Foreigner

“This film is about settling your demons,.. It’s about justice. It’s about paying a price for what you do..”

Based on acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel, “The Chinaman,” The Foreigner gets a present-day update by screenwriter David Marconi (Enemy of the State, Live Free or Die Hard), and is directed by a master of the smart action genre, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale and Goldeneye.)

In this gripping and relevant action thriller, justice, retribution and redemption are at the heart of a provocative story of two men whose hidden pasts explode in the present.

The film tells the story of humble London restaurant owner Quan (Jackie Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love — his teenage daughter — is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism.
As he searches for the people responsible, he seeks the assistance of Irish Deputy Minister, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), an ill-fitting government official whose own troubled history comes to bear down on him.
As Quan enters into a game of political cat-and-mouse with Hennessy, both men must confront their pasts as they try to identify the elusive killers.

“This film is about settling your demons,” says producer Scott Lumpkin. “It’s about justice. It’s about paying a price for what you do. Quan is wrestling with tragedies in his past. He’s wrestling with his history and he’s had enough. He’s ready. It’s time to pay back those that have done wrong for everyone. And that’s really what this film is about.”

The film marks a blazing return to the screen by Jackie Chan (the Rush Hour trilogy, Skiptrace) and Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, The November Man), two actors in roles that take full advantage of and build upon their legendary star status.

The story of The Foreigner – its themes and its specific story – is a sometimes disquieting reflection of the fragile world we inhabit. The characters are intriguing examples of the complexities of living in a global society where belief can become action without emphatic consideration of consequence.

From Page To Screen: The Foreigner’s Journey

Stephen Leather

Stephen Leather

While acclaimed crime writer Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel, “The Chinaman” was set in the early 90s during “The Troubles” — the period when the IRA were bombing the UK and Northern Ireland — the film’s producers felt that the main themes could be equally powerful in a current setting.

Producer Wayne Marc Godfrey recruited Marconi to adapt Leather’s novel, given Marconi’s track record of success in action thrillers. Producer Arthur Sarkissian subsequently gave the script to Martin Campbell as a potential directing assignment.

Together they worked with Marconi revising the script.

STXfilms, a division of Robert Simonds’ STX Entertainment, later optioned the script from Godfrey and Sarkissian, with Chan attached to play Quan. STXfilms’ then head of production Cathy Schulman oversaw a new draft of the screenplay, focusing on designing it as a “two hander”.

Both Quan and Deputy Minister Hennessy were battling similar demons based on their shadowy backgrounds. Schulman suggested that Hennessy’s role be fine-tuned to attract Schulman and Campbell’s mutual friend and collaborator Pierce Brosnan.

“While we were working on it, we knew that Jackie Chan would be playing Quan and we had Pierce Brosnan in our sights too,” says screenwriter David Marconi. “So, when I was doing the script, it was with these actors in mind. “

David MarconiRecently, two other films Marconi wrote have been made into films; The Foreigner, directed by Martin Campbell, based on the book The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, and Darkside of the Moon, based on the novel by Martin Suter, which Marconi originally penned and developed for Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall).

A native of Highland Park, Ill., Marconi was passionate about film making from an early age. After winning several high-school filmmaking competitions, Marconi was awarded an Alumni Merit Scholarship to attend the University of Southern California’s Film School. Upon graduation, his first job was as Francis Ford Coppola’s assistant on The Outsiders. Following that, Coppola promoted Marconi to Production Supervisor 2nd Unit on Rumble Fish.

After a year-long series of production jobs ranging from Art Department to Prop Master, Marconi landed his first feature writing assignment off an original pitch entitled; Mud Sweat and Gears. (Warner Bros.) Bob Schaffel producing, Thomas Carter to direct. Marconi followed that by writing two more back-to-back action pictures for Warner Bros; The Blonde Hurricane, a romantic comedy set in Paris during the 30’s, and One Hot Afternoon, an present day version of a classic Western. Though the writing assignments were lucrative, the directing was tugging at him. In 1993, Marconi wrote and directed his first feature, The Harvest.

The success of The Harvest brought Marconi to the attention of several directors and producers, one of whom was Michael Mann who commissioned Marconi to write Red Badge,  Simpson Bruckheimer commissioned Marconi to write his original screenplay Enemy of the State, and Oliver Stone hired Marconi to pen the first draft of MI2.

As a writer, Marconi has also co-authored with Flint Dille three serialized novels: Agent 13, The Midnight Avenger, Agent 13 and the Serpentine Assassins and Agent 13 and the Acolytes of Darkness, all from Random House Publishing.The books are currently under option and being developed at Universal Pictures with Charlize Theron to produce and star.

It was a lengthy process, which included contributions from director Martin Campbell, once he came on board the film. “We worked on the script together for about four or five months,” recalls Marconi. “We had a great working rapport which is essential, and Martin’s ideas were spot on. Martin elevated the script to another level, his notes and suggestions were very clear. He was as concerned about character as am I.”

“This is a story of revenge where the main character is a man who’s had a tragic past. Two of his daughters were killed in terrible circumstances several years ago, and his wife dies soon after they have established a new life of safety in the UK, and now 15 years later, his only daughter is killed, so he has nothing left to live for,” explains Marconi. “His journey of revenge ultimately becomes one of redemption. It took me about 2 1/2 years of writing and rewriting. I had to break the book down. Stephen wrote a very good book that I was able to do an adaptation from.”

One of the biggest challenges was updating it from the 90s to present day.

“It was very important to take the issues of today and put them into this novel that was set in the past. We had to reinvent and update certain things so the technologies and the threats were more contemporary,” says Marconi. “I didn’t want to make the IRA the bad guys, because they’ve made peace. But there are upstarts in the organization who haven’t signed up to peace that are out there still trying to do things. I had to find the different shades of the villains and try and present all sides so the bad guys weren’t all one color and the good guys weren’t all one color. It’s about various shades of greys because the world that we live in is a very grey world. You have to get inside the heads of all the characters, including the villains, so you can understand why people do what they do.”

The Author Stamps The Foreigner’s Passport for Journey to The Silver Screen

“I wanted to do a story about a man who was underestimated by people,” says novelist Stephen Leather. “A man who nobody took seriously, who isn’t considered a threat.” All too often, screen adaptations of novels bear little resemblance to the source material, leaving authors disgruntled. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. Although the film has shifted the story to the present day from its early 90s setting, the original themes and foundation remain. “It’s my book and it’s the filmmakers’ movie,” says Leather. “David is a brilliant writer and he’s done such a great job of writing the script. He’s changed a lot of elements. We had to update the technology. And it’s very true to the story and to the characters I wrote. So, I’m very pleased that David’s given it an extra edge. Martin’s action scenes improve it. And he’s put more intensity in it. I think it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And to be on set surrounded by 100 people filming a story that I wrote in my little room 25 years ago is thrilling.”

Martin Campbell

Martin Campbell

Chan embraced the opportunity to break out of his typical action-hero persona and tackle a serious dramatic role.

foreigner

“He immersed himself into the character of Quan. It’s a character we haven’t seen him play before. We all expect Jackie to come in and start ‘kung fu-ing’ everybody, but Jackie’s approached the character from a cerebral perspective,” explains Lumpkin. “The character is all about thinking through his actions, he meticulously plans how he’s going to approach his antagonists, he plans how he’s going to get revenge for his daughter, he meticulously looks for justice. And you can see that in his mind as the character develops.”

“He is obviously completely and emotionally wrecked by the death of his daughter. And he very quietly goes to the police to ask who did this. He is a quiet man with a simple life; he makes a living from his Chinese restaurant. He is dignified,” says Campbell, discussing Quan’s journey for justice, “He even, at one point, in his naivety offers the police chief all his life savings in order to at least get a clue- a name- about who could have done this atrocity.”

“Quan has a history. He was a Nùng fighter in Vietnam, so he worked with the US soldiers, in training, in guerrilla warfare, so he’s got a real history of how to be a bad-ass,” adds Lumpkin. “He knows how to defend himself; he knows how to protect himself; and he knows how to find the answers. And that’s really his mission: to find answers and to seek justice.”

After being dismissed by Hennessy when he asks him who killed his daughter, Quan realizes he must draw on the skills and training from his secret past to convince Hennessy to take him seriously. “Quan does little things – he puts small bombs in his office and in his car which are not meant to hurt or maim – but Hennessy knows if Quan wants to, he can kill his whole family,” says Chan. “Quan just wants Hennessy to give him the name of the bombers. He’s stubborn and he wants revenge.” As Quan’s frustration increases, so do the demonstrations of his capabilities. As Campbell puts it, “Quan has nothing to lose. And he doesn’t think for a minute he is going to live through this,” states Campbell. “And he doesn’t care. It’s just morally what he has to do.”

Brosnan

Playing Liam Hennessy, the former IRA-commander-turned–British-government-official is Pierce Brosnan. For Lumpkin, Brosnan is a man who “oozes class. He was James Bond, he was Remington Steele, and he’s everything that we have always wanted to be when we watch a movie. Pierce brings a sense of balance, coolness and class to the character of Hennessy. You look at Hennessy at first and you think ‘what a classy cool guy.’ But he’s got a dark past. And there’s really no one else who could play that role like Pierce.” Says Brosnan of his character, “He’s someone who was born of war, really, he grew up in The Troubles in Ireland. He’s very bright, very articulate, and someone who is trying to hold onto his own position in government and within his own people in the north of Ireland.”

Reuniting Martin Campbell with his former Bond was an easy sell. “Well first of all, Pierce is Irish, which helps. I think this one of the best things he’s ever done,” says Campbell. “He threw himself into that role. I remember him saying to me [he] was a little worried about the IRA, being Irish and doing a story like this. However, he went into it with his eyes open. And for once, I got some rehearsal time with him before we started, so that helped. I think the character he finally came up with is absolutely fascinating.”

“Hennessy is as we would expect a politician to be, withholding answers and information,” says Lumpkin. “He sees Quan as simply a foreigner and doesn’t pay him any attention — until Quan shows what he’s capable of. Hennessy realizes this is serious, but he has a lot of other things going on. He’s got to build up his power base, which is beginning to dwindle. He’s got to handle [former IRA colleague] McGrath and his rogue forces. Pierce does a fantastic job of playing Hennessy. He’s got a really solid sense of style in what he brings to the role. Hennessy is completely believable – he’s got a great charm at the beginning, but slowly he reveals how much of a bad-ass he is.”

Amidst all this action and intrigue, when asked what the audience hopes to feel when they leave the theatre, Martin Campbell sums up, “I just want them to enjoy it. I want them to be thoroughly entertained and emotionally moved as well. For me, that’s really the criteria.”

MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS 2

This will introduce a whole generation of people to the real Dickens.

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge,  Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol, showing how Charles Dickens mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

Based on Les Standiford’s 2008 book, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, the movie brings the imagination of one of the world’s best-loved authors to vivid reality as
he creates the masterpiece that has shaped modern-day Christmas celebrations for more than 150 years, directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) from a screenplay by Susan Coyne (Mozart in the Jungle, Slings and Arrows).

After a string of successful novels, world-renowned writer Dickens (Dan Stevens) has had three flops in a row.

With the needs of his burgeoning family and his own extravagance rapidly emptying his pockets, Dickens grows desperate for another bestseller. Tormented by writer’s block and at odds with his publishers, he grasps at an idea for a surefire hit, a Christmas story he hopes will capture the imagination of his fans and solve his financial problems.

But with only six weeks to write and publish the book before the holiday, and without the support of his publishers – who question why anyone would ever read a book about Christmas – he will have to work feverishly to meet his deadline.

Dickens locks himself away to write, but his chaotic household, which now includes his profligate father (Jonathan Pryce), is a constant distraction. Working late into the night, the writer channels his own memories to conjure up the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, and place them on a collision course with the misanthropic miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer).

DICKENS

Charles Dickens’ slender volume, A Christmas Carol, has fascinated and delighted readers, artists, playwrights and filmmakers for almost two centuries with its themes of family, benevolence, goodwill and festivity. In fact, it set a new standard for the holiday, inspiring the spirit of the traditional Victorian Christmas and beginning a host of customs that are still popular today. But while most readers are familiar with the beloved tale, few know the story behind it.

Les Standiford, author of the book that inspired the film and a prolific fiction and nonfiction writer in his own right, learned A Christmas Carol was almost never published. “I had no idea that he had to pay for the publication himself,” he says. “Even though no publisher was interested in it, the book was responsible for changing the trajectory of Dickens’ career. I set about to find a book that explained it all, but to my great surprise, there was no such book.”

So Standiford decided to write one himself. A fascinating peek into the creative process of one of the world’s greatest storytellers, it was quickly optioned by producer Robert Mickelson and executive producers Paula Mazur and Mitchell Kaplan. All Dickens buffs, like many involved in the making of The Man Who Invented Christmas , they discovered Standiford’s meticulously researched account of this period in the author’s life about eight years ago. “Paula and Mitch gave me the book,” recalls Mickelson. “It was a story we weren’t aware of at the time and exploring Dickens’ creative process as well as his life fascinated me.”

Les StandifordStandiford is an accomplished author whose work includes New York Times bestsellers Last Train to Paradise, Meet You in Hell, Bringing Adam Home and The Man Who Invented Christmas.  The author’s upcoming book, Palm Beach, will be published by Grove Atlantic next fall. Standiford is a graduate of the University of Utah, where he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in literature and creative writing. He also attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and Columbia School of Law. Additionally, he is a former screenwriting fellow and graduate of the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Kaplan says, “as a bookseller for 35 years and a good friend of Les’, I knew that his delightful retelling of how Dickens brought his classic to print resonated deeply with readers, and if we put the right pieces together we would create something very special for moviegoers, as well.”

For Mazur, the book offered a new perspective on A Christmas Carol. “In 1843, at age 31, Dickens was a literary rock star, which makes the story feel very contemporary,” she says. “He was wildly successful and was plagued by all the issues that are attendant to that.” Published in 1843, A Christmas Carol was a last-ditch effort by Dickens to raise money to support the affluent lifestyle he and his family had grown used to. But the lavishly illustrated volume turned out to be more than just an instant moneymaker. It also renewed interest in, and enthusiasm for, a holiday that had fallen into disfavor.

There have been other Dickens biopics over the years, but The Man Who Invented Christmas focuses on the intense six weeks during which he wrote and self-published A Christmas Carol. The filmmakers envisioned a screenplay that presented Dickens as a modern man: flawed, fierce and funny all at the same time. Writer Susan Coyne, co-creator of “Slings and Arrows,” a Canadian TV series about a modern-day Shakespeare theater festival, had made an impression on Mickelson with the offbeat sensibility she infused into the show. “Her writing has a charm and character to it, as well as a great deal of humor,” says Mickelson. “I am a big fan.”

susanCoyne is renowned as the co-creator and co-writer of the internationally acclaimed miniseries Slings and Arrows, for which she won three Gemini Awards and three Writers Guild of Canada awards.  Coyne is currently working as a supervising producer on the fourth season of Amazon Studios’ Golden Globe-winning series Mozart in the Jungle. Coyne has three series in development in Canada that she will write and executive produce. She also wrote two of the three Anne of Green Gables telefilms produced by Breakthrough and YTV. For the stage, Coyne has adapted plays by Chekhov (Three Sisters and “Platonov”) and Turgenev (A Month in the Country).

Coyne delivered a playful narrative in which Dickens interacts with his fictional characters as he gives birth to the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. In Coyne’s screenplay, Dickens has long conversations with his creations as their stories unfold in front of him. “The characters become real to him,” she says. “We know that Dickens did carry on conversations with his characters, so that is based on the true story and we’ve invented his interior thoughts. He often talked about the characters in his plays and books being more real to him in some ways than the people in his own life.”

Coyne identified with the anxiety creative people often feel when they are under the gun. “Dickens was down and out at this point,” she says. “He’d had all these big successes like The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist. And then he had a few flops. The more I read about him, the more fascinating he became. He was such a mixture of ambition, humanity, pettiness and largeness of spirit — a complex and remarkable person.”

Struck with writer’s block, Dickens develops an adversarial relationship with his characters, especially Scrooge. “Scrooge becomes his nemesis,” says Mickelson “And Dickens becomes a character in the story that he’s trying to write. It’s like he’s entered his own Dickensian novel. There are many layers woven into this tale.”

The script instantly attracted the attention of producer Ian Sharples of The Mob Film Company. “It’s always about a gut reaction to material for me,” he says. “ The Man Who Invented Christmas has an element of modernity about it. Even though we’re dealing with a real person from more than a century ago, Dickens seems familiar, and for me as a filmmaker, his journey is very familiar. The struggle of getting a piece of literature into the book shops in his day was just as hard as getting a feature film made today.”

Director Bharat Nalluri, best known for the charming period comedy Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, was selected to helm the film. “Bharat has a lightness of touch,” says Mickelson. “He gets great performances from his casts. We thought he would bring a perfect balance and capture both the humor and the energy of Dickens.”

Nalluri is a British director of Indian descent. He made his name in the U.K., directing the pilots for three iconic BBC dramas: MI-5”, “Hustle (which he also co-conceived) and Life on Mars. Nalluri followed this with Tsunami: The Aftermath, a HBO miniseries that dealt with the harrowing events of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Next, Nalluri directed Frances McDormand and Amy Adams in the feature film Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It was followed by Nalluri directing and executive producing the pilot for the Emmy-nominated sci-fi drama The 100. He then returned to helm MI-5. Nalluri is currently in development on a number of feature and television projects in the U.K., U.S. and New Zealand.

Bharat Nalluri

Nalluri was impressed with the many layers of meaning with which Coyne infused the screenplay. “It’s a rare treat to get a script that’s so fully formed,” he says. “It’s a fun, enjoyable piece with great characters and visual flare. Underneath it all, it has a little something to say about the world we live in. In a way, it takes after Dickens, who created these larger-than-life, often very comedic characters and used them to tell stories that delivered a profound impact on society and were fun to read.”

With only a short time to shoot and a complex story to tell, Nalluri proved an able leader. “He is just fantastic,” says Mazur. “We had a lot of visual strands that had to be pulled together. He is one of those rare directors who is equally in command of the visuals and the story. Bharat was able to wrap his head around all of that and track it through a pretty complicated, fast shooting schedule. He also worked extremely well with the actors.”

Standiford, who spent time on the film’s Dublin set, was thrilled to see the story come to life on screen. “These filmmakers have brought the essence of the book out in the film and that’s particularly gratifying,” he says. “I think people who see this production are going to be entranced by it.”

“It is such a charming script,” says Dan Stevens, known to millions of Downton Abbey fans as the ill-fated heir Matthew Crawley. Instead of the gravitas associated with the older Dickens, Stevens invests the role with youthful energy, charisma and curiosity.

“This isn’t a reverential biopic. It’s the story of a gifted artist’s creative drive and the pressure he puts on himself to produce. At the time, Dickens had four kids and one on the way. I also had one on the way when I was reading this, so that resonated with me. And it explores the complicated relationship with his father and the story of how one of the greatest books of all time was written. A Christmas Carol really permeates the culture in a way that no other Christmas story does — except perhaps the Nativity itself.”

To prepare for the role, Stevens turned to several well-respected studies of the author, including Becoming Dickens, written by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. “It is really about the period just before our film. It’s less the venerable Dickens we all know and revere, and more a witty, ambitious, up-and-coming writer. I also read Michael Patrick Hearn’s annotated edition of A Christmas Carol. Some of the details that made their way into the film, like the way he stood in front of a mirror making faces and doing odd voices, come from letters written by his friends and family.”

MAN

Playing opposite Stevens as his creation and seeming nemesis, Ebenezer Scrooge, is Christopher Plummer. A character whose name has become synonymous with bitterness and greed, Scrooge has rarely been played with so much charm.

Plummer has been involved with the project since almost the beginning. “Susan Coyne created an extraordinary and magical story for a film,” he says. “When I was asked if I would be in it, I said damn right I will. I’ve been a lucky guy. I’ve played so many of the great parts, but never Scrooge. It seems like an obvious follow up to King Lear.”

As John Dickens, Jonathan Pryce exudes breezy confidence and bonhomie, making it difficult to dislike the man or to judge his actions. “

Pryce did some preliminary research into the life of the elder Dickens, but his experience playing real-life characters has taught him always to rely on the script as his primary source. “What you always want to do is fulfill the screenplay,” he explains.

“The character has to stand up in his own right and not rely on the fact that people will know about the background. If the screenplay is good, then the writer has done all the research that is necessary.”

The filmmakers initially met with Simon Callow, an acknowledged Dickens expert, while they were researching the script. They later asked him to play John Leech, the brilliant illustrator who created unforgettable evocations of Scrooge and the ghosts that haunt him. Callow was introduced to Dickens when he was 13 and in bed with chickenpox.

“Chickenpox is a vile affliction that makes you want to scratch yourself all day long,” he remembers. “My admirable grandmother put a copy of The Pickwick Papers in my hands to distract me. I was utterly entranced. I steadily read through all the books. Dickens’ genius was in creating characters that made an immediate impression and became instant archetypes.”

Callow was impressed by the way the script uses the creation of A Christmas Carol to illuminate Dickens, both as a writer and as a man. “It is cinematically and narratively inventive in the same way that A Christmas Carol is narratively inventive. It weaves in and out of realism and fantasy.”

He hopes seeing Dickens as a young man will transform his reputation as a somewhat stuffy Victorian writer. “We all have this image of Dickens with his beard and his visionary eyes,” says Callow. “But he was once a terribly handsome and dashing young man, brilliantly funny and fantastically good company. This will introduce a whole generation of people to the real Dickens.”

They will also be entertained and amused, says Susan Mullen, the film’s Irish producing partner. “It’s funny, it’s heartfelt. I think what Dickens wanted was for us take it upon ourselves to be more generous. That we should lend a hand, that we must care for others — it’s a beautiful message. And it really did change the way everybody viewed Christmas.”

Wonder

You can’t be ordinary when you were born to stand out.

The story of a 10 year-old boy with facial differences becomes a multifaceted look at what it means to be human in the film adaptation of R.J. Palacio’s bestseller Wonder,directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who, along with Steven Conrad (Unfinished Business) and Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), adapted Palacio’s bestseller.

It tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Jacob Tremblay (Room) tackles the one-of-a-kind role of Auggie Pullman, whose birth defects and multiple surgeries have kept him out of school — until now. Jettisoned into what is for him the brave new world of the 5th grade, Auggie steps into an unexpected journey.
All Auggie ever wanted was to be an ordinary kid, but as his sister keeps telling him, you can’t be ordinary when you were born to stand out.

Though he once found solace inside a space helmet, suddenly he must face a whole universe of gawking kids who don’t yet know how to face him back. Now, in a year by turns funny, tough and beautiful — Auggie and all around him are transformed by the things that count most: friendship, courage and the everyday choice to be kind to everyone in your path.

The Wonder of Wonder

Wonder_RJ_PalacioFew books have the power to make people act, but that was the unusual case with R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder. Published in 2013, the book took considerable risks. Were readers really prepared to follow a boy who, due to a genetic condition, was born with a pronounced “craniofacial difference” that could stop strangers? It turns out that readers were more than intrigued by Auggie Pullman.

Palacio’s humorous yet pull-no-punches take on Auggie’s life – and her inclusion of the many viewpoints of those in his orbit – honed in on something on the minds of many people: that in today’s world we can get so caught up in surfaces, we no longer see what people are going through beneath.

While many novels explore dark worlds of dystopia, Wonder took a 180, demonstrating that a riveting story can revolve around something as seemingly basic as figuring out how to be good to other people. “I’ve always thought of Wonder as a meditation on kindness,” summarizes Palacio.

Spread from hand to hand, family to family, the book sold more than 5 million copies, but its impact went deeper as it also sparked a grassroots “Choose Kind” movement and inspired readers to share their own stories. The book soon lured Hollywood attention as well. Film producers Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman of Mandeville Films both read the manuscript on the same night and did not wait to jump. “We called each other and we were each in tears, I’m not ashamed to admit,” recalls Lieberman. “We’d both fallen in love with this beautiful tale of compassion and friendship.”

Adds Hoberman: “The story spoke to so many things we believe in. We loved how the story is told through multiple points of view; and how it encompasses an entire American neighborhood so everyone can identify with someone in the story. Most of all, we loved that it touches on the idea that we’ve all felt like outsiders at some point — and shows what can happen when you reach out to others.”

Lieberman and Hoberman were especially excited to explore a type of character still rarely seen on screen: one who completely defies the notion that physical differences can even begin to define us. When they got on the phone with Palacio, the simpatico was evident. Palacio told the producers that she had always felt if a movie of her book were to be made she would impose just one condition: that it absolutely must preserve the book’s upfront style and not try to soften Auggie’s reality.

Palacio

R.J. PALACIO (Author) lives in New York City with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. For more than twenty years, she was an art director and graphic designer, designing book jackets for other people while waiting for the perfect time in her life to start writing her own novel. But one day several years ago, a chance encounter with an extraordinary child in front of an ice cream store made R. J. realize that the perfect time to write that novel had finally come. Wonder is her first novel. She did not design the cover, but she sure does love it. Her other books include 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts and Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories. Learn more about her at rjpalacio.com or on Twitter @RJPalacio.

“When I wrote the book, I wasn’t striving for something that would become a worldwide phenomenon. I wrote the book without any expectations — I didn’t even know if it would be published,” Palacio admits. “I just wanted to write a little book with a simple message of kindness, so that’s how I thought the movie should also be approached. I was convinced Todd and David had that same vision.”

She goes on: “Other filmmakers had talked about not even showing Auggie, which I felt was disrespectful to kids with craniofacial differences. I didn’t want a movie that would minimize the severity of Auggie’s facial differences, because that’s such an important aspect of who he is. It was very important for me — as it was for Todd, David and Stephen Chbosky — to make sure that the audience sees Auggie front and center from the very beginning.”

Facing It

What Auggie candidly calls “that looking-away thing” in Wonder – that humiliating moment when people avert their eyes from him — actually inspired the creation of his character.

R.J. Palacio openly admits that she was the one who, in 2008, found herself running from, rather than engaging with, a child who looked different in an ice cream parlor incident. A graphic designer by day and hopeful writer by night, she was out with her kids when she did something she deeply regretted.

She takes up the story: “We found ourselves sitting next to a child who had a severe craniofacial difference, who looked very much the way I describe Auggie in the book.”

But it didn’t end there. Feeling shame, Palacio wanted to face up to her response, to turn the tables on it, by looking at it from the most important POV: the child who unwittingly sparked it. “I started thinking about what it must be like to live everyday facing a world that doesn’t know how to face you back. I began writing the book that night.”

That’s when Auggie Pullman sprang into being, along with an entire cast of characters who took Palacio by surprise. “All the characters that started coming to life on the page felt so real to me that they motivated me to keep at it,” she remembers. “I feared that if I didn’t finish the story no one else in the world would ever have the chance to meet them, and I really wanted the world to meet these characters.”

Palacio very specifically decided to make Auggie a middle-schooler, but one about to attend school for the first time ever, an event he gears up for like a spaceman entering an alien world. “That 10-to-12 age frame is so wrenching under any circumstance because it’s so raw,” Palacio observes. “It’s when kids are figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Everything’s evolving – bodies, friendships, interests, relationships with parents. It was a great time to have Auggie first encounter the world.”

At first, Palacio did not know a lot about craniofacial differences, so she dove into as much medical and first-hand family knowledge she could find. She determined that Auggie was likely born with Treacher-Collins Syndrome, which, though caused by a mutation in just a single gene, can result in a radically altered formation of the bones of the face. Some people have such a mild form they don’t even know they have it. Others have bones that grow into a skull shape that can interfere with breathing, hearing and seeing, often requiring multiple reconstructive surgeries before age 5.

Despite all the medical issues associated with Treacher-Collins, the kids who live with it are like all kids – curious, sensitive and resilient. Both realities combine to create a unique experience for every family. But most families find one aspect hardest to navigate: the often unthinking reactions of others.

This led Palacio to tap into something else she’d wanted to examine for a long time: the roots of ordinary compassion. “Every parent wants a better world for our children, but sometimes we forget that it is very simple things that create that. That’s why I wanted to fill this book with many different examples of how important just being nice to one another is,” she explains.

That focus could have gone terribly wrong, could have been gooey and sentimentalized. But Palacio’s writing avoided the melodramatic. It was raw, candid and sharp. When the book hit the shelves, it was embraced by the craniofacial anomaly community, who had long awaited the chance to see their stories, but equally by many who have known the loneliness of being different in any of millions of ways.

Says Palacio of her philosophy that kindness is something people not only need to heed but to practice: “I really do believe that inherently people want to be good and, given a chance, want to do the right thing. But the thing we have to confront is that we all have to work at it. That’s all anyone can ask: try your hardest to be your best.”

That core theme is what drew Julia Roberts to Palacio’s book. Says Roberts: “I think that if we could really hold on to the concepts of this book of simply being fair and understanding, we would be in better times. For me, it has been a really wonderful reminder to find more ways in a day, or even in a conversation, to choose the nicer way rather than the faster, sarcastic or negative way.”

Wonder 2

Stephen Chbosky’s Sense Of Wonder

Once Lieberman and Hoberman had Palacio’s blessing, the search was on for a director to bring the book to the screen with honesty and humor intact. Their first thought went straight away to Stephen Chbosky, with whom they had just worked on the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast – and who also happens to be a novelist. Chbosky previously adapted (then directed) his own book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, into a film that garnered the 2013 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.

Stephen Chbosky

STEPHEN CHBOSKY (Screenwriter/Director) wrote and directed the feature film adaptation of his novel, the #1 NY Times and international bestseller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The film was well received critically and won several awards (GLAAD, Independent Spirit, People’s Choice). The novel also enjoyed the distinction of being on the ALA’s Most Challenged Books list seven times and was Number 10 on the most banned books in America list for 2000 – 2009. In the past year, he co-wrote the screenplay for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which enjoyed both critical and box office success (#8 all-time domestic and #10 all-time international). A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first feature, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Rent and co-created the post-apocalyptic TV drama, Jericho. He is currently writing his second novel.

Says Lieberman: “The most important quality we needed for Wonder was the ability to evoke emotion without being manipulative or heavy-handed. Stephen is astute emotionally, but at the same time he’s lighthearted and can blend humor into profound themes.”

As it turned out, Chbosky initially declined the offer, in part because his wife had just given birth and felt he was in no position to dive in, and also because he thought he didn’t want to do another school-based movie on the heels of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But as pursuit by Hoberman, Lieberman and Lionsgate continued he finally sat down to read the book, just to see what he might be missing.

That was all it took. Chbosky couldn’t walk away from what he considers a “coming of age story for this generation.” He explains: “Having my son, Theodore, made the story personal to me, and I was ready. What struck me most in the book is that the sum of every choice you make creates your character. You alone can make the choice to be a hero in your life – to stand out, to be yourself, to act on your best nature.”

Rather than place the focus entirely on Auggie, he embraced the book’s tangle of viewpoints in his approach. “Auggie’s bravery has a ripple effect on all these characters,” Chbosky points out, “and the different points of view help you realize there are things everyone is going through, not just Auggie. That’s where empathy begins.”
As things took off, Chbosky and Palacio forged a tight bond, especially as Chbosky joined with co-writers Jack Thorne and Steve Conrad to adapt the novel.

STEVEN CONRAD

Steven Conrad

STEVEN CONRAD (Screenwriter) is the writer of The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He also is the writer and director of the television series “Patriot.”

 

 

 

 

 

Jack-13-700x455

Jack Thorne

JACK THORNE (Screenwriter) began his screenwriting career on Shameless and Skins and lead wrote the darkly comic C4 series Cast Offs, broadcast in 2009. Jack’s television work includes The Fades for BBC3, and This Is England ’86, “88 and most recently 90. Jack created Glue” (E4) 2014 and his original pan-European crime thriller for Sky and Canal+. “The Last Panthers” aired autumn 2015 in Europe and in the States on Sundance Channel last year.
In film, Jack wrote the original films The Scouting Book for Boys and War Book and adapted Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down. Jack also writes for the stage, amongst other work Let the Right One In transferred to the West End in spring 2014 and The Solid Life of Sugar Water transferred from the Edinburgh fringe to The National Theatre after a successful tour last year. Jack wrote Harry Potter & the Cursed Child from an original story by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and himself which is currently running on the West End and in Spring of 2017 his adaptation of Woyzeck played at the Old Vic starring John Boyega.
Jack is currently adapting Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for Bad Wolf, Newline and BBC One, is writing on the Philip K. Dick anthology series for Channel 4 and Sony Pictures TV, and is penning The Eddy to be helmed by Damien Chazelle for Netflix. Features in development include; Dirt Music for Wildgaze Films and Film Four, an adaptation of the graphic novel Radioactive by Lauren Redniss for Working Title & Shoebox, Secret Garden for Heyday Pictures and StudioCanal, Intertia for Temple Hill and Fox 2000, and The Aeronauts for Mandeville and Amazon Studios.

Palacio wasn’t sure what to expect, but found herself handing her trust to Chbosky. “Stephen brought so much artistry but also respect for the words,” she says. “Every script choice he made felt spot on. I hope fans will see that Stephen went out of his way to honor the book’s characters – big and little – and they are all in there as I imagined them. The film might not follow every tiny detail, because you can’t in this art form. But Stephen brought something vital: that key feeling in the book I call laughing/crying.”

For Palacio nailing that duality of tones was the bottom line. “I think one reason the book has invited so many people is that the Pullman family is not sad, they’re joyful people making the most of what they’ve been dealt,” she reflects. “That’s how real families are. I was gratified that Stephen understood that less could be more in letting these characters be themselves.”

The script evolved with the entire team in synch. Says Lieberman: “The novel really was the best blueprint so we didn’t deviate much.’’ Palacio was always there to lend support. “She was invaluable, offering insight on everything from script to casting,” says Hoberman. “She’s at the core of the film’s family.”

Wonder 3

Jacob Tremblay (Room) tackles the one-of-a-kind role of Auggie Pullman, here discussing a scene with director Stephen Chbosky

Choose Kind

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place.”
— Mr. Tushman

Part of the Wonder phenomenon has been empowering young people to more confidently confront the poison of bullying, bigotry and ostracism. “The book has sparked international anti-bullying campaigns,” notes Lieberman.

“One of the most important things is that the story explores the many different ways people get bullied. Emotional bullying is a big deal to me, and it’s one of the reasons I really responded to the book. Bad behavior has been going on forever, but with social media you now have people treating others unfairly on an even wider spectrum, so the need for these kinds of stories is more timely than ever.”

Palacio now speaks with kids around the country about bullying as part of the Choose Kind movement started in response to the book, and has had thousands sign her Choose Kind pledge. She says it helps to remind kids that the attitude they have now towards others will affect them their whole lives.

“When I talk with kids, we talk about how you would want to be remembered 80 years from now. Do you want to be remembered for moments of unkindness? Or do you want to be remembered for being the person who was brave enough to go over to the new kid in class and make friends? That’s when kids start to get it, when they start to see what they do even in a small way really, really matters for a long time.”

But Palacio says that much as her book is anti-bullying that alone is not enough. She hopes the book and now the movie will inspire everyone to be proactive, to take the one extra step to give someone a boost or a helping hand. “Sometimes it doesn’t take much at all to make a huge impact,” she points out. “The best part about small acts is that you never know when you might actually be saving someone’s life.”

Palacio notes that the operative word in the Choose Kind movement is choose, something she thinks Stephen Chbosky and the cast and crew of Wonder brought to the fore in the movie. She concludes: ““You can’t really mandate kindness. What you can do is inspire people to see and feel what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes.”

Kaouther Ben Hania

What I wanted, more than to faithfully adapt an actual news story, was to use fiction to talk about the courage of countless women who struggle to have their rights respected.

Unfolding in nine chapters over the course of one night, writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania’s brave, ambitious French-Tunisian drama Beauty and The Dogs  follows a young woman’s search for justice.

During a student party, Mariam, a young Tunisian woman, meets the mysterious Youssef and leaves with him.

A long night will begin, during which she’ll have to fight for her rights and her dignity.

But how can Justice be made when it lies on the side of the tormentors?

Whether documentaries or works of fiction, your films always maintain close ties with social reality.

I started with documentaries because, to me, fiction was something that was extremely difficult.

Fiction is created from multiple “misleading elements”, and yet, out of a lie must come a certain authenticity.

Filming what is real through a documentary allowed me to rethink this notion and develop the tools necessary to take on fiction.

In this sense, Challat of Tunis is a transition piece, because I was approaching fiction with the tools and the stylistics of a documentary.

When I first dealt with reality starting with Imams Go to School and in my subsequent films, I learned how to structure scenes the way you do in fiction, but with fragments of reality. So, when I was filming, I was thinking about the kind of editing that obviously doesn’t correspond to reality as it is because that was a reshuffling of reality made with the tools used in fiction.

For me, making documentaries was a true learning process, particularly in my work with the actors. In Challat of Tunis, I was dealing with amateur actors and I couldn’t figure out how to direct an actor in order to obtain something as authentic as what you get in a documentary. Documentary filmmaking not only taught me to direct actors, but also to construct characters in their ambiguities and complexities, far from all the clichés.

How does one go about directing actors in long shots, which can be seen as ‘fragments of reality‘, as you did for Beauty and the Dogs?

It’s a considerable formal constraint. But the film needs it, because a long shot has the benefit of plunging us into real-time – into life. Using a long shot allows us to create an element of tension and to immerse the audience in the sensation of real time, even if the film is made up of 9 fragments.

The challenge was to establish consistency between the acting and this notion of a fragment of reality. Everything was prepared in advance in a configuration very similar that of the theatre.

Multiple rehearsals were necessary to coordinate the actors’ performances with the camera’s movement. For a long time, during the filming process, I asked myself that frightening question: were the rehearsals going to wear the actors out, making their performances more automatic and therefore less emotional? If so, I risked losing spontaneity.

But the numerous rehearsals didn’t wear out the actors – on the contrary, it gave them more to work with. It also allowed me to explore a character’s different facets and the actors were better equipped during filming.

Beauty 6

An evening which starts with a carefree student party and selfies with friends descends into a Kafkaesque waking nightmare for 21-year-old Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani).Mariam enjoys herself on the dancefloor, sneaking glances at handsome stranger Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli) who can’t tear his eyes away from her.

Using a real life event, the piece explores the codes of genre cinema, namely thrillers and horror films, through the nightmare experienced by its main character in the space of one night.

I really like genre cinema, particularly horror films, which I find truly fascinating. This isn’t a horror film – in fact, it’s much closer to a nightmare; but that doesn’t prevent me from incorporating several nods to the kinds of film I love. From the moment I started working with the actors and writing the screenplay, I had  those references in mind. I really enjoy tension in films: the idea was also to maintain a kind of tension that was realistic (administration can lead to exactly this kind of Kafkaesque nightmare) while still making references to the genre. For me, horror films are extremely realistic. Incidentally, Youssef’s character compares his life to a zombie movie. Those films can indeed evoke very real emotions from everyday life.

In Beauty and the Dogs, the reference to horror films brings to the forefront the question of the characters’ humanity in a social order where human dignity is no longer respected.

From Mariam’s perspective, the story is cruel, but at the same time – paradoxically – it is trivial from that of the hospitals and the police. For them, it’s just another day at work. They see victims like Mariam every night. The difference between these two attitudes, that of personal tragedy and the insensitivity of institutions, defines the tone of the film.

The various secondary characters in the film justify their horrible behavior with the numerous constraints of their functions, whether it’s how the administration works, the solidarity within the police force, or understaffing in hospitals. It’s a kind of operating logic in which anyone could potentially find him or herself – whether it’s little acts of cowardice or those that are more reprehensible. You can easily and unwittingly lose your humanity by multiplying comprises.

The tension in the film is built on a reverse countdown that ends not with an explosion – that of the main character – but rather with her construction.

If Mariam doesn’t lose her grip, it’s because the much stronger characters surrounding her don’t expect her reaction. From the beginning, I wanted to build the character of a young woman who was completely normal, with normal fears, who tells little white lies, and who can be a goody two-shoes. She ends up discovering herself because she is faced with exceptional situations. So she shows an instinct for survival that she didn’t know she had. At first, she’s lost, and I needed Youssef’s character to support her, even if she is led to doubt him. We never know if he really is interested in her or if his behavior is simply the expression of the militant that he embodies for himself as measured by others. When Youssef is no longer at her side, Mariam finds herself alone against the “dogs”, and she has to get through it on her own. From there, she topples an order that everyone knows and accepts.

Beauty 2

Does Mariam represent the youth that firmly believes in a constitutional state resulting from the new order that came after the end of Tunisia’s Ben Ali regime?

Actually, I didn’t want to give her a militant past. That’s why I presented her as a naïve character when she lies to the cop. Youssef is much more politicized – he’s the one who talks about the Revolution. When you’re confronted with injustice, you automatically become a militant as a means for survival. Mariam needs for the men who raped her to go to prison. If we talk about a process of revenge under the guise of management by the civil justice system, we are not in any way talking about militancy. But it starts to surface in the confrontation with a social system that completely denies the respect of a citizen’s basic rights. Mariam pursues a journey wherein all she wants is justice and reparation for what she’s been put through by requesting a hearing. She becomes militant the moment she realizes that this is impossible.

Opposite her, the “dogs” become violent, not because of what Mariam represents but because she dares to file a complaint. The police will do everything they can to demean her by drawing from a collective concept of disdain for anything provincial. This manifestation of denigration and contempt for the other constitutes a psychological weapon in the context of a war with two opposing groups.

Mariam is also fighting against the ‘normalization of evil‘ when the people she encounters treat rape with contempt and indifference.

In this respect, the film is an acknowledgement of this “normalization of evil” – not just in Tunisia, but all over the world. In this context, I make a reference to the documentary entitled The Hunting Ground (Kirby Dick, 2015), which deals with rape cases in prestigious American universities (Columbia, Harvard, etc.) where the female victims are not granted justice by campus administrations. These universities are, in fact, companies in a hypercompetitive system and don’t want to have their reputations tarnished. Also, the administrations push rape victims to keep quiet – all the more so when the accused are well-loved champions on the football team, a big money business. Beauty and the Dogs is more a film about the diktat of institutions than one about rape. That’s why the rape is committed by police officers – in other words, those who embody the monopoly of symbolic violence in society. Modern societies are actually built on this idea where individuals are protected by civil servants.

One of the tactics used by the cop who tries to silence Mariam consists of playing up the notion of a society under construction that needs the police force and therefore can’t be tarnished.

It’s the kind of blackmail we’re all familiar with that consists of pitting security against liberty, as if having both together were impossible. In this context, in order to have a strong police force, you have to give it absolute power and look the other way when it commits crimes. This began in the United States following September 11 and we find it in France and elsewhere in the form of “emergency laws”. With this kind of blackmail, it’s better to shut your mouth with regard to police abuses if you want to avoid civil war and the threat of terrorism.

Though the film’s context is local, in the sense that it’s a post2011 portrait of Tunisia, it goes far beyond those borders. How did you go about creating a dialogue between local and global when developing the film?

You always need context to make a film. I know the Tunisian context well, and I find it fascinating because it’s abundant; it calls everything into question. All of my films were conceived with this possibility of being able to dialogue with any audience, no matter their country of origin. I also realize that, since there are very few images that come out of Tunisia, a complete commitment to the few images communicated to the outside world takes shape. To a director coming from a more productive film industry, you wouldn’t ask the same questions about the preconceived notions associated with a country.

This film is based on a real life event: what liberties were taken with respect to the reality of the facts from the case?

I took a lot of liberties. It’s a news story that really had an impact on me at the time and that got a lot of attention and a lot of demonstrations of support for the victim. I used the event that sparked it all, which was the rape. But the characters in the film in no way resemble the real people. None of the events that take place in the screenplay take place as they did in reality: hence, the rape victim runs into her tormentors on the same night, but not for the same reasons that I chose in the screenplay. I didn’t want to meet the real-life rape victim and author of the book, the rights to which the production team bought so that I could maintain my right to interpretation. The meeting did take place, however, and the reading of the script didn’t particularly please her, which I can easily understand: when you’ve gone through a traumatic experience, you can feel betrayed when you see a rendering of that experience that isn’t faithful. And yet, what I wanted, more than to faithfully adapt an actual news story, was to use fiction to talk about the courage of countless women who struggle to have their rights respected. Behind the courage she demonstrated in testifying in court and through her book, I also wanted to talk about all of the women’s voices that weren’t being heard.

Would it have been possible to make this film a few years ago?

Clearly, this film couldn’t have been made in Tunisia before 2011. Though it doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of the guardians of law and order in Tunisia, the Ministry of Culture supports the film. For me, this is a powerful symbol of support at a time when general pessimism reigns over Tunisia. It’s a sign that things in the country are changing. Like the film’s main character, nothing can ever again be like before. Most importantly, the film is saying to all those people still functioning as they did under the Ben Ali regime, that the social order can no longer be the same.

 

 

 

Nicola

It took me 25 years to be the producer that I was on this movie. To be what you want to be, you must put every part of yourself into it. This is true for anything in life.

She is King is a joyous celebration of Zulu culture in a glossy contemporary setting, showing off the City of Gold as the Broadway of Africa.The film was written by Producer Nicola Rauch and director Gersh Kgamedi

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Nicola Rauch

Tell me about co-writing the screenplay?

It was my concept in that I have always wanted to make a musical (a family favourite) and make films about inspirational women. The trick was to integrate culture into a commercial film in a way that was definitely not “edutainment” but an accessible, fun genre movie. I made the film with my two teenage nieces in mind

I did the step outline and hired a writer I knew to do a first draft. I have yet to develop good working methodologies with a writer – I am too bossy. So I ended up writing drafts 2 & 3 myself.

Then I involved Gersh, the Director who is an old friend and we worked for about 8 months to get to a shooting draft. We had some international notes as well as input from our distributor and broadcast partner. Gersh ad I are a good team – I am the structure Queen and he brings the flavour. We also have a shared sense of humour, which helped us through the hard times.

How do you see the future for filmmakers in SA compared to 25 years ago?

I am exceptionally excited at the way the industry is growing. There is a real sense that people are starting to tell their own stories, in varied ways. There have been a couple of solid financial wins that have been the seed of an actual business plan around local black film.

Distributors (particularly Indigenous Film Distribution) are taking more risks, Exhibitors are finally understanding that audiences will support local films and the audience demographics have a predominantly (70%) black audience.

The DTI BBBEE incentive has stimulated rapid growth and the IDC is back in the picture with a number of new approaches planned. Funding is always the most difficult aspect of making independent features and filmmakers are building the business knowledge and financial structures that are needed to survive it all.

I believe that there has never been a better time to make local content.

Advice you have for screenwriters who want to get their work on the big screen?

The most important relationship you will have is with a Producer who believes in your work and your abilities. Even though I wrote/produced this one, I know as a Producer that I cannot carry on doing both unless I only want to make one film every three years. Which is not viable in a business sense.

The next two projects that I will be doing will be scripts from other writers – one with a Director who brought me the script and the other from a writer I have know for a long time. They are experienced writers with mostly TV experience under their belts.

Writers need to have really crafted the script before they ask a Producer to read it. Don’t EVER send out a first draft or something that you are not happy with. Get notes from friends, colleagues and know your target audience clearly. You will probably only get one chance to get a Producer to read your script.

They are busy people and will probably only read the first 15 pages if thy are not engaged by the story and your writing skills.

Whatever you do, don’t send out a script that doesn’t conform to the industry format. You need to look like a pro.

SHE IS KING

Production Information

Explain the choice of title for the film

We wanted a title that causes discussion and entices people to watch the film. Why is She “King” and not “Queen”? Why is She Royal at all? Who is She?

The film is about a young woman following a dream and the obstacles she encounters along the way. There are multiple strong female characters in the film, and the questions is which of them will be the winner, or the titular “King”?

The play within the film tells the story of Queen Mkabayi, Zulu King Shaka’s paternal aunt, one of South Africa’s most powerful female historical icons. Mkabayi was counsellor to her father King Jama and the regent for her young brother Senzangakona after her father’s death.

Mkhabayi selected, groomed, advised and supported kings Shaka, Dingaan and Mpande as leaders of the Zulu Nation. She is also believed to have had both Shaka and Dingaan killed when they endangered the wellbeing of the kingdom. She also commanded the royal Impi and is said to have determined military strategies.

We want audiences to hear Mkabayi’s story, and to understand that the Zulu nation had powerful female leaders and is not as patriarchal as it is sometimes characterized.

Khanyisile comes from kwaNongoma in KZN, which is the historical home of the Zulu royal family. It is the place where Queen Mkabayi ka Jama’s grave is found.

In isiZulu, there is no gender specific third person pronoun – “he” and “she” do not exist. It surely means something that a language, the essence of a culture, does not distinguish gender? When and why did this change?

Mkabayi was, in effect, the architect of the Zulu nation, the power behind five successive kings. Had she been a man, she would have been called king and recognised as such. The title of the movie opens up a debate. In an era of female empowerment, young women grapple with questions of equality at many levels.

Proper names of all cultures have royal connections – Amir, Brendan, Earl, Leroy, Vladimir. The claiming of a royal title is a pop-culture affectation that is designed to express ascendancy and power. Think of performers “Queen Latifah”, Elvis “The King”, Beyoncé (“Queen Bey”) and babies named “King Cairo”, “Royalty”, “Reign” – an association with royalty is aspirational in many cultures.

We also want young women and girls to believe in their own power and ability to be anything they want to be. The word “King” has more power than “Queen” and, in this age of growing equality, we wanted to erase the gender distinction between those terms – just as a woman can be a president, she can also be the king.

Key Themes

When we set out to make “She is King”, there were themes that we wanted to weave into the film. We wanted to show a young woman moving away from her secure rural life into the city, and taking on the entertainment world. People think that success in this industry is about red carpets and glamorous parties. The truth is that it takes hard work.

We were fortunate to cast Gugu Zulu in the lead role of Khanyisile Khumalo. One of the reasons we chose her was because comes from rural KZN, was fairly new in the industry, and had a surname that signifies royal heritage.

Gugu personifies the ides that success takes hard work. Of the 27 shoot days, she was called on for 26. She also worked in the studio to record the songs before we shot, sometimes on her weekly day off. She stayed in a B&B for the duration, and it was the longest that she had ever lived alone. There were times that she was physically and emotionally exhausted but she always found a way to push on.

The movie also shows how, between all the hard work, life happens. You meet people who become your friends, your loves, your irritations. In such a stressed work environment, you are all pushed closer, and you end up being with each other 24/7, enmeshed in each other’s lives.

Gersh

Gersh Kgamedi has honours degrees in drama and film, and history of art. He is a well-established local and international commercials director, working out of Picture Tree, but he has also done a variety of work in the industry for more than 20 years, including award-winning music videos. He is a music-lover and an expert in the genre of musicals with the fine-tuned sensibility of a lifestyle commercials director.

About Making the Film

It took me 25 years to be the producer that I was on this movie. To be what you want to be, you must put every part of yourself into it. This is true for anything in life.

My methodology throughout my career has been to learn the function of every role on a film crew so that I am able to equip each person to be their best, technically and creatively. Only when I felt I had done that, did I feel secure enough to lead the way I want to.

This is a story that I wanted to tell and the most important function of a producer is choosing the right people who will realise that vision with you – people who are technically superb, creative to the bone, and share your passion for the project. And we got so lucky on this film!

When I tell the basic story of our film, many people’s first reaction is to mention Sarafina. And we have so much love and respect for that show/film. In a way, this is the “New South Africa” version of the story.

Twenty-five years ago, Sarafina was held back from realising her dreams by the injustice that was Apartheid. In our film, Khanyi now has the freedom to make her own dream a reality. The film is a celebration of that.

Being able to make a feel-good movie about South Africa is a victory for Gersh Kgamedi and for me. We share a commitment to political activism, and this is a personal way of celebrating the changes that have happened in our land.

We also both believe that movies are meant to be about escapism. We love happy endings. We wanted to make a film that Gersh’s 8-year old son, Mpho’s 10-year old son and my teenage nieces could all watch and enjoy. We want people to laugh, to feel touched and to tap their feet to the music.

Family is a thread that runs through the film. Why?

Family and background shape people in the most fundamental way. We wanted to emphasise that Khanyi’s childhood, was happy and nurturing. She was literally raised by a village – another aspect of African culture that we deeply admire. While westerners may see her childhood as one of third-world poverty, it was rich in all the right ways.

Khanyi’s family is one that sings together. They work hard but also find fun and comfort in each other. Her father is strict and would prefer her to stay safe at home. But he understands that children need to leave home to grow up.

We learn that Khanyi’s mother was not a part of her life and even though she was given all the love she needed from her father’s wife and her wonderful aunties, she has resentment towards her mother for abandoning her. That resentment prevents her from truly becoming herself and is the seed of her confrontational relationship with Gugu Dhlamini, the Diva of the movie and older woman in charge.

 Creative Choices and their Meaning

It is not the norm to tell stories about South Africans that have no violence, sex, swearing or hate. We want to pave the way for a new type of local film that is not attached to these stereotypes of African life. We consciously chose not to be “poverty porn”.  It may be a life that is still imaginary for most South Africans, but it is one that can be attained.

We also want to show aspiration that is not just about fancy cars and branded clothing – a world where aspiration is about deciding what will make your life rich in ways that are not just material. Gugu and Mak are materially wealthy, but we hope that it will be their relationship, the way that they have made it work for them and how they let each other excel, that people most remember.

There is a reason that KZN is called the “Kingdom of Heaven”. It is so rich in natural beauty, good weather and fruitful soil. There is a growing sense in the world that peace lies in being close to the soil, turning off mobile devices, keeping time by the passage of the sun across the sky and going to sleep to the sound of the cattle mooing.

The homestead we chose as Khanyi’s home is beautiful, with turquoise huts clustered around the cattle enclosure. We wanted a marked contrast between her home and the city.

Describe some of the challenges you faced

This film is filled with remarkable female characters across generations because we wanted to show a diversity of female experiences. We also wanted to give some guidance to young women on ways of making choices that don’t require them to compromise who they are.

The “natural hair” debate was at its height while we were writing and we wanted to make the gentle statement that it is a woman’s choice to do whatever she wants with her hair, her body and her personality. As Khanyi arrives in the city, one of the first things her hustler cousin, Ngenz does is get her braided and “beautified” – it was a great way to symbolise her becoming a “city girl”.

Katherine (Zoe Mthiyane), the “Cheeze girl” has long, straight hair that fits her privileged, suburban upbringing. Bongi (Sihle Mooi) has a gorgeous natural ‘fro and Zethu (Mandisa Nduna) has short, spikey, natural dreads that she styles according to her mood. Vivian (Khanyi Mbau) styles her braids artistically and Gugu (Khabonina Qubeka) has a different look almost every day.

Khanyi is faced with a number of love choices – Lu, the gorgeous soapie star (Mbuso Kgarebe), is emblematic of Joburg: he looks rich and sparkly on the outside, but what about under that veneer? Shakes thinks he is irresistible and pursues Khanyi relentlessly.  We wanted to show Khanyi making positive choices on how to deal with them, without resorting to negative stereotypes.

Young women are rediscovering feminism and making it their own, which is why we wanted the younger characters expressing themselves in various ways. Zethu is outspoken and unapologetic in her defence of her friends – she would probably be called aggressive for this. Bongi is outgoing and bouncy, and quite “girly”, but in a way that she chooses. Katherine comes in as a suburban outsider, but is unstinting in her help and support of the other young women. They all become fast friends #SqadGoals!

What about the differences between written and oral history?

The discussions between Khanyi and Mak are about the different “versions” of Mkabayi’s story. Mak has referenced all the written information he can find and has formed a two-dimensional picture of the ruthless warrior who single-mindedly pursued her own “career” and her part in the formation of the Zulu Nation.

But Khanyi’s information comes from the community in which she was brought up – in the heartland of the Zulu Kingdom. Her grandfather was “Isolwazi”— an oral historian who told her the other side of Mkabayi – the listener, the one who gave good advice and helped her subjects with their problems.

That side of her that is knitted into isiZulu language “Buzani ku Mkabayi” (consult Mkabayi), which is still an idiom today.

We want to encourage people to interrogate their own history and culture, and find things within that culture that makes sense to them as individuals, rather than just performing rituals that may not make sense in a modern world

 Describe the creative team

This project is 100% local. It is set in Johannesburg, and all creatives, cast and crew are South African

Nicola Rauch is an  industry veteran who brought to market “Between Friends” in 2014. She worked my way up the production ladder, ran non-profit organisations, started SASFED and studied at the Binger Institute in Amsterdam.

Co-Producer Mpho Ramathuthu is a talented script- and story editor, and has funded and run numerous film training programs. Most importantly she is tuned into the target market and has a unique understanding of the film’s audience.

Director Gersh Kgamedi is a well-established commercials director, working out of Picture Tree, and he has also done a variety of work in the industry for over 20 years, including award-winning music videos. He is a music-lover and an expert on the genre of musicals who also has the fine-tuned sensibility of a commercials director.

Antonio Negret

It’s definitely a bad ass action film from beginning to end ..it’s also I think a heist film …It’s also got some wicked comedy.

Antonio Negret is a prolific film and television director with a passion for action packed storytelling, balancing feature film with television, with three action/thriller features in development, as well as upcoming episodes of Hawaii Five O, Supergirl, and Once Upon a Time.

In his latest film Overdrive a notorious crime boss forces two legendary car thieves to steal a vehicle to win back their freedom.

OVERDRIVE

Can can you pitch us the movie in a few words?

Overdrive is a movie about two brothers in the south of France who steal vintage cars and they stumble upon a situation where they can get a priceless Bugatti. And when they do steal this car, they find out that its owner has other plans in store for them. And in order to survive they need to now work for him and steal his archenemy’s car. So, it’s two brothers caught between two criminals in a world of elegant automobiles.

Can you tell us about the project generally?

I met with Pierre Morel a while ago. He sent me the script by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas called Overdrive, and I fell in love with it. I knew Pierre was looking for a director that he could foster in many ways, that he could mentor, and someone that would work with him as he Godfathered this film. And we just got along immediately.

We both love the same kind of films, and I obviously admire his work tremendously. So together we started working on this and here we are; it’s like a dream come true, it’s excelled all my expectations and we’ve been able to make a great film together. It all started with that meeting.

And, you know what really excites me about Overdrive is that it’s a film that combines two great tones. On one hand, it’s a very modern film; it ‘s young, it’s fun, it’s energetic and it’s very commercial. On the other hand, however, one of the things that I love about it is that it has a very nostalgic feeling. To me, it captures the feeling of older more elegant films, like Steve McQueen films. Films like Bullitt or The Getaway. Other types of films like The French Connection, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. They are these kind of films that don’t exist anymore. And to me, Overdrive was the opportunity to make a film that had both of those things; that was for a younger audience but had the spirit of the films that I love so much.

Did you change something in your way?

I did, yes. I was very fortunate in that the writers were very collaborative, as were the producers, and so together we were all able to transform the script a little bit. The more I got to know Marseille, the more I chose specific locations to put into the script. So we would change in the script something that was maybe set in a shop, we would change it to a nightclub that we had seen or a street that we had been on or a bridge that showcased the city. And so we were able to really bring a new level to the script through Marseille. Also working with the actors, we were able to bring and elevate I think a lot of the scenes and really tailor the scenes to their characters and what they were bringing to the film.

How would you define the movie? Is it more action or comedy?

It’s got a bit of both; it’s definitely a badass action film from beginning to end.

But it’s not just an action; it’s also I think a heist film, it’s got a level of cleverness and a level of intricacy where our characters are always doing things that are not quite what they seem. And so I love that undercurrent of it.

As well, it also has a lot of comedy. It’s got some broader comedy as well as some wicked comedy, where there’s a banter between the brothers; they love each other, but they are also always bickering and always on each other’s nerves, and I think that brings a really fresh and fun humor to the film as well.

How is it to work with producer Pierre Morel?

It’s been great. I mean, I’ve always admired Pierre, I’ve always been a fan of his work, you know since District B13, to of course Taken, and really all of his films. He’s been an inspiration. And he really has been a mentor to me; I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s really taken me under his wing in many ways. And he brings an expertise to this film which is amazing. You know, not only his knowledge of action, but of France, of working in France, which is a very new experience for me. And so he’s been a true ally, and I think together we’ve been able to make the best possible film.

How do you organize your work together?

Well, I’m definitely directing the actors, and I’m, you know, directing the film. But Pierre is like a Godfather; he’s overseeing everything. He’s also directing the second unit, and so he’s bringing a lot of expertise to the action and to the cars, which he’s an expert on. And that’s how we’ve kind of divvied it up.

And tell us about the team. The DOP, production designer, stunt coordination, how was it?

Yeah, I’m so fortunate to work with an amazing, amazing team. You know, we’ve got wonderful work by Laurent Barès, our DOP. We’ve got Arnaud Le Roch, who’s our pr oduction designer, who’s really building incredible sets: the garages for these cars are just spectacular. The entire team is truly amazing. The stunts team, Philippe Guégan, you know, Jean Claude, they’re top notch, they’re the best in Europe, and they have a history of incredible work in cinema and I’m very honored to be working with them.

And were you a little anxious because it’s a big, big team? Directing everybody, how was it?

Yeah. For sure, this is the biggest film I’ve ever done. You know, it’s my fourth film so I do have experience directing feature films as well as television, but nothing quite this big, or quite this glamorous, should I say. So, it’s been an amazing experience. Of course, at first there’s always the initial shock of: Oh my gosh, is this real? Is this really happening? And you know, it is. And fortunately the team has just been so supportive. They’ve really rallied around me and have really supported my vision for the film, so I feel truly honored and no longer anxious, but rather blessed to come each day to work and have so many talented people on set helping create this film.

So, can you tell us about what are the main mistakes to avoid?

Definitely get enough sleep. You know, this is a very intense schedule and there were several days where I didn’t sleep enough and I definitely felt it. You know, it’s such an incredible pace; the sun sets at like five thirty here so it’s always a race against the sun. So, rest well, eat well and move as fast as you can; those are the important things in a situation like this.

CARS

The cars are pretty important in the movie. What do they represent in the script and in the character?

Indeed, the cars are huge characters in this film. You know, the cars are the diamonds, they’re the cash, they’re the briefcase full of money that you usually see in other heist films. Here, the cars are the treasures. And if you love cars, you’re gonna love this film. Truly they are some of the most beautiful cars in the world, truly elegant cars. Some of the rarest cars in the world. We have the Bugatti Atlantic, which there’s very few of in the world.

We have, you know, 250 GTO Ferrari 1962, which is a gem. We have Mustangs, Alfa Romeos. We have some of the most beautiful cars ever made, all assembled together in one film.

Was there a lot of breakage for the stunts?

Oh yes, it broke my heart to see so many cars pushed to the very limit. We also worked with BMW on this film and they brought some incredible machines, some beautiful, beautiful cars. And it was a shame to see some of them completely destroyed. It was… It pained me to do it, but at the same time they look spectacular in the film.

What can you tell us about the cast?

The cast is amazing. I mean, to kind of follow in line with what we were talking about, I really wanted a cast that felt very young, very fresh, very modern, but at the same time had a spirit of older classic wise stars. I wanted to find cast members that had the depth and that had the almost nostalgic factor of actors like James Dean, Steve McQueen, Ali McGraw. And so it was a big challenge for us to say: Who are the modern day Steve McQueens?

