Tag Archives: Jason Cook

The Edinburgh Fringe, Indonesian film, children’s book and crime quadrilogy…

Dyslexic but hectic writer: the four Cook books

Despite the imminent start of the Edinburgh Fringe, non-comic creative endeavours continue in Edinburgh and elsewhere.

I have blogged about Jason Cook before. If he were turned into a pill, cocaine and speed would seem like sleeping tablets.

Despite being dyslexic, his fourth crime novel is about to be published. He has a new children’s book out. Pre-production goes ahead on a feature film. And he is involved in another feature film which is currently shooting in Scotland.

“You are an Associate Producer on this film that’s shooting in Edinburgh,” I said.

“Yes it’s not my film but I am supporting them. They’re an Indonesian film company. I’ve worked closely with the producer on other projects before in Oxford and London. This one is a love story about an Indonesian man and woman who fall in love in Scotland. We’re shooting iconic places around Edinburgh now – the first week of the Fringe – with a crew of 21 from Indonesia.”

“And you have a fourth novel coming out.”

“Yes. On August 12th. Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff, the fourth and final instalment of my quadrilogy about The Cookster, – a young boy gets sucked into the underworld and gets pushed around like a chess piece in an international smuggling ring.”

“The title of the film of the first book was going to be The Devil’s Dandruff,” I said.

“Yes. The first film will have a different name now. The working title is The Devil’s Dandruff.”

Jason’s children’s book – Rats In Space

“My head hurts,” I said. “Your children’s book Rats in Space. That’s a planned film, too.”

“Yes. We’ve just had an animatic done for the Rats in Space film – first draft drawings of the scenes. We’re working with King Bee Animations at Elstree Studios.”

“Are you appearing in the Indonesian film?” I asked.

“I auditioned for the part of a pervert, so maybe. Did anything come of your appearance in Ariane Sheine’s music video?”

“No,” I laughed, “It was rather overtaken by political events at the General Election. I had hoped that it might be my entrée into the glamorous world of well-paid porn – perhaps granddad porn – but sadly not. I am not an actor. Any tips?”

“When I was young,” he told me, “I fancied being an actor. I was at a nightclub and I was approached by an agent who told me: You’ve got the look we’re looking for. Would you mind coming down for an audition? I thought it would be interesting to be an actor.

“I went down to a dress rehearsal in Camden Town so the director could meet me and take some trial shots. I went through reception and into the office studio.

Jason – Could he have had a big ginger part in Hollywood?

OK Jason, I was told, take your clothes off and we’ll get things ready for you. There was lots of clothing lying around. I wondered which costume I would be in. So I took my clothes off down to my pants and I was given a dressing gown. The director came through, shook my hand and said: Thanks for coming down. Come through and meet the crew and actresses.

“I thought: OK. Great. This is all good.

You can take your robe off now, he told me, and your pants.

“I said: Sorry??

“We walked through curtains and there was a set with three naked girls on a bed and all the crew were there, including a woman spraying water on the girls.

“The director said: OK, you can get on the bed. 

“To be honest, I was a bit nervous. I said: What sort of film is this?

It’s a porn film, of course, said the director.

“I said: I didn’t know it was a porn film. I thought I was going to be an actor.

Determined Jason Cook did make it into the film industry

You WILL be an actor, he said. You’re going to be the first ginger porn star and you’re going to be in Hollywood. It’s called Ginger Cocks Does Blondielocks. You will be the first ginger porn star and you’ll be absolutely massive in America. It’s the ginger porn version of Goldilocks & The Three Bears – Ginger Cocks Does Blondielocks.

I came out thinking: Hang on, I want to be in the film industry, but not that way!”

“Indonesia is the future,” I said.

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McDonald’s “criminal” activities – Far too downmarket for the Sun newspaper

Jason Cook on his phone to the Sun newspaper

Author, film-maker and former criminal Jason Cook was in my back garden a couple of weekends ago, as a guest at Ariane Sherine’s marriage to Jeremy Corbyn – or, at least, the first day of a live action music video shoot for her Love Song to Jeremy Corbyn.

I had breakfast with Jason this morning and he told me the sad story of a mis-named McDonald’s Happy Meal.

On Sunday, he drove his son to a McDonald’s and bought him a Happy Meal, which comes with a free toy in the box.

Except that, after they drove off, his son asked: “Where’s the toy?”

There was not one inside the box.

Jason was going to shrug this off, then thought: No. They advertised a Happy Meal with a toy. My son deserves to get one and not be disappointed.

