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By midlandsmovies, Dec 6 2018 08:25PM



Midlands Review - Climbing Trees (2018)


Directed by Matthew R. Ford


Midlands Movies writer Sam Kurd takes a look at a new 33-minute short "Climbing Trees".


Climbing Trees is a short drama film written and directed by Birmingham-based writer/director Matthew M. Ford. It’s the story of a guilt-ridden father, tormented by dreams 12 years on from the murder of an 8-year old girl, who is trying to come to terms with the event and his inability to move on.


It starts slowly, almost lazily, as Kris meets 8-year-old Eliza at the scene of her murder. The mood quickly turns dark as he slips from dream into nightmare, though, and it’s immediately clear that this isn’t going to be a happy tale. Kris is a man divorced from society, seemingly living on the fringes even while passing among the crowds around him.


People know him, know his story, know his 12-year-long tragedy, but no one can bring themselves to speak to him. He drinks hard and grieves hard, living in a blur of drugs and tears. Things come to a head when the news reports that Eliza’s killer is due to be released under an alias, leading him to his presumably-ex-wife Sarah for a spot of soul-searching on how things could have gone differently.


Lead actor Tee Morris does a fantastic job playing Kris, a man torn apart by the depression and guilt that’s wrecked his life for over a decade. It’s all in the eyes, the pain and the despair, all on show but never over the top. When he’s attacked outside a pub and challenging his assailant to kill him, it’s clear what depths this poor man has sunk to. Caroline Frewin is also great as Sarah, putting in a performance that does a lot of heavy emotional lifting with relatively few lines.


The film is shot well, with a good balance between the beautiful bright park where the dreams take place and the dinginess of places like Kris’ rundown apartment. The only real problem is that the pacing is quite slow, and as a result the film tends to drag in places. A few of the scenes would benefit from tighter editing to keep the story flowing smoothly; 30 minutes is quite long for this film, and the story could easily be effectively told in half that time. The dream sequences get a little repetitive towards the end too.


On the whole, though, the film is certainly excellent. The ending was a great resolution to the story, tragic and bittersweet in equal measure, and more than made up for the slow time it took to get there. It’s technically accomplished, wonderfully acted and very moving indeed.


Check it out as soon as you can!


Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend


Find out more about the film over on IMDB by clicking here

By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2018 02:38PM

Birmingham Cathedral hosts Christmas screenings this festive season


On Saturday 8th December, Birmingham Cathedral is hosting a festive film double-header with two classic films on the same day.




First up is The Shop Around the Corner (Dir: Ernst Lubitsch, USA 1940, 99 mins) starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.


Stewart and Sullavan play two gift shop employees that simply cannot stand each other. But over the course of the Christmas season however, they accidentally fall in love through letters they exchange as each other's anonymous pen pal.


Sound familiar? Well, the film actually served as the inspiration for the 1998 Hanks and Ryan schmaltz-fest You've Got Mail. Doors open at 4.00pm with the film starting at 4.30pm.




The second film will be this year's edition of Flatpack’s popular Silent Night series. This year, they are celebrating the career of original Hollywood starlet Mabel Normand, with four of her best short films (USA 1913 - 1927, 78 mins) featuring contemporaries such as Chaplin and Arbuckle and a live score performed by The Meg Morley Trio.


This screening takes place later the same day with doors opening at 8.00pm with the film starting at 8.30pm.


For more info on both films please click these links for tickets and more:


The Shop Around the Corner

https://2018.flatpackfestival.org.uk/event/the-shop-around-the-corner?perf_no=1491


Silent Night

https://2018.flatpackfestival.org.uk/event/silent-night-the-marvellous-mabel-normand?perf_no=1490





By midlandsmovies, Oct 31 2018 03:03PM



Local filmmaker Rebekah Fortune hosting two events at the Birmingham Film Festival


Tamworth set film “Just Charlie” was directed by Rebekah Fortune of Seahorse Films and the talented filmmaker is passing on her world of experience during a number of fantastic upcoming Midlands events in 2018.


First up, Rebekah will be hosting a panel sponsored by BFI NETWORK and The Producers Forum which is aimed at those wanting to make their first – or even trickier second – feature. The event will include a wide range of experts including Jack Tarling whose feature Gods Own Country won awards across the globe as well as being nominated for a BAFTA.


Clare Peace who has produced many independent features that have secured world-wide distribution and Alison Solomon, a respected Midlands casting director will also be in attendance.


Rebekah adds, “I will also be talking about my experiences of making my first feature ‘Just Charlie’ which has won awards across the globe including at The Edinburgh International Film Festival”.


