‘Making A Killing’ The Winningest Comic Short At Iron Mule, NY!

The Iron Mule was a 1925 silent film directed by Fatty Arbuckle and produced by Buster Keaton. In it, an early steam locomotive – the “Twenty-Cent Limited” – puffs and blunders its way through the American interior with a hotchpotch of weird and wonderful passengers and a highly capable and endlessly harassed engineer. Cattle get in the way. Horses won’t do as they’re told. Tunnels aren’t tall enough. The locomotive escapes. Everyone falls acrobatically off something at least once.

It’s actually quite a hoot.

As is The Iron Mule Short Comedy Film Festival, running out of New York since 2002. We were hoping to get 2020 off to a flyer, so imagine the degree of chuffed-to-bits-ness we were elevated to when we heard that Iron Mule would be screening Making A Killing at their event on 6 January.

MAK Iron Mule

It then transpired that one of our fabulous leads, Tiff Stevenson, would be in New York that week promoting her latest tour. Being a thoroughly good egg all round, she offered to attend the screening and take part in a Q&A. And if that wasn’t reason enough to see in the decade with a throaty ‘huzzah’, Making A Killing left the building with the Audience Favourite Award!

All while I was sat on the A25 in the early hours waiting for my engine to pack up…

 

The (Occasionally) Long, Long Game Of Script To Screen

There’s a long-standing tradition in rep theatres that new members of the stage crew are regularly sent on fools errands for the entertainment of the older hands. A particular favourite at the Oxford Playhouse was to take an eager-to-please, green behind the gills freshman to one side and tell him that, since they were short of gear for the forthcoming run, would he mind awfully popping across to the Apollo for a ‘long weight’? They’ll know what you’re talking about…

For most people who don’t immediately feel their leg being pulled, it usually dawns on them before they’ve walked out the stage door… I, on the other hand, once sat in the green room of the Apollo Oxford for nearly 2 hours.

At the very least, it prepped me for dealing with long periods of inactivity.

Last month, we received a message entirely out of the blue from a filmmaker in Glasgow informing us that he’d just finished shooting our dark comic short Time Of The Month. We were very pleased to hear this and not a little surprised, since the progress monitor on the project had entirely flatlined at the beginning of 2017. It’d been 32 months since anyone had breathed a word about Time Of The Month.

It didn’t seem to matter now. As the filmmakers themselves put it, they’d wrapped filming “after just three-and-a-half short years of pre-production.” They’re very excited. We saw some stills – we’re very excited too.

Having been fortunate enough to see a number of projects materialise in a short space of time (2 low-budget and 4 no-budget flicks during that 32-month lag, for the record…), we’re now looking back on how we’ve been learning to manage the more regular long, long game. The short answer is ‘pretty well’.

Tempering expectations has been key to ensuring we don’t spend our time wearing an impatient groove in the carpet waiting for Skype to burst into life. Having someone latch on to a thing you’ve written is like being on square one of a board filled with great long anaconda-like snakes and one or two rickety ladders. Intention is also by no means an indication of capacity: the first enthusiastic discussions about shooting Time Of The Month actually took place in the middle of 2015.

The right thing to do was to keep our plates spinning, finish other projects, take on new briefs and do as much as we could to promote our scripts and films. NOT fixating on Time Of The Month and NOT reacting negatively to a long period of inactivity actually helped turn 2019 into something of a ‘bonus’ year as writing commitments and project developments made it unlikely that we’d have a film to show for it.

Now we do. And that’s lovely.

‘Making A Killing’ Selected For Austin Comedy Short Film Festival!

More great Stateside plaudits for ‘Making A Killing’ as our latest comedy short gets an airing at the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival in Austin, TX.

With Texas being 27,000 times the size of the UK, however, local cinemagoers really had to pull out the stops to make the screening on time: many of those who were unable to afford the high-speed Saturn V shuttle service, for example, clubbed together for coaches and car shares which set off in early April. Indeed, Texas is so big, you can see their pizzas from space.