Who are the modern day James Deans? And that’s how we found our incredible cast. Scott Eastwood is the star of the film, and to me he’s a symbol of that. He’s such a great actor, such a modern young exciting new face. He brings so much to the film, and yet when you see him on screen you feel like you’ve been watching him for decades and decades and decades. He has this aura and this kind of movie star quality that is rare nowadays.

Scott

And that to me was very exciting; to bring a modern actor that had this old school charisma.

Like I said, they are so fresh and so modern and young, and yet you watch them and you feel like they have this quality of the stars of long ago.

Well, each actor is very different, you know, so it’s always a pleasure as a director to find the best way to work with different actors. Some actors really like to be walked through specifically on certain things…others prefer to be given the freedom to play.

What are the most symbolic things of the movie? Which one is your favorite?

Ah, well to me, I mean the most important thing of the film is the cast. We have amazing stunts, we have amazing action, we have amazing cars, but none of it matters if you don’t care about the characters. None of it matters if you don’t fall in love with these people. And really that’s the heart of the film. Underneath the action, underneath the tension, underneath the laughs, it’s really about family, and it’s a film about two brothers and their growing family with the women they love, and how they are better when they work together. To me that’s the heart of the film.

Who is your favorite character on the film?

I love them all so much. You know, from the bad guys, played by Simon Abkarian and Clemens Schick, who are just incredible, to the good guys, Scott Eastwood, Freddie Thorp, Ana de Armas, Gaia Weiss. I love them all and I’m honored to be working with them

BATTLE OF SEXES

For Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs the “battle of the sexes” was about finding their true selves and changing the future.

Husband-and-wife directorial team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who gave us Little Miss Sunshine, explore a moment when social change was embodied by two complex people in Battle Of The Sexes, the spectacular single tennis match between rising 29 year-old women’s star Billie Jean King and former men’s champ Bobby Riggs.

As 90 million viewers worldwide sat at the edges of their couches, the confrontation between Bobby and Billie Jean was fated to be as surreal as it was world-shattering. By the time it was game, set and match, something new had emerged: an era of sports no longer separated from politics and social change, but part of making it.

1973: a watershed year of progress in American history – the start of Ms. magazine, passage of Title IX, Congressional ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe vs. Wade. But despite it all, women were still struggling just to get a credit card in their name. Then came one event that would strike a different kind of blow for equality, one that hit right to the heart of pop culture, cheekily dubbed “Battle of the Sexes”.

Dayton and Faris brought together Oscar winner Emma Stone, in a physically and emotionally demanding role unlike any she’s yet tackled, with Oscar nominee Steve Carell at his most complicated as self-made media celebrity Bobby Riggs.

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton

The married team Faris and Dayton began their careers directing the ground breaking MTV music documentary show, “The Cutting Edge.” They’ve directed award-winning videos and documentaries for numerous artists, and have won two Grammy Awards, and nine MTV Music Video Awards. They co-founded Bob Industries, a commercial production company, directing television ads for Apple, AT&T, Sony, NBA and ESPN, among others.  They made their feature film directorial debut with the critical and commercial hit, Little Miss Sunshine, which was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture. They followed it with Ruby Sparks.

“Battle Of The Sexes is both the story of an historic sporting event and of a woman’s private, personal transformation while under intense public exposure,” says Faris. “We were interested in how she was fighting both personal and political battles at the same time.”

“It was the most challenging project of our careers,” says Dayton. “It is at once a sports movie, a love story, a socio-political drama, and at times a comedy. 44 years after the Battle, the same issues are clearly still being debated. We were struck by how this circus-like event became a place where important social issues were played out.”

“This match felt like a precursor to the way politics are working in our country today, how the debate is so often reduced to a game or entertainment,” says Faris. “We’re often more caught up in who wins than in what is really at stake. We started work on the project during the 2016 primaries, when it appeared likely we’d see the first woman candidate for president. For a while everyone thought the film would show how far we’ve come since the Battle. Obviously the outcome of the election shed a very different light on the story.”

This motivated them to focus even more on the personal stories of two people who were not as different as it might have appeared. Both were caught up in the media and in a moment larger than their individual struggles.

“The world has become even more polarized since we began making the film and we certainly don’t want to contribute to that – that’s why we chose to focus on the emotional lives of Billie Jean and Bobby,” explains Faris.

Dayton chimes in: “Our goal was to empathize with all the characters and experience the complexity of the situation”.

Billie Jean King and former men’s champ Bobby Riggs

Billie Jean King and former men’s champ Bobby Riggs

Background To The Battle

By 1973 all kinds of walls – of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation – were just starting to tumble.

Women were organizing and marching like they never had before, yet were making just 58 cents on the dollar compared to men and doors to opportunity remained slammed shut in every walk of life. There was still a long way to go, but it was a moment when change was palpable.

That’s part of what drew the filmmakers to Battle Of The Sexes.

“We were interested in 1973 as a time of great upheaval,” says Dayton.

“You had the Equal rights amendment, Roe vs. Wade, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and everything seemed to be in question. Then, suddenly, the debate over women’s equality finds a forum in a tennis match between the 29-year-old woman’s champion Billie Jean King and 55-year-old former champ Bobby Riggs. As silly as it seemed on the surface, it became a huge deal. Bobby Riggs was on the cover of Time Magazine,” points out Dayton.

It was Riggs who turned the match into a social debate that rang around the world. King had already been fighting for equality in tennis, where women were still earning as little as 1/12 of the men’s prize money. She pioneered the Virginia Slims Tour, which for the first time allowed women to set their financial terms, founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and become the first female tennis player ever to top $100,000 a year. But it was the match against Riggs that broadened the conversation, as well as King’s faith in what was possible.

Riggs had been a #1-ranked player of the 40s, winning both Wimbledon and the US Open. By 1973, now retired, he missed the drama of the game and having an outlet for his love of disruption and self-promotion. Seeing women gaining power in tennis as elsewhere, he saw an opportunity to create some interesting havoc. Riggs publicly opined that female tennis was inferior – and dared a woman player to prove otherwise by beating him. He knew the idea had commercial potential, and he knew King was the ultimate rival. When he played and beat women’s #1 Margaret Court, King felt she had no choice but to take the risk of taking Riggs on. But neither could have foreseen just how wild a circus they would create or what it would mean for so many.

Says screenwriter Simon Beaufoy: “The match was watched by the largest TV audience since the moon landing. It was a massive spectacle, filled with the sort of hoopla that had never been seen before or probably since on a tennis court. Yet, the match was almost a sideshow to the bigger battle that raged in America: man versus woman. I’m not sure there’s been such a clear-cut binary debate since, either in politics or sport!”

For King, that day was a game-changer, and what started that day remains in motion. “Today we’re still having too many of the same discussions,” King points out. “White women still make 78 cents on the dollar, African American women 64, Hispanic and Native American women are at 54. We don’t have a Congress of even 20% women. We have few women CEOs. And what people don’t understand is that when women make less that means entire families make less. It’s a no brainer that it causes families to suffer more, so why do we want that?” I hope the story of this match will continue the dialogue, will bring people together and remind us to think before discounting others for any reason. The things we fought for in 1973 I’m still fighting for and we’ve got to keep pushing.”

The Screenplay And Its Winning Parts

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is no stranger to stories that combine a comedic edge with social observation. He earned an Academy Award nomination for The full Monty, the riotous story of six unemployed men who form a striptease act to make ends meet; then garnered Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA wins for the 2008 Best Picture-winning Slumdog Millionaire, about an impoverished quiz show contender in contemporary India.

This is Beaufoy’s third collaboration with producer Christian Colson and Danny Boyle. As part of the trio, he has written the screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire, co-wrote 127 Hours with Danny and Battle Of The Sexes. Beaufoy started his screenwriting career with The Full Monty for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and has written and collaborated on many screenplays in between, including Among Giants Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, This Is Not A Love Song, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day and Everest.  He is again collaborating with Danny and Christian on “Trust,” a ten part TV series for FX about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty the Third that is currently filming in Italy.

Simon Beaufoy

Simon Beaufoy

For Battle of the Sexes, Beaufoy had to chance to excavate not just one of the most important and outlandish sporting events ever but also the personal lives of both Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, revealing how for each the “battle” was about finding their true selves and changing the future.

“What was apparent on the first read,” says producer Robert Graf, “is the way Simon’s script expertly blended the spectacle of the match, the cultural moment of 1970s feminism, and the private issues both Billie Jean and Bobby were grappling with. He combines elements that are comical, culturally significant and are also very human and moving, layering the personal and public and probing the question: how do you control your personal life when you’re thrown into the cauldron of a hot public event?”

Adds Christian Colson: “What I love about Simon’s screenplay is how it reveals that for Billie and Bobbie things were much more complicated than anyone knew. The ‘Battle of the Sexes’ was a public circus with farreaching social implications, but for Billie, struggling with her sexuality, and for Bobby, struggling to come to terms with his lost youth, the personal stakes were sky-high. Simon is a humanist and an immensely warm and generous writer. He likes people and he is interested in their flaws, and this informs and elevates all his work.”

Beaufoy notes that he never really followed tennis as a sports fan. “Tennis is amazing to watch for its skill and athleticism, but I confess it wasn’t the tennis that intrigued me,” he says. “It was the contest between these two people, diametrically opposed in almost every way. The way Billie Jean did — and still does — step beyond the world of sports to challenge injustice was bold and frankly magnificent. The stakes for her, both personally and for the women’s movement, were huge. Billie Jean is truly one of the greats and getting to know her was one of the great privileges of making the film.”

King was his primary source and he spent hour upon hour with her – including one early script meeting that lasted 9 hours with just a 10-minute break for a turkey sandwich. “By the end, I could barely speak, write or move, but Billie was just warming up. She could have gone another nine hours,” muses Beaufoy. “That’s the focus of a champion. What surprised me most was her affection for Bobby. She wasn’t really battling him, a man she actually liked, as much as she was battling a whole belief system that men were simply better than women. I did ask Billie to revisit areas of her life that are still uncomfortable to her for obvious reasons. I couldn’t really write the movie without showing the very personal journey she was on – but she was always open, generous and incredibly trusting.”

BATTLE

The more he talked to King the more it stood out for Beaufoy that the story of the match was also the story of a woman confronting her sexual identity and falling in love at the least desirable moment. “The tension between the very public persona that Billie was becoming and her private life is the tension of the film,” he points out. “It’s a film about somebody struggling to come to terms with who they really are when the stakes couldn’t have been higher.”

Beaufoy notes that part of the heroism of King is that she did not seek out the contest with Riggs, nor was the timing right to take such a risk, but she enjoined the battle because she could not refuse a shot at making a difference. “In 1973, her professional life had never been busier and everything was so complicated,” says the writer. “The last thing she needed was to be in the glare of the media spotlight. But Billie has never ducked a fight in her life. When Margaret Court lost to Bobby, Billie had no option but to step up and play. Somebody had to put Bobby in his place and there was only one person to do it.”

The rampant sexism of the day is something Beaufoy got a taste of in his research. “I came across the most appallingly sexist commercials that aired around the time of the match; they really leave you open-mouthed at the way women were publicly debased and humiliated. We’ve definitely improved on that, but it’s obvious we’ve still got more to go,” he says.

The producers saw an immediate affinity between Beaufoy’s words and Faris and Dayton’s sensibilities – one that only intensified as production took off. “We went to Jon and Val for their subtlety, their great eye, and their lightness of touch—as with Simon, there is a generosity to their work which always makes you smile, which is never preachy and always classy,” says Colson.

“They delivered on all that, but they added a real dramatic seriousness too. They insisted that the story should not be presented simply as a comedy, and were always looking to amplify the internal character conflicts and dramatic stress points in Simon’s screenplay. They found just the right tone for movie: dramatic without being strident, and sustaining a lightness of touch without being whimsical.”

Perhaps fittingly, Faris and Dayton admit that this film sparked more battles between themselves than is usual with a couple known for their creative symbiosis – but it also united them. “Val and I probably fought more on this project than on anything we’ve ever done,” laughs Dayton.

“Arguing is always part of our creative process,” points out Faris, “ in the back of our minds I think we were aware of an expectation that I was the spokesperson for women and Jonathan for men, but we never really see it that way. In truth, it’s not a competition. It’s an ongoing dialogue that leads to a shared vision.”

REBEL MASTER

It is ultimately a tale about an artist who strives for integrity and truth in his work.

The world of legendary writer J. D. Salinger is brought vividly to life in Rebel In The Rye, a revealing look at the experiences that shaped one of the most renowned, controversial, and enigmatic authors of our time.

Set amidst the colorful backdrop of mid-20th century New York City, Rebel in the Rye follows a young Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) as he struggles to find his voice, pursues a love affair with famed socialite Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch), and fights on the frontlines of World War II. It’s these experiences that will inform the creation of his masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye, bringing him overnight fame (and notoriety) and leading him to withdraw from the public eye for the rest of his life.

Writer-director Danny Strong’s first experience with Salinger was at age 14, when he read “The Catcher in the Rye.

“It was the first time I had read anything that reflected how I felt,” he recalls, “the voice of the character felt so real and truthful to me in a way other books didn’t feel. And it was also the funniest book I had read at that time. It still might be.”

Strong is the co-creator and executive producer of the hit Fox drama Empire, of which he has written and directed numerous episodes. He created the show with director Lee Daniels, whom Strong worked with on the film The Butler as producer and screenwriter. Strong was also a co-writer of the Lionsgate franchise films The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part I and II)

Strong began his writing career writing and producing the HBO films Recount and Game Change about the 2000 and 2008 elections. Strong also won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing, a Writers Guild Award, a Golden Globe, the Producers Guild Award, a Peabody and the Pen Award for Recount and received the Writers Guild Award for the Game Change.

In addition to his thriving career as a screenwriter and director, Strong is also an actor with extensive credits in film, television and theater, and has appeared in many of the most famous television shows of the last two decades. He is best known for the five seasons he played Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the four seasons he played Doyle on Gilmore Girls. On stage, he has appeared in over 50 plays and musicals in regional and LA theaters.

The story of The Catcher in the Rye and its author stayed with him through the years, and he eventually bought the rights to Kenneth Slawenski’s book “J.D. Salinger: A Life,” a biography of the famously elusive author turned American icon.

“I related to many of Salinger’s experiences as a writer: trying to find an idea, using your own life for inspiration, dealing with rejection, getting notes, and how writing effects your personal life” Strong says, referring to the process of adapting the book into a screenplay.

“There are many universal experiences for many writers in telling his story. At the same time, the events of his life were extremely dramatic and unique.”

Strong teamed up with Jason Shuman to produce the film, who had been made aware of the project while the screenplay was still being written.

“I was boiling over with excitement to read it and see how we could get the movie made,” says Shuman, and together they sought out powerhouse producers Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Milk, Silver Lining’s Playbook) and Black Label Media, comprised of Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, and Thad Luckinbill. Black Label Media (Sicario, Demolition, La La Land) immediately got to work to secure financing and diving head-first into the casting process.

One of the unique aspects of the making of this film is the connection the cast and crew have to the subject matter.

While the film gives audiences a taste of J.D. Salinger and his life – relationships, triumphs, and tragedies – it is ultimately a tale about an artist who strives for integrity and truth in his work.

REBEL 3

Writer-director Danny Strong discusses a scene with Nicholas Hoult during filming

Starting with Danny Strong, those involved in the project are all acutely aware of how difficult the creative process is and the kinds of sacrifices that need to be made in order to commit to art.

“Danny has been a prolific actor for many years and started to write on his own, so a story about someone creating one of the most ultimate works of art of the twentieth century seemed not only one that Danny would understand, but one where he could bring his own passions and understanding of that kind of a story,” Shuman says.

Strong adds to this “I would hope that this film inspires future artists of any kind, because this movie is about creating great art, and that can be in any form. I hope people can be inspired to go out and want to be the next Salinger in whatever field they want to be in.” On the challenges he faced in directing his first film, Strong muses “Everything was challenging. It’s the hardest (and most rewarding) thing I have ever done creatively.

Bringing the Characters To Life

Known for being as reclusive as he was enigmatic, Rebel In The Rye introduces Salinger as an anxious yet very charming twenty-year-old.  He is struggling to find his place in New York City’s literary scene, but nevertheless is full of life, outgoing, and completely unafraid. As Salinger’s character comes of age, he is thrust into the horrors of World War II, an event that would have a lasting impact on his writing career and overall quality of life.

In adapting Slawenski’s biography to a screenplay, Strong came to understand how the events in Salinger’s life (both bad and good) impacted his creative process and shaped his body of work.

“I was looking for someone that could exude brilliance, and Nicholas Hoult was the young genius that I was looking for to bring this character alive” says Strong, who wanted to show audiences the rebellious, angry side of Salinger and how that contributed to his work.

The producers agreed that Nicholas Hoult was the right choice, after reviewing his past works and testing a few other actors. “In his short career, Nick has already shown such tremendous range,” says Shuman. “He really embodies the spirit of J.D. Salinger – he’s charming, he’s sarcastic, he’s brilliant.  Nick was far and above the best choice and the clear choice,” Thad Luckinbill adds. “He’s so passionate and committed to this role.”

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There are a few rare photos of Salinger and several biographies, but there is no video footage or recordings. While challenging, the lack of known information about Salinger also provided Hoult with the freedom to create his own vision of the character based on the biographies he read and the screenplay itself.

Though Hoult was a fan of Salinger’s work prior to joining the project, preparing to play his character proved to be a daunting task.

“To bring someone to life who’s a real person with so much intensity and passion and who’s wonderful at what they do, it’s exciting, but also very scary,” Hoult says. “He’s uncompromising in his style, what he wants to do, and how truthful he wants his writing to be,” Hoult says of the icon he portrays. “He is unrelenting and unforgiving with people who either don’t agree with him or don’t want to help him.”

After being kicked out of a few schools and doubting his place as a writer, Salinger enrolls at Columbia and meets Whit Burnett, a professor who immediately understands him and helps refocus his energy towards something productive.

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Strong describes Whit Burnett’s character and the decision to cast Kevin Spacey for this: “The story between Whit and Jerry Salinger is so fascinating – the interest he took and the tough love he gave him – when you wrap all that up, there is really no better actor to portray it than Kevin Spacey,” he says. “He can play tough, but he can also do it with such sincerity and genuine passion.”

While Whit is in many ways a larger than life character, he also knows what he hasn’t accomplished. “Spacey has the range of bringing this bravado to the role while also being able to go in reverse and become very small, having regrets about his life and how it came out,” Shuman says. “It’s wonderful to see Kevin play that kind of range in a supporting role.”

Whit is responsible for helping shape J.D.’s voice and starting his writing career, but Dorothy Olding, his agent, kept pushing Salinger’s career forward.  Like Salinger, Olding is in many ways ahead of her time: she is running a company in a nineteen forties male-dominated publishing world. It was decided almost unanimously that dynamo actress Sarah Paulson was perfect for the intensity of this role.

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“We got lucky we got Sarah,” Strong says. “She brings that tough grit, and she doesn’t take anything from anyone.” Shuman adds his praise by noting, “She’s so perfect – her look, her mannerisms, how she plays off people like Nick and Kevin to bring that character to life was just genius.”

While Salinger becomes romantically involved with several different women over the course of the film, the relationship that he is most effected by in the movie is with his first love, Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch).

“It was more serious than he expected, a very tumultuous relationship where she broke his heart,” Hoult says. O’Neill, the beautiful young daughter of the famous playwright Eugene O’Neill, was in fact seeing several people at the time that Salinger meets and falls in love with her. Salinger expects to come home to her after the war, but instead finds out that she has married famed actor Charlie Chaplin while he’s away.  Though he gets into other relationships afterward, he remains deeply affected by Oona’s betrayal and incorporates this heartbreak into his work.

Thad Luckinbill describes the decision to cast Zoey for the role by saying, “Zoey is fantastic and such a great young actress. I was fortunate to be in one of the casting sessions and I got to watch her read and play with the role, which was phenomenal. She just brings that old-world New York that we haven’t seen in a while, and for such a young person to be able to do that is amazing.”

Another tumultuous relationship that provides insight into Salinger’s work is that with his father, Sol, played by Victor Garber. Sol is hard on Salinger and has trouble understanding his decision to become a writer. Their relationship is complicated and nuanced, and Garber is able to artfully master the character and his relationship with his son.

“Victor did a fantastic job of balancing the character out. Sol makes Salinger very unhappy in ways, but Victor managed to keep the character from becoming the bad, evil father and instead showed that he was still caring and kind,” Hoult says. “There is a very complex but interesting evolution of their relationship that I find one of the most intriguing of the whole movie,” added Strong. “Garber really brings an authoritative figure right away. His presence is felt even if he isn’t saying anything – he commands the screen.”

Though Salinger struggles to see eye to eye with his father, he and his mother Miriam (Hope Davis), share an extremely close relationship.

“The Miriam character is really a lot of the heart of the movie because it’s that mother son relationship that is the one consistent thing throughout Jerry’s whole life,” notes Strong.” She was completely behind him as a writer, even through the war, and she stood by his side. It’s heartwarming to see that relationship connect through all the ups and downs and tragedy of Jerry’s life.”

When it came to casting many of the smaller parts in the film, Danny Strong looked to his theater network in New York City to source local talent. “Once we solidified that we were filming in New York, Danny knew he wanted to take advantage of the wealth of actors living here. He reached out to theater people who he knew or admired” recalls Shuman. “One after another of these lauded theater actors are coming in and just nailing their scenes which is so exciting and really makes it authentic.”

The World Of Salinger

While the film takes place long ago, Danny and the creative team wanted to be sure the film wasn’t categorized as just another period piece.

Strong notes, “Our goal was to establish the period, but at the same time to give the story a timeless quality. We wanted to remain authentic, but to emphasize that the message of the film can be about any writer, in any time or place.”

While shooting in New York City can present its challenges, the production team knew that it was crucial to achieve the authenticity they were striving for. Strong notes: “I was extremely inspired by the photography of Saul Leiter, and the way he captures personal isolation in the human maze that is New York City.” Dina Goldman was brought on to execute set design, and she immediately began researching photographs from the 30s, 40s, and 50s and going to the locations within New York – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and upstate – where they were shooting.

Drawing inspiration from photos of the real Salinger home in New York City and Salinger’s home in New Hampshire, Goldman was able to transform a Brooklyn townhome into the Salinger family home and create a wooden structure to use as Salinger’s writing studio in New Hampshire.

Goldman describes the process: “As with everything in the film, the research that was out there was a terrific stepping off point for the movie. We made a decision that we weren’t going to be slaves to copying something exactly as it was because that’s not what the movie is about.”

 

The Perfect Xmas Gift!

their-finest-hourIf you are looking for a heartbreaking drama/ romance, Their Finest is an absolute must! The year is 1940, London. With the nation bowed down by war, the British ministry turns to propaganda films to boost morale at home. Realizing their films could use “a woman’s touch,” the ministry hires Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) as a scriptwriter in charge of writing the female dialogue. Although her artist husband looks down on her job, Catrin’s natural flair quickly gets her noticed by cynical, witty lead scriptwriter Buckley (Sam Claflin). Catrin and Buckley set out to make an epic feature film based on the Dunkirk rescue starring the gloriously vain, former matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley and their colorful cast and crew work furiously to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation It carries an age restriction of 13. Watch Trailer

SpidermanA young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the sensational Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Embraced all over the world, Spider-Man is the most popular comic book character in history and the crown jewel of Marvel comics.  Now, he comes home in a film with a fresh, fun tone and new take, produced by Marvel Studios, that brings the Peter Parker of the comic books to the screen alongside MCU heroes for the first time. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.  His moment has arrived as he is challenged to become the hero he is meant to be.

churchillDiscerning viewers will delight in Churchill, a captivating drama featuring excellent performances by Brian Cox as British Prime Minister Winston Chruchill and Miranda Richardson as his devoted wife. The story takes place during the days leading up to infamous Allied D-Day landings in Normandy, France in June, 1944.  Tensions mount for the beleaguered Churchill and fearful of repeating his deadly mistakes from World War I in the Battle of Gallipoli, exhausted by years of war, plagued by depression and obsessed with his historical destiny, Churchill is reluctant to embark on the large-scale campaign, one that the entire war effort hinges upon. Clashing with his Allied political opponents U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery) and British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (Julian Wadham), the troubled Churchill receives support and devotion from his wife, the brilliant and unflappable Clementine Churchill, whose strength and shrewdness  halts Winston’s physical, mental spiritual collapse and inspires him on to greatness. Age Restriction 10 – 12 PGD.  Watch the trailer

PROMISEEmpires fall, love survives in The Promise. When Michael (Oscar Isaac), a brilliant medical student, meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), their shared Armenian heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between Michael and Ana’s boyfriend Chris (Christian Bale), a famous American photojournalist dedicated to exposing political truth. As the Ottoman Empire crumbles into war-torn chaos, their conflicting passions must be deferred while they join forces to get their people to safety and survive themselves. The Promise is directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Terry George.It has an age restriction of 16 PV. Watch trailer

LOST CITYThe True-life drama  The Lost City Of Z is set at the dawn of the 20th century, British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam)  journeys into the Amazon, where he discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment, which views indigenous populations as savages, the determined Fawcett, supported by his devoted wife, son, and aide-de-camp, returns to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case.It has an age restriction of 13V. Watch trailer

20tth CNTURYThe thought-provoking and challenging 20th Century Women is set during the summer of 1979, with Annette Bening in top form as a headstrong Santa Barbara single mom and boardinghouse landlord who decides the best way she can parent her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann) is to enlist her young tenants – a quirky punk photographer (Greta Gerwig), a mellow handyman (Billy Crudup) and her son’s shrewd best friend (Elle Fanning) – to serve as role models in a changing world. There is an age restriction of 13 ATLS. Watch trailer

WHOLE TRUTHIn the crime /courtroom drama The Whole Truth Keanu Reeves plays a defense attorney who takes on a personal case when he swears to his widowed friend, Loretta Lassiter (Renée Zellweger), that he will keep her son Mike (Gabriel Basso) out of prison. Charged with murdering his father, Mike initially confesses to the crime. But as the trial proceeds, chilling evidence about the kind of man that Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi) really was comes to light. While Ramsay uses the evidence to get his client acquitted, his new colleague Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tries to dig deeper – and begins to realize that the whole truth is something she alone can uncover. It carries an age restriction of 16 LSV. Watch trailer

FAMILY MANIn the moving A Family Man Gerard Butler delivers a great performance as a hard-driven headhunter who works at a cutthroat firm. When his boss pits him against the equally driven Lynn Vogel, Dane gears up for the professional battle of his life. When his young son is then given a harrowing diagnosis, Dane is suddenly pulled between achieving his professional dream and spending time with the family that needs him now more than ever. It has an age restriction of 13L. Watch trailer

 

CIRCLEIn the thrilling The Circle Mae Holland (Emma Watson) seizes the opportunity of a lifetime when she lands a job with the world’s most powerful technology and social media company. Encouraged by the company’s founder (Tom Hanks), Mae joins a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes soon starts to affect the lives and futures of her friends, family and that of humanity. Age restriction 7-9 PGL. Watch trailer

ARMYIn the wacky Army of One Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage), an ex-con, unemployed handyman, and modern day Don Quixote receives a vision from God telling him to capture Osama bin Laden. Armed with only a single sword purchased from a home-shopping network, Gary travels to Pakistan to complete his mission. While on his quest, Gary encounters old friends back home in Colorado, new friends he makes in Pakistan, the enemies he makes at the CIA — and even God and Osama themselves. Watch trailer

Rough NightIn the raunchy adult comedy Rough Night, five friends from college – played by Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz – reunite when they rent a beach house in Miami for a wild bachelorette weekend that goes completely off the rails.  Just when all hope is lost, they realize there’s more to the story than they could’ve ever imagined. “This movie might seem to be about friends who find themselves in a not-so-average bachelorette party through a series of very over-the-top events, but the movie is really about friendship,” says Scarlett Johansson, who expresses her comedy chops in Rough Night.  “We often can take for granted the people that know us the best… This movie is a sort of cautionary tale about taking that for granted – and also it’s a celebration of that kind of deep friendship.  Underneath this wild, R-rated comedy is a movie with a very warm heart about friendship.” The film is age restricted 16 LSD. The bonus features include a scandalous sing-along, a featurette on the cast. Watch trailer

MOVIES DEC MASTER

Write Journey12 Steps To Write The Perfect Screenplay:  The Write Journey is an interactive course for writers who would like to write a screenplay for feature film or television. Read more

 

 

 

Latest Releases /  July 2017 August 2017  /  

September 2017 / October 2017 / November 2017   / 2018

What’s Happening On The Big Screen: December 2017

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change. Visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links

Showing from 1 December, 2017

PADDINGTONIn Paddington 2 our furry friend is now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community. He undertakes a number of odd jobs to afford a unique pop-up book from an antique book shop – a present for Aunt Lucy on her 100th birthday. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to find the thief. Trailer

 

 

ACCIDENT 2In the South African film The Accident a group of teenagers suffer a terrible accident during a joy ride and get trapped at the bottom of a ravine. Written and Directed by Dan Tondowski.  Trailer

 

 

 

 

BATTLE OF SEXESBattle Of The Sexes tells the true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs. The 1973 tennis match between King (Emma Stone) and Riggs (Steve Carell) became the most watched televised sports event of all time. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With her husband urging her to fight for equal pay, the private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Simon Beaufoy. Trailer

BAD MOMS 2Best friends Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) deal with more stress during the holidays when their respective mothers come to visit in A Bad Mom’s Christmas. This black comedy is directed and written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. It is a sequel of the 2016 film Bad Moms.  Watch the trailer

 

 

 

SHE IS KINGShe Is King  is a joyous celebration of Zulu culture in a glossy contemporary setting, showing off Joburg as the “Broadway of Africa”. Think “Smash” meets “Lion King”, in Joburg. Khanyisile is a talented Singer/Dancer/Actor who wants to be a star. She travels from her home in Nongoma to audition for a new musical to be staged at the Joburg Theatre based on the life of Zulu Queen Mkabayi ka Jama. After a couple of detours, she lands a role in the chorus and catches the eye of the best looking dancer in the show, charming soap star Luyanda. Will she be able to keep up with her more seasoned fellow performers, avoid the jealous machinations of the aging leading lady and survive the punishing rehearsal schedule to make it to opening night and shine like the star she is?  Watch the trailer.

OVERDRIVEIn the action-thriller Overdrive a notorious crime boss forces two legendary car thieves to steal a vehicle to win back their freedom. Joined by two beautiful women, the team has one week to pull off the daring heist or risk losing everything, including their lives. Directed by Antonio Negret, the screenplay was written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas. The film stars Scott Eastwood, Freddie Thorp, Ana de Armas, and Gaia Weiss. Trailer

 

Showing from 8 December, 2017

In Vuil Wasgoed two cleaning clerks at a laundromat, Wim and Kevin, make their otherwise dull job fun by trying on their clients clothing. One day a mysterious man brings in a suit that Kevin immediately likes. He decides to wear it out to a party and discovers a dismembered finger in the pocket. When he returns to the laundromat he finds the mysterious man waiting for him. A quirky dark comedy, starring Leandie Du Randt, Bouwer Bosch, Bernie Fourie, Tim Theron and Simone Nortman. Directed by Bernie Fourie from a screenplay by Fourie and Bouwer Bosch.Watch the trailer

KIDNAPin Kidnap, a typical afternoon in the park turns into a nightmare for single mother Karla Dyson when kidnappers snatch her young son Frankie. With no cellphone and no time to wait for police, Dyson jumps into her car to follow the vehicle that holds Frankie. As the pursuit turns into a frantic, high-speed chase, Karla must risk everything and push herself to the limit to save her beloved child. This abduction thriller is directed by Luis Prieto, written by Knate Lee and stars Halle Berry, Lew Temple, Sage Correa. Trailer

 

 

beautyAt a student party, Mariam, a young Tunisian woman, catches the eye of Youssef in Beauty and the Dogs. A few hours later, she wanders the streets in a state of shock. It’s the beginning of a long night during which she will have to fight for her rights and dignity to be respected. But how can justice be done when the perpetrators themselves are the arbiters of justice? A French-Tunisian drama directed by Kaouther Ben Hania.

 

 

barbie

Barbie: Dolphin Magic is the 36th movie in the Barbie Film Series.In this fun, underwater adventure, Barbie and her sisters visit Ken at his summer internship where he works at a coral reef researching dolphins. While diving and exploring, the sisters discover rare, rainbow-colored dolphins, which only visit once a year. Trailer

 

 

Showing from 15 December, 2017

STAR WARSStar Wars: The Last Jedi (also known as Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi) (15/12) is an epic space opera film written and directed by Rian Johnson. It is the second instalment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). The story resumes immediately after the events of The Force Awakens. The film stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, and Andy Serkis in returning roles.  Watch the trailer

 

MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMASThe Man Who Invented Christmas is drama film directed by Bharat Nalluri, written by Susan Coyne, and adapted from Les Standiford’s book. In October 1843, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) was suffering from the failure of his last three books. Rejected by his publishers, he set out to write and self-publish a book he hoped would keep his family afloat and revive his career. Directed by Bharat Nalluri from Les Standiford’s book of the same name, The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the story of the six fever-pitched weeks in which Dickens created A Christmas Carol. The film takes audiences inside the magical process that brought to life Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and others, changing the holiday into the merry family event we know today. Using real-life inspiration and a vivid imagination, author Charles Dickens brings Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other classic characters to life in “A Christmas Carol,” forever changing the holiday season into the celebration known today. Trailer

foreignerIn the action thriller The Foreigner Quan (Jackie Chan) is a humble London businessman whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love — his teenage daughter — dies in a senseless act of politically motivated terrorism. His relentless search to find the terrorists leads to a cat-and-mouse conflict with a British government official whose own past may hold the clues to the identities of the elusive killers. Directed by Martin Campbell and written by David Marconi, based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather. The British-Chinese co-production stars Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady, Liu Tao and Katie Leung. Watch the trailer

wedding partyThe Nigerian Nollywood comedy Wedding Party 2, follows the romance between Nonso Onwuka (Enyinna Nwigwe) and Deirdre (Daniella Down), the bridesmaid from London. The anticipated sequel is directed by Niyi Akinmolayan. Trailer

 

 

 

Showing from 22 December, 2017

FerdinandIn the animated film Ferdinand a little bull, prefers sitting quietly under a cork tree just smelling the flowers versus jumping around, snorting, and butting heads with other bulls. As Ferdinand grows big and strong, his temperament remains mellow, but one day five men come to choose the “biggest, fastest, roughest bull” for the bullfights in Madrid and Ferdinand is mistakenly chosen. A computer animated comedy film produced by Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation, based on the children’s book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. The film is directed by Carlos Saldanha, and it stars the voice by Adam DeVine, Gabriel Iglesias, Mark Valley, and Kate McKinnon.  Watch the trailer

PITCH PERFECTNow graduated from college and out in the real world where it takes more than a cappella to get by, the Bellas return in Pitch Perfect 3  the next chapter in the beloved series that has taken in more than $400 million at the global box office. After the highs of winning the World Championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren’t job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time. Watch the trailer

WONDERWHEELIn Wonder Wheel four peoples’ lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s: Ginny, an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty, Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband; Mickey, a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina, Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Written and directed by Woody Allen. It stars Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslet. Trailer

Tiger Zinda Hai (English: Tiger is Alive) is an Indian spy thriller directed by Ali Abbas Zafar. It is the sequel to the 2012 movie Ek ThaTiger. It continues the story of two super spies Tiger and Zoya eight years later. Trailer

Showing from 29 December, 2017

GREATEST SHOWMANThe Greatest Showman is an original musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, starring Hugh Jackman. Barnum was a visionary who rose from nothing to create the “Greatest Show on Earth,” a spectacle and celebration of his larger-than-life imagination that captivated audiences around the globe. Also starring Michelle Williams, Zac Efron and Zendaya. Directed by Michael Gracey and written by Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks, and Bill Condon.  Watch the trailer

 

JUMANJIIn the adventure Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle the tables are turned as four teenagers are sucked into Jumanji’s world – pitted against rhinos, black mambas and an endless variety of jungle traps and puzzles. To survive, they’ll play as characters from the game: meek Spencer becomes a brave explorer (Dwayne Johnson); hulky jock Fridge becomes a tiny genius (Kevin Hart); It-girl Bethany becomes a bookworm professor (Jack Black); and unathletic Martha becomes an amazonian warrior (Karen Gillan). To beat the game and return to the real world with their lives, they’ll have to start seeing things in an entirely different way. Directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Scott Rosenberg, it is a spiritual sequel and continuation of the 1995 film of the same name.  Watch the trailer

BEATRIZIn the comedy Beatriz at Dinnera Los Angeles massage therapist and holistic healer (Salma Hayek) drives to the seaside mansion of her client Cathy . When her old Volkswagen breaks down, she receives a friendly invitation from Cathy to stay for a seemingly innocent business dinner. As the guests arrive and the wine starts to flow, Beatriz finds herself in an escalating war of words with Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a ruthless real estate mogul who cares more about money than people. This comedy-drama is directed by Miguel Arteta from a screenplay by Mike White. Trailer

COCO

It’s a universal story about a family’s enduring love for each other

Pixar Animation Studios’ 19th feature film Coco showcases the importance of family, honoring your ancestors and following your dreams.

Directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist Monsters University) from a script by Molina and Matthew Aldrich (Spinning Man),  Coco features an original score from Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Rogue One), a song by Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen), and additional songs co-written by Germaine Franco (Dope, Shovel Buddies) and Molina.

Lee Unkrich

Lee Unkrich

“‘Coco’ is about a 12-year-old boy with big dreams,” says director Lee Unkrich. “It’s about a hardworking family with great traditions and a lot of love. But what’s so cool about ‘Coco’ is that the boy could be my son. That family could live next door. The sweet, bossy grandmother who insists on one more bite might be your grandma. There’s something familiar to us all in this story. That’s what makes it so special.”

 

The universal theme of family resonated with filmmakers.

Adrian Molina

Adrian Molina

“We are all part of a family,” says co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina. “Those relationships are beautiful and complicated. But our family shapes who we are, which made us wonder—if you had an opportunity to meet your ancestors, what would you recognize in them that you see in yourself?”

Adds Unkrich, “We recognized a common need to be remembered—to feel that we’ll matter long after our time here. Likewise, there’s a strong desire to keep alive the memories of our loved ones. By sharing their stories and creating our own, we build this connection across generations that is bigger than our day-to-day lives.”

The film introduces Miguel, an aspiring singer and self-taught guitarist who dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, the most famous musician in the history of Mexico. But Miguel’s family forbids music. Many years ago, his great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather came to an impasse: She wanted to raise their family together in Santa Cecilia, but he couldn’t let go of his dream, leaving his family behind in his quest to be a musician. Passed down from generation to generation, great-great-grandmother Mamá Imelda’s consequent ban on music is strictly enforced—much to Miguel’s dismay.

“When Miguel unearths a secret from his family’s past—a connection to Ernesto de la Cruz, he rushes to share the news with his family, thinking it will clear the way for him to be a musician,” says screenwriter Matthew Aldrich. “To his surprise, it only makes matters worse.”

Adds Molina, “Miguel feels like he has to choose between his passion for music and his love for his family. He really wants to share his talents with his family—to prove to them that making music is both beautiful and honorable. But he goes about it the wrong way.”

Miguel’s impulsive actions spark a magical event that renders him visible only to those who have come to visit from the Land of the Dead on Día de Muertos, also known as Día de los Muertos. This lively and colorful parallel world is populated by generations and generations of people who long ago left the Land of the Living, including Miguel’s own ancestors, who instantly recognize him and offer to help—but only if he agrees to give up music forever. “That’s just not something Miguel can accept,” says producer Darla K. Anderson, “so he teams up with a scrappy, streetwise skeleton named Héctor and they set out to find Ernesto de la Cruz—who they believe holds the key to Miguel’s baffling and decidedly unmusical family history.”

COCO

Fortunately, the Rivera family’s ban on music doesn’t extend to the film itself. “I love the irony,” says Anderson. “We have a family with this inexplicable objection to music who live in a country that’s rooted in it. In ‘Coco,’ we pay homage to all different styles of Mexican music.”

According to Anderson, authenticity was important. Filmmakers wanted to ensure that the film’s music not only sounded genuine, but looked genuine, too. “We used footage of musicians as reference so that when Miguel strums his guitar, it looks right. We recruited a number of talented musicians from Mexico whose ability to pour their hearts into this music makes all the difference in the world.”

Set in Mexico, “Coco” features two distinct worlds: the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead. Miguel and his family hail from Santa Cecilia, a charming town with a bustling central plaza where residents congregate. The look and feel of Santa Cecilia is inspired by villages visited by the filmmakers during research trips—but those trips did so much more.

“The story of ‘Coco’ is inspired by Mexico’s people, cultures and traditions,” says Unkrich. “The people of Mexico made us think about our own families, our own histories and how that makes us who we are today. We are grateful for the opportunities afforded to us, and we can honestly say we are different people as a result of our experiences.”

COCO 2

“Coco” Team Finds Their Story in Mexico

Pixar Animation Studios explores a wide range of worlds in its films—from Paris to the Great Barrier Reef, space to Monstropolis. Research is the cornerstone in creating these fantastical, yet believable worlds and the characters who inhabit them—whether that means deconstructing classic toys or figuring out how many balloons it would take to lift a house off of the ground.

For “Coco,” filmmakers wanted to immerse the audience in the culture that would anchor their story. They approached their research from many directions—enlisting consultants and experts, studying Mexican art, film and music, and traveling throughout Mexico to experience the traditions, meet the people and see firsthand where their characters would live.

Cultural Consultants

Octavio Solis

Octavio Solis

Filmmakers collaborated with a team of cultural consultants, including political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, playwright Octavio Solis and heritage and arts author, independent producer and advocate Marcela Davison Avilés. The consultants, whose families all hail from Mexico, weighed in on everything from character wardrobe and sets décor to the color palette and even dialogue—encouraging a fluid blend of Spanish and English within the script in a way that required no translation. “That reflects our upbringing,” says Solis. “We grew up in bilingual households. We spoke Spanish and English in the schoolyard interchangeably.”

Solis, who’s worked in the Bay Area arts arena for three decades, says filmmakers welcomed his honest opinions. “I don’t always toe the party line,” he says. I’m aware of what people in my culture desire in order to grow and become more involved in the fabric of the American experience.”

Solis encouraged filmmakers not to take the characters in the Land of the Dead too seriously. “Our approach to honoring our ancestors is lighthearted—if someone was a real pill in life, she’s probably a pill in death, too. I think the film captures that very well.”

Alcaraz, the nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist behind the comic strip La Cucaracha, supported the filmmakers’ efforts to lean into the family theme. “Latinos have strong family structure—family is number one,” he says. “That’s what I love about ‘Coco.’”

“It’s a universal story about a family’s enduring love for each other,” adds Avilés. “While there is a profound cultural homage taking place during Día de Muertos—it’s important to understand the celebratory aspects of the holiday and that the children in the film are happily taking part in the celebration.”

“People are going to understand this culture—these traditions—a lot more after they see this film, because Pixar has done its research,” says Alcaraz.

According to Avilés, who also curates and produces Mexican heritage cultural arts programming, the most important thing filmmakers did in their quest for an accurate and respectful representation of the Mexican culture in “Coco” was awareness that it needed to happen. “Then they acted on that awareness,” she says. “They took the time to try to understand. They listened to experts from many different fields—archeologists, musicians, cultural advocates. And they embarked on numerous research trips. It was all done with utmost sincerity, respect and humbleness.”

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Research

“As soon as we decided that we wanted to tell a story that takes place in Mexico, we immediately booked our first research trip,” says director Lee Unkrich. “Over the course of three years, we visited museums, markets, plazas, workshops, churches, haciendas and cemeteries throughout Mexico. Families welcomed us into their homes and taught us about the foods they enjoy, the music they listen to, their livelihoods and their traditions. Most importantly, we witnessed the importance they place on family.”

That, according to Unkrich, is what ultimately sparked the story audiences will see on the big screen this Thanksgiving. “We really wanted to explore the family bonds that tie us to the generations that came before us,” he says. “This story is about celebrating our past—even as we look to the future.”

2011

Unkrich traveled with producer Darla K. Anderson, production designer Harley Jessup and story supervisor Jason Katz to Mexico City in 2011. The team visited Mexico City’s Museo Dolores Olmedo to see the altar dedicated to Pedro Linares, the local artist who created the papier-mâché figurines named alebrijes in the late 1930s following a bizarre fever dream. The filmmakers were so enamored of the vibrant figurines that they vowed to include them in the film one way or another.

The trip also included time spent in Oaxaca, where they visited Santo Domingo church and cultural center, as well as the Tlacolula Market and El Árbol del Tule, an enormous Montezuma cypress tree estimated to be as old as 3000 years. Filmmakers toured the village Teotitlán del Valle and also saw alebrije artist Jacobo Angeles’ studio. A highlight was Monte Albán, where they saw ruins of great plazas, pyramids and tombs, which served as reference for the vertical design of the Land of the Dead.

While in Morelia, the team saw Plaza Morelos, Tarascas Fountain and the Aqueduct Morelia, which would later serve as reference for the film’s impressive marigold bridge that spans between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead. They visited the Palacio de Gobierno and Cathedral in Guadalajara’s historic center. On Día de Muertos, they went from Pátzcuaro to Santa Fe de la Laguna to visit “Casa del Muerto del Año.” A local family welcomed them into their home for dinner, and they spent time in the beautifully decorated cemeteries at Tzintzuntzán.

Though the film was still in its infancy, the pictures taken proved valuable years later. “We were so inspired,” says Jessup. “It was early in the process and we just soaked it all up, capturing images we knew we’d use in any version of the story. The Mexican skies, the cobblestone streets, the gorgeous embroidered fabrics, the food on the ofrendas—we brought all those images back.”

2012

Unkrich, Anderson and Jessup were joined by director of photography-lighting Danielle Feinberg and sets art director Nat McLaughlin, among others, in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Tlacolula, Tlalixtac, Abasolo, Guanajuato and Santa María del Tule. “We focused more on Oaxaca and Guanajuato on our second trip,” says Anderson, whose favorite parts of the trip were spending time with families. “They welcomed us into their homes,” she says. “They are the least guarded and most generous people I’ve ever met. We were treated like any other villager or a member of the family. ‘Come in. Eat with us. Laugh with us.’ They made tamales and traditional soup called pozole. It was truly lovely.”

The team took in more altars, markets, haciendas, gardens, churches and plazas—which inspired the film’s fictional city of Santa Cecilia. They saw mariachis performing at Salón Tenampa in Mexico City, and stumbled upon a comparsa—or parade—in Oaxaca. On Día de Muertos, they visited the San Juanito, San Felipe del Agua and Atzompa cemeteries. They found the crowds to be lively and filled with music; they fell in love with Xolo dogs.

2013

Feinberg returned to Mexico in 2013, along with co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina, character art director Daniel Arriaga, director of photography-camera Matt Aspbury, story artists Manny Hernandez and Octavio Rodriguez and story lead Dean Kelly, among others. This trip was focused mainly in Oaxaca, where the filmmakers returned to some favorite spots and found new treasures, including a chocolate mill. The team visited a huarache (shoe) workshop to garner reference for the Rivera family shoemaking business.

 

MURDER

It’s unsettling.  It’s entertaining.  It’s surprising.  And, if you like a murder mystery with heart and passion and soul, I think it’s worth a look

As a huge admirer of Agatha Christie and long-time collaborator with producer Ridley Scott, screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner: 2049) was thrilled when he was asked to bring Murder On The Orient Express to the screen.

Producer Scott, a Christie fan himself, and an admirer of Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, had leapt at the chance to re-explore the book, seeing it a wonderful opportunity to present the author’s work to a modern-day audience. Green agrees.

Murder_on_the_Orient_Express_First_Edition_Cover_1934Published in 1934, Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Orient Express is considered one of the most ingenious stories ever devised.  More than 80 years after its publishing, Christie’s novel remains beloved by new generations of readers. Kenneth Branagh’s stunning retelling of the beloved mystery with its acclaimed ensemble and breathtaking visuals invites audiences to take the most suspenseful train ride of their lives.

In the most timeless of whodunits, Murder On The Orient Express follows renowned detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) as he attempts to solve what would become one of the most infamous crimes in history.

After a shocking murder of a wealthy businessman on the lavish European train barreling its way west in the dead of winter, private detective Poirot must use every tool of his trade to uncover which of the train’s eclectic passengers is the killer, before he or she strikes again.

Agatha Christie’s classic mystery, with its richly drawn characters confined to a luxurious passenger train, taut scenes and crisp dialogue, has fixated audiences since the novel’s debut in 1934. The Times of London wrote upon its publishing, “The little grey cells solve once more the seemingly insoluble. Mrs. Christie makes an improbable tale very real, and keeps her readers enthralled and guessing to the end.”

  • Her prolific writing career spanned five decades, with 66 crime novels, 6 non-crime novels and 150 short stories
  • She wrote over 20 plays, of which the most famous, ‘The Mousetrap’, is the longest running play in the world, having debuted in 1952
  • With more than 2 billion books published, she is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare
  • Easily translatable, her books have been published in over 100 languages, making her the most translated writer of all time.
  • In 1971 Christie achieved one of Britain’s highest honors when she was made a Dame of the British Empire. Her last public appearance was at the opening night of the 1974 film version of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot.  Her verdict? A good adaptation with the minor point that Poirot’s moustaches weren’t luxurious enough.  Read more

Readers have been captivated with the mystery, the crime, the story, and the character of Hercule Poirot for generations. The allure of the Orient Express was magnified by Christie’s work, and travelers continue to flock to discover the illustrious compartments and service to this day. Room 411 in the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, where Christie allegedly wrote the novel, also remains a popular destination site. There are societies and clubs the world over dedicated to rediscovering Christie’s mysteries, particularly those featuring Hercule Poirot.

Why the endless fascination?

agatha-christiejpg“Agatha Christie is expert at bringing depth (with economy) to the observation of characters, making them distinct and colorful, but also believable.  I think she enjoys the literary dazzle of that, but in the Orient Express, you also have glamour. You have snow. You have elegance and the golden age of romance in travel.  And, of course, you have a murder,” says Kenneth Branagh.  This film introduces another generation of moviegoers to an enthralling new interpretation of one of the most beloved mysteries of all time.  A “who’s who” of celebrated actors and an acclaimed production team up for the journey.

With everything Agatha Christie, it all starts with the story. But to make a film, of course, you then need to get the rights to that story – and for producers Mark Gordon and Simon Kinberg, that proved to be a near-five-year-long journey.  Initially, both men had enquired about the rights separately but soon decided that teaming up would be the best approach.

“They’re incredible stories with characters that you want to see more and more of,” says Green.  “And if you’re lucky enough to catch an Agatha Christie book or play at the right age, it’s going to stay with you and remain charming in your memory.”

1106387-michaelcopyMichael Green is a television and film writer and producer who has received numerous accolades for his work, including an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series in 2007 for ‘Heroes’. His recent work includes the screenplays for Blade Runner 2049, Alien: Covenant and  Logan’.

In television, Green currently serves as executive producer and co-showrunner of Starz’s ‘American Gods’, adapted from Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel by Green and Bryan Fuller. Green also created and executive-produced NBC’s ‘Kings’ and ABC’s ‘The River’.  He has additionally written and produced for numerous shows including ‘Heroes’, ‘Everwood’, ‘Smallville’, ‘Jack & Bobby’ and ‘Sex and the City’.

But even as a Christie fan, one story stands out for Green: “I’m very fortunate that my favorite Agatha Christie is, hands down, Murder on the Orient Express.  It not only features Poirot, my favorite character of hers, but it’s a story that has a surprising ending, along with the fascinating people you meet along the way.  The setting is grand and everything about it makes it stand apart in my memory as the special one.”

Green met with the Christie estate to discuss the project: “We all had the same goal: we wanted to bring it into the modern world without changing what’s essential to it, without altering its soul, so that a contemporary audience can experience it, believe it and be thrilled by it.”

For Green, his interpretation of the classic murder mystery came together when Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Cinderella) came on board:  “Probably the most exciting day in the development process was finding out that Ken was interested in directing and starring in it,” says Green.  “I have immense respect and appreciation for him, both as an actor and a director.  Suddenly, this hypothetical script I had written became a film – one I could now imagine through Ken’s lens and the caliber of the people he would attract to the project.”

Great-grandson of Agatha Christie and Chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd, James Prichard, agrees with Green: “I have watched Ken’s films since I was very young – I watched his Henry V as part of my university degree, and to have him on this film, an incredibly talented director and one of the best actors of his generation, to have someone of that quality want to play Poirot gives me an enormous sense of pride.”

MURDER 2

Branagh a perfect fit

Known for his love of classics, Kenneth Branagh was a perfect fit from the start. “Fox knew that I loved thrillers, and so they came to me with this most classic of thriller mysteries,” recalls the actor/director.  “I think maybe they even knew I liked trains – I certainly liked this title, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.  It’s always had a special sort of ring to it and it takes you to the golden age of travel. It’s also a character piece set in a very confined space, under tremendous tension. There are very interesting disparate characters interacting about the most profound and dangerous of subjects and themes. I read the script by Michael Green, and I was really taken by it.”

With no shortage of interpretations of Christie’s work, Branagh’s desire to revisit these characters started with the depth and compassion Green mined, as well as the exploration of the darker idea of the motivation for revenge.

“Michael Green clearly loved the material, and he loved the characters.  He wasn’t trying to get easy laughs, and he wasn’t poking fun at the characters – particularly Hercule Poirot,” said Branagh.  “There was a compassion in the screenplay, and one of the things that surprised and thrilled me about the film is that it’s much more an emotional experience than people might imagine. This goes deeper because, it explores grief, and loss, and revenge, with sophistication and soul.”

Then there is the setting. For modern audiences, travel has become a hassle, a means to an end destination. The setting of Orient Express harkens back to the care and precision given to travel, and the true luxury of the experience. Green’s script captured the allure of the time and the meticulous details of the famous train.

branagh

Kenneth Branagh is an acclaimed actor and director whose work across film, television and theatre is underscored by quality, truth and passion. He has been nominated for five Academy Awards®, making him one of the first actors to receive five nominations in five separate categories (Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Screenplay, and Short Film).Currently, Branagh is in pre-production on Disney’s adaptation of the best-selling children’s series, Artemis Fowl, which follows a young Irish criminal mastermind on a mission to rescue his father.

“Michael relishes in the golden age of travel and the attention to detail in the Orient Express, the train, as well as other people’s appreciation of it,” says Branagh. “We both experienced that sort of childlike sense of excitement about being able to cross Europe in this wheeled palace, with its confined spaces that also make you think certain things could go bump in the night.  So, his feeling for the piece, both for the emotional depths and colors in it, the sense of fun and excitement, where it exists, and the respect for the material, along with certainly the desire to entertain – all of that came winging off the page.  His screenplay felt very rich to me.”

Not only was Branagh excited at the prospect of working with Green’s script, he was also very keen to collaborate with the Agatha Christie Estate:  “Mathew Prichard [Christie’s grandson] and James Prichard [Christie’s great-grandson] were two of the first people I met when I came on board for the project, and this very particular connection was very important to me. Mathew grew up with Agatha Christie, and James is not only a family member, but a very smart, creative influence in the way that estate is run, and a very good collaborator.  We all feel that Agatha Christie work is in a very potent moment of evolution.  She has already made this massive contribution to the world’s entertainment yet she is being rediscovered as someone who has touched on areas of human experience that have relevance for today.  She continues to entertain, and make us think in a different way.”

On the relevance of the story, James Prichard explains:  “To me, Murder on the Orient Express is one of the cleverest stories that Agatha Christie wrote. There is an astonishing exploration of justice, and justice was very important to my great-grandmother, and there are elements to this story that I think are unique, and that go to the core of what makes this story so powerful.  The back-story is incredibly moving and challenging, and the way Poirot deals with the whole episode is extraordinary.”

Mathew Prichard, adds: “It’s a mixture of all sorts of things.  The glamour, the originality of the story and the outrageousness of the solution.  It was a brilliantly written book in the 1930’s and I think it’s hard to remember nowadays, how original it must have seemed then.  My grandmother traveled in that direction, and she stopped off in Istanbul on her way to Syria and Iraq, so for Christie lovers, it has a sense of genuine authenticity of where she used to go herself.”

For Green, it was the first time in his career where he would develop a script with someone who is both the director and the lead actor.  “Together, we would be thinking not only of how it would be shot, but how he would want to play individual moments.  We could look at a line and discuss the tone and the camera angles, but also, I could hear him read it directly to me and I would be able to shape the lines instantly for him.  It was a very interesting and efficient process and takes out a lot of the guesswork when the director is the one who knows precisely how the lead actor is going to be speaking the words.”

Branagh explains why it was a natural fit for him to direct and play Poirot:  “It felt that there was a way in which those two things were very congruent with one person doing the same job.  Because, crucially, I think, Hercule Poirot is a director.  He directs the characters, and like a director, Poirot intuitively tries to listen to the way in which he can be specific and bespoke about how to create the mood that’s required for each interrogation.”

As a director, the concentration that Branagh would have on all of these amazing actors, and the detail of performance was exactly what Poirot had to have, as he looked for the tell-tale signs of the culprit, which, as Christie points out, is often “Poirot observing just the flicker in an eye.”

“Poirot’s a master of observing body language,” said Branagh. “It’s not someone with an object. It’s what somebody does with an object.  It’s the way they eat, or what they leave, or what they don’t say, or what constitutes humor.  And from his own alleged separate perspective, he often uses this notion that because he’s a Belgian, he’s separate, and he plays up to a sense that other people have of him as being different, some might say, eccentric, because when they’re saying that, they’re underestimating him.”

Oscar-nominated actor Johnny Depp was intrigued by how the story felt relevant and fresh. “It’s got everything you might expect from Agatha Christie,” said Depp.  “Death, murder, interesting characters, an unusual, often glamorous situation –  all of those elements, inside a wonderful location and journey, are all there.  But I was really impressed to return to it and see how it hadn’t dated, and, in fact, it had reinvented itself, I think, which is a sign of very good storytelling.”

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Oscar-nominated actor Willem Dafoe was drawn to the script for its character-driven narrative:  “For this story, it’s the tone that’s so important, and the role of Poirot is interesting and beautifully written, as are the balance of the characters.  It has a nice edge and it’s fun, but it also has a moral dilemma at its center.”

“All of the major plot points are there,” says Leslie Odom, Jr., “but it’s really told for a modern audience who has seen everything and heard everything.  How do you excite these kids? How do you make them lean forward in their seats when they’ve seen so much?  I think Ken and Michael have done a really great job with that aspect of the script.”

The style, grace and romance of Green’s script and the writer’s ability to stay faithful to the essence of the story, while updating it for a modern audience, enticed the acclaimed cast.  Explains Manuel Garcia-Rulfo: “It has the same DNA as the novel, but it’s more dynamic.” Lucy Boynton concurs: “It was a perfect balance between a modern version of it, whilst also staying true to all that is sacred in Agatha Christie’s story. That was a really exciting element, to see the way that it had been developed.”

When Josh Gad first read the script, he immediately knew he wanted to be involved in the project.  He explains: “I got about twenty pages into the script and called my agent and I said, ‘I don’t care if I have to play an usher who’s taking tickets, I need to be a part of this film, it’s extraordinary.’  To me, something this smart, something this epic, something that almost harks back to the golden age of Hollywood cinema, as an actor but also as a cinephile, was really exciting.”

The level of detail was particularly important as the film was shot on 65mm, a format which heightens every element of the filmmaking process.

“In our digital age, it’s increasingly rare for films to be shot on celluloid, and mostly when they are, it’s 35mm,” said Branagh.  “We are shooting on 65mm.  So, in crude terms, it’s twice the size of the 35mm negative.  It allows for a level of definition in the color and the range of tones and contrasts in the movie that, if you like film, some would argue, echoes more the experience of the human eye when viewing things.  It essentially means, in layman’s terms, that it looks sharper, richer, more colorful, and it feels like you’re inside it.  That’s what 65mm does for me, and I wanted to take the audience onto the train.  That’s why we chose that format.”

Writer Michael Green was delighted that the scale of the film could be amplified: “In the original novel we have a snowbound train just in and of itself.  For the script, we wanted to enhance the ideas of the book, whilst still honoring them – not necessarily change them, but just inhabit them a little more deeply.  So, in the novel, the train becomes snowbound.  In this film, it becomes a little more thrilling, in that the passengers become snowbound in a fairly precarious place – a creaky, viaduct bridge, which is the last place you’d want to be stuck for any length of time, because at any given moment you’re hearing the creaks and groans of ancient wood, plus it completely removes the possibility of escape.”

Adds Branagh:  “It’s exciting that Agatha Christie chooses this confined space in which to trap her characters.  But we wanted to expand the range of that train to see that if the train was, via a violent avalanche, trapped on top of a viaduct, which, in itself, was potentially precarious, and where there was great jeopardy inside a stretch of mountain too high for anybody to easily get down by walking.  That did a couple of things.  It expanded the idea of a different kind of trap, in that you’re not only in a trap of the train carriages and then the little rooms themselves, but, also, on this mountainside with a vast amount of precipitous danger around you.  It allowed us to get the characters and the camera outside, and to see a sense of the scale of this thing where this deep, dark, intense, tiny tragedy was happening.  So, Jim Clay responded brilliantly to the idea of making where the train was trapped, then the landscape around it, as exciting as what was going on inside the train.”

“Agatha Christie knows how to tell a story with complete, compelling, page-turning intensity, concludes Branagh. “If you like a real mystery, it’s a gripping yarn.  It happens in this case to be peopled by a lot of terrific actors who, I think, intensify that mystery.  It’s unsettling.  It’s entertaining.  It’s surprising.  And, if you like a murder mystery with heart and passion and soul, I think it’s worth a look.”

 

 

The Star 2

Greatness comes in the most humble appearance, which is the message of the Christmas story itself.

How do you tell one of the most famous stories ever recorded and bring it to the screen in a fresh, new way?  This was the challenge facing the filmmakers behind The Star, Affirm Films and Sony Pictures Animation’s family film about the events leading up to the very first Christmas.

“It’s the Nativity story from the point of view of the animals, and in this film, we follow Bo, who is the donkey that carries Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem,” explains director Timothy Reckart. The story is by Simon Moore and Carlos Kotkin; and the screenplay is by Carlos Kotkin

“We looked at it as the greatest story never told,” kids executive producer DeVon Franklin.  Having previously produced the faith-based hit Miracles from Heaven and overseen the blockbuster Heaven Is for Real as an executive at Columbia Pictures, Franklin was inspired to translate the meaning of the story beyond the literal telling into a journey about the choices we all make in our daily lives that have an impact and, eventually, fit into the framework of the human story at the heart of it all. “It says a lot about teamwork, stepping outside of their own somewhat narrow perspectives and working together.  Our hero, Bo the donkey, needs all of the other animals to help to become successful.  It’s also about hope—you’ve got to believe in the impossible for it to happen.”

In The Star a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day Bo finds the courage to break free and ends up befriending newlyweds Joseph and Mary. Mary’s kindness soon sets Bo on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a loveable sheep who has lost her flock, and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become unlikely heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.

THE STAR 3

“It’s about how something that seems small can be bigger than it looks on the outside.  Bo has been looking to do something important, and he starts seeking that in a self-aggrandizing way,” says Reckart.  “Along the journey, by doing a small thing – helping these two people, which, for all he knows, are just some random couple – he winds up doing the most important thing he could ever achieve.  Greatness comes in the most humble appearance, which is the message of the Christmas story itself.”

