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I Need Your Help


I need your help,

I’m working with my local community library in Rothley. For the past few months I have been writing and running a Film Talk. We want to engage with the local community and share my passion for film. It’s early days and we are struggling to connect with the right and steady audience to make this really work.

So far we have discussed It’s A Wonderful Life (1947), A Kind of Loving (1962) and Midnight Cowboy (1969). We have another one lined up, ready and waiting too!

Moving forward I have been working with the Rothley Community Library to put together a short survey (7 questions) for you to answer. Your answers will help Film Talk grow in new and exciting directions.

 

Painting the Town… Update (22/4/17)


It’s open studios today which has allowed me to talk to the public who have had a look at our studios in Leicester. I’ve still been able to achieve what I wanted to. Adding more detail to the windows. I’m concerned about the bay windows, as these are my first I don’t know how well fixed they are to the card, some pieces may stay in place more than others.

Also I have begun priming the model in places. I have left the windows and floor until next time as I don’t to affect the work I have been doing there. Otherwise I think I’m doing well for progress. I think I’ll be testing again in June. I can edit the scene a few times to have a few versions to work with, making the most of both the model set and the clip.

Get Out (2017)


Now those who are regular readers of my reviews know I’m not big on horror, however the more I heard about Get Out (2017) I knew it was probably something I should check out. Being more than the regular run of the mill horror film, with the formulaic jumps and build-ups to the next time you jump out of your seat. Here there’s something more subversive going on which is bringing an audience who may have stayed away. There’s also the non-controversey by raised by Samuel L. Jackson who said that Daniel Kaluuya being an English actor should not have been chosen for the lead as he would not understand the struggle of other brothers in America. Forgetting that unfortunately that racism is universal. There’s also the argument that as we have seen with other Black leading actors, British actors are classically trained so maybe more qualified for the roles they are getting. Ultimately they are acting, if they convey the emotions and ideas of the character that develops the narrative then it doesn’t matter as long as they have been cast right for the role. So Mr Jackson, on this one – pipe down and look at the bigger picture, the lack of fair and more honest representation of African-Americans, whoever plays them, American or British, or even South African, as long as they can relate to the role and give at least a competent performance, then and only then are you improving the image of black life in the world.

Staying with the racism theme which underlies what the film is about, added the increased tensions in America with the Trump administration Get Out is a very pertinent film. With Obama now part of modern history we are seeing a darker side we had hoped was no longer present come to the fore. The underbelly of racism has been given a voice to speak up during last years election, Trump feeding on the hate and resentment that has been created in the last few decades due to globalisation, increasing equality (which still has a way to go) tensions are high to uneasy.

These tensions are felt by Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) whose about to meet his girlfriends parents. To be fair who wouldn’t be. Wanting to make a good impression on them, hoping they will accept you as a part of your partners life. Add to that he’s black, which will make him the elephant in the room of White family in suburbia, so what he is feeling is normal with the addition of his heritage. Here’s hoping it goes well, even with reassurances from girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), her parents loved Obama, they would have voted for him a third time, maybe  laying it on a little too thick, its enough to calm him for the ride over Rose’s home.

The ride over isn’t as straight forward as you’d think it would be, the audience is not allowed to be too relaxed when it comes to this film. A deer running out in the road invites a racist cop who asks Chris for ID even though he wasn’t driving, reflecting the black prejudice towards Black people. It’s like we’ve entered a world of heightened prejudice, oh wait this is America through a very sharp lens. Then the fun begins when the couple arrive at the family home, it all looks a little too good to be true, a Black grounds keeper who is anything but normal, you could say his personality has been sucked out of him. I was reminded early on of The Stepford Wives (1975), as wives return home, after a brief period away, the same yet so very different. We only get glimpses of the groundskeeper and house-maid (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) who as we see show no signs of even being – human, they appear to be more white in attitude and personality.

Onto meeting the family, which goes smoothly enough, if only a little too smoothly, we can see it like a sales pitch which is being repeated and delivering the product a little to well, there must be some cracks to this family façade. It’s on the first night when Chris is restless he falls foul to hypnotherapy by the mother Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) who we already know has a great cure for quitting smoking. Leading him into a session of hypnotherapy that is only the beginning of how creep things are going to get.

