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By midlandsmovies, Aug 25 2018 08:59AM



Midlands Interview - Joe Roguszka


20th Century Tribe is an upcoming short film nostalgically looking at the 90s youth and rave culture in the UK and Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales catches up with the progress of this exciting new Midlands film by speaking to the film's director Joe Roguszka.


Midlands Movies: Morning Joe. Can you tell our readers how your new film came about?

Joe Roguszka: I have fond memories of the 1990s from the perspective of a child. I feel it’s a time period that was vibrant and exciting atmospherically, stylistically and sociologically. For several years I have had a curious interest in the ‘90s rave scene, which has gradually grown over time until in the last twelve months it has become a fully-fledged obsession.


MM: And what inspired 20th Century Tribe?

JR: Well, I have an immense fascination and love for 90s rave music, the visual aesthetics, and for the feeling of non-judgemental unity that appears to have been significant in the ‘90s rave scene. As someone who loves to get lost in the trance of good techno music, loves to dance to that kind of music, I have a degree of admiration for the nightclub scene at that time, whereas to be brutally honest I feel that today’s nightclub scene is comparatively vapid and quite disappointing.


MM: And are you from the Midlands yourself?

JR: Yes. I was born in Derbyshire in the very early 1990s and have lived here my whole life. Since a very young age I have had a passionate love for cinema, for the amazing power it has to allow the viewer to temporarily escape their present situation, to become immersed in a world and a story completely separate from their own. Today I consider myself an avid lover of cinema, and an aspiring writer/director. I have a particularly keen interest in developing as a screenwriter and having recently graduated from Derby University with a degree in Film Production.


MM: What have the struggles of getting the production to completion so far?

JR: This is a challenging question, as the production has been so ambitious that there have been numerous difficulties. I think finding and securing suitable locations is always very challenging, and working at such a micro-budget level I have often had to make the best of locations with issues such as noise pollution or a likelihood of interference from members of the public. With this project being set in the 1990s as well, even some of the interior locations have been challenging. Usually interior locations allow more control, but we did have to be very eagle eyed for anything in the frame which was too new for the early 1990s period. Recruiting extras for the rave scenes was particularly difficult, especially considering the location was a drive away so we had to arrange transport as well. Securing permission to use licensed 1980s and 1990s rave music has been tremendously difficult. Ultimately however I think all these difficulties are the result of working with such a small budget, so as has always been the case with films I’ve worked on I believe the most difficult aspect has been securing financial backing and being able to work with the budget we have.



MM: So can you tell us a bit about the main characters?

JR: The protagonist is an eighteen-year-old girl named Heather, played by Becki Jones. She has just finished sixth form and is in a position of dilemma between rushing into university despite being unsure what she wants to do, or taking a gap year to learn more about herself and what she wants out of life. She’s quite a socially awkward person, and at the beginning of the film is still quite new to the rave scene, having only recently been befriended by the supporting characters. Katie is played by Charlotte King. She’s protective and sociable, having taken Heather under her wing so to speak and introduced her to the rave scene, simply due to an enthusiasm for meeting new people and making new friends. Dean Morris plays Hud, a boyish, high energy character who similar to Katie is very sociable and loves to make friends. Danny Patrick plays Brett, a morally ambiguous character whose energy is somewhat averse to that of the rave scene, in that he can be quite hostile to new people. Spence, played by Instinct Elkanah, is sort of Brett’s wingman although he’s much more good natured and is perhaps quite naive with regards to some of Brett’s concerning traits. Finally, Justine Moore plays Brett’s girlfriend Amber. She’s in a situation where she’s in a relationship with a guy who doesn’t treat her particularly well, but she stays with him due to low self-esteem and for the principle of being seen with an older guy.


MM: How did you come to cast the actors in these roles? What were you looking for?

JR: To be honest I did have a few actors in mind when I was writing the script, actors that I had worked with before who I felt worked well and that I felt I worked well with. There was one actor who I met by chance while I was writing the script, and I had an amazing experience where it felt like I had met my character, in that the actor was almost exactly as I had imagined the character from the way they spoke, to mannerisms, physical appearance and personality. I cast this actor in the proof of concept short which we shot in February/March, the idea being that this would serve as an audition for the role in the film itself. They were great in that, so I kept them in the role for the film. We held open auditions for all the other roles, and there were definitely cases where actors were not what I had initially envisioned when writing the role, but fit the role surprisingly well in the audition so that I was happy to cast them.


MM: And how much of your own experiences are in 20th Century Tribe?

JR: I had a sort of realisation at the beginning of this year, that certain characters I have written tend to be manifestations of different parts of myself. This is particularly true of the short film Collision that I wrote and directed last year and is too for 20th Century Tribe. In particular, I feel like the protagonist Heather is a manifestation of my shy, introvert self, and that Hud is a manifestation of my high energy, extrovert self which doesn’t come out very often. I think the place that Heather is in is a reflection of how I have felt for perhaps a few years now; unsure of what I’m really doing with my life, what I’m working towards, where I belong and with whom I belong, essentially looking for a sense of belonging. Meanwhile Hud is myself on the rare occasions that I’m carefree and comfortable in my surroundings. There are certain other characters where I’ve drawn influence from real people I have known, perhaps a little cheekily in some cases. Sometimes I make a point of remembering amazing dialogue, or incidents, that I witness or am a part of in real life, with the clear intention to use it in something I write. So there are moments in the film, whether dialogue or something else, which I have witnessed in real life.



