This week I have been paying my annual visit to the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL. I am hugely impressed year after year at the amazingly high quality of films shown at the LFF and this year was no exception.
I’ve been to 5 films in the past week, all of which had something to recommend them –
Written and directed by Ben Lewin. Familiar Hollywood fare in some ways (and weirdly similar to French film UNTOUCHABLE that I’d seen a couple of weeks earlier – although completely different in tone and style) The pitch is simple – based on the true story of a 38 year old disabled man, dependent on an iron lung to keep him alive, who decides it’s time to lose his virginity. The film is about this attempt but is about so much more than that – it’s very funny, intelligent and ultimately moving and life-aspiring. The ending is undeniably sentimental – but the film earns itself that right through the quality of the writing and the acting (John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H Macey all superb).
Ben Lewin, who is himself disabled and like the central character in the film, suffered from polio as a child, was interviewed on stage afterwards. He talked about how he found the article that inspired the film while surfing the internet. Within two minutes of starting to read the article, he knew that this had to be his next project. A really serendipitious match of material and exactly the right writer at the right time.
IN THE HOUSE –
A French film written and directed by Francois Ozon, based on a stage play by Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga. Despite betraying its origins as a stage play (it’s pretty verbose) this was also a real pleasure. Above all, it had really interesting things to say about writing and story-telling – a literature teacher encourages his star pupil to develop a ‘true’ story with dangerous consequences for both the 16 year old boy and the teacher himself. The final shot of the film is an unforgettable image that sums up what the film is all about – and it’s very funny.
A British film, adapted by Mark O’Rowe from a novel by Daniel Clay and brilliantly directed by theatre director Rufus Norris, this has at its centre a wonnderul performance as an eleven year old girl by Eloise Lawrence – from whose point of view this story of families in crisis is told.
This is powerful, dark and at times, again, very funny. Above all, it’s original and quirky – hard to categorise but a film of real quality.
A Chilean film about the 1988 referendum in Chile. An advertising executive is hired to create a campaign for the anti-Pinochet ‘No’ vote. This is a film about the underdog, about political resistance to an evil dictator who ruled by fear – but the angle from which it is told is so fresh and original. The protagonist (played in deadpan fashion by Gael Garcia Bernal) is not overtly political – he is an advertising exec. To the horror of the political parties for whom he is working, his campaign is based on a series of coca cola style ad’s with a catchy, vacuous jingle proclaiming , ‘Chile, Happiness is Coming’.
But slowly as the ‘No’ campaign gains ground over the Pinochet ‘Yes’ campaign, the ad exec finds himself under threat…
The film is shot on the ‘u-matic’ video cameras of the period – and so the archive footage matches seamlessly with the fictional story – and gives the film a highly distinctive style and atmosphere.
EASY MONEY –
A brutal, in-your-face Scandanavian thriller about an impoverished student who gets himself involved with a drugs gang and into laundering drugs money – and discovers there’s no such thing as the titular ‘Easy Money.’ Essentially a genre film this has real style and flair and effectively tells the story from the POV of this student who gets into a situation way over his head…a grisly moral tale.
CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE 2013
Just to remind you – we are now accepting entries for the 2013 course. Entires close on Nov 7th so make sure you don’t miss the deadline – you have two and a half weeks to submit your script.
THE AUTHORITATIVE GUIDE TO WRITING AND SELLING A GREAT SCREENPLAY 2013
Phil Gladwin and I have two more of our weekend courses coming up early in 2013 – and we now have some excellent guests lined up for both courses –
Jan 26-27 : Literary agent TANYA TILLETT.
Tanya is an agent at the leading Knight Hall agency. She has a really impressive list of writers and is always on the lookout for new writers of talent. As an agent in one of the top London agencies she has a unique overview of the film and TV industries and current opportunities for writers.
March 16-17 : Channel 4 Drama Head of Development BEN STOLL and Producer \ Writer MATT BOUCH.
BEN oversees much of the Channel 4 drama slate of shows in both production and development and has worked closely with me on the C4 screenwriting course for the last 3 years.
MATT is currently producing MY MAD FAT DIARY, a new series for Channel 4; and has extensive experience as both producer (BEING HUMAN, THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES etc) and screenwriter.
All three of these guests work at the heart of the TV and film industry in the UK and will be able to give you invaluable advice and unique insights on how to launch and sustain a career as a screenwriter in the UK.
We are anticipating that both courses will sell out so early booking is advised to make sure of your place.
Until next week
All the best
Oct 19th 2012