Monday, 16 June 2014

The Literary Kitchen at The Peckham Pelican

Darling ones,

how delightful to have a fest so close to home!

There's an action-packed few days of talks, films and events to be had so off I jolly well go...
I hope to attend a few times and will report back.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Review: The Films of Pixar Animation Studio by James Clarke

Darling ones,

what leapt out at me about this book was the desire it inspired in me to GO AND WATCH ALL THE FILMS AGAIN! Well, perhaps not 'Cars' or Cars 2', if I'm honest, but certainly the rest of them. I think this is a book that will appeal to the film and animation student looking for research material as well as a more casual reader, and there's nothing wrong with that. I liked the historical approach and the way Clarke places Pixar in a very particular cultural context. Brad Bird fans will not be disappointed! Refreshing too, to see animation taken so seriously, in an age where cartoons are often dismissed as 'just for kids'. The enthusiasm of the author shines through the prose, making this a very accessible addition to my bookshelf.

Right, I'm off to watch 'A Bug's Life'...

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Sc-fi Film Festival

Darling ones,

I don't know if any of you were on the South Bank yesterday, but boy was it packed! I only just made it to the festival. I settled down in a packed cinema to enjoy some very good sci-fi shorts. You can see the whole programme here. The first thing that struck me about the shorts programme 2 were the high production values on display, from animation to CGI, they all had the appearance of expensive films, whatever I thought of the story. I had been alerted to the programme by Ned Ehrbar, whose short, 'Bunker' was having its UK premiere. Knowing Ned's work from 'Co-op of the Damned', I was anticipating a good spoof and was not disappointed. Ned wrote and directed a knowingly funny film that doesn't take itself too seriously, much like Ned himself, it must be said. It also had a neat twist, turning the usual sexual politics on its head. Survivors of the apocalypse gather in a bunker to shelter from the nanovirus. There's a gung-ho gun-toting hero, a pretty woman in a tight vest and two orphans of the storm, or are they? No one is quite what they seem...

Of the others, I particularly liked 'Eve', a moving Garden of Eden story, and 'Project Kronos', which used arresting visuals to question the ethics of sending a human brain into space to explore and send back observations via its memories. 'Abe' was truly creepy, a reverse Frankenstein story in which a rejected robot attempts to 'put right' the quality in humans that causes them to reject his love. It seemed to suggest a world devoid of human men, in which women are still subjected to the objectifying 'gaze'. 'Over the Moon' was very funny. The film had a retro look that suited the comedy perfectly. And the closing credits gave you a peek at the FX! 'Europa' didn't work for me, I found it sentimental but was grateful for the necessary grit of a government unwilling to tell its people of the true nature of an afterlife. 'New' posited a world in which cryogenics could give you a second chance at life and was all the more disturbing for being so recognisable. 'I.R.I.S. (by the director of 'Project Kronos' felt like a pitch for a longer film, but was great at rathcheting up the tension. 'A Perfect Soldier' exploited current knowledge of bioscience to great effect.

The films were well received and the fimmakers stuck around after to talk. All jolly good value for a tenner. I only wish I'd gone to see more.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

Decisions decisions...

Darling ones,

I've thought for a long time that I need to hunker down and concentrate on one or two projects rather than several. Having had more success with playwriting in recent years, I'm going to concentrate on that and writing poetry.

I'm also going to review more films, so, to that very end, I will be attending the BFI this Sunday, to catch up with the lovely Ned Ehrbar, whose short sci-fi film will be on. With any luck, he'll get the drinks in...

