativity and allowed Philippa to explore raw emotions. She told us she chose her actors with great care and also tended to work with the same trusted film crew.
Filming on a low budget, she said, keeps you focussed and encourages you to strip things to the bare essentials. “It all ends up relying on strong storytelling and performances.” The story of “The Other Boleyn Girl” was one of the few strong ones, she said, that are about women. Another TV drama of hers, “Sex, the city and me” (2007), similarly explored powerful universal themes, such as bigotry, through the story of a woman.
Philippa concluded the talk on a hopeful note by saying that things are looking up for women in film. There are more and more female directors.
Although she said that motherhood has helped her feel even more deeply for her subjects, the biggest difficulty to her remains trying to be both a successful director and a mother. It demands making choices and working on logistics. For instance, she favours projects that do not take her far from home. She also has ended up not making many films, finding it easier to do more writing and developing. Her current project is a harrowing drama about the five women murdered by a serial killer in Ipswich in 2006. Despite the upsetting subject matter, we are very much looking forward to seeing Philippa’s sensitive rendition of the story when it reaches our screens.
Véronique Martin – email@example.com – firstname.lastname@example.org
Event was held at 7pm Thursday 26th Feb 2009 at The Watershed Media Centre
Romance was in the air at February’s Cineformation event at the Watershed. And as always, it produced love, laughter and just a little strife.
First, Kathrina Glitre, lecturer in Film Studies at UWE, tackled some of the knotty issues surrounding the depictions of romance, women, and romantic women in modern movies. In discussion with Oliver Purches, Glitre spelled out some of the problems she has with the typical modern rom-com. “I enjoy the films for sure,” she stressed. “But as a feminist I get a bit concerned at the idealised notion of a Mr Right, and the sexual politics involved.”
To illustrate the point, she showed a clip from Never Been Kissed, Raja Gosnell’s 1999 film in which Drew Barrymore’s romance-starved journalist enrolls back in her old high school and finds her hormones stirring. “In the clip, Drew describes true love in the modern Hollywood style,” said Glitre. “The point is emphasized with all the modern devices Hollywood habitually brings to bear. The music rises on cue, the camera moves slowly in, and eventually sunlight actually halos her hair. It’s a syrupy, magical moment, using movie techniques to conjure up a romantic ideal. Like most modern rom-coms, the film is an idealised Prince Charming story.”
Glitre believes that Hollywood’s embrace of this ideal can be traced back to a particular point in time. “It all went wrong in the 1980s,” she said. “That’s the decade that became dominated by Aids, and saw women’s empowerment being rolled back as a reaction to the feminism and liberation of the 1970s. Ever since, Hollywood has been more interested in the theoretical magic of romance, and not at all interested in the confrontational style of the old 1940s screwball classics.”
The irony now, according to Glitre, is that while women in the real world are finally overcoming these limitations, on-screen romantic narratives have continued to become softer and softer.
She also highlighted that the majority of romantic movies are made by male directors. “There are precious few female directors in any genre, but certainly most chick-flicks are directed by men and often written by a man/woman team. And those female directors that do work in rom-coms, like Nancy Meyers and Nora Ephron, came along in that troublesome 1980s period. It’s no coincidence that their films end up featuring some kind of idealised perfect man. I don’t think that this is natural, or ideal. On the contrary, I’d say it amounts to a breakdown in communication between the sexes. This ideal is dangerous for women – and men.”
Asked about her own favourite romantic movies, Glitre gave short shrift to the US-focused output of Richard Curtis and chose to look further back in time. “My personal favourites are films like The Awful Truth and The Apartment. And Harold and Maude too, a film with a very non-standard couple. Outside the mainstream, films have more freedom to show romantic couples who don’t fit the standard model, and that’s a positive thing.”
A distinctly non-standard relationship is at the heart of the next film to be discussed. Robopartners is written by Veronique Martin and Oliver Purches, who summarised the plot in a nutshell: “It’s guy loses girl to a perfect robot," said Purches.
“The characters in the film are not in the first blush of love,” explained Martin. “They are a couple who have been together for three and a half years – it’s the 3.5-year itch these days! That makes the story much more mature and realistic than having characters in the early days of a relationship.”
The third corner of the film’s triangle is a male household robot, a blank slate onto which the two human characters project their own worries. “The story follows the couple working through their difficulties, with the robot as the manifestation of the man’s insecurities and the woman’s desires,” said Purches.