MM: What are your favourite films?

JR: My favourite genres are actually dystopia and western, each of which I have a huge interest in and a huge appreciation for. Dystopia in particular I am kind of obsessed with so much that most of my written assessed work at university was on dystopian cinema. I like dystopias that explore the sociological consequences of disaster, or social or economic failure, The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, Mad Max being my favourites, although I recently discovered and immensely loved the Aussie film Dead End Drive-In. I keep telling people about it hoping someone will watch it and love it as much as me


MM: Any music films?

JR: With regards to films about youth, music and partying, this is definitely another kind of film which I very much enjoy. I like ‘slice of life’ films that tell a relatively simple story, I find them very relatable and endearing. In particular I’m a big admirer of the works of Shane Meadows, particularly Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England (film and tv). I think Rumble Fish, Dazed and Confused and American Honey are great films about youth culture, and I love the lesser known The Way Way Back. I also have a high opinion of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is my personal favourite of that particular breed of 1980s youth fiim. I do enjoy many films where a particular dance or music scene plays a significant part. One of my all time favourites is Boogie Nights, which I think is great fun, highly entertaining but also at times brutally real, ultimately evocative and endearing. Meanwhile I think British films like Spike Island, Northern Soul and of course Human Traffic are enjoyable explorations of their respective music scenes.


MM: What filmmakers inspire you and did that influence any creative decisions?

JR: I certainly think I’ve drawn influence from the works of Shane Meadows and from Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. I’m a big advocate of allowing actors a great deal of creative freedom. I encourage them to play around with dialogue and body language, as I want them to be able to feel very natural and very comfortable in their role. It’s very rare that I ask an actor to say something exactly as written in the script, as I feel allowing the actor such freedom encourages a more natural performance. I like the way Terrence Malick allows the audience a brief glimpse into characters’ thoughts using voice-over dialogue, which may have influenced some ideas I am playing around with regarding the rave scenes. One filmmaker whose work I find particularly inspires me to want to write and direct films is Stanley Kubrick. I find his films to be very immersive, psychologically fascinating, atmospherically enthralling and often visually stunning both in use of camera as well as costume and sets. I would love to create something as completely enthralling and unnerving as The Shining, a huge ambition I hope to work towards.


MM: So where and when can people see the finished film 20th Century Tribe?

JR: Well the film is currently in the first phase of editing. We have a small team of editors currently working on the rough cut, however they will be working on their degree alongside this so we don’t expect the edit to be finished until spring/summer 2019. We also have a few little scenes to film in September, so I’m currently working on preparing for that. The intention will be to enter the film into festivals, so where it will be shown is yet to be seen. From there it depends how the film does in the festival circuit really.


MM: And what’s next on the horizon for you?

JR: I will begin a masters in writing for the screen in September, so at the moment I do intend to work on my ability as a writer. I would like to write screenplays ideally for television and feature films, I currently have numerous ideas I’m working on so I’m really waiting to see which will emerge as my next project.


MM: And finally, do you have any advice for any local filmmakers looking to start their own project - either in front of or behind the camera?

JR: People who have their own equipment, particularly camera, sound and lighting, are essential. If you are a student in film or media and have access to equipment from the equipment centre, utilise it. Be prepared to spend your own money on your film, as you probably will have to, and if the budget is looking tight then only spend money where you absolutely need to. Many locations can be used for free or a very low price if you are honest, polite and friendly with location owners. Make a project that people want to be involved in, be sociable, friendly, enthusiastic and be confident about what you want to make. You have to have love and excitement for your project, otherwise no one else will.


Thank you Joe.


Find out more about 20th Century Tribe on their social media pages below:

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/20th_Tribe

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/20thCenturyTribe


By midlandsmovies, Aug 19 2018 09:30AM



Midlands Interview - Christopher Bevan and Belinda Basson talk The Other


Midlands Movies speaks to the director Christopher Bevan and Producer Belinda Basson of upcoming local film The Other - an ambitious and gripping short thriller currently in production from the award-winning team.


Midlands Movies: Hi both, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Chris Bevan: Hello. I’m a Derby-based director working across shorts, music videos, commercials and documentaries with a real interest in thriller, sci-fi and drama films. In addition to freelancing I also am the creative director of my production company YSP Media.

Belinda Basson: I moved into film production following a career in corporate communications, marketing and PR, fulfilling an ambition I had had originally to work in film as a first career. I am now Director of film production company Dreamfusion Productions, with a diverse portfolio of films completed.


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

CB: I’ve been making films for a good 12-13 years now since picking up a handycam at 16 years old and making action movies with my friends and family. Since then I’ve turned it into my full-time career and have never looked back!

BB: I have worked in different capacities in film production for ten years, producing a diverse body of work through my company Dreamfusion Productions. My collaboration with Chris began six years ago and we have written, developed and produced a wide range of films since the first project we worked on together.


MM: It’s great to see such collaboration. So, what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome?

BB: The biggest recurring hurdle is finding all the resources to get films made, from funding to locations. That said, by working with Chris and several excellent teams of cast and crew, we have brought some great films to completion, all with high production value, even when limited funds have been available.

CB: Belinda and I have collaborated on quite a few films now and I think as time goes by, the challenge of finding the funding to realise these ideas and concepts as they become greater in scope and ambition is definitely a hurdle but one we have tackled head on. As a producer Belinda is ambitious and never backs down from a challenge, always finding a way to pull off the seemingly impossible!


