Sunday 29 April 2012

How to Make a Puppet Breath

It's quite simple really, when you breath, the puppet breathes.

This Saturday I went a Puppeteering crash course, meaning it was a one day experience, at the Home of British Puppeteering, The Little Angel Theatre.

The day started at 10am and like all events/courses like these, all the attendees introduced themselves. A group of roughly 16 people from all different backgrounds and interests all there to learn how to be a puppeteer.

We were then treated to various performances by our New Zealander puppeteer workshop leader, Ollie. He showed us all his puppets made from everyday items, including a Mexican hat rod operated puppet, an acrobatic potato sack and an Italian glove tightrope walker. Then we were shown the different types of puppets, concentrating on glove puppets, think Punch and Judy and rod puppets, think the Muppets. One of the group actually had brought a Muppet she bought in New York with her. It was fantastic! Made me want to go out and get my own puppet to play with.

The main focus of the day was not on creating a puppet but learning how to work with puppets. The important lessons of learning how to be independent of your puppet and how to make it breath.

We were all given a black bin bag (its sounds strange but actually it was very effective) and had to create a shape that could resemble a puppet. We did several exercises where we made our puppets breath and become a real live puppet, then we had to interact with other by doing a following and stalking game. Highly amusing. Controlling a puppet made me think back to when I was younger when I played with puppets and toys, making them come alive.

Ollie did say, never underestimate the power of play.

After Lunch we practiced more with our plastic bags and then we moved onto sticks where we learnt the same disciplines as the bag. Only this time we learnt to smoothly change hands and pass on the sticks to others. Most of these exercises may sound odd to you but believe me, it all made sense.

The last few hours of the day was so much fun. We finally got to use actual crafted puppets. Starting off with glove puppets. My character was a gloomy one, his mouth resembled a fish's mouth and the voice I gave him was a stuffed up pompous fool. Once we had got to know our puppets we got to join in with everyone else. Some very amusing conversations with a bald puppet wearing elaborate clothing who was confused about his life and even stranger conversations with Mr Punch himself. It turned out that my puppet had murdered his wife, and dog. In another scenario, Mr Punch had kissed my puppet's wife thinking it was someone else.

We moved onto rod puppets, mine was an old man, who I think was used in The Tempest when it was performed at the theatre. We got to perform in front of the group in pairs. My puppet partener and I decided to perform with The Albino and The Old Man. The conversation was about a velvet cloak and compliments. We got quite a few laughs and I was complimented on my puppetery skills.

Such a brilliant day and I would definitely recommend the course to anyone who loves puppets, theatre and having fun. Look on the theatre's website for more information.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Everything is a Good Idea at 2am

Some nights I just can't get to sleep and I mean deep sleep. I end up being only half asleep so therefore I am half awake. In this delirious state I have crazy dreams. Sometimes they are really disturbing, too strange to write down here.

When I was younger I had a notebook by my pillow so that when I eventually woke myself up from the dream I wrote down immediately wrote down what happened. The dreams ranged from continuously falling off a rollercoaster (Oblivion, in Alton Towers), to being Jim Carrey in a dress and drifting out to sea. Yes, I do mean I was Jim Carrey. But every dream has a common thread, apart from the dream I always have when I fall down the stairs, they are all the same. They are all like films. I don't mean they are cut together like films, I mean it is as if I am watching the films but sometimes taking part.

I understand it might be a strange thing to process but you're just hearing it, imaging living it or dreaming it. Like most people I have had plenty of dreams where I thought they were real. The one I can't forget was when I thought one of my friend's had died. But it was in a loop where I woke up and had to live it over. When I finally woke up, for real, my pillow was damp, I had cried in my sleep. I contacted my friend that day just in case. I was in quite a state.

As my dreams, delusions and such have real plots to them, they would make great films. But since I filled that notebook up and have actually misplaced it (better find it soon just in case someone else finds it) I haven't written may of my dreams down in time.

Luckily I vividly remember last night's hilarious adventure. Basically, I was Liz Lemon (Tina Fey's character in 30 Rock) and I was in charge of the Easter hunt. Several other characters from the show were taking part too. Part of the hunt involved having to dive into a swimming pool fully clothed, which is what the contestants did. This was because I had put the prizes in the pool, why? Nobody knows. The prizes turned out to be various sized metal desk fans. Surprisingly they weren't damaged by the water either but there were many confused people, all dripping wet holding their fans. Another part I remember was that I didn't actually know what the prizes were until they pulled out of the water. Also when I was pushed over it wasn't in the water, then when I did wake up, I was confused.

