Autosport Show – 14/01/2017

The Autosport International Show at NEC Birmingham is one of the largest motorsport shows in Europe, and I had the pleasure to gain a media pass to document the event. Mainly to follow Abbi, we filmed her receive different awards and her interviews with other media peoples.

Our first stop was to the British Women’s Racing Driver’s Club Stand, where we met Lorraine Gathercole who is Vice Chair of the organisation. She then introduced us to the three nominees of the Gold Star Elite award: Trish Cecile-Pritchard, Kate Milner and Abbi Pulling! After a quick interview with the three of these (with our extremely limited equipment), we ran over to the MSA stand (Motorsport Association) to film the ceremony. Unfortunately, Abbi didn’t win, but the equally talented Kate Milner did and it was great to see Abbi nominated and recognised for her achievements in Super One.

The MSA also had a Karting Magazine presentation, where Abbi received an award also. After this, we head over to the Super One stand for the official award ceremonies, where we saw Abbi was given her trophy for coming second and her new “Number 2” plate, which she will ride with on her kart this year.

One thing we gained, is that Abbi had changed her tune a little from when I last spoke to her in September. She now is pursuing becoming a Formula 1 driver as her ultimate goal. This is an exciting new dynamic for the documentary!

The Super One season starts March, where we will be following Abbi during her racing season!

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Interview with Niall Johnson, Emilia Fox and Singe Greene – Mum’s List (2016)

On 24th November I was lucky enough to be invited to the press junket of Mum’s List. Recently released in cinemas across the UK, Mum’s List is a British movie shot on location in Clevedon. Based on a true story, the film is about the Greene family who’s lives are altered when Kate is diagnosed with cancer. She prepares her family by leaving notes and messages, a sort of “To Do” list for after she’s gone.

I had the absolute pleasure to meet and interview director Niall Johnson, leading actress Emilia Fox, who plays Kate Greene, and author of the book, and Kate’s husband, St John (Singe) Greene.

All three were a joy to talk to and gave real insight into the movie and the filmmaking process. Niall spoke on how the story came to be a movie such as this and his background with the Greene family. Emilia told me of the huge responsibility yet honour it was to play Kate Greene, (and how the West Country accent is a tricky one to master!) And for young people, like myself, trying to break into the film industry, they both give some advice!

Afterwards, I met with Singe and he told me more about his family, the boys Reef and Finn, and how the filmmaking experience affected them.

Even after the interview with Singe was over, I mentioned that he knew my dad from back home. We had a quick chat about him and then he told me to give him a big hug and tell him I love him “acres and acres.” Even through all the press days and premieres, Singe continues to spread Kate’s inspirational, positive message and his families’ story.

I’m so lucky and grateful to have met all three. And we could all strive to be more like Kate.

Mum’s List (2016) review and interview with Niall Johnson, Emilia Fox and Singe Greene

Although its subject matter is familiar territory in film, Mum’s List is unique in the sense that the story itself is unique and true. Adapted from St John (Singe) Greene’s autobiographical book of the same name, the story focuses on Singe (Rafe Spall) and wife Kate (Emilia Fox), who was diagnosed with cancer only a few years after their young son’s battle with the disease. But Kate prepares by compiling a collection of notes and life lessons for her family after she’s gone. Just hearing the synopsis can have audiences dabbing their eyes, but Mum’s List is a whole lot more than just a tear-jerker.

Director Niall Johnson’s true story drama is so understated and realist that it felt like, at times, I was watching a home filmed video. The story is personal to him: “I knew Kate in the last eighteen months of her life, so I knew the story way before the book. Movies were moving in on the story and Singe said “why don’t you do it?” I thought I was a bit too close and movies can mess things up. But as Singe and Rachel Murphy were writing the book I realised they were helping me find my way through what it was about the story that would make a hundred minute film. It was in Kate’s list. The book follows Singe of course, but the movie had to follow Kate.”