MM: Your new film is The Other. Can you tell our readers a bit about it and how it came about?

BB: The idea for 'The Other' came from a film I once saw called 'The Man Who Haunted Himself'. In what was widely recognised as Roger Moore's best and most chilling performance, a successful man has his comfortable life challenged by unexplained occurrences which have an increasingly dramatic and devastating effect on his mental state. The film left a lasting impression and I have long wanted to revisit the 'doppelganger' notion but in a contemporary context relevant for society today and reflecting the pressures of our everyday lives.

CB: We were excited to bring on board writer Ben Errington to develop the story and script for The Other. Our story follows Marcus, an ambitious chef who wants to reach the heights of his profession. His life is stable and predictable until one day an unexplained event sets his life on a frightening course, increasingly throwing his life into chaos and making him question his own sanity.



MM: And how did you come to cast your actors Adam Horvath, Dani Tonks, Liz Leonard, Christopher Tajah?

CB: The lead of Marcus was definitely written with Adam Horvath in mind. We’d worked with him on a project a few years ago and having seen his performance in Derby Theatre’s production of ‘Brassed Off’ we knew he could deliver both the depth and range of emotion that the challenging role of Marcus required. Belinda was very keen to cast Adam and we were all delighted when he loved the script and accepted the role!

BB: For the roles of Ruth, Wendy and Phillip we put out casting calls and had a great response. We managed to narrow down a shorter list of actors who appeared to be a close fit our character profiles and held auditions in both London and Derby. Of the great calibre of actors we auditioned, we cast Dani, Liz and later Christopher.


MM: As we’re a local organisation we are always keen to find out how filmmakers make the decision to create their movie in the Midlands?

BB: The Midlands has a wealth of film making and acting talent and we wanted to reflect the quality of both people and locations in the region. We decided on Derby as we are based in the City and our lead actor is from Derby. We were very fortunate to find and receive permission to film in some great locations.

CB: We filmed in the city centre with amazing support from Derby Museums and had some additional locations in Sandiacre and Ripley.

BB: We also chose Birmingham due to the excellent support available from Film Birmingham, which was outlined to us by Sindy Campbell at an RTS Midlands networking event. We were very keen to achieve the maximum production value possible so chose to aim for feature-scale settings. One of the ways to achieve this was to have an impressive cityscape backdrop, which was perfectly delivered by the City of Birmingham.


MM: And are you both from the region yourselves?

CB: I was born in Shrewsbury and later moved to Derby so have always lived in the Midlands.

BB: I am not originally from the region but studied in the Midlands and have spent a considerable amount of time in both Derby and Nottingham.


MM: And with the film ready to go, how was the actual shooting?

BB: The shoot was challenging in terms of the number and types of locations, but our excellent cast and crew rose to the challenge and delivered awe-inspiring work! We are very excited at the prospect of working with them again to finish The Other.

CB: We had such a committed cast and crew and working with them across the main block of filming last year was a pleasure. Of all the films I’ve worked on as director, this felt the most ambitious and I’m really pleased with the results so far. We have shot 80% of the film now and are looking to crowdfunding to support the final 20% and post-production.



MM: And with regards to your influences, what films or filmmakers inspire you?

CB: I’ve always been a huge fan of Clint Eastwood’s work with Unforgiven being one of my all-time favourites. In terms of big names, I’ve always been inspired by Fincher, Spielberg, Nolan and Villeneuve but I also look to directors such as Damien Chazelle, Ryan Coogler, Gareth Edwards and Debra Granik to name but a few. It would be remiss of me not to mention my love for Star Wars and huge admiration for George Lucas too!

BB: I have been inspired by the work of Hitchcock, Spielberg, Coppola, Nolan and the naturalistic directing style of Clint Eastwood. I also really like the quirky, visionary creative styles of David Lynch and the Coen brothers. I have too many film favourites to mention here!


MM: So did those sway any of your creative decisions in The Other?

BB: There are several stylistic themes in the film which reference the styling of these great directors, especially Alfred Hitchcock.

CB: I worked closely with DP Karl Poyzer and we frequently referenced Fincher’s work on Gone Girl and Zodiac in particular during pre-production on The Other when developing the look. With regards to story and character, Villeneuve’s Enemy and Hitchcock’s Vertigo both came up in conversation in terms of creative influences for contemporary and classical representations of doppelgangers in film.


MM: And when and where can people expect to see The Other?

BB: We are currently aiming to raise funds to complete the filming of the remaining two striking scenes through crowdfunding support. If we are successful, we would hope to have the film completed by early next year.

CB: It’s an exciting time for us as we are gearing up to launch our IndieGoGo campaign for the film! Should we be successful in crowdfunding these two integral scenes and our post-production, we would hope to begin submitting to festivals within the next six months and a premiere will hopefully not be far away!


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

BB: Our next point of focus will be a challenging feature with themes that should appeal to a very wide and diverse audience. I can reveal no more at this stage!

CB: This will be another YSP Media and Dreamfusion Productions collaboration and we have spent four years developing this project. We’re hoping to get things rolling once The Other is completed and released – watch this space!


Thank you both.


