Monthly Archives: April 2017

Real Stories at Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema

We experienced some success last weekend when Emmi was selected by two film festivals (one in Belgium, one in London). Whilst browsing festivals over Easter, I spotted something called ‘Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema’ in London looking for ‘real stories’ to shown. Being as Emmi is inspired by a real story we decided we should give it a go – I’m glad we did!

Susie and I set off to London for the event (wrestling rush hour traffic, underground cancellations, problematic ticket barriers – arriving with 5 minutes to spare). When we arrived we were greeted by Ashley Jackson the festival organiser. There were seven films in the line-up (we were programmed to be the last film before the interval).

Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema postcard

The quality of the films shown were great, it’s nice to think that our rather personal little film might be considered alongside some of these. Let’s go over them one by one:

Grandmas Big Schlep:
Hannah finds out that Grandma wasn’t actually Jewish and can’t be buried next to Grandpa as planned. She must go on her journey with her sister Rivkah to make things right before it’s too late.

Although this was the longest film of the evening (20 minutes), it was also the most uplifting. The time bristled by and there was a lovely warmth and humour to the film. Both of the girls put in great performances and the whole thing had a polished and lavish feel. Nice to see it was made by a female team also.

 

Girl:
An Experimental drama about a young homeless woman who spends her days chasing a feeling.

From the longest film shown to the shortest, I found this particularly interesting to contrast against our homeless short film “Spare Change”. A couple of minor details were lacking authenticity (indeed the same is true of Spare Change), but I liked the overall message of the film. It was also interesting that it was shot in “Portrait” rather than traditional Widescreen which helped give the “Girl” a sense of isolation and a different perspective.

 

Husky:
Marcus, a boy on the brink of adulthood struggles to decide where his loyalties lie.

In some ways this gritty drama was a little similar in tone to our film, although the canvas felt slightly larger and the end result is more cinematic. There are two great performances in this short: the antagonist Dan (suitably loathsome) and the downs syndrome character Mary (who is the true standout of the film). Extremely well made and at a couple of points an excruciating, a testament to its power. I’d say this was my favourite film during the evening and again nice to a female team at the helm.

 

Emmi:
Keeping with the darker theme, we were next. We were pleased about being just before the interval as it gave us an opportunity to invite feedback. It was also a good opportunity to see the film on a different system (note to self: dial down the sound mix for future screenings). It was amusing to hear one audience member humming Emmi’s main theme at the end of the film.

 

Kitty’s Fortune
Based on Kitt Hart-Moxon’s first night in Auschwitz when Kitty encounters a palm-reading Gypsy who hones in on her lifeline. The film is a glimpse into a touching encounter between two people amidst the brutality of their surroundings.

On a technical level this was by far the most polished of the films shown, it was beautifully filmed. Yet despite the haunting performances/worthy subject matter, something didn’t quite click (not just me – Susie thought the same). We found the atmosphere in the first half extremely moving and well paced with a palpable sense of dread. This isn’t sustained after the initial gypsy encounter and the film felt like it needed a stronger ending. That said, this is still an impressive film, especially in terms of what was achieved for the budget.

 

A Six and Two Threes:
Two kids from different sides of the tracks meet when one goes in search of their father.

Again there was some very impressive cinematography in this piece. Some of the dialogue in the film was difficult to hear, but what I really liked was the authenticity of the film. The performers felt genuine and were around the right age. The two main performances were nicely handled and the younger kid in particular is a hoot. The language was also very crude, I was thinking Emmi would easily win the swear count until this film’s colourful language took things to the next level! Very well done and strangely touching.

At this point we had to leave to get back, but during the interval we caught up with the Writer/Producer (Ellie Gocher) and Director (Jimmy Dean) of the final film ‘Offside’. We spoke a bit about finding funding and what they had planned as their next project. They also told us that the film was online (so I’ll share it below).

 

Offside:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/03/28/offside/

Offside tells the story of 11 year old Kirsty who struggles to accept her looming femininity as she learns she will soon lose her position on the local boys football team.

Having now seen the film, I’d say that the film was slower paced than many of the other films shown during the evening, but the pacing was deliberate and the story works on multiple levels. The central performances felt genuine and authentic and it particularly resonated being as I’m father to a 10 year old daughter who also currently enjoys playing football. Of course being as the film is shared online you can make your own mind up!

The programme for evening can be downloaded here.

This was a great evening and I’d like to extend my thanks to Lo-No for selecting our film and making us feel welcome. We hope to return for the next project!

An Audience With Toby Jones

For the final part of the Oxford Literary Festival actor Toby Jones gave a talk at the Sheldonian Theatre with Professor Simon Kövesi. The immediate thing which struck me about Toby was his wit.

Toby JonesToby comes from a theatrical family but he originally wanted to be a director rather than an actor. He realised a knack for making people laugh around a table (being younger these weren’t the people you would ordinarily be invited to socialise with). He went on to studying Drama at Manchester for three years (and joked you could end almost any assignment with a statement along the lines of ‘and this is why the death of theatre is all but imminent’).

After this he then moved to L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris which was to be the making of him as an actor. Here he learned the important lesson to stop questioning what he thought the audience was thinking. Toby was candid enough to state some of the earlier performances could have been better. When you start out you are so keen to show the full range of skills and put absolutely everything into a performance, when in actual fact the performance will benefit from less range and sharper focus. He also stated the importance of ‘not over-analysing’, something he did initially.

He also talked a bit about ‘drama’ as a form of therapy. If you go to a therapist you are essentially telling a story. And indeed, you are putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Now that Toby is an established name he doesn’t have to as much about auditioning – the roles now come to him. He did give an interesting insight into the world of ‘tapes’ (where an actor is filmed and told to read lines usually with very little preparation – cue classic actor line: “what is my motivation?”). Most established actors did this in their earlier days and agents would fire them off to Hollywood, most never seen again. He joked that this is every actors nightmare – knowing that some of this stuff may still exist and it could resurface at any point on an embarrassing clip show.

Toby also has done his fair share of biopics, including larger than life characters such as Truman Capote, Alfred Hitchcock and Neil Baldwin. It was interesting to hear how he approached playing these well-known characters. Rather than focus just aping mannerisms, he would dig a bit deeper and question like “why did he speak like that?” (eg. Capote had a notoriously high-pitched voice, which Jones put down to his upbringing with three older women – this was the only way he would get heard). Interesting when making Marvellous, Neil Baldwin was on set during the filming (must have been an odd experience). After acting one of the more affecting and difficult scenes Neil exclaimed: ‘We’re going to win a BAFTA’. And he wasn’t wrong!

Something coming across by this point is that Toby is interested in people and looks for the empathy within a scene – he’s even managed to sell falling in love with a giant flea (yes really)!

One audience member (presumably a budding thesp himself) asked “what advice would you give to aspiring actors starting out today?”. He chose to answer this carefully, but followed it up by saying “if you the type of person who listens to advice from others about acting, then maybe acting isn’t the best choice career path”. But he rattled off a range of skills and jobs actors who don’t make it can also do – being as actors are also gifted communicators. He ended by saying “there is no real reason for an actor to ever be out of work. If you aren’t acting, write material to perform.”

I didn’t get to ask the question lurking in the back of my mind: “being as you no doubt get so many offers, how do you pick your projects?”. You’d expect a standard answer like it was a good story or it was with someone I always wanted to work with. But then you shouldn’t necessarily expect the expected with Toby Jones.