Friday, 30 December 2011
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.
Thursday, 29 December 2011
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!
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.
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
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.
Remember how much you love the movies.
And calmly get to work.
Saturday, 24 December 2011
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.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
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.
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.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
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.
This was not what Tommy wanted to wake-up to on the first day of principle photography.
Monday, 19 December 2011
Sunday, 18 December 2011
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.”
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.