Guest blog

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.

A Field In England: the cinema view

02 Jul, 2013 Productions Posted in: Events, Guest blog

Gabriel Swartland, Head of Communications at Picturehouse, explains why theatrically releasing a film also available on TV, DVD, BluRay and VoD appealed to the independent cinema chain.

As both a co-distributor and one of the key exhibitors for A Field In England, Picturehouse are uniquely placed to embark on the unconventional release strategy for the film alongside partners Film4, 4DVD and Rook Films. Originally proposed to us by Film4 after consultation with the filmmakers, we were immediately drawn to the idea of a multi-platform release. The inclusion of free-to-air TV to the mix was the curve ball. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t give us pause for thought, but we agreed that A Field In England was the perfect film to try this experiment with. The key aim for the cinema aspect of the release is to prove that the theatrical experience stands up on its own, even when presented concurrently with alternative – and potentially cheaper – platforms. It doesn’t hurt that the film is being jointly distributed by Picturehouse and 4DVD, with both sharing the theatrical and DVD revenues. And then there is the tempting contribution of Channel 4′s in-kind marketing muscle, which will promote all the platforms, not just the channel’s own.

And instead of each partner having to spend separately to promote its own window in the chain, we are leveraging these different platforms, with the benefit of a single concentrated campaign to maximise the budget and PR opportunities to really make things stretch.

In other words, for a title that would otherwise be released on a three to five print very limited theatrical run, where broadsheet newspaper advertising would be limited, never mind TV advertising, we were suddenly benefiting from substantial visibility through the various Channel 4 channels as well as the various partner communication channels. We are also fortunate enough to have financial support offered through the BFI’s New Models Distribution Fund, which has allowed us to expand the campaign further, such as resourcing a live satellite Q&A with Ben Wheatley and cast members on 5th July, broadcast from The Ritzy, Brixton.

We are now looking at a film launching on 19 cinema screens in the opening week, and a further six off-date bookings where it will play in cinemas several weeks after it has aired on free TV and has become available on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD. Or if none of these platforms quite work for you, we’ll even be screening in a field, several in fact, as the film plays a few festivals this summer including Latitude in Suffolk. This release strategy is undoubtedly an experiment, but one we are very excited to be a partner in, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

Two Unique Jellyfish Creations

Creative Director Phil Dobree of VFX experts Jellyfish Pictures explains the thinking behind the CGI creation of two characters for Film4-backed shorts: a giant fish for Kibwe Tavares’s Jonah and a sympathetic robot for Shynola’s Dr Easy.

Jonah underwater shot

Jonah underwater shot

Jellyfish were first approached back in August 2012 by producer Ivana MacKinnon, who asked if we might be interested in working on the creature VFX required in a short film, directed by Kibwe Tavares, about an enormous fish. We were aware of Kibwe’s previous work and were really blown away by the art work he showed us for Jonah – it was unique, and the ideas and designs he had for the fish by illustrator Warren Holder , which were incredibly complex and challenging, fired our imagination and literally hooked us into getting involved. Our relationship with Film4 on previous projects was another huge plus. Our reputation for realistic character and creature CGI work meant this was a great opportunity to stretch our skills on a new and beautifully designed creature with a unique story. The fish was going to be a central part of the story and Kibwe and Ivana felt it was essential to get this right, so we were delighted they felt we were the right fit for the film.

A little later that same year, around November, Robin Gutch at Warp Films recommended us to producer Ally Gipps, who was looking for a partner to get involved in some high end VFX for a short film called Dr Easy that he was producing with directing team Shynola. We get asked a fair amount to work on an investment basis on films for a range of projects, and have to consider carefully which ones are worthwhile for both creative and financial reasons. Shynola have produced some great work over a number of years and this looked like a project that was right up our street – so we were definitely interested. When we met the team and found out about the story, creative challenges and ambition we knew we had to be a part of Dr Easy. It was challenging but just the kind of work we are well suited to, with an opportunity to work with a great team on a really interesting project. Knowing both Warp and Film4 was again a big draw for us to get involved.