It’s only with the annual family gathering do things start to get really questionable, all white guests who bend over backwards to be polite to Chris whose really uncomfortable by all the guests. Making overly nice comments about Black people, it’s either desperate or plain creepy. When his phone camera goes off when he talks to the only other black guest Andrew Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield) who snaps out of his ultra-friendly personality to reveal a more human and terrified side to him. The cracks are starting to show in this façade of a gathering. There’s something sinister involving brain-washing going on at least. Or as comic relief suggest, Rod Williams (LilRel Howery)

“…Their probably abducting black people, brain washing them and making them slaves. Or sex slaves. not just regular slaves, but sex slaves and sh_t. See? I don’t know if it’s the hypnosis that’s making em slaves or wot not, but all I know is they already got two brothas we know and there could be a whole bunch of brothas they got already…

The final act reveals what’s really going on, a white cult who lure in Black people to harvest them for superior body parts, leaving them practically lobotomized, without personality, unless your camera flash goes off the suppressions diffused to reveal the true horrors. You could say they are White supremacists who acknowledge that Black people maybe superior but will not allow this to get out, ensure social control, white at the top, blacks in their place. Is this the future for Trumps America or a prediction of what it is to come. Are we over-reacting to what is going on? Only African-Americans and the makers of the film truly know what is going on for them. I can be presented with all the racially motivated police shootings, demonstrations that the news presents me. Get Out is a suburban take on how to present this real anxiety that has not gone away. With a nice dose of humour to lighten the mood or we would come out of the film shaken by the images.  Instead I came away relieved to the resolution, justice is served yet leaves you thinking could this really be going on, can people operate like this. I know I won’t be going to the Armitage’s.

Painting the Town… Update (17/4/17)


I’m starting to add just the detail now to this model saloon. Starting with the banister of the stairs which after some repairs is looking more complete. Simply gluing two strips of cardboard; one piece sits aside of the other, before sitting it on top of balustrades. It’s also a rare time I’ve used both my glue-gun and PVA in the same time.

Lastly I’ve made a good start on the detailing at the other end, the entrance and windows. I have boxed them off now and added detail in the bay windows. It will be interesting to see how that works, when I add the horizontal pieces to complete the window frames. I should have all the detail complete the next time I am in the studio. I’m really amazed at how fast this piece has come together, so many elements to consider and here I am almost ready to get the paint out and it’s not been a week since my Crit.

Painting the Town… Update (16/4/17)


I feel like I’m going through a lot of cardboard at the moment, it’s all material that’s been stashed away for just such a piece that requires so much of it. The saloon is really taking shape now with not just the detail but the addition of a ceiling too. I began the day working on the stairs, which in reflection maybe too wide at the bottom, however it’s not a big deal. I’ve added the bolsters (please correct me on that if I’m wrong) before I add the rail later. I also blocked off the top to suggest that a door leads off from the landing.

The biggest development was addition of a ceiling, which I was, well I am still concerned about in terms of how it will affect the projection. It may block out light and distort the image. I am going slightly over what was probably built for Unforgiven however I need to see this as a saloon, a location and a space that was filmed in and expand it.  It also has stairs which would/do lead up to another floor. At the moment the ceiling isn’t fixed and will remain that way until painting is complete, as posts will be going underneath to hold up. It will also prevent and even finish of paint.

The entrance has also been looked into, with the door now intruding into the piece. Whilst I have also made a start on the bay windows which I’ll be working on more next time. Lastly I’ve got the balsa out for the framing of the doors and windows. Soon it will all be about the detail before I get the paint out again. It’s come a long way in a few days, I’m sure I’ll be painting in no time and get the projector out to see how it all turns out.

Painting the Town… Update (15/4/17)


OK technically I did everything in this update yesterday but I was enjoying the company of friends to post. After last weeks crit group I have decided to try out one of the ideas, which was to focus on the violence of one scene, edit it to then show the violence, and project into a purpose-built model of that scene. Here I have made a start on the internal model miniature of the one in Unforgiven (1992). I’ve been playing back and forth the clip to build up and image of the saloon over the day, sketching out elements to see how it looks together.

