Monday, 15 December 2014

Old habits die hard

Academy Originals, a YouTube documentary-style video series produced by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, has been posting a series of videos called Creative Spark. These focus on people working in the film industry, with a particular emphasis on screenwriters, detailing their work process and the tools they use. As a (wannabe) screenwriter myself, I find this sort of thing fascinating. It's a real treat to see how these people work, and the dramatic extent to which their approaches differ. I'm not sure I have a "process" as such, but I can certainly recognise something of myself in these people, particularly the procrastination angle and rather weird working hours. (Though most of them appear to be early risers, whereas I'm more of a night owl.)

My favourite so far is the video on Eric Roth, writer of MUNICH and FORREST GUMP, among others...

...probably because, while the bulk of the writers interviewed use fancy-pancy Macs, Roth is a committed Luddite, working on a rather grubby-looking Windows XP machine (seriously, that keyboard is FILTHY!) and running an ancient DOS-based screenwriting program that can't export PDFs and runs out of memory once you hit 40 pages. As someone who jumps between Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter and Highland depending on which one I'm in the mood for, I know the program you're using can make a huge difference, even though they're essentially all just different variations of black text on a white background. As such, while the program Roth uses looks and sounds maddeningly archaic, I can completely understand why he sticks with it.

As I've indicated above, I'm somewhat different. I chop and change all the time, depending on how the mood takes me. I wrote about half of my most recent script in Final Draft, then switched midway through to Movie Magic Screenwriter. The latter is way more clunky (though let's face it, both programs leave a lot to be desired) and in serious need of an update (the last one was in 2007, and it still contains bugs that have been claiming to be working on for years), but I don't know... something about the way the text looks on the screen just works for me, at least for now. For my next script, I may well go back to Final Draft or Highland.

But anyway, here's to Roth and his old habits. Any process that delivered MUNICH is all right by me.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Petition Mission: a Glasgow-based film hub

I came across this petition today on, and it's one that, both as a Glaswegian and as someone who would like to see a bit more in the way of location diversity in UK-based film and television (i.e. not another cop show set in London!), I think is well worth signing:

