Sunday 31 January 2010

They Are To Blame For Everything That's Wrong With The Film Industry.

Apparently they did it. They won't see people who don't have an agent, they don't read unsolicited scripts, they prefer men to women, they won't fund this type of project and they are treating us badly. One thing is for sure, we are not to blame and it is definitely them - but who they are, I don't know.

Apparently they don't cast black actors. I cast black actors, so maybe I'm not them. But I've never cast a Mexican, so maybe I am the they that is keeping Mexicans out of the industry. I met a casting director who is usually only interested in actors with certain agents, but she's used a few people who don't have an agent at all. So is she one of them, I mean - the they, or is she not those? It's hard to tell. But either way, she's probably an exception to the rule, and they are all still against us.

See, that's the thing - THEY are stopping us succeeding in the industry. They are all huddled in a room - the privileged people of success room. I think it's upstairs on the 4th floor. They all huddle up there and conspire against independent films and original screenplays and new actors. They really hate us.

This theory is, of course, completely insane - but most people in the industry swear by it.

They don't fund projects without explosions.
They won't even look at me.
They don't understand my work.
They never pay people.
They probably won't like my acting.

Who are they? Why are they so against everybody?

Nobody ever identifies themselves as 'THEY.' It's always other people. It's always someone more successful who is oppressing us in some way. It's a bit similar to other industries.

They never let me go on break.
They don't even notice me.
I moved all those boxes but did they care? NO!.

I have met people on every level in the film industry -- and I've still never met one of they. Sure, there are some idiots in the industry; but even they are just trying to do their jobs.

Casting Directors are trying to find the right actors for their projects. Producers are looking to put good films together. Agents want great writers/actors/etc.

Next time you find yourself blaming them or they or those, just have a think about it -- because it's probably wasted energy, they don't exist. I call it Gatekeeper Syndrome. It's the imaginary gatekeepers that we feel stand between us and the big guys. They exist only in our minds.

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Nora Ephron - What Are You Doing To Me?

I am currently reading the Nora Ephron book 'Heartburn.' It's a book about a woman who is seven months pregnant who finds out her husband is cheating on her. And it's about cooking. And women stuff. And the cover looks like this --

Now, this is a problem because I am a guy.
And if I read a book like that on the train, people will give me weird looks.

'Why Are You Reading Nora Ephron books?' you might ask. And all I can say is that, Nora Ephron has been pulling this kind of shit on me all my life. Do I want to be watching Meg Ryan prancing around all the time? No. But do I? Yes. 'Sleepless In Seattle,' 'You've Got Mail', 'Hanging Up' - I loved them all.

You see - I secretly think Nora Ephron is one of the best writers alive. There are not many others who could make me relate to a story about a bunch of quarrelling sisters ('Hanging Up') - and whilst I do love a good ole' rom-com, I would rarely call them my favorite films - but I think 'You've Got Mail' is genius. If it was made in the 1950's and had Billy Wilder's name as Director, it probably would have won some oscars.

The book I am reading, 'Heartburn,' was turned into a movie, which I've not yet seen. But the book is great - hilarious, compelling, and true - in a way few books are. I actually really struggle with reading, I find it hard to find voices that resonate with me. I can name about four -- Woody Allen (short stories), Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl, John O'Farrell, some of Nick Hornby, and half of Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road' - that is a bit more than four but that number was only a guess prior to this sentence. Oh, and Anne Frank. There's more truth in her book than anything else I've ever read.

So I have to face the facts - I need to stand up proudly and say. I LOVE NORA EPHRON.

But right now I'm going to go and watch the 'Die Hard' trilogy and some war films....

PS: Today is the last day you can vote for me in the 2010 Weblog Awards, or the Bloggies, as they're also known. I am one of the five nominees in the 'Best Entertainment Blog' category. I would really appreciate it if you voted for me. You can do that here.

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Saturday 30 January 2010

Adolf Hitler - The Funniest Man In Comedy.

The first time you see 'Downfall' is a powerful, overwhelming experience. There's something uniquely fascinating about Germans exploring their own history on film. When English or Americans make films about Hitler or the Nazi's, there is always going to be an element of bias or opinion that seeps in -- but Germans making films about a topic which can still be very raw and present for them is... well, it's important. Important to the world, I think. 'Downfall' is a masterpiece. A powerful, riveting, and upsetting film that I think everyone should see.

The problem is-- I don't think I could ever watch it again. The Adolf Hitler presented in that film now represents something very different to me, and it's something very funny. Who would have thought this could happen? I don't know who the first person to do this was, but they were a genius. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about-- over the past couple of years, there has been a phenomenon on YouTube of re-editing scenes from 'Downfall.' To give you an idea, here is a recent one about the new Apple Ipad.

The beauty of them is that they are all completely ridiculous and nonsensical, but they are just so damned funny. Here are two twenty second clips that had me laughing.


Fuck it, here's a third one.

I find these hilarious. I can understand that some people may find it offensive, that we're laughing along with Hitler - but I think most people agree with me. So why are they so funny?

The image of Hitler and what he stood for is one of the most recognised images in our culture. Wherever you are in the world, even if you are uneducated and disinterested in World War 2 -- chances are you know all about Adolf Hitler. There is something unique about World War 2 in that it will always get a reaction from people, they are sensitive to it. You could make a terrible documentary about Auschwitz, but it would still resonate with people. The images are too depressing and upsetting to not affect you. Likewise, the image of Adolf Hitler will always create a reaction. More often than not - it is one of disgust, or bewilderment, or anger.

