Monday, 21 March 2011
As threatened a million years ago – here’s the next blog about Disco. It’s about music this time.
I can write this now as the music to the show has nearly completely been delivered. Also, I have almost finally managed to find some lovely dancers willing to join in the fun. Welcome aboard (I hope) – Emma and co.
I’ve mentioned before the music has been my favourite aspect of Disco. After years of ‘dark comedy’ – I really wanted to write a musical. Or something approaching a musical.
I like music because with music one is not required to spend half one’s life trying to book studio space/pay expenses/deal with venues/scour the internet for props and costumes/rehearse/pay money you don’t have/organise anything at all/pay more money. With music, other people have to suffer and that’s nice.
The simple reason for original songs is that I couldn’t pay the PRS on actual (say) Boney M and Donna Summer and Chic songs. So I contacted the most talented composers I knew and asked them to write me these songs for free.
At first, it seemed yet another long-winded roundabout way of having to do simple stuff without money but in the end it’s added up to an amazing layer of original, fantastic comedy by creative people who really need to be paid a lot more than they are by me.
I’ll say it. I do love disco music. As with all music, disco is music that takes me back in Time – that runs parallel with the other music I love.
I love nearly all music and definitely believe it’s the highest art form. The only music I don’t get is “rock” which is just unintentionally funny but also alienates me from 90% of other males.
(Although I’m starting, just starting to get into The Who. If only they hadn’t involved themselves with that dreadful Oasis thing… I’m digressing).
Listen to a Chic record (not that Kelly Marie Kung-Fu garbage) – I mean, listen to a Chic record. Completely functional soul music compressed, de-emotionalised and mechanised into a single dance attack. Heaven.
So the challenge was for Waen and Pete who have written these Disco songs to emulate the silly brilliance of that brief late 70s when funky music was starting to feel the chill of electronica…
No, I’m not going to post any songs from the show. You might not like them but even worse you’ll become familiar with them and might not think you need to come to the show.
I let Waen and Pete do what they felt with the songs. They both know the genre. I did provide the song titles and a few ideas for lyrics. This is mainly because, and this relates to writing as well, there’s nothing worse than a brief which asks of you: ‘do whatever you want. There are no rules! Go crazy man!’
Yeah thanks. Never, ever give a writer or a composer that brief. Please.
These are some titles: ‘Lift Off! (Theme from Disco)’, ‘La La Lenin’, ‘I Need (Motor) Love’, ‘Hot Lady’ and ‘Dance Kapital’… Come on, you know you want to.
IN THE HEART OF THE CIT-AY
Dance Kapital is an interesting name. In fact, it’s so interesting when I was at school that was the name of the band I was in. I thought it would be great to use that name as a song in Disco.
I’m not saying how long ago Dance Kapital were out and about – but you’ll know when you hear it. This song’s called ‘Pharoah’s Face’ and features the best lyrics ever written.
I ‘play’ keyboards on Pharoah’s Face if you must know – although my home-made monophonic synth could only produce one note at a time so it’s hardly playing.
This did mean I could concentrate on being the weird ugly one at the back so the rest of the band, who could play and sing and be good-looking, could get on with the song. Just look at the picture for confirmation.
I miss that band; had a brilliant time. So I guess the Dance Kapital song is a little tribute to Paul, Barry, Vicky and Jackie all those years ago.
Anyway, that’s the music. It’s the best thing about the show. Except for the acting. The dancing. The comedy. No, music is best. Maybe.
Thanks for reading. And thanks Waen and Pete for making what seemed impossible six months ago, a reality.
And I haven’t even mentioned the contribution to be made live by Mr Dick Douglass.
Let’s live the dream.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Yes I know. I haven’t written anything here for a while. I’m sure all 34 of you who have viewed my previous blogs are devastated…
What’s been happening is that the play has been progressing at the speed of a slow moving glacier. So this post is more of a summary than a blog.
