Rude Girl and Rude Boys – Film Producer Cass Pennant on his new film ‘Beverley’

Shoot

I recently caught up with the film producer Cass Pennant, after the screening of his new film ‘Beverley’ at Southend-on-Sea Film Festival. With various screening festivals in the UK and now abroad, ‘Beverley’ has since been selected in the shorts programme ‘Rebel Girl’ for the East End Film Festival, 9pm Tuesday 7th July.With a compendium of knowledge on football, music, and subculture fashion, these were just a few subjects that Cass touched upon when we spoke about  ‘Beverley’, the short film Cass has been developing with the Writer-Director Alexander Thomas, and together they have come up with a dramatic story aboutExif_JPEG_PICTURE

a mixed-race teenager who battles to assert her own identity in a bleak and threatening environment during the 2-Tone Ska music period of 1980 in the Midlands.

Everyone has a story to tell, but what made Beverley Thompson’s resonate with you and the Director Alexander Thomas?

 My first production was a documentary on the football subculture ‘Casuals’ I thought it was a forgotten subculture because the films concentrate on the violence.’ I wanted to pin it as a bigger interest, and involve more people, yes the violence was hardcore, but the other part of the subculture is the fashion as well as following football. It was the fashion more than anything, it outlasted all the other British subcultures that fizzled out after two years,but the casuals went on for three decades.  It was a subculture that didn’t come from music.  You couldn’t have Punk without the music, or Mod without the music, and Skinheads without the Reggae. The football casual didn’t come from music so I wanted to make the definitive documentary on the fashion behind the violence, and I didn’t believe there were female football casuals.  It left women out.  What would be the point of it? They don’t do the violence, but there were a few, we tracked them down and one was Bev Thompson.

 

Bev 2-Tone cafe

(real Beverley). She was now a Mum living in Brixton.When you’re interviewing someone, it’s hard to take someone back to that period without them talking to you in a way that is rather matter of fact. As an author to get the best out of someone there’s two ways to get them back in the past, as if it were yesterday and tell you in a vivid way. Music can take you back and the other is taking the person back to the scene.  In the film ‘Cass’ where I got shot, I went back to that actual spot for the actor to feel it, that’s why it’s powerful.

 I took Beverley back to Leicester, she hadn’t been there for decades, the ground is gone, the houses have been knocked down, but if you walk the streets it comes alive.  In my biography I had to make the reader feel Jamaica, as I did when I went for the first time, to find my roots.  You can’t do it in the house talking into a tape.  I went into a massive field near where I live, in the early hours of the morning when no-one was around. Standing in this field, with a co-writer talking into the dictaphone felt like the hills of Jamaica.  You need those things to get in the zone.

 On the train journey with Beverley I was fascinated with football girls from the terraces. She made the confession that it was short-lived, and wasn’t always a football casual, Beverley had also been a Rude Girl.  I’ve always wanted to do a film that gives a legacy to the Two-Tone era.  In 1979, when ‘Quadrophenia’ was released we watched that and said that’s our lives, it wasn’t premeditated, it’s wildness of youth, particularly males and females who go along with it in a gang.  We felt it because we thought it was our lives, we weren’t Mods we were football.  What ‘Quadrophenia’ did for Mod I wanted a film to do the same for Two-Tone, because in the last 6-7 years as a Father of Mixed-Race kids, the far-right groups are about, the riots happened, and it’s all the same cities where the riots originally started back in the 1980s. Now it’s the next generation. It was history repeating itself in the last five years, and then we were in the middle of a recession, and back to rule and divide.

If you take away the economic recovery in the last year,and the time I was thinking about doing this  involving the period of Two-Tone from 1979-1981. There had been so many subcultures, but Two-Tone hadn’t been picked up. In film, but I needed a story otherwise it’s a documentary.  When Beverley became a Rude Girl it was her sense of British Identity and also getting equality, she didn’t want to go with girls, and could hold her own with boys.

 She’s a very strong character.

She didn’t fit in one way or the other, with black or white.  What is she? A female in an all male subculture of the football casual that is really unique.  Those lads would do it for their different reasons but Beverley was doing it for a British identity.  When Pauline Black, lead singer of ‘The Selecter’ came along with the unity thing, Beverley started to feel accepted as British in this country. I looked at film maker Alex, we had a conversation, we both agreed to revisit Beverley and get her story on tape, and it  had such social relevance.  After we completed ‘Casuals’ a year later we interviewed her, so much stuff came out, that I now had the story  I needed to make the film. No one is going to give us a million pounds to make a feature, so let’s make it as a short that serves as our calling card.  I was also working on other scripts and co producing the film ‘The Guvnors’ which won best action movie at the National Film Awards 2015, but ‘Beverley’ meant more to me on a personal level.

Because it was more personal.

Because of the timing.  I have a mixed-race daughter, and son and there doesn’t appear to be issues but you never know.  I was a bedroom kid bottled it all inside me and didn’t want to share or talk it out; I wonder if young people through seeing Beverley’s story will say it resonates with today’s generation.  I’m a bit of a 70’s an 80’s man, but if we go with a film it’s got to related to today’s audience. When I see this generation, that are mixed-race or half-caste as it used to be known, in my time it was mainly Jamaican and White English.  Now it can be Turkish English, Nigerian English, Asian English. It’s half and half of something English.  The film will resonate with many but they have different takes, the similarities are there.  Beverley Thompson is like me, a good talker. Alex our Director is very talented.  The three of us sat together we knew it would be a hard journey, but there was going back, because financially we had nothing to do this, so we decided to crowd fund it, work with social media and drive everyone crazy to get this made.

There’s no doubt about Nottingham Television Workshop’s legacy and talent that continually comes through. Was it always the intention to cast from there?

Everything is in London.  Everything stops at London.  Even when you’re trying to get work as an extra, most of the actors from the North no longer live where they come from they’re within the M25 for work, you can’t really make a film out of London.  I like authentication, most British youth subcultures were started in London and the North catches up, but Two-Tone was different, it was hatched in Coventry, in the Midlands.  There’s a lot of talent up there and I wanted to get the period right, London doesn’t have Lowry’s Matchstick Men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs image, or those Coronation Street terraces with those kind of backyards or alleyways. I knew if we shot in the Midlands we’d get a lot of genuine help, where as you would have to buy your way out of everything in London. We had to shoot around Vicky McClure once she said yes; she was only free in the Easter holidays. I contacted the local papers in Leicester for casting and auditioning actors, it was a local story, we gave them the story that we’re making a film and need extras and actors, then we started hiring local crew, and found Rhys Davis, our assistant director who started to help us whilst we remained in London. He suggested casting the actors at the offices based at an independent cinema in the city, The Phoenix. He introduced us to some amateur and local acting groups and we found one in Leicester.  While Alex contacted Nottingham Television Workshop, we also had students who wanted to be involved. The Mercury gave us another plug and we followed up two weeks later interviewing all the response but the role of Beverley was cast in London, we had about twenty girls and got them to four, all of a sudden out of the blue while we were shortlisting, a contact came through for Skins actress Laya Lewis

Laya Lewis_VickyMcClure-16

saying she was interested.  She was always the directors first choice, we found a good bunch of actors but Alex always felt there was something about Laya that was Beverley. The Leicester Mercury have been following the story all the way through because we have Midland based cast.  We were getting a great buzz from the actors who had come from local drama groups like ‘Your Urban Actors’ based in Leicester to act alongside a BAFTA winning actor like Vicky McClure.

 

Vicky McClure Hi res Still

Vicky is from Nottingham and started at the Ian Smith’s TV Workshop that continues to produce amazing new actor’s. Kieran Hardcastle and Tom Cowling are both from there

Scene 27. Dean is advertising the  NF- George Somner, Tom Cowling, Kieran Hardcastle

and you can really notice the qualities they bring as the gang.  The other young TV Workshop Actor to impress is only 12 years old and her name is Sennia Nanua and she plays Beverley’s sister, look out for her as she has picked up the lead role in ‘She Who Brings Gift’s’ with a cast that includes Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close and Paddy Considine.

What has been the response from audience members who weren’t even born in 1980?

The first response initially came from the young actors through seeing the issues Beverley endured, whilst reading the script, then checking with their parents: “Did that really happen?” Stuff came that they’d never told them, once back on the set they realised how real it was. It caused much debate because young people will have their own issues and how it’s dealt with today.  We were learning from them. My own daughter went to the London Short Film Festival Premiere: “Dad. Why didn’t you tell me the film is about this (Mixed-Race Identity)? I’m going to tell my friends’At the question and answer sessions the young people are picking up on their own experiences.  They feel it’s never talked about because it’s a more politically correct society today: ‘You haven’t got a problem’ ‘No one is looking for your problem.’ So they’re carrying that.

It’s very covert.


After the screening a lot of young people will come up and say ‘We get that but in a different way.’

Is it wrong to assume that young people now don’t have the same subcultures of the seventies and eighties?

I wanted to make ‘Casuals’ because it was the last working class subculture, you can’t get another one now because of the internet, the whole thing was an adventure and people didn’t really venture outside their own towns, it was very tribal and very territorial, the only way out is a gig, that’s why the latest fashions didn’t catch on until two years later in some towns. On holiday people would see people from London wearing a label and query where they bought it, and then go to London or the nearest town. We’re talking about travel.  Now it’s the same shop in every town. Until we did ‘Casuals’ we found a young group emerging, it’s there on a small scale they’re never going to be as strong as the original subcultures, you can’t have that sense of youthful excitement when it’s taken away from you. (picking up a small brochure Cass flicks through the pages demonstrating the easy access of consumer culture) you get these fantastic magazines, all the models wearing the latest clothes, telling you where you get the clothes. Top Shop, Prada. (He highlights this) When you go to the clubs everyone is wearing exactly to how that model has worn it in the magazine. The subcultures were the happening thing that your parents or the press didn’t know about. It was underground.  It can’t be underground where it’s dictated, it’s led, it’s fashion. This is why it’s so strong in Europe today. When it was happening here Europe didn’t have what is known as teenage subculture because of conscription. You go to cities such as Barcelona or Rome, it’s now cool to pick up on these 1970S-1980S British subcultures and get that detail, that’s the only way they have their freedom of choice it’s what they want to wear because it’s niche, it’s not being sole by the shops in Europe because it’s too British. Britain has given the world every subculture starting from the Teddy Boy.

Do you think that the British Film Industry is slowly catching up with a different audience, or still struggling to catch up with a changing audience who want to see different stories on screen?

No. We’ve made the film industry aware of this film.  It’s only in the past few weeks that we’re talking to people about a feature, there’s a buzz in the industry about ‘Beverley’ some of the audience is changing, people that are now coming to the screenings give us their business cards.  Everything about the grid of filmmaking is money, it needs to respond, music is the same, you go on the road, and gig hard so everyone in the pubs and clubs in the towns will know about you, so they pick up on it. Our wins are coming from the audience.  The festival circuit is arty this is a bit commercial for their liking, but when we won the award at the London Independent Film Festival the organiser said that after we went the audience kept coming up to him, and saying how much they liked it.  At the screening in Derby the judges decide the winner, but also like involvement from the audience, they waited and held their decision to see what the audience came up with, the decision was unanimous Beverley won best short film. It’s clear evidence to say the audience influence Beverley. If you’ve got a film that people want to see, it drives us as filmmakers to keep where we’re going, to achieve our ultimate goal of making Beverley into a feature we hope.

Poster Beverley colour

We’ve screened at pubs, colleges, and now we’ve started screening at music festivals, and getting it out to the people “There’s this really good film called ‘Beverley’ that’s months pushing and driving, social media, and turning up everywhere. We’re making a presence, and then it starts to  gather its own momentum, which is happening now as other people start to invite us to their festival. Everyone has a film, they’re trying to get through the same door, if you want to get your way in you have always got to think of the next move.  If you think in that way then you can steer things to happen but you still have got to keep delivering, you’ve got to work it, that there’s enough of your vision to get you there.

 

Cass Pennant who is the best-selling author of nine football hooligan related books, he advised on numerous TV and film projects, including Lexi Alexander’s Green Street/Hooligans plus Guy Ritchie’s acclaimed Snatch and Alan Clarke’s The Firm, along with Bravo TV’s The Real Football Factories International and ITV’s Bouncer’s series.

Pennant is also the eponymous hero of critically acclaimed British feature film CASS directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth) based on his autobiography about his turbulent life and character, constantly strengthened through adversity.

His background is ‘the streets’ and he has brought this to his media projects. Above all, his pre-film life has seen him develop a range of contacts born out of these previous associations, which give him access to a world largely unavailable to those schooled in the more formal arts of television and film. Therefore he is in the process of developing ideas, which are innovative and surprising in their approach, his production of award-winning 2012 documentary Casuals was a Community Channel TV broadcast in 2013. Same year he co-produced his first feature for Metrodome ‘The Guvnors’ a cinema release 2014 and winner of ‘Best Action Movie at the National film Awards 2015.

Genesis Cinema, 93-95 Mile End Rd, London E1 6LA
Tickets 020 7780 2000 To book online: https://www.genesiscinema.co.uk/films/events/eeff-shorts-rebel-girl-tue-7th-july/#show-times

Laya Lewis inside club headshot

Talking ‘Filth’ & film with Novelist, Director & Screenwriter – Irvine Welsh

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http://www.irvinewelsh.net/

In 1993 Irvine Welsh’s début novel ‘Trainspotting’ was unleashed into the public’s consciousness. The interlinking short stories of heroin addicts living, and existing in a late 1980s Edinburgh seared into the retina. Garnering praise, and contempt in equal measure, Trainspotting, and ultimately Irvine WelshImage were to the novel what Sex Pistols were to a crumbly, and stale 1970s British music industry, attracting a sharp, neon outrage from critics and the literary establishment alike.

As we fast forward to 2013. ‘Filth’ Welsh’s 1998 novel about a detective sergeant Bruce Robertson is released in the Autumn.        Image

Via email I posed some questions to Irvine Welsh such as, film directing, the casting of ‘Filth’, and why it took so long getting it on-screen.

Hello Irvine Welsh,

Let’s talk Filth.   The novel came out in 1998, and the film is due out in the autumn of this year.  I take it, it hasn’t been easy getting it funded.

It never is with independent movies. With Filth, Dean Cavanagh had done a very good script which was bought by Miramax/Hal, then the European operation of Harvey Weinstein. However, the companies split in two and there was a dispute between them over who owned the rights, which put the project back in limbo. When it went back to me, there were various other producers and directors involved, all who wanted to do their own adaptation, but they were nowhere near the standard of Dean’s. Then Jon Baird, whom I met through my friend Cass Pennant (Jon had done Cass’s autobiography as his first film) took over the project. He did a great screenplay and got me involved as a producer.

 

How involved were you with casting the film?

Jon’s game plan was to finance the film through Hollywood contacts. We were both repped by CAA and they did a great job packaging it financially and putting together casting suggestions. We were assisted by Janet Hirchenson and Jane Jenkins, who are the doyens of Hollywood casting agents. So I was pretty involved, Jon wanted me with him to speak to the potential actors, to see how they got the characters.

Bruce Robertson isn’t even a anti-hero.  Yet he is strangely sympathetic. Do you think that it’s still important to have sympathetic characters, someone who the audience still has a certain empathy with.Image

Yes, especially in cinema. You really need an actor people strongly relate to play Bruce. It’s not enough to make people laugh or disgust and shock them, you need to break their hearts too.

Will the tapeworm be a CGI effect or will it be more realistic than that?

I’m keeping quiet about the tapeworm, as he isn’t as prominent as he is in the book, but he’s in there.

You’re quoted as saying ‘Filth’ is the best British film since ‘Trainspotting’  Some people might agree with you…some might disagree, but still that’s a pretty bold statement to make.

I believe that it might even be a better film than Trainspotting. There is an element of mischief in this, on my part, of wanting to start the debate, but a lot of people are going to be seriously shocked by how good and moving a film it is.

How did you get involved with directing music videos?  It doesn’t seem like an easy transition to make from writing novels, and then directing a promo.  Who was the first person to let you near a camera, and say please can you direct our video?

It was the band Gene, who got me to do the ‘Is It Over’ single from the Libertine album. I hit it off with Martin Rossiter and Steve Mason from the band, who are excellent guys and wanted me involved. I worked on some more, with Primal Scream and Keane. They are great fun to do, and I’ve been asked to do more, but it’s all about time.

With the success of your novels you can do pretty much what you want.  Have you been tempted to go back to making short films without time, or financial restraints?  Something spare that could be shot in 8 hours or less.

I’ve got more involved in cinema, and I’m doing a low-budget feature next year. There are always time and financial restraints in any collaborative activity like filmmaking.

What’s healthier. Scottish cinema or UK cinema?

All filmmaking, be it in Scotland or the rest of the UK, is pretty much a cottage industry. One of the great things about working in Hollywood on film and TV projects, is that the whole thing is taken more seriously. When you look at the resources they have, Scotland, England, Wales and, especially Northern Ireland, punch massively above their weight in cinema.

I spoke to someone who makes documentaries, and works in the film industry. They said there is money, but it’s in the wrong hands.  How do you see this?

When was that not the case? It’s been a huge challenge to get as much of the money dedicated to cinema up on the screen as is possible. Whether the structure in the UK is right to deliver this not, I can’t really say as I’ve been out the scene for so long. But there are still great films coming out of UK/Ireland.

You’ve got a strong working relationship with the screenwriter Dean Cavanagh, and now Jon Baird. When it comes to co-writing, or even co-directing a feature or tv film. What is it that attracts you to that person?

Well, you always need to choose your collaborators carefully. Both these guys are close friends and they are very passionate about cinema, art and life in general. You can’t afford to be around people who are pompous and take themselves too seriously, it doesn’t make for good collaboration.

You live part of the time in Miami, and your next novel takes place there. I’ve never been to Miami, but I imagine Michael Mann imagery, and frenetic phone conversations in a departure lounge. At night I would imagine fast, flickering neon MTV images.  There’s a lot of imagery to absorb.  Do you listen out for dialogue, or are the images just as important?

You try to tune into both. Miami is an extraordinary visual place, because of the light, tropical foliage and the art deco architecture. That’s why so many artists and photographers are based there.

