Tag Archives: film-making

10 great scenes from The Lost Boys, with commentary from director Joel Schumacher

30 Oct

The Page To Screen events at the London Screenwriters’ Festival are always great. This year, they screened Silence of the Lambs, Finding Nemo AND The Lost Boys. As it’s Halloween today, of course I’m kicking off with The Lost Boys. Joel Schumacher dishes some inside info on the top 10 scenes:A Opening shot1. The camera swoops in over the sea to a boardwalk by night: This long shot onto the boardwalk was meant to come in all the way onto Kiefer Sutherland’s face, but there’s a law that you can only bring a helicopter in so far, so we had to cut. Santa Cruz was the murder capital of the US at the time. A lot of runaways, prostitutes and murders. We had to change the name to Santa Carla, because Santa Cruz didn’t want to be known for that. Even though three of the most famous serial killers were discovered near here around this time.

Lost Boys saxguy

2. We meet the family, then it’s back to the boardwalk with a topless sax machine. This was Tim Capella, who was Tina Turner’s sax player. Harry Knowles who runs Ain’t It Cool News told me that on certain anniversaries of The Lost Boys they have a free concert on the beach and a big movie screen. I said why don’t you invite me? It sounds great.

Lost Boys comic store

3. Our young hero Sam meets two pint-sized vampire hunters in a comic store: This is the first time the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman) were together on screen. I told them to watch Rambo a couple of times (to get a handle on their characters). That’s where the headband comes in.

Lost Boys the cave

4. Sam’s elder brother Michael ends up in the Lost Boys’ cave: My concept for this was you could have this amazing baroque hotel, and during the earthquake of 1906 why couldn’t it have fallen into the San Andreas Fault, so you get this great stuff underground. Then they took a million dollars out of our budget. They kept asking me, are you making a comedy or a horror movie? I said, yes! They said, it won’t work. I said, pray. So what the production designer did was brilliant: the caves were all “flats” on rollers, so they could be shifted around wherever the camera was pointing. There’s always a way.

Lost Boys maggots

5. The vampires make Michael hallucinate that his Chinese rice has turned into maggots: You need wranglers for the maggots. Here’s a little tip: to get them to move, you squeeze lemon on them, then yell “Action”.

Lost Boys bridge

6. Having drunk vampire blood, Michael and the other Lost Boys hang from a railway bridge. This is a bridge maybe 15 feet at most over a small gulley. To make it seem dangerously high, we used a piece of the bridge and suspended it over a whole sound stage filled with fog. The boys are wired – that’s the cheapest thing to take out with visual effects. When they drop, that’s a stuntman, falling the whole depth of the soundstage into cardboard boxes.

Lost Boys Campfire

7. Finding some Surf Nazis at a campfire, the Lost Boys feed. Run DMC gave us the song Walk This Way to use, and we just decided we’d kill Surf Nazis to it. It just seemed fun. The Lost Boys was viewed with some trepidation by the studio, but at our first test screening there were lines around the block. The theatre held about 750 people, and it was like a rock concert, it was fantastic. There were nine or ten Surf Nazis in the fourth row, and during the killing scene they got so excited that they tore the stuffing out of their seats and threw it everywhere. You’ve never seen so many happy executives.

Lost Boys Kiefer Sutherland

8. The young vampire-killers find the Lost Boys hanging upside down, asleep. They drive a stake through Alex Winter’s heart. Kiefer Sutherland is understandably upset. They had these hard lenses in, they hurt. We blow smoke at them. They’re hanging upside down. Actors are amazing! I’m not a genius as you all know, I’m not the greatest director in the world, but I’ll match my casts with anyone. Kiefer used to go to lunch in full make-up, and enjoy people’s reactions.

Lost Boys reversing car

9. The vampire-killers escape into the light, nearly reversing a car over a cliff in their panic. The kids were furious with me that I got stuntmen to do it. They didn’t speak to me all day. Corey said to me after, “The only reason we decided to do this movie was so we could drive backwards! It says it in the script!” He was 13.

