Tag Archives: film

Missing blogs, John Gielgud’s gay porn, James Bond’s toilet and Tony Hancock

John fleming - shocked look

Typical reaction to WordPress’ efficiency

My daily blog has not appeared for a couple of days because WordPress, which hosts it, had some technical problem which meant it was impossible for me to save or post anything. And, even if you pay them, they do not provide Support – you have to post on user forums with no guarantee of any response from anyone.

Giving them grief on Twitter seemed to have some slight effect – eventually. To a partial extent. I got this message:

Let us know if we can help with anything! Here’s how to export your content and take it with you.

I replied:

It might have been useful if WordPress could have sorted out the technical problem which means I cannot post any blogs. I might have thought WordPress would be more concerned with their software not working rather than helping people to leave.

After WordPress getting more Twitter and Reddit grief orchestrated by this blog’s South Coast correspondent, Sandra Smith, I got some reaction from a WordPress ‘staff’ member (whom you apparently can’t contact normally) – which was minimal and apparently transient, as I have heard no more from him.

But, about three hours later, when I tried again, the problem had disappeared. I had changed and done nothing. So I can only assume WordPress corrected the fault and never bothered to tell me.

As Facebook Friend Alias Robert Cummins succinctly put it: WordPress is amazingly shit, in all sorts of tiresome and complex ways, which I’d really rather not go into this late in the evening.

That is his real name, by the way – the one he was given at birth – Alias Robert Cummins. It is a bizarre story and one probably worth a blog at some point.

Anyway, the problem was eventually solved (I hope it has been, anyway) with the help not just of Sandra Smith but also the excellent cyber-guy and indefatigable Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show person Stephen O’Donnell.

John Ward toilet accessory with gun, silencer and loo roll

John Ward’s toilet accessory has a gun, silencer and loo roll

In the two days of missing blogs and navel-gazing, the world still turned, with John Ward, designer of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards getting some publicity in Lincolnshire of all places because today the James Bond film SPECTRE is released and, a couple of years ago, John designed a combined gun-rack and toilet paper holder.

He used to own a gun licence himself: something that never made me sleep easy in bed.

When no new blogs were being posted the last couple of days, the old one getting most hits was last Wednesday’s blog, about David McGillivray’s new short film of a previously un-produced gay porn script Trouser Bar written in 1976 by Sir John Gielgud.

David Mcgillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

David McGillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

The film (still in post-production) includes performances by Julian Clary, Barry Cryer and Nigel Havers. One blog reader user-named ‘Ludoicah’ commented:

I’d say with a cast that includes Nigel Havers and Barry Cryer that there is zero chance of this being any sort of a porn film, gay or otherwise, and it is probably, at most, a mildly risqué sketch.

To which David McGillivray replied:

Incorrect. It’s utter filth, liable to deprave and corrupt. I was blindfolded while I was producing it.

Sir John Gielgud’s script was inspired, it seems, by his love of men in tight trousers, particularly trousers made from corduroy.

Last Thursday, the day after my blog on the film appeared, the following was posted (with photo) on Trouser Bar’s Facebook page:

Trouser Bar still - corduroy trousers

Trouser Bar still – corduroy trousers un-creamed by Sir John

I’ve just seen the rough cut. Sir John would have creamed his corduroy jeans at this close-up.

It also quoted Sir John’s letter to Paul Anstee of 19th October, 1958:

“The students at the schools and universities [in Pennsylvania] are a wonderful audience, and a good deal of needle cord manch is worn (very badly cut, and usually only partly zipped!) so my eyes occasionally wander.”

Also posted on the Trouser Bar Facebook page was this quote from a Galton and Simpson comedy script for Hancock’s Half Hour in 1958:

Sid: “Hilary St Clair.” 

Tony: “Hilary St Clair? I bet he’s all corduroys and blow waves”

with the comment:

Even in the 1950s it seems that corduroy was associated with homosexuality.

All this, plus a photo on my blog of Sir John Gielgud with Sir Ralph Richardson in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, made Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – ask::

I wonder what kind of porn Ralph Richardson wrote?

and to mention:

Tony Hancock. Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

Comedian Tony Hancock – Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

I bought a Tony Hancock album last week at a junk shop. A woman wondered to me whether he was a criminal.

“He wasn’t a criminal,” I said, a bit annoyed. ”He was a comedian!”

“He looks like a criminal,” the woman countered, doubting my certainty.

“It was the 1950s,” I said, exasperated. “Everyone looked like a criminal back then.”

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Filed under Blogs, Comedy, Eccentrics, Gay, Internet, Movies, Pornography

Comic Simon Munnery talks about fylm making – yes fylm making – and horses

Simon Munnery last night under a picture of Benny Hill at the Comedy Pub

Simon Munnery last night under a picture of Benny Hill at the Comedy Pub in London

Comedian Simon Munnery lives on my railway line.

Well, not ON my railway line. That would be surreal. But he lives near Bedford, just north of London and I live in Borehamwood on the NW edge of London. We have bumped into each other a couple of times on Thameslink trains.

Last night I chatted to him at the Comedy Pub in London, just before he appeared on Phil Kay’s always-fascinating monthly Goodfather Comedy show.

“So,” I said to Simon, “next Tuesday you’re at the Leicester Square Theatre for ten nights with a show called Simon Munnery – Fylm. Is that the same as your 2012 Edinburgh Fringe show Simon Munnery: Fylm-Makker and your 2013 one Simon Munnery: Fylm?”

