Over the years the contents of Francois Truffaut's famous interview with Alfred Hitchcock have been repeated ad nauseum until they've passed into legend. Indeed I was surprised at how much of the interview I was familiar with purely because of literary and documentary citations I've come across over the years. Yet it wasn't until this week that I listened to the tapes from beginning to end, and that was one marathon worth running.
Happily a devoted YouTuber has posted them all to their account, so for the enthusiast there's 25 half hour sessions to get through, but the reward of listening to two filmmaking icons dissecting and deconstructing an equally iconic body of work is well worth the endurance.
It also provides a fascinating insight into the darker side of a troubled mind. The questions that Hitchcock chooses to casually dismiss or shrug off are as revealing as the ones in which he chooses to relish in salacious details.
For those interested in having a listen then here's the first of 25...
When I directed 'Nest' at the end of 2016 I had little idea that the story of a bird-headed woman and her lovestruck husband would grow some legs. Albeit fairly spindly bird ones. So it's been great to see it playing at festival venues around the world and living out a far more exotic jet-setting life than I've certainly had since its making.
Given the interest that people seem to have in the film (for which I'm truly grateful) I thought it was about time to honour it with a poster. So, hot off the press, out of the inkwell and without further ado, here's the first look at my poster for 'Nest'...
I'll be selling a timed edition of this as an A3 poster through my brand new shop. Posters will be available signed or unsigned, (buyer's choice), until August 31st. After that it'll be GONE FOREVER! So if you want one then get in quick. Orders will ship the first week of September.
Click on the pics below for a closer look at the details...
I should really have waited until October to share this, but just like Dracula, this is a hard one to keep down.
If you have a spare hour and thirty-five and are keen to discover the Hollywood origins of our modern horror mythos then I can't recommend this enough. Particularly as it features interviews with many key players before they shuffled off this mortal coil and into the annals of legend. It's also notable for revealing many of the practical effects secrets that brought many a monster to life (the method behind the Jekyll and Hyde transformation being especially brilliant for its simplicity).
I'll probably do a deeper dive into some of this come October, but in the meantime... listen to these children of the night. What music they make.
I want to use today's post to bring attention to a Gofundme campaign that's been set up to help an incredible artist, AJ Frena, as she battles ovarian cancer.
I've exhibited in several group print shows with AJ but have sadly never had the pleasure of meeting her. That said, I've hugely admired her work from afar (usually to the point of jealously) and am consistently bowled over by the detail and obvious care that goes into her pieces.
A quick scroll down the Gofundme page shows just how respected AJ is as both an artist and a person, and I wish her a strong and speedy recovery so that she can get back to creating beautiful things and putting them out into the world for us all to drop our jaws at.
Click on the link below to donate:
To check out AJ's work please visit her website.
Full disclosure; watching a Spielberg film is, for me, akin to cocooning myself in a chunky knit blanket that's being continuously knitted in situ by a devoted army of beavering Women's Instituters. I think perhaps that I was born at just the right time; riding the wave of an 80s VHS tsunami, and happily drowning in TV's flood of late night movies, rehoused in the comfort of a cathode ray tube after their hedonistic days on Hollywood's busted blocks. Spielberg and Hitchcock were the schedulers' usual weapons of choice, and boy was I was happy to take their bullets.
The first ones to make an undeniable impression on me were 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'Jaws', 'E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial', 'Close Encounters of The Third Kind', and 'Hook'. Had the local village video shop not eventually succumbed to the strangulation of streaming then I'm certain they would attest to my sister and I being the latter's most devoted rentees. (And maybe demand compensation for the repetitive strain injury from adding the adventures of an ageing Pan to their rental book ad nauseum).
But Spielberg's films are so much more than comfortable shoes. They are precisely engineered loafers, cobbled by a master shoe maker, with loose bits and tight bits in just the right places to make you alternately laugh, cry or feel your toes curl in response to some blistering pain as you unblinkingly plod on.
As the years have passed and my curiosity for construction of story and image has intensified I've come to recognise the technical brilliance behind so many of cinema's most iconic moments. I came across this interesting little examination on YouTube recently that looks at how Spielberg introduces his characters through action, fraction, or some combination of the both. It's certainly well worth a watch for anyone writing screenplays, or indeed anyone who just wants a peek at the wizard behind the curtain:
As I dive fingers first into writing my first feature length screenplay, this is definitely going to be at the forefront of my thoughts as I get started. As the video says, first impressions are everything, so kudos to Spielberg for keeping us coming back for endless wide-eyed reacquaintances long after that first impression has been made. It's one thing to meet an alien vegetable in the shed of a Californian suburb for the first time, but its quite something else to want to keep going back there to say hello all over again.
Full credit to Entertain the Elk for this video, and do check out the other stuff on their channel.
I've been doing a bit of research into unreliable narrators recently and I just wanted to share this brilliant lecture I stumbled upon from Dr Catherine Brown:
Aside from its tour de force deconstruction of literature's greatest unreliables, it's also a fantastic lesson in how the basic building blocks of narrative can be stacked to serve the selfish motives of either character or author. As interesting for screenwriters as I imagine it would be for wannabe spin doctors. Although I'm hoping it inspires more of the former than the latter... Enjoy.
To mark the occasion of the first blog post on my new site (WELCOME!) I'm going to share a piece of concept art I worked on for my new short film, 'Scraps' which is currently in pre-production...
'Scraps' tells the story of a boy made of trash as he comes to life and tries to escape from his creator, the rubbish-hoarding Gordon Grott.
The filming of 'Scraps' will bring to fruition one of my longest held ambitions; to work with puppets. Its certainly no secret to anyone who knows me that Jim Henson is something of an idol to me (the full-size Muppet version of myself sat next to my desk would probably agree), so it should be even less of a surprise then that the main character in 'Scraps' will be performed entirely by a puppeteer.
As an 80's kid who grew up in the shadow of some pretty seminal practical effects movies, it was somewhat inevitable that a love for handcrafted cinematic magic would rub off. In fact, I think my first ever attempt at a practical effect was to draw a Chinese-dragon mouth onto the flap of a cardboard box and film it (with a shoulder-busting 90's Handicam no less) as it slowly descended, revealing the entrance to a grand temple that would be the setting for my 7 year old self's new addition to the Indiana Jones series. Or so I reckoned. Were I to dig out the tape and watch it today I'm fairly sure it would read as nothing more than a heavily Crayola'd slab of packaging. But for me that's the beauty in practicals; the idea that un-filmic household detritus can be repurposed into something awe-inspiring. Something that forces us to look past the raw materials and fill in the blanks with our imagination.
From the kitchen foil rock formations in the mines of the Temple of Doom, to the fine grain salt waterfalls in The Phantom Menace, taking the everyday and fooling us into looking at it in new ways is, for me, one of the most exciting things about cinema.
Which brings me neatly back to 'Scraps'.
To have household trash come to life and take on a character of its own may certainly be one of the reasons I'm excited to work on the project, but it's also a culmination of my interests in all things practical and puppeteered, and a chance for me to tell a story using the tools that got me excited in this form of storytelling in the first place. Can't wait to show you more...