Regardless of people’s views on America there can be no doubt about a landscape that is cinematic in scope. It’s Ansel Adams black and white photograph ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.’
adamslargemoonrise

It’s Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ the 1942 painting

imagesthat could be a scene from an old gangster movie starring Jimmy Cagney or Edward G Robinson. Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’

Grant_DeVolson_Wood_-_American_Gothicis the 1930s melodrama set in the heartland of the midwest.

The American novelist James Robert Baker captured film and pop culture imagery with ‘Boy Wonder’ ‘Fuel Injected Dreams’ and ‘Tim and Pete’.  Have you read any of his novels? 
ImageImage

I haven’t read any James Robert Baker. Maybe I should try!

Sorry just one more thing.  I know it’s not a question of sorts but Antonia Bird..

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000944/

9321_3

Yes, she’s a close friend of mine. Would love to work with her again.

Best Wishes

Irvine

Christina Beck (Writer, Actress, Producer & Director) – Interview

perfection21

‘Perfection’ has been quite a journey a 2 1/2 year one, to be exact.  How did it come together?

It’s actually a longer journey than that but it did take us 2 1/2 to finish principal photography. After the script was nominated for Best Screenplay by The IFP Independent Film Projects in New York which is a wonderful resource for first time directors, my producer Annette Murphy and I had several meetings with production companies that all liked the project but no one was willing to actually show us the money so we decided to just start shooting with whatever resources we had on the weekends. We were very lucky to put together an amazing and talented cast and crew who all showed up for the love of this project, we were very rich in that way. The IFP came on board again as we were involved in their rough cut labs and I was awarded The Adrienne Shelly female directing grant which helped finish our principle photography.

What responses have you had from self-injury groups, and people who have had extensive cosmetic surgery)?

Early on at one of our fundraiser’s in Los Angeles, Dr. Tonja Krautter a therapist who specializes with self harm and recovery from other self destructive disorders was very kind to come and speak about the behavior. She donated her time, resources and even wrote us a check at one point and finally when the film was finished and we screened at The San Francisco International Women’s film festival Tonja came along with  four of her collages and not only did they enjoy the film, they felt like it touched on many complicated issues that can only be beneficial for all audiences to see.

I didn’t find the self harming scenes particularly graphic.  Was that intentional?

That’s interesting? a lot of people have been very uncomfortable with the one scene where Kristabelle is cutting on camera and of course it is fake.  I was not interested in glamorizing or minimizing the behavior, I wanted to be truthful and after that one scene people get the point, if they want more than maybe it’s a slasher movie they rather be watching? That’s not what this is.

When I  saw the mirror scene the first thing that came to mind was ‘Georges Franju’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’   I’ve never seen the full film, 14_bbut I’ve seen clips.  Yet the mirror imagery conjured up that film.  The main character Christiane is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and she has to wear a mask to cover up her disfigurement while her father who is a doctor tries to restore her features, by grafting the skin of young beautiful women onto his daughter’s face, only for the new tissue to be rejected, and she has to keep wearing this mask. In Perfection Kristabelle’s face in that moment seems disembodied, a face transplanted and grafted onto a mirror whilst walking across the room. Have you seen the film? It has it’s own themes of youth, beauty and perfection.

No, I have not seen the film but it sounds interesting.

Did the film give you chance to portray a different side of Los Angeles, one that is rarely seen in cinema?

(for example a change from the film noir/transient/waitress/actress waiting to be discovered)

As I am from Los Angeles I often think about how many people come to LA to create their “idea” of who they want to be. It has that freedom in a strange way but for me, it is a place of many mixed memories and I guess that’s the beauty of filmmaking in that this is one of my perceptions that I got to capture for a moment, well, 85 mins.

The interior shots appear quite claustrophobic, it really highlights their living space and the tightly bound relationship of Sally and Kristabelle.

Absolutely! I tend to do this with my writing, I put characters on top of each other and make them fight for their space.

The Mother Sally  (played by Robyn Peterson) has a certain ‘faded old Hollywood glamour’  Is she based on anyone you’ve encountered whilst living, and working in Los Angeles or even in New York?

Besides my own mother, yes! They are everywhere with amazing stories and sadly dying off too soon.

Why did you make the Simon character (played by British Actor David Melville) a British Stand up comedian? p10205821

I based Simon on a wonderful British man living in Los Angeles who is one of the funniest people I know. Also, it just really worked in terms of who could realistically “get” Kristabelle? He would have to have his own demons but a silly sweetness for her to feel safe.

The Damned feature in the soundtrack.  Were they a big musical influence whilst growing up?

When I was a teenager I was in Love with Dave Vanian, the lead singer and really just loved their music so much that when it became time to figure out what Kristabelle liked it was a no brainer. Captain Sensible, the guitar player of The Damned came to our screening in Los Angeles, they happened to be on tour and he showed up at The Egyptian Theatre to come see the film. 2011   It was such an honor to meet him, the sweetest man and we took tons of pictures with him, such a good sport!

Apart from money.  When making their first feature. What are the most important things that a Director needs?

A story they feel passionate enough about that they will do anything to see it realized even if it takes 5 to 10 years! I was very lucky in that I was gifted with so much starting with my cast, crew and everyone person I came in contact with felt my passion and honestly wanted to see me archive this goal. People really do want to be a part of something that is creative and we had a lot of fun in the process. Post was another story, not as fun but again, people came out of the woodwork to help and I was incredibly fortunate.

You said in the question and answer session that you’re not a feminist as you don’t like labels, but you have many feminist beliefs.  Do you find that distributors, and programmers have their own ideas of how to market your film, and target a demographic of who should see it.  That has to be a hindrance in terms of finding a wider audience.

I honestly do not know how distributors and programmers see Perfection? The festivals we were accepted in only expressed their interest by accepting the film or not. In Mississippi where we won Best Narrative feature, the jury wrote a beautiful statement about my vision and talents of the entire production which of course felt great and with our distribution that is yet to be seen. I think finding an audience is not necessarily the problem, we have had nothing but positive feedback everywhere we have screened it’s a lot of other factors, especially in the states as “independent” films are not what they used to be and it’s all about being the flavor of the month/festival year. That is not our story but after accepting a lot of rejection I am happy to say that i made the film I wanted to make and very grateful to everyone involved.

What’s next for Perfection in terms of screenings, and release dates?

As I mentioned, we do not have distribution yet but will be having another screening in London on the 25th of February at The Sanctum Soho Hotel.

And Algerian Tap dancing muggers???

Yes, I am writing to you now from Paris where my next project, Expecting Grace is set. It is a dark romantic comedy in development.

Perfection movie trailer

http://vimeo.com/9813971#

Notes from a Question & Answer Session – Rio Cinema, London.

Christina remarked that the film timeframe of the 1990s was important due to it being pre internet that’s why Kristabelle is not part of an online community where she meets other sufferers.  She is adrift apart from one other sufferer she meets in rehab.

People don’t talk about self harmers – 9 times it is childhood abuse, and 10 times sexual abuse.

‘Perfection was made as independently as you see.  Continuity was a challenge, she lost some of her crew and everyone worked for free.

On making the film ‘I came too far to go back’

Christina doesn’t label herself a feminist as she doesn’t label herself anything but has many feminist beliefs.

‘Perfection’ is still looking for a distribution and video on demand deal.

Don’t let money stop you doing what you want to do.

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Dreams and Nightmares with Dominic Currie (Filmmaker)

FROM:

Dom Currie

TO:

jenheloise@yahoo.co.uk

Message flagged

Sunday, 20 November 2011, 16:24

Hi,
Yeah, 20th is good. No, I didn't get round to doing 2 Days Later 
this year but a London company called Whirlygig Cinema screened 
The Ukulele Killer at a chapel in Bethnal Green.  That was fun.
Sounds crazy but can you give me a Title, Genre and Random Word?

I'll try and make a short film by the 20th.

Thanks.

Dom

Jennifer Farfort

TO:

Dom Currie

Message flagged

Sunday, 20 November 2011, 16:37

It doesn't sound crazy at all. I'll call it The third eye (as I 
had a dream about a band called The Third eye.  I blame Lunachicks 
music videos (see YouTube) genre: absurdist drama, and the random
word: face.

Jennifer

Hi Jennifer,

Here's your film.



I suppose it's more  'experimental surreal horror' than 
absurdist drama.

Anyway, it was good fun to make. Don't have nightmares.
speak soon,
Dom

It was the hat. Cardboard…..I thought you were joking when you said you had made it out of cardboard.  I saw it as an homage to W.C. Fields, but found out later it wasn’t. You requested three words. A title: The Third Eye.  Genre: Absurdist drama.  Random word: Face.   Your response was Beckettian.

Oh.. yuck…no..no …It’s not a word that can be passed off as an adjective.

…Let’s start again..Your response was something along the lines of Samuel Beckett, but you didn’t claim to be an expert. 

Dominic: I don’t claim to be expert on Samuel Beckett, but I know he did a play called Krapp’s last Tape,’ which is a one-man show and there’s one of me, so I thought that’s convenient.  I found out that he made a film in 1965 called ‘Film’ starring Buster Keaton.  So the projectionist is just a slight nod to the play, and the hat is made in reference to Buster Keaton.

‘The Third Eye’  What was it?  What is it? 

