kickstarter-support icons-03 icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Sep 3 2017 05:55PM



Midlands Professional – Camera operator Mbili Munthali


In a brand new series of articles Midlands Movies is talking to a range of regional experts who are sharing advice and hints and tips from their particular field in film. Second up to pass on their knowledge and experience is cameraman Mbili Munthali who currently works on a range of projects across the Midlands.


Midlands Movies Mike: Hi Mbili. How’s things?

Mbili Munthali: Great cheers. I’m very busy as always [laughs].


MMM: We can tell from your IMDB! Ha ha. If we can start at the beginning, your background is first and foremost in camera operating. How did you get into your current role?

MM: Well it was a mix of education and hands on experience. I studied at De Montfort University and not knocking the academic route but being on set has helped me develop a lot faster and a lot more instinctively than the formal education part. However, both have great merits though and the combination of each works extremely well.


MMM: And what happened after that?

MM: I graduated in Media Production in 2009 but photography was my first foray into using professional visual equipment. We developed 35mm film and I tell my friends there’s still nothing like a tactile experience and understanding the medium at its most basic. There’s a kind of disconnect with digital and the old way just gives you a good grounding for moving forward – especially as photography is the basis of how you use a film camera. Photos are just individual sequential frames. You naturally progress from the still image to moving pictures and if you learn the basic rules, it translates from one to the other.


MMM: And where did that lead you to?

MM: After the photography I used DV tapes and believe it or not I edited and structured my first films using Windows Movie Maker. Before long I got DSLRs and would take them out every day. I recorded test footage at different frame rates and in slow-motion and the like, which allowed me to experiment without any consequence. With my original course being more on post-production I learnt camera work in order to get the best out of the images I would end up using for visual effects.


MMM: So the two link well together?

MM: Yes, having the foresight to shoot in the correct fashion to give you the best possible outcome later on in the production is the approach I like to take.


MMM: What were the first projects you worked on?

MM: I started worked on Doug Cubin’s The Fort as a runner whilst at the same time Kenton Hall was preparing A Dozen Summers and asked me to join that production too. I did a Steadicam shot on that film actually – they’re not too heavy but it’s quite restrictive with the counterweights so you need to be quite physically flexible. I also helped on other projects and it all snowballed from there!


MMM: Were there any memorable moments from these varied shoots?

MM: After a while, Doug asked me to be more extensively involved in his movie and we ended up at a real fort in Dover. There were times where we filmed in a spiral staircase in the complete darkness and one time I was walking backwards with a ‘fly-cam’ and trying not to fall down and break my neck! On another shot we placed the camera down lower to create a certain feel but there were steps and features that were half my body size which I had to get up and over whilst keeping the camera steady.



MMM: Sounds exciting! We’ve talked about the physical side of things but what other kind of skills in general would you say are needed?

MM: You will need a lot of patience! Things can get frustrating but sometimes the magic happens on the first take which I’ve had several times. Also, ask plenty of questions and be curious. And I don’t just mean camera operating but everything else. You have to work with so many people and anticipate movement and all that will influence how you work. Obviously don’t ask questions whilst ‘doing’ a take [laughs] but during the downtime have conversations with others so you can use their information to get better at your own role.


MMM: Outside of a working set can people learn more elsewhere?

MM: Yes, as you are one link in a long chain I recommend budding camera operators shoot, plan and edit their own footage to go through the whole process. You then have an understanding of each step and the easier you make everyone else’s life, the smoother the production. You are there to provide the footage in the best possible way. And, oh yeah, don’t get precious if they don’t end up using your favourite shot. I would however recommend you ask for the footage for your own show-reel. Seriously though, I want to be able to provide what serves a story best.


MMM: Do you mind straying from storyboards or planned shooting?

MM: Not at all, you have to understand that all plans can change too. In fact it actually pushes you to be very versatile in your camerawork. I advise that if there’s a suggestion to do the shot another way then just do it! Some of the best times are when you are on the limit of what you think you can do. It may take a bit of practice and time but all the while you are learning along the way. Some will naturally find their best, or favourite, way to shoot but personally I like to be on as many different kinds of shoots as I can to expand my knowledge.


MMM: And what about low/no-budget short films – are there different challenges?

MM: With shorts there’s so much to do in so little time. And often with no money! I worked on Capricious by Jordan Handford and we got a very complicated shot completed at 2.30am but it’s about perseverance and patience but I advise others to stick with it through the frustrations.



MMM: As well as camera work, you’re also adept at turning your hand to sound and special effects?

MM: There’s a big crossover and although I am no sound expert I try to understand at least parts of other roles on set and will try my hand at them when required.


MMM: Is that because the nature of low budget filmmaking i.e. less crew available?

MM: Yes. Although I wouldn’t take, or advise people to take, roles they didn’t think they could fulfil. Rather than one good job you could end up doing two jobs poorly. That said, sometimes you have to find creative solutions to logistical issues that come up.


MMM: In the case, what pitfalls do people need to look out for when approaching low budget filmmaking?

MM: Well, the technical aspects can sometimes be an issue. As I said earlier, if you can get your hands on equipment then you can practice in your own time. Also, an appreciation of technical speak is needed so people can understand the basics of terms like aperture, f-stop, shooting modes and the like. To help though, people shouldn’t underestimate the power of the internet, especially YouTube, where you can view and learn about different cameras. And I do mean literally the button and menu placement which vary on different cameras on low-budget shoots. The manuals are also online and if you can’t practice with the camera you’ll end up using it’s the next best way to learn.


MMM: That’s a fantastic tip! Moving on though, you also work with young people at the Pauline Quirke Academy. Do you enjoy passing on these skills as well?

MM: Yes, when I was asked about helping out at PQA, I never really thought about teaching but it became appealing as you find out a lot about how much you know when you teach. So I started and it was a very positive experience. The children have a great idea what a camera is, it’s on all our phones, but not the best idea about what it can do. The things I’ve learnt to do automatically had to be explained in a way they would understand. The kids came back with photos they never knew they could take – they looked like magazine covers!


MMM: And what’s next for you?

MM: I’m working on Rhys Davies’ Acid Daemons as well as starting a new venture in special effects. I have recently built my own render farm and production space to work on CGI and visual f/x which I hope to get going very soon.


MMM: Huge thanks for meeting and chatting today, Mbili. Any final thoughts?

MM: Thank you. It’s been great and I hope it can inspire more people to get involved in a role I find so fulfilling.


FInd out more about Mbili and his projects below:


Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mbilimunthali

Follow on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5946474/


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 17 2017 09:36PM



Time, and Again (2017) Dir. Kel Webster and Steve Lawson


Produced and directed by local filmmakers Kel Webster and Steve Lawson this new sci-fi short Time, and Again was independently made in Leicester and Nottingham and stars former Dr. Who Colin Baker alongside local actress Helen Crevel.


Baker has supported Midlands filmmakers before with a voiceover in Kenton Hall’s A Dozen Summers and in Rhys Davies’ historical Finding Richard so has a great track record here in the region. Crevel too has starred in a number of films for Leicester’s Creativ Studios including horror-drama Survival Instinct.


“Is the future in our hands?” asks Baker’s Professor Theo at the start as he address a small audience of students. After the class finishes, theoretical physicist and ex-student, Maggie, takes him to a clock-filled room akin to Doc Brown’s laboratory in Back to the Future.


After calibrating the professor’s watch with a wooden grandfather clock, she drops it into an electrical blue ‘nest’ only for it to appear later during another time and space. However, not only physical objects are affected as Maggie explains that “time shifts” will disrupt one’s memory as well.


The ticking of clocks and shots of timepieces are littered throughout, with sound effects coming from the chiming of bells with the film’s slight musical track sometimes drowned out in the background. The science lab set is well dressed and doesn’t overpower the actors – who are the film’s sole focus.


The props are a mix of past and present which highlight the fluid nature of time and before long, a discussion is had about the scientific and moral decisions in an ambiguous effort to erase/replace their pasts – along with their recollection of these.