It was the world’s familiarity with the story that excited the director.  “Most people have some knowledge of it, and that presents a wonderful opportunity,” says Reckart.  “Of course, the challenge is that people may feel that they know the story, they’ve seen it. But we can make the most of it by letting some of those elements take place off-screen, and look at what might have been going on in the background, or ask questions like ‘What were the camels doing at that moment?’  That awareness of the story allows us to veer off into the corners and shine a light on other things going on and tell new stories in the midst of the familiar.”

Academy Award nominee Timothy Reckart makes his feature directing debut on The Star. Timothy first drew attention with his thesis film at the National Film & Television School in the U.K., Head Over Heels, about a long-married couple who have literally grown apart, with the wife living on the ceiling of their house and her husband living on the floor. Head Over Heels had a very successful run in festivals, which ultimately brought the film an Oscar® nomination and an Annie Award win for Best Student Film. Timothy is a graduate of Harvard University with a degree in History & Literature. He has also obtained a Master’s Degree in Directing Animation from the National Film and Television School.

“We found opportunities for fun and invention,” says Franklin.  “Audiences aren’t coming for the documentary or the historical exposition – they’re coming for enjoyment and creativity.  I think we found ways to present Mary and Joseph as recognizable characters who laugh, who are afraid, who find themselves at the center of this amazing story and display their humanity throughout it all.”

“Watching this cast work was really inspiring.  The thing that really surprised me was how each of these artists approached their particular roles,” says Reckart.  Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Tracy Morgan all became the perfect counterpoints to each other – Tyler as the self-appointed leader who thinks he’s smarter than he actually is; Tracy as his belligerent, hilarious brother; and Oprah as the wise camel who is the only one who may actually see what’s going on.  Kelly Clarkson plays her sleep-deprived horse in a way we can all recognize – like it’s 2 a.m., you’re hanging with your friends, and suddenly everything is hilarious in a way it isn’t in the mid-afternoon.  The actors all made these characters leap off the page.”

Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead” brings to life this little donkey with a big heart.  “Even though Bo is in a pretty dire situation, he’s pretty hopeful,” he says.  “He has really large dreams.  But as his plans start to go awry, he starts to doubt himself and take back all of that ambition he started with… but the universe will tell him in other ways that he’s just as important as he ever thought he was.  He finds something within himself bigger than anything he ever imagined.”

It’s a role that Yeun could recognize.  “Bo is an underdog,” he says.  “He sometimes puts limitations on himself.  I saw that in myself – I was an immigrant to this country, and there were limitations that I would place on myself based on what I saw.  Bo comes to a full realization that he has much more potential than he thinks he has, and that’s something I very much relate to.”

“I think Bo is a lot like us,” says Reckart.  “He’s a character that dreams of doing something remarkable, and he knows in his heart that he’s meant to do something great.  I feel everyone has a conviction that they are here to do something, that they’re here for a reason.  Bo’s just trying to figure out what.  He starts out with a mistaken idea of what that is, but through his journey, he finds his purpose.  On top of everything else that this story does, I feel that drive and that individual search for purpose will resonate with everyone.”

Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriguez, the star of “Jane the Virgin,” plays the role.  She says that while you might think it would be intimidating to play a role like Mary, she turned for inspiration to the greatest role models in her life.  “I think Mary’s strength exists in all women, so I pulled from my own life, from the women around me who show that kind of strength every day,” she says.  “I played her like the way my mother walks and talks, and the way my sisters are with their children.”

Rodriguez was also inspired in her performance by her grandmother’s faith.  “I’ve been researching this role my whole life, growing up in a very Catholic household with a grandmother who was not only super faithful, but lived by the faith and gave it to others.”

Zachary Levi (Tangled) says that the roles of Bo and Joseph are on similar tracks.  “They’re on separate journeys, but they’ve both strong-willed and independent spirits,” he says.  “At first, they don’t exactly endear themselves to each other, but as they are forced together, they break each other down – their hearts soften.  Joseph begins to realize that Bo is a real hero who would do everything he can, including potentially saving Joseph and Mary’s lives, and appreciates it.

“Keegan-Michael Key brought so much energy and heart to Dave,” says Reckart. A dove with a big personality and Bo’s only friend.  He knows that the Royal Caravan is the place for a bird like him – if only he can keep Bo on track!

“The ‘dance of the royal dove,’ which is one of my favorite scenes, was built around some scat singing that Keegan completely improvised. He scatted for two minutes straight. It was amazing! All of us were holding our breath because we didn’t want to ruin the take!”

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About Sony Pictures Animation

 Sony Pictures Animation produces a variety of animated and family entertainment for audiences around the world.  The studio is following its worldwide comedy hits—the record-breaking monster comedies Hotel Transylvania and Hotel Transylvania 2, the hybrid live action/animated blockbusters The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2, and the mouth-watering Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies—with the fully animated reboot Smurfs: The Lost Village available on digital and Blu-ray now; a surprising and comic take at the secret world inside our phones with The Emoji Movie now on Digital HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD.

Hotel Transylvania 3 in July 2018; and an animated SpiderMan feature from the minds of directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord in December 2018.

The studio, in conjunction with Aardman Animations, has produced two critically acclaimed feature films:  the CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas; and the Academy Award® nominated stop-frame animated high-seas adventure, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

In 2007, Surfs Up also received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Animated Feature Film; a sequel entitled Surfs Up 2: WaveMania is now available on digital and DVD.  The division, whose first feature film Open Season led to a very successful movie franchise including the brand new Open Season: Scared Silly now available on digital, DVD and Blu-ray, was founded in 2002.

Sony Pictures Animation is a division of the Sony Pictures Motion Pictures Group.

MAN

Hitler’s nickname for Heydrich was “the man with the iron heart”, and that was an affectionate nickname in Hitler’s twisted mind.

The Man With The Iron Heart, based on the novel HHhH, written by Laurent Binet, which won the Goncourt prize for a first novel in 2012 and was met with unanimous enthusiasm in the 25 countries in which it was translated, was directed by French director, writer and producer Cédric Jimenez (The Connection) and adapted by Jimenez’ partner Audrey Diwan and playwright/ screenwriter David Farr.

Reinhard Heydrich’s (Jason Clarke) meteoric rise to become one of the Nazi regime’s top brass was as furious and unrelenting as the horrors he inflicted on the people of Europe in the years leading up to and during the Second World War. Introduced to the Nazi ideology by his wife, Lina (Rosamund Pike), a high aristocrat who accompanied him throughout his rise to power, Heydrich was the principal architect of the “Final Solution” and an unstoppable force.

However, a small group of Czech Resistance fighters, trained by Britain and directed by the

Czechoslovakian government-in-exile, sought to stop the unstoppable. In an audacious act, the paratroopers,led by Jan Kubiš (Jack O’connell) and Jozef Gabčík (Jack Reynor), attacked Heydrich’s caravan as it travelled the streets of Prague, causing fatal injuries. Reinhard Heydrich became the highest-ranking Nazi officer ever to be killed during World War II.

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French director, writer and producer Cédric Jimenez

Director’s Statement

The very nature of this story rests upon the idea of ‘resistance’ itself and the courage it took for this group of young Czechoslovakians to embark on an impossible mission. Jan and Josef, our heroes of this epic story, were quite aware of the risks and knew that they might have to sacrifice their lives. Nevertheless, they committed to the cause, knowing that this sort of bravery was required to make history. They held the public’s interest above their own, never giving up their ideals.

The pinnacle moments of history are born from extreme characters, both good and evil. Josef and Jan are two patriotic lively men, who refuse to accept barbarism. Their friendship forms the pillar of this story. They fight together side-by-side against all odds. During their mission, they cross paths with two young women with whom they experience, for the last time, the fiery passion of love. This same passion that unites Jan and Anna is exemplary of the vital force that characterizes youth. They are both beautiful and rebellious.

They love each other, yet they are ready to lose everything in the name of a shared cause.

At the other end of this story is the alarming, looming figure of Heydrich. The construct of this narrative separates these two points of view by first allowing us to follow the ascent of Heydrich, a formermilitary officer who joins the Nazi party and ultimately becomes the worst of them. At his side is his wife Lina, a fallen figure of the German aristocracy in search of revenge, who is the reason of this ascension. As the formidable shadow of Heydrich grows and takes shape, danger weighs more and more on the Resistance. It also reinforces the feeling of importance and emergency of this mission: someone has to get completely devoted to the cause of stopping the “Butcher of Prague.”

The unique structure of the script allows one to penetrate deeply into the trajectories of these three main characters. It also adds originality and modernity by playing with the expectations of the historical genre, offering a kaleidoscopic vision to this decisive moment.

The staging is organic and close to the characters, who will serve as the emotional “motors” that propel the story. My ambition was to completely and passionately immerse the viewer so that he feels the same urgency and strength of conviction that the men and women felt at that time. The film is shot on 35mm to give even more life to the image and to better characterize the era in which the story takes place.

I wanted 35 to get this organic texture.  For a period movie, it didn’t feel right to shoot digitally.

The Man With The Iron Heart is a true European film. The actors are English, Irish, French and Hungarian, as is the production crew. Each brings a specific and diverse expertise with the ambition of creating a different kind of film.

From Page To Screen

While he was shooting his previous film, The Connection, Cédric Jimenez read Laurent Binet’s book, HHhH, and immediately fell in love with it. Its title an acronym for “Himmler’s Hirn heißt Heydrich,” which translates to “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich,” referring to a quip about Heydrich that circulated in Germany at the time. Heydrich had been the chief architect of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” to rid Europe of Jews.

Jimenez read the book for pleasure, and had no intention of making it into a feature film. The book had been a bestseller, culminating in a New York Times award for Notable Book of the Year, and he assumed the rights to it had been snapped up long ago.

He was correct, but the rights had in fact been bought by Alain Goldman, the president of Legende who happened to be the producer of Jimenez’s The Connection. “We were in Toronto for the premiere of The Connection,” remembers Jimenez, “and Alain said to me, ‘I have the rights to this book, and I already have the script. Do you want to read it?’ Of course I said, ‘I’d love to read the script.’”

The draft had been written by David Farr, best known for his work on Hanna and The Night Manager, and Jimenez responded immediately to it.

MAN 5David Farr is a playwright, screenwriter and director, whose plays have been performed all over the world. He has worked on the long running BBC show Spooks and completed his first feature film, Hanna, for Focus Features in 2009. His directorial debut, The Ones Below, premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. David’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel The Night Manager, aired on BBC1 Autumn 2015 and has been nominated for 12 Emmys including Best Writing. His new series Troy: Fall of a City has been commissioned by BBC1 and he is currently working in the writer’s room for McMafia, produced by Cuba Pictures and adapted from Misha Glenny’s book about organized crime.

He asked Goldman if he could redraft it, with Audrey Diwan, with whom he had co-written The Connection.

MAN 4Audrey Diwan started her writing career as a novelist. After studying journalism and political sciences, she published two critically acclaimed books, The Fabrication of a Lie (La fabrication d’un mensonge) and The Other Side of Summer (De l’autre côté de l’été) (Flammarion publishing). She then worked in television, notably collaborating on Eric Rochant’s series Mafiosa. Afterwards she began her screenwriter career, collaborating with her partner Cédric Jimenez, whose films she writes. She also created the French version of the publication Stylist and published How to be Parisian, in 32 languages.

“What I loved about the story was the historical significance of the rising of a big, high-ranking Nazi officer, and what it means in this century,” says Jimenez. “How could that happen? How could something so crazy and insane happen? How could people go so wrong in terms of ideology and belief? We think of The Second World War as a nightmare, but it was a true nightmare. And everybody wants to answer these questions, but nobody can.”

The power of the book lies in its splitting of the story between the rise of Heydrich and the background of the group of Czech Resistance fighters who brought about his end. “At the heart of this story is the thematic of the sacrifice that these fighters had to make,” notes Jimenez. “I think it’s a very impressive sacrifice, because it’s so hard to make. Everyone respects that, but not everybody can say to themselves, ‘OK, I think my life is less important than the lives of others.’”

Jimenez continues: “These two sides of the story are really important to me, because they’re about evolving in a really bad way, and evolving in a really good way. And it’s about changing the world. The Nazis wanted to change the world in their own image, while the resistance wanted to change the world and restore order.”

The story of Reinhard Heydrich has been told before, as many stories about the Second World War have, but his name is not familiar to most. Jimenez believes that it’s because he was killed in 1942, while the likes of Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels survived until the end of the war.

However, Heydrich’s assassination was a turning point allowing the destabilization of the Nazi regimen. Hitler’s nickname for Heydrich was “the man with the iron heart”, and that was an affectionate nickname in Hitler’s twisted mind.

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Also known as “the butcher of Prague,” Heydrich was responsible for some of the most abhorrent atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, and he was instrumental in organizing Kristallnacht, a series of coordinated attacks on German Jews that presaged the Holocaust. He was directly responsible for the Einsatzgruppen, a special task force that travelled in the wake of German armies and murdered more than 2 million people.

The Nazi response to Heydrich’s assassination was brutal: the towns of Lidice and Ležáky were targeted based on weak evidence that they harbored key resistance figures. Both towns were razed to the ground, their inhabitants killed or sent to concentration camps.

Stepping into the shoes of The Man With The Iron Heart

“He was the epitome of Nazism,” notes Jason Clarke, the actor in charge of playing Heydrich. “He was the epitome of what Hitler and his band of brothers were trying to achieve. He was the architect of a lot of it.”

Heydrich joined the Nazi party only after being fired from the German army in the days before the Nazis took power. But Heydrich was a through-and-through soldier, and so his ousting from the army was, Jimenez believes, the key act in the creation of a monster. “He was pulled away from something that was a part of him, and he found in the Nazi movement another outlet for his anger. He wasn’t supposed to be what he became. Maybe, if he’d stayed a soldier, if he hadn’t been fired from the army, this guy would never have become what he became. Imagine how many people would never have been killed if it weren’t for him. One little event in one person’s life can change the world.”

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Jimenez saw in Jason Clarke the only actor with the power and presence to be able to embody Heydrich. “The most important thing was how intelligent and well-read you have to be to accept that you’re playing a really bad man. I didn’t want to forgive or forget the atrocities Heydrich committed. This isn’t a humanization of the man. But I wanted to go a little deeper into what we know about this man in order to try to understand him.”

For his part, it was important for Clarke to note Heydrich’s interests apart from Nazism, and how his power and poise helped him exert control.

Clarke had responded to the material immediately. “He said he didn’t want to save him at all, but he wanted to dig into every single weakness of the character to make it as complex as possible. He didn’t want us to forget that this was a man. He wasn’t a Marvel villain: he was a man that existed, with parents and siblings and a real, human heart beating in his chest. You could walk past the same guy in the street tomorrow and not even know it.”

“You have to see a three-dimensional character for starters,” Clarke says, about the challenge of playing a character who is no more than a monster on paper. “Reinhard Heydrich was a serious man who committed some of the most heinous acts in human history. So there has to be a point to him doing it. There has to be some reason to lay down the track.”

Clarke dove into research. “I love the research. I love reading all about it, whether it comes into how you play the role or not. There comes a point where you have to let it go, when you’re on set trying to establish a feeling of intimidation and constant aggression. I was not a very nice man to be around on this set. Not that I was unfriendly, but you couldn’t just find this feeling in the scene. It’s a fine line when you’re on set, of getting yourself in that mode and trying to keep it to yourself and then letting it out. I was very aware of walking around in a Nazi uniform.”

Jimenez agrees: “It’s brave to accept a character like that, because you accept to be someone that you hate. It’s very hard for an actor to be the one everybody will hate.”

The Woman Behind The Monster

Key to the The Man With The Iron Heart retelling of Heydrich’s story is the influence his wife, Lina, had on her husband. “He wasn’t a big anti-Semite,” Jimenez notes. “He believed only that Germany should be a great country again. Lina opened the road for him to become this monster. She believed in the Nazi party, and she studied politics.”

Pike’s interest in the film came from the strength of character she found in Lina. “People have heard about the project and asked me, ‘Did she know what was going on? Was she just the woman at home, not really understanding what was happening as her husband made his rise through the Nazi party?’ But the interesting thing for me about her is that she’s the architect of his ascent. Reinhard Heydrich would never have become who he became without Lina Von Osten, and her own grandiosity, and her own appetite for power.”

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Pike continues: “She’s someone who would have wanted to be powerful herself, but as a woman at that time that wasn’t really possible. In a way, you had to live vicariously through your man. I think she seized this man, and saw something in him that was kind of available for manipulation. She took him and made him, in a way, her puppet.”

“She creates the monster. And when you create a monster, the monster will bite you,because that’s what it does. She gets what she wanted, and for me Lina represents the mistake of peoplewho saw the Nazi system as a solution.”

The people who challenged the power

On the other side of the Heydrich story, Jimenez understood the importance of the differences between the Czech resistance fighters and Heydrich and Lina. These were not men and women of power and education, but simple, everyday people who sought to challenge that power because they believed it needed to be challenged.

“These soldiers were young; very, very young,” notes Jimenez. “Sometimes they were 16 or 17 years old, and they gave their lives to this cause because they didn’t fully understand the consequences. They knew that something was wrong, they felt it needed to change, and they were unaware about the risks they were taking.”

In the role of Jozef Gabčík, Jack Reynor immediately responded to the script when he first read it.

And like O’Connell, he relied on instinct to play the part. “There isn’t a huge amount of material available about Jan and Jozef,” Reynor explains. “Ultimately you have to inject as much of the spirit of what they were trying to do into the character as possible. To put as much of the humanity in us as possible into the character and let that be the driving force, more than to find out what they used to eat for breakfast in the 1920s.”

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PROFESSOR

A bold and illuminating true superhero origin story. It is also a tale of invention, perseverance and courage against the forces of oppression.

Writer/director Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is the incredible true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist and inventor Dr. William Moulton Marston to create the iconic feminist superhero Wonder Woman.

While Marston’s groundbreaking character was pilloried by censors for its sexual frankness, he was living a secret life that was equally controversial. Marston’s inspiration for Wonder Woman were his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and their mutual lover Olive Byrne, self-empowered women who defied social conventions while they helped Marston advance his prescient behavioral research.

If behind every great man there is a great woman, Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) had the good fortunate to have two: his wife Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). In addition to helping him perfect the lie detector test, the women in Marston’s life aided him in his forward-thinking human research studies and inspired him to create the feminist superhero, Wonder Woman, a barrier- breaking, iconoclastic heroine, beloved by millions for the past eight decades.

According to writer/director Angela Robinson, Marston’s life is the story of “three unlikely rebels who dared not only to love each other but form a family together and how their collective experience led to the creation of Wonder Woman, one of the most enduring feminist icons of all time.”

But there was a price to pay for the Marston’s family’s unconventional ideas. Professor Marston and his wife Elizabeth were banished from academia, financially hobbling their research and compromising their economic livelihood. In spite of these problems, the family persevered and Elizabeth and Olive’s defiance and courage in the face of adversity moved the Professor to create his dream woman, the first comic book superhero Wonder Woman, a phenomenon as well as a lightning rod for the censors.

Like most individuals born ahead of their time, Marston and his wonder women are a testament to survival against the dark undercurrents of repression that continue to plague society to this day.

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Stranger Than Fiction

Almost a decade ago, writer/director Angela Robinson (True Blood, The L Word), was leafing through a coffee table book about Wonder Woman, of whom she was a lifelong fan, when she came across some startling facts about the origins of the comic book superhero. “There was one section that blew my mind,” she recalls.

The chapter centered on the superhero’s creator, Dr. William Moulton Marston, who was also responsible for the lie detector test. (Marston invented the systolic blood pressure test, which he then combined with the polygraph, after his wife, Elizabeth suggested a connection between emotion and blood pressure). Also contained in the chapter was a discussion of the sexual bondage controversy surrounding the Wonder Woman comics in its early days and Marston’s polyamorous relationship with Elizabeth and one of his college students, Olive Byrne.

The information was bare bones, but after some careful sleuthing, Robinson unearthed a trove of equally fascinating information. Robinson read Marston’s treatise “Emotions of Normal People,” in which he propounded his “DISC theory” that all human interaction is broken down into four behaviors: dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. She also discovered that the character of Wonder Woman, which debuted in the early 1940s, was created as psychological propaganda. “Marston believed that women were the superior sex and they should be running the world,” Robinson notes. “When I shared all this information with my friends, they all said, ‘you should write this as a movie.’”

Her initial impulse was to create a Marston biopic, “but the more I learned about Elizabeth and Olive, the more I realized that I couldn’t understand him without understanding the role they’d played in his life.”

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In particular, she was intrigued by the fact that Elizabeth and Olive (by whom Marston had two children each), continued to live together for thirty-eight years after his death, signifying a bond of affection and commitment beyond their connection to Marston. “Elizabeth even named one of her daughters after Olive,” Robinson mentions. “This wasn’t the story of a wife and a mistress living together. What I was looking at was a love story between three people.”

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Angela Robinson is a celebrated filmmaker who explores and exposes the breadth and complexity of humanity in an extensive body of work across both film and television. Filtering her storytelling through the multi-faceted prism of identity, Robinson uses the power of her unique voice to intelligently and empathetically bring compelling, intersectional stories— specifically those of women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals—to the mainstream in a way that is entertaining, emotional, and thought-provoking. Moving fluidly between film and television, Robinson has an overall deal with ABC Television Studios and recently served as a Consulting Producer on ABC’s hit series How to Get Away with Murder. She previously both wrote and directed as an Executive Producer on boundary-pushing series for HBO including Hung and True Blood, as well as on Showtime’s groundbreaking The L Word. Currently, she is also in development on a series for EPIX and Annapurna Television exploring the intersecting lives of Golden Age stars Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.

In writing about a polyamorous relationship, Robinson contends, changing point of view became an essential element. “Viewing the relationship from multiple perspectives was crucial in order for us to understand why the three of them stayed together.”

The script begins on Marston, then shifts to his wife, Elizabeth, and finally, to Olive, the object of their desire. Further, “all the scenes examine a facet of Marston’s DISC theory,” says Robinson, “looks and body language through which thoughts and intimacy are communicated. The power exchange was an important component of the story.”

In order to explore the bondage element of the Marston triangular relationship, Robinson met with female dominatrices, “because I wanted it to be explained from a woman’s perspective and to include the emotional and intellectual reasons Marston found it attractive. My consultants explained that the submissive person is usually in charge, the guide to what’s happening, which added another layer to their behavior.”

The script she produced won high praise, but Robinson could find no takers. “Part of it was because independent movies are hard to make, and frankly some people just didn’t get it,” she observes. “I mean, after all, I’d written a love triangle in which the principles get involved in bondage and, along the way, one of them creates Wonder Woman, and I was asking audiences to root for their love. That’s a pretty tall order.”

Another factor was that Robinson was ahead of the curve. No sooner had she moved the project to the back burner than there was an explosion of interest in Wonder Woman and its creator. Part of it had to do with the scheduled appearance of the Wonder Woman character on film for the first time ever in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in order to build anticipation for a long in development Wonder Woman stand-alone feature film. Then, in 2014, Jill Lepore’s book “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” which was excerpted in the New Yorker, became a best seller. Other similarly themed books followed.

During a social encounter with producer Amy Redford, Robinson mentioned her long cherished project, and Redford expressed interested in reading the script.

For Redford, it proved to be love at first sight. “The script was timely and well-constructed and moving and interesting and strange,” she says. “I couldn’t believe this story hadn’t been told before.”

Not only were the female characters original and multi-faceted, Redford continues, but the male lead, Professor Marston, was a complex character as well. “You don’t usually get the combination of fascinating male and female characters in the same story,” she observes.

What separated the script from standard biopics, says Redford, was that in examining how the three central characters forged ahead with their lives in the face of opposition, “it invites us to reevaluate what we consider a family, and how that family can be made of up different constructs, something we are just now beginning to embrace as a society. Not only were the main characters’ love for one another daring for the time, but so was the fact that Elizabeth and Olive were trying to have careers for themselves. They were true pioneers in that respect.”

Another facet that stood out in Robinson’s script, according to Redford, “is how it delineates the architecture of the Wonder Woman character through the experiences and lives of Marston, Elizabeth and Olive. We get to peer behind the curtain and discover where the essence of comic book superhero came from as well as her iconic symbols, the costume, the bracelets, the tiara.”

And it was this last element that vaulted the project from script to actual production, mentions producer Terry Leonard. “The Wonder Woman aspect of the story proved to be our strongest selling tool in raising financing,” he says. “And once people read the script they became passionate about it.”

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women was shot in Massachusetts–mostly in the Boston area– over a concentrated twenty-five days. The time and budgetary constraints necessitated a strong team spirit and a hit-the-ground-running enthusiasm.

Fortunately, says Rebecca Hall, writer/director Angela Robinson had provided them with a fascinating, in-depth script that cogently explores the dynamics of a three-way relationship. “It was all right there on the page,” Hall enthuses. “It presented everything that is potentially glamorous and exciting about the idea, but also the problems and complications.”

In a peculiar way, Hall found that the film harkened back to classic Hollywood romantic comedies, but with a very modern twist. “The story is very colorful. These characters have rich fantasy lives. They’re very playful. But it’s all rooted in an intellectual reality, which allows them to be quick-witted and verbose. It’s a great deal of fun to play such intelligent characters.”

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Casting The Characters

The realization of writer/director Robinson’s vision of Professor Marston & The Wonder Women rested squarely on the shoulders of its three protagonists, the eponymous Professor, his wife Elizabeth and their lover Olive Byrne.

The titular character was particularly risky. In the wrong hands, Marston could come across as insensitive and exploitative. The choice of Luke Evans, an actor who is as comfortable in period epics like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Beauty and the Beast as in contemporary action and drama like The Fate of the Furious or The Girl on the Train, struck the perfect balance.

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What fascinated Evans about the project is how the three main intertwined characters managed to survive at a time when their relationship was not accepted or understood. “They sacrificed a lot to be with each other,” Evans observes.

Marston’s feelings for Elizabeth and Olive expanded his world view, Evans believes. “There was a lot of love there. And though at times, their problems tore them apart, he fought for that love and pulled them back together. Marston was one of the country’s first vocal male feminists. He believed women were more loving and nurturing and if they were running the world it would be a better place. And I think this all grew out of living with two women and watching the love they had for each other and for their family.”

Marston himself hailed from an upper-class historical Boston family. He was a scholar and researcher whose invention, the lie detector test, as well as the character of Wonder Woman were influenced by his DISC theory, says Evans. “He believed that all human interaction was broken down into four emotional categories, dominance, inducement, submission and compliance, and he stood by it his whole life.”

In studying those theories, Evans discovered “how much fun it was to dig deeper into the mind and life of someone who actually existed on this planet and left his mark in two extraordinary ways. It wasn’t difficult to slip under the skin of a man who lived his life to the fullest. He was extremely intelligent and loved his wife and Olive immensely. He had an enthusiasm for living and for discovery. He was also brave, unafraid to reach out and grasp at the unknown.”

For the witty and brilliant Elizabeth Marston, Robinson zeroed in on actress Rebecca Hall who has shown her range in films as varied as Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Town and The Prestige.

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After reading Jill Lepore’s 2014 article in the New Yorker about the genesis of Wonder Woman, Hall had herself flirted with the idea of making a movie about Marston. “Until that time, my understanding of Wonder Woman had been that she was a token female superhero, who had been sexualized, objectified. After reading Jill’s article, I realized that actually, she’d been written as feminist propaganda, a tool to convince young boys that it was acceptable for women to be powerful. When I explored getting the rights, I learned that Angela had been working on this story for several years before Jill’s article was written. Six months later, I heard they were looking for someone to play Elizabeth, and I immediately phoned Angela.”

Olive Byrne, the third member of this unorthodox triangle, was a character that required an actress who could balance youthful innocence with sexual curiosity and daring, since it is she who declares her intentions to both Marston and his wife. All those attributes were found in actress Bella Heathcote, who recently co-starred in the erotic hit Fifty Shades Darker, and before that, The Neon Demon and Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

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In preparing for the role and discussing it with Robinson, Heathcote came to realize that in many ways she had the easiest part to play. “Olive’s arc is right there in Angela’s script,” she said. “The other two characters sometimes play games, but Olive is always honest. She wears her heart on her sleeve. There’s a lot of me in her, an openness and vulnerability.”

Heathcote describes the three-way relationship as a tripod in that it needed all three legs to work in order to survive. “Olive and Bill try to manage Elizabeth’s feelings, and Bill and Elizabeth make Olive feel safe. And both women love Bill despite his eccentricities, or perhaps because of them.”

In addition to being a three-way love story, and a record of the man who invented the lie detector test and Wonder Woman, Heathcote sees the film as “a coming of age tale. All three characters grow so much over the course of the narrative, especially Olive. At the beginning, she is just a student, very unsure of herself. But over the course of the narrative, she figures out who she is and becomes comfortable with her sexuality. Her sense of self becomes more concrete.”

For Luke Evans, the movie tells the origin story with depth and resonance. “It’s the perfect moment to tell the story of how Wonder Woman came to be. You see, there’s a reason that Wonder Woman has withstood the test of time. She represents female strength and the power women can have. She’s different from Superman or Batman. She possesses attributes and energies and techniques that men fail at, miserably so. She doesn’t use her super powers to defeat. She uses them to make people tell the truth.”

In conclusion, Robinson believes that Professor Marston & The Wonder Women has something of importance to impart to audiences. “It’s a powerful message about the nature of love and acceptance and having the courage to be who you are. Wonder Woman’s mission is to stop violence, to stop war and to stand for peace. That’s what I took away from the experience and I hope that’s what everyone takes away.”

 

KERSFEESVADER

Wishes are definitely okay in the utterly charming Liewe Kersfeesvader

Review by Daniel Dercksen (17/11/17)

Wishes rekindle shattered dreams in Etienne Fourie’s soulful and heartfelt Liewe Kersfeesvader, an emotionally filled journey into the lives of ordinary people and a down-to-earth Father Christmas.

Scripted by Fourie, it’s a story we all can relate to, and one that will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to make sense of the world they live in, or the family that rule their life. Read interview

A young beauty queen is flung into swift adulthood when her father assumes a new identity: Father Christmas. Juggling an unhinged father, an impressionable kid brother and a growing romance, Nonnie must redefine her own meaning of family.

Set in a rustic small town, this refreshing coming-of-age story features top notch performances from the cast; Morné Visser shines as a man who tries to reconcile his family by stepping into the shoes of Father Christmas, with hope in his heart and love in his soul; Mila Guy is perfectly cast as Nonnie, delivering a memorable performance as a teenager in search of meaning and love; Eloff Snyman makes an impact in his feature debut as Nonnie’s worldwise younger brother; and Dean-John Smith is the dashing Prince Charming in this rustic fairy tale.

Fourie’s brings his layered screenplay to glorious life with verve and vigour, allowing us a vibrant Christmas-flavoured experience, poignantly capturing the essence of romance, intrigue and the conflicted relationship between the characters, strikingly realized by cinematographer Eduan Kitching.

What works extremely well is how Fourie skillfully balances the inner life of the story with the charged plotline. He allows us to share intimate moments of self-discovery and introspection without intruding on the characters, keeping his distance when needed, gently cradling these sacred moments where we become a part of the experience.  This is where the film truly becomes alive and will most definitely live in the hearts of anyone seeking a meaningful cinematic experience.

With so much chaos and uproar in the world, we truly need films like this to remind us of how important it is to honour our wishes and ensure that our idealism is never thwarted by the upheavals that force us to embrace our flawed humanity.

If you are looking for ideal entertainment where people matter, Liewe Kersfeesvader is the perfect film to share with family, friends and loved ones, a charming South African film that never indulges in crudeness, rather offering wholesome viewing, celebrating proudly South African filmmaking at its best.

The film is in Afrikaans with English subtitles.

ETIENNE MASTER

Writer-director Etienne Fourie blew our minds with Die Windpomp, captured our hearts with Dis Koue Kos Skat and now bewitches us with the magical Liewe Kersfeesvader

Etienne completed his B.A.(Hons.) in Motion Picture Medium (Screenwriting & Directing) in 2011 at ADFA film school in Cape Town. Etienne’s screenwriting credits include Klein Karoo (2013) for director Regardt van den Bergh, Strikdas (2015), Die Bakker (2017) and Barnard (2017). Etienne also serves as script-doctor on many other projects including Verskeitende Ster (2016) for director Darrell Roodt. In 2013 Etienne made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed feature film Die Windpomp which he also wrote the screenplay for. Die Windpomp premiered at the Australian Gold Coast Film Festival and was nominated for 9 KykNET Silwerskermfees-awards, of which the film won 5, including Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director in 2014. In 2015 Etienne directed Dis Koue Kos, Skat for executive producer Deon Meyer, based on the novel by Marita van der Vyver and co-wrote the screenplay together with the author.

Read review

What is the essence of Liewe Kersfeesvader?

Liewe Kersfeesvader is a story that is incredibly personal to me. It deals with themes of family (being, above all, dramatic), the always-rocky transition from childhood to adulthood and, above all, love. It allows a glimpse into the lives of a typical, seemingly inconsequential family, which undergoes extraordinary challenges. It is a story about choosing to love and accept your family, not despite but rather for their imperfections.

Why did you choose to make a Christmas-inspired film?

With a vast quantity of Hollywood Christmas films – mostly starring Tim Allen – we have a truly wonderful opportunity to make a film that is unique, told by South Africans, about South Africans, for South Africans, with themes that are universally appealing. There is a real sense of pride in that, which motivates me more than anything.

Were your childhood Christmases a very special time for you?

My crush on this holiday is not based on past events – nearly all of my childhood Christmases were utter disasters. Family drama, weather, family being dramatic, fires, illness, annoying dramatic family, financial turmoil, relatives with flares for the dramatic, power cuts and even death. Instead it is the hope, more than anything, that excites me – the hope that next year will be better.

 How did you approach the story?

It was important to me to show how we really do Christmas, but not to romanticize it to the point where the film may start, excuse the pun, to ‘snowball’ into new traditions. One such example is the characters using a true South African icon, the Aloe, as their Christmas tree. Other strong South African imagery is used throughout – Proteas for Christmas ornaments and decorations, “Melktert” as the perfect combination of cookies and milk for Santa, as well as the story being set in the hot, arid environment of the Karoo – as far away from the North Pole as possible.

 Describe the film’s design

The intention with the film’s design is to create a narrative world that, firstly, is familiar to a South African audience, and then turning it on its head – allowing a novel look at a well-established culture.

Tell us about the look of the film

All the elements of the cinematography for Liewe Kersfeesvader, the lighting, composition and camera movement work together to enhance the nostalgic Afrikaans sentiments that the story conveys. The lighting is mostly warm, soft and low-contrast that compliments the colour palette’s warm and soothing hues.

The composition makes use of the Karoo landscape in such a way that it becomes a character in the film. These wide scenic shots are juxtaposed with intimate shots of the characters’ lives and experiences.

Camera movement enhances the characters’ emotions and support the narrative without being overbearing.

 Why did you elect to shoot the film in Prince Albert in the Karoo?

The Karoo is iconic and culturally relevant, but it is a setting that also allows for a dramatic and beautiful juxtaposition between the characters and their environment. When thinking about Father Christmas, images of snow and ice inevitably spring to mind. Having Herman, as Father Christmas, sweating his way through his arid hometown, creates a constant sense of conflict and struggle.

As the characters learn to accept their family – and themselves – they also learn to appreciate the beauty of their town, creating new versions of established traditions in the process

 Tell us about the film’s soundtrack

The iconic song, “Kyk Hoe Glinster die Maan” by Laurika Rauch is the centerpiece of the films soundtrack. The overall score is predominantly melancholic, with moments of upliftment, making use modern folk-rock and elements of classical music.

SUBURBICON 3

When we look back at this time when America was great, we have to remember that it wasn’t particularly great for a lot of people

Suburbicon is a picture-perfect 1950s suburb where the best and worst of humanity is reflected through the deeds of ordinary people.  But when a home break-in turns deadly, a family must turn to blackmail, revenge, and betrayal in order to survive.

It is directed by Academy Award winner George Clooney (Good Night and Good Luck) and written by Academy Award winners Joel & Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men), and Clooney & Academy Award winner Grant Heslov (Argo).

Trouble in Paradise

In the decade following the Second World War, America’s emerging middle class was moving to the suburbs: idyllic, affordable homes in planned communities. For many, the American Dream of owning a home was becoming a reality for the first time.

“The GI Bill helped everybody coming back from the war to buy a nice house with a garage and a yard. You could get a good job, live in a nice neighborhood and start a family, as long as you were white,” says Clooney.  What’s fun is peeling back that veneer of the perfect home life, and seeing how ugly things can get.”

“George and I were writing a script based on the events that unfolded in Levittown, Pennsylvania,” says Heslov.  “In our research, George came across a documentary film from 1957 called “Crisis in Levittown,” It’s the true story of what happened when William and Daisy Meyers became the first African American family to move in to Levittown.”

Grant Heslov has been recognized for his work as a producer, writer, director and actor. A four-time Oscar nominee, Heslov received his latest Academy Award nod and a Best Picture win for producing the historical drama and thriller Argo. He also earned a Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award, among many others.

Heslov previously earned an Oscar® nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 2011 political drama The Ides of March, which he co-wrote with Clooney. In addition, Heslov received Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations for the screenplay, as well as a PGA Award nomination as one of the film’s producers.

Heslov also earned dual Oscar nominations, for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck which he co-wrote with Clooney. For his work on the film, Heslov also won the Writers Guild of America, Paul Selvin Award and the PGA’s Stanley Kramer Award. Among the film’s numerous honors, Heslov also garnered two BAFTA Award nominations, for both Picture and Original Screenplay; a Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay; an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Feature; and a Screen Actors Guild Award® nomination as part of the ensemble cast.

In 2009, Heslov made his feature film directorial debut with The Men Who Stare at Goats, starring Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.

Heslov also co-wrote and produced The Monuments Men. Other producing credits include the Clooney directed Leatherheads and Anton Corbijn’s thriller The American.

He also served as co-creator and executive producer on the HBO series “Unscripted,” for which he directed half of the episodes, and a co-executive producer on “K Street,” also for HBO.

“The day the Meyers moved in, the mailman assumed Mrs. Meyers was the maid and asked her if Mrs. Meyers was home,” Clooney recounts. “When she explained that she was Mrs. Meyers, the mailman took it upon himself to go door to door, calling himself ‘The Paul Revere of Levittown,’ asking everyone ‘Have you met your new neighbors?’ By that evening, there were about 500 people on their lawn shouting racial epitaphs, hanging Confederate flags, and burning a cross on the lawn next door.”

Around the time they were working on their Levittown idea, Clooney recalled a script the Coen Brothers had sent to him sometime back in 1999 called Suburbicon.  “It was a comedy/thriller with similar themes to Fargo and Burn After Reading: hapless characters making really bad decisions. We thought we’d like to make something a little less funny and a lot angrier. It seems like a good time for a film that feels angry.”

“At that point George had the idea to take the existing Suburbicon script and setting it in Levittown during the week the Meyer’s moved in,” says Heslov.

“There’s something in the national consciousness that wants to look at this era with rose colored glasses,” says Matt Damnon, who plays embattled suburban father Gardner Lodge. “We want to believe everyone was somehow happier, but obviously people are people, and there was still a lot of dark stuff going on.”

SUBURBICON 2

Have you met your new neighbours?

“When they told me it was a dark comedy, I said ‘there’s nothing funny about this situation,” says Karimah Westbrook, who plays the fictional Mrs. Meyers. “But there’s a great deal of irony and social commentary in my character’s story. They’re a growing family in search of the American Dream and feel like they’ll be welcome and safe in their new home. Unfortunately, their new neighbors are really disrespectful and sometimes dangerous: breaking windows and jumping on their car. Meanwhile, there’s a real problem next door no one is addressing.”

The real life Meyers were deluged day and night with a constant stream of auditory harassment, as a mob of neighbors banged drums, blew loud instruments and sang loudly in an effort to get them to leave.

“In our research, we saw that these protestors built a wall around the Meyer’s house, flew confederate flags, burned crosses and wrote a petition to have the family removed.  We use the actual wording from the petition in the film,” Clooney explains.

“When you see a film that deals with race and bigotry in the 50s or 60s, it’s almost always in the South,” says Clooney. “We’re used to people with Southern accents using this kind of language, but as someone from Kentucky, it’s worth discussing that these are people from Pennsylvania and New York scapegoating minorities. This kind of bigotry existed in the Northeast; it’s not hard to imagine it happening anywhere.”

“Throughout the film, we use actual footage from the documentary,” Clooney continues. “Sometimes you have to see the real stuff to make it really land. Often the bigotry is casual and shocking to an audience today, but the truth is, this wasn’t that long ago.

Suburbicon speaks to the time we are living in,” adds Damon. “The neighborhood is building a wall around the house of the African American family that just moved in, trying to annex their little area. Meanwhile, the crazy people in the neighborhood are right around the corner.”

“Everybody’s looking in the wrong direction,” says Clooney. “They want to believe this myth that nothing bad happened before the minorities arrived. When we look back at this time when America was great, we have to remember that it wasn’t particularly great for a lot of people. That’s a conversation that’s always topical.”

SUBURBICON

An actor’s director

George Clooney is recognized as much for his global humanitarian efforts as he is for his accomplishments in the entertainment industry. His achievements as a performer and a filmmaker have earned him two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes including the Cecil B. DeMille Award, four SAG Awards, one BAFTA award, two Critics’ Choice Awards, an Emmy and four National Board of Review Awards.

When Clooney received his eighth Academy Award nomination, he earned a special spot in the Oscar record books. He has now been nominated in more categories than anyone else in Oscar history.

Through his production company Smokehouse Pictures, Clooney produced 1950’s noir crime drama Suburbicon.  Recently through Smokehouse, he produced and starred TriStar Pictures’ Money Monster, Warner Bros.Our Brand is Crisis and produced, directed and starred in Sony Pictures’ The Monuments Men. In 2016 he also starred in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Ceasar!, a Universal Pictures film.  In 2015, Clooney was seen in director Alfonso Cuarón’s drama Gravity for Warner Bros., Disney’s sci-fi film Tomorrowland and Netflix’ “A Very Murray Christmas.”

In 2013, Smokehouse, along with Jean Doumanian Productions, produced a film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play August: Osage County for The Weinstein Company.

Other Smokehouse films include Warner Bros’ Academy Award winning drama Argo and The Ides of March.  Ides, which Clooney starred in, co-wrote and directed, received Golden Globe nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Motion Picture Drama. In addition, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In 2011, Clooney starred in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants for Fox Searchlight. Clooney won the Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe Award and National Board of Review Award for Best Actor. In addition, he received a SAG nomination and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

In 2009, Clooney starred in the critically acclaimed film Up in the Air. He received an Academy Award nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, a SAG nomination and a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor for his performance. He also won National Board of Review and New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards for Up in the Air.

When Clooney received his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Syriana in 2006, he also earned Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Good Night, And Good Luck.  It was the first time in Academy history that an individual had received acting and directing nominations for two different films in the same year.

Clooney and Heslov first worked together at Section Eight, a company in which Clooney was partnered with Steven Soderbergh.  Section Eight productions included Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 13, Michael Clayton, The Good German, Good Night, and Good Luck., Syriana, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Jacket, Full Frontal and Welcome To Collinwood.

Before his film career, Clooney starred in several television series’, becoming best known to TV audiences for his five years on the hit NBC drama “ER.”  His portrayal of Dr. Douglas Ross earned him Golden Globe, SAG, People’s Choice and Emmy Award nominations.

For Section Eight’s television division, Clooney was an executive producer and directed five episodes of “Unscripted,” a reality-based show that debuted on HBO.  He also was executive producer and cameraman on “K Street,” another show featured on HBO.

Clooney is a strong First Amendment advocate with a deep commitment to humanitarian causes. In 2006, Clooney and his father, Nick, went to drought-stricken Darfur, Africa, to film the documentary Journey to Darfur.  Clooney’s work on behalf of Darfur relief led to his addressing the United Nations Security Council. He also narrated the Darfur documentary Sand and Sorrow. In 2006, he received the American Cinematheque Award and the Modern Master Award from the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

In 2007, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Jerry Weintraub founded “Not On Our Watch,” an organization whose mission is to focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities in Darfur.

Among the many honors received as a result of his humanitarian efforts in Darfur, one of them was the 2007 Peace Summit Award, given at the eighth World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. In 2008, Clooney was designated a U.N. Messenger of Peace, one of eight individuals chosen to advocate on behalf of the U.N. and its peacekeeping efforts.

In January of 2010, Clooney, along with Joel Gallen and Tenth Planet Productions, produced the “Hope for Haiti Now!” telethon, which raised more than $66 million, setting a new record for donations made by the public through a disaster-relief telethon.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Clooney with the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2010 Primetime Emmys.  Later that year, Clooney received the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award for his dedication to humanitarian efforts in Sudan and Haiti.

In December of 2010, Clooney, along with the United Nations, Harvard University and Google, launched “The Satellite Sentinel Project,” an effort to monitor violence and human-rights violations between Southern and Northern Sudan. “Not on Our Watch” funds new monitoring technology, which allows private satellites to take photographs of any potential threats to civilians, detect bombs, observe the movement of troops and note any other evidence of possible mass violence.

In March of 2012, Clooney was part of the delegation that peacefully demonstrated in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., calling worldwide attention to the human-rights violations being committed in Sudan, which resulted in his arrest.

In October of 2012, Clooney was the honoree at the Carousel of Hope Ball, which benefits the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes (BDC.)

“Any time I’ve had to act in a film I directed, I hated it,” says Clooney, who remains off camera in Suburbicon. “But I’ve enjoyed this process more than on any other film. From the beginning, everyone was hitting on all cylinders.”

“It’s so much easier for him not to have to be in it,” Heslov confesses with a laugh. “It’s so much easier for everybody.”

“Working on a film with George is like working on a car in your backyard,” says Damon, expanding on Clooney’s metaphor. “You throw the hood up, gather around, and go to work. It’s fun, it’s collaborative, and we’re not precious about any of it.”

“He’s a very generous director,” adds Moore. “He has a genuine appreciation for everyone in the room and what they’re capable of, and has a real sense of joy in what he’s doing. He’s there because he wants to be.”

“George wants everyone to have a good time, and tell a cool story,” says Isaac. “No one’s time or energy is wasted.”

Clooney credits his mentors: “I learned a lot from working with The Boys (Clooney’s term of endearment for the Coen Brothers). They’re really efficient, storyboard all their shots, get what they need and move on. I’ve also been lucky to watch Steven Soderbergh and Alexander Payne work up close. I try to learn from all of it.”

“Whenever you make a movie, you hope people enjoy it, because if they do, you get to make another one,” Clooney says. “Our job is to make the best films we can for as long as we can, because someday, we won’t be able to. We’re committed to staying in the sandbox as long as we can, doing the stuff we want to do until they take the toys away. We are very lucky to be doing what we do for a living, and we acknowledge that every day.”

MOTHER MASTER

Undeniably unique! Prime Aronofsky: equal parts disturbing, perplexing and enthralling.

Reviewed by Tim Tim Leibbrandt (10/11/17)

A masterful blend of suffocating atmosphere and winding tension, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Is the closest anyone’s come to a spiritual successor to Kubrick’s The Shining; albeit with the important distinction that the story is told from the point of view of the spouse rather than her husband.

The core setup has some similar beats: mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in an isolated mansion with her writer/poet husband Him (Javier Bardem), who is battling with crippling writer’s block. When a strange man (Ed Harris) who claims to be a stranded doctor arrives at their door one night, it kick-starts a series of events which throw mother’s perception of her world into disarray.  Read more about the film

Loosely classed as a horror film, one of the great pleasures of Mother! is the artful way in which it builds a constant and accumulating sense of discomfort and dread throughout rather than relying on jump scares.

The film gets under your skin with a disturbing sense of uncanny where there is clearly something wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on what. Combining extremely unsettling use of close-up cinematography and outstanding sound design, the film makes inventive use of horror tropes to pull the viewer into mother’s psychological breakdown as her world becomes increasingly unhinged.

As with The Shining, the location becomes a central character in the film. Tied to mother’s psychological unravelling, the mansion is a perpetually shifting and nebulous entity.  As the film progresses, it twists into a nightmarish entropic labyrinth.

While Mother! is almost entirely without music, Craig Henighan’s sound design is absolutely outstanding, drawing the viewer into the spatial experience of the house. In a sense, one could listen to the audio without imagery and still come away with a satisfying experience.

Inevitably, one’s enjoyment  of the film is tied to how much you’re willing to grant the leaps necessary to accept the increasingly frenetic  and excessive directions in which the film veers.

Mother!  is understandably divisive in that it intentionally opens itself to a number of interpretations without settling on any one in particular. This slipperiness may be frustrating to viewers who prefer a definitive pre-packaged ‘meaning’, but it is exactly this intertextuality that makes Mother!’s grander themes work so well.

It is certainly not meaningless, but subtly provides a number of different (and conflicting) lenses through which to unpack its imagery.

Different aspects resonate with different people; and  everyone left the screening I attended with a vastly divergent reading of what we had just seen.

Whatever your inclination, Mother! is prime Aronofsky: equal parts disturbing, perplexing and enthralling.

Undeniably unique, it’s likely to linger in your mind long after you leave the cinema.

JIGSAW 1

Jigsaw’s legacy imbues every scene with a mixture of awe, confusion, and terror.

The Saw franchise has been a shiver-inducing, thought-provoking global powerhouse and redefined fright night at the movies with a unique blend of fear, mystery, deviousness and gore. Now the screws have been further tightened with Jigsaw, the newest entry in a series that The Guinness Book of World Records named as the most successful long-running horror franchise of all time.

Thirteen years after Saw made its auspicious debut at the Sundance Film Festival in the “Park City at Midnight” program, combining a moral weight with clever plotting, all-encompassing dread, and nerve-jangling tension that pivots into full-on panic, Jigsaw ups the stakes with an all-new puzzle built around a terrifying question: who’s behind a string of new Jigsaw-like killings if John Kramer has been dead for over a decade?

From Oren Koules, Mark Burg, and Gregg Hoffman – the producing team behind the Saw franchise, Jigsaw is directed by The Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael). The screenplay is based on characters created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. The Jigsaw screenplay is written by Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger. Daniel Jason Heffner, Peter Block, Jason Constantine, James Wan, Leigh Whannell, and Stacey Testro serve as executive producers.

An original idea developed in Melbourne, Australia, co-creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell kicked off with Saw in 2004, it follow the mad machinations of Jigsaw, a terminally ill cancer patient whose rigorous views on sin and redemption inspired him to create grim survival scenarios for lives he feels are unexamined.

JIGSAW 3

James Wan and Leigh Whannel

To date, the seven films of the franchise have grossed $874 million in the worldwide theatrical box office and created one of the most influential horror villains of all time.

Playing A New Game

In developing Jigsaw, producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg, the team behind every Saw film so far, wanted to treat fans to a movie that honored the first movie’s runaway success: an elaborate construction punctuated by heart racing jolts and intense emotion. To that end, taking a few years since Saw 3D – breaking the cycle of a new Saw movie a year for seven straight years, a franchise record in the modern era – served their purpose. “We didn’t have to rush,” says Koules, who heard a tantalizing premise from screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger and worked with them to realize a screenplay that ratchets up the suspense and invention to a whole new level. “We really got to develop a script, hire great directors, a great cinematographer, and I think everyone’s in for a fun ride.”

JIGSAW 4 Josh Stolberg

Josh Stolberg

With feature writing credits that include Good Luck Chuck, Evan Almighty, Piranha 3D, and Sorority Row, Josh Stolberg has a solid foot in both the comedy and horror genres.
As a director, his debut feature, Conception, won Best of the Fest Award at the Palm Beach Film Festival in 2012. He also directed horror/thriller Crawlspace for Vuguru in 2013, and the spoof movie The Hungover Games in 2014, once again demonstrating his unique knack for crossing genres.
Josh made the jump to television in 2015, writing pilots for the CW and CBS Television Studios, including an adaptation of Clive Barker’s book, Weaveworld. He’s currently adapting a second Clive Barker project, Nightbreed, into a limited series.
Josh continues to prove himself a versatile wordsmith, publishing his first novel, the psychological thriller Incarnate, in 2017. He lives in Los Angeles with his family, and in his spare time enjoys photography.

JIGSAW 5 Pete Goldfinger

Pete Goldfinger

Pete Goldfinger is best known for writing the feature films Sorority Row and Piranha 3D, but has also contributed to multiple TV Shows including the pilot episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He has also written multiple TV Show for many networks including CBS, CW and ABC Family.
Pete Goldfinger lives in Los Angeles with his family where he also works with young writers; many of whom have gone on to sell TV shows and feature films.

 

It’s no surprise that one of the big components to the Saw franchise is finding the right director.

The original film, after all, launched James Wan as one of the pre-eminent fright filmmakers in Hollywood. For Jigsaw, the producers turned to the gifted Australian sibling team Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers, Predestination), directors with an established track record for mind-bending thrills and otherworldly terror who could bring something different to a series already seven-films-strong.

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Australian sibling team Michael and Peter Spierig

Identical twin brothers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, known together professionally as the Spierig Brothers, are German-born Australian film Directors, Producers and Writers.
Peter and Michael created their first film, Undead (2003), a low-budget zombie horror-comedy, after pooling together their life savings. Undead screened at 17 film festivals, including Edinburgh, Montreal, Toronto, Sitges, Berlin, Amsterdam and Puchon. At the Melbourne International Film Festival, the International Federation of Film Critics awarded UNDEAD the prestigious Fipresci Award. The film was sold to 41 countries, and was released in the US and Canada by Lionsgate Entertainment, who developed a close relationship with Peter and Michael, and backed their second production Daybreakers.
The Spierig Brothers’ second feature film, the vampire thriller Daybreakers (2010), starred three-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Vince Colosimo, Michael Dorman and Isabel Lucas. The film was released in the United States on 2,500 screens, and has gone on to gross more than $65 million worldwide.
The Spierig Brothers’ third film was the action sci-fi thriller Predestination (2015), based on the classic sci-fi short story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein. The film starred Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor. Predestination was nominated for nine AACTA awards (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards) and won four, including Best Actress for Sarah Snook. The brothers also won the prestigious John Hinde Award for Best Science Fiction Screenwriting in 2014, and at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival won a Special Award for Best Sci-Fi Film and Best Screenplay.
The Spierig Brothers are currently working on the horror film Winchester which tells the true story of Sarah Winchester, the millionaire heiress to the Winchester Arms fortune who was convinced that she, and her family, were haunted by the souls killed by the infamous rifle. Starring Dame Helen Mirren and Australia’s Jason Clarke, Winchester will be released theatrically worldwide in February 2018.

“When you have a series of films as inventive and memorable as the Saw movies are, you’re looking for talent behind the camera that matches that invention and results in a fresh experience for moviegoers,” says Producer Mark Burg.

“We knew we had that with Michael and Peter, who delivered on all counts.”

“They have a very unique style,” says Koules. “They very much wanted to jump into the Saw world and at the same time make it their own.”

Peter Spierig says the appeal of tackling a fresh installment in a beloved series was heightening the elements that work, but in new ways. “Our goal was to go back to the thriller aspects of the franchise. The best versions of Saw are when it’s a thriller, and it’s about the twists and turns, and the excitement of figuring out whodunit. That’s the stuff we love.

Michael Spierig adds that it was also imperative to honor the twisted construct of John Kramer’s legacy as a killer who gives his victims the ultimate choice. “It’s the idea that he creates the kind of confessional environment for everybody to atone for their sins,” says Michael. “It’s an interesting dynamic for a villain, and that’s fun to play with. There’s some really interesting moral dilemmas in these films.”

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The Jigsaw Legacy

Producer Oren Koules describes the character of Jigsaw as memorable because “he’s not a slasher. He doesn’t run around through forests, he’s not getting a girl in the shower. He’s actually a real thinker. He’s an engineer. When you talk about Jigsaw, about John Kramer, is he the protagonist? Is he the antagonist? Is he the hero or the villain?

James Wan and Leigh Whannell created a character who is iconic because he’s a thinking man’s villain.”

The series has distinguished itself over the years by refusing to be that horror franchise that settles for less when it comes to keeping it alive, and it’s rooted in the mysteries of Jigsaw, who preaches an ideal of appreciating life and savoring every moment, at the same time he deals in fear and terror.

James Wan himself may have put it most succinctly when he said, “Jigsaw’s intentions are good, but his methods are not.”

Bell

Toby Bell

The Saw films are also notable for the way their central malevolent force, so richly embodied by Bell’s gravely intoned performance, has existed as both a flesh-and-blood person and an off-camera manipulator through his voice, his games, and the intricately designed, clockwork traps that are their own works of art. Kramer’s death in Saw III certainly didn’t put an end to the murders – accomplices and disciples abound – and it’s given the franchise a singular aura of beyond-the-grave menace. Jigsaw is no exception: Kramer’s legacy imbues every scene with a mixture of awe, confusion, and terror.

 

 

Jigsaw Parts

For Matt Passmore, who was cast in Jigsaw as medical examiner Logan, an ex-military, former POW dealing with an unusual new killing spree, acting in a Saw film requires honoring that legacy. “It was very important for us all to pay homage to the Saws that have gone before,” says Passmore. “But also to be moving on with a whole new lease on life. There’s a chronology of history that’s happened with John Kramer that we have to be aware of when we talk about, is John Kramer dead? We’re very aware of John Kramer’s past, but this film is an extension of the Saws that we’ve had before.”

JIGSAW 6 Matt Passmore

Matt Passmore

Though there’s an investigation being run by Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie), Logan and his assistant Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson) begin solving Jigsaw’s puzzle themselves, hoping to stop a new game from claiming more victims. Passmore says it’s that tense buildup that makes Jigsaw – and all the Saw movies – unique in the horror canon.

“What Saw really does well is it’s all about anticipation,” says Passmore. “It puts everyone on a time clock. Logan and Eleanor and Halloran are racing against time. Will they make it? Will they get out of this alive? That’s what makes a good horror film to me, it’s more about the survival than the death.”

Laura Vandervoort, cast in Jigsaw as Anna, a young mother who finds herself in the direst of situations, says the chance to be in a Saw film was like a fan getting asked to participate. “I’ve always loved horror movies and thrillers,” says Vandervoort. “It’s something all of my girlfriends and I do, we get together and watch horror movies, Hitchcock, everything. This was one of my favorite franchises, so when I heard they were going to do Jigsaw, I wanted to jump in head first.”

JIGSAW 6 Laura Vandervoort

Laura Vandervoort

Though getting cast in a Saw film gives an actor a juicy part to play, the nature of a Saw production means that that actor may not know everything in advance. (The protectiveness means scripts are given fake names. In this instance, drafts of Jigsaw were sent around under the cheeky title Party Invite.)

Says Producer Oren Koules, “When we send them out to actors, we don’t necessarily provide them with the entire script. They may just get their character piece. They may just get the first eighty pages. We almost never give anybody the ending. Those are surprises that if they got out, it would ruin the movie experience. So sometimes we have actors show up and they’re like, ‘Do I survive? Am I a good guy? Am I a bad guy?’ Which is kind of the fun of it.”

The Game So Far

SAWSaw (2004)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Story by: James Wan and Leigh Whannell
Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) are chained to opposite ends of a disused bathroom, introducing moviegoers worldwide to the cruel games of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), a killer with a grand, grim notion of morality and survival.

SAW 2Saw II (2005)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by: Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman
In an elaborate game played on Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), the mortally ill, captured Jigsaw reveals a backstory in which a suicide attempt spurred his reign of terror, which eventually came to include using drug addict Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) as John Kramer’s accomplice.

SAW 3Saw III (2006)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay by: Leigh Whannell
Story by Leigh Whannell and James Wan
A grieving father and a kidnapped ER doctor are central to a Jigsaw scheme that eventually exposes Amanda Young as a less-than-worthy Jigsaw accomplice, and leads to Jigsaw’s own death.

SAW 4Saw IV (2007)
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Story by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan and Thomas Fenton
As Detective Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is put through his paces for Jigsaw’s benefit, it’s revealed that central to John Kramer’s history is the miscarriage his wife Jill (Betsy Russell) suffered. In Rigg’s final test, Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is exposed as a Jigsaw accomplice.

SAW 5Saw V (2008)
Directed by: David Hackl
Screenplay by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) escapes one trap, only to become obsessed with Jigsaw, and the possibility that Hoffman is involved with the killings. After the two square off, Hoffman survives.

Saw 6Saw VI (2009)
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
Screenplay by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Detective Hoffman, continuing Jigsaw’s legacy, targets an insurance executive involved in denying experimental treatment for John Kramer’s cancer. In trying to shield his crimes, though, he kills his department colleagues, and makes enemies of John’s widow Jill.

saw3DSaw 3D (2010)
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
Written by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
As a self-help guru gets tested after faking his connection to Jigsaw’s traps, Hoffman and Jill each try to incriminate the other in their private war. After Hoffman succeeds in killing Jill, however, he becomes the next victim, when Dr. Lawrence Gordon reappears to reveal that the dying Jigsaw had entrusted him to protect his widow, and mete out punishment if anything should happen to her.

 

 

 

Blood Drive

The Saw blood drive has been a tradition since the first Saw movie became a record-breaking franchise in 2004.

Jigsaw_2017_posterPast campaigns rolled out by Lionsgate have showcased vintage nurses as the blood drive ambassadors. Public support has been overwhelming, leading to incredible participation and real lives saved.

Since the drive’s commencement, an estimated 120,000 pints of blood have been donated through the American Red Cross which led to an estimated 360,000 lives saved.

This year, Jigsaw is bringing back the blood drive and the nurses are eight social media influencers including Amanda Lepore, Mykie and Shaun Ross. The drive kicked off on October 5th in New York before expanding to 25 cities across the country. Participants can donate blood at any mobile JIGSAW blood drive and receive a free ticket to see JIGSAW in theaters October 27, courtesy of Lionsgate and Atom Tickets. More information can be found at www.jigsawsaves.com.

 

TULIP MASTER

It’s a fantastic love story .. and at the heart of it, it’s a metaphor about love, lust and passion.

Fifteen years after Producer Alison Owen bought the rights to Deborah Moggach’s novel Tulip Fever, and sending the option to A-list producers, her tenacity and vision paid off and the film went into production in May 2014 under direction of Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), from a screenplay by Sir Tom Stoppard (Anna Karrenina, Shakespeare in Love, Empire Of The Sun), and the thrilling romance can now be experienced on the Big Screen.

The Story: In 17th Century Amsterdam, an orphaned girl (Alicia Vikander) is forcibly married to a rich and powerful merchant (Christoph Waltz) – an unhappy “arrangement” that saves her from poverty. After her husband commissions a portrait, she begins a passionate affair with the painter (Dane DeHaan), a struggling young artist. Seeking to escape the merchant’s ever-reaching grasp, the lovers risk everything and enter the frenzied tulip bulb market, with the hope that the right bulb will make a fortune and buy their freedom.

Alison+Owen+Tamara+Drewe+UK+Premiere+After+dv5q-XzWW7Il

Producer Alison Owen

Owen read the book before it was even published and instantly bought the option. Having read a review of a factual book about the tulip fever of 1630s Amsterdam, she was fascinated by the concept of this mania and how “it was the first example of the futures market and it was the first time that money was represented in metaphorical terms, in certificates, and tulip bulbs. I thought it sounded really fascinating, and as a producer you’re always looking out for interesting backdrops for a story.”