Dominic: My Dad, a scientist told me that people in the 60s who had dropped a little too much acid would drill holes in their head in search of this concept of the third eye to awaken some dormant part of their brain seeking out intelligence.

I pictured ageing, slightly overweight, Grateful Dead fans with their tie-dye t-shirts straining against their girth going about their everyday lives, with a tiny hole still visible in their forehead. 

ARE YOUR DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES SEPARATE FROM YOUR FILMS, OR ARE THEY INTERCONNECTED?

For a moment, you appeared bewildered.  I repeated the question, but worded it a little differently: 

Jennifer: Where does the dream/film/nightmare begin?

Dominic: The truth is I don’t use the terms dreams and nightmares to describe my films-they’re just me.  Anything that seems unconventional in terms of a modern Hollywood story narrative to some people might seem dreamlike or nightmarish but it’s just me playing around with film.  Obviously, with ‘The Third Eye,’ I was aware I was creating something that was weird, but it wasn’t based on a particular dream.  The older I get the less dreams I have.  Most of them are incredibly corny and Freudian. It doesn’t matter where I am, whether it’s school, back at my old house, at some point in the dream I will look down and realise I’m not wearing any trousers. It’s a classic anxiety dream.

Jennifer: You described ‘The Third Eye’ as Experimental Surreal Horror. It sounds like a mash-up of genres.

Dominic: To be honest I only described it as that because it wasn’t absurdist drama.  I used the genre as a fuel for the ideas in the film. I was doing something I had never really done before, and it was Horror because it has a scene where a man drilled a hole in his own head.  It wasn’t so much genres, I was just describing how I saw the film.

Genres…Genres, categorize, labels, (it’s all film to me)  boxes……..Trapped

DO YOU THINK GENRES ARE NECESSARY?  COULD YOU COME UP WITH A DIFFERENT GENRE?

Dominic: Here’s a genre for you.  I’m thinking Japanese Anime mixed with a Spicy Mexican feel – Chimmy Changa Manga  

or I’m thinking Dada  

and film Noir   and that would be Film Noir-Da.  You could go on and on.

Jennifer: What would you like to see?

Dominic: Camp Australian film with songs that is shot in black and white but with very theatrical scenery that would be Luhrmann Expressionism.

Jennifer: You’ve really thought about his haven’t you.

Luhrmann..Luhrmann.  Did he mean German instead of Luhrmann?

Dom Currie

TO:

Jennifer Farfort

Wednesday, 28 December 2011, 18:10

Hi Jennifer,

Here are two crazy dream images. The Freudian Nightmare is just
a joke. I've never actually had a dream where I've been chased 
by giant carrots.

The war dream is an actual memory. I had Third World War dreams 
quite a lot as a child. Being brought up in a left-wing household 
with older sisters who were members of CND made me all to aware of 
nuclear war.

When I was eight or nine I wrote letters to Ronald Reagan and Leonid
Brezhnev asking them to make friends. I don't think I sent one to 
Thatcher. I must have assumed she was too cold-hearted to reason 
with. I like to think I had a hand in ending the Cold War and 
helping to keep the peace.

Happy New Year!

Dom

Dominic: Dream sequences are inherently fake, a pseudo concept.

Catching yourself, you stopped suddenly.

Dominic: Sorry that’s pretentious but the whole concept of a dream in cinema is a fake concept.  Dreams are nothing like they are in cinema.  Most people, when they tell you their dreams are already misinterpreting them and trying to make sense of them and put them in a particular order.  I remember thinking once that a lot of my dreams happened from above

I made a mental note that a dream sequence with more camera angles would be much more realistic.

 I still pursued dreams: 

Jennifer: Have you seen Salvador Dalí’s dream sequence in ‘Spellbound’?

Dominic: When you’re talking about dreams and nightmares in film, I can’t relate to my own dreams and nightmares, but I really like Bunuel and those kinds of movies.  He claimed those films were based on his dreams.  I’m not sure I totally believe him because they make a little too much sense.

WHILST MAKING ‘MACHINE TIME’ COULD YOU SWITCH OFF OR WAS IT ALWAYS IN YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS?

Dominic: I’m not sure about the subconscious bit, but for most films I make I just start and keep going and don’t stop.  ‘Machine Time’ and ‘The Third Eye’ were similar in as much as the whole process was simply to respond to the words.  In ‘Machine Time’s’ case it was a story.  I tried to respond to the ideas and not to second guess them or over think them or to judge one idea and say that’s not good but that one is.  You just come up with everything, and you throw them all at the screen and afterwards work out what sticks.

Jennifer: I like the way you don’t over think.  Do you think people analyze too much?

Dominic: That could be true but also people will just say look at my films and say what a pretentious load of old wank.

WHAT RESPONSE DO YOU GET WITH YOUR FILMS?

Dominic: Good and bad.  My YouTube channel is a mixture of really odd things like recreational videos for friends, and family and then I started doing fringe theatre, and for some reason, it was a lot of American theatre by writers like David Mamet and John Patrick Shanley.  People kept thinking I was trying to do an impression of Robert De Niro.   I wasn’t.  I was just trying to do an Italian American accent.  So I thought as a joke and I think it was the same time I was at Channel Four, I thought I’d do an impression of De Niro and stick it on YouTube and see if I could create something viral.  That was the idea initially.  It didn’t work but the people who liked them just said, try De Niro does this and so on, but the one that eventually became viral was a De Niro Star Wars one which is awful, and I desperately want to take it off because it’s utter crap.

Jennifer: Is that Jar Jar Binks?

Dominic: No it’s another one.  De Niro does Darth Vader, but it has suddenly gone to 90,000 hits, and I can’t bring myself to take it down.  I get endless abuse from 14-year-old Americans saying (bratty, American accent) “You’re shit man.  You sound more like Harvey Keitel than Robert De Niro”

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT MAKING ‘MACHINE TIME’?

Dominic: With ‘Machine Time” and it’s a bit rude to say this but Mark Ravenhill had written the story that wasn’t entirely cinematic, but that was actually quite clever because it meant people had to think it through, and really had to come up with good ideas and some people I think made the mistake of simply reading out the story and trying to put images to it, and I just thought it doesn’t really work like that.  I thought what was needed was something else with a narrative, and I stumbled across the idea of doing a bit from HG Wells ‘The Time Machine’ and I made that the narrative thrust of the movie and I just put in little bits of Mark Ravenhill’s story along the way.  I think that’s why the movie worked.

Jennifer: It does work. I think it’s brilliant. I love it.

You thanked me.  I was surprised by your modesty.  Didn’t’ you expect me to say that.


Jennifer: As part of winning the Ravenhill Guardian Film competition you were mentored by Channel 4.

Dominic: Yeah. Whatever that means. I think I had about five meetings over four months and learned absolutely nothing.   It was hugely
disappointing. Believe it or not, I was actually told by Channel 4 that winning the  competition WAS the prize. Second prize was a  Macbook Pro.   I could have done with one of those.
Trust me to win a competition where second prize was ‘something’ and first prize was ‘nothing’. Mark Ravenhill has a genuinely creative aura about him, whereas most Channel 4 execs seemed dead behind the eyes.

DO YOUR IDEAS COME FROM DREAMS, MUSIC, BOOKS, ART OR EVERYDAY LIFE?

Unexpectedly, you laughed: 

Dominic: That’s basically a variation of the question where do your ideas come from.

Yes.  Yes, it is..and

Dominic: Everybody just absorbs information, whether it’s books or theatre and then when you’re working on a particular project those ideas start to brew and usually a combination of ideas comes out, a bit of theatre, and a bit of book you’ve read with bits of diced carrot mixed up in it.

Music…..music videos (promos)

Jennifer: When I watched the music promo ‘Animal,’ I kept seeing vivisection, even though it wasn’t implied, and the idea of thought control.  What did you have in mind when you made it?

Dominic: I can’t remember.  That video wasn’t a professional music promotion. It was just a guy who said I’ve written a song and can you put a video to it. There was no money involved and lyrically there was nothing in the song.  If you listen to the song. It’s about nothing, so I’m left thinking all I can go on is the emotion…

Jennifer: Why monkeys

Dominic:  Oh I just like monkeys. I also made that mask.  I think I have always been a fan of the actors who played the apes in 2001 A Space Odyssey, which is why I put in a little joke at the end where he throws a drumstick up in the air.

Oh.  In jokes. In on the joke, joke

Dominic: I put loads of those in my films

Jennifer: Nobody gets them.  Do they? Weren’t there in-jokes in ‘Jack T’

Dominic: The actual reference in my film ‘Jack T’ was the Brian De Palma film,  ‘Blow Out’,  I read somewhere that John Travolta, up to a certain point, would only play characters in films whose initials were  JT.

Jennifer: That might be a Scientology thing.

Dominic:  Possibly.  He is bonkers. One of my obsessions is sound.  I like playing around with sound so the idea of a guy recording sound…And there’s a line at the end of the film when Travolta ends up using the actual sound of a murdered woman in a low-budget cheap horror film, we stole that line and stuck it at the end of ‘Jack T’, when the young boy gets smashed over the head with a hammer.  The character at the end says “That’s a great scream.”  I didn’t expect people to get it. I can’t remember the question.