However, I can safely say we’re all on course and at last rehearsals have begun properly and it’s all becoming a laugh again.
New Year was a tough time for the Disco-meister. I got fed up and demoralised and seriously considered jacking it in. After all, without money Disco was supposed to be fun and I basically realised that fun was not what I was having.
A SAD MAN RANTS
I guess you could say I’ve ‘learned a lot’ – that producing as well as directing has ‘pushed me out of my comfort zone’ etc. etc. Well, sod off if you say that. I’m not some student justifying a year’s holiday in Thailand/Australia/the Moon learning to ski/PADI dive/fly and pretending it’s called ‘experience’.
I can get experience by being punched in the face but believe me when I say I could imagine that punch just as well and learn in advance I could live without it. That punch. If you get me.
(Now, I’ve interviewed a lot of students in my time. And when they tell me they worked in a bar part-time for six months to pay for ‘travelling’ round the world on that invaluable, life experience gaining ‘gap year’ that isn’t a holiday at all, I always ask what was the name of the bar and what the hourly wage was because I want that job…oh your Daddy actually paid half did he… FAIL.
I love my work.)
The way to beat the producer blues was to rewrite Disco. I locked myself away as best I could and knuckled down to a week of getting the script tighter and funnier and more emotional. It worked.
I’d forgotten why I was doing this show and the rewrite reminded me. There are lots of lovely people out there doing great work for Disco but I definitely needed to remind myself this is my show and this is how it’s going to be. Selfish.
And things started to go right. My lovely co-producer Ann has found a chap who wants to find sponsorship deals for us. Out of the kindness of his heart and a cut out of every deal we make – step forward Mr. Tom Bennett.
Tom is the chief sponsor bod for the Worthing Bird Man Festival and the Brighton Beer Festival. So if things ever get so bad I decide to throw myself off the pier, I can do it holding a pint of Old Peculier and a banner for Cinzano wafting in my wake.
REHEARSALS. IT GETS EVEN RIGHTER
We started in January. My final cast is a dream. I can’t describe how happy I am to have them on board. Sometimes when you rehearse a show or a film, there’s always at least one person who slows everything down or has an ego problem (yeah, usually me – shut up! It’s my show). But it just works. Rehearsing with Charlie and Nneka and Kat and Dick and Alex is fun! I don’t want to poison you against me, gentle reader, but if you hate the show you ain’t going to hate these actors. They’re great.
Yes. As a play inspired by the Stud, we have bad sex. Lots of it. And I have to rehearse the actors. I have to face them and tell them this is what I want them to do. Sometimes I have to show them. More about bad sex another time. You’ll just have to wait.
And finally (this really is a summary), I was up in London last week to visit the lovely Waen Shepherd, my main composer, to listen to his 1978 stylee pop songs.
And out of everything I’ve done up to now on Disco, the songs are the best. I sat in his studio and listened to three slices of brilliant, spot on, and strangely danceable parodies. I’m not going to let you hear them. I’m going to give the music a blog of their own. I haven’t heard Pete or Dick’s songs yet but if they’re up to the mark in the same way, I don’t need a script.
Out of the blue yesterday, I had a meeting about dancers. I’ve been worried about dancers. How the hell do you find dancers? Where do you find them?
Well, I found them. I think. It’s so exciting.
OH BLOODY HECK
All I need now are costumes. And lights. And a set designer. But let’s not worry about that.
I’ve got until May.
TALK ABOUT TV
NB – Next Tuesday, I think the 21st Feb, I’ve been invited to screen and talk about an old TV series I co-wrote and appeared in called TALES OF UPLIFT AND MORAL IMPROVEMENT.
Check out the End of the Pier Film Festival website for more details. I’m showing two episodes and talking about writing them and working with Rik Mayall. In Worthing (the talk, not the series). Exciting.
I would give web links and stuff but I’m over forty, don’t know how and can’t be arsed to learn. Simple as that. If you want to do it for me great. Just get in touch AFTER you’ve sorted it so you don’t have to explain how it works.
