An Oh! Realisation

May 21, 2014

I had an “Oh!” moment this evening.

As I stood filling a bathtub with water for some steers, a podcast about screenwriting in one ear, I suddenly got hit by a realisation – what the main character in my YA novel has as a primary motivation. She’s the centre of the story and in most of the scenes, but she was a bit passive, a bit nebulous, a bit perfect. And I’m several thousand words into this thing.

And then there it was. The thing that happens in the first two pages, the decision she makes right at the start, has *impact*. That impact appears a few chapters down, but it is still early in the story. Instead of it being something that gets shaken off, it needs to be a *huge* problem. And the rest of the book is her trying to redeem herself for that first decision that goes so wrong unexpectedly.

“Oh!”

Interview with Danish Comedy Director Rasmus Heide

This article originally appeared on the video on demand site, Cinecliq. Reprinted here with permission.

ALLE FOR TO

Danish comedy director Rasmus Heide has three films on Cinecliq “Take the Tash,” “The Christmas Party,” and “All for One” (which spawned a sequel, “All for Two”). Heide spoke exclusively with Cinecliq about how he films comedy, the advantages of being a writer/director, and what it takes to make sure audiences laugh.

Cinecliq: With your first two feature films, “Take the Trash” and “Christmas Party,” you were director and co-writer. How does being involved in the writing change the experience of directing?

Heide: Being involved in the script from the very beginning is a great advantage when you’re doing comedies, because whereas funny lines and actions can be described fairly easily in a script, it’s very hard to get it across in writing when a scene’s “punch line” is an awkward silence or the absence of something expected by the audience. Since I like to explore as many aspects of film comedy as possible – including the ones that are easier felt than described – being involved in the script gives me the courage to aim for these laughs as well.

How did you get involved with “All for One”? At what point of the development process were you attached, and what attracted you to being part of it?

My longterm comedy partner, Mick Øgendahl, handed me a first draft while I was still editing “The Christmas Party”. Both he and I have always been very fascinated by American comedies. They tend to be bigger, bolder and a little bit crazier than Scandinavian comedies, which are often aimed at a younger audience or at families. This was his take on it, and I was immediately up for the challenge. We wanted to introduce the American scope and look to a crazy Scandinavian heist-story, and when the part of the villain in “All for One” appealed to legendary Dutch/American actor Rutger Hauer, things started falling into place.

The success of “All for One” led to a sequel, “All for Two,” which you also directed and where you have a story credit. What were the biggest challenges you faced in creating the sequel, both from a story perspective and a directing one?

From a directing point of view it was a huge advantage to build on our experiences from the first film, and it gave me and the actors a common reference when exploring characters who were already established.

The biggest challenge when doing a sequel is that you have to surpass expectations by quite a bit, to give people the sense of having as much fun as they did watching the first film. Everybody around you tells you to repeat what you did the last time, but that is the only thing that will disappoint the audience for sure.

RasmusHeide_4a

It seems your film’s characters are often very broadly drawn (very dim, very confident, very sexy - that kind of thing). What attracts you to characters at the fringes of what might be considered normal?

I like to take common feelings that everybody recognizes, and emphasize the parts that you normally wouldn’t admit to. For instance, the sad feeling of being left out or not invited to the party is a very common and relatable feeling. By magnifying this type of feeling in a comedy, you allow people to laugh out loud and still relate to the sincerity of the feeling. Just because it is out of proportion, doesn’t mean it is just for laughs.

What do you do to make sure that something that is funny on the page ends up being funny on the screen?

I make sure that the script is as funny as possible, and never leave anything up to the improvisational skills of the actors or me coming up with something funny on set. If a scene is supposed to be funny, I always circle the one line, action or moment in the scene that pinpoints the laugh and make sure the dynamics of the scene lead up to this point. After the first couple of takes, I try to look at the scene with an open mind – disregarding the script – and ask myself, “Is this convincing? And is it funny?” If you don’t pause and evaluate the scene, you risk ending up in a situation where the funny element in the script is only in the minds of the actors, and not on screen.

Please talk a bit about your directing process. How do you like to prepare before the shoot? How do you like to work with your actors? Given that you are working with comedy, how much improvisation goes on?

I always try to prepare as much as possible before the shoot, and then still be open-minded on the day. I have been very lucky to work with actors and crews that are more experienced than me, so I always listen to new ideas. The key is to know when a new idea elevates a scene or a character, and when it deviates from the overall course and feel of the film.

Since I’m usually involved in the writing from the very beginning, I already have the scenes shot and edited in my head. This way, I always have a clear idea of how a scene could be done, which allows me to be very confident and open-minded when going through locations, wardrobe or rehearsals with the actors. Usually something better evolves during the creative collaborative process, and as a director, you get to pick and choose.

Is there one moment from one of your films that ended up on the editing room floor, but which you wish could have made it into the cut?

