Thursday, June 30, 2005

"Hotel Rwanda" wins script award

Terry George and Keir Pearson won $25,000 for their script for the remarkable "Hotel Rwanda" last Wednesday. The Humanitas Prize goes to film and TV shows that "entertain, engage and enrich the viewing public". "Hotel Rwanda" was singled out as it was based on the true-life story of a hotel manager's attempts to save victims of Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Quoted by Associated Press, Pearson said, "Everyone knew what was happening at the time, but all the great leaders of the world did nothing. This film was about an ordinary man, a hotel manger, that did something and did something great." Terry George is also known for his work on the Northern Ireland massacre "Sunday Bloody Sunday".

Read the full story on

Hotel Rwanda on Amazon UK
Hotel Rwanda on Amazon US

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Klapisch's "Poupées russes/Russian Dolls" overtakes Batman in France

The much-awaited follow-up to Cedric Klapisch's "Auberge espagnole", "Poupées russes/Russian Dolls" has opened in France to considerable success. According to a report on Cineuropa, it overtook "Batman Begins" in its first week boasting an average 1,204 tickets per print, compared to 588 for "Batman Begins".

The more-or-less sequel to "Auberge espagnole" continues the story of Xavier as he struggles with his attempts to write - and stay with one girl. It was released on June 15 in France and Switzerland, June 22 in Belgium, with Germany following on November 3. It stars Audrey Taoutou, Cécile de France and, needless to say, Romain Duris.

Cedric Klapisch on Amazon US
Cedric Klapisch on Amazon UK
Cedric Klapisch sur Amazon FR (a far longer list!)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Italian screenwriters' site revamped, Italy's foremost website for scriptwriters, has been revamped in a clean, new PHP style. The site has been the best source of Italian screenwriting news for some time, with a lively message board (including a section in English), a section on writing contests, writing articles, some feature and short scripts and links. It's always interesting, of course, to get writers' opinions on Italian cinema - and the news isn't always that good. Italian cinema has been going through a very rough time recently. Concerning scriptwriting, it might come as no surprise that one of the main complaints is a lack of awareness about the craft - that and the lack of development. Sound familiar? Drop by here:

In further Italian-related news, the Capalbio International Short Film festival will be kicking off July 6-10 in Rome. The festival this year will feature the Premio Mini Award, a section for video clips and a new award for animated shorts. Details will be announced on June 30 when you can find them on the Capalbio website.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Layer Cake": a partial answer

A few days ago, I wondered why the Brit gangster film "Layer Cake" was not more successful upon its release. A partial answer came from the States, where the local distributor has been complaining that "parallel imports" killed the film's chances of a career. Put simply, rather than wait 12 months for the film to come out, a lot of people simply buy the DVD from the UK or France. Or local retailers import a bunch even before the DVD is released in the US. As it saps the core audience, this hurts the film's chances as a theatrical release.

The obvious answer is not to wait so long for a release. Why does it take up to a year for European films to reach the cinemas? Having said that, the distribution of non-US films in the US is a difficult subject with very low margins for the local distributor. So US readers, don't forget to support your local movie "theater"!

Layer Cake on Amazon US

Friday, June 17, 2005

London group to discuss script development

In the aftermath of all the changes to the tax regimes, and the high price of sterling, British film makers have to look to areas of the creative process to develop films that will compete globally, which means writers have to think carefully about what scripts and stories to develop. So the Lunch Club has brought together a panel with top development people - two from the UK Film Council, Lucy Scher from the Script Factory and Julian Friedmann from ScriptWriter Magazine and Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, together with top producer Michael Kuhn of Qwerty and Frank Graves, a writer, to discuss how we can improve on the development of British scripts and films. After the Q&A there will be a fantastic hot 2 course buffet dinner with half a bottle of wine each, where participants will have a chance to meet the speakers.

June 29th 7pm to 10pm Central London £5 Lunch Club Members. £15 if you are a member of the One-List. £17.50 others. Call Gareth Owen, The Lunch Club 01753 650733

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

French script contest criticises the "mal français"

In terms of overall production and impact, France has been the motor of European cinema for a good number of years. Although Germany has seen a major increase in production recently, and the UK continues to survive due to co-productions with the US, the state of French cinema directly affects many partners across Europe.

The industry has been kept alive by a very vocal lobby that has kept its interests on the political agenda, while judiciously re-investing cinema levies back into production. It has also insisted that French TV – once seen as a threat – plays a role as an investor. This has effectively turned the channels into major players in the movie business. But although there are exceptions, such as Annaud's “Two Brothers/Deux frères”, Moix's “Podium” and Jeunet's “Un long dimanche de fiançailles”, France is no longer the producer of international hits that it once was.

