Monday, December 07, 2009

British indie awards salute Michael Cain and Danel Day-Lewis

In an upbeat event, the British Independent Film Awards announced its 2009 winners on December 6 in London. Johanna von Fischer and Tessa Collinson, BIFA co-directors say: "No single film dominates the Awards this year, reminding us of the high quality and variety of talent on offer in the UK. And if we can be celebrating so much good work in a year that is said to be difficult, there is a lot to shout about."

"Moon", the film by Duncan Jones (who also picked up the best debut director award), was awarded the best British independent film. Best screenplay went to "In the Loop", by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche.

The screenplay award was very tight, as "In the Loop" was up against "An Education" (Nick Hornby), "Fish Tank" (Andrea Arnold), "Moon"(Nathan Parker) and "Nowhere Boy" (Matt Greenhalgh).

Sir Michael Caine and Daniel Day-Lewis both gave impassioned acceptance speeches for their respective acting awards.

For the full list of winners, visit BIFA.

Monday, October 26, 2009

British Independent Film Award nominees announced

British cinema has an unusual structure, with most of the industry working as service suppliers for the American studios, and a promising but fragile "independent" section. The British Independent Film Awards obviously showcase the latter, and feature a very strong line-up of nominees this year, which have just been announced:


An Education
Fish Tank
In The Loop
Nowhere Boy


Sponsored by The Creative Partnership
Andrea Arnold – Fish Tank
Armando Iannucci – In The Loop
Duncan Jones – Moon
Jane Campion – Bright Star
Lone Scherfig – An Education


Sponsored by BBC Films
An Education – Nick Hornby
Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold
In The Loop – Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Moon – Nathan Parker
Nowhere Boy – Matt Greenhalgh

70 members screened over 200 films to draw up the list of nominees. To get the complete list of nominees, visit Raindance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Journey to Algiers" picks up script award at Namur festival

Namur's French-speaking movie festival awarded the script prize to writer/director Abdelkrim Bahloul for "Le voyage à Alger/Journey to Algiers", the tale of an Algerian widow's struggle to hold on to her house and six orphans.

Bahloul was born in Algeria, studied in France and now works in both countries. His previous film, "Le soleil assassiné" picked up the audience award at Namur in 2003. For the full results (in French), visit FIFF.

Monday, October 05, 2009

MIPCOM kicks off in Cannes

The MIPCOM TV trade fair has kicked off in Cannes. Early news from the kids section is that short-formats are back in style, with a preference for live action. Established characters are being sought out (which is not such good news for people that want to try and create new ones). As scriptwriters it is important to keep an eye on these things, as I don't see the point in working for 18 months on a dead format.

Check for details on Cannes or Bust.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Italian Job screenwriter dies at 77

Troy Kennedy Martin, the British screenwriter whose credits include "The Italian Job", died of cancer on September 15 at age 77. Martin first started writing plays at the BBC in 1958, later creating "Storyboard". His most famous TV creation was Liverpool-based police drama "Z-Cars", which subsequently ran for 15 years.

His film credits include "The Italian Job", which starred Noel Coward and Michael Caine, "Kelly’s Heroes", "The Jerusalem File" and "Sweeney 2", from the TV series, "The Sweeney, created by his brother Ian Kennedy Martin". He also co-wrote the screenplay for "Red Heat" with director Walter Hill in 1988 and "Red Dust", directed by Tom Hooper, in 2004.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kathyrn Bigelow and Mark Boal in London

Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" is picking up pretty breathless reviews. She'll be in London with her screenwriter Mark Boal to talk about it, courtesy of The Script Factory and The Screen on the Green.

A preview plus conversation with Kathryn Bigelow & screenwriter Mark Boal August 18
Screen on the Green
83 Upper Street
London N1 0NP

Details at The Script Factory.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brussels festival showcases new European directors

Every year at the same time, the Brussels Film Festival competes with hot weather while hosting a selection of first and second films from European directors. This year, there are some 60 films being premiered, with free open-air screenings and concerts.

