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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Friday, 30 December 2011

Inside Of Me

My favourite films become part of my DNA. It's the same with music. I am more complete because of the art that resonates with me. I have a stronger sense of who I am.

For me, all it takes is a clip of Chaplin going for a leisurely walk, or It's listening to some Ennio Morricone late at night. These simple things remind me of who I am, where I've been, and the journey I'm on.

There are few pleasures as great as revisiting the films you hold dearest. They're like old friends who you've been longing to see. You know everything about them and they know everything about you.

It's hard to say why your favourite films are your favourite films. Out of the thousands you see, some just hit you in a different way. Once they're with you, they stay with you.

I could recommend you films any day of the week, but I could never guess which ones will stick. It's like finding the perfect partner, there are no rules, no pattern, your heart loves what it loves.

Care to share?

Thursday, 29 December 2011

'The Artist's Voice' - FREE Kid In The Front Row E-Book

I have just published my first e-book. It's called 'The Artist's Voice' - and is written as a tool to help you get past your creative blocks and all those little ways we sabotage our work when it comes to doing what we love: creating art.

You can download it at this link. The e-book is FREE to all and I encourage you to share it with as many people as you can. Download it, print it, email it to friends, stick it on your kindle; my only hope for the book is that it gets out there into the world and helps a few people with their creativity.

This is the first e-book I have published through the blog; so I am really interested in your feedback, too. Thanks all! Have a great new year!

Care to share?

Life / Afterlife

Is this really all there is, and then when we die, nothing? Surely there must at least be a disco.

I hope there is a heaven -- my only concern is that it will be an extremely long journey to get there. I can't afford a trip to Australia, let alone the afterlife.

If I do reach heaven, I hear that it's a paradise; filled with love and happiness. However, once there, what if someone at the dinner table doesn't pass the salt, would this not lead to conflict? And if there wasn't any conflict, wouldn't that be even more annoying? I am convinced that heaven will be full of dead people giving questionable glances and contradictory body signals. Worse still, they may not even have salt with meals at all.

Of course, I may end up in hell rather than heaven. What would happen if I killed nine people in a shopping mall and then immediately rugby tackled a terrorist, saving the lives of five thousand people? Would that mean heaven? Hell? Or somewhere in-between, like Wales?

There is also the risk that I won't get into heaven if I don't fully accept God. How can I be believe in a higher power when Rebecca Black got 50 million hits on YouTube?

The Buddhists believe there are several heavens, which means It's much easier to find a good deal on an apartment. Once settled, you also have plenty of places to take a trip, depending on whether they have aircraft in the afterlife.

In most of the major religions, as well as in some of the minor ones, heaven is said to be a place where the negative aspects of Earthly life no longer exist. This of course means that only the positive parts of life make it to heaven. But what could these be? Love, sex and friendships are fraught with negativity and arguments, so what will actually be waiting in store for us when we arrive? The only purely positive thing I can think of, is ice cream. This also makes sense as hell would never stock ice cream, as their fridge-freezers have a tendency to over-heat. This news sadly means that Lactose Intolerant people won't be allowed into heaven, but most people will agree, this is no great loss.

Glad to be of service with my intelligent guide to the afterlife. I'm available for speeches.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Kid In The Front Row Disaster Filmmaking Competition

Writers! Directors! Actors! This is a competition for YOU!

The Kid In The Front Row Disaster Competition


Here's the deal: 

The world is about to end. A poisonous gas has descended over the planet, and everyone is about to die. With this knowledge and realisation, you pick up your video-phone, and capture the final two minutes of your life, and in fact, the last moments of humankind on the planet. 

Maybe you leave a calm message of love. 

Maybe you witness the pandemonium.

Maybe you're in denial of the whole thing. 

Here's the rules: 

All films must be NO LONGER than TWO MINUTES.

All films must take place in ONE SINGLE SHOT ONLY. NO CUTTING. NO EDITING. 

There are no limits on how many characters you have or how you tell your story. It could be one person talking to the camera, or it could be someone documenting events on their phone. Be creative!

Here's your opportunity:

Are you a writer? Write an amazing scene about the last moments on Earth as recorded by a character on their smartphone. Get it made. 

Are you an actor? There's no excuse! Even if you don't know any writers or directors, you can pick up your phone and make a movie!

Are you a director? How would you stage this scene? How can you use a phone and actors to make it compelling? Show us! 

Here's the deadline: 

SATURDAY 14th JANUARY 2012. 

Here's The Outcome:

You upload your video to YouTube. 

You send the link to:


There will be shortlists for awards: 

BEST ACTOR (one award, not separate gender-categories)
BEST DIRECTOR
BEST SCREENPLAY
BEST FILM

Now -- your film may have no script, it may have no actors. Don't worry about it. Your job is to make the best film you can make and send it to me. 

After I have made the shortlists, the final choices will be made by a judge or judges from the film industry, who I will name nearer the date. The previous judge for a KITFR competition was Joe Leonard (Editor on 'Glee', Writer/Director 'How I Got Lost')

Good luck... get writing! get directing! get acting!!

Care to share?

Five Question Interview: "Going The Distance" Screenwriter GEOFF LATULIPPE

A few weeks ago I wrote about the film 'Going The Distance' in my article 'The Moment You Connect'. Teri, over at the Year 31 Blog, sent the post to the film's screenwriter Geoff LaTullippe via his Twitter account. Then Geoff left a lovely comment on my blog. After that, it was Christmas; and Geoff didn't get me a present. I soon forgave him and decided to interview him about 'Going The Distance', to find out a little more about its journey from script to screen. Here is a picture of Geoff dressed as a Banana, followed by the interview. 


How many drafts did you write of 'Going The Distance', and how long did it take in total?

