A High Tide trailer released. At last.

For the past year and a half I’ve been using this blog as a forum for a whole manner of stuff and nonsense. Regular readers will be all too aware of my frequent forays into whimsy and nostalgia and some people have been kind enough to say they’ve enjoyed reading it. Most have just remained silent on the matter. I have tried wherever possible to stick to the theme of film and filmmaking or at least creativity in general and when I’ve failed in this then I have at least apologised.

However, this blog was conceived initially as a means to document the often-insane and always-exhausting process of making a independent feature film. And I think I’ve largely succeeded in this; if you read back over the archives then you will see the various triumphs and disasters that myself and my partner Jimmy have celebrated and endured, rendered for you in overly-verbose and meandering prose. In truth, some of the posts have been removed from public view because they managed to make some important people cross, albeit not deliberately. Maybe one day I will collect them all together in order to present a coherent and complete chronicle of what has been, and continues to be, an unforgettable process. But we may need to run it past the lawyers first!

Anyway, this is all prologue to what is for us a hugely significant moment in our adventure. We finally have a trailer for our feature film High Tide. We are also in the midst of various meetings about how this film will be shown to the world but for the moment I have to be annoyingly coy about the specifics of these. However, yes we do have a trailer. And you can see it here:

We’re jolly pleased with it. I think it does give a decent flavour of the film; you get to see some of the stunning locations we shot in plus there are snippets of the acting performances of Melanie Walters and Samuel Davies both of which hint, utterly accurately, at the wonderful work they do in the film. Having sat many, many times in front of the footage we shot I can say in all honesty that not only do the pair achieve great things in their portrayals of their characters, repeated viewings of a scene at three in the morning do not diminish their power. I take this to be a good sign.

We are also delighted with how good our composer Matt Harding’s music sounds on the trailer. We’ve long been fans of his work and were delighted when he agreed to contribute to the film but it is particularly pleasing now that we can hear his music illustrating the images. Again, having seen cuts of the complete, film it is heartening to find that his music, just like the work of any great composer, has become part of the essential business of telling our story. I can’t now imagine some of the images without their accompanying music. Again, this seems to be a very good sign. There is still some way to go but we are closer than ever to being able to show this film to the world. What the world will think remains to be seen but whatever the reaction we are very proud. And let’s face it, if the world doesn’t like it then we’re just going to assume the world is wrong and has no taste whatsoever.

If you are interested then we now have an expanded section about High Tide on our website and because you are all lovely, here is a still from the film which is not in the trailer. Just to prove that we really do have ninety minutes of footage, not just a shiny two minute trailer. Thanks as ever for being interested enough to read this far.

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Samuel Davies as Josh. Melanie Walters as Bethan.

Shooting Ex Libris (not in zero gravity)

Good afternoon world (or at least the hundred or so people who regularly read this blog; a cohort whom, if not entirely representative of our silly species, would at least, I hope, form a pretty decent vanguard of humanity should these flood waters continue to rise and our happy few be herded by Russell Crowe into a CGI ark to begin an Earth 2.0 (or Earth 3.0 if you are biblically minded) once the seas have withdrawn). It has been some time since I last laid fingertips to somewhat dirty keyboard which, when compared to a mere twelve months ago, seems a pretty dismal effort. What can I say? I’ve been busy and I am certain you’ve been getting along with your lovely lives just fine without recourse to the overly-long screes of vocabulary that seem to be my stock-in-trade when filing digital copy to my non-existant (and sorely needed) editor.

