Top Ten Actresses I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything

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Okay – it was fun bitching about my most hated actors & actresses last week but now it’s time to do another list that Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are has done. You can see her list of “The Top Ten Actresses That I’d See In Pretty Much AnythingHERE. So here’s my own list of actresses I love. (Yes – I do love Drew Barrymore!). 🙂

With my favorite actors list, I’ve had to narrow it down by only including living actors so I’ve done the same here. Otherwise, Grace Kelly would be on this list. Now here are The Ten Actresses I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything (in no particular order…):

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Amy Adams
Best Movie: Her or Catch Me If You Can but she was lovely in Junebug

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Emily Blunt
Best Movie: Edge Of Tomorrow but I also love The Adjustment Bureau

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Melanie Laurent

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Why don’t Canadian films LOOK Canadian? What makes a film truly Canadian?

What do we expect from Canadian movies? I feel like this is a question we Canadians should be asking, but end up overlooking entirely. I’ve brought this up in previous posts, but I’m going to bring it up again because I feel it’s important for us to challenge ourselves as Canadian citizens: Why aren’t we watching Canadian films? Arts contribute a large part in creating a sense of cultural pride, and films are a huge part of that, but how often do we watch our own films? More importantly, why don’t Canadian films LOOK like they’re Canadian? Why are more and more Canadian movies pretending to be American? You guys know what I’m talking about.

In Canadian films, the characters never talk about where they come from or mention where they are going. The very thought of dialogue saying “I’m from Alberta” or “I’m going to Newmarket” never crosses a writer’s mind or if it does the producers will remove it. No one in our films is reading The Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star (in one film, a bundle of newspapers being delivered was turned upside down to avoid revealing its name), no radio announcer is ever to say, “This is the CBC.” The police are seldom identified by their actual uniforms and the cars they use, no politicians are ever mentioned, no hospitals, schools or public buildings are identified, and seldom a maple leaf flag is seen flying. Contrast this with what we see in American and Québec films. Their filmmakers are delighted to be proud of their places and their society and put it naturally on the screen. Montreal lives constantly as do other places in the province used as locations; when people go abroad and say that they are from Canada the usual response is “Oh! From Montreal?” No one ever asks if a Canadian is from Toronto because no one has ever recognized it on the screen, even though they may have seen flashes of it. The CN Tower should be as well-known as the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building, but it is not and the way we hide everything it never will be. Even a silly but outrageously black Vampire comedy from Québec called Karmina gives us a customs inspector saying “Welcome to Canada” and when money changes hands the $5 bill is clearly Canadian, not hidden and not American — as it usually is.

This is quoted from the article titled “Canadian Films: What Are We to Make of Them?” by Gerald Pratley. Actually, 75% of this post will be directly quoted from Pratley, as I think it addresses most of the problems with Canadian films today and gives us a good look at the reality of why the Canadian film industry is lacking identity (and dignity).

Today it is hard to avoid being suffocated in flags and dreary speeches from Ottawa exuding patriotism and telling us what a wonderful country we live in.  Back in the past we let the Americans celebrate their ‘freedom’ four days after Canada Day — we had fish to catch and lakes to swim in, the CBC to listen to, Export A cigarettes to smoke, Maclean’s and the Toronto Star to read — or the daily papers of other cities; and no one twisted themselves into knots wondering who they were and where they were. When therefore, our film producers came on the scene during the fifties they were afraid that such symbols, references and practices, even the people themselves, would be dull subjects to form the basis of profitable movies. Our young independents of those days were left behind, and our English-track producers, the so-called big players, thinking then as they do now, only in terms of the US market, adapted the “international look” — meaning the American look — and stripped away any references to Canada substituting Americanisms instead and passing off Canadian places as being American. This led to a certain amount of public criticism forcing producers to drop overt American references leaving their films to take place in “never-never” lands.

To this day producers are resolutely opposed to making English-speaking Canadian films contain anything that might I’ve away their origin. And have they found success as a result of this in selling their films to the US? Absolutely not, but they never learn and continue to deny us the very trappings of life which make us what we are. The Americans would never sell themselves out as our film and television producers do.