Monkeys

Jennifer: Why monkeys

Dominic: I like monkeys

Jennifer:  Did your friend give you a brief?

Dominic: No I couldn’t work to a brief.

Jennifer:  You don’t strike me as the sort of person that could work to a brief.

Dominic:  Ha ha. If someone gave me, a brief and said I want the video to be,.…Particularly, if it was a musician I’d think ‘what the fuck do you know about it.?’

Jennifer:  You said you compose.

Dominic:  Jack of all trades and master of none.  Piano and drums. I’m not a classically trained pianist or a jazz drummer.  I came from a theatre background and did acting.  I used to write music for the theatre.  I have always been fascinated by computer music but I’m not a huge fan of dance music. I don’t have the same kind of response to music videos as some people do.

Jennifer:  That’s quite good isn’t it.  You would look at it with fresh eyes or slightly cynical ones.

Dominic: Yeah everything with slightly cynical…  I think you’re far more interested in contemporary music than I am.

Well..classic punk…some classic rock..

DID YOU WATCH ANY MUSIC VIDEOS BY ‘THE LUNACHICKS?’

That’s what sparked a dream about a band called ‘The Third Eye’ that looked quite psychedelic.  It was like a glorious Technicolor alternative.

Dominic: I don’t listen to a lot of pop music, so I don’t watch a load of pop videos.  I’m more of a Jazz person but I know from experience of making pop videos for people who if the lyrics to the song aren’t particularly interesting, then you just tend to work on images, and you tend to work on emotions and I think inherently that’s dreamlike.

Jennifer:  What did you think of The Lunachicks videos?

Dominic: I saw one that was really fast cut, and it had a bit of the old fish-eye lens going on, and it looked like it was shot on old style vhs video.

Jennifer: They are……

were…were

Jennifer:  are like an old school diy punk band

Dominic: Maybe I should listen to it a bit more.  I did genuinely…..honestly.

……….. …

Rifling through A4 paper, I glanced at typed questions, notes to self circled and highlighted close to hand.  Meditation…Transcendental meditation… David Lynch 

HAVE YOU EVER PRACTICED  TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION?  DAVID LYNCH IS A STRONG ADVOCATE, BUT SAYS HE NEVER MAKES HIS DREAMS INTO FILMS.   THEY’RE COMPLETELY SEPARATE BUT SAID IT HELPS WITH CERTAIN PROJECTS. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED……

You looked at me strangely, and before I finished the sentence I started to laugh

Jennifer: (laughing) meditation?

Dominic: (laughs) No of course I haven’t you fucking nutter. When I made ‘The Third Eye’ I looked up the third eye and found out about Taoist Religious Philosophy, and the idea is that you have to meditate and control your breathing and it’s completely obsessed by the process and the process does take (as it says in the little monologue) 10-15 years before you eventually open up your third eye, but the thing is it doesn’t give you any indication of what you’re able to do once the third eye is open.  If I had meditated for 10-15 years I’d want to be able to fly by the end of it.

Flying….Yogic flying….  No.

Dominic Currie Films @

http://www.youtube.com/user/domcurrie

Leo Leigh (Cinematographer & Filmmaker) Interview

His documentaries are thoughtful vignettes, a narrative of colour portraits that get to heart of telling a story.

 

Over a cup of tea I spoke to cinematographer and filmmaker Leo Leigh about video nasties, photography, and vivid dreams of burning hotels (his) and flying on a bike with Rick Wakeman (mine).

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

Leo: I’m making a film about an 81-year-old ping-pong veteran called Marty Reisman, who was an American Champion and British Champion, but he was never a world champion. He lives in New York and still hustles for money. He’s challenging a 17-year old, it’s the life and times but where he’s at now. He’s got an amazing collection of old suits he had made in Saville Row.  He used to have money …Well, he used to have a lot more money than he does now. He’s an interesting character.

Jennifer: I can imagine.

TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE FILM ‘LOONY IN THE WOODS’

Leo: We made it in about 2006 and I co-wrote it with a friend of mine Leo Bill, who’s also in it.  I directed and Dean Puckett the documentary filmmaker; he produced it, it’s an homage to all the video nasty films that were released in the 70s and 80s.  I’ve got quite a large collection of old VHS horror films and because I’ve spent so much time watching them on VHS, that was the quality I wanted no matter how bad it was. I wanted the film with that look, so we shot the film and then downgraded it three or four times onto VHS.

Jennifer: A bit like Harmony Korine’s ‘Trash Humpers’

Leo:  Yeah but before that

Jennifer:  Yeah, you were there

Leo: I’ll have you know.  Thank you very much and goodnight (laughs)

Jennifer: He stole it

Leo: Well making a film with that look has probably been done before and will be done again.  

It’s kind of like a comedy horror and we are planning on releasing it online.

Jennifer: I saw some clips. Have you seen Sleepaway Camp?

Leo: No

Jennifer:  That’s a 1980s one.  Bruce Springsteen’s sister Pamela Springsteen is the serial killer in the second one.  You mentioned that you had a large collection of Video Nasties it reminds me of the Comedian and Filmmaker Richard Sandling, who won an award for a stand-up routine based on his VHS collection.

http://www.richardsandling.com/video-sleeves-01.html

Leo:  Yeah, they’re great you can actually get a book called Video Nasties  which has all the original covers scanned in, but the artwork, the tone of the film,music and that VHS look, all add to the kind of weirdness of the experience of watching it.  The hiss of the VHS with used bits of how crappy it can look is part of the film, and it’s not just whacked onto VHS and then; however, it came out, we’ve actually picked specific moments that would be more downgraded than others in order for it to serve a purpose.

Jennifer: The colour is very saturated with blocks of colour.

Leo: We shot it then edited some of it, and converted it into NTSC and boosted the colours on a VT operating deck which a friend of mine was working.  Some bits of the film are more downgraded than others depending on how it looked.  It wasn’t just on a computer.

Jennifer: I like the way a lot of thought has gone into it

Leo:  It’s not a case of just whacking it together.

Jennifer: Do you think you’ll make more feature films?

Leo: I have done a few feature-length documentaries but in terms of fiction and working with actors that’s all I want to do really..

Jennifer: It’s not all though is it

Leo: No, but I like making documentaries, but you fall into a documentary easier because it’s there it exists and it’s out there it’s more accessible.

Jennifer: Is it because they’re more marketable?

Leo: It’s not that it’s more marketable. I couldn’t really care about that…

Jennifer: Probably, the wrong word to use

Leo:  It’s more to do with the fact that it exists out there and all you have to do is go with the camera to the place, and you can do it on a low budget with a small crew.

Jennifer: Can you do it on the hoof without any permits?

Leo: I don’t think i’ve ever really got a permit for anything I have ever done only within reason unless you film someone’s house you get a release.  In America, it’s harder to film.

WHAT RESPONSE DO YOU GET WITH YOUR FILMS?

Leo: Well Swansea Love Story is probably the most interesting because of the subject matter it being about Heroin use in Swansea.  When the film was released,and if you go onto Youtube, for example, and look at the comments it’s people that are very against the film and people that are for the film.  In Swansea, itself there was a drug bust by the police which was a result of us making the film, and a lot of blame was put on us because of that.

Jennifer:  How do you feel about that?

Leo: Well, it’s bollocks because it took us to go and show that was the problem in Swansea.  The idea that the police were oblivious to any drug-taking place is ridiculous. The only reason I feel that they did it was because we had shone some light on it, and they felt embarrassed and had to do something.  In America when it went online there, there were some interesting comments some people didn’t quite understand why we didn’t help the people in the film.Why did we make the film, and didn’t just help them?  The answer to that is I personally feel that the film is helping because it gives an insight into what drug-taking is like and therefore, educates people.

Jennifer: Without preaching.

Leo: Yeah, when I made the film with Andy Capper (VBS TV) we just filmed what happened, and we didn’t want to preach.

Jennifer: You’re like a silent observer in a way

Leo: There are filmmakers that would’ve observed more, but we did kind of get involved with them and their lives.  I’m not going to judge anybody for taking drugs.  A lot of people will look down on somebody that takes heroin but won’t know the circumstances that they were faced with when they first took heroin.  If you’re living in a town with unemployment and you’ve got nothing to do and you’re a young kid and somebody just says: “Have you tried this?”, and as a bit of escapism you’re going to do it.

   WITH CORNELIUS AND AMY (SWANSEA LOVE STORY) DO YOU THINK YOU’LL REVISIT THAT STORY OR HAS IT BEEN TOLD?

I think of that documentary ‘Streetwise’ and the relationship that developed between Tiny and the photographer Mary Ellen Mark.

Leo: You can always revisit stuff like that because with people like Amy And Cornelius, their lives are always changing quite drastically.  I’m never going to say no, but I do feel that story has been told that’s not to say we would never do it. A lot of people ask me that question.

Jennifer: Because they’re interesting characters, but it’s heartbreaking, especially when you hear Amy saying certain things that come out as she becomes more drunk.

Leo: It was hard to stomach at the time as you can imagine.  It’s not easy to hear that.

HOW MANY HOURS OF FOOTAGE DO YOU USUALLY SHOT FOR A TEN-MINUTE DOCUMENTARY?

Leo: It varies.  I made a short film that’s about ten to fifteen minutes called ‘The Sonic Manipulator” With him, I shot twenty hours maybe more.   

