Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UKFilm.TV @ Cannes 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Photo's from Cannes 2008

Winner of Best Actor in Che, Benicio Del Toro. Looking on is Steven Soderbergh.

Bill Pullman was having fun posing for photographers on the Croisette before the world premiere of Surveillance


Winner of the Palm Dog, is Lucy from the film Wendy and Lucy. The dog got more media attention that many of the A-listers.

P-Diddy being interviewed live on Canal Plus. Is that his super-yacht in the background ?
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Sunday, April 20, 2008

A visit to The Sound Of Music

Apparently prior to launching the search to find a Maria on BBC, the producers had been trying to get Scarlett Johansson for the lead role. When Scarlett turned it down, they opted for a national casting call instead, which some artistic directors might consider a free marketing campaign.

It hasn’t been plain sailing though as not long after the show opened, Connie Fisher didn’t seem to cope with the gruelling schedule and the actor playing the Captain also withdrew after two performances. A permanent understudy was found for Connie Fisher for two nights per week and the Captain has gone through regular changes in the last year. Recently Connie Fisher was replaced by Summer Strallen from Hollyoaks. So with this background, I wondered whether the musical still had legs when I was invited to review it by the producers.

The opening is quite special. It had to be. The film opens with Julie Andrews running across the hillside with a helicopter swooping over while she sings bellows “The Hills Are Alive......”, so following that on stage was going to be a tall order. Enter the creative geniuses of the West End theatre who have created a moving hillside which has Maria singing while lying on her back, though she is vertical, and the helicopter view is created by a direct beam of light through a gauze curtain. Clever.

Summer Strallen has the look, the style and the depth of character to convince her audience that she is Julie Andrews and delivers her opening songs with the right emphasis and quality. A great opening scene is followed soon after by some great young acting talent as the children come downstairs to introduce themselves to Maria, to the tones of the Captain’s whistle. I’m not as convinced with the Captain, who reminds me more of a Prince Charles than Christopher Plummer, but Australian actor Simon Burke gets over that quickly when he sings and perfects the emotional connection with the children, who open their mouths in disbelief that their tough father actually has a heart. Touching.

I was very impressed with Amy Lennox who played the 16-year old Liesl. It’s Amy’s West End debut after graduating from Guildford School of Acting, with First Class Honours, no less, and it was very clear that this performance will assure her place in many many more musicals in the future. The character of Liesl required a mix of adult attitude with teenage precociousness, and she carried this off in every line, in every reaction and in each emotional expression. Superb.

Finally, a big applause to the big vocals of Margaret Preece who stepped up to the mark as The Mother Abbess. This is a massive role for a singer and only the best need audition. It’s abundantly clear why that is, when the top note of Climb Every Mountain is reached and the sound resonates around the theatre like a force of gravity that stuns the audience. Fantastic.

So, all in all an enjoyable evening and definitely worth going just to see some of the future talent of the West End.
Booking until: Oct 18, 2008
Monday, Wednesday - Saturday evenings at 7.30pm, Tuesday evenings at 7pm, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm Running time: 2hrs 35

Click for ticket prices

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Hollywood Dream

Hollywood ? Been there, done that, made the film and bought the T-Shirt (and hat).

I couldn't resist getting some duty free goodies before I left. I arrived back in London to a cold and dark night after getting used to some lovely weather in LA. The tube journey back reminded me how little people smile here and there is no social interaction of any sort. The dark clothes people wore were also evidence that the winter months were still around and further zapped the colour out of the faces of Londoners young and old. The stiff upper lip needs to start turning into a hearty smile. Bring on the summer !

Of course, I'm on cloud nine, having had a fantastic weekend and managing to avoid the jet lag this year. I slept well on the flight back which I think is the key to recovery. One bottle of wine for dinner and waking up when everyone else is eating, also helped to get back to normal quickly.

Tonight, I was invited to a meeting in studios in Covent Garden to discuss Making It In Hollywood with a successful distributor. The meeting went very well and they enjoyed my explanation of the story of my first filmmaking journey and they even suggested I continue with filming the next steps to include as extras in the DVD.

Making It In Hollywood. The dream continues........
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Monday, February 25, 2008

American Beauties

I fell asleep exhausted last night after having had several American beauties. Now before your imagination runs riot, it's a cranberry based cocktail. It tastes delicious but it knocked me out and I woke up at 4am with a thumping headache. The punishment for over indulging in the sweetness. It was however opportune that I was awake, as I got a phone call from a London based distributor who I had met through a Facebook friend at the BAFTA's. I followed the meeting up with some images and a synopsis of the story of Making It In Hollywood, after I had found his card in my jacket pocket when I arrived here in Hollywood. They want to meet me on Wednesday on my return and would consider investing, co-producing and distribution. Even if it doesn't go ahead with them, it's a fine and fitting ending to the journey of the last year.

The other American beauties on this blog are Cheryl Hancock and Diane Sawyer, who are well known TV presenters over here.

For a full run down of the Oscar winners, click here.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The day of the Oscars

It's Oscars day.

The sun is trying to break through and clear the drizzle of rain. It looks like it should clear in time for the show to start later this afternoon. The Fox News team (below) were creating stories as best they could to go out live to America. Everything is discussed from the suppliers of the flowers, to the spotlights being used on the Oscar statues.

The red carpet is getting a beating from all the preparations and I even noticed someone taking their bike through.

Walking down the carpet with my kilt on, certainly gets some attention. There's not much to film pre-show, so I took their attention for a short period of time. I was interviewed for a Hollywood magazine, asked to be photographed with a tango dancer from South America, and filmed by numerous production teams. Americans love to emphasise the international nature of the Oscars. I guess it's to avoid criticism similar to "world series baseball". A kilt is therefore a simple visual for the voiceover to say "Oscars continues to attract an international audience". Happy to do my bit for Scottish tourism ;-)

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Preparation at the Oscars

Now in it's 80th Year, the infamous Academy Awards is in prepartion mode. Presenters are rehearsing and camera crews are setting up.

There are some faces I recognise from last year. This lady, above, from ABC, is back in action and was doing some pre-show footage. What a professional, she even managed to look up to my camera while in the middle of an interview.

Jon Gripton, works at Sky News, and I bumped into him unexpectedly on the red carpet. Jon was the reporter who approached me at the Facebook developers conference last year, as he thought I was brave to ask their U.S. chiefs what they doing about security of personal information. He then introduced me to the live TV team and I ended up on air talking about it. I've since been on Sky News five times, thanks to that initial meeting with Jon, so it was a delight to see him. He'll be covering the Oscars online for SkyNews.com
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Direct from Hollywood

I didn't get this view last year and this year I never specifically asked for a view, but when I arrived in my king-sized room on the 14th floor of the Renaissance Hotel, this is what I saw when I looked out of my window. It was getting dark when I arrived so the pictures will be clearer tomorrow.

The excitement is building around the Oscars which is held next door in the Hollywood and Highland Centre in the Kodak Theatre. It's warm but breezy here, so it looks as if it will be another glorious day on Sunday. The street has been closed off from a wider distance, leading all the way up to the Chinese Theatre and the Roosevelt Hotel, the home of the first Oscars. There's also a giant fantasy castle and spotlights shining around the place, I'll get a better look at that tomorrow. The taxi driver couldn't get access to the hotel, so I had to walk the last mile ladened with cases, laptop and cameras.

Some dignatories were showing up in the hotel in their giant limousines, with eager doormen rushing to open the doors while ignoring me struggling with my cases. I didn't recognise their faces so presumably they are American celebrities. Camera crews were waiting on their arrival and were filming away while I was checking in.

Tonight I have to stay awake to ensure I adjust to the timezone and get up fresh tomorrow to get my press credentials sorted. Will blog again tomorrow.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Closeup and personal on the red carpet

Award presenter Jeff Goldblum "loves London"

Daniel Radcliffe also presented an award

Daniel Day Lewis prior to winning leading actor
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More fun at the BAFTA's

Finding Kevin Spacey was easier tonight.

Ricky Gervais presented the craft awards which weren't televised

Chief Executive Amanda Berry stopped for a chat

Tilda Swinton shared some insight prior to winning the supporting actress BAFTA
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Fun on the BAFTA red carpet

Did you enjoy the BAFTA's ? I did. I was on the red carpet in a great position next to journalists, fans and BBC radio. I managed to get some laughs from Kate Hudson, Eddie Izzard and Tilda Swinton to make the night more fun and get some great coverage for the final scenes of Making It In Hollywood. Here's some of my favourite stills.

Kate Hudson presented an award at the BAFTA's last night

Marion Cotillard won leading actress for La Vie En Rose

Eddie Izzard has some fun on the red carpet

Emily Blunt was also presenting an award

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The day of the BAFTA awards

It's mid-day in London and preparations are well under way at the Royal Opera House where the 61st British Academy of Film and Television Awards will be held tonight.

The red carpet takes 4 hours to put down and it started at 11am, ready for the international television crews to start finalising their setup. They are here in force this year. Every nation seems to be represented. From Canadian and American stations to Al Jazeera TV, who have a podium near to the UKFilm.TV one.

There are only five presenters allowed on the red carpet, including Ryan Seacrest from American Idol fame. His autocue was ready with "Ryan: Welcome everyone to London". I will be a little bit more spontaneous than that, though I do have my general and specific questions printed out, as well as all the details of the nominees. I also made sure I researched every single name that I did not know. I chatted with Toby and Lisa from Freud Communication, the publicists behind the awards ceremony, and told them they had did Britain proud with the setup and that they were just as good as the Oscars that I attended last year. "It's our second year here at Royal Opera House", Toby said, "and hopefully you'll agree that it's much better than the Oscars".

It certainly has the same preparation buzz and the size and scale of the production is certainly equivalent. A key difference is that there is no public gallery. However to counter that one, I'm pointed to a small arena with about 200 seats, which is open to the public and has a big screen which will show the ceremony live. Tickets are first come, first served from Jubilee Market in Covent Garden (you heard it hear first).

I picked up my accreditation and broadcast passes, as well as the ceremony and dinner and had a look around at the logistics. The timing to finish filming and then put our camera equipment in the car before going to the ceremony is very tight. According to Toby, all the action is in the last 20 minutes, so if I am packing up and heading for the car, then I could miss it all. I will need to see how many people have arrived before 6pm and then make a decision to either watch the event in the media centre, or make a mad dash before the doors close at 6:15pm. The dinner is in the Grosvenor Hotel and I'll be catching up with the team at BAFTA Scotland who I bumped into this morning. You may remember I worked with them in 2005 to do the first new media broadcast of the BAFTA's. They were impressed that I'd taken it even further with the documentary , though it has taken three years of applying before I finally got approval in London.

The hard work paid off in the end.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's a SUNDANCE wrap !

It's been a great week here in Park City, the home of Sundance Film Festival, and I managed to learn even more about Making It In Hollywood from some of the best in the business. Sharon Stone spoke frankly about having had enough of the Catwoman roles in Hollywood and her desire to do more character based acting. The cast of her latest film included Tom Arnold (below left), Jimmy Fallon and Illeanna Douglas and they were all keen to be involved in independent film that didn't pay much but were very satisfying to do. Well, that's what they said to camera, they are actors of course.

Jaycee Chan, son of Hollywood legend Jackie Chan, gave me some insight to the difficult journey of being related to someone already in the business. He used to visit his father on the set regularly, and still does. His latest movie The Drummer required some physical and mental challenges in order to become convincing as a Zen Drummer. When I told him "off camera", that I didn't like his father's movies, he used some of his dad's moves on me and floored me. I staged managed it of course, in order to introduce a cheeky scene.

Randall Miller has made many movies with some of the British stars in Hollywood, including Robert Carlyle and more recently Alan Rickman. I watched his latest, Bottle Shock, just after this interview outside the Egyptian Theatre. I had no idea he was such a prolific director and screenwriter. The movie was excellent and afterwards he introduced me to his producer, who told me he could arrange an interview with Mr Rickman when he is next in the UK in early February. I know it's a long shot but he seemed convincing.

Finally, when I came back to my hotel, I decided to have a final drink before retiring. Just as well I did, because I would've missed out on catching Quentin Tarantino. It was a bit too late and when someone I was with asked him for a photo, he became all grumpy and said he'd been having his photo taken all day. I was therefore wise not to bother him when he left or I could've ended up having had a real knockout punch instead of a staged one.

So, the journey is almost at an end. I will be attending the BAFTA Film Awards on February 10th with Kevin who filmed with me in Cannes. We're going to get a final shot of walking down the red carpet, as I didn't manage to get the ABC news footage from the Oscars last year when I was on US national TV. Someone called out "hey look Kilt Cam" as I was filming the experience of the red carpet walk, but despite calls and emails to the archive teams, nothing surfaced. At this stage it's unlikely I will be attending this year's Oscars which I had planned to finish up at. It's too risky to book flights and hotel rooms only to find that the writer's strike forces it to cancel. I'll let you know how that one develops.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Get ready to be Bottle Shock'd

Clear your palate, clean those glasses and surf back in time to 7 years after Woodstock. This one's got legs.

Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman are just two of the fantastic ensemble cast in Bottle Shock. It wins my vote for the best in Sundance. It's not a comedy but I laughed louder than I have for a long time and so did the entire audience of the Egyptian Theatre in Park City. It's based on the true story of the birth of the Californian wine industry.

Life is easy for Bo Barrett (Chris Pine, above right). His dad (Bill Pullman, above left), quit his job as a partner in a law firm and invested his life savings to setup Chateau Montelena in the beautiful Napa Valley. His days are spent tending to the vines, surfing, smoking pot, boxing, and chilling in the sun. He still has his scruffy long hippy hair and has a casual approach to everything in life. Including his clothes.

His buddy (Freddy Rodriguez, above right), is a true wine connoisseur. He can taste and select wine to the exact grape and year without looking. Which comes in handy when he's challenged with a bet, which if he loses, requires the new girl, Sam, played by the lovely Rachael Taylor (above left), to slow dance with a total stranger.

Meantime, Steven Spurrier a British wine shop owner in France, wonderfully played by Alan Rickman (above), is getting restless with his French based wine business. He wants to create a bit of a stir in the market to show that it's not only French vineyards that can produce great tasting wine. So he sets up an American-French competition which the French were expected to win, but the result changes the entire way we select and drink wine today.

The film takes you through their journey, which was not one of a considered strategy and well-worked out plan. Californians don't work that way, at least not in 1976. It just seemed like a good idea and it evolved. However their latest crop was producing discoloured wine, a term now known as bottleshock, and they are about to lose everything. Tempers flare and the closeknit team start to fall apart. Jim Barrett (Pullman) returns to the law firm to ask for his job back. They've hit rock bottom. How they recover from this creates some of the funniest moments in the film.

The script is a delight and writer/director Randall Miller, is clearly well versed in the cultural differences with Americans, English and French and the subtleties and nuances of each. These are wonderfully executed and Alan Rickman gives one of his best performances and is perfectly cast. Dennis Farina, who you'll know from Get Shorty and Saving Private Ryan, delivers one of the funniest lines. I won't spoil it but listen out for "the left-handed compliment" remark about English culture during the competition. It was such a truism that I'm sure it won't just be Americans, French and Scots who find it hilarious but amusing to our English cousins as well.

Despite working with some of the more experienced actors in Hollywood, our young stars also did a brilliant job playing their part well and taking us back to a time gone by and educating us with the detail of the event that changed the history of the wine business.

The filming style is traditional Hollywood with great use of focus and camera angles but the editing is noticeably fresh and it gives the film a smooth texture. Much like the fine wine it is portraying.

If Bottle Shock doesn't win an award during Sundance and pick up a major Hollywood deal, I think something is wrong. This is a great story, a great film and deserves a worldwide audience.
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