Why I want to be a Filmmaker…

IMG_8432I have always loved film but my life could have been so different…

Although, I have always loved films I never really considered a career or had ambitions of being a filmmaker until I was 16. When I was young I was always doing something. I would be playing with Lego, drawing a plane, spaceship or something. Growing up flying and aviation is something that I assumed always wanted to be involved with in some form or another due to the people I knew.

I grew hearing stories from close family friends who served in the USAF, worked as an airline pilots or were engineers working at Filton on Concorde. I loved flying and there is a funny story (that I will not tell you!) about the first time I ever flew. When I was 14 I had even discussed with my teachers at school about doing a degree in Aeronautical engineering through the RAF.

I went for an initial interview with the RAF and discussed what I would need to do to get fit for selection process (no Captain Biggles jokes please!). Due to my eyesight, unfortunately it meant I could not fly fast jets but I was still keen. I even considered becoming a ‘Rock Ape’ in the RAF Regiment.

The_Thin_Red_Line_PosterHowever, my life changed due to one film, The Thin Red Line (1998). I had managed to get hold of copy on VHS from a friend after it was released. Saving Private Ryan has also been released in 1998 and although I enjoyed the film, I was curious to see what this film was like. And from the start, it was completely different (more on The Thin Red Line (1998) another time). The film connected with me and made me think differently about life, films and storytelling for the first time. I immediately wanted to watch other films made Terrence Malick.

From there I started watching lots of different films from all round the world and decided to study Film (and Television) at university with the goal of becoming a filmmaker.

Jumping forward a few years (May 2006 – my last year at University) and the screening of our Major Production. I had directed a short film (I Remember 2006 – check out my oldest blog post to watch it) and the screenings were done at the Picturehouse cinema in Southampton.

I was very proud of the film I had made with my friends on the course and the feeling you get when you see your name spelt out in letters that are 1 foot tall is unbeatable. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I knew I wanted to experience that feeling again. All filmmaker love this really, like any artist, its the power you have about creating something ‘bigger’ than you that can live on, once we leave this mortal coil. Call it vanity or ego – it’s a drug. And its intoxicating…

However, what sort of filmmaker is another question…

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Time to get my sh!t together!

Yes! That title is correct, I need to get my sh!t together! So this weekend I am going to crack on with some scriptwriting…I keep saying this every week but I REALLY am going to this weekend!

The events of the last few days have made me realise that you should not put off things, as you do not know how long you have. The problem for me has always been getting the right work/life balance. I am a workaholic and I always sacrifice myself for the sake of work.

If I continue to do that, I won’t achieve my goals and one day I will look back on life with regret. So I am going to make an effort and set-myself small goals each week (e.g. 5 pages a week), in the drafting of a feature film script. Something that is realistic and if I do fall behind (I will likely fall behind a week or two), then I can easily catch up if needed.

I have lots of ideas about what I want to write and make a film about (it will be very personal and auto-biographical- in parts). I am just not sure if I am being overly ambitious by planning to a feature after I have not been doing ‘anything’ like this for nearly 10 years!

That in itself is scary…its been 10 years since I was at university, dreaming of being about being a big shot film director -as well as playing pool into the early hours [sic].

And to the people of Paris, France and to the friends and relatives affected terrorist atrocities around the world, you are not alone. You are in all our thoughts and have full support. The weapons of fear will never defeat the power of freedom, respect and dignity.

The Curse of Steve Jobs…

It has been a busy few days at work so it has not been possible to get on here but I wanted to post something tonight after reading an article earlier.

I am a massive Apple fan and admire Steve Jobs and everyone at Apple for all the amazing stuff they do and create. So when I read the below I had to give my 2 cents about Steve Jobe (2015) being pulled from cinemas.

http://www.macrumors.com/2015/11/09/steve-jobs-movie-pulled-theaters/

I can’t comment on the film until I see it, but by all accounts its a well made and it is expected to do well at the Awards (after all it was written by the amazing Aaron Sorkin, directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle and Michael Fassbender is Steve Jobs). This is why I am surprised the film is doing so badly at the box office, However, I have a few ideas why…

Obviously, the main reason is that the film is up against SPECTRE (2015) and that is always going to be tough act to follow. The films audience is also likely to be in the 20s-40s and with the advent of Netflix and streaming video online we are less likely to go to the cinema as a generation.

Biographies and Biopics – being a niche subject in life and even more of a niche at the cinema – means many people won’t watch the film as they may feel it will be ‘boring’. Making Biopics are also hard as you have to find a part of someones life that is interesting enough and with some ‘creative license’ adapt it for an audience. See Churchill – The Hollywood Years (2004) for what NOT to do [sic].

Also, to the average person, many people do not understand or recognise Steve Jobs contribution to the world we live in. It’s only when you explain to someone that he ‘reminded’ (I won’t see invented) the concept of personal computing (e.g. a mouse, keyboard, monitor, a graphical UI etc) that someone realises how important he (and Apple) is…and that is before we get to the iMac, iPhone and iPad.

These are all valid reasons but there is one more reason that I believe has to be considered. I believe Steve Jobs (2015) has fallen to the curse of Steve Jobs. In life, Steve was divisive person – people liked him or they didn’t. Apple is the same – you are either an Apple “fan” or not. You have an iPhone or you don’t. I believe this divisiveness, has contributed to poor showing at the box office.

People are not lining up to watch the film is because they have heard all the stories about him and don’t think the film will be their cup of tea. They don’t care about his ‘story’, what he or Apple accomplished – as they don’t have iPhones? [sic] I like this reason as it seems poetic, the perfect metaphor for Steve’s life!

Steve courted controversy his whole life by being rebellious, a little cruel, passionate and being a perfectionist. People like this, are hard to like and to get on with. But as the Apple ‘Think Different’ advertising campaign illustrated those types of people  “change things”. It is also true that these types of people can alienate the people around them and those on the outside will either agree or disagree with them.

It could also be the way the film has been written, focusing on snapshots of Steve’s life over many years (Jobs (2013) tried to tell his story up to his from the formation of Apple to his return) perhaps, if the film was written around a ‘real time’ setting…a meeting with Steve and his design team, showing his brilliance with a touch of narcissism and dash cruelness? It would be more engaging and show the us ‘real’ Steve? That is how I would have done it.

Jobs (2013) did not do a good enough job maybe Steve Jobs (2015) has problems trying to get an the audience and perhaps we have to wait until Steve Jobs version 3.0 to get the film ‘everyone wants’ but I firmly believe Steve’s story has to be told as it is extraordinary.

I am going to the Locarno Film Festival 2016!

resized_650x365_461023I have just booked my outward bound flight for the 69th edition of the Locarno Film Festival! I am so excited about next summer…I wish it was tomorrow!

I will also get to enjoy the wonderful sights of Milan, Lugano (where I am staying in Switzerland for the festival) and Zurich on my trip. I may also fit in day trips to Lake Como and perhaps Basel too!

I have sorted out my accommodation in all 3 locations. All I need to do now is sort out my rail travel from Milan up to Lugano and then on to Zurich. I will also be getting a Swiss Travel Card for when I am in Switzerland as they seem great value to travel around (and to get free entry into lots of museums).

I have always been drawn to the festival and that is due to the romantic nature of the Piazza Grande in Locarno and watching films funder a Swiss Alpine night sky…I guess I am a romantic at heart myself then. My dream would be to have a film I have directed, screen at the Festival – in the Piazza Grande in front of an audience of 8,000 people! Although, I will be satisfied with just watching a film for now…with some popcorn!

I aim to meet lots of filmmakers in Locarno and make some contacts for my own ambitions. I will need to have a script (or 3) on hand and have lots of ideas to grab the interest of potential backers and collaborators. The perfect motivation for me over the winter to get my head down and write!

Next August expect lots of blogs about the festival, films I see and my travel through central Europe…as well as photos!

Check out the festival here: http://www.pardolive.ch/pardo/festival-del-film-locarno/sponsors-and-partners/Top-Events-of-Switzerland/Festival-del-film-Locarno.html

Macbeth (2015)

Another film that I also got chance to see recently was Justin Kurzel’s MacbethMacbeth_2015_poster starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. I am quite a big fan of adaptations of William Shakespeare play’s (Coriolanus 2011 buy Ralph Fiennes is unmissable) and I have been very excited about this version.

The adaptation uses enough of the plot from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth but takes a few liberties for creative licence for the screen. The visuals are brilliant in the film, I loved the fight scenes and especially the ‘magical’ slow motions moments that focus in tranced Macbeth – very moody. The landscapes of Scotland (and England) used for the backdrop’s are brutal and harsh, the perfect metaphor for the thirst for power that Macbeth and his wife has upon learning of his ‘destiny’.

I am a massive fan of the production design used in the film, some of the scenes looked more like simple set-ups for the stage with just a handful of props. This allows the audience to focus no the performances and the dialogues- but the scenes are not ‘too empty’.

The performance of Macbeth by Fassbender is amazing. He really captures all sides of Macbeth’s character and ‘owns’ the scenes he is in. Marion Cotillard is also impressive but in this adaptation her demise is secondary and played off-screen (she turns up dead in bed). This is a little disappointing.

