Sam Green and the Midnight Heist to appear in High Tide

And so begins another week. And with it the promise of several announcements from Long Arm Films that, even to the most world-weary of observers, should prove to be of some interest.

And to us, let me tell you, they are unbelievably exciting. So exciting in fact that I get a little bit dizzy when I think about them. And then need a cup of tea and a good sit down; two of my favourite things in life, so basically it is win-win.

So, with news of casting for “High Tide” scheduled for revelation later on this week, let me take this opportunity to announce the signing a brilliant band who are going to appear in the final third of the film. Without giving too much away, the two main characters end up at a party taking place at a house next to the sea. And what a party it is. The kind of party that you would scarce believe could even exist until you actually found yourself there, bottle of beer in hand, smile plastered widely across your face, as a gentle summer breeze, thick with scent and pleasure, carries the sound of music and laughter across the garden to where you stand. You look around. You belong. You are drunk and you are very happy.

That kind of party.

And so we needed a band to provide the music. A band to appear in the film as themselves, to look great and sound wonderful.  And I am delighted to say that we have found them.

SAM GREEN AND THE MIDNIGHT HEIST are going to be massive. Believe me, I know about these things. (I don’t, clearly, but if I say it assertively enough then you  may believe me.) They describe their sound as a “Footstompin’, harmonica wailin’, lapslide guitar pickin roots music” and I am not going to disagree. They are an incredible live band who have been sending crowds all over the country into paroxysms of musical pleasure on their recent tour. And some of them are from Devon which, in my eyes, makes them closer to godliness than most other bands. And if that wasn’t enough, then they have just been booked for Glastonbury this year. So there.

You can have a good look and a listen to them in action by clicking on the video below:

See? Told you they were ace.

Their debut EP “Miles Away” is available now. Here is me looking smug  (and slightly alarming) with my copy:

sam_green

Right, there now follows a list of model verb phrases:

You can buy a copy of “Miles Away” here.

You can follow the band on Twitter here.

You can Like their Facebook page here.

And you can visit their website here and find out when and where they are playing. 

And finally you can listen to the EP via the thingy below (but only if you promise to buy it afterwards):

(and you can call me Al)

Gosh, there is a lot you can do isn’t there? That should keep you busy for hours. We are absolutely chuffed that the band are going to appear; it was very important for us that we chose a band we not only liked but one that was also right for the scene. We are convinced that Sam Green and the Midnight Heist are going to look and sound wonderful in the film. And I am sure we will share a few ciders and spin many yarns together about life in Devonshire after the cameras have stopped rolling. (Given that we are shooting on digital, any rolling among the cameras will mean that someone has left the equipment truck on a slope without first applying the handbrake. This would be a bad thing).

Before I finish, let me just refer back to last week’s “big” news: the launch of our Internship Programme. Since staring Long Arm it has been important to Jimmy and I that, with any success that comes our way, (and we are yet to have any!) we should try and make it easier for people like us to make some progress in this most tetchy, closed and idiosyncratic of industries. Our Intern Programme is a very small gesture in this direction. Full details are available on our website and if you do know anybody young and talented and living in Wales then you may wish to point them our way.

And that’s it for now. Please excuse the lack of blather and nonsense (for some of you it may well be a blessed relief) but the more actual film stuff I have to write about, the less time I have for musings on (and let me just check my notebook) – cheese, PJ Harvey, the dearth of “Hello Mum” signs on modern television, the genius of Mad Men and the nicest bottoms in film (both naked and sheathed). So if any of these subjects crop up in the coming weeks, you’ll know things are not going well.

Oh yes, around the middle of the coming week we are going to tell you something amazing. So amazing that I still think it is probably an elaborate conspiracy to make me look silly and then to break my heart  . . . . So let’s hope this isn’t the case.

Broadly sunny with extended spells of Michael Stipe

During the chorus of REM’s cynically titled “Pop Song 89”, the opening track of “Green” the band’s first album for Warner Bros, Lord Michael of Stipe (to give him his full baronial title) sang the following over a heady mix of jangling guitars and soaring harmonies, “Shall we talk about the weather? Shall we talk about the government?“. Well after the past week in British politics I am going to steer well clear of all things governmental (although if you do want a refreshingly honest and humane account of you know what then you would do well to read Mark Thomas’s article published in the Independent last week) and instead revert to the stereotype and enthusiastically take up Stipe’s invitation to talk about the weather.

