Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The kids are alright

OK – it’s all starting to make a bit more sense now.

Has anybody else out there heard of notapushymum.com? A website dedicated to “giving parents of performing children as much advice, information, and help as we can”. A laudable aim, I think we can all agree; although I’d be interested in the statistical breakdown between notapushymums vs. pushymums. And while we’re here, why is it that the poor mums are singled out for the notatellingoff – what happened to all the notapushydads?

Anyway, I digress. We have started to get a load of applicants for our youngest character from actors aged fifteen and sixteen, who were citing the advert on notapushymum.com. Very strange – certainly we didn’t place anything there. But, lo and behold, there we are in their auditions list, using copy appropriated from our casting postings on other talent sites.

Suddenly the offering of zombie children starts to look less sinister. Marginally.

My apologies to any actor aged below eighteen, but we are not going to be able to offer you a role in the movie, much as we might like to. No matter whether your notapushymum says it’s OK or not. The fact is that we will be shooting at night, and we run into horribly restrictive labour laws if we employ a minor.

Otherwise, the actorly interest has tapered off to a medium gush. As of this moment we are at 158 submissions for the ten roles, and it has been a blast working through the showreels and CVs. There have been a couple of moments when an actor’s details have come up, and they are the absolute match of the character that we have been writing; more excitingly, there have been instances when a moment in a showreel has triggered us into re-imagining our character in a completely different direction. If anybody that sent us their details has found their way onto the blog, a massive thank you for a very entertaining weekend.

And everybody seems to get the zombie genre – witness the amount of “head-shots” we’ve been sent.

Our casting call posting can stay up on Talent Circle till mid-May, but whether it will or not is a debate not yet had at Charmed Central (mainly because Jake is off doing his stint with the Bollywood production this week). Whatever, May will be the month when we kick off the auditioning process, and a longer discussion needs to happen before then on the best chop-checking passages.

But all in all, I have a distinctly fizzy feeling that this is all going to be quite a lot of fun. Stoked.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Castaways

Nothing like a good casting call to scare some of the crazies out of the undergrowth.

Just before heading off to Bollywood for the week, Jake and I scoped out our character biographies, counted scenes and wrote copy. This is actually way too early in the normal film-making process to look for actors, but we’re asking people to set aside a month of the year when they would normally be scheduling a holiday somewhere warm, so we wanted to get in there before the deposit had been paid.

So, on Tuesday the Shooting People and Talent Circle postings went up, and we braced ourselves for a steady stream of emails.

Then the banks burst; the stream turned into a deluge. At this point we’re on 118 submissions, and it shows no sign of letting up. And now, back in the Charmed saddle again for the first full-day’s double-tagged zombie work in a week, Jake and I have been trawling through them all.

There's a massive amount of talent out there. It took a while. It’s a nice problem to have to deal with.

The vast majority of people make the job of checking their suitability against our character needs really easy. Include a link to your Spotlight page and your Showreel, or direct me to your personal website. Three clicks later and I know everything I need to know. I love these people.

Others are less forthcoming with their CVs, and Jake and I tried to chase down examples of earlier acting work by searching for them on YouTube and Vimeo. This takes a little longer and is prone to hitting an ah-fuck-it point. We persevered where practical; we gave up where not.

And one guy just sent us the link to his Wikipedia page. A rare stroke of genius, sir.

And then with the strange. Someone wrote back asking whether the North American rights were still available, suggesting a lack of understanding about the way that films are made or a particularly positive reaction to our tag-line. Another gave his playing age as 30-100; someone else emailed us asking for our email address.

And as for the woman that sent through photos and biogs of her two children (boasting playing ages of 6-8 and 4-6 respectively), and offering them up as unsolicited child zombies, shame on you. Have you ever watched a horror film? I’m all about getting some veracity in a performance, but I’m not sure I want to be the focus of a discussion between her kids and their therapists in twenty years time. In any case, I was always taught that little children should be seen and not horde. Shocked.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Bollied beef

Well, that’s me done with the Baraat, and it’s over to Mr Hawkins for week two.

Blimey – what an insane week that’s been; apologies for the extended radio silence. While Jake has been fielding the initial deluge of casting applications for Resurrection (more about which tomorrow), I’ve been sticking boom-poles in people’s faces and generally getting in the way on the Bollywood Baraat film-set in Southampton. And it has been a slice.

