Thursday, December 08, 2005

I took these photos in Weston yesterday as part of a portfolio of images of sample locations for the film that is being sent out to interested parties. This just about sums up English seaside towns in the winter.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Things Are Afoot

Just a quickie to say that honing the script continues and the search for finance... sorry, I meant the Holy Grail, continues.

The UK Film Council have the project now, and we are also presenting it next week at the Co-Production Meetings at the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival. This will be my third visit to Mannheim, and my second time at the Meetings. The first time I had a project selected, a sadly had a producer who did nothing with it. This time I am happy to report that my producer is the brilliant Andre Bennett - who has worked with the likes of Atom Egoyan and Guy Maddin (to say nothing of distributing Tarkovsky and Angelopoulos). Andre's experience at raising money for independent features is proving invaluable. In addition, several UK production outfits are also interested in the film.

When not at the Meetings (17 in 3 days), I will be relaxing by drinking heavily, mainly at Stars, the cocktail bar that floats over the Stadhaus (where the festival takes place) like an airship. Or at least that's the feeling I always get when I'm there. I'm sure this is something to do with the strength of their cocktails. All of them are named after movie stars from the so-called Golden Age of Movies (golden age of American crap if you ask me). I am partial to Fred Astaires. Two of those and you're flying. It's the nearest I want to get to Smith's state of mind.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

You Can't Tell the People

I (Herr Direktor speaking) have just finished Georgina Bruni's brilliant account of the Rendlesham Forest Incident, You Can't Tell the People. The title comes from the Great Bitch Thatcher who, when Bruni asked her/it about what she/it knew about UFOs, replied 'You've got to get your facts right, and you can't tell the people.'

The Rendlesham Forest Incident is legendary as being the 'British Roswell', and is generally taken to be a sighting by several USAF men on a night patrol in Rendlesham Forest, which is just outside the former USAF/NATO bases at RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge in Suffolk. The story goes that, on 27 December 1980, these guys saw lights in Rendlesham Forest and decided to investigate, and apparently they saw a craft land amongst the trees.

Sceptics decry the whole thing as either a deliberate hoax, or that the men saw the nearby Orford Ness lighthouse.

Georgina Bruni demolishes the lighthouse theory in You Can't Tell the People, and also the rest of the sceptics' arguments that somehow everyone was mistaken. (Why aren't sceptics ever sceptical about scepticism?!)

She gets people to talk for the first time, and reveals that there was not one incident, but FOUR, the first beginning late on Christmas Day 1980, and with UFO activity occurring for the next three nights after that. If that is not enough, on the third or fourth night there was a major incident, during which the famous 'Rendlesham Tape' was recorded. This was a tape recording made by the Deputy Base Commander at Woodbridge, Lt. Col. Halt, as events unfolded in the forest. Only 18 minutes of Halt's more than 5 hours of tape have ever been made public, and Bruni states that Halt will NEVER release the remaining material. This was the night during which something not only landed, but was also witnessed not only by Halt, but also by at least 50 military personnel, some of whom seem to have been brainwashed afterwards so that they would either forget about it and/or provide disinformation.

The most disturbing aspect of the book is, however, not the possibility that something very strange occurred during Xmas Week 1980, but the sheer lengths that the British and - more importantly - the Americans went to to cover it up. It struck me yesterday that the cover-up is not so much about aliens / extraterrestrials / ultraterrestrials, but about the fact that if they admitted that something had actually happened, they would lose face. It's all about maintaining one's authority. And, heaven forbid, should the CIA and their cohorts in Area 51 ever lose that.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mr Smith Goes to the Fatherland

The film has just been invited to participate in the Co-Production Meetings at this year's Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival in November. What this basically means is that we sit around a table with interested financiers and get them to write a cheque. Or at least hand over all their Lupins. (We shall of course be travelling there via the Lupin Express.)

Interestingly, this news came through on Friday (19th), the same day that Mr Screenwriter and I appeared in the Western Daily Press, on Geoff Ward's Mysterious West page, standing in front of a caravan in a slightly bemused sort of way, in which we appeal for financing. I mean we appeal for financing in the article, not the caravan, which probably wouldn't get us very far. Then again, maybe come the next Bank Holiday, we could be on Weston sea front in it doing a sponsored scare-small-children-and-hurl-abuse-at-Daily-Mail-readers in order to get the film afloat. Well, perhaps forget the small children. Just line the other fuckers up and we'll be off...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yes, They're Out There (But not in Cumbria)

Just when you thought that you were making a film that people might not believe was actually true, this appears in the Daily Telegraph (that's the 'London, England' Telegraph for our friends across the Pond):

I've not seen any Shadow People in my bedroom recently, but I will post as soon as I have 'an encounter'.

