After nearly 50 years of comic strip stardom and hilarious TV specials, the movie brings together everything that audiences love about Garfield.

Garfield is a cat…a big lazy cat…a quick-witted comedic cat…a non-exercising-lasagna-loving cat, a prone-to-food-coma cat, so don’t judge him if he doesn’t meet your high human standards.  Garfield is the furred distillation of humanity’s collective desire to do absolutely nothing…all day long…like we all wish we could.  An icon of do-nothingness, Garfield hates Mondays and work.  Food is his love language, and he speaks it fluently, along with its many dialects.  He hates spiders and loves coffee.  Contrary to popular belief, Garfield frequently exercises.  His favorite workouts are walking from the fridge to the couch, turning over in the bed, lifting his fork and chewing food.  He lives a perfectly pampered life in the burbs with his owner Jon and unpaid intern, Odie.

Garfield’s creator, Jim Davis, says that he created the character to stand in contrast with the many dogs that were ruling the comics page at the time. “I saw a lot of dogs doing very well – Snoopy, Marmaduke, Fred Basset, you name it,” he says. “But there were no cats at the time. And I grew up on a farm with about 25 cats on average, and so I knew and loved cats. I thought, ‘Well, if dogs are doing that well, maybe I could use a cat.’ Cats are kind of standoffish – you know where your dog stands, but cats are aloof.”

Because of that, he says, “it’s natural to attribute human thoughts and feelings to cats. Garfield is a human being in a cat suit.” Indeed, Davis says that Garfield’s staying power comes in the fact that his millions of fans recognize themselves in his foibles. Cats – they’re just like us! “I hold a mirror to the reader and show them back with a humorous twist,” says Davis. “We’re made to feel guilty for overeating, not exercising, and oversleeping. Garfield relieves our guilt by enjoying all of those things.” And Davis says that every aspect of the strip was centered around that – including the character design. “I wanted to create a cat that, outwardly, looked like his personality: lazy, self-centered, and hungry,” he says.

“You know Garfield loves lasagna and hates Mondays, but he’s never had this kind of adventure until now,” says Chris Pratt, who voices everyone’s favorite curmudgeonly housecat. “This is a 2024 Garfield. As the world has evolved, so too has Garfield, and his perfectly pampered life has become even more easy,” Pratt continues. “He’s become even lazier because he can order his lasagna with a simple click of a button. There’s nothing bad about his life except for Mondays. But in this movie, he’s going to be forced to get out of his house and go on an adventure that he is entirely unprepared for – and he’ll have to rise to the occasion… and through all of that, we’ll see how and why he got to be the way he is. This is about what makes Garfield Garfield.”

The screenplay is by Paul A. Kaplan & Mark Torgove and David Reynolds. Based on the Garfield® characters created by Jim Davis

Garfield (voiced by Chris Pratt), the world-famous, Monday-hating, lasagna-loving indoor cat, is about to have a wild outdoor adventure! After an unexpected reunion with his long-lost father – scruffy street cat Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) – Garfield and his canine friend Odie are forced from their perfectly pampered life into joining Vic in a hilarious, high-stakes heist.

Dindal and Reynolds first teamed in those roles on the animated comedy The Emperor’s New Groove – a meme-ready cult classic with fans that declare it one of the funniest movies of the last quarter-century.

The film is produced by John Cohen, who previously shepherded Despicable Me and Angry Birds to the screen, and by Alcon Entertainment’s Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson, whose success with films for the entire family to enjoy includes The Blind Side and the Dolphin Tale films.

Kosove says that he and Johnson were equally pleased to be producing the film, because they felt that Garfield deserved a proper, fully animated big-screen treatment that captured the character and also gave him room to grow. “Alcon is a company with success in family films, because we like to make movies for families, not just for kids,” says Kosove. “The Garfield Movie is really a film for the entire family. There are emotional stakes and characters you care about – and of course hijinks and physical comedy.”

To show those emotional stakes, says Johnson, it was necessary for the cynical cat to show some kind of growth (and not just around the middle). “Garfield’s snark and cynicism is funny and effective in a three-panel comic,” he notes. “In a movie, one has to have that character have some degree of growth in spite of himself. You have to root for him.”

For Cohen, the chance to work with a favorite character is the culmination of a childhood fantasy. “I still can’t believe that I was lucky enough to get to make a Garfield movie,” says Cohen. “I must have pinched myself every day over the last few years. I was a kid who had Garfield and Pooky stuffed animals, a Garfield phone, the classic McDonald’s mugs – I even used to draw my own Garfield comics with Odie, Jon, and the awesome cast of characters. It’s such an honor that Jim Davis entrusted us to be custodians of his creation – there’s nothing that has made me happier than to hear his joy and enthusiastic reactions to the film over the course of production.”

For his part, Davis says he was thrilled to see an animated film break Garfield out of his three-panel confines. “It goes without saying that Garfield gets out and around more in animation. Otherwise, why animate him?” says the character’s creator. “Garfield has the same personality in both mediums. However, since animation is more than three frames, Garfield must get involved with a plot demanding that he leave his bed. In many ways, animation is easier to work with than a comic strip, because in a comic strip you have to set up the story, twist it and then resolve it in only three or four frames, and in 25 words or less. In animation, you have the luxury of time to tell the story, plus you get to use music, sound effects, and audible dialog to execute the gags and drive the story.”

For Dindal and his team, the process began with research into what makes Garfield Garfield – and finding the places where the character can grow and change. With many thousands of Garfield strips that have entertained millions for decades, the task may have seemed daunting, but fortunately, it was easier than ever to go back and find those classic Garfield gags. “When we started to make the movie, we had access to a database that had all of the comic strips archived,” he recalls. “You could put in a keyword like ‘Garfield eating lasagna’ or ‘Garfield hugs Odie’ and it would bring up all of these terrific comic strips that we could reference. That was a huge resource for us, to find ideas that would connect to the comic strips that the fans would relate to.  It was so well organized, and it really sped up our development process to be able to reference those in that way.”

And in this movie, Garfield gets into trouble like never before. Up until now, the worst he’s ever had to face is a tummy ache from too much lasagna (is there even such a thing?) or a particularly terrible Monday (is there any other kind?) … but in the movie, Garfield and Odie are pulled out of their house and dropped smack dab into the middle of the biggest milk heist that ever was. Call it Ocean’s 2%.

“This movie is about an indoor cat – a lazy, pampered, self-centered indoor cat – who is forced out of his comfort zone into a crazy adventure in the outside world,” says Cohen. “He’s totally ill-equipped to survive without the creature comforts of hot meals-on-demand, his La-Z-Boy chair, blanket, and remote control. There was so much opportunity for comedy in this fish-out-of-water scenario, especially with an arrogant character who’s stuck in his ways and thinks he knows better than anyone else. We had a ton of fun imagining endless possibilities for the laziest cat in the world at the center of a heist movie.”

Dindal says that Garfield’s incredible – and incredibly unearned – self-confidence is going to get him into hot water. “With any challenge, Garfield’s attitude is, how hard can it be?” Dindal continues. “So, when he goes into the outside world, he’s never intimidated. He’s sure that everything is going to go smoothly. That was a lot of fun to play with, especially as we exaggerated the stakes to absurd, life-or-death levels.”

MARK DINDAL (director) was fascinated by animation at the age of six and got to realize a dream when he was trained by veteran Disney artists at California Institute of the Arts. He was recruited by Disney Studios after his second year at CalArts and began his career in the Effects Animation department on The Fox and the Hound. He continued animating effects on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. He was the Visual Effects Supervisor on The Little Mermaid.  In 1991, he was given the opportunity to animate and direct a short piece of animation in Disney’s The Rocketeer. From there he went on to his directorial debut on Cats Don’t Dance for Warner Bros., which won the 1997 Annie Award for Best Animated Feature. He returned to Disney to develop and direct both the cult favorite The Emperor’s New Groove and Disney’s first CG feature, Chicken Little.

The writing team of PAUL A. KAPLAN & MARK TORGROVE (screenplay) have a television career spanning over two decades, with writer/producer credits on numerous hit shows including “Raising Hope” (FOX), “George Lopez” (ABC), “Just Shoot Me” (NBC), and “Spin City” (ABC). In the feature space, they have sold original scripts and rewritten projects for studios including Warner Bros., Disney, Sony Pictures, and Universal. They also penned the comedy-drama The Late Bloomer, based on journalist Ken Baker’s autobiography.

DAVID REYNOLDS (screenplay) was one of the original writers on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” After 400+ shows, he moved to Los Angeles and began working on Tarzan for Walt Disney Feature Animation. During this, the Disney execs introduced him to a new little-known animation studio named Pixar (Toy Story would be released later that year), who hired him to help develop their second feature, A Bug’s Life. For the next decade, he worked on (almost) every Disney or Pixar animated movie in production, including writing the screenplay for The Emperor’s New Groove as well as co-writing Finding Nemo. He was nominated for an Oscar® and BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay for Finding Nemo, as well as a BAFTA for New Groove.

Cartoonist, author, producer, director, president, founder, screenwriter, environmentalist, philanthropist — all these titles can be used to describe JIM DAVIS (Based on the Garfield® characters created by), best-known as the creator of “Garfield.” He was born July 28, 1945 in Marion, Indiana, and raised on a small farm with his parents, Jim and Betty Davis, and his younger brother, Dave (Doc). Like most farms, the barnyard had its share of stray cats; about 25 at one time, by Jim’s estimation. As a child, he suffered serious bouts with asthma and was often bedridden. Forced inside, away from regular farm chores, he whiled away the hours drawing pictures. In college, he studied art and business before going to work for “Tumbleweeds” creator Tom Ryan. There, he learned the skills and discipline necessary to become a syndicated cartoonist. Studying the comics pages closely, he noticed there were a lot of successful strips about dogs, but none about cats! Combining his wry wit with the art skills he had honed since childhood, GARFIELD, a fat, lazy, lasagna-loving, cynical cat was born. Davis says Garfield is a composite of all the cats he remembered from his childhood, rolled into one feisty orange fur ball. Garfield was named after his grandfather, James Garfield Davis.

The strip debuted on June 19, 1978 in 41 U.S. newspapers. Several months after the launch, the Chicago Sun-Times cancelled GARFIELD. Over 1300 angry readers demanded that GARFIELD be reinstated. It was, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, GARFIELD is read in over 2400 newspapers by 200 million people. Guinness World Records, named GARFIELD “The Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip in the World.” Davis’s peers at the National Cartoonist Society honored him with Best Humor Strip (1981 and 1985), the Elzie Segar Award (1990), and the coveted Reuben Award (1990), the top award presented to a cartoonist by NCS members.

Garfield quickly became a sensation in the licensing world, too, inspiring Davis to establish his own company to take care of Garfield business concerns. Paws, Inc., founded in 1981, managed the worldwide rights for the famous fat cat, and Davis served as president of the Indiana-based business.

Garfield’s comic strip fame also spilled over to television and Davis penned eleven primetime specials for CBS. He received ten Emmy nominations and four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program. Movies were next, and Twentieth Century Fox turned out two feature films: Garfield: The Movie (‘04), and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (‘06). Davis also wrote the original screenplays and is executive producer for three animated features for DVD: Garfield Gets Real, Garfield’s Fun Fest, and Garfield’s Pet Force.

He has underwritten a number of environmental projects in his home state. Davis spearheaded reforestation, prairie and wetlands restorations, and built the  world’s first all natural wastewater plant for commercial use. He was awarded the National Arbor Day Foundation’s Good Steward and Special Projects Award, and the Indiana Wildlife Federations’ Conservationist of the Year Award.

Davis was honored with a Doctor of Letters from Ball State University and a Doctor of Fine Arts from Purdue University. He was also awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash, the top honor an Indiana resident can receive from the Governor’s office.

Romeo et Juliette

Ryan Reynolds, left, and Director John Krasinski on the set of Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”
Director Wes Ball on the set of 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo by Jasin Boland. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Andrew Kevin Walker

John Lee Hancock, directing and producing The Little Things from a script he wrote almost 30 years ago, wanted to approach the gritty nature of the job as a means of exploring both the intellectual and psychological sides of solving crimes. MORE

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Richard Linklater, the Oscar-nominated director behind Boyhood and the Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight film trilogy, received a call from his friend and collaborator, Glen Powell, known to audiences for his starring roles in Top Gun: Maverick, Devotion and Hidden Figures, who asked if he had ever read the story Hit Man.

“I read it back in 2001 when the story came out,” Linklater responded. “The writer, Skip Hollandsworth, is a friend of mine. I just got kind of obsessed with it and over the years thought about it, but it never quite came together in my head as a movie because the story doesn’t seem to go anywhere.”

Powell had been introduced to Skip Hollandsworth’s ‘Texas Monthly’ article by producer Michael Costigan, he was similarly intrigued by the story and agreed that there was a compelling character in the article. When Costigan asked him who he thought would be good to explore this with him, Glen’s immediate response was Richard Linklater. Powell said, “There’s no one better at understanding the intricate nature of what makes humans human. He thinks about these things in a way that no one else I’ve ever met. So very early in the pandemic, I pitched it to Rick, and we were soon trying to figure out a way to make the story work as a movie.” It became the duo’s pandemic script project.

Powell recalls, “There was one line near the end of the article about Gary Johnson finding this woman who was trying to kill her husband but seeing the humanity in her. He looked at this person and thought, ‘This is a victim of their circumstances, and I want to help them through this thing.’ A guy who imitated humanity was in turn finding his own humanity. That relationship turned out to be key to the entire movie.”

Hit Man, (L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison, director & co-writer Richard Linkletter, co-writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, and director of photography Shane F. Kelly. Cr. Brian Rondel / Courtesy of Netflix

Glen Powell as strait-laced professor, Gary Johnson, who moonlights as phony hit man for the New Orleans Police Department. Preternaturally gifted at inhabiting different guises and personalities to catch hapless people hoping to bump off their enemies, Gary descends into morally dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to one of those potential criminals, a beautiful young woman named Madison (Adria Arjona). As Madison falls for one of Gary’s hit man personas – the mysteriously sexy Ron – their steamy affair sets off a chain reaction of play acting, deception, and escalating stakes.

Hit Man. (L-R) Adria Arjona as Madison and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in Hit Man. Cr. Brian Roedel/Netflix © 2024

Hit Man combines elements of a variety of genres: noir, romance, thriller, heist, action, and comedy. Powell explains, “Rick has had this just incredibly bold career, having played in every sort of space, this movie is the culmination of all these different genres and characters in one movie. It was a difficult movie to pull off, and he made it look effortless.”

Linklater wondered about the central relationship when reading the ‘Texas Monthly’ article, “What would happen if a woman got back in touch with him, even went so far as to thank him? What if she asked him out? What if they got together? But he’s trapped in his hit man persona –  but that’s fine because he’s finding it much more of a fun way to go through the world, particularly in relation to her. So, it becomes a body switch comedy in a weird, strange way.”

Hit Man. (L to R) Director and Co-Writer Richard Linklater with Co-Writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, and Austin Amelio as Jasper on the set of Hit Man. Cr. Brian Roedel / courtesy Netflix

Powell also speculated, “Did he stay in character? Did she know him as a hit man? Did he come clean…whatever. And what was an interesting exploration was a guy who kind of emulates a hit man becoming a hit man. A guy who imitates humanity finding his humanity. So that was our journey.”

Commenting on their creative process, Linklater states, “you get fascinated with a story, a character, an atmosphere. Something draws you into it. In this instance, we were pretty far along when I realized we were kind of in noir-thriller territory…. It’s kind of fun to realize you are in a genre because you know you’re going to do your own twist on that genre. You’re going to kind of acknowledge the genre but still go your own way.” But HIT MAN is also comedic,  “it’s oddly funny the whole way through, I like the dark comedy tone. So, it’s a comedy…about murder. What’s more fun?”

Linklater explains, “The traditional rules of the noir-thriller genre are that the poor schlub is either in prison or dead at the end because he can’t control his passion. Gary has gone down that path, he is trying to find the passion in his life. He finds it through Ron, he finds it in Madison. But should he be punished for that?” He adds, “It’s also about becoming your best self. So, there are a few dark moments in his past, but other than that he’s really a much better person at the end. That’s the thesis of the movie in some way. I want the audience to want happiness for Gary and Madison.”

Glen agrees, “It’s a fantasy at the end of the day. You want to buy into the fantasy. We made a film that is not only fun, but sexy, thrilling… this movie has it all, it even has the first sex scene in a Linklater movie – It’s a perfect date movie!”

Hit Man. (L-R) Director and Co-Writer Richard Linklater with and Co-Writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson. Cr. Matt Lankes / Netflix © 2024

Powell recalls, “When I was 14, I worked with Rick for the first time. And at that point, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, he’s one of the greats. I’m getting to be on a film set, a Richard Linklater film set.’ And now it’s 20 years later, and I look at Rick the same way. I just pinch myself every day that I get to be here.”

Linklater and Powell shared writing duties, collaborating in a shared document, taking it in turns or writing side by side, Powell explains “We’d be on the phone while we were writing talking out beats. There were times when he would take a section, and I would take a section. We’d do our homework separately and come back and then write it together. But, for the most part, we were working together in real time. There’s no greater joy than to be in Richard Linklater’s mind and watch the way he sees the world.”

During the writing process with Linklater and Powell researched real murder-for-hire cases, they listened to and watched hours of surveillance tape, and has all of Skip Hollandsworth’s research file for his story. To capture the way people really talk when they’re thinking about killing someone, some of those cases actually show up in the dialogue. “This is a world few people know about, we didn’t know this world, and discovering the reality of it was a joy to do it with Rick, who has such a great sense of humor. We would laugh so hard over the phone, about the stories that we found.”

Powell adds “The best part about working with Rick though is there is no ego. We’ve been eye to eye and lockstep on this thing, every step of the way. This is our fourth collaboration, but the most special part about this one is I truly feel that I have a teammate, and we’re navigating this together.”

Hit Man. Director and Co-Writer Richard Linklater. Cr. Brian Roedel / Netflix © 2024

For Linklater, New Orleans was an obvious place to set the film, “New Orleans is a big character in this movie. It kind of fits the New Orleans spirit. As in, yeah, the crime and murder rate is up, it’s a lawless kind of crazy place, but you love all the people – they’re great”

Powell recalls, “It was very interesting that when Rick and I were setting the film in New Orleans we realized there were all these natural metaphors that we already had in the script: the city built on a swamp, what people can get away with and how. Even just the way the New Orleans is broken into parishes, it’s like the personalities of all these different places live all within one city.“ He continues, “Gary is basically New Orleans in a human form. He loves New Orleans because if you’re an observer of people, there’s no better city to see all these different personalities and interests.”

Hit Man. Glen Powell as Gary Johnson. Cr. Brian Roedel / Courtesy of Netflix

GLEN POWELL – Co-writer/Producer/Actor in Hit Man, was most recently seen starring in the historical war epic Devotion. He was also recently seen starring alongside Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. Last April, Glen starred in Richard Linklater’s animated sci-fi film Apollo 10 ½ for Netflix. Additionally, Powell star in the Sci-Fi action thriller Deputy X and Foreign Relations. Powell received CinemaCon’s 2022 Star of Tomorrow award and was honored as one of Variety’s 10actors To Watch in 2019 alongside Cynthia Erivo and Jessie Buckley. He won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his work in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Additional past credits include Netflix’s 2018 Set It Up, Richard Linklater’s comedy Everybody Wants Some; Ryan Murphy’s hit series “Scream Queens”; as well as the final installment of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. He also voiced a role on Netflix’s animated adventure series “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” from Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Colin Trevorrow.

