Tag Archives: Cannes

Globetrotting 84-year old US comedian Lynn Ruth is part of a ‘British Invasion’

Last week, I had a chat with 84-year-old, London-based, American comedian Lynn Ruth Miller – the thinking senior citizen’s crumpet – whose upcoming schedule of gigs includes Prague, Dublin, Berlin, Paris, various cities in the US, Manila, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Bangkok and, she says, “probably somewhere in Cambodia”.

Lynn Ruth in London’s Pall Mall last week

That’s an interesting itinerary for an 84-year-old American living in London, I thought.

I was going to write a blog about the chat this week but, then, blow me, I got this email from her two days ago…


I am in CANNES, where the sun is shining!  

At first, I was alarmed because I did not know why I didn’t have to turn on all the lights to see my hand in front of my face.

Then I realised I WAS NOT IN LONDON.

When you are out of the UK, people actually see the sun.  

My hotel here is called The Hotel Bellevue and it is adorable.

My room is the size of a disabled public toilet but somehow it is very complete. I feel like I have just entered Jonathan Swift’s Lilliputian village. It is a good thing I am 4’10” tall and weigh under 100 pounds or I would never fit into the place.

I must say the world does dote on the elderly. At Gatwick Airport, a lovely Englishman from Birmingham stood behind me in line to board Ryanair and carried my case down the stairs without my even asking and the woman in the seat next to mine chatted with me the entire two hours we were on the flight.  Not that I WANTED her to chat for so long but she was from Essex. What can you expect?

Vanessa Marcié met me at the airport. Her mother is a wild, adventurous driver. She drove us to Vanessa’s flat.  As we darted from one lane to the tree on the side of the road into the highway and across four lanes and a traffic bump, I stifled an impulse to call my friends and say good-bye but we got to the flat intact.

Her mother had made me a homemade pizza which I devoured with champagne as Vanessa and I discussed the profession of comedy and the insensitivity and stupidity of her university students.  

Vanessa is a very educated woman with a PHD and two masters degrees and it made me wonder why she is so devoted to talking dirty on stage to crowds.  

I know MY reason: it is that it brings back memories of my youth.

Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes (Photo by Joseph Plotz)

I called Uber to get me from Nice where Vanessa lives to Cannes and my driver was Charlotte who took me INTO the hotel and opened the door to my room.  The world does dote on the elderly.

She told me driving a cab is her living because it is the only thing she can do besides eat. Looking at her squeezed between the steering wheel and the seat I saw that she was right about the food and, when she got me to the hotel safely, I realised she did indeed know her stuff.

As I said, the whole fucking world just loves the elderly… EXCEPT when they are doing business with them.  

I decided to take a walk to find a place for lunch in Cannes. It abounds in many, many eateries with menus in French. I do not speak French.

If it isn’t a crepe or an omelette, I have no idea what it is.  

I finally found La Civett Carnot which had a sign saying it was a brasserie. I knew what that was. The food there was all right and the service very fast. However, if you speak only English or you are older or a woman, beware.  

I ordered a weak coffee and got charged for a double espresso which looked like one shot to me. Naturally, being Jewish, I complained that I was overcharged. Two very large imposing men insisted that that is what they thought I asked for and what they gave me and I better damn well pay for it. I did.

I feel certain had I been able to speak French or had I not been a single ancient hag they would have adjusted the bill. Life does have its hurdles.

Lynn Ruth, part of the ‘British Invasion’ (she is from Ohio)

My gig was called THE BRITISH INVASION (Lynn Ruth was born in Ohio, living most of her life in San Francisco) and was in an Irish Bar, just 6 minutes from my hotel.  

However, I get confused by the little blue dot on Google Maps and the 6 minutes expanded to 30, as I wandered the streets of Cannes.

The comedy show was interesting and well attended. The audience was very thirsty for a laugh and the show was a success. I headlined for them and the response was gorgeous. I even got a Caesar Salad, two drinks and a bit of cash.

I managed to find my way home with the help of two escorts and it did indeed take me 6 minutes to get to my hotel. Which all goes to show Google does not lie.

The next morning I took a bus to the airport, got a flight to Gatwick, came home to grab my burlesque costume and took my clothes off to a standing ovation in Islington.

As we all know, a girl has to do what she has to do.