The Other’s IndieGoGo pre-launch page can be found here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-other-a-short-thriller-film-drama--2/coming_soon/x/208337


And check the teaser trailer here:







By midlandsmovies, Apr 10 2018 05:23PM



Midlands Movies Interview - Going Behind the Lens with Jordan Dean


Local filmmaker Jordan Dean came to Leicester’s De Montfort University from Hull at the age of 22 and grew up like so many did with Spielberg and Star Wars as his first foray into film. We speak to this exciting new local filmmaker about his influences, film music and the uncomfortableness of watching audition tapes.


Midlands Movies: Hi Jordan. Glad you could join today. You mention you got into film via Spielberg?

Jordan Dean: Yes I did, but as a kid I was always asking how they managed to create these fantastical worlds!


MM: And getting older how did you end up in your current position?

JD: Well my love for film as a youngster developed into working for Bizarre Culture where I was their film and media editor. I wrote articles and reviews before studying film at DMU in Leicester. It was a very academic weighted degree but at a very highly regarded film university.


MM: And what did you learn during those years?

JD: Well, I made some terrible and awful stuff in my first year [laughs]. But by my third year I had learnt a lot so chose to make a film rather than do a written dissertation. By doing that I tried to prove to myself I could handle a larger production. I actually had 27 cast and crew for a 7-minute short. This included costume designers, extras, fashion models and the like. It really helped me learn different skills, got me a first in my degree and then played at 5 festivals winning a cinematography award at one of them. That was when I thought - I can do this!


MM: I went to the same University funnily enough from 1998-2001 and we only had video in year 1! It moved very quickly to digital.

JD: Ha ha. I would love to shoot on film but producers say think about the money!


MM: So where are you now in your career?

JD: Well now I am undertaking an MA in Film Production with DMU and Pinewood Studios which is exciting. I get to work every week with Terry Bamber (first assistant director on films such as Gulliver’s Travels and World War Z), Chris Kenny and Iain Smith, producer of Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a real high calibre of people to learn from.


MM: Sounds very rewarding. What projects have you made?

JD: I worked on Not Alone which was actually a film to test equipment but has recently won a short film award at the Direct Short Online Film Festival. In addition I’ve been working with Rhys Davies on his upcoming feature Acid Daemons (click here for info on that film).



MM: You also made Behind the Lens which was nominated for a Midlands Movies Award in 2018 for best score for Peter Flint (click here). What were your influences for that film?

JD: Both of us were influenced by Drive and Neon Demon composer Cliff Martinez. I also love John Carpenter and got great feedback from Terry (Bamber) that Not Alone was Carpenter-esque which was fantastic to hear.


MM: It’s great to have recognition from someone who has been in the industry for a long time. I have seen in the Midlands that those connections and recommendations can really help (and inspire) local independent filmmakers move forward in their work.

JD: Yes and also give you the feeling that you do know what you’re doing. I’m not the best at networking and its great to be at Pinewood to meet people but also at the Midlands Movies film awards where I met likeminded filmmakers from the region.


MM: With local filmmakers like Gareth Edwards, who jumped from editing Monsters in his home to Godzilla and then to Star Wars, is he an example of how low budget can spiral to the big time no matter how unlikely? Does that help motivate you?

JD: It’s really inspiring to see those journeys, of course. I also love sci-fi. E.T. is one of my all -time favourite films. I’d love to make a film in that genre but I feel I would need the resources to do justice to the ideas I would want to convey. My main focus right now is horror. I’m obsessed with scary films since seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was younger.


MM: I definitely noticed a Neon Demon influence in Behind the Lens

JD: My biggest influence right now actually is Nicholas Winding Refn. I know he’s not for everyone but I love his films. Over the last few years I’ve also enjoyed a variety of horrors such as The Babadook and It Follows. I’m not a fan of the current jump-scare style movies though.




MM: I found the recent version of IT a surprise success for Hollywood horror but its musical stings were warnings which gave away the approaching scares. Do you like foreign horrors though?

JD: I think you feel more vulnerable watching a foreign horror giving the investment you have to make. I am a huge fan of Asian extreme horror and my next film is heavily influenced by Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden.


MM: Are there any other genres you would like to dip your toe into?

JD: I don’t want to be a genre filmmaker as such. As a fan of Refn, if you showed Neon Demon to someone they may not consider it a horror. I would like to do similar and mix genres up but I was also exhausted by the end of The Witch as it built up tension without giving the audience a release. I wouldn’t mind trying a straight-up drama and tell a simpler story as well.


MM: Where do you get your ideas from?

JD: Behind the Lens is very much influenced by the photographer character from the Neon Demon and realised I had alos met those type of creepy, really intense characters.

MM: Voyeuristic?

JD: Very much so. I can get uncomfortable myself looking at audition tapes that I get sent given the nature of it.


MM: And where next for you?

JD: The next film is The Nail That Sticks Out whose title is taken from a Japanese proverb. It’s the first film I’m directing that I haven’t written. Rebecca Whelan has written a great script and I was instantly attracted to it as it has a tone and themes I can relate to myself.


MM: And what’s the story of the film without giving too much away?

JD: It’s about a Japanese artist living in England and her girlfriend is a failing English actress. It’s about culture clashes and how far different people are willing to go to produce their art. The two characters go in very different directions.


MM: And how far into production are you?

JD: We're making the crowdfunding promo this week and it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever been involved in. We’re shooting at the end of July in the Midlands at Scene Studios in Nottingham and location shooting at DMU as well. It also has an all Midlands based crew and we're looking to raise an £8000 budget which feels ominous but we’re hoping for success once we launch.