She continues: “A few months later I read a round up of what was being published in the New Year, and it mentioned that Deborah Moggach’s novel Tulip Fever was coming out in May – a love story set in Amsterdam. I thought, I wonder if somebody’s done the job for me, of finding a story to set against this backdrop…When I read the manuscript, I felt, in story terms, that I’d discovered ‘The Beatles’, because it’s such a great story…it’s engineered to perfection, it’s got great characters and was obviously of the time.”

Owen had offers from Stephen Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Harvey Weinstein, but due to a series of obstacles, however, Owen took another fifteen years finally to go into production on the film, which she now sees as a positive setback: “I was devastated when the film fell through the first time, because I’d felt that it was very much of the zeitgeist. Little did I know that it was actually becoming more and more zeitgeisty, if that’s possible! The recession that we were experiencing when I first optioned this book was only the start of a bunch of financial consequences that we’ve been suffering globally ever since. If anything, it’s a lot more relevant now then it was then.”

TULIP 5

From Book to Script to Screen

For Alison Owen, Deborah Moggach’s novel was a fascinating read: “It’s got so many layers it’s hard to condense them, but that’s the challenge, trying to fit everything into the script. It’s a fantastic love story set against this amazing backdrop, and at the heart of it, it’s a metaphor about love, lust and passion. The most highly valued tulips were the ones that broke into colors and stripes and were called breakers. At the time, they had no idea why that happened, but in actuality it was because of a virus. Ironically, the most valuable bulbs were the ones that were diseased, carrying the seeds of their own destruction, ultimately rotting. Of course that’s a wonderful metaphor for the adulterous love that takes place in the novel. It is this wonderful love, this great passion, but because it’s an elicit love, it also carries the seeds of its own destruction.”

MonoShe continues: “Another thing I loved about Deborah’s novel is the way that you love everyone in it. That’s really hard to pull off and that was the hardest thing to pull off in its transition to script form. You love all these people, yet none of them at the expense of each other. That’s much easier to do in a book where you can have an internal narrative as Deborah does, telling the story from each character’s point of view. In an adaptation it’s much harder to do that. We got there in the end, but it’s so delicate, it’s like a house of cards.

Alicia Vikander, who plays Sophia had heard about the project and was keen to be a part of it. She explains: “I knew it was a Tom Stoppard script and I’d worked with him on ‘Anna Karenina’. I got hold of the script because I’d heard such good things about it and I just fell in love with it. It’s a costume drama, but it’s the wit and the pace and thrill that made me cry and laugh. It could have been a farce, but instead it’s so intelligent. It’s very difficult to find great female roles and in this both the female lead roles are very complex and diverse characters.” She continues: “Tom’s script has so much subtext and nuance – it’s just quite brilliant.”

For Dane DeHaan who plays Jan Van Loos, it was the way the script resonated with our contemporary world that initially drew him in: “It was the first stock market crash; the first time that people got really obsessed with buying things that weren’t technically worth anything, giving them extreme value to the point that they became completely invaluable.”

justin_chadwick

Justin Chadwick

Alison Owen and Director Justin Chadwick previously collaborated on his first feature film, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’. He explains that whilst shooting ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ in South Africa, his Producer Harvey Weinstein had shown him the script and he loved it, saying: “I loved the ride of it. I went back to the book, I love the book too. It’s a real page turner, and I defy anybody to pick up that book and not read it in one sitting.”

He continues: “I wasn’t particularly looking to go back and do a period movie, as I wanted to make something that was modern, but this felt completely modern and I could approach it in a way that was contemporary and visceral. It was a great story and, yes, it was set in a period, but in the end it’s a romantic thriller and that was what I was so excited about. It got me thinking about how we could make a non-traditional period movie. How could you actually make an immersive movie, drop an audience right in amongst it, and show this crazy idea that these two young people have, and the consequences of that human emotion and the tragedy?”

Adds Alison Owen: “This film needed to be informed by someone with a lot of heart, and you couldn’t possibly have more heart than Justin. He is incredibly instinctive, which is a quality you don’t find that much these days. People tend to act more with their intellect than their heart and instinct. Justin’s also very collaborative and values everyone’s contribution.”

Chadwick was drawn to the story, but had some problems with the script until he persuaded writer, Tom Stoppard, to renew his involvement in the project.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 17:  Playwright Tom Stoppard poses at the opening night Party for "Arcadia" on Broadway at Gotham Hall on March 17, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic) *** Local Caption *** Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard

Describes Chadwick: “The script was complicated and it took me a while to unravel. I think various people had come on board and they’d tried to rewrite it and do various drafts with other directors and writer director combinations that had fallen by the wayside, and it was a messy script. I asked Alison for a copy of the 2003 version, which was purely Tom Stoppard’s version and immediately I could see how we could do it. I managed to get hold of Tom who’d not been involved in the project since it had fallen apart. I went to see him with my story boards and what I was thinking of doing with it and we went through the script page by page. I had the most amazing time with him exploring the kind of film that we wanted to make and what would be relevant now. That was the real start, the real drive that we had, then the blueprint came after we started to work together on the movie.”

For Chadwick, it was of the utmost importance that the story feel relevant and the audience be enveloped in the action.

He explains: “I wanted to make a period movie feel visceral and emotional and just drop the audience in amongst the action. This isn’t like a period movie that’s set in a stately home; this is about working-class people and middle-class people. It was at a time when working class and middle-class traders could actually have vast wealth. They’d just newly discovered that the world was round. Ships were going around the world bringing cargo in from all over and they were questioning the presence of God and what that meant to them. There wasn’t the class system that there is, or was, in this country. It was a really intoxicating time, where money was sloshing around.”

For Dane DeHaan, it was not just the script but also the director that drew him in: “The first time I talked with Justin, he talked about taking this heightened Tom Stoppard language and making it real and making it live in a way that hasn’t really been done before, really grounding it in reality – and that’s what I’m all about in my work. Justin’s also such a passionate person, with this infectious energy and when he gets excited about something, you can’t help but get excited about it as well.”

Adds Alicia Vikander: “Justin is very involved and really gives us a lot of his time and I’ve felt very safe. He’s tough, which is good, and pushes the actors, so he’s been very good to work with.”
For Holliday Grainger who plays Maria: “There’s this swirl of tulip fever in the film and passion everywhere and laughing and gambling and drinking. I feel like the pace of the film is like a rolling ball down a hill that gathers momentum and just explodes at the end. Justin seems to have been completely affected by tulip fever. He’s got this enthusiasm every day and just seemed excited to be on set and you can’t help but be affected by that. He puts a lot of faith in you to do what you’re doing and freedom to move around the sets. We had these lush sets to play with and wonderful props, which he really wants you to use, so you can always be in the moment and as truthful as possible.”

Judi Dench agrees that Chadwick is a force of nature: “He’s absolutely a power of energy and enthusiasm and he gets everybody energized and says what he thinks and what he wants to get.”

TULIP

The Characters

Sophia Sandvoort
Vikander was at pains to ensure that her character had some integrity and was not a two-dimensional interpretation of a young flighty woman who would go off with the first handsome young man that she met. She explains: “Cornelis is somebody that Sophia cares for a lot, shares a life with and with whom she is very much in love. When Jan first steps into her life she doesn’t want to be part of anything with him, because she comes from a very Christian background and she has a husband that she loves and a life that she wouldn’t just give away for something else. The love triangle is created because she is torn between the life she wants with Jan and the one she has. Even though she has love for Cornelis, she’s a young woman who hasn’t really experienced passion. I think everybody knows that the first time that happens, that you can’t really control it.”

Vikander

Vikander explains how important it was for her that she sat for the portrait of Sophia that was used in the film: “I actually sat for a painter to make the portrait in the film and it is quite intense. In my job I look into people’s eyes that I don’t know that well, but when a painter looked at me, I got a bit scared because he was really trying to figure out who I am. The relationship between the painter and the person that gets painted is quite intense and I definitely brought that to the scenes with Dane. It really helped both of us to have that context to Jan painting Sophia. I think it really brought out the passion.”
Jan Van Loos

Playing an artist convincingly was always going to be difficult and yet was an essential component for DeHaan to master in his need to make the experience as real as possible. To that end, he spent some time learning how to paint under the tutelage of artist Jamie Routley, whose portraits have been exhibited, amongst other places, at the National Portrait Gallery in the BP Portrait Award Exhibition and is the artist who painted the portraits used in the film. Explains DeHaan: “I’m not a painter, and going into this I’d have given myself a third grade drawing level. Then I met Jamie, who trained in Florence in the seventeenth century style. He makes his own paints and paints as Jan would paint. Jamie was an amazing, invaluable resource because he gave me painting lessons and taught me how to make it look real.”

De Haan
He continues: “A lot of times in movies, you see this really stereotypical movie version of a painter just standing in front of the painting at his easel. But that’s not really how it was done. It was about stepping back and taking it in. Everything you see in the movie is authentic to how these Dutch painters were probably painting. It was important for me to get that right and to get it accurately. I think I may be high school level at this point in my painting.”

Cornelis Sandvoort
Justin Chadwick explains the casting of Christoph Waltz: “Christoph was one of the first casting ideas for the film. The book hints at an older man, and the screenplay hinted at somebody much older. However, I felt that it was better to have somebody a little younger; a powerful man, a merchant, who had made his fortune, who was still alive and would add a dynamic to that relationship that was more complicated. Some people might watch the film and root for Cornelis, and that felt important and was a new way of thinking about that character. That really was the starting block, and once we got Christoph in, we could make Cornelis into a powerful man, not this doddery buffoon of a character, as was originally written, but a real force.

WAL

For Deborah Moggach, the writer of the novel Tulip Fever, on which the film is based, the casting of Christoph Waltz added a dimension to the story that she greatly appreciates: “We’ve got a very stunning actor playing Cornelis, and that brings a whole new dynamic to that marriage. It makes it much more interesting because he’s got a face which is filled with sorrow and depth; he’s got huge nous to the way he acts. Christoph is a wonderful actor, but because he’s so attractive and younger than I would have expected, it makes the dynamic between him and Sophia really interesting. We care about him much more. He’s not just an old duffer blithering on about tulip bulbs and his business down in the docks. He’s a man who’s suffered hugely with the loss of his first wife. There’s a relationship between them which is much more interesting and that was thrilling to see played out.”

TULIP JUDY

Director Chadwick was thrilled when Dame Judi Dench took on the role of the Abbess, a new character introduced into the screenplay that was not in the original book. He explains: “You’ve got this illegal tulip world that’s happening in the backs of taverns, and you’ve got these orphanages full of children that have been left by the wars that happened, and the famines and the plague. We needed a character that would connect all these worlds, and Tom [Stoppard] wrote in the very final draft of the movie a character which bound them altogether – the Abbess, which is played by the beautiful Judi Dench. What a joy! It was a dream come true for all of us. Her energy was just extraordinary from the moment she arrives on set. It upped everybody’s game, and fortunately, a lot of the young cast had the chance to do a scene with her and she was just electric.” He continues: “There’s something that comes from her eyes that just connects with other human beings. She’s tough in the film, but she does it with such truth and grace. It was an honor.”

Dutch Art – Inspiration and Execution

The writer of the novel Tulip Fever on which the film is based, Deborah Moggach describes how her interest in Dutch art inspired the work: “Twenty years ago I went to a sale at Christie’s because I’d seen this painting in the auction. I loved it to bits and I bought it. It’s painted in 1630, I think, and it’s of a woman getting ready to go out. She’s wearing a little fur-trimmed velvet jacket, which was the fashion of the time, and she’s looking out of the canvas at us with a rather enigmatic expression on her face. Her maidservant is bringing her a little pearl necklace to put around her neck and her manservant is bringing her a glass of wine. She’s obviously quite pampered, quite rich, but her face was just enigmatic, and I thought, ‘She’s up to no good; I wonder where she’s going? Is she getting ready to go out? Is she going out somewhere she shouldn’t be going out?” I hung the painting in my sitting room and gazed and gazed at it, and this story came to me.’

Moggach continues: “At the time I was living with a painter and he got very involved with the story too. As I was writing the book inspired by this painting, I was doing up the house that I’d bought for him and me to live in and he drew me drawings from Vermeer paintings, drawings to illustrate the book as I wrote it. He was also renovating the house like a Vermeer. We would build a fireplace that he’d copied from a 17th century Dutch painting. It was wildly romantic. We split up in the end, but it was lovely at the time.”

Moggach was deeply affected by Dutch art of the time and explains: “I wrote the book in this great fever of love – both for my partner but also for Dutch art, because they tell such stories. In this quiet domestic scene of this woman getting ready to go out there was a whole drama going on. I think in that short period in the 17th century, after paintings were religious in the 16th century and before the baroque period, these domestic paintings provided very thrilling narratives. They’re like film stills because you’ve got an arrested moment of drama and you feel if you blink, that woman is going to get up and move across the room, that man who’s watching her as she’s playing the virginal is going to move off with her, and the maid who is sweeping is going to run off with the servant. Those paintings tell us so much about normal life then and you feel like you are entering the household of these people and that’s where the story was.”

 

 

 

 

ALL SAINTS

“We’re not supermen …We don’t have any bizarre powers, and God is able to work with that. He is able to work with the ordinary. He delights to work with the ordinary.”

All Saints took six years to reach the Big Screen and is based on the inspirational true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock, the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia who, together, risk everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.

After reading in USA TODAY about Reverend Michael Spurlock and All Saints church’s heroic efforts to help Karen refugees relocated to Tennessee, Director Steve Gomer believed the inspiring true story needed to be made into a
feature film.

All saintsAll Saints is based on the inspiring true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Together, they risked everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.

After trading in his corporate sales career to become a pastor, Michael’s first assignment is All Saints, a quaint country church with a dozen members. It comes with a catch: he has to close the church doors for good and sell the prime piece of land on which it sits. While developers eagerly eye the property and the congregation mourns the inevitable, Michael and his family look forward to moving on to an established church where they can put down roots.

But when the church hesitantly begins welcoming Karen (kuh-REN) refugees from Burma— former farmers striving for a fresh start in America—Michael feels called to an improbable new mission. Toiling alongside the Karen people, the congregation attempts to turn their fertile land into a working farm to pay the church’s bills and feed its newest people.

Jeopardizing his family’s future by ignoring his superiors, Michael must choose between completing what he was assigned to do—close the church and sell the property—or listening to a still, small voice challenging the people of All Saints to risk it all and provide much-needed hope to their new community.

Director Steve Gomer enlisted the help of writer Steve Armour to hammer out the screenplay and the two went through 15 versions of the script before they felt it was right.

Steve GomerSteve Gomer won the prestigious Filmmakers Trophy at the 1993 Sundance Festival for his singular directorial style and original production of Fly by Night, one of the first films to deal with the burgeoning rap world. Gomer’s debut as a feature director was Sweet Lorraine. An evocative comedy set in a fading Catskills summer resort, it won the Sakura Prize at the Tokyo Film Festival. He also wrote, produced and directed the documentary film, Joe Chaikin, Going On, about the groundbreaking avant-garde theatrical director. In addition, Gomer directed Sunset Park for Jersey Films and Columbia Pictures. His dramatic television work includes numerous episodes of Blue Bloods, The Unit, Ally McBeal, Joan of Arcadia, The Guardian, Huff and Private Practice. For five years, Gomer was a visiting instructor teaching acting and directing at Princeton University. He has directed plays at The Circle Repertory Theater, The Vineyard Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, and
Joseph Papp’s Public Theater.

Armour recalls, “It was a very inspiring story for me, and one that I felt a real connection to. My father in his younger days was a Southern Baptist minister, so I had grown up in the church. I have also traveled a lot and have spent a lot of time in Asia, so I felt kind of a connection to the refugee population at All Saints. This felt like a natural fit to me.”

Gomer and Armour spent a great deal of time in Tennessee with the community at All Saints, and in New York with Michael Spurlock, where he now serves as pastor at St. Thomas Church in Manhattan.

“My responsibility as a screenwriter is to try to find a way to boil down all of the disparate things that happened in real life and make it into a compelling narrative that’s going to touch people,” says Armour.

Born and raised in the Old South, Steve Armour built a successful career as a professional musician in New York City. He recorded and toured with jazz and pop icons before venturing west to attend USC Film School, where he was the first screenwriter awarded the program’s Hudson Scholarship. He went on to win an Annenberg Fellowship in Screenwriting.
Steve has written for literary journals like Another Chicago Magazine, Pif, and Rivendell, national magazines like Down Beat, and he won a full scholarship to the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
Steve’s screenplay for ALL SAINTS, was a finalist for the Movieguide Kairos Prize in 2016 for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays.
Currently, Steve is adapting the true stories of a high stakes submarine chase during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as a historical epic about the missionary and naturalist we know as Johnny Appleseed.

Gomer notes, “We did a lot of research. We both came out for a number of trips to just be with the Karen, and I would follow Ye Win for a week at a time. I’d stay for a few weeks with Michael in New York, and Michael and I became very close. I always do research, but for this picture, I felt like I needed to really get to know these people.”

Then, two years ago, Gomer and his wife, Jane, made a move from Los Angeles to Tennessee.

“I just said, ‘Look, you know, if we’re going to put this picture together we need to be there and really spend time.’ So that’s what we did. I’ve been attending church, going and helping in whatever way I can; helping kids with their papers, volunteering, driving the Karen to doctor’s appointments, stuff like that. I feel like I really am part of that community,” says Gomer.

Head of AFFIRM Films, Rich Peluso says, “We’ve been working with Steve Gomer and Steve Armour for five years to bring this story to the big screen. There were many times we thought we’d never get all the pieces to work together, but the story and underlying themes are too important. Through hard work, prayer and an amazing creative team we pulled it off and are thrilled that people around the world will get to experience the inspirational true story of All Saints.”

Michael Spurlock says, “To tell this story you have to have a welcoming spirit. And I am amazed that Steve [Gomer] has been able to pull together a cast and a crew that seems to embody the spirit of [All Saints]. Steve told me himself, it’s not always like this. It just reinforces the fact to me that God sent the right people to tell the story, and that includes the cast, too. He sent the right actors. Thanks be to God.”

A Story Of Faith

Spurlocks

Michael and Aimée Spurlock

The faith message in the film is simple, clear, and biblical: do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. For the faith-based community, the inspiring work of Michael and Aimée Spurlock, Ye Win and the All Saints church will serve as an example of real faith in action.

Says screenwriter Steve Armour says, “Jesus was not vague on this issue. This isn’t one of those where you have to read between the lines. He says, when you’ve done this to the least of these you’ve done it to me. So it’s pretty clear what our obligations are. And I think Michael Spurlock felt that.”

President of Provident Films Ben Howard, says, “Michael’s story is a great example of responding to what God puts right in front of you. The Karen people knocked on the door. It would have been very easy to say sorry we are too busy today, we’re closing a church and we won’t be able to help you. But he reached out, and he loved them, and look what it led to. It’s an incredible, miraculous story.”

Nelson Lee says, “In [ALL SAINTS] faith is not just about religion. It’s about faith in yourself, faith in your community, and faith in your loved ones to be there for you, to struggle for you, to fight for you.”

A Story About Refugees And The Church

The way All Saints church welcomed the Karen refugees resonated with the cast and crew of the film, and many hope the movie will raise awareness of the needs of the poor and marginalized in our communities.

The Karen people are an ethnic minority group who originate from the southeastern part of Burma.The Karen are subsistence farmers which is a type of farmer who grows only enough crops for themselves and their families to survive – their survival in their home country is based on their ability to farm; and they live in villages comprised of bamboo huts with thatched roofs. Like many other minority groups within the Burmese population, the Karen are largely a Christian people, in a Buddhist majority country; and they have been persecuted for decades in what analysts call “the longest running civil war in the world,” with estimates of more than seven million people displaced from their home country. A large number of Karen have been forced to shelter in refugee camps established 30 years ago on the Thailand-Burma border.

The many decades of war between the Karen and Burmese government have resulted in more than 160,000 Karen refugees living in camps on the Thai border, with scarce resources. Thousands upon thousands of Burmese refugees have legally entered the United States in recent years, settling in states across the country. With no grasp of English and very few translators, the adjustments have been difficult.

A group of approximately 70 Karen refugees lives in Smyrna, Tennessee and attends All Saints Episcopal Church.

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Peluso says, “As we do on any AFFIRM Films project, we want that hour-and-a-half or two hours invested in watching our story to change hearts, to change minds and hopefully that leads to changing lives. [For All Saints] the hope is that people will experience this and develop, if they don’t already have it, awareness and a heart for those that are seeking refuge from persecution, from pain… and hopefully will lay a foundation for people who come up with ideas and motivation to make a difference for these refugees that are all around us.”

Corbett says, “The themes of this film are community, compassion, caring for others, family. In today’s society, we can’t ignore the needs of others who are different than us.”

GregAlan Williams, who plays Bishop Thompson, says, “[All Saints] is a story about how we are more similar than we are different. It’s a great American story. It’s the kind of story that has repeated itself thousands of times in this country. Dr. King told us that we are tied to the single garment of destiny and whatever affects one directly, affects all of us indirectly, and that’s what this story is about. It’s about that single garment of destiny. That one hungry child,
he’s my hungry child, even if it’s not my child. One refugee. A refugee is my brother, my sister.”

Williams continues, “I think the themes in the film are certainly brotherhood, and certainly compassion and that any man’s adversity is my adversity. I think that in our country right now that’s what we need.”

Buono says, “We are a community and we need each other, and to have faith in each other, and to work together. And I think being of service to each other and taking care of one another is really exemplifying what it’s like to be a person of faith.”

Director of Photography Eduardo Mayan is an immigrant from Central America and reflects on how the story of All Saints ties into his own personal journey. “I started here as a refugee. I had to renew my work permit every 18 months until I was able to get enough filmmaking credits that I was able to apply for residence, for American residence. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing if this country didn’t open its doors to me because of the circumstances of what my country was going through at the time.”

Angela Fox, who portrays “Mary-O,” says, “In our busy and fast-paced society we’ve lost sight of the fact that we are all human beings, and we all have families, and we all have tragedies and we all have joys and we are far more alike than we are different. This story shows that we will get through this world if we have compassion, and if we care for other human beings as if they were ourselves, treating others as we would like to be treated.”

Spurlock adds, “You don’t get to choose who God sends to your door. You do get to choose how you treat them when they show up. There is judgment. That’s what we will be judged on. Not the ‘who’ but ‘how’ we receive them. And I think we could be judged as a nation on how we respond to people that the Lord may be sending our way.”

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“But you know the best movies are the ones you keep talking about afterwards. And that comes from pushing boundaries, trying something different..”

The relationship thriller Mother! began when Writer / Director Darren Aronofsky spent five fevered days at his keyboard alone in an empty house.  He knows he might be pressed about the result – Why such a dark vision? His answer? Look around:

“It is a mad time to be alive. As the world population nears 8 billion we face issues too serious to fathom: Ecosystems collapse as we witness extinction at an unprecedented rate; Migrant crises disrupt governments; A seemingly schizophrenic U.S. helps broker a landmark climate treaty and months later withdraws; Ancient tribal disputes and beliefs continue to drive war and division; The largest iceberg ever recorded breaks off an Antarctic ice shelf and drifts out to sea.  At the same time we face issues too ridiculous to comprehend: In South America tourists twice kill rare baby dolphins that washed ashore, suffocating them in a frenzy of selfies; Politics resembles sporting events; People still starve to death while others can order any meat they desire. As a species our footprint is perilously unsustainable yet we live in a state of denial about the outlook for our planet and our place on it.

“From this primordial soup of angst and helplessness,” continues Aronofsky, “I woke up one morning and this movie poured out of me.”

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem) live in a seemingly idyllic existence in a secluded paradise. But the couple’s relationship is tested when man (Ed Harris) and woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their home uninvited. Answering that knock disrupts their tranquil existence and as more and more guests arrive, mother is forced to revisit everything she knows about love, devotion and sacrifice.

MOTHER MASTER

His other six films gestated with him for years, but this?

In 5 days, he was holding a rough draft of mother! in his hands. “Within a year we were rolling cameras.”

Two years after that long weekend, Aronofsky’s film was headed for its world premiere at the 74th Venice International Film Festival (Aug. 30 – Sept. 9), selected to compete for the prestigious Golden Lion Award for Best Film. Its North American premiere is set for the 42nd Annual Toronto Film Festival Sept. 7-17.

Aronofsky admits mother! is hard to slot into any one particular genre, and that’s because even he can’t fully pinpoint where everything in this film came from: “Some came from the headlines we face every second of every day, some came from the endless buzzing of notifications on our smart phones, some came from living through the blackout of Hurricane Sandy in downtown Manhattan, some came from my heart, some from my gut. Collectively it’s a recipe I won’t ever be able to reproduce, but I do know this concoction is best served as a single dose – in a shot glass.”

“mother is definitely a psychological thriller and you will recognize its relevance to our world now,” notes Producer Scott Franklin. “It has a thriller aspect to it, creepy and discomforting but it is kind of in a genre of its own,” explains Franklin. “mother is the vessel and all of the themes unfold through her eyes.”

”I’ve never seen stories, ideas woven together in this way. I’m still thinking about it. Darren and I are still having conversations about it,” says Lawrence.

“It starts as one kind of film,” notes Producer Ari Handel. “You think you know where you are. Then it slowly takes you further and further. At no moment during those two hours are you able to ever rest and say, ‘Oh, I’m in that movie.  I know the rules of this world.’ Darren always wants to take the audience somewhere unanticipated”

According to Pfeiffer, from the beginning Aronofsky was mysterious about the symbolism of elements in the film but she knew “there was nothing random in every single choice, every single frame, every single word.  There were certain things that were very important to him in the wording, in my dialogue.”

Despite the pedigree talent and vast experience this troupe of actors brought to the film, Lawrence makes it clear that while Aronofsky is a collaborative leader and inclusive of actors’ input in the process: “There wasn’t really any improv. Darren writes it, creates it, he’s a very specific visionary. I try to figure out what that means and where mother fits into his vision.”

“When Darren sat down to write this story one of the main things he was thinking about was the way that human beings live on this planet and what they do to this planet,” says Handel. “And he wanted to dramatize that by shrinking it all the way down:  to one relationship in one house.

“I remember when, a few months after we were deep in the script, he came across this book, Woman and Nature, by Susan Griffin.  It was a piece of ’70s philosophy that also sketched a parallel between how men sometimes treat women and how people treat the planet.  That book reaffirmed for us that we were going to be able to make these two stories, the story of a relationship, and the story of our world, both work at the same time.”

Continues Handel, “I think that environmental layer in the film is part of what makes it so disturbing. Yes we empathize with mother – and Jen’s performance is like a tractor beam pulling us along with her – but I think we also sense that each one of us is also part of that insatiably churning and ravenous crowd that is tearing her world apart.”

mother-poster01With the project shrouded in mystery for more than a year, Aronofsky began to whet his audiences appetite with a brutal poster of Lawrence by artist James Jean (Fables, The Umbrella Academy). It was released on mother’s day, followed by another portrait of Bardem this summer. After fans digested the stunningly beautiful, yet disturbing poster art they began to parse the artwork for clues about the film’s subject, debating the meaning of the smallest of details. Engaging their curiosity, Aronofsky turned his Twitter account into a destination point for mother! clues. But the filmmaker has taken great pleasure in pulling back the curtain slowly.

“I’m not really good at doing genre movies. π (Pi) tried to be sci-fi but it never really got there,” Aronofsky explains. “Noah wasn’t quite your classical biblical movie. No one knew if Black Swan was a ballet movie or a horror film. This film? There are things that are scary and spooky, thriller and romance, things that are surreal. “But you know the best movies are the ones you keep talking about afterwards. And that comes from pushing boundaries, trying something different,” he adds. “When I was a young filmmaker I happened to be in a coffee shop and it was near the NuArt (Theater) in L.A. where π (Pi) was showing and this guy came in with his 18-year-old daughter and a few of her friends. They were sitting there debating about what the movie was about. It was a big moment for me, like eavesdropping on a conversation about something you worked really hard on – a great feeling.

“The worst thing to me,” he continues, “is a movie where you are entertained but in a couple of hours you’re like ‘Oh, what did we see tonight?’ As a director, you want to give people something to think about. This movie? There will be a lot of heated conversation and that’s kind of the fun.”

As for that question Aronofsky anticipates – Why so dark?

“Hubert Selby Jr., the author of Requiem for a Dream, taught me that through staring into the darkest parts of ourselves it is there we find the light.”

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 a roman candle

After initial readings from trusted allies, Aronofsky’s feral concept made its way to Jennifer Lawrence, Academy Award Winner (Silver Linings Playbook) and three-time Oscar nominee (Joy, American Hustle, Winter’s Bone). Her response was “very visceral, very strong,” he recalls. She committed to the film immediately.

For Aronofsky, this created a path for getting the film made. He recalled: “When you have Jen Lawrence, you have a movie.”

Lawrence saying yes was about more than adding a home invasion horror tale to her repertoire.

“One of the greatest things that can happen to you as an artist is to be a part of a movie that starts conversation because it’s an original idea, completely unique,” says Lawrence. “Even though we’re shooting things that are eerie, the allegory is so much bigger. It’s what it all means.

“There’s a million different facets to this movie that certain people are going to relate to, be scared of, intrigued by,” continues Lawrence. She describes the lure of playing mother, the adoring wife and muse to Javier Bardem’s enigmatic poet: “Falling in love is scary. Being vulnerable? Terrifying. Not letting yourself be vulnerable? Also, terrifying.

“It’s one thing to make something lukewarm,” says Lawrence. “It’s another to make something scalding hot. This? It’s a Roman candle. An explosion. A riot of a movie. An expression. Initial feedback: “There’s definitely a moment in this movie where some will say, ‘Darren, you’re taking this too far’ and storm out of the theater. But I wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t already thrown the script across my hotel room in New York and thought this guy is crazy. But he has to take it all the way.  I think he was right to not shy back and be afraid.

As for that Roman candle, expect an unsettling metaphoric ride that will shock and jar audiences. Lawrence’s dark summation: “A creator always needs a muse. As long as the universe is expanding, men will be using women.”

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always a rule-breaker

Once Lawrence and her co-star Javier Bardem, the Academy Award winner (No Country For Old Men) and two-time Oscar nominee (Biutiful, Before Night Falls) were onboard, momentum kicked in.

Aronofsky then did something else he’d never done before: A three-month  rehearsal in a secluded Brooklyn warehouse.

Producers Ari Handel (Noah, The Fountain) and Scott Franklin, Academy Award nominee (Black Swan) joined the threesome for the script workshop.

By the last two weeks, three-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (Love Field, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons), four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris (The Hours, Pollock, The Truman Show, Apollo 13), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and his brother Brian Gleeson (Snow White and the Huntsman, Assassin’s Creed) had joined the collaborative process. (Oscar nominee Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), who plays herald, wouldn’t join the production until later.)

Aronofsky had a scale blueprint for the house taped out on the floor and he and his collaborator Matthew Libatique, the Oscar nominee (Black Swan) and cinematographer on six of Aronofsky’s films, shot a test version of the entire film. There were no walls in the rehearsal space,  just the tape on the floor demarcating the space they would ultimately build, recalls Aronofsky. “Nonetheless we did every single shot, every single scene. Andy Weisblum, my editor, cut it together. We were able to look at a 90-minute version” sans hair and makeup. “Basically we were getting a sense of the camera movements, the progression and arc of the characters throughout the film before we ever started to shoot.”

This was important because Aronofsky was determined to shoot the film exclusively from mother’s point-of-view, which meant limited options for Libatique. Libatique’s choreography with the camera moved around the house “in long single shots that were handheld, upstairs, downstairs, around narrow hallways,” adds Franklin. “While moving in one direction, he would pan to the left and to the right, to catch the action in a room in the center of the house.”

And that wasn’t the only challenge.  With only a handful of wide shots when mother is alone, “basically, the film is either shot over her shoulder, on her face or what she’s looking at. That’s an incredibly limited amount of shots to take back to the edit room,” concedes Aronofsky. With a running time of two hours, 66 minutes of it is close-ups of Lawrence “yet you wouldn’t realize it,” says Aronofsky. “If Jen, at any moment, wasn’t working there weren’t many places to go. She had to be endlessly specific and good. If this had been a normal studio picture and I didn’t have a great collaboration with Paramount, I think they would have been terrified because there was no typical coverage.”

Says Pfeiffer:  “Darren set a very high bar for himself, thus everyone else. We were doing these wild, crazy, master long shots that went on forever, going down halls, upstairs, downstairs.  You’re sort of in the shot, out of the shot, jumping over cables, hiding behind the camera. You have to remember your lines and not fall down.  But I think we all approached it with a really great attitude and we were all very excited and enthusiastic about the challenge of it all.”

During the rehearsal period, Aronofsky confesses he was anxious – Lawrence seemed so relaxed, the role was so different from anything she had done and he was uncertain whether the part he envisioned for her was possible. But by the time they reached the start of production in Montreal, he realized it was her process – she was finding mother. “I actually probably didn’t meet the character that Jen portrays in the film until the first day of shooting when she showed up in costume, hair and barefoot,” he says. “She’s barefoot the whole movie. mother started to come alive in front of me. The amount of raw talent was insane.”

For the actors, moving from an imaginary rehearsal space to a real wood and plaster set was transformative. “I started forming my relationship with the house in a warehouse where there was just chalk drawings of the outline of the house because that’s when we were doing our rehearsals and that’s when I was kind of starting to find who mother was,” remembers Lawrence. “Once we got to Montreal and on that set, it happened,” she says.  Her imagination was fueled by how mother would walk down the stairs, hold the banister of the staircase, perceiving it like a living entity because “of the intensity of her emotions tied to the house. “  Lawrence describes how interacting with the physical house helped bring mother to life, “I was mostly, always barefoot so I could feel the house.  I knew my character’s reaction to the house was going to be internal. I was actually able to work with the house after using only my imagination in the warehouse. It was incredibly helpful.”

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cast and characters

“When you first meet my character, you realize how much love and passion she’s put into this home,” explains Lawrence. “She’s rebuilt her husband’s house that burned down before she knew him, as much as she can, because she loves Him and she wants to make this perfect environment for them.  She puts her entire heart into it… a real passion project for her. He is this amazing artist who needs praise. He needs to be worshipped and she is willing to give that.  She is in awe of Him. At a certain point, he gets used to her gaze, to her reading everything and loving it.  He needs new stimulation. That’s heartbreaking in any relationship if you feel you’re not enough. [She’s] this woman who’s given everything to try and be everything for this artist, and [yet] he’s not stimulated by her.

“When Ed Harris (man) knocks on our door, that’s the first time we have another character there that’s not just Javier or me.  And he’s a complete stranger, which is exciting for Javier’s character and invigorating and a little scary for mother. “The way that [Him and man] hit it off is intimidating…that only continues to grow throughout the movie.”

To say Javier Bardem’s character is elusive would be an understatement.  At the center of their house is his office, the sanctuary where he works and where his most valuable possession is kept, a mysterious object from the life he lived before meeting mother.  And the mystery only deepens as the film goes on.

“Javier’s character has an inherent darkness,” notes Franklin. “His character evolves throughout the film in a subtle way and you realize the character traits he has towards the end of the movie, he’s had all along. He just hid them.”

The tension between Bardem & Lawrence’s characters begins to bloom when Harris’ character, man, arrives at the house.

“He is this loose electron who comes flying into their nucleus. Things start to get stranger and stranger,” says Aronofsky. As an actor, Aronofsky describes Harris as “game to play anything; completely goes into it and after it. I don’t think he ever does anything that’s not real.”

Harris describes his character’s relationship with his wife (Pfeiffer) as very “affectionate.” Says Pfeiffer: “We represent, as a couple, a lot of what may be missing in (Him and mother’s) relationship. My character is kind of a mirror for Jen’s character. I sort of am there to sow doubt into Jen’s psyche.”

 

HOUSE MASTER

“I wanted to do a kidnapping film, but I wanted to flip it on its head. I didn’t want the audience to know what they were getting in to..”

Alastair Orr is an independent filmmaker based in Johannesburg, South Africa that started writing and directing theatre pieces in high school and was soon working behind the scenes on local university plays while finishing up his secondary education.
Alastair moved to Johannesburg to pursue a career in filmmaking and worked his way into post production, cutting countless music videos, TV shows and commercials. Growing tired of always working on other people’s projects, Alastair financed his first film, The Unforgiving, in 2010. Initially meant to be a trial run for bigger work, The Unforgiving got snapped up for distribution in Japan, The United Kingdom, France and a theatrical run in South Africa, despite it’s minuscule budget of $5000.
Alastair directed Indigenous for Kilburn Media (Sin City 2, Machete Kills) in Panama in the beginning of 2013; it was was selected for the 2014 Tribeca film festival. eOne distributed the film in the US and XYZ sold the film Internationally.

In The House On Willow Street  a roguish kidnapper and 3 accomplices, abducts a young heiress. When they have her locked up in their inescapable lair, they discover she is possessed by a terrifying demon, which plunges them into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Writer-director-producer Alastair Orr

Tell me about A House On Willow Street?  Where did the inspiration come from?

I always wanted to make a bat shit crazy film where you never know where it’s going to go.

Back in the late 80s and 90s you’d go and find a film at the VHS store knowing very little about it, I wanted to create that same surprise factor with this flick.

Also, coming from my last film Indigenous, I wanted to create a world where there was more than just one monster lurking in the shadows, so I really just went wild with the types of monsters I wanted to show.

Tell me about working with novelist Jonathan Jordaan to flesh out the script?

Jonathan has a better understanding of story than I do, he knows how to break rules better and his imagination is wild. We worked together on my no-budget film Rancid in 2011 and it was great working with him on a bigger canvas.

“It has to be relentless, lots of ghosts, not one monster that keeps popping up,” says Jonathan Jordaan, a novelist from Johannesburg, who was brought in to flesh out the script. “We knew upfront we weren’t going to have all the bells and whistles of a Hollywood production – we were going to have to be clever with how we did things.”

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How will you describe the film in your own words?

A gonzo horror film made by a group of really passionate people. The kind of film that MNET would put on at 2 in the morning and you would have to set you VHS recorder to get it.

Was it a difficult process bringing it to the big screen? Tell me about this

Making films is tough, everyone reading this site knows that. We didn’t make it easier on ourselves. We shot for 4 weeks at night, in the middle of winter, with a ton of practical effects.

There’s always this misconception that horror films are like a bottom feeder sub-genre and they don’t require skill to make them, but the truth is it’s insanely demanding shooting these things. You have actors in makeup for over four hours so you’re shooting half the scene with the actors that are available and then the reverse when the Demon is ready, completely separately.

The special effects on set take time to set up and rehearse, so you’re constantly working against the clock. Our stunt team was great but its tough to rig flying rigs in dilapidated buildings at night, or crashing a van (safely) in the dark. We also shot with a lot of mist, so we were hard on ourselves with getting the right visual tone, and you know once you start something you have to commit to it, so every night we had to have the mist going once we had made that call.

Jaco Snyman, fresh off being the lead prosthetic designer on Mad Max: Fury Road jumped at the opportunity to make a horror film in his home country. “We always watch these kinds of film but never get the opportunity to make them,” says Snyman, “I really got to go crazy on this one, bring my nightmares to life.” Snyman operates out of Dreamsmith Studios just outside of Johannesburg. His team utilizes a homemade 3d scanner, where they sit the actors in a chair and rotate a contraption of 20 DSLR cameras around them. Once they have a 3d model of the actor’s entire body, they start to design the prosthetics.

At the end of the day we’ve sold this thing around the world, and we’ve packaged it as an American film (accents and everything) so I think we achieved our goal. We’ve managed to really get this film out there (it sold out at Berlin 2016 in 3 hours) so we’re really proud of what we put out there and the foot print around the world able to see it.

Like all of his films, Orr edits them himself. “The biggest advantage to doing the editing myself is that I know what to shoot on set to make it work in post. There’s no messing around with superfluous shots, we were shooting in harsh conditions that were very taxing on the cast and crew, I knew exactly what I wanted so there was no re-doing stuff because we had hard rive space to burn.” Editing lasted 3 months where it was handed over to Johannesburg based VFX company Loco who handled over 100 VFX shots for the film. “We built 3d tongues, mouth extensions, hovering tools and fire enhancements,” says George Webster, VFX supervisor for the film. This is definitely different to the normal stuff we do!” Webster says, “We knew the stuff was working when Alastair would gag in the viewings.” Webster says as he laughs.

How do you see the future for screenwriters and filmmakers in South Africa?

I think the future looks good if you’re willing to work hard at it. It’s getting harder and harder to make films and get finance and then sell them, so you’ve really got to want it more than you want to breathe. We have to find innovative ways to tell our stories, that can be done on a small budget.

Any advice you have for aspirant screenwriters who would like to get their stories made?

Find a director or producer and work with them on something that is achievable and realistic. So many people spend years trying to sell their passion project that nobody wants to make or cant afford to make. Get in the game by collaborating and work your way to your dream project.

Are you a fan of the horror genre? Any films that inspired Willow Street

Having made 3 previous horror films I’d be a sucker for punishment if I didn’t. I think it’s a genre that allows you to play with a lot of neat toys (narratively and technically) that I just get a kick out of. It’s challenging to keep an audience on the edge of their seat the whole time

What do you hope audiences will get from watching A House On Willow Street?

I want them to discover it as a surprise and not know what they’re getting themselves into. I hope South Africans dig it! I want them to not know what just happened.

 

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At its most personal, it is the study of how a man moves on from a tragedy without ever gaining closure. At its broadest, it is a study of the consequence of forcing people to live on land where people were never meant to live.

The chilling thriller Wind River marks directorial debut of the Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Hell or High Water).

WIND 5When I embarked on Wind River, my first film as a director, I viewed it as the conclusion of a thematic trilogy that explores the modern American frontier. Beginning with the epidemic of violence along the US/Mexico border in Sicario and then shifting to focus on the immense wealth and poverty colliding in the Comanchería region of West Texas in Hell Or High Water, Wind River is the final chapter and catharsis of this trilogy.

Wind River explores perhaps the most tangible remnant of America’s frontier, and America’s greatest failure — the Native American reservation. At its most personal, it is the study of how a man moves on from a tragedy without ever gaining closure. At its broadest, it is a study of the consequence of forcing people to live on land where people were never meant to live.

It is a brutal place where the landscape itself is an antagonist. It is a place where addiction and murder kills more than cancer, and rape is considered a rite of passage for girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is a place where the rule of law gives way to the law of nature. No place in North America has changed less in the past century, and no place in America has suffered more from the changes that have taken place.

WIND RIVER

Jeremy Renner and Gill Birmingham

When Sheridan decided to try his hand at penning a few spec scripts, despite never having written any previously, within six months, he had finished three of them. Miraculously, he had sold two of them right away. Even more miraculously: One was Sicario, the tense Feds-vs-drug-cartel thriller and other was Hell or High Water, the sleeper hit of 2016 that garnered Sheridan an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

As for the third one, which Sheridan titled Wind River … well, that one was different.

The other scripts had been written to sell as projects for other filmmakers. This one, he felt in his bones, was meant for him to direct.

“All three of those scripts … I mean, they’re all personal,” Sheridan admits. “But when other directors started poking around for that one, I found myself getting kind of protective of it. I wanted the vision executed exactly as I saw it in my head. There was a lot in this story, in the wrong hands, could come off as offensive.

Wind River follows a wildlife tracker (Jeremy Renner) and an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) hunting down a killer in the snowy mountains of western Wyoming. The former has stumbled across the frozen body of a teenage girl from the nearby Native American reservation; the latter has arrived from Las Vegas to spearhead the homicide investigation. For him, the death opens up some painful past wounds. For her, the immersion in a culturally unfamiliar world, one with its unspoken rules and deeply embedded culture clashes is extremely disorienting.

What made you want to go with Wind River as sort of your directorial debut?

I mean, it’s not that I wanted to. It’s that I was … With this specific subject matter I was very worried that, you know, someone else would have a different vision for it and slight alterations to very specific things in here would alter the course of what I was trying to convey, and, you know, in order to write this story I had to … I had given my word to some people in Indian country, you know, it took a lot of trust to let me tell the story and I just couldn’t run the risk of someone altering that vision.

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Is that something that you’ve sort of run into in the past where, you know, you went in with the script and there were just a lot of changes to it?

No. I’ve been very lucky, especially with the original screenplays I’ve written. You know, when you write an original piece by yourself, you know, with no one attached yet and then you being attaching be it a Director, or Producers, and then start piecing it together, everyone is really coming aboard, you know, to create the world that you imagined as opposed to an assignment where you’re writing essentially for a Director or a studio, where you know they’re going to want their opinion heard, and with a Director certainly rightfully so. But it’s distinct when it’s an original piece. But still, everyone is going to have, you know, it’s going through a filter and it’s a different filter and so, you know, I’ve been very lucky with Sicario and Hell or High Water but I just didn’t, I couldn’t trust I would get that lucky a third time. And it was a natural evolution. I wanted to tell the story a really specific way and directing it’s the only way to make sure that happens.

You’ve kind of referred to Sicario and Hell or High Water and now Wind Riveras kind of a “frontier trilogy. Do you feel like this is a trilogy that should be watched in the order that they were released, or is it just something where these three films are a piece?

Well, I mean, I think that, you know, if one were to watch them in order then they’re going to see similarities beyond just the frontier. They’re going to see similarities in how, you know, these three … If you think about it, it’s three fathers, each facing a failure of whether that failure was innocence or naiveté about I believe for the rule of law with Alejandro, whether it’s, you know, with Toby in Hell or High Water, that failure is an inability to provide and so he makes a decision to, you know, operate outside the rule of law in this sort of selfish martyrdom. And with Cory, his failure is trusting his child where he lives in a place where the rule of law doesn’t exist. So there are absolutely themes that I think, you know, watched in conjunction, questions raised in Sicario that are answered in Wind River. I think that it hopefully is an interesting experience in the aggregate but they also all stand alone.

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All three films is feel like modern day Westerns. You are placing the genre in the present day.

Yeah. I mean, it’s, you know, the location itself does it and then various themes of the Western, of taking justice into your own hands, making the traveling from point A to point B not a foregone conclusion and to give some real rigor to that journey. If you think about it, in most traditional Westerns you’re going to see, you know, the heroes or the villains ride up over the plains and move into this place and in these movies, you know, I’m doing it as well but I’m doing it in vehicles or helicopters or snowmobiles. I’m using, you know, this iron horse, so to speak.

Well what’s also fascinating is that you’ve also sort of like come across to confront the notions of civilization, like how each sort of film is wrestling with how civilized do we think we are?

A hundred percent, and also how has the construct of that civilization failed the people it governs? But in all three of them there is this element of how much have we truly evolved and the very nature of violence in man and how tethered to it we are. You know, you would think at this point with … I can’t come up with a reason that we are so, as a species … and every species is violent. Violence is literally the glue of the cycle of life and yet I think that we’re the only species that does it maliciously.

HELLOne of the other fascinating things about Wind River is it really sort of paints a vivid portrait of sort of the divisions between the American side and the Indian reservation and I was curious about just sort of your research in trying to get that as accurate as possible.

Well I spent a lot of time on the Res when I was younger, in my 20s and 30s, and so I witnessed it. I witnessed the real failure of the government, you know, to provide and protect and deliver the things that it had promised it would deliver when it consigned people to live in very specific areas and then ignore, which is sort of the policy, every promise that had been made, repeatedly, and the consequences are so … Because the area’s so isolated, the consequences seem to land harder. The bombs seem to have more concussion.

Everyone that lives on the Res is suffering the same thing. Now each family may have its own unique issues or triumphs but when the government changes the policy, or de-funds this program, it affects virtually everyone when a policy is changed or tweaked or altered. In urban Los Angeles the effect is sort of scattered. It’s not as … you know, it’s almost as though you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean the suffering isn’t present but it’s absorbed by the fact that there’s people peppered throughout that aren’t suffering but there, when a change is made, the consequences affect everyone when the decision is made to frack reservation land, the water is ruined for everyone, you know.

When policies such as the inability for anyone to prosecute a non-Native member for committing a sexual assault against a Native member on a reservation, that is a complete consequence for everyone. That law four years ago changed but until four years ago, that was the case.

The film does like a really good job of visually capturing sort of that sort of distance and sort of being close up and confined. Like you will have like sort of these scenes where they dwarf the characters, the scenery does, and then you will be you know confined in a trailer and like you can’t really escape it. And that was a really interesting visual language to use.

You know, there’s a sense of … there’s such a vastness to specifically this Res and to this region, and I really wanted to give not only a sense of how massive this landscape is but how small and inconsequential we can be within it. And so you know, I’ve … Ben and I, Ben Richardson, my DP, we relied you know really heavily on extreme wide angle lenses which is not that common anymore and we were very, very selective about when we came in super close. Likewise, we, you know, the trailer that we shot, the Sam Little Feather trailer, these were actual trailers.

Traditionally what you would do is is build one on stage and cut it in half so you get some room to move around but I wanted it to feel that confining. I wanted to feel like you were in this, you know, this cave, this little box. And so we worked within the real ones, the practical, you know, a traditional worker’s trailer or a single, wide, which made for difficult shooting but it also made it feel real, I think.

Sicario_posterTell us about the Sicario sequel, Soldado. Is it a continuation of these frontier films or do you feel like that series is going in a different direction now?

No. That thing has evolved into something completely different and, you know, I’ve seen an early version of it and I’m really encouraged, but it’s … that thing goes off on its own. If you’re going to make a sequel to Sicario, you have to, you know, you’ve got to go beat a brand new path.

Do you feel that the story of Sicario, now that it’s continuing in Soldado, that there could be future films that continue to build that story forward?

SHERIDAN: I would like there to be one more to complete that so all of a sudden I don’t know what geometric shape you’d call this that you have a trilogy kicking off from a trilogy, and this one not being thematic, this one being actual, you know, it’s a really unique opportunity to capitalize on something purely creatively. You know what I mean? It’s a really bizarre thing to franchise, if that’s the right word, which I don’t think it is. You know, Sicario was successful but it was successful because Denis and the producers were, you know, they were very lean. It was very lean filmmaking. And so it didn’t, by comparison to films that look like that, didn’t cost very much money and so likewise with the sequel, that didn’t cost much more which allows us to stay really true as opposed to trying to reach a broader audience, make a richer experience for that audience and hopefully bring in more but that’s not necessarily the goal. The goal is to continue down this story, you know.

When I told them I would write it, they asked for the traditional studio call and the outline and all that, and I said, “No, no, no, guys. The first one was original. I’m just going to go away and I’m going to come back with it and there you go.” And they trusted me to do that, and then read it and were like, “Ah, shit. We’re in a lot of trouble.” It makes the first one look like a comedy. Yeah. I’m not the guy to ask to write a sequel.

Tell us about the TV series Yellowstone?

Well the interesting thing about it is because you … you know, I can look at the world over a longer period of time and it’s not a, you know, I’m not trying to open a door and then close it in a two-hour window. I can open a door and leave it open for three years so it really becomes a true examination of a world and it’s something that I think is, you know, I wanted to create something that feels really fresh and yet has the kind of grandeur some of those TV shows like Bonanza and Green Valley and these shows of yesteryear and yet look at it through a lens of today. You know, I like to describe Yellowstone is The Great Gatsby on the largest ranch in Montana. Then it’s really a study of the changing of the West.

Is this a series that like you’ll be like leading the writers room? Do you want to direct a lot of the episodes? Do you have like an outline for that?

Well, you know, it’s funny you should say that. When Paramount came across the script and asked if I wanted to do it and they wanted to go this fall … and this was in May and I was like, well it’s not possible and I have no interest in that. I said I’ll do it if I can get Kevin Costner to play the lead, but he’s not going to do that, but I’ll ask him. And then I asked him and he said, “Yes,” and I’m like, “Great. What do I do now?” So there is no writers’ room. I wrote them all and I’m directing them all

ONLY

It’s not what stands in front of you… it’s who stands beside you.

Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is the heroic story of a local firefighting crew that becomes one of the most elite firefighting teams in the nation. As most of run from danger, they run toward it – risking everything to save a town from a historic wildfire.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON Legacy) the screenplay was written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, based on the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn.

A Story About Everyday Heroes

“This is a story about everyday heroes,” says Josh Brolin, who stars in Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the firefighters who did what no other local city fire crew had ever done before making headlines as they battled the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire. Going deeper behind the story into the lives of the firefighters themselves, the film focuses on the everyday lives of the men who – each for his own reasons – would rise to protect us all.

“In an age of superheroes, Only the Brave is a film about real heroes,” adds director Joseph Kosinski. “It explores notions of brotherhood, sacrifice, redemption, all set in the world of wildfire – something I haven’t seen in the cinema before. It’s a story that needs to be told and a world that should be seen on a big screen.”

“What draws men to fire? What makes these guys want to do this?” says producer Trent Luckinbill. “These guys are risking their lives every day to save others, to save communities, to save people’s ways of life, and this story gets under the hood of why they do what they do. It’s about who they are and the brotherhood of the crew.”

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura agrees that the shared experience between the hotshots is what makes them a real unit. “They start as individuals, and in the forming of a group, and the tortuous training that they go through, they bond in a way that they become a unit as opposed to a bunch of individuals. Their sense of commitment grows during their time being hotshots; like a lot of dedicated people, they become more and more obsessed with their jobs.”

“These guys are the gatekeepers to the wildlands,” says producer Michael Menchel. “Mostly, they are fighting fires on the ground with Pulaskis, with shovels, with burn cans, burning back fires. For anyone who’s spent time in the wilderness, for anyone who loves the outdoors, it’s amazing to think about.”

And as Dawn Ostroff notes, the film goes deep into the lives of this particular hotshot crew. “These heroes deserve to have their story told, for people to know what they did – how they saved this community and put themselves literally in the line of fire.”

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The film is based on the GQ article “No Exit,” written by Sean Flynn.

In Sean Flynn’s 2014 GQ article, he wrote, “What makes hotshots elite is that they’re so damned tough. Physically, yes, because they do hard labor with, at a minimum, a 40pound pack on their backs, and they do it on billy-goat slopes and at the bottom of canyons and on the tops of mountains, and they almost always double-time hike a few miles to get there first. But they are also mentally tough, because they’re able to do that for 16 hours, sleep in the dirt, then get up and do it for another 16 hours, day after day after day, without dwelling on, or at least not surrendering to, the fact that what they’re doing is often quite miserable.”

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Sean Flynn

Producers Dawn Ostroff and Jeremy Steckler of Condé Nast Entertainment identified the story as a possible feature film, and began the development process, working with director Joseph Kosinski and writer Ken Nolan. Meanwhile, producer Michael Menchel, who had also been developing the project following the events in Arizona and visited the Hotshots, Brendan McDonough (played by Miles Teller) and Amanda Marsh (played by Jennifer Connelly) multiple times, united with Condé Nast and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura on the project. At that point, they brought the script to Black Label Media, who joined forces to further develop the screenplay and put the film together.

Many moviegoers will be unfamiliar with the term “hotshot.” As is explained in the film, it’s a special and honored designation: hotshots are the country’s top wildland firefighters – the Navy SEALs of firefighting. “The way they fight fires is very different than people would think: they don’t carry water; they fight fire with fire,” Kosinski explains. “They dig lines and cut down trees and try to establish a border. They light fire, back burns, that they use to battle against the wildfire.”

There are approximately 107 hotshot crews in the US, each consisting of 20 firefighters. The 2,000 or so elite wildland firefighters in the US who are certified as hotshots must be completely trained in wildfire suppression tactics, always ready, and always equipped to travel to field assignments in remote locations at a moment’s notice during the summer fire season. The crews typically fly or drive in, set up camp, strategize their approach, then jump into the front lines.

In her book The Fire Line, Fernanda Santos comments, “Hotshot crews are cohesive units of 20 firefighters, extensively trained, hugely fit, and routinely courageous – but, as they often said, only as strong as their weakest link. If the burning wilderness is a battlefield, they’re the infantry, engaging the enemy on foot.”

It’s a highly dangerous job, and growing more so as worsening fires explode all over the western United States and the world.

What made the Granite Mountain Hotshots different isn’t their skill or ability, but how they rose to the top. “‘Hotshot’ is a term that is usually reserved for Forest Service special teams,” Kosinski continues. “But the Granite Mountain Hotshots were a municipal squad – a bunch of local guys that Eric Marsh dreamed of turning into a Hotshot crew. No one had ever done that before. It was a very difficult process that took years of training and evaluation. They finally did achieve that, becoming the first municipal Hotshot crew in the United States and travelling across the country fighting wildfires.”

Though many people remember the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots – the firefighting crew that battled the Yarnell Hill fire in 2013 – the story of the lives of the crew of 20 is largely unknown. The stories of these heroes is told on the screen in Only the Brave.

It’s a recognition that is highly deserved, but one that a hotshot crew would never seek out. “Most people don’t really know what Hotshots are – most people have never even heard of Hotshots – and that’s just the way Hotshots like it. They want to be invisible, working hard, and building those close relationships on the Hotshot crew. Everybody involved with this movie had a different reason why they wanted to be involved, but the biggest reason that I saw was that they wanted to put a light on what Hotshots and wildland firefighters do,” says Pat McCarty, a former Granite Mountain Hotshot who left the crew in 2010 to become an engineer for the Prescott Fire Department; he also served as a technical advisor on the film. McCarty and other Granite Mountain Hotshots, as well as Brendan McDonough, Amanda Marsh and Duane and Marvel Steinbrink, would provide invaluable advice during filming – not just technical advice about how wildland firefighters operate, but character advice about how the real men would have handled certain situations.

These 20 men are all very different, but share a bond, according to Luckinbill. “The story focuses on the personal level – how teams like these are formed, how those friendships are made,” he says. “You need that brotherhood; you need that trust, that respect for each other, to fight these fires. That necessary reliance on each other resonates in a way that military stories do.”

Kosinski takes it even further: “Only the Brave could be viewed as a war movie – but it’s a battle against Mother Nature,” he says. “I found that to be a refreshing angle on what a hero is.”

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Cinematographer Claudio Miranda and director Joseph Kosinski during filming of Only The Brave

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Ken Nolan

That comparison also struck screenwriter Ken Nolan, who previously adapted the book Black Hawk Down into an award-winning film. (Nolan would collaborate with Eric Warren Singer on the screenplay for Only the Brave.) “Many of these wildland firefighters were a breed apart, like the Rangers and Delta Force soldiers in Black Hawk Down,” he says. “Motivated, indefatigable, and yet human on a level we can all relate to – they got tired, they got scared, they joked around with each other.”

Nolan would go to Prescott, Arizona, and spend time with the families of the Hotshots, meeting Hotshot survivor Brendan McDonough and Amanda Marsh, the widow of Hotshot supervisor Eric Marsh. “Prescott has an amazing small town feel to it,” says Nolan. “People mill about and walk around with family and kids – it’s a super-friendly and welcoming place. It’s also very scenic and outdoorsy. I loved walking around there and getting coffee from my favorite place – the Wild Iris Cafe became my office.”

The more time that Nolan spent in Prescott, the more he began to see the story of the Hotshots in a particular way – one that he felt audiences could get behind. “What interested me was how the team built themselves up to an elite unit and what that entailed. It also offered a great way into the world – through Brendan McDonough’s point of view,” says Nolan. “He was a kid who’d had some troubles and wanted to turn his life around, and did so by joining the team as a recruit. We, the audience, could learn everything about the world of the Hotshots through Brendan’s eyes.”

That approach also gave the screenwriters the chance to explore the relationship between Brendan, the recruit who has to earn trust, and Eric Marsh, the 20-year veteran supervisor of the crew. “This was a hard job, with life and death at stake, and Eric Marsh made sure he had like-minded team members around him. Was Brendan going to make it? Was he going to cut it or not? That’s the story I wanted to explore.”

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“It’s not the traditional mentor/mentee relationship,” says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. “In the movie, Eric sees something in Brendan that reminds him of himself and his own fallibility. That’s the emotional core of the movie – the relationship between a very young man and a more senior man. It’s about coming to terms with the weaknesses in their lives and the way that building this team becomes even more than fighting fires – it’s going to turn them into the people they want to be. In the movie, Eric Marsh had seen that happen to himself and now was helping others, particularly Brendan, remake themselves.”

That relationship – between Marsh and McDonough, but really between all of the men – was of particular interest to screenwriter Eric Warren Singer. “I’m interested in the culture that develops around this brotherhood,” says the writer, an Oscar® nominee for his work on American Hustle.

“I interviewed many Hotshots and asked them what they love about it. They all basically said the same thing,” says Kosinski. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s being with your team, travelling around the country, being with your crew and knowing they have your back as you have theirs. That was the key to this film: making sure we captured that.”

To bring the story to the screen, the producers tapped Kosinski, previously the director of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. “If you’ve seen Joe’s movies, you know how visually spectacular they are; he’s one of the best visual directors in the world,” says producer Erik Howsam. “He was the right choice to convey the epic scale of what it’s like to be in one of these wildfires.”

“When I read the script, I thought I’d never seen anything like this before – I almost couldn’t believe it was based on a true story,” says Kosinski. “I was drawn by the script’s unique approach to the story of viewing it through two points of view: the guy at the top, Superintendent Eric Marsh, and the guy at the very, very bottom, fresh rookie Brendan McDonough – the contrast between them, but also the similarities, became the entry point to this story.”

Rounding out the film, country superstar Dierks Bentley teamed with Bon Iver’s S. Carey and Only the Brave’s composer, Joe Trapanese, to provide a song for the film, titled “Hold the Light.”
The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots is one that is close to Bentley’s heart. Bentley first took action in 2013 when he organized and hosted the Country Cares Concert in Arizona, which raised more than half a million dollars for the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

In composing the song, Bentley and Carey worked closely with Only the Brave composer Joe Trapanese. In the collaboration, the songwriters worked Trapanese’s film theme into the music of the song, providing a seamless transition between song and score and resulting in a song that is integral to the film itself.

“This is at the top, if not the most meaningful experience I’ve ever been a part of,” said Bentley. “It hits me harder than any other song I’ve had a chance to be a part of. Over the last couple years I’ve met and gotten to know Brendan, the sole survivor, and my mom has met with some of the guys’ families, and it’s still unfathomable to put yourself in any of their shoes. But, our goal was to create a message of hope and love. I’m honored to have been a part of it.” Kosinski added, “This story resonated deeply with Dierks from the beginning – he was one of the first to raise money to support the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and his commitment has been unwavering since then. The theme comes from the score and the lyrics come from the heart, so it was a natural fit for the film.”

S. Carey said, “Working on this song with Joe, Dierks, and the whole crew was a true honor. My brother-in-law has been a wildlands fire fighter for the last several years so I had a somewhat personal starting point for the creative process. I’m extremely thankful to be able to honor these men, these true heroes, in the form of a song in a beautiful, powerful film.”

Prior to filming, the 20 actors playing hotshots immersed themselves in a Hotshot boot camp in the mountains outside Santa Fe, NM. The boot camp was led by technical advisor Pat McCarty and other former Granite Mountain Hotshots.

“They created a camp that taught the actors how to become not only a wildland firefighter but a Granite Mountain Hotshot,” says Kosinski. “We sent them into the wilderness and they learned all the separate jobs of Hotshotting. They slept out under the stars; they took wildland fire courses. Most importantly, they built that camaraderie of being a unit.

