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Chinese/Japanese people in the UK: You’re wanted…

Chinese/Japanese people in the UK: You’re wanted…

to be an extra in a film alongside Keanu Reeves. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll actually *be* next to him, of course – unless you’re extremely lucky in the way that I ended up next to Ewan McGregor in a 1990s film shoot…

Anyway, here are the details of what’s wanted:

Watch the Best British film EVAH – online

Watch the Best British film EVAH – online

Hell, it might well be the best film ever…

If you’re in the UK, you can now watch Terry Gilliam’s superlative Brazil online till Sunday.

It’s the film of a story that 1984 tried to tell, but adds a huge dollop of black humour, fantasy, and terrorism to the mix. Definitely a must see.

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

The difference between making a short film in 1995 and 2010

I was recently given the opportunity to produce a short film for work about a new website, coming soon for internal workers. Since I hadn’t really made a short film since my student efforts with Stephen Fry in 1995 – when we were outputting to VHS! – I thought it’d be a great chance to learn what had changed in the last 15 years. A lot.

Whereas before we literally pointed and shot the camera at our interviewees, this time we also had a lighting kit to contend with. A huge lighting kit on a trolley that came in a flight case – and I was told this was the portable version. It did make a difference in terms of the visual image, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort of rigging everything up and blinding our interviewees. But if that’s the professional way to do it …

Of course, I was the one asking the questions, although it took me a while to master my brief, as they are wont to say in the civil service. But by the time I’d recorded and logged all the interviews, I had enough soundbites to put something together, although it then became a bit of a mad dash to try and find alternative footage to pep up the visuals – and amazingly, if you want to film at the place you work, you need a permit. Plus there’s so much footage in the archives that it’s actually very difficult to try and find the footage you want, that somebody else MUST have surely filmed.

All in all, we spent a day and a half filming, and got about 90 minutes of raw footage out of eight quick interviews, most of them lasting less than ten minutes. It took me a couple of hours to transcribe the interviews to create a rough “script” to take to the edit suite.

Having spent most of my working life vainly trying to get work computers to do basic video editing, it was a real blessing to walk into a properly maintained edit suite running Final Cut Pro, being run by an editor who knew what he was doing. Even if it didn’t seem that different from Adobe Premiere Pro. We even managed to add in a couple of graphical flourishes and a visual gag. I did miss the physicality of doing it myself though – of pressing the buttons, using the jog wheel etc.

So two meetings, 14 hours of filming, 2 hours of logging, a couple of spare tapes for extra shots, and 8 hours of editing later, I can say that I’ve managed to help produce a 4 minute internal film that five key stakeholders seem reasonably happy with. Which is an innovation in itself. But then, Geoff managed to make this video in 5 hours…

Now I’ve got a vague hunger to see what else I can film and edit. Of course, that would mean finding a subject, the time, the motivation – oh, and the equipment as well.

If you're going to re-do something, do it differently…

If you're going to re-do something, do it differently…

I’ve often thought that if you’re going to go to the bother of remaking a film or a song, you should at least do it a bit differently. Like the Pet Shop Boys doing Always On My Mind, or … the Pet Shop Boys doing Where The Streets Have No Name.

Anyway, we now have the new trailer for The Karate Kid, starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith.

Reigniting my inner film geek love

Reigniting my inner film geek love

I used to be a bit of a film geek, inhaling movies. I’d buy Empire magazine every month, and go see a film (as long as it wasn’t horror, gore, or involved zombies or crabs) via my local university film club every week. Sometimes twice a week (oooh, get him!)

Then real life intervened, London prices arrived, and I just … stopped. Of course, seeing the terrible films Batman and Robin, and Jurassic Park II within a week of each other didn’t help at all. Neither, ironically, did becoming a professional film reviewer where film-watching no longer became a leisurely activity, but something that was work and that I’d have to write up afterwards.

Sure, there were the glam moments (well, if you count having a bored Julianne Moore scowling at you at 10am because she thinks you’re a Japanese film journalist) but also having to review dross like Help I’m A Fish and Mission: Impossible 2 didn’t help.

So, while I didn’t turn my back entirely on cinema – The Matrix made me revise my entire thoughts on Hong Kong cinema – I’m not the raving film geek I used to be. At least not till tonight.

Tonight, I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Inglourious Basterds. And bugger me, I loved it. Even if it didn’t have any of the crash, bang, wallop that you’d expect. Instead, it’s a love letter to dialogue in multiple languages, to European cinema, to war-torn Europe, and for 147 minutes I was utterly captivated by the words, the acting, everything. Even the set.

Go, and see it.

Film pop quiz, hotshot…

Film pop quiz, hotshot…

I’ve been tagged by Jan to do this follow up to the 100 books meme, using the Channel 4 list of top 100 films (which is probably a bit more realistic than the AFI one).

What movies have I seen?

What movies have I seen?

Abandoned cinema

Originally uploaded by andre.govia

Despite describing myself as a film geek, I haven’t actually seen that many films. At least, recently. But let’s see how many I have seen…

Apparently, if you’ve seen over 85 films, you have no life. (What about those of us who’ve never had a life to begin with ?!)

Mark the ones you’ve seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, and see how many you’ve seen…

When Ewan McGregor and I worked together

When Ewan McGregor and I worked together

Me and Ewan McGregor in Rogue Trader In the late 1990s, in-between freelance web jobs, I spent a day as an extra, being a Singaporean stock trader in the film Rogue Trader, a film about how stocktrader Nick Leeson managed to bring down the United Kingdom’s oldest investment bank. The film starred Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel.

Alas, any glamorous notions I had about finally being part of the film industry were somewhat thwarted by the sheer tedium of waiting around on film sets waiting for filming to start, with nothing to do except talk to equally disillusioned Chinese extras, who were mostly Filipino actors/actresses who’d come to London with dreams of treading the stage or doing some good acting, as opposed to ending up with a bunch of extras. Although I did manage to walk around the Pinewood Studios shop and buy a jacket.

After one day of work, being on/off set for about 10 hours and wasting three hours being shuttled between central London and Pinewood for £80 (and they were very keen to get people back for more extras shooting, but I’d rather sit in front of a computer pumping out webcode!), the net result is the picture you see. If you watch the film itself, I’m about 40 minutes into the film, just after Nick Leeson is celebrating Christmas with his girlfriend (Friel).

The only other time I saw it was when slightly drunk and waiting in eager anticipation to see The Matrix. One of the trailers that featured before it was for Rogue Trader, and I yelped in surprise when I saw a strangely familiar moon-shaped face staring at me on the screen before I realised it was me.

I kept meaning to track down the DVD but then to my surprise, when I stumbled in after a hard day at a works do summer party (football, softball, Pimms, quizzes and the odd bit of chat) to find the film showing on ITV4. And finally, I manage to capture my moment of fame alongside Ewan McGregor.

To come … how I had dinner with Frank Skinner and was in Stephen Fry‘s bedroom…

Avoiding spiders and zombies

Avoiding spiders and zombies

As you may know, I’m a bit of a film fan. I also have a slightly obsessive interest in apocalyptic fiction and Hollywood blockbusters. So why on earth am I most likely to avoid 28 Weeks Later and Spiderman 3?

Simply put, they both scare me in totally different ways.

Spiderman 1 was a great film, fantastic on pretty much every level. Almost too fantastic. I was a bit of an emotional wreck at the last scene – how could Peter Parker do that to his gorgeous simpering Mary Jane? How could any red-costumed or red-blooded heterosexual walk away from that? Because of that, I’ve somehow managed to avoid Spiderman 2 – despite having it on DVD – and will most likely manage to “never get round to seeing” Spiderman 3.

As for 28 Weeks Later, it’s because of my fear for zombies. I’m not sure what it is about them, but I do get terrified at the prospect of seeing zombies on the screen. When Shaun of the Dead slithered into cinemas, I really wanted to see it – hey, it’s Spaced + apocalyptic fiction + London, what’s there not to like? – and so resolved to get over my fear of zombies. After all, they’re just a movie construct and fantasy, right?

Almost. My zombie-fear-aversion routine was to watch as many zombie films as I could, in growing order of horror-ness until I thought I was desensitized to zombies, and then perhaps I could manage Shaun of the Dead. So the first film I tried was Resident Evil: Apocalypse. It’s a 15-rated film, starring Milla Jovovich and it seems like a B-movie. What could be that scary about it?

Who knows? Because when it came to the scene with the shuffling zombies chasing one poor civillian up a metal staircase, I had to switch off the DVD. I just couldn’t handle it.

I did somehow manage to see 28 Days Later – there aren’t that many zombie scenes in it, after all. But I did walk out of the cinema absolutely shaken, in need of a stiff drink and some human conversation. So I knocked on my then room-mate’s door – but he told me to go away and I felt even more depressed and dejected that night. It later turned out, of course, that he’d brought a girl back to his room and was steadily making more intimate human conversation with her.

So I might just have to avoid the cinema for the next couple of days!

When marketing and the net collide…

When marketing and the net collide…

Viral Marketing

Originally uploaded by Mark McLaughlin.

Picture the scene. You’re part of a guerilla marketing team dedicated to finding out new ways to promote a killer-virus movie. Thus, someone has the bright shiny idea of spraying biohazard signs all over London. Great idea, full marks.

But how do you tie in the biohazard sign with the movie? Ahaaa, you say, you’ll stick a web address at the bottom of the biohazard sign. This will signify to one and all that it’s not a *real* biohazard – because heavens to Betsy, sticking a real biohazard sign in London would just cause panic amongst the populace.

Two ever-so-tiny flaws with this plan:

1. Spraying isn’t exactly pollution or health-risk free, y’know. Plus, who’s going to clean it up?

2. Someone on the marketing team forgot to knock heads with someone on the web team, and erm… actually buy the web domain in question. So take a look at what actually does…

Why can’t I get a job on a web marketing team? Please? I know web and I know marketing!

PS: Really looking forward to seeing this film! Although did it need a sequel?

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