The official competition consists of:
There is also a selection of recent Belgian films, European award-winners and the Cinematek's Age d'Or sidebar featuring recent world cinema releases.

Amongst the events are talks by the various directors, and Eliot Grove presenting his No-to-Lo Budget Film-making Masterclass.

Check out the full programme here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

L'Aquila movie festival to go ahead

Despite the huge damage caused by the recent earthquake there, the Italian town of L'Aquila has decided to go ahead with its annual festival. This third edition has been made possible by the support of hte festival of Salerno. The competition is open to short, medium and feature films, with a deadline on July 15, 2009.

For details, visit Idea de Cleves.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

ScriptBase launches European script competition

ScriptBase, the online screenwriting community that was set up by writers from the Fade In group in Hungary, is launching a free online screenwriting competition. The site acts basically as a writers' group, with people reading and commenting on each others' work. As they are now adding a rating system, they are also starting a competition with a €1,000 prize. The basic idea is simple: post your project, get people to read it and hope that it gets a great rating. ScriptBase and Fade In are both writer-driven initiatives.

A quick glance revealed a strong number of entrants from Eastern Europe - which has a vibrant writing scene for the moment. If you have sometimes wondered who could read your script and give some sort of feedback, ScriptBase is definitely worth checking. I my opinion, the prize money is like icing on someone's cake.

For full details, check ScriptBase.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stephen Fry: UK TV writers "treated like dirt"

Celebrated British actor and writer Stephen Fry has spoken out against the British TV production system, claiming the writers are "treated like dirt". He particularly points to the fact that writers are generally dispossessed of their work when production starts. In a report in The Stage, he is quoted as saying, “Occasionally, if there’s a good relationship, a writer can come and visit the set, but their job - if they know anything about the etiquette of a set - is to sit very quietly in a corner and is certainly not to talk to an actor about anything but gossip and it is certainly not to talk about the part [they have written], because that undermines the relationship of the actor and director,” he said.

In addition to his high-profile acting, Fry has written for TV and is the writer of "Bright Young Things". For the full story, visit The Stage.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Screenwriting conference in Dublin in June

The Jameson Dublin Film Festival is organising a major scriptwriting conference in June, that will bring together four very different writers: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), Shane Meadows and Paul Fraser (A Room for Romeo Brass, SomersTown), Eran Kolirin (The Band's Visit) and Conor McPherson (The Eclipse). Other guests are planned. Dates June 4 & 5. "Give Me Direction" will be an opportunity to champion great and original writing for the screen and to deepen the Irish Film Board’s engagement in addressing industry concerns. The conference will follow an informal, mixed format of sessions and interviews: plus a rehearsed read-through and a preview screening.

For more details, visit the JDIFF.

La Palme dort!

Brilliant headline from France's "Scénaristes" magazine: "La palme dort". Translated, it means "The Palm is sleeping". Sub-headline: "The world's biggest film festival continues to marginalise scriptwriters. How about a change?"

An example? It's probably worth remembering that last year the scriptwriters of France's biggest hit (by far), "Bienvenu chez les Ch'tis/Welcome to the Sticks", were not invited to attend the screening at Cannes. No room on the list, apparently. Cannes is basically a celebration of the cult of the director-as-author, to the point where the actual writers drop off the map. I'm not sure if Scénaristes can change that. But the French writers' union UGS that publish the magazine are very active at Cannes, organising a script market tied with breakfast meetings with producers and directors, as well as a "white night" - definitely worth checking at Cannes. Check here for details. Way to go.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"John Rabe" picks up Germany's Lola Award

Director/writer Florian Gallenberger's "John Rabe" picked up the awards for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design at Germany's Lola Awards last Friday. "John Rabe" is being hailed as "China's Schindler", as it tells the tale of a German manager of Siemens that tries to save Chinese civilians during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai during the Second World War.