So they drove back.

“We bought a Happy Meal,” Jason told the McDonald’s girl, “but there was no toy inside.”

“I know,” she replied. “We’ve run out.”

“But you didn’t tell me,” he said. “You advertise a Happy Meal with a toy inside. You’ve turned a Happy Meal into an Unhappy Meal for my son.”

“Do you want to talk to the manager?” the McDonald’s girl asked.

The delights dangled on the McDonald’s Happy Meal website

Again, Jason was going to shrug this off and go away but then, ever the dutiful father, he thought: No. They advertised a Happy Meal with a toy. They should have given me one.

“Yes. I’ll see the manager,” he said.

So the manager came.

“We’ve run out,” the manager said.

“But,” Jason told him, “you advertise a Happy Meal with a toy inside and there wasn’t one. You’ve turned a Happy Meal into an Unhappy Meal for my son.”

“I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” the manager told him.

“You advertised it,” Jason said.

Eventually, the manager grudgingly suggested: “You can come back tomorrow and get one.”

“But I live a fairly long drive away,” said Jason. “You’re telling me to drive all the way home and all the way back. I think I should have a refund.”

“Come back tomorrow,” the manager repeated.

When Jason told me this story, I suggested: “You should phone up The Sun newspaper. It’s a nice little story for them. McDonald’s Turns a Happy Meal Into An Unhappy Meal. They will pay you a finder’s fee for the story. You’re looking for £150,000 to complete your new movie’s budget. A tenner or £50 will help a bit. And McDonald’s must be breaching the Trade Descriptions Act and breaching Advertising Standards Authority rules by advertising a toy in the Happy Meal then not providing one.”

A McDonald’s Happy Meal box devoid of any toy

So Jason did phone up The Sun.

They told him: “It’s a bit too lowly for us. McDonald’s are forever not supplying toys in Happy Meals.”

Jason was once sentenced to four years in prison for being naughty.

He told me: “McDonald’s said they would give my son a toy with a Happy Meal and they didn’t. It’s criminal.”

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The Krays’ associate Micky Fawcett has advice on how to stay healthy & fit.

Jason Cook’s movie The Devil’s Dandruff

Jason Cook’s movie – The Devil’s Dandruff

I’ve mentioned before in this blog, author and former criminal Jason Cook’s plans to film his three semi-autobiographical novels. The first in the planned trilogy – The Devil’s Dandruff – is based on his first book There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus.

The selling line of the movie is:

ONE LINE IS NEVER ENOUGH
…A THOUSAND IS TOO MANY

I had a chat this week with former Kray Twins associate Micky Fawcett. He has written arguably the definitive insight on life with the Kray Twins – Krayzy Days – but it involves much, much more than the Krays.

“So Jason sent an email asking if I would play a cameo role in his film,” he told me.

“As yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah. He sent me a couple of options – One was I could have a non-speaking part. The other was him and me sitting playing chess and I look up and see Mr Adams…”

“Mr Adams?” I said, surprised.

“That’s the words.”

“That’s not a good idea,” I suggested.

“Mr Adams might be the name of the screw,” said Micky. “I dunno. I look up and say: Looks like the game’s up, Jason.”

“Well,” I said, “it might well be.”

Then we talked about the uncertainty of film financing and other more general financing and how to recover debts.

Micky Fawcett outside the May Fair Hotel in London

Micky Fawcett outside the May Fair Hotel, London, last week

“Well, the first thing you gotta do,” said Micky, “is make sure they’ve got the money. Otherwise you’re banging your head on the wall.”

“So how did you persuade them of the error of their ways within the letter of the law?” I asked.

“Well…” said Micky.

“People will have told you their theories,” I suggested.

“Someone once told me,” said Micky, “that you can soften them up and your solicitor points out to them that they should get a solicitor. Then that other person’s solicitor gives it to your solicitor who passes it on to you. You don’t take the money direct. You would not want to be guilty of demanding money with menaces.”

“But, if you did something naughty and, coincidentally, money was transferred…”

“Well,” said Micky, “it wouldn’t be you who did anything naughty either, would it?”

“It would be an act of God, probably,” I said.

“Exactly.”

Micky is, to be honest, knocking on a bit.

“But you must still be very healthy,” I said to him, “because of all the exercise you did in your boxing days and before.”

“I used to do a lot,” Micky told me. “My exercising is very restricted now but, if I don’t do it, I start fretting. Valentine’s Park in Ilford has got all the equipment in it. I’m a big fan of walking as well.”