RICHARD LINKLATER – Director/Writer/Producer – a five-time Oscar nominee, two-time Golden Globe winner, two-time Bafta winner who has directed 23 feature length films. His most recent credits include Boyhood (2014), Everybody Wants Some (2016), Last Flag Flying (2017) and“Where’d You Go Bernadette? (2019), Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood (2022) and Hit Man (2023). He also serves as the Artistic Director for the Austin Film Society, which he founded in 1985 to showcase films from around the world that were not typically shown in Austin. The Austin Film Society operates a repertory theater, manages a film studio and has given out over $2,200,000 in grants to Texas filmmakers since 1996.

(Listed Alphabetically / Click on Titles to Read Features)

(Scroll down for Upcoming Film Releases)

(Listed Alphabetically / Click on Titles to Read Features)

(Scroll down for Upcoming Film Releases)

  • THE GARFIELD MOVIE – Garfield, the world-famous, Monday-hating, lasagna-loving indoor cat, is about to have a wild outdoor adventure! After an unexpected reunion with his long-lost father – scruffy street cat Vic, Garfield and his canine friend Odie are forced from their perfectly pampered life into joining Vic in a hilarious, high-stakes heist.Directed by Mark Dindal from a screenplay written by David Reynolds and the writing team of Paul A. Kaplan and Mark Torgove, the film stars Chris Pratt as the voice of the titular character, alongside the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddingham, Ving Rhames, Nicholas Hoult, Cecily Strong, Harvey Guillén, Brett Goldstein, Bowen Yang, and Snoop Dogg. Trailer / In cinemas from 24 May
  • FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA – Snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers, young Furiosa falls into the hands of a great biker horde led by the warlord Dementus. Sweeping through the Wasteland, they come across the Citadel, presided over by the Immortan Joe. As the two tyrants fight for dominance, Furiosa soon finds herself in a nonstop battle to make her way home. Directed by George Miller, who co-wrote it with Nico Lathouris. It is the fifth instalment in the Mad Max franchise, serving as both a spin-off and prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character Imperator Furiosa, with Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, and Alyla Browne also starring. Miller is best known for his Mad Max franchise, whose second instalment, Mad Max 2, and fourth, Fury Road, have been hailed two of the greatest action films of all time. Trailer / In cinemas from 24 May
  • HIT MAN – In Richard Linklater’s jaunty action comedy an undercover Houston police officer poses as a reliable hitman to arrest those trying to hire him until he tries to save a woman in need. It is based on the 2001 Texas Monthly magazine article of the same name by Skip Hollandsworth. The film stars Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Molly Bernard. Trailer / In cinemas from 24 May.
  • EZRA– In this comedy, Max Brandel, a stand-up comedian living with his father, Stan, struggles to co-parent his autistic son Ezra with his ex-wife, Jenna. When faced with difficult decisions about their son’s future, Max and Ezra set out on a cross-country road trip. It is directed by Tony Goldwyn and written by Tony Spiridakis. It stars Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga, Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson, Goldwyn, William Fitzgerald, and Robert De Niro. Trailer / In cinemas from 31 May.
  • HAIKYU: THE DUMPSTER BATTLE – Shoyo Hinata joins Karasuno High’s volleyball club to be like his idol, a former Karasuno player known as the “Little Giant.” But, Hinata soon finds that he must team up with his middle school nemesis, Tobio Kageyama. Their clashing styles turn into a surprising weapon, but can they beat their rival Nekoma High in the highly anticipated “Dumpster Battle,” the long-awaited ultimate showdown between two opposing underdog teams? It is directed and written by Susumu Mitsunaka who worked on the anime series. Trailer / In cinemas from 31 May.
  • FACE DEEP – In this thriller Luna and her pensioner lover Noah’s dream life comes crashing down when Noah’s estranged daughter, Bonnie returns to reconcile with her father. Strange things come to light when old memories are revoked. Luna will do anything to keep her secrets in the past and won’t let anyone get in her way. Directed by Vuyani Bila, the film stars Lerato Walaza, Kgomotso Motsiane, and Phillip ‘Tipo’ Tindisa. Trailer / Read more about South African Filmmaking / In cinemas from 31 May

  • BAD BOYS RIDE OR DIE – In cinemas 7 June
  • WATCHERS – In cinemas 7 June
  • INSIDE OUT 2 – In cinemas 14 June
  • THE WATCHERS – In cinemas 14 June
  • HIGHWAY SHEILA – In cinemas 14 June
  • RESURRECTION – In cinemas 14 June
  • GIRL YOU KNOW ITS TRUE – In cinemas 21 June
  • CHIEF OF STATION – In cinemas 21 June
  • DESPICABLE ME 4 – In cinemas 28 June
  • TREASURE – In cinemas 28 June

“Furiosa” is an epic story,” says producer Doug Mitchell. “When George—and with help of Guy Norris and 200 stunt people—steps out to do an action sequence… it’s the biggest one is a sequence of like 15 minutes, but it’s known in our world as a story sequence. What you get is a hugely orchestrated action symphony, a rock-and-roll disaster, which goes from the start of the first attack and it just keeps rolling. And it has the best of George’s skills of delivering action in a really, really interesting way.”

Copyright: © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

“Furiosa” stands on its own, but it’s also linked to the Mad Max saga, not only in its title, but because of the type of action and the way that it’s captured. We have vehicles that are new and unique. The War Rig is a stunning improvement, even though it’s historically before “Fury Road.” It’s a silver beast, a real monster. And we have an aerial attack going on, with a zeppelin-styled biker descending from the skies, throwing bombs on the War Boys who are defending this rig—the back end has a Bommy Knocker that spins, knocking bikers coming in attempting to mount it. It’s like a fortress, a ship carrying precious cargo, rolling through the desert, armed to the teeth with War Boys. Typical Mad Max with the stunt teams that were onboard—I’d say, we had like 52 characters, 200 stunties. It went on for about 78 days, we were shooting this thing, three to four setups a day. The temperament in shooting this thing, the endurance and skill of the stunt teams and how they managed it all… it was tremendous.”

As the world fell, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. Sweeping through the Wasteland, they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home.


GEORGE MILLER: “Fury Road” is a story that happens over three days and two nights. And part of the task was to tell a story in which all the exposition was picked up on the run. In order to do that, we had to know so much about that world. So for instance, if we took the character Furiosa, we had to know where she came from, under what circumstances, what forged her as a person. Where did she learn her skills? How did she come to be in this position of conflict with the world, and how and what are her aspirations? So, we had to write the story of Furiosa before we even attempted to make “Fury Road.” We had the script of “Fury Road,” but we had to sort of deconstruct it and go back. We wrote “Furiosa” as a screenplay, and when we came to make “Fury Road,” we were able to share “Furiosa” with the cast and crew. “Furiosa” was not only about the character, it’s about the world from which she came. And everybody was able to benefit from that script. And we thought, “Hey, if ‘Fury Road’ can get some traction, eventually we’ll make this story.” It’s been nine years since “Fury Road,” and here we are. We’ve got the film.

(L to r) Tom Burke, Anya Taylor-Joy, director George Miller and Chris Hemsworth on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Jasin Boland

The odyssey:

GEORGE MILLER: This is a story that follows somebody from the age of 10 to the age of 26. It’s this 15-year saga, an odyssey. And it basically runs right up into the events of “Fury Road,” almost literally. They could almost be joined together as two films. That film is a story that happened over three days and two nights. So, it’s a much more compressed time in which that story plays out. For those who haven’t seen “Fury Road,” it doesn’t make any difference. And for those who have seen “Fury Road,” it doesn’t make too much difference, except that you will understand all the antecedent forces and vectors that went into creating the events of “Fury Road.” They’re basically one long saga.

On the simplest level, it’s about someone who’s taken from home as a child and makes a promise to return home, whatever it takes. And she spends her whole life trying to get home. It’s an odyssey. Now, the purpose of an “odyssey” is not the actual events that happen so much as what’s happening to the soul of the protagonist. So, it’s about what happens to her in that attempt to get home and who she becomes—Furiosa.

Repetition of human behavior:

GEORGE MILLER: As human beings, wherever we are in time and space, we have the same patterns of behavior. And one of the most interesting things about working in the world of the Wasteland is that the films themselves allow you to do that. Even though the stories are set in some degraded future, basically we go back to behaviors that are at least medieval, or pre-medieval or neo-medieval, those at play in the dynamics of power structures, the dynamics between peoples, collectives of peoples and individuals. So, in a way, it’s forward to the past. And as we’re watching it in the present, we measure it against the current zeitgeist and the things that we’re experiencing in our time, because those patterns are basically the same. There’s a notion in technology that the future is here—it’s  just unevenly distributed. And I think you could say that about how we are in the world even today. There are some pockets of human behavior which are very clearly futuristic. We’re anticipating where we may perhaps be even a century from now. But there are pockets of human behavior—as I’m talking now—which are very elemental and basically not very much different at all from the way people behaved in their cultures centuries or even millennia ago. That’s the spectrum of behavior that’s available to you in the Wasteland world.

The allegory of Mad Max:

GEORGE MILLER: It was very hard making “Mad Max,” because Byron Kennedy and I had no real experience—we’d never been on a film set before. At the time I’d thought, “I’m not cut out to make films and I don’t think we made the film we wanted to.” And then, to my surprise, it seemed to resonate around the world, particularly in countries like Japan, where they said things like, “Well, Mad Max is like a samurai.” In Scandinavia, “a lone Viking.” And the French, “a Western on wheels.” And that’s when I began to realize that these are allegorical stories in the same way that the staple of American cinema was the Western from the silent era certainly up into the ‘60s and ‘70s, arguably, even today. “Mad Max” was a Western on wheels, meaning that it was allegorical. By the time we got to “Mad Max 2,” I understood all these underlying dynamics and it certainly informed that film as much more of a mythological story. Max fell into that category of the heroic archetype. Having said all that, that’s one of the big attractions to these stories. That’s why they won’t let me go, because the world is so rich and fertile. It’s able to tick the boxes of so many of the requirements of what I believe is a good story.

So coming to “Furiosa.” One of the things I’ve always been interested in exploring is that people are revealed by extreme situations—whoever you are, whatever circumstance you’re in in the world, it’s those situations which tend to reveal who you are. And whoever we are as children, we have to find our own way of navigating the world. We have guides, we have our culture, we have our parents, we have our siblings, we have all the things that influence our behavior. But each individual is revealed by the way they come up against that. And I guess you could say that’s the essence of drama. And what better than to tell the story in this dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. That’s what really got me into this story, “Furiosa.” Furiosa is one of those children—and I’ve certainly known them—who, at a very young age, have tremendous resources, tremendous skills, and learn very quickly from their mistakes. They manage to find their way in the world without being overcome and destroyed. And I’ve always admired that. There are people I know who have gone through things and seem to overcome them and develop strengths that are incredibly impressive. And I find that very fascinating. And that’s why we told the story of Furiosa.

Action sequences and character:

GEORGE MILLER: Well, of course there are action sequences—I’m addicted to that. Film language, which is pretty much only 150-years-old, is a brand new language. It’s learned very quickly. And it’s a universal language—even little kids, wherever they are in the world, understand the syntax of cinema. And for me, action is pure cinema. Hence, I can’t help myself. That’s what’s really interesting to me, providing it serves the characters in the story. So of course, there’s action in “Furiosa,” there’s a lot of it and it’s different. I think if it just repeated what we did in “Fury Road,” then it would be seen as a cynical exercise—every time you see something basically repeating what was successful in the past, people become anesthetized to it. It has to have something very fresh about it. It has to be uniquely familiar. I think I can say that the action in “Furiosa” is uniquely familiar to “Fury Road.”

Miller penned the script with Mad Max: Fury Road co-writer Nico Lathouris. SEE biographies below

The power of circumstance:

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY: In all of my initial conversations with George, there were a couple of key phrases that kept coming up. One was “Survival in extremis reveals the true essence of the person,” and that was kind of our guiding light. What is the true essence of each of these characters… because survival in extreme situations will reveal it. The other thing that he kept impressing on me was “Furiosa only needs to learn something once.” She learns her lesson, because in the Wasteland, unless you do, it’s not very forgiving—you don’t really get another shot at it. She is highly skilled, incredibly observant, and finds ways of making herself useful, and that gives her her own opportunity later down the line when she quickly realizes the hierarchy in the Citadel. She understands the best place for her to go to be near these incredible machines, like the War Rig. Geroge wanted me to learn about the mechanics and how these machines work—and I still say, every time I see the War Rig, knowing the things I learned, it takes my breath away.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa and Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Jasin Boland

The evolution of Furiosa:

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY: When I pick up Furiosa, in earnest, she has disguised herself as a boy, helping to build this War Rig, because she wants to hide herself within and stowaway. Her game plan is to collect supplies, and try to attract as little attention as possible. Stay quiet, because your voice would give away your gender; keep surviving long enough so that you have a shot once you’re out of here. And I think what you see in the sequence Stowaway to Nowhere, as George titled it, is epic in every sense of the word—I mean, we shot it over nine months, and that’s kind of epic. You get to see her acquired skills and you get to know her as this new incarnation through the course of an action sequence; that’s really how you get to know her again, because this is really the first time that she’s been allowed to be herself. It’s the first time she’s not hiding while surviving. There is no time to hide from that moment on. From the meeting of Praetorian Jack—who utterly disarms her, because he’s nice to her and gives her an opportunity, which is counter to everything in the Wasteland—she then rises up the ranks. You see her become a Praetorian, and I think in that moment of her life, she’s the most comfortable she’s been in a really long time. She has the deep love and respect of someone who she can actually trust to get the job done. I think Praetorian Jack is the only person that she trusts as much as herself. She knows that he has her back and will take care of her and that they as a team are better than she is by herself. That moment is interesting, because there’s a part of you that wants her to stay with him in the Citadel. But how could she ever forget her one reason for living, which is to return to the Green Place and fulfill her mother’s wish—what was a promise, an oath?  I think it’s an interesting time to get to discover her as a young woman, aware of her skills and feeling comfortable and protected.

Director George Miller and Chris Hemsworth on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Copyright: © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Jasin Boland

Dementus is…:

CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Dementus is a complicated individual. He’s a product of this world—the  violent, harsh reality that is the Wasteland. He’s been manipulated and sculpted through his experience, and I think that experience was one of immense tragedy, fear, pain and loss. This is what this place is, and everything is so desperate and raw. It’s day-to-day survival. You’re not thinking about six months from now, two weeks from now… you’re thinking about how do I get through this one day, through the night, because everything and everybody around you has the potential to kill you. And so, he’s a violent individual. I believe, like a lot with that sort of dictator mentality, he has a tendency to public displays of violence to instill fear and exercise control within the ranks of the people. He operates that way with the people that he leads, but also with the warring tribes around. He’s a showman, and he thinks of himself as being some sort of sage, a wise spokesman for the Wasteland. Among his gang, there is a cult-like loyalty, and he certainly rules with an iron fist. But I hope people will sense a depth to him that—I don’t want to say that justifies his actions—but gives a little bit of an understanding as to why he’s the way he is and why he does such seemingly harsh, violent acts. I think in his mind it’s about survival. His attitude towards Furiosa, he’s toughening her up. He says that he’s doing it for her. Sure, it might be harsh and tragic, but she’s going to survive anything she faces going forward.

And then the relationship between them becomes very complicated. He begins on some level to see an innocence and a purity to this individual that is a representation of what he’s lost. There is something he thinks otherworldly about her, because she is from the Green Place, and I think deep down inside him a little bit of humanity is awakened. Maybe he thinks that she reminds him of some other time in his life, his childhood, his younger years, before he was brutalized himself. He becomes very intrigued who this individual is, fascinated, infatuated, and then it becomes an almost paternal relationship in his eyes. I can’t speak to how Furioso feels about him, but I think he sees it as his duty as a father figure to take care of her and prepare her for what’s to come. In his mind, he’s doing the right thing. The slippery slope of playing a villain is just to think of them as villainous. There’s a flamboyant sort of nature to this guy certainly, which was fun. George and I had many, many discussions—months of discussions prior to shooting—about who this guy once was, who he is deep down in the quiet places. In the end, each violent or brutal thing that he did, in his interpretation, would come from the right place.

Finding the voice:

CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Things come to you at different times with characters. I find some of them instantly leap off the page at you, and then others kind of take time to begin to grow. Little things land in your lap that you think, “This could be interesting or different, or fresh and truthful to the character.” I had a lot of time with this script prior to shooting, a lot more than I had with a lot of the films I’ve made. And for a long time I had no idea who he was. I got quite nervous in the lead up to it. I still hadn’t found the voice. Every time I tried to read the lines I thought, “It just sounds like me,” reminding me of Thor or another character. I wanted there to be something abrasive about him, something that was piercing, belligerent and obnoxious. And I was sitting in a park one day with my kids and watching seagulls fight over chips and the stuff the kids threw at them. And they just [sounding like a gull] Eer, eer, err at each other, and something about that kind of sat in my head. I’m not saying I based the whole character on a seagull, but that was one day.

And then another day, I was listening to the horse races, [as an announcer] “Coming down the track, going on the outside!…” And there was something that struck me about the nasality of the announcer’s voice ringing in my ear, which started to feed into the character. And I remember my grandfather had this out there kind of voice quality—but from an Australia 40 years ago.  And so I looked at old Australian films, and listened to old interviews and just stole bits and pieces from a lot of places. And then about two weeks before we started shooting, I found the pitch for the voice and had to really work hard to keep it there. It just felt like someone wound up tight and tense. Everything was taut and sharp. I wanted to be as far as possible from the voice I developed for Thor with Kenneth Branagh, which was about being quieter and calming. I wanted it to be unnerving and unsettling. A few decibels above everybody else, almost like he’s short of hearing at times. There’s an obnoxious, aggressive quality to it. Like a seagull.

Furiosa and Praetorian Jack:

TOM BURKE (Praetorian Jack): At some point, and I can’t remember how this came up, but we were talking about a quote: the definition of an intellectual is somebody who knows there’s something more important than sex. We were riffing on it and said that the definition of an intellectual in the Wasteland is somebody who knows there’s something more important than survival, which I suppose is humanity, really. I think Jack has a sense of that. When he meets Furiosa, he immediately recognizes the embodiment of that, and she has this whole idea about somewhere she’s gonna go. He initially refers to that as a mirage when they’re making their pact. He says, “In a few years time, we’re free to chase mirages.” In the arc of their relationship, he comes to have a kind of faith in this place that she’s heading to, and he wishes to help her find it. At one point, it is very much about him wanting to be there with her. By the time we started filming, we were talking about it more like a guy wanting to walk a girl home, almost in some very simple way, however old-fashioned that sounds. So, I think he’s existing in this world—and it’s not an easy world to exist in—but he’s figured out what’s feasible. And I think she gives him a sense of a whole other life, which is huge.

The message:

TOM BURKE (Praetorian Jack): I think it’s as much about humanity as it is about brutality, but it’s about hope and taking a leap of faith with things. I had a line in one draft, something about two people can save the world—I think it was quite good that it went. Because they’re not trying to save the world, they’re trying to find a different one. I just thought there was something interesting and honest about the way they have to exist within the system they’re in. I guess that’s the sort of banality of evil that people talk about. I think that really grounds it. It’s kind of a fable—it has this heightened feel to it, but it feels very real.

The film’s look:

SIMON DUGGAN: I knew “Furiosa” was going to be a much more diverse looking film. We still maintain the character of “Fury Road,” but because we are exposed to many other locations, environments and new characters, we had a much more varied looking story to tell. In “Fury Road,” the most common feel that we had to stick with was the look of the deserts and the Citadel—we saw a lot of the Citadel, but we only heard about the other locations in the story. We never visited them. All these other fortified locations are all connected, and they create a satellite around the Citadel.

