Outside the box (year 2)

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Bunny and the Bull (2009)

If you're a fan of all things Mighty Boosh, then this film will possibly be your most favourite one yet. Its cast and crew are alike, starring actors/comedians such as Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. 

Although on the surface the narrative to the film seems light hearted due to its odd natured characters (typical of Paul King, the director of Bunny and the Bull and The Mighty Boosh), the actual story is dark, depressive and delved into quite intensively. The main character, Stephen (Edward Hogg), developed a condition called Agoraphobia - a phobia of being outside in the unknown - after a trip through Europe years before with his friend, Bunny (Simon Farnaby). The experience on the trip is told through an amazingly creative structure, using innovative set design which has inspired me on a previous film I created, called Tempted?

Richard Bullock and Jane Levick - the Art Directors for Bunny and the Bull - created the set design using the same technique as when they make the sets for The Mighty Boosh. In the picture above, Julian Barratts character lives surrounded by dogs in place made entirely of newspapers (even his guitar!), which is one of the more 'normal' sets in the whole film. 

Personally, I love the idea of creating weird yet interesting pieces of set design - not many films could get away with making a set of out newspapers! 

I'm not There (2007)

This film is an adaption of Bob Dylans' life, portrayed in quite a unique way.

Firstly, the actor for Dylan as a child is black - a bit odd when the rest of the actors who play Dylan during his life are white. An usual choice on behalf of the casting director, Laura Rosenthal. An obviously intentional decision by Todd Haynes (the director), although I cannot understand why. Maybe its my naive mind, but I would have simply assumed that they would use the same race of actors to show the life of Bob Dylan. 
Although the narrative of this film is interesting, and the intense sound design works wonderfully for the genre of film, I believe their use of casting takes the effect of believability from the story. Using actors such as Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and David Cross made the 'realness' of the film weakened, as their are all established actors - therefore it seems odd that they are trying to pass as Bob Dylan. In my opinion, I would have used less memorable actors, as they already have a reputation for their characters, and trying to make a documentary of someone as renowned as Bob Dylan takes the effect away of how real and believable it really is. 

One of the positive elements of this production, is the use of cinematography. Edward Lachman, who also was the cinematographer for films such as The Virgin Suicides and Erin Brockovich, uses the rule of thirds when showing Dylan to show his independence, as the empty space to the left of the actors allow him to appear alone, even when he is having a conversation with another person.  

So, what do I think of the film as a whole? Confusing. Utterly and undoubtedly confusing. The narrative makes little sense, if any at all. The use of different actors for each period of Bob Dylans' life is oddly cast and quite frankly ruins the audiences involvement and absorption into the film - you feel disconnected, like you're watching an poorly structured 'mocumentary' rather than being enveloped into the narrative. To summarise: you have to watch the film with your own eyes to understand my confusion. Maybe my mind just doesn't understand the concept as well as other people's minds, but nevertheless, see for yourself. 

Bronson (2008)

What a film! From the very beginning, the hard hit of Bronson in a cell with blood all over his body, attacking the officers immediately creates a mood and tone for the film. It's in-your-face style of narrative is quite abrupt, yet it perfectly represents the personality of Charles Bronson. 

Tom Hardy, pictured above, plays Charles so well that you almost forget he's an actor. It feels like it's a documentary that was filmed live, from the prisons CCTV - the only reason you don't completely fall for it is the high quality of cinematography, set design and the odd household known actors. 

The most chilling part of the film for me, is knowing that it's based on a true story. On set, director Nicolas Winding Refn asked for Charles Bronsons' friends and family to join them, to make sure the film is factual. Not many directors would do this - it's typical for a director to exaggerate every little detail in someones life to make the film more interesting, but Refn knew that Bronsons well known criminal history would make a disturbing, visually interesting and heart-wrenching film without the need of playing with the narrative. Therefore, using Bronsons' friend on set just shows how Refn wanted to portray the real Charles Bronson, and not simply make a film to make money. 