“I never owned a car until quite late on,” I said, “and I don’t have one now.”

“I am,” said Micky, “pleased with the fact I was disqualified from driving a few times. I used to just walk everywhere. I have had motor cars and I also like driving but now I don’t drive if I can help it.”

“When I was a student,” I said, “I used to live in a bedsit in Hampstead and sometimes walk down to the college in Regent Street – it was lovely – about 45 minutes walk. Swiss Cottage, Primrose Hill, Regents Park. A nice walk. Now I’m trying to slim. But I put on 5 lbs last week.”

“Walking is good,” agreed Micky.

“How are film plans going for your own Krayzy Days?” I asked.

“That’s another story,” said Micky.

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

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David Beckham and a kinky sex party

A bunch of bananas photographed by Augustus Binu

Bunch of beautiful bananas photographed by Augustus Binu

… and still my post-Edinburgh Fringe vagueness continues…

I was walking along the high street in Borehamwood at lunchtime yesterday when I saw two little boys pointing bananas at each other like they were guns. As I passed by, all I heard was one saying to the other:

“…and your mother’s poo smells like David Beckham.”

I have no explanation for this.

Jason Cook, yesterday. In the case were £50 bookmarks

Jason Cook, yesterday. In the case were personalised £50 bookmarks on sale for £2

I was on my way to the local Tesco supermarket to see Jason Cook signing copies of A Nice Little Earner, the third mostly-autobiographical gangster book in his quadrilogy. Jason has cropped-up in this blog a few times before. He is seriously dyslexic but has written three of these books. A fourth is out soon. His first book There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus has sold out and is being reprinted on the back of a re-order from WH Smiths. And that’s not even to mention his children’s book Rats in Space. He is a sign that anyone can turn their life round.

Meanwhile, from near Vancouver, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith reports:

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith – an everyday story of Canada

I found a thin, paperback-sized piece of yellow plywood floating in the river, with the message ‘E15′ painted on it. I do not think it is a reference to an area of London, but is a marker from a log boom. It has two nails through it, so I might attach it to something.

My phone is still not working despite being inside a bag of red rice. I put the rice bag inside my favorite red hat, but that has not helped.

I also saw a sign today which said: SWORDS INTO PRUNING HOOKS. It was loosely pasted on top of a larger poster advertising a kinky sex party for 400 people to be held on a yacht (location to be announced the day before sailing). It has playpens and cages apparently…. I don’t think I would like to be in a cage at sea with all that going on around me. I could not take a photograph of the poster, because my phone was in the bag of red rice back home.

The streets are awash with pretty, fashionable young women tonight, roaming in packs. It must be something to do with school starting in a couple of days.

Jason Cook’s personalised £50 banknotes - yours for £2

Jason Cook’s personalised £50 banknote bookmakers on sale yesterday – yours for only £2 in cash

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Lewis Schaffer knocks himself. Cocaine is a Nice Little Earner for Jason Cook.

After yesterday’s blog appeared, Lewis Schaffer – a man who knows a thing or two about effective promotion using ‘self-knocking copy’ – issued a double press release:


LEWIS SCHAFFER TO BE A LEAD IN A PLAY (??!)

One Giant Leap for Lewis Schaffer

Giant Leap – one small step for Lewis Schaffer

In what has to be the most insane move of the year, Lewis Schaffer, the failed old New York Jewish comic now living in Nunhead, Southeast London, has been cast to co-star in a play making its debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

He will be co-starring with comics Tom Stade and Phil Nichol in the new play GIANT LEAP at The Pleasance. He is in every scene of the 70 page script, has lines on over 60 of the pages and is to be paid money and accommodation.

This is to be Lewis Schaffer’s first live acting gig since he appeared in The Odd Couple as a 17 year-old at Great Neck North Senior High School on Long Island, some 41 years ago.

Lewis Schaffer is to play a failed old New York Jewish comic.

*   *   *   *   *

LEWIS SCHAFFER TO CHARGE ADMISSION AT THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE 2015 FOR HIS SOLO SHOW

Lewis Schaffer’s tour poster

Lewis Schaffer – the current national tour poster

In a shocking announcement, Lewis Schaffer star of the the Free until Famous brand, is to charge admission for his formerly free show, the first time in seven years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015.

He will be interrupting his unique and amazing Free until Famous tour to ask for money in advance. His tour is at over 45 of the largest and most prestigious theatres and arts centres in the UK. Dates include 23rd July at Exmouth; 24 July in Guildford; and July 25th at Barnsley.