MM: And what’s changed for you on all of these projects?

JD: It’s a scary thing to undertake these different films. Especially when you can’t always pay people when you are starting out and there are very difficult thing to manage on small productions. Now we’ve got a group of people involved – including a producer – there’s a move away from checking the sound and lighting etc yourself. There’s people you can trust in all the roles within the crew. And Peter Flint will be again working with me on the score so we’re discussing that right now.


MM: That must be a relief?

JD: To an extent. My first real production (Acid Daemons) I was working with others and I took the advice that if I had a full understanding of how film works – not just your own role – then you understand the departments and their processes. By having a little bit of knowledge about each department you can respect their craft.


MM: Thanks Jordan. Any final thoughts or help for other local filmmakers?

JD: Don’t be scared of feedback. I have a weird thing as I think I encourage criticism as it’s the only way you learn. Friends and parents will go “it’s great” but you can’t ride that for long otherwise you won’t get anywhere.


Follow Jordan Dean for updates on all his projects on his Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/Jordandeanfilm






By midlandsmovies, Nov 1 2017 04:46PM



BAFTA Award winning director comes to Birmingham


Debbie Isitt, the BAFTA-award winning Director of the Nativity! films, and Director of Nativity! The Musical at The REP in Birmingham, will be coming to Midlands this month to discuss her work as part of a Q & A evening.


The acclaimed director will be in conversation about her prolific career with Roger Shannon, Film Professor and former Head of Production at the BFI on 9th November.


Birmingham-born Debbie grew up in nearby Coventry and so is Midlands through and through, but it’s also a great chance to listen and speak to a successful director for local budding filmmakers.


The REP (or to give it its full title, The Birmingham Repertory Theatre) is based in the centre of Birmingham on Broad street and is a leading producer of quality theatre works alongside a whole host of arts-centred partnerships.


With a mission to help the audience “make their own special 'moments' memorable”, the theatre has been going since 1913 when the elegant 464-seat Repertory Theatre in Station Street was built (now known as The Old Rep).



The theatre rapidly became home to one of most exciting repertory theatre companies in the country, helping to launch the careers of an array of great British actors, including Ralph Richardson, Edith Evans and Laurence Olivier.


In 1971 the company moved to Broad Street to a newly built theatre with a stage of epic proportions and an auditorium with no balconies, pillars or boxes. More recently, from 2011 to 2013, the theatre underwent redevelopment as part of the Library of Birmingham project.


Tickets for the night are from just £5.00 and include a glass of wine and Debbie will be talking about her two Christmas comedy films Nativity! and Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger as well as the musical spin-off. Her other works include a Bafta award winning teleplay The Illustrated Mum, the stage play The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband and the feature films Nasty Neighbours and Confetti.




Nativity! was Isitt's third feature film and starred Martin Freeman and became the most successful British independent film of the year. The sequel, and her fourth film, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger, starred David Tennant, and was an instant box office hit, making twice the amount at the UK box office as the original film. Isitt has now completed the trilogy with Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?.

For tickets and further info please click here: https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/spotlight-on-debbie-isitt.html#event-datesTimes

And for more information on all the events at The Rep please check their official site here:

www.birmingham-rep.co.uk


Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EP

By midlandsmovies, Sep 9 2017 08:04AM



Director Sophie Black is a Nottingham based filmmaker with many shorts to her name and in the latest of our ‘Professional’ series, she passes on her experience and advice about directing behind the camera. Want to get into directing yourself or learn more about the profession? Sophie, take it away...


To start with? Well, go for a walk, people-watch, whatever it is that inspires you. Collaborate with your friends if you need to bounce ideas around. Even if you don't have a camera yet, write stuff down, sketch things. I didn't have a camera until I was fifteen years old, so a lot of my early inspiration came from writing novels and physically making things with my hands. But to be honest, everyone has access to a camera these days (unlike when I was young!), because they come as standard with phones, so there's nothing to stop you just shooting something to find out what you like, and who you might be as a filmmaker. You're not going to find inspiration unless you go out and experience the world, decide what it means to you personally, and really get to know how you see the world as an individual.


But if you are the type that needs to research, then read books on filmmaking, or just watch films and make notes about certain stylistic decisions that inspire you. I first realised people could make a career out of films - and decided that was the career I wanted - when I read Peter Jackson's interviews in the Lord of the Rings visual companions, but there's lots of great articles out there to give you an early buzz if you need it.


This is different depending on the filmmaker - which is why it's good to spend some time experimenting first, to discover what kind of director you are. Definitely shoot something by any means necessary, even if it's just trying to recreate shots that inspired you, or even if that means directing your friends in amateur roles.


I've always been more of an actors' director than anything else, and if that's the same for you then I really recommend joining local drama or theatre groups, to practice working with actors in a focussed, technology-free environment. That's how I got my start. But either way, you will need to learn the language of cinema eventually, so studying technical filmmaking in some form - be it personal study or a structured course - is necessary at some point early on in your career.



Formal Eductation vs. Hands On Experience


You definitely need to know how to make films, but the way you learn is up to you. If you have family members or other peers who already know the language of cinema, and you grow up learning everything from those people, then it could be that you don't need to go to film school. The best way to learn things is by doing them, so nothing beats practical experience - plus, these days, you can learn a lot through YouTube tutorials. A lot of the best filmmakers I know are completely self-taught.