The first draft of the script was written in three days; however, those three days were spread out over a period of about six months.  I was writing the script on spec based on some ideas that I had and the experiences of my good friend (and GTD exec) Dave Neustadter.  At one point I wrote about 30 pages, then stopped; a month or so later I wrote another 30 pages, then stopped.  And then came the writer's strike, and even though I wasn't a WGA member yet, I decided to curb writing until it was over.  In July 2008 I wrote the last 60 pages all in one night.  I sent that to Dave, we did some serious rewriting the next weekend, and then we turned it into New Line that Monday.  It sold that Wednesday.

When we got into actual studio rewrites, I'd say we handed in about 20 drafts overall, though many were for minor tweaks.  And then I tinkered with it at various times the whole way through production.  At one point the director brought in a writing team to do some rewrites as well, though I'm not sure how many drafts they actually did.

Did the script have an easy or difficult journey from script to screen?

Well, let's get this out of the way: there's never been a script written that's had an "easy" journey to the screen.  Especially when you're working on a film for a studio, there are seemingly a billion moving parts that all have to click within a very tiny window, and seeing that process up close and behind the curtain...I can't believe anything ever gets made.  I think it all comes down to luck.  Fucking luck and hard work and a willingness to be a total asshole on occasion to push things through.

Now, that in mind...on a comparative scale of 1-10, 1 being the easiest it's ever been to get a movie made and 10 being the hardest, I'd guess this was about a 3.  We definitely had our arguments and battles and moments where it was like, "Oh yeah, this is falling apart," but we also had a group of people - and I know how cloying this sounds, but trust me - who really believed in the movie and wanted to see it happen.  And I think that's what won out at the end of the day.  We went from script sale to shooting in just a shade under a calendar year.  That's almost unheard of.  I know it'll never happen again to me, and that makes me curl up in a ball and cry in the corner.  It's all uphill from here, goddamnit.

When you were writing, did you really believe someone like Drew Barrymore would be saying your words? And when it finally happened, how was that experience?

Not in a million years.  Even though the project moved pretty quickly, until we got a greenlight (after Drew and Justin had attached to the project) I never thought it would get made at all.  It's just not something that's possible to fathom.  In fact - and I'm not at all joking - it still doesn't seem real.

The first time I saw the movie I thought I was going to have a joy aneurysm. It was cool to see the actors play out the things I'd written, but it was even better to see them ad-lib into things that I might never have thought of.


Since the film came out, up until now, have you had more opportunities come your way?

Absolutely.  Even though the movie bombed, I'm still really proud of it, and for the most part people seem to like it.  So that doesn't hurt.  And I was lucky enough to get a good buzz off the script well before it ever went into production.  I sold another idea just a few weeks after I hired my agent and manager, and the ball just kept rolling from there.  I've lucked into so many great opportunities that it spins my head, and even the ones that didn't quite pan out can lead to something on down the road.  The goal now is just to try to keep doing the best work I can possibly do and make myself indispensable so this can be my job for the long haul.

'Going The Distance' had a big beating heart all the way through it, a quality which is so often marginalized by American films, or simplified into cheesiness, how did this film manage to escape that?

First of all, thanks.  That's one thing I never get tired of hearing and the thing about the film that I'm most proud of.

One of the things that Dave and I were dead-set on from the start was wanting to make this real.  The joke he makes now is that, "People pay you to write like we talk."  Which is 100% true.  My theory is that even if someone doesn't live a life similar to yours, they at least know someone like you.  And when you're watching an observational comedy, THAT'S what you want to see - the experience you want to have is one of parallel.  You want to be watching that movie saying, "YES! That's EXACTLY what it's like for me," or, "Oh HELL yes, I know THAT guy!"

The trick to achieving this is balance, and the key to that for me is hitting a chord of universality without being broad.  I think "heart"comes from a combination of shared experience and someone being able to say something that you weren't ever quite able to put words to.  And that's my job as a writer - expressing the things the audience wants to express but, for one reason or another, can't or hasn't been able to yet. It's almost like putting someone in front of a dirty mirror; I'm the guy that wipes off the grime.

And the only way I know how to do that is from personal experience.  I take the things that have happened to me in my life and either use them exactly or borrow wholesale.  Everyone's had that experience of walking away from an argument or a fight or a long conversation or whatever and later thinking to themselves, "OH JESUS CHRIST I SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT."  The greatest thing about being a writer is that I get to say "THAT" the first time.  But you never want to go too far with that - a movie has to imitate life, but not seem exactly like real life and not seem like a movie.  It's a tightrope walk.  And when you fake it it generally sucks.  So I try to fake it as little as possible.  It seems to have worked so far.

Care to share?

2012: Enjoy The Journey

We always focus on the goals. Our giant ambitions. The problem is, anything less than complete success and we feel like failures.

But you're a success every time you wake up in the morning and declare yourself an artist.

Too many people I know, myself included, get locked into self-judgement, angry about the things we haven't accomplished yet and how we're not achieving everything we want. Instead of enjoying the creative people we meet and fascinating places we visit, we focus on what we've achieved or not achieved.

Too many artists are unhappy. I know the stereotype, I know the cliche, but it doesn't have to be. It's a journey. We create things and sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. The important thing is the journey we're on.



In the past I have preached ambition and dedication and work ethic. But here's the thing, they're not everything. You have to live life too. Your art will be better for it. Earn your artistic indulgences. Art is best when it has relevance in the world. You need to participate in it. If you spend too long dismissing the mainstream and hiding in your room, you'll miss out on what matters to your audience. 

Society has a set idea of success. Are you rich? Are you famous? Do I know your work? This is jarring to the true artist, because deep down your body dances to a different rhythm. An artist asks: am I enjoying this? Does it feel like me? Am I passionate? Without those, you'll be in mental chaos. We forget this, and begin judging our work the way everyone else does, which can only lead to unhappiness -- because they're the wrong questions. 

