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By midlandsmovies, Sep 16 2019 08:00AM



A Day in the Life of music composer Kirby Spencer


Our fourth entry into our 'A Day in the Life" features follows Kirby Spencer. Leicestershire based Kirby is a music composer and has worked on local short films Thursday and Eve.


From mixing, sound design and composition, Kirby tells Midlands Movies about creating the perfect musical accompaniment to film projects made in the region.


07:30 - Up and at them as they say. The usual get up routine, with a little bit of breakfast possibly - but most importantly coffee.


08:30 - I turn on the most important piece of equipment I have, my computer. From here I produce all of my music and it needs plenty of time to warm up. I never start a day from scratch you see, as I am either loading up work from the previous day or far less frequently, I am loading up a template. This is a tip a few composers use in order to get over the shock of a blank page. The feeling of not knowing what to do to get yourself started. This way I always have something to look at, to point me forward. My template is simply a preset list of tracks/instruments that I use on a regular basis. For example that includes, Violins 1 and 2, viola, cellos, basses, trombones, various synths and sound fxs etc... my main template at the moment contains close to 100 tracks each ranging from a few MBs of memory all the way up to several GBs. Spread this across 100 tracks and my template can take anywhere between 10 mins and 15 mins to load for any given project. So while thats happening...


08:30 - 09:00 - Business hat on. As a freelance composer, you take on the role of a head of department (HoD) for yourself, but also everything else that needs to be done in order to run a successful business. Answering and making Email enquiries, updating social media accounts, marketing, market research, reviewing contracts, dealing with PRS etc etc. I can't get all of this done in half an hour, but I take a bit of time to wake up by reviewing a certain aspect of this side of being a Film Composer - most of the time its either answering Emails (There's a handy setting to send them out across the day) or doing a bit of market research in order to get the creative juices flowing.


09:00 - Time to review the previous days work. When we listen to music, especially the same piece of music over and over again - our ears and our mind can block out noise and frequencies that are disturbing or unwanted. Or simply an instrument might be slightly too loud or soft (most of the time its too loud..). We gradually get used to these imperfections over time as our ears adjust to them. I can get around this by listening to the previous days work with what we call 'fresh ears'. I've not been subject to the piece for several hours or even days previously, and this morning listen can highlight any problems that I may have missed through this phenomena. This can be a tip for any directors or producers out there too - you can usually tell if the music is right or wrong for the project within the first few plays. Its a bit of a balance however, you should give the music some time, but at the same time we can con ourselves into a certain piece if we dogmatically listen to it over and over looking for some profound revelation that makes it all okay. Listen, take some time away and come back to confirm - it works for me. Anything that comes up, I'll do my best to fix.


If I am starting with a new template that contains only the blank tracks that I use most frequently, then I skip to the next stage.


10:00 - Time to actually compose. If its a fresh scene or a fresh piece of music I will again try to remove the daunting aspect of having a blank slate by looking at the Film Composer's guiding light - Story. The music if decided to be present in a scene, must follow the story in some way. It must be highlighting (not adding!) something present in the scene. Through study I use an approach that was highlighted to me by Andy Hill (Walt disney Studios Music Producer) in his book, 'Scoring the Screen'. What is the point of view the music is highlighting? What is the energy level of the music? By that we mean does it work with or against the pace of the scene and the editing, and finally, does the music need to tell us something that the picture does not? Armed with these questions, and a brief from the film makers about what they would like to see (notes from a spotting session work absolute wonders), I can settle on a general direction for the music. From here its a matter of controlled experimentation, and at this point I cannot say how I might proceed as every case is different. But if I ever get stuck, its time to go back to the guiding lights.


12:00 - Lunch and break. Its important not to fatigue your ears, eyes and mind. I might go for a walk after having something to eat or something like that.


13:00 - Back on it in the same manner as the morning. It can be a solitary job this.


15:00 - Mini break usually about halfway through the afternoon - at this point I might go back to doing some of the business side of things, in particular, looking for new projects and productions that I feel I might be able to benefit, and those that might benefit me. Or anything else that might need to be done adhoc.


16:00 Back into the nitty gritty of scoring to a scene. At this point, my ears are pretty fatigued, and the creative juices are going to be running low. This late in the day, I usually focus on the technical aspects of making the cues sound realistic rather than anything creative or experiemental. There are times where I might save the thing I am working on and move back to a previous piece, something fresh in order to again get out of getting too used to hearing the same thing over and over. I would not mix at this time of the day, it always ends up sounding off.


18:00 - Pack up, save - Relax. When it gets close to deadlines, I will work on into the night as late as I feel I can.


