Permanent Pages

Thursday 30 September 2010

It Comes In Threes - Mourning The Loss Of Hollywood Legends

I was in a car last night with my parents and my Brother, when I read about the sad passing of Arthur Penn who directed 'Bonnie & Clyde,' an iconic and important film in the history of cinema. This, of course, coming straight off the back of the unexpected death of film editor Sally Menke.

As I read out the article about Arthur Penn, I said to my family - "I wonder who's next, this always happens in threes."

And then this morning I read that actor Tony Curtis had died, aged 85. The death of Curtis being even more moving for me because he starred in one of my all time favorite films, 'Some Like It Hot,' and was one of the few remaining men from an era I long for.

The natural thing on news websites, blogs and social networks is to mourn the loss of the people who created things we loved - often forgetting that the real loss is for the friends and families of these people. So on the crazy off chance a relative of Sally, Arthur or Tony should ever read this blog - we are all immensely sorry for your loss -- from what we could tell, they were all wonderful people.

But what we know is their art - and for these three individuals, their contributions were immense. 'Bonnie & Clyde' is a landmark in the history of cinema, and has influenced thousands of films since, 'Some Like It Hot' managed something that only about three films in the history of cinema have; it warmed, inspired and excited every generation that came after it, and remains today as the greatest comedy film of all time. And then there's Sally Menke, a name that perhaps is only getting the recognition she deserves after death. Tarantino always knew how important she was, as did Tarantino's die-hard fans -- but now she's getting the praise she no doubt deserves. Tarantino is a once in a generation master -- but now it's become very apparent;underneath all the bloodshed and violence, was a woman steering the ship home, with an editing style that not only helped shape Tarantino's style; it really defined it.

Despite the very very very sad loss of these three amazing people - I feel inspired. Inspired by what a life can be, by what a person can do in the world and what they can leave behind. These are three names that nobody is going to forget.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

We Love You Sally - A Poignant Video About SALLY MENKE

From behind the scenes of Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof,' is this video about Sally Menke. When I first saw this, it was funny and amusing. Upon watching it now, it's strangely relevant and moving.


A 30 Sentence Kid In The Front Row Story, by 28 Authors.

Here's the deal; I'm going to write part 1 and part 30 of a story. Parts 2 through 29 will be written by other bloggers. I'm nominating the wonderful Manda at Memoirs Of A Word Nerd to write part 2, and then she will nominate someone else to write part 3, and so on, until the 29th person links back to me for the end of the story.

So here's the story so far:

1. Jane never expected to visit Belarus, but it was the only possible solution after what had happened.
30. The three of them left as quickly as they could and vowed never to return again, especially if Jane was in town.

Keep an eye out for part 2, over at Memoirs Of A Word Nerd. And expect the full story back here soon!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

No Movie Kid

I'm not really watching any films at the moment. It's not like I don't have the time, I do, but with that time - the things I am doing are not watching movies. I don't even have an interest in going to the cinema.

I think I'm different to most of my film-obsessed friends in this way. I am able to let go of it sometimes. Not just let go, sometimes I'm not interested. I guess I need a break; sometimes when you watch six films when you have a free day, that can't be totally good for you!

What's happening more as I get older (wow, I've started saying 'as I get older.' Don't expect wisdom) is that I don't identify with my interests so much. Sure, I love Charlie Chaplin, but I can not react when somebody says something incorrect about him, I can listen and enjoy that someone thinks 'Mamma Mia' is amazing without needing to rip it to pieces. I am able to have people say "You are not a real film fan if you don't watch movies every day!" They could be wrong, they could be right -- it doesn't really matter. I'm just living and breathing and creating and watching movies and not creating and not watching movies. Definitions like film geek, film fan, film snob, etc, they're just labels right?

Sometimes it's really freeing. I remember when I was younger, and there was a film I hadn't seen -- someone would say, "have you seen Léon?" and if I hadn't, I'd feel like a failure, like I didn't know films, like they'd think less of me if I hadn't. I still sometimes feel that impulse now when someone says "Did you love Inception? Did you? Did you understand it?" - I could feel completely diminished by their superiority. Except, they don't have any superiority. It's just a movie. Maybe you got it. Maybe you didn't. It doesn't matter.