Get closer to what and who you love, and dive into the journey. Find souls who are like you. Find collaborators who you want to be around for the rest of your life.

Don't limit yourself with ambitions. Of course, It's good to have direction, but you gotta stay open to the different waves the universe sends.

Every artistic experience, whether big or small, is valid. When you're pissed off because you're working on a short film rather than winning Oscars, you're disrespecting the people you're working with, and you're limiting your chance to grow and be a better artist. Scrap that and enjoy whatever it is you're involved in right now. 

I've had a blast this year, and I'm only now realising it, after months of depressively dissecting the projects that didn't quite go right. There is always another project, another chance, another journey. It's important to remember that it isn't life and death, it's just art. And art is like the wind, it blows in different directions and sometimes it'll carry you and sometimes it will be a force against you. As long as you get out there and be a part of the journey, you're going to have a great time and you'll create work that will resonate with a lot of people. 

Just don't put pressure on yourself. You know what you want and you know how to do it. Beating yourself over the head every time you wake up is not going to help. 

Relax. 

Remember how much you love the movies. 

And calmly get to work. 

Care to share?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve At The Video Store!

I used to rush down there as early as possible for the Christmas Eve deal. It was 4 discs for £5, and you could keep them for 3 nights. The big titles would go first. And then the Christmas classics were gone. You'd scramble around for the perfect films to fit your mood. 

The place was rammed. The best part was the conversations, the banter. It was the place to be. 

They knew me from when I was a kid, so I got preferential treatment. They'd keep videos behind for me, let me take extra ones. It was about community back when things were about community. That was always  why people loved the video store. You could get away from your parents or your wife or your kids and go into a place where what mattered was THE MOVIES.

And it was right at the end of your road. Seems crazy now; to think that you could just walk down the street and then spend two hours talking to someone about Al Pacino or Jack Lemmon or Jean-Luc Godard. 

I was desperate for a job there. I begged and begged. 

And then one day it happened. 

Tuesday nights were my domain. And this was after video stores were dead. My nights were the only profitable ones. Not by a big margin, but enough. I recommended the right blockbusters to the blockbuster crowd and the best alternative films to those who were looking to see something unique. But it was dying and gone and by this time we were all looking towards the internet, DVD rentals and everything else. 

People think it's all about technology but it isn't, it's about people. Sure, the Kindle will take over everything but there's nothing magical about passing books electronically through the generations. It's the actual physical books that hold magic. The video store was about the community. That's why our store lived as long as it did, people went there to connect, to speak to someone who valued the cinema over whatever junk was on TV. No-one got kicked out, no-one was forced to buy. We were genuinely happy just to chat. 

I guess that's why the video stores died. They refused to change. Very rarely did you find a business savvy independent video store, they were too invested in the people. Video stores were the coffee houses of the 80's and 90's. The difference being the drinks were films, not coffee beans; and the staff actually remembered your name. 

I wasn't working on Christmas eve; but I went down there and did it for free anyway. And even though the business model was dead, its future gone; we rocked it on Christmas eve. Everyone in town and further out knew about it. 

Sometimes, for the briefest of moments, you're able to convince yourself that magic can live forever. But it can't. You gotta hold onto it when it happens because before long everyone has changed and the thing you love about it is gone. The video store is something that our children will never know about. There'll be new ways of experiencing things, but even those will change. I was just getting used to the thrill of discs dropping onto my doormat, and now they want me to stream everything. Technically things are improving, but I miss the people. Sometimes we'd stand there for three hours, amongst the DVDs, drinking tea and talking about life and movies and whatever else. 

And now it's a Chinese takeaway place. 

That thing we loved is gone and exists only in our memories. 

Care to share?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

DIRECTING ACTORS: Multiple Takes

Sometimes you don't need to give any feedback, the actor will get it right the second time around.

When you do too many takes, everyone loses their energy. It's good to remind your actors what their character's intentions are.

Be prepared to insist on a certain bit of dialogue when an actor wants to change it. Also be prepared to disregard the script and let the actors be free. Both ways are right, just at different times.

Be direct in what you want.

Give compliments.

Don't give too many compliments.

When you've got it, get the actors to do one 'for fun'. This is usually the best take.

Don't allow actors to worry about sound issues or lighting, It's not their job.

Often, all an actor needs is a little tiny insight about their character. It's probably something tiny and obvious that you assume they already know.

Take a short break.

Don't indulge too much in goofing around laughing. Jim Carrey is funny in outtakes, the actors in your film aren't. There's work to do.

Keep a close eye on how awake the actors are. Even the best ones dip in and out of the moment, like a footballer who disappears halfway through a game.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Movie Star Girl - Chapter Four

Nicola filmed with Spielberg and got famous. Jason and his wife separated and his friendship with Nicola turned into something more. Tommy stayed in New York, finishing the movie. That’s how it went for a while. Tommy began dating some big-breasted French girl who was all excited about meeting a film director, but he soon dumped her because he could never remember her name.

Tommy liked things the way they were. He missed Nicola, but he knew it was impossible. She was a beautiful movie star girl, and he was a small independent film director in New York. They were in different worlds now. He didn’t begrudge Jason either. He understood it. They were friends, they were staying together in L.A, and things developed. That’s just the way it goes. He’d learned to deal with it and handle it, just as long as they stayed in L.A.

But the Premiere of "Two People Lost" was in New York at the Angelika. Jason couldn’t make it, because he was filming with Polanski in Europe. Nicola was scheduled to be working with Jason Reitman, but had managed to find space in the schedule to make the trip down. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to be there; things hadn’t been left on great terms with Tommy. But she wanted to support the film – it meant the world to her and she got her big-break because of it.

Tommy’s phone rang four hours before the Premiere. It was Nicola. “What are your plans tonight?”
“I’m going to a Premiere,” said Tommy.
“I know that. What are you doing before?”
“Getting ready for the Premiere.”
“Let’s meet up. We should talk.”
“Okay.”
“Meet me at six, outside the place on Mulberry Street.”


They met up outside the place on Mulberry Street and went to the tiny Italian restaurant. Nicola took off her coat, which revealed her dress and the fact that she was, at that moment, quite possibly the most beautiful woman in the world. Tommy mentioned this fact, which made her smile. It was a strange kind of smile, because she realized she could never figure out what Tommy meant by anything he said. And now, with all that had happened, she couldn’t figure out how she felt about him. “I just wanted to meet up, because things got so weird between us and I wanted to make sure that we’re still friends.”
“What’s this Spielberg guy like?” asked Tommy.
“He’s okay. I had to keep telling him how to take the lens cap off the camera.”
“Yeah I’ve heard that about him.”
“So – are we okay?”
“Yeah. I mean, you’re okay with me – you never did anything wrong. I just liked you and got jealous of Jason.”
“You liked me?”
The question confused him. “Well, obviously.”
“I never knew that.”
“I liked you like crazy.”
“You ignored me for the whole shoot.”
“I was trying my best to kill it.”
“Why?”
“I like seeing my fears come true.”
“What do you mean?”
“I had this big fear that you would end up with Jason Hurl; and if we had got together, I’d have spent the rest of our relationship worrying that you’d get with him. So instead, I figured I’d just worry about you getting with him.”
“..And then I got with him.”
“Precisely.”
“It’s not like it was destined to happen.”
“It was destined to happen. He’s Jason Hurl, look at the guy; and you were in a movie with him and you moved in with him.”
“You could have just kissed me.”
“I did.”
“And then what happened?”
“You announced you were moving to L.A. with Jason Hurl.”
“As friends!”
“But you got with him!”
“Because I didn’t get with you.”
“Why not?”
“Because I didn’t think you liked me.”
“This is like high school.”
“Tommo.”
“What?”
“I just realized something.”
“What?”
“It’s important.”
“What is it?”
“The Premiere starts in fourteen minutes.”
Tommy looked at his watch. Shit. He looked up at Nicola and her beautiful dress. “Nicola,” said Tommy.
“What?” said Nicola.
“You have Bolognese sauce on your dress.”
Nicola looked down at her dress. Shit. “I can’t go to my first premiere dressed in Bolognese sauce."
“You don’t have a choice,” said Tommy.

They burst out into the New York City night and planned on sprinting to the Angelika until they realized Nicola’s heels were not made for running. “Let’s get a cab,” said Nicola.
“It’s one street away, we can walk.”
“Mulberry Street is a long street.”
“We’re right near West Houston & Lafayette.”
“I don’t think you know New York very well,” said Nicola.
“I don’t think we have time to be talking,” said Tommy.

They walked and walked, thinking they were about to hit East Houston Street but instead they hit Spring Street. “Yeah, this isn’t where I thought we were,” said Tommy.
“You have no idea how to treat a Hollywood movie star do you,” said Nicola.
“I’m sorry, we should have got Jason’s limo,” said Tommy.
Nicola smiled, and took a step closer to Tommy. “I don’t want a limo,” she said, “I just want a cupcake.”
Tommy looked into her eyes. He played the cupcake line back in his head. “I just want a cupcake.” That sounds like a romantic line, he thought. Could it be? How would he know? How did any human being in the history of the world ever know if a line was romantic or not?
“I’ll get you a cupcake,” he said.
“I don’t want an actual cupcake,” she replied.
Tommy’s soul sunk. He didn’t understand this girl. “You said you want a cupcake, so what am I meant to think it means if you don’t actually want a cupcake?”
“I don’t want a cupcake right now. What I’m saying is, I want cupcakes. I want to be running around New York, chasing after cupcakes. That’s our thing.”
“What’s our thing?”
“You really need to get a clue before old age creeps up on you,” said Nicola.
“We’re missing the Premiere,” said Tommy.
“Don’t worry. The only thing worth seeing is happening right here on Mulberry Street,” said Nicola, as she wrapped her arms around Tommy and kissed him under the New York City skyline.


The End

Care to share?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Aunt

I only really started making films just before you left us. You were always so supportive. Always saw who I was. You were a dreamer but you were realistic. You were a listener. You were a traveller. You showed that life could be something else.

You watched my first film when you were already near gone. I think I forced it on you, I wanted you to see it. Wanted you to know who I was.

Of course, you already knew. Funny how those who leave earliest leave the longest lasting footprints. Every thing I create that has an impact on anyone has a direct link back to you.

I remember you loved 'The Green Mile', but preferred the book.  It's great that I remember that because I hardly remember anything. Specifics fade, feelings linger.

You're the only person I knew who didn't need an explanation. You could just look at a Spielberg picture in my room and know my path.

I don't believe in heaven and fairytales, I'm sorry. But I feel you here when I choose the right word, when I nail a scene, when I write something like this. That's what you left me, an essence, a feeling that says "This is who you are." Who I am is the kid in the room who felt accepted merely by a glance or a word or a smile from you.

I miss you but you're here.

Care to share?

Movie Star Girl - Chapter Three

The picture first appeared in the New York Post. And then it was all over the internet. ‘JASON HURL & HIS NEW LOVER’. It was an image of Jason, with his hand on Nicola’s arm, in a Chinese restaurant.
This was not what Tommy wanted to wake-up to on the first day of principle photography.

They arrived on set and the awkward atmosphere was palpable. Nicola didn’t look at anyone. Jason was two hours late. His excuse was valid, his wife was going crazy; screaming down the phone and threatening divorce.

