30 December, 2009

What the Papers Say: "The Day of the Triffids"


Brian Viner, The Independent

"As for the passage of time blunting the impact of television, I watched the first episode of The Day of the Triffids with my children, expecting at least the youngest of them to be as spooked as I was when, at about the same age, I watched the 1962 film on the telly. Yet he pronounced it no scarier than an average episode of Doctor Who.

Still, we all thought it was jolly good. Writer Patrick Harbinson had a creditable stab at updating John Wyndham's 1951 story for the 21st century, presenting the psychopathic plants as the source of an oil that has replaced diminishing fossil fuels and saved the planet from global warming. And the acting was as splendid as you would expect of a cast including Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson and, entering the fray tonight, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. Not to mention Eddie Izzard, who might in fact be the scariest thing of all about the production, the amiable comedian looking entirely at home as the sinister villain of the piece.

All credit to director Nick Copus, too, for making the Triffids about as intimidating as he could, and not allowing them to look too much like killer rhubarb. I wonder, though, whether he might have missed a trick. At this time of year, there is a ubiquitous plant that frankly alarms the hell out of me: poinsettias are taking over the world, and nobody seems to have noticed."

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Alex Hardy,
The Times

"You know that scene in Scary Movie, in which they pastiche the sexing up of horror movies by having Carmen Electra flee, screaming, nearly naked, through a sprinkler system? Well, that’s how the opening seconds of the
Day of the Triffids remake felt — only this wasn’t a parody. A lovely-looking lady screamed, soaking wet in the jungle rain — and I knew straight away that the daft bits of the Triffids makeover were going to utterly eclipse any good stuff that an extra 28 years of special effects could pour on.

And lo, this became a study in how we now make telly shows big and sexy. Gone the theatrical stillness of the original mini-series — the stagnant faces of the opening titles enough to have you hiding behind the sofa — that was like so 1981! No, here’s what we need for sexy 2009 TV!

Let’s big up an X Factor-style tragic back story for Bill! Give him a pretty mum (the wet lady) and have her killed by triffids in Zaire! And his dad, they don’t talk any more, but he was the one who genetically modified the plants so they could replace fossil fuels! Cue Dougray Scott earnestly debating: my dad — hero or villain; in between dazzling flashbacks to his dying mum and a load of bonkers tribal masks! Let’s not give Bill one love interest, but two! (One implied, and killed of course, at the start; the second, a stiff Joely Richardson as Jo — if they don’t cosy up in tonight’s finale, I’ll wear the original Jo’s yellow jumpsuit throughout 2010 . . .) Oo, and we need a mass-media angle, so let’s make Jo a radio star!

Everything, everything, faster, bigger! If one silhouetted hand pawing a frosted window did it in 1981 — we’ll have Shaun of the Dead-style blind zombie crowds! And triffids, not just a few clacking quietly like overgrown celery, but huge epidemics that eat you from the sky! Might as well, given that we’ve spewed the whole triffids-bad premise within minutes.

Yes, yes; different times, different values. Or perhaps even a starker message for more urgent times: Triffids’ enviro-gospel made it absolutely ripe for a remake; many of the bigwigs who recently had a mini-break in Copenhagen would doubtless sell someone else’s right arm to solve global warming. And some of the effects were epic: the light shows above beautifully devastated city skylines.(They couldn’t do much for the triffids though — giant celery is still giant celery, whether it’s made from papier mâché or a million megapixels of CGI fairy dust.)

But the remake could have done with hanging on to more of the less-is-best of the original. Some slower deliciousness arrived by necessity when each sighted person was handcuffed to a blind charge — but mostly this quality was reserved for Eddie Izzard’s very bad baddie. On the backdrop of the more-is-more chaos, how could you not be charmed by his arched-eyebrow expressiveness as he sauntered silently around a crashing plane to steal everyone’s life jackets; quietly bonded with a Churchill statue; or stopped to tell the person he’d kidnapped: “Seatbelt on please, Hilda.” Will I watch tonight? Probably, if only to see what Izzard’s eyebrows did next, and how preposterous the tribal-mask subplot gets."

