Monday, September 30, 2019

Hokum - Filming Day 1 and 2


Hokum - Day 1 Filming

Last Thursday we kicked off Hokum with some tricky, 'risky' shots - not because of the shots themselves, but because of the production design and location. Thankfully, a look at the dailies proved to be a success. Now, the trick will be incorporating it into the movie and seeing how it looks and feels. 

It was a great night and a chance for those who weren't involved in this shoot, but in later scenes, to come along, show support and generally get a feel for what Hokum is trying to achieve.

Hokum – Day 2 Filming

The outside shoot. Always a real challenge, especially as we move into autumn in England. An early start with a few new introductions, but thankfully, preparation and previous meet ups/discussions meant that any awkward exchanges and uncertainty had already been dispensed with.  It turned out to be a brilliant day’s filming which had its fair share of jeopardy, beautifully mitigated by the spirit, determination and ‘fun’ of all involved. It’s amazing how much is accomplished by having a sense of humour about things and enduring (and hopefully imbuing) a kind of stoic calm. Of course, things can be fraught; tension rises but experience teaches you to stick to the plan and not to lose focus and control. I think we all did that and it hasn’t always happened on recent shoots. I have felt responsible for ‘dropping the ball’ in that respect. So, a definite improvement.  Sure, a few raised voices and ‘colourful’ language happened, but nobody died. Well, somebody did… 

Massive thanks to Hannah Hargraves for stepping up to the challenge and giving her all to a part, which to all intents and purposes is thankless (to play and certainly helpless), but critical.  

A constant frustration was the momentum which kept getting lost due to the weather, failing equipment, dead batteries and aerial activity. It was an intense scene to shoot and to continually stop / start and go through the gears is a real challenge which the actors thankfully worked through. Much praise goes to Jim Low (as usual) and Peter James. Special thanks goes to Ryan Clarke (our sound recordist) for some fabulous impromptu stunt work in a field which wasn’t forgiving, and didn’t provide us with the most accommodating filmic experience. Even the tripods could have done with wellies! Our newcomers, Benjamin Clarke (production assistant) was a real benefit to the team, and his enthusiasm and willingness to muck in, along with our fabulous make up artist, Annmarie Malley, made a tough day much easier. 

The attitude on set was remarkable, considering what was being thrown at us. Undiminished we ploughed through with a sense of purpose and humour. Although standard conventions were dropped for haste during the latter stages, there was always a good sense of resilience and control. A nice discipline to the preparation and my vision. So far, it looks like what I wanted to capture has been achieved. Perhaps not exactly how I imagined it, but then again, it never is and a judicial edit should lift it all. 

Big thanks to Korky Films stalwarts Damien Trent and Mark Hancock. The end of day debrief descended into hilarity (or was it hysterics?) as we concentrated less on any issues we’d encountered and more on our own idiosyncrasies and peccadilloes. What happens in Binley Woods, stays in Binley Woods… This was a good sign, as although problems existed, the general consensus was a sense of achievement. For sure, the honest appraisal of shortcomings (perceived or real) and humility shown at this ‘inquest’ only helps if you strive to improve. It’s a small team and it’s indie filmmaking. Even the most accomplished professionals could suