We Like Laughter – 3 New Sketches

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Cast & Crew of 'Special Delivery' - A New Sketch by We Like Laughter

Cast & Crew of ‘Special Delivery’ – A new sketch by We Like Laughter

I’ve just finished filming the 3rd of 3 new comedy sketches for We Like Laughter, the online comedy project that we funded at the end of last year through Kickstarter!

I’ve been in LA for the past month or so and was inspired by the people I was meeting out here to write 3 comedy scripts and get them filmed before I headed back to England. There’s something about the energy of this city and the people I’m introduced to that gets me excited to make things. 3 projects in 10 days was certainly ambitious but knowing that I was heading back to the UK early August was a good motivator to get them done. Here’s the lowdown:

1/ The first sketch is called ‘Doggy Style’ and is directed by my friend Ryan Turner who you may remember directed the music video ‘I’m Not Gay’ last year that did very well online. ‘Doggy Style’ stars me and Corrin Evans, and was shot by Leigh Underwood who filmed Scott’s Lookalikes. Ryan is editing it together now and I hope the results are going to be very funny. I don’t want to give too much away right now as to what the title might mean but I’ll leave it to your imagination. It’s grosser than you think!

2/ The second shoot was actually a more of a short film. It’s called ‘Special Delivery’ and stars my friend Sasha Feldman (Franco in Scott’s Lookalikes), Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Arielle Kebbel (The Vampire Diaries and lots of major films). The short was inspired by my friend Sasha’s exploits as an actual Pizza Delivery guy and an idea we had when I suggested I go on a ride along with him.

Sasha and Tony as Mickey and Ramiro in 'Special Delivery'

Sasha and Tony as Mickey and Ramiro in ‘Special Delivery’

It was awesome to work with such a talented cast and I’m excited to edit it together. I’d like to maybe premiere it at a film festival as well as releasing it online so we’ll see how things progress.

3/ Then on Sunday we just shot ‘Hollywood Superstar’. In that one play an arrogant, British wannabe actor (which obviously wasn’t much of a stretch) who meets Lindsey Shaw (Pretty Little Liars) in a Coffee Shop and tries to impress her with the help of his bumbling Spanish assistant Javier played by friend Javier Aguayo (original character naming by me). We also have an appearance by Mario Revolori, Tony’s equally talented brother, proving that We Like Laughter is just one big incestuous family. The plot is equal parts awkward and ridiculous. I hope people will like my  character, even if he is a bit of a bastard.

More news soon. Laughter awaits. Thanks to all the backers who made them possible and don’t forget to keep up to date with all things We Like Laughter by liking/following us. Why Not Click Here Now -> Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a photo of Lindsey Shaw and a fan from the ‘Hollywood Superstar’ shoot. I look sweaty and tired. She looks good. I made her wear the beret though so she’s now a member of We Like Laughter whether she likes it or not!

Lindsey Shaw and I on the set of 'Hollywood Superstar'

Lindsey Shaw and I on the set of ‘Hollywood Superstar’

 

Charlie Chaplin Directing City Lights

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Criterion have just released a DVD/Blu-Ray of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, which is great news. The DVD contains some rare behind the scenes footage of Chaplin directing the scene where the blind flower seller played by Virginia Cherrill meets the Little Tramp for the first time. The clip is fascinating:

As well as director, Chaplin is also the film’s star of course. Here we get a chance to see him try to balance these two roles, without any of the modern luxuries of digital playback that we have today. The atmosphere on set is clearly tense, and Chaplin demonstrates the restless body language of a man frustrated.

Chaplin was undoubtedly a perfectionist. He would do an unbelievable 342 takes of this 2 minute scene, an amount that makes even David Fincher look sloppy.

But it shows us just how far the great man would go to get what he needed. As Richard Brody, in this article in the New Yorker, points out, it was a perfection of results that Chaplin was after. He often didn’t know what he wanted until he saw it.

The above scene was crucial to the film. Chaplin knew that if audiences didn’t believe that the blind girl could mistake the Tramp for a rich man then the whole premise of the movie would fail. The moment has to feel truthful and it is this truth that Chaplin is striving to achieve.