I then made a start on a loose model of the saloon which after only a day it has really taken shape. I had to gut the previous model to make room for this one as it was just a generic one for a prospective test which has been scrapped. I finished the day looking at the tables, which I believe were covered in green felt – for playing cards, these had to be reduced in diameter for scale too,

Moving on I have to add a fake wall at the top, I’m considering looking over the footage to see if I need to add a ceiling, as I have seen at least 3 posts that need to be added. Also turning to the entrance I need to redesign the door way and getting grim, I need to add a coffin that leans outside. I’ll do a few tests with this set after it’s painted white, see how they look. It’s a real change to recreate a set of a film, which I haven’t really done since Uni, being film specific is something I have wanted to avoid for most of my practice, there are times when that rule has to be broken.

Dogville Vs. Hollywood


I’ve just finished a book I bought from my local independent cinema, which has started a small shop. The book I bought was Dogville Vs Hollywood: The War Between Independent Film and Mainstream Movies by Jake Horsley was on the basis it would go into what the title suggest, look at the battle between directors who are either considered auteurs or independent of the Hollywood system. Building on Peter Biskind’s fascinating Easy Riders, Raging Bulls which was an entertaining and in-depth look at the American New wave which began with Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and ending around Raging Bull and Heavens Gate (1980). Dogville covers much of the same ground coming up to 2006 (when the book was published).

I remember when I first started reading this book I had a gut reaction to the harsh critical tone that the writer who didn’t check his facts, saying Citizen Kane was released in 1942 – was 1941, and Hitchcock’s first sound film was The Lodger (1927)it was Blackmail (1929), I found a few more errors but these two stuck in my mind. It shows how fast this book was written, with passionate anger and disregard for accuracy, when talking about the history of any medium in such detail he got things off to a bad start.

The first chapter was an extended review of Lars Van Trier‘s titular film Dogville (2008) which he uses the basic framework for the book. A film made in response to the current state of Hollywood. A film that is devoid of likeable characters, a set that’s limited to suggestion and a dog that it’s just a drawing on the ground. Most notably an all American cast. I do see the film in a new light now which explains a few things. It’s a dogme that had teeth to bite back.

There were sections where pages where the main body of text was fighting the foot notes that were almost half a page long in places. Why didn’t here just incorporate his research into the main body or minimise it, they became not so much backing up the quotes legitimacy but they were points of trivia which pulled you away from the main body. Eventually I just stopped reading them, noticing that Horsley lifted a lot of quotes from two of Biskind’s books; Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures, showing an over-reliance on superior books on the subject. (I haven’t read the second one yet).

Lastly the overall tone of the book was scathing on just about any director whose mentioned in the book. I agree on some points, the state of Hollywood has not changed in ten years, relying on franchises, special effects and remakes – nothing new there, showing that the argument still stands up. However hardly anyone gets off lightly, unless its a director you’ve never heard of yet. The established directors – Scorsese, Spielberg and Coppola etc are seen in varied shades of black. They’ve either sold out, burned out or just faded away. He blame critics for helping Hollywood in the dumbing down of audiences, their expectations and their thinking of a film. You could say Horsley is a film snob who has an axe to grind, has he been burnt in Hollywood and fighting back? It would explain the horrible tone and the scathing attack to practically everyone, he can be fair in places which is rare, whole chapters and sections are rants, building up individuals before bringing them back down to earth with a bump.

I’ve not really learned a lot, except who Horsley hates and hates not so much. I hope in the 10 years since it’s publication he has mellowed.

Crit Group (12/4/17)


I was a little nervous about tonight’s crit group, however I found it rather helpful. I have a few directions to take the work in, even taking it back to Melton Mowbray where it originated.

  • The tests weren’t that violent, even tame, find more with blood, guts and gore etc and emphasise  those elements, removing the guns and the shots to focuses purely on the result of violence
  • Take a violent scene, construct a set of that scene and project scene in that, adding context extra depth to the scene.
  • Work with Melton to put together a performance piece, linking the film High Plains Drifter (1973) and the historical event. I really want to around the town with a pant brush – I would be more than likely arrested for it though.

The third test video was liked the best as made more use of the street set-up, I still feel it separates the antagonist and victim, I would have to mix them up for that to work. Even using two projectors to achieve it. Also arranging the models to face each other traditionally. I was encouraged to really get into cowboy character, which is becoming more tempting, maybe even playing Clint, his role in Drifter could be a fun role, and very dark.

  • We discussed the position of the genre and the potential of making a piece that looks at its current position, how it reflects contemporary times – maybe even a feminist Western, which a few do exist, such as Meeks Cuttoff (2010), The Homesman (2014) and Unforgiven (1992) looking more at the female presence which has been very much underplayed in the genre. I have enjoyed the female focused western.