With the risks (briefly) talked over, the theme of changing the past – for the better or worse – leads the film to a final leap into the unknown. Without going into spoilers, influences range from the circular nature of Looper to the dark scientific repercussions of Shane Carruth’s head-spinning Primer.


The short is well filmed with the performances of the duo are fantastic. The stoic academic Theo is given humanity through Baker’s accepting glances whilst Crevel is the wide-eyed inventor with dreams of changing their histories. Both display a sorrowfulness when recalling a past tragedy which is wisely left mostly open to interpretation.


A haunting little film, which leaves the audience with many more questions to think about than answers, Time and Again is an assured debut from Webster who started out as a camera assistant alongside the more experienced Steve Lawson. It is to the credit of the two arresting main actors who infuse an engaging uncertainty into what could have been your standard “fixing-the-past” plot, that the film owes much of its success. Overall, the future looks bright for Webster and Lawson as the story is a timely reminder that a good short can use the genre conventions of the past yet challenge expectations to deliver its fresh new ideas in a contemporary way.


Mike Sales, Midlands Movies


View the film's trailer here:




Find out more about the film on the links below:


IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5770448/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_2

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TimeAgainFilm

By midlandsmovies, Aug 17 2017 08:40AM



Midlands Spotlight - The Short Cinema 2017 in Leicester


Leicester's amazing The Short Cinema is now under a week away and they have a full programme of loca, national and international films to showcase over their 3-day festival line up.


Check out the full programme below:


THE SHORT CINEMA LAUNCH PARTY Wed 23 Aug, 6.30pm

To celebrate the eleventh edition of The Short Cinema, we’re launching the festival with a get-together, to give us a chance to highlight some of our partners and supporters and allow our makers to meet before their screening night. Join us for a drink from Langton Brewery and finger food from exciting, new, vegan caterers The Mystery Booth to celebrate another year of excellent short film. We will also have music from the talented Les Hayden and an outdoor screening in partnership with The British Silent Film Festival (weather dependent). This event is followed by our Opening Gala screening of our 2017 International Programme in Screen 2 from 8:45pm. Please note you will need a separate ticket for this event.

 

THE SHORT CINEMA OPENING GALA: INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMME Wed 23 Aug, 8.45pm

Opening Gala: The International Programme has expanded! For the first time this will be showcased in one of our main screens following the launch party.

 

ARTIST MOVING IMAGE: THE LACEY RITUALS: FILMS BY BRUCE LACEY Thu 24 Aug, 6.45pm

This delightful programme showcases the playful, physical sense of humour and irreverent sensibility of great British artist and eccentric, Bruce Lacey.

 

THE BEST OF IRIS: QUEER FILM NETWORK SCREENING Thu 24 Aug, 7pm

A chance for audiences to watch the Best of Iris LGBTQ+ Film Festival Shorts. A post screening discussion will be hosted by Connor Winterton. [LIMITED AVALIABILITY]

 

THE SHORTISH CINEMA Fri 25 Aug, 8pm

Screening for its third year, the festival has expanded with The Shortish Cinema, a screening of Midlands-made films which need slightly longer than our usual 15 minute limit to tell their story.

 

FAMILY SHORTS: Sat 26 Aug, 10.30am

Presented in partnership with Flatpack Assemble: Join us for a morning of family friendly short stories told on the big screen.

 

THE SHORT CINEMA CLOSING: MAIN COMPETITION Sat 26 Aug, Doors 7.30pm – Screening 8pm

Now in its eleventh year, The Short Cinema is an annual short film festival showcasing established and emerging talent from across the world with a strong focus on Midlands makers.

 

More info can be found at http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk/




By midlandsmovies, Jul 29 2017 07:56AM



The Jock and The Chav (2017) Dir. Jon David Ellison


Filmed round the back of my flat (literally) in the Cultural Quarter of Leicester, this new comedy action film incorporates a fight involving two stock characters straight out of the stereotype play book.


However, what makes this film unique is a nod to 90s computer arcade fight games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat as filmmaker Jon Ellison tries to recreate the look and the sound of the era.


As the first combatant enters the fray, the crowd boo and jeer and cleverly, appear to repeat the same background motions like a programmed sprite from the Mega-Drive era.


