Thursday, 29 September 2011

Paddy Considine talks (incredibly briefly) to Evermore Films!

By 'eck its that Evermore Films fella... Don't make eye contact.
Evermore Films recently took part in a webchat with the one and only Mr. Paddy Considine - read the rest of the chat HERE. Meanwhile, here's Evermore's brilliantly probing question.

evermorefilms: What's your own favourite performance and why?

Paddy: "I think Romeo Brass, because I didn't know what I was doing. It may not be the smoothest performance, but it was certainly the most fun and the purest. After that, I think I started to think about it too much."

Thursday, 15 September 2011

"Its all in the reflexes..."

Jack Burton: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
My Personal Top 5 Disappointments - 
PART TWO: The Legend Of Curly's Gold.

Continuing on from the incredibly well-received 'My Personal Top 5 Disappointments' (Thank you, Madenna), I thought I'd take a look at the universe. Doesn't get any bigger, does it? (well, apparently its always expanding) Anyway, here's a big question: 


Yeah, you. You there. And you. (That about covers the three people who read my blog.) I read a blog post today on Lucy V Hay's "Write Here, Write Now" ; it provoked some discussion on the office pest that is Facebook: Some believe you make you're own luck, others believe we're at the mercy of a mocking universe that loves to see nice guys finish last and lazy morons rule the world. I once discussed the struggles of this life with a fellow script writer. His brilliant, deadly serious response was "If I'd known it was going to take four years then I wouldn't have bothered becoming a writer!" Its not going to take four years to be successful. Its going to take ten. Or twenty. Or maybe never.

So what's the answer? At times like this, I turn to the wisdom of 'Big Trouble In Little China's Jack Burton.

"I'm not saying that I've been everywhere and I've done everything, but I do know it's a pretty amazing planet we live on here, and a man would have to be some kind of FOOL to think we're alone in THIS universe."

Now I don't think Ol' Jack is referring to planets aligning, good/back luck, horoscopes, 7 years bad luck for breaking a mirror or any other superstitious claptrap. Nor are we puppets at the mercy of a whimsical God or objects of misfortune for Satan to toy with. Jack doesn't have all the answers, but he's content in that knowledge.

After all, Lo Pan rightfully exclaimed that Jack was not brought upon this world to 'get it'. But Jack accepts that there's a lot more going on life that is unseen to the human eye: He's never going to fully grasp it, but then again he knows he's not meant to. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs/disbeliefs,  life does require us to exercise some level of faith in what we believe, our endeavors and indeed the rest of the world. Otherwise we probably wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

So why does success elude us? True, some people seem to have amazing opportunities land in their laps - repeatedly. Others seemingly churn out the same old garbage and are continually rewarded for it. (Depressed yet?). 

Then you've got those who went to Oxford or Cambridge or whatever. The 'Old Boys' network that seemingly guarantees success in life because its not what you know, its who... Some people tie themselves up in knots at this bitter, uncaring world where Adam Sandler is a box-office champion. But he is. People pay their hard-earned money to watch his movies time and time again, so good on Sandler for striking a chord with his audience. Like Jack Burton - "I don't get it" - but that's neither here nor there.

Luck is mere superstition - dedication, hard work, gifting, and networking is what its all about. And there are no guarantees of success at the end of it all. But learn from the experience as you go along. Certainly things can go right. Good stuff CAN land in your lap. But do you exclaim 'Its a conspiracy!!!!' when this happens? Some doors open, some close. There can be second, third, sixth chances. There are also one-shot deals.

1993: I was earning a pittance on a youth training scheme which was tantamount to teenage slavery (a full-time job, travel paid with about ten pounds left over at the end of the week... *shakes head*) at a video equipment hire company in Soho. I had been writing scripts for about five years; nothing serious, mainly jokey nonsense that only I found funny. But then I saw 'Reservoir Dogs' (seven times at the cinema, due to it being banned on video for years). I'd always been a huge movie fan, but this was the film that opened my eyes to structure, characters and dialogue - all the stuff that makes for a 'real' screenplay. 

Much like a lot of male writers of that era, I wrote MY Reservoir Dogs. In hindsight, it wasn't much more than a fanboy rip-off with a few good shoot outs and the odd funny line. But I had been inspired to up my game. And so I put more effort into broadening my horizons; reading McKee and Goldman, going to script writing courses and trying to improve.

"Are you crazy? Is that your problem?"
But what really inspired me was another film fan. I'm not about to name names or embarrass anyone, but credit where its due. I had read in 'Empire Magazine' that Quentin Tarantino was appearing at a cinema in Nottingham, introducing a season of Harvey Keitel films. Sounds great, but Nottingham was miles away. I'd never get there. Then 'film fan' said 'You should go'. Hanging on their every word and taking their encouragement, I asked my Dad to drive me to Nottingham on a complete whim (not too dissimilar to Ray Kinsella trying to convince Terrence Mann to go on a road trip with him in 'Field Of Dreams'). There was no guarantee that I would see or speak to QT. All I could do is follow Jack Burton's mantra: "What the hell."

I sat in a Nottingham cinema foyer for almost two hours. No Tarantino, and the hour was late. With some unusual forethought, I had printed out a short screenplay and a cover letter: In case I couldn't speak with QT, I could give him a brown envelope filled with creative brilliance. So I waited.... and waited.... My Dad says 'five more minutes and we're leaving'. Just then, QT steps through a door, surrounded by a small entourage. He's walking across the foyer towards the exit. This is the time to jump. 

I found my legs carrying me towards Tarantino; my brain seriously questioning what I'm doing. I follow him out to his waiting car. As I approach, Tarantino gets in the car. Door shut. I speak to his assistant, explaining who I am, why I'm here etc... His assistant abruptly, and somewhat understandably, told me to 'go away' very impolitely.

All the while, Tarantino is gesturing through his backseat window. The message gets to his assistant, who informs me that QT will be returning to the cinema in 90 minutes. But I have to go home. I didn't have 90 minutes. I had a somewhat tired and bored Dad (who had to work that night) sat in the cinema foyer. As I watched QT's car drive off, a moment of clarity and extreme bullshit crossed my mind.

I paced back into the cinema and approached an employee; brown envelope in hand. 

ME: "Can you give this to Quentin when he returns? Its very important that he gets it."
CINEMA DUDE: "Does he know what it is?"
ME: "YES. Yes he does."
And that was that. The moment was over. Months passed.

Six months, to be precise. I'm at home watching 'This Morning' (as you'll realise by now, I was a big fan of Fred the Weatherman). I'm lounging on the floor; my mum's ironing. The phone rings. I answer.

"Hi, is that Andy?"
"Hi, its Quentin Tarantino!"
*stunned silence, eventually followed by*
"Oh.... Hello."

"Oh.... Hello." Genius. My mind certainly wasn't thinking 'Oh hello'. It was more like something along the lines of 'Oh ******************'. Turns out that QT had recently moved apartment, and found my brown envelope full of greatness in one of the moving boxes. He read it, and felt compelled to call me.

We chatted for about 30 minutes, about life, love and the as-then unreleased Pulp Fiction. Heck, he even asked me how a date went (for some utterly unknown reason, I'd happened to mention in my letter that I was going to see 'The Last Days Of Chez Nous' with an actual real girl). I'm talking about my love life with Tarantino. Uh huh.

The conversation closed naturally, and I asked if I could send him some more of my work. He agreed, gave me an address, told me what to write on the cover letter... all the while I'm thinking "This is it, son, this is the big one!"

And that was that. Never heard from him again. 

I spent, in fantastic hindsight, a stupid amount of time chasing this. Before the days of the internet, all I could do was write to his publicist Bumble Ward. No reply. QT was in London a few years later at the NFT. I went along with the same intentions as before: Pretty much hanging out in the foyer/semi-stalking. After all, it worked before. An employee offered me a free ticket to watch QT in discussion. Great! 

Afterwards, QT was signing books - but you could only get a face to face if you bought a book from him. Fair enough, BUT: - did I want to use this opportunity to plug  my work? After all, I was a professional. There's a time and a place, and queuing up like the rest of the audience, well, that was beneath me. Me 'n QT, we're not 'fans', we're industry people, right? 

Years later, the internet came along. Suddenly I had the possibility of a direct e-mail connection with Bumble. So I emailed.... and I got a reply. And it was positive. Great! Now to follow this up... Her e-mail address stopped working. Huh? Prowling the internet, I discovered news stories about Bumble Ward's unexpected departure from showbiz. Just like that, she decided she didn't want to be a publicist on the red carpet until she was 90. Go girl! But how does that help me?!!!!

"I'm a reasonable guy. I've just experienced some very unreasonable things."
After ten years, I'd drawn a blank. Or had I? Actually, no. What I'd done is put my faith in Quentin Tarantino; a film maker who doesn't know or give two monkeys who I am, but was kind enough to phone me one day. He wasn't the answer to my career problems; my lack of success at script writing. Lots of people told me I should keep chasing, but I knew in my heart that it was a fruitless task. Regardless of his success, pinning my success on him was not the answer.

By this point, my taste in films and writing had changed substantially - whilst I love 'Jackie Brown', my style is more 'Sideways', 'Withnail And I' and 'Heathers'. But it goes beyond personal taste: The lesson for me was the ago-old 'be true to thine self': Why be QT Part 2 when I can be me, with my own take on things? Making an idol of Tarantino was not going to solve all my problems.

So what positives did I learn from this?

1. Be yourself: Write what you like, what you know, what you want to watch. And enjoy it.

2. Doors did open. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a few jobs off the back of all this. I gained my first A.D. job because my story intrigued the line producer.

(Having said all this, I also received a blunt, sarcastic rejection from Danny Cannon himself when Judge Dredd was in production. Turns out he was also at the very same Nottingham cinema and I'd name-checked the OTHER famous film director. Ooops.

Working as an A.D. motivated me to make my own films, which in turn brought about a whole new set of events... *to be continued*

3. Chances are there to be taken. The world doesn't owe you, nor is it constantly against you: So be careful when the 'inner voice' tries to convince you of this.

3. Finally, I'd like to end on a suitable quote from ol' Jack....

                        "You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this? 

 When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, 
 taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, 
 and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, 
 you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember 
 what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: 

"Have ya paid your dues, Jack?"

"Yessir, the check is in the mail."