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By midlandsmovies, Sep 28 2017 08:32AM

Midlands Spotlight - Paul Vernon


Midlands Movies Mike finds out about regional filmmaker Paul Vernon who has gone from the local to the global arena with his documentary, dance and short films.


From gaining a BTEC National Diploma: Film and Moving Image at Brooksby Melton College back in 2007, Paul Vernon is now showing his latest short film, Lost In The Nameless City, in the Chelsea district of New York as part of the Artists Forum Festival Of The Moving Image .


From small beginnings, Paul has now directed a range of films, many of which have been selected, award nominated and chosen to open and close film festivals and Lost In The Nameless City was the recent winner of the Experimental Award from the 12 Months Film Festival in Romania.


The film is an experimental documentary and photographic film interpreting urban space in London and combines black and white video and 135 film photography with an original minimalist score from composer David C. Hëvvitt made especially for the short.


More locally, Paul directed A Film By Abigail which was shot in his home village of Tugby near Leicester. Screened twice at Phoenix Square in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter - once with The Short Cinema as their opening film and also at the DocFilm Fest as well - Paul explains that his unique style saw the film screened in a gallery in Nottingham too.


“I’m deeply interested in cinematic aesthetics and form driven with passion to create unique varied films of individuality, tone and image”.


Although Paul has one foot firmly in the UK, and gained an MA with Merit specialising as a director earned at The Northern Film School in Leeds, he has always looked beyond the local too.


And it was "Abigail" that launched Paul’s work outside of the region when it was incorporated into a New York City school art curriculum and was an opening film at the 25. Internationales FilmFest Emden-Norderney representing UK films in London Shorts Special. Afterwards, the film was soon being screened further afield as part of festivals worldwide competing in Russia, India, Israel, Estonia, Albania, Egypt and France.


The film also premiered as the opening film of a short film showcase at BAFTA, screened in the "Best of Fest" at San Diego Comic-Con as well as the London Short Film Festival at the ICA and at the LACMA.


Find out more about Paul and his projects on his official website here: http://www.paulvernonfilmmaker.com


Watch the full short documentary A Film By Abigail here on YouTube below:



By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2015 07:09PM

Aside from the Midlands area, when I go on vacation I love to visit local attractions and nothing gives me more pleasure than going to see places that are featured in famous movies. With my previous holiday blogs covering Madrid, Italy and California I was very excited to be heading back to the good ol’ USA for a trip to New York, Chicago and the surrounding area.


For all the movie photos from the USA please click here


I landed at JFK airport tired but excited on October 29th (the day after our Shaun of the Dead screening) and, still drained from that late night, I put my lack of energy to one side to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Apple. This was my third visit in as many years so I had seen some of the most famous destinations before, but I always get a flush of excitement when I see some of the icons of this big city. On my first full day there I walked around Manhattan for over 6 hours catching all kinds of sights and with the November weather being unusually mild, I even managed to spend some time in my t-shirt as the sun beat down.


I was staying with my good friend at an apartment on Wall Street which immediately linked to my favourite film of 2014, The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo Di Caprio, whilst later as I was walking around I even spotted a Steve Madden shop – the real–life shoe company that DiCaprio’s fraudulent banker floats on the stock exchange. Speaking of which, just 200 yards up the road was the real life stock exchange which Bane (Tom Hardy) terrorises in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Nolan’s Batman franchise was a running theme of the trip as the second half would be spent in The Windy City, Chicago, where much more of those movies were filmed. Rises also contains shots of “Gotham’s” bridges collapsing which have been clearly influenced by the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges of New York city as Bane and his gang attempt to cut the citizens off from the rest of the world.


On my walkabout I also came across the fire station from Ghostbusters (1984) as well the Museum of the Native American which was the location of the painting of Vigo for that film’s sequel. After an accident in the building which resulted in me cutting my head, it seemed that the museum still has some bad vibes. Has anyone checked for a river of slime underneath again?



Up at the other end of the island, Central Park was where the Tavern on the Green was situated (67 Central Park West) which was used when Louis Tully (a demon-dog avoiding Rick Moranis) cried for help in Ghostbusters. Just across from that is Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment building – referred to as “spook central” – where the final battle against Mr. Stay Puft occurs. Still at Central Park is the bridge the protagonists hide under from Cloverfield (2008) whilst nearer Grand Central Terminal is the Chrysler building, both of which appear in the film as well.