Friday, August 05, 2005

He Lives!

No posts for a while, due to the fact that His Nibs and I have been very busy; more so than usual. Nick's been writing a novel, and I've been writing a book about Tarkovsky. Oh, the things one has to do for money!

But today, as I was struggling with my chapter on Solaris, I received an email of quite tumultuous importance. It seems that the real life Mr Smith is.... wait for it.... STILL ALIVE and STILL IN WESTON-SUPER-MARE!

I had convinced myself that he had either committed suicide or been detained indefinitely by the mental health people, but no, he liveth!

Although our film is only inspired by the real Mr S, we don't want to allows ourselves to be vulnerable to exploiting someone's life without offering them any financial reward. So a great deal of poetic license needs to be used, methinks. The last thing we want is a man who makes David Icke look normal harrassing us for appropriating his life's work for artistic purposes (which of course we aren't, being nice and middle class as we are).

But, again, as with the discovery that the original caravan site still exists, I can't help but think that this is another good omen. I wonder if the Greys and the Nordics are aware that the real Smith is still very much in the land of the living?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The PR Campaign Marches Ever Onward

I was invited onto the Morning Programme with Jo Phillips on BBC Somerset Sound on Monday morning, where I was subjected to something known as 'The Questionnaire'. This basically involved being put in the Comfy Chair, suffering a little prodding with soft cushions and being left there until elevenses.

But I did manage to plug the film, which Jo found fascinating. She made an appeal on our behalf over the airwaves for entrepreneurial support. Cash, in other words.

And there is considerable interest from the Western Daily Press in doing a piece about our travails in getting the project off the ground. Well, it seems to be off the ground, hovering a few feet above it in fact, like a marsh flare (which Herr Screenwriter and I once captured on video) or, come to think of it, a bad smell. I'd better go and open the windows...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Change of film title!

We have decided to change the title of the film, from the somewhat prosaic Mr Smith and the Aliens (many years ago it was Mr Smith and the Flying Saucers) to the more upbeat and unusual (we hope!) The Gulf Breeze Caravan Park UFO Society. The caravan site where Smith lives is called The Gulf Breeze Caravan Park (a homage to the big Florida flap of the late 80s) and he forms a UFO society while living there. Hence the title. Of course it all goes horribly wrong, otherwise we wouldn't have a story.

For those of you who missed Mr Screenwriter on This Morning on Wednesday, all I can say he is came on between clothing that had brown stains on (don't ask!) and a man who drinks his own piss (for health reasons - apparently it's helped him stay off medication). I'm sure we will be on medication by the time the film is finished. But at least we now know the cure...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mr Screenwriter on This Morning (I kid you not) (no goat pun intended!)

I have to blow Mr Scriptorium's cover here, as he is on the hugely popular UK daytime show This Morning, with Fern Britton and Philip Schofield, to promote his book Urban Legends, on ITV1 on Wednesday 8 June at 1030 (European Summer Time).

Nick will also plug, if he's allowed the time, Mr Smith and various other film projects.

Fuck! The whores we all have to pretend to be. Still, may as well love the whole thing, and take the tantric view (i.e., in the long run, frequent shaftings are good for you).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mr Smith Goes to Cannes

Part of the inevitable process of making a film is going to Cannes. People who do not have first hand experience of the film industry will generally know it from TV clips of stars walking up the red carpet, or starlets exposing themselves on the beach to crowds of photographers. People in the film industry, however, tend to have a different experience, one that does not include red carpets (unless you happen to bleed all over your hotel room due to some drunken accident/attempt to take your own life) or starlets (unless you happen to drunkenly meet a shemale in a back alley near the train station).

No, experience for people like us is quite simply summed up by two things: sore feet and sore heads. The former are acquired through countless trapes around the bowels of the Palais des Festivals (the place with the red carpet), and journeys up and down the Croisette (sea-front in plain Skegness English) to see numerous persons based in hotels along said stretch of road. And no, they're not high-class call girls or rent boys, but sometimes you think they just may as well be, given the amount they want to charge to interfere with your bottom (metaphorically speaking of course). And the sore heads are due to the copious amounts of free alcohol that are dished out on an almost-continual basis.

So, having braved free bars and bottom-abusers, I spent three frantic days in Cannes talking up Smith. 'Talking up' is an arcane film industry art that, to the non-initiate, may be confused for someone getting a) carried away b) talking bollocks and/or c) getting arseholed and talking any old crap. However, the non-initiate would be wrong to assume any of a), b) or c), as talking a film up requires a) nerves of steel, b) the confidence of someone who knows he's got a very large penis and c) the decorum, affability and sobriety of someone meeting either the Queen of England or at least a local bishop (who may be looking to cook the diocesan books in order to invest in the film).

