Movies From An Insider’s Point Of View
Documentaries Feeling the impact of VoD Cinema Sound The importance of perfect audio Jesse Eisenberg A different kind of leading man
37 9 771751 135006
January-March 2014 £4.95
Only Lovers Left Alive
Virtual Print Fee
Calling time on an outdated business model
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Only Lovers Left Alive Creating the unique look of Jim Jarmusch’s gothic love story
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Issue 37 January-March 2014
24 Fps 06 Territory Focus
We look at the locations, incentives, talent and opportunities that are drawing international filmmakers to the Balkans.
10 Industry Insider
Industry analyst Michael Gubbins looks at why the distributors of specialist films need to seek out new audiences, rather than simply serving existing enthusiasts.
12 Script Talk
Screenwriting expert Danny Munso reveals why Gravity and Sherlock have set new benchmarks for big- and small-screen writing.
14 Finance and Funding Entertainment tax expert Dave Morrison looks at the increasingly popular crowd funding model for raising film finance.
Distribution experts Mick Southworth and Martin McCabe explain why we need to face up to the reality that 35mm is a dying format, and embrace what comes next.
A look at the latest on-camera budget microphones from RĂ˜DE and RotoLight, plus Schneider Optic's newest addition to their series of professional quality lenses for the iPhone.
32 Only Lovers Left Alive
â€œI thought more about the vampires as unique figures, rather than looking back at other vampire movies. We didn't want to make a cliched movie." Production Designer Marco Bittner Rosser www.moviescopemag.com
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Contents Issue 37 January-March 2014
Features 24 The Virtual Print Fee With an increasing number of dissenters bemoaning the VPF as unfair, we look at what should replace it.
22 Lamont & Foster
James Lamont and Jon Foster, the writing duo behind The Harry Hill Movie, tell us how they find the funny.
28 Independent Cinemas 30 Lukas Moodysson How two indie theatres are shouldering the responsibility of creating the best possible filmgoing environment.
32 Only Lovers Left Alive
Production designer Marco Bittner Rosser and costume designer Bina Daigeler delve into the visual challenges of Jim Jarmusch’s gothic love story.
42 Cinema Sound
The fundamental importance of perfect audio in theatrical production and projection.
48 Documentary and VoD
The We Are the Best! director reveals why it’s the most important film of his career so far.
38 John Giwa-Amu
The independent producer of the awardwinning The Machine takes us on his journey to bring the film to the screen.
46 Jesse Eisenberg
Hollywood’s most unique leading man talks about his new films The Double and Night Moves .
50 Susan Jacobs
How the VoD revolution is having a major impact on documentary distribution.
The music supervisor of American Hustle tells us why it's so important to get a film's soundtrack just right.
54 Breakthrough Brits
56 Sean Bobbitt
We meet two of the new talents selected for this year’s BAFTA Breakthrough Brits mentoring scheme.
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The cinematographer of Oldboy and 12 Years a Slave discusses the challenges of creating striking visuals.
movieScope editor Nikki Baughan and critic James Mottram discuss The Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey as an AIDS victim who takes on the medical establishment. Plus reviews of Her, The Double, Tom at the Farm, Under the Skin and many more. You can find additional and extended reviews on our website, www.moviescopemag.com
“I feel that there is a gap, sometimes, between the films I want to make and the films I want to watch.” Lukas Moodysson, Filmmaker www.moviescopemag.com
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Editorial Issue 37 January-March 2014 As the cloud of Christmas excess begins to lift, the new year always brings with it a palpable sense of promise, of renewed opportunity. This is no less true for the international film industry; as the year kicks off, we celebrate past glories with glitzy award ceremonies, look ahead to the coming months’ releases and reconnect at festivals and markets. New technologies are unveiled, new approaches are discussed and the industry prepares itself for another year of adaptation and change. But, in reality, how much change will we really embrace over the next 12 months? There are those who believe that the status quo will continue to prevail because so many—particularly those at the top—are reluctant to upset the lucrative apple cart. This is particularly true when it comes to Video on Demand; oft heralded as the future of film distribution, it’s still very much an unknown quantity. Day and date VoD / theatrical releases are still regarded as experimental, and distributors remain reluctant to publish actual VoD figures. Yet, while there is still a long way to go until we fully understand and harness the power of on—demand distribution, there is a genre that seems to be ahead of the curve. Documentary filmmakers and distributors are utilising VoD to connect with global viewers, and non-fiction films which would have struggled in cinemas are finding huge audiences. But is this really a documentary renaissance, or just another flash in the pan (p.48)? While the jury may be still be out on the future of VoD, there are an increasing number of unhappy voices speaking in unison about another business model; the Virtual Print Fee. Initially introduced as a way to help digital expansion, many feel it has become an unfair millstone around the neck of the domestic industry. While some European countries are adapting the VPF to fit evolving needs, we take a look at why it is in fact time to start looking at alternatives (p.24). Debate and discussion will undoubtedly continue to rage about these topics—and others— throughout 2014, and movieScope will continue to remain in the thick of it all. One thing on which we can all agree, however, is that the health of the industry relies on talented and visionary filmmakers, both new and established, creating content that will excite an audience. Jim Jarmusch is undoubtedly one of those filmmakers; his new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, is a fresh and exhilarating take on the vampire genre with visuals to take your breath away. We spoke to the film’s production designer Marco Bittner Rosser and costume designer Bina Daigeler about the challenges of creating such unique aesthetics (p.32.). It’s a hell of a way to start the new year. Nikki Baughan, Editor
movieScope magazine Ltd Bridge House 105 3 Mills Studios Three Mill Lane London, E3 3DU United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 845 094 6263 Twitter: @movieScope www.movieScopemag.com Publisher & Editor-In-Chief Rinaldo Quacquarini Editor Nikki Baughan Sub Editor Naila Scargill Art Director Simon Edwards Cover Photograph Only Lovers Left Alive © Soda Pictures
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Litho Pensord Press www.pensord.co.uk Subscriptions +44 (0) 845 094 6263 or visit www.movieScopemag.com Advertising Media Pack available online at: www.movieScopemag.com or by calling +44 (0) 845 094 6263 movieScope is published quarterly in January, April, July and October by movieScope magazine Ltd. Subscription: 4 issues for £29.95/$55/€45 including shipping. movieScope is available from all good newsagents across the UK, Europe and USA. Visit movieScopemag.com for an interactive map to locate an outlet closest to you. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system without the express written permission of the publisher. The opinions expressed in movieScope Magazine articles and advertisements are those of the individual authors and advertisers respectively and should not be considered in any manner as expressions of the management or official policies of movieScope Magazine Ltd. For information on reprints and syndication, please contact Editor-In-Chief@movieScopeMag. com The title “movieScope” and logotype are registered trademarks and service marks of movieScope Magazine Ltd. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Contributors Stephen Applebaum is a freelance film writer and critic. @grubstreetsteve Nikki Baughan is the editor of movieScope. @rollcredits Anton Bitel is a film writer and academic. http://rantbit.wordpress.com / @AntBit Laurence Boyce is a freelance film writer. @LaurenceBoyce James Clarke is a freelance film writer and author of the recently published book The Films of Pixar Animation Studio (Kamera Books). @jasclarkewriter Helen Cox is editor of New Empress magazine and a freelance film critic. www.newempressmagazine.com @NewEmpress Simon Edwards is movieScope’s art director and a freelance film critic. Michael Gubbins is the co-founder of SampoMedia and the chair of the Film Agency for Wales. @michaelgubbins MaryAnn Johanson is a film writer and creator of www.flickfilosopher.com @maryannjohanson Martin McCabe is one of the UK’s most experienced film distributors. Kat McLaughlin is a freelance film critic. @coconut boots Dave Morrison is a partner at Nyman Libson Paul and Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Entertainment and Media Group. www.nlpca.co.uk James Mottram is a freelance film writer and author of four books on film. @JamesMottram Danny Munso is a screenwriting expert. @dannymunso Chris Patmore is a freelance writer and editor of www.filmandfestivals.com / @krisht Rinaldo Quacquarini is the publisher and editor-in-chief of movieScope and shareholder in EnderLegard.com @moviescope Limara Salt is a freelance film writer and critic. @yourturnheather Naila Scargill is movieScope’s sub editor and editor of Exquisite Terror magazine. www.exquisiteterror.com / @exquisiteterror Mick Southworth is Director of The Works Film Group. Josh Winning is a freelance film writer. @joshwinning
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24 Fps Territory Focus
The Baltic Tiger: Ready to Pounce
Laurence Boyce investigates how the tiny Baltic countries are clawing their way to their rightful place in the international film industry. For the past few years the Baltic countries—consisting of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—have fought to widen their visibility amongst the international film community. With comparatively small populations and industries that reflect their size, it would initially seem that it would be a struggle for each country to make its mark. But a combination of favourable tax incentives attracting foreign production and an increased awareness of both their territories and domestic output has meant that the Baltics have become increasingly important players in the global industry. And, as 2014 continues on, the seeds planted within their film communities a few years ago are beginning to bear some delicious fruit indeed. One of the most important developments has been the streamlining of their industries with initiatives such as the morphing of the Estonian Film Foundation into the Estonian Film Institute. “The significant change for Estonian film
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was the new approach to create a more substantial platform for film,” explains Edith Sepp, head of the Estonian Film Institute. “Firstly our Ministry of Culture, together with filmmakers, sat down and created a film strategy for the sector until 2020. Then the Estonian Film Foundation was reorganised into the EFI, [whose job it is] to develop the entire sector in Estonia. This meant not only producing films, but also marketing, distributing, digitalising heritage and developing the film sector as a whole. The EFI’s first and last task is to develop this sector while keeping our attention on the much bigger picture of Europe.” Initiatives such as this have allowed each Baltic country to focus on the development of individual policy and promote their respective industries. The establishment of the Lithuanian Film Centre has, for example, permitted the country to have a presence at the Cannes Film Festival for the first time in its history.
Estonian director Ilma Raag's romantic drama Kertu (Love is
Blind) was nominated for the Grand Prix Award at the 2013 Warsaw International Film Festival
With this higher visibility, there has been a developing willingness to attract foreign productions with a combination of competitive pricing on services and tax incentives. The leader of this has been Latvia— especially its capital city of Riga— which has seen a diverse range of productions coming to the region over the past few years, from recent Cannes competition film In the Fog to an episode of the BBC’s version of detective show Wallander. “In previous years the Riga Film Fund has attracted projects both from Europe and Asia since Latvia has many advantages; lower costs, attractive locations with the possibility to double other countries and cities etc., and the cash rebate up to 20 per cent from eligible expenses,” explains Dace Lesinska, the project manager of the Riga Film Fund. “2013 saw an increase in projects from Russia, since Latvia and Riga can give the European and Western look but be less expensive than other European countries. And as Riga and Latvia are relatively small, it can be flexible and efficient in terms of shooting permits and arrangements.” Keen to follow in the success of their cousin, Estonia and Lithuania have been developing their own incentives and schemes to increase their co-productions. Estonia has introduced a number of initiatives including a new regional film fund in the northern Estonian region of Virumaa, and a recent memorandum of understanding was signed with South Korea, meaning that it is the first country in North and East Europe to have entered a high level cooperation with the South Korean film industry. Tax incentives in Lithuania will come into effect in January 2014, allowing films shot in the region the possibility
to recoup up to 20 per cent of the total budget spent in the country. “The Lithuanian Film Centre will be administrating the new scheme so currently we are in a busy preparation process,” explains Aušra Lukošiuniene, head of the film production department at the Lithuanian Film Centre. “The Lithuanian film industry has been waiting for tax incentives for many years so it is a really exciting time for us. Interest in the scheme already exists and we hope to receive the first applications already at the beginning of the year.”
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Tangerines, from Estonian writer/ director Zaza Urushadze, won Best Director and the Audience Award at this year's Warsaw Film Festival
One To Watch
24 Fps Territory Focus
Chanya Button Director
After studying English at Oxford and theatre directing at RADA, Chanya worked in Warner Bros LA’s creative department, for the UK Film Council and as an assistant director on various features. Through her production company Gobby and Specs she has made three shorts; her latest, Alpha:Omega is currently being developed into a feature with the support of Pinewood Studios. Chanya has another feature in development, Burn Burn Burn, due for production in 2014.
While much of the Baltics' emphasis has been on inward investment, the domestic output has also been enjoying some unparalleled success. Estonian films Tangerines and Kertu have both been blazing a trail on the festival circuit and winning numerous awards; the former walked away with both the Audience Award and Best Director titles from the prestigious Warsaw Film Festival. Lithuania has also seen the dark and stylish drama The Gambler (above) become its first film to screen at San Sebastian, as it continues another popular run across the circuit. And with films such as Estonia’s Free Range due to screen internationally next year, and Riga not only being the European Capital of Culture but also hosting the European Film Awards in 2014 (a feat matched by Tallinn in 2010), then the visibility of the Baltic countries and their cinema has perhaps never been higher. “If there is more visibility (and more interaction with the filmmakers) then more funding and bigger—and more importantly better and more challenged— audiences will follow,” says Edith Sepp. “And this will help preserve the diversity of European culture.” This year promises to be an important one for the Baltic film industry. With all the foundations now in place, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are proving that the small countries are ready to take on the production
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powerhouses. With low costs, streamlined services and national films that are getting an ever greater amount of respect from audiences and industry alike, it also seems that the Baltic Tiger will be roaring ever louder over the years to come.
Estonian Film Institute www.efsa.ee Lithuanian Film Centre www.lfc.lt/en National Film Centre of Latvia www.nfc.lv Riga Film Fund www.filmriga.lv/en/home l
“Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are proving that the small countries are ready to take on the production powerhouses.”
