Thursday, 31 January 2013

Into the woods with Michael Caine

I recently grew a beard with the idea of doing a parody of Educating Rita (Frank the English lecturer has a beard) but then I changed my mind and took myself off to some local woods to do a short film about Michael Caine being (fictionally) involved in the making of the new Hobbit film as a giant.

The woods are part of a local parkland area and so I had to deal with not being bothered by dog walkers and I finally settled on a ladybird walk to film. The most convenient thing was there were some wooden ladybird shaped stools to put my lap top on.


I do not have video camera so all the Michael Caine Brief Encounters  films get made by pointing my webcam creatively in my direction. This particular project took two takes. The rejected take showed some of my rucksack and other camera equipment in the background as well as the stool shown above. I had not noticed these distractions, so intent was I in getting the filming right.
Previous to going into the park I had put together some rough ideas of what I wanted to do and say as the pretend giant. This helped me to concentrate on what I was doing and keep the amount of takes to a minimum.

 I wanted some movement in the film so I moved subtly around to given the impression of circular tracking.


Keeping the eye of the camera at eye level seemed to have the desired effect. Whilst I was filming a goat was bleating in the far distance so I improvised with the loose script including the noise as a live animal being slaughtered by the catering staff.

Coming away from the video filming I took a couple of appropriate still shots for fun. And I even stumbled across at Hobbit Cottage in the village of Ruddington on the way home!


Monday, 28 January 2013

Michael Caine's screentest for Hitchcock.

This is one of my short films on Youtube featuring my impersonations of Michael Caine in various fictional situations. This particular one came about because I had purchased the silly shower cap with the intent of doing another video of me as Colm Wilkinson singing 'Bring him Home' in the bath. I thought this would be funny and practised the song (it ain't easy) yet when I came to film the piece in he actual bath - minus water - I found I simply wasn't up to the job I had given myself.

So I reluctantly abandoned that project and set thinking what I do to add another fun video to my Michael Caine's Brief Encounters collection. I came up with a fictional premise that Michael Caine and Terence Stamp 'potentially' could have auditioned for Hitchcock in the 1950s when Psycho was made. The joke is that they didn't screen test for the male role but for the girl in the shower (played by Janet Leigh). I played with a few script ideas and practised my filming with the camera in my laptop. I had to remove all the mirrors in the bathroom as I could see that more of me was being exposed than I would have liked!!!

The film started with me holding the laptop up high and slowly coming to a holt at a head and showers shot. On playback the sound was a bit wobbly in places but I was pleased with the result.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Les Miserables - the film of the musical

I went to see the Les Miserables film yesterday afternoon at the Broadway cinema in Nottingham. I had been looking forward to this for weeks and weeks and wasn't disappointed. I hadn't heard the best of reports online on Russell Crowe's singing abilities or the performances of the Thenardiers but, to be fair, they were just different from the West End stars as was the direction of the whole.

I particularly liked the immediacy of the piece with the live singing and I was intrigued by the  additional dialogue and new sung through lyrics in some scenes. The actual new song 'Suddenly' filled a story line gap but otherwise was unmemorable. I thought that the main actors' performances were stunning, especially Hugh as Jean Valjean/M. Madeleine and Anne Hathaway as the tragic Fantine.

Another surprise (not in the stage musical) was when Valjean and Cosette arrive at the North Gate of Paris and are on the run from Javert. Feet away from being caught they are met by M. Fauchelevent ( the man Jean Valjean rescued when trapped under the carriage) at a convent and he agrees to hide them there.

I loved the young lad who played Gavroche the second he popped out of the top of the elephant figure and made his way through the crowds stealing and dodging the law. I felt that I learnt much more from the film than I did the stage musical, namely the handing over of Javert's medal to Gavroche as he lay dead and the fact that the barricade was the last barricade left standing in the Victor Hugo's version of the June uprising of 1832. When they brought the cannons on to blast away the barricade I actually gasped.

The end was superb and I was thrilled to see Colm Wilkinson again at the end. Lastly, well for now, the settings were superb! Wow, what a film! And, of course I didn't cry.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Les Miserables Nottingham Playhouse

This Friday the film of the musical Les Miserables goes on general release and I expect to be amongst the excited fans queuing to see how the cast and director have done.

Back in 1992 I was thrilled to be in the professional production of Christina Reid's play version at Nottingham Playhouse. There were eight hand picked male extras to play soldiers, citizens, students at the barricade and a chain gang. The story started with Gavroche and Eponine meeting in heaven after being killed on the barricades and suddenly shot back in time to the battle of Waterloo with the Thenardiers picking over the corpses.

I remember going to the rehearsals and trying to behave as professionally as possible (I was a performance art student in my third year at the time and this was a paid job). I made a good friend of the actor Roger McKern and kept in touch with him for years and went to see him in many productions around the midlands and in London. Through him I started to learn about the life of a professional actor.

Unfortunately, I don't have any decent photographs to put up on here, only copies of copies.

That's me with my arms folded as a citizen in the dressing room, alas not all the extras were as professional as myself. A few of them were quite noisy backstage and pissed about. I was probably one of the older ones and tried to keep myself to myself or mingled with the pros.

There was no dialogue for the extras but we did get  to sing the French National Anthem as we constructed the barricades each night. On the first night the actor who was supposed to get trapped under the cart forgot to come on (he was playing multiple roles) and the extras had to improvise with one of us falling under the cart to be rescued by the actor playing Jean Valjean.