WILLEM – First Look

The world has faced some disturbing turn of events over the past week and has reminded us all that we must fight against fascism and hate speech in whatever form, as well as fighting against discrimination just because of skin colour or indeed sexuality.

I’ve been going through designs for the WILLEM poster for a few days now, and seeing the current news broadcasts, has only highlighted my resolve in wanting to tell this story.

Willem Arondeus was a true hero. He fought oppression from the Nazi’s and helped save hundreds of lives, maybe even more, by hiding Jewish civilian names from the third reich’s clutches. He may never have met any of the people he would have saved, but that wasn’t the point. To him, they were human beings just like him, who were being hunted down, just because of their religious beliefs or lifestyle choices.

I very much hope we make the real Willem, wherever he is now, proud with our retelling of his life. I certainly have faith in the amazing crew I had, as well as the absolutely stunning actors, Will, Thomas and finally, Chris as Willem, who brought this exceptional man back to life for two days while we filmed on location underground. I’m absolutely certain of that!

I cannot wait for you all to see their performances in the coming few months when the film is completed. But for now, your first look at Chris Johnson, officially, as Willem Arondeus.

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You Are My Sunshine – Announced

While Sustain is going through the edit (it’s looking great by the way, Sam is doing a stunning job), and with my other short film commitments now either finished or also in post-production, my attention has now turned to what is next.

I know, mad right?

So, while written in 2014, the script for You Are My Sunshine has obviously been on the back burner since I’ve been working on Sustain and House of Screaming Death, both of those features needing my absolute time and attention (they still are by the way, lots more news to come about both!), but now, I’m starting to allocate time to genuine musings for the new film. And a few decisions based on casting and how to achieve all the narrative have been discussed.

So first and foremost, what is the new film about? Well, I enjoy making Horror Films of course (and I will be going back to that for sure too….plans are afoot!), but I also love pure drama, and conflict within this sphere of genre. It is thrilling to be able to connect real audiences to realistic characters from all walks of life, so this was a major factor in me wanting to pursue You Are My Sunshine.

SYNOPSIS:

Tom & Joe have been together for years. You Are My Sunshine charts their humble beginnings in a world only just waking up to homosexuality, a place where fear and isolation exist and continue still, all the way to present day, through Joe’s sister Ethel, who never accepted her brother’s lifestyle.

As modern day brings further conflict as well as the potential for change in the air, Tom & Joe’s story will be shown from its first monumental day, all the way to its loving last, and all against the ever evolving LGBTQ landscape.

TAGLINE: Love Is Love

As noted, the film will take place within two alternating time periods, the 1970s and modern day. This of course presents challenges, especially for us low on the ladder indie filmmakers, but that is why I’ve been starting talks and discussions now so that we can be ahead of the game here in planning and location scouting, as well as the many other hundreds of things to consider (1970s costumes!!!!! Flares!!!! Mullets!!!!)

Jack & Steve

Meet Joe (Jack Knight) and Tom (Steve Salt) – these guys are going to make you cry.

With this in mind, I am very proud and excited to reveal the amazing two actors who will break all of your hearts as the younger versions of the lads. So without further ado, please meet Tom (Steve Salt, in costume above too!), and Joe (Jack Knight). Both of these exceptional actors I’ve had the pleasure to work with on numerous projects already and I knew that they would fit their associated roles just perfectly. Steve I worked with on both HOSD and GRID, while Jack was first introduced to me through his time at College, by his lecturers there and provided a voice to our tragic unnamed character seen in BRINK.

This past Monday, and after months of communication, the two lads finally met up in person along with me, to go through scenes from the film, and help them begin to discover more and more about Tom & Joe. They have a year to go now working alongside myself to prep their interpretation of these characters and help make them as perfect (and ‘adorable’ as Jack noted continuously ha ha!), as they can be for you, the audience. And I have no doubt they will break your hearts!

