Sunday 29 July 2012

The Password is Filmfrumbles

Most of the time my thoughts are fractured, little snippets. Like animals fighting for attention. Somewhere in my brain is the judge, the guy who says "not worthy", "not original," or very occasionally, "fantastic!" The problem is, this inner Judge assumes an unearned jurisdiction in my brain. It's like that annoying FBI dude who turns up at the crime scene and tells Denzel Washington to go home.

Here's an example: I think I have it within me to write an all-time-great romantic comedy, but my judge says two things, one is, "but your writing sucks!" and the other is "Rom-Com? Pathetic! Do something more worthwhile!"

Amazing how we become victims of the fictional characters inside our heads. I think growing up is all about blocking your best routes to creativity. Maturity is opening them back up again.

"I think growing up is all about blocking your best routes to creativity. Maturity is opening them back up again."

I like that sentence. Totally unscientific, just a random rambly thought from me. Could be totally without basis, but who cares? It feels good to me. Isn't that what blogging is about anyway? Spewing out your thoughts and whoever has the most authoritative voice wins.

Just like inside my own brain. The strongest voice wins. That's why it's so hard to write, because so many of the ideas trickle through and don't have the strength to stand up for themselves. How are we meant to know a good idea? So many people think they have GENIUS ideas, but then you read the script or watch the movie and wonder what they've been smoking.

So many great moments in art happen by accident, like a reflex. The way an actor's voice creaks, the way a wall blocks the light, the way a last minute script revision improves everything. So often that ISN'T inspiration. It isn't really anything, it just is.

I think sometimes our worst ideas are the best. If I said to you, "write the cheesiest and dumbest action movie of all time", it's entirely possible you could create a masterpiece. Because there's real strength behind the things we resist.

We build up tastes. Ideals. Concepts of what good art is. Then we sit around for years wondering why it isn't clicking. It's because you've got to turn the thing back around. The things you DESPISE in art, what can they teach you? What are you blocking out from your writing, your art, your life? I guarantee, if you switch off that resistance, you'll find a huge stream of energy.

When I started writing this blog post, I didn't know what it would be about, I just wanted to start writing. But that was actually extremely hard for me, because I feel like I should only write when I have a big idea, when I can write something that shows a strong knowledge of film or an abundance of creativity. But why? Who set those rules? My blog is my place to freely ramble as I please, yet so many things inside of me stop me from fully expressing myself.

Part of that is quality control. If I just copy and pasted the word "filmfrumbles" five hundred times and then posted it, you'd think it was pathetic and would be less likely to come back. But a post like this? Maybe you'll find it interesting. Or maybe not. But then why does it matter? If I only write blogs that I think are 'safe' and likely to make you think I am full of filmic knowledge, then I am blocking a huge amount of myself.

You have to know your audience. But you also have to write the word filmfrumbles when you want to. It's just a blog. Just a script. Just a paintbrush. We limit ourselves in countless ways. Look at what you resist, think about what you ridicule, be aware of that which you disassociate from. Inside all of these things is a hidden power.

Filmfrumbles filmfrumbles #filmfrumbles

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What Do You Think of DENZEL WASHINGTON's Career?

There are two versions of Denzel. 

There's Denzel Washington the cop. He knows the rules and he respects the rules, yet sometimes he takes matters into his own hands. He knows how to handle things. He's experienced. He's had a few professional indiscretions, in fact; he's being investigated right now, but it was probably a huge misunderstanding. 

Then there's the Denzel Washington who inspires black people to be amazing and white people to be less racist. He goes to a college and finds a bunch of black youngsters who are disrespecting each other. He teaches them a lesson or two about life. Then he finds some ignorant white folk and teaches them a thing or two about life. Then he takes his team/community into a competition and they win, or lose. Either way, they learn valuable life lessons.

Now, I LOVE his movies. I don't think anyone else is as watchable as he is. I think he absolutely nails it every time. But when I look at his career, I don't see that much range. I feel like, if he were to die today, we'd feel that he was capable of much more. He's worked with some good directors; but how many greats? Spike Lee loves him, and he's just worked with Zemeckis, but I bet that if you saw Denzel's bucket list of directors to work with, he wouldn't have ticked off that many of them. 

