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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Intangibles

I write from feeling. For me, it's about capturing a little intangible, a tiny little something that I feel.

Labels like happy, sad, lost, alone, confused, angry; they're useful descriptive terms, but they're not the real deal.

There's a little exuberance I feel when I watch Chaplin, it makes me want to run out in the streets and jump up and down like an excited kid.

Cameron Crowe's films capture the essence of aliveness, what it is to feel possibility.

And I listen to Ryan Adams because he communicates and consoles for those lonely sorrowful pangs that I feel on those sad Sundays when they come along.

That's what I love about art, and it's what drives me to create. My difficulties in writing are never about plot or story, when it flows those things get driven and informed by the intangibles. I'm nothing without the intangibles.

That's why I gotta be vulnerable. Gotta love, gotta get lost, gotta trespass, gotta stand up for things--- because that's where the juice is. The joys of new people, the complexity of human relations, the risks -- whenever it's tricky or traumatic or exuberant, those times I find a pot of gold.

I think everyone has this. When you're coming home from a party, or driving away from the person you loved and left; you feel something different to what is expected -- and it's a feeling, an essence, that has been with you all your life.

That's where the art is at. Its great to have a clever concept or a complex plot, but they're nothing without the juice, the little diamonds you find after years on barren land.

Care to share?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

JACK LEMMON and WALTER MATTHAU - Grumpy, Odd, and Loved.

They were a gift. A present from the Gods; the likes of which we'll never see again. If they made a new film together now I would literally sprint to the cinema to see it. In fact, I'd find out where they're shooting the movie and I'd demand a job. Sure, I'd love to direct them, but I'd be happy to get the coffee, shine their shoes, whatever it takes.

Just to be near them. They make my heart and soul fly and soar --- I just wish I could be there, just for a moment. Don't you think that would be magnificent?


I watched 'Out To Sea' tonight -- it's a film that, with any other actors, would be average at best. But with Jack and Walter, every moment is golden. On their own, they're riveting. Together, they transcend. Watching them together is pure joy -- every single frame.

We are lucky that they did so much work together. Especially in the final years of their careers and lives --- 'Out To Sea', 'Grumpy Old Men', 'Grumpier Old Men', 'The Odd Couple 2' - these films weren't masterpieces in any cinematic sense. The plots aren't groundbreaking. Each film is about two men at war with each other-- usually because of personality clashes, and women.

It never seems right that people die, does it? That they just vanish. With film stars, we're lucky. Because they don't have to be alive to make us laugh, cry and smile. That's the thing when you watch these guys -- they're so real and present, but at the same time you feel that sad pang because you know we don't have them anymore.

By the end, the Lemmon/Matthau thing could easily have been a predictable shtick, but somehow they kept the heart. How? Because that's all they had: HEART. Two beautiful souls that fate decided should get into the the business of acting, and somehow they found their way to each other. The fortune cookie that we were dealt was a fabulous one, and this odd couple went on to entertain us for many years.

I crave videos like this. They're aging and they're going deaf and they're forgetting their lines -- but they're amazing. Hilariously funny and more alive than I think I've ever been.



Their definitive collaboration is seen as 'The Odd Couple' - and I totally respect that, it's one of the all-time great comedies. But for me, I can't get enough of them in the comedies they did together towards the end. They were carefree and fun. They brought a warmth, wisdom and ease to what they did which is rare to see in film. The film's glide along effortlessly because you are in the presence of two truly fantastic people.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are, without question, my favourite on screen duo.

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Ricking Gervais' Huffington Post Article

A must read. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ricky-gervais/ricky-gervais-lifes-too-short_b_931933.html?ir=UK

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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Celebrity Big Brother (UK)

These are all people who need the exposure to survive.

Tara Reid was a great young actress. But she chose being a celebrity over being an actor. Jedward are the product of Simon Cowell and were dropped by Sony after the first single. They got signed by Universal for a while but no-one cares. The record sales are poor and they don't matter. That's why they need to whore out to Big Brother.

Amy Childs got known for an idiotic TV show. After she got known she could have worked on some independent films but instead she posed for lads mags. And she could have got an acting coach but instead she got a boob job. So now she has to keep doing the reality shows because she needs the exposure. She's resigned to a life of gossip mags. But it's not even a life, it's two years, because then no-one cares.

Kerry Katona. Who? Nobody cares. I vaguely recall she was in a girl band. When you're in a band that teens love, you either commit to the music, like Hanson, or you work on producing great material like Beyonce. Kerry did neither, she just turned up on TV and did the celebrity thing.

The show is an embarrassing array of has-beens, parading around like a big orgy of plastic surgery.

