Category Archives: Personal

London Rolling Film Festival

It was a fantastic pleasure to attend the London Rolling Film Festival this Sunday. There were a number of things I particularly liked when we applied:

1. It was a film festival run by women.
2. It was in based in London and it looked really vibrant. Also had great reviews on FilmFreeway (will leave mine shortly).
3. The film is only screened if the filmmaker or filmmakers are in attendance. The filmmaker also has an opportunity to talk a bit about their project.
4. Unlike many other film festivals – it was free to attend the event.

I must confess I was secretly holding out for this one (it was on my festival planner highlighted in orange – translation: “this festival looks great!”). We had a couple of rejections just before the notification date, I can’t deny my excitement when I learned we had made the official selections. Yay! 🙂 After enthusiastically posting on social media my Godfather contacted me to say he’d like to come along (offering to treat me to dinner afterwards).

Unfortunately things got off to a rocky start! I set off with plenty of time but was greeted on the railway bridge by someone informing me that the trains were cancelled in both directions. The timetable display offered modest hope for two minutes before announcing that train was delayed. A quick check revealed delays of up to 90 minutes. Not good! Thankfully I was early enough to intercept Susie (Emmi’s writer/producer) who very kindly offered to pick me up and drive us to Hillingdon. After what seemed like an age on the Piccadilly line we finally made it to Leicester Square (half an hour later than originally intended)!

We arrived at the Phoenix Theatre Club venue and had our photo taken as we walked in. It was fairly quiet at this point.

Nice and quiet (for now)

I spotted Laura Jones across the room (Laura had helped on the project from the very beginning – turning her hand to anything – scheduling, sound recording, catering, cat wrangling – she did it all! Her cat Marley features in the film). I was excited that both Laura and her partner would get to experience the film for the first time with a larger audience.

Host Ellie Torrez kicked things off and invited all of the directors up to the front to describe their films in three words. I believe I went for “dark and depressing” – probably could have come up with something more creative – but this sets audience expectations. Ellie then explained the format (there would be two awards: “Jury” and “Audience”) and the judges were introduced. A quick summary of what played:

The Fox1. The Fox (dir. Henry Scriven)
An affluent West London neighbourhood is being terrorised by a violent thief once thought to be a vigilante. On a quiet summer’s night, despite the large police presence, the wanted thief stalks the streets in search of an opportunity. But the open door he finds will only lead him deeper into the darkness. What a wonderful way to start! The film builds intensity, offering a brief moment of humour before cranking up the tension again. You can watch the film on Henry’s website here.

Health Kick2. Health Kick (dir. Dipak Patel)
Two health fanatics working in the same office try to out-do each other, but it’s not long before things get out of hand! This comedy was the shortest of all the films played, enjoyed this one also!

3. 5476 Miles (dir. Terry Thomas)
The only animation in the festival line-up. Admire the amount of effort Terry put in to this paper cut-out animation. The tune by his brother Nigel was also rather lovely. Another fine effort and a nice change of style – you can it watch here:

4. The Inuring (dir. James Hughes)
Time for something much darker! A bullied teenage girl finally confronts her sister to drag their fractured past out into the light. I must confess I’ve been wanting to see this short for a while (it’s having an amazing run on the festival scene). It seemed like the nearest companion to our film (ie. bleak teenage drama with a female cast). The high point here is Emily Haigh’s astonishing performance. I spoke with Emily during the breaks and I’ll be rooting for her at Southampton International Film Festival (we are both playing there in October).

We had reached the half way mark and I noticed my Godfather standing at the back with a crowd of others. Wow, actually there was quite a crowd now and all the seats had been taken!


After a catch-up chat/drink (note to self: eat something next time!), we returned for the second half.

Remember point 3 in my list above? The makers of next film didn’t turn up  so their film wasn’t played!

Emmi-Portrait5. Emmi
We were next. Ellie gave us an amazingly generous introduction stating she had seen the film three times now and that the film still retains all of its power – such an amazing compliment (thanks Ellie)! The film played and (as is usually the case) you could almost hear a pin drop by the end. Ellie asked Susie and I a couple of questions afterward. I can’t really recall what was said, but seem to recall talking about the power of suggestion, “less being more” and that the film asked difficult questions but provided no easy answers.