Although before I do, let’s enjoy REM’s wonderful (and as yet officially unreleased) Unplugged performance of the song.

Stipe looks so young. And they were already over a decade into their career. If this were a national border of cool and you were a burly customs official rifling through my cultural satchel I would have to declare a very longstanding and profound love for REM. At some point when I have a little more time (and this may be about a decade from now) I will write a blog entry reviewing every REM album from “Murmur” all the way through to “Collapse Into Now” in meticulous and irritating detail. Bet you can’t wait. (Should this never happen, I will give you a couple of hints now – “Reckoning” (1984) is as close to a perfect album as you are ever likely to hear; “Automatic for the People (1992) IS as good as you remember it, assuming that you do; “Up” (1998) is an underrated gem of an album; and “Around the Sun” (2004) is as terrible as everyone thought at the time, perhaps even worse).

So Michael, let’s indeed talk about the weather because today it is absolutely glorious and in true British fashion the entire population of the UK seems to have gone absolutely insane as a result. In fairness, the weather is a national obsession, the de facto topic of conversation with family, lovers and indeed strangers. This is partly due to the fact that as a nation we will go to great lengths to avoid talking about anything remotely consequential (and last week’s national braying at the death of you-know-who is evidence that we perhaps should never be allowed to talk about anything that matters) and we do have A LOT of weather in the UK so the subject never tires. I suspect if you lived in the middle of a desert then you’d find other ways of passing the time (counting camels, refining oil, making hourglasses) such is the invariance of the climate. However, in London yesterday it poured with grey rain (which admittedly is the usual colour, don’t go thinking that sometimes we have green rain, or orange rain or, avoiding the all-too-inevitable reference to Prince, mauve rain. For us, Prince means William and he is too posh to be rained on in any colour – the Royal Family carry around small immigrants on sticks who spread their little limbs as far as they can so as to avoid any moisture whatsoever collecting on the brows of our entirely “saved” hereditary monarchy) and today the sun is bright, the wind is warm and sweet and when I was putting the bins out earlier I saw a man walking down my street wearing a tiny pair of shorts and no shirt, his pasty white flesh presumably confusing pilots of passing aeroplanes looking for the landing lights on their approach to Heathrow.

The weather in the UK has been particularly insane for the past few years and so we have more to discuss than ever. Earlier this month we had snow. Snow in April. In London. Exactly a year earlier it was 24C (or 75.2F for American viewers). We have had no summer whatsoever for the past two years save for three days last August when I was in Devon on the beach, along with every other single human being for a radius of 100 miles (160.935KM for the French), all of us kneeling on the sand, in wide-eyed obeisance towards this yellow god who’d finally got his bloody hat on; “hip-hip-hip hooray” we yelled, achieving a level of lyricism that would make even Lord Stipe wince in jealousy. By the way, if you ever forget how to kneel or indeed are a little hazy the reasons why one would want to then help is at hand from the ever-essential Wikipedia:

Kneeling makes it easier to reach the ground.

How ever did we manage before the internet?

So we are a sun-starved, rain-sodden, cold and tired nation. Climate change is undeniable by anyone apart from hardcore pillocks (good word), the economy is still tanking and we are being governed by a set of overly-priviledged, self-serving bastards who seem to see no contradiction between slashing welfare, hacking into the public sector and then ensuring that the richest in our society are made even richer with a series of tax cuts. But at least today the sun is shining. It will most likely be rubbish again tomorrow so let’s carpe our diems and join the rest of the nation outside, trying to ignore the stiffening breeze and frolicking like we lived in Barcelona.

Back the world of Long Arm Films we have had a busy couple of weeks as pre-production for “High Tide” continues. We went to France for a spot of cheese-eating and location-scouting (both of which went very well, especially the cheese bit); we made some more lists and we stood in front of yellow crane. This is us standing in front of a yellow crane:

big yellow crane

I am the one in the middle.

After our French adventures, we have THREE exciting Long Arm Films announcements in the offing over the next week:

1. The name of the band who are going to appear in a sequence of scenes towards the end of the film. They are amazing and we love them. And you will too. (but they are not REM).

2. The name of our utterly brilliant and unbelievably well-connected producer.

3. The very first CASTING ANNOUNCEMENT for the film. An announcement that is so ball-bouncingly exciting that I can barely stop myself from blurting it out right now . . . . but I mustn’t. I must tease you a little longer. But we promise that it is, for once, brilliant and profound news for Long Arm Films and Jimmy and I have to keep pinching ourselves (although that is for entirely different reasons).

