Saturday, 31 March 2007

The first bus

Today I was a very early starter. At 4am had to sign on in order to take one of those big red things across South London. I wasn't number one, but the second southbound bus on my route.

Now TfL take the running of the 'extremities' very seriously. It doesn't matter about the rush hour where the majority of the people are travelling but the First and the Last bus are the sacred deities of the TfL contract. They cannot be cut or turned and if they break down, you better get a replacement quick. Don't have any sickie drivers for those duties as the fines are huge.

But, I was number two.

Now in the morning, and I mean early morning, I will actually stop for runners. Most of the time, runners are a nuisance. The reason is that they never say thank you, the fumble about with the pass and because they are so tired from actually moving those two legs, they are probably going to topple over when the bus moves. That is the real reason why we don't pick up runners.

However, in the morning, I will waive that rule. Firstly, anyone up at that time in the morning isn't there for fun, they're there to work. And secondly, their job has to be as crappy as yours if they're are going to work when the clubbers are going home. Before six in the morning I will be kind. I know that we don't run that frequently and that it is viscous to get out of bed that early. I will see the runners, stop and wait for them. Anyway, there's no traffic on the roads, so no one cares about getting in on time for a tea/coffee/piss.

But after six, house rules apply. If I see you running, I don't want you on.

It is true. Bus drivers are evil.

Friday, 30 March 2007

The Bus Stop

I was listening to Radio TfL yesterday when a funny message came ovedr the airwaves. It went a bit like this:

'This is Centrecom with a call for all drivers in South East London, in particular the SIdcup, Woolwich and Bexleyheath areas. There are number of bus stops that have been unbolted. There is a white flat bed lorry that is going round and removing the bus stops. If any driver sees this lorry can you give Centrecom a call immediately stating the number plate and the exact location of the lorry where we will send some assistance immediately. Thank you, Centrecom out.'

The funniest thing is that they had sent some controllers on the look out for this lorry. Considering that these are the guys who divert buses when there is 'an emergency' this was going to ben an interesting chase of cat and mouse between the controllers and the lorry. I wonder who would win?

I don't know who would want to nick a bus stop. Unless it's some guy whop hates having buses that stop outside his house. But remember folks, unless its bolted down...

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Spring

What a glorious few days it has been in the capital. Awakening to fresh, crisp mornings. Arriving at the bus garage with the dawn breaking over the horizon. Walking though the yard with a cup of vending machine tea ready to start the bus, check it and take it on its way. While driving on my first trip, watching the sun come up over the hills. The temperature gradualy getting warmer allowing me to slip off my jacket and enjoy the warmth of the newly awakened Northern Hemisphere. Going home, nibbling on some food before taking a leisurely stroll back to the bus garage where I start my second half. A wonderful afternoon, sun fully out and va-va-voom walking on the streets of South London. Then off home to enjoy the beautiful sunsets, looking forward to another day.

However, this is a typical English Spring day...

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Nutter!

There is the usual cries of condemnation. Pollice are said to be getting involved. It has even made the news, such is the 'seriousness' of the offence. However, some may call it art. Others anarchy. Some may even be so brave as to say it is a 'post-establishment' occurance.

Some love it, other hate it. Some may question where the staff were when this event took place. Health and Safety officials are screaming. Private injury lawyers are weeping (from the lack of injuries). No one was injured and yet there was all to play for during this incident.

It has made the radio. Heard on the car home. Of course there are 'respectable' members of the community balming the case on the irresponsibility of one individual. Now there are cals to ban the activity within the UK except in special designated areas. And of course, the Daily Rag has got to have an editorial against it. Soonish.

The onlookers, of course being London, just looked on bemused. No cheers except from the person's buddies annd no cries of anguish except one year after the stunt was completed. All in all, a storm in a teacup.

But, the guy's a nutter!

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Fish



I enjoy my meat. Meat is a beautiful thing, but something even more important to me is fish. You see, I live on an island, I'm from some beautiful islands and so fish is a fantastic food for the senses. And from the archaeologist's POV, an important food resource for early man. But that's another tale and another day. Today fish is an overpriced commodity/. Now that fishmongers are a thing of the past, we have to put up with inflated prices from the supermarkets or have to hunt down the biggest fishmonger of them all and find out that it too is overpriced.