With the Far East influences of Nintendo and others, a second (and much bulkier) fighter enters the fray and after a “have a fair fight” warning the competition begins. Here, the film adds video game power bars for each fighter and the side-on/locked-off shot is a great recreation of the layout of retro fighting games.


The film even includes some (basic) special effects as a lighter becomes a Ryu-style flame attack although the film did stray away at times from the video-game format. One such cutaway was to two cheerleaders which slightly distracted from the style already established. That said, the sequences are used for laughs and the home-made nature gave the film low-budget charm.


The voice-dubbing was a little off sync as well – although you could argue it fitted with badly-dubbed Asian Kung-Fu style it harked back to – so again, it may have been an intentional choice.


Director Ellison has made a number of shorts prior to this film, which have included a short featuring stop-motion balloons and straight-to-the-point title, “What F*@!er Said That”, which have all included a fast-paced style combined with dark humour and comedy.


A bit rough and ready, and definitely in need of some tighter editing, it’s clearly a low budget feature and some opening shots could have benefited from a tripod or tracking shot but the sketchy technical nature fits in with the humorous tone.


A little Scott Pilgrim here, a little Fast Show “Long Big Punch Up” there, The Jock and the Chav had me smiling with only the technical side letting it down. Its dollop of fun was a refreshing addition to the local comedy film-making community (see also Flip You in Leicester) and combined with his other films, Ellison has a Kentucky Fried Movie of sketches and skits to play with in future.


Midlands Movies Mike


Watch the full short here:


By midlandsmovies, Jul 18 2017 05:52PM



Arrivals - Prologue and Episode 1 - Rachel

Dir. John McCourt

April Just Gone Films


Local company April Just Gone Films took a brave step in releasing a 127 second prologue episode for their new sci-fi series Arrivals. The reason it is brave is because of the time they have allowed to set the tone and objectively speaking it is a mixed bag.


In this short time we, as a viewer, understand the basic idea that will underpin the series thanks to a series of opening interrogations wherein we meet our characters and the strangeness of their date of birth and from this viewpoint the episode no doubt meets its purpose.


However the episode is a little unappealing, not a fault of the film makers per se, who do the best through editing and camera angles to keep it visually stimulating but there is very little you can do with multiple character introductions.


To add to this - within meeting a couple of these persons of interest we quickly understand the point, meaning that the remaining introductions are somewhat superfluous, at least until the final one, Lilith. How many of these characters will be important going forwards I am unsure but each is given so little time that no connections can be made. It feels simply like your first day at work meeting everyone, a little overwhelming without the opportunity to build any real attachment.


Thankfully there is a superb short within the series that has also been completed called 'Rachel', which at just over ten minutes long does allow for not only more elaboration but also more narrative, one which focuses on just one of these 'arrivals' that we met in the earlier episode.


Incorporating just three actors, two interrogating male agents and the eponymous Rachel, the acting is of a good standard for this level of production but a special mention has to go to Lois Cowley for her portrayal of the mysterious woman.


Although the credit really belongs to the writer (and producer and director) John McCourt who displays genuine talent and his work on this later episode is to be commended. Especially as writing a ten minute three way conversation is no easy feat even for the most seasoned of writing professionals.


McCourt manages to lead us through the interrogative dance with ease working in moments of obtuse humour, literary reference and spy intrigue. As a result the ten minutes of this episode seem to fly by especially in comparison to the much shorter prologue.


Arrivals is clearly an intriguing concept, although one that seems familiar, with a potentially strong overriding story arc but its success will depend on the film makers ability to handle the pacing of what is certainly going to be a dialogue heavy but visually restricted journey.


Although the prologue didn't quite work for me it did get the key messages across leading into the second episode and I have no doubt was part of a wider story. So give Arrivals a watch once a couple more episodes are available as it has got me intrigued and I am sure you will be too.


McCourt shows that you do not need a big budget or fancy visuals to grab a viewers attention and I certainly hope he can maintain it.


