Sunday 7 October 2012

HEAVY GIRLS (Dicke Mädchen) / BODY COMPLETE / Tea and Apple Pie in Covent Garden - Raindance Film Festival 2012

Myself and Pete, or Pete and I, or however you're meant to say it, or rather, write it; headed down to the Apollo Cinema in Piccadilly Circus this afternoon for the final few films of Raindance.

We picked a German movie, called 'Heavy Girls', and it might just happen to be my favourite film in quite a fair long while. It's not a film I can review in a traditional sense, as my reviewer-faculties completely shut down while I watched it because I was drawn right into its world, there was no space for any other thoughts. The actors, and the characters they portrayed, were wonderful. The whole audience was caught up in what was happening on screen.

'Heavy Girls' is a feature film made for €500. It was shot in the style of a Danish Dogme film, or one of those Andrew Bujalski movies. The director ditched all those rules such as, y'know, having lights, having catering, having an editor. Instead he got two actors and his 90 year old Grandmother and made a film.

Ruth Bickelhaupt is 91 now, 90 when they shot the movie -- and it's her feature film debut. She was so sweet, so hilarious-- the warmest and most engaging screen performance I've seen this year. And I mean that.

The film is so down to Earth, so amusing and just so darn joyful to watch. The writer/director has talent, huge talent; you don't make a movie like this without a wonderful aptitude and sensitivity for storytelling.

Ruth was at the screening. It's amazing how you can not know a person, then 90 minutes later a 90 year old is your new acting hero.

Oh Raindance how I love you for introducing me to this film.

After that we headed upstairs to look at the big board of movies, and there were only a couple left. We went with Serbian film 'Body Complete', and I can't tell you what it's about. That's maybe because I'm suffering from film burnout; I'm tired, zzzz, and have seen an unreal about of films this week. And I got the feeling that even though the film was about an important topic, and trying to convey something about Serbia, and Bosnia, it just wasn't done all that well.

Most of the movie, Nicole (Asli Bayram) was just strolling around looking for a girl who went missing years ago. Like, she'd visit a place, ask if they've seen her, no they haven't, so on she went to someone else and again and again until the movie ended.

But maybe I was just exhausted. An extremely gorgeous woman was sat next to me in the screening -- and she started talking to me before the film started but, this is how exhausted I was, I didn't even engage in conversation! My dream woman slipping from my grasp all because of film burnout.

After the screening, I was feeling a bit down due to 'Body Complete' and it's unhappy ending, so I demanded we go to the Charles Dickens coffee house for a slice of Apple Pie and a cup of Tea. Oh, and I mean I demanded it of my friend Pete, not the girl in the cinema, who was by this time probably already in a passionate embrace with her boyfriend Johan.

Covent Garden is wonderful of an evening, especially with Apple Pie and especially at the Charles Dickens Coffee House. They warm up the pie just right, you eat it quickly with a fork, and then you wash it down with a cup of English Breakfast tea. It's how every London evening must end.

Care to share?

Saturday 6 October 2012

Interview with LJUMA PENOV, Star Of 'LOVELESS ZORITSA' (Crna Zorica)

A week ago, I saw a film called 'Loveless Zoritsa'. I was blown away by the acting performance of its star, Serbian actress LJUMA PENOV. I wrote, "It's definitely Penov who stands out the most in a role that is far more crazy, exciting and mysterious than what Hollywood actresses usually get to play." 

'Loveless Zoritsa' is one of the more wacky films you're ever likely to see. It's about a woman who is the first female member of her family ever to be born without a moustache -- which means she is cursed and therefore any man who falls in love with her instantly dies. Despite the insanity of the film, and the character, Penov's Zorica is a highly relatable and complex character. 

So I just had to interview Ljuma herself. I wanted to not only find out more about her and the great work she did in the movie, but also about the Serbian cinema scene -- does she get a lot of work? Does she agree that Serbian cinema has a growing reputation in the film community? So much to ask, and such fascinating answers, from an actress who is as passionate and dedicated an actor as you're ever likely to meet.

"I think that every actor should work on himself, above all to get to know himself. Day to day, hour to hour, he should get to know himself, because every person, actor, is changing constantly, day to day, hour to hour."
-Ljuma Penov

I really enjoyed 'Loveless Zoritsa', and I thought you were fantastic in it. How did you first find out about the project, and how did you get involved?

