Big screen debut in A Dangerous Game

A-Dangerous-Game

That headline is perhaps slightly misleading, in that I’ve not appeared in Anthony Baxter’s latest film, A Dangerous Game, but some footage I filmed has. Let me explain…

Between 2011 and 2014 I was lucky enough to be involved with Scotland’s finest cinema, the Screen Machine, a mobile unit which takes films to some of the most remote areas of the country. It’s a brilliant concept and I helped raise awareness of the venture, win sponsorship/funding, start an education pilot and carry out a few other tasks before funding ran out in April this year.

One of the films we screened was Anthony Baxter’s explosive You’ve Been Trumped, which investigated the Scottish Government’s decision to change environmental laws to allow US tycoon, Donald Trump, to destroy some of the Scottish coastline to build a golf course. The millions of pounds he promised to invest never materialised and the story of Trump’s intimidation of the residents made for compelling viewing.

As part of my job, I filmed the cinema in action around the country, most notably on the isle of Mull and on the islands of Coll and Tiree (you can see the videos below). When Anthony got in touch to ask if we had any footage of the Screen Machine for his latest film, for a sequence illustrating where the first film had been screened, I was happy to send over my raw footage.

Some of that footage has ended up in A Dangerous Game, which is now being released in UK cinemas. Admittedly it’s only a few seconds, but I’m happy to be part of the film, which looks at where things are now with Trump and his Scottish investments. I also spotted my name in the credits for “additional camera”, so that IMDb entry can’t be far behind.

Find out more about the film over on the official website and watch the trailer below, before having a look at the Screen Machine in action (and if you’re ever heading to the Highlands, visit the website to see if you’re anywhere near it, tell them I sent you):

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Covering Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has been and gone for another year, 11 days of premieres, special events and assorted film madness that I’ve been covering for both BBC Radio Scotland and WOW247.co.uk.

As in previous years (it’s my seventh as press), I’ve been trying to see as many films as possible before interviewing members of the cast and production teams involved. I appeared live on the BBC Radio Scotland Culture Show on 19th June, with two packages being broadcast on the 26th June. My interviews with Cold in July director Jim Mickle and Braveheart star, Brian Cox, will be on iPlayer for a few more days.

I also filmed a number of videos for entertainment website WOW247, a spin-off from my old haunt at the Edinburgh Evening News. As well as attending the opening night film, Hyena, I spoke to Brian Cox about 20 years of Braveheart, met an ex-Hobbit by the name of Elijah Wood and spoke to Don Johnson about his latest film. Those videos, and a few more, can be watched via the website.

Filming on Coll and Tiree

Last month I once again followed the Screen Machine on her travels around Scotland, this time visiting the islands of Coll and Tiree as part of the cinema’s 15th anniversary celebrations.

I’ve been co-ordinating a number of events since February, and the cinema’s first visit to Coll (population 200) and return visit to Tiree (population 800) after an 11 year absence, was one to record for posterity.

The film can now be watched over on the Creative Scotland website.

New iPad magazine in iTunes

HOSF cover

It was just over a year ago that I wrote about a new iPad magazine I’d worked on for the Highlands of Scotland Film Commission.

Earlier this year, I headed up to Skye to start work on issue two of the magazine, interviewing a number of local filmmakers and educators. I visited Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college to speak to staff, while Chris Young, producer of The Inbetweeners, discussed his base on Skye.

The app also features a look around Skye’s best filming locations and a few other features of interest to production teams planning to shoot in the area.

Chris Young video

Alongside the written content, this issue includes some short video interviews I filmed/edited during the trip.

The magazine can now be downloaded for free over on iTunes for iPad and iPhone.

Set jetting on the Côte d’Azur

Web Banners

Back in January I mentioned that I’d just returned from a 10-day trip to the Côte d’Azur as a guest of the local tourist board, who were keen to highlight the region’s film connections to potential visitors.

Since then I’ve been putting together a new blog, www.filmtravellercotedazur.com, which will see me cover the trip via blog posts, photos and video content over the next few months.

Filming near the village of Eze

Filming near the village of Eze

The blog launched in Paris a fortnight ago (I sadly couldn’t make it to the event), with the following, slightly tongue-in-cheek, trailer announcing our plans:

There are plenty more towns and villages still to come on the blog and it’s been fascinating researching the numerous film connections since my return home.

Along with my 2012 tour of locations used in the Disney-Pixar film, Brave, it’s been a good time for set jetting.

Celebrating rural cinema with Screen Machine 15

Screen Machine at Gruinard Bay

Last year I wrote a few posts about my work with Scotland’s mobile cinema, the Screen Machine, which takes the latest films to remote and rural areas of Scotland throughout the year.

My role was mainly to manage social media and promote the cinema in the press, including getting out and about around Scotland to make some short videos about the Screen Machine’s work.

Screen Machine on Mull from Screen Machine on Vimeo.

Aware that 2013 was the 15th anniversary of the cinema, I began working on an idea for a year of celebrations which would allow us to attempt to do more with the programme. While the Screen Machine is about to break its own box office records in 2012/13 thanks to titles such as Brave and Skyfall, there’s never been an opportunity to carry out the sort of special screenings and film events that are taken for granted in large towns and cities.