Those moviegoers who do see Canadian pictures must be mystified as to why American players are involved particularly as we have so many good actors of our own who are mostly under-employed.

There are continual complaints being vented by the ‘cultural activists’ (kind of like myself I guess… whoops) about why our films have such a tiny audience. They blame Hollywood for taking up so much screen time leaving us with only 3 per cent. They seem to forget that if the cinemas did not have American films to show they would be forced to close down, putting thousands of employees out of work, because we cannot fill the screens.

There is no joy in creativity for these Canadian producers, no satisfaction in putting Canada on the screen. Their rewards come purely in financial gains. The business of film is one of greed; soulless and without vision, our identity lost and national revelations entirely absent. And now a competitor is on the way in the form of Lionsgate Films of Vancouver. They have announced their intention of making Canadian films; they will no doubt produce films in Canada but it is unlikely they will be about Canada…

Our producers, who are only in film as a business to make money rather than to put their country on the screen, use our small market as a reason to concentrate on pseudo-American films they are certain will show profits from the US market. They seldom do, but producers never learn. To spend more than these sums on a truly Canadian picture is to invite financial loss unless it finds wide public acceptance in this country.

I personally think that what the nonexistent Canadian film industry needs is the right people to make genuinely well done and entertaining Canadian films. If you look over at Québec, they’re not making Wannabe American films, they’re making great Québec  films and people are actually going out to watch them. The Québecers are producing more successful films (financially speaking) because they aren’t pretending to be something they aren’t. And I think it’d be the same deal here in the English-Speaking Canadian provinces, if only there were more producers willing to take a risk. Playing it safe by trying to produce American-like films has always been the demise of the Canadian film industry… We just need the right filmmakers to create genuinely Canadian films that are actually entertaining to watch and that people would want to spend their money on to go see it in theatres.

Maple Syrup does not make a film Canadian. Sticking  a moose in a scene does not make it Canadian. The people of Canada need to be able to relate to these films if we want the people of Canada to be proud to say “This is a Canadian film.” I don’t think I can personally relate to having a moose pass by casually in my backyard.

We do need our films to address the many social issues within Canada, such as the “multicultural” question and the Aboriginals. However, the reason the American film industry is so successful is that it also produces numerous “feel-good” movies that people can relate to. Why don’t we ever see a romantic comedy movie about a couple who live in Toronto? Or a drama based in Vancouver?

So what should we expect to see? Is it too much, too narrow, too parochial, too nationalistic, to then expect that a Canadian film, financed by us, by the state, should be recognizably set in this country and identified as such, written by Canadians, and portrayed by Canadian actors? Many are, but the matter of where they take place is usually blank. The reward of self-recognition among audiences is rare.

What makes a film “Canadian” is not the fact that is was directed by a Canadian, filmed on location in Canada, or that it contains Canadian actors – what makes a film truly worthy of the title “Canadian” is one that is not afraid to reveal that it IS, in fact, Canadian. One that proudly shows off the silhouettes of the Canadian Rockies, the mix of nature and city life in Vancouver, the skyscrapers – the CN tower itself – in Toronto, the european feel of Montreal, The Globe and Mail newspapers, the “Welcome to Canada” sign. A truly Canadian film isn’t hesitant to contain a scene with the Canadian flag itself god damn it.

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great Gatsby is rich with spectacle and makes for an incredibly beautiful and emotional film. It’s extravagant characters drive the film with their unattainable and lavish desires: be it an epic love, longing for an idealized lifestyle, or simply to be filthy rich. For Gatsby, it’s all of the above and more.

Based on  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name, the film follows narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Macguire) as he spends a summer in New York. Then there is his pampered and air headed cousin Daisy (Carrey Mulligan); her jackass of a husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton);  and Daisy’s old-flame, the mysterious and ridiculously rich Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby is deeply vulnerable and ruthlessly ambitious. He has created a false reality for himself, making himself appear to the public to be someone he isn’t, resulting in various rumours and stories being made up about him. Moreover, he has projected all he ever does and creates, his life’s goals and ambitions towards his lost love Daisy.

