Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Quick book review - The Unkindest Cut

I bought this alongside several other seminal texts (see this blog post from Feb 2010) and it never really managed to grab me, so it kept getting left on the shelf. But it has finally been read!

It's by a  bombastic and egotistic (but very funny) film critic called Joe Queenan who hears about the infamous $7,000 budget for El Mariachi and decided to go one better and make his own self-financed movie for $6,998 in order to overturn the corporate paradigm, make a name for himself, and win a victory for all the average joes who thought that filmmaking was only for the Hollywood elite. All his cash is reserved for film stock, development and equipment hire. He gets neighbours to star in his film for free and uses local locations.

Of course, things snowball out of control very quickly. Queenan has never made a film before, and his cheerful experiment soon becomes a month of terror and dread, with costs exploding exponentially and spilling over all through post production. He loses friends and alienates neigbours, and documents every decision, catastrophe and breakthrough in detail in the book, which makes for compulsive reading.

The movie gets made, but at a heck of a cost. It's a great read if you're interested in what goes on behind the scenes of a film, and if you're interested in making films yourself, you will walk away having learned a lot of lessons.

Sadly the film is impossible to find, it would make the perfect companion to the book about it's genesis. If you've already read Rebel Without A Crew (Robert Rodrigues book about the filming of El Mariachi) then this is a great follow up. The two projects could have not have gone more differently!

It also makes me fucking glad that I work with digital video and not film. The cost is insanely prohibitive!

God bless ya, DV.

If you're interested, you can pick up the book through amazon marketplace:

The Unkindest Cut: How a Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie and Put It All on His Credit Card - amazon

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Some real news!

Actual developments this time, not just posts about me playing Grand Theft Auto. Whatever next??

New Project!

Well I sat down for a drink and a (bloody lovely) burger with Mark and Frazer on Monday night, in a really flashy pub (Horniman's) by the riverside in London Bridge.

We talked through a lot of ideas for a short film, some of which I think had major potential to grow into really interesting projects. However, remembering how our last over-ambitious project ended up, we elected to go for the simplest possible. The reasoning being that if we can conquer a small project, we'll be better informed to take on a bigger project in the future and if it doesn't work out, it's no big loss. After all, no-one says we only have one project left in us. Might as well start small. Baby steps! I like Mark and Frazer a lot and I really trust their judgement and ideas. Frazer has written a couple of novels and in his efforts to get published, he recently got a literary agent, exciting times!

We settled on an idea that was set largely in a single location, with one main actor, and - perhaps riskily - an animal performance. We should be able to shoot it over a single weekend. More info to come soon! Mark and Frazer are working on the plot as you read this. It's not the most sweepingly ambitious of our ideas, but it will be the simplest to shoot. I'm really looking forward to storyboarding this idea, it feels like a much more appropriately sized project.

Does anyone else think of What About Bob whenever someone says baby steps?

Smashing Fun

I called into work this morning and arranged to take the day off as holiday, just feeling absolutely annihilated after cycling in to work for the last few weeks. 20 miles a day is a real shock to the system, not to mention the London traffic. Decided to be productive on my day off and picked up the laptop only to immediately drop it and absolutely shatter the screen.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccckkkkkkkkkk. Hopefully it's just the screen, need to plug it into a monitor (probably next week at work, no monitors in the house) and see if the rest survived. I don't know what the next step is. I probably need to stump up for a replacement screen.

Stand Up, Sit Down

Some news so fresh it is still piping hot and not entirely confirmed, but hopefully I'll be taping a stand-up show for new comic Robin Adams in the next couple of weeks. Looking forward to it! I think I'll try at least a two-camera set up, one main one on the man himself and a second one off to the side for coverage, depends on what I can get away with in the venue. Need to think about sound too, will be a good opportunity to get some experience here. Will find out what the venue will let me do! Maybe they won't allow any filming :-|


You know... sitting in that flashy pub I mentioned earlier surrounded by expensive suits really made me think of the weird relationship I have with this city. I always feel under-dressed in places like that. Probably due to my scraggy t-shirt and jeans look. I live in a pretty decent corner of the overall grubby/crimey/stabby suburb of Lewisham in Greater London (we had a good presence in the 2011 London riots!) but I work in South Kensington, one of the most affluent areas of the Central London, home of Harrods, the Royal Albert Hall and insanely high house prices. The further I get to the centre of the city, the more I feel like an outsider. I think it's a paradox I'm not alone in feeling, seeing as so many of us working in service positions can't afford to live anywhere near we work. It's a chasm I constantly feel that I'm standing near the edge of. I'm impressed by the city, but simultaneously I know it owes so much to the wealth divide. I love London, but it is a weird fucking place. On the plus side, it's one of the greatest and most tolerant melting pots on the planet. I got to say, I fucking love me some tolerance. We need to pump people full of it, because there is a shortage in this world.

Tag it and Bag it

As always I'll be using tags in these blog posts, so you can filter my posts by the project you're interested in. The new project is currently tagged... well... "new project"! I'll rename the tag once we have a title for the damned thing!

Saints Row The Third (is the word)

Don't even bother trying to contact me tomorrow. I'll be locked up indoors with Saints Row The Third, denying the existence of the outside world.

