Hit Girl, and why film reviewers should stick to what they know


Last week, I had a bit of a night out with a bunch of friends. All male, all film-makers, all nerds (and I mean that as a compliment). A few beers, a bite to eat and a movie. There was only one choice of film with that crowd, really. It had to be Kick-Ass.

Now, I will admit to a slight feeling of unease going into the Vue West End for this one. I’m not the biggest fan of Mark Millar. I find his work simplistic and derivative. And Matthew Vaughn made a bit of a hash of Stardust, dazzled by a big budget and Hollywood starfuckerage. But I’d had a couple of beers, and I was feeling accommodating.

I had a really good time. It was fun, silly, gory, sweary no-brakes nonsense, and I laughed more in the cinema than I have since subjecting myself to Emmerich’s godawful 2012. The comics references were spot on, the fight scenes just on the right side of wire-fu overload, and Nicolas Cage was a delight as he channeled Adam West’s 1960’s Batman.

But the absolute star of the piece is Chloe Moretz as Hitgirl. She oozes confident nonchalance throughout, curling her lip with aplomb at every curseword. She still comes across as a kid, but not one that has been damaged in any way by the manner in which her dad has brought her up. Frankly, seeing an 11 year old girl on the screen that isn’t interested in Barbies or makeup makes a refreshing change.

Of course, certain members of the press have glommed onto the fact that Hitgirl dresses up in a short skirt and throws c-words around like shiruken, and began shrieking that the end times have come. Christopher Tooky in the Daily Fail loses the plot completely, throwing teenage pregnancy stats into the mix, before stating

The film-makers are sure to argue that there’s nothing wrong with breaking down taboos of taste – but there are often good reasons for taboos.

Do we really want to live, for instance, in a culture when the torture and killing of a James Bulger or Damilola Taylor is re-enacted by child actors for laughs?

…which is, of course a typical Mail tactic. Take an argument and then immediately present the worst possible scenario as the next logical step.

It’s telling that the Mail website has closed the comment thread on Tookey’s review. As the Bleeding Cool forum notes, every single comment blasted the critic for his over-reaction. Kinda cheering, considering that it was pretty obvious that the Mail would have it in for the movie – or rather it’s writer, Jane Goldman, wife of Mail bete noir Johnathon Ross.

Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, Manohla Dargis also manages to find the wrong end of the stick with both hands. Calling Mark Strong’s mob boss a “supervillain” is a bit of a head-desker, but I can let that go. However, she can’t resist the icky angle either, claiming

Tucked inside this flick is a relationship as kinky and potentially resonant as that between Lolita and Humbert Humbert…

*wince* Well… no. Not unless she was watching a whole different cut to the one I saw. While Manohla has at least sussed that Kick-Ass is at heart a satire of superhero movies, she hasn’t cottoned on to the fact that Hitgirl is the latest in a looong line of kid sidekicks. Robin is the obvious example, and notably in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight incarnation, the cape and pixie boots were worn by a girl.


Sidekicks are typically wounded characters, and will frequently suffer at the expense of the main character. Green Arrow’s ward Speedy famously ended up on drugs (the clue was kinda in the name he chose) and the Jason Todd incarnation of Robin was killed off by popular demand. Rick Veitch’s Brat Pack goes even further, making a group of sidekicks both stooges and over-worked helpmeets to their headliners, and the victims of a superpowered serial killer. 9B5AE7E2-4DC2-4803-9305-30C800D73E56.jpg

Hitgirl’s character path tightly knits into the rites of passage that every sidekick undergoes. The tragic loss of a family. The extensive training, interspersed with the fatherly urging of the superhero in charge that she’ll never quite be good enough, that she keeps making schoolgirl errors. By having her break free from this towards the end, by having a (kinda) normal life with a new family, she breaks the dysfunctional chain that would always see characters like Dick Grayson unable to forsake the cape.

It’s the fact that she can rise above that training, use what’s appropriate and discard the unhealthy bits that makes Hitgirl such a powerful character. She’s no role model, but no-one’s claiming that she should be.

The last word, though, should come from Hitgirl herself… or rather, Chloe. In an interview with MTV, she comes across as likeable, grounded and totally cool about the whole situation – unlike the critics, who don’t seem to be able to see past the fight scenes and swearing. Swearing that, as Chloe herself points out, would have her grounded until she was twenty if she dared to try.