So, there you have it. That's how to take a film to Cannes. And if you've got time, also dine on a daily basis at L'Avion, 4 rue Jean de Riouffe (near that bloody place with the carpet); it's the best pizza in Cannes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Research Notes #1

The second draft (the numbering system is already faulty given the number of drafts I've had from Mr Screenwriter over the last week or so) has got me a) thinking - mainly how well it's shaping up and how much this film will hit a chord with people - and b) doing research.

Obviously, Robert Bolt and I have been doing 'research' on this subject for years. In other words, we have both been reading around the whole topic of UFOs and have also had first hand experience of people like Mr Smith. Believe me, I have met people so paranoid there are no words in the Oxford English Dictionary for them. Herr Bolt would agree, as he is the man - out of the two of us - who actually met the real- life Smith. And was perturbed by the lunacy.

But back to my research: I've been re-familiarising myself with the likes of Betty and Barney Hill, the Mothman, etc, but have been freaked out by a very strange alien encounter at South Ken tube station, in broad daylight. A woman asked a little man in a mac with a big head if he was lost, and he replied to her telepathically. This was weird, although she couldn't say later on whether it was all telepathic or not. Anyway. Decidedly odd and no mistake. She felt there was something obviously strange about him, although he wasn't threatening. On the contrary, he was more nervous of her than she was of him. She gave him directions to where he wanted to go - the Science Musuem - but when she followed him, he vanished.

It's funny, we tell ourselves 'we've heard it all before' and 'it's all hearsay' and so on and so forth, but I was quite surprised at how primeval the South Ken thing was for me. Got under my skin. Mainly because it was almost normal. But not quite. I think that is one of the reasons Smith will speak to people. The film is saying, life's weird. Get used to it. And maybe the aliens are just as lost and confused as we are.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Entering The Hidden Library

I have been rummaging through my books for the second draft. Owing to losing my then flat when I made my first feature (it's a long story), I had to hurriedly pack up all my books and get them into storage, where some of them still are, six years later. As Nick is planning a book on cults, and I told him I would dig out a few of my books on this subject, as one of the feature projects currently on the back burner is about an apocalyptic cult living on the north coast of Scotland, and I had amassed a small mass on the subject all in the name of research and being British.

When I entered the inner sanctum (an ancient Pictish burial mound, AKA the basement of a friend of my mother's), I not only found the cult books, but several ancient tomes on UFOs, including Ken Rogers' The Warminster Triangle, which recounts all of the odd activity in that strange part of Wiltshire. It's a classic, full of decidedly odd happenings and even odder people.

The other book I found was one that I had completely forgotten that I possessed, Peter Paget's The Welsh Triangle, which is about the flap of 1977-78. I remember seeing it on Newsround, in fact. John Craven was interviewing school kids somewhere in the Haverfordwest area saying that they'd seen a spaceman in the school playground. Or was it a field? I can't remember. But strange stuff, and no mistake.

Finding these two books is something of a sign, methinks. Precisely what kind of sign, we don't yet know. It could be rude, it could be a semiotician's worst nightmare, or it could be another good omen.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Caravan Site Shambhala

Something quite extraordinary has just happened. Let us hope it is an omen...

Nick was discussing the script with one of his caving buddies, Carruthers (not his real name), over the weekend. He (Nick) said that he couldn't remember where the original Smith (not his real name either) lived. Carruthers (still not his real name) immediately replied that he knew exactly where Smith lived, and, what's more, that the site still existed. Needless to say Nick was dumbfounded that this hazy piece of his teenage years was still there for all to see. Carruthers took him out to the site, which had changed a lot in the last 25 or so years. We have to keep the location secret, for various reasons (actually Maj-12 are pressuring us, as are the Bilderberg Group).

Nick emailed me to tell me all about this, and I was gobsmacked. Yesterday evening, he and I visited the site. I never thought I would see it, in fact, I was sure it no longer existed, as a lot of that part of Weston-super-Mare has been developed massively over the last 10 or 15 years. (New estates are still springing up like mushrooms after rain.) It was a part of town that is, to say the least, grim, as it is near both the airport (disused) and the old town tip (also disused, on which they have built a McDonald's - how apt is that?). It is also near the new tip (smellier than a caver/filmmaker/writer after an evening in the alehouse) and also cut off from the town by the railway line, and right next to a large pond that I wouldn't want to swim in.

It's an odd little world. You can easily feel cut off there, the way I'm sure the real Smith did. But the fact that it's still there is somehow a reminder that Smith's world is still with us, that the outsiders, the aliens/immigrants, the mad, the lonely, are still there. And they still have stories to tell. Perhaps our film will be a way of making those voices heard.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Time (and place) out of joint

The first recce was certainly encouraging. I had wondered whether the place was actually too well-kept to be the base of a ne'er do well like Smith, but Nick was quite taken with the surreality of the place. Believe me, given the number of caravan sites around here, surreality is almost the order of the day.