Some of the supporting cast’s performances are not brilliant to be honest (I had trouble understanding some of the accents attempted by some cast members). I don’t see this as an issue as they simply do not have enough time but in the end. But this is part due to the focus of the film being on Macbeth.

4/5 – Definitely worth a watch and a must for all fans of Shakespeare.

Spectre (2015)

159409048_f52678So last week, I managed to go and see and Spectre and I was really impressed.

The action sequences are really top class. I thought the Opening sequence in Mexico City set around the Day of the Dead was amazing.I also liked all the references to previous Bond films (I lost count at how many there were!). I also liked all the Roger Moore Bond one-liners littered through out the film.

The story itself that leads Bond on this adventure of self-discovery is well crafted and there is a sense a small sense of mystery – despite the audience ‘knowing’ where it is ultimately leading. However, the the “connection to Bond’s past” I feel was rushed and could have been explored more.

I think the whole cast were amazing but was disappointed at the rather ‘small’ role given to Monica Bellucci. I felt she deserved a much larger part, considering how talented she is. Daniel Craig may not be everyones favourite Bond be he has made this role his own and added new depths to the character. If this is his last outing (I personally think he will do 1 more) then the next actor to take on the role has big boots to fill.

Sam Mendes has been brilliant for Bond and has raised the bar for spy films in general. He has taken the Bond legacy and mixed it with a potent amount of realism and fast paced action of the ‘Bounce’ films.
I also think it’s worth mentioning that Sam Smith’s theme song really works with the tone and theme of the film.
4.5/5 – Great film but I think the back story between Bond and Oberhauser could have been explored more.

San Francisco (September 2015)

In September, I went on one of the best vacations of my life, SaIMG_7427n Francisco! This was my first visit to California and the West Coast.I stayed a few blocks from Union Square and I managed to cover a lot of ground – on foot!

I Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, visited Alcatraz and took in a Giants Baseball game. I also took the train down to Cupertino to the Grand Re-Opening of the Apple Company Store (geek alert!).

Probably the best experience was meeting William Baker, probably better known as Inmate 1259 at Alcatraz. Along with the Cell House tour, hearing him speak about his time on ‘The Rock’ was extraordinary.

I took lots of photo’s (as I normally do when I travel) and thankfully the weather was amazing (only a couple of half days of overcast).

I really enjoyed the baseball game surprisingly. The game still makes no sense to me now but I understand why it’s America favourite past time. For me, it seems to be more about relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere (and food) with friends and family. Defilanlty will be going to another game if I get chance.

A few recommendations:

  • Rouge Ales Public House (opposite Washington Square) – Good beer and bar food.
  • The Pub BBQ (Beach Steet near Ghirardelli Square) – Amazing BBQ
  • Book in advance for Alcatraz and the Cell House tour is a must!

I wish I had more time in San Francisco as I wanted to visit Muir Wood – maybe next time. I cannot recommend San Francisco enough for a visit. Great food, great people and amazing views!San

Looking forward to 2016

2016 is going to be a great year and I will be very busy! I have a lot planned and I am still adding to the agenda. But so far…

In May I will be going on holiday to Barcelona and Lloret de Mar to relax and catch up with some friends. I will be going to the last league game of the season (RCD Espanyol) where I will be sitting a few feet from the pitch. I will be visiting Girona for the Temps de Flors and may also pop up the coast for a day in Cadaqués.

In August I am off on a mini-European tour. Starting off in Milan for a couple of days before heading up to Lugano where I will spending nearly a week as my base for the Locarno Film Festival. I plan on taking a trip across to Lake Como and exploring the beautiful region of Ticino. Finally, I head up to Zurich for a few days before returning home.

I am going to try and sneak in a couple of more European adventures as well (Barcelona again in October and perhaps Lisbon).

I wil also hopefully begin production on my yet un-written short or feature film…very busy!

I am very excited about the Locarno Film Festival. For me the experience of watching a film under an Alpine night sky in the Grande Piazza will be a fulfilling a life long dream.

I Remember (2006)

I Remember (2006) is the short film I made in my last year at university as party of my degree. Inspired by the experiences of 2 of my friends whom I worked with me on the film it shows snap shots of “Liam’s” story. Shot over a few days using improvisation and non-professional actors I am very proud of the film. Although, not perfect due compromises  that were forced upon us (an actress back out 2 hours before we were filming her scenes) I learn’t a lot.

Improvisation is something I want to experiment with again -despite the risks.

At the end of year screening, it was voted best film by the lecturers.