As a guy that has plenty to learn about both making movies and Indian cinema, this has been quite an eye-opening four days.

So, other than reinforcing my total admiration for gaffer tape as a solution to 90% of life’s problems, what have we learned?

1.      Plan. The Baraat Director and DoP had so much shared film-making experience between them that it was like being stuck between two Rainmen at times, watching them mentally cut the film in their head as they went along. Jake and Andy should instead rely on months of extensive preparation.
2.      At those moments when you’re testing your actors’ patience by demanding take-after-take of the same thing, just ask the cast member with the most to lose (which is usually the one with the hardest line in the scene) if they “want to do one more”. It’s a guaranteed yes. And then it’s their fault for holding everybody else up.
3.      Pakorah are made from onions, red chilli, coriander, gram flour and ajwan (with an optimal ratio of two cups of gram flour for every three onions). Their odour sets off a strange Pavlovian hunger reflex, and they can be enjoyed with or without the sweaty residue from extensive actor handling or carpet-fluff.
4.      If you lend a film crew your house to film in, resist the urge to pop back while the shoot’s going on. Chances are you’re going to be under-delighted with the way the space has been re-imagined. On day two the home-owner came back for a gander, and while she was there her phone rang; sadly it had been “dressed” into a cupboard, with gaffer-taped cables on the floor outside making it impossible to open the door. A small part of my heart broke as I stood idly by watching her try to answer it.
5.      Everybody can be excused a “funny five minutes”. And usually at the same time every day.

Anyway, just in case they’re reading this: Dave, Rob and Sam – it has been genuinely delicious; thanks. You’re all most welcome to come and loiter in a local sixth-form college come August. For everyone else, the fruits of the Baraat are available to all at Southampton’s Guildhall Square on Saturday 21st May, and it should be quite a party. Any complaints about the poor quality of sound should be directed towards m’colleague Mr Hawkins. Deaf.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The voices outside your head

Saturday was an auspicious day at Charmed Central.

Yesterday, we herded seven actors with much better things to do into an empty theatre in Winchester, and forced them at cake-point to read our script. Out loud. And in front of a camera.

So, from the left, may I please introduce you to Steve, Lee, Paul, (me), Mary, Rob, Claire and David?


It’s with no small amount of apprehension that you listen to other people’s interpretation of your characters. Damn it – this is someone else doing an impression of the voices in your head. If you get a good actor in they’ll have their own particular spin on what you’ve written down, and the impression is often better than the real thing.

So yesterday was enlightening, humbling and down-right scary in places. And a massive amount of fun. Today Jake and I are the proud owners of an hour of footage which we will need to slowly crawl through in meticulous detail as we hone the next draft of the screenplay. It'll be painful in plenty of places, but absolutely essential to the process of building a better script.

And it’s probably best if I also take this time to apologise to anyone sat near us in the Black Boy beer-garden yesterday evening. Paul came to the read-through having translated sixty minutes of creative Scottish invective into sixty minutes of creative American invective, and a couple of post-event drinks quickly degenerated into a swearing master-class (“how about Colonel Cock-sucker?”, “cock-in-ass works better for me than cock-in-anus”, etc.). Sadly he had changed out of his army fatigues by then.

So our enormous thanks again to Steve, Lee, Paul, Mary, Rob, Claire and David for their time and energy, and for a load of fabulous suggestions that Jake and I are going to shamelessly appropriate without giving due acknowledgement or cash reward.

But before I sign off and tend to this hangover, I should mention that next couple of weeks are going to be slow ones for the Resurrection project. A Bollywood song-and-dance spectacular is being shot in Southampton, and Jake and I have blagged a week each as a runner on set. A chance to see how other film crews operate, and to pick up a couple of shapes to add to my woefully inadequate dance-floor repertoire. Bhari.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dark side of the sun

So, it seems I was mostly right about IMDb after all.

Rather faster than the promised 2-4 weeks, we have very politely been given the e-finger. I quote: “we are not considering development titles for listing at this time if they are not set up at a production company with a production history of theatrically-released feature-length films”.

So, translating that into Phelp-speak: “go out and make a movie, and the IMDb doorman will take the finished DVD as your ticket to go inside”.

This does potentially throw Charmed’s Cannes-plans into some disarray, though. We don’t lose anything by sending all the late-accreditation paperwork off to the festival organisers, and a simple Googling will certainly work in our favour (God bless ya, Mr Hawkins). But there is a wider debate raging within the offices as to whether a two-day tanning in the South of France is going to be in the best interests of the film or not.

The argument for goes something along the lines of “don’t be a newbie when you actually have something to sell. Get all the wide-eyed fascination out of the way now, so that you can do a better impression of an adult in 2012 when you go there with Resurrection.” Makes perfect sense – if someone finds Jake lying in a pile of his own over-excited bad-behaviour, at least he won’t have a bunch of incriminating flyers on him.

The argument against is simpler. There is one pot of cash – anything spent on going to Cannes ain’t going up on the screen.

Personally, I find myself drawn to the argument against, even though a weekend spent topping up the Vitamin D levels would be a whole lot of fun. Like all independent UK cinema, it is highly likely that we are going to be chasing the last bits of finance down all the way through to the end of post-production. And until we know what that final tally is, we won’t know what the Cannes experience would actually cost us.

That said, if we have to call off the Resurrection shoot at the eleventh hour because of a company outbreak of rickets I will hold my brittle, misshapen hand up to that one. Triste.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Breakfast of champions

Resurrection investor activities were dramatically ramped up earlier today with my first networking breakfast.

Any day that started with the first wake-up alarm that I have needed to set in 2011 shouldn’t have been this much fun. As I eschewed the standard Charmed breakfast of a can of Stella and a couple of Rothmans for the healthier “full English” option, I settled in to tell a room of complete strangers all about the undead in no longer than forty seconds.

Predictably this event wasn’t the right place to find investors directly, but it did surprise me by being a bloody good laugh instead. I only get three goes around before they’ll make me shell out for membership (and there really ain’t no good business reason to do that), but I’m certainly going back for my next two strikes. Unless someone that took my card earlier has somehow found their way on to this blog, in which case I have yet to make up my mind about joining, and I’ll probably need a couple more goes before I can decide.

So far, so good. But then we hit the mother lode.

As I waltzed back to the office, high on carbs and unexpected sobriety, Jake and I received an invitation. From the office of the Right Honourable Steve Brine MP (con), Jake and I have been cordially invited to Parliament in mid-May to discuss “attracting investment and the possibility of garnering some publicity into the project”.

Damn! That there’s the fatted fruit from some seriously shameless self-promotion, lovingly planted and nurtured by someone at Charmed Central; I guess I shouldn’t look so surprised anymore. Although if you really want to see truly wanton publicity whoring at play, just type “Andy Phelps Resurrection” into Google.

Jake is so wasted on movie making. Dazzled.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Cannes-do spirit

The Cannes plans move a little further forward.

By now we have missed the official accreditation deadline, and are solidly into ball-ache territory. As their web-site likes to remind people: “any accreditation requests received after April 1st, 2011 will be subject to severe restrictions: they will only be delivered on an highly exceptional basis upon presentation of supporting professional documents, and will be billed administrative handling costs.”

Damn – I so wish that we’d hooked up with Jim Eaves a month ago.

Because the festival really wants people to pre-register they make this late-registration system extraordinarily convoluted and patience-sapping. And then charge us 75€ each for the privilege. So, Jake and I have been dutifully getting our shit together: updating our CVs, sending out press releases and writing articles to boost our SEO scoring. If someone types our names into Google we need to make sure that something relevant appears. 

Presentation of supporting professional documents? Really? Sure enough, buried on one of the many web-sites dedicated to berating the tardy film-maker is the key bit of info. All they’re doing is checking the Internet Movie Database.

I truly love IMDb. This is so much more than just a source of information about everything that's important to me. It’s a perfect microcosm that describes the genius of the internet. It’s the best justification for owning a smartphone, or for having some kind of easy-surf device sat next to your favourite spot on the sofa. This is the place where all my most useful useless trivia lives; a virtual substitute for all those rapidly vanishing engrams. I'm 41. My memory has had its Elvis year, and now it needs assistance getting about the place – I mean, I spent twenty minutes trying to think what Juliette Lewis' surname was on Sunday.