I’m really open to see where things go, the saloon I have started may now be scrapped, unless I can adapt it to a scene, the first one that comes to mind is the ending of Unforgiven, which would allow me to see how this idea first works out. I am also considering approaching galleries in Melton to look at possibilities there. The end piece should be shown there, it feels right that it returns to it’s roots, seeing the connection of a phrase and a film brought together. Editing footage to focus on the result of violence, to see the death, the blood etc is going to be exciting to see too.  Just a shame I have to wait to the weekend to start anything.

Painting the Town… Update (8/4/17)


Now this update comes with a public service announcement of sorts. I was hoping last week to continue in the studio, however my body, unbeknownst to me decided to tell me to stop. Not just slow down or take it easy, but a STOP. I have always wanted to keep busy, if it’s at the day job or in the studio or away from both. I forgot to give myself time to just relax and simply switch off from thinking and doing, which resulted in lots of sleep, catching a film – I decided not to review as that would require thinking. So please take time out for yourself once in a while.

Now today I feel more energized and have returned to the studio. I’ve made a strong start on my first internal model miniature. Deciding to keep the details loose as I have for the rest of my work, which works in part. Also its a larger model, even bigger than my older ones. I think working internally for now I have to stay larger as it’s all new to me. Taking a large box, cutting away a few sides and reinforcing before I began.

As you can see I’ve made a good start, with a bar and mirror and shelving behind, I want a painting on one side too. I have made a start on an upstairs too, needing that in place before the stairs are added. I need to spend time on them to ensure I have the right angle. I’ve also sliced up a tube for the base of a few tables. Lastly I want to make an upright piano. I could go on forever with making pieces for this, I think less is definitely more in this case, I could have a stage, but with restricted room I need to just have a few pieces to suggest its a saloon. Lastly I’ll have the classic saloon swinging door added, all before I start to paint. I’m going to keep some of the pieces loose for a few reasons, so I can paint everything evenly and that I can move objects around during projection for maximum effect.

Painting the Town… Update (25/3/17)


I’m still catching up with last weekend, the last test video has just been edited and I am ready to share it with you now. I ended the day after I had an idea the previous night to combine to the test videos I have been using, the innocent and the perpetrators of violence together. Which meant that I had to re-cut the longer of the two to work together without over running massively or forcing me to repeat the shorter clip which would lose any real effect the piece may have.

I projected it initially, soon realising that I had to reposition the model miniatures either side to fall under the light of each clip. The first few times I ran the piece it was working however the way the footage was falling onto the models it felt uneven. So I went back to tweak it before running it a again. I had to rejig the model, which now sat more comfortably. They had lost the parallel  nature of being a street, I had to divide them so they fell on one side or another at the back where the street wraps around.

It was working now, the violence building up for either side – fair enough the timing was a little off, it’s a test so it’s not a big concern. However I felt that the division between both was taking away a big part of the work. By dividing the street I was also losing the relationship between the two, confined to one side or another which is not reflective of the genre or even reality, Violence in those terms knows no boundaries, which I had set-up here. When the violence’s blanketed over the whole town it has more impact, but less sculptural. Having the two channels of action I can potentially show more now. Meaning I need to mix the two up over the two sides of the streets. I also feel that I need to look at violence committed indoors, so another separate piece needs to be built and footage edited together. Also do I still restrict it to white on white violence or do I move to pure violence in the genre, seeing the victims as just victims of violence not race or otherwise. I’m going back to making and sourcing then to see how things progress further. I definitely have a working piece it just making the most of the potential content to have the most impact.

Then comes the question of how far I have come with this piece, the historical roots from Melton Mowbray’s history of what was thought to be violent incident, which, when compared to today’s standards it’s pretty tame really. I’ve abandoned the literal Wild West translation to look solely at the violence of that era through the lens of the genre. If I look at the true roots of the piece; High Plains Drifter (1973) a horror/western that sees a ghost turn a town on its head before letting it be burned to the ground. I seem to have forgotten the other the town pre-violence, not just during and post violence, which could however be illustrative. The purity of the white model miniatures, which is essentially a blank canvas for the town too. I can project onto it whatever I please, I could tell a narrative which is not my style (expect Playing with Plastic (2016)) or leave it blank for audience interpretation which is my style.