That is just an example of a 'Day in the life of a Film Composer' and I know that it can vary from composer to composer quite drastically, and even for each composer themselves. Some days will be spent more on production (Mixing, Sound design etc) than composition. Some days will be spent on simply upskilling - learning more about the craft of writing music to picture. Some days may be spent on the business side of things, travelling to networking events, meeting clients, attending spotting sessions etc. But this is the general outline I like to follow when creating music for a media project. "


By midlandsmovies, Apr 15 2019 08:40AM



Lords of Chaos (2019) Dir. Jonas Åkerlund


Adapted from the book of the same name, Lords of Chaos is directed by notable Swedish music video filmmaker Jonas Åkerlund and his knowledge of the music industry has turned from Madonna’s upbeat Ray of Light video to a much more sinister story here in this dark musical journey.


The director has made concert films of Beyoncé and Jay Z, Taylor Swift, Roxette and much more recently, and apt, German heavy-metallers Rammstein. In Lords of Chaos we follow Rory Culkin as guitarist Euronymous, the co-founder of real-life Norwegian black metal band Mayhem.


Recruiting a new Swedish vocalist called Dead, the new singer takes their dark persona to extreme measures including self-harm before the band meets a super-fan named Kristian (Emory Cohen) who is dismissed by the group. One day, in a scene of horrific mutilation, Dead cuts his arms and then his throat before killing himself with a shotgun to the head. The gruesome scene is one of many disgusting sequences of body mutilation and nihilistic violence and be aware, Lords of Chaos caters for those with the strongest of stomachs.


Maybe darker than the hideous death itself, Euronymous takes a photo of the scene – which is eventually used as an album cover (!) – before opening a shop that becomes the focus of their underground music scene.


With members becoming known as the "Black Circle", fan Kristian renames himself as Varg Vikernes and his strong anti-Christian views leads him join the band and then burn down churches. Whilst another member, Faust, kills a gay man in a park and their crimes are brought to the attention of the police.


A power struggle between Euronymous and Varg emerges – with each retreating into their own reality where Euronymous reveals his persona to be mostly a bluff whilst Varg’s increasing erratic and extreme behaviour leads him to arm himself for a confrontation.


Rory Culkin as Euronymous is fantastic and although its been said that the film uses a mixture of American accents, with ever-so-slight Scandinavian twangs, the choice merely seems to be one of commercial accessibility. Emory Cohen as Varg Vikernes matches Culkin beat for beat with a menacing and threatening portrayal of an unhinged extremist.


The support cast tackle the dark themes well and the film has a reality to its traumatising images. Shockingly the story has a morbid ending and many of the themes are somewhat contradictory. Culkin seems both sympathetic yet often unappealing at times and the movie explores themes of life-threatening hobbies, the occult and, more simply, the notion of celebrity and authenticity.


In my review of Vox Lux I stated that one problem of that film was the inclusion of music (pop) that I don’t have a large interest in. Here, black metal is not hugely my thing either, but I definitely sway towards the darker aspects of rock and its associated imagery which the film goes to the furthest extremities of.


Whilst band members dispute the historical accuracy of some of the events in the film, it is then somewhat ironic the film concerns itself with character dualism, surface personality and the clashing view points of each member. And Lords of Chaos dramatizes a bleak story with a great combination of multi-layered performances and grave scenes of violence. Although not for everyone, Lords of Chaos will satisfy metal and horror fans but goes beyond both is musical and genre origins for a much more intense experience. Ghastly but gratifying.


★★★★


Mike Sales


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, Jun 16 2018 08:21AM



Songbird (2018)


Directed by Sophie Black


Written by Tommy Draper

Produced by Laura C. Cann.

Triskelle Pictures


Starring Janet Devlin (from ITV’s The X Factor), Songbird is an enchanting new short following a female singer who encounters a wicked stranger set on stealing her talents.


A folktale that jumps swiftly between reality and fantasy Songbird comes from Nottingham filmmaker Sophie Black and her Triskelle Production company who has already seen success with the 2016 film Night Owls.


With a feathery familiarity, here our red-headed heroine is Jennifer (played with a subtle vulnerability by Devlin) who is dropped off near a forest at the film's beginning. But as she holds up a writing board which says “Thanks for the ride”, we get the impression that all is not as it seems in the woods today.


Heading into the countryside, the eerie sounds are well edited as the crunch of leaves by Converse-wearing feet introduces us to the tone of the film which mixes a modern hipster vibe with fairy tale folklore.


Cutting to 3 weeks earlier at an open mic in a local café, a chattering and chirping audience isn’t paying a great deal of attention as Jennifer plays a soft rhyming ballad with her acoustic guitar. A wonderland of poetical lyrics sends us down an aural rabbit hole complimented by Black’s potent cinematography with its dreamy visuals and hazy glow.


