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!

 

Tremors book cover and trailer online

A few months ago I announced that I was writing my first book, Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to the Tremors. Now the cover and trailer are online.

The cover was illustrated by the very talented Ben Morris, while the trailer was animated by Kayla Stuhr, with music from Emília Rovira Alegre. The book is on target for a December release, and you can follow its progress on the blog.

You can also read a short interview I gave to the horror magazine, Fangoria, over on their website.

Seeking Perfection cover
Watch the Seeking Perfection trailer on YouTube.

Writing the guide to Tremors

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…

On sequels and the return of Dunsinane

It’s been a while since I had a chance to review a theatre production, so I was delighted when The National Theatre of Scotland got in touch to commission me for an article for a tour of David Greig’s Dunsinane.

Dunsinane is Greig’s sequel to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, so the NTS team were keen to feature a piece on sequels in various media, focusing mainly on films and books. A bit of research dug up the fact that there aren’t too many sequels to theatre productions in existence, something I ponder in the article.

The play has now finished its most recent tour but hopefully it’ll be back soon with a reprint of the rather lovely programme.

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.

An epic end to the year

BBC Movie Cafe discusses The Hobbit

BBC Movie Cafe discusses The Hobbit

The world has once more gone Middle Earth mad, with the release this week of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in cinemas, nine years after his last visit to The Shire.

I was asked by the BBC Movie Cafe and the Edinburgh Evening News to head along to Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema last weekend for a special screening of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a 10 hour endurance test involving Orcs, Dwarves and people dressed as Hobbits.

The radio segment can be heard over on BBC iPlayer for another few days, while I’ve reproduced the Evening News column below:

With The Hobbit arriving in cinemas tomorrow, it seemed like a good idea last Sunday to head to the Cameo to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen.

At around 10 hours in duration, this was no ordinary film screening, meaning I had to be prepared for all eventualities. Forget the lembas bread wrapped in leaves favoured by Frodo and Sam, I went for some ham sandwiches and too much coffee.

The films were a joy to revisit, with Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth, a dark and brooding place with the occasional glimpse of light as our heroes made their way to Mordor, looking suitably epic in the original 35mm prints.

Leaving the screening on a high, I hoped The Hobbit would prove to be as exhilarating, as Jackson returned to his world with a new Bilbo Baggins in the shape of Martin Freeman alongside Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf.

The director has embraced a pioneering new technology which doubles the normal frame rate of the film, 48 fps (frames per second) instead of 24. Jackson claims this is a more immersive experience and that all films will go this way.

Rather than looking as big and bold as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit looks more like it’s shot on the set of a 1980s soap opera. While landscapes look lush and rich, close-ups of the actors bring you closer to them, making the heavy prosthetics and make-up more obvious.

Most importantly, the thin story doesn’t justify the three-hour length, with not much really happening apart from some fights, lots of running around and the appearance of Gollum.

With two more films to come, it looks like it’s going to be a slog to get to the end of this particular journey.

Scottish indie filmmakers in the spotlight

I’ve been writing a lot about Scottish independent filmmaking this week, ending it with an invitation to be part of a panel discussion at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse next Saturday.

At the start of the week I published a new blog post on ReelScotland from Neil Rolland, the organiser of a monthly Edinburgh film evening called Write Shoot Cut. The event features short films from around the country and I’m hoping to get along to Edinburgh’s Banshee Labyrinth next Monday to see what it’s like.

Then in Thursday’s Edinburgh Evening News I mentioned the same event, along with coverage of another film event on Saturday 15 September, this time at Filmhouse. Shoot First Scotland will feature screenings, an interactive panel discussion and professional insights into low-budget filmmaking in Scotland.

I’ve now been invited along to discuss short films alongside some much more qualified people, including some BAFTA-award winners. One of the films being shown at Shoot First Scotland will be Finlay Pretsell’s Ma Bar:

Tremors interview free on SFX app

This is verging on old news but it impressed me…

The article I wrote for the October 2011 issue of SFX Magazine on the 1990 sci-fi/horror film, Tremors, is currently available for free on the magazine’s iPad/iPhone app.

It appears to be the only freebie on there so it’s a good opportunity to sample the magazine, which I’ve been subscribing to for around 17 years.