And I'm not on it. And neither is Jake.

I'd always thought that this was a members-only club, and you had to be invited to join. Go out and make a movie, and the IMDb doorman will take the finished DVD as your ticket to go inside. You hear about these elusive and exclusive festivals that offer an IMDb entry as a prize should your short film be accepted to play there, and so we really weren't expecting to be able to do much about ramping up our respective IMDb footprints.

And it’s fair to say that they didn't make it easy for us.

But if you can find the right link, and are happy to wade and wade again through the most unintuitive and irritating user-interface known to man, you can at least submit your details for consideration. And, my God, was it irritating. If you needed to rapidly engender a sense of pure frustration in a subject before some psychology experiment you'd have them work their way through something very similar.

But, in 2-4 weeks, and pending the approval of the IMDb management, Resurrection could be up on the Internet Movie Database as an in-development project, to be written and directed by Jake Hawkins and Andy Phelps (III).

I mean, how exclusive can a club be when there’s already two of me inside? Cheapened.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Phonophobia

It can’t just be me that hates the sound of their own voice, can it?

I’m not talking about the stupid things that have a habit of falling out of my mouth every time I open it without mental preparation and due regard. Although that’s probably a good topic for another post. This is about hearing myself on a recording; hearing myself as everyone else hears me.

There must be a word for this that ends in –phobia. If there is, Jake and I suffer from it, and we suffer bad.

So you can imagine the quiet anxiety around Charmed Central as we listened to the interview with us on the latest edition of “Xan Phillips presents”… a ten minute aural water-boarding conducted with sphincters puckered and shoe-laces contemplated. The fact that Xan’s voice effortlessly glides amongst us like professionally drizzled KahlĂșa on a velvet ski-slope doesn’t help us feel much better.

And so you need to understand that it is with some trepidation that I am posting this link to Xan’s Spotify radio show.

OK - warning over. We’re Chat Section 09 and 10, although you’re almost certainly better off listening to the Martin Harley and Laura Marling tunes instead. Squirming.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Adonis & Beefcake

And so speaks Southampton-based film-maker and Cannes enthusiast James Eaves.

Yesterday Jake and I caught up with Jim in a boozer in Southampton to plunder his extensive knowledge and experience on making low-budget horror movies. Jim is a veteran of four-and-a-third movies, including the 35 mm vampire spectacular The Witches Hammer (which also serves as an unofficial guide to many of Southampton’s tourist attractions), the darkly brooding and claustrophobic Bane, and two that he co-directed with F’s Johannes Roberts.


And like Johannes, he’s very much of the just-get-on-with-it school of film-making; “do it now – you’re not working. Get a camera and shoot it.”

So, with the back-drop of a pub-full of Man Utd fans enjoying their thoroughly undeserved 1-0 win over Chelsea, Jim started on the tips and pointers. Of everybody that we’ve spoken to about the trials and challenges of getting Resurrection made, Jim is the guy that best understands exactly where we’re at. The man is armed to the teeth with excellent advice, and he very generously took an entire evening out to give us both barrels.

Such as advice on getting as much of the budget up on screen. Money we’ve allotted to catering ain’t gonna be evident in the final movie; and the solution? Product placement. There are apparently companies itching to ship freebie food and snacks out to films as set dressing, including Red Bull who will bus you out a fridge and crates upon crates of product.

That said, Jim did mention that he’d over-ingested the high-caffeine energy drinks on one shoot, and can’t do caffeine at all any more. Given the Charmed fascination with tea (and inappropriately spiced coffee), this doesn’t sound so much fun, but to get a crew and cast through 3 weeks of night shoots it’ll be fabulous.

And Jim on actors? Make sure that you interview your cast as well as audition them. Once you start shooting with a specific actor the power balance shifts, and you need to make sure they’re not going to be a pain in the arse. And this is the man that’s worked with Stephanie Beacham, and Dominique Pignon. And, er… Darren Day.

But the advice that was most enthusiastically delivered was all about Cannes. To say that the man is a Cannes-fan is an understatement, as well as reading a little too like Dr Seuss. And, such was the extent of his zeal that he actually convinced me and Jake to head out there this year.

