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Free Fire – more productions in Brighton?

 

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Ben Wheatley’s shoot ‘em up ‘Free Fire’ since I spent four days on the set as a production assistant in 2015. With its recent theatrical release, it has met its high expectation being called an instant classic by people all over social media. Mark Kermode made it his film of the week, and I’ve seen it twice (even better the second time around). It is a cinematic experience like no other, and where better to make such a thrilling ride other than Brighton.

After doing a Q&A tour with advanced screenings of the film across the country, Ben Wheatley returned to his hometown Brighton to round off the trip at his ‘favourite cinema in the country’ Duke Of Yorks. When Wheatley introduced the film, he told us that it would be a fast 90 minutes, and that’s exactly what it was. Free Fire keeps you entertained from start to finish; and with its comedic dialogue and explosive action it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.

The audience at Duke Of Yorks welcomed Wheatley back with huge applause and the first question was of course, about Brighton. Wheatley is from and still lives in Brighton, so it’s not hard to imagine why he might want to shoot a film here. However, we were all amused when he said it was because he liked the idea of walking to work everyday. According to Wheatley the production was great fun, and Brighton was a huge part of that. He was able to take the cast and crew, who were new to Brighton, to different restaurants and bars even he had never been to before; soaking up the city’s atmosphere together and making the most of the seven weeks they had here. This would explain why the cast look like they’re having so much fun in the film, because they genuinely were enjoying each others company and having a good time on and off set. I worked the last four days on the set, and still had an incredible experience. Most of the cast had already wrapped, but what I was able to see was how close the entire crew had become and how much everyone had enjoyed the production.

Martin Scorsese’s name being bought up in the Q&A’s is probable something Wheatley is used too, being attached to the project as executive producer, it was bound to be mentioned. But if you thought that the director of Taxi Driver was walking around Brighton, you would be mistaken. Instead Scorsese gave his name after reading the script. Something that helped ‘legitimise’ the project according to Wheatley, which helped cast and fund the film.

Ben Wheatley has quickly become one of the UK’s most prolific and exciting directors. With recent films such as Sightseers, High Rise and now Free Fire, the film industry will want to see him continue this fantastic run of entertainment. This means he is more than likely to make films in Brighton again and with the cast and crew having so much fun during the production of the film, word is sure to get out that Brighton is the perfect city for film.

Jack Sambrook

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Legacy film and diaspora cinema

 

It’s a labour of love. We love doing it and we love screening these films.

If we don’t do it, who will?”

Legacy Film have gone from strength to strength since launching their first festival in Brighton five years ago, to showcase work by and about people of African and Caribbean origin. The key to their success is a do-it-yourself ethos and the desire to share the rarely shown gems they’ve discovered.

I thought, why aren’t there more stories like this being shown?” said Legacy Film founder Paul Jackson. That was his reaction to the BBC adaptation of Small Island, which depicted the Empire Windrush generation of Caribbean migrants and their relationships with the English people they encountered.

The desire to find more of those stories, coupled with his love of film and involvement with community organisations such as Brighton & Hove’s MOSAIC (a charity for families of black and mixed-race parentage), galvanised Jackson into action. In 2010 he launched the first Legacy Film Festival in Brighton, to coincide with Black History Month.

Since then, Legacy have built up a loyal following due to their eclectic and inclusive programming of work offering ‘positive representations in film for those of the African and Caribbean diaspora’. Their screenings are a clever mix of genres, styles and themes encompassing animation, shorts, documentaries and full-length features.

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The first two Legacy Festivals received funding from Screen South. But despite their established track record and the undoubted appetite for stories reflecting the black experience more fully, Legacy still faced hurdles when attempting to set up more regular screenings at local cinemas.

We were told that there was no market or audience for the films we wanted to show,” Jackson said. Frustrated by this lack of support, Legacy decided to adopt a do-it-yourself, more maverick approach.

One of the most empowering things was deciding to use our money, buy the equipment we needed and just get on with it.”

Armed with the essentials (a screen, projector, amp, speakers and DVD player), Legacy were equipped to progress on their own terms and now have a regular home at The Blue Man in Brighton.

As Legacy have developed, Jackson has been joined by Althea Wolfe, their Project Director, who has a particular interest in the development and promotion of Caribbean cinema, and Issey Osman, who now leads on programming.

It’s a labour of love. We love doing it and we love screening these films,” Jackson said. “If we don’t do it, who will?”