Midlands Movies Marek


twitter.com/CosiPerversa


Find out more about Arrivals here www.facebook.com/ArrivalsWebSeries

By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2017 09:03AM



Midlands Movies interview Luke Gosling and Sean Brown of B305 Productions


Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Luke Gosling and Sean Brown from Leicester film production company Bearing 305 Productions to talk about their new horror Blood Myth, what the future holds for this exciting new project and there experience of on-set ‘Barnageddon’.


Midlands Movies Mike: Morning Luke and Sean. How are things and what’s your connection to the Midlands film scene?

Luke Gosling: Hi there! Well I’m originally from Newark, but now living in Lincoln. I have been an avid film fan from a young age, which lead me to study BA in Model Design at Hertfordshire University. From there I developed a keen interest in storytelling so started making skits and short films as a means to show my written work.

Sean Brown: For me, I have been making films since I was 16. I am originally from Newark and I studied Media Production at Lincoln University. I worked at ITV in Leeds in their post production facilities and have more recently been working at The Northern Film School in Leeds.


MM: Nice! How did your new film Blood Myth come about?

LG: After tackling numerous short films across various genres we decided that we had progressed technically to a level where the natural next step was to make a feature length film.


MM: Can you tell us a bit about the film’s story?

LG: Blood Myth is British folk horror film. It is a twisty turny mystery that will intrigue and shock audiences worldwide. A man’s pregnant girlfriend vanishes on the anniversary of a centuries old sinister folklore surrounding the occult. He then sets out to discover the truth and find her before she becomes part of a 30 year cycle of disappearances.


MM: You’ve focused on horror for this film. How did that come about? Are you fans of the genre?

LG: We initially envisaged doing a dark noir thriller revolving around a journalist and the occult, but as the development process moved forward the film naturally evolved away from the noir tropes and more towards a horror mystery thriller with elements of black humour which better fit our writing and watching sensibilities.

SB: In addition, the idea was to use what we had to save money on the production design. Luckily my mother in law has a farm with various visually interesting buildings. We realised quickly that it would be a folk horror film that would fit best for the location.


MM: With that location in mind, what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome during filming?

LG: Shooting on a micro budget and a tight timeframe means you can’t afford to wait for everything to be just right e.g. the weather, so we had to grin and bear some cold, wet and windy days. Night shoots are tough, especially when you have started at 8am and go through into the early hours.

Our most challenging day was shooting an important set-piece, involving multiple characters, on a large set with an elaborate lighting set-up. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, which became known as “Barnageddon”. Thankfully everyone pulled together and we got it done late in the day but it worked out great.

SB: I think that filming on various weeks for over a year makes keeping continuity consistent a challenge. After the first week filming I managed to get hit by a bus travelling at 30mph in my car. My first thought was relief that I had survived and my second thought was that we had only filmed half the shots that we needed with my car. So for the rest of the film the camera had to be in the car looking out. Other than that I think that the major challenges were time and money. When you are working with such a small amount of money you have to be very creative to fill in the gaps and with a limited amount of time on top of that it makes everything twice as stressful. I also didn't help matters by making the film at the same time as having a new born baby.



MM: And can you tell our readers about you many other projects?

LG: Together we’ve made four projects before Blood Myth. Web series sit-com The Pitch (2012). Animated comedy short B-Movie (2013). Comedy short film I Am Lodger (2014) and sci-fi short film Athena (2015).


MM: And how was B305 set up?

LG: Bearing 305 Productions is two person team with Luke and Sean writing, directing and producing. We do like to work with the same people wherever possible, bringing back familiar actors and crew. It was set up due to two friends having the same film watching/ making sensibilities and goals.


MM: What were your influences from the genre? Any specific for this film?

LG: We have always loved films and TV like Seven, X-Files, True Detective and The Wicker Man (original). Story and tonal touchstones for Blood Myth include Kill List, Shallow Grave, The Usual Suspects and Blue Ruin. Musically we like the tone and tension created in Sicario, Hell or High Water and 10 Cloverfield Lane.



MM: Do you have any future plans for Blood Myth?

LG: We are currently submitting Blood Myth to film festivals around the world with an aim to get distribution, and ultimately to make enough waves to get considered for production of future scripts. I think like any filmmakers we just want the film to reach the widest possible audience.