Shooting “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” required an unprecedented level of collaboration between Panavision, ARRI and RED, the three biggest camera facilitating companies of the filmmaking world, as well as cooperation from many other companies from Australia and around the world. The camera package was built around the ARRI Alexa 65 system, but also included ARRI Alexa LF, RED V-Raptor, RED Komodo and GoPro cameras. 32 Cameras were utilized across both Units (with six different types requiring special support rigs for each)

Worth in the Wasteland:

COLIN GIBSON: It’s one of George’s main tenets that if something is to survive, it has to have an innate worth. And that worth can be beauty. It can be mechanical wonder; it can be structure; it can be pragmatic, as this is the best way to kill the bastard who wants to kill you. But that beauty, that ornamentalism, that finding something and treasuring it, that basically gave rise to the salvage artist team that we used on the last film—and it’s almost the same team that we put back together again, with a few additions, this time around, because we are taking salvage. It’s got to be something worth saving… and then, we are finding the art in it. We are trying to make something worth saving, because we need to give ourselves a reason for why we ought or why we deserve to be saved. And of late, that’s become harder and harder to discover, or to make us feel like we deserve it. Sometimes, it seems our greatest attribute is self-delusion, and we need to try something else. We utilized the same theory as before and a lot of the same systems, and built ourselves stockpiles of things that we thought we could use, and then tried our best to use them.

Nearly 200 extras were used in a riot sequence that takes place at Gas Town, as well as a sequence set at the Citadel once it comes under Dementus’ rule. A Bullet Farm sequence with Furiosa and Praetorian Jack trading resources employed 149 extras; 100 extras populated another Citadel sequence, when Furiosa returns; and 92 were utilized in the Citadel Garage, when Furiosa sees Praetorian Jack for the first time. 41 stunt doubles were used on the film. The stunt department employed nearly 200 performers to execute the minutely-orchestrated onscreen mayhem. Stowaway to Nowhere took 78 days over nine months to capture the 197 shots in the set piece. There are 52 unique stunt characters in Stowaway.There were 13 major stunt sequences overseen by action designer Guy Norris, stunt coordinator Tim Wong and five sequence coordinators. The logistics and day-to-day running of the stunt department were managed by 11 people (seven in Action Unit, four in Main Unit).


ANDREW JACKSON: All visual effects is about finding really good reference from the real world. If that’s the style of the work that we’re doing, which is grounded in reality, then it’s all about reference. And you’ve got to find really good reference. You’ve got to match that—you’ve got to look at the real world and make sure that the work that we do feels real. That was the same on “Fury Road” and on this film… and on all the other films that I do, because that is really essentially the style of work that I do. I’m not a person who works on fantasy films, or films with monsters. I’m very much based in the real world. That’s the style of the work that I tend to do.

Then versus now:

ANDREW JACKSON: Obviously, the tools have progressed a lot and everything is just that little bit more real. I think probably one of the biggest areas for me that has changed is the effects of fire, water, dust and smoke, which used to be quite a challenge to get them to look entirely convincing. Nowadays, it’s just something we don’t even think about, matching existing objects and capturing an existing vehicle or a person. The way that we capture the images and turn them into a 3D asset is very straightforward. They look completely real. There’s no questioning that. That’s certainly come a long way. It feels like everywhere there are areas that have improved incrementally—the tools have all improved over time. And it’s been ten years, so there have been considerable improvements. There are quite a lot of scenes where we’re either replacing or augmenting vehicles. And quite a few scenes where we’ve just got the CG vehicle, because it’s just more straightforward—it does what we want it to do. The technology is so good for matching, especially if there’s a real vehicle that exists and it’s been photographed and scanned correctly, then we can make an exact replica of that. And the effects with dust, sand and particles, they’re so good. The combination of those two things is completely convincing.

A native of Australia, GEORGE MILLER (Director, Writer, Producer) began his professional life as a doctor and detoured into filmmaking as a writer, director and producer. Miller made his feature film directorial debut with the international success “Mad Max,” which he also co-wrote. The film spawned three successful sequels: “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which brought his iconic post-apocalyptic title character back to the big screen and introduced the world to Furiosa. The film grossed more than $380 million worldwide and garnered six Academy Awards.

Miller also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, among numerous other accolades, for the smash hit “Happy Feet”. A five-time Oscar nominee, Miller garnered nominations for Best Picture and Best Directing for “Mad Max: Fury Road”; Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for his work as a producer and writer on the breakout hit “Babe”; and received his first nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the moving drama “Lorenzo’s Oil.” Additional film credits include “Happy Feet Two,” “Babe: Pig in the City,” “The Witches of Eastwick” and most recently, “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, among many others.

Miller serves as a Patron of the Sydney Film Festival and the Australian Film Institute. He served as President of the 69th Cannes Film Festival in 2016. In 1996 he was awarded the Order of Australia for distinguished service to Australian cinema and, in 2009, he was honored with the French Order of Arts and Letters.

On the small screen, Miller directed and executive produced the television miniseries “The Dismissal,” which broke all rating records in Australia, and he also produced the television projects “Bodyline,” “The Cowra Breakout,” “Vietnam,” “The Dirtwater Dynasty” and “Bangkok Hilton.”

NICO LATHOURIS (Writer) has enjoyed a long and successful career as an actor, director, and dramaturg, contributing to literally hundreds of screen hours of popular, award-winning Australian film and television. 

He first worked with George Miller early in both their careers when Lathouris played the role of Grease Rat in 1979’s “Mad Max.” Beginning with six-time Oscar winner “Mad Max: Fury Road,” his collaboration with Miller as both writer and dramaturg on the Mad Max Saga continues to explore its world across an array of media, including the “Mad Max” videogame and a New York Times bestselling graphic novel, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Additionally, he collaborated with Miller to tell the story of Geoffrey Bardon and the Papunya Art Movement in the novella The Hidden.

Lathouris is one of the only contemporary artists to be credited with the role of dramaturg, whose task is to interpret and communicate the fundamentals of action across the entire creative process in collaboration with both onscreen and behind-the-scenes talent. Though his career in the arts spans 50 years—encompassing directing and producing for theater, film and television, cinematography, film editing and acting—his most recent focus has been on script editing, screenwriting and dramaturgy. His film credits as a screenwriter and creative producer include the Turkish-produced war drama “The Last Post” (“The Haunted House”) and the improvised dramatic short “Lost in the Woods.” More recently, he served as dramaturg on Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing.”

As an actor, Lathouris was nominated for two Australian Film Institute Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for his role in Michael Jenkins’s “The Heartbreak Kid,” on which he also served as the dramaturg. His numerous credits as a dramaturg also include “Heartbreak High,” “Wildside,” “Blue Murder,” “Looking for Alibrandi,” “Yolgnu Boy,” “Head Start” and “Young Lions.”

A graduate of Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, with a post-graduate diploma in experimental theater, as well as a post-graduate diploma from Swinburne Film and Television school, Lathouris studied civil engineering at the University of New South Wales before moving into the arts.

Billie Piper (I Hate Suzie) plays a woman driven to the unthinkable in Simon Stone’s radical award-winning production. Set in contemporary London, this radical production of Lorca’s classic tragedy builds with elemental force to a staggering, shocking, climax. Billie Piper plays the title role. 

Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale) plays Gareth Southgate in James Graham’s (Best of Enemies) gripping examination of nation and game. The country that gave the world football has since delivered a painful pattern of loss. Why can’t England’s men win at their own game? With the worst track record for penalties in the world, Gareth Southgate knows he needs to open his mind and face up to the years of hurt, to take team and country back to the promised land. Filmed live on stage at the National Theatre, Rupert Goold (Judy) directs this spectacular new play.

VANYA / 28, 29 September & 2, 3 October

THE MOTIVE AND THE CUE / 26, 27, 30 & 31 October

NYE / 30 November & 1, 4, 5 December

Michael Sheen plays Nye Bevan in a surreal and spectacular journey through the life and legacy of the man who transformed Britain’s welfare state and created the NHS.  Confronted with death, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan’s deepest memories lead him on a mind-bending journey back through his life; from childhood to mining underground, Parliament and fights with Churchill. Written by Tim Price and directed by Rufus Norris (Small Island), this epic new Welsh fantasia will be broadcast live from the National Theatre.

“What has always been the draw for me is the opportunity to explore the shadowy side of life, to go to
weird and forbidden places and shock the audience with something unexpected,” says Harlin, who directed The Strangers ― Chapter 1, based on the psychological horror film The Strangers written by Bryan Bertino, from a story by Bertino and screenplay by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland,

“We all have our own fears and phobias, formulated by our earliest experiences out in the world ― the darkness lurking outside our windows, the sense of being vulnerable to the environment and not being in control of the outcome of a threatening situation. Throughout the history of literature and movies, sexuality has also been an inseparable ingredient of these frightening fantasies and nightmares. Finally, it boils down to the survival of the fittest, to defeating death and overcoming our worst terrors.”

Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate. © 2024 STRANGERS FRANCHISE PRODUCTIONS I, LLC & HASBULA PRODUCTIONS, AIE. All Rights Reserved

After their car breaks down in an eerie small town, a young couple (Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez) are forced to spend the night in a remote cabin. Panic ensues as they are terrorized by three masked strangers who strike with no mercy and seemingly no motive.

Froy Gutierrez as Ryan, Madelaine Petsch as Maya and Director Renny Carlin in The Strangers – Chapter 1. Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate. © 2024 STRANGERS FRANCHISE PRODUCTIONS I, LLC & HASBULA PRODUCTIONS, AIE. All Rights Reserved

While other kids watched cartoons and family adventures, my mother, a film buff, introduced me to the works of Hitchcock at a very young age. I was also a voracious reader, and immersed myself in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jules Verne. The dark mystery tales that turned into elaborate nightmares in my vivid imagination were the fuel of my creativity.

I wrote my own stories of horror and the macabre, turning them into self-drawn comic books, radio plays,
and home movies to the shrieks and terror of the neighborhood kids.

When I realized, at the age of 12, that I could take everything I loved about twisted stories and dark
characters and turn them into an art form and entertainment through filmmaking, I knew that I had to
become a movie director.

I was extremely fortunate to fulfill my greatest dream in life.

In my career, I’ve made different types of horror films and thrillers, smaller and larger in scale, even
experimenting with humor.

What has always been the draw for me is the opportunity to explore the shadowy side of life, to go to
weird and forbidden places and shock the audience with something unexpected. We all have our own fears and phobias, formulated by our earliest experiences out in the world ― the darkness lurking outside our windows, the sense of being vulnerable to the environment and not being in control of the outcome of a threatening situation. Throughout the history of literature and movies, sexuality has also been an
inseparable ingredient of these frightening fantasies and nightmares. Finally, it boils down to the survival
of the fittest, to defeating death and overcoming our worst terrors.

The demise of movies as a theatrical experience has been predicted decade after decade since the
invention of TV in the 1940s. In today’s entertainment landscape, the challenge of attracting audiences to
movie theaters may be bigger than ever. The thousands of movies offered through streaming services
every night have raised the bar for an average moviegoer to gather their friends or family, get in the car,
park, buy the tickets, spend money on the drinks and snacks, and feel the effort is worthwhile compared to staying home on the couch, surfing through the offerings.

I believe that people have been drawn to dark and terrifying films now for over 100 years because of the
simple reason that we all want to feel something when we consume entertainment. And we all seek the
therapeutic experience of facing our worst, darkest, most secret terrors in the safe environment of a movie theater. We can scream, cry, hide our eyes or even laugh at the uncontrollable and life-threatening scenes that unfold in front of us. In a movie theater, it is all a communal experience. We are together with our family, friends, or strangers, confessing our deepest fears on the altar of the silver screen, and nothing bad can happen to us. Afterwards, we can walk out unharmed, debate our experience, share opinions, laugh about it, and feel the release. Like waking up from a nightmare and knowing that everything is all right.

There are a few classic horror films that have stayed with me through the years. Starting with Psycho and
Rosemary’s Baby, continuing with Don’t Look Now, The Shining, and Alien, some films rewrite the rule
book and surprise you with a new approach that entertains you beyond your expectations.

When I saw Bryan Bertino’s original The Strangers over 15 years ago, I had no idea what to expect. The
movie took me by surprise by eliminating any kind of a backstory or reasoning behind the terrifying
home-invasion concept. This was everyone’s worst nightmare scenario realized. Liv Tyler and Scott
Speedman in their roles were the victims of the brutal killers just because they happened to be home that
night. An act of completely random violence and senseless terror.

This film has stayed in my mind as one of my favorite horror films. So simple, yet so terrifying.

This was not an ordinary horror film. This was not a remake, nor a prequel or sequel, of the original. This
was an incredible opportunity to do something completely groundbreaking.

This was one huge horror saga, divided into three chapters. The producers wanted to focus on what
happened basically the next day, as the original 2008 film ended. So, we started with Chapter 1, which is
really like act one of a normal movie. We didn’t want to remake what we all thought was a great film, while the essence of the story had to be based on similar circumstances in order to build the logical story arc of the entire journey. We made several changes and customized Chapter 1 to serve our greater, three-chapter story.

Our three The Strangers chapters take the audience on an unexpected journey to the minds of the
perpetrators of senseless violent crimes and their victims.

Froy Gutierrez as “Ryan” and Madelaine Petsch as “Maya” in THE STRANGERS Trilogy, a Lionsgate release. Photo Credit: John Armour for Lionsgate. © 2024 STRANGERS FRANCHISE PRODUCTIONS I, LLC & HASBULA PRODUCTIONS, AIE. All Rights Reserved

We looked long and hard for our scream queen. When we spoke with Madelaine Petsch (“Riverdale”), it
quickly became clear that she didn’t only possess the talent to convincingly portray our leading lady, but
that her intelligence, strength, vulnerability, and stamina were ingredients that we couldn’t make the
movie without. She became our partner in crime, and she never once wavered throughout the grueling
task of what in essence wasthree movies shot simultaneously. Her commitment shines front and center in
our three-chapter saga. Froy Gutierrez(“Teen Wolf,” “Cruel Summer”) was another lucky find for us. A young and exceptional actor with a passion for his craft.

The chemistry of Madelaine and Froy is the engine of The Strangers – Chapter 1, and the chapters that

Casting The Strangers themselves was just as important as the selection of the rest of the cast. These are
not robotic, masked madmen or madwomen. These are complex characters whose every move,
expression, and act reflects the deeper threads and themes of the three movies. I’m proud to say that we
found actors who will keep surprising the audience with their characters throughout the entire journey
into increasing darkness and dread.

Renny Harlin has established himself globally as a filmmaker with the ability to identify and develop a wide range of material. His credits span multiple genres and include action-oriented blockbusters, horror films, comedies, and critically acclaimed dramas including A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Deep Blue Sea. Harlin also directed and produced Cliffhanger, which established him as one of Hollywood’s premiere action directors, followed by The Long Kiss Goodnight spearheading the genre of female-driven action movies. In 2007, Harlin directed the dramatic thriller Cleaner. In 1991, Harlin made his producing debut with the critically lauded Rambling Rose, and went on to produce Speechless.
At the end of 2011, Harlin wanted to expand his production company, Midnight Sun Productions, which
started development within the television landscape. Over the next two years, Harlin went on to direct four episodes of “Burn Notice,” including a season finale and mid-season finale; an episode of “White Collar”; and the season finale of “Covert Affairs,” all for the USA Network. Harlin also directed three back-toback episodes of the USA Network’s hit action-thriller “Graceland,” which aired in the summer of 2013.
After over two decades of success in Hollywood, Harlin embarked on a career producing and directing films in China. Harlin and global superstar Jackie Chan teamed up for Skiptrace, which was a box office megahit and led to Harlin working on The Legend of the Ancient Sword for Alibaba Pictures, and the action-thriller Bodies at Rest. An additional credit during this time was The Misfits. After returning from China, Harlin directed The Bricklayer. In 2023, Harlin directed Refuge for Millennium Media and Vertical Entertainment, debuting in April 2024, and The Strangers – Chapter 1 with Madelaine Petsch (for Lionsgate). Also upcoming is Deep Water, which is being released by Bob Yari’s Wonderhill Pictures later in 2024.
Harlin says he’s finally found everything he was looking for in life, loves making movies back in the
Hollywood mainstream, and currently resides in Miami, Florida.

Alan Cohen and Alan Freedland arrive at the “Due Date” Los Angeles premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on October 28, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland are Primetime Emmy Award-winning writers, producers, and showrunners working in both television and movies. In TV, they have written and produced shows
including “King of the Hill,” “American Dad!,” “Impastor,” and Amazon’s comedy series “Betas.” They also co-created and were showrunners for the Comedy Central cult hit “Kid Notorious.”
Currently, they are co-creators and showrunners of the animated series “The Freak Brothers” for Tubi. Cohen and Freedland co-wrote the Todd Phillips-directed movie Due Date which grossed over $200 million worldwide. They have written feature scripts for all the major studios, most recently the upcoming The Strangers horror trilogy. Cohen is a George Washington University graduate who hailsfrom Pittsburgh. Freedland is a University of Michigan man originally from Detroit.

Since 2018, John Krasinski has distinguished himself as a filmmaker to be reckoned with by writing, directing, and starring opposite his wife Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II, a pair of post-apocalyptic thrillers that have become global box office record-breakers and critical darlings. Following the success of those film, Krasinski has made a deft about-face with his latest, Imaginary Friends is a magical big screen adventure for the whole family. Steeped in wonder and filled with humor, opening a door on a fairytale world full of imaginary friends (or “IFs”).

The inspiration for this enchanting journey was Krasinski’s own children, he says. “I’ve always wanted to make a movie for them. Emily says that the Quiet Place movies are PG-40 for them, so they won’t see those for a long time. During the early days of the pandemic, I got to spend a lot of time around my then-8-year-old and 6-year-old daughters and see the power of their imaginations. But as the pandemic wore on, I started seeing their lights dwindle. They had been so full of energy and excitement, but they were becoming more cautious about everything.”

As Krasinski points out, from early childhood we are enthralled by fairytales that transport us to another world. “I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could bring all of that magic into your own real life?” he says. “If there’s one thing I want people to leave this movie with, it’s that believing in something bigger and more beautiful can actually get you through another day. That’s the kind of story I have always wanted to tell.”

Producer Allyson Seeger, and partner at Krasinski’s company, Sunday Night, remembers one of their first conversations about Imaginary Friends. “John said, ‘What if, instead of making a movie about imagination, we make imagination a character in the movie?’ Adulthood and real life can often temper the imagination right out of you, but the movie explores the question – what if it’s never too late to reconnect with that? To be a kid again, even for a moment.”

Imaginary Friends tells of a girl who discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends — and what she does with that superpower — as she embarks on a magical adventure to reconnect forgotten IFs with their kids.

The kernel of the idea began to revolve around a 12-year-old precocious girl named Bea, who’s had to grow up a little too fast. On the cusp of her teen years, ready to leave what it means to be a kid behind, one summer night while visiting her grandmother in Brooklyn, Bea discovers that she has a unique superpower: She can see everyone’s imaginary friend.

“We tell this story through the eyes of a girl who, like my kids, is trying to deal with how changed their world is,” says Krasinski. “In doing that, we are able to capture the idea that imagination is not only a powerful tool to have fun with, but also an enormous coping mechanism that helps us make sense of things that might be too difficult otherwise.”

Before he began to write the screenplay, Krasinski decided to run the idea past a good friend ¾ actor Ryan Reynolds. “Ryan is, in my opinion, one of the most talented people out there,” says Krasinski. “He knows comedy, he knows drama. We had been talking about doing a film together forever. I explained that I was developing a film about children and their imaginary friends. Would he want to be a part of it? He said, ‘Yes, definitely.’”

Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Fleming star in Paramount Pictures’ “IF.” Photo Credit: Jonny Cournoyer /

Krasinski began bouncing ideas off the actor, who responded with his own thoughts. “We were kind of banging back and forth,” says Reynolds. “We were interested in shooting something that feels like a live-action Pixar film. And that’s really what John put on the page.”

Reynolds, who also came on board as a producer of Imaginary Friends describes the screenplay as heartfelt and full of fun. “It ebbs and flows,” he says. “It’s got that classic Mary Pickford thing — make ’em laugh, make ’em cry and then bring them back to laughter.”

Ryan Reynolds, left, and Director John Krasinski on the set of Paramount Pictures’ “IF.”
Photo Credit: Jonny Cournoyer / © 2024 PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Krasinski sat down to write the film’s screenplay during the winter of 2020-21. He conjured a legion of the colorful, fantastical creatures of all shapes and sizes that populate children’s dreams to comfort, entertain and protect them. “He had a desire to rediscover joy in the world,” explains Seeger. “And this movie does that in spades.”

The filmmaker admits to having had several imaginary friends of his own ¾ as well as a couple of enemies. “I did have a wild imagination,” he says. “Our home was very close to a video store and I was allowed to walk there by myself at night. It would take me a half hour to get home, because I would pretend that all these different creatures were after me and I had to hide in my neighbor’s bushes to escape.”

Krasinski began to see IFs not simply as playmates but, as he puts it, “time capsules for our hopes, dreams, ambitions.” “They are created in the moment that you had the biggest dreams,” he continues. “They could be the version of you that you dreamed of becoming. What if they never really went away? What if they’re always standing behind you and all you have to do one day is look back and see them and it all comes flooding back to you?”   

Producer Andrew Form was one of the first to read Krasinski’s family-ready script. “It was a chance for us to make a movie that would resonate with every demographic,” recalls Form. “Whether you’ve had an imaginary friend or not, you can still relate to what the characters are going through.”

While the Quiet Place films are hair-raising, world-ending thrillers, Imaginary Friends is also a portrait of another family facing a difficult time, but this one also provides plenty of laughs, says Seeger. “A Quiet Place was a metaphor about parenthood and about how far you’ll go to protect your kids,” she says. “I think Imaginary Friends is a movie for kids, parents, for every generation. It’s a coming-of-age story for everyone.”

Ryan Reynolds, whose irreverent portrayal as wisecracking superhero Deadpool made him a comic icon, brings his signature high-energy, cheeky humor to the character Cal. A role tailored for Reynolds, Cal is the only person other than Bea who sees the IFs. His mission is to provide each of the forgotten IFs with a new kid to play with, entertain and protect, but his best efforts have proved fruitless. When he and Bea join forces, however, that begins to change.

Reynolds describes Imaginary Friends as the story of a child who uses make-believe as a form of resilience. “The concept of imaginary friends is provocative and interesting,” he says. “IFs are usually created out of necessity. It’s an adaptive coping mechanism for kids who realize that they can’t rely exclusively on their parents for a sense of well-being. They have to find other ways to manage. They seek it by creating their own imaginary friends.”

Reynolds himself had an imaginary friend named Pookie. “He looked like a teddy bear,” the actor recalls. “My brother Jeff and I shared this imaginary friend back and forth. It was a kind of weird bond we had. It’s something we still talk about today.”

The myriad shapes that Imaginary Friends‘ imaginary friends take are as boundless as a child’s imagination. Each of Krasinski’s endearing creations came into the world with a specific purpose that is reflected in the form they take. “John gave a lot of thought to why a person would create their specific IF,” notes Seeger. “So each one of them has a story behind it.”

For Krasinski, those back stories had to be as real as those of the human characters. “They live every day with a purpose,” he says. “Each one is a projection of real things in a kid’s life. He or she might invent a big imaginary friend to keep them safe or a really funny character to help them through sad times.”

Krasinski cast Steve Carell, with whom the director worked in the beloved comedy series “The Office,” to give voice to Blue, the lovable, extra-large, and notably purple imaginary friend. “Everyone calls him Blue, but he is purple,” says Form. “John decided that the child who invented him was color-blind. Blue is very lovable, and like all IFs, just wants to get back to the kid who created him and reclaim that life.”

Another of the instantly appealing IFs is Blossom, a beautiful, ballet-dancing butterfly the size of a child. “She’s little and she’s gorgeous,” according to Fleming. “She’s also very calm and cool, which makes her the most level-headed IF.”

Blossom, who bears a resemblance to 1930s animated “It Girl” Betty Boop, is voiced by English actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator, and star of the award-winning television series “Fleabag.” “It’s really fun to see Blossom come to life through Phoebe, who’s charming, warm and funny but can also be wryly witty,” Seeger says.

Krasinski was writing the character while he and his family were living in London. He says he arranged to meet Waller-Bridge there because he is a huge fan. “When Phoebe asked me what I was doing next, I told her I was doing a movie about imaginary friends,” he shares. “As I started writing, only weeks later I called her and asked, ‘Would you ever want to be in the movie because now all I can do is write for your voice. And she said yes.’”

To give voice to Lewis, the elderly, human-sized teddy bear and leader of the IFs, Krasinski cast Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. “Lewis is the heart and soul of the movie,” Seeger explains. “He takes us deep into the world of the IFs. And to capture the singular voice and spirit of Louis Gossett Jr., who bestows this life experience and knowledge on Bea, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Amongst the dream cast, Bradley Cooper voices an ice cube in a half-filled glass of water. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco gives voice to Magician Mouse, the overworked partner to a little boy who loved performing magic tricks. Sam Rockwell plays superhero Guardian Dog, who fears that no one is watching over Poughkeepsie, which was once his jurisdiction. Christopher Meloni, of “Law & Order” fame, provides the voice of Cosmo, the Cold War superspy IF. Two-time Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins plays the art teacher in the IF retirement home, and Matt Damon steps into the role of a walking, talking flower. Other voices include Awkwafina as Bubble, Jon Stewart as Robot, George Clooney as Spaceman, Keegan-Michael Key as Slime, Matthew Rhys as Ghost, Amy Schumer as Gummy Bear, among others. “One of my kids’ favorites is Octopuss (voiced by Blake Lively), the only cat not afraid of water,” Krasinski shares. “She actually identifies more as an octopus and dresses up like one every day.”

Krasinski’s daughters originated two of the other animated characters: Ally, a pink alligator, was an imaginary friend that lived under their bed, voiced in the film by the hilarious Maya Rudolph, and one of IF’s more unusual characters, Marshmallow, who Krasinski actually voices. And, just to keep it all in the family, there’s a unicorn IF that is voiced by Emily Blunt.

With a long list of fantastical creatures on the page, Krasinski and his team were facing the question of how to bring them to life on screen. After initially considering puppets for the roles, Krasinski viewed a trailer for Christopher Robin, a film that combined live action with animation to bring author A.A. Milne’s beloved characters to life. After learning the effects were created by London-based Framestore, the filmmakers contacted the three-time Academy Award-winning visual effects house.

Filming for Imaginary Friendsbegan in September 2022 and shot for 50 days entirely in New York City, primarily in Brooklyn. Growing up in Boston, says Krasinski, his idea of the city came from some of his favorite films, from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York to Midnight Cowboy. While he and his family now live in New York, it still holds the same magic for him. “So many movies I grew up watching that became an integral part of my film experience were shot there. When I was a kid, I’d wish I could experience New York the same way that Macaulay Culkin did.”

He remembers his mother telling him that, to her, a good movie introduced her to interesting characters in a place she’d like to visit. “I tried to abide by that advice in Imaginary Friends” he says. “We have this wonderful girl in New York City, where she hasn’t been in a really long time, and we discover the city with her. To be able to shoot on those streets has always felt like an unattainable dream, especially seeing it through the eyes of a kid. There is so much wonder in New York, from Rockefeller Center to Coney Island to the amazing Sesame Street-like streets in Brooklyn.”

Imaginary Friends marks the first time Krasinski has worked with Kamiński, the two-time Academy Award-winning director of photography known for his longtime collaboration with Steven Spielberg. A fan of Krasinski’s acclaimed Quiet Place films, Kamiński says he was attracted to the simplicity of the story. “It’s a very sweet movie in a sense, but it plays on all kinds of different emotions. Knowing John was going to direct, I felt this could be a very interesting adventure. Imagination is one of the most important aspects of being human. Along with art, it is one of the two elements that make us different from other creatures.”

John Krasinski’s vision for Imaginary Friendspermeates every aspect of the film, from the visual effects to the music, the cinematography, and, of course, the performances. He says he hopes audiences come away from the movie with the idea that imagination is not just for children. “It is something that we all have within us, but we forget to tap into it. It’s the reason we love music, the reason we love movies, the reason we love telling jokes — because there is a child inside all of us.” He continues, “I think we were all convinced at a young age that we had to be adults faster than we were supposed to. And the truth is, you can bring the child inside of you out at any age you are.”

His goal for Imaginary Friends is that kids run out laughing and wanting to pick up a stuffed animal version of an imaginary friend, and that adults are inspired to remember their inner child. “Adults will not only get to see the world through the eyes of a child, they will realize that this time capsule full of hopes, dreams, and ambitions never goes away. That imaginary friend has been standing right there inspiring you to live your life with joy. So I think this movie is certainly not just a kid’s movie. It’s a movie for everyone.”

Seeger sees the film as a story of healing through the limitless power of the imagination. “If nothing else, the desire is that when everybody walks out of the movie, they’re all the more hopeful that they can be whoever they want, and whoever they dreamed they could be,” she concludes.

As with the uplifting YouTube series “Some Good News” that Krasinski created during the pandemic, he made Imaginary Friends with the same intention: To make people feel good. “You step into that theatre with whatever was on your back during the day and this movie will not only transport you to a magical place where you can experience something that you’ve never experienced before, but that it will also allow you to look at the world in a different way – with more hope.”

JOHN KRASINSKI has established himself as one of the most exciting talents as an actor, writer, and director, engaging audiences on the big and small screen. 

Krasinski co-wrote, directed, and starred in the 2019 Academy Award®-nominated A Quiet Place, which was also nominated for a PGA Award, WGA Award for Krasinski for Screenplay, and won star Emily Blunt the SAG® Award for Best Supporting Actress, and was named one of AFI’s Top 10 Films of the Year. In 2016, Krasinski directed and starred in The Hollars with Richard Jenkins and Anna Kendrick. Krasinski made his directorial debut by adapting and directing the David Foster Wallace book Brief Interviews with Hideous Men which premiered at Sundance and was released by IFC. Most recently, Krasinski released A Quiet Place: Part II, which he wrote and directed. The film had the biggest opening weekend of any film during the pandemic and was nominated for multiple awards, including a BAFTA. 

Krasinski formed his award-winning independent production company, Sunday Night, in 2013 with Allyson Seeger. Upcoming, they will produce the psychological horror Apartment 7A starring Julia Garner with Natalie Erika James directing. As a continuation of the A Quiet Place series, Krasinski will produce the spin-off prequel A Quiet Place: Day One, with Michael Sarnoski directing. Krasinski also created and hosted the massively successful web series “Some Good News.” The series’ episodes have amassed over 75 million views.

Krasinski notably starred on NBC’s Emmy®-winning smash hit “The Office” for nine seasons, where he portrayed Jim Halpert. He most recently starred in the highly acclaimed hit thriller “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”for Amazon which premiered its fourth and final season in 2023. 

His film credits include the Gus Van Sant directed Promise Land, which he also wrote with Matt Damon; he lent his voice in Disney Pixar’s Monsters University and DC League of Super-Pets; legendary Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film The Wind Rises; and Cameron Crowe’s Aloha; Michael Bay’s Benghazi thriller 13 Hours; the uplifting family film Big Miracle; Something Borrowed; Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated; Sam Mendes’ Away We Go; the animated smash hits Monsters Vs. Aliens and Shrek the Third;  George Clooney’s Leatherheads; Ken Kwapis’ License to Wed; Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration; Bill Condon’s Kinsey; and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Composer Charles Gounod. Librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré

17,18,19,21 May 2024 /215 minutes

Two singers at the height of their powers—radiant soprano Nadine Sierra and tenor sensation Benjamin Bernheim—come together as the star-crossed lovers in Gounod’s sumptuous Shakespeare adaptation, with Met Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium to conduct one of the repertoire’s most romantic scores. Bartlett Sher’s elegant staging also features baritone Will Liverman and tenor Frederick Ballentine as the archrivals Mercutio and Tybalt, mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey as the mischievous pageboy Stéphano, and bass-baritone Alfred Walker as Frère Laurent. READ SYNOPSIS

Charles Gounod (1818–93) showed early promise as a musician and achieved commercial success with his opera Faust in 1859. Among his most famous works is a setting of the Ave Maria based on a piece by J. S. Bach. Jules Barbier (1825–1901) and Michel Carré (1821–72) were the leading librettists of their time in France, providing the text for many other operas, including Faust for Gounod, Mignon (also from Goethe) and Hamlet for Ambroise Thomas, and Les Contes d’Hoffmann for Jacques Offenbach.

Gounod infuses this classic drama with an elegant musical aura that reflects the soaring poetry of the original. When the composer explores the darker and more violent side of the story, his music creates drama without resorting to bombast. A reserved melancholy creates all the necessary tension. For the story’s more lighthearted moments, Gounod supplied the sort of buoyant melodies that made his Faust a huge hit with audiences. Midway through Act I, the heroine takes the stage with the giddy coloratura gem “Je veux vivre dans ce rêve.” Moments such as these add musical and dramatic texture to the tragedy, admired for its contrast of light and dark.

World premiere: Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, 1867. Perhaps the most enduringly successful of the many operatic settings of the world’s consummate love story, Roméo et Juliette is an excellent example of French Romanticism, a tradition that values subtlety, sensuality, and graceful vocal delivery over showy effects. In the opera there is a slight shift of focus away from the word games of the original play and a greater focus on the two lovers, who are given four irresistible duets, including a brief final reunion in the tomb scene that does not appear in the play.

In Shakespeare’s lifetime, Italy was a land of many small city-states in constant warfare with one another, but this same country was also the cradle of the Renaissance, with its astounding explosion of art and science. The image invoked by the story’s setting in the ancient city of Verona, then, is a beautiful but dangerous world where poetry or violence might erupt at any moment. The Met’s production moves the action to the 18th century.

7,8,9,11 June 2024 / 170 minutes

Puccini’s bittersweet love story returns to cinemas, with soprano Angel Blue starring as the French courtesan Magda, opposite tenor Jonathan Tetelman as Ruggero, an idealistic young man who offers her an alternative to her life of excess. Maestro Speranza Scappucci conducts Nicolas Joël’s Art Deco–inspired staging, which transports audiences from the heart of Parisian nightlife to a dreamy vision of the French Riviera. Soprano Emily Pogorelc and tenor Bekhzod Davronov complete the sterling cast as Lisette and Prunier. READ SYNOPSIS

Initially conceived as an operetta before receiving the full operatic treatment, this bittersweet love story is the least-known work of the mature Giacomo Puccini, largely due to the circumstances of its premiere: Italy and Austria became enemies during World War I, precluding a Vienna premiere, and the opera quietly opened in neutral Monte Carlo, never finding a permanent place in the repertoire. That loss is scandalous, since La Rondine, judged on its own merits rather than compared to other operas with similar themes, is a fascinating work—featuring an abundance of exuberant waltzes, a lightness of tone (particularly in the intoxicating first two acts), and a romantic vision of Paris and the south of France.

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world’s opera companies. Giuseppe Adami (1878–1946) provided Puccini with the libretto for La Rondine and would later work with him on Il Tabarro and Turandot. Viennese author, journalist, and composer Alfred Maria Willner (1859–1929) and his collaborator Heinz Reichert (1877–1940), who wrote operetta libretti for several of the most popular composers of the day, supplied the opera’s outline.

The score of La Rondine is sophisticated and economical—and entirely engrossing. It flows with the sort of melody that could only come from Puccini, including the dreamy dance sequences in Act II and the ensemble in the same scene, “Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso,” as well as the opera’s most famous aria, Act I’s “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta.”

Each of the three acts of La Rondine evokes a different aspect of French life, as well as a different take on the nature of love. Act I is set in Magda’s elegant salon;  Act II is set in the raucous Bal Bullier, a famous Latin Quarter dance hall; and Act III is set outside Nice on the French Riviera. The Met’s current, Art Deco­­–inspired production places the action in the 1920s.

Composer Giacomo Puccini. Librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.

5,6,7,9 July 2024 / 195 minutes

Extraordinary soprano Asmik Grigorian tackles the demanding role of Cio-Cio-San, the loyal geisha at the heart of Puccini’s devastating tragedy. Tenor Jonathan Tetelman stars as the callous American naval officer Pinkerton, whose betrayal destroys her. Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong reprises the role of the steadfast maid Suzuki, and baritone Lucas Meachem is the American consul Sharpless. Acclaimed maestro Xian Zhang takes the podium to conduct Anthony Minghella’s vivid production. READ SYNOPSIS

The opera takes place in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki at the turn of the last century, at a time of expanding American international presence. Japan was hesitantly defining its global role, and Nagasaki was one of the country’s few ports open to foreign ships. Temporary marriages for foreign sailors were not unusual.

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his mature works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world’s opera companies. His librettists for Madama Butterfly, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, had also collaborated with the composer on his previous two operas, Tosca and La Bohème. Giacosa, a dramatist, was responsible for the stories and Illica, a poet, worked primarily on the words themselves.

Puccini achieved a new level of sophistication with his use of the orchestra in this score, with subtle colorings and sonorities throughout. But the opera rests squarely on the performer of the title role: On stage for most of the time, Cio-Cio-San is the only character that experiences true (and tragic) development. The singer must convey an astounding array of emotions and characteristics, from ethereal to fleshly to intelligent to dreamy-bordering-on-insane, to resigned in the final scene.

A dancer in the opening scene from Act I of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

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Halberg and Cohen sought to make a horror movie that would play to theatrical audiences. “Horror is best experienced in a group,” says Halberg. “There’s something so scary and fun about sitting in a dark theater with a group of strangers and going on this emotional rollercoaster.”

“It’s like being out on Halloween night and going to a haunted house with your friends,” adds Cohen. “We specifically designed this experience for the big screen.”

As they were writing, Cohen says, they noticed that in times of uncertainty—and aren’t we always in a time of uncertainty?—“people turn to tarot and astrology to try to make sense of things,” says Cohen. From there, he and Halberg could explore an age-old idea: is our future written in the stars, or do we have free will over our fates? “That’s a big, universal, global theme that connects with everybody,” Cohen continues. “But at its core, the movie for us became a story with one woman’s conversation with death – a story about her learning to process her trauma and ultimately, to let go.”

For producer Scott Glassgold, the premise tapped into one of the deepest fears human beings share – the impossibility of knowing what the future holds. That made it ripe for Cohen and Halberg’s horror treatment – especially because, incredibly, tarot had not been explored before on film. “Tarot and astrology are fascinating to me,” says the producer. “There is so much we don’t know about the cosmos, and they offer a path towards understanding this unknown. Because it is mystical in nature, inevitably it opens the door to scares. The Major Arcana in tarot, in particular, has an array of pre-existing characters which serves as the perfect jumping off point for horror characters. It is very rare for a world with such distinct iconography to have been previously unexplored cinematically. Tarot was a great opportunity to dive headfirst into such a rich, untapped universe.”