Özgür Yildirim’s "Chiko" picked up the Best Screenplay Award.

Complete list of winners:
Golden Lola for Best Film: John Rabe by Florian Gallenberger
Silver Lola for Best Film: A Year Ago In Winter by Caroline Link
Bronze Lola for Best Film: Cloud 9 by Andreas Dresen
Best Documentary: Nobody's Perfect by Niko von Glasow
Best Children’s Film: Nothing Else Matters by Julia von Heinz
Best Screenplay: Özgür Yildirim for Chiko
Best Director: Andreas Dresen for Cloud 9
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ursula Werner in Cloud 9
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Ulrich Tukur in John Rabe
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Sophie Rois in The Architect
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Andreas Schmidt in Fleisch ist mein Gemüse
Best Cinematography: Kolja Brandt for North Face
Best Editing: Sebastian Thümler for Chiko
Best Production Design: Tu Ju Hua for John Rabe
Best Costume Design: Lisy Christl for John Rabe
Best Score: Niki Reiser for A Year Ago In Winter Best Sound: Christian Bischoff, Tschangis Chahrokh, Heinz Ebner and Guido Zettier for North Face

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pirate Bay: a writer's perspective

The Pirate Bay ruling has unleashed a lot of emotion on the web. It's interesting that the discussions have centred on movies rather than music this time. Coming from the music biz, I can safely say to the movie businesses: "you ain't seen nothing yet" in terms of piracy. For creators, trying to find justifications for Pirate Bay is a very dangerous game to play for - in my opinion - two major reasons. 1) it promotes piracy on a very, very large scale indeed, and 2) by centralising free content it also blocks any of the other initiatives that creators might try and put in place.

Let me explain: the one big lesson people are not taking from the music debacle is that creators need to connect directly with their audiences. This is even more important to me than individual distribution. We have to build and nurture audiences so that they are available to us, rather than third-party sites. The good news for people that like it is that giving stuff away is going to be a major part of the new biz anyway. But WE have to be giving it away to OUR audiences. The freebies have to be part of OUR strategy, not Pirate Bay's or YouTube's. People have to come to OUR sites, and be exposed to OUR goodies, T-shirts, Director's Cuts, downloadable scripts, public appearances and OUR ads. Otherwise we will never be able to control our futures.

By giving everything away both YouTube and Pirate Bay short-circuit our ability to build audiences as they hold onto both the visitor data and the advertising revenue, leaving us the crumbs from our own table.

Most people I know are aware that people spend money to create music and movies, and are willing to participate in one way or another. Personally, I like visiting the sites of writers and directors, reading their comments and occasionally buying their books, movies or whatever. But both Pirate Bay and YouTube increase the distance between the creator and the spectator, which is why I think they both should be treated with caution.

All the rest about freedom, copyrights and the end of the world as we know it is editorial chatter.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Il Divo" opens in Germany

Paolo Sorrentino's explosive account of Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti opens in Germany. The film takes a look at the secrets behind power in Italy during Andreotti's successive spells as the Prime Minister. Andreotti was known as the untouchable, with possible links to the Masonic lodge and the Sicilian mafia. Not surprisingly, Sorentino's film had a hard time finding financing and sponsors in Italy but made a deep impression at Cannes, where it won the Prix du Jury. "Il Divo" is also currently playing in Belgium. Official site.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Adjani film debuts on TV

Purely by accident, I caught most of the new Isabelle Adjani film "La journée de la jupe" written and directed by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld on Arte recently. I was impressed by the young cast and wondered why I hadn't heard about it before. The reason is that the film actually premièred on television, and is only now being released in France and Belgium. Isn't this backwards logic? Aren't we told that movies should be in the theatres first and then on TV and lastly on DVD? It's all the more interesting as the film brought Arte its biggest audience rating to date, nearly 2.5 million spectators or almost 9.6% of French TV audiences.

