Tag Archives: Colonel Badd

Hooray for London Hollywood: 5 highlights from 1 year and 100 blog posts

19 Nov

Image

This is my 100th post. It’s also a year since I started LondonHollywood.net.

A big thank you to all readers, with an extra peck on the cheek to anyone who Shares or Retweets or even Comments when they like a post.

I’m passionate about film; that’s why I do this. It’s good to spread the love. [Though if any commissioning editors read this, I am still more than happy to write for money, as well as love!]

In celebration of a year of blogging, these were the highlights. Click the links to read the posts.

Most popular: My four-part interview with Benedict Cumberbatch, ranging from Sherlock to Madonna to his time with Tibetan monks. The Cumberbabes went nuts for this — at one stage racking up 3,000 views a day

Most unpopular: To the horror of many, I greeted Django Unchained with something less than rapture. Now that I have seen 12 Years A Slave (coming soon to this blog), I stand by my opinion even more firmly. 

Most epic: Colonel Badd, the short film I co-wrote, was accepted into the Court Métrage section of the Cannes Film Festival. I went out there, writing 11 blogs: half were from this trip, half from my 1997 diary from when I went out there with Jon Ronson as Editor of Time Out. Divine madness, with a cast that includes Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, Jonathan King, Alan Parker, Paul Kaye and the Spice Girls. 

Only slightly less epic: I wrote ten blogs on the recent London Screenwriters’ Festival, for those who couldn’t be there, ranging from one-on-one interviews to panels on better writing. Four posts were on the irrepressible Joe “Basic Instinct” Eszterhas, the highest-paid screenwriter of all time. Trust me, they’re a hoot. 

Most controversial: I wrote two blogs about heart-breaking YouTube videos by bullied teens, two of whom went on to commit suicide. One man, ‘Philip Rose’, wrote to me many times, at some length, saying the story of Amanda Todd is not all it seems; he then started his own blog, here. Intriguing. Murky. Very hard to unravel. 

So there it is. Hope to see you back here soon (bring your friends!), and here’s to the next year. A short version of this URL, btw, is www.londonhollywood.net.

Colonel Badd: watch the full interview with a supervillain

11 Sep
Image

The poker scene at the end of Colonel Badd. Your humble scribe is the hook-handed villain in the middle

It’s up! Colonel Badd, the interview with a supervillain that I co-scripted, and that was accepted into the Cannes Short Film Corner this year, is now viewable in full online: click here.

It seems like a lot more than a year ago since I met director Tony Errico in a Soho cafe, and pitched him my involvement by letting loose a series of increasingly loud villainous laughs (the other cafe clients affected not to notice. Londoners, eh? They’ve seen it all). The end result is far from perfect – the zero budget shows in the sets, or rather lack of them, and I feel it’s a tad long – but it’s a great premise, and has some good laughs. You get to hear my American accent in the final scene, where I’m doing my best to play poker with a hook for a hand.

See what you think. There’s a little twist in the end credit sequence, so stay with it…

We’ve all learned hugely from the experience, and Tony’s now making a new short called The Left Hand Path, with a proper budget this time. Which is where you, gentle reader, come in. Take a look at the crowdfunding page at Indiegogo, and consider making a contribution.

I’m not involved – I’ve been doing a short with Ben Charles Edwards and Sadie Frost, which is in post-production and looking FANTASTIC; more anon – but I’m glad to give Tony a plug. He’s a great guy, very collaborative, full of ideas, and I’m sure the film’s going to be great.

 

 

#11: Absolutely positively the very last Cannes diary extract from 1997. In which Mike Leigh is a “patronising twat”

26 Jul
Image

I found myself lunching with Alan Parker, fresh from directing Madonna in Evita

Cannes, Monday May 12, 1997. Having called a halt to post-party drinking at the Petit Carlton last night at 4.30am, I woke up just in time to get to the Polygram lunch at the posh Carlton at 12.30. I introduced myself to legend-in-his-own-lunchtime Baz Bamigboye from The Daily Mail, about whom everyone here has a story to tell.

I told Baz the one I’d heard about him crawling for hours through bushes to get into a closed set, and finally getting caught by a security guard at which Baz says, “It’s okay, I’m a security guard too.” The guy replies – this is in America, mind – “No you’re not, you’re Baz Bamigboye. Now f**k off.”