When a group of friends recklessly violates the sacred rule of Tarot readings – never use someone else’s deck – they unknowingly unleash an unspeakable evil trapped within the cursed cards. One by one, they come face to face with fate and end up in a race against death to escape the future foretold in their readings.

Anna Halberg with her writing and directing partner Spenser Cohen.

Filmmakers Anna Halberg and Spenser Cohen have been writing together since they were undergraduates at USC. Their long history of working together has given them a certain synergy. According to Spenser, “We have two brains but we function as one brain so the collaboration process between us is amazing.” They’ve always been fans of horror, with some of their favorite scary films being The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, Alien, and Silence of the Lambs.

With their imaginations brimming with ideas from their research, Halberg and Cohen brought in the experts. “We wanted the movie to be grounded in real facts and history, and tarot and astrology are two disciplines that have been around to predict the future for hundreds, maybe thousands of years,” says Halberg. “We brought in a tarot expert, Angie Banicki, who helped to bring a lot of credibility to this film; she came in to make sure that all of the things we had in the script made sense and to oversee all of our tarot spreads. Anyone who knows about astrology and tarot will see that the spreads really do line up – and there’s some fun Easter eggs in there as well.”

“Life is trying to get our attention through any means possible, and when there might be scarier stuff to process, it can appear in interesting ways,” says Banicki. “I think the way the world is shifting, we are all looking for answers and signs more than ever.  We all are feeling more of the feels.  I have people come to tell me stories about feeling someone breathing on them in hotel rooms, or seeing objects move, or having lights go on and off, or just feeling like someone is with them.”

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In the film, the characters read their fortunes through a sophisticated zodiac spread: twelve cards arrayed in a circle, with one card representing each sign of the zodiac, and each card bringing its own symbolism – mood, relationships, needs, goals. At the center of the circle is a thirteenth card, representing the overall theme of the tarot spread, giving clarity to the other cards.

“We definitely went through the whole tarot deck and talked about cards that are scarier or have darker context,” says Banicki. “Lots of the scarier cards from the Rider-Waite are shown in the film – Death, Ten of Swords, Nine of Swords, Tower, The Devil.”

“There was nothing that was inherently scary to us about horoscopes but what was scary to us and something we’ve always been fascinated with is the idea of Tarot cards and Tarot readings,” says Halberg. “There’s something really terrifying about this idea that you could potentially know the future so we came up with this original idea and went back to Sony.”

“One of the first things we decided was tone,” says Cohen. “We wrote this during COVID, a time where we were all locked in and feeling miserable. We knew we wanted to tell a fun tale that was also scary. It was important that we were able to achieve both those things. A lot of the world was depressing and bleak and a lot of the stuff that was being made felt the same. Even though we love those movies and there’s a time and place for them, we wanted to recapture the feel of movies we loved when we were kids like Jurassic Park, Poltergeist, and films like that. When we set out we wanted to make a film that felt like a mix between James Wan and Stephen Spielberg. When it’s scary, it’s scary. When it’s fun, it’s fun. And in between there’s suspense, great characters, and emotion. That was what we set out to do before we wrote a single word.”

© 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Spenser and I have written features before and we’ve produced features before but this is the first time we’ve directed a feature. It’s so fun to come up with something in your head, write it down on a piece of paper, and then be able to bring it to life. I really do feel like the end product of this movie is not only what we set out to make, not only in the tone but in the visuals, but is also the story we wanted to tell. I feel so lucky that we had the opportunity to do that. Doing this project reinforced what we already knew, which is that you can make a bad movie from a good script but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script. Meaning, everything starts with the words on the page. It’s part of the reason I feel so lucky Spenser and I have spent so much time working on writing because it really did inform the process.”

ANNA HALBERG (director / writer / executive producer) is a Japanese American who has worked with many of the industry’s leading film and television studios including Walt Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros., Amblin, and Lionsgate. This year, in addition to Tarot, Halberg has two additional feature films being released: Distant (Amblin / Universal), a sci-fi thriller starring Anthony Ramos and Naomi Scott, which she produced; and House/Wife (Netflix), a suspense thriller starring Alice Braga, which she co-wrote and executive produced. Last year, Halberg was an executive producer on the feature film Expend4bles (Lionsgate) and she wrapped production on an original television series, “Ballistic” (New Regency), starring Jennifer Carpenter, which she wrote, created, and served as co-showrunner. In 2022, Halberg created, wrote, produced, and directed the narrative podcast “Classified” (QCode), starring Wyatt Russell. She is currently adapting the show into a television series with UCP and showrunner Patrick MacManus (“Dr. Death” / “Homecoming”)Also in 2022, her short format project Blink (Sony Pictures) premiered at the SXSW film festival. Most recently, Halberg finished writing the feature project The Wand for Amblin, based on an original idea by Steven Spielberg; she is also attached to write and produce the feature project Tuf Voyaging, based on a novel by George R.R. Martin. Halberg is currently writing the original feature Raindrop for Amazon and the Tomorrow Studios TV series “Rat Queens,” based on the #1 NYT bestselling series.  Halberg’s previous television projects include “Stay” (FreeForm / WBTV, with director Jon Turteltaub, starring Skeet Ulrich and Sosie Bacon), “The Dark Side” (ABC Signature / Black Label, with director Joseph Kosinski), “Fabled” (Legendary Pictures, starring Tom Hardy), “Epiphany” (CW / WBTV, with director Lee Toland Krieger), “Mythos” (USA / UCP and Charlize Theron’s Denver & Delilah) and the unscripted series “Macklemore’s Big Surprise” and “Nick Cannon’s  Big Surprise” (E! / eOne). Her previous feature projects include The Gateway (Lionsgate), starring Olivia Munn, Frank Grillo, and Bruce Dern, which she executive produced, and the Netflix feature film Extinction (Netflix), starring Michael Peña and Lizzy Caplan, which she co-produced. After graduating from the University of Southern California’s prestigious Film and Television Production program, Halberg produced over 100 commercial campaigns for brands including Facebook (directed by Michel Gondry), Gap, Marvel, Visa, McDonalds, Smirnoff, American Express, and Chevy.

SPENSER COHEN (director / writer / executive producer) has worked with many of the industry’s leading film and television studios including Walt Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros., Amblin, and Lionsgate. This year, in addition to Tarot, Cohen has two feature films being released – Distant (Amblin / Universal), a sci-fi thriller starring Anthony Ramos and Naomi Scott, which he wrote, and House/Wife (Netflix), a suspense thriller starring Alice Braga, which he co-wrote and executive produced. Last year, Cohen was a writer and executive producer on the feature film Expend4bles (Lionsgate) and he wrapped production on an original television series, “Ballistic”(New Regency), starring Jennifer Carpenter, which he co-wrote, co-created, and served as co-showrunner. In 2022, Cohen co-created, co-wrote, produced, and co-directed the narrative podcast “Classified” (QCode), starring Wyatt Russell. He is currently adapting the show into a television series with UCP and showrunner Patrick MacManus (“Dr. Death” / “Homecoming”). Also in 2022, his short format project Blink (Sony Pictures) premiered at the SXSW film festival. Most recently, Cohen finished writing the feature project The Wand for Amblin, based on an original idea by Steven Spielberg; he is also attached to write and produce feature project Tuf Voyaging, based on a novel by George R.R. Martin. Cohen is currently writing the original feature Raindrop for Amazon and Tomorrow Studios’ TV series “Rat Queens,” based on the #1 NYT bestselling series.  Previous television projects include “Stay” (FreeForm / WBTV, with director Jon Turteltaub, starring Skeet Ulrich and Sosie Bacon), “The Dark Side” (ABC Signature / Black Label, with director Joseph Kosinski), “FABLED” (Legendary Pictures, starring Tom Hardy), “EPIPHANY” (CW / WBTV, with director Lee Toland Krieger), “Mythos” (USA / UCP and Charlize Theron’s Denver & Delilah) and the unscripted series “Macklemore’s Big Surprise” and “Nick Cannon’s Big Surprise” (E! / eOne). His previous feature projects include Moonfall (Lionsgate), directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson, which he executive produced and co-wrote, and Netflix’s feature film Extinction (Netflix), starring Michael Peña and Lizzy Caplan, which he co-wrote. After graduating from the University of Southern California’s prestigious Film and Television Production program, Cohen directed dozens of commercials and music videos.

Pictured: Noa (played by Owen Teague) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Wes Ball, the all-new action-adventure spectacle, 20th Century Studios’ Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes was written by Josh Friedman, based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and is set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously, and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all he has known about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

20th Century Studios set out to revive the immensely popular “Planet of the Apes” franchise in 2011 with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” directed by Rupert Wyatt, which grossed over $480 million worldwide at the box office. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” directed by Matt Reeves, was released three years later, in 2014, grossing over $710 million worldwide. “War for the Planet of the Apes,” also directed by Reeves, followed in 2017 and grossed over $490 million worldwide.

Proximus Caesar (played by Kevin Durand) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

All three films utilized state-of-the-art performance capture technology to bring the apes to life, and each one was nominated for an Oscar® for best achievement in visual effects.

Following the success of the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy–which began with a man-made simian virus spreading across the globe and goes on to show the demise of humankind and the rise of the ape species, all through the eyes of Caesar–20th Century Studios was eager to continue with the popular franchise. But first and foremost, any new stories must be fresh, feature all-new characters, and create a new era for the “Planet of the Apes.”

Director Wes Ball on the set of 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo by Jasin Boland. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Ball approached “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” as a film that honors the previous “Planet of the Apes” trilogy, but it is not a direct sequel…in fact, it carves its own unique path. “We’re in the same universe, but it’s really a story about rebirth and a new beginning, a new chapter in this long-spanning legacy of movies,” he says. “I had this simple concept of a coming-of-age story of a young ape and these extraordinary events that force him out to a world that he doesn’t know anything about. And we learn what has transpired since Caesar died, which in this movie is several hundred years, and it’s about his education and his awakening to a larger world and larger ideas.”

“It’s a romantic world, not a destroyed apocalyptic world,” Ball adds. “Noa encounters competing ideas of who Caesar was. Proximus Caesar has taken Caesar’s mantle and claimed it as his own. Raka has a very different idea. So, there are interesting parallels to our own mythic and religious stories. In a way, Caesar’s torch gets passed to Noa by the end of the movie, and Noa becomes the carrier of the idea of who Caesar truly was.”

(L-R): Soona (played by Lydia Peckham) and Noa (played by Owen Teague) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

For producer Jason Reed, Ball is the key to the success of the new film. “For me, the most important differentiator was Wes’ vision and skill,” Reed adds. “He has such a strong sense of story and character, but also brings a technical knowledge that would allow him to expand the canvas and to really take advantage of technology not just for the ‘whiz-bang’ factor, but to get deeper into the emotional content of the characters. I think that’s what really sets this film apart.”

“It was a really wonderful collaborative experience,” says Kevin Durand. “From the very beginning when Wes was first telling me about the world he was imagining, it was so inspirational. It was so wonderful to have his perspective and guidance.”

A scene still from 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Watching 1968’s Planet of the Apes over and over for years since childhood, “It felt like a historical epic,” says Ball. “This time-traveling astronaut fell into a world that felt somewhat medieval, populated by these apes, and it was one of my first introductions to sci-fi. The reveal at the end was a mind-blowing idea that triggered my fascination with the end of the world.”

The visionary filmmaker made his mark in Hollywood in 2014 with the hit film “The Maze Runner,” which grossed more than $348 million worldwide. “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” and “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” both of which Ball directed, followed in 2015 and 2018, respectively.  The “Maze Runner” trilogy has grossed close to $1 billion at the box office.

It was 2019 when Ball was first asked about the possibility of reviving the iconic franchise, but he wasn’t interested initially. “The truth is, I initially said ‘no way,’” admits Ball. “How do you follow up those last three movies? I wasn’t interested in following the adventures of Caesar’s son, although there’s a great story to be told there. At the same time, I didn’t want to abandon what Matt Reeves and Rupert Wyatt had created in the Caesar trilogy. What they had done was phenomenal filmmaking.”

(L-R): Noa (played by Owen Teague), Soona (played by Lydia Peckham), and Anaya (played by Travis Jeffery) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“Story-wise, these films resonate with people because they have sci-fi concepts, and they tackle issues of humanity,” Ball continues. “They deal with issues like class and race, about what it means to be human, and allow us to look at, analyze, and pinpoint deep issues about ourselves. They hold a mirror up to society and compel us to look at problems we as humans face through the lens of this fantastical world.”

A week later, however, an idea took shape in Ball’s mind. It was a concept that immediately energized him, taking place hundreds of years after the death of Caesar at the end of “War for the Planet of the Apes,” and was a story with a different tone…more of an adventure. “It was the story of a young, naïve ape who doesn’t know anything about the outside world, which is a world in which Caesar has become a legend,” explains Ball. “If the last three movies were the apes in their stone age, now they’re entering their bronze age. We’re starting to see cultures develop within different clans. We see what has happened to the world that was left behind, what’s eroded in the absence of humanity.”

A visually awe-inspiring opening sequence, in which Noa–the young ape at the center of the story–scales a mountainous, overgrown structure to secure an eagle’s egg, was the second element of Ball’s concept. “The third element was an adversarial figure for Noa,” he continues, “a character who became Proximus Caesar in the script. This antagonist knows about the world that came before and wants to salvage artifacts from it to build a kingdom in which advanced apes have primacy.”

After approaching executives at 20th Century Studios with the idea, Ball met with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who had conceived the Caesar trilogy and written the screenplay for Avatar: The Way of Water, and who would go on to become producers on the new film. “It was a big round table,” recalls Ball. “I had some key artwork created, and I pitched my heart out. I could see this little sparkle in Rick and Amanda’s eyes. At the end of the pitch, they said, ‘Let’s get started!’” 

The film introduces new characters and storylines, but for fans of the franchise, there are references to Caesar, whom Ball calls “one of the great protagonists in film history.”

“Caesar is in this new movie, spiritually, throughout everything,” Ball explains. “His ideas of morality and decency and his relationship with humans–all that is explored through an almost mythical lens that I think is exciting.”

(L-R): Anaya (played by Travis Jeffery), Noa (played by Owen Teague), and Soona (played by Lydia Peckham) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“We met with Wes and Joe and were taken with Wes’ ideas, artwork, and enthusiasm,” recalls Silver. “It was a meeting of hearts and minds.”

Jaffa agrees, saying, “We shared a mutual love of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise and a mutual vision for where it could go. Four years later, it’s still an extremely productive collaboration.”

Joe Hartwick Jr., a producer on all three “Maze Runner” films, worked with Ball from the outset. “After the pitch, Rick and Amanda hooked us up with screenwriter Josh Friedman (War of the World’), who had worked with them on the story for Avatar: The Way of Water and came on board to write the screenplay,” says Hartwick. “We spent five months working with Josh on ideas for how Wes’ concept could develop, and Rick and Amanda were instrumental in that process.”

Friedman crucially helped develop the Nova (Freya Allan’s character) storyline–the human presence. “I remember Josh said, ‘You want to do a Kurosawa film with apes,’” recalls Ball. “That’s what it is in a way. This epic adventure of a character who meets multiple points of view as he learns about the world around him, the history of apes, and the history of humans and their relationship with each other.”

Whereas “War for the Planet of the Apes” was a Moses story with Caesar, a leader with the weight of the world on his shoulders, suffering for his people and delivering them ultimately to a promised land, this film is about discovery. It is a coming-of-age story and an adventure set in an evolved universe where we can see the decay and how nature has reclaimed the earth. “I thought it would be really fun to see our world happen when humans are gone essentially,” Ball explains, “and the setting in the remains of our world. I loved the idea that buildings and what’s left of buildings, anyway, are crumbling away, and glass doesn’t exist anymore cause it’s all broken out through erosion and time. I loved the idea of the world transforming back into this landscape that is actually buildings that are now overgrown with trees.”

As for when the new story would take place, the filmmakers agreed that it should be set hundreds of years after the events of “War for the Planet of the Apes,” in a time when the written word no longer exists. Ball explains, “We never really put a date on it to be honest, which was a brilliant move on our writers’ part. It is many, many generations later, but it can be whatever you want because it is people’s determination of how long they think it really is based on the visuals.”

Freya Allan as Nova in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

When Jason Reed (Mulan) came on as a producer, he was drawn in by the new explorations the screenplay opened. “It’s an honor to be able to work on a touchstone of science fiction and one of the most important franchises since the 1960s,” says Reed. “I think the reason it has continued to connect to audiences is because it explores fundamental questions about what it is to be human and how we think about ourselves in relation to other humans and other species. What Wes, Joe, and the other writers were able to achieve was to create something connected to the tradition, yet that feels completely fresh and digs deep into what the future looks like and how that impacts people emotionally.”

Jaffa says, “Generations after Caesar’s death, we were excited to explore his legacy as a great ape leader. Caesar’s moral compass was true, but he struggled to reconcile his love for his human family with his knowledge of human cruelty.”

Silver adds, “Thematically, the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise has always asked: Is there room for competing intelligent species on one planet? In ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,’ we once again investigate this question.”

Director Wes Ball on the set of 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo by Jasin Boland. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

WES BALL (Director/Producer) grew up in Lake Como, Fla., and attended Florida State University, where he earned a BFA in film. There, Ball first gained attention for his student short, “A Work in Progress,” which was honored with a Student Academy Award. In 2012 Ball created, produced, and directed the original 3D short film “Ruin.” He released it online and it went viral, garnering critical acclaim and over 27 million views to date. That same week the studio began talks for him to direct his first feature film, The Maze Runner. Produced for $34 million, “The Maze Runner” went on to make $350 million worldwide and launched a franchise. He went on to direct the rest of the trilogy, including Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. Both subsequent movies were worldwide hits, and the franchise has grossed close to $1 billion at the box office to date.

JOSH FRIEDMAN (Writer) collaborated with James Cameron on the “Avatar” sequels, co-writing “Avatar 4” with Cameron. He created and executive produced Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” as well as sharing a story credit on “Terminator: Dark Fate.” He also co-created NBC’s “Emerald City,” TNT/TBS’s “Snowpiercer,” and Apple’s “Foundation,” based on the Isaac Asimov novels. Friedman co-wrote Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” based on the H.G. Wells novel, and wrote the film “Black Dahlia” based on the James Ellroy book. He most recently worked on the new “Fantastic Four” movie for Marvel.

Justin Kuritzkes

The story of Challengers had a unique beginning for playwright and novelist Justin Kuritzkes, who makes his debut as a screenwriter. Productions of his plays have been staged by The New Group, Jack, and Actors Theatre of Louisville. His debut novel, Famous People, was published by Henry Holt in 2019.

Kuritzkes was researching the life of his grandfather, who served as bureau president of Queens, New York (home of the U.S. Open, among other tennis landmarks) in the 1980s. As he delved into the history of the Arthur Ashe Stadium — home to the Open since 1997 — Kuritzkes happened to watch a controversial match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka in 2019.

“I had not been much of a tennis fan, but my family is full of tennis fans,” says Kuritzkes. “Watching Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka in the finals together, there was a controversial call about Williams receiving coaching from the sidelines. I had never heard of that, but it clicked with me as an intensely cinematic situation.”

“That idea then started brewing in my head,” the screenwriter continues. “Then, parallel to that, I became a legitimate tennis fan and began watching what are called ‘Challenger’ events, which are in the lower tier in the world of pro tennis tournaments. I thought it would be an interesting place for two guys who hadn’t seen each other in a long time to meet again.”

The unexpected player in this dynamic is Tashi Duncan, a young tennis phenom who — in the tradition of the greatest love triangles — throws off the relationship between Patrick Zweig and Art Donaldson (the players meeting again in a Challenger event). In addition to sparking desire in both Art and Patrick, Tashi brings out emotions and attraction between them that they’ve never truly acknowledged. Tashi is a strong, self-assured, forthright woman, even as a teenager; throughout the story, we see her overcome some setbacks while pivoting from others. Tashi’s sometimes mischievous demeanor coexists with the fact that she demands the best from herself and others, especially when it comes to tennis.

“Love triangles are one of the most basic plots in cinema,” says Kuritzkes . “Even in a relationship between two people, there’s always a sort of imagined third presence.” I ask what that third presence might be. “Well, for a lot of people, it’s, like, Jesus,” he jokes. “Or it’s their conception of themselves, or their parents, or their friends. But in a love triangle, that third presence is not imagined.” Either way, he says, the parallels between his life and Past Lives or Challengers don’t matter: “Once it gets transformed into a work of art, the connection between that and the real thing is irrelevant. That’s just fuel that you’re using to propel a vehicle.”

Director Luca Guadagnino on the set of CHALLENGERS, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Niko Tavernise / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), Challengers has has a nonlinear style, but that connection between the characters is clear and compelling. When we meet them, Patrick (Josh O’Connor) and Art (Mike Faist) are choosing between college and careers, having been roommates at a tennis boarding school since they were 12. Best friends and friendly rivals, the two are known on the tennis circuit as “Fire & Ice.” When they meet Tashi (Zendaya), she’s already a star ascending — fast — and her magnetism on the court precedes her. As Tashi enters their lives, a rivalry for her affection splits Patrick and Art apart, even as she makes them realize the love that anchors their friendship.

As the story bounces through a dynamic, interweaving storyline that travels back and forth in these characters’ lives, framed by a revelatory “challengers” tennis match between Art and Patrick that takes place 13 years since they met Tashi — after an injury changed her trajectory, after Art and Tashi married and had a daughter, after Patrick makes Tashi and Art reconsider everything. Through a narrative that volleys between the early aughts and 2019, we see the paths they took, the games they played, and the passion they followed. It’s Tashi’s power, emotionally and romantically, that both pivots and anchors the connection they all have.

C_05746_R2 Mike Faist stars as Art and Josh O’Connor as Patrick in director Luca Guadagnino’s CHALLENGERS An Amazon MGM Studios film Photo credit: Niko Tavernise © 2024 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“The complications of a relationship fascinate me,” continues Guadagnino. “Relationships come with control over the other, but at the end of the day, they also come with control within yourself. Those were elements that for me were very important. I didn’t know anything about tennis, but my job as a filmmaker is to study and discover things I didn’t know before. It was a great opportunity for me to understand how the dynamic of desire, and the dynamics of control and self-control, are mirrored in the beauty and athleticism of the game of tennis.”

Says Guadagnino, “I conceived of the whole story to be as much ‘entertainment’ as possible — and when I use that word, I mean it as an art, as something pure: I want audiences to be amused by watching imagery on screen; that for me is the highest and purest form of cinema.

Deep in the grips of tennis mania, Kuritzkes had begun to wonder what could make watching the game even more interesting. “If I knew exactly what was at stake on an emotional level beyond the court for the people playing and the people watching, that would be just eating a plate of chocolate truffles to me.” His agent sent the script to the producers, Amy Pascal and Rachel O’Connor, who got it to Zendaya, who loved it. The actress wanted both to star and to co-produce. “One of the things I remember saying to Zendaya when we first met was that the cultural space that Zendaya occupies in the world is the space that the character Tashi was supposed to occupy — that was the life she was supposed to have,” says Kuritzkes. “I think she really connected with that ambition and that pain.” The producers and Zendaya who got Guadagnino onboard.

Justin Kuritzkes on the set of Challengers

With Challengers, Kuritzkes became part of a machine: He was working with Guadagnino and the film’s tennis consultant, the coach and commentator Brad Gilbert, on the many gameplay scenes, which were choreographed like fights. Each one had to be shot with both body doubles and the actors, and only Faist came in with tennis experience. “During breaks, we would sometimes pick up racquets and play. I have really funny videos on my phone of Luca,” says Kuritzkes, smiling. “It was so adorable. He just couldn’t hit the ball to save his life.”

Kuritzkes says that he always imagined a charge between Art and Patrick — “There is eroticism present in every intimate friendship, especially one between two guys who have spent their lives in locker rooms and dorm rooms and on the court together” — and that Guadagnino’s interpretation pushed it further. Mostly, though, the boys are each other’s foils, with Patrick always willing to play the heel. In Guadagnino’s hands, this inevitably bends erotic. When the two first become infatuated with Tashi, Art says earnestly that she’s “a remarkable young woman.” Patrick replies, “I know. She’s a pillar of the community.” He lowers to a whisper: “I’d let her fuck me with a racquet.” Kuritzkes says that although none of the characters is based on a real player, it was important for Tashi to be a Black woman. “The story of American tennis is Black women for the past however many decades,” he says. “I also knew that I didn’t want to not specify the races of the characters. That always feels to me like you’re avoiding something. Her being a Black woman informs a lot about how she navigates her situation and how she navigates her relationship with these guys.” The Zendaya line making the rounds in the film’s trailer — “I’m taking such good care of my little white boys” — sounds affectionate only on paper.

When Kuritzkes was a kid, he felt bad that so many of the films he loved, like Jules et Jim and Y Tu Mamá También, were about love triangles; he felt guilty getting so much pleasure from watching a scenario in which someone was being wronged, rejected, or hurt. Now he believes movies are exactly the right place for it. “Part of the joy of watching it is thinking, At least my life isn’t as messed up as that, or, My life is as messed up as that, and thank God I’m not alone,” he says. “What’s good for art is the opposite of what’s good for life.”

As a storyteller you have to not only understand the differences between each medium, but also know what medium you are capable of writing for, and what medium will showcase your story best.

Never waste your talent or the time of others by working on a medium that you have no passion for, or are not familiar with.

As a storyteller you can explore your creative talent by writing poetry, a novel, or short story that will be on every best-seller list in the world.

You can write the play everyone will talk about; a screenplay that will warrant the attention and commitment of filmmakers, and hopefully be seen by 600 – 800 million people worldwide; or a script for television that will prevent viewers from flicking the channels.

For all their similarities (character, story, etc), plays novels and films have divergent histories with various traditions and conventions, requiring unique talents of a specific storyteller.

  • Novelists and journalists write for the page: When you are writing a story and your creative expression is mostly about thoughts, dreams and memories, you are writing a novel.
  • Screenwriters write for the screen: When you are writing a story and your creative expression is visual, filled with pictures and images, you are writing for a visual medium – it could be screenplay or for television.
  • Playwrights write for the stage: When you are writing a story and your creative expression is verbal, mostly filled with dialogue and expressive language, you are writing a play.

If you have inherent creative talent and want to communicate your thoughts with the world – writing the blockbuster, the hit play, international bestseller, or prize-winning article:

  • You have to develop a positive attitude about being a dedicated craftsman constantly mastering and perfecting the art of writing
  • You have to understand that you are different from other people in the world
  • You have to consummate your craft to overcome the many difficulties and insurmountable obstacles that may prevent you from becoming the master of your own creative universe
  • You have to know what medium your work is best suited to
  • You have to know what genre will effectively showcase your talent

In essence, the same discipline, motivation and creative process govern all creative expression. It is only the structure and format that differs. All forms of writing involve characters, dialogue and descriptive action.

Whatever has been said or written about the experience of writing from the beginning of time, it still boils down to one thing: Writing is your own, personal experience. Nobody else’s.

Writing is an amazing, almost mysterious phenomenon.

Ultimately, there are only 3 ways to write a story

  • IF the STORY you are writing happens in PICTURES, you are writing a screenplay, or for television.
  • IF the STORY you are writing happens in WORDS, you are writing a stage play.
  • IF the STORY you are writing happens in THOUGHTS and ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONS, you are writing a NOVEL or SHORT STORY.

In The Write Journey course, you will explore writing for different mediums

When you craft your story you have to offer a visual experience for the reader, making the story and characters vividly burst to life in their minds-eye.

As a novelist and screenwriter, your first reader is not the person purchasing your book or watching the movie, but a professional reader, who will give their approval or dismissal to publishers and studio executives. This is an important decision-maker in the publishing and film/television industries.

That is why it is vital for writers to master the art of visual narrative, seducing the minds of readers who will deliver a comprehensive reader’s report, detailing issues like theme, style, format, structure and characters, and give a thumbs up to those empowered to publish the book or make the film, indicating that it warrants publication or production.

Visual narrative is simply ‘colouring’ in your story and characters to enhance the emotive experience, allowing the reader to see and feel the story as it is happening.

Ultimately, it is all about the audience/readers, and it is your job as a writer to satisfy their expectations, to reward them for paying attention and taking a journey into your story, hopefully succumbing to its impact and being seduced by the magic of storytelling.

eir screenplays to novels and if it becomes a bestseller, will prompt the making of the film / TV series.

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with a dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

We want to be like this Detective in Raymond Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep. He’s our buddy, someone we can trust. Howard Hawks’ 1946 American film noir was the first film version of the 1939 novel and starred Humphrey Bogart as private detective Philip Marlowe

‘PUSHING IN on one of the falling submersibles, called MIR ONE, right up to its circular viewport to see the occupants. INSIDE, it is a cramped seven-foot sphere, crammed with equipment. ANATOLY MIKAILAVICH, the sub’s pilot, sits hunched over his controls… singing softly in Russian. Next to him on one side is BROCK LOVETT. He’s in his late forties, deeply tanned, and likes to wear his Nomex suit unzipped to show the gold from famous shipwrecks covering his grey chest hair. He is a wiley, fast-talking treasure hunter, a salvage superstar who is part historian, part adventurer and part vacuum cleaner salesman. Right now, he is propped against the CO2 scrubber, fast asleep and snoring.’

We are submerged at the bottom of the ocean with Lovett and his crew in James Cameron’s screenplay Titanic.

Bill Paxton played the character in the film.

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”

We are in orbit in Douglas Adams’ novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Holding on for dear life!

‘As we look down a gentle rain is falling steadily on a carapace of umbrellas, moving like the scales of some gigantic mythical reptile. The reptile turns out to be a well-dressed crowd swirling around the entrance to the hall and funnelling slowly into it; the same rain rolling down posters advertising the event they’ve all come to see: the debut concert of David Eli Rapoport, 21 year-old virtuoso violinist,’

The magnificent visual spleandour of the opening scene in Jeffrey Caine’s screenplay for The Song Of Names, adapted from the novel by Norman Lebrecht. We can feel the tension, the anticpation!

‘The bucolic magnificence of the Devon countryside. We fly low over the high, thick hedges untouched for hundreds of years. The thick verdant countryside in all its splendor, ancient woodlands, fields of corn, and finally a paddock in a     typical Devonshire dale. We come to rest beside three farmers standing over a pregnant mare. The mare is in distress – she is about to give birth. The farmers calm the mare and tend to her gently with assurance and authority. We pull back to see, Albert, a fifteen-year-old farm boy, watching the whole drama with delight from the paddock gate …. We follow Joey’s progress over the course of his first year. His initial fearfulness, his connection with his mother, the intimacy of their relationship. As Joey gets strong they run together, frolicking gayly in the last dregs of summer. Albert looking on. Joey notices him at the fence and they share a moment of connection … Spring: flowers are beginning to sprout by the hedgerows. Our boy Albert runs into the field. He takes an apple from his pocket – he holds it out tentatively. Joey approaches Albert with suspicion. Albert gently encourages him. His mother paws the ground and neighs at Joey. He turns and runs over the field at her beck and call. Albert tosses the apple to himself, ruefully – watches in awe as Joey races away with his mother. … He is a magnificent one year old. His distinctive red coat gleaming, now it is clear that he is half thoroughbred. He runs quickly around the field enjoying his own power and strength,’

Just as Albert bonds with Joey, so do we bond with this simple but effective bonding between a boy and his horse in the opening scene of the screenplay of War Horse, scripted by Lee Hall & Richard Curtis, based on Hall’s novel. We want to be part of their journey.

‘My landlady, Olga Kedrova, has given me a bowl of ripe tomatoes from the patch that she lies next to, sunning herself in the great white and blue afternoons of California. These tomatoes are big as my fist, bloody red of color, and firm to the touch as a young swimmer’s pectoral muscles.’

We can smell the divine decadence and fervent passion in this opening of Tennessee Williams’ short story The Mattress By The Tomato Patch.

The Opening credit sequence plays against footage of the Great Depression, images haunting and sepia-toned, defining an era. The bread lines…the soup kitchens…the dust bowl refugees heading west with their possessions on their backs and no hope in their eyes…the strutting gangster royalty flaunting their bootleg riches…an entire generation of lost youth riding the rials…the U.S. army troops raining truncheon blows on the half-starved and forgotten veterans of World War One as “Hooverville” is set afire in the very shadow of the nation’s capitol… All these faces, all these lives, in a world not really so very long ago… In a field (slow motion) …where cattails sway in the sepia-toned heat. A small scrap of fabric is snagged in the nettles, fluttering languidly… Colour bleeds slowly in as mosquitoes swarm and dragonflies skitter, showing the fabric scrap to be pale yellow… Suddenly, a Man with a shotgun comes crashing through the cattails, wiping through frame and exiting… then another man…and another…armed with rifles, ploughing through the brush, exiting frame… and now comes Klaus Detterick, a farmer one step above shirt-tail poor, a double-barrel shotgun in the crook of his arm. He pauses, horrified, seeing the scrap of cloth. He pulls it loose, turns back, screaming something in anguish…’

A magnificent description of people and places, followed by relentless tension building in the opening of he screenplay of The Green Mile written by Frank Darabont, based on a short story by Stephen King, First Draft 1997.

Watch below how this opening scene ended up in the film:

How do you learn to write great visual narrative?

There are two ways to learn how to make your story come alive, read novels and screenplays, as well as learn how to read film and television.

How to Read a Film

Also, once you are satisfied with your draft, you can submit your work to a professional story editor for fine-tuning before submitting it for publication or production.

Useful tips for writers

Master The Art Of Visual Narrative When you craft your story you have to offer a visual experience for the reader, making the story and characters vividly burst to life in their minds-eye. As a novelist and screenwriter, your first reader is not the person purchasing your book or watching the movie, but a professional reader, who will give their approval or dismissal to publishers and studio executives. This is an important decision-maker in the publishing and film/television industries. Read more

Show Don’t Tell The phrase “show, don’t tell” reminds writers to immerse the reader in the story rather than simply telling readers what’s happening. To show rather than tell is the first rule of writing, and for good reason. Read more

Regulate the Heartbeat of your Story If your story has a healthy heart, it will result in happy readers and audiences. Writing is an organic process that needs lots of blank space to grow. Your writing will be at its best if it’s driven by raw emotion, by inspirational personal experiences that shaped your life, reflecting your true self. Read more

Manipulate Emotions The storyteller is the puppet master of emotions. A writer is the puppet master of emotions, the dictator of reason, and can make anything happen in a fictional reality where everything is possible and extreme gratification is your only goal, and the audience’s ultimate payoff and reward. Read more

Don’t Get Stuck On The First Chapter Trying desperately to write the perfect story, it is easy to fall into the trap of only seeing the first chapter, constantly rewriting and rewording it to be word-perfect, and not seeing the story as a whole, complete with a beginning (set-up), middle (confrontation) and ending (resolution). It is not difficult to overcome this blinding obstacle. The first step to completing the story is to write a story outline. Read more

Bring Your Story To Life With The Right Words Word choice is an important aspect of writing that should never be overlooked. It can significantly impact the effectiveness and clarity of your writing. Through the deliberate selection of precise and evocative language, you have the power to craft enthralling and immersive content that captivates your readers / viewers / listeners and leaves a lasting impression. Strong word choice can unlock images, emotions, and more. Read more

Expose The Heart And Soul Of Your Story A story is lifeless without a heart and soul and as its creator, the writer has to bring it to life. The writer is responsible for the birth of a story, its lifespan, and the everlasting emotional impact it must have on its readers and viewers. It all begins with the written word and ends with an emotionally rewarding and fulfilling story that lives on in the minds of those who experience it. It is important for the writer to make the audience experience the story as a visceral and breathing organism. Every story has a life and it’s not simply you as a writer telling the story, but creating its vitality. Read more

Sharpen Your Instinct and Intuition When it comes to expressing inner values and establishing a personal perspective on a story, writers are often guided only by their instinct or intuition and a little luck. Instinct and intuition are essential for getting to the more meaningful, authentic aspects of a story. The starting point for any artistic creation is always at the level of intuition, because its where new ideas are conceived. New ideas seldom rise to the level of consciousness fully formed. Read more

Stop Manipulating Your Characters Everything will fall into place in your story once you allow the characters to be who they are, and not what you want them to be. As a writer, you’re a passenger on your character’s respective journeys, the creator who has to put all the pieces of the puzzle together naturally, instinctively, without too much interference and unnecessary meddling. Once you set your characters free, and allow them to reclaim their authentic selves, your true nature (and function) as a storyteller will gracefully emerge and you’ll fulfill the task of great writers, craft your story to the best of your artistic abilities, without conceit or misinterpretations. Read more

Write Your Story From The Inside Out Stop obsessing over writing a film, bestseller or play and focus your attention on writing the ultimate story. Don’t place your story into a box and smother it with conventions, rules and pre-conceived perceptions. Your story is a living, breathing organism. Let your story breathe. Writing your story is an organic process that feeds off inspiration and is fueled by passion. Read more

Explore The Thematic Purpose Of Your Story Until you know what you are trying to say, your story isn’t complete. The writing process is a search for meaning, a theme, what the story is really about, what gives it meaning and a purpose for being, besides making millions of dollars for stars and movie studios. The theme is a unifying idea or motif, repeated or developed throughout a work. Once you have something you want to write about (Idea), defined the Premise and Concept, and know what your genre is, you need to know what the intention, objective or controlling idea – theme – of your story is. Read more

Maximise Your Creative Expression All writing is discipline. Writing is a day-by-day job: you write the story scene by scene, page by page, day by day. It is an experimental and learning process involving the acquisition of skill and coordination. When you are in the writing experience, you are near your loved ones in body, but your mind and concentration are a thousand miles away. You cannot break your concentration to deal with snacks, laundry, meals or shopping. You need space, private time, support, encouragement and understanding. Read more

Sign A Contract With Yourself If you need some motivation, here’s a handy note to paste next to your bathroom mirror so that when you look at yourself in the mirror each morning, you are reminded of why you write. Say it out loud! Read more

Baby Reindeer compellingly reveals how a single act of kindness leads down a twisty road paved with hundreds of hours of voice messages and north of 40,000 emails. Much like its multihyphenate creator, the show lends itself to multiple genres, a compelling mingling of heavy emotion and humour.

The story of Baby Reindeer centers on struggling comedian Donny Dunn’s (Gadd) strange and layered relationship with a woman named Martha (Jessica Gunning), whose initially friendly demeanor unravels as she begins to stalk Donny relentlessly. 

Their first interaction is innocent enough: While working his shift as a bartender, Donny shows an act of kindness to Martha, a customer whose vulnerability is readily apparent. But, as the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished,” and this casual encounter sparks a suffocating obsession that threatens to wreck both their lives and forces Donny to face his deeply buried trauma.

Richard Gadd as Donny, Jessica Gunning as Martha. © 2022 Netflix, Inc. / Credit: Ed Miller/Netflix

While this type of storyline might seem familiar, it’s important to remember that this isn’t just a story — it’s true. Since it did come from such a personal place, Gadd consciously avoided the black-and-white, cliché-dense stalker narratives that have been done before, making sure that everyone’s humanity remains intact.