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
POSITIVE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT TRON LEGACY (SORT OF)
Okay, it’s not remotely a movie.
It’s really not a blockbuster kids popcorn Harry Potter Narnia thing. It’s not even the endless, dismal Avatar.
Should it be?
I guess, given how much Tron Legacy probably cost, the answer is yes. But there are positives here – for the viewer, if not the investor.
I saw the thing in 3D on a big screen, which is the only way a viewer can honestly expect to get any joy out of the experience. When I walked out of the cinema after two hours of numbing visuals tied into a barmy Eurythmics-on-ecstasy soundtrack, I can’t say I was entertained.
What I was: was calm. I’d watched something that cleared my brain in the way good art (or drugs) is supposed to.
Anybody remember The Lawnmower Man? Of course not, yet at the time it had ‘ground-breaking’ computer visuals etc. Only it attached them to a crappy sub-B movie plot with Pierce Brosnan, rendering the whole film redundant. The story got in the way of the visual experience. Far better I think to choose the Tron Legacy route and forget everything but the art.
Of course, it would have been nice to see the Tron Legacy people had in their heads, the film they wanted. Intelligent, lightning fast, monumental, gripping, funny and weird but alas, Inception is already out there.
Unencumbered by plot, character, story or drama, Tron Legacy is a formalist art piece, exploring the dynamics of vortices, colour and perspective. It’s like a 60s Communist Czech cartoon on a giant screen with pop music instead of progressive jazz.
Apart from Michael Sheen’s ludicrous Ziggy, the frictionless non-existence of characters, acting and chemistry means the viewer puts these out of their mind and concentrates on the two qualities that matter: visuals and sound. And what else is pure film for? If Michael Hanneke had made Tron Legacy, we’d be calling it a work of twisted genius. JG Ballard would have loved its formality – assuming they bunged in a bit of violent cyber-sex, obvs.
Let’s face it first Tron was never a good film. Deadly boring, apart from the brilliantly stupid set-up of imagining a digital world and sending a normal man into that world, the film lacks pace and after sixty minutes stops even pretending to have a story.
There is only David Warner, a god-like actor fatally missed in the sequel (would love to have seen him CG’d up back to his youth) and a proto-Dude Jeff Bridges – who comes back to haunt us in the sequel, in a naff way.
However, Tron’s genius is its sui generis visuals. No other film before or since looks like this. And if you watch the fascinating ‘making-of’ on DVD, you realise no other film was ever made like this before or since. A technique of genius animation never utilised again.
And some great light-cycle chases. Which Tron Legacy takes one step further by even making that dull.
AN UNFAIR ATTACK ON VIDEO GAMERS
As an old man, I think Tron Legacy is a film about computer gamers – sorry, ‘video’ gamers – and I think in years to come, they’ll see that.
The main guy, that faceless kid, wotsisname, is not a character. He’s a gamer as they like to be in games. And like all heroes in computer games he’s invulnerable, brilliant at everything, great looking and nothing emotional ever touches him. The hands-off approach to emotion and sex in Tron Legacy is designed to appeal to the gamer, I’m sure. The perfunctory love story between the main guy and whatever that girl was supposed to be is reduced to its game essentials: tight leather costumes and kicking baddies heads in.
The reality: that gamers are prematurely obese terrified chair-bound teenage boys hiding behind sarcastic, violent homophobic put-downs, unable to talk to the opposite gender, is not recognised in the Tron-iverse. And for that they will ultimately be truly thankful.
LOVING THE DREAM
So did I love Tron Legacy? Did I even rate it?
Sadly no, for one specific, rather pathetic, reason: I find anything with a movie nightclub scene and especially ‘DJ’s’ too cringe-worthy to handle. That’s because I’m old.
(One day, I’ll list all the films ruined by setting a scene in a rubbish nightclub – from Terminator to, er, Tron Legacy. No I won’t.)
So there you have it, a redundant review of Tron Legacy. It’s not about anything but hopefully it’s full of relaxing words.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
I want to thank Jeanette and the cast for braving the wilds of Worthing for the Monday night and especially Andrea for going to the pool hall next door and borrowing some pool cues - when the director and every other male present chickened out. You are a rock!
Look I would have gone, honest, only I was busy. And that. With clothes and make-up and hair. Helping, I mean...
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
I guess for marketing reasons if nothing else, it’s time to start writing about the big writing project ‘going down’ in Messingham Town. It's a long blog 'cos it's the first one.
There have been rumours and now I can confirm: yes, I am putting on a comedy musical play inspired by the great Brit-shit Joan Collins movie The Stud. Funny, passionate and, yes, just a little bit naughty.
We’re called Disco Bianco and we’ll be previewing in May at the Brighton Fringe at the Komedia before moving on to a more regular home at a wonderful real disco called Funky Fish.
We’ve got a beautiful sexy cast, great dancing and some brand new original, but perhaps nonetheless rather familiar sounding disco tunes composed by the wonderful Perrier award winning Waen Shepherd himself.
So here’s the blog about what it’s all about. Cinzano Bianco all round – just don’t spill it down her blouse!
I’m not going to bang on about The Stud. It was a naughty film back in the 1978, and I remember as a vile little boy reading through the novelisation in my local bookshop. I say reading; basically staring at the photos stuck in the middle. The Stud seemed to me the epitome of sexy glamour (and in a weird way, still does). I am ill.
Anyway, The Stud, which I’m not going to bang on about. When I finally got to see the movie a few years ago, I had a mixed reaction. On the one hand I could tell it was dreadful. It was also utterly unsexy.
On the other hand, as a fan of William Friedkin films, I genuinely had the impression there was talent here; that somehow the film-makers were making the ultimate alienating 70s movie. I mean: surely mere ineptitude can’t explain why you open on a starkly lit midriff shot of a woman awkwardly pulling on her pants… Can’t explain why the soundtrack is so loud (with such giants of the dancefloor as Biddu, Leo Sayer and Hot Chocolate) you can catch only fragments of dialogue. Can’t explain why Joan Collins looks so tired and there’s no third act.
A little bit of me thinks they meant this, that they were making a statement about the sin of glamour by presenting it in such an unflattering way. Enough already. I was hooked: either The Stud is brilliantly awful or it’s a brilliant piece of Hogarthian satire. I don’t see why it can’t be both. And if you want to see a genuine piece of shit, watch the sequel: ‘The Bitch’ and compare the two.
And in fact, the story is absolutely sound. Except there’s no third act. It’s Faust, it’s Pygmalion – with a boy who’s plucked from the gutter, makes a deal with the devil (or Joan Collins) given everything he wants and finds out he doesn’t want it. Falls in love and is brutally betrayed; ending up by walking out into a new life. There’s an archetype there if you want it. And I want it. In all its grubby cheap glitzy glory I want it. And I wrote the third act.
I originally wrote Disco Bianco – then called The Disco – as a four part TV series with input from my friend Mr. Alex Kirk. The BBC sort of liked it but didn’t like what they saw as a lack of likeable characters. I tried putting likeable characters in but they were so boring. I preferred empathetic characters… and I’ll stop there about technical writing stuff.
In March I won the Live Ammunition! Pitch festival (well, runner-up, same thing) and got a batch of books about how to make no-budget films. Disco was perfect.
At the time I was trying to get a short film together: one woman in a room; nice and cheap and easy. Only in July I was cast by my friend Christopher Regan in his no-budget movie. This was so wildly, ridiculously ambitious I immediately junked my boring one-woman-in-a-flat short and decided on Disco, which I then rewrote the thing as a low-budget movie.
Only something was bugging me. Back in the summer (seems so long ago now, boo hoo) – I’d bumped into a producer friend and her writing partner who told me about this play they had written. A play designed to sell to Bill Kenwright or somebody rich; which could go on tour and make some money. Really commercial, really fun. And I guess that idea stayed with me.
So, I rewrote the thing as a play. I didn’t (and still don’t) think I could lose: rewrites always help. Okay, putting a play on of this size was unfamiliar territory but I could get round the frustrating and pointless task of trying to get film companies to read scripts by having something to show them. I could also market the idea and see what it looked like.
Funnily enough, although I originally planned to follow my producer friends show; she’s now producing Disco Bianco – I think to see how we do it; if we do it; and steal all the good bits. Say hello: Ann Feloy!
LET’S PUT ON A SHOW
And that’s where we are now. Except that was four months ago and since then I’ve been casting and rehearsing and sorting and convincing people to give up their time to get involved.
There’s lots of stuff to discuss: managing to get the brilliant Waen Shepherd to agree to write some great cheesy songs that sound like disco songs from 1978 you know but aren’t – (you should hear La La Lenin. You really should. Boney M did cut that single, I swear it).
This week I’ve locked down a cast – my word they’re talented AND good-looking. Bastards. And we’re about to start the publicity machine. Our dates are booked for the Brighton Fringe and we’re definitely committed.
It’s going to be scary. I don’t know if we’ll succeed. There’s lots to talk about. Lots to blog about. Stay with me. Please. I need you. Really I do. Right now.
So come on down to Disco Bianco. Where The Stud and The Bitch collide.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
A few weeks ago I wrote and directed a short comic film dealing with a character who makes porno films on his council estate. When we screened the short, reaction was a lot of laughter as well as general discomfort and displeasure at what is, admittedly, a very brutal kind of comedy. Although nothing ‘naughty’ was shown – the film was perceived as strong in laying bare the anti-glamour of this subject.
The DP and I intended to force a reaction from a viewer, as an ‘in-yer-face’ trailer for a longer comedy series idea about the current UK delusion of the entrepreneurs dream; otherwise known as ‘rich people taking money off stupid poor people by pretending their desperate ideas have value’.
Leaving aside the curious question that seemed to be asked of me: why hadn’t I made a more glamorous film about pornography – (or whether the world really needed this short) I faced a familiar criticism of not making my characters ‘likeable’.
The thing is: I liked these characters. Admittedly, the short came out of a much longer screenplay where they are explored more thoroughly but essentially the main guy is a man who makes his living making no-budget, seedy porno films.
I’d like to use a better word: heroic. After all, the Kray Twins were probably ‘likeable’. At first.
And I think the main man in my story is heroic. He lives in dire poverty. Along with everyone else he knows, he has never left his South London estate and perceives the world only through a haze of alcohol, bad drugs, junk food, internet porn and squalid television. Abandoned to and castigated for living in a benefit culture, devoid of education, my hero does what he can for his family without resorting to drug dealing, violence or crime.
The character’s virtue is his determination to succeed and his talent. Had he been born in Notting Hill and gone to a good school he would have been making adverts for useless products, or directing awful pretentious movies, or managing pointless marketing events or working in wine or something equally as important. Instead, he uses what he knows and what he has been programmed to know.
To tell the truth, I think some people didn’t like my film because it was ugly. Sorry. That’s my aesthetic. In this film.
Or they just thought it was talentless crap. Fair enough. Nothing I can do about that.
The subject of the heroic protagonist is something I’ve often chatted about, drunk, in pubs – so a blog is the perfect place to continue.
I’d like to get this straight – I’m not in love with Bad Boy characters; who quite often don’t turn out to be that bad or, and this is quite usual in film, characters who are essentially stupid wish-fulfilment sadistic fantasies for geeky morons.
I guess we’re really talking about good/bad characters versus real/unreal characters. At one end of the spectrum: Superman, Conan and at the other, well – I would say Flashman, or McNulty in The Wire.
Let’s say ‘The Incredibles’. A cartoon for Christ’s sake. I remember rooting for the villain, that ginger-haired geeky kid whom fate had decreed had nothing special about him.
To take on these perfect types who had done nothing to earn their powers, this villain had to work for it; build everything from scratch. I wanted him to succeed; to make the Incredibles suffer. Okay, he went loony and tried to blow up the world or something, but that was only because the ‘goodies’ wouldn’t let him play.
Don’t give me some tortured teenage arse ‘cursed’ with super-strength or water-breathing or cool vampirism or great fighting skills. Some people get cancer, you nob.
Of course, the more 3D you make a character the more audience you’re going to lose (except, oh er remember Jaws – with its famous endless rehearsal time for its three main actors to, y’know, develop their roles). Give ‘em a simple thuggish Van Damme or an Arnie and you’re gonna get a large slice of the pie. Complicate it a bit?
Maybe a Western or Historical with Clint or Russell (increasingly rather bizarrely: James Purefoy) okay, we’re still all there if the star can carry tortured – as long as he succeeds and kills everyone.
You’ve got Rom-com heroes next – can be a bit tortured and even a bit rotten, as long as they look good and come round in the end.
Moving up we throw in some 70s now – Warren Beatty in almost anything he did. Badlands. The Last Detail. The mighty Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Now we’re talking some big failures at the box office.
Next thing to go is looks: get rid of glamour and we’re left with Sweet Smell of Success and Foreign World Cinema and ordinary people in situations way out of their control… and now we’re into arthouse and nobody watching.
JUST FOR ONE DAY
As in the films of my ultimate hero: Alexander Mackendrick,
my heroes are essentially characters capable of good or bad, depending on what life throws at them, without any real control over their surroundings and little hope of reward. And if they are good, quite often they know in advance that goodness will destroy them. That bad people will profit from their goodness. It’s probably a 70s thing (see earlier blog re: disaster movies).
Maybe that’s why it’s comedy for me. Ash in Evil Dead 2? A perfect movie. This guy tries everything, deserves his redemption and ends up on a mountain in 1300AD crying about how unfair it all is. That’s a hero.
The Ladykillers. Kind Hearts and Coronets. Even Day of the Dead. Watch them now.
Does this make any sense? Is there a point to this rambling? Am I going crazy? Thanks for reading. I’m stopping now.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
CHILDREN OF AVALON'S RING
Does anyone remember this ITV Kids Drama from 1972?
In a decrepit 2nd hand bookshop in Worthing, I found this battered old paperback novelisation of this show 'CHILDREN OF AVALON'S RING' which apparently aired over six weeks in the summer of '72 but I have no memory of at all. Here's the blurb from the back of the book. I'll post a photo of the book as soon as I find someone to scan it in for me. I'm also transcribing the first chapter to see if anyone remembers the thing. Did it even go on telly?
CHILDREN OF AVALON’S RING
A novelisation of a Thames TV serial by MARC FAIRWEATHER
When NICHOLAS HONEY’s boarding school is closed down after an economic crash, the young boy is forced to take a long trek across a blighted United Kingdom to find his parents.
With petrol rationed and the country in ruins, Nicholas finds only peril in a desolate, abandoned London.
Rescued by the charismatic bard ROBIN and his girlfriend STACEY, Nicholas travels by barge to the stone circle of Avalon in the West Country. Here Nicholas learns he must take the final stand against the collapse of society and an unlikely villain – KING ARTHUR himself.
THE CHILDREN OF AVALON’S RING
First transmitted April 7th 1972
Written by Marc Fairweather
Directed by Christopher Drinkwater
Produced by Susan Price
For Thames Television
NICHOLAS HONEY – Steven Caton-Morris
PEREGRINE LAVENDER – Freddie Jones
MICKEY – Mike Full
ROBIN – Christopher Ralph
GARFIELD – Roger Pelham
STACEY – Connie Dornfield
That's all I've got. I'll post Chapter One when I've transcribed it in.