No-one needs to be a has-been in this industry. There are ups and downs but if you hold onto yourself as a professional, you can continue to grow. The plastic, the reality shows, they add up to nothing. Sure, we sometimes watch, but it's the same way we slow down to look at car crashes.

There's always a deal being offered somewhere that will ebb away at your credibility, it'll suck away your individuality. I remember when I first saw Tara Reid in 'American Pie', I was in love. The voice was so sexy and she was a beautiful blonde dream. It meant something. But she didn't try to build a career like Michelle Pfeiffer or Kate Winslet, she went the other way.

And these weird celebrities may continue to turn up on reality shows and cooking programs for the next three or four years but it's only because the schedules need filling. After that it will fade because there'll be a new group with fresher fake tans and boob jobs.

If you want a career or longevity, be an artist. Be a worker. It takes longer but it also lasts longer.

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Film Directing: Final Cut Privilege

Every director wants final cut privilege. What this means is: they have control, the final say.

There is no certain way to make sure you have it unless you produce and fund your own work, otherwise, it's a struggle.

If you're a new and upcoming film director, the concern of producers will be that, due to your inexperience, they need to have the rights to the final edit in case you mess up or don't deliver a strong ending.

Paradoxically, the more financially successful you are as a director, the bigger the budget, the more responsibilities you carry. A studio won't want to spend a hundred million dollars and then let the director have complete freedom.

It's not uncommon to see extremely great debut feature films from writer/director's, who then go on to do uninspired big budget studio films. Often, this is because they have lost the freedom, the control. The decisions are made by producers, studio heads and focus group data.

Because who should control a film? Easy for us to say "the director!". But it's the producer who gets sued if the film doesn't get delivered. It's the investors who lose out if the film is unwatchable. Even when you give a great director the final cut, he won't always make 'Annie Hall'. Sometimes you'll get 'Cassandra's Dream'.

That's why the new crop of director's cut their teeth on low-budget short films. They learn the craft and build up a body of work to prove they know what they're doing. It's a producer's job to know what sells but it's a director's job to know what resonates. You just need to decide what kind of project yours is.

If you're directing a small independent film, you need to do everything you can to ensure you have the final cut privileges. It's your attempt at telling a story, it's your vision. No producer or investor could ever know how to nail your vision. You need to hold onto it at all costs and get it in the contract. That's why the festivals and awards and YouTube 'likes' are important, they prove your talent, your understanding, your ability.

You need to build a reputation as an artist. Never go over budget, and confidently stand by your vision, otherwise you'll get eaten. Then again, the truth is that the vast majority of films aren't art, they're product. If that's where you're going, then don't worry about final cut, you'll certainly have an easier time getting hired. But you may never get to make 'Annie Hall'.

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The Dark Knight Rises Exclusive!

I'm excited about the new Batman film. Who isn't? For some reason though, I'd yet to see the teaser trailer.

So a few days ago I went onto YouTube and started the video. It wasn't what I expected; some guy was driving a Volvo and talking about comfort and I realised this was going to be a terrible sequel. Then a button popped up asking me if I wanted to skip, which I did (in the garden), before returning to watch the rest of the video.

The trailer started making more sense after that because the smiley family in the Volvo were gone and instead everything was darker and people looked more grumpy.


It looked magnificent and I was totally excited, even more so when suddenly something at the bottom of the frame popped up offering me business class flights to Dubai. It said "Hurry up! Offer ends soon!" which immediately made me panic, as the video was ending in 19 seconds. Is this an interactive movie?


I snapped into action: I booked business class flights to Dubai. I had to save The Dark Knight.

This is what I love about movies. They're getting so realistic! I packed my bags and readied myself for the flight. I decided to return to YouTube one last time, just to check my mission again. To my surprise, I was given a new directive.


Get groceries delivered to my home? Was The Dark Knight going to deliver my order of chicken breast fillets? To be honest, I don't know, and have been baffled ever since.

Any advice on how to proceed would be warmly welcomed.

Care to share?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Tops

Best films? Personal favourites? I don't know what the criteria is, I just want you to join in. Use the comments section to share your five's, which I'm sure will be different to mine.

Hanks 5

1. Forrest Gump
2. Cast Away
3. Punchline
4. Saving Private Ryan
5. Apollo 13

Spielberg 5

1. Jaws
2. E.T.
3. Jurassic Park
4. Duel
5. Schindler's List

Sandler 5

1. Punch Drunk Love
2. Reign Over Me
3. Happy Gilmore
4. Big Daddy
5. Just Go With It

Your turn.

Care to share?

Friday, 12 August 2011

Later On Won't Work No More

As artists I think we often get offended when people think of us as lightweights who don't do any work. Sure, society sees work as 9-5 and full of stress, but we put the work in too, in other ways, more than people realise.

