New challenges for 2015

Hard to believe it’s been almost four months since my last blog post, during which time I’ve been busy being busy: finishing my first book, leaving behind the freelance world for full-time employment and planning new projects for 2015.

On the book front, a few unexpected occurrences – including the announcement of a fifth film in the Tremors franchise – led to me missing my over-ambitious December 2014 publication date. The book has been pushed back to later in 2015, which should allow better promotion and some extra content on Tremors 5.

Work-wise, as much as I enjoyed the freelance life, which allowed me to travel to France, work with the Screen Machine, create some iPad magazines and be involved with numerous other interesting projects, the opportunity to get my teeth into a longer term project arose and I couldn’t say no.

I’m now the UK Community Manager with the fast-growing online arts and entertainment site, WOW247, who I did some work for in June 2014 as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. I’ll be helping to grow the number of contributors to the site and increase its reach, while writing some content (including a new film column).

One personal project that finally came to fruition in December 2014 was a special screening of archive TV at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, which saw a couple of dozen people congregate to watch Hogmanay classics from the STV vaults. The event followed on from a 2013 event I organised with the BFI, and I hope there’ll be more screenings in 2015 – head over to the Facebook page for updates.

Here’s to a great 2015, hopefully it’ll be a memorable one for all the right reasons!

 

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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.

Discovering Wake in Fright

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“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.

Creating content with MovieMail

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.

A busy fortnight for Scottish films

As the title says, it’s been a busy fortnight for Scottish films, or rather the Scottish film industry. Of course, quite how much of an industry we have is worthy of debate, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to gloss over the intricacies.

Last week saw the release in Scottish cinemas of the excellent new Irvine Welsh adaptation, Filth, starring James McAvoy as a bent Edinburgh copper. I reviewed the film for the Edinburgh Evening News, giving it the newspaper’s first ever seven-out-of-seven review (I’m not entirely sure why it’s out of seven these days but it does mean it’s well worth seeing).

I also interviewed McAvoy for MovieMail and the film’s director, Jon S Baird, for ReelScotland, both of whom were delighted at the response around the country. The audio of my McAvoy interview is now live:

We’ve also got the release this week in UK cinemas of Proclaimers musical, Sunshine on Leith. I first reviewed the stage play back in 2010 and was intrigued to see how it would transfer to the big screen. The answer is very well indeed, and my review went up on the Evening News site a few weeks ago following the Edinburgh premiere.

Finally, this week’s Evening News column rounds-up the various Scottish films out now or coming soon.

Here’s hoping this run of good luck continues and we have a few more locally made films on the big screen in the coming year.

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

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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.

Location spotting on the French Riviera

Film Traveller looking onto Cap Ferrat

After 10 days of travel in the Côte d’Azur for my latest project, I’m now getting down to the task of organising a few thousand photos and hours of video into something that might make sense for a dedicated blog.

Jacques Tati mural in Cannes

Jacques Tati mural in Cannes

The trip found me touring various towns and villages around the French Riviera as I tried to track down some of the locations used in films over the years, including Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. I met some fantastic people, found some places that I’d previously only watched my TV set and wondered why I hadn’t visited the region before.

I’ll have more details on the blog’s launch in a few weeks time.

Jon Melville in Porsche Speedster

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.

Bravely visiting the Highlands with Screen Machine

It’s been a while since I got to spend some time at my favourite cinema, the Screen Machine, the UK’s only mobile cinema, but it happened last week when I headed up to Eilean Donan Castle for a special screening of Disney-Pixar’s Brave.

Creative Scotland and VisitScotland wanted to take Brave to the village of Dornie following the LA, Edinburgh and Inverness premieres, offering local schoolchildren the opportunity to see the film a week before its Scottish release.

I took my video camera and iPhone along to film the event and to spread the word on social media channels, resulting in the following short film and around 100 photos over on the Facebook page (and soon the Flickr account).

Brave Premiere at Eilean Donan Castle from Screen Machine on Vimeo.

I also published some interviews from the recent Brave press junket on ReelScotland, with Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd featured in one and Kelly Macdonald in the other. There’s some audio from the latter interview in there as well, in which she corrects my abysmal attempt at saying ‘jings, crivvens, help ma boab’…thanks Kelly…

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.

The Raid in the Edinburgh Evening News

Last week I went along to a screening of The Raid, the new Indonesian-set action film from Welsh director Gareth Evans.

Much as I enjoy an intelligent and well-scripted piece of cinematic art, I also have the occasional craving for a piece of slam-bang nonsense that gives Die Hard a run for its money.

Here’s my piece in this week’s Edinburgh Evening News on The Raid.

Cannes preview of Highlands of Scotland Film Commission iPad brochure

I may not be heading to Cannes in person this year but some of my work will be premiering there as part of the Highlands of Scotland Film Commission’s impressive new iPad brochure.

I’ve been working with the team on various projects for the last few months and the brochure is one of the most exciting ones. I’ll have a few interviews in there, one of which is with the director of Disney Pixar’s Brave, carried out at the recent London press screening.

The Creative Scotland website has more on the brochure, which will be launched at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June as an app, along with a gallery of images: