Sunday, 23 November 2014

IT'S A WRAP


We’ve just wrapped on our film Battlecreek. I say our, because it is truly that, our film; a group effort that began with a script that I poured my heart into it years ago, and then was turned over to a team of people – lead by a triumvirate of the most kick ass women (ahem) - who infused it with an incredible amount of talent, skill and passion.

And thanks to my decisions as a writer, sorry all (!), this shoot was not for the faint of heart. The script took place predominantly at night, which meant night shoots almost the entire month we shot that ended most days at 5 in the morning. The crew would then have to break everything down and return to set the following day, mere hours later, to start the process all over again. Needless to say, by the shoots end, people were sick (and I’m sure sick of each other) tired, and eagerly begging for a good night’s sleep.

I flew out recently for the last week of shooting (as I had to disappear for a bit in the middle of the shoot to make sure the King remembered who I was). Upon my return to set, I was able to watch some of my favourite scenes brought to life, the scenes that held the emotional meat of the script. It’s surreal enough to watch your words play out in front of you, but to see them brought to life in such a beautiful, nuanced and expressive way by such incredible actors, well, needless to say, it made me cry like a baby (and I saw a few crew crying as well, so I’m happy to say, it took down the strongest of men).

People asked me throughout the process if it was what I had imagined in my head for so long - the locations, the actors, the overall feeling. And my response was always an unequivocal yes, beyond what I imagined actually. It is a surreal thing to walk around in this created, dimensional world and realize that what is exists in front of you is even more profound than what was in your head. Not to mention, it confirmed what I’ve always known, that good acting is an art and it can elevate a script to an entirely new level (and of course, in a more general sense, conversely, bad acting can be equally as profound, just not in a good way!). By shoot’s end, it was so abundantly clear that our casting was pinpoint perfect and these actors had truly become the characters on the page.

Then there was the crew. The tireless (f*cking kick ass) crew of some of the most talented people I’ve ever met; for some, seasoned veterans that taught us all a thing or two, and others first timers like myself who were aching to prove their worth; each with their own dreams, talents and aspirations that they brought to set and poured into this project. Led of course by our female Queen of a director that I have known since I was a little girl and love to the bottom of my heart –Watching her have come into her own over the years (she and I have shared many memories and trajectories, shall we say) and share my vision to such a degree (by the end of the shoot she knew the script far better than I did) was a profound thing that I wouldn’t have wanted to share with anyone else.

I walk away from this experience of course wanting more. I’m inspired like I’ve never been, in awe of the filmmaking process that I have so loved for most of my life, and have learned so much from so many talented people. It’s also an incredible thing to watch passion become a palpable thing. Watching people night after night, hour after hour tirelessly work to make everything look and run seamlessly, well that’s an impressive thing. Even down to the (fantastic) woman feeding us on set and making sure we didn’t all keel over, well the team spirit was never in finer form…I’m not na├»ve of course, there were certainly moments where the team effort fell victim to the normal tensions and tumults (that’s a polite way of saying there were of course times people wanted to smack one another) that can exist on any project, but overall the focus always returned to the project.

So here’s what I hope, I hope that more independent projects are given a shot to exist and breathe and see the light of day. I hope that more woman helm projects and prove that we are a force to be reckoned, I hope that I have many more opportunities to tell a story that resonates with so many. And I hope that I – along with our team – have contributed a story into the filmmaking annals that will leave its mark and add a little bit of special to a world that often overlooks such things.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

CHECKING IN


This story is unbelievable, not only in one establishment’s feeble attempt at penalizing a couple’s freedom of speech, but for their sheer audacity at thinking they can get away with it. A couple recently stayed in a ‘filthy dirty rotten’ hotel, their words not mine (mine would’ve been much more scathing) and posted a negative review of the hotel on Trip Advisor. They were soon to discover that the hotel fined them for posting negative feedback about their experience (imagine the precedent that would be set if one was fined merely from expressing a negative opinion on the Internet, esp as 98% of the Internet is negative opinions!).

In short, the couple described their jaunt to a seaside English hotel in Blackpool as essentially vile and disappointing on all levels (um, for starters, maybe reexamine your need to go to Blackpool! Just sayin’). Apparently they chose the hotel for its ‘ample’ parking but when they arrived there, the lot was full and they were forced to park at another hotel. Not a good start to one’s hotel stay, that’s for sure.

The couple went on to say that they were revolted by the state of the room. Just to give this some context, the room cost £36 a night. My first question would be, WHAT ON EARTH do you think you’re going to get for that amount of money?? [They are lucky they weren’t asked to pitch a tent in the parking lot and boil their own water to shower].  The drawer fronts fell off the furniture when they tried to open the drawers, the wallpaper was peeling off, the room was dirty, the sheets and carpet riddled with stains, and the mattress was deemed a health and safety threat…to name a few of their concerns. I would have run screaming from the room wrapped in a giant Wet Wipe.

