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)”.

Four stars and two walk-outs: The world premiere of High Tide

Last Friday night saw the world premiere of our feature film High Tide at Taliesin, Swansea. It was an incredible night: we had live music (from the shimmering and wonderful Circe’s Diner), free drinks, a stringent dress code and of course we showed the finished film to an audience for the very first time. And this was as terrifying, bewildering, and ultimately as joyous as we ever hoped it would be.

After a year of some pretty difficult, dark moments for both Jimmy and myself, I must admit that I was holding back the tears when the BBFC certificate flashed on to the screen at the beginning of the film; a mixture of pride, relief and the realisation that this really could be the start of the next chapter, if you’ll forgive the clunking cliche, of our lives. I wish I could be more eloquent than I’m currently being about all of this but the night ended up at an after-hours drinking establishment in the posh end of Swansea and my increasingly middle-aged constitution is only just beginning to recover. I don’t think I have been up at 3.45am for about twenty years (having not first gone to bed) and it may be another twenty more before I am physically able to do it again.

We recorded some audience vox-pops just as people were leaving the cinema in a deliberate attempt to garner more publicity for the film. They were then shared with the small part of the world that is interested in all things Long Arm and we’ll be hammering them further this week as we build towards the cinema release. I do realise that this was the homiest of home crowds but people’s reaction to High Tide seemed to be overwhelmingly positive (and not just because we’d given them free booze before the film began) and as such I’ve embedded the video below if you want to have a look.  Do watch out for some particularly high praise from Hollywood’s Robert Pugh.

As the evening progressed and things got a little fuzzier I was asked by several people how I was feeling to which the obvious answer was that I was feeling pretty amazing (and a little drunk) but thinking about it now it does feel that the premiere was something of an inflection point in this whole process. After several years of micro-managing the entire project, from the early ignorant days when we managed to inadvertently upset a lot of important people with our clumsy amateurism right up until Friday afternoon when we were pushing a trolley of drink into the venue (something that I am sure Scorcese does before all of his premieres), it was time to let High Tide stand alone and be judged by its audience  with the two of us reduced to the status of cowering, powerless bystanders.

I’ve written before about the moment that a writer, metaphorically, slaps his or her new work on the table and says to the crowds, right, judge me on this. It is a terrifying and essential moment and one that the novelist David Mitchell likened to lying on your back, handing the audience a sharpened stake and egging them on to take their best shot. This is what we did on Friday night and very quickly we were afforded a lesson in the brutal process of judgement. There was a heady warmth to the early part of the evening as the free drink flowed and friends were reunited after many months absence (I hadn’t seen several of the cast and crew since the end of the shoot); Jimmy and I introduced the film from the stage, we thanked lots of the people that had helped us reach this far, there was generous amounts of applause. Everything felt wonderful.

Then the film began and after about ten minutes a woman got up out of her seat. Well, she must have been off to the toilet after quaffing too much prosecco on an empty stomach. So we thought. But a few moments later her husband likewise lifted himself from his seat and, with an air of some embarrassment, slid himself out of the row and mumbled that the film “really wasn’t our cup of tea”. I don’t know who this couple were; those invited to the premiere had some connection to the film so they weren’t complete strangers. Maybe they’d given us money (and presumably therefore now think that their donation had been squandered for which I can only apologise a little insincerely) or maybe they were friends or relatives of the cast, who knows?, but whatever their connection they disliked the opening of the film sufficiently to stand up and walk out in full view of everyone in the cinema.

I don’t mind at all that they did, in fact I am glad that they did. Art is always going to be divisive; one person’s David is another person’s big block of borderline pornographic marble which would be better served on their kitchen worktop rather than as one humanity’s finest ever artistic achievements. There are also some, deeply troubled and unhappy, people who don’t like Zoolander. High Tide is deliberately slow in its opening twenty minutes; we ask a lot of patience from our audience and then reward this patience in the second half of the film. But frankly, it is not to everyone’s tastes. And that’s fine. That’s good.

Perhaps, more than the BBFC certificate, more than the TV crews, the dinner suits and ballgowns, the sparkle and the fizz, two punters walking out of the premiere is proof that as filmmakers we have reached the level of professionalism that we’ve worked so damn hard over these past few years to achieve.

Either that or we should try to make better films.

Some people, however, have liked High Tide very much; who wouldn’t want to receive a review like this?  Or indeed a four star review in this month’s Total Film?

But let me end this entry with a piece of music that was playing as we arrived at Mozart’s in Swansea for a night of merriment after the premiere. The Breeders’ Cannonball is a stonewall early 90s classic and I dedicate it to star of High Tide and all-round superstar Mr Sam Davies who I bored with my thoughts on this song for a lot longer than was polite.

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.