“Same format,” he said. “Different material.”

“So it was…” I started and then interrupted myself. “What have you been doing with your hand?” I asked.

He had grey-black marks on each of the knuckles of his right hand.

“Putting coal in a fire,” he said.

“Your own or someone else’s?”

“My own.”

“You’ve moved,” I said. “You live in rural tranquility now.”

“Except horses,” said Simon. “Horse boxes.”

“Horses or horse boxes?” I asked.

“Mainly horse boxes,” he replied. “I’d say ten-to-one horse boxes. You see a horse every so often but, despite having legs, they’re driven around. That’s how they live.”

“You’re not really a rural person,” I said.

“Turns out we are,” said Simon.

“Where were you born?”

“Edgware. But gradually, due to economic forces, we’ve been slowly moving out of town. We rented just outside Bedford for a long time and then my wife was given some money and I saved some and we put it together and bought a house.”

Simon and his wife tried for several years to have children but failed. Then he got testicular cancer and had to have one testicle removed. Shortly afterwards, his wife became pregnant. He has said on stage that he thinks the testicle was holding him back.

“Every time I meet you,” I said, “you seem to have more children. How many now?”

“Three children, one house, one wife, one dog… one future, one country, one leader, one Reich… no… One dog. His name is Leo.”

“Named after?”

“Leonardo da Vinci. My daughter named him.”

“At what age?”

“Two years ago, when she was eight.”

“You have a very cultured daughter.”

“I don’t think she knew who Leonardo da Vinci was. She might have thought he was Leonardo di Caprio.”

“So,” I said, “Fylm…”

Simon Munnery performing at Goodfather Comedy last night

Simon Munnery performing at Goodfather Comedy last night

“It’s pronounced Fylm,” said Simon, pronouncing the Y like the vowel in Fie or Why. “Fylm. If it was pronounced film, that would be the same as film and you wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the two.”

“Between film and film?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Simon.

“The last time I saw you,” I said, “you were measuring the seats at the back of the auditorium in the Leicester Square Theatre.”

“That was for my box,” said Simon. “Before, I had a lot of trouble getting my box in there for the show and it was very uncomfortable. I use a box as a device, like a lever. A simple device which allows me to either film myself or, by changing the lighting, film the table in front of me. It requires a box round the camera and a half-silvered mirror.”

“You sit at the back of the audience during Fylm,” I said. “So they never see you.”

“At the beginning,” said Simon, “I do explain You won’t see me any more just to get that out of the way and then I go to the back.”

“And then you should switch on a recording and leave the building and go home,” I suggested.

“I wonder if that would work,” said Simon. “I don’t think it would.”

“I think it might,” I said.

“Well, one day I’ll try it,” said Simon, “but, to me it’s more like you can learn something from talking through a camera and talking visually.”

“You or the audience can learn something?” I asked.

“Me,” said Simon. “How to communicate with an audience visually. You can learn something about stand-up by doing stand-up. You can learn something about making film or visual stuff by making visual stuff in front of an audience and see what they like and don’t like.”

“Do you want to get into film making?” I asked.

“I am making live films by doing the show.”

“You can’t have live film,” I said. “Film is film is recorded.”

“No, that’s what I mean,” said Simon. “It’s a new word – Fylm – it is a live film.”

“So it’s pronounced Fy-lm,” I said, “because it’s a combination of ‘live’ and ‘film’?”

“As I say in my show,” Simon continued, “the camera amplifies the face in the same way a microphone amplifies the voice and it’s an instrument that should be used by live performers. That’s my theory. Most comedians speak through a microphone which translates their voice into an electrical signal which goes through an amplifier and a speaker and it comes out louder. It’s a kind of distancing device. There is something odd about it.

The poster for Simon’s new Fylm show

The poster for Simon’s new Fylm stage show

“So what I’ve chosen, in addition to the microphone, is to speak directly into a camera. The camera is connected to a video projector which projects my face onto a screen in front of the audience. So, as well as hearing me amplified, you also see me amplified. It allows me to use my face to do very tiny motions… (Simon laughed)… But let’s not talk about that!… very tiny motions of the face.”

“Isn’t,” I suggested, “communicating with the voice and face rather similar to performing live in a small room?”

“But there’s something odd about performing with a microphone,” argued Simon. “It takes your voice, puts it through a machine and makes it louder from a different place. The camera does the same thing but visually.”

“So,” I said, “you’re saying you want to do something you can’t do live on stage, which is to be seen and heard by the audience?”

“The camera amplifies the face,” said Simon, “the same way the microphone amplifies the voice. So, obviously, I can be seen live on stage and comedians do quite big things and pace around the stage and what you’re actually watching in the audience is that canvas, that shape. The performer has to fill that space or be very very still. But what you’re watching is a big canvas with a curtain and a stick figure moving around. I’m saying there is more you can do within that canvas. For example, a big face. That’s more of a communicating thing than a tiny face. An amplified face can communicate more – and more subtly – I think.”

“And why is it different every show?” I asked.

“I forget bits,” laughed Simon. “Or I put new bits in or try things. It’s quite exciting every time I do it. Some bits are quite seat-of-the-pants anyway.”

“Are you going to do more shows like this?” I asked.

“Every show’s a new one,” said Simon.

“Is there a narrative?” I asked.

“No. Just  load of stuff slung together. There might be a narrative. Bits fall out. Bits come in. Maybe there’s a narrative. Might be. Might not.”

There is an extract from the DVD of Simon Munnery Fylm Makker on YouTube.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Why do Germans laugh at an arguably tragic film about comic Lewis Schaffer?

Lewis Schaffer behind the Source Below door yesterday

Lewis Schaffer hides behind the Source Below door yesterday

What is happening to me?

Yesterday’s blog was about me failing to record a Skyped call with someone in Germany. I claimed a recording snafu had happened on only one other occasion. Then, last night in London, I buggered-up a recording of a post-Lewis Schaffer Soho solo show conversation.

This was the last of Lewis Schaffer’s Tuesday/Wednesday night Free Until Famous shows at Soho’s Source Below for 2013. He is back in January, after the venue allows space for Christmas parties, karaoke nights and the like.

We ended up after his show at a well-lit restaurant in London’s glamorous West End.

To be exact, upstairs at the Kentucky Fried Chicken just off Leicester Square.

Marina, Alex and Lewis last night

Marina Dulepina, Alex Mason and Lewis Schaffer last night

The ‘We’ were Lewis Schaffer, two of his entourage – Heather Stevens and Alex Mason – and Marina Dulepina who was heavily involved in the production of director Jonathan Schwab’s short film titled Lewis Schaffer is Free Until Famous.

“In Britain,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “the film wasn’t considered a comedy. It was considered to be very serious here. But, when they showed it in Germany, they thought it was hysterically funny. The bits where British and American people are in tears over the plight of Lewis Schaffer’s tragic life, the Germans see as a moral victory of the oppressed worker over…”

“What?” I asked.

“I dunno,” laughed Lewis Schaffer. “I’m making this up. But, in Germany, people did laugh at me.”

“You’re a Jew,” I said.

“They laugh at Jews in trouble,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Did people not laugh, Marina? It’s considered a comedy in Germany. Here, it’s considered a tragedy. The tragedy of Lewis Schaffer.”

“Why is it considered a comedy in Germany?” I asked.

“Ask Marina,” said Lewis Schaffer.

Marina was both shy and Latvian

Marina Dulepina was shy and Latvian last night

“She’s too shy to tell me,” I replied.

“That’s because she comes from Latvia,” explained Lewis Schaffer. “She comes from Russian parents and the Latvians are racist against the Russians because of forced colonisation after the War and…”

“Back to the Germans,” I said, “and don’t mention the War.”

“The reasons the Germans liked it are…” said Lewis Schaffer. “Why was the film funny, Alex?”

“It wasn’t!” said Alex Mason.

After this point, although my iPhone claimed it was recording, it did not.

Basically, from then on, Lewis Schaffer talked about what people thought of him… Marina coyly explained about the situation in Latvia… Alex Mason made some highly intelligent observations none of which I can remember… Lewis Schaffer talked about what other people thought of him… Heather mentioned she had been recognised by someone she didn’t know because he had seen her photo in my blog… and Lewis Schaffer talked some more about what other people thought of him.

Entourage member Heather reacts to another Schafferism

Entourage member Heather reacts to yet another Schafferism

Marina then explained that the original idea had been to make a film about a boxer.

I was not clear how this had changed into a film about a comedian, but thought it more interesting not to ask.

Then Lewis Schaffer talked about what people really thought of him and Heather buried her head in her arms.

It seems that Jonathan Schwab and Marina Dulepina had realised after first seeing Lewis Schaffer’s show that the more interesting film story was about Lewis Schaffer himself rather than about a stand-up comedian.

Lewis Schaffer was insistent – with some justification – that he is interesting because he is no different on-stage and off-stage and then talked about what people really think of him.

“People laughed in Germany,” he told me. “Did people laugh in Germany, Marina?”

Heather buried her head in her arms on the table.

I left after about an hour, at which point Alex Mason was explaining to Lewis Schaffer how bitcoins are created. Marina Dulepina appeared to be about to nod off and Heather had her head buried in her arms on the table. Lewis Schaffer was admirably continuing to maintain his American accent. It’s amazing how he does it.

It is a pity I failed to record what was said. There was a good blog in there.

This man could snore for the United Kingdom

This man could snore for the United Kingdom

But, on the other hand, I would have had to transcribe it.

Swings and roundabouts.

On my way home in the train, a large young man was fast asleep and snoring like an earth-boring machine tunnelling from Brownhills, in north Birmingham, to Alice Springs in Australia. Or possibly somewhere else.

Life is a trial.

Jonathan Schwab’s 10-minute film about Lewis Schaffer is online.

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Filed under Comedy, Germany, Humor, Humour, UK

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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The film of comedian Lewis Schaffer which you cannot currently see online

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Ivor Dembina at the NFT last night

Lewis Schaffer (left) & Ivor Dembina at NFT

Yesterday night, with comedians Ivor Dembina  and Lewis Schaffer, I went to see writer Mark Kelly’s stage-work-in-progress What A Day at the unusual venue of London’s National Film Theatre. Teakshow duo Johnny Hansler and Jackie Stirling performed. The play will probably be re-titled on future outings and is unusual in probably having more gags-per-minute than Lewis Schaffer has self-doubts-per-minute.

Meanwhile, a film-maker named Jonathan Schwab has shot a 10-minute short – Lewis Schaffer Is Free Until Famous – which is on Vimeo, but which remains password-protected so no-one can see it, because Lewis Schaffer has his doubts.

No news there.

Lewis Schaffer has his doubts - several times per minute

Lewis Schaffer has his doubts – several times every minute

Writing “Lewis Schaffer has his doubts” is like writing “The Sahara has its sand”.

“It’s a technically very well-made film,” I reassured him last night.

“I know,” Lewis Schaffer shot back. “He’s a serious German film-maker. Looks a bit like Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks and Showgirls. But I’m worried I’ll be like Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh. Have you seen it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you’ll know what I mean.”

“Not remotely,” I replied.

“The pathos,” said Lewis Schaffer. “To me, I thought it was an incredible movie.”

The Last Laugh?” I asked.

“The film about me,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I thought it was an incredible movie, It’s a brilliant film. I just wish I wasn’t in it.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s just me bitching about how I’m not any good,” said Lewis Schaffer.

Lewis Schaffer performs in the unseen film

Lewis Schaffer shares his doubts with audiences in the movie

“But that’s your schtick,” I said. “That’s your act. All your shows are made up of you saying you’re no good or telling people your name is Lewis Schaffer. The film is great publicity. The only thing publicity can do is make you interesting enough for people to want to go see your live show and they will make up their own minds on your act after they see the show.”

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer. “They’ll see this guy on the film and think Oh my god, his shows are going to be irretrievably horrible.”

“I think it’s good publicity,” I told Lewis Schaffer. “It will intrigue people who don’t know you and it will increase your standing among other comics simply because someone has actually chosen to make a film about you instead of them. The main thing is it shows your face and it keeps saying the words Lewis Schaffer.”

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen.” said Lewis Schaffer. “Jonathan Schwab will be famous for making this film. His film is like the end of Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street.

“I’ve not seen Scarlet Street,” I told Lewis Schaffer. “What happens?”

“Edward G Robinson had killed his… had killed… I can’t remember, but he was going through a mid-life crisis and his comeuppance was… I can’t remember… He was sentenced to roaming round the city as a broken, un-famous man like me… No, he was a weekend dabbler as a painter and this young girl took his paintings and sold them as hers and the girl became famous for his paintings.”

“Well,” I told Lewis Schaffer, “I have to tell you I’m working on an act very similar to yours and thinking of performing it myself at the Edinburgh Fringe this year… But what’s your Scarlet Street comeuppance?”

“My comeuppance is being known as a depressed failure.”

“That’s not your comeuppance,” I said. “That’s your entire stage act.”

“I say in the film I’m tragic,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I’m not tragic. Well, I am tragic, of course, but other people don’t need to know that.”

“They can’t avoid it,” I said. “If they go to your show, you keep telling them that!”

Lewis Schaffer looking far from tragic in the movie

Lewis Schaffer looks far from tragic in the movie

“I’ve had a tragic life,” Lewis said, warming to his theme, “in that every person’s life who lives an unfulfilled life is tragic – who doesn’t accomplish what he could accomplish or should accomplish and every single day is doing less than he could be doing.”

“But you’ve appeared in my blog repeatedly,” I pointed out to him. “What greater fame could you want?”

“I could be happier,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t even know if I even want fame. It’s not a question of fame; it’s a question of accomplishing something. In a way, my life is tragic, but no more tragic than other people’s. Have you seen the comment on my Facebook page? It’d make a good ending for your blog.”

“What does it say?” I asked.

Lewis Schaffer read it out to me.

“I’m not sure that’s a good ending,” I told him. “It’s a bit negative.”

“It’s a good ending for your blog about Lewis Schaffer,” Lewis Schaffer told me.

This is what the comment on Lewis Schaffer’s Facebook page says:

For the millionth fucking time, take me off your goddamn mailing list. Sitting through your show was one of the most painful experiences of my life, stop reminding me of it. REMOVE THE EMAIL ADDRESS FROM YOUR FUCKING MAILING LIST!!!!!!!

“It’s a good ending for your blog about Lewis Schaffer,” Lewis Schaffer repeated.

At the time of writing this blog, Jonathan Schwab’s excellent 10-minute Vimeo film remains password-protected so that the public can’t see it, because Lewis Schaffer remains unsure if it is good for his image.

His twice-every-week show Free Until Famous – the longest-running solo comedy show in London – continues every Tuesday and Wednesday in the glittering West End (well, South West Soho, near Piccadilly Circus) and his weekly radio show Nunhead American Radio With Lewis Schaffer continues on the internet every Monday night on Resonance FM.

The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

A modest 2010 publicity shot of self-doubting Lewis Schaffer

“What are you going to do about your hair?” I asked him.

“I think I might go grey,” said Lewis Schaffer. “What do you think? I’m not sure. The trouble is all my publicity photos have black hair. I would have to have new photos taken.”

“You could get them taken for free by St Martin’s,” I suggested.

“I think I might maybe go grey,” said Lewis Schaffer.

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Jimmy Savile, Gary Glitter and Roman Polanski. Comparing artists and arses.

(This was also published by the Huffington Post)

Spice World released with scum removed

Roman Polanski?” someone said to me yesterday afternoon. “Well, he’s not as bad as Jimmy Savile, is he?”

That is like a red rag to a bull.

Was Jack The Ripper not as bad as Adolf Hitler because he did not kill as many people? You could even argue Adolf Hitler was a morally better person than the Jack The Ripper because, as far as I am aware, Hitler did not personally kill anyone during the Second World War.

It is a pointless argument.

Jimmy Savile had-it-off with more under-age girls than Roman Polanski and was apparently at-it for 50 years. Roman Polanski was only prosecuted over one girl.

But the truth is you cannot compare evil.

Most things are grey. But some things are black and white and incomparable.

I had a conversation with two other men a couple of days ago and which I started to write a blog about the next day but which I aborted because it was too dangerous…

One man was involved in the comedy business. The other had been involved in the music business. We had got talking about Gary Glitter.

When the Spice Girls’ movie Spice World was made, it included a big musical routine involving Gary Glitter. Very shortly before the film’s release, he was arrested on sex charges. He was cut out of the film because (quite rightly) it was thought to be dodgy given the movie’s target audience.

But now, in many places, several years later, his music is, in effect, banned from being played because the act of playing it – and saying his very name in the introduction – is thought to be in bad taste.

The conversation I had with the other two men revolved around Art v Scum.

Just because someone is scum does not mean they cannot create Art.

Just because they have been rightly arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for an act of evil does not lessen the level of any Art they may have created.

I am sure all sorts of artists over the centuries have committed all sorts of morally and criminally heinous acts. But that does not mean we should not appreciate their art.

You may see where this is going and why I abandoned writing this particular blog a couple of days ago. Just by discussing it I might seem to be lessening my dislike of what the scum did. Which is not the case. But it is a danger.

Just because Gary Glitter is scum does not mean he did not create some very good pop music. Perhaps it was not high art. But it was good pop music. The fact that he was imprisoned for having pornographic images of children in Britain and committing sex crimes in Vietnam does not mean his records should be banned.

There is the fact that, if you buy his records, he will receive royalties. That is a problem, but does not affect the theoretical discussion.

Clearer examples are actors Wilfred Brambell and Leslie Grantham.

Homosexuality was stupidly illegal in the UK until 1967. In 1962, Wilfred Brambell (old man Steptoe in the BBC TV comedy series Steptoe and Son) was arrested in a Shepherd’s Bush toilet for “persistently importuning”, though he got a conditional discharge. Ooh missus. He died in 1985. In 2012, he was accused of abusing two boys aged aged 12-13 backstage at the Jersey Opera House in the 1970s. One of the boys was from the Haut de la Garenne children’s home, which is now surrounded by very seedy claims of child abuse, murder and torture (and which Jimmy Savile visited, though this is strangely under-played in newspaper reports).

Actor Leslie Grantham – who famously played ‘Dirty Den’ in BBC TV’s EastEnders – is a convicted murderer. In 1966, he shot and killed a German taxi driver in Osnabrück. He was convicted of murder, sentenced to life imprisonment and served ten years in jail.

Wilfred Brambell’s presumed sexual sleaziness and Leslie Grantham’s actual imprisonment for killing someone does not mean the BBC should never repeat Steptoe and Son nor old episodes of EastEnders, nor that it would be morally reprehensible to watch the Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night because Wilfred Brambell plays a prominent role in it.

It does not mean that Wilfred Brambell and Leslie Grantham’s undoubtedly high acting skills should not be appreciated.

A chum of mine was recently compiling a history of glam rock for a BBC programme and was told he could not include Gary Glitter. That is a bit like not including the Rolling Stones in a history of 1960s British rock music or not including Jimmy Savile in a history of BBC disc jockeys.

Which brings us to Roman Polanski.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I think he is scum and (figuratively speaking) his balls should be cut off and he should be thrown into a bottomless pit of dung for eternity.

He drugged, raped and buggered a 13-year-old girl.

End of.

The defence “She was not that innocent” is no defence.

In January next year, the British Film Institute starts a two-month “tribute” to Roman Polanski at the National Film Theatre in London.

I have no problem with that. I might even go to some of the movie screenings.

Dance of the Vampires, Rosemary’s Baby and Macbeth are brilliant films. Chinatown and Tess are very good – although I have also had the misfortune to sit through the unspeakably awful Pirates.

As a film-maker, Roman Polanski deserves a tribute. As a criminal on the run from justice, he deserves to be arrested and imprisoned.

Art is often created by people who are scum.

Here is the deleted scene from Spice World:

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This man with movie dreams already has a free yacht and a free Jumbo Jet

Borehamwood yesterday: Jason Cook, a man with a dream

I woke up in the early hours of this morning wanting to go to the toilet and realised I had been dreaming about the plots of Alfred Hitchcock movies. There was the one where he broke the convention that all flashbacks by central characters should be true. And there was the famous one where, by killing off the central character (and the only star name in the movie) the whole plot of the first third or more of the film became irrelevant – the ultimate MacGuffin.

I guess I was dreaming of films because yesterday, in Borehamwood’s main street, near his offices at Elstree Film Studios, I met the indefatigable would-be feature film producer Jason Cook, who has a slate of nine films – all scripted and budgeted, including a £3 million animation film – and is trying to get finance for the first of them.

He has been talking to an Indonesian financier/film producer.

“We had one of the action films scripted in English,” he told me, “and now we’ve had it translated into Indonesian and have changed the locations. If we can get it shot in Indonesia, the budget would come way down to £500,000.”

Jason is also, he told me, starting a short film competition with the main event to be held, provisionally, next April.

“We’re looking for up-and-coming talent and short films under five minutes long,” he told me. “There will be a cash prize and an award. We’ve got sponsorship from Elstree Film Studios, Nando’s, The Way Forward Productions and the Ark Theatre. We’re hoping to hold events four times a year. The idea is to get up-and-coming talent and established film-makers together. And we would find enthusiastic new talent, which could be useful.”

