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By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2018 07:58PM



Midlands Review - Breakdown


Directed by Michael Ellis


“You just spent last night in a police station”.


And so says one of two male characters in a car as they drive through the countryside and come across a stranded woman attempting to get a phone signal as she stands next to a broken-down vehicle.


This is the set up of new Midlands film Breakdown from Michael Ellis and from the outset we get the impression that something very dark could be on the horizon involving this naughty duo.


Despite these shady themes the film is shot in stark daylight – throwing a bit of oddness into what could have been a potentially clichéd picking up a stranger on the road dynamic – but the quirky performances help to sell the unpleasant awkwardness as it plays out.


As the men stop to "help", they explain how their phones cannot be used to call for assistance (battery’s dead, left at home) and how they also know nothing of how to fix cars. This sets a tone of jet black comedy amongst what started as a seedy set up to the film.


Whilst the man who spent the night in the cells (Paul Findlay as “Passenger”) spins a yarn about his kindly offer of a lift, the second man’s worried brow (Dominic Thompson) is shown in close-up – hinting upon a repulsive inevitability he may have seen before. Offering to take her to a nearby garage, she reluctantly agrees to get into their car and the men and their new passenger drive off down the road together as we await their fate.


But director Ellis jumps 6 minutes before the story starts in an ingenious flashback which turns the tale upon its head. Without spoiling too much, the lady in distress (admirably played by Tenisha White) may not be as unaware as the first half of the short makes her out to be. We also get to see her character become less victim and more intimidator with an hilarious delivery of “piss off” which had me laughing despite the more pressing serious matters.


A fantastic short that handles its different tones with expertise, the twist in narrative during the middle section completely changes the direction of the story. As we are given new information we are suddenly thrust into a more complex dilemma which is surprising yet satisfying. Paul Findlay in particular as a man with obnoxious intentions gives a believable yet frightening turn, with his staring eyes and superb deadpan delivery of the lies his character spins.


With the right balance of story and plot twists and a trio of great acting turns in the film's brief 7-minutes, Michael Ellis has delivered a great short film that I hope not only does well on the festival circuit but brings more attention to this exciting filmmaker.


Mike Sales


Follow Michael and find out more about his film projects at his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MEFilmsUK



By midlandsmovies, Oct 13 2018 02:26PM



The Initiation (2018) Dir. Sheikh Shahnawaz


Local independent filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz is back with The Initiation, a short film about two childhood friends who have their relationship put to the test when they meet a local crime boss they are interested in working for.


The Initiation starts off in an underground multi-storey car park, quiet with no one around but Aaron and Neil (Sam Malley and Dominic Thompson) as they wait nervously. Their long friendship is clear as they fist bump and agree to stand by each other no matter what, ‘since day one’ Neil says with an anxious Aaron agreeing.


As a dark car creeps up to them it’s clear this is their ride. A window rolls down to reveal a mysterious figure smoking. “Get in” he calmly demands. Neil makes the mistake of getting into the front passenger seat which is quickly met with another demand from the man to get in the back.


As the car drives out of the underground and into the streets it is clear this is one of Sheikh Shahnawaz’s most ambitious films yet as he films in external locations and makes it look effortless.


As the three men pull up on a quiet industrial estate they enter a dilapidated building with just a chair and a small table next to it. It is revealed that the strange man is Vinnie (Nisaro Karim) a local crime boss and a man to be respected and feared within the area. He takes the only seat and sits before Aaron and Neil as he quizzes them over a vacant position in his crew.


Vinnie makes sure to mention however that with the sought after lifestyle he can provide, the money, cars, respect, the job also brings with it responsibilities, one of which is making “difficult decisions whilst in difficult situations”. The initiation has begun.


I really enjoyed The Initiation, the premise being one of the main reasons. It is an interesting dynamic to have two loyal friends have the opportunity to make something of themselves albeit illegally but have them be prepared to do something drastic to achieve this.


Another factor of this short film I really enjoyed was the menacing performance by Catharsis Films regular Nisaro Karim, he seemingly towers over the other two men physically and mentally. Karim brings that authenticity to the role and brings Vinnie to life.


I would have liked to have seen more of a build up as it gears towards the finale as their friendship is ultimately tested it feels a tad rushed. However, this doesn’t detract from the fact this is a strong, short film. It is great to see well-made, entertaining genre films being made in this region by what seems to be the busiest and most determined filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz.


What’s next Catharsis films? I can’t wait.


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


Watch the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Aug 24 2018 06:33AM



Midlands Spotlight - LGBT film You Are My Sunshine completes first part of production


After two weeks filming around various locations within the Walsall area, the first shooting block for the new upcoming Midlands feature film You Are My Sunshine has now ended with a deeply heart-breaking scene filmed in North Wales.


Actors Steve Salt and Jack Knight played out their final scenes together as the younger versions of Tom and Joe, the film's protagonists, which chronicles the tender story of how they first fell in love and the difficulties they face against a backdrop of 1970s Britain. Set during a time when gay rights were only just asserting themselves, the film also leads into the modern day where we find how their characters are continuing in the face of prejudice.


Writer/Director Dave Hastings has praised not only their performances but also those of actors and actress Charlie Clarke, Kiah Reeves, Dale Roberts as well as Hellraiser alumni Simon Bamford, all of whom he says brought great pathos and unique energy to the sometimes challenging and dramatic scenes.


"Everyone has been remarkable", continues Dave. "When I first wrote the script for Sunshine back in 2014, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined these performances. They are heart-breaking, funny, sincere, emotional, as well as loving. I'm such a happy and humbled director because of each and every one of them".


Producer Troy Dennison, who supervised a shoot that saw the filmmakers and actors take to such iconic Walsall locations like Barr Beacon and the Park Lime Pits has equally praised the cast. Thanking them all for bringing some extremely powerful performances to the screen Troy added, "Absolutely astounding, all of them, every single time they were all on set"


"We have been so lucky to have them wanting to work with us, and we will do our very best to honour their work in the final film. That we will always promise".



WIth a very ambitious shoot, and working closely alongside Walsall Council, the director thanked the authorities assistance and advice which eased potential filming issues on location around the borough. "The council have been absolutely incredible and so very supportive, helping us work on the streets of Darlaston which doubled for 1970s British exteriors in one instance" says Hastings.


The production even had an element of nostalgia when it returned to Manor House in West Bromwich where the company had shot The House of Screaming Death. This time, it doubled as a 1970s bedsit. The crew of the film were equally up to challenge to help present and turn locations into those with a genuine 1970s vibe. Director of Photography Will Bradshaw studied the look of former British films made within the era, while set designer L.J. ‘Stark’ Greenwood researched various colour palettes as well as vintage props.



But while this phase of the shoot is over, the crew's attention and planning is now moving towards a secondary block of filming which sees the story of Joe and Tom continue into modern day & the repercussions of the past still haunting them.


And for now, Dave reflects on that final scene just filmed in North Wales. "It was the right one to finish on. We'd been on a rollercoaster of emotions, all of us, both in front of and behind the camera over the past two weeks with the differing scenes and charged content, so this last one, set on an isolated beach, where young Tom & Joe look to the future, just allowed us all to say goodbye sadly to them collectively".


Dennison agrees, stating "It was very difficult to say goodbye because we'd become a massive family again for two weeks".


You Are My Sunshine is a co-production between Lightbeam Productions, 5cm/Sec and Pat The Bull Films and is being executively produced by Kaush Patel. It will continue to be filmed in and around both Walsall and Sandwell areas in the West Midlands.


Find out more information here:


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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MySunshineMovie




By midlandsmovies, Aug 12 2018 08:31AM



Midlands Spotlight - Pocket Pictures


Midlands Movies Mike Sales checks out Pocket Pictures, a Birmingham based organisation helping filmmakers from across the UK with their projects, showreels, training and more. Read on to find out about this company and their wealth of local experience.


Pocket Pictures is a video, film and content creator and can take the words, pictures, idea or scripts of their clients and turn them into a visual reality. With a history of clients trusting their experience, every project they take on is unique and has its own special requirements.


Owner Mark Todd is a writer, director and filmmaker in his own right and prides himself on the quality of work he creates. “In an exciting time when cameras are everywhere it's important to remember that just because you have a spanner, you may not always be a mechanic”.


Being based in the Midlands, Pocket Pictures have worked with a number of local projects as well including the recent Suicide Blonde where they handled the post production. (See our coverage of that film here).


Their small studio in Aston, Birmingham covers a diverse workload ranging from training actors to corporate work. Mark himself is also developing his second feature The Crooked House whilst his first feature, Bad Reception, was shot in Hollywood!


Their current range of courses can help actors develop their skills. Acting ‘On Camera’ is an intensive course designed to give actors the industry knowledge needed to achieve their best performance in front of the camera. Courses accommodate 6 people and there is plenty of time to ask questions and work on individual needs.


In addition, Essential Voice Coaching for stage or screen is a one day course led by established voice coach Emily Lee who aims to give attendees more confidence in vocal performance using proven professional exercises.


The company’s Telsen Studio is a 500 square foot production space in a quiet area of Aston and can even help with creating showreels with interviews, talking heads, green screen and model shoots all in one full package.


With a whole range of support to the filmmakers and cast and crew of the Midlands area, Pocket Pictures offers a great opportunity to help support the local movie community. If you are interested in finding out more then please check out their full details below for further information.


http://www.pocketpicturesltd.com


Pocket Pictures, The Telsen Studio

Unit 313, The Telsen Industrial Centre, Birmingham, B6 4TN

Contact: projects@pocketpicturesltd.com or call 07447 592605



By midlandsmovies, Aug 8 2018 02:02PM



Dear Josephine


Written, Directed & Produced by Duaine Carma Roberts.


CARMA FILM MOTION PICTURES


“The most sensational woman, anybody had ever saw, or ever will” - Ernest Hemingway


Described as a visual poem that recounts the life of 20th century icon, civil rights advocate and superstar, Josephine Baker, this new 4-minute short comes from West Midlands filmmaker Duaine Carma Roberts and his Carma Film production company.


Starring Zellia John as Josephine Baker, the film is part poetry reading and part theatrical drama against a plain backdrop to summarise the background of this legendary woman.


For those unfamiliar with Baker, she was an American-born entertainer and activist whose career began as a celebrated performer headlining the Folies Bergère in Paris. Dubbed the "Black Pearl", the "Bronze Venus", and the "Creole Goddess" she renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a French national after her marriage to a French industrialist. And she was the first person of colour to become a worldwide entertainer and to star in a major motion picture.


Taking a stance by refusing to perform for segregated American audiences, she was offered unofficial leadership in the civil rights movement following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Although Baker declined the offer, she was later awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military owing to her aiding the French Resistance during World War II.



Josephine Baker at the March on Washington 1963
Josephine Baker at the March on Washington 1963

Roberts’ film mainly uses close ups to quickly convey the subtle emotions and hardships Baker faced during her life and a suitably laid back jazz score harks to the 1930s along with time-specific costumes.


Some black and white footage of the real Baker is used sparingly throughout to give us a glimpse into the legend, whilst Zellia John throws in some flapper dancing to set the period before changing into all black for her later civil rights engagements.


With no dialogue or sound effects, the film echoes the silent stylings of Marcel Marceau, the legendary French mime artist. Like Baker, he also performed at the Folies Bergère and was also in the French Resistance as well.


But this isn’t about Marcel despite the nods to his brand of performance art.


Roberts instead places images of beauty and harshness in opposition to one another. The drama sometimes literally translates the overdubbed poetry, whilst at other times, it simply evokes a tone or mood from the era. A final montage of the real-life Baker starring in Hollywood movies again reiterates her trailblazing cinematic legacy and an image of Baker in her World War II uniform shows a determination to fight for justice, both inside and outside of the system.


An interesting take that sets it aside from the usual style of local films, Roberts shows that a different cinematic approach on subject matter close to his heart can have a strong effect. Along with his sci-fi film Graycon, the director proves he can move between genres and film structures with ease.


With dreamy images of an historical icon some may not know much about, the simplicity of the words and images together makes the story come alive and allows the importance of Baker’s memory to speak for itself.


Mike Sales


Watch the full film below on Vimeo:







By midlandsmovies, Aug 5 2018 11:54AM



Midlands Spotlight – West Midlands filmmaker David Knight


With his new film Suicide Blonde selected for a prestigious new regional film festival, Birmingham filmmaker David Knight made a big change when younger to find a new career in the film and TV industry. Midlands Movies Mike caught up with his latest and future filmmaking plans.


David Knight started his journey to be a filmmaker at the age of 21. Walking away from a bar management career of 3 years, David took the big plunge to forge a new path in film and television.


With lofty ambitions and a love of all films he quickly enrolled at Solihull College on a Media and Production Course. And after just 6 months his first short film Rendezvous was already handpicked to be part of the official selection of the 2004 Stourbridge film festival.


As well as receiving favourable reviews, David used this acknowledgement to successfully complete his course and received a HND with distinction.


Moving to the University of Gloucestershire to study a degree in video production, David wrote and directed two short films in his final year. The first, 2’s Company was a romantic comedy and part of the official selection at the Viewfinder Film Festival in 2006.


After working on a separate project as editor to hone his skills, he then went on to make his final film Hit or Miss, a dark drama which won him the Screen Writers Festival Award for Best Writer / Director 2007.



And now his latest film, Suicide Blonde, tells the story of a young woman on a self-destructive path who tries to piece together the events of the previous night.


Cast members include the talented Kerry Sirrell, Joe Clarke and David Pritchard with Pocket Pictures taking responsibility for the post production and grading of the film while the audio soundtrack is being produced by Matt Shaw.


The Bottle Smoke Film Festival celebrates filmmakers from all budgets and comprises of wo days of industry talks with day one ending in a feature film with a Q & A, whilst day two will be ending with a short film award ceremony.


The event runs from Saturday 8th to Sunday 9th September 2018 at the Stoke Film Theatre, College Road, Stoke on Trent. For more information check out their Facebook page and to grab tickets click here at Eventbrite.


Check out some of David’s previous work on his Vimeo page here





By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2018 07:24AM



The Return of the Ring (2018)


Directed and written by AR Ugas


“Enough teaching about our history. It’s time to fight for our future”.


High fantasy and enduring myth reach the Midlands in a brand new 22-minute short from AR Ugas who brings Tolkien’s tales and epic themes into a contemporary setting with his new film The Return of the Ring.


Described as a fan-film with a title that could elicit groans, don’t let that fool you as the short shouldn’t be dismissed as an amateur production but one which condenses the novel’s rich themes and ideas into a uniquely local idea.


The story follows a young female Elf (Rhi Hardman as Illyandra) who sets out to reclaim the ring after it is told that it was never originally destroyed. This was followed by The Race of Man eradicating Middle-earth which ensured any trace of its history was to become a fairy tale.


Opening with a foot chase involving a mysterious hooded-man in black, the film wears its love of not just the novel but of Peter Jackson’s infamous trilogy on its sleeve. Illyandra escapes from this Nazgûl – the immortal beings bound to the power of the One Ring – and director Ugas, who also writes, scatters some archaic Tolkien language to his script too.


The ring ends up with a barman (Sam Malley as John) and Illyandra makes contact with him at a nightclub. And despite using “orc magic” to get her hand on the powerful item, the Ring Wraith is soon back on their tail. The film balances its extreme fantasy ideas with a suburban realism and the use of potions and pointy ears is subtly ingrained in the film’s modern narrative.



Technically the short suitably aims for the epic with drone shots over the city giving a cinematic feel to the proceedings. Director of photography James Alexander Barnett excellently mixes lens flare with well-chosen locations that give a sly wink to the source material. A conversation in a park against a tree harks to fantasy forests whilst a neon lit water feature in a nightclub echoes a mythic waterfall of sorts.


Sadly, the apartment location– acting as the characters’ main sanctuary – feels a little ‘flat’ but its cramped space seems to represent their confinement – hiding from their enemy in a metaphorical dungeon. But again, its low-budget roots don’t affect the great creativity at work. A clever panning shot, some suitably intense music and well composed colour grading gives the ‘other-worldly’ illusion of the ring-bearer’s scary visions.


Dominic Thompson portrays Alatar the Young (also credited as “The Wizard”) and unfortunately I felt the actor went a bit too far with a slightly pantomime performance. However, his well-delivered monologue to fill in backstory was effectively utilised and the actor nicely incorporated hints of Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue from Jackson’s movie.




Woven into the film was also some excellent, but subtle, updating of ancient costumes. The leather jacket clad Nazgûl, a hooded advisor and the earthy tones of a wood Elf were fantastic and heck, even a white t-shirt embodied John’s naïve innocence to the events unfolding.


Nisaro Karim as Amdir arrives towards the end and the film moves swiftly between locations and characters and flashes of humour keep it light-hearted at times as well. With the power of the ring continuing to corrupt the heart of men, the film shows expert dexterity in technique and cinema skill with its innovative spin of the traditions of Middle-earth whilst still making it accessible and understandable to a modern Midlands audience.


A perfect ending that has a literary nod to Tolkien was a brilliant surprise that will leave you wanting more and the story’s present-day setting blends tones well. With great craftmanship, AR Ugas’ film therefore ends up being not just token Tolkien, but a fully-fledged and ambitious homage that throws in its own satisfying twist on legends with amazing precision. There are some good films in this world and shorts like The Return of the Ring are worth fighting for.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short here:






By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2018 10:19AM



Dark Days


Directed by Daryl Grizzle


A Grizzle and Steele Film


We open on a regular street as a lady leaves her suburban house to stretch before going for a run but there’s nothing regular about this new film from West Midlands director Daryl Grizzle.


As we track her in the park jogging, seemingly enjoying a pastime passion, the film uses narration to explain to the audience how difficult life is living with a mental illness.


Having previously created short film Bless You, which we saw at Leicester’s Short Cinema festival in 2017, the director here provides a portrait of a dark personal journey. With sequences of narration delivered direct to camera in small interview-style segments the film doesn’t sugar-coat the awful aftermaths of actions like self-harm and explores the difficulties of living with depression and its stigma in today’s society.


The film stars Jade Samuels as the protagonist who, as is explained in a coda at the film’s end, is actually performing a recreation of a real interview conducted in 2017. An interesting concept for sure but for me I would have preferred for this context to be given at the start of the film in order for the real truths to hit home from the beginning.


Our protagonist’s testimony continues as the tragic consequences of deep cuts that require stitches, and sometimes even surgery, are explained and delivered by Samuels in an honest portrayal throughout.



A bit more creative flair would set the film apart from the crowd as although the technical elements were first class - especially the park-based tracking shots, the serious themes were slightly undermined with a standard mix of handheld camera work in her house and some VERY long shots which pushed away from the much-needed intimacy.


However, the few minor flaws don’t distract from the story as a whole and we are told how she joins an athletics club before acts of divorcing parents and changing schools became a trigger during a difficult period.


Add to this peer pressure, bullying and name calling and we discover she gives up her hobby which is recounted as the thing that made her most happy. With some solitary bathroom shots there was also a small echo of recent local film HIM (click here) which covers similar subject matter and is worth seeking out as well.


The film is good at leaving some threads open to interpretation however and questions how these childhood events shape and sometimes control us.


And with the disease of depression becoming more fully understood by society as a whole, it is admirable that this film shines a light on a real victim and the very truthful troubles they have been through.


More of a monologue than a full exploration, Dark Days does hold on to the thought that although a positive outlook will not cure the struggles faced by sufferers, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Leaving the audience then with a message that sufferer’s journeys will be a marathon and not a sprint, it successfully focuses on how understanding and awareness will help guide people’s efforts in the right direction.


Midlands Movies Mike


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