But if you've never learnt the basics of film production - e.g. 'this is how a camera works', 'this is how to light the average interview' - and if you learn better in an academic environment, then definitely take a course. It gives you a great foundation (not to mention the all-important life skills you get with any level of further education!). You also meet a lot of people on your course that you could end up working with in the future.


Motivating a Team


It's all about creating the right environment for people to work in. Morale always needs to be up, particularly if people aren't receiving payment. I think it's important to mix solid grafting on set with a sense of fun as well, whenever appropriate - so don't always take yourself too seriously. This film may be the most important thing in the world to you at that moment - but your crew needs other reasons to feel inspired. Listen to your crew when they're unhappy; join in with a joke or even a hug when they're in need of a break from the hard work. Good food helps as well, particularly if there's no money to give people - you won't believe what a bacon butty on a cold morning can do to lift the spirits!



General Skills


Leadership skills, confidence and belief in your vision are all important factors; if people don't respect you, they'll start listening to the next loudest voice in the room. But confidence doesn't come straight away. You need to build up your craft first; practice and learn every day, and start with small, independent crews before building up to full teams.


As I've said before, it's important to have a technical knowledge of film production - but you also need to admit which areas aren't your strong point. In the past I've given wrong information in this area; I've said that directors need to learn every aspect of filmmaking before they can direct their team - but do you really think that James Cameron knows which make-up to use to make a face look rounder, for instance? The truth is that everyone has some things that they're stronger at than others, and if you're focussing on every little area of a production, your skills will get stretched too thin, and your work will suffer because of it.


The trick is to make sure your weaknesses are covered; if there's something you're not so good at, make sure there's someone better at it to handle that area for you. (To give an example, I learnt that whilst I'm confident directing dialogue and small physical interactions, I'm not as good with scenes that involve more detailed choreography, such as stunts. So in the future I'll always hire a stunt co-ordinator when the scene requires.) It's not a sign of a weak director to admit you're not great at something, as filmmaking is a collaborative process after all; what is weak, however, is if someone ignores their failures and lets them show in the finished film when it could've been avoided. That makes the director look bad.


One of my favourite things about film production is the fact that you're surrounded by brilliantly talented people, all experts in their field, all brought together to make your vision a reality. You need to learn how to get the best out of these people, and how to keep them at their best - but you also need to learn to listen to their ideas and let them have an input into the film. It will help give them a sense of ownership over it too, which will encourage more loyalty to the project. And trust me, you definitively need loyalty - particularly in the long slog of post-production, when the work feels less structured, and you need to find other ways to keep your crew engaged.


It's also important that a director rehearses everything with their actors. Absolutely everything. It's tempting to think that you only need to rehearse dialogue, or complicated action, like fight scenes. Even wordless moments need to be polished by the time the cameras roll, otherwise it will cause delays on set and your actors might feel uncomfortable. I've made this mistake in the past, thinking "this is a basic movement - we can just put a camera on the actor now and let them go for it". I was very young and arrogant back then!


Director Advice


Firstly, don't be a director until you've been a crewmember. I've said this a lot. Too many people think they can go out into the world as a 'director' without hands-on experience behind them. Those people often don't get work. But being a member of the crew - starting low down the ladder, and building your way up - will help you to learn more about the practicalities of film production, so that you understand exactly what you'll be asking your crew to go through when you direct them. It's also the best way to meet people, to create a list of future collaborators for when you move onto your own projects. That's what worked for me.


Secondly, make sure you really, really love a project before you go into production. People don't realise how much commitment goes into a successful short film. There can be a year between writing a script and shooting a film, particularly if you need to raise money, and you can spend months in post-production too. On top of that, the average festival run lasts for two years - after a festival finally accepts you. So you're realistically looking at four years' worth of work on a project, and if you don't care for it or believe in it, those four years can feel even longer. Can you guarantee that you won't abandon your film when something shiny and new comes along? If the answer is no, then don't start it in the first place.


And finally, don't ask people, cast or crew, to do something you aren't willing to do yourself. You need to be a leader - not a dictator! If you expect people to work long hours, or stay later than expected, be there with them. If they need to be in a scenario where they are cold or uncomfortable, show that you would willingly do the same for them. It's for this reason I starred in a music video, playing a prostitute, shortly before I directed my actors in some sexual scenes on the set of Ashes - I needed to understand how awkward or uncomfortable they would be feeling on the day.




Finance


Commercial and corporate work is great, when you can get it. You need something to fill the gaps in between your short film projects, and it's really satisfying to have a job that utilises your filmmaking skills. Plus there's nothing like working with clients to prepare you for the amount of say commissioners and executive producers will have, should you approach them with feature film ideas.


Leaving your day job for film production is hard. You certainly shouldn't do it unless you know you'll have money coming in - or unless you have contacts and a strong business plan in place. Do it when you're young; fresh out of university is the best age to try things. The older you get, the more responsibility you have, and the more chance you have of becoming homeless, should it all go wrong!


I can't tell you exactly how to make it work. Some people take a leap of faith, and it works out for them; others take a long time to build up their contacts and personal clients before becoming self-employed. If you need a bit more confidence and structure before you take the plunge, there's nothing wrong with taking business classes - it can all be applied to freelance filmmakers. All I will say is, only you will know the minimum level of success you are comfortable with - and whatever happens, you need to have a plan B.


