Back in the office at the New Look Broadway this week – all Paul Smith Cinemas and Media Lounges, apart from my bit of the building which is still like a down at heel detective’s office – and I’m feeling a kind of hangover from last week. I feel like I spent so much brain time thinking and talking about Mum and Dad that trying to do anything else this week has felt like trying to operate heavy machinery after glugging down a bottle of night nurse.
I’ve got to get on with “Deliver Me” though - which has definitely suffered from a lack of momentum over the eight months since we got told that we got it. This week I’ve been trying to think about casting. I find this bit really hard – when you come to look for actors it seems like there’s an almost infinite amount of them out there but only a minuscule proportion of them are people who you’ve actually seen at work or heard about. Which makes it tricky – when you look at Spotlight, the actor’s directory, you’re only going off a posey black and white photo and the CV - so you end up judging whether people look right. I know some people have a definite look for characters in their heads, but I find that that rarely happens for me – I’m quite open to suggestion. It’s only when you start looking – and yesterday I must have looked at over 500 actresses – that you realize that you do actually have some pre conceptions. Then you start getting dismissive, “too old”, “too young”, “too sophisticated”, “too harsh”, “too freakishly bug-eyed” – all instant judgements made off one photo, probably taken two or three years ago.
I did find a great thing on Spotlight, though – an actress whose CV featured at the top the role of “thirty something woman unhappy with herself”, which is practically a short film title in itself. She has also played “31-year-old mum listening to radio”, “crisp sales rep” and “girl in a bar”. Christ, it must be hard being an actor.
I’ve always thought that I’m not really an actor’s director – I don’t come from any kind of acting or theatrical background (and I have, in the past, been known to refer to actors as “flesh puppets”) – but it’s something I definitely want to work on. Part of me just finds the whole concept quite weird – “what, you mean you’re going to try and embody this thing that came out of my head. How does that work?” Maybe it’s the thing about trying to explain psychologies of characters you made up, even when you might not fully understand them yourself. Anyway, I find it hard.
I’ve also started on another pass at the script after another script meeting with Paul Welsh. I still feel like we’re communicating through some kind of fog or mush, where at any time one or other of us has the default facial expression of “Eh?” (Or occasionally, “Huh?”). This time we talked about exposition and tension in the script. I think exposition is always really tricky, but especially in a short script. It’s always considered a no-no, but then maybe that’s why you get so many shorts that are all subtext - full of ambiguous looks and drawn out silences. Sometimes I think maybe some really obvious exposition is the way to go – certainly in a lot of genre films they don’t give a fuck.
I was watching something the other night, Nigel Kneale’s 70s TV series for ITV called 'Beasts' – all animal-related horror stories. The first one, 'Baby' – about a couple who move into a cottage in the country and make A Horrifying Discovery in the walls, had a blatant piece of exposition. The pregnant wife, played by Jane Wymark, is on the phone to her dad – who never appears or is mentioned again – and tells him the whole back story – why they’ve moved, the fact that she’s pregnant, what her husband does. It’s a minute long and its pure exposition – but least you know where you are.
The film as a whole is really good, very creepy with some great writing – even if it has got that 70s TV creakiness and staginess. It also features a great example of HusbandDickery (named, by me, in honour of this site. ). Simon MacCorkindale plays the husband, who acts like an absolute arse every time he’s on-screen – his first entrance after his wife has just seen her cat run away from the Obviously Cursed house and is visibly upset and emotional (and pregnant) is to berate her for bothering him when he’s had ‘a rather good day’, than bellow at her to stop fussing “I can’t stand fussing!’. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg – when she begs him to get rid of the mummified unborn mutant animal corpse that they found in the house (which seems to have caused the farm to be totally barren and infertile) he tells her he’s taking it away when in fact he’s hidden it in their unborn child’s nursery. Nice one, MacCorkindale, first class HusbandDickery. If anyone knows of any more examples, please let me know.
ALLEY CAT (1984) - First thing's first! This review originally appeared on my Letterboxd, which I recently birthed (after ~14 months of labor). I don't know how often I'll us...
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