The event will include both a Q & A session as well as networking opportunities and runs from 4pm to 6pm on Sunday 25th November 2018.


Click here to purchase tickets via Eventbrite



The second event involving Rebekah is a screening of her first feature ‘Just Charlie’. Midlands Movies reviewed the film here but this screening will be the first time the film will have been shown in Birmingham.


Having won the prestigious Audience Award at last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, numerous awards internationally and plenty of critical acclaim, the film tells the story of football star, Charlie, who has the world at his feet.


With a top club desperate to sign him, his future is seemingly mapped out but the teenager sees only a nightmare. Trapped in the body of a boy, Charlie is torn between wanting to live up to her father’s expectations and shedding this ill-fitting skin.


The film itself was shot entirely in and around Tamworth and Lichfield and involves local cast and crew and the evening will also be followed by a Q & A from the filmmaker.


Click here to purchase tickets via Eventbrite



But that’s not all! Rebekah is part of Cinesisters Midlands which is a group set up for female directors and producers in the East and West Midlands to come together as a peer mentoring opportunity.


Midlands Movies has covered the group on our blog here and the group has helped nurture female directing and producing talent in the region. With meetings held on the second Monday of each month at venues across the Midlands, the next dates in their diary if you wish to join are:


* Broadway Nottingham 12th November

* The Light Wolverhampton 11th December

* Phoenix Leicester 14th January

* BOM Birmingham 11th February

* QUAD Derby 11th March

* The Albert Tamworth 8th April


And those interested can contact the group at wearecinesistersmidlands@gmail.com


For more information on Rebekah’s current and upcoming work check out her production company website at www.seahorsefilms


By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2018 07:58PM



Midlands Review - Breakdown


Directed by Michael Ellis


“You just spent last night in a police station”.


And so says one of two male characters in a car as they drive through the countryside and come across a stranded woman attempting to get a phone signal as she stands next to a broken-down vehicle.


This is the set up of new Midlands film Breakdown from Michael Ellis and from the outset we get the impression that something very dark could be on the horizon involving this naughty duo.


Despite these shady themes the film is shot in stark daylight – throwing a bit of oddness into what could have been a potentially clichéd picking up a stranger on the road dynamic – but the quirky performances help to sell the unpleasant awkwardness as it plays out.


As the men stop to "help", they explain how their phones cannot be used to call for assistance (battery’s dead, left at home) and how they also know nothing of how to fix cars. This sets a tone of jet black comedy amongst what started as a seedy set up to the film.


Whilst the man who spent the night in the cells (Paul Findlay as “Passenger”) spins a yarn about his kindly offer of a lift, the second man’s worried brow (Dominic Thompson) is shown in close-up – hinting upon a repulsive inevitability he may have seen before. Offering to take her to a nearby garage, she reluctantly agrees to get into their car and the men and their new passenger drive off down the road together as we await their fate.


But director Ellis jumps 6 minutes before the story starts in an ingenious flashback which turns the tale upon its head. Without spoiling too much, the lady in distress (admirably played by Tenisha White) may not be as unaware as the first half of the short makes her out to be. We also get to see her character become less victim and more intimidator with an hilarious delivery of “piss off” which had me laughing despite the more pressing serious matters.


A fantastic short that handles its different tones with expertise, the twist in narrative during the middle section completely changes the direction of the story. As we are given new information we are suddenly thrust into a more complex dilemma which is surprising yet satisfying. Paul Findlay in particular as a man with obnoxious intentions gives a believable yet frightening turn, with his staring eyes and superb deadpan delivery of the lies his character spins.


With the right balance of story and plot twists and a trio of great acting turns in the film's brief 7-minutes, Michael Ellis has delivered a great short film that I hope not only does well on the festival circuit but brings more attention to this exciting filmmaker.


Mike Sales


Follow Michael and find out more about his film projects at his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MEFilmsUK



By midlandsmovies, Sep 24 2018 11:23AM



“OCD: Can You Hear It Too?”


Directed by Laura Ray


A new short documentary surrounding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) comes from Birmingham-born director Laura Ray in “OCD: Can You Hear It Too?” which aims to spread the awareness of this mental illness in the hope to help others across the UK who are suffering in silence.


Laura Ray began directing plays and writing scripts from a very young age, until finally making it her ambition to make a full time career in the future as an aspiring screenwriter. But for nearly 4 years, she has also been trying to educate herself during her own battle with OCD.


Contemplating why she thought the way she did and why she acted in particular ways, Laura approached her film by trying to find other sufferers willing to speak about their experiences.