What training have you received? The best training has been working my way up from the bottom in production. I have always believed that the best directors are those who know how everyone around them does their job so, from the moment I started in the AD department, I set out to learn about every role. What kinds of projects attract you? My work embraces a broad spectrum of genres: Fire is a period piece, Frog/Robot is a contemporary romantic comedy, Alpha:Omega is shaping up to be a futuristic political thriller with a sci-fi edge and Burn Burn Burn is a road trip comedy! I saw Mike Leigh speak at RADA, and he said he always asks ‘why now?’ with every script he develops. I ensure that everything I make connects with something I notice my friends are talking about. What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a short filmmaker? Take yourself seriously. When Pinewood commissioned the short Alpha:Omega, Steve Norris and Ivan Dunleavy offered the same level of support they would for any feature. That kind of professional investment inspires you with confidence, which is invaluable. Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far. Any shooting day! Being selected for the London and Toronto Film Festivals and the DGA’s annual New Director’s Showcase in 2012, as well as having films commissioned by Film London and Pinewood, felt pretty significant too! You’ll die happy when… The industry understands the intersectionality of issues around gender, sexuality and race enough to stop identifying filmmakers, actors—even characters—under a headline. www.gobbyandspecs.co.uk
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24 Fps Industry Insider
A New Audience
Mike Gubbins looks at the increasing need to find new audiences for specialised films, rather than simply servicing existing enthusiasts. A series of experiments in the day-and-date releasing of films in cinemas and on VoD have demonstrated one consistent fact: there is a core of cinemagoers for whom the theatrical experience cannot and will never be replaced. Even when a film is shown at the same time free on television, such as Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, there remains a fierce loyalty to the big screen. The BFI report on that film—available as a free download from bfi.org—shows that 77 per cent of the cinema audience was aware that the film could have been watched for free at home, but still went out to the movie theatre. The numbers are even more marked for older audiences. Exit polls for another simultaneous multi-platform release, A Late Quartet, showed that 83 per cent of the audience (with an average age of 53) would recommend to friends that they watch the film in cinemas, against just five per cent recommending VoD viewing. The cinema experience seems to retain its attraction, perhaps suggesting that the dogged boycotts of
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experiments in new release windows are a disproportionate reaction to a minor threat. The truth is rather more nuanced, with potential implications for all independent film. There is a genuine threat, and it is tied up with a core problem that the audience for specialised and art-house film is getting older. The reshaping of the overall audience is inevitable, given that in most advanced countries the population as a whole is getting increasingly old. But research suggests a growing demographic split. A study by Professor Elizabeth Prommer of the University of Rostock, for example, showed that in Germany, the core 20–29-yearold audience, while remaining the biggest in terms of cinema-going, has seen a small decline between 2007 and 2012, while the over-50s grew by 41 per cent. There have been more films aimed at mature audiences in recent years but the impact of so-called ‘event cinema’ or ‘alternative content’, notably live streaming of opera and theatre, may also be significant. It is a trend that has its critics, particularly
The Hunter (right), The Last Days on Mars (below) and To the Wonder (opposite page,
bottom) had VoD releases either simultaneous with or before theatrical in the USA, but distributors need to start using on demand to appeal to a wider audience
among independent films already struggling for space on the big screen. On the other hand, it may offer a clue to future growth: if you can capture audiences for one kind of experience, you may be able to sell them others. This may be particularly true of younger audiences, who are currently not exposed to much specialised and art-house film. A BFI-backed study from SampoMedia (sampomedia.com) into attitudes to cinema and VoD revealed two related and important trends. Firstly, younger audiences are much more ambivalent about where they watch films than older ones, with a strong sense that only certain types of films must be seen at the cinema. And secondly, in areas without access to an art-house
One To Watch Petra Bryant Actor
London-based, Czech-born actress Petra Bryant has six upcoming features under her belt. After making her debut in the title role of crime thriller The Disappearance of Lenka Wood, she will be seen in British sci-fi The Last Scout, due for release in February 2014, and big-budget actioner Fallen Eagle: Broken Wings which hits cinemas in summer 2014. Petra is currently filming White Collar Hooligan 3, and will also be shooting Mightier Than the Sword and Looking for George Clooney in 2014.
cinema, knowledge of art-house film is limited and hence demand to see a film on VoD low. The big change may be the big drop of film on terrestrial television services at peak times. An IPSOS Mori survey for the UK’s FILMCLUB revealed that 48 per cent of those exposed to film on TV at a young
age become regular cinemagoers, compared with 20 per cent that do not. The challenge for those believing that on-demand services will herald a new era of access is how to build demand beyond the committed minority. Finding new ‘trigger points’ to drive new interest ought to be an industry obsession. l
What training have you received? I have taken a series of screen acting courses and workshops at Diorama, East 15 Acting School and a stand-up comedy course with Tony Allan. Doing a stand-up comedy course was incredibly terrifying, as I had to step outside of my comfort zone and write my own material. The best training, however, has been on the job whilst making movies. What kind of roles attract you? I absolutely love comedy. I would like to play a character that is a clumsy superhero or a loveable airhead. And I am getting my chance to do just that, playing Irina in a romantic comedy Looking for George Clooney! What’s the best advice that you’ve been given as an actor? Don’t over think but stay focused. And don’t compare yourself to others. Very simple, but helpful advice indeed. Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far. That would be playing Lenka in the thriller The Disappearance of Lenka Wood, as I am the leading lady. She is so different from me, and I had to push myself to face my own fears during some scenes. As an example, I am scared of heights and water so it wasn’t easy to jump into a swimming pool and look like I am enjoying it! My next major project is Fallen Eagle, where I play Empress Faustina and that will be another significant moment. This is something I am really looking forward to. Bring on the amazing costumes! You’ll die happy when… I have enough lead roles in every genre possible and land parts in excellent British TV dramas. That would be the ultimate compliment. And once I finish writing my own novel and turn it into a screenplay, I can go to Heaven! www.petrabryantactress.co.uk / @PetraBryant
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24 Fps Script Talk
Screenwriting expert Danny Munso explains how Gravity and Sherlock are transforming storytelling on the big and small screens. It’s easy to be pessimistic about the state of modern screenwriting; I know I can get negative in this space from time to time. But we are living in an exciting time for storytelling, as evidenced by two stories which have taken centre stage to become beacons of great writing amongst the fog of lifeless material. One is a big-budget film that might make studios reconsider the types of projects they make; the other is television’s finest hour and a masterclass in adaptation. I’m talking, of course, about Gravity and Sherlock. If you’re one of the millions who were entranced by Gravity, then you likely noticed there are a lot of aspects that make this film so special. Indeed, the technical aspects of the film are unmatched; from its visual effects and sound design to the effective use of 3D, which makes the audience feel that we, too, are trapped in space, Gravity excels on every level of filmmaking. So why is this film, co-written by director Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonás, important to us as screenwriters? I’ll give you a moment to consider it. Nothing? Don’t feel bad if you missed it. The visual beauty of Gravity has overshadowed an amazing fact: this movie that has grossed over $500m worldwide is an ORIGINAL STORY!
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Big screen spectacle
Gravity (right) and small screen hit
Sherlock (below, © BBC) have set new high bars for film and TV screenwriting
As a writer, it’s heartening to see an original story living amongst the boxoffice giants of sequels (Iron Man 3), adaptations (World War Z) and reboots (Man of Steel). So will the massive success of an original story such as this make Hollywood change some of its excessive reliance on franchises and existing properties? It’s Hollywood, so the easy answer is probably no. But I’m more optimistic. This is a different scenario to an original mid-budget drama striking it big; Gravity was pitched, sold and shot as a tent-pole movie. The fact it got made at all is fairly remarkable, as studios now tend to only commit serious dollars to films that come with built-in audiences. Gravity’s success will almost certainly open doors that previously were sure to be deadbolted shut. So, if you are aspiring to create an original story with a large budget, that is now in play. Of course, your story still has to fly off the page. If a studio is going to commit large amounts of resources towards your original vision, they need to be given multiple reasons to do so. Take note of how Gravity used its visuals. While the story was always the core of the film he wanted to make, Cuarón wisely sold the film based on its visual element. A studio needs to feel they are doing something groundbreaking to write big cheques for an untested project. Think about the other major original blockbuster released in the past few years; Avatar. Writer/director James Cameron understood that selling his movie as an event film that you had to see in theatres was the way to get people to listen to his story about love and environmentalism. Thankfully, the movie theatre isn’t the only place groundbreaking writing is being showcased. January 2014 sees the third season premiere of Sherlock. For geeks and fan girls, this means
more Benedict Cumberbatch in their lives; for writers, it means the greatest and most cleverly-written TV show is back on the air. When you decide to adapt something as a writer, it’s usually because the original story moved or inspired you in some way and you feel compelled to transfer that to a different medium. In the case of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, they have been adapted to pretty much any medium you can think of, numerous times over. But they have never been done like this. The main reason is that co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who also lord over Doctor Who) have somehow remained incredibly loyal to the original Holmes stories, while updating them completely. Rather than do a paint-by-numbers adaptation, like those attempted in the 1970s and
One To Watch Matt Buchanan Short Filmmaker
A Glasgow native, Mark graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2005. Based in London since 2007, he direct projects spanning drama, music video and documentary, and is best known for the acclaimed shorts The Search and Mission. Mark’s next project is the short film Track.
80s, or reinvent the detective as an action hero, as in Guy Ritchie’s current film versions, Moffat and Gatiss have transferred our favourite sleuth to modern-day London. But he’s still the same Holmes: brilliant and maddening with an acid tongue. Moffat and Gatiss often take existing Holmes classics like A Study in Scarlet, A Scandal in Bohemia and The Final Problem and use their plots as a framing device to tell a similar case in a completely new way. For long-time Holmes aficionados, it’s a complete joy to watch Sherlock use smartphones and modern-day crime lab equipment while retaining all of the personality quirks and flaws that made us fall in love with him in the first place. He may understand how the Internet works, but he still plays the violin, still torments Watson to no
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end and still has the social skills of a feral cat. An aspect of the adaptation that can’t go unnoticed is the unwavering fun and mischief that pervades all of the show’s scripts. It’s as if the writers can’t believe the BBC gave them money to let them do this; they are having such a good time writing the show and it oozes off the page and screen. If you are thinking of adapting someone else’s work, you should ask yourself if you have this same unbridled joy and passion for your subject. If you don’t feel the same, there’s no way for it to not appear on the page. Moffat and Gatiss are clearly thankful they have been given the opportunity to bring Sherlock Holmes to an entirely new generation. Similarly, as screenwriters, we can all be thankful to have original work like Gravity and Sherlock to inspire us. l
What training have you received? Growing up, I had a camcorder and two VHS decks, so I learnt the basics at playtime. Editing got a little easier when my pal Neil purchased an iMac with iMovie, and the work went non-linear for the first time. Later, I got my BA in Digital Film from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. The course gave me a taste of every filmmaking function, but I got to concentrate on directing and writing in my final year. I wanted to do a Masters in directing but couldn’t afford the fees, so I made the decision to graft and put my savings into making short films while saying, ‘Yes!’ to any good opportunities that came my way. All this while maintaining a sensible job to support myself. What kind of projects attract you? I like relatable characters and mundane settings as drivers to tell fantastic tales. I prefer economy in my dialogue and a strong reliance on the visuals to guide the audience on an unpredictable journey. What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a short filmmaker? I cornered Terry Gilliam at the London premiere of Black Watch a few years ago. We had a lovely chat and I asked him why he persists in light of all the challenges he’s faced as a filmmaker. He said, “There’s nothing else I can to do.” Modest, yes—he’s a talented man—but that pretty much sums up how I feel and what drives me to succeed in this batshit profession. Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far. Watching Back to the Future for the first time. I was only wee and had zero understanding of the filmmaking process, but I knew I wanted to do whatever a movie director did for a living. I guess my astronaut dream died upon watching the adventures of Marty McFly. You’ll die happy when… I direct Jeff Goldblum in something. www.mcbuchanan.com / @MCBuchanan
24 Fps Finance and Funding
Money (That’s What I Want)
Entertainment accountant Dave Morrison looks at the economic realities of crowdfunding, the latest craze in the curious world of film finance. New Year Puzzle Bonus! Here’s a different sort of finance puzzle. There are 28 classic Motown song titles hidden in this article, including the title; see if you can spot them all. Answers are on our website. There’s romanticism in the idea that a group of like-minded people can get together and collaborate towards some common good; for example, the making of an important film with a story that needs to be told. It’s a shame, however, that many people will enthusiastically start on cloud nine, full of support for any venture that mildly interests them, right up to the point someone says ‘let’s get serious’ and they are asked to help fund it. Nobody ever said fundraising was going to be easy! So, what’s going on when crowdfunding happens? The basic idea is that people get together to collectively fund a project; in recent times, this has largely been done through an internet portal and could involve anything from donations, investments, loans or, most likely, rewards-based incentives (effectively purchases of services or products). Realistically, some of these options are not as simple as ABC; donations, for example, are only going to work if the donor can feel sanctified by some sort of positive outcome. Some may even want Gift Aid (tax relief on charitable donations), but it is unlikely that the average filmmaker is going to successfully set up a registered charity in order to facilitate production. Even without a charitable motive at your fingertips, however, many participants are likely to want to share in a successful project, so one way out may be to promise some sort of return. This sounds logical, but is it realistic to keep hundreds—maybe thousands—of investors on a database, and perhaps
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Above: Timo Vuorensola's 2012 Nazi sci-fi thriller Iron Sky benefited from a highly publicised crowdfunding campaign; sequel
The Coming Race also achieved its crowdfunding target in mid-2013
have to distribute small shares in income or interest on loans for years to come? Whatever the practicalities of servicing large numbers of investors, there are also issues with the law of the land; particularly legislation concerned with the raising of finance, principally the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) and other, subsidiary, regulations governed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA, formerly the FSA). There is a ball of confusion surrounding the application of these rules to crowdfunding so, consequently, the FCA released a
consultative document in October 2013 (consultations closed on December 19 2013). Inevitably, it seems that there will be new regulations forthcoming, as the previous rules were clearly not constructed with crowdfunding in mind! Furthermore, get ready for April 1 2014, when the regulation of the consumer credit market will transfer to the FCA, such that any loanbased crowdfunding will fall within their realm. Websites facilitating loans, such as Funding Circle or financial superwoman Nicola Horlick’s new venture Money & Co, will become FCA regulated. Share offer crowd funders,
such as Crowdcube or Seedrs, are similarly regulated, and should also be facilitated through properly authorised portals. The headline news, meanwhile, is that there are likely to be proposals that promotions to high net worth individuals, sophisticated investors, investors receiving financial advice and, notably, anyone certifying that they will invest less than 10 per cent of their investible portfolio in unlisted shares or debts, should generally be permissible with relatively light touch regulation. Anyone considering a Collective Investment Scheme approach should also consider the regulatory framework at the outset. So, with donations and investments seemingly throwing up a few barriers, is crowdfunding a helpless situation? Not necessarily; most ‘creative’ industry crowdfunding gets around these issues by adopting the ‘rewards’ model (eg Kickstarter, Sellaband, Indiegogo, Wefund or Sponsume). The music industry is often cited as an example of an industry which has already engaged with the challenges that lie ahead for visual content providers. In fact, economists have looked at the demand and
“The reality is that less than half of crowdfunding ventures will reach their funding target.”
