If you need to break away to write your story, the interactive weekend workshop will take you on a personal journey into how to discipline the process of crafting your story, developing your idea, characters and plotting to create a story the world needs to experience.

Our next weekend workshop for writers takes place at The Writing Studio in Prince Albert on 3 and 4 September 2022

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“If you want to learn to write, struggle to write, or just want to sharpen your talent, I highly recommend this workshop. It’s a soul-enriching experience. ” Belinda Martins, Cape Town
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“Die passie waarmee Daniel sy ervaring deel is aansteeklik en die struktuur en voorbeelde wat hy vir mens gee waarvolgens mens jou storie of draaiboek kan skryf is maklik verstaanbaar en prakties uitvoerbaar. Ek kan die ervaring hoog aanbeveel.” Louis Botha

Daniel Dercksen will take you on an insightful and inspirational journey into what it takes to be a writer and how to make the most of who you are as a writer.

The workshop takes place at Daniel’s private studio in Prince Albert and will only accommodate 5 writers.

It is an interactive, intimate, and introspective journey into the world of the story, empowering writers to take ownership of the creative journey, and creative expression.


On 3 Sept the morning session will explore Who you are as a storyteller and storymaker.

The afternoon session will look at What it takes to be a writer and The process of writing your first draft.

On 4 Sept the morning session looks at What type of story you are writing and who you are writing for? and What story you want to write.

The afternoon session looks at How to structure & plot your story, How to outline your story and How to take ownership of your story and Get it produced and published.

  • The workshop is ideal for screenwriters, novelists and playwrights.
  • There will be Q & A sessions after each session.
  • Individual one-on-one sessions will be available on 5 September.

For the cost, agenda and registration details


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“Daniel’s workshop has given me exactly what I needed – the tools and the process to finally start writing books. The content of his workshop is rich, practical and interesting.” Tamsin Collins, Prince Albert
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“I learnt to see the structure of a story and how characters, theme and plot all interact to shape a memorable tale or movie.  I am inspired to put pen to paper. Some of us are fortunate enough to be shown the way and start the journey.” Petro Lotz, Prince Albert

What better place to spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle?

Escape to the tranquil serenity of the Karoo, where you can share some me time with your characters and find yourself in the process. 

Daniel Dercksen has been working actively as a journalist, screenwriter, playwright, novelist, and story editor for the past 25 years, nurturing the careers and success stories of many storymakers and storytellers.

As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, Daniel Dercksen has been teaching workshops and online courses in creative writing, playwriting, and screenwriting throughout South Africa for the past 22 years.

With this workshop, he will share his secrets to finding your story and making the most of your creativity.

Looking For Accommodation?

De Bergkant Lodge is a beautiful Cape Dutch homestead situated opposite The Writing Studio. Set in the tranquil ambience of the Karoo, De Bergkant Lodge offers guests a relaxing and luxurious travelling experience with two large sparkling swimming pools to relax in after your writing session.

Based on both the Forrest Gump screenplay by Eric Roth and Winston Groom’s original novel, Laal Singh Chaddha is a life-affirming story chronicling the extraordinary life of an ordinary man who changes the world through simple kindness, who wants nothing but to bring happiness to the people he loves, and through that modest mission alters the course of Indian history.

In 1994, Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump became an Oscar-winning smash hit, charming audiences around the world with its story of a simple man whose goodness improves the lives of all he meets. Its story has lost none of its power. Arguably, its message of kindness has never been more important. That story is given a new spin by legendary Bollywood actor Aamir Khan in Laal Singh Chaddha, the realisation of a long-held dream.

Shot in over 100 locations around India, the film brings together Aamir Khan, one of the biggest stars in Indian cinema, and Kareena Kapoor Khan to deliver audiences heart, humour and optimism.

With a childhood marked by a unique bond between Laal and his single mother, tempered with strong values, the story follows Laal’s journey of love, innocence and destiny as he triumphs over life’s many challenges. As he wins the hearts of those he meets along the way, he reminds us that everyone, even the most unlikely of people, has a story.

Bringing Laal Singh Chaddha to the screen has been a labour of love for Khan

It took a decade to secure the rights to Forrest Gump, demonstrating that his vision would be both a respectful tribute to the original and take it in an exciting new direction.

Khan was granted the rights in 2018 and teamed up with screenwriter Atul Kulkarni (making his screenwriting debut) and director Advait Chandan to adapt the tale of Forrest Gump and create the story of Laal Singh Chaddha.

Director Advait Chandan and screenwriter Atul Kulkarni

“I looked at Laal Singh Chaddha like a cover song of a genuinely loved classic,” says director Advait Chandan. “I felt that Forrest Gump was a universal story, which we could bring an Indian flavour to. Forrest Gump is a quintessentially American film – it’s in the houses they live in, the clothes they wear, and the historic references. I felt like there was an opportunity to bring an Indian flavour to the story and keep the same soul.”

Giving the story an Indian twist manifested itself in changes both huge and small. Where Forrest Gump wove its story through some of the biggest moments in 20th Century US history, including the Vietnam War and Watergate, Laal’s life takes him through the biggest moments in Indian 20th Century history, including the Kargil War. But there were also other poignant changes that made the story quintessentially Indian too, like changing Forrest’s famous box of chocolates for a tempting dish of the popular street food, Golgappa – a small sphere of deep-fried flatbread, stuffed with comforting fillings and spiced water, made for sharing.

©Paramount Pictures’ Laal Singh Chaddha

On a train journey across India, the ever-positive Laal Singh Chaddha (Khan) sparks up a conversation with the passenger opposite, telling her about his childhood with his beloved mother (Mona Singh) and his first encounter with Rupa, a girl who would shape his life. As Laal continues with his story, more and more passengers gather round, listening to the epic, unfolding tale of how Laal witnessed some of the most world-shaking events of modern
Indian history, and how his whole life has been dedicated to his love for Rupa (Kareena Kapoor Khan).

“In India, the bus stops are really crowded. There’s no way you’d be able to make a connection there,” says Chandan. “But the railways are a very big part of our lifestyle. These are long journeys, sometimes 24 hours, and you end up making friends with people. You share food and water, and you find connections with them. I remember as a child I’d make friends on trains and then I’d write to them on their birthdays. It’s very natural.”

The director found Kulkarni’s decision to centre the film on a train to be a touch of genius. “It changed everything. You can gather so many people to listen to the story, of all ages.”

For all the differences between the two films, Chandan says they share one vital thing in common: soul. “We had to keep that soul, which is there in Winston Groom’s book and Robert Zemeckis’ film. The hope is that someone who hasn’t watched Forrest Gump, they’ll love experiencing this unique form of storytelling for the first time. And for someone who has seen Forrest Gump, they’ll enjoy the new flavour this has and the twists and turns we’ve taken, plus the surprises we’ve thrown in.”

Meet Laal Singh Chaddha, a man who changes the world through simple kindness

Playing the role of Laal is a huge challenge for any actor, not only having to portray the character from his early twenties right up to middle-age, but be able to convey the emotion of Laal through very little dialogue. Laal is a man of many feelings but few words.

For Aamir Khan, it was one of the greatest challenges of his career.

Because the adaptation originated with Khan, who also serves as producer, Chandan says the actor had an extraordinary closeness with the character. “He’d lived with this character for about ten years,” says Chandan. In fact, Chandan only appreciated quite how much the character lived in him when they did their first read-through of the script with the cast. “We set up some chairs, so it was like the train. We put people in their places and started reading. He had internalised Laal so much that it immediately came out so organically. He was Laal straight away.”

Chandan believes Khan was able to access the soul of Laal so quickly because they share some key traits. “He’s such a giving and loving person,” Chandan says of his star. “I don’t think an actor and a character necessarily have to have an inherent similarity, but I felt we could bring in that innocence quite naturally, which is something he does really well.”

It was also a physically demanding role for Khan. Anyone who’s seen Forrest Gump will remember just how much running the character has to do. “Thank god he’s a fit guy!” laughs Chandan. “That really served him in good stead on this one.” For scenes when Laal runs across the country, Khan had to spend weeks running through different terrains, from busy cities to mountains. “You might notice in some shots that he’s limping a little because he had a knee injury,” says Chandan. “We couldn’t stop shooting because everything was booked. We had to fly from city to city for a month and a half. He was injured but he kept going. It was a really taxing film for him.”

For Rupa, the film needed an actress who could capture the hearts of Laal and the audience.

The adult Rupa is played by award-winning actress Kareena Kapoor Khan. Rupa is quite a different character from Jenny, her equivalent in Forrest Gump. When we first meet her, as a child, Rupa is one of the few people to show kindness to young Laal. Her happy times with Laal are her escape from her home life, where her father violently abuses her mother. As Rupa grows older, she dreams of becoming a Bollywood actress, but life never quite goes right for her. Throughout her life, she and Laal reunite, and those are the only times Rupa is truly happy.

“We wanted this film to be enjoyed by families, including children, so we wanted to rework some of the elements of Jenny’s story for Rupa,” says Chandan. “Again, we took what’s important in the shared soul of Jenny and Rupa, which is that she’s someone who had a troubled childhood and has ambitions of her own, but things don’t really work out for her. And, of course, she’s someone who loves Laal, perhaps not romantically. We kept her journey the same, but we found an Indian version of it.”

An Unseen India

Though it’s an intimate story, Laal Singh Chaddha is told on an epic canvas. Laal’s life takes him all across India, from Delhi to Mumbai to Kerala and beyond. The film shot in over 100 different locations. “Honestly, I was a bit shocked when the location list got approved,” says Chandan.

“We were asking for the moon, assuming we wouldn’t get it. I was hoping I might get half! It was really a dream come true, getting every location I wanted to shoot in.”

All those locations give the film an extraordinary beauty, but they also explore unseen parts of India. “We wanted to go to beautiful parts of India, but places that hadn’t really been shot before,” explains Chandan. “I didn’t want to go to places that tourists already go to. We wanted to film the kind of places tourists should be going to.” He and the film’s production team spent a long time finding places that would be breathtaking and new. One of the most spectacular places they shot was in Jatayu Nature Park in Kerala. There they filmed around an enormous statue of the mythical bird Jatayu, who helps Rama and Sita in the Indian legend. “I feel it’s one of the most underrated locations in India,” says Chandan. “It’s epic.”

Songs Of The Heart

“As an audience member, if a film doesn’t have songs, it doesn’t feel Indian to me,” says Chandan. Indeed, for most Indian cinema, songs are as just as important as the script or the visuals. Chandan says that one of the first things he did when he read this script was to think about where songs would fit most naturally and impactfully.

“Songs bring in the unsaid and the intangible,” says Chandan. “The song gets under your skin and emotionally connects you to what the character is feeling. Hearing the songs in this film, they’re what Laal is feeling and what the audience ends up feeling.”

The film’s majestic score is composed by Tanuj Tiku, with original songs composed by Pritam (who previously collaborated with Aamir Khan on Dhoom 3 and Dangal) and lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya. “The songs enhance the flow and emotion of the film,” says Chandan. “I’m really proud of what Amitabh and Pritam have done. I’m hoping that when audiences outside India watch the film, that music will bring an added layer to the source material.”

All these elements – the songs, the stunning locations, the clever Indian adaptations, the brilliant performances – combine to make a film that has its own unique personality while keeping the same beating heart as Forrest Gump. “They’re both films about relationships,” says Chandan. “Both Forrest and Laal form these strong relationships. The mother. The friend from the army. The girl he loves. It’s all about relationships, and those journeys are universal. When I watched Forrest Gump, I was in college, and I didn’t understand all the historic elements. I didn’t know what Watergate was. But it still made sense to me. It was still funny to me. And it was still emotional to me. That’s the genius of this story. It’s universal, just as all great art is.

It’s often said that the best things come in small packages, and Marvel Studios’ I Am Groot is further proof of the old adage. The collection of five original shorts stars everyone’s favourite little tree, Baby Groot, from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, who takes centre stage in his very own collection of shorts that explore his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars.

Groot first appeared on screen in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the irreverent, epic space adventure with Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters who patrol and protect the universe. The wise, old, humanoid tree creature embedded himself in the heart of audiences around the world using just three little words: “I am Groot.” At the end of the film, Groot makes the ultimate sacrifice for his friends, and Baby Groot—a seedling about 10 inches tall—is born from the splinters.

Vin Diesel joined the MCU nearly a decade ago and has provided the voice for Groot, at all ages,
in five MCU films.

“In the first film, Groot leaves us in such a heroic fashion that there’s a real melancholy at the end of that movie, even though the good guys win and save the galaxy,” explains Winderbaum. “I think seeing that little branch that Rocket took grow into new life really meant a lot to people. The fact that it became this adorable little character was something that audiences immediately invested in.”

In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Groot was the ultimate scene stealer, an adorable sapling with anger issues who further endeared himself to audiences. “Baby Groot is beloved by fans not only because he’s adorable, but because he’s imperfect,” explains Winderbaum. “Imperfect in the way that we all are, and we all were as children. We see it in our own kids. He doesn’t always make the right choices, but he learns from his mistakes. He can be a bit of a rascal sometimes, but it’s fun to watch him try things. It’s fun to watch him fail, and it’s even more fun to watch him succeed.”

The shorts were written and directed by Kirsten Lepore (Hi Stranger, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on) and will be available exclusively on Disney+ Aug. 10, 2022.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

Toddler Tales Inspire Baby Groot’s Adventures

Undoubtedly, Marvel Studios’ youngest viewers will get a kick out of Baby Groot and his extraterrestrial exploits—but the shorts appeal to all ages, stirring childhood memories and reminding parents of their own attempts to encourage and safeguard curious, endlessly energetic toddlers.

Lepore was inspired by her personal experience with parenting. “I have a three-year-old, so I thought, ‘This is perfect. I’m going to pull some real-life anecdotes and try to infuse some of that into this mischievous little toddler.’”

“As parents, Kirsten and I would discuss what it was like raising kids, especially when they’re at that just post-toddler age, when they can really start manipulating their environment with intention,” says Winderbaum. “It’s funny to watch our kids get into mischief. You just find yourself shaking your head and smiling at the ridiculous things they get up to.”

Winderbaum adds, “In a way, when you’re watching these short films, you have that parental perspective a little bit where you think, ‘Oh, no. Don’t do that!’ You’re looking through your fingers, hoping that he’ll take a different path, which he doesn’t.”

“In a world where there’s a lot going on and a lot to digest, I love bringing some wonderful light joy that hopefully makes people laugh and inspires them to embrace their weird side,” says Lepore. “I consider these shorts some of the more comedic things that Marvel Studies has done, and it’s fun to be part of that comedy. I hope it brings a smile to people’s faces and reminds them of their kids or their own childhood.”

Winderbaum shares Lepore’s sentiments: “I just think about people sitting down at their couch watching these shorts on TV, maybe with their kids, and just having something to laugh with each other about. That’s honestly the thing that gets me up in the morning, and that’s something that I think these shorts really deliver.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

I thought it would be really cool to start the whole series having Groot grow out of his pot, sort of like a loose version of a plant-growing time-lapse,” says Lepore. “That was melded with this idea I had of ‘Groot vs. Tree’— where Groot, a sentient tree, goes up against a non-sentient tree. We really played up the Buster Keaton-esque style of physical comedy in which the inanimate object always wins.”

Kirsten Lepore Tapped to Write and Direct I Am Groot

“Kirsten has a long history of making short-form content—really fun, artistic, experimental, entertaining short films with different animation styles and mixed media,” says Winderbaum. “All the little subtleties in the expressions of Groot and other characters, and how their environment interacts with them, come from her stop-motion experience. She was able to apply that to the photorealistic CG style we made the shorts in. She’s one of the most fun collaborators I’ve ever worked with at the studio, and I think you can see her heart and soul in every frame of ‘I Am Groot.’”

Lepore credits Winderbaum as the main reason she signed on to direct “I Am Groot.” “You hear Marvel, and you think it’s a massive company that dominates the market, so it could be this cold, impersonal thing. But Brad was just so welcoming and has been so supportive of my ideas. I felt like I was kind of an unlikely pick to direct anything Marvel, and I really have to hand it to Brad. He’s the one that brought in Taika Waititi to do ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ which brought such an incredible humour and flavor into the MCU. I’m very grateful that he has an eye for weirdos, like me.”

Lepore also collaborated with executive producer James Gunn, who created the character of Groot in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. “I had a few meetings with James from the very start to get an essence of what the character of Baby Groot should be,” says Lepore. “I remember him describing Groot as a ‘bad baby’, but also as an emoji guy’— meaning he can capture a whole emotion or mood with just a simple facial expression. I really took that to heart and thought about it constantly while creating the show.”

“Once we realized that ‘I Am Groot’ was a collection of shorts about these small, standalone experiences that Groot has, it all came together,” says Winderbaum. “Kirsten and her storyboard team created these little stories that, even in an animatic form, were wildly entertaining and so fun to watch.”

No matter the length, the creative process takes time, and Lepore and team were determined to perfect each short. “We’ve been working on the shorts for about a year and a half,” says Lepore.

“It’s fifteen minutes total but obviously animation takes time. We also rewrote a few shorts several times to make sure we really landed in a place that we were happy with.”

Lepore adds, “I think our biggest challenge was how to tell a really fun, compelling story in just three minutes. But I come from the world of shorts, so I knew we’d be able to pull it off. When we were working on the storyboards and animatics, everything was coming out to about five minutes. We worked really hard and edited very carefully, and I think, honestly, they’re better at three minutes.”

Of course, filmmakers faced another added challenge in 2020. “Working through the pandemic was extremely challenging on many fronts,” says Winderbaum. “But in the world of animation, we were able to get up and running in a virtual way very quickly. In fact, being able to figure out how to produce ‘I Am Groot’ virtually taught us a lot of lessons for the live-action shows as well.”

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

KIRSTEN LEPORE (Writer/Director/Executive Producer) is a Los Angeles-based director and animator, and alumna of CalArts. Her viral hit “Hi Stranger” garnered upwards of 200 million views online, and her stop-motion episode of “Adventure Time” won a 2016 Emmy® Award and Annie Award. Lepore recently animation directed “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on,” which premiered at Telluride and has maintained a 99 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes since its June 24 release by A24. Her other films have taken top prizes at SXSW, Slamdance and many other international festivals. She has worked with clients such as Google, MTV, Mini Cooper, Silk, Skippy, Nestle, and many more. Lepore has given talks everywhere from Pixar to Portugal and has also been featured in Juxtapoz, Shots, and was named one of the 50 most creative people by Creativity Magazine.

ARCHIVE: 2021 / 2020 / 2019 / 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015

Films that have been released in cinemas in South Africa: January 1 -August 7, 2022.

Listed Alphabetically / Cinema Releases (C) / Streaming (S) BACK TO LATEST RELEASES

A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN – Directed by Denzel Washington and starring Michael B. Jordan with a screenplay by Virgil Williams, A Journal for Jordan is based on the true story of First Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Jordan), a soldier deployed to Iraq who begins to keep a journal of love and advice for his infant son. Back at home, senior New York Times editor Dana Canedy (Chanté Adams) revisits the story of her unlikely, life-altering relationship with King and his enduring devotion to her and their child. A sweeping account of a once-in-a-lifetime love, the film is a powerful reminder of the importance of family.  Trailer / Read more

THE 355 (C) – A spy action film directed by Simon Kinberg, with a screenplay by Theresa Rebeck and Kinberg, from a story by Rebeck. The film stars Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz, Diane Kruger, and Fan Bingbing as a group of international spies who must come together to stop a terrorist organization from starting World War III; Sebastian Stan and Édgar Ramírez also star. The title is derived from Agent 355, a female spy for the Patriots during American Revolution (1765-1783). Read more

AMBULANCE is an action-thriller film directed and produced by Michael Bay. Written by Chris Fedak, the film is based on the 2005 Danish film of the same name by Laurits Munch-Petersen, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as two bank robbers who steal an ambulance occupied by a paramedic (Eiza González), and a patient in critical condition. Read more

THE ARTIST’S WIFE – Claire (Lena Olin) lives a domestic life in the Hamptons as the wife of celebrated artist Richard Smythson (Bruce Dern). Once a promising painter herself, Claire now lives in the shadow of her husband’s illustrious career. DStv Box Office. Feature: The Artist’s Wife honours women and men who have stuck by their partners through challenging circumstances

BACKLIGHT – When Director, co-writer, and producer Mark Williams was looking to follow up 2020’s Honest Thief, he read a script that had an interesting hook but was especially intrigued by the character of Travis Block, a guy who has to go into places and get good people out of bad situations., so he rewrote and updated the story to make the action-thriller Blacklight, with a lot on its mind, in a genre that harkens back to great conspiracy-minded actions-dramas of the past while being very of-the-moment. An action-thriller rooted in the ideas of family, loyalty, truth, and betrayal

THE BAD GUYS -Nobody has ever failed so hard at trying to be good as The Bad Guys. In the new action comedy from DreamWorks Animation, based on the New York Times best-selling book series, a crackerjack criminal crew of animal outlaws are about to attempt their most challenging con yet—becoming model citizens. Based on the blockbuster Scholastic book series by Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys is directed by Pierre Perifel (animator, the Kung Fu Panda films), making his feature-directing debut. Read more

THE BATMAN – More than a year of stalking the streets as the Batman (Robert Pattinson), striking fear into the hearts of criminals, has led Bruce Wayne deep into the shadows of Gotham City.  With only a few trusted allies—Alfred (Andy Serkis), Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright)—amongst the city’s corrupt network of officials and high-profile figures, the lone vigilante has established himself as the sole embodiment of vengeance amongst his fellow citizens. When a killer targets Gotham’s elite with a series of sadistic machinations, a trail of cryptic clues sends the World’s Greatest Detective on an investigation into the underworld, where he encounters such characters as Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), Oz, aka The Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and Edward Nashton/aka The Riddler (Paul Dano).  As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans becomes clear, Batman must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit, and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued Gotham City. Gotham City’s vigilante detective brings justice to the abuse of power and corruption

BELFAST – In the summer of 1969, nine-year-old Buddy knows exactly who he is and where he belongs.  He’s working-class, North Belfast, happy, loved and safe. His world is a fast and funny street-life, lived large in the heart of a community that laughs together and sticks together. But as the 1960s stagger to a close, even as man stands on the moon itself, the dog days of August turn Buddy’s childhood dreams into a nightmare. Simmering social discontent suddenly explodes in Buddy’s own street and escalates, fast. First a masked attack, then a riot and finally a city-wide conflict, with religion fanning the flames further afield. Catholics vs Protestants, loving neighbours just a heartbeat ago, set on to be deadly foes now. Buddy must make sense of the chaos and hysteria and of this new physical landscape of lockdown, peopled by heroes and villains, once only glimpsed on the cinema screen but now threatening to upturn everything he knows and loves as an epic struggle plays out in his own backyard. A humorous, tender and intensely personal story

BLIND AMBITION – Having escaped starvation and tyranny in their homeland of Zimbabwe, four refugees,  Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin have conquered the odds to become South Africa’s sommeliers in the riveting documentary.  Feature: Four refugees conquer the odds to become South Africa’s top sommeliers

BULLET TRAIN – Directed by David Leitch from a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz, based on the book by Kotaro Isaka, Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, an unlucky assassin determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe—all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives—on the world’s fastest train. Feature: A fun action-thriller with crazy, bombastic characters

CHICKENHARE AND THE HAMPSTER OF DARKNESS –Set in a lush fantasy world, this animated film follows the adventures of Chickenhare, a young hero born half chicken and half hare, who was adopted by King Peter, a famous hare adventurer. Eager to fit in and feel loved in spite of his differences, Chickenhare is obsessed with adventuring – no matter how clumsy he is. When the Kingdom’s greatest villain – his own uncle – escapes from jail and threatens to overthrow his father, Chickenhare embarks on an epic and initiatory quest along with Abe, a sarcastic turtle, and Meg, a martial arts expert skunk, to stop him. Read more

C’MON, C’MON, Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a kind-hearted radio journalist deep into a project in which he interviews children across the U.S. about our world’s uncertain future. His sister, Viv (Hoffman), asks him to watch her 8-year-old son, Jesse (Woody Norman), while she tends to the child’s father, who’s suffering from mental health issues. After agreeing, Johnny finds himself connecting with his nephew in ways he hadn’t expected, ultimately taking Jesse with him on a journey from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans. Anchored by three remarkable actors, “C’mon C’mon” is a gentle yet impeccably crafted drama about coming to terms with personal trauma and historical legacies. Read more

THE CONTRACTOR – Taking its name from a military expression used by the US Army and Special Forces it centres on James Harper (Chris Pine), a former Green Beret trying to re-enter the real world after being honourably discharged without his pension. Harper takes a job as a military contractor in Berlin where he finds himself being hunted by the people who employed him. A character-driven action thriller with a deep, emotional core and a marked political subtext.

CYRANO – In the tradition of the classic MGM movies that celebrate romance lyrically and visually, award[1]winning director Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Anna Karenina, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) orchestrates a gifted ensemble of actors performing the big-screen epic love story Cyrano. This bold new adaptation, scripted by Erica Schmidt and filmed on stunning Italian locales, re[1]imagines the timeless tale of wit, courage, and love. The score and songs are from The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner, and Matt Berninger and Carin Besser. In the title role, Peter Dinklage (Emmy® Award winner for Game of Thrones) makes the iconic character his own. Read more

DC LEAGUE OF SUPER PETS -In the animated DC League of Super-Pets Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes. Released on Feature: DC League of Super-Pets features everyone’s favourite things: pets and DC Super Heroes!

DEAR EVAN HANSEN – The endearing adaptation of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical about Evan Hansen, a high school senior with Social Anxiety disorder and his journey of self-discovery and acceptance following the suicide of a fellow classmate

DEATH ON THE NILE – In Death On The Nile Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer when a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this tale of unbridled passion and incapacitating jealousy features a cosmopolitan group of impeccably dressed travellers and enough wicked twists and turns to keep audiences guessing until the final, shocking denouement. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, with a screenplay by Michael Green, based on the 1937 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.  Trailer / Feature: A daring mystery-thriller about the emotional chaos and deadly consequences triggered by obsessive love

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS – The MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before. Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, with Michael Stühlbarg, and Rachel McAdams.  The film is directed by Sam Raimi, and Kevin Feige is the producer. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Eric Hauserman Carroll and Jamie Christopher serve as executive producers. The screenplay was written by Michael Waldron. Feature: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness pushes the fantasy genre into a more foreboding place

DOG – Channing Tatum co-directed Dog with producing partner Reid Carolin, who wrote the script. It’s a movie about the uncanny ability of road trips to go awry in the craziest possible ways and how animals can be healing, even when relationships with them aren’t unconditionally effortless. A Buddy Comedy About A Guy Who Takes A Road Trip With His Dog

DOGTANIAN AND THE THREE MUSKEHOUNDS (C) – Dogtanian is a young swordsman who dreams of joining the legendary Muskehounds. After proving his skills and earning their trust, he and the Muskehounds must defend the King from the evil Cardinal Richelieu’s secret plot to seize power. This Spanish computer-animated adventure is directed by Toni García and written by Doug Langdale, based on the 1981 television series of the same name, in turn, adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 story of d’Artagnan and The Three Musketeers. Read more

DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA – From award-winning creator Julian Fellowes comes the motion picture event Downton Abbey: A New Era. The much-anticipated cinematic return of the global phenomenon reunites the beloved cast as they go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa. Feature: Julian Fellowes talks about Downton Abbey: A New Era / Q & A with director Simon Curtis

EIFFEL – A fictionalized romance between Eiffel and Adrienne Bourgès, his childhood sweetheart, was directed by Martin Bourboulon, from a screenplay crafted by Caroline Bongrand. When the idea for the sumptuous romance Eiffel dawned on director Martin Bourboulon over 20 years ago, it sparked a journey that resulted in a film that is not a biopic or a documentary, but a faithful and endearing reimagining of Gustave Eiffel’ fervent passion, which grounded the creation and building of the Eiffel Tower. Features: Director Martin Bourboulon talks about Eiffel / Screenwriter Caroline Bongrand talks about Eiffel

ELVIS – A thoroughly cinematic drama, Elvis’s (Austin Butler) story is seen through the lens of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).  As told by Parker, the film delves into the complex dynamic between the two spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America.  Central to that journey is one of the significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge). Read more

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, Everything Everywhere All At Once is a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action-adventure about an exhausted Chinese American woman (Michelle Yeoh) who can’t seem to finish her taxes.  Feature: A kung-fu sci-fi dramedy that hops around multidimensional universes

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a magical adventure that sends a team of unlikely heroes, led by Newt Scamander, on a mission that could spell their only chance to save both the wizarding and non-magical worlds.  Each has a role to play in this covert operation devised by the ultimate wizarding mastermind: Professor Albus Dumbledore. Based on J.K. Rowling’s original screenplay, the final screenplay for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was written by Rowling and Steve Kloves, both of whom also served as producers on the film. Feature: A magical adventure into the Wizarding World

FIREHEART – In the animated Fireheart, sixteen-year-old Georgia Nolan dreams of being the world’s first-ever female firefighter. When a mysterious arsonist starts burning down Broadway, New York’s firemen begin vanishing. Georgia’s father, Shawn, is called out of retirement by the Mayor of New York to lead the investigation into the disappearances. Desperate to help her father and save her city, Georgia disguises herself as a young man called “Joe” and joins a small group of misfit firefighters trying to stop the arsonist. A young-girl dreams of being the world’s first-ever female firefighter

FIRE ISLAND – Fire Island is an unapologetic, modern-day romantic comedy showcasing a diverse, multicultural examination of queerness. Amid a classic Fire Island week fuelled by underwear parties, dance challenges, karaoke performances, and general debauchery, a gang of gay buddies bicker and banters over potential romantic entanglements in rising comedy star and screenwriter Joel Kim Booster’s Fire Island.

FIRESTARTER – In a new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic thriller Firestarter, a girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers fights to protect her family and herself from sinister forces that seek to capture and control her. Directed by Keith Thomas (The Vigil), from a screenplay by Scott Teems (Halloween Kills). Feature: Reigniting Stephen King’s classic thriller

FIRST LOVE – Jim (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a senior in high school experiences the highs and lows of his first love with Ann (Sydney Park) as they navigate their pending departure to college. At the same time, Jim’s parents ( Diane Kruger and Jeffrey Donovan) are dealing with the familial fallout of a financial crisis. First Love is a movie writer-director A.J. Edwards had wanted to make for 15 years: “A personal story with a timeless theme. It is a modern romance, but one not often portrayed quite like this in other films and books.” Read more

GAIA – This outstanding South African film is not about a loving earth mother. It’s a riveting ecological horror fantasy that makes human history irrelevant – the flowers at the end of the Anthropocene. In the depths of an ancient forest, something has been growing. Something older than humanity itself, and perhaps greater too. When a park ranger discovers a strange man and his son living wild, she stumbles onto a secret that is about to change the world. Read more / Interview with screenwriter Tertius Kapp.

GLASSHOUSE (S) – In the South African dystopian thriller Glasshouse, a memory-shredding neurochemical permeates the atmosphere like airborne dementia. Safe within an airtight glasshouse, a family preserves their past through rituals of collective memory. Mother teaches her children to protect their sanctuary at all costs. They hand-pollinate plants and shoot intruders on sight. The litany of their recited history centres around the long-awaited return of Luca, the prodigal son. Free-spirited Bee misses her twin passionately. To escape the memory of his loss, she deliberately exposes herself to the toxin. Gabe looms as a tragic warning against this path: he played too long outside, and now he is forever a child. Haunted by guilt, Evie obsessively archives keepsakes in her memory box to protect herself from her deepest fear: oblivion. The youngest, Daisy, lives solely in the present — a savage innocent. When Bee breaks the family’s first rule and lets a Stranger into their sanctuary, it upsets the family’s rituals, unearthing truths they have tried to keep buried. Is he really their lost brother? Or are they players in a story he is rewriting to his own ends? Directed by Kelsey Egan in her feature debut and co-written by Egan and Emma Lungiswa de Wet. Trailer / Streaming on Showmax in SA Feature: A Dystopian Fairytale Challenging Female-Driven Stories

GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI celebrates the rise of a simple girl who had no choice but to embrace the ways of destiny and swing it in her favour. The narrative walks through the life of young Ganga, who ran away from her small town of Kathiawad to pursue her dreams of becoming a movie star. As fate would have it, her lover betrayed her and sold her off to a brothel. Ganga was left with no choice but to survive in these dire circumstances. With time, Ganga marks her territory and transforms into Gangubai – the matriarch of Bombay’s infamous red-light district – Kamathipura. Gangubai takes it upon herself to become a symbol for the fight against the injustices imposed on prostitutes. She becomes the voice of the suppressed and makes it her mission to try and legitimize a tainted profession that dates back to ancient times. The film is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the cast includes Alia Bhatt, Abhinay Raj Singh and Ajay Devgn. Trailer / Read more

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE – Emma Thompson stirs up some heated controversy as a retired schoolteacher, is yearning for some adventure, and some sex. Good sex. And she has a plan: she hires a young sex worker named Leo Grande. Whilst her husband Robert provided a home, a family, and something resembling a life, good sex was never on offer. But he’s gone now, and Nancy has a plan: she will find adventure with a sex worker named Leo Grande. Feature: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: How a brilliant idea evolved into an irresistible film

HAMLET –Like the original play, which unfolds in an imprecise period in Elsinore Castle in medieval Denmark, Australian composer Brett Dean’s opera Hamlet is set in an imagined Elsinore at an indeterminate date. This production, by Neil Armfield, draws upon visual motifs of the 18th and 20th centuries to create a simultaneously modern and timeless feel for the action. Allan Clayton plays the title role. Nicholas Carter makes his Met debut conducting a remarkable ensemble, which also features soprano Brenda Rae as Ophelia, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly as Gertrude, baritone Rod Gilfry as Claudius, and bass-baritone John Relyea as the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

HENRY V – Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) plays the title role in a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s thrilling study of nationalism, war and the psychology of power. Fresh to the throne, King Henry V launches England into a bloody war with France. Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) plays the title role in Shakespeare’s thrilling study of nationalism, war and the psychology of power. Captured live from the Donmar Warehouse in London. Fresh to the throne, King Henry V launches England into a bloody war with France. When his campaign encounters resistance, this inexperienced new ruler must prove he is fit to guide a country into war. Directed by Max Webster (Life of Pi), this exciting modern production explores what it means to be English and our relationship with Europe, asking: do we ever get the leaders we deserve?

HOT SEAT – Orlando Friar is a former hacker with a checkered past who has repositioned himself on the straight and narrow path before he ends up in the Hot Seat. Trying desperately to rebuild his life, he’s landed a minimum wage cyber security job that pays the bills and keeps him mostly out of trouble. At the same time, he’s working to improve his rocky relationship with his wife and be a better father to his young daughter, who’s about to celebrate her birthday. But as hard as Orlando may try to run, the past tends to catch up with everyone… Feature: A tense, tech-culture action-thriller

INDEMNITY – South African writer-director Travis Taute’s debut feature Indemnity tells the story of Theo Abrahams (Jarrid Geduld), ex-fireman suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who, unable to return to work, turns to alcohol. Trailer

JACKASS FOREVER – After 11 years, the Jackass crew is back for their final crusade. It is the fourth main instalment in the Jackass film series, following Jackass 3D (2010). The film stars original Jackass members Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Wee Man, Danger Ehren and Preston Lacy, newcomers to the Jackass crew, celebrity guests, and a cameo appearance by original Jackass member Bam Margera, who was fired during the film’s production. Celebrating the joy of being back together with your best friends, the original jackass crew return for another round of hilarious, wildly absurd, and often dangerous displays of comedy with a little help from some exciting new cast members.  Johnny and the team push the envelope even further. Read more

JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION – Experience the epic conclusion to the Jurassic era as two generations unite for the first time in Jurassic World Dominion, a bold, timely and breathtaking new adventure that spans the globe. From Jurassic World architect and director Colin Trevorrow, Dominion takes place four years after Isla Nublar has been destroyed. Dinosaurs now live—and hunt—alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.

THE LAST BUS is a drama directed by Gillies MacKinnon. It stars Timothy Spall as an elderly gentleman who travels the length of the United Kingdom to scatter his late wife’s ashes. John O’Groats, Scotland: An elderly man, Tom (Timothy Spall), whose wife has just passed away uses only local buses on a nostalgic trip to carry her ashes all the way across the UK to Land’s End, where they originally met, using his free bus pass. Unbeknownst to Tom, his journey begins to capture the imagination of the local people that he comes across and, ultimately, becomes a nationwide story. Read more

LAST LOOKS – Charlie Waldo (Charlie Hunnam) is an ex-LAPD superstar who left the force and now lives a life of simplicity and solitude deep in the woods. Alistair Pinch (Mel Gibson) is an eccentric actor who spends his days drunk on the set of his TV show. When Pinch’s wife is found dead, he is the prime suspect and Waldo is convinced to come out of retirement to investigate what happened. The case finds Waldo contending with gangsters, Hollywood executives and pre-school teachers, all in pursuit of clearing Pinch’s name… or confirming his guilt. It is directed by Tim Kirkby from a screenplay by Howard Michael Gould based on his novel of the same name.  Trailer / Read more

LAST SEEN ALIVE – After Will Spann’s wife suddenly vanishes at a gas station, his desperate search to find her leads him down a dark path that forces him to run from authorities and take the law into his own hands in the new action-thriller Last Seen AliveFeature: A fast-paced thriller designed to keep actors in motion, and viewers glued to their seat

LEOPOLDSTADT – An epic family drama telling the story of an Austrian-Jewish families experience over 50 years from the turn of the century to World War II. Written by Britain’s greatest living playwright Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) inspired by his own family history. Regarded as ‘Britain’s greatest living playwright’ (Times), Tom Stoppard’s critically acclaimed new play Leopoldstadt is a passionate drama of love, family and endurance. At the beginning of the 20th century, Leopoldstadt was the old, crowded Jewish quarter of Vienna, Austria. But Hermann Merz, a factory owner and baptised Jew now married to Catholic Gretl, has moved up in the world. We follow his family’s story across half a century, passing through the convulsions of war, revolution, impoverishment, annexation by Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. A company of 40 actors represent each generation of the family in this epic, but intimate play.

LICORICE PIZZA is the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973. Alana Kane (played by Alana Haim) is a young woman seeking to find and define herself beyond her uninspiring job as a photographer’s aide. Gary has already established himself as a working actor and wangles an opportunity for her to be his chaperone during a New York television appearance. The film tracks the treacherous navigation of first love. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Phantom Thread). Trailer      / Read more

LIGHTYEAR – Experience the origin story of a Space Ranger in Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear. The sci-fi action-adventure presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans. Feature: The definitive origin story of legendary Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear

THE LOST CITY – Brilliant, but reclusive author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has spent her career writing about exotic places in her popular romance-adventure novels featuring handsome cover model Alan (Channing Tatum), who has dedicated his life to embodying the hero character, “Dash.” While on tour promoting her new book with Alan, Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who hopes that she can lead him to the ancient lost city’s treasure from her latest story. Wanting to prove that he can be a hero in real life and not just on the pages of her books, Alan sets off to rescue her. Thrust into an epic jungle adventure, the unlikely pair will need to work together to survive the elements and find the ancient treasure before it’s lost forever. Read more

THE LOST DAUGHTER (C) (S) – Alone on a seaside vacation, Leda becomes consumed with a young mother and daughter as she watches them on the beach. Unnerved by their compelling relationship, (and their raucous and menacing extended family), Leda is overwhelmed by her own memories of the terror, confusion and intensity of early motherhood. An impulsive act shocks Leda into the strange and ominous world of her own mind, where she is forced to face the unconventional choices she made as a young mother and their consequences. Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, with Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Jessie Buckley.  Trailer /Read more

MARMADUKE – A legendary dog trainer believes he can transform Marmaduke from an undisciplined, but lovable Great Dane, into the next winner of the World Dog Championship in MarmadukeTrailer / Read more

MARRY ME – In Marry Me Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) is half of the sexiest celebrity power couple on Earth with hot new music supernova Bastian (Maluma, making his feature-film debut). Divorced high-school math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) has been dragged to the concert by his daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman, HBO’s Big Little Lies) and his best friend (Sarah Silverman). Kat meets Charlie. What begins as an impulsive reaction evolves into an unexpected romance. But as forces conspire to separate them, the universal question arises: Can two people from such different worlds bridge the gulf between them and build a place where they both belong?  Trailer / Feature: A modern love story about celebrity, marriage and social media

MEMORY– Liam Neeson plays an expert assassin with a reputation for discreet precision. Caught in a moral quagmire, he refuses to complete a job that violates his code and must quickly hunt down and kill the people who hired him before they and FBI agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce) find him first. Built for revenge but, with a memory that is beginning to falter, he is forced to question his every action, blurring the line between right and wrong. Directed by Martin Campbell. Read more / Trailer

MEN – In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to find a place to heal. However, someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread soon becomes a fully formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.  Feature: A film uniquely interested in the foundational myths that animate our culture

MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU – This year, from the biggest global animated franchise in history, comes the origin story of how the world’s greatest supervillain first met his iconic Minions, forged cinema’s most despicable crew and faced off against the most unstoppable criminal force ever assembled in Minions: The Rise of Gru. Feature: Icons of mischief, mayhem and joy

MISTER BONES 3: SON OF BONES – Sixty years ago, in an obscure corner of Africa, the only survivor of a light aircraft crash was a baby boy. Perhaps it was the miracle of his survival which gave him the gift of “sight”, and he became a Sangoma, the seer of the Kuvuki tribe, interpreting the wishes of The Great One through the throwing of the bones. Hence his name – Bones (Leon Schuster). Today, at an advanced age but still fit in mind and body, his mission is to pass on his wisdom to his son, Mathambo (Ntombela), and guide him into manhood, a mission doomed to fail because of both of their obsessive personalities. The storyline of Mr. Bones 3, Son of Bones begins at the turn of the last century, when we witness (flashback) the burying of the Kruger millions by two Boer soldiers, who then kill each other through idiotic greed, leaving the Kruger millions hidden in a graveyard in Kuvukiland. Now, in the present, a scrawny businessman named Alvin (Moonsamy) and his Texan engineer partner named Jack (Janks), together with their beautiful guide, Gabrielle (Anstey) are plotting to mine for oil in the pristine land which would leave it an oily mess. Bones and Mathambo must devise a way to outsmart the opinionated Westerners. Of course, as their plan unfolds, so do many other unexpected twists and turns, with hilarious effect. Trailer

MOONFALL – In Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation,  NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), and conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) believe her. The unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space only to find out that our moon is not what we think it is.  Trailer Feature: What happens if the Moon falls down to Earth?

MORBIUS – One of the most compelling and conflicted characters in Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters comes to the big screen as Oscar winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic antihero Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder and determined to save others suffering his same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. While at first it seems to be a radical success, a darkness inside him is unleashed. Will good override evil – or will Morbius succumb to his mysterious new urges? Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Screen Story and Screenplay by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless. Based on the MARVEL Comics. Read more

MOTHERING SUNDAY – When her employers are out, Jane, a housemaid (Odessa Young), sneaks off to spend quality time with her secret lover (Josh O’Connor), despite the fact that he’s engaged to be married to another woman, a childhood friend and daughter of his parents’ friends. But events that neither can foresee will change the course of Jane’s life forever. Read more

MY SWEET MONSTER – In this animated fairy tale a rebellious princess runs away from the royal palace and falls into the hands of the monstrous forest bandit Bogey and turns his life upside down. Barbara attempts to dictate her own rules in Bogey’s native forest. Being a creature of the wild, Bogey hates her for that but, as we all know, the line between hatred and love can be very thin… Feature: An unconventional animated fairy tale about the power of love

NIGHTMARE ALLEY – In the psychological thriller Nightmare Alley a charismatic but down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) endears himself to clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her has-been mentalist husband Pete (David Strathairn) at a travelling carnival, crafting a golden ticket to success, using this newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York Society.  With the virtuous Molly (Rooney Mara) loyally by his side, Stanton plots to con a dangerous tycoon (Richard Jenkins) with the aid of a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who might be his most formidable opponent yet. This psychological thriller is directed by Guillermo del Toro with a screenplay by del Toro and Kim Morgan, based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham.  Trailer / Feature: A cautionary tale about the dark side of American capitalism

NOT OKAY follows Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch), an aimless aspiring writer with no friends, no romantic prospects and – worst of all – no followers, who fakes an Instagram-friendly trip to Paris in the hopes of boosting her social media clout. When a terrifying incident strikes the City of Lights, Danni unwittingly falls into a lie bigger than she ever imagined. She “returns” a hero, even striking up an unlikely friendship with Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school-shooting survivor dedicated to societal change, and scooping up the man of her dreams Colin (Dylan O’Brien). As an influencer and advocate, Danni finally has the life and audience she always wanted. But it’s only a matter of time before the facade cracks, and she learns the hard way that the Internet loves a takedown. Disney+. / Feature: A dark comedy about one woman’s misguided attempt to become the Internet’s next trending personality

OPERATION MINCEMEAT – Uncover a most extraordinary true story Operation Mincemeat. It’s 1943. The Allies are determined to break Hitler’s grip on occupied Europe and plan an all-out assault on Sicily, but they face an impossible challenge – how to protect a massive invasion force from the potential massacre. It falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), to dream the most inspired and improbable disinformation strategy of the war – centred on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man. Directed by John Madden, with Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn and Jason Isaacs. Feature: An extraordinary story about the nobility of unsung heroes

PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK – An action-packed animated comedy for all the family inspired by Mel Brooks’ timeless classic, Blazing Saddles. Hank, a loveable dog with a head full of dreams about becoming a samurai, sets off in search of his destiny.

PREY – The “Predator” franchise was launched in the late 80s and now resurfaces as the new action-thriller Prey, set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. In Prey, the alien Predator lands his spacecraft in The Northern Great Plains in 1719, looking to hunt for sport. The land is inhabited by men, women, and children of the Comanche tribe, many of them skilled hunters and warriors themselves. And the “Prey” filmmakers were committed to creating a film that provides an accurate portrayal of the Comanche world at the height of the Comanche Empire, and brings a level of authenticity that rings true to the experience of its Indigenous peoples. As a result, the cast is comprised almost entirely of Native and First Nation’s talent. Feature: An Iconic Predator Strikes Again

REDEEMING LOVE – An adaptation of Francine Rivers’ book Redeeming Love is a powerful retelling of a biblical love story set against a romantic 1850s California Gold Rush backdrop. It centres on the unlikely relationship of Sarah, who becomes known as Angel (Abigail Cowen), who was sold into prostitution as a child. Now, 18-year-old Sarah is a beautiful and in-demand woman in a rough and tumble prospecting town in California. Michael Hosea (Tom Lewis). Michael, on the other hand, is a farmer and man of faith. Through their relationship, Angel discovers there is no brokenness that love can’t heal. The romantic period drama, set in the American Old West, was directed by D. J. Caruso, who co-wrote the screenplay with author Francine Rivers.  Trailer / Feature: A romantic period drama set in the American Old West

RISE is based on the triumphant real-life story about the remarkable family that produced the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions in the history of the league—Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kostas Antetokounmpo. Rise debuted exclusively on Disney+ in June 2022, and will have its linear premiere across the continent on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network ESPN (DStv218, Starsat 248) on 1 August. Feature: A triumphant real-life story

SCREAM (C)Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past in Scream. Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers) and David Arquette (Dewey Riley) return to their iconic roles in ScreamFeature: Resurrecting the Elevated Horror Franchise

SHATTERED – After lonely tech millionaire Chris (Cameron Monaghan) encounters charming, sexy Sky (Lilly Krug), passion grows between them — and when he’s injured, she quickly steps in as his nurse. But Sky’s odd behaviour makes Chris suspect that she has more sinister intentions in Shattered. It’s a thriller with a ‘can’t-look-away’ style that guarantees to keep the audience guessing until the very end. A story of lust, love and deception played out in a Montana mansion, the story was written by David Loughery (The Intruder, Lakeview Terrace), directed by Luis Prieto (White Lines, Kidnap, Pusher) and stars Lilly Krug (Zero Contact/Heart Of Champions), as con-artist Sky and Cameron Monaghan (Gotham, Shameless, The Giver) stars as Chris, the millionaire who falls in love with her. The film’s director Luis Prieto last directed Kidnap and Pusher. The film’s writer David Loughery last wrote Fatale and The Intruder.  Trailer / Read more

SINGLEHOLIC – An adventure in the spirit of ‘Sex & the City’ and ‘Girls Trip’, Singleholic tells the story of a woman who moves to Mauritius to pursue her PhD after a painful breakup with her boyfriend. While there, she goes on a series of very funny dating encounters only to realise that the key to her happiness is to first be comfortable in her own skin.

SODIUM DAY – Written and directed by the award-winning Riaz Solker, Sodium Day is a South African comedy-drama with tragic undertones that features uncanny humour and absurd, but often true-to-life scenarios, telling the story of a neglected Matric class in a dilapidated school on the Cape Flats as they navigate their way through absent teachers, racial tensions, and the threat of local gangsters. Read more

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 – One of the most compelling and conflicted characters in Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters comes to the big screen as Oscar winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic antihero Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder and determined to save others suffering the same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. While at first, it seems to be a radical success, the darkness inside him is unleashed. Will good override evil – or will Morbius succumb to his mysterious new urges? Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Screen Story and Screenplay by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless. Based on the MARVEL Comics. Read more

SPARTACUS – Huge in scale and spectacular in effect, the Bolshoi Ballet’s Spartacus is a true tour de force, set to Aram Khachaturian’s superb score. With an incredible display of might from the four leading dancers to the entire corps de ballet and its passionate pas de deux, Spartacus is the ultimate spectacle of virtuosity and lyricism born at the Bolshoi Theatre. In Imperial Rome led by Crassus, Spartacus and his wife Phrygia are reduced to slavery and are separated by slave dealers. His love for her and his desire for freedom lead him to revolt against the Roman army with the help of the other captives. With the Bolshoi Principals, Soloists and Corps de Ballet. At Cinema Nouveau Trailer / Read more

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER – The God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) embarks on a journey, unlike anything he’s ever faced — one of self-discovery. But his efforts are interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg and his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they venture out on a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late. Directed by Taika Waititi from a screenplay by Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. Feature: A new frontier for the God of Thunder

THE TIGER RISING (C) – Starting a new life in rural Florida at the Kentucky Star Motel, reserved 12-year-old Rob Horton lets his imagination run wild, a contrast to his sad reality of a bullied boy who just lost his mother. One day, however, his reality is met with something more whimsical than his own mind can ever desire: a full-grown Bengal tiger, hidden in the woods and held captive by the mean spirited motel owner, Beauchamp (Dennis Quaid). With the help of a wise and mysterious maid, Willie May (Queen Latifah) and the stubborn new girl in school Sistine (Madalen Mills), Rob must decide if to set the tiger free and in turn uncage his emotional grief. Feature: Visual Effects Guru Ray Giarratana masters the art of visual narrative as Writer-Director of The Tiger Rising

TOP GUN: MAVERICK – After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him in Top Gun: Maverick. Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it. Feature: Exploring the culture and competitive nature of Top Aviators

TURNING RED – Disney and Pixar’s Turning Red introduces Mei Lee (voice of Rosalie Chiang), a confident, dorky 13-year-old torn between staying her mother’s dutiful daughter and the chaos of adolescence. Her protective, if not slightly overbearing mother, Ming (voice of Sandra Oh), is never far from her daughter—an unfortunate reality for the teenager. And as if changes to her interests, relationships and body weren’t enough, whenever she gets too excited (which is practically ALWAYS), she “poofs” into a giant red panda! Read more

THE UMBRELLA MEN – A ragtag bunch of musicians are forced to rob a bank during the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival in the hope they will save their iconic, but in-debt nightclub in the Bo Kaap. Directed by John Barker from a screenplay by Barker, Lev David and Philip Roberts. Watch it on EVOD / Trailer

THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT – From filmmakers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten comes a sincere, authentic, and hilarious love letter to Nicolas Cage – as you know and love him … and as you’ve never seen him before. It’s the role he was born to play. Nicolas Cage stars as… Nick Cage in the action-comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictionalized version of Cage must accept a $1 million offer to attend the birthday of a dangerous superfan (Pedro Pascal). Things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) and forced to live up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. With a career built for this very moment, the seminal award-winning actor must take on the role of a lifetime: Nick Cage. Read more

UNCHARTED – Street-smart Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is recruited by seasoned treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) to recover a fortune amassed by Ferdinand Magellan and lost 500 years ago by the House of Moncada. What starts as a heist job for the duo becomes a globe-trotting, white-knuckle race to reach the prize before the ruthless Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who believes he and his family are the rightful heirs. From PlayStation Game To Big Screen Action

X – In 1979, six ambitious young Texans—two strippers, a Vietnam veteran, a serial-entrepreneur producer, an upstart film director, and his seemingly quiet, doe-eyed girlfriend—hit the road bound for a secluded ranch where they plan to shoot their magnum opus, The Farmer’s Daughter. The project is meant to be a renegade pornographic film with artful production values that will seduce the mainstream and make the group millions. Hovering on the periphery of the production are the filmmakers’ hosts: elderly, cantankerous World War I & II veteran, and his voyeuristic wife Pearl who becomes obsessed with Maxine after noticing a nostalgic resemblance when surreptitiously watching her mount and ride Jackson during the porn shoot. Writer-director Ti West. Read more

New Releases

There’s no guarding the galaxy from this mischievous toddler! So get ready as Baby Groot takes center stage in his very own collection of shorts, exploring his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars. I Am Groot features five original shorts featuring several new and unusual characters, stars everyone’s favorite little tree, Baby Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel who voices Groot in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise. August 10, 2022 (all 5 shorts premiere) Trailer/ Disney+. / Feature: Five original shorts starring everyone’s favourite little tree

In the pulse-pounding new thriller Beast, Idris Elba finds himself and a wildlife biologist (Sharlto Copley) hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the savannah has but one apex predator.  What begins as a journey of healing jolts into a fearsome fight for survival. From August 12 in cinemas / Trailer / Feature: A high-action survival thriller

A life-affirming story chronicling the extraordinary life of an ordinary man, Laal Singh Chaddha, is a retelling of ‘Forrest Gump,’ through the lens of India’s modern history and culture. With a childhood marked by a unique bond between Laal and his single mother, tempered with strong values, the story follows Laal’s journey of love, innocence and destiny as he triumphs over life’s many challenges. As he wins the hearts of those he meets along the way, he reminds us that everyone, even the most unlikely of people, has a story. From August 12 in cinemas / Trailer / Feature: Retelling the classic Forrest Gump through the lens of India’s modern history and culture

The legend of the enigmatic swan-woman set to Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of a score is ballet’s most beloved production in the classical canon. The Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake exemplifies the dramatic tension and heart-stopping beauty of motion with prima ballerina Olga Smirnova leading the cast, as sensational as the black swan as she is poignant as the white swan. From August 13 at Cinema Nouveau / Trailer / Live Theatre and Ballet on the Big Screen

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No Man Of God is a compelling drama that tells of the complicated relationship that formed between the FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) and serial killer Bundy (Luke Kirby) during Bundy’s final years on death row. Based on actual transcripts of interviews between FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier and the incarcerated Ted Bundy, the film was directed by Amber Sealey and written by C. Robert Cargill, under the pseudonym of Kit Lesser. From August 15 / Trailer / Showmax

Now Showing

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Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank is an action-packed animated comedy for all the family / Trailer
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Dear Evan Hansen is an unlikely journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Showmax / Trailer
Jordan Peele reimagines the summer movie with the expansive new horror epic, Nope, a dark pop nightmare of uncanny science fiction and complex social thriller that unpacks the seeds of violence, risk and opportunism that are inseparable from the romanticized history of the American West … and from show business itself. From August 19 in cinemas / Trailer

In the coming-of-age story 2 Thirds of a Man, Justin, a talented but guarded teenager returns to Cape Town to navigate unique challenges as a first-year student at Rocklands University. It’s a tale about a young, coloured male who transitions from being two thirds of a man into a fully-fledged adult, and addresses the many challenges thereof, exploring themes of love, courage, ambition and tragedy. This local film was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Earl Kopeledi, From 19 August in cinemas / Trailer
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In The Umbrella Men A ragtag bunch of musicians are forced to rob a bank during the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival in the hope they will save their iconic, but in-debt nightclub in the Bo Kaap. Directed by John Barker from a screenplay by Barker, Lev David and Philip Roberts. Watch it on EVOD / Trailer

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Dogs rule on the Big Screen! Read more

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When executive producer Jaime Primak Sullivan called up blockbuster producer Will Packer with the idea of making “Cujo with a lion,” Packer immediately said yes. “I thought it was such a fascinating idea,” Will Packer says. “We had to figure out what the story was going to be, who the characters were, how we were going to make it all meld together, but the idea of a lion and a survival thriller got my juices flowing.”

Human vs. beast stories are as primal, thrilling and indelible as stories themselves. The Greek myths of Theseus vs. the Minotaur. Perseus vs. Medusa. Famous novels such as Moby Dick and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And, of course, movies like Jaws, King Kong, Anaconda, Jurassic Park and Stephen King’s Cujo.

To build the characters and narrative around Primak Sullivan’s riveting premise, Packer and producer James Lopez turned to screenwriter Ryan Engle, with whom they had partnered on 2018’s hit thriller Breaking In.

The screenplay evolved into the high-stakes, high-action thriller of a father fighting to protect his family.

Beast is a film about a father who is in a difficult situation emotionally with his daughters,” Packer says. “It’s a family that is already in peril before they ever step foot on the continent of Africa. They are a father and two daughters undergoing a transformation of their own after the matriarch has died of cancer. You have a family in pain going through something unimaginable—and this unlikely conflation of circumstances has put them in the path of this lion. Now, they are in mortal danger and must fight for their lives.”

Elba, whose history with producer Will Packer extends back to 2007’s This Christmas and 2009’s Obsessed, was intrigued and inspired by the screenplay and its ambition. “Will and I both like to find projects that stretch us,” Elba says. “When he brought me this script, I was like, ‘Really, Will? Okay. We’re going here…’ We’ve done thrillers before, but this steps into a different realm. That was super exciting, and the script was not only good, but it was also very fulfilling. This film just got better as we got together as a collective. Baltasar added and enriched what was good about it already. It was a no-brainer for me.”

And he’s eager for audiences to experience it. “I think it’s a first,” Elba says. “We’ve seen films where the antagonist is a beast or an animal and our heroes are being chased, but this has a dynamic that merges both a family dynamic that we are invested in…alongside the thriller aspects. The thrill ride doesn’t stop.”

During the script-development process, they also discovered the life-and-death battles that lions themselves face from poachers and introduced that narrative into the script. “On the human front, you think of folks who are trapped in an impossible situation, fighting for their lives, doing anything they can to survive this threat,” Packer says. “But it is also a self-preservation examination of the lion. When hunters forcefully separate out alpha lions by killing other members of their pack, they create rogue lions. So this film is also an examination of what happens when a rogue lion discovers who the real enemy is: humans ourselves.”

Finding a director who could shoot high-stakes action but who could also capture the deep emotional undercurrents of the story

The producers approached acclaimed Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur.

A visceral, experiential filmmaker, Kormákur responded to the film’s premise and its promise. In fact, this was the movie he felt he’d been wanting to make since he was a child. “I’m an animal guy,” Kormákur says. “I travel on my horses around the countryside. Even as a kid, I used to cut out pictures of lions in Africa. When I told my mother about Beast, she pulled out an old clipping book and said, ‘This might be the reason why you’re doing this movie…’”

From the beginning of their discussions, it was crucial for Packer, Lopez and Kormákur to go for a final battle between the father, Dr. Nate Daniels played by Idris Elba, and the rogue lion. “My idea was to do this as one shot,” Kormákur says. “I knew it would be immensely complicated. We would have a massive lion that we needed to fit into the movie. At every movement, we would need to see how Idris’ body was moved and torn and tossed by the lion. I knew that this would be VFX at its most difficult. But you need gravity for the lion, and gravity for Idris’ character to make it visceral and brutal. Any interaction between the two of them had to be so well thought out that it felt like a choreographed dance between the two of them.”

Idris Elba and director Baltasar Kormakur on the set of BEAST.

The filmmakers also decided to shoot the film in South Africa, in real environments to anchor the film in reality and make the terror feel almost unbearably real.

“Baltasar did an amazing job with creating an energy around this film,” Packer says. “We knew that we were going to have a family in peril and we made a very specific decision to shoot deep in the bush of South Africa. This is not a green screen. This is not shot on some stage in the middle of a U.S. city. He wanted to shoot in the environment so that you could have these wide, scopey shots that made you feel like you were there.”  

In addition, Kormákur wanted to immerse the audience in the experience of the film, to make us feel as trapped and terrified as the characters we’re watching on screen. “The lion is always seen from the perspective of the characters,” Kormákur says. “You always feel it coming to them. You can’t cut away. You are stuck in the shot. I knew that I wanted all the big action scenes to be done like that. That increases the suspense and the excitement of being trapped in this situation.”

Packer was impressed with Kormákur’s conviction and commitment. “This is Baltasar saying, ‘I’ve got a vision that I want to bring the viewer inside this world,’” Packer says. “He decided to use a POV technique of shooting. He uses long takes, and you are in a point-of-view perspective. It makes it visceral. There’s a kinetic energy to the film that was all Baltasar. Balt said, ‘I want you to feel like you’re in that moment. I want that tension to be palpable. I want it to feel like when the camera moves, you move.’ When Nate turns his head, the camera turns its head. There are times when the camera is turning and you know the lion is behind and you’re turning around thinking, ‘What’s behind us right now?’”

Throughout the film, it’s clear that this lion is only attacking because humans attacked it first. For all its high-stakes emotion and action-packed thrills, Beast also, by design, reminds us how important it is to respect and protect our world’s wild creatures and places. The film’s rogue lion represents what happens when we don’t, and nature strikes back.

Filming in South Africa

Beast was filmed on location in South Africa, in Limpopo province, Northern Cape province and in Cape Town. “We are proud that we were able to bring a production of this size to this region,” producer James Lopez says. “We’ve seen firsthand what an impact a production like this can have on the people in the region. The story is set in a game reserve and when we talked about different places to film, South Africa was number one on the list. The film industry in South Africa is strong. Touching ground here and scouting in the region and seeing what South Africa’s film community could offer, we knew we made the right decision.”

They also wanted to protect the natural environments in which they were filming. For one particular scene, of Nate Daniels (Idris Elba) in a watering hole, the production built an actual watering hole, so as not to disturb an existing one used by animals. Production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos and his team brought the water and organized space with trees and rocks. This gave the water the effect of a mirror-like an extremely vast lake with a perfect line.

It was critical to director Baltasar Kormákur to not showcase the “Hollywood” version of South Africa, but a realistic one. Namibian costume designer Moira Anne Meyer lives in South Africa and brought rich cultural references to design authentic wardrobes for villagers and poachers alike.

While the cast of Beast hails from multiple countries, it was important for the filmmakers that most of the supporting cast be South African. “You will hear some Venda spoken in the film, which is one of the indigenous languages spoken in the northeastern region of South Africa, where the film is set,” Lopez says. “We also used actual town and location names. We wanted to make sure that we honoured the region in terms of casting, in terms of dialect and architecture of the village. That all plays into making sure we’re as true to the story as possible.”

The “Predator” franchise was launched in the late 80s and now resurfaces as the new action-thriller Prey, set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago.

Director Dan Trachtenberg was a big fan of the original film. “I was in third grade when the first one came out, and I have a very vivid memory of not being allowed to see the movie and being in the car on the way to a karate tournament with all the boys who had all just seen the film and described the entire movie to me on the way to the tournament,” he explains.

“When I saw the very first film, I would have never thought that I, as a full-blooded Native American and enrolled Comanche, and my culture could ever collide with such a franchise in a film,” says producer Jhane Myers.

For over three decades, the Predator has remained an icon for fans and movie-goers alike.

According to Trachtenberg, “There are symbols in pop culture that stand the test of time, and there’s something about the initial design of that guy [Predator] that I think is just cool. It’s not merely meant to scare because it isn’t an animalistic creature…there’s sentience there. The
look of that creature with the helmet and the dreads already was awesome. Then when it takes that off and it’s got this whole other face, that really captured our imaginations. It was gross, but awesome at the same time. ”

Director Dan Trachtenberg adds to the excitement by saying, “I cannot wait for audiences to fall into a time and place and invest in these characters the way that they would in any sports movie. That’s the engine to this movie for me. I’m not an athlete, I don’t play sports, I don’t watch sports, but I love sports films because they are visceral, warm, hopeful, and aspirational. I love the idea that this movie could be aspirational, as well as intense and suspenseful and terrifying.”

(Pictured): Dan Trachtenberg. Photo by Tyson Breuer.

In Prey, the alien Predator lands his spacecraft in The Northern Great Plains in 1719, looking to hunt for sport. The land is inhabited by men, women, and children of the Comanche tribe, many of them skilled hunters and warriors themselves. And the “Prey” filmmakers were committed to creating a film that provides an accurate portrayal of the Comanche world at the height of the Comanche Empire, and brings a level of authenticity that rings true to the experience of its Indigenous peoples. As a result, the cast is comprised almost entirely of Native and First Nation’s talent.

Prey is unleashed on Disney+ on 5 August

Beginning with Patrick Aison and Dan Trachtenberg’s original story idea, the production worked closely with Comanche educator and consultant Juanita Pahdopony

The Comanche language is incorporated into the film with the characters’ names, which are all Comanche. “One of the most rewarding moments for me was working with Juanita,” director Dan Trachtenberg recalls. “She was near tears after reading the screenplay, not because there hasn’t been a movie that functioned the way it does, which there hasn’t, but because it features Native Americans as the heroes of the movie.”

Amber Midthunder was cast as Naru (nah-doo), a fierce and highly skilled Comanche warrior raised in the shadow of the legendary hunters who roamed the Great Plains. When danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her band and faces the supreme test when the prey she stalks and ultimately confronts turns out to be an alien Predator. Smart, confident, and resourceful, she is familiar with every inch of the surrounding landscape and its natural predators.

(L-R): Cody Big Tobacco as Ania, Harlan Kywayhat as Itsee, Stormee Kipp as Wasape, Dakota Beavers as Taabe, and Amber Midthunder as Naru in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Naru means “fight” in Comanche, which is more than appropriate for this character. “Naru is a fighter, she is strong,” says Midthunder. “She has strong ideas and opinions about things, about her future, about her life. Her wants are quite different than other people would assign to her or imagine for her.”

Getting cast in the film has been especially memorable for Midthunder, who says, “I’m Sahiya Nakoda, so to film on Nakoda land was a really cool experience for me. To be there, and to be near people who are my tribe or who are from tribes similar to mine, has been an amazing experience. I felt the responsibility of representing the Comanche people in terms of being a warrior…it is a strong warrior society. I had the opportunity to talk to a group of Comanche youth, and they really wanted to be represented on screen as Comanche strong.”

Taabe, a young Comanche warrior, is played by newcomer Dakota Beavers. The young actor is a descendant of Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. “This film takes place at a time when the Comanche people were in full stride. It was a totally unique take that I thought was really fascinating.”

As the leader of the band of Comanches, War Chief Kehetu, played by Julian Black Antelope, abides by the time-honoured traditions of his people, which do not usually approve of women serving as hunters and warriors. The actor was thrilled to be cast in the production, saying, “One of the most impressive things for me was seeing, not only an Indigenous producer on a film of this level being so hands-on and helping to call the shots, but the attention to detail and cultural life authenticity. She worked with the cast and the director and was there on set every day. She rolled up her sleeves and got right there in the thick of it to make sure everything was done right.”

Aruka (ah-doo-kuh), Naru’s mother, is played by Michelle Thrush. Aruka, along with the rest of the older Comanche generation, wants her daughter to follow a more traditional path.

The film’s end title sequence features artwork depicting select moments in the story which serve as a homage to the pictorial hide art typically painted on buffalo hides by Plains Native Americans to document historical stories. A number of award-winning Native American artists created the artwork, including Brent Learned, Dallin Maybee, NiCole Nahmi-A-Piah Hatfield Curtis, Jonathan Thunder, Sheridan MacKnight, Sandra Okuma and Nocona Burgess, which was then animated by design studio Filmograph.

(L-R): Dakota Beavers as Taabe and Amber Midthunder as Naru in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Iconic Predator

The Predator, as brought to life by Dane DiLiegro, is a highly advanced alien who is seeking the strongest opponent. The ultimate adversary, and one of the fiercest hunters in the universe, it has high-tech weaponry, cloaking, and heat-seeking abilities.

Director Dan Trachtenberg worked closely with StudioADI founders Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis, to create the Predator costume.

“One of the things we wanted to do with the creature in this movie was make it look much more creature-like. I adore the design of the original Predator, and think that’s one of the reasons why this franchise still exists, but I really wanted our Predator to feel much more alien and a little scarier,” says Trachtenberg. “There was a very tricky balance in needing to make this movie feel like it is 300 years prior to the original, but also still feeling like it’s very technologically advanced.”

To inhabit the costume, the filmmakers found their Predator in former professional basketball player turned actor Dane DiLiegro. He was an enormous, menacing figure in the costume with his 6’9”, 245 lbs. frame, although out of costume, he wasn’t just the guy wearing the suit. DiLiegro loves filmmaking and storytelling and actively shared ideas of the creature’s back story, intelligence, and even emotions the alien experienced, adding more character and depth to the

Actor Amber Midthunder recalls seeing the Predator in costume for the first time on set, saying, “Truly the Predator is hard to look at. The first time I saw him, he was moving in the woods. I actually just walked up to him, and something happened to me. I was captured by the sight, but at the same time was trying to determine if I could kill him for real.”

DAN TRACHTENBERG’s (Director) debut feature, “10 Cloverfield Lane,” was released by Paramount with Bad Robot producing. He directed the pilots for “The Boys,” for Amazon, “Original and Point Grey” and “The Lost Symbol” for NBC/Peacock and Imagine, and also directed “Black Mirror: Playtest” for Netflix.

PATRICK AISON (Screenwriter) is currently writing and executive producing the series “Game” for Snoop Dogg and Martin Lawrence with Jerry Bruckheimer Television producing, and is adapting his short story “Break Even,” as a feature for 20th Century Studios. He has written and produced for the series “Last Light,” “Treadstone,” “Jack Ryan” “Legion,” “Kingdom” and “Wayward Pines.”

For director David Leitch, who previously brought style and flair to such movies as Deadpool 2, the chance to direct a movie that was unlike any other presented an unmissable opportunity. He was attracted to the boldness and originality of Bullet Train: “That’s the kind of movie I like to make. It has a tone of relentless fun and snappy dialogue. But the most important thing to me was that it had well-defined characters that gave the actors a lot to chew on. It’s a fun action-thriller with crazy, bombastic characters – and it’s a meditation on fate. Really.”

In Bullet Train, directed by David Leitch from a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz, based on the book by Kotaro Isaka, Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, an unlucky assassin determined to do his job peacefully after one too many gigs gone off the rails. Fate, however, may have other plans, as Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with lethal adversaries from around the globe—all with connected, yet conflicting, objectives—on the world’s fastest train. 

Ladybug is an intuitive and skilled but burnt-out operative whose string of bad luck has taken its toll on him. Cajoled into taking what sounds like an easy pick-up job, he unwittingly stumbles into a vipers nest of the most notorious elite assassins in the game. 

“Ladybug is going through an existential crisis,” says Brad Pitt, who stars as an assassin just trying to do his job peacefully in the comedic action thriller Bullet Train. “Too many of his recent jobs have gone sideways and he’s starting to think that the one thing all of those jobs have had in common is him. He thinks he’s brought bad luck to every aspect of his life – it’s affected his work, and he’s trying to find a way to turn it around through peaceful resolution.”

Brad Pitt and David Leitch

Leitch had gained Pitt’s trust by serving as his stunt double on several of the actor’s classics – Fight Club, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Troy, and more – before making his mark as a director. Pitt knew he’d be in safe hands. “It was a little funny to me, watching Brad play a stuntman in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. I can tell you that the relationship between actor and stuntman that was part of that movie is real,” says Leitch. “You develop a close and collaborative relationship. We went in different directions for a while, but fate wasn’t done with us, and I’m so glad it’s brought us back together.”

“You may think Brad Pitt and not necessarily think comedy, but he’s a very smart comedic actor who makes great choices with his physicality and delivery,” says Leitch. “More importantly, Brad plays Ladybug in a way where you do care about him.  He thinks he’s unlucky, but really his luck pays itself forward and proves to be good luck that rubs off on everybody else.”  

Bullet Train brings together seven characters, all with connected, conflicting, and at times, confusing objectives

“Fate brings these people onto this train, and their energies combine in the craziest, most gonzo way possible,” says producer Kelly McCormick, who is Leitch’s partner both professionally as a producer and in life as his wife. “It was important to David to make a film that would invest you emotionally. When he saw his opportunity to do that, with these characters, he was all in.”

“All of these characters show their humanity,” says Leitch. “Ladybug wants to be a better person. But you also see it in the characters played by Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in their brotherhood – they clearly care for each other. Joey King’s character is a sociopath, but she has a dynamic with her father that we can all connect with. You can go on this journey with these remorseless killers and still feel for them, have fun, laugh at the jokes.”

That makes it a movie that fits squarely into Leitch’s vision as a director. “It’s hard these days to strike out and make an original movie – not a sequel or a superhero story – but we’re up for the challenge,” Leitch continues. Through his company 87North, Leitch is seeking to bring his own personal stamp to action movies and the way action is portrayed. Having entered the business as a stuntman, and rising to become a stunts supervisor and choreographer before staking a groundbreaking directorial style with the films Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and John Wick, Leitch says that there are boundless opportunities to stretch the action genre. “There’s action in comedy, there’s action in thrillers, there’s action in horror,” he says. “My entire adult life has been action on film. Action is in my DNA. So I’m excited by the idea of taking big, provocative swings and making bold choices, as we keep it action-adjacent.”

Bullet Train is based on the book by Kotaro Isaka, one of Japan’s most popular and acclaimed mystery authors

Two of the film’s executive producers, Yuma Terada and Ryosuke Saegusa, are co-founders of the Tokyo-based management company CTB, whose mission is to bring contemporary Japanese storytelling to Hollywood. It was their idea to adapt Bullet Train as a film with a highly diverse cast as assassins from all over the world, with a stylized Japan backdrop, and they fully supported the film Leitch made.

“It was so exciting to watch the stellar cast bring such energy and passion to this story,” says Isaka, the author of the book. “This unique vision of Japan is utterly surprising and so much fun – it made me very happy to see it, and I know audiences will feel the same way.”

For screenwriter Zak Olkewicz, who adapts the novel, bringing out the theme of fate was an important part of the adaptation. “I really responded to that,” he says. “Ladybug views his bad luck as a curse, but it’s actually a catalyst of good luck for other people.”

In fact, it’s Ladybug’s bad luck that has made him an expert in his field. “Something does always seem to go wrong in the craziest ways, and he has to react on the fly, which ultimately makes him very effective,” says Olkewicz. “The irony is that because he’s able to react when something goes awry, Ladybug is better than everybody else on the train.”

Zak Olkewicz

Creating meaningful arcs for seven characters was one thing. Just keeping track of where each of them are on the train was another. “At one point, my whiteboard looked like I was tracking a serial killer,” recalls Olkewicz with a laugh. “There were so many lines of string denoting everyone’s movements on the train at any given time. It was the only way to ensure everyone knew where people were.”

To create the adventure, Leitch’s design team created a heighted reality inside and outside the train. “Part of the fun was creating the environments that we wanted to be in,”says Leitch. “A lounge car, a quiet car, a Momomon car… We were driven by the idea that these were all places where we could do something different, but as it turns out, all of this research led to special discoveries that led not only to bold design choices, but character and plot. It’s more than just a place to walk through. They’re little journeys, little miracles.”

To create Bullet Train’s unique vision of Japan as seen through the train’s windows, the team started by capturing the Japanese countryside between Tokyo and Kyoto. With this high-definition footage in hand, Leitch’s design team built each of the cars of the train – the quiet car, the café car, the themed Momomon car – on soundstages, projecting Japan outside the train windows on LED screens. “Normally, you’d do this through visual effects. You’d put up a blue screen and comp the plates in later,” Leitch explains. “With the LED screens hung along a hundred meters of train, we could shoot the train journey in-camera while we were on the train. It’s called virtual production and I think it was a huge benefit to the actors and their performances.”

Of course, in the movie, it’s meant to be a stylized version of Japan. When you see the movie, expect something different. “This is Bullet Train world,” says Leitch. “We’re making a modern fable about fate, so it’s fitting to immerse you in a story where you escape to that world. It’s filled with wish fulfilment and heightened characters. We defy physics.”

The Writers

A California native, Zak Olkewicz’s (Screenplay) first spec screenplay Ink & Bone landed on the 2013 Blacklist after being preemptively sold to Dimension Films.  From there, he quickly sold the original horror pitch Elimination to Fox Searchlight/21 Laps, adapted the Boom! Studios comic Malignant Man for Fox, wrote an adaptation of the novel Time Salvager for Paramount with Di Bonaventura producing for Michael Bay to direct, as well as an adaptation of the Stephen King short story The Monkey for James Wan’s Atomic Monster, to name a few.

Olkewicz recently helped the Fear Street trilogy become a hit for Netflix, has an adaptation of the novel Influx in the works at Sony, and co-wrote Amblin’s The Last Voyage of the Demeter, with Andre Ovredal directing, which comes out Summer 2023.

KOTARO ISAKA (Based on the Book by) is the best-selling and award-winning author of Bullet Train(2010). A leading voice of contemporary Japanese fiction, Isaka has authored Audubon’s Prayer (2000), Lush Life (2002), Golden Slumber (2007), The Rest is Vacation (2012), Seesaw Monster (2019), and Gyaku Sokuratesu (2020), among others. Isaka’s books have been published in eighteen languages and have been the basis of film or television productions in four languages. Isaka is represented by CTB Inc.

Eiffel is a love story. But it is also, most especially, a declaration of love. To Paris. To cinema. To audacity,” says screenwriter Caroline Bongrand

How did the idea for EIFFEL come about 24 years ago?

It sprung from a profound desire to make a film.  After publishing a few novels, I travel to Los Angeles to study screenwriting at USC. One of the professors tells us straight off the bat that one of the main activities of a screenwriter is to pitch their ideas to producers. I have two ideas to pitch at my first meeting with a producer, neither of which pan out. As I leave the producer’s office, it turns out I made an impact. The producer asks me back inside. He likes my ideas but the endings do not work at all. Then he asks me, somewhat sarcastically, whether I have anything else. I reply that I do but that it’s too expensive for him. I don’t know why I say this but he immediately wants to know more.  I need to think of something, anything, fast.   I tell him that Gustave Eiffel built his Tower out of love and I am the only one who knows the true story behind this. I’m totally bluffing but it works: he hands me a contract to sign. I’m in a complete panic.

Director Martin Bourboulon talks about Eiffel – A romance with heart

“The long story behind EIFFEL began over 20 years ago. The idea for the film and the original screenplay came from Caroline Bongrand.”

What did you do?

I have any and all documentation regarding Gustave Eiffel sent to me from Paris. That’s how I discover that he was head over heels in love with a woman named Adrienne Bourgès as a young man. That Adrienne came from a big bourgeois family in Bordeaux who felt that Gustave was not deserving of their daughter and forced the couple to separate. Eiffel was both very saddened and hurt by this. I also learn that the engineer was not in the least interested in taking part in the Exposition Universelle of 1889 until he suddenly and inexplicably changed his mind and took on the Tower project. I was stunned to learn that what I thought I was making up turned out to be true.

I had the backbone of my story – a wonderful love story with the construction of one of the most famous monuments in the world as a backdrop.  I get to work, constantly communicating with my two professors at USC, Leon and Mimi Roth, the parents of screenwriter Eric Roth.

You then go to pitch the project along with your producer to different studios. What are their reactions?

They find the project too Franco-French for such a high budget and refuse to invest.  They ask whether, for casting reasons, Gustave Eiffel could maybe be twenty years younger to make him a dashing young bachelor or attach to him an American acolyte who never existed, which I refuse to do. I want to remain close to the true story. And then, we pitch it a fifth time when a well-known director who has just met with massive success tells me that he loves the story and would like to direct EIFFEL as his next film. He has already organized a meeting with Paramount. It’s a dream come true. Unfortunately, the director in question ends up by stepping away from the project for personal reasons.

Everything comes crashing down around me. We give up on the project, my visa expires, and I come back to France after three years in LA.

How does the project then come back to life on this side of the Atlantic?

I had taken notes on this whole adventure and I publish a book about it entitled PITCH that sells very well. I’m invited on several talk-shows to present the book and as I am leaving one of them, I receive a phone call from Bertrand de Labbey who tells me that Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani want to do the film. Adjani has even talked about it to Luc Besson who is interested in directing it. Over the course of a single morning, this project that I thought completely dead was rising up like a phoenix from the flames. Unfortunately, despite much initial enthusiasm, the film does not get made.

Emma Mackey as Adrienne and Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel.

And yet it almost immediately bounces back…

I get a call from Christian Fechner who asks me to adapt the screenplay into French. I am delighted but do not think I am up to doing this by myself. I therefore ask my husband, Martin Brossollet to work on it with me. Martin added some wonderful scenes to the script, among which all of the technical scenes with Eiffel’s team around the actual construction of the Tower. He has a passion for engineering and succeeded in rendering this entire aspect of the story very concrete. Thanks to him, the story works better than it did before. Christian Fechner is very enthusiastic and pays us the greatest of compliments when he says: “I really believed Eiffel wasn’t going to succeed”. However, soon afterwards, Christian was diagnosed with a serious illness and explains that he does not have the energy to take on such an ambitious project. Martin and I are very saddened by this news. 

And then destiny will lend yet another helping hand to EIFFEL…

Yes, Martin leaves the script behind somewhere and it falls into the hands of Christophe Barratier who reads it out of curiosity. A short time later, we get a call from Jacques Perrin, Christophe’s uncle. He would like for us to sign on with his production company. I like the idea. To me, EIFFEL is like a musical, like a movement in a symphony. And the director of THE CHORUS, who is originally a musician, would know how to handle this nicely.  But time goes by and we receive no further news. And when the adaptation rights lapse, they do not offer to renew them.

At that point, another producer, Manuel Munz, attempts to get EIFFEL off the ground… 

Having become chief editor of « l’Officiel » magazine, I come across Manuel at an AIDS benefit. I know him a bit, as we first met when I was fifteen and he was working at my father’s consulting firm. He takes me to lunch. EIFFEL becomes a part of the conversation.  I can tell that he is interested. He asks me to start working on another project, the adaptation of a book by Howard Fast, MAX, a wonderful story.  He then tells me he is going to try to producer EIFFEL with Olivier Dahan as director. I sign on with him. Pathé calls me the next day announcing that Jérôme Seydoux is also interested in the project. I tell them the project is no longer available. Olivier Dahan says he doesn’t want to change anything about the script except heighten the sensuality in some of the love scenes. I agree to this. But yet again, EIFFEL is too complicated to finance. Until 2017, Manuel Munz will try everything, even working with a US co-producers Paula Weinstein (Analyze This), but they just can’t make it work. The financing never comes together and Olivier Dahan turns his attention to GRACE OF MONACO. We are now in 2017 and for me, EIFFEL is really over. A short time later, I get a call from Ridley Scott’s wife, telling me that he has read the script and that he thinks the story is fabulous. He wants to make it his next picture. But they have a strict policy to only take on projects that have not been in the hands of another producer. End of story.

Finally, the film becomes a reality thanks to Vanessa van Zuylen…

She tells me she has read the story and asks me to keep the rights for her. She assures me she will be able to make the film happen. Her passion and conviction fill me with hope once again. I naturally tell her about Pathé’s interest in EIFFEL. The film needs to be made with Pathé. And this is indeed how the film will at last see the light of day. I rewrite the script with Thomas Bidegain. The scenes by Martin Brossollet remain, for the most part, intact. 

Looking back, what is your take on this 24-year-long adventure?

I loved working on EIFFEL. It’s a big part of my life. I put myself at the service of something that was much bigger than me. I am happy to have honoured, in my own way, the memory of Gustave Eiffel whose reputation was unjustly tainted afterwards. I am also happy to have shown that sheer persistence, that of EIFFEL, can make even the craziest of projects happen. Above all, I interpret this adventure as a lesson in humility and as a message of hope: one must believe in one’s projects. This film is a love story. But it is also, most especially, a declaration of love. To Paris. To cinema. To audacity. 

When the idea for the sumptuous romance Eiffel dawned on director Martin Bourboulon over 20 years ago, it sparked a journey that resulted in a film that is not a biopic or a documentary, but a faithful and endearing reimagining of Gustave Eiffel’ fervent passion, which grounded the creation and building of the Eiffel Tower.

Having just finished collaborating on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel was at the high point of his career. The French government requested he create something spectacular for the “Exposition Universelle” of 1889 in Paris but Gustave Eiffel is only interested in the city’s subway project. His life is turned upside-down when the great lost love from his youth reappears. Their secret affair inspired him to change the face of Paris forever when he and his team of engineers took on the insane project of erecting a 10,100-tonne, 300-meter-high iron tower in the middle of the city.

It was intended to be dismantled after 20 years, but stood for 40 years as the world’s tallest building until the Chrysler Building in New York was finished in 1930, and in recent times attracted up to 7 million visitors a year pre-Covid.

Eiffel, a fictionalized romance between Eiffel and Adrienne Bourgès, his childhood sweetheart, was directed by Martin Bourboulon, from a screenplay crafted by Caroline Bongrand.

Screenwriter Caroline Bongrand talks about Eiffel

Q & A with Director Martin Bourboulon

How and when did you become attached to EIFFEL? 

The long story behind EIFFEL began over 20 years ago. The idea for the film and the original screenplay came from Caroline Bongrand. Over time, a few different drafts were written. As for myself, I was brought on to the project in 2017 when I met the producer, Vanessa van Zuylen. I was immediately struck by the ambition of the project: an epic romantic love story told with the construction of the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. With Thomas Bidegain and Caroline Bongrand, we reworked the screenplay and a bit later, Tatiana de Rosnay came on board and added the flashback structure. Natalie Carter also contributed. 

Pierre Deladonchamps as Antoine De Restac. © Video Vision

What was the nature of your collaboration with your co-writers?

The idea was to stick as much as possible to the idea of an epic love story that is also an adventure film, the two revolving around the construction of one of the world’s most famous monuments. All of the work that was done on the screenplay – then in the directing and the editing – consisted in making sure that the two stories constantly feed off one another while still respecting the historical markers. Therein lies the power of film – its capacity to fill the gaps left empty by History and develop a fictional hypothesis that becomes the premise for the film: Eiffel decides to build the tower, a project that he had initially turned down, as an act of love for Adrienne. We all wanted to make a spectacular, epic film with a strong emotional pull.

Was the casting taking place at the same time?

In the case of Romain Duris, it was even before! He is the only actor I had in mind for Gustave Eiffel and the only one I approached for the part. He corresponded precisely to the image of modernity I wished to lend to this project.  There is an ambivalence in Romain; he is contemporary and rock and roll in the way he carries himself but looks wonderful in period costume. There is something romantic about him that I wanted for this love story and he can play everything! In my mind, he ticked all the boxes.

Emma Mackey as Adrienne and Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel. © Video Vision

Where did you get the idea to match him with Emma Mackey to form such a unique on-screen couple?

Vanessa van Zuylen got the idea when she saw Emma in the first season of Sex Education. Thanks to the series and the power of Netflix, Emma was already famous throughout the world… But outside of Sex Education, she was not necessarily known to most people in France. I could not think of a better candidate to embody the mystery surrounding Adrienne. Emma is very talented, has a real flair for acting, very truthful and instinctual.  Her presence only heightened the contemporary feel I was looking for.

How did you handle the rest of the casting?

What I love in Pierre Deladonchamps is his ability to play a charming man with as much ease as a dangerous one as well as his ability to express so much through a single look. The menacing empathy he conveys is simply fantastic. I did not want to have a parade of famous faces around this trio of actors. And I’m grateful to my producers for backing me up on this decision. I chose actors I love but who aren’t necessarily known to the general public: Alexandre Steiger, Bruno Raffaelli, Armande Boulanger, Andranic Manet…

Did you rehearse with the actors?

No, I explicitly chose not to because it’s not something I’m good at. I simply do readings without giving the actors much direction, to see if they are comfortable with the language and whether any changes need to be made in some of the phrasings. I trust them and prefer to work with the actors and provide direction in that magical moment when we are all on set with the cameras rolling.  

Director Martin Bourboulon with Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel, Pierre Deladonchamps as Antoine De Restac and Emma Mackey as Adrienne during the filming of Eiffel. © Video Vision

The film is called EIFFEL but Adrienne’s character is just as important as Gustave’s… 

Yes, the contemporary nature of the film rests very much on her shoulders as well… Bringing to life a strong female character was a desire shared by everyone. It was evident already in the original script. Adrienne is a woman who defies her bourgeois background and is interested in someone who was not necessarily intended for her.  Without revealing too much about the dramatic structure of the story, a big part of what is at stake in the film depends on Adrienne’s ability to react. Her decisions, like some of her actions, guide the story. Behind Adrienne, there is the tower and vice versa.  Emma Mackey perfectly embodies the character with energy and grace. 

Did you have any references in mind when you were directing EIFFEL?

I don’t especially draw upon any precise references before shooting. But there is a film that kept coming back to me which was Damian Chazelle’s, FIRST MAN… I like the way the director gives us an intimate perspective of a character facing a challenge so much greater than himself – landing on the moon. He brilliantly succeeds in combining an intimate portrayal where he gets up close to the character using a hand-held camera with a more spectacular story of space conquest.  This is exactly what I wanted to achieve in EIFFEL: sticking close to the characters while telling a great adventure story, and building the Eiffel Tower.

Why did you choose Matias Boucard for the cinematography in EIFFEL? 

I really liked his work on SK1 – the slightly unstructured 16mm photography – a lot like in ODYSSEY with a more epic dimension. There is also his work on commercials and all of his on-set experience. I noticed his uncanny ability to adjust the lighting according to the subject matter, always finding just the right tone. 

Pierre Deladonchamps as Antoine De Restac and Pierre Deladonchamps as Antoine De Restac. © Video Vision

How did you go about elaborating together the visual look of the film?

He immediately referred to Michael Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE and P.T. Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD. A very textured, grainy image, completely in line with the feel of a period piece but without overdoing it. Not trying at all costs to capture the precise look and feel of the historical period while remaining believable and vibrant. We took some liberties without shocking the audience. Regarding the costumes, for example, they are period appropriate but they might be worn in a manner that could be considered uncommon for that time.  For example, in the scene where Eiffel is declaiming to the crowd, I wanted him to wear his shirt unbuttoned with his collar up. He looked better, sexier (!) and more heroic.  At the time, I’m sure Eiffel wore his suit much more conservatively…

There is also the challenge of representing the Eiffel Tower… what was your vision for this?

From the start, there was a clear mission in this film: that the Tower be sufficiently present on-screen to deliver something visually spectacular. We also sensed that witnessing the different phases of its construction would be even more spectacular than seeing it in its actual, completed form.

I wanted to integrate the special effects by keeping them in the background, countered by the characters in the foreground. I wanted to create something immersive, captured first-hand, without making a show of technical prowess.  To achieve this, I relied heavily on our set designer, Stéphane Taillasson and his amazing reconstruction of 19th-century Paris. As for the digital special effects, I relied on BUF and Olivier Cauwet who had just worked in BLADE RUNNER 2049. We first asked ourselves what was at stake in each scene and we would then integrate the VFX. Olivier helped us tremendously with his talent and expertise.

Emma Mackey as Adrienne and Romain Duris as Gustave Eiffel in Eiffel. © Video Vision

How do you feel on the eve of the first day of production?

I’m happy that the film is shooting! The most difficult and challenging time are the months leading up to production – completing the financing, the casting and scheduling. On the eve of shooting, we can breathe a sigh of relief; we have finally made it… 

Were there scenes that you were particularly excited about shooting?

I was pleased to finally be able to shoot something that was quite new to me: intimate emotional scenes. More than the very technical, complex shots and sequences, I was impatient to shoot the scene in which Eiffel is overwhelmed with emotion, just by looking at a photograph. With my background in comedy, I was really attracted to the challenge of directing this scene and communicating emotion to the audience through a silent sequence.

You mentioned comedy. How did your experience in this genre with DIVORCE, FRENCH STYLE help you with EIFFEL?

I conceived EIFFEL around a central idea of characters in motion. My comedy background came in handy because rhythm is central to comedy. Just as in DIVORCE, FRENCH STYLE, I always wanted the characters to be pulling the camera towards them to produce energy and movement that I would then accompany with my direction. The rhythm had to come from the filming not from the editing.

In the very first minutes of the film, we are following Gustave Eiffel’s energy. He talks fast, walks fast, has no time to waste. The camera is in constant movement, following him. Then, when Adrienne appears, the mise en scène changes abruptly, as does Eiffel’s attitude. He is overwhelmed, comes almost to a complete stop. The one-shot sequences make way for fixed shots, as if to show time suddenly standing still… These filmic breaks add rhythm to the direction and enables the audience to feel as close as possible to the characters, to identify with how they feel.

How do you work with actors on set?

As Spielberg puts it so well, the work with the actor on set starts with the casting!

If the actors have been well chosen, a good part of the work is already done. On set, a good level of trust had already been established between us. 

I would never indicate to them what I was expecting on the first take, so as to allow them to trust their talent and not miss out on an approach I had not thought of myself. My work with the actors was more about reorienting or correcting rather than actually directing.

I would often suggest to Romain that he behave opposite to what the character was saying in order to try and express what Eiffel was really thinking. For example, when Eiffel said to Adrienne: “I hoped I would never see you again”, I asked him to play it as though he were saying: “I am so moved to see you again”. The goal was to communicate his feelings through his acting and his body, not just through dialogue. Romain does this superbly, using the way he touches his gloves to translate what is going on deep within Eiffel: he is completely in shock to see Adrienne again.

The editing took 36 weeks. What made it so complicated?

It was a difficult task, striking a balance between the different timelines of the love story and the construction of the Tower.

One needs to be able to set the script aside at some point and reinvent the structure.

We had beautiful images, amazing actors and superb scenes but the story wasn’t quite working, the magic and emotion weren’t strong enough. This made for a very long and very cooperative collaboration with the film’s editor, Valérie Dessine.

Vanessa van Zuylen, Ardavan Safaee and Marie De Cénival made themselves very available throughout this period, as they followed the different phases of the edit. Their fresh takes and helpful comments helped us to find the right version, the one that satisfied everyone and made us all proud.

Was it during this editing phase that the music was being composed? 

Absolutely. Alexandre Desplat was working in parallel the entire time, feeding us different samples.

His eye and his suggestions allowed me to see some of the scenes from a different angle. With the music, I was able to see the actors, the frame, in a different light.

He very quickly came up with a leitmotiv which he then broke down into different variations of varying moods and colours. He was able to strike a balance between the intimate and the epic.

There comes a time in all writers’ lives when tragedy strikes, when the story you have been crafting for years is lifeless.

It’s not pleasant facing a dead story. You might want to be dramatic and burn each page on a bonfire, weeping your heart out, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling like a failure. You might also blame the world for its demise, but you are a writer, and the death of your story is serious business.

Before you destroy your story, there are some vital questions you have to ask yourself.

Were you capable of writing the story?

Was it the right story for you to write: sometimes an inspired idea seems like you have struck the motherlode and you write it with fervour, but soon, inspiration fades, genius runs out of steam, and you realise that you have absolutely no physical or emotional connection to your story? Your story has become a stranger to you. Writing is a passionate journey of sharing what you want to express to the world, letting passion fuel inspiration.

Have you done enough research?

Have you gone to the end of the world and back to sustain the inner and outer life of your story? Or did you simply write what you thought was best, plodding ahead without rhyme or reason? You have to know what you are writing.

Do you have the experience to write the story?

Sometimes writers write out of their depths and far beyond the years of their experience and maturity. You have to write what you are confident about, and what you are familiar with. Writing your story begins with you. You are your story.

Have you done all you can to keep your story alive?

Have you brainstormed your concept, and fully developed your characters until they started bleeding and breathing? Crafted a solid outline that cradles all the relevant story events, and set in motion a crafty plot once you have shaped the narrative structurally? Spent the time needed to feed the beast?

Once you have ticked all the boxes and are confident that you were not poisoning your story by trying to outsmart reason and shortcut the writing process, you still went ahead and wrote it recklessly.

You cannot write a story if you do not live the art of storytelling – full stop!! Your passion must last to the end – to the last word – the last note. Your passion must be total. Your passion must never say “Sorry”! Your passion must burn in your eyes. The fever of passion must rack your body with such intensity that it can pulverize any rock of doubt you encounter into the dust of eternity! You must have total Hunger!!! A physical and mental hunger. Your soul must be racked with hunger. Your body must cry out for food. Then you create! Then you soar into the sky. Then you touch the magic. Then your soul explodes… Then your words flow like vintage wine staining damask cloth into a dark purple of greatness…Legendary South African filmmaker & Author Jans Rautenbach, Abraham (2015)

Making peace with your story’s demise

Once you have calmed your senses and stopped blaming the universe for its death, you need to end the suffering and lay it to rest.

Give your story a proper burial in the bottom of a drawer, or wherever you find a suitable tomb.

Don’t despair, it’s not the end of your story, its demise will soon inspire the birth of a new story. Years later (or even days later) you will hear its familiar voice calling from beyond the grave and will resurrect it, breathing vigorous new life into it, welcoming familiar characters, just like a friend you haven’t seen in years.

You will now respectfully observe your story with new eyes, and fresh insight and listen to its voice, follow its reason.

This is the moment you will realise that you are not writing your story, but that each story writes itself.

You are merely the story’s Minion and as long as you listen to what is whispering into your ear, and follow its guidance, there is no return journey to the dark drawer-tomb.

The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also must make a living. My short stories and novels have always filled my life with meaning, but at least in the first decade of my career, they were no more capable of supporting me than my dog was. However, part of what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return, they thrive. It is not their responsibility to figure out where the rent is coming from. Novelist Ann Patchett

And, as you look at it, stacked up in a bookstore with all the latest releases, proudly waiting to speak to those who have come to hear you talk about your story at the book launch, anticipating reading the novel, or watching the film in a cinema or on television, you will then fully understand the power story has had over the centuries and will have for generations to come.

Be a happy Minion to your story and you will write tons of other stories without having to bury it.

You must discover your own unique process; you must find a way inside your own story. You must become an emotional archaeologist.

To me, art and storytelling serve primal, spiritual functions in my daily life. Whether I’m telling a bedtime story to my kids or trying to mount a movie or write a short story or a novel, I take it very seriously. Guillermo del Toro

The Write Journey is your journey from the moment of first love, falling in love with an idea to the moment of saying: “I do”, signing a contract with yourself, a commitment that will ultimately result in a story the world wants to experience and enjoy.

For Arash Amel, who crafted the screenplay of Rise, the film is “a very modern story of immigration, crossing cultures, crossing boundaries, and really a generation of children, of my own generation included, who have grown up not of one culture but of many. And having to absorb all of it and define ourselves.”

The genesis of Rise began with a meeting between Bernie Goldmann, producer of “300” and its prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s agent, Giorgos Panou. Goldmann knew about Giannis’ tremendous skill as a basketball player but nothing about his backstory. When Panou told him how Charles and Vera Antetokounmpo moved the family from Nigeria to Greece to make a better life for the children, and how they struggled to survive and were able to eventually overcome the odds and triumph, Goldmann thought it had all the elements of a great Disney movie. The heads of the studio agreed.

“I am thrilled and honoured that Disney+ is bringing my family’s story to people all over the world,” says Giannis. “My hope is that it will inspire those in similar circumstances to keep the faith, stay true to their goals and not to give up on striving for a better life.”

Rise is based on the triumphant real-life story about the remarkable family that produced the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions in the history of the league—Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kostas Antetokounmpo.

(L-R): Ral Agada as Thanasis and Uche Agada as Giannis in Disney’s live-action RISE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Audiences have never seen a story like that of the Antetokounmpos, which mixes Nigerian heritage, Greek nationality and extraordinary athletic ability.

In Rise, audiences will witness how one family’s vision, determination and faith lifted them out of obscurity to launch the career of three NBA champions—two-time MVP Giannis and his brothers, Thanasis and Kostas. Last season, Giannis and Thanasis helped bring the Bucks their first championship ring in 50 years, while Kostas played for the previous season’s champs, the Lakers.

Rise is directed by Akin Omotoso, who studied drama at the University of Cape Town and made his directorial debut with God Is African” in 2003, and scripted by Arash Amel, who is known for writing the critically lauded film A Private War in 2018.

Goldmann believed that it was important to find a director for the film who understood the Nigerian experience as well as the hardships of being an immigrant and moving to an entirely new place. After seeing Nigerian-born filmmaker Akin Omotoso’s 2016 effort, “Vaya,” he was struck by Omotoso’s compassion and sensitivity in handling the material, as well as his ability to deliver incredible acting performances. A Zoom call with the director convinced him that Omotoso was the perfect choice

Rise debuted exclusively on Disney+ in June 2022, and will have its linear premiere across the continent on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network ESPN (DStv218, Starsat 248) on 1 August.

Discovered their great abilities on the basketball court

After immigrating to Greece from Nigeria, Vera and Charles Antetokounmpo struggled to survive and provide for their five children, while living under the daily threat of deportation. With their oldest son still in Nigeria with relatives, the couple were desperate to obtain Greek citizenship but found themselves undermined by a system that blocked them at every turn. When they weren’t selling items to tourists on the streets of Athens with the rest of the family, the brothers
would play basketball with a local youth team. Latecomers to the sport, they discovered their great abilities on the basketball court and worked hard to become world-class athletes.

With the help of an agent, Giannis entered the NBA Draft in 2013 in a long-shot prospect that would change not only his life but the lives of his entire family.

Just as Giannis’ entering the Draft was a seminal moment for his family, Uche Agada’s being cast in Rise proved to be a seminal moment for the Agada family. Uche was working at a Wawa drive-through in New Jersey when he saw a screenshot of an Instagram post from Giannis about a casting call for someone new and fresh to portray him in the film. Uche had to ask for time off from his job to do the series of auditions, and eventually won the role of Giannis. After Uche was cast, the filmmakers, thrilled with their good luck, approached the casting director, Michael Morlani, to ask Uche if he happened to have a brother. It turned out that he did, and Uche helped his brother Ral prepare for his audition, which blew the filmmakers away. This is how both Agada brothers ended up portraying two of the Antetokounmpo brothers in the film.

Omotoso regards Rise as a story of a family navigating a new space, a story of two cultures meeting each other with something new coming out of it, and a story about the perseverance of the spirit. It directly related to his experience as a 17-year-old son of a Nigerian father and a West Indian mother who moved to South Africa, and that he understood exactly what it means to go from a place where you’ve grown up to coming to an adopted country.

What he found most inspiring about the Antetokounmpos’ story is that, even though it seemed like everything was stacked against them, they refused to give up. They stayed strong, held together by their belief in themselves, their faith and also the ability to see what’s happening now is temporary—that just because they’re selling sunglasses today doesn’t mean they’re always going to be selling sunglasses.

“That’s the triumph of the human spirit,” Omotoso says.

Yetide Badaki as Vera, Ral Agada as Thanasis, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros, Uche Agada as Giannis, Dayo Okeniyi as Charles, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostas in RISE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The filmmakers were adamant that Rise had to be made in Athens

They believed that it had to be done where the story actually took place, where they could draw from the spiritual
connections present in the neighbourhood where the Antetokounmpo family lived, in the places where they sold goods, and in the language they listened to. This extended to the basketball court at the Filathlitikou Club that Giannis actually started playing on and where he slept.

Omotoso says, “Obviously we didn’t go through what they went through, but the mere fact that they had walked there, the mere fact that this was the court in which he started playing and this is the court in which we’re filming them—we’re recreating a moment. So, I think all those things are really important to us as basketball fans and as fans of Giannis and me personally in this total belief of instinct, faith and all these things of coming together to tell the story. I wanted us to draw from that spirit and that energy and be in those spaces that allowed us all to be here to be making this story.”

The idea for the story of DC League of Super-Pets came to filmmaker Jared Stern precisely the place one might hope. When he helped his wife out who volunteers at a pet shelter he was looking at a bunch of adorable kittens ready for adoption, he thought, ‘What if they got superpowers?’

“While I was at the pet shelter, I was looking at a bunch of adorable kittens in the front room—it’s a wonderful thing for any pet to be adopted, but I felt like the kittens were probably going to get adopted fairly soon.  But there was this back room of the shelter with some older pets and other pets that I felt probably might live in that shelter for a while, and they just seemed so powerless.  I mean, it was great that they were being taken care of by the team at this shelter, but I really wanted them to have a home, too,” says Jared Stern who worked as a veteran writer/consultant on the “LEGO®” movies, and makes his animated feature film directorial debut.

Stern says he believes that “combining superheroes with pets is interesting because for a lot of people, pets are their heroes without superpowers; being a pet is a superpower in itself,” he smiles.  “They provide so much love and they are heroes to people every day just in the way they love us and help take care of us.  I think our pets, in some ways, are our real life superheroes.”

“I’d been working on ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ and knew a lot about the DC characters, so that subject was always on my mind, but here I thought there may be a way to combine pets and powers into one, and that’s kind of the origin story of the film,” says Jared Stern, directing from a screenplay he wrote with frequent collaborator John Whittington, based on characters from DC, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. 

In DC League of Super-Pets, Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.

It’s a big movie with big characters

Dwayne Johnson, who stars as the voice of Krypto the Super-Dog, and also serves as a producer on the film under his Seven Bucks banner, observes, “When you think about the conceit of what this is, about the pets of these Super Heroes, and the fact it has never been done before in cinema history!?  That is pretty remarkable, considering the genre of superheroes films as a whole.  What kind of pets would your favourite DC Super-Heroes have, from Superman to Wonder Woman to Batman to Flash to Green Lantern?  So, when I first heard the idea, I was in without hesitation, 100%.  And when you think about the players—from Warner Bros. to DC, and the love that we at [our production company] Seven Bucks Productions have for the superhero genre and for animation as well—we jumped at the partnership and the opportunity.”           

Hart’s Ace is the de facto leader of the shelter pack.  The actor was drawn to the story right away, noting, “It’s a big movie with big characters.  I feel like there are so many moments throughout the script where the verbiage on the page popped, and they put the right people into those positions and the material just blows you away—they did a great job casting.  That’s what you want in a movie like this—to be part of an amazing ensemble that feels special.  You really feel, ‘Hey, we got something here.’”

When it comes to turning that kernel of an idea into the high concept feature story, Johnson comments, “I give credit to Jared Stern.  And I’ve worked with a few writer/directors in my career, but he’s one who truly will leave his ego at the door—he just wants to create and deliver the best product.  And I think when you work in animation, you realize that you have multiple opportunities to actually continue to work on the writing and the animation, to always be thinking about upping the game, and I think that puts you in a great mind space.  I love the creativity that went into the Super-Pets—what they look like, what their superpowers are.  I love that their superpowers are earned over time through lessons, takeaways and experience; they have to learn to embrace their superpowers, too, which I think is a great addition to the story. And I think it’s also a great thread for kids and families around the world to talk about after the movie’s done.”           

Producer Patty Hicks remarks, “It’s hard to find a fresh niche in the superhero genre.  With DC characters, so much has been done, but we get to take it in a different direction—you know Superman, but do you know Superman’s dog?  I think this was a really fun new idea and in this movie, we get to explore this fresh take on superheroes just by wondering, what are their pets like?  We get to see Superman’s life but from his dog’s point of view.  And I love that we meet them and they’re not superheroes, that they come into their powers and we get to go on that journey with them.”           

The ensemble that the filmmakers assembled to voice the four-legged reluctant heroes and delightfully villainous baddies featured in the film include Vanessa Bayer as potbellied pig PB, Diego Luna as scaredy squirrel Chip, Natasha Lyonne as vision-impaired turtle Merton, Kate McKinnon as evil genius guinea pig Lulu, with Lulu’s main mutant guinea pig recruits, Keith and Mark, voiced by Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz.

“In an animated movie, the most important thing is that the actor’s voice is the perfect voice for the character, but we got lucky that they also happened to be huge movie stars,” Stern smiles.  “I mean, when you think of Krypto, Superman’s dog, he is full of bravado, and who can bring that better than Dwayne Johnson?  Or when you think of a dog like Ace, who is rough around the edges, Kevin Hart was perfect for that.  So we really tried to cast the right voice to the characters, and we just got lucky that they’re incredibly famous.”

Johnson summarizes, “There are huge fight scenes.  There’s a huge spectacle and a great scale.  The animation has a really unique quality that almost feels a little vintage, yet still feels very cool and up-to-date.  And our casting is just all-stars across the board.  I’m decently funny in the movie, but everyone else is just home run after home run after home run.”           

Amidst all the high-flying action and adventure, the film also touches on the importance of friendship and family—and emphasizes that anyone’s real superpower, no matter how many legs you stand on, is being true to yourself.

Johnson sums up, “I think it has the convergence of great story, great teams working on it, great trusted studio—the home of the Justice League—who knows us very well.  And all that attracted the talent—this incredible talent across the board, well-known actors.  We really cast the heck out of this movie.  Everybody was really excited to come onboard.  And from the beginning, the script was promising, and the early iterations of the animation—that was a combination I was very happy with.  And now I can tell you with great confidence that ‘Super-Pets’ delivers.”

JARED STERN (Director/Writer/Producer) has become the go-to creator in animation over the last decade, conceptualizing bona fide animated classics while infusing his signature heartfelt, thoughtful and hilarious storylines into every series and film he brings to life onscreen.

In television, Stern is the creator and executive producer of Netflix’s award-winning animated series “Green Eggs and Ham,” starring Keegan-Michael Key, Michael Douglas, Adam Devine, and Ilana Glazer. The series, which was adapted from the beloved children’s book, released season two in April 2022.

Stern launched his career at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, writing on films including “ToyStory3,” “Wreck-it Ralph,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Bolt.” He went on to work as a part of Warner Animation Group’s “think tank” in 2013, where he served as a creative consultant and writer on the hugely successful LEGO® franchise films, including: “The LEGO® Batman Movie,” starring Will Arnett and Michael Cera, “The LEGO® Ninjago Movie,” and “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part.” His passion for animation projects didn’t stop there, as he executive produced “Storks,” starring Andy Samberg and Jennifer Aniston, and “Smallfoot,” starring Zendaya and Channing Tatum.

Over the years Stern has seamlessly crossed over into live action feature films, writing and directing the romantic comedy “Happy Anniversary” for Netflix, and was a producer on “It Happened in LA,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Other screenwriting credits include “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” starring Jim Carrey, and “The Internship,” starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

A proud Long Island native, Stern graduated from Brown University with a (deeply practical) degree in Modern Culture and Media. He is married to (far superior) filmmaker Michelle Morgan, the two splitting their time between Los Angeles and Idaho. When Stern is not writing, directing, or developing projects through his production company A Stern Talking To, you can find him running mountain trails, watching reality television (he is a self-proclaimed “Real Housewives” junkie) and receiving forehead kisses from Sir Roger, his Boston Terrier.

JOHN WHITTINGTON (Writer) previously worked on the hit animated features “The LEGO® Batman Movie” and “The LEGO® Ninjago Movie,” as well as the recent “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”  He also wrote the 2018 live action sci-fi rom-com “When We First Met,” starring Adam Devine and Alexandra Daddario.

“I found myself deeply affected by the endless scroll through frightening news headlines, mixed ceaselessly with influencer scandals, cancel culture and sponsored ads for skincare that will somehow make you forget that the world is burning,” says writer-director Quinn Shephard. “Writing Not Okay was a way for me to cope with the emotional information overload I was experiencing, and use satire to critique it.”

A mix of cautionary tale and social satire, its story traces back to writer-director Quinn Shephard’s experience of the cultural collision online during the last few years.

Not Okay’s characters should be familiar to those with a passing knowledge of the most notorious swindlers of the Internet age.   Its “heroine”, Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch), is a photo editor at a content mine who aspires to be the next viral sensation. Her co-worker/crush Colin (Dylan O’Brien), is a weed boi influencer. Her nemesis Harper (Nadia Alexander) is a feminist crusader who trades in Ruth Bader Ginsburg think pieces. And her new ally is Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school-shooting survivor turned gun violence advocate; the only virtuous one of the bunch.

“[The movie] really dives into what we’re dealing with as a generation,” says Nadia Alexander, who plays Harper. “When you scroll on your phone, you see baby goats and influencers next to stories about terrorist attacks and governments toppling and then  it’s like, ‘buy this thing’ and, ‘are you skinny enough, what do you need to do?’ And it’s just this constant information overload.”

As written by Shephard, they’re all tragic figures, each using the web in an attempt to cope with a collective trauma that their Internet use is making worse by the day.

Danni wants to carve out a place for herself, and there are only two ways to get famous on the Internet: Be yourself, or be somebody else. After realizing her lifestyle isn’t all that Internet-friendly, Danni decides to do the next best thing: Make some shit up.

Danni’s plan is to use her photo editing skills to fake an Instagram-friendly trip to Paris in the hopes of supercharging her socials. The scheme works, until a very real incident strikes the city and she decides to maintain the illusion: a cynical decision born of desperation to be noticed and have ‘her pain’, such as she calls it, acknowledged.

“Danni has a lot of privilege and it’s tied into all of her actions, which the film aims to critique to make a larger point,” says Shephard. “Her co-opting of trauma, her idealization of Internet fame and attention without depth.”

As Danni’s facade begins to unravel and she faces the wrath of the Internet, Not Okay tackles mob mentality and unpacks an online pastime: high-profile cancellations.

“Cancel culture is complicated,” says Shephard It can be weaponized or warped into just another form of cyber bullying, and  there can be a lot of misogyny within this too – we as a society delight in watching women like Danni suffer.”

When it comes to Danni getting what she deserves and consequences for her, Shephard considers it an open-ended question.

“I don’t necessarily believe in ‘villains’ as a storyteller, but I do think Danni’s actions and the culture she represents are very deserving of criticism,” says Shephard. “Danni is a reflection of her environment, though not a product of it in a way that earns her an excuse for her actions.”

It’s the natural endpoint of a movie that Shephard wrote to explore and satirize the devil’s bargain that a whole generation has made with the Internet.

“I don’t think this film is telling audiences to throw their phones in the ocean and that social media is evil,” says Shephard. “But you should definitely take all the noise online with a major grain of salt. And also, to question whose stories get told, and why and how they are told.

“A lot of good happens online and so does a lot of bad,” she continues. “We definitely need to stop seeking meaning in our lives from it, because the Internet will never love you back. But we have to learn to co-exist peacefully with it, because I’m pretty sure it’s here to stay.”

You can watch Not Okay on Disney+ from 29 July.

Quinn Shephard, Writer & Director

Quinn Shephard is a filmmaker and writer most widely known for her auspicious directorial debut, Blame, which she wrote, directed, and starred in – all before her twenty-first birthday. BLAME premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, making her the youngest female filmmaker to ever screen a feature at the festival and ultimately earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay. The film, a contemporary play on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, received praise from journalists calling her debut “startlingly confident” and one that “radiates with a specific artistic vision and declares the arrival of a brand-new cinematic storyteller.”

Shephard’s intelligently crafted work centralizes complex female characters in inherently challenging and political settings. She is proudly queer and is passionate about the LGBTQIA+ community, gun control, and women’s rights.

Before pivoting into filmmaking exclusively, Shephard appeared in several film and television roles including Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST and the television show the Hostages.

When Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s foremost wine authorities, alerted Australian producers, directors and writers Warwick Ross and Rob Coe to the extraordinary rise of four Zimbabwean refugees who were fast becoming South Africa’s top sommeliers, they were immediately drawn to their unique story.

“We were immediately drawn to their story. Having made the feature documentary Red Obsession four years
earlier, we knew the wine establishment to be Europe-centric, exclusive and overwhelmingly white,” says Warwick Ross & Rob Coe

Meet Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin: the world’s unlikeliest sommeliers. Just 10 years ago these Zimbabwean men faced destitution as inflation crippled their homeland. With no job prospects under Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime, and unable to feed their young families, they each made a harrowing decision: to leave their home and everything they’d ever known, and use their last pennies to be smuggled across the border into South Africa.

But South Africa was just another battleground. Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin weren’t the only ones fleeing their home country – millions of Zimbabwean refugees poured into Johannesburg seeking work. The local residents resented this influx of illegal immigrants, and soon Zimbabweans were the targets of anti-foreigner riots. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, and maligned by their new community, our protagonists slept on the floor of a local church as they searched for work: grave digging, worm farming, labouring – anything they could get.

Having escaped starvation and tyranny in their homeland of Zimbabwe, four refugees have conquered the odds to become South Africa’s top sommeliers. Driven by relentless optimism, a passion for their craft and unshakeable national pride, they form Zimbabwe’s first ever wine tasting team and set their sights on the coveted title of ‘World Wine Tasting Champions’. From the moment they arrive in France to compete, this team of mavericks turns an establishment of privilege and tradition on its head. A truly uplifting documentary that celebrates just how irrepressible the human spirit can be.

Directors’ Statement

Zimbabwe is a country with next to no wine production or wine consumption. So how was it that these four men, who had never even tasted wine before escaping from Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime, were now the head sommeliers at the four best restaurants in Cape Town?

Even more remarkable was that they were in the process of forming a team to compete against 24 other countries at the WORLD WINE TASTING CHAMPIONSHIPS in France. The first black team ever to do so. Team Zimbabwe.

What would it take for them to compete at the highest level of the game? How could they believe they even had a chance? The odds against success would be overwhelming. Would the wine world take them seriously?

We felt compelled to discover more about their journey and what drove them. It would be an opportunity to follow J Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin on their quest against great odds, and to tell a story that could shed light on the lives of refugees, the challenges they face in their new communities, and what “home” means to someone who has been driven out of their country of birth. And we felt strongly their story spoke to the wider quest to break down barriers and bridge cultural and racial divides.

We discovered that the success and recognition that they had earned in South Africa was the result of their relentless optimism and their fierce determination to make a better life for themselves and their families.

What moved us about our four protagonists’ ambition to compete on the world stage was the abiding love they each have for Zimbabwe. Despite the deprivations they had suffered, the competition would be a platform to show the world the untapped potential of their mother country.

They expressed their determination to use this spotlight to inspire young Zimbabweans who had been living under such a repressive regime. This was much more than the story of a competition – This was a story of hope and change.

WARWICK ROSS – Director, Producer, Writer

Warwick Ross is an Australian film producer, director and writer best known for the AACTA Award-winning
feature-documentary RED OBSESSION and the comedy classic, YOUNG EINSTEIN.

Warwick was born in Hong Kong in 1955 and moved to Australia in 1965. After graduating from the University of Melbourne, he attended film school at the University of Southern California. He started his career on Columbia Pictures’ THE BLUE LAGOON and went on to work on Australian feature films ROADGAMES and THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE.

In 1988 he joined the team of Yahoo Serious, David Roach and Lulu Serious to produce YOUNG EINSTEIN. A
critical and box office hit, it was the most successful film ever released by Warner Bros in Australia and went
on to achieve the number one box office position in France, Germany and the UK.

With the same team, Warwick produced RECKLESS KELLY, distributed internationally by Warner Bros. and
MR ACCIDENT released internationally by MGM.

Warwick most recently produced, directed and wrote the feature documentary RED OBSESSION, narrated
by Russell Crowe. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013, screened in competition at the
Tribeca Film Festival, and won two AACTA Awards – “Best Feature Length Documentary” and “Best
Direction in a Documentary” – in 2014.

He is also a recipient of the 2013 Australian Writer’s Guild Award for RED OBSESSION.

Warwick has just completed producing and directing feature documentary, BLIND AMBITION, with partner
Rob Coe under the duo’s newly formed production company, Third Man Films.

ROB COE – Director, Producer, Writer

Rob is a Sydney based producer, writer and director. He joined Lion Rock Films as Executive Producer of the
feature documentary RED OBSESSION narrated by Russell Crowe. The film, released in 2013 by Village
Roadshow, won the AACTA Award for Best Feature Documentary. The film also screened at Berlin, Tribeca,
Seattle, Sydney, Melbourne and Busan Film Festivals.

Rob produced the feature film, BEAST, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015,
also screening in competition at the Warsaw International Film Festival and Sydney Film Festival in 2016. The
film, starring Garret Dillahunt and Angeli Bayani, won the ASEAN Skies Prize awards for Best Picture and Best
Male Performance at the World Premieres Film Festival in the Philippines. BEAST was also nominated for the
2020 Byron Kennedy Award for best Australian Indie film of the decade.

Rob has also produced short films, including Tom and Sam McKeith’s A FAREWELL PARTY, and Alex
Murawski’s SNOW. A FAREWELL PARTY screened at the Hanoi International Film Festival and Australia’s
Flickerfest, while SNOW was made through the Sydney Film Festival Lexus Fellowship.

Rob has just completed producing and directing feature documentary, BLIND AMBITION, with partner
Warwick Ross under the duo’s newly formed production company, Third Man Films.

PAUL MURPHY – Editor, Writer

Paul is a film editor and animator who has worked on a wide range of projects, including feature films,
documentaries, broadcast news, commercials and music videos. To all his projects, he brings strong creative
ideas, technical expertise and an emphasis on narrative.

In 2013, he edited the feature documentary RED OBSESSION narrated by Russell Crowe, which won the
AACTA award (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) for Best Feature Documentary and
screened at Berlin, Tribeca and Sydney Film Festivals.

“This beautifully shot and constructed film…editor Paul Murphy must take a lot of credit for this revelatory
account.” Margaret Pomeranz, At The Movies.

He edited the sports documentary AUSSIE RULES THE WORLD in 2014, narrated by David Wenham, and the
feature film BEAST in 2015, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and starred Garret Dillahunt and
Angeli Bayani.

Paul’s current projects also include directing the feature documentary THE MUSIC MADE THEM DO IT about
the rift between a rock band in the 1980s and the conservative Christian group who protested their shows, as
well as writing ‘The John Todd Tapes’, an audio podcast about a collection of mysterious tape recordings
from the 1970s.

MADELEINE ROSS – Writer, Executive Producer

Madeleine is an Australian screenwriter and journalist. Her reporting has been featured in The Guardian, The
South China Morning Post and Asia Tatler, where she worked as Features Editor covering the arts, travel,
wine and the environment. She has also held roles at FremantleMedia Australia and The Sydney Festival.

Madeleine was a Creative Consultant on AACTA award-winning feature documentary RED OBSESSION,
narrated by Russell Crowe, and most recently co-wrote feature documentary BLIND AMBITION, which
follows four Zimbabwean refugees as they take on the world’s best sommeliers at the World Wine Tasting
Championships. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Sydney

If your story has a healthy heart, it will result in happy readers and audiences.

A story lives and breathes and demands from its creator a life that will be shared for eternity.

In crafting an inspired narrative the writer must always hold the attention of those reading the story, who might watch the story unfold on stage, on the big screen, or on television, and continue to live in their minds long after experiencing its magic.

To achieve this the writer must continuously move the story forward to dramatise its impact, even if the story includes events that took place in the past, mining the inner life of the story.

The writer must also turn ordinary, everyday happenings into extraordinary events by dramatising the story, and infusing it with conflict, inciting the characters to take motivated action in achieving their goals and fulfilling their respective destinies.

Let’s weave a little tale to demonstrate how the writer can craft a cunning tale by regulating the story’s heartbeat

A beautiful woman wakes up in a bed one morning next to a handsome man, who snores and is fast asleep. She quietly slips out of bed and tip-toes to the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Standing with her back pressed against the door, her mind drifts to a harrowing nightmare showing how the handsome man sleeping next to her kidnapped her and her daughter.

The man awakens and finds her not in the bed, he gets up and opens a drawer, finding it empty. Hearing a rustle in the bathroom he walks towards the closed door.

The door bursts open and the woman holds a gun, firing two shots, killing him, and then escapes from her captivity.

The writer has now turned an ordinary event and extraordinary, easing the flow of the story with tempo, pacing and rhythm, heightening the suspense, evoking conflict and revealing motivated action.

To heighten the impact of the story, the resolution of the story must satisfy the curiosity of its reader/audience.

During the climax of the story, the woman (protagonist) is confronted by the handsome man (antagonist), discovering that he loaded the gun with blanks to set in motion the actions of a sadistic psychopath for whom the chase is part of the thrill.

How to regulate the heartbeat of your story

  • Feed your talent. Talent must be stimulated by facts and ideas. Gather your material any way you can. The hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. By doing research, you acquire information. You must take time and effort to acquire knowledge. The information you collect will allow you to operate from the position of choice and responsibility.
  • You must be familiar with other stories that relate to or are like the story you want to write. Each Genre imposes certain conventions on the story. The choice of Genre sharply determines and limits what is possible within a story.
  • Once you are clear about what you want to write about, you must start by planting the seed of your idea and explore the Premise, your central idea of what the story is about.
  • Having a Premise is not enough. You do not have enough information. You must dramatise it. Define it. Articulate it. Conceptualise your idea.
  • Character is the essential foundation of the story. It is the heart, soul, and nervous system of your story. Before you put a word to paper, you must know who the people in your story are.
  • When you build your story (the whole) you must make coherent sense of the parts (story events) and all the information you have gathered through research and exploration (characters, setting). 
  • It is vital for the writer to maintain control over the story from page 1 until the final page with meticulous plotting, skilfully manipulating the emotions of the reader and eventually the target audience.
  • Once you have made sense of the whole it is important to deconstruct your story and identify your story events, and the parts that make up the whole by crafting a story outline.
  • Once you have outlined your story from beginning to end it is time to deconstruct the whole. This is done by doing a Scene Outline, using an index card for each story event (scene or sequence) to explore the interior world of the event and to explore the actions, motivations, and conflicts of your characters.
  • You will start writing the first draft. A first draft is not the end but marks the real beginning of the writing process. You must convert the storyline description and card outline to a full scene description and add dialogue.

Our THE WRITE JOURNEY course explores the process of writing a story from inspiration to first draft.

If you have completed a draft of your screenplay or novel, we also offer the services of Story Editing and Polishing.

© The Writing Studio / Daniel Dercksen

Director James Cullen Bressack’s Hot Seat takes place in a setting too familiar for comfort, as characters reveal hidden secrets and navigate tough choices in order to survive the day.

Orlando Friar is a former hacker with a checkered past who has repositioned himself on the straight and narrow path before he ends up in the Hot Seat. Trying desperately to rebuild his life, he’s landed a minimum wage cyber security job that pays the bills and keeps him mostly out of trouble. At the same time, he’s working to improve his rocky relationship with his wife and be a better father to his young daughter, who’s about to celebrate her birthday. But as hard as Orlando may try to run, the past tends to catch up with everyone…

Played by Kevin Dillon (known for his roles in The Blob, Platoon, The Doors, A Midnight Clear, and No Escape as well as his portrayal of Johnny “Drama” Chase in the long-running HBO series Entourage), Orlando is both a bad boy and an everyman: He’s someone who made mistakes in the past but wants to move on and become a better person for the people he loves. He hasn’t completely overcome the flaws that led to his current situation, but he’s trying to change.

That’s where we meet our relatable, heavily-flawed hero.

Dillon was initially drawn to the script crafted by Leon Langford and Colin Watts because of Orlando’s character.

“This movie was a lot different than your average movie, for me in particular,” says Dillon, “because my character was stuck in one room with a bomb under his seat. I’m playing most of it in front of a computer in front of these cameras, where the bad guy can see me but I can’t see him.”

Inspired by the challenge of filming nearly the entire film in such limited space, Dillon rose to the occasion, showcasing a gripping emotional range and dexterity. “Orlando is a super cocky computer hacker, and he was the best. The best in the world,” says Dillon. “And he finds himself in a situation where he’s lost all control and doesn’t know how to get out of the situation. But being that Orlando’s a smart guy, he figures a way out.”

Orlando frantically works to extract himself from the situation without triggering a massive explosion, while behind the scenes, a bomb squad led by wise, veteran leader Wallace (played by legendary actor and director Mel Gibson) gathers to diffuse the situation. Wallace, along with backup support from his assistant Jackson (Eddie Steeples, My Name Is Earl, Raising Hope, Jiu Jitsu, The Guest Book), cautiously approaches the scene, navigating an intricate maze of bombs along the way.

Michael Welch (Twilight, Joan of Arcadia, Star Trek: Insurrection), who plays sly but lovable Enzo, admires the film for its sustained tension and the script’s compelling, multifaceted characters.

Bressack finds a way to hone in and amplify the film’s most compelling scenes. “He has the vantage point of not only being a master craftsman as a filmmaker, but a real fan of movies,” says Welch. “And if anything ever seems like it’s boring or lagging or things that he would complain about as a viewer, he’s able to recognize that on the spot and fix it right then and there. Not a lot of directors have that ability, I’ll be honest.”

A coworker and the perfect foil to Orlando’s goal-oriented spirit, Welch’s character Enzo both is and isn’t what he seems. “He’s kind of a lovable ne’er-do-well,” says Welch. “I think he kind of reminds Orlando of how he used to be in his past: Not a care in the world. Shows up to work late all the time. Really doesn’t seem to take life too seriously.” Enzo’s attitude forms a compelling contrast with Orlando’s more serious, focused approach to getting his life together. “Unfortunately for Enzo, he gets caught up in all Orlando’s nonsense and has to go along for the journey.”

Tides change: It’s Orlando’s turn in the hot seat. To the outside world, Orlando is set up to look like the perpetrator of the threat: a pawn in a carefully orchestrated, insanely-high-stakes game of chess culminating in a final life-or-death job. It’s Orlando’s turn in the hot seat. He must face his own past sins and outsmart the meticulous bomber before he, and half the city, go up in smoke.

Part of what makes the film tense is its relatable modernity. “It’s an action-adventure movie, and it’s very suspenseful from start to finish, but it’s also very contained,” says Welch, who sees the digital aspect of the movie’s plot as an invitation to update the genre. “It’s very relevant to the world we’re living in now while playing into old classic action-adventure themes that are timeless and have worked for a hundred years.”

Throughout the film, hidden secrets come to light as the intense day unfolds, hour by hour.

Orlando’s co-worker Enzo, for example, is also haunted by his past, which is revealed as the events of the day unfold. Welch, who plays Enzo, brings a charming slipperiness to the role.

He’s a familiar kind of guy until he isn’t. “He’s a little bit of a likeable sleazeball,” says Welch.

“I feel like everybody has a friend like this, where we don’t totally approve of the way that he lives his life. He’s kinda always looking for an angle. But you also can’t help but love the guy, because he seems harmless.” Enzo’s case, perhaps, is not so harmless after all.

“All the characters have a lot of things going on that you don’t know about,” says Dillon, “and as the plot unfolds, you find out more and more about these characters—some good, some bad.”

The bomb squad, who have been working deftly to reach Orlando in his cubicle, finally manage to outwit the bomber–only to realize that there’s a much bigger, more sinister scheme unfolding.

Things are not as they first appeared. They’ll have to collaborate to put together the pieces, risking their own lives in the hopes of stopping a madman from enacting violent revenge.

“Even though we are watching what we think are just regular people going through this extreme event,” says Welch, “what’s cool about this movie is that, throughout the journey, you learn that everyone’s got a secret. Everyone’s got something else going on that, throughout the course of this very intense process, ultimately gets revealed.”

Director James Cullen Bressack

American producer, director, and screenwriter James Cullen Bressack received critical attention at the age of eighteen from audiences and critics alike for his debut feature, My Pure Joy. With a knack for pushing boundaries, James followed up his debut with the bold, unapologetic Hate Crime, forcing audiences to bear witness to a brutal home invasion. The first found-footage feature ever made without any cuts, the entire film plays out in painfully real-time. Hate Crime was immediately banned in the U.K. for its fearless, frank storytelling and remains so to this day—one of only three films banned in the last 25 years. Ahead of his time, he next embarked on To Jennifer, the first feature film to be shot entirely on the iPhone 5, which led to a series for which Bressack produced three follow-up instalments. He completed seven more feature films, including Pernicious, 13-13-13, and Blood Lake. After writing and directing the haunting Bethany in 2017, Bressack shifted his focus to producing. He has now produced forty-eight features. His 2019 directorial feature, Beyond The Law, was followed by punk rock icon Glenn Danzig of the Misfits, and he directed legendary action-hero Bruce Willis in the thriller Survive the Game. Bressack recently launched his Production Company, Sandaled Kid Productions, with a focus on working with and supporting new, exciting filmmakers.


Originally from Virginia, writer Leon Langford has a penchant for powerhouse genre work. His writing fuses multi-layered characters to create rich, impactful stories. Most recently, Leon was staffed on Facebook Watch’s KONTACT, starring Andrew Bachelor (King Bach). He also has his voodoo-cop pilot, Blackcraft, set up at Automatik and a biographical miniseries in development with Maven Screen Media. He also wrote Backlash which is currently in development at Voltage Pictures.

Collin Watts is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter focused on creating genre films with genuine heart. Originally from Illinois, Watts is a graduate of Florida State University as well as UCLA’s professional screenwriting program. With Leon Langford, Watts co-wrote and produced This Land, a topical horror film that crosses the political divide. His new action-thriller, titled 1st Gen, is currently in development.

Theatre Buffs can indulge in a feast of productions filmed live on stage in London’s West End in the National Theatre Live Season as well as ballet from the The Bolshoi Ballet.

Leopoldstadt is an epic family drama telling the story of an Austrian-Jewish families experience over 50 years from the turn of the century to World War II. Written by Britain’s greatest living playwright Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) inspired by his own family history.

Regarded as ‘Britain’s greatest living playwright’ (Times), Tom Stoppard’s critically acclaimed new play Leopoldstadt is a passionate drama of love, family and endurance.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Leopoldstadt was the old, crowded Jewish quarter of Vienna, Austria. But Hermann Merz, a factory owner and baptised Jew now married to Catholic Gretl, has moved up in the world.

We follow his family’s story across half a century, passing through the convulsions of war, revolution, impoverishment, annexation by Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. A company of 40 actors represent each generation of the family in this epic, but intimate play.

Filmed live on stage in London’s West End, ‘Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece is magnificent’ (Independent) and should not be missed.

On 6, 7, 10 & 11 August at Cinema Nouveau. Trailer / Bookings

In Straight Line Crazy Ralph Fiennes leads the cast in David Hare’s (Skylight) blazing account of the most powerful man in New York, a master manipulator whose legacy changed the city forever. For forty uninterrupted years, Robert Moses exploited those in office through a mix of charm and intimidation. Motivated at first by a determination to improve the lives of New York City’s workers, he created parks, bridges and 627 miles of expressway to connect the people to the great outdoors. Faced with resistance by protest groups campaigning for a very different idea of what the city should become, will the weakness of democracy be exposed in the face of his charismatic conviction? Broadcast live from the Bridge Theatre in London, Nicholas Hytner directs this exhilarating new play.

