Productions 2012

Writer: Adam Dewar
Director: Rankin
Producers: David Allain & Jess Gormley
Cast: Marc Warren, Toby Jones, Laura Haddock
DOP: David Liddell

Logline: A shadowy surveillance operative records the meeting between the jilted mistress of a corporate CEO and a chequebook journalist in a claustrophobic London flat.


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‘HARDWIRE’ TRAILER


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In the final moments of Sydney Pollack’s 1975 film 3 Days of The Condor Joe Turner (Robert Redford) takes his CIA adversary Higgins (Cliff Robertson) to the door of the New York Times building. For the duration of the film Joe, a low level CIA employee, has been on the run after unwittingly uncovering a plot by the US government to take over the Middle East’s oil fields. He and Higgins have been involved in game of cat and mouse until finally Turner reveals to Higgins that he has told the New York Times ‘a story’. Higgins looks shocked, he tells Turner he’s done ‘more harm than good.’ Turner hopes so, but as he begins to walk away believing he’s exposed the plot, Higgins’ shock turns to sinister arrogance and he calls out to Turner, ‘How do you know they’ll print it?’ Now Turner looks anxious. Higgins, repeats again, ‘How do you know?’ This time he is almost smiling. Turner turns and slips into the Manhattan crowd, the camera freezes and it dawns on us as it does him – he doesn’t know. The truth, even in the right hands, won’t necessarily see the light of day.

3 Days of the Condor final scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5oHT6ojvIs)

3 Days of the Condor, along with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, and Michael Mann’s The Insider were key influences for Hardwire. In Hardwire a jilted mistress, Kelly Hutchinson, attempts to leak information on her former employer – the cold and morally bankrupt CEO of a global commodities trading company. However, just as in these films, she finds the world lying behind the news headlines is morally complex. One where survival, power and money often outmuscle ideals of truth and justice.

At The Guardian, where I’ve worked for a few years, journalists receive hundreds of unsolicited calls, packages of documents and data sticks a year. Sometimes they are front page material, most often they are cranks, green inkers and the ramblings of mad men. Sifting through this on a daily basis, I realised the precarious nature of truth and revelation. Condor’s ending, like its prescient plot, suddenly seemed very real.

In the development of Hardwire it became clear that some of the biggest stories of the last few years have echoed this struggle. A few years ago the governments of numerous nations were embarassed by a private with what appeared to be a Lady Gaga CD containing thousands of classified diplomatic cables. More recently the US government is rocking from Edward Snowden’s revelations on the workings of the NSA.

These stories emerged, controversially, thanks to tenacious reporters, driven whistleblowers and courageous editing, but it could so easily have been different. There are many in press and government that were against the publication of these stories some arguing that security could be compromised and lives put at risk. It is possible that these stories might never have been published at all. What if someone had got to Snowden first? What if Bradley Manning had been stopped before he reached Wikileaks? What if the wrong journalist had taken possession of the information?

Has the ability to self-publish information freely on the internet changed the game since the era of 3 Days of The Condor? Perhaps, but human error, self interest, betrayal or those working in the interests of national safety are still, and will always be, barriers to the truth. Wherever truth or information tries to emerge there will be someone or something that wants to suppress it. Whether it’s a corporation like Trafigura who wishes to conceal internal documents exposing their scandalous working practices or GCHQ’s attempt – citing the interests of national security – to smash hard drives containing further Snowden/NSA revelations deep in the Guardian’s basement.

Although steeped in the genre of noir and influenced by the paranoiac films of the seventies, Hardwire’s premise has never been more relevant. It reflects on the struggle between those that strive to expose the truth and those determined to keep it hidden. It looks at their motives and asks us to consider – how much is there that we don’t know? How many stories might never reach the light of day? What headlines are never written?

- Adam Dewar


‘HARDWIRE’ STILLS

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LEWIS METCALFE: UNDER THE INFLUENCE

I seem to find my inspirations from strong atmospheric stories. Shorts like ‘Field’ by Duane Hopkins and ‘Crossbow’ by David Michod; both have a very strong stylistic presence that, love or hate it, stays with you long after viewing. They have a sense of story and world that surpass the narrative we’re allowed to see, forcing the viewer to indulge further in the world created by the filmmakers. ‘Field’ was the first short I watched that had a meaningful affect on me. The dialogue was almost non-existent and yet it told a very powerful story of over-charged adolescent masculinity and regret. I could identify with it completely and it was a direct inspiration for my award-winning short ‘Fight’.

Having seen countless shorts that relied too heavily on a quirky twist or shorts that cram in feature length ideas, it was incredibly enlightening and was an education on decent filmmaking. ‘Crossbow’ is a major influence on my Collabor8e short ‘Irreversible’. It has a unique approach with voiceover and dabbles in themes in an almost throw-away manner, yet it somehow makes them all the more poignant. The team behind it, Blue Tongue Films, seem to lead the way with top quality shorts (‘Miracle Fish’ being another great one) and powerful low-budget features. David Michod’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ was their debut feature and they played it perfectly. The story and world fit within their budget so nothing looked cheap or compromised, enabling it to enjoy a cinematic release without looking out of place. This is exactly how I intend to approach my first feature as too often I see filmmakers stretch their small budget on a big concept, compromising all areas of their production – which ultimately undermines their story.


Collabor8te Filmmaker Interview: Lewis Metcalfe

STORYBOARDS


Opening frames of 'Irreversible' as storyboarded by Kevin Harris

Supersoaker scene as storyboarded by Pauli Kangasniemi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTO GALLERY


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LEWIS METCALFE

Lewis was born in Cheadle Humle, Cheshire, before moving to various locations around the UK to finally settle back in Stockport at the age of 12. His love for filmmaking started in his teens when he first got hold of a VHS camera from his local college, where he learnt the basics of the craft from dipping into various genres. Now, with a small handful of short film awards/festival selections, Lewis has discovered that fictional drama offers the most stimulating, rewarding and absorbing experience. He is attracted to the darker side of human nature – the chasm that all people have the potential to reach, but only a minority fall into. “What draws me is the concept of seeing someone do the unthinkable, whilst been able to identify a shred of yourself within them. It fascinates me and terrifies me on equal levels.”

Collabor8te Filmmaker Interview: Deborah Haywood

 

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DEBORAH HAYWOOD ON WORKING WITH KIDS

 

C8: A lot of short films we come across feature young protagonists – you have a significant track record or working with kids, any top tips?

DH: I don’t really have a ‘method’ for working with kids. I try to talk to them on their level, and am possibly good at spotting kids with the right ‘spirit.’ (fingers crossed). Perhaps being a Mum myself helps, and also that I used to be the one who did the kids parties when I worked at The Pizza Hut.

C8: What is it that you enjoy most about working with younger actors?

DH: I think the great thing about working with kids is that they are so natural. They are too young to feel subconscious, so if you create a safe environment for them, they just do it.

C8: What’s your approach to working with little ones on set?

DH: When I first cast Demi and Billie (the sisters in ‘Sis‘ – see clip below), I had a feeling they’d be interesting, so I did some impro with them (playing doctors and nurses, operating on The Hulk etc) and they really got into it. This is really important I reckon. After a while they were able to forget about the camera but at first they wanted to touch it and ask a million questions, and Demi was obsessed with the boom!

C8: Do you try to get them to learn lines, or understand their character before shooting?

DH:I don’t teach them the script or get them to learn it, I direct them on camera, and feed them their lines, and take my voice out in post. I got that tip from that bloke who directed ‘Let The Right One In’. I went to a Q+A of the film and asked him to talk a bit about directing children. He said that’s how he did it so I thought I’d give it a go…

C8: Are you looking forward to working with Demi and Billie again on ‘Twinkle Twinkle’?

DH: I actually got the idea for Twinkle Twinkle when I was doing those first impros with Demi and Billie on ‘Sis. I wanted to write a few scenarios for them to practice feeding them lines, and then Twinkle just came to me as I was doing that. I decided not to give them the scenario, ‘cos my belly was telling me it could be juicy as a piece on itself, so instead I later wrote it as a short film.

I’m so excited (and nervous, of course) to make it.

 

Clip from ‘Sis’ dir. Deborah Haywood (2011)


 

 

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DEBORAH HAYWOOD

Following her first short Deborah was selected for Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow, 2007. She is BIFA nominated and has won several awards including Best Short at Soho Rushes Short Film Festival.

Deborah is developing feature Pin Cushion with Gavin Humphries and ifeatures2, as well as co-writing the adaptation of award winning novel The Killing Jar, with author Nicola Monaghan.

Deborah is represented by Mark Casarotto, at Casarotto Ramsay Associates.

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SIMON ELLIS ON SHORT FILM, NARRATIVE, COMEDY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FESTIVALS

The most frequent question I am asked is why I continue to make shorts when most people only see them as a magnet for feature films.

The reasons are many but here are a few, in no particular order:

Anyone who has studied one of the too-many books on feature screenplay structure or attended an overpriced lecture by a supposed guru, knows that being privy to such knowledge irreversibly compromises the viewing experience. I recall watching City of God upon its release, hailed by critics and audiences alike, and seeing every single beat, the tick of every box, the template. It felt like an old dog in new clothes, and the old dog was just too evident. I was pissed off. I had naively resisted the idea of indies following what I considered to be an exclusively Hollywood formula until this one particular film failed todisguise it. It was simply timing, of course, as I had happened to start reading about structure only days before. Unfortunately, ever since then I have found myself distracted by the template in too many films that fail to engage for whatever reason.

Conversely, the beauty of short films is how structurally liberating they are. They don’t necessarily adhere to a beginning-middle-end, or a character arc, or even a character. It’s depressing when someone professes to teach short film structure because it puts bad ideas into people’s heads and ultimately stifles what makes shorts so vital.

Aside from actually making films, fifteen years of touring film festivals has been my sole education. Being exposed to so many flavours, with different audiences in different territories, has broadened my tastes enormously. My favourites titles from the most recent festival visit included two narrative dramas (one a comedy), two experimental (one purely CGI), a sublime stop-motion animation, a documentary, and even a mockumentary. I say ‘even’ a mockumentary because it’s a genre I usually find quite pointless, not to mention the least-challenging to make. However, this film took the genre to a whole new level and put my preconceptions under the guillotine. Something else that’s very hot right now is the reversal of the mockumentary idea – documentary which presents itself as fiction, with directors like Nicolas Provost spearheading the cause.

For many years my preference has been for narrative shorts, chiefly because it is the arena in which I spend most of my time working. When I first started attending film festivals in 1996, I’m not ashamed to admit that the majority of avant-garde filmmaking was lost on me. Only occasional experimental work by the more celebrated directors such as Jay Rosenblatt or Matthias Muller appealed. These directors were creating playful, tightly crafted films that weren’t nearly as self-indulgent as other films which, for me, fell into the same catch-all category of ‘experimental’ simply because they were unclassifiable. Experimental film and a sense of humour, however slight, is a winning combination, if for no other reason than it challenges the inverted snobbery of those who dismiss avant-garde as impregnable or pretentious. Importantly, the same must be said of narrative drama that is experimental in its execution, be it technically or structurally. Anything that smudges the divide between types is off to a good start, and I’m setting myself some ambitious technical challenges with narrative drama inStew & Punch.

I’m not sure I wrote a comedy, but rather a tale of emasculation that deals with male insecurity and social faux-pas. The inherent comedy is simply a by-product of something I find interesting (the same can be said of my previous film Jam Today). Compared to other genres there aren’t many comedies programmed by the higher profile short film festivals, which I suspect is down to a shortage of comedies that actually have something to say, or comedies that are executed with a modicum of flair. For some reason there are a lot of funny shorts that look like sitcom; technically stunted gag-fests that provide genuine laughs for a paying audience at the end of a relatively serious shorts programme, but more visually suited to television or the internet. I just have to try not to make one of those.

 

LAUREN BERGIN, BA STUDENT IN FILM & PHILOSOPHY AT NOTTINGHAM TRENT UNIVERSITY, TALKS THROUGH HER EXPERIENCES OF SHADOWING DIRECTOR SIMON ELLIS ON THE SET OF ‘STEW & PUNCH’


When I tell people I want to work in the film industry I normally get the same reaction; the eyes slightly widen, the smile falters for just a second. Because for most the Film Industry means Hollywood blockbusters and headline grabbing actors, a manufactured world about fame and money. For me Film is about the small budget productions, the works of art that explore real moments, real emotions, that don’t rely on special effects and famous faces to make an impact. My aspirations to work as a scriptwriter have materialised into an almost completed degree in Film and Philosophy and a notepad of unfinished scripts. Two weeks ago my experience in the production of film was none existent; I was completely oblivious to the effort and skill that transforms a script from word to picture.

My ‘Stew & Punch’ experience was the result of an email I sent Simon Ellis begging for some sort of work experience. His generosity is something I will forever be grateful for and has given me so much insight into the way I need to write and think towards film making.

‘Stew & Punch’ is a short film about the social pressures of masculinity, with covert assessments of group practices. On the surface Simons story is a relatively simple one, but his talent shines through in the subtle artistic choices he made with camera angles and cast direction. Ultimately it is the ability for anyone to relate to the position the protagonist finds himself in, that makes ‘Stew & Punch’ the humanistic triumph it is.

DAY ONE: lights, camera, a lot of action….

As I’ve already admitted, my knowledge of film production was limited; my experience of it was zero. So when I arrived at the modest house that would be the setting for the film I had no idea what to expect or what I would spend the week doing. The morning consisted of meeting the crew (a group of very lovely but very tired people due to a late night drive up from London) Coffee was brewed and breakfast was made and then began the constructing of the lights. I was completely naive to the importance of the lights, I was not aware of the art that goes into lighting, the hours of dedication, the labour that goes into creating every perfectly lit scene. It quickly became clear that the preparation for this film had begun long before this week of filming. Day one was a day of stage setting… as the lights were being constructed by the Gaffer, the art director arrived to transform the empty shell of a house into ‘just moved in’ first home setting. My favourite quote from her was “my job today is to make it look like I haven’t done anything.” As the director of photography, focus puller, gaffer and art director worked continuously the entire day I started to really appreciate their dedication to their jobs, it was so refreshing to talk to people who clearly cared about the standard of their work. Not only had I underestimated how much preparation went into filming, I had also underestimated the level of passion people would have for this film, a welcome contrast to the negativity you normally get from people about their jobs.

DAY TWO: “The talent is here….”

Day two was all about rehearsals. Simon’s script acted as a skeleton that each actor could bring their own interpretation to. The interaction between himself and the talent was so interesting to watch, he clearly had every moment, expression, reaction planned in his head, every tiny detail had been thoroughly thought through. The large number of cast members in such a small space, and the desire for 4 minute continuous scenes with no editing, meant that each movement had to be rehearsed and arranged prior to the filming days, something I’d never considered. The idea of choreography in something that has nothing to do with dance seems so extreme, but for Simon’s script each tiny movement that read so subtly transformed into important visual clues for eventual physical consequences. Nothing was forced or made overly obvious; in fact the word subtle suits Simon’s work perfectly. His writing style, directing style, his very manner. There where points in the week when things went wrong, everyone was stressed but I didn’t see Simon falter once, lose his temper or even frown. His calmness, without doubt, is a huge reason his work is so striking, and why everyone on set so clearly respected him.