 I think we may hear more of Lynn Ruth’s travels…

 

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A British film about a South American psycho killer made by a kung fu master

Chet Jethwa - kung fu master

Chet Jethwa – kung fu man

The enterprising Chet Jethwa is a chum of the equally enterprising Borehamwood-based Jason Cook, about whom I’ve blogged before.

Chet has a movie he directed currently being sold at the Cannes Film Festival. So we had a chat via Skype this morning.

“I’m originally a kung fu martial artist,” he told me. “I got into the film world when I was asked to do a fight scene in a low budget film a friend was making – The Estate. I went along for the day and played a Bruce Lee type character in a fight scene and had fun.”

“So how did you end up directing your own full-length feature film?” I asked.

“Well,” he told me, “I decided to do more movies, but no-one gave me the time of day, which basically pissed me off. So I told myself: I’m going to do it myself. So I decided to make a few short films and get some producing, acting and directing experience.

“My first 10-minute film – D.O.D. – won at the Angel Film Festival in London in 2009. This gave me the confidence to continue and I met Jason Cook on that. The second short I made – 55 Hill Rise – was the incentive I needed to move onto feature films. Jason helped me to produce that. I shot it, completed the final edit, put it on the shelf and then started writing my feature Carlos Gustavo – the one that’s now at Cannes.”

“Why this particular idea?” I asked.

Carlos Gustavo

Carlos Gustavo – the psychopath with instructions not to kill

“Well, because it’s not your typical British film,” explained Chet. “Carlos Gustavo is a South American hit man who has been hired to come to Britain and find a biological weapon by hunting down a scientist. He is a psychopath – Carlos is – but, on this mission, he’s not allowed to kill the guy because he has to bring him in alive. In the process, you’ve got MI5 chasing him, but they are not as competent as they should be.”

“And,” I asked, “he manages to kill a few people using kung fu?”

“There isn’t a lot of martial arts in the film,” said Chet. “It’s more to do with the characters.”

“How did you get finance for a film about a South American hit man running around Britain not killing people with kung fu?” I asked.

“It was very difficult,” said Chet, “and I pulled-in a lot of favours from everyone. But we shot it in just under thirty days in HD. We had to change a couple of cast members halfway through filming, so we had to re-shoot all those scenes, which added another couple of days, then we went straight to post production.”

“Why did you have to change the actors?” I asked.

“They didn’t get the concept, basically.”

“Which bit of the concept didn’t they get?”

“Their roles.”

“Well, Apocalypse Now!,” I said, “was re-cast after a week’s shooting. Martin Sheen replaced Harvey Keitel. And that worked well.”

“It happens,” said Chet. “Whatever the budget.”

“When did you finish Carlos Gustavo?” I asked.

“About a month before Cannes started,” said Chet, “so there was a lot of rush going on to get it out there in time. We got an international sales agent involved – Eddie Leahy.”

“What interested him?” I asked.

Cannes poster for Chet’s new movie

Current Cannes poster for Chet’s new movie

“That Carlos Gustavo is a different type of action thriller,” said Chet. “It has a lot of interesting twists. What you see at the beginning and what you think all the way through the film… In the end, you find out something completely different. It’s a really big story twist. What attracted everyone to get involved was the storyline.

“We’re hoping to get the international territories first and then bring it over to the UK and USA. I did a lot of research before shooting and people want strong characters rather than it all being action. This film, hopefully, will create an emotional response, rather than just having lots of action thrown in. It focuses more on emotional response.”

“I did see research once,” I said, “which found that, when audiences watch violence, they don’t look at the punch or the bullet hitting the victim; they look at the face of the victim. So their eyes don’t watch the action, they watch the reaction.

“In martial arts,” I prompted, “you’re in total control of what’s going on, but making a film is anarchy and everything changing…”

“Yes,” said Chet, “ it’s very difficult. You just work hard and keep hopeful, really. It’s certainly very difficult to get finance up-front.”

“And the cliché,” I said, “is that you never make money out of movies because the distributors nick it all.”

“It happens,” said Chet. “Creative accounting. But I’ve done my maths and we’ll have to be hopeful, really. Just get the film out there.”

“What about piracy?” I asked. “If you have a film that makes $200 million, you can afford to lose $20 million but, with small-budget films, online piracy can wipe them out and the distributors don’t/can’t stop it.”