In Cinema Nouveau Cinemas on 10, 11, 14 & 15 September. Trailer / Bookings

The legend of the enigmatic swan-woman set to Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece of a score is ballet’s most beloved production in the classical canon. The Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake exemplifies the dramatic tension and heart-stopping beauty of motion with prima ballerina Olga Smirnova leading the cast, as sensational as the black swan as she is poignant as the white swan.

Lured to the banks of a mysterious lake by his alter-ego, the Evil Genius, Prince Siegfried encounters the most beautiful swan Odette and swears his love to her. At the castle, prospective brides try to entertain the distracted Prince, but it is the ravishing swan Odile who threatens the promise Siegfried made to Odette

Cast: Olga Smirnova (Odette/Odile), Jacopo Tissi (Prince Siegfried), Egor Gerashchenko (the Evil Genius), Alexei Putinsev (the Fool) and the Bolshoi Corps de Ballet. Choreography Yuri Grigorovich

13, 14, 17 &18 August In Cinema Nouveau Cinemas /Trailer / Book here

This glamorous triptych was inspired by Balanchine’s visit to the famous jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels on New York’s Fifth Avenue and created as a homage to the cities and dance schools of Paris, New York and St. Petersburg that made a vital impact on the revered choreographer’s

Emeralds for the elegance and sophistication of Paris, rubies for the speed and modernity of New York, and diamonds for an imperial St. Petersburg. Three sparkling scenes accompanied by the music of three essential composers feature the styles of the three dance schools
that have contributed to making George Balanchine a legend of modern ballet.

Cast: Emeralds (leading couples) Evgenia Obraztsova, Anastasia Denisova, Ivan Alexeyev, Klim Efimov
Rubies (leading couple, soloist) Elizaveta Kokoreva, Dmitry Smilevsky, Antonina Chapkina. Diamonds (leading couple) Svetlana Zakharova, Jacopo Tissi

Music Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Choreography George Balanchine

20, 21, 24 & 25 August In Cinema Nouveau Cinemas / Trailer / Book here

If you’ve poured your heart and soul into a script for film, television, or theatre it is important to arrange a read-through before releasing it to the demanding process of getting it filmed or staged.

A table read (also known as a read-through) is an organized reading of a script in which the speaking parts, stage directions, and scene headings are read out loud. Gathering the cast, writer(s), and director together offers the opportunity for everyone to hear the story out loud, take notes, and come together afterwards to make revisions.

Table reads are an essential part of the script development and writing process. They’re an invaluable tool that allows writers to fine-tune their stories, sharpen their dialogue, and make other necessary adjustments.

But before you unleash your carefully crafted words, have you ever heard them spoken aloud?

A table read puts your script at a huge advantage and can be crucial to its success. It can even be considered one of the most important parts of your scriptwriting and selling process.

Whether you’re a first-time writer or a film industry veteran, table reads can give you invaluable insight into your script.

Some writers suggest that you don’t even need actors to conduct a table read. That any old friend, family member, or pet will do. Okay, maybe not anyone who is too introverted, as a poor reader makes even the best writer sound dull.

NOTE: The latest Microsoft WORD does include a ‘Read’ function, which allows you to have a voice read your manuscript from start to finish. It’s handy if you’re proofreading a document you’ve been working on for ages. When you hear the words out loud, you’re able to catch errors more easily. It’s also really helpful if you’re trying to achieve a specific tone of voice. Listening to your document allows you to decide if it’s too formal or sufficiently conversational for your audience.

Table Reads Identify Problem Areas in A Script

Hearing your script aloud read by humans inhabiting the characters you concocted and interacting with the words you wrote is where you really start to see what works and what doesn’t. Even great scripts can have issues, and sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint a script’s problems until you hear the whole thing come to life.

  • Listen to your dialogue. Is it repetitive, clunky, too contrived, or just stuck? How does it flow?
  • Concentrate on the action lines. How do they interact? These words are not an afterthought, they mean an awful lot to the pacing of the finished film or TV episode.
  • Keep an eye on your readers for emotional responses. Find what’s honest, and what’s artificial. Not only will you learn a lot about their performances, but about your script too.

Generally, table reads can help identify script weaknesses such as:

  • Plot holes
  • Stiff dialogue
  • Confusing storylines
  • Tangents
  • Out-of-character behaviour
  • Boring scenes
  • Repetitiveness

A read-through will illuminate your content, catch any glaring weaknesses, and offer a chance to rewrite.

Take Notes During a Table Read

To make most of a table read you should take notes. You will be able to use these to work with during your rewrites.

So note where the dialogue flows naturally and where people stumble over words.

If you get laughs during certain scenes, make sure you mark down where jokes worked and where they didn’t.

Highlight places in your script where you have questions for the director, the dramaturge, the dialect coach, or the music director.

Gain Feedback During a Table Read

A table read, unlike sending your script out only to hear back a month later, is an instant type of interaction.

Not only can you get feedback from the actors as they are speaking your words. But serving as the first occasion in which the cast and production team are gathered under one roof, a table read also gives everyone a chance to discuss the script.

So be sure to address the team at the beginning that you will have a Q&A-type discussion after the full read.

Oftentimes, the people involved in the table readings won’t be used to giving feedback on a script. As you’ll be busy taking notes, maybe get a moderator to help keep the feedback running smoothly.

As a screenwriter, it is best for you to receive the feedback (whilst taking notes) and wait until everyone has given their opinions to ask any questions. If you repeatedly ask questions and interrupt the feedback, you won’t be able to listen.

Avoid defending your script or interrupting the reading. Don’t try and justify your writing. LISTEN. You need to hear the true and valid assessments of your script. So, take it in. And if you aren’t clear on a comment, ask a question for clarification.

Questions to ask your readers:

Were your character’s motivations clear?

Is your character arc clearly defined?

Were you able to follow the plot?

Are the protagonist and antagonist clearly defined?

Record / Video the feedback session as well as the reading. Use the scripts you handed out to get extra notes that the actors might have jotted down.

Use Notes from the Table Read for Rewrites

The feedback and notes gathered from a table read are only truly useful if you incorporate them into your rewrite, making a real difference to the overall quality of your screenplay.

Navigating through all the notes, some conflicting will be difficult. You will have to choose what to take on board and what to ignore. But as a general rule, if multiple people give you the same note, you might want to pay close attention.

So give yourself a few days to reflect on your notes and what you learned. Then get to work on your script.

Use the feedback to focus your editing: for example, if your audience had questions about your characters, take some time to hone their wants and needs.

Be ruthless, and remember you’re not tackling a complete rewrite; you’re just fixing specific spots that don’t quite work. Endlessly rewriting will kill your story and slow down the production process.

So use the notes primarily to polish up your script.

A Table Read Can Confirm Casting Decisions

A read-through is not only beneficial for the writer to hear their script aloud for the first time but it is also a great way to confirm casting decisions.

Marketing Benefits

On top of creating a buzz during production, the recordings from your table read are useful for all the extra materials you will need for marketing and distribution.

You can also create a Facebook page, as well as a website that links to all social media platforms.

In other cases, a recording of a table read can preserve the magic of a cast and/or team.

A Table Read is not only vital for you as a writer but for everyone involved in a production

It’s a relatively simple yet highly effective method of finalising a screenplay or even helping with the early stages of script development.

New ideas bounce around and the vision of the story comes one step closer to being realized. There are no apparent negatives that can come out of this simple process, so why overlook it?

Plus, if you’re working through a global pandemic, or you’ve got actors and department heads unavailable to physically participate, a table read can also take place remotely.

Remember, make the most of it, stay open and aware, and adjust what needs to be adjusted.

NOTE: If you are struggling with a script or book? The Writing Studio providess the services of Story editing and polishing / Writing a screenplay

If you need assistance with your Table Read, send us an email

“One of the cool things about Marvel films is this ability to embrace various genres within a single film,” says filmmaker Taika Waititi. “It keeps audiences guessing, and the characters within these different genres then feel different all the time. When we came up with Thor: Love and Thunder, we knew the fans would really freak out about it, and it really does suggest a lot of what the film is about.”

For Waititi, a native New Zealander, who made his Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) directorial debut with 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, the third instalment of Thor, Thor: Love and Thunder was a departure for the God of Thunder.

“I don’t think it’s far-fetched to expect a change in a character like Thor,” says Waititi. “He’s been around for a long time, so there’s time for him to go through different phases. I was relieved when I knew how high he was testing in the ‘Ragnarok’ screenings, but it was also a sense of pride that we’d managed to reinvent this character in a way that made the film do well but also made people want to see more of him. Waititi directed the film from a screenplay he crafted with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.

Since 2011, Thor has appeared in seven MCU features as well as Marvel Studios’ “What If …?” animated series, becoming the first character to lead four franchise films.

To fans around the world, Chris Hemsworth simply is Thor and, yet, he still feels compelled to explore and evolve his role. “There was a huge amount of pressure coming into this,” admits Hemsworth. “Thor is the only character to make a fourth film so far, so I wanted to do something different. I want to always do better with this character.”

“What sets this movie apart is that, at its heart, it’s a love story,” says producer Brian Chapek. “We’ve seen Thor grow so much over the years. After the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ we started to see cracks in his armour. He started to feel some ownership over all the people he’s lost in his life.”

On his search for meaning, Thor makes a stunning discovery: Jane Foster, his ex-girlfriend and a world-renowned astrophysicist, has proven herself worthy of wielding his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor — a transformation that masks a very personal battle.

Natalie Portman, who portrayed Jane Foster in 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” was thrilled about her return to the MCU. “Taika came over to my house to talk because I’d been out of the Marvel world for a while,” says Portman. “When he explained how Jane would become the Mighty Thor, it was fascinating to consider what that experience could be like. Working on the film was a really exciting challenge because it was so improvisatory, and Taika really keeps you on your toes.”

“To bring her back in this new iteration, in this storyline from ‘The Mighty Thor’ in which Jane Foster becomes a Super Hero, is exciting,” says Waititi. “It’s brilliant to see Natalie in a way that we don’t expect. She’s such a great actor, and in keeping with reinventing this franchise again and again, we didn’t want to go back to seeing her in the same role. We don’t want to see her just being a scientist on Earth waiting for Thor.”

(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

“Jane is a really interesting character because she’s human, but she gets this amazing power,” says Chapek. “How is she going to deal with having that power? I think audiences are going to be able to relate to Jane and her journey in a really meaningful way because she is a mortal who is dealing with very human issues.”

“Thor: Love and Thunder” also reveals more about Jane and Thor’s relationship and eventual breakup, allowing both Hemsworth and Portman to showcase their comedic chops. “Natalie was hugely enthusiastic and up for anything collaborative, with a great sense of humor,” says Hemsworth. “This is a very different direction for the character, so it was like a rebirth. She was down for it. It was so much fun.”

In Thor: Love and Thunder the God of Thunder embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — one of self-discovery. But his efforts are interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they venture out on a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

Love is a resounding theme that carries throughout Thor: Love and Thunder

“‘Thor: Love and Thunder feels similar to Ragnarok in terms of tone and style, but we wanted to double down on how vibrant and crazy the worlds are and the situations we put Thor in,” says Waititi. “Because when you’re dealing with outer space and a Viking, if you run and embrace that incredible combination as the thing that powers the story, you’re only really limited by your imagination.”

“If Ragnarok was a 1980s synth-pop album, ‘Love and Thunder’ is a metal album,” says producer Brad Winderbaum. “We knew we wanted a title that would evoke a 1980s rock ‘n’ roll feeling. And ‘Love and Thunder’ just seemed to do that.”

“At Marvel Studios, every film is a new frontier,” says Winderbaum. “We want to make something exciting and new, and we want to delve even deeper into these characters. Thor is a very existential character, and one of the things audiences will see in Thor: Love and Thunder is not just a hero who’s funny, who gets out of situations using his wit and charisma, but a guy who feels very deeply.”

Love is featured in the title, felt throughout the story and soaked into every frame of “Thor: Love and Thunder” owing to a stellar cast and crew who devoted 89 days to the Australia-based production beginning January 2021.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.


When Thor first appears in “Avengers: Endgame,” he’s clearly experiencing an existential crisis, having recently suffered a series of brutal blows. He’s lost family and friends, his home of Asgard, Mjolnir and his battle with Thanos — not to mention his god-like physique.

He’s also lost his will to lead, as King of New Asgard, and after Iron Man’s snap restores the Universe, Thor bestows his title upon Valkyrie and hitches a ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy. “Thor travels off with the Guardians and — much to their discomfort and irritation — plants himself firmly in the centre of their posse and tries to dictate how things should be run,” says Hemsworth.

Waititi says he takes inspiration from the film’s main character. “I really feel like Thor, more than any other character in the MCU, lends himself towards big, inventive, colourful creatures from different worlds,” says Waititi. “He has a casualness and a sort of swagger about him when he encounters these aliens. I really feel like we’re making it a funnier, bigger adventure with even cooler characters and a really kickass soundtrack.”

But no matter the size of his conquests, Thor’s internal void is even bigger. He declares his Super Hero days over and sets out to discover the man he’s truly meant to be. “Most people who are trying to find themselves are running away from something,” says Winderbaum. “What he’s running from is love because, in his experience, everyone he loves dies. Whether or not he can articulate it, he believes he’s cursed.”

(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Christian Bale joins the MCU as the terrifying antagonist

Unfortunately, Thor’s seclusion is short-lived, as a terrifying new foe threatens to upend the galaxy. Gorr the God Butcher has waged a war on the gods, killing them one by one with a weapon of immense, dark power.

Thor has faced off against countless enemies — from Laufey, King of the Frost Giants, to his sister Hela, the Goddess of Death, to Thanos, the Mad Titan — but filmmakers chose to raise the stakes even higher in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “We needed to step up from Hela and find a villain who was somehow even more formidable,” says Waititi, “and we found that in Gorr, who is played by the remarkable Christian Bale.”

Once a peaceful, pious man, a crushing loss propels Gorr on a mission fueled by his desperate need for revenge. “Gorr played by the rules, and so when he realizes he’s been betrayed by the gods, he’s overtaken by a rage that hits such a fever pitch that he gains an evil, ancient power and sets out to rid the universe of these gods, who don’t take care of their humans,” says Winderbaum.

Christian Bale as Gorr in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

“There’s so much drama and insanity around Gorr, but Christian Bale managed to pull the focus right into each moment,” says Hemsworth. “You can’t take your eyes off him.

The character is fascinating because like all good villains, Gorr has a point. He may not be going about it the right way, but there’s empathy in the script and Christian brought so many more layers and so much more depth to Gorr.”

As Gorr blazes a deadly trail through the galaxy, Thor appeals to his allies, and his own ego, to put aside any differences and take up arms. The team even attempts to enlist the support of the legendary king of the gods, Zeus, played by Russell Crowe. Zeus spends his days living in excess and seems oblivious to the growing number of gods gone missing.

Thor will need all the help he can get to contend with the God Butcher. “Gorr is on a scorched-earth policy, and so what we have in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ are our heroes trying to stop a killer before he strikes again, travelling the cosmos, deducing where he’s going to strike next and racing to protect his next victim,” says Winderbaum

Director Sophie Hyde spent a lot of time working with writer Katy Brand on the script of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande before it approached a final draft, giving the thoughtfulness and care needed to balance a story with powerful themes relating to human intimacy.

Pictured are: Sophie Hyde, Emma Thompson, Katy Brand and Darryl McCormack attend the “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” Premiere at the Sundance Film Fest: London at Picturehouse Central on June 09, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

“The kind of director that I am, when I come onto a project, I want to really get my hands dirty, really get in on the script,” explains Hyde. “I have to feel like I can make it from inside of myself. And so there began a process between Katy and I where we would take what was there and expand on it. We worked together to sculpt it into what it is now. I asked a lot of questions to Katy, Debbie and Emma to make sure that I understood the kind of film they wanted to make, and that it was the one that I could make.”

Hyde and Brand worked through several drafts asking themselves questions about how to push the film into really interesting territory. “How can we ensure that the story is really pleasurable for an audience? How can we make sure that we’re consulting sex workers and that we’ve got the right material to tell that story, that’s not harmful, that’s perhaps empowering in some way?”

Hyde recollects. “I would give Katy a lot of notes on the script originally and she would respond with certain things. She was very generous with allowing me to find things as well, and those became part of the story.”

“I had a fantastic time working with Sophie,” says Brand. “Her director’s notes and insights were the best I’ve had. We were always talking, and I knew that she was going to create the atmosphere on set and create that intimacy and trust with the actors.” According to Gray, this is one of the qualities that made Hyde perfect for the project. “Sophie brought a strong point of view and a fearless ability to lean into the material,” says Gray.

Director’s Statement By Sophie Hyde

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: How a brilliant idea evolved into an irresistible film

Hyde’s attention to detail brought depth to the script for Thompson and McCormack as well. “I thought, this is gonna be great,” Thompson says of Hyde’s attachment to the project. “She’s really going to examine this forensically, this piece, and really really take us through it, little piece by little tessellated piece you know and really make it specific.”

Given the comedic aspects of the film, Thompson says, without Hyde it wouldn’t have become what it had the potential to be. “It could have been a bit generalised. Because it’s funny and touching and unafraid.”

“Whilst I was working with her and reading through the script with her she was spotting everything that I was spotting and I just kind of instantly began to trust her so much because she was seeing the same film that I was seeing,” explains McCormack.

Integral to the film was making sure that sex workers were consulted through every stage. “I did a lot of research with sex workers,” says Hyde. “We had some wonderful consultants with lived experience and their stories and insights were just brilliant. We wanted to make sure that what we were saying was not harmful in any way, and that it felt real to people that were engaged in this kind of work that is deeply intimate work, it is working with people very closely.”

It was also important to make sure sex work wasn’t depicted in a binary way in the film. “That we weren’t saying ‘all sex work is really cool and empowering’, but also not saying that sex work is bad and there’s a deep, dark traumatic side to every sex worker,” explains Hyde. “It is a job. For some people this is what they do for a living, and they enjoy it and they’re good at it, and finding that part of Leo was really important to me.”

It was also crucial for Daryl McCormack to depict the job accurately. “Meeting with sex workers that Sophie had been consulting with was massively important for me in preparing for the role,” explains McCormack. “I’m not representing all sex workers in the role because the work and workers are so diverse it would be impossible to do. But it was important to speak to them about their profession, their experiences and hear them as people to help us to understand Leo’s character.”

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Getting Vulnerable

In a script that approaches intimacy and sex with comedic way, vulnerability and openess were vital. “To get to the place that I think we got to, and that I’m really happy with, Emma and Daryl had to be really willing to go somewhere,” explains Hyde. “They were both ready for this film in a certain way, and they were willing to put themselves physically on the line, to reveal themselves.”

Thompson and McCormack even surprised themselves while rehearsing the funny but deeply intimate script. “We used to rehearse, and we used to not sometimes be able to get through our rehearsals because we were laughing so much. We’d be just doing the lines and just not able to get them out but then when we came to do them, sometimes they would end up being very upset and quite emotional,” says Thompson.

Because of the nature of the story, communication and respect of boundaries were constantly evolving and being discussed. Hyde explains, “With the nakedness for instance, it could have been that there was no nudity in it at all, that we filmed it in a way that it was suggested. Alternatively, we could have had a lot of nudity. So we discussed a lot and tested together a lot and there was always an openness to their decisions in it as well as them listening to what I felt we could do. And there was certainly always an idea that they could change their minds.”

Rehearsal was an important part of deciding how these screenings would take shape and building a comfortable space for both the actors and filmmaking team. “Emma is really amazing at this work too, she was really ready for it and set the scene in that rehearsal room for us. A lot of it came from the rehearsal room. I felt like Emma, Daryl and I stepped onto set knowing the level we wanted to go to and felt in control of that,” says Hyde. “The way that we worked up to the intimacy is we talked a lot, about nudity, about sexual touch and how we were going do that in the film. We did a lot of workshops, exercises, games, and I led them through a process of opening up to each other so they could feel comfortable.”

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Having a crew that was sensitive to the material and incredibly capable also helped to set the environment and keep Thompson and McCormack feeling safe. At the request of the actors, the crew operated under closed sets whenever there were sexual scenes or nudity. Emma and Daryl would come onto set, they would disrobe together, make themselves comfortable and then the crew that needed to be there would come on, Hyde describes. “It felt like they were leading the set in those moments, it always felt like they were in control of how they were being seen and what they were doing.”

Ultimately, it was a trust and ability to communicate openly between Thompson, McCormack, Hyde and the crew that made the scenes possible. “The great thing about Emma and Daryl is that they created, not just in the rehearsal room but between them, a really comfortable space,” says Hyde.

“They got to know each other very well and they chose how to create the film and the characters, and I feel that at all times they were in control of that. And I very much felt my job was to set up the potential for that and protect it.”

Two years ago, when British playwright and novelist Katy Brand first sat down to write a draft of the script Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, she didn’t quite know what she was going to do with it, or what was going to come out. “I had had the idea for quite a long time,” says Brand, recalling a vision of the opening scene. “A woman of around 60 is waiting in a hotel room for a young man that she has booked to have sex with. A sex worker. I saw the image of this scene, this woman waiting, and the guy coming up and you’re just hearing this soft knock on the door and she opens the door and then we begin.” Once the two characters meet, the dialogue began to flow.”

Brand kept writing and found she loved the back and forth between Nancy and Leo. “I really started to enjoy hearing them talk to each other. What would actually happen in this situation, how would it play out? And so I wrote it quite freely, that first draft, but I was excited by it. I felt a thrill of writing that dialogue and hearing them talk.”

The first draft of the script poured out of Brand. Months later, in the summer of 2020, she realized that she had this screenplay that was essentially just two people in a hotel room.

“I had written that without any knowledge of what was coming, obviously,” says Brand, “but I just thought if people are really wanting to make stuff safely, I have this script in my drawer that could be made safely.”

Brand passed the script along to Debbie Gray of Genesius Pictures, who Brand knew was looking for projects that could be done on a small scale. “I said, well, look, I’ve actually got this script that I’ve already written, and I don’t really know what to do with. It’s just a first draft, but why don’t you have a read of it and see what you think?”

Gray responded to the script instantly. “I was working with Katy during the first lockdown and it was an immediate yes when I read it. It was very funny and original.” Struck by the complexity of the script, Gray says, “Beneath the humour Katy was dealing with sexuality, intimacy, and the connection between strangers. Power and intimacy and the interplay – I loved it.”

When Gray asked Brand who she envisioned in the lead role, she was quick to share she’d always pictured Emma Thompson, a friend with whom she had worked with before on Nanny McPhee. “I wrote the script for Emma and with her tone of voice in mind,” Brand says. “I knew that she would have a certain cadence and a way of delivering lines, a way of being funny, but also true at the same time.” Brand sent the script to Thompson and she came back quickly.

“I read it and I had a kind of visceral reaction to it and I wrote back to Katy immediately saying it had to be made and that I really wanted to be in it,” explains Emma Thompson. “It was like nothing I’d ever read before – it was so funny and so moving. I laughed so hard, I was in tears at the end, and then it quickly took off from there.”

The Art of Collaboration – Crafting the screenplay of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Director’s Statement By Sophie Hyde

In the film, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, Nancy Stokes, a retired school teacher and widow (Emma Thompson), is yearning for some adventure, some human connection, and some sex. Good sex. Whilst her husband Robert provided a home, a family, and something resembling a life, good sex was never on offer. But he’s gone now, and Nancy has a plan: she will find adventure with a sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). In an anonymous hotel room, Nancy greets Leo. He looks every bit as good as his picture, but what Nancy wasn’t expecting was conversation as well as fornication. Leo has a view on everything, and though he may not always tell the truth, Nancy finds she likes him. And he likes her. With growing sexual confidence, Nancy starts to relax. Over the course of their rendezvous, the power dynamics shift and their well-worn masks begin to slip.

With Emma committed to the role of Nancy, Gray found early partners in Cornerstone who fell in love with an early outline of the script.

Having recently worked together on Animals, the Cornerstone team instantly thought of Sophie Hyde, believing her visual style, emotional intelligence and raw honesty would be a great match for the material.

At the time the draft came across her desk, Hyde was reading scripts but hadn’t found the next perfect project. “I got the message that this was Emma Thompson in a story in which she hired a sex worker, and it was all set in one space. And I just thought well, I want to do that, that sounds amazing.” Both the concept of the story and Emma’s involvement were exciting for Hyde. “There are times where there’s an idea that’s great, or there’s an actor attached that’s exciting, but when those two things meet like this you just know that it’s going to be something really interesting and there’s so much room in there to create something.”

With Hyde on board to direct and financing in place, finding the perfect Leo came about quickly before shooting. It was important to find someone who could go toe to toe with Thompson. “Emma Thompson is a legend, and we were fortunate that she agreed to attach herself to the project very early on,” says Gray. “It enabled Emma to develop her journey through the development phase and also assist in the casting of Leo Grande. The chemistry of the two lead characters was vital – it is a two-hander and it had to feel authentic.”

About a month before shooting was set to begin, Daryl McCormack was sent the script by his agent and was immediately interested after finding out Thompson was attached. “Before I’d even read the script or understood it was a two-hander, I was excited by the idea of working with her,” explains McCormack. “Once I started reading, I couldn’t believe this was something I might be considered for. I fell in love with the character of Leo and what he represented, what seeing a young man like him on screen could mean and the chance to embody that. And then to see how these two people in one room can really change each other’s lives through intimacy, which is essentially something we all have access to.”

McCormack read the script twice and came in to audition and filmmakers liked him immediately.

“It was finding that energy we wanted Leo to have. That openness and charisma and a sort of gentleness, but also a naughty sense of humour. We thought Daryl brings that energy to it that could make Leo come to life,” says Brand. Hyde says of McCormack, “Daryl is empathetic and he relaxes everybody, it’s a really lovely quality. This role was a huge thing – imagine being opposite somebody who has such a name in the world as Emma Thompson and needing to stand your ground in the two-hander. And Daryl absolutely did that. He rose to the challenge in every

McCorrmack met with Thompson the day following for a walk to discuss the role and the story together, and she called him the very next day to tell him she wanted him to play Leo. “I couldn’t believe it, I thought maybe she’d saved my number incorrectly or that they really wanted someone else.” But there was no confusion, and in under a week McCormack had the role and rehearsals were set to begin.

Empowerment Through Intimacy

Ultimately, the filmmakers hope that audiences enjoy themselves watching this film. Says Brand, “I guess like anyone who writes a film you want people to, to laugh, to feel a bit moved, to have something to think about and then to leave uplifted.” McCormack echoes Brand’s sentiments about bringing joy to the audience. He says, “I hope that they’ll have a laugh. I hope that they really enjoy what we can bring to each other as humans, just humour and kindness and an endeavour to understand one another.”

Filmmakers also would like the audience to walk away feeling empowered, particularly about sexual desire and human intimacy. “I would like them to go out feeling so released, so much freer and braver, brave enough to say, finally, you know, ‘What do you want, really?’”

Thompson says. “How do you experience pleasure? Do you allow yourself to experience pleasure, and if you don’t then why not? Where do you carry your shame and why are you ashamed? Why are pain and pleasure and shame so inextricably linked? These are conversations that live with everyone, in all cultures, across all borders.”

As a director, Hyde was most interested in saying with this film that there is a certain kind of freedom that can be found in pleasure and connection. “It’s something that takes a while to open up for some of us but is really worth something.”

When writing the script, Brand wanted to explore the power of knowing your body, enjoying sex and being free with it. “I think that’s something that’s always interested me about people. And so, you know, I want to bring that into the conversation and have people think about that.”

Gray adds, “The physical joy that you can derive from having confidence in yourself, your self-worth, it’s never too late to find that. As a woman of a certain age it’s never too late to find that pleasure.”

Nancy and Leo derive more from their relationship than sex, however. Another important element to their relationship that filmmakers hope audiences will take away is our ability to connect on a deeper level with each other, and how powerful that can be. “I think that you can make a connection with anyone anywhere, and it doesn’t mean it has to last a lifetime. Just be open to having little connections with people, even when you least expect it.” McCormack says he hopes that viewers come away understanding the bravery it takes to overcome what society has projected upon us about intimacy. “To get past that is a lot of freedom.”

Lastly, Emma Thompson notes a final takeaway on behalf of her costar, “I hope that lots of people will be talking about Mr. McCormack, because, you know, it’s a massive great role. It’s a two-hander and you know I’m a war horse that’s done a lot of stuff, and Daryl’s done loads, but you know he’s still young and it’s a remarkable, remarkable performance and I’m really excited to see people reacting to that.”

Writer Katy Brand

Katy Brand wrote her first comic monologue in 2004 and began performing live original comedy in pubs around the U.K. She later joined a group of sketch comedians to write and perform a weekly live sketch show at the Ealing Film Studios, called Ealing Live!

In 2005 Katy took her debut Edinburgh show “Celebrities Are Gods” to the Fringe, which was immediately picked up for a Comedy Lab for Channel 4 (‘Slap’). This later became the award-winning ITV sketch show, “Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show”, which Katy devised, wrote and starred in. It ran for three series and later became a nationwide live tour. She won a British Comedy Award for the show in 2008, and was also nominated for an RTS Award.

During this period she also wrote and performed “Mouthtrap” with Katherine Parkinson which ran for two series on BBC Radio 4.

Since then Katy has written for and appeared in numerous radio and tv shows, from Radio 4’s “News Quiz” to Channel 4’s “Peep Show”. Most recently she presented “The Origin of Stuff” on BBC Radio 4, a show which looks at the history of everyday objects. She has also scripted “Katy Brand’s Christmas Cracker” for Sky and “Common People: Eleanor” for Baby Cow and Sky.

Acting jobs cover a wide array of TV, Film and Radio shows, alongside regular live work. These include “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang”, “Peep Show”, “Grandpa’s Great Escape”, “Annually Retentive”, “Mongrels” and “Psychobitches”.

In 2016, Katy took a new stand-up comedy show “I Was A Teenage Christian” to the Edinburgh Fringe (‘intelligent story-telling…she makes us hang on her every word’ – The Times; ‘The church’s loss is comedy’s gain’ – Evening Standard) and later toured with it nationwide. She returned to the Fringe in 2017 with the follow-up show, “I Could’ve Been An Astronaut” (‘Laugh out loud funny’ The Skinny).

Her debut play “3Women”, starring Anita Dobson, opened at Trafalgar Studios 2 in May 2018 (‘it has heart and lots of laughs’ The Daily Mail, ‘sharp and convincing’ The Guardian, ‘witty and insightful – I really recommend this’ Woman’s Hour BBC Radio 4), and is published by Samuel French.

Her debut novel “Brenda Monk Is Funny” (‘…essential reading’ – Irvine Welsh) was published in 2014, this was followed by “I Carried A Watermelon”, part memoir-part homage to “Dirty Dancing” which was published in 2019. Her next book “Practically Perfect: Life Lessons from Mary Poppins” was published in 2020.

Sophie Hyde is a founding member of the film collective Closer Productions. She lives and works on the lands of the Kaurna people in South Australia and makes provocative and intimate films and television.

Her debut feature drama 52 Tuesdays (director/producer/co-writer) won the Directing Award at Sundance and the Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. She directed and produced the Australian/Irish co-production Animals which premiered in Sundance 2019 and won a BIFA for Best Debut Screenplay. She created, produced and directed the episodic series F*!#ing Adelaide, which premiered in competition at Series Mania and screened on ABC Australia. She created, produced and directed (EP4) series The Hunting, which won two Australian Academy Awards for Best Screenplay in Television and Best Supporting Actor for Richard Roxburgh and the Australian Writers Guild award for Best Series.

It is network SBS’s highest-rated commissioned program to date. Sophie was nominated for two Australian Directors Guild awards in 2020 for the feature films Animals and The Hunting.

Sophie’s feature documentaries include Life in Movement (producer /co-director), winner of the Australian Documentary Prize, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (producer) and Sam Klemke’s Time Machine (producer), which both premiered at Sundance Film Festival and In My Blood It Runs (Producer) which premiered at Hotdocs, had a very successful cinema run, and has screened on PBS (USA), ABC (Australia) and ARTE (France and Germany).

At the time Good Luck To You, Leo Grande came across her desk, Hyde was reading scripts but hadn’t found the next perfect project. “I got the message that this was Emma Thompson in a story in which she hired a sex worker, and it was all set in one space. And I just thought well, I want to do that, that sounds amazing.” Both the concept of the story and Emma’s involvement were exciting for Hyde. “There are times where there’s an idea that’s great, or there’s an actor attached that’s exciting, but when those two things meet like this you just know that it’s going to be something really interesting and there’s so much room in there to create something.”

With Hyde on board to direct Good Luck To You, Leo Grande and financing in place, finding the perfect Leo came about quickly .before shooting

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande: How a brilliant idea evolved into an irresistible film

The Art of Collaboration – Crafting the screenplay of Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Director’s Statement By Sophie Hyde

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is a reminder that someone unlikely might free you from your own limitations in a small but significant way. And that the search for intimacy and connection can be powerful, brave and necessary.

This film is simple – two actors in one room exploring intimacy, connection, sex, frustration and shifting power dynamics – but in our currently divided world, these intimate stories about connection feel even more vital. Our bodies, our shame, our miscommunications, our sexual connections and sexual frustrations are funny, touching and often tragic and, I believe, we are longing for stories that reflect us and challenge us and allow us to consider how we treat each other.

There is much to be said between two characters who meet to have good sex, and much that cannot be expressed in words. I love to work with desire, our wants and needs, the way our wants compete with each other and the way we try to reject them or embrace them.

Nancy is a wonderful character, repressed but motivated to make a huge change. She is unflinchingly honest about her own discomfort around sex and determined to explore what it could be. She can be abrasive and seem uncaring, but over the film she grows to understand that she may have perpetuated values she didn’t believe in. She may have accepted and reinforced a status quo that is unhelpful to those around her and also to herself. This is as much of an awakening as her physical one. Emma is an actor who can switch from witty to heartbreaking instantly and it has been a total joy to work with her in this role.