If anyone can pull this off, Jason Cook can. His ability to blag and persuade people to do unlikely things – a pre-requisite for making movies – is astonishing. For one of the movies on his slate, he has got free access to an ocean-going yacht and to a Jumbo Jet 747.

“Does it fly?” I asked.

“No,” he told me, “It’s used for training purposes in the middle of a college.”

“Is it just the interior of the cabin?” I asked.

“It’s the exterior and interior of the full cabin and controls and everything.”

“But not the passenger section?” I said.

“The passenger area is there as well.”

“And the tail?”

“The wings are there and the back end of the plane, but not the tail itself.”

“And,” I said, “last time we met, you told me a hotel will put your entire crew up for one of the films for free – and you get free breakfasts. So you’re going to try to find all that film’s locations near that hotel.”

“The hotel have been really good,” said Jason.

“They certainly have,” i said.

“We can film inside the hotel,” he continued, “using it for interior locations. They’ve also said we can accommodate the full crew at very very very cheap rates and they’ll throw breakfast in. I thought it would be best to have all the crew in the same place, with the actors.”

“Yes it would,” I said. “Especially if they’re getting free breakfasts.”

If anyone can get these nine feature films off the ground it is Jason.

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Diana Rigg was NOT cast to star in “The Avengers” – and why the series stopped

Prolific TV & film writer Brian Clemens

In three recent blogs, I have published parts of a chat I had with writer-producer Brian Clemens in 1979. It was published in issues 29 and 30 of Starburst magazine.

In Part One, he talked about his background and the early Avengers TV  series. In Part Two, he talked about the style of The Avengers. In Part Three, he talked about directing and about vampire films. This is the final part of that interview – on the trials and tribulations of producing. Remember it all took place in 1979 …

***

Today, Clemens is an executive as well as a creator; a producer as well as a writer. So does it cause problems being a producer and a writer and a sometime director?

“Well, it’s not as difficult for me as for some,” he says. “I’ve always been a co-producer, so Albert (Fennell, his business partner) is my conscience. He’s very good at editing and I think I am too, but it’s silly when you get too omnipotent. I think that’s destroyed a lot of good people; it destroys stars. How many people have said I’m going to produce my own film and it sits on the shelf? I think you need objectivity. I think that’s very, very important.”

Diana Rigg was not cast in The Avengers

It is a lesson he probably learnt from bitter experience on The Avengers. A lot of TV and film production decisions are a matter of internal politics and personal whim. For instance, Diana Rigs was not the original choice to play Emma Peel in The Avengers. The original actress cast for the role was Elizabeth Shepherd who, most unusually, was not screen-tested.

“That wasn’t my decision,” says Clemens. “That was Julian Winkle’s choice because he was executive producer. Liz Shepherd had done something on television and she was undeniably very beautiful and it wasn’t until we did one and a half episodes… She’s not a bad actress, but she just doesn’t have a sense of humour at all and it was essential in The Avengers. So we scrapped what we’d shot and got rid of her and then tested – which is what we should have done in the first place – and out of the tests came Diana Rigg. We tested a lot of people, like Moira Redmond and that sort of person and one or two unknowns like Sarah Brackett – whatever happened to her? – and Diana Rigg was head and shoulders above everybody else.”

Clemens worked for a total of six years on various Avengers series and then, when Diana Rigg left the show, he was suddenly thrown out.

Linda Thorson was cast – but with no sense of humour?

“I was sacked at the beginning of the Linda Thorson ones,” he says. “It was internal politics. The Avengers was owned by ABC Television and there was a great deal of back-biting because they’d brought in outside boys to make probably their greatest hit ever. Still is. If you go to America with Patrick Macnee, you can’t walk down the street even now – I promise you. In New York and California, you really cannot move if you’re with him and they’re all saying Hello Steed! His impact, internationally, is enormous.

ABC resented outside boys and thought it was easy. So they got rid of us and brought in some of their own boys and, within one and a half episodes, they asked us to come back because it really was going to fail. Unfortunately (the producer) had brought in his girlfriend, Linda Thorson, whom I would never have cast. And so we were stuck with her. Which is why I brought in the character of Mother – because she (Thorson) had no sense of humour either. I brought in Mother so Patrick Macnee could at least have jokes with somebody.”

Even so, the series proved unsalvageable and ended in 1968. Almost a decade later, Clemens, Albert Fennell and composer Laurie Johnson formed The Avengers (Film & TV) Enterprises Ltd. British financiers were not interested, so The New Avengers was produced with £3-4 million in French and later Canadian money.

This time, there was no chance taken with the female lead. Before Joanna Lumley was cast as Purdey, Clemens says he seriously considered 700 girls, interviewed 200, read scripts with 40 and screen tested 15.

The New Avengers – not just a ‘sleeper’ hit – a mega hit

“Most Avengers fans,” he admits, “don’t like The New Avengers as much as the old ones, but it did actually get a bigger audience.”

Although costing £125,000 per episode to produce, it was also financially successful. The irony was that, although Clemens could sell the finished product with ease, he was unable to get the initial finance in Britain. When I talked to him last year, he had been trying to finance another series of The New Avengers. He told me:

“London Weekend Television will put up half the money and CBS in America want to pay us $140,000 an episode and we’re short $50,000 an episode and we can’t get it anywhere – otherwise we’d make more Avengers – and The Avengers is really like printing money, because it just goes on forever and it’s got assured syndication – They’ve already got 87 of the first one.”