I get asked about crowdfunding a lot, and although I've had some success with it, I'm not the biggest fan. It's a necessary evil - but people can rely on it too much. What people don't understand is that the moment you receive crowdfunded donations, unless it's going through a business, an accountant will see you as self employed. You need to be prepared for the implications of receiving this money. If you don't declare £1,000, you might get away with it - but I don't recommend you risk it. If you don't declare £10,000, that's a completely different kettle of fish. Crowdfunding has been very popular for the last few years, so of course the HMRC are aware of it, and they do have their eyes on the filmmaking community. So definitely declare your earnings, but if you can, get an accountant or a financial adviser who can help you declare it properly. Because you don't usually get to keep the crowdfunding money for yourself, you really don't want to end up out of pocket through tax implications.


Inspiration


I've used "film is temporary, film is forever" a few times. Who hasn't? I first heard Peter Jackson say it to Miranda Otto, in a making-of-documentary, during a long, difficult scene in The Return of the King - but I know he wasn't the first person to say it.


I also loved it when, on the set of Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann declared "I challenge you all to make me say 'you've gone too far'!" That's a bit mad, but it's braver than I can be, so I applaud that. Incidentally Baz's company motto is "a life lived in fear is a life half-lived", and I think of that whenever I face the next, daunting project.


I have a plaque in my office that says "keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground". I don't know who said that, but it always reminds me to stay humble and remember the little things in life that matter the most.


Sophie Black


Check out Sophie Black's Production company Triskelle Pictures here:

https://www.triskellepictures.co.uk




By midlandsmovies, Dec 12 2016 01:20PM




Seat 25 launches into festival orbit


Midlands Movies finds out about new sci-fi project Seat 25 from Lagom Pictures which was co-written, produced and stars local filmmaker Madeleine Cooke.


After a premiere at the prestigious Birmingham Film Festival in late November, Seat 25 tells the story of a woman who wins a one way ticket to Mars for the first manned mission to the red planet.


Not only did the film fare well with the Midlands audience on the night, it won the Best Feature Film at the Birmingham Film Festival's gala awards ceremony where the filmmakers’ high hopes for the production were rewarded.


With echoes of the real-life “Mars One” campaign which aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars, Seat 25’s protagonist Faye Banks is lost in a world in which she doesn’t belong, with her imagination leading her to consequences that will change her life forever.


The film’s engaging sci-fi themes have also seen it touchdown as a finalist for Best Feature Film at the Raw Science Film Festival in Los Angeles. The festival screens fiction and non-fiction movies that includes both student and professional entries whose films celebrate the wonderment of science and technology.


However, not content with those achievements and accolades, Seat 25 will also be opening the VAULT Film Festival in London.





Director Nicholas Agnew originally trained as an actor and has worked extensively in film, television and theatre. Recent credits include Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Man Who Knew Infinity and the forthcoming television series Victoria. Having built up a wealth of experience in front of the camera, he has now made the move into directing where he has paired his understanding of performance with an exceptional technical team for Seat 25.


Local lead actress Madeleine Cooke trained at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts and since graduating has appeared on the BBC as well as on stage touring the UK. She too began writing alongside her acting career and in 2015 she began working on her first feature length screenplay and co-founded the production company Lagom Pictures.


Madeleine explains that Lagom Pictures is focused on producing new, thought provoking films that explore genre and style and strives to work with the very best emerging talent.


With sky high hopes for even more success in 2017, Seat 25’s tale mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary should sit well with fans of science fiction with a heart.


Check out the film’s trailer above as well as the Seat 25 Official site and social media pages:


http://seat25.com/

https://twitter.com/seat25film

https://www.facebook.com/ seat25movie/


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jan 10 2016 11:53AM

Midlands Movies Mike enters January by taking a look at Stoke-based filmmaker Chris Stone who has come out from his undercover mission to release his new espionage web film series “Year of Spies”.


Chris Stone’s varied background from the BBC to filming LA music videos has helped him set up his biggest project to date with the release of his Ipcress File inspired spy series. With a Royal Television Society nominated documentary also behind him, this new project compliments his previous work that has been showcased on ITV and MTV as well as being premiered at Pinewood Studios.


“Year of Spies” is the culmination of all this hard toil and Chris has turned to the internet to release this impressive 12-part thriller which unfolds over the course of a year.


Under Christ Stone Films, the director also offers custom-filmed show reel scenes for up and coming actors to show off their acting talents. Helping others to demonstrate their skills to casting directors he gives new actors and actresses a route to much needed first-hand experience of working in front of camera with a professional director.


"Year of Spies" also continues Chris’ bold visual style with Hollywood influences and larger than life heroes with Bond-esque action sequences. This major difference from his previous work is the project will be made up of individual self-contained mini stories. Chris says they are “set in the same 'universe' rather than one long continuous narrative”.


Using both his experience as a short filmmaker and finding a new route to audiences via the web, Chris has built a fanbase online and his Victorian vampire adventure 'Blood and Bone China', won 'Best Web Series of 2011' at the Indie Intertube Awards and has been viewed over 300,000 times on YouTube.


Chris also hosts seminars and practical lessons on film-making and web series production around the country, including at the UK's largest film festival Raindance and if you bring a script to Chris he is more than happy to work alongside budding writers too. So local filmmakers and actors should definitely get in touch if you want to work alongside this exciting talent from Staffordshire.