So Peter Jackson, if you need some fresh eyes for your new Hobbit movie, sorry son but I'm BUSY.

Bye :-)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

My morning

I know I've got a big job ahead of me so I call my friend, Little Jacob. We've been hanging out a bit lately, playing some pool (he nearly always wins) and eating take-away chicken. He answers the phone.
"Jacob," I say. "I need some of those guns you promised me."
He arranges to meet me downtown. I don't have a car. An large red convertible pulls up at the junction next to me and the obnoxious driver yells an obscenity. I pull him out of his car, throw him to the ground and I climb in. I change the radio station and get some electro pumping on the car's impressive sound system, and I speed off to the meet.

A policeman saw the whole thing and has called in the license plate. After a kilometre or two I've got cops on my tail, sirens screaming. I pull in to the alleyway where Little Jacob is waiting. He hears the sirens and tells me he is leaving, jumping back into his car. No fucking way Jacob, I bought you fried chicken. I ram my convertible into the side of his car, crunching metal and breaking glass. Jacob cries out in shock. I lean out with a submachine gun, squeezing down the trigger as flame kicks out of the barrell, unloading a clip in his direction. Dirty bullet holes rake Jacob's car, his windows shatter and his head bursts like an overripe fruit, spattering blood all over his plush interior. I get out of my car and run down some steps into a subway station, chased by armed police. A cop pulls his gun out and threatens me, in the heat of the moment I open fire and kill him with a single shot. People yell in horror. I hide round a corridor corner as my phone rings. It's Jacob, he's getting out of the hospital soon and needs a lift.
"Sure thing Jacob, I'll be there in an hour" I say as the police open fire and concrete chunks get blown out of the wall. People are screaming and running. I jump onto the subway tracks as the bullets fly and get hit by a train. Everything goes black.

A few hours later I'm walking out of hospital. My phone rings, it's Jacob again. He curses me out for not picking him up, leaving him to make his own way home.

And then I got dressed and went to work

Sunday, 13 November 2011

(Not) Surviving The Toilet Circuit

Well, I guess it was just too big a project. A 45 minute short film with over a dozen locations and 8 main cast members, filmed without any experience.

Unfortunately, the short film project - Surviving The Toilet Circuit - a film about a SE London band not quite climbing the ladder to musical success has stalled and is no longer being pursued.

The biggest problem? It was simply too unwieldy, and finding the time when we're all busy people with jobs and bands and families. It took so long that situations changed and the obstacles began to become too big to climb. It is with a strange mixture of genuine regret and naked relief that we closed the project that had become bigger than I could keep track of.

Mark and Frazer are keeping their script though, and hoping to pass it on to some professionals who can do it justice, maybe even a stage performance. I really liked it, and it really resonated with me. I look forward to seeing what happens with the story in the future.

I learned a metric ton of stuff on our filming and rehearsing for this project, and we're all still great friends, stronger than before. But the lesson is learned. If I'm going to do anything as big as that, I need to do it with far simpler logistics. Fewer cast, fewer locations. These are the limitations I need to work in when this is all being done in people's spare time.

Any cast members reading this, thank you so much for giving up so much of your free time for rehearsals, for filming, for logistics, for everything. You were all so generous, I really can't thank you enough.

Well, I'm meeting with Mark and Frazer tomorrow to use this momentum and education we've had, we're going to decide on a short film to shoot. Something simple, no more than 3 locations, no more than 3 cast members, filmable in two weekends or so. Looking forward to it! The sheer mass of the previous project became a suffocating spectre during my low periods, although this is probably largely because I didn't really know how it was going to work out. Learning on the job is the best way to do it, and I've loved it, but there's always the frightening notion that it could all go wrong, and people would be looking to me to fix it, and I wouldn't be able to. Pretending to lead a project while feeling like a fraud is a bad place to be, which is why I try to be as honest and open as possible with anyone I'm working with. I feel like I've learned so much, but I still feel that this is barely the surface.

Sound is still a big obstacle to climb. I should find some people who know all about that stuff and see what I can learn.

In other news, my rent has gone up by £100 a month (negotiated down from £150) and I am so goddamned broke. Missed an opportunity to film Houdini, one of my new favourite bands (check them out here) because of lack of cash, distance (they are based in Medway, not that far away to be honest) and commitments. I would still dearly love to do a video with them though, we've been talking about it for a long time. I'm happy to have full-time work in a financial climate such as this, but it's leaving me so little freedom to work on what I want to do. I'm really glad to be meeting Mark and Frazer tomorrow, get that spark started again, get myself pulled out of the comfortable mire that I sank into once work on Surviving The Toilet Circuit ceased, and since I finished the trailer video for Sofia The Show. 

I've also been fleshing out the basics on my own screenplay finally. I've got a basic outline that I'm really pleased with. I'm writing it with one eye firmly fixed on how limited my options are when it comes to locations and casting and what can realistically be done. Who knows if it will evolve into something filmable, but right now I'm excited, and working on it makes me happy!

Lastly, Saints Row: The Third comes out on Friday. The last pre-order I'll be making for a while until my finances improve. I can justify it because a huge open-world game has real value - I can play it for months - and I'm nerdily excited about it. We all need some down time, and gaming is how I relax. It's my one true vice. You know, apart from all the drugs.