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By midlandsmovies, Jun 2 2020 02:41PM

Birmingham arts group Script Sirens announce debut project created during lockdown

Script Sirens is a collective of women and non-binary established and budding writers situated in the West Midlands.

Birmingham-based writers group Script Sirens are set to launch their debut project - a mini-series written and produced remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The four-part dark comedy - entitled #GoingViral centres around a group of people unknowingly linked together and take bizarre approaches to survive the lockdown. Meet the Sirens here - https://scriptsirens.wordpress.com/meet-the-sirens

Script Sirens was founded in July 2019 by Scarlett Kefford. The primary aim of the group is to provide a welcoming, nurturing and safe space for women and non-binary writers of the arts to practice and hone their script writing craft with open dialogue, project feedback and collaborative projects.

With a dozen core members of all ages and experiences – writing, teaching and working in theatre, film, TV, radio and more – Script Sirens enters the new decade with a number of exciting projects in the works to share with audiences across the country.

'Going Viral' is an experiment of multimedia storytelling filmed within the restrictions of social distancing guidelines. #GoingViral is a dark comedy set in the present lockdown situation, but is not about COVID-19.

It is instead about how elements of life still continue during such crisis, for better or for worse. The series will consist of four short ‘webisodes’ released each evening on Instagram TV @scriptsirens (and then YouTube).

The first episode of #GoingViral will premiere on Script Sirens' Instagram account @ScriptSirens on Monday 8th June 2020 at 7 pm, with a new instalment to follow daily until Thursday 11th June.

Website: https://scriptsirens.wordpress.com

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

Twitter: @ScriptSirens

Instagram: @ScriptSirens

By midlandsmovies, Apr 30 2020 08:26AM

Could your home be featured in a film or TV show?

Film Birmingham are on the lookout for West Midlands properties to feature as locations in future productions.

Film Birmingham are offering members of the public across the West Midlands the chance to see their homes and properties featured as locations in future film and TV productions.

Birmingham and the West Midlands have attracted a host of high-profile film productions in recent years including Ready Player One, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Stan and Ollie, as well as long-running TV shows like Peaky Blinders, Man Like Mobeen and the daytime drama, Doctors.

Sindy Campbell, Head of Film Birmingham, said: “We’re proud of the stunning range of locations found here in the West Midlands and we deal with numerous enquiries each year from productions looking for everything from disused warehouses and tower blocks to period homes and green spaces".

"Film and TV production companies are keen to find new locations for hire so we’re asking those who own interesting homes and properties in the West Midlands to come forward and register them with us online.”

All property owners have to is fill out a simple ‘Register Your Property’ form via the Film Birmingham website and upload some high res pictures.

To increase the chances of getting an approach in the future, the Film Birmingham team have put together some advice on how residents can take the best pictures of their homes and properties. For more information please visit https://filmbirmingham.co.uk/register-your-property/

Film Birmingham is Birmingham City Council’s Film and Television office and is committed to making filming as easy and efficient as possible by providing a one stop shop for filmmakers across the West Midlands. For more information on Film Birmingham’s work go to http://www.filmbirmingham.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Apr 24 2020 12:56PM

Domino Effect

Directed by Haydn Thomas


New drama Domino Effect comes from West Midlands filmmaker Haydn Thomas which looks at the fallout of a shocking street incident and the ripples that are subsequently caused by it.

A man sits in a BMW late one night and hands over a package and a gun to a friend asking him to “put him down quick”. Dark and foreboding, the film quickly sets up a mystery as we wonder who these men are and what their plan is.

We cut to a daytime kitchen where a younger boy Tyrique (Micah McDonald) speaks with his busy mum (Taja Christian) and asks her to record his new poem into his mobile phone. The boy then chats to a girl before his father (Craig Lewis) returns home. The director does very well to convey a sense of a loving family with each small interaction building to a cohesive whole.

Yet this blissful bond between these loved ones is destroyed in an instant when Tyrique is attacked from behind by the same man we saw in the opening. Knifed in the chest, he falls to the ground as the assailant runs from the scene.

A horrific surprise, the director shifts tone with ease, keeping the audience engaged with unexpected turns in the narrative and focus.

