BAFTA and The Next Generation

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BAFTA do a great job of hosting attractive events. They make sure the tables are round and lined with clean white linen and that there is plenty of water to go around, but more importantly, they bring in a wealthy host of professional talent to share their experiences. This weekend they held a “Generation Next” day for TV at Salford, MediaCityUK. It was a packed day covering five one-hour panel sessions from production management to building an audience beyond TV. Certainly, a vast number of industry professionals walked in and out the door, all pretty much concluding with the same advice: “it’s really hard to break in”, “be passionate” and “be persistent”.

However, as the day was home “to the best minds in the industry” I do want to share a few pointers that don’t necessarily float explicitly around the web, but more than knowledge, it is no doubt the stimulus that such a day gives you that is worth holding on to. Also, meeting fellow generations can be hopeful, you all exchange cards in the confidence that one-day you will be sitting in a position to give them a call and chat about your great jobs. Of course, there is the person who goes a little overboard and throws a pile of cards at everyone; it isn’t the most appealing form of communication. I have decided I need a business card holder on my desk; otherwise the bin jumps at the opportunity. I’ll stop being cynical; as it was encouraging to see many talkative and enthusiastic contemporaries, and after all, 10 years down the line we will all be in the sinking boat together.

So, I’ll talk about some of the positives from the day, be they areas of encouragement from the panel or general insights, and then I’ll mention a few rebuffs, all though they pretty much boil down to “it’s really hard to break in” and “everyone has a different way in.” It almost became a rather depressing day; the talks and atmosphere fuel you with inspiration but subsequently act as a quilt of disguise into the actual industry.

Judy Counihan, head of drama and film at Objective Productions, came up from London to talk about the hit show Fresh Meat on which she is executive producer. She was joined by one of her writers, Tony Roche, to discuss the “anatomy of a TV hit.” They went into an interesting amount of detail regarding the process for writers in TV and their relationship with the actors, director and producer. Though, I want to mention a few things Judy said about developing the writing team. She talks about bringing on quite a few new writers for the show, she reasons new writers to have an authentic voice and looked for writers with experience in stage plays. She also went on to add that she likes actors who turn to writing their own material, perhaps this could be a question for a deeper understanding of character or action. Whilst she didn’t elaborate further on her recruitment process, she was clear to inform: “the craft of writing is about re-writing.”

Colin McKeown, head producer of LA Productions in Liverpool led the next panel and he certainly had character, he gave the freshest approach of the day, explicitly telling everyone to make the most of the day and ask ample questions even if they are dumber than dumb, after all, “you’ve paid for it!” It was much needed laughter to keep everyone fully engaged; the 7am train and lack of breakfast was beginning to settle in for me and my friend sat next to me. Notwithstanding Colin’s entertainment, the panel was the most interesting for me, discussing production management from a perspective that clearly crosses over all genre and modes of production. Nadia Jaynes who is a freelance Line Producer (Bedlam, Exile, Red Riding) and also manages her own company (Strawberry Films) said she loves people who make short films and take the getting out there and doing it yourself approach, which is encouraging as some panel speakers hinted at such endeavours as futile and regarded getting your foot in the actual door, as a runner, more beneficial. It clearly depends on ones aspirations, but what has been made explicit is that you can either spend 15 years working your way up the floor and AD (assistant director) department to a PM (production manager) or do it yourself and build a team (albeit not easy with no money, but as they all say, “persistence” and “passion” will get you through).

Regarding CVs, Nadia looks for exact comments or words that match the project or job advertisement – the solution seems simple: copy and paste in and around the words of the advert. Similarly, only state relevant experience in your CV that exactly matches the role. I can remember putting everything from gaffer to boom operator on my CV, simply because I set up a light when I was running and worked the sound on a two man shoot. It isn’t exactly lying but it doesn’t suggest you have specifically crafted skills and as a panellist later on said, “quality is better than quantity”. It puts Nadia off and rightly so, you wouldn’t employ someone who wasn’t clear about his or her intentions. (I say as I currently edit my CV).