Jonathan Pryce was there, but having seen his ground-breaking Hamlet when I was 13, where he was both Hamlet and, in a voice ripped from somewhere deep inside of him, the ghost of his father, I was too awed to say hi. Geoff Andrew is an old hand at these things, and told me he’d work out the best table to sit at for lunch. Accordingly he latched onto veteran BBC film critic Barry Norman – a good plan, since host Stewart Till turned out to be sat next to him, and the Guest of Honour, Alan Parker, turned out to be the man whose Reserved notice we shoved one along to make way for Geoff and me.

The director of Midnight Express and Fame was never high on Time Out film critics’ list of beloved auteurs, and his appointment as head the BFI was proving controversial, so I introduced myself as “editor of your least favourite magazine”, and we got on famously. Parker looks completely square, block-headed, compact, like a human battering ram; younger and healthier than I expected, especially after surfacing from filming Evita with Madonna; amusing, articulate and definitely not suffering fools gladly. He was particularly undiplomatic about Mike Leigh, whom he called a “patronising twat” – Parker had offered him the cash to make two films, only to find Leigh taking the piss out of his accent later.

I also asked Barry Norman what he thought of Dennis Pennis, who asks embarrassing questions of stars on the red carpet by pretending to be a “proper” BBC interviewer, which I imagine makes life hard for the real arts journos. Barry said he saw him chased by some bodyguards last year after some prank and all but shouted out “Yes! Get him!”

After which, my time in Cannes was nearly up. I just had time to look in on the New Producers’ Alliance party on the way to the station, carrying my bags with me, but for the first time fell foul of Cannes accreditation bureaucracy. Instead I found a BFI party at the British Pavilion to spend my final hour with. And then, too soon, it was time to go. Will I ever make it back here?

Little did I know that, 15 years later, I’d be back with a short film of my own I had co-written, Colonel Badd: see here. My previous 1997 Cannes diary extracts start here.

Film networking events: where to booze and schmooze

5 Jul

Image

The first monthly gathering of the London Film Entrepreneurs club, at the Pure bar in Camden last night (above), was a great success. As a quick for-instance, I chatted to Dave Sohanpal, a highly experienced sound guy who works mostly in commercials, but still regrets turning down From London to Brighton; to Danish Wakeel, a designer/model who exhibits at London Fashion Week, and whose film The Island premieres next week; and to Andy Williams, an ex-exec with the commendably ambitious aim of making an Oscar-winning short within the year.

I mention specifics only to demonstrate that, at these things, you never know who you’re going to meet: actors, composers, animators, producers, writers, editors, lighting technicians. Film is a collaborative medium. The more potential collaborators you have, the better.

So don’t be shy. If you are in the film business, or want to be, your first port of call should be www.shootingpeople.org, a virtual film community of 38,000 members worldwide which releases daily newsletters with film discussion and pleas for help: it’s through this that I got to collaborate with director Tony Errico on the short film Colonel Badd, which we took to Cannes this May. They also hold regular “real-world” pub drinks, in London and elsewhere.

Euroscript, Soho Screenwriters and Raindance all hold seminars and workshops as well as occasional get-togethers; I’ve also enjoyed People In Media’s networking events, and there’s a big one coming up on the 16th; as for the London Film Entrepreneurs, join the club on Facebook here. Finally, I heartily recommend the unstoppable whirlwind of enthusiasm and practical advice that is Chris Jones and his Guerilla Film network. His inspirational weekend Masterclass took place in June, but there are many more one-off events to come.

The British sometimes look down on networking as a shallow American invention. If so, think of it, instead, as just meeting up for a pint or three with a bunch of people who all love movies. It’s easy to get chatting: it’s one place you know that everyone’s there to meet new people. A simple “So what do you do?”, like the Queen, will suffice as a conversation-starter. Make sure you take business cards, natch, and write a memory-jogging note on the ones you get in return – otherwise next morning you will find yourself leafing blearily through a sheaf of cards wondering who the hell each belongs to.

So, see you there! Mine’s an ice-cold Stella.

Cannes confessions #6: the night time is the right time

21 May

Whoever said “Man cannot live by canapés alone” (they do say that, don’t they?) clearly has never been to the Cannes Film Festival. The place is a ligger’s paradise: every major film-making country has a pavilion, each one hosting receptions; the Croisette beach is lined with party marquees; and that’s without even counting the regular hotel ballrooms and nightclubs.