The term 'Kid In The Front Row' was, I figured, just a cool term about being like a kid who loves movies. But the more I grow into the blog, the more I feel like it's about an attitude, a way of approaching films. And it's about doing it on your own terms. About how you really feel. On a simple level, it's about watching 'Mamma Mia' nine times in four days if you want to, it's about watching Jimmy Stewart with a loved one at 2am and feeling the world is fucking fantastic. But it's also about not watching movies. It's about loving movies, not about loving that you love movies, or loving that people think you love movies.

Essentially, movies are just movies. They're things that capture life, and inspire life, but they aren't life. And if they are, they're one minuscule part of it. Right now, I have nothing to say about movies and I'm loving every second of it.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Taking It ONE Failure At A Time

Most of the time, working in film is rejection. You didn't get the role, they didn't accept the script, the pretty production assistant doesn't want your number. The thing to remember is that each one is its own unique, individual experience. Okay, when I say it that way, it makes it sound even worse-- but my point is, the fact you didn't get a role in the Adidas commercial last month has nothing to do with the short film you didn't get a role in this week. But we tend to add them up in our heads until we feel like one big, giant failure. And it shows.

When you apply for a role today, or send your script somewhere, or whatever it is you do - remember, this is a brand new experience, with a brand new bunch of humans behind the project whose only wish is to work with amazing people. Don't try to be impressive, don't try to shapeshift into what they need, be yourself and believe in yourself. This is a new experience, and you are perfect for it.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Actor Director Friendships - DO YOU HAVE A ROLE FOR ME?

I have friends who are actors. I have actors who I've used in numerous short films. These actors, naturally, not only want to be my friend but also want to be in my films.

And that's fine, it's a privilege to have friends who like my work and think it could help their career in some way. But sometimes, I come across an attitude of expectancy, or even that they've 'earned the right' to an acting role, and it's most bizarre to me.

When I made a zero budget short film when I was seventeen, it was an opportunity for me to grow as a filmmaker. It was also an opportunity for a young actor to get a much needed on screen appearance. We both collaborated, we did a job. But sometimes there are actors who think this entitles them to a role in an upcoming film, because they were 'there from the beginning.'

The sad truth is-- directors always have roles for actors, but actors never have roles for directors (unless you're the biggest actor in Hollywood and hand pick your directors). So the emphasis is always on "is there a part for me?" and the burden is always on the director to say yes or no. And no translates often as a personal insult.

Casting is such a delicate and tricky process. Often I am casting for the same 'type' as one of my actor friends. When they see the film, they feel pissed that they didn't get the role. And even feel it's 'because we're friends' that they didn't get the role. Again, there is a certain burden that falls on the director being pushed to have to explain themselves when, really, there needn't be an explanation. A movie is being cast, it's someone's art; and choosing the right person, even between thirty identical-ish actors of a same 'type' is a tough thing. And to privilege a friend, when choosing a role, is a silly thing to do.

I have had friends ask me straight out, "why didn't you cast me in your last two films?" -- it's a weird thing to be asked. Sometimes the answer is "Youre not right for the role," "you're not funny enough," "you're not energetic enough," "I wanted to go with more experience," etc -- but for a friend, it's difficult to answer these questions. But perhaps the question shouldn't be asked at all.

Sometimes I use actors for three films in a row. Sometimes I use someone once, think they're amazing and never use them again. Other actors I think are incredible but I've never had the right role for them. It's just how it is. But sadly, often, an actor friend will take it personally.

Should actors and directors be friends? Definitely. Are actors more likely to get roles if they're friends with a director? Possibly. I like to have actors who feel human and real, and that's easier to get when I know the actor personally. But even so, it's entirely possible there will never ever be a role for the friend. To expect more is, I think, not friendship, but instead; ruthless climbing. Attaching yourself to someone who can provide you with roles. I think this is fine if you state your intentions, "I really want to be in your films and that's why I want to know you," but such honesty is rarely the case.

My last two short film projects, for example, had five actors in total. One is a guy I've used three times. Another was an actress who auditioned for me and never got a role. Another is a close friend with no previous acting experience. The fourth was a guy I found suddenly the day before the shoot who fit an unusual casting description, and the final one was a girl who wowed me in a short film I saw a few months ago. It's a big bag of random, as you can see --- but it's how films get made and cast.