However here I am once again and I am to expend a few paragraphs writing about what has been an excellent week for Long Arm Films. But there is a problem. Cinema might just have ended. It could be that all the many hours we spent preparing and then shooting over the past few weeks was all an utter waste of time. It may be time to pack up our Zeiss lenses and our Sony F55 camera (hired for a very reasonable rate from 180 Rental in Bristol) and take-up oil painting or erotic crochet. This morning, several months later than the rest of the world, I watched Gravity in 3D on a gigantic screen in West London. And it was incredible. Utterly, utterly incredible. Yes it is essentially a very simple survival story but one rendered in such a way as to make everything else EVER MADE look like it had been drawn by the Long Arm storyboard department. And believe me, we are terrible at drawing. Apparently Gravity cost $100,000,000 (or two thousand times the budget of High Tide) to make and frankly this seems like the  bargain of the century; it is unbelievably tense, humane, at times terrifying and it looks like nothing else that I’ve ever seen. Although I could have done without the  grieving parent storyline. There was a moment early on when Clooney (who still looks damn hot in a spacesuit; I’d just look puffy and hot) sails around the front of the space shuttle in his special jet-propelled armchair thing and the audience sees him, the shuttle and the Earth all on seemingly three different planes. It was wonderful and I laughed out loud in boggle-eyed wonder. Jimmy recently went to Berlin to supervise a documentary shoot, although it seems like he spent most of his time going to the cinema, and he reported back to the UK that Gravity was “the most immersive, exhilarating, and heart pulsing experience I’ve ever had in a cinema”. And you know what, Jimmy is right. But don’t tell him I said so.

So bearing in mind that cinema might actually be no more as an art form, let me tell you about the week just gone for Long Arm Films. Well, it has all been rather jolly really. Our friend, and High Tide DOP, Chris Lang shot his short The Sound of Silence, produced by Long Arm Films and Jimmy and I shot Ex Libris, a short film set in a library starring our pal Melanie Walters and the magnificent Robert Pugh.

The Ex Libris shoot was a pleasure to be a part of (as I am sure The Sound of Silence was too); we were working with a great crew led by DOP Paul Dudbridge and our cast were completely top of the range. There were some very pleasant differences between this and the High Tide shoot, not least after battling the weather, tourists and the sound of planes and jet skis last summer, we were shooting INSIDE and IN A LIBRARY; pretty much the most manageable location you could imagine. We had some great runners and our old pal Yaz did an excellent job keeping everybody in line as 1st AD. We also had a VERY BIG MONITOR which, after squinting into a portable one last summer from beneath a towel (and even then it stopped working altogether by week 2 of the shoot), felt like a real luxury. We also had a lot of cheese. More cheese than any of our crew had seen before on a film set; a fact that gave us a certain sense of pride – Long Arm Films is brought to you in association with Dorset Blue Vinney and a two-year-old Comte.

And then there was the cast. Oh my goodness, the cast. I think it is perhaps unprofessional to bang on endlessly about the actors (although regular readers of this blog will note that unprofessionalism has never been much of a censor of its output) but I must write a little about Melanie and Robert. Of course we knew Mel was good, like properly good, like Gavin-and-Stacey-gives-you-a-sense-of-about-five-percent-of-how-talented-she-is good; many of her scenes in High Tide are going to bring you to your feet and start demanding that she is given awards. However, it was excellent to cast her in a very different role again and once more be impressed by the pace, tone and delicacy of her delivery. She took our, sometimes, awkward and obtuse dialogue and made it into something very special and for this we are grateful.

Ex Libris still

And what can I say about Bob Pugh? The man is extraordinary. One minute he is joshing around with the crew, swearing in all manner of creative constructions, complaining that the jumper that I’d just handed him to wear has not been washed (which was patently true; one of the most “indie” aspects of the Ex Libris shoot was that Bob wore my clothes throughout. I am wearing the jumper pictured above as I write this) but when he was in frame he just transformed, seemingly effortlessly, and gave a performance that was so well-judged that you’d think he played the role a hundred times before. Look at the man’s CV; he’s worked with some incredible people and perhaps it smacks of our relative naivety as filmmakers that we were quite so taken aback by what he can do but I’d like to think is just as much due to his unmistakable talent. To say that we were lucky that he agreed to work with Long Arm is of course a nonsensical understatement.

You’ll hopefully be able to see Ex Libris and Sound of Silence later in the year after we’ve spent some time hawking them around the world’s film festivals. Ex Libris is a little like a grown-up version of our short Stuart and Kate and Sound of Silence has a concept so neat that you could take it home to have dinner with your Mum. But, as I say, for the moment you are just going to have to take my word for it.