Searching for the wrong-eyed Jesus (2003)

A beautiful portrayal of a non-fiction film, with added 'oomph'. Okay, maybe oomph isn't the greatest terminology, but I think you'd have to watch it to understand where I'm coming from. The takes are long, unedited, and completely raw. You feel the awkward silences which would normally be taken out, and you see the messiness of the handheld camera at it's wonkiest, yet there's something about it which makes the style of the film seem easy to watch, and almost comforting. 

It was described as 'falling into a dreamy, spaced out feeling where all you do is lay back and watch the film, appreciating the little details in it' - which is a brilliant analysis of how you feel whilst watching the film! You don't think about the sound design or the cinematography or the choice of font etc, you simply drift off, and appreciate what you're seeing on the big screen. Only after you finish the film can you dissect the different elements of it and wonder about the meaning behind certain choices, such as the long takes of cinematography and in-and-out of focus shots. 

Although you initially think that the film will be about music, the religious aspect of the film grows thicker and thicker to the point where you cannot escape from seeing religious hints or views from the public. Their manically strong opinions on religion is quite shocking to an outsider: they believe that you can either love God and appreciate him, or go to hell. Literally, go to hell and burn eternally. However, they've managed to twist the rules of Christianity to make their lives easier - getting extremely drunk, sleeping with random men and dancing provocatively as well as smoking on a saturday night is all okay, as long as you go to church on a sunday morning. Don't get me wrong, I know nothing about religion (and my stubbornness makes me not want to know anymore because of all the controversy and arguments it causes - I'd rather stay oblivious to it all and get on with my life!), but I'm pretty sure getting drunk, smoking, and having sex with random people would not be okay with God, would it? Maybe I should look into it. But I would have simply assumed that doing those sort of things would be frowned upon.  

Nevertheless, finding out about their extremely biased views intrigued me. Their beliefs were so strong, any atheist would be burnt alive if they stepped into their town. No opinion is valid unless it has something to do with believing in God, which is not a common thing to hear of in England - I do not know many people who are religious, or anyone who has a particularly strong opinion on the matter. This film shows the audience what the most extreme of the extreme live like... quite an interesting topic dealt in a raw and open way.  

Ed Gein (2000)

I seem to have found a re-accuring theme in the films I watch - they're mainly interpretations of real life events....serial killers and criminals to be precise. To some people, that may sound like I have underlining homicidal tendencies myself, but I simply love the hard, raw, real life films like Bronson and Ed Gein, and see the psychological background to some of the most influential criminals in history. 

Ed Gein is single handedly one of the most recognisable criminals in the history of...well, criminals. Although people may not remember his name, he has influenced classic gory  bloody horror films such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hannibal Lecture. The film is a deep look into the man behind the horrors, and allows the audience to see what went through Gein's mind when he killed so many people. 

A report showed that the following items were found in the house of Ed Gein in real life: (I'm purposely showing you this so you understand why he influenced so many other horror films!)

"Searching the house, authorities found:
  • Human skulls mounted upon the cornerposts of his bed
  • Human skin fashioned into a lampshade and used to upholster chair seats
  • Human skullcaps, apparently in use as soup bowls
  • A human heart (it is disputed where the heart was found; the deputies’ reports all claim that the heart was in a saucepan on the stove, with some crime scene photographers claiming it was in a paper bag)
  • The head of Mary Hogan, a local tavern owner, found in a paper bag
  • A ceiling light pull consisting of human lips
  • A “mammary vest” crafted from the skin of a woman’s torso
  • A belt made from several human nipples, among many other such grisly objects
  • Socks made from human flesh" - http://www.wisconsinsickness.com/ed-gein/

Although the film doesn't show you all of the items found in his house, they show you what went on in Gein's mind, and how he was influenced. His mother was a strict Christian, believing that every woman (except herself) was a whore and deserved to be tortured, which thoughts she drilled into Ed's mind until the day she died. However, that wasn't the end for his mother - in the film, you see her ghost constantly beside him, telling him how to torture and kill the women and forcing him to do as she says. 
The film itself is quite dated in the sense that if it was to be made again with the technology we have now, there would probably be a lot more gore and stay truer to the torture than this film does, however, it stills shows the audience how terrible the killings were. 
Steve Railsback, the actor who plays Ed, gives a compelling and creepy performance: his stares at the other characters give the audience chills as he looks at them like they're a piece of meat.