Tommy focused on the work. They had twelve different set-ups to ply through. He had three focus points – the camera monitor, the coffee, and the director of photography. He didn’t communicate much with the actors. He got away with it because the scenes were all in the shopping mall and had been rehearsed twenty times over.

“I’m not his new lover,” explained Nicola as they stopped for lunch.
“It’s really none of my business,” said Tommy.
“Well, you’re shooting the movie, and I figured it was your business.”
“If you were fucking him and telling everyone the movie sucked, it would be my business. But if you’re just fucking him then I really couldn’t give a shit.”
“Right.”
Nicola was stunned. But then again, so was Tommy.

Nicola was angry at herself for believing in Tommy. She’d done this ever since she was fifteen, over-romanticized her connections with men. She’d seen their first night after the audition as a poetic and meaningful experience. But everything since then had pointed to a different truth: his refusal to kiss her, his coldness during rehearsals, his not caring about her personal life during shooting. Her Mother was right: she was a drama Queen who lived in the clouds. Nicola decided that things had to change, and she focused on the work.

The process of directing the movie was a difficult one for Tommy. He was troubled by the fact that his actors were putting in astonishing performances. The screenplay was a great one – but it was the actors who were taking it to a new level. The producers felt it, the crew felt it. Everyone involved could sense something special was happening. Somewhere during the production, and it’s hard to pinpoint where, Nicola became a movie star. The magazines wanted pictures of her, everyone on the internet wanted to sleep with her, and the big casting directors wanted to talk to her. Even though she was relatively unproven, and no-one outside of the production had seen the rushes from “Two People Lost”, she was in demand. She found time for meetings with David Fincher and Brett Ratner on her days off, and had fans waiting for her near the set at the end of each day. She kept her head down and eloquently carried on with her work. It was a skill that Tommy loved and detested. He wanted to find her flaws, her problems, anything to make his feelings for her fall away. His feelings grew stronger.

During the last week of shooting, rumors were floating around that she was about to be offered a role in the new Spielberg movie. Tommy wasn’t surprised – she was the most talented young actress in America and it was only a matter of time before everyone knew it.

For a few days, Tommy had been suffering with a feeling he had not experienced since his teens. It was a roaring pain that coursed through his body, numbing all his energy and hope. It was love. Deep, powerful, horrible… love. He had to tell her how he felt. It didn’t help that the last days of shooting would be taken up with the sex scenes. This made him feel completely sick. He dealt with it and dealt with it and dealt with it until 1am on a Tuesday, when he couldn’t deal with it any longer. He knew what he had to do: get in a car and go to Brooklyn.


He’d seen it in the movies a thousand times. He’d even written a similar scene in “Two People Lost”, the go across town to win the girl scene. He was ready. He rang her buzzer and waited on the steps and felt signs of that New York magic appearing again. “Who is it?” asked Nicola’s voice. “It’s Tommy, I need to speak to you.”
“Come up, I need to speak to you!”
She buzzed him in and he buzzed his way up the stairs.
She opened the door and forced him into a giant hug. “I got the role I got the role!”
“What role?” asked Tommy.
“The Spielberg role!”
Tommy expected himself to be disappointed or jealous, but he wasn’t. He was overjoyed. YES YES YES! NICOLA IN A SPIELBERG MOVIE! They were both caught in an enormous wave of excitement. And then he kissed her. She gave him an are you crazy? look and then immediately kissed him back.
“It begins shooting two days after we wrap,” she added.
“Oh really? Didn’t I tell you we’re extending the shoot by two days?” said Tommy, unable to hide the fact he was joking.
“Well screw you, I choose Spielberg.”
“Who is this Spielberg guy anyway? Has he done anything I’d know?”
“Yeah – one of them is called E.V, or something like that? E.D? T.D?”
“Whatever. Sounds overrated.”
They kissed again. The tension and conflict of recent weeks faded away, it was like they were chasing cupcakes in the Manhattan streets all over again.
“It’s going to be crazy, I feel so unprepared,” said Nicola.
“It’s going to be amazing. You deserve it,” said Tommy.
“Jason said I can crash at his place, which will make the whole thing a bit easier.”
Tommy pressed the rewind button in his brain and listened to her words again, just to make sure she’d said what he thought she said. She did.
“You’re staying with Jason?”
“Yeah.”
“Why would you stay with him?”
“Are you jealous of him or something?”
“I just don’t get why you need to be staying with Jason fucking Hurl.”
“Because he’s a friend, and I don’t know anything about L.A., and it’s free.”
Tommy was aware that this was his own problem, not hers. He tried to think of what to say but every thought and word registered as insane. He decided to leave talking and to leave her apartment.
“Tommy – I kissed you. Not Jason. What’s the problem?”
“My problem is that he’s the biggest movie star in the world and every time you are near him or talk about him it drives me insane.”
“First of all. Biggest movie star in the world? Did you not see “Killer Spider 3?” I mean, c’mon! And secondly, I can’t help but be around him all the time because you put me in a movie with him. And thirdly, get over it.”
“Whatever. I need to go.”

Tommy didn’t sleep that night. He stayed up wondering why he was so ridiculous. It’s something he’d always done – pushed women away. The difference this time was that it really mattered. Nicola was it. It. The one. Yes, she was a beautiful actress, and yes, there would always be people taking pictures of her hanging out with movie stars – but so what? This was the logic that he could see, but not quite believe.

The sex-scenes were no problem. Jason and Nicola were great, and everything was professional. If they were attracted to each other, it didn’t show. You’d think that this would be good news to Tommy, but it wasn’t. Nicola was so near to him, and everything he wanted was a fingertip away yet somehow he couldn’t trust it. He couldn’t quite believe it.

The wrap party was crazy. The sound department got wasted and, ironically, smashed up the nightclub’s sound-system. The make-up girls made out with the camera department and the production assistants made out with the supporting cast members. Jason and Nicola sat in the corner, laughing and chatting, and Tommy stood in the corner talking to the caterers and avoiding everyone else.

Jason and Nicola left together. A cold and heavy rain burst onto the New York City streets and Tommy’s leading actors boarded a plane to sunny L.A.

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Monday, 19 December 2011

Movie Star Girl - Chapter Two

It was 4am, three Tuesday’s after the night they first met. Tommy and Nicola were all snuggled up in her bed watching Frank Capra films. This was a wonderful time for Nicola. Tommy, however, was in some kind of psychotic breakdown. Does this mean anything? Does she like me? What if she does this with lots of men? What the hell is going on? These were the thoughts scrambling through his brain.

Nicola knew something was up. She felt so close to him yet somehow he was miles away, fighting some kind of battle. She wanted to know why he hadn’t kissed her yet. There was a perfect moment for a kiss, just after 2am, but it was missed.

A missed kiss is no big deal for most people, but Tommy was not most people. He took it as a sign that she was definitely going to sleep with Jason Hurl on the first day of rehearsals. He made it worse by asking her a bunch of ridiculous questions. “What do you think of Jason’s acting?”, “How do you feel about working alongside a sex symbol?”, “Will the sex scenes be weird for you?” Nicola was honest; she was looking forward to the scenes. It would be great to work with such an accomplished actor. She wasn’t fazed by the sex scenes, she knew it was part of the job. The main thing for Nicola was that she was head over both her heels in love with Tommy’s writing, and her feelings for him were following a similar pattern. All signs of this were disregarded by Tommy. He was dreading the first day of rehearsals. He could see it already – one of America’s biggest movie stars, and the young and angelic Nicola, together, in each other’s pockets for the next two months. Tommy would have to sit and witness this, and at times, even encourage it.

The producer, Jay, rented a space on Ditmars Blvd in Queens, where Tommy and the cast would hang out for a week getting to know each other while working on the scenes. Tommy had demanded rehearsal time be worked into the budget so that the actors could get to know each other. Now though, he wished there was no rehearsal time and that the actors not get to know each other at all.


Jason arrived in a casual way, and was completely on time, which upset Tommy who was certain he’d stroll in two hours late. Jason was introduced to people in order of how close they were to the door. Nicola was one of the first. “You must be my girlfriend!” joked Jason.
“That’s me,” replied Nicola, as they embraced in a hug.
This was not enough of a reason for Tommy to shut down the production, but it was close. By the time Jason was introduced to his director, Tommy was ready to retire and emigrate.

Jason Hurl was absolutely lovely. A splendid human being. This made Tommy inconsolable. The cast and crew got to know each other and within a matter of hours there were in-jokes circulating and friendships forming. Tommy was sinking further into himself.

Georgia stepped over to Tommy and whispered in his ear that they should begin doing some work. Tommy agreed and spent the next two days rehearsing a meaningless shopping mall scene.

“Tommy, I think the mall scene is good enough now,” said Jay.
“It’s ready when I say it’s ready,” came Tommy’s response.
“We’re only here for a week and you’ve spent two days on Jessica buying vegetables.”
“We’ll move on soon, I promise.”
“The difficult scenes are the sex scenes. You need to work on them, you said so yourself.”

Tommy had made the decision to NOT work on the sex scenes. They’d just figure them out on the day, when there were lots of crew around and everything was impersonal. It would minimalize the intimacy between Jason and Nicola.

The third day of rehearsals began with five hours of focusing on the ladder scene. In this scene, Jason’s character is struggling to get his ladder to stand up properly against a house, and Nicola walks past and says, “I think you need a different ladder.” This is the whole scene. Tommy wasn’t happy with it and demanded they re-work it again and again.

During the break, Jason took Tommy to one side. “I think we should work on the more intimate scenes, because I’m a bit awkward about them and I’d like to get that out of the way before we shoot.”
“I want to improvise those scenes on the day,” said Tommy.
“I really must demand that we spend the next two days rehearsing them,” said Jason.

Tommy was very aware that a big Hollywood movie star had made a demand. If you ignore their demands, you lose them. Tommy knew that the success of his entire film could rest on this decision. “No,” reiterated Tommy.
“Okay, that’s fine,” said Jason.
Tommy was surprised by how well he took it. “I’m glad you understand.”
“I’ll work on it myself with Nicola,” added Jason.
Tommy’s heart sank. Graphic images raced through his mind. He immediately declared to the room that they would work on the sex scenes.

Nicola was concerned about Tommy. Something didn’t seem right with him but she couldn’t figure out what. He’d been really cold to her, and when that happens, it usually means a guy has lost interest. Add that to the fact that he always skipped past kissing opportunities, and she felt she had her answer. Why doesn’t he like me? Nicola thought about it some more and then sunk into a mini-depression. It wasn’t helped by the fact that she now had to work on a sex scene with a famous film star.

Tommy decided to compartmentalize. To be a professional. He had to put his feelings aside and do what was best for the film. The actors had to be comfortable, and intimate, and he knew it. He cleared everyone out apart from Jason and Nicola.
“Can I make a suggestion?” asked Jason.
“Sure,” said Tommy.
“We should just get naked. Get it over with. This is what I did with Scarlet last year, and once we got the awkwardness out of the way, it made everything easier.”
Tommy hated the idea. “If you are both comfortable with it, then do it.”
They did it. Tommy had imagined Nicola naked many times; yet somehow she was even more beautiful than he had dreamed. Tommy fell immediately into a new level of depression. Nicola was feeling extremely exposed, and shy, and looked to Tommy for support.
“Now you’re both naked, woo, you can go and have lots of sex together,” said Tommy. He had no idea what the comment meant, but Nicola felt hurt and Jason looked at him like he was a ridiculous infant.
“I think we should focus on the hugging scene, it’s the most complex,” said Jason. Tommy looked at him and realized that Jason had seized the authority. He had shown himself to be the adult. He looked at them both and realized that he had no idea how to talk to the actors. “Yeah, um, yeah – I was going to say, we should work on that scene, definitely,” said Tommy.

