Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas turkey with celebs

Serendipity, as I keep mentioning, is well and truly part of the world around me. Through nothing more than social networking, I've now got a book deal being considered, some U.S. advertisers planning their support, a Scottish media lawyer giving me guidance and some recent TV appearances from Sky to compliment coaching from top Scots presenter Sally Gray. The execs at Bebo have also been great and introduced me to the creative teams of KateModern and The Gap Years to understand their funding and revenue strategies. The BBC have even offered to do post-production work to complete the film.

Then yesterday, a last minute change of plan resulted in having Christmas dinner with Colin and Justin (pictured). You'll remember them from the BBC TV programmes. You may also remember them from the BAFTA Scotland red carpet feature I produced a few years ago. They are the two Scots guys who know their property business and help turn housing disasters into profit. They spend half of their time in Canada and have just arrived back in the UK for a few months. The Canadian production with HGTV is a three year contract and I was lucky enough to chat to them about the business side of the deal. They were superb company and an inspiration to getting out and doing it.
So, it's been an incredible year and a lot of fun. The first few months in 2008 will be the most challenging as I try to turn potential deals into actual deals at the same time as the contract for my day job, the source of funding for travel and expenses, comes to an end. Who knows where it will all lead but I am delighted that you are still reading and watching with interest.
Have a fantastic time over the festive period and I look forward to social networking with you in 2008.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bebo celebrates with Kate Modern

I received a nice invite to Bebo's first party tonight. Not only have they become the UK's top social media network but their first online drama KateModern is now the most successful TV show on the web. I'm off to find out what plans are afoot for 2008 and chat about plans for UKTheatre and Making It In Hollywood. In the meantime, if you're wondering what KateModern is all about, here's the story so far.....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Next stop Sundance

Flights, check. Hotel, check. Sundance passes, check. Snowmobile, check.

Just in time before the press accreditations are announced. It's a strange system but very fair and I guess it works the way Robert Redford wanted it. The world's press have to make a decision to book up prior to receiving accreditation. Meantime, anyone who had planned in advance, like yours truly, got their timeslot to book online which gives a two month head start to book hotels and flights.

I was fortunate enough to get the last Queen room in the Yarrow Hotel. It's one of the two main hotels at Sundance where the press conferences and screenings are held. It's not cheap as you can imagine, but I can justify it as a holiday, a stress break, a filming opportunity and an adventure.

Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes will be there. Their film In Bruge, a Martin McDonagh film, opens up Sundance. An honour indeed and great news for British film. The publicity generated alone will mean that millions of people will have heard of their film before it even hits the local marketing. The cost saving to a film production's budget must be in the millions.

Sundance here we come !
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

UKGigs - Amy Winehouse stuns audiences

Keeping her audience waiting for an hour is becoming commonplace for the diminutive soul singer and at Hammersmith Apollo in London, there was little surprise. What was surprising was that there was no apology from the organisers or the singer herself. The audience were getting restless and started booing each time an unrelated song was played on the PA system. It's a good way to lose your audience's interest.

Miss Winehouse's reputation precedes her and I had read some of the articles with a degree of mistrust. Surely the press were wrong ? None other than Andrew Lloyd Webber had come to her defense on TV by saying she was one of the top UK talents of our times, so perhaps the press are being unfair ?

Well, I think her reputation appears to be close to the reality. A great voice but wasted in a woman who was irritable, distracted, emotionless and barely able to stand at times. She strolled on stage after her backing singer had announced her, and walked straight to the microphone, fixed her bee-hive hair, fiddled with her boobs, the strap on her shoulder and pulled down at the bottom of each side of the tiny bit of cloth she was wearing. She left her hands to attention, moved towards the mike and let escape some magnificent sounds. Where did that come from ? She barely looked able to string two words together, far less generate such a rich sound.

She continued with each song from her repertoire in much the same way and while the audience were watching and listening intently, there was no emotional connection. I looked around at the audience several times and found them mesmerised. If you had waved a hand in front of their face they would've continued their gaze towards the stage. I was much the same. I wanted to know how it was being done. Looking for the strings which held her together.

She wandered off stage at the end of every other song leaving her band to get on with introducing themselves, or starting the next number. Her lead backing singer kept the others informed and helped to avoid any confusion. They seemed to take it all in their stride and professionally delivered some great music.

Her quirky dance moves were delivered perfectly in time with her backing singers when the moment came. Much to my surprise. She also didn't seem to be miming but there was little or no effort in the giant sounds she was making. Watching closely, I determined that there was no way she was playing her guitar. No sound emanated from the simple plucking she was doing and I think there was some clever sound engineering going on. Much like the click-track used in some theatre performances to underpin vocals. It was especially noticeable when she sang her signature tune in the encore, by which time she had lost it totally.

Having said all that, the style of her movements and sound she was creating reminded me of early Diana Ross, you know, the black and white TV footage you've seen where she moves awkwardly and in a shy retiring way which was both sweet and amusing. Was this part of the creation or was it simply a reality due to late night partying ? Such is the enigma that is Amy Winehouse.

I do hope her family and new tour management help her make the right choices to come out of this dangerous phase she is in. She could really make a significant difference to the UK music industry, if she was more aware of being part of it. Instead of saying "No, No, NO !", as the song goes, I think she should really go to the place "they" are trying to make her go to.

Amy Winehouse should be continuing her tour in Brighton, Bournemouth, Brixton, Cardiff, Manchester and Dublin.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Now live on SkyNews.Com

It's a picture of the Ninentdo Wii. So what's this got to do with theatre and film, I hear you ask ?

Well, it was just one of the six stories I was given one hour to read and digest and comment on as part of last night's News programme. They take some of the rising stories on the internet in terms of hit counts, and get someone in the world of the internet to comment on them.

I was called yesterday afternoon and the conversation went something like "Mr McFarlane, we liked your interview on Sky last week and wondered whether you would be interested in doing a regular monthly slot on one of the evening programmes." Nice I thought. It's a good way to get more audiences clicking on UKTheatre.Net. I agreed. "I also wondered whether you would be available tonight", the researcher added.

This was my second time on live television and the nerves still kick in. They are the same nerves you get before an opening night performance, as you are waiting in the wings getting ready to come on stage while the audience take their seat. I welcome the butterflies as I know they are merely a preparation for the mind to kick into action, and it does.

It's a strange experience being on live TV. The atmosphere in the studio is very relaxed, and everyone smiles and says hello. You head for make-up first and a team of busy women, some in the middle of eating their dinner on the hoof, welcome you like a friend and delicately powder and brush your face before you return to the green room. The producer arrives, "We have six stories for you and here is the running order" he says before he walks out and on to his next activity. I noticed my stories are in perfect reverse order from the notes that I'd taken, so I number mine from the bottom up so that I have reference points.

Here's what I was faced with:-

Babies May Hold Social Judging Skills
Wife Busted After Wii Proves Affair
Plastic Shopping Bags On Their Way Out
Hunger Levels in New York Rising
Swiss Army Knife Sets Record
Jellyfish Wipe Out Salmon In Northern Ireland

The floor manager came to collect me and put a mike on. "There's a lot of cables on the set so just be careful". I was introduced to Martin Stanford (pictured below), who said that he was just going to do a few minutes on the top stories and web videos before coming to my bit. 5 - 4 -3 - 2 ........ we're on air.

I sit waiting for Martin to come to my bit. He's talking live to millions of people, reading from an autocue as well as a monitor in front of him. There's videos he's commenting on as well as images of the top stories and then it's "over to Douglas McFarlane of UKTheatre.Net"

I'm relaxed by this stage. I've sat up straight in my seat, shaken loose, made sure my face doesn't look as nervous as my inner thoughts, and start a casual conversation about six topics which I knew nothing about an hour ago. I opened up well with the baby story and quipped "it brings a new meaning to throwing your toys out of the pram". Martin smiled and we moved on through all the stories, with quips like "I think you'll need another golf bag to carry the knife" and "an entreprenurial Scottish salmon fisherman may call and help out with the Irishman's customers".

It was over in a few minutes and I waited until I got my cue to go off set. I shook Martin's hand and the floor manager said it was great, she took my mike off and I headed for my chauffeur driven car back to normality.

It was great fun and I look forward to the next one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

UKFilm.TV - Shrooms: Get Ready To Get Wasted

Think Blair Witch on acid. A psychedelic, psilocybin-soaked, mushroom-munching slasher movie.

A group of American teens come to Ireland to visit an Irish school friend who takes them on a camping trip in search of the local, fabled magic mushrooms. When the hallucinations start taking hold, the panicked friends are attacked by ghostly creatures; never able to determine if they are experiencing gruesome reality or startling delirium. When one teenager unknowingly eats the dangerous Death's Head mushroom, the group's nightmare takes a deeply sinister turn...

--UK Release Date: 23rd of November 2007--

Monday, November 19, 2007

UKTheatre.TV - TAKE THAT feature


I've just uploaded a 5 minute video on the musical Never Forget which features the music of Take That. All the songs are here from "Want You Back For Good" to "Could It Be Magic" and you can now watch it on DVD. It's one of the best of the new breed of musicals with a dramatic storyline and some good comedy moments. Feel free to pass the word around if you know any fans of the band. The DVD would make an ideal Xmas gift for musical theatre lovers everywhere.

Douglas McFarlane

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Here's a link to the DVD:-

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brushing shoulders with Branagh, Caine and Law

I was becoming rather disappointed this week with my choice of films. It was supposed to be an indulgence in great film so that I could do some reviews to camera and then publish them online. Normally it's a tough call which films will be winning a BAFTA as most of them step up to the mark, making the voting process difficult. Well, this week it was clear who was out and who was in. In my humble opinion, and only one BAFTA vote out of 5,000.

Grace Is God
Great acting from John Cusack and some talented young performers but the movie is about grief, which is brave to take on, but not one to win audiences.

I'm Not There
A film about Bob Dylan, played by Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and Richard Gere. Yes, you read correctly. It's a confusing screenplay and requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. Until I knew it was Cate, I did think it was a great performance, but then as soon I knew, like most audiences will, it made it even more difficult to watch. Great music though and I think I'll buy the soundtrack.

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Dustin Hoffman puts gel in his hair to play the "wacky" Mr Magorium who runs a toy shop with Julie Andrews as shop assistant. I mean, Natalie Portman but she looks exactly like Julie Andrews with her short bloke-like hair. It's one for parents to take their kids this Christmas but don't expect too much as it doesn't quite get there.

Now you're talking. A Pinter play, directed by Kenneth Branagh, played by Sir Michael Caine in the role he originally played opposite Sir Laurence Olivier. This time Jude Law plays his character, while he plays Larry's role. With me so far ? Remember these two also played Alfie and in one scene Law says to Caine, "What's it all about ?". The first 15 minutes of this film was worthy of major awards but then instead of 10 out of 10, it slips a few points due to another requirement of audiences to suspend disbelief. I won't spoil it for you but it is a serious contender for awards. The acting is incredible and complimented by the direction and design. I was lucky enough to be at the Q&A afterwards and was brushing shoulders, literally, with all three of them. Kenny, Mikey and Judey ;-)

I'll write up a review and do a piece to camera over the next week.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Live From Sky News

This morning was my first appearance on live television. A chauffeur driven Mercedes picked me up at 5.15am before the world was awake and took me to the studios. A bit of makeup, a relaxing coffee in the green room and then on. Live. In front of millions having a quiet conversation with Mark Longhurst. It was over before most people had had their breakfast and then back in the car to London.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An interview with Gary Wilmot

I'm just off the phone with Gary Wilmot, seasoned actor in theatre and TV, and star of Half-A-Sixpence which is reaching the end of its UK tour this month.

Is theatre your passion?

It hasn’t always been my passion but it has been since Me and My Girl. I just loved it and wanted to do more.

Are you enjoying Half-A-Sixpence ?

Yeah, it’s great. It’s a brand new show and the script has been re-written, with permission, and it’s a lot of fun to do.

How do you cope with the gruelling schedule and repetitive performances?

Well, it’s not always the case but in Half-A-Sixpence it has been that way. I get two days off but as we are travelling a lot with the tour it can be hard work.

How do you keep your performance sharp?

That’s the art. That’s what all actors should be striving for. I tend to ensure I get lots of sleep and drink lots of water. You have to treat yourself like a Formula 1 race car which needs careful handling.

Does all your work come from your agent?

Work comes from everywhere. It could be someone in the audience who likes your show and they want you to be in something, or a chance meeting in a restaurant. My agent is always very busy on my behalf and doesn’t just go for quantity, it’s always best to focus on the quality of work.

Any TV or Film work in the pipeline?

Yeah, I’ve got two scripts in consideration at the moment. One of which I’ve co-written, so I won’t be acting in that one. I’m not interested in being in the middle of a jungle or sitting in a house with strangers for months and that seems to be what is being produced most often at the moment.

Is there a chance of Showstoppers returning ?

Showstoppers was a great show and I’d love to do it again. Sadly there is too much focus on low cost productions with audiences calling a number. I’m not bitter, it’s just the reality of today’s broadcasting.

What’s the best advice to someone making it in show business ?

Don’t get a mortgage
It ties you down to one place and when you’re not working you worry more about paying the mortgage than developing as an actor.
Work where you can
Do anything, for anyone in any place. It’ll soon settle down and you’ll get into your niche.
Avoid disappointment
You either get a part because it’s right for you or you don’t because it’s wrong. It’s not because you’re not good enough, so avoid being disappointed.

Gary Wilmot is playing the lead role of Arthur Kipps in Half-A-Sixpence which is showing in the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until 10th November (box office: 01274 432 000) and then at Stoke on Trent until the 17th November (box office: 01782 213 800)

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Queen visits Pinewood

Mission accomplished.

I had the pleasure of being invited to the Queen's visit to Pinewood studios today. I was on a strict embargo of information and received an operational note from Buckingham Palace yesterday to provide the itinerary.

Pinewood is where some of the best UK films are made including Casino Royale, Bourne Ultimatum, Atonement, Stardust and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were shown around by Pinewood Chairman Michael Grade. Some stunts were setup using some of the stages and props at their disposal. Helicopters, boats, wind machines, a water tank and a troop of soldier abseiling down a gigantic blue screen. I managed to capture some of the excitement of the day no my Sony HDV so I will do some edits and upload soon.


Monday, October 29, 2007

You Can't Take It With You

Money that is. It seems to be a subconscious theme of my chosen entertainment recently. Into The Woods was about escaping the norms of society and a similar thread runs through this Pulitzer prize American comedy.

Southwark Playhouse is the venue, under the arches of London Bridge train station, and 17 talented actors took to the stage in full 1930s costume to bring this classic to life.

The production team are to be commended for the bravery of dusting off a play not seen in a major production for 20 years. Their casting is also superb and each actor brings something fresh to each character. The comical ballet dancer had performed with the Royal Ballet, the Russian is an actor from Ukraine and the elderly father who was not only grey and balding, but fit enough to be thrown over the Russians back in an hilarious scene.

There were numerous moments where it was clear why the play was awarded the Pulitzer. Most of the comedy still works today. Among them was the drunk actress who says that she doesn't drink alcohol when on stage. She waits for the interval to do that. Or the girlfriend who liked the back of her boyfriends head when they first met, and got used to his face afterwards. The comedy timing and delivery was seamless and effortless.

I was pleasantly surprised with the play, the venue, the direction, the costumes, the set, and a talented cast. They fully deserved the 3 curtain calls.

BAFTA Birthday line up

Michael Parkinson (left) and Joanna Lumley were the hosts at a variety gala to celebrate Bafta's 60th Birthday. They were joined on stage by a wide range of performers from both the small and silver screens, many of them previous Bafta winners.

Legendary comedian Stanley Baxter and Full Monty and Trainspotting star Robert Carlyle represented the Scots.

Hollywood star Halle Berry took to the stage looking fantastic and legendary diva Celine Dion sounded great singing her infamous Titanic theme. Operatic star Andrea Bocelli sang Maria from West Side story and stunned the audience with his incredible vocal talents.

The boys from Billy Elliot The Musical were excellent and, as ever, the older boys were upstaged by the smallest kid who somersaulted across the stage before stopping, smiling and stretching his hands out like a true professional.

The Kumars interview of Ben Kingsley was dull to watch, but may be edited better for TV and other mildly amusing moments included a revival of a Morecambe and Wise sketch and a Miss Piggy sketch with Sharon Osbourne. Victoria Wood started to raise the laughter levels, though introducing her as "the best comedy talent in Britain", may have been setting her up for a fall.

Finally, no British TV award programme could go without a lineup of soap stars. Some of the cast from Coronation Street were on stage and, for those that remember, Upstairs Downstairs, shared some of the "good old days" with the audience.

Make sure you catch Happy Birthday Bafta on ITV1, Wednesday 7th November at 9pm.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy birthday Bafta

The fantastic looking set for the televised Bafta 60th birthday party. It will be on your screens in November.

Michael Parkinson and Joanna Lumley host the show and I just passed Sir Richard Attenborough.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sean Penn's journey Into The Wild

Hi there

I'm just back from a BAFTA screening of INTO THE WILD with the screenwriter and director Sean Penn in attendance along with the star of the film, Emile Hirsch. The film comes out on November 9th and you must go and see it. It's based on a true story and it's best if you don't read any reviews, nor read the book. Just get yourself along and enjoy the journey. You'll laugh, cry and be entertained, and will look at the world in a new way.

In the Q&A at the end Sean Penn told the BAFTA audience that after reading the book he instantly wanted to make the film, but had to wait 10 years for permission. When he finally got the permission and without reading the book again, he picked up a typewriter and started the first 10 pages. He says he's a 10 page guy. If a script doesn't grip him in 10 pages, it goes in the bin so he wanted to make sure his own first 10 pages were the best. A lot of good scripts might not get the greenlight this way, he says, but at least he won't have wasted a lot of his life reading poor scripts.

After writing the first 10 pages himself, he then got an assistant to write, while he dictated what was going on in his mind. He describes the process as pacing up and down and smoking cigarettes for 28 days straight and the first draft was available. He showed the draft to Paramount Vantage producers and they gave comments back like "hate that bit". Sean laughed as he said they offered no suggestions or alternatives, just "hate that bit".

He thought he was going to have a hard sell as his movies had all lost money and here he was with double the budget, an unknown actor and an ending that wasn't normal for Hollywood. The producers fortunately had also read the book and it had the same impact on them, so within 24 hours, they said YES.

For me, the acting was incredible, not just from the very talented and hard-working Emile Hirsch, but from every character he meets in his travels. You'll see what I mean when you see it. Soon.

In the meantime, here's the website which will get you into the mood with some great music and images.

I think Sean Penn could well pick up a screenplay award for this one. He's got my BAFTA vote so far this year.

It's screening time over the next two months, so I'll bring you more snippets from other MUST SEE movies.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Cruise missiles into London

Tom's in town with Robert Redford. Lions for Lambs has a Bafta screening tonight and has the infamous duo in a question and answer session.

These sessions normally coincide with a premiere in Leicester Square so keep an eye on the webcam at Whats On - London West End at

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Every little thing they did was magic

Wembley Arena is the last night of the European tour for The Police and it was magic.

Walking On The Moon, Roxanne, Dont Stand So Close To Me and many other classics were on the playlist tonight. The light show added the sparkle but there was no need as these veteran rockers have still got what it takes to delight an audience who we-ay-ood and sue-lawley'd along as if they were back in the 80s. Great night.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Its all gone foggy

The Film London debrief has just finished. The fog has lifted. We now know the reasons behind not getting the green light.

Two key reasons were that the core thread of the story was confusing and it was felt that it needed a bigger budget.
So with the fog lifting, its over to Dishad to do some re-writes to bring cohesion to the script and to consider a reduction in characters and locations to reduce the cost.

Will it get off the ground next year ? Time will tell but in the meantime I've got Making It In Hollywood to complete and the prominent politician documentary to be getting on with.

Show business. There is no business like it. Hope you're enjoying the journey.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Back to the drawing board

Right. Flat move over. I can hardly believe that's a year in London. And what a year!

Partnering with Bebo. Going to the Oscars and filming Clint Eastwood and Kate Winslet. Then off to Cannes and capturing Jude, Jake and Jessica. Then down to the last stages with BBC and Film London.

Where to next ? Well I have just received agreement from a prominent politician to do a documentary about his world. Sundance and Hollywood planning has started for January and February for Making It In Hollywood. No plans for Little India yet until the debrief this week. If some top filmmakers think its not possible to make for 100k, then making it for less than that may not be a wise move.

No broadband for a week, so apologies if I have not replied to your email. Click on 'Whats on' at the top of this page to read about the best in stage and screen where you are.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Neon Bird at Royal Albert

Instant picture direct from the Royal Albert Hall where Darren Hayes is performing his last show of the UK tour. I was lucky enough to be in a box with free wine and beer.

The crowd loved every minute and were on their feet cheering a great entertainer. Robbie Williams' tour manager sat next to me taking notes. This is a refreshing production which has a concept, a story and a performance.

Darren is off to Australia on Tuesday for 3 weeks, then off to promote his album in the US over Xmas.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Time Machine Tour by Darren Hayes

I was delighted to be invited to the production rehearsals of Darren Hayes' Time Machine Tour last night where I took the photo above. It's just kicking off tonight in Glasgow and is heading around the UK.

The ex-Savage Garden singer has put together an incredible performance. Great music, great dancing and what a voice ?! Don't miss the fantastic laser and light show, as well as watching the story of the concept of The Time Machine unfold. A great production and a talented performer.

See UKGigs.TV for details of where he's performing over the next two weeks.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Life's A Pitch

Making a film on a micro budget has its challenges and this week I've shared with you some of the knowledge from the BBC/Film London "Microschool". As a producer it is critical to choose the right script in the first place. If locations are too many, actors in abundance and lots of special effects, choreography or fight scenes for example, then these all add to the expense of the film and increase the rehearsal and shooting time. These are all inhibitors to getting a film off the ground and obtaining buy-in and thus investment.

Show business is one of the most competitive businesses in the world, especially in independent film. Making an independent film which is entertaining, compelling, exciting and drives audiences to see it, is one thing. Making a profit on it is quite another story.

Take London To Brighton for example. The final day of the Microschool had an audience with the Producer. Private investors provided £65,000 to make the film. Then another £200,000 was required to deliver it to the cinemas. The box office receipts for a UK cinema release were £200,000 and DVD sales have reached 23,000. Yet it has still a long way to go before it breaks even. Apparently around 95% of cinemas income is generated from the popcorn, hotdogs and drinks that we have. The other 5% is from the showing of the film and even then most of that goes to the promotion, advertising and distribution. So, that film you've seen in the cinema that looks amazing and you've told your friends about, hasn't made any money. However if you have a successful UK film, it is likely to sell to other countries around the world and if it build up a significant interest in lots of countries, which each have loss leading cinematic releases, the ongoing DVD sales over the following 3-5 years, are what will ultimately make the return on investment.

Right now, Little India is sitting on the cusp of becoming one of those films. All it takes now is for a successful 15 minute pitch to four of the most powerful people in the UK film business.

On Monday. At lunchtime.

No pressure.

Making It In Hollywood - there's no business, like show business.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Script, locations, budget

Day 3 at Microschool

Script, script, script. Location, Location, Location. Budgets, budgets, budgets.

The writers were happier today. They had been challenged by experts who said their characters weren't strong enough, their locations were too many and they were creating massive budget challenges. They brainstormed, reviewed, discussed and then slept. In the morning they arrived with stronger convictions, characters with more depth and places where edits could be made.

The other sessions were discussing "how to work with creatives". Will you get along with your chosen team when the pressure mounts and the days become longer ? Will you support each other and build the team energy when it's low ? How can you entertain your audience if your cast and crew are not fired up ?

Other sessions included a talk on casting and it was nice to hear that one of the top tips for finding actors was "go to the theatre". Nice one. Producers, directors and casting people are visiting all the time, so if you are a performer, look out, it's not just critics you need to worry about, it's that potential next big film role !

The day ended with the screening of Extraordinary Rendition and writer/director James Threapleton was on hand to talk about it beforehand. A quick search of his name on google and I noticed he was married to Kate Winslet for a few years. His film features Andy "Gollum/Kong" Serkis as the ruthless interrogator. It's a great film and it has a screening today in London for UK distributors. I'm sure it will be a winner, it was a gripping film about the kidnapping and torture of terrorist suspects by CIA agents who transfer them from country to country. We see the story from an ordinary Londoner who is going about his daily business. Made on a budget of £65,000.

It can be done.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Planning for success

Day 2 at the Microschool.

As you may know by now, I'm on the Film London assessment workshops which is called "Microschool", where four of the final ten selected films will be chosen next Monday and given a guaranteed screening on BBC and a 'micro' budget of £100,000.

Yesterday the writers and directors were split up from the producers in order to perform some of the scenes from the screenplays with professional actors. Additionally the scripts were critiqued by industry experts. Most writers looked a little brain-frazzled by the end of the day as they were given challenges of reducing characters and locations to reduce the budgets even further. What is the film about ? Who is it about ? Why should I care ? Were the focussed questions which demanded instant answers.

Meanwhile, I joined the other Producers for some exciting indepth presentations on the legal aspects, copyright and my favourite, insurance. Lovely. It's a real minefield as you can imagine but fortunately Film London provide all the forms and paperwork in a nice little pack if we are "greenlit". We also had a session with a top line producer who gave some hints and tips around scheduling the film and budgetting.

In the evening, we had arranged to meet David O'Donnell (pictured), from Cage Rage. We are looking to work with one of the fight organisations, as two of the key scenes include one of our hapless characters having to fight in Wembley Arena to save his mum from the bad guys.

When we met David he was in the middle of a conversation with Wolfman, of TV's Gladiator fame. A quick introduction and both of them were interested. Wolfman in a cameo role seemed like a possible option and getting access to the fight cage before and after the big night was seen as easy to provide. We left with an understanding that we have the option to work together if that big green light comes on for us on Monday.

Exciting times. The pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place nicely. Still a long way to go and six projects will be unsuccessful. Nevertheless, it's all good fun.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Microschool - Serendipity leads the way

It's all happening.

Serendipity leads the way.

Dishad and I met for a coffee beforehand and we came up with some final suggestions on what we were going to say about the film. "It's a fast paced action comedy featuring three underdogs and their attempts to be successful".

We headed to the Shoreditch Town Hall but we couldn't find it and stopped next to an equally lost guy looking at a map who asked us for directions to the same place. He was the Sales Agent giving a pitch at today's session. A quick introduction and I realised that he was also from Glasgow. The first great connection of the day.

We eventually found the building on the opposite side of the road from where we were looking. I had brought my camera so we stopped outside to do a little piece to camera showing our first day excitement.

The Chairman of Film London, Sandy Lieberson made a surprise visit to talk about the pitch that we've to give next Monday. He headed up 20th Century Fox productions and launched the Star Wars films, among others. He opened up his talk by asking the audience to tell him about their film - "It's a fast paced action comedy featuring three underdogs and their attempts to be successful", I offered and he said that it was a more powerful pitch than others. Nice feedback.

The rest of the day went well, and finished with the screening of two of last years selections which are now in post-production. Shifty and Mum & Dad. Shifty looked interesting and reminded me of Sweet Sixteen with drug culture being at its core but this time based in Essex. Mum & Dad is a horror and this one shocked the entire audience and left me with a horrible feeling. Why audiences want to watch people being brutally murdered, I just don't know, but there's a market for it and it was well filmed.

Back home I caught up with my brother for a drink in the local and we ended up chatting to two of the cast of Life On Mars (pictured) who were filming a new series Ashes to Ashes locally. I told them about Microschool but as it was a low budget I couldn't afford highly paid actors. They said they would love to be part of the film for a low fee and also offered to come to the premiere. Nice.

Finally, I noticed in yesterday's newspaper that the cage fighting in Wembley Arena, which is core to the story of Little India and where we intend to film, is on this Saturday !! Two tickets bought.

What a day.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Microschool - Getting ready for day one


I'm ready. 7:30am and I've got enough time and I'm alert enough to write a note to you. It's a 10am start and like a good producer, I've got everything planned and ready. I worked all day yesterday to prepare the final packs and I've got them all neat and ready in some cool box files. Four copies each of the 90 page screenplay, 16 page budget and 9 page schedule, as well as copies of the answers to 10 questions on our submission.

The budget template provided by Film London made the job less complex. Each potential cost item was listed with some indicative costs and it was much like a shopping list. Two of those, six of them, and it was a great reminder to all the small costs that we often forget to budget for. Makeup, wardrobe, drivers, telephone costs are all included in a structured way. It soon burns a hole in the £100k budget. Fortunately we don't have any set design requirements, no music to pay royalties on and no Hollywood stars. If we did, the film just couldn't be made. £100,000 seemed a lot of money before I started this but now I feel it's a comfortable amount to make a film. This doesn't even include the marketing and distribution costs, this is just to make the film. It could lie in a cupboard somewhere if it doesn't get a distributor. Fortunately in this instance, the BBC will be showing the finished film on TV and supporting us in the sales cycle as well. Well, they've got to do something for their 60% ownership. The other 40% goes to the production and our top-up investors. The Film London scheme provides £50,000 so I've got some investors waiting in the wings to negotiate with if we get the deal.

There's no business like show business.

Here's the schedule (below) for today. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for continuing to be interested and your supportive feedback.


10.00 Welcome/scheme overview: Maggie Ellis & Mia Bays
Introduction to Microschool: With Alexis Johnson & Mia Bays
10.30 The Market Place: Talk with Andrew Orr. The benefit of strong market positioning for micro-budget features, focusing on genre, treatment & log line.
11.30 The Business of Micro-Budget Films: Talk & Discussion with Mike Kelly.Introducing the fundamentals of Micro-Budgets, understanding cost drivers & the balance between expenditure and income. To make the case for entrepreneurship & being positive about your budget.
12.30 LUNCH
13.30 Introduction to Producer & Script Mentors: Teams divide into 3 groups & work in their assigned rooms.
14.00 Genre Group Project Analysis: Workshop with producer-mentor name & script-mentor name. Group discussion to introduce projects.
15.30 Genre Independent Study: Teams may book 1:1 sessions with their mentors. Booking sheet will be provided.
16.30 Debrief: With Alexis & Mia. Identify day 1 achievements, & day 2 prep.
17.00 Microwave 2006 Alumni: Discussion with Steven Sheil, Lisa Trnovski, Ben Pugh and Rani Creevy; chaired by Mia Bays. Sharing the challenges and successes of making micro-budget features, and their experiences of the first year of Microwave.
18.30 END

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Alan Cumming now in London

You may have seen the review earlier this week from Jon Cuthbertson in Glasgow. Well, the National Theatre Of Scotland arrived in London with their production of The Bacchae starring Alan Cumming in the lead role as Dionysus the Greek God of wine and theatre.

At one hour fifty minutes long with no interval, coupled with the fact that it is a Greek tragedy, may put a lot of audiences off, but you'll be missing out.

Alan Cumming was made for the role. His own lifestyle, his stage presence, his cheeky smile and his choice of gold lame`kilt and waistcoat, is worth seeing alone. Add some sexy singers into the mix with Jesus Christ Superstar styled songs and you have a very different and ambitious production.

There are a number of fantastic visual effects which are best left to seeing rather than explaining here. Flowers, wine, fire and lights are the tools of The World Famous who did the special effects.

The Lyric in Hammersmith is a great looking theatre, having reconstructed the original nearby opera house inside a 70s styled building. Well worth a visit.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Meet Joe Wright

Joe Wright

A name you'll hear more of in the world of film. I thought I'd take a delve into his career to share with you. Here's the lowdown.

2005 first feature film, Pride and Prejudice which won him the BAFTA best newcomer award, 4 Academy nominations and 6 BAFTA nominations. No less.

This year Atonement. Again with Keira Knightley and complimenting her nicely is top Scots actor James McAvoy.

Wright was born in London where his parents founded Little Angel Theatre, a puppet theatre in Islington.

His next film ?

The Soloist. With Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.

A true rising star who is making some fantastic films.

Atonement opens in cinemas from this weekend.

The premiere was live while I was writing this and I had a look at the webcam and could see the crowds growing. It'll be all over by now but here's the link, save it in your favourites:-

Whats On > Whats On - London West End

Monday, September 03, 2007

UKFilm.TV - Angelina Jolie

64th Annual Venice Film Festival

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Premiere - Day 5

Angelina Jolie wearing Bvlgari.

See the film trailer with husband Brad Pitt at

Sunday, September 02, 2007

George Clooney and his partner in Venice

VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 31: George Clooney and girlfriend, Sarah Larson, attend the Michael Clayton Cocktail Party held at the Cipriani Restaurant in Venice during Day 3 of the 64th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2007 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Venice Film Festival opens with ATONEMENT

Here's one way that producers can get their movie sold around the world. Have it as the opening night at the oldest film festival.

The free publicity it generates around the world is invaluable and will certainly get international sales agents beating a path to your door.

Of course you need to get a great story to start with, add some of the today's top British actors, and get it directed by a rising star.

Director Joe Wright and his cast, including Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, were at the opening night of Atonement, based on the Ian McEwan novel of the same name.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Article in Screen International this week

.Net Magazine article on UKTheatre.Net

UKFilm.TV - The talents of Paul Greengrass (Bourne Ultimatum)

Paul Greengrass delivers again.

It's such a delight to see one of Britain's top directors competing with the best in Hollywood and pulling together yet another film worthy of awards. Too often we forget the mammoth like proportions taking on the task of creating great movies actually is.

Filmed in Madrid, Morocco, London and New York. With an international cast, crew and production team with hundreds of stunt people in each city, not to mention the immense travel arrangements needed to make it happen, makes a project like this a significant adventure and business proposition at the same time. Considering this as one of many of the career of Paul Greengrass, makes the feat even more significant.

Matt Damon delivers the goods again in the lead role as he defies attempts to wipe him out by the CIA. A place he thinks he used to work but he has no absolute recollection. As each piece of the story unfolds for him, he gains a little more knowledge, and so the energy to find out consumes every waking moment. Something that he has lots of in his insomniac world.

I loved the selection of Waterloo Station as the London venue. It's a place I've been in and out regularly this year and it brought a realism to it that I personally enjoyed. Julia Stiles plays one of his former CIA colleagues and is key to his support mechanism in finding the truth.

It's in choices of camera movements and angles followed up by hair-splitting accuracy in the editing that makes this film exciting. These are clear director choices working closely with an army of production resources.

Paul Greengrass.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Join the celebration

Hi there

It seemed appropriate that you should join me tonight and share a bottle of virtual champagne. You have helped support, encourage and spread the news about the network and I am delighted to say that BBC/Film London have accepted 'little india' into the final stages of the funding scheme.

The next steps are to work with some top directors and producers over a three day period in September. Only three films get the funding but being part of the final stage is clearly a result in itself.

Look out for Friday's Screen International as well, for a mention of Making It In Hollywood.

What a great week. The lottery numbers are definitely going on this week :)


Monday, August 13, 2007

Uktheatre for those not at the fringe

Hello again. If you are not at the fringe in Edinburgh then there are still lots going on. Among the best is Oxford Shakespeare Company with their performance at delightful Kensington Palace and soon at the amazing Hampton Court. Blankets provided for those not so sunny nights.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Midsummer Shakespeare

The cast of Oxford Shakespeare Company get into character before the start of the performance at Kensington Palace. Review coming soon but booking early is advised. Especially on HOT summer nights.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Stunt man jumps off London Bridge

Caught in action during a film shoot at London Bridge. It was a major shoot with at least three 35mm film cameras capturing the action. It was well shot with great precision as the team controlled the action and the crowds from the South Bank. Various rescue teams were on hand to assist the stunt man in getting out of the Thames without drinking too much of it.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A nice way to watch film

Somerset House is the place to be. Film 4 show a number of films each year here. Tonight is a film appropriate from a Making It In Hollywood point of view. Ennio and Clint combine their movie making talents in The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Edinburgh prepares for the Fringe

Fringe 2007 5 - 27 August




Pictured: Edinburgh gets ready for over a million visitors during August.

This Sketch Show Belongs to Lionel RichieLIONEL RICHIE SET TO OWN THE 2007 EDINBURGH COMEDY FESTIVAL7/30/2007
BackpackerJody Kamali, the half-Iranian, Bristolian comedy actor; brings the comedic essence of travelling to the stage, in a one-man, character comedy show.7/29/2007
Best of The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 07Media releases and images from some of the shows UKTheatre will be reviewing at the Edinburgh Fringe7/29/2007
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE'S "HOW TO GET ALMOST ANYONE TO WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOU" Afternoon stand-up leaving you ready to pull tonight 7/29/2007
The Witching Hour IIIThe scariest late night show on the Fringe is back with Perrier nominee Stephen Harvey. 7/14/2007
Grasmere By Kristina LeachDebuting at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe ‘07, RoaN Productions will be travelling from their home city of New York to present the European Premiere of GRASMERE, showing at C between 1 and 27 August.7/14/2007
ASHES by Ali MurielFour actors, four fires, four darkly comic stories. 7/14/2007
The Maids'Genet's 'The Maids' is a transgendered exploration of volatility, destruction, eroticism and murder.7/14/2007
Real Circumstance makes its debut with LIMBO at the Edinburgh Festival!LIMBO is the tender and compelling story of a young girl’s relationship with an older man. A young Catholic girl gives her confession from the edge of Camlough Lake.7/14/2007
Dye Young / Stay PrettyBefore Madonna, blonde ambition had a different name: Debbie Harry. 7/7/2007
Paul Chowdhry’s ‘Lost in Confusion’ Edinburgh set to misunderstand confused comedian7/7/2007
Kitty Flanagan’s Edinburgh ‘Festival of Me’“Flanagan is one of the most subtle and perceptive of live performers regardless of gender” 7/7/2007
Jim Bowes has a complaint to makeOn average, a person is likely to moan to more than twice as many people about a bad experience, than when praising a positive one.7/7/2007
Dear Future Wife… in Edinburgh?One man’s desperate search unfolds on stage7/7/2007
Doctor Deepak’s Edinburgh Festival SurgeriesA visit to your Doctor will never be the same again!7/7/2007
BUTCH - A QUEEN’S STUGGLE TO BECOME A KINGMenno wants to ‘butch-up’, he wants to be less Graham Norton and more Vinnie Jones......7/7/2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finding Kevin Spacey

It sounds like the title of a new movie, but in fact it is just my ongoing search for the elusive man to find out if he would be interested in 'K-PAX II: The Return Of Prot'.

I popped down to the Old Vic today to find out more about the 24 hour plays which he launches every year around September. These are for around 50 new and emerging performers who are taken under the wing of the 'Old Vic New Voices Team' and coached and developed. Many go on to bigger and better things.

Did I meet him ? No. The picture is from the publicity poster from the David Mamet play Speed-The-Plow which he is performing in next year but it had you going didnt it ?

Rachel Stevens, (no, not the S Club 7 star, the Old Vic New Voices one), told me more about the 24 hour plays and will be keeping me posted with the entry timetable. There will be regional auditions which will be sponsored by Red Bull and these will be coming your way in October.

Right, its back to calling Mr Spacey's agent John Fogelman tonight to see if Gene Brewer's latest script, coupled with my ideas around the fringe play have captured any initial interest.

Nothing ventured......

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An actors best friend

BAFTA held a casting session tonight with four of the UK's top Casting Director's.

It was an interesting event listening to the trials and tribulations and varied experiences of those responsible for everyone selecting A-list actors to one line newcomers in the major films in the cinema today.

One of the UK's top film producers kept them on their toes and brought some honesty and humour to the evening.

I'll update you more on this and the Raindance session with a producer who got Ewan Mcgregor to work for Equity minimum in this weekend's newsletter.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Classical Busking on the South Bank

The arches under Southwark Bridge have great acoustics for impromptu buskers. Best of all is a quartet playing Vivaldi. The sound resonates nicely delighting the ears of passersby. This quartet didnt have a name when I asked them, but they did say they were from Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Sunday on the South Bank. Do it !

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Olivers Army storms the Tower of London

I had just read about Elvis Costello on the tube home. He is opening up the Tower Music Festival tonight at the Tower of London. He had just arrived the second I was passing and a polite 'hey Elvis' was enough for him to turn and give a mean stare as he headed for the stage for a sound check.

The Tower Music Festival ends on Monday with The Good The Bad and The Queen, Damon Alburn's Supergroup.