DAY THREE/FOUR/FIVE: Take one, Take two, Take three…

Filming stretched over three days, there were three scenes and each was filmed one per day. ‘Stew & Punch’ was a very small production; I was told that normally there would be three people doing each person’s job. Although this was probably felt most in the stressful moments of the shoot, it did allow me to really understand each part of the process, from the Focus Puller to the Producer and his team, each component was so necessary, and before this experience I had no idea to what extent. This element of ‘team work’ has made me re-assess the way I have previously written, I always concentrated on strong dialogue and character depth, I now realise how effective the visual style of a scene can be, having at times a stronger impact than dialogue. The production side of film can use harsh lighting to generate an atmosphere, or the focus puller can guide the audience’s interpretation of the story. In the future I will try to be more aware, when I write, about how a director or cinematographer would interpret my direction. The most rewarding part of the three days was when the production wrapped and everyone clapped, it really felt like everyone’s effort and dedication had paid off.

When I first met Simon and he offered me this unbelievable opportunity, he asked me whether I had ever considered directing. I simply answered that as I had absolutely no idea what it involved I hadn’t ever thought about it. Now I’ve had the chance to observe him directing, to really understand how much multi tasking it takes and how stressful it can become, I don’t think I’m any closer to an answer. Good directing is definitely a talent, it involves being able to visualise every tiny moment before there’s even a location booked. An ability to get the best out of everyone around you and remain patient when things don’t run as smoothly as hoped. It’s the responsibility of the role that makes me question my ability at the moment… but the creative possibilities do really appeal, as does being part of a team of people passionate about film making. So perhaps I will try it one day…

Simon mentioned to me during our time on the set that his first film experience had consisted of making coffee and fetching fags, which I’m sure, reflects most runners responsibilities. Simon’s generosity allowed me to experience every corner of this film, I spoke to every person, asked them questions, watched them work. I’ve been finding it hard to express to people what this experience has done for me, taught me, and inspired me for the future. I’ve simply found myself saying the same thing over and over again… “I loved every second”

BIOGS


SIMON ELLIS

Simon Ellis is an independent filmmaker from the U.K. He graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 1995, specialising in Fine Art photography.

A plan was hatched to make at least two short films a year and the first (officially speaking) was Thicker than Water, which cost five pounds. The film was shot in less than an hour with a one-person cast and crew and went on to win a prize at the BBC British Short Film Festival in 1997.

Simon’s short films have received many international festival awards and have been presented collectively in retrospective programmes at over a dozen film festivals worldwide. His BAFTA and European Academy Award nominated short film Soft won thirty-eight prizes including the jury prize for Best International Short at the Sundance Film Festival.

More recently he has dipped his toe in the world of commercials, and his multi-narrative, interactive anti-knife crime films have won over sixty awards including a Grand Prix, three golds and Best European Web Film at Cannes Lions 2010, where he also received the Young Director Award.

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Collabor8te Filmmaker Interview: James Pout

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JAMES POUT: WHEN WRITER MET ANIMATOR…

The look of the film has always been quite clear in my mind – I want it to be dark, textured, hand drawn perhaps. It needs to feel old. The Collabor8te team share this opinion so we started looking at animators whose work echoed this.I came across Gergely Wootsch’s work through the RCA website and found a film on Gergely’s site that I particularly liked called ‘Ordaemonium’. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but there was an edge to it that resonated so we approached him and his producer Steve at Beakus (an animation studio). In our first meeting, Jess and David Collabor8te Execs for Rankin Film Productions) and I outlined the style we had in mind. We also asked a lot of questions since we were all new to animation. Gergely and Steve had the answers and they also asked me a lot of questions about the story in return, which I took as a good sign! In a subsequent meeting, with Gergely attached, we dug deeper into the script and devised a way of compressing more story aspects into it without making it significantly longer. He got me thinking about the story again and this led to some more fine-tuning of the script. I think we’ve made it better.Since then, we have been concentrating on design and casting. The former involved Gergely taking a few weeks to come up with some preliminary material that he would then send to the RFP team and myself. This period of waiting was an exciting one – we had given Gergely a vague outline of what we were after but essentially had no idea what he would produce. This was important though – being new to animation I was reluctant to give too much direction because it’s not what I do. Also, it was important that Gergely imprint his own vision on the world/ characters. He did. I – we – felt that Gergely really captured the world I was trying to express in the script and, after we made a couple of suggestions, we ‘locked’ a corpse that we are very happy with. As for casting, we (Dave and Jess from RFP, Gergely, Steve, myself as well as Amy, our casting director) are working from a list of actors for the two speaking parts. We all have a pretty clear idea of exactly what we want and are hoping to fill both roles and then record over the next few weeks. In the meantime, Gergely is working on an animatic. This will give us a firmer idea about the set up of every scene as well as the length of the film. IMAGE GALLERYInitial artwork for The Hungry Corpse

Below: Joe (sound designer) Gergely (animator), and James (writer) set about creating guide voice tracks for The Hungry Corpse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEAM BIOGS


JAMES POUT

The Hungry Corpse is my first screenplay to go into production. Over the last few months while ‘collabor8ting’ with the director, Gergely Wootsch and the rest of the team on the film, I have also been developing two feature screenplays. My writing ‘officially’ began when I moved to Berlin in 2008/9 where I was accepted as a fellow on the Nipkow Programme, a MEDIA-funded organization that provides professional and financial support to filmmakers in the EU. It was through them that I wrote my first feature screenplay.