The writers workshopped the script with the actors for a long time, with the performers asking questions about what their characters would do, and bringing their own ideas and life to the script.
On one level the film examines the very real question of what will happen when domestic robots enter the household. “We’re going for a broad audience,” said Purches. “There’s the robot for the guys, and romance for the girls. We’re aiming for the feel of a classic movie romance, when witty repartee was an erogenous zone of its own.”
But despite the element of fantasy, both writers stressed that the heart of the film is a realistic look at romantic difficulties between adults. “The film says that yes, falling in love is a risk,” said Martin. “But without risk, life is incomplete.”
The third and final film discussed was Shank, in which the risky romance between Bristol teenager Cal and French student Olivier comes under threat from the intolerance of Cal’s homophobic friends and fellow gang members. The film aims to take an unflinching view of its subject, with director Simon Pearce and writers Christian Martin and Darren Flaxstone explaining that they had needed to consider carefully which clips could be shown to the mixed Cineformation audience. None the less, the extracts included sequences of violence and male nudity, and the film led to some spirited debate.
“It’s about worlds colliding,” said Pearce. “And yes, as a straight director making a film with two straight actors, it was a challenge. I needed to be confident about the strength of the material. Having two months of rehearsals helped. So did having the two lead actors share a house and build their own friendship. That way I could focus on bringing their life experience and chemistry to the film. And all the characters are explored and humanized, even the thuggish ones. The bad guys are not pantomimed at all.”
Martin agreed that Shank was intended to focus on the human elements in its story, and was diametrically opposed to a rom-com concept. “I hasten to add that I am a romantic,” he said. “But it’s boring to deal with films that romanticise the act of coming out. It’s still a brutal world out there for people going through it, and it can be very painful.”
As a specialist distributor, Martin made it clear that Shank was designed to be hard-hitting. “I’m a distributor serving a number of niches, including the gay market, and I know that many gay films make chick-flicks look positively edgy,” said Martin. “Shank is much stronger than that. It’s polished and challenging, and is intended to push the envelope. And if any critic says its just a long episode of Skins, well… I’ll kill them…” he joked.
Whether Shank could actually be called romantic was strongly called into question by an audience member, who felt that the film lacked any kind of romantic feeling. But the creative team answered that the film should not be judged by a pair of short excerpts. “I think the full length piece is romantic, taken as a whole,” said Martin.
The film has been positively received by several festivals, and according to Martin will receive a UK release on one print prior to a DVD release in October 2009, so a wider audience will soon get the chance to judge for themselves.
Tim Hayes – 1/3/09
And here’s a summary of the event from Veronique Martin’s perspective.
Bristol, City of Romance…
This month’s Cineformation swept us off our feet with guests who took us through the highs and lows of romance, the Bristol way.
The host was Oliver Purches.
The evening started with an informal exposé on the romantic comedy genre by Dr Kathrina Glitre, lecturer in Film Studies at UWE and author of Hollywood Romantic Comedy: States of the Union 1934-1965 (available from Amazon UK).
Dr Glitre dealt mainly with the dichotomy she perceives between the current “chick lit” inspired romantic comedies, that have been predominant on the big screen since the 1980s, and the improved status of women in Western society. Harking back to a past when women were helplessly and obsessively waiting for Mr Right, these comedies, however popular, can sit uncomfortably with modern women’s sense of independence and self esteem.
To illustrate her point, Dr Glitre showed us a clip from the Hollywood film “Never been kissed”, starring Drew Barrymore, in which an idealistic young woman is dreamily waiting for the Earth to move when she meets her Mr Right. Her Mr Right, when she does meet him, is a rather dull teacher (she’s his student), and the mechanics of their relationship plays to a very old fashioned view of men and women’s places in society and in love. The film’s story also emphasizes a magical view of romance, in sharp contrast with the confrontational, sparkling relationships between strong men and even stronger women, as depicted in the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. These screwball comedies, which explored how a man and a woman can learn to communicate with each other, used to appeal to both genders. In contrast, the current romantic comedies, with their magical depiction of love, appeal more to women, while sex comedies (like “American Pie”) appeal more to men. This gender divide illustrates a real breakdown in communication between men and women, which hopefully the next generation of romantic comedies will try to address. Kathrina Glitre concluded her presentation by saying that the current romantic comedies, portraying a woman’s happiness as only possible if she meets a man, are escapist movies; and that, however enjoyable they can be, they create a tension in modern women between indulgent pleasure and intellectual guilt.
