Latest from Catherine Bray

(36 articles)

Fright Bites: Shortcut Q&A

We sat down with Prano Bailey-Bond to hear about her terrifying Fright Bites short Shortcut, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd,  just in time for Halloween…

Shortcut, starring Danny Devall

Shortcut, starring Danny Devall

So tell us about where the idea for this short came from? It’s about a nightmarish comeuppance for a cheating boyfriend…

Ok – I’m going to attempt to answer this without giving away the film’s ending… Conrad Ford, who wrote the script, told me that he had always wanted to write a film in which someone has this ‘end’, which I thought was a pretty exciting starting point. Also the road sign – a powerful red-rimmed warning sign, which could pose a question in the audience’s mind… What really drew me to the script was its twisted sense of humour and the way it plays with our expectations. I interpreted it as being a kind of dreamlike revenge fantasy, which felt like a refreshing, modern take on the horror genre.

Almost the entire short is set in a car – did that present any shooting challenges?

It certainly did! It was a one-day shoot and a tight budget, which made shooting in a moving vehicle an enormous challenge. Shooting on a low-loader was out of the question as it would have cost us too much time and budget. The main character, Kurt, is driving quite dangerously; texting, not looking at the road etc, so we really had to consider safety when shooting as well. I made the decision quite early on to shoot the interior car scenes static – I guess you could call this the old-fashioned way! It’s actually a really cool way of shooting, and means you don’t have the whole crew working on the back of a moving lorry, having to re-set vehicle positions etc every time you go for a take, which can really eat into your schedule. Shooting static presents other challenges though, such as creating a sense of movement and travel. So we used moving lights, revolving trees, composited VFX and sound design to sell this idea. This fused quite well with the overall look of the film, which has a slightly stylised feel; surreal and dreamlike, perhaps hinting towards what Sunshine is dreaming about, and how that ties in with the narrative.

The prosthetics work is quite brutal and wince-inducing – who did you work with to get that effect?

Ha! Good. I worked with Dan Martin – a special effects wizard – on the prosthetics. He crafted it and our amazing SFX Make Up artist Ruth Pease was on set to operate it. I worked with Dan on my last short film NASTY. He’s worked on some amazing titles like Sightseers, Human Centipede 2, Nina Forever, High Rise – it’s always an honour to work with Dan. Again, I don’t want to give away the ending of the film, but I’ve never had so many, um, ‘unique’ conversations about that part of the body as I have working on this film. Dan and I had some very interesting chats, and I ended up on some pretty intriguing blogs too. Another first for me on Shortcut was one of the crew members accidentally being urinated on in the mouth during one of the takes – fake urine luckily. It was a fun shoot, intense, but this aspect was brilliantly fun.

Prano Bailey-Bond

Prano Bailey-Bond

Follow @pranobaileybond  / www.pranobaileybond.com

Fright Bites: producer Q&A

We sat down with series producer Fiona Lamptey from Film4 to hear about terrifying new short-form series Fright Bites, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd, just in time for Halloween.

Fiona Lamptey from Film4 / Fruit Tree Media

Fiona Lamptey from Film4 / Fruit Tree Media

Tell us about this new strand – what can we expect?

Fright Bites are six short horror films that make the perfect online Halloween snack, perfect for your commute to work or other down-time, but perhaps not when walking alone down a dark alley by yourself… ha! What I love about this year’s selection is how different they all are and how some play on our most basic fears. When I think about the films that scare me the most it’s when the ‘monster’ is recognizable – that person you pass on the street, the intruder…

Some of the films explore this type of fear and others border on the more traditional ‘monster in the dark’ but with a truly unique twist. I promise they will get your heartbeat going – but don’t worry you’ll be able to function for the rest of the day.

How did you go about sourcing the scripts and directors – was it people you’d always wanted to work with, or a case of trying to find exciting new voices?

Initially Film4 development execs Eva Yates, Celine Coulson and I looked for filmmakers we had come across over the years or had watched their films and knew they would be brilliant for the strand. We cast the net as wide as we could with the majority of talent being new talent to Film4. Film4 are always on the look out for new exciting voices and people that Film4 / Channel 4 could go on to build a relationship with. And personally, I’m always on the lookout for a way to put my production management and producing skills to good use.

