Tales from the High Tide tour bus – with sincere apologies to Mrs Miller

On Monday next week our feature film High Tide is showing in London at The Gate in Notting Hill; somewhat oddly, the screening is being sponsored by Jameson whiskey and everyone who buys a ticket will get free whiskey (providing you like Jameson’s) which should at least mean that spirits are high as the film begins (pun intended). There are still a few tickets left and they can be purchased via this link.

This London showing of the film is the last that we have scheduled and although there’s a bit of talk about further screenings in various places, it could well be that this is the final chance to see High Tide on a cinema screen.  Clearly this is going to be an occasion of mixed emotions; it will be hugely exciting to show the film in London and for many of the audience attending this will be the first time that they’ve seen the film but also, inevitably, there will be a smidgeon of sadness as this project, one that has held dominion over our thoughts for well over three years, reaches the end of its life in cinemas. Not that we are complaining. When we began the production process for High Tide we had no money and little idea of the challenges that we were going to have to overcome or the sheer bloody-minded will-power that would be required to drag the project into existence. We repeatedly modified our aspirations for the film during the production and post-production process, every time daring to dream a little bigger for what might, given a fair wind and a favourable reviews, be a reasonable expectation of its success. However, and speaking honestly, if you’d told us two years ago that the Notting Hill screening would bring the number of cinemas the film has screened at to well over twenty then we would have leapt into one of our special little jigs of thrilled excitement and then probably have gone to the pub and drank a few too many beers. To have reached this point feels very special.

Of course, High Tide will not just disappear once the final credits have rolled at The Gate. We are beginning the production work required for the digital and DVD release of the film and if everything goes to plan it will set amongst the virtual shelves of Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime etc, ready to be repeatedly flicked over by couples looking for “just something to watch” on their Friday night sofa. Who knows how many people will alight on High Tide and of those that do, who knows how many of them will be moved and entertained by it? And to an extent this is not really the point. The fact that it is possible, the fact that the film actually exists in the seemingly infinite world of available culture is a bit of a thrill in itself.

A DVD of the film will be of course a more tangible record of its existence and we’re currently working out what we can package with the release to make it a brilliant Christmas present for friends, lovers and family. The thought of a director’s commentary fills me with a cold dread; I really can’t imagine there will be much of a demand for a version of the film spoiled by myself and Jimmy droning over the top of it – “oh look, do you remember filming this bit? / Yeah. I was there. / And that’s just after the time where I fell over in the sand dunes / And did you know that we served real beer at the party? / Yeah, I do. I remember lugging the barrel up that tiny path/ etc etc ad infinitum.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a complete film with the commentary switched on. I think I began listening to Coppola’s Godfather orations but after about twenty minutes became overly-frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t hear the dialogue properly. It’s like you are sitting next to an irritating family member who has seen a film before and insists on pointing out all the good bits. At length. Loudly. So no, I think we can rule out this for the High Tide DVD. Whatever we do end up including will be decided upon in the next few weeks and we’re aiming for a September release, just in time for that well-documented post-summer, early-autumn, pre-pre-Christmas spike in DVD sales.

Anyway, I intended to write about the experience of travelling around the country and showing our film to strangers who’d paid money to see it. Well, it has been fun. We’ve clocked up a lot of miles, drank a lot of coffee (and I can reveal that after extensive testing, the best standard coffee – and I discount a very expensive place near Covent Garden that sold a blend that was a little like tasting gold and with a similar price-tag, is available from McDonalds. Which is somewhat depressing but then made less depressing by the fact that you are drinking a damn fine cup of coffee), drank a lot of beer, answered a lot of questions and met some lovely people.

The Telegraph didn't say that, Total Film did - but maybe this is a sensible change in Rye.

The Telegraph didn’t say that, Total Film did – but maybe this is a sensible change in Rye.

It is a profoundly terrifying experience sitting in a room, or latterly in the bar down the corridor from a room, filled with people watching your work. You can almost feel the judgement hanging in the air and our one survival strategy was to talk animatedly to each other about something completely different – often Liverpool’s tragi-comic performance this season or the multiple intrigues and big ideas of the Battlestar Galactica remake (although don’t get me started on its final bloody episode in which the writers seemed to have given up on resolving the questions raised by 70+ hours of television, thrown their pencils into the air with a big shout of “I don’t bloody know” and then gone to the pub), anything to create a temporary amnesia about what was happening in screen two.