Following this thought-provoking exposé, Véronique Martin was the second guest of the evening. She talked of romance through a romantic comedy she has co-written with Bristol director and Cineformation presenter, Oliver Purches. Véronique is French but has lived in the West Country for many years. She has a PhD in comparative literature, writes in both English and French (both fiction and theatre), and her script with Oliver Purches is her first screenplay.
Véronique talked of the challenge she and Oliver experienced presenting a non magical view of romance in their script “Robopartners” (a romantic comedy with robots). The main characters, Martin and Karla, appear at the beginning of the story in a period of relationship crisis. They have been together for three and half years (according to recent research, the new “seven year itch”). The initial magic has gone from their relationship and, although they still love each other, they wonder if it is enough for the next stage of their life together. It’s “make or break” time for them. Add to this, that Martin, an artist, has a painter’s block and that, after being chosen as the face of a new and revolutionary emotionally intelligent robot, he goes off on an ego-fuelled promotional tour, leaving Karla embittered and fed up. The nail in their relationship’s coffin comes when a robot bearing Martin’s face (but not his flaws) is delivered to Karla’s door and proceeds to win her over. Crunch time occurs for Martin when he returns from tour, and Karla has to choose between perfect robot and imperfect man.
Asked what the robot stands for, Véronique explained that it was like a blank screen onto which the main characters project their deepest desires and fears: Karla her buried wishes for a perfect partner and Martin his secret insecurities as a man and as Karla’s boyfriend. Véronique also mentioned the growing relevance of exploring the idea of relationships with robots, as its reality is looming on a not too distant horizon. (Indeed a lot of research and breakthroughs are happening in robotics at the moment, in the US, Japan and in our very own Bristol).
Both Oliver and Véronique went on to describe the way they have devised and written the script together, with much valued help from their two lead actors, Cathy McKinnon and Nik Howden. They stressed the importance of good relationships within a writing team and insisted on their commitment to a European outlook on romantic comedy and on a Bristol way of doing things.
Véronique’s conclusion on romance was that one has to learn to know and accept oneself before one can find love with another.
After the break, the second part of the evening took us away from the lighter side of romance into darker and more hard-hitting territory with the Bristol film “Shank”. The film is the gripping story of a love between two young men, one a tough Bristol gang leader called Cal and the other a refined and sensitive French man called Olivier. Cal is trapped in a dead-end life when he meets Olivier who represents for him an alternative and a way-out, but at a cost. As the young lovers grapple with their inner conflicts (Cal comes from a homophobic, macho background and does not give in easily to his love for Olivier), the hostile world around them brutally closes in on them. In contrast to the many saccharine gay romantic films that are produced, Shank is a tragic Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers, story for today.
The writing team, Christian Martin and Darren Flaxstone, worked closely with the director, Simon Pearce, the composer (a Bristol drum and bass musician) and the actors. They paid close attention to detail to give their story a sense of truth (for instance they used a French speaking Belgian actor, Marc Laurent, to play Olivier).
Although the film is aimed at the gay market (it is scheduled to appear at numerous gay film festivals across the world), there is a definite resolve from the writers, director and cast to appeal to a wider audience. With an ensemble cast of twenty five, fourteen locations in and around Bristol and sixteen days of shooting, the film took nine months from conception to completion. Simon Pearce, the director, concluded our evening by also stressing the importance of accepting and loving oneself in order to be able to really love another. Could this be a possible new direction for the next generation of romantic comedies?
So stay tuned and watch this space to see for yourself what great romance comes out of our good old, collaborative, creative and vibrant Bristol!
Véronique Martin, email@example.com, www.myspace.com/cubicstone
Are you a TV producer, director, filmmaker? Maybe you’re a writer, a media lecturer or a web designer?
Whatever your corner of the digital media world, if you only go to one event this year, make it Crossing the Void 09…
CROSSING THE VOID ’09 – TICKETS SELLING FAST
TUESDAY 17 MARCH, WATERSHED, BRISTOL
BOOK NOW: +44 (0)117 927 5100
MAKE SENSE OF MULTIPLATFORM at CROSSING THE VOID ’09 – a one day event that explores the latest developments in the cross platform landscape.
Following the success of Crossing the Void ’08, we present a one-day unmissable event that features in-depth and honest case studies about multiplatform content from commissioners and indies, speed networking, and an eye-opening quickfire pitching session.