But there is nothing like good fish.

I've only once been to Billingsgate, that fantastic warehouse by The Wharf. I don't like early mornings any more than the next man and to be honest, the prices aren't that great. But the selection is awesome. If it is sold in this country, you'll find it at Billingsgate. A logistical nightmare, trucks pull in from the Channel Tunnel, Heathrow as well as fishing ports in the UK to sell, sell, sell. The most comforting thing about the market is that everything is done in cash. No sissies stadning in line with a switch card and fumbling with the chip and pin machine.

And by 7am, it is all gone until the next morning.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Lunch

For those that want to do a double take at the time I'm posting this blog, welcome to my lunch hour (11am BST). No, this is not some glorious brunch for the uninitiated, but a proper lunch complete with full on hot meals (microwave) and a way to put my feet up (before a six mile walk). Also done is a visit to the post office and a top up on some groceries. All in all, how else does anyone else spend a lunch hour.

Although shift work is not the most pleasant thing for the body, there are some advantages to the ridiculous hours that you wake up/go to sleep.

If you have a very early start, you're finishing work while the unemployed are getting up from their slumber. A late finish means productive days. And a long lunch (three hours in this case) at a time when no one else is on their lunch break means 'things can get done'. The biggest plus however is that your going to and from work at a completely different time to everyone else, so cutting down on the commute.

Now that's shiftwork.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The kinky things in life

For those looking for a little something to kick start them this dull and grey morning...a little entertainment this morning:

Caution, Wet Paint!

Two Glasses.


Enjoy,

El Director!

Tea

Oh Glorious drink, the golden nectar of Asia. The world's most wonderful drink and most refreshing. A pick me up first cultivated by the Burmese, passed on from Ancient China and exploited by the British Empire. Tea. A wonderful brew whether green, slightly stronger, or black. Served with lemon, milk, spices and sugar or just plain with no additives (and if you're a funky kind of drinker, then all at once). Plucked from the bush, fermented or dustings, it still tastes good no matter what. Easy to manufacture even easier to make for hot water is all that is needed. Can be drunk anytime of the day but especially in the mornings when your stomach is too delicate for anything else. It's caffeinated properties allows stimulation of body and mind. Wakes up the bowels too.

Tea, what a wonderful herb. Especially when the clocks go forward.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Toons to make you cry

Anyone who has a short memory will not remember my posting a couple of weeks ago promising capsule reviews. Well, two of the DVD's have been viewed. And today, we wil talk about the beautiful Laputa.

Do not underestimate the cartoons of Hayao Miyazaki. Kid stuff, yes. But like everything from Japan, what is designed for children is played by adults. It's a cliche for movie maker wannabes to drool over Asian cinema and to love Manga/Animie etc but fuck it, I live the cliche lifestyle. And man, get the hankie's out, this is a tear jerker. I know it's only drawings but still, the story is emotional. And a two hour ride through this wonderful blend of fantasy and recent history makes a film that is worthy of so much more than the occasional Film Four viewing.

It is a beautiful film and I think a lot of people who don't watch a lot of animie will start to wonder if I have got half a brain left. It's each to their own, but it is a lot more entertaining than the pappy cartoons coming out recently. And yep, there is not a hint of CGI or any other computer techniques in this film, but the story is captivating and full credit to the voice actors who did a wonderful job of bringing out the characters. But full 'we're not worthy' chants must go to Hayao Miyazaki. The daddy.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

El Director - Episode VII: The Story Ends

In September 2005, I set out on a great adventure that would take nine months of my own insignificant life. The making of my first feature, 'An East End Tale'. Now making a short is all lovely, but there is nothing like making a feature. Remember kids, I have no backing, film school or cash to my feature. Just a camera and a dodgy script. But before I go down the path of 'woe', a few results of the film should be stated.

There was no film festivals, film deals or agents racing a path to my door.

Zip, zero, nada. This is the 21st century, not the nineties. Those tales of guerilla film makers striking Hollywood down. Well, now everyone can do that so that is no longer going to get anyone's attention. I advise, well, actually, if I could advise then I wouldn't be writing this blog. I would be bottling it and selling it for a fiver.

Let's put it this way. Making a budget film off your own back isn't going to work anymore. The film festivals/agents/corps aren't interested anymore. It is probably better to go to film school etc. But for the financially incompetent such as myself other solutions have to be found. I thought that one of them was making your own feature, but sadly, this seems not to be the case. It is a case of supply and demand. There is a huge number of people who do make their own feature and to be honest, film festivals are going to choose the better quality pictures. And in terms of quality, I mean the looks of the film such as equipment etc. The more you can spend, the better. That doesn't actually mean that the films are entertaining. As a member of the film paying audience, it has been a very long time (five years) since I really enjoyed an offering from a film festival. And that is something that makes me sad. Going to the cinema is meant to be fun.

So is my advice, 'not to make a feature'? No, DO MAKE YOUR FEATURE! No matter what the end result is, it is so important to film as much as possible. It is so easy to get trapped in a cycle of cynicism and this industry in incestuous and exploitative. But that is not important. What you carry out has to be enjoyable. No matter what the end result is, making a feature is completely different from making a short. No amount of shorts can prepare you for the physical and mental exhaustion that is a feature film. And once you make it, it will probably be seen by only a handful of people. But that doesn't matter, you've made it and when you get back into making films after your feature, you will be so much better for it. Your confidence will grow and so will your contacts. And the inventiveness will increase. It is so important to get that first feature out of the way. Once it is, you won't be scared of filming anything.

And although my feature has finished, I'm still working on it. I'm still learning. After all, while I've been writing for a very long time, but I've only been filming for three years. I've done a lot already. And there is a lot more to come...

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Budget

To all people, Gordon Brown will be PM. And he will be PM for a long time. Or if I was a betting man then I would wager something on it. Why? Well, any man who cuts taxes wins votes. Simple.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

El Director VI - El Maestro

One of the good things about 'The Fight' was meeting 'El Maestro'. Now 'El Maestro' is a funny character. He lurks in the forests of the countryside. You have to coax him out of the woods. Pieces of pie are normally good bait, but you have to be careful. He does bite and is considered to be the last rabid creature in England, since the last one.

It was complete chance meeting 'El Maestro'. One day I was sneezing away in the countryside known as 'The Smoke' when suddenly I came upon 'El Maestro'. He was already feasting on the remnants of some wonderful piece of barbecued something. Being hungry I approached him, whereby he stood up. Using the skills I attempted to learn on my film I showed him the way of mastered kung fu. Since that day, my passion for all things kung fu related has matched his passion for all things pie related and we have managed to produced what some may call a collaboration.

Every director knows that the most important person you work with isn't the lead actor/actress. Nor is it the editor or producer or the runner. And the main backer, while being very important isn't the keystone to your work. The most important person on any film is the musician. You can make the best film on the planet, but without the music it is a pile of pap. All the musicians cover the mistakes that directors make. They make us look good, similar to the way that a make-up artist makes actors/actresses look good. And we can ring them at 3am in the morning screaming down the phone to ask for a piece of music and you know that they are still awake composing music. Musicians are as fanatical as directors. Their work never ends. And all films are about the music, not the funky angles. Fact.

When you find a good musician, treat them good. Handcuff them to the radiator, to keep them warm. And feed them lots of pie...

Monday, 19 March 2007

El Director - Part 5: FIGHT!

I love a good fight. In films that is. And it was always my dream to make a good kick abound. But now, things had to take a professional turn. And this was a serious turn of events. This would actually be the first film that I would attempt for broadcast quality. Everything that I had made beforehand was made for practice.

So I held an audition. And I was very nice and responded to each actor that phoned. Big mistake. I laboured on my shots. I had to make each one count. Big mistake. I edited and edited until the cows came home. Nice result, but I should have planned my shots better. Big mistake. I relied on the skills of those around me. When you're not paying anyone, a big mistake.

All in all, the shooting of 'The Fight' was probably the most painful experience I had to endure. It took far too long (seven months), it was far too unplanned and I was going into territory which needed skills. As I was not paying, this was - A Big Mistake.

But the result was very cool. It was a massive effort and to be honest, the storyline sucks. But, it looks good. Only one camera, and people who had never before been in such a situation. The two leads put in a huge amount of work and it paid off. So I present 'The Fight'.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Hong Kong Cinema

Hong Kong in the eighties and nineties faced an uncertain future. At that time, a forgotten colony of the UK, it was hurtling towards Chinese sovereignty. And of course then, China was not the country it is today. It was poverty stricken and very much stuck with the communist mentality 'face'. And also it didn't have the glare of the world's media like it does today. Tiananmen Square - would it happen today? Despite all the uncertainties, Hong Kong boomed economically, something that even the Asian crisis of '97/98 didn't fail to shake.

This time was a golden time for Hong Kong cinema. Unfortunately it has now been all but killed by piracy and a complete lack of imagination; the content belly of a secure and prosperous future. But that golden time reflected the raw energy and uncertainty that was abound in the city. Hong Kong today is not the most pleasant of places. Its people to put it nicely are similar to the inhabitants of Havering. And I was never there in the eighties so I couldn't comment on what it was like then. But the films that came out of it were 'wow!'

Yesterday I rewatched 'A Better Tomorrow'. What else can I say but 'wow!'

Saturday, 17 March 2007

The Last Bus

At the moment, my bus route is one of those that isn't fully covered by night buses. For about two thirds of the route, at least one night bus shadows my route. But the remaining third remains empty after a certain time at night. In the summer, this will change and the route will become a 24 hour behemoth. But that is summertime. Now in spring, there is still a thing as 'the last bus home'. And for this week, I am driving the last southbound bus. Once you miss me, you'll have to wait another four hours or use those crummy legs of yours.

This is the one time you cannot run early. You're not meant to run early, ever. But on the last bus, it is the cardinal sin. Essentially it is a last warning offence. Let's put it this way. TfL considers the last bus so important, that if your bus breaks down, the garage is expected to bring another bus out and still run the last service, no matter how late it is (it is the same for the first bus, but that's a different story). You cannot cut the last bus. It is the holy service in the schedule and it must run. And it can run as late as it wants. It will never get turned, it will do exactly what it says and it will go the full distance. The last bus is one of the pillars that support the great monster known as 'London Buses'.

However, even with all the drunks that do get on, it is unlikely that you are going to be more than three minutes late. So, when you see 'last bus' in the time table, it is more than likely to be there on time. So you better get running. Otherwise, it's a long walk home...

Friday, 16 March 2007

Props

My sister is putting up her jewellery designs on her myspace. Far nicer than the usual pap you get at Shittlefileds market or Pratabello Road. You see all these people wearing crappy stuff and you think why bother spending that much money on something that doesn't show up properly. If you're going to go for funky jewellery, why not go for something that's more chunky and that you can actually see.

Well, I like her designs, and not because she's my sister. They look good and I always use her stuff on my films as they really show up on the camera and they make great props for my 'leading ladies' to fiddle with when acting. I'm a big fan of shots that show the 'fingering of jewels'. And they're fun to use when your shooting. Everytime I've used her jewels, the actresses love wearing them. They like the fact that they get to pose with a little more than themselves. It's a great tool to ease up your leading ladies, especially in budget film making when you're only going to see them for a day. Whacking some jewellery on them brakes down some of the inhibitions and it makes the set a bit more 'playful'.

Hey, anything to get the best reactions.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Mornings

A lot of us wake up in the morning. Put on the kettle, make a cup of tea and go to work. Not me. At the moment, mainly working late shifts, I get up in the morning and chill out. While everyone is slumming it through the rush hour, I sit down, switch on my computer and attempt to create a 'blog' worthy of attracting a humble number of readers each day. Then I shift through the news. You have the major news sites, but I also enjoy reading something that's a little different. Then of course, I attack a few other blogs. Not attacking in the sense of leaving nasty comments but just taking a look at them and seeing what they have written, as their daily homily. It is what they call, a civilised way to begin the day.

Yep, working lates, it's a lovely thing. And it will end next week, ugh.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

El Director - Part 4. Time to think 'big'

Right I thought, it's time to step up a gear. I decided to test my new found enthusiasm and just film anything. I filmed a mocumentary about making films, a film about making tea, a phone call in the dark, walking up and down the stairs, mock kung fu and my foot. I mucked around with blue screens, lights and even a dodgy tripod. I even learnt how to edit, this time getting my own computer and fiddling with the keyboard. It was amazing to see these creations light up the way.

