First things first.

We are still working on all manner of projects, including a possible sequel to The New Hope, a film about a group of university friends holding a reunion in France called Mantis, and a film about members of a singularity cult who decide to blow up server farms called How to Get Killed in the UK. This is not to mention our unnamed musical project about London’s French community. Hopefully one or more of these will get made in the next few months.

Recently we travelled to Portugal, where we did the principal photography for an experimental film about actors and acting called La Belle Noise. The movie stars Beg Steal Borrow regular Dennis Chua and newcomer Colin Morgan in the lead roles. Alya Soliman and Guy Farber helped out on the production, which featured numerous contributions from participants at and around the Fest Film Festival in Espinho, just south of Porto.

Fest provided the backdrop to the film, with William Brown also delivering a masterclass on zero-budget directing at the festival.

We are continuing post-production work on This is Cinema and The Benefit of Doubt. Imminently our collaborative epistolary film with Macedonian filmmaker Vladimir Najdovski will be completed and will enjoy a screening in London. Keep an eye out for this!

William’s recently completed short film Clem, which is about one of the cats that lived with his family during his childhood, played at the 2018 Film-Philosophy Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was generally well received.

On a separate note, though, Circle/Line was accepted into the Jogja International Film Festival in Indonesia, where it received an International Award of Merit.

While this sounds like good news, there was no actual screening of the film, since the organisers of the festival insist that all filmmakers be present if their film is to be screened – and William could not afford the cost of the airfare to Indonesia.

Failing the presence of the filmmaker, one can pay a local representative to be at the film, while the festival also only accepts films that have been burnt to DVD/BluRay by the local designated company. Oddly, the festival does not accept file transfers.

The combination of these quirky policies has led William to question whether the festival is really one aimed at getting the filmmaker to spend money locally in Indonesia, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but which does reaffirm the way in which many festivals are not screening stuff because they really like it, but for other reasons, perhaps here economic.

This prompted William to survey his festival submissions over the past few years. Looking at FilmFreeway alone, William has submitted his projects to a total of 128 festivals.

There have from this been 11 acceptances, 113 rejections and 3 submissions the outcome of which has not yet been decided. This means that less than one in 10 submissions has resulted in an acceptance.

Of those 11 acceptances, two were for film scripts (or rather, for the same film script, namely Kiss & Make-Up – at the Oaxaca FilmFest and at Scriptapalooza respectively), while six acceptances were for films that ultimately did not have a screening (with those screening-less festivals being the Beijing International Film Festival, the Stockholm Independent Film Festival, the UK Monthly Film Festival and the Barcelona Planet Film Festival, which supposedly accepted three of our films at once).

This then leaves three festivals alone as having taken our work and actually screened it – with one of those being a screening of The New Hope at the Bad Film Festival in New York, where there was an audience of zero people (although this number has not officially been confirmed). Otherwise, Letters to Ariadne played at the Validate Yourself Film Festival in New York (where over two thirds of the audience walked out and where the festival organiser himself tried to clap the film off the stage), and Circle/Line played at the wonderful East End Film Festival in London.

This means ultimately that 128 submissions have led to three film screenings, a hit rate of less than one in 40. And it means that a sum of roughly £1,500 has led to about 100 people watching our films. In order words, we are paying about £15 per head for people to watch our films.

(This is not as bad as the £400 paid to a cinema in London recently to show a preview screening of The Benefit of Doubt, and to which 10 people turned up. A simple case of mathematics: for that screening we paid £40 per person to be there!)

A couple of things follow from this, the last of which will be a typical performance of self-deprecation.

The first is that if you want to make some easy money, we suspect that you could do worse than to set up a film festival that never actually runs, or which if it does run, plays only one or two films from among those ‘selected.’ All you need really to do is to give to people ‘palms’ (if that) so that they can put them on their poster to give their film the air of having had ‘festival success.’

Charging a small fee in order to attract those filmmakers who do not have the money to foot £75 entry charges, I imagine that you would have a steady stream of 50-100 submissions each month (especially if you create a ‘rolling’ festival, like the UK Monthly Film Festival). At, say, £10 a pop, that would make you between £500 and £1,000 per month, minus your fee to Film Freeway. It would certainly help with the rent and/or to pay for one’s own creative projects – including the hire of a venue at which to the screen your own work (something that William has also spotted some festivals as doing).

The second point is that such a low hit rate would suggest that our/my/William’s filmmaking is shit – since no one wants to watch it (we have to pay people to watch our work).

Even after a high profile screening of Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival, not a single door has been opened in terms of giving to that film a further festival life – in much the same way that no festival screening has ever in our careers led to further festival screenings, with none of our 14 feature films having played at more than two festivals (and with none of our shorts having ever been selected for a film festival at all).

This compares very negatively with numerous other filmmakers, whose work seems to enjoy a ‘run’ of 30 or 40 festivals with a single film.

Perhaps one day we’ll work out what it is that we do wrong. But certainly we are just wrong, or we just get it wrong the absolute vast majority of the time. We certainly very rarely get it right – in terms of not just having a screening, but also in terms of people actually liking what it is that we do.

I guess, however, that we carry on – even if it is to the displeasure of those who wish that we would just give up, and even if it is to the displeasure of those who enjoy having a good laugh/bitch at our expensive when our work is mentioned in conversation.