Tremors co-creator SS Wilson and franchise star Michael Gross (Burt Gummer) discuss each of the films, the unmade fifth movie, Thunder from Down Under, and the TV series.

Edinburgh Festivals coverage 2012

It’s that time of year again in Edinburgh, when you can’t walk a few paces without someone thrusting a Fringe flyer in your face and posters of comedians you vaguely recognise from the telly are plastered everywhere.

Though it’s been a few years since I reviewed Fringe shows for the Edinburgh Evening News, in my Thursday column I have had the opportunity to promote film-related events, including 10 Films With My Dad, An Appointment with The Wicker Man and The Beta Males’ Midnight Movie Theatre.

I was also invited by the Edinburgh International Festival Backstage team to be interviewed for a short video about film music in theatre, alongside EIFF Artistic Director, Chris Fujiwara, and acclaimed composer, Shaun Davey:

Tram Man is a superhero for the Capital

Electric Man

Electric Man

Once in a while my weekly Edinburgh Evening News column doesn’t make it from the printed page onto their website so I publish it here instead. Here’s the piece that went into yesterday’s paper:

It’s been another summer of comic book movies, with Avengers Assemble and Spider-Man already released and The Dark Knight Rises about to hit screens around the country.

Last week also saw a raft of new superhero films announced at the high profile San Diego Comic Con, Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 just some of the blockbusters announced for 2013 and beyond.

Also making waves at Comic Con was the only UK feature film to screen at the festival, Edinburgh-set comic book movie, Electric Man.

Described as The Maltese Falcon meets Kevin Smith’s Clerks, the film follows the misadventures of two Edinburgh comic book fans, Jazz and Wolf, who run a comic shop on Candlemaker Row.

As the pair struggle to find £5,000 to prevent the shop being shut down they also discover a priceless first edition comic is in their possession. Unfortunately for our heroes, the comic is also wanted by another collector who’ll do anything to get it back.

“The original draft of the script has been around since the early 90s, after the idea for a sitcom pilot came to me one night when I was in college,” says the film’s co-writer and director, David Barras. “It did the rounds for a few years, with the BBC interested in commissioning it at one stage.”

I watched the film in 2011, in a slightly different cut to the one which premiered in San Diego, and found it a fast-paced romp that doesn’t take itself seriously. The actors, including 1980’s legend, Fish, do a good job throughout.

My own idea for a superhero film is still in development, though whether anyone will greenlight Tram Man, the story of a hero avenging the city’s evil tramworks, remains to be seen.

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:

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:

Brave coverage on ReelScotland

I was in London a few weeks ago to attend a screening of the first 30-minutes of Disney-Pixar’s upcoming animated movie, Brave, a film that Scottish tourism bosses hope will repeat the success of Braveheart in the mid-90s.

I wrote about the film’s European premiere in Edinburgh this June for the Evening News but had an opportunity to write a feature for my own site, ReelScotland, this week. I’ve also added a clip of my question to director Mark Andrews that has been repeated on many other sites, that of what other Scottish films the animators at Pixar watched while making the film.

Brave is out in the UK on 17 August.

Return to the TCM Classic Film Festival

It was just under year ago that I wrote about my visit to the TCM Classic Film Festival, something of a mecca for classic film fans around the globe.

Guest appearances from Kirk Douglas, Warren Beatty, Peter O’Toole and Eva Marie Saint were just the icing on the cake of a four day event which saw some of the finest films ever made screened in the heart of Hollywood on LA’s most historic screens.

I enjoyed the Festival so much that I’ve decided to head back again next week, this time covering it for the esteemed classic film magazine, Cinema Retro, who have commissioned me to see as many films as possible in the alloted time.

This year the decisions are as difficult as they were in 2011, with screenings of Rio Bravo and The Pink Panther (introduced by Angie Dickinson and Robert Wagner respectively) clashing, while Casablanca is shown at the same time as the 50th Anniversary screening of Dr No.

You can see a list of the full line-up on the TCM website and there’s more from my interview with TCM host, Robert Osborne, on my classic film blog, Holyrood or Bust.

I’ll be tweeting about my trip and recording my thoughts for Cinema Retro while trying to arrange a few interviews along the way.