Austin CSFF

Joking aside (although I did once have a Sloppy Giuseppe at a 24-hour pizza parlour in Galveston which was picked up by the Hubble Telescope…), it’s fantastic to make landfall at a festival like this and a pleasure to see our celluloid baby in such fine comedic company. We would’ve made the journey too, but there’s only so long we can be out of the country before our wives can legally declare us dead…

 

‘Making A Killing’ Makes Landfall At The Iceland Comedy Film Festival…!

It didn’t take long for our dark comedy short ‘Making A Killing’ to land a hit – a very palpable hit – on the festival circuit. Indeed it managed to on its first public outing – step forward the Iceland Comedy Film Festival 2019!

With star turns from comedian Tiff Stevenson and Adrian Stevenson (fresh from a sinister stint as Raymond in ‘Killing Eve’), we never doubted it would turn a satisfying number of selector heads once we started finding rings to throw its hat into.

Of course we’re over the moon to secure a festival pick so early in the run, but we’re especially blown away by the setting for this year’s festival in Flateyri – the ‘Hollywood of the North’ where around half the population are involved in filmmaking. Sure that’s half of around 200 people, but what a place for a film festival…!

Situated in the Northwest of Iceland, Flateyri reinvented itself after a catastrophic avalanche in 1995 that destroyed homes and left 20 people dead. The 2008 financial crisis did for much of the fishing industry there, but the 4th consecutive ICFF demonstrates that the hardships of recent years appear to have little effect on the community’s determination and collective humour. Indeed, it smacks very much of how Sundance revived the declining fortunes of Park City, Utah, all those years ago.

Flateyri boasts the oldest shop in Iceland! There’s kayaking and sea angling, the International Doll Museum and a café called Bryggjukaffi… which sounds just like ‘bring your coffee’!

Though it probably doesn’t mean that at all! Particularly as international linguists routinely peg Icelandic as the most difficult language in the world to learn!

We’re super-stoked to be invited. It’s also a timely reminder to us to continue to acknowledge the fantastic work of director James Debenham, producer Rosie Wells, the good people at Platform Post and Universal Music and everyone else who threw their lot in with this project.

We hope there’s more to come.

Breaking The Hiatus Status…

Time to break free of the ‘busy summer’ shackles and talk about some stuff.

Despite the relative lack of blog activity in the last couple of months, we haven’t been lazing on our laurels. No sir:

  • Our latest dark comedy short ‘Making A Killing’ began its festival run. It’s always a long-distance undertaking, but we’re confident it’ll be an eye-bulging, fist-pumping, Sebastian Coe-type affair rather than a poor-old-Peter-Elliott lace-tangling face-planter. Obviously this reference requires more than a cursory knowledge of British middle-distance runners over the last 35 years…
  • We finished a pilot for a period drama ‘The Beautiful Time’, a dark Belle Epoque-era epic with plot threads more intricately woven than Elton John’s hairpiece. Grand conspiracies, mesmeric murders and business giants shadier than Robert Maxwell… which requires more than a cursory knowledge of British businessmen who have fallen naked from yachts in the last 35 years…
  • We also finished a comedy pilot for ‘Papers, Sweets and Cigarettes’, a sitcom documenting the sedentary misadventures of two friends running a kiosk. Nothing much happens, save for the daily round of loons, weirdos and lofty pipe dreams – with nary a Granville or Nurse Gladys Emmanuel in sight… which requires more than a cursory knowledge of classic British sitcoms set in shops from the last 35-40 years…

So if you’re so busy writing, why don’t I ever see you holding a pen…?

***pulls face midway between constipation and renal colic***

We’ve been to the Edinburgh Festival. We’ve planted story seeds elsewhere for others to water and watch over. We’ve laid the foundations for a-million-and-one other potential writing projects whilst biffing on endlessly about the bloody cricket.

So don’t come at us with ‘that look’ – there’s some exciting news coming…

‘Snug’ Screening At Peckhamplex Cinema, London, May 20th…

Nice to be picked for stuff, isn’t it?

I’ve always been one of life’s yinners-and-yangers, somehow always believing that the regular-dose bitter pills of ‘Yin’ would eventually be rounded out by the sugar sweetness of a family-sized Cadbury’s ‘Yang’ bar.

Well the Yang bars are on ME, Mr. Primary-School-PE-Teacher-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten, 40-odd years after being benched indefinitely for failing to understand the rules of the game and scoring a spectacular 20-yard own-goal against local rivals Russell Lower School, then doing it again virtually from the kick-off…!! How many award-winning short films will YOU be showing at Peckhamplex Cinema, London on May 20th, huh?

Yeah, thought so…

Our mucky, ruggy comic short ‘Snug As A Bug’ will be screening at Peckhamplex as part of an evening of short film dedicated to the theme of ‘crime’. Thank-you Yang for your chocolatey goodness and for ending 40 years of footballing hurt.

I really hope my primary school PE teacher doesn’t show up.

https://www.peckhamplex.london/film/short-film-night-crime-20-05-19

4 Screenings (And A Funeral, Sadly)

The whole point of making films is to make them well and get them in front of audiences…

…and we’ve been doing that, mostly around the Dick Whittington gold-paved conurbation of coolness that is London, our local-ish ‘manor’. Most recently, we were invited to screen our dark comedy ‘Snug As A Bug’ at the Wimbledon Film Club, located at Merton Arts Centre, as part of an evening of shorts touching on the theme of ‘crime’. Snug fits squarely, or rather snugly, into that category since it features a corpse being lugged around town by a pair of hapless, hopeless, low-level lowlifes. A small but engaged audience watched 5 films in total and Snug drew out the ‘lols’ all the right places. Lots of good questions in the Q&A too.

[NB. shout-out to another short screened that evening: ‘Good Morning Alice.’ Both of us thought it was very well scripted and performed—written and directed by Matthew Stacey].

Next up was the Emerging Filmmakers event, which asked to screen our supernatural thriller-chillerBetweenfor an evening of similar short shoots. Filmed last summer on a micro-budget (you can’t get more ‘micro’ than £0…), it came out well, with Director Louise Galizia of Cue Pictures and DOP Caroline Bridges translating the quiet tension and enigma of the predominantly dialogue-free script into an edgy, atmospheric and engaging short. The audience responded positively and Andy, together with Louise and lead actor Georgina Blackledge, went along to present the film and answer questions from the audience. Great to circulate and chinwag with folks after too—definitely a lively and enthusiastic network of filmmakers to be part of.

And at the end of March, we had the great privilege to be screened at the gala finale of the Crystal Palace International Film Festival—one of the largest annual new film events in London (actually in the country, we’ve since been informed). Either way, we were chuffed to chuffing bits to have Snug not only being shown at a gala awards event which closed the festival but NOMINATED FOR BLINKIN’ AWARD TO BOOT! Yes, we were up with 4 other films nominated in the Best Comedy category, (including feature film The Bromley Boys which went on to win the festival’s Best Feature award). Just breaking in to as strong a field as that was frankly reward enough, though the champagne and canapés added a sozzled-and-replete tummy bonus to the whole affair. The only thing that could’ve been more of a win for us would’ve been…an actual win. Despite making our blood sacrifice to the Elder Gods of Dark Comedy under a full moon just off the M6 toll road, we returned gong-less, though there was absolutely no shame in losing to the feature film Kill Ben Lyk.

Thoroughly ego-buffing to be nominated though, and the real takeaway from this and other screenings is that the film (and all the creative skills of our cast/crew) are getting positive attention.

Fast-forward to May and another screening of Snug is in the offing at the rather fabulous Peckhamplex cinema in South-East London. We’ll be there to front our pungent, pugnacious little pup on the 20th and look forward to meeting other writers and filmmakers on the bill. Come along if you fancy…

It seems strange to end on a sad note, but during this string of screenings and happy evenings thumping the tub for our various creations, we lost our good friend Anna to cancer at the dreadfully early age of 44. Despite her illness, Anna and her husband Nick expressed interest in, supported and helped finance our filmmaking efforts, something we’ll always be grateful for. There are no silver linings to losing a friend, but with a raft of screening invitations, an award nomination, some VERY nice feedback for our film ‘Making A Killing’ from several major TV channels and another script attracting the interest of a new director, we can’t help thinking she’s out there somewhere, putting in a good word with someone important.

Cheers, luv.