Further downtown is the iconic Flat Iron Building (used as the Daily Bugle’s headquarters in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy) whilst the second film also includes the fantastic action sequence where Spider-Man battles Doctor Octopus on an elevated train. In fact, NYC does not have an elevated train track passing through its skyscrapers so the filmmakers used digital footage of Chicago’s “L” train to get the shots they needed.


After my brief stay in the city that never sleeps, I headed east to meet friends nearer Chicago. Quieter and with a more relaxed atmosphere, my friends lived in Aurora which you may know as the home-town of Wayne and Garth from American comedy Wayne’s World (1992) and its sequel. The city of lights provides the backdrop for their rock antics although much of both films were actually shot in and around Los Angeles – which Myers alludes to again in a fourth wall joke from Austin Powers.


From Aurora, I took a trip up to Woodstock, Illinois - Del Preston: “It rained all morning, and then it cleared up in the afternoon. And that's it... I almost remembered something else, but it's gone”. Actually not the location of the infamous 60s musical love festival but this Woodstock was the small town used in Groundhog Day (1993).


The town’s central square double’s as Gobbler’s Knob which hosts the groundhog ceremony before Bill Murray’s grouchy weather man begins to repeat the same day over and over. As his depression sets in, Murray’s worn out character attempts to commit suicide – one death is from the town’s clock tower – but continues to wake up unharmed back in his hotel bedroom each morning.


The bandstand in the square hosts the main festivities but is also the backdrop for the first snowfall dance between Murray and Andie MacDowell. As we walked around the picturesque town we saw the infamous corner where Murray steps in a puddle trying to avoid Ned Ryerson – who has a burger named after him in a local bar (Bing!) – as well as the cinema where he takes a date dressed up as Clint Eastwood.


Woodstock also played host to the film Trains, Planes & Automobiles (1987) where Steve Martin and John Candy are stopped for speeding in a burned-out car and then the pair are picked up by a truck outside the old courthouse (now the Old Courthouse Arts Center) as well as its more famous doubling as the town of ‘Punxsutawney’.


This lovely town proved to be a calm highlight of my trip between two big cities but it wasn’t too long before I was in my room at the Red Roof Inn in downtown Chicago. The city has been on my ‘must-go’ list for an age and I was thrilled to finally be in this cinematic city. As mentioned before the city’s bridges and industrial ambience was perfect for its stand-in as Gotham. From ‘the narrows’ in Batman Begins (2005) to the Tumbler heading under Lower Wacker Drive (the underground road system), the city’s pier also was the location of the Joker’s hostage heist on the two tourist boats.



Moving to The Dark Knight (2008), me and my friends had drinks and food at the iconic Berghoff Bar which is an historical 100-year old watering hole. This was the location of the scene where Jim Gordon and his team arrest Maroni whilst the nearby Chicago Theatre was used when Harvey attempts to see ballet with Rachel, but is unable to do so after Bruce Wayne takes the entire company on a sunny cruise. Lastly, the unfinished (at the time) Trump Tower was where the final battle took place twixt Batman and the Joker at the film’s climax.


Their earlier bust-up in the street with the BatPod and a big-rig truck occurs at South LaSalle Street with the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the background (which was also the HQ of ‘Wayne Enterprises’ in Batman Begins).




That street is also famous for its appearance in The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma) whose fictionalised version of Elliott Ness’s struggles with Al Capone utilised a wide range of Chicago locales. Recreating the Prohibition Era, the movie mostly drops historical accuracy for cops and robbers entertainment. The police HQ is the Rookery Building on South La Salle whilst Costner’s Ness first meets Sean Connery’s “Irish” beat-cop Malone on the pedestrian deck of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Federal Reserve is also on the same street whist mid-town’s Cultural Center is where De Niro’s Capone pleads his innocence to the media.





The film’s most famous sequence is at the end where a shoot out at the city’s Union Station paid homage to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and is also used at the climax of Man of Steel (2013) for the showdown between Superman and General Zod.




Another film which hugely uses Chicago’s many distinct locations is the 80s High School classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The John Hughes teen comedy has the title character skipping school for an educational and fun day out in the Windy City with his girlfriend Sloane and his put-upon pal Cameron.


The film has many unique local settings including when the friends pass the Flamingo, a huge red structure created by noted American artist Alexander Calder. This 53-foot tall stabile is located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building and is not far from the Art Institute of Chicago which hosts the city’s impressive art collection. In the film, the trio are fascinated by some legendary pieces including the Portrait of Balzac by Auguste Rodin, Picasso paintings, Marc Chagall’s America Windows and (most famously) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – an 1884 pointillism work by Georges Seurat.


The film also includes trips to Wrigley Field (home of the city’s Cubs baseball team) and Ferris crashing the annual Von Steuben Day Parade on a float for a musical sequence. The last place I visited from this film was up at the Sears Tower's skydeck (now the Willis Tower) which gives unparalleled 360 degree views of the city from the 103rd floor. Don’t go up if you have vertigo but if you’re feeling brave then take a seat in one of the all-glass boxes which allow visitors to look through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet (412 m) below!


The final picture in the Art Institute that I recognised was Francis Bacon’s “Figure with Meat” which was the painting Jack Nicholson’s Joker asked Bob the Goon not to destroy in the museum scene in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Another Batman link!


Outside the Institute is Millennium Park which holds Cloud Gate – a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It is locally nicknamed The Bean because of its shape and weighs 110 short tons and is used in the film The Break Up (2006) but most will have seen the silver/metallic structure in Duncan’s Jones’ Source Code (2011).



So what else do we have? Well, the gritty streets of the city can be viewed in The Fugitive (1993) as Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble goes on the run after being accused of murdering his wife. Ford rides (and fights) on the “L” train whilst he also visits City Hall which doubles as a prison in his second encounter between himself and Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshall.


There were sadly many other movie locations that I didn’t get to experience in my tight schedule. From The Blues Brothers, High Fidelity, Adventures in Babysitting, While You Were Sleeping and Public Enemies Chicago’s grimy streets have been used from genres involving gangsters and superheroes to comedy and drama and will no doubt continue to provide the backdrop for independent and Hollywood films for many years to come. If you get the chance to visit any of these locations then both tourists and die-hard movie fans will absolutely be overjoyed and thrilled by the amazing places (both old and new) that these awesome sites serve up.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jan 8 2014 04:31PM

After another fantastic year at Midlands Movies I treated myself to a little jaunt across the Atlantic to see some old friends in the city that never sleeps, New York. With its esteemed history of movie locations I wanted to visit some of my favourite movie settings in the city so over 7 days, headed around the city (mainly by foot by sometimes by subway as the 2013/14 “polar vortex” headed in) and if you ever visit on vacation I can highly recommend the below places for any cinema connoisseur.


As mentioned, I often used my Metro card to travel on the city’s subway which criss-crosses all five boroughs and is an easy and safe way to get around. However, the movies have previously portrayed this transit system as a place of gang warfare or crazy loners as seen in 1979’s cult classic The Warriors, 1990’s Ghost (“Get off my traaaaiiin!”) or even in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video. One of the stops is the city’s main hub at Grand Central Terminal, a huge building and the 6th most visited place in the world (!) which has been seen in Cloverfield (2008) as well as a great scene with disappearing people in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). More recently a large part of the finale of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (2012) is set on the raised part of the road nearby there.


Just a few blocks south is the art deco classic and iconic image of New York, the Empire State Building, which is most famously climbed by King Kong in the 1933 black and white film as well as again in Peter Jackson’s recent remake. Further down past Broadway is another infamous building in the slim-line facade of the Flat Iron Building. This plays the offices of the Daily Bugle in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man movie.


Slightly off the track on the East of Manhattan I wandered down towards the University area where I headed to Washington Square (seen briefly with a monstrous apparition in 80s actionner Ghostbusters) before taking a short walk to a street of shops where I found The Little Lebowski Shop (215 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 http://www.littlelebowskishop.com) which is the world’s only dedicated “dude” store.


Continuing around the East Village area I stumbled across Tompkins Square – the location where John McLane and Zeus (Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson) have to play a game for the villainous Jeremy Irons “Simon Says” with a couple of water jugs in the third Die hard movie. The park also hosts regular outdoor movie screenings every summer so if you go during the summer months you may be able to catch a film or two!


Slightly further south is Katz’s delicatessen (www.katzsdelicatessen.com) which has been established since 1888 and maintains its tradition of quality food but is beloved for film fans for its “orgasm” booth where Meg Ryan fakes her pleasure across the restaurant table to Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989) – “I’ll have what she’s having”.


Another food related place is Joe’s Pizza where Peter Parker is (briefly) employed in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and although I didn’t pop in, the food smelt and looked great and the queue from the shop to outside seemed to suggest the same. Later on in the vacation, my friend who I was visiting worked at a restaurant uptown and to get there we came out of the 72nd Street subway station which also appeared in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) as the place Simon gives our two protagonists a verbal riddle by phone as well as again appearing in The Warriors (1979).


Although I had been to New York 3 times before and had sampled the main attractions the city had to offer, one place had always eluded me but no more during this visit. I walked a long distance as the temperatures lowered (but that was not going to stop me) to the NYFD Hook and Ladder #8 Fire House. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, it’s from one of my favourite childhood films and may be better known as the Head Quarters to the Ghostbusters as seen in the 1984 film of the same name. The firehouse even has a (slightly faded) Ghostbusters-inspired insignia on the sidewalk outside and was one of those places that “looked just like the movie”.


As I was visiting in Dec/Jan, I was in the city for New Years. Planning to go to a friend’s party at a bar in Brooklyn I got a taste of the chaos in Times Square as I tried in vain to get to her apartment. Over 20 blocks were cordoned off by the police and the detour I had to take was massive as some subway stations were closed as well. The crowds were building and the streets densely packed and it was not even 7pm yet! The neon signs and advertisements of the square itself can be seen (although in a different context) in the deserted/empty scenes in the movies I Am Legend (2007) and Tom Cruise’s dreamy Vanilla Sky (2001). The emptiness of the square in those films contrasted massively to the reality of the tourist packed sidewalks of the holiday season.


I decided to avoid that area for the rest of the trip so over the next few days I went down Fifth Avenue to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, seen in classic sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) where a genetically engineered flying Gremlin is thrown in wet cement before drying on the Cathedral’s roof as an epic gargoyle.


Also on Fifth is the Rockefeller Building. Beneath the imposing height of the main skyscraper is the infamous ice rink with a statue that I found out when I got back is actually Prometheus! The area’s Christmas tree can be seen in Will Ferrell vehicle Elf (2003) as well as the meeting place in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).


During my first trip to NYC in 2002 I stayed at a hotel on East 57th Street NY 10022 and opposite the hotel was a tall tower which I again saw on this trip and was used for the exterior shots of the Oscorp building in Spider-Man (2002). A few streets away are the Roosevelt Island cable cars which I rode and can also be seen in the same web-slinging movie as Spidey fights off the Green Goblin.


On the Upper East Side later in my trip I hopped off the subway and walked a short distance to the Guggenheim Museum, an iconic and startling looking circular building seen in Will Smith’s first alien encounter in the opening of Men in Black (1997).


Opposite is New York’s huge open green space Central Park which has been seen in everything from Ghostbusters (1984) to Annie Hall (1977) and Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy (1999). A walk through the park from East to West and I ended up at The Museum of Natural History which has the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the back of the building (81st Street, Central Park West) and this unique globe-inside-glass structure was seen in Spider-Man 2 (2004) for the John Jonah Jameson III benefit event.


Post New Year’s Eve and many days into the trip, the city was struck by what the media dubbed “Snowpocalypse” and then was subsequently labelled a “polar vortex” as snow, ice and below freezing temperatures swept the North East of the country. For me it was a cross between the planet Hoth from Star Wars (see a video I filmed here - facebook video) and disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow (2004) where Manhattan gets covered in a thick layer of icy snow such were the shockingly (and shiveringly) low temperatures.


However, on my final few days the snow began to thaw (briefly enough) to get on the Staten Island ferry which takes you out into the water near the Statue of Liberty as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968), Ghostbusters 2 (1989) and Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000). Once back on dry land, a short walk downtown saw me end up on Wall Street which is where Christopher Nolan filmed Bane’s attack on Gotham’s Stock Exchange in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as well as being extensively in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987) and a brief appearance at the end of National Treasure (2004).


On Park Avenue, my last memory of the trip was seeing the famous Met Life Building (formerly Pan Am) which is in Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002) and doubles as the offices of The Daily Planet in Christopher Reeves’ incarnation of Superman (1978).


Not even the cold weather could stop my enjoyment of such a creative, bohemian and cosmopolitan city which is still one of my favourite places on the planet. If you get the chance then I can guarantee you will have a good time seeing iconic buildings and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the busy streets - but if you’re a film fan then there’s even more to marvel and enjoy and you will get an understanding of why New York is so regularly used on the big screen – hopefully you’ll have as much fun as Eddie Murphy does in Coming to America (1988)!


See all my New York pictures in this gallery here - Facebook Gallery


Midlands Movies Mike

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