Now, after a successful application to Creative Scotland’s Public Engagement fund, I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be I’ll be devising, organising and helping to deliver a series of film-related screenings, events and education workshops around the Highlands and Islands as part of what we’re calling “Screen Machine 15” – there’s more detail on the website.

It’s still early days for the project but things are moving apace behind the scenes, with the full programme available in May.

Glasgow Film Festival coverage

Joss Whedon at Glasgow Film Festival

Joss Whedon at Glasgow Film Festival

The 2013 Glasgow Film Festival finished a week ago, eleven days of premieres and special events which brought filmmakers and film fans to the Glasgow Film Theatre and other venues around the city.

This year found me covering the event for the BBC Movie Café, interviewing actors such as James D’Arcy for Cloud Atlas and Gemma Arteron and Saoirse Ronan for Byzantium, while writer/director Joss Whedon was in town to promote his low-budget adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

My overview of the Festival aired last Thursday on BBC Radio Scotland – it’s on iPlayer for the next few days.

I also visited the brand new BFI Mediatheque at Bridgeton Library, a resource which houses thousands of hours of film and TV which would otherwise be unavailable. I took my iPhone along and recorded a video interview with Mediatheque curator, Simon McCallum for ReelScotland.

A French connection for new project

It’s a new year so it’s time for a new project in a new country. Following my work in 2012 on Cinematic Scotland, a project which looks at various connections between the country and film, this week sees me take a slight diversion as I head to the French Riviera, better known locally as the  Côte d’Azur.

The Promenade des Anglais in Nice

The Promenade des Anglais in Nice

In collaboration with European super-blogger Kash Bhattacharya, the Budget Traveller and one of the masterminds behind Edinburgh’s recent hugely successful Blogmanay project, I’ll be the guest of the CRT Côte d’Azur, the tourism agency for the Riviera.

I’ll be touring the area to discover some of the locations of movies such as To Catch a Thief, Ronin and The Transporter, plus TV series including The Persuaders! (a guilty pleasure of mine). I’ll take photos and shoot some video while meeting people who live and work in the area, all of which will be collected on a new blog, to be officially launched in a few weeks time.

A short version of the itinerary is currently looking something like this:

  • Nice – To Catch a Thief (1955), The Persuaders! (1971), Condorman (1981), Ronin (1998), Swordfish (2001) and The Transporter (2004). Visit the homes of director Romain Gary, Gabrielle Chanel and more…
  • Villefranche-sur-Mer – The Adventures of Captain Fabian (1950), An Affair to Remember (1957), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Ronin (1998) and Killers (2010). A visit to the Chapel St Pierre, decorated by filmmaker Jean Cocteau
  • Grasse – GoldenEye (1995)
  • Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
  • Saint-Paul de Vence  – Moment to Moment (1966), OSS 117 – Mission to Tokyo (1966) and Big Kiss (2004)
  • Antibes – Let’s Not Get Angry (1966), Never Say Never Again (1983), The Big Blue (1988), Lolita (1998)
  • Cannes – French Kiss (1995),  Ronin (1998)

So feel free to tweet me any suggestions for the trip and I’ll see if I can visit them.

I’ll be using the #cinemazur hashtag to pull it all together and try to get some suggestions from film fans and travellers about some of the best things to see and do in the French Riviera.

Getting animated about Brave

As the world slowly goes mad for Disney-Pixar’s Brave, the US release taking in over $65 million at the box office on opening weekend and the UK premiere taking place in Edinburgh last weekend, my coverage of the Scottish-set film has started to appear in a few places.

Last month I mentioned that I’d contributed an interview with Brave’s director, Mark Andrews, to the new Highlands of Scotland Film Commission’s iPad magazine, which is now available to download from the App store.

I also took part in a recent press junket, with stars of the film such as Kelly Macdonald and Robbie Coltrane in Edinburgh to discuss the film. The interviews will appear closer to the film’s Scottish release on 3 August (it’s out in England and Wales on 17 August).

As a result I reviewed Brave on my site, ReelScotland, before covering it for the Edinburgh Evening News on Thursday ahead of its Edinburgh International Film Festival screening.

As for that press junket I mentioned, Scotland’s tourism agency, VisitScotland, today published a new video from the trip we took to Dunkeld and I spotted myself 0.18 in, taking this photo on Instagram:

Cinematic Scotland launched

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

I’ve been busier than usual this month with the launch of a new film website, Cinematic Scotland, one that also includes elements of travel journalism.

The idea for the site has been around since late 2011 and finds me collaborating with ScottishCinemas.org’s Gordon Barr and BudgetTraveller.org’s Kash Bhattacharya as we cover film locations and cinema history in Scotland.

Our first two projects launched within a few days of each other. Firstly, we collaborated with the National Library of Scotland on a new map to accompany their Going to the Pictures exhibition. The free map allows visitors to take a trip around the centre of Edinburgh, spotting filming locations and cinemas, past and present, as they go. The map was also reprinted in the Edinburgh Evening News and can be downloaded as a PDF.