But I was taking too much time from friends. This was my dream I was trying to pursue. And the hard facts are that there are few people in the world who sync up. There nothing right or wrong about this, it is just the way that we are as a species. We think differently. And we want things differently. I had to bite the bullet. It was time to start making films solo. No friends, no help. To be self sufficient and focused.

And it was hard. Your friends are there as a crutch, a support almost. But to go it alone is hard. You know that there is no one to blame but yourself. No one to turn to for advice and no one who will put up with as much crap as they would. You can be slack with your friends. You can have more of a temper or be less organised. But when it comes to going alone, you got to take on a whole different persona.

I look back on some of the shorts that I made three years ago. It was a fun time and productive. In a year I made 12 shorts. In a way it was a crash course in film school but without the expensive fees or the boring stuff like 'theory'. Just picking up a camera and mucking about with friends. Most people thought I was nuts, but I was soon to go to a whole new level of nuttiness. And I am thankful that I could rely on such a wonderful bunch of people. I was very lucky to have such good friends who allowed me to film them and direct them in the weirdest circumstances.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

El Director - Part 3. The East End

My first stab at directing felt good. Yeah baby! The plan (ha!) is working. So I kept on at it, but devised some sort of rough plan to keep me going. Now I need to make something longer. But I need actors. In stepped two heroes of my childhood plus one from later in life. Three friends were destined to make it in my first 'real' effort at making films. A spectacular short involving a run through the streets of East London with magic bolts and kung fu!

All right, it didn't end up like that. I found out that security guards actually like to do their job. I found out that I actually had to have a plan when directing a movie. And that I had to give directions. Actors can't read my mind. Mmm. But I still got my zaps and my running and in fact part of the film was re-used later at the beginning of The Fight.

Well, it's a learning curve. I wasn't born with this 'skill'. And the story continues...

Monday, 12 March 2007

Music to love

I love the hammond organ. Ooooo-eeeee!

El Director, Part 2 - Dropping Coins

So there I am. A poor young man on the streets of London, working in one lousy job, but just about gaining enough money to keep myself afloat. And I have nothing to loose. Or so is my attitude. So what did I do? I started filming.

Now, at this point in my life, three years ago, I don't have a clue about filming. I barely knew how to switch the camera on, let alone use the focus ring. And I didn't have a computer nor did I have a clue how to edit. Luckily for me, at the time, I knew a guy who loved computers and wanted to know how to edit. Why not, we know each other and we both have spare time.

So in his parents' back garden I got to work. I told him to drop a coin. In fact my first words as 'El Director' was 'Drop the Coin'. He did. And with thirty seconds of coin dropping footage we began to edit. A beautiful montage of shots, slowed down. In the end four seconds of footage were used but we slowed down the pace so much that it ended up 7 times longer. It was probably the most artistic film I have made to date, and it was only a test run. Oh, if things could be so simple now.

But that was it. In a day, we learnt how to shoot a guy dropping a coin. We learnt how to (and how not to) connect a camera to a computer. We also learnt how to use editing software.

'Wow', I thought. This is easy...

Sunday, 11 March 2007

The Story of 'El Director' - Part 1.

About three years ago I arrived back from Spain. Penniless, without a roof over my head and without a future. A more charmed life led through exploring the world and trying to find myself, blah, blah, blah.

I have always written, since I was a kid. It was one of my 'talents'. I wouldn't call myself a talented writer, but it's something that I have to do. In the sense that going to the toilet is something I have to do, writing just comes out of me. And this has been happening since I was a 'young' lad. The trials of writing were one that I learnt myself. I have never gone to a writing class in my life and in fact my best subjects at school were Biology and Chemistry, not English in which I was mediocre (B++ was the highest mark I obtained).

I travelled a lot when I was younger as well. As soon as I left school I went to as many places as my pocket could afford. And it was something I did until three years ago. During this time, I tried my hands at many potential careers, but I never liked any of them. At one time I also decided to stop writing. That lasted for a year before I suddenly began to write like a monsoon, eventually coming up with a story that I hope to revisit one day.