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Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"In the land of the blind, Gordon Brown should be king. But he doesn't even seem to be prime minister any more; he is nowhere to be seen, Downing Street has been deserted and Eddie Izzard has taken over. That could make for a refreshing change. Should we worry for the economy?

Eddie was snoozing on a 747 with an eye mask on when the Big Flash happened, so he got to keep his sight; then he survived the plane crash by locking himself in the loo with a load of inflated life jackets (would that even work?). Now, inspired by Winston Churchill's statue in Parliament Square, he's gone power crazy. There are a few other lucky ones, including Joely Richardson, who kept her sight but appears to have lost the ability to act, and Dougray Scott, who's still going to fall for her – as well as trying to save the world. Otherwise, it's just the blind . . . well, you know who they're leading. Plus the killer plants, of course, whose day this is.

We met them – the killer plants – early in part one of The Day of the Triffids (BBC1) on Monday night, after which it became very hard to take any of it very seriously. No screen adaptation of John Wyndham's classic post-apocalyptic novel can ever really compete with the book: when it comes to creating menacing flora, special effects and computer graphics still lag a long way behind the human imagination. These triffids are laughable. They seem to be based on quite a common species of cactus (I don't know the name, but I've definitely seen them in the plant section of Homebase). Then, rising from the centre of the plant, is a kind of red hoodie – possibly playing, like a Daily Mail editorial, to our fear of modern feral youths. The Day of the Asbo Cacti. Pah! They don't frighten me: they're cute, I want one, for my conservatory. Well, I call it a conservatory . . .

The triffids' collective performance is still better, and less wooden, than Joely's. In last night's second and concluding part, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, attempted to restore some dignity to the family's reputation with a spirited performance as the mother superior of a rural convent. Dougray has ended up there, injured and in need of help if he's to save mankind, though Vanessa turns out not to be the saint she appears to be. (Was anyone else concerned about the wound by Dougray's right eye, I wonder, and the way it seemed to appear and disappear? Maybe that's just symptomatic of a triffid sting).

Anyway, the convent is a beautiful place, filmed – I think – at the Hospital of St Cross in Hampshire, with St Catherine's Hill covered in snow (and waving triffids) behind. I enjoyed all the locations, and trying to identify them – the views over London, the Gherkin in the City, the Ark at Hammersmith, the A4, Cobstone Windmill (possibly) in the Chilterns. This was a big-name, all-singing, all-dancing, big-budget production and, hoodie triffids aside, it looked fabulous.

It was also pretty faithful to the novel, in terms of character and plot. So they modernised it a bit, gave it a new eco makeover, with the triffids being grown as a source of renewable, clean energy, instead of something to do with the Soviet Union. And it's a loony plant-rights activist who liberates the triffids in the first place – for which he pays, as he should do, with his life.

Under these bodywork modifications though, the chassis is basically the same. I'm glad they kept the ending, too – the Isle of Wight and an uncertain future for mankind – instead of the happy discovery that seawater works as a triffidicide, which is what one screen adaptation had.

But – and it's a big but – what it doesn't do is anything the book doesn't. In fact, it does a lot less – there is none of that feeling of foreboding or doom. Maybe it's because I was (much) younger when I read it, but I remember a certain darkness. I'd like to have tried it out on some children, but unfortunately there weren't any to hand. I've been more scared watching Doctor Who. I don't think I'm even going to have a problem going to the plant section of Homebase."

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Catch up with iPlayer:

Part 1

Part 2

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Overnights:

Part 1 = 6.1m

Part 2 = 5.6m

20 December, 2009

Soundtrack - 20/12/2009

Le Corps Mince de Françoise (LCMDF) - "Something Golden"



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OOIOO - "Sol"

17 December, 2009

Filmmaker gets Hollywood contract via YouTube



Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez uploaded a short film to YouTube and within a few days, his inbox was full of offers from producers to make a feature. After taking meetings with, possibly, every agency in town, he has accepted a £18.6m ($30m) contract with Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures.