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supply of music and developed some interesting models. Whilst the majority of us may be willing to pay 99p to download the happening tunes of the day, there are likely to be others who have a deeper interest and connection with the artist or song and would be willing to pay more. So, while 10,000 punters might pay 99p to download the same old song and don’t look any further, a more committed fan might be willing to pay £10,000 for a download plus—say—a signed CD and poster, front row seats at a concert and a backstage pass. Add on a visit to the dressing room for the platinum package and the price goes up another notch. Similarly, a filmmaker can pre-sell product in the form of various graded packages including downloads, DVDs, screenings, autographed memorabilia, set visits, being an extra, props from the film; signed, sealed, delivered, it’s all yours. This could, arguably, be seen as the equivalent of pre-selling the film. But, if you heard it through the grapevine that crowdfunding is a big success story, then beware. The reality is that less than half of crowdfunding ventures will reach their funding target, and many of those that are successful will be raising small amounts for, say, short films and other smaller projects. With so many projects on offer investors can shop around, and for them to find yours when there are too many fish in the sea could be, in funding terms, like looking for a needle in a haystack. I wish I had more space but, before I reach the end of the road, a few things that should also be borne in mind when crowdfunding. If selling rewards packages to raise money for your film, the receipts are taxable, VATable income and must be accounted for properly. The income could impact
Above: Documentaries are also enjoying success with crowdfunding models, such as Franny Armstrong's
The Age of Stupid
on the UK Film Tax Credit calculation, although in most cases this should not be a material issue. Don’t overlook delivery costs; not only post and packaging, but also the costs of screenings, memorabilia, facilitating ‘meet the stars’ events and a few unwanted extras too. What we do for art, eh? Let’s get it on! Dave Morrison is a partner of Entertainment Accountants Nyman Libson Paul and Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Entertainment and Media Group. He also likes to shake and fingerpop to old soul records. l
24 Fps Distribution
The King is Dead…
Distribution experts Mick Southworth and Martin McCabe explain why it’s time to face up to the unmistakable fact that 35mm is dead. The relationship between cinema exhibitors and film distributors has always been an uneasy truce, to say the least. That’s because the goal of those greedy distributors is to get their preferred opening date, the longest run and the best possible box-office terms. Even though standard terms normally apply for a general, run-of-the-mill movie, tent-pole releases can strip the skin from the back of the exhibitor, who simply cannot afford to miss out on the biggest movies. It is a business, after all. A case in point: cinema operator Odeon seems to have turned its back on independent sector movies in favour of just running studio product. They seem happy enough so it must work for them and, as no quota or legislation exists to stop such a position, it’s ‘like it or lump it’. The relatively new concept of digitisation has definitely worked in favour of exhibitors, and put the winning hand very firmly in their grasp. The costs of the digital implementation and renovations are basically met by the distributors, who pay a weekly ‘per presentation’ rental fee in order to pay off the initial investment. Sounds reasonable, but this Virtual Print Fee (VPF) has more enemies than a bad toothache. Geared as it is to do anything but favour the culture of quality, niche film, it is primarily there to support the endless stream of mindless tent-pole flicks that already dominate through sheer size, mass awareness and market share. To be honest though, that’s not really the bonus ball for the cinemas at all; it is really just a rather convenient safety net. The real mother load in this deal is that, by converting the cinemas to digital exhibition, the distributors are paying for the exhibitors to broaden their business and start to trade in areas such as live music events, sports, conferencing, etc. That’s just the tip
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Above: While the industry forges ahead with digital, many are questioning how films will be securely archived in the future (image © Side by Side)
of the iceberg; how long before the educational sector gets a foothold from the exhibition community’s seeming largesse? And perhaps the day is not far off where the biggest TV shows from America might receive their international premieres at a theatre near you. They did it with the recent global theatrical simulcast of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special; that enjoyed the third highest screen average of the week in the UK, just behind The Hunger Games and Gravity. Other like-minded potential content providers will be quick to discover the possibilities of this hi-tech and multi-faceted environment on the basis of such box-office results. There is a train of thought amongst some industry experts that these new revenue streams will become as important and as profitable to the cinema exhibition sector as movies are today. That’s surely food for thought; cinemas that aren’t 100 per cent reliant on films. Cinema has faced challenges before. For four decades before the 1950s, 35mm film had been largely projected in monochrome in the industry standard Academy 4:3 ratio; essentially a square block presentation abutted by velvet curtains. With the competitive
assault and rapid consumer adoption of television in the 1950s, widescreen presentation and greater use of colour were introduced to provide a successful perceived advantage against the incipient rise and charms of the domestic ‘one-eyed monster’, to some significant commercial success. Today, commercial drivers are once again forcing change in the production and exhibition communities. A number of contingent factors have driven this change: the increasing importance of the ex-US global marketplace with wide day-and-date releasing becoming the norm; the maturation of multi-channel television and online delivery platforms both competing for a limited number of consumer eyeballs; the wide-scale global adoption of digital workflow solutions on the production side; and the industry-subsidised deployment of 3D digital projection systems. Digital projection has now become the norm in theatres worldwide, and ushered in a rapid demise for photochemical production. In terms of recent figures published by Screen Digest, the total number of digital cinema screens worldwide reached approximately 89,500 as at end 2012; this represents a net addition of some 26,000 digital screens over the course of the full year. The US represents roughly 40 per cent of this total, while the territories displaying the largest percentage gains were the Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific. On a global level, the average of 70 per cent of the world’s cinema screens are now fully converted to digital. There were, however, more digital screens converted the previous year, perhaps indicating that the rate of new conversions has begun to slow in mature markets, and emphasis is now shifting to other underdeveloped regions. As it now stands, only Africa,
the Middle East and Latin America now have more than half of screens left to convert. In terms of total digital cinema penetration outside of the dominant US, China remains in pole position followed by France, the UK, Japan and Germany. In a recent LA Weekly article, the commercial imperative for changing deliverables to digital elements from a studio’s point of view was outlined thus: ‘They no longer want to pay to physically print and ship movies. It costs about $1,500 to print one copy of a movie on 35mm film and ship it to theatres in its heavy metal canister. Multiply that by
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4,000 copies—one for each movie on each screen in each multiplex around the country—and the numbers start to get ugly. By comparison, putting out a digital copy costs a mere $150. Perhaps more worrying than this adoption of an industry-wide digital print solution is that studios have essentially all but destroyed their duplicate 35mm print archives in the past four years. Now, one print of most pictures released is retained as an archival element only. Theatrical reissues are now routinely provided to cinemas on DCP or even domestic Blu-ray. Is
Right: The huge theatrical success of Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special indicates that cinema content is diversifying (Image © BBC)
24 Fps Distribution
there a significant cultural issue here that is being brushed aside and wilfully ignored in the race to modernisation at all costs? Some major directors, however, still prefer and retain the commercial clout to shoot and deliver on film. Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell and Tom Hooper all produced their most recent features on 35mm; Anderson even more atavistically held out to shoot The Master on 70mm. Fresh from shooting his last two Star Trek pictures on film stock, J. J. Abrams has insisted that his next project, Disney’s Star Wars: Episode VII, is entirely filmed in 35mm in order to match the visual aesthetics of the original trilogy’s photochemical charms. Christopher Nolan, who is shooting his next feature Interstellar on 35mm (and in IMAX), recently told the Hollywood Reporter why he prefers film. “There’s a huge danger in all of this,” Nolan said. “If you are looking strictly at production cost, then you would use digital. But for the best image, it is still film. The problem with the push to digital is it has been given a consumer aspect. It’s not what is best for the film.” Yet, despite this A-list rearguard action, chemical processing facilities continue to close across the globe at a rapid rate and, with them, the skill set and numerous artisans
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Several prominent directors still prefer to shoot on celluloid, including J. J. Abrams, who shot both of his
Star Trek movies on film (right), and Paul Thomas Anderson, who filmed The Master on 75mm (below)
required to develop and process these artefacts are also being lost. The face of cinema has undoubtedly changed, but for better or worse? Probably a bit of both. And where do we go next? High frame rates, Super IMAX, Showscan and other technological advancements promise new means of stimulating audiences’ interests—and pocketbooks—in another throwback to commercial ideas pioneered more than three generations ago. The question is, can 35mm survive as a niche curated format, like vinyl LPs, or will it remain engrained amongst emerging markets who can’t afford the transition to digital delivery? One thing is for sure; the hands of time are sure as hell not going to suddenly start spinning in reverse. For most intents and purposes, 35mm film has had its day as an exhibition medium. The late, great critic and devout movie lover Roger Ebert opined in 1999: “I have seen the future of the cinema, and it is not digital. No matter what you’ve read, the movie theatre of the future will not use digital video projectors, and it will not beam the signal down from satellites. It will use film, and the film will be right there in the theatre with you.” On this rare
occasion his judgement may have been lacking. The purest and the sentimental of heart always yearn for yesterday, and there is a certain look to 35mm which does give it an irresistible visual quality. To some of us, ‘movies’ have always been better known as ‘films’, and we just hope that, in the rush to the future, we don’t lose sight of that important fact. For more on the Virtual Print Fee, turn to page 24 l
“The problem with the push to digital is it has been given a consumer aspect. It’s not what is best for the film.” Christopher Nolan
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24 Fps Announcements
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is drawn directly from the camera, or from a recording device’s external microphone input, with no additional switches or settings to master. To protect the microphone from knocks and bumps that could affect audio performance, RØDE has added an integrated suspension, based on Rycote’s hard-wearing Lyre system. RRP: £69.99 (inc. VAT) www.rodemic.com / @rodemics
Offering more versatility while retaining the lightweight, compact form factor which makes on-camera microphones a popular choice for close-up video work, RotoLight’s new uni-directional condenser microphone can be adjusted for both load and soft sound sources via the three position level control (-10dB/ 0dB/+10dB). External noise is eliminated via the mic’s two-step, high pass filter (80hz/ flat), while the unit is insulated from camera bumps by an integrated Shockmount. The ROTO-Mic is available separately as a standalone addition to a videographer’s set-up, or as part of the new RotoLight Sound & Light Kit, which includes RotoLight’s popular RL48 LED Ringlight. RRP: £71.99 (inc. VAT) www.Rotolight.com @rotolight
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Insider's Point of View James Lamont & Jon Foster: Writers
BAFTA-winning comedy writing duo James Lamont and Jon Foster have myriad big- and small-screen projects under their belts, including the upcoming Harry Hill Movie and TV shows like The Amazing World of Gumball. Here, they discuss their collaborative relationship, and how exactly they find the funny. How did you initially team up as a writing partnership? We met making videos for a slightly dry ‘how to’ website called Videojug. They used to give us a camera and no money whatsoever and tell us to bring a film in by the end of the day. As we were both Edinburgh Festival comedy veterans, we sort of naturally started making comedy sketches with the bare minimum of ‘how to’ and delivered those instead.
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It was, weirdly, a great creative experience. The films did well on the website and working together was a laugh, so we branched out, initially spending our weekends writing whatever we thought could work while also experimenting with stupid characters in online sketches. A year or so later, we had a growing bank of ideas and [script editor] Jeremy Dyson picked up some sketches of ours for the second series of Armstrong and Miller. We
got an agent and that’s when it started to become our full-time job. Can you describe your collaborative process when it comes to writing? Skype and Google Docs are a godsend to a writing partnership. We can see each other writing in live time, so we can talk through decisions and furiously delete each other if necessary. Scenes get written quickly like this, as you’re effectively redrafting everything with two of us on it at once. It works great because we live on opposite sides of London, so it means we can work 9.30–6.30 every day without having to commute, or ever leave our houses or get dressed. Because we’re used to writers’ rooms, from shows like The Amazing World of Gumball, we like to pitch jokes to each other and act them out to some extent. Although we do split up to write drafts sometimes, and then swap them so the other can redraft, we
aim to do as much as possible collaboratively; breaking story especially. It seems really obvious to say, but you always get the best jokes if you’re talking and laughing. You’ve written for both big and small screens; do they create different challenges? Totally. Not in the execution of the scene-writing or the dialogue—if a joke is funny it will work on any platform—but in terms of how you build an idea they are hugely different beasts. A TV show, especially sitcom, has to run and run, returning to zero at the end of each episode so we can start again next week. So that defines how you approach your core characters and settings. In a film, your characters go on a journey and often end up in a very different place to where they started, both physically and emotionally. So you approach their character traits and flaws very differently. Similarly you’ve written for both live action and animation,
Writing duo James Lamont and Jon Foster (bottom) have honed their comedy writing skills on the small screen and online, and are making their feature screenwriting debut with The Harry Hill Movie (below
and opposite), which is now in UK cinemas
and for sketch/panel shows. Do all of these require differing processes? Writing is kind of the same across the board; you just have different restrictions and challenges thrown upon you. In animation for example, you would think you could do anything you want but actually it’s the opposite. Every little movement is expensive and there’s no chance to reshoot, so the gag has to be right first time. One thing animation teaches you is the value of a visual joke, and that’s something worth carrying over to live-action scripts. Sometimes the best jokes don’t require anyone to speak; it could just be the way a character gives a look, or the way they dance—think Ricky Gervais in The Office. Character is important in everything. The audience has to believe your character would say the things you’re making them say, or the whole thing just starts to fall apart at the seams. You’ve also written a variety of pieces for online. Do you think this is a good way for young writers to bolster their portfolio? It definitely gets your work and name out to your audience quicker than any other platform. But it’s
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a very different medium to writing stories for longer-form shows or films. We’ve had lots of fun making ideas for the Internet, and we’ll probably keep doing it, but at the end of the day the best way to learn how to write is to sit down and craft a script. The sorts of things you end up doing online, for the hits, don’t tend to be long or have much story in them; it’s about spontaneous fun, but you’re not going to learn much in terms of scriptwriting unless you start getting your head round three-act story structures, or twoact sitcom structures. How did you get involved with The Harry Hill Movie? We’d met Harry to talk about other ideas, then when the idea of the movie was floated we were immediately interested. Harry had a very clear idea of the overall story; as a creative brief we were left very much to our own devices, but we were all very keen to make it have broad appeal to families. Between us we just went with gut instinct on the funny, with references like the Zucker Brothers and Pee Wee Herman in mind, and aimed to create a world on screen that
really reflected Harry’s distinct and colourful humour. What was the process of writing the film? Harry had a story, and when we came in we tried to structure and tweak it while at the same time keeping things as bonkers as possible. Once we’d agreed that, we would go off, write segments and send them to Harry. He would rewrite and send back, and so on. The process pretty much evolved as we were doing it, and after a month or so we had a first draft of a movie. How difficult is it to write comedy; how do you know what’s funny? For us a great benchmark of whether a joke is funny is if it makes the other person laugh when we pitch it. Because if it doesn’t, then it ain’t going in the script. Also anything you have to explain, either to each other in the writing room, or between the characters in the scene, clearly
isn’t working. Ultimately comedy is about surprise and truth. The joke has to come as a surprise, and leave you with that feeling of ‘I do that’ or ‘my brother does that’ or worse, ‘please tell me I don’t do that!’ What’s next? We’re currently writing another family feature film, Titus Rules, based on a Dick King-Smith story, for Heyday Films and StudioCanal. We’re also writing Pompidou, Matt Lucas’ new silent comedy for BBC One. It’s an incredibly ambitious show with no dialogue, so it’s a big challenge. We’re also writing a horror comedy for the BBC about a school trip that goes badly wrong and we have several sitcoms being developed, including one for Channel 4 about a weird village in the West Country, and one for Comedy Central about a group of fashion models. www.jameslamontjonfoster. blogspot.co.uk l
Feature The Virtual Print Fee
l a u t r i V e h T rint Fee P The Virtual Print Fee has been central to helping cinemas worldwide make the move to digital, but now an increasing number of voices are accusing the VPF of doing more harm than good. Industry expert Michael Gubbins examines why it is earning this damaging reputation, and why we should be looking ahead to a post-VPF world.