MM: What are your favourite Midlands films/filmmakers? Anyone you’d recommend?

LG: We really like Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes. Although it had roughly 100 times our budget it was still a very low budget film, made with such an independent spirit. It was a big inspiration for us especially because it was from an area we recognised. It wasn't glossy or glamorous it was a film about characters that were recognisable and had a story that was heartfelt and touching. It also put filmmaking within our reach because we knew Toby Kebbell and there he was on the big screen in a film. This was an enormous leap, from just making short films for fun, to seeing that the film industry was actually within reach, if we were prepared to put in a lot of hard work.

SB: Local filmmakers we have worked with include Jordan Handford who is a terrific actor and has just made a nice debut short film, and Kris Tearse who has done acting for us and provided great score work in the Blood Myth teaser trailer.


MM: And finally, we always ask if there’s any advice for anyone looking to start their own project in the region?

LG: Create for yourself. My initial aspiration was to be a writer, but no one was gonna make stuff from an unknown, so I had to take on directing to tell my stories. Learn, develop and push yourself with each project. Keep writing and most importantly finish. It’s too easy to have twenty openings or synopsis, it takes dedication to complete script after script. See it through to the end. Blood Myth has been two and a half years work.

SG: Don't wait! I have made a lot of short films and now a feature and I have learnt more from making the films than any book, course or video online. You have to make mistakes to understand how to be better. The only way to progress at anything is to do it over and over again. Also learn the technical side of filmmaking. When you are starting out it is very difficult to find people who are as passionate about your project as you are. If you are not relying on other people to work the camera or edit the film, then you will have it done much faster and learn more.


Huge thanks to Sean and Luke for their time and check out the film's trailer above and follow the latest news about the release of Blood Myth over on their official website at http://www.bloodmyth.com

By midlandsmovies, Jun 6 2017 04:26PM


Local filmmaker ready to take you to another world


With the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming in the Summer of 2017, interest in the web-slinging superhero is at an all-time high. After a deal that saw Spidey enter the MCU from a property owned by Sony, fans are anticipating a great first adventure during the blockbuster season.


However, the biggest fan might just be right here in the Midlands as Leicester filmmaker Joey Lever is set to launch his own fan-film based around the infamous New Yorker. Now we’re “tingling” with excitement, we swing by to find out more about the ambitious production.


In early 2017, Joey Lever won a Midlands Movies Award for his sound mixing work on his film Paper Plane which began a successful start to a year that looks set to explode for the local filmmaker.


His new superhero fan film is Spider-Man: Another World and it is in fact part of a larger shared universe he has created with fellow fans. Taking an idea from Marvel themselves, Lever has named it "The strand of web, web series" which includes 3 films and one short.


DiGitiLhEaRt & PavillionArts are the studios who have invested in his vision and Joey’s new project has also seen him working with many of the region’s most talented creatives, including Gatling Gun Productions who also hail from Leicestershire.


With the trailer just launched in June (see YouTube video above) Joey Lever says “We are so excited to hear what [fans] think about it as this been such an amazing experience to step back into the shoes of Peter Parker. This time trying to make a fan film that is different and we are so proud of the outcome”.


Also supporting the production is comic book artist Marc Ducrow who has designed the film’s poster.



Updating via the movie's Facebook page, Joey goes on to add, “As a child I was always fascinated by the idea to tell stories in different ways. I spent many years growing up drawing, acting out little sequences I thought up before bedtime. This blossomed into my love of film making. Every film you see of mine will be made with my heart and soul”.

Based in Leicester, Joey is a self-taught freelance filmmaker & cinematographer and has been lucky enough to work internationally on projects in the USA, South America, Australia and Germany


As well as writing and directing Lever himself stars in the action-drama alongside talented local actors Craig Ellis, Teravis Ward, Andrew Miles, Charlie V and Jordan Schofield.


We'll be keeping a close eye on the film's development as it comes to launch and follow the movie's updates on the official pages below.

https://www.facebook.com/SpiderManLC


http://www.joeylever.com

By midlandsmovies, Jun 5 2017 09:57AM



Editor Mike Sales decides to go “full cosplay” and leaves his post as Midlands Movies Editor to play Stormtrooper TK-421 in his third visit to one of Leicester’s most successful comic and film events of the year...