Because if we didn’t carry on, then the feeling of not being right would become overwhelming, since it also is linked with not being right for this world. And the logical thing to do for someone who is not right for this world is to remove oneself from it.

Awards, Beg Steal Borrow News, Circle/Line, Clem, Festivals, Kiss and Make-Up, New projects, Prizes, Screenings, Scripts, Short Films, The Benefit of Doubt, The New Hope, This is Cinema, Uncategorized

Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird, USA, 2018)

American cinema, Blogpost, Uncategorized

In April, amid all of the hoo ha about the ‘revolutionary’ nature of Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo, USA, 2018) – because to make war infinite and to propose an unhappy ending is really revolutionary? – Steve Rose wrote in The Guardian about how Thanos (Josh Brolin) may in fact not be the bad guy… but really the good guy who wants to restore balance to a multiverse that humans have otherwise put out of balance.

Fast forward three months, and Incredibles 2 strikes me as another example of a film where basically I find myself rooting for the baddie, even though I quite like the goodies, too.

For, about a third of the way into the film, the seemingly arch-villain, the Screenslaver, explains the rationale behind his/her plans. Without remembering the speech verbatim, the Screenslaver basically makes the point that superheroes and representations of superheroes have become ubiquitous and that everyone spends all of their time looking at their screens that feature superheroes rather than heading out into and embracing the real world. People have lost touch with reality, and so the Screenslaver wants paradoxically to use the screens in order to bring people back to reality… but he/she can only do this by defeating those superheroes.


When it turns out – rather obviously – that the Screenslaver is in fact Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), the only question that remains is whether her brother, Winston (Bob Oedenkirk), is in cahoots with her or whether he is blissfully unaware.

It turns out that he is unaware of her plan. So a couple of questions arise.

For, Winston is basically a billionaire media magnate who just wants to develop a strong publicity campaign to bring ‘supers’ back into the fold after they have lost favour owing to the amount of collateral damage caused by their otherwise invisible labour. With the right coverage, people will understand why they have to destroy so much stuff… and then they will be upheld as the heroes that they are.

What Winston is not, therefore, is a media magnate who understands that he should just develop the whole combat between supers and villains as a media spectacle – since it is eyeballs on screens that makes and keeps him rich.

Rather, this is something that his sister realises… and yet she only wants to destroy the media empire – and in the process also to destroy the supers’ hopes of being able to act out their superpowers by getting into large-scale fights in public.

I don’t want to get too bogged down in sorting through the nuances of this slightly illogical plot. As most people would say: it doesn’t matter, just enjoy the movie and go with it.

Except for the fact that the Screenslaver/Evelyn basically argues for what I consider to be the point of my job: namely that people should be much more media savvy and literate than they are, learning how critically to evaluate both what they see and the mechanisms that are in place that allow them to see it. Without such critical thought and eyes, one is simply prey to the propaganda messages that surround us.

Indeed, that Winston is not acutely aware of the money that he will make from the supers is unthinkable. And how the supers are not aware, or even suspicious, from the get-go that they might be patsies within a ‘sinister’ media plan… just begs the question of when a superhero will come along who is capable of ideological critique and who realises that most of their violent actions are simply an enactment of their interpellation into and perpetuation of the systems of violence that keep the contemporary world as it is (which as it turns out is to be on a crash course with ecological cataclysm).

That is, I wonder when a superhero will come along whose superpower is… intelligence – because most of these ‘superheroes’ might be amazing beefcakes, and they may even be able to bend space and time and to invent amazing technologies… but as far as political sensibility is concerned, these guys are fucking dumb (Charles Xavier/Professor X is about the closest to being an exception to this so far; no wonder Lex Luthor doesn’t respect Superman).

In effect, then, Incredibles 2 is saying that film and media studies are the bad guys, and that critical thought/intelligence is bad in a world where supers should just do what supers do (fight), and we should all watch more and more of them on our screens (in a Disney monopoly) as we are fed endless fictions about ubermensch that help us to forget that in our human, all too human capacity, we have basically brought about the destruction of our planet and continue to be exploited into doing nothing about eking every last penny of profit from the environment, its animals and its humans (if they are separate things) because we are interpellated into being unthinking and uncritical subjects by the ideological state apparatuses that surround us, including cinema and films like Incredibles 2.

In other words, if you are critical of capitalism, then you are the enemy. If you question, then you are the enemy. If you think, then you are the enemy.

And yet, maybe some skills in critical thinking would have helped Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to realise of course she was getting played in putting a camera on her suit so that she can be entered into and win not just a war of perception about whether she is ‘good’ or not, but also a ratings war that Winston pretends to deny but surely cannot be so naïve as to overlook.

But of course, for Elastigirl to out-think her opponents would make for boring cinema. And so here is the rub: given the cinematic values of our society, if you endorse anything that is not cinematic (including intelligence), then you run counter to the role that society has assigned to you, even as the powers that be accrue information/intelligence about you as a result of every keystroke that you make on your laptops.

Did I spoil your fun? Did I spoil your film? I apologise if I woke you from your gentle slumber. Well… sorry not sorry. Sorry. Not sorry.