Michael Bay Mentalism

Lego, Paramount Pictures and Michael Bay team up to make this ultra testosterone filled action-balls. The budget for one of his films is the same as the GDP of India.

Oh, and it stars that geek from The Office. Who knew?

Risk Taking in British Television

It’s interesting to read an article by BBC Controller Kim Shillinglaw looking for something “disruptive” and “anarchic” along the lines of SNL, The Tonight Show etc. The type of programming to go against the grain of the current crop of panel shows and other esoteric light entertainment containing mainly middle class presenters. Something “edgy” and “different” to break the current stale bland schedules. Clearly these guys want something to bring back they youth and make terrestrial television Kool again. Anyone old enough can shout out Def 2

From my experience of keeping my ear to the ground I find the same thing being echoed down the halls of commissioners’ offices. They ask for something different but get the same-old-same-old as it is a safe bet. Sometimes they take the same-old-same-old and try to sell it as a completely different beast. That’s why the same panel shows are commissioned with minor tweaks to the style but sold as bold new formats.

They all seem to have HBO / Lorne Michaels envy and want to find TheNextBigCulturalThing to add to the WaterCoolerTalkingPoint. The problem I see is that the established production companies have a stranglehold on the commissions so the pool for innovation is smaller. If you want something disruptive you need to find the right people who are not corporatized by the standards of television and actually bring in something fresh that reflects society now.

Also do these people know what the term “disruptive” actually means? What they want doesn’t seem like it will disrupt the media ecosystem, especially when it is to be shown at 10pm on BBC 2. Netflix disrupted the business model of waiting each week for the next episode by releasing all 13 parts of House of Cards in one go. That is the term used correctly here. I will let is slide as people love buzzwords like Zeitgeist.

Personally and again this is due to my peculiar taste but the last fresh original anarchic programmes were Nathan Barley and Tramadol Nights. I believe the latter was the last time something so funny and controversial was screened across the airwaves. Granted you can shout out that Toast of London is very funny but I wouldn’t say it’s groundbreaking, just a very funny series.

Commissioners want to discover the next Monty Python and bask in the glory of leaving a televisual legacy and if these people really want to think out of the box they need to talent spot people outside of the safe pool of comics and writers and start developing them. And I don’t mean box ticking. Real risk taking like Lorne does with assembling the writers.

Yes I know the Diversity debate rolls on and people are probably sick to death of hearing about it but compare SNL which has a diverse cast compared to British television. One only has to look at the oft mentioned british exodus to America, look at Armando Ianucci’s, success with his show. The HBO model was to get the talent and leave them alone and have some sort of faith. It worked for them.

As legend has it Only Fools and Horses only starting becoming a ratings grabber after series 3 but nowadays they feel they need to hit the ground running.

Essentially,widen the talent pool and you will be surprised what you will uncover. Be inclusive, not exclusive

Dukes Of Hounslow Sitcom Pitch

Here is the latest idea I am touting around. Simply put it is like Dukes of Hazard but set in the lovely town of Hounslow. Obviously there are no other similarities to that iconic show so i will not have to pay royalties. There is no Rosco P Coltrane, Sexy Denim pants or a car with a stupid name.

There is however petrol headed car action and fast paced dialogue in an urban neighbourhood featuring two Indian lead characters. Think of it as Eastenders twinned with Top Gear and featuring some Asian kids.

 

Quota Films The British Film Industry

So all the rumours of elitism and cronyism within the british film industry are true as per the evidence introduced in the doc I saw at The Prince Charles Cinema recently.

Quota Film’s The British Film Industry: Elitist, Deluded or Dormant is an eye-opening look at this incestuous disease that is deep rooted in the British Film Industry. Let’s be honest it’s like any institution whether it is the Banks or the BBC and the cronyism at the top level keeping the top jobs within their gene pool.

And to think with all this talk of diversity and closing the class divide, the industry is at a low point for people who want an entry. Don’t take my word for it, many news articles are pretty much saying the same thing where the BAME and working class actors/ filmmakers are increasingly shut out. All the advances in the 80’s with Channel 4’s brave agenda have pretty much gone with television preferring safe programming which is why you won’t see many real ground breaking films.

One other not-very-surprising-in-hindsight issue is conflict of interest with some Regional Film Council heads diverting funds into THEIR OWN production companies. Isn’t that a teensy bit illegal? When one has a privileged position they shouldn’t be able to line their own pockets but then again why am I surprised? All these initiatives need overhauling and even with the demise of the Film Council and the BFI taking over, we shall see if they step up to the plate.

As someone who reads a lot about the British Film Industry, this is a fine companion to Icons on Fire: The Decline and Fall of Almost Everybody in the British Film Industry by Alexander Walker where the few people in power totally screwed it for everyone else. Shame really as there is an abundance of talent out there waiting to be recognised. At least for the ones that haven’t hoofed it to the States.

The main reason I found this eye opening and writing from a personal level, I applied to a great many funding bodies over the years and had I known then what I do now I wouldn’t have bothered. What’s the point if the cards are marked against you? What is the real point if the funds are going to their friends? Energies are best spent going after private funds like Kickstarter, especially if you are far from privileged or connected.

I know there are some people who will shout Kidulthood but these are in the minority (pun city!) and more films such as this should be championed. All said and done the shining light in all this (among a slim few) is Warp films making truly British films and creating a filmic legacy that will last years. What is needed is more of that.

The roll call of respected Industry Professionals that have been interviewed is impressive and all speak of the problem and this documentary is one big action plan for change.

Comics make great actors

When it comes to film roles, one thing you will consistently notice is that people who come from a background of live stand up comedy can seamlessly play dramatic parts convincingly and to critical acclaim. Look at Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Steve Coogan. When they play dramatic and/or darker characters they garner rave reviews.

Ever thought about that? It’s not something you would think works but it does.

You see, most stand-up comics make observations about life around them, they are extremely observant of people’s mannerisms. Their routines are consistently based on mimicking. Where method actors get into character, these performers do that anyway night after night over a period of years. One other person of note who transitioned successfully was Lee Evans in Funny Bones.

So when a challenging part comes along(Truman Show, One Hour Photo, Philomena) they can get the right low key performance because of their on the job training.

On the flipside when it comes to actors playing comics it’s the opposite. Take for example Lawrence Olivier, he played a comic in a role and was acclaimed for playing the character as awkward. After all, comics are awkward people in real life. When asked about the role he admitted he played it that way because he felt awkward doing the role.

Also, look at someone more contemporary like Seth Rogan. When he played a comic in Funny People aka Unfunny Film he wasn’t convincing as a live act, more like an actor awkwardly trying to play a comic. Well, I wasn’t convinced but Adam Sandler was good as he had a background in live comedy which made his part more interesting.

Next time you watch a film have a think.