We were also impressed that the place had portable palm trees, which we want to get into the film. It reminded me of Philip K. Dick's Time out of Joint (ripped off by Hollywood as The Truman Show), where the hero's world is entirely stage-managed by the government. That's paranoia for you! And Smith is nothing if not paranoid, so the movement of palm trees around the site will no doubt be of primary concern for him, and confirm to him that Things are Afoot...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Philip K. Dick would be proud

Today the Director shaped one and I visited the main location for the film in our producer roles - a campsite south of nowhere in particular and a surreal experience it was. A total and unique world cut off from reality. It was something of a faux community but just the thing we're looking for. Much framing was done as is the case when one or more film makers are gathered together. I think the collective noun for film makers is a 'Reel' as in a 'reel of producers' etc. There were, in a bleak Somerset afternoon, palm trees growing on the site so we have decided to make them a running gag as if a cosmic set designer were at work (there isn't by the way) adjusting things here and there. Anyway the location was straight out of a P.K.Dick novel.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Rewrite after rewrite after rewrite

Well, it was actually twenty years ago that this script first saw the light of day. So director wasn't listening! It was based on my own experiences back in the late 70's where the eponymous hero Ian Smith - not his real name in reality (if that makes sense?) - had set up a UFO group in town in which an eclectic mix of individuals, yours truly included, turned up to see what it was all about. Having had such a peculiar and downright silly evening I put it swiftly into the back of my mind until 85 when I thought a film script would be an ideal way to exorcise that particular demonic memory. But as is normal for these things a script was written and then nothing done about it for many years. It was dusted off, winced at then rewritten - this process was then repeated for many years until director turns up and tells me he's heard odd noises in a caravan in Brean. Call to adventure!.....Again. Script is promptly dusted off, rewritten in about a week - blimey! And then served in small bite size morsels to the Helmer for his critical eye. With the passing of the years (and much else) yon writing skills had seen much improvement - they were taken off the critical list, fed warm helpings of textural porridge and were allowed to leave the TB clinic for semi-retired scripts. So now, at last, the life and times of Smith can be brought to life.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Or Perhaps Not...

Having thought about it, I am fairly certain that the project didn't begin as described in the previous post, so please ignore it. Not a very auspicious way to start a blog. Oh well, start as you mean to continue. I hope future posts will excel in contradicting each other, and, in the end, nobody will really know how the film came to be made.

Anyway, my previous post is more or less true - so perhaps all I've contradicted is the preceeding paragraph - but I think the impetus to get going on Smith came from another bike ride, this one down a road I'd never taken before, and was curious to see what I would find if I cycled down it. It was one of those small roads that are maybe near your house, but you've never been down them, and either take them for granted, or ignore them completely. So I set off down the road, and it took me past a farm or two, a tiny church (which in fact I only noticed yesterday) and a narrow bridge over the railway line. But there was also a campsite, quite a large one in fact. I think it was passing this place that made me think of Mr Smith and his disastrous life.

As it happens, I actually visited the place on Wednesday evening, a sort of unofficial recce. Looks promising. Nick and I are doing a proper recce there next week. If we meet a resident who is obsessed with UFOs, we shall be in weird land for sure. But that wouldn't surprise me. There's a lot of it about, after all.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Making a film. Accidentally.

Well, this is all rather unexpected. I was recently (February 2005) out on my bike, cycling up the road from Berrow to Brean. Berrow isn't famous for anything, and doesn't deserve to be. It's one of those places that you don't get out of the car in, while Brean is only famous for its theme park, which was recently blessed with a visit from Jordan and Peter Andre. They closed the whole place to the public while Madam and her silly man had a go on all the rides. Brean is also awash with caravan sites. It's a strange, self-contained world, with its own shops and pubs, almost cut off from everyday reality (whatever that is). As I was cycling past one of the caravan sites, I heard what either sounded like very vocal sex (one assumes two people were involved) or somone having some kind of violent seizure. I did not stop to investigate. Maybe farm animals were being introduced to 'the lifestyle'. Who knows. Anyway, it reminded me of what a strange little world caravan sites are, which in turn reminded me of 'Mr Smith and the Flying Saucers', a script written about 10 years ago by my old chum Nick Harding, whose titular hero, Ian Smith (not to be confused with the last prime minister of Rhodesia) lives on a caravan site. I suggested to Nick that he do a rewrite, as it was a good idea, and could also be made quickly and cheaply. Nick rummaged around at home for a while, but couldn't find the first draft, so he decided to start again from scratch. And that's how it all began. I think.