So there I will leave you, as I make haste towards the front door in order to enjoy these golden rays of pure Vitamin D . . . . oh balls, the sun’s gone, the wind’s got up and I think there is rain in the air. Better stay in and watch old REM videos on youtube instead. Here’s one from the VERY early days and it is glorious:

Beyond Depardieu: adventures in le cinema Francais

I am in France. I am sitting at a French table in a French house full of actual French people who insist on speaking French. I have just eaten a French meal and washed it down with a pleasing amount of excellent French red wine. So yes, right at this moment I am living the French dream, or Je vis le reve Francais (which may or may not be the correct translation and I don’t know how to render on a British keyboard all those extra fiddly bits that climb all over French letters (not THAT type of French letter) in order for the words to be pronounced correctly by French people or, in my case, somewhat mangled and then spat out with an overly-strong English accent).

It appears that I “double-bracketed” in that previous paragraph, an aberration for which I can only apologise. I could perhaps try and pass it off as a valid stylistic attempt to capture the myriad simultaneous computations of the human mind, the punctuational (?) equivalent of a magician (why aren’t there more female magicians, or as the French might say magiciennes?) whisking three cups along a flat surface and asking his audience to guess beneath which cup the coherent point lurks? I COULD do that. But it would be dreadful lie. And I respect you too much for that. So yes, I’m sorry. I’d like to suggest that it won’t happen again but you know what? It probably will.

Alors, back to all things French. This is a great country. And not just because of the food, although this is clearly a huge plume in its chapeau. A couple of days ago I ate a lunch so rich, so deliriously, perilously delicious that I had to have a two hour sleep immediately afterwards in order to recover. (God, I love being on holiday). However France can also be a frustrating (borderline racist at times), set-it-its-ways and insular country but at least it looks after its poor, treats its state workers with respect and after the horrors of a Sarkozy presidency, returned to good sense and elected a socialist to take decisions on taxation that drove the fat-headed, pissing-on-planes, horrid man that is Gerard Depardieu out of the country and into the warm embrace of famous humanitarian and all-around good egg Vladimir Putin. Or as French satirists might say, Vladimir Putain. (French joke; ask Google if you need to).

The fact that, in his pomp, Depardieu was an extraordinary actor is a little irritating but perhaps shows that if indeed there is a God he does have a dark sense of humour. Anyway, I will return to all things cinematic a little later in this ramble. Let me first tell you a story about my trip to la mer this afternoon.

We drove to the coast earlier under the first bit of sunshine I’ve seen for what feels like months and arrived at one of  the countless brilliant French beaches that pepper the extensive coastline. The French are not on holiday at the moment. The fact that I can make this statement, and for it to be largely true, reveals an enormous amount about French habit and psyche. You CAN generalise about an entire nation in a way that would be absurd if you tried to do the same about Britain (ignoring, clearly, the list I bashed together in the previous post concerning “truths” about Britishness). So yes, the French are currently not on holiday and so when you arrive at a pretty seaside town this is what you see:

Empty French beach

Just to clarify, I hadn’t roped off the local population in some sort of town-wide French-baiting police incident in order to secure the beach for myself, nor had I walked along the seafront happily eating a British beef burger (the French still believe that we carry BSE around like the common cold), no the truth of the matter was that there was no one there. The sun shone, the wind had dropped, the blue sea lapped gently against the golden sand and absolutely NOBODY was there to witness it. Such a scene would be unthinkable in Britain and as such it was all the more wonderful to experience it today. I did all those things that you’d do if a director asked you to act as if you were enjoying a rare spot of fresh air and good weather: I tipped back my head and closed my eyes at the watery sunshine; I inhaled and exhaled with all the drama of the very worst type of hammy (Gillinghammy?) amateur actor; I “mmmmm”-ed to myself a few times and then I showed off by saying “Que ca fait du bien” JUST BECAUSE I CAN.

What has all this got to do with filmmaking? Absolutely nothing of course. But that will be no surprise to regular readers of this blog. However, Jimmy arrives tomorrow and along with some pressing production work required in the ever-shortening approach to the “High Tide” shoot, we are going to allow ourselves the luxury of spending a few hours discussing our NEXT film, which very, very tentatively might MIGHT just possibly be at least partially set in France. That is if we don’t make an utter pig’s arse of our debut feature which, let’s be honest, we still might.