Gatsby has built an empire of excess in her honor: a mansion that boasts legendary parties as seeped in alcohol as they are in affectation in the hopes of luring her into his web. It is in the attainment of her that he believes he can find peace. But there is no peace to be had, because Daisy, like the false version of himself that he presents to the world, is nothing more than a self-created illusion. Carraway calls Gatsby “the most hopeful man he has ever met,” but really Gatsby is willfully blind and dangerously covetous. – Roth Cornet

The film itself is as gorgeous as the cast that populates it. The surrealistically beautiful aesthetic reflects the idea that the dream of the 1920’s never really existed and that the illusion of its “greatness” only served to mask the achingly empty nature of its glut.

At first I really thought the 3D aspect of it ruined the atmosphere and aesthetic of the movie, and that it was completely unnecessary, but as the film went on I realized it never overly detracted from the overall feel. In certain moments it not only supports the aesthetic, but solves the issue of creating a sense of both movement and immersion.

The use of the medium is one more way in which Lurhmann, in his approach, mimics Gatsby’s unrelenting self-indulgence. Our senses are overloaded and inundated with color, movement, sound, music, and text from the source material which has been stretched across the screen and stereoscopically brought forward.  It all moves so fast and yet leaves us feeling so bereft. – Roth Cornet

Like the film’s visual palate, the character’s emotions are heightened. They don’t love in a steady manner; they need with an anguished desperation, ever trying to fill an infinite void.

Yet their suffering never fully lands. We aren’t able to connect with these characters long enough, or deeply enough, to invest in them. Add to that, their hopes are too selfish and too delusional to root for. That sense of disconnect could be read as one of the film’s central criticisms, or it could be read as its primary strength. For, ultimately, Lurhmann perfectly captures the inherently hallow nature of these people and their soulless lives.

Gatsby has built an empire of excess in her honor: a mansion that boasts legendary parties as seeped in alcohol as they are in affectation in the hopes of luring her into his web. It is in the attainment of her that he believes he can find peace. But there is no peace to be had, because Daisy, like the false version of himself that he presents to the world, is nothing more than a self-created illusion. Carraway calls Gatsby “the most hopeful man he has ever met,” but really Gatsby is willfully blind and dangerously covetous.  – Roth Cornet

Fitzgerald’s novel has been notoriously challenging to adapt. The nuance of the tale is difficult to capture on film. The sense of the pulsing life and energy of the era was entirely lost in the 1974’s inert and mopey version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. It’s likely too early to say if Lurhmann’s is the one that cracked the Gatsby code, but he is, in many ways, the perfect director to tackle this story.

As mentioned, his frantic aesthetic is ideally suited to capture the spinning-out-of-control tone. Additionally, the majority of his films center on a pair of star-crossed lovers. He seems interested in characters that are focused entirely on what are, ultimately, unattainable goals and a drive to propel themselves past the restrictions of birth. In many ways, it’s like Lurhmann has been practising his entire career for Gatsby.

The soundtrack. To this film. My god. Many have expressed to me how they think the music should have captured the time era of the film more, but I completely disagree and think the choice of music was brilliant. The anachronistic music and contemporary songs does much more than merely “include” modern audiences. It highlights the timeless lessons of this film. Jay Z was in many ways the perfect musical collaborator for Gatsby. Not only does the soundtrack work as a driving source of propulsion for the story, but the artist’s Big Pimpin’ is the contemporary metaphor for all that Gatsby stood for: chest pounding, posing, newly moneyed showboating and rampant, substance-less overindulgence.

The performances in this film were fantastic, the strongest being Mulligan’s and DiCaprio’s by far.

Ultimately, this film, like Gatsby himself, visually embodies American excess. And yet Gatsby, the character and the film, is stunning – a seductive thing of beauty.
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Why have we played Host & Mistress to so many Hollywood big boys? Why don’t Canadians watch their own films?

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Imagine if Canada created a Hollywood North. Indeed, Canada’s first response to the primacy of Hollywood was creating a Hollywood North; it’s just that Hollywood in the States received a head start. Many of us are quick to call Canadian films “amateur”, but in reality several Canadian filmmakers excel at creating incredible films. D.W. Griffith, an American director best known for the film Birth of a Nation, once said, “You in Canada should not be dependent on either the United States or Great Britain. You should have your own films and exchange them with those of other countries. You can make them just as well in Toronto as in New York.” Then why are we so quick to assume that Canadian films are amateur? Why don’t Canadians watch Canadian films?