Chloe, the commentators of Mail Online and just about every other person with at least two brain cells to bang together should be able to see that Kick-Ass is broad satire with a few wry points to make about the state of the comics, and indeed the comics movie scene. Claiming it as a symptom of some greater malaise is not so much missing the point as running past it blindfolded while whooping and waving your arms about. Apart from an uptick in purple wig and mask sales, I can’t see the Hitgirl phenomenon hitting the streets in any major form.

Although if it helps to drop the instances of playground bullying – I’m all for it.

Oh, Chloe’s on Twitter as well. @ChloeGMoretz. Keep an eye on this kid. She’s gonna be something.


For Your Consideration



Oscar season is over for another year, the tents and awnings are coming down, the pretty dresses are, for the most part, going back to their designers.

What have we learnt this time around, Readership?

1. It is possible to be both Best and Worst Actress at the same time.

2. You can win a Best Cinematography Oscar even when your cameras were principally used as motion capture devices.

3. You will win an Oscar eventually, if you hang on in there for long enough. The Oscar will never be for your best work, but for the one that most accurately portrays your public image. For example, Jeff Bridges didn’t win the Oscar this year. The Dude did.

4. Oscar ❤ Pixar, unconditionally.

Every year I can depend on the Oscars being even more bloated, self-congratulatory and pointless. There were no major surprises, no astonishing turn arounds. I’m pleased Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker grabbed so many awards, but what does that prove?

5. Oscar ❤ war movies.

5a. Oscar hates SF. Avatar was there because Oscar is scared of James Cameron. District 9 was there because Oscar ❤ Peter Jackson.

The question we should be asking is why does it take until the second decade of the 21st century for a woman to win Best Direction Oscar?

Further, the illusion of choice in the Best Film shortlist drives me nuts. Expanding the list out to ten does not give us more choice. There’s still a shortlist of 5. It’s just been bloated out with a B-list that have no chance of getting the award. Oscar has been capable of some deeply eccentric choices over the years, but it was blatantly clear this year which movies were in with a shot. The football movie? Uh-uh. The harrowing race/abuse tale? I don’ sink so. The cartoon? Gimme a break. There’s already a slot for Best Pixar Movie of the year.

And then there’s the Moon debacle. The short, sharp debut of a bright new talent, featuring an astonishing, nuanced performance from one of the best actors of his generation was ignored by Oscar this year. It’s partially the fault of Sony, of course, who decided that the film was not worthy of consideration (way to back your creative teams, there, guys. Nice work.) Nonetheless, there should have been an inkling that the film was perhaps worth a look after it did so well at the Baftas. By then, it was probably too late. Another missed opportunity for Oscar to show that it had interest in a broader range of films. But no. Once again Oscar showed hisself to be old, slow and out of touch. It’s the awards show that’s just too easy a target, too bloated and dumb to actively hate. It’s just there, wheezing into view every March like a despised older relative, staying that little bit too long, before blubbering away again leaving nothing behind but a faint whiff of cabbage water and a couple of trinkets that’ll just gather dust on the sideboard.

Until a horror movie wins Best Movie, I shan’t be watching again.

How A Geek Rolls

There seems to be a visual shorthand that film-makers employ when they want the viewer to quickly get the idea that their lead character is something of a geek. Oh, sure, there’s the usual sartorial (glasses, trousers that run slightly too high above the ankle, slogan tees) and home furnishing cues (retro SF movie posters, computers front and centre, toys EVERYWHERE), but there’s another, slightly more subtle method.

The film geek will not go to work or school in the usual means of transportation. No, we’re looking at grown men on bikes. Or cars that are falling to bits, strangely decorated or just plain don’t fit the landscape.

The humble bicycle is a great way of letting your audience know that your character is a bit … well, different. You will see them on their contraption within the first ten minutes of the film, frequently within the title montage. If your protagonist lives in a college town, or god forbid Oxford or Cambridge, then it’s a cert that they will be cycling to work. Steve Carell’s character in the 40 Year Old Virgin hits all these notes, negotiating rush hour traffic with an aplomb that he simply can’t apply to his love life. The fact that he doesn’t drive actually becomes a plot point later in the film, but nevertheless he’s easy to pick out of a crowd.

This trope doesn’t just apply to the movies, of course. Uber-geek Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory hasn’t been behind a steering wheel since driver’s ed. This again becomes a plot point in the season three episode “The Adhesive Duck Deficiency” when he has to drive Penny to hospital after she slips and falls in the shower. Hilarity ensues.

There’s a message here, of course. Geeks ride bikes because the rest of us drive cars.* If you choose not to drive, then there is by pure deductive reasoning something a bit odd about you, and the writer can use that off-key note for comic or emotional effect. Just look at John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, reimagining the universe while spinning through Princeton on a Shwinn.

If the geek can pull him or herself together and get behind the wheel of a car, then [deity] forbid that they are put into a Ford Focus. No, although the cues are a little more subtle, the geek choice of ride will be either an old banger or a wilfully obscure choice of marque. Take, for example, the Ford Pacer that Wayne and Garth cram into in Wayne’s World. Molly Ringwald drives a beautiful, if somewhat battered, VW Karmann** Ghia in Pretty In Pink. And of course, let’s not forget the geekiest transport of all – Professor Emmett Brown’s time-travelling Delorean.

I watched Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs this week, and was heartened to see my theory in action. The circusy recyclers of the title use a fine array of old lorries and that peculiarly French method of transport, the lawnmower-engine powered truck-trike, to get around. It’s a neat juxtaposition with the villains of the piece, who smooth about in high-end Peugeot limousines. In fact, it seems to me that the quirkier the transport, the more heroic the driver. Their ride seems to reflect their personality. Just look at the Munstermobile.

But to my mind, there is one car that rules them all. The car that belongs to fiction’s alpha geek. The quintessential loner, a technological whizz who has trouble with girls and spends more time in front of a computer in his basement than he likes.

But MAN, does he ever have a sweet ride…

*I ride a bike. This has nothing to do with anything.

**Due to poor research, I initially had Andie’s ride down as a Carman Ghia. Cheers to Charlie, the Readership’s motoring correspondent for setting me right.

Windows In SF

No, not the Microsoft version, and you’d like to hope that the systems on board the Enterprise and the like are not based on an underpinning that’s liable to blue-screen on you halfway through a transporter cycle, or need to download an important security update before you can fire those photon torpedoes.

I'm not sure that's the best way to clean windows...

Windows in SF tend towards the panoramic. They are great floor to window room-width panes, around which your crew can gather to goggle in wonder at each new wonder they encounter on their impossible mission to the gates of forever. More recent iterations of The Big Window have embedded graphics. Just in case you weren’t sure about the exact designation of the Klingon Warbirds moving into battle configuration in front of you, handy pop-up windows, scrolling text boxes and spinning wire-frame models tell you more than you needed to know.

In reality, of course, the sort of panoramic window that you’d see on the bridge of the Enterprise or the command deck of an Imperial Destroyer could never happen. That much glass, under atmospheric pressure on the inside and the constant risk of micrometeorite impact from the outside, would be far too dangerous to install. On the International Space Station and the Shuttle, windows are tiny, quadruple-glazed portholes of thick crystal. You want a peek outside? That’s what video cameras are for.

The guy in red doesn't realise he's up for window-cleaning duty yet...

Which is why most “windows” in SF are actually really big projectors. They have zoom functions. They can hook into communication circuits, so that looming close-up of the approaching enemy warlord demanding your immediate surrender and the handover of fifty of your most fragrant ensigns can be really threatening. You can even show that things have gone really badly wrong by having the screen just show that fuzzy analogue static that is somehow still a signifier of lost signal even after ten years of fizz-free digital telly.

I’m a fan of The Big Window in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, which started this whole SF decor riff in the first place. That window is a way for the crew to have a look at the approaching sun in all it’s fearful magnificence, and it’s tunable to filter out all but 3% of the light. This, for once, does just seem to be a portal, albeit one with some really smart sunblock. But it fulfills all of the rules I outlined earlier – it’s a Really Big Window, probably twenty feet square, and at one point the whole crew do gather around it to gawp in wonderment at Mercury passing across the surface of the sun. It’s a lovely moment, and sums up for me the important thing about SF set design. It should always be there to help the story along. Let’s face it, that bit of the film wouldn’t have had the emotional impact if the crew of the Icarus II had been crowded around a foot-square porthole.

We're gonna need a bigger tube of Factor 50.

One word you should never hear in an SF movie? “Budge up a bit, let me have a look.”

The Man Who Draws The Movies

As I think we’ve seen, set design in science fiction follows particular rules and tends towards particular looks. It does not, in general, have the jury-rigged aesthetic that you’d see on actual spacecraft, or long term habitations like the ISS. Which is fair enough. No-one really wants to see high drama carried out in the sort of cramped compartments astronauts have to survive in for months at a time. No, spacecraft in Hollywood are roomy affairs, filled with high-ceilinged, dramatically lit rooms that bizarrely are connected by low, dark corridors.

I put the blame for the look of Hollywood spacecraft squarely onto one man’s shoulders. He’s been a seminal influence on fantastic (as in cinema of the…, although his work is never less than brilliant) set design since the seventies, and was pivotal in creating the look of some of the greatest films of the genre.

I’m talking about Ron Cobb, of course.

His career began at UCLA in the early seventies. Working alongside a fledgeling director by the name of John Carpenter, Ron’s first piece of design was on Carpenter’s first film, Dark Star. Although the clean lines of Star Trek were still in evidence in the ship design, the tiny bridge room he put together was a clever way of working within a budget that was not so much tight as gonad-squeezing. All three astronauts are crammed into a tiny set, but by placing them face-to-face and stacked along the frame, he allowed Carpenter to build in long dialogue takes without needing to intercut. His work on Dark Star is smart and sharp, and makes a student film look much, much more expensive.

The work for which he’s best known would come with his collaboration with Ridley Scott on Alien. Taking a cue from Jodorowsky’s aborted Dune project, Scott assembled some of the best known SF illustrators of the day for their takes on the gigantic space tug Nostromo, the alien craft they discover, and the creature they bring back with them.

Cobb interiors. The second image is from Walt Simonson's fantastic adaptation of the film. Equally influential.

Cobb’s drawings of the interior of the Nostromo were a part of my childhood. One of my most prized possessions as a boy was a book on the making of Alien. This had a wealth of pre-production drawings from the likes of Cobb, Chris Foss and of course HR Giger. I wish I could tell you what happened to that book. It somehow managed to disappear during one of the many moves my family made while I was a teenager. I was drawn especially to Cobb’s boxy, solid interiors, and used to pore over the details, obsessing for hours over how he had managed to do so much with such apparent ease.

It was thanks to him that I started to draw, filling notebooks with carefully drafted approximations of his work. He helped me figure out perspective, shading and modelling. Even now, my choice of art materials skews towards the technical. Sharpies, Rotrings and markers rather than pastels, oils and charcoal. Tie that into my enduring love of comics, and the discovery that actually I’m not a bad cartoonist, and my path has been set artistically ever since. I’m a black line boy.

Ron is still working, of course, and it’s great to see his mantle taken up by other, equally talented film designers like Nigel Phelps. But I see his influence in comics and graphic work of all hues and persuasions as well. His boxy vehicle designs are very much echoed in current production line models like the Kia Soul, the Scion and most obviously to my mind, the Nissan Cube with it’s asymmetrical wrap-around window. The modern MRI scanner owes more than a tip of the hat to his medbay drawings for the Nostromo. It seems we all live in Ron Cobb’s world now.

If only I could remember what I’d done with that Alien artbook…

(once again, a tip of the hat to John Eaves and his excellent website, from whence a lot of these images have been ganked.)

The Chair In SF

The humble chair. A little spot designed for rest and relaxation, right? An item of furniture for you to take the weight off your feet, to switch off a bit.
Not in SF, it isn’t. In our favourite genre, the chair becomes a place of action.

Consider The Captain’s Chair in Star Trek. In The Original Series, it is a slab-sided, poorly padded lump of alloy on a swivel. Kirk spends a minuscule amount of time on it, and for the most part he perches on the edge of the seat cushion. Mainly because if he tried sitting back the rotten thing would dig a hole in his lower back. It wasn’t surprising he couldn’t wait to get out of it. It seemed to be a focal point for James T. to bark at Scotty through the communicator whilst leering at leggy ensigns.

It’s interesting to note that The Captain’s Chair becomes more comfortable the less outwardly aggressive it’s occupant. In the later seasons of Star Trek – The Next Generation, The Chair is better described as The Recliner. I swear, the thing has a footstool. I’m also certain there are opening shots in some of the later episodes where Picard can be spotted having a sneaky snooze.

Standards are slipping at Starfleet

SF chairs are not static objects. They do things. They move about. They are multi-purpose. They are dramatic objects. They are not designed for settling into with a mug of cocoa and a thick paperback.

A lot of them are on gimbals or tracks and whizz backwards and forwards with exciting whines and buzzes. They frequently incorporate communication devices, video equipment or in some cases, something more destructive.


Let’s do the Star Wars thing. I’m thinking specifically of the gun emplacements on the Millenium Falcon. These are fantastic. They’re ceiling-mounted. They have headsets, cool video screens and OH DID I MENTION THE GUNS?? I wanted one of these so badly when I was a kid. Oh, who am I kidding? I want one now.

Clearly I’m not alone. The gun emplacement bit in The End Of Time, the last Tennant Doctor Who episode, is a clear homage to the Falcon gunfight. Behind the scenes footage shows Bernard Cribbins having a whale of a time behind the sights of the lasers. I want to see the out-takes where he goes “pewpewpew” and makes exploding noises through his cheeks.

To confuse matters even further, let’s look to The Matrix. The gateways to the virtual world on the Nebuchennezar are accessed through couch-mounted plugs and circuits. You take a seat to dial into the Matrix. Let me just reiterate that. In the Matrix, chairs can be doors.

In Iain M. Bank’s Use Of Weapons the chair becomes something more potent. I would argue that the events of the book revolve around the sourcing of materials and construction of a simple white chair. This might seem a bit of a strange thing to say when talking about a novel that chronicles the adventures of an interplanetary mercenary. And it’s a difficult thing to properly talk about without ruining the big wallop at the end of the story. I recommend reading the book, but if you must, there’s a spoiler below.

The chair is made out of the bones of the main character’s sister, complete with a cushion fashioned from her skin. Iain Banks’ SF is not cheerful. Although it is somewhat chairful. Sorry.

After all that, I need a sit down. Someone send me over an armchair…

The Door in SF

You thought I was kidding, didn’t you?

Ron Cobb does the business. That’s the kind of door we’re talking about…

image courtesy of John Eaves. Check out his chunk of posts on Ron Cobb here.

Let’s consider the humble doorway, and how it has become a character in and of itself in SF. In every other genre I can think of, they are simple objects. They open. They close, occasionally with a slam. In a prison context, they are symbols of incarceration, although to be frank characters tend to talk about the walls more, and they are the object that will have the graffiti and the gate-bar scratches, counting off the days until freedom comes.

SF doors are infinitely more complex. They are desperately over-engineered for the job at hand. And at the same time they barely fulfil the essential design requisites that you and I would consider the door would need. They rarely have handles, for example. You have to punch a code or say a password or, memorably in Jeunet’s Alien:Resurrection, huff your cheesy breath into a detector.

And that’s before the darn things will even open for you. Then you get the best efforts of a team of props men as they slide back on tracks or drop through the floor or iris open like a lens. In Star Trek: DS9 the doors were built like cogs, and they rolled out of the way in a way that was far too complex for the end result. Lights will frequently blink and flash. In Peter Hyam’s Outland, they had useful red or green fluorescents to let you know if they were locked or not.

And then of course, they always make noise. Helpful bleeps and chimes to let you know that they’re about to do that fancy three-way split. The hiss of hydraulics. The unzipping sound that accompanied Captain Kirk as he marched down the corridors of the Enterprise (those corridors were always too fancy for my liking, although I’ve always had a thing for the Jeffries Tube). And I have to mention the doors on the Heart Of Gold in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, that were programmed to take pleasure in opening and closing, and did so with an almost orgasmic sigh.

Of course, there are always exceptions. The doors in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica are heavy, unwieldy things, but at least they have a handle and they are pulled open and closed. However, as they’re all designed to isolate an area in the event of a leak, they still have valves and wheels and an excess of handles and cranks. Opening a door still takes up a disproportionate amount of screen time and effort.

I’ve not really talked about the more esoteric kind of SF door yet. The Stargates, for one, have devolved over the years from being a 2001-esque gateway across galactic space, complete with warp effects and the wailings of a heavenly choir, to the kind of thing that O’Neill and crew hop through when they fancy a walk in the Canadian woods. Then we have the organic portals of the living craft of Lexx and Farscape. These worry me. I’m not sure a door should drip and ooze. Or to that point, just vanish on you just at the point when you need them the most.

But of course, my all-time favourite SF door? Well, there’s no contest, really.

And don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same with a door that did that. I want one for my garage.

The Joy Of Corridor


Like most things in my life, it all boils down to Star Wars.

There are certain kinds of films that I really go for, and will happily sit and watch again and again. Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is one of them, and in a short introduction before it’s screening last night on FilmFour, he nailed one reason why. They all seem to be of a particular type, a genre with a history and a meme-set that is easily tracked. I love films of the genre sub-species he described as “A Ship. A Crew. A Signal.”

These are the horror-tinged bottle films, where most of the action takes place on a dark, monolithic spacecraft, within the confines of which BAD THINGS HAPPEN once The Crew pick up and foolishly answer The Signal. This Signal is usually a misinterpreted message to STAY THE FRAK AWAY. From then on in there will be running and screaming and dying and mostly a single survivor.

But mostly, there will be corridors. Hundreds of them, stretching for miles. They will be encrusted in vents, ducts, computery bits, extraneous ribbing, tons of stencilling and detailing in a limited palette of sans-serif fonts. There will be steam. Oh my word, there will be steam. I often wonder whether ships like the Nostromo and the Event Horizon are powered by a coal-fired boiler rather than a nuclear reactor.

The camera will start the film drifting in a dreamy manner down these corridors, and end it whizzing down them as the final character either has to get to a door before a timer runs out, or because something insectoid with too many teeth is chasing them. Frequently, both of these things are happening at once. There will be a whooping alert sound. It’s the same one in all of these films. There will also be a calm female voice doing the countdown. I think Winona Ryder has the monopoly on that one.

Sunshine has some great corridors. The set took over the entirety of Three Mills Studio in East London when the film was shot in 2006, and the detailing is exquisite. I’m happy to report that there’s also little attempt to score points off the meme. Although the ship is on it’s way to the sun, the corridors are dark and claustrophobic. The feel is heavy and industrial. Like most of these ships, the Icarus II is a submarine in space, a tiny metal bubble of life in an environment that’s almost instantly lethal.

I spent years in my youth drawing corridors like the ones you see in films like Sunshine and Alien. Once the technical drawing classes I took in junior high school taught me the rudiments of perspective, I was away. I can still draft a pretty good blocky spaceship in three-point, or an infinitely expansive throughway liberally coated in technological cruft. I love them. They are places where adventure happens, where there is high drama, monsters coming out of the walls and lots of those spinning orange lights they have on the roofs of ambulances.

I said at the beginning that I blamed this on Star Wars. Think about it. Two minutes into the film, after all that tedious nonsense with the yellow letters and the big triangle that goes on for miles, we are inside the Tantive IV, and we see… well, THIS.


This, and the later scenes in the Death Star are something that should not be shown to an impressionable ten-year-old who’s already a little too lost in his own imagination for his own good. Especially the bits in the prison block.

For further reading, I cannot recommend Martin Anderson’s post on Den Of Geek highly enough. If you think I’m wibbling on un-necessarily, just wait and see what he’s got.

Coming up: doors in SF.

Banksy, Time Out and NanoWrimo.

It’s time, I think, to start talking about a project that I’ve been tangentially involved in for a while. This is a short documentary that Dom, one of my best friends and filming partners, has been working on. It’s about the art and public perception of the graffiti artist Banksy. It’s an unusual project, in that Dom is claiming that he has nothing to do with it. He’s telling people that it was simply something he came across, a DVD that he found behind a lamp-post somewhere, and that all he’s doing is bringing it to the public’s attention. To the point where the working title is now “I Found A Film About Banksy”.

Fair enough then. I too have fallen down the rabbit hole, and can only tell you what I know about this film. Last Thursday, for reasons I am not at liberty to go into, I was on a slow-running train into London on my day off, with my trusty MiniDV camcorder. Dom and I were off to The Courthouse, a hotel that used to be the Great Marlborough St Magistrates Court, to interview entrepreneur Ivan Massow.

I’ve discussed the film that he’s made, “Banksy’s Coming To Dinner”, here. Dom had been keen to talk to him since he’d seen the film, and Ivan had agreed to an interview after a surprisingly short amount of nagging from my most tenacious friend. We arranged for a 10:30 meet with Ivan at the bar of The Courthouse, which has kept the holding cells it was built around and converted them into snugs. A great place for an interview about an artist whose relationship to the law is at best skewed.

As we headed in, it became clear that we were going to be late. My train was painfully slow-running, and traffic for Dom was the usual London nightmare. Also, Ivan had pulled the interview forward half an hour. We were now in danger of pissing off our interviewee with a late arrival – the most unprofessional thing to do when someone is doing you a favour. I arrived at the Courthouse at 10:15, got the bar open and quickly settled on a decent cell for a chat. Dom was five minutes after me, looking intensely harried, but with good news. Ivan was also running late.

We ran the quickest rig-up in the history of film-making ever, and were just about ready to go when Ivan finally arrived, 25 minutes late and already looking at his watch. Great. This would not be the leisurely chat we were expecting. However, we had no cause to grumble.

Ivan was great. Erudite, funny and insightful, and fully up for playing the Banksy game. In short, not admitting to anything. You might say that, but I couldn’t possibly comment. It wasn’t me, nobody saw me, you can’t prove anything. Plausible deniability. We managed 25 minutes with Ivan before he had to run, and we’re both very grateful to him for giving us that much. There is some very good stuff in that interview, and he’s added a chunk of value to the already rich mix that allegedly has been put together by someone. See, the game is addictive.

The remainder of the day was a solid chunk of decompression in various pubs, chats with friends and plotting our next move. This was a great way to relax after an incredibly panicky morning. We’d pulled victory out of the jaws of humiliating defeat, and it felt good.

So. Next. Dom will be giving Sheffield the love at the documentary film festival, and we are in prep mode for the reshoots on Time Out, which should be happening in the next week or so. Then it’s a simple case of finishing the cut on that and getting it distributed, hopefully to a slightly more interesting platform than YouTube. More news on that as it happens, obviously.

And then it’s November, and Nanowrimo again. I have a great idea, which is going to be a manic romp around some of the influences that shaped my reading as a kid. I’m really excited about this one, as is everyone that I’ve pitched it to, purely on the strength of the title, which came out of a misheard phrase when I was talking about last year’s Nano.

Ladies and gents. My novel for 2009 will be based on a very simple concept.


On the Moon.

Prepare yourselves.

A Progress Report

Dom discovers YouTube. That's it for work today, I guess...

Looking back over the past few posts, it’s painfully obvious that I am turning into a curmudgeonous old whiner, griping and complaining about the state of the country, signing petitions in lieu of doing something useful.

So, for a change, let’s be positive and constructive and look at how the film projects are coming along.

Time Out is taking shape nicely. We’ve closed up gaps, tweaked the edit ever so slightly, and laid in a sound bed that’s suitably overwhelming. We’ve storyboarded up the shots we need to get in a comparatively simple reshoot day, and are now getting that day together, in conjunction with our brilliant cast and crew. The plan is to complete Time Out in the next couple of months. Let’s call it a Christmas Present to the world.

Meanwhile, Decks Dance And Videotape continues on it’s glacially slow path to realisation. Dom had one of his busiest weeks ever, squeezing in interviews with Richard, promoter of the renowned Raindance night and Pez, the guy who defined the iconography of thee Acid House aera with his use of The Smiley Face. But that’s not all, dance fans. He also snagged an interview with house pioneer and legend, Marshall Jefferson. He can now brag that Marshall bought him a Chinese takeout. There aren’t too many people who can say that. All three came across as wise, insightful and funny. And they can all talk the hind legs off a kangaroo.

Logging work will commence on this prime chunk of footage, and next order of business will be a new trailer to drum up some interest, reflecting the wealth of interviewee goodness we now have on board.

And of course, how surreal the whole thing can be…

L-R, Richard, Pez. Or is it the other way round?

Over the past week, Dom and I have really made some progress on two very solid projects, and there’s more to come. We’re interviewing next Thursday, working on yet another film that I’ve been keeping shtum about on this blog for the time being. That may well have to change soon. Keep it locked to X&HT. News is approaching.