I would love to cast my actor friends all the time but unfortunately: some of them never seem to quite fit my characters, some don't grasp my style of dialogue, some don't perservere enough with their craft, some constantly expect roles that it becomes pressurizing and offputting, some I am very excited about for future projects that I have in mind. The closest of my friends understand this implicitly, and our collaborations are wonderful. In fact two of my closest friends who are actors I am in constant collaboration with-- I film their audition tapes, edit their showreels, they read my scripts and make tea on my sets. Sometimes they pop up on screen in my films but mostly they don't. Luckily, they get it, they understand casting and they understand friendship -- and it makes everything a bright beautiful breeze.

Note: Written at 3am on a phone without a spellchecker. I hope this made sense!

Monday 20 September 2010

Sitting In The Front Row

Sure, it hurts your neck, but that's the price you pay. When you're a Kid In The Front Row, it's just YOU and THE MOVIE. Nothing else matters. There's no dude two rows in front picking his nose. There's no woman in front of you whispering actors names to her Mother. There are no teenagers making out....... it's just YOU, and THE MOVIE.

And yes, I know I know, you have to keep looking left and right and up and down, trying to keep up with what's going on. But again, that's the price you pay. Rather than just watching and viewing like some middle aged film critic, you INTERACT with the beautiful motion picture doing its dance right in front of you. You are a participant. You get as much from it as you put in. And when you're down front -- you get to see the beautiful detail that the cinematographer has slaved over, you get to see the bags under the eyes of the actor who did his fifth night shoot in six days, you get to see all the beauty, ugliness, pain and passion in ways you never had before. You get to be in the movie.

"Shall we sit in the front row?" one friend will inevitably say to the other, before they both laugh and sit in the middle row. The middle row has many pluses, like comfort, and a wide, pretty frame, not to mention the cute girl in row six; but that's not why you go to the movies. You go to the movies to be a part of a motion picture which, if you sit close enough, you become a part of. You get to experience a living and breathing movie unravel before your eyes.

Go be a Kid In The Front Row. It's better than you think. It's better than you remember. You loved it before some boring old friend/lover/relative/film critic made you sit in row eleven. The neck pains are your war-wounds. They're there to remind you that you made the effort. You went where the magic was.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Don't Keep Your Talents At Home!

It's easy to think you're a writer, easy to wait for a directing gig, easy to be an actor who types data for a living. But you have talent --- you've studied things, you've picked up things, you've had amazing life experiences and you have IDEAS and you have DREAMS.

You need to GO OUT INTO THE WORLD with them. I am no good just sitting on Facebook, you are no good just reading blogs. Whether it's putting on a spontaneous play in a parking lot, or reading a screenplay while sitting on a mountain, or practicing directing with a little video recording app on your phone... whatever it is, go out into the world and do it and be it and try it and fail at it and then do it again!

You literally could find a video camera tonight, and then go out into your local town tomorrow and make a short film, or make a documentary, or video some interesting buildings.

The world does this funny thing to us sometimes, where we feel like it doesn't want filmmakers and actors and painters and all the good things, we feel like we don't belong or it's not quite right for us at this moment in time. But it always is! There is always a friend who will help, always 32 views on YouTube when you make something, always a park just down the road ready to have you film there, or sit there and write, or walk around dreaming and concocting.

Go out go out go out and CREATE. FORGET about the 'business,' forget about only doing things that are part of a routine or plan or marketing strategy. Go out into the world and do a documentary about a local hero, or do a drawing of the place you played outside when you were young, or write a script with a friend in the coffee place in town. Decide to live in a world where you get to decide when to be creative, when you get to truly express some part of who you are. Because that stuff is going to have a little piece of magic every single time. You don't need big cameras, you don't need perfect sound equipment, you don't need the newest Mac. Most of all, all you need, is you.

Friday 17 September 2010

How Are You?

I feel I've been a bit out of touch recently, only turning up occasionally to dump out a few articles. Thinking back just a few months - I felt a lot more connected to the community of readers and bloggers here and on the Facebook page.

And I want to get that back.

So please; tell me what's going on with you. What projects are you working on? How is life? I'd prefer for this to be personal and heartfelt rather than a link-to-projects-a-thon; but other than that, I look forward to reading the comments and catching up with you all.

As for me, I am in early pre-production of a feature film I am writing and directing. It's a drama, with some comedy. I am also going through an intense stage of tea drinking, not sure what's brought that on. My mood has been slightly more grumpy and moody than usual; but often with moments of clarity and inspiration. I also made friends with two magnificent German people and two inspiring Belarusians all in the last week.

So, tell me about your life! The comments section can be our online coffee house catch up. (And if you're new here - please introduce yourself..)