Elephant in the Room6. The Elephant in the Room (dir. Mark Singer & Jamie Terry)
After the double bitter pill of ‘Emmi’ and ‘The Inuring” together, this comedy provided a welcome lift (it was about as different from Emmi as you could possibly get). A young couple attending a house-viewing might be getting more than they bargained on. The real standout here was actress Louise Green (and “Tyrone” – this is an in-joke to anyone who was present at the screening).

7. Another Home (dir. Khanh Dang Xuan)
Finishing up was this lovely reflective piece. The film explores the meaning of home through the encounter between a young girl who recently moved to London and a young British man. It is a story about the uncertain and disorienting nature of living far from home, about love, loss and hope. It finally asks – how hard is it to let go and move on when all you feel is loss? In terms of cinematography this was my favourite (filmed on a Sony A7S II camera, proving not everything has to be shot on RED or Alexa).  The film’s producer/writer Quynh Nga (Anna) Vu also came over from France especially so the film could be played. A beautiful way to end the official selections.

The judges were now deliberating for the Jury award and the audience had their chance to vote. Both winners would receive a one year subscription to iPitch (and the Audience award would also receive a small cash prize)! I decided not to vote as it felt terribly unsporting (everyone said I was crazy not to vote for my own film!). I still couldn’t bring myself to do this, so I put some money into the Rolling Film Festival Guinness hat instead to say thanks (this felt far more appropriate). Two things went through my mind at this point:

1. I was really enjoying it, this was fun! The venue was full to capacity and there was wonderful buzz in the air. Like most festivals you had a number of filmmakers showcasing their films (indeed this was a rule here), however the majority of creative people I spoke with didn’t have a film playing in the line-up. There were also lots of genuine audience members. This mix can perhaps be attributed to the fact that there was no entry charge.
2. This was also the first festival where I can honestly say I really enjoyed every single film and any one of them was a worthy winner!

Susie went off to see the “out of competition” film in the VIP area, I confess I was chatting too much and missed this. This was followed by something called “Feature Corner” – a Q&A with Director and Producers on the main stage. The feature in question was “Winters Ridge” which I’ll try to catch in the cinema when it is given a limited release next year. This film gets brownie points for filming in both Lynton and Lynmouth (I am a Devonian after-all)! Here is a behind the scenes featurette on the film:

Next up was “Pitch corner” where three projects had five minutes to pitch to their project to the audience (one feature and two web-series’). All three had sizzle reels to sell it to the audience. I felt for everyone who did this, pitching is brutal! I hope all of them found some of the support they needed during the festival.

Finally it was time for the awards part and judges came up on stage to announce their decision. My Godfather (somewhat mischievously) set my expectations exactly where they should be: “It’s apples and oranges – they are all so different, not sure how they will decide. I’d probably go for The Fox! I’m not sure I saw many audience votes for Emmi!”. I thought: “fair enough, at least we walk away with one fan who sat through the film three times!”

Host Ellie popped a bit of fun at the judges for all being male at a female run festival (fair point) – Barry got a free pass though for “flying the LGBT flag”. It was apparent that they struggling a bit with the decision – each judge had their favourite – but in the end only one could win. They gave the Jury award to the first film played “The Fox”. Congratulations to Henry, well deserved!

Now on to the audience award. Susie and I were convinced that either “The Inuring” or “The Fox” were going to walk away with this. “And the winner is… Emmi”. Took me a moment to process it! Hang on – that’s our film? Susie and I looked at each other completely stunned! After a moment we then hugged! I’ve never seen Susie lost for words – but this was perhaps as close as it would get. The emotion was immense so I hugged her again! We also invited Laura up to join in the moment.

Audience Choice Award #LRFF8
Can’t remember a word of what we said, but I really hope we were able to convey our shock and how much this moment meant to us. Clearly we didn’t do this for the money because we walked back to our seats without taking the winnings! 🙂

I still hadn’t eaten – but had a couple more celebration drinks (oops)! It seemed I was getting business cards left, right and centre. It was especially nice to learn that Emmi was affecting some of the male members in the audience (generally we thought Emmi would resonate with women more). All of the “officially selected” filmmakers were invited into the VIP area to record a few short interviews on Facebook Live. You can see us all talking here (Emmi begins around 7 minutes in):

In between interviews we chatted to one of the judges at this year’s Fish Eye Festival  (thanks for selecting us – really looking forward to playing there next month) and to “The Fox” winner Henry about the difficulty of establishing the correct tone. After a final bit of mingling and some last-minute selfies – we all went off in our different directions!

I don't do Selfies well!