 I first found out about the movie when the production contacted me for an interview with the directors about the leading part in the film. That was an interview, but I also got a few scenes which I had to prepare for the test shooting. When I read those few scenes, they immediately attracted me, as if I had already felt the character of Zoritsa. 

Since I had only seen those couple of scenes, and not the entire script, my own feeling and intuition lead me as I was preparing for the test shooting. When I went on the test shooting, I found out that they have already seen a lot of girls, and I didn't expect much, but in such moments, I always carry a positive spark in me, so I gave them everything I got. From a conversation with them, I found out that the directors already watched me, by recommendation, in one play where I had a large and demanding part in one of the biggest theaters in the country. Then I got a rough synopsis and showed them certain scenes which I was given to prepare. 

Directors have watched me fixedly, and I think that they then realized that this is Zoritsa. I went out of there knowing nothing, but after a few weeks, a phone call arrived that I got the part and then I was given the whole script. I was very happy when I read the script, I realized that it was a very big task, and I have already started to think about her, about Zoritsa. And that was it, Zoritsa was in my hands, and I was in hers. Later, after numerous conversations with the directors followed and preparations for the shooting itself. Since we met each other, Zoritsa and me, we have become inseparable and it was like that until the very end of the shooting.

Even though the film is so unique and crazy, I think your character is someone who the audience can relate to -- is Zoritsa similar to you in any way, or are you very different? 

I really worked hard on this role, because I haven’t played in this type of genre so far. Although all characters in the film are somewhat displaced, Zoritsa is too, but in her there are a lot of things that are real and unreal, and it is hard to merge the non-mergeable. 

I was creating Zoritsa sincerely and faithfully. Zoritsa is a girl that is turbulent and expressive, stubborn and persistent, that is her nature, she is in the depths of her soul gentle and fragile, tenuous and sensitive. I tried to carry out my part the best possible. Zoritsa is a very complex character, with a lot of layers, with very tinted emotions. You had to put a lot of work in this character, especially because of all those layers, which I wanted to get out in front of the character, in every moment. I wanted to weave into her realistic characteristics, but also layers of deep and suppressed characteristics that don’t come out in every person. Considering the genre of the film, I was creating Zoritsa in this way too.

I think that every actor should dig deep into himself, in the depths of his own being, so he can find and draw out from himself characteristics that are connecting him with that character, and then to add other characteristics that the director is asking from him. I think that every actor should work on himself, above all to get to know himself. Day to day, hour to hour, he should get to know himself, because every person, actor, is changing constantly, day to day, hour to hour. Me also, I try to get to know myself constantly, I think it is priceless for an actor. Sometimes I was in that process of getting to know myself while working on some part, realizing how much I have in common with those characters, although I wasn't aware of that at the time, because I thought I already know myself, and that is the true charm of this work.

It was the same with the character of Zoritsa. She has a lot of similarity with me, but she is also very different from me. But it all had to combine, so that the character would be natural and alive, and so that the audience, and of course me, could unite with her.

When did you know you wanted to be an actress?

I think I have always known that, but I was not even aware of it. From a young age I went to the cinema and the theatre. First I met the ballet, then I was attracted to opera, music and solo-singing. Later on I was composing and dancing. Until at one point I wanted to be someone else. Then I realized that only acting can offer me this. This is when I decided to become an actress.

What is it like working in Serbia -- are there a lot of interesting roles for you? Are you always working? 

This is a small country where it is not easy to make a film or a play and therefore it is not easy to get the parts. It takes a lot of dedication and effort to work and be an artist. The production is very small and it is therefore difficult to get to parts on film. I think bravery and luck are still the most important.

As for the parts, any part that is offered to me is interesting to me and intriguing. I'm trying to draw out from each of them and from myself the best for the project. Because each part is a kind of gift to me. I had the luck to work in international productions and co-productions, which brings me a lot of joy and which I would very much like it to continue.

I think Serbian cinema has had an interesting couple of years -- the films seem to be growing in reputation and finding an international audience. Why do you think that is? 

We have a lot of great authors that had already placed us in the world cinema, throughout the years. I think that Serbia, but also whole territory of former Yugoslavia has a lot of very talented authors. There are a lot of talented artists and their imagination and creativity wins over all the difficulties which surround them, they find the ways to express themselves and get to the wider audience.

What kind of work do you want to do in the future? 

I think I am not the one who should say this, since it depends in which part the director sees me. If the director sees me in some part and succeeds to convince me in this part, I will also love that part, the same as all of my previous parts. I also think that it is not me who finds the parts, but they find me. Therefore I think that I could find myself in variety of parts.