“You can never be sure what will happen,” said Chet. “It’s really difficult to get the support you need from the industry people, so you’ve got to do it yourself. It’s very hard to get an opportunity, so you’ve gotta make the opportunities yourself.”

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Canned Laughter aims to expose reel laughter at the Cannes Film Festival

(This piece was also published by the Huffington Post and by India’s We Speak News)

Jonathan Hansler will roll with the punches

I first met actor Jonathan Hansler a few years ago at one of the late lamented Fringe Report’s monthly meetings. He was named Best Actor in their final 2011 Awards. I mentioned him in January this year in a blog about the unveiling of a plaque at the site of the old Establishment Club in Soho – he is an indefatigable admirer and promoter of the late Peter Cook.

Jonathan is also half of comedy duo Teakshow. But, as well as the comedy streak running through him there is an entrepreneurial streak.

Three weeks ago he started an organisation which aims to run a comedy movie section – Canned Laughter – parallel to the main Cannes Film Festival next May.

Canned Laughter is intended to be a “focal point for comedy films at Cannes” and to increase Comedy’s profile there and elsewhere. Their ‘Mission Statement’ says:

Comedy is the hardest medium to perform and yet it gets little recognition. In the history of the Oscars, only four comedy films have ever won an award and there is no Best Comedy Oscar. In our opinion, it is a seriously undervalued medium. Canned Laughter aims to open up the possibilities of comedy film-making and to be a place for new film-makers to have their films screened via a competition with an experienced panel of judges… This is a multi-billion global industry yet there is no venue for it at the most celebrated film festival in the world… It is time comedy is recognised for the brilliant art form that it is at the most important film festival in the world. Comedy is all about timing and the time has never been better – changing the world through comedy and making it a brighter place.

“Canned Laughter would give awards?” I asked Jonathan Hansler yesterday at Silver Road Studios in London.

“Yes. We have the idea for something called The Peter Sellers Awards – best comedy film, best actor – our mini-awards at Cannes.”

“Only for English language films?” I asked.

“Well, we welcome international films from all over the world.”

“So some comedy film in Spanish from Guatemala…” I started.

“Yeah,” said Jonathan. “So long as we can understand it – if it’s dubbed or sub-titled or even silent comedy or animation. Every form of comedy including shorts.”

To make Canned Laughter a reality, Jonathan has partnered with a whole group of people and companies, including Silver Road Studios, live promotion company Best Jester Entertainment and Sarah Pemberton of TV/film production company Red Skin Media,

“I came up with the idea,” Jonathan explained to me yesterday, “because I was at Cannes four or five years ago and they had something called the Straight 8, where you had about ten minutes of Super-8 film shot continuously without cutting and they showed these little films at Cannes and all the cock-ups were left in and I was sat in this tent with this very funny guy hosting it and I was falling about with laughter and I thought I have not been to anywhere in Cannes like this.

“Generally at Cannes, you go to parties with a load of people looking terribly serious or talking shit or totally pissed but no laughter, no lightness. It’s like Disneyland with security guards, because it doesn’t promote lightness. It has a sense of snobbery about it, it’s got lots of posh black cars, loads of people in bow ties hanging around with very beautiful women – and that’s all fantastic, but what I find about comedy is it’s a very honest medium. It tells the truth a lot of the time and that’s wonderful to have in a place where, a lot of the time, there’s a lot of bullshit.

“Canned Laughter is about opening up the possibilities of comedy, so people are more aware of the brilliance and genius… How many geniuses are there as actors? There are a few. But, in comedy, there are loads of geniuses. And yet it’s an undervalued medium.”

“So,” I asked, “you want people to submit their films to you.”

“Yes,” said Jonathan.

“And they pay to enter their movie?”

“A nominal fee to be decided,” replied Sarah Pemberton. “It’s a model that already works well at the Cannes Film Festival in the Short Film Corner,. As far as entries are concerned, we could potentially launch Canned Laughter at the London Comedy Film Festival in January.”

“Which isn’t bad,” I said, “considering Canned Laughter started three weeks ago.”

“Well,” said Jonathan, “ I came up with the idea in June, but I had to wait until after the Edinburgh Fringe to get things together so people would be back in London and you have to let things simmer in your head. It came together when we had a meeting here at Silver Road Studios. We had about 65 people which I whittled down to a core team.”

“And you told me about some very impressive patrons,” I said.