These YouTube videos get big reactions. Say what you want about them, but they wouldn't be funny with anyone else in them. If it was Tony Blair from 'The Queen' nobody would be laughing. Sometimes I despair at how young people aren't interested in World War 2, whereas for me - keeping alive the story of what my Grandparents and their generation did is a big part of my life. But maybe these YouTube videos are the way that younger people can relate to what happened. I mean, if Hitler was just some random old German guy, these videos wouldn't capture the imagination of young people as much as they do.

The reason we find them funny is because the image we all have of Hitler -- everything we learned about; his obsession with war, with conquering Europe, with mass killing. So, the idea of him going crazy over Oasis breaking up, or going insane because Michael Jackson died is completely hilarious.

Here is Adolf Hitler being informed that he gets killed in 'Inglorious Basterds'

The thing about these Hitler videos is that, for the most part - they are very cleverly written, I laugh at nearly all of them. Whoever came up with these is a genius. I keep thinking it'll be tough to keep them fresh and original, but at the moment - I'm still finding them all funny.

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Guest Blogger - Mike Lippert

When my last few blog posts get no comments and all of my family stop talking to me, I realize I've hit a bad spell and I desperately need to get in a decent writer to fill my shoes, or a least my blog, for a day. Mike Lippert's blog is like one of those independent movies shot by a nobody for $500. Right now, no-one really knows about it - but the quality is so good that before you know it he'll have a hundred followers and everyone will be talking about his "big ego problem." Below is an article Mike wrote about being a Kid In The Front Row. Enjoy!

A lot of my cinema experiences have been negative: Stupid people, stupid movies, stupid long lines, stupid uncomfortable seats, stupid junk on the stupid sticky floors, etc. Yet, I cherish the experience of the theatre, no matter how advanced home technology gets, more than anything. When you really think about it, the theatre holds a certain inexplicable aura. When you go to the movies you’re going for more than to just see a film on a big screen.

There are the people. I love the people! Let’s get something straight: I hate being in crowded places, especially theatres as was the case when I went to see the Sex and the City movie in a cheap theatre with bad seating that was packed to the point where I found myself sandwiched between my girlfriend and some overweight middle-aged husband who was apparently having the time of his life.

There is a special section of my brain delegated to the memories I’ve accumulated over the years surrounding the complete strangers who I will never forget about out of the simple arbitrariness that they happened to decide to see the same movie at the same time as me. Sure, at the time I despised them more than anyone I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting and sat in the dark, coldly wishing every cruel and unimaginable torture to befall them sooner than later. But now, looking back, I realize that these are the people who have etched certain films into by brain that would have otherwise fallen completely by the wayside.

There were the teenaged boys who needed to whistle as Kate Beckinsale peeled herself out of that leather suit (That would be me, -Kid.) in the Underworld sequel; the wife who thought that her symbolically challenged husband needed a complete play-by-play breakdown of Brokeback Mountain; the silly old Jewish man who must think life is just about the funniest joke anyone has ever told because he certainly laughed his way through absolutely everything in A Serious Man; the rowdy university freshmen who, with horn in hand, honked approvingly when Amy Smart divulged information of her triple orgasm to Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect, and of course, the old woman who, when Adrien Brody decides to take justice against Joaquin Phoenix into his own hands in The Village, loudly gasped “Oh my God! HE KILLED HIM!”

Then there is my favourite audience memory. It was during the packed premiere of A History of Violence, a film that the woman behind me felt was appropriate to take her 13 year old son to, which didn’t seem quite right until Ed Harris ends up getting his guts splattered all over Viggo Mortenson to which the kid exclaimed, “Cool, Spleen!” Right, it made sense now. And then, to the right of me were two jolly middle-aged sisters who thought everything in the movie was hilarious (I guess you just hit a certain age?), and declared, during the absolute best scene, where Mortensen goes to visit his brother, played brilliantly by William Hurt, declared, chuckling, “Aren’t you glad we’re not like that?”

There are many more memories where those came from. I’ve pulled them out and shared them for the simple purpose of trying to show why the cinema is such an important aspect of film. Critics sometimes get so caught up in theory and psychological pondering that they forget that the cinema is also, at its very heart, an experience, which is only half defined by the content that passes before our eyes on the screen. The other half is the conditions under which we see films: the who, what, where, when and why. Although, as a critic myself, I love the first, most movies just aren’t movies in the absence the second.

You can check out Mike's blog at

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Friday 29 January 2010

'Die Hard Isle Five' - A Short Story.

Barry Fremp has worked at the supermarket for six years and forty seven days. He is perceived to be the forth most knowledgeable staff member on low-fat yogurt products but he struggles with sauces, especially spicy ones, a problem he inherited from his father. Barry has not enjoyed his job in recent years as most of his friends have moved on. Some to the frozen chicken section, and Barry 'Killer' Bones was relocated to hair & make-up.

To put it bluntly, his job sucked. To put it less bluntly, Barry didn't quite feel the joy any more and often felt his life was drifting away. There was only one thing that kept him going. Anna Kantino, the beautiful girl on the fish counter, was not the reason. She refused to acknowledge him. The only thing that kept him going was those rare moments when he got to step outside of the mundanity and do something extraordinary. He got to take the law into his own hands.