Back at home, the happy mum and dad are unaware of the awful situation involving their son as a stranger at the scene calls the emergency services.

The director’s personal vision is clearly imprinted all over all the film. With a real-life tragedy effecting his own family, Thomas Haydn has approached his subject matter with knowledge and with a sense of personal connection. The laughs and tears shown no doubt reflect the director’s past situation and the emotions have been well portrayed on screen.

Touching upon the aftermath too, the film shows how one incident can touch lots of people’s lives. “Dominos” fall one after the other, as the tragedy knocks into others’ lives without any sense of stopping. The issue of blame and responsibility is a difficult subject to tackle. Here there are times when the space between the dialogue that hits home most as we see subtle introspection contrasting the harsh words.

Tears, arguments and depression are shown as natural fallout and the passing of time and erasing of their memory – as well as part of yourself – is a technique cleverly shown with some transparent dissolve effects.

With a small budget and a sizeable cast, the director has excellently explored several timely issues with sensitivity and first-hand experience of its tragic themes. Showing how just one event can affect multiple people – even years later – makes this short not just a great personal passion project, but one with hugely important things to say about the sometimes violent world around us.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Apr 13 2020 11:40AM

Midlands Spotlight on Midnight from AR Ugas

A new project is coming from writer-director AR Ugas called Midnight which has been created as part of the Back In film development programme.

The dark story follows a young couple who have a daughter that falls ill owing to an incurable disease. In utter desperation, her mother decides to take horrific steps.

She decides she has to turn her daughter into a vampire in order to save her daughter's life but that comes with a terrible price.

Ugas is working with director of photography James Alexander Barnett for his tale of the macabre and film is being executively produced by Punch Records & Daniel Alexander Films.

Starring Adaya Henry, Ben Thorne, Mathias Andre, Mo "Neemo” Mohamed and Amiyah Warsame Midnight continues six months later with the couple taking turns to feed their daughter with their own blood.

Seeing no other way out, the father is conflicted with what the couple are having to do for their child but returns home earlier than expected one day and stumbles upon something he was never supposed to see.

“My aim was to create a supernatural film that felt grounded with real individuals having to make real choices”, says Ugas.

He adds, the father “is then left to make a choice between saving his conscience or saving his daughter”.

Watch the full short above on YouTube and also follow the filmmaker at @arugasuk on all social media platforms for the latest updates, films and casting opportunities.

By midlandsmovies, Jan 27 2020 09:37AM

Lost Identity

Directed by Ruth Holder


Early on in the short, experimental dance film Lost Identity, director Ruth Holder makes it clear she has something to say.

A girl is sat at a dressing table, applying the usual make-up to her face, however her face is one of discontent, an expression that doesn't alter throughout the film.

There is no dialogue, Holder decides to communicate with the audience through dance accompanied by a grand musical score by Osi & The Jupiter.

Staged in a seemingly neglected loft space, only simmers of daylight creep in as our actress performs. Additionally a cold, blue light descends and embraces her literally and metaphorically, as a quiet storm rages inside her body. Holder remains focused on her the entire time, not letting the camera leave her sight.

The choreography proves to be vital and key to the success of the director being able to strongly portray what Lost Identity means. Circular actions are repeated indicating frustration within, and when theatre curtains are introduced our performer carefully wraps these around her neck before fighting and pushing them away. The score soars during these moments, reaching crescendo just as she overcomes the urge to give in.

As mentioned earlier, a permanent look of unhappiness is displayed when applying make-up, as the film proceeds the make-up becomes smeared in a constant battle between leaving it on and taking it off to reveal true beauty.

Lost Identity reminded me of the work Terrence Malick has been doing the last decade. Powerful, evocative images supported by rich, classical music. Traditional dialogue is also not used often in these films, imagery in Malick's case and dance in Holder's is the tool they use to peel back the outer layer of ourselves and society, inspecting even closer once inside.

An experimental dance film is not something I have much experience in regularly watching, it wasn't until the credits starting to roll that I really understood what the film meant to me and what writer and director Ruth Holder was trying to convey. A second viewing is recommended and achievable with the runtime only being five minutes, to truly appreciate what has been achieved.

Not a frame is wasted in the film, similar to the products and processes we sometimes use to create a different identity in life, less is most definitely more.

The brilliant performance, choreography, score and direction make this an absolute tour de force by filmmaker Ruth Holder.

Guy Russell

Twitter @Budguyer

By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2019 11:54AM

Steve Green with Alan Birch and Al Smith
Steve Green with Alan Birch and Al Smith

Midlands Spotlight - New online show focuses on Midlands filmmakers

Midlands filmmakers will find themselves in front of the camera when local telly legends Des Tong and Gary James launch their new online show Birmingham Now on Monday 25th November.

Birmingham Now is a new monthly YouTube series will feature interviews with personalities from the world of movies, music, theatre and art, as well as profiles of business and sports figures.

Des Tong is a Birmingham-based musician, presenter and video director, best known for his work with Sad Cafe and singer Cissy Stone. Gary James is a Birmingham-based sports journalist, presenter and branding consultant with wide experience in corporate entertainment.

Birmingham Now hosts Gary James and Des Tong
Birmingham Now hosts Gary James and Des Tong

And Steve Green and Chrissie Harper run Solihull-based Vamporama Films, producing news packages for regional television and documentary material for a variety of online and media platforms.

In the first edition, co-producer Steve Green will be talking to actor Alan Birch and writer Al Smith about their collaborations on film and stage, as well as the first Black Country Horror Shorts Film Festival.

Running in Kinver in January 2020, the Black Country Horror Shorts Film Festival includes judges include Adam Nevill, whose novel The Ritual was adapted for the screen in 2017.

There's also the first of Des Tong's "featured artist" profiles in which he chats with Wolverhampton-born singer-songwriter Rebecca Downes.

The show is a co-production between Des & Gary and Solihull-based Vamporama Films.

Previews and free subscriptions are available now via the show’s website http://brum-now.uk

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIjVpJqCyNK_BymjT-fnTdQ

Festival link: https://www.weepingbankproductions.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Nov 9 2019 03:09PM

Step Up

Directed by Nisaro Karim


Five Pence Productions

Step Up is the new film from producers Five Pence Productions and Gurjant Singh Films and is directed by Nisaro Karim, who may may have taken over fellow West Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz as the Midlands' "Most Prolific Director™".

Described as a gritty urban thriller inspired by Netflix’s Topboy, the film sees a gangster in a car (Sarfraz Mughal) asking if a friend Sam (Jacob Lander) is ready to “step up” and do a dastardly deed. Sam claims he is well prepared and we soon find out that he is being asked to kill a rival - yet is limited to just one bullet.

With no second chances he is handed the gun and pulls his hood over his head and exits to the sound of ominous music. Once out the car, his bravado turns to a more worried facial expression as he enters a mobile phone shop.

The stunned shop owner comes off a video call from a loved one and stares at his possible assailant. And as the tension rises, the man draws his gun and Karim cleverly holds the moment for a beat.

With the shooter and the audience taking in a deep breath, we ask the question whether he’ll go ahead and pull that trigger.

I won’t disclose the ending but Nisaro throws in a nice twist keeping the viewer off-kilter and sets up a possible second instalment after this opening short drama.

Similar to his previous micro-film Peaky Blinders A New Era, the film is more of a trailer than an all encompassing short such is the minimal narrative on show. It could also work as a nice sequence as part of a showreel piece for the two actors.

A nice if slight little short, to be fair to Nisaro Karim he has in fact billed Step Up as part of a series and I’ll be intrigued as to where this goes. Especially as he leaves the audience and his protagonist in a place where they certainly do not know what is coming next.

Michael Sales

Watch the full short below:

By midlandsmovies, Oct 31 2019 01:00PM

Midlands Review - The Despondent

Directed by Nisaro Karim


Five Pence Productions

The Despondent is the latest film from Five Pence Productions, the prolific Birmingham-based company who brought us Jed, The Chase, Peaky Blinders: A New Era and more. Primarily known for crime tales, this film is something of an ambitious departure for them as it sees them take on the horror genre.

Jazzmin Letitia stars as Keira, a troubled young woman who lives at home with her mother Jenny, played by Lisa Blissitt. At night she's tormented by visions of an evil demon in her room, one that seems bent on harming her, one that it seems there can be no escape from.

Horror has a rich history of externalising our internal demons, and that's pretty much what's happening here. Keira is depressed and the demon is her depression, pushing her towards suicide. It's all taking place in her head, the battleground where many of us (myself included) struggle and fight daily. It's a good analogy, but rather on-the-nose here.

The film is far from subtle, making it absolutely clear what's going on from Keira's conversation with her mum about her self-harm and medication. It would have perhaps been more interesting to see the two dance around the subject, never raising it head on but dealing entirely in subtext, so that when the tragic ending comes it hits harder. Having Keira stay in her pyjamas over the course of the two days is a very good touch, though, as that's absolutely consistent with some people who suffer from depression.

The story is quite slim and would benefit from having a little more to it, making the film a bit longer. It would have been good to have had more of a sense of Keira's struggles in the daytime sequences, and how they relate to her night terrors, so that we can relate to her more as a character. The scene with her mother establishes their rocky relationship in one quick punch, but at only 6 minutes long there's plenty of scope to let the relationship breathe a little more and help us understand Keira more intimately. As it is, she comes across more as moody than depressed.

This isn't to say that it's a bad performance; Letitia shines in the hallucinatory sequences where she's beset by the demon, coming across as believably vulnerable and disoriented. The standout performance by far though is the demon; it's not clear from the credits who played the part (perhaps split between Imran Uddin and Zohair Raza?), but it's a great piece of creepy body-performance, with stilted and almost contortionist-style movements. I definitely wouldn't want to wake to find him in my bedroom!

The film shines best in these disorienting sequences. The hand-held, shaky camerawork does a great job of confusing and distressing the viewer, and the unnatural framing and lighting work together to create unsettling scenes. There's a misconception that its easy to do horror on a low budget; it has to be planned and carried out carefully to make the most of what you have. Keeping the shots tight and moving fast keeps the audience uncomfortable and on their toes in the nightmare sequences, worrying that anything could happen. The film makes great use of noise in these sequences too, arguably the most important part of any horror film.

Ultimately, The Despondents falls just short of its ambition but it's still a great first step into horror. Nisaro Karim clearly has an instinct for how to unsettle the audience, it's just the slimness of the story itself that holds the film back. Definitely worth a watch, and here's hoping there's more horror to come from Karim and Five Pence!

Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend

By midlandsmovies, Oct 26 2019 07:15AM


The fourth annual Birmingham Film Festival, an international festival of screenings, events and awards for talented filmmakers from around the world, returns to the city from 1st - 10th November.

The international celebration of film craft is a platform for new filmmakers, helping them reach a wider audience and nurture their careers to the next level. The festival’s screenings and seminars are all free to attend, making the innovative festival accessible to all and allowing the filmmakers showcase their work to a huge audience.

Birmingham Film Festival, which takes place over the course of ten days at Millennium Point, featuring an array of shorts, features, documentaries, and music videos, aims to put Birmingham on the international map and will add to the rising popularity of the UK’s second city.

The festival’s home, Birmingham, has recently become a popular location choice for Hollywood filmmakers, most notably including Steven Speilberg’s Ready Player One and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Trevor Beattie Films is the 2019 headline sponsor for the upcoming event. Trevor Beattie, originally from Birmingham, is considered one of the leading figures in advertising in Britain and has been responsible for a number of high-profile advertising campaigns. He has since moved into the film industry, producing the BAFTA award-winning film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones in 2008.

“I am genuinely honoured and flattered to be associated with The Birmingham Film Festival. Birmingham is more than my home, it’s who I AM and film is most definitely my future. It’s a perfect fit for me. The Birmingham Film Festival is yet another example of how Birmingham is becoming the cultural heartbeat of the nation. Birmingham never rests. And now we’re punching our weight in film".

"It has not escaped my attention that Birmingham has a Hollywood district, and I’m sorely tempted to base the Birmingham branch of my film company in B47. I just think “TREVOR BEATTIE FILMS, HOLLYWOOD, B47” has a ring to it"

"I’m really looking forward to the festival week and seeing some of the extraordinary film making talent on display. I have a message for Birmingham from DUNCAN JONES (of that other Hollywood fame). Duncan promises that he will visit Birmingham when he next returns to the UK and create a little something for next year’s festival. Birmingham has ARRIVED in film! Birmingham Film Festival will ensure that news is shouted from the rooftops.” says Trevor Beattie.

Steven Knight, the Brummie creator of Peaky Blinders, who is planning on building a £100M state-of-the-art film and TV studio in the city, is the festival’s patron. Kevin McDonagh, President of Birmingham Film Festival said: “We are really excited for this year's festival. Our aim has always been to grow the event and reach larger audiences for the amazing work that we get to show and we've achieved that this year".

"Adding more seminars and workshops was also key as it not only brings more of the industry into the city but supports local talent and helps them to grow their own careers. Raising the profile of the festival also leads into that goal, bringing more focus onto the city and its talent. If we can create an exciting and respected platform for the films and filmmakers, then we hopefully we are contributing in a positive way to future of the regions industry".

"To be honest though, our growth and success is in no small part due to the amazing talent that generously allows us to showcase their efforts. Without the film makers, we are nothing.”

The festival will conclude with a fabulous Gala Awards Ceremony on 9th November at Macdonald Burlington Hotel, during which the Birmingham Film Festival Awards will be handed out to the winners of each of each category. Awards will be given out to everything from Best Feature Film to Best Young Actor, Best Local Film and Best Special Effects.

One of Birmingham’s most famous sons, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, has also been announced as a judge for the music video category. "I was thrilled to be at the Birmingham Film Festival last year and wish everybody involved with this year's event the best. Though I won't be there on the night, I will be judging the music video category." says Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran.

Celebrities and special guests will be out in force on Friday 1st November at the Millennium Point to kick-start the festival at the glamorous VIP Launch Party.

The film festival invites talented and independent film makers from all over the globe to participate. To learn more about Birmingham Film Festival visit www.birminghamfilmfestival.com

By midlandsmovies, Oct 16 2019 09:23AM


Directed by Nisaro Karim


Five Pence Productions

Jed is the new film from actor-turned director Nisaro Karim and tells the story of a disturbed individual and their obsessions.

We open with a man walking his dog before stumbling across a body in the woods. We cut to a TV news report which explains that this is one of a number of recent victims and that witnesses tell of a tall bearded Asian man running away from the scene.

We cut to Nisaro Karim as Jed – a tall bearded Asian man – who has what appears to be a mental impairment and is weeping as he listens to the telly. Living with his mother, she asks how he got a hand injury and is suspicious of his vague and unlikely explanation

Jed has a good set-up from the start. A mystery is discovered in the first 30 seconds, a number of characters and their mysterious motivations are clearly explained and away we go. It was satisfying how the film quickly sets up its world and leads us down a dark path, whilst some swift editing and interesting shot choices keep the story moving as we continue on.

The story moves to a gym where we encounter two girls chatting. One of the women, Amy Roberts (played by Juliana Ratcliffe) strikes up a conversation with Jed before he returns home where he searches for Amy through her social media accounts.

A bit on the nose at times – the socially awkward character living at home with mum for example – the film is helped by an intense atonal score of held notes that gets more prominent as the film progresses raising the tension throughout.

Some point-of-view shots of a stalking in progress show the increasing danger to Amy and as she leaves the gym, Jed jumps in his car and follows Amy and her friend along the road. Some clever (and foreshadowing) wardrobe choices were a nice touch too and each scene has a purpose and leads nicely to the next.

Interesting locations around the Birmingham area and the almost-mute Jed allows the filmmaker to do lots of showing-not-telling with the film’s story beats which was also a positive.

Whilst I personally saw the ending coming a mile off, the 26-minute length made it feel like a solid episode of television and the film had surprisingly similar production values. Just an added bit of colour-grading and some tweaks on the lighting would see it indistinguishable from modern broadcast crime dramas.

Jed therefore ends up being a quality film which could do with a few more original takes on the stalker genre, but aside from that tiny flaw, it is a level-headed drama that’s easy to watch and contains themes of heroism and misplaced passions.

Michael Sales

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