Leo is a refreshing character. A truly impassioned and emotionally healthy sex worker is a character we don’t see a lot of onscreen. Leo’s work is therapeutic, warm and emotionally liberating. It is sex-positive, grounded and open. Leo’s deep wounds around his mother are also the thing that gives him great power to be good at what he does. His boundaries are clear, but he is also having a human connection which sometimes doesn’t follow the rules. He is able to decide how to respond to a boundary crossed. Daryl is an actor with warmth and charm, who expanded Leo to have a really connected emotional capacity. It was such a delight to work with him.

The two characters together allow us to be part of a conversation between two people we might not normally watch interact. As a younger man Leo offers a great foil to the tedium of the life Nancy has felt trapped in, and he also gets to challenge her, call her out on some of her tired attitudes and present a fresh take on pleasure and on consent. But he is also working within a performance and Nancy raises things for him that means that performance cracks sometimes.

Eventually, it’s their decision to be more open with each other and to consider and challenge their own boundaries that allow them to be changed by the other.

Nancy is able to accept what Leo offers, which is an exploration of intimacy, both sexual and other. But it’s an intimacy with limitations or boundaries, a professional intimacy because he’s doing his job. He has parts of himself that he allows to be shared for the experience and parts that he protects or are off the table. His professional intimacy is not a lie, it’s a boundary. And a fair enough one. When that boundary gets broken, he has to choose how he will respond.

Sex and the body are fundamental to the film and I feel grateful to have had two actors who also felt this and were ready, to be frank, and revealed. Leo brings into this interaction a view of sex/touching/pleasure as something that tips over into all interaction – there isn’t a line you step over into sex, it is part of the conversation, always with consent. His youthful, healthy vision of sex is much less delineated than Nancy (and some of our audience) might expect. Nancy has a massive shift in her own relationship with her body. Having been soaked in a culture that teaches us to be ashamed and wants to control and change our bodies, it’s a joy to watch Nancy find pleasure in and appreciation of hers.

In this film what is sexy is intimacy; the thrill, touch, sensations, the way someone can take your breath away and the reality of two human bodies removed from the signs and symbols of what we are supposed to think is sexy, publicly. How are two bodies and two humans together sexy for real? What happens when two people explore how something feels without limitations of what it is supposed to be or look like? We explore the specificity of these two people exploring the oddities of erotic response which can be funny, moving and arousing.

Visually we were really going for pleasure – shifting light across walls and bodies, revealing the two, reflections of the outside world on windows, bodies, hands, tiny gestures and expressions that allow us into the world of the characters, never viewing from a distance, never cold. Inside our hotel room is not stale or ordinary but it is neutral, a space for the characters to explore and we never wanted to overpower them. Though the cinematography shifts from the early more composed frames that the characters inhabit, to the more intimate, urgent style later on the texture of the skin, fabric, glass, of the flesh is ever-present.

I give my thanks to my collaborators Director of Photography and Editor Bryan Mason, Production designer Miren Maranon and costume designer Sian Jenkins for the nuance and talents they used in creating this world with me.

I think this film is fun and warm with strong performances and I also think it is fresh, with characters who feel familiar and new all at once. My hope is that the audience arrives thinking it will be fun and a bit sexy, but they will leave having felt invigorated, provoked, empowered and uplifted. And also having laughed a lot. And maybe they were a bit aroused too, not by looking at, but by feeling like. And that maybe, they open themselves up just a tiny bit more to others and to themselves.

Packed with Illumination franchise’s signature subversive humour, Minions: The Rise of Gru brings us the origin story of how the world’s greatest supervillain first met his iconic Minions, forged cinema’s most despicable crew and faced off against the most unstoppable criminal force ever assembled.

Over four films, beginning with 2010’s Despicable Me, Illumination’s Minions have become international icons of mischief, mayhem and joy.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is the fifth film in a franchise that continues to thrill and delight audiences in every country and, consequently, has become the biggest animated global franchise in history, earning more than $3.7 billion worldwide.

Long before he becomes the master of evil, Gru is just an 11 ¾-year-old boy in 1970s suburbia, plotting to take over the world from his basement. It’s not going particularly well. When Gru crosses paths with the Minions, including Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto—a new Minion sporting braces and a desperate need to please—this unexpected family joins forces.

Steered by the franchise’s original creators, Minions: The Rise of Gru is directed by returning franchise filmmaker Kyle Balda (Despicable Me 3Minions), co-directed by Brad Ableson (The Simpsons) and Jonathan Del Val (The Secret Life of Pets films), from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel.

“The Despicable Me and Minions movies work because, while on one hand, they’re broad, funny and fun…there’s also an emotional resonance that runs through their centre,” says Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri. “They continue to resonate because of the characters. The Minions charm and delight audiences, and even though Gru is a villain, we still find him highly relatable and want him to succeed in any situation.”

Together, Gru and the Minions—with Kevin, Stuart and Bob front-and-center —have engaged in some of cinema’s most elaborate criminal master plans and incredible over-the-top action without ever losing their charm or their emotional connection with audiences.

“While, narratively, movies are generally about protagonists overcoming obstacles, it’s how they do that—and what happens along the way—that needs to surprise and delight,” Meledandri says. “I’m especially proud that our team has been able to create a nostalgic pull toward characters we’ve all grown close to, as well as provide a sense of discovery with all these new elements.”

The most recent two franchise films were directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin. Both films earned more than $1 billion worldwide, and Balda now returns as solo director for Minions: The Rise of Gru. The origin story reveals how Gru first met the Minions and forged a bond that has endured the rest of their lives.

“The first Minions film gave you some background about who the Minions are, what they want and what their goals are, and their main goal was to serve a big boss,” Balda says. “With Minions: The Rise of Gru, we go a step further when we have them meet Gru, their ultimate boss, and we get to see a little bit more about where Gru is in his life as an 11 ¾-year-old aspiring villain. We see how the Minions support his ideas and what he wants to become. Gru is a little resistant toward the Minions in the beginning, so the Minions have a lot of work to do to win him over.”         

The Rise of Gru takes the franchise into new territory on multiple levels, and, notably, to a new time: The 1970s

The decade provided the filmmakers with a diamond mine of music, fashion and pop-culture reference to excavate. “I was about the same age that Gru is in our film when I grew up in the ’70s, so it’s very personal to me,” Balda says. “The television, the music, the cars, the hairstyles, the bell-bottoms—there was just a lot of flair to everything. And with the vibrant colours, the sparkles, disco—it was a visual decade, for sure, and very nostalgic to look back at this era for inspiration.”

One particular aspect of 1970s pop culture provided an opportunity to elevate the action in The Rise of Gru to a level never seen in any Illumination film before. “Another major reference and inspiration was kung fu films of the ’70s,” Balda says. “We scoured a lot of the movies that I enjoyed as a kid. The first one that comes to mind is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin because a lot of the gadgets in that movie were influential to us, but the biggest source of inspiration came through comedic kung fu films. Some of the sequences that we have in this movie are a tribute to that genre and the great work that’s been done in the likes of Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master and Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer.”

That the film looks and feels like no Minions film you’ve seen before is entirely by design. “It’s so important that every film that we make is distinctive, feels fresh and feels like it’s venturing into new terrain,” Meledandri says. “That’s not only important in terms of character, story and comedy, but it’s also important in terms of the visceral experience of watching the film—what it looks like and sounds like. Everything that’s wonderful in these movies comes out of the imagination and expertise of the hundreds of people who are working on each one of them.  They are the fuel that provides the engine of our ability to make them.”


Among the film’s creative achievements is a new sextet of supervillains known as the Vicious 6, each distinct and unforgettable and all voiced by an extraordinary group of actors beloved by fans worldwide

“When we came up with the idea for the Vicious 6, it was important to create a band of villains that would be cool on one hand, but at the same time be a little bit ridiculous and funny,” Balda says. “This is a comedy, after all. The actors that we got to play these characters are legends in their own right. The stars that make up the Vicious 6 brought their own texture and flavor to the identity of each of these villains. Our hope is that when you leave, you’d really want to watch a film about each one of these characters independently.”         

At the beginning of the film, Gru’s dream is to become a member of this illustrious team of outlaws, but when they reject him, he ends up stealing their most prized possession, the powerful Zodiac Stone, and ends up becoming their nemesis instead (with a little accidental “help” from Otto and a Pet Rock.) Over the course of the film, Gru discovers that, to quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need. Gru may think he wants all the powerful things that a villain wants, but what he needs is somewhere to belong.

What begins as simmering dread becomes a fully-formed nightmare, inhabited by a woman’s darkest memories and fears in visionary filmmaker Alex Garland’s feverish, shape-shifting new horror film.

A woman alone in a large, secluded house; a walk through the woods and a stranger stalking through the underbrush— this might appear to be a classic horror set-up. But Men is no conventional horror film, even if it deftly employs the genre’s most mesmerizing tropes to get deep under the skin and stick.

At its core, it is a story about a central crisis of our times— about masculinity and its manifestations; about aggressions great and small; about regret; about pernicious cycles, ancient, unchecked ideas, and cultural expectations. It’s a film uniquely interested in the foundational myths that animate our culture and what audiences bring with them to the theater.

“It’s about things I’ve been thinking about for a long time and some that have been touched upon in my earlier films,” says writer-director Alex Garland. “But what I wanted to do with it is to make a film that people can project onto as much as possible, where the viewer is a participant in the narrative. The film works in a way as a strange sort of mirror—and people will have their own ideas about what it’s about, or not about, that mean something to them.”

The film is Garland’s third as writer-director. Already, he has established a singular filmmaking voice, at ease exploring philosophy, science, ethics, and the questions embedded in our times via the framework (and subversion) of genre. His projects tend to challenge, confront, and fuel conversations.

Garland’s first two movies, Ex Machina and Annihilation, were sci-fi mind-benders. In Men, all the elemental ingredients of folk horror—isolation, nature, strangers, religion, fertility, violation, the uncanny—seem to be in play. True to the genre’s form, the film’s unremitting tension builds to a wildly careening climax of startling images. But Men’s hallucinatory imaginings directly reflect real interactions, social dictates, and gaping divisions we all see in the everyday world.

“Alex’s creative well is bottomless, but always there is a big question at the centre of his work,” observes Buckley. “And the question this script offered me was the question of manhood and how it relates to what we’re experiencing in the culture at this moment. It’s a very heightened exploration of that. As we shot the film and had lots of conversations, new things were constantly revealed but when it comes to these questions, I think we’re all still searching.”

The creative process between actors Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, and Garland had an immediate intensity, and began with candid discussions in a lengthy rehearsal period, as many films do. But there was a difference: Garland kept churning those dialogues back into the narrative. The entire film was designed not only to spur dialogue but to be a dialogue, with the story responsive to those making it.

For Kinnear, this spirit of collaboration provided the necessary safety net to take risks in what needed to be an absolutely unflinching performance, as he dove into a prismatic array of hostile, needful behaviour from shifting angles.

“For two weeks before we even began filming, Jessie, Alex, and I sat in a room just chatting freely about all the film’s themes, about what we’d like to change, how we felt, and how we personally saw things developing,” he explains. “It was a truly rare experience—to not only have that amount of rehearsal time, but for the rehearsal to feed so directly into the narrative, scenes, and characters.”

The two lead actors— Jessie Buckley as the vacationing Harper whose refuge is repeatedly invaded; and Rory Kinnear in a polymorphic performance as multiple personas all bearing the same face— brought their own ideas to the story.

Their roles had to work in absolute synch. For as Harper tries to come to grips with recent grief and the violent turn her marriage took in its haunting final days, she can’t escape a village of encroaching, threatening men, all bearing the same face, played as variations on a theme by Kinnear. There is something increasingly strange about this sinister parade of archetypes, each a seeming fractal of the same source, connected like broken shards to one another, as their all-consuming need encircles Harper.

“I see the film as part of the intense conversation between men and women we are living through right now,” says Buckley. “So much has happened politically and socially in the last few years, and I see Men as a provocation on all that rather than an answer.”

Buckley, a native of Ireland, has risen rapidly in the last couple of years, putting her own stamp on a succession of intricate film and television roles—including Craig Mazin’s series “Chernobyl,” Charlie Kaufman’s horror drama I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the hit show “Fargo,” and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter, for which she garnered her first Oscar nomination

Kinnear adds, “I think the film expands on tropes of horror to say something about the interactions of men and women, about what men are capable of, both in terms of what they are able to do in society and what they do in relationships. I hope audiences feel as I did when I first read it—that it is deeply felt, offers a great deal of thematic depth, continually surprises, and then it coalesces into something beautiful and revelatory about who we all are.”

While doubles and doppelgangers have an established home in film history, the chance to play a wider multiplicity of characters—or, perhaps, the many fractals of one personality—comes along rarely in an actor’s career. In most cases, it happens in satires. Alec Guinness played nine roles in Kind Hearts and Coronets, Eddie Murphy seven in The Nutty Professor and Peter Sellers three in Dr. Strangelove. The task for Rory Kinnear was a more darkly psychological one. But the opportunity to tinker with a whole chain of masculine facets as variations on a theme lured him like a magnet.

A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a familiar star of British stage and television, and winner of two Olivier Awards and a BAFTA nomination, Kinnear is most widely known as Bill Tanner, MI6’s Chief of Staff, in the Bond series. But his greatest love is going beyond boundaries. So it was that the uncompromising, unique vision of Men gripped him from his first read of it.

Operating as it does in the space of primal fears and enduring cultural myths, the film poses many open questions that Garland hopes will engage audiences. “This film leans very hard into the idea that a story is a 50-50 split between the storytellers and the story receivers,” he notes. “More than any film I’ve worked on, this one was anticipating an audience would join the conversation.”

Yet, the story couldn’t be any more deliberate in its meticulous construction. And ultimately, Men reverses the very tropes it uses to keep the audience entranced—toppling the traditional horror movie structure. The malevolent force, rather than getting stronger, seems to grow only increasingly vulnerable and desperate.

Says Garland, “It was an interesting thing to work out because it takes away the one thing that, in pure genre terms, makes a horror film scary, which is the power of the monster to be invulnerable to attacks and the power to harm. What happens here diminishes that power massively as that force becomes increasingly pathetic, so it perhaps invites a different kind of response.”

For Buckley and Kinnear, the impetus to explore to their outer edges came directly from the atmosphere, one set in motion not only by Garland but by everyone on the set, as each person grappled with the film’s depths—with the cultural and psychological issues the story taps into, and the intimate strife they generate. “Everybody on this crew, across the board, in every department was given a space to be their most reflective and creative,” says Buckley. “And we all got so into it that we wanted to go not just to the expected places, but beyond the expected.”

Writer-director Alex Garland

Alex Garland began his career as a novelist, most famously writing The Beach and Tesseract. He moved into screenwriting with his debut 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle and produced by DNA Films. Garland made his directorial debut in 2015 with Ex Machina, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Original Screenplay along with a BAFTA award for Outstanding British Film, and BAFTA’s Outstanding Debut by a British Director. In 2018, Garland released his second film as writer-director, Annihilation, based on the 2014 novel by Jeff VanderMeer. His other screenplays include Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, Dredd, and the video game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West which
he co-wrote with Tameem Antoniades in 2010. Garland also executive produced 28 Weeks Later. His original 8-part TV series Devs, for which he is the sole writer and director, was released in 2020 by FX Networks. Garland is currently in production directing his original script Civil War, an action feature set in a near-future America, also for A24 Films

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First Love is a movie writer-director A.J. Edwards had wanted to make for 15 years: “A personal story with a timeless theme. It is a modern romance, but one not often portrayed quite like this in other films and books.”

“I feel that First Love might be my strongest yet because of what the cast brought,” says the auteur who previously directed Age Out starring Tye Sheridan and Imogen Poots and The Better Angels starring Kruger, Jason Clarke, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley. “And how they truly absorbed the script. They all did really soulful, thoughtful work. Everything up to this last point in post-production was so rewarding and I was thrilled at what was being created and finished. That’s what makes the disheartening end such a disappointment.”

In First Love Jim (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a senior in high school experiences the highs and lows of his first love with Ann (Sydney Park) as they navigate their pending departure to college. At the same time, Jim’s parents ( Diane Kruger and Jeffrey Donovan) are dealing with the familial fallout of a financial crisis.

Hero Fiennes Tiffin was intrigued by the “different style of romance” in First Love. He explains, “I was a little nervous doing so many romances because I would be putting myself in a box a bit, but I think I did the opposite by taking on another romance with such a different style.”

Statemen from writer-director A.J. Edwards

First Love is about faithfulness, family, and the epiphanies we experience in daily life.

The story is simple and universal – the title says it all – but it was the structure of the storytelling that attracted me.

The screenplay is a dual narrative made up of two couples: one in high school, and the other, twenty years into their marriage. In a way, the film picks up where pictures like “Lady Bird” and “Boyhood” leave off, that is, the movie explores less adolescence’s end, and more adulthood’s beginning, with all the responsibility and commitment that demands.

A.J. Edwards is an emerging filmmaker who has worked closely with director Terrence Malick on films such as To the Wonder and The New World. Edwards made his directorial debut with The Better Angels, a film focused on Abraham Lincoln’s childhood. 

The central role of ‘Kay Albright’ was written for Diane Kruger. After my first film with her, The Better Angels, I knew I wanted to collaborate again. She is one of the smartest, most surprising, and most committed artists working today. She devours the script like no one else and transforms the entire set around her for the better. Whether the scene is a page-long monologue or silent and relies on behaviour, Diane gives everything – always. She is brilliant.

The film’s characters, the Albright family, are searching for the everlasting amidst the ever-changing. This search couldn’t be more relevant in today’s altered world. The film is a necessary reminder that we not only come from love but are bound for it.

Just like the movie’s characters, the setting – 2008 America – is changing, too. Shot entirely in Los Angeles, California, the film is set years after 9/11, but before Covid, when our country was in the midst of a Great Recession that upended decades of stability.

If you are a storyteller who enjoys the world of live theatre and have a talent for writing dialogue and bringing characters vividly to life, the world is your stage to showcase your talent.

Our The Write Drama course for playwrights offers you an opportunity to turn words into action.

The Write Drama course is presented by Daniel Dercksen, the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio, has been a published film and theatre journalist for 30 years and has been teaching workshops in creative writing, and playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa the past 23 years.

Written, produced, designed and directed by Daniel Dercksen, the play The Beauty of Incomplete Things enjoyed its world premiere in Cape Town on January 24, 2014, and a successful 3-week-run at the Joburg Theatre in July 2014.

Read more about the DRAMA of WRITING A PLAY

Writing a play is the closest you will ever get to your audience and also gives you the unique opportunity of working with actors as the writer or director and exploring your story at its ultimate extreme.

Budding dramatists will look at how to plot the action, explore the theme of the drama, develop characters, how to write dialogue, examine the relationship between the dramatist and actors, as well as work with directors and producers to bring your story to life on stage.

The course explores the full dramatic or comedic potential of stories and empowers storytellers to write a compelling play that will reflect the uniqueness of their culture, history and Experience.

This unique course for aspirant dramatists is ideal for screenwriters and novelists with a vivid imagination who would like to explore the magic of live theatre and the transformational impact it has on society and community.

It is also ideal for those who would like to write a musical.

For more information on The Write Drama send us an email

Find out what’s happening at a Theatre near you

Marcel Puig’s extraordinary play Kiss of the Spider Woman, directed by Sylvaine Strike was staged The Baxter in January 2022. Read an interview with the director and cast

The Drama Factory is an independent, intimate theatre for Somerset West, Strand and surrounds! Visit

Writer, actor and director Paul du Toit’s latest play The Unlikely Secret Agent is based on Ronnie Kasril’s award-winning book Read interview with Paul du Toit

Visit POP Art

Find out what’s happening in KwaZulu-Natal/ / Durban

Take a look at what’s happening at the Rhumbelow Theatres in KZN

The Kalk Bay Theatre is all about the atmosphere, the vibe and the heart. The new Kalk Bay Theatre space in Main Rd Kalk Bay at The Brass Bell , is bigger and better.  We can seat up to 100 people in our new venue. Visit website

The Baxter Theatre has been the home of progressive South African theatre and performance since 1977, and the cultural gateway to the City of Cape Town.

With the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the Western Cape, The Baxter Theatre has taken the decision to suspend all performances over the festive season from 19 December 2020 to end January 2021. This is part of The Baxter’s commitment as a responsible theatre, to help fight the spread of the disease.

Visit the website

The Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg hosts local and internationally acclaimed world-class theatre productions that captivate and entertain. Visit website

Enjoy a great night out at the theatre, and experience the best in live entertainment at Pieter Toerien’s Theatre & Studio at Montecasino. Visit website

The Joburg Theatre Complex, previously known as the Johannesburg Civic Theatre, is a group of four theatres situated in Braamfontein, Johannesburg,  Visit the website

An independent theatre company that strives for excellence, and is committed to pursuing the highest possible production standards for the benefit of audiences and actors alike. Visit the website

Artscape Theatre Centre is a performing arts centre in Cape Town. Visit website

Theatre on the Bay is located in the beautiful beach suburb of Camps Bay. A mere ten minute’s drive from the centre of Cape Town, Camps Bay . Visit Website

With a 44-year history and over 300 awards the Market Theatre Foundation in Newtown, Gauteng, is celebratory of its past, anchored to the present and visionary about its future. Visit website

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with writer-director John Barker, a proud graduate of The Writing Studio, who turned politics inside out and upside down with his biting independent mockumentary Wonder Boy For President and now brings us the fun, poignant and so quintessentially authentically South African The Umbrella Men.

John Barker

You have definitely taken the world by storm since the first workshops you did with The Writing Studio 15 years ago in Johannesburg? How much did the workshops help you in taking a step forward in your career?

I always find your workshops challenging and informative. As filmmakers you always discover new things about work process and thinking when you get to share these things with students and colleagues. I also feel that there weren’t many writing studios around at that time in SA – so it was a great learning curve for me as it was the first time I got the opportunity to really discuss writing in detail. I did not attend film school so your workshops formed a significant part of my film education.

Your first mockumentary was Blu Cheez, showcasing your talent as satirist?  

My first stab at satire was a mockumentary called Blu Cheez. I was directing and shooting music videos at the time and decided to make a film that reflected the music industry in Johannesburg – 2003.  After doing three months of sketches on the Pure Monate Show it made sense to make Bunny Chow which went behind the scenes of the comedy world. I was fascinated by the stuff that happened offstage. I feel the same way now about Wonder Boy For President as the country is all consumed with politics – I feel it’s necessary to comment on it

You went from Bunny Chow to directing How To Steal A Million and the 3rd segment of Spud?

31 Million Reasons was a great experience. I learnt a lot about the filming process as it was the first film that I had been commissioned to direct. Learning to deal with Producers, execs and clients is a real skill. Spud was with the same team but the stakes were much higher. Working with John van der Ruit, John Cleese, Troye Sivan and the team of young actors was such a cool experience.

You have also made quite an impression in the local television industry…

I have been very fortunate to work with Bomb productions in the last few years. Working on Ayeye, Isibaya and Mzanzi Magic’s The Road. I recently co-directed the Bantu Hour. Sketch comedy is good times!

Now Wonder Boy For President is challenging conventions and received  great attention at the Durban International Film Festival 2016.

Wonder Boy For President is a political satire which examines and reflects on the current political landscape in SA. I have been working on improv and retro scripting techniques in Blu Cheez, Bunny Chow and now WBFP. I have tried to blur the lines between fiction and non fiction.  Wonder Boy is fictitious but we intercut his scenes with clips of Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane reacting to Wonder Boy’s antics.

Tell me about Wonder Boy for President, how did it happen and what inspired the film?

WBFP was conceived as a response to the lack of leadership in SA. We as filmmakers and comedians felt it was necessary to make a film that asked questions and challenged the status Quo. We feel that the country needs someone like Wonder Boy. A charismatic leader who the entire country can believe in – someone who can bring us all together. As you can imagine it was difficult to raise money. Our pitch went something like this ‘we’re making a mockumentary about Jacob Zuma and the ANC’ – door closed! 2016 is our 5th year of shooting due to money constraints and timing of the release.

Wonder Boy 2
Wonder Boy for President tells a story of Wonder Boy (Kagiso Lediga), a charismatic and authoritative young man from the Eastern Cape, who is coerced into running for president by two dubious and corrupt characters played by Ntosh Madlingozi and Tony Miyambo. Their aim is to mould him into a great politician and manufacture his downfall at the right time, for the right price. It is a political satire that delves into political dynamics and challenges that arise.

Was Wonder Boy for President a difficult film to get to the big screen?

Yes, it’s been very difficult to get this film to cinema. I feel that the timing is right and we hope SA come out and support the cause. This is your chance to have a say Vote for Wonder Boy – only he can save us.

You are a writer and director working in film and television… Which medium do you prefer?

Difficult to answer. A balance between both is important for me.

How much has the industry changed since Bunny Chow?

When I made Bunny Chow – two other feature were made that year. Ten years on we’re making close to 50 features a year. SA films are now smashing box office records – it’s a good time to be in film. TV getting tougher as drama continues with SABC.

What advice you you have for writers who want to get their words turned into action?

Writers must read screenplays, TV series and any form of storytelling. Read scripts of films they’ve seen and films they have not seen…and continue to write.

And advice for those who want to direct their own films?

Directors must write and direct wherever they can. Short stories are always a good place to start as they are relatively inexpensive and you can quickly see if you’re getting the response from your audience that you were expecting.

What excites you about making films?

Storytelling is important. When people watch your film and get what you were trying to say – with character or plot or trying to make a point or trying to communicate about your characters need and wants.

Where did it all start for you, that moment that you knew you were going to be a filmmaker?

I got to make a short stop motion film in my second year studying Graphic design. I loved the collaborative aspect and process. I loved that filmmaking requires many talented people from many departments and different walks of like coming together to make one idea work. I also love being on set.

Who is the man behind the filmmaker, what do you do when you are not making films?

I have three sons who keep me very busy, when I’m not on set.

What do you hope audiences will get out of watching Wonder Boy for President?

I hope they are entertained.

What’s next for you?

I am writing Lolly – a film and TV series about Lolly Jackson. In pre Prod on Ayeye 2. Also hoping to make The Umbrella Men (10 years now).

Visit: www.johnbarker.co.za

When visionary filmmaker Baz Luhrmann related his vision for the film Elvis to his longtime collaborator Catherine Martin she realized that Elvis’s rise to fame was “like Icarus flying towards the sun, an extremely poignant and operatic cautionary tale showing the exploitation of fame at all costs.”

“Baz has always been interested in Elvis so this had been kind of percolating in the background before really coming into focus for us a few years ago,” says Oscar-winning producer Catherine Martin (The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge!), who teamed up for the director’s inaugural feature Strictly Ballroom. “Baz has always been interested in Elvis so this had been kind of percolating in the background before really coming into focus for us a few years ago.  I understood his cultural importance.”

Austin Butler as Elvis. Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“While this story is called ‘Elvis,’ it’s also Colonel Tom Parker’s story—the telling of it at least; he’s our way in, our narrator, and an unreliable one at that,” states writer/director/producer Baz Luhrmann, who directed from a screenplay he crafted with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner, from a story by Luhrmann and Jeremy Doner. 

A thoroughly cinematic drama, Elvis’s (Austin Butler) story is seen through the lens of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).  As told by Parker, the film delves into the complex dynamic between the two spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America.  Central to that journey is one of the significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge).

Lurhmann is a master storyteller and pioneer of pop culture working across film, opera, theatre, events and music. His signature blend of fantasy, romance and decadence fuses high and low culture, a unique sonic and cinematic language and trademark theatrical aesthetic that continuously captivates audiences and ignites imaginations around the world. The Oscar-nominated director, writer and producer burst onto the scene with the first of the Red Curtain Trilogy, Strictly Ballroom (1992), followed by the ambitious modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) and Academy Award-winning “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), which brought back the movie-musical and cemented Luhrmann’s cult-like following amongst audiences and industry alike.

Luhrmann extensive research into the music icon Elvis aided in his discovery of the strange partnership behind the artist’s public success and personal struggles. 

“As I like to say, Colonel Tom Parker was never a colonel, never a Tom, never a Parker, but a fascinating character all the same.  He was a carnival barker dedicated to finding that one great act.

“Nineteen-year-old Elvis Presley had lived for a period of time in one of the few white-designated houses in a Black section of Tupelo, Mississippi,” the filmmaker continues, “where, along with a group of neighbourhood friends, he absorbed the music of both the local juke joints and the Pentecostal revival tents.  As he grew up, he fused this with his love of country music.  Parker had no ear for music whatsoever, but he was absolutely struck by the effect Elvis’s whole package had on young audiences.  As the Colonel says in the film, ‘It was the greatest carnival act I had ever seen.’”           

Lurhmann further adds that “In the mid-1950s in parts of America, carnivals were transitioning into music, mainly country and western.  But Parker was always looking for the extraordinary—the one that made the most money had a great costume, excited the audience, had a strange twist… Just something special, like Elvis.”

Oscar nominee Bazz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge!) during the filming of Elvis.
Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Luhrmann recruited Oscar winner Tom Hanks to play the role of Parker

“I’d never worked with Tom previously, but I just told him the story and before I even got to the video I’d brought along to show him what I had in mind, he said, ‘Well, if you want me I’m your guy.’  What a gift!” says Luhrmann.

Hanks has said of the real-life Parker, “He was both a genius and a scoundrel.  He was a very disciplined man, a wicked smart businessman and a dime-squeezing skinflint, but also a pioneer in a big type of show business that did not exist until Elvis Presley came along.  He knew instantaneously that Elvis was a unique artist, he saw his grand potential and knew that if he didn’t make a ton of money off him, somebody else would.”

Austin Butler as Elvis with Tom Hanks as Elvis’ enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As Luhrmann reveals in Elvis, money was a key motivator and, as such, Parker was also possibly the first person to see the financial potential beyond the music: merchandising.  “He sees how this boy, Elvis, has an effect on an audience, an effect like he’s never seen before and certainly beyond anything he’s seen on the carnival circuit,” the filmmaker notes.  “To Tom Parker, it’s the greatest carnival act he’s ever witnessed, and he must have it.”

To bring to life the man whose electrifying art and image have permeated the four corners of the world for more than six decades, the filmmakers conducted an extensive search before coming across Austin Butler.  Says Luhrmann, “I knew I couldn’t make this film if the casting wasn’t absolutely right, and we searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist.  I had heard about Austin Butler from his stand-out role opposite Denzel Washington in ‘The Iceman Cometh’ on Broadway, and then I got a call from Denzel, whom I do not know, going out of his way to state that this young actor had a work ethic like no one else he had seen before.  Through a journey of extensive screen testing and music and performance workshops, I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.”           

Austin Butler as Elvis. Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Butler offers, “What always fascinates me about any icon is the fact that they’re first and foremost human.  Elvis was the first of his kind, in a way—a kid who comes from absolutely nothing and then becomes the most famous man on the planet.  It’s the American dream.  He also embodied so many eras that it feels like he lived 100 years; it’s amazing that he was only here for 42.”

“This story is about Elvis and Colonel Parker’s relationship…a true story told brilliantly and creatively that only Baz [Luhrmann], in his unique, artistic way, could have delivered…a director who put his heart and soul…into this film.  Austin Butler is outstanding. Tom Hanks was Col Parker.”  Priscilla Presley, 4.29.22

To portray one of the most important people in Elvis’s life, the filmmakers cast Olivia DeJonge, who was born in Melbourne and lived much of her young life in Perth.

“With Elvis and Priscilla, I think that there was a kind of delicate, innocent romance in the beginning,” Luhrmann surmises.  “By the time they met, Elvis had found it near-impossible to meet anyone who didn’t have some kind of ulterior agenda, so he and Priscilla quickly formed a protective cocoon.  She was also there in the end as a friend, a true friend, and I believe that connection and support was there all the way through his life.  So, I had to find someone who, like Austin, is mature beyond their years and could play this character for a long span of time.  Olivia is just that; she’s very smart and has great self-possession.”

DeJonge tells, “My initial discussions with Baz were about the collaborative nature of the project, the overall vision for the story, and how the character of Priscilla fit into that.  In the movie, and I think very much in real life, she was kind of what felt like home for Elvis, sort of that collective breath that you take to balance a life that can be so crazy.”

Austin Butler and Olivia DeJonge in Elvis. Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Elvis is much more than a Biopic

“This film is much more than a biopic; we owe that to Baz’s deep understanding and appreciation of Elvis not just as a human, but also as a captivating, epic figure through which to tell the story of America,” says producer Gail Berman. “Baz himself is uniquely capable of telling a story that is gripping on its surface while exploring deeper, resonant truths.  Elvis’ story is packed with so much more than many people know, and Baz, with his unmistakable style and mastery of both film and music, is really the only artist I know who could bring this life to the screen.”

Producer Patrick McCormick found Luhrmann distinctly suited to the subject, observing, “To tell this story involved a certain amount of showmanship—not just Parker’s showmanship or Elvis’s; Baz as a director has those exceptional gifts as well, especially regarding the music element.  Baz is deeply involved in the recording industry and aware of performing artists, and always has fresh ideas about how to recreate and rediscover the music of any period and to infuse his films with it in a way people have never heard before.  He finds a way to interlace all of these things into a cinematic flow that is uniquely Baz.”

Producer Schuyler Weiss, who has worked closely with the director for many years and on numerous projects, offers additional insight: “Baz always says that Elvis is like wallpaper, he’s become so ubiquitous that everybody knows something about him or his music.  But I don’t think I really did understand Elvis’s journey and the different phases of Elvis’s career, and how much he has served as kind of a prism for music and culture in that he drew in so many influences and then radiated out and influenced so many people in turn. Those were the things I started to discover once we delved into this project and those discoveries made me excited and want to learn more.”

Austin Butler as Elvis with Tom Hanks as Elvis’ enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Filming took place entirely in Luhrmann’s native Australia

To take audiences back in time through Elvis’s life, production designers Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy focused on blending historic reference with Luhrmann’s larger-than-life visual storytelling.  With the exception of a few area locations, everything would be accomplished on the massive sound stages and backlot at Village Roadshow Studios in Australia’s Gold Coast.