But then again, sometimes we don't. The task for the day is as simple as "re-write two scenes and email the make-up artist", and somehow instead of doing that we spend the whole day reading news articles and tweeting self-help quotes about productivity.

The crazy thing is that, when I'm in a productive state of mind I knock those scenes and emails out before 8am, and then the productivity flows for the rest of the day. Days can end with half a screenplay written, an article published, two new blog posts, a freelance camera gig secured and in the evening I can read half of an inspiring book.

But most days aren't like that. At least they haven't been recently.

We all get discouraged. 99% of filmmaking is seeing your dreams fall apart. The energy is shrugging it off, getting up and striving forward. But you have to do it yourself.

Hard work is so important. But so often we're not doing hard work so much as we're folding under the strain of complacency and comfort and failure.

But you need an entrepreneurial spirit to succeed. You need goals each day and you need to make sure you knock 'em out the park. And it's a simple thing: I succeed more when I write than don't write, when I return business calls rather than 'like' Donna's new pictures on Facebook.

It's so obvious, I know, but somehow it's so easy to get lost in the lostness, when apathy and the internet and the Xbox rule.

I am acutely aware that life is short, but often I let the days pass by as if I'll live forever. And that won't do. Time is limited, I have work to do, a career to build further.

"Later on won't work no more."
-Tom Petty

Care to share?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Nesvatbov (Matchmaking Mayor)

'Matchmaking Mayor' is a documentary by Czech director Erika Hníková, about a small community in Zemplínske Hámre, Slovakia. Jozef Gajdoš, the village-Mayor, is obsessed, to the point of near psychotic obsession, with the fact that the village is dying out because the residents are not marrying and having children. He takes things into his own hands, by preaching to the residents over the public PA system and by offering generous cash incentives for all couples who marry and have babies.














The plot is crazy, impossible to believe - which is all the more mad because it's completely true. In many ways, the film is wildly hilarious -- yet, underneath the humour and strangeness is a sadness. The characters in the film are alone. As much as the mayor tries to bring them together, the film is punctuated by shots of men and women choosing to not interact with each other. Perhaps the characters are fearful, perhaps they're content -- it's hard to say. The interesting thing is that, behind the fascinating characters and unusual social rituals, there are universal themes and patterns that nearly all of us can relate to.

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Monday, 8 August 2011

The Interrupters

"Violence interrupters have one goal in mind, to save a life."

Weird how things work out. Today I saw the new film from documentary filmmaker Steve James, "The Interrupters". You may remember his incredible documentary 'Hoop Dreams', which is widely regarded as one of the all time great documentaries.

'The Interrupters' is about gangs in Chicago. It's about violence interrupters, mostly former convicts, who go out on the street with the sole aim of stopping lives from being lost. The very brave Steve James put himself into the firing line and went out and documented their work.


I made the plans to see an advance screening earlier in the week, when everything was normal. And then London started burning, and disorder became a sudden and unexpected norm. And suddenly this film took on far more meaning for me than could have been anticipated.

Civil unrest is weird. If we have equilibrium, we always think things are okay. But tension and conflict will always bubble up at some point. This week it did. The young people of London are ruthlessly and disgustingly setting fire to our town. Small businesses are up in flame, historic buildings are burning down, and people's homes are vanishing. It all feels so senseless. It is senseless.

But it has a context. These things aren't random. If they were random, it would be ME looting and rioting. But it's not. You have to begin to ask why --- why those young people? What are their lives like? Steve James says that you can't ignore the socioeconomic context. You can't ignore the cuts. The lack of jobs. Everything has its context. And that doesn't condone a shooting, or a riot, but it does help explain it.

That's why 'The Interrupters' is great. It shows the reality of gangs in Chicago. They're not just gangsters who want to shoot each other up. They're people who get pushed around, who can't get work, who have nowhere to turn. The statistics about poverty in black communities in America is astonishing, and the divide in wealth between blacks and whites is bigger than it's been in 25 years. 'The Interrupters' shows us people trying to get on with their lives. Trying to survive in their own environment. That's why it's so riveting. We can easily find ourselves in the privileged position of being able to ignore these issues, of sweeping them aside -- or perhaps, more commonly, just being unaware. 

This is a film that brings the issues front and centre.

We live in troubled times. 'The Interrupters' reminds us not to judge people until we've seen the full picture. Documentaries like this are important because they show us the truth, what's happening down on the ground, and it's not filtered through the eyes of news organizations with vested interests. 




Additional points: 

1) The key scene is one where, fresh out of jail, a young man returns to the scene of his crime a few years later, to apologise to the family for what he did. 

And I think he expects them to accept his apology, which in the end they do -- but not before they explain to him in detail the effect he has had on their lives, and how it affects them still, every day. 