Does he not get offered the roles? Or does he play it safe and earn a pay cheque? Or is Hollywood so scared of messing with the magic Denzel-Box-Office formula that they refuse to greenlight anything different? Denzel is undoubtedly a movie star -- he's not the guy who does small independent movies because of a good script. He focuses on doing one movie a year, usually about a Police Detective who may or may not be a good guy, and he does it very well. 

The answer could be simple. He's a family man. He has a life outside of his art. He's been quoted in the past as saying he likes to do one film a year and then go travelling with his wife and kids. In fact, now his kids are grown up and have successful careers (one of them is a professional football player), he has lots of other things to focus on and be proud of. So maybe he just sees his art as work. Lifestyle maintenance. And who am I to judge? I respect that. He's certainly doing a better job at it, artistically, than people like Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler. 

There have been so many great roles. 'Philadelphia', wow! 'Man on Fire', hell yeah! 'He Got Game' & 'John Q' are personal favourites. Yet still I feel something is missing. Tom Hanks had 'Forrest Gump', Morgan Freeman had 'Shawshank Redemption', and Al Pacino had 'The Godfather'. Has Denzel Washington had his masterpiece yet?

His acting is a masterpiece every single time. But the material isn't. Will we ever see it? I ask this as a fan. He's been close, many times. He was fantastic in 'Training Day', riveting in 'Inside Man' and inspiring in 'The Great Debaters'. But regardless of how good he was; none of these films go down as classics. They're good, perhaps great; but they don't get the gold medal. Is Denzel Washington's best yet to come?

Care to share?

Friday 27 July 2012

London Olympics 2012 - The Opening Ceremony

They wheeled McCartney out, and if we've learned anything in recent years, it's that they always wheel McCartney out to sing a tune. Aside from that, everything was fantastic.

Britain isn't perfect. The education system is messed up, the government's a joke and too many people are going through hard times. But we know how to put on a show. And we have so many things to be proud of.

Tonight was a reminder of the cultural significance of our film, our music, our sense of humour. It sets the tone that influences artists the world over. From Chaplin, through Punk rock, to Danny Boyle; we have artists who are class acts, innovators, game changers.

What a spectacle! Don't you think London is beautiful at night? It's one of the greatest cities in the world. You can remain cynical if you want, but you'll be missing out -- because the whole world is here. How often do people truly come together to do something? We looked out of the window tonight and saw London lit up with fireworks -- it was a sight to remember. The world is here.

I loved the section about the NHS and Great Ormond Street. The NHS isn't perfect, and with government's like the current one, there's always the worry they'll dismantle it. That's why tonight's ceremony was so important. It put the doctors, patients and children on the centre stage. The health service is a huge privilege. Sure, sometimes you have to wait nine hours for a blood test and six months for an operation, but it's free! Our money is going to good use.

It's a time of austerity and we spent billions on the Olympics, so I'm aware of the hypocrisy, I don't disagree there were other ways we could have spent the money. But we're here now, we did it, and The Queen can ACT!

And Rowan Atkinson stole the show. Wonderful.

And thousands of volunteers danced their asses off for free. But that experience is so much more valuable than anything money can buy. They put on a hell of a show. And the music was great. And the intro video captured so much of the magic of London.

Danny Boyle did a great job. It's impossible to measure the value of art on a society, but it has an impact. The good feeling that people get inside when art is done right is unlike anything else. Make no mistake -- tonight was a piece of art. A work of incredible vision. Could I have done what Danny Boyle did? Not in a million years. It was like twenty films and thirty theatre shows rolled into one. Not only that, but everything WORKED!

A great night, I'm proud to be British. Now let's mute old McCartney (I love him, but it's over), and let's elect a real government, then we could really be on to something here.

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Thursday 26 July 2012

Your Role in Fulfilling the Potential of INDEPENDENT FILM Production


You don't have to report to anyone. They don't have to win the girl at the end. This is your chance to say something different. The history of the world has been recorded, shared and experienced through different methods of storytelling and this is your chance to do it in your own way.