The screenings are still free because for now at least, Legacy’s priority is to build an audience willing to take a chance on unfamiliar work because they trust the knowledge and judgement of the people who have chosen it.

In the long term, Legacy would love to have a permanent space for film screenings and events such as music and spoken word performances, bringing together other like-minded creatives who live and work in the city.

A great example of Legacy’s collaborative approach is Who is Oscar? This Arts Council-funded project showcased the work of Oscar Micheaux, a 20th century African-American filmmaker who made over 40 self-financed films (“the original crowd-funder”, according to Jackson).

A Legacy screening of Micheaux’s 1920 silent film Within Our Gates was accompanied by a live soundtrack by WOMAD international award-winning musician Saida Kanda. A short documentary about Micheaux by American filmmaker Tim Reid was also shown, and the whole event was introduced by spoken word artist Elmi Ali. The event toured to venues in Southampton, Hastings, Crawley, London and Brighton and was documented by director Cathy Hassan and photographer Nathaniel Bagot-Sealey.

Within Our Gates

Legacy also have a presence at the local African Night Fever music nights organised by Ebou Touray. Alongside the live music and DJ sets, Legacy screen short films – another way of raising awareness about their work and building links.

The most satisfying aspect of the Legacy screenings is the positive feedback. “I like to see how people respond and react to the films. Sometimes people surprise you, and it’s great when they come up to tell you their thoughts about what they’ve seen,” said Jackson.
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Quadrophenia DOP – Brian Tufano

 

Distinguished cinematographer Brian Tufano worked on many notable BBC television dramas before going on to build a reputation for nurturing the talents of rising directors on key British films such as Quadrophenia, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Billy Elliott, East is East and Kidulthood. Film City profiles his brilliant career. 

 The most important thing that you have to remember is that you need to go out and make films.

Brian Tufano’s fascination with the workings of the film industry began when he was still a young boy.

He was a regular visitor to the cinema with his mother throughout his childhood, and when he was nine he saw some photographs showing what went on behind the scenes on a film set. Trying to make the connection between the films he saw on screen and the work done by the camera crew opened the door to a world that enthralled him.

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Living in Shepherd’s Bush, he was close to the Gainsborough Studios at Lime Grove which were responsible for popular British films such as The Lady Vanishes and The Thirty Nine Steps. Tufano would wait outside the studios watching the comings and goings which fuelled his interest even further.

After leaving school he got a job as a BBC projectionist and eventually worked on Sports View (the forerunner to Match of the Day). This led to a post as a trainee assistant cameraman, and Tufano’s career developed from there.

He worked at the BBC for over 20 years, building an outstanding reputation as a cinematographer, especially during its golden period of dramas during the 1970s. Tufano then went on to enhance his standing even further within the film industry where his credits include Quadrophenia, Billy Elliott, East is East, Kidulthood and several films with Danny Boyle including Shallow Grave,Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary.

Trainspotting

In 2001 he was awarded a BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television, and in 2002 he won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding Contribution to Independent Film from the British Independent Film Awards.

A recurring thread throughout Tufano’s career is his willingness to work with and nurture young and inexperienced filmmakers, either as colleagues or students. For the last 13 years he has worked at The National Film and Television School, where he is Head of Cinematography.

In a recent article by British Cinematographer magazine, director Alan Parker recalls making his directorial debut while working with Tufano on the BBC drama The Evacuees. “He was a hard taskmaster – both tormentor and teacher. What he taught me was that however little time there was (and there’s never enough time), everything – every scene, every performance, every lighting set-up could be a little better if you didn’t settle for what was easy and obvious.”

Tufano also receives high praise from Danny Boyle in his biography: “He was brilliant for me: my first proper movie cameraman. I’d express an idea, and he just got it…He is brilliant with first-time directors. He’s so experienced and yet gracious about passing on his skills and letting you benefit.”

For the last three years Tufano has also been a patron of Brighton Film School, renewing his connection with the city that began over 35 years ago when he worked on Quadrophenia.

Quadrophenia

He regards Brighton as a terrain of contrasts – the sea, high density of housing and striking Regency architecture, alongside the South Downs – that makes it visually distinctive. “It is also the people that make the city so great; they are the heart and eyes of the place, making Brighton really interesting as a whole.”

So what does he consider to be the key attributes required when striving to build a career in the film industry?

Knowledge, drive and passion for the discipline you’re interested in is the key to success. But the most important thing that you have to remember is that you need to go out and make films. No matter what the size of the production is, you just need to make films.”

Better is Best by David A Ellis: British Cinematograher magazine Issue 067, January 2015

Danny Boyle in his own words by Amy Raphael 

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“If you don’t live and breathe it, then don’t bother.”

 

A profile of international award-winning film producer and director Michele D’Acosta, whose credits include Fetishes, Kurt and Courtney, Biggie and Tupac, Moonbug and No Distance Left to Run.

“A magical thinker” – that’s how Michele D’Acosta defines the role of the film producer, “someone who is singleminded, enthusiastic, tenacious and passionate in pursuit of their vision”. The rollcall of films produced by D’Acosta suggests that she fulfils all of the necessary criteria.

Her career began in the press office of Amnesty International. This environment gave her access to great stories, and the opportunity to pitch a series of short films to Channel 4 who were keen to collaborate with the charity. This led to a placement as a trainee TV producer programme for Channel 4’s ground-breaking documentary series Dispatches, followed by work for the BBC, and a period in the Soviet Union documenting the major political changes taking place in the early 1990s.

blurShe has worked closely with acclaimed director Nick Broomfield on three documentaries: Fetishes (1996), filmed at an S & M parlour in New York, Kurt and Courtney (1998) about the volatile life and times of grunge musician Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love, and perhaps most memorably, Biggie and Tupac (2002) about the murdered rappers Christopher ‘Notorious B.I.G’ Wallace and Tupac Shakur.

 

After reading about Tupac’s shooting the day after it took place and sensing that this was a story she wanted to tell, D’Acosta embarked on extensive research. She became intrigued by the relationships within Tupac’s family, his mother’s membership of the Black Panthers, and the rapper’s quest to share political messages through his music. “The Black Panthers manifesto was that black people don’t have black power”.

biggieHer approach was to interview friends and teachers who knew Tupac as a child rather than focussing solely on music industry contemporaries: “It was too easy to sensationalise things and go down that route, I knew that was the angle most film makers would take.”

Nick Broomfield has described D’Acosta as ‘the Mistress of Charm’ and praised her meticulous approach: “I thought she was very talented, very committed in her work…Michele has a very thorough way of working and a very detailed mind.”

What has she learnt most from someone renowned for his ability to construct stories that often feature challenging and unwilling participants?

“One of his key techniques is knowing how to control the energy in the room. There’s lots of planning and preparation by the production team behind the scenes to build a momentum, and then he often takes the interviewee by surprise once the camera is rolling,” she explains.

“The tension is created, and captured in the frame. He has a skill for manipulating a subject, but it’s to get to the truth and capture crucial moments.”

A contrasting approach was needed for No Distance Left to Run, the documentary about Blur’s triumphant comeback concerts culminating at Glastonbury and Hyde Park on which D’Acosta was a co-executive producer.

“The band were exhausted, relationships were fragile, there were lots of obstacles. It was really important to make them feel comfortable and relaxed.”

As well as her belief in the power of using documentary film for social change, D’Acosta is also committed to improving the lives of others through other means. She put filmmaking to one side to help people directly through her involvement in a charitable project working with polio survivors in Sierra Leone.

Initiatives like this have altered her perspective – she’s no longer satisfied with cinema as the sole platform through which she can share stories and highlight issues she cares about. “As human beings we have a responsibility to help raise awareness by whatever means necessary.”

She is currently immersed in researching a documentary about the life of black British boxer Randolph Turpin, a world middleweight champion in the 1950s whose sporting achievements were overshadowed by his troubled personal life. “I’m very drawn to the challenge of telling his story, it has a great deal of resonance on so many levels, particularly the racism he fought in and out of the ring.”

D’Acosta grew up in East Sussex and still spends as much time in Brighton as she can. “What is it about this city? Maybe it’s in the water, or the air, the people all seem to feel it.” She points to a creative and collaborative energy rooted in Brighton’s history of film-making, as well as an acceptance of people that enables her to feel at home.

She strongly believes that more should be done to invest in young people seeking ways into the film industry, and that it is the responsibility of people like her to nurture and encourage new talent.

However, D’Acosta also has a warning. “It’s hard work so if you aren’t 100% dedicated to it, if you don’t live and breathe it, then don’t bother. All other skills you can learn, but passion and dedication – that cannot be taught.”

MICHELE’S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR ASPIRING PRODUCERS

 Work out why you want to make the film – what’s unique about the perspective you can offer?

 Look for the alternative angle

 Be accurate – don’t distort material or take quotes out of context.