"Code Bacon!" came the yell over the speaker system. This was code for, "We have a shoplifter!" They used this innocent phrase so not to panic the customers, although people would often dive for cover if they happened to be browsing the bacon display when the call was made. Often, weeks would go by without a shoplifter. Until that fateful day that nobody would ever forget. It was a Wednesday, or maybe a Tuesday.

The announcement bellowed from above, "Code Eggs!". Barry gestured to the nearby customers to stay calm, as he had it under control. He sprinted to the entrance. A young, angry looking black man was making his way out with a widescreen TV. Barry dived on top of him and they went crashing to the floor.

Of course, he had the wrong guy. In fact, he had the wrong announcement. The meaning of "Code Eggs" is slightly different and actually means "please check that none of the fresh farm eggs are cracked." This wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't the third person Barry had attacked after a Code Egg, meaning he now faced disciplinary charges which could mean a three week stint without a lunch break.

Barry often worried that he would miss a Code Bacon. This was unlikely though as he worked seven days a week except for major holidays, when he worked eight. Most people feared criminals coming to the store, but for Barry Fremp - it was the chance to be who he always knew he was, part security man, part private investigator, part spy, mostly the guy who refills the milk on the thing. The opportunity to be great was sure to be soon. Little did Barry know that opportunity would arise in the next paragraph.

"Code Bacon!" yelled the man at the front desk. Unfortunately the speaker system was broken and all that could be heard was the yell of "bacon!". This caused a stampede to the reduced isle where sixty four customers expected bacon slices at half price. As they fixed the system the yell again came for "Code Bacon!!!" - a moment Barry Fremp had waited a long time for. This was his chance to prove his place in the world - and to prove to Anna Kantino that he was a man with power. And if he couldn't convince her of that, it was at least possible that she would find out his name.

Harry Hibswald was known to locals as one of the most prolific and clever shoplifters of all time. He was still prolific, yes. But clever? It wasn't 1937 anymore, and Hibswald, now 91, knew it. His masterful plan was indeed one of the great plans of our time. The plan was to use a plastic bag to hide the alcohol he was taking. Sadly, he forgot to take the bag and he forgot to take the alcohol. In fact he would have been running from the building unknowingly innocent if it wasn't for the multi-coloured condoms he had accidentally stolen from isle five, when he casually put them in his pocket as a way of convincing another shopper, Mavis Pestrouse, that he 'still had it going on.'

PART 2 Coming Soon.

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Thursday 28 January 2010


If you're like me, you just want to get on with the work. When you finish a script or a short film or a story or a painting or whatever it is you do -- you feel good, the work is done, and nine people loved it. But that doesn't build a career. So you have to be able to whore yourself out. If you're an actor, it's easy-- you just sit in a cafe and talk really loudly, "YEAH SO I HAD A CALL BACK, AND I WAS LIKE, NO FUCKING WAY, I JUST WORKED WITH HANKS. SO, YEAH- I'M DOING SOME MODELLING AND THEN I'M DOING THAT THING WITH DE NIRO. YEAH. YEAH. OH YEAH, I LOVE ACTING. IT REALLY FULFILLS ME. I AM FULFILLED. I AM AN ACTOR. I AM AN ACTOR THAT IS WHY I TALK SO LOUD IN CAFES."

Note: After writing this article, but before posting it, I went to a restaurant with two friends. There was a birthday on a table near us. A waitress came out with a cake, and was really loud and obnoxious - and I said to my friends jokingly, "Another failed actress." And then later on, our friend who works there introduced us to her. And she's an 'actress'. Found it amusing.

But if you're not an actor, the self-promotion can be tough. And of course, there is the fear that nobody really gives a shit what you're doing anyway. And to a point that's true. Nobody cares. But you need to get out there. And it's easier than you think. If you are an upcoming writer/actor/producer/director, etc -- you can write to your local newspaper right now. They have no news-- the pages need filling. Yeah, old ladies are getting their shopping stolen, big deal. It's the same every week.

I have written to my local papers many times. I tell them that the local area inspires me, I tell them how I shot in the area because of the wealth of talent in the community. I tell them that their newspaper was the reason I took up filmmaking. I tell them that their newspaper was the reason I took up a newspaper delivery job when I was fourteen. Whatever, who cares-- the bottom line is, the old lady gets a week out of the newspapers and everyone gets told the story of the local Spielberg.

Likewise, if I'm on holiday in Greece, I pick up a local newspaper, ask some local "Editor? Email? You see?". And then I email and tell him I took up filmmaking because of Greek cinema and because the area inspired me to write a screenplay and that I learned acting by studying the locals. And sure enough, some little old greek lady will get a week out of being in the news and instead; a few thousand people in Greece will learn about you.

You may think you're lying. But you're not. You're just playing the game. Just like when the director on the DVD says "Ashton is such a talented actor, we were really lucky," or when Nicolas Cage says "I fell in love with the script" every time he gets cast in something. The point of this is, it's really easy.