I then crossed a desert - that's another story and then decided to go to Spain to look for work. Of course, anyone who knows employment levels within the EU knows that Spain is one of the worst places to look for jobs, in particular Andalucia where the unemployment level runs at 15-20%. Of course I wouldn't have listened to anyone but that is a particular fault of 'El Director'.

My writing in the past was a multitude of genres. Play, books, short stories, film. But of all my writing styles, film was the one I enjoyed the most. I could express my ideas much more vividly with film rather than in books, where you had to have good grammar and the ability to bullshit to a higher degree. Yep, films was where I was leaning to in my ramblings.

And so, becoming a director. Well, that's simple. Writers are at the bottom of the pile. And once their script is submitted, they have no power. So wanting to be a director was a 'no-brainer'. Producing also arose from this. If I don't get off my own backside, who will? And so, there you have it, the foundation of 'El Director'.

So, three years ago, I arrived back home from Andalucia. Penniless. At the bottom of the pile. And without a clue of how to make a film. I didn't even know how to pick up a camera.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Why?

Before I begin, yep, you guessed, 'myspace' is undergoing more routine maintenance. Like roadworks, there are traffic lights and road closures, but no one actually working on the problem.

I was going to have a long and beautiful post about 'Why I make films' (hence the subject line) but the postman has distracted. 3/4 of my order has finally come in. We're talking about 'Bullet in the Head', 'Laputa' (no laughing from Spanish speakers) and 'Nausicaa'. A Far Eastern fest of films to be digested over the coming month. Yeah! More pressing events come to mind.

Expect compact reviews for all.

In the meanwhile, enjoy some of the sissies in a corner of South London.

Friday, 9 March 2007

wem-ber-ley

Well, well. Finally they are going to finish on the new Wembley stadium. I remember the plans for this project, way back in the twentieth century when I was not allowed to vote! Wow, how things have changed, and how I am getting older. But we have the usual moans about how the 'national stadium' should be somewhere better for 'England' fans, such as Birmingham.
I agree. Birmingham is the perfect place for such a treasure. It would have made their city a much better place. It would have made the people a lot better and a lot more secure in the patter of their daily lives. And maybe, just maybe, they would have stopped moaning along the the lines of 'oh, it's unfair how London gets everything'.
But probably not. You can give them the world, and they're still not happy. No, people north of Luton airport want more. They want our blood. Thank goodness for the M25 - our barricade against the evil northerners! It keeps us in and them out. I hate you! I hate the world!
All right, now we've got that off our chests we can all breathe easily. Fact, London is where the money is made at this present time. Not Birmingham, Manchester or Paris. Football is a money making venture just like anything else where you invest 3/4 billion pounds. (quick, that link will go premium in a few days)
I never went to the old stadium. It's unlikely that I will go to the new one, so it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to me. However for my bus garage, the news is perfect as they supply the shuttle services for the new stadium. Ah, the smell of overtime...

Thursday, 8 March 2007

This is blog part 2

Stupid myspace. I despise the site and even though I blog there on a daily basis, half the time you can't log in properly. So there, I'm off to 'blogger'. Hello! Everything will be written up here in its pure form then will be copied and pasted onto the inferior myspace site.

I have to admit, it 'feels' a lot more professional on here, on 'blogger'. Myspace is a site for amateurs, even I have one. But 'blogger', ooh. I've read blogs on 'blogger' for the last couple of years. I've admired them, found out more information from them than I've found out on wikipedia and have made them a part of my regular web visits. I love the niche factor in roaming the blogs available on 'blogger'. And the regularity. Some post everyday (something that I've succeeded in doing for the last month only) some post on a weekly basis, but there is a regularity to the blogger found on 'blogger'. Try a myspace blogger and you find that for them, a posting is an irregular affair. Usually after they've fallen in love. Yes, myspace is the place for happy teenagers while 'blogger' is the space for cynical adults. I have finally graduated!

I want to be a part of the professionals. The hardcore. The ones who are dedicated to spreading their thoughts and thoughtlessness on a regular basis without fear of a lack of comments and viewers. Those who are addicted to blogging because they believe that somewhere out there, on this vast world wide web, there are people who might care about the random thoughts jostling in their brain.

So, as my random thought of the day, anyone here like 'plov'?