For more about Chris, his films and his future projects and local support then please check the links and watch the exciting trailer for the "Year of Spies" series via YouTube below:


Official website: http://www.yearofspies.com

Director's website http://www.chrisstonefilms.com




By midlandsmovies, Mar 20 2015 06:03PM

Midlands Movies Mike spoke to director of new Leicester-set short film “Beverley”, Alexander Thomas, who after his red-carpet screening of the film to cast and crew was quick to praise the hard work of all involved and his thoughts on the support he received from the city throughout the making of his movie....


Alexander Thomas created TAG films in 2006 and with his first film “Portobello: Attack of the Clones” winning Best London film at a prestigious film festival, Alex has gone on to form a lasting relationship with producer Cass Pennant to whom he worked alongside in getting Beverley to the big screen.


Hi Alex. A big congratulations to you for your new film “Beverley”. What were your impressions when you met Beverley for the first time?

Thank you. Well, it all began with an informal chat many years ago with the real Beverley. She was a very interesting person as was her story and after that first conversation I could not shake her story from my head. However, it wasn’t until a good couple of years later when we sat down for a more formal chat did I come to understand more about her life and how this could make a very interesting film.


What were the next stages?

We did a number of chats over 3 or 4 hours at a time and the story began to take shape but only some of the story reflected what had happened to her for real. Beverley Thompson is clearly a real life person but it’s not like our film was going to be a biopic – so we had to add some things in.


What parts were added for the film?

Well, there really wasn’t a narrative as such – it was someone’s life so I had to work hard turning those incidents in her life into something cohesive. For me, it was taking some of those moments and stories from back then and filling them in with some of the other ideas I had about growing up and identity. This then helped give the whole thing an arc. Pulling it together was a difficult thing but that’s all part of the process to make a good film.


As someone who has lived in Leicester I enjoyed the fact that it was filmed in and around the city. Were the places the actual locations from Beverley’s life?

Highfields was definitely a place we wanted to go to and that was a real influence and, as we said in our ‘making-of’ documentary film, we really did go around and knock on people’s doors to see if we could find the right suburban street. It was funny but we did eventually get the house that we needed. Also, the scene of the live gig was set at The Shed which wasn’t open at the time but it had a kind of old school vibe. It was a really atmospheric place and the guy who runs it was very accommodating which helped a lot.


Had you been to Leicester many times yourself?

Not much at the start. But in fact, I grew up in Stratford upon Avon not too far away. I hadn’t been to Leicester for a long time but once we chose to film in the city we quickly arranged auditions at the local Phoenix cinema as well as holding our rehearsals there too. As I mentioned, we did lots of scouting for locations and the support of the community was great whilst out filming.


How long did it take edit once the shooting was complete?

We started at the back end of April last year and I worked on it with the editor Kristof Deak but he wasn’t in the country at the time so I was sending rushes to the editor abroad! However, everything started to speed up quickly once he got back to England.


And the music is such an important part of the film. How did you choose and get the soundtrack to the film together?

We were really lucky with Cass's connections and that meant we had some great tracks. Ranking Roger, Dave Wakeling, Ruts DC, Melbourne Ska Orchestra, King Sounds (who also plays Otis) all provided us with music. Neville Staple who also has a cameo wrote a track with his wife Christine for us and Stone Foundation who also gave us music even wrote us a title track (and some of the footage from the film will be in the music video for the song when it's released). I also worked together with the composer Rael Jones to finalise the sound track and he wrote some original pieces for the film too.


You mentioned that the short film could become a feature if there is interest. Where do you see the story going from here?

Well, I certainly cannot spoil it because I don’t even know myself! I guess we would broaden out the story but it could go in so many different directions given that the tale is about Two Tone and the effect it had on lives in Britain at that time. Two Tone was always about bringing people together across the country. It was an amazing cultural force that swept across the nation and it’s important that this is known and that we get that message out there. It also had a slightly political agenda. It was very open about being critical of Thatcherism and so forth. If you look at where we are now and the fact that so much of today can be related directly back to then. From issues of race to high unemployment my film certainly isn’t about how Two-Tone “won” that political fight.


How did that affect the film’s ending?

That’s one of the reasons at the end. Although I didn’t want to make a bleak film, even as a feature I’m not sure I can write a traditional happy ending. It was all very crazy at that time and also culturally conflicted. It was chaotic and it’s complex and that’s the reality of it.


It could be argued the cliff-hanger was a great device to leave a fan of short-films wanting even more?

It’s not quite a cliff-hanger for me. It’s more of a messed up situation with everybody being alienated and confused. The situation leaves the characters conflicted and lost and that for me is the honesty of what I’m trying to say. Hopefully though there is enough there that people want to see more – and they seem to – I will probably end up in a similar position in the feature where an honest ending expresses the complexity and inherent contradictions of the time.


Finally then, despite the confusion I thought the film had a positivity beneath the surface – for example, you showed the stereotypical racist neighbours eventually being friendly and finding common ground where it could easily have stayed as it was?

Thank you. Yes, Leicester is a great city for setting these things in motion as it’s a plural city and the film tried to reflect that. How we move British identity forward is a very big theme for me and although there are clashes, the film is very positive in the face of outdated attitudes.


To read more about Beverley and its coverage and showings at future film festivals then please visit the film’s main website here http://www.beverleyfilm.com


To read what I thought of the film itself, please read my feature review here:

http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Feature-Review---Beverley/9494145

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