Category Archives: Craft

Very Extremely Dangerous

Want to make a film about a cult musician-turned-bank-robber who’d like to make one last record before he dies of lung cancer? Paul Duane tells you how.

When this all started I was in limbo. A documentary called Barbaric Genius that I’d given three years and a great deal of my own money to was on the verge of collapsing, leaving me in real doubt as to whether I’d be able to continue. I was able to finish that film in 2011, but at the time previously committed co-producers were melting into thin air on all sides as the going got tough, and I had taken to drinking whiskey in the office where I spent most days alone, looking out the window at the hotel opposite, feeling like some hopeless case out of an Edward Hopper painting.

I’d spoken to Jerry on the phone a few times. He’d found his way into my life via some blog posts I’d put up a few years earlier, when I was desperately trying to fund a film about the extraordinary Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson, one of the very few people I’ve ever met who absolutely deserved to have a film made about him.

Jerry had eluded me at that time – he was in jail in Florida, it later turned out – but now he’d resurfaced and I was the first ‘media’ person he contacted, and only because he wanted to get back in touch with Jim Dickinson, who was at this point (mid-2009) in hospital and seriously ill.

Then Jim died – a black day in the memories of all who knew him, though his self-penned epitaph – “I’m just dead, I’m not gone” – has proved true. And my contact with Jerry lapsed. I had many things to work on. Until, one day, I had nothing to work on, everything except the whiskey and the view out the office window had fallen away, and that was the day I heard from Joyce (Jerry’s saviour, fianceé and the love of his life, it seems). Continue reading Very Extremely Dangerous

A Science Fiction of the Past

Federico Fellini’s Satyricon gets a rare public screening in London next week. Niall Anderson welcomes it back.

Lights! Minotaur! Action!
Lights! Minotaur! Action!

Little dates faster than cinematic representations of the future; except perhaps cinematic representations of the past. Federico Fellini’s Satyricon (or, to use its pettifogging official title, Fellini-Satyricon) is ostensibly set in and around Nero’s Rome, but it couldn’t be more 1969 if it quoted Shelley while opening a big hamper of dying butterflies in Hyde Park.

A rarefied episodic adventure involving witches, cannibalism, mutilation and at least one character becoming a god, Satyricon is so committed to modish 60s estrangement techniques that the viewer is sometimes distracted from what’s really strange about it. Not the nudity, the gore, the jump-cuts, the spikily intrusive score, or the scenes that end mid-sentence; rather the bizarre calmness of the cinematography and a casual scenic beauty that constantly upstages the actual drama. Satyricon doesn’t play these aspects off against each other so much as it keeps piling them on, layer after layer. For all the deliberate dreamlike elaboration of its technique, Satyricon comes across as a very different dream to what Fellini may have intended. Continue reading A Science Fiction of the Past

“You See That Sign Flashing There? It Says…Applesauce.”

black-and-white-audience

There’s been a lot of talk recently of canned laughter.  Surely no-one denies that canned laughter exists – the wonderfully spooky phrase “the laughter of the dead” refers specifically to laughter captured so long ago that the audience is no longer even with us – but clearly the idea of laughs on cue is taboo in modern comedy. Mention the phrase on Twitter, for example, and you’re as likely as not to find the size twelves of the local comedy constabulary on your neck, requesting that you re-think the phrase and maybe buy a DVD in penance. We here at MostlyFilm, however, are not subject to the laws of Tweet-land and can more freely question the idea that every laugh at every joke on the soundtrack to every comedy was recorded right at the moment the punchline dropped.

After the jump, Sarah Slade shares her memories of being in an audience for a comedy show that didn’t quite get the laughing part of their job right. It’s certainly enough to pose the reasonable question – if not canned, then what? Ethically sourced and packaged in a protective atmosphere for later use?

Continue reading “You See That Sign Flashing There? It Says…Applesauce.”

Mostly Shorts

An occasional series in which Mostly Film looks at the best short films being distributed on the web

A scene from the 2013 Best Short Film Oscar-winner 'Inocente'
A scene from the 2013 Best Short Film Oscar-winner ‘Inocente’

MostlyFilm likes big. MostlyFilm likes small. And given that we’re rather small ourselves, we like to see the things we champion get big: whether that be an individual film or a niche film festival. This feature is basically a one-stop window for the best – or at least the prettiest – of what’s going on in the world of short films and web series: a new artistic world that’s grown extraordinarily fast in the last ten years.

If you’ve made a short film yourself, or have just seen one you particularly like, please email editor@mostlyfilm.com, point us to it, and we’ll see what we can put together. If we get enough responses, we may put on an event in a central London cinema for outstanding respondents. So if you’re struggling to finish that short film, now might be the time to push it over the line.

What follows after the jump isn’t at all indicative of what we’re looking for; it’s just what’s turned up in our trawls over the past few weeks. The emphasis is on animated work, which doesn’t necessarily suggest a bias on our part: it’s just a reflection of how expensive live-action stuff is in comparison. You needn’t feel inhibited about nominating something different. In fact, we’d encourage you to do so. Continue reading Mostly Shorts

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Mostly Film writers recall their fleeting experiences at the business end of filmmaking

Indy Datta

photo
Tacita Dean’s ‘Film’ in a film. META.

So my mate Gavin was making a film, and he asked me if I wanted to be an extra in one scene. Obviously, when the call came I had been hoping to hear that his star, Kris Marshall, just wasn’t measuring up, and, he’d been thinking – and this was so crazy it just might work – but did I think I could possibly pretend to be in love with a beautiful French actress (Annelise Hesme) just for the duration of a wistful romantic comedy but, sadly, no. Still, as my drama teacher always said, possibly, there are no small parts, only small actors. Maybe this could be the start of something big.

Continue reading Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Ray Harryhausen: Our favourite moments

Last week, we heard the news that Ray Harryhausen had died. In tribute to the stop-motion master, Mostly Film’s writers select their favourite moments from his illustrious career, and talk about what made his work so special. Did we miss your favorite? The comment box awaits you…

harryhausen-skeleton-banner

Continue reading Ray Harryhausen: Our favourite moments

Digital Grading: cinema and the blue rinse brigade

By Dene Kernohan

O Brother Where Art Thou
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Digital Intermediate process, known as DI, has been around in cinema for over a decade now.  Basically, it is the transfer of filmed material to the digital realm, allowing for total control of the image in post production, especially with regards the colour palette.  Traditionally it is an expensive process (10 years ago, around $200,000 for a feature film) and involved scanning the film in its entirety.  But as film itself has become all but obsolete, this part of the process is unnecessary and digital grading has become more widespread.
Continue reading Digital Grading: cinema and the blue rinse brigade

Side by Side

by Sarah Slade

side_by_side_keanu_reeves

One of the interviewees in this thoughtful account of the rise of digital moviemaking called the film production process “sculpting with light”, and they have a point. Film-making captures light and shade, and creates something solid, permanent: a thing that can be carried between places, handled, edited and projected. Whether digital or celluloid, the end result is the same, isn’t it?

Continue reading Side by Side

Ready to take your order

Niall Anderson watches two very different cinematic confidence tricks

The Sting
Paul Newman knows more than you know

As the old joke has it: on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog. But what kind of dog are you? Are you housetrained? Do you like children? Do you have any infectious diseases? Are you even, actually, a dog?

Hoaxes and confidence tricks have always been fertile ground for drama, but certain crops have withered in recent years. The clever confidence caper (epitomised by The Sting) doesn’t seem to flourish as it used to. If it hasn’t quite died out, it’s been genetically modified into something almost unrecognisable. The films of Christopher Nolan, for instance, are all confidence capers at root, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the overbearing foliage.

Besides, there’s a new harvest. Films about, for want of a better term, being a dog. Where once the cinematic conman played a short game, hoping to trick himself into money or out of danger, he now does what he does indefinitely and for no immediately intelligible reason. His first hope is that you’ll accept him as a dog. His highest hope is that you’ll accept him as a dog for a really long time. The usual pleasures of the cinematic con trick – whether and how he’ll get away with it – are replaced by the mopier issue of why he wants to be a dog in the first place.

Catfish (2010) remains the exemplar of this new tricky cinema. A transparent and risibly faked “documentary” about how social media allows people to disguise their real identities, Catfish takes callow New York brothers the Schulmans into the American heartland to discover that the hot twentysomething pixie one of them fancies is actually a dowdy middle-aged woman with no friends and a lot of Facebook accounts. There is shock, followed by hugging and learning. The Schulman brothers learned so much, in fact, that they felt compelled to franchise their wisdom into Catfish: The TV Show – an MTV production in which Nev Schulman spies on internet daters and exposes them if they’re not telling the truth.

This seems to me to be a fairly crippled notion of the truth. It is also a fairly obvious bit of reactionary posturing about the rise of online communication. But the note of paranoia – the idea that you can’t trust anybody till you see them in the flesh – feels authentic in both its fear and naivety. Everything will be all right once all the masks are dropped. Two films coincidentally released this week take on this idea in very different ways. Continue reading Ready to take your order

Behind every great camera…

schoonmaker

It’s International Women’s Day – yes there is, it’s on the 19th of November – and last year we celebrated with a look at some of the women who had defined cinema in front of the camera, decade by decade. This year, we thought we would go behind the scenes, paying no attention to the man behind the curtain, and look at those perhaps less celebrated women who have shaped film from the back rooms.

Continue reading Behind every great camera…