Martin has been interpreting Luhrmann’s vision since his first foray into film. 

“The way we work is something that we’ve done for such a long time,” Luhrmann says of partner Martin, whom he calls CM.  “There’s no mechanics to it, it’s almost like our own language.  I start out with my scribbles and collages and bibs and bobs and tear sheets and a lot of words.  And I know my scribbles and my sketches and my boards are practically illegible, I know it,” he laughs, “but I am able to convey to her how I see things.  And she has many gifts, but one of her extraordinary gifts is that she can take all that jumble and execute it at such a level that is pretty rare.  I am involved in the process all the way; while I might obsess over the hem of a costume or the colours on a set wall, we are a true partnership—there’s a spiritual, creative connection that’s really special.  Since the moment we met, we have always had an ongoing dialogue, and that conversation hasn’t ever stopped.”

To lens the massive production, Luhrmann turned to frequent collaborator Mandy Walker, with whom he has developed a shorthand over time—an invaluable relationship between director and director of photography on any production, but most especially one of this scope, scale, and precision.

Walker also says that Luhrmann would frequently “talk to me about the story, about the emotional journey, and I would go through the script and write down notes about what he had said to me in terms of what was going on for each character at the time, or how he wanted the audience to feel, or the emotion that’s portrayed in each scene.  Once I had that then I would start thinking technically about how we could achieve that and express it photographically.  Most of the time we were shooting with at least two cameras and sometimes three, even up to five cameras for the concert scenes.  Baz would sit with all the monitors on and talk to everybody on the cameras the whole time.  He’s like a conductor,” she smiles.  “Part of my job was to make sure he had all the options available to him, really quickly, so we could easily make adjustments in the moment.”

The Music

Anyone who’s seen a Baz Luhrmann film, no matter the subject or style of storytelling, knows he takes the score and soundtrack as seriously as any scene, any performance, any frame of film.  “I consider music, the script and the visual language all as one,” he states.  “I have the same sort of depth of collaboration with my music team as I do with the camera—Anton Monsted is the music supervisor on ‘Elvis,’ Elliott Wheeler is the composer and executive music producer, and I’ve worked with them both before.  The music script, the written word, and the visual script—at a certain point with those collaborators, I bring it all into one synthesis, so that when actors come into my world, there’s a visualization already.  There’s ‘musicalization’ already, which I know is not a word,” he laughs, “I use it but I made it up.  Because to me, all the elements, all live at once.  I don’t come in and say now that there’s a script, let’s think about the music.  Music is not a background.”

Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Especially with “Elvis,” the filmmaker asserts.  “To access the inner life of Elvis… He was not a particularly verbal person, but when he opens his mouth and he sings, you feel you know him.  You feel you understand him.  You feel him.  That’s just a very particular gift.”

Therefore, the performances in the film, while many, had to be executed just so.  “My entire team and I are research junkies,” the director reveals.  “We follow a process that’s both academic and in the field, anecdotal.  But of course, we’re making a feature-length drama of a life of 42 years, so ‘artistic license’ has to be engaged to compress time and take multiple historical events and combine them into a single moment.  The 1956 concert at Russwood Park is a good example.  The rioting crowd incident actually occurred at a concert in Canada not long after, but we folded it into the one dramatic event.”

That lasting reaction, that undeniable impulse to continue the experience after the director called “Cut” for the day and even long after production wrapped, is exactly what Baz Luhrmann hopes will permeate into the theater when audiences gather to see “Elvis” on the big screen: “I hope they get all the buzz of the highs, the lows, the music, the love, the looks, the fashion, but most of all that they come out and they’re still talking about it when they leave.  That’s the way I look at this movie and that’s why I make movies, to create—to celebrate—that singular experience we can have together in the theater and that we can take with us long after the credits roll.  It’s definitely a feeling I feel Elvis would understand and celebrate.”

Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Says Butler, “Playing Elvis was such an incredible, humbling experience.  There were many moments, right from the very beginning, where I just had to walk into the fire.  For instance, before we started filming, we went to Nashville and Memphis, and recorded at RCA where Elvis actually recorded, in Studio A there.  We had the actual machine that he recorded ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ on.  It was my first time in a recording studio and I was so nervous!  Baz asked all the people from the offices of RCA to come out and be in the audience, and I had to sing ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ to them.  I’d just been cast and now there I was singing these iconic songs in front of all those people!”

And yet, he understood the logic behind it.  “Slowly and surely, moments like that pushed me so far outside my comfort zone that the fear was still there, but it became a different experience,” the actor concedes.  “And I knew it was the way that Elvis would have felt when he went out on stage for the first time.”

The Writers

BAZ LUHRMANN (Writer/Director/Producer) is a master storyteller and pioneer of pop culture working across film, opera, theatre, events and music. His signature blend of fantasy, romance and decadence fuses high and low culture, a unique sonic and cinematic language and trademark theatrical aesthetic that continuously captivates audiences and ignites imaginations around the world.

The Oscar-nominated director, writer and producer burst onto the scene with the first of the Red Curtain Trilogy, Strictly Ballroom (1992), followed by the ambitious modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) and Academy Award-winning “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), which brought back the movie-musical and cemented Luhrmann’s cult-like following amongst audiences and industry alike.

In addition, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won Tony Awards for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design and orchestrations, and a featured acting Tony for Broadway’s favourite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut, and Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical.

Showing his versatility and talent across all creative fields, Luhrmann’s production company, Bazmark Inq, went on to garner two Tony Awards for the Broadway run of Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” (2002), followed by the sweeping historical epic “Australia” (2008).

The adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (2013), added to his potent resume, winning two Academy Awards and becoming Luhrmann’s highest-grossing film to date. A collaboration with Netflix later produced “The Get Down” (2016), a critically successful series based on the birth of hip-hop in 1970s South Bronx.

Luhrmann’s recent directorial projects include “Faraway Downs,” a six-part Hulu series reimagining his 2008 feature film, “Australia,” where he is currently living with his wife and long-time collaborator, Catherine Martin (CM), and their two children. 

SAM BROMELL (Screenplay by) is a screenwriter whose creative experience spans film, television, musicals, biopics, fashion shorts, art exhibits, literary adaptations and historical dramas.  Occasionally, all-in-one.  He’s penned fashion films for H&M, a series of shorts starring Judy Davis, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was a co-producer and writer on the Netflix series “The Get Down.”  “Elvis” is his debut feature.

CRAIG PEARCE (Screenplay by) is the creator, showrunner and writer of “Pistol,” a six-part limited series about the rise and revolution of the Sex Pistols, directed by Danny Boyle and on FX as of May 31st.

“Elvis” continues Pearce and Luhrmann’s longstanding collaboration, which includes “Strictly Ballroom,” “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby.”

In 2010, Pearce also wrote the screen adaptation of “Charlie St. Cloud,” starring Zac Efron.  In 2014, Pearce collaborated again with Luhrmann on “Strictly Ballroom: The Musical,” for London’s West End.  In 2017, Pearce completed his first major television project, serving as writer, executive producer and showrunner for TNT’s “Will,” a ten-hour episodic drama about the lost years of William Shakespeare. 

Pearce was honoured with the Australian Writer’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.  He studied acting at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art.  A keen surfer, he divides his time between Sydney, London and Costa Rica.

JEREMY DONER (Screenplay by/Story by) works in film and television in the U.S. and France.  He has written and produced the dramas “The Killing” and “Damages,” and penned “Napoleon” for director Ridley Scott.  Additionally, he wrote “Odysseus” and a prequel to “Apocalypse Now.”

In France, he has made a name for himself as a writer of comedies, including “Sur la Piste du Marsupilami,” which was the highest-grossing French film of 2012, and “L’Arnacoeur” (Heartbreaker) which earned four César nominations, including Best Picture.

Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A story that expresses an unvarnished picture of Woody Allen’s worldview.

“Since I was very young for whatever reason I’ve been drawn to what people always call the ‘big questions,’” says 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.

Woody Allen discusses a scene in Irrational Man with Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix

Allen’s Irrational Man is about a tormented philosophy professor who finds a will to live when he commits an existential act.

Randomness is central to Irrational Man.  It hinges on a string of chance occurrences that have life and death consequences. Its story illustrates one of Woody Allen’s core philosophical beliefs.

“I’m a great believer in the utter meaningless randomness of existence,” he says. “I was preaching that in Match Point and Abe preaches it in his class.  All of existence is just a thing with no rhyme or reason to it. We all live subject to the utter fragile contingency of life. You know, all it takes is a wrong turn on the street…”

Allen’s early interest in philosophy took shape when he watched Ingmar Bergman’s films as a teenager.

“They had a great grip on me,” he says. “At that time I had not read Nietzsche or Kierkegaard, philosophers that Bergman relied quite heavily on, but that material rang a very profound bell with me. I was riveted by his movies and the questions they asked and the problems that they dealt with. And subsequently, over the years, I read a certain amount of philosophy and was able to understand more clearly who influenced him and what ideas he was dramatizing. And I grew to enjoy reading the philosophers, to compare them and how they challenge and disprove one another about their contrasting approaches to unanswerable questions.”

Allen’s absorption with philosophy has been so defining to his body of work that it has inspired several serious books about the philosophy found in his films.

“I don’t think that anything I’ve written or dramatized has any originality philosophically—I’m simply a product of the philosophers I’ve read. I think the most you could say is that there are coherent philosophical themes that run through all or most of my pictures over the years. But they are obsessions of mine that centre around issues many men have thought about. I’m interested in depressing realities that haunt me. They’ve haunted artists and thinkers far beyond me in every way, but I deal with them through my own point of view.”

The themes that Allen returns to so regularly in his movies are usually dark ones. This is obviously the case in explicitly bleak stories, like Match Point, but even his lightest fare is touched with darker themes.

Irrational Man 7

Irrational Man is a story that expresses an unvarnished picture of Woody Allen’s worldview.

Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) is a philosophy professor who has lost his way. His study of the great minds has not made him happy—he has lost all faith in his vocation and hope for his future.

“Abe is a guy who has always tried to do something positive with his life,” says Phoenix. “He’s gotten involved with political action and travelled to disaster areas around the world trying to help people. But terrible things happen to him and after a while he starts to feel like nothing he does really makes a difference. And while he has enjoyed teaching in the past, he feels that very few of his students are going to be transformed in any significant way by what they learn in his class. Most will go on to ordinary lives and won’t ever examine life after they pass their last test.”

Says Allen: “What happens to Abe is that the ugliness and pain of existence and the terrible frailties of people have worn him down. He feels that he’s a personal failure because he’s never been able to make a mark. He’s just written all these erudite papers that have stimulated other professors and students to talk.  But he’s reached a point where he just couldn’t care less about it anymore.”

Soon after his arrival at Braylin, Abe becomes involved with Rita Richards (Parker Posey), an unhappily married science professor.

“Rita is a woman who feels stifled and trapped,” says Posey. “She’s not satisfied teaching; she’s drinking too much, smoking pot, and daydreaming about another life—something more fulfilling and passionate. She’s built up a fantasy about Abe that when he arrived he’d fall in love with her and eventually rescue her.”

Says Allen:  “People must have told her that he’s a dynamic guy who really loves women, so she thinks that he’ll be the one that can get her out of her rat trap. She’s aggressive with him sexually and he is compliant, but he’s not really able to do anything.”  Says Posey:  “Abe ends up not having any more potency than her husband does.  He’s unable to deliver and feels bad about that.  He comes across as being distant, but he is really confused and lost—he’s not present.”

Meanwhile, Abe initiates a friendship with one of his students, Jill Pollard (Emma Stone), a bright young woman who has grown up at Braylin, where her parents are professors.


“Jill is a clean-cut girl who’s always been on the straight path to somewhere, but she really doesn’t know where that is,” says Stone.

“When I read the script,” says Stone, “it raised a lot of questions for me about morality. Abe doesn’t live by the world’s rules and Jill is trying to figure out how far she can go.” Stone continues: “I also liked that the script explores the themes of randomness and fate that were in Magic In The Moonlight and so many of his other films.”

“Jill’s been in this small town her whole life, so there’s something that draws her to taking this philosophy course which she hopes will expand her view of the world. And Abe, who is this tortured, poetic artist, is the human equivalent of everything she’s wanted to explore in her life but hasn’t really known how to do on her own.”

Says Allen: “Abe is a lonely guy and he sees Jill as someone he can talk to.  He’s not thinking about her romantically, but he has a serious intellectual connection with Jill which keeps growing until she becomes the person he spends most of his time with.”

Jill has a steady boyfriend in Roy (Jamie Blackley), who must put up with her growing fascination about Abe. Despite her constant assurances to Roy that she’s committed to him, she talks about Abe’s amazing qualities virtually non-stop.

“It’s constant,” says Blackley.  “All day long it’s ‘Abe did this, and Abe said that, and Abe has this fascinating idea.’”

Says Stone: “Once Jill sees Abe, Roy starts to look a little bit like Greek yoghurt—good for you but not necessarily exciting—and Abe is like the poisonous fruit topping on the Greek yoghurt.”

Says Stone: “At first I think that Jill really wants to believe that it’s just a friendly bond she’s forming with Abe, so she’s keeping her bases clear. But once she starts pushing Abe to get involved, she knows she is lying. I think she’s trying to have her cake and eat it too because she’s young and confused and wants the best of both worlds.”

It first becomes evident to Jill that there is something seriously wrong with Abe when he picks up a loaded gun at a party and plays Russian Roulette, spinning the chamber several times. While Jill is terrified, she finds a way to justify this reckless action in her mind.

“Abe turns everything into a philosophy lesson,” says Stone, “and Jill is an eager student of those lessons because she’s trying to be a radical thinker like him. As scared as she is, she’s in a bubble, wanting to see the best in these situations that are unfolding in front of her.” Also, Jill is falling for the romantic idea that she will be the one who will liberate Abe from the hole that he’s in. “The idea that she can rescue somebody who’s in such an alcoholic, downward, suicidal spiral is selfishly rewarding for her,” says Stone. “She’s never had the experience of helping someone out of a dark place—and she doesn’t realize that can lead you into the darkness too.”

Abe’s life turns around after a completely unexpected event.  He and Jill are sharing a meal at a diner when they happen to overhear a highly emotional conversation in the next booth. Abe and Jill both react to the conversation, but Abe quickly becomes consumed with what he hears. He secretly decides that the time has come to get involved.

“Abe decides he’s going to take the bull by the horns and chooses to act,” says Allen. “It’s not an abstract action, like writing a letter to the New York Times or going on impotent protests. Here is a course of action that is within his grasp to perform that will really make a difference.”

Abe’s decision rejuvenates him.  He transforms from somebody who is aimless and depressed to someone who has energy and exuberance. “He has a sudden appreciation of life,” says Allen.  “He enjoys the taste of wine and sex again, and having a good hearty breakfast and getting sleep.” He wants to live.

Says Phoenix: “Abe is able to re-embrace life because he finally has a clear-cut goal he believes in.  It’s exactly what he’s been looking for without even knowing he was looking for it. Not only does he think he’s doing something positive but he places himself in an adventure, putting his plan into action.”

Not knowing the real reason, Jill assumes she is the cause of Abe’s sudden joy. “She sees herself as 100% responsible,” says Stone. “It was how much she understood him and how much she was there and told him how poetic he was. She finally saved him.”

Of course, the action that Abe is preparing to take is something irrational. He is able to rationalize it, but it’s not an argument that can hold up to scrutiny.

Says Allen: “What Abe finds to believe in is this irrational enterprise, the product of his years of distortion and anger and frustration over the ways of the world and the ways of people.”  Abe feels he can do what he does because he believes in challenging conventional norms. But he is anything but the man of reason he considers himself to be.

Says Allen:  “As Jill’s mother says in the film, Abe’s work is only a triumph of style; his substance doesn’t hold up if you pursue it. He’s good with words, he makes bright, educated arguments that sound good, but if you really take them to their marrow, they don’t stand up.”

Woody Allen

As with many of his intimate dramas, Allen shot the film in widescreen.

Says Allen: “I very often feel the smaller kind of stories play very well in widescreen, contrary to the thought some have that you need to have a Western or a war picture to be on a widescreen.”

Unlike the more romantic visual style he utilized in his recent films like Midnight In Paris and Magic In The Moonlight, he felt that the material called out for realism.

“It’s much easier to do a picture about Paris in the 1920s, with street lamps, cobblestones, coaches with horses—and make it look like a million bucks,” he says. “But to make a film like this visually appealing does require a lot of planning and I think we did do that.  But I didn’t want any extra stylization to interfere with the story because the important thing is for the audience to hook up to the characters, and fortunately, the actors gave me that.”

Writer and producer Marc Frydman wanted to come up with a script and unconventional filmmaking style that would complement the genre. His plan hinged upon three things: a short shooting schedule, limited locations and, incredibly, a lead actor who could improvise his dialogue. Though risky, he was convinced it could work if the right elements fell into place with Last Seen Alive.

“Like a Rubik’s Cube, I had to line up all the white squares and green squares,” Frydman says. “I was up for the challenge, regardless of the outcome.”

Frydman’s story focused on Will Spann, a man desperate to find his missing wife. Filmmaking heroes like Sidney Lumet had taught him that realism often lends itself to a more immersive movie. “If it could happen to everyone, the premise grabs you right away,” he says.

Fryman’s finished screenplay looked different from every other film he had worked on

The screenplay for Last Seen Alive included scripted dialogue for every actor except the lead. It was also designed to be shot in continuity with the lead actor only seeing a few pages at a time, so he’d never know what might happen next.

“He wrote this script, and it was like a blueprint,” says director Brian Goodman. “We had a lot of faith in each other.”

Frydman and Goodman had worked together before on several films, including What Doesn’t Kill You and Black Butterfly, both directed by Goodman.

“I was thinking Brian would be perfect because this was going to be a very hard movie to do: We’re not gonna have a lot of time, and the prep and the shoot would be very intense,” Frydman says. “And Brian never complains. Never. You know he’s never gonna let you down.”

© 2022 Vertical Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Actor Gerard Butler (300, Gods of Egypt) signed on to play Will after only seeing 10 pages of the script

“He and I clicked when we met,” Goodman says. “We were both nervous and creatively challenged. We said, ‘We’ll jump into it together.’”

“Gerry was interested right off the bat,” Frydman adds. “He was perfect—he has this physicality and interiority that you can’t really learn. … You have it or you don’t.”

The rest of the cast slowly fell into place, including Jaimie Alexander (Blindspot, Thor), Russell Hornsby (Fences, Lincoln Heights), Ethan Embry (Brotherhood, Grace and Frankie), and Michael Irby (Mayans M.C., Barry).

“You have to get the right players that are willing to play,” Goodman says. “Not everybody’s up for improvising; they want the script and they want rehearsals. And I respect that, but that’s not this. You gotta be ready to have human instincts and responses because Gerry might not say the line that you’re expecting to be said back.”

Weeks of preparation included coming up with strict daily shooting schedules, blocking and rehearsing with the actors (except for Butler, of course) and doing everything possible to make sure the shoot went off without a hitch.

“Prep is the key,” Frydman says. “It’s a lot of conception, it’s a lot of calculating how your days are gonna be set up. But for the actor who walks in, we’re ready to go.”

Goodman, who is also an actor, prioritized making sure the cast had what they needed to do their best work. Like Butler, many of them signed on because they appreciated the trust and freedom this filmmaking style would afford them.

“(Being an actor) became an advantage, because you have to trust them,” Goodman says. “You have to let them know that they’re in good hands, and you have to be open to their ideas.”

“(Brian) has a plan every day, and more importantly, he knows how to explain the plan to actors,” Frydman says. “Actors gravitate to him. He’s very real, and they feel that they are not talking to a Hollywood creature, they’re talking to a guy that became an actor for the right reasons.”

© 2022 Vertical Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

As soon as filming started, it was clear this wasn’t a typical film shoot

The creative team decided they wouldn’t slate each take; instead, they would leave the cameras rolling and “keep swimming,” as Frydman puts it.

“You know what Spencer Tracy used to say: When you’re an actor, you’re paid to wait, not to act,” Frydman says. “There is no wait in this. Basically, the actors work their asses off, and there is not a lot of downtimes.”

Adds Goodman: “It was like, “Shoot! Let’s go!” It was a refreshing, exciting challenge.”

Butler dove right in, eager to improvise and work with the cast and crew. After he was given a rundown of the scene and a general idea of what needed to happen, he immersed himself in the moment.

“He’d read the scene like a mission statement: This is what needs to happen, and you can stitch that together any way you want,” Frydman says. “It’s fascinating to watch, and it makes everyone more on the ball.”

Butler even came up with a flashback scene that appears in the film and gives more context to Will and Lisa’s relationship.

“Gerard Butler is very smart. He’s got good instincts,” Goodman says. “He’s a beautiful guy, and he was very helpful to this process. I applaud him for what he did.”

Editor Julia Wong (X-Men: The Last Stand, Child’s Play) worked with Goodman to edit Last Seen Alive. Though it started as somewhat of an experiment, the cast and creative team are excited by the finished film, which was made to honour the genre and give the actors, particularly Butler, more freedom than they usually experience on a movie set.

“It’s like running a hundred-meter dash with a ball and chain on each foot and holding barbells,” Frydman says of the experience “It’s very difficult, but the challenge is so interesting … and allows the actor and the artist to go for it.”

Adds Goodman: The whole thing was difficult in the way of the fear of the unknown. But we did pull something off. … It was very team-oriented.”

When the filmmakers created the character of the legendary Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear for Pixar Animation Studios’ 1995 feature film Toy Story, they realised that every cinephile loves a good hero—someone to admire, someone to root for. Heroes overcome insurmountable obstacles to save the day. And the best heroes—the ones who live on long after their films hit the big screen—are, at heart, human. They have flaws and fears—they’re utterly relatable, even as they soar to greatness.

Toy Story placed Buzz Lightyear centre stage as the brand-new, highly sought-after action figure that gave vintage pull-string Sheriff Woody a run for his money as Andy’s favourite toy. 21 years later director Angus MacLane (co-director of Finding Dory) found himself asking: What movie inspired Andy to beg for a fancy toy with lasers, karate-chop action and aerodynamic space wings? “Lightyear is the movie that Andy, his friends and probably most of the rest of the world saw,” says MacLane. “I wanted to make something that felt true to those fun, big-budget popcorn films.”

A sci-fi action-adventure and the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, Lightyear follows the legendary Space Ranger (voiced by Chris Evans) on an intergalactic adventure. “I did a lot of research, breaking down the nature of genre thrillers,” says MacLane, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jason Headley (who co-wrote Onward alongside director Dan Scanlon and writer Keith Bunin.

HERO’S BEST FRIEND — Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” is an all-new, original feature film that presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear (voice of Chris Evans)—the hero who inspired the toy—following the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure. But Buzz can’t do it alone—he shares space with a dutiful robot companion cat called Sox (voice of Peter Sohn). A hidden grab bag of gizmos in a cute kitty package, Sox is Buzz’s go-to friend and sidekick. © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

“I knew Buzz would have to face a big problem, and I liked the sci-fi element of time dilation,” says MacLane. “There’s a rich history of character-out-of-time heroics: Captain America, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, to name a few.

“They say you can’t live in the past, but what if you could?” continues MacLane. “We all wonder what it would be like to go back in time, but instead we’re jumping forward in time. That’s the truth I wanted to build for ‘Lightyear’—nostalgia for the past while rapidly jumping into the future.”

Buzz Lightyear gave filmmakers a rich opportunity for exploration

“Ever since we met the character, Buzz has had this inherent and interesting tendency to view the world in a unique way,” says producer Galyn Susman. “His version of reality is never quite the same as everybody else’s, and there’s something super entertaining about that. He’s an aspirational character. The world really needs more aspirational characters right now.”

The film kicks off with accomplished Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear, his commander Alisha Hawthorne and a crew of more than 1,000 scientists and technicians heading home from their latest mission. Approximately 4.2 million light-years away from Earth, a sensor signals their proximity to an uncharted but potentially resource-rich planet. Buzz makes the call to reroute their exploration vessel (aka the Turnip) to T’Kani Prime—a swampy planet with aggressive vines and giant swarming bugs. Efforts for a quick exit go horribly awry, culminating in a crash that shatters their fuel cell, leaving Buzz, Alisha and their entire crew stranded on the less-than-welcoming planet.

“Buzz is the guy who’s been at the top of his game for a while,” says executive producer Andrew Stanton, who contributed to all four “Toy Story” films. “We’re witnessing in this movie his first fall from grace. He’s never experienced that before.”

TO INFINITY — Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” is an all-new, original feature film that presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear (voice of Chris Evans)—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger and his dutiful robot companion, Sox (voice of Peter Sohn). © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Marooned on the decidedly hostile planet, the crew settles in for the long game. Says co-screenwriter Jason Headley, “Nobody’s going anywhere until the resident scientists can create a new ‘hyperspeed’ crystal that holds up to a test flight. It’ll be years of trial and error.”

Buzz blames himself. “Burdened with the guilt of having made a critical mistake, Buzz is consumed by the desire to rectify it,” says Susman. “Our story takes place in space— but it’s still something we all face at some point or another. We make bad decisions, but if we spend our lives regretting those bad decisions instead of investing in what’s in front of our eyes, is that really living?”

Adds MacLane, “Life is never what we plan for. It’s not about dwelling on the past and wishing things were different—that seems like a waste of time. While Buzz is obsessed with righting his wrong, Alisha decides that she’s going to do her best with where she is right now. She wants to make the most of her time regardless of what planet she’s on.”

Time. Among Buzz’s battles with guilt, technology, chemistry and surprisingly strong vines—it seems time is the most challenging. With each test flight he undertakes to gauge their latest ‘hyperspeed’ fuel concoction, he experiences time dilation. The initial four-minute test flight for Buzz takes four years on T’Kani Prime, and the phenomenon intensifies with each effort. Life is literally passing him by: Alisha and the crew members are living their lives—pursuing interests, building families, getting older—and Buzz virtually stays the same. The math is complex but Buzz sums it up in the film: “The faster I fly, the further into the future I travel. I get it.”

TEAMING UP – Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” is a sci-fi action-adventure and the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear (voice of Chris Evans), the hero who inspired the toy. The all-new story follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure alongside a group of ambitious recruits (voices of Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules), and their robot companion Sox (voice of Peter Sohn). © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Filmmakers liken it to their own experience at Pixar. “Every time you make a film,” says MacLane, “at least four years go by. Then you come up for air and you realize the world has gone on without you.”

Decades—and friends—pass. Buzz, determined to “finish the mission” and get everyone back to Earth, continues to test fuel in a series of test flights as his crewmates age without him. But just when he’s about to crack the code, everything changes. After a series of impulsive decisions and the arrival of a mysterious alien ship that threatens the colony, Buzz reluctantly teams up with a group of ambitious recruits known as the Junior Zap Patrol. According to Headley, Buzz somehow over- and underestimates the trio’s potential.

“He starts out thinking, ‘This is perfect! I need an elite squad!’” says Headley. “He assumes they’re the A-Team. But pretty quickly—following a bungled battle with one of Zurg’s robots—Buzz realizes they’re the B-Team—if that. They aren’t trained, they don’t know anything, and he decides ‘they can’t help me. I don’t need them. I’ll do this on my own.’ But he has no idea the effect they’ll have on him.”

About The Filmmakers

ANGUS MACLANE (Director/Screenplay by/Story by) joined Pixar Animation Studios as an animator in 1997. He has since worked on a number of Pixar’s feature films including “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and the Academy Award®-winning films “The Incredibles,” “WALL•E” and “Toy Story 3.” For his work on “The Incredibles,” MacLane won an Annie Award from ASIFA-Hollywood for outstanding achievement in character animation. MacLane directed the short films “BURN•E” and “Small Fry.” He won an Annie Award for outstanding achievement in direction for his work on the television special “Toy Story OF TERROR!” and co-directed “Finding Dory.” MacLane grew up in Portland, Ore., and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design. He is a huge LEGO fan and designed the LEGO Ideas WALL•E set released in 2015. MacLane resides in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife, their two children and two cats.

JASON HEADLEY (Screenplay by/Story By) has written two feature films for Pixar Animation Studios. He co-wrote the Academy Award®-nominated feature “Onward,” alongside director Dan Scanlon and writer Keith Bunin. Outside of his work at Pixar, Headley wrote and directed the SXSW Special Jury Prizewinning feature “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong.” His short films—including the viral videos “It’s Not About the Nail” and “F*ck That: An Honest Meditation”—have been featured at Banksy’s Dismaland, NBC’s TODAY Show, SundanceTV, the TED Conference, Vimeo Staff Picks, and more.
Headley is also a Cinereach Fellow as well as a former IFP/Gotham Labs Fellow and member of SFFILM FilmHouse. He’s also been commissioned by Heineken, Sony, and Chrysler to write, direct, and produce original short films.

‘Alison’ is a story of monsters, miracles and hope.

Another proud graduate of The Writing Studio, director-writer-producer Uga Carlini, changed lives in a profound way with the poignant documentary Alison, which won the Best Documentary at the Asia Pacific International Film Festival, after selling out at the Encounters International Film Festival, and wowing crowds at its international premiere at Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles.

After being nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Silwerskermfees 2016, the hybrid film, Alison the movie was bestowed the top honour this past weekend of International Humanitarian Platinum Award Winner for Best Documentary at that year’s World Humanitarian Film Awards.

Uga 2

Translated into 7 languages and a perennial on Penguin’s best seller list since 1998, the documentary is based on the bestseller that tells the harrowing story of Alison Botha, who was raped, stabbed and disembowelled – and survived to rebuild her life as an inspirational speaker.

Carlini’s hybrid feature documentary on Alison Botha is a deeply personal and emotional story of triumph and survival. Using a creative and innovative fairytale aesthetic, Carlini’s film is a poetic and insightful exploration of trauma and overcoming.

Christia Visser as Young Alison arriving at hospital

Raped. Neck slashed more than 17 times. Stabbed in the stomach over 37 times. Disemboweled. Dumped on the outskirts of a nature reserve, dead – or so they thought… One of the worst things about gender violence is the fear and shame it breeds. That is why, when the going gets really tough, we need ordinary people of extraordinary strength and courage to jolt us out of our numbness and offer us hope. In the early hours of the morning of December 18th 1994, a 27-year old Alison Botha became one such an individual. This is her story. Today that night may have left a crisscross of scars on Alison’s abdomen and a permanent Today that night may have left a crisscross of scars on Alison’s abdomen and a permanent reminder circles her neck, but the irony is that the destructive and mindless frenzy of violence unlocked in Alison a positive, healing force. The way in which she chooses to deal with the on-going trauma’s different shapes and sizes as it keeps showing up in her life when she least expects it, is what’s interesting here. Turns out that by telling her story on her terms while being first hand evidence that there is no right or wrong way as to how, Alison is the proof of the liberating power that comes with owning the story of one’s life. Alison knows what has been done cannot be undone. But she is not defined by what happened Alison knows what has been done cannot be undone. But she is not defined by what happened to her but rather by whom she chose to become. Easy it has certainly not been and when we meet the private Alison, a side of her who has never emerged into the spotlight, her inner transformation seems on-going and at times even a struggle. Despite that Alison has risen over the malignant and diabolic shadows that tried to break her on that night. She engulfed its darkness by deciding to be the hero to her own story and in the process she has left footprints behind for us to try on for size.

Q&A with director Uga Carlini and survivor Alison Botha

What is your inspiration for the film Uga?

She is sitting right next to me.

Alison, do you ever think your story will get old? To be talking about it after all these years, some might say you are stuck in a rut? 

If you believed it wasn’t making a difference to people anymore, I might have If I believed it wasn’t making a difference to people anymore, I might have stopped by now.  But I know it does and because I know it makes a difference to people it makes a difference to me. My story is not about living in the past.  It’s giving my present purpose by sharing something that I’ve experienced. I believe I can help other people.  I really do.  I wouldn’t do it unless.  I mean why would I talk about this horrible thing if I didn’t think something good was coming out of it.

Uga when did you first hear about Alison’s story? Uga when did you first hear about Alison’s story?

In December of 1994, when this happened, I was a student, a drama In December of 1994, when this happened, I was a student, a drama student at that. I didn’t have a cellphone (few did), didn’t have or care for TV and the internet wasn’t anything as to what it is now. It was certainly also not available on one’s phone – the phone you didn’t have anyway.  And if I had a spare moment, I would be in a cinema watching movies. So Alison’s story completely went me by. But not for long. In 1999 a friend of mine gave me her book as a gift. I was upset, moved, perturbed, deeply unsettled and yet hopeful, inspired and ready to take on the world for unsettled and yet hopeful, inspired and ready to take on the world for many reasons. Then in 2000 Alison came to my old school for a talk and I happened to be in town. The turnout was so big, that they had to move it from the hall to the sports field of the school. And there, with Alison so far away at the very front and me at the very back, she spoke directly to me through the intercom system. And I watched as everyone around me was moved, enthralled and captivated. I then promised myself, I will tell her story so that everyone in the world could experience what we all did that summer and that everyone in the world could experience what we all did that summer evening. There is a lot to learn and take from her and she is far from perfect – thank God, which makes her even more of a heroine to me.

So Alison, what did you feel when the crew arrived at your house for the first time?

Of course, the moment when after years of planning, the crew bus Of course, the moment when after years of planning, the crew bus actually pulled up outside my house and unpacked their gear that filled my garden and garage and house. That was a jump-up-and-down moment, for sure. You know, it’s a big moment when you share something that you really believe in with others – a little nervous at what their reaction will be. And that moment becomes significant and pivotal when they choose to believe in it too. too.

Uga what camera did you shoot on and why? What was the most challenging part of the shoot?