Grab us. Pull us in. Don't let us go.

What is the story that you really want to tell? What have you been waiting all your life to tell the world? Your job is not to think about what the market wants or what will sell to Hollywood. Your job is to write something so damn engaging that we can't put it down, so that everyone who reads it screams "Yes! This HAS TO BE MADE!"

That doesn't mean it has to be shocking. It doesn't mean you to have to more violent than the last guy. It just means you need to tell a great story. Build some characters who we care about, who are doing something in a way that is different to what we've seen before. Write about what you know and what you dream about and do it in your own unique way. That is how we get interested.


Don't be afraid of it. Don't turn down a project because you don't know how to market it. If you start with that insecurity, then you're never going to raise the money.

Find a project you're passionate about. Something that stirs your insides and makes you ecstatic, or scared, or angry. If it really, truly works for you on a GUT level, then THAT is the project you need to produce. Because if it makes you feel that way, it will make audiences feel that way too. Your job is to support the vision.

Maybe Hollywood doesn't care about violin players from Norway or two drunken soldiers who live in poverty, but it's your job to MAKE them care. It's not your job to make some clone of what worked last year. Don't be that guy.

There is great writing out there that's waiting to be produced. You've got to hunt it down like a ruthless animal. But when you find it, SUPPORT IT! NURTURE IT! BELIEVE IN IT! There are too many producers out there peddling average shit that no-one's interested in, because they think it's what sells. And yes, most of what we see in cinemas is average nonsense, but not from the independent scene. Bad independent movies end up on the scrapheap. Nobody wants to watch your shit movie. Take a risk and aim for greatness, for something that will matter to people.


Independent film is not about style. It's about, guess what: independence. It's time to get rid of the independent film 'look'. You know the one I'm talking about -- handheld, colour zapped out a little bit, quirky soundtrack. If that's your true vision, fine, but don't be beholden to it.

Independent film is an opportunity for you to share your vision with the world. It's your chance to tell a unique story. To put your personality and sensibilities into what we see.

Don't play it safe. 

But at the same time; don't use a crane shot just because you have access to a crane. 

Your decisions should be in service to the story. I know you know this, but I'm just trying to remind you; this is your story to tell. The more you make it your own and about the story, the more it will resonate. Don't try to make it look and feel like 'Juno' and 'Away We Go' because you won't do it as well as them. Focus on your own style and personality. Making independent films is the best way you're ever going to get to have your own artistic VOICE. Don't waste it. 


The indie isn't the stepping stone. This isn't about making it into the bigger leagues. This is the league you want to be playing in; because it's where the characters are unique and actually MEAN something. In the superhero movies it's all black and white, good and bad. The independent scene is where you get to really find your character and find yourself. 

The film you're in isn't going to look and feel like a Hollywood movie, it's going to look and feel like it's very own thing. And you play a big part in creating that. Make decisions about your character and fight for them. Make them memorable. It doesn't mean you have to be shocking or a scene stealer, it just means you need to commit to doing something truthful. 


Give the movies a chance. An indie film might not start the way you expect, and it may not end that way either. But you've got to take a risk when you visit the cinema. You've got to try out the smaller movies. Sure, sometimes they're shockingly bad, but when they nail it they really nail it. With the big-budget movie, the best you can expect is to be entertained. With an indie, there are less roadblocks to the personal; less thorns on the rose; you might just find something that resonates with who you are. 


We are so bored of your projects. Your zombie film is not as unique as you think it is. 

Find new ways to use these platforms. Actually connect with people. Engage in conversation. Even if that means 100 tweets that are genuine conversation rather than desperately pleading for donations. 

Nobody cares about your movie, and that's probably because it's not very interesting. Rethink your projects and rethink your methods. A truly great project makes people feel alive inside, they can't wait to get involved. Crowd-funding isn't easy, and copying last year's success story isn't going to work for you. Crowdfunding is a lot like the movies themselves; you can never know what will work, what will connect with people. 