“I sent 20 actors to boot camp, and they came back a wildland firefighting team,” says Kosinski.

FLATLINERS

What if there’s a region of the brain that’s responsible for producing a near-death experience, just like there are regions that cause us to feel anger or to taste a lemon?

The original Flatliners hit the big screen in 1990.  An extremely stylized and unsettling film, it immediately struck a nerve with audiences.  Now, more than 25 years later, Flatliners returns to the screen in a contemporary reimagining from a screenplay by Ben Ripley and a story by Peter Filardi, and directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Flatliners is a journey into the unknown – the last unknown, you could say,” says director Niels Arden Oplev, best known for his work as the director of the Swedish film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the pilot of the acclaimed series “Mr. Robot.” “It’s an outrageous subject, to travel beyond death and have your friends try to bring you back, to explore what’s on the other side.”

In Flatliners, five medical students, obsessed by the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring and dangerous experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods of time, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.  But as their experiments become increasingly perilous, they are each confronted by the sins of their pasts, brought on by the paranormal consequences of trespassing to the other side

Flatliners begins as one medical student – who has her own, carefully guarded motivations – convinces four of her colleagues to embark with her on a dangerous experiment: she wants to stop her heart and experience death for a short period of time, monitoring her brain activity to see if they can find any proof of the afterlife; then, she needs her colleagues to bring her back to life.

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What could convince anyone to try something so dangerous?  What else but the promise of groundbreaking – and fame-making – results.  “Imagine if they found the proof they were looking for: it would be the greatest medical discovery of the century,” says Oplev.  “Courtney, played by Ellen Page, appeals to the pressure the other students feel in a cutthroat environment.  As one character says: this is not a medical school that is educating country doctors – they are there to push the dial on human knowledge.”

What the medical students find is something they did not expect: having flatlined and faced death, they not only experience what the afterlife might be like – they come back better.  “By traveling to the kingdom of death, they come back with enhanced abilities,” says Oplev.  “They’re trying to shortcut themselves to greatness.  But there’s a bill to be paid for doing that.”

And that bill is steep:  as they face their deaths and resurrections, the characters are all forced to confront the regretful actions of their pasts.  “All of us, at some point in our lives, have done something we’re either ashamed of or that we regret,” says producer Michael Douglas.  As the students in the film face death, he says, it becomes a chance for them to face up to these sins.  “As they are haunted by their mistakes, they discover that it’s never too late to try to remedy the past,” he continues.

“They’re confronted with elements from earlier in their lives that they’re not proud of,” adds Oplev.  “In essence, they come to a new realization of who they really are.”

To direct the new adaptation, the producers tapped Oplev.  “Niels brings a fantastic European author sensibility to a commercial American thriller,” says Safran.  “What was important to all of us, and especially to Niels, was that the characters work: he ensured that everything that happens to the characters is rooted in reality, and that their past mistakes and the actions they take to redeem themselves are believable.”

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It was also important to Oplev to create a film that stood on its own and spoke to contemporary audiences.

“Of course, it’s a thrilling entertainment, but the subject also has built-in depth to it.  We could create a film that has all the good tension and entertainment of a thriller, but also depth, credibility and realism.  That’s why I was drawn to this project,” says Oplev.

Mark says it made sense to take a more realistic approach.  “Science and technology have changed dramatically over the last quarter century,” says Mark.  “We approached this movie in a way that was much more grounded and rooted in medical reality.”

One way that Oplev would ground the thriller was with a commitment to realism.  “Flatliners has supernatural elements with fun and scary stuff, but within that, I wanted it to be totally believable,” says Oplev.  “When they flatline for the first time, I wanted you to 100% believe that it was really happening.”

Even more importantly, Oplev would ground the film with the strong characters, says Safran.  “We wanted to strongly establish the characters early on so that when they experience the supernatural phenomena that occur after they have flatlined, you’re seeing it all through their eyes: you know what they’re going through, you know what they’ve experienced in life, and now you fear for them.”

ben_ripley110826192834Ben Ripley, who previously penned the box-office success Source Code, was brought on board to write the script, from a story by Peter Filardi.

Says Ripley, “I was in college when the original film came out and I remember thinking it had a very smart premise, so I was intrigued by the idea of a remake. Because the elements were all there – the universal appeal of inquiring into the afterlife, the themes of atonement and redemption – I had the luxury of being able to import a structure that was totally solid.  What I did do was update the science, the technology and make the cast much more diverse and competitive, keeping in line with medical schools today.”

Ripley consulted extensively with medical specialists throughout the writing process. “I became interested in the idea of neurology as the driver for the characters’ interest in flatlining,” he explains. “We still don’t really know much about how the brain works; it’s a machine that’s way too complex for us to understand.  I began to wonder: what if there’s a region of the brain that’s responsible for producing a near-death experience, just like there are regions that cause us to feel anger or to taste a lemon?”

On numerous occasions throughout the writing process, Ripley was able to accompany a neurologist friend at his work, sitting in on morning presentation meetings and interviewing medical students on neurology rotations.  “A lot of that made it into the script,” says Ripley. “We all wanted to keep things as believable as possible, so many of the medical situations you see in the movie are in fact written and executed with a high degree of realism.”

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The Characters

Ellen Page, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her breakout role in Juno, was chosen by the filmmakers to play the role of Courtney, a complicated young woman who convinces her colleagues to follow her in her quest for knowledge of the afterlife.

Page says the project spoke to her on a number of levels.  “I was intrigued by the way the film deals with our innate, primal fascination, fear, denial of whatever it is about the inevitable,” says the actress.  “The character of Courtney felt like a character I hadn’t really played before.  She’s a bit of a mystery and I was interested in the mystery of her – she’s had an extremely difficult, traumatic past, she’s struggling with a horrible guilt and it’s definitely shaped who she is today.  To play someone who has been through a lot and to get to explore that was really exciting to me.”

That wide range continues as Page’s character begins her dangerous experiments. “Before she flatlines, she’s very closed off from the intensity of her feelings about her past – she protects herself from those feelings,” says Page. “Right after she flatlines, she has a moment of bliss – that euphoria you feel just after you’ve gone through a difficult time.  She cracks open – she starts to feel strength and freedom, but she also starts to tap into everything she’s feeling inside, and her façade starts to unravel.”

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To play the role of the intensely private and complex character of Ray, the filmmakers turned to Diego Luna.

Luna, well-known for roles in such films as Y tu Mama Tambien, Milk and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, says he immediately connected with the character.  “Ray is a very pragmatic character,” explains Luna.  “He’s a guy that is in school for a reason and he doesn’t want to risk that at all.  But, at the same time, he’s a doctor and his curiosity gets the better of him, the idea of being part of a project that is so risky intrigues him. Ray has no interest in flatlining, but bringing these people back from death is exciting to him; it makes him feel powerful – he gets hooked.  This film is all about playing with fire, playing with something you can’t control.”

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Nina Dobrev plays Marlo, a character she says spoke to her immediately upon reading the script.  “I listed the pros and cons of the character on two pieces of paper,” says Dobrev. “By the time I finished, I realized there were really no cons – I had just written down so many things I loved about her and her arc throughout the film.”

British actor James Norton plays the fun-loving and charismatic Jamie.  “Jamie is a loveable rogue,” says Norton of his character.  “He’s not the most serious of students, he likes to party, he likes the girls, he’s full of bravado and confidence and makes no bones about the fact that what he’s really after is recognition – he wants to be a celebrity doctor.”

“There’s a recklessness to his character,” says Oplev.  “He’s a trust fund kid, more interested in girls and parties than in medical school.  There’s a reason why Courtney chooses him: yeah, I think he’d be the one that would press the button and start the whole thing up.”

Kiersey Clemons, best known for her breakout role in the critically acclaimed Sundance hit Dope, was chosen by the filmmakers to play the role of Sophia.

“I think for Sophia it was always about being the best and the smartest and the top of her class because it was what was expected of her,” says Clemons of her character. “So when she decides to flatline she has this experience of liberation, she’s claimed her own identity by doing something her mom would never want her to do.”

From the very beginning the chemistry and camaraderie between the five actors was strong both on and off screen.  “We all got along from the moment we met,” says Dobrev.  “Everyone has such a different personality but together it’s like a puzzle – we all kind of fit and everyone brings something new to the table.”

Adds Norton, “In any movie, any performance, the trust involved between a group of actors is immense.  You have to open yourself up and within a few days show your soul and become incredibly vulnerable with strangers.  And that takes an enormous amount of trust.  So it’s no surprise that actors generally become very close very quickly.  And that was what happened on this movie, which was great because this movie is all about trust. These characters are literally putting their lives in each other’s hands and saying, ‘Get me back, take me back from death.’  So the fact that we all got on so well, that we all trusted each other off camera meant that the relationships and the stories of our friendships on camera was much easier.”

Medical Bootcamp

Following Oplev’s direction to ground the thriller and supernatural elements by making the medical procedures as real as possible, the filmmakers focused on getting it right.  “It was important that anything we were exploring in terms of medicine and flatlining be accurate and medically correct,” says executive producer Michael Bederman.  “The action had to be believable.”

The filmmakers brought on medical consultant Lindsay Somers to ensure that the material and action be as medically accurate and believable as possible.  Before the cameras rolled, and throughout production, Somers worked closely with Oplev and Ripley as well as her network of nurses, radiologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons to try to ensure that every diagnosis was correct and every drug prescribed was the right one, that the actors were carrying their equipment correctly and giving injections and intubations the way a real physician would.

“Right from the beginning, Niels said he wanted medical authenticity in the film, so the first thing I did was to go through the script and bring any medical inaccuracies to his and Ben’s attention,” says Somers. “For instance, in many films and television shows, you see people shocking the flatline, which is completely inaccurate because you can’t shock a flatline.  Ben added a scene that explains this to the audience in medically accurate terms by having Kiersey’s character explain that you can’t shock a flatline, that ‘paddles are useless without a heartbeat.’ Obviously, because we’re making a Hollywood film and not a documentary, we took small liberties with some things, but overall we tried to keep it as accurate as possible.”

One area of research, of course, was how long the flatlining sequences should be.  “We did research on how long a person could actually be dead – how long your brain could survive without oxygen,” says Oplev.  “Most doctors would say it’s about three or four minutes – but it’s actually an individual thing.  There are some very interesting examples of people who lived for many minutes and came back under certain circumstances.”

To bring the necessary verisimilitude to their portrayal of third year medical students, Somers put the cast through an intensive course that she describes as “medical boot camp.”

Somers explains, “We started with a bit of theory to help them understand exactly why they were going to do all the actions they were going to do, especially in the flatline scenarios. Like, why does CPR work?  What do compressions do to the heart and body?  What does administering oxygen do? After that, we worked on skills — I had an ER nurse come in to help me teach them how to do CPR, how to work with IVs and oxygen masks.  Then, we began to focus on the flatlining scenes themselves, as these were going to be the most physically intense scenes to shoot and were the biggest concerns for Niels and the actors.”

The cast all agree that the medical training was integral to their performances.  “The terminology, theory and using the equipment was a lot to learn and choreograph, but it made it so much more enjoyable to shoot,” says Page.  “Having the opportunity to train together made us feel so much more connected and comfortable when we were shooting the flatlining scenes.”

Adds Luna, “Hopefully, doctors will see this film and say ‘Ahh, I see that they did their research.’  It was a lot of work, but I’m very proud of the fact that we all took it as seriously as we did.”

 

FINEST

One of the overriding aspects to Their Finest, is the deep and pure appreciation of the craft of filmmaking, celebrating the collective experience of not only making a movie, but indulging in one, together. What heightens this notion, is that we’re looking back into a time when cinema meant more than it ever has in Britain.

Though long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009, Lissa Evans’ novel Their Finest Hour and a Half went under the radar somewhat, it inspired powerhouse producers Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley to bring it to the Big Screen seven years later.

In the midst of the devastating Second World War, with increasing numbers of men drafted to fight for their lives on the frontline, bombs continued to drop relentlessly on London. Those left behind, made up predominantly of women, children and the elderly, were in need of something uplifting they could relate to. As a result movies became a crucial outlet to help raise the spirits of the nation during this bleak time. Going to the pictures gave an opportunity to reach out to the community and to provide hope and optimism, but audiences demanded realism.

Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) a smart copywriter, is employed to write female dialogue, (patronisingly referred to as ‘slop’ by her male co writers), for original propaganda feature films that would reflect the new mood of the nation, and help tap into the hearts and imaginations of the fast growing women’s workforce. Partnered alongside fellow screenwriter, the forthright Buckley (Sam Claflin), the pair become enamoured with one particular patriotic tale; of twin sisters who set out to sea in their drunken father’s rickety old boat to rescue brave, wounded soldiers in Dunkirk.

It is through the power of film and her new found love of Buckley that Catrin’s eyes are opened to who she truly is and the possibility of starting a new life, after all, if there is one thing she has learnt from her time spent in the film industry, it’s that the show must always go on.

Amanda Posey

Amanda Posey

Amanda Posey had originally begun her career in the film industry working for Stephen Woolley, and has since enjoyed success, having been Oscar-nominated for An Education, and more recently for Brooklyn.

Stephen Woolley

Stephen Woolley

Woolley, who came fresh off the back of the multi Oscar nominated Carol, is an eminent producer longstanding in the British film industry, Oscar nominated for The Crying Game. He has also produced Interview With A Vampire and Made in Dagenham.

As a Londoner renowned for his historical films of the city, he was drawn to the subject matter and period, as well as the cinematic content and superb prose writing of Lissa’s novel. However, it was the combination of Lissa’s amazing character portrayals and clever humour that hooked him.

“I loved the book so much it set me off to find out whether the rights were free for Number 9, only to discover that somebody else was bidding for them, and that person was Amanda,” said Woolley.

Finding A Screenwriter

Posey then explained how she first became enamoured by this novel, and why she felt that Gaby Chiappe, who had yet to pen a feature length film, was so perfect for the job.

Gaby Chiappe

Gaby Chiappe

“I had read two of Lissa’s previous novels and really loved her writing, so I had always been interested,” she explained. “It has incredible richness and depth in its detail, I loved the evocation of that period of the war. It was shining a light on a part of British film history that had been rarely seen and interrogated before, but doing it in the context of this story, of a young woman developing her skills as a writer and learning about life and love through that collaborative process of writing and making a film.”

“I then discovered that Gaby, who was entirely a TV writer, wanted to adapt it, but I was really impressed by her take on it. At this point I hadn’t optioned the book, but then I got a call from Stephen, and he proposed that instead of us fighting it out, why don’t we try and do it together. We thought it would be wonderful to collaborate in this way. It was a happy coincidence that we were both drawn to it at the same time.”

Woolley admits that initially he was unsure about leaving a project of this magnitude in the hands of an inexperienced screenwriter, but executive producer Christine Langan at BBC Films and Amanda were so enthusiastic about Gaby’s talent and suitability for the job that, “In the back of my mind, I thought that if it didn’t work out that we could get another, more experienced film writer. But Gaby did such a brilliant job in making the script the story we wanted, while keeping all the elements that were so important to us. And once we were lucky enough to hook up with a director as talented and skilled as Lone we never looked back.”

Lone Scherfig, the director of Their Finest, felt that Chiappe’s experience on the smaller screen informed this screenplay, particularly when tasked with adapting such an intricate narrative with a myriad of characters and intersecting stories.

Lone Scherfig

Lone Scherfig

“Because of Gaby’s long running television background, she trusts that you can tell very complex stories, and you could easily make two feature films from the original book. It’s a very rich script, packed with detail. Still, Gaby’s writing is quite minimal, leaving lots of space to make stylistic decisions and move the script onto a bigger, more generous, but less forgiving screen.

Chiappe, who claimed that “the divide between whether people are screenwriters or telly writers is artificial”, shadows the sentiments of the two producers, claiming it was Evans’ humour that initially drew her in, while she explains how surreal the entire experience has been for her.

“Lissa’s sense of humour tickles me. It’s affectionate but incredibly incisive, it’s not without rigour. She manages to be warm and funny and the humour isn’t nasty, it’s sly. Even when the story was painful the novel was still funny,” she continued. “The whole experience felt unreal. The day I went down to the read-through, I just couldn’t quite take it in, there were a bunch of incredibly famous people sitting round a table reading a script that I had written, it just didn’t feel real.”

“Even when I watch it, knowing what will happen and what every character is going to say, it still feels like watching a film, I felt detached in the best possible way. It doesn’t look like the film that was inside my head, that only exists in my imagination. There’s a little period where you have to let go of the reels you’ve been running in your mind and embrace the one that actually exists.”

FINE

The Characters

In Evans’ original novel there are three paramount characters we follow, Catrin, Ambrose and Edith – and the latter has been entirely cut out from this adaptation though parts of her are revived in the character of Phyl. As Woolley explains, the focus had to remain on Catrin, and certain sacrifices were needed in order to accommodate that.

“We meticulously recreated the characters from the book as well as we could, but we also realised that it had to be a journey, so we made it about Catrin, and her relationship with Buckley, which became the central spine of the film script,” he continued. “We lost Edith because there was no way we could fit her story in as well, and something had to be dropped. We were also keen to make it a modern story. War films made at the time did generally tend to reflect the male experience of war, so we wanted to make a film that was not just the female experience of becoming a writer, but a female experience of being in the Blitz in London and coping with a society that was on the brink of changing from being so male-dominated, to being a society were women weren’t just tolerated, they were expected to step into the breach and take on male roles in society. Not just in the world of film, but the world around them.”

Establishing The Tone

To craft a film that maintains a sense of ineffable enchantment, while at the same time not compromising on the sheer severity of war, to interject humour and tragedy in a compatible way, is by no means an easy task. For Amanda Posey, getting that balance completely right was a primary concern.

“The authentic darkness of war is always reflected visually and in the story,” she said. “There’s a careful grouping of difficulties that puncture the film, that remind you all the time there is a matter of life and death happening underneath all of this, and it stops it ever becoming too frivolous, to always remain respectful to the truth of the time,” she explained. “But it was a concern and something that influenced our attitude to the CGI, the locations, the costumes, everything.”

Tonally, the feature was left in rather accomplished hands, and Scherfig explained that a narrative of this nature is what she thrives in as a filmmaker.

“I almost always use the humour as a crowbar into something more serious and vice versa,” she said. For this film, I designed a fairly strict model most artistic decisions from all departments could be based on, but from then on loosened up in order to ensure the humour and give people artistic license. I can get idiosyncratic with small elements or be thrilled with details cast or crew suggest, but most importantly I need to create an atmosphere where the humor and trust can thrive, which has to do with choosing your battles.”

For all of the devastation caused during the Second World War, there was also a sense of community amongst those left back in Britain, and this was a vital notion that the two producers were determined to get across.

“That generation often referred to the war as being the best time of their lives because this was a time when everybody pulled together and had a common purpose,” said Posey.

“I love the interweaving of the story set against the Blitz and the making of a film, as it’s exactly the same spirit that you take to a communal artistic endeavour, especially one where your backs are against the wall.”

Woolley was quick to agree with his colleague on the matter, “Life has got to be loved and enjoyed and got on with, you can’t think about what you might do tomorrow anymore, because tomorrow might not be there. That brings a community together. Our days might be numbered but at least let’s enjoy the days we have left. It’s a terrible thing to say about war, but there’s a joyous side to it, which is that community does come together and we wanted to celebrate that.”

“There was a huge amount of laughter and a huge amount of grin and bear it, but that was all masking the reality of husbands and brothers and fathers and sons all going off to war and dying. There’s a constant reminder of that throughout the film and that’s really important for the tone. We could have made the film as a comedy, but you have to know that death is present, and that life is precious and you can’t just stop, you have to carry on and enjoy it, and still be ambitious and still find humour.”

Sam Claflin, who plays Buckley, was also aware of the spirit in the UK at the time, and how essential it is that Their Finest is on hand to reflect that.

“Not everyone was depressed, people went to the cinema, they wanted to laugh, and there were people writing the scripts to make people laugh. It wasn’t just the soldiers who won the war, the people on the ground did too, everyone was in it together.”

His co-star Bill Nighy, who plays the indelible comic creation of Ambrose Hilliard, an ageing, conceited thespian, was aware that in spite of the evident spirit, it remains a delicate line to walk. “There’s an enormous nostalgia for that period, and yet had you lived through it, it would have been an incredibly tough and tragic time, where hundreds of thousands of people of died in London and there was a constant threat that you might not wake up tomorrow, or your family might be killed, and people lived with that for six years,” he said.

“The idea there was something bigger than everything gave people something other than their own concerns to attend to, and it freed them in a way. People are resilient in times of great peril, and they still find time to moan about stuff, or to fall in love or to have a laugh.”

“I was accustomed to stories about that time from my mother and father, and the script is very clever, it’s sophisticated and it gives you a very detailed and specific idea of how an average day might have been during the Blitz, if there was such a thing.”

The task of balancing the charm with the bleak sense of reality was left in the hands of Chiappe, and she felt similarly to Nighy, uncomfortable about romanticising about the war, and yet ensuring that the palpable sense of community came through in the screenplay.

“People remained who they were, there was a certain stoicism which you choose to see as being heroic, if you wanted to, but I think it was a bit more practical than that. Somebody’s shop would be bombed and then you’d see a sign that said, ‘open for business’ – because what else are you going to do? That resilience is very inspiring, but it is also extreme pragmatism,” she continued. “There’s a practicality about the way people behaved which is both inspiring and just everyday common sense. It’s easy to sentimentalise it, but I find it really interesting, and the propaganda films at the time were reflecting back a truth, a useful truth for British people to recognise themselves as those who keep their humour in the face of pretty appalling things that were happening to them.” “But you’ve got to be careful because you can get sentimental about the war, because it was awful for most people, a lot of the time. But unlike most other horrible things that happen, it was happening to everybody. Everybody was being bombed, everybody was short of food, everybody was losing people, everybody was anxious. Maybe that collective experience is what people get sentimental about, feeling like you were part of something greater than yourself.”

British Cinema During WW2

The face of British cinema as we recognise it today was shaped, and informed during the 1940s – thanks to propaganda films much like the one our protagonists are crafting in Their Finest.

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood was too far removed from reality, and audiences craved a pertinent reflection of their world, which filtered into the next generation of filmmakers from post-war Ealing to the ‘kitchen sink’ films of the late 50s and early 60s (Look Back in Anger, Cathy Come Home); to today’s filmmakers like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.

For Stephen Woolley, a life long appreciation of films from this period fueled his passion as a British producer and the knowledge he has acquired was also an invaluable asset to this project.

“The story our film within a film, The Nancy Starling, is telling, of rescuing wounded soldiers in Dunkirk, is heightened, but people at the time could resonate with it,” he said. “.

“There was a social responsibility to tell stories about real but ‘invisible people’ and that’s what is so interesting about the new young filmmakers like Powell and Pressburger, David Lean and Carol Reed at that time. They were making films about ordinary people, because their lives were suddenly exciting and dangerous and full of often tragic consequences, they wanted to see their stories on screen not a complete diet of Hollywood escapism. So female writers like Diana Morgan an inspiration for Lissa Evans character of Catrin began to emerge organically. Originally from Wales Diana was hired by Ealing to write the “nausea” or slop for the female parts in their male dominated movies but very soon with so many movies being made that had a more female angle she was writing much more than just dialogue. As she says she got credit for films she hardly wrote and no credit for some of the movies she completely re wrote, so chaotic was the writing process that films were being written on the set, as events in the war changed daily. ”

“Many of the new films especially the Homefront movies reflected “the peoples war”, gone were the stories about the stiff upper lips of the top brass in the military and their long suffering faithful wives and girlfriends and audiences didn’t crave colourful biopics about important monarchs and historical whitewashing of the great British Empire. Instead they desired and demanded stories about the ordinary folk movies like In Which We Serve, Went The Day Well, The Foreman Went to France, One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, The Gentle Sex, Millions Like Us, The Bells Go Down and The Way Forward told the stories of people performing heroically under terrible conditions and often, but not always, triumphing. These films were often inspired or extended from documentaries and short films that the Ministry of Information made as propaganda films. Excellent documentaries like Fires Were Started, London Can Take It, Night Shift and Listen to Britain and short informational films that featured comedians and big stars of the time. The massive West End theatre star Celia Johnson made her movie debut in two of these We Serve and Letter From Home the first a female recruitment film and the later shown exclusively in America a plea for American women to encourage the government join the war. Both directed by Carol Reed ”

“ The new crop of films were shot and made mainly at the studios in and around London where the bombing of unarmed defenceless people was at its most widespread and fatalities were high, and these films reflected the mood of the public, defiance laced with fatalistic humour (although looting was still a problem crime was remarkably low given the lack of policing). Incredibly, people were able to laugh at themselves and the situation with ease. Which was reflected in the films being made, in fact humour is the one recurrent theme that tied all of these films together.”

“Making films during the wartime was extraordinary because as Carol Reed commented at the time when you turned up for work you didn’t know whether or not your actors, your crew, your set or even your studio would be there! And the films had a real purpose, passing information to the beleaguered public, keeping their hopes high and alerting America and the rest of the free world (especially those earlier movies) that Britain was still alive and kicking. As filmmakers we always talk about cinema now as though it’s life and death, every time an actor takes another film, or we lose financing but of course it isn’t, but back then it really was, with almost 30 million people attending the cinema weekly in Britain and the majority of them women the need for those messages to be in movies was something that was imperative.”

Woolley’s passion for cinema at that time shines through within the film, and those who collaborated with the venerable producer admit that his knowledge and enthusiasm is infectious. “Stephen is the biggest film buff you can imagine, he’s hugely inspirational, because he knows all of these films and he’s seen them,” said Lone Scherfig. “It was a real privilege to work with someone of his caliber who understands and appreciates what directors do.”

Gemma Arterton, who plays the leading role of Catrin, also spoke of Woolley’s impressive grasp of this particular era in British history. “Stephen is such a fan of wartime cinema and he has such a passion for that period,” she said. “He also makes films that have interesting roles for women so I usually listen if he tells me to do something. I was really lucky to have both Lone and Stephen chuck loads of stuff at me to watch.”

As for Amanda Posey, she felt that having Woolley’s established knowledge allowed for her to focus more so on the story at hand, forging a prosperous working relationship for the duo. “We never had to worry about making sure Lone, myself, the HODs, had watched every British film made at the time because we knew Stephen had!” she said. “He was basically the archivist I’d turn to, the production designer would turn to and that Lone would turn to and say, ‘is that right?’. Stephen brought a whole load of background information and research and filmic depth of knowledge. It was definitely inspiring but I also think it helped in a way that we weren’t both immersed in the detail of that history; we made a good combination!”

A Celebration of Cinema

One of the overriding aspects to Their Finest, is the deep and pure appreciation of the craft of filmmaking, celebrating the collective experience of not only making a movie, but indulging in one, together. What heightens this notion, is that we’re looking back into a time when cinema meant more than it ever has in Britain.

“It means a lot to us as filmmakers to make a film about a period where films were as important as they were,” Lone Scherfig claimed. “To remind us why we spend all our adult life doing this instead of something worthier, like being a nurse, where you might respect yourself more. We have to remind ourselves that we have a right to do this job, even if there are days where you laugh for sixteen hours.”

“We also wanted to celebrate how wonderful it can be to sit in a cinema and watch films with an audience, she continued. “The world of filmmaking is one I really love and know, and as a tribute to cinema the film was a great technical challenge. But the underlying drama, how much the characters have at stake means a lot for the depth of the film. Behind the screwball dialogue they know that the film they are making plays a part in winning the war and that every work day can be their last.

Amanda Posey also remains hopeful that this film can inspire audiences, and serve as a reminder of how special the cinema experience can be.

“It’s a celebration of how much cinema can mean, and what it can do. It doesn’t have to be a hard-hitting documentary to change people and make a difference in their lives, and these films, sometimes they were escapism and sometimes they were getting an important propaganda point across, but it really encapsulates a time where cinema really mattered, and it reminds you that it can always do that, at different times and in different ways.”

Stephen Woolley also felt similarly about the project, wanting to cast a light over an era where film mattered so tremendously.

“As a person inspired by cinema I jumped at opportunity to make a movie about filmmaking when it was incredibly important. That period was undoubtedly on reflection, a golden age of British cinema, and the filmmakers who stayed in Britain and made films during the war went on to be probably the greatest filmmakers we’ve ever produced. To name just three teams ( and their were many more ) David Lean and Noel Cowerd made Brief Encounter whilst the war was ending, Powell and Pressburger made A Matter of Life and Death the last MOI inspired film during those final days and then of course Carol Reed and Korda whose The Third Man made after the war was inspired not just by the post war situation in Vienna but the style of the films that were forged in Britain ( authentically reflecting the world ) during this time. Cinema has never been and will never be more relevant than it was then. ”

“They were making films at a time when watching or attending the cinema also tangibly meant something much more significant than it does now. Cinemas had an incredible hypnotic effect, it meant so much to people because they were deprived of information which they acquired from the up to date newsreels and documentaries ( radio and newspapers couldn’t show them anything!) and they really held on to the ritual of going to the pictures as a way of meeting friends and family , gossiping and catching up, and that warmth and comradeship was important in people’s lives. The power of movies in that atmosphere was far greater than we could imagine now. Their Finest we hope is a film you also have to experience at the cinema, we worked very hard to make our movie in a small way reflect that time.”

Gaby Chiappe was a key part in ensuring that be the case, and the screenwriter wanted this endeavour to truly commemorate the shared, communal experience of watching a film at the pictures. “Cinemas were closed briefly at the beginning of the war as there was a fear they’d be dangerous, but they opened them again because people wanted to go,” she said.

“I think there’s something really different, and special, when watching a film with other people, rather than at home. There are fewer and fewer ways in which we do things together, our tendency is to do things in isolation and there’s a hankering for doing things collectively, with other people.”

Gemma Arterton was in agreement. “It’s great that we have so much access now to everything, but there’s something so brilliant about seeing a film in a group and laughing together, there’s nothing really that beats it. It’s like going to the theatre, what makes it so special is that you’re there with other people and you’re experiencing it with them at the same time. It’s escapism, it takes you away for an hour and a half, from whatever crap is going on in your life. It’s so important, and as technology gets more advanced, I still hope people will always go to the cinema.”

HORROR

Horror films tap into our deepest fears and anxieties, and what is suggested is often more frightening than what is revealed.

The German expressionistic films of the 20s (Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), influenced by the English Gothic novel, were among the first examples of the Genre.

The Protagonist is a victim, rather than a hero. The Antagonist is often manifested from a technological aberration (such as Frankenstein’s monster) or a social aberration (such as Jason, Freddy or Michael Meyers).

Unbridled aggression and sexuality play an important role; technology, science, and scientific activity often unleash the antagonist.

Fears about the future are as important as are our fears about the past.

Children have special powers in this genre – children exhibit vision, insight, and tolerance; adults exhibit the opposite traits.

The location (house, village, ruins) has a special significance that influences the outcome of events; the supernatural has a significant role in the horror film genre

The genre dwells on the irrational.

Whilst there are some stories that are clearly conceived as horror stories, there are stories that use the horror genre to give to a story idea that, if rendered as a drama, would be boring

Horror Sub genres

  • The Uncanny: The source of horror is astounding but subject to ‘rational’ explanation, such as beings from outer space, science-made monsters, or a maniac (Signs, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jeepers Creepers)
  • The Supernatural: The source of horror is an irrational phenomenon from the spirit of the realm (Poltergeist)
  • The super-uncanny: The audience is kept guessing between the other two possibilities: (The Tenant, The Shining)
  • Splatter Films: Gore and blood dominate: (Bad Taste, Dead Alive, Freddy vs Jason)

Back to The Art Of Screenwriting and Filmmaking

The Art Of Horror

Films listed alphabetically/  Films featured from 2015 to present) Click on title to read feature

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Telling the story of three people trapped in an underground bunker, this daring and no-nonsense psychological thriller will rip your nerves to pieces and truly blow your mind. It is not a literal Cloverfield 2, but there is some connection. It is the second film in the Cloverfield franchise and was developed from an “ultra low budget” spec script penned by John Campbell and Matt Stuecken, titled The Cellar, but under production by Bad Robot Productions, it was turned into a spiritual successor of the 2008 film Cloverfield, written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stucken and Damien Chazelle.

A GHOST STORY The mindblowing Independent film A Ghost Story was shot lost year on the outskirts of Dallas in secret by Pete’s Dragon filmmaker David Lowery. For Lowery it was more than a return to indie production after a large-scale Disney adventure

A MONSTER CALLS Directed by J.A. Bayona (The ImpossibleThe Orphanage), A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular and stunningly emotional drama based on the award-winning novel. The screenplay adaptation is by the book’s author, Patrick Ness, who wrote the novel from an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd.

ALIEN COVENANT With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , visionary director Ridley Scott edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

ANNABELLE:  CREATION After a chilling cameo in The Conjuring, followed by a starring role in her own film, it became clear to filmmakers that moviegoers were ready to uncover the origins of the doll that has both terrified and captivated them.  So, on the heels of his successful feature directing debut, last summer’s hit Lights Out, director David F. Sandberg was tapped to helm Annabelle: Creation, the next chapter in James Wan’s Conjuring universe produced by Peter Safran and Wan, from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote Annabelle.

BEFORE I WAKE Fear is real in the tense and terrifying Before I Wakewhich exists in a world with supernatural elements while maintaining a strong foothold in reality.“The horror of Before I Wake is born of the souls of its characters,” says Director/Co-writer/Editor Mike Flanagan. “This is really a bedtime story for grownups complete with its own boogie man.”

BLAIR WITCH It’s been 20 years since James’s sister and her two friends vanished into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland while researching the legend of the Blair Witch, leaving a trail of theories and suspicions in their wake.Blair Witch is directed by director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest, V/H/S, V/H/S/2), who has assembled an accomplished behind-the-scenes team that includes screenwriter and longtime collaborator Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The Guest, V/H/S, V/H/S/2).

BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween heralds a fresh turn in the Tyler Perry/Madea franchise: a movie that blends Perry’s distinctive humor with elements of horror. Before committing to the concept, Perry knew he had to create a story that worked for him as a filmmaker, and for Madea as a character. ”So I came up with an idea I thought would be hysterical and wouldn’t take Madea too far out of her lane,” he says. “This is not your typical Halloween movie — there are so many pee-your-pants moments. Anyone who sees this movie should bring Depends.”

THE BOY In search of a fresh start away from a troubled past, a young American woman seeks refuge in an isolated English village, only to find herself trapped in a waking nightmare in The Boy, an unconventional horror thriller from director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) and screenwriter Stacey Menear,

CATCH HELL Ryan Phillippe has been acting professionally for over twenty years, and he can now add writer and director to his impressive resume with the thrilling Catch Hell 

THE CONJURING 2 The supernatural thriller The Conjuring 2, with James Wan once again at the helm following the record-breaking success of The Conjuring, seeking to terrify moviegoers once again with his depiction of another highly publicized case involving the real-life horrors experienced by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren with The Conjuring 2, from a screenplay by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes (The Conjuring) & James Wan and David Leslie Johnson (Wrath of the Titans) , story by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes & James Wan

CRIMINAL questions what happens when the CIA’s only hope to stop a terrorist threat to the nuclear arsenal lies in the dark, unpredictable recesses of a criminal’s damaged mind? The futuristic, yet science-based, concepts that lie behind Criminal emerged from the minds of the screenwriting team of Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, who previously wrote the hit prison escape thriller The Rock, among others.

CRIMSON PEAK “This movie is my attempt to harken back to a classic, old-fashioned, grand Hollywood production in the Gothic romance genre,” says master of terror Guillermo del Toro who brings to the screen a dark and imaginative Gothic romance with his masterful Crimson Peak,

DON’T BREATHE In Don’t Breathe writer-director Fede Alvarez goes for the jugular with an unapologetically brutal and twisted horror-thriller that pits a trio of thieves against an unexpectedly dangerous adversary. In 2013, writer and director Alvarez made his mark in the horror movie world with a bone-chilling reboot of Sam Raimi’s classic, Evil Dead. In his new film, Don’t Breathe , he explores different but equally terrifying territory in a shocking, suspense-driven tale. Alvarez once again joins forces with producers Raimi and Rob Tapert of Ghost House Pictures for a home- invasion story that blurs the line between horror and thriller. “It has elements of both,” says the director.

THE FOREST is a supernatural thriller that takes its inspiration from the real-life Aokigahara Forest. Known as jukai, or the “Sea of Trees,” it is situated at the northwest base of Japan’s Mount Fuji. The Aokigahara’s peaceful beauty belies its history of violence and its reputation for paranormal activity. Ben Ketai wrote the first screenplay draft, providing the underlying framework from which the script would evolve. When Ketai had to move on to other commitments, the producers engaged a first-time screenwriter, novelist Sarah Cornwell, to work on the script.

THE GALLOWS The Indie Horror The Gallows was written, directed and produced by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff and shot entirely outside of the Hollywood system on a budget of $100 000, and found its way to the big screen in July 2015 thanks to the filmmakers’ use of a much smaller one—the computer—and their own ingenuity, now totaling $40 million at the box office internationally.

THE GIFT  is a heart-stopping, thought-provoking psychological thriller from producers Jason Blum and Rebecca Yeldham and actor, writer, producer and first-time director Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Zero Dark Thirty, Warrior), that asks the question: What if someone you wronged long ago reemerged in your life through a chance encounter?

HATCHET HOUR Writer-director Judy Naidoo’s film Hatchet Hour marks her directorial debut and is most definitely a landmark on her 20-year journey as an independent filmmaker in South Africa.

THE HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET In The House On Willow Street  a roguish kidnapper and 3 accomplices, abducts a young heiress. When they have her locked up in their inescapable lair, they discover she is possessed by a terrifying demon, which plunges them into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.

IT acclaimed director Andy Muschietti, who made his feature debut with the horror hit Mama, based on his own short film of the same name, brings Stephen King’s seminal bestseller to the big screen for the first time.

JIGSAW The Saw franchise has been a shiver-inducing, thought-provoking global powerhouse and redefined fright night at the movies with a unique blend of fear, mystery, deviousness and gore. Now the screws have been further tightened with Jigsaw, the newest entry in a series that The Guinness Book of World Records named as the most successful long-running horror franchise of all time.

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER A gorgeously rendered, explosively physical and thoroughly original fantasy adventure, The Last Witch Hunter propels audiences into a complex mythological universe packed with shocking violence, unthinkable treachery and unforgettable characters. Set in a world never before seen by on screen, the story spans over 800 years of one man’s quest to keep at bay an army of vicious supernatural creatures determined to wipe out humanity. Diesel’s favorite character to play in the game was Melkor, a dark elf and witch hunter that was not part of the original game. “I found it in a third-party book called Acheron,” he explains.“The idea of doing an action-fantasy film was always appealing to me. I met with screenwriter Cory Goodman (Priest)  five years ago and we geeked out about Dungeons & Dragons and next thing you know I get this amazing script about a witch hunter.” Goodman –  who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless –  brought the project to Summit Entertainment and producers Mark Canton and Bernie Goldmann, who recognized its potential as a spectacular action franchise and a vehicle for Diesel.

LIFE Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Written by) have been partners since 2001. They came up with an idea for a completely original alien creature in Life,  a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that could have caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

LIGHTS OUT From torches and candles to LEDs.  Street lamps, headlights, neon, flares.  Since the origin of our existence, humans have sought ways to escape the encroaching shadows and the frightful things they conceal and in the terrifying Lights Out, fear is real! Making his feature film debut with Lights Out,  David S. Sandberg has written and directed a slate of short films with deliciously disturbing titles like Closet Space and Attic Panic, and earned a throng of internet devotees who expect him to scare the wits out of them. Lights Out is based on Sandberg’s recent horror short of the same name, and it was both the quality and the impact of that insomnia-inducing gem that brought the young Swedish filmmaker to the attention of Hollywood.

MOTHER! The relationship thriller Mother! began when Writer / Director Darren Aronofsky spent five fevered days at his keyboard alone in an empty house.

THE MUMMY David Koepp (Mission: ImpossibleWar of the Worlds) and Academy Award winner Christopher Mcquarrie (The Usual SuspectsMission: Impossible series) and Dylan Kussman wrote the screenplay for The Mummy, which is from the screen story by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) and Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married).

DIE ONTWAKING  A grisly, action-packed thriller that investigates the mind and motivations of an acutely intelligent serial killer, and marks the directorial debut of acclaimed production designer Johnny Breedt (Paljas, Hotel Rwanda, A Long Walk to Freedom). Hailed as a game-changer for South African film, Die Ontwaking is based on the first book of the ‘Abel’ trilogy, Abel se Ontwaking (translated into English as The Skin Collector), by well-known crime writer Chris Karsten.

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL Inviting audiences again into the lore of the spirit board, Ouija: Origin of Evil tells a terrifying new tale as the follow-up to 2014’s sleeper hit Oculus.Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) directs from a screenplay he wrote with his Oculus and Before I Wake collaborator, Jeff Howard.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES Written and directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, Charlie St Cloud), and based on the best-selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fresh twist on Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

REGRESSION Spanish Writer-director Alejandro Amenábar returns to the big screen with the mind-bending Regression, which represents a return to suspense, the genre of The Others which marked his feature film debut in 1996.  It offers different layers of meaning for different audiences, and most of all, a good show to entertain wide audiences who appreciate effective, unpredictable narrative.

SCOUTS VS ZOMBIES Zombie fever strikes again with Scouts vs Zombies, directed by Christopher B. Landon and co-written by Carrie Evans, Emi Mochizuki, Lona Williams, and Landon.

SHUT IN Writer Christina Hodson says the inspiration for Shut In came to her while she was living alone in a creaky New York City studio apartment. Imagining the possibilities behind the unexplained noises she heard late at night, the first-time screenwriter penned the script in just six weeks.

SIEMBAMBA Returning to her hometown, Eden Rock, and overwhelmed by the birth of her first child, Chloe van Heerden (19) tries to come to terms with motherhood. Despite the support from her mother, Ruby (35), Chloe struggles with the demand of being a new mom.The incessant crying of her baby, the growing sense of guilt and paranoia sends Chloe into a dark depression. With a heightened urge to protect her son, Chloe sees danger in every situation.  Chloe starts to hear voices and the humming of a childhood lullaby and sees flashes of a strange entity around her child.Convinced that the entity is real, Chloe does everything in her power to protect her son. Her decline reaches fever pitch, and everybody seems to be moving against her. Desperate, Chloe finds solace in the arms of her childhood friend, Adam Hess (20s).The world around Chloe implodes and it becomes clear that she and her child are in imminent danger. But from what? Is Chloe haunted by evil or is it just the baby blues? The film stars Reine Swart, Deànré Reiners, Thandi Puren, and Brandon Auret and directed by world-renowned director Darrell James Roodt (Sarafina! Treurgond, Cry the Beloved Country, Winnie Mandela) from a screenplay by Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo.

SOLACE More than 13 years ago, when producer Beau Flynn first read the supernatural thriller Solace, a spec screenplay written by the then-unknown writing team of Sean Bailey & Ted Griffin, he knew immediately he wanted to make it.

SPLIT Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan returns to the captivating grip of The Sixth Sense,  Unbreakable and Signs with Split, an original film that delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s fractured, gifted mind.

SWISS ARMY MAN the brilliantly bizarre new movie from first-time feature directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert will break your heart and most definitely change your perceptions in the human condition.

Copyright © 2017 The Writing Stuidio / Daniel Dercksen

GHOST WEB

“I know I have trouble watching my own films …but this one lingers with me. And every time I watch it, I’m left with a sense of peace and acceptance — not with the world necessarily, because the world will always let you down. But an acceptance of time, and the inevitable end of all things.”

The mindblowing Independent film A Ghost Story was shot lost year on the outskirts of Dallas in secret by Pete’s Dragon filmmaker David Lowery. For Lowery it was more than a return to indie production after a large-scale Disney adventure—it was also a reunion with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints leads, Casey Aflleck and Rooney Mara.

A passionate young couple, unexpectedly separated by a shocking loss, discover an eternal connection and a love that is infinite.

The film concerns the passage of time via a couple and their house (Affleck and Mara). When Affleck’s character dies, he appears in his old home as a ghost in a thick bed sheet with vacant eyes. He observes his wife’s depression from his demise, various new occupants, and glimpses both the future and the past of his surroundings.

A Ghost Story is two sides of a coin. On one, it’s a sparse experience, with very little dialogue and numerous long takes that enhance the stillness and solitude of this afterlife. On the other side, it’s quite expansive, viewing Affleck’s lived experience in the house as but a mere speck of dust in time; time is cruel and reinforces our near irrelevance.

“A Ghost Story” began as a fight between Lowery and his wife, filmmaker Augustine Frizzell. She wanted them to move to Los Angeles; he wanted them to stay in Texas. “It was literally like I didn’t want to leave this one particular house,” Lowery recalled. “I was so bummed out. Our bed was gone. We were sleeping on the floor. But still I was like, ‘I love this place. I don’t want to leave. What if we just stayed?’ I recognize that as a flaw in myself, that I could be so attached to something so technically ephemeral. It was a rental — we didn’t even own it!” He looked down at his coffee. “That house looked shockingly similar to the one that ended up in the movie.”

The production budget was $100 000 and during its first three months of releases in the States it grossed $1,596,371.  The film does not yet have a release date in South Africa, but has been releases in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  It is also available on DVD and Blu Ray

Lowery chose to shoot the film in an aspect ratio of 1:33:1, partially because he thought it was thematically appropriate for the film stating “It’s about someone basically trapped in a box for eternity, and I felt the claustrophobia of that situation could be amplified by the boxiness of the aspect ratio.”

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Was it your hope from the start to kind of make it a secret that you were making this?

We intentionally didn’t tell that many people about it because we wanted to have the opportunity to fail. You know? It was so high concept in so many ways that if it didn’t work I didn’t want to have the weight of expectation putting pressure on us; making us feel bad for not accomplishing what we set out to do. The other aspect of it is that it’s just fun to keep secrets [laughs]! It’s not like we were trying to do anything like a J.J. Abrams mystery box sorta situation, but it just made us feel like we had more room to be creative because no one knew about it, and there was something fun about that. I think everyone involved in the project – because you know, if you were in Dallas last summer and going to certain movie theaters or restaurants, you would see us and know that we were making things – people were aware in a very limited sense that there was something going on, but no one knew what it was, and I think most people assumed that we were making a music video or a short film…

When did the project begin as an idea and how long did it take for it to turn into something?

There were seeds of it that predate the day that I wrote it last spring, but it really began at some point around late February of 2016. I wrote it largely in one sitting, which isn’t that impressive because the script was only 10 pages at first [laughs]. And then it gradually became 30 pages and never got much bigger than that. Then I sent it to Toby [Halbrooks] and James [M. Johnston], my partners in crime, and I told them we should make it that summer. That was just barely over a year ago, so it was a very fast process.

Working on a low budget

My version of making a movie on that budget is different from everyone else’s, you know? No two people who make a movie on a certain budget scale are going to achieve the same thing because it just depends on what sort of favors you can call, and what sort of dynamics you can pull in the play. Because obviously if you watch the credits for this movie you see Weta listed in the credits, and that’s because we just made a movie with Weta so we were able to get them to help us out a little bit, and that’s certainly not always what you can achieve on a movie of this budget. It’s definitely something where everyone is in it for the love of it, and we definitely made it for ourselves. It was within our own means to make this film.

 That’s one of the advantages of an independent movie, isn’t it? Do you think a big studio would have let you get away with that? Would a big studio have taken a chance on that?

I don’t think they would have ever taken a chance. This is something I think about a lot: Steven Spielberg was once quoted – this was back in 1999 or 2000 – as saying that if Thomas Vinterberg had come to him and pitched him the idea of The Celebration, he would have “100% financed that movie”. [Laughter].

If someone were to go to Steven Spielberg and say “I’m going to make a movie, and it’s going to be, you know, X, Y and Z, and it’s all… you know, like The Celebration, with actors you’ve never heard of, and it’s going to be shot in consumer DV, and can I have the money to do it?”, would Steven Spielberg really have given him the money to do it? I think you have to wait to see the finished film to realize that vision was there from the beginning.

I want to give Spielberg credit for saying that, but I don’t know if it would have worked out that way. By the same token, I don’t think I could have gone out and convinced anyone to pay for this movie. I don’t think I could have justified it. And I’m sure that there are folks now who will see it and say, “Sure, we would have taken that risk,” or “Yes, we would have financed that movie,” and maybe they would have. Maybe. But it would have been a much longer process, a much more challenging process, and ultimately a process I did not want to even consider embarking upon, because I knew it would just slow me down.

Independent filmmaking is changing now, with financial backers demanding more and more influence on how the films are being made, almost as much as for studio films…

I certainly think that’s true. I think that everyone is very acutely aware of how risky independent movies are these days because there are so many of them being made, and the ways in which they are seen are increasing. There are more movies being made and more ways to see them, but the chances for a film to recoup its investment seem to be rapidly decreasing. So I think that investors are being much more conscientious about what they are investing in, and as a result they want to have more of a say.

I certainly haven’t experienced a negative version of that, but I can also look to my own experience making Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and compare that to my experience making Pete’s Dragon, and when it comes to notes, and to creative limitations and frustrations on set, Pete’s Dragon was a far smoother production. It was much easier to make. It was much easier to make the movie I wanted to make, and that’s not to castigate the producers of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints in any way, but it was just that there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen for that movie, and there were a lot of different opinions that were all good and valid, but it was a much rougher production as a result.

With Pete’s Dragon, Disney was very excited about the movie I wanted to make; they were very supportive of it, and it was a smooth process. I was really surprised by that. I was expecting the opposite, but now having been through both of those, I can completely see the way in which independent films can be either equal to – in terms of the interference from the financiers or the producers – or greater than a studio film. And I want to be clear that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think that if you have a good producer, he will be involved in a good, productive way. If your financiers care about the movie, they will be involved in a very constructive fashion, but it can get out of hand very quickly, and that is something to be aware of in any type of filmmaking.

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Tell us about cinematic influences? 

The point in my life when I got Netflix was sort of a big door opening. Up until that point, I was a big-screen purist; I only wanted to see things on the big screen.  I didn’t go to film school, so I didn’t have access to the French New Wave or [John] Cassavetes movies, so once Netflix emerged, all of a sudden I just jumped headlong into so many different types of movies and was so taken with all of them and just wanted to absorb as much as possible.

When did you know it was going to work? Or did you feel that way all the way through to editing?

It wasn’t until the last week of production that I finally was able to rest easy and feel confident in my choice – not only to put Casey into a bedsheet, but to make this movie in general. It took us a long time to figure out how to shoot the ghost properly. Once we figured that out, everything was smooth sailing, but there were a lot of stressful [moments]. The process of discovering how to make the ghost work was very stressful.

You took a classic Halloween costume and turned it into a tool for an actor to flex some acting muscle, but also as a canvas for viewers to project their own emotions on. We’ve seen actors being able to emote through heavy costumes in other movies, but this is very different. How much of this turned out exactly the way you wanted it to, and how much of it surprised you in the end?

It alternately is exactly what I wanted it to be. There were very little surprises in the long run. I think the one big surprise is that it was a far more emotional film than I was expecting it to be.

[Casey] gave the ghost something that was unquantifiable, but it wasn’t a traditional performance, and the emotions that came through that performance – or lack therefore – was something I had not counted on. I did not expect this movie to be as moving an experience as it turned out to be. So that was a wonderful surprise.

Casey thought of this as an opportunity to do what he always wanted to do: hide in plain sight. You always want to make sure people aren’t going to be uncomfortable or complaining or whatever, but I remember the first time he put it on, he was just like, ‘This is great.’

What was the process of creating the sheet? Because it’s not like a standard bedsheet, it is much larger and almost looked like canvas.

There are three stages, and initially the fabric is basically a big bed sheet, but we had to have it custom-made because even a king size bed sheet won’t cover an entire human form the way we needed it to. So it’s a big piece of specifically cut fabric that’s a certain size and length that has room for arms to do what they needed to do and for that trail to come out behind him. I can’t remember what thread count it is, but that mattered because it needed to be weighty enough to hang and drape in a very specific way.

Tell us about manipulating time in A Ghost Story?

It really comes down to one’s own internal chronometer and one’s sense of rhythm, and I really just use my own taste as a barometer when it comes to those things. I wanted this film to play with time, to utilise time in a very pronounced fashion. And I wanted that to be relative. I wanted time to move very slowly in some scenes, and in other scenes for it to fly by in the blink of an eye.

Some of that is in the script. The structure is in the script. Sometimes I would include the running time of certain scenes in the script just to give the crew an idea of how long a scene might last. Other times, you discover it on set, because something you are looking at is not as interesting as you thought it might be, or sometimes it’s more interesting and you just want to make it work longer. And then, you take those shots to editing and start to slam them all together, which is how I like to describe editing; it’s a very messy process for me, and gradually it gets cleaner and cleaner as you move it along.

As you go along, you discover the rhythm, the internal rhythm that every movie has and you try to follow that rhythm. There were scenes that had very long shots that did not need to be that long. I would cut those scenes in half, or cut them out entirely. There were other times when a shot that I had filmed on set wasn’t quite long enough, and I would have to slow it down, or digitally loop it so that it would last a little bit longer. That is not done through any mathematical science or anything as exact. There is no scientific method to it. I just sort of watch the movie and feel out that rhythm and trust my own internal chronometer.

It’s interesting because it shows us how we sometimes have to endure the passage of time, while at other moments, it shows us how fast time can fly…

That’s just the way I experience time in my life. I think it’s a common phenomenon. The relative pace of time, and the way that pace changes in the course of our lives, is so profoundly noticeable. As children, we all feel like Christmas will never come, or that summer vacation is going to last forever. Time goes by so slowly when you’re a child, and then, as an adult, it goes by in the blink of an eye. I wanted this film to encompass both those types of time passage. So there are times in the movie when the seconds are just ticking by at a glacial pace, and then there are other times when life and death just go by [swiftly]. Those are both equally true to how I perceive time in my life, and the way I move through it. I wanted this movie to be reflective of both of those types of experiences.

With its aspect ratio, the movie is a square in the middle of a large rectangular screen. It’s almost as if we’re watching a home movie shot on Super 8. There are a lot of things reminiscent of home movies A Ghost Story. Was that the desired effect?

There were a number of reasons why I went with that aspect ratio. Largely, it just felt like the right aesthetic choice. It felt like it would convey the right type of feeling to the audience. And certainly, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. It’s a big part of why I made this movie in general, and I felt that the square aspect ratio with those square edges would put the audience in a nostalgic state of mind. It felt like home movies, it felt like photographs, it felt like slide projectors or View-Masters. We tried to make the images as organic and as textured and as colorful as we could to help facilitate that. We wanted it to feel rich, and old and antiquated, in all of the best ways.

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It may not seem so to some viewers, but you throw in some humour in there… I burst out laughing at one point [details of exact moment redacted]

It definitely is there. The very first version of this movie I saw in my head made me laugh. It’s an inherently funny idea. It’s an inherently funny image, the image of this bedsheet ghost in an empty house all by himself. It’s also a very sad and a very lonely image. There is something bittersweet and melancholic about it as well, and I wanted to embrace all of this nuance. So I’m glad you laughed, because it was meant to be funny, almost to serve as comic relief for a brief moment before it gets sad again. The wave that the ghosts give each other… We were just cracking up on set when we shot it. It was very, very funny to us. Just as the ghost himself. It was meant to provoke a chuckle or two the first time you see him, because it’s a funny image.

So you went from making an indie, to a big studio film, and then back to an indie, and now you’re embarking on a new big studio film with Peter Pan. How hard is it to make the transition, or is there a transition at all?

It really comes down to the time commitment. Once you get used to making a movie for more than $50,000, the differences go away. They’re all kind of the same. They use the same equipment. The designated roles on set are all the same. The rules you have to follow are all the same. The ways in which you break the rules are usually the same. The only real difference is the amount of time it takes to make these films.

I just wrapped a movie with Robert Redford [Old Man And The Gun] that was an independent film, and we shot that in 31 days, which was a little bit more than A Ghost Story, a little bit more than Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and less than half of Pete’s Dragon. If I go make another Disney movie, which may or may not happen, but I’m excited about the possibility of it, I can automatically just write off two years of my life, because I know that it will take at least that long to make. And that’s the biggest thing you have to understand going into these movies… that it takes a while, and you have to be willing to give it your all for that entire period of time. Once you accept that and are able to deal with that, the differences really are minimal.

Tell us about Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is a beloved property. It’s a property that was brought to the screen many, many times before, so one has to not only justify the reasons why one might make a Peter Pan movie in 2018, 2019 or whatever, but you also have to do justice to the source material. So, you can’t be a revisionist, but you also cannot be redundant, and that is a very challenging process. I think we can do it, but we are being very careful. If it has to be done, it has to be done right. Until we have that version of it, we’ll keep working on the script.

(MAJOR SPOILER FOR A GHOST STORY AHEAD)

It’s really hard to talk about the ending without mentioning the note [left by Rooney Mara’s character in the wall of the house]. The viewers are left to wonder what was written on that note that gave closure to the ghost. What made you decide to use that approach for the ending?

I was very open to showing what the note said, if we could come up with something that would actually matter to audiences. The truth is that there is nothing that I could put there that could be more satisfying than wondering. The wondering and the questioning are intentionally frustrating, but I think audiences will enjoy that frustration more than they would enjoy seeing what that note said.

I believe that this one unknown thing is more satisfying than actually finding out. It’s a mystery that is best left unstated, and I can’t provide any solution, because I don’t know what it said. Rooney wrote down something on a piece of paper and folded it up, painted it into the wall, and that note went down with the house. So, there was something on that piece of paper that she wrote down, and because she took that movie seriously, and because she cared about the movie and the characters, I believe she wrote something meaningful, but I don’t know what it is. She won’t tell me.

You can point to the briefcase in Pulp Fiction or the whisper at the end of Lost In Translation. Those are two things I’m happier not knowing. I certainly left the theatre wondering what those mysteries were. I would rather not know. I’m happy going through my life letting that mystery hang over my head

 

ORIGINAL

Not all films originate from books or other source material, but from the fertile imagination of inspired storytellers and brought to life through the unwavering passion of visionary storymakers.

Original filmmaking showcases stories that are deeply personal, arouse specific emotions, express a specific view of life, and embrace universal qualities.

By the time audiences sit down to watch a film they’ve absorbed tens of thousands of hours of television, film, prose, radio and theatre.  What Original (and mostly independent) filmmaking brings to the world is the unique, individual and ‘original’ voices of storytellers that will excite audiences on the six continents and live in revival for decades.

The Art Of Screenwriting And Filmmaking / The Art Of Comic Book Adaptations

The Art Of Adapting Real Life Stories

Original Filmmaking

Click on Film Title For Feature Article / Films listed alphabetically

2.22 US based Australian director and producer Paul Currie’s first encounter with the bewitching riddle of 2:22 came in the form of a bold, visionary script written by Todd Stein.“Todd Stein had this wonderful karmic view of life”, recalls Currie. “When he first conceived of the story Todd had some medical issues, which put him into a really interesting frame of mind to write such a story. As soon as I read his script I thought: ‘This is something that’s in my DNA as a director’. Todd’s script was dark, but I felt that inside the thriller was an idea, a conceit around time and love through time, that was  expansive.”

A CURE FOR WELLNESS A chilling and mind-bending psychological thriller that explores the true meaning of wellness and the trappings of avarice and power, while asking what fulfillment really means.In the tradition of Verbinski’s indelible 2002 classicThe Ringthe Academy Award winning filmmaker brings his inimitable style and vision to A Cure For Wellness, from a screenplay by Justin Haythe, based on the story written by Haythe and Verbinski.

A GHOST STORY A passionate young couple, unexpectedly separated by a shocking loss, discover an eternal connection and a love that is infinite. Written and directed by David Lowery

ABRAHAM is undoubtedly one of the best South African films ever made, a profound and consummate masterwork from industry legend, Jans Rautenbach that marks his first film in 30 years. It tells an unforgettable tale that will break your heart, a story that connects with who we are as South Africans and how we fit into the bigger scheme of things.

THE ACCOUNTANT “It’s always compelling when people have secrets—when you think someone is one thing and then discover they’re something else entirely,” says director Gavin O’Connor.That is certainly the case with the title character of his new film, The Accountant, from a screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Judge).

ALMOST CHRISTMAS In the past decade, writer/director David E. Talbert has created beloved comedy films including First Sunday and Baggage Claim, but the 24-time NAACP Theatre Award nominee and Best Playwright winner admits that his first love has long been holiday movies.

AYANDA Directed by Sara Blecher (Dis ek, Anna) and with Fulu Moguvhani in the title role, the recipient of the coveted Special Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival held in June this year, was described as “… entertaining, ambitious and poignant…” with the director “… deftly using animation and reportage to move through a very human and socially significant story’. Ayanda was also selected as the opening night film at the 36th Durban International Film Festival held in July this year.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN Fremon Craig’s spec script about a girl and her best friend in high school came to the attention of legendary Oscar and EmmyAward-winning producer James L. Brooks at Gracie Films.

BABY DRIVER With its mixture of mph and music, the newest explosion of genre-crossing excitement from writer-director Edgar Wright, this is an action thriller unlike any other. Wright had been thinking about how to cast Baby Driver for years before it went into production.

BASTILLE DAY A blistering action thriller set in the French capital, Paris, Bastille Day is a story of an unlikely pair – a reckless CIA agent and a brilliant pickpocket – who must work together to uncover and take down a conspiracy. Directed by James Watkins (The Woman In Black, Eden Lake), from a screenplay by Andrew Baldwin (Jason Bourne) and James Watkins.

BEFORE I WAKE Fear is real in the tense and terrifying Before I Wakewhich exists in a world with supernatural elements while maintaining a strong foothold in reality.“The horror of Before I Wake is born of the souls of its characters,” says Director/Co-writer/Editor Mike Flanagan. “This is really a bedtime story for grownups complete with its own boogie man.”

BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween heralds a fresh turn in the Tyler Perry/Madea franchise: a movie that blends Perry’s distinctive humor with elements of horror. Before committing to the concept, Perry knew he had to create a story that worked for him as a filmmaker, and for Madea as a character. ”So I came up with an idea I thought would be hysterical and wouldn’t take Madea too far out of her lane,” he says. “This is not your typical Halloween movie — there are so many pee-your-pants moments. Anyone who sees this movie should bring Depends.”

THE BOSS was written by McCarthy, director Ben Falcone and screenwriter Steve Mallory, who met almost 15 years ago at The Groundlings, the Los Angeles-based improv troupe whose notable alumni include comedy stalwarts, such as Will Ferrell, Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens, Jack Black, Kristen Wiig and Jennifer Coolidge, among a multitude of others.

THE BOY In search of a fresh start away from a troubled past, a young American woman seeks refuge in an isolated English village, only to find herself trapped in a waking nightmare in The Boy, an unconventional horror thriller from director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) and screenwriter Stacey Menear.

BURNT Director John Wells was attracted to Steven Knight’s screenplay for Burnt partly because of this ever growing foodie culture, and partly because it was a special look into the unique world restaurateurs.

CAFÉ SOCIETY Poignant, and often hilarious, Café Society, a film with a novel’s sweep, takes us on a journey from pastel-clad dealmakers in plush Hollywood mansions, to the quarrels and tribulations of a humble Bronx family, to the rough-and-tumble violence of New York gangsters, to the sparkling surfaces and secret scandals of Manhattan high life. With Café Society, Woody Allen conjures up a 1930s world that has passed to tell a deeply romantic tale of dreams that never die.