Thereafter posting this review, the couple realised that they were fined £100 pounds on their credit card for 'negative feedback' in addition to the room charge. Clearly enraged by this farce, the couple complained to the local trading standards office (who stated they had never seen anything like this, but were probably in some strange way impressed by this ‘novel’ concept to deter bad reviews) who spoke to the hotel about this questionable  ‘policy’ and they are now carrying out an investigation. The couple as you can imagine is raving mad, not only because they had to stay in this sh*thole, but because they are now fighting to have the charge removed from their credit card for telling the world it was a dump.

In a statement, Trip Advisor said it deplored the practice of fining its users. "While thankfully such instances are very rare, it is completely against the spirit and policies of our site for any business owner to attempt to bully or intimidate reviewers who have had a negative experience.” You think?? Can you imagine the volcanic eruption of cr*p consumers would have to deal with if every time they put a negative review somewhere, they were fined for it? 

My husband is a Trip Advisor addict. He doesn’t book a thing until he’s exhausted every website, read reviews, and scoured photos – I wouldn’t put it past him to fly to the hotel just to inspect it before our arrival. The man is meticulous and my OCD tendencies greatly appreciate his attention to detail. But, I’m also confident that if he saw a room was going to cost under 40 quid, even in Blackpool, he’d convince me a weekend at home with the King hollering in our faces about his latest Lego building project was a far better option. That said, if we ever do stay in a dump again, I'm bringing my cleaning supplies and someone is going to hear about it.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

THE HUNT BE DAMNED


[ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES TODAY. will try to post this week!]

I love this story. Or more to the point, I love the subtext of this story even more, or the subtext my writer’s brain lends to it. A French hunter recently had to have his hand amputated because his dog shot it off. Yes, you read that right. The trusty best friend, the pooch he has deemed ‘adorable,’ was apparently going in for a ‘cuddle’ right as the man was in mid hunt causing him to pull the trigger and blow his own hand off. OH, the irony is so thick on this one.

The huntsman in question has three Blue Gascony Basset Hounds, and was out hunting with three of them when the youngest – clearly the most tactile of the three – stayed behind while the other two ran ahead chasing a deer. This is when this infamous cuddle took place. Despite the serious injury, the man insists the dog is adorable and it was the man's own fault for not having the gun on safety – while hunting with the clear intent to kill animals. Yes, that makes sense.

Okay, so here is what I took from the story…this adorable dog was most likely not going in for a cuddle. This dog was most likely sick to death of freezing his balls off in the forest while he was made to watch his owner kill defenseless animals and decided to take action once and for all. The other two hounds acted as a diversion and took off to ‘chase deer.’ When in fact, I’m sure they were warning the deer that some serious sh*t was about to go down and they better run for cover. Then, the ‘adorable’ ring leader (it’s always the young cute ones in the bunch you have to be suspicious of) decided to take action and strategically ‘cuddle’ his master just as he was about to get a shot off. God I love Basset Hounds. I had one long ago and she used to insist on sleeping with me, bathing with me (I really had no choice, she’d just dive in the bathtub), sitting on my lap when I drove. She and I were constantly working on our boundary issues.

One also has to appreciate the irony (unless you’re an avid hunter and then, well, that’s another lengthy discussion) when a hunter gets any sort of limb or appendage blown off when he is intending to do just that to Bambi (all deer to me are Bambi. It’s just the way it is). Not to mention, he’s dragging other animals with him and making them complicit in his death march. This is also what I love about dogs, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, they’re going to get all up in your face and show you some love. "Hunt? What hunt, I need attention and you’re going to give me some god damn it. Oh, and sorry about the hand."