Veteran Canneites swap tips on how to smuggle extra people in – from walking purposefully past talking the doormen in someone’s slipstream talking into a mobile phone, to getting a stamp on your way out for a cigarette and then pressing it to your friend’s wrist before it’s had time to dry. Director Paul Wiffen, with whom I spent a fair bit of time, is a master of the art, having been to 16 Cannes Festivals. Someone really should ask him to write a book of Cannes Film Festival astuces, as he calls his clever wheezes, so if there are any publishers reading this…

There is truth, however, to the phrase “No such thing as a free lunch.” Every drink must be paid for excruciatingly in speeches, most of them barely audible and in a foreign language. And so I can exclusively report, from the ballroom of the Majestic Hotel with the Princess of Thailand in attendance flanked by kneeling flunkies, the exciting news that Thailand is proud of its film industry; ditto for the Russians; ditto for the Locarno Film Festival. As to the Swiss, for all I know they make atrocious films as efforts to gain access to their woefully disorganised bash on the beach were rebuffed.

The best party I went to was for Four Senses, starring former Miss Switzerland Nadine Vinzens and described by the wonderfully named producer Omar Kaczmarczyk (pronounced “Cash-my-cheque”) as an “eromantic” adventure. (The movie, he clearly believes, is so ground-breaking that it necessitates a whole new word.) Though I am still eager to hear the rest of charismatic director/writer Gabriel Murray’s Hamlet story, as I was called away to dinner too early…

And of course, poker fiend that I am, I couldn’t resist trying out the Croisette Barrière Casino, which a couple of years ago wrested the World Series of Poker Europe away from London’s Empire Casino. The cash games there are brutal, with minimum blinds of 5-10, but I figured it would be a novel way to meet top producers, and so it proved: one ended up sitting to my left.

He was in a foul temper, however, cursing every unlucky break, and in no mood to chat to an aspiring film-maker. My British modesty didn’t help. After I guessed correctly that he was a producer (he had a Festival pass round his neck, and was playing high-stakes poker, so duh), he asked what I did. “I’m a journalist,” I say, “but I also have a film I’ve co-written at the festival.” And then, apologetically – “It’s only a short, playing in the Court Métrage. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.”

At that, he turned away. I have to learn not to be so bloody British. Still, it meant I felt no guilt when I flopped two pairs to crack his pocket Aces, and he exited soon after, hurling his final chip angrily at the dealer with appallingly bad grace.

So let’s abandon all British reserve now and toot my own horn. The next night I played a 30-person tournament at the casino, and came fourth after eight hours’ play. Not too shabby. Good training for the WSOP Millionaire Maker tournament in Vegas the weekend after this…!

For my recent Cannes despatches, read my first IBT article first, with the opening night gala and towering celebrity tales. Then my tips for festival virgins; hanging with the Bond spoofers; and streakers, lesbian love-ins and Nuke ‘Em High with the Troma crew. Plus picture-gallery here, and my final IBT article, on outrageous Cannes publicity stunts, here

For more about my own film in the Short Film Corner, Colonel Badd, see outtakes here and posters here.

Come back tomorrow for more on Cannes.

Cannes confessions, #2: the name’s Wiffen; Paul Wiffen

17 May
Image

Paul Wiffen (left), Tony Errico (centre), and Spy Fail actress Victoria George-Veale

Glorious glamorous beach-side Cannes hasn’t totally worked out that way. True, I haven’t seen so many dinner jackets since watching March of the Penguins. They were even in the McDonald’s opposite the Palais. (Before you sneer at me for eating there on my first night, I did order a Royal With Cheese in deference to former Palme D’Or winner Pulp Fiction.)

But the first night was a wash-out – a Biblical downpour that not even the heat generated by Leo DiCaprio’s smile could ward off. Read more about that in my article for the IBT, here. It’s also taken me two days to get the internet working in this apartment, which is a good deal further from the Palais than advertised (everywhere, apparently is “15 minutes from the Palais”); plus Google maps didn’t warn me about the incredibly steep hill. Thank god I’m not wearing heels.

Yesterday was a bit more on track: after filing my article for the International Business Times, we fit in a couple of afternoon parties in the marquees behind the Palais. The first, at the Russian Pavilion, earned black marks for refusing to open the bar until the end of loooong, barely audible speeches in Russian. The second, in honour of the Locarno Film Festival, required some blagging to get into. Tony Errico, whose short film Colonel Badd I helped write, is Swiss, which helped; I played the Press card. They didn’t seem too fussed as long as you looked the part. For me, gold shoes, white trousers, white Clements Ribeiro jacket, and always the Philip Treacy Elvis hat.