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC For Matt Ross, the writer and director of Captain Fantastic, the story is an exploration of the choices that parents make for their children. “I’m fascinated by all the issues that revolve around parenting,”

CATCH HELL Ryan Phillippe has been acting professionally for over twenty years, and he can now add writer and director to his impressive resume with the thrilling Catch Hell 

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE Pairing Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart as unlikely former high school friends, and even unlikelier spy-busting, world-saving, accidental partners on the run, writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Central Intelligence offers a fun and fast-paced mash-up of comedy and explosive action.

COLLATERAL BEAUTY For screenwriter Allan Loeb (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 21), Collateral Beauty began as the germ of a concept that grew to capture his imagination until it could not be denied.  “It was a little story in my head that kept nagging at me, about a man who writes letters to abstractions like time, love and death, and why would he do that?”

CRIMINAL questions what happens when the CIA’s only hope to stop a terrorist threat to the nuclear arsenal lies in the dark, unpredictable recesses of a criminal’s damaged mind? The futuristic, yet science-based, concepts that lie behind Criminal emerged from the minds of the screenwriting team of Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, who previously wrote the hit prison escape thriller The Rock, among others.

CRIMSON PEAK “This movie is my attempt to harken back to a classic, old-fashioned, grand Hollywood production in the Gothic romance genre,” says master of terror Guillermo del Toro who brings to the screen a dark and imaginative Gothic romance with his masterful Crimson Peak,

DADDY’S HOME It’s Step-Dad vs. Dad – and Will Ferrell vs. Mark Wahlberg – in the family comedy Daddy’s Home, about a mild-mannered radio executive who must take on the ultimate “dad-versary” when his wife’s motorcycle-riding, freewheeling, secret operative ex breezes back into town.The film is directed by Sean Anders from a story by Brian Burns and a screenplay by Brian Burns and Sean Anders & John Morris.

DEMOLITION The mind-blowing story of a man whose life unravels and starts to rebuild it, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild), from an original screenplay written by Bryan Sipe, who dropped out of college just a few credits shy of graduation when he decided that the best education as a filmmaker was to dive in headfirst.

DESIERTO Mexican Screenwriter Jonas Cuarón,  who made his major feature film writing debut in 2013 with the Academy Award-winning Gravity, now makes his feature film directorial debut with Desierto, the terrifying story of a group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States who encounter a man who has taken border patrol duties into his own racist hands.

DIRTY GRANDPA For screenwriter John M. Phillips, the storyline for Dirty Grandpa came after an eye-opening night on the town with his father where he witnessed his dad’s surprisingly stellar skills with the ladies. “We began talking to some women and my dad was charming, funny and just crushed it, I couldn’t believe it.  He made a passing joke that he would get back out there pretty quickly should my mother pass away and I was shocked to see that side of him.  That experience mixed with some ideas I held on to from my Upright Citizens Brigade days spawned this story and some of the characters,” he explains.

DORA’S PEACE A Hillbrow prostitute shields a gifted young boy from the violent clutches of organized crime and discovers aspects of her own lost humanity. Director, producer and editor Kosta Kalarytis, who co-wrote the screenplay of Dora’s Peace with Andrew Herold,  who began his career as a cartoonist and illustrator working for The Mail & Guardian and other numerous South African publications.

EYE IN THE SKY Drone warfare on the big screen was launched by The Good Kill last year and now gathers intensity with Eye In The Sky, a British thriller set in the shadowy world of remotely piloted drone warfare. It is helmed by South African director Gavin Hood from an original screenplay by Guy Hibbert.

THE EMOJI MOVIE A journey into smartphones, where Emojis live and allow people to communicate with people who are separated from us by language, borders, oceans…Story by Tony Leondis & Eric Siegel. Screenplay by Tony Leondis & Eric Siegel and Mike White.

ENDLESS RIVER writer-director Oliver Hermanus‘s third feature film The Endless River takes us to rural South Africa — where anger and sorrow still linger some twenty years after apartheid — and conducts an original and incisive examination of the complex relationship between perpetrator and victim.’

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME A “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused set in the world of 1980 college life, writer-director and producer Richard Linklater’s comedy follows a group of friends as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Get ready for the best weekend ever.

EQUALS  began its journey to the screen with a question that Drake Doremus posed to producer, Michael Pruss: “What will love look like in the future… do you think we could potentially evolve away from the thing that makes us most human?”While Pruss admitted to not knowing what the future held, he told Doremus he “knew a man who has lived in the future.” That man was Nathan Parker, who wrote the critically acclaimed film Moon, directed by Duncan Jones in 2009.

FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK Marlon Wayans wasn’t looking to make another parody after poking fun at rich white girls and horror movies in the hugely popular White Chicks and Haunted House comedies. But when the erotic fantasy Fifty Shades of Grey became a pop-culture sensation, the topic — and the title — proved irresistible. “When that book became so hot, we toyed around with the name and started laughing at the idea of ‘Fifty Shades of Black,’” says Wayans. The concept gelled quickly for Wayans and longtime collaborator Rick Alvarez. “We thought ‘How do we make this funny?’”

FINDERS KEEPERS was conceptualized by South African director Maynard Kraak back in 2012 when he set up West Five Films, but it was not until early 2014 that he brought his very good friend Strini Pillai,  onboard to write the screenplay for the pilot film project of the Emerging Black Film Maker initiative, run by the NFVF and the IDC.

THE FOREST is a supernatural thriller that takes its inspiration from the real-life Aokigahara Forest. Known as jukai, or the “Sea of Trees,” it is situated at the northwest base of Japan’s Mount Fuji. The Aokigahara’s peaceful beauty belies its history of violence and its reputation for paranormal activity. Ben Ketai wrote the first screenplay draft, providing the underlying framework from which the script would evolve. When Ketai had to move on to other commitments, the producers engaged a first-time screenwriter, novelist Sarah Cornwell, to work on the script.

FREE STATE The Writing Studio’s proud graduate Sallas de Jager is winning the hearts of audiences worldwide with his sensational Free State, which he wrote-directed and produced, garnering the Best Director award and Special Jury award for scriptwriting at the Luxor African Film Festival in Egypt last month, as well as Best Cinematography at the Garden State Film Festival in New Jersey, New York.

FREE STATE OF JONES Based on Oscar-nominated writer/director Gary Ross’ original screenplay, the epic action-drama Free State of Jones tells the extraordinary story of a little known episode in American history during which Newt Knight, a fearless Mississippi farmer, led an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves in an historic armed rebellion against the Confederacy during the height of the Civil War.

THE GALLOWS The Indie Horror The Gallows was written, directed and produced by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff and shot entirely outside of the Hollywood system on a budget of $100 000, and found its way to the big screen in July 2015 thanks to the filmmakers’ use of a much smaller one—the computer—and their own ingenuity, now totaling $40 million at the box office internationally.

THE GIFT  is a heart-stopping, thought-provoking psychological thriller from producers Jason Blum and Rebecca Yeldham and actor, writer, producer and first-time director Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Zero Dark Thirty, Warrior), that asks the question: What if someone you wronged long ago reemerged in your life through a chance encounter?

GIFTED During the past 25 years screenwriter Tom Flynn has been selling spec scripts to studios in Hollywood, only seeing Watch It made (which he also directed). Now, with the success of Gifted, a story inspired by his one-eyed cat Fred, and his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met,’ Flynn is back to writing full time… this time getting his movies made.

GODS OF EGYPT The power of ancient myths and the imagination of today’ s most gifted storytellers have come together for the rousing action/fantasy/adventure Gods of Egypt, a grandly entertaining spectacle that transports audiences into a vivid universe of larger-than-life figures locked in epic battle. Writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless sought to give audiences a thrilling, elaborate adventure that is part homage, part invention and fully inhabitable as a transporting experience.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs with The Good Dinosaur where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend named Spot. The Good Dinosaur is executive produced by Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Andrew Stanton. With original concept and development by Bob Peterson, the film features a story by Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann and Peterson, and a screenplay by LeFauve. Music is by Academy Award-winning film composer Mychael Danna (Life of Pi) and Emmy-nominated composer Jeff Danna (Tyrant).

THE GOOD KILL War becomes a deadly video game in the powerful Good Kill, except that the targets are not pixels, but flesh and blood.This astounding film from New Zealand-born filmmaker Andrew Niccol, who made his debut in 1997 with Gattaca, and although he has established himself in the world of science fiction with his original ideas about what the future might look like,  Good Kill,is far more grounded in the world as it is today than any of his previous work (The Truman Show, Simone, Lord of War, In Time, The Host)

THE GREAT WALL Directed by one of the most breathtaking visual stylists of our time, Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red LanternHeroHouse of Flying Daggers), the action-fantasy The Great Wall marks his first English-language production and the largest film ever shot entirely in China.The thrilling adventure comes from an original screenplay by the writing duo Carlo Bernard & Doug Miro (Prince of PersiaThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and Tony Gilroy (Michael ClaytonThe Bourne Legacy).  It is based on a story by Max Brooks (World War Z) and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz (The Last SamuraiLove & Other Drugs).

GRIMSBY When it comes to creating dynamic characters who delight, entertain and infuriate, Sacha Baron Cohen is the only one who knows how to bring his creations to glorious life in the films Borat, Bruno and Ali G, and now brings us a new character in Grimsby, Nobby Butcher, a terminally unemployed but fun-loving football fan who is forced to save the world. The screenplay for Grimsby is by Sacha Baron Cohen & Phil Johnston & Peter Baynham, from a story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Phil Johnston, and directed by Louis Leterrier, France’s highest grossing director who gave us The Transporter at the age of 26, and also directed Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk, Wrath of The Titans (and its sequel) and Now You See Me.

HAIL, CAESAR! Four-time Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo) write and direct Hail, Caesar!, an homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age, a valentine to the studio system laced with a lovingly acerbic edge.

HAPPINESS IS A FOUR LETTER WORD A heart-warming romance that explores the lives of three best friends – Nandi, Zaza and Princess – living the good life in the vibrant city of  Johannesburg. The film is produced by Bongiwe Selane, Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring and directed by Thabang Moleya. The screenplay was written by Busisiwe Ntintili and Nozizwe Cynthia Jele and filmed in and around Johannesburg during July 2015.

HATCHET HOUR Writer-director Judy Naidoo’s film Hatchet Hour marks her directorial debut and is most definitely a landmark on her 20-year journey as an independent filmmaker in South Africa.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT  made its auspicious debut on April 19, 2014 as a staged reading benefiting Film Independent, a non-profit organization that champions the independent filmmaker.  Downtown Los Angeles’s Ace Hotel Theatre, a former movie palace, swelled to its 1600-seat capacity as fans of Quentin Tarantino assembled for an unprecedented live performance of the writer-director’s latest work.Tarantino performed his screenplay’s action and description lines alongside an award-winning ensemble of Tarantino “regulars,” including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Dana Gourrier and Zoë Bell.

HELL OR HIGH WATER Once a successful character actor on shows such as Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars, Taylor Sheridan has now made the jump to screenwriter, last year penning the Oscar-nominated Sicario, and now Hell or High Water, the second in a proposed trilogy, once again explores the artificial borders humans construct and the ramifications when these borders begin to crumble away.

HIGH STRUNG You might think it crazy to combine classical ballet and violin with hip-hop music and dance, but wait until you see the sensational High Strung, a superb romance between a classical dancer and British violinist, where two radically talented people from opposite sides of the tracks need to find harmony to achieve their dreams in New York City. Writer/Director/Producer Michael Damian has enjoyed a prolific on-camera career and is most widely known for his 18-year run as Danny Romalotti on the number one-rated daytime television drama, The Young and the Restless.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD Tom O’Connor’s spec screenplay for The Hitman’s Bodyguard took some of the most popular tropes of hit action thrillers – including the freewheeling hitman who can’t miss and the dreamy bodyguard whose protection never fails – and irreverently crashed them right into one another.Tom’s career in Hollywood began in 2011 with his spec script The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The script sold immediately and landed on that year’s Black List, and Tom has been a working writer for film and television ever since.

INSIDE OUT Loaded with Pixar’s signature charm, “Inside Out” features a mind full of memorable characters, poignant moments and humor. “Our goal, right off the top, was to make it fun,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “My kids have seen it and all they talk about is Anger. They think he’s really funny. And the journey that Joy and Sadness take is one big, cool adventure. Director Pete Docter co-wrote the screenplay with Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley from an original story by Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen.

IRRATIONAL MAN “Since I was very young for whatever reason I’ve been drawn to what people always call the ‘big questions,’” says writer-director Woody Allen. “In my work they’ve become subjects I kid around with if it’s a comedy or deal with on a more confrontational way if it’s a drama.” Throughout his career Woody Allen has exhibited a fascination with philosophy.  He’s lampooned it in comic essays like “My Philosophy,” plays like “Death Knocks,” and “God,” and movies like Love And Death, and explored philosophical issues more seriously in films like Crimes And Misdemeanors and Match Point.

THE JAKES ARE MISSING Bianca Isaac’s TV series Swartwater, which she produced with Quizzical Pictures, won 4 SAFTA Awards this year , including Best Drama Series. She is writing the third Season of Umlilo for ETV, and her film The Jakes Are Missing is released nationwide

JANE GOT A GUN When 27-year-old Brian Duffield started Jane Got a Gun as a spec script in 2011, he had a very clear idea of the type of story he wanted to write.  “I wanted to write about a woman whose big victory was going to be in making a stand,” says Duffield. After experimenting with different genres, Duffield decided to write a western with a woman named Jane as the main character.

JONATHAN Writer-director Sallas De Jager about his uproarious comedy Jonathan that deals with a dreamer and wannabe stand-up comedian who embarks on a roller coaster journey of self-discovery.

KAMPTERREIN Holiday mayhem is the order of the day in this contemporary South African family comedy. It is directed by Luhann Jansen whose previous projects include the acclaimed series Sterlopers 1 and 2 for Kyknet. It is produced by Marcus Muller and Morne Lane of Incense Productions, and the executive producers are Joost Smuts, Johan Mehmeyer and Lizelle Demos. Screenplay by Morne Lane

KEANU Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, better known as Key and Peele, have been making television audiences laugh for years, including on their long-running eponymous Comedy Central series. Keanu marks the first time the enormously popular comedy pair has, together, brought their talents to the big screen as two decidedly un-street-wise guys who are forced to assume the personas of hardcore killers in order to blend into a street gang.  Peele, who also co-wrote the screenplay with “Key and Peele” writer Alex Rubens, offers, “I wanted to do something crazy and over the top and dark, expanding on the kind of comedy we did in the ‘Key and Peele’ show.

THE KEEPING ROOM Amid the rising suspense of three Southern women defending their besieged home, director Daniel Barber finds both grit and a deeply moving grace in the actions the women must take to stay alive in the face of desolate circumstances. Based on Julia Hart’s revered 2012 Black List screenplay, and directed by Academy Award Nominated Daniel Barber (Harry Brown), The Keeping Room is a tense and uncompromising tale of survival that also shatters both gender and genre conventions.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES Screenwriter Michael LeSieur found inspiration for his screenplay Keeping Up With The Joneses from some friends’ idyllic lives in a suburban cul-de-sac—a street closed at one end.

KEEPING UP WITH THE KANDASAMYS Produced by Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring with screenplay by Jayan Moodley and Rory Booth, Keeping up with the Kandasamys, promises audiences some truly funny laughs about families, relationships and “neighbourhood-envy”.

KNIGHT OF CUPS With Knight of Cups, Terrence Malick is very much a storymaker in search of meaning, and through his journey of finding an answer to the essence of life, love and art, he allows us to reconnect with our own personal journey into ourselves and our place in this world.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS From animation studio LAIKA, makers of the Academy Award-nominated Coraline, comes Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic original action-adventure and a cinematic experience that sweeps audiences into a world of wonders. Marc Haimes developed the story with Shannon Tindle, and then wrote the screenplay with Chris Butler, who previously wrote and directed ParaNorman for LAIKA.

LA LA LAND began with a crazy dream.  Writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) wanted to see if he could make a film that channels the magic and energy of the most poignantly romantic French and American musicals of film making’s Golden Age … into our more complicated and jaded age.

LIGHTS OUT From torches and candles to LEDs.  Street lamps, headlights, neon, flares.  Since the origin of our existence, humans have sought ways to escape the encroaching shadows and the frightful things they conceal and in the terrifying Lights Out, fear is real! Making his feature film debut with Lights Out,  David S. Sandberg has written and directed a slate of short films with deliciously disturbing titles like Closet Space and Attic Panic, and earned a throng of internet devotees who expect him to scare the wits out of them. Lights Out is based on Sandberg’s recent horror short of the same name, and it was both the quality and the impact of that insomnia-inducing gem that brought the young Swedish filmmaker to the attention of Hollywood.

LOGAN LUCKY A turbocharged heist comedy by first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt

LOVE THE COOPERS The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future rear their heads as four generations of the Cooper clan gathering under the same roof to celebrate an ultimate Christmas in the endearing Love The Coopers.  And, when the Coopers come together on Christmas Eve, everything comes apart. Much of the movie really centers on “time,” says screenwriter Steven Rogers. “People spend a lot of time dwelling on the past or being upset about the past, whether it is something someone else did or something they did or worrying about the future, and they miss out on the present. It’s very generational. When you’re younger, you’re trying so hard to make something of yourself.  As you get older, you realize what’s important is to be in the moment.”

MAGGIE As the world narrowly recovers from a near apocalyptic virus, an infected teenage girl with only a precious few weeks to live must find the strength and bravery to face her fleeting mortality as her father struggles helplessly to protect her from the frightened town and keep the family together. Maggie is a heartbreaking take on the zombie genre twists expectations and puts a human face on an inexplicable horror. Based on an original screenplay by first-time screenwriter John Scott 3, which made the industry’s 2011 Blacklist for best unproduced screenplays, Maggie marks the feature film directorial debut of renowned graphic designer, commercial and title sequence director, Henry Hobson, as well as the first time Schwarzenegger has starred in or produced a low-budget, independent film.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA sneaked up on writer-director Kenneth Lonergan. The film was originally planned as a directing and starring vehicle, respectively, for its two producers, Matt Damon (who starred in Margaret) and John Krasinski. Damon, who costarred with Casey Affleck in the first cast of “This is Our Youth” on stage in London, offered the story to Lonergan to write.

‘N MAN SOOS MY PA Writer-director Sean Else has a unique gift as storyteller and storymaker: as a consummate storyteller he knows how to tell a story well, his vision as a filmmaker breathes life into his words, and his astute sensibility as director in making characters truthful is evident in the sincere and honest performances he draws from his talented cast in ‘n Man Soos my Pa.

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL writer Jesse Andrews has had one of the rarer Hollywood trajectories. A first-time novelist, he was invited not only to adapt the book himself, but to do it under the guiding hand of producer Dan Fogelman, a seasoned screenwriter himself (Cars, Tangled, Crazy, Stupid, Love and Danny Collins).

Despite his inexperience, Andrews managed to retain the surprisingly assured, idiosyncratic, and funny voice of his 2012 debut, which follows two high schoolers who make awful movies together as they reluctantly embark on a new epic for a dying female friend, an effort that has consequences both comic and tragic.

MISS SLOANE Jonathan Perera’s screenplay for Miss Sloane took filmmaker John Madden by surprise with its richly detailed portrait of an industry that remains shrouded in mystery. “While having a sense of the job description, I didn’t know exactly what a lobbyist did, which I imagine is true of a lot of people,” says Madden, acclaimed director of such diverse films as Mrs. Brown, The Debt and Academy Award winner Shakespeare in Love.

MR. RIGHT Several years before writer Max Landis’ mastery of offbeat storytelling became evident in American Ultra, Victor Frankenstein and the $122 million-grossing superhero hit Chronicle, he dreamed up an outrageous contribution to the rom-com canon in Mr. Right. In the wacky and wild Mr.Right, Martha (Anna Kendrick) discovers that her new beau, Francis (Sam Rockwell), is a professional assassin… with a cause.  He kills the people ordering the hits. As the bodies pile up, Martha must decide whether to flee or join her man in the mayhem.

MRS. RIGHT GUY is the latest film from Nigerian-born filmmaker Adze Ugah, who moved to South Africa to further his studies, where he earned an Honours degree at the South African School of Film and Drama, AFDA, with a major in script writing and directing. The screenplay was crafted by Pusetso Thibedi , a storyteller across the mediums of theatre, film and television.

MOANA Moana, a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people, was directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess & the Frog), from a screenplay by Jared Bush, who was responsible for helping to develop and shape character personalities and overall story for Moana.

MONEY MONSTER In the real-time, high stakes thriller George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty, who are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor who has lost everything (Jack O’Connell) forcefully takes over their studio.“I love this movie because it has two things that sometimes people think are opposites,” says Jodie Foster, who directs the thriller from a screenplay by Jamie Linden and Alan DiFiore & Jim Kouf with a story by Alan DiFiore & Jim Kouf.

MORGAN A noted commercials director who has also worked in various capacities on his father Ridley’s epic and acclaimed films, Luke makes his feature directorial debut with Morgan.The story’s themes clearly resonate with the young filmmaker, whose short film, Loom, shot on 4K 3D, was a kind of precursor to MORGAN.  Some of the ideas explored in Loom were expanded upon in screenwriter Seth Owen’s original script for MORGAN, which entered the prestigious film industry “Black List” in 2014—compiled annually from the suggestions of more than 250 film executives who contribute names of their favorite scripts written that year.

MOTHER! The relationship thriller Mother! began when Writer / Director Darren Aronofsky spent five fevered days at his keyboard alone in an empty house.

THE NICE GUYS is not the first time writer-director Shane Black has created an unlikely pairing and pitted them against a powerful adversary for which they would, on paper, seem outmatched. Exactly 30 years ago, he sold his first script to producer Joel Silver—an actioner about a by-the-book detective reluctantly partnered with an unhinged cop named Riggs. That movie was Lethal Weapon…and the rest, as they say, is history.

THE NIGHT BEFORE From Jonathan Levine, the acclaimed director of 50/50, comes the new comedy The Night Before, which he directed from a story he wrote, and screenplay he co-wrote with Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir and Evan Goldberg. In the film, three great friends become three wise men after a night of debauchery and breaking all the rules.  It takes place on Christmas Eve, when Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have made a pact to spend the evening together – a tradition they have replayed each of the last ten years.

NINE LIVES  When a work-obsessed real-estate mogul suffers a magical accident that leaves him trapped inside the body of his 11-year-old daughter’s cat, he realizes he has to put his family first if he ever hopes to regain his human form. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, written by Gwyn Lurie, Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS Boldly exploring the psychological and emotional sea changes of men and women living – or trying to live –their own truths, the masterful Nocturnal Animals is the second film from extraordinary visionary, writer/director Tom Ford, following the acclaimed and award-winning A Single Man (2009).

NOEM MY SKOLLIE The riveting Noem My Skollie delivers on the themes of friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, acceptance, the desire for a better life, hope and love, and is set on the Cape Flats and in Pollsmoor prison, based on the life of John W. Fredericks, who also wrote the screenplay at the age of 60.

NOMA Challenging conventional filmmaking, Pablo Pinedo is very much an auteur when it comes to his well-researched and structured Noma, using his skills as producer, writer, director and cinematographer to create an impressionistic documentary that is different from traditional filmmaking.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon (Blades of Glory) were immediately drawn to the concept of a magical night where professional and social barriers were less defined.

PASSENGERS  This exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early was a story that has attracted Hollywood for many years; writer Jon Spaihts’ script has landed on the “Black List” of the industry’s best unproduced screenplays.

REGRESSION Spanish Writer-director Alejandro Amenábar returns to the big screen with the mind-bending Regression, which represents a return to suspense, the genre of The Others which marked his feature film debut in 1996.  It offers different layers of meaning for different audiences, and most of all, a good show to entertain wide audiences who appreciate effective, unpredictable narrative.

ROCK THE KASBAH The story began with the screenwriter Mitch Glazer’s determination, more than six years ago, to write a classic Bill Murray.Glazer had worked with Murray on Scrooged, which he also wrote. The two had become close friends, and Glazer came up with the idea of Murray as the ultimate fish out of water: a washed-up rock manager who brings his last client to Kabul on a USO tour and immediately gets in over his head.

RULES DON’T APPLY It was written, directed, and produced by Warren Beatty, who also stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

THE SAUSAGE PARTY Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been the masterminds behind some of the world’s most outrageous, inventive, and hilarious comedies – from Superbad to Pineapple Express to This Is the End to The Interview.  Now, they go into the world of animation for Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures’ Sausage Party, the world’s first R-rated CG animated comedy, about a group of supermarket products on a quest to discover the truth about their existence and what really happens when they become chosen to leave the grocery store.

SHUT IN Writer Christina Hodson says the inspiration for Shut In came to her while she was living alone in a creaky New York City studio apartment. Imagining the possibilities behind the unexplained noises she heard late at night, the first-time screenwriter penned the script in just six weeks.

SING Illumination has captivated audiences all over the world with the beloved hits Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, now the second-highest-grossing animated movie in history. Following the release of this summer’s comedy blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination brings Sing to the big screen. With its highly relatable characters, heart and humor, the first collaboration between writer/director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Illumination founder and Ceo Chris Meledandri marks the sixth fully animated feature from the studio.

SING STREET “I wanted to do something that was personal. I didn’t want to just be doing a musical story for the sake of it,” says Irish writer-director John Carney, whose Sing Street tells of a Dublin teenager (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who forms a rock ‘n’ roll band to win the heart of an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton).

SISTERS The new comedy from Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore about two disconnected siblings summoned home to clean out their childhood bedroom before their parents sell the family house.  Looking to recapture their glory days, they throw one final high-school-style party for their classmates, which turns into the cathartic rager that a bunch of ground-down adults really need.Paula Pell (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock), one of television’s most prolific comedy writers, makes her long-anticipated feature-film screenwriting debut.

SLEIGHT Director J.D. Dillard and screenwriter Alex Theurer wrote an original screenplay exploring the seemingly-different worlds of magic and crime and developed an original premise which would weave the two together in a unique genre-bending film.

SNAAKS GENOEG,  an original piece written and directed by David Moore, follows a down-and-out comedian (Casper de Vries) who drifts from one small town to another.

SOLACE More than 13 years ago, when producer Beau Flynn first read the supernatural thriller Solace, a spec screenplay written by the then-unknown writing team of Sean Bailey & Ted Griffin, he knew immediately he wanted to make it.

SOMER SON “There needs to be a balance between inspiration and awareness of your market. We tried to accommodate this while still telling a universal story, says writer-director Clinton Lubbe of his delightful Afrikaans film Somer Son, which he co-wrote with Luan Jacobs (a proud graduate of The Writing Studio) and Zandeli Meyer, based on a story by himself and Jan-Lourens van der Merwe.

SONG TO SONG Though renowned for visually arresting storytelling, filmmaker Terence Malick has always been drawn to that most classic subject of all:  love – especially love that mirrors or cuts through life’s illusions, and with Song To Song, he continues a career that began with the dark romance between two 1950s Midwestern killers on the run in Badlands; explored the early days of America through Captain Smith and Pocahontas’ affair in The New World; and twined the overwhelming emotions of parental love with a story of creation in The Tree Of Life.

SPECTRE When approaching the 24th James Bond movie, Spectre, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the filmmakers were keen to ensure that the film followed on closely from its predecessor, the $1.1 billion global smash Skyfall. Spectre was directed by Sam Mendes, produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and the screenplay was written by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth (Story by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade)

SPLIT Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan returns to the captivating grip of The Sixth Sense,  Unbreakable and Signs with Split, an original film that delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s fractured, gifted mind.

STORKS The action-packed, animated adventure takes audiences on a road trip like no other, as a super-focused stork with big ambitions, and a sunny 18-year-old orphaned girl with some wild ideas, rush to make one very special delivery.The film was directed by Stoller (Neighbors, Forgetting Sarah Marshall; writer on The Muppets) and Oscar nominee Doug Sweetland (the animated short Presto; supervising animator on Cars), from a screenplay written by Stoller.

SY KLINK SOOS LENTE Stiaan Smith is an award-winning actor and writer for both screen and stage who asks: What do you do when you meet the girl of your dreams and realise you’re not good enough for her?

SWISS ARMY MAN the brilliantly bizarre new movie from first-time feature directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert will break your heart and most definitely change your perceptions in the human condition.

THIS BEAUTIFUL FANTASTIC Renowned British filmmaker Simon Aboud’s This Beautiful Fantastic is a contemporary fairy tale revolving around the most unlikely of friendships between a reclusive, agoraphobic young woman with dreams of being a children’s book author and a curmudgeonly old widower, set against the backdrop of a beautiful garden in the heart of London.

UITVLUCHT  It’s an unsquirming look at our own fallibilities and how a relentless love draws us out a pit of despair and guilt. It’s a story of second chances and the grace of God told with love and humour. Director Regardt van den Bergh co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Clara Joubert van den Bergh.

UNLOCKED 11-years ago first-time producer Georgina Townsley, who has a proven track record in documentaries, conceptualised Unlocked and approached screenwriter Peter O’Brien to help her craft an original London-set, female-driven espionage thriller.

TRIPLE 9 With a stellar cast, taut script and explosive action, Triple 9 delivers a startlingly fresh take on the classic heist thriller. Writer Matt Cook got the inspiration for his first feature film, Triple 9, while swapping stories with a buddy during a road trip through the desert.

TRUMBO recounts how Dalton (Bryan Cranston) used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.The film is directed by Jay Roach, the winner of four Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, who is best known for directing such comedy classics as the Austin Powers trilogy, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and The Campaign. The screenplay was written by John Mcnamara (Writer, Producer) is a writer, producer, showrunner and television creator.

VERSKIETENDE STER Screenwriter Stefan Enslin is also the producer of the new South African film Verskietende Ster, an inspirational tale about the power of compassion and forgiveness.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN John Landis was 30-years old when he wrote and directed the cult classic An American Werewolf in London. Now Landis’ 30-year-old son Max resurrects the greatest monster of all time with his bold, imaginative and shocking screenplay Victor Frankenstein that has been magnificently brought to life on the big screen by Scottish film director Paul Mcguigan, whose feature work includes the wild and wacky Lucky Number Slevin.

VIR ALTYD Darling superstars of the local film and TV industry, Ivan Botha and Donnalee Roberts, who charmed filmgoers in Pad Na You Hart, and sizzle in their latest charmer Vir Altyd (Forever) which they wrote and co-produced.

WHY HIM? From co-writer/director John Hamburg, the comic force behind beloved comedies including I Love You, ManMeet the ParentsMeet the Fockers, Zoolander and Along Came Polly, Why Him? puts a hilariously fresh spin on the anxiety-inducing tradition of introducing one’s significant other to the family.Why Him? was an idea hatched in a basement in Atlanta when producers Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill were in production on the 2012 alien invasion comedy The Watch. Working with co-screenwriter Ian Helfer (The Oranges), director John Hamburg crafted a hilarious, heart-felt script that perfectly captures the challenging transition parents face as they witness their kids creating lives and relationships of their own.

WONDER BOY FOR PRESIDENT Writer-director John Barker, a proud graduate of The Writing Studio, who is turning politics inside out and upside down with his biting independent mockumentary Wonder Boy For President

ZOOTROPOLIS In its 92-year history, Walt Disney Animation Studios has created a long and storied legacy of talking-animal films—from Mickey Mouse’s debut short Steamboat Willie to Bambi, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood and The Lion King, and returns to the wild with the feature film Zootropolis, which marks Disney Animation Studios’ 55th animated feature. Byron Howard (Director/Story by) directed Tangled. Rich Moore (Director/Story by) directed Wreck-It Ralph, numerous episodes of The Simpsons and was a sequence director on “The Simpsons Movie.Jared Bush (Co-Director/Story by/Screenplay by) is responsible for helping to develop and shape character personalities and overall story, as well as helping to define the world of “Zootropolis.” Phil Johnston (Story by/Screenplay by) is a feature film and television writer whose first Disney movie was Wreck-It Ralph and he also wrote Cedar Rapids and Grimsby

Copyright © 2017  The Writing Studio / Daniel Dercksen / All Rights Reserved

 

VAYA WEB

A gripping, edgy and deeply moving story about coming to the city and struggling to survive.

Vaya is based on the lives of four young men from The Homeless Story Project and rooted in their experiences of coming to the city in search of family and opportunities.

Millions of people in South Africa have left rural communities and travelled to cities. For the poor and the jobless the safety net of family is fast disappearing. Countless migrants to the city find themselves invisible and trapped in places with limited opportunities for survival and abused by the very people whose protection they sought.

The Homeless Story Project gives a voice to the voiceless by creating opportunities for stories to be developed into films or published media.

A Place Called Home

The relationship started with the book Finding Mr. Madini by Jonathan Morgan and The Great African Spider Writers.

The Great African Spider Writers were made of a collective of contributors who were homeless that wrote and continue to write for the newspaper: Homeless Talk. Rififi Pictures (Akin Omotoso, Robbie Thorpe, Rethabile Molatela Mothobi) created a television series based on the book called A Place Called Home.

The major theme in the television series was making ‘the invisible people on our streets: visible’. A Place Called Home ran for three successful seasons on SABC 1 and won five SAFTAS including Best Director (Akin Omotoso and Rolie Nikiwe) and Best Supporting Actress (Nolwazi Shange). It was also selected to participate at the prestigious annual international Public Television ConferenceINPUT.

The Homeless Story Project

In 2010, with the aim of continuing the relationship with the writers and developing their talent, producer Robbie Thorpe set up The Homeless Writer’s Project. Along with Producer Harriet Perlman they run the project and the group which comprises of David Majoka,Tshabalira Lebakeng, Anthony Mafela and Madoda Ntuli, meet once a week to share stories and ideas and create a safe place for discussion.

The film script for Vaya began in story workshops, where participants shared and told stories over a period of 6 years. These lived experiences were written down and crafted into a film script.

The screenplay for Vaya was crafted by Tshabalira Lebakeng, Anthony Mafela, David Majoka, Madoda Ntuli, Craig Freimond, Harriet Perlman, and Robbie Thorpe.

Vaya makes visible the many invisible lives who come to the city in search of dignity and hope. It provides a rare lens into life in the city that is unique, gritty and hard hitting.

When poverty leaves people with few options, how do we judge the moral choices people are forced to make?

Vaya 3

The Story

One train. Four people. Strangers bound for Johannesburg. Each on their own mission. But one event will irrevocably change their lives forever.

Based on real stories, Vaya weaves three separate plots that intersect in a gripping, edgy and deeply moving story about coming to the city and struggling to survive. It’s about strangers who never meet, but share a moment when all their lives explode and change forever.

Four characters arrive by train at Park station in Johannesburg. They are in search of family to help and support them. Each has come with a different but simple task to complete. But when they are betrayed by the people who were meant to protect them, they find themselves trapped in the city and with limited opportunities to survive.

In the first story a rural man, Nhlanhla has been promised a job by his big city cousin. His cousin is an important man, whose patronage the village has relied on for many years. But when he arrives he discovers that the job is not quite what he expected.

In the second story Nkulu, a young man is sent to Jozi to reclaim his father’s body. His mother’s reputation back in rural KwaZulu Natal will be ruined if he doesn’t. But getting the body is not as simple as he expects.

In the third story a young girl Zanele brings her aunt’s child, Zodwa to Joburg to live with her mother for the first time. But her aunt is unable to take care of herself let alone a small child and Zanele has her own plans.

Multiple stories are seamlessly woven together. There are no neat solutions and ends don’t easily tie up. As in real life, people often collide for brief moments. Sometimes these encounters have meaning and consequence and often they don’t and people scurry on in search of dignity and resources to survive.

VAYA 2

The Film

Award-winning Director Akin Omotoso has created a fast paced gritty piece of cinema-verite. Shot on location in Johannesburg and Soweto the visual style accentuates the film’s vision.

Akin OmotosoAkin Omotoso studied drama at The University of Cape Town where he won The Fleur du Cap for Most Promising Student. He also won The Standard Bank Young Artist Of The Year in 2007. Television work includes A Place Called Home (for which he won Best Director at The South African Film and Television Awards (“SAFTA”) and the number one drama on South African television Soul City.

Akin has produced and directed four feature films: God Is African and the award winning Man On Ground (official selection to Toronto and Berlin). His romantic comedy Tell Me Sweet Something was released throughout the continent of Africa in September of 2015 and has subsequently been nominated for 7 Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards. His latest film offerings are Vaya and A Hotel Called Memory. Vaya made it’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016. It will be making its European premiere on the 11th February 2017 at the Berlin International Festival.

“Vaya tells a story of a reality most people would prefer to hide,” says director Akin Omotoso. “I was first inspired by the sheer grit of these stories.“

Shot from different vantage points, the film is a beautiful depiction of the underbelly of the city in all its complexity. Omotoso says: “We shot people at cockroach level, small and insignificant as they navigate an impending world and contrasted this with aerial shots of a vast and sprawling city that swallows our characters up as events they couldn’t anticipate, take hold of their lives.”

 

 

From left to right: Andre Frauenstein (Snr); Thandi Puren; Darrell Roodt: Reine Swart and Samuel Frauenstein

Pictured from left to right: From left to right: Andre Frauenstein (Snr); Thandi Puren; Darrell Roodt: Reine Swart and Samuel Frauenstein

Siembamba Is An Extension Of The Myth. A Modern Nightmare, Founded In The Original Tragedy.

With in excess of 16 years of cinema, movies and production experience André Frauenstein has worked as Product Placement Specialist with leading producers & directors such as Neil Blomkamp (District 9) Regardt van den Bergh (Faith like potatoes) Darrell Roodt (Oscar nominated director) for Yesterday, Cry the beloved country. Under André’s guidance Valhalla & Phoenix have produced 5 feature films in 2015 alone. His latest film Siembamba was co-produced with Samuel Frauenstein whose film credits include Treurgrond, Trouvoete, Skorokoro and Mignon ‘Mossie’ van Wyk.

SIEM-768x328

Returning to her hometown, Eden Rock, and overwhelmed by the birth of her first child, Chloe van Heerden (19) tries to come to terms with motherhood. Despite the support from her mother, Ruby (35), Chloe struggles with the demand of being a new mom.The incessant crying of her baby, the growing sense of guilt and paranoia sends Chloe into a dark depression. With a heightened urge to protect her son, Chloe sees danger in every situation.

Distraught she pays a visit to family psychologist Dr. Timothy Reed (40s) who diagnoses her intrusive thoughts and feelings of anxiousness to a case of baby blues.Yet the thoughts grow worse and more violent. Chloe starts to hear voices and the humming of a childhood lullaby and sees flashes of a strange entity around her child.

Convinced that the entity is real, Chloe does everything in her power to protect her son. Her decline reaches fever pitch, and everybody seems to be moving against her. Desperate, Chloe finds solace in the arms of her childhood friend, Adam Hess (20s).

The world around Chloe implodes and it becomes clear that she and her child are in imminent danger. But from what? Is Chloe haunted by evil or is it just the baby blues?

The film stars Reine Swart, Deànré Reiners, Thandi Puren, and Brandon Auret and directed by world-renowned director Darrell James Roodt (Sarafina! Treurgond, Cry the Beloved Country, Winnie Mandela) from a screenplay by Tarryn-Tanille Prinsloo.

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Producer André Frauenstein

Tell us about Siembamba? What is it all about?

Siembamba is a South African psychological thriller. Siembamba plays on old South African folklore, as experienced by a girl coming to terms with motherhood and her relationship with her own mother, while undergoing serious post-partum psychosis – or is it something else?

How does the film relate to the Siembamba folklore?

It is an extension of the myth. A modern nightmare, founded in the original tragedy.

What attracted you to producing the film?

Horror in South Africa is an untapped market and we wanted to produce for the international market. Siembamba is distributed by Monte Cristo International and already sold to the USA; Japan and Canada.

Tell us about Darrel Roodt directing?

Darrell is a phenomenal director. He gets into the feel of the movie and make it a reality! We have worked with Darrell on 4 other movies, but believe this is his best work to date!

Tell us about your cast?

We are blessed with a very talented cast. The leading lady, Reine Swart plays the role of Chloe van Heerden. Reine did a lot of research on Post-Partum Psychosis and plays the role brilliantly. Thandi Puren, in the role of Ruby van Heerden, is an actress to take note off. Deanre Reiners, as Adam Hess, is the boy next door and fulfil the role to its’ maximum.

Judging by the trailer, the film looks terrifying. Is it really that scary?

The trailer is scary yes… but the movie has a lot more to it.

What do you hope the audiences will get from watching Siembamba?

A good fright that stays with them for a few weeks, but more an understanding of Post-Partum Psychosis and a few new actors to follow.

Any thoughts you would like to share?

Go watch the movie… you won’t regret it!

NOV

Write JourneyMaster The Art Of Visual Narrative: The Write Journey is an interactive course for writers who would like to write a screenplay for feature film or television. Read more

 

 

 


Latest Releases /  July 2017 August 2017  /  

September 2017 / October 2017 / December 2017

What’s Happening On The Big Screen In November 2017

Showing from 3 November, 2017

Flatliners-Movie-2017FLATLINERS The original Flatliners hit the big screen in 1990.  An extremely stylized and unsettling film, it immediately struck a nerve with audiences.  Now, more than 25 years later, Flatliners returns to the screen in a contemporary reimagining.  Douglas, a producer of the original film, teamed with producers Laurence Mark and Peter Safran to bring the retelling to the screen. In the story five medical students, obsessed by the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring and dangerous experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods of time, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.  But as their experiments become increasingly perilous, they are each confronted by the sins of their pasts, brought on by the paranormal consequences of trespassing to the other side. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev from a screenplay by Ben Ripley and a story by Peter Filardi.  Read more / Trailer

Flatliners is a journey into the unknown – the last unknown, you could say,” says director Niels Arden Oplev, best known for his work as the director of the Swedish film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the pilot of the acclaimed series “Mr. Robot.” “It’s an outrageous subject, to travel beyond death and have your friends try to bring you back, to explore what’s on the other side.”

fromahouseonwillowstreet-3-1THE HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET A South African supernatural horror film directed by Alastair Orr (The Unforgiving; Expiration; Indigenous) from a screenplay co-written with Catherine Blackman and Jonathan Jordaan (Expiration).Roguish kidnappers abduct the daughter of a wealthy diamond distributor hoping to gain a large ransom. But when they have her locked up in their hideout, they come to realise their victim has been possessed by a sinister demon… Starring Sharni Vinson (Patrick: Evil Awakens; You’re Next; Bait), Carlyn Burchell (Red: Werewolf Hunter; RoboCop; Darker Than Night), Zino Ventura and Steven John Ward (Dominion). Read more / Trailer

wind-river-still-4_30559155864_o-e1485206451630WIND RIVER Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who is previously known for his work on Hell or High Water and Sicario,  this suspense thriller follows the crime investigation of a young girl who lives in the US state of Wyoming who was found frozen, barefoot and dead in the ice mountains. US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers a body in the rugged wilderness of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), but she’s unprepared for the difficulties created by the oppressive weather and isolation of the Wyoming winter. When she employs Cory as a tracker, the two venture deep into a world ravaged by violence and the elements. Read more / Trailer

Granite MountainONLY THE BRAVE It’s not what stands in front of you… it’s who stands beside you. Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is the heroic story of a local firefighting crew that becomes one of the most elite firefighting teams in the nation. As most of run from danger, they run toward it – risking everything to save a town from a historic wildfire. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy). Written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer. Based on the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn.  Read more / Trailer

“In an age of superheroes, Only the Brave is a film about real heroes,” says director Joseph Kosinski. “It explores notions of brotherhood, sacrifice, redemption, all set in the world of wildfire – something I haven’t seen in the cinema before. It’s a story that needs to be told and a world that should be seen on a big screen.”

Many moviegoers will be unfamiliar with the term “hotshot.” As is explained in the film, it’s a special and honored designation: hotshots are the country’s top wildland firefighters – the Navy SEALs of firefighting. “The way they fight fires is very different than people would think: they don’t carry water; they fight fire with fire,” Kosinski explains. “They dig lines and cut down trees and try to establish a border. They light fire, back burns, that they use to battle against the wildfire.”

Hotel salvationHOTEL SALVATION An ominous dream convinces 77-year-old Dayanand Kumar (Adil Hussain) that his end could be near. He takes the news to his son Rajiv, knowing he wants to breathe his last in the holy city of Varanasi and end the cycle of rebirth, by attaining salvation. Being the dutiful son he is, Rajiv, is left with no choice but to drop everything and make the journey with his stubborn father. Daya and Rajiv check into Mukti Bhawan(Hotel Salvation) in Varanasi, a guesthouse devoted to people to die there. But as the days go by, Rajiv struggles to juggle his responsibilities back home, while Daya starts to bloom in the hotel.Rajiv gives his father a shot at salvation but as family bonds are tested, he finds himself torn, not knowing what he must do to keep his life together. Writer & Director Shubhashish Bhutiani. Trailer / Visit website

Showing from 10 November, 2017

All saintsALL SAINTS is based on the inspiring true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Jeopardizing his family’s future by ignoring his superiors, Michael must choose between completing what he was assigned to do—close the church and sell the property—or listening to a still, small voice challenging the people of All Saints to risk it all and provide much-needed hope to their new community.

After reading in USA TODAY about Reverend Michael Spurlock and All Saints church’s heroic efforts to help Karen refugees relocated to Tennessee, Director Steve Gomer believed the inspiring true story needed to be made into a feature film. He enlisted the help of writer Steve Armour to hammer out the screenplay and the two went through 15 versions of the script before they felt it was right. Website / Trailer

“One of the best decisions that I have ever made in 30 years of being in this business was to say yes to this movie. I love that it’s based on real-life people. And it’s about people from different backgrounds, all over the world, really, coming together for the common good, for one common goal. It’s a story of love in its truest sense.” –John Corbett

mother__01_DO-NOT-USE-TILL-AUG.-22MOTHER! In the psychological horror  Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem) live in a seemingly idyllic existence in a secluded paradise. But the couple’s relationship is tested when man (Ed Harris) and woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their home uninvited. Answering that knock disrupts their tranquil existence and as more and more guests arrive, mother is forced to revisit everything she knows about love, devotion and sacrifice.   Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky admits mother! is hard to slot into any one particular genre, and that’s because even he can’t fully pinpoint where everything in this film came from: “Some came from the headlines we face every second of every day, some came from the endless buzzing of notifications on our smart phones, some came from living through the blackout of Hurricane Sandy in downtown Manhattan, some came from my heart, some from my gut. Collectively it’s a recipe I won’t ever be able to reproduce, but I do know this concoction is best served as a single dose – in a shot glass.” Read moreTrailer

tulip-feverTULIP FEVER Set against the backdrop of the 17th-century Tulip Wars, a married noblewoman (Alicia Vikander) has an affair with an artist (Dane DeHaan) and switches identities with her maid to escape the wealthy merchant she married. She and her lover try to raise money together by investing what little they have in the high-stakes tulip market. Read more / Trailer

 

Amityville AwakeningAMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING When some footage dating back to 1976 is discovered, the case of the haunted house in Amityville is reopened in Amityville: The Awakening. An ambitious woman who is working as a television news intern seizes the opportunity to advance her career and is soon leading a team of journalists, clergymen, and paranormal researchers into the house, but she may have unwittingly opened a door to the unreal that she will never be able to close. Written and directed by French film director and screenwriter Franck Khalfoun (P2, Wrong Turn at Tahoe, Maniac).  Read more /  Watch The Trailer

suburbiconSUBURBICON A home invasion rattles a quiet family town in the dark crime comedy, directed by George Clooney (Monuments Men, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck) and written by Joel and Ethan Coen. The movie is set in the quiet family town of Suburbicon, where the best and worst of humanity is reflected through the deeds of seemingly ordinary people. When a home invasion turns deadly, a picture perfect family turns to blackmail, revenge and betrayal.With Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac, Julianne Moore, Glenn Fleshler. Read more/  Watch the Trailer. 

Wolf Warriors 2WOLF WARRIORS 2 In this Chinese action film China’s deadliest special forces operative settles into a quiet life on the sea. When sadistic mercenaries begin targeting nearby civilians, he must leave his newfound peace behind and return to his duties as a soldier and protector. Directed by Wu Jing, who also stars in the lead role.  Read moreWatch trailer

 

 

Showing from 17 November, 2017

KERSLIEWE KERSFEESVADER  A young beauty queen is flung into swift adulthood when her father assumes a new identity: Father Christmas. Juggling an unhinged father, an impressionable kid brother and a growing romance, Nonnie has to redefine her own meaning of family. Written and directed by Ettiene Fourie (Die Windpomp, Dis Koue Kos Skat)

“Liewe Kersfeesvader is a story that is incredibly personal to me. It deals with themes of family, the always-rocky transition from childhood to adulthood and, above all, love. It allows a glimpse into the lives of a typical, seemingly inconsequential family, who undergoes extraordinary challenges. Liewe Liewe Kersfeesvader is a story about choosing to love and accept your family, not despite but rather for their imperfections. It is a story about loss and it shows how there is nothing more effective than tragedy to glue a disjointed family back together.” Writer-director Ettiene Fourie

professormarston_thewonderwomen_02PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN A superhero origin tale unlike any other, Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is the incredible true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist and inventor Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) to create the iconic feminist superhero Wonder Woman. While Marston’s groundbreaking character was pilloried by censors for its sexual frankness, he was living a secret life that was equally controversial. Marston’s inspiration for Wonder Woman were his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston (Rebecca Hall) and their mutual lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), self-empowered women who defied social conventions while they helped Marston advance his prescient behavioral research.

A a bold and illuminating true superhero origin story from writer/director Angela Robinson, it is also a tale of invention, perseverance and courage against the forces of oppression. Read more / Watch the trailer

For Luke Evans, the movie tells the origin story with depth and resonance. “It’s the perfect moment to tell the story of how Wonder Woman came to be. You see, there’s a reason that Wonder Woman has withstood the test of time. She represents female strength and the power women can have. She’s different from Superman or Batman. She possesses attributes and energies and techniques that men fail at, miserably so. She doesn’t use her super powers to defeat. She uses them to make people tell the truth.”

Robinson believes that Professor Marston & The Wonder Women has something of importance to impart to audiences. “It’s a powerful message about the nature of love and acceptance and having the courage to be who you are. Wonder Woman’s mission is to stop violence, to stop war and to stand for peace. That’s what I took away from the experience and I hope that’s what everyone takes away.”

Justice LeagueJUSTICE LEAGUE From Warner Bros. Pictures comes the first-ever big screen epic action adventure starring as the famed lineup of DC Super Heroes: Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Raymond Fisher as Cyborg, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ezra Miller as The Flash. Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.  Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat.  But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions. Directed by Zack Snyder,  the screenplay is by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, story by Chris Terrio & Zack Snyder, based on characters from DC, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Following the death of his Snyder’s daughter; Joss Whedon (The Avengers and its sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron )was brought on to work on additional scenes and the post-production process.  Website / Trailer

thestar_trailer-900x620THE STAR In Sony Pictures Animation film a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a loveable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become unlikely heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.Based on the Nativity of Jesus, and of an original pitch by Tom Sheridan, it is written by Carlos Kotkin and Simon Moore. Read more /   Watch the trailer

Man with iron heartTHE MAN WITH THE IRON HEART 1942: The Third Reich is at its peak. The Czech resistance in London decides to plan the most ambitious military operation of WWII: Anthropoid. Two young recruits in their late twenties, Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, are sent to Prague to assassinate the most ruthless Nazi leader—Reich-protector Reinhard Heydrich, Head of the SS, the Gestapo, and the architect of the Final Solution.

Jimenez co-wrote the screenplay with his partner, Audrey Diwan, and British screenwriter David Farr (Hanna), and their work is based on the eponymous 2012 bestseller by Laurent Binet.

The assassination — by two men of the Czechoslovak Resistance — of Reinhard Heydrich, the leader of Czechoslovakia under Nazi occupation, head of the Sicherheitsdienst and the brains behind the Final Solution, was the subject of films by both Fritz Lang and Douglas Sirk that were released in 1943, only a year after the events occurred. Something similar seems to be happening again now, almost 75 years later, with Sean Ellis’ Anthropoid released last year (headlined by Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan and Toby Jones) and now the arrival of The Man With the Iron Heart (HHhH) from French director Cedric Jimenez, who casts Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike, Jack O’Connell and Mia Wasikowska in the leads.

Showing from 24 November, 2017

murder-on-the-orient-expressMURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told.  From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, “Murder on the Orient Express” tells the tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone’s a suspect. One man must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again. Kenneth Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast including Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad. Website / Watch the trailer

rebelREBEL IN THE RYE Directed and written by Danny Strong, Rebel In The Rye is based on the book J. D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski, about the life of young writer J. D. Salinger during World War II. Author J.D. Salinger leads a reclusive lifestyle after the success of his popular and controversial novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”The film stars Nicholas Hoult, Zoey Deutch, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Brian d’Arcy James, Victor Garber, Hope Davis, and Lucy Boynton. Read moreWatch Trailer

CocoCOCO An animated musical-fantasy. Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.The concept of the film is based on the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead. The screenplay was penned by Adrian Molina, and the story by Lee Unkrich. It is directed by Unkrich, and co-directed by Molina. Read more/  Watch Trailer

OLAF'S FROZEN ADVENTUREOLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) teams up with Sven on a merry mission in Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 21-minute featurette “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” It’s the first holiday season since the gates reopened and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) host a celebration for all of Arendelle. When the townspeople unexpectedly leave early to enjoy their individual holiday customs, the sisters realize they have no family traditions of their own. So, Olaf sets out to comb the kingdom to bring home the best traditions and save this first Christmas for his friends. Directed by Emmy®-winning filmmakers Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton (“Prep & Landing”), produced by Oscar® winner Roy Conli (“Big Hero 6”), and featuring a screenplay by Jac Schaeffer and four original songs by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” opens in front of Disney•Pixar’s original feature “Coco” for a limited time in S.A. theaters on Nov. 24, 2017

Daddys home 2DADDY’S HOME 2 In this comedy father and stepfather Dusty and Brad join forces to make Christmastime perfect for the children. Their newfound partnership soon gets put to the test when Dusty’s old-school, macho dad and Brad’s gentle father arrive to turn the holiday upside down.Directed by Sean Anders and written by Anders and John Morris. It stars Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg. Read moreTrailer

 

Potato PotahtoPOTATO POTAHTO A story of a divorced couple who decides to share equal space in their ex-matrimonial home soon realise that the ingenious idea is easier said than done. Bent on flexing their egos and scoring points, Tony (OC Ukeje) and Lulu (Joselyn Dumas) implore various hilarious tactics that soon inflames emotions and turns an already complicated situation into a roller coaster ride. The film is a collaborative project between Ghanaian, Nigerian, British, French and Swedish film producers, who have co-produced with the aim to make African-made cinema more accessible to global markets. Read more/  Trailer

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.

Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.

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THOR

In 1962, the now-legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced “The Mighty Thor” to readers of Marvel Comics, unleashing a new era of action-adventure with their conception of the hammer-wielding Norse god, who debuted in the sci-fi anthology “Journey Into Mystery,” #83 in August of that year.

Despite the Nordic-sounding names, the story was rooted in familiar, universal conflicts that have driven human drama since the beginning of time. To this day, 55 years later, Marvel Comics continues publishing new adventures depicting the God of Thunder, the most recent being 2016’s “The Unworthy Thor” from writer Jason Aaron and artist Olivier Coipel.

The newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Thor Ragnarok, continues the lineage of epic adventures chronicled in the franchise’s two prior big screen successes: 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” which, collectively, earned over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office.

When an ancient evil, lurking for eons, is released from its shackles, Thor finds himself in a serious situation. The Asgardian prince is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer just as Asgard needs him now more than ever.

With his kingdom shattered, Thor’s only hope is to summon the warrior within, and fight his way back against impossible odds to save his people from Ragnarok.

He finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok—the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization—at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.

But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger—the Incredible Hulk!  

Chris Hemsworth returns to the title role of the hammer-wielding hero of Asgard. He is joined by Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s duplicitous adopted brother, Loki; Cate Blanchett as the villainous Hela; Idris Elba as the Asgardian sentry, Heimdall; Jeff Goldblum as the eccentric dictator, Grandmaster, ruler of Sakaar; Tessa Thompson as the fierce warrior, Valkyrie; Karl Urban as Skurge, one of Asgard’s  strongest warriors; Mark Ruffalo reprising his role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk from “The Avengers” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”; and Anthony Hopkins again portraying Odin, King of Asgard.

The film is directed by Taika Waititi from a screenplay by Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost.

Finding A New Story

Finding the new story to fuel Thor’s next exploits began with a look at the character’s history. As producer Kevin Feige explains, “Thor’s supporting characters, his villain roster and the family drama that comes between Loki and Odin really gives us some of the richest story lines with any of the Marvel characters.”

“With a third Thor adventure, we wanted to do something very, very different from ‘Thor: The Dark World,’ with new characters, new villains and new locations for this new adventure. We love surprising audiences with how the tone of a franchise can change.”

Feige notes that Lee and Kirby made an inspired move by looking to Norse mythology when deciding to create a god as a comic book Super Hero.  “A lot of people were familiar with the Greek and Roman mythologies, but not so much with the Norse,” he offers.  “In this new movie, we subtitled it ‘Ragnarok,’ which means end of days in Norse mythology.”

“Part of Marvel’s success is the fact that we lay really strong foundations for our characters and story ideas,” executive producer Brad Winderbaum chimes in. “And ‘Ragnarok’ is precisely that.  With the third movie, we wanted it to be the ultimate Thor installment. When we chose Ragnarok, we had to think about what that meant to our story.  The end of the universe?  The end of the nine realms?  The end of Asgard itself?  And it led to the idea of the destruction of one’s place of origin.”

The Marvel team recruited the talents of “Thor” veterans Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost to kickstart this new adventure on the page, and also turned to another of their talented in-house writers, big-screen newcomer Eric Pearson.

Pearson looked to two Marvel comic book series for inspiration—Thor: God of Thunder” (2012) and “Planet Hulk“(2006-07). “For research, these were fun comics to read,” Pearson admits.  “In ‘God of Thunder,’ there was a character named Gorr going around killing gods. We infused the character of Hela with the visual aspect of Gorr’s powers. The other series was ‘Planet Hulk,’ where Hulk ends up on the planet Sakaar, and is forced to be a gladiator and then become king.  This was not going to be a ‘Planet Hulk’ movie, but we used elements from it.”

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Director Taika Waititi during the filming of Thor Ragnarok

At The Helm— Talent And A Sense Of Fun

When producer Feige hired Taika Waititi, a native New Zealander, to guide the third installment of “Thor,” he was looking at Waititi’s particular style of filmmaking and what that could potentially bring to the franchise. “We were looking for a filmmaker to really help us redefine the tone for what a Thor film could be,” Feige explains. “When it came time to figure out what filmmaker could carry on the franchise, we thought about movies we liked.  Taika has done such incredibly funny, incredibly deft directorial outings. ‘Boy.’ ‘What We Do in the Shadows.’ ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’ He’s an amazing talent. He’s never done anything on this scale before, but that’s okay because we wanted his unique vision.”

Adds executive producer Brad Winderbaum, “What Marvel wanted to bring to the new Thor film was a real sense of pathos with the characters. Even when it’s funny and humorous, with great moments of levity, there are also deep moments of melancholy.  ‘Ragnarok,’ which is this fun, breakneck, fast-paced space adventure, also has the gravity of the end of a civilization story.  You have all these amazing, fun sequences, but you also have these big, powerful, character-driven emotional moments as well.  We felt that Taika was going to be able to do that just based on his other work.  He’s got the comedy.  He’s got the drama. He understands character.”

Continuing, Winderbaum adds, “Taika came in and pitched a kind of cosmic space race rock opera, a heavy metal version of Thor. He had such an unexpected fun vision for what the Thor franchise could be that really resonated with the craziness of the comic books.”

Waititi is a national New Zealand treasure, having carved out a diverse and highly successful career in his homeland as an Oscar®-nominated film director, writer, painter, comedian and actor. Among many triumphs, he has directed the two highest-grossing native feature film releases in New Zealand history:  “Boy” (2010) and his most recent release, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” which earned almost NZ$7.5 million in ticket sales in its first month of domestic release (March 2016).

He was drawn to the project because, “It was the chance to immerse myself in another world, in another culture. Obviously, being the Asgardian culture of which I’ve been a huge fan for many years. Since I was a child, I always dreamed and fantasized about being from outer space, being a space Viking, being an Asgardian. I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also the Marvel Comic Universe.”

In addition to casting himself in several of his own projects, Waititi (named as one of ten new talents to watch in the influential entertainment trade magazine Variety in 2010) made his Hollywood motion picture debut in 2011 in the Super Hero epic “Green Lantern,” based on the iconic DC Comics character portrayed in the film by Ryan Reynolds, and appears in ”Thor: Ragnarok” as the effortlessly charismatic Korg.

Not only was Waititi inspired from a fan perspective, his creative side was also up for the challenge to do something new and different. “I come from a humble background, and I am more known for independent storytelling or storytelling on a budget,” the director comments. “I’ve made my mark in that world, and I thought it was time for me to expand. As the universe expands so does the Marvel Universe and so does my need as a creative, as a director and as a storyteller.”

Waititi’s approach to the film was not only to bring his signature comedic sensibility but to “have a balance or a mix that’s hopefully very funny but also hopefully something that has heart and resonance and connects with an audience on some sort of deeper level.”

Continuing, the director says, “I thought that the way that I would approach this film would be very different to the first two films. And Marvel was down for that. One of the things that also attracted me to the project was when Marvel told me that they wanted to really change up the franchise. They wanted to take Thor in a new direction and put him into outer space with as little time on Earth as possible. They wanted to make him fun and have an adventure.”

Explaining what Ragnarok means to him in terms of his approach to the film, Waititi says, “I think what Ragnarok really signifies is a rebirth. It’s the start of a new cycle in the life of the world or the realms of the universe. It’s the destruction of the old and the rebirth of the new.”

During the 85-day shoot, Waititi set a relaxed, energized and fun tone on the set each and every day. Remarks Chris Hemsworth,  “There’s lots of music and usually some dancing, lots of jokes, lots of craziness, lots of insanity and lots of fun.”

For Tessa Thompson, a day on set “involves some hijinks and dancing.”  She adds, “He really likes to work with music on set to keep the energy up. He has such a sense of play and is so spirited but he is also very specific about what he wants and also incredibly collaborative.”

To that note, Hemsworth adds, “There was lots of just trying things and then seeing where we could push it. I’ve got to say it’s definitely the most lighthearted, fun set I’ve been on. The tone of the film is responsible for the environment that Taika created. It makes you feel okay about trying something you might not have tried before or taken outside the box. You feel in safe hands.”

Working with Taika Waititi proved to be a very positive experience for acclaimed actress Cate Blanchett as well.  “What’s great about Taika is his humor––it’s so particular and unique and quirky,” comments Blanchett. “But there’s just this natural buoyancy with the way that he thinks. He has a little irreverence. With Taika, I think it’s probably the happiest film set I have ever been on. It’s so free and playful. There’s a sense that there’s no judgment. You feel like he’s really gathered everyone into the same boat.”

Waititi is well-known for casting himself in his own movies. He has appeared in all four previous New Zealand-based feature films that he wrote and directed. “When we were writing the story, I asked myself, ‘Who do I want to play?’” Waititi relates. “What kind of character have I not done yet? What would be interesting to me? What would be fun? I like playing characters who sort of provide a little texture and make it a bit more interesting to watch. I knew I had never played a guy who was made of rocks.

“So, when we started developing the character of Korg, I started thinking maybe there’s an angle there,” Waititi elaborates on his choice of featured role in the film. “That seemed like a character that I could play around with while getting to do some stuff with Chris Hemsworth. I was an actor before I was a filmmaker.  So, I still enjoy that part of it.”

Speaking to what makes Thor a Super Hero that fans love, director Waititi says, “Let’s get straight to the point…he’s good looking. And he’s got a fantastic body. But that’s not all. Thor stands for all that is good. He has very strong moral conviction. He knows the right thing to do. But in this film, you’re also going to see Thor in a way that no one’s ever seen him before. He’s brash. He’s adventurous. He’s all the things we’ve come to love. But then we’ve also added more. We’ve expanded him.”

Summing up what he wants audiences to experience, Taika Waititi says, “I want this film to be a fantastic cosmic adventure that is a fun ride but also has high stakes and emotional truth. When films have an emotional authenticity that is when an audience invests emotionally. An audience wants to be part of the journey, and they want to see it through.

“That’s what I want to bring to this film. I want to really engage the audience and give them a thrill ride, which is both dramatic and emotional but also funny and exciting. And by the end of the film you feel like you’ve have been to different worlds and had many crazy experiences. And you will have really gone through the fire with Thor,” the director concludes.

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The Screenwriters

Eric Pearson began his professional career at Marvel Studios in their writers program. Along with several screenplays, he wrote a majority of the short films from the Marvel “One Shot” series, including “Agent Carter,” which went on to become a TV series of the same name on ABC.  Pearson wrote on both seasons of the ABC series

 Continuing his relationship with Marvel Studios, Pearson contributed pre-production and/or post-production writing on “Ant-Man,” “Spiderman: Homecoming,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and the Untitled Avengers 4.

At the moment, Pearson is writing an original script for Imagine Entertainment & Universal Pictures and another project for Legendary Entertainment. He has also twice been on Hollywood’s Black List:  once for his script “Perfect Match” (co-written with Morgan Schechter) and again for his script “Out of State.”

 Pearson graduated from New York University where he studied screenwriting at the Dramatic Writing Department in their Tisch School of the Arts.

Craig Kyle began his entertainment industry career at DreamWorks Animation, working under Harve Bennett of “Star Trek” fame on Steven Spielberg’s primetime series “Invasion America.” In 2001 Kyle was recruited by Marvel Studios to take on the role of creative lead for the company’s animation division. Shortly after joining the company, Kyle, a lifelong comic book fan, was asked to write for the publishing division on the X-Men line. In 2003 Kyle created “X-23,” an adolescent female clone of Marvel’s popular character Wolverine. X-23 was introduced into the comic book mainstream, quickly gaining recognition as the best new character from Marvel in the last 20 years. In March of this year, X-23, aka Laura Kinney, made her live-action feature film debut in “Logan.”

Kyle has developed, produced and written numerous animated series for Marvel Studios and was executive producer on the eight Marvel/Lionsgate Direct-to-DVD films, including “Ultimate Avengers: I &
II,” “The Invincible Iron Man,” “Hulk Vs.,” “Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow,” “Doctor Strange,” “Planet Hulk” and “Thor: Tales of Asgard.” During his time as vice president of animation, Kyle continued to work in comics, co-writing a series of top-selling comics, including “New X-Men,” “X-23: Innocence Lost,” “X-23: Target X” and “X-Force” with his longtime friend and frequent collaborator, Christopher Yost. Nine years ago, Kyle was promoted to senior vice president of production and development of Marvel Studios’ live-action division, where he produced “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World.”

Kyle has also written “Blue Thunder,” a remake of the 1983 Roy Scheider classic for Sony, and entered into the world of videogames. His most recent projects include Activision’s “Call of Duty” franchise and Bungie Studios’ “Destiny.”

Kyle is currently working with James Mangold on the untitled sequel to “Logan,” while adapting and developing the wildly popular Japanese Manga Ga-Rei for live-action TV at his new production company, Yūgen Entertainment.

Christopher L. Yost began working for Marvel in comic books and animation, where he wrote for “Spider-Man,” X-Men,” “Fantastic Four” and “The Avengers” before joining Marvel’s feature writers program in 2009. While in the program, Yost developed several properties for the studio and also worked on the original “Thor” for director Kenneth Branagh before finally co-writing the screenplay for “Thor: The Dark World.”

He most recently wrote the live action television adaptation of the legendary Japanese anime series “Cowboy Bebop” for Midnight Radio and Tomorrow Studios as well as the feature “Silver & Black,” based on the Marvel characters Black Cat and Silver Sable, for Sony Pictures’ producers Amy Pascal and Matt Tolmach and director Gina Prince-Bythewood.  Yost is currently writing a feature for Paramount Pictures and Bruckheimer Films from an original pitch, and continues to work in animation for Lucasfilm’s Star Wars universe.

The Detroit native attended the University of Michigan, then worked in advertising in Detroit, producing TV and radio commercials before moving to California where he enrolled in the Peter Stark producing program at USC. While at USC, Yost contacted Marvel Studios, landing an internship for newly hired executive Kevin Feige.

The Characters

Thor

When an ancient evil, lurking for eons, is released from its shackles, Thor finds himself in a serious situation. The Asgardian prince is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer just as Asgard needs him now more than ever. With his kingdom shattered, Thor’s only hope is to summon the warrior within, and fight his way back against impossible odds to save his people from Ragnarok.

Thor endures some changes in the story. As Hemsworth explains, “There are a few physical changes with the character in this film. The first one is he loses his hair. He’s in a gladiator world where part of their processing is to chop the hair off, which happens off screen. And he turns up with his hair hacked off. It certainly gave me a different attitude. Different costumes, different weapons, a different cast of characters to work off give you a different energy. And so as simple as having a different haircut can affect the way you move.

“Then he also loses his hammer. It’s destroyed by Hela, the villain in this film. That forces him to question everything in existence and his own strength and his own history and past, and sends him again on a different journey. It was about stripping him back physically, but also emotionally, in order to rebuild him in some way or have him have to rediscover something.  So that is a great way to break him down,” the actor concludes.

Loki

Disguised as his father, Odin, Loki has taken over Asgard as its king. However, when Hela makes her terrifying grand entrance, Loki must use his silver tongue and skill with a blade to battle for his own survival.

Tom Hiddleston admits that he was excited to jump back into the character of Loki. “Every time I play Loki, the challenge is to find new ways of playing him,” Hiddleston says. “It is a source of constant surprise to me that I’m still here. I never expected that when I started playing him. I feel a huge responsibility to deliver the character people know, even though it’s been four years since I last played him, and also to try to take him in new directions.”

Hiddleston describes Loki as a “mercurial character” and goes on to say, “I’ve spent six or seven years of my life trying to get to the bottom of what exactly it is that he wants. When he seems to get close to what he wants—power, acceptance, belonging—he changes direction. I think that is the thing that keeps him interesting in a way. He’s cunning and transformative and changeable, and will do everything he can to survive. He’s the trickster. He’s the God of Mischief.”

Offering some insight on the relationship between Loki and Thor in “Thor: Ragnarok,” Hiddleston says, “For Thor and Loki the stakes are so high in this story. All of the things that have anchored them to their own reality are gone. They are completely out of their depth, out of their element. I like the idea that Thor and Loki, the protagonist and the antagonist, these eternally warring brothers, are thrown into hot water together and have to somehow overcome their differences, or at least acknowledge their differences, to try to save Asgard.”

Bruce Banner / Hulk

Last seen rocketing into outer space aboard the auto-piloted Quinjet after the Battle of Sokovia, the Incredible Hulk has been missing without a trace. His whereabouts are finally uncovered when Thor stumbles upon his powerful ally in the unlikeliest of locales—a cosmic gladiatorial arena on the other side of the galaxy. Reveling in the people of Sakaar accepting him as their champion of the arena, Hulk is reluctant to relinquish control to Bruce Banner, who will undoubtedly return him to his former existence on Earth. With a cosmic threat looming, the Incredible Hulk and Bruce Banner will clash over who is needed most in the fight for the fate of the universe.

When Mark Ruffalo returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to reprise the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk, he found some interesting changes with his dual characters. “In this story Banner’s been basically inside the Hulk for two years when we find him,” Ruffalo explains. “During this time all of the traumatic things in his life that have been making him afraid, making him doubtful, making him unable to enjoy his life, have been erased. His neurotransmitters and neuropathways have been completely rewired. So when he comes awake he’s like an eight-year-old or 12-year-old boy. He has the same exuberance and curiosity and wonder. He finally also realizes that he’s free of the Hulk.”

Describing Hulk’s changes, Ruffalo adds, “Hulk can be sad or happy. He’s speaking. He’s not only alive because of rage, so we can start to have more geography in the character’s emotional life, his intelligence, what he does, what he eats, if he sleeps—all the questions I’ve been dying to ask for years since playing this part. It’s a different Banner and a different Hulk. So I get to play two totally different characters in this movie, which is really fun.”

Ruffalo calls the relationship between Banner and Hulk “contentious as hell.” “They’re inextricably bound to each other. There’s no one without the other, and yet they’re in absolute opposition to each other. It’s funny, but we keep hearing Banner repeating a slightly different version of the same line that Hulk has in his personality.

Continuing, Ruffalo says, “Although they seem to be completely on the opposites, they still meet somewhere. There is that thin edge of the coin where they meet. And that’s the key to the future of Hulk and Banner’s relationship.”

Offering some insight to where we find Hulk at the beginning of the film, Ruffalo says, “Hulk has become the champion of this planet Sakaar as a gladiator. He doesn’t turn into Banner anymore because he’s always fighting and raging. Thor ends up on Sakaar when he is captured and has to fight in the gladiator stadium against the champion, but when the champion comes out he realizes he’s fighting Hulk. Thor thinks he has a friend in Hulk, but it’s much more complicated than he thinks.”

Hela

A creature from a sinister and long-forgotten era of the universe, Hela’s power is unlike anything else in the Nine Realms.  Armed with the ability to unleash unlimited weapons in astounding and deadly ways, Hela is now back to seek vengeance on those who cast her out. With a mysterious and savage army at her side, Hela intends to usher in a new era of cold brutality for Asgard and the universe at large.

Academy Award®–winning Blanchett entered new territory when she signed on to play Hela. “I got a call from my agent who said that Kevin Feige wanted to send me a package,” recalls Blanchett about being approached to do the film. “I was trying to play cool but I was so excited because you don’t get offered these things very often. Then after doing a little bit of research, I realized that there hadn’t yet been a female villainess in one of the Marvel movies before. I felt the role could be really exciting.”

She adds, “I felt like it was going to be a really interesting collaboration. I’m very visual in the way I respond to material. What I love about all the characters in the Marvel Universe, if you look at them over time each decade or each year, and depending on who has drawn them, they change. Hela has changed over time and her origin story has been changed too. I found it really fascinating.”

With regard to playing such a fantastical character, Blanchett says, “It’s a different challenge because you still want to believe the character is real. And particularly with a character like Hela, who comes out of nowhere. It’s not like she’s appeared quietly in a couple of other films. Some people have knowledge of her. Some people won’t actually know her at all. So you have to strike a balance between those fans who do know her and those who do not.”

Continuing, she says, “You can be mysterious for them but also give enough information of back story so that you understand why the character does what she or he does because I think the best villains are always those that you kind of love but hate what they do. You sort of understand it. There’s a logic to it. They’re just not completely nuts. There’s an incredible, fantastic element to Hela but you still want there to be an outline of a person in there that people can grasp onto.”

 

 

REAL WEB

From Fact to Fictional Reality

The Art Of Screenwriting And Filmmaking  / The Art Of AdaptationThe Art Of Comic Book Adaptations

Adapting real-life stories to film and television has become a firm favourite with audiences and viewers worldwide, drawing us into a spectacular fictional reality where we transcend reality and explore alternate.

A UNITED KINGDOM The idea first came into being in 2010, when actor David Oyelowo was working on the film 96 Minutes. Its producers, Justin Moore-Lewy and Charlie Mason, had bought the rights to Susan Williams’ s book Colour Bar, which detailed the remarkable story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.Oyelowo continued to bring former collaborators on board including producer Brunson Green, with whom he had done The Help, and screenwriter Guy Hibbert with whom he had collaborated on two films:  Blood and Oil, and Complicit.

ALLIED The true story of two undercover WWII spies who fell madly in love only to be set mortally against each other when their true identities were exposed. Screenplay by Steven Knight – an Oscar® nominee for Stephen Frears’ London thriller Dirty Pretty Things and honored for the screenplays for David Cronenberg’s Russian Mafia tale Eastern Promises as well as writing and directing the daring one-man drama Locke

ALONE IN BERLIN , a powerfully moving, true-life drama-thriller set in Second World War Berlin, is directed by acclaimed actor turned filmmaker Vincent Perez (La Reine Margot),  who adapted revered German novelist Hans Fallada’s international bestseller Every Man Dies Alone / Alone In Berlin for the big screen with Achim von Borries (Good Bye Lenin!),

AMERICAN MADE Gary Spinelli (Stash House) wrote a screenplay about the international escapade based on the outrageous (and real) exploits of a hustler and pilot unexpectedly recruited by the CIA to run one of the biggest covert operations in U.S. history.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES Husband-and-wife directorial team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who gave us Little Miss Sunshine, explore a moment when social change was embodied by two complex people in Battle Of The Sexes, the spectacular single tennis match between rising 29 year-old women’s star Billie Jean King and former men’s champ Bobby Riggs.

THE BIG SHORT When four outsiders see what the big banks, media and government regulators refuse to — the impending collapse of the global economy — they have an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of the modern banking industry where they must question everyone and everything.Based on the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game), the screenplay was written by Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs, The Interpreter) and director Adam McKay .

THE BIRTH OF A NATION Writer, director and actor Nate Parker takes on a distinctly vast ambition for a first-time filmmaker, presenting a more take-charge slave narrative than we are used to seeing with The Birth Of A Nation, boldly reclaiming the title of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film.

BRIDGE OF SPIES Producer Marc Platt, whose credits include “Into the Woods,” “Drive” and the upcoming “The Girl on the Train,” was familiar with Donovan’s story and was also aware of director Steven Spielberg’s interest in the Cold War—and history in general—and felt it was ideally suited for the director’s sensibilities. “As a filmmaker, Steven has studied some great iconic characters and can re-create history in an extraordinarily cinematic way. He’s the perfect filmmaker to tell a story like this.”

CHURCHILL Book and historical adaptations are hugely popular on the Big and Small screens and when the producers looked for a screenwriter for Churchill, London‐based  screenwriter  and  historian Alex von Tunzelmann was the ideal candidate to tackle the subject matter.

CONCUSSION A dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made an important medical discovery.  Dr. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world.Written and directed by Peter Landesman, Cocussion is based on the GQ article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

THE DANISH GIRL is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, based on the book by David Ebershoff with a screenplay by Lucinda Coxon and directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables).

DEEPWATER HORIZON On April 20th, 2010, one of the world’s largest man-made disasters occurred on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Now filmmaker Peter Berg brings that story to the big screen with Deepwater Horizon, a gripping glimpse into the unseen world behind the global disaster that took the lives of 11 workers,  sharing an untold story of men & women, real life heroes, who faced extraordinary consequences with extreme bravery. The screenplay was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, based upon an article by David Barstow, David Rohde, and Stephanie Saul published in The New York Times.

DENIAL A powerful story about one woman’s relentless efforts to establish justice and remind the world about the tragedies of the Holocaust, Denial is a gripping, inspirational real-life account based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for the big screen by esteemed playwright David Hare.

DETROIT Controversial subject matter fuels great stories, and with Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow adeptly balances an expertly crafted cinema verité filmic and up-close-and-personal approach with screenwriter/producer Mark Boal’s tension-packed “you are there” narrative.

DUNKIRK Visionary storyteller and storymaker Christopher Nolan has taken audiences from the streets of Gotham City, to the infinite world of dreams, to the farthest reaches of space. Now, for the first time, the innovative director/writer/producer has turned his camera to a real-life event, one that has resonated with him throughout his life: the miracle of Dunkirk.

EDDIE THE EAGLE The feel-good Eddie The Eagle takes us into the life of Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton), an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself, and with the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach Hugh Jackman), took on the establishment and won the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. It was directed by Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill), from a screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton.

ELVIS & NIXON Based on an actual encounter that took place on December 21, 1970, Elvis & Nixon hilariously re-imagines the unlikely meeting between rocker and politician as dramatized by two of America’s finest actors, starring Academy Award-nominee Michael Shannon as Presley and two-time Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey as Nixon. The film is directed by Liza Johnson (Return, Hateship Loveship) and written by Joey Sagal & Hanala Sagal (Traumedy Central) and Cary Elwes (“Family Guy,” The Princess Bride).

THE EXCEPTION A spy thriller and love story that mines a forgotten pocket of 20th century history. Based on the compelling novel “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” by Alan Judd. Screenplay adaptation by Simon Burke (Persuasion)

THE FINEST HOURS is an exquisitely well-crafted film about love and heroism, based on the remarkable true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, filled with nostalgia and adventure that immerses you emotionally and physically. Transporting you to the heart of the action and creating a fully immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale, the film is directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl and the highly acclaimed Showtime series The United States of Tara), and written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, based on the acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS is a charming portrait of a woman ensnared by the shattering reality of her all-consuming fantasy of being the greatest singer in the world. It was the glorious chasm between Florence Foster Jenkins’ self-belief and her startling failings as a singer that immediately hooked writer Nicholas Martin.

THE FOUNDER An origin story of how the billion-dollar empire McDonald’s was born. Original screenplay by Robert Siegel (The Wrestler).

FREE STATE OF JONES Based on Oscar-nominated writer/director Gary Ross’ original screenplay, the epic action-drama Free State of Jones tells the extraordinary story of a little known episode in American history during which Newt Knight, a fearless Mississippi farmer, led an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves in an historic armed rebellion against the Confederacy during the height of the Civil War.

GENIUS is a stirring drama about the complex friendship and transformative professional relationship between the world-renowned book editor Maxwell Perkins (who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway) and the larger-than-life literary giant Thomas Wolfe.John Logan, who wrote the screenplay for Genius, notes that the intensity of Perkins’ relationship with Wolfe was based on how different they were as people. “You couldn’t imagine two more polar opposites than Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe. Max was a buttoned-up, conservative Yankie book editor who literally and figuratively wore a tie. Thomas Wolfe was a mad, North Carolinian animal. You only need to read five pages of ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ or ‘Of Time and the River’ to see the passion in the words he chose and the way he told his stories. The novels reach out and slap you with so much emotion and passion.”

THE GLASS CASTLE Celebrity gossip columnist Jeannette Walls unveiled deeply guarded secrets she’d long kept of her childhood in her wildly Gothic coming-of-age bestseller. It was adapted into a film by Hawaiin-born writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton and screenwriter Andrew Lanham.

GOLD Inspired by actual events, it tells the epic tale of one man’s American dream and everything he’ll do to keep it from falling apart.The screenplay for Gold was written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Friday Night Lights), who also serve as producers, and directed by Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic)

GRANDMA The new independent film Grandma tells a rare story:  a lesbian of advanced years (Lily Tomlin), in mourning for her soul mate and on skittish footing with the much younger woman she’s been seeing (Judy Greer), is suddenly thrust into an adventure involving her teenage granddaughter (Julia Garner) and an unwanted pregnancy. The female-centric subject and cast are courtesy of writer-director Paul Weitz, the man who got his big break writing the film Antz, and gave us About a Boy, In Good Company, American Dreamz, and Admission.

HACKSAW RIDGE Desmond Doss was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, where he saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong. The screenplay was crafted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (Kentucky Cycle, All the Way) and Australian writer Andrew Knight (The Water Diviner)

HANDS OF STONE Robert de Niro steps back into the boxing ring again, this time as celebrated trainer Ray Arcel in Hands of Stone, the true story of how the legendary Roberto Duran, who is considered a national treasure in Panama,  and Arcel, his celebrated trainer, changed each other’s lives.De Niro came on board early in the process and worked closely with writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz on the screenplay.  They first met because De Niro liked Secuestro Express, Jakubowicz’s first film. He also liked the screenplay for Hands of Stone but he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it because “he couldn’t hear Ray Arcel’s voice.

HE NAMED ME MALALA Acclaimed, Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim brings us a profoundly moving and intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.  The then 15-year-old (she turned 18 this past July) was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund.

HIDDEN FIGURES The film uncovers the incredible, untold yet true story of a brilliant group of Wonder Women who changed the foundations of the country for the better — by aiming for the stars.Screenwriter Allison Schroeder, who not only studied high-level math but interned at NASA, following in the wake of her grandmother, a programmer at NASA from the early days through the shuttle program, and grandfather, who took part in the Mercury project.

THE IDOL The incredible true story of Mohammed Assaf defies belief. The 22-year-old Palestinian refugee from Gaza won the hearts of an entire region when he won Arab Idol (the Arab world’s own version of American Idol) in 2013 is now an inspiring film The Idol, directed by Hany Abu-Assad

THE INFILTRATOR is the thrilling true-life story of Special Agent Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur, responsible for bringing down the drug cartels and their bankers alike, in one of history’s most audacious stings.This incredible story is now explored on the big screen in The Infiltrator by acclaimed American filmmaker Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), who directs from a screenplay written by his mother Ellen Brown Furman, based on Bob Mazur’s autobiography of the same name.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA It is one of the greatest seafaring tales of all time: the Nantucket whaling ship Essex was attacked by a leviathan—a white whale of singular size and intent—leaving only a few of its crew to overcome near-impossible odds and live to recount their experience. But in the almost 200 years since that harrowing voyage, the truth faded into history, eclipsed by the celebrated novel it inspired, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The extraordinary journey of the Essex and her crew was chronicled by Nathaniel Philbrick in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Screenplay by Charles Leavitt, who also shares story credit with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

JACKIE Jackie Kennedy led a multi-faceted life of power and influence, but when it came to writing about her, screenwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim came to feel there was one story that spoke to her psyche in the most compelling way – the very brief but remarkably consequential days that the First Lady spent nearly alone in the White House following her husband’s death.

JOY David O. Russell’s 8th feature film, JOY, probes four decades in the upward-moving life of a single-mom-turned-business-magnate to explore how daring, resilience and the persistence of vision carry people from the ordinary into extraordinary moments of creation, striving and love.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne. Ritchie is an accomplished storyteller who has been entertaining audiences with his dynamic cinematic style for nearly two decades.He directed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from a screenplay by Joby Harold and Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, story by David Dobkin and Joby Harold.

THE LADY IN THE VAN It has taken another 15 years for Bennett to feel ready to revisit the material as a feature film. In 2006, he and Hytner had transformed their hit play The History Boys into a two-time BAFTA nominated feature, as they had with The Madness Of King George, which  garnered 14 BAFTA nominations, including a win for the Alexander Korda Award for  Best British Film, and four Academy Award nominations and one win.  So happy had been the collaboration on The History Boys that Bennett and Hytner were keen to work again with the film’s established British producers, Kevin Loader of Free Range Films and Damian Jones of DJ Films.

LEGEND Writer-director Brian Helgeland’s Legendtells the story of Britain’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray, as they have the time of their lives, ruling over London in the middle of the Swinging Sixties.

LION The incredible true story of Indian-born Australian Saroo Brierley and his unwavering determination to find his lost family and finally return to his first home is now realised in all its splendour on the big screen in Lion, from a screenplay by Luke Davies

THE MAN WITH THE IRON HEART, based on the novel HHhH, written by Laurent Binet, which won the Goncourt prize for a first novel in 2012 and was met with unanimous enthusiasm in the 25 countries in which it was translated, was directed by French director, writer and producer Cédric Jimenez (The Connection) and adapted by Jimenez’ partner Audrey Diwan and playwright/ screenwriter David Farr.

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY The journey of self-taught mathematical prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan and the journey of bringing his story to life on the page and screen both began with a letter. Some five or six years after the publication of The Man Who Knew Infinity, writer/director Matthew Brown and executive producer Tristine Skyler were visiting Brown’s aunt in Big Sur when Skylar noticed the book in Brown’s aunt’s library.

MAUDIE Based on a true story, the outstanding independent film charts the unlikely romance between Maud Lewis, a folk artist who blossoms in later life, and the curmudgeonly recluse, Everett. Original screenplay by Sherry White.

THE MEDDLER came to life on the set of writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s first feature film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Although Scafaria was thrilled to be helming her first film, she admits she was still in something of a daze after the death of her larger-than-life father, Joe, the year before. In the middle of her grief and this important time in her career, Scafaria’s mother, Gail, decided to relocate to Los Angeles to be near her only daughter.

MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES The comedy Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates takes the intriguing idea of two brothers finding dates for a wedding and runs with it, adding unexpected layers of heart and two outrageous new lead characters. Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien have established themselves as two of the hottest names in comedy after writing Nicholas Stoller‘s “Neighbors” and “Neighbors 2” Andrew Jay Cohen (Screenwriter, Executive Producer) recently made his feature film directorial debut with The House starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, which he also co-wrote and produced.

MILES AHEAD, inspired by events in his life, is a wildly entertaining, impressionistic, no-holds barred portrait of one of 20th century music’s creative geniuses, Miles Davis, featuring a career defining performance by Don Cheadle in the title role, who co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Baigelman, and makes his bravura directorial debut.

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle, ” said Albert Einstein and in the uplifting Miracles from Heaven we experience  the rousing portrait of a family suddenly discovering joy and promise in the most tumultuous moment of their lives.Based on Texas mom Christy Beam’s inspirational memoir, this astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident is directed by Patricia Riggen (who recently directed the superb The 33), from a screenplay by Randy Brown (Trouble with the Curve).

MISS YOU ALREADY From director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen) comes Miss You Already, an honest and powerful story following two best friends through the highs and lows of life. The idea has been with writer Morwenna Banks for many years. “It is a work of fiction, but it happened that breast cancer touched my life and the lives of several people around me, within a short frame of time,” she recalls.

MY FATHER’S WAR Writer-director Craig Gardner’s My Father’s War will help facilitate healing for a generation of men, women and children (now adults) who were deeply affected by the South Africa’s Border War  – on and off the battlefield.

NOEM MY SKOLLIE The riveting Noem My Skollie delivers on the themes of friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, acceptance, the desire for a better life, hope and love, and is set on the Cape Flats and in Pollsmoor prison, based on the life of John W. Fredericks, who also wrote the screenplay at the age of 60.

THE ODYSSEY French director Jerôme Salle thrives on a sense of adventure, never more so than when making The Odyssey, his epic take on the life of naval officer Jacques Cousteau whose underwater exploits made him a celebrated name all over the world..Written by Jérôme Salle and Laurent Turner, The Odyssey is based on Capitaine de la Calypso by Albert Falco and Yves Paccalet, and My Father, The Captain by Jean-Michel Cousteau.

PELÉ In partnership with Legends 10, Imagine Entertainment recruited the young writer/director team, Jeffrey and Michael Zimbalist to scribe the screenplay and helm the film project.  Their successful background in documentary films where they previously had explored soccer as well as Brazil and Brazilian culture, would ensure the film would have a unique perspective and truthful tone.

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN Writer/director Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & The Wonder Women is the incredible true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist and inventor Dr. William Moulton Marston to create the iconic feminist superhero Wonder Woman.

QUEEN OF KATWE  A young girl’s incredible journey from the streets of Uganda to a world-class chess player embodies the strength of the human spirit in the inspiring Queen of Katwe. It was an article by Tim Crothers in ESPN Magazine where John Carls (Rango, Where the Wild Things Are) first learned about the work of Sports Outreach, a faith-based organization that uses sports to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in the poorest areas of the world. Based on a remarkable true story, Queen of Katwe is directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler.

RACE Based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. Race is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend. Written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse and directed by Stephen Hopkins.

REBEL IN THE RYE The world of legendary writer J. D. Salinger is brought vividly to life in this revealing look at the experiences that shaped one of the most renowned, controversial, and enigmatic authors of our time.

THE REVENANT Inspired by true events, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s masterful The Revenant is an epic story of survival and transformation on the American frontier, with Leonardo DiCaprio as legendary explorer Hugh Glass who  undertakes a 200-mile odyssey through the vast and untamed West on the trail of the man who betrayed him: What begins as a relentless quest for revenge becomes a heroic saga against all. Based on Michael Punke’s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, screenplay by Mark L. Smith

RULES DON’T APPLY It was written, directed, and produced by Warren Beatty, who also stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS The true account of the legal process of capital punishment, and the inhumane treatment of prisoners on death row, which took place during the apartheid era in South Africa.The project had its inception in 2012 when producer, Anant Singh, sent his long-time collaborator, screenwriter/producer Brian Cox, a copy of Chris Marnewick’s award-winning novel to see if he would be interested in writing the screenplay. Cox responded to the material right away and very quickly wrote the initial adaptation.

SPOTLIGHT tells the astonishing true story of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Spotlight” team of investigative journalists, who in 2002 shock the city and the world by exposing the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of widespread pedophilia perpetrated by more than 70 local priests. Written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, and directed by McCarthy, it’s a deeply moving film that sheds light on a world where petrified kids are not ‘’prayed’’ on by priests, but ‘’preyed’’ on by those they respect as mediators of God.

STEVE JOBS In the provocative and stimulating Steve Jobs, Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin takes us backstage to paint a painfully human portrait of the late Apple icon.In the past five years alone Sorkin has won an Oscar for writing David Fincher’s The Social Network, earned a second nomination (alongside Steven Zaillian and Stan Chervin) for Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, and churned out three seasons of the social-media-fueled The Newsroom.

STRONGER The inspiring true story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become the symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Screenplay by Boston local John Pollono (Small Engine Repair, Lost Girls) based on the best-selling book of the same name by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter.

SUFFRAGETTE is an intriguing and captivating women’s film that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. Screenplay by Abi Morgan’

SULLY ‘On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.  However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. Now Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood brings the story to the big screen,  from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, with Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

THE 33 “Family is all we have,” is what keeps the flame of hope burning in the tense and taut untold true story of The 33, directed by Patricia Riggen from a screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Oscar nominee Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club) and Michael Thomas, based on the screen story by Oscar nominee José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) and the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar.

THEIR FINEST Though long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009, Lissa Evans’ novel Their Finest Hour and a Half went under the radar somewhat, it inspired powerhouse producers Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley to bring it to the Big Screen seven years later.

TRUMBO recounts how Dalton (Bryan Cranston) used words and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist, which entangled everyone from gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) to John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.The film is directed by Jay Roach, the winner of four Emmys, a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, who is best known for directing such comedy classics as the Austin Powers trilogy, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and The Campaign. The screenplay was written by John Mcnamara (Writer, Producer) is a writer, producer, showrunner and television creator.

TRUTH is a classic newsroom drama, a suspenseful behind-the-scenes procedural, a multi-character study—and also something more: In the words of former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, “This film is about what has happened to the reporting of news, how and why it’s happened, and why you should care.” For Writer-Director James Vanderbilt, a fascination with journalism initially drew him to the project.

VICEROY’S HOUSE As a writer-director, Gurinder Chadha has repeatedly translated her personal experience as a Punjabi-British woman into uplifting, crowd-pleasing movies, from her ground-breaking 1993 debut Bhaji On The Beach to her box-office smash Bend It Like Beckham, and now brings us the epic historical drama Viceroy’s Housethe astonishing true story of the final months of British rule in India.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL: The extraordinary true story of the amazing and unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria  and a young clerk, Abdul Karim, who becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor, and her devoted friend.The screenplay is by Academy Award nominee Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.

THE WALK Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), is aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, who overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the master director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story. The Screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit.

WAR DOGS From director Todd Phillips (The Hangover” trilogy) comes War Dogs, a comedic drama based on true events, following two friends in their early 20s living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows smaller businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. The screenplay is by Stephen Chin and Todd Phillips & Jason Smilovic, based on the Rolling Stone article titled “Arms and the Dudes,” by Guy Lawson.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT  Based on the true adventures of war-reporter-in-the-making Kim Barker — and her acclaimed autobiography The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan – comes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a hilarious and heartfelt portrait of a woman getting her life together in a global hot spot where everything else seems to be falling apart.“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (military code for the letters WTF), is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, from a screenplay by Robert Carlock based on Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle.

WOODLAWN In Woodlawn, the faith of a chaplain and a star football player sparks a spiritual awakening and eases the racial tensions plaguing a high school team in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973. When Hollywood director Jon Erwin and his brother Andy decided to make a film featuring the true story of the Woodlawn High School football team giving their lives to Christ during desegregation in the 1970s, they never could have imagined the kind of impact it would have on the world.

THE YOUNG MESSIAH Inspired by Scripture and rooted in history, The Young Messiah is an inspirational story about the childhood of the Saviour and imagines a year in the boyhood of Jesus.Remaining true to the character of Jesus revealed in the Bible, it is directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, who has worked in the motion picture and television business for over 25 years as a writer, producer, and director and gave us the equally inspirational The Stoning of Soraya M, and the screenplay was crafted by Nowrasteh’s wife Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh (who co-wrote The Stoning of Soraya M), adapted from Anne Rice’s fictional account of the childhood of a young Jesus Christ, entitled Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE Niki Caro (Whale RiderNorth Country) directs The Zookeeper’s Wife from a screenplay by Angela Workman, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name which was based on Antonina’s diaries.

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Comic Book Adaptations

The Art Of Screenwriting and Filmmaking /   The Art Of Adaptation

ATOMIC BLONDE When screenwriter Kurt Johnstad was approached to pen the script for Atomic Blonde as an adaptation of the initial graphic novel in the series, his interest stemmed from his personal connections to Berlin. It was also a personal mission for Antony Johnston, who embarked on the graphic novel series The Coldest City in 2008, on a creative impulse to explore his long-held interest in Cold War espionage.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR From Marvel Studios comes the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, the third film in the Captain America franchise and the first film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the beloved Marvel comic book series, first published in 1941, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is directed by Emmy Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

DEADPOOL Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, the explosive and mind-blowing Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds had long championed a film version of the iconic comics character.  His deep involvement in the film’s development continued throughout production, in brainstorming sessions with director Tim Miller and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).

MAX STEEL is the highly anticipated live action origin story of Max Steel, based on the popular Mattel franchise property of the same name, was written by Marvel vet Christopher L. Yost (Thor: the Dark World, Thor 3) and was directed by award-winning director Stewart Hendler (Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, H+).This live action feature-length origin story combines identifiable characters, familiar terrestrial settings and innovative use of technology to create a realistic re-interpretation of the traditional superhero film.

THOR RAGNAROK In 1962, the now-legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced “The Mighty Thor” to readers of Marvel Comics, unleashing a new era of action-adventure with their conception of the hammer-wielding Norse god, who debuted in the sci-fi anthology “Journey Into Mystery,” #83 in August of that year.Despite the Nordic-sounding names, the story was rooted in familiar, universal conflicts that have driven human drama since the beginning of time. To this day, 55 years later, Marvel Comics continues publishing new adventures depicting the God of Thunder, the most recent being 2016’s “The Unworthy Thor” from writer Jason Aaron and artist Olivier Coipel. The newest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Thor Ragnarok, continues the lineage of epic adventures chronicled in the franchise’s two prior big screen successes: 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” which, collectively, earned over $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office.

WONDER WOMAN Allan Heinberg, who wrote the Wonder Woman comic for DC in 2006 and 2007,  was thrilled to make his screenwriting debut in director Patty Jenkins’ (Monster, AMC’s The Killing) larger-than-life hero’s journey Wonder Woman, marking the DC Super Hero’s first-ever stand alone feature film.

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The Art Of Screenwriting And Filmmaking / The Art Of Comic Book Adaptations

The Art Of Adapting Real Life Stories

Adapting a novel, book, play or article into a screenplay is the same as writing an original screenplay.The original material is source material.

‘’To adapt’’ means to transpose from one medium to another.

Adaptation is defined as the ability to make fit or suitable by changing, or adjusting – modifying something to create a change in structure, function, and form, which produces a better adjeustment.

When you are adapting you are changing one form into another, you are writing a screenplay based on other material.

When you adapt a novel into a screenplay you are not obligated to remain true to the original material.

A DOG’S PURPOSE Based on author W. Bruce Cameron’s beloved best-selling novel, A Dog’s Purpose shares the heartwarming and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.s  It was adapted for the screen by Cameron & Cathryn Michon (Muffin Top: A Love Story) and Audrey Wells (Shall We Dance) and Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear) & Wally Wolodarsky (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days).

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING After Tom Hanks gave Dave Eggers’ National Book Award-nominated novel A Hologram for the King a rave review on his Twitter feed in 2012, only one issue remained unresolved for the two-time Oscar-winning actor. “I was already a big fan of Dave Eggers’ work, having read a bunch of his stuff including things he did with McSweeney’s literary review,” Hanks says. “Then I read A Hologram for the King in one sitting and my only question when I finished it was whether or not he wanted a movie made out of his book.” Adapting Eggers’ story for the big screen, writer-director Tom Tykwer took advantage of Hanks’ inherent likeability by building out the comedy elements embedded in Alan Clay’s grim predicament.

A MONSTER CALLS Directed by J.A. Bayona (The ImpossibleThe Orphanage), A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular and stunningly emotional drama based on the award-winning novel. The screenplay adaptation is by the book’s author, Patrick Ness, who wrote the novel from an original idea by the late Siobhan Dowd.

A PERFECT DAY In Spanish director Fernando León De Aranoa’s remarkable  A Perfect Day a group of aid workers tries to resolve a crisis in an armed conflict zone: Sophie is a newcomer, she wants to help; Mambrú has seen it all and wants to go home; Katya once wanted Mambrú; Damir wants the war to end, and B doesn’t know what he wants. The screenplay was written by De Aranoa in collaboration with Diego Farias Based on the novel “Dejarse llover” by Paula Farias.

A UNITED KINGDOM The idea for A United Kingdom first came into being in 2010, when actor David Oyelowo was working on the film 96 Minutes. Its producers, Justin Moore-Lewy and Charlie Mason, had bought the rights to Susan Williams’ s book Colour Bar, which detailed the remarkable story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.Oyelowo continued to bring former collaborators on board including producer Brunson Green, with whom he had done The Help, and screenwriter Guy Hibbert with whom he had collaborated on two films:  Blood and Oil, and Complicit.

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS 26-years after Ab Fab became a cultural phenomenon on television, the hedonistic  ‘sweetie darling’ duo invade the big screen with their Absolutely Fabulous larger than life movie.In 1990, Jennifer Saunders and her comedy partner Dawn French were writing the scripts for the third series of their hit TV show, “French and Saunders”, when they came up with a sketch about a mad, ‘modern’ mother, an ex-hippy called Adriana – as played by Saunders – and her sad, straight-laced daughter, as played by French. The screenplay for the film was crafted by Saunders, and directed by Mandie Fletcher.

THE ADDERALL DIARIES Adapted from Stephen Elliott’s true crime memoir of the same name The Adderall Diaries by writer-director, it deals with an incredible journey into the twisted mind of a once-successful novelist paralyzed by writer’s block and in the thrall of an Adderall addiction – who becomes fascinated by a high-profile murder case as a way to escape his personal struggles.

ALONE IN BERLIN , a powerfully moving, true-life drama-thriller set in Second World War Berlin, is directed by acclaimed actor turned filmmaker Vincent Perez (La Reine Margot),  who adapted revered German novelist Hans Fallada’s international bestseller Every Man Dies Alone / Alone In Berlin for the big screen with Achim von Borries (Good Bye Lenin!).

AMERICAN PASTORAL It is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that chronicles the profound changes in the last half-century of American life, by Philip Roth.Screenwriter John Romano, who holds a Ph.D. in Literature and has taught English at Columbia University, was drawn to a story that not only spans one of the most dizzying periods of transition in American life—from the postWWII positivity and conformity of the late 1940s through the uncorked turmoil and disruption of the 1970s—but also moves between huge historical events and their entwining with the most private family moments.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN An Espionage Thriller For The New Millennia. Based on the mega-bestselling book series by the late Vince Flynn. After Flynn’s passing, Producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler brought aboard a crack team of writers led by Stephen Schiff, known for his work on television’s multi-layered Soviet spy drama “The Americans,” to translate the story to the screen – Michael Finch (The November Man), Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz (The Last Samurai, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back).

ASSASSIN’S CREED This worlds-spanning tale of one man who finds himself at the center of an ancient battle between two powerful sects—only by harnessing the memories of his ancestor, is based on the blockbuster video game series from Ubisoft, the film is directed by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) from a screenplay Michael Lesslie and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Working with co-screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Hercules) and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Rent), director Bill Condon set out to expand upon the story’s timeless themes and add more depth and dimension to the familiar characters while still celebrating the animated film and its legacy.

THE BFG The talents of two of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg – unite for the first time to bring Dahl’s beloved classic The BFG to life on screen. But first, the producers needed a screenwriter to spin Dahl’s delightfully simple book into a full-length screenplay—someone with a special skill and instinct for children’s stories, and for that they turned to friend and colleague Melissa Mathison (“The Black Stallion,” “The Indian in the Cupboard”). “Melissa was the first and only writer we thought of,” says Kennedy. “Her gifts as a writer and her particular sensibility were essential to bringing Dahl’s visionary tale to life.”

THE BIG SHORT When four outsiders see what the big banks, media and government regulators refuse to — the impending collapse of the global economy — they have an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of the modern banking industry where they must question everyone and everything.Based on the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game), the screenplay was written by Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs, The Interpreter) and director Adam McKay .

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK While its development and use of technical breakthroughs may secure Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’s place in film history, it’s important to recognize that its achievements are securely driven by the drama of a human and compelling narrative. Based on the acclaimed bestselling novel by Ben Fountain, the screenplay adaptation was written by Jean-Christophe CastellI.

BRIDGE OF SPIES Producer Marc Platt, whose credits include “Into the Woods,” “Drive” and the upcoming “The Girl on the Train,” was familiar with Donovan’s story and was also aware of director Steven Spielberg’s interest in the Cold War—and history in general—and felt it was ideally suited for the director’s sensibilities. “As a filmmaker, Steven has studied some great iconic characters and can re-create history in an extraordinarily cinematic way. He’s the perfect filmmaker to tell a story like this.” The screenplay was crafted by  Matt Charman, Ethan and Joel Coen.BLOOD FATHER A man must use his connections from his past life and his skills as an ex-criminal to keep him and his daughter alive.Based on the book of the same title by Peter Craig, who adapted it into the script.

BROOKLYN The purity of love and the beguiling innocence of young lovers blossom in John Crowley’s profoundly moving  Brooklyn, a film that makes one believe in love again.Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s New York Times Bestseller by Nick Hornby ( An Education) and directed by John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A)

CAROL Love is larger than life in Todd Haynes’ masterful poetic ode to passion, a sumptuous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt  by Phyllis Nagy , following two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York.

THE CHOICE  With his latest film, The Choice, internationally best-selling author and literary superstar Nicholas Sparks returns to his beloved North Carolina roots for an inspiring love story about the unexpected choices, large and small, that come to define a lifetime. The screenplay was written by Bryan Sipe.

CONCUSSION A dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made an important medical discovery.  Dr. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world.Written and directed by Peter Landesman, Cocussion is based on the GQ article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

THE DANISH GIRL is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, based on the book by David Ebershoff with a screenplay by Lucinda Coxon and directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables).

THE DARK TOWER 40 years ago the journey of the eight-novel epic began when Stephen King wrote the words: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”When it came to the screenplay adaptation, because King’s approach is, in his words, so “instinctive” (“I’m not somebody who plans things out in advance,” he says), the filmmakers faced an unusual challenge in bringing The Dark Tower to the screen.Not only did King himself bless the screenplay adaptation, which is by Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel; the author was intimately involved in every step of the creative process of the film and an invaluable creative partner throughout the entire process.

THE DRESSMAKER  If there is one film that is divinely unique in every possible way, it’s this quirky Australian charmer,  a film that transform you in many ways.This enchanting creation was written by husband-and-wife team Jocelyn Moorhouse and P.J. Hogan, based on the novel “The Dressmaker” by Rosalie Ham, with Moorhouse in the director’s seat

FALLEN The much anticipated feature film adaptation of Lauren Kate’s worldwide bestselling young adult novel comes to the big screen with a cast of exciting young stars and directed by award-winning Australian director Scott Hicks (Shine) from a screenplay by Michael Ross, Kathryn Price and Nicole Millard.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, whose seven beloved Harry Potter books were adapted into the top-grossing film franchise of all time.  Her script was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by her character Newt Scamander.

FENCES Theatre buffs will delight in the potent big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, driven by crackling dialogue and strong characters, allowing us to take an emotional journey into the lives of bruised souls seeking ultimate redemption.

THE FINEST HOURS is an exquisitely well-crafted film about love and heroism, based on the remarkable true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard, filled with nostalgia and adventure that immerses you emotionally and physically. Transporting you to the heart of the action and creating a fully immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale, the film is directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl and the highly acclaimed Showtime series The United States of Tara), and written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, based on the acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias.

THE 5TH WAVE Four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated.  Directed by J Blakeson, with a screenplay by Susannah Grant and Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner, the film is based on the novel by Rick Yancey.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel riveted millions, and now makes its way to the big screen. Award-winning and internationally produced screenwriter and playwright Erin Cressida Wilson (who won the Independent Spirit Award for her first screenplay Secretary in 2003), wrote the screenplay, with Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) in the director’s chair.

HARDCORE HENRY began with Russian-born filmmaker Ilya Naishuller’s  ground-breaking, irreverent video BadMotherf*cker. The video, done as part of his other job as frontman for the punkband Biting Elbows,was an operatic, uncompromising story told entirely from the point of view of the protagonist. Fiercely mesmerizing, it became a viral sensation attracting over 120million views around the world. ‘’Action cinema has always thrived when it captured the sensation of participating in dangerous situations that most people would much rather avoid in real life. The goal with Hardcore Henry was to push it a step further, to put the audience right into the body of the protagonist, to have them experience the primal, exhilarating feeling that we usually view from a much safer distance,’’says Naishuller.

HEIDI  Screenwriter Petra Volpe was involved in the project right from the start and had a big influence on the vision of the film.

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS After a lifetime of being overlooked and ignored, a woman of a certain age finds her world turned upside down by a handsome new co-worker and a self-help seminar that inspires her to take a chance on love in this witty and compassionate late-life coming-of-age-story. Based on a short film by Laura Terruso, the screenplay was written by Terruso and Michael Showalter and directed by Showalter.

HOW TO BE SINGLE is an all-out comedy that shows how they’re all out there making the most of the single lifestyle, in the most outrageous ways imaginable. Christian Ditter (Love, Rosie,The Crocodiles) directed the comedy from a screenplay by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein (The Vow, He’s Just Not That Into You) and Dana Fox (Couples Retreat, What Happens in Vegas), screen story by Kohn & Silverstein, based on the book by Liz Tucillo (TV’s “Sex & the City,” He’s Just Not That Into You).

THE HUNGER GAMES The blockbuster Hunger Games franchise has taken audiences by storm around the world, grossing more than $2.2 billion at the global box office.

I SAW THE LIGHT tells the inspirational story of Hank Williams, the iconic, influential country singer and songwriter of the 1940’s and early 50’s whose meteoric rise and fall has become part of American folklore. Writer-director Marc Abraham has created a compelling, historically accurate narrative of Hank’s career that examines his tormented creative genius and the turbulent domestic life that inspired him to write some of his best-known songs.

INDIGNATION For the last 25 years, James Schamus’ name has been synonymous with smart, groundbreaking and successful films. As co-founder of Good Machine, CEO of Focus Features, and an independent producer and screenwriter, Schamus has been creatively involved in dozens of the most critically acclaimed films of recent time. Schamus worked on the screenplay adaptation of  Philip Roth’s late novel, Indignation during his last years at Focus Features, but hadn’t seriously considered directing it. “You write a screenplay, and you have a choice,” explains Schamus, “You could direct it, or Ang Lee could direct it. That’s not much of a choice.”

INFERNO Following up on the worldwide successes of The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009) is Inferno, the third highly anticipated adaptation in Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series of novels.The film re-teams director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks, who returns in one of his signature roles playing the quick-thinking and resourceful Langdon, with a screenplay by David Koepp.

THE INFILTRATOR is the thrilling true-life story of Special Agent Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur, responsible for bringing down the drug cartels and their bankers alike, in one of history’s most audacious stings.This incredible story is now explored on the big screen in The Infiltrator by acclaimed American filmmaker Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), who directs from a screenplay written by his mother Ellen Brown Furman, based on Bob Mazur’s autobiography of the same name.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA It is one of the greatest seafaring tales of all time: the Nantucket whaling ship Essex was attacked by a leviathan—a white whale of singular size and intent—leaving only a few of its crew to overcome near-impossible odds and live to recount their experience. But in the almost 200 years since that harrowing voyage, the truth faded into history, eclipsed by the celebrated novel it inspired, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The extraordinary journey of the Essex and her crew was chronicled by Nathaniel Philbrick in his book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Screenplay by Charles Leavitt, who also shares story credit with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

JULIETA Based on stories from Alice Munro’s 2004 collection Runaway, Julieta charts the biography of one woman played by two newcomers to writer-director Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema

THE JUNGLE BOOK returns to the big screen in magical, larger-than-live, live-action epic adventure. Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Chef) directed The Jungle Book from a screenplay by Justin Marks (Top Gun 2, TV’s Rewind) that was based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and was inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, with an approach all its own.

THE LADY IN THE VAN It has taken another 15 years for Bennett to feel ready to revisit the material as a feature film. In 2006, he and Hytner had transformed their hit play The History Boys into a two-time BAFTA nominated feature, as they had with The Madness Of King George, which  garnered 14 BAFTA nominations, including a win for the Alexander Korda Award for  Best British Film, and four Academy Award nominations and one win.  So happy had been the collaboration on The History Boys that Bennett and Hytner were keen to work again with the film’s established British producers, Kevin Loader of Free Range Films and Damian Jones of DJ Films.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN The legendary character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs is back in The Legend of Tarzan, directed by David Yates (the final four Harry Potter films) from a screenplay by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, story by Brewer and Cozad based on the Tarzan stories created by Burroughs.

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS The best-selling novel that swept readers away with its transporting story of fate, love, moral dilemmas and the lengths one couple will go to see their hard-fought dreams realized, comes to the screen as a lush, classically star-crossed romance starring written for the screen and directed by Derek Cianfrance.

LIVE BY NIGHT Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo), who directed, produced and stars in the dramatic crime thriller Live by Night, also wrote the screenplay, based on the award-winning bestseller by Dennis Lehane, marking the second collaboration for the Boston natives, following the acclaimed drama Gone Baby Gone – the film was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson under the Appian Way banner; and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Todd for Pearl Street Films.

MACBETH Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel’s thrilling interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a visceral and dynamic re-imagining of what wartime must have been like for one of Shakespeare’s most famous and compelling characters.  Set in war torn Scottish landscape, it’s a hard-core journey into the world of a fearless warrior and inspiring leader brought low by ambition and desire and all-consuming passion.

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY The journey of self-taught mathematical prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan and the journey of bringing his story to life on the page and screen both began with a letter. Some five or six years after the publication of The Man Who Knew Infinity, writer/director Matthew Brown and executive producer Tristine Skyler were visiting Brown’s aunt in Big Sur when Skylar noticed the book in Brown’s aunt’s library.

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle, ” said Albert Einstein and in the uplifting Miracles from Heaven we experience  the rousing portrait of a family suddenly discovering joy and promise in the most tumultuous moment of their lives.Based on Texas mom Christy Beam’s inspirational memoir, this astonishing true story of the girl rescued by an out-of-the-blue accident is directed by Patricia Riggen (who recently directed the superb The 33), from a screenplay by Randy Brown (Trouble with the Curve).

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN Rich with fantastical and immersive imagery, memorable characters, epic battles, and unique time travel manipulations—all brought to life by visionary storymaker Tim Burton, in the grand style of his films Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is based upon the debut novel by Ransom Riggs, published in 2011.Burton and the producers turned to noted screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class, Woman in Black) to adapt Riggs’s novel for the screen.   Again, it was the perfect marriage of artist and material.

MOONLIGHT is a consummate masterwork from writer-director Barry Jenkins that takes you on an emotional journey into the heart and soul of humanity and will live in your heart forever. It won 3 Oscars in 2017 for Best Film, the screenplay adaptation by Jenkins and Taryn Alvin McCraney, based on McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,  and supporting actor for Mahershala Ali.

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US With his novel The Mountain Between Us, author Charles Martin fashioned a suspenseful, affecting tale that examines how two strangers with distinctive personalities compromise and adapt to one another under extreme duress. That story—the unfolding tale of how two compelling protagonists make their way across a brutal landscape toward salvation, and ultimately, love—spoke to Oscar-nominated producer Peter Chernin (Hidden Figures) and is now brought to life on the Big Screen by director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) from a screenplay adaptation by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) and J. Mills Goodloe (The Age of Adaline).

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS As a huge admirer of Agatha Christie and long-time collaborator with producer Ridley Scott, screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner: 2049) was thrilled when he was asked to bring Murder On The Orient Express to the screen. Producer Scott, a Christie fan himself, and an admirer of Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, had leapt at the chance to re-explore the book, seeing it a wonderful opportunity to present the author’s work to a modern-day audience. Green agrees.

MY COUSIN RACHEL My Cousin Rachel was written in 1951 by Daphne du Maurier, whose outstanding work often combines suspense, passion and shockingly modern psychological portraits of men and women in intriguing and sometimes obsessive relationships.  So cinematic was her writing that Alfred Hitchcock made films from three of her novels:  JAMAICA INN, THE BIRDS and REBECCA.  Nicolas Roeg’s psychological horror masterpiece DON’T LOOK NOW is also based on a story by du Maurier. On publication My Cousin Rachel instantly became one of du Maurier’s most popular books and 20th Century Fox snapped up the film rights; released in 1952 the film garnered four Oscar® nominations and a Golden Globe Award for the young Burton as “New Star of the Year.” The 2017 film was written for the screen and directed by Roger Michell.

NERVE The bigger the risk, the bigger the payoff in Nerve, an exhilarating thriller set on the streets of New York City, where amateur daredevils compete in an all-or-nothing game that mines their online information to exploit their wildest dreams—and their deepest fears. It is directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3) from a screenplay by Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story, Turn the Beat Around). Based on the popular young-adult novel by Jeanne Ryan, Nerve is both an edge-of-your-seat thriller and a razor-sharp examination of the seductive power of social media.

THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX When best-selling author Liz Jensen completed her fifth novel, The 9th Life of Louis Drax, she was certain the book — a thriller centered around a boy in a coma — would never be made into a movie. Fortunately, one of her agents saw the story’s filmic potential, as did Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella (Best Director, The English Patient, 1996), who optioned it with his producing partner, Oscar winner Sydney Pollack (Best Picture, Out of Africa, 1985). Minghella died in 2008, before he had a chance to make the film. But when producer and longtime Minghella associate Timothy Bricknell joined forces with Minghella’s son, actor Max Minghella, to form production company Blank Tape, they decided to make The 9th Life of Louis Drax their first project.

OUR KIND OF TRAITOR From the writer of Drive (Hossein Amini) adapting the hit John le Carré novel  – the mind behind Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and directed by acclaimed Susanna White – the taut thriller Our Kind Of Traitor twists and turns its way around the world with dramatic consequences. “One of the strengths of John le Carré’s work is that he incorporates very important themes into a rollercoaster ride of a thriller,” says screenwriter Hossein Amini of le Carré’s  novel Our Kind Of Traitor, which he has adapted into a major new feature film of the same name.

PAN With author J.M. Barrie’s classic tale as the primary inspiration behind the story, director Joe Wright says he embraced the author’s “sense of strangeness. It’s a very odd book. It doesn’t underestimate children’s intelligence; there are no ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies,’ everyone is flawed, even Peter. I loved the duplicity of all the characters.”

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES Written and directed by Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down, Charlie St Cloud), and based on the best-selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fresh twist on Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

THE PROPHET Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet’s journey to the big screen began more than a decade ago when executive producer Steve Hanson embarked on an eight-year quest to license the rights to the Lebanese author’s timeless bestseller.The beloved book, which has been translated into 40 languages, has sold over 100 million copies and has never been out of print since it was first published in 1923.

QUEEN OF KATWE  A young girl’s incredible journey from the streets of Uganda to a world-class chess player embodies the strength of the human spirit in the inspiring Queen of Katwe. It was an article by Tim Crothers in ESPN Magazine where John Carls (Rango, Where the Wild Things Are) first learned about the work of Sports Outreach, a faith-based organization that uses sports to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in the poorest areas of the world. Based on a remarkable true story, Queen of Katwe is directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler.

RACE Based on the incredible true story of Jesse Owens, the legendary athletic superstar whose quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. Race is an enthralling film about courage, determination, tolerance, and friendship, and an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to become an Olympic legend. Written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse and directed by Stephen Hopkins.

THE REVENANT Inspired by true events, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s masterful The Revenant is an epic story of survival and transformation on the American frontier, with Leonardo DiCaprio as legendary explorer Hugh Glass who  undertakes a 200-mile odyssey through the vast and untamed West on the trail of the man who betrayed him: What begins as a relentless quest for revenge becomes a heroic saga against all. Based on Michael Punke’s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, screenplay by Mark L. Smith

THE ROAD WITHIN A coming of age road comedy in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine, first time director Gren Wells adapts an honest script based on the original German feature, Vincent Wants to Sea. The result, The Road Within, brings humor and poignancy to the story of three young adults searching for their own version of life. Robert Sheehan (Vincent), Dev Patel (Alex) and Zoë Kravitz (Marie) star alongside Kyra Sedgwick (Dr. Rose) and Robert Patrick (Robert) in the film which hits close to home for Wells.

ROOM At once a taut narrative of captivity and freedom, an imaginative trip into the wonders of childhood, and a profound portrait of a family’s bonds and fortitude, Room is a beautifully transcendent experience based on the award-winning global bestseller by Emma Donoghue, who wrote the screenplay, based on her original novel. Director Lenny Abrahamson remains faithful to the novel while bringing Jack, Ma and their entirely singular world to heart-pounding and intensely cinematic life.

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING  Long buried secrets from the past forces a recluse to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago. Julian Barnes’s beautiful and beguiling novel was brought to life on film from a screenplay adaptation by playwright Nick Payne (Constellations) .

SHOT CALLER In order to get a real-world grasp of prison and the gangs that run these institutions,  Austin-based director/writer/producer Ric Roman Waugh went undercover as a volunteer parole agent in California. ”What started out as a simple research assignment became a two-year odyssey as doors kept opening, allowing me more and more access into this violent world,” says Waugh, whose film Shot Caller takes us into the hardcore culture of prison gangsters.

SILENCE The screen adaptation of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the Academy Award winning director’s long anticipated film about faith and religion, began in the late 1980’s with his writing collaborator Jay Cocks, and filming began in January 31, 2015 in Taipei, Taiwan at the city’s CMPC film studio. it is based Shusaku Endo’s historical novel

THE SNOW QUEEN A fairy tale like “The Snow Queen” is a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters (such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, witches, giants, and talking animals) and enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events.“When I started writing the script for “The Snow Queen” I never imagined that I would direct the film,” says writer director Maxim Sveshnikov, who began his career in animation features as a writer on Alyosha Popovich & Tugarin Zmey (CTB Film Company, Melnitsa Animation Studio) and later he established himself as a successful filmmaker, writing numerous scripts for feature and animated films

SULLY ‘On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.  However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. Now Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood brings the story to the big screen,  from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, with Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

THE 33 “Family is all we have,” is what keeps the flame of hope burning in the tense and taut untold true story of The 33, directed by Patricia Riggen from a screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Oscar nominee Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club) and Michael Thomas, based on the screen story by Oscar nominee José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) and the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH The film Testament of Youth is an unforgettable and profound story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it’s a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times. Directed by James Kent, the screenplay was crafted by Juliette Towhidi.

THEIR FINEST Though long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009, Lissa Evans’ novel Their Finest Hour and a Half went under the radar somewhat, it inspired powerhouse producers Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley to bring it to the Big Screen seven years later.

TRUTH is a classic newsroom drama, a suspenseful behind-the-scenes procedural, a multi-character study—and also something more: In the words of former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, “This film is about what has happened to the reporting of news, how and why it’s happened, and why you should care.” For Writer-Director James Vanderbilt, a fascination with journalism initially drew him to the project.

THE WALK Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), is aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, who overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the master director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story. The Screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit.

WARCRAFT Since its inception, more than 100 million players have experienced the dazzling and compelling mythology that is the global phenomenon known as World of Warcraft. Now, Warcraft, an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment’s global phenomenon hits the big screen under direction of Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and written by Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and Jones.

WAR DOGS From director Todd Phillips (The Hangover” trilogy) comes War Dogs, a comedic drama based on true events, following two friends in their early 20s living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows smaller businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. The screenplay is by Stephen Chin and Todd Phillips & Jason Smilovic, based on the Rolling Stone article titled “Arms and the Dudes,” by Guy Lawson.

WAR HORSE From modest beginnings War Horse has become a part of contemporary culture, a story from a century past that speaks to that which matters to the world right now.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT  Based on the true adventures of war-reporter-in-the-making Kim Barker — and her acclaimed autobiography The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan – comes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a hilarious and heartfelt portrait of a woman getting her life together in a global hot spot where everything else seems to be falling apart.“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (military code for the letters WTF), is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, from a screenplay by Robert Carlock based on Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle.

WOLF TOTEM Jiang Rong’s best-selling novel Wolf Totem received wide acclaim since it was published in 2004. Although rights to the novel adaptation were acquired by film corporations ten years ago, the film version of Wolf Totem is finally brought to the Big Screen by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

Z FOR ZACHARIAH When the world is devastated by a catastrophic nuclear event in the rousing Independent Australian film Z for Zachariah, a solitary young woman (Margot Robbie), thrives on the farm she once shared with her family in a single idyllic valley spared from the radioactive fallout.Inspired by the posthumously published 1974 novel, “Z for Zachariah”, by award-winning author, Robert C. O’Brien, the film is written by Nissar Modi (Breaking at the Edge) and directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance).

Comic Book Adaptations

ATOMIC BLONDE When screenwriter Kurt Johnstad was approached to pen the script for Atomic Blonde as an adaptation of the initial graphic novel in the series, his interest stemmed from his personal connections to Berlin. It was also a personal mission for Antony Johnston, who embarked on the graphic novel series The Coldest City in 2008, on a creative impulse to explore his long-held interest in Cold War espionage.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR From Marvel Studios comes the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, the third film in the Captain America franchise and the first film in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on the beloved Marvel comic book series, first published in 1941, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is directed by Emmy Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

DEADPOOL Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, the explosive and mind-blowing Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds had long championed a film version of the iconic comics character.  His deep involvement in the film’s development continued throughout production, in brainstorming sessions with director Tim Miller and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).

MAX STEEL is the highly anticipated live action origin story of Max Steel, based on the popular Mattel franchise property of the same name, was written by Marvel vet Christopher L. Yost (Thor: the Dark World, Thor 3) and was directed by award-winning director Stewart Hendler (Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, H+).This live action feature-length origin story combines identifiable characters, familiar terrestrial settings and innovative use of technology to create a realistic re-interpretation of the traditional superhero film.

