Tag Archives: HRIFF

See my short, Dotty, for free! Plus: amazing new feature Set The Thames On Fire

6 Nov
Dotty, starring Sadie Frost and her son Rudy Law

Dotty, starring Sadie Frost and her son Rudy Law

If you’re in London this Saturday lunchtime, grab the chance to watch Dotty on the big screen – for free! Dotty is a truly lovely short film that I dreamed up and Ben Charles Edwards directed, about a troubled young boy growing up in Nevada in the ‘60s who forges a life-changing friendship with an eccentric lady in a mysterious trailer in the desert. I was very loosely inspired in writing it by Harold and Maude, and there’s a reveal at the end that still sends chills up my spine, thanks in part to a haunting Danny Elfmanesque score by Paul Honey.

Sadie Frost won a well-deserved Best Actress award in the title role from the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival (I flew over for that, see here), and the boy is touchingly played by her real-life son by Jude Law, Rudy Law. Dotty has screened in 20-odd festivals round the world already, and this is its second London outing, following Raindance. It’s showing as part of the Fringe! Queer Film and Arts Festival, now in its tenth year, together with four other shorts under the themed of “Growing Pains”. Tickets are free, but you should book them in advance here.

I can’t be there in person, sadly. I’m going back to my old Oxford college for its Careers Day, to give advice to students contemplating a future in journalism. That advice, incidentally, distilled to its essentials, is THERE IS NO FUTURE IN JOURNALISM! RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

Set The Thames posterDotty’s visionary young director Ben Charles Edwards has since made his feature-film debut, with Sadie Frost, Emma Comley and Andrew Green as producers. I’ve seen some rushes, and it looks extraordinary (and not just because I am in it, briefly, playing a music producer in a huge quifftastic hat). It’s like a darker version of Withnail & I set in a retro-Dickensian dystopian future London, and it’s called Set The Thames On Fire. The screenplay is by the very talented musician Al Joshua, whose recent showcase gig  I wrote about here.

Check out the amazing pics for Set Thames On Fire on the new website.

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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 #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!