I thought this basic idea would make a great episode of sorts but then I think every dream would make a great film.

Monday 23 April 2012

The Day George Killed the Dragon

Just wanted to say Happy St George's Day to everyone.

And of course to say that no one ever really celebrates St George's Day except the British, but only in small ways. For example local towns have markets and parades, like my home town. Pubs and restaurants have special deals on but that is basically it.

I remember at secondary school my head of year was Irish so every year she would make a great deal of St Patrick's Day and force everyone to sing and got people to do some irish dancing at assemblies BUT when it came to St George's Day she just announced it and that was it. When people asked her to do a proper assembly for the Saint's day, she made a hideous face and said why don't you do it. Then again she was an awful teacher, and biast towards her form class anyway.

It would just be nice to see a little more effort go into St George's Day. As much effort and support as when the football/rugby World Cup is on.

Anyway, Happy St George's Day!

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Always the Questions

Whenever you meet new people and you tell them what you do or like, especially if it's in the creative industry, its the same questions. For example, if it's music, you are asked, "what's your favourite band?" or "So what instruments do you play?" or if you an artist, 'What do you draw/paint/make?". Sometimes the questions are insulting or said in a way to make the creative person useless. But the age old question that I get asked, many times, and it's usually said as if I've never heard or been asked this question before is, "What's your favourite film?" or "What are your top ten favourite films?". Usually it's a good conversation starter, but I never get past the first few because an argument starts or the other person simply switches to their favourites.

To be honest, I'm always interested to know what films people like, even if I am disgusted, delighted or surprised. Most people who know me think I'm very opinionated when it comes to films and television, but guess what, so is everyone who works in film/television and that's the way it should be (and that's what makes us awesome).

My top ten films usually stays the same except one that always changes, depending on what I've seen.

But right at this moment the list stands, in no particular order, as:

1. Sin City (actually my favourite film)
2. The Lord of the Rings Triology (they are one so they all get to be here)
3. Marx Brother's A Night at the Opera
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. O Brother Where Art Thou?
6. Amelie
7. Hot Fuzz
8. The Big Lebowski
9. Rear Window
10. Drive (it may be new, but its amazing)

I'm sure if you all think about it, you all have at least a top 5 list. So feel free to send me a list of your favourite films, no judging I promise, I'm just interested.


Monday 16 April 2012

Filming in Progress - The Zombies are Friendly

This weekend Raar! Films starting filming their shorts leading up to their feature film, Flamingo Close. I was lucky to be part of this awesome crew. We had a very few busy days shooting and the result (link below) is, awesome!

As for the story, I don't want to give any details away just yet but I'll just say that the shoot involved plenty of fake blood spattered on the wall (including a hand print of mine), a trashed office and a horde of zombies complete with a zombie wrangler. There is going to be a collection of short films featuring some of the same characters before and after the zombie outbreak. To watch the video, follow RAAR! Films on Facebook and Twitter, but to get you excited, here are a few production stills.





Above is the whole cast and crew. Watch this space for more updates on Flamingo Close and RAAR! Films and also, spread the zombie love!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Best Thing About Pirates is Ham Nite

Besides the fact that the only way I could watch this marvelous film in wonderful 2D was to see it surrounded by screaming children who didn't understand anything that was going on, I really enjoyed this film.

Most of the jokes in the film I only heard adults laughing and annoying children behind me talking (breaking a law of the cinema). I did laugh out loud, as hoped, but at the oddest things. Most were gestures and expressions, things that would go way over children's heads. At times there was complete silence when I was laughing loudly. My point is, that this is not a children's film, simply because they didn't get the jokes.

For those who don't know Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, is adapted from a book of the same name by Gideon Defoe. He has also written various other tales involving the Pirates where they go on adventures with Communists, with Whaling and Napoleon. This particular story involves the Pirate Captain wanting to enter the prestigious Pirate of the Year competition. But the only way he can win is to plunder himself a large amount of 'booty', money or gold to you and me. But while trying and failing to find one boat that has any gold, the crew find a ship with wimpy love sick Charles Darwin. But before they can make him walk the plank, he discovers that Polly the parrot is in fact a Dodo, a creature thought to have been extinct for 150 years. He suggests that they take Polly to London and present her at the Scientist of the Year awards to win 'untold treasures'. So begins the adventure for fame and fortune and for the ultimate prize, the Pirate of the Year trophy.

Of course every story needs a crazy villain, in this story it isn't a rival pirate, at one point it is Charles Darwin but ultimately it is her majesty Queen Victoria. What happens at the end after a big reveal is very amusing, involving Queen Victoria turning into a crazy assassin.

Aardman really have outdone themselves. The story is perfect for their very British ways and excellent humour. I have been looking forward to this film ever since I went Empire's (very disappointing) Big Screen event last summer. One of the few highlights was seeing the Aardman presentation which featured The Pirates! heavily. Luckily Pirates in general haven't been ruined yet by the Johnny Depp franchise, so I was very excited about the film. We were shown behind the scene footage, the animation process and clips from the film that took 5 years to make.

The characters are brilliant, each with their own trademark such as The Pirate with Gout. They have been crafted out as individuals instead of the 'general background'. We are introduced to them arguing over what the best thing about being a pirate is, the looting or the cutlass'. All the Captain has to do is stroll in and correct them. The best thing about being a pirate is, Ham Night (but spelt Nite in the film) and I agree, Ham Nite looks the best, plus its HAM! The Pirate Captain is of course a stand out as the ambitious fool in charge of follows who don't really know what they're doing. They are all likable, but not as loveable as Polly, who is the cutest parrot/dodo ever to grace the silver screen. I particularly enjoyed the fact that everyone else in the film knows it too. The Captain is forever going gooey eyed over her. The attention to every detail is amazing, with the shop names to small captions and Manpanze's (Darwin's monkey butler) cue cards.

Another random favourite moment of mine was when rival pirate, Black Belamy, (Jeremy Piven) arrives on the scene in a giant whale. Just watching this creature flying through the air was hilarious but sometime later when the Pirate Captain and his crew leave the scene, the whale is still sitting there. It was the expression that got me. Brilliant.

If you haven't seen it yet, do, but don't bother with 3D, there is no need for it. 2D is amazing without effects. Finally I leave with a link to the website because its really fun!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Love is . . . passng the poatoes

As I have said previously, I never expected Snow White to be the fairytale to make straight away. But here we are with one film on release now and another to follow soon.

The very simple poster. There is far better one (as usual) that has the evil queen and the prince included too but this will have to do. Funny thing is, the apple scene, where the Evil Queen in disguise hands her a poison apple, isn't in this version. So why that giant apple is there, I have no idea.

As promised by the trailer, the film is visually amazing, especially the costumes. All bright colours, amusing dialogue and slight tweak on the original fairytale. But then that's what you should expect from visionary director Tarsem Singh or better known as just, Tarsem. He is famous for The Cell (2006), The Fall (2006), most recently for Immortals (2011) and for making music videos and commercials around the world, which is how he shot parts of The Fall. He was also attached to direct Constantine (2005). I loved that film but now all I can imagine is Tarsem's version. Amazing.

I don't think I need to explain the story, Snow White is a princess treated badly by her evil wicked stepmother who married her father, The King, bewitched him and sent him to die. She banishes Snow, sending a huntsman (but in this version, a servant) to kill her in the forest and bring back her heart. Snow meets and makes friends seven dwarves, living in their house in the forest. Any further than that isn't really in the film, after all it is an adaptation. And I don't want to give anything away.

From what I've noticed with Tarsem's films, the story doesn't always match the vision, some would say that Zack Syder was the same. Both are called 'Visionary Directors'. Personally I think Zack Syder is brilliant and his films do have substance. But Tarsem, I'm not too sure about. I think The Fall is an amazing film, but if I was going to be picky, the story is thin. So when I went to see Mirror Mirror, I was worried that there would be lack of story, especially as it is adapted from a fairytale. Thankfully though, I was wrong, there are plenty of characters who provide a great fun story. A special mention to the actors who played the seven dwarves, they all had their own, obvious characteristics that shown through, and yes they were very funny. In fact my title is one of their lines, a light, funny moment.

Though the dialogue was sometimes limp, it was counteracted by the fact everyone spoke really well and mean this in the way, they didn't drop letters or abbreviate things. What they did was speak well but in a way they knew they taking the mick out of it, no one was too serious, which why I think the story and characters worked. They all knew they were in a fairytale and were having fun with it.

Lily Collins, daughter of Phil, played the lead, Snow White and both my friend and I agreed, she was born for this part. Looks aside, she acted like Snow would in a typical fairytale and was convincing. Doesn't matter of the whole tone is different, I am yet to be convinced by Kristen Stewart's Snow White, I think she looks too mean and daring to be a fairytale princess. Armie Hammer, as always was perfect as Prince Alcott and actually had some of the funniest scenes, when he acts like a puppy, very amusing. But the third poster holder, Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen was at times very annoying for me. She wasn't evil enough for me, not until the end anyway. It felt that she had been given odd directions, especially when saying some of her lines, but then I could just be being picky.

But last but not least I think best surprise of all (SPOILER) was casting Sean Bean as the King. I actually shouted out in the cinema "Oh my god! That's Sean bean!!! Is that him? YES it is!" I was so excited to see him on screen. I couldn't believe my luck, Armie Hammer and Sean Bean in the same film.

Just a mention of the music, I could detect hints of Indian music, which isn't a surprise as Tarsem is Indian, but at the end we were all rewarded with a Bollywood style dance scene with Lily Collins singing. The staging of this dance/song was odd, Snow White dances with the dwarves around her. The crowd of people also dance with her and sing along while the Prince and other characters stand to the side, but the King stands at the back, the whole time. Not moving but the fact he is in frame most of the time is really funny. Snow is singing and dancing and the King is just standing there, really awkwardly. Best dance scene ever!

On a sad note, as most people will have read in reviews, they mention the clothes and how the audience will notice them before the acting. The amazing work of Eiko Ishioka who also worked with Tarsem on his previous films, is amazing. Unfortunately she died in January and didn't live to see the film released.  I couldn't find a website for her but I did find this biography

I really enjoyed this film but I understand it might not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you like visionary films I recommend you see this on the big screen.

Fairytales are back from the dead!

The first of the Snow White films came out last week and the first of the wave of Fairytale films. Where were all these films when I was writing my essay about Fairytales for Uni?

As you know (and if you don't, start looking) the theme of the year in Hollywood is Fairytale retelling. With the announcement of two Snow White films, Jack the Giant Killer and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters there is no doubt that more will be made soon.

The wave has also reached TV with ABC's Once Upon a Time which is between a rip off of the amazing comic book series 'Fables' and 'Lost'. The latter is because it is the same same people who made 'Lost'. The show has the same set up, like 'Lost' each episode focuses on one character and shows their back story while cut with whats happening in our world, 'Storybrooke, present day. I admit I haven't been watching every episode because sometimes the character they focus on has a dull back story and doesn't really push the story along (just like 'Lost'). Another annoying thing about the show is that each episode ends the same, in a hopeless situation, there is never a happy ending or a hint of one. It's a shame because a few episodes back I really thought it was becoming its own. But if you can get past the first two - three first episodes, which aren't super, you can start to get into the story, even though you want to slap everyone for being over dramatic.

It starts on channel 5 this month in UK, you never know you might love it.

As for the films, Mirror Mirror is out now (review to follow), watch the trailer, there is seriously something for everyone (not Julia Roberts).

I think everyone is excited about Snow White and the Huntsman but just in case you have no idea what I'm typing about, look on the website

Jack the Giant Killer has encountered problems so the release date has been pushed back to 2013, but the trailer can still be found on IMDB. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has only got the image below at the moment and no word on a release date, yet.

When these various films were announced, I didn't think Snow White would be the fairytale to adapt. I thought Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.  I would like to see a villain piece, but not that 'Maleficent' film that's floating around that is meant to be 'Sleeping Beauty' but told from the perspective of the evil witch. I think they should make 'The Pied Piper of Hamlin' because that is a very creepy story. Think about it, this strange guy appears and takes all the children away and they are never heard of again. Where did they go? I think I find it more disturbing after reading a Fables spin off novel, Peter and Max. A very good read. As it is part of the Fables universe, the fairytales are slightly twisted and says what really happened. Peter Piper and Max Piper are brothers, Max grows up to be the Pied Piper of Hamlin and a very powerful sourcerer. That book alone would make a very good film.

There have been fairytales before like The New Adventures of Pinocchio, aside being one the most disturbing tales, that film just wasn't great. But the two fairytale films that I have been dying to see, both by french writer/director Catherine Breillat. The film Bluebeard and the TV movie Sleeping Beauty, but I can't find them anywhere! If you're intrigued here are the trailers:

Keep an eye out for more Fairytale film announcements!