Be original. Be unique. And don't be obnoxious and demanding. You are communicating with other human beings. That 'Only $5' deal you're offering? Well, people work really hard for that five dollars.  What are the chances that your use of their $5 will really do them justice? Think about that before you take everyone's money. 

Care to share?

Wednesday 25 July 2012


We met in the basement of the pub where I was holding auditions. She didn't get the role and I'm not sure she ever forgave me. We became friends and I don't remember much of it from those years. I'm guessing we saw movies together and met for coffee. I have no idea. How crazy is that? We went to see a comedian at the Riverside Studios, I remember that.

It's weird how some friendships stick and some don't. You can never really tell. I made great friends even just last year, and one or two are still around and some have names I'd struggle to recall.

Jenna stuck.

One thing I remember clearly is her coming to mine for help with an audition video for a drama school in New York. She had her piece prepared and we filmed it. She looked to me for advice and ideas, and I duly obliged, not that I knew anything about what a drama school in New York would be looking for.

She sent the video, the application and whatever else to the school and things carried on as normal. She helped out on one or two of my film shoots. She was a great actress, even then, but I never cast her. Weird how that happens. And I'm not writing this to tell you that we're the closest of friends, because we're probably not. And I'm not writing this to tell you that it's a romantic thing, because it isn't. I'm just writing to say that she means something to me and that it's great to have someone who means something to you because how often does that happen?

She moved to New York.

We kept in touch. But we did it in our way, where we turn up in each others inboxes in easily digestible little notes every now and then.

And then I went to New York.

She let me crash at hers and she let me take her bed. Looking back, why did I allow that? I was definitely selfish. Her stuck out in the lounge with a crazy hyperactive cat, and me hogging the room.  I'd love to tell you that we had an amazing week full of adventure -- and at times we did, but mostly I feel like we didn't really get along at all. Not that anything bad happened --- but she was crazy busy and I was crazy touristy and probably demanding of her time. I went out and fell in love with New York and we'd meet up occasionally and we saw a Knicks game ----

And then it was time to leave.

The moment I'm going to tell you about was probably thirty minutes before I got in a yellow taxi and left.

We were in some bar. I think it was near to her school. And I can't remember a specific conversation or anything at all. But I remember that feeling. How to describe it? It was just a moment, y'know? And I'm not talking about a romantic moment, because it wasn't that. It was just that moment when you know you have a friend, you know you understand each other, and that you like each other. It was the first time in the whole week that we were relaxed. And we loved each others company.

I headed to JFK.

That was in March. April through to October was the usual; just me doing my thing in London with the rain falling down.

In November I jumped on a plane to New York City.

I didn't stay with Jenna. And I had plans. There were film shoots, meetings, new friends. This time, whenever we met up, it worked. Again, I'm not totally sure what we did, nor how often, although I do remember a lot of meeting up for cake. What else? I don't know. The specifics of New York memories often fade and you're just left with the feeling.

In December I went back home.

Nearly a year passed and we kept in touch via Facebook, because that's how people keep in touch. Looking back, the emails were surprisingly long and usually about nothing. But the good kind of nothing.

The following year, October came around and I headed to New York. I saw her in a play and cast her in a film. We ate cake and drank tea, or maybe she had coffee. I don't know whether we spent a lot of time together or not much at all but it was just the right amount. We walked and talked in Central Park. We had more cake, we were always eating cake.

Pretty soon I was back in London.

Some months later, she was back home too. But I didn't tell you: she's not from London. She's from a whole different part of the world. She flew back there and I stayed here.

Three years have passed.

I know only a fraction of her life. And some of that fraction has been enormously bad. We became friends when a bunch of awful things were happening in my life, and in more recent time she's been through some things that I can't even imagine. And those versions of us in New York, eating cake and walking through the Village, they're like ghosts. Like movies starring people pretending to be us.

We keep in touch, in our way. We always know that the other one exists. We don't Skype as much as we should. And I should go there, or she should come here, or we should both go to New York. It's just that life doesn't always work like that.

Jenna is fantastic. Some friendships stick. 

Care to share?