So far, new financing for The New Avengers has not materialised.

“I don’t know why it is,” Clemens tells me. “I mean, why didn’t Britain put up the money for Star Wars and Superman? They were made here but the money wasn’t put up here. Most of our film industry’s run by people who just don’t care much. At least Sam Goldwyn cared and Lew Grade (of ATV/ITC) cares. At least he’s making movies. You may not like them – some I don’t like – but he’s making them.”

The Professionals were hit men in more senses than one

The Professionals TV series started out costing £115,000 per episode but is now costing £150,000. It was sold to Canada, although its scripts make no concessions to foreign audiences. The first offer of US syndication was turned down because it was too low – $50,000 per show (about $25,000 at that time). Recently, a million dollar deal was negotiated by Clemens’ Mark One Productions and London Weekend Television (who co-finance the series) for the showing of 39 episodes on US cable TV. The deal also includes “substantial” American money for the production of future episodes and Clemens is also “hopeful” that a Professionals feature film will be made, probably with American financial backing.

It is astonishing that Clemens, with his extraordinarily successful track record, has had so much trouble raising finance in Britain. He is an international success. His original episodes of The Avengers are still showing in America and were networked again recently by CBS. The New Avengers series has been networked twice across America. And he is still trying to keep one step ahead of the trends.

“All drama goes in cycles,” he says. “If it’s been kitchen sink for four years, don’t think kitchen sink. I wanted to do The Magnificent Seven story as knights in armour – indeed, I was commissioned by EMI and then it all fell through – and now I see Ridley Scott’s project Knight (now to be directed by Walter Hill and re-titled The Sword). That could well open up that area and it would then be too late for me to follow because, by the time I get in, there’ll be lots of them – Return of The Knight and so on. The same with science fiction – it must come down again. If you can be the innovator or number two, you’re alright.”

So what sort of projects has he in mind? Well, there’s Bamboo Martini, which Rank planned to shoot before they collapsed. And there was a Vincent Price comedy-thriller which has also had problems.

“What’s it about? “ I asked.

“Well,” replied Brian Clemens, “it’s about transporting a dead body from one bed to another across the whole of America. If you can imagine that President Jimmy Carter is having an affair in Boston and is supposed to be in Washington and has a heart attack and his mistress then comes to Vincent Price and says: He’s got to be found in his own bed on Monday morning… Well that’s it.”

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“The Avengers” writer on directing for TV and film and un-made vampire films

Prolific TV & film writer Brian Clemens

Recently, I have posted a couple of blogs comprising parts of an interview I did with writer Brian Clemens in 1979. It was published in issues 29 and 30 of Starburst magazine.

In Part One, he talked about his background and the early Avengers TV  series. In Part Two, he talked about the style of The Avengers and about internationalising shows. This is Part Three of that interview…

***

Although Brian Clemens claims to have lived a bland life, it has been pretty tough. For ten years he was married to an ex-model called Brenda; they divorced in 1966. Then Diane Enright, Diana Rigg’s stand-in for the 1965-1967 Avengers series, was with Clemens for ten years. But, in 1976, she committed suicide. There was also a particularly acrimonious and very expensive court case in 1975 when Clemens accused writer Terry Nation of copying his idea for the Survivors TV series.

Clemens claimed he had registered the series format with the Writers’ Guild in 1965 and asked the High Court “to rule that the ideas were his property and told in confidence to Mr Nation between 1967 and 1969”. Nation and the BBC defended the case. To this day, both Clemens and Nation believe they were the innocent party and are reticent on the subject – neither will talk about the case except off-the-record.

One thing Clemens will talk about, though, is the astonishing fact that he seldom pre-researches any facts for his highly-detailed plots:

“I don’t really believe in research,” he says. “Usually I do the plot and then go back and research it. And it’s strange, really, because I’m usually 99% right. It’s curious that a layman’s knowledge is usually enough. After all, though, if you’re writing something about science, it’s got to ultimately appeal to a layman, so it works like that.

“I did a fringe theatre play about the Moors Murders which had a certain amount of success at the King’s Head and the Rock Garden (two London fringe theatres). And, as a result of the publicity, I met the Chief Constable of Lancashire who was in charge of the case. There were certain things I’d put in the play which were not in the public domain at all – I’d invented them – and it turned out they were absolutely true. That was only interpreting the known facts, really, from a dramatic point of view.”

Clemens directed the play but what he would really like is to direct another film.

“I could have done The New Avengers or The Professionals on TV or something,” he says. “But that’s not really… I’m not diminishing it… But I think you’ve got to be a really experienced director  to put anything on screen in ten days that means something. Having only directed one film (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, 1972) I’d probably direct a very bad Avengers under those circumstances. You need plenty of preparation time.”

A few years ago, Clemens was quoted as saying that TV directors don’t have a visual imagination, so he was starting to write visual directions into his scripts. But this is not a true reflection of his views. His point is much more subtle:

“I don’t think they’re idiots,” he says. “I think the system’s idiotic. Within (video) tape TV, they never get a chance to develop a visual sense. (Director) Desmond Davis told me that the difference between tape and film is that, with tape, you have to place the camera always just not quite where you want it to be, This is because a taped show is shot ‘live’ with three or four cameras which can get in each other’s way; film is shot with a single camera and each angle is shot separately”.