Gradually, Tommy got some authority back, if only because of his passion and understanding of the film. “It’s a key scene – because nobody has touched her in four years because of how fragile she is. So when you finally hug her, you know it, and the audience know it; that something has changed, that she’s let somebody in.”
Nicola smiled. She loved how passionate Tommy was about the story. He had a way of making a tiny independent feature film seem like the most important thing in the history of the world. It was a passion she craved but seldom found in life. She noticed it when she first met him, how he fixed his eyes on her and made her the center of the world. The only thing that made her sad was that his focus on her had shifted. In fact, whenever they had a personal moment, his eyes glazed over and he appeared disinterested.

“Do I move straight from the hug into kissing her?” asked Jason.
“It has to happen naturally,” said Tommy. “The idea is that it’s unavoidable – that their connection has become so strong that a kiss is inevitable.”
“So I should wait till it feels right?”
“There needs to be eye contact. You need to look at her and feel it.”
Tommy couldn’t believe what he was saying. Only a film director would do something as demented as purposefully making the woman he’s interested in fall for someone else right in front of his own eyes.

Jason and Nicola kissed. It was electric. Tommy could see the movie coming together in front of him. Not only did Jason look like a movie star, but so did Nicola. This would launch her into the A-list and he knew it. He was happy for her, and deeply unhappy for himself. The kiss ended after what seemed like an hour, and something had changed. Jason and Nicola had connected. How could they not? “I think that’s enough for today,” said Tommy. Everyone agreed.

They stepped out into the cold breeze and everyone was ready to go home. Tommy could hear the actors behind him, chatting casually. “So your Mom is from Pennsylvania?” asked Jason.
“Yeah, well, she grew up there,” said Nicola.
They were sharing family history, finding things in common. Tommy wanted to ask her out to dinner, which they’d casually talked about doing earlier but no definite plans had been made.
“Do you want to grab some food?” asked someone, and it wasn’t Tommy. It was Jason, talking to Nicola.
Nicola looked at Tommy. “Oh, well, maybe, I dunno, I think me and Tommy were going to—Tommo, you still want to get some food?”
Tommy turned to face them. If he said yes, they’d be eating as a threesome. If he said no, he’d be setting them off together. He hated both ideas.
“You guys go, I need to get some sleep.”

Nicola was disappointed. Tommy jumped on the subway and the actors went in search of food.

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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Movie Star Girl - Chapter One

It felt like the beginning of something. They sat in a tiny restaurant on Mulberry Street and Tommy hid the Bolognese sauce stain on his shirt. Nicola knew about the stain but she could also see how desperately he was trying to hide it. Weeks later, they’d joke about it, but on this night it was important business.

When they think of their first meeting, they think of Mulberry Street, but they actually met two hours before, in a run-down office just off Canal Street. Nicola was late and Tommy was pissed about it. Everyone was pissed about it. They’d seen fifteen actresses already and they had no time for a late one.

But then she walked in.

Tommy fell immediately in love and wanted to cast her. He knew it wasn’t professional, but love isn’t about being professional. Luckily, she had talent. It was more than just acting skills, she exuded something. An essence. She was like a Van Morrison song – soft yet surprising; with an unexplainable magic. She dived into the role of Jessica, and the whole room was captured, including Georgia, who usually hated everyone by default. Tommy knew they had to cast her. He was a unique filmmaker, and his debut feature was almost certain to impress. When it came to the female lead, he wanted someone with a simple, elegant beauty and a good heart and soul. It was definitely her. “We’ll let you know," said Georgia, giving nothing away, as Nicola went off into the night.

After a bad audition, Nicola would normally wait to get home before crying her eyes out. This time, she was certain she’d blown it. She disappeared into the night somewhere on the lower East Side and burst into a thousand tears. They flowed like they hadn’t in years. She’d fucked up auditions before, but this time it hurt because she loved the script and everything about the project. She was certain it would be her big break and now she was certain it was broken.

Tommy left the office happy, as did the producers. They’d found the missing ingredient. Tommy was also left with the bittersweet feeling of knowing that he was absolutely doomed. He grew up falling in love with movie star girls and now he was about to employ one that made his heart scream all over the Manhattan night. Georgia and Jay re-capped the afternoon and talked about the location visits coming up the following week, but Tommy’s attention was gone. He wanted to disappear into the night and think and dream and feel. It was insane, he knew; but as a writer and director he lived for those moments when life gives you a spark which makes you want to dance with the New York night all on your own. “Is that okay with you?” asked Georgia, about something. Tommy looked back all confused and made an excuse about feeling sick and wanting to leave. He lied about getting a Taxi, just to get rid of them, and then he took off into the streets with the sole intention of breathing in the New York night on foot.

Tommy didn’t believe in magic, except for when he did believe in magic, which was very rare and usually only lasted for about an evening; which is why he was so pumped up on this particular night, for it was undoubtedly magic.


Should I do it? Or would he think I’m insane? Am I even meant to have the director’s number? These were the thoughts that kept circling in Nicola’s mind. She wanted to call him to apologize for being so terrible and unprepared. I shouldn’t call, figured Nicola, which is probably why she dialed his number while eating a self-pity-deli-sandwich.