Alvarez is developing a new story in the same genre for the movie which will filmed in Uraguay and Argentina. He said: "If some director from some country can achieve this just uploading a video to YouTube, it obviously means that anyone could do it."

Already a backlash has began saying that all because he can do a short it doesn't mean he can do a feature. Which is true. He might have to do some work or hire a screenwriter or get help from his boss who is one of the most popular writer-directors in the world.

This sort of story always produces two sorts of responses: jealous loser whining or copy-cat pro-activity. I think, perhaps, the latter will prove more productive.


15 December, 2009

Preview: "Glee"


"A phenomenon in the US, Glee follows an optimistic high school teacher as he attempts to inspire an oddball group of students to realise their star potential and restore the school's show choir - the glee club - to its former glory."

There's a sneak peak of musical comedy Glee tonight on E4.


The pilot is brilliant and, even if this genre isn't your sort of thing, is worth a watch. It created a huge buzz when it aired in the spring and expectations were largely met in the autumn.

E4 are doing the same thing as Fox: showing the pilot and then the rest of the season later - next year.


The Glee pilot is near perfect which can't be said about the season that followed. You get a sense of the story struggles they had and the inconsistent tone can be off-putting but it remained watchable throughout. I recommend, when it eventually arrives, that you 'go with the flow' instead of thinking, 'hold on a minute...'.

It's co-created by Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck which had its own fair share of bonkers storylines but I have to acknowledge that Glee being different and a bit weird isn't necessarily a bad thing. (Which is kind of the theme of the whole show.)



Glee, 9:00pm

The Story Works


The Story Works is a high-level screenwriting initiative aimed at experienced screenwriters which will be delivered by the partnership of story editor Kate Leys - as project director, producers Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey as creative advisors and with us, the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The programme is supported by an advisory board which includes Ronan Bennett, Christian Colson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tony Grisoni, Christine Langan, Kevin Loader, Cameron McCracken, our own Hannah McGill, Allon Reich, Tessa Ross and Robyn Slovo.

The programme is for ten experienced British screenwriters and will run for a year from March 2010; at the centre of the initiative is a residential week of masterclasses for participants with A-list screenwriters - and film practitioners (editor, DoP etc). The residential week will run immediately prior to the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2010 so that all participants can also attend the EIFF. Over the year, participants will have the chance to work with an experienced mentor on their chosen script or feature film idea and there will also be several further masterclass and group sessions held in London.

Submissions are now invited and participants will be confirmed early next year. Writers experienced in other media such as theatre will also be considered as long as they have feature screenplay ideas in development.

Click here for an application form

Click here for an equal opportunities monitoring form

Application deadline: 5pm, Friday 18 December 2009

14 December, 2009

Linkage - 14/12/2009


Screen

Must read story about the birth pangs of a new British film
"The Hollywood star refused to come out of his trailer, the leading lady's hair melted and the actor hired to play the joy- rider couldn't drive"
The Guardian
Link

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Dear Directors
Phill Barron
"will you stop tweaking minor things and demanding a fucking writing credit?"
Link

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Dear Writers
Phill Barron
"SCRIPT WRITERS DO NOT WRITE FILMS, WE WRITE FILM SCRIPTS."
Link

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Million Dollar Screenplay Tips
Living the Romantic Comedy
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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25 Ways to Polish Your Screenplay for Producers
greenwriter.org
Link

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Writing A Screenplay About Your Life? Don't Forget the Compelling Concept
greenwriter.org
Link

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Question: Does a story hook (1st ten pages) have to be suspenseful?
Go Into The Story
Link

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"Free online screenwriting and media-production software and resources"
Five Sprockets
Link

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The 7 Steps to a Successful Screenplay
Raindance
Link

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Why Story Structure is the Key to Success
John Truby
Link

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Three Less Orthodox Story Structures
The Last Reveal
Link