Jimmy and I spent a happy, if somewhat weary, day after the shoot hanging around the cafes of Bristol (with a lovely lunch in the company of my sister and brother-in-law in the wonderful Rise Records: so Bristol, so brilliant) and we’ve planned out the next twelve months on planet Long Arm and, even though you are going to have forgive the smugly secretive tone here, we could not be more excited about the projects on which we are embarking.

So thanks to Chris, Keiron, Lynne, Alex and Lucy for running the Sound of Silence shoot and thanks to Bob, Mel, Paul, Scott, Rich, Keith, Yaz, Sam, Sophie and Nat for their wonderful work on Ex Libris. Thanks our brilliant wives for their endless patience and support. And thanks as ever to my partner, editor, director and eternal friend Jimmy Hay for, you know, everything.

And to finish here is a photo of Jimmy taking a rare break on set. Although I suspect he would have looked even better in 3D and tumbling through space avoiding lethal Russian space debris. It is only a matter of time.

Jimmy Hay at rest

Le petit lapin de Optimus Prime

If you ever have the opportunity to ask Jimmy Hay out for a pint then I urge you to not to be shy. Just ask him. He’ll most likely say yes, particularly if you are buying, and you’ll have a good time. I envy Jimmy his gentle charm and ability to put everyone immediately at their ease whether they be friends, strangers or animals. This is why Jimmy is very much the “public face” of the Long Arm. I just stand awkwardly in corners and check my phone for want of any decent conversation. In the time it takes me to get through a few stumbling pleasantries Jimmy will have noted down your contact details, passed you a few words of Westcountry wisdom about an area of your life to which you hadn’t really given much thought but you know, he’s really got a point, and then you will have found yourself offering him your daughter’s hand in marriage. Not that you have a daughter. But perhaps you could persuade a colleague to borrow theirs and then offer her.

Jimmy is just that sort of guy.

But let me just offer a few cautionary words. Once you’ve got a couple of pints and a few bags of nuts into the evening, don’t make the mistake of asking him about his thoughts about the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Now you may think that this is unlikely, you may think that you have a sufficient cache of witty observations and pithy anecdotes gleaned from your not inconsiderable years on the earth – what about that time Richard Fletcher fell through the window or when Kate Parsons put ice down your pants (which you secretly enjoyed) or that time in the Lake District when you saw a radically different side to Sophie Banks and indeed found a radically different use for shaving foam? Or maybe you could pass the time asking Jimmy for tips about belt selection and their fashionable integration into the modern wardrobe? And believe me he will have things to say on this matter. Serious things.

But don’t rule out the possibility that during the inevitable lull after the third pint of the evening that you might blurt out – SO JIMMY TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT FRENCH PHILOSOPHER GILLES DELEUZE. Even though you’ve never heard of him and are immediately suspicious of his motives because he is French.

You will know that you’ve asked the question because the pub will suddenly fall into a Spaghetti Western-style silence and all eyes will immediately drop floor-wards. The atmosphere will be thick with anticipation. The sense of waiting will hang heavy in the air like a pre-ban cigarette smog next to the gents. And then Jimmy’s eyes will narrow like a Film Studies John Wayne, his fingers will twitch at his side and just like Lucky in Waiting for Godot when the hat is placed on his head. He will ORATE:

According to Deleuze, the break-down in the sensory-motor schema – of logical, cause-and-effect thinking and movement – led to the inception in Europe of a new form of cinema that he termed the time-image. The time-image presented an alternative to the dominant movement-image cinema, which is defined by action and the ability of protagonists to react to their situations and act in such a way that alters and ultimately drives the narrative forward. The movement-image – that Deleuze associated predominantly with classical narrative cinema – emphasises forward progression, professional achievement, conflict and competition, heroic characters and uplifting conclusions. It is a cinema driven by capitalist ideology.

And you’ll try to run. But running is useless. Jimmy will follow. His eyes blazing, his intelligence burning like the fires of some scarcely imagined Hades and he will talk, he will talk and he will talk and he will talk . . .