Thursday 16 September 2010

It's Time For More Diversity In The Movies

I'm a white guy, and I tend to write movies about white people, who are about my age, who have names like Darren and Amy. And their problems are love and work and not loving work. And that's fine. But the problem is, often - all the other films are like this too.

It's not that I'm in to all this equality stuff in the sense that every film should have every ethnicity and gender and sexual orientation represented in equal measure (although that would be a fascinating experience!) but I am just aware that life is such a rich and complex experience and we all delve into the depths of our differences and culture every single day. Even if you live in an area lacking in diversity, that's still an experience relating to diversity. So there is so much to delve into!

But it's also time to move beyond mere diversity issues and stereotypes. As much as I love a good movie about black and white people hating each other before learning life lessons, and as much as I enjoy that every gay character in the movies has a high pitched voice and funny walk - I really think it's time to move beyond that. And before anyone says "but we have moved beyond that, I have five examples," that's exactly my point! You have five examples. But if I asked for examples of white rich Americans falling in love in New York, your examples would be unlimited. It's time to burst through whatever invisible strange barrier it is that keeps us writing the same shit over and over.

How about a disabled character whose story is about a challenge in life other than his or her disability? How about a character who is gay but that isn't part of their story, just like being straight isn't always the key part of a story? How about more films with women; films where being beautiful isn't a pre-requisite, films where women get cast in roles that aren't sexy or 'playing the guy's role' but are instead, like life - just struggles and events and ideas and emotions and action.

I dream of a world where we aren't able to 'give examples' of diversity in movies or able to make a list of films where disabled people aren't stereotyped, because instead I'd like it to be the norm. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But I am starting to see the bigger picture, and feel inspired by how different we are; we're all different colors, we have different ideas, we're fucked up in different ways, we're the same in many ways, some of our bodies work and some of them don't, some of us are good and some of us are oppressors and some of us haven't got a clue what's going on -- but how exciting! Surely exploring these differences is going to be more rewarding and fascinating and exciting and original than another Ryan Reynolds rom-com or a medium-budget drama with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.

When you approach writing your next project, or begin casting your next movie -- have a think, what could you do differently? Might it be more interesting? Might it be more truthful? Just a thought!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

What Happens When You're Not Quite Talented Enough?

What happens to you if you're not quite talented enough to do what you want to do? Sure, you read books about Tom Hanks, and Frank Capra and Katharine Hepburn -- and you feel inspired. But what happens when you realise you're not like them? What happens if you've spent your whole life believing you're destined to create magic but, even after your best shot, you create something barely passable?

Sure, I know, the success books say keep trying, and you feel inspired by the book about how David Beckham kept staying late in training to hone his talent. But what if your talent only stems so far? What happens to you then? Sure, you could work hard and make a living in some way -- but what happens to your soul when you realize you don't have the talent you always based your life on?

I know I know, you keep trying, you practice, you persevere. Just like Steve Martin did and Angelina Jolie did and whoever else did. But they had the talent. What happens when your talent is two notches below the amount that you need to TRULY inspire people? Do you realize yourself, or do look for clues in the people around you?

Yep, people told Chaplin he didn't know what he was doing, and people told Sylvester Stallone he didn't have any talent. But what if you really don't know what you're doing and really don't have any talent? We've all seen an upcoming actor or a short film at a festival and thought "Jesus, what the hell was that?" -- but what if that is you? And what if it is you every single time? And what if you really aren't the talent you dreamed you were?

Was the teacher who told me I can't write right? Was the girl who said you're in a world of your own the only one who saw reality? Was the friend who said when will you get a real job aware of something I wasn't?

You put yourself on a big pedestal and you dream that you're Al Pacino. And then eventually you reconsider and think, hey; maybe I'm Matt Le Blanc. But then time goes by and it's not that the world doesn't take to you, but that you give it your all and it means nothing, it does nothing, it is nothing. And you're Joe Mabbutt, or Jenny Hendon or Matt Shipp. You've never heard of them, because they never made it. Not through lack of trying but because they just didn't. quite. have. it.

If you knew, for sure, that you weren't the talent you dreamed of - what would you do?

Saturday 4 September 2010

A Film Blog By A Film Blogger - For Blogging's Sake

So I've started out for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there
-Tom Petty

I haven't had much to blog about recently. Or at least, I haven't felt like blogging. This thing has been going constantly for about a year and a half now; and that's been a lot of posts.. so recently, I've been doing other things. I'd rather blog when I have something to say rather than just shit something out regardless, like they do with the Hollywood movies. It's 2.31am on a Sunday morning; and, for today, I thought I'd write a blog for blogging's sake; and see what comes out.