Recognise that a Glasgow based production facility will be at the very heart of the cultural and commercial screen industry in Scotland.
An Open Letter to the Scottish Film Studio Delivery Group
10th December 2014
After many years of inertia and procrastination, there is now a clear and present opportunity to build not just a film studio, but also a globally significant screen production facility for Scotland.
This facility would deliver double advantages:
1.   The creation of Scotland’s first dedicated studio for the production of international and indigenous film and television projects, alongside a facilities village of companies providing ancillary services to the production industry.
2.     The further development of a creative cluster which would become a nexus for Scotland’s indigenous industry, acting as a catalyst for future collaboration, convergence, and of course skills development and delivery.
The Film Studio Delivery Group was convened in May 2013, and was to be a vehicle by which the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, and Creative Scotland, aimed to deliver ‘a sustainable studio for Scotland’.
Our industry is global, and with that comes fierce international competition, therefore any steps to create a sustainable studio and indeed grow the industry in Scotland would have to be considered, viable, and incremental.
Central to this ambition is location.
We not only have the opportunity to cluster rather than fragment screen and creative industry talent, but also to provide a sustainable commercial income stream to underpin any cyclical use of the studio, workshop and office facilities that would be ring fenced for production use. Pragmatism must come into play, and a stand-alone facility would be vulnerable to the easy-come, easy-go vagaries of the international marketplace.
Star Wars Co-Producer Tommy Gormley reiterated the importance of location in his recent BAFTA Scotland award acceptance speech, highlighting ’I think it should be located in an existing creative hub which we can expand on’.
Undoubtedly, the city of Glasgow has this competitive advantage and baseline of strong screen activity to expand on.
There is an existing critical mass of companies and facilities activity in the city, the major terrestrial broadcasters, over 50,000 sq ft of sound and picture post production houses, new hotel developments, Glasgow School of Art's world leading Digital Design Studio, and existing screen and creative micro-clusters such as Film City Glasgow and The Hub.
Productions using Glasgow will enjoy close links to the city’s existing cultural and hospitality amenities, together with the thicker pools of freelance workers and talent living in the city and surrounding areas. Indeed, Glasgow has the highest density of production crew and facilities companies anywhere in Scotland.
Transportation and access to a Glasgow site is enhanced by close proximity to the major airports and transport hubs, and strategically connects with the new £40m Fastlink system, which opens in 2015. Clearly, Glasgow has the potential to be home to one of Europe’s most connected screen production facilities. Institutionally, in addition to the national cultural and enterprise agencies, a Glasgow based facility would have the added support of a film office, marketing bureau, business support agencies, chamber of commerce, and a tacit connection with one of the world’s strongest city brands.
As evidenced by Game of Thrones in Belfast, a globally celebrated high-end drama production can be delivered from a relatively small footprint in the very heart of a metropolitan environment. Titanic Studios covers approximately 10 acres of land less than 2 miles from Belfast City Centre. Glasgow has at least double this amount of developable land for a screen facility – a tantalising prospect.
We agree with the Film Studio Delivery Group that any development of a film, high-end television, or indeed animation, facility in Scotland has to be sustainable, but such sustainability will only be achieved with the right location, and with a regular and demonstrable commercial income stream.
Glasgow is the right location.
Other sites currently under consideration, such as Cumbernauld and the M8 corridor, are compromises that will not deliver the double advantages of a connected, accessible , facility, married with commercial sustainability. There is little appetite amongst the many skilled workers, screen companies, post houses, or facilities companies to permanently relocate outside an urban centre, and certainly wholly impractical for the many academic institutions delivering screen industry training to align themselves with an inaccessible, out of town screen facility.
Contrast this with a Glasgow based facility, at the very heart of both the cultural and commercial screen industry in Scotland.
Longer term, and once a more tangible critical mass of screen production companies and facilities exists, an Edinburgh based facility could further complement Scotland’s production offer.
We, the undersigned, ask the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland to urgently reconsider any moves to develop a screen facility or studio outside of an urban centre, and to recognize that currently, the metrics of place, connectivity, accessibility and sustainability can be only fully realised within the city of Glasgow.
Alan J. Wands, Producer (STONEMOUTH, FIELD OF BLOOD)
Allan Hunter, Co-Director, GLASGOW FILM FESTIVAL
Allan MacDonald, Managing Director, MNE
Allison Gardner, Head of Cinemas, GLASGOW FILM THEATRE
Andrea Calderwood, Producer, SLATE FILMS (LAST KING OF SCOTLAND)
Andrew Orr, Managing Director, INDEPENDENT FILM SALES
Anne Mensah, Head of Drama, SKY TV
Anne Murray, Business Relationship Manager, INVEST GLASGOW
Brian Coffey, Producer (CITADEL, STARRED UP)
Carole Sheridan, Producer, SINGER FILMS
Catriona MacInnes, Creative Producer, JUMP CUT
Colin Kennedy, Director, (SWUNG)
Compton Ross, Financier/Producer, (YOU INSTEAD, BELLE)
Dan MacRae, Head of UK Development, STUDIO CANAL
Daniela Nardini, Actor (SUNSHINE ON LEITH, FESTIVAL)
Danny McGrath, Assistant Director (PROMETHEUS, SHERLOCK HOLMES)
David Mackenzie, Director (STARRED UP, HALLAM FOE)
Dr. Belle Doyle, Screen Industries Freelance Consultant
Dr. David Archibald, Lecturer, Film & Television Studies, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
Dr. Katherine Champion, Research Associate, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
Gavin Smith, Creative Director Development, COMEDY UNIT
Giles Lamb, Managing Director, SAVALAS
Gillian Berrie, Producer, SIGMA FILMS
Greg Hemphil,l Actor/Writer (STILL GAME)
Gregory Burke, Screenwriter & Playwright ('71, BLACK WATCH)
Hamish Walker, Production Executive, GLASGOW FILM OFFICE
Jack O'Connell, Actor ('71, UNBROKEN, STARRED UP)
Jaki McDougall, Chief Executive, GLASGOW FILM THEATRE
Jennifer Reynolds, Film Commissioner, GLASGOW FILM OFFICE
John Archer, Producer, HOPSCOTCH FILMS
John O'Neill, Film Finance, THE O'NEILL PARTNERSHIP
Jonathan Olsberg, Screen Consultant, OLSBERG SPI
Kahleen Crawford, Casting Director (FILTH, ANGELS' SHARE)
Kate Dickie, Actor (RED ROAD, FILTH)
Katharine Otway, Film Business Affairs, KENREN MEDIA
Katie Lander, Managing Director, FINESTRIPE PRODUCTIONS
Lenny Crooks, Film Consultant, Visiting Faculty (STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY NY)
Martin Compston, Actor (SWEET SIXTEEN, LINE OF DUTY)
Michael McDonough, Director of Photography (STARRED UP, WINTER'S BONE)
Mike Bolland, Freelancer, Ex-CHANNEL 4, BBC, NFTS
Mike Kelly, Film Analyst & Consultant, NORTHERN ALLIANCE
Paul Laverty, Writer (MY NAME IS JOE, ANGELS' SHARE)
Peter La Terriere, Managing Director, EUROPEAN FILM BONDS
Peter Mullan, Actor/Director (SUNSHINE ON LEITH, NEDS)
Professor Nick Higgins, Director, Creative Media Academy, UWS
Reno Antoniades, Film Lawyer (RUSH, UNDER THE SKIN)
Richard Brown, Producer (TRUE DETECTIVE)
Rob Kettlewell, Financier, RED SKIN MEDIA
Roddy Hart, Musician, Actor (SUNSHINE ON LEITH)
Roland Kennedy, Director, FILM CITY CAPITAL
Sean Gascoine, Agent, UNITED AGENTS
Stuart Cosgrove, Director of Creative Diversity, CHANNEL 4
Sue Bruce Smith, Filmmaker
Suzanne Reid, Production Manager (DA VINCI'S DEMONS)
Tiernan Kelly, Director, FILM CITY GLASGOW
Tommy Gormley, Co-Producer (STAR WARS VII)
Tony Safford, Co-Head of Acquisitions, FOX SEARCHLIGHT
As you can see, it's already attracted the signatures of a number of heavy hitters in the industry, both local and from further afield. Please consider adding yours!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

There's something about Léa...

...Seydoux, that is. She first caught my attention, and that of much of the rest of the world, with her sterling performance in Abdellatif Kechiche's BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (alongside Adèle Exarchopoulos), and she continues to impress in GRAND CENTRAL, an intriguing and alluring little film by Rebecca Zlotowski in which she plays the love interest to a nuclear power plant worker. Oh, and she has a leading role in the next James Bond film, SPECTRE, which should ensure that her star continues in its ascendancy.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Top 10 Giallo Films for the Beginner

It's been four years since I last wrote for DVD Times, the site now known as The Digital Fix. I had a few reasons for stepping down, including a degree of uncertainty surrounding the site's future. Thankfully, it survived and has continued to prosper, although I felt it was time for me to make a clean break. After writing more than 300 reviews, I'd burned myself out and was getting to the stage of no longer being able to remember what I'd written. (Or seen. I remember vehemently insisting that I'd never seen David Koepp's SECRET WINDOW, only for it to be pointed out to me that I'd written a review of it.)

Today marks the first time I've had an article on film published on a web site other than my own since 2010. Dan Stephens, one of my former DVD Times colleagues, contacted me asking if I'd be willing to put together an article for his web site, Top Ten Films, with the brief "an introduction to the giallo in 10 films." I said yes, and you can find the finished piece here:

Have a look and tell me what you think of my choice of films. As I mention in the article, I deliberately went for ten films that I felt would be most appropriate for someone new to the genre rather than my ten absolute favourite gialli (though if I did produce such a list, a number of the same films would also appear on it). I doubt I'll go back to writing regular reviews any time soon, but I enjoyed the process of putting this piece together and was surprised by how quickly I was able to "get back on the wagon", so to speak.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Chasing Jessica Chastain

One of the most disappointing aspects for me of Christopher Nolan's ambitious but heavily flawed INTERSTELLAR was its underuse of Jessica Chastain, an actor who I only became aware of in the last couple of years but who's been impressing me in everything in which I've seen her, particularly Kathryn Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY, a film she carried more or less single-handedly by virtue of being the sole figure of audience identification in what could otherwise have been a meandering and only loosely connected series of events. Of course, it helps too that she's extremely striking-looking. With her red hair and incredibly pale skin, she can't help but be the most eye-catching part of any frame in that film, whether she's standing in the desert or in a room full of grey men in grey suits.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Beam me up, Scottie!

The Herald has released pictures of the interior of the soon-to-be-completed South Glasgow University Hospital, set to be one of the largest hospital complexes in Europe. I'm sure I can't be the only one who immediately thought of JJ Abrams' STAR TREK reboot when I saw them:

All kidding aside, it looks very impressive, and a massive improvement over the dingy old Western Infirmary, in whose A&E department I've spent the occasional evening over the years.