You Are My Sunshine will begin production in Summer 2018 with block 1, that will be for all the young Tom & Joe scenes, while we will then resume filming on block 2 in winter time for the older Tom and Joe scenes. This will allow the later (and soon to be confirmed), actors to watch and study Steve and Jack’s performances to make sure both presentations in the final film will be as close to each other as they can.

When that production concludes, we will then plan for a late 2019 release to festivals. And I really cannot wait!

Sustain Updates & New Stills

It has been a very busy few months, especially since I’ve been juggling the first year of my MA, as well as finishing up on HOSD, CLONE and GRID and then prepping for WILLEM as well (more on that in the enxt blog). So while this is all amazing and fun and just truly stressful, I’ve also been working on post-production for SUSTAIN too.

This has meant sitting down with the film’s fantastic editor Sam Woodhall (seriously, check out his Galatic Dog Website, absolutely stunning!), and starting to piece together our very complex narrative, and start to put this big jigsaw together. And that may sound easy, but I assure you, it is not. It requires that we look through hours upon hours of footage, looking at takes, and which ones are the particulars I want to then use within over a hundred different scenes!

This week we’ve been pushing through the edit at quite a good pace, and we’ve been seeing some fantastic stuff. All the Sustain cast and crew have given this project their complete 100% and it’s showing through on screen immensely. There are moments of drama, some speckles of humour as well as scenes that are disturbingly dark in tone and nature (from the synopsis, I’m sure you can guess of some scenes in particular). But what this edit allows us to do is make notes throughout, looking at shots, and deciding whether we need to refilm one or two because we want to enhance the lighting or tighten up some continuity.

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In the edit with Sam looking over a scene with DI Bridge (Greg Yates) and DC Porter (Louise Hewitt)

All these can sound like a really bad thing, and make one think wow, that sounds awful, BUT it actually isn’t. In fact, it is the complete opposite and I love to do pick-ups, because it allows me, Sam, Troy and Keiran and the cast/crew to make things even better, and tighten up scenes, help characters develop that little bit more by the slightest of adjustments through mis-en-scene. And I always welcome that!

So, even though we’re taking our time, we’re doing it all to make sure what you eventually see at the end of this fabulous and exciting journey is the absolute best it can be. That it is exactly what was penned to paper in script form, and is exactly how I envisioned it on screen as a director through all stages of conception and progress.

Furthermore, another thing that excites me about this process, is that we proudly wear our indie filmmaker badges on our sleeves at all times with complete pride. We don’t have a couple of spare millions down the back of the sofa (or a couple of grand for that matter), so it makes all these challeneges more creative, and myself, Troy, Keiran and the rest of the team love tackling them with that frame of mind! Bring it all on!

And because I’m nice, below are a selection of stills taken from the edit suite, which should keep you going until the first trailer arrives! Enjoy!

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The first official still released during production featuring Kieran Flank (Brett Dewsbury) and Kara Marshdale (Laura Evenson)

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Kevin McKenzie (Richard Buck), spots Toby Flank (Joshua Sewell), at the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

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Kara Marshdale (Laura Evenson), has a tense reunion with Roy McKenzie (Matthew Kinson).

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Who is Kevin McKenzie (Richard Buck) chatting with?

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A rare happy moment for the Flank Brothers (Brett Dewsbury & Joshua Sewell)

Come back for more news and updates on SUSTAIN soon, and keep up to also also through our TWITTER, FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM accounts!

GRID Goes Global!

The last few weeks have been very overwhelming, as GRID has been selected for so many festivals one after the next, and at events that have spanned the globe! It has been nearly 1 Year now to the day that we shot the film, and while we wanted the film to connect with audiences on a very deep and emotional scale, all this has surpassed our wildest dreams and we are eternally grateful to all festival organisers who have wanted to include GRID into their program of events and screenings.

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So far, GRID has given actress Charlie Clarke a BEST ACTRESS WIN at the Midland Movie Awards which she completely deserved! Her portrayal of Angie Wordsworth has been praised by all who have reviewed the film, and I’ve no doubt she will receive even more recognition based on her talents!

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As well as this, GRID was screened as part of the Oaklahoma GLITTER Film Festival, where it was also nominated for BEST ACTOR (Ernest Vernon), as well as for BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM, which we were thrilled about! At the same time, and thousands of miles away from the US, GRID was also wowing audiences in India at the annual REEL DESIRES Chennai International Queer Film Festival which was equally thrilling! Apparently we were told that audiences were in tears by the end of the film, which as a filmmaker and writer is overwhlming, and you couldn’t get a better response from a narrative which needed to be told.I was deeply humbled.

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As we speak, this year’s NCGLFF is taking place too, and GRID will be screened four times throughout their exciting festival, again giving American audiences a chance to watch the film, and we await eagerly any feedback that comes back from there.

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Later this month, the film heads to the east coast of the US, and forms part of the Marquee on Main Film Festival in Washington, and then after that, it returns home to the UK (and the Midlands where it was made), and will be screened at the first ever Bottlesmoke Film Festival in Stoke on Septemeber 2nd, where it is also up for Best Film. I am truly honoured by all this, and cannot thank everyone enough for the kind support and appreciation they have shown us and the film.

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I think though more, than anything, is to say just how much I love this cast and crew. Steve, Charlie and Ernest, you are absolutely astounding artists, and all the praise and positive feedback you have received, you deserve every part of it. Your performances are all more than I could ever have dreamed of, and I am truly forever grateful that you trusted me to tell this story. And the crew, from Joshua, Suki, James, Chris, Troy and Kaushy, your dedication and kind support know no bounds and as with a stunning cast, am eternally grateful for helping me realise this vision.

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I’d also like to thank again Ruth Coker Burks, a very special lady who helped inspire some of this story, as well as all those we have lost to the virus. I only hope that within our limited resources, we told your stories as best as we could.

HOSD Clips

We’re doing a special local and limited House of Screaming Death screening this Thursday and Friday, and to celebrate, we’ve got four clips released from the film, one from each of the segments told by The Architect himself!

Released as part of a countdown to the events, we hope you enjoy these sneak peeks into Bray Manor and all the evil that surrounds its grasp!

Clip #1 – The Lady In Grey

Clip #2 – The Witch In The Mirror

Clip #3 – The Vampyre

Clip #4 – The Diabolique

And if you haven’t watched it already, here’s the Ian McNeice interview we released last Halloween which also includes a clip of him in action as The sinister Architect

 

HOSD Cast & Crew Premieres

This past week saw the exciting premiere of House of Screaming Death for cast and crew! Along with the excitement of the evenings (the first at Forest Arts Centre in Walsall, while the 2nd press screening took place at Bray Manor itself, the Manor House), their were lots of surprises.

Ian McNeice himself joined us for the proceedings, and we were happy to keep him a surprise for our cast/crew (again!). The Mayor of Walsall, as well as council leaders from Sandwell all joined us further to help celebrate the completion of the local film we’d all worked extremely hard on.

Our first screening took place at the Forest Arts Centre and was to a full house! Cast & Crew were delighted at seeing the whole finished piece for the first time in two years, especially as they had all worked only on their segments and didn’t know what was happening in the other stories, as well as what The Architect was up too! A complete round of applause for everyone’s efforts finalised the screening and off to the local bar for drinks afterwards!

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The second screening was for cast/crew as well as a press screening too, and we were joined by the spooky isles website, bloody-flicks.com (Paul Downey) as well as Made in Birmingham’s Carl Jones, who filmed interviews with some of the cast/crew on the night. Again, wonderful positive reactions were given, and everyone enjoyed the atmosphere as well as applauding the chilling finale of the film!

The nights were a complete success, and intial reviews are very positive! Which we are absolutely over the moon about! Thank you to everyone who joined us as part of the celebrations and here is to a very bright future for The Architect and his stories!