2Shot_FacingBeach -000000

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

Layerings of befuddle and hummus

I have spent the past few days in the fair city of Bristol in which, on Friday, my wonderful sister got married. And the sun shone and I saw lots of brilliant people I hadn’t seen in years and I discovered a new way of cooking potatoes (“Pommes Anna” -a French, of course, recipe which apparently involves dousing a mini mountain of thinly sliced potatoes in butter and then slowly turning them as they cook in order to gain a pleasingly crunchy shell which houses the orgasmically tender flesh of the potatoes within) and it was happy and silly and I even thought that it was probably a good idea to follow several (and really the top end of several) glasses of strong red wine during dinner with several pints of strong local ale as I hit the dance floor.

It is probably safe to say that I have had better ideas and even two days later my head feels a little wooly as I type. Which may mean that my usual meanderings are somewhat curtailed. Which is most likely a good thing. So in this respect I have done you a favour and you should be THANKING ME for my indulgences.

Usually when I fold myself into the corner of our increasingly tortuous sofa in order to begin writing, I do so with at least a sketchy sense of how the ensuing blog entry will be structured. Sometimes I even stick to the plan when I’ve made it. However, in these moments of beer-induced-brain-fuddle such planning is as unlikely as finding a pithy and original second half to this simile. So instead I am just going to hit you with all I’ve got. You may wish to stand back slightly or take sensible precautionary measures by wearing goggles or one of those bright yellow hats that fishermen wear in dreams. So here goes.

Brain salvo one: On Loving Bristol.

I bloody love Bristol. It feels like a place of true originality. And not of the sort that feels forced or fake. It is what it is. Its people are quirky and friendly; its buildings are eclectic and interesting; it has some amazing places to eat and it is the kind of place where people are happy to queue for SIX HOURS to see models of the canine half of legendary animated duo Wallace and Gromit. 

So while we’re at it, let’s take a moment to be reminded of the genius of Bristol’s Aardman Animations:

On Saturday morning, we walked around St Nicholas Market, past all the tiny little counters selling all manner of delicious foodstuffs. It really is a magical place, redolent of flavour, simplicity and hope. Later the same day I bought some hummus from Tesco. There really is no hope for the planet. Or for me.

Brain salvo two: Talking of Tesco.

All of Team Long Arm have the ability to post to our Twitter account so our millions of followers can be reached at a moments notice if we ever wish to invade a country or share a picture of a sleeping member of our crew with the word “twat” written on his forehead. Mostly, our social media captain Nat is in charge of broadcasting to the world, but sometimes it is me sharing 140 characters of bilge, and very, very occasionally it might be Jimmy. Anyway, we can all see our Twitter feed and sometimes I will have a read. And earlier this is what I stumbled upon:

This made me so fucking grumpy. Now, I have no opinion whatsoever on Downtown Abbey; I have never seen a single minute of it. But what I object to, particularly when tired and grumpy, is this behemoth of a supermarket PAYING TWITTER to engage with shoppers about their choice in television. AND MAKING IT WORSE by using a hashtag that is inevitably going to be trending as DA screens on the TV tonight. I was unfeasibly riled by this. And did I sit back and just take this corporate rogering? Did I blandly and blindly acquiesce to the fact that my go-to supplier of bog-standard middle-eastern pastes wanted to engage with me on not only culinary but also CULTURAL matters? Like arse I did. THIS is what I did. This is how I stuck it back to the man so hard that his corporate body-politic must still be pulsing with wave after wave of core-cleaving pain. This is how I charged with the lance of satire. This. THIS:

I meant “popular”. Oh dear.

And this is how the poor bastard who runs Tesco’s Twitter feed expressed his or her sadness at the situation. I actually feel quite sorry for them.

In future, I shall leave the tweeting to Nat.

Brain salvo three: Melanie Walters ascends the pantheon of legend and achieves near-Godlike status.

It is no secret that we love Melanie Walters. And you will too when you see her performance in our feature film High Tide. She really is extraordinary. However, Mel tops even herself in this video in which she’s meant to be talking about why she loves Swansea Bay but instead talks briefly, but we think with real passion, about Long Arm Films:

Obviously we are likewise supporting Swansea’s city of culture bid and I should have some news on this front in the next few weeks. But for the moment, we are just happy that Melanie remembers us. Thanks Mel. 

Brain salvo four: I watched Star Trek.

I watched Star Trek Into Darkness. And it was very silly. And the bit with the girl standing pointlessly around in her pants and bra is every bit as terrible and exploitative as the furore suggested when the film was released. I mean they’re not even SPACE PANTS. Not that would have been any less exploitative but it would have been at least a little more sci-fi. But pants aside (my motto) it is an entertaining enough way to pass a couple of hours; Mr Cumberbatch is as good as he is ubiquitous which, as grammar fans will tell you, is an impossibility – and you can win a Long Arm badge if you send me an email and tell my why this is. That is if I read the email and if you are right and if I get around to sending you a badge, and I have to be honest with you and say that this is on the muckier side of likely.

But call me an old fart but I would have liked a bit more exploring and a bit less EXPLODING.

Bet Tesco loved the tits off it though.

Brain salvo five: the soothing balm of music

This is sung by our friend Jaspreet. It is lovely. Thank goodness.


High Tide – Long Arm’s first feature-length film

So then. We’ve been sitting on this for a few weeks now but it is time to tell those who may be interested. And even those who are probably not.

We are making a film. A proper film. We are going to be spending other people’s money and will be working with professionals in all departments of the production. In terms of money, the budget is actually tiny. It will cost roughy ten thousand times less than Skyfall to make (I have had to check that sum three times such is its ridiculousness) so it is a proper stripy-black-t-shirt-and-converse-wearing INDIE film. If it were a record it would be Ride’s 1991 “Today Forever” 12 inch single on white vinyl. But with cameras and actors instead of floppy-haired musicians from Oxford.

The film is called High Tide and we are both extremely proud of the script and absolutely beside ourselves with excitement that it is going to happen.

I probably can’t say too much more than is on our website at the moment about the actual production side of things. I will go into some more detail about the origins of the script below but suffice to say that with backing from a production company and having to talk to casting directors, DOPs etc it is all feeling slightly surreal. Surreal, terrifying and brilliant. We are grateful that Bob and Co. are backing the film and although we still have money to raise it does feel like a massive leap forward for Jimmy and me.

So then, what can I say about the script? Well it was written to be feasible as a first feature length project. Don’t expect exploding helicopters or exploding Aston Martins, or exploding anything really. There are no exotic locations, aside from the stunning South Wales coastline, and the cast is relatively small. That is not to say it lacks ambition, on the contrary, it is emotionally complex and is going to require some top-notch acting from the cast.

Gosh, I am rubbish at writing about our own stuff! Who says “top notch”? Honestly! Apologies. There are currently two summary paragraphs attached to the film. I am not entirely happy with either but here they are.

Number One:

Bethan has one day left. One day to put things right. One day to repair the damage caused to her troubled son. One day to say sorry. One day to explain.

Because tomorrow both of their lives will be changed forever.

Note the producer-pleasing hyperbole in the final sentence! Or if you prefer there is Number Two:

HIGH TIDE tells the story of one final day during which a mother must mend the broken relationship with her son. Set along the stunning Welsh coastline, it is a moving, powerful and tender portrait of a vital twenty four hours in two people’s lives.

HIGH TIDE is a story of love, forgiveness and change. 

Good rule of three in use there. Although I hate the phrase “in two people’s lives”. I need to improve that.

Regardless of the inelegance of my prose you will glean that the film is about one day in the life of a Mother and her son. We’ll leave it at that for now. We hope to shoot in some beautiful locations along Gower peninsular which is going to look amazing.

The idea at the centre of High Tide is not a new one and not mine. Jimmy had been mulling over a version of this story since long before Stuart and Kate and we’d written a few notes that had been filed under the title “The Swansea Project”. We had always planned to make three short films before attempting a feature-length project and the story of the Swansea Project was going to be the third of these. I went to stay with Jimmy in early August (I was on a train when Andy Murray won his gold medal; this was announced by the train manager and everyone cheered. It was lovely. And then twenty minutes later the same train manager announced that the train was now going only as far as Cardiff and we’d have to wait for an hour until a connection to Swansea. The mood soured and everyone reverted to type and began swearing about the rubbish service) with the intention of making a very short film about a man who performs the Duchess of Malfi to himself in his head, and to to spend some time working on the script for the Swansea Project.

Being August in Climate Change Britain meant that it poured with rain for the duration of my stay and so the “Malfi” project was binned and instead we talked and talked about the idea that was to become “High Tide”. It became clear pretty quickly that a short film was not going to be sufficient to properly render the idea in the way we wanted so with expressions of fear and wonder we decided that it needed to be feature film.

We then played a very competitive round of pitch and put golf (and you’ve never seen a pair of more unlikely golfers), overcame a few plot problems and then drank lots of wine during a showing of Miami Vice. A film that Jimmy adores and calls its many detractors “witless arseholes” or suchlike.

And then I went to France for three weeks and wrote the screenplay. My progress each day was perused and improved by Jimmy in daily feedback sessions and well, we ended up with something of which we are both very proud.

So there you go. High Tide is going to be our new film. There is staggeringly large amount of work still to do before we even get to the shooting stage, let alone the shoot itself and the post-production, distribution etc etc. But for this one very brief moment, we are going to allow ourselves to pause, reflect on what we’ve achieved to get even this far and be quietly pleased.

And then we need to get back to it.

More as and when I have things to report. And probably even when I don’t.

P.S. – I have spent some minutes trying to extract a photo of one our locations from document that we made for a production meeting. But I have failed so here is a video of Ride playing “Sennen” from the aforementioned Today Forever EP. Enjoy the pasty-faced, floppy-haired aesthetic of every jangling second!