It will be interesting to see if this creates a buzz for the release. It certainly worked for Arte. The film has caused such debate that Arte decided to postpone the re-broadcasts. A message on Isabelle Adjani's blog invites people to catch the movie in theatres. Arte is a co-producer with Mascaret Films, Fontana and the RTBF. Visit the official site (in French).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

12th international scriptwriters festival in France

The French town of Bourges will host the 12th International Scriptwriters festival, between March 25 and 29. The event is popular, featuring round tables, a writing competition, workshops (with a focus on writing for TV), audience-friendly events that include the analysis of popular films and events around animation and documentaries. All events are in French.

Find more details here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

RIP: Tullio Pinelli, writer of "La Dolce Vita"

Tullio Pinelli, writer of the screenplay of "La Dolce Vita" and "8 1/2", died in Rome on March 7. Pinelli, who was 100 years old, wrote more than a dozen of Fellini's films as well as working with other "maestros". Although nominated four times, he never won an Oscar, but did pick up numerous other awards, the most recent being the David Di Donatelo screenplay award for "Speriamo che sia femmina/Let's Hope It's a Girl" in 1986. A script of his, "Voyage to Tulum", is currently in production.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Czech award goes to "The Karamazovs"

In further award news, the Czech TV and film announced the winners of the 2008 Czech Lions at a gala ceremony March 7 at Prague's Lucerna Palace. Petr Zelenka's The Karamazovs [trailer] was the big winner, taking home Best Film and Best Director, as well as being named Best Feature by Czech film critics. Zelenka wrote the script, based on the book "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostojevsky. It was Czech Republic's Oscar contender this year.

The Best Screenplay went to Bohdan Slama for his Venice title A Country Teacher.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Millenium explodes onto Nordic screens

The first instalment of the best-selling "Millenium" trilogy opened to explosive figures in Sweden and Denmark. Some 350,000 people queued for the 140-minute film of Stieg Larsson's sweeping tale of dark secrets in a darker family, putting it at the top of both box offices over the weekend.

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev and written by Nicolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg it will soon be released in Norway (March 13), Finland (March 27) and France, where UGC is planning to release it May 13, the opening day of the Cannes Film Festival. Rumours in the press have it that Millenium will open the festival.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"Seraphine" picks up 7 awards in France

The biopic "Séraphine" walked away with no less than 7 Césars at France's annual film awards. It had been nominated in nine categories and took prizes including best actress for Yolande Moreau, best original screenplay, best cinematography, best score, best art direction and best costumes. It pushed out the impressive "Mesrine" series, with Vincent Cassel nonetheless picking up a best actor award.

Inevitably, the blogosphere was again full of claims that the Césars snub the French audience (as in previous years). A notable absence was the runaway hit "Les Ch'tis" (Welcome ot the Sticks) that only managed a nomination in the original screenplay award. Although it unikely that it deserved to win in that section, it is unusual that such a huge hit should be passed over on the night. As actor Dany Boon pointed out, there should be a section for Best Comedy - a genre that France can still excel in but is perhaps a little too low-brow for the august academy.

The full list of César winners:

Best Picture
Seraphine, dir : Martin Provost

Best Actor
Vincent Cassel, Mesrine

Best Actress
Yolande Moreau, Seraphine

Best Director
Jean-Francois Richet, Mesrine

Best Original Screenplay Martin Provost, Seraphine

Best Adapted Screenplay Laurent Cantet, Francois Begaudeau and Robin Campillo, The Class