Jennifer: Where do you begin?  Where do you start?

Leo: With Claude, I’d go visit him and he’s a man with loads of ideas so when you film somebody like that it never ends and he’s constantly got something to say.  He’s got ideas about music, about his career and all these inventions, and if you feel like you’ve got to put it down into fifteen minutes and characters like that always repeat themselves so you end up just using a variation of other bits.  I shot a bit of film about the Pope when he came to London, and that was five hours of footage and that’s like a ten-minute film.  If you go to an event it’s obviously going to be less footage because it’s only a day but if you’re spending a lot of time with somebody it’s not actually about the amount it’s just about the variation of  things that they’re up to in order to tell the story so the amount is kind of irrelevant in a way.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR FILMS?

Leo: Truthful. Honest.  I’ll always feel there’s a sense of humour in my films. Take Swansea, for example, if you tell somebody about that film, they’ll assume there’s no humour in it, and I imagine there are  filmmakers that would’ve filmed it, and got footage of funny stuff, but wouldn’t put it in because they felt it would be disrespectful but, that to me is ridiculous.

Jennifer: That’s silly because that’s life isn’t it.

Leo: There’s always comical moments in the most tragic scenarios.  Yeah, so truthful is my short answer.

DO YOU COMPOSE MUSIC?

Leo: Yeah, I make music with some friends of mine.  We did some music for some short films, and I’ve made music of my own for a few films in the series that we shot in Tokyo one about the homeless community, and one about robotics. I wouldn’t describe myself as a composer.

Jennifer: What sort of music is it?

Leo: Banging Techno.

Jennifer: Oh..

Leo: No, not really. I wish I could make banging techno but I’m too scared of it.  How would I describe it?  Each track would serve the film really so I couldn’t put a name to it.

Jennifer: Is it guitars?

Leo: Some of it’s samples.  I’ve used a ukulele, an Irish drum.

Jennifer: Are you quite an expert on the ukulele then?

Leo: No, not really but they’re very simple tunes they’re not complicated in any way, they drive the film along.  It doesn’t get in the way of what you’re looking at.

TALKING ABOUT MUSIC.  WHAT WAS IT LIKE SHOOTING ‘SOFT FOCUS’, THE MUSIC TALK SHOW WITH IAN SVENONIUS FROM ‘NATION OF ULYSSES’?

Leo: Well that was the first time I worked for VBS TV and it was great, really fun.  I met Andy Capper there, and I met a few others that worked there.  We shot Mark E Smith from The Fall which I watch regularly because it is literally one of the funniest interviews ever.  When we got there, we were filming in this hotel in Manchester, we set up four cameras, and we lit this little area, and he turns up, he wasn’t really pissed, but he obviously had a couple, and as soon as he got there, he ordered a few Stellas and you can see him drinking them, and he was just totally on point and the way he was talking.

Jennifer: He’s very cerebral.

Leo: He’s a funny guy and he starts laying into Jack Black and starts taking the piss out of the School of Rock (mimics Mark E Smith) “that fat fooking cunt.  Jack Fooking Black” and we were all just behind the camera pissing ourselves laughing.

Jennifer: Is Ian Svenonius quite deadpan?

Leo: What’s great about Ian is he gets slightly fazed by it, but he’s funny he’s not like a rabbit in the headlights he kind of battles through it.  The other really good one you should watch is him and Billy Childish.

Jennifer: That should be interesting.

Leo: They end up having this amazing conversation about the War.  I’m a massive fan of Billy Childish and it was basically just holding a shot and sitting there listening to them.  There were also people like Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream.  It was great to listen and be part of filming some of these legends.

Jennifer: When you film something like that, how do you go about it?

Leo: We chat about the angles and how we want it to look and you kind of get into a rhythm with anything. The first day you’re working it out.  Any first day of any shoot is always slightly dodgy, and there’s a lot of times where somebody will go back and reshoot the first day.  When you get into that rhythm by the third or fourth day and we were shooting this for a few weeks you end up just getting into auto mode; and you know the angles and the lighting and each thing is different, but once you find your feet, and you get into what you’re trying to achieve it just works itself out.

TALKING ABOUT LIGHTING.  IN A PAST INTERVEW, YOU SAID: “YOU LEARNT MORE ABOUT LIGHTING IN HALF AN HOUR WATCHING THE CINEMATOGRAPHER DICK POPE SHOOT A SCENE THAN IN THREE YEARS OF FILM SCHOOL.  

WHAT IMPRESSION DID THAT LEAVE ON YOU?

Leo: When he lights it’s like state of the art, really sophisticated stuff, but he manages to make it look really natural and real.  You get a lot of cinematographers that do very extreme lighting and they’re the ones that stand out

Jennifer: Like Roger Deakins.

Leo: Yeah people like him, but obviously, he’s regarded as one of the greats, but Dick has this ability, especially when you’re referring to the work he does with my Dad it’s very realistic, but at the same time has a mood to it.  I’ve seen him light a few things the particular thing you were talking about was Vera Drake. Just watching him tweak and light and over a few hours watching him build, shoot a scene and use his technique which obviously, he has built up over the years.  It’s almost like the penny drops when you see somebody that good, you think oh, ok that makes sense, and then you take that, and you adapt it and use that.  He’ll constantly come over and say: “check this out” and he’ll actually want to teach you whilst you’re there, and shows you how stuff works “look at this camera, look at this lens, look at this, look how this works”. It’s the best education.

Jennifer: And he’s very enthusiastic.

Leo: He’s like the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, he’s done a lot of documentary stuff and that’s how he started, and he did a lot of undercover stuff.  If you look at his CV, you can see that he’s a true master at what he does.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF FILM SCHOOL?

Leo:  It depends on the film school.  The one I went to I thought it was pretty shit to be honest I’m not going to get into why I thought it was because it’s boring, but what’s good about education is apart from anything when you go  somewhere like that you meet like-minded people, and you talk about film. You stick a load of young guys and girls in a room that are into film it’s going to be educational whether or not they actually pick up a camera or not. I had a good time there, a few of us formed a group called collective vision.  If you were on a project, you could always call somebody in to do a bit of editing, a bit of sound, and you ended up just talking about film and watching film and that’s what it’s all about. We had some pretty funny raves when we were there. (laughing) That was good.

I LOVE THE RULE BRITANNIA SERIES ON VBS TV.  IT DOCUMENTS PARTS OF THE BRITISH ISLES THAT ARE NEVER SEEN OTHER THAN IN A PATRONISING WAY.  WHY DO YOU THINK IT HAS TAKEN SO LONG TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS?

Leo: Well, there are films that have been made that I would say, are up there if not far better than other films, we’ve made.

Jennifer: That’s years ago with filmmakers like Humphrey Jennings

Leo:  Have you seen ‘Think of England’ by Martin Parr?

Jennifer: I’m in two minds about Martin Parr.

Leo: (looks at me questioningly)  What’s that then?

Jennifer: Sometimes I look at his photos and feel that he looks down his nose or is quite judgmental about his subjects. That’s just my opinion.

Leo: Fair enough.  Well, you’ll probably hate this then.

Jennifer: Oh I’ll watch it

Leo: (laughing)  Why do you hate his guts so much? Look you’re going on record saying you hate his guts.

Jennifer: No…just..

Leo: This interview is over.  Nah, only joking.

Jennifer:  No it’s just with some photographers when you see some of their shots there’s a certain image or feeling that comes across

Leo: Fair enough that’s interesting but I don’t know the answer to that question.

Jennifer: Well, I read that Spike Jonze said it would be a good idea if the stories in Vice magazine were made into films.

Leo: Yeah that’s one of the reasons why VBS exists. He’s very much involved in VBS, and he makes his own stuff.  He made a thing called Spike Jonze spends Saturday with….. He did one with MIA.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE DOCUMENTARIES?

Leo: There’s so many films.  I tell you the ones, i’ve seen recently that I thought were brilliant.  I saw a short film called ‘Lift’ and it’s so amazing it’s just one guy in a lift in a council block the whole time and it’s all the different characters coming in and out. A real character study.

Jennifer: It’s quite simple then.

Leo: It’s one of the best short documentaries i’ve seen in years.  It was like a total breath of fresh air.  I also saw a film called ‘All Day Strolling,

(’http://www.spinetv.net/mag/2011/Oct/19/all-day-strolling/)

which is set in Georgia that’s a brilliant film and a really good documentary I saw at the London Film Festival recently is called ‘Last Days Here’ about a band called ‘Pentagram’ and it’s about the lead singer.

Jennifer: I have seen the pictures.  He looks like Arthur Brown. 

Leo: The mad world of Arthur Brown.  He’s kind of like that and he smokes crack in his parent’s basement and thinks there’s lice living under his skin but in terms of what happens in the story it’s like a perfect documentary.  It’s got the most amazing story arc, it just builds and you’ve got to watch that film (laughs)basically.

Jennifer: It sounds incredible.

Leo: There’s another film. You’ve probably seen it. It’s pretty famous. Paradise Lost.

Jennifer: Is that about the three friends?  I’ve never seen it but I’ve always wanted to.

Leo: You can watch it on Youtube

Jennifer: They’re Metallica fans.