My day job – to support my writing – is at H2O Motion Pictures, working with Andras Hamori as an associate producer. H2O is a film production and sales company based in the UK, Canada and the US. We are currently in the process of putting together two feature films for production in early 2013.

 

 

GERGELY WOOTSCH

I’m an animation director originally from Hungary living and working in London presently. I graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011 with a short animated film titled This is Not Real. I particularly enjoy telling stories, as well as exploring the obscure.

 

 

 

 

In Association with Blue Iris Films


BEHIND THE SCENES ON ‘LIAR’

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RORY ALEXANDER STEWART ON LEGENDARY SCOTTISH FILMMAKER BILL DOUGLAS

Jamie on his back in a coal wagon. He struggles himself up to a crouched position.

The village recedes.

Jamie spits at this place that has caused him so much pain.

The village disappears.

The wagons drift away all sound and sway towards the horizon.

The extract above is from the final scene of Bill Douglas’ ‘My Childhood’ (1972). The filmed version of this scene was the first of Douglas’ work I was ever exposed to at about thirteen years old when I caught it on television on a dull afternoon. It was gripping but I wasn’t sure why, it was really just a young boy looking upset on a pile of coal. In hindsight what I think struck me was how it captured the frustration of childhood; simultaneously whimsical and brutal. What strikes me now looking at the script is how closely the words match my memory of the scene. Since then I’ve seen all of Douglas’ available work and it has informed my own filmmaking practice more than any other. The reason I value his work so highly is its individuality; it is poetic, technically complex and artistically singular.

Douglas’ best-known work is his ‘Trilogy’; three films that run from 40 minutes to an hour-long and tell the story of Douglas’ own life from childhood to young-manhood. The films are shot in black and white, focus on working-class life, are low budget and on the surface seem like any number of kitchen-sink dramas. But these films are true poems. When I say poems I don’t mean they are the sorts of films often labeled as “poetic”; films often unrelated to real-life or entirely inscrutable narratives. The difference is that Douglas’ work has a legitimate poetic structure. His images are simple but precise and his arrangement of these images, though sometimes puzzling, is on reflection often dense with ideas. The most important poetic device Douglas relied upon were what he referred to as “echoes”; the repetition of certain images, lines of dialogue or sounds in different parts of the narrative. My favourite example of this is in the ‘Trilogy’, in one scene we see the main character (Jamie) listening to his teacher talk about the cosmos, we cut suddenly to an animation of stars rushing towards us. In itself this scene is simply about a child’s imagination. Later on we see Jamie again in the classroom, this time he’s wet himself, we cut away to miners (a very likely future for Jamie), their headlamps in pitch-black float towards us, mimicking the stars rushing past us. It’s an almost Zen thought; the same image contains both freedom and drudgery. To describe these sequences does them no justice (perhaps even harms them) but since Douglas is often labeled as an emotional or instinctual director I think it’s important to highlight the thought and graft that when into his work. Douglas understood that every image contains an idea as well as an emotion, two things that many filmmakers cannot reconcile.

Douglas’ scripts also deal, better than any others I’ve read, with the problem of representing the feeling of watching a film. Modern screenplay formats come from a period when the film industry was becoming more and more restrictive and controlling of the artist. Silent films often had no script; Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s “script” for his epic, mega-budget version of ‘Robin Hood’ (1922) was a few scribbles on a sheet of paper. When screenplays were introduced they were a way to quantify the cost of a film and to hold the dialogue that would fill the new talking pictures. There have been many great screenwriters that worked within the confines of the script format but their triumph was of their words over the format, Douglas’ triumph was of his format over the words. The way Douglas arranges his text is what gives it pace and texture, as you can see in the example up top. Douglas’ scripts were written with purity and specificity in mind, he needed to capture what was in his head on the page, not an approximation that would be figured out later on the set. He was so particular about this that he was known to start scripts entirely from scratch if he hit a snag, even well into the process. Douglas’ scripts are often arrangements of single sentences each with their own line on the page giving the appearance of a shot list. Unlike a shot list the language is very descriptive, almost literary, it prizes the feeling of a shot over its contents, for example in the script for ‘My Ain Folk’ (1973).

Jamie burying the pearls in coal dust on the slag heap. Then he hurries away.

A world of black ash. And the pearls hidden forever.

What we see in the film is Jamie burying pearls in a mid-shot and then an extreme wide of him running away. The cut to extreme confuses the geography of the previous shot, we search for the spot Jamie runs from and we can’t figure it out. What is written in the script is what we feel when we see these shots put together, not simply what we see. It was this bold, deeply personal style that often left him without funding; if you can’t monetize a script how can you be sure it’s worth funding?

Rather than go with the flow Douglas chose a very tough route, he refused to be part of the industry, he never shot an advertisement and he never wrote a screenplay with funding in mind. Many today would call him naïve, and perhaps he was but Douglas was something that so few filmmakers can afford to be; an artist. He was a rare breed of filmmaker that saw the cinema purely as art and one that understood that art requires both great feeling and deep thought for it to have real value.

For more info about Rory Alexander Stewart please visit his website - www.rorystewartfilms.co.uk


INTERVIEW WITH ‘LIAR’ DIRECTOR MARTIN SMITH

C8: All your films so far have been written and directed by you, are you looking forward to bringing someone else’s writing to the screen?

MS: It’s a unique challenge. From time-to-time I’ve directed commercials, so it isn’t the first time I’ve directed another person’s writing in the broadest sense, but shorts are very different – passion projects – and the opportunity to make your most strongly authored work. I felt there was something in the script that I identified with and could make my own, and that’s something I’m very much looking forward to.

C8: This won’t be the first short you’ve made focusing on Scottish kids probing the limits of their environment – is this a subject matter that keeps on giving for you?

MS: The characters in the stories I’ve explored to date have been at a point in their lives where they have decisions to make, and the acts they are going to undertake will inform those decisions. There’s a moral complexity to this and that is something I’m very much drawn to. Also characters who are black or white don’t interest me in the slightest – it’s the shades of grey that are within all of us that interest me the most. The advantage of looking at characters in these situations is that these scenarios present themselves on a regular basis and naturally are the main focus of their experience – it’s an intense period which informs the rest of your life, and full of drama, some of it large and externalised, some of it small and intimate.

C8: Tell us what you learnt with ‘Accidents and ‘Tracks’ that will influence your approach to ‘Liar’?

MS: After your script, great casting and cinematography are really important. Once you have those then you are on your way. My work is constantly evolving and each project informs the next. Things I tried out in terms of working with non-actors, and the use of camera, all inform the next project. Next to actually shooting my films, casting is my favourite part of the process; that’s where I start to step into the world of the story and it becomes real. Characters who were on the page at first come to life through those castings and improvisations. I absolutely love this process, and spend a long, pretty intense time making sure it is right.

C8: The Scottish filmmaking scene continues to produce a lot of really exciting new talent, what do you put that down to?

MS: I can’t speak for other Scottish filmmakers, but I always liked to watch and listen – there’s always a lot of shit going on – funny, sad, violent, supportive. There are great stories here; there is a strong storytelling tradition. There are strong contrasts – all the cities are within a short drive of the most stunning dramatic countryside, brilliant colour. And people get fucked-up here and that always presents drama.

C8: ‘Tracks bagged you a Scottish BAFTA – has that helped open some doors for you career-wise?

MS: Well it’s not why you make films, but it helps. It’s great to get industry recognition and that of your peers. I got my agent after making ‘Tracks’ and I got a feature into development after that. I think you’ve got to be careful and carry on with the work you want to make. It’s a little like an insurance policy, and people do give you a certain amount of respect, but I still think you have to work as hard as ever. One thing I love about filmmaking is that as soon as you have achieved something there is always another rung of the ladder up – always more to do, you’ve got to keep pushing.

C8: The UK can be a difficult place to get films made, are you feeling positive about the future of the industry?

MS: Man, it’s hard to get films made up here. I’m positive but guarded. You have to just push really, really hard. I’ve learned that from hard experience. I’ve never felt more determined to see my work made. At the end of the day I have made huge sacrifices to get to where I am and I’m not stopping before I’ve seen it through – I will not stop before I’ve made my feature films.

C8: Does working in both documentary and fiction help to keep you on your toes?

MS: Documentary is a really useful way of seeing the world and getting an insight into the lives of people. I get to step into the world of people that I would never normally meet and get to know them in a really deep way over a period of time. People talk to me about things they may never have said to their friends or family. To earn their trust there is a dialogue, I give a little of myself to get a little of them in return. Quite often I shoot my documentaries – I would never shoot my dramas – but the time I need to get to know the participants is important, it’s a very intimate relationship that develops, one of trust. A film can have a really powerful effect on a person and it is so easy to misrepresent them. I’d hate to do that. Obviously my drama work informs the documentary. Every time you place a camera you are making a moral judgement on that person, who you photograph them with, how you edit their conversation, all of these things are scripted in drama but in docs you are using a real person and their daily existence to serve your own story, so there is a huge responsibility there. One thing that is so different from docs to drama is the reshooting – in docs I can return to a character over anything up to a six month period – sometimes more – to get my story. In a short film that might be only four days – it is just so intense in comparison. But that’s something I’d like to change in the future, there are definitely documentary skills that will transfer to my drama work, that instinctive way of working and freedom are really useful. Of course to make that work you have to have a team who understand that sensibility, but so far I have been very lucky.

C8: What, for you, is the essence of a good collaboration?

MS: Trust, and using the best of your collaborator’s ideas. I’m lucky in that I get to work with great people. I’d be stupid not to listen to their ideas and how they see things.

C8: If there’s one piece of advice you wish you’d been given when you were starting out, what would it be?

MS: Take all advice with a pinch of salt. Take what works for you, chuck out what doesn’t – trust your instincts.

C8: Apart from the Collabort8e short ‘Liar, what’s next on the horizon for Martin Smith?

I like to mix things up – I’ve got a feature in development called ‘Shows’ and I’m shooting a documentary at the end of the year.

