Miniature – Tiny screenplay – Draft 2

oak-box-with-lock-closed

Mini screen pictures a production company that makes programmes for smart phones and tablets recently held a competition to find a winning script to be produced and directed and uploaded onto mobile technology.  I entered the competition with a revised script of Miniature.

Feedback:

I like the idea which seems very fresh, but not really sure I understand it fully in terms of getting my head round the set up.  But that’s possibly cause I’m not very good at reading scripts – I find it hard to picture.  Was there a particular brief associated with this?  – My sister.

The brief was to write an original script (no more than 10 minutes) in one of these genres – drama, supernatural crime thriller or comedy.

MINIATURE 

by

Jennifer Farfort

2013

FADE IN

EXT. FIRE DOOR EXIT. SMALL THEATRE HALL. DAY

o/s male voice:  Next

DAVID an eighteen year old boy smokes a cigarette. He wears a baseball cap, body-warmer, grey sweat shirt and matching tracksuit bottoms.

o/s male voice voice: Thank you. Mandy has your details. 

A group of young people in garish costumes walk out of the main entrance towards the car park.

David watches them.

A girl dances and twirls ahead of her friends.  Her exaggerated movements cause laughter amongst her friends.

musicbox

David looks on while blowing smoke rings.

Stubbing out his cigarette he slips quietly back inside the hall.

INT. SMALL THEATRE HALL. DAY

The hall is sparse and medium sized.  Orange curtains drape the sides of the stage.  Stage lights shine brightly.

Cut to

A man in his late 50s called STEVEN and two girls who are of similar age to David seated away from the stage. They are in charge of the auditions.

Cut to

BRIAN a man in his late 50s standing near the back of the hall.  He wears a three piece suit, and a Crombie overcoat.  He looks over to David.

BRIAN 

Everything ok David.

DAVID 

All clear Brian.

Cut to

Steven who is rubbing his eyes

STEVEN

Next

Pause

Next

Pause

Cut to

Brian as he looks to the side of the stage. He nods his head.

NEX…..

A group of males, and females in their early to mid twenties hurl onto the stage as if they have been suddenly pushed.

We can hear the sounds of their low, heavy panting breath.

Cut to

CARLA who is seated next to Steven.  She has bobbed, brunette hair.  She is drawing in a sketch book

STEVEN(looking at the group)

And you are the ..erm

(He scrabbles desperately at his notes.)

oh um I’m afraid i’ve mislaid your name

(He looks at them for an answer then looks over to Carla. She is drawing a doodle of the dancers.)

Carla.  What’s their name?

(She shakes her head, and shows him her drawing then passes it to SARAH who is sitting on the other side of Steven.  Sarah is looking at the ends of her long hair.)

The notebook depicts gangly arms and legs.

o/s music

 An unidentified tinny Broadway tune kicks in and crackles around the hall.

STEVEN

Oh ..ok well let’s carry on then.

The dancers faces look waxen as they stare back at him with fear and confusion.

We’re ready.  We do have other people to see.(sing song irritated voice)

The dancers start to dance and sway slowly.

Steven crosses his arms and looks unimpressed.

Cut to

Dancer’s feet as they start to tap dance a bit faster before picking up speed.

Cut to

Carla as she draws faster with each movement of the dancers legs. She adds bulging eyes to their scrawled, scared faces.

Steven peers over at her drawing and back to the dancers.

Cut to 

Their legs as they start to soar into a big high-kicking number.

Impressed he makes notes.

Panic is etched on the dancers faces.

Cut to

BRIAN

(misty eyed)

Wonderful just wonderful….see..it’s coming together. I knew it would. What do ya think David?.

Cut to

Sarah as she watches Brian.

BRIAN

(angry hushed tones)

David. Come back..You’re not ready yet.

DAVID

I’m ready now

BRIAN

Get back ere.

David walks down the side of the hall towards the side of the stage.

Sarah watches him as he goes past.  They both look at each other.

He goes behind the curtain.

Cut to

The back of the stage.

We see a long rod hooked and threaded through the dancer’s costumes.

It is coiled tightly along their backs holding them all together.

As we go along the stage we see IAN.  He is also eighteen.  He has sandy blonde hair and has the look of determination in his face.

Ian manipulates the rod twisting, and turning it making the dancers move in time.

Sounds of their tap dancing feet gets louder and heavier.

David also starts to hold onto the rod.

IAN

Oi gerroff. Leave it ya prick. GERROFF.

DAVID

It’s better like this….see.  Look it’s better

They start to struggle with the rod.

Brian said I’m ready.

IAN

Bollocks

David moves the rod too fast. They jostle losing control of the rhythm

Cut to

Dancers moving erratically.  Their bodies nearly flip over themselves like floppy, weak rag dolls.

Cut to

Ian and David shoving each other whilst trying to control the dancers.

IAN

You Cockend you’ve ruined it.

David lets it go.

Cut to

A whirling dervish of dancers reel about the stage.

Cut to

Steven, Carla and Sarah transfixed.

STEVEN

I think we need to stop the music.

(The music is still playing.)

STOP THE MUSIC PLEASE.

Cut to

One of the male dancers

MALE DANCER

(pleading eyes)

HELP

Another dancer joins him

FEMALE DANCER

(sad eyes)

HELP

The dancers try to struggle free.

ALL OF THE DANCERS

Helppppppp ussssss…helpppppp  usssss

Their pleas reverberate around the hall.  The music plays on.

Steven puts his hands around his ears.

Cut to 

Sarah watching the door close as Brian vanishes out of the hall.

STEVEN

(hands on ears)

I can’t hear myself think..STOP THE MUSIC

The music stops suddenly.

Cut to 

David and Ian pulling the rod sharply.

The dancers still pleading tumble in one fast motion from the stage into an open box which slams shut.

Cut to

Black screen

o/s:  Car door slam. Exhaust.

INT. SMALL ROOM. SAME DAY. LATE EVENING

A wad of cotton wool and a glass bottle of amber liquid rests on a table.

Cut to

Brian’s eyes peering into the box from earlier.  We see glimpses of quilted purple lining.

Ian is eating peanuts.

BRIAN

(his back to Ian and David he is still looking in the box)

There’s no room for mistakes in show business.  Don’t let it happen again.

(Closing the box. He faces both of them.)

Every turn, every move has to be on the dime.  We….They nearly had the audience in the palm of their hand

NEARLY HAD THEM

(David sheepishly hands him the rod.)

BRIAN

Next time just watch Ian. He learnt from the best. (he grips David’s shoulder) Your time will come soon enough.  Ain’t that right Ian.

IAN

(talking with his mouthful)

Mmyeahm

Brian sits down with his back to both of them.  He opens up a large sketchbook.

BRIAN

See you tomorrow boys.  Bright and early.

(Brian looks at rough sketches of costume designs.)

EXT. SMALL COMMUNITY HALL CAR PARK. EARLY MORNING

Rows of parked cars.  People mill about talking.

Cut to

Close up

Reflections in car rearview mirror of dancers costumes as they head towards the hall.

Brian roughly sketches designs of their costumes in his book.

Ian and David are pissing about.  David throws a peanut at Ian’s head.  Ian tries to give him a dead arm.

DAVID

(laughing)

Arrggh

BRIAN

Cut it out you two.  We’re got business to attend to.

o/s.  The faint sounds of kicking from inside a box.

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

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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