My production company Fruit Tree Media (as the name might suggest) was set up with the intention to nurture emerging filmmaking talent, so when I was brought on to produce it was a great opportunity to invest in a great bunch of talented individuals.

Tell us a bit about the production process.

It was crazy. Mostly enjoyable but intense. We had a month to pull all the films together and although from my very first meeting with the talent I could tell they were brilliant I didn’t know much about their quirks – for example, were they fast shooters, or directors who were more considered and liked more time to think things through? – so that was the most difficult task I think I had to overcome in the beginning. It sounds obvious now but I had to treat them as individuals, as they all wanted or needed different things from me at any given point. However once we got a momentum going and locations confirmed I felt like we were on our way.

Crewing was another stumbling block as I was keen to ensure the shorts were a new talent vehicle not just for the core creative team but the crew working behind the camera too. I am glad to say we had a crew from all walks of life, with different levels of experience in front and behind the camera, on these shorts – and every single one of them made it all possible. It was pure magic. I also couldn’t have done this without the help of Francesca Chen and Tristan Cope – who went beyond the call of duty. We have some great memories! Of course I’ve made it sound like the most smooth-sailing production ever, I just don’t want to bore you about the long days, broken lifts, dysfunctional urine pumps, fire alarms and lighting worries. I’ll save that for another time.

Fright Bites will be available to view on All4 from 22nd October.

Catherine Bray’s picks for the London Film Festival 2016

Sacha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold's American Honey

Sacha Lane stars in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey

This year, narrowing down my list of picks from the London Film Festival’s stellar line up has proven even more difficult than usual – there’s such a wealth of potential riches in the 2016 line-up. My colleague Michael has also contributed his picks, so for more top choices, click here – as usual, we’ve had to fight it out over some titles. Here are the 19 I managed to bag – in alphabetical order…

All This Panic, dir. Jenny Gage

I’m a sucker for an intimate coming-of-age movie, and All This Panic, which arrives in London with great buzz out of Tribeca, is exactly that in observational documentary form, filmed over three years in Brooklyn and focusing on two sisters, Ginger and Dusty, as they navigate the perils of high school politics and teen angst.

American Honey, dir. Andrea Arnold

When Andrea Arnold’s freewheeling road movie (which embeds us within a motley crew of young drifters as they travel the US scratching a living) premiered at Cannes, I was expecting many things, but not a show-stopping scene in a supermarket set to Rihanna’s We Found Love. For that – and other reasons – I can’t wait to revisit.

Divines, dir. Houda Benyamina

Divines snuck up on me. To begin with, it felt like a fairly unremarkable girls-in-the-hood yarn, but as the characters bedded in, I found myself swept up in the energy and emotion of the piece. I’m keen to see if a second viewing can replicate that rush.

Elle, dir. Paul Verhoeven

Of all the films on my list, this is the one. This is the one that I have an urgent need to re-watch which amounts to an almost physical itch. Tough, dangerous, funny, graceful, horrifying, mischievous, mortifying, it flies along on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Isabelle Huppert – or indeed anyone else. (Bonus content: there’s also a Paul Verhoeven ScreenTalk scheduled – expect provocations.)

La La Land, dir. Damien Chazelle

The raves greeting the world premiere of La La Land at the Venice Film Festival suggest that Damien Chazelle has not only equalled his breakout hit Whiplash, but may actually have surpassed it. Throw an appealing cast into the mix in the form of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and this could be one of the LFF’s most satisfying offerings.

Lady Macbeth, dir. William Oldroyd

Word has it that Lady Macbeth is the film that will elevate the likeable Florence Pugh to the status of bona fide star, in what is reportedly a thrillingly effective period drama driven by passion and infidelity.

LFF Connects: Television – Black Mirror
Black Mirror is one of the most exciting small screen shows of the past five years, so I’m raring to see creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, plus Joe Wright (who directs the first episode of the new series), discuss the dystopian series live.

Manchester by the Sea, dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler, Manchester By The Sea is only Kenneth Lonergan’s third film as a director. Following on from the lush epic that was Margaret, if it’s even half as good as that film, it will be well worth your time.

Mindhorn, dir. Sean Foley

Julian Barratt is MI5 Special Operative Bruce Mindhorn, who has a super-advanced optical lie detector in place of his left eye, enabling him to literally “see the truth.” Sold.

Nocturnal Animals, dir. Tom Ford

Whether you loved or loathed director Tom Ford’s glossy high-end commercial aesthetic in A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals will be worth a watch. An adaptation of Tony & Susan, a strange and compelling art house page-turner of a novel, the book’s meta-textual thriller structure should provide Ford’s visual flourishes with a more robust underlying skeleton.

Planetarium, dir. Rebecca Zlotowski

Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central was a memorable Un Certain Regard entry for me in 2013, with scorching hot chemistry between leads Tahar Rahim and Léa Seydoux. Her follow-up, Planetarium, was anticipated as a likely Cannes entry this year and didn’t make an appearance, so I’m now extra curious to see what a combination of Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp and supernatural shenanigans in pre-war France can offer up.

Prevenge, dir. Alice Lowe

Dating back to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Alice Lowe has always been a talent to watch, but the electrifying response from those who’ve already seen her directorial debut about a pregnant serial killer in which she also stars suggests she’s about to take it to a whole new level…

Raw, dir. Julia Durcournau

This is one I’ve already seen, but am chomping at the bit to see again. Grisly cannibal horror meets campus hijinks in a Suspiria-esque hermetically-sealed universe, where logic bends and warps as a freshman student finds herself acquiring a taste for human flesh. A must-see.

Safari, dir. Ulrich Seidl

After training an unflinching lens on the frequently bizarre goings on in Austrian basements in off-beat doc In The Basement, Ulrich Seidl brings his darkly humorous formality and impeccable composition to the world of big game trophy hunting, in what is likely to be one of the most upsetting watches of the festival.

The 13th, dir. Ava DuVernay

Tracing the history of racial prejudice in the US justice system, Ava DuVernay’s The 13th couldn’t be tackling a more timely subject. The title refers to the 13th amendment, which supposedly outlaws slavery, but contains the notable get out clause: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, dir. André Øvredal

A corpse is perfectly preserved on the outside – but inside, is dissected and burned in a possibly ritualistic mutilation. It’s a grisly, gripping set-up that evokes small screen procedurals like Hannibal, a show I’ve still yet to find an effective replacement for in my TV viewing. Perhaps this will do the trick.

The Ghoul, dir. Gareth Tunley

A splendidly twisty low-budget head-scratcher from actor-turned-writer-director Gareth Tunley, The Ghoul is an auspicious debut that announces a new voice in British filmmaking. Get in on the ground floor and catch his debut now.

Toni Erdmann, dir. Maren Ade

This three hour German comedy came completely out of the left field for me when I saw it in May. There’s very little about it on paper that hints at quite how glorious, moving and funny it is – it’s a real one-off, with everything from broad comic set-pieces to heart-wrenching father-daughter bonding. Essential.

Una, dir. Benedict Andrews

After her performance in Carol last year, I will watch literally anything with Rooney Mara in, but it doesn’t hurt that the Film4-backed Una also stars the ever-brilliant Ben Mendelsohn and is based on the acclaimed play Blackbird.

 

Animal magic: a shorts round-up from the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival

24 Jun, 2016 Posted in: Festivals, Opinion

Catherine Bray rounds up some of the most interesting shorts from the 70th edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Before Love

Before Love

If the shorts I saw at Edinburgh this year had any sort of unifying theme, it might have been the projection of humanity into non-human spaces.

An experimental German short, Anome, from Lena Nissen, opens with a shot of a cat, staring impassively, the way cats do. It is used in a similar way to the cat in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, a feature film which opens with a gorgeous, well-fed pet cat staring emotionlessly as its owner (Isabelle Huppert) is raped on the floor of the apartment she and the cat both inhabit. In Anome, voiceover accompanying the image of the unblinking cat, asks:  “What do you think? Are you the evil? Or am I?”

Humans can’t keep themselves from constantly projecting human concepts onto cats, other animals and even inanimate objects – it’s one of those few traits that characterizes us as human. In Anushka Naanayakkar’s moodily affecting animated EIFF short, A Love Story, we find ourselves adrift in a world of textured wool, but the emotional tapestry into which we’re drawn is as resonant as the same narrative would be when played out by human actors. It’s a simple tale: two somewhat abstract woollen faces interact, become close and are threatened by an outside force, perhaps a parasite or simply evil itself. It’s a narrative we infer (or project) from non-human clues: the rich color palette, the eerie music, the reactions of the two faces.

Batrachian’s Ballad, from Leonor Teles, flips this dynamic on its head: instead of alien imagery made human through its presentation, the imagery is largely human and non-narrative – saturated archive footage of faces, gatherings, dancing and so on.

In counterpoint, a narrator relays an animal fable of a frog, shunned by its contemporaries before blowing poison all over them in an act of self-destruction. Among other things, it’s a reminder of the way that sometimes humans can only bear to understand their own behaviour through parables extracted from the animal kingdom.

It reminded me of the cockerel and finch sequences in six hour Miguel Gomes’ masterpiece Arabian Nights (though if you’re in a hurry, Teles’ short might serve you better at under twenty minutes).

Speaking of masterpieces, for me the crown jewel in the shorts programme was Russian animation entry Before Love, which illuminated and interrogated the human behaviours of infidelity, love, jealousy and murder in a murky, animalistic fashion in which an urban landscape (fleshed out vividly with on-point sound design) pulses like a jungle full of suppressed impulses.

A mordant feeling that civilization hangs by a thread pervaded the piece, fulfilling its promise in stormy, beautifully-lit violence as the piece neared its climax. Props to director Igor Kovalyov.

The EIFF runs 15th – 26th June 2016

 

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Five questions for Jim Gillespie

22 Jun, 2016 Posted in: Directors, Edinburgh, Festivals, Interview

We grabbed five minutes with Jim Gillespie after his Edinburgh International Film Festival directing masterclass to put five burning questions to the man behind I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose Channel 4/BFI short Joyride helped launch his career.

Joyride

Joyride

1. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the film industry since you made your Channel 4/BFI short, Joyride?

The rise of the “tent pole” movie to the exclusion of all those (often great) mid budget thrillers and dramas that used to make for a variety of choice for the audience.

2. What would you change about the film industry if you could?

The lack of risk taking and the current bias towards only financing projects based on existing IP. Original stories need to encouraged, irrespective of genre.

3. Which of your own films would you place in a time capsule for future generations and why?

Unquestionably I Know What You Did Last Summer. It hit one of those zeitgeist moments where the intended audience “got it” irrespective of any critical reaction. The title became part of the cultural ether of the time (still is), and being spoofed by The Simpsons (I Know What You Iddly-Diddly Did) was the ultimate compliment. That said, I hope my next film, Deep State (no, can’t tell you what it’s about yet) will replace it in the capsule.

4. Which other director’s body of work would you preserve for posterity and why?

The almost impossible question to answer! So many great filmmakers to preserve: Hitchcock, Wyler, Lean, Sturges, Hawks, and that’s just one small slice of one generation. But I think I’ll plump for Kurosawa. A master (in every sense) of humor, action and (most importantly) humanity. Ikiru is just a timeless classic – one of many in his body of work.

5. What’s the biggest creative risk you’ve ever taken?

Moving to Los Angeles with little more than my 10min short Joyride tucked into my bag, searching for an opportunity to tell stories on film. Changed my life.

Jim’s latest film Take Down is in cinemas 22nd August

 

by Catherine Bray

Catherine is a film journalist and Editorial Director of Film4 Online. She is also the producer of feature documentaries Beyond Clueless and Fear Itself and short film Blackout.

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