Leo: Yeah. Another filmmaker you should interview called Dean Puckett, he told me about that film, and I watched it the other day. It’s really good.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPHERS?  WHAT ELSE INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE FILM?

Leo: There’s so many but I guess one that I will always go back to is, and I’ve been looking at her photographs since I was a little kid is Diane Arbus     because we had a book on our shelf in the living room, and I discovered this, and I literally became obsessed with these images, and I think it’s something to do with the characters,

they’re so unusual and the photographs but there’s something almost ordinary, it’s like they’re so comfortable with the situation.  It really looks like they’re being themselves, I think that’s down to the fact that Diane Arbus had the ability to communicate to people in a way that brought something out in them.  I went to this huge exhibition of hers at the V&A and I used to have this dream about a hotel that was burning and I had it like two or three times, it was really weird the hotel would be burning, and I would be inside the hotel on some stairs, and then we went into this exhibition and the first thing on this wall was a dream she’d written down it was literally the first wall in the whole of the exhibition, and it described this hotel that was on fire.  I thought it was pretty weird.

Jennifer: Oh my god that was a bit odd.

Leo: It was a bit odd.   So the next day I burnt down a hotel and I….(half smile/half serious)

Jennifer: Oh dear (laughs)

Leo: No.  I just thought it was weird.  It sounds a bit freaky.  What do you think about that?  You look a bit scared.

Jennifer: No. No. I just think you’re bloody mad (laughing)

Leo: Why…Why I’m I mad? It’s only a hotel burning.  You tell me one weird dream you’ve had.

Jennifer: Oh well

Leo: You’ve got to put this in. If you don’t put this in i’ll be really upset

Jennifer: It’s not weird it was fantastic.  You know Rick Wakeman

Leo: Yeah

Jennifer: I was reading an interview with his ex-wife Nina Carter….Well, I read The Daily Mail but only for a good laugh.

He looks slightly aghast

Leo: Yeah a great laugh.

Jennifer: I read it online with the comments’ page.  No…No I’m not a purist I read most of the papers from The Sun to The Telegraph just to get ….

Leo: Congratulations

Jennifer: Ha Ha.  Anyway this interview.  I read it then forgot about it, a couple of days later I had this dream.  Rick Wakeman took me off to his castle, and we were on these bikes, we were going over London, but it was like that London in Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Hook’, the red telephone boxes, ridiculous doddery, old men, and we end up flying in the sky

Leo: Flying in the sky

Jennifer: Yeah

Leo: Ok

Jennifer: My Mum was waving to me but when we got to his castle, it was like a semi-detached house inside.  It was really disappointing, and that was it.

Leo: Anti-climax.com

Jennifer: Ha but it was really good because up until then I loved the feeling of the dream.

Leo: pretty crazy eh.

Jennifer: I’m not a Rick Wakeman fan but I knew where it came in because I read the interview about her days living in a castle on the Isle of Man.  Odd but it was good.

Leo: We’re both weirdos

Jennifer: Ha ha.  Speak for yourself.

Leo: So..Anyway, her photographs to me are amazing. They just tap into the freaks and geeks and underbelly of New York and they’re beautiful to look at.

Jennifer: Did you see the film with Nicole Kidman? I never saw it.

Leo: I don’t really want to watch that.

THERE’S SO MANY FILM FORMATS OUT THERE SUCH AS SUPER 8, 16 MM, DIGITAL, ETC.  WHAT ARE YOU INTERESTED IN?

Leo: All three. What one would I work on? I normally work on digital because it’s accessible but I’d love to shoot on 16 mm I’d love to shoot on 35 mm but I’m not a format snob or anything.

ONE LAST QUESTION.  WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU NEVER ASKED ABOUT FILM?

Leo: The thing about that question is there’s probably an affinity amount of answers.

Jennifer: Give me a few.

Leo: (laughs) Oh ok.  You got all day then have you? Er….I could just say anything.

Jennifer:  You could say something really banal.  Something about the catering or something

Leo: Oh I see you mean like that.

Jennifer: No, not like that.  It could be anything.

Leo: I’m always asked about the catering.  Catering is the best bit about filmmaking.

Jennifer: Ha Ha

Leo:  Is there a good caterer? Oh I don’t know.

Jennifer: Ok Leo.  We’ll leave it there.

Humphrey Jennings @http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/453623/

http://diane-arbus-photography.com/

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/

Greg Hall (Filmmaker) Interview


I met Greg Hall four years ago, after a screening of his short films at Portobello Film Festival’. We spoke about his début ‘The Plague’ made at the age of 22, and shot on a mini dv in three weeks on a budget of £3,500. We touched on the high ratio to low ratio of female producers to female directors, the singer Donovan and his filmmaking plans for the future.

His second feature ‘Kapital’ commissioned by ‘The Manchester International Festival’ is a dark, and uncompromising fable loosely based on four fairy tales. A collaboration between the acclaimed composer Steve Martland, who wrote the score without seeing the film, with the story edited to the music as a guide.

His third film – SSDD recently won best film (no budget feature) at the London International Independent Film Festival.

Interview with Greg Hall, Shortwave Cinema, London International Independent Film Festival – April 25th 2011.

YOU’VE SAID IN PAST INTERVIEWS THAT THE UK LACKS A REAL INDEPENDENT FILM SCENE, THERE’S NO SUPPORT, AND A TENDENCY FOR UK CINEMA TO CHURN OUT ANOTHER HODGE PODGE OF BRIT ROM COM.  DOES THE FAULT LIE AT A MAINSTREAM BRITISH PUBLIC WHO PREFER CINEMA TO BE A PATCHWORK OF REALITY TV, SOAP OPERA AND SITCOM?

Greg Hall: I think the audience kind of plays into the hands of accessible mainstream/soap/rom-coms. Michael Moore the documentary filmmaker has always said: “If you give some intelligence to an audience, they will rise to it, they will go away and they will research it”, so I think a lot of the times the filmmakers in the industry think of the audience as this dumb mass.  You can put ideas out there to an audience, not everyone may like it, some people might be challenged by it, but that’s a good thing. And people will go away and talk about it, debate about it and that’s as filmmakers what we should do, as artists, challenging an audience. I think a lot of it comes from advertising and demographics. This is the audience, they’re aged this to that…

Jennifer: They’re branded

Greg: It just lumps a load of people together.

Jennifer: Especially that age range from 18-35 years.

Greg: Exactly.  It doesn’t really work.  In generalisations it works and for people who want to make money for advertisers it does make sense, but fundamentally for someone like myself who makes cinema, I think my films will actually last longer than if I was just an advertiser thinking how do I make a quick buck because I’m making culture that I think will resonate with human beings (laughs). We are very intelligent people, and we shouldn’t be treated any differently?

WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN UK CINEMA SINCE YOU MADE YOUR DEBUT FEATURE ‘THE PLAGUE’?

Greg: Someone about two months ago raised the point that the film ‘Annuvahood’ has just come out, and about the whole idea that the Urban genre has come of age, they pointed out that ‘The Plague’ was the almost like the first film, it was before ‘Bulletboy’ it was before ‘Kiddulthood,’ They were asking me about how did I think that genre had panned out. I think Urban is a bad kind of label.

Jennifer: Especially in terms of music

Greg: Sometimes it’s a euphemism, it means Black.  I think things have changed a lot in the UK, but I still think it’s commercially minded so even though the urban drama may have seen a big explosion with funding it doesn’t fundamentally mean that interesting filmmakers that challenge the way we think will come through.  I think all it means is there has been another avenue to make money.  That’s the problem with the British film industry is that it’s so focused around just trying to copy the American example but in a bad way; because at least in America they have a very strong underground, whereas in the UK there is a real schism between support for the underground contrasted to that of the mainstream.

Jennifer: With the success of Shaun of The Dead, you now see Zombie films and other derivatives of that.

Greg: I think you get a pattern of that every five years.  You will get one big British film, and then get five or six imitations. I don’t really pay too much attention to that personally. I take influence from cinema, books, music and the people who I’m around.

AS A UK FILMMAKER BASED IN LONDON ARE YOU LOOKING TO MAKE FILMS IN OTHER PARTS OF THE UK THAT ARE RARELY SEEN ON THE SCREEN?

Greg: I’m not against that, my second feature ‘Kapital’ was made in Manchester because it was funded through the Manchester International Festival. At the moment, I see myself making films in Britain, I’ve kept to London because that’s what I know, and that’s where I live.  I see that very much as part of who I am. I wouldn’t turn down making a film across the country or anywhere on the planet.  As a filmmaker the themes I’m looking at are very universal, and even when I’m making films about London as a city, it’s definitely a universal approach I’m taking to it.  I just think I’m a no budget filmmaker (laughs) so I don’t get too many offers.

YOU’VE READ THE KORAN AND THE BIBLE.  ARE YOU INFLUENCED MORE BY TEXT THAN BY WATCHING OTHER DIRECTOR’S FILMS?

Greg: Yeah I have read the Koran and the Bible but I’ve also read many other books, so I wouldn’t say I was influenced by religion per se, but definitely by books and reading, other art forms, whether it’s comic book art or installations. Politics is probably the main influence, whether it’s community organising or anti-fascist mobilisations, being out at demos protesting etc.  I take a lot of influences from life, but I would say in the past two years I’ve made more of a concerted effort, watching more films, and to get to know more directors, and there are wonderful directors out there who are mainstream, and who really influence me.