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Around 84.1 per cent of the world’s cinemas are now digitised, according to international research and analysis company IHS. Given the complexity of the task of replacing the 35mm technology that has held sway for more than a century—not to mention given film its name—the progress has been remarkable. Those old enough to remember the decimation of cinemas in the 1980s may feel that the number of casualties has been remarkably small. While for many the ends have justified the means, there has been an insistent voice of dissent that has been getting a little louder of late. Grand global conversion rates don’t mean much if the cinema in your town is closing down. There is, however, a bigger issue: the concern that the mechanisms established to support the transition to digital cinema are now holding back progress, particularly for independent cinema. That debate is, predictably, only slowly coming to the fore. It has been the pattern of digital cinema so far
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that mainstream engagement with issues has tended to come only after the period when there was the opportunity to make a real impact. But there are legitimate concerns about the mechanism that underpinned the vast majority of digital conversions: the Virtual Print Fee (VPF). The VPF is one of those unlovable, pragmatic bodges that arise when you try to find analogue solutions to digital problems. It was based on the simple and fair principle that distributors—particularly the Hollywood studios—would make the really big long-term savings, and so should have to contribute to the cost of cinema conversion. But that aim has been achieved by artificially recreating the economics of the 35mm world, and shackling exhibition and distribution to an old business model. There were advantages; it was largely cost-neutral and, much more importantly, no viable alternative was offered. And there was a third driving force; an atmosphere of urgency, whipped up by Hollywood and summed up by National
Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) chief John Fithian in his 2011 ‘convert to digital or die’ speech. “Simply put, if you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business,” he said. It might not have been the most diplomatic of language but the point was essentially true; a hybrid digital and 35mm system meant more costs and a longer wait for gains. In much of Europe there was an additional concern, with belated recognition that the independent sector was actually in danger unless a mechanism was found for smaller venues. In the US fears remain, with some estimates that as many as 1,000 independent, small-town and art-house theatres could close. There are also fears, shared elsewhere, about a VPF system which was predicated on the quick ‘turn’ of new films. Ira Deutchman, managing partner of Emerging Pictures, suggested that “theatres are incentivised not to holdover films for very long. This is potentially the death knell for
Above: The conversion to digital cinema has allowed theatres to show films like Gravity
Opposite: Doctor Who's 50th anniversary episode had huge UK theatrical success
“The VPF is one of those unlovable, pragmatic bodges that arise when you try to find analogue solutions to digital problems.” 25
Feature The Virtual Print Fee the types of films that require word of mouth to build into a hit. Now, we all know that the old-fashioned word-of-mouth film has been on life support for a while.” The UK has had some of the same issues. With four integrators each collecting VPFs, expanding the run of a film has meant paying additional VPFs, so restricting the potential increased reach of indie titles. The BFI has been trying to find a solution, including a system where a payment is made only for the ‘widest point of release’. In many other countries the public-sector cavalry has ridden in with direct subsidies, some organisational support and some financial seeding of business schemes and partnerships. Indeed, the attempt to adapt the VPF model to local conditions has worked in many places. In the Netherlands, for example, the government invested around 15 per cent of the cost to a system called Cinema Digitaal, which effectively reduced the burden of the VPF on smaller operators. Austria, meanwhile, has introduced a ‘free VPF’ approach, where the fee is pegged to one euro per admission (up to €500). The debate, however, is always in danger of missing the big picture. The VPF remains a short-term fix for a shortterm issue—the need to install a global network—and it has a shelf life, generally somewhere between five and 10 years. The big question should be what digital cinema can do when the equipment is in situ. Digital cinema needs to become not just self-sustaining—and the studios have made it pretty clear that they are not countenancing a VPF2—but find new ways to attract a changing audience and build new forms of revenue. It is not the short-term pain but the long-term gain that ought to be the motivator for all parties. David Hancock, senior principal analyst for cinema at IHS and one of the most respected experts in the field, borrows a phrase from Winston
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Churchill, in suggesting that we are ‘at the end of the beginning’ of digital cinema. The first phase was all about transition; the new world is all about implementation and exploration. For cinemas, Hancock suggests there are three basic keys to sustainability: • Lower-cost equipment, with cheaper projectors, satellite and broadband links, and some highcost of acquisition / low cost of ownership options, such as longlasting laser light sources, rather than light bulbs. • New revenues, including event cinema, variable pricing and business services. • New models, perhaps including more flexible programming, and networking with other venues. But cinemas are only one part of the equation if digital cinema is going to be the engine of a dynamic, diverse and sustainable future for film. It is possible to imagine that future as good for cinema but bad for independent film. While distributors will make big savings in the post-VPF world, it may become ever harder
to find space in theatres. The amazing £1.7m taken by UK theatres from a screening of an episode of Doctor Who (which was simultaneously showing on free television) will have rung some alarm bells. The irony that distributors may have contributed to a system from which they end up excluded is only just beginning to surface. It does not necessarily need to be so. Flexibility of screening times, new forms of marketing and, most of all, great content might just open up a new world of opportunity. That is a discussion
Above: Under director Amanda Nevill, the BFI is trying to find a solution to the VPF problem
Below: Dolby 3D Digital Cinema demonstration at Dolby Research (Image © Steve Jurvertson / Creative Commons Licence)
in which producers, rights holders and exhibitors ought to be engaged now. “If we can make all the boats rise, we win,” says Todd Wagner, co-owner of 2929 Entertainment. “Let’s not try to make this a zero sum game.” l
P I H S Y R R E B CTO 13 M MEDIRE 012/ 2 The Production Guild is the UKâ€™s premier film and TV membership organisation. With over 750 individual members and more than 55 Company Affiliates, we promote excellence in all aspects of UK production. To find out how training and membership can help you visit www.productionguild.com or email email@example.com
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Feature Independent Cinemas
Responsibility of Cinemas As changing viewer habits ramp up the pressure on traditional exhibition models, cinemas are coming under increased scrutiny in terms of the viewing experience they offer. Here, the founders of two independent cinemas—one established, one new—discuss the responsibilities they feel towards their audiences. Combine high-tech, affordable home cinema systems with lowpriced DVDs and Blu-rays and an ever-growing number of films available immediately on demand, and it’s little wonder that some are predicting the end of communal cinema viewing as we know it.
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Consider that there can’t be many of us who have not had a bad experience in a movie theatre— bad projection, muffled sound, dimly-lit 3D, texters and talkers; all capped off with extortionate ticket prices—and you may begin to wonder if they are right. There are, however, an increasing number of independent cinemas whose founders are determined to provide the best possible way to view a film; who are taking individual responsibility not just for the perfect environment, but also a diverse schedule that will entertain, challenge and even educate their customers. It’s this approach which has seen US independent chain The Alamo Drafthouse become a benchmark for the ideal cinema experience, and now other indies are also establishing themselves as a destination for film lovers, such as the brand new Olympic
Cinema in South West London. While there may be thousands of miles between them, Drafthouse founder Tim League and Olympic Cinema founder Stephen Burdge (who also founded film marketing agency Empire Design) have a shared dedication not just to their audience, but also the filmmakers whose work they screen. It’s a vision they believe will save the movie theatre from extinction. What was your original vision? TIM LEAGUE When my wife Karrie and I first set out to open up the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in 1997, we wanted to create a theatre that we would want to attend. We thought about the things we didn’t like about the cinema experience and we avoided those. We thought about the things we loved about going to the movies and we tried to execute those. Some early principles were technical
excellence, diverse programming, no ads before movies and zero tolerance towards talking in the cinema. Those ideals still hold true today. Wherever we open, we still strive to be a neighbourhood theatre and be part of the community, just like we were with our first location. What has evolved as we have expanded are some new goals. One of the new goals of our growth is trying to build a young cinephile audience for both classic and foreignlanguage films. STEPHEN BURDGE The trend in independent cinemas at the moment seems to be slightly more towards these places with sofas and food service to the seats. The focus has gone away from the film itself. I think we wanted to be an antidote, the antithesis of that. We want to be all about the film. Yes, bring a bottle of beer or a glass of wine in and a bag of popcorn; we’re not trying to be holier-
than-thou about any of it. Enjoy yourself, but actually concentrate on the screen. What responsibility do you feel in terms of providing the best possible viewing environment? TIM Presentation standards are very important to me. We have standardised on Sony 4K digital presentation, and we have a strong preventative maintenance programme that helps us live up to our technical expectations. We have a pretty solid customer feedback system, so if something does go wrong with presentation for whatever reason, we are quick to remedy the situation. STEPHEN Our experience is dealing with filmmakers and they are so particular about the grade, about the sound, about everything. So it came as a natural thing; why would you have a silver screen when filmmakers all like white screens? And why would we not want to have as good a sound system as we could afford? We listened to a lot of speakers. The best test we did was when we got two of the surrounds and wired them up to a stereo, to listen to them as just a pair of speakers. And the Dolby ATMOS sounded stunning; a pair of these surrounds would fill this room. So you hear so much more than you do in some other places. I don’t want to generalise, because there are lots of great cinemas out there, but I think the norm is not great sound. Why that is, I’m not sure it’s for us to say. I do think that the
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bulk of the films [the multiplexes] are playing, the films that make their money, are the Batmans, the Iron Mans, the Thors. And they are more about these big sound effects. To be fair, it’s infinitely better than it used to be. They are putting good sound systems in, and putting proper projectors in. I guess their business model isn’t geared up so that they can come and check things between every screening. When you go up to their projection rooms, they are all automated and all running on their own. We will always have someone sat somewhere in the auditorium to keep an eye on things. Similarly, do you feel a responsibility to show a diverse range of films? TIM The bulk of our revenue comes from first-run blockbusters: The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, etc. That said, we have a company-wide target that 10 per cent of our boxoffice revenue should come from alternative content. Some of this furthers our mission of finding a young audience for classic and foreign-language films, some of this programming speaks to specific niche audiences we have curated over the years for things like music films, documentaries and 70s/80s exploitation films. STEPHEN We just want to show good films that are right for the area. It will be much easier when we have two screens. Distributors want you to, for example, play Gravity three times a day for a
fortnight. They won’t let you take it off. Being successful helps you a bit; we were number two for Philomena, out of 500 screens in the country, in terms of box office. And I think that gives you a little bit more clout. In the scheme of cinema distribution or exhibition we are a tiny screen, but distributors always want to be showing their product in good cinemas. Running a movie theatre is a commercial business; do financial considerations such as the Virtual Print Fee and opening weekend box office have an impact on your scheduling? TIM I personally hate the Virtual Print Fee model. It was only built for big studio films, and proves a constant challenge for booking classic or independent fare. The pressure of opening weekend box office is less of a factor for us, although if we are really trying hard to promote a film, we like our opening week and entireengagement box office to be well above national averages. We are very much a data-obsessed company, so we are looking at how we stack up against various metrics every single day. STEPHEN We actually chose not to go down the VPF route. People said if you own your projectors, distributors are not paying the VPF every time they send you a film, and it will just give you more flexibility. So it seemed easier to buy and own the projector. In a way it was easier starting from scratch with things like ATMOS. To fit speakers in the ceiling from scratch was easy, because we built the ceiling to take the weight. And there wasn’t a lot more
wiring. Whereas to retrospectively fit digital projectors or ATMOS is obviously a lot more hassle. In your experience are independent cinema audiences more demanding than the multiplex crowd? TIM I don’t see either as being demanding as such, but the traditional multiplex crowd is probably more swayed by big screens and big sound, which I certainly appreciate myself. The independent audience likes to have a direct relationship to the theatre and the programmers. We’re a mix of the two and try to cater to both audiences. We are actively engaged in communicating with our audience in terms of what they want to see. We act on lots of our guests’ suggestions. STEPHEN We’re relying on word of mouth, which spreads so much faster these days. So we’re trying to choose films that work locally, first and foremost, and yes, that audience is very demanding. They love Philomena, for example, but they are equally as responsive to things like Gravity, Captain Phillips, and 12 Years a Slave. Fundamentally, they want great films in a great environment. www.drafthouse.com www.olympiccinema.co.uk l The Alamo Drafthouse's founder Tim League (opposite) and Stephen Burdge of London's Olympic Cinema (left) connect with audiences through state of the art sound and vision, excellent programming and events (above)
Insider's Point of View Lukas Moodysson: Writer/Director
A Brighter Outlook
After achieving international acclaim with the crowd-pleasing Show Me Love and Together, Lukas Moodysson plunged into the darkness with Lilya 4-Ever and A Hole in My Heart. In 2009 he made his first English-language film, Mammoth. His latest, We Are the Best!, returns him to the warmer climes of his early hits and his native tongue, with a loose adaptation of his wife Coco’s graphic novel about three young teenage girls who form a punk band in 1982 Stockholm. Interview: Stephen Applebaum Some people claim your relationship with cinema was in crisis after Mammoth. Was it? No. I am someone who goes in different directions and it felt like a good time to write rather than direct. At the same time I was a little bit bored and a little bit overwhelmed by how difficult it was to make a film, and I felt I was spending too much time away from my children. My father then died in the middle of everything. So I had
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to write a sad and boring book about that. You tried writing a screenplay first, didn’t you? I wrote the script, actually. It was enormously dark and experimental but very low budget, so it would have been quick to make. But I feel that there is a gap, sometimes, between the films I want to make and the films I want to watch, and it didn’t feel like a movie that I would actually
pay money to see. I want to see simple comedies. You seemed to be in a darker place when you made A Hole in My Heart and Lilya 4-Ever. Were those films a reflection of how you felt at the time? It’s more the opposite. I would say the better I feel, the more I can care about the rest of the world. The bigger burden I feel on myself, the less time I have to think about things like Syria. So sometimes
We Are the Best! (below) is writer/director Lukas Moodysson's (opposite) most optimistic and personal film
when I feel like the world is such a terrible place and everything is so difficult, is when I feel the need to make something happy. We Are the Best! is set before the Internet, and one of the characters says she couldn’t live in 1982 because she couldn’t be without her mobile. Are today’s teens more tethered to their parents because of technology? I’m generalising but I think people a generation ago were better about being alone rather than always relying on the rest of the world to support them. But also the Internet is fantastic. You can be alone in a small town and be the only one who’s gay, or the only one who likes some strange music that no one else likes, and it is easier to find a friend somewhere else in the world and share. Technology has changed the way people relate to the world, hasn’t it? Talking about the girls in the film, I think there is a directness in the way they relate to the world that is sometimes missing today. Their gym teacher says they have to run round because they don’t take the basketball game seriously enough, and then they make a song about that. And they walk on the streets and they find some bags with some trash in and they bring it home and have fun with it. They interact more immediately, with no filters. For me that’s inspirational and I think it will be interesting to see what happens when that approach meets a young audience today. If it reaches a young audience; maybe it will just be a movie for people who are nostalgic. What was your main directorial input with your young cast?
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I think it’s difficult to discuss psychology in general, or 1982 in general, but if we start with something that we can touch, it’s easier. When we started to look at the clothes and the haircuts, that was when they realised they were portraying girls who don’t care about looking pretty or cute or sexy, but who want to look tough, or a little bit funny, and dress with humour. That was important for them to understand their characters. Did it take you long to cast the girls? It took a long time, not because it was difficult but because I’m a slow person and, unlike some directors, I don’t feel like I can take any actor and transform them into something. I can only support people and create a good environment for them, and push them just a little bit, but
they have to do it themselves. So it took a long time to make me feel safe with them. Is writing female characters a challenge? Not really. And in this case it was quite simple because I had an expert by my side. I didn’t really have to ask my wife a lot of questions while I was writing the script because I felt I didn’t want to respect her story too much. But then with clothes, for example, and with the casting, I always ask for her advice. Generally I find it easier to relate to women than to men. I think because growing up my biggest role model was my grandmother. I don’t know why. She liked porcelain with pink flowers on. She had a very poor upbringing but then she wanted to pretend she had some kind of class. So
it was a little bit like cheating but also trying to make life more not glamorous but a little bit more [pleasant]. You have said before that filmmakers should offer an audience hope. Does this come from her? I don’t know. But I would say something else today. Hope, yes. But I would also say that the kind of films that are lacking in the world today are actually the most difficult thing to make, which is movies that treat things very, very seriously and with the deepest respect and everything, but at the same time do it in a very happy way. That’s something that we lack today: all the serious matters being treated in a way that says life is actually liveable. We Are the Best! opens in UK cinemas on March 7, 2014 l
Feature Only Lovers Left Alive
Modern Gothic Jim Jarmusch’s fresh take on the vampire movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, is as memorable for its distinctive look as it is for its narrative. Production designer Marco Bittner Rosser and costume designer Bina Daigeler reveal the challenges of creating such a unique aesthetic. Text: MaryAnn Johanson
To say that the filmic genre of the vampire tale is overcrowded is an understatement. To say that the subgenre of vampire romance is one that looms particularly large at the moment is an understatement of, perhaps, immortal proportions. Leave it to the always idiosyncratic Jim Jarmusch to tackle such a crowded, clichéd field and come away with a film that is so strikingly fresh that the viewer is left with the sense that we’ve never seen vampires on the big screen at all before—or, at least, that those we’ve previously met were mere movie fantasies and now, finally, we are meeting the real thing. Only Lovers Left Alive may be Jarmusch’s most accessible film yet, and the appeal of vampires on the whole is certain to bring the filmmaker legions of new fans, not least because it’s hard not to fall in love with Tilda Swinton’s Eve and Tom Hiddleston’s Adam. It’s impossible not to wish that they—as well as their undead compatriots portrayed by John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska—were in fact real people. How does Only Lovers create its witty, authentic reality? “It was amazing to see the amount of detail that was in [Jarmusch’s] script,” says production designer Marco Bittner Rosser. “Every aspect of the characters was
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there. The world around them was something that was part of the characters.” Indeed, one of the most dramatic visual aspects of Adam and Eve is the dichotomy of the outward expression of their lives, from where they live to how they dress: he haunts decaying Detroit and dresses mostly in grim blacks, while she flits around magical whitewashed Tangier and dresses primarily in fresh whites and brights. Was this notion present in the script, too? “That was something that [Jarmusch] had in mind,” says costume designer Bina Daigeler, who previously worked with Jarmusch and Swinton on 2009’s Limits of Control. “It was about yin and yang, about Detroit and Tangier, about Tilda’s spirit and her skin and her hair and her heart. And on the other side, there’s the darkness of Detroit and the depression of Tom.”