If you were not an actor, what would you be doing with your life? 

I would always be an actress because I think acting is one of the most valuable and profound professions, and there are only a few such professions in the world.

Who in your life has inspired you the most?

I always found greatest inspiration in myself, because this is sometimes a very difficult job where at times no one can help you but yourself.

What was the most difficult thing about filming 'Loveless Zoritsa'?

The shooting of the film was very physically demanding. At the shooting of the film there were a lot of exciting happenings. I was jumping into the water from great heights, I had to learn how to drive a tractor although I have never sat on it before, and it was very interesting and exciting. At first, it was scary, but with time it turned out and very fun. The most difficult was to play under water, 4 meters deep, in a freezing cold sea water, where scary divers drag you and you think that there is no help, but you have to be focused and to act too… Thanks to good preparation and previous exercises… even that turned to be interesting. 

At the time of writing, 'LOVELESS ZORITSA' still remains without international distribution, but surely; it's only a matter of time. After doing well in its homeland, Serbia, and two sold out screenings at the Raindance Film Festival 2012 in London, it's impossible to imagine this truly unique movie won't be in a cinema near you soon. 

Care to share?

Friday 5 October 2012

MON AMI Review - Raindance Film Festival 2012

I'm not going to say I loved it. But they made this movie for $14,000 (Less than £9000)! The film has a lot of charm, some moments of great cinematography, and the editing is fantastic. And I'm going to say it again: they made this movie for $14,000.

The beginning of the film is great --- a text-message exchange between two people, which instantly gets the audience's interest piqued. After that we see two guys, working in a job they loathe -- it's typical indie film fodder, but it's enjoyable. But then the film loses its energy -- plods along, getting lost in best-friend banter that was so fresh when Kevin Smith did it but now independent movies really need to find a new shtick.

As a director, Rob Grant has achieved something to be proud of. He put together a movie on a tiny budget, and shot in an effective and creative way ---- I just feel that, if the script had been great, this could have been a real winner.

But hey, who am I to judge? His movie got into Raindance; so it is a winner.

But I guess I'm talking on a bigger scale. What makes a cheap independent film shine?

For one, you have to totally NAIL the premise, but here, some things were lost in translation. It was the same with 'Locked in a Garage Band'. In 'Mon Ami', when the film spends too much time in friends-at-work-banter, there's a lull in forward motion which leads to a dip in the attention span. The rest of the film suffers because of it.

A general note about independent comedy films in general. Nearly all of them that I've seen this year have had men who work in jobs they loathe, who go about their days with a casual aloofness --- the two characters did it throughout this movie, as did the lead character in 'Locked in a Garage Band', as did a bunch of characters in 'Vinyl' and 'Cinema Six' (all of which I saw at Raindance this week). I feel that we perhaps need to move on and find new indie film heroes, who do something more than casually stroll through movies acting slightly cool and more than a bit above the drama in their lives. In 'Mon Ami', the joke is that they're casually and aloofly strolling through a kidnapping -- and I find it hard to buy into! 

Did I tell you Rob Grant made this movie for $14,000? This review is practically irrelevant -- what matters is what he achieved with virtually no money. And despite the film's flaws, there is a lot to celebrate -- and I'm excited to see what he'll do next. 

Care to share?

LA/London - The Writer and Producer Emails

Dear Laura,

Thank you so much for agreeing to write the feature film "Julie and the Soldier". You are the only writer for the job and the only person we trust to be able to give the project to.

I will now leave you alone to work your magic. I always thought Julie being French would be a nice touch.


Derek, Producer.


Dear Derek,

Yay! Thank you so much for hiring me. Have been wanting this job so passionately for so long and it's great that I can now do the all important thing: write it.

I'll begin tomorrow, at 9am sharp, after-all the deadline is only four weeks away! Also, Julie can't be French. The film is about an English farm girl who's never been out of England. To make her French would, I fear, confuse the story!




Hey Laura,

Totally get where you're coming from. I like it. Definitely think Laura should be English. I guess what I meant was that she could have a French side to her. Something in the attitude.

Also, I didn't know whether to tell you or not. Brad Pitt is interested. Just saying. 



Hi Derek,

Great that Brad Pitt is interested. But what is he interested in? A role in the film, or a date with me? If it's a role in the film, do you see him as little Julie, or the soldier? Remember that the soldier is retired, in his nineties, and missing an arm.