Knowing that resulting film will become arguably Chaplin’s greatest masterpiece, makes this footage all the more poignant and inspiring. It is his complete commitment to capturing truth that I would argue elevates his work beyond mere entertainment and into the realms of art.

 

 

Mr. Invisible Wins In Seattle!

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And the good festival news continues! My film Mr. Invisible won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Choice at Seattle Shorts this weekend. It’s a real honour and I’m grateful to all those who voted for my film. Great to have some love from the Pacific Northwest!

Next up on the festival trail is Tallgrass Festival in Kansas, and we just found out about another one last night. But I can’t share this with you to the official announcement. It’s exciting though!

Here’s the new pair of shiny laurel leaf badges that I’m probably going to get tattooed on. One on each cheek. Can’t decide to go with face or butt…

GrandWinner_SeattleShorts

AudWinnier_SeattleShorts

Just Seen The Photos From Our Bigfoot Shoot And They’re Great!

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You might remember a few months back I roamed around Portland in a Bigfoot outfit for the day whilst my photographer friend Margaret Jacobsen took photos of me? Well I just got a look at the results and I’m very happy!

Look forward to sharing more soon. But for now, this is one of my favourites. It pretty much sums up what I went through in those 12 intense days writing my Bigfoot! feature film…

Ape Man & Machine (Photo by Margaret Jacobsen) ©

Ape Man & Machine (Photo by Margaret Jacobsen) ©

Massive thank you to my talented and generous friend Margaret Jacobsen (check out her work) for collaborating on this project with me in Portland and taking some really excellent photos while I goofed around like an idiot..

3 Is The Magic Number

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Fired! (2012)

Dad Reads The News – Fired! (2012)

Over the next two weeks I have 3 projects playing at 3 different festivals across the USA. Honestly, you wait months for a festival and then three bloody come along at once!

First up, Super Chill, the TV pilot based on our web series is in the Independent Pilot Selection of the New York TV Festival. This is a great chance to share it with some of the major US TV networks and screen alongside talent from Breaking Bad, Saturday Night Live, Heroes, 30 Rock (I’m reading these). Basically actual TV stuff. It’s cool that our little comedy we shot for $500 in Portland has been selected. I’m grateful to all the cast and crew in who helped us make it and gave their time and energies in return for just a few snacks from the Penny Market. Perhaps one of the networks will see potential in it and we might get a development deal… If you’re in New York come down the screening! Details here.

Then it’s on to Austin where Mr. Invisible is playing at the Austin Film Festival. Our film is one of only 12 narrative shorts “In Competition”, which means it is up for one of the big awards there and as the festival is an Academy Award-Qualifying one that makes it particularly exciting. There’s so many great films showing in Austin, it’s gonna be inspiring to be in that environment and maybe meet some of my heroes. Will Ferrell is gonna be in attendance, as is Vince Gilligan, the Breaking Bad creator. Dad and I are planning to dress as Jesse Pinkman and Walter White for the Halloween Party. Stalker Alert!

Then finally we’re off to Chicago where my earlier short Fired! is playing in the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. This probably marks the end of Fired!’s festival run, but it’s awesome to be finishing up in the largest festival of films for children in the world. The fest is also Academy Award-Qualifying. Lets get two Oscar nominations can we?

I fly out Sunday morning. I’m genuinely really excited. Partly to share my work with new audiences and partly to just stroll around in my bright yellow Breaking Bad overalls looking at my watch and saying to no one in particular “Ah this is awkward, I’ve gotta get off to ANOTHER festival soon.”

Truthfully I’m very grateful to have this opportunity and it’s a nice validation for my efforts over the past few years. Keep your fingers crossed! I’ll post updates on how I get on out there.

Reflections on Mr. Invisible

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On the set of Mr. Invisible (2013)

On the set of Mr. Invisible (2013)

I finally got to share my short Mr. Invisible with the cast and crew this week in London. I hadn’t seen some of them since we wrapped (which was almost 18 months ago now) so it was nice to reconnect with some familiar faces, especially our star Mr. Julian Glover, who was in great spirits.