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Indeed there’s an organic, complementary complexity to the visual aesthetics of the film that goes beyond what is typically seen on screen. To create such an intricate world, Rosser and Daigeler worked closely with each other, and with Jarmusch. “I had the great opportunity to spend a week at the beginning of the production talking with Jim about how the film should feel,” explains Rosser. “It was never an external ideal; it was all developed internally from the psychology of the characters.” Daigeler, who also attended that pre-production meeting in Cologne, found that her previous working relationship with Jarmusch was a big help. “I know what kind of style he likes,” she says. “We didn’t talk, but I could start with a mood board immediately. My mood board looked aged and old, it was on old paper and I stitched
it all on; images from musicians and people I know that he likes, sentences from the script, fabrics I wanted to use and the colour shades I wanted to use.” After that meeting, says Rosser, “Bina would come and show me samples, and I would go and show her set drawings, and we
The yin and yang nature of Adam (Tom Hiddleston, above) and Eve's (Tilda Swinton,
opposite) relationship is reflected in their costumes and make-up
Feature Only Lovers Left Alive would make sure that the colours would match the costumes and vice versa. There was a very close relationship.” An example? “The fabric on the bed in the beginning
“In such an intimate, small movie, the cast has a lot of input.” Bina Daigeler
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of the film that [Swinton] is lying on, that was very coordinated with costume. The texture behind her head would be the set at that moment. All those elements were really thought of.” Daigeler, who says her work has “a lot to do with intuition”, drew on the exoticness of the cities the story is set and shot in, too: “I was very inspired,” she says. “I think it’s very important [that Jarmusch] has chosen these locations. Detroit is so special and Tangier is so special. Some fabrics came from there.” There’s an intimacy to the interiors—which were shot on a soundstage in Cologne— that resulted from careful
consideration of how the film’s unusual protagonists would live. Of Adam’s ramshackle and overstuffed Detroit house, Rosser says, “We thought about how this guy’s a vampire and the world around him comes and goes. How would a person like that deal with his man cave? He wouldn’t tidy up or have a sense of order like a normal person. He would just find his order in the chaos he produces over hundreds of years in his stuff. It was a kind of organic way of putting the set together.” For the costumes, the approach was equally personal, drawing on the perceived psychology of these fantastical
characters. “We made things really simple,” explains Daigeler. “Often to do something simple is much more difficult. At the beginning there were ideas about jewellery, and we just got rid of everything.” But key, too, was the notion that Adam and Eve’s wardrobe has evolved over their centuries of life. “In the little wedding picture [which Adam has in his home, depicting the couple in a centuries-old ceremony], I put [Eve] full of jewellery,” Daigeler continues. “Perhaps in the 18th century she was full of jewellery? You think, how have they been before in all the hundreds of years they’ve been living? So we thought they would
Right: The team have created an entirely believable world for modern vamps like Eve and her sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) to inhabit
Opposite: Huge attention to detail went into every element of the production design
end up being really simple. It was not at all about anything fashion. It’s completely uncontemporary. You don’t know where she got these clothes.” Although Jarmusch and his team had a clear vision for the film’s aesthetic, the cast also had an input into the sets and costumes. “In such an intimate, small movie, the cast has a lot of input,” says Daigeler. “It was perhaps difficult for the actors to understand at the beginning how simple [Jarmusch] wanted to have it. The daily outfit, the white one of Tilda’s, was so simple; she was looking for something more elaborate, and Jim wanted to
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Feature Only Lovers Left Alive have just a very straight line. But everybody agreed that that was the right direction.” Hiddleston, too, made a significant contribution to the set for Adam’s house, explains Rosser. “We walked through the set, and there were a lot of the signs and the art already in the set, and he said, ‘Hmm, what if he liked astronomy as well?’ We didn’t have that part, so we added little details and pictures. I don’t know if you really notice them, but it felt like he brought this last touch that would make him feel completely at ease.” In fact, Lovers is full of humorous, poignant design touches; Eve’s look is completed by a white iPhone, for instance, and a wooden bullet plays a key thematic role. Did Rosser have a favourite prop amongst the wonderful paraphernalia? He singles out the steampunkish electrical device of Adam’s invention. “I loved the generator in [Adam’s] courtyard. He’s kind of a classic 19th-century genius. The science contraptions that he builds are a little bit chaotic to show his artistic sense in them. It was really fun.” And can Daigeler explain the recurring costume motif with Adam and Eve’s gloves, which appear to play a ritualistic role for them but are never discussed in the script? “They were there from the beginning somehow,” she says. “We just decided that when they
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go out that they would feel they needed a little bit of protection. They’re immortal but also so fragile, so they have to take care.” Despite the film’s stunning look, Daigeler and Rosser are both remarkably modest about the impact of their work on Lovers. Daigeler is “astonished” that the characters’ costumes are worth talking about. “I thought they would disappear completely, that [the vampires] are just
wearing something that hasn’t got any importance,” she says. But it’s their passionate attention to the tiniest and most surprising of details that is certain to make Only Lovers Left Alive a movie that film fans will pore over, delighting in the exploration of Adam and Eve’s tangible world. Part of the fun, too, is that this is a world that we haven’t quite seen before. With so many vampire movies already in the
Above: There are touches of whimsy throughout the film, such as the blood ice lollies Eve enjoys
Below: The white-washed magic of Tangiers contrasts with the gloom of Detroit
pop-culture consciousness, how did they achieve the careful balance between acknowledged existing vampire motifs and creating a fresh look? “I didn’t really think about it,” Rosser admits. “I thought more about the character as a unique figure rather than looking back at other vampire movies. We certainly didn’t want to make a clichéd movie, and we didn’t try to make fun of certain specific movies in the vampire genre. The reference was more 1960s rock ’n’ roll and back to Nikola Tesla, and for Eve even further back to the 1500s.” “If you work with Jim, he is all over your skin and your thoughts and your brain,” adds Daigeler. “There’s no space for anything else. And it’s not necessary. We just created our own world and we had enough with that.” Only Lovers Left Alive opens in UK cinemas on February 21 l
Insider's Point of View John Giwa-Amu: Producer
Rise of the Machine
Young producer John Giwa-Amu’s low-budget sci-fi thriller The Machine, in which programmers strive to create self-aware artificial intelligence, is setting the indie filmmaking world alight. Here, he talks us through the challenging journey to bring it to the screen without compromising its ambitious creative vision. Interview: Nikki Baughan How easy was it to raise funding for The Machine, and can you talk us through the process? When we set out to make The Machine, we were conscious of the fact that we have struggled with stepping up to larger budgets on past productions. I knew something in our model had to change, and that would require finance outside my direct circle. It soon became clear that if we were going to get taken on by an investment network, my thenlimited knowledge of tax structure could be a hurdle to investors. It was time to find a good accountant. I looked up people who had managed lower budget
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films and companies who would likely have a similar low level of liquidity to us, and found Robert Graham. He’d managed the film City Rats, which broke records for Revolver on DVD sales. I then applied to Film Agency Wales (FAW) and Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) for production funding, but the FAW production application was unsuccessful. People just did not believe we could deliver on our vision, as there was little precedent for anyone doing so at this budget level. It was a fair assessment for someone holding the purse strings of public money, but it was a big knock-back for us.
Award-winning producer John GiwaAmu (opposite and below with the
cast and crew of The Machine) found raising finance for the low-budget sci-fi a particular challenge
Running out of money and time, I wrote a 23-page investment memorandum and went into battle. The pitch was OK but in financial terms it was a bomb—two people interested and no cash pledged. On reflection, the concept art wasn’t strong enough, the budget was slightly too high and there was not enough money in the room. Luckily we found a Welsh investor living in Dubai who was interested enough to agree to invest, contingent on other film finance being raised. This gave us leverage, so Robert introduced us to a new angel network, The Ideas Factory (TIF). The TIF team refined the investment memorandum into a simple, glossy offer letter. Next they fine-tuned our pitch and put us in a room with over 100 millionaires at an investor seminar. We did our new pitch and hey presto; fourand five-figure chunks of finance started to come in immediately afterwards. We did three more investment seminars in the next six months. It was like undergoing a Dragons Den every two months, but once you’ve got momentum you begin to enjoy it. Most people didn’t believe we could make a sci-fi film for under £1m, so we needed a glossy promo to show them how it could be done. This was funded by the Film Agency for Wales. And as soon as our finance gap slipped below six figures, we set a shoot date for summer 2012 and took the trailer to Berlin. Then, of course, we had to sell it. Myself and writer/ director Caradog James spoke to every distributor and sales agent we could find, and ended up partnering with Content. Attracted by the promo and script (and, in
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the company president’s terms, ‘how hungry we were’), Content offered to close our funding gap and used the promo to sell almost $500k of pre-sales in the following Cannes Market. It was, I’m told, one of the hottest selling UK indies at the festival. We went into principal photography in July 2012 and shot for just under five weeks; the rest is happening right now. Having been through the blood sweat and tears of raising £1m for a successful film, future fundraising should be smoother. For anyone else out there who is in the position we were two years ago, my advice would be simple: spend time finding the best advisors. Without people to help you navigate your way through things like tax credits and investor proposals, things will be really tough.
The Machine showcases some incredible VFX; was it a conscious decision to concentrate resources on the film’s visuals? The film was meant to have around 150 VFX shots, but we ended up with almost 400. We were very fortunate to find [VFX studios] Minimo and Bait, who were able to deliver top level on the limited resources we had; both teams were as hungry as us to punch above their weight. We knew that if we had any sub-standard VFX in the film people would not forgive it because of the budget, so we had to keep the bar high. Once you start along this road you can’t turn back, as you’re haunted by the prospect of one shot spoiling the overall aesthetic and pulling the audience out of the movie.
Caradog is a very visual director and his key influences are the great visual storytellers like Scorsese, Kubrick and Ridley Scott. One of the key things we were interested in was working with anamorphic lenses and playing with darkness as a key part of the film’s palette. Our DoP [Nicolai Bruel] was chosen very carefully to ensure he achieved the look Caradog wanted to create, and I think they did a wonderful job together. Often with directors that are fixated on image the performance suffers, but we’re both equally interested in people. Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz are both great in the film; were you involved in the casting decisions? If you cast correctly it’s much easier to make a good film, so I’m
Giwa-Amu on set of The Machine (below and bottom), which won the Raindance Award at the 2013 British Independent Film Awards
very involved in this part of the process. With Manuel Puro [Hellboy 2, Moon] as our casting director, we went through many actors and actresses before finding Toby, Caity and Denis [Lawson] for the lead roles. Casting seems to be steered by the script; the stronger it is, the more people will want to get involved, and this is polarised in lower budgets. Our lead cast put great faith in us to pull off what we were trying to achieve, and it makes me very proud to have delivered as best we could. When making an independent film like The Machine, are you happy to appeal to a niche audience or are you always striving for a wide release? Our first feature Little White Lies was a bit of an eye-opener for us; we got six BAFTA Cymru nominations, winning two, a BIFA nomination, and played at many festivals. With all these accolades, however, the film still struggled to find an audience and get distribution, which made us evaluate what we did next carefully. With The Machine we wanted to make a film that we would queue to see in a multiplex.
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The challenge of connecting with the largest possible audience is something that excites both myself and Caradog. Conversely, the thing that got LWL made was passion for the subject, not business. Amongst other things the dynamics of equality and culture connect with us at a DNA level. Our ambition is always to try and weave in some of this texture in the most accessible way (and, hopefully, get to blow some stuff up along the way). As a producer, what responsibility do you take for helping your film find an audience? When writing the offer document to investors I analysed comparable audience stats very closely to understand who we were trying to speak to with this script. This was the first step in giving it the best shot at finding an audience, and that was important to me. I’m also heavily involved in the film’s distribution and raised the P&A fund to put it out. We’re working with a hand-picked team lead by Dave Shear, who was head of theatrical at Revolver; Content and Anchor Bay are also lending their weight
to the release. I take this role very seriously and I’d encourage people to try it, especially on lower budgets. It’s not often you’ll find someone who cares as much as you do about your story so the ambition was to fuse that passion with a team who was right for the project. As a regional filmmaker based in Wales, do you feel like you have access to all the opportunities that are available in the UK for grass-roots talent? The Film Agency for Wales and Welsh Assembly Government have been of great support and were crucial in getting the film made. The Film Agency funded the promo that allowed us to go to Cannes and get the pre-sales, and WAG was able to fund part of what we shot on Welsh soil, which was most of the film. These are opportunities which I feel very fortunate to have in Wales. The Film Agency has also been an important factor in developing projects with us since Little White Lies; between productions this funding can be vital to keeping a company alive. There comes a point as a producer when you’re
too busy to work and get paid, but the work you’re doing isn’t paying at all; this was a challenging stage in [production company] Red and Black Film’s growth. Public funding helped us keep working though these periods, and in future times of plenty can help our business to expand and capitalise. You have a strong collaborative relationship with Caradog James; how important is it to work with people who share your vision and approach to filmmaking? Our shared sensibilities are what has kept our company together and growing. So many questions are thrown at you artistically, technically, commercially, etc.; us sharing a vision means that even when we don’t converge immediately, we often end up at the same place. We’re both very fortunate to have found a good collaborator early on in our careers; we’d both just won awards in short films and it was an equal partnership from the outset and we’re definitely stronger for it. The Machine opens in UK cinemas in March 2014. For more information, visit www.redandblackfilms.com l
IN BERLIN THE DOCUMENTARY PLATFORM AT THE EUROPEAN FILM MARKET
FOR BUYERS, SELLERS, DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS OF DOCUMENTARIES
6 –14 FEB 2014 • NETWORKING SPACE AT THE MARTIN-GROPIUS-BAU, 2ND FLOOR Information service, individual consultation and match-making provided by our partner EDN - European Documentary Network. • DAILY INFORMATION SESSIONS Meet the Festivals (one-on-one meetings), Meet the Distributors Meet the Broadcasters, Meet the Docs Talks • DOCS SPOTLIGHT Presenting a selection of the previous IDFA and DOK Leipzig programmes • HAPPY NETWORKING HOURS AT THE STAND
Find detailed information at www.efm-berlinale.de
Feature Cinema Sound
Sound has always been important to the film experience, both in terms of production and projection. Now, as new technologies push the limits of cinematic sound, we investigate how filmmakers and audiences are benefiting from the advancement of audio. Text: James Clarke
Now more than ever, film studios and exhibitors are harnessing the powerful unity that exists between sound and picture. It’s a connection that’s worked since the earliest cinema, when silent films would be accompanied by live orchestras, through to The Jazz Singer’s sync-sound revolution of the 1920s and on to the emergence of digital sound for production and exhibition in the 1990s. While audiences are well used to the idea of visual spectacle at the cinema, the time has come to renew our romance with the spectacle of sound;
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particularly as there is something of a renaissance underway in cinematic audio. Talk to experts about just how important sound is to cinema, and they all share one essential perspective: hearing a movie is as key to your emotional and intellectual response to its story as watching it. “There’s a famous saying that sound and visuals make up 60/40 of a film; 60 per cent being sound and 40 per cent being visual. I am a firm believer in that!” says Drew Roper, a stop-motion animator currently working on his short
project At-issue. “With animated movies, sound is everything. It brings it all together, and to life. When animating shots, you don’t have sound, sound FX or music to go by; this all has to be created afterwards specifically for the film. In animation, every little breath, footstep and scratch has to be recorded to fit to the shot. Live action is slightly—only slightly— easier because you already have the ambience sounds of real-life shooting.” Sound is, of course, important to any film, live action or animation, but particularly so
when dialogue is minimal. Such is the case in J. C. Chandor’s survivalist drama All is Lost, which stars Robert Redford as a lone sailor fighting against the elements in his stricken vessel. “Because there is no dialogue, we weren’t tied to anything sound wise,” says Steve Boeddeker, supervising sound editor / sound designer and re-recording mixer at Skywalker Sound. “All we could hear was the director screaming to Robert Redford. We tossed out the production sound.” Boeddeker and his small four-person team spent a day in San Francisco Bay recording audio material from a boat, using a four-channel recorder and a contact mic taped to the boat’s hull. “In hindsight, there were a lot of challenges as it’s a movie with about three lines of dialogue,” he says. “It’s exciting, almost like an animated movie.” And, as he explains, Chandor’s brief to the sound team was simple; he wanted to hear the sounds exactly as Redford’s character would hear them. Indeed, so subtle was the soundscape of the film that Boeddeker arrived at a useful way to characterise the boat, considering it to be a sidekick to Redford’s character, “like a horse in a western”. Boeddeker, who has also worked on films as diverse as Fight Club, Bug and Beasts of
the Southern Wild, believes that creating great sound is intuitive. “I always use the expression: you need to learn to let go and just go there,” he explains. “Ultimately, think of yourself as a filmmaker. In sound, we’re lucky. People will accept all kinds of challenges. Work towards the emotion that your [characters] feel. Sound can bring incredible story points and emotional context to a movie.” While sound remains an important creative tool in the production of films, it is also crucial in the projection of those same films. A great deal of work is being done to ensure that audiences hear movies in the way the filmmakers intended, and many consider Dolby’s new Atmos system to be leading the pack in a new generation of cinematic sound. Initially used on blockbusters such as Oblivion and The Hobbit: The Desolation of
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Smaug, Atmos is fast becoming the industry standard for both larger and smaller budgeted films. The system allows for sound to be sculpted more particularly and deliberately than ever, both in the creation of mixes at post-production stage and in the cinema auditorium,
where sound elements can be effectively placed and moved around the cinema space. We started developing next generation sound about 11 years ago,” explains Dolby’s Senior Technical Marketing Manager Nick Watson, as he demonstrates the range of bombastic and
Above: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug makes full use of Dolby's Atmos sound system
Opposite: The mostly dialogue-free All is Lost proved a challenge for sound editor Steve Boeddeker
Feature Cinema Sound subtle sound that Atmos can deliver. “It then stalled with digital projection [being introduced] and only four years ago the studios and exhibitors got back in touch [with us]. We did a lot of tests with our partners at Skywalker Sound and we created content and fit out new configurations. “Just adding more speakers wasn’t the solution,” Watson continues. “Atmos is an object-, rather than channel-based sound system, and every cinema with Atmos has an on-site rendering system which allows each cinema to deploy the system as per their speaker arrangement. It’s a bespoke system [which] can handle 18 simultaneous sound objects; underneath that is a [sound] bed. We realised that to expect the industry to go from channelbased workflow to object-based workflow tools, the industry would have to evolve. Right now, we’re working with a hybrid of channel and object-based presentation. Music has been moved away from the screen and onto the wide speakers [on each side wall of the cinema]. Subtlety works even better than brash stuff.” Another company pushing the boundaries of cinematic sound is Barco, which began as a projector manufacturer and has evolved to develop sound systems for exhibition. They have partnered with Dreamworks Animation, whose forthcoming family film Mr. Peabody & Sherman will feature Auro 3D
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sound (Lionsgate also used the system for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). “The technology should complement that motion-picture experience,” says Brian Claypool, Barco’s Senior Director of Strategic Business Development, of the evolution of digital sound presentation. “Auro looked good for Barco to use; combined with 11.1 layering, [it adds] natural layers of height as a means to naturalise sound. [It] gives a richness of volume.