WONDER WOMAN Allan Heinberg, who wrote the Wonder Woman comic for DC in 2006 and 2007,  was thrilled to make his screenwriting debut in director Patty Jenkins’ (Monster, AMC’s The Killing) larger-than-life hero’s journey Wonder Woman, marking the DC Super Hero’s first-ever stand alone feature film.

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 Write JourneyTwelve steps to writing a great screenplay: The Write Journey is an interactive course for writers who would like to write for feature film or television.

 


Learn how to tell stories and make films from the world’s master filmmakers and screenwriters

If you want to learn how to be screenwriter and filmmaker, why not learn from the best.

The Writing Studio’s exclusive in depth articles on filmmaking and screenwriting show how inspiration instills passion, how ideas are born,  nurtured and realised, how the conventions of genre are challenged, themes explored to its fullest, and characters brought to life.

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A Harrowing Adventure, An Epic Romance

With his novel The Mountain Between Us, author Charles Martin fashioned a suspenseful, affecting tale that examines how two strangers with distinctive personalities compromise and adapt to one another under extreme duress. That story—the unfolding tale of how two compelling protagonists make their way across a brutal landscape toward salvation, and ultimately, love—spoke to Oscar-nominated producer Peter Chernin (Hidden Figures) and is now brought to life on the Big Screen by director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) from a screenplay adaptation by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) and J. Mills Goodloe (The Age of Adaline).

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The Mountain Between Us stars Oscar winner Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs, The Reader) and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Luther, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom).

 

What if your life depended on a stranger?

After an incoming storm forces the cancellation of her flight to New York, talented photojournalist Alex Martin finds herself stuck in Idaho the night before her wedding. Scrambling to make it home in time, she hits upon a longshot idea and charters a plane to Denver in the hopes of catching the red-eye to New York that same night. Another stranded passenger, Ben Bass, a skilled British neurosurgeon due back on the East Coast to perform a critical, life-saving operation, tunes out his own misgivings about the plan and joins her.

As Alex and Ben fly ahead of inclement weather in a small Piper two-seater, their pilot suffers a massive stroke, and the small craft crashes in the deep snows of the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah. Trapped in the remote region with little hope of rescue, the two weary travelers embark on a terrifying and transformative pilgrimage across the unforgiving reaches of the vast, rugged terrain, fighting against the elements, animals and time. Under the most extreme circumstances imaginable, they gradually learn to trust one another, and a powerful connection grows between them—one that will reshape the course of their lives.

At its core, the tale offered an endearing exploration of humanity’s optimistic, loving and giving spirit that reminds us to always have hope and live in the present.

The veteran filmmaker optioned Martin’s novel five years ago aiming to translate the unusual love story built for the big screen, making a film in the tradition of such classics as Dr. Zhivago and Out of Africa.

“I was highly attracted to the idea of doing a love story with scale,” Chernin says. “I was just highly impacted by this story of essentially two broken or incomplete people who, through this experience, change their lives and grow into who they are. These are two people in the most extreme situation imaginable. The fact that they fall in love is one of the reasons that allows them to survive this extraordinary ordeal.”

chris_weitz_a_pScreenwriter Chris Weitz was born in New York City, the son of actress Susan Kohner and Berlin-born novelist/fashion designer John Weitz (born Hans Werner Weitz). eitz began his film career as a co-writer, along with his brother Paul Weitz, of the 1998 animated film Antz. The brothers co-wrote and directed About a Boy, which earned them an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. More recently, Weitz has written several feature films, including Cinderella for Disney, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for Lucasfilm. His young adult novel trilogy, The Young World, has been published by Little Brown, beginning in 2014.

J. Mills Goodloe at arrivals for THE AGE OF ADALINE Premiere, AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, New York, NY April 19, 2015. Photo By: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection

Screenwriter J.Mills Goodloe was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.His career began at Warner Bros. working for director Richard Donner whose credits include Superman, The Omen, Scrooged and the Lethal Weapon series. Goodloe was Donner’s assistant from 1992 to 1995 on Lethal Weapon 3 and Maverick.      

He wrote and directed A Gentleman’s Game , and wrote the screenplays for Pride (with with Terrance Howard and Bernie Mac), The Best Of Me, and Age Of Adaline. Goodloe is currently writing a film set in China during World War II for Lionsgate

By almost any account, Alex Martin and Ben Bass an unlikely pair. Both are exceedingly accomplished and committed to their respective professions, but there, the similarities end.

Alex is bold, fearless and feisty, a photojournalist known for her maverick methods and dogged determination. True to form, she cuts it close traveling back to New York and ends up stuck in Idaho the day before her wedding to long-term boyfriend Mark. When her flight is cancelled due to inclement weather, she is determined to find a solution, partnering with a stranger to charter a flight that will get them both closer to their destination.

Ben Bass is a renowned children’s neurosurgeon on his way to New York to perform a vital, complicated procedure the following morning. He is precise, methodical and disciplined, both in life and career and, though reluctant to board a small plane, he sees no other option. That decision sets in motion a harrowing series of events that will set the stage for Alex and Ben to forge a deep, unique and lasting bond.

Starring as Alex and Ben are two of the most respected actors working today: Academy Award winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba (Luther).

“These are two serious, world-class actors,” Chernin says. “The idea of putting them together in this sort of intense, emotional story made it feel more special. Both of them came to this with a serious level of commitment. They were incredibly excited about playing off each other and deeply committed to making this story something of quality.”

Winslet has a nearly unparalleled resume studded with standout performances stretching back decades—she’s often said that she likes to play women she considers “ballsy,” a description that certainly applies to Alex. “She’s the kind of woman who won’t give up until she’s got her story,” Winslet says. “She’s one of those women who’s been in war zones before, worked around the clock, gone without sleep. She’s brave, extremely brave.”

In Alex, she says she saw the opportunity to portray a strong female protagonist whose mental strength and clarity become vitally important to her survival, a woman who is every bit as well drawn and alive as Ben. “When I first read the script, I was actually attracted to both Alex and Ben,” Winslet says. “I loved the idea that these two characters would sustain an entire film from start to finish. I’ve never read a script like that before. And I also really believe in what the story says—that you can change, as a person, in immeasurable ways, and it’s perfectly possible to experience something in your life and then never really be able to go back to the way your life was, or forward to what you thought your life was going to become. So much changes for these two characters through the experience that they share. I was very captivated by that.”

Likewise, Idris Elba, well known for searing turns on the BBC series Luther and in films such as Beasts of No Nation and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, was drawn to the role of Ben, a man as strong and capable as he is handsome. “The story and the extreme circumstances these two people find themselves in was very appealing to me,” he says. “It felt like something I could dramatically really get my teeth into. Also, I hadn’t done a romantic lead yet, so this is quite a departure.Mountain

“This movie examines the concept that there’s no perfect scenario to meet someone you’re going to fall in love with,” Elba adds. “In fact, sometimes the most extreme scenarios become a better place to understand if you can love someone or not because you’re facing them in a circumstance that isn’t comfortable. As an actor, you have to put yourself there as closely as you can to whatever the character is going through and Ben has gone through a lot. His personal life is in turmoil when we meet him and becomes ever more complicated on this mountain.”

To tell this gripping story of romance and survival, Chernin and producer Jenno Topping ultimately turned to acclaimed Palestinian director , the Oscar-nominated filmmaker known for his foreign-language dramas Omar and Paradise Now, both political dramas dealing with themes of occupation and oppression.

“The thing about Hany is that he leads with his heart, and he’s not afraid of all the colors and the emotional scale,” Topping says. “He wants to explore the outer limits of the emotional range that humans are capable of, whether that’s love or fear or danger or sorrow. And he communicates that so effectively. Once we realized that not only would he bring the quality that he brings to all his work, but that he also wanted to reach for a bigger, more muscular palette, we felt totally comfortable.”

“The script was about the good nature of human beings and their spirit to allow them to become better human beings, to survive, to be able to love, to be able to sacrifice.”

HanyAbu-AssadAfter having studied and worked as an airplane engineer in the Netherlands, Hany Abu-Assad began producing films. He worked on documentaries Dar O Dar for Channel 4 and Long Days in Gaza for the BBC, to name a few.

In 1992, Abu-Assad wrote and directed his first short, Paper House. Abu-Assad and Bero Beyer wrote Paradise Now in 1999 and shot the film in Nablus in 2004.  It received its World Premiere at the Berlin Film Festival 2005, where it was won the Blue Angel Award for Best European Film, the Berliner Morgenpost Readers’ Prize and the Amnesty International Award for Best Film. In 2006, it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film, and was nominated for a 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2011, Abu-Assad finished working on The Courier, and finished Omar in 2013.

In 2015 Abu-Assad completed his sixth feature film, The Idol, a drama inspired by the incredible journey of the artist Mohammad Assaf, a singer from Gaza who won the Arab Idol show in 2013.

In The Mountain Between Us, Abu-Assad saw the chance to direct an expansive, inherently cinematic story of a man and woman struggling against the elements that also functions as an intimate, moving two-hander. “The script was about the good nature of human beings and their spirit to allow them to become better human beings, to survive, to be able to love, to be able to sacrifice,” Abu-Assad says. “That felt to me like an interesting theme to dig into. This is indeed my biggest movie ever. There are a lot of differences from my small projects, but also a lot of similarities, and the principle is the same. In the end, whether it’s a small or big movie, it’s about storytelling.”

Winslet was familiar with the boundary-pushing director’s earlier films and was eager to collaborate with him. “I had seen Hany’s previous work and loved his storytelling,” she says. “It’s very, very simple and yet deals with extremely complex emotions that are often quite difficult to portray on film. They’re often bound up in conflict and tragedy and yet somehow, he is able to convey those things on film in a gentle way that is captivating and also humorous at times. It’s perfectly possible to find moments of great random humor in extreme situations or moments of great tragedy and sadness. And I really admire the way that he handles that in his filmmaking.”

The story of The Mountain Between Us is set dramatically into motion once the pilot of the plane Alex and Ben have charted suffers a stroke mid-flight, and the craft crashes—respected actor Beau Bridges appears in a brief but memorable term as the doomed man. When Ben first emerges from the wreckage, he takes in the full isolation and desperation of their predicament. Making matters worse, Alex is severely injured—she’s unconscious for nearly two days. Ben uses his medical training to tend to her wounds, and after she finally wakes, he suggests that they settle in and remain calm, that help surely will arrive shortly. It’s Alex who realizes that the pilot never filed a flight plan, meaning if they are to survive, they must take action—and quickly.

“Ben’s character is always erring much more on the side of caution than Alex,” Winslet says. “So, whereas he would have much preferred to stay put in that plane and wait in hopes of a rescue, Alex says, ‘We might just have to get ourselves out of this awful situation and either you’re with me or you’re not.’ Her courage to go out and start trying to make that journey to safety and back to civilization is the thing that actually does drive the story forward.”

To make it out of the mountains alive, Alex and Ben will have to cover miles and miles of punishing terrain. With meager supplies, they set out, accompanied by the pilot’s faithful dog. The going is slow, and along the way, the survivors become increasingly dependent on one another as they face a series of perilous situations. Her mental and his physical wherewithal are both needed to overcome the imminent danger they are in.

“They definitely clash over their strategic maneuvers throughout the story, but those are the things that bring them together,” Winslet says. “They have to work together. They have to get through those differences. And then it does take them to the point where they can’t be without one another.”

They also begin to learn intimate details about each other’s lives—though the expressive Alex is initially more forthcoming than the reserved Ben. She reveals that she’s only recently committed to marrying Mark, played by Dermot Mulroney, while introverted Ben, on the other hand, secretly and sparingly listens to classical music on his cell phone, a reminder of his loving wife who passed away from cancer years before. They selflessly begin to care for one another. No matter the threat, neither is willing to leave the other behind.

 “This film is about falling in love.”

“This film is about falling in love,” says producer David Ready. “At the outset of their relationship, it’s very much yin and yang. As they face the same jeopardy and challenges, their characters learn from one another and grow. Alex gets softer, Ben gets louder, braver, and they start to come together in order to survive.”

“This is a total romance,” adds Topping. “It’s such an incredibly beautiful part of the movie actually—when you go through something so extreme with someone, there is nobody else in the world who knows you like as intimately. If somebody loves you after that, after going through that and seeing it all, there will never be another human who you can connect in the same way.”

Much like Alex and Ben, Winslet and Elba approached their roles differently but with the same intense commitment to character. “I’m quite a lot about dialogue and making sure that we’ve got the lines down and that we know what we’re doing,” Winslet says. “Idris would be very much like, ‘Don’t worry about that stuff. It’s all about the energy. It’s all about the atmosphere.’ We had to kind of adapt to each other’s way of working because both ways of working were completely relevant and we needed both of those qualities to be able to get through [the experience of filming]. We did learn a lot from each other.”

“Kate brought a level of deepness and honesty about the emotions that Alex goes through,” Elba adds. “She’s very analytical about the words and the script, and we spent a lot of time breaking it down to the finest detail to make it ring true. When you’ve got two actors playing characters that go through something that is very real—survival, love—it’s important that you really look for the truth in that because the audience can see through it. Kate was very vigilant and very honest. She gave away stuff about herself to play this role. We both did. We had to.”

A story about a woman who has lost trust in herself and during the spy intrigue and the machinations she comes to find herself again.

11-years ago first-time producer Georgina Townsley, who has a proven track record in documentaries, conceptualised Unlocked and approached screenwriter Peter O’Brien to help her craft a London-set, female-driven espionage thriller.

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In casting the masterful CIA interrogator, the filmmakers sought an actress who could deeply inhabit the role and whose physicality the audience would buy within that role. Having already proven her acting abilities and physical mettle to audiences around the world with her unforgettable turns as Lizbeth Salander in the Millenium Trilogy and Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus, Naomi Rapace fit the bill perfectly.

“I needed to find a writer who could write for a woman. And I read hundreds of scripts but Peter’s really stood out. He understood women and he could write for a woman, a strong woman,” remembers Townsley.

Once the CIA’s top interrogator, Alice Racine’s (Naomi Rapace) career was sidelined when she failed “to unlock” a prisoner in time to save the lives of dozens of innocent people from a terrorist attack. Now leading a quiet life in London as a caseworker, Alice is unexpectedly called back into action when the CIA apprehends a suspect believed to have direct knowledge of another imminent attack. Alice successfully unlocks the suspect but before she can fully convey the recovered intelligence to her superiors, she gets a call from an old colleague at Langley which heightens her suspicions. Quickly realizing she’s been duped, she narrowly escapes, and finds herself on the run. Grasping that the CIA has been deeply compromised, Alice turns to the few she can trust as she seeks out the responsible parties and races against the clock to prevent a deadly biological attack on the citizens of London.

A deep-seated appreciation of the spy genre

Townsley attributes her deep-seated appreciation of the spy genre to her childhood dream of growing up to be a spy. “From a very young age, I was extremely interested in that world and how it operated, who you could trust, who you can’t trust, and the flow of information, how information is the currency in that world, and that there are different ways of getting that information,” she recalls.

peter_obrien_2011_a_pPeter O’Brien is a prolific screenwriter who has numerous studio projects in development. They include an adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s The Chancellor Manuscript for Paramount, with director Marc Forster attached; and a re-write of actioner Line of Sight for Warner Bros. with Ben Affleck as director. Peter also penned the feature film adaptation of The Jury for Fox 2000, based on the British miniseries by Peter Morgan. Most recently, Peter adapted the Linwood Barclay novel, Trust Your Eyes, a Hitchcockian thriller for Todd Phillips to direct.

Peter also wrote the game story for 2010’s Halo: Reach, the fourth installment in Microsoft’s iconic video game franchise and the last to be made by the game’s original developer, Bungie. Peter’s story and writing were lauded by fans and the gaming press, and the title’s launch broke the existing twenty-four hour record at over 200 million.

In 2002, Peter wrote and directed the twisty short thriller Self Storage, produced by Mark Gordon and Betsy Beers, and starring Rainn Wilson (The Office, Six Feet Under) and William Mapother (In the Bedroom, Another Earth, Lost). It won numerous Audience Favorite awards at festivals.

Peter graduated from Northwestern University with an English degree. He currently lives in San Francisco, having grown up in Marin County, California.

“Once I found Peter, we decided to go back to the old ways of looking at the storytelling of spy thrillers and how we wanted to keep the audience guessing. So the structure and the plot is very important as well as making sure that it’s very character-driven,” says Townsley.

“I love those kinds of movies so it was a good match from the beginning,” says O’Brien. “We worked on the script very hard for maybe close to a year and then sort of put it out into the Hollywood world and it was very, very well-received.”

Unlocked even topped 2008’s “The Black List” by which industry insiders declared it to be one of the year’s hottest unproduced screenplays. “It is something that people pay attention to so that sort of put this story on the map for us.” Despite such a prestigious accolade from the film community, the project would still have to undergo various incarnations and several false starts before at last going into production in the fall of 2014.

Eventually Townsley and O’Brien submitted the screenplay to producing powerhouse Lorenzo di Bonaventura and his partner Eric Howsam, both of whom were immediately taken by the intelligence of the script and its sharp dialogue and characterization. Duly impressed, the producers of the Transformers mega-franchise, one of the highest earning in cinema history, joined the project.

“We decided that we wanted a strong Hollywood producer on it and they are very much action-driven and spy-orientated. Lorenzo is one of the best producers out there, ” says Townsley. “From the very, very beginning, we were all on the same page, Erik, Lorenzo and I and Peter. It’s been a fun experience and I’ve learned a lot from them both because I came from a documentary background,” says Townsley.

Howsam recalls their initial read of the script nearly eight ago: “What was so unique and original about this piece of material is, yes, we’ve seen spy movies and spy thrillers but this had a female protagonist at the center of it, and it was so well-realized and rich and well done that we said, ‘look, we have to be a part of this.'”

Once on board, the two contributed to the further development of the script alongside Townsley and O’Brien and brought in their specific brand of expertise, garnered from producing some of the biggest action films of the past decade.”I think that we are able to add a layer to the movie that maybe didn’t exist before,” says Howsam.

While fleshing out the Unlocked script and its world of paranoia, subterfuge, double-crosses and unexpected narrative turns, the filmmakers looked to espionage classics such as Carol Reed’s 1947 noir The Third Man and Sydney Pollack’s conspiracy thriller Three Days of the Condor as well as more contemporary additions to the spy film pantheon, including the films of the Bourne franchise.

The spy genre has become more of a good guy/bad guy genre and this is really in a sense going back to — I guess the antecedents might be The Third Man — where you believe what the world is and you’re wrong, and you believe who you can trust and you’re wrong. So I think that’s where this is going to be really challenging and fun for the audience and feel fresh to the audience because it’s not how a lot of these thrillers are going to do it,” says di Bonaventura.

While unlocking a courier who works for a terror cell, Alice discovers that there’s a biological warfare plot underway and it’s up to her to stop it at all costs. To represent this potential threat accurately, O’Brien engaged in extensive research and consulted various experts, including the FBI’s WMD task force for the city of Los Angeles, which gave him perspective on what steps would taken in response to an actual biological attack. “We feel like what we’re representing in the film is a scenario that none of us want to happen but those are the stakes of the movie; she has to stop this,” emphasizes O’Brien.

UNLOCKED 1

Along with the FBI, a CIA advisor and an ex-Navy Seal, all weighed in on the more technical sections of the script and helped O’Brien to nail the vernacular necessary to imbue the film with the authenticity he sought to deliver. “I had the right people to help me,” he says.

Although the script went through several incarnations over the years, the core of the story always remained the same. “Ironically, as frustrating as it has been that it took this long, it’s more topical today than when Peter first wrote it,” says di Bonaventura. “It’s funny because sometimes scripts get old because the subject/times change. In this case, times changed and just made it all the more real and present.”

An eerie testament to this topicality is the distinct similarity between the deadly Marburg Virus, the biological agent which this film explores, and the Ebola Virus, which devastated West Africa in 2014. “The Ebola outbreak certainly is tragic and it’s just coincidental that the public is being educated about what these organisms can do if there’s an outbreak or if they’re unleashed purposefully on people. It’s a very scary scenario but it is one that’s a very real concern,” says O’Brien.

Also coinciding with the final phase of the script’s development was the increased prevalence of terror attacks in recent years. We really sort of ripped it from the headlines of real life and I think when people do see the movie they’ll be able to relate to it because it does exist in a world that is out there right now. It’s not that it’s a scary place but our country needs to be vigilant and, thank God, there are people like Alice in the world protecting us in these situations,” says Howsam.

Finding The Financing

Howsam says: “On a movie like this, which is made outside of the studio system, you need to have the right financing.” This the Unlocked team found via Claudia Bluemhuber, CEO and Managing Partner of Silver Reel, who serves here concurrently as financier and producer. Di Bonaventura recalls, “she just had a real passion for the story and she immediately got what we were trying to do. So it made it sort of an easy decision for us.”

Bluemhuber, renowned for seeking out, financing and producing uniquely elevated, art-house material such as the BAFTA-nominated film Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson, was certain that Unlocked was a fitting addition to the Silver Reel slate. “It’s a very, very smart thriller and we loved the whole package,” she enthuses.

Bluemhuber also welcomed the opportunity to produce alongside Townsley, di Bonaventura and Howsam and is a true admirer of the sheer tenacity Townsley exhibited while shepherding this project from script to screen. “Alice is Georgina’s idea,” she compliments. “It’s to her credit that Alice is Alice and that this movie is where it is right now.”

Bluemhuber, renowned for seeking out, financing and producing uniquely elevated, art-house material such as the BAFTA-nominated film Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson, was certain that Unlocked was a fitting addition to the Silver Reel slate. “It’s a very, very smart thriller and we loved the whole package,” she enthuses.

Bluemhuber also welcomed the opportunity to produce alongside Townsley, di Bonaventura and Howsam and is a true admirer of the sheer tenacity Townsley exhibited while shepherding this project from script to screen. “Alice is Georgina’s idea,” she compliments. “It’s to her credit that Alice is Alice and that this movie is where it is right now.”

Securing The Right Director

“Once we got the script into a great place, it was just a matter of trying to get the right elements and putting them together to get the movie finally made,” says Howsam. Naturally, one such element was securing the ideal director for the film. With a stunning filmography which spans five decades and a multitude of genres, the award-winning, ever-versatile Michael Apted is at the helm of Unlocked.

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Michael Apted discusses a scene from Unlocked with Naomi Rapace during filming

From their first meeting with the legendary Apted, the producers were moved by the clarity of his vision of the film. “When we spoke to him, he was just incredibly smart about the script and what he wanted to do with it and how he envisioned the movie, and we knew we were in great hands,” remembers Howsam. “When we met, he had such a vivid vision of the movie and of the characters and of Alice. He just blew us away with his enthusiasm for the movie,” seconds Bluemhuber.

Apted has demonstrated repeatedly that one of his many directorial strengths is working with female leads. Under his deft direction, Coal Miner’s Daughter garnered Sissy Spacek an Academy Award for Best Actress while Gorillas in the Mist featured one of Sigourney Weaver’s top performances to date. As Unlocked is a female-driven thriller, the producers were certain that Apted could evoke a similarly bold performance from lead actress Rapace. “Here was a movie where we’re not trying to reinvent the spy genre but we have a female in the center of it. So this is a director who could really draw that performance out of it,” explains Howsam.

Although Apted had directed an installment of the James Bond franchise in the past, he welcomed working with di Bonaventura and Howsam given their more consistently action-oriented filmographies. “I think he was excited to work with us because we’ve done a lot of these bigger action movies and we know how to build a film and produce a film with those elements. So I think there was this opportunity to kind of marry our strengths together on this film, and it’s really worked out well,” says the latter. “I think it’s also interesting to work with a director who has a documentarian background, someone who’s able to bring a vitality and capture real life in a way.”

Apted views Unlocked as somewhat of a character piece with Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, Toni Collette and John Malkovich’s characters each having their own independent impact on Alice’s journey. I think that one of the great strengths of this movie is that we introduce characters throughout the film and we populate it with these great names and they obviously play a big piece in the plot of this movie at the same time,” says Howsam.

“It’s fantastic, a little surreal and truly thrilling just to see something come to life in the eyes of the director with his vision the director of photography with the way it looks actors breathing life into these characters for the first time,” says O’Brien.

Casting

In casting the masterful CIA interrogator, the filmmakers sought an actress who could deeply inhabit the role and whose physicality the audience would buy within that role. Having already proven her acting abilities and physical mettle to audiences around the world with her unforgettable turns as Lizbeth Salander in the Millenium Trilogy and Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus, Naomi Rapace fit the bill perfectly.

Rapace found the script to be well-written and unpredictable and relished the opportunity to play a character as complex and multi-layered as Alice. “She’s a CIA agent, she wants to do good and then something happened a couple of years ago that she can’t let go of, that she can’t get over so she’s kind of reversed into this corner of safety when the movie starts,” she says. “So this film is an action thriller with all the elements — it’s a spy movie, a thriller — but also it has for me, a deeper level of someone coming back to life and kind of awakening.”

O’Brien describes Alice as the typical reluctant hero. “But the reluctance is more about someone who’s had an incident in her past where she feels that she’s failed. In fact, she’s extraordinarily gifted as a CIA officer, extraordinarily smart, very good with weapons and combat and guns. But she has withdrawn somewhat into a safer position within the CIA and now she’s called up for this particular assignment. She does it reluctantly and in doing the assignment and interrogating this prisoner and unlocking this critical piece of information, she suddenly finds herself back on the front lines of her profession. It’s not a place she wants to be again but she rises to the occasion. So over the course of the movie all of her sort of dormant skill set comes out and we see, wow, this is what this woman is capable of,” he says.

After such a long period of development, O’Brien was understandably delighted to see filming underway and his characters finally coming to life. “The character is only halfway there with my words maybe but what Noomi’s done with Alice, I couldn’t be happier about it. She’s absolutely perfect, and I really can’t see anyone else in that role,” lauds O’Brien.

TONY

Academy Award nominee Toni Collette plays hard-charging M15 Agent Emily Knowles. Although the part of Knowles was originally written for a man, Apted decided that re-conceiving the role for an actress would put a fresher, more unique spin on it and on the key relationship between Knowles and Alice.

“It’s so exciting to have such a balanced and strong female character at the centre of this story meeting the boys head on. And I love the relationship Noomi’s character shares with mine.  It’s a supportive, smart, healthy, complex, caring connection. I play a mentor of sorts — a formidable and grounded woman who has given up so much for the job she loves,” says Collette.

“Knowles and Alice represent two people from different agencies and different governments who are working together and oftentimes without official knowledge of their superiors. There’s a lot of trading of information between governments and Alice and Knowles have developed a friendship where they trust each other in that way,” explains O’Brien.

“When you’re making a movie, you hope that you’re able to populate the movie with great character actors and these great actors, however big the role is or however small it is, and I think in this movie we absolutely were able to do that. And there’s an enormous talent pool out there that you’ve just got to search for, and if you can put it together in the right way, it will make the movie that much better,” says Howsam.

“It’s a story about a woman who has lost trust in herself and during the spy intrigue and the machinations and in the plot she comes to find herself again. And in that becomes re-empowered and reinvested and actually now is able to stop this horrific thing from recurring,” elaborates di Bonaventura.

“This should be a thrill ride, people say the edge of your seat, I always think it’s more about holding on to your seat. It should be a white-knuckler and it should keep you guessing through a lot of it because it’s very intricate. I think what’s interesting about it is it’s really an intelligent script and it’s really designed to be an entertaining movie so those two things don’t always go hand in hand in our business and in this case they do. So I think people are going to enjoy it and it’s also going to make them think, says di Bonaventura.

 

How easily one mistake can lead inexorably to the next and the next, and that slippery slope, and ending up in a place where we can become a completely different person because of the consequences of one error.

In order to get a real-world grasp of prison and the gangs that run these institutions,  Austin-based director/writer/producer Ric Roman Waugh went undercover as a volunteer parole agent in California.

”What started out as a simple research assignment became a two-year odyssey as doors kept opening, allowing me more and more access into this violent world,” says Waugh, whose film Shot Caller takes us into the hardcore culture of prison gangsters.

Writer/Producer and director Ric Roman Waugh with cinematographer Dana Gonzales during the filming of Shot Caller

”No one knew I was a filmmaker. They just saw me as a rookie cop, so nothing was censored. What I quickly learned is the guards might control the doors and gates, but the gangs run the prisons… And they run the streets as well, directly “from” prison. Shot Caller is an authentic look at our prison gangs and the law enforcement professionals who guard them inside prison walls and hunt them down on the streets.”

What is a Shot Caller?

Generally speaking, the shot caller is the top gang leader. Specifically in prison, the shot caller is an inmate who calls the shots, or as cons say, “has the keys.” The highest ranking shot caller calls the shots for his entire prison gang and race. Next are shot callers for each prison. Then shot callers for each housing unit, yard, and so on.

Elaborates executive producer Gary Michael Walters, “The shot caller is the person who holds the decision-making authority over life and death inside the prison. When the shot caller gives the green light, the trigger can be pulled, the shot can be fired. It takes ruthlessness. That’s the primal need. You have to be ruthless. You have to be a serious alpha dog to rise to the top.”

Proposes actor Jon Bernthal, “If you are the kind of man who gets to the sort of place in prison where you’re a shot caller, you’re very smart and you’re as good a politician as anybody in the public eye, and you know how to work the system, and beat the system, and it takes a lot of brains.”

Actor Emory Cohen agrees, “A shot caller is the boss. The guy who calls the shots and the guy 22 you answer to. The only difference out of prison in the societal world is that bosses have titles like CEO and vice president. Shot caller is the gang form of that.”

In director/screenwriter Ric Roman Waugh’s (Snitch) gritty crime thriller Shot Caller, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”) plays Jacob Harlon, a successful Pasadena financier married to Kate (Lake Bell), with the perfect life and family.

All of that disappears one night behind the wheel when a drunk-driving accident results in the accidental death of Jacob’s best friend Tom (Max Greenfield).

Charged with vehicular manslaughter, Jacob is sentenced to prison, where he’s surrounded by cutthroat criminals. A fish out of water, he is forced to do the unimaginable to survive within the prison gang hierarchy where one wrong move can be your last.

He adopts the persona of “Money” and rises up within the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, his moral center eroding in the process. Upon release,

Money hits the treacherous streets of Los Angeles as a changed man and enters a deadly chess game with no-nonsense parole agent Kutcher (Omari Hardwick) and LA County gang-unit sheriff Sanchez (Benjamin Bratt), as his gang forces him to arrange an illegal arms deal if he wants to keep his family safe from gangster vengeance.

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Shot Caller is the third in a trilogy of prison films

Shot Caller is the third in a trilogy of prison films from Austin-based director/writer/producer Ric Roman Waugh, begun with Felon and continued with Snitch.

As Waugh was finishing Snitch, one night over dinner in Austin in 2012, Waugh told producer Jonathan King of Participant Media that he’d like to do a movie about a successful family man who makes one wrong decision that lands him in California’s current prison system, and there is no going back.

“This guy has a great life, great job. He’s married to a smart, beautiful woman. He’s got a great kid, a big house, good friends. Bad things don’t happen to him. And then he makes this terrible mistake,” says King. “This was a story where anyone could be in the position that Jacob is in at the beginning of the movie. It could happen to tons of people. It could happen to me. And it made me really ask, What would I do in this situation? And everyone I told the story to had the same reaction. What would I do in this situation? And it was a way to engage an audience in the expanding prison population of our country.”

Waugh became an undercover parole officer for two years when he was researching Felon, so he knew California’s criminal justice system with its overcrowded prisons, violent culture, and mandatory sentencing.

Comments King, “This is a very authentic picture of what prison culture is like, both the effects within the prisons themselves and also how they extend beyond the walls.”

King developed Waugh’s script for Shot Caller with Waugh for the next three years.

King recalls, “We talked a lot about movies that delve into a culture in a really authentic way, everything from Mean Streets to End of Watch, which is a very authentic movie about police culture in a way that we hadn’t seen before. We talked about transformation movies, because Jacob goes through this incredible transformation through the story, so we talked about Dallas Buyers Club, where you see Matthew McConaughey’s character become barely recognizable, both emotionally and physically. And there are prison movies that we love, like Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophete. And we loved the TV series `Oz.’”

As Waugh presented King with more and more research, King realized, “The most surprising thing to me about prison culture and gang culture was the organization and the extent of respect for the hierarchy within the organization, and the alliances. That sort of rigid structure that operates both within the prison walls and without. And the other thing that I found surprising is the impunity with which they operate: the control they have where it’s almost like the guards are taking their orders from the prisoners. In many ways they are. It’s sort of where the power lies.”

Waugh and King attached “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to the film in the lead role of Jacob/Money.

The Danish actor was deep into his research of American prisons, discovering, “You expect people to be punished, but what I found when we did the research was that the word rehabilitation is being thrown around in the system, but I saw very little proof of that. I saw a system that completely dehumanizes the inmates and from what I saw, in many ways treats them worse than we treat farm animals. The thing is almost 2/3 of people that are put away, reoffend and often they go on to a worse crime.”

Shot Caller

In February 2015, they asked producer Jeff Stott to do a budget for the movie.

A month later, in March 2015, Waugh and King brought the package to Bold Films. Bold CEO Gary Michael Walters responded to the script immediately, becoming an executive producer on Shot Caller.

“For me, it was about the empathy, about thinking how that could happen to anyone. That could happen to me. How easily one mistake can lead inexorably to the next and the next, and that slippery slope, and ending up in a place where we can become a completely different person because of the consequences of one error.”

The more he learned about the prison environment, the more Walters wanted to make the movie: “What’s really interesting is that we are so affected by our environment as human beings, that it’s easy to lose your moral compass when you’re set in certain circumstances. What happens in the film isn’t that Jacob has an overnight transition, but each time a task is given, he has to keep descending into this criminal lifestyle until ultimately he becomes a criminal. And there’s also a social commentary aspect to the film in that prison in America is designed to punish. There is no longer this notion of reformation or rehabilitation. In reality, the prisons are crime schools and the soft criminal comes out a hardened criminal.”

Bold president Matthew Rhodes agrees, “It’s a world I’m not part of, most of civil society is not. For me, looking into that world is fearsome and scary and awe-inspiring and raw and real.”

Everything moved quickly now. Bold agreed to fully finance Shot Caller and put it into pre-production, lining up Relativity Media as the US distributor.

Bold brought the project to the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015.

Remembers Walters, “When we got to Cannes, we sold out in four days. I don’t want to say it sold itself, but in many respects the script was so strong and Nikolaj is such a rising star, and with the power of the US distributor already committed to a wide release, everyone wanted on board.”

With a tier 2 working budget of just under $10 million, it was decided that production would take place primarily in New Mexico, due to the state’s financial incentives for filmmaking and the access that was obtained to film in real, working prisons.

Producers Jeff Stott and Lisa Zambri would oversee production on the ground in New Mexico. Reflects Stott, “I liked the Greek tragedy of it – – human error that ultimately leads to a whole bunch of different choices. None of the choices are good. It ultimately leads to an existential choice of, `This is my lot in life and I’m happy here. I am living in this prison cell knowing I’ve  done everything I could for my family.’ In the larger scheme of things, we all make choices in our lives and we all have to live with those choices. You can fight it or you can learn to accept it.”

Reasons Zambri, “Obviously not everybody has been to jail. But I do think that everybody has been in a situation where they were a fish out of water, where they had to kind of fit into a situation that was completely over their head or foreign to them. This is probably one of the most extreme examples I’ve ever seen of someone needing to go through extreme changes to survive a situation. It kind of blew the doors open for me on just how the prison system works. It’s a very close, very accurate, very studied, very measured account of what would happen to an everyday man if he got put into prison. His choice is to either be this warrior or be this victim. And that’s the choice that anybody would be faced with. And he just can’t sustain the relationships that he had before this experience. Something in him gets too damaged and too hardened.”

Shot Caller filmed for 25 days during spring-summer 2015, mostly on location in numerous New Mexico settings, then moving on to Southern California. Many days, filming took place at more than one location, with more than 40 different locations featured.

Keeping It Real

Authenticity was the director’s mandate across the board. Says executive producer Gary Michael Walters, “The authenticity factor is sky high on this project. It gives you such a `you are there’ feeling. Ric did a lot of research and got amazing insight as to how the prisons and prison gangs operate.”

Recognizes production designer Guy Barnes, “Ric had a whole world in his mind already. It was just a matter of extracting that world from his mind, and getting it built. He had done a lot of research and had a look book all prepared to guide us.” Philosophically, says Barnes, “I think the whole thing about prison is you lose your moral compass, and unfortunately the environment contributes to that loss because it is not meant to rehabilitate. It’s the loss of the moral compass that is really the most important part of the whole story.”

Waugh brought intensity to an often testosterone-dominated set. Acknowledges Juan Pablo Raba, “He’s a man’s man, you know what I mean? He will just go on the set and say, `Everybody together, this is what we’re going to do. This is how we’re going to do it. If you’re with me, you’re with me. So let’s go.’ It’s like a big brotherhood. Like everybody’s going in that direction and he’s the captain, he’s the leader, and he knows what he wants.” “It’s just realism, realism, realism,” comments Jon Bernthal. “Ric’s a soldier of authenticity. Just keep it real. Ric is not shy.”

By the end, “It’s a story that happens to a lot of people in the prison system and the fact is it’s a story about a broken system,” asserts Coster-Waldau. “It should be a place where we make sure that these people, once they reenter society, won’t reoffend. And the fact is the system does exactly the opposite. We believe we have prisons and law enforcement to keep us safe. The fact is, it’s not working. People go in for minor offenses. They come out and they reoffend and they go on to worse crimes. We like to think, `Hey, that could never happen to me.’ Or, `If I was in there, I would do it differently.’ But this is a story about a guy who has those beliefs and suddenly he’s just caught up in circumstances and just tries to survive. We all want the same things, you know: we want to be happy, we want to be able to take care of our family, we want to be loved, we want to love. It doesn’t change because you’re an inmate.”

By the end, “It’s a story that happens to a lot of people in the prison system and the fact is it’s a story about a broken system,” asserts Coster-Waldau.

“It should be a place where we make sure that these people, once they reenter society, won’t reoffend. And the fact is the system does exactly the opposite. We believe we have prisons and law enforcement to keep us safe. The fact is, it’s not working. People go in for minor offenses. They come out and they reoffend and they go on to worse crimes. We like to think, `Hey, that could never happen to me.’ Or, `If I was in there, I would do it differently.’ But this is a story about a guy who has those beliefs and suddenly he’s just caught up in circumstances and just tries to survive. We all want the same things, you know: we want to be happy, we want to be able to take care of our family, we want to be loved, we want to love. It doesn’t change because you’re an inmate.”

Reflects Jeffrey Donovan, “We’re all capable of making a mistake one day. You’re not paying attention, driving, texting, and all of a sudden you kill someone who was crossing a crosswalk. You take a plea deal and you say, `Okay I’ll take 10 months of prison.’ But because you killed someone, you go to a Level 3, which is where all the murderers are. And your life is over. I don’t think there’s been a movie that shows you that is a possibility in anyone’s life, today.”

Producer Jonathan King likewise ponders the social issues, reasoning, “The movie takes us through the process of this person transforming into someone who has to deal with prison to survive. I think it says that we have in some ways divided society into people who expect prison to have something to do with their life, and people who expect it not to. And this movie says, 23 `You can’t do that.’ There is no divide. This is all of us.”

“The theme,” identifies Benjamin Bratt, “is the possibility of redemption in the face of losing your moral center.”

Agrees executive producer Lisa Zambri, “It’s about how an extreme situation can change somebody forever, to the point where things that you love the most become casualties, and how unfortunate that is because it’s through one of our tried and true systems that we try to believe in as a society. When you look at it through Jacob’s eyes as he turns into Money, the story becomes a journey of a man who has to cut ties with his old life in order to survive this new version of how he sees the world.”

Producer Jeff Stott believes the movie’s philosophical underpinnings elevate it into a tale of adversity that resonates universally: “One day you’re playing basketball with your friends and the next day you’re locked up in an 8 x 10 cell. You can’t get any more existential than that. It’s Sisyphus with one hour a day in the sunlight.”

”Take these pages that are written and use them as a helpful input for a story that you want to tell.”

“The Snowman,” the seventh book in Jo Nesbø’s best-selling Harry Hole series, has enthralled global audiences since it was first published in 2007 and now makes it debut on the Big Screen under direction of Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), from a screenplay adaptation by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Debt) and Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, Drive) and Søren Sveistrup (Forbrydelsen, TV’s The Killing).

The frigid landscape as his hunting ground, a sociopath who calls himself “The Snowman Killer” has targeted the one person for whom he wants to show off his methodical, unthinkable skills: the lead investigator of an elite crime squad.  With cunningly simplistic baits such as “Mr. Policeman, I gave you all the clues…” he begs to have a worthy opponent to play his sick game.

For Detective Harry Hole ( Michael Fassbender), the murder of a young woman on the first snow of the winter feels like anything but a routine homicide case in his district.  From the start of the investigation, The Snowman has personally targeted him with taunts—ones that continue to accompany each new vicious murder.

Fearing an elusive serial killer long-thought dead may be active again, the detective enlists brilliant recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebeccas Ferguson), to help him connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new ones.  Succeed, and they will lure out the psychopath that’s been watching them from the shadows for who knows how long.  Fail, and an unthinkable evil will strike once again during the very next snowfall.

Snowman 4The novel took the beleaguered detective and his creator to an entirely new level and readership, and it topped The New York Times Best-Seller list in U.S.—as well as marked Nesbø’s first No.1 in the U.K. charts and firmly establishing his place as one of the elite international crime writers.  Of course, Norwegians had known this for some time…it just took the rest of the world a few years to catch up.

“In some countries it was a breakthrough novel for me,” explains Nesbø, who has sold a staggering 34 million-plus books worldwide.  “With my third novel, ‘The Redbreast,’ I got a following of a high-brow crime audience, but then with ‘The Snowman,’ I had mainstream success.”

 

 

Novelist Jo Nesbø is a musician, songwriter, economist and author.  His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell).  He is the author of 10 Harry Hole novels, most recently 2017’s “The Thirst,” stand-alone novels “Headhunters” and “The Son” and several children’s books.  His books have been translated into 47 languages. In 2008, he established the Harry Hole Foundation, a charity to reduce illiteracy among children in the developing world.  He lives in Oslo.

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Jo Nesbø

For the majority of U.K. and U.S. readers, this was their first introduction to the cop, and they believed Nesbø to be an overnight success.  “The truth is that I had been in those countries and published for around 10 years,” he laughs.  “It was a bit like when Tom Waits had success with ‘Swordfish Trombone,’ a journalist asked him, ‘What did you do to finally find success?’  He said, ‘I didn’t do anything differently.  I’ve been here for 15 years.  It’s not me coming to you, it’s you coming to me.’”

Indeed, the world of Det. Hole is wholly iconic in Scandinavia, and his creator cultural royalty.  Today, fans from across the globe visit Norway to re-create the fictional path Hole has trodden on the icy streets of Oslo, paying homage to his favorite haunts—such as the iconic Schroder’s Café—as they try to get inside the mind of this most elusive of investigators.

Hole is to Oslo what Sherlock Holmes is to London, and likewise has spawned a mini industry; one can even book a Harry Hole tour.  “Harry’s become an institution in this world,” observes producer Robyn Slovo.  “He is undeniably an iconic character who is a laconic, difficult and introverted non-team player, but an intrepid and gifted policeman.  Still, he is reluctant to be pulled into this particular investigation instigated by somebody else,”

With “The Snowman’s” book-to-screen adaptation comes the exciting proposition that Europe could have its own cinematic detective series.  In fact, not since Holmes has the continent owned this genre.  In comparison to the States, detectives hunting serial killers is not a well-trodden narrative for European cinema; TV perhaps, but not the big screen.

The Snowman

The role presented Michael Fassbender with his first detective. “At the time of the script arriving at my door I didn’t know anything about him,” admits Fassbender. “It was a totally new world for me. Then I started to expose myself to the books and the world that Harry occupies, and I’ve become very fond of the character.”

The Screenwriters

Peter Straughan

Peter Straughan

Peter Straughan  is a BAFTA winner and Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter who wrote the screenplay for Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He became a sought-after screenwriter when he adapted Jon Ronson’s book The Men Who Stare at Goats for BBC Films.  His other screenplay credits include The Debt, adapted from the Israeli film Ha-Hov.

Straughan recently reteamed with Jon Ronson on Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank, which starred Michael Fassbender as a mysterious and eccentric musician.  Straughan adapted the Hilary Mantel novel Wolf Hall as a dramatic television series for Company Pictures and BBC Television, along with political satire Our Brand Is Crisis. Straughan’s adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch is just about to go into production, directed by John Crowley.  Other upcoming projects include Shackleton, which is set up at StudioCanal.  Tom Hardy will star as Ernest Shackleton, the British explorer who pioneered multiple expeditions to the Antarctic, and Smiley’s People from John le Carré’s novel for StudioCanal Films and Working Title Films.

Hossein Amini

Hossein Amini

Iranian-born screenwriter Hossein Amini (Screenplay By) was nominated for a BAFTA Award and an Oscar® in 1998 for his adaptation of Henry James’ classic novel Wings of a Dove. Amini also wrote the screenplay for the 1996 release Jude. Other credits include the 2002 release The Four Feathers, and Drive.

Most recently, Amini co-wrote Universal Pictures’ Snow White and the Huntsman and for his directorial debut he adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Two Faces of January, which starred Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.

 

What is it about the investigator that enthralls readers all across the world?

Like so many of his literary associates, he is a wholly flawed man who struggles with a personal life littered with ragged cracks and dark crevices.  An alcoholic who is unreliable and disorganized, he has an innate inability to commit.  Still, for all his personal failings, he is the consummate detective: scrupulous, determined and creative—a man who will stop at nothing until justice has been served.  He is the genuine antihero, an impossible character, but impossible not to like.

“This is a man of many contradictions,” reveals Nesbø.  “He believes in the legal system, he believes in the Scandinavian democratic model; yet, he’s an outsider who doesn’t feel at home in Scandinavian society.  He cares for those who are close to him, but he doesn’t want anyone to be close to him.  He’s struggling between being a man who loves women—and one woman in particular—but who is trying to find a way to live his life alone.  He doesn’t want to be a member of the herd, and yet he has this deep social reflex that many of us have; we feel this urge to contribute to this herd.”

Harry Hole is brilliant-yet-flawed, rebellious-yet-loyal and anti-establishment, yet highly regarded by his fictional associates and real-world fans.  In turn, this created significant obstacles for anyone embarking on a big-screen adaptation.

“The challenge in adapting Harry to screen, aside from preserving those characteristics that make him so unique, was to avoid falling into a clichéd representation of a flawed policeman solving a crime,” explains Slovo.  “We’ve tried to make Harry unpredictable, original in his thinking, not terribly socialized, not exactly charismatic.  He’s definitely what might be described as difficult, and that is what’s been challenging in bringing him to life.  He’s not 100-percent action hero.  He’s a thinking man’s detective who is put in very dangerous and difficult situations.”

A story about a serial killer is not what would be considered usual fare for four producers whose accomplished work runs the gamut from Catch a Fire and Les Misérables to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Love Actually, but their allure to the material lay very much in the proposition of director Tomas Alfredson.

For Fassbender, there was never any question about wanting to portray Harry.  He had long hoped to shoot with Alfredson, but the opportunity had not arisen.  The challenge was timing.  Since 2009, he has been filming back to back, and The Snowman had to be squeezed into two other major productions—Assassin’s Creed and Alien: Covenant—with no room for scheduling error.

Fassbender was determined to make it work for the opportunity to work.  “The first thing that enticed me about the project was Tomas,” says the performer.  “Then I read the script and thought it was interesting.  I liked the character and this genre.”

The role presented Fassbender with his first detective.  “At the time of the script arriving at my door I didn’t know anything about him,” admits Fassbender.  “It was a totally new world for me.  Then I started to expose myself to the books and the world that Harry occupies, and I’ve become very fond of the character.”

That said, ahead of playing Harry, Fassbender was wary of reading the books.  “The script is independent of the book, and I didn’t want to get attached to things that were in the book but not in the script.  I did, however, read the beginning, to get an idea of where this character started, what Jo’s version of him was.  I just wanted to see where those raw characteristic traits were—the description of him and his physicality.

“It’s difficult to improve on someone’s experience of reading the book when you are making the film,” Fassbender continues.  “As a reader you are filling in a lot of the blanks.  The descriptions of the murders can be a lot more horrific and haunting because our imaginations are much more vivid, scary and twisted than what you see in cinema.”

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Alfredson discusses that his approach to filmmaking is to guide the audience through his work, but never decide what each individual should experience.

Tomas Alfredson came to prominence on the world stage when he directed the much-loved feature Let the Right One In (2008).  Now a cult favorite, the film screened at over 30 international film festivals and won several dozen awards worldwide. Following the success of Let the Right One In, Alfredson began work on his first international production, the adaptation of John le Carré’s beloved novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Tomas-Alfredson

Tomas Alfredson

“My films are each a piece of entertainment, but they cannot just be that.  I need them to be something else, too—to tell something about people or society, or a part of the world you haven’t seen before.  My goal is for people to react physically—to get scared, laugh or to sweat.  The more different the reactions, the better.  It’s lovely to meet with people from an audience and hear very different things. That’s when you’ve succeeded.”

This commitment to his craft leads the filmmaker to be quite selective in the stories he chooses to tell.  Alfredson admits he found Nesbø’s protagonist to be riveting.  “When I read a story, I try to find an animal for each character.  Is he or she a rabbit, wolf, dog or a cat?  Not visually, but the soul of a certain animal.  To me, Harry is an owl; he is someone people don’t see, but who sees everyone else.  He’s very smart and silent; he knows when to speak and when to interact. But he also feels alienated with the rest of the world.  His private life has fallen into pieces, and the only thing that works is his intuitive talent as an investigator.”

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Director Tomas Alfredson discusses a scene from The Snowman with actor Michael Fassbender

Slovo commends: “Tomas offers a particular interpretation on things, which means we could take a best-selling genre thriller and turn it into something unexpected.  Because it’s set in Scandinavia and Tomas is Scandinavian, the excitement was involved in his original take, not going the Scandi-Noir route.  We’d rather a route with a director who has proven himself to be good at noir, tension and at surprise.  He has also proven to himself to be particularly good at horror.  All those elements made it feel like a good fit.”

The Snowman does have that other element that previous books don’t have, and that is the horror element,” adds Nesbø.  “The title ‘The Snowman’ conveys a certain image, as does the idea of an innocent thing that is taken out of context and put in a new context; the more cozy and familiar it is, the scarier it becomes.”

Discussing handing over the reins of a cherished property to another creative team, the author reflects: “They chose a director who is a storyteller in his own right and who isn’t there just to give a version of the book, but who wanted to use the book as input for his story.  As a storyteller myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Tomas’ understanding and my trusting him made it easy for me to say ‘Take these pages that are written and use them as a helpful input for a story that you want to tell.”

Alongside Slovo and Working Title’s Bevan and Fellner, The Snowman team was joined by producer Piodor Gustafsson, who has worked with Alfredson for the past six years.

What Gustafsson so appreciated about the character of Harry was his deep sensitivity.

The producer explains: “Being very vulnerable makes Harry much more interesting than a hard-boiled detective.  As empathetic people, we see ourselves in him.  After solving a case, he’s been so infected by it that he can’t protect himself from the evil he’s had to approach.  He’s such a reluctant detective and doesn’t want to continue the work.  But he’s the best, and until someone who’s better than him comes along, he must continue.”

Blade Runner 2049 is a love letter to Blade Runner

Three decades after Ridley Scott’s cult sensation Blade Runner changed the face of cinema, the much-anticipated follow-up Blade Runner 2049 challenges our notions of who we are…and where we are headed.

blade-runner-2049

Three decades after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

With Ridley Scott as Executive Producer on Blade Runner 2049, this new incarnation based on characters from the Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is scripted by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, with visionary director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) at the helm.

Fancher co-wrote the screenplay of the 1982 Blade Runner with David Wobb Peoples, while a television and film writer and producer Green co-wrote the screenplay for Scott’s Alien Covenant.

Harrison Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard, with Ryan Gosling as a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, who unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos; his discovery leads him on a quest to find Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

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Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford during the filming of Blade Runner (1982)

“What defines a human being?”

That is the question posed by director Denis Villeneuve.

It’s not the first time the value—and values—of humanity have been questioned.

Thirty-five years ago, the groundbreaking science fiction film Blade Runner hit theatre screens for the first time.

Directed by the legendary Ridley Scott and based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the movie thrust audiences into a future unlike anything they had ever experienced that is at once familiar and unfamiliar.

Back then, no one could have imagined how Blade Runner would go on to reverberate through modern culture, pioneering what became an entirely new genre: neo-noir cyberpunk.  Today, Scott’s visionary masterpiece is heralded as one of the best and most important motion pictures of all time, but its impact has gone beyond filmdom, to television, music, art, fashion, and even university courses.

Now, Blade Runner 2049 returns us to the world that has enthralled generations of fans in a film that is, at once, a long-awaited follow-up and a much-anticipated stand-alone moviegoing experience.

denis-villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve is an acclaimed, award-winning auteur whose films have been embraced by critics and audiences worldwide throughout his career.

Villeneuve, who counts himself among the first film’s devotees, says, “I vividly remember seeing ‘Blade Runner’ for the first time and being stunned by what I think is amongst the most powerful openings in the history of cinema—flying over the Los Angeles of 2019, and seeing that landscape of oil factories.  Ridley Scott presented such a strong image of what could be our future that was at the same time so seductive and so frightening.

“Aesthetically, ‘Blade Runner’ was a revolution,” he continues, “blending two genres that, at first glance, don’t go together—science fiction and film noir.  It was something never seen before, and it deeply influenced me.  It was part of my film education even before I knew I would become a filmmaker.”

Scott says that, even with all of its difficulties, he could never have predicted how iconic one of his earliest major features would come to be.  “You don’t think about that when you’re in the midst of it, but I knew for sure we had made something really special.”

Ryan Gosling, who plays the role of an LAPD blade runner called K, remarks, “The original film is haunting; it’s hard to shake.  It asks you to look at your idea of what it means to be human, and it makes you weigh your ability to recognize the hero from the villain.  It’s a nightmarish vision of the future that’s somehow grounded and feels possible, and yet it’s presented in this romantic, dreamlike way that sticks with you.  Time has proven its specialness.”

In Blade Runner 2049, K is sent on an assignment that, for very different reasons, could have more far-reaching consequences—calling into doubt the divide between people and replicants, between humanity and technology, which could lead to anarchy or even war.

But Blade Runner did more than blur the lines between humans and technology.  It also broached a range of societal concerns that have grown ever-more prevalent.  And with our planet now on the cusp of when that film was set, it seems more revelatory, and more relevant, than ever—foreshadowing issues of urban decay, climate change, genetic engineering, overpopulation, the divides of social and economic strata and more.

“It certainly was prescient in many ways,” says Ford, who turned Rick Deckard into one of his most indelible onscreen portraits and reprises the role in the sequel.  “I think as technology developed and people began to see some of the issues the film talked about play out in real life, there was even more reason to accept the themes that ‘Blade Runner’ dealt with.”

“‘Blade Runner’ was ahead of its time in so many ways,” producer Andrew A. Kosove agrees.  With its thought-provoking narrative and signature visual design—which Ridley Scott brilliantly conceived—the movie permeated our culture and changed our perceptions about the relationship between humanity and technology, which, in turn, caused us to question what makes us human.  I think that’s why it is so revered.”

That reverence understandably gave Kosove and his Alcon partner, producer Broderick Johnson, pause when they were approached about the possibility of a Blade Runner follow-up.  Johnson confirms, “We definitely had to think about taking on such an ambitious project, but we both loved the original so we decided we had to go for it.”

The idea of filming a new chapter of the Blade Runner story had come to Alcon through producer Bud Yorkin, who had been on the producing team of the earlier film, and his wife, producer Cynthia Sikes Yorkin.

HamptonFancher-e1463159136734

When Hampton Fancher’s good friend Brian Kelly got the rights to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, he turned to Fancher to write the screenplay, which eventually got the support of producer Michael Deeley. The final screenplay (co-written by David Wobb Peoples) became “Blade Runner,” directed by Ridley Scott. Released in 1982, it has since become a revered science fiction classic.

She relates, “It was a dream of Bud’s for many years to continue the story and I was so happy to support him in that pursuit.  Unfortunately, he passed away before he could see the completion of the film, but it was a wonderful gift for him to know it was going to be done.  And Andrew and Broderick were so respectful of Bud and involved us in every aspect of the production from the beginning.  They poured their hearts into this project, and I couldn’t have asked for better partners to realize this dream of ours.”

The initial step forward was to go back to the source.  Kosove explains, “The most important thing was for me and Broderick to go to London to meet with Ridley Scott.”

Scott, who came on board as an executive producer, affirms, Blade Runner was always meant to be a stand-alone feature, but we knew even then there was more story to tell.”

Scott reached out to screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who had co-written the Blade Runner screenplay.  Fancher recounts, “It was serendipity because I had literally just finished a short story set in the ‘Blade Runner’ universe.  I read Ridley just the first paragraph and it was obvious what it was.  All he said was, ‘Can you come to London?’  So that’s how it started.”

Picking up the story, Scott notes, “Hampton didn’t end up writing a conventional script; he wrote a novella, still with his beautiful style of dialogue.  Then we brought in Michael Green to turn it into a screenplay, and it evolved from there.”

Michael Green

Michael Green (Screenplay) is a television and film writer and producer. In 2017, in addition to his work on “Blade Runner 2049,” Green wrote the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” directed by Kenneth Branagh; and co-wrote “Alien: Covenant,” directed by Ridley Scott, as well as “Logan,” directed by James Mangold. His previous feature work includes co-writing “Green Lantern.”

When the opportunity to work on a new Blade Runner film came to screenwriter Michael Green, “I couldn’t say ‘yes’ loud enough or fast enough,” says the self-described avid fan of the first.  “Hampton and Ridley had formed the story DNA of what a new ‘Blade Runner’ film might be, and then I had the incredible opportunity to grow out those elements.  There are so many fascinating themes that run through the first film; one of them is about quantity of life.  Among the themes we wanted to explore in ‘Blade Runner 2049’ was quality of a life.  In both films, there are humans and there are replicants, and though in many respects they behave similarly, they have very different origins, as one is born and one is made.  Society places a greater inherent value on humans over replicants because someone born is believed to have a soul.  But what is the nature of a soul…and is it uniquely human?”

Denis Villeneuve recalls that when he was presented with the completed screenplay, “I was so moved.  The amount of trust Alcon had in me, to put this film in my hands…it was one of the greatest compliments of my career.”

Having worked with Villeneuve on the hit drama Prisoners, the producers were fully aware of the skills he could bring to the table.  “Denis is an amazing filmmaker with a total command of everything he wants to accomplish,”

Johnson states.  “We knew he would be perfect for this film, not only because of his ability to guide the performances, but also to generate tension and atmosphere, which is strong in all his films.  That was essential to making ‘Blade Runner 2049’ because the real magic of the film is its tension, its narrative, and its character-based drama.  Denis is one of the best at capturing all of that.”

Villeneuve reveals he had one caveat before agreeing to helm the film.

“I needed Ridley Scott’s blessing.  That was my only condition.”  He needn’t have worried; Scott did more than give his blessing.  “He said to me exactly what I needed to hear,” notes the director, “which was that I had total freedom, but if I ever needed him, I could call; he would be available any time.  And, in fact, every time I needed him, he was there.  I will always be grateful to him.”Blade Runner

In conceiving the overall look of the film, Villeneuve wanted to remain faithful to the spirit of the original.  He remarks, “My goal was to honor the film noir aesthetic of the first movie while giving the new film its own identity.”

To that end, the filmmakers emphasize that, while Blade Runner 2049 can be considered a sequel, it can also very much stand on its own as a singular motion picture.

“Even if you’ve never seen the first film, you will have no problem understanding the story,” Sikes Yorkin attests.  “The way it’s written and presented, you can absolutely be very entertained and absorbed in the drama without necessarily knowing everything that came before.”

In designing the new movie, the filmmakers had to imagine conditions on the planet three decades hence.

Villeneuve clarifies, Blade Runner was set in 2019, and it was prophetic in some ways, but we already know our 2019 will be quite different from that.  So we made the decision to create our own 2049—to propel the movie into its foreseeable future.  The world of ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is an extension of ‘Blade Runner’; it is not an extension of reality.”

Out of that understanding “came a lot of decisions about design,” he continues.  “We saw in ‘Blade Runner’ that nature was collapsing, so in 30 years’ time, the Earth will be even more brutal.  We are finding the same kind of oppressive atmosphere that we saw in the first film, but even thicker.  The environment will be more toxic; the oceans will be out of control; the weather will be harsher, colder…  We are dealing with even more severe climate conditions and that translates to everything from architecture to vehicles to clothing.”

Your Guide To What’s Happening On The Big Screen

Latest Releases /  South African Films /  Films Released in 2017  /  Top 20 Films Of 2016

July 2017 August 2017 / September 2017 /  December 2017

Upcoming Film Releases In South Africa: October 2017

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links

Showing from 6 October, 2017

Blade RunnerIn the neo-noir science fiction film Blade Runner 2049 Ryan Gosling plays Officer K,  a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, who unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.It is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Watch the trailer

the-big-sick-trailerA couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows in the romantic comedy The Big Sick. Kumail is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother and father. Directed by Michael Showalter, from a screenplay by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Watch the trailer

My Little PonyMy Little Pony: The Movie is an animated musical fantasy adventure comedy film based on the television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which was developed as part of the 2010 relaunch of the My Little Pony franchise by Hasbro. In order to stop a threat to the town of Ponyville, the “Mane 6” – Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rarity – embark on a journey beyond their home kingdom of Equestria, meeting new friends and overcoming challenges in the process. The film is being directed and written by Friendship Is Magic veterans Jayson Thiessen and Meghan McCarthy respectively, and stars the series’ regular voice cast of Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, and Cathy Weseluck, with guest performances by Emily Blunt, Kristin Chenoweth, Liev Schreiber, Michael Peña, Sia, Taye Diggs, Uzo Aduba, and Zoe Saldana. Watch the trailer

Good TimeIn the crime-drama Good Time Constantine Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey through New York City’s underworld in an increasingly desperate-and dangerous-attempt to get his brother out of jail. Over the course of one adrenalized night, Constantine finds himself on a mad descent into violence and mayhem as he races against the clock to save his brother and himself, knowing their lives hang in the balance. This  crime-drama film is directed by Ben and Josh Safdie and written by Josh and Ronald Bronstein. Watch trailer

Wish UponWish Upon is a supernatural horror directed by John R. Leonetti, written by Barbara Marshall. Jonathan Shannon (Ryan Phillippe) gives his 17-year-old daughter Clare (Joey King) an old music box that promises to grant its owner seven wishes. Skeptical at first, Clare becomes seduced by its dark powers when her life starts to radically improve with each wish. Everything seems perfect until she realizes that every wish she makes causes the people who are closest to her to die in violent and elaborate ways. Watch trailer

Inconvenient Truth 2A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought the climate crisis into the heart of popular culture, comes An Inconvenient Truth Sequel: Truth To Power , the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

Showing from 13 October 2017

UnlockedAfter being tricked to provide information to the wrong side, a CIA interrogator finds herself at the center of a devastating biological attack on London in