Thursday 28 May 2020

Like Something From A Novel

Often films about or centred around teenagers, are described as ‘coming of age’ which is a broad genre in itself, but this term is actually accurate and encompasses more than one way of coming of age for the main characters who each have their ‘demons’ to overcome, fears to face and strength to find.


Set in the 1960s, in a small, closed minded, religious town in Oklahoma, quiet, shy, introverted Iris is bullied by her peers on a daily basis as well as facing ridicule from her bitter mother. But when the charismatic Maggie joins her school, newly arrived from the city, the two soon becomes friends, giving Iris the courage, she needs. But a dark cloud hangs over Maggie’s head making her home life as well as her personal one difficult to control.


For a film that wasn’t adapted from a novel, the story really does play out and feel as if it were structured from a book first. Maybe it’s the setting, the period, the characters or the truth about why Maggie and her family had to move to a small town in the middle of nowhere. For a story that appears to be about people finding their voice or trying to accept who they are, there really is far more to unpack within the story. Even with the smallest of snippets from the ‘mean girls’ at the high school or from Iris’ mother getting drunk again and commenting spitefully on how her daughter looks, or when the town’s hairdresser, Hazel, reveals to have an equally mysterious past, they all piece together how the town perceives outsiders, as well as capturing the mindset of the time.


Although the town is filled with possible stereotypes, they are never over dramatized and equally give the main characters room to breathe. Both Kara Haywood and Liana Liberato as Iris and Maggie have great chemistry and each with their own individual character struggles bring a sense of innocence and wonder to the film. Lucas Jade Zumann as lone wolf and object of Iris’ desire, Jeff, deserves a special mention. He’s been racking up credits as the soulful genuine ‘good guy’ but isn’t getting the recognition you’d expect from his great performances.


Although this is director Martha Stephens’ fourth feature, it feels absurd that we haven’t heard more about her previous films. Premiering at Sundance last year, the film was set to be released this year but due to a world pandemic, that was changed, like so many other films. You can watch the trailer HERE and rent/buy the film on various different platforms, well worth the time and effort.


Unlike other stories in the coming of age drama, there is no solid conclusion, in fact there is further destruction and an open-ended mystery. Iris is given hope and we left feeling hopefully for hers and Maggie’s futures. If this was a novel, a possible sequel would be welcome.

To The Stars will be available on Digital Download from 1st June on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Sky, Virgin, Chili



Tuesday 19 May 2020

For One Month Only

Seeing as we are all still in a state of unease and cut off from one another, I wanted to share something with everyone. For one month only.

Back in May 2017 a Kickstarter campaign was started to help fund a short low/no budget film 'Late Night at the Movies'. This was co-produced and co-directed (by me) from a story I had spent years writing. I'd always wanted to shoot in a cinema and write a story about a hitman (well, woman) and this was it.

Livien, a professional killer, who goes to the late night film screenings to unwind and hide away from her job, her clients and anyone else who is after her. Somewhere along the line she ended up working for an organization and signed the wrong kind of contract. Middleman Jack meets with her at the movies and tells what to do and where to go. At first this was an intrusion to her, at the place she calls her sanctuary, but over time Jack and Livien have become more than just colleagues. This complicates matters however, as Livien struggles with her feelings whilst trying to protect the one she cares about.

The film will be available to watch for one month. Its only 10 minutes long so hopefully this brings a spark of enjoyment to your day.


Thank you to everyone who was involved and made this possible, especially to the person who has helped so many times, especially when I thought everything was literally falling to pieces, you saved the day.

Saturday 16 May 2020

So, You Want To Make A Film?

I recently spoke to a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in ages, time and distance being the main reasons. But at the moment, that doesn’t matter and we were able to catch up. One the stories I told them about was how I made a film, back in 2017 and it wasn’t completed until a year later. They told me how they had been involved with a few filmmakers who had asked favours and they’d obliged but vowed to never again agree to such favours. One filmmaker had asked to use their flat and they’d said yes, even though it was because the flat was perfect for a drug den (mildly insulting). That particular film was shot years ago and still wasn’t finished. After hearing this, I felt slightly better about the last film I made.

