Tag Archives: award

A world record for 50 Kisses — watch the best shorts online

5 Apr

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Some Guinness World Records are admirable: the fastest marathon on crutches (5 hrs 29 mins, by a one-legged man); or the most marathons run in a year (157 – by a 68-year-old). Some are just plain silly: the longest fingernail (10 feet 2 inches!) or the most bees covering a human body (331,000, which must have taken a while to count).

Which camp does 50 Kisses fall into? The film, which I first wrote about here, has just been inducted into the Guinness Book of Records for the most screenwriters (51 of them) on a single movie – a record previously held by 1948’s Forever And A Day, with 21. Usually a superabundance of screenwriters on a Hollywood film signals desperation. But in this case, it’s integral to the project: get 50 short scripts by different writers, allow directors and producers to film the script of their choice, and stitch the best of the bunch into a feature-length whole.

The result is a triumph. I watched it for a second time yesterday, when overall director Chris Jones celebrated with a special screening at BAFTA for all the writers, and it actually improves with a second viewing. The quick succession of twists and terrific ideas, swinging from comedy to tragedy and back, is almost overwhelming first time round.

I recently spent three days at a Hollywood film festival watching back-to-back shorts, and 50 Kisses gives a similar experience. So, in the spirit of festivals, here are my own awards for the best shorts in 50 Kisses. Aspiring writers and directors can learn an enormous amount from comparing the screenplays to the finished films – click on the links below to read and watch them:

SmasherooBest film: Smasheroo, directed by Kerry and Evan Marlowe. A terrific script by James Howard, in which a husband stands by his brain-damaged wife, even when she calls him by their dog’s name, is made cinematic by scenes of broken windshield glass flying through blackness; the lines on a road are echoed by a Wartenberg pinwheel rolled along skin.  Performances are understated; the situation is never milked for pathos, and it’s all the more affecting for that. Script here, watch here.

50 Neil Story DigitalBest script: Neil, written by Nigel Karikari. How can you test whether your android is fully lifelike? With a kiss… The script was so good that it attracted eight different filmed versions, two of which, confusingly, are included in 50 Kisses. The version directed by Simon Reglar excels through pitch-perfect performances. Script here, watch here.

50 PracticeBest directing: Practice Makes Perfect, directed by Vance Malone. A young boy tests out kissing before his first big date – but will he have the courage to put his practising into practice? Vance wins my vote because, if you compare the finished film to Mark Pallis’s original script, you will see a number of directorial decisions that have enormously improved the finished result: putting the many flashbacks of the boy’s kissing experiments back in sequential order; removing the slapstick humour and having the confidence to be simply sweet and touching; cutting the only two lines of dialogue; and giving the girl the climactic initiative rather than the boy. Script here, watch here.

50 Neil RaoBest editing: Neil again, this time as directed and edited by Anil Rao. While this version doesn’t work as harmoniously for me as Simon Reglar’s version above, it’s the one that bears the clearest authorial stamp and vision. It’s beautifully art-directed and collage-edited. As Rao himself says, “[It was] the opportunity to relish my film theory of image montage as haiku. A non-linear experience exposes us to discover and seek truth as a memorial jigsaw.” Watch here.

50 The MomentBest actor: Stuart Martin. In The Moment, a hitman runs into a hitch – he may fancy the man he’s pointing the gun at. It’s a tall order, to play a guy so twinkly, so confident in his own charisma, that he can stop a bullet with a smile; Stuart Martin delivers. Script here, watch here.

50 FirstLastBest actress: Keziah Gardom in First/Last. In a future in which a deadly disease is transmitted through saliva, kissing is literally a matter of life and death. Shot on zero budget by Manchester students, this is elevated by Gardom’s touchingly vulnerable performance in an emotionally demanding role – all the more remarkable for it being her sole screen credit to date. Script here, watch here.

Chris Jones’s own 50 Kisses awards are here. To get news of his next crowd-created film, follow www.Create50.com

Despatch from Hollywood #4: Vivien Leigh meets the teenaged hit-man

15 Feb
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Tears: Juliet Stevenson in Penelope

Another day, another five hours of shorts at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. Again, the standard was exceptionally high, which makes me even happier that our film Dotty won an award. Here’s the best of the fest:

Penelope, written and directed by Dan Susman, stars Juliet Stevenson. So you know there’s gonna be tears. She’s given a part worth sinking her teeth to here, and invests with it an extraordinary dignity: a jilted wife meeting up for the first time with her husband’s mistress (Hattie Morahan).

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Beers: Ray Larkin and Jack Kehler in Last Call

Another terrific drama was Last Call, about two ageing guys (Jack Kehler and Ray Larkin) shooting the shit and having a few last drinks after one has been given two weeks to live. This won Best Student Film for writer/director Ryan Moody, and deservedly so. It’s a surprisingly mature work that never stoops to cliché or easy sentimentality.

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Cheers: Caitlin Harris as Vivien Leigh in Love Scene

Probably my favourite of all was Love Scene, which is about as near to perfect as a short film can get: fantastic script in which not one word is out of place; terrific performances; luminous cinematography; blessedly brief. It’s the screen test of one Vivien Leigh (a hard act to follow, but Caitlin Harris nails it), in which she confesses her determination to bag Laurence Olivier – that both are currently married presents no obstacle to her. It won an award for Best Comedy, which is weird, because it may be Best but it ain’t no Comedy. Writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf has already won a clutch of awards at other festivals. Remember the name.

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Fears: Martha MacIsaac and Keir Gilchrist in Seasick Sailor

Of the genre films, the one that really stood out for me was Seasick Sailor. It’s hard to put your stamp on hit-man films; there are so many. This has a unique voice. It’s about a teenaged killer-for-hire who hates his job, until he realises that it’s no more boring and time-consuming than others. A romance offers hope of redemption… Writer/director Torre Catalano not only wrote a terrific script, he coaxed pitch-perfect performances from his whole cast – notably the young lead, Keir Gilchrist.

I met Gilchrist outside the Gents before the awards ceremony, which was about as disconcerting as bumping into Joe Pesci would be after watching GoodFellas. I told him he was terrific… not a very original thought, as it turns out. He deservedly walked away with the Best Actor trophy.

Despatch from Hollywood: the day before the world premiere of our film Dotty

12 Feb
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Dotty, premiering at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival tomorrow

So here I am in West Hollywood. The sky is as ridiculously blue as it almost always is – that’s partly why the first film pioneers chose this place. I’m staying with hospitable fellow film journo and screenwriter Steve Goldman. And tomorrow the short film I wrote, Dotty, is having its world premiere at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, with Florida, Australia, St Albans and New York so far to follow.

I’m really proud of the film. Ben Charles Edwards, with whom I collaborated on the hugely ambitious Animal Charm, did a superb job of directing. Sadie Frost is so good she’s being awarded Best Actress at the festival – despite Juliet Stevenson also being in the running. The specially composed score still echoes in my mind.

I can’t tell you too much about the plot of Dotty, as it would spoil the ending, but it’s a touching inter-generational friendship between a lonely, troubled boy and the eccentric woman (‘Dotty’) he finds in a colourful caravan plonked in the middle of the dusty Nevada desert. I had the cult 1971 film Harold and Maude half in mind when I wrote it. I’ve shown it to septuagenarians and nine-year-olds, and all ages in between, and it seems to strike a universal chord.

One great lesson when writing it: less is more. The first draft was 10pp long – half the length of Animal Charm. It was deliberately light on dialogue, since it stars a nine-year-old kid. And though that kid is Rudy Law, son of Sadie Frost and Jude Law and with acting clearly in his genes, you still can’t ask too much of children in the way of scripted dialogue.

I got one note back on the script: make it shorter, with less dialogue. It was a great note. The even more stripped-down 6pp version worked even better.

And now, tomorrow, The Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival gives Dotty its first showing to critical fellow film-makers, ones who aren’t cast or crew or friends or family. I’m not nervous. With my film critic’s hat on, rather than my insecure writer’s hat on, Dotty works. It’s good.

I’ll tell you on Friday how it all went…