Archive for April, 2013


Poster

Those of you who read my blog will know that generally the only posts I make are regarding Alfred Hitchcock and the ‘Year of Hitchcock’ challenge which I am currently undertaking.

Whilst these posts are fun and I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge and love watching and reviewing each and every Hitchcock film, it is only a small part of what I do with my time and I’ve decided that from this week I’m going to start updating more regularly on my other passion; filmmaking.

I apologise for the length of this post but it has been floating around in my subconscious for some months but with university and other commitments is only just being written.

With this weeks blog I’d like to provide a little background information on myself, the work I do and the sort of posts which you can be expecting in future weeks.

So here goes…

My name is Jacob L. Williams and I have recently finished a degree in Film Production & Technology at Birmingham City University. For much of my three years working on my degree I have not been impressed by my course; I love University life and the people I’ve met. However since one particularly moment in my second year there has always been a sense of dread and pointless about both my course and my future after university.

The moment which filled me with this feeling came when we got to meet a successful graduate from our course – he worked as a camera operator on the BBC show Merlin, which is pretty cool. The graduate came in and spoke in detail about his career after finishing the course and during the discussion revealed that in all his time working he had never once mentioned the fact that he had a degree to any of the filmmakers who employed him. He had got to the point at which he was purely by being confident, lucking and knowing the right people.

This came as a shock to me as a degree is sold on the premise that it will enhance your future career; however if the most successful graduate from our course didn’t use his degree in such a way; what was the point?

I did however persevere with my degree; mainly because I was already halfway through and I was having a lot of fun. The rest of second year passed and third year began with a heavy weight of dissertations to be written and a 10-minute group film to create. This ten-minute film proved to be the saviour of my future as it re-ignited the passion for filmmaking that was lost on the day of the talk in second year.

In October 2012 I came home from a nightclub at 3am; extremely drunk, sat down at my computer and typed out a fifteen page screenplay – well it was barely a screenplay what with several pages of drunken typos and a lot of nonsensical language there was very little to it. However upon waking up (with the predictably hangover) I trawled through what I had written and realised I had come up with an idea that was very original.

The film which would later become entitled ‘Pinot Rouge’, has the simple premise that it follows an alcoholic who is for no real reason is transported inside a wine bottle – I know, it sounds crazy? Inside the wine bottle he finds himself in a labyrinth of red corridors and is pursued by his demons (mainly appearing in the form of a rather threatening Red-suited Man who speaks in strange metaphors that don’t quite make sense).

A sober re-write in which plot-points where adapted and meaning added to certain parts the script was pitched to my to my group of friends who where to be the crew.

I should probably explain here that for the assignment the course was split into groups of six and each member was given a specific role for which they would be marked i.e. director of photography, editor etc. As I’m a rather organised person I was given/chose the role of producer (which was thoroughly enjoyable).

Anyway back to the script; as I’m obviously not the only wannabe scriptwriter on my course, there where other member of my group who has also written short films which they wanted to be made. In the interest of fairness each member of the group was given the opportunity to pitch a ten-minute script and then a vote would take place. Two members of the group abstained, as they did not feel confident enough in their own screenplays. This meant that Pinot Rouge had competition from three other (very strong and different) scripts. Upon reading my coursemates scripts, the confidence I had for my own strange David Lynch-esque work being picked waned. Somehow, however it was chosen and a meeting with the Director – the very talented Mr. Jordan Cochrane – was set-up to discuss ideas and a direction for the film.

Around this time I had some reservations about being writer/producer on the film rather than the typical writer/director; which every other group on my course opted for. However Jordan quashed my fears as in our first few meetings as he knew exactly what he wanted and showed originality in his plans that I would never of dreamed off (when I direct things – although I believe myself to be competent I sometimes lack a little imagination – Jordan suffers no such issues). Collaborations with Jordan turned out to be very simple because he showed extreme respect for my screenplay and ideas whilst also bringing originality and fresh ideas to the table.

Upon Jordan’s advice and the feasibility of actually being able to make the film, re-writes where undertaken; this mainly included the cutting down of scenes taking place in the corridors, it was important for the story that the corridors were red and no such corridors could be found.
These cuts proved a brilliant decision as their removal helped the script move away from a final episode of ‘Twin Peaks’ rip-off (which admittedly it kind of was) and allowed the addition of extra set-pieces which would in the end make the output less pretentious, more fun and the metaphors stronger.

I won’t go into too much more detail onto the production of the film (that is for another post) other than to say after many problems the film was successfully made and has been well-received by all that have seen it. Recently I achieved one of my lifetime ambitions and watched it on the big screen at the wonderful Electric Cinema (which also happens to be the oldest cinema in the UK); the response from the audience at the screening was just incredible, there reactions to each scene truly surprised me laughs, screams and groans in all the places they should have been. This filled me with a tremendous sense of pride and joy. The compliments I received afterwards for the story where also incredibly gratifying and unexpected with many people finding it hilarious that I was drunk when the original draft was written. We are currently looking at entering the film into some film festivals however if you are interested you can watch a teaser trailer: http://www.vimeo.com/purplecamera/pinotrougetrailer

The main point however of this post is to say that the creation of such a well-received film has inspired me for my own future and my own filmmaking and alongside Jordan and a few others from my group we are starting up our own production company – Purple Camera Media – and are looking to build on our success (and hopefully make some money).

In future weeks on this blog I will be updating more information about the company and aiming to give an insight into the trials and tribulations which an indie filmmaker goes through when setting up a new company and creating films and music videos.

Purple Camera Media also recently entered our first competition a West Midlands music video one called 2Weeks2Makeit. As you can guess from its title it essentially means we have two weeks to make a music video for our artist. We’ve been paired with a wonderful acoustic singer/songwriter called Hollie Aires and I’m really looking forward to creating a video in the next two weeks (expect a post about this also).

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and will check back for more updates; for more information and keeping in touch follow one of the twitter accounts @PurpleCamera1 (not run by myself but very interesting) or @PinotRouge (which is run by me and therefore not very interesting) and check out my posts about Hitchcock Challenge!

After researching a little in last weeks film The Birds, I discovered that it was generally regarded as the ‘last great Hitchcock film’. This surprised me somewhat and left me with a desire not to watch this weeks film (Marnie). However I persevered and I’m glad I did as Marnie is a very intriguing film and although not Hitchcock’s best it is far from the worst I have seen in this challenge.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a conwoman who travels America stealing money from companies in order to support her mother. She suffers from deep psychological troubles including a fear of the colour red. When Mark (Sean Connery) discovers her thieving he forces her into marrying him and then attempts to help resolve her issues.

THE GOOD

The film has many good moments and could easily be described as a mash-up of Hitchcock’s previous great film. There are several moments within both the films narrative and look that echo older Hitchcock films. For example the idea of a man becoming obsessive with a troubled woman is essentially the story of Vertigo, only in Marnie, the audience is seeing it from the females perspective. The way in which Marnie’s fear of red is a portrayed using flashing colour and blurred effects are taken straight from Spellbound. There are countless other subtle references/inspirations that occur throughout, making for a wonderful viewing experience; particularly when undergoing this challenge.

The first shot of the film is magnificent and sets the scene for the film well; it starts with a close-up of a woman’s handbag before pulling out and showing a beautiful black-haired figure standing on a train platform. There is something subtlety threatening about this that is truly intriguing in a simple sort of way.

Image

Another cool moment comes when Marnie is committing a robbery; the camera moves really wide so that as Marnie takes money from a safe the cleaner can be seen on the opposite side of the frame going about her business; unbeknownst to Marnie. This builds tension incredibly well and showcases Hitch once more as still being the mast of suspense.

Sean Connery was also simply magnificient in the role of the charismatic man who is attempting to tame Marnie; he never drops his character and is a perfect mix of threatening and kindess that makes the audience constantly wonder where his motives lie.

Image

THE BAD

The one thing I knew about this film was that it contained a rape scene, which was highly controversial. However when watching the film I found this scene to be disappointing in a strange sort of way. This is probably down to the fact that due to being a modern student of film I am rather de-sensitised to scenes of this nature. Comparing the scene in Marnie to the truly disturbing scenes of Irreservible or Once Were Warriors, the rape this in this film just felt a bit tame – although I can see why at the time it was scandalous.

The other major I had with the film was that the first half just wasn’t interesting. I didn’t care for Tippi Hedren’s character enough to emote to her on any level and it wasn’t until Sean Connery’s proper introduction the film really spiked my interest. From this point onwards it was magnificent.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitch cameo’s five minutes in leaving a hotel room suspiciously.

Image

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Although Marnie is not Hitchcock’s best it is a good example of a Hitchcock film and one that should still be regarded in fairly high esteem. 4 Hitchs.

Image Image Image Image

The Birds is an interesting film for me as it is one that I saw as a young child and terrified me being at such a tender age, so much that I still suffer from an irrational fear of chickens (which is odd and there are no chickens in The Bird). After thus experience I had no desire to watch it since until fairly recently when I saw the film The Girl which tells the story of Hitchcock’s obsession with actress Tippi Hedren and her mistreatment during filming. This sparked an interest and made this a film I was really looking forward to. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is a heiress to a newspaper fortune and a girl who always gets what she wants. So when she is rejected by a potential lover (Rod Taylor) she pursues him across the country to a tiny fishing village where he lives. Soon after she arrives events take a turn as the birds begin attacking people in increasing numbers; before long the entire town caught in a fight for survival.

THE GOOD

The tension which is built up during the opening of this film is incredible with an onslaught of bird imagery attacking the viewer in every scene; birds are constantly mentioned – but fondly – and seen just being average birds. This makes them all the creepier when they suddenly turn evil and begin their attacks.

The special effects are fantastic, especially for a film in the 60’s; the use of compositing film to make it appear there are hundreds of birds works wonderfully and is incredibly believable, without looking dated.

 Image

The film also has some fantastic imagery; a wide shot of a burning town, the birds appearing on a pylon, Tippi Hedren being attacked by Birds – at one point Hitchcock actually set live birds on her to increase the realism and play mind games.

Image

Another factor that was enjoyable about the film is that the reasons for the Birds attacks wasn’t mentioned. This made the film so much more interesting to watch as one thing I really dislike about modern film – particularly comedies – is when they create witchcraft or a curse (think Shallow Hal) from nowhere to have the film make sense. The audience doesn’t need to understand everything that’s going on to enjoy and sometimes – as in this film and countless Woody Allen pictures – it’s more interesting to form your own opinions.

THE BAD

This film although being entertaining does have a few problems; firstly it is a little slow before the bird’s attacks. The characters drive around, discuss birds and not much really happen; after the first attack however the film really takes off.

Something else that I was unsure about when watching this film was the fact there was no score; in my opinion music can improve any film and although I can see the artistic decision to not use music; the one scene in which music is used (a school choir singing) is also one of the most memorable and tension building. 

A final problem with this is the ending which was a huge let down; again I can see the reasons the ending but it was just so anti-climatic that I was left wanting much more.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitch makes a cameo at the start leaving a pet shop whilst walking two dogs

Image

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Birds is a difficult one to rate because although it is mostly entertaining it is far from the best Hitch work in terms of camera & performance. However the special effects do look incredible and therefore I award the film 5 Hitchs.

Image Image Image Image Image

This week’s film is yet another classic Hitch film, Psycho. Psycho is a film that is famous for several reasons and contains one the most iconic scenes in film history. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

A secretary (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from her boss and goes on the run; she soon finds herself at the sinister Bates Motel and meets the owner a strange young man (Anthony Perkins) who is strangely obsessed with his mother.

THE GOOD

Whereas many of the previous Hitch films build tension in order to create drama; this film builds tension to insight fear and horror. This is a nice change and a great example as to how similar filmic techniques can be adapted across genre, from the slow building start to the high-tension moments and all the twists and turns it is obvious why this film is seen as a game-changing horror film. 

There are brilliant moments of tension throughout the film, particularly at the start in which Leigh debates within her mind whether or not to take the money; this is increased by the constant threat of police following her; making it all the more haunting when the police aren’t there at the moment she made need them.

The film is incredibly creepy with Anthony Perkins portraying the disturbed wimp to a brilliant degree in what is one of the greatest performances by any actor within a Hitchcock film thus far.

The shower scene is the true masterpiece for which this film is remembered and rightly so; it is an astounding piece of tension building and quick cuts; perfectly matched by the beautiful score; a perfect scene.

Image

THE BAD
The only problem that I have with this film is that the audience is given no real person to back, this is obviously done intentionally as it does add a lot to the tension built up during the film; its just a unconventional choice which I felt hindered my enjoyment every so slightly, particularly when I knew what was about to happen.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitchcock makes a cameo at the start of the film standing outside a window wearing a cowboy hat.

Image

FINAL THOUGHTS

Psycho is a film, which portrays true genius and is the sort of film to which I was alive to see at the time when it would have been highly original. 5 Hitchs.

Image Image Image Image Image

This week’s film is another that is regarded as one of Hitchcock’s best and I have to admit it is the most typically Hitchcock film that I have watched in this challenge. Whereas last weeks Vertigo was a combination of all Hitchcock’s experimental aspects North by Northwest is a mix of the most mainstream; and this is by no means a bad thing. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

When Roger O. Thornill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for an American spy by a group of mobsters; he is forced to go on a run across America whilst being pursued by both sides of the law.

THE GOOD

The story is a strong one (albeit a little obvious at times) that constantly keeps the audience guessing as to what will happen next and whom Grant should trust. An ending with several twists is also extremely intriguing and unpredictable with the chain of events being both dramatic and cleverly thought out. 

The film has several very Hitchcockian features within it; the most obvious being the narrative of a wrong man being accused and the use of a high place or famous landmark (in the case both) for the climax of the film. The climax of this film takes place upon the top of Mount Rushmore and is brilliantly done with real danger being created with the use of camera trickery.

Image

The famous dustcropper scene is astounding both as part of the film and a standalone film. The tension which is built up through the use of long takes and clever sound mixing is truly incredible.

Image

THE BAD

This film has several moments, which look extremely dated compared to other Hitchcock films. This is namely due to the special effects during several scenes such as car chase near the start; the use of a projected background looks very comical compared to the car chases which can be seen in more recent films. Although this isn’t a major problem it really takes one out of the film and ruins the impact of the scene.

Image

The film also suffers from a problem that it lacks originality in the way it is shot and how certain action sequences play out. I believe this would not be an issue if the viewer was a Hitchcock novice but visiting this film after watching say The 39 Steps or Sabotage it felt as if Hitchcock was simply recreating things that he new audiences would like – this is most likely due to his fear the film would be a box office flop after the failed experiments of Vertigo.

CAMEO O’CLOCK

Hitch makes a cameo right at the start of this film, narrowly missing a bus.

Image

FINAL THOUGHTS

North by Northwest is a good film, no doubt; but after watching I was left unsure why it was considered a Hitchcock classic; it is a great example of the Hitchcockian style however lacks the originality of any of his other films. Therefore I award this film 4 Hitch’s.

Image Image Image Image