It’s only fair to say a huge thank-you to Alida at this point for all of the co-ordination. She has put a tremendous amount of effort into running this festival behind the scenes (not lost on me, I’ve been a conference manager – this would have been a colossal amount of work). Stefania – you also deserve a shout-out for all your help too. Last but by no means least – Ellie you were a lovely and gracious host/interviewer, always keeping things lively. You really did champion our film during the festival and we appreciate that so much! I hope you will all stay in touch!

Topping off the whole surreal evening was a lovely meal at Chelsea Arts Club with my Godfather and his family. It wasn’t until coming home on the train the following morning that everything started to sink in (exhausted, really proud of the whole Emmi team and profoundly grateful to the audience for picking our challenging little film).

Thank you so much Rolling Film Festival!

Right, back to reality…

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A weekend away with Emmi in Cardiff

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for our film Emmi! On Saturday 24th June we played at two film festivals (Oakville in Canada and Cardiff). We also held a local screening in Oxford last weekend. I’ll cover more on the latter in separate post, for now I’ll concentrate on the film festival weekend.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make the Oakville Film Festival (based just outside of Toronto). Susie and I recorded a message for the festival to play before the film (I now appreciate how much I hate talking to a camera – like talking into an answering machine only worse!).

Oops - what I've said now?

Oops – what’s he said now?

Susie and I both made it to the Cardiff festival however (not only would this be our first film festival experience, it would also be our first in Cardiff). You can read Susie’s take on the whole experience here. Susie was 30mins away but already had other plans for much of the weekend, so I was flying solo for the most part. My train (with incorrectly issued ticket) arrived a little later than planned. Almost immediately I started wandering in the wrong direction (typical) but thankfully it didn’t take too long to find my bearings. It was immediately apparent that Cardiff was fun, diverse and vibrant.

Walking around Cardiff
I managed to find my hotel (Park Plaza), check in and freshen up. I lucked out with the bed – absolute luxury!

Plaza Bed

After unpacking, I received a text from Susie and went to meet her at the train station. We then proceeded to Kongs to collect our festival passes. Kongs is a retro-arcade bar fill with old favourites such as Donkey Kong, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and Outrun 2 (had no idea they made a sequel!) as well as having Blue Moon on keg – nice!

Kongs

Our screening was part of the “Fiction Part 2” session and was located around the corner in a venue called 10 feet tall (presumably because the building is tall and thin). When we arrived on the top floor we found that the whole place had been decorated like a big top, it looked great!

The Big Top
Unfortunately the Comedy section was playing down the road at the same time, which was no doubt a busier session. The biggest surprise came when a former colleague of mine (having just moved to Cardiff) turned up just before our film played. Nice to have some additional moral support. Afterwards we found a nice bar and had a catch up before all heading our separate ways. I decided to grab some food at Wagamama before returning back to the hotel.

I originally planned to attend “Moon Dogs” and “Twisted Tales” during the evening at Jacobs Market but to be honest I was quite exhausted and the bed was far too comfy. I also factored in the thought of wandering around a strange city on my own in the dark having just watched a bunch of adult horror shorts. I phoned the family to says hi before running myself a lovely relaxing bath (with no children invading – bliss). I also spotted Casino Royale was on – perfect! I made it to about 10pm before sleeping (with no kids invading – bliss). This is very early for me being as I rarely get to sleep before 1am normally. Unfortunately I woke at 4.30am and didn’t get back to sleep properly. At 7am I decided to give up trying, get up, shower and enjoy a nice hearty breakfast. As a child I was always told “never eat too much before swimming or you’ll sink”, I decided to check out the pool facilities anyway. The pool was lovely and I managed to get in about 40 lengths before more people started to arrive.

Plaza Pool
I decided to retire to the steam room (which I had all to myself). After what was now my third shower of the morning, I decided to take a short wander around before checking out of the hotel.

The Plaza is based in the castle quarter almost right next to the Castle itself. As you can see the Welsh are quite patriotic!

Welsh Flags

The castle itself cost money to visit, so I just browsed the outskirts.

Cardiff Castle

I have to say I loved the animals carved on the castle walls.

Animal stonework
I walked around some nearby parks/gardens before returning back to the centre, it struck me that there were two things were in great abundance here: shopping arcades and Greggs bakeries (these were everywhere).

Shopping Arcades

There were also a numerous statues. Initially I chuckled at a guilty seagull on the head of Aneurin Bevan (Welsh Labour Party politician and chief architect of the National Health Service) before noticing a more poignant message about the Grenfell Tower disaster at the base.

