Friday, 10 February 2017

TRIBUTE - Interview with Philip Shelley

Launching today is the new podcast, Tribute, by Philip Shelley. My script Bookmark is part of the anthology series which deals with death and the multitude of emotions that can throw at you. I'll post more about my episode in the coming weeks, firstly to give you more of an idea of the series as a whole here's an interview with the creator Philip Shelley.

What is the premise of Tribute, and what lead you to the idea?

The TRIBUTE PODCASTS are 13 short dramatic monologues – the premise being that they’re eulogies/celebrations/musings on a recently deceased fictional character. What lead me to this was having to do the eulogy at my own mother’s funeral in March last year. My mother had written a 30 page or so account of her life a few years ago, and much of my eulogy was taken from this. Reading it reminded me that it was me who encouraged her to write it in the first place. My mother didn’t live an objectively extraordinary life – but even so, so many extraordinary things had happened to her and so much of the detail of her life was fascinating and rich. It made me think about how every single life is unique and extraordinary – and how a eulogy/tribute is a great dramatic format for recounting the story of a life – particularly if there’s something distinctive about the relationship between the deceased and the person giving the eulogy.
I was also lead to the idea by the succession of celebrity deaths in 2016 that meant something to me – particularly David Bowie.

Would you say Tribute fits into a genre or does it cross over into multiple genres?

It fits into the genre of dramatic monologue – but I think the eulogy aspect makes it distinctive and compelling. I also think as a genre/format, it’s ideally suited to the medium of podcasts. I’m a big podcast fan – but all of the podcasts I enjoy are factual rather than fictional. I think there is a place for more fiction - drama and comedy – podcasts.

How many Tributes will there be?

There are 13 in this first series. I’m hoping the response to this first run will be positive enough to justify a second series. And that I can find a source of funding to pay for the 2nd series!

How did you go about choosing which stories made up the series?

 I put out a call through my fortnightly screenwriting newsletter (go to to subscribe and check out the archive!) and received about 60 scripts. I was blown away by the quality – but these 13 were the outstanding submissions – they all stood out and made an immediate impact when I read them.
I knew I was onto a good thing when I received the first script within an hour of sending out the newsletter – and it was wonderful (Grandad by Daniel Brierley).

Can you give us a hint of what stories we can expect to hear?

It was important to me that we had a really wide range of different tones, characters and stories. Of course, some of the monologues are heart-breakingly sad – but I think the overall tone is uplifting and life-affirming.
Stories range from a prison officer talking about a dead prisoner; a woman saying farewell to the neighbour who has made her life a hell; an art critic celebrating his pupil, a famous sculptress in the Tracy Emin mould; a son talking about his father, a celebrated international statesman – to a mother saying goodbye to her daughter.

And who is in the cast for the series?

We have some really wonderful actors involved – Finty Williams, Joe Sims, Samuel Crane, Sarah Thom, Paul Chapman, Patrick Brennan. Without exception, the actors brought qualities to the scripts that brought them alive in ways we hadn’t expected.

Why do you think there is a resurgence in the anthology approach to storytelling, with the success of Black Mirror, Inside Number 9 recently?

Self-contained dramatic stories will always be with us. In conventional TV drama, these stories sometimes have to be smuggled in (think ‘Ordinary Lies’) but with the explosion in dramatic content (TV, podcasts etc) I think single, self-contained stories and anthologies are ripe for a creative rebirth.
What do you hope the audience get out of listening to Tribute? What was the intention for the series?
I hope the audience will be moved, entertained – but above all that the series will make them think anew about their own lives and the lives of those around them. The theme that holds all of these monologues together is death – but also life, and the celebration of different lives. I hope this will be uplifting not depressing!

When and where can people go to listen and subscribe? 

 You can access the podcasts via the website or download them via iTunes

Thursday, 22 December 2016

My Top 20 films of 2016

20. Doctor Strange - Really enjoyed Marvel exploring psychedelic visuals, and the reversal of their usual climax. If Ant Man and Doctor Strange are second tier of Marvel superheroes I think I'm more of a second tier fan.

19. Learning to Drive - A sweet romance starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. Doesn't re-invent the wheel, but the characters have lots of depth and Clarkson in particular is great.

18. Cafe Society - Jesse Eisenberg doesn't go too neurotic, Kristen Stewart is great, the film looks fabulous. If you're a Woody Allen fan this is like catnip.

17. I, Daniel Blake - Hard hitting, state of the nation film which should be being made by younger filmmakers. Luckily Ken Loach is still about to show them how it's done. Manipulative in place for sure, but great performances make this hit hard.

16. High Rise - From opinions I've seen you either love or hate High Rise. The ratcheting up of insanity really worked for me. Reminded me of Gilliam in many ways.

15. Snowden - Alongside The Big Short this is one of the most terrifying films of the year. I know there's a lot of stories about how this has been the year of horror with the hits Lights Out and Don't Breathe in the summer,but reality has become a lot scarier it would seem. There's some beautiful visuals in this one. Good to see Oliver Stone making politically angry films again.

14. Allied - This had terrible reviews which seemed to malign it for being too melodramatic, which is odd criticism for a melodrama. There are some great heightened moments, romance and surprising bursts of action. I loved its old fashioned appeal.

13. Eye in the Sky - One of the tensest cinema experiences of the year and a lot of it comes from just people talking in rooms.

12. Bridget Jones' Baby - A good surprise this. Had zero expectations, thought the first two were OK at best. Saw this one in a packed cinema that roared with laughter throughout, made for a great atmosphere and made me think that this was the best comedy of the year.

11. Pete's Dragon - A great kids film with a rural setting that really uses the force of nature as a theme throughout the film. Beautifully told and really emotional.

10. Zootropolis - A great and timely message in this fun, bright film which had me smiling throughout with some of the best characters of the year. Looking forward to seeing them in the inevitable sequels.

9. Eddie the Eagle -  Dexter Fletcher is becoming the go to director for British feel good cinema, and this ticks all the boxes to get you smiling, laughing, crying and then laughing with tears coming down your face.

8. Deepwater Horizon - A disaster film with the aesthetic of Friday night Lights. Takes its time to introduce the characters before it all falls apart in horrifying fashion. Another film with old fashioned appeal.

7. Midnight Special - Jeff Nichols with another hit. This one goes pure sci fi and the scale it reaches really surprised me. I felt this was one of the most magical films of the year.

6. Ghostbusters - This had the most punch the air moments of the year, and probably the character of the year in Holtzmann. Nailed the balance of scares and comedy.

5. The Witch - A truly primal horror film which scares with small elements. The attention to detail builds up a reality which makes you question whether events are caused through religious paranoia or something more supernatural. Chilled me to the bone in really strange ways, almost like a spell.

4. Sing Street - Great songs, characters, relationships and the most realistic depiction of writing songs with your mates when you're a teenager. Full of heart, I wish more people had seen this.

3. Hell or High Water - Great characters, dialogue and pacing. a story that builds and builds and makes you care about everyone, no matter how heinous they are.

2. Room - Still get shivers when I think of certain elements of this. Handled brilliantly to avoid being too tough a watch, as it unfurls it reveals it's positive heart.

1. Arrival - A film which presents the terrifying fear humanity has of everything and how dangerous it is. Looks at the darkest events that life can throw at you and asks if life, which can present so much pain, is worth living. Also it explores language and has aliens and a great performance from Amy Adams.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Book of the year: The Girl in the Red Coat

The best book I read this year was Kate Hamer's The Girl in the Red Coat. I was lucky enough to discuss the novel with Kate, and as it's Christmas I'll share that with you. Then you go out and by the book, ok? (You can stay in and order off Amazon too)

Here's the interview:

Do you believe in magic?

What an interesting question! Magic certainly has its part to play in my writing, it’s a very strong theme. Do I believe in real magic in the non-fictional world? If pushed I’d have to say yes, although I imagine it to be a lot more complex, human and subtle than a magic wand being waved.

I find the book very magical, in what ways do you think it manifests itself in the book? Were these planned or was some of it happy accidents?

I think it all comes from reading fairy tales as a child. I had a copy of the Grimm brothers’ stories and read them over and over so they must have made quite an impression. I think it sort of ‘normalised’ magical happenings from a very early age – yes, of course a mirror can talk, that sort of thing. The main arc of the story in ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ was planned beforehand but there were surprises along the way – the twins for instance, I hadn’t planned on them. They just popped up completely formed and refused to go away.

Is there anything you’d change about the book? Do you look back like that at your work or does madness lie in thinking like that?

Definitely madness lies that way! Because of this I’ve yet to re-read the book since it’s been published because I know I’m bound to be unhappy with something. Maybe in about five years time I’ll pick it up and read it, but I’m guessing by that time it might seem like it was written by another person!

What makes you proudest about ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’?

Simply seeing it on the shelves and having the thought that people are reading it. That seems truly wonderful.

What do you hope people take away from it?

Fundamentally I feel the book is a love story. I hope that is the abiding sense that people are left with.

There are elements of fairytale, crime, even horror to the novel. How would you define the genre of the book? Did you worry about that when planning/writing?

I love all those genres to some extent or another but while I was writing I didn’t really think about placing it in any one of them. I wrote the story that I felt passionate about, personally I think it can confuse the fundamental truth of a story if you worry too much about genre. It’s been placed in a lot of categories – crime, domestic noir, psychological thriller, though my very favourite description has been ‘twenty-first century fairy tale.’ That sums up what I was attempting perfectly for me.

How do you plan to follow up on ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’?

I’ve finished the first draft of another novel and I’m working on the second draft of it now. Again, it’s a coming of age story. It has a strong supernatural theme with many creepy goings on. The appeal of the dark just seems to come naturally to me!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My Top 20 films of 2015

Seems everyone does one of these, thought I'd join in. Was going to do a Top 10 but that was too difficult, even with a Top 20 there was a few films which narrowly missed out, and which were agonising to leave off. I've agonised over this, so you better read on, and as part of the deal I'll get on with it.

20. Inherent Vice - This was the most polarising PT Anderson film yet, I really went with it.

19. Age of Adaline - A real surprise this, as I knew nothing about it going in. there is something magical about the film, and it contains Harrison Ford's best performance of the year, if not his most memorable.

18. Ant Man - Just when I thought I couldn't take anymore Marvel they drag me back with a great fun film. some sequences still make me smile when I think of them.

17. Vacation - This got some terrible reviews, I'm a huge fan of the original and while this may stick close to it, it still found new things to make me laugh in there.

16. Krampus - I really like Michael Dougherty's style, loved Trick R Treat, a Halloween favourite, and think this will be an Xmas favourite of the future.

15. The Man from U.N.C.L.E - I hated the trailer for this and don't know how I ended up seeing it, but from the sound mix introducing the soundtracks from the back speakers slowly to the front I was won over. Not perfect but it really surprised me and sometimes that feels really great.

14. Blur: New World Towers - One of my favourite bands, that seems to have been there throughout my life, and a great documentary chronicling the making of their comeback album. Open and insightful.

13.  The Martian - Loved the book of this was worried the film would mess it up. It didn't. Really great performance from Matt Damon, on screen alone for much of the running time. The film really understood the humour of the book which made the film distinctive.

12. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Could be called a Wes Anderson copyist, but that's only really fair if the style isn't saying anything, and this film had plenty to say, there's some shots and use of editing which really pack an emotional wallop. When you can combine clever with emotional you're onto a winner.

11. Far from the Madding Crowd - I preferred this to the 1967 original, it has a central relationship you can root for, yet still feel for other characters whose fate doesn't turn out as well. 

See, how could I miss any of those out? Now, we're into the top 10, this is where it became difficult to choose. I decided to make my choices on personal preference rather than best film. It's possible to like a film more even though you know another is a better film, right? We've all cried at something not that good, or is it just me. anyway, I said I'd get on with it.

10. A Walk in the Woods - Having not read the novel I didn't know what to expect, I loved the stunning vistas and Nick Nolte's sub human gravelly voice. I don't think I've laughed more in a cinema this year, helped by seeing it opening night in a packed screen.

9. The Longest Ride - I'd always steered clear of Nicholas Sparks adaptations, but this year a new Cineworld opened locally, and after getting an Unlimited card I spent a bit of time seeing everything. I'm really glad I saw this, yes it's corny, but the two leads really make it work, it has an assured tone. If you've steered clear of Sparks but are intrigued, give it a go. It's made me want to seek out more, although The Best of Me almost put me off searching anymore.

8. The Good Dinosaur - The version of a Walk in the Woods that's for kids, stunning vistas, the most remarkable animated water, and loads of laughs, but also tears. Wow, this is an emotional ride. I'd been prepared for a lesser Pixar film but choked back tears twice.

7. Mad Max: Fury Road - If i was rating this on best film this would probably be higher. It's flawless visual storytelling, this and catching up with the Mission Impossible franchise made me want to write action sequences this year. People who say there's no story, really need to rewatch and notice how it's layered in there beautifully. Initially the guitar playing thing annoyed me, but loved it boomingly loud in IMAX.

6. Carol - From the booming of Max to the quiet of Carol, a film that absorbed me. Still marvel at how it built tension out of romance like I've seen no other film do, it was tight like a vice, intense to the point of a horror film, but about romance. The two central performances were out of this world.

5. Tomorrowland - Oi! Stop laughing. I adored this film. I know it's got some problems, mostly with it's framing device, a bit like another recent Disney flop John Carter (which I also liked) but I loved the films positivity and retro styling. Made me really want to find a Tomorrowland pin badge. worst thing is I'd find and and turn up for the sequel which will never happen, and I'll end up stuck in the void forever.

4. Inside Out - One of those ideas that's so out there but also so simple that you kick yourself for not having it. But maybe only Pixar could pull this off. A brilliantly imaginative film, probably the most original film of the year. Still in pain at what happens to one of the characters.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens -  The film we've all been waiting for. What a relief it was great. Familiar yet new and different with great new characters, great roles for the original cast, so many punch the air moments, lump in throat moments. Designed to be rewatched again and again and again, and that's just the next week.

2. Bridge of Spies - From the opening moments this felt so assured, it looked brilliant, I loved the performances, the pacing was exceptional for my tastes and I never knew where it would end up. The ending really hit me hard. One of those films where I had to sit soaking up the credits for a while to let it soak in. 

1. Crimson Peak - Del Toro has sort of had a split personality career, his more personal foreign language horrors, and his big brash Hollywood blockbusters. This combined them, and it didn't seem to go down as well as expected. Which surprised the hell out of when I saw it. It's sumptuous, and I thought really scary, the sink scene truly sickened me and took my breath away. It felt beautifully hammer horror and Jessica Chastains' performance was my favourite of the year, terrifying and beautiful - my film of the year!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Twisted Showcase Series 4 - Gareth David Lloyd's directorial debut

I think it's been known a while that there would be a series 4 of our web series Twisted Showcase.We've already shot one episode, so it's not that much of a secret.

What was a secret, until today, was the exciting news that Gareth David Lloyd is going to be directing and starring in one the episodes, entitled Be My Head.

To make this series a reality, we have launched a kickstarter to raise £2,000. Please help all you can, there's rewards aimed at lots of different points so hopefully everyone who wants to can contribute.

Why not listen to Gareth below, and that should convince you that this is going to be exciting.


Gareth also said:  “I love the horror genre and I am always looking for opportunities to help showcase new talent. 
I couldn't resist the offer to star in and direct an episode of series four. 
Web drama is such a fertile ground and I feel very much part of the future. Help support Twisted Showcase and you can be part of that future too!”

Keep your eyes on our twitter feed, my blog, the Twisted Showcase site as there will be loads of announcements in the coming weeks. We have 20 days, let's make this happen!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

English Gothic

It's been a little quiet regarding Series 4 of Twisted Showcase recently. Apart from something really exciting I found out recently thanks to Neil Jones. We are given a mention in the new updated version of English Gothic - Classic Horror Cinema 1897 -2015 by Jonathan Rigby.

I was excited by the mention as I love Jonathan Rigby's book on Christopher Lee which I bought years ago and have read a few times. It feels good to be part of horror history featuring in the book and to be noticed by someone with such vast and good taste in horror. And alongside such other great series. You can see our mention below and I would really advise buying the book, it's a beautiful thing.

As for being quiet recently, all that is about to change as to make Series 4 possible Twisted Showcase needs to ask for your help to be crowdfunded. We've got a much bigger series planned, with some great people involved, some great surprises and as always we hope to fill you with our own unique blend of psychological terror. 

If you thought Norman Lovett pooing in a bucket, chopping Gareth David Lloyd's head off or an episode about an Empty Sofa were as odd as we can go you're not going to be ready for this.

Over the coming weeks we'll be announcing more, including the launch date for the crowdfund, plus some leftover bits and bobs from Series 3. Plus I will be posting a few things of how Twisted Showcase has come together and stuff I've learnt along the way. 

Thanks for everything so far.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Lodger Live soundtrack

This comes with a warning that it won't be for everyone, if indeed anyone. A few months ago, myself and my friend Jim (who has a fantastic blog at www.thereisspaceshipsoverdeeside.blogspot.) got together with a few strange instruments and decided to try our hand at recording an experimental soundtrack over a silent movie. We chose Hitchcock's The Lodger, and set a camera rolling so we could listen back to what we did.

I'd recommend watching the film properly, before watching this, as it is just a recording of my TV. But here it is if anyone is interested, our bizarre, improvised soundtrack.