Tag Archives: Chris Lince

Ever-calm Chris Lincé laughs: “I’ve tried to work on the best and worst shows”

Chris Lincé

Chris – “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. “

In a blog chat three weeks ago with Jody Kamali, an unjustly forgotten Edinburgh Fringe show called Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian came up.

‘Unjustly forgotten’ in the same way that it would be unjust if the sinking of the Titanic were forgotten.

Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian was outstandingly bad and the reviews reflected that.

Coincidentally, I chatted with writer-director Chris Lincé and it turned out he had been involved in the production – but only designing the sets.

“You never actually saw the stage show itself?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

“Trust me,” I said, “if you had seen it, you would have remembered it.”

“I definitely read the script,” said Chris. “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. I really don’t know.”

“It was truly awful,” I said. “It was like when young male comics get on stage and talk about wanking… Sometimes you get girls who think they’ll be terribly avant-garde and progressive if they talk about sex and say the word ‘cunt’. It was all that. The central character worked for CUN TV, which was the best pun in it. Did the script read OK?”

“No,” said Chris. “It was that for an hour.”

“It’s not my memory misleading me?” I asked.

A 2005 photocall in Edinburgh for the Sally Swallows show

2005 photocall for Sally Swallows Fringe show

“No. To a certain extend, I think it’s someone watching things like the League of Gentlemen and not really understanding why it works. Looking at ‘dark’ things and learning the wrong lessons. Thinking: Ooh! If I’m as dark as possible, if I swear as much as possible, that will do and that will be funny! and I believe from people who saw the Sally Swallows show that… eh… that was not the case… Presumably you saw it with an audience?”

“Yes,” I said. “There were about 8 or 10 of us and, beforehand, there was a sense of enormous anticipation. We had all come see it because we had read the terrible reviews. But – and this is true – I do remember that the sets were really, really good. I seem to remember realising enormous work had been put into the sets and the sound and I think the costumes too.”

“A lot of effort went into the production,” agreed Chris, “and she hired a really good cartoonist to design the poster. I did a painted backdrop of London and there was an ice cream van that I spent ages making in my living room. It was huge and heavy.”

“This was for the sperm ice cream scene?” I asked.

“I guess so,” said Chris. “I remember there was a hairy clam on a plate and a small, deformed puppet body that I think one of the characters wore around their neck.”

“The hairy clam on the plate,” I said, “must surely have been a vagina?”

“I think that was the innuendo,” said Chris.

“Any contact since,” I asked, “with the lady who created the show?”

Gail Porter projected her ideas on Parliament

Gail Porter’s successful Parliamentary projection

“Well,” said Chris, “shortly after doing that show, she sent me lots of naked photographs of herself… to be projected onto the Houses of Parliament. I think it was after FHM had projected Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament and so she wanted to project herself onto them to promote the raising of import tax on fur.

“She was going to have a photograph of herself, completely naked – I think with a little aeroplane over her lady parts. I got as far as re-touching the photos and adding text to it – and the aeroplane – but then she found out how much it would cost to hire a projector that big and the whole project fell apart. That was the last I heard from her.”

“I don’t know what you are,” I told Chris. “You are difficult to categorise. When I first met you, it was as a writer. But then other people see you as a director. And now I find out you were a set designer.”

“I’ve tried,” laughed Chris, “to work on the best and worst shows that have been out there!”

“Most recently…?” I prompted.

“I script edited a small, independent British movie,” said Chris. “Superbob. Been in cinemas, now available on DVD and video-on-demand and all those other exciting things. Written by Brett Goldstein, directed by Jon Drever.

SuperBob_poster

SuperBob – “very sweet and heartwarming”

“It was based on a short film that Brett and Jon had made and they developed it into a feature script, got lots of producers involved. But, like any low-budget film, it took five years to get anybody to see it.

“The shoot was about three weeks, two and a half years ago. Within the last six months or so, they got distribution for it and it’s been out there, people have been liking it and the reviews are good. All the things you hope for but don’t expect. All the reviews seem to say it’s very, very sweet film; heartwarming.”

“What,” I asked, “is the elevator pitch for it?”

“It’s about a postman who is hit by a meteorite and it endows him with superpowers. He gets hired by the Ministry of Defence to be the world’s only superhero. But this film is set on his day off.”

(There is a trailer for Superbob on YouTube)

“You directed,” I said, “Brett Goldstein’s last three Edinburgh Fringe stage shows and you directed two other shows at the Fringe this year… but you didn’t actually go up to Scotland… Don’t you have to up if you’re directing something?”

“I can’t be doing with that any more,” explained Chris. “If it’s not directed by the time it starts, it’ll never be ready… It’s only hand-holding after that. Each of Brett’s shows I work on for about a year and a half. The hard work is early on.”

“You do a lot of script editing,” I said. “Isn’t that frustrating, because you’re making someone else’s writing better but getting no credit for it?”

“You don’t get the immediate praise a stand-up gets when he’s performing,” admitted Chris. “but, as a non-performer, I don’t particularly crave that. You do want to be recognised for it so you can get more work off the back of it.”

“How does anybody actually direct stand-up?” I asked.

“The word directing is almost meaningless,” replied Chris. “It can mean almost being a co-writer or turning up at the last minute and suggesting performance or presentation things. I’ve got involved in shows at all types of different stages of development. “

“What are you doing next?” I asked.

“I’m directing a short play at the New Diorama Theatre – The Story Project’s Chapter 2 – starting on Tuesday – about a teenage girl who’s being trolled and abused online.”

“Have you,” I asked, “decided to concentrate on being a director now?”

“I do whatever people ask me to do. Bits of script editing; bits of directing; a little bit of writing recently, to stop myself getting rusty.”

“Can you be rusty in writing?”

“I think so, yeah.”

“Have you got ambitions?”

“Only to do more of the same but get paid better – or paid – for it. I’m always busy but not always productive.”

Chris Lincé’s showreel is on Vimeo.

 

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How to make a horror film terrifying and the mystery of police horses in Soho

Chris Lincé was delayed by a bird in Soho

Chris Lincé was delayed by a bird in Soho

I first met Chris Lincé years ago when I wandered along with comedian Charlie Chuck to some project they were both involved in.

I met him again last week at Soho Theatre in London.

Chris was a few minutes late because a bird shat on his head when he was coming out of Chinatown.

Shit happens.

He now directs music videos, live shows, script edits, does lots. In Hollywood, they would call him a hyphenate.

“How would you describe yourself?” I asked. “A writer-director?”

“No,” he replied. “I’m a director who likes to get involved in the writing as early as possible, whether I’m writing it myself or – as is more often the case – working with a writer.”

He story-edited a British feature film which should be coming out next year – a superhero comedy called SuperBob, starring Catherine Tate, Brett Goldstein and Laura Haddock.

But, at the moment, he is concentrating on a crowdfunding campaign for The Exorcism of Danny Fontaine starring Danny Fontaine of rock band The Horns of Fury. There is a video for their song The Butcher (directed by Chris) on YouTube.

“The Horns of Fury had been going about eight years,” said Chris, “but they’ve recently disbanded. I did two music videos for Danny when the band was still together and now we’re working on this short 11-minute horror musical and there are plans further down the line to do longer and more extravagant things.”

Funding ends, appropriately, on Hallowe’en with filming due to start at the end of the year. The appeal is not just on Indiegogo but also on YouTube.

“Distribution?” I asked.

“It’s festivals and then internet,” said Chris. “There are probably more horror festivals than there are any other type of film festival. It’s a calling card and proof of concept showing you can have a horror musical sung through that is not what you think of when you think of musicals.”

“Sung through?” I asked.

“There are songs and no spoken dialogue. All the dialogue is sung.”

There must have been some, but neither of us could think of any other movie written originally for the screen (ignoring adaptations of stage musicals) which is wholly sung through.

“Is it comedic?” I asked.

“Not especially,” explained Chris, “other than the fact I’ll probably put some jokes in because I like jokes. It’s a proper 1970s-vibe rock opera – Phantom of the Paradise, Rocky Horror Show, that kind of feel.”

“So it’s camp?” I asked.

The upcoming horror musical

The upcoming musical – colourful not camp

“Not so much camp as vibrant,” said Chris. “The thing I’ve noticed in horror over the last ten years is that it’s gone greyer and greyer and greyer. There are a lot of dingy corridors and hand-held cameras. But I think that trend is changing. One of the trends at Frightfest in London this year was that colourful horror is starting to come back: a lot of highly-saturated lighting palates. There’s slightly more fun than there used to be. I think a lot of 1980s influences are starting to creep in.”

“The heyday of exorcism films was the 1970s, wasn’t it?” I asked.

“There’s still maybe one a year,” said Chris. “Immediately after The Exorcist came out in 1973, some of the knock-offs were extraordinary. There was a blaxploitation rip-off called Abby about a woman who was obsessed by a sex demon. The way her possession manifested itself was she left her husband and hung around in bars picking up guys… And then there’s an exorcism.”

“Of whom?” I asked.

“Her,” said Chris. “Women were not allowed to do that. Did you see The Manitou? It was a 1978 Tony Curtis film about a possessed tumour which I think I’m right in saying ends with them defeating the demon by throwing typewriters at it. They just chuck typewriters at it until it’s defeated.

The Manitou - killed by scriptwriting tools

The Manitou – killed by scriptwriters’ tools of the trade

“Films are scheduled and planned and written and everybody learns their stuff. But apparently at no point in the process did anyone say: Guys – Are we really ending this film with the mass typewriter throwing?”

“Maybe the scriptwriters were exorcising their own demons,” I suggested.

“What I particularly do like about horror,” said Chris, “is that it appeals to both extremes of human experience – base, gut-level, animalistic, instinctual fears… but you can also have intellectual conversations about morality and how do you behave in extreme situations. When you get both of those playing alongside each other, it doesn’t get any richer than that.”

“Surely,” I said, “science fiction films are the ones that often examine moral and intellectual subjects?”

“Yes,” said Chris, “but there’s something more immediate about horror. Sometimes science fiction can be a little bit detached, a little bit cold. And the stakes in science fiction tend to be lower. In horror, you’re normally running away from a problem or tied to a problem or the problem’s being cut off you while you worry about it. Horror can tap into a fear that you can’t intellectualise your way out of.

“(Horror film director) Dario Argento said that, when he wanted people killed in his films, he would try to find a way that the audience had some experience of. He didn’t want to shoot people, because most people have not been shot; they don’t know what it feels like. You DO know what it’s like to cut ourself; You DO know what it’s like to burn yourself.

Director Dario Argento (Wikipedia photo by Brian Eeles)

Director Argento took the ordinary to extremes (Wikipedia photo by Brian Eeles)

“He would find something which most people had done and then take it to an extreme – which did result in killers finding very peculiar ways of killing people. But scalding someone to death makes it relatable in a way that being shot or vaporised does not. If I see someone being vaporised in a science fiction film… I have never been vaporised… I assume it is bad, but I don’t know what it feels like. There’s nothing that affects me on a gut level.

“Whereas a paper cut I can understand. If you imagine a piece of paper slipped under your fingernail, pushing its way into your finger, you can imagine feeling that far more than someone being vaporised.”

“There is research,” I said, “that, when people watch violence on screen, they watch not the action but the re-action. If someone is punched in the stomach, they don’t watch the fist hit the stomach; they watch the reaction on the face of the person being hit.”

“Probably the most reaction you can get,” said Chris, “is going for the eye or mouth. Have you seen the Dario Argento film Opera?

Dario Argento’s eye-opening horror film

Dario Argento’s eye-opening horror film

“There is a scene where the killer wants a woman to watch the killing he is about to do. So he Sellotapes needles to her eyes so that, if she closes her eyes, they will stick in her. A close-up of an eye with needles attached to it is far more horrifying than the actual act of violence which Argento then shows – somebody being cut in the neck – because you are just that much closer to something you can relate to.

“Last night, we were having long discussions into the night about the best way of killing somebody in our film. Long, dry discussions along the lines of Yeah, but if we cut him across the belly, it’s bloody but it’s not as interesting as cutting the face. Conversations about maximum impact and maximum reaction.”

“I guess,” I said, “in cinema, punching someone on the nose feels more violent that stabbing someone in the stomach with a knife because it has more of a visible effect. Attacks on the face are more frightening.”

“It’s where we view everything from,” said Chris.

“I suppose,” I said, “that horror is the most constantly violent genre, along with westerns.”

“Westerns,” said Chris, “are one of the few genres I don’t get on with and I don’t really know why. It might be the hats.”

At this point, as Chris and I sat in the Soho Theatre Bar, we saw two policemen ride slowly up Dean Street on horses.

“There is something I don’t know about police on horseback,” said Chris. “If you are a policeman on horseback and you see some criminal activity – like you see someone running down the street with a stolen television – are you allowed to gallop after them?”

“I guess so,” I said.

Chris had a hairy time when we met in Soho...

Chris had a hairy time when we met in Soho…

“I just want to see that,” said Chris. “It seems dangerous.”

“Though,” I said, “even if they gallop, it would be easy enough for a man on foot to escape from a pursuing horse in the West End.”

“It just seems futile having horses in Soho,” said Chris.

“I had better take a photo of you before you go,” I said.

“I really do have dry bird shit in my hair,” said Chris.

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