Best First Film
I've Loved You So Long, dir: Philippe Claudel

Best Supporting Actress
Elsa Zilberstein, I've Loved You So Long

Best Supporting Actor
Jean-Paul Roussillon, A Christmas Tale

Best Newcomer, Male
Marc-Andre Grondin, Le Premier Jour Du Reste De Ta Vie

Best Newcomer, Female
Deborah Francois, Le Premier Jour Du Reste De Ta Vie

Best Score
Michael Galasso, Seraphine

Best Cinematography
Laurent Brunet, Seraphine

Best Costumes
Madeline Fontaine, Seraphine

Best Art Direction
Thierry Francois, Seraphine

Best Editing
Sophie Reine, Le Premier Jour Du Reste De Ta Vie

Best Sound
Alexandre Widmer, Francois Groult, Gerard Hardy, Herve Buirette, Jean Minodo, Mesrine

Best Foreign Film
Waltz With Bashir, dir: Ari Folman

Best Documentary
Les Plages d’Agnes, dir: Agnes Varda

Best Short Film
Les Miettes, dir : Pierre Pinaud

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Secret of Kells scores a home victory

The Irish-themed animation "The Secret of Kells" brought it all back home recently, when it won the Best Irish Film award at the 2009 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. It won against strong challenges from fellow nominees Five Minutes of Heaven, The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy and The Daisy Chain.

Writers on Kells are Tomm Moore for the story and Fabrice Ziolkowski for the screenplay. Ziolkwski is a prolific writer for TV in France, reflecting the fact that Kells was a co-production between France, Ireland and Belgium, with a lot of talent from each country involved. It is currently on release in France and Belgium.

Full list of nominations and winners:

Tom Hardy - Bronson (Winner)
Toni Servillo - Il Divo
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino
Meryl Streep - Doubt

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Winner)
Chris & Don: A Love Story
American Teen
Encounters at the End of the World

The Secret of Kells (Winner)
Five Minutes of Heaven
The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy
The Daisy Chain

Paolo Sorrentino - Il Divo (Winner)
Laurent Cantet - The Class
Werner Herzog - Encounters at the End of the World
Tomas Alfredson - Let The Right One In

Let the Right One In (Winner)
Il Divo
In the Loop
The Class

Monday, February 09, 2009

"Slumdog" and "In Bruges" pick up Bafta awards

With a remarkable seven out of eleven nominations, last night was definitely "Slumdog Millionaire"s night at the annual BAFTA award ceremony in London. The film won Best Film and six other awards: director for Danny Boyle, adapted screenplay, music, cinematography, editing and sound.

According to a report in Screen Daily, Boyle said it felt 'amazing' to win, adding that he wished to keep his links with India and was in talks about shooting a thriller in the country. Writer Simon Beaufoy said he believed the film had captured the imagination of the world. "It has come out at a time when we need a film about hope," he said.

The Best Original Screenplay went to Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges", another personal favourite. For the full list of awards and interviews with Boyle, Beaufoy and others, visit the Bafta site.

UPDATE: Martin McDonagh picked up the Best Script award for "In Bruges" at the Irish Film & Television Awards. The film itself won the best International award. "Hunger" picked up the Best Film award.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: the writer's review

If you haven't seen "Slumdog Millionaire" yet, I can but join the people recommending that you do so. It is very much the film of the season, matching only "Gomorra" in terms of intensity and scope.

The film is based on Vikas Swarup's book "Q&A", adapted by Simon Beaufoy (the writer of "The Full Monty"). As The Script Factory points out, the movie is an absolute masterclass in the use of the flashback. Trevor Johnston has posted a review of the movie on their site. But do yourself a favour, only read the review after seeing the movie.

Meanwhile, the shooting script has been published with notes from Danny Boyle and an intro from Beaufoy. The book is interesting as there are some minor differences between the script and the final edit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Germany boasts two nominations for foreign Oscars

The complexity of international co-productions means that Germany has two different nominations in the best foreign film slot at the Oscars. I'm only half surprised that the same company is behind both.

Constantin Film are a remarkable company that made such an impact with the incredible "Der Untergang/Downfall" last year. This year, they will be saving money on the flight to Hollywood with nominations for "The Baader-Meinhoff Complex" (already 2 million spectators in Germany) and "Waltz With Bashir", an Israeli's account of the Lebanese war.