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By midlandsmovies, Sep 3 2019 05:04PM

Photo credit: Sam Irons
Photo credit: Sam Irons

Midlands Interview - Katie Redford

Katie Redford is an actress and writer from Nottingham in the East Midlands and we spoke to her about her latest film Ghosted, a mockumentary about the spiritual and unknown that was part-funded by the BFI.

Midlands Movies editor Mike Sales got the low down on Katie's regional connections, her admiration for Ricky Gervais and the trials and tribulations of getting her new film off the ground using crowd-funding and a grant from the BFI.

Hi Katie. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into your current position in the industry?

Yes, of course. I'm from Nottingham. I was born in Stapleford but grew up mostly in Long Eaton. I went to London to train as an actress but one of my first jobs in the industry was working as a floor runner in TV. It was a brilliant job when it came to learning the different roles behind the scenes and witnessing just how much goes into a production, but I couldn't do it for long as I got too jealous of the actors!

And where did you go from there?

After a few years of juggling part time, I won the BBC Norman Beaton Fellowship which is a scheme BBC Radio Drama run for actors who haven't trained at an accredited drama school and I had 6 months working with the BBC Radio Drama Rep. From that point, I started working full time professionally as an actress in both TV and radio and started writing on the side for various local scratch nights. I was then accepted into BBC Comedy Writersroom so started writing more from that point.

Sounds great. Can you also tell us a bit about GHOSTED? How did you come up with the idea?

Ghosted is a comedy about a woman who loses her husband and as a result, turns to the world of the paranormal. We were both interested in different aspects of the paranormal and we just merged them together. My inspiration for the idea came from a paranormal investigation company that my friend runs. They meet at various old venues in Nottingham and Derbyshire with the aim to witness paranormal activity. The whole idea of the paranormal fascinates me but I also was intrigued as to know why people feel the need to find out / explore this bizarre phenomenon.

Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson
Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson

And how did the cast come on board?

Anna Wilson Jones, a brilliant actress who's also in the film, came on board to co-produce the project with us and suggested we send Alison Steadman the script. They'd worked together a few years before and thought it was worth a shot, which it most certainly was! We then approached the actors we really wanted and luckily, they all said yes!

What were the influences on your film?

There were a few, but I'd say mostly Spinal Tap, What We Do In The Shadows (Jermaine Clement's version), The Office & This Country. Duncan and I are huge fans of all of them and were inspired by mainly their tone and humour.

And what were the challenges you faced as local independent filmmaker?

There's lots of challenges - before pre shoot, during shoot and post shoot! In terms of pre shoot challenges, I think when you're an "unknown filmmaker, it's always going to be slightly trickier. It's a bigger risk when it comes to people investing in you and your project because they don't quite know what they're signing up for. For me, it was the first project I'd ever produced so there were lots of challenges for that reason alone.

Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson
Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson

And funding?

Funding is always going to be some what of a challenge but we decided to do things slightly differently and only apply for funding once we'd shot Ghosted. I was getting frustrated with the amount of hoops I was having to jump through to get a script read, let alone made, so we didn't want anything holding us up - we got a team together and shot it. It was afterwards that we launched a Kickstarter campaign and we managed to raise just over £6k, which really helped us in post.

How did the BFI involvement come about?

Again, it was something we looked into once we'd shot the film. I saw online that BFI NETWORK offered various grants and there was a Midlands branch so due to my connection, I sent an email along with our Kickstarter video. We recently found out that our Kickstarter video hugely influenced the decision to award us with the grant, so it really is vital getting that on point!

Was the process a smooth one?

Ghosted was one of the first short films to be produced by BFI Network in the Midlands so for us, the trickiest thing was simply waiting, as I think everyone was still finding their feet with the process of it all. But we were fortunate enough to have Alexzandra Jackson from BFI Network, who came on board as Exec Producer. Whenever there was a hold up or there was an issue, we'd just contact her and she'd reassure us with where everything was at.

Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson
Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson

And what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome yourself?