Jason Cook A Nice Little Earner

Jason Cook on to A Nice Little Earner

That is one way to promote a product. Another way is to take the Jason Cook route, which is to buy me breakfast at a cafe in Borehamwood.

Jason is heavily dyslexic yet has just published A Nice Little Earner, his third book in a gangster quadrilogy. Yesterday morning, over bacon & beans, he told me:

“We’re launching a competition for the new book. You have to answer a question about Vinny Jones – all the details are on the website – and you win copies of all three books, signed by me. And I’m going to be doing signings again at WH Smiths and Waterstones in August.

“Five months after that, we will publish the fourth book – Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff. And, in the meantime, we’re working on the film scripts.”

“There were,” I said, “only going to be three books?”

Jason - “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves"

Jason – “Elements have been changed to protect ourselves”

“Well,” Jason told me, “the editor looked at the third book and said: There’s two books in here. What do you want to do? So I said: Publish it as two books. So we cut the third one into two books. The four of them can be read separately or as one story.”

“How do I describe these books?” I asked. “Fictionalised reality?”

“They’re based,” said Jason Cook, “on a real-life story, but the elements have been changed to protect ourselves and other people.”

The central character running through the books is called The Cookster.

“Remind me what the four books are about,” I prompted.

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Publicity for Jason’s first two semi-autobiographical books

“The first one,” said Jason, “There’s No Room for Jugglers in My Circus, is about a young boy who grew up in Borehamwood and how he gets involved in criminality – drugs and gun crime – and is used as a chess-piece in an international smuggling ring. It’s set in London, Borehamwood, Marbella, Colombia and Jamaica.

The Gangster’s Runner is about how organised crime works and who’s involved – the trappings – fast money, power, cocaine, guns.

One way to publicise yourself: your own money Jason Cook

One way to publicise yourself: print your own Cookster money

A Nice Little Earner is about the main characters in the drug smuggling, about Mr Niz, his smuggling of the cocaine and about the ‘firms’ in London.

Cocaine: The Devil’s Dandruff will bring it all to an end and how Mr Niz was involved. He was actually nicknamed ‘the milkman’ because he was able to deliver cocaine in any country.”

“So,” I said, “overall, the books are about…”

“They’ve got,” said Jason, “police, gangsters, villains, a grass, prison, plenty of powder and connections to the football and boxing underworlds.”

Say hello to Jason Cook's little friend

Wanna publish? Okay. Say hello to my little friend. 

“Connections?” I asked.

“Organisations,” Jason said, “with regard to boxing promoters and football ‘arrangements’ and bribery and the signing-over of a Premier football club… allegedly.”

I asked: “Not a player? A club.”

“A club,” said Jason. “And there’s a football player who gets blackmailed. The footballer’s being blackmailed by the footballer’s wife.”

“His own wife?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Jason has plans to film his books

Jason – plans to turn his books into movies

“Because he’s fixing matches. Obviously, we have protected all the names. A lot of it has already been in the news, but you’ll read about it first hand in the book.

“The Sun newspaper sent a reporter down to talk to me and took pictures three months ago but, after talking to their solicitors, they decided not to do the article because, they said, they ‘didn’t want to open a can of worms’.”

“I would have thought,” I told Jason, “that you should be more worried about the consequences to you.”

“I talked to my solicitors about what I could put in the book and talked to a lot of of the people involved.”

Even so…

If true…

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Ex gangster drug runner Jason Cook tells me how a rat became an astronaut

Jason Cook - from crime and cocaine to children’s books and cheese

Jason – from crime and cocaine to rats and cheese

I have blogged about Jason Cook a few times before.

He became a drug addict at the age of twelve and then started to sell drugs from his bedroom and on the streets to pay off his growing drugs debts to local dealers. Then he got into trouble with Yardies and was forced to smuggle drugs in order to save his friends and family “from danger”.

At the age of 20 he was heavily involved in the drugs world and he was also taking steroids to build himself up. He reached 18 stone, with a sizeable drug habit, was arrested and spent 3 years and 9 months in Pentonville Prison where he found drugs use was also widespread.

After a second prison sentence, he realised that he needed to turn his life round for his family and – despite being dyslexic – started to write a series of four semi-autobiographical books

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Jason has five children. This month he published his first Kindle children’s book Rats in Space.