These are some of the photos taken from police evidence. I must warn you! They're disturbing:

I'd definitely recommend this film. A truly chilling story, and quite captivating for the audience. 

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

Carrying on my theme of criminals, I decided to watch a documentary about one of the first known female serial killers, Aileen Wuornos. 
Nick Broomfield (as annoying as his voice may be) makes a connection with Aileen after his first documentary about her in 1992. Wuornos establishes a friendship with him, telling him the hard honest truth about her killings. 

In reality, this film is quite tragic. You see Aileen live, and then die. Although you don't see her actually been executed, you see her last words to the camera, which she declared was her last interview. At the end, the police who witnessed her death stated that she said 'God would forgive her' and she was ready to meet her maker. 
You also find out the back story of how she became this way. Her biological mother left her at 6 months old, and her grandfather (who was rumoured to actually be her father) used to beat her and her step mother. She was performing oral sex for money at the young age of 9, and by 13 she was pregnant and kicked out of her home. Sleeping rough, the only solution was for her to hike and prostitute simultaneously, which is where she started her killings.
By the end of the film, you see how much emotional damage being on death row for years had done to her. Her eyes scream insanity, and she is determined to prove that police knew about her first killing, but swept it under a rug so she'd turn into a serial killer, then they'd be able to sentence her to death. She also believed she was being controlled by sonic waves that her warden was controlling.
All the above statements scream insanity, yet she passed the test to be clinically sane, and was sentenced to death. This documentary has a weird, eerie feeling about it, with little edit in the takes, and everything quite raw. I love this style of filming, as it shows what really happened at specific moments in time, and you feel the awkward tension between people talking, which really emphasised the points to the film. 

Tyrannosaur (2011) 

Paddy Considine, in my opinion, uses this film to punch mainstream cinema in it's overly predictable face. Admittedly my statement is over the top, but that's the only way I can express my opinion on this film.
I loved the themes of the production - they're so in-your-face you cannot NOT notice them. Domestic violence, religious belief, British society are just a few of the obvious themes seen in the film. But are there any subtle themes? 
The characters name, Joseph (a well known biblical name) immediately sets the tone for the time, although not obvious at first. However, once he meets Hannah (a christian charity shop worker), it seems like there was a more deliberate reason as to why Considine named his main character Joseph. 
I had to research this - all my years at Brownies and going to church on sundays left me with no knowledge of the bible whatsoever - but I found out about a Joseph in the bible.
In the old testament, it tells you the story of a man named Joseph. He was young, and constantly wanted his fathers approval, much to his brothers disapproval. He belittled them, but couldn't see what he was doing over his joy of being his fathers favourite. His brothers decided to get their revenge, by throwing him down a dry well, then selling him. Joseph eventually ends up in the Pharaoh's household, where a wife of the higher workers trying to have an affair with him - he rejects her, which sends her in a jealous rage, and tells her husband that Joseph tried to rape her. He gets sent to the jail, where he (somehow) becomes in charge of the rest of the prisoners. Two years pass, and his brothers arrive in Egypt, where they see him in his high status, and plead for his forgiveness. He accepts, and they all live happily ever after. Oh and by the way, if you haven't worked it out, this Joseph is the story of 'Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat'. 

So after reading this, I thought of how much this story is similar to Tyrannosaur. Joseph (in the film, not the bible) thinks he is doing right when he tries to protect a child from abuse, but only gets beaten up himself. He hides in a charity shop, where he meets a christian named Hannah. She is constantly been raped (in the bible, a wife says Joseph raped her) by her husband, who she ultimately gets her revenge on. Joseph is a hero in disguise, although he doesn't know it. In a twisted sort of way, I can see many similarities from the story of Joseph in the bible, and Joseph in the film. The 'happily ever after' ending is similar too, as all is forgiven after Hannah pays the price for murder, but he stays by her side. 