Despite being married to a French lady, I am far from an expert on French cinema, despite her best efforts to educate me. When I was taught French at school, the standard end of term “treat” was to watch a knackered VHS copy of one of the only two French films ever made (or so we thought) – i.e. Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. To us these films seemed ancient (although actually they’d been made relatively recently when we saw them) and I would like to say that despite my tender years I was moved by the tragic story of Jean the hunchback and by the eventual revenge of his daughter. The truth is I found them dull. I mean for a start they were set in the countryside and when you yourself grow up in a rural area what you really want to see are exotic cities, clumps of illuminated skyscrapers, dingy, graffitied underpasses, glass and steel, not a peasant with a big nose who chases chickens. And secondly, and more problematically, THEY WERE IN FRENCH. And although by Year 9 (or third year, as we called it, in those “pre-decimal” days of school year labels) we could ask our way to the railway station and say that we lived in Devon, the linguistic subtleties of early C20th French rural life were entirely lost on us. Not only this, the television (and video) was one of those ones kept in a sort of cupboard on wheels (immediately familiar to any British adult of a certain age) and you could only read the subtitles if you were sitting at the front of the class. And we didn’t do that except in Geography because we fancied Mrs Miller.

To our minds (and this frequent use of third person possessive determiner refers to me and my school buddies with whom I had many low-risk adventures with bikes, go-karts, booze and eventually (and entirely unsuccessfully) girls during our formative years – see, told you I would double-bracket again) the ONLY interesting moment in either film was the brief flash of Emmanuelle Beart’s breasts in “Manon des Sources” and even this moment of wonder was usually spoiled by our French teacher standing in front of the screen to howls of derision from the spotty, horny teenage boys in the class. Mind you this moment of censorship (the kind of which you would never get in France) was as nothing compared to the travails of our music teacher when showing us Quadrophenia as part of a unit on Sixties music. She seemed pretty relaxed about the regular drug use in the film but would leap across the classroom (this being in the pre-remote control era) and scramble for fast forward during the masturbation scene (which did render the scene all the more hilarious to watch) and would near-explode with panic during sex in the alley moment at which she would press stop and then fast forward “blind”. Memorably (and it is no wonder that we remember given our age at the time) she once showed us the sex scene several times over by trying to find the correct place in the film again once she’d finished her attempted censorship. This was clearly the very best music lesson ever in the history of English secondary education.

Looking at them again now, Jean and Manon are cinematic masterpieces. They are by turns, tender, brutal and hugely moving. Gerard Depardieu is stunning in the title role of the first film (as indeed is Daniel Auteuil who went on to be near- ubiquitous in French cinema of the 90s) and Beart is just as good in the sequel. But to think of them as the sole representatives of French cinema is like suggesting that British culture is expressed most accurately by the films of Richard Curtis or if you own Don McLean’s “American Pie” album you need never buy another record by an American artist.

Cinema is in the blood of the French nation, as much as bread, wine and cheese (and not just because they invented the whole thing in the first place). As a British filmmaker I can only envy the health and stature of a French film industry that produces dozens of excellent films every year that reach interested, knowledgeable audiences. This is truly a nation that tells stories about itself. That said, despite the wonder of French cinema, French television is truly execrable. We have Doctor Who. They have Jules et Jim.  We make better television, they make much, much better films.  My esteemed colleague Jimmy Hay will happily sit you down at his dining table and talk you through the highlights of la nouvelle vague (he even has a giant poster of A bout de souffle above said dining table thus cementing his credentials as a proper cineaste) but I will end these gallic ramblings with five films francais of recent years that I have enjoyed. There are many, many more. And there may be many better. But all of these choices stay with me.

1. Comme une image (2003) Dir. Agnes Jouai

2. Ne le dit a personne (2007) Dir.Guillaume Canet

3. De battre mon coeur s’est arrête (2005) Dir. Jacques Audiard

4. Paris (2008) Dir. Cedric Klapisch

5. Intouchables (2011) Dir. Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache

Oh balls, Jimmy will kill me if I don’t include this final one, so the list is now SIX French films that I have enjoyed. Although I don’t think “enjoy” is quite the right word to describe my reaction to this final one; “shocked”, “moved”, “troubled” might be better verbs.

6. Cache (2005) Dir. Michael Haneke

And there we go. Apologies to French readers for the lack of accents and cedillas in the titles above.

Et maintenant, Je pense qu’il est presque l’heure de se coucher. Peut-être qu’il est temps pour un dernier verre de vin?

Salut et a bientôt.