Talent

Clint Mansell’s Favourite Soundtracks

16 Mar, 2016 Productions Posted in: Soundtracks, Talent

As High-Rise hits UK cinema screens, score composer Clint Mansell (Moon, Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain) shares with Film4 his favourite film soundtracks…

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1. Main Title (from Assault From Precinct 13)

Minimal, brooding, analog synth score. Great main theme, constantly keeps the tension high.

2. Betty et Zorg (from Betty Blue)

Beautiful score that just makes you ache for Betty and her doomed plight.

3. Love Theme (from Blade Runner)

Possibly the greatest score of all time?

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4. Festival / Mirie It Is / Summer Is A-coming In (from The Wicker Man)

Pagan folk music amplifies the weird,off-kilter, ‘where am I and what have I wandered into’ feeling. Unique.

5. Doina Lui Petru Unc (from Picnic At Hanging Rock)

Seductive, trance-inducing, dream state! With pan pipes!

6. Side A (from Eraserhead)

Dense, alienating, droning, perfect. PLAY LOUD!

High-Rise is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18th March. Clint Mansell’s Uneasy Listening tour travels the UK in March, for further details, visit http://www.clintmansell.com/.

Hyena: set visit

19 Jun, 2014 Productions Posted in: Edinburgh, Interview, Talent

Gerard Johnson’s follow up to his cult hit Tony is a dodgy coppers crime thriller set in West London – but it’s a world away from the likes of Guy Ritchie, Catherine Bray reports.

“This little one’s quite friendly, the little one in there.” Gerard Johnson, director of Hyena, is showing me snakes of all sizes contained within tanks in the basement of an extremely grubby former funeral parlour in West London, near Ladbroke Grove. “This one… he’s not so friendly.” He indicates a chunkier python type you wouldn’t want to tangle with. Upstairs, I’ve already taken a gander at a head on a stick, dripping blood. The severed head is of course a fake – that’s the magic of movie-making. But the snakes? The snakes are very real.

Peter Ferdinando stars in Hyena

Peter Ferdinando stars in Hyena

I’m on set for Hyena, Gerard Johnson’s follow up to his cult Dalston serial killer film Tony. This time Gerard’s swapped East London for West, but he’s remained faithful to his lead, Peter Ferdinando, who is almost unrecognisable from one film to the other, having lost about two stone of his usual weight to play Tony, and now deliberately piled two stone and a half stone on to play the lead in Hyena, for a four and a half stone difference. Think Christian Bale in The Machinist versus Christian Bale in American Hustle. As producer Jo Laurie puts it: “Peter approaches his work with as much authenticity as he can possibly put into it.” Gerard is a bit more blunt: “He’s got a big gut this time,” he chuckles, “but yeah, he’s a chameleon.”

In real life, the director and his method acting muse are cousins, and were apparently close growing up, but as Gerard remembers it, Peter knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor, while his own directorial ambitions developed much later. “But when I did want to do my first short, it was like, well, the natural person to ask is my cousin and we just grew from there.” It’s a successful partnership thus far that looks set to grow with both men’s burgeoning careers.

Peter Ferdinando starred in Tony

Peter Ferdinando starred in Tony

Like Tony, Hyena is concerned with life on the margins outside of polite society. But where Tony was about an unassuming Dennis Nilsen type, Hyena is more concerned with those in positions of underworld power, from corrupt cops to Albanian drug lords. The concept is neatly encapsulated in the title: “Hyena, in Greek, means pig. So, this is a film about pigs, really.” That’s pigs as in police, but also pig as in male chauvinist – and of course hyena has other connotations too… “Yes, there’s also the pack mentality and the nocturnal aspects of the hyena. It’s one of my favorite animals. It’s all about these different packs. So, we’ve got the Albanians, we’ve got the police, we’ve got the Turks. They’re all in their own little packs.”

Despite the dodgy gang culture, Hyena is not a Guy Ritchie geezer caper, nor yet a wham-bam action flick. Through street casting and research Gerard is striving for a greater degree of accuracy: “What I was very afraid of is films like Taken, that have painted a very unrealistic portrait of Albanians. For a start, they don’t cast real Albanians in the parts. They cast Serbs, Croatians, and then just say that they’re from Albania.” Most of Hyena was street cast, with more experienced actors like Stephen Graham (This Is England) and Neil Maskell (Kill List) rounding out the cast.

