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)