Despite the pain and aggro that the post production of the film had caused, I was happy to see it finished and proud of what was made. This didn’t quite outweigh my disappointment that the post production on this 10-minute film took over a year to finish and this meant momentum was lost, as well as interest. There wasn’t a chance to send it off to festivals which was the aim and it looked like there wasn’t a future which was such a shame considering the effort that so many people put in. My personal story about what happened will end up sounding bitter so I won’t relate it hear. I do wish I had just taken sole ownership of it at one point, then the film might have had a better future but too late now. My main thought, after my friend told me about the unfinished drug den set film was that, there must be so many filmmakers out there who have plenty of stories like this. Where do all the unfinished or abandoned films go? There are so many filmmakers with ideas out there, all wanting to make films, have them up on the big screen, see their stories play out but as making a film and getting everyone involved is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve done. 

I am not an expert. But when it comes to making low to no budget films, who is? Anyone undertaking a project/film, short or feature, will learn from experience. My minimal experience on other people’s projects was different to my own films as situations and leadership varies from project to project or film to film.

Making a film is about three different things; having an idea, convincing people to help you make this idea become reality and actually seeing the idea through to sometimes the bitter end. This may be a bleak or over simplified way of explaining how films get made, but in my own experience, this has been it. Where, as it is possible to make a film on your own, with just you holding the camera, acting all the parts if fictional, cutting it together later and uploading it to whatever site you subscribe to, if you want to make a film that is a bit more up market, you will need a crew and cast/contributors. You will also need to complete a **** ton of paperwork if you want to do things at a slightly professional level. A handshake agreement might work with one or too family members but contracts are needed, just in case. Filmmaking is a collaborative form of art and to be honest, that’s part of the fun (and stress). I applaud anyone who makes a film (whether the end result is good or bad) just because I know how bloody hard it can be. But I would also say to those who want to make a film, proceed with caution.

A few things I can advise or suggest, obviously, you don’t have to listen to me, this is just from what I’ve experienced. Work with people you trust 100%. Establish whether the film is for fun or has a purpose. Compromise if you have to. Films cost money, expect to go over your budget or budget for extra. Don’t be rude to people doing you a favour, especially if there’s no money involved. Accept that things go wrong and you have to improvise. Not everyone is going to like or watch your film, even after all that hard work you put it, accept this, a weight will be lifted from your shoulders.

So, while we’re in lockdown and either thinking about making a film or making your next one, you have plenty of time to be pre-production. They’ll be lots of ideas out there just waiting to be realised after all this has calmed down and wish luck to all the filmmakers out there.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Still Lost in La Mancha

The ill-fated production that started back in 2000 is quite the different one that eventually was released in 2018 at festivals and general release in January this year. The story behind the now infamous film that director/writer Terry Gilliam tried to make for 30 years may be the better one. Although there are redeeming moments, actors and of course the design, the Gilliam fairy tale flare, the film isn't quite what you would have hoped for.

My full review is over at Vulturehound and can be read HERE.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Best Served In Hot Desert Sands

Why serve your dish of revenge cold when you could serve it up in a long weekend in the desert with literally buckets of blood.

Coralie Fargeat's debut feature film is a genre film that does exactly what it says in the title yet still is one of the best films of 2018 and feels like a new take on the male gaze drenched revenge thriller. This was one of the first films to be showcased by Birds Eye View's Reclaim the Frame campaign which has now reached new heights even in the current state of things.

'Revenge' was given the limited edition treatment by Second Sight Films recently, in the form of a delightfully shiny new Blu-ray release, with poster and booklet featuring new artwork. As I do very much enjoy special editions, I have loved the past releases from this distributor, appreciating that 'Revenge' was given this attention.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about you can read my review on Vulturehound HERE or you can get yourself a copy of the film HERE.