And Here We Go

Interesting week.

My shift patterns at work may be about to change again, which would require a fairly major change in the way my life is organised over the next few months. In some ways that might not be too bad an idea, because the work on this year’s Straight 8 has just kicked into overdrive.

Things are a bit different this year. I’m taking a break from the Sick Puppy dynamic and trying something in a Straight 8 stylee with Doco Domsy. This is not me breaking up the band. It’s not even a solo project. It’s trying something drama-based with a friend who I’ve normally only worked with in a documentary dynamic. Changing up, because doing Straight 8 the same way every time is a bit pointless.

The competition has to be about stretching boundaries – of the format, of the stock, of the limitations, of yourself. Otherwise, there’s simply no reason for it. S8 is the most ridiculously constricting manner of making a film that there is. Dogme has nothing on the restrictions of making a Straight 8 film. If Dom hadn’t offered (well, if Dom hadn’t phoned and said “I’ve bought the stock and I need your help”) then I wouldn’t be doing it this year. Straight 8 is flippin’ hard work.

So far so good. We have a script, an idea that I’ve been busting to do as a Straight 8 film for a good few years. We have a decent camera, and Dom knows what he’s doing with it.

The new thing this year has been to put a call out for actors. I thought that it was time to open up the circle of friends that do this every year a little bit. Plus, I was interested to see what the response would be. I was a bit wary, to be honest. The last time we put a call out for technical help on Shooting People, we were let down in the worst way possible (the sorry story of that one, and the film that came out of it, can be found here). I needn’t have worried. Dom put the call out on Wednesday morning. By Friday we’d had 80 responses from interested actors.

The process since then has been to get that 80 down to 1 main part and a tiny supporting role. And it’s been a weird experience. We’ve felt voyeuristic, as we checked out piles of CVs and head shots (and erm, a few more than head shots, if you know what I mean). We’ve felt overwhelmed and humbled (“what on earth does an actor with a CV like that want with our squitty little film?”) And finally, we’ve started to feel that we’re lucky. (“Wow, someone with a CV like that wants to be in our squitty little film!”)

Dom and I spent yesterday in town, meeting our final shortlist. 80 names winnowed down to seven. After that long, strange day, we can say with absolute certainty that we would happily cast any of the actors on that list without a second thought. It has come down to instinct, to the feel that we can work successfully together as a tight-knit team, and that the chosen two would inspire and encourage us on beyond our best.

We have an incredibly good feeling about this, and we shall be putting out two phone calls on Monday. We’re just not sure who we’re going to be calling yet.

(The Starfucker Postscript)

One of our actors invited us to meet her at BAFTA, which we agreed to with barely suppressed squeals of glee. The Member’s Bar is a lovely place to take meetings, darling. Light, airy, and surprisingly reasonable. I recommend the cheeseburgers. Plus, as we left, we bumped into Tim Burton. Which kind of puts a fizz on the day, donchathink?

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On Digital Comics

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Marvel have just announced their new iTunes incentive, that will bring “animated” versions of old favourites and new strips to the platform, complete with dynamic movement and voiceovers.

I cannot begin to tell you what a dreadful idea I think this is. Comics do not need to be animated (presumably, this will mean clunky moving zooms and frames whizzing in and out of shot in an entirely arbitrary manner). They do not need lazy, phoned-in voiceovers slapped over the top, and they certainly do not need a soundtrack. The joy of comics is that they are interactive in a completely different way, and one that actively involves the participant in a way that no other media can manage.

An example. I know what Superman’s voice sounds like, and I can absolutely guarantee that it’s different to the way you think Superman sounds.

I could, I suppose, start banging on about Scott McCloud about now, but instead I’d like to direct you toward Yves Bigeral’s outstanding presentation on DeviantArt, that shows one way that comics can go that embraces new technology and the internet, while still keeping hold of the stylistic devices that make the comics form so compelling in the first place. Recommended for a slow five minutes. Really.

(Graphic from Toothpaste For Dinner. Yve’s work via Warren Ellis, the Marvel thing via MacUser. Blogging whilst ill in bed, BTW. Sympathy now.)

***UPDATE***
Just seen a trailer for the Marvel thing. It’s worse than I thought.

In fact, i’ve just sussed what it reminds me of. CLUTCH CARGO!

Got Live If You Want It

I’ve had a bit of a musical epiphany. For a while now, friends who are more musically savvy than me have been raving about Wolfgang’s Vault, a depositary of live music that is heavily skewed to the golden age of bootlegging, the 70s. It’s been one of those sites that, while I can see the benefit, I never really found the time or energy to register too much of an interest.
A couple of things have changed that. Firstly, there’s now a Vault widget available for the iPhone, allowing you to listen to the archive on the move – a brilliant idea, which seems to be optimised for either Wi-Fi, 3G or even Edge browsing, making listening to concerts on the train completely doable. Like Last.FM, this now means I can carry an absolute shedload of music around with me without maxing out the phone’s hard drive.
The concert that finally got me listening to Wolfgang is the almost legendary gig Bruce Springsteen did at the Winterland just before Christmas 1978. Almost three hours of the Boss at his best. It’s worth signing up to the site just for this, but any music fan will find something to tickle the interest.
If that’s not enough, a bright spark called Dean Putney has written a friendly front end to archive.org’s Live Music Archive at Dewey Music, making it easy to hunt out a ton of good stuff, including a rather neat search on concerts from today – an interesting spin on the “on this day in history” search. Deeply, deeply rummageworthy, Readership.
Finally, I’m gonna show the love to Dr. Jones, who’s doing some great work over at Blip.fm under the name Alison’s Army. Post punky goodness.

And of course… RIP Lux Interior.

The Sky Is Falling…

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(photo from Lady Stevo for the Flickr Snowday London group)

…or so the papers and TV would have you believe, anyway. Heaviest snowfall in eighteen years, trains and bus services paralysed, roads gridlocked. Nightmare, right?

Well, kind of. Getting into work was slightly more problematic than usual, and I will admit to writing this on the train on the way home after a disgracefully short day. However, I managed everything on my schedule before I left. I just wanted to avoid any potential nightmares at evening rush hour while doing a sneaky half-day at the same time.

The most difficult part of the journey for me today was the walk to Reading station. Iced-up snow made the going underfoot slow to treacherous, and I slipped over once (and of course, got to my feet to hear a concerned voice behind me ask, “are you alright, mate?” Great, bad enough that I found it impossible to keep my balance, without a witness there to see the whole embarrassing spectacle). However, we try to remain graceful under pressure. I only nearly twisted my ankle. That would have been fun. I’d have had to limp home under the same icy conditions, and uphill. As it was, I virtually skated from Picadilly Circus to Wardour Street, and it’s getting glassier underfoot as the day wears on.

The thing that struck me was how easily convinced people have been that it’s OK to take a snow day. The BBC was practically encouraging it, which would have made an interesting conversation with your boss. “I can’t make it in today. Emily Maitlis told me not to.”

With that in mind, it felt like a Sunday in Soho. Everywhere was quiet. Shops just didn’t bother opening. There was nothing on the roads. Work was half-empty, and the receptionist was so glad to see someone that she gave me a hug when I got in.

It never ceases to astonish me how crap we are in bad weather. Stopping the bus services in London this morning was disgraceful, and even though I’m used to the tubes falling over at the first sign of anything other than dry, temperate weather, I would have been in real trouble if the bit of the Bakerloo line I needed hadn’t been running. A walk into work would have resulted in a snapped appendage at best, and oh yeah, no buses.

I find it hard to believe that there’s no bad weather plan in place, to prevent the PR nightmare for Bozo Boris the Comedy Mayor of news footage showing snow-covered buses and trains shut in their depots during Monday rush hour. Hardly good for business, eh? In fact, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, it’s going to cost us £1.2 billion per day in lost earnings while people don’t go to work – an estimated 20% of the population didn’t make it in today for whatever reason.

Maybe the ease with which most of England decided “sod it, let’s have a day off and build a snowman” is partly due to the prevailing gloom and dark mood. No-one’s really feeling too incentivised at the moment, so the chance to kick back for a day must have been too good to miss. If there’s the slightest chance that you could be delayed getting into work, or that the person you need to see won’t make it in, or if the kids school has closed and they need someone to look after them, then you’re going to take the day off, and all power to you. You know full well you’re not alone. It’s the perfect excuse. “Everyone else is doing it. Why can’t I?”

If there hadn’t been a train waiting at Reading when I arrived, I may well have decided not to bother.

And it is darn pretty out there today…

DISCLAIMER: of course, a ton of people have struggled to make it into work today in appalling conditions. Clare tried and failed to get out of a gridlocked Caversham for an hour today before going home, having a hot drink then heading into Reading by bus to get the train to Oxford. That’s commitment, peoples.

Finally, idiot question of the day. While waiting for the 23 home at Reading, a well-spoken chap came up to me and asked what bus I was waiting for. Then asked me if they were running. I was polite, and did not give voice to my immediate reaction, which was “well, if they’re not, we’re both going to look stupid and feel cold, aren’t we?”

A Couple Of Treats

I’ve been busier than you think.

First up, I’m pleased to reveal the Making Of Code Grey, a little something I’ve called Cut The Blue Wire.

While we were shooting Code Grey, we were lucky enough to have the talented, handsome and charismatic Simon Aitken with us, shooting behind the scenes footage.

He was foolish enough to let me have said footage, from which I’ve cut together this promo.

GASP at how hunky Clive looks in a bulletproof vest!

GOGGLE at Flemming’s inspired lighting setups!

WINCE at Rob’s pitiful attempt at directorship!

DECIDE to go and watch something more interesting on YouTube instead.

No, wait, come back, dammit!

Secondly, I’ve begun updating Satan’s Schoolgirls again, following some honest to goodness unsolicited enthusiasm. I’ve closed out Part One, and I’ll try to get back into the flow of putting up a new episode every Sunday.

It’s worth a look. And from here, it only gets weirder…