Clemens also believes “the machinery behind tape means that a director is always subjugated to the system and so never gets a chance to develop his own style. Filmed series like The Sweeney and The Professionals have probably liberated new directors more, in a few weeks, than they ever got in years in tape. You see, I believe that there is ultimately only one place a camera should be in viz a viz a certain scene or emotion.

“You just have to watch any Hitchcock movie to find that out. (Director) John Ford never zoomed in his whole career – a cut from wide to close-up is so much more incisive and more controllable too – and he rarely panned either. He just composed wonderful shots, played scenes within the shot, then cut to the next bit.”

Another factor which limits creativity on material shot exclusively for television is, according to Clemens, the internal restriction imposed by unrealistic time-schedules. He gives as an example any episode of his Thriller series (made by ATV).

The title sequence of Brian Clemens’ Thriller series on ITV

Each Thriller, he says, is made up of plot and atmosphere and, like a good joke, depends very much on exact timing:

“All the Thrillers I did I could improve 50% with an extra day and a half of editing. You see, you’re taken over by the system, where you edit from A-Z. As the time runs out, the last reel – which is the most important – is the one you’re doing quickly. And over that 3-day edit, you might have three film editors. Now that’s rather like having Van Gogh and his brother and sister paint a portrait and I don’t understand that.

“It offends me, because it means that what they’re putting on screen they don’t really give a shit about. If they really did, they’d say We can’t have three editors! It’s got to be one man. I mean, that’s traditional in all the media: you don’t change the director or the star of a stage play halfway through. It’s exactly the same. Getting back to the thing I said about television directors… There are some film directors… Lean, Ford, Kurosawa… if I see a shot of their work I can tell it’s theirs. You can’t say that about many television directors. If any.”

Clemens was involved in scripting major movies early in his career, such as Station Six Sahara (1964) and The Peking Medallion (1964 aka The Corrupt Ones) but it was not until after And Soon The Darkness (1970), which he also produced, that he decided he really wanted to be a director himself.

“My business partner (Albert Fennell) said You should have directed it and suddenly I thought Yeah, perhaps I should have done. I knew I could have directed it better. Then I wrote and produced a film for Hammer – Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) – and, in the meantime, we wrote an original screenplay called Buff where Bryan Forbes (then Head of Production at ABPC) agreed I would direct. Then he was thrown out, so I was left with the script and that became Blind Terror (1971 aka See No Evil) with Mia Farrow, which Dick Fleischer directed.”

Clemens got his chance to direct when Hammer accepted his storyline for Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1972), now a cult film.

Captain Kronos reflected Brian Clemens’ desire to direct

“The name Kronos is Greek for Time,” says Clemens, “and I thought that, if the idea took off, I’d be able to move him through the centuries. A whole series of films. I even had some follow-up stories.”

For Clemens, Kronos represented the return of the film hero.

“You see,” he says, “in all the Dracula films, Dracula’s the hero so you’re rooting for a villain and you know he’s going to end up staked through the heart. I thought Well, it’s good to change the emphasis and have a proper hero. So I invented Kronos, who’s a swashbuckling character with a hunchback aide and he picks up a beautiful bird (Caroline Munro) along the way and they’re vampire hunters.

I think why people such as the Time Out reviewers like it is because I turned the genre upside down and had a speech from the hunchback which really liberated all vampire films. A guy says But these girls were drained of youth. They die very old. They can’t be vampires. And the hunchback, who’s the authority, says There are as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey. Their method and motive of attack varies and so does the way you kill them. Some you can’t kill with a stake through the heart; some you have to kill by decapitation or hanging, drowning and so on.

“It’s a super scene in Kronos where they have a vampire, tie him to a chair, put a stake through his heart and he lives and they hang him and burn him and they gradually find out he’s got to be stabbed with a piece of holy steel. It did liberate the vampire lore.”

The film is a combination of Errol Flynn swashbuckler and Hammer horror. It climaxes in a three-minute sword fight between Kronos and the vampire.

“It’s got this marvellous moment,” says Clemens, “where Kronos stabs him with the wrong sword and this vampire walks around with this rapier through him. There’s quite a bit of humour in it.”

Tragically, Hammer/EMI kept the film on the shelf for two years, not releasing it until 1975 and then giving it poor distribution as part of a double feature. Clemens is uncertain why his film was treated in this way but thinks it was probably “a tax loss/tax shelter thing”.

He says: “I really enjoyed Kronos. I was on a peak then. I was ready to go into another thing and make it better, but it didn’t happen. I was hoping to make another Kronos adventure, but then I got into Thriller for TV – I did 43 of those, which is quite a lot, really. They’re 90 minutes each in America – 72 minutes running time – which is quite a lot of writing.”

Nonetheless, Clemens is so prolific that, at the end of the series, he still had another 20 plots lined up and ready to go. He says he enjoyed doing the Thriller stories and found them pleasant and rather easy to do: “Easy because they weren’t locked into running characters and you could just let things happen as you wanted.”

Plotting comes quite easily to him: “If, in a one-hour show, you’ve got four highspots, you’ve just got to link them. Sometimes it can be just a single brilliant idea. I mean, with Alien, people just went to see the thing burst out of his stomach; they didn’t really know what the rest was about. With The Exorcist, they went to see the bloke puked-on. In Bullitt, it was the car chase.”

TO BE CONTINUED… HERE 

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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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