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By midlandsmovies, Jul 24 2017 04:33PM

Midlands Movies speaks to Paula and Michael Webster, two Leicestershire filmmakers who are journeying across the Atlantic for a new documentary to be filmed in South America.

Living and working in the Midlands, Paula Webster grew up with an interest in wildlife and nature conservation. From Leicester’s Lea Meadows Nature reserve to volunteering for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, Paula has spent a lifetime of love supporting their causes.

But soon the couple’s life was turned upside down as they headed to South America to promote the diversity of the continent where their photographic and film-making skills could be fully utilised.

Working as a two person team, Paula is very much the technical worker behind the camera with Michael acting as presenter.

“We work together on the scripts for our films, I do all the editing and Michael’s experience as a still photographer is invaluable”, says Paula.

She adds, “We come back to our home to the Midlands in the Charnwood Forest to do the important work of editing and catching up with friends and family, as well as giving talks on our work to photographic and wildlife groups”.

And despite the global nature of their endeavours, Paula is keen to emphasise her connections to the local filmmaking community back here.

“I have an excellent network of friends in the Midlands who help me with advice on my films. This is so important! Colin Sullivan from Market Harborough Movie Makers is a great help with the technical side of editing on my EDIUS software. Jill Lampert from Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers is a boon for helping develop a good story and Melvyn Rawlinson from Nottingham is a great guy who always gives thoughtful, constructive criticism. I have recently joined the Seven-Five group at the Phoenix in Leicester and hope to work with them in the future”.

Their most recent project is about the struggle to save a rare bird in Patagonia for Aves Argentinas, the sister organisation in Argentina to the RSPB in the UK.

“As you can imagine filming in the wild, windswept expanses of Patagonia was not easy”, explains Paula. “First we had to find the birds. They were spread over high plateaux, miles from the nearest tarmac road. We spent weeks searching for them. We then had to find a camp site sheltered from the wind. This meant a two hour walk laden down with all our gear to get to the lagoon where we had seen the birds. We were lucky! The birds started to display on day 2 of our stay. What an incredible performance”.

One of their main challenges was involving members of the Hooded Grebe Project who were not professional actors and the couple worked carefully to encourage people to speak English as well as try to make them look natural in front of the camera. Although not easy, the Websters had to be very flexible in their filming often leading to a lot of last minute dashes across the volcanic plateaux with new sequences to be written into the film.

With 6 trips already in the bag and more planned for the future, the Websters show that there is a whole world of film opportunities for local filmmakers. Along with their love of wildlife and travel documentaries, they haven’t forgotten their roots with their film “What Does It Mean to You?” including voxpops from their very own hometown of Leicester.

Check out more information about the filmmakers at their official site http://living-wild.net and watch the full film on the Vimeo video below.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 25 2015 08:04AM

Midlands Movies Mike speaks to local Leicester filmmaker John McCourt about his upcoming web-series “Arrivals” and his recent leap from music to the movies.

Self-confessed lover of wine, cigarettes and redheads, John McCourt started out as a gigging musician in Leicester but has since moved on to become a scriptwriter. However, he has not forgotten his musical roots as John still writes the scores for many local films.

A displaced Scotsman, John headed to the Midlands for work many years ago but says like many people who live in the city he “never managed to achieve sufficient velocity to escape the Leicester gravity well”. Plus all his stuff is here, he adds.

Saying that he currently only “dabbles” in the city’s film industry, John has been on the periphery of a few projects for a number of years, with his music being used on soundtracks and appearing as an extra in a café scene in a friend’s film. But after joining Leicester’s Seven/Five film-making collective last October, and especially after what he drolly describes as “a catastrophic clerical error” leading to him winning their Achievement in Writing award two months later, John decided that 2015 was the year to take it “slightly seriously”

Although he has a day job, John has been writing for both himself and others for the last 6 months, with his writing skewing more specialize in comedy. Conversely, his speculative new short “Arrivals:Prologue” is a no-budget sci-fi web-series, but he says he hopes to throw in “a few good jokes” to that if a series comes out of that.

John goes on to describe his first night at the film-making group he’s now a fixture with: “I pitched two things the night I joined Seven/Five: Arrivals, a no-budget sci-fi mini web-series; and Geoff, an idea based on a joke about a song my old band played. The first episode of Arrivals is about to go live on YouTube, whereas Geoff is still languishing in post-production hell. Somewhat ironically, given its subject matter. But they both got made, mostly thanks to people far more talented than me”.

With an air of self-deprecation, John claims his biggest hurdles are having “little to no talent, and my general misanthropy”. In spite of this, there’s a lot of time spent laughing on his sets.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with people whose company I enjoy, and who can have a laugh but still produce excellent quality work”, he explains.

John says he deeply admires Charlie Kaufmann’s work as a writer and claims his biggest achievement so far is “reaching my current age without having been stabbed even a little bit. That’ll probably change before too long, though”. He cites Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Annie Hall and Synecdoche, New York as some of his favourite films.

Since becoming more involved with the local film scene, John has become fast friends with producer/writer/actress Eve Harding, and as well as the recently-completed Arrivals:Prologue, they hope to work together on more projects in the future under their Pixie Thug Productions banner.

Eve plays Lilith in Arrivals:Prologue with an “absolutely hypnotizing” performance, exactly as John says he saw it in his head. Eve’s own new short “I’ll Be Waiting will also be released soon.

With a love for British films such as Soft Top, Hard Shoulder; Local Hero (“most Bill Forsyth, really)”, John feels an affinity for “anything with sharp dialogue”.

“No, that doesn’t include that guy Ritchie”, he makes very clear!

Finally, I ask him what advice he would give to others and he encourages those with an interest in films to “get out there, find like-minded souls, and fucking do it”.

“Seriously, it’s not rocket surgery", he goes on. "And it can be an incredibly satisfying, joyful experience. Trust me: I’m an idiot, so if I can do it, anyone can. It can also make you want to punch babies in the face, but you should probably curb that particular instinct.”

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