“There are a lot of criteria and variables,” he continues. “We know that digital cinema moves at a rapid clip. Sound has been rather constant and stagnant since 5.1 [but] nobody wants the [format] wars of the 90s”—a period in which several versions of digital sound vied for prominence. Looking ahead, Claypool anticipates that there will be creative and practical conversations to be had between post-production sound teams and the exhibitor in terms of sound-system choices. Both Auro and Atmos will become increasingly native to the process—in fact studios are starting to want to revisit and remix older films using Auro, as they will be able to take back out the original session files to create 5.1 and insert the 11.1 aural workflow—although Claypool is aware that this will take time in terms of adopting new workflow technology and adjusting creative sensibility. “Every time you put additional technology into the
Above: Animation Mr Peabody & Sherman showcases Barco's Auro 3D system
Below: Sound editor Steve Boeddeker says that sound can bring 'emotional context to a movie'
marketplace, diversions and compromises have to be made,” he says, although does stress that there is a constant need to “protect the artistic intent”. Attempting to summarise his experience with the new cinema sound possibilities, Claypool recalls an audience member’s recent test screening card. That anonymous cinemagoer had simply noted, “You’ve really made the sound more immersive without it being painful.” In that simple, unadorned statement there is an acknowledgement of the brave new world into which the new generation of sound is taking us. All is Lost is now on general release; Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens in UK cinemas on February 7 l
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Insider's Point of View Jesse Eisenberg: Actor
An altogether different kind of leading man, Jesse Eisenberg has appeared in films as varied as Zombieland, The Social Network, The Double and Night Moves. Here, he explains why he will always seek out the most interesting roles. Interview: Limara Salt Since 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, Jesse Eisenberg has been an indie darling, a marijuanasmoking virgin, a smooth-talking illusionist and an ambitious student who revolutionised the way we socialise and communicate online. But even an Oscar nomination and successful career as a playwright hasn’t stopped the 30-year-old New Yorker from continuing his run of interesting and varied movie roles. In 2014 he will star in Kelly Reichardt’s environmentalist thriller Night Moves, alongside Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. But first is The Double, Richard Ayoade’s comedic take on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name. With hints of Gilliam and
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Lynch it doesn’t feel as staunchly British as his directorial debut Submarine, and it’s Eisenberg who carries it; managing to be as believable and entertaining as downtrodden and miserable Simon as he is as his confident doppelganger, James. Both films screened at last year’s London Film Festival, and Eisenberg was on hand to chat about his love of challenging roles. Did Richard Ayoade give you anything to watch and research so you had an idea what The Double would be like? In terms of acting he gave me movies like A Man Escaped (1956) and The Trial (1962); these are movies where the
character is dealing with a similar plight but in terms of the style, I had no input nor do I know how it looks because I haven’t seen it yet! I can only imagine it is so interesting because he’s a fascinating guy; really creative. And did you read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s book? The book was written 150 years ago, so it doesn’t take place in the same world the movie takes place in, but it has a very similar sense of humour. It’s a very odd sense of humour, almost like a paranoid sensibility, and that’s very similar to the book. Were you aware of Ayoade’s comedic background? No I wasn’t but now I am, of course! He’s really beloved here
With films like Night Moves and The
Double (below), Jesse Eisenberg (opposite) is continuing to carve out an interesting and varied career
[in the UK], I can tell. People really love him and he’s so funny, so I can understand why. To me his humour is not and doesn’t seem particularly English because it doesn’t feel different from mine. How challenging was it to play two characters in the film, and which was your favourite? We approached it as if two actors were playing the role and filmed it one after the other, and sometimes it would be complicated if they were in the same shot. You’d have to film one and then there would be a complicated computer process and you’d film the other, so I would be walking alongside nothing but being talked to in my ear. It was really interesting to do and was a really unique opportunity to act in a thing like that. James, the doppelganger, was more fun to play, in that he likes himself and has more fun. Simon is just a miserable, lonely, pathetic creature so it was just more emotionally wrenching. Your character in Night Moves is also very interesting but not entirely likeable. How did you go about forming him with so little dialogue? He is a guy who’s very introverted and he can’t really connect with anybody else or confide in anybody else, probably because he doesn’t fully understand what he thinks about things. On one hand he is an activist and devotes his life to environmental causes, but on the other hand he’s surrounded by people who work on a farm, who seem more casual about it, and he can’t figure out what his place is in this world. He wants to feel like
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everyone is as extreme as him in their beliefs but they’re not and he just feels totally alienated, and the more he expresses his anger and feelings and opinions, the more extreme they become until he lashes out in a violent way. Did you look at various types of activism and people who dedicate their lives to causes? Yeah, and there seems to be a few different camps; some people are really extreme and probably think that the casual activist is just as complicit as a person who’s not interested at all. I’m friends with a lot of animal rights activists and a lot of times they will consider someone who is not an activist but is personally vegan to be as complicit, as they’re not spreading the word, so I can understand how Josh might feel like people in his life are not giving enough.
Are you familiar with Kelly’s previous work? I saw Old Joy and thought it was wonderful and when I read the script [for Night Moves] I had the same feeling, that it seemed totally authentic and the characters were so realistic and interesting, both enigmatic but at the same time real and consistent. She has a certain style of working which is very appealing, creating worlds that the characters exist in rather than just creating quick scenes to move the plot forward. That’s exciting as an actor because you can really indulge in the scenes; you’re not just in them for little snippets. Are you still based in New York because of the theatre? Yeah, I write plays and put them on and that’s a really important thing for me so I stay in New York. New York is not like Atlantis;
it’s connected and they don’t even film movies in LA any more because of a complicated set of economic reasons, so being in New York doesn’t matter. So would you say you’re more passionate about theatre then cinema? In a way, because I write plays which usually takes a year and then it takes me a few years to find a theatre and then I act in it for five months, so I end up becoming more interested in it just because it takes up more of my time. Occasionally you’ll get great opportunities to act in movies and that’s really wonderful; I’m very lucky, but in terms of my time I spend more time dealing with plays or writing them or thinking about them. The Double is in UK cinemas from April 4; Night Moves is due for release in 2014 l
Feature Documentary and VoD
Video on demand has some way to go to replace traditional distribution models, with dayand-date release strategies still being regarded as occasional experiments and success stories like Arbitrage and Bachelorette— which both grossed more on VoD than at the box office—failing to usher in the predicted sea change. Yet, while some struggle to harness the full potential of digital distribution, there is one genre that does seem to be taking full advantage of the flexibility and reach of VoD: documentary. While actual VoD revenue figures are still like gold dust, it is clear that documentary
Video on demand may not yet have ushered in the bright new dawn for distribution that many predicted, but it is undoubtedly making itself felt in the world of documentaries. Here, genre experts discuss the impact of VoD on the non-fiction film, and explain why filmmakers need to be savvy when it comes to strategy. Text: Nikki Baughan 48
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filmmakers and distributors are beginning to embrace the opportunities that come with the territory. And ever-evolving technologies mean that savvy independent filmmakers do not need to wait for a distributor to come along; now anyone can self-distribute via an increasing number of platforms, and use social media as an effective marketing tool. “Although documentaries are growing in popularity, most of them don’t attract sufficient numbers of viewers to support theatrical distribution,” says journalist Jennifer Merin, documentaries guide at About.com (documentaries.about.com). “VoD is the platform where independent filmmakers and documentary distributors can present films without the high cost of theatrical release. And VoD also facilitates distribution of documentaries to special-interest niche markets around the globe.” Roger Jackson, co-founder of cloud-based distribution platform KinoNation.com, agrees that VoD is benefiting documentary makers far more than most, primarily because it enables filmmakers to reach a global audience. “Documentaries are seeing a massive renaissance on video on demand,” he says. “There has always been an audience for documentaries; it’s just that that audience is very scattered. VoD allows you to find that audience. A filmmaker who is passionate about English lawn bowls, for example, clearly would never get a theatrical release for that documentary. But there are probably a couple of million people on the planet who are intensely passionate about lawn bowls, and that documentary is super-easy to market [to that audience], because there are probably only 30 websites on the planet that specialise in lawn bowls. So the marketing strategy for that niche documentary is much easier than the marketing strategy for a drama or a romantic comedy.” One strong example of the power of VoD documentary
distribution is the 2009 film American: The Bill Hicks Story. While it was 2010’s second highest grossing documentary in the UK, the challenge was to get the movie out to as wide an American audience as possible; for this, co-directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas turned to VoD. Speaking on the 2012 SXSW ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love VoD’ panel, Harlock explained that the film’s “theatrical [run] was serving as a promotional device”. That run got the movie onto VoD platforms in the USA, where it became the number-one documentary on Hulu and number two on iTunes; over its full VoD term it grossed $600,000. Not bad for an indie documentary with a niche audience. And there are many others lining up in the hopes of replicating that success. In December 2013, digital entertainment curator FilmBuff chose to release the awardwinning documentary Artifact, about Jared Leto’s band Thirty Seconds to Mars, across all leading VoD platforms, and will be following that up in January 2014 with a theatrical and VoD run for Jody Shapiro’s celebrated doc, Burt’s Buzz. Netflix are also ramping up their first-run documentary strategy, having recently bought the Toronto award-winner The Square; Jehane Noujaim’s chronicle of the Egyptian protest movement will premiere exclusively on the network in all territories in 2014. “Our dream for The Square is to inspire the hearts of as many people as possible,” said Noujaim, “and by working with Netflix, we can ensure the film reaches a wide and diverse audience.” While distributors and filmmakers are embracing on-demand distribution, the increasing number of documentaries that are making an impression on VoD is also indicative of the expectations of their audience, who are perhaps more accommodating of the smaller-screen experience. “Viewers who follow non-fiction films are accustomed to seeing
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them on television—on BBC’s Storyville or, in the US, on PBS’ POV American Documentary, for example—and adjust well to VoD presentations on smaller screens,” agrees Merin. That’s not to say, however, that all factual filmmakers have lost the appetite for seeing their film on the big screen, rather that on demand is now an integral part of a release strategy. “Although most documentary filmmakers and producers still aspire to theatrical release for their projects, VoD has become an integral part of their release strategies—either in tandem with, as prelude to, or instead of screenings in cinemas,” continues Merin. “VoD release also fits nicely into socialmedia campaigns designed to promote documentary films and their subjects, and to create interactivity and/or generate activism related to the films and their subjects. For these reasons, VoD has become increasingly important to the documentary genre, but it has not replaced filmmaker preference for theatrical release.” Indeed, one prominent documentary maker who thinks that VoD should run alongside theatrical distribution, rather than replace it, is Morgan Spurlock, whose acclaimed (and heavily publicised) film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was released in just 18 theatres in the USA, meaning that most of the country couldn’t see the film, even if they wanted to. “I think the frustration that a lot of filmmakers feel is that films just kind of get tossed away to VoD,” Spurlock said in an interview with Indiewire. “Without having anything to drive that conversation or drive people to VoD, no one knows it’s there. It’s a tree falling in a forest and it’s just complete silence. If you acquire a film for $25,000 or $50,000 and you’re able to make that back in two weeks or three weeks on a VoD run, like a lot of networks or distributors do, great. But if you have a film that has a small theatrical release, you have a much larger
investment once it comes to a VoD marketplace. “Ultimately, as a filmmaker you want to try and put films in some sort of theatrical run before VoD,” Spurlock continued, “just because you’re going to get so much more press. You’re going to get much more attention about any film that goes into a movie theatre than you ever will about a film that just opens on VoD. VoD is still seen as a secondary marketplace, just as a VHS tape or a DVD used to be seen.” One who shares Spurlock’s caution about putting all of the documentary genre’s eggs in the VoD basket is Ove Rishøj Jensen, film consultant at the European Documentary Network (www.edn.dk). “I would hesitate with talking about a VoD revolution,” he says. “I think we are very far away from anything being a revolution. What we are experiencing with VoD is an evolution; it will over time influence how the [documentary] genre is distributed and formatted. What we still lack with VoD is to work with the formats in which documentaries are released. So far most documentaries have ‘just’ been put online via VoD in the same format as they were made for TV or cinema. But maybe the 58-minute TV format is not always the best format to release a documentary via VoD. “I don’t think VoD is taking over theatrical,” Jensen continues.