It was with no small amount of sadness that I watched the mini drama that unfolded over Ben Affleck’s Academy Award winning speech for Argo. For those who are unaware, former Canadian ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, expected and ultimately received some mention of Canada’s role in the story Affleck was telling. When Affleck did mention Canada there was a good deal of cheering on Twitter from Canadians (‘OMG, he said Canada!‘). What it all meant to me was that Canada still has little culture of our own. We are still looking outside of our borders for legitimacy. This is true to varying degrees throughout the arts, but is especially true in the case of film.

           The film industry in Canada is a multi-billion dollar industry employing more than 100,000 people, with foreign production accounting for a large part of that. Still Canada seems to have a surplus of film talent, including many Academy Award winners and we do make films domestically – quite a lot of them actually. The problem is that while Canadians cheer when Ben Affleck says Canada, they do not know or care about Canadian film.

For those of you who live in the suburbs, don’t you ever wonder why there are next to no Canadian films being screened at local movie theatres chains? Living in Mississauga myself, I have yet to see a single Canadian movie played locally. The theatres in Mississauga, as well as those in the nearby suburbs, show only those productions coming from American, and occasionally from British, studios. To see a Canadian film, people in the suburbs have to make an hour long commute to Toronto, spending even more money on bus tickets. It’s difficult enough as it is for those living in the suburbs, but I can only imagine the struggle someone in a rural area would have to go through to commute to see the work of their fellow citizens – it must be nearly impossible. As a result, young people are growing up on a foreign entertainment industry that dominates their own country. With all these problems, you’d wonder what was wrong with the Canadian film industry…

The answer is nothing. Canada’s film industry produces several fantastic films a year. However, there may be outside factors playing into the fact that not many Canadians watch their own films. Being aware of how Hollywood got a head start would probably help us understand why Canada fell behind in the production of films and why American films dominate. Canada was slow in entering the film industry for several reasons. At the time when Hollywood was rising, there were no large cities in Canada. This meant that there was no audience for their films. Then no one wanted to invest money into Canadian films. Canadians have been known to be more careful with their money; it’s the Americans who are the risk-takers. Lastly, there existed no national live theatre yet, like Stratford.

If you think about the average budget for an American film, roughly 120 to 200 million dollars, and compare it to the amount Telefilm Canada distributes amongst numerous Canadians directors annually, 110 million dollars, you can see why it’s a much harder task to create a Canadian film. On top of this, the American film studios spend several millions of dollars on advertising their films, which is a huge advantage because it gets a large amount of people to actually watch their films. Unfortunately, since Canadian movies do not have that advantage, most Canadians go simply unaware of the Canadian films that do exist so they will not go and see it.

The American film industry also received a huge head start and advantage because of the world wars – European film studios were bombed during the wars, so American films filled the gap. American film studios gain access to a lot more money, and especially in these days since they hold the reigns on these huge corporations such as Time Warner, Sony, and others controlling much of the media, they obtain the extra money needed to spend on advertising. The U.S. enjoys a huge cultural influence market and has a large population– so mass amounts of people paid to go see the American movies and that meant that the studios rained money again to make bigger movies. Their diverse culture has also always been a big advantage to them, seeing as they had to make more accessible movies with simple plots and universal themes, and this attracted a wide variety of people, especially immigrants (the magic of American films is simply that they make films that everyone can relate to). Last, and most importantly, is that the Hollywood studios were organized into the Major Motion Picture Association and that means they work together to promote their films, to set up American movie chains in other countries and to distribute their films globally.

So it’s not so much that Canadian films aren’t well done, or that Canadians are simply uninterested in their own films – it’s more than that. The much larger institution backing this up, making sure the American movies are globally dominating the film industry, is to blame. When it comes down to the actual films that Canada is making, they are incredibly well done. Every year, Canadian films find a spot in Oscar nominations. Not amateur at all.

