The Lure of the Silver Scream [2]

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Above left: Dru Stephenson as “Jenni”. Above right: Melyza Fay as “Jude”.

In addition to our short film All Bad Things, work continues on our proposal for a tv series adapted from the comic strip Club Vamporama. My colleague Chrissie Harper and I spent the afternoon at Route 44 in Acocks Green, Birmingham, where we shot the second of three mock news reports featuring characters from the show; the third (with Lizzie Hastings as “Marie”) is scheduled for Friday morning.

It’s been a fascinating experience, not least because Chrissie roped me in to play the interviewer; I won’t pretend to have anything like the talent displayed by the actors I was working opposite, but I think I managed to avoid total embarrassment.

Calling the Tune [2]

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The project I alluded to in a previous entry moved another step forward on Tuesday evening, when Chrissie Harper and I met with Rob Hoffman, owner of Birmingham’s Robannas Studios, and Kerrang! Radio presenter Johnny Doom. It so happens that Johnny and I both used to appear on Made in Birmingham TV, and experienced much the same unceremonious farewell, so it was good to get together in a more upbeat environment.

Discussions are still at an early stage, but we will be making an announcement about this project very soon. In the meantime, those of you on Twitter can follow us here.

Which People’s Princess?

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In the immediate wake of actress Carrie Fisher’s death, I was intrigued to see numerous references to Leia Organa, her iconic character in the original Star Wars trilogy, as some kind of role model for female empowerment. Really?

Leia is a princess — in other words, a feudal title inherited via her adoptive parents (most likely Alderaan’s monarch).
Leia is a senator — most likely a similar inheritance.
Leia has “the Force” — this time, from her birth father.

None of this strikes me as particularly empowering, and her story isn’t exactly inspirational, either. In the first film, she’s an less-than-successful spy who has to be rescued by a (male) family friend, her brother and a guy she subsequently falls in love with. By the third, she’s deliberately walking into a trap to rescue her new boyfriend and ends up dressed as a giant slug’s sex toy, before being whisked to safety by a tribe of feral teddy hears. Feeling motivated yet?

For me, Leia Organa isn’t a patch on, say, the Alien franchise’s Ellen Ripley, who has clearly broken through a chauvinist Plexiglas ceiling to become the bolshie warrant officer on a grubby refinery starship (thankfully, we were spared the planned scene where she and Captain Dallas make explicit the sexual relationship only vaguely hinted at in the final version). Everything that Ripley gets, she’s earned, and not simply handed because she’s got a rich family or her dead mom got knocked up by the chief assassin of a sinister cult. Now that’s an empowering role model.

Fear Not

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I was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to hear John Gilbert’s attempt to relaunch the horror magazine Fear has been called off after just four issues, especially as I had features in two of those and had hoped to place more in the near future.

That is the second occasion Fear and I have crossed paths. Back in 1991, I was approached by then-publishers Newsfield to become its production manager. The lengthy commute to Ludlow (a round trip of nearly 120 miles) and likely long hours proved too high a hurdle, despite a follow-up approach by John himself. It was a lucky decision: Newsfield went bust a few months later, and it’s likely I’d have joined the list of employees left out of pocket.

This time around, John was reportedly been stiffed by his unnamed backer, who’s failed to cover editorial expenses (which included surprisingly high website fees). He’s talking up the possibility of a further resurrection, but I know from personal experience (nine years co-publishing Critical Wave) how difficult it can be to reach a loyal audience. So many genre magazines spend their time fighting over the same potential readers (just line up the latest issues of SFX, Sci-Fi Now and Geeky Monkey, then try and spot the difference), success is more often than not decided by who’s got the biggest bank balance rather than straight quality. The remarkable longevity of The Dark Side (which I also work for, of course) is a regrettably rare example of a magazine finding a niche and developing a loyal readership; whether Fear can pull off the same trick remains to be seen, but I wish John luck.

By Its Cover

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This has got to be one of the daftest gimmicks currently being used to separate comic fans from their money: ‘variant’ editions which are identical to the standard print run, except that the cover is left blank for commissioned artwork. It wouldn’t be so bad if these were available at the same price, or maybe slightly higher if there are any genuine additional costs involved (economies of scale and the like), but a 138% mark-up? I might ask how stupid these publishers think fans are, but I already know the answer and there’s not a lot of evidence to prove them wrong.

The Lure of the Silver Scream

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Chrissie and I were in Erdington on Friday, shooting a feature on local comedian Charlie Hall at the pub named in his honour (there may well be a photograph in the next issue of the JD Weatherspoons magazine). Afterwards, we met up with Demelza O’Sullivan, who’ll be appearing in our short film All Bad Things… alongside Liam Woon. Here’s one of the photos we took of Demelza, plus a piece we shot earlier this month for Liam’s showreel.

Calling the Tune

As mentioned in my previous entry, Chrissie Harper and I are no longer supplying content to Made in Birmingham TV. Despite our track record for turning in material on fit and ready to air, we were unceremoniously dropped without warning just two days after our next item had already been announced (luckily, I found another show eager to screen it, though that avenue also appears to have closed since). Considering the channel’s current downward plummet (eight hours per day of US imports simply shoehorned in from TruTV, including the station ident), it was a good time to make the break, although the circumstances left something to be desired.

Still, it’s freed us to explore another project, which really moved up a gear this afternoon. Whilst I can’t say any more at the moment, this has the potential to be a really exciting career move.

A Piece of Cake

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2017-05-28a by CH - Annabel de Vetten (detail2).JPG

Chrissie and I were invited along to Birmingham’s Electric Cinema on 28 May, to meet Annabel de Vetten, founder of speciality bakery Conjurer’s Kitchen, and Victoria Price, author of Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography. The resulting interview turned out to be our final appearance on Made in Birmingham TV, as we finally lost patience with a company which treats its outside contributors with utter contempt.