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Johnson glides us through the story, using the narrative to naturally flow back and forth from present day to past moments and memories. This enables an audience to grasp what kind of person Kate was and show that she’s not just defined by her illness. Brilliantly played by Emilia Fox, Kate is a loving mother, wife and friend, and has an incredible zest for life. “It was a huge responsibility being asked to play Kate, but a huge honour as well. I relied very heavily on Singe himself to talk me through every scene in the film. We sat in the pub and talked for a couple of hours and cried for a couple of hours.”

Emilia breathes life to Kate, and brings an element of subtlety, leaving out the melodrama. Similarly, Rafe Spall plays Singe with the same subtlety and he very much pulls us through the movie. Both actors give genuine, heartfelt performances and carry the film through it’s absolutely devastating and upsetting scenes.

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Being from Bristol and having a lot of family in the West, seeing Mum’s List filmed on location in Clevedon was incredibly exciting for me and is something that the film really takes pride in and Singe Greene definitely does too. “I really wanted it to be a British movie. I’m very proud of where I live and I hope we put it right on the map.” The scenery shots slotted into the movie are truly stunning and picturesque like from a postcard, all thanks to Director of Photography Eden Bolter, who’s recently been nominated for BAFTA’s 2016 Breakthrough Brit award.

Mum’s List, as a whole, is very understated, pulling away from Hollywood melodrama. Despite it’s subject matter, the film oozes positivity; everything down to the production design is bright and shining to reflect Kate’s personality even when she was ill. Mum’s List is a cruel and frank reminder that life is too short, so love too much and care too much. Its a heartbreaking watch at times, but altogether an uplifting, positive journey.

Mum’s List is in cinemas now!

mumslist-njef Full interview will be posted soon!

Wyedean Rally – 12/11/2016

Up at the crack of dawn for a drive deep into the Forest of Dean, today was a first step into another segment of the documentary: Rallying. As well as following our main subject in the karting world, it’s equally important to show the world of rallying and the women competing there.

Firstly, Rallying is not circuit racing like F1, karting etc. It’s terrain focused, point A to point B timed driving and set out in stages. There are normally six stages per rally event, each different locations. Wyedean’s were all in the Forest of Dean, near a place called Mitcheldean and primarily gravel terrain.

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The driver we met with was Sara Williams, probably the most successful female rally driver in the UK right now, who has won events and can be spotted in her white and pink Subaru Impreza. After collecting our passes, she met us in the car park and chatted. The plan was to film stages 1 and 4 (once finished, she run the 2nd and 3rd stages straight after each other, and we wouldn’t have time to get to 2 and 3), but before going to number, we’d come back to the services during their hour break to do a short interview with her.

 

Watching and filming the rallying was one of the most fascinating and coolest moments of my life so far. My crew wasn’t sure what rallying was until this point, and I’d told them it was dangerous, so they needed to have their wits about them – and at one point this came into practice when a rogue Ford Escort came off the track and into the crowd nearly killing our sound man!

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Unfortunately, we got trapped in the rally stages and couldn’t make it back to the services in time for the interview, so decided to stay for stage 4 and watch Sara run again. Unfortunately, also, we didn’t see Sara start, and after speaking to multiple marshals and trying not to be ran over, Sara had had an accident during an earlier stage and was forced to retire.

Overall, we didn’t get what we came for, but it was such a fun experience and truly epic to be so close to the rally! I’ve discussed with Sara that we’ll definitely rearrange to interview her soon, probably sometime in the new year.

More pics soon!!!

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Crew selfie from left to right: Jamie (Sound), Oscar (Camera 1), James (Camera 2), Emily (Producer) and Me (Director / Camera 3)

PFI Filming – 17/09/16

17th September saw a small crew of us heading up North to Grantham and it’s PF International Kart Circuit. This included our two producers Emily and Kyle, camera operator Rachael, sound recordist Jamie and myself directing.

Immediately we realised how we underestimated the sheer size and numbers of people involved in the Superone karting championship. There were motorhomes and trucks lined up and so much hustle and bustle. As soon as we stepped out from the cars, the revving of engines hit us straight away – we all couldn’t help but be excited already.