Statues

After a spot of people watching over lunch, I decided to head down St Mary’s Street to see the Stadium and the river Taff. On the way I bumped into a wonderful mechanical clock.

Clock and Stadium
I was starting to get a bit concerned that I hadn’t seen any welsh dragons other than on flags, but thankfully I found this one on my way back to the hotel.

There be Dragons
The rest of the day I immersed myself in the festival watching the Female Director session and the remaining two fiction sessions. All of these took place in the Old Market Tavern. These seemed more popular than our session, hope to cover a bit about the films I watched in another blog post.

Just before the end of the final session, I rushed off to quickly grab some tea before crossing the river to the Tramshed (unsurprisingly a former tram depot) where the festival awards were being held. I was also planning to catch up with Susie again. Upon arrival I was greeted to live music and some familiar faces who I’d met earlier in the day. Shortly after this Susie arrived.

And the Band Played On
Even though we had the excitement of seeing our film in the nominations for best fictional film, it came as no great surprise to me that we didn’t win it (Susie was perhaps a little more disappointed). The reality was that there were almost 40 films in this category competing for a single accolade! Even so, this was a most enjoyable way to end the festival. After all of the awards were done and dusted we went back to the car and began to navigate our way back. The trip took a couple of hours, but it was lovely just chating on the way home. We had completed our first ever film festival. Now we just had the small matter of a film screening to organise.

Restless

Having a difficult month. I’ve got a viral infection which I can’t seem to shake. I recall catching a similar infection which took over three months to recover from. In particular my sleep has been badly affected.

Last night I went to sleep at 4am. I really didn’t want to do this, but my brain continued to race and recycle mundane thoughts. I couldn’t shake this! Of course I was also piling additional pressure on myself to try to sleep knowing how few hours sleep I’d actually get. Add in my asthma and the constant wheezing/coughing which happens when I lie down. Finally mix in the clocks going forward an hour to British Summer Time (body clock all over the place). I think I managed about just under 3 hours sleep!

As a family we all suffer sleep-wise. At one end of the spectrum is my wife who is constantly exhausted and regularly takes naps during the day. At the other end are my children and I. I’ve always been a light sleeper, the slightest noise will keep me awake. Last Sunday my eldest made a lovely Mother’s Day flower clock. The ticking mechanism kept me awake. Speaking of my eldest, she has been a poor sleeper ever since birth. We took her to a specialist about her sleep and she came back with autism diagnosis. My youngest was initially a better sleeper. Sadly the knock on effect of my eldest not sleeping has rubbed off on her now. We start the bedtime routine at 7pm. We are lucky if they fall sleep 4 hours after this! We’ve tried every trick in the book to attempt to change this exhausting cycle.

It’s amazing how much lack of sleep affects you. Earlier this morning I made a stupid slip-up which I’m sure I might have avoided had I got more sleep. With blurry eyes I withdrew from the wrong film festival – a rather costly mistake which I might not be able to rectify. Naturally, I’m feeling cross at myself and rather stupid.

The impacts on of lack of sleep on your well-being, memory and health are well documented. I’ve definitely been feeling more moody, erratic and my immunity level feels low. Thankfully I have a pretty quiet weekend planned. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to catch up with more sleep – fingers crossed (children – are you listening? Let daddy sleep!). 🙂

Her beautiful motifs

Both of my daughters have always enjoyed “banging around” creating music on my keyboard. I usually get asked to record their efforts. My eldest seems particularly musical, we share similar music tastes (both responding to minor chords and strings). She recently had a term learning to play the violin – I have to say she was far better at it than I was. Being the weekend, I decided to let her have a little play on my keyboard again.

“Listen to this Daddy” she announced proudly after five minutes. So I did and was rather impressed, she is now really starting to pick up rhythms and harmony. To show her my appreciation of her growing musical ability, I decided to turn her short motif into a new track. So here is our first joint collaboration together, she is responsible for the mellow guitar part and I formed the chords/added some gentle beats over the top. I can’t wait to play this to her and hear what future compositions she comes up with.

