Guest blog

My FrightFest 2014 highlights: preview

Film4 FrightFest’s Alan Jones on the horror festival’s move to the Vue Cinema and his own personal highlights of this year’s festival, running from 21st – 25th August 2014 in Leicester Square.

The Guest starring Dan Stevens

The Guest starring Dan Stevens

I’m not afraid to admit that Film4 FrightFest’s move to the Vue cinema Leicester Square has given me sleepless nights. I mean, we had everything at the Empire running smoothly… but their redevelopment plans meant we had to uproot ourselves and literally start from scratch. Because that’s what making our new home at the Vue has entailed – from management understanding what the FrightFest community is all about, to ensuring their staff were on board in terms of mind-set and approach. It took the Empire 12 months to fully appreciate our ethos and here we were again facing the same early questions like “What do you mean people queue up for 48 hours before the tickets go on sale?” and “But where do we put all these goodie bags?”

For die-hard FrightFesters though it’s par for the course on the 15-year long haul from the Prince Charles to the two Odeon West Ends and then the Empire. But this 2014 change is markedly different because for the first time the main films will be split over three auditoria, rather than just a massive one, with our much-loved Discovery and retrospective strands expanding into larger spaces. So we knew going into this August Bank Holiday’s event that we would have to ensure the programme choices were about as tip-top as we could get to help soothe any misgivings about losing the FrightFest essence. I think we’ve done that. Our line-up is always highly anticipated and the feedback so far suggests we’ve hit all the want-to-see bases. Hopefully job done and everyone can now relax in their new comfortable surroundings to watch the best examples of what the genre can offer.

The Samurai

The Samurai

Speaking personally, my list of absolute must-sees is topped by Till Kleinert’s superb The Samurai, which I keep describing to people as Dressed To Kill through a Jorg Buttgereit filter because I so want people to respond to its extreme slasher gore and playful homo-erotic subtext. Kleinert is such a horror fan, and it shows, and he’s already said he wants to attend the entire festival. Another stunner is William Eubank’s quite astonishing The Signal, which I found enigmatically mesmerizing and unusually resonant in thematic terms. Closing with an all-stops-out science fiction fantasy is unusual for FrightFest but when people witness the final five minutes, they’ll understand why we chose it.

I must also mention our terrific opener The Guest, which is one of the best horror thrillers of the year and features a break-out performance by Dan Stevens that I can only liken to the one Julia Roberts had in Pretty Woman. No, honestly! And for those who loved Inside, but thought Livid was a disappointment, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s Among The Living will restore your faith in French shockers with its daring concept and wonderful studio backlot setting. Must mention Home, Housebound, X Moor and Doc Of The Dead… too many, in fact, to do justice to. Best people just come along and find out for themselves.

Find out more about FrightFest 2014 and buy tickets


The Dos and Don’ts of making your first feature

15 May, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Guest blog

As her award-winning debut feature Concussion hits UK cinema screens, writer-director Stacie Passon runs through her top 10 tips for making your first feature film.

Screen Shot 2012-01-25 at 11.32.12 AM | Jan 25

1.  DO a few things every day to get you closer to the TRUTH. Go on that scout. Put in those LLC papers. Do an alternative budget. Test a new camera.

2.  DO get a waiver – Unions get it.  Call them, work with them, get to know them, they don’t want to work against you, they just want to make sure their peeps are covered and safe.

3. DON’T try to be Chantal Akerman, Jane Campion, Quentin Tarantino, or Mike Leigh.  Just be you.

4. DO respect actors.

5. DO employ the same amount of women as men. Start the precedent now while you’re new.

6. DO get that visionary, wonderful, task-oriented, calm production designer right now. NOW.

7. DON’T take money from people who hate you.

8. DON’T let anybody tell you what’s marketable. They don’t know. They have no idea. That’s not your job. Your job is to tell the best story you can. Teach me something about human beings. That’s always marketable and always evolving. Maya Angelou once said to me at a BBQ when I was 15, I was eating my pulled pork and I said I didn’t know if the stories I wanted to tell were worthy or would be something someone wanted to hear, and she said, “I am human, therefore anything that is human is not foreign to me.” That means we can all try to understand and learn from each other’s stories, no matter what’s dangling between your legs or who your mom is or how you pray. Off my soapbox now.

9. DO collaborate.

10. DON’T stop takes early. The best stuff happens after the dialogue ends.

Concussion is released in UK cinemas on May 16th 2014. Watch the trailer here.

Producer Mark Herbert’s Top Five Stone Roses Tracks

With The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone premiering on Channel 4 this Easter Weekend at 10.50pm on Record Store Day – Saturday 19th April – producer  Mark Herbert shares his top five Stone Roses tracks


1. Don’t Stop

This is apparently Waterfall in reverse but for nearly 20 years I did not know. When I heard Reni play it live and saw his octopus hands make it look easy playing this rhythm, I was in awe. I love Mani and Reni at the end.


2. Breaking Into Heaven

I spent so long waiting for the album, stuck it on and thought “what’s the frig is this?”, then when it kicked in, I was in love with it. I’ve grown to love all of it and was blown away when I heard it for the first time live at Finsbury Park this year.


3. Mersey Paradise

Under 3 minutes of bliss. John’s dreamy guitar intro lulls you in & then the rest of them punch you in the under carriage.


4. Where Angels Play

“Ok, let’s fly she says, this carpet’s made for two.”

What a wondrous poetic line sung in proper Northern from Ian. Up there with “You taste of Cherryade” from Sally Cinnamon. They seem so simple, but the best art does. And both are dead romantic.


5. I Am The Resurrection

When making the film, you think you will tire of hearing the songs. Never did. When the crowd threw the green cushions at this performance last year in Lyon,  it made the hair stand up on the back of my thinning head as much as when I first heard it at 18. It was also played last at my brother’s wedding party this year and the dance floor went mental (in a quaint pub in Peaks)


Click here to buy The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone on 2 disc Collector’s Edition DVD or Steelbook Blu-Ray now

Watch the trailer for The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone:






Director Shane Meadows’ Top Five Stone Roses Tracks

With The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone premiering on Channel 4 this Easter Weekend at 10.50pm on Record Store Day – Saturday 19th April – director Shane Meadows shares his top five Stone Roses tracks


1. Sally Cinnamon

The song that gave us kids of the 80s our very own 60s. Rock and roll wasn’t what mattered, it was having something only you understood, that only you and your generation believed in that mattered, and we believed in the Stone Roses. This song was an indication of what was to follow in their debut album: unadulterated greatness.

2. Waterfall

I played this song on vinyl on my Matsui (low cost all-in-one stereo from Argos) record player, in my bedroom for my first girlfriend (not ever, just my first one in tie-dye) from art college. She was a painter, she was vegetarian and she had political views. I was pretending to be an actor, pretending to be a vegetarian and pretended to have political views. But I believed in the Stone Roses music and when I put this track on, she ignored my fraudulent attempts be a hipster and kissed me for ages.

3. Standing Here

The outro that runs for the last 2 minutes of this song is the purest, simplest, most beautifully jangly and moving moment of any Roses tune for me.

4. Made Of Stone

Every band should have an anthem and although Fools Gold comes close, Made Of Stone is that Record. I can’t drive to Fools Gold as I want to pull over and start throwing some shapes, and you have to be able to drive up the M6 to an anthem. Made of Stone is that tune.

5. Fools Gold

What can you say that hasn’t already been said at least a 1000 times. Is it indie, is it funk, is it a dance track? Frick knows, but it’s a belter! It defied comparison at the time and still kicks arse. I built the entire end of our film around this song. It’s iconic, it is one of the only songs I ever dance to and it sparked our summer of love. If it came out for the first time today, it would still start a fire.

Click here to buy The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone on 2 disc Collector’s Edition DVD or Steelbook Blu-Ray now

Watch the trailer for The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone:


Will Self’s Flytopia: the short film

Will Self on seeing his short story Flytopia turned into a Film4-backed short by directors Karni and Saul

Will Self by Valerie Bennett

Will Self by Valerie Bennett

I wrote ‘Flytopia’ at the end a long hot summer when I was living in a small square cottage in the depths of Suffolk. The cottage was more or less surrounded by wheat fields, and when the harvest began all the anima life living in amongst the crop – field mice and voles, rats and especially insects of all sorts – decided to take up residence in the cottage. I put up insecticide units, I hung coils of flypaper from the ceiling – all to no avail; as I typed away, sweating out the novel that I knew was in me, but which I was having great difficulty excreting, the flies buzzed around my head. When I went to the kitchen to boil the kettle silverfish boiled up from the drain, and when I went to the toilet to make waste of my natural bodily products I found excremental earwigs had made it there before me.

This was, of course, the mise en scene that I placed the narrator of ‘Flytopia’ in – but the other element that made up the story was a children’s book I was reading to my kids in the early 1990s. Called Dinotopia, it was tale of a lost world in which intelligent dinosaurs lived alongside humans. The book was beautifully illustrated, and the ingenuity the authors showed in integrating reptilian and mammalian life forms was something we all found endlessly engaging. (In fact Dinotopia was made into a TV miniseries starring David Thewlis of all people – there’s a rueful aside about this in my 2008 novel Walking to Hollywood if you want to get anorak-y.) I thought of turning the utopia into a dystopia – being the sort of writer I am – and that’s how ‘Flytopia’ was born.

My initial reaction to Karni and Saul’s beautiful film of the story was utter joy: they had perfectly realised the strange mixture of heat, sexuality, and insanity that pervades my text. Writing is a lonely business, and I think the reason so many writers want to get mixed up in the movies is for the company – I often have fantasies about casting sessions, and given the fervid intensity of the performances in Flytopia this is hardly surprising… I love the surface limpidity of the film as well – and of course the flies and other insects. The bedroom scenes are particularly affecting – as I’m sure you’ll agree if you have a particle of insectophilia in you. True, on subsequent viewings of the film I did have some qualms: I thought that perhaps the narrative progression of the tale and the particular reveal you get on the printed page hadn’t quite been managed – but then I looked at their Flytopia again and realised that these were ridiculous quibbles: a film is a film and a text is a text, and within the terms of a filmic grammar Flytopia works perfectly. Karni, Saul and I are thinking of collaborating together on future films – I think their style of mixed animation and live action is particularly suited to my own hyper-real fictional inscapes. Let’s hope it comes off…

You can watch the Flytopia trailer below or click here to view on a phone or tablet. The full short will be available to view from 1pm on Friday 18th October.

Flytopia was produced in partnership with Creative England.