I’ll stop at this point. I am just joshing. Jimmy’s a bright guy and his elucidation of Deleuze’s ideas is actually very interesting. The premise is simple (or at least Jimmy has rendered it such for my meagre brain to compute):

The movement-image – that Deleuze associated predominantly with classical narrative cinema – emphasises forward progression, professional achievement, conflict and competition, heroic characters and uplifting conclusions. By contrast, the cinema of the time-image privileges time over movement. The time-image is not concerned with the causal or rational progression of images. Images are freed from the pressure of narrative continuity and are allowed to exist in isolation. The time-image represents a cinema of inaction, of characters wholly lacking in agency, unwilling or unable to subscribe to an incessantly progress-driven capitalist model of existence.

Time-image cinema. It is a beautiful, beguiling thought. A film that allows space for images to simply exist, exist as loaded, fulsome and profound, or profane, but with no obligation to fulfil narrative function. Jimmy can provide you some examples should you wish to pursue your studies. The opening images of our film Sliced were very much in debt to this idea. Not that anyone really noticed.

Anyway, all our film ideas now have to pass a strict DELEUZE TEST before they can become logged in the official Long Arm Ideas Book (which Jimmy keeps next to his loo). If there is too much narrative cogency then they will be rejected no matter the context or content.

To this end we recently pitched for the gig as screenwriters on the new Transformers film. It took a lot of work to get a script into shape but I think we’ve given it a good shot. We’ve heard nothing back yet but these people are really busy so we’re still hopeful. I shouldn’t make any of this public yet but I think I may just give you a peek at the opening scene. Just don’t sell it to anyone. Please. This really could be our shot at the big time. So here goes.

TITLE:

TRANSFORMERS: LE PETIT LAPIN DE OPTIMUS PRIME

SCENE 1:

LONG STILL SHOT OF A CRUMBLING PARISIAN TOWER BLOCK IN 1968. AFTER FIVE MINUTES (AT LEAST) A CAT PASSES AND THEN PISSES NEXT TO THE FRONT DOOR.

SCENE 2:

A THREADBARE APARTMENT INTERIOR. THERE IS A OLD CHAISE-LONGUE, AN OVERFLOWING ASHTRY AND NOTHING ELSE.

WE STARE AT THE ROOM FOR TEN MINUTES.

SUDDENLY THE CHAISE-LONGUE TRANSFORMS INTO OPTIMUS PRIME THE LEADER OF THE AUTOBOTS. HE FUMBLES IN HIS CORDS FOR A PACKET OF CAMELS, LIGHTS ONE WITH A FLAMETHROWER AND INHALES DEEPLY AS HE STARES OUT OF THE WINDOW.

OPTMUS PRIME
Mon dieu. Such are the vagaries of contemporary existence I feel I cannot adequately express the fundamental truths about leading an army of massive transforming robots in an seemingly endless war against those bastard Decepticons. It’s like really, really tedious.

HE FINISHES THE CIGARETTE AND TAKES ANOTHER ONE FROM THE PACKET. HE LIGHTS IT WITH A MACHINE GUN.

SUDDENLY THE ASHTRAY TRANSFORMS INTO MEGATRON, THE EVIL LEADER OF THE REALLY EVIL DECEPTICONS WHO ARE REALLY EVIL ALL THE TIME.

MEGATRON
So you’re there.

OPTIMUS PRIME
Am I? Are you?

MEGATRON
Perhaps.

OPTIMUS PRIME
You’re not smoking.

MEGATRON
I AM smoke. I will be king.

OPTIMUS PRIME
What?

MEGATRON
Exactly. That’s exactly the problem.

OPTIMUS PRIME
Merde.

TWENTY MINUTES ELAPSE. NEITHER ROBOT MOVES.

OPTIMUS PRIME
Did you eat my little rabbit you metal bastard?

MEGATRON
Pate. With an “e” acute. I put him in. The. Pate.

OPTIMUS PRIME
I will destroy you.

MEGATRON
I am. Already destroyed.

A VERY SMALL MERCURY TEAR CREEPS DOWN THE FACE OF MEGATRON. OPTIMUS PRIME CONTINUES TO SMOKE.

TWENTY FIVE MINUTES ELAPSE.

MEGATRON
Fancy a snog?

CUT TO BLACK.

Pretty thrilling stuff hey? No wonder we are excited. Once we get High Tide in the can we’ll be on a plane to California to negotiate our MASSIVE fee. Just need that  phone to ring. Any day now. Any day . . . . .