Here is the track:

When disaster strikes

Last week everything was seemingly going to plan until without any predictable rhyme or reason disaster struck! Below is advice I’ve written to remind myself how I coped (which is hopefully helpful to others):

  1. Take a moment out, go for a quick walk and gather perspective. At the end of the day, the majority of problems seem larger than they actually are. Clear your head and reset your priorities on how you might resolve the problem.
  2. Take responsibility in getting it fixed and do not Ostrich! Inability to take responsibility doesn’t make the problem go away and tends to make things feel insurmountable.
  3. Do not focus on blaming people, this is very negative. Involve anyone who you need to help you resolve the problem. You are probably not alone with the problem. Most will understand and try to help. Praise and reward these people both during and after problem solving.
  4. Keep calm and keep you cool. If you appear stressed this will only feed stress levels of others.
  5. Keep the communication flowing with the relevant people as everything progresses.
  6. See this as an opportunity to introduce some positive changes. It might be writing guidelines or making a case to invest in safeguards to stop similar problems from reoccuring.

Glory: James Horner (1953-2015)

Today started in an unusual manner. I woke on a normal school day and the children were already up and dressed (odd). Whilst making a cup of tea my wife told me to read the screen on her mobile phone. I read it, but it took a moment to fully digest: “Film Composer James Horner aged 61 dies in a plane crash”. I was quietly devastated.

The very first time I recall remembering his music was for the trailer of Backdraft back in 1991. I remember thinking “WOW”, that music has a real emotional punch to it.

When I watched the film I came away bitterly disappointed that this wonderful music was nowhere to be heard! What was this music? I needed to know and I discovered (long before the days of Google or Shazam) that it was James Horner and the piece was taken from the ending credits of Glory:

This is the piece I am going to remember James Horner for, it made me sit up and take notice (really at a point when I didn’t do this much). It feels more poignant today than ever.

James Horner (image by Getty)

It wasn’t long before I discoverd he had composed music to other film scores I loved – most notably Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (I honestly thought it was Jerry Goldsmith), Aliens (I’ve lost track of the number of trailers which use Bishop’s Countdown in them), The Name of the Rose (I still find those bells creepy).

He would go on to win an Oscar for both his Titanic score and the song ‘My Heart will go on’. He was nominated for six other films. At the risk of being somewhat controversial – I didn’t rate Titanic as one of his better scores, but he did so many other memorable scores such as Apollo 13, Avatar, Braveheart, Casper and Field of Dreams – that there really is something for everyone.  The thing about James Horner for me was the way he could emotionally connect an audience to the scene in a beautiful yet bittersweet manner. Knowing we will never hear another of his majestic scores makes me feel a little emptier inside. RIP James Horner.

Moonraker: Back to Earth with a bump

I clearly remember the moment at my dear Gran’s house, armed with a cassette recorder waiting quietly by her Ferguson television. I was patiently waiting to watch and record Moonraker which was on telly (Bond on the telly was a big event back in those days). Even if I was unable to record the picture, I could at least record the sound. I remember thinking the music was one of the most amazing things I’d ever heard. Indelibly marked in my psyche was the music during the opening pre-titles, the gondola chase, the hand-glider escape/following to the Aztec lair, the flight into space. I listened to these every bedtime, night after night. This along with John William’s Jaws score were my introductions into the power of film music. My older daughter responds to John Barry’s music in a similar manner to me (I did spot over Christmas she too has started recording CDs using her audio device using the speech recorder – a lovely moment of reflection).

moonraker-5179efd135cff

Somewhere during the mid-nineties came the magical moment when I finally bought the CD soundtrack. Yes, it was as beautiful as I remembered, but many of the lovely cues were also missing – not a hint of the Bond theme even. The history behind this being that Moonraker was filmed in France and the score was therefore recorded in Paris. Many of the Bond scores were remastered and expanded but the master tapes for Moonraker were (and presumably still are) missing. Moonraker still remains a Holy grail for Bond and Barry fans alike.

So you can imagine my excitement when the kickstarter campaign offering to re-record the missing cues comes along.

It was to be recorded by conductor Nic Raine who is one of the champions of re-recording John Barry’s material. He worked also worked alongside him on the scores for both A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights.

It was no surprise to me that within a day the campaign had almost reached the half-way point, and within a week or two it had supassed its goal. I was so excited, I may have even tweeted about it! Mr Barry’s local Yorkshire rag also picked up the story. Sadly however this was just not to be and within hours the campaign was forced to be cancelled for reasons (still?) unknown! I can only imagine someone behind the scenes got wind and wanted to use some legality to exploit project for financial gain. Ah well, it was fun whilst it lasted. On the plus side – it does show there is a market for these scores, so fingers crossed this still happens.