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By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2018 09:00AM



Midlands Interview - Deborah Haywood


Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales speaks to local filmmaker Deborah Haywood about her new film Pin Cushion, bullying and the brave decision to shoot back at the local school she grew up in.


Midlands Movies Mike: Hi Deborah. Thanks for agreeing to speak to us today. Please can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?


Deborah Haywood: Hiya. Well, my name is Deborah Haywood and I’m from Swadlincote. I’ve made five short films and have recently complete my first feature film, Pin Cushion.


MMM: And how long have you worked in the film industry?


DH: For ten years. I always wanted to write and I was writing scripts and wanted to read British ones and so I asked producer Sally Hibbin at Parallax (who was once Ken Loach’s producer) for a job as a script reader. To get the (unpaid) job she gave me two scripts and asked me to work out which one was on the rejection pile, and which one was in development. I had to write notes for both of them and luckily I picked the correct one that was in development and Sally liked the notes so much she asked me to become the script editor on it. The script was by the very talented actor and writer Tracy Brabin. Who is now, of course, Labour MP for Batley and Spen!


MMM: That's a great story. So what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome?


DH: As a writer, I think it’s been learning how to respond to notes. How to progress the script and story so that it satisfies the reader/audience while still keeping my original intention and vision.


MMM: Your new film is Pin Cushion. Can you tell our readers a bit about it and how it came about?


DH: It’s a dark fairy tale love story between an oddball Mother and Daughter and how their moving to a new town affects their relationship. I first wrote the treatment in 2008 and it’s been through various different lives and dark alleys and at times (a lot of the time actually) I never believed it would get made. I’m really glad I persisted.



MMM: And how did you come to cast leads Lily Newmark and Joanna Scanlan?


DH: Kharmel Cochrane and her team found Lily and I picked her out of a massive amount of videos they sent me. They had worked with her before for a pop video. I told them I was looking for someone who seemed untouched by modern life, and Lily felt like that in both her essence and her unusual looks. She looked like a pretty prawn or a beautiful rare salmon who had never seen dry land. So I met her and I fell in love! I think Gavin got the script to Joanna? Then Kharmel fixed up a meeting? I’m not exactly sure!


There was so much happening and often these things just magically happen and I’m not always privy to the ins and outs! All I know is we went up to Manchester to meet Joanna on her day off because she was shooting No Offence. And we talked and talked and I instinctively knew that if Joanna said yes then she would take such good care of Lyn. And she did. They both did. I think both Lily and Joanna cared for Iona and Lyn a great deal and that shows on screen and in their wonderfully sensitive performances.


MMM: That sounds great that such a bond was made between the cast. But how did you make the decision to film in the Midlands?


DH: Yes, I’m from Swad! (Swadlincote). When I’m writing I somehow always picture everything set there because I know it all so well. I was a bit nervous about shooting a film in my home town in case everyone thought I thought I was ‘it.’ But everyone was really welcoming and we actually shot in my old school, Pingle, which turned out to be amazing. I’m so glad we shot it there because it felt more authentic for me and I think I’d have felt insecure shooting such a personal story in a place that I didn’t know like the back of my hand.


MMM: That must have been like going back to the past! And how much of your other own experiences were included in Pin Cushion?


DH: Well, I was bullied at school and I suffered as an adult because of it. I still do, sometimes. It isn’t really physically autobiographical, it’s more like emotionally autobiographical. I think I definitely drew from people I’ve known when I first started writing the characters. But then they transformed into their own characters the more I developed the script.





MMM: What films or filmmakers inspire you? Did that influence any creative decisions in Pin Cushion?


DH: So many! The films that inspired Pin Cushion include Sweetie, by Jane Campion. Carrie, by Brian de Palma, Heavenly Creatures by Peter Jackson. Welcome to the Doll’s House by Todd Solondz. I also love David Lynch and the Hungarian novelist Agota Kristop inspired me. I also admire and am inspired by Lynne Ramsay and Sarah Polley and Jane Campion and Cate Shortland.


MMM: And where can people see Pin Cushion?


DH: It’s getting a release nationwide in select cinemas from July 13th, with previews set up in some cinemas, along with a tour from Bird’s Eye View, as part of their Reclaim The Frame campaign.