Circe's Diner perform at The Cube in Bristol.

Circe’s Diner perform at The Cube in Bristol.

We’d then shuffle in to the screen and meekly answer a few questions, scour the darkness for a clue as to people’s reactions and then disappear into the night. We are very thankful to the many people who stopped us afterwards to say how much they’d enjoyed the film and to those who emailed / tweeted us to say likewise. It is definitely something special, something inspiring when a complete stranger tells you that they thought your work was great.

Oh and there were no walk-outs at any of the screenings we attended. Except for the premiere. Which remains amusing.

Particular highlights of the High Tide tour for me (and for Jimmy’s opinions you will have to persuade him to start writing his own blog, the chances of which are fairly remote) included being taken to the pub in the beautiful Sussex town of Rye by a couple of members of the audience; seeing the band Circe’s Diner play live before a screening in Bristol and being generously plied with beer by the London Welsh Centre to the extent that I had to excuse myself mid-way through the post-film Q and A in order to go to the loo. Such professionalism.

Pre-bladder incident at the London Welsh Society.

Pre-bladder incident at the London Welsh Society.

Oh yes and Exeter. Lovely Exeter. A city that I will always see through the eyes of my teenage self – a 90s photo-collage (cut and assembled by hand, having waited for the photos to be printed by Boots) of CD shops and wooden beads, Firkin ale drunk at the pub beneath the iron bridge, first loves and tricky parties and the music, oh the music . . .  you see what happens when someone mentions Exeter? Anyway, the screening of High Tide at Picturehouse was filled with family, friends and faces from the past, many of whom we hadn’t seen for twenty or so years. It was lovely. And in one case a little awkward – there’s a moment in the film when Josh is telling his Mum Bethan about a geography trip he’d been on with school to Worm’s Head, where this particular scene takes place.  He remembers a friend “pissing in to the sea” at which “Mrs Miller went mental and gave him a week’s detention”.

And who was in the audience seeing and hearing that line? Of course, it was my old Geography teacher Mrs Miller, whose identity I’d ruthlessly stolen for the purposes of fiction. Thankfully she didn’t seem to mind too much once the shock of hearing her name in a film had subsided. I met her afterwards, along with my ex-Head of Year, Ms Fawcett and it was just joyous to see them both and helped immortalise this evening as one of the very best in the short history of Long Arm Films.

Ms Fawcett (left) and Mrs Miller (right).

Ms Fawcett (left) and Mrs Miller (right).

So there we go; a few memories from the past few months. As I say, we are very much looking forward to Monday and then our attentions will turn to what is next. Well, we know some of what is next having made an announcement about our short film Zero Sum earlier in the week – but we’ve also got some other things upcoming that I am just desperate to tell you about. I hope I will be able to do so soon.

But in the meantime, if you’ve been to see the film over the past few months then thank you very much indeed. If you haven’t then maybe you’ll want to get hold of the DVD or look it up on your smart-tv-film-on-demand-service of choice. Even if you’ve just got to the end of another lengthy and ponderous blog post then thank you.

Oh yes, we do now have an irregular email newsletter thing as if it were still 2003. If you’d like infrequent Long Arm Films updates sent straight to your device of choice then you can sign up here. 

And talking of the 90s – here’s Blur, whose new album is far better than I ever dared hope it would be.

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Being kneed in the nuts by The Guardian: film criticism from across the divide

Our feature film High Tide has been on release in cinemas for nearly a month now and we’ve been delighted by audiences’ responses to it. As explored in previous posts it is a profoundly terrifying process when you expose your work to the eyes of strangers; you spend years gestating a project, loving it, nurturing it, meeting its every need like a doting parent or soppy pet-owner and become increasingly flustered as the time necessarily approaches when your pride and joy, your vessel for all that affection and heed, must leave your care and confront its fate in the murky world of other people’s opinions. So it is with considerable delight to report that we’ve had a huge number of people sending us messages or coming to talk to us after Q and A appearances to tell us that the film moved them, that they enjoyed the performances and, in one case, immediately texted their Mum to tell her how much he loved her (this will make more sense if you’ve seen the film). There is clearly no better feeling than having your work received in such positive terms.