Recent movies:

The Expendables - I loved it! The scene with Willis, Stallone and Swarchenegger was cinema gold! I'm sure this film wasn't particularly great in reality -- and it's not the type of film I usually watch, but it was great to see all these old time action stars on the screen together.

Scott Pilgrim - It was alright. Pretty much just a big geekfest though, for people in their twenties to feel understood. It was very cool and clever cinematically; but I was pretty bored throughout most of it. I know I'm in a minority with this opinion; everyone seems to love it. I liked Michael Cera in it though, he's so good at what he does.

Grown Ups - I enjoyed it! Had lots of warm hearted fun; as all Sandler produced films do. They have a big heart, which is very rare in modern cinema.

Last week I was due to direct a music video. It was all exteriors, and the main theme of the video was summer. It pissed down with heavy rain on both days. We didn't film a shot. This is England. The day before that I was a camera operator on a corporate gig. It was a sports thing, outdoors. We scheduled to shoot for eight hours. We shot for thirty minutes, then it rained.

I signed a deal with a producer this week for a feature film I'm writing and directing. The fun starts now.

Things to ponder:

'THE SUN' newspaper has, for two days, run front page headlines about a footballer and pop-singer who are divorcing. There's a lot going on in the world -- why do we all care about this nonsense?

It's September. Everyone is off to University. Another group of eighteen year olds pressured into going into higher education because 'otherwise you won't get great jobs.' Should we celebrate the fact that they'll average £30,000 of debt by the time they're finished, or that nearly 30% of graduates under twenty-four are currently unemployed? The world is so large, paths so vast-- yet every teenager has it pounded into them that they need to enter into a system that will keep them indebted for most of their adult lives, and will do little to help or improve their career chances. The Government has said recently it wants 75% of young people to be educated to degree level. What for? Why? For what jobs, specifically? For what opportunities? That of course, can't be answered. Right now, unemployment is soaring, businesses are closing - and everything is changing. So what are we educating young people for? Let that be pondered as a bunch of teenagers begin their two lectures a week; for three years; before being £40,000 in debt for a degree they're not interested in.

While we're waiting for a cab I'll give you your lesson for today. Don't listen to what your teachers tell ya, you know. Don't pay attention. Just, just see what they look like and that's how you'll know what life is really gonna be like.
-Woody Allen, in 'Crimes & Misdemeanors'

Facebook - Why the hell are we there? What are we doing? Sure, I can talk to my friend Betsy in America and I can add people from Norway and tell them about my blog. But really; what are we all doing there? Why are we telling people "Bryan Frimp is totally annoyed today!" We go about our days and, every three minutes; log in to tell a bunch of people we hardly know, something that is entirely forgettable almost immediately. What are we doing? Do we even enjoy concerts anymore, or do we just enjoy making statuses about the fact we're attending them?

We're an entire generation of people saying 'maybe' to events, and Facebook chatting to our loved ones who are two doors away, and we are constantly refreshing, alt-tabbing, logging out and in, poking, and clicking. But why, what for? Why are you logging into Facebook; what important message are you expecting? How many great screenplays didn't get written because the writer spent too much time logging in and out of Facebook? What are we doing??? Why are we doing it? What is it doing for our lives?

It's 3.22am.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

The Idea That Floats Out There Somewhere

That little seed of an idea floats its way over to you-- you get a feeling, you get a character, you get a journey, you get a problem. Do you grab at it now? Do you throw it down on paper? Or do you let it grow? If you let it grow will you forget something? If you write it down will you stop the process unfolding naturally in you?

You get this strange sense that this feeling you have, that is shaped by an idea in your head and a beat in your heart; you feel this could be the script you're meant to write. But these ideas disappear so fast-- it's hard to know, are they really there? Do you really know what they mean? Do you know how to write them?

This idea in your head is perfect. It's only about seven seconds long. It's not even a film, or a script; it's not even really an idea - it's just an impulse.. but it's beautifully formed. And the minute you trap it, hold it, or grab it; something gets lost. So what to do with this wonderful idea?

I guess that's the eternal question. How, as writers, do we give them ideas space, and at the same time put them where they belong on the page? It's a lifelong challenge, and we rarely get it right.