For each downloaded eBook or Kindle copy sold, 50p is going to be donated to the Macmillan Cancer fund. At the start of the book, it says:

Jason Cook’s book - Rats In Space

Jason Cook’s kids’ book – Rats In Space

The author, Jason Cook, would like to dedicate this book to his son, Hughie Cook, for truly being a brave boy during his chemotherapy treatment. Jason would also like to dedicate it to the other children and adults who are fighting this disease every day. Also to the doctors and nurses that help so many of the sick adults and children and thank them for the support they show the families. So thank you, all who helped support not only Hughie, but me and the others in our family at these tough times.

Rats in Space “tells the sad, very emotional yet ultimately happy story of the rats who live in the tunnels of the Underground at King’s Cross station…

“Can a rat really reach the moon? When a global cheese shortage threatens the entire rodent community, a brave group of rats come to one decision: if there is no cheese to be found on the Earth, then it’s time to look off the Earth. Hector Duddlewell has always dreamed of the stars and, when he catches a glimpse of glorious space travel, he’s willing to defy all odds to win the girl of his dreams and take his place as one of the first ever RATS IN SPACE.”

“It’s true,” Jason told me this morning. “Hector really did go into space.”

“Of course he did,” I said sympathetically.

Jason has plans to film Rats In Space

Jason has plans to film Rats In Space – the script is written

“He did,” said Jason. “Hector really did. He was flown into space.”

He showed me the Wikipedia entry. It read:

“France flew their first rat (Hector) into space on February 22, 1961.”

“My book tells the back story of Hector,” explained Jason. “How he actually became an astronaut.”

Stranger things have happened.

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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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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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Comedy tours, hanging actors’ hangers-on and a London underground shooting

Lou and his little friend last night

Ah! The power of the blogosphere!

Yesterday, I wrote about comedy writer Mark Kelly’s latest work-in-progress Stuart Leigh – The Stewart Lee Tribute Act andjust four hours after I posted the blog – Mark got an e-mail from someone who says they are interested in booking it into various venues, when it is ready to tour.

As Stuart Leigh – The Stewart Lee Tribute Act is not yet fully written and Mark currently only has thoughts of getting it ready for the 2013 (not the 2012) Edinburgh Fringe, this may be a slow-burning triumph.

Still, to look on the bright side, if the guy does arrange some bookings for the show, Mark says he will buy me an apple crumble at the Stockpot in Soho’s Old Compton Street.

Touring shows nowadays is slightly more respectable than it used to be.

I was round at Uncle Lou’s last night. He is not my uncle, but he has the affable air of a kindly uncle; in fact, he is a movie armourer who, as Londoners foolish enough to live South of the Thames might say, ‘tooled-up’ the unique movie experience that was/is Killer Bitch.

Lou, an armourer, goldsmith, silversmith, consigliere and history buff, told me:

“In the 1700s, if a ‘touring company’ – a bunch of entertainers – turned up and started performing in the streets and you started hanging round with ‘em, you might get executed. If the local people went to the beadle and grassed you up by saying Look at ‘im – He’s hanging round with a right bunch of thespian arseholes! you might get reported to the law and considered to be a real lowlife. If you hung around with these entertainers for a week or more, you could get arrested and the maximum sentence was hanging. People were hung for it. So the rule of thumb was Don’t hang around with actors and vagabonds or you could get killed because you are considered scum… Oh, and musicians too – The law thought they were a bunch of arseholes as well.”

Plus ça change.

I had gone round to Lou’s with the creative tornado that is Jason Cook, whom I blogged about recently. He is getting closer to funding The Devil’s Dandruff, a movie based on the first of his three novels ‘based on’ his life which ‘might have’ involved London gangsters and the international drug trade.

He told me last night that one of the real-life Mr Bigs who ‘might have been’ involved had him ‘brought in’ for a chat after he had published the first two books. The chap said he had heard Jason had been ‘telling stories’ and he was unhappy about it… This did not sound good for Jason… But it turned out the chap was only unhappy about one thing… that Jason had not used the chap’s real name in the books.

Ah! The lure of immortality in print!

Jason – who is very determined and very persuasive – has had the offer of a free 747 jet to film in. A while ago, he produced a short film titled Tunnel Visions which was set in a tube train. Last night, he told me:

“We went to London Transport and said We want to shoot on the Underground in a real train and they said Yup, that’s fine. If you bring all your things down, it’ll cost you £3,000. 

So we thought Ah!

“Then they said to us: If you bring a skeleton crew, we’ll reduce it down to £2,000.

So we thought Ah!

“But then they asked us Have you got a student on the crew? If you’ve got a student, you can do it for £50.