Could it be a hat-trick of successful events for Comic Con Leicester?


Well, at first glance it sure was. With a sold-out weekend of exciting entertainment ahead, CCL has grown year on year and organisers Gavin Lee-Pate and Richard Tewkesbury have set such high standards during the previous 2 years (see our 2015 and 2016 reports) that expectations were high.


But from the outset they showed why their event is one of the hottest tickets in town with a whole host of artists, stalls, film fans, cosplayers and shop stands included within the magnificent Athena venue. We said before, but will say again to those new, that this unique venue used to be the city’s Odeon cinema and its tiered balconies give this event a special cinematic flavour. It results in having much more character that is far removed from the huge impersonal arenas of larger Comic Cons.



So, what were the differences and highlights of this year? First up, I decided to experience going in my first ever full cosplay outfit to truly understand the nature of these events from a fan perspective. Kindly, film music composer, DJ and my very good friend Damon Baxter (aka the ‘Deadly Avenger’) suggested I get fully kitted in his professional Stormtrooper costume. www.deadlyavenger.co.uk


“It was made by the original guy from the 1977 moulds”, he had glee in telling me, “but you basically cannot move in it, stairs are almost a no-no and wear as little as possible underneath as you will sweat. A lot”.


The rumours of on-set fainting were soon too easy to understand as I stepped into a black ‘onesie’ before Damon helped strapped the plastic armour plating to my limbs. And yes, it does take 2 people to get dressed properly!


So, now it had been removed from the mannequin and was fully on my 6-foot frame we walked (waddled) round the corner to Leicester's Cultural Quarter to enter the show. Beforehand, Damon and I had broadcast two Facebook Live videos as we were also planning to handout some Star Wars related goodie bags throughout the day as a thank you to the attendees and our followers over the years.


Click here to see the first two Facebook live videos:

1. Mike & Damon on the floor (apologies for portrait issue)

2. Stormtrooper Mike about to enter



Once at the entrance , the organisers had arranged for a Jurassic Park jeep plus a great dinosaur model that actually moved when someone got inside it, which ‘welcomed’ the attendees to the event. Outside with the sun shining and the soaring John Williams score in the background, it was therefore made a pleasurable place to relax as well, when the event crowds became busy. And it gave a suitable area for socialising and photography too.




Now inside, me (in my outfit) felt right at home with a Star Wars droid display and full-size (!) Jabba the Hut model. This had a constant stream of fans lying next to him whilst giving their best Princess Leia reclining pose. Upstairs was a speeder bike and we both just had to have a go on that of course as well.





One of our first stops was with artist Ryan Button of RB Illustrations. His third time at the event too, his local film-inspired art (and images from our own MM event posters) have always gone down well with fans looking for a retro-infused poster, card or pin badge. http://rbillustration.com




Next to Ryan was Rob Hill Author who was promoting his book The Bad Movie Bible which celebrated the best of the worst films of all time. With 15 years in post-production working on films such as 28 Days Later, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Harry Potter series Rob is well placed to understand what makes a movie bad.


Soon after we were working ourselves along the busy aisles to check the further talent on show. The outfit helped as people (mostly) got out of my way when seeing me – the Empire still flexing its might – but the lack of vision through the small green tinted lenses of the helmet was limiting to say the least.


After a few hours of experiencing the full delights – panels were announced through the day, body painting showed great artistry (and a lot of flesh!) and the retro gaming had queues of children trying to beat Pokemon experts – I decide to take a break from the main arena.




Once outside, the true spirit of the convention was obvious to see. Strangers chatted, people laughed and many photographs were taken. From elaborate Manga costumes to home-made outfits using tape and cardboard, it really didn’t matter what approach people had taken as everyone was relishing the variety of delights on show.