The next panel was a battle between the soaps: Emmerdale’s Crew Manager, Hollyoaks’s Head of Production and Coronation Street’s Production Manager. They provided some light entertainment that included trying to prove who carries out the biggest stunt each year (factors including budget and level of danger) and generally disagreeing on some methods of production. It was nevertheless (in fact, as a consequence) invaluable insight. Key pointers I took away from the discussion include “never say no” when you are working, you always find a way to do what you can collaboratively, that across the industry the Assistant Directors are generally underrated at what they do and there are more positions opening up in this department, and finally, that one should be punctual on set and respect the discipline. One speaker mentioned (to paraphrase) that they had a runner slouched over for most of the day looking in the other direction – it is pretty obvious what you should do instead.

After the clash of the continuing dramas was over it was time for the specific discussion relating to career strategy. Whilst most of this was chatter you’ve had drilled into you for the past few years, there were some refreshing opinions on the matter. Primarily, Daniell Morrisey, the Head of Talent at BBC Comedy, gave a snappy and conclusive speech on how to do your CVs once and for all – call it a mini-masterclass. There is the obvious, but there is also the little test of holding your CV out in front of you and applying the “two-second rule”, can you get a clear picture in two seconds? By having a significant design (perhaps indented margins or columned bullet points) and a short and snappy bold mission statement with punchy words and straight to the point, Daniel believes you can. Another panellist, Sumi Connock, Creative Director for Entertainment at ITV Studios, adds that you must do your research (we have all sent our CV to a company from our desperate spreadsheets of future employers, without really knowing much about what they produce or their goals). Sumi wants actual opinions when she interviews people, you must be interested in the content. It is common sense, but it is also easily forgotten when all you want is your “foot in the door”. It circles back to being respectful, someone won’t do you a favour unless you show them reverence by watching their work – at least this is how our world works most the time.

The final panel discussion of the day was surrounding the rapidly expanding digital era and what this is changing for TV. Interesting presentations were given around digital media’s ability to reach audiences beyond the TV, either featuring use of online servers and social media connectivity or utilising the new platforms (smart phones and tablets) for games and other incorporated merchandise. Dave Eccles, Founder and Director of Numiko Digital Agency, talked about a fantastic multi-platform project for Channel 4 and Windfall Films in which they mapped urban foxes using GPS collars and den cameras, allowing for audiences to call in what they really think about foxes and even check in the urban foxes they spot themselves via the network. They are doing some really cool stuff and it makes you realise how vast and expansive the world of digital media is becoming, not to mention its profitability (I imagine so); a question I wanted to ask Dave but I got a bit too apprehensive. In fact, no mention of money or moneymaking was discussed all day, not a single panellist mentioned their income or lives outside of the workplace, I suppose we must all be to infatuated with the industry to care about these factors of life. Whilst that is true, I regret now not getting a gauge on their various incomes. The tension between continuing drama may have turned sticky.

“Thank you BAFTA.” (Unfortunately, I am not collecting an award this time around).

Keep up with what’s happening at BAFTA here.

 

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To Rome with Love – Weird and Wonderful

 

Directed by Woody Allen.

Written by Woody Allen.

Produced by Faruk Alatan, Letty Aronson, Giampaolo Letta.

Production companies: Medusa Film, Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions.

UK release date: 14th September 2012.

Review may contain spoilers. 

Weird and wonderful; a definitive taste of the inordinate relationship affiliated stories Woody Allen has to offer.

Despite To Rome With Love receiving a majority of negative reviews from the critics, I found that the film has a lot more to offer than may first appear. A conjoint interpretation is that audiences should expect a so-called ‘pay-off’ to the film with a climatic scene, but this just isn’t necessary and quite frankly wouldn’t do the script justice. The audience has already delved into four alternate stories, each quirky and highly fulfilling to tell the least: a working man wakes up to find himself a celebrity, an architect who revisits Rome superficially encounters a relationship comparative to his past, a youthful couple vacate to Rome on their honeymoon and an aggravated opera director uncovers a new talent.