“I wasn’t there to be in control of it”, explains one sufferer as the film breaks down the various ways OCD can take hold of a person’s life. The film uses interviews to explore the multiple facets of people’s daily lives and even how the beginnings of OCD can start at a young age.


Another person, quoted only as Jess and silhouetted in the dark, shows how sufferers even want to hide what they perceive as a sometimes shameful issue, despite films like Laura’s which attempt to highlight that they need not suffer in silence.


The film also draws attention to the “completely insane” actions (as one person describes it) but the utter awful inability to be able to stop.


Panic. Poison. 24/7. Therapy. False memories. The complexity of OCD is explained by those experiencing the condition and Laura Ray simply lets those in the talking heads sections speak for themselves. With little intervention from the filmmaker, this makes their plight all the more relatable.


The film also depicts how managing to live with the day to day consequences is sometimes the best sufferers can expect. And despite therapy sessions, and even medication, those with OCD take small steps to alleviate their frustrations.


Going further, Laura Ray doesn’t plan for this to be her last OCD documentary either. By next year she aims to create an even deeper, honest account of OCD but this time through the eyes of the people surrounding the person suffering.


But by showing the options for support – friends, doctors, online forums – we see the strength of her current documentary. It provides a tangible plan of action and suggests that by joining a group to share experiences can be incredibly useful.


“Even at your lowest point. It does get easier”. A tender and sympathetic portrayal, Can You Hear It Too doesn’t break any documentary genre tropes but its simple delivery helps make the complex and sensitive issues understandable for any audience.


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Aug 12 2018 08:31AM



Midlands Spotlight - Pocket Pictures


Midlands Movies Mike Sales checks out Pocket Pictures, a Birmingham based organisation helping filmmakers from across the UK with their projects, showreels, training and more. Read on to find out about this company and their wealth of local experience.


Pocket Pictures is a video, film and content creator and can take the words, pictures, idea or scripts of their clients and turn them into a visual reality. With a history of clients trusting their experience, every project they take on is unique and has its own special requirements.


Owner Mark Todd is a writer, director and filmmaker in his own right and prides himself on the quality of work he creates. “In an exciting time when cameras are everywhere it's important to remember that just because you have a spanner, you may not always be a mechanic”.


Being based in the Midlands, Pocket Pictures have worked with a number of local projects as well including the recent Suicide Blonde where they handled the post production. (See our coverage of that film here).


Their small studio in Aston, Birmingham covers a diverse workload ranging from training actors to corporate work. Mark himself is also developing his second feature The Crooked House whilst his first feature, Bad Reception, was shot in Hollywood!


Their current range of courses can help actors develop their skills. Acting ‘On Camera’ is an intensive course designed to give actors the industry knowledge needed to achieve their best performance in front of the camera. Courses accommodate 6 people and there is plenty of time to ask questions and work on individual needs.


In addition, Essential Voice Coaching for stage or screen is a one day course led by established voice coach Emily Lee who aims to give attendees more confidence in vocal performance using proven professional exercises.


The company’s Telsen Studio is a 500 square foot production space in a quiet area of Aston and can even help with creating showreels with interviews, talking heads, green screen and model shoots all in one full package.


With a whole range of support to the filmmakers and cast and crew of the Midlands area, Pocket Pictures offers a great opportunity to help support the local movie community. If you are interested in finding out more then please check out their full details below for further information.


http://www.pocketpicturesltd.com


Pocket Pictures, The Telsen Studio

Unit 313, The Telsen Industrial Centre, Birmingham, B6 4TN

Contact: projects@pocketpicturesltd.com or call 07447 592605



By midlandsmovies, Aug 5 2018 11:54AM



Midlands Spotlight – West Midlands filmmaker David Knight


With his new film Suicide Blonde selected for a prestigious new regional film festival, Birmingham filmmaker David Knight made a big change when younger to find a new career in the film and TV industry. Midlands Movies Mike caught up with his latest and future filmmaking plans.


David Knight started his journey to be a filmmaker at the age of 21. Walking away from a bar management career of 3 years, David took the big plunge to forge a new path in film and television.


With lofty ambitions and a love of all films he quickly enrolled at Solihull College on a Media and Production Course. And after just 6 months his first short film Rendezvous was already handpicked to be part of the official selection of the 2004 Stourbridge film festival.


As well as receiving favourable reviews, David used this acknowledgement to successfully complete his course and received a HND with distinction.