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Collection of beat sheets, step outlines and treatments.
Beat Sheet Central
Link

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"Sometimes you're gonna lose the patient"
Bitter Script Reader
"But never be afraid to walk away from your own writing. You'll learn something from it, and chances are it can make you a better writer. "
Link

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"Horror Filmmaking: From Script to Scream"
Filmmaker IQ
Link

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Screenwriting and Character Development
David Spies
Link

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Stage

"For people in theatre to connect, collaborate and publish plays in innovative ways"
Bush Green
Link

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A golden age for theatre? Yes and no
The Guardian
Link

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"In spite of the hard times, British theatre is flourishing"
Sunday Times
Link

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Creativity

Connecting with Creativity
Adrian Reynolds
Link

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10 Simple Ways to Instantly Boost Your Inspiration
Inspired mag
"We’re creative beings, we modify our world in ways it was never modified before. And inspiration is our normal state as human beings. The only reason we can’t always be in that flow is because we’re blocking it. Consciously or, most of the time, unconsciously."

Link

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"Try Fun, Quick Exercises to Boost Your Creativity. "
Psychology Today
Link

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Self development


"You’re Not That Talented, and Other Advice"
All Bets Are Off Productions
"I’ve broken it down into 4 categories:

* Bettering yourself
* Bettering your professional image
* Finding work and getting paid
* Being happy with life and work"

Link

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100 Ways To Live A Better Life
Dragos Roua
"You don’t like your life? Change it! Change your life for the better! Don’t have any clue on how to do it?"

Link

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100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life
Dragos Roua
Link

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Miscellany

Lessons Learned
Michelle Lipton
Link


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Dear BAFTA
Danny Stack
Link

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100 Greatest Films of the 20th Century
AMC Filmsite
Link

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HBO interactive multi-dimensional drama
Link


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Free Speech is not for Sale
Libelreform.org
Link

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When piracy isn't theft
The Guardian
Link


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06 December, 2009

Soundtrack - 06/12/2009

Vampire Weekend - "Cousins"



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The Temper Trap - "Fader"



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Ellie Goulding
- "Under The Sheets"



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Death Cab for Cutie
- "Meet Me on the Equinox"

03 December, 2009

Guiding Lights


  • Are you a talented, ambitious filmmaker with at least two years professional experience?

  • Have you reached a critical point in your career where high quality industry support would help you reach the next level?

  • Would a mentor’s expert guidance enable you to achieve your full potential?
If so, Guiding Lights is for you.

Following two successful rounds of Guiding Lights, we are looking for another 25 up-and-coming film professionals to match with top industry talent. Successful applicants will benefit from 12 months of one-to-one mentor support from an established practitioner. Previous mentors include Danny Boyle, Paul Greengrass, Gurinda Chadha, Kenneth Branagh, Alison Owen, Christopher Hampton and Bill Nicholson.


We welcome applications from across the community and will select participants from a range of industry disciplines. The scheme is open to directors, producers, screenwriters, cinematographers and professionals working in sales, distribution, exhibition, marketing, publicity and business affairs.


Please check the website www.guiding-lights.org.uk for eligibility criteria, guidelines and FAQs

APPLICATION DEADLINE:

1pm, Wednesday 23rd December 2009


“Having a formal bond where someone learning about their chosen career in the industry has ongoing advice from someone with great experience is invaluable and helps demystify all our roles.”

Tim Bevan, Working Title Films

“Not only has the relationship with my mentor been invaluable in terms of increased knowledge, it has also given me greater confidence in my abilities, focused my future aims and helped me visualise a successful career – which is key to making it happen.”

Faye Gilbert (mentored by Danny Boyle, Guiding Lights 08/09)


FURTHER INFORMATION:


Website:
www.guiding-lights.org.uk
Email:
guiding@lighthouse.org.uk
Textphone:
01273 686320
We are able to facilitate access for deaf and disabled people.


All information is available in large print format.
Copies can be downloaded from the website:
www.guiding-lights.org.uk