“Stalking on television tends to be very sexed-up. It has a mystique. It’s somebody in a dark alley way. It’s somebody who’s really sexy, who’s very normal, but then they go strange bit by bit,” Gadd explains. “But stalking is a mental illness. I really wanted to show the layers of stalking with a human quality I hadn’t seen on television before. It’s a stalker story turned on its head. It takes a trope and turns it on its head.”

Gadd makes clear that he didn’t want to write “a victim narrative.” He says, “I think art is quite interesting when you don’t know who you are on the side of. I wanted it to be layered, and I wanted it to capture the human experience. The human experience is that people are good, but they have bits of bad and they make mistakes.”

Accurately reflecting the human experience means the show feels like a multidimensional roller-coaster with sharp turns and steep drops, but it never feels less than aggressively honest. Undoubtedly that’s because Baby Reindeer’s authenticity stems from the most honest, unpredictable source material in existence: real life.

“It’s a true story,” Gadd says, adding that he always knew it was one he would want to tell. “In a weird way, I first started feeling like this could be a good story during the whole ordeal itself. It was one of the most intense periods, when I was listening to these voicemails. I’d go to sleep at night and these voicemails — her words would bounce around my eyelids. I remember thinking, ‘God, if I was ever to speak about this onstage, I’d fire the words around. Put the voicemails in a big cacophony and fire it.’ That’s how the play was born.”

That 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit play led us here, to a series adaptation that is no longer a one-man show, and that goes deep into a story that is not an easy one to tell. “There’s something slightly crazy about it, the whole thing, doing it — the layers upon layers,” Gadd says. “It is a heavy brew and it’s all very challenging for sure.”

For Gadd, playing a fictionalized version of himself was, he says, “all challenging. It wasn’t an easy thing to pull off. You are revisiting a period in your life, which was the worst period of your life. So it’s running back towards an awful fire you’ve been in.”

Still, though, hard as that process may have been, Gadd says, “I really threw myself in it, in a way. I wanted a certain reality and truth in the performance.” 

Sometimes in the pit of despair, inspiration emerges. I was now in the fourth year of being stalked, by a woman, whose only skill greater than her ability to harass was her ability to evade the law. She had somehow just obtained my mobile number and I was in the peak of my career at that point, having just come back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where I had won the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Monkey See Monkey Do. A show which tackled the sexual abuse I suffered when I first got into the industry. 

It was a big moment for me. Coming clean with what happened after so many years suffering in silence. But any good feeling in the Fringe’s aftermath was tempered by my phone ringing every single minute of every day where I was met with a whole gamut of Martha’s emotions from hurled insults to deep expressions of love and longing. It was too much for anyone to bear. 

So, it became my life. Listening, logging, and annotating every single voicemail she ever left me in the hope of bringing it all to an end. Praying that she would say something incriminating so that the situation could be dealt with properly and effectively. 

In the height of it all, I would go to bed at night and still hear her in my ears. Her voice swirling around my head. Her words leaping around my eyelids as I tried to sleep. Sometimes it was like she was there in the room with me. In the bed beside me, even. 

I remember during a particularly long night of unrest; the idea came to me.  To stage this whole ordeal, one day, when the time was right. What an opening, it might be, to layer the voicemails on top of one another and shoot them around a stage in a wash of projected light. A cacophony of oscillating words and sounds bending and mutating along with her different emotional states. Mirroring her madness. Mirroring my madness. I mean… what better way to start a show than to plunge the audience straight inside the horror of it all?

When I decided to debut Baby Reindeer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, it had been two years since Martha was out my life and I was facing an entirely new pressure. The court of public opinion.

It felt like a risky thing – to do a “warts and all” version of the story where I held my hands up to the mistakes I had made with Martha. The foolish flirting. The cowardly excuses as to why we could not be together. Not to mention the themes of internalised prejudice and sexual shame that underpinned it all. The graphic details of the drugging and grooming and sexual violence I had experienced only a few years before. 

I imagined picket lines outside the venue forcing me to shut down. Telling me that what I was doing was wrong. That she didn’t have a voice. That I was the real perpetrator of harm and she the victim. That storylines of internalised shame are not helpful, anymore, and that my descriptions of sexual violence so extreme that… surely I was complicit in it somehow? These were all legitimate fears and not without merit. But equally I could not shy away from the truth of what had happened to me. This was a messy, complicated situation. But one that needed to be told, regardless.

The show sold out that month and by the end I was performing two shows a day just to cope with demand. People came up to me at the end and would tell me things like “I didn’t know whether to punch you or hug you” and “I felt sorry for you, then I hated her, then I hated you and I felt sorry for her” and to me that was the biggest compliment the show could get. All I ever wanted to do was capture something complicated about the human condition. That we all make mistakes. That no person is ever good or bad. That we are all lost souls looking for love in our own weird way. 

The show was commissioned by Netflix in April 2021 and here we are three years later (almost to the day) ready to release the exact same themes to the world. The exact same moral quandaries. Only this time, on a much larger scale. In a lot more detail. To a wider spectrum of people and an audience two-hundred million times the size. 

I would be lying if I said I was not back exactly where I was all those years ago in 2019 at the Edinburgh Fringe. Fearing the worst. Praying for the best. Hoping that in amongst all the messy, complicated, fucked up, themes Baby Reindeer throws at you that people might take notice of its beating heart. 

Director Petra Fried discusses a scene with Richard Gadd during the filming of Baby Reindeer. © 2022 Netflix, Inc.

Sam Mendes’ 1917 is a breathtaking, beautiful and unforgettable story well told and masterfully realised. It’s a soulful story relevant to the world we live in today, one that will live in your heart long after watching it.

“The first time I understood the idea of war was when my grandfather told me about his experiences in the First World War,” says Mendes, who co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful).

“This film is not a story about my grandfather, but rather the spirit of him—what these men went through, the sacrifices, the sense of believing in something greater than themselves.”

“Our two main characters are sent on a dangerous journey through enemy territory to deliver a vital message to save 1,600 soldiers, and our camera never leaves them. I wanted to travel every step and breathe every breath with these boys, and cinematographer Roger Deakins and I discussed shooting 1917 in the most immersive way. We designed it to bring audiences as close as possible to their experience. It’s been the most exciting job of my career.”

1917 tells the story of two young British soldiers at the height of the war, Lance Corporal Schofield (George Mackay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) as they are given a seemingly impossible task. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them. In this immersive cinematic experience, Mendes thrusts the audience into the immediate peril and vast scale of World War I, witnessing the conflict in an urgent and propulsive way.

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Before the United Nations was formed, prior to NATO—well before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand set off a chain of events that would draw the world into conflict—nations in the West had primarily acted in their own interests. Never before had countries set aside nationalism for the collective greater good. For that reason, the First World War in many ways unified the West and became the bedrock of modern society.

A global shockwave that made humanity confront our common ground, our joint ideals and shared values, World War I demanded unthinkable sacrifice—calling upon a tested generation’s honor, duty and fidelity to country. The impact of the war, and particularly its effect on the young soldiers asked to rise up and defend their homelands, has intrigued filmmaker Sam Mendes since he was a boy.

The idea for 1917 was sparked by stories that Mendes’ grandfather, the late Alfred H. Mendes, shared about his time as a Lance Corporal in the First World War, as well as the colorful characters he met during his service. In the year 1917, Alfred was a 19-year-old who enlisted in the British Army. Due to his small stature, the five-foot-four-inch soldier was chosen to be a messenger on the Western Front.

The mist on No Man’s Land—the unclaimed land between Allied and enemy trenches on the frontlines that neither side crossed for fear of being attacked—hung at approximately five and a half feet, so the young sprinter was able to carry messages laterally from post to post. His height meant he was not visible to the enemy, and he literally ran for his life. During the war, Alfred was injured and gassed, and was awarded a medal for his bravery. In his later years, the Trinidadian novelist retired to his birthplace in the West Indies, where he wrote his memoirs.

Sam Mendes during filming of 1917

“I was always fascinated by the Great War, perhaps because my grandfather told me about it when I was very young, and perhaps also because at that stage of my life, I’m not sure I’d even registered the concept of war before,” Mendes says. “Our film is fiction, but certain scenes and aspects of it are drawn from stories he told me, and ones told him by his fellow soldiers. This simple kernel of an idea—of a single man carrying a message from one place to another—stayed with me and became the starting point for 1917.”

Mendes spent time researching first-person accounts of this era, many of which are held at the Imperial War Museum in London. As he took notes, Mendes began to compile fragments of stories of bravery confronting terror; in time, he began to dovetail them into a single tale.

During this exploration, he discovered that World War I was so wholly entrenched in a relatively small geographic area that it had very few long journeys. “It was a war mainly of paralysis,” Mendes says, “one in which millions lost their lives over 200 or 300 yards of land. People are justly celebrated in all parts of the world for gaining tiny sections of land in World War I. In the Battle of Vimy Ridge, for example, they gained 500 yards, but it remains one of the war’s greatest acts of heroism. So, the question I asked myself was how to tell a story about a single epic journey, when essentially nobody traveled very far.”

His research stalled momentarily, Mendes soon discovered what would become the backdrop for his tale. In 1917, the Germans retreated to what was known as Siegfriedstellung, or the Hindenburg Line. After six months of planning and digging a huge trench system of defenses and deep-lying artillery, the Germans placed a vast number of troops—once spread over the original, much longer, front line—into a new, enormously fortified, condensed line of defense.

“There was a brief period where, for several days, the British didn’t know whether the Germans had retreated, withdrawn or surrendered,” Mendes says. “Suddenly, the British were cut adrift in a land they had literally spent years fighting over…but had never seen before. Much of it was destroyed by the Germans, who left nothing of lasting value, destroying anything that might sustain the enemy. Anything of beauty was taken or destroyed; villages, towns, animals, food. All trees were cut down. It was made relatively impassible. The British were alone in this desolate land full of snipers, land mines and trip wires.”

Inspired by the fragments of stories from his grandfather, the first-person accounts he had researched at the Imperial War Museum—as well as the idea of the deadly venture to the Hindenburg Line—Mendes crafted the structure of the story that became 1917.

“Like most of the war stories I admired, from All Quiet on the Western Front to Apocalypse Now, I wanted to create a fiction based on fact,” Mendes says. He reached out to frequent collaborator Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who, unbeknownst to Mendes at the time, is a self-proclaimed “history nerd” and was ideally suited to the material, and their journey began.

Pippa Harris is Mendes’ longtime producing partner at their Neal Street Productions and the two have known each other since childhood. They studied together at Cambridge and have joined forces on many projects through Neal Street, which they run with Caro Newling and Nicolas Brown.

Mendes and Harris were rapt by Wilson-Cairns’ meticulous detailing and deft ability with character. Building upon their shared history, Wilson-Cairns worked closely with Mendes as they put onto the page precisely what he needed for shooting. Together, they created the saga of Lance Corporals Schofield and Blake, two young men given a seemingly impossible mission: to deliver a message—deep in the heart of enemy territory—that, if successful, would potentially save the lives of 1,600 British soldiers. For Blake, the assignment is deeply personal; his brother is one of the 1,600 men who will die if they fail.  

“I wrote a story structure,” Mendes says, “Then I brought on Krysty who, unlike me, is used to writing, ‘Page One, Scene One,’ and not freezing! She took that story structure and put it into script form, and then I spent a hugely enjoyable three weeks rewriting it and then sending it back and forth. After about two months we had a draft, and the final film remains very close to that first script.”

Mendes found a dogged researcher in his co-writer, and additional parts of their epic tale were drawn from first-person accounts that he and Wilson-Cairns came across. “I wanted people to understand how difficult it was,” Mendes says. “In a sense, the movie is about sacrifice…and how we no longer truly understand what it means: To sacrifice everything for something larger than yourself.”

Mendes and Wilson-Cairns had ample resources to draw from. “When Sam and I first started talking about his ideas, I was utterly enthralled; I basically turned up at his house,” Wilson-Cairns says. “We swapped a lot of books, as we both had so many. We concentrated on firsthand accounts, on individual soldiers telling their stories and on diaries. There was a lot of that research about the state of play in 1917, as well as an overview of the Hindenburg Line and of that specific withdrawal.”

Through weaving a story of two exhausted young men in a terrifying, extreme situation, Mendes and Wilson-Cairns tell a story that speaks of the grit of a generation tested by the atrocities of war. Says Mendes: “I hoped that by looking through the lens of a smaller, human story, told in real time, we might be able to get close to expressing the vastness of the landscape and scale of the destruction. To see the macro through the micro, as it were.” Buoyed by their screenplay’s real-time countdown, they provide a look inside the journey that countless soldiers took to protect the lives of loved ones…as well as many more whom they did not know, and would never know.

Mendes and Wilson-Cairns had little interest in repeating the beats of previous films. They needed Blake and Schofield’s saga to feel urgent, relevant and fresh—and to allow the audience to experience the mission at the same time these two boys do.

The rare opportunity for a young female writer to co-write a war film was one that immensely appealed to the screenwriter. “Sam didn’t know this when he called me up,” Wilson-Cairns says. “But I’ve always been interested in the World Wars, and I thought World War I was particularly fascinating and underserved onscreen. I love war movies, I grew up on them and I’ve always wanted to write one. I seized this chance with both hands and dug in.”

Wilson-Cairns found something inherently fascinating about the fact that the global powers of the era seemed helpless to stop the carnage. “World War I was the first war of wholesale slaughter,” Wilson-Cairns says. “It was the first mechanical war in a sense that it represented the first meeting of industry and war. What starts with infantry charges and horses quickly becomes a static war fought with tanks, machine guns, gas and planes. So, it was death at an unprecedented level. One of the most extraordinary things about World War I is that, for four years, 10 million people killed each other and at no point did anyone say, ‘Enough.’”

Much like producer Harris, what also interested Wilson-Cairns was the way in which stories from the period were told. All society was swept up, including actors, artists, poets and authors. Many years prior to our understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, many did not discuss, privately or publicly, their experience until they returned home, or many years later. The works that were created after the war, alongside the personal diaries of first-person accounts, eventually told the truth of war in a different way, focusing on its devastating impact on humanity.

“The Great War was told and rendered in a very different way from the wars before,” Wilson-Cairns says. “It wasn’t Kipling’s ‘The Last of the Light Brigade,’ nor was it just surface-level factual reporting. It was poetry and fiction and painting and a vast number of first-person accounts of lived experiences.”

As they crafted narrative and dialogue, what struck Mendes and Wilson-Cairns was the depth of terror that their two young men would have experienced as they attempted to deliver this message across the vast wasteland. “These are moments of real isolation and solitude against huge adversity,” Wilson-Cairns says. “You’ve got snipers, you’ve got who knows what other dangers in the land and towns beyond. And from just a great story and movie point of view, I think the present-tense action of the movie is mesmerizing.”

She admits one of the biggest challenges of penning the film was that, on every single day of shooting, dialogue may have needed to be re-written and quickly finalized. “Because of the nature of 1917, there was no edit,” Wilson-Cairns says. “There was no final rewrite. The story and the dialogue was very much set and rooted when we wrapped each day, and there wasn’t really any option to change it in post. Literally, after every take, we would pick the favorite take and then match it. There wasn’t even the option of using different takes.”

Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns

As part and parcel of her research, Wilson-Cairns and her mother went to northern France and to the River Somme, locations they found to be extraordinarily poignant. During the almost five-month battle in 1916, more than one million men were injured or died. By the end of the first day of fighting alone, on July 1, 1916, more than 19,000 British soldiers had been killed.

“I went to the Somme and traveled around the areas where this story is set,” says Wilson-Cairns. “It was very moving, a staggering amount of death. I went to Écoust, Thiepval [Memorial to the Missing], Beaumont Hamel [which commemorates the sacrifices of Newfoundlanders] and the Lochnagar Mine Crater [largest man-made mine crater on the Western Front, detonated by the British Army’s Royal engineers]. You can’t possibly imagine the scale of a mine crater. It looks like an asteroid hit; it’s so unbelievably large.”

The writer knew that to set foot onto these locations was vital to her in her writing of the script. “It helped me understand the scale in a literal sense of the journey the characters would have to take, but also, in a far greater sense, it afforded me the chance to understand the cost, the thousands of young men who died for inches of land,” Wilson-Cairns says. “Going there brought it home to me in a way that would otherwise not have been possible.”

Likewise, supervising location manager Emma Pill travelled to France, as did Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner, to visit the actual locations. They walked through the various trenches that still exist, as well as No Man’s Land. They immersed themselves in the vast landscapes, as well as the villages where their characters would have intersected.

As it would not be appropriate to disturb the historical battle zones, filming 1917 in France was never an option. These are sacred places. “Most of the actual sites over there are real battle zones,” Pill says. “There’s still ammunition that is in the ground. So, we would never have been able to do the amount of excavation that you see here in France.  Plus, there are still bodies in the ground. We needed to find a location that we could do the work without disturbing anything historical…or dishonor the fallen.”

The only way to find a similar scale of landscape—a place with few trees and no signs of modern life in the United Kingdom—was to travel outside of London and the Home Counties to find open vistas. It was Pill’s job to look around the U.K. for locations that matched the scenery in France and discover where sets could be built. Her scouting brought the team to Salisbury Plain, in southwestern England and home to the renowned Stonehenge, to Northumberland, as well as to Glasgow, Scotland, for key sequences set in northeast France, and to Bovingdon in central England for the endless line of trenches.

Ultimately, the film pays tribute not just to World War I soldiers but to all our military members, past and present and their sacrifice for the greater good and pursuit of freedom. 

Mendes’ vision to capture the story in real time in a way that plays as one continuous shot requires the audience to join the characters and immerse themselves in their turbulent journey. To be clear: 1917 was not shot in one take, but was filmed in a series of extended, uncut takes that could be connected seamlessly to look and feel as if it is one continuous shot. As there is no cut within a scene, the viewer, much like Schofield and Blake, is not able to step away from the mission that lies in front of them. Although Mendes had shot the opening scene of Spectre as one continuous shot, shooting an entire film this way was a new experience for everyone, including Mendes. “I’ve never been in a situation where we’d start shooting on Monday, and I knew for a fact that what we shot on Monday would be in the movie,” Mendes says.

Shot in this way, the audience gets an authentic, tangible sense of what these boys would have gone through. “The reason I chose to do that with this material is, from the very beginning, I felt it should be told in real time,” Mendes says. “The sense of distance traveled is very important. But it is also, most importantly, an emotional decision, that I hope connects you even more closely to the journey of the two central characters. I wanted an audience to take every step of the journey with them, to breathe every breath. It wasn’t a decision that was imposed on the material afterwards. I had the idea alongside the idea for the story – style, form and content all came at the same time. You begin to construct the narrative so that every second forms part of one continuous, unbroken thread.”

Mendes and Academy Award® winner (and 14-time Oscar® nominee) Roger Deakins worked with one another on Jarhead and have collaborated on films from Revolutionary Road to Skyfall and have a shorthand with each other. “From the first moment I talked to Sam about the idea as a one-shot movie, I knew it was going to be immersive and that it would be essential for the storytelling,” Deakins says.

With the one-shot premise, it was imperative to block the scenes during 1917’s four-month rehearsal process, and to discuss the layout of the sets in great detail. Once it was established how the actors would move within the space for the scenes, it became possible to map out exactly where the camera would move.

The cinematographer expands on this process. “Sometimes, you need to be close, and sometimes you want to pull away and see the characters within the space, within the landscape,” Deakins says. “So, it was getting a balance between that. A lot of the blocking was done in our heads, then Sam would rehearse the scenes, then we drew schematics and had a storyboard artist who gave different options within those basic ideas. It gradually evolved, but then when we worked with our actors on location, it evolved even further.”