Moving to the University of Gloucestershire to study a degree in video production, David wrote and directed two short films in his final year. The first, 2’s Company was a romantic comedy and part of the official selection at the Viewfinder Film Festival in 2006.


After working on a separate project as editor to hone his skills, he then went on to make his final film Hit or Miss, a dark drama which won him the Screen Writers Festival Award for Best Writer / Director 2007.



And now his latest film, Suicide Blonde, tells the story of a young woman on a self-destructive path who tries to piece together the events of the previous night.


Cast members include the talented Kerry Sirrell, Joe Clarke and David Pritchard with Pocket Pictures taking responsibility for the post production and grading of the film while the audio soundtrack is being produced by Matt Shaw.


The Bottle Smoke Film Festival celebrates filmmakers from all budgets and comprises of wo days of industry talks with day one ending in a feature film with a Q & A, whilst day two will be ending with a short film award ceremony.


The event runs from Saturday 8th to Sunday 9th September 2018 at the Stoke Film Theatre, College Road, Stoke on Trent. For more information check out their Facebook page and to grab tickets click here at Eventbrite.


Check out some of David’s previous work on his Vimeo page here





By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2018 07:24AM



The Return of the Ring (2018)


Directed and written by AR Ugas


“Enough teaching about our history. It’s time to fight for our future”.


High fantasy and enduring myth reach the Midlands in a brand new 22-minute short from AR Ugas who brings Tolkien’s tales and epic themes into a contemporary setting with his new film The Return of the Ring.


Described as a fan-film with a title that could elicit groans, don’t let that fool you as the short shouldn’t be dismissed as an amateur production but one which condenses the novel’s rich themes and ideas into a uniquely local idea.


The story follows a young female Elf (Rhi Hardman as Illyandra) who sets out to reclaim the ring after it is told that it was never originally destroyed. This was followed by The Race of Man eradicating Middle-earth which ensured any trace of its history was to become a fairy tale.


Opening with a foot chase involving a mysterious hooded-man in black, the film wears its love of not just the novel but of Peter Jackson’s infamous trilogy on its sleeve. Illyandra escapes from this Nazgûl – the immortal beings bound to the power of the One Ring – and director Ugas, who also writes, scatters some archaic Tolkien language to his script too.


The ring ends up with a barman (Sam Malley as John) and Illyandra makes contact with him at a nightclub. And despite using “orc magic” to get her hand on the powerful item, the Ring Wraith is soon back on their tail. The film balances its extreme fantasy ideas with a suburban realism and the use of potions and pointy ears is subtly ingrained in the film’s modern narrative.



Technically the short suitably aims for the epic with drone shots over the city giving a cinematic feel to the proceedings. Director of photography James Alexander Barnett excellently mixes lens flare with well-chosen locations that give a sly wink to the source material. A conversation in a park against a tree harks to fantasy forests whilst a neon lit water feature in a nightclub echoes a mythic waterfall of sorts.


Sadly, the apartment location– acting as the characters’ main sanctuary – feels a little ‘flat’ but its cramped space seems to represent their confinement – hiding from their enemy in a metaphorical dungeon. But again, its low-budget roots don’t affect the great creativity at work. A clever panning shot, some suitably intense music and well composed colour grading gives the ‘other-worldly’ illusion of the ring-bearer’s scary visions.


Dominic Thompson portrays Alatar the Young (also credited as “The Wizard”) and unfortunately I felt the actor went a bit too far with a slightly pantomime performance. However, his well-delivered monologue to fill in backstory was effectively utilised and the actor nicely incorporated hints of Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue from Jackson’s movie.




Woven into the film was also some excellent, but subtle, updating of ancient costumes. The leather jacket clad Nazgûl, a hooded advisor and the earthy tones of a wood Elf were fantastic and heck, even a white t-shirt embodied John’s naïve innocence to the events unfolding.


Nisaro Karim as Amdir arrives towards the end and the film moves swiftly between locations and characters and flashes of humour keep it light-hearted at times as well. With the power of the ring continuing to corrupt the heart of men, the film shows expert dexterity in technique and cinema skill with its innovative spin of the traditions of Middle-earth whilst still making it accessible and understandable to a modern Midlands audience.


A perfect ending that has a literary nod to Tolkien was a brilliant surprise that will leave you wanting more and the story’s present-day setting blends tones well. With great craftmanship, AR Ugas’ film therefore ends up being not just token Tolkien, but a fully-fledged and ambitious homage that throws in its own satisfying twist on legends with amazing precision. There are some good films in this world and shorts like The Return of the Ring are worth fighting for.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short here:






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