A Little Light Housekeeping…

How self-indulgently virtuous we felt coming into the new year.

After the first bank holiday in January, we’d be better writers, better people. We’d finish projects, shed kilos and tighten all the loose rivets on our suspension bridge to screenwriting glory. But after the first bank holiday in January came alphabetical storms, the close-circle pandemic of occupational demotivation and the empty promise of the spinach and turmeric smoothie.

Now that everyone’s back on the booze and bacon, however, we’re all ready to talk, work and chivvy things along.

First up for us was a little light housekeeping. Yes, it’s nice to plough on with new projects and buff developing ideas and narratives to a high comic shine, but sometimes we have to break out the dusting cloths and that oxidised can of Mr. Sheen to make sure our existing stock sparkles just as brightly. Have we updated the status of our ongoing film projects…? Do our loglines and project titles reflect recent changes in our edited drafts…? Are the links to our partner posts and film trailers still valid…? Most importantly, have we said anything at all about the cracking new comic shorts we’re looking to film later in the year…?!?

On that last point, we’re putting the finishing script touches on Bad Korma, a second darkly comic short based on incidents and characters featuring in our long-form gangster flick Happy Birthday Mrs. Shine. Like Snug As A Bug which came before it, Bad Korma has been bookended to showcase the funnies of the larger work while also working as a standalone comedy. We’re also working with the same production team behind Snug, so we know that they’ll have considerable knowledge of the comedy DNA running through all three associated projects.

BAD KORMA

Small-time gangsters Curly and Su are called out to the boss’s country manor unexpectedly. Nothing necessarily complicated in that… except their boss is the psychotically unhinged Reg Caesar, there’s a half-dead guy tied to a chair in the garden and there’s a curry for lunch that’ll burn through sheet steel. A comic tale of terror, flat cats and minty yoghurt.

Another project waiting for better weather is Mirror, Signal… MANOEUVRE!, a comic short about a dysfunctional driving test in an uncooperative car. Having had the idea, written the script and had it snapped up by a passing director (all in the space of a few weeks…), we completely forgot to register it as a project in progress on any of our public forums!

Can’t shout about it if you’re keeping mum…

Needless to say we’ve finally got round to getting our website house in better order – you’ll see the results if you navigate around. We promise not to leave it so long next time [note to self: buy more loo cleaner].

‘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…

 

‘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.

‘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.

Making ‘Making A Killing’ – Part 2…

Second part of Rich’s reminiscences about the filming of our dark comedy short ‘Making A Killing.’

*****

Part II: Production

So, having cleaned my house from top to bottom—at least, the parts that hadn’t been artfully trashed to dress the set—and having just checked that the insurance was up-to-date and likely to cover bizarre unforeseeables, I opened my door at the frankly unreasonable time of 6.30am as the crew started to arrive…and kept arriving…and, good grief, are they all going to fit in my house? And the equipment! Black box after black box was loaded in, so much that I began to wonder I hadn’t also signed up for a Metallica gig after the wrap.

But it fitted, it got set up and we got underway. Adrian and Tiff went upstairs for costume, hair and makeup (one of my children’s bedrooms being commandeered for this purpose) and we were ready for the first shot. Director James deemed the daylight ‘perfect,’ (personally I like to believe our producer Rosie had fixed it—she thinks of everything), and we were out of the drive for the opening sequence of the film. The fact that this coincided with the school run to the local primary school only added to the lively buzz of activity around the driveway, as mothers with buggies and inquisitive toddlers all stopped to gawp. Within minutes, my phone was fizzing with messages from friends on the Gossip Grapevine wanting to know why a film crew was outside my house. Favourite comments included:

“I hope you’re not going on Come Dine With Me. Your cooking sucks.”

“Little Daisy just started stage school – do you need any elves or angels…?”

“Is that Crimewatch? Are you the reason my cat went missing?”

Like the pros they are, cast and crew took it all in their stride and we got shots dunked in cans without having to tell anyone to piss off or terrorise any young scamps. Win! After that, back inside, with the rest of the production being indoor scenes.

Now, my gaff isn’t tiny, but when packed with cast, crew and kit at times it felt packed tighter than the leather trousers on the collective Village People. Standout moment was when 6 crew all squeezed into my bathroom (including soundman Simon who had to lie on the floor out of shot whilst holding his mic) whilst a smoke machine filled the room to give it a ‘steamy’ atmosphere. Ah, the magic of the movies…

Cooked food for 20 people. (chilli and rice—always keep it simple). I piled them with snacks* and drinks. I made sure I turned my noisy kettle off when 1st AD Pedro called ‘Action.’ I gazed in awe as the cast and crew turned our script into something real. I learned how important it is to retain your inner Zen whilst a film crew stomps around your house. I cleaned the loo after a day of use by 20 people filled to bursting with chilli and rice and cleaned/prepared the house for day 2 of filming. Never let it be said we’re not writers who are willing to get our hands dirty to get our scripts produced. Literally. (God bless you, makers of Cillit Bang and hand sanitiser).

Day 2: as above, but more tired, more cooking, (chicken and veg pasta this time), more snacks** and drinks and more laughs. Again, we had a brilliant time. Tiff and Adrian were on top form throughout, and James, Rosie and the team were on top of their game. Andy and I mostly just stood watching it all unfold, with huge grins on our faces. Except for one sequence of shots where we needed to pitch in. Both of us burly guys, James had us standing six feet apart—both out of shot—holding a metal lighting pole between us. Adrian gamely hung from the pole so we could get a shot of his legs kicking, as if suspended. (To say any more would be SPOILERIZING). Again, the magic of the movies…

Before we knew it, it was a wrap. We applauded our cast from the set and within an hour all those people and all those boxes of kit were gone. There ain’t much that moves faster than a film crew with a pub to grace.

Andy and I chinked a couple of bottles of beer and enjoyed the moment. Important to do that. Writing is a lonely business even with a co-writer and being involved on-set throughout a shoot of ones of our scripts was a real privilege. A year on we are both still chuffed, awed, humbled and EXTREMELY GRATEFUL to everyone for everything they put into the shoot. Can’t tell you what a delight it is to work with a professional crew that knew how to adapt, be creative and do what was needed to get each shot done.

They did so without grumbling (ok, a little grumbling but nothing that couldn’t be fixed by beers and pizza) and without trashing my house. Our heartfelt thanks once more for all their professionalism, dedication and effort — all of it shows through in the film. It was fun, guys, wasn’t it?

Guys…?

*****

April/May 2019, and all the challenges were worth it. (And my house remains intact). We had a great launch night in September last year with a screening at the BFI, attended by our cast and crew and industry folks including screenwriter Jonathan Ames, (the man behind HBO’s outstanding comedy ‘Bored To Death’ starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson). Great to chat with him (he loved the film!) as well as other contributors we had yet to meet (shout out to our editor Will Peverett and composer Dina Liberg of Universal Music, in particular). Fun times.

Fingers crossed it gets the attention we believe it deserves. Currently, the finished film’s doing the rounds of various broadcast channels and production platforms, to strong positive acclaim from the comedy commissioners at BBC, Channel 4 and Sky. Eventually, once all the industry folk have had the chance to cast their beadies over it, we’ll post it somewhere on the interwebs for all to see, which means YOU too will be able to behold its full glory. Exciting!

 

***************************************************************************

 

Snacks breakdown:

* Filming Day 1: crisps (demolished); doughnuts (gone within seconds); fruit (largely untouched). Note: film crews are NOT to be fed after midnight. Do not ignore this warning. They can wreak havoc on a small-town community in mere hours.

** Filming Day 2: crisps, doughnuts and cookies (all eviscerated as if swarmed by ravenous locusts); same fruit from day before (binned).