Time to end Reel Time

17 Apr

EEN page

Today sees the publication in the Edinburgh Evening News of my final Reel Time, the weekly film column I’ve been writing since January 2009. Since then the word count has dropped gradually from 500 to 350 to the current 300 and my (very rough) calculations tell me I’ve written somewhere in the region of 100,000 words in that time.

Writing the column has been a fantastic experience, giving me access to some amazing people and places while allowing me to convey thoughts about cinema that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. Who knew I had so many views on sequels and remakes, the eating of popcorn, the future of 3D, silent cinema, IMAX, the loss of Sunday matinees at the Cameo and Muppet movies?

It’s the equivalent of writing a diary about my film-going, something I’d never have considered had I not had a weekly deadline. Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the world for film fans, with dozens of cinema screens offering the latest movies alongside retrospective seasons, world cinema classics and special events.

The decision to stop was mainly due to a feeling that after writing more than 250 columns I was starting to say the same things, just in a different way. There’s still a challenge in that, but not as much as there was the first time. I complain about there being too many sequels at the cinema and I was starting to create my own versions, albeit on the printed page.

Another reason is that I’m now writing my first book, which itself could be in the region of 100,000 words. I need to devote as much time as I can to that.

Finally, I’m increasingly devoting my time to seeking out less mainstream films or classics, something that doesn’t always fit in with the requirements of a mainstream newspaper. I hope to get my classic film blog up-and-running again, writing about the history of cinema rather than the latest blockbusters. Scottish film website, reelscotland.com, will also continue.

The Evening News might still allow me to contribute the occasional piece, but until then I’m grateful to have been a small part of such a great Edinburgh institution and hope the next film columnist beats my five-and-a-bit-years record.

New interviews on the BBC

16 Apr

We’re lucky to have some fantastic film festivals here in Scotland, meaning I can head along with my (well, the BBC’s) trusty microphone and gather together various interviews for future broadcast on the Radio Scotland Culture Studio.

In February I was at the Glasgow Film Festival, where I spoke to director Richard Ayoade about his his latest film, The Double, and director Biyi Bandele and producer Andrea Calderwood about their latest production, Half of a Yellow Sun.

Both films were covered on the Studio on recent programmes, though only the latter is still available on the BBC iPlayer as I write this.

 

Discovering Wake in Fright

6 Mar

20140306-205754.jpg

“Have a beer, mate?” It was in January that I first saw 1971′s Wake in Fright at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema, a near-forgotten Australian drama that has now been rediscovered and rereleased.

The film charts a weekend in the life of schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond), who visits the outback town of Bundanyabba and finds a kind of Hell waiting for him.

It’s an astonishing film and I’ve no doubt that it’s place in cinema history is been re-evaluated as thanks to this new release.

To mark its return to cinemas and arrival on Blu-ray, I was asked onto the BBC’s Culture Studio to discuss the film, a 10-minute segment that’s on iPlayer for the next week.

I was also able to interview Wake in Fright’s director, Ted Kotcheff, for film retailer, MovieMail.

Finally, I wrote about the film for my Edinburgh Evening News column, recommending everyone tries to catch it at Filmhouse from tomorrow.

Writing the guide to Tremors

16 Feb

Creature with Kevin and Fred2

It’s taken a few years of procrastinating and a year of carrying out interviews, but I’m finally ready to announce that I’m in the process of writing my first book, all about giant underground worms…

A few years ago I had a feature published in SFX Magazine all about the Tremors film franchise, starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward (in the first one at least). With the first film due to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2015, I’ve been waiting for someone to write the definitive book on all four films and the TV series, but nobody has.

I’ve now taken the job on myself and have interviewed a few dozen cast and crew from all Tremors incarnations for Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors.

So, if you’re at all interested in 1990s horror/sci-fi/comedy/Western films that harken back to 1950s B-movies, please head over to the new Seeking Perfection blog or you can follow its progress on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, where I’ll be posting updates.

The book’s not due out until December, so hopefully you can put up with the posts till then…

Creating content with MovieMail

22 Dec

MovieMail pic

As well as working with the Screen Machine to coordinate various 15th anniversary events, I’m currently part of the team at Glasgow-based DVD retailer, MovieMail, helping to bring their service to online customers via their website, e-newsletters and social media.

I’ve been a MovieMail customer for a few years and so jumped at the opportunity to join the team to bring quality films to customers. It follows on from my work with Glasgow’s Park Circus, who also focus mainly on classic films.

It helps that Ethical Consumer magazine recently chose MovieMail as the best place to ethically buy DVDs online.

In addition to editing the blog, I’ve contributed a few interviews recently, one with actor James McAvoy and another with the Label Manager at Arrow Films - I plan to publish more in early 2014.

Short Circuit feature in SFX

22 Dec

20131222-210530.jpg

It’s been a couple of years since I last pitched a feature to SFX magazine (that was Tremors in 2011), but I’m back in February 2014′s issue with a new article on 1986′s Short Circuit.

I carried out interviews with the film’s co-creator, SS Wilson, and director, John Badham, and discovered the origins of Johnny Five plus the behind-the-scenes battles to get the film from script to screen. The feature also examines the second film and looks ahead to a possible continuation of the franchise.

Both men were able to supply rare photos and design material from their own archives to help illustrate the feature, making it something special for Short Circuit fans.

The magazine, issue 243, is now available in the shops or it can be downloaded from the iTunes app.

Here are a few rare photos supplied by John Badham from the set of the first film, all copyright Bruce McBroom:

Preparing Johnny Five Ally Sheedy and Number 5 Multiple robots on set

Local Hero comes home with Screen Machine

28 Nov
Meeting Local Hero producer Iain Smith and director Bill Forsyth

Meeting Local Hero producer Iain Smith and director Bill Forsyth

I was back with the Screen Machine at the start of November, celebrating two iconic Scottish productions as part of the cinema’s 15th anniversary.

Over the course of the previous few months I’d been planning (in association with Natural Scotland on Screen and BAFTA in Scotland) screenings of Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero and the BBC Play for Today, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, in locations heavily associated with the films as they celebrated their 30th and 40th anniversaries respectively.

For Local Hero that was in Mallaig and for Cheviot… it was Dornie, both on the West Coast of Scotland, and for both events we managed to secure the presence of key talent associated with the films – for Local Hero that was writer-director Bill Forsyth and producer Iain Smith, while for Cheviot… it was star and co-writer, Bill Paterson.

Post-screening Q&A with Bill Paterson

Post-screening Q&A with Bill Paterson

One of the objectives of the cinema’s 15th anniversary celebration was to stage events around the Highlands and Islands that would normally be prohibitively expensive to run. It’s rare for their to be film screenings outside the usual blockbusters in the cinema.

Screen Machine's Iain MacColl with Bill Patersonq

Screen Machine’s Iain MacColl with Bill Paterson

I also carried out post-film Q&A sessions with those involved and there was an opportunity for the 80-strong audiences to ask questions at both events.

Coverage from the Daily Record and The Herald helped give the Screen Machine some extra publicity, but the main purpose – to give the audience a great night out which didn’t require a trip to an Edinburgh or Glasgow cinema – was achieved that weekend.