As the audience warms to her soaring vocals we cut to a set of crusty finger nails drumming on the bar to reveal an evil dark-eyed woman. Whilst Jennifer is spotted by a local producer, all looks well but she is soon confronted by the ominous lady in an alley outside the venue. As a strange powder is blown over her by the old crone she awakens at home, yet an uncomfortable phone call reveals her inability to speak. Black invites the audience to ask if this is a medical condition, but a visit to the doctor finds nothing wrong and her frustration kicks in with her vocal wings wholly clipped.


However, a handwritten book of spells and rune symbols is discovered and we are migrated back to the film’s opening as Jennifer begins collecting frogs and mushrooms to concoct a potion that perhaps can release her from this spell.


Black alludes to well-known fairy-tale myth from Sleeping Beauty - as Jennifer passes out - to Devlin’s auburn hair which plays to the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood’s adventures in the woods. As well as this, Therese Collins is excellent as a classic villain keeping her victim in a state of bondage with her incantations. She mixes a dash of Helena Bonham Carter witchcraft with fellow vocal-thief Ursula from The Little Mermaid as she incubates her stolen voices in jars amongst the trees.


2018 has had a fair share of similar cinematic encounters with fantasy voices, from the silent creature in Guillermo Del Toro’s aquatic fable The Shape of Water, as well as Duncan Jones’ Mute. Black tackles some parallel themes using well-shot special effects, gothic make-up and a superb choral score at its conclusion to deliver a bittersweet fairy tale.


Like all good fairy tales though, the film could be interpreted with having a number of symbolic undertones including an allegory of stage fright. As a musician myself, the fear of losing one’s voice can be difficult to swallow and here the film showcases a strong female trapped in a cage of insecurities.


Songbird is a tremendous short that shows the importance of voices and how they can truly transform and heal when you are filled with doubts and a lack of confidence. Sophie Black demonstrates a skill for the craft of filmmaking and, others take note, has created an artistic short with a raft of narrative to keep an audience captivated. With a selection of thematic and emotional beats, Songbird therefore takes flight with a magical trip from the mic stand to wonderland.


Midlands Movies Mike


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, Mar 16 2018 04:19PM



Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) Dir. Matt Schrader


If music be the food of love play on! This fantastic documentary has a who’s who roster of infamous film music composers and the sheer range of the talent on offer is worth a watch even to a passing fan of the medium.


But if you enjoy film then you must certainly be a fan. Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Trent Reznor, Tom Holkenborg, Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat are just some of the stars interviewed in the amazing story of movie music.


Throughout, every aspect of the process is covered, as well as the historical context, and some of the pure joy is simply listening to the interviewees talking about their influences and contemporaries.


From James Cameron explaining a spotting session (where a director and composer get together to decide where music is going to be) to Hans Zimmer talking about the fear of the first meeting (“I think you better phone John Williams, I have no idea how to do this”) the trials of composing and the enjoyment of the challenges comes across in each talking-head segment.


The documentary shows Rachel Portman working on the film RACE with a screen next to her piano which a fantastic insight into her particular process whilst the film discusses motifs (such as those in Close Encounters & Lord of the Rings) and other music theory in simple but passionate terms.


Historically we see Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire revolutionary music as well as John Barry’s swinging big band scores (James Bond). Giving further context, current Bond composer David Arnold adds no spy film would feel like one without similar style which is the same for Morricone’s iconic sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.


From the toy piano in the intro music to the TV show Rugrats to orchestral pieces, no style is left uncovered and there’s fun to be had as the composers run through their strangest instruments in a montage of the weird and wonderful.


We are told “There’s no such thing as the wrong way to do something” as the diversity of music styles and the iconic films they are from are interrogated. Drums of Mad Max: Fury Road give way to segments about the science behind music. One of the most interesting parts describes the physiological response within the brain, followed by Moby’s “air molecules” analogy.


As Randy Newman fawns over Gerry Goldsmith we get the arrival of John Williams and his incredible splash of Star Wars and Jaws in the 70s. His rediscovery of classic orchestral scores (e.g. Superman, Indiana Jones) saw a revival of the medium leading all the way to his Duel of the Fates choir at Abbey Road.


If there was one flaw it would be that we only briefly get a piece of the history/composer before we move on to the next. Many of the explorations of genres, individual composers, music history and instrumentation go by so quickly, it can be a little frustrating. Each one alone could have entire documentaries of their own dedicated to their part but it’s a small gripe in a mostly fascinating piece.


Taking us from the need for music to cover up noisy projectors at the turn of the 20th century to Trent Reznor’s experimentations in his Oscar-winning The Social Network sound design, SCORE is a comprehensive documentary covering all the major players in over 100 years of movie music. Although brief at times, it barely misses a beat and if you’re not reaching for your LPs, CD shelf or Spotify account after watching this then I’m not sure you have any right to call yourself a film fan.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jan 20 2018 09:57AM



Coco (2018) Dir. Lee Unkrich


Mariachi music and sumptuous Hispanic design abound in Pixar’s latest story about a young boy with dreams of becoming a famous musician. Based around the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead, the film follows 12-year old Miguel who enters a talent contest despite his family having banned music.