MMM: And finally, what’s next on the horizon for you?


I’m just starting to write a postnatal depression horror called SQUARK, and a kind of comedy in the tone of my short film SIS, that is also a musical!


Pin Cushion will be released in select cinemas across the UK from Friday 13th July


Check out http://pincushionfilm.co.uk/ – for more information and cinema listing details.





By midlandsmovies, Jul 7 2018 08:16AM



New West Midlands horror short Monsters gets underway


Hot on the heels of their short giallo thriller 'All Bad Things...', which had its premiere at the 2018 Grindhouse Planet Film Festival, Midlands-based Vamporama Films is in pre-production on a new project, 'Monsters'.


This dark tale stars William Hayes and will be directed by Chrissie Harper, whose screenplay was based on a storyline by producer Steve Green.


With pre-production beginning in November 2017 the story is set in the “shadows of a ruined world, where a lone individual addresses an unknown audience”.


Are they his accusers? His judges? His acolytes? Well, Vampora Films hopes to draw the viewer into their dark universe asking whether he might be a madman or a messiah.


With All Bad Things (see Midlands Movies coverage here) complete, and the new production now well underway, the extraordinarily talented William Hayes is attached to what they describe as “a one-man tour de force”.


Previously William has appeared at the company’s regular film nights and in October 2017 he mesmerised an appreciative audience with a gripping rendition of Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.


With location scouting complete, Chrissie Harper is currently storyboarding the film’s key elements (see her promo piece above). Chrissie herself is a Solihull based filmmaker from the West Midlands who is influenced by Orson Welles and has previous experience in editing, design, film-making & video editing.


Having additional experience in illustration this has become crucial in the development of each of her projects including this latest one, Monsters.


Producer Steve Green is known throughout the Midlands with his film work for Made in Birmingham as well as the very successful Birmingham Horror Group nights in the region.


To follow the progress of the film please check out their official sites below:


http://chezchrissie.co.uk/

http://www.ghostwords.co.uk

Twitter: @SteveGhostwords & @VamporamaFilms




By midlandsmovies, Jul 7 2018 07:46AM

Trentside (2018)


Directed by Charlie Delaney


Trentside is a 30 minute short written and directed by Charlie Delaney. It tells the story of Sterling (Josh Barrett), a troubled teen who happens upon a disturbing Super 8 reel in an abandoned building. After watching the footage, he has strange visions and dreams, finding it hard to distinguish reality from fantasy.


As a directorial debut, this film is pretty damned fantastic. Delaney has a great eye and there are some great shots and sequences here. Spencer’s foray into the darker areas of the abandoned building is a particular standout, with the use of light and shadow joining the superb sound design and eerie soundtrack to produce an incredibly creepy sequence.


‘Creepy’ is the operative word here; Trentside is a mood piece, my favourite type of horror film. The emphasis is on creepy visuals and, especially, sound to unsettle the viewer and Trentside delivers in spades. The opening scenes set the tone, with the flickering fire and the long shot of people arriving and standing in near-silence around it. I hate jumpscares but the ones here are used well, breaking the tension as needed rather than just thrown in now and then for a cheap shock. In fact, there’s one moment in the abandoned building that many would have used a jumpscare for, but the fact that they chose not to really drives the horror home.


A good horror filmmaker should know when it’s more effective to avoid the jumpscare, so kudos to Delaney for making this excellent choice here. The film-reel footage also feels genuine (perhaps filmed on Super 8 for authenticity?) and is evocative of the cursed VHS tape in The Ring.


At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Barrett’s performance as the lead – he seemed a little monotone and his lines were often mumbled and a little hard to make out. It quickly became clear that that was the point, though; Spencer is a moody teen with troubles on his mind, sent to therapy for violent outbursts in class. Barrett’s performance is completely genuine for a troubled teenager, and we’ve all sat behind kids like Sterling on the tram. Barrett’s performance gives him nuance and vulnerability.