We’ll look at how to stay creative in the cross platform universe; how to make your TV idea work as a 360 idea; the coming challenges of content creation and new narratives; and – crucially – where to find the money to do it all.
Tickets are selling fast, so to guarantee your place book now! Tickets are just £50 (inc. lunch) – contact Watershed box office on +44 (0)117 927 5100. Please note bookings can only be made on the phone by credit or debit card.
For more information and event programme see www.swscreen.co.uk/crossingthevoid
‘Crossing the Void’ is supported by South West Screen, Just-b. Productions, Bristol Media and the South West Regional Development Agency.
South West Screen, St Bartholomews Court, Lewins Mead, Bristol BS1 5BT. 0117 9529977
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8pm Wednesday 11th February 2009, Waterside, Watershed Media Centre
Guest: Samm Haillay
Presenter: Oli Purches
Better Things is a striking and poignant film from director Duane Hopkins and producer Samm Haillay. Combining a lyrical, dreamlike rhythm with powerful performances from a cast almost entirely composed of non-professionals, it walks a fine line between poignant rural despair and a lyrical cinematic poem, and has deservedly won acclaim from critics and audiences.
Samm Haillay attended a showing of the film at the Watershed on 11th February 2009, discussing it with members of the audience and in a subsequent Q&A led by Oliver Purches.
How would you describe the film?
Firstly, it’s a rural tale, set in a part of England that doesn’t appear on film very often. We shot in Stow, Moreton-in-Marsh and all around the Cotswolds. The landscape is a key part of the film, and it’s a landscape which audiences have not seen before
Secondly, it features a group of individual storylines that reflect and rub off on each other, featuring very young and quite elderly characters.
And thirdly, it’s romantic – in the original, authentic sense of the word. It has the same romantic sensibility as certain novels and poetry. It’s certainly not a rom-com.
What was the budget?
The budget was £1 million in total. That’s a big leap up from previous collaborations between Duane and I in terms of money. But not in terms of ambition, I like to think.
How did you cast the film?
Duane and I strongly believe in casting from life, and in bringing real people rather than polished actors to the screen. That way, people bring their own life experiences to the roles. The couples in this film are real couples – or ex-couples. And none of the cast did it as a route to stardom. Some of them haven’t seen the finished film, and don’t particularly want to. For them it was just an experience, something they had the chance to be involved in. They did it, they finished it, and then they moved on.
The film has a powerful, dreamlike style. How did you shoot it?
We did a great many takes of each scene, possibly hundreds. That let the cast really engage deeply with their characters, and also meant that we had a real depth of rushes to choose from in the editing room. That was vital for a film with such a delicate and intricate structure as this. It also meant that if we had been lucky along the way with a particular skyline, or caught the sun coming out in a particular take, we could use it.
Was it a difficult film to shoot and edit?
The shoot was tough. We shot six days a week for six weeks, with a cast of about 30 non-professional actors and a crew of 39. Plus we started in October 2006, which was later in the year than we would have wished and led to trouble with the shortening daylight. In that situation, there were bound to be difficulties. But the hardest element was simply the 36 day schedule. We filmed seven scenes a day, every day! It was very difficult, and the pressure on Duane was pretty extreme. I probably wouldn’t want to repeat exactly the same scenario again.
We shot digitally, in 35mm anamorpic. I believe that the aspect ratio should be determined by the project, not the budget, and in this case the painterly nature of the shots and landscapes in the frame meant it really had to be in widescreen. And 35 mm allows the colours to come alive, even after colour grading.
Digital is certainly changing the film-making landscape and how you go about making a film. Anyone who thinks it isn’t doing so is mistaken – or doesn’t use the internet. Budgets are shrinking and money is getting tighter, so companies want more results for less money. Digital technology and cameras like the RED are a way for that to happen. And for us, filming digitally helped to provide the depth of rushes that was important for the film, since we hardly needed to ever turn the camera off.
The first cut was about 2 hours long, but we always knew the final cut would be 90 minutes. It’s just too demanding for an audience if a theme-driven multi-storyline film is much longer than that. So we stripped things out and cut it down to the bare minimum. Everyone involved is proud of how it turned out. It’s concise and emotive, and despite ending up quite differently from the script it conveys the same feelings we intended from the beginning.
Do you agree with reviewers who have described it as bleak?
It’s not bleak. One of the first journalists to see it used that word, and since then all the others have followed suit. In fact there’s real humour in the film, although certainly not of the belly-laughing backslapping variety. But the themes are serious, of course. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if it had been given an 18 certificate, instead of the 15 it actually got – although there was no way we were taking out so much as a frame from our final cut.
It has a strong and disconcerting sound design, with lots of breathing, weather effects, rustling leaves etc. Was this deliberate?
The sound design was done in Glasgow by Savalas Sound, and it’s a key part of the film. Truthfully, it was done in Scotland because we’d drawn down some Scottish money, but I think the end result is excellent. Some scenes in the film, including the school and the railway scenes, were filmed in Daventry, for a similar reason – we had funding from there.
Talk about the film’s generational issues.
The film shows the elderly generation looking back, and the younger generation looking up, and both sharing analogous problems and pain. In the final cut the film doesn’t show any of the intervening generations, although in fact we did film some middle-aged characters but eventually cut them out. The story works best without them, by showing the twin poles of the story.
The film has been very successful, even though it’s not a mainstream movie.
There has to be room for cultural, regional film making, to stand alongside the more mainstream commercial fare. Other countries have successfully revitalised this facet of their cinema culture, and we must do the same. The problem we face is the English language: sharing a common language with Hollywood makes it all too easy to be swamped by their product. The model here has to be people like Alan Clarke, Lynn Ramsay and Andrea Arnold, who practice a different kind of film making.
The way we have released the film has helped its success. There are about two dozen prints being shown all around the country, and we’ve gone from festival to festival, and done intros and Q&As like this one in lots of places. This is much better than having the film appear everywhere for just one week and then be forgotten about.
Having said that, Better Things almost certainly won’t earn a profit. But everyone involved understood that this film wasn’t going to be a huge profit earner. That was not what it was about.
How do you become a film producer?
I went to film school to be a writer, but soon found out that I can’t write a coherent sentence. I met Duane Hopkins very early on, and found that we shared opinions about what could be done on film, and were both frustrated at what was being fed to us. I put everything I had into making Duane one of the lucky ones: an aspiring film maker who didn’t fall by the wayside. I basically lucked into being a producer, by helping Duane to get things realised.
My basic approach was simply that I wasn’t prepared to produce a film which I wouldn’t want to see on screen. Many producers are package producers, putting together big packages of talent and money. That’s not what I do. For me it’s about working with a particular person and their worldview. It doesn’t always work, but with Duane it was obvious to me from very early on that the two of us shared the same goals. My job is to let his creative force get close to the finance.
Any final words of advice for aspiring film makers?
If you think you have the ideas and the talent, then you just have to keep fighting. Everything is possible, just don’t give up. Simple as that.
(Tim Hayes 16 February 2009)
Thursday 29 January 2009
This month’s Cineformation gave us privileged access into the weird and wonderful world of horror movie-making.
In the first part of the evening we were treated to a live horror make-up masterclass by Madeleine and Allen Bills, owners of theatrical wig and make-up supplier, “Dauphines of Bristol”. http://www.dauphines.co.uk
The second part of the evening took us into the enjoyably disturbing worlds of two “horror” shorts: “The Confessor” and “How To Pick Up Girls”.
The evening was hosted by South West actor / producer, Richard Cambridge. http://www.richardcambridge.co.uk
Madeleine and Allen Bills have been married for many years and share a combined experience of more than forty years as theatrical make-up artists. Their presentation was both highly informative, with much advice and tips, and entertaining, with a wealth of anecdotes and stories.
First they chose two volunteers from the audience, whom they used as models for their demonstration. One became the victim of a horrific third degree facial burn; while the other suffered a bad cut on his left hand and a second degree burn on his right one.
In the course of the masterclass we learnt many tricks of the trade, such as never to use corn syrup mixed with food colouring to simulate blood as it will attract all the neighbourhood’s insects; or not to use wax for an injury that risks being tampered with on set, but instead to choose the much harder wearing silicon.
Among many fascinating facts, we were told that boiled rice is good to simulate maggots, that tapioca is a dead ringer for subcutaneous fat, and that a sheep’s heart is the wrong shape and size to simulate a human heart.
Allen’s background as a state registered nurse and a specialist of battle wounds means that his knowledge of the human body (and of what can go wrong with it) is second to none. This has proved invaluable in his work on films and TV series but also in his training of emergency services and NHS doctors. I was fascinated to learn that medical casualty simulation make-up has to be so realistic and precise that it must also smell like the real thing.