Withnail and I (1987)

The first thing that stands out to me, is the casting. A brilliant choice on behalf of casting director, Mary Selway, which made the film a true classic in its own right. Starring Richard E Grant and the recently deceased Richard Griffiths, they both play their roles outstandingly, as well as Paul McGann. 
Richard Griffiths in particular was my favourite character, as his 'is he gay? Is he not gay?' rich uncle portrayal was simply fantastic, and felt like it was simply his personality, not a character. 
The main theme for this film could be considered as the obvious - employment in modern society. Even though this was nearly 30 years ago, people can still relate to this subject, as millions of people worldwide are still unemployed. Grant and McGann play the very stereotypical 'wanabee actors' with all the passion in the world, yet no luck in getting into the business. They're stuck up and arrogant, with a habit of lying to seem better than what they actually are. My favourite seen with the duo is without a doubt one of the first scenes, where they're out of alcohol - a two man riot erupts as if it's the end of the world, all because there is no booze in the house! This scene suggests the second theme, which I believe to be alcoholism. They struggle to get through the morning without a swish of booze for breakfast, and although they make it seem humorous, it's an all too familiar story for alcoholics all around the globe. 

What I've noticed about this film when thinking about themes, is that Bruce Robinson (the director) uses very serious and common themes, but in a humorous manner. Alcoholism, unemployment, sexuality - all of these are typical to make a film about, but normally in a serious, formal manner. Robinson, on the other hand, takes these themes and makes it into a comedy, a new and fresh idea considering it was made in the 80's. 


Inspiration: Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer & Tyrannosaur
Length: 20-30 minutes
Subject: Amelia Dyer (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2283302/Britains-worst-serial-killer-The-Victorian-angel-death-murdered-400-babies.html) 
Narrative: Archive footage, photography and interviews with specialists in the subject, Daniel Miller (who posted the article for the Daily Mail) and historians. 

If you cannot be bothered to read the above article - I don't blame you. Here's a copy and paste of what it says on the link:

"She was dubbed the 'Angel Maker', a prolific serial killer responsible for the murders of around 400 babies, horrific crimes that sent a shock wave through 19th century Britain.
Amelia Dyer preyed on the down-on-their-luck, desperate unmarried mothers who paid her to have their children adopted in the naive belief she would find them a better life.
But there would be no fairytale endings, instead this despicable woman simply took the money before strangling the helpless infants with dressmaking tape and dumping their bodies in the River Thames as reported by The Independent.
For over 30 years Dyer was able to conduct her grisly trade with apparent impunity. Little wonder that she is now believed to be Britain's worst ever serial killer.
Her crimes have come to light once again after more than 2.5million criminal records from between 1770 and 1934 were placed online by the National Archives.
The intriguing records chronicle the crimes and punishments of some of the worst murderers and villains ever to roam these lands. But even among this company of loathsome individuals Dyer stands apart.
She began to conduct her grisly trade in Bristol in the late 1860s, opening a house of confinement in the suburb of Totterdown where she took in unmarried pregnant women who had nowhere else to go.
Some would ask her to smother their babies at birth, crimes that went unchallenged as Victorian doctors were unable to tell the difference between suffocation and still-birth.
Then Dyer moved began offering a fostering service, which involved her simply drugging the babies with laudanum, a powerful opiate, to keep them quite while she slowly starved them.
This went on for almost a decade until she was found guilty of infant neglect and sentenced to paltry six-months in prison.
By the time she came out she had a developed a new business plan. The logic was simple; why deal with all the bother of actually looking after the children when she could offer a one-off full adoption service and simply kill them.
Angel Maker: Dyer was hanged at Newgate Gaol, near the Old Bailey in London, in 1896
Angel Maker: Dyer was hanged at Newgate Gaol, near the Old Bailey in London, in 1896
She moved to Reading and soon found her services in high demand - eyewitnesses reported seeing as many as six babies a day coming into her home.
Police would later find evidence of around 20 children who had been entrusted to her care in the two months before her arrest.
She was finally arrested following the discovery of the body of an infant in the reeds of the Thames. An address on the parcel paper led the police to her rented terraced house..
Inside her house of horrors they were met with the stench of rotting flesh emanating from the kitchen pantry and from a trunk under her bed.
They discovered baby clothes, vaccination papers as well as letters and receipts for her newspaper advertisements offering adoption services.
A search of the River Thames was hastily ordered. After 50 bodies had been discovered she admitted to police: 'You'll know all mine by the tape around their necks.
Her case was so sensational that songs were written about her and Britain's adoption and child protection laws had to be toughened up in response to the public outcry.
Dyer was hanged at Newgate Gaol, near the Old Bailey in London, in 1896. She was 58.
Her Prison Commission file records her last moments: 'On account of her weight and the softness of the textures, rather a short drop was given. It proved to be quite sufficient. 
Hers is one of more than 2.5million records from 1770 to 1934 have been put online, chronicling the fates of fraudsters, counterfeiters, thieves, murderers and drunkards."