Are you a Norwegian Actor working in London? Write to the editor and tell him what it's like for a Norwegian actor carving out a name in London. Are you a Colombian DOP struggling to get a job in New York? Write to a NY paper and tell them how you're bringing the beauty of Colombian filmmaking to America. Are you sixty years old and struggling to get work? Write to your local paper and tell them "At 60 I have decided to follow my dream." Whatever it is - do it! Create the very thing you wish to be and make it a reality. When they print it, it's real.

Tarantino wrote his own press pack for 'Reservoir Dogs' - heralding himself as the greatest director of all time. All the lazy hacks wrote exactly what he fed them.

When I first started doing this - I used to write to people and say "I am trying to make it in the industry, my films are okay and I'm doing alright and I'd like your support." They'd write about me, but they'd make me sound a bit pathetic- it was like, "Awww, The Kid has a dream, aww sweet. Here's a picture of him with an old lady called Ethel." But then I started getting more clever, and confident. I'd write "Whilst my friends are laying on the beaches of Ibiza and drinking in the bars - I am penning a feature film inspired by the beautiful sands and the rich, complex characters that permeate the coast." They'd print exactly that, and everyone would think I knew what the hell I was doing.

These things are massive confidence boosters. It's almost like writing down a dream list of aspirations and getting some crazy person to print them. The weird part is - they make things come true. When someone prints that you're a talented Director or Nottingham's greatest on set gun control expert, it makes you become one.

So, if you're doing anything creative - tell your local newspaper about it. Tell your favourite bloggers about it. If you write to me and say "Kid, I love your blog! I have made this inspiring two minute short film - could you share it with your readers?" -- I might share it. I might not, because I'm jealous that you're more talented than me -- but I might. And then, a few hundred people would see it. But it won't happen if you don't ask. That's how it is with the writers of 'The West Part Of East Nowhere Gazette' -- they won't randomly write about you. But if you ask, they might. And when they do, maybe it's near to where Danny Boyle lives, or maybe a copy will be left in the gym where your favourite actor goes to work out. Maybe they'll read about you. Maybe they'll google you. Maybe they'll see your talent. Maybe a ninety year old woman will ask you out on a date. I don't know, but you may as well try it, even if you do it right now in nineteen seconds just by emailing your local rag. Worth a shot right? What do you have to lose? Nothing. What do you have to gain? Everything.

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A Brief Detour From Cheerful Positivity To Deliver This Public Service Announcement

When you do this.....

I will smash you up.


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Wednesday 27 January 2010

The West Wing Is the Greatest Show Of All Time

Many years ago - my Uncle said to me, "You must watch The West Wing," and I thought yeah right, whatever. No-one tells me what to watch. But he was persistent and he lent me the first season. And I began watching it. My life changed.

My brother started watching it. His life changed. One by one, we'd pass on this wisdom to people we knew, sometimes even strangers.

You must watch The West Wing.

But I'm just trying to buy some groceries?

Go home. Watch The West Wing.

The West Wing became everything. These days; I care about the world, I have an interest in American politics, I have some knowledge on important issues, I know how to write good dialogue. This all came exclusively from The West Wing. This show is, without doubt - the most perfect thing in the history of television.

The dialogue and humor are beyond anything I've ever known. It fills all these gaps that even Chaplin, Woody Allen and episodes of Frasier can't do. What's amazing is how it was done within the confines of quite serious drama. When Arrested Development was hilarious, it was to be expected - after all-- it was a wacky comedy. But this show was about POTUS (President Of The United States) and his staff.

What made the show immediately gripping is how it didn't portray these mightily important people as anything other than human, just like us mere mortals. Here is a great example - when Will Bailey (Joshua Malina) meets The POTUS (Martin Sheen - in his defining role)

We can imagine that being any one of us -- when having to meet The President.

The West Wing was around at an important time. It reminded us that America still has ideals and a beating heart at a time when the real administration was meddling with the Middle East and letting its most historic, beautiful town get lost in a sea of flood-water. It gave people hope, it made people dream. The characters in The West Wing were everything we want in politicians, in humans, in our friends--- they were good people trying to be great.

The power of the show cannot be better demonstrated than in this now legendary scene where the President challenges a radio presenter on her views of religion and homosexuality. Bartlet spoke in the way we all wish we had the knowledge, eloquence and imagination to do.

More than anything, I'm a comedy guy. And The West Wing filled that need in ways I never expected. Sorkin's rapid fire dialogue is more like dancing, than talking - and within the rapid paced talking there was always more wit and intelligence than you could find anywhere else on TV, or even film for that matter.

Here's the President Of The United States getting obsessed at Thanksgiving with the Butterball Hotline, which gives advice on how to cook a turkey. This scene is hilarious -- especially when the woman asks for his name, and the President realizes he probably shouldn't share his identity. Magic.

I'll finish with one of my favorite moments from a very early West Wing episode. The staff are out in a bar having some fun --- when a group of guys start to pick on the President's daughter, Zoey. An incredible scene -- full of all the things that made The West Wing the greatest thing ever to grace our small screens.

Go rent it/buy it/steal it -- you will not regret it.

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Tuesday 26 January 2010

Cinema Crazy.

I decided at about 3pm today to go and see a movie. I walked for forty minutes to get to the cinema. The movie was 'Brothers.' A film about Brothers, in case that wasn't clear. I bought my ticket from the depressed girl at the counter. I was worried she was depressed because she was in the previous showing of 'Brothers' - but I didn't ask.

I went in and took my seat. Well I didn't take it, I mean - I just sat on it. If I had taken it, I would have needed some tools to remove it, and it's likely I would have missed the movie. I took it in the sense of, y'know, when they say, 'please take your seats.' They rarely mean steal them outright. Or maybe they do but every time they say it people just sit down and wait anxiously, therefore they feel compelled to put on a performance.

After twenty minutes of trailers, bad adverts, and Jamie and Louise pretending they fly with Thomas Cook (a reference for my 3 British followers) -- I was finally ready for the film. I was excited, very excited. The reason? I had the room all to myself. There is no better experience than having the cinema to yourself - the only things that come close for me are a) the first time I saw 'Double Indemnity' on the big screen, and b) The time I walked out of 'Gothika' after twenty minutes. By this point, I had fully accepted that I would have the screen to myself and I demonstrated this by sinking down into my seat and stretching myself out. It was actually very awkward and my knee bashed against the seat in front, but--- I was making a point, about freedom, so I took the pain. I mean, I didn't take the pain - I didn't put it in a bag and take it on holiday, I just mean--- I took it as in put up with it. The way you put up with your Aunt talking about the 1970's.

And then I heard a door slam and two people giggle. Or maybe two doors giggled and one person slammed. Either way, it dawned on me that I wouldn't be alone. This ruined EVERYTHING. I immediately felt aggrieved. I eyed them angrily as they came in. And UGHHH, they were a couple! They'll probably be fucking loudly in the back row. I showed further disdain as they passed me by....... sitting more upright. The subtext of this action was 'oh, you're here, I guess I have to sit up. I fucking hate you. Fuck you." They went and sat in the back row and didn't make another sound throughout the whole film but I still hated them because they ruined my experience.

And then, just before the film began - two little old ladies came in. And they sat in the row behind me. Almost directly behind me, except slightly to the left. And I could just feel them there. Their presence. UGH. I was meant to be on my own and now I had what felt like my Grandmother sitting behind me--- this is not what I wanted! To show my disdain, I immediately sat upright, knowing my reasonable tallness may obstruct their view of Natalie Portman as she is quite small and may only take up the bottom portion of the screen.

The film began. I fidgeted and moaned to myself inside my head and considered taking my seat and throwing it at the depressed girl who may or may not have seen 'Brothers' before. By this point, I had convinced myself the film was terrible because most films in this cinema are.

I just tell you this story in case you ever see me in the cinema. Some of you may think 'oh look, a nice, quiet, polite guy sitting there' or you may think 'He's crazy! Look at the turmoil in his head! I think this was meant to be an empty-cinema-experience-for-him!'

Anyways, 'Brothers' is a great film! Full of subtlety and truth - and real emotion-- it really got to me. The trailer kind of sucks, but the film is really --- meh, I'm not a reviewer. I'll just say, it was great. Portman, Gyllenhall and Spiderman were all great. Go and see it if you get the chance. I will also say, for the record, that the Danish version is better. Although, I've not seen the Danish version. But if I don't pretend I have and talk about its superiority then I will get attacked- much like the way I attacked the old ladies during the end credits.*

*I didn't really attack the old ladies. At least, not during the end credits.

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Hot Girls Like Crap Films. No Exceptions.

The Kid In The Front Row is chatting away to some HOT GIRL, 20's. Things are going great - they agree on most things, probably because The Kid will cave on any topic as the girl is so hot. However, one topic he cannot lie about.

So what movies do you like?

Anything. You?

Many things. I love Billy Wilder movies.

What are they?


Are they black and white?

Most of them.

I think my friend is over there...

So what movies do you like?

The Kid waves his hand in front of the girl's face to get her attention again.

Sorry, I was looking for
someone interesting.

So - what films do you like?


Like what.

Transformers. Transformers 2. Twilight.
Twilight 2. Translight 3.

(someplace else..)
I think I see a friend over there..

Care to share?

Monday 25 January 2010

Stephen King's Wisdom On Writing.

I want to quote two things Stephen King wrote in his book, 'On Writing' - because they are both things I really feel and believe, and I think they're quite important.

"I have spent a good many years since - too many, I think - being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every other writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all."

And this one really moved me because it is so powerful, true and important.

"Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you
makes a lot of difference. They don't have to make speeches.
Just believing is usually enough."

Care to share?

Positive-Thinking-And-Doing Friends Can Have A Major Effect On Your Career In One Day.

I do this thing quite a lot where I say to myself, "YOUR WRITING SUCKS!", "YOUR FILMS SUCK!", "THE WAY YOU JUST WROTE YOUR WRITING SUCKS AND YOUR FILM SUCKS SUCKS! YOU SUCK!." And then I go out into the world and I am responsible for my career.

However, I have friends who think my work is wonderful and that I am extremely talented.

Those friends, by the way, often talk shit about themselves. "I am a CRAP ACTOR!", "I am not ready for a good role!", "I am rusty!", "No agents want me and never will!". But the thing is, these people are usually wonderfully talented.

So it occurred to me a few months ago, that simply, rather than promote ourselves whilst loathing ourselves, get a friend to do it! And all you need to do is have a career day.

Say you have two friends, MIKE and ABBY. Mike is a writer, Abby is an actor. Well, you sit down and brainstorm ideas --- and what will happen is Mike will say "You can get an agent! I will write and print 50 letters for you and research exactly who to send them too!"