Firstly, to have patience - to accept that just because things don't happen instantly, it doesn't mean they won't happen at all. And secondly, if there's something I don't understand, to just ask. Because it was the first project I'd produced, there were certain things I wasn't sure about. For instance, when it came to paying our cast and crew (thanks to BFI Network funding!) I had no idea about issuing contracts and various clauses. As an actress, I'm used to my agent dealing with that side of things. But I just asked a few friends of mine who had produced and that really helped. The best piece of advice that was given to me from another producer was: "Everyone's blagging it. It's just about having the confidence, communicating and asking for help when you need it."

Moving onto your own personal tastes, do you have any heroes in the industry or favourite films you love?

I don't have a firm favourite - it's a bit all over the shop to be honest. I love Christmas films. And horror films. Paranormal Activity/ The Exorcist in particular. I also love Four Weddings and a Funeral. So, there's not exactly a pattern emerging. I have a few heroes in comedy; Ricky Gervais, Caroline Aherne, Ruth Jones & Peter Kay. They're all comedy legends who have carved the way for their own work.

And what has been your greatest achievement or success?

Having Alison Steadman as the lead in my first short film is pretty much up there at the minute!

So finally, what are your future plans for Ghosted?

It's currently doing the film festival circuit at the minute. It's doing well internationally having been selected for festivals in the US and Australia and we're looking forward to seeing it at Underwire and Aesthetica. We discussed plans for a TV series and have had a few meetings but they're just ideas at the minute.

And any advice to give to other Midlands filmmakers?

Get a good team around you. If in doubt, just ask. Don't let things hold you up - momentum is key! And remember, 'everyone's blagging it' - so just do it!

Thanks Katie!

Find out more about Ghosted at the official websuite: https://www.ghostedfilm.co.uk

The trailer for the film is below:

By midlandsmovies, Jul 31 2017 02:58PM

Midlands Spotlight - Nottingham writer Tommy Draper heads to Germany

Midlands screenwriter Tommy Draper has built upon his short film successes in the region to head into areas further afield with his new script Der Letzte Tropfen (The Last Drop), which has been made in Germany. With its beginnings in the region, Midlands Movies Mike takes a look at this truly European production.

Coming from his local involvement with Night Owls, Stop/Eject, Wasteland and the forthcoming Nottingham short Songbird, Tommy wrote the script with the director Sascha Zimmermann. Shot by David Rankenhohn, this new venture was produced for German TV station 13th Street, which is a division of NBC Universal.

13th Street has been supporting young German directors for many years and helps co-finance selected new short film projects. Director Zimmermann has also been nominated for Shocking Shorts in 2013 whilst successful Youtube star Alex Böhm plays the lead in the drama.

The short is currently touring in film festivals back here in the Midlands and will also be screened at the prestigious Short Cinema Festival in Leicester. As well as this, the writer is also helping to show the film at the Five Lamps film showcase in Derby as well as Short Stack in Nottingham.

Tommy is also excited about a forthcoming big screening at ComicCon in San Diego, USA. The film features a host of new and experienced German actors in addition to Alex Böhm. Souzan Alavi, Patrice Ötvös, Niklas Osterloh, Kailas Mahadevan, Marcus Prell, Martina Offeh and Angela Daniel make up the group ensemble who are a group that meet weekly to talk about their addictions.

Despite their efforts to stay on a 'straight and narrow' path, their goals are challenged when a new member Dennis (Alex Böhm himself) accidently joins in and they all question if their addictions are truly under control.

Check the short teaser trailer below and for more information check out the official IMDB page - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6691554

By midlandsmovies, Nov 23 2016 09:46PM

Midlands Movies Mike speaks to local author and playwright Dan Weatherer from North Staffordshire. This regional born and bred creative has had four books published, with three more to hit the shelves soon. Dan speaks to Midlands Movies about his three-time festival award winner The Legend of The Chained Oak and his current film project Beige, which will hit the festival circuit next year.

MMM: Hi Dan. How did you, as a writer, end up working with the film industry?

DW: Quite by chance, actually! I’d penned my first tale The Legend of the Chained Oak during the January of 2013 and had passed it to friends who had grown up with the same legend as I. Feedback was good, but at this point, I had no idea of what to do with my story. Someone suggested I pass my story to Dean Maynard, who had always wanted to make a film based on the chained oak. For those of you not in the know, the chained oak is real, lies just outside of Alton Towers, and its origin is still shrouded in secrecy!

