High Tide – DOP Announced! plus a Top 5 of beautiful cinematography

I was poised, ready to begin this blog entry, poised like a cheetah crouched and coiled in amongst a few baked tufts of grass on the African plains, or like a white, hairy Usain Bolt, nestling in the starting blocks of language, waiting for the starting pistol of inspiration to crack into the night sky before setting off at startling speed along the running track of overly-verbose prose. (Sometimes, metaphors are best abandoned at the first sign of nonsense – a rule that, if I adhered to it, would reduce most of these blog posts by about fifty percent). In other, less absurd, words, I was ready to begin writing, my plan sketched out (in my head at least), my subject researched when I saw this headline on the Guardian website (other left-leaning, liberal and overly-urban newspaper websites are available):


Yes, it is a little startling isn’t it? Let me repeat it.


I’m not making it up, honestly. Look:

Damn those killer robots

I particularly enjoy the inverted commas suggesting that this statement is not one of fact but merely one of a range of possible opinions.  Clearly the sensible first reaction to such a headline would be – HMMM. YES IN A GENERAL SENSE KILLER ROBOTS ARE A CONCEPT THAT I WOULD MOST LIKELY DISAGREE WITH TO SOME EXTENT.

But maybe I should not assume that I know what my fellow homo-sapiens think about the concept of killer robots. Perhaps readers of the Daily Mail (blog readers in other countries please insert your own example of a right-wing shit-sheet in order to fully enjoy the clumsy sarcasm forthcoming) may perhaps disagree. Maybe, the ranks of racists and homophobes would welcome killer robots, presumably as long as they were manufactured in the UK, were programmed to understand only one computer language (er, struggling a bit here – is C+ a computer language? I think so. Please help me out here by imagining that this joke is working out better than it actually is) and ensured that they only plugged their leads usb cables into robots of the opposite gender and if that weren’t possible then for the love of all that’s right in the world, they should never, ever be allowed to marry.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to write about killer robots. And I kind of wish I hadn’t. I bet you do too. Probably best that we hurry on and try to forget that any of this happened. Care to join me in a new paragraph, in which the grass will be greener, the prose tighter and all participants just a little bit sexier with better teeth? Of course you do.

I want to spend a few minutes of your time today writing about beautiful cinematography and in doing so make another announcement about our forthcoming feature film “High Tide”. One of my biggest faults as a screenwriter (and I have many believe me) is that I am overly-fond of the written word. You will of course be UTTERLY SHOCKED by this revelation given that I have reached 517 words in this blog and said almost nothing. But it is true. I like words. I like the sound of words, the fun you can have teasing them, twisting them, breaking them and sticking them back together in new ways (and English is particularly pliable as a language; like a string of pizza dough you can stretch it a very long way before it breaks) and then putting them into the mouths of characters. As I have said before, I just want to be Aaron Sorkin.

I’m not Aaron Sorkin.

And too frequently my characters say too much. Way too much. And then Jimmy has to go through a scene and remove at least fifty percent of the words. And then I complain that he’s taken out the “best bits” and then he says that I am wrong and that “no one speaks like that” and then I say that he is a philistine and that he doesn’t understand about art and then we fight, literally, for hours, knocking seven shades of shit out of each other.

And then eventually I agree with Jimmy.

What I forget of course, because I am stupid, is that cinema is a visual medium. Image is king. What you show is a billion times more important than what is said and for all my polishing of commas, daubing of imagery and “clever” allusions to obscure texts, most film dialogue is really no more than background noise, to quote Thom Yorke, it is “buzzing like a fridge . . . a detuned ray-dee-oh“. And for all the deification (careful!) of directors – and there is a little doubt that the greatest directors have a profound, visionary influence over their work – we really should also celebrate the people behind the camera actually capturing the images. I say “should”, I know we do. Like at the Oscars happening tonight where someone will be given a golden man for cinematography, that’s a pretty huge celebration Gillingham you dick. Yes I know. But my point is that these people are far LESS celebrated, less known than they should be. Can you name a Director of Photography? No, you’ve just made that one up haven’t you? You have. Simone Trousers is definitely a made-up name.

I mention this because we have another exciting announcement to make about “High Tide’. We have a Director of Photography! – or in filmtalk a “DOP”. This means that Jimmy and I won’t utterly cock things up and waste other people’s money by forgetting to take the lens cap off or shooting an entire scene with the camera switched off. Both of which have happened on Long Arm productions in the past.

The Director of Photography for High Tide will be Chris Lang. And we could not be happier about it. Chris is a professional cameraman of many year’s experience and what is more he is a thoroughly decent chap. Last week Jimmy and I were filming some stuff on a beach in south Wales (more of which in a upcoming post) and rather than our usual method or faffing and fiddling and getting things wrong, we had Chris behind the camera and everything went very smoothly indeed. (Well, smoothly apart from the fact that our vital organs nearly snapped off due to the perishing, unremitting cold. It was horrible. I actually don’t think I have ever been as cold. That’s not hyperbole. That’s a stone-cold, very damn cold, fact).

You can see a short showreel of some of Chris’s work here:

And here is a link to a short film that he wrote, filmed and directed. I can’t embed it because the code won’t work and I am tired and irritable and I’m fed up of trying.

We are delighted that the team for High Tide continues to expand and we are certain that Chris will do an amazing job.

To celebrate this new appointment and the fact that it seemed like a good idea at the time to do this, I am going to curate another of the now much-celebrated (by me) Long Arm Lists. Last time, I had complaints from my otherwise wonderful sister that the list was a Top 6. She said that there is no such thing as a Top 6. There are Top 5s and Top 10s. But TOP 6s DO NOT EXIST. She was very certain on this point.

So Lisa G, this is for you:


Un – The Shanghai skyscraper scene in SKYFALL (2012), DOP – Roger Deakins.

This will probably be off Youtube in an instant but whilst it is there, enjoy the stunning use of colour and contrast. This is an action sequence taken to the level of high art. All of Skyfall is brilliantly shot.

Deux – The death scene in BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), DOP – Jack Cardiff

The three-strip technicolor technique used in this film was close to revolutionary (three film strips ran through the camera simultaneously) but regardless of geekery just marvel at the atmosphere created. Stunning.

Trois – The steps scene in IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000) DOP – Christopher Doyle, Pung-Leung Kwan, Ping Bin Lee

Sexy, slow-motion (or is that just my rubbish broadband connection?). I haven’t seen this. Jimmy has so you can ask him about it. I’ll give you his number so you can call him. Don’t text him though. He hates texting. He won’t reply. All of this is true. Aren’t we such difficult, highly-eccentric and complex artists? (No.)

Quatre – THE THIRD MAN (1949) DOP – Robert Krasker

(please note how many times they get the name of the film into this trailer – I counted over a thousand).

The use of light and shadow in THE THIRD MAN is fantastic. Krasker (DOP ON THE THIRD MAN) was also DOP on Brief Encounter (AND THE THIRD MAN) which, as any sentient being knows, is one of the GREATEST FILMS EVER MADE. (and better than THE THIRD MAN) And it is really verbose (more so than THE THIRD MAN). Still, THE THIRD MAN is still very much worth watching. That’s THE THIRD MAN.

Cinq – All of THE TREE OF LIFE (2011) DOP –  Emmanuel Lubezki

According to Jimmy this film “evokes memory through its aesthetic”. And he’s probably right. In the clip above lots of Americans tell you the same thing but they lack Jimmy’s wit and boyish good-looks.

And there we go. Five films that look amazing thanks to some stunning cinematography. As we get closer to the High Tide shoot we are going to have some interesting discussions working out just what how we want it to look. I’ll probably lobby to add more dialogue. But I will, quite rightly, be ignored.

Welcome aboard Chris. Let’s hope you haven’t made a catastrophic mistake in saying yes.

(You haven’t).

(I hope).