 Build a piece of work that can leave a legacy.

 Be on time!

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5 Minutes with Gaffer Ewan Cassidy

 

Introduce yourself…

Ewan Cassidy ­ Film and Television Lighting Gaffer

Who or what has inspired you to be involved in making film/moving image?

My Dad  (a back projectionist). He didn’t exactly encourage me to go into the industry but I guess there was an inbuilt urge to follow in his footsteps.

How has Brighton and Hove influenced your work?

I am sure Brighton & Hove has influenced my work but in what way has not become apparent to me! I rarely get the opportunity to work in Brighton which is a shame because it has enormous potential.

What advice would you give to creative people seeking work or wanting to develop their careers in the industry?

Be the right person at the right time. It’s very important to have the knowledge, the right skills and a positive attitude but a bit of luck is very welcome.

What’s the most interesting part of your job?

The most interesting part of my job is the last few moments before we turn over. Watching all the aspects of the shot coming together as everyone does their job in perfect harmony!

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

The most challenging aspect of my job is boringly the heath & safety. It has to be done, risk assessments!

Dead or alive, who are the top three people you’d most like to collaborate with, and why?

My list of people I have huge respect for changes on a daily basis, today it looks like this…

Stanley Kubrick ­ My dad worked with him and I’ve heard stories about his character and would like to experience him myself.

Brit Marling ­ actor writer director. I have huge respect for anyone that can write star in and direct their own film on a very low budget.

Jon Favreau ­ a recent addition to my list but for the same reason as above.

If you could only take one film away with you on a desert island, what would it be and why?

2001 a Space Odyssey. I have a copy but I don’t watch it. On a desert island I could spare 3 hours and imagine my Dad working behind the scenes.

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Barry Adamson – Brighton

“Brighton gives you a nudge and makes you feel like you’re not alone”

Musician, filmmaker and writer, Barry Adamson is a latter-day Renaissance man. He talks to Film City Brighton about his twin passions, music and film, as well as the special connection he has with the city and the people that live there.

According to Adamson, “film and music best describe the state of human emotion at any given time, they are a manipulative tool with which we can describe how human beings operate.”

Inspired by the anarchic energy of punk music in the late 70s, Adamson learnt bass guitar and played with bands such as Magazine, Buzzcocks, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He has gone on to record solo albums and compose film scores, working with industry greats such as David Lynch and Danny Boyle.

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A pivotal time in Adamson’s career was the creation of his first solo album, Moss Side Story, which he describes as a “film score without a film”. The listener is invited to imagine their own narrative for a non-existent film noir. The audacity of creating a soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist grew out of Adamson’s own habit of visualising scenarios sparked off by the music he listened to.

The positive reaction to Moss Side Story opened the doors into film scoring. Adamson pinpoints his time with director David Lynch on Lost Highway as a masterclass in film making. Working alongside someone with such a strong idea of their creative objectives and how to achieve them enabled him to draw on that process in his own endeavours.

IMG_1766After this Adamson expanded his ambitions and “moved the goal posts”. While continuing to make solo albums, he started to write fiction and his work was published in a collection of short stories called London Noir.

The idea of making a film developed organically as he fused his narrative ideas and his strong visual aesthetic with his love of music.

Directing his first short film Therapist gave him the space and autonomy to develop his filmmaking skills.  “It gave me the freedom to try things and see what it was that made them either successful or not so successful”.

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Everything with Adamson is about progression and development, he is constantly moving forward to explore new and exciting avenues to fulfil his artistic drive.

But whatever he does next, Adamson’s enduring fascination with music and film will continue to be at the heart of his work. He says: “Music is a powerful tool that heightens feelings and emotions, a perfect way to connect with something on a deeper level. Combined with image or film, music becomes a language that filmmakers use to speak to the audience on another level other than the visual.”

Adamson has been a patron of Brighton’s annual Cinecity film festival for several years. His second short film The Swing The Lie and The Hole will be screened at CineCity in December. He has also composed the music for Cinecity’s major film set installation of Berg, the rediscovered début novel by Brighton writer Ann Quin.

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As a Brighton resident, Adamson loves the fact that he is able to meet and collaborate with like-minded creative people while still “keeping a corner” to develop his own projects. He feels that the flourishing creative community is what makes the city so special. “In comparison to the isolation and feeling of getting swallowed up in London, Brighton gives you a nudge and makes you feel like you’re not alone in your sensibilities.”

Here more about Barry Adamson’s career in his interview for Currently Off-Air