The director reflects that with standard filmmaking, there’s always a “get-out-of-jail card” that allows fixes and changes in post. “Your normal thought process is, ‘We might be able to cut around this moment, or shorten this scene, or we might take that scene out altogether.’” Mendes says. “That wasn’t possible on this film. There was simply no way out. It had to be complete. The dance of the camera and the mechanics all had to be in sync with what the actor was doing. When we achieved that, it was exhilarating. But it took immense planning, and immense skill from the operators.” Deakins often needed to be with the focus puller and DIT in a small white van, remotely operating the camera even if it was being carried. As they were frequently operating the camera remotely across vast distances, it was very tricky. “Sometimes, we’d have a camera that was carried by an operator, hooked onto a wire,” Mendes says. “The wire would carry it across more land. It was unhooked again, that operator ran with it then stepped onto a small jeep that carried him another 400 yards, and he stepped off it again and raced around the corner.”

Roger Deakins and Sam Mendes

Due to the prep period and many lengthy rehearsals on shooting days, there was always a clear starting point and physical structure to the scenes, but this did not mean the filmmakers and cast were fixed entirely in their approach.

Because the film needed to play as one shot, primarily filmed outside, Deakins relied upon light that was as natural as possible, which meant Mother Nature was as much in charge of the shoot as the filmmakers were. Instead of blue skies and direct sunlight, which bring with it shadows that are difficult to shoot around and impossible for continuity, the production prayed for the days to be consistently overcast.

No location ever repeats in 1917, so the camera is constantly moving through landscapes. “Being such an exterior movie, we were very dependent on the light and the weather,” Deakins says. “And we realized, well for a start, you can’t really light it. If you were running down a trench and turning around 360 degrees, there’s nowhere to put a light anywhere. Because we were shooting in story order, we had to shoot in cloud to get the continuity from scene to scene. Some mornings the sun would be out, and we couldn’t shoot. So, we would rehearse instead.”

For the director, total engagement from all involved in his production was paramount. “That is behind the way in which we decided to shoot 1917,” Mendes says. “I wanted people to understand how difficult it was for these men. And the nature of that is behind everything.”

His comrade in arms shares that the film must be experienced to believe. “Until you actually see this on a screen,” Deakins says, “you don’t really realize how immersive it is and how this technique draws you into it.”

Deakins has long used ARRIFLEX cameras on his productions, and during summer 2018, he and JAMES ELLIS DEAKINS (Sicario)—his wife and digital workflow consultant—went to ARRI Munich and discussed a mini version of the ALEXA LF camera that could deliver the intimacy and speed Mendes required of the shoot. ARRI advised that it was in the process of developing one, and the couple asked if the manufacturer could have it ready by 1917’s start of shoot: April 2019.

Once the ALEXA Mini LF prototypes proved ready, from February 2019, Deakins and his team ran camera tests with the ALEXA Mini LF. They tried it out with a variety of rigs they wanted to use during filming—including the Trinity, Steadicam, StabilEye, DragonFly and Wirecam.

Just in the nick of time, 1917 would be shot on the brand-new ALEXA Mini LF with Signature Primes in combination with the Trinity Rig. The camera has a large-format ALEXA LF sensor in an ALEXA Mini body.

Especially for use on this epic, ARRI Munich had three cameras ready early. The size of the cameras was ideal for the epic film, as well as its large-screening format. Officially launching in mid-2019, the ALEXA Mini LF expands ARRI’s large-format camera system.

At the time, the 1917 production had the only working ALEXA Mini LF cameras in the world. ARRI had released only the large version of the camera a year earlier, in 2018. Says the manufacturer: “ARRI’s large-format camera system is based around a 4.5K version of the ALEXA sensor, which is twice the size and offers twice the resolution of ALEXA cameras in 35-mm format. This allows the filmmakers to explore their own take on the large-format look, with improvements on the ALEXA sensor’s famously natural colorimetry, pleasing skin tones, low noise, and suitability for High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut workflows.”

The challenge of joining the cuts in 1917 is that every scene had to be shot with incredible precision…so that two frames could be blended together seamlessly on screen. That painstaking attention to detail added another layer of continuity because the pacing needed to match, as well as other elements in the scene, such as the weather, cast and sets.

As it was crucial for the takes to be tracked, it meant fully focused attention—and constant vigilance—from the script supervisor, visual effects and the editor. It was imperative for Mendes, Deakins and their fellow Oscar® winner, editor Lee Smith, to know the moment at which the shot would be stitched from one scene to the next, as it could never be fixed in post with a cut to a different perspective.

In order to take the characters seamlessly from one cut to the next, Mendes made sure that blends happened in a variety of subtle ways. That could mean traveling through doorways and curtains, or when the characters enter a bunker, or with a silhouette, or a body movement, or a foreground element or a prop…or even a 360-degree shot.

Producer Jayne-Ann Tenggren walks us through the logic. “How we blended from one shot to another was designed around the action, sometimes because of a  change in lighting environment, sometimes because of a need to change the camera rig, and sometimes simply an emotional choice as to how long the scene should run,” Tenggren says.

Lest you believe editor Lee Smith had it easy on the production, think again. “This has been a very complicated film to edit because the whole process of the blending, making it look like one shot—and doing the kind of the mixing of those shots—is so crucial, and has had to be done so fast, in order to give Sam instant feedback,” producer Callum McDougall says. “In the opening of Spectre, we created one long shot in Mexico City. But it’s nothing compared to what Lee, who’s our same editor, has had to do here.”

For Mendes, this production has been an embarrassment of film-artist riches. “We have Roger Deakins,” Mendes says, “who you could argue is one of the two or three greatest living cinematographers, fresh off his Oscar® win for Blade Runner 2049, collaborating with Lee Smith, who just won the Oscar® for editing Dunkirk, and Dennis Gassner, who I’ve worked with five times now. We started working together on Road to Perdition way back, and he also designed Blade Runner, Skyfall and some of your favorite Coen brothers’ movies.”

Mendes would not have been able to consider shooting a movie in such an unusually daring way without the steadfast support of his core group of collaborators, many of whom he had known for decades. As a great number of the crew had worked together previously, there was an easy camaraderie and shorthand. This symbiosis would prove beneficial, as all departments needed to be fully prepared before stepping onto the sets. In fact, 1917’s intense rehearsal process was quite similar to the preparation of a piece of theater.

Mendes reflects that what made 1917 differ from any other movie he has made is the way in which his entire team constructed it. Mendes says, “It was such a unity. The collaboration between heads of department and my main collaborators was daily, and started much earlier in the process than ever before. We rehearsed for seven or eight weeks on and off location. Everyone was involved and continued to be involved throughout the shoot. That’s very moving when you see such great artists at work, all as equals, with immense mutual respect, and very little hierarchy.”

Although all films require preparation, the prep period for 1917 was even more important than on conventionally shot films. In fact, it was paramount. The technical demands of how the epic would be shot meant that every step of the journey had to be timed precisely during rehearsals.

Mendes admits that the challenges of prepping were the challenges of getting ready for a normal movie…times five. “You have all the things you normally have to do,” Mendes says, “but here we simply had to work in much more detail. For example, we had to measure every step of the journey. It’s fine to write, ‘They walk through a copse of trees down a hillside, through an orchard, around a pond, and into a farmhouse,’ but the scene had to be the exact length of the land. And the land could not be longer than the scene! We had to rehearse every step of the journey, every line of dialogue on location.”

The level of detail called for Mendes, MacKay, Chapman, Deakins, Gassner, supporting cast, key creatives and team members to rehearse not just on location, but on a huge soundstage at Shepperton Studios. There, they marked out on the floor the dimensions of the sets for each scene. Every step of the journey was rehearsed in this space. “We were in this massive room, the rehearsal room, with all these cardboard boxes stacked up around us to sort of map out the set shape,” Chapman says. “Sam already knew exactly how the blocking should look, but sometimes we’d come across something that didn’t sync right or didn’t look right. When that happened, Sam would just stand there, he’d close his eyes, think about it, and then just solve it. I’ve never seen anything like that. His ability to do that was amazing.”

Next, they went out on location for tech rehearsals. “This world had to be crafted around the rhythm of the script,” Mendes says. “You can’t just jump 100 yards in a cut. If your location is 100 yards too long, you’re not going to have the scene that lasts the journey; the two things are obviously interlinked. That made the prep much more complicated than normal. In many ways, it was more fun, because we had to do it very early and walk the land, and physically feel the reality of their journey. Then, we had to discuss and test the camera movement and positioning for every moment of every scene, long before we shot it.”

As well as storyboards, a schematic document of diagrams was created to accompany the script. This mapped out where each character was moving at any given time, as well as exactly where the camera would be during any given scene—and in which direction it would be pointing.

By the time prep was finished, producer McDougall was confident that his team was more than up to dealing with the myriad complexities of the shoot. “When you have a film as well-prepped as we were—and with the expertise of the people we’ve engaged—with our locations, production team, special effects and other departments, we knew that whatever would be thrown that we were able to handle,” McDougall says.

During prep, Deakins and his crew were working on the camera moves and how they would be able to complete a shot without cutting—all while constantly moving. At times, the camera would need to seamlessly interchange—using a variety of rigs during a take, which could involve a Steadicam operator, followed by a wire cam and back to the operator on foot or on a vehicle.

One of the biggest challenges of production was that they were unable to employ long-familiar tools. “We’re used to having coverage and cuts and camera placement to tell a story,” Mendes says. “We can normally change the pace in editing. We can tweak performances, timing, rhythm, dialogue. That is the language of film. You can cut to a wide shot to establish geography for example, or you cut to a close up and push in to feel connected to a character. We didn’t get to play with any of those tools with 1917, yet we still had to do all of those things.”

As the majority of Mendes and Wilson-Cairns’ screenplay exists in the exteriors, and no location through which the two principal characters move repeats on screen, the enormity of the challenge in front of Oscar®-winning production designer Dennis Gassner and his colleagues was obvious to all involved.

With the landscapes came the inescapable and unpredictable British weather. Because the story is linear, the weather needed to consistently match from scene to scene. While the production could control many aspects of the shoot, weather would never be one of them. Armed with a Farmer’s Almanac and, Gassner examined multiple weather forecasts—from long range to daily and hourly. At the mercy of the sun, clouds, rain, sleet and snow, the indefatigable crewmembers crossed their fingers and said respective prayers every night before the next shooting day. “You’ve never seen a group of people so happy for bad weather,” George MacKay says. “You get a bit of cloud of and everyone will be like, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ We’re going to get two shots today!’”

Gassner has known Mendes for two decades and Deakins for three and offers that their shorthand was the only way they could accomplish so much in such a period. “I needed to build the world, Roger needed to light it, and Sam needed to take us on the journey,” Gassner says. “That connection among the three of us was wonderful. We all did our jobs in the best way that we were possibly able to do.” The production designer extends the kudos to his fellow crew. “Everybody on the production was so engaged,” Gassner says. “I’ve never seen a film crew that bonded together in such a strong way. It was technically really hard work. That focus kept driving us forward to see what we were going to get. We got through this because of all of our experiences…and a tremendous amount of luck.”

Grounded in the principles of Classical design created 4000 years ago, The Write Journey is instinctive and universal

Under the mentorship of Daniel Dercksen, who formed The Writing Studio 25 years ago, the comprehensive course guides writers through the process of crafting a screenplay for film or television from inspiration to writing the first pages and is ideal for writers who want to adapt a novel for a visual medium.

The course explores:

  • What it takes to be a screenwriter.
  • Writing for a Visual Medium – understanding the Language and Visual dynamics of Film.
  • The significance of Genre and Theme in building the world of your story.
  • Creating the Primary Characters who live in your story.
  • Laying a solid structural foundation that braces the Plot and Subplots.
  • Conceiving plot and character outlines that explore the outer and inner life of your story.
  • Looking at the process of taking your story from idea to first draft.
  • Taking ownership of your story
  • The secret to success – making your mark as a screenwriter

Following in the tradition of 25 years of extensive workshops throughout South Africa, and courses internationally, The Write Journey is an interactive course for screenwriters is ideal for novelists, and playwrights. Anyone who has a story to tell!

The Write Journey turns the voice in your head into an actual narrative. It’s uniquely two courses blended into one, turning ideas into a successful story while learning about yourself in the process.

There are 12 Units in the course, and each unit has Self-Tasks that you must research and complete in your own time. Tasks that you must submit to your mentor to make sure that you are on the right track – during this process, your mentor is there to help you understand the material and solve problems. The course is done online, via email correspondence, offering a one-on-one interaction with your mentor.

The retreat 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.

Final morning walk pitstop on the wandelpad with Jordyn Lee Bird , who’s did a 3-day writer’s retreat in December 2023.

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

“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
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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

Directed by Christopher Jenkins, from a screenplay by Jenkins, Karen Wengrod & Ken Cinnamon, with a Story By Karen Wengrod & Ken Cinnamon Ash Brannon, Ernesto Matamoros and Leland Cox, a pampered cat takes for granted the lucky hand he has been dealt after he is rescued and loved by Rose, a kind-hearted and passionate student. When he loses his ninth life, fate steps in to set him on a transformative journey.

When he carelessly loses his ninth life, with no lives left and faced with the inevitable, Beckett pleads for things to be back to how they were. At first his request is refused but in a moment of exceptional empathy, the ‘Gatekeeper’ has a change of heart and allows him to return to earth with a whole new set of lives. What he doesn’t realize immediately however is that each of these new lives will see him return in a variety of different forms…each one teaching him a valuable & timely lesson. It is a journey that sees Beckett turn from gloriously self-absorbed pet to a self-sacrificing hero; because sometimes you must travel many different roads to find the very best version of yourself.

Christopher Jenkins has contributed his talents to an impressive roster of projects during his 30-year career in animation, producing, writing and directing. With 14 years at Walt Disney Feature Animation under his belt, Chris has animated on such movies as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Atlantis. Joining Sony Pictures Animation in 2002, Chris played a critical role in launching the division’s inaugural film, Open Season. He was assigned to Surf’s Up next, writing, producing, and – in the process – inventing animated mockumentary. Surf’s Up rode the 2007 Awards Season wave culminating in an ACADEMY AWARD nomination for BEST ANIMATED PICTURE. Chris subsequently produced at Blue Sky animation from 2009 to 2010, molding the story for Rio, before he returned to Sony to invent many characters and scenes that would become integral to Hotel Transylvania. In 2011 Chris joined DreamWorks Animation, where he produced the short Almost Home. At Original Force Animation in 2015, Chris wrote and directed Duck Duck Goose. As of August 2018, the movie had become a runaway hit on Netflix, with over 10 million downloads in the first 30 days. Chris is currently writing and directing several productions, including Extreme Elephant for SQUEEZE ANIMATION.

What was the biggest inspiration behind this film?

Initially, my lifelong love and constant menagerie provided the inspiration for a cartoon about an arrogant cat who becomes many different animals. The humor of one cat’s attempt to remain aloof
under all circumstances kicked it off, but the deeper message, the connection all pet owners feel to their animals brought the story into a far greater focus. The animals we bring into our homes are only here a short time but our lives are massively changed by their presence.

Films are lasting legacies, what do you want yours to say?

Many messages of hope come through this story of a cat who encounters multiple chances at living a
‘better’ life. The message of this movie is quite simple really; ‘you only have one life, so live it well and
love better.’

Describe who you want this film to reach?

10 Lives has something for every family and generation to watch and enjoy together. Having said that,
the selfish joy I have in seeing younger children laugh until they fold over is without measure. Being able
to reach that kind of uncomplicated glee is sheer magic.

Why does this story need to be told now?

On the surface, seeing a cat deal with the ignominy of being other ‘lesser’ animals is great comedic fun.
On a deeper level, I believe that at a time of such cynicism as ours, 10 Lives unabashedly tugs on the
heartstrings and raises a message of unselfish hope.

How do you want people to feel after they see your film?

When audiences leave the cinema I would like them to feel emotionally warm, humorously exhausted,
and ready to go back and see it again.

Your favorite part of making the film? Memories from the process?

This is a hard question because there are so many great memories, very much including ALL the cast
records. But I think that rewriting the story to take place in England (which I desperately miss), and with
an English cast of brilliant actors, was a dream come true.

What was a big challenge you faced while making this film?

It was a massive creative challenge to pre-plan everything in such a way that there would be no cost
overruns. While re-writing the movie I had to both imagine what would be great to see, then fight with
myself over what could be achieved within our relatively small budget. However, when all’s said and
done, the kind of poetry of small choices ultimately led to a movie that tells a beautiful story without
trying too hard to impress with fireworks and special effects. This is unusual for animation.

Tell us why and how you got into filmmaking?

I grew up in Wales, the Western part of the United Kingdom. Mam & Dad’s terraced Miner’s Cottage
was surrounded by coal tips and mountains. Though the coal mines were being shut down one by one,
the landscape remained a black and white world, so when I discovered animation at the local cinema,
the technicolor world of movies opened my eyes to something ‘beyond.’ At the same time my father’s
storytelling brought humor and narrative into focus, and my mother’s smiles at my never ending supply
of new drawings encouraged me to keep making things. Later, as an art student studying illustration in
London, I happened to be in the right place at the right time when Walt Disney Feature Animation were
hiring for Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

I’m an illustrator by training and nature. I became an effects animator because of chance, but found a
delight in what you can think of as giving life to the metaphorical ‘snow globe’. On Little Mermaid I
animated many bubbles, crashing waves and heavenly rainbows. On Beauty and the Beast I found
delight in storms and lightning. Aladdin brought the chance to animate magic, fire and lava, and on
Hunchback of Notre Dame, I created a dancing fire Esmarelda. This fantastic Disney training ground
remains in all of my work, which is to say that atmosphere in storytelling & movies is all-important to
me. I had no real training as a writer, but ever since I sat on my Dad’s knee to listen to his wonderful,
colorful, and exceptionally funny stories, the desire to write my own screenplays has been a constant

If you weren’t a filmmaker what would you be doing?

I’d be making guitars from a small wood shop somewhere in Oregon.

© MMXXIII 10 Lives Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Pictured above: L to R: Ryan Gosling, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ben Jenkin, Logan Holladay, Justin Eaton, and David Leitch on the set of The Fall Guy. © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

From a screenplay by Hobbs & Shaw screenwriter Drew Pearce, and based on the television series created by Glen A. Larson, The Fall Guy, Leitch’s early days in the industry were marked by years of hard work and determination as he honed his skills behind the scenes before transitioning into directing. “My love for films began in my high school years,” he says. “Action comedies and dramas like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard left a lasting impact on me. I wanted to be a part of the magic behind the scenes. I had a background in martial arts, and a mix of timing, mentorship and persistence led me to the stunt department.”

A pivotal moment in Leitch’s career was working as Brad Pitt’s stunt double on Fight Club, which offered a front-row seat to observe director David Fincher’s meticulous approach to filmmaking.

“As a stunt performer, I had the privilege of watching and learning without anyone rushing me off the set,” Leitch says. “When I saw Fincher work, I became hooked on the filmmaking process. As I continued my stunt career, I began my own filmmaking journey on the side. I filmed shorts, edited them and focused on choreographing, shooting and presenting action sequences as cohesive stories to directors. This was my transition from performing stunts to designing action and choreography.”

But Leitch’s aspirations went beyond choreography. “I wanted to direct,” Leitch says. “The opportunities to shoot major action sequences as a second-unit director started coming my way, but I knew I had to keep pushing for that goal of directing a fu