Abby will say "your writing is amazing! I am going to get in touch with producers, I am going to get 500 people to visit your website, I am going to organize a script reading in London, My friend's Brother's dog is friends with Kevin Spacey, I will hunt him down...."

This works because, Abby believes in Mike and Mike believes in Abby more than, most of the time, they believe in themselves.

And in the process- something magical happens. With this mutual lovefest/ego-boost, each person gains more confidence in their work and begins to see what they've done from a fresh perspective.

I don't like to sound like one of those preachy, pathetic self-help gurus with a fake tan who tells you how to change your life then sells you a newsletter for $100 a week - but here's what I want you to do, today or tomorrow.

1. Think of a positive-minded friend who is local to you (preferably someone in a creative profession or who wants to be)
2. Agree on a date in the next week to meet.
3. Become each others managers for one week only.
4. Promote the other person, research for them, make phone calls for them.
5. Look back after a week and be amazed by how much you've done.
6. Drink tea.

And then let me know how it goes!!!

Note: If you arrange to have a 'career day' with a friend, and it doesn't happen for weeks and weeks - this person is not for you, find another.

Care to share?

Advice From Charles Chaplin - On Belief, Directing, And Persistence.

Chaplin is one of the few true geniuses of cinema. When I read the things he says about his work, I am always on the lookout for little hints as to what he did to bring out the best in his work. Any thoughts or beliefs he had - I wanted to explore them. Not only has he left a legacy with his films, but also his views on creativity, film directing, and the power of imagination. Here are some of my favourite Charlie Chaplin quotes.

"Persistence is the road to accomplishment."

"I neither believe nor disbelieve in anything. That which can be imagined is as much an approximation to truth as that which can be proved by mathematics. One cannot always approach truth through reason; it confines us to a geometric cast of thought that calls for logic and credibility."

"I believe that faith is a precursor of all our ideas."

"I believe that faith is an extension of the mind. It is the key that negates the impossible. To deny faith is to refute oneself and the spirit that generates all our creative forces."

"Over the years I have discovered that ideas come through an intense desire for them; continually desiring, the mind becomes a watchtower on the look-out for incidents that may excite the imagination - music, a sunset, may give image to an idea."

On Directing:

"Simplicity of approach is always best."

"Photographing through the fireplace from the viewpoint of a piece of coal, or travelling with an actor through a hotel lobby as though escorting him on a bicycle; to me they are facile and obvious."

"When a camera is placed on the floor or moves about the player's nostrils, it is the camera that is giving the performance and not the actor. The camera should not obtrude."

On What We Now Know As High-Concept Event/Disaster Movies:

"The theme of most of these spectacles is Superman. The hero can out-jump, out-climb, out-shoot, out-fight and out-love anyone in the picture. In fact every human problem is solved by these methods - except thinking."

"It requires little imagination or talent in acting or directing. All one needs is ten million dollars, multitudinous crowds, costumes, elaborate sets and scenery."

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Sunday 24 January 2010

Directing With What You've Got - Following The Unfolding Process.

"Will someone shut up that fridge!" shouts the sound guy. "Will someone shut up that sound guy!" says someone else. "Oh no, now the big giant heating system in the building next door is ruining the sound, I can't work with this!" screams the sound man. So everyone starts arguing but everyone is a bit stuck because the sound man is the only person with sound equipment, and he's getting pissed off.

This could all be solved quite simply, with a character saying, "Damnit, what is that horrible noise?" or "how can you sleep with that coming from next door?" or "Oh My God, my ass is making a fridge like sound, do you hear it?" -- Whatever it might be -- more often than not, ESPECIALLY on low-budget productions, what you can do, and really should do - is follow the unfolding process and go with it. Make it a part of your scene, a part of your story.

Late last year I was doing a zero-budget short film on a handheld camera. The sound was awful -- but I allowed for it to be part of the film. In one scene, an actor kept getting distracted by all the sounds in the streets. He also does some directing himself and was very aware that his wonderful acting could have been lost because of the sound of some guy who randomly started drilling opposite us in the middle of the shoot. I solved it on the spot by saying, "don't worry about the sound, I'll take care of that, just focus on what you're doing. And if the sound bothers you, it'd probably bother your character too." With this permission, he went on to really make it a part of the scene. Coincidentally, I cut this scene from the movie but that was not for technical reasons, but because it didn't quite fit in with the final edit.

I have found this method of filmmaking to be essential to working on a low-budget - and more often than not, it's actually very liberating, and most importantly-- it makes scenes more natural. Rather than being ruined by location problems, you make them a part of what is happening. About five years ago I was doing a short film and the day before one of the actors phoned me, very upset, because he'd broken his ankle, so he could no longer do the movie. I asked him if he still wanted to do it, and he did, so I reworked the scenes a little; and his character was able to have a broken ankle. It's more realistic that way, after all - if someone in your real life breaks a leg, you don't drop them from your life; it just means things change a little.

This more flexible and real approach to directing can have remarkable results. With the handheld-camera short I just told you about, I had one scene left to shoot - and it was a couple breaking up. However, I lost an actor the day before, and couldn't get a suitable replacement. In the end, I did a scene with just the actress; and found a way to still tell the same story, of the same break up. Most directors would reschedule- causing problems for everyone. As it turns out, that impromptu reworking of the scene led to it being my favourite scene in the film. It's funny how these things works out.