It's the most powerful scene you'll see all year. Here's this boy who was in his mid-teens and pulled a gun on a family and thought only of himself. And now, years later, he sees it from their point of view. 

Powerful.

2) I asked Steve James if he would ever follow up on 'Hoop Dreams'. I already knew the answer and he confirmed it. That ship has sailed. The boys are leading different lives now. The story is complete. He also mentioned that 'The Interrupters' seems like a bookend to that story. 



3) One of the things that inspired 'The Interrupters' was that both of the families from 'Hoop Dreams' had tragic, senseless, crime-related deaths in the years proceeding the documentary's release. Steve wanted to dig further into that. There were important stories to tell.

4) This is only going to get a limited release theatrically. Try and catch it.

Care to share?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Those Who Do It Do It

Everyone needs encouragement. Everyone needs a push. Everyone goes through dry spells.

But if it's six months later and you're still saying to your friend "Start the script!" or "send me the DVD" then don't bother.

When you add up the pep-talks and Facebook messages you realize you've spent 20 hours encouraging one person who has yet to spend 7 minutes creating their blog or filming their scene or applying for that job.

Those who want to do it do it. I'm doing this stuff every day. Even those do-ers who have stressful office jobs and grumpy kids to feed still find ways to put the hours in.

There are some people I know who I love to pieces, they're genuinely wonderful, fascinating people; but they're not doing the work. They're talking about doing the work and they're talking about starting the project next month or next year-- just like they did last month and last year.

It takes so long to get good. You've gotta be busy failing and getting rejected every single day. Those who sit at home rejecting themselves before anyone else can, they're a drain on your time and energy.

Do the work. And help others who are doing the work. And appreciate that some people are suffering and hurting and struggling, and for a while they can't do the work. Everyone goes through that.

But those who say they'll do the work but never do-- those waiting for the summer to end or the Olympics to start before they work, they're just wasting away.

Everyone has a dream. You're either someone who does it or someone who tweets quotes about doing it but never does. And either way is fine. But if you're creative, you have to focus on the job. It takes so long to get great and we have to put the hours in. Ask anyone who made it and they'll tell you the exact same thing.

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Shared Dreams

Tay left this comment on my post "I'm Thinking Of Starting A Project" and it made my week, so I thought I'd share it.

Dear Kid,

I first came across your blog when I was trying to write something inspiring about our new zero budget, zero expenditure short film. That's when I read "Make your short film on a zero budget". I like your writings. Some days, they serve as an encouragement to keep filming, keep writing and to keep creating. Some days, they are painful reminders for self reflection. Some days, they feel like I have a friend out there who truly understands how I feel. 

My partner and I are currently traveling around world documenting and sharing people's dreams online with the intention "One dream shared, one dream inspired" My personal dream is to be an inspiring story teller and my partner Val's dream is to become an inspiring actress. Your blog has kept our dreams going simply because we resonate with the words that you speak: "Don't make the mistake of thinking your artistic destiny is in anyone's hands but yours. The artist doesn't ask 'how long till you get a real job?'. But if success doesn't come the artist starts hearing the voices in their own heads. Art lasts. Business kills you. Don't get excited by the big lights, just do the work that you love. I feel like we all know true greatness. We just need to trust it."

I would like to say thank you to you for being authentic, for living your dream, for trusting true greatness in all of us, in yourself day after day after day. 

Keep writing.


Here is a link to Tay and Val's project. Check it out.

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Your Personal Story

It's your life. You paint it in all the colours and captions and stories that make it meaningful. Your favourite book sits up on the shelf and only you could ever know what it means to you. When you try and explain it, it loses something. And the other person will never feel the same.

Some movies just connect with you. In you. Through you. They feel like home. They are home. You put in the DVD and disappear into another world, yet somehow it feels like a portal to your own world, to who you really are.

We all have that song. You're in your car and it comes on the radio, or filters through a sound system from a building across the street. And you just feel it. You feel the essence of who you are. It's your song.

The art that you live by defies time and distance. Chaplin is long dead, but he can still reach you. Elton John could be at a party in New York, but a song he recorded thirty-five years ago can reach your headphones when you're walking down a rainswept street on the outskirts of Berlin. There are no limits. We don't even need the record, or the DVD; they live in our heads. Our hearts.

We get lost in fashion. Lost in the latest releases. And people look at you like there's a right and a wrong. But whether you're cool or fashionable doesn't matter when you're alone in a dark room at 4am. All that matters is who you are.


You build your personal story. 

Bricks made of pop songs and heartbreaks and road trips and arguments and death and life and fights and cinema visits and folded pages. Every single moment is a moment to dive in. Watch a movie, dream about a girl who played you a song long ago, read your favourite book again and again and again. Each time, you get closer to who you are and where you came from. And if you dive in enough, you find out where you're going. 

Care to share?