Staying with Abbi and Andy most of the day and filming, I got to know them both and slowly learnt more and more about the car and the championship she competes in. Abbi is a Junior TKM karter and a works driver with Tal-Ko, her number 49 on her kart and she hopes to get into single seater race cars soon (she’s testing a Ginetta in October).

We confirmed then that a crew would follow her racing season in 2017, whatever she decides to do. This would be our documentary’s narrative arc.

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Our Subject – 14/09/16

Today I confirmed with a young driver and her father that they would be involved in our documentary as our main subject!

Her name is Abbi Pulling and we plan to meet them at a testing weekend at PF International circuit in Grantham on 17/09/16. This is to initially meet her and her father Andy, conduct a first interview, film some of the karting action and get a general idea of what to expect from a karting championship.

Abbi is exactly the kind of subject we wanted for this documentary; she’s quick, determined, consistently winning races and giving the boys a run for their money.

Consistently finishing in the top 3 (against 29 boys) and setting fastest laps, 13 year old Abbi joined Super One National TKM Junior Championship as a Tal-Ko works driver in March 2016. She’s won multiple awards which include the BWRDC (British Women’s Racing Drivers Club) awards for Karting, Top Junior Driver and the premier award, the Mary Wheeler Trophy for overall club champion, the youngest ever winner.

Spotlight (2015)

Winner of the ‘Best Picture’ academy award this year, Spotlight is one of the most spine-chilling true story cinematic experiences I’ve sat through. In January 2002, not long after 9/11, the city of Boston picked up their Boston Globe newspaper from their front step with the headline “Church Allowed Abuse by Priests for Years.” It’s the story that encouraged so many abused survivors to speak out. And the film conveys the same force and powerful message, and makes for an evocative journey.

When the Boston Globe’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world.

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Spotlight‘s brilliance relies heavily on it’s dot-to-dot pace; we follow the team trying to join them up to unravel a scandal that just expands each time a passing comment turns into a discovery of another priest or victim. It cuts back and forth between victims stories, to one of the team chasing a new lead, back to another in the Court House. The further they delve, the more we witness the fear and paranoia that takes it’s toil on each member who are living in a majority Catholic Boston. Some have kids, some know victims and they each know how narrowly they escaped: “it could have been you, it could have been me, it could’ve been any of us!”

Another factor of Spotlight‘s brilliance is it’s underplayed cast. Michael Keaton is on top form as veteran editor Walter “Robbie” Robinson. Rachel McAdams is at her best as Sacha Pfeiffer, playing comforting and fierce all at once. Liev Schreiber is Marty Baron, non-Bostonian and non-Catholic, and is the new Editor of the Globe, here to make an impact. Brian d’Arcy James, John Flattery, Billy Crudup and Stanley Tucci are also all excellent, driving the film forward. But the true standout among them is Mark Ruffalo as the tenacious, hard-working Mike Rezendes.

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The victims’ stories of abuse and turmoil are so touching and so real, yet aren’t hammed up for the purpose of Hollywood. As Tom McCarthy and Stanley Tucci’s Mitch Garabedian reminds us, this is bigger than Boston and bigger than America; this is Global because “if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” The Church is portrayed as this completely untouchable entity by any distraught parent, lawyer, judges or the police itself: “no-one wants to cuff a priest.”

This is investigative journalism at it’s best, and the choice to tell their story of uncovering the scandal rather than the victim’s itself is original, bold and why this film works. It’s gripping from start to finish, and the ending gives me goosebumps every single time. In my opinion, Spotlight is one of the most important and powerful films produced in this century so far.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Figuring they’re all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret mission. Now armed with government weapons, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc and other despicable inmates must learn to work together. Dubbed Task Force X, the criminals unite to battle a mysterious and powerful entity, while the diabolical Joker launches an evil agenda of his own.