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

THE QUAGMIRE


Anyone in America that owns a TV will know that today, (Tuesdays must be so cocky around that 'day of the week' water cooler) Americans are taking to the polls in droves (Ha! Fat chance) and voting in mid-term elections which will decide who controls the Senate – and consequently, pave the way for the 2016 presidential election. The Republicans (for those not in the know, they are the Tories of the US) who already control our House of Representatives need just six seats to gain control of the Senate. Analysts at the moment are predicting a Republican victory, despite current improvements to the economy, and most pundits (and hideously irritating Fox commentators) claim that this election is a reaction to the current president; isn't it always? So in short, not good news today if you're a Democrat.
As always in politics in any corner of the world, things ebb and flow and the tide turns mightily against the President in power. At the moment, Obama’s approval ratings are at their all time lowest. Not to mention people’s apathy for politics is also at an all time low. And why do we ask? (Or am I sadly in the minority to ask questions such as these). Well in short, the mere fact that we’re still stuck in a pull and tug quagmire between the two leading parties who both act like juvenile imbeciles, it begs the question, why isn’t John Q Public more pissed off than he (or she) already is?
The part that enrages me the most is not that the tide turns in politics (it’s pathetic, but I accept that it is inevitable – the grass is greener mentality is formidable and pervasive - and the nature of human beings). And I’m certainly all for people having their opinions when it comes to politics and who is in power (although I have less patience for the uneducated opinion), but what I cannot fathom is that we as a country sit idly by while our politicians are outspoken in their eager desire to make Obama a lame-duck president. No matter what side of the aisle you fall on Ye Politician dirtbags, you work FOR US. You are there to solve problems, work together, and pass laws, policies and so on, in order to benefit our country. You are elected by us to take care of us, not report to work and essentially declare for all to hear that you plan to do absolutely nothing but be insubordinate…just because you're not happy with who is in power.
My hope, my ideal aching hope for the American people is that one day we truly see how much power we do have. That we realize that it is WE who elect these people and it is we that pay their wages. The fact that we have to sit idly by while our politicians play partisan politics and delight in a gridlock that literally grinds our government to a halt should be unacceptable. There is no other workplace on the planet where that would be accepted. Can you imagine if you reported to work, but decided that as you disagree with your boss and his opinions, you were going to instead hurl pencils at the ceiling until it was time to clock out? How about, suck it up, realize your side lost, and try to…I don’t know…work together! It’s what we teach our children, is it not? Share, work as a team, be the bigger person…and don’t bite, kick, throw your toys and act like morons. It seems like such  simple philosophy when one is teaching a 4 year old. A lot harder when one is dealing with grown adults. 
So as you cast your vote today, realize your power. I implore you. And perhaps there will come a day - hopefully in the near future -  when we can fire the lot of them and start from scratch with people who actually want to see the betterment of our country. 


Thursday, 23 October 2014

ACTION!



I am currently down in the deep South of the United States watching my first script be brought to life. As one can imagine, this is a huge moment for me, well, for any writer really. As they say, you always remember your first. 

This particular project has been a long time in the making. I wrote the script many years ago and our little female driven team had been looking for money for several years in hopes of getting it made. For those of you not well versed in the of the world of filmmaking, there are big studio films (that most of you run to see on a Friday night and curse yourselves for in the morning) and then there are the smaller, independently financed films [that fight to keep their integrity and often struggle to see the light of day!] This little script is definitely the latter.

The process of making a film is utterly eye opening, inspiring, and surreal (and of course time consuming, as I’m sure the crew will eagerly attest!) Not simply because it is my script that people are walking around talking about, deconstructing and furiously planning for, but to see the team effort that is required to make a film – any film – gives you new admiration for the process as a whole (OR total ire for those idiots that take ownership of a film like it took one person alone to get it to screen). From the location scouts, to the sound crew, to lighting, to art direction, to transportation, and so on – every detail is thought about, poured over, double checked and discussed in such depth it makes your head spin (And the producers’. Ain’t that right CH).

Take the job of location scout, a job I often imagined would be so fun because you get to travel around and check out all these cool locations; the job of course has so much more involved than one would think. First and foremost, finding the location to fit something that the writer has in their head (and us writers take a lot of liberties when it comes to reality and drive location scouts utterly nuts), seeing if this location is actually available which takes a sh*tload of cajoling and sweet talking, securing permits, or replacing the people you’re politely kicking out of their home/business/car etc., and figuring out how one can shoot there with a large team of people, a ton of equipment, and make it come in within budget. And that is the very short version.

The art department is another area that is fun to watch in motion, as they are responsible for transforming that bedroom, or old diner, or grocery store, or whatever set is in the particular film into what you need it to be. We drove around to umpteenth old style gas stations in the Mississippi (and there are many) to discuss what needed dressing, undressing, what colours matched the desired palette, what needed to be painted, repainted etc. you get the idea. And you can see the sheer the delight on their faces when they start thinking about the nitty gritty (or the non delight when the location turns out not to work for one reason or another); the old treasures they will unearth to decorate the set, down to the most minute of things most of you will probably not even notice. But they do, as do the junky film buffs like myself who delight themselves on finding those little purposeful gems in every scene. 

Overall, it’s the collaboration of things that is most inspiring to witness. A movie cannot be made without a script, but a script alone is not a movie made. Every single person working on the film brings something to it and most of these individuals go unnoticed and underappreciated; obviously at the end of the day, the actors and directors receive most of the acclaim, although that said, they also receive a fair share of abuse if the film isn’t well received. But it is very rare for any member of the public to walk out of the cinema and say ‘Wow, I loved the way that film was lit.’ Like anything in life, it takes a village to nurture something along, and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful of the team involved in this project.

So off I go to watch them play with make up for our lead actor and make sure it looks good on camera – a little detail that will have a big impact in the end. Details, details….And don’t think that I am not reveling in every single mundane detail of this process, soaking it in and savouring every last drop.