Tag Archives: Tony Errico

Colonel Badd: watch the full interview with a supervillain

11 Sep
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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.

 

 

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Film networking events: where to booze and schmooze

5 Jul

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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, #2: the name’s Wiffen; Paul Wiffen

17 May
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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

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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.

Colonel Badd: out-takes from our short, showing at Cannes

29 Apr

The director of Colonel Badd,  the 15-minute short I co-wrote centring on an interview with a retired supervillain, has just put some out-takes on Vimeo. I’m in the poker scene (of course!), with an American accent and a hook for a hand. Do please help yourself to a slice of my ham (click the image above).

I always enjoyed acting. My Toad of Toad Hall was a hit when I was 12; and at 16 my Chrysale in Moliere’s Les Femmes Savantes went down well with those who could follow the French, even if the blond leg hairs sticking through my black tights made me resemble a geriatric hedgehog.

Hugh Grant was at my Oxford college, two years above me. But whereas he got to star in a student-made feature film called Privileged overseen by John Schlesinger – I recall Hugh stripped to the waist, carrying a deer on his shoulders across the Cherwell river – all the drama productions I successfully auditioned for collapsed before I could act in them. And so expired my thespian dreams along with, presumably, a 13-year marriage to Liz Hurley ending ignominiously in a parked car with prostitute Divine Brown.

Yesterday was also the cast & crew screening of the final cut of Colonel Badd. It was wonderful to see the featurette edited down, with music, and extra reverb for the succession of villainous laughs Colonel Badd tries out to “get in character”, as Tarantino would put it.

Next stop, Cannes – where both Colonel Badd and Filth, which Tony Errico also directed, have been accepted into the Short Film Corner. If anyone who reads this is heading to the festival, message me for a cocktail on the Croisette!

My Cannes 2013 reports start here. My diary extracts from the amazing 1997 Cannes Film Festival start here.

Yes we Cannes! Colonel Badd posters up for film festival

19 Apr

Exciting news – x2! First, we now have some great-looking character posters for Colonel Badd, the short film I wrote about here. I loved Avengers Assemble, so it’s cool to be part of a terrifying team-up of scarifying supervillains. Every good story needs a strong hook, and in this one, I’m it (top left)! [Photography by Giulia Pizzi.]

Secondly, Colonel Badd has been accepted into the Short Film Corner at Cannes, and director Tony Errico (lower left) has been good enough to put me down for one of the precious Accreditations. So it looks all of a sudden like I’ll be going! If anyone knows anyone with a room/floor/couch available cheapish during the Festival, please email me. I’m a good cook, fun to have around, and fully house-trained.

Last time I went, I slept on Jon Ronson’s floor as he wrote gags for carrot-topped TV terror Dennis Pennis (aka Paul Kaye), partied on a yacht with the cream of young Brit talent such as Anna Friel and David Thewlis, danced in a beach marquee with James Woods, and lunched with Alan Parker and Barry Norman.

Then, I was Editor of Time Out. Now, I’m the lowest of the low on the film pecking order: the humble writer. Co-writer, even. But it will be fascinating to experience the other side of the festival – not the acme of international cinematic art, but the world’s biggest commercial movie fair.

Click on the ‘Follow’ button so as not to miss my blogs from Cannes next month!

How I became a hook-handed supervillain

14 Dec

Last week, shooting wrapped on a 15-minute short I helped write. Not only that, this was my first speaking role, at the insistence of director/co-writer Tony Errico, whose whole crazy scheme this film was. And me so shy and retiring 🙂

The premise is great: it’s a mockumentary about a retired supervillain. I played one of four supervillain friends. If the film turns out half as funny to watch as it was to shoot, we’ll be made up.

The day started badly, for me at least. Tony had decided overnight that the villains should all be of different nationalities: my German character was suddenly American. Luckily I had one of the writers on hand (me!) to rework my three passages of dialogue to an American idiom, but it was nerve-wracking to relearn the lines and practise a new accent at the last minute.

It was yet another illustration of the fluidity of film. It always seemed to me that The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where scenes change as Jim Carrey’s memory is rewritten, is on one level a metaphor for the script-writing process: characters that started out female become male; two become one; old becomes young. It was an eye-opener to be part of it happening during shooting.

The scene was a poker game. I had a hook for a hand, which made holding the cards interesting. And I got off lightly: Tony’s character was blind. I’ve played a $10,000 tournament in the Caribbean against world champions; in a mahogany-lined club a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe; on the Mashantucket Pequot native American reservation; on a table suspended from a crane 40m above ground beside City Hall; against millionaires, gangsters, hookers and hustlers. This was definitely my strangest game yet.

I haven’t had so much fun since playing Toad of Toad Hall aged 12. Apart from a wordless cameo as Surprised & Disgusted Journalist in the last featurette I co-wrote, Animal Charm, I hadn’t acted since playing Chrysale in a French production of Le Malade Imaginaire in my teens. It’s a different skill, for film: working out what the framing is; performing actions (like poker) at the same time as speaking; learning new lines on the day; trusting the director when there is no audience reaction to guide you.

And always remembering the sagest piece of acting advice given by the screen’s greatest actor. Asked for his best tip, Robert De Niro once thought hard, and said: “Try not to blink.”