“From the Americans’ perspective, this is a huge market and they don’t want to give it up,” says Lindsay Gaughn of Dynamics Professional Videosystems. The company, in which he works in the sales department, is based in Mississauga, Ontario, one of the few Canadian film distributors. Gaughn points his finger at the ownership of that industry. “It depends on the distribution systems. Right now it seems to be controlled south of the border.” In fact, he notes that American companies control 95% of film distribution in Canada. Without Canadian films being distributed to theatres, its unlikely that many will specifically request them.

Matthew Ridell, a Ryerson student like myself, says he’s never seen a Canadian movie. “I don’t think people are informed enough to think ‘I want to see this movie because it’s Canadian and it interests me.’ Ridell feels that as long as advertising and publicity of such films are low, “I don’t think it’s ever going to work.” Another Ryerson student, Sara Marks, says she can’t recall ever seeing a full length Canadian feature film either. She thinks Canada is destined to do poorly in film because the population isn’t densely concentrated. In other countries, showing movies in a few urban centres would make them available to nearly the entire population. “If we send them [Canadian movies] over to Britain, the European market is huge. With Canada, it’s a bit hard because we’re so widely spread out.” She believes that Canadian content rulings, such as those imposed on radio and television stations, might be helpful. However, Marks can’t see the industry watchdog, the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Commission), having the money to expand its operations. “Like the National Film Board, their funding has been going down. It’s not really fair, but with health care going down it only makes sense to cut that too.”

Gaughn reminds us that the Canadian predicament is not seen in most other nations. “In certain countries like France they have a strict policy,” Gaughn notes, in reference to national content restrictions. He also gives some support to the notion of Canadian content regulations. This might force the cinemas to do the work to pick up a greater number of Canadian films, Marks thinks.

He finds Canada’s current method of dealing with low national content federal funding for certain films ineffective. Gaughn sees Telefilm, the federal agency that dispenses funding, as a biased and exclusionary method of promoting film. “The problem with publicly funded films,” he says, “is that they are invariably safe and unchallenging. The downside is that you don’t get good films.” Gaughn believes that the industry should be more market driven, with funding incentives given to films that seem capable of making money. “I think Bruce MacDonald made his first film, Roadkill, with very little public funding,” he says.

But Gaughn can’t see a political move to improve the chances of Canadian films anytime soon. And he can’t see any American acceptance of such a move. U.S. companies make a large amount of money in Canada, and tend to consider it part of their domestic market. “They won’t give up their golden egg without a fight,” he says.

The main problem is that it’s hard to persuade Canadians to watch their own films. In Peter Howell’s Toronto Star article, he states, “We Canadians enjoy making fun of how mild and self-deprecating we are on the world stage, but it’s a pity that many of us actually believe the joke. Nowhere is this defeatist attitude more evident than in our collective approach to our country’s films.” He goes on to talk about how Martin Knelman reported the facts and arguments of Starlight seeking CRTC muscle to force big cable operators Rogers, Shaw and Bell into providing the newcomer first-tier channel status. This sought-after “mandatory carriage” ruling, which the CRTC will consider in late April, would cost each Canadian cable subscriber just 45 cents per month on his or her bill. The money would also be used to fund between eight to 12 new features per year. “I think the idea is good and necessary (so does the Star) to support, promote and develop a domestic film industry that is forever in the shadow of the Hollywood giants. Yet the cable biggies are opposing it, for reasons succinctly described as “greed and control.”

It’s rather disheartening to see these prominent Canadians having to do a sales job to convince their fellow Canucks that the country’s films are worth watching. (I should note at this point that it’s mostly English Canadians who require the persuading, since Quebecers loyally support their province’s French-language productions.)

The irony of it all is that moviegoers outside Canada don’t require arm-twisting to see our movies. Canadian productions are actually gaining in popularity in the U.S. and overseas. There’s no stigma attached to them outside our borders.

You can see this at the Academy Awards, as mentioned above, where Canadian movies have landed a coveted Best Foreign Language Film nomination the past three years running: Rebelle this year, Monsieur Lazhar in 2012 and Incendies in 2011. This is over and above the regular love the Academy shows our NFB, which over the years has received 72 Oscar nominations, with 12 wins.