Lost Boys death by stereo

10. The hilariously gory showdown. One vampire is electrocuted on the record player and his head explodes, after which Sam says triumphantly, “Death by stereo.” There was just so much cheering and screaming in the audience when his head blew up, they missed that line. And it’s a great line. So we had to put an extra-long pause in there. [Laughing] I want you to know that these fine actors, including the Academy-Award-winning Dianne Wiest, sat in this thick black smoke for all these takes. I had to go to one of those facials that cleans out your pores for the next three weeks!

For Joel Schumacher on how Woody Allen changed his life, click here. More from the London Screenwriters’ Festival: click to read tips from Tony “Life on Mars” Jordan and Lynda “Prime Suspect” La Plante. Or enjoy the Joe Eszterhas live commentary on Basic Instinct, from last year’s LSF.

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

After A Separation, the divorce: Asghar Farhadi’s sort-of-sequel, The Past

3 Apr

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I’ve just seen my first great movie of the year*. It’s not flashy. It’s not ground-breaking. But it is very, very well observed, richly acted (including a terrific performance from a young boy, always hard to achieve), and just absolutely bloody brilliantly written.

The film is The Past, and it’s the first that Asghar Farhadi has shot outside of Iran. Farhadi is one of the rare Iranian film-makers who have managed to make films of artistic worth without falling foul of the authorities. “The restrictions and censorship in Iran are a bit like the British weather,” Farhadi said philosophically after A Separation won best film at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, on the way to winning the 2012 best foreign film Oscar. “One day it’s sunny, the next day it’s raining. You just have to hope you walk out into the sunshine.”

Friends of Farhadi’s, however, have failed to pack their umbrellas. Jafar Panahi was imprisoned and banned from making films for 20 years, though he defiantly smuggled out a semi-documentary on his incarceration, teasingly entitled This Is Not A Film, on a USB stick hidden in a cake.

Farhadi originally expressed solidarity with his colleague. When the regime then withdrew permission to film A Separation in 2010, he apologised in order to get the film back on track.  As Time magazine noted when it named Farhadi one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Farhadi’s success at home could seem an act of “craven collaboration”. But, it went on, “exile or imprisonment is not a filmmaker’s only badge of honour. Another is speaking prickly truth in pictures, for all the world to see.”

Anyone hoping that filming in Paris would liberate Farhadi to speak his mind about the regime will be disappointed by The Past. Lovers of cinema  will not. In the loosest possible sense, it’s a sequel to his Oscar-winner, in that it deals with the aftermath of a separation. An Iranian man returns to Paris five years on to sign the divorce papers so that his ex-wife (played by Bérénice Bejo from The Artist) can be with the new man in her life. But has she really let go of the old?

What starts as an acutely observed relationship drama becomes almost like a thriller in the second half, piling on revelation after revelation concerning an attempted suicide, twisting round tighter and tighter like a tourniquet over a wound…

To reveal too much would spoil your enjoyment. I loved it. Go.

* I would include 12 Years A Slave, but I saw that last year.

Despatch from Hollywood #3: the night I became Sadie Frost

15 Feb

ImagePhew! Yesterday was fun. I’ve picked up awards for magazine editing before, but never for film.

A couple of years ago, I stood on the stage of the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars take place, and yelled “You like me! You really like me!” over the empty chairs. I vowed to be back someday for real.

Okay, so it wasn’t actually my award, it was Sadie Frost’s. Her achievement in winning Best Actress in a Short is especially impressive given the competition, which, having watched ten hours of shorts at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, I can tell you was stiff. Sadie was up against not just Juliet Stevenson, but the ageless Lee Meriwether, as well as Caitlin Harris who is terrific as Vivien Leigh in Love Scene.