Hyena, by Gerard Johnson

Hyena, by Gerard Johnson

It’s not just with the cast that the filmmakers are hoping to shake up conventional movie wisdom – as Jo notes, “A big thing for Gerard is to put London up there with Paris and New York – London doesn’t really get that kind of cinematic treatment as much, that loving eye.” In every sense, there’s a bit more craft to Hyena than we’ve come to expect from the genre – you won’t find any Apprentice-style stock footage of the Gherkin here. And ironically, you won’t necessarily find all that much footage of those snakes I liked so much – apparently so much has been shot, the team will need to think carefully about what exactly makes the final cut. Some of the horrors of Hyena, like the underworld violence it depicts, will remain hidden behind closed doors.

Hyena premiered last night as the opening night film at the Edinburgh Film Festival and will open in the UK in October.

 

 

Nira Park Q&A: Cuban Fury

Penned by Jon Brown and produced by Nira Park and James Biddle, Cuban Fury stars Nick Frost as Bruce, a failed child salsa star who must face up to his demons to win the affections of the woman he loves via the power of dance. Film4.com’s Catherine Bray visited the set one blazing August day to catch up with the team and have a chat with producer Nira Park about the origins of the film.

Nira Park

Nira Park

Can you talk us through the initial email pitch that landed in your inbox from Nick Frost?

I think we must have been in the middle of doing press for Paul when it arrived, and it was like a dream come true to get that email. Nick always has to wait till he’s really, really, ready before sending an idea, because he knows that if I like the idea then that’s it, he’s doing it! Paul started with a sketch Simon and Nick did whilst shooting the garden scenes during Shaun of the Dead.  It was just this little drawing but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About two years later I said to them “you’ve got to write that.” They’d completely forgotten about it but I said “that’s what we should do next.”

With Cuban Fury, Nick had been thinking about it for about six months before he finally thought  “ok, I think now’s the time to mention it.” I remember my response was simply “I want to see that poster, that is what we’re doing.”

As you say, it was 15 months from email to shoot. How was the development period?

Obviously, we needed a script and a writer. We approached Jon Brown, who’d never written a feature screenplay before, but with whom we were talking about developing a sitcom. We’d just started our conversations about that and I just knew instinctively that Jon would get on with Nick, and visa versa. I think for any writer it’s quite appealing to get the opportunity to write for someone, to have a particular actor in mind, especially someone as talented as Nick.

“When you get a really brilliant first draft, it’s great, and it just felt like a film already”

 

So we had a couple of initial meetings and Jon plotted out the story together with Nick and Rachael Prior who’s head of development at Big Talk.  Then he wrote this first draft in what must have been about six weeks. Obviously this initial draft was different to the shooting draft, but it was such introduction to the character and the world of the film, and it it was very funny, right from the get go. When you get a really brilliant first draft, it’s great – it just felt like a film already. So from that point on, whilst there was still a lot of work to do, we were basically in the early stages of pre-production. StudioCanal and Film4 committed to the project, and Nick started six months of dance training. It wasn’t like most developments which sort of feel like you could just go on developing forever and you’re never really sure if something is going to happen. I just knew with this one it was going to be made.

Nick was of course involved from the start, but can you tell us about rounding out the cast?

To be absolutely honest we wrote the part of Drew for Chris O’Dowd, so it would have been really sad if he hadn’t have been available. We wrote the part of Julia for Rashida Jones, we wrote the part of Ron for Ian McShane, and we wrote the part of Sam for Olivia Colman. So a lot of them came on board before we even had a director which was an incredible position to be in. With Rashida, we had to shoot around Parks and Recreation, and also her film, Celeste And Jesse Forever coming out, so we had to shoot all her stuff in the first four weeks. Amazingly it all worked out.

Could you talk us through what we’re seeing shot today?

This is the big dance off. Drew’s basically been bullying Nick from the outset of our story and they’re competing for Julia’s affections. It’s all come to a head and Nick has finally told Drew that he can dance, and Nick says “I’ll dance you under the table.”  Then they get in the office lift to the car park and we arrive at this scene. So it’s like a duel for the heart of Julia. It’s the first time Nick’s character Bruce has shown his passion for dance to his rival.

You mentioned Film4 coming on board. Could you talk a little bit more about the detail of that?

Film4 were involved from the outset. We have quarterly meetings with Film4 and StudioCanal where we talk about upcoming projects. It was in one of these meetings that I said “oh, Nick’s just had this idea,” and I remember Tessa Ross’s face, she thought it was a  great concept. So everybody was on board from the outset, and I think that always makes such a difference. Everyone just said “that’s a film we want to see, so let’s do everything we can to make it happen.”

Click here to see more on set videos from the Cuban Fury shoot

Cuban Fury is in cinemas 14th February

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Cousins Q&A: A Story Of Children And Film

The acclaimed filmmaker and critic talks to Film4.com editor Catherine Bray about his film A Story Of Children And Film.

A Story Of Children And Film by Mark Cousins

A Story Of Children And Film by Mark Cousins

Irish filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins recently premiered his new film A Story Of Children And Film in the Cannes Classics strand at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. A documentary very much in the vein of Mark’s 15 hour epic series The Story Of Film, this feature is a relatively compact 101 minutes which should be absolutely up the street of everyone who enjoyed The Story Of Film. Mark used footage he’d shot of his nephew and niece at play to explore the different aspects of childhood in film around the world and throughout the history of film.  Here, he shares with Film4.com editor Catherine Bray the story of how the project came about, and reflects on his own formative film experience.

Catherine Bray: This film, which I very much enjoyed, has been haunting my experience of watching every other film at Cannes that’s got children in it.

Mark Cousins: It’s always the way, isn’t it? You pick one thing – I don’t know, say if you’re looking at dogs, suddenly you see dogs all over the place, you know? (laughs) I saw Clio Barnard’s film The Selfish Giant with that stroppy wee kid – isn’t he brilliant? What I love about that is the creativity of this child who is rubbish at school. I wanted to give him a good “shut up!” when he was being horrible to his teacher, and yet he’s inventive and creative in his own way.

CB: Absolutely. For your film, you shot the footage with your niece and nephew, which I understand was the jumping off point, but at what stage did it become a big project screening at Cannes?

MC: Well, Cannes was a bloody shocker, I tell you! (laughs) I filmed the footage in November with my niece and nephew, then didn’t think any more about it. I film every day; I film maybe 20 shots a day, so I film the kids all the time. But then I looked at it around Christmas time, and I thought ‘ooh! They’re going through a whole range of emotions’, you know, from shy to nervous to informative to angry to violent. And I thought I could use that look at shyness and stroppiness and showing off and the rest. As soon as I looked at it again, I thought, ‘ooh, there’s a film in this’. There’s always the problem in filmmaking about how to make sure that it’s not banal, how to give it some poetics and also to contain it so it isn’t too big, you know, and I thought this would be a good way to do that. So I wrote up a treatment of about 20 pages. But I don’t like going to the funders until the film is a third made, or something like that. I’m not one of those people who sends in a proposal, waits for it to be commissioned, and then starts. So I started cutting. We didn’t even start this film until February, and it’s only May now, so it’s been quite quick.

CB: That’s incredibly fast.

MC: So then I sent the script to the BFI, to Lizzie Francke, and she really liked it, and then I sent it to Tabitha Jackson at Channel 4 who I’d worked with on The Story of Film – and Tabitha’s amazing, doing The Story Of Film changed my life – and she liked it too. And so, by that stage, we were cutting and so it was just a matter of finishing… I also showed Danny Leigh [Film 2013] this film at rough-cut stage, and he was so supportive; he was the first person in the world who saw this film, and he sent me the most encouraging message about it, I’ll never forget it, he just said: “I wanted it to go on and on”. When you’re making something, you don’t know if it’s any good or not, so to have Danny’s support at that really early stage was fantastic.

CB: It must massively help executives to be able to really see exactly what it’s going to be like.

MC: Yes, exactly. So many times, people are sitting describing a potential film they might want to make. And because I work with such low budgets and with tiny little cameras, it’s easier just to show a chunk of it. Tabitha asked to see 15 minutes of it and we sent the full film! There’s a famous line, I think from George Orwell, that my producer told me, which goes something like “sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to write a short one”. And it often takes hardly any longer to make the full film, in the way that I work, than to make an extract, so we sent Tabitha the full thing, and she liked it. So, it was all very fast. I like to work fast. And there was no to-ing and fro-ing particularly, you know – there was no “oh, we have to completely change this”. We tweaked a few things at the beginning, and Tabitha sent notes, and Lizzie Francke from the BFI gave us some notes, but there were very few changes from the first cut, it changed less than The Story Of Film, which took about six years in total from the very beginning to finishing. And it was great that it changed. When we first went to Tabitha with Story Of Film, I think it was gonna be six hours, maybe even three 90 minute films. And it just got longer and longer, and she just kept saying “go with your instincts; go with it”, and that was great, you know. That kind of flexibility has just really brought out the best in me, I think.

CB: Can you remember any specific examples of what did end up changing in A Story Of Children And Film?

MC: Well, I had a clip for The Wizard of Oz in, and I took it out because it was clear to me that I was looking at pre-pubescent children, and Judy Garland was slightly too old. I took out a clip of Bruce Lee when he was a boy. There was a little magic moment of Bruce Lee when he was a boy, fighting in the streets in Hong Kong, and I was going to use it in the section looking at violent children, but it was too short, really. So we removed a few things, but not very much. I knew that there were certain things I didn’t want to go into, you know, the sexual life of young people, and I also didn’t wanna look at animated films. I wanted to look at films where there’s a real child, and that real child has its own agency. I’ve chosen particular films where the child’s got quite a lot of freedom, and is behaving in quite a fresh way, not too controlled.

CB: It feels very of the moment that we have Spielberg as the Jury president here in Cannes and you’ve made a film which situates E.T as such an important film in films about children.

MC: I know! And Lynne Ramsey’s on the Jury, and there’s a bit of her film Gasman in my film as well.

CB: Would it be ok to ask you a bit about your own background and where your love of cinema came from, and maybe what films you were watching as a child?

MC: Well, I fell in love with movies when I was a kid – around 8, you know. I came from a working class background; my mom’s favourite films were Doris Day films, my dad’s were John Wayne’s. So it’s a reasonably conventional background, where there were no film books, but I just felt drawn to cinema, like a tractor beam, a kind of magnetic attraction. I was really into art and visual stuff – I love drawing and painting, but I also loved science: physics, chemistry, and cinema had a bit of technology in it, and that seemed to appeal to me massively. So by the time I went to university, which was when I was 18, I had seen so many movies, things like the BBC’s Hitchcock season, Orson Welles seasons, and all the stuff that TV used to do in those days. So with all that stuff, I went to university, studied Film History and Art History, but I noticed that some of my fellow students, they were starting from scratch – they’d seen maybe two Hitchcock films, and I’d seen 30. I was passionate about it and when you’re passionate about something, you’ve got a big appetite for it. So I went on to be director of the Edinburgh Film Festival in my 20s, and so then you see loads of films and you meet loads of filmmakers. I remember meeting Bertolucci and the Coen Brothers and becoming friends with Sean Connery, all in my 20s. So my contacts book went from zero to a big fat thing, you know?

CB: But it all started with putting hundreds of hours in watching the films?

MC: Yes, hard work. Absolutely hard work.

CB: That’s often strangely low down the list of a lot of people’s advice for people who want to get into film careers – watch films.

MC: I know, I know! I met a major film producer here at Cannes, who shall remain nameless, and he’s been coming to this festival for 25 years. He’s never seen a film here; he didn’t even know how to get tickets. I said to him that I imagined that he’s so famous that when he arrives in his hotel, there would be a golden envelope with tickets to everything in it; he said “I’ve no idea how to get tickets here; I’ve never done it. I’ve never seen a film in Cannes.” I do not want to turn into that. Too busy to see films, too many meetings… do the meetings elsewhere!

Mark Cousins’ A Story Of Children And Film screened in Cannes Classics

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on: Paul Wright

19 May, 2013 Productions Posted in: Cannes, Directors, Festivals, Interview, Talent

Film4.com editor Catherine Bray takes a look at an acclaimed new talent who has emerged from Critics’ Week at Cannes 2013: debut feature director Paul Wright, whose Film4-backed drama of survivor guilt and surrealist imagery For Those In Peril was warmly received yesterday

Director Paul Wright

Director Paul Wright

31 year old director Paul Wright’s career is shaping up pretty seamlessly thus far. His first short film Hikikomori, made while studying Film at Glasgow’s RSAMD, won the Scottish Bafta for Best New Work, Best Drama at the RTS Awards in 2007, and received a Bafta nomination in 2007 for Best Short. Then, while studying for a Fiction Directing MA at the NFTS in 2008, he made another short, Believe, which won Locarno’s Golden Leopard for Best International Short, plus awards at Winterthur and Leeds International Film Festival. In 2010, his short Photos Of God was selected for Berlin, and his graduation film, Until The River Runs Red won the Bafta for Best Short in 2011. Now, his debut feature has premiered at Cannes, in Critics’ Week, the strand that aims to highlight the work of talented newcomers. It’s the stuff of dreams and envy for aspirant filmmakers.

“Critics’ Week is the perfect platform,” Paul says when we speak, the day after the premiere. “We couldn’t ask for more, or hope for more of a way for it to stand out and hopefully connect with an audience in an increasingly crowded market place. It won’t be for everyone, but we hope that for the people who like it, it really has an impact.”

A cinephile from a young age, Paul’s earliest memory of a film that really made an impact on him is Nic Roeg’s superlative study of grief, Don’t Look Now – “I saw it when I was probably younger than I should have been, and the ending really got to me”. While he says that Roeg’s cult classic was not a direct influence on For Those In Peril, it’s fair to say that with their common themes of grief, guilt and the supernatural feel those emotions can have when heightened (plus an arresting shock image in the final moments), they would make a great double bill.

Another film with which some reviews have compared For Those In Peril is last year’s hot ticket at Cannes, Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Like Beasts, For Those In Peril features a lead performance that is being hailed as the arrival of a potential new star. George MacKay, who I spoke with yesterday, is, as producer Mary Burke puts it, “so different from the character that he’s playing. He’s from Barnes, and he’s kind of meek and posh and sweet.” George worked with Paul to create Aaron, the increasingly unbalanced sole survivor of the wreck of a fishing boat that claimed the lives of four local lads including Aaron’s brother Billy. Aaron is the character around which the film is built, and needed a strong lead. Mary remembers, “we did all these casting calls, searching for a needle in a haystack for a young actor to play and hold the lead role throughout the whole film, like with Submarine and This Is England. And I had never seen George in anything, so I had no idea who he was. He came into the office with a guitar on his back ‘cause he was going back and forth from Wales for How I Live Now and just came in for, like, 20 minutes, and yet I was almost crying in his audition. That’s how good it was. And I don’t cry, because I’m from New York.”

Paul was also thrilled with their leading man. “We knew pretty soon we were onto a winner. We knew we had our guy. On the shoot he gave 100% – we couldn’t have done it without him. He was in practically every scene.” And for his part, George says: “I’ve never had such a close relationship with a director before.” This attention to detail (Paul spent two days going through the script one-on-one with George before shooting) paid off, with positive reviews including Robbie Collins’ assessment in the Telegraph of the performance as “terrifyingly good: George MacKay, who four years ago was already showing promise in The Boys are Back, is simply heartbreaking in a performance that leaves you feeling like your own soul has been peeled.”

But Paul isn’t a director who came into the profession because he likes bossing actors about – he admits his initial passion lay with technique, but says of directing actors, “I’m getting better, but I’ve got this slight obsession with visuals and audio. It’s a testament to the actors that they came on board a project where such a lot of the script has no dialogue.” One of the most notable bits of dialogue is a recurring tale about a monster in the deeps, with which Aaron becomes fixated. I asked Paul whether it is based on a folk tale local to where he grew up, or completely made up for the film. “I guess growing up near the ocean, there were a lot of stories,” he says, “but it’s a combination of stories and myth, rather than any single one that already existed. I wanted to leave space for the audience to interpret the film for themselves.”

Paul has been mulling over the kernel of the idea for this film for several years, and began working on an actual script about two years ago. Yet this is the first time For Those In Peril has encountered an audience and begun to exist outside of Paul’s control. “Today was the first Q&A with what you might call average punters, from pensioners to teenagers – some of the responses were overwhelming. There were a few tears.”

Paul himself is ready to move on to the next project, which is at the ideas stage. I suggest that I can’t really imagine him jumping to sign on to direct an Iron Man 4 or a Transformers 5, but were the offer to be made, would he go to Hollywood? “Well, I think about it in terms of whether an idea is something you can care about for years of your life. I need to have an emotional investment, but there are plenty of different types of cinema that can provoke a reaction.” With his cited list of “gamechanger” filmmakers including the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noe, and an ambition to follow in their foot steps in creating wide-ranging, authored works of cinema, I can’t wait to see what Paul does next.

For Those In Peril will be released in the UK in 2013