MMM: And what happened from there?

DW: Dean was interested in my version of the legend, and after a few months’ prep, a cast and crew were assembled, and we shot in the September of 2013. The entire shoot lasted three days, and we experienced all manner of weird occurrences and mishaps. I wish we’d documented “a making of”, as it would have made fascinating viewing!

MMM: Was sort of size was the production?

DW: The entire film was made for £500, of which I am forever grateful to Dean, and many talented individuals gave their time and expertise to the project. Since that project, many of the cast and crew have gone on to achieve further in their chosen fields.

MMM: Thank you. And how did you originally become a writer?

DW: Well, I was made redundant in the December of 2012. I became a house-husband and my time was spent looking after my two-year-old daughter. It was great getting to spend time with her, but I missed being active and turned to writing as a means to keep my mind busy. I seemed to have a knack for it and decided to make a serious go of forging a career as a writer.

MMM: What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just completed the second of two novels, both of which are with my agent, meaning that my time is currently spent on a book detailing my experiences as a playwright. I’m self-taught in all aspects of my work, and felt that my experiences may be of benefit to others looking to forge a career as a playwright. The book is almost complete and ready for submission. My latest short Beige, a surreal comedy about a husband who has just murdered his wife, is complete and will be cropping up at film festivals in the new year.

MMM: Do you like to specialise in any genres or styles of work?

DW: I don’t necessarily like labels, but realise their necessity. I suppose you could classify my work as dark fiction. It’s not horror, though occasionally it contains horror elements, nor is it paranormal, though again, it’s influence can be seen/felt. My work can be gothic, dramatic, intense, surreal, even comedic -it all depends on the piece.

MMM: What has been your greatest achievement?

DW: Winning awards for LOTCO was a career highlight, and helped set me on my way as an author, and this year I managed to secure the services of two agents -which was a huge career milestone! However, my greatest achievement personally, (aside from the birth of my children, who I am rightly proud of) was returning to my primary school to host workshops on playwriting. Being able to inspire others is important in art, and I make it a point of my work to visit schools, social groups, etc. wherever possible, to share my experiences, and help encourage others to write.

MMM: And what about your favourite movies? Do you look out for any adaptations being a writer?

DW: My current favourite is The Hateful Eight – and I’ll tell you why. It appeals to me because it is almost a stage play. It could translate to stage very easily. It’s dialogue led, and that’s what I enjoy most in a piece of work.

MMM: And finally. What are your upcoming plans?

DW: I’m not actively engaged in any new film projects at present, though I intend to be in the future. Many of my readers often compliment me on my work, explaining how well it would translate to the big screen. I’m working to raise my profile so that potential film-makers take an interest in my work.

MMM: Thanks Dan. All the best and we look forward from hearing more about your work.

DW: Thank you too!

You can watch the full version of Legend of the Chained Oak and find out more information about Dan Weatherer and his work at www.fatherdarkness.com

Or follow Dan at his social media accounts:

Twitter: @dweatherer21

Facebook: FatherDarkness

By midlandsmovies, Jun 28 2016 07:09AM

Guest writer John Montana tackles the difficult subject of writing under pressure

Always Be Writing

Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writers slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great film.

Now…you might get angry with me for saying this, or you will probably vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Of course it can be a dream that this happens, but most likely the story in some form has already been told before. Don’t sweat it!!!

Really, I’m not kidding with you. Don’t let it prevent you from writing. Just write… let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just write! You can worry about judging it after you are finished.

When you are done you can go in and create a story that will inspire you to make a film of it. Think of it this way… A sculptor starts with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film.

So what I am trying say here, as succinctly as I can is don’t be obsessed with telling an original story or have an idea that nobody has thought of before. Because ninety nine times out of one hundred… its been done before.

I make short films. I enjoy shooting them and making them. But I am not under any illusion that these short films will make my career. I have 2 full feature scripts waiting to be done. I am using my shorts films to open doors and to gain experience on the set. Period! Some short films will never make money or be commercial. They are only a means to an end. But don't let that stop you.

A short film could be a “means to an end”… if only to get someone to ask you this: "Do you have any feature scripts that I can read?" To generate interest in you and what you have written. So here is a saying that I have come across many times..."ALWAYS BE WRITING".

Here is another way to look at this: Treat your writing, or other creative work with the same kind of respect you have for your family doctor or dentist. Doctors, dentists... these people have studied hard for years and treated their work with respect and care. So should you.

If you treat your writing with disdain and laziness, or as a lah-dee-dah creative artist that will get to it "when inspiration strikes", then shame on you. Because all you are doing is confirming to society that artists are all flaky and emotionally high-strung...and that we are ultimately disposable as paper in an outhouse. And to quote a line from Bruce Willis in Robert Rodriguez’s “SIN CITY”…” There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong, and then there’s this”.

And I don’t say this to be flippant, its just that artists are treated so badly, I want to stop this the best way I can.

Exercise: For the next three weeks, set your alarm clock early in the morning and spend ONLY 15 minutes each day writing. Something...Anything...Just write! Don't look at it and judge it as being either good or bad. That is not the exercise. The exercise is to try and create a HABIT of writing. Like you go to your job. It is an attempt on your part to train your body and mind for just 15 minutes each day to take your writing seriously and just write. And for those of you with the excuse "I don't have time"... then here is another saying that I really love. TIME IS MADE, NOT FOUND! - You make the time by prioritizing it and writing. Simple as that!

So always be writing...

Guest writer John Montana is an actor living in the US and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.

John can be contacted at johnericmontana@gmail.com

By midlandsmovies, Jun 27 2016 09:50PM

Midlands Feature – Nick Whittle teases new film Bella

Nick John Whittle is a screenwriter, film producer and festival director living and working in Birmingham and having released two microfilms he has now moved on to a brand new web series. Midlands Movies Mike features this up and coming talent who also has a strong social media presence and passion for the visual.

With his short films “Aftershow Triptych” and “Countenance”, Nick Whittle has turned back to writing with a 6-part fantasy web series for a Nottinghamshire-based film group alongside his current time spent producing four short films.

As co-director for Anon Film Festival based in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, Nick started his career by attending The Glasgow Academy followed by Napier University and finally the University of Gloucestershire before returning to Birmingham two years ago to focus on his passion for film and TV.

Nick believes that only by collaborating with others that the words in a script page can truly be understood and his sense of being at the start of the “journey” of a movie fits well for those who he has worked closely with in production.

And with that, amazingly Nick is already on his fourth film of 2016. “Bella” (see the teaser trailer above) is a 30 minute black comedy produced by Manchester-based film composer and director Joseph Ullman of Falling Reel Studios. Again employing talented actors from the Midlands, “Bella” explores the world of act consequentialism; its absurdist quality lends humour to an otherwise dark and sinister plot.

Recently, “Reflexions” is a short 10 minute piece of experimental cinema written for producer Neil Parmar of Birmingham-based Red Mosquito Films. Living in Oldbury, Neil has been a good friend and mentor to Nick for almost a year and the two now challenge themselves to write, direct and produce one short film a month. “Reflexions” is an ensemble piece but presented in disjointed narrative and features actors from around the East and West Midlands including Cassey Shakespeare, Tim Watson, Caroline Whittle, David Claridge, Mia Mills, and Mike Muyunda.

“No Way Back” and “Zip” are both fore-runners of what Nick is calling “tarp-horror” – horror films based around camping and tenting experiences and more often than not involving the menace of evil natural spirits. Both are due to be filmed in the Brecon Beacons this summer and are produced and directed by Derbyshire filmmaker Stuart Wheeldon of Anon Motion Pictures.

Nick’s cinematic influences include Beckett, Hitchcock, Buñuel, Mamet, Allen, Jarmusch, and Bergman and as a great fan of originality and high comedy aims to create engaging and inspiring characters.

Nick is always on the lookout for collaborative opportunities or commissioning from like-minded creatives who share his passion for some a little different, no matter where they are based so we encourage you to get in touch with Nick using the contact details below.

Nick John Whittle: www.freelance-writer.org.uk

Blog: www.nickjohnwhittle.com

Falling Reel Studios: http://www.fallingreel.co.uk

Anon Motion Pictures: http://www.anonmotionpictures.com

Anon Film Festival: http://www.anonfilmfestival.com

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