Trentside was made for a budget of around £2000 and so was shot ‘guerrilla’ style, ensuring they made the most of the settings available. And boy did they make the most of them! From the skatepark to the Savoy Cinema to Sterling’s meditative moment on Trent Bridge, this film bleeds Nottingham (despite having been partially filmed in Yorkshire). As a Nottingham resident it was nice to see these little touches popping up and giving it a sense of authenticity. The budget is put to good use as this film certainly doesn’t look or sound cheap. The rave scene especially comes off well as it’s clear that there’s only a small group present, but the use of smoke and the barrage of sound makes it feel much much bigger than it is.


If I have any criticisms it’s that a couple of the supporting actors’ line deliveries are a little wobbly and that the therapy scenes slow the film down to a crawl (just a pacing thing, not at all the fault of Anita Dashwood who does an excellent job in the dual role of therapist and ghost), but these are merely niggles and the film overcomes them with great ease.


It’s not the most original premise, perhaps, but horror is one of those genres where that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Horror fans expect certain tropes, and as long as the production values and creep factor are high, a plot that’s slightly derivative is very easy to forgive.


This is a solid debut and a very strong foundation to build a career on – good luck, Charlie, I have a suspicion you’re going to go far!


Sam Kurd

https://twitter.com/splend

By midlandsmovies, Jun 29 2018 11:56AM



Wasted


(2018)


Directed by Lee Price. Homebird Films


We open on old home video footage of a young man in local filmmaker Lee Price’s new feature Wasted, made by his Homebird Films production company.


Having previously co-directed the great Neville Rumble, Price delivers Wasted as a follow to his last film Frettin’. That film was a musical odyssey made in Hinckley and Nuneaton which had a nomad-like story of a wandering guitar player and the slice-of-life scrapes he gets into and Price tackles similar themes in Wasted also.


We soon quickly jump to a young homeless man called John (George Welton) who is shown down on his luck on the streets, drinking his days away in city centres and alleys. Slowly revealing the struggles he faces, Price delivers good musical score choices which compliment John’s loneliness and isolation as he tries to find food and scraps to survive.


10 minutes in though and we have very little narrative, in what I assumed was a much more art-house film style. John’s actions show what he is up against but unfortunately shine very little light on the character. John’s selfish actions garnered little sympathy from me which became a problem later on as he is almost the sole character for the entire film.


As he gets caught breaking and entering, hoping to get revenge on those he feels have wronged him, we get some passable fight scenes but these are too thinly spread throughout the film which relies heavily on long, esoteric dreamy shots of John’s world with only a tiny amount of development.


On a technical level, the film looks good with high production values I could find little fault with. Wasted was filled with well composed shots, understandable editing and some Suspiria-inspired red/green lighting which gave the film a horror vibe at a number of points during the movie.


Sadly though, despite these positives, little of consequence really happens at all. There is almost no dialogue in its entire runtime and the few lines that are uttered are simply delivered by almost anonymous characters telling John to “eff off”. In one scene, our central character is spinning around aimlessly in a town centre with no apparent meaning or coordination – a metaphor if you will for the film’s somewhat haphazard construction.


In my review Frettin’ I mentioned the lack of narrative when compared to the film’s extended length, and found a similar absence here. John stares into a mirror, John gets drunk and John gets accosted by members of the public as a “weirdo” or “ratboy”. These types of sequences are repeated over and over again but do not enlighten the audience about this person and their journey. The repetition soon became frustrating.


George Welton is good as John who despite not being given much dialogue to work with, expresses what he can with subtle (and not so subtle) scenes of introspection and degradation. As an almost silent mood piece it would work as a 20-minute short but at 1 hour 30 minutes for me it was too long – disappointing considering the director’s previous films. Scene after scene of drunken recollections and/or getting confronted by various passing characters simply failed to engage me fully. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that if you added the first ten mins to the last the last ten mins and cut the entire middle you'd essentially have the same story.


With high expectations and for all the excellent techincal quality, I therefore feel it's a shame then that the film ended up being a slightly wasted opportunity to show a man at the end of his tether and battling his demons.


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jun 28 2018 01:47PM



Entebbe (2018) Dir. José Padilha


Entebbe is an historical thriller from José Padilha recounting the story of the 1976 hostage rescue by Israeli forces named Operation Thunderbolt. When Air France Flight 139 is hijacked en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, the plane is refuelled, and passengers and crew held hostage at part of Entebbe airport in Uganda whilst a ransom of $5 million and the release of 53 pro-Palestinian militants is demanded.


Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike as Brigitte Kuhlmann and Rush’ Daniel Brühl as Wilfried Böse play two German terrorists who take control of the plane but once landed, their high-risk endeavour is super ceded by a Palestinian group working with dictator Idi Amin to ensure their demands are secured.


As families are split into Israeli and non-Israeli groups, we cut to Lior Ashkenazi as Yitzhak Rabin and Eddie Marsan as Shimon Peres who antagonise each other to show the complex machinations of the Jewish government as they seek to find a resolution. However, the film’s politics are delivered in a heavy-handed way with its “if we don’t talk, there will never be peace” message so in your face that the dialogue explicitly repeats it twice in the last 20 minutes. What audience would want subtext, eh?


This heavy-handed approach is further muddled by extensive footage of the Batsheva Dance Company performing a modern routine to the traditional Jewish song Echad Mi Yodea. Although there is an obvious crossover in the stories, this abstract interpretation is so strangely edited into the movie at different narrative points, any parallel topics it tries to infer are lost as the flow of the film disappears.


The poor stop-start nature of the film is improved by the strong performances of Pike and Brühl who go through a range of emotions as their loyalties and commitment to the cause is tested. As diplomatic efforts fail, an inevitable counter operation by IDF commandos led Angel Bonanni as Yonatan Netanyahu is approved, and the finale is a so-so edited, but much needed, shoot-out at the airport.


Its closest relative is Spielberg’s 2005 Munich but without that director’s flair, background and more complex structure, Entebbe is a fine political thriller but is almost all surface and no depth. A fine way to while away a few hours of your time but you’ll get none of the complexities of the politics at play.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jun 28 2018 09:22AM



Midlands Spotlight - New scriptwriting competition launched


A brand new competition offering anyone with a creative short film idea has been launched with an opportunity for new and upcoming writers to have their work professionally produced for FREE by Daniel Alexander Films.


Daniel Alexander is a multi award winning director and recently directed a film for the Commonwealth Games, which made history after it was televised by the BBC to over 1 billion people around the world.


Daniel has worked with an impressive calibre of clients including the Commonwealth Games, BBC, Nike, Apple, Channel 4, MTV and many more and the competition is a new event to encourage more writers to get their ideas on screen.


But how does it work? Entrants are asked to submit a treatment for their short film idea using their free template (click here)


With a deadline of 12pm on 13th July 2018, if your treatment is selected, Daniel will request a properly formatted script for your short film idea.


The scripts will be judged by a panel of industry professional judges, who will declare one overall winner. Then the winner will have their film professional made and also be invited to be involved in the entire filmmaking process.


The winning film will be shot on a RED DRAGON CINEMA rental package worth over £1000, provided by official sponsors for the competition PANNY HIRE, Birmingham's leading camera rental house.


To be eligible, you must be living in the UK and have an original short film idea that runs for no longer than 10 minutes.

So if you have an idea for film then please send all entires to submissions@danielalexanderfilms.com


The judges are below:





By midlandsmovies, Jun 25 2018 10:09AM



Red Sparrow (2018) Dir. Francis Lawrence


Based upon Jason Matthews’ book on his experiences in the CIA, Red Sparrow features Jennifer Lawrence fresh from her risky role in Aronofsky’s “mother!” tackling another part that pushes the actress’ boundaries further.


She plays ballerina Dominika Egorova – Lawrence prepped for the dance scenes but it looked somewhat CGI to me – who after a serious injury is recruited by her Uncle Ivan to work for Russian intelligence. She is sent to train as a “sparrow” – an agent that is assigned to use seduction to ensnare targets. In parallel, CIA operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) tries to re-connect with a Russian mole he’s been working with and their two operatives' lives are soon entwined as they come face-to-face.


Both end up admitting to each other their appointed roles with their respective employers and it’s here that the film becomes a convoluted dance between the two sides. This sadly results in a somewhat confusing narrative though, which is a shame.