We choose the RED DRAGON because of the heavy / animation contingent of the film. We knew that most of this film’s hard work was going to happen in the post and that the RED DRAGON was going to give us the best chance to have the canvas in place so we can make it all happen then. It was also in the post where we were just continuously challenged with relentless predicaments. We planned well but because the genre is still documentary at heart, a bulk of the planning had to be reserved for once we had our timeline down. The planning had to be reserved for once we had our timeline down. The interviews had to be shot first and we had to wait for what would be the most creative way that would work best to fit the story and the budget. That damn budget…

Alison, many audiences really struggle with the violence of your story. To think that human beings did this to you. Doesn’t that level of violence sometimes want you to just give up on the human race together?

What’s the alternative to not having hope in the human race? I despair sometimes when I think of what people What’s the alternative to not having hope in the human race? I despair sometimes when I think of what people do to each other and I can’t understand how certain people can do what they do and how they behave. But I don’t what to give up that hope. I want to believe that what I do makes a difference and that the good people out there, do make a difference.  And whether it will make a difference in the huge big scheme of things, I don’t know, but I still like to live my life that way.  I like to think that matters.

Are you over it Alison?

You never get over something like this.  People always ask me am I over it. But it’s part of a journey there’s no You never get over something like this.  People always ask me am I over it. But it’s part of a journey there’s no end there’s no finality. It’s something that you learn to live with and it’s actually something that I’ve realised when I’ve had my bad days, is that you decide every day – it gets easier because you’re in the habit of deciding but you decide to be bigger than it every day. Getting over it is what people want.  They want the person who was harmed to have a happy life and to be able to move on and for everything to go right.  And it’s not like that. To me, the real-life of every day is what I am living life for. I am not superhuman. I didn’t survive something that no one else can.  We actually are capable of a lot more than we allow ourselves to think. I’m proud of that no one else can.  We actually are capable of a lot more than we allow ourselves to think. I’m proud of myself, you know, that I lived that night and that I fought to live.

Uga, what moves you about this story except for the obvious?

Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a long and winding road but this time, between the bad, so much more good can be found.  We’ll see how too much of a good thing sometimes can just be plain damn marvellous. This is a story about being your own hero. About how one woman does live her way.  Alison’s story puts our “shit” into perspective. And gives us a new take on a world that’s forever telling us we have to excel or stand out. And there’s no superhero outfit in Alison’s wardrobe, instead, you’ll find some baggy clothes for when she has a fat day. There’s no degree, no wealth. Just Alison. While the story of the attack is well known in South Africa, that’s not Alison’s story and that’s not the story I chose to tell. Alison’s real journey has been to South Africa, that’s not Alison’s story and that’s not the story I chose to tell. Alison’s real journey has been to recover from that night, to figure out how to live her life with joy and how not to allow violence to define her. While depictions of violence are everywhere, no one really talks about the long-term effects on its victims. Yet in South Africa alone, 1 in 3 women are recovering from sexual trauma that many feel unable to admit to. Alison was the first South African to speak openly about her rape, giving a voice to so many other women who felt unable to do the same. What I myself have learnt from Alison is while we may not always control the plot, we can certainly be the heroes of our own stories.  we can certainly be the heroes of our own stories.

Alison, are you doing enough for women’s rights?

I’m doing my bit in my quiet way.

Alison, how would you describe your quiet way? Your story?

My story is a story of overcoming and I like to hear other people’s stories of them overcoming because it inspires us to think that we could too.

Why the choice of a fairytale aesthetic as part of the visual treatment of your film?

It’s twofold for me. Firstly it’s obvious. Alison has created her own fairy kingdom. A place of beauty, magic and super It’s twofold for me. Firstly it’s obvious. Alison has created her own fairy kingdom. A place of beauty, magic and super femininity. Scarfs with beads and butterflies, rainbow makers, and gigantic hearts greet you from everywhere. Outside in the most unexpected nooks and crannies of the magnificent garden, faerie gardens with an impressive assortment of faerie statuettes, lure and surprise. On top of that, this heroine likes the odd spot of glitter and butterflies really are her totem in more ways than one. She also doesn’t necessarily fit or want to fit in the tight yellow rubber suit of Kill Bill or hot pants of the Tomb Raider – even though she loves and commends those heroines too. But then there’s the darker side of all of this.  the Tomb Raider – even though she loves and commends those heroines too. But then there’s the darker side of all of this.  This contemporary real-life  fairytale has more than just its moral or ethical undercurrent and  lesson to be learned, but like the original versions of fairytales as written down by the Brothers Grimm in their adult versions of the 1800s before it became sanitized, reworked version for children, it is full of macabre and gruesome twists between the magic and miracles.  Evil tried very hard that night to destroy Alison for keep. It failed. And it failed for many reasons. Partly because of Alison, partly because of the incredible heroic individuals that crossed her path that night and in the days that followed the vicious partly because of the incredible heroic individuals that crossed her path that night and in the days that followed the vicious attack and partly because of the unexplained. The miracles if you may, the magic if you must! This fairytale is real. There are monsters, princes, and princesses and they give the stereotypes of what we’ve been led to believe is the norm a run for their money. I love that! And who said fairytales can’t be real and their endings are not the end at all…

Uga why is there not more about the perpetrators in your film?

Surely they are a big part of this story? Funny you should ask that. Or actually, not funny at all. You are not the first. Several broadcasters and funders we met with while still seeking funding were adamant that that was what was needed, if not what had to be central to the story as it was  “more interesting than another woman being raped”. Why should we care about the men behind these heinous crimes? Why does anyone?! They were both out on bail for the rape of other women! Why honour them with more headlines, and attention but at the same time cry about “what is wrong with this world”. Every 26 seconds a woman is being raped in SA. That’s three women just in the time frame of this question and its answer. That’s three women just in the time frame of this question and its answer. Violence against women and children is escalating worldwide and this is for a so-called “civil” society. Frans’s father killed himself over what his son had done. His sister had to go to a psychiatric institution for a while. The impact of these crimes runs far and deep for the families on both sides. The survivors. Forever. The perpetrators are not welcome in my film or in my screen time.

Alison why did you choose Uga to tell your story?

We heard you had proposals and offers from all over the world. Why her? I never felt a strong need or desire to make my story into a film – I was nervous that it might be portrayed in, even slightly, the wrong way and then lose the power of the message.  Uga was the first to approach me who spoke mainly of the significance and purpose behind bringing the story to the screen, rather than the drama of the story itself.  I trusted that her heart felt the same way mine did and that she would produce a film with meaning; a film that I would be proud of.

Uga any last words? Uga any last words?

There should never be any last words on violence and sexual abuse. NEVER. We should keep on talking There should never be any last words on violence and sexual abuse. NEVER. We should keep on talking about it. Name them. Shame them. The perpetrators can’t get away with it. It’s them, not you. Your silence gives them power. If no one believes you if you think no one cares. Speak until someone listens. Somewhere someone will care. Shout until it stops. Add our voices to each other, even if it’s anonymously, in solidarity or from the rooftops, so we can become LOUDER! So that we can become ONE against violence of any sort, against anyone or any animal. For me, this story’s ultimate message is a message of empowerment, private empowerment behind closed doors. That place where it’s only you, yourself and yourself again, looking into the mirror and saying, I can do this! Even if no else might you, yourself and yourself again, looking into the mirror and saying, I can do this! Even if no one else might think so, I KNOW that I can. And if Alison could, so can I! About how we conquer our own world one day at a time and how more often than not, we have good days and bad days. Triumphant moments and moments where we are at a loss, ready to give up. Do what you need to do to make it happen for YOU. Be that change you need to see. Put on some Florence and the Machine and shake it out! And have dessert first, life is just too short and too precious and after all, how many of us really need to be swimsuit models…

“Who among us has the inner strength and autonomy to live outside the churning new cell phone cycle and the amplified social chatter of our digital consumer society?”

From her Sundance Award-winning first feature Down to the Bone to her Oscar-nominated feature Winter’s Bone and her documentary Stray Dog, writer and director Debra Granik has examined the lives of outsiders struggling to maintain their independence. Granik’s third narrative feature, Leave No Trace, set in the Pacific Northwest’s hidden byways and forgotten encampments, is based on Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment, which is inspired by a true story.

A teenage girl, Tom (breakout newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), and her veteran father Will (Ben Foster of Hell or High Water and The Messenger) have lived undetected for years in Forest Park, a vast woods on the edge of Portland, Oregon. A chance encounter leads to their discovery and removal from the park and into the charge of a social services agency. They try to adapt to their new surroundings, until a sudden decision sets them on a perilous journey into the wilderness seeking complete independence and forcing them to confront their conflicting desire to be part of a community and fierce need to live apart.

The film is directed by Granik; the screenplay is by Granik and Academy Award nominee Anne Rosellini (Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone), adapted from Peter Rock’s novel My Abandonment.

The real-life story that inspired Leave No Trace  

The real-life story that Leave No Trace is inspired by has become something of a legend in Portland, and was reported on in The Oregonian and elsewhere: a girl and her father were discovered to have been living for four years in the nature preserve bordering the city’s downtown area.

They ventured into Portland only to collect his disability checks and shop for what they couldn’t grow. The girl was healthy, well cared-for, and tested academically above her age group. After being relocated to a horse farm where the father was able to find a job, the pair soon disappeared.

Peter Rock
Peter Rock

Peter Rock, intrigued by the mystery, created a fictionalized version of the tale that filled in the unknowable details. The author notes, “There were other books inspired by the same story, some more investigative. I’m a fiction writer; the genesis of my book was reading the newspaper stories and wondering what happened to the two people — where they came from, who they were, and how they survived.”

The book was brought to Granik and Rosellini’s attention via two other frequent moviemaking collaborators, producers Anne Harrison (the Oscar-winning The Danish Girl) and Linda Reisman (the Oscar-winning Affliction).

Anne Rosellini
Anne Rosellini and Debra Granik

They originally optioned the novel in 2007, attracted by the book’s distinctive voice and landscape, eventually bringing in Granik and longtime collaborator, Anne Rosellini.

The four then worked together four years developing the screenplay.

Debra Granik directed and co-wrote Winter’s Bone with Rosellini, which was adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name.
Her first feature was Down to the Bone, which she directed and co-wrote.

In 2014, Ms. Granik completed her documentary feature Stray Dog, which later aired on PBS and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. The film’s subject is Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.

In 2016, Harrison and Reisman approached Bron for financing; Bron then brought in First Look, now called Topic, as a financing partner.

Anne Rosellini is an independent filmmaker whose company, with Debra Granik, is Still Rolling Productions. Ms. Rosellini was nominated for an Academy Award twice in the same year, for producing (with Alix Madigan) and co-writing (with Ms. Granik) the Best Picture Oscar nominee Winter’s Bone.

Formerly a programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival, Ms. Rosellini founded the 1 Reel Film Festival in 1996 before moving into acquisitions for AtomFilms, an online platform for films that was way ahead of its time. She holds a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The setting for the story is forests and isolated rural enclaves in Oregon and Washington State.

Granik was attracted by this environment: “Films that take place in a specific region always speak to Anne and I, and this is a story inextricably tied to the Pacific Northwest. We could visualize a setting and a journey that would be very photogenic, and a story that would draw us in.”

When we meet the father and daughter, they have been living in a rudimentary encampment, using outdoor living skills to carve out a life almost entirely off the grid and invisible to the outside world.

Granik says, “Will and Tom have life experiences that are very different from anything I’ve known or done. Who can live on public land, and stay undetected for so long? And how did they do it? It became clear that to tell this story would require research and deep consultation with a range of Pacific Northwesterners to understand how to film this existence.”

Rock reports, “The plot of the film differs from my book in some ways, but in terms of the tone it’s pretty close. My book has elements of fantasy, and Debra’s movie grounds the characters in more realism.”

Debra Granik
Debra Granik

Although the screenplay does not use narration, Granik notes that “the teen narrator from Pete’s book led me to wonder about how a person could live happily and richly with few possessions. Tom and Will have a very disciplined lifestyle, and it necessitates a commitment to distinguish between want and need. Thinking about Tom and Will led me back to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and to environmentalist Bill McKibben’s reportage as well as One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan

Odyssey, from Richard Proenneke’s journals.

“Who among us has the inner strength and autonomy to live outside the churning new cell phone cycle and the amplified social chatter of our digital consumer society?”

In approaching the story, Granik also thought back to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with its father-and daughter characters of Prospero and Miranda: “I’m drawn to the ways classic stories depict close relationships in which people complement and complete each other. Will and Tom look out for each other and also pollinate each other’s mind. Tom has learned to be the adult at times, because of her father’s psychiatric vulnerabilities. He, in turn, is trying to teach her every useful thing he knows.”

My Abandonment
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and Ben Foster with director Debra Granik during filming of Leave no Trace

Leave No Trace tells the story of two people who forge their own path, with no villain in the tale. Granik remarks, “There are a handful of core themes in literature and film that we learn. But right now it seems that stories which rely on direct threats of violent bodily harm, annihilation, and highstakes crimes are what get almost all the attention. I’m curious about our appetite for stories that don’t rely on violent actions but still have strong resonance. Several people, all of them strangers, help Will and Tom along the way, but the tension remains high because of how they choose to live. The antagonistic forces are not exerted by any malevolent character, but by something hard to see — the pressure of social conformity and business as usual.


“In this story the stakes are physical and existential survival. When Tom and her father are evicted from public land and don’t have a safety net, those are high stakes. Where do people who don’t fit neatly into the mainstreams of our culture go, and how do they fare?”

The director adds, “The stakes are also tied to the intricate dynamic between Tom and her father. After they are evicted from the park, where they knew how to structure their lives and relate to one another, they are pushed to learn more about one another when forced into the wider world. Will senses that Tom’s curiosity pulls her in a different direction from him, which eventually leads to a fork in their path.

“That is something universal we all have to navigate, but which we do in our own ways. Since coming of age can require that a person cleave themselves from those they are closest to, it’s always high stakes in terms of how hard that can be.”

In the character of Will, Granik returns to a topic she explored in her documentary feature Stray Dog, developing it here in a fictional context. “I’m very interested in the lives of veterans, especially how their experiences affect them years after the war,” she explains. “And it’s getting to be long after our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the time when civilians begin to forget, and veterans are left holding the bag.

“The father’s veteran identity was something that Pete had embedded in the book. When we got to Portland to research and scout the movie, I was able to go deeper into the issues that the father character wrestles with, through the help of several vets who advised on the film based on their personal experiences.” David J. Morris’ book The Evil Hours, about his experience as a Marine with post-traumatic stress (PTS), and Ron Hall, a Vietnam Era vet who was the subject of Stray Dog, also provided insight and inspiration.

The Cast Ben Foster, who plays Will in Leave No Trace, is known for intense, tightly wound performances in such movies as Hell or High Water, Lone Survivor, and 3:10 to Yuma. “I have appreciated Ben’s work in an array of films, specifically in The Messenger,” says Granik. “This was a big, meaty, soulful role, and I thought he’d have room to put that layered intensity he has into it. He’s a very committed, indepth kind of actor.”

Foster also has an interest in veterans’ experiences. Granik was “touched that he had spent a considerable amount of his working life trying to learn about and understand the experiences of returning soldiers. In several films he’s been asked to delve into that on a very deep level. In discussions with Ben, I also learned that the subject of living off the grid, living with less, and questioning the ubiquity of social media, is very much on his mind. All of that was very helpful.”

The actor reflects, “Although dealing with difficult circumstances, this was a very hopeful script about trying to do the right thing — and I hadn’t been reading a lot of scripts that made me feel very hopeful.

Ben Foster

“When the script landed on my desk, my fiancée and I were expecting our first child. So, iterations of fatherhood were very present when I read it. And Debra’s films, particularly Down to the Bone and Stray Dog, had touched me deeply. Because of this combination, I really wanted the job!”

He and Granik “would take walks together and talk about how someone in Will’s position could make this life make sense for himself. Living with his daughter in a temperate rainforest is in many ways working for him, and it’s working for her. When social services comes, what the father and daughter created, and the world that they know, is turned upside down. What will they be gaining, and losing? They each have to grow in different ways, and this pierces the heart.”

Aware of the responsibility of portraying soldiers’ complexities on-screen, Foster notes, “We did not overly articulate what Will is struggling with; his scars are internal. I’ve had the privilege of talking to a lot of brave men and women about this; I have friends who served and survived and have done a lot of healing.

“What’s so inspiring about spending time with those in the service is that they are can-do people; they fix it, they figure it out. It isn’t about ‘Does it feel right’ or ‘Do you want to.’ It’s, you do it. I’ve tried to then understand how I myself could do that.”

For an independent filmmaker, Granik feels that an actor like Foster is a gift: “Ben is a defender of independent films. He puts his spirit into the research, gets immersed, and he stays true to it. He’s not afraid of getting muddy or emotionally entangled. He’s done profound work on films without frills, and he champions it.”

Visionary writer-director Terrence Malick masterfully shines the spotlight on humanity with A Hidden Life.

It is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer born and raised in the village of St. Radegund, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler during World War II, sacrificing everything, including his life, rather than to fight for the Nazis.

NOTE: If you want to experience this unforgettable film at its best, watch it without knowing too much about the story and avoid spoilers. You won’t regret it.

A Hidden Life focuses on the soulful relationship between Franz and his wife Fani, poignantly portraying their bond as deeply as Franz’s devotion to his cause. At every turn, Fani is there for Franz—strong, unfaltering and supportive of his path while raising their daughters and running the farm alone, eventually with help from her mother-in-law and sister.

Terrence Malick’s film draws on actual letters exchanged between Franz and Fani while Jägerstätter was in prison. The collection Franz Jägerstätter: Letters and Writings from Prison were edited by Erna Putz and published in English by Orbis Books. Some lines have been added to the letters, and sometimes the letters are paraphrased.

Franz Jägerstätter’s story was little known outside of St. Radegund, and might never have been discovered, was it not for the research of Gordon Zahn, an American who visited the village in the 1970s.

Producer Grant Hill has worked on several of Malick’s films before, including The Thin Red Line. Grant notes that the themes of A Hidden Life resonated with Malick.

“It’s an extraordinary, enduring love story that investigates human reactions and motivations and just how far people will push for their beliefs and conscience. It asks hard questions—do you have the right to hurt people that you love in service of the greater good? Ultimately, it is a timeless story of devotion, love and forgiveness writ large. I think those aspects appealed very much to Terry,” Hill says.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

A Hidden Life differs from director Terrence Malick’s previous films in that it is his first biographical film based on real people whose descendants are still alive.

“The family had suffered enormously, and Terry wanted Franz’s daughters to be involved and give their stamp of approval. We set up a meeting with them through intermediaries to find out if there was a way for him to tell the story that did justice to the storyline and made them feel comfortable.

Ultimately, they were prepared to trust Terry with Franz’s legacy, and we worked with them throughout production,” Hill explains.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is terrence-copie.png

Casting A Hidden Life

In the early days of the project, Terrence Malick made the decision to only cast Austrian and German actors to preserve the authenticity of the story.

Introduced by executive producer Marcus Loges, Malick and Hill worked with casting director Anja Dihrberg (The Captain) to find the right alchemy of characters. Hill comments, “Even though I’ve spent time in Germany and knew a lot of the actors, it was astounding how many really talented people were coming out.

When casting the principal roles of Franz and Fani it was apparent that there had to be a natural relationship between the two roles.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Valerie Pachner (The Ground Beneath My Feet) emerged first and landed the role of Fani. “Valerie can light up the room. She is very strong having been brought up in that area. She knew exactly who that character would be,” said Hill.

Knowing that they needed to find an exact match in Franz to Valerie’s Fani, the team was nearing the end of the casting process a year later when August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds) entered the picture.

Hill remembers, “Terry had talked to August a number of times, but he was busy and couldn’t get in. What was going to be our last session, Anja called late in the day and said that August was in town unexpectedly, and he could be over to the office in half an hour—he came in and read the pages with Valerie. In that first reading you could see it straight away. They moved together and they had both vulnerability and strength together.”

Reflecting on the casting process August Diehl says, “I remember the first time I read the script I had a lot of talks with Terrence. He was curious about me and who he was going to work with. I remember talking about life and how we each see things,” says Diehl. “I grew up in France on a farm without electricity. He was curious about all this, about how I live and what my experiences were.”

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Diehl says he treated the letters between the husband and wife almost like another script alongside Malick’s.

Valerie Pachner had her first conversations with Malick over the phone.

“When he called me the first time we didn’t make any small talk. We immediately talked about the world and life and in that moment, I just felt ‘wow, that’s where I want to go, this is someone I want to work with.’”

Pachner, who grew up in Austria, felt close to the story. “People relied on each other, and at that time that also meant that you could not break out and be different. You had to toe the line. That’s why this story is so unusual.”

Malick sent her a book about women in the first World War working on the farms when the men were away fighting. She also got a present from a friend: a whole book about scything.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Terrence Malick has one of the most intriguing — and influential — approaches to cinematic storytelling of any director working today.

His process is also one that has evolved over the years. In the 38 years prior to “The Tree of Life,” he has made only four feature films. In the eight years since 2011, the 76-year old director has released four more features, along with a documentary, “Voyage of Time.”

Cinematographer Joerg Widmer is a long time collaborator with Malick, and the experience on earlier Malick films provided a baseline language on which to build. While this was the first Malick project for Widmer as cinematographer, he was the steadicam operator and second unit cinematographer under Emmanuel Lubezki on all of Malick’s films dating back to 2005’s “The New World.”

“Terry tends to avoid conventions and find new ways of storytelling and often gives the actors a large amount of freedom to experiment and the camera crew has to be equally open to creative possibilities,” says Widmer.

“Terry and I have a long history together and, as a camera and Steadicam operator on the five previous films, I was familiar with Terry’s approach. So it was easy for me to understand and execute his style of framing and camera movements and to embrace natural light.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

August Diehl was also familiar with Malick’s work but never imagined he’d work with him on a film, let alone star in it. “It was so special. I have never experienced a film like this, we were almost constantly in a flow of shooting that allowed us to organically be in the moment ,” says Diehl, describing Malick’s method of filming long takes.

Valerie Pachner adds that she felt empowered by Malick’s style. “We were encouraged to create ourselves and I felt Terry trusted me. We were constantly talking about if there was something else that we should do? I really felt like we are doing this together. And that’s because of his trust. He trusts the people working with him.”

Pachner describes Malick as “very respectful, humble and kind, and also radical. Radical in the way that he’s following his thoughts and his way of seeing things all the time and inviting us to be part of that journey.”

Filming A Hidden Life

Early on, Malick and Widmer decided to shoot primarily using natural light, turning to artificial illumination only on rare occasions. At the mercy of nature, Widmer and his crew had to be flexible.

Director of Photography Joerg Widmer on the set of A HIDDEN LIFE. Photo by Reiner Bajo. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“Changing lighting conditions required continuous attention for stop changes to ensure proper exposure,” explains cinematographer Widmer.

For all the other sets, including the prison cells, the team worked with the sun, adjusting the schedule to the appropriate time of day until they lost the light.

“The barns were always shot when the openings of the buildings provided sunlight or at least brightness,” says Widmer.

The team only had to change the shooting schedule once: When the weather forecasters said it wasn’t going to be sunny on the day they planned to shoot the interior of the water mill.

The production was shot digitally on the Red Epic Dragon camera system. The camera was selected for its ability to handle stark contrast within a scene, preserving details in both the highlights and shadows of the image, while still maintaining realistic colour.

“We were prepared to keep the camera gear small,” says Widmer. “The lighting gear consisted mostly of bounce boards and blacks.”

The Jägerstätters lived in St. Radegund, a small village of 500 people in Upper Austria, near Salzburg and the German border–in the same province where Hitler was born and spent his early youth–not far from Berchtesgaden, his mountain retreat during his years as head of the German state. The production spent 24 days in South Tyrol, the northernmost province of Italy, then moved into Austria itself, shooting for a few days in St. Radegund itself. For the prison scenes, the production spent the last 14 days in Zittau and Berlin, Germany.

Supervising art director Steve Summersgill says the locations were selected for their texture, authenticity and scope. “Most importantly we learned that the natural light levels were very much part of the decisionmaking process as to whether or not a certain location may or may not work,” Summersgill says.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

The film was shot in churches and cathedrals, on farms with real livestock, orchards, up mountains, in fields and along rural pathways. “Nature and the natural environment were part of the subtext and the locations provided us with a foundation to build up from,” says Summersgill.

Production designer Sebastian Krawinkel carried out research on Franz Jägerstätter and the important places in his life, consulting letters and archive materials.

“We scouted some of the locations together a year in advance in order to see them in the right season,” says Krawinkel. “For almost a year I had a weekly dialogue with Terry about which sets he would need and which locations and references he liked.”

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

A few scenes were shot in the St. Radegund locations where the events depicted actually took place–including certain interiors of the Jägerstätter house, which has over the years become a pilgrimage site, as well as by the Salzach river near St. Radegund and in the woods below the house. The clock visible on the wall of the Jägerstätter living room is the one that Fani was listening to when, at four in the afternoon on August 9, 1943, at the very hour of Franz’s execution, she remembered feeling her husband’s presence. The bedroom is theirs and looks as it did then. Her embroidery still hangs on the walls. Franz and Fani’s three daughters–Maria, Rosalia and Aloisa–live in, or near, St. Radegund. Fani passed away in 2013, aged 100.

NOTE: Since Malick doesn’t do interviews, lead actors Valerie Pachner and August Diehl, and the film’s cinematographer Jörg Widmer explains the process of making A Hidden Life. Read more

The film’s composer James Newton Howard found his way to the film in a less traditional way.

Grant Hill recalls, “We were at the point of working out if we were going to bring in a composer or whether we go with existing music. Terry had been experimenting with some of James’ music from other films, and eventually reached out to him. It all happened so quickly.”

Howard says scoring the film was a collaborative process.

“One of the early ideas Terry brought to me, was to incorporate sounds he had captured during production such as church bells from the villages, cow and sheep bells, the sawmill, sounds from the prison, and scythes in the fields,” says Howard. ”I took many of those sounds and processed them into musical elements that are woven throughout the score.”

Howard began his process after Malick sent him a series of short clips from the film without any sound or music.

“I wrote very loosely to picture, but we were able to establish the key thematic material and sonic identity of the score. As we moved forward, we chose to work mostly scene by scene where I would write something that he would react to, and then he would often mould the edit to what I had done,” Howard explains.

Though the film takes place against such an important historical backdrop, the film at its core is a human story. “I chose to focus on the emotional journeys and crises of conscience of the characters—writing music to reflect their story.”

Howard began during the film edit.

“After meeting with Terry at my studio in Los Angeles, I flew to Austin and met with his team to watch a cut of the film,” he says. “We worked primarily between March and May of 2018 and recorded everything in early June at Abbey Road Studios in London. “I felt the orchestra was best to reflect the vistas of St. Radegund. The solo violin throughout the film embodies the connection between our two main characters—performed by the violinist James Ehnes.

Amid a classic Fire Island week fueled by underwear parties, dance challenges, karaoke performances, and general debauchery, a gang of gay buddies bickers and banters over potential romantic entanglements in rising comedy star and screenwriter Joel Kim Booster’s Fire Island.

“Fire Island is my favourite place to be,” says writer, actor and stand-up comic Joel Kim Booster, a Chicago-bred, Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, writer, and actor who was recently named as one of The Queer Young Comics Redefining American Humor by the New York Times.

“When I was still struggling to be a success working a day job that I hated and was miserable every day, oppressed by just how straight the rest of the world is, you could go there and you would explode because you could feel so free. You can carve out your own space and find the people that you vibe with.”

“It’s about identity and being comfortable in your skin. I think the family part is definitely just having people around you who support who you truly are. Good and bad.” 

Producer John Hodges says, “The structure of the story and the narrative that Joel created is very finite. There is just such beautiful arcs between everything, including the exploration of family, and chosen family.”

“I love movies like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You—movies that have taken a classic text and updated them to a modern setting very effortlessly and seamlessly,” says Hodges. “What Joel did by grafting the commentary on social mores and politics and classism and putting it very specifically into Fire Island was very well executed. Within that was also a really funny script that has a great love story at the core.”

Bowen Yang and Joel Kim Booster in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

In Fire Island, Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and his boys, including best friend Howie (Bowen Yang), and their friends Luke (Matt Rogers), Keegan (Tomás Matos) and Max (Torian Miller), celebrate a week of non-stop partying and hooking up with hot guys. After arriving at the house on Tuna Walk owned by their friend Erin (Margaret Cho) where the group has always stayed, they’re greeted with unsettling news: Erin has run into financial trouble and will soon be forced to sell the vacation house they considered a second home.

Every summer, gay men, women and people representing all facets of the LGBTQIA+ community flock to the shores of Fire Island to relax, soak in the sun, party with chosen family, and perhaps even fall in love.

Stretching for 32 miles off the coast of Long Island, the island has served for decades as an invaluable place of refuge, offering vacationers a chance to build camaraderie away from the pressures of conforming to outside societal expectations.

The Fire Island Pines is a hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County that has been referred to as America’s first gay and lesbian town. With the most expensive real estate on Fire Island, the Pines has approximately 600 houses and a 100-unit condominium complex on its square mile of location and is only accessible by water. There are no private vehicles in this part of the Island, no paved roads, and the cottages and beach are only accessible using a series of wooden boardwalks.

Now, the locale serves as the colourful setting for a one-of-a-kind retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, adapted by and starring Booster, seeing single and carefree Noah embark on his annual trip to the island with his closest friends, but this time, he’s determined to orchestrate the perfect hookup for his lovelorn best friend Howie (Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang). Howie quickly meets an ideal guy, Charlie (James Scully), someone with real relationship potential—the only problem is his insufferably aloof best friend, Will (Conrad Ricamora), to whom Noah takes an immediate dislike.

Determined to make what might be their last summer together in Fire Island especially memorable, Noah resolves to help lovelorn Howie find the man, or men, of his dreams. To prove just how serious he takes his mission, Noah promises Howie that he will remain abstinent until he succeeds (yeah, right). The week gets off to a promising start after Howie meets charming doctor Charlie (James Scully), and the two quickly hit it off. But the members of Charlie’s wealthy, accomplished social circle vacationing at their house on Ocean Walk seem to look down on Noah, Howie and their crew.

Matt Rogers, Zane Phillips and Tomas Matos in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

The idea of transporting Austen’s beloved Regency-era romance to modern-day Fire Island first occurred to Booster on his inaugural visit with a group of friends about 10 years ago. He had brought along a copy of the 19th-century novel, and as he revisited the tale of the turbulent courtship between the fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five sisters of modest means, and aristocratic landowner Fitzwilliam Darcy, he was struck by the surprising ways in which the book’s canny observations about class and society applied to his own surroundings.

“There is this other side of the island that is scary and alienating in a way—it is oppressively white and inherently classist,” says Booster, who is of Korean descent. “Once you’re here, it can feel very alienating if you’re a person of colour or you’re of a different body type. It’s funny to see how when gay men are together and we are the majority, how we discriminate and divide ourselves even further. I was like, I want to write a story about this.”

Seeing the concept of found family expressed so beautifully within the context of a raunchy wild comedy replete with illicit drugs, partying and sex also captured the imagination of Korean-American filmmaker Andrew Ahn, who was thrilled with Booster’s cleverly crafted script from the moment he read it. “I laughed out loud so many times,” Ahn says of reading the screenplay for the first time. “What I loved about the script was how funny it was, but at the same time how much heart it had. It was a real Trojan Horse for emotion and interesting themes about gay social class. It felt like it had a little bit of everything wrapped up in a delicious package, and really felt like something I wanted to be a part of.”

For Booster, Ahn was uniquely positioned to direct the film as he had lived some of the same kinds of experiences the comedian had tried to capture on the page. “There aren’t a lot of gay Asian people in this industry,” Booster says. “It was really important to me to work with someone who understood the core of this movie and the experience of Howie and Noah, and Andrew was that. He had such a beautiful vision for the movie—he knew the story, loved the story and wanted to tell it in a way that complimented my skill set. I don’t know if I’ve ever worked with someone that I’ve trusted more creatively.”

James Scully, Nick Adams and Conrad Ricamora in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

When writing the script, Booster poured many of his own experiences into the story, basing the close relationship between Noah and Howie on his real-life friendship with Yang, who accompanies Booster to Fire Island every year. The pair met after Booster moved from the Midwest to New York and formed an immediate bond.

“Bowen was the first close gay friend that I had who was also Asian,” Booster says. “There’s so much that we have both experienced that is similar. Finding that person finally and feeling seen for the first time by someone like that is so powerful and important. There’s so much that we can talk about and relate over and so much that goes unsaid that can be shared. We look at each other and it’s like, Oh, I know what you’re feeling right now. This movie was really born out of that experience and that relationship.”

Booster continues, “A lot of growth has happened over the course of my time coming to Fire Island.”

Director Andrew Ahn with Joel Kim Booster. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

“Lee Krasner. Elaine De Kooning. Camille Claudel. Dora Maar. History is filled with female artists who have supported their more famous husbands or partners,” says writer-director Tom Dolby of The Artist’s Wife, “a tribute to these women, a contemporary imagining of the journey of the stronger woman behind the man—and what happens when the relationship begins to crumble due to circumstances beyond either person’s control.”

“Showcasing themes of loyalty, new beginnings, personal sacrifice, and life choices in a nuanced way, The Artist’s Wife reclaims the narrative of spouses who support unconditionally,” said Benjamin Cowley, CEO Gravel Road Distribution Group. “The film also inspires with quiet courage in the face of challenging circumstances” he added.

In The Artist’s Wife, Claire (Lena Olin) lives a domestic life in the Hamptons as the wife of celebrated artist Richard Smythson (Bruce Dern). Once a promising painter herself, Claire now lives in the shadow of her husband’s illustrious career. While preparing work for his final show, Richard’s moods become increasingly erratic, and he is diagnosed with dementia. As his memory and behaviour deteriorate, she shields his condition from the art community while trying to reconnect him with his estranged daughter and grandson from a previous marriage. Challenged by the loss of her world as she knew it, Claire must now decide whether to stand with Richard on the sidelines or step into the spotlight herself.