Although the story of Dyer is upsetting, I believe it would make a fantastic narrative, and a great biopic documentary - maybe not as a student short, but with the right funding, the story of the Angel Maker would be a fantastic project to work on. 

My Winnipeg (2007)

My Winnipeg is admittedly not something I would typically watch - experimental, black and white, no clear narrative - me, watch something like that?! Well as it happens, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The messy narrative made me think of all the themes and messages behind it, and the experimental visuals made me look for clues. 

The use of black and white was annoying, but once you understand what the film is about (dreams, being stuck), it brought me to the conclusion that the use of black and white colour palette was to make it seem closed off, delusional, dreamy and secluded - referring to what the main character was talking about.

One of the themes I picked up on, which isn't obvious to the naked eye, was homosexuality. This may seem strange, but there were several parts where the main character gave hints to homosexuality. 

"I was brought up around women...I think that's why I turned out how I am", referring to homosexual rhinos and talking about men naked suggests homosexual tendencies, and maybe that's why the main character feels like he is stuck where he is (because he can't accept his homosexuality, and feels trapped by it). 

Wings of Desire (1987)

I found myself forcing my attention on this film. I couldn't appreciate it as an art form, neither could I a film. The production value for its age was impressive, which was one of the few positives I could see. As much as I tried (and maybe that's the problem, I tried too hard), I found myself staring at the clock, waiting for the film to end. 

The film had a narrative. Not a very good one, but a narrative nonetheless. I quite liked the scene in which one of the angels gets his wings clipped and becomes a human again, but it dragged - as did everything in this film. It seemed to be stretched as far as possible, every scene longer than needed, which is a massive downfall. 
My short attention span needs constant entertainment or emotions thrown at me, and I just didn't get any with Wings of Desire. My tiny mind could not appreciate any of the little details in it, nor could I find themes, messages, or points to the film. I just found it tedious, ridiculously long and the story arc wasn't deep enough to make me feel any emotion, except boredom. I apologise for my crude review, but I stand by 'honesty is the best policy'. 


Genre: Comedy/Drama
Inspiration: Withnail and I
Length: Feature length
Subject: Recession
Narrative: Two women coping with the double dip recession.

This film would surround itself around the current epidemic of the double dip recession. Two women, aged around 60+, were well respected Bingo hall workers before the recession, until the Bingo hall closed down. Struggling to earn extra cash apart from their minimum pension (which they cannot live on because of bills etc), they are approached by a production company, where they are offered a job working on a video sex line on TV. Both of them are scared to accept the offer, but after a trip to the bank where they are rejected an extension on their mortgage, they give in to temptation and accept the job offer. 
The two elderly women now earn a living off of the promiscuous TV programme, where they earn hundreds of pounds each show they perform. 


Theme: Discovery/Documentary
Inspiration: Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus
Length: 25-30 minutes
Subject: civilisation
Narrative: Finding out about a little town where everyone knows everyone. 