Interpreting Allen’s other work, these stories may seem stale in comparison (Match Point, Midnight In Paris) but they are nonetheless still cunningly plotted and full of surprises. This work is no less intrinsic than the critically acclaimed which came out of notable nouvelle vague (new wave) directors over 40 years ago (Jean-Luc Goddard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol etc.). In fact, Allen arguably bestows his buoyancy to match the likes of Luis Bunuel and Alain Resnais – key contributors to the movement. For example, in one of the scenes, the Italian father (played by opera singer Fabio Armiliato) shares his undiscovered voice at the opera house after being confronted by Woody Allen’s character Jerry, but comes onto stage in a portable shower as to abide by his convention of only truly being able to do justice whilst singing in the shower. Here, the audience is presented with and rather shocked by a scene of surrealistic entirety, comparable to that of when Bunuel’s characters are eating dinner at the table in The Discreet Charm de Bourgeois and suddenly the curtains open to reveal that they are in fact on stage where a boundless theatrical audience eagerly awaits there non-existent performance. Again, similar themes come to mind in The Phantom of Liberty where Bunuel shows residences of a dinner party sat around the table on lavatories.

Moreover, in To Rome With Love, a character is established wishing to be a more prodigious individual and consequently be glamorous enough to ‘go to bed’ with his work colleague. Instead, he ends up becoming ludicrously famous for no apparent reason; subsequently he’s now able to sleep with this beautiful woman alongside many others! Scenes of a surrealist nature include the man being escorted away to a TV studio and interviewed about his morning procedures. There is no rational explanation for this other than the fact that Allen is displaying his aptitude for avant-gardism, and considering his status as an established auteur of cinema, this is deemed acceptable. It’s my personal opinion, but I love to see this trait in a filmmaker; push the boundaries. Okay, it’s been done before to great extent in the ‘60’s and ‘70s, but cinema repeats itself so why not repeat the latent areas that so often get left behind.

Rome is categorically the city of love and To Rome with Love obtains this concept and enriches it with exquisite elements of story-telling, undeniably not everyone’s understanding, yet the film is entertaining and more importantly, at least for some, culturally embellished.

21 & Over – It’s a pity

21-and-Over

Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Produced by David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman & more.

Production companies: Mandeville Films, Relativity Media, Skyland Entertainment, Virgin Produced.

UK release date: 3rd May 2013

Review may contain spoilers. 

Absolute garbage!

But… I actually did enjoy this movie…

It may be full of all the coarse puns as seen across common films like The Hangover and the American Pie films (and hundreds of others we need not mention), yet the arduous fabrication of situations the characters entwine themselves in touch upon elements of cinematic surrealism, or are these just acts of plumb ignorance favoured by writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore – it wouldn’t be surprising considering there previous work: The Change-Up, Four Christmases and The Hangover trilogy). Nevertheless a great directorial debut by the two writers.

I am talking about moments like when Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skyler Astin) – the two main protagonists who spend the night obtusely searching for their privily disconsolate friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) – end up being kidnapped by a group of campus Latin girls who, conforming to their masquerade creed, implement an erratic embodiment of sexually filtrated acts on Miller and Casey. It’s not merely the content of this act that sparks oddity but the startling way in which Jerry Fleming and Linda Lee Sutton (production and set design) supposedly conformed to by Jon and Scott or Terry Stacey (DoP), set this scene. It inaugurates a sudden theme of horror, even abhorrence, dependent on the viewer. A dark mood casts over the scene as though an exorcism or tribunal hanging is about to take place. The audience is cast away from a comedic land into what appears to be an absurd underground asylum.

For once, it appears that this film may not be entirely as predictable as once was seemed. The sarcastic ‘I wonder what could happen next?’ category, an all too common feature of American comedy’s and of course the Romantic Comedy genre. I felt my, now clammy, toes tie up to the sole of my foot as I pondered upon what could be the greatest breaking of genre convention in the history of contemporary cinema – even more so than the presence of religious extremists in Kevin Smith’s Red State. But it didn’t happen. The characters weren’t callously confined to death; the state of greatly bestowed horror was immediately dissembled. Instead, they (Miller and Casey) ‘made-out’ as declared and the film moved onto the next scene of uncouth drollery; though satisfying the inane worldwide audience I’m sure. Hollywood’s confinement versus the speculative Independents evident once more – at least 21 & Over exclaims in part to bring back the spec script. The future appears somewhat bright for today’s screenwriters; just don’t write the scene I was hoping for!

But, as I mentioned earlier, my viewing experience was kept alive by this temptation to dwell into the unimaginative. Jon and Scott definitely pushed some boundaries with this production, inevitably shaking the bones of Hollywood execs. You will laugh out loud or at least make some form of verbal communication, perhaps along the lines of ‘what?’, ‘so predictable’, ‘oh dear’, ‘really?’, ‘such an asshole’ etc.