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

REVIEW: The Gospel According to Saint Derek

Darling ones,

thus it was that I and some friends entered the hallowed halls of King's College unto the very Anatomy Theatre, that even now, harbours a faint whiff of chloroform and formaldehyde (I couldn't help thinking that DJ would have liked that), there to watch an excellent short film by Andy Kimpton-Nye recalling the creative process of Saint Derek Jarman. What surprised me most was the testimony of former collaborators regarding Jarman's playfulness. Perhaps this aspect of his creative persona became rather overshadowed by the spectre of the HIV status that finally killed him. There is also the tendency to regard so much of arthouse or experimental cinema with a seriousness that is not always appropriate. Jarman's colleagues recall his spontaneity; the way in which he used low-budget or even no-budget constraints to inform and inspire his process, which makes his filmmaking very pertinent to today's generation of digital creators. The Ten Commandments of Low-budget Filmmaking structured the documentary. There was poignant reflection on his acceptance that his life would be foreshortened, but even this was became part of the great work, which now sees his wonderful strange garden in Dungeness as a unique English space that we can still enjoy. You can check out all the details here. I was sorry to miss the chance to see 'The Angelic Conversation' played on a loop for 24 hours in the King's College Chapel, but I may well see if I can go on the trip to see the garden of Saint Derek in June. 'The Last of England' will play also in March, a film that is always in my personal top ten. I hope this excellent doc gets the exposure it deserves, it's required viewing for today's generation of film creators.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays by Lucy V Hay

Unlike a lot of ‘how-to’ books, this is refreshingly unpompous and free of jargon. Lucy once put out a fire on her husband by repeatedly hitting the flames with a copy of a very large, jargon-filled screenwriting book. Do ask her about it at the next LSWF… But if you follow Lucy on Facebook and Twitter or have benefited from her insights professionally then this book is an invaluable extension of her online presence.
I am about to embark on a thriller screenplay (not my first by any means) and will be keeping this volume close by, paying particular attention to the construction of a good treatment/outline. The section on sorting out the structure in the outline really chimed with me.
I also enjoyed the positive ‘can-do’ feel of the book; I have a real aversion to writers who moan and complain that they can’t get a break. Lucy clarifies the whole process from a business perspective and she’s right; there really is no excuse for not doing your research on who to pitch to and how. She’s been there and done that, and much like her online presence, is unstinting with common sense and good-humoured strategies for helping the writer achieve his/her goals.
I was reminded of the advice given by Adrian Mead at a workshop that we both attended in Edinburgh, namely ‘keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting’. I may be paraphrasing a bit here but this links nicely to my aversion to moaning writers. If you want to achieve your goal of selling a screenplay then change your strategy, don’t sit there whining. It won’t be easy but it’s much better to buckle down to the serious business of writing a cracking screenplay. She also gives huge support to the British film business, giving the lie to the notion that you absolutely ‘have’ to do it the Hollywood way.


Available now from Kamera Books and Amazon.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Kill Your Darlings

I saw this at the Bafta with m'learned colleague Hilary Wright, who is a member, got me in as a guest and very generously stood me a glass of wine. We had seen 'Howl' when that was out so 'Kill Your Darlings' seemed an ideal companinon film featuring some of the same characters. Daniel Radcliffe was very impressive as Allen Ginsberg. The story centred around the friendships forged by Ginsberg whilst studying poetry at university during World War 2. As the story was based on a real murder, which happened as the result of an older man's obsession with a much younger one, it was interesting to reflect upon how times have changed with regard to sexuality. As the unhappy couple Lucian Carr and David Kammerer, Dane DeHaan and Michael C. Hall gave it their all, detailing the mutual dependency that was to prove fatal for the older man. DeHaan's performance was particularly affecting as the insecure younger man who could only gain credibility by exploiting the talents of others to shore himself up. When Carr and Kerouac plan to go to Europe together - a true bid for freedom from family, tradition and the stultifying middle-class life that Carr endured, tragedy follows, the resolution of which Ginsberg witnesses. That's the strange thing, Ginsberg is the protagonist of the film yet he seems very passive throughout, drawn out of his shell by his brash contemporaries yet hesitant to act upon his nascent yearnings for the same sex. But then those were the times, I guess. Women do not feature hugely in the narrative except as mad mother, Naomi Ginsberg (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a rapacious Librarian or Carr's mother (an uncredited Kyra Sedgwick), keen to move her son around to esacpe the relentless attentions of Kammerer and any whiff of scandal. Even so, the film was very good on period detail like the jazz clubs that were the milieu of the beat poets and special mention must go to Ben Foster playing a young William Burroughs. Daniel Radcliffe attended a Q and A afterwards and was utterly charming; self-deoprecating, down-to-earth and he clearly enjoyed shooting a film in 28 days as opposed to the marathon that was Harry Potter. This is worth seeing if you saw 'Howl' and 'On The Road'. It definitely made me want to research more about that period. Here's the trailer: