Film making?

Has been a while since my last post, which was one of mostly dates being barked at you. There may well be more soon, watch this space if you wish! Whilst the performance work had dried up somewhat, due to health and overall economic climate. Funding decisions, some made years ago, are really now beginning to bite down hard in the industry. That however is for another post, as this is more about putting some experiments of my own out there.

In January I started on a film making course run by Plymouth College of Art. It was over 10 weeks, well priced and despite having been on a few sets of varying sizes myself, I learned plenty. I do recommend it. This link is for their short courses: https://www.plymouthart.ac.uk/courses/short-courses/

I did embark on making a short film. I’d been talking about it for years and thought “put up or shut up Warn!” So I put up. The short feature that is still in the works (almost bordering on Kubrickian post-production length) and will hopefully see the light of day by the end of this year. The working title is ‘Burden of Memory’. Keep an eye out. Or not, it’s up to you.

Remember one short film does not make necessarily me a film maker. How to practice and keep learning without having to drag up a crew, or work endlessly on a script, or beg, borrow and steal locations and permissions? In order to keep learning about all those things you hear about – sound mixing, colour correction etc, I also decided to indulge my love of daft and stop motion. That’s right, foolishly I moved into the realms of Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, Phill Tippett and Aardman. I ‘designed’ a small character (this was more stick some stuff on a thing and see what happens). He was soon named, and it was fairly obvious as soon as I finished him – Eggbert. In order to stumble before I could even think about strolling, Eggbert does not have any facial features. My brother likes to point out I’d find it too hard and couldn’t be bothered with a face. Well yes and no! I’ve also hankered after being in a double act over the years and I’m happy to defer to a small walking egg.

Then I set myself some rules. Only use my mobile phone, only use available light and no money to be spent beyond the following – armature for the puppet and guitar strings. My guitar really needed re-stringing, she was sounding so dull. Everything else was whatever I had to hand. Here are the first results of my tinkering in things I still don’t know nearly enough about:

Hopefully you will enjoy, or maybe even enjoyed them. Please share if you did.

Adios fellow travellers of the cosmos.

Alex

Karl Malden – unsung great

Sitting in my local, doing the pub quiz of a Tuesday evening, the first round is always a picture round. This weeks had a theme and a rather morbid one at that. The collection of pictures were of people who had died in 2009. Amongst the stupidly famous – Michael Jackson, or the “was it that long ago?” – Brittany Murphy, one picture really stood out for me. It was of Karl Malden.

It took me back to when I heard he had died. His death passed by in England, barely getting a mention. The one newspaper I saw carrying an obituary had it as a simple side column. That was it, moved on. I personally felt that it warranted much more coverage. Okay his last role in anything prominent was The West Wing and before that The Streets of San Francisco some 20-odd years earlier. What wasn’t acknowledged particularly, was his role in helping shift the acting style to what we see so abundantly now.

His career was already underway for a good decade before the boom the 50’s Method took off. Karl was at the forefront. He originated the character Mitch in the first ever performance of A Streetcar Named Desire directed by Elia Kazan and co-starring Kim Hunter, Jessica Tandy and of course Marlon Brando. He then played him in the 1951 film version. Here was an already well honed character actor. His performance is always overlooked (as is Kim Hunters) and it’s a great shame. Then came other stand out performances in films like On The Waterfront, One Eyed Jacks and Patton. Be sure also to check out his hilarious turn in Pollyanna.

He said that Brando “consistently brought out the best in me.” The same is also true in reverse. Next time you watch either of the three films they made together, you’ll see an effortless and always brilliant exchange(s). Here they do the simple things of listening and responding, but in such a seamless fashion.

Karl Malden has been described as “solid” and “dependable”. Yes they are compliments, but he was also subtle, versatile, intense, menacing and the all round decent man just trying to make his way. Quite frankly – one of the all time greats. So what if he didn’t have the looks that Hollywood craves so much? His presence on screen could elevate a poorer film. Malden is someone I would always recommend and am not ashamed to bang the drum!

If you still need convincing, watch his monologue from Waterfront. It’s a masterclass:

Peter Weller – some handy hints.

Earlier this week, I spent a splendid evening at a Mondo Monday at Plymouth Arts Centre watching a double bill of Tokyo Gore Police and RoboCop.

A quick note on the former film which was, interesting, it clearly revels in it’s gory and bizarre effects. These effects are impressive as they are ludicrous. At 110 mins long though it outstays it’s welcome. In there is an interesting 70 min film, but it’s worth watching if you like to watch the more outlandish Japanese output! The themes, for me, had also been touched upon in a much better fashion by Cronenberg’s Videodrome, which I will always recommend.

For the latter, RoboCop remains a great film. The remake is going to find it hard, if not impossible, to live up to the mix of satire, pathos, humanity, effects and acting of the original. It is a cut above many of the action flicks of the 80’s. The films leading man – Peter Weller – does an excellent job under all that suit/armour. It’s a performance I admire greatly and he remains a criminally underrated actor. Whilst searching around YouTube, for any snippet of an interview with him. I found this (there is bad language so play at own risk!) –

Here he talks about RoboCop, but also his other career as a director, which I was unaware of. This leads him to a passionate and very entertaining rant about acting and directing. Now there are intricacies of the ‘Method’ which at times, to me, seem at odds to storytelling. Although a lot of my favourite actors are steeped within this discipline so it can pay to listen. This is just such an occasion as Weller talks about the ‘physical life’ of a scene. I shan’t break it down, as he does a much better job then I could! It’s clear, passionately advocated and something I’ll be keeping in mind the next time I’m rehearsing/performing.

Don Quixote Promo

After a busy day at the Exeter Torch Relay last Sunday, followed by an evening of filming with Meat Bingo for Burn the Curtain’s new show The Adventures of Don Quixote by Bicycle.

After only two hours shooting and not even a week gone, the video has been edited and is available on vimeo! Swift work by the Meat Bingo crew.

Here is the video:

Angrove at the Tavistock Wharf

The Nature of Angrove get’s another outing, this time at The Tavistock Wharf on Tuesday 1st May. It’s part of a film evening run by Oddbodies, which showcases Devon filmakers. Alongside Angrove will be two other films: ‘Mens, Loos and Number Twos’ an irreverent and witty documentary from Screen 3, and ‘Dog Collar Criminal’ from the Haphazard Organisation, a funny and poignant take on the true story of Torbay’s ‘Robin Hood’ Vicar.

Oddbodies news

Tavistock Wharf

The Nature of Angrove – Exeter Phoenix, 8th March, 8pm

The clue is in the title, but The Nature of Angrove in a weeks time will get it’s first public screening at the Exeter Phoenix. If you’re local please come along! More details via the link:

http://www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/film/april-2012/the-nature-of-angrove.html

And an additional link on Devon and Cornwall film:

http://www.devon-cornwall-film.co.uk/2012/03/01/love-and-magic-the-nature-of-angrove-premiere-at-the-exeter-phoenix/