I'm not suggesting the Directors out there change the way they work overnight. And of course, sometimes scenes do need meticulous planning and every detail is integral to the unfolding story-- however, when problems are often being thrown at you, keep your eyes open, because as much as it is a problem it is also, equally, a chance for opportunity. A chance to use the very moment you are in to your advantage. And if you handle it right, it will show -- because what happens is so natural, and realistic - because you are directing and handling the scene in the way the world seems to be intending at that moment. Most actors I've worked with love this, because it becomes less like acting and more realistic and believable, because they are reacting to things that are really happening in the moment.

I'll end with one more example. Imagine you are unable to get a scene done because of the ole' classic "we're losing light!" -- well, depending on where your story picks up in the next scene, maybe you can do it in the night? 'But we have no lights?' - then do it in pitch black! Imagine how romantic a romance scene would be in pitch black, or how mysterious a mysterious scene would be, or how scary a scary scene -- there are always possibilities.

"NO, It HAS to be daylight! It has to be during the day because the next scene was shot in daylight and it needs to match up!" -- That, of course, happens a lot. So you have two options, a) Reschedule, re-rent equipment, make everyone miss a day from their jobs, etc etc, or b) shoot it with no light.

What do you do? Well, who knows, every film is different. But maybe you could shoot in dark and still have it as day-time. If it is an office scene, maybe the scene takes place in the basement where there are no windows. If it takes place in a field, maybe it's from the Point-Of-View of a character who is keeping his eyes closed. Who knows! Make the problem an opportunity-- and that way, everything will get done and everyone will be happy!

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Friday 22 January 2010

A 2010 Bloggies Nomination, and Dreaming On A Bigger Scale.

I was never totally sure anybody would read this. But here you all are. And it's gotten me thinking and dreaming about the film industry. Let me try and explain without sounding completely insane.

This blog, Kid In The Front Row, has really been about me filling a gap I've found growing in recent years--- the gap of the story. The gap of the character with good intentions. The gap of writers who write through inspiration rather than set guidelines on how to sell a screenplay. I have been wanting, for a long time, a community of people who just want a good story, and who want to be inspired, and who want to write stories from their hearts. And it was then I figured, well I can try and start that myself. And that's what this blog was, and is, it's about finding Jimmy Stewart in the modern era. It's about writing from the heart again.

This blog is one of the five blogs nominated under the 'Best Entertainment Category' -- and of course, this is immensely exciting and unexpected for me - I never knew that people would be so interested in this. Through google followers and networkedblogs, this site has some great, active, readers-- not to mention the people on the film blogs groups and the lurkers who show up on my stats but I have no idea who you are. I'm glad you're here.

And the fact that this little blog where I ramble about Chaplin, and ramble about finding and nurturing creativity, the fact it's been nominated at all --- it gives me belief and hope that, on a wider, bigger scale, this is still what people want. And maybe, just maybe, on a big cinematic scale; maybe the return of Jimmy Stewart is near.

Okay, I don't actually mean the return of Jimmy Stewart. It's unlikely he'd be available and let's face it, he'd be worth a bigger paycheck than anyone else in Hollywood right now. But maybe people are yearning for a bit of heart and soul again. It's a tough one because upcoming writers are taught all these stringent guidelines now on what a film is, and what's marketable. But occasionally; someone ignores that and makes 'Once,' or 'Funny Ha Ha' or even 'Juno' - and it just hits you that, yes, this is what a movie should be about. This is why we love the movies.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm saying. I just know that I get some really wonderful emails from people and that people have gotten a lot from the interviews with professionals and from the inner-critic and writers block articles, and it's good to know that people do care - that they do love a good story and expression, it's not all about films like the one where Megan Fox's boobs flap about and big metal things collide with each other for hours.

Thank you for the nominations, and you can still vote for me for the next day or two to make me a finalist out of the five nominees in the 'Best Entertainment Category' But bare in mind, if you do vote for me and I become a finalist, I will then ditch my love for cinema and instead become a fame-hungry, explosions-and-sex-scenes blogger, with predictable endings. You've been warned......

Care to share?

Thursday 21 January 2010

just give me one thing that i can hold on to.

There's something great about two people connecting on screen. It can be at it's most powerful when it's done without words - or sometimes even more so when it's done through music, in some way.

This moment in 'Into The Wild' is my favourite part of the film, if not any film. Chris McCandless has been on his journey into the wild, full of these ideas and ideals of his place in the world-- and then he meets this girl. And he's passing through, and she's falling for him.. and as it turns out, they're not meant to be together. But for this one minute, as they sing this song -- they have more of a connection than most of us have in a lifetime. And it's moment like this that really leave me in awe at the true power of the cinema.

"Just give me one thing, that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go"
-Written By John Prine

Care to share?

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Are Dreams Like Movies?

My dreams are a lot like movies. Badly written and often with terrible endings. Frustratingly, I am cast in most of them but have yet to receive a paycheck. I often feel like one of those over-worked silent film stars, made to shoot three films a day with actors who are vastly inferior to me.