Madeleine and Allen insisted on the fact that being a theatrical make-up artist is both exciting and demanding. Your creativity, patience, meticulousness as a researcher and overall resourcefulness are constantly tested. Work on a shoot is never straight forward. Furthermore, since there is always a problem to solve or something last minute that is thrown at you, you must always be prepared and carry with you all the tools of your trade.
Allen went on to explain that with the recent advent of HD theatrical make-up has become both more expensive and more subtle. Because everything on HD is shown in great detail, wigs (for instance) have to be lace-fronted to blend in with the actors’ forehead. Moreover, marks and blemishes have to be covered up carefully before make-up is applied as thick make-up can’t be used anymore.
At the end of their presentation Madeleine and Allen’s valuable conclusion was that “often the simplest thing is the best” for “the more things are difficult, the more they can go wrong”.
After a fifteen minute break, where we chatted and had a good look at all the make-up brought along by Madeleine and Allen, we came back to our seats to watch a couple of horror short films.
The first one was a premiere, written by Chris Jackson (www.chrisjackson.org.uk) and directed by Rob James. The film’s dark mood was skilfully enhanced by atmospheric lighting and by Alan Deacon’s excellent and evocative soundtrack (www.sonicsyringe.com).
Entitled “The Confessor”, it is a brooding, psychological chiller that leads us into the tormented mind of a Catholic priest. In an empty church at night, roles are disturbingly reversed when a priest, after listening to a stranger’s confession, is led into giving his own. The burden of his Catholic guilt is personified by a threatening and faceless shadow – the devil. The deeper message of this interesting film may be that guilt can be a greater sin than the sin itself.
Chris and Rob talked about doing the film on a low budget of £1500. They still managed to secure very good actors and skilled technicians. Their only compromise was in their choice of camera, but they managed to turn its imposed limitations into a positive artistic challenge.
The next stage for them is to show their film at various horror film festivals, of which there are many since horror as a genre is very popular.
The second short, “How To Pick up Girls”, was shot by couple Dan Gitsham and Sophie Mair (www.myspace.com/sketchbookpictures) and had a very different mood.
It starts as a quirky comedy, in which a funny-looking man in a suit eyes up a trendy flame-haired girl who blows huge chewing-gum bubbles at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. When a minibus full of pig-men skids to a stop in front of them, the story turns into a darkly humorous and surreal nightmare.
Dan and Sophie shot their film on a micro-budget of £800. They relied on their own resourcefulness and on a network of film-maker friends to make it at such a low cost.
They have already shown their film at thirty festivals world-wide, taking full advantage of their short’s dual appeal in both the comedy and horror circles.
So what best conclusion could we draw from this deliciously horrific evening? Should it be that you should never go out without a tube of KY Jelly (as it makes the best blisters!)? Or that you should refrain at all times from being a lone Catholic priest in a deserted church or a hapless man waiting for a bus in the middle of nowhere? That’s for you to decide…
8pm Wednesday 11th February 2009, Waterside 3, Watershed Media Centre
Producer Samm Haillay will be joining Cineformation for a special event Q&A after the screening of his feature film Better Things.
There will be a chance to discuss his extraordinary feature debut, looking beyond the “green and pleasant” to uncover the boredom, loneliness and drug abuse lurking within these isolated rural communities. With a poetic, compassionate realism recalling Lynne Ramsay, the multi-stranded narrative offers glimpses into the emotional lives of its characters, from the schoolgirl tormented by a jealous ex-boyfriend to an elderly couple harbouring a painful secret.
The screening of Better Things will be in Cinema 3 at 17:50 after which the Q&A will take place in Watershed 3.
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Monday, January 17 2011
DixonBaxi Film is launching a new production company and are looking for feature film scripts to finance through development with a view to going into production in 2011.Author: menekse - 20.07.10
Bristol Wildlife Filmmakers have teamed up with Avon Wildlife Trust to offer a rare chance to learn wildlife filmmaking skills in the peaceful setting of the 250-acre nature reserve at Folly Farm between Bristol and Bath.Author: menekse - 29.04.10
Bristol Wildlife Filmmakers have teamed up with Avon Wildlife Trust to offer a rare chance to learn wildlife filmmaking skills in the peaceful setting of the 250-acre nature reserve at Folly Farm between Bristol and Bath.Author: menekse - 31.03.10