Miguel subsequently becomes cursed after stealing a guitar connected to a long lost family member and can then only be seen by the dead but no longer the living. With his body slowing turning to a skeleton, Miguel must receive a blessing from a (dead) family member in order to return to the real world before sunrise in order to aovid being stuck there for eternity.


Having been transported to the land of the dead, the aspiring musician seeks the help of Héctor, a skeleton who once played guitar, who in returns asks Miguel to take his photo back to the living world before his daughter forgets him and he disappears completely.


The film’s, somewhat convoluted, narrative hits all the regular beats – family, escaping into other worlds, life lessons and cute animals – so isn’t exactly groundbreaking in that department. That said, Pixar do this so well that I warmed to the film despite these minor criticisms.


The animation, although sadly getting closer to uncanny valley at times especially on the elderly Coco (Miguel’s great-grandmother), is in fact still utterly fantastic. As a guitarist myself I was frankly astonished at Miguel's guitar playing shots. Cartoons often use vague movements to create chord shapes giving their complexity but Pixar have produced another marvel here. From Sully’s wintery fur in Monster’s Inc. to Wall*E’s realism, Pixar have prided themselves on their technical expertise and the real strings, fingering and strumming is a fantastic addition to their repertoire.


Another standout design was the brilliant Pepita which is an imposing Alebrije – a brightly coloured mythical creature based on Mexican folk art. Acting as a spiritual guide, I can see this jaguar-eagle-ram beast becoming next Christmas’ must-have stocking filler with its cute face but terrifying wings!


The other worldly design is a celebration with its use of well-known iconography without (too) many stereotypes, although there’ll no doubt be a number of Twitter “hot takes” on its appropriation but Coco is a world away from any offensiveness with its warm celebration of folklore.


The day-glow colours maintain the visual spectacle but shouldn’t overshadow the fine sound design which is a key aspect too. Not just the reverb of the acoustic guitars but audiences will enjoy the clacking of skeleton bones, dog barks and animal screams alongside the smooth Hispanic accents. A great voice cast of Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel, Gael García Bernal as Héctor, Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto and Ana Ofelia Murguía as Mamá "Coco" Rivera are the main standouts and each one brings a unique “spirit” to their parts.


If there was one criticism it would be the narrative itself. Bordering on confusing it portrays various religious rites of passages, superstitions and customs that are slightly under-explained for the uninitiated. If it’s not a blessing or a curse, it’s a complex family tradition and with the huge number of characters the story bones felt unconnected. Although it may not be suitable for the youngest of viewers, the film never loses sight of its important themes however, and it delivers far more often than not.


As someone who lost my mother in 2017 and my musician dad just over a year ago, the film’s conclusion had me in tears with its fantastic song “Remember Me”. Its story crescendo of being remembered, family ties and getting older hit home in a personal way reminding me of the emotional ‘Father and Son’ sequence in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.


Not without its flaws, I cannot honestly say it is a Pixar ‘classic’, the film does however take enough successful chances. A celebration of traditional cultures, amazing production design and a story that combines family with music, Coco will no doubt leave audiences feeling it in their fingers all the way down to their bones.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Sep 28 2017 09:00AM

The Devil’s Candy (2017) Dir. Sean Byrne


Dark horror The Devil’s Candy tells the story of troubled artist Jesse (played Ethan Embry) who moves to a remote country house with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco).


As with all these things, once they unpack Jesse begins to hear voices whilst he frantically paints Francis Bacon-esque demonic pictures that have an eerie premonition-like reality to them. As well as haunting sounds, an awkward loner called Ray arrives at the house insisting he used to live there but is aggressively refused entry by the father.


As a second painting begins to form, the horrific scared faces of burning children are lost on Jesse who uses the mental anguish to return to an art world that shunned him. The film uses broad brush strokes from the genre but adds some metal-music infused excitement to the usual round of killings and disturbed slaughter.


A red Flying-V guitar, which plays a part in the story’s development, resonates with weighty devil-like rock and the constant Black Sabbath-style power-chord strumming is deafening and traumatizing in its repetition. As a fan of that genre of music it was refreshing to see this traditional family entrenched in some good heavy metal – especially as it wasn’t Rob Zombie for a change.


The colour red is prevalent throughout – an obvious trope that plays like some kind of alternative American Beauty – which symbolises future bloodshed, but the film is well shot and the actors believable in their off-kilter family roles.


The film could have done without an even more blatant slide into religious ‘Jesus’ imagery towards a flaming finale but the thrills and intense pleasures come from a genre film well executed with a ‘killer’ soundtrack.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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