With both Jonah and Dr Easy, we were working with directors who had a track record of working extensively with computer animation in a bold and visionary way. Both films have a CGI character as a central part of the story, which was what drew us to them. In the case of Jonah, the antihero is the fish, and it needed to not only be visually memorable but have the character and menace to carry its part in the film. Dr Easy is a CGI robot which needed to feel totally real and seamless in the gritty world of a derelict East London flat where a white collar worker played by Tom Hollander is holed up, armed with a shot gun and surrounded by police. Dr Easy is the medical emergency robot sent in to try to both treat the man’s injuries and talk him down, and is therefore a central focus of the story.

Normally when the VFX are so central, we are involved at a very early development stage, but as it happened we were approached after the shoot on both these films. Given the directors had a very good understanding of CGI, both had fantastic artwork, designs and references for us to use when modelling and preparing the characters. They came with strong ideas of what they wanted – making our job relatively simple from a creative point of view – they just needed to look amazing and not detract from the rest of the film! Technically and creatively we needed to meet these expectations and deliver the fish and the robot that everyone was hoping for.

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 1

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 1

With Jonah, there was a certain artistic license, as Kibwe’s film had quite a hyper-real “stylised” look to it, whereas Dr Easy was quite different – the robot needed to look absolutely real and had to seamlessly fit into gritty reality. When people watch Dr Easy it’s important that people think they are actually looking at a real robot – it should certainly not feel too far-fetched or detached from reality. Jonah was in many ways the opposite of this – the deliberate stylisation and the incredible size, design and strength of the fish, coupled with the sets and architecture – designed and rendered by Factory Fifteen – give the whole film a surreal, dream-like feel. Nevertheless, the CGI needed to blend fluidly into live action shot on location in Zanzibar, so the fish needed to have a photoreal quality to sit successfully alongside the shot locations and cast. Jellyfish ended up recreating most of the underwater environments for Jonah, including some difficult fast-moving tracking shots where the fish gets speared and tows the boat. For Dr Easy the challenge was quite different – we only had to recreate the whole environment in one shot which was far too difficult to track, meaning it was easier to rebuild the stairwell in the shot starting from scratch. However, it needed to mimic exactly what had already been shot, rather than to enhance or change what was originally there.

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 2

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 2

Each film had its own challenges. We were working with lighting and environment data not collected by us, which is not our usual approach. In the case of Jonah it was challenging for the team on location to shoot the necessary underwater shots – apart from anything else, many needed to be so fast moving and dynamic that it would have been impossible to shoot for real. We recreated those shots entirely from scratch, and where we could, we found stock shots that matched what we were looking for. We had to match both the created and stock shots to location shots, which wasn’t easy. When you are using a mixture of back plates like this, it’s always hard to find matching formats, frame rates and grades. A big challenge with Jonah was to get the very complex seaweed and accumulated debris to feel natural and real on the older version of the fish. We spent some time working out the rigging and simulation but in the end decided to use a hair/fur type solution combined with our own software to get the rubbish to stick to the CGI fish in a natural way.

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 3

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 3

On Dr Easy we needed to try to find solutions to get correct lighting set-ups as the robot needed to feel totally integrated into the environments. We ended up using photogrammetry – effectively rebuilding the environments from the images and footage taken – to obtain accurate lighting information that made the shading and lighting work correctly. Normally we would use a special camera on location to obtain the lighting data we need, so this was an alternative solution. There was a degree of guesswork involved, but in the end I think we managed to achieve the results everyone was looking for! Having Shynola work in our offices for the duration of the VFX and post helped enormously with being able to get rapid feedback and answers to some of the questions posed by the shoot.

We are very proud of the work on both films and feel they achieved our original goals. Looking at Jonah and seeing the comments from the audience, we feel that we definitely achieved this and are so proud of the end product. On Dr Easy, we set out to create a seamlessly real robot that made people question how it was achieved – we hope we’ve achieved this too and can’t wait to find out what audiences think when it premieres!


Dr Easy CGI breakdown 4

Dr Easy CGI breakdown 4