From Author to Actor…For A Day

From Author to Actor…For A Day

When I was a lad I was convinced I was going to grow up and become a famous Hollywood superstar. I was in all the school plays, the local amateur dramatics group, a weekend theatre course…and, in all honesty, I wasn’t that bad. No, seriously, false modesty aside, I was actually pretty good. Maybe, in a parallel dimension, if I’d pursued it more vigorously…who knows?

But life, with its twists and turns and knocks and its general rollercoaster ride nature, had other plans for me. It seemed I was destined only to watch the silver screen, rather than appearing on it. Until there came a day, a glorious day, a day that will surely go down in the annals of Hollywood history, when my friend Ben said “fancy being in a short film?”

Now, this was not something out of the blue, Ben and I have been film enthusiasts ever since we’ve known each other, and we’ve talked for years about making our own films. We’ve got scripts waiting to be developed, lofty ambitions and we’ve even toyed around with various names for the production company we will obviously one day co-own. My favourite is Ben And Dave All Star Studio Productions. That’s right, BADASS Productions.

Ben has always been more interested in the whole filmmaking process, whereas most of my talents lie on the other side of the camera, although I like to think I contribute to the writing as well. But Ben is very much the driving force, and he told me about the short film he had come up with. A man (me) wakes up on a beach, stranded, confused, and forced to use his (fairly inadequate) wits to survive. What follows is a short chronicle of his buffoon like attempts to build a shelter (badly), construct a bow and arrow (which ends up being more dangerous to him than to any of the completely safe wildlife around him), and to go spear-fishing (the results of which need to be seen to be believed). It’s around eight minutes long, and damn me if Ben and I aren’t absolutely over the moon with the end result.

I shall save details of the day we spent filming for a future post, suffice to say that when Ben said “fancy being in a short film?” what he should have said was “fancy getting up at 4 in the morning to spend the day either being cold, wet or a combination of the two, with a stroll through an honest to god swamp and a dip in the sea off the coast of Southport at 8 in the morning to really freeze your *******s off?” At least it would have been more honest.

In spite of the hardships of the day, though, the end result was something we were both very, very pleased with, even in its rough format, and once Ben had worked his editing magic on it, it was something else entirely – a masterpiece. Watching that 8 minute slice of entertainment for the first time, I suddenly how Michaelangelo must have felt when he looked up at the roof of the Cistine Chapel, how Capability Brown’s heart must have swelled to look out over his first landscaped garden, how the Spice Girls must have been over the moon to hear Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want, I Really Really Really Wanna Zig A Zig Ah booming out of their speakers for the very first time…but don’t take my word for it, watch it yourself and bask in the glow of a complete moron trying to survive life in the wilderness with nothing but a Hawaiian shirt, a surplus of damp earth and faintly woebegone expression. Oh, and you get to see me eat a pine cone. A scene Ben made me shoot 8 times. In a row.

You can find How I Survived the Island on YouTube here, and I really hope you enjoy it. Any feedback will be immediately passed on to my partner in crime, and a more detailed narrative of the day we spent filming will be on this site shortly. For now, a few piccies:

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Writer, producer, director, editor…all hats that this amazing filmmaker wears. The one, the only, Ben Lingham!

 

3No expense was spent on crew, the star being forced to carry his costume, props and a camera tripod for about seven miles. OK, it just felt like seven miles, it was probably only two. Or maybe three. Distance is hard to judge at 6 in the morning.

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Yep, he made me climb over a wire fence.

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The infamous spear fishing scene. I performed all my own stunts, don’t ya know. Oh, and that water? Freezing. Another scene he made me film over and over and over and over again. Sometimes I think he doesn’t really like me. Wait, no, we’re British, mocking and forcing your friends to endure physical hardship is how we show love.

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Can you see the stick poking out of the bottom of my foot? Looks even more impressive in the film. How did we do it, you ask? Trade secret, I’m afraid. Although I can tell you that the first of the surgeries on my foot went very well.

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And finally, a glimpse into the glamorous culinary experiences of intrepid movie-makers. The venue? Ben’s car. The cuisine? Ham sandwiches and crisps. Which were delicious, by the by.

I do implore you to check this little screen gem out, we put a lot of hard work into it, and then Ben put about a million times more into it after that, and it wouldn’t be much of a post if I didn’t also shamelessly remind you that my novels are all available on amazon (preview chapters and links are available on this site), reviews so far are good, and the sequel to Realmborn is currently at 32 of approx. 50 chapters, so is coming along nicely.

Been a while, but I’m going to say it anyway. Stay Frosty, People.

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The Jungle Book…not for kids!

The Jungle Book…not for kids!

Well,not young ones, anyway. Took my five year old to see the new Jon Favreau live-action version of the Disney classic today, and I would recommend not taking the trailer for this as an indication of the overall tone of this film.

It’s dark. My son spent quite a lot of it cuddled into me, occasionally hiding his eyes buried in my shoulder. I guess now is the time to mention the obligatory…spoiler alert.

A lot of the film seems to take place at night, for one thing, in gloomy, creepy, spooky jungle settings. (Yes, I know it’s called the Jungle Book, I was expecting Jungle, just not the dark and frightening sort of jungle you might expect a Predator to leap out of.) And some of the brighter daytime scenes contained an army of violent monkeys led by some sort of prehistoric throwback giant ape with a penchant for threats and terrifying roaring.

Speaking of violence…this was an extremely violent film. I’m not one to complain about this usually, but a Disney movie? Aimed at the family? The trailers certainly didn’t give rise to the expectation that Shere Khan (voiced incredibly sinisterly and effectively by Idris Elba, is there anything that man can’t do?) would suddenly kill Mowgli’s foster-father (foster alpha male?) to make a point, and that a few scenes later we’d see said dead wolf’s bones being picked clean by vultures…

I think this is my main problem, it’s a good film, the animation is amazing, the voice work is superb, it’s not overly long, it’s very well done…but I think it was completely mis-advertised. The trailers drew my five year old in, made it look bright and exciting, action-packed but fairly innocent, the classic “contains mild peril” scenario. So that’s what we were expecting, what we got was a dark, threat-filled and fairly  grown up film. A good film, yes, and there was some comedy from Baloo the bear (Bill Murray, making the character a charming, loveable rogue with his heart in the right place), but there was also a helluva lot of scares that I for one would not recommend to the under 8’s. Yes, it’s a PG not a U, I get that, but come on, give us more of a clue in the advertising to G the P’s, eh?

All that being said, I do think it was very well made, and as I said, the voice work was fantastic. Scarlett Johanssen as Ka the snake was suitably hypnotic, alluring and threatening, Sir Ben Kingsley hit just the right note as the almost old school colonel-like Bagheera, Bill Murray and Idris Elba I’ve already mentioned, Lupita Nyong’o was an endearing and courageous Racksha (Mowgli’s adopted wolf Mum, and apologies for any mis-spelling), and Christopher Walken as King Louie was on top form, making the giant ape both semi-amusing and then very, very threatening.

Neel Sethi, the lad playing Mowgli, was really good, I think he captured the character really well, and he can certainly run through the jungle with a great deal of skill. If acting doesn’t  work out for him (although I think it should) he could be a hell of a free runner.

My one other major complaint I the King Louie song, the I Wanna Be Like You number. Through the rest of the film there are no other songs, with the sole exception of a rendition of the Bear Necessities by Baloo and Mowgli, but they do that unaccompanied, just their voices, but suddenly when King Louie decides to belt out his greatest hit, there’s a full band playing along in the background. It felt forced and jarred with the rest of the film.

So, overall, a good film, well made, well acted, a couple of minor complaints as an adult viewer but nothing that wouldn’t make me give it a solid seven or a sketchy eight out of ten, but please, movie advertisers, please, give us a better idea of what a film is actually going to be like before we take the risk and shell out to see it. The cinema’s not a cheap trip out any more, and my lad only saw about two thirds of the film in the end…if it’s going to be dark, let us know in advance!

This is still a blog about my life as a writer, by the way, and I did do a whole chapter this evening, but for some reason I felt the world needed to hear my opinion on movie advertising tonight. Hell, it’s my blog, my rules!

Stay Frosty, People. Unless you’re climbing up Mount Everest, or trekking in the Arctic or something, in which case Stay Warm.

I am so glad Deadpool is still out in cinemas…

…or movie theaters, I guess, if this blog ever makes it across the Atlantic to be read in America.

What a film! I saw it for the third time tonight, and still think it is easily my favourite film of the past, well, ever.

Ryan Reynolds, perfectly cast. In fact, could anyone else have pulled off the Merc with a Mouth? I believe the answer to be no. He was obviously having fun, he was obviously invested in the role, and he was obviously passionate about giving the audience exactly what they wanted, which was the comic-book Deadpool brought to the big screen.

The film had laughs, action, and its tongue rammed firmly in its cheek (I’m sure Wade Wilson could come up with a different image of something else rammed firmly somewhere else, but let’s keep it clean). Very rarely have I been in a cinema and heard so many people laugh out loud so many times, from the opening credits onwards.

Great casting, great plot (simple but effective), simply a great movie. It worked on several levels, managing somehow to be an action film, a superhero film, and a love story all rolled into one glorious package.

I have no complaints, none, and that is rare. I’ll usually find at least one thing to pick holes in, but not with this. Roll on Deadpool 2.

Oh, writing-wise, completed the first draft of Metal Blade, my third novel, today, the first chapter of which is available on this website, but I felt today’s beer reward should go to my good friend Wade…

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Ordinarily I’d remind people to stay frosty, but not tonight.

Tonight it’s time to chimi the ******* changas!