However, aside from these very welcome attestations of enjoyment from people we don’t know, we’ve also had our first introduction to the experience of being reviewed in print and online. And what an introduction it has been. When we first discovered that High Tide was going to get a limited cinemas release our immediate thought was wow, journalists with large followings are going to be writing about the film. How brilliant. And then we started getting emails from reviews editors asking for preview copies and RSVPs to the national press screening of the film and the excitement built further. We fantasised about the killer review in a national publication that would pluck our film from low-buget indie anonymity and thrust it into the shimmering spotlight of national or indeed international acclamation. I began wondering what I should wear for my inevitable saunter along the Croisette later in the year.

We still get a thrill looking at this.

We still get a thrill looking at this.

The first review arrived. I got wind of it late one Wednesday evening as I sat with my wife on the sofa watching the brilliant Engrenages (if you haven’t, you really should; although ignore Series 1 which is un peu merdique) and it appeared that Total Film magazine had given High Tide four stars. Joy unbounded. Leaping around the room. Rockstar poses. High-fiving imaginary well-wishers. And phoning Jimmy to tell him the news. Except that he was selfishly asleep and would not answer his phone.

The next morning dawned and Jimmy and I turned metaphorical cartwheels and phoned each other several times during the day just to extend this moment of joy and relief for as long as possible. Once the magazine was published we enthusiastically told Facebook the good news and our rag-taggle bunch of supporters and likers did the decent thing and pressed “like”. The red notification icon glowed red and numerous and we began planning the next stage in our forthcoming conquering of the entertainment industry.

A week or so elapsed and we had the utter pleasure of High Tide’s world premiere in Swansea; we dressed up in our finery, drank copiously from both glasses of prosecco and the audience’s reaction to the film and ended up middle-aged, drunk and elated in a late-night drinking establishment in the posh end of Wales’ second city. We’d done it. We’d made a film and everyone liked it.

Then the national reviews began being published. And in amongst the praise, for there was much, one particular review suggested that our house was actually made of straw and the BBC had forecast a gale. I am not going to link to the review because you are clearly capable of using Google but it is out there and my goodness did it sting when we read it. Now let’s be clear, I believe completely in the sanctity of free speech; journalists, indeed anyone, must be free to say whatever they like and the years of love, sweat and devotion that we’d ploughed into High Tide count for absolutely nothing when you are inviting the press to judge the film. You don’t have a Je Suis Charlie banner on your Facebook page if you expect exceptions just because you put in a lot of work. However, this was the Guardian. This was the newspaper that we’d both grown-up reading and feel an instinctive loyalty towards. The Guardian is our people; it’s the home crowd; it’s almost like family. So when its reviewer dismissed High Tide in the most searing fashion it did feel as if our own mother had taken a run-up, looked us in the eyes and then hopped, skipped and jumped towards us before launching a Doctor Marten boot full-force into our testicles.

No artist in any medium wants the word “atrocious” in a review of their work. For me the noun form “atrocity” is what happened in the darkest moments of the Bosnian war or during British imperial rule in Africa and so to have it applied to our film was desperately hard to take. To be fair, the reviewer used the word to describe only one aspect of the film and he did have some relatively pleasant things to say about some other moments but clearly it’s “atrocious” that sticks in the memory. Jimmy and I spent a brief phone call after this piece had been published just saying nothing; there was little to be said; our film had been castigated by a publication that we instinctively respect in front of a global audience. Ouch; ouch to the power of ten.

Friends and supporters rallied to our support; said the right things about it being only one opinion amongst many other positive ones and pointed to the fact that  the reviewer in question had a history of giving poor reviews to films, many of which we thought were excellent. And it is all just a matter of taste after all and we knew that High Tide was not going to please everyone; it deliberately takes it time and relies on its final few moments contextualising everything that has gone before and frankly, some people are not going to like it. However, we felt sick to our core, sad, tired and thoroughly fed-up of the whole crazy process of filmmaking.

The mood was dark a week later as we drove in the rain towards Cardiff for a BAFTA Wales-hosted screening of the film. When we arrived we were met by a lovely woman from BAFTA and we told her that we were happy to go ahead with the Q and A session as arranged but would probably not actually be in the cinema to see the film. She baulked slightly at this and very politely suggested that although we were of course free to do as we wished the sight of the two directors leaving the cinema before the film began probably did not send out the right message to members of the audience. Over a quick coffee we decided that there was good sense in this and so we took our seats reluctantly to watch High Tide for the first time since atrocious-gate.

