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.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Twisted Showcase Story Collection 1 on Sale

I'm learning how to do new things. Like embed links to some stuff I've written for. Hopefully I'll be able to build this up to a page where I can link to everything I've got out there in print at the moment.

Even though prose storytelling hasn't been my main focus for a while I've still managed a good amount of short stories for these collections, and might have some more stuff on it's way.

To celebrate this, and the run up to story collection 2, our first collection is 99p. Click on the new thingy at the side and treat yourself to some odd stories for under a quid. If you like it you might want to look out for our second collection on June 2nd.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

5 star films: April 2015

A quick one this month, or last month now as I'm a little late posting this up. I'll be honest with you I didn't realise the month had gone by so fast.

Even though I watched a lot of films last month, up to 99 for the year now, only one got a 5 star rating this month, and I'd seen it before too, but a long time ago.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - You'll either love or hate it, but you'll definitely have an opinion. I find it beautiful, epic film making. The soundtrack combined with the images is perfect, and it has some great moments, creepy, unnerving. After watching I was thinking about it for weeks, and I'm sure it didn't have as much impact last time. It's a film you've got to see, just to make up your own mind, of a film which will feature in top 100 films to see before you die lists everywhere.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

5 star films : March 2015

Four 5 star films again this month, but loads that were brilliant but had niggly things about them. Yeah, it's been a good month for watching movies.
Here's my 5 star choices -

THE GOLDEN DREAM - Beautiful film making, this feels so real, performances, naturalistic shooting and narrative really help that feel. A visual metaphor which punctuates the act breaks resonates more and more throughout. Seek this out, it's absolutely heart breaking, and the young cast are impeccable. Another film I don't want to give too much away about.

CENTURION - On another viewing this wouldn't be a 5 star film, but I really enjoyed it. Was completely in the mood for it. It felt like a great bank holiday movie with added gore, and after Doomsday it restored my love for Neil Marshall.

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF - This is almost a perfect movie. My third or fourth time watching it and I love how the tension builds, the cinematography is so sharp throughout, and the ending still catches me off guard in it's bizarre sweetness and affection. Watch it for Burton and Taylor but leave feeling nourished on every level.

MAMMOTH - In March I reached the end of my Lukas Moodysson marathon, and through Hole in my Heart and Container, although both had their merits, it felt like a marathon. this was his first film mainly in the English language. It did have a completely different feel to it. This time focusing upon an affluent family rather than the down trodden, it continues his theme of responsibility to children, advancing them from bringing them into the world from Container to being present for them. People are calling We are the best his return to form, which I also watched this month and loved, but I think he'd already returned to form with Mammoth.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Twisted Showcase LIVE

Over a week ago now we hosted an event to launch the Twisted Showcase exhibition. It featured poetry, the best episodes of Twisted Showcase and was headlined by the brilliant Norman Lovett.

We wanted a feel of a traditional variety show, fused in out own Twisted way. Which we achieved, it was a great night. I was too busy to enjoy it as it happened, but enjoyed people's reactions, and got to watch Norman Lovett perform a great set. The third time I've seen him and the best yet. A real honour for us to have a great talent like him launch our exhibition.

Our exhibition can be viewed at UN DEG UN Thursdays - Saturday 12pm -4pm until April 8th. We will also be uploading the exhibition online ASAP. We're just thinking of different ways of doing this to bring you an immersive experience. Whilst thinking about this we probably looked as lost and confused as we did on the night, see evidence in the picture below, kindly provided by Voicebox.

This has been a great experience, a lot different from what we're used to as reclusive writers, it has been great to get out there into different areas, and we never thought there would be an exhibition for our little show featuring, posters, props, an entire wall of scripts and a viewing place where you can relax on the sofa and watch Twisted Showcase.

Seeing the series in this light and getting a chance to watch the films again really seems like a great way to draw a line under it. Don't worry the series isn't ending, we're going ahead with Series 4, but like Empty Sofa sort of ended that last cycle of films, and this reflection on them has sealed that part of Showcase in the past, the next series will hopefully be a progression. As always with Twisted Showcase we aim to be different, but with that essential Twisted ingredient that ties it together.
Make sure you go an see the recipe of what made Twisted Showcase Series 1-3 whilst it's being exhibited.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

5 star films - February 2015

I really need to blog about the Twisted Showcase Live event, but I have promised to keep this monthly blog going where I list films I've watched in the last month that I'd rate as 5 stars. Seen loads of great films this month, but with lots of them I've had quibbles, little minor niggles that have stopped them being a 5 star film.

So this month there are 4 films which get the 5 star rating. Here they are: -

LILYA 4 EVER - Another month, another Lukas Moodysoon film. Hard going as it focuses on homelessness and sex trafficking involving children. The tone is slightly alleviated by a fairytale feel to some aspects, but the bile and anger can be felt here. This film is sickened at the world but trying to find beauty, if you have the courage, give it a go.

ROBOT & FRANK - A subtle, low key treat with plenty of charm. If you liked Baymax in Big Hero 6 you might take to the robot in this, although the tale takes this to darker places. It hurt my heart but won't explain why as don't want to ruin this if anyone chooses to watch it. That's what I find hard writing these, getting across why I like them while allowing people to experience it for themselves.

THE BLACK CAULDRON - I'd never seen this Disney film, it's got some great, terrifying imagery and a lovely folk tale feel. It doesn't overplay it's cute characters and really made me laugh and make my eyes bulge out in fear.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS - Oppressive and plain looking with some disconcerting edits early on that keep you feeling a little on edge. The film, like it's lead character, slowly reveals its soul for a film that is beautiful in it's love of art and humanity, whilst also being tense and about a period of time and place I embarrassingly lack much knowledge of. Seek this one out for note perfect film making.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

5 star films - January 2015

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of monthly blog posts where I name films I've rated 5 stars within that month.

Couple of things to bare in mind, this is just my personal opinion, what I thought of the film as I watched it on this occasion. It could change on a rewatch, some ties I could be watching with an analytical eye, other times I might be a few drinks into the evening.

Also it might not be the most relevant list, currently I don't go to the cinema that often, I haven't seen many of the awards films currently out at the cinema, in fact the only new release I've seen out in January has been Big Hero 6, and that didn't get 5 stars.

But, I have watched 31 films in January, so there is plenty of choice and maybe there might be something among these monthly recommendations that you fancy seeing, a reminder of something you've always wanted to see, or something you've never heard of.

This list is just as much for my memory though as for you. Onwards to January 2015's 5 star film

TOGETHER -Lukas Moodysson's 2nd feature is beautifully honest and uplifting in a strange way. I'm not sure why I find this uplifting, there's plenty of depression and constant arguing, but as people bond over a football match no one could really care about, the fun and joy shines through. Great believable characters make this one of Moodysson's best. Am currently working my way through his back catalogue so expect more to appear here, if he can reach 5 stars again.

THE ROVER - Another 2nd feature, this one from David Michod. I loved Animal Kingdom, but hadn't heard positive things about this one. I loved it's simplicity in narrative which focused you on character motivation and used the strange dessicated landscape and futuristic world as background. Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson have both never been better, but the soundtrack is the stand out, phenomenal.

THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN - I saw this not knowing much about it, I heard it featured plenty of bluegrass music, so my interest was piqued. I didn't expect the emotional maelstrom I was going to be put through. So intense I think i worked up a sweat and my hand hurt afterwards from gripping the chair. The blue grass works as moments of levity away from the story, but aren't separate from it, they weave in well. Structurally it is similar to Blue Valentine but with a wider scope of interest in the themes it explores.

THE MASTER - I'm a huge P.T Anderson fan and wasn't disappointed in this, another change of style and time period in a film where every second could be paused and framed, the performances are some of the best committed to film that show a complex relationship that gives you plenty to chew on.

4 films receive the 5 star treatment this month, out of 31. Come back for more end of February

Thursday, 1 January 2015

How was 2014 for you

Another year has been and gone, like a flash, as seems to be the ongoing trend now. So, how was 2014 for you? Writing wise it's been my best 'almost' year. A few really exciting things got closer than ever before to happening, especially how close I got to writing on a programme I've loved since it began.

But, there wasn't just almosts, and whether they are positive or negative there was some actual stuff that did happen. It was a year where Twisted Showcase came back. Almost 18 months after Series 2 we managed to pull together another series, and I'm really proud of it. All the episodes were accomplished and each has their supporters. That was another thing that was great for me about 2014, people really started to champion my work, we gained some brilliant fans of Twisted Showcase who spurred us on to work even harder and even to release an E-book before the year was finished. We also had our first panel at a Comic Con,and I was embarrassed beyond belief by being asked for an autograph.

Also I found myself getting brilliant feedback from writers whose work I absolutely love. Two of my scripts were the main focus of this, my hour long TV drama pilot, The Benefits was the first, but the one which seemed to get most attention was a childrens' TV script called Smoke Beasts.

I'm tempted to go through my e mails and pull out quotes but I'll save my bragging for private moments, I say writing a blog of all my favourite bits of last year. To balance it out, maybe a few negatives. I struggled to get into a flow on a feature script at the end of the year, the last three months have been a slog on that and it's still not done, and although almost having great things happen keeps you going, it is also massively frustrating.

Having a series which gained lots of press certainly helped to keep me going. Honestly, if you're a writer, do anything to get some work out there. Audio plays, podcasts, monologues, short films, theatre productions, web series, whatever you can manage, do it, create something. Make that your resolution this year.

It could lead to anything. Here's some of my favourite press bits from last year.

Starburst E Book interview

Starburst Series Interview

Guardian Guide Twisted Showcase

My absolute favourite is that Guardian line ' the League of Gentlemen, but with no jokes.' Which I take as a compliment, especially when paired with being compared to Black Mirror also.

So a huge thanks to anyone that's helped this year, from those who offered words of advice on Twitter, to those who read stuff, to those who passed on my scripts to others, championed them and met up with me.

Looking forward, I have a feature to finish, a format breaking sitcom that is beginning to form and a rewrite on a drama for one of the best first drafts I've ever written. Then there's this list of ideas to try and get to, and finishing up one more script for Twisted Showcase Series 4. I hope we can get it out this year, don't want another 18 month break.

Let's strap in, 2015 is about to start. What? It's started already. Blimey!