The second project tied into the latest Disney-Pixar film, Brave, which is set in the Scottish Highlands. Although the film is animated, the filmmakers did travel to various part of the country in 2006 and 2007 on research trips and I attempted to follow in their footsteps along with Edinburgh tour operator, Rabbie’s.

I headed to Inverness, Ullapool and the Isles of Lewis, Harris and Skye and the result was a series of blog posts, photos on Flickr and YouTube videos that described the tour, with a number of tweets allowing people to follow my progress. I also wrote about the trip on BudgetTraveller.org.

It’s not my first attempt at travel journalism, following some recent work for Guardian Travel, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to do more of the same soon.

It’s still early days for the site but we are working on more projects which we hope will bring Scotland’s cinematic connections to life.

New ReelScotland video interviews

February found me putting together a handful of new video interviews for ReelScotland to promote a new film and a new Scottish play based on a film.

The 2012 Glasgow Film Festival finished tonight and one of the new films screened was Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy starring Scottish actor, Adam Sinclair. I was approached by the PR team behind the film in 2011 about interviewing Sinclair atop Edinburgh’s Oloroso restaurant which resulted in a video on Sinclair’s entry into acting and a second on Ecstasy:

The second pair of videos were created to promote new play An Appointment with the Wicker Man, based on the classic British horror film, The Wicker Man. I met with the play’s co-writer and star, Greg Hemphill, along with co-star Jimmy Chisholm during rehearsals, with both interviews now on YouTube:

The future of film criticism is in the past

Being a classic film fan can be a lonely experience, one of those people who regularly scans the TV listings for 1am repeats of Clarence Brown films or documentaries about RKO.

This past year has found me immersed in cinema history, through my visit to the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), my work running the Park Circus blog and my weekly Edinburgh Evening News column.

A few weeks ago I wrote in the paper about the arrival of Scorsese’s Hugo and new silent film, The Artist, both of which celebrate the early days of film, while on Thursday I noted the arrival of Edinburgh’s IMAX screen and the need to keep an eye on some of the smaller films in the city.

As I’ve discovered through working with Park Circus, the world is increasingly looking to the past for its entertainment, something I’m more than happy to be a part of.

I’ll be visiting the IMAX for Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol in a few weeks, and appreciate the need to promote quality new cinema via sites like my own www.reelscotland.com, but I also think it’s my responsibility to tell readers about our rich cinematic heritage, as I did back in September for the Evening News.

It’s also the reason I recently started another blog in the shape of Holyrood or Bust. With the huge volume of DVDs and Blu-rays currently being released, not to mention cinema re-releases and films such as The Artist, it’s a golden period for those wanting to write about classic film.

My most recent post was requested by a friend in New York, Will McKinley, who is a viewer and fan of the US TCM channel. Though I’m unable to watch the channel, I did become a convert to TCM during the TCMFF and used their recent Buster Keaton season to launch the site in October. This time, Will asked if I could write a post to celebrate the return of TCM host, Robert Osborne, to the screen after a short absence.

I obliged by using an excerpt from an interview I carried out with Osborne in LA earlier in the year:

I’m now gearing up for a 2012 filled with even more classic films, including another trip to Bristol’s Slapstick Festival, the second Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema here in Scotland (see my video interview below), a return to Los Angeles and a few other projects that are in the early stages.

Through my work I’ve discovered a vibrant community of classic film fans it’s been a privilege to engage with them on various websites, via Twitter and, most importantly, in cinemas around the world.

Here’s to another classic year of film coverage in 2012.

Screen Machine behind-the-scenes videos

Last week saw the second of my new Screen Machine videos go live on Vimeo, both of them filmed recently on Arran during the cinemas visit.

The brief here was to both interview senior operator, Iain MacColl, about his work on the cinema and to show how Screen Machine is set up, a question often asked by the 25,000 visitors who attend each year.

Both videos have had a positive response, mainly on Facebook from some of our 2,000+ followers. Let me know what you think.

Interviewing Scottish documentary filmmakers

I’ve been focusing on documentaries over the past few weeks, spending some time looking at the work of Scottish filmmakers who are doing interesting things away from the multiplexes.

One part of the Creative Scotland project I’m producing is scottishfilms.com, a resource for Scottish filmmakers which allows them to have their short films uploaded to a password protected section and watched by film festivals around the world.

The blog is a recent addition to the site and I’m carrying out a series of interviews with filmmakers, finding out more about their work and giving an overview of the talent working in Scotland today.

As well as talking to the organiser of documentary festival, Edindocs, my first two video interviews are now online, one with documentary filmmaker, Martin Smith, and the second with You’ve Been Trumped director, Anthony Baxter.

For last week’s Edinburgh Evening News column, I spoke to the Scottish Documentary Institute, the Edinburgh-based research centre specialising in documentary training, production and distribution, about their work, while this week was the turn of Edindocs.

I have further videos waiting to be published, with more in the pipeline, and I’m hoping it builds into a useful resource for other filmmakers and anyone interested in Scottish cinema.