So what’s going on Canada? Everyone else is watching our films except us. Weird, eh?

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Here is a list of great films you probably thought weren’t Canadian but are:

Mama (2013) directed by Andres Muschietti

Bon Cop Bad Cop (2006) directed by Eric Canuel

Chloe (2009) directed by Atom Egoyan

One Week (2008) directed by Michael McGowan

Childstar (2004) directed by Don McKellar

Juno (2007) directed by Jason Reitman

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) directed by Edgar Wright

Passchendaele (2008) directed by Paul Gross

If you call yourself Canadian, you should go watch them.

 

PS: And isn’t it funny how so many American films are shot in Vancouver and Toronto? I’ll be writing more on this topic soon, so stay tuned…

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Artist Interview: Filmmaker & Screenwriter Cillian Daly

Cillian Daly: Filmmaker and Overall Cool Guy

Interviewer: Kimberly Viveiros

Cillian Daly is a talented director and screenwriter living in Ireland. I was incredibly excited when he agreed to an interview with me, and even more surprised to find out so much about him through so few questions. From what I got out of him, I know he is a husband and father who juggles filmmaking and screenwriting in his busy schedule, and has an amazing work ethic. He’s passionate about his projects and once he gets an idea or vision, he never stops until he makes it come to life.

Cillian first did a Model Making & Special Effects Diploma course when he went to the National Film & Television School in Dublin. His hope was to work in the film industry by way of model making and VFX, a tiny industry in Ireland at the time. He ended up getting a job working for an architectural consultancy firm making digital models and inserting them into photographs using Photoshop.

He stayed there for four years but his love of cinema got the better of him and he left to make his first ever film; “an appallingly bad horror movie – it was rubbish!” (as he puts it).

It did, however, get him into the film degree course in the National Film school where he specialized in screenwriting with a minor in directing. And his eight minute graduation film cost him more than his first ill-fated feature. His graduation film is titled This Way They Came and it’s been aired on the national broadcaster in Ireland several times.

Interviewer: How did you come to realize your love of film, and what motivated you to actually become a screenwriter/director?

Cillian: My earliest cinema memory is when Return Of The Jedi was released here [Ireland] in 1983. It was shown in a local cinema as a double bill with The Empire Strikes Back. Watching the scenes on Hoth with the AT-AT’s and Snowspeeders, sandwiched between my dad and older cousin in the 3rd row: that’s what pushed me towards movies. (My cousin is now a Production Designer for film and TV, my sister is a camera person in a national TV station — so it’s in the family!)

I wanted to do that, make those images outside my head, rather than contained in my imagination. That’s why I did model making first when I got out of school.

I had a very active imagination when I was a kid, still do! So making things up, acting out adventures on a grand scale with GI-Joe’s, and Star Wars figures, in a massive LEGO environment, during the summers after my Star Wars introduction, set me off.

My English teacher in secondary school (ages 13-18 here) always said I had a great imagination, and loved making stories up. Whenever we had to do essays, I’d be throwing in sci-fi references, weird stuff, rather than the usual everyday things. It drove him mad!

So my motivation was really a need to get these mad images out of my head, my own sort of catharsis I guess. And I’m still going!

Interviewer: When did you first start making films, and what was your first project? 

Cillian: My first major film was my horror feature. My family never had 8mm cameras, or old VHS camcorders. But my dad was very much into photography and in a way he trained my eye. The first movie camera I ever got was the DV cam that I shot my feature on. I was 21. Not like Spielberg or anything! I suppose I was always writing above all else. And I read a heck of a lot. I used to read novels cover to cover in a day. Just hide away in my room, and read. 

Interviewer: How do you overcome writer’s block when writing a screenplay?

Cillian: I don’t really get writers block. If a scene gets sticky, or I become demotivated to write it I either move onto a completely different project, or I push through. Write anything as a place holder, and go back and edit it when I feel better about it. Or go play on Twitter.

Interviewer: Has screenwriting gotten easier for you over time than it was in the beginning? Or is it “your process is still your process” and will not change?