"Le mal français"

For Philippe Maynial, co-organiser of France's prestigious Sopadin scriptwriting awards, this is partly due to what he calls the “mal français” (French ill). “The system as it now exists favours production, but forces the major channels into the role of banker,” he says. “They have little say in the actual creative process. The result is that a large number of films are going into production with scripts that should have received more work, and the channels can do nothing about it. So what you get is Franco-French films that don't export well.” In his previous career, he worked with Gaumont. “We had major Italian and Polish directors working on French subjects,” he remembers. “People like Ettore Scola and Wajda. We were already thinking in terms of Europe rather than just France.” So why don't more companies spend more time on the development? Despite lip service paid to the notion of a great script, the vast majority of French - and indeed European - companies simply don't have the budget. Inevitably, there is talk about looking for public funding. As one insider put it at last year's ScriptForum in Venice, "60% of the European Commission's Media budget is going towards promoting films that have not been developed enough".

Sopadin is well placed to talk about scripts, as they run 4 major annual competitions. “It provides an absolutely unique opportunity for writers to be read by the major producers and TV channels. These people just do not read unsolicited material – ever.” Maynial's partner Barbara Vassiliev pointed out that many of the scripts actually end up being produced, “Nuit Noire” being a recent example. Sopadin also runs the Ré-écrire script workshops on the aptly-named Ile de Ré.

The Belgian touch

Talking to the Belgian Association of Audiovisual Scriptwriters, they were enthusiastic about the critical success of Belgian films. “There is a creativity you can feel as you walk around Brussels already,” said Vassiliev. “People are looking for new ways to do things.” Concerning the so-called “Belgian touch” that has seen films such as “Quand la mer monte” and “L'enfant” pick up major awards, Maynial repeated the old advice about writing what you know about. “It seems like the more Belgian you are in your writing, the more interest it generates. The more specific the touch you bring to it, the more it appeals to people. These are the sort of scripts that are being bought for the moment,” he said.

For details about Sopadin's competitions and the Ré-écrire workshops, visit

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Rewind: What wasn't "Layer Cake" bigger?

With a considerable delay, I just caught "Layer Cake" in a local cinema. Based on a popular novel by John J. Connolly (and adapted to the screen by the man himself), the film is a successful attempt at bringing new life to the British gangster genre. Stylish, well directed (by the producer of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels"), it boasts an enigmatic lead (Daniel Craig), a strong support cast, an intricately-woven plot and overall a great feel to it. Reviews have averaged at 7/10, which can't be bad (I'd go for an 8). So why didn't it do better? Although there are some plot points that stretch the disbelief at times and Colm Meaney is not half as mean as he should be, I might suggest that a major reason is the name itself. What the flick is a Layer Cake? Reference is made to it in the film, but it's hardly a phrase that is known in the UK. So how about Europe - which I think should have lapped up a chance to indulge in some masterful UK story-telling? Could a title really be that important? In this case, I'd say so. It might seem a bit on-the-nose, but even something as obvious as "White Lines" would have been far easier for people to grasp. The film is also done a dreadful dis-service by the trailer, that seems to have been produced using all the factory pre-sets - unike the film. Ultimately, I think it failed as not enough people were drawn into the cinema to see it, which sounds glaringly obvious. But early word of mouth would surely have brought "Layer Cake" much further. It's a shame to see such an engaging film actually being undersold.

"Layer Cake" on Amazon UK
Layer Cake on Amazon US

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Adam & Paul" premiere in London June 4

"Adam & Paul" has just been announced in the line-up of the Brussels Film Festival on July 2. Other films to look out for include "Demi Tarif", "Guernsey" (poster of the year), "Czech Dream" and Douche Froide". See the programme line-up here.

Guerilla Films in association with the London Script Consultancy and the New Producers Alliance are hosting a premiere screening of "Adam & Paul", Ireland's surprise box office hit of 2004. Written by Mark O'Halloran and produced for just less than €400,000, it grossed over €700,000 in Ireland alone, where it is currently in the top five rental DVDs. "Adam & Paul" is a stylized, downbeat comedy about two hapless junkies, tied together by habit and necessity. It has been called "Laurel & Hardy on smack in Dublin and waiting for Godot."

"Funny, sad and thought-provoking... skilfully structured and superbly performed." (Evening Herald)

"Bleak, yet side-splitting; savage, yet heart-felt ... this is, quite simple, great stuff." (In Dublin)

"Mordantly funny and unexpectedly poignant" (Time Out)

The London Premiere will take place on Saturday 4 June, 11.00 am at the UGC Shaftesbury Avenue, followed by a Q&A with debut director Lenny Abrahamson (although it's a shame the award-winning O'Halloran is not even mentioned in the blurb). Discover how the filmmakers took their idea from the page to the big screen, with all the inevitable lucky breaks, mistakes, and pitfalls along the way.

Go to the website now for more information

Saturday 4 June, 11.00 am
UGC Shaftesbury Avenue
13 Coventry Street, Piccadilly, London, W1D 7DH
UK Pounds 4.00
Tel for reservations: 0871 200 2000