In the UK, the BBFC removed some violence which lowered its audience age-rating, but this now pushes the film into extreme “15” territory. Although Lawrence was aware of the film’s nudity, a female-led action thriller this really isn’t - despite the trailer-house sales pitch.


For example, during her spy training, Lawrence is coerced to strip and seduce in humiliating sexual ways which makes for uncomfortable viewing. Charlotte Rampling as "Matron", the Headmistress of the school, verges on a callousness and cruelty not seen since Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And Matthias Schoenaert, Mary-Louise Parker Jeremy Irons and Ciarán Hinds flesh out the surveillance support cast with similarly shady roles.


However, the sleazy spectacle does give the film more grit than your average thriller and is all the better for it. We already have the over-the-top violence of John Wick and Atomic Blonde so this more sordid story which goes to darker places than those two helps sets it apart.


A smart and clever script ensures the sleazy sequences never get too off-putting and Lawrence, as always, is a mesmerising screen presence – from the naïve agent at the film’s start to the brutal assassin we witness later. That said, the violence may be too extreme for some and the film runs out of steam towards the end as scenes of torture may push the limits of those even with the strongest of stomachs.


Secrets are swapped and a collaboration of swift action/chase moments keep the momentum moving forward. If I may be so crude, it certainly isn’t hard to see why Jennifer Lawrence is cast as a faultless, and flawless, seducer of agents. Sensual yet dangerous, Lawrence’s physical attributes are played to the full yet she gives more depth to a role that could have been simply “Bond-girl” territory.


An intriguing espionage adaptation, Red Sparrow has some harrowing scenes alongside the usual spy tropes of double-crossing agents, security snooping and enemy infiltration. It is also an exploitation flick at heart, and although the movie doesn’t have the gloss of the violent assassin films of the past few years, its nasty pleasures are cleverly calculated and provide some ugly Cold War-style thrills.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jun 25 2018 10:06AM



Game Night (2018) Dir. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein


Game Night is a refreshing American comedy film which stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as couple Max and Annie who after meeting during a bar trivia night, get married and run regular game nights at home with their suburban friends.


When Max’s more successful brother Brooks (Super 8 and King Kong’s Kyle Chandler) shows up unexpectedly one evening, he invites his sibling and his fellow players to join in an elaborate murder mystery evening.


However, unknowingly to the participants, Brooks’ dodgy past catches up with him and the evening turns into an actual kidnapping as Brooks is taken by the real criminals he has crossed. Game Night has a simple set up but what is refreshing is the lack of improvisation sequences. I am personally sick to death of the Will Ferrell and Seth Rogen's “stumbling” and “shouting” style and on-the-spot quips. That particular shtick can only be edited and shot one way but the directors clearly have a well-written script to work from. This also leads them to more bold directorial choices.


The movie looks like a film (rather than the flat TV-style of a lot of American comedies) and has more in common with Edgar Wright’s frenetic approach than, say, Judd Apatow. Again, the use of scripted dialogue allows for many more clever jokes, set-ups and pay-offs.


The film’s support cast is equally appealing with Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury all playing interesting roles as the couple's friends whilst Jesse Plemons’ police officer is a fantastic performance of a quizzical and creepy next door neighbour.


As the various teams split up and follow fake clues to identify the real location of the kidnapping, the film is actually not too dissimilar to Keanu (2016) where suburbanites get caught up with criminals for one crazy night. Like that film, the script helps allow more film-making creativity as we later get strangely artistic tilt shift shots and an impressive one-take Faberge egg throwing sequence – which gets tossed around a mansion like the pig-skin of a Super Bowl.


But it’s not all trivial filmmaking pursuits, the jokes fly thick and fast with inventive sequences such as McAdams trying to remove a bullet from her husband’s arm as she follows medical instructions from a militia website on her phone. A dog toy in his mouth and some gruesome effects meant the movie began winning me over with its black comedy charms.


Coming in with very low expectations it has to be said, Game Night may have garnered a few extra points for its surprising movie-making skill but I was pleasantly surprised by actors I previously don’t much care for. And the car chases, fights and witty dialogue had the feel of classic 80s comedies like Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon. A compendium of clever scenes and sequences therefore sees Game Night as a fun and entertaining ride that has winning elements throughout.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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