Tag Archives: Blade Runner

Secret Cinema review and interview on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

13 Jun

Last night I took a trip to a galaxy far, far away – just 30 minutes from my door. Secret Cinema have pulled out all the stops this time for their immersive screening of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The world they created (see pics above) was as detailed as when I saw their Blade Runner, though the set was vastly bigger. And they sorted out the projection problems that had ruined Lawrence of Arabia in Alexandra Palace and caused me to leave in the interval: both image and sound were super-crisp and clear.

I can’t give away any of the surprises of the night – this is Secret Cinema, after all. But I will say that standing next to Imperial Stormtroopers can give you a surprising frisson of primal fear, however much you are aware these are actors in white suits (and that Stormtroopers never shoot straight anyway!); that Secret Cinema have recreated not just a Tatooine desert village, but some of the vehicles, too, moving and lifesized; and that whereas previous Secret Cinemas have disgorged you into the night, blinking, straight after the screening, this time you can party in a vast industrial nightclub space.

Is it worth £75? That depends on how big a Star Wars fan you are, and whether you are more used to spending £60-plus on a theatre ticket or £12 in the cinema. I can say that you do see where the money has gone. I recently interviewed Fabien Riggall, the founder of Secret Cinema, and he insisted he wasn’t in this to get rich – “Do I drive a Bentley? I don’t even have a car, just an old camper van that’s always breaking down” – but that doing justice to a cultural icon like Star Wars means putting on the show of a lifetime.

“I could list everything that goes into a production of this size,” Fabien said, “but that would spoil the mystery. I’d rather keep it in narrative, and say something like the final stage of the Clone Wars left massive destruction across the galaxy and the price of titanium has gone up.”

Secret Cinema receives no public arts funding (unlike, for instance, immersive theatre company Punchdrunk), even though Fabien Riggall says he has applied many times; and he refuses to do an overall sponsorship deal with a credit card company or similar. In fact, he has strong feelings about how big brands and corporations are ruining the arts.

Fabien Riggall

Secret Cinema’s rebel founder, Fabien Riggall: “Why is it not rock ‘n’ roll anymore, with girls throwing their knickers?”

“Every studio and label is owned by these huge corporations – it should be rock ‘n’ roll, there should be mystery, but instead we’re being taking over by giant shopping centres, the whole world is becoming like Dubai. There’s a distinct thread to those deciding how we live and what our experience of the theatre or the multiplex will be. If I ran Live Nation I would create a game, where if you get through it you can go to the front of the stage.

“Like, recently I was in Detroit and found out that Prince was playing. I tried to get tickets but they were $500, so I just went to the theatre and pretended I was distant family of his from England – I was just acting, pretending to myself I was in a show – and that created this confusion, so I managed to get in right to the front without a ticket!

“But when I got there it was filled with VIPs paying thousands of dollars. Why is it not rock ‘n’ roll anymore, with girls throwing their knickers? Culturally we are in a place where the wrong people are in charge. Every studio and label is owned by these huge corporations. We deserve to lose ourselves in another world, get some of that magic back.”

Fabien is planning to launch Secret Cinema in America soon, but, more intriguingly, he is also talking to top film-makers and musicians directly about how to make immersive art that connects more strongly with their audience. In short, he wants nothing less than to revolutionise the way art and entertainment is created and consumed.

Going back to Star Wars, Fabien says that this is not just a film “cherished by millions”, that has “ignited thousands of creative careers”, but also feels very personal to him. “The Rebel Alliance represents fighting for a world of mystery, excitement and adventure, a world of quests and dreams: that represents the ethos of Secret Cinema.”

In other words, Fabien is a maverick pilot, with Secret Cinema as his Millennium Falcon; the big corporations are the Death Star. The Force is indeed strong with this one.

Secret Cinema presents Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back runs now until 27 September. http://www.secretcinema.org/tickets

Advertisements

LSF #9: Stuart Hazeldine on writing Blade Runner 2, and running naked in traffic

6 Nov
Image

Big in Hollywood: British screenwriter Stuart Hazeldine

Of all the “how-to” seminars at the London Screenwriters’ Festival, the one I got the biggest kick from was The Epic Spec: How to EXPLODE on to the Hollywood Scene. It was given by British writer Stuart Hazeldine (left), and though his IMDB credits may not seem that impressive, that’s a lesson in itself. The regular money comes from optioned spec scripts that remain unproduced, and rewrites and polishes that may never generate a credit.

So you won’t see this on IMDB, but he’s recently written the screenplay for Paradise Lost, which got him Spielberg’s attention to write his (now dropped) Moses film Gods and Kings, which got him Michael Mann’s attention to write Agincourt.

Not bad.

Here’s Stuart’s advice on starting out in Hollywood: “Sometimes, to get noticed, you have to take your clothes off and run in the traffic.”

He means this metaphorically. I hope.

And here’s how he did it: he wrote a sequel to Blade Runner. No one asked him to do it. He didn’t have the rights to do it. But he loved the movie and had an idea of where it should go next, so he did it. And because every Hollywood exec knew Blade Runner, and wanted to know what happened next, that was the spec script they all asked for.

Stuart did the same with Aliens, and that even got recommended to the people actually making the third Aliens movie, though for legal reasons they couldn’t read his version at the time. Afterwards, when the film was made, Stuart met with the exec responsible… and told him he’d screwed it up and his script was better. The exec was not amused. But it did add to Stuart’s notoriety in Hollywood.

With hindsight, Stuart wouldn’t exactly recommend these routes to success. Knowing better now, he advises taking an existing property that’s out of copyright but which everyone has heard of. Think of The Taming of the Shrew remade as 10 Things I Hate About You; the Theseus myth updated as The Hunger Games; and all those fairytale reboots like Jack The Giant Slayer or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Stuart pitched Paradise Lost (which I always thought, when studying it for A-Level, would make a great graphic novel – at the time I thought it was unfilmable, but special effects may have caught up) to the studios as “sci-fi set in the past”, or as “Genesis meets Lord of the Rings”. Milton’s epic poem describes the archangel Lucifer’s war against God which led him to become the Devil – “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven” is, as Stuart rightly says, the keyline. I hope it gets made; I would love to see it.

A final few pieces of advice from Stuart. A) “The buying seasons in LA are roughly from the end of Sundance till the beginning of Cannes, and from Labor Day to Thanksgiving; these are the best times to go out and pitch.” B) “Think of yourself as your own agent. If you have an agent, they can be your support team, but ultimately you have to look after your own career.” C) “Write what you are passionate about. I do think passion is detectable on the page. I’ve written things I thought other people would want, and they didn’t sell.”

Now, whatever way you can find to take your clothes off and run in traffic, go do it.