After the film had finished, Mr. Glover turned to the audience and hailed it generously as “the perfect little film” that does “all the right things”. He also added that the production had been one of the most enjoyable he’d ever worked on.

Despite claims that I had paid him to say this, it was very heartening to hear this from a man who has been in the industry as long as he has and worked with some of the great directors. As someone subsequently suggested, maybe I should just retire now.

Cast and Crew screenings are interesting occasions. It’s is the first time that most people involved in the film get to see  it come together (or fall apart, depending on how good a job you’ve done as Director). It was therefore nice to get such positive feedback from my lead actor, and many of the other people who attended.

I definitely felt from day one on Mr. Invisible like I had a lot to prove. I was directing a team of people that had worked on some of the biggest feature films and TV of the last few years. The camera crew had just come off Game of Thrones, my Assistant Director had just worked with Brad Pitt on World War Z, the Line Producer had just wrapped on Sherlock, and Julian Glover… well, he was Julian Glover.

I, on the other hand, had up till then made only a handful of low-budget shorts. Don’t get me wrong… I’m proud of ‘Le Chat’ (2006, shot on HandyCam) and the rest, but it’s not quite on the same level as Star Wars, Casino Royale or any of the other films on the resume of my talented cast & crew. Ultimately I was given a great opportunity by the Producer to step up my game, and I had to rise to it.

I decided to treat it in the same way I have my previous films, not be overawed, demand the same high standards and attention to detail from others that I do of myself, and ultimately just try to do justice to what was a fantastic script by the writer Richard Sainsbury.

The shooting process is strange. At that stage the film really only exists in the Director’s head. When you are in the early part of your career, there is understandably going to be a few more doubts from an experienced crew, a few more questioning looks, the occasional pair of rolled eyes. Are you steering the ship in the right direction, or leading everyone blindly onto the rocks? Ultimately, you have to just encourage people to trust you.

This can be a lot of pressure, especially when combined with the necessity to constantly make decisions and compromises whilst filming. Perhaps the romanticised view of Hollywood Director is a guy relaxing in a chair smoking a cigar and occasionally shouting into a megaphone. In my experience there is no chair. There is no cigar. Just a lot of face rubbing and soul searching.

The hope, though, is that when your finally come to screen the film, it all feels worthwhile. A crew can forgive your demands, the long days, the physical toil, the quest for perfection, if it leads to a good film. They may even want to work with you again. Of course, if it’s not up to scratch, then it’s a different matter entirely.

On the evidence of the screening and Mr. Glover’s kind words, I think I did alright. Hopefully the film can now go on to have long and successful festival run…

Myself and Julian Glover at the Mr. Invisible Cast & Crew Screening

Myself and Julian Glover at the Mr. Invisible Cast & Crew Screening

One Hundred Years of Laughter

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100 years ago today at the old Portland Hotel, on the location of what is now Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, Oregon, a Englishman signed his first ever film contract with Keystone Studios. It was a significant moment. In 5 short years he would go from promising London stage performer to the twentieth century’s most recognised man.

That man was Simon Cowell Charles Chaplin.

The intervening century has seen a lot of developments in cinema – the advent of sound, Technicolor, the rise and demise of 3D, Tom Cruise, Dolby Surround Sound, the rise of 3D a second time – but despite this Chaplin’s films still feel as entertaining and inspiring today as they did almost 100 years ago. To me, at least.

Another interesting sidenote to this story is that Keystone also almost signed Chaplin’s English roommate in Portland, but eventually decided against it. He didn’t have a bad career though. His name was Stan Laurel.

I went back to the square in Portland recently to pay my tributes to the great man, take some photos (with the help of Randall Garcia) and reflect on why I still consider Chaplin to be my biggest inspiration in filmmaking and comedy.

I’m in the process of writing an article on him, which I’m hoping to get published. If anyone has any publications they think might be interested then please get in touch.

Perhaps today you can observe a moment of silence, and even trip over a bucket, in tribute to the Little Tramp. Cheers Charlie!