“Are you naked?” I ask one lady who came up to me to ask for a photo. “Mostly”, was her reply, “I’ve got body paint on as part of the Midlands Body Paint Project”. My helmet hid my blushing as we posed for a photo and off she went into the crowd. More seriously however, the body paint project was a true highlight, particularly the brave men and women who wait patiently as talented artists work on their full torsos and beyond. These creatives draw intricate designs which, this year, was mostly amazing Guardians of the Galaxy characters. On day 2, when out of the confines of my costume, I too got more photos with Yondu and Drax, both in an impressive array of multicoloured make-up. www.facebook.com/MidlandsBodypaintProject/




As mentioned, the Stromtrooper experience was great but I headed back to Comic Con on Day 2 in my ‘civvies’ where I was able to speak more freely to many of the excellent artists. Here I witnessed the great local talent and the following were just a small selection of the gifted creatives who attended.


First up, comic artist Chris Sides is the writer of the self-published Dark Matter anthologies and was promoting his soon-to-be-released new graphic novel Impossible, yet we strangely bonded most over our chats about the problems with the Batman V Superman film. www.chrissideswriter.com


Next to Chris (and throwing in his own disapproval of BvS) was writer and creator Jay Martin of YMJ. With a deep love of everything comics, sci-fi and fantasy from an early age it has led him to create stories of his own and he was here with his ALV and Domeinion comics. www.yeahwritejay.co.uk


Up next was Spike Baxter-Gale of Metamorphosis Arts which encompassed his love of all types of art, from photography and illustration to film. With canvases ranging from the Joker to FrankenFurter the simplistic designs were a popular choice amongst the crowd. www.metarts.uk. Attic Studios were once again in attendance also with their trio of artists Dan Harris, Kris Carter & Jim Bampfield. With a variety of styles between them. I was drawn to Harris’ work and even bought a superb postcard of retro icons of the 80s. A prize if you can name all of the below! www.atticstudios.website




Hometown girl and animation student Bianca of BBZ art had a superb portfolio of designs focused on visual development, characters and concepts for animation and storytelling. http://beebeezed.storenvy.com. Eat My Paint artist Lloyd Davies brought a lot of fun to his comic designs as he created beautiful images made solely in Microsoft Paint. His books, stickers and request table helped attract fans with his laugh out loud work. https://tapas.io/series/eatmypaint


Lauren Livesey is talented artist who is “in love with stars, women and dogs” and her fantastic astrological and fairy tale inspired images of strong women and fantasy figures made sure the magic was in full flow throughout the convention. www.laurenlivesey.co.uk. Finally, we also managed to swing by and chat to Phoebe Hancox who specialises in storyboards, characters, posters and prints. Her intricate line drawings had a dark gothic quality incorporating mysterious and sacred symbolism. phoebehancoxillustration.carbonmade.com




Phew! As I said, this was just a small selection we managed to involve ourselves in and there were dozens more talented individuals with an eclectic range of work on show. There was also plenty of stalls selling merchandise and food and it’s safe to say everyone who gave their time worked their hardest to make the community event successful.


Shops and stalls sold everything from retro toys to the obligatory Funko Pops and books. “Look, there’s a great Alien Anthology art book there”, I exclaimed to Damon. “Don’t talk to me about Alien. It’s dead to me now”, he jokes, still reeling from his recent disappointment about the latest instalment Covenant. He won’t let that damn flute go! Ha ha.



As the event came to a close we again ran into Gavin (one of the organisers) and he looked the calmest I’d ever seen him. A man of few words, he didn’t need to say much in order to show how happy he was with this year’s event. And as someone who ended up sweaty and unable to pee in a Stormtrooper costume, I couldn’t have been happier myself. It was an absolute pleasure to see the faces on those who came up to me to grab a photo, and from 5 to 50, the diverse range of joyful fans in attendance was testament to the professionalism and experience of this now faultless event.


Midlands Movies Mike


To see all the photos from the weekend please click here for the photo album


Check out the Facebook Live videos from Day 2:

DAY 2 Intro https://www.facebook.com/midlandsmovies/videos/2042242582676859/

Day 2 Comic Con: https://www.facebook.com/midlandsmovies/videos/2042257519342032/

Day 2 (part 2): https://www.facebook.com/midlandsmovies/videos/2042258836008567/








RSS Feed twitter