And then something wonderful happened. We enjoyed the film. We enjoyed every second of it. We lived every shot, every line, every piece of music, every scene, processing that which we saw in the most profound fashion. At the Swansea premiere we’d had a few glasses of wine before we sat down and so the whole experience was emotional and almost dream-like but at this screening we were sober and still sore from what had happened. But as each minute ticked past it was as if we were reclaiming our own work, able to put negative reviews into context and just enjoy what we’d made. I’ve never been prouder of the film than at the moment it ended in Cardiff. This was not a two or a four star film, this was our film and it was really good. The Q and A session that followed was lively and fun and Melanie and Sam were on top form and then in the bar afterwards we had some excellent conversations with members of the audience, all of whom had good things to say about what they’d seen.

The atmosphere on the journey home could not have been more different to that which had choked us on our approach to the cinema. Something had changed, we were now assured in our work, delighted in what we’d achieved and able to treat the twin imposters of praise and criticism with a equable dose of cynicism; after all, after everything, they are just opinions to be read, respected and then forgotten. We’d made a film and it was playing in cinemas. We’d achieved everything that we wanted. 

High Tide is still being screened around the country. More showings are being added all of the time so for the latest list please visit our website.

A Guardian critic filing his review of "Morte D'Arthur III:  It's Gawain to be personal (in 3D)".

A Guardian critic filing his review of “Morte D’Arthur III: It’s Gawain to be personal (in 3D)”.

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.

Matt Harding announced as composer for “High Tide” – free MP3 download

We at Long Arm towers are delighted to bring you some ACTUAL NEWS about “High Tide”, our forthcoming feature film. So, for the moment at least, I can put aside anecdotes, whimsy and the misplaced hagiography of 90s indie music and reveal that the soundtrack for our film is going to be written by the supremely brilliant (and really quite attractive) Matt Harding.

If you search on Google for “Matt Harding” you will find lots about an American chap who dances badly around the world (and seems to be doing it for rather lovely reasons so good luck to him). This is not OUR Matt Harding. Our Matt Harding is a London-based musician who has released four albums, three of which with Moshi Moshi records, and just makes gorgeous music.

We love him. We have a bit of a man-crush.

What does he sound like? It’s probably safe to say that it is NOT Country and Western. Nor R and B. And he doesn’t really make pop music. Is that helpful? No? Well, I suppose you could describe his work as a blend of low-fi electro and folk (in that he often uses a guitar) but even this doesn’t really capture a sense of his work. You are just going to have to listen.

Matt’s reaction to our script was really pleasing in that he seemed to understand the type of story we are trying to tell and it is great to be collaborating with an artist of rare skill, integrity and talent. We can’t wait to hear what he comes up with for the film.

Now this is going to sound like one of those God-awful PR-driven adverts with which we are increasingly bombarded but we do have a little present for you. Here’s what the set-up would read like it we were paying a PR company:

CELEBRATE THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF MATT HARDING AS COMPOSER FOR LONG ARM’S MUCH-ANTICPATED DEBUT FEATURE “HIGH TIDE” BY DOWNLOADING AN EXCLUSIVE UNRELEASED TRACK!

I hate that use of the verb “to celebrate”. When Skyfall came out we were invited to “celebrate” the film’s release with a whole series of over-priced purchases. “Celebrate Skyfall by drinking pissy Dutch lager that most Dutch people wouldn’t drink even if you paid them and empty cans of which can be found stuffed with fag ends and gob on the stained carpets the morning after a million student parties”.

So in more prosaic and hopefully more tasteful terms, please feel free to click on the track by Matt below. It is called “Silver” and is an unfinished demo version of a song that will appear on his forthcoming album. Please note that thanks to Matt’s generosity and general all-over splendour you can actually download the track to keep for yourself and future generations to enjoy.

Now don’t say we don’t give you anything. I know you haven’t said this but if you were thinking about it saying it then please think about saying something else because quite blatantly this is us giving you something. For free. Because we’re nice like that. Or Jimmy is at least. I’m a right old sod.