“So we went to a university and got ourselves a student.

“London Underground said: OK. Pay for your permit – £50. 

“We went on the train, commandeered half a carriage, got everyone on there and shot the film all day. There were five people in the crew – including the student – and all the extras in the scenes helped us too.”

Jason Cook is a man who gets things done.

So is Uncle Lou, but examples of that are mostly unprintable.

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“My name is Jason and I am on the hunt for the Golden Fleece of film investment”

Jason Cook with camera this week

That title is a good opening line, especially from someone with dyslexia.

I first blogged about the indefatigable criminal-turned-author-turned-film-producer Jason Cook (not to be confused with the comedian Jason Cook) in December 2010.

We got chatting again this week at the Broadcast Video Expo at Earl’s Court in London.

Jason currently has eight film projects at various stages of pre-production: all different genres ranging from animation to sci-fi and a true-life story based on his three autobiographical novels… and he is still looking for finance in the current bleak economic climate.

The Devil’s Dandruff, based on the first of his three novels There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus, has always sounded highly commercial to me, especially given that there is a potential film trilogy there.

He has managed to keep the budget down to £2 million, which seems remarkably thrifty, given the plot but, despite having an enthusiastic letter from an ‘A’ list actor (my jaw dropped when I saw this name) he is still having problems raising the finance.

“There’s been lots of talk about David Cameron bringing finance to British independent films,” Jason told me, “but yet we’re still waiting for that to trickle down to people on the creative side. There are people out there with great ideas and great dreams, but the thing that’s lacking is the investment.

“I’m a working class lad from Borehamwood; I think if I was an Oxbridge graduate I would be more acceptable and respectable for investors. It is difficult coming from where I’ve come from. I have not mixed in the ‘right’ circles.

“I was a genuine lad who got involved in drugs, gun crime and gangsters from the age of twelve and was put in prison for my crimes – the first time for nine months. The second time I got four years and one day and I served two years and seven months.

“At that time, if the judge gave you four years, you would only serve half. This particular judge thought my crime was bad enough that I should serve longer. So he sentenced me to four years and one day, which meant I would have to serve two thirds. That’s fair enough. I did the crime, so I gotta pay the time.

“After coming out of prison twelve years ago, I got myself clean of drugs – because I was also an addict at that time – and I got away from all the crime people surrounding me and I went clean.

“I started to write about my experiences, which turned into my first book There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus, about where I grew up and how I got involved.

“I self-published the first book and self-publicised it because I was just a normal guy off the street who’d written a book. I had no backing. I wasn’t a sportsman. I wasn’t a glamour model who could get her boobs out. So I self-published that first one so I could start building recognition.

“I then wrote the second one The Gangster’s Runner because of the good reviews. It’s about the people I was involved with and how I was used in the underworld as a drug runner and a drug enforcer and money collector. Ecstasy, coke and hash.

“And the third novel A Nice Little Earner is how everything ties up and we all go our own ways and it elaborates on the range of characters, from politicians to judges, solicitors, barristers to every level of society. All the way from the street-seller to the user. The up-market characters are based around real people. The details have been changed to protect everyone – to protect them and to protect myself from reprisals. But the books are a big insight into the underworld in London and across the world.

“I’m not glamorising crime; I’m not making it seem good; I’m showing the bare elements of drug addicts, a young lad being blinded by the lights and peer pressure, fast cars, fast money and I’m showing the real gritty parts of real life. All real.

“I’ve always been interested in films. From an early age, I was in Elstree Youth Theatre. I started working on film sets as an extra and became a runner. I want to create films people want to see. Partly for the money but a lot of it for the creative side. I think I can tell a good story.

“The irony is I’ve been clean from drugs and crime for twelve years now but, while everyone else is falling out of pubs, I can’t get into them because I’m still on PubWatch. I was arrested for drugs and put in prison. That’s OK. That’s fair. But, when I came out, I went into my local pubs and they told me I had been put on PubWatch so I was not allowed into any pubs any more for life. I never did drugs or did any crime in any pub and I had never had any trouble with any landlord, but I was put on PubWatch for life because I was involved in drugs in the local area and around London.

“I’m still being punished for my crimes twelve years later, after being rehabilitated…

“Perhaps I should jump on the bandwagon,” Jason laughs. “I should sue the Metropolitan Police and go to the European Court of Human Rights and claim my human rights have been infringed. Everyone else seems to be doing it.”

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Filed under Books, Crime, Drink, Drugs, Legal system, Movies