And okay, this wasn’t quite the Oscars. But it was still good to get up there, in Hollywood, in a rep cinema owned by Quentin Tarantino (the New Beverly), in front of a hundred-odd gifted film-makers and actors. I apologised for not being Sadie, since “I’m not nearly as pretty as her”, and on her behalf thanked Sadie’s son Rudy, the film’s producers, cinematographer John Hicks, and of course “the director, Ben Charles Edwards, who’s ridiculously young, handsome and talented – the bastard”. I hope the Californian natives understand British humour.

Set The Thames on FireAnd on that note, I’m delighted to draw your attention to today’s Hollywood Reporter article which officially announces that Sadie Frost will be producing Ben’s first feature film. It’s called Set The Thames On Fire, after a Tom Waits lyric, and he and the writer, the also hugely talented raconteur, flâneur, wit and songsmith Al Joshua, have been developing this project for a year or more. Last time I was with them, they showed me some amazing artwork for their modern-Dickensian, dystopian alternate London.

I had no idea till then that their buddy-movie project, which I always thought of as “Withnail And I in Shoreditch”, had spun off into fantasy. But with Ben, you always have to expect the unexpected. Fingers crossed they get the film – and the cast – they deserve.

More reviews from the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival tomorrow. Or maybe the next day, if I get distracted by the joys of LA and my feature deadlines!

Despatch from Hollywood #2: Finding the stars of tomorrow

13 Feb

ImageI spent five hours yesterday watching short films at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, looking out for the stars of tomorrow. There were quite a few writers and directors I’d want to get meetings with if I were a Hollywood producer.

A Killer Of Men stands tall here. A post-apocalyptic Western, it’s beautifully shot – I dug the camera following a rivulet of blood back up to a pile of corpses from underneath which the lead character heaves himself out. Gregg Meller is the writer/director, and it’s his USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate thesis film. The closing credits help explain why it looks so good: they are as long and filled with crew members as any feature, and he’s even managed to secure a David Bowie song over the top (“I count the corpses on my left/I find I’m not so tidy”). But it’s Meller’s script, concept and direction that really mark the film out. Give that man a feature.

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Mocha and Chai

Two comedy-tinged crime/ gangster shorts also stood out. Even more than the direction by Andrew Hines, it was Mocha and Chai’s oddball, Tarantinoesque script by Brit Matt Tilley (who also plays the lead) that grabbed notice. Terrific dialogue, immediately compelling characters. The same goes for Sunny Side Up, “a dark comedy about friendship, breakfast and the Russian mob”. It’s the first script by Tanner Bean, who’s worked as a production assistant for seven years, and it’s smart, funny, offbeat and more than a little lavatorial. Loved the line about “don’t come to me with your little dick… tionary lesson”.

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Joel and Joseph Harold

There were two strong comic webisodes, too. Living With Uncle Charlie, about two identical teenaged twins living with a guardian uncle who is even more immature than they are, is the pilot for a projected nine-webisode series. Joel and Joseph Harold are currently raising funds on Kickstarter, here. If you want to support young black actors, or just love good, goofy comedy, it’s worth your $$.

Out of the Closet, written and directed by Hunter Davis, is part of a web series called HELL.A about three delusional friends from Cleveland who move to LA. In this episode one of them gets into trouble when a married woman’s husband returns unexpectedly (hence the hiding in the closet). Zero marks for originality of concept, then, but it’s winningly acted, pacily directed, and fun enough to be worth a look. It’s viewable on YouTube, here.

There were more great shorts (The Interview and Dream Couch Sold Separately in particular had a distinctive voice), but those were the ones that looked the most Hollywood- or TV-producer-ready. All in all, the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival has made some terrific choices so far (well of course the programmers have good taste – they’re showing Dotty this evening!). I also loved the film Bulletproof… but that’s worth a separate blog at a later date.

I’ll let you know tomorrow how our short film Dotty went down!

How 2,000 film-makers – and Chris Jones – made 50 Kisses

10 Feb

The London indie film scene has never been stronger. With digital cameras and Kickstarter funding, sharing resources via Facebook or networking in pubs, film-makers are doing it for themselves. I’m old enough to remember one other DIY period as exciting as this. It was in music, and it was called Punk.

Like all underground movements, the Britpic scene has no official leader. But if you were to choose the Svengali, the Malcolm McLaren of film, it would be Chris Jones. The charismatic founder of the Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass and the London Screenwriters’ Festival has, through his courses, blogs and breakfast seminars, motivated and connected more film-makers than anyone in Britain.

And now he has Frankensteined together a patchwork feature film that unites all this untapped talent. I was the sole journalist to sit through a special preview with Chris last week, and I was blown away.  The film is called 50 Kisses, it premieres at the Genesis Cinema in Mile End on Feb 13 only, and it’s being billed as the world’s first crowd-generated film.

Chris Jones, director of 50 Kisses

Chris Jones, director of 50 Kisses

In the beginning was the word: Chris Jones let it be known he was looking for two-page scripts.

It also started with a kiss: the scripts could be in any genre, period or location, but they must be set on Valentine’s Day, and they must include a kiss.

Chris got 1,870 scripts back. He and his script editors selected the 50 best, and threw them open to directors and producers.

Some scripts were filmed several times over by different teams in different ways; you can see some of the alternatives on http://www.50kissesfilm.com. Says Chris Jones, “One script about a gay hitman got 11 films made, one about a robot got nine. A few, to be honest, didn’t attract any producers. I think if we do a follow-up project, I’d say to writers: take more risks. Go to the crazy, go absolutely bat-shit bonkers and see what comes out.”

In the end, 127 completed short films were submitted, from which 25 made the final cut, and were stitched together into the feature-length 50 Kisses.

There are two films about zombie romance; two about a robot. There is a suicide, a deadly disease transmitted through saliva, and a girl held in chains by an overprotective mother. Then there are all the everyday day tales of loss and longing: young love, first love, unrequited love, geriatric love, love in sickness as well as health. I teared up at several points; laughed more than once.

Perhaps the simplest way of describing 50 Kisses is that it’s like Love Actually, only much more real and affecting. If just some of this DIY talent can break into features, the future of British film-making is in good hands.

After the screening, Chris had one last surprise in store: on Valentine’s Day, directly after the film is shown not just at the Genesis but in 17 countries where film-makers have organised their own premieres, 50 Kisses is going to be put online. In its entirety. For free.

“We only decided to do this four days ago,” says Chris. “We were toying with Blu-Ray, or DVD, and then we thought, the whole point of this exercise was to launch careers, not to make a couple of thousand quid. And the best way to get it in front of powerful people is just to put it out there.”

It’s a lovely thought: the collective hopes and dreams of 1,870 screenwriters and 127 directors, distilled into 25 three-minute love letters to British film, whispering sweet nothings into the world’s computers on Valentine’s Day. That should give Spike Jonze’s Her, which opens the same day, a run for its money.

The 50 Kisses world premiere is at the Genesis in Mile End, www.genesiscinema.co.uk, on Feb 13. It will then be available to view on Feb 14 on YouTube or at www.50kissesfilm.com

Alan Moore channels David Lynch in his film debut

9 Dec

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Siobhan Hewlett as Faith in Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’s first short, Act Of Faith

 

The films made from Alan Moore’s comics range from the terrible, bearing no relation to the original beyond a shared premise (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine), to the not-at-all-bad-but-the-best-bits-are-lifted-straight-from-the-comic-so-what’s-the-point? (V for Vendetta, Watchmen). So it’s fascinating to see how Moore approaches writing for the screen himself.

I thought we’d never get the chance: even before he fell out terminally with Hollywood, back in 2002, I asked him to rate his five favourite art forms; cinema did not make the cut. But recently at the Prince Charles Cinema, following a fascinating interview (click here for the highlights), Alan Moore staged a screening of the first two of five projected linked shorts. His reluctant celebrity status has worked to his advantage this time: the fifth and final short recently raised £60,000 on Kickstarter — £15,000 more than they asked for, and many times the budget of most shorts (though a lot of it will go on the Kickstarter perks of T-shirts, DVDs and books).

For me, part of the interest is that both Alan Moore and the director, photographer Mitch Jenkins, are new to film. Both were quite upfront about this at the Prince Charles. “I’d never seen a film script before I got Alan’s,” said Mitch Jenkins. “Since I’d never seen one before writing one, I’m not sure you have even now,” quipped Alan Moore.

How would they fare, free of the “tyranny” of script structure classes and Save The Cat books?

The first short, Act of Faith, is an uncomfortable watch which has already provoked heated debate online about its sexual politics. [SPOILER WARNING: major plot points ahoy. But as you will likely see these two films only when all five are completed, I feel this only gives away the beginning.] A woman, Faith (Siobhan Hewlett), arranges to meet her lover, talking dirty on the phone. We follow her with almost painful slowness as she undresses and dons “slutty” clothes. She places plastic in her mouth, handcuffs herself inside a wardrobe, and settles down to wait…

… until her phone rings: her lover is frantic; delayed by an accident, he can’t get there in time. She wakes up to the danger, too late – and we watch as slowly, helplessly, handcuffed, she suffocates, alone.

It’s especially uncomfortable because for much of the 15-minute short the camera does not show things from her POV: we see her from behind, as passive voyeurs, then peering in at her from outside the wardrobe, unable or unwilling to step in and help her. It’s uncomfortable, too, because there is no clear message. Does she “deserve” to die for being (her words) a “slut”? Is she a damaged individual, showing how a cycle of abuse is endlessly self-perpetuated? Does the film demonstrate that the supposed feminine empowerment behind sexual experimentation can too easily turn to victimhood? Is this is a reactionary message in liberal (un)clothing?

Perhaps all will become clearer in subsequent films. But it’s more likely that Moore sees his role as a writer to pose the questions, not to come up with the answers. Certainly he’s a purist: “I have a kind of Khmer Rouge, Year Zero approach to film-making,” Alan Moore said at the Prince Charles screening. “Nothing which isn’t real, no special effects.” And, as he’s pointed out elsewhere, no non-diagetic sound, ie that the characters themselves can’t hear.

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Jimmy’s End. “I do quite like David Lynch,” says Alan Moore.

The second short, Jimmy’s End, is at over 30 minutes more artistically successful and more cinematically ambitious. A silver-haired gent finds himself in a strange bar in a strange part of town. It’s quickly apparent to the viewer, though not yet to Jimmy, that this is hell, or at least Limbo. “I never knew this was here,” he tells the barmaid. “Yes, you did,” she says, significantly.

The sound engineering is brilliant, with distorted jukebox music and endlessly ringing phones creating an unbearable tension as Jimmy wanders corridors graffitied with magical sigils, encountering a series of laconic weirdos – notably a threatening-looking clown who tells him, by the urinals: “I don’t tell jokes anymore. I just masturbate and cry. Usually at the same time.”

Faith, the woman from the first film, is here, too, in reluctant thrall to a devil figure, and Alan Moore himself makes a spectacular appearance as a god figure, in gold boots and white trousers, his gold-painted face haloed with frizzed-up white hair like Aslan gone Elvis, or a 60-year-old version of The Teletubbies’ sun-baby.

If there is a problem with Jimmy’s End (and there is), it’s that it’s not so much a homage to David Lynch as a wholesale steal.  Alan Moore made light of this: “I do quite like David Lynch,” he said at the screening, “however I would have to say the red curtains were Mitch’s idea. And the only film I can think of without any curtains is perhaps One Million Years B.C.

It’s not just the curtains, though, that recall David Lynch: it’s the eerie soundscapes; the latent menace; the gallery of grotesques; the slow pace and long takes; the red, red lipstick; and the very idea of vaguely cabaret-style waiting rooms that are suggestive of the supernatural.

Ah well. There are worse people to copy. And if you are going to make your film debut, why not dream big, and cut straight to kinky sex, death, and the afterlife?