Jennifer: Any particular directors?

Greg: Wes Anderson.  I think the way he makes films is very much like a book, there’s a literature sense, clear chapter points, also British directors like Peter Watkins, who did fake documentaries such as ‘Punishment Park’ and ‘The War Game’, heavily influences me. But whenever people ask me to name directors I go blank….I’m like uh…..

Jennifer: There’s too many I suppose.

Greg: Yeah

HOW WAS THE PLAGUE VIEWED IN OTHER COUNTRIES? WHAT REACTIONS DID YOU GET, ESPECIALLY AS IT WASN’T A HERITAGE TOURISM PERIOD DRAMA OR A PLUCKY BRITS IN CRISIS SCENARIO TYPE FILM? I’M, PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN HOW AMERICAN AUDIENCES RESPONDED.

Greg: I only screened once in America in New York, and it went down really well, and there was actually a guy there who was a lecturer of film studies at New York University I think, and he loved it, and wanted to use it and show it alongside films like ‘Babylon’  a British film from the 80s.  In Austria, it showed at a squatted venue with skater kids. Even in places like Sarajevo there is an audience, it’s bizarre we talk about globalization, and globalization of culture, there’s definitely a youth culture or an underground culture, and I think with a film like ‘The Plague’ they see it was made for no money, and people are generally attracted to it like that; and it was made from the streets, it’s anti-authoritarian and you are ticking a lot of boxes in people’s books no matter where they are from on the planet really, but it has mainly shown throughout Europe, and I remember showing it in Berlin and there was a French guy who couldn’t speak a word of English and he had to say this through a translator and he said; “I didn’t understand a word that they said, but that was just like where I live.”

Jennifer: It’s not just about dialogue but you can see how the characters react

Greg: Those universal themes with people struggling and striving, and that resonates with people.

Jennifer: That must have made you feel pretty good to hear that response.

Greg: Definitely…definitely

IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH FILM THAT HASN’T BEEN DONE BEFORE?

Greg: Everything that I try to do with film I would hope hasn’t been done before, but it probably has, and that’s why I do it.  I think I said earlier the reason I make films is because I’m dissatisfied with the representations within British cinema, so I would definitely hope that I’m challenging an audience’s views, and pushing the envelope of what is accepted within cinema, especially British cinema., cos I’m British that’s what I’m operating from.  I wouldn’t say I have any great thesis or this is what I’m doing that’s so unique. A lot of the times I say that I steal from people, whether it’s from books, other films, that’s what culture is about, an amalgamation of different influences. So really it’s not so much as about doing something new, but I hope I’m pulling together elements that haven’t been pulled together before.

CAN YOU GIVE ME A LIST OF THE FIVE RULES OF SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION?

Greg: Wow…um..shameless self-promotion.  I don’t know, people have accused me of shameless self-promotion, but I don’t think there are any rules.  I mean times have changed since I first started making films, I think nowadays with things like YouTube, Twitter and all that, which I’m really behind……

Jennifer: What do you think of Vimeo?

Greg: Yeah Vimeo is a great video hosting site.  There’s a whole new load of tools for people to use now, and I think they could probably tell me more about self-promoting because my company is ‘Broke but Making Films’ and most people are like “Why are you broke and you should have made money by now”, so I don’t know. I self promote to the point of wanting people to come and see my films, but that’s about it, I don’t self promote any further than that.  Sorry I don’t think I can think of any rules.

WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T WORK IN FILM?
Greg: I’ve always said the best judge of my films is myself, and I took that thing from the documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman who said: “Fuck the audience. I use myself to judge whether something works or not.” And I think personally that’s the reason I got motivated  to make films, when I make films that’s how I judge it, if I like it and I think it’s good. Obviously there is still an element of you wanting other people to watch, and what they’re going to make of it ….

Jennifer: You have to be selfish don’t you.

Greg: Yeah, but I do think why are you doing it otherwise, and not just to please other people, but to please myself because I don’t feel that, that film or that style of cinema is out there, so therefore it’s about what I like so that is really what I think I try, and judge with what works. I’m always learning, and I’m always seeing different films, seeing different art forms, and learning, and taking things from that, but yeah definitely I would be the best judge of what works, and what doesn’t work, and I would say that to any filmmaker …..

Jennifer: I think that’s how most filmmakers work isn’t it

Greg: Yeah that’s the way they should work…

Jennifer: You make the film you want to make, but it’s a bonus if someone else likes it

Greg: Exactly. You know you’re not mental (laughs)

Jennifer: Yeah like a one man crusade.

THE UK FILM COUNCIL REJECTED FUNDING FOR ‘THE PLAGUE’.  AT THE TIME YOU SAID THAT THEY WERE INTO THEIR DEMOGRAPHICS.  DO YOU HAVE MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT THE DEMISE OF THE UK FILM COUNCIL?
Greg:  There’s definitely issues within the industry of how they bring the new kind of filmmakers through, but then in the same breath at least with the film council they were established so that they could develop, and I know they were trying to reach out, and trying to change things, and I think by scrapping it totally, and moving it somewhere else was a bad move. It just felt like another Tory cut really, and that’s the reason behind it. I kind of like the idea that if it went back to the British Film Institute, but I’m not filled with confidence about where they move that money to, and I do think removing something like the film council, no matter how much I criticised it, at least it was there and then it’s not. I have to be careful as well, as we’re hoping to get a little bit of money from the film council for my new film, so maybe one day they will fund me before they go ,…..

Jennifer: Do you think the Tory Government see art as a luxury?

Greg: The Tories have always kind of seen it like that, but then fundamentally I’m an anarchist, as artists we show these universal themes, and we look at areas that other people don’t want to look at, we go into the grey area where government, and the media will want to paint issues as being very black and white.  I think as artists we very much go through an individual kind of journey…..

Jennifer: You’ve got to show the grey haven’t you.

Greg: And we show the grey. We venture into the grey. We are the grey that’s where we exist as artists, we’re many things and we can’t be pigeonholed, and we as artists, we challenge that, and we should always challenge it, and therefore, personally as an anarchist, I don’t see why any government would want to support art. A lot of the times they do support art in the hope that it’s going to be …..

Jennifer: That they will get something out of it.

Greg: Exactly, I think all artists shouldn’t be aligned to any kind of political group, but fundamentally I think that’s what we need to do, we need to communicate, connect, and governments don’t really want the masses of people to do that, to think for ourselves or discuss these things.  I think the truest art, true filmmakers, and cinema is a forum for us to think about things, it’s a philosophy at the end of the day, it’s modern day philosophy. I  think any philosopher worth their salt will go to the point of questioning why there’s a government, and a divide between rich and poor, and a massive divide between the rich being a tiny élite, and the poor, basically, and the rest of us. I don’t get it really. It doesn’t make sense to me.

WHAT PROMPTED THE SAHARA LIBRE EXPERIENCE?

Greg: My producer Becky who’s also my sister, her company Olive Branch Theatre took herself and two other actors out there to the refugee camps to devise a theatre piece with young guys living on the camps and create a performance and perform that to the rest of the camp. They asked me if I wanted to go along, and I went out there with them, in sixteen days I shot about 52 hours of footage, I’m editing that at the moment and that’s just a documentary to give away, to put it online.  I was documenting them creating this theatre piece which is devised from the young people’s experiences I didn’t want it to be – oh here’s a documentary and we’re following these people from Britain and their experience – I wanted it to be about the play that they create and then break that down and through that narrative show the history of the Sahara camps from the 70s when it used to be the Spanish Sahara, the war with Morocco and the current situation, they’re in at the moment. I just got tagged along, and I ended up having an amazing experience…….

Jennifer: It must have been quite an interesting experience

Greg: mind-blowing….mind blowing. Being in the Sahara desert in a refugee camp.  I’m cutting that now, and hope to take it back out there and screen it as well,and hoping to do some film workshops with a film collective.  There’s a lot going on….

Jennifer: That’s still going on then

Greg: Yeah.  I think it will always be going on, as long as the refugee camps are there. I think once you’ve been, and you meet people and you make friends with those people you can’t turn your back on them.  I think I’ll be back out there……

Jennifer: You can’t just take and then that’s it.

Greg: Yeah it’s not a case of me just going there, and bam, I’ve got my film and I’m gone. It’s an investment there, you know people, and I hope to get out there soon…

Jennifer: How did they respond to you?

Greg: They’re the most warmest, and friendliest people.  We stayed with people in the camps..Yeah it was mind blowing.  Glad to get back, and be able to use a proper toilet, that was the main thing and not have to use a hole, but apart from that it was amazing.  They are relying on international law to help them out, and as an anarchist, I don’t really think international law is going to help them, and it’s really depressing, but human beings are human beings, they’re beautiful creatures, and families with children, and that’s the face of what I’ve seen within the refugee camps, and that’s why I’ll be going back because I know people, and have personal ties with people, and international politics aside I just hope there’s freedom for every single human being on this planet. We shouldn’t be born into slavery, and we basically do live within a monetary slavery at the moment.

Photo – Hannah Powell http://www.facebook.com/photo_search.php?oid=34055279235&view=all
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