Blatant pluggage

I’ve been involved in the making of a new horror movie for a little while now, and I’m incredibly pleased to note that the final trailer for that film, Blood and Roses, is now up on the official website. I’ve embedded the YouTube link below, but please do check out the site for decent quality versions.

It’s also worth looking at the associated site My First Movie for director Simon Aitken’s blog, where he extensively documents the troubles, trials and tribulations of getting a low-budget film from script to screen. It’s an honest and open account, and it’s inspiring and exhausting in equal measure. I count myself as a film-maker, but Simon’s one of the rare breed that’s gone out and made that mythical and more importantly marketable entity – the first feature. He’s off to Cannes in May to get it out to the world. It’s going to do really well.

Why? Well, it’s a dark, sexy exploration of betrayal and reinvention, fueled with an evil sense of humour and a vicious final scene that makes you twist uncomfortably in your chair at how much you’re agreeing with the nastiness being meted out on screen. With stand-out performances from thinking girl’s fancy Benjamin Green and Brit scream queen Marysia Kay, the best way I can describe it is Twilight for grown-ups. Seriously worth your time when it starts hitting the festivals this year.

Declaration of interest: I colourgraded Blood and Roses, and am currently working on the short Making of documentary. As Simon has mentioned here.

The photo accompanying the piece is of me, pretending to grade.

Keeping Music free (in every sense of the word)

I’ve been following the shift from the traditional form of music retail to something a little more random access with great interest over the last couple of years. I’m an enthusiast of anything that’s not the HMV style music shed, where a depressingly small range of new release and back cat stock is kept at the front of the store at loss leader prices, while the interesting stuff is racked at the back, extortionatly priced.

With the disappearance of my favourite music chain Fopp last year (although I’m glad to see the brand’s reemerged in a form truer to it’s independent roots, with 7 shops in key locations. Not Reading though, darnit) I’ve found that my shopping for music is all online these days. I will frequently impulse buy using my iPhone, and snag interesting stuff from links and recommendations using my RSS feeds through favourite sites like WFMU’s Beware Of The Blog, Boing Boing and The Word (all on the blogroll to your right, Readership. Have a nose). Making the decision to dump all our CDs onto hard drive has had an impact on the way I purchase and listen to music too. I’m much more likely to listen to random, off-the-wall things (take for example, my 2008 song of the year, a sweet slice of poppy Georgian jazz) and am much happier listening to my library on shuffle than to discrete albums. I grab and listen as and when the mood takes me.

The exception to this rule is, of course, vinyl, which remains a pleasure bordering on the ritualistic and fetishistic, and the one truly joyful way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Rekkids and booze. Ohhhh yeeeah. That little habit is neither cheap nor easy, but I will happily contradict my earlier argument in this case.

I should offer a couple of links to recent discoveries. First up, The Damnwells are offering up their new album One Last Century for free. It’s fine and classy pop and well worth a listen. The main man of the band, Alex Dezen also gives a great argument for why he’s chosen to share his music.

I have never worked so hard or put so much of myself into a collection of recorded songs. It is for just this reason that I want to give it away. To me it makes perfect sense. I just want people to hear this music, and I don’t want them to have to enter into some kind of contractual agreement with a third party to do so. Download the record, copy it and give it to your friends, lovers, and enemies. Whatever. It’s so hard these days just to get the actual music into people’s houses and cars, let alone their ears. Besides, I know everyone’s broke, maybe I can supply the soundtrack. So, I just want to give this music away because I want people to hear it.

You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

The other model to nod at is “Pay What You Like”, which I like for the way it instantly gives the music a sense of perceived value. It’s an experiment that can work very well, as people will frequently pay more for product than you’d think if you give them the choice. Look what that method did for Radiohead, to take the high-profile example. Or, to expand the argument, what it’s starting to do for innovative restauranteurs.

With that in mind, I present Sophie Madeleine’s album Love. Life. Ukulele. One of the sweetest things I’ve heard all year, with solid tunesmithery and a sharp sense of humour. Yours for a minimum donation of three and a half quid. At the very least, check out the single, The Stars.

Finally, for those of you enjoying the pure random thrills of Spotify (and if not, why not?) here’s my first playlist. Arty Gallic electronikie. I’ve made it collaborative, so feel free to add anything you think would suit.
Merci, mon Lectorat, et appréciez la musique!

(Postscript, as it’s not out of closed beta yet, but I should point out that WFMU’s Free Music Archive is going to be positively head-expanding when it finally breaks. It won’t be for everyone, but if you have an eclectic ear, there’s enough here to keep you up for DAYS. More news on this later, and if I get any invites you’ll be the first to know. Meanwhile, the site has a couple of taster compos for your downloading pleasure, to give you an idea of whet to expect.)

An Apology

Those of you that were viewing the site last night may have been a little confused as it went through three looks in the course of a couple of hours.

This is my fault entirely. Spring is coming, and I feel the urge to tinker, re-arrange and mess about under the hood.

I’ve finally settled on a new theme, and have updated the blogroll. We should all be grateful that I don’t have a locally installed version of WordPress, otherwise the site would never look the same from one week to the next.

Do you like? Let me know!

Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not.

Hmm. Ok. Doing a bit of random browsing while waiting for some video to finish encoding, and ran across Typealyser.

Typealyser seems to run the contents of whichever blog you point it at through a Myers-Briggs personality test algorithm thingy, and spits out a series of broad assumptions. The worrying thing is, Typealyser seems to have the measure of me to a much greater extent than I would have figured.

This, according to the algorithm, is me:

ESTP – The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Which is a bit close for my liking. Certainly the second paragraph is flighty ol’ me nailed up on a killing board. I’m amazed I ever get anything finished, and I’m sure part of the attraction of blogging is that I can get something positive and complete through the gates before being distracted by a pretty butterfly or a nice cup of tea or a poke from Twitter.

However, physical outdoor activities? I don’t think so. It’s a beautiful bright early spring day, and here I am in our dark back room, giving it some blog. Screw you, sunlight. I am bathed in the radiance from the interwebs, and I feel FINE.

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?

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!