One of the disappointing things in recent years has been how my imagination has often done remakes of old favourites. One of my best dreams was from 1999, the one where I fly to the shops to kiss Meg Ryan but get stuck in one place, unable to finish the journey. Annoyingly, it was remade in 2008, with me in the lead role again but this time with Hilary Clinton as the woman. This was bad enough, but two nights later I had the same dream again but Hilary was replaced by Albert Frickley, my local priest.

I feel as if maybe the funding for script development was cut in recent years, as my recent dreams have not been up to the standard of the previous classics. For example, last night I dreamt I was just waiting in line for ice cream. It lasted two hours. When I finally got to the front of the line, an elephant asked me why I dress like a cowboy. I told him I don't so he stole my money and made me wear a dress. I felt this was vastly unrealistic but I feel my complaints were not received well as the next night, as if by punishment, I had a dream that lasted for three hours. And it was a musical. And it was in Russian with no subtitles. This wouldn't have been so bad if they had not been out of popcorn.

My dreams are often stressful as, even though I broke up with Kate Nosefall two years ago, she still turns up in my dreams almost nightly. The plus side you may say is that at least these dreams are X-rated; but unfortunately I have no joy in watching my ex-girlfriend in bed with my local Priest.

Are your dreams like movies?

Care to share?

Saturday 16 January 2010

Film Industry Interviews

The good thing about working in film is that anything you want to do - has probably been done by someone else before. And that's why I love interviewing people in the industry. If there's something you want to achieve, there are people you can learn from who've been there and done it.

I try to mix technical questions, like "What camera did you use?" with more personal questions, like "What made you want to do this for a living?" --- and most importantly, I like to try and delve into that mysterious thing that makes some people succeed, and some people not. I think it was most clear in the recent interview with David Schneider. I asked him what people need to make it as a writer; and within a beat of me finishing the question he said "self belief." And it's true - ask someone who is struggling to make it and they'll probably have a tale of a lack of confidence or a feeling of 'not being ready.'

These are the interviews so far - and a lot more are lined up for the coming months. I hope you like them.

Jake Pushinsky
"A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints"

My first interview was one of my favourites - Jake Pushinsky, whose editing style in 'A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints" (my favourite film of the last decade) was original, raw and exciting. He's Dito Montiel's editor - as well as doing some fascinating projects like the Jazz documentary "Chops" and the film "Howl" which is premiering this year at Sundance.

Aaron Sorkin
"A Few Good Men"
"The American President"
"The West Wing" (TV)
"Charlie Wilson's War"

Okay, I don't really know Aaron and it wasn't an interview, as such - but I got to ask him one question, and his answer was pretty amazing.

Noah Timan
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"

Noah is amazing - his knowledge of sound and passion for what he does is incredible, it's no wonder he's one of the most prolific sound guys in the industry.

David Schneider
"All The Queen's Men"
"Uncle Max" (TV)
"28 Days Later"
"I'm Alan Partridge" (TV)
One of my favourite comedic actors from Britain -- and someone with whom I share a lot of the same interests (namely, an obsession over Woody Allen films.) The interview is great because we spoke the same language and had many of the same ideas.

Joe Leonard

"How I Got Lost"

Joe's debut feature film is exactly the type of film I love. A small story with a lot of heart, shot in New York. What could be better than that? I got to meet Joe at the Big Apple Film Festival when 'How I Got Lost' closed the festival - but this interview was done a few months before that. A fascinating insight into what it is to direct a low-budget indie.

Care to share?

Friday 15 January 2010

Reclaiming Life.

I'm gonna slow down on the posting front for a bit. My thirteen year old cousin recently said to me, having seen my DVD's, posters, and lifestyle -- he said, "you're just one big film really, aren't you." That says it all really.

The good thing about being a Director is that, when you complete a film, you have the opportunity to let it do your work for you for a few months. As your film gets accepted at a few festivals - exhibited in various places, and you push it around online, too - things tick over, you appear productive. This, if you're wise, is an opportunity to experience some other things in this wonderful opportunity known as life. If you're dumb, like me, you get straight back to writing and planning your next shoot.

I'm returning to the living, for a while. But I'll be around.

Meanwhile, I'd love to have some guest bloggers - particularly if they have some fun stories about being a Kid In The Front Row, something about the innocent joy of the cinema. So if you write anything, please email me.

Care to share?

Thursday 14 January 2010

Conversation With Myself

I am an idea.

I am your inner-critic. Your idea isn't good enough.

I am a good idea. I'm funny & interesting, I'm a great story.

Hmm, NO. There's no way to make it work.

I am on the page now, look. Page 1, the beginning of me.

This isn't going anywhere. It's leading nowhere. No-one will like it.

Hold on - why do you get a bigger say than me? Why are you taking it so seriously? It's just a screenplay, it's not terminal.

Um, what-- because, it is serious!

You seem to be getting smaller. Why are you taking me so seriously? I'm just a good idea.

Because, uh-- what? No, listen to me - you are not a good idea! I am protecting you from failure! I am protecting you from making a fool of yourself!

I am more likely to be less of a failure if I actually get heard. All my brothers and sisters are laying there dead, most of them are only 9 pages. If they were 120 pages, maybe they wouldn't be such failures.

Okay, just write, but be careful. I'm worried about you.

I'm just an idea, I'm just a screenplay. I'll be fine. You need to stop treating things like they are as important and as terrifying as genocide.

Okay, sorry.

Care to share?