For more information about Martin please visit his website at www.martinsmithonline.co.uk

STILLS FROM LIAR, SHOT SEPTEMBER 2011


© Rory Stewart and Alkisti Terzi.

© Rory Stewart and Alkisti Terzi.

© Rory Stewart and Alkisti Terzi.

© Rory Stewart and Alkisti Terzi.

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RORY ALEXANDER STEWART

Rory Alexander Stewart is an Edinburgh-based writer, director and editor. He studied at the Arts University College Bournemouth, graduating in 2011and soon after was shortlisted for Collabor8te as a screenwriter. Thanks to an Ideasfund grant he is currently in the midst of documenting the community that makes up The Port o’ Leith Bar; an infamous Edinburgh pub. He is also writing short screenplays that, he hopes, will someday be put to good use.

 

 

 

 

MARTIN SMITH

Martin Smith is an award winning filmmaker and was the winner of the BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Short Film with TRACKS – a shocking and naturalistic portrayal of children’s cruelty in a powerful, raw and affecting film. His documentary JIMMY was nominated for a BAFTA New Talent Award and won the Frankyln Marshall Award for Film at CurtDoc, Spain. He is currently developing his debut feature SHOWS with Accelerator, Creative Scotland’s feature development scheme.

Martin is represented by Katharine vile at United Agents

 

 

In Association with Wellington Films


 

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MATT PALMER ON CASTING AND LOCATION: WHEN IS MEANT TO BE REALLY MEANT TO BE?

When I was casting my second short film, ‘Island’, I began considering Scandinavian actors for the lead and came up with the idea of approaching a Swedish actor who’d been brilliant in an art-house movie I’d loved a few years before.

In theory this seemed like a great idea – an English speaking role could be appealing to a foreign actor and the calibre of the actor in question would allow my short to punch well above its weight. In practice, however, this was far from simple. The actor lived miles away, in a different country, and these were pre-Skype times, meaning that any kind of face-to-face meeting was completely out of the question. I’d probably need to make a decision based on, at most, a phone call, which was far from ideal but very tempting.

A couple of days later my producer on the project called with some exciting, totally unexpected and outrageously fortuitous news. The actor was in Edinburgh (where I live) over from Scandinavia shooting a big budget epic. He’d read the script and was interested in meeting for dinner tomorrow night. Wowzers!

The dinner took place at a restaurant just a stone’s throw away from the Cameo Cinema, where I’ve worked for several years. And it went amazingly well. The actor loved the script and by the end of the evening he’d verbally and very enthusiastically committed to the project. Best of all, the evening had the feeling of meeting an old friend. We’d struck up an immediate rapport, agreed on everything about the project and had a fun time.

At home later I drank wine, celebrating my incredible good fortune and basking in the synchronous cosmic karma of it all. I mean what were the odds?; My first choice actor was in Edinburgh, at precisely the right time, he loved the project and we got on like a house on fire. This was and was always absolutely meant to be.

It was about a week later that I started getting a really sick feeling in my stomach. The actor’s agent wasn’t getting back to confirm his involvement and the days just kept passing by. I started doubting my memory – maybe the meeting wasn’t as great as I had thought or perhaps I had inadvertently and mortally offended him without noticing?

A couple of days later my worst fears were confirmed. The actor’s agent had talked the actor out of taking the role, arguing that he was accepting too much work and spreading himself far too thin. I was gutted and all positive momentum seemed to be sucked into reverse, like a jet engine after landing. The whole episode had been a dirty cosmic trick, the great magnet in the sky taunting my utter powerlessness in the face of its all-controlling and totally fickle whim. No doubt about it – my project had DOOMED written all over it.

After a period of rather embarrassing self-pity I regrouped. We cast a different Scandinavian actor, he was fantastic and now it’s impossible for me to imagine anyone else in the role. But I think the desperate and depressing days following the first actor dropping out of the project taught me an important lesson; you don’t really know exactly what’s meant to be until the camera rolls, and perhaps not even until the final film is up there in front of the audience. And you have to learn to enjoy a process that is fraught with uncertainty, twists and turns.

So many factors in the pre-production of a short – actors, location, DoP, weather – all need to fall into place at the same time in order to make it happen. Christ knows what it must be like on a feature. The casting nightmare onIsland taught me how disarmingly unpredictable the entire process of making a film can be. If something that seemed so meant to be could turn out to be not meant to be at allthen what could a control freak like me actually rely on? The answer is pretty much nothing and that you simply have to do your best in learning to enjoy the chaos and to relish the process itself, which will always involve extreme lows as well as extreme highs but is guaranteed to be a unique and exhilarating journey.

A couple of weeks ago, after a fruitless and intense full month of location hunting for the suburban house we needed for my Collabor8te short The Gas Man, I rolled into the town of Dumfries. Down the first road that I scouted, at the first house I stopped my car at, I came across a very pleasant man, working hard in his garden, in front what looked like a stunning location for my short. In the space of a few amazing minutes the man had shown me around the house which, despite the highly unusual physical architecture that I’d inadvertently written into my script, turned out to be an almost perfect fit for what we needed. There are now just a handful of formalities to be dealt with but we should have the house signed up as our official location within a week. Something could go wrong of course, but I doubt it will. This one feels like it’s meant to be.

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MATT PALMER

A filmmaker from Edinburgh. His first two short films Daylight Hole & Island (which was produced as part of the Cinema Extreme scheme) were accepted into numerous international film festivals including Slamdance, Worldwide Shorts, Edinburgh & São Paulo International Film Festival.

He currently has a thriller feature – Calibre – in development with Wellington Films which has received development funding from Creative England. Matt also curates cult and horror film festivals including All Night Horror Madness & Psychotronic Cinema.

 

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CHRIS STEWART ON DEVELOPMENT

 

I don’t write for a living – I’ve got a day-job that brings me to the brink of petulant tears every Monday morning – but I got serious about writing a couple of years ago, and now I cram it in when and where I can, squeezing it into the narrow cracks between work scrapes and family scuffles.

When all your writing takes place in stolen moments and dark corners, and your feedback comes from people who care too much to burst your bubble, there’s always these big dirty questions in the back of your mind: What if I’m no good? What if all this effort is a laughable waste of time? Or worse, what if it’s a sign that I’m batshit crazy? The clues are certainly there: books full of weird scratchy notes piled up around the house, the pacing and muttering, the remoteness and the thousand-yard stare. It’s the stuff of Channel 5 documentaries. Best not to dwell on it – keep going, and occasionally punt something out into the world and see what happens.

Well, guess what happened …my script got selected for the Collabor8te scheme!

So here I am, feeling smug and excited because a) I might not be wasting my time after all and b) the sexy people at Collabor8te are turning my script, ‘Cold Comfort’, into an actual film. I won’t lie, it’s awesome. Hard work too, but enlightening and rewarding and educational – schemes like this are rare and I’m really lucky to be involved.

Here’s a brief brain-dump of things that have had a particular impact on me:

It’s OK to be a newb.

Early in this whole process, before the final films were selected and green-lit, Collabor8te held a development day. All the short-listed writers got to meet and talk about their stories, listen to clever people and watch loads of short films. There was a lot of knowledge and talent and accomplishment washing around. It was very cool and I felt like a total chancer.

Luckily for me, no-one seemed to mind – in fact, they’ve gone out of their way to baby-step me through the development process. This has been a solid-gold gift, because working with experienced, professional people who really care about what they’re doing is the best way to learn. But you’ve got to bring your best game and you’ve got to be a sponge; learn each lesson fast and keep moving.

Don’t be afraid of development notes.

Getting feedback in the context of a scheme like Collabor8te is different to getting it from your best mate or your girlfriend. There’s pressure to perform – and the weighty implication that your performance could determine whether your film gets made. Happily, the notes I got during the development process were really productive, not at all psychotic, and kept a strong emphasis on my being in control of what did or didn’t change in the script.

To get the most of out the scheme you need to give fair consideration to all feedback – even the points to which your initial response is a knee-jerk ‘No way!’. Having an open mind and looking beneath specific notes can reveal real underlying problems – and often takes your mind down an interesting road it wouldn’t otherwise have travelled. That doesn’t mean you have to act on every note you get, but if you’re going to say ‘no’, be able to demonstrate why.

I found that the best notes often told me things that I already knew but was too chicken-shit or lazy to confront by myself. Of course, these were also the most brutal points to address.

Rewrites are HARD.

You’ve fronted-up to the feedback and wrestled the bastard notes until they’re as yielding and pliable as they’re going to get. You’ve also got your own monstrous list of changes. Now you need to step-up and take action. Notes that seemed tiny at first, ripple through the entire script and change everything – but you deal with it. Whole days disappear to what you thought would be minor edits. You have to somehow squeeze in two extra scenes, pummel the whole thing back into shape, and still drop page count by thirty percent. It takes more time than you’d have thought possible, and leaves you rinsed-out and questioning why you ever wanted to write in the first place.

Then the deadline arrives and there’s nothing more you can do. You hand in your draft, and the sudden pressure-drop brings a wave of relief. For a fleeting moment you feel like a genius … Make the most of it, because next time you read your masterpiece, something will have gone rotten. Clichés, trite dialogue, plot holes, made-up words. You’re not a genius at all, you’re a shaved ape and shouldn’t be trusted with anything so sophisticated as a pencil.

Then the bell rings and the cycle begins again. And it’s all worthwhile, because the script in your hand at the end makes the original seem like a flimsy, shallow mess.

Remember that it’s a collaboration.

Up to this point, the focus of the scheme has been on my script, but now we’ve wrapped-up the bulk of the rewrites and got the magic green-light for production and the focus is changing. I need to step back as a team of hugely talented producers, designers, casting agents, actors, and a kick-ass director, graft away at things I don’t understand – all with their own vision of the words I’ve put on the page. It’s a new test; fantastic, but also scary as hell.

The film that makes it to the screen is going to be different from the one in my imagination. I need to embrace that and enjoy the differences that those other contributors bring. There are inevitably going to be aspects that don’t match up to the pictures in my mind, and others that will blow my socks off. Most importantly, ‘Cold Comfort’ is going to exist as an actual, professionally-produced film – which is more than I’d have dared to hope for when I scribbled it into life in those stolen moments and dark corners last year.

 

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