Above: American: The Bill Hicks Story was hugely successful on VoD in the USA
Opposite: Netflix will premiere award-winning doc The
Square in 2014
“The importance of having a theatrical release depends very much on the film you are working on. Some documentaries do have a theatrical distribution potential; others are better released in cinemas through special screenings and occasions.” Jensen does, however, appreciate the opportunities that VoD opens up in terms of connecting films with a wider audience. “Documentary filmmakers are very aware of the VoD possibilities and the potential to be in direct contact with an audience,” he says. “It is very important for documentary professionals to have a carefully planned strategy for their distribution. For the great majority of documentary professionals, their income is generated from other windows than VoD, and therefore they must also strategise their distribution according to this.” The European Documentary Network will once again be collaborating with this year’s European Film Market (February 6–14, 2014) on networking initiative Meet the Docs l
Insider's Point of View Susan Jacobs: Music Supervisor
Sound and Vision
As a music supervisor, Susan Jacobs has been responsible for overseeing the music in films as diverse as Keep the Lights On, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Here, she explains why a successful soundtrack is as much about diplomacy as it is about creativity. Interview: James Mottram For a film like David O. Russellâ€™s American Hustle, shimmering with 1970s classics from ELO, Wings and Elton John, the role of the music supervisor is crucial. Enter Susan Jacobs, who first worked with Russell on his abandoned film Nailed, before helping out unofficially on The Fighter then coming on board Silver Linings Playbook. With a career that stretches back to Robert Altmanâ€™s Short Cuts, and that includes movies for John Sayles (Limbo), Todd Solondz (Happiness, Storytelling) and Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, Before Night Falls), Jacobs explains to movieScope why her job is about more than simply knowing your music.
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Music supervisor Susan Jacobs teamed up with former collaborator David O. Russell for his new film
American Hustle (below and opposite)
How does David O. Russell work when it comes to assembling a score? Everything with David is superfluid and if you feel the energy of these movies, it’s the energy of him. You learn to juggle and keep a lot of balls in the air, and it’s very exciting when you get into that rhythm of how much he likes to feel things out. You put things in, and he steps back and looks... I liken myself to the painter’s assistant. A little more red over here, a little more green over there! Long before American Hustle, you did 54. Did that help with your knowledge of seventies music? Well, that was all disco and David hates disco! So we only have the Donna Summer song [‘I Feel Love’] in there. We really stayed away from that. Even though this movie is midseventies, most of the music in the movie is early seventies and it worked better for the colours of the film. The use of Wings’ ‘Live and Let Die’ in the scene with Jennifer Lawrence is inspired; how did that come about? That was something Jennifer and David came up with themselves, as an idea for her to sing. They were looking for something to broaden her character a little bit. I can’t take any credit, other than helping them get that song. Some of my job is facilitating what people want. It’s a really hard song to licence because it belongs to the Bond company; that was a group effort, with [actress] Colleen Camp having a relationship with Barbara
MS37 p050 Insider POV Music Supervisor.indd 51
Broccoli, and I have a really good relationship with the Paul McCartney side. Getting permission to use music is the side of your job that people don’t think about. Is that as crucial as anything else you do? It’s huge. It’s a very big part of what we do together. I’m a broker between artists. That’s the way I consider myself. Outside of picking songs, at the end of the day, you have to be able to afford them and you have to be able to get them. David uses a volume of songs, and we’re not a big car-crash Hollywood movie. We’re still a character-driven film. And with volume, we need everybody to be reasonable with their fees and treat everybody fairly. It’s very much about brokering and making sure artists see scenes and they feel comfortable and feel good about the way their music is used. And that takes a lot of time. It’s a lot of hand-holding. But it’s extremely important to me. I don’t have Spielberg kind of money. That must be difficult if David’s process is very fluid. Do you do a lot of work that doesn’t end up on the screen? Yeah, and you can break a lot of hearts and I have. As you get more experienced in this job, you learn to say, look, right now it’s in the movie and how do you feel? You try not to put people through too much drama with their management, getting the artist to the movie and doing all that, until you’re much closer to knowing that’s not going to change. At some point, if something’s big
Jacobs says she prefers to work on interesting projects like American
Hustle (below), describing herself as 'definitely a little more left of centre'
enough, I’ll go, David, I’m going out for this and I’m not going to change it then. I’m not sending Paul McCartney a scene and then taking it out of the movie! There are certain people you have to respect. But I’ll wait. It’s like a game of chicken! It sounds like you’d make a good diplomat... It’s exactly like that! I always say to people, the best way to get anything you want is to make sure that artists know it’s a real choice. I never, ever go to anybody saying David has to have this song. I don’t even believe in that. If you like something, you have to really be open and say, we’d love to use it but if you’re uncomfortable, and the scene is ruining that for you… I don’t want to be that person, changing the
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interpretation of your experience with your own song. What was your background? I came out of artists’ management and record labels. I worked with a lot of composers and I used to work with Chris Blackwell,
at Island Records. I managed Hal Willner, a record producer who did all these wonderful multi-artist albums. And after I left Island Records, I went to work with him. And that’s really where I honed my chops. Then
Robert Altman called, and we did several movies with him. You’ve worked with some great indie directors. Is that where your sensibilities lie? Yeah. I mean, God bless Hollywood, but I would be very bad at a big pop movie. That wouldn’t be my thing. I wouldn’t be good at some of those really commercial pop films. I’m definitely a little more left of centre. You have also recently worked on Foxcatcher? Yeah, that’s Bennett Miller. We did Capote together. And he couldn’t be more opposite than David. He uses very little source [music] and we really work hard together on the sculpting of the score, which is also a huge passion for me. I just love that part of the job. I love finding composers, designing score; it’s something I get very involved in. A lot of composers will say, gosh, I never see the music supervisor, but I love this part. I love melody. I’m very oldfashioned. I love a good tune! American Hustle is now on general release. Foxcatcher will be released in 2014. l
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Feature Breakthrough Brits
Breakthrough Brits Through its new initiative, Breakthrough Brits, BAFTA has selected talented newcomers from across film, TV and games to be guided on a year-long mentoring programme. In a new regular feature, we meet two of those chosen for this exciting new scheme.
Mitu Khandaker Game Developer
How did you first get involved in game development? Growing up, I knew I either wanted to be an astronaut or a game developer. I studied MEng computer engineering at university, in a bid to hedge my bets. I then went on to do a PhD in video game technology at the University of Portsmouth and, part-way through, I decided I wanted to focus the majority of my attention on making games as an independent developer. I decided to start my one-woman studio, The Tiniest Shark, two years ago; the rest is history! What are you currently working on? I’ve recently released the first game I created, a comedy sci-fi social-networking simulation game, called Redshirt (redshirtgame.com). It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at social-media-obsessed culture, set aboard a future sci-fi space
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station, where everyone is obsessed with ‘Spacebook’. I’ve had some great feedback. I’ve got lots of ideas for what my next project could be, so watch this space! Do you think video games are getting more recognition as a serious art form? I do, although we do need to address a two-fold problem. Firstly, for more cinematic games, which set out to tell a particular story, the level of writing is obviously compared to film and television; there have been some which have risen to this challenge, but we need more of them. Secondly, there are many games which use interactivity and mechanics to tell a story, and the challenge has been getting the public to recognise this amongst other more traditional forms of art and storytelling. Traditionally, too, game development has been dominated by people of a very particular demographic, making games for others of that same demographic. As the face of both game-players and developers change, however, I think we’re seeing a diversification, and a growing social awareness. As a female, ethnic minority developer, it’s my ambition to encourage other women and minorities into games; it’s so important for any art form to have a real diversity of creators in order for it to flourish.
Dominic Mitchell Writer
How did you first get involved in screenwriting? I’ve always loved telling stories. When I was a very little kid, I would create tales of cops and robbers for my mum to read. I got serious about screenwriting when I was 16 and saw Pulp Fiction. It was a revelation to me; I realised there was someone behind the camera controlling everything. From that point on I knew I wanted to write for the screen. What are you currently working on? I’m writing the second series of In the Flesh at the moment. I love the characters, the themes, issues and the place where it’s set; the fictional Lancashire village of Roarton is my weird and wonderful little zombie sandbox. I’m also writing a script
called Pretty Girls Make Graves for E4, about young funeral directors; I’d pitch it as a less sombre Six Feet Under meets a more existential Skins. I’m also developing original TV projects with other production companies and talking to film people about writing screenplays, which is all very exciting. You’ve written for both television and the stage; which is more challenging? Both mediums present different challenges. Television is much more collaborative, which can be brilliant. On In the Flesh I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best creatives in the industry, and I’ve learnt a huge amount from them. On the flip side, with TV being such a collaborative endeavour your individual ‘voice’ can be diluted if you’re not careful. You have to become confident and a bit stubborn if there’s an idea you love and others want to change. You have to fight your corner. TV deadlines can be much tighter than writing for the stage, so the time factor alone makes writing for television more challenging. But I love writing for TV so much that I have to take those challenges on the chin. You can read the full interviews with Mitu and Dominic at www.moviescopemag.com. Find out more about BAFTA Breakthrough Brits at www.bafta.org l
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Insider's Point of View Sean Bobbitt: Cinematographer
The Camera as Observer
Having shot a diverse range of films including Shame, Byzantium, Oldboy and 12 Years a Slave, Sean Bobbitt has developed a unique visual style. Here, he discusses the craft of filmmaking, and why the digital revolution may not always be a good thing. Interview: Chris Patmore Sean Bobbitt is probably best known for his collaboration with British director Steve McQueen, and their latest, 12 Years a Slave, is receiving all sorts of awards buzz, including cinematography nominations in the recently announced Satellite and Independent Spirit awards. movieScope caught up with the
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UK-based Texan at Camerimage, where he was not only sitting on one of the competition juries and running workshops for ARRI and Kodak, but was also in the running for the coveted Golden Frog Award. You started out working in docs? I actually started out as news cameraman working freelance for the American networks, based out of London. I did that for eight or nine years, then transitioned into documentaries. I tried desperately to get into drama for many years, and was miraculously lifted out of docs by Michael Winterbottom. He was looking for a documentary cameraman to do Wonderland [and] he chose me.
How did you find the transition? I was fortunate because Wonderland used a very documentary-style approach. What was being asked of me was to do what I could do. At the same time, I was presented with the structure of feature-filmmaking. It was a fantastic introduction, and a very forgiving one, so a lot of the things I did not know about I was able to learn very quickly. I thought I was ready to get into drama, and within the first day I realised how badly prepared I was, but it did open doors into a whole different world. In your early career you worked mostly with video; now itâ€™s mostly film. How did you find the difference between tape and celluloid?
One of the biggest differences was one of contrast ratio. You always had a very limited band of light you could work with on the tape formats. When you go to film, you have everything. The exposure latitude is amazing, the colour depth is remarkable; in a lot of ways it is easier to shoot film because the film negative has so much information on it. These days, the digital formats are catching up very quickly. The exposure latitudes are approaching film but, irrespective of what the manufacturers say, film still has the edge in its ability to retain that latent image, particularly in the highlights. This whole discussion of film versus digital has been going on for so
Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (bottom left) has created memorable visuals in films like 12 Years a Slave (below) and Oldboy (opposite)
long that I find it rather tedious. The only thing I find very sad is that we are losing film. There was a brief period of time when, as cinematographers, we had the most incredible range of choices, but it’s disappearing very quickly. Whenever a choice is taken away, that is to the detriment of the art. To lose film is a very sad thing. It’s not just the stock manufacturers. The real issue is of the labs. Kodak can survive because they have guarantees from the major studios, but if the labs keep closing at the rate they are now, then it becomes a fait accompli I hope there will be a new model developing for small, bespoke labs with much lower overheads that are able to survive in an increasingly frail market for film. You’ve collaborated with Steve McQueen on many projects; how was the experience of working on 12 Years a Slave? This was a remarkably effortless film. You see it in the film itself; there’s a simplicity to it. From the beginning, it is one of the things Steve and I have spoken about; the simplicity and the beauty. Whenever we were faced with an issue as to what to do, it was, keep it simple, make it beautiful. Also, when you have material like
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that, which has a truth and an honesty to it, and you have actors with the abilities of those we had, and a script of such strength and simplicity… although a daunting story it is a simple story: man has freedom, man loses freedom, man finds freedom again. Within that, it is an epic as well. The degradations, the horrors, the deprivations, the humiliations; the narrative drives itself. You don’t need to sensationalise it, you just simply need to tell it. There are no tricks in there. It’s quite a frank camera that’s an observer, allowing the actors to get on with the really important thing which is the performance. In modern films there does seem to be too much camera movement and shaky visuals… I do a lot of hand-held camerawork, which is part of that documentary background, but I’ve always attempted to make it as stable as I can, so that you’re not looking at the camera, you’re looking at what the camera sees. There are a couple of extended hand-held scenes in 12 Years, which I hope people don’t see as being hand-held, but simply perceived within the emotional content of the performance. The hand-held camera has been so abused over the years, but it is a very effective way to tell stories. When used intelligently it is a very powerful tool. If you look at The Place Beyond the Pines, which I did with Derek Cianfrance, that’s almost 90 per cent hand-held. It meant that the actors could have an amazing amount of freedom in the confines of the space, and that the camera is never ahead of the action. It’s always responding
to the action; that becomes part of the storytelling, and the audience never gets ahead of the actors. Everything is being revealed as it is being revealed to the actors. I’m always asked, what is the key to successful hand-held camerawork? The answer is, put the camera on your shoulder and leave it there for 30 years. The digital revolution is making films more accessible, but do you think it’s resulting in the younger generation of cinematographers losing the craft of filmmaking? There is that problem. If you don’t understand the basics of exposure, for example, and have only ever shot with auto exposure; if you don’t understand the basics of colour temperature because you’ve only ever shot with auto white balance; if you don’t understand the complexity of lenses and focus because you’ve only ever shot autofocus; then yes, you will be lacking dramatically in the traditional skills of cinematography.
Students on the media courses in the UK are being very badly served. They’re spending an awful lot of money and coming away with no skills at all. If you have talent, things come easier. If you have a sense of composition, if you can see light, if you can see colour and mix all those things together, then the technical aspects of making that into an image are simplified through the digital system. This alleged democratisation of the production process through the introduction of cheap digital cameras simply hasn’t paid off yet. It may change, but now people aren’t being well served by the existing educational system, in terms of creating cinematographers. When young cinematographers ask me how to get into the industry I say, just shoot. Shoot stuff. Shoot lots and lots and lots of stuff, and then look at it critically, and learn from the mistakes you make, and hopefully make really big mistakes. 12 Years a Slave opens in UK cinemas on January 10 l
Dallas Buyers Club: In Conversation
Director Jean-Marc Vallée Screenplay Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack Stars Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Denis O’Hare DoP Yves Bélanger Editors Martin Pensa & Jean-Marc Vallée Locations New Orleans, USA Opens February 7
movieScope editor Nikki Baughan and critic James Mottram discuss Dallas Buyers Club, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto as two AIDS sufferers in the 1980s who take medical matters into their own hands. JAMES MOTTRAM The performances from McConaughey and Leto were nothing short of sensational, and it was a moving, compassionate film. NIKKI BAUGHAN They were both completely absorbed into their roles; there was no selfawareness. I thought it might be one of these performance-driven films with nothing much else to it, but they gave it so much personality. JAMES It’s incredible that, when AIDS was rife and medical advancements aren’t what they are now, a single man went and selfhealed as much as he was able. He did it by breaking the law; because of red tape, people were not getting the care that they
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needed. It’s also fascinating that that Ron (McConaughey) was this sexist, homophobic guy whose experience completely changed him, and that he gradually accepted fellow sufferers, including homosexuals and transvestites, into his life. NIKKI He’s cast out from his normal life, and Rayon (Leto) forces him to overcome his prejudices. Rayon is an incredible character. One of the best scenes is when Rayon puts on a suit and goes to ask his father for money. He looks like a complete fish out of water, and you realise how natural he is when he’s identifying as a woman. JAMES The other standout scene is when Ron is in the library reading about AIDS and realises he could have contracted it from unprotected sex, then there’s a flashback to him having that encounter. That was really well done. NIKKI What’s great about that flashback is that, even though it’s brief, he looks
like ‘normal’ McConaughey. Healthy and well. Whereas at the beginning of the film he looks so emaciated that it’s hard to believe it took him so long to seek out a diagnosis. But I guess that’s indicative of that generation; they believed they were invincible Alpha males. So to see him taken down was really effective and effecting. It’s interesting to transpose the story to what’s happening in America today; it’s still true that big pharmaceutical companies control people’s health. Director Jean-Marc Vallée is French/Canadian, so perhaps felt he could lay these things on the line; that people’s survival depends on what they can afford. JAMES It also clearly made a difference that he’s not come from the heart of Hollywood. It could have been so schmaltzy as a film and it isn’t in any way. l l l l l Nikki Baughan l l l l l James Mottram
We Are the Best!