Cillian: I guess with the continued practice of writing, writing, WRITING! it has gotten easier, at least as far as formatting because that has now become somewhat second nature. The main issue I have is putting cohesive ideas together so that they make for a compelling story, at least in my mind. I’ve learned a hell of a lot from feedback, mostly from my college peers and people I’ve met via Twitter. The thing with screenwriting, for me anyway, is that different movies can be tackled in many different ways. For the spec market, you can write in a specific style, quick, succinct, sparse with lots of white on the page, etc. But if you’re writing to direct, which my short scripts are, I can indulge myself, since I’m most likely to be the only one worrying about the description being right and clear. I’ve found it easier to differentiate between these types and edit my scripts accordingly.

To be honest, it has gotten easier. I’ve found a rhythm that I enjoy. Now I can write 18 page shorts in a few days, and get a few drafts of a feature turned over in a couple of months. Also, being married with a 2 year old son means I have to make time to write and just write in that time. So life experiences have honed my writing management 

So yes, it has gotten easier as I’ve matured, but whether it’s gotten any better content wise, is another thing entirely!

Interviewer: When you’re in-between projects, or coming up with your next idea, what are the things in life that inspire you or just kind of keep you turned on as an artist?

Cillian: I’ve usually got a few ideas going at the same time, I’m lucky in that I’ve yet to be short of any! I read a lot – history, especially to research and develop a seed of an idea that I get, or a scene I imagine. I have a passion for science, specifically astrophysics. I was this close to doing a science degree instead of model making all those years ago!

So I read that kind of stuff, novels of all sorts. I get lots of inspiration through that, and observing life around me. I usually carry a notebook, and when I’m out shopping, in malls, in work (part time consulting) I’m writing notes and ideas, lines of dialogue, that sort of thing. I go to the cinema as much as I can too, and I’m lucky to have many good friends here in the Irish film and media industry whose work inspires me to improve and do better. And I get a lot of imagery and some crazy ideas from my dreams. I’m lucky (maybe!) that I remember pretty much all of my dreams. So I pull stuff from them. My parents and what they’ve had to deal with in life have inspired me too. And dealing with loss – grandparents and pets, affects perspective, and I’ve used that grief and channeled it into my work, in a good way, hopefully. (I’m naturally dark when it comes to drama, I’m not content with the Hollywood happy ending, I like to keep a bit of an edge to it, keep it somewhat realistic. So life has informed that to some extent.)

Ideas are everywhere – it’s how your voice explains them that makes you out as special I guess!

Interviewer: Do outlines play a big part in your process in the beginning of your script? Do you beat out the whole story, or just dive in after page 1?

Cillian: What I’ve done on the last few features I’m working on, and all the ones that are still in the development stage, is to start a word file that I just throw anything I come up with that might be relevant to that story into. They usually start with one scene that has no story. I’ve yet to start with a character. I don’t think I ever will. I find the images I get first are what dictates the story that comes from that. That eventually becomes big enough to construct a basic story from.

Obviously not everything I put in there makes it out, but it’s good to just free flow ideas. And they sometimes jump to other stories. Within that doc are the character description, traits, the world they inhabit etc.

From there, I print that doc, highlight the scenes, lines, dialogue I want to keep and then write them out onto index cards. Then I arrange them into story order, and number them. I’ve yet to keep the numbers in the same order – everything changes! Then, I start with FADE IN. And then it all goes to hell in a handcart! 

But that’s the fun part.

Interviewer: Directing. Screenwriting. If you could only do one for the rest of your life, which would you choose to do? 

Cillian: Screenwriting. I have to write. Can’t help it. It’s a primal need with me. It’s a solitary thing too, an escape sometimes and I like that. I do love directing, but that only happens after the writing. And knowing I could write, but have to wait around for someone else to do it, that’d wreck my head!

If I got a spec sale or a few jobs from my spec writing, I’d keep writing. In reality, it might lead to a chance to direct professionally. As it is now, I’m prepping that feature to direct my self, and a I’ve a few spec adverts I’m going to make this year, all self financed and/or crowd funded. And with every favour I’m owed cashed in!!!

So, yes, screenwriting, no doubt. It’s what I am, and I’m okay with that. For now…!

