Tag Archives: Retrospective

MOUNTVIEW SHORT FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #3 – 2010

MOUNTVIEW SHORT FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #3 – 2010

Between the years of 2008 and 2011, I did some screenwriting work for the Mountview Film Academy; a filmic extension of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Based in London, they would produce a number of student acting projects including many low budget short films. Writers would be shuttled in and given a remit to create short films using specified actors, locations and length of film. Some work better than others and here are three I wrote in 2010.

2010

What an interesting year. Personally, I had my fortieth birthday, changed jobs and my son turned ten years old. I am still at that current job and my son is now eighteen! Yikes: time is a relentless bastard!

In the world of culture, society, news and media there were some fascinating stories in 2010. Snow and ice dominated headlines in the beginning and end of the year. Tony Blair gave evidence to the Iraq enquiry while Dennis Hopper and Alexander McQueen sadly passed away. Ash from Iceland burst the air and disrupted flights all over Europe, as the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded off the Gulf of Mexico.

Later, Labour would lose the election to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition; while Rauol Moat went on a kill crazy rampage in the North-East of England. Chilean miners got trapped underground, while Julian Assange and Wikileaks also hit the headlines. Finally, most importantly of all, Matt Cardle won The X Factor.

DYING AND KILLING (2010)

This short comedy drama centres on a stand-up comedian who wreaks revenge on a heckler who verbally destroys her set.

I would have to say this is close to being my favourite student short film of the lot. It has a great premise and is very funny. The student actors involved are brilliant and it is directed with style by Jonathan Wolff. As a semi-pro comedian myself I know what it’s like to fail on stage and the film captures that emotion well.

A GOOD CAUSE (2010)

This short romantic comedy-drama centres on a romance between a businessmen and a charity worker that takes a twisted turn.

While the actors do their best with this idea I don’t think the story is particularly sharp. Indeed, the premise feels unfocussed and the direction cannot mask the faults in the script. Having said that the actors are pleasant and the twist is funny, if a little bizarre. Overall, a bit more rehearsal and a re-write may have tightened the film a tad.

REAP (2010)

This short sci-fi drama centres on a ‘Reaper’ (a person who transfers souls to the ‘other side’), having to make a life and death choice.

I basically wrote this in an afternoon as an emergency script was required by Mountview, after another one fell down at the last minute. Clearly riffing on The Matrix, the film looks and feels too generic and the script is pretty weak. However, there is a decent idea in here which could be worth building on. The actors do well with the formulaic material but not one of my better scripts.

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #6 – THE CHESS GAME (2012)

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #6 – THE CHESS GAME (2012)

TITLE: THE CHESS GAME (2012) – short film (15 mins)

TAGLINE: “Not all of us are destined to be Kings!”

DIRECTOR: Gary O’Brien

WRITERS/PRODUCERS: Paul Laight and Gary O’Brien

CAST: Philip Delancy, Bill Thomas, Tyrone Atkins, Bobby Freeman and Andy Davies

I haven’t written one of these short film retrospectives for a while but I thought I’d look back on my sixth short film – The Chess Game – and how it came to be made.

We hadn’t written or produced a film since 2008 when Elephant Trunk (2008) was released. Looking back it was for a mixture of personal and financial reasons. I mean making short films is a passion but sometimes the amount of work you put in can sometimes be the only reward. It is pleasing to complete a film but then what do you do? With Elephant Trunk (2008) I should have tried to get it into more festivals but ultimately I did not market it well enough. Moreover, I’d started doing more stand-up comedy as a creative hobby so decided to commit to that for a few years. I basically did not have enough time for filmmaking, especially with other family and work commitments.

In 2012, my filmmaking partner, Gary got in touch and quite rightly said it was about time we got back on the horse, as it were, thus we began working on the script that would become The Chess Game (2012). He had a basic premise of a seemingly harmless person living in a village fully integrated into the community. However, that said individual was actually hiding a secret past.  We wrote the screenplay and, in terms of its length, became an ambitious thriller focussing on themes of guilt, revenge and war. It starts simply with the offer of a ‘friendly’ chess match between two strangers and spirals into a game of cat and mouse culminating in a deadly end game. Arguably, the story would probably have suited a Tales of the Unexpected half-hour length but we felt, given the lack of budget, we could do it justice at fifteen minutes.

Once we were happy with the script we raised the very low budget from independent sources and set about casting. We decided to use the talented Phil Delancy, who we’d worked with before and could be trusted to deliver a great performance. We also cast three excellent actors I knew from the comedy circuit in Tyrone Atkins, Andy Davies and Bobby Freeman. With regard to the lead role of Viktor, we knew we’d have to cast someone of great experience. Here was a character with charm keeping a dark secret close to his chest. Eventually, we cast seasoned professional Bill Thomas; an experienced screen actor who had been in many television and film roles including: The House Of Eliot, Cutting It, The Bill, Doctors, Holby City, Pusher (2012) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) etc.

The rehearsal process was fantastic as myself, Gary, Phil and Bill really stress-tested the story and characters. Conversely, it was a script which changed a lot prior to production; not in terms of structure but rather the development of the characters’ motivations. Ultimately, the production would be a very successful shoot over two weekends in Oxfordshire. The story itself stands up to a re-watch as it twists and turns to a big reveal. My only regret is the end of the shoot was a bit rushed, however, the cast and crew were amazing and I think the film is not too bad, despite being shot on a shoestring budget.

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FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE – GETTING BACK MR HUNT (2005)

GETTING BACK MR HUNT (2005) – RETROSPECTIVE

Incredibly it’s been TEN years since myself and my creative ally Gary O’Brien began working on short films together!  And despite no actual financial success, some short film festival screenings and vague industry interest in our work (I made that last bit up) we are STILL going!  Now we are planning our TENTH short film this year! Why I hear you ask:  because we love films AND the creative process and that is success enough for us.  I think.  That or we are a little bit mental! Or delusional.  Both probably!

Anyway, to celebrate  a DECADE of short filmmaking I’m taking a trip down memory lane to examine the films we have made and maybe just maybe add a few more views to their YouTube status.  Or gain a new fan.  Hope springs eternal.

GETTING BACK MR HUNT (2005)

This low budget short was a great experience for myself and Gary. We’d met at the Running Horse pub one drunken evening in Bracknell a few months earlier in 2005 and immediately bonded over our love of movies and movie-making. Gary was a veteran director of his own videos shot and edited — from his early teens — on VHS recorders or in-camera; and I a budding writer full of hopes and dreams having just finished a MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway University.  A decade on those dreams are now shattered and strewn to the winds of time and history as a legacy of bitter experiences lay in our wake. There were some really bad times as well.

Check out Gary’s old videos here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/TAGfilmsarchive/videos

This one is a beauty:

So these two great minds conjoined to form the creative team known as Fix Films and inspired by our friend Douglas Hurley and his brother Stuart we decided to make a short film to enter into the BBC New Filmmaker’s Competition of 2005.  The film failed completely to gain any recognition but it gave us a great insight into the filmmaking process.

I’d written the screenplay a year or so before and it, like many films, was based on wish fulfilment:  the desire to wreak revenge on all the bad bosses I had had. Plus, in the subtext was my own vain disgruntlement at desiring a creative career but ultimately ending up with a prosaic office job which made little use of my brain or perceived skills and in the process reduced my existence to that of a clock-punching drone.  Not much has changed there.

gettingbackmrhunt

It’s very therapeutic to channel one’s experiences and emotions through a cinematic conduit but the actual filmmaking itself is often one of compromises due to budgetary constraints or unforeseen mishaps or actors pulling out at the last minute.   The latter happened to us on the day before the two-day shoot was to begin so I had to re-cast the role of our bad-guy Nigel Hunt.  It was a blessing in disguise because after hunting (sorry) high and low on t’internet I found the wonderful actor Philip Delancy Shooting People and the rest they say is history.  Because Phil subsequently worked on two more of our productions. Do check out Philip’s CV at http://www.philipdelancy.com/ – he’s a fine actor and great bloke too.

Myself, Gary, Doug, Stuart and cast and crew worked TWO long days one balmy weekend at FIVE different locations all those year’s ago and successfully produced a pretty witty little short film.  It has some fine moments and arguably some elements don’t hold up. Personally I wanted to redo the voiceover but in the end we left it.  But Gary did a great job filming, editing and composing the music for the film. Indeed,  for a £150 budget we very much did the script justice and breathed life into a universal desire. I mean, who hasn’t ever had a boss they couldn’t stand or wanted to rain down furious vengeance against?  If you haven’t then you’re probably THE boss!  And we’re coming for YOU!  Up the workers!  Vive l revolution!

Enjoy the film!