If on the other hand you mean Mr Pitt wants a date, let me know with some advance notice so I can shave my legs and send the husband out for groceries :D

Laura T.


Laura --- find him something. Maybe a quick-witted mailroom guy. Not too comedy. HA.



Hi Derek,

Thanks for your email but I must admit I'm a bit baffled. The story is set on a British farm, where Laura and the soldier are cut off from society. What kind of mailroom would this be?

How about if we just trust that I can deliver a story based on the beautiful novel, and we'll go from there once we have a first draft. Is that okay? -Laura


Hi Derek,

I know you're very busy, but I'm just checking in. Is it okay to move ahead without the mailroom scene?




I'm paying you to write the movie. A mailroom is not realistic. Stick to the world of the story.

Need first draft on Friday. Investors. Don't ask.


Derek Jacowski



The deadline isn't for two weeks! No way can I write a FEATURE FILM in the next 27 hours. Maybe you were joking?




Just come from a meeting with McDonalds. It's a go. Try work it in somehow.



Hi Derek,

Again, lost. Work McDonalds into the script? It's a 1940's story about friendship, set on a distant English farm. You want me to add a drive-thru? And all in the next five hours?




had drinks with the studio guys.

Wot color is ur bra.


Dear Laura,

I just want to apologise for any messages you got last night. I think someone used my phone. Ignore it. Strange.

Aside from that--- the deadline has passed. I need that first draft. I'm meeting the investors at 3pm. Get the screenplay to me by 2, no excuses.

Yours Sincerely,
Derek Jacowski


Dear Derek, the Producer

My bra is white, with multi-coloured threading, it looks like a Smarties Mcflurry. You have as much chance of seeing it as you do of me putting McDonalds in a period drama.

The deadline is unrealistic.

Laura T.


Dear Laura,

We seem to be having some conflict. Conflict is good, it shows we are both passionate about the project.

Not to worry, I took the meeting and showed them your first 50 pages. Then I pitched them the McDonalds bit, they went for it so it's a definite GO.

And don't worry, I know you're all about the integrity, they've promised to make the McDonalds logo ancient-looking.

Let's put to bed our recent conflicts and focus on our great movie.

Derek Jacowski,
Winner of 2 Emnys 
'Producer To Watch Out For' 2006 (Michigan Arts Quarterly)

Care to share?

Thursday 4 October 2012

Cinema Pee Strategy

I need to pee. I'm in the middle of the isle. No way can I get out. Their legs are so big. If I leave now I'll fall over everybody. And I'll miss something important. Although nobody who pees ever misses anything important. It's like we're trained to urinate right at the moment when James Bond is just chilling out by the bar with nothing to do. 

If I climb over the row in front of me, knock the bald guy out of the way and head to the emergency exit, I should be able to pee-and-return quicker than Sebastian Vettel can make a pit stop. 

They should invent a pair of headphones that gives me the audio track of the movie to listen to while I pee. They probably don't need to invent a new type of headphone, I don't know. Maybe I can stay at home, listen to the whole movie on the special headphones. That would save me from having to make any kind of trip at all. Plus I don't need to ask a stranger in a baseball cap where the toilet is. 

I don't actually have to pee. I'm just anticipating that I will. Probably because this coke-flavoured-water is so big. Do I pee prior to needing to pee or do I wait until I definitely need to pee or hold on until it's too late? Problem is, if I don't go now I'll keep thinking about the fact I'll need to go soon.

That hot girl over there saw me go into the toilet before the film started. That was only eleven minutes ago. She'll know I have a weak bladder. 

I should come back with popcorn, that'll fool her. Maybe another flat-coke too. What is this film about?

The women's toilet is actually much nearer. What is gender anyway? Just a social construct. I'm going to pee in the women's toilet. Wearing headphones.

That girl over there sure is gorgeous. I wish my girlfriend wasn't blocking my view of her.

If I pee now, there's still 64 minutes left. This may need to be a 2-pee strategy. I'm not sure I can do that. Everyone in the cinema will know.

I need to turn my phone on and run out of the screen yelling, "hold on, I'm in the cinema," then everyone will think it's a business call rather than a nature call.

I wonder if anyone else is on a 2-pee strategy. I need someone else to go first. But now I really have to go. Even the awkward-leg-fold isn't helping. My girlfriend isn't impressed. She's started eyeing up the hot girl.

Care to share?