I’m very fortunate to have had final cut on all my films, so the only things that end up on the editing room floor are scenes which I think would have made the film not as good. But I did shoot one scene for “All for Two” where the two brothers, Timo and Ralf, get into trouple while driving around town yelling at old people. It was a very funny scene, but ultimately made the two brothers too unlikeable, so it had to go.

RasmusHeide_5a

Obviously, you can never go back, but now that you have so much more experience, what would you do differently if you were to do your first film, “Take the Trash,” now?

When I make a new film, I try to remember that it could be my last. It is so expensive and requires the talents of so many people. When a project is finally greenlit, I have to make the film as good as I possibly can and not hold anything back. I do everything to the best of my abilities, but when I finally watch it at the premiere, I see hundreds of things that I think I can do better, and that’s probably what keeps me going. I want to make the perfect comedy, if there is such a thing.

I haven’t seen “Take the Trash” since the premiere in 2008, but as much as I love the film, I remember tons of things I would want to change.

Most recently, you have been directing television for the show “Tomgang”. How do you find TV directing compared to film directing?

The biggest change for me was to direct something where I did not participate in writing the scripts. I quickly realised that you are way harder on the material. I tear out scenes or change lines around if I have the faintest sense that it might add something to the episode. It is a very liberating and creative way of shooting that I will try to introduce on my next film.

What are you working on now? What do we have to look forward to from you?

In three weeks we start shooting the second season of “Tomgang”. Building on our experiences from season one, the scripts for the second season have become much better, and I cannot wait to work with the main actors of the show again. That’s the one scary thing about comedy. You constantly have to force yourself to try new things to make it funny and intriguing, because humour evolves with the audience, and if in the end they don’t laugh, they are right, and you are wrong.

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Watch Rasmus Heide’s films “Take the Tash,” “The Christmas Party,” and “All for One”  - now showing on Cinecliq.

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 Photo credits: First photo by Henrik Ohsten. All photos © Fridthjof Film.

The Name of My Book

March 17, 2014

What is the name of the book I’m writing? I’ll tell you below.

But first, my wife and fellow author Billie Dean and I have been talking about how public should one be about what one is writing as it is in progress. We’ve always played our cards very close to the chest. However, in this day and age, it seems like the rules are changing. It seems like you need to put it out there, and gather the interest as you go. For me, even talking about the name is a bit of a leap of faith.

But here goes.

It is with great pleasure that I let you know that the young adult novel I’m working on is (currently) called “Eloise Hydra Gumball III”.

There, I’ve said it.

*Goes and has a lie down.*

(And the next question is, do I release any of my writing as I’m working on it? If you have an opinion on that, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.)

Bitcoin Demystified

March 11, 2014

The March 7 episode of John Gruber’s podcast “The Talk Show,” has one of the clearest explanations of bitcoin that I’ve heard, thanks to his guest Glenn Fleishman. If you have any interest, or even curiosity in cryptocurrencies, this is well worth you time.

Articles from Screen Forever 2013

Screen Forever

22 November 2013

I attended Screen Forever (the rebranded Screen Producers Australia (the rebranded Screen Producers  Association of Australia)) Conference in November 2013. Here are the articles I wrote for Screen Hub covering it. The links below take you to the articles behind Screen Hub’s paywall. The blurbs are simply lifted from the newsletter.

Screen Forever: The State of the Digital Union

Video on demand (VOD), digital distribution, and the changes industry and consumers face every day were all over Screen Forever 2013. Andrew Einspruch digs through a piles of notes to find the jewels.

Screen Forever 2013: Drama in the BBC`s DNA

If you think about producers of high quality television drama, the BBC has got to be at the top of your list. Kate Harwood, Head of Drama Production, England at the BBC talked at Screen Forever about the importance of drama to the broadcaster, and the challenge of getting good writers.

Screen Forever 2013: Dude, Where`s My Audience?

With VOD, catch-up viewing, second screens, time-shifting, cord cutting and all manner of changes looming over the content consumption landscape, it makes sense to ask, as a session did at Screen Forever 2013, “Sorry, Where Has My Audience Gone?” Andrew Einspruch tells us that the answer might surprise.

Screen Forever 2013: Multi-Channel Networks and the Business End of YouTube

The days of YouTube just being dogs on skateboards or kilted Darth Vaders on unicycles playing bagpipes are long gone. YouTube is big business and getting bigger all the time. Andrew Einspruch reports that one of the engines of this business are the emerging multi-channel networks.

Screen Forever 2013: Google`s Approach to Watching Content Owners` Backs

The world of content and culture is moving online. And search giant Google is in the driver`s seat to know what the trends are. But the digital world unfolds in a fraught way for many creators. In the opening session of this year`s Screen Forever conference, Derek Slater, Global Public Policy Manager, Google USA, gave a glimpse into this changing world, as viewed by the advertising behemoth.

Screen Forever 2013: Co-Financing with the USA

A session at Screen Forever looked at some of the ins and outs of financing a feature film with some amount of money from the USA. Andrew Einspruch reports that success factors range from making sure the Aussie elements of the project work to developing credibility as a producer.

Screen Forever 2013: Finding Out How to Get to Sesame Street

On a sunny day in Melbourne, where the clouds had clearly been swept away, Kim Wright, Film Producer with the Sesame Workshop, talked about the things that make Sesame Street a success. Screen Hub`s Andrew Einspruch reports from Screen Forever, the Screen Producers Australia conference.

Screen Forever 2013: The Challenges Facing Network Ten

Hamish McLennan, CEO and MD at Network Ten, acknowledged problems and served up a few useful nuggets to producers who have Ten in their sights, reports Andrew Einspruch.

New Facebook Page

I’ve set up a Facebook page for work-y, writerly things. Your Like on the page will make a million puppies smile, so go here and click Like.

“Blue” is the Most Argumentative Color

Blue is the Warmest Color

The  in-fighting around “Blue is the Warmest Color”, which comes to Cinecliq later this fall, continues in a very public way. The film may have taken home the Palm d’Or at Cannes this year, and been embraced by critics and audiences, but that moment of glory is becoming an afterthought as the director and cast, and even the crew, trade accusations and insults in the press.

According to IndieWire’s The Playlist, the French magazine Telerama quoted director Abdellatif Kechiche saying, “According to me, the film shouldn’t be released, it has been soiled too much,” and “The Palme d’Or had been a brief moment of happiness; then I’ve felt humiliated, dishonored, I felt rejected, I live it like I’m cursed.” Strong words, given the film’s positive reception.

These statements follow comments from the two lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos who both said that they would not work with Kechiche again. Seydoux went so far as to say that filming the coming-of-age lesbian drama was a “horrible” experience.

Similarly, author Julie Maroh, whose graphic novel was adapted for the film, expressed concern about how the film represented her work, especially its portrayal of same-sex intimacy. Quoted in the New York Times, Maroh said the film was, “a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn.”

Even the film’s crew has complained about difficult working conditions, and made allegations about violations of France’s Labor Code.

For a film that so many have praised, it is unfortunate that the off-screen circus is taking all the focus.

A version of this article originally appeared on Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.

A Short Animation to Inspire

August 30, 2013

Eight years ago, the animation below, “Ryan”, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. And when you watch it, you can see why. It blends a fantastic visual sensibility with a compelling, haunting story of a an animator, Ryan Larkin, whose brilliance sadly burn out.

Ted Hope, the successful indie producer (“21 Grams”, “American Splendor”), said “Ryan” is “a perfect balance of form with content. It is an expressionistic documentary, an animated essay film. It respects life and our struggles. It is about the creative process and inspiration.”

See for yourself. It is an amazing, inspirational work.

Ryan by Chris Landreth, National Film Board of Canada

And here is an animation done by Ryan Larkin. You can see how the above documentary both uses and draws on it.

Walking by Ryan Larkin, National Film Board of Canada

Kevin Spacey On the New World of Content

Kevin Spacey

Actor Kevin Spacey called on the screen industry to drop the ever-fading distinctions between TV and film, and further embrace on-demand viewing. Speaking as the first actor to ever give the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Spacey said, “The device and the length [of the program] are irrelevant. The labels are useless, except maybe to agents and managers and lawyers who use these labels to conduct business deals.”

The actor, whose Netflix-funded series “House of Cards” is up for nine Emmy awards, said that they went to Netflix because they did not want to go through the traditional process of making a pilot. They knew they story they wanted to tell, and Netflix was the only organisation who had the confidence to let them simply make the whole season.

As for labels, Spacey said that the changing nature of distribution and devices is blurring the once-clear line between film and TV. “For kids growing up now, there’s no difference watching ”Avatar“ on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV or watching ”Game of Thrones“ on their computer. It’s all content. It’s just story,” he said.

“And the audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for them. And they’re rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus, and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs, and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. And all we have to do is give it to them.”

It was a rousing call that ended with an Orson Wells quote: “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can stop eating peanuts.”

Here are some highlights from the speech:

And you might enjoy watching all 47 minutes of it here.

Interesting stuff from a plugged-in actor who is doing his part to embrace these new business and distribution models.

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version of this article was originally published at Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.

Ben Affleck as Batman

August 26, 2013

Ben Affleck

News that Ben Affleck will wear Batman’s cape and cowl in the Warner Bros 2015 sequel to Man of Steel caused quite a stir when it was announced last week. Snarky memes and tweets quickly emerged. And while #batfleck may have been the less than flattering reaction, don’t write him off.

Sure, he’s been in any number of less than stellar films (Gigli and Pearl Harbour spring to mind). But then, any actor with a sustained career can say the same. Plus Argo and The Town showed he was capable of interesting, nuanced performances.

Director Zac Snyder has clearly shown he can deliver on this kind of action flick. And the reaction to the news that Heath Ledger would play the Joker shows that fans aren’t always right when it comes to judging casting.

So as Val Kilmer said, “Give Ben a chance.”

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A version of this article was originally published at Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.