“Though we can’t name them yet,” said Jonathan. “There will be a website up in a week or so. This came out of pure love, pure passion. I just think the time is nigh, the time is right and it’s a portable idea because you can take it to any film festival.

Canned Laughter obviously refers to Cannes. But our logo will involve a can of film, so the idea of canned film makes it transferable. There could be spin-offs. For the Sundance Festival, we have the idea of Canned Laughter’s Fundance. But the focal point now is Cannes next May.”

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Malcolm Hardee Tunnel documentary goes to Cannes Film Festival – sort of

The Tunnel film on Malcolm’s comedy club

Ever since 2005, the year Britain’s alternative comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee drowned, Jody VandenBurg has been collecting material for a feature-length film: Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There.

Still unfinished but with a staggering amount of unique material collected and a vast number of interviews with Big Name comedians telling stories about Malcolm, a couple of years ago, the projected full-length documentary spawned a short 30-minute film on Malcolm’s notorious comedy club The Tunnel. It includes memories of Malcolm from comedians Harry Enfield, Simon Munnery and Arthur Smith

Last night, I was at a screening of The Tunnel in Greenwich. It is being shown again on 6th May as part of the New Cross & Deptford Film Festival.

It is also, as they say, “going to Cannes” in May.

Last night, director Jody VandenBurg told me:

“We’re going because I accidentally entered The Tunnel for the Cannes Short Film Corner and accidentally got through. I wasn’t even thinking Oh. This is the Cannes Film Festival. I just thought Oh. I’ve managed to find another film festival that’s worth entering. I guess I just thought I was entering a competition rather than the actual short film section of the Festival, which is more of a market place. There are going to be lots of agents and producers looking for new talent.

“The Cannes Short Film Corner is not part of the official Cannes Film Festival competition but it is very much part of the Festival. So, like the Edinburgh Fringe, we are going to take posters and flyers and put them up and encourage people to come and watch the film and we’ve got a screening room where we can show it to people. I’ll take an iPad so I can easily shove it in people’s faces. Show them The Tunnel and the trailer for Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There.

“It’s going to cost you a fortune, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Probably. Yeah,” Jody admitted. “This whole film obviously has cost us all a fortune, so far.”

“So,” I suggested, “Malcolm is managing to screw money out of people even from beyond the grave?”

“Yes,” said Jody. “But he is talent-spotting as well, isn’t he? Helping someone at the beginning of their career even from beyond the grave.”

“You should put the trailer online,” I suggested.

“Yeah, we’ll put that online before Cannes.”

“My memory of the trailer I saw at Edinburgh in 2010,” I said, “was that it had an emotional flow to it. There was a feeling of tragedy and sadness towards the end.”

“Well,” agreed Jody, “there’s much more to Malcolm than just the bollocks-out with crazy antics and stunts, isn’t there? There’s a lot more depth to him, really.”

“Who wants to hear about that, though?” I said.

“Lots of people,” replied Jody. “Big audiences hopefully. People really love The Tunnel because it has that same sort of emotional curve to it.”

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Advice on how to spot a conman in the movie industry (and elsewhere)

I popped along to Elstree Film Studios for a chat with the indefatigable Jason Cook (not to be confused with the comedian of the same name, though I am sure he is also dynamic).

The Jason Cook I know is a former gangster’s runner turned author and film producer with more energy than the National Grid.

His production company The Way Forward Productions, based at Elstree Studios, has a slate of seven feature films in various stages of preparation. His sales agent says the first picked up quite a bit of interest at the recent Cannes Film Festival. It is The Devil’s Dandruff, based on Jason’s autobiographical novel There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus (the first in his autobiographical trilogy of books).

My favourite Jason Cook project, though, is the animated Rats in Space.

It’s a great title and it’s currently looking for finance.

We found we were both equally bemused and amused by the fact that, with potential movie investors, a person’s sartorial impressiveness is often in inverse proportion to their financial ability. People who turn up to meetings unshaven in scruffy shirts and torn jeans often have shedloads of money to burn. People who arrive looking well-heeled in neat Armani suits and spotless shirts are often bullshitting.

Maybe it’s because people with a lot of money don’t need to impress anyone, so don’t care what people think of them.

Whereas conmen and shysters are meticulous in their clothing and manners because they need to impress people for the hustle to work.

Of course, some shabbily-dressed men are just shabbily-dressed men.

I have been told I am living proof of this.

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