When you’re hanging around critics and journalists at Cannes, as I was in 1997, the talk is all what movies have you seen? When you’re hanging out with film-makers, it’s all what movies have you got coming up next? Tony and I spent some time with Paul Wiffen, co-director of a Bond spoof premiering in Cannes on Tuesday called The Pink Marble Egg, with a sequel, Spy Fail, shooting shortly. He cuts a dashing figure with his white lieutenant’s hat and bevy of spy girls. It’s his 17th Cannes, he seems to know everyone, and he’s always the Man with the Plan: which parties to go to, how to score the best screenings.

He had tickets to the Ozon film Young & Beautiful, in the balcony – or “balcon”, as the French has it, which caused some ribbing from his friends. (“Balcon” is the more elegant French slang for what the Americans call “rack”. So “Il y a du monde au balcon” – literally, “there’s quite a crowd on the balcony” – well, you can work that out for yourselves.) Paul has a master’s in languages from Oxford, and switches effortlessly from French to German to Italian. He’s also a master delegator: this person to carry that bag, take this picture, call that person – whatever gets the job done, but always with a kind word.

It’s a salutary lesson that it takes a certain personality to be a director. Camera angles etc, yes, that’s all well and good. But you chiefly have to be a leader of men, a marshaller of resources, a smoother of egos, a tireless cheerleader when things are going wrong.

More Cannes confessions tomorrow… NOW POSTED: how Troma Occupy Cannes

Cannes confessions, #1: top tips for festival virgins

16 May

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sun has finally burst through the clouds, and I’m sitting writing this by a pool on a hill with a view of the white-walled town and the deep blue sea. Yes, you can be jealous now, because I’ve finally made it back to Cannes for the Film Festival.

The last time I was here, it was 1997 and I was Editor of Time Out, with VIP access to all the most glamorous parties. It’s a great story, and I’ve just written about the highlights, plus an account of last night’s star-studded opening gala, for the International Business Timeshere — you should definitely read that first.

Now I’m in Cannes as a film-maker, with Colonel Badd, a short comedy I co-wrote with the director Tony Errico, accepted into the Short Film Corner. (More about Colonel Badd, which takes the form of an interview with a retired supervillain, here.)

Cannes is a crazy, wonderful, chaotic festival which every aspiring film-maker should experience at least once. I had very little clue how it worked before I rocked up yesterday. But I’m learning fast. Here are my top tips so far:

— Accommodation. I found a terrific two-bed flat near the Palais for £800 a week. Cheap by festival standards, when prices triple, but not so stupidly cheap as to be suspicious. I discovered too late I’d been scammed. Police and banks alerted (gosh they move slowly in a crisis), but money I think irrecoverable. The next cheap flat I found, for which I was also asked for a bank transfer, I Googled the owner, found her office number, and talked to her secretary to make sure. Top tip: Book very early (or very late) for the best deals; find flatmates to book an apartment or house with rather than get a hotel; try to be within walking distance of the Palais.

— Transport. Flying is cheaper than the train, but the coach from Nice to Cannes is a nightmare. Three times as many people as there are seats crowd into a disorderly queue. You’d think they might put on more than the usual half-hourly coach on the opening day of the festival, but no; everything in France is “réglementaire”, by the book, whether or not it makes sense. In my desperation to get to the Palais before accreditation shut I overcame the problem, I am ashamed to admit, by jumping the queue. And even then I had to plead with the driver in French that my “compagnons de voyage” were already inside, as they wouldn’t let me on with luggage. Top tip: don’t queue by the bus doors; go round the side and get your bags in the hold sharpish. The driver calls for people with stored bags to get on first.

— Accreditation. Cannes operates on a complex system of colour codes and badges, with access to certain areas and screenings and not others depending on your status. Without accreditation, all you can do is chat to people in bars. Top tip: Make a short film and submit it to the Court Métrage/Short Film Corner, and they give you two accreditations. Thank you Tony Errico for mine.

— Screenings. This works on a points system. They started me off with 100 points, plus I get 2 extra points for every hour spent in Cannes, like a casino loyalty programme. Popular screenings at popular times cost 100 points; others cost 50 or even 30. It actually makes a strange kind of sense. Until I discover that Tony Errico, as producer, gets none. Go figure. Top tip: You usually book from computer terminals inside the Palais, but now they also offer an app that lets you book from your iPhone or similar. You can only book 24 hours in advance.

And that’s enough for now. Right, I’m off to see where this wild ride will take me… Click here for my second despatch from Cannes. Plus photo-gallery here.