 

To find out more about Cillian Daly’s film work and to follow his growing success check out his website http://www.cilliandaly.com.

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Les Miserables (2012)

I’m going to be 100% honest here. I hate musicals. I don’t like when I’m watching a movie, and I get so into the story, and then out of left field someone starts singing and then a few others start singing and next thing you know everyone is all singing along to the same song that so happens to relate perfectly with what’s going on and all dancing to the exact same choreography and… just no. I hate musicals. Always have. Always will –

Scratch that. I don’t know if it’s because Les Miserables is the exception or what, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film… and the ENTIRE film is a musical.

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Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption-a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical brings its power to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale. – (C) Universal

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Les Miserables is a true work of art and there are so many aspects as to why that is.

The music. Straight off the bat, this film couldn’t have possibly been as incredible as it was if the music wasn’t on par. The music sets the entire tone, feel, and atmosphere of the movie and – well, it’s a musical.

The cinematography was wonderfully done overall with absolutely breathtaking images.

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The story. It’s the story of Les Mesirables by Victor Hugo so there’s no question that the story was something special. I personally believe the best stories are the kind that make you feel something, and I mean truly and fully cause you to experience a deep human emotion. Les Mesirables does exactly this.

And last but most certainly not least, the acting. Was. Impeccable.

Hugh Jackman – Magnificent.

Anne Hathaway – Incredible.

Amanda Seyfried – Wondrous.

Eddie Redmayne – Fantastic.

Samantha Barkes – Wow.

Helena Bonham Carter – She’s Helena Bonham Carter.

Sasha Baron Cohen – Awesome.

The entire cast – Ridiculous. Ly. Perfect.

Wait, rewind. Minus Russel Crowe. I’m just going to have to call him out on it – he’s not that great. Worse actually. He kind of sucks. He can sing, I’ll give him that. But I didn’t feel anything when he was on screen. I understand his character is supposed to be an emotionless man but he was still supposed to be the villain and villains are expected (to some degree) to leave an impression on the audience as this terrible monster or what have you. Everytime Crowe was on screen, I got bored. And actually yawned. He stuck out like a sore thumb within this cast.

Harsh, I know. But it’s the sad truth.

Overall though, Les Miserables is a true work of art and an outstanding achievement in cinema!

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Everyone of us is a little fucked up mentally. But Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) are two crazy people (quite literally) who are in weird situations. Pat has lost everything – his house, his job, his wife. He’s moved back in with his parents (played by Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro.) And he’s vowed to turn his life around and do anything to get his wife back. Then when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with troubles of her own, things get even weirder. And complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll return the favour. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond grows between them, and silver linings appear in both their lives. ‘

Actors Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence deserve a round of applause for their incredible performances in this movie. They both play people who have mental disabilities, albeit different kinds, and they do it convincingly. Cooper is the film’s greatest surprise – he evinces his character’s manic episodes with just the right amount of panic, fear and stress without ever overplaying his hand. However, it’s Lawrence’s turn that’ll have you talking as you exit the theatre. The young actress plays her character with an engaging aggressiveness that lets her dominate every scene she’s in, whether she’s wildly charging out of the side of the screen while Pat is on a run or shutting down Pat Sr. when he suggests that she is “bad juju” for the Eagles.

David O. Russel’s direction reflects the film’s themes and tones perfectly. He mixes tones brilliantly, and is able to orchestrate emotions with soft and jagged camera movement. Throughout the film he makes a point of having the camera come rushing up to actors until its right in their faces. It’s sometimes disorienting, but it creates an atmosphere for the movie and makes you feel as though you’re watching the story through the eyes of the characters.

There’s a thin line to walk when crafting a comedy film revolving around mental illness, to be sure. Going about it in the wrong way could not only result in something insensitive, but also foolish and overdone. But Russel didn’t let that happen.

Silver Linings Playbook is probably one of the most romantic modern films I’ve seen. The plot has a unique outlook, with interesting characters, it’s never overdone and it most definitely is not a typical love story. It has a subtle quirkiness to it that makes it seem that much more real and raw.

What I love most about this film: In the end, they fall “crazy in love” with each other. Get it?

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