He didn’t normally answer numbers he didn’t recognize, but tonight was a night of magic, he’d decided. “Hi, is that Tommy Morrel?” asked the female voice. It’s her, it’s her, oh my God, what if it’s really her, he pondered. “It’s Nicola Pent, I read for you today. I’m an actress. Kind of.”
“Kind of?” asked Tommy.
“Well, based on today I am maybe not an actress.”
“You were great.”
“I think you’re thinking of someone else.”
“We all loved you.”
“I just want you to know that I love your writing, and everything you’re doing with the film and I really think I might be right for it, which I know is insane after what you saw today..”
“Nicola, you’re right, you might well be right for it—“
“You don’t understand. I was not at my best today, I’m embarrassed by it.”
“Are you insane?”
“Sometimes I’m a little insane,” she explained.
Tommy had an idea. It was the type of idea that he’d never attempted in real life but had always attempted in his movie scripts. Fuck it, he figured, tonight is a magic night. “Whereabouts are you right now?”
“Little Italy” she responded.
“Me too! Whereabouts?”
“Just outside Angelo’s.”
“Wait there. I’ll be two minutes.”
“Um, okay.”

Tommy hung up. It was an abrupt hang up, like they do in political thrillers, which he instantly regretted but figured he’d make it up to her when he got to Mulberry Street. The only problem was that he was actually nowhere near Mulberry Street. He hailed a cab and demanded they get there in two minutes.

The Bolognese sauce was, surprisingly, not a result of going to an Italian restaurant. In fact, Tommy didn’t know how the sauce stain came to be. He looked down at his shirt when he got into the cab, and there it was. It was big. Almost enough to make him cancel on Nicola. Luckily, he had a masterplan: arrive on Mulberry Street, run into a restroom, and wash it off before she sees him. Or he could dive into a store and buy a cheap t-shirt of some kind. All of these things could have worked had Nicola not been standing in the exact spot where the yellow cab pulled up. Nicola smiled and waved awkwardly as Tommy stepped out of the car. It suddenly hit Nicola that she was meeting a director who absolutely despised her and was probably meeting her to recommend a career as a receptionist.

“Why would I despise you?” asked Tommy, as they sat down in the restaurant. “Because I’m the worst actress you’ve ever seen,” said Nicola.
“Okay, cut it out. You’re fantastic. We’re considering you for the role.”
“Really?” she asked.
“What do you want to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Me neither,” added Tommy.
Nicola was all ready to ask ‘then why the hell are we here?’ but instead found herself laughing and smiling. It was a spontaneous moment, that made a bolt of life flow through her body; making her instantly happy. She was comfortable with this director guy. She didn’t know why, but she was. She smiled at him and he smiled at the world and they ordered some wine.

The Bolognese stain was covered by Tommy’s left arm for most of the evening. This made it look like he had a bizarre disability, but for him, that was better than looking like someone who spilled food all over himself. Nicola found it amusing, if only because he was getting in a pickle about the fact the sauce was now all over his arm as well. They talked about the film and then they talked about their favorite songs and then they talked about religion and relationships and their pets and their dreams and four hours quickly rushed by.

They stepped outside somewhere around midnight and decided to get down to serious business: the cupcakes. For reasons not quite known they both had a craving for delicious cupcakes. But from where? Tommy knew a place on the Upper West Side and Nicola knew a cute place in Chelsea but they were both too far away for the craving. “We will walk until the cupcakes present themselves,” announced Tommy, and that they did.

Tommy was extremely aware of the magic. The temperature was just right, the conversation was flowing and for the first time in at least five years his sense of humor seemed to work on another human being. “This is a good night,” said Tommy.
“Indeed it is,” said Nicola, who had forgotten all her madness about being a bad actress.
“I need to tell you something,” said Tommy, in an unexpectedly serious tone. Nicola stopped and turned to him, ready to take in whatever he had to say. She suspected something terrible, like cancer, but hoped it was something sweet, like ‘Can I kiss you?’
“What’s up?” she asked. 
“I have a rather troublesome and somewhat outrageous amount of Bolognese stuck to my shirt and I don’t know how it got there.”
Nicola fell into a fit of laughter that lasted for at least five hours. “I’m serious, I don’t know how it happened” added Tommy.
Nicola tried to talk, tried to say anything sensible, but she was too lost in laughing-breakdown-mode.

Tommy’s phone rang, which surprised him, as he had forgotten there were phones, or buildings, or indeed anything other than Nicola and the Manhattan night. It was Jay, the producer, all excited and loud --- “We’ve got him! We’ve fucking got him!” yelled Jay.


It was good news. Jason Hurl, the movie star, agreed to do Tommy’s small indie film. He slashed his fees, cleared his schedule, and agreed to dedicate himself to “Two People Lost”. This was the moment Tommy had waited all his life for. A giant movie star was agreeing to star in his picture. Amazing. But of course; Tommy realized what it meant --- that Nicola, the new piece of Brooklyn magic that had strolled into his life only hours ago, would have, as her love interest, a Hollywood icon. Jason was married, of course, but then everyone in Hollywood is married right up until the point they’re not married anymore. Tommy immediately regretted the sex scenes he’d written. Maybe they weren’t integral after all. Maybe the film didn’t need to be a romance anymore. He considered making it a gay drama. Nicola looked at him and wondered why he’d been spaced out for about nine minutes.

Nicola playfully mentioned that she desperately wanted a cupcake, and Tommy snapped back at her, “I know. I get it.” She was surprised by his abruptness. Tommy felt he had a right to be angry with her – because he was certain that she was already planning to have an affair with Jason Hurl even though she didn’t know that she would be offered the role, or that Jason would be in it as well.

Tommy could actually see the night’s magic disappearing in front of him. It announced itself with a gust of cold wind and a look of distance in Nicola’s eyes.

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