Director Lukas Moodysson Screenplay Lukas Moodysson, from the comic book by Coco Moodysson Stars Liv LeMoyne, Mira Grosin, Mira Barkhammar Opens March 7 The inspiration for this little gem comes from Lukas Moodysson’s wife Coco, who penned a semi-autobiographical account of her coming of age in 1980s Stockholm in graphic novel form. Rebellion, mischievousness and a fresh faced trio of girls with a punk manifesto all come together perfectly in this riotous comedy exploring early teen life. Full of the arrogance of youth, Klara (Grosin) and Bobo (Barkhammar) decide to take on the establishment (school) by starting their own band. They can’t play any instruments, but their determination to prove themselves leads them to enlist talented guitarist Hedvig (LeMoyne) to help them in their endeavours. In awe of her ability, the girls are proud to show off their new friend and she is welcomed with open arms into their little gang. Hedvig does a wonderful job with her renditions of folk inspired music, while mohawked Klara takes on singing duties and Bobo is on drums; together they come up with hilarious lyrics such as ‘the world is a morgue but you’re watching Bjorn Borg’. Films about female friendship aren’t often as much fun as this, and Moodysson strikes a spot-on portrayal of both the boisterousness and insecurity of those fragile formative years. As such, the thrills of youth, experimentation and pushing the limits are expertly handled in this rowdy and positive piece. l l l l l Kat McLaughlin
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Under the Skin
Filmic visions of the future are often either believably futuristic (Blade Runner, Minority Report) or eye-rollingly ridiculous (Æon Flux, In Time). For his sensational fourth feature film, director Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) strikes a nostalgic balance between the antiquated and the advanced, which is entirely in keeping with the themes in his mixing bowl. Her isn’t so much about life in the future as it is about life in general. Her follows Theodore Twombly (a mesmerising Phoenix), an archetypal troubled poet who’s mourning the break-up of his marriage. He spends his time writing cards and messages for other people (at his job at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com) and playing computer games alone. Then he purchases a new operating system for his computer, which comes with its own identity, ‘Samantha’ (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who’s disturbingly lifelike in all but her lack of a physical body. Despite superficially resembling a collage of other films (Lars and the Real Girl, Robot & Frank), this never feels anything less than bracingly original. As the bond between Theodore and Samantha develops, Jonze poses questions about the nature of relationships. What is love? How do we connect? What even is it to be human? Both laugh-out-loud funny and hair-raising in its untreated emotion, Her is an eloquent attempt to understand the complexities of the human heart. l l l l l Josh Winning
We first meet Laura (Johansson) near the beginning of Under the Skin in a room of uncannily pure white. Dressing her own naked body in the clothes that she has just stripped from a dead woman, she pauses, in a circumstantially odd, unexpectedly tender gesture, to stroke the corpse’s flesh. Jonathan Glazer has similarly stripped down Michel Faber’s novel to exposition-free scenes of a vampish Laura seeking out male loners to take home for something altogether more literally carnal than the sex they imagine is on the menu. Yet in this subdued, occasionally surreal sci-fi, whose beats are charted in the elemental contrasts of light and darkness, water and fire, different forms of predation (human or otherwise) are showcased—and reversed—as Laura slowly realises that you cannot step into someone else’s shoes without eventually developing a sense of empathy and assimilation. A consumerist motif is subtly limned by scenes set in shops and malls; but as Laura prowls the singles’ meat market, her gradual identification with her prey foregrounds alienation itself as the principal theme. Johansson’s otherworldly performance, the intimate yet aloof camerawork and Mica Levi’s unnerving score all add to the film’s defamiliarising blend of stylisation and groundedness. l l l l l Anton Bitel
Director & Screenplay Spike Jonze Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara Opens January 24
Director Jonathan Glazer Screenplay Jonathan Glazer & Walter Campbell, from the novel by Michel Faber Stars Scarlett Johansson, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Paul Brannigan Opens March 14
Tom at the Farm
The Invisible Woman
An unassuming man, Simon lives a bland existence split between his depressing studio apartment and his gloomy workplace. The only breath of fresh air is Hannah (Wasikowska), whom Simon admires from afar. Everything changes, however, with the arrival of co-worker James (also Eisenberg); Simon’s physical doppelganger, he is confident and personable. As James starts to take over Simon’s life, Simon feels increasingly powerless in his own skin. Richard Ayoade follows up his sublime debut Submarine with this adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella The Double, a literal identity crisis that plays out like a dystopian nightmare. Its power comes not just from its excellent performances—Eisenberg demonstrating a striking emotional range in his dual roles—but also its stark visuals. Borrowing greatly from the likes of Gilliam’s Brazil, Orwell’s 1984 and Lang’s Metropolis, this is a beige and indifferent world, where uniqueness is frowned upon. The Hitchcockian influence is also clear, cinematographer Erik Wilson playing with shadows and light to ramp up the tension. Ayoade both honours Dostoevsky’ vision and brings it up to date for a modern audience; we are all guilty of projecting an ideal version of ourselves on social media, and in danger of losing touch with our true identities. As as a clarion call for the celebration of the individual, The Double is both stylish and memorable. l l l l l Nikki Baughan
Opening with Tom (Dolan) on the long drive out to a funeral in the Quebecois countryside, this journey into darkness and out of despair is expertly handled in a suspenseful, Hithcockian style. Xavier Dolan puts his audience in a vicetight stranglehold of bubbling emotion and fear, that is specifically designed to provoke. Dolan has adapted Michel Marc Bouchard’s stage play with a polished elegance; he ekes out every ounce of horror at homophobic attitudes, but in a broader context it beautifully deals with repression and denial. While visiting the family of his dead boyfriend, Tom slowly realises they have no idea who he is and, in his grief stricken state, he starts to come round to their rigid idea of manliness. Dolan evokes increasing frustration through a fierce lead performance, skilfully tempering blame with curiosity on both sides. Aesthetically, this is much more stripped back than Dolan’s previous films, though he can’t quite resist outlandish experimentation; playing with aspect ratio and pinching the screen in on itself alongside peaks of melodrama. At the centre of the film is the clash between Tom and his partner’s brother Francis (Cardinal) as they wrestle attraction and repulsion, both psychologically and physically. Dolan brings a macabre sense of humour to this unlikely friendship, but also an overwhelming sorrow at such a senseless situation. l l l l l Kat McLaughlin
Not a remake of the HG Wells-inspired 1940s sci-fi, but rather an adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s 2004 novel, The Invisible Woman is an exquisitely-styled period drama and Ralph Fiennes’ second time behind the camera after solid Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus. Like Fiennes’ directorial debut, this is often austere and ponderous but softly shudders with feeling. It spies the chaos locked inside long, uncomfortable silences and the secret pain writ large in a single look. Marketed as the ‘greatest story that Charles Dickens could never tell’, Fiennes’ film follows the clandestine romance between Dickens (Fiennes) and young actress Nelly Ternan (Jones). The pair meets when Nelly and her sisters are summoned to act out a play, and the attraction between them is clear. But Dickens is married and governed by his impulses, so any romance seems doomed. Evoking both the best and worst of the British period romp, Fiennes directs with assurance—despite occasionally sacrificing pace in favour of tremulous scenes that often add very little. It’s the performances that make the film. Though Fiennes takes the lead, Jones easily outshines him; she is both hypnotised by Dickens’ talent and, later, fractured by a tragic turn of events. Elsewhere, a riveting Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It) stays on the right side of melodrama as Dickens’ long-suffering wife. l l l l l Josh Winning
Director Richard Ayoade Screenplay Richard Ayoade & Avi Korine, from the novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska Opens April 4
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Director Xavier Dolan Screenplay Xavier Dolan, adapted from the play by Michel Marc Bouchard Stars Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy Opens February 21
Director Ralph Fiennes Screenplay Abi Morgan, from the book by Claire Tomalin Stars Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Tom Hollander Opens February 7
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Out of the Furnace The Zero Theorem Director Scott Cooper Screenplay Scott Cooper & Brad Ingelsby Stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson Opens January 31
Director Terry Gilliam Screenplay Pat Rushin Stars Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, Tilda Swinton Opens March 14
Pennsylvanian steel worker Russell Baze (Bale) emerges from prison to find that his younger brother Rodney (Affleck) has got mixed up with local drug kingpin Harlan DeGroat (Harrelson). Taking it it upon himself to extricate Ross, Russell puts his newfound freedom in jeopardy. Similar to Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Cooper’s film mirrors the lives of its inhabitants with the decay of small town USA. An overhead shot makes an abandoned factory look like a cancerous growth on the decaying Rust Belt landscape, unemployment sucking the life out of this once-prosperous area. Set in 2008, when Presidential nominee Barack Obama was preaching unprecedented change, this is a story which highlights the continuing brutality of everyday life. Unsurprisingly for a film with such a strong social agenda, Out of the Furnace suffers from heavy-handedness; a sequence which bounces between Russell hunting a deer and DeGroat’s men pursuing Ross is just one overplayed visual metaphor. Yet performances across the board are excellent; Bale particularly impressive in a familiar role that requires him to do bad to do good. Harrelson, too, is at his unhinged best as DeGroat-a man driven to his actions by his environment just as much as anyone else. The message is clear; while the USA defends democracy overseas, the real threat to the American Dream can be found much closer to home. l l l l l Nikki Baughan
With cinemas being inundated with 3D blockbusters, sequels, franchises and general over-hyped dross, it is a relief to know that Terry Gilliam is—against all odds—still making films. He remains one of our truly original and maverick filmmakers, and his reputation is such that he is able to attract the world’s top acting talent. And the cast of his latest flight of fantasy includes three Oscar-winners alongside highly respected thesps and upcoming bright young things. Despite this brilliant pool of talent, however, the film fails to truly impress. When Gilliam’s Brazil was released, it was often imitated, especially in commercials and the burgeoning world of music videos; this feels like yet another copy-cat, with all the director’s trademark quirks and visual flourishes. Even the story resembles Brazil, as a troubled loner (Waltz), working for a giant, all-seeing corporation, tries to fulfil his unrequited love whilst battling demons; real or imagined. The fact that this doesn’t match Gilliam’s best, or that it simply rehashes them, is a shame because The Zero Theorem still shows more originality and imagination than most current films. The biggest concern is that if it is a major (financial) failure then it may jeopardise any future Gilliam productions, which would be an even greater loss to contemporary cinema; the omnipotent corporations will have crushed another lone dreamer who dared to be different. l l l l l Chris Patmore
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Stranger by the Lake
Director & Screenplay Alain Guiraudie Stars Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Mathieu Vervisch Opens February 21 When a film contains a same-sex relationship and a healthy amount of love scenes, people tend to focus on that; Blue is the Warmest Colour was immediately tagged as lesbian erotica as opposed to an intense and raw story of one girl’s discovery of love and desire. Similarly, Stranger by the Lake is apparently a film about gay men indulging in casual sex. Although it does contain plenty of graphic scenes between men only looking for a good time, in truth it has more in common with a classic Hollywood murder mystery than anything you might see on Chatroulette. Mild-mannered Franck (Deladonchamps) becomes a regular face on the shores of a lake in French summertime and, although he initially goes just for sex, he soon falls for charismatic and alluring Michel (Paou, resembling a ‘80s-era Tom Selleck). But late one night he witnesses a murder that sees him torn between his feelings and his ethics, and soon finds himself in increasing danger. It really is a mark of genius that director Alain Guiraudie has been able to make a film with such uncompromising sex scenes without sensationalism; instead, it’s a fascinating mixture of sex, desire and love, lead by two strong lead performances from actors quite literally willing to bare it all. l l l l l Limara Salt
Benny & Jolene
Only Lovers Left Alive
Benny (Roberts) and Jolene (Ritchie) are an impish folk duo on the cusp of breaking into the mainstream music industry. Following a spurt of early success, the pair returns to earth with a thud during their first tour thanks to an onslaught of inept photographers, empty signing events and less than favourable reviews of their new album; the uneasy nature of their private relationship only adds to the strain. The first half hour of this indie rom-com holds a lot of promise, as Roberts and Ritchie are given ample opportunity to demonstrate their knack for dry comedy. Though the rest of the characters are somewhat paint-bynumbers, the pair's reactions to the intolerable people they meet in the vacuous realm of mainstream music prompts a hearty laugh or two. Rosamund Hanson deserves particular note; as the slack-faced PR agent Nadia she is callow and bewildering in equal measure. Ultimately however, Benny & Jolene isn’t quite a breakout hit due to an unfortunate identity crisis. Initially, the film boasts a stream of mockumentary-style fast-cuts that are welltimed for comic value. The charm of this style seems to wear off part way through, however, as writer/director Jamie Adams drops this approach in favour of more traditional rom-com fare. And, while the final 10 minutes is surprisingly sweet, it is regretfully lost in an over-padded script that demonstrates little discipline. l l l l l Helen Cox
Just as he did with the Samurai genre in 1999’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, writer/ director Jim Jarmusch brings a new perspective to the vampire movie, injecting a fresh burst of life into a genre that’s become pallid and toothless. Together with Neil Marshall’s recent Byzantium, it effectively resurrects the vampire as an entirely adult anti-hero. Just as in Byzantium, Only Lovers Left Alive deals with the challenges of being undead in the modern age through ancient, married vamps Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton). Upbeat and optimistic, Eve lives in sun-bleached Tangiers and finds endless joy in her vast library of books. Holed up in the decaying suburbs of Detroit, Adam is a morose figure who—with immortality having lost its appeal—is having increasingly dark thoughts. Eve travels to comfort him, but the arrival of her wayward sister Ava (Wasikowska) is the cause of yet more drama. As with most of Jarmusch’s characters, the joy of Adam and Eve is that they are deliciously at odds with the society in which they live. There’s fun to be had watching them interact with the outside world; a sequence in a nightclub, which sees them hidden behind sunglasses and gloves, is awkwardly amusing. Indeed, there are neat little touches of whimsy throughout; these vamps don’t feast on disease-ridden humans, so deal in black market blood procured from hospitals which, at one point, Eve fashions into ice lollies. There’s
Director & Screenplay Jamie Adams Stars Craig Roberts, Charlotte Ritchie, Rosamund Hanson Opens March 2014
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Director & Screenplay Jim Jarmusch Stars Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin DoP Yorick Le Saux Editor Affonso Goncalves Locations Detroit, Michigan; Tangiers; Morocco; Hamburg & Cologne, Germany Opens February 21 also a great deal of spinning—of the camera, of records on a turntable—emblematic of the fact that Adam and Eve are the unmoving centre of a world that has been changing around them for hundreds of years. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t drift into darker territory; Adam’s only human friend Ian (Yelchin) makes the grim discovery that Ava is not particularly adept at supressing her animal instincts. For the most part, however, there is a lightness of tone; this is less a story about vampires and more the celebration of a great romance, of a love that holds strong across centuries of human carnage. Fittingly, Only Lovers looks exquisite. Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux captures both the mysticism of Tangiers and the mouldering streets of Detroit; as much a reflection of the Ying and Yang nature of Adam and Eve’s relationship as their wardrobe choices, which are completely at odds but entirely complementary. A film to beguile, Only Lovers brings together the very best elements of cinema—sparkling script, exceptional performances, stunning visuals, oh-soperfect soundtrack—under the skilled and unique eye of Jarmusch. And, even though it may seem more style than substance, at its heart there lies an expertly crafted metaphor about the need to keep moving forwards, and the strength of true love to conquer all. l l l l l Nikki Baughan
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On the cover: Only Lovers Left Alive - Creating the unique look of Jim Jarmusch's gothic love story; Virtual Print Fee - Calling time on an...
Published on Jul 11, 2014
On the cover: Only Lovers Left Alive - Creating the unique look of Jim Jarmusch's gothic love story; Virtual Print Fee - Calling time on an...