Much like soap operas such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders, a little town called Troydale, in Leeds, finds its residents to be like a small community, seeing each other nearly everyday. With their pub (Troydale Recreational Pub) as a meeting point, many of the residents come together to talk about the latest affairs and gossip in the town. Using the pub as the primary location, the film depicts the tightly knit group and showing the audience how close the town really is.

To Kill a King music video.

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As the sun came up and many of my friends came back from a drunken night out in town, I came back from a full day of shooting a music video for To Kill a King. This weekend, I was 2nd assistant director and production manager for TKAK's video for their song, Rays. 

We had amazing cast and crew on set which made the shoot incredibly fun and entertaining to be on.

So now the video has been released (at the bottom of the post), I can now go into more detail about what happened on the shoot! First off, here are a few photos that were taken on the shoot. 

My role was to make sure everyone was happy, nourished and knew what was happening. I organised travelling, rang cast/crew members, taxi ranks and owners of locations to make sure everything was going to run smoothly. 

The shoot was possibly the longest set I have been on - one day being 13 hours long (which isn't long to film makers, but I haven't been on a shoot in so long, it was a shock to my system!). 
I spent the first day trying to remember everyones names and getting to know people. Everyone else knew each other (except the set designer, Sarah, who was in the same position as me) so I wanted to get to know everyone straight away. It was refreshing to see such a welcoming and lovely crew! They all respected each other as crew members but welcomed you like you were a part of some humongous, odd family. The crew being happy and kind helped me greatly when it came to informing them of what was happening and making sure everything ran according to plan. 

It was amazing how different a shoot at uni is compared to a much more professional shoot. Although it wasn't paid, the crew were still ridiculously professional and knew exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it. You could ask them questions about the kit, why they were using certain pieces of equipment and how they would create a certain effect, and they knew exactly how to do it. But I suppose that's the point of studying film at university, you're there to learn how to do those things - no one expects you to already know it! 

There were many locations for this shoot - Shipley, Bradford, Doncaster, a club, a bowling alley, a field and more, so a lot of preparation had to be in place to make sure everyone got to the locations on time. Luckily, several members of the crew had a car, so it was a simple case of putting people in cars and sending them to the next location!

As well as a great crew, we had a fantastic cast. All of the actors were so lovely and knew exactly what to do - they moulded to the character and were always happy (and entertaining) whilst waiting for the next shot. They worked extremely well with the huge crew, long hours and busy schedule, and were a pleasure to be around. I've got all of their contact details and I'm ready to recommend them to anyone who needs a role filled and I'm excited to see where they end up in the future.

The main thing I can say is that it's incredibly important to have a great cast and crew with you when you're working on a 13 hour day shoot for 3 days. They were all incredibly welcoming and helped wherever needed, and the cast were great to have around (as well as one of the actors parents, they were absolutely lovely and fantastic to spend time with.) 

Ralph, a member of TKAK, spent a lot of time on the shoot to make sure everything was okay. He was so helpful and kind to everyone, pitching in wherever needed even though he didn't have to. I hope he's proud of what the finished product is like - the hard work has definitely paid off! 

I hope to see them all again in the near future, and can see a lot of them going far in the their careers. So this is the finished product. I'm ecstatic with it and I'm proud to say I worked on this music video. Enjoy!

UPDATE: contributor confirmed!

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I am extremely pleased to say that Sam Briggs won the Crossfit Games 2013 competition, and is officially titled the fittest woman in the world.... AND Sam has kindly said yes to being my contributor! 

This is a fantastic opportunity for myself and my crew, as we will be able to interview and make a short film about the fittest woman in the world - bet you can't say you've ever done that before?! She is recognised world wide and has a huge fan base in America, so no pressure, eh? 

I'm extremely excited and cannot wait to get started in the pre-production over the next few weeks. I've already started with idea generation and some research. You can never be too prepared! 

I'll keep you all updated in the near future, but for now, here's a picture of Sam doing what she does best...winning!