Firstly, I’ll say outright that I was not impressed by this film in the slightest, so I’ll keep it short. So prior warning: this is a bad review, but I don’t enjoy writing them.

Firstly, for those who didn’t like Batman v Superman and then think this movie was decent, please explain. Because, in comparison, when I place this film on a pedestal and put it into perspective, Suicide Squad is a regressive “superhero” movie in terms of it’s inconsistent technical filmmaking, stunted storytelling, cliched dialogue, undeveloped characters and feminism.

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The objectification of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and her bottom half gained more screen-time than some of the other Suicide Squad characters combined. This is not OK and the Male Gaze at it’s worst.

Suicide Squad is a poor case of too many underdeveloped characters confusing the plot e.g. Killer Croc, Boomerang, Diablo, and that those who are left aren’t evil enough to consider themselves supervillains (especially Will Smith’s Deadshot who one minute is looking for redemption and forgiveness from his daughter, the next is not?) Jared Leto’s Joker laugh was spot on to how I imagined it from comics such as The Killing Joke, however, I’m still a bit bewildered about the emotionally and physically abusive lovelorn villain he’s portraying at this point.

DC need to decide where they identify because this was just a complete mess. Apparently there were a number of rewrites to try and make Suicide Squad funnier, and clearly the constant pop music changes are overcompensating for how unfunny it actually turned out to be- it is not in the same league as Guardians of the Galaxy.

Forget about a Harley Quinn movie, give Katana a few more lines!

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The BFG (2016)

Anyone my age and older will say that Roald Dahl’s stories inspired us and maybe even helped shape our lives today. Each story is timeless and perhaps the most moving yet most frightening of them is The BFG or The Big Friendly Giant. Excitement overcame me when I saw the posters and trailer for this movie, as it did my friend whose idea it was to watch it yesterday.

One night Sophie, an orphaned girl in London, spots a giant from her window. Fearing she would tell the adult world, he takes her away with him back to Giant Country and his little house underground. At first, she’s afraid she’ll be eaten, but realises he’s actually a very friendly giant, who doesn’t eat children, but the nine other giants in the country do. They form a close friendship, and she calls him BFG (Big Friendly Giant). BFG is bossed around and bullied by the other horrible giants, who also steal children from their beds and eat them, Sophie and her Giant both hatch a plan to stop them, which enlists a certain monarch’s help.

Directed by Steven Spielberg I knew the story would be in safe hands and he created some magical moments, particularly the dream catching sequence. Dotted around London are Sophie’s Dream Jars also, so it seemed like the story was taken seriously before the film even premiered.

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Admittedly, the opening is a little slow starting and some points in the middle drag despite the quality cast and visuals. I also felt there were certain moments that were a little randomly placed and didn’t fit in with the aesthetic of the rest of the movie. As sweet and light as the musical score was by John Williams it isn’t as iconic or memorable as his previous work such as E.T., Jurassic Park etc.

But these flaws will be soon forgotten as you get swept into the world of the Giants. Even though tailored towards children, who laughed and engaged in it from what I witnessed in the cinema, it is humorous enough that even the parents were laughing out loud. The giant sequences are playful; the two lead evil giants Fleshlumpeater and Bloodbottler played by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Bill Hader (Inside Out, Saturday Night Live) are unrecognisable and wonderfully evil. Scriptwriter Melissa Mathison did an excellent job by retaining the unique speech of the Giants, originally crafted by Roald Dahl himself.

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Ruby Barnhill makes a spirited Sophie, and kudos for such a young girl to practically act alone against CGI Giants. And the surprise appearances of Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall are welcome as they bring another smile to your face. But it’s really Mark Rylance who, once again, steals the show for me. The beauty of his acting is that he doesn’t just talk the talk or walk the walk, he also conveys so much emotion and tells a thousand stories through his expressive eyes. When he is on screen, it is never a dull moment, whether it be funny or sad, and he is the perfect BFG.

Overall, The BFG is a lovely film that had me smiling throughout and was a truly charming watch.

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