This is the problem when you meet people in a pub, and no one has to drive home afterwards.

Jim’s recommendation was to fly out just for the first weekend of Cannes, and try not to sleep. Hit the bars where the British Film-makers drink at happy hour, blag a party or two and try and subsist on free alcohol and the spoils of many finger buffets.

Hey – he had me at happy hour. I’m there.

So, to Mr Eaves, an enormous thank you again for your time, wit and wisdom; a very entertaining and enlightening evening. In fact, so entertained and enlightened were we by the end of the night that we let Jim pick his own blog title. Hungover.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A gentleman’s disagreement

Today Jake and I haven’t agreed on anything.

Changes to the website; when to start shopping for actors; how to conduct the read-through; what we need to have in place before we can start the final re-write. Fuck – we even had ten minutes on what to eat for lunch (pasties won). It hasn’t helped that I’ve been especially fractious today (sorry for that, mate), but such is life when you have to navigate your way through the movie-making-maze without a detailed map.

I’m not sure how it works for other couples that spend all day every day together (and I use the word “couples” advisedly), but we’ve ended up circumventing most of the established rules of etiquette. An acknowledgement that time is too short to fanny about. Just say what you mean as bluntly as you can, and don’t worry about dressing it up in the pretty bows and ribbons that you’d bring out for normal conversation.

Voices get raised; views get forthright; language gets choice. But no offence gets taken.

We like to write it off as passion for the project, but it actually seems to serve the process. We both have the best interests of the film at heart, and whatever solution emerges at the end of the exchange is invariably better than the sum of the parts. The wisdom of a very small crowd.

And whatever’s said, everyone gets a cuddle at the end of the working day. Crushed.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Zombies FTW

So, as we continue to stretch our tendrils out in the quest for financiers, it struck us that we should also pop the investor pack up on the Charmed Apocalypse web-page in case anyone else fancied jumping aboard the Resurrection bus… just follow this link.
Go; have a rummage; taste the zombie hyperbole; marvel at the Return on Investment figures and generous tax relief; and enjoy all the GhoulFool’s best work gathered together in one place (not his real name, thankfully – think more an impeccably-mannered Victorian master-criminal with just the merest hint of Charlie Sheen).

And just because it mentions that we’re after three significant investors, don’t think that we wouldn’t welcome a whole bunch of smaller financiers as well. Spread the word and don’t be shy. Winning.

Friday, 1 April 2011

From ‘A’s to Z

The climb out of finance-mediated location limbo started today.

Don’t fret – we didn’t film any footage, and you’re spared another aural carpet-bombing from the Lost Jonny back-catalogue. We went to look around a local 6th form college; the place was stuffed full of kids “on the learn”, making grown men walking around with a video camera seem oddly inappropriate. We were given the guided tour by Rich, the head of the Media department, and he seemed genuinely enthused by the project and keen that we come and film at his establishment over the summer.

So, let’s dispense with the good news first. The college would work out as an absolute treat for shooting Resurrection; it has architectural character in spades borne out of functional necessity and numerous eccentric extensions. It’s got a great library, a sweet kitchen area, and enough vending machines to adequately signal the end of polite society. And flushing toilets; sweet flushing toilets. The site is in a residential area, far enough away from any noisy night-time traffic, and in the summer holidays it apparently turns into a ghost town. 

So far, so very splendid.

And on to the bad news… the schedule. We will need to start principal photography on the last day of July to get out before the end of the summer holidays. That ain’t a whole load of time to get all our production ducks in line. And it ain’t a whole lot of darkness each night to film through.

And it’s certainly not a lot of time to find our first couple of investors, upon whom it still all depends. Our fingers remain tentatively poised over the “go” button waiting for them to step forward.

But hey, enough with the moaning. All in all it’s been a very good day – in one fell swoop we’ve managed to knock around £50k off the budget, and inherit an army of Digital Media students as runners. Sure, the film won’t have that conceit of a psychiatric hospital full of a bunch of sectioned patients that all believe that they’re the son of God, only to find out that one of them has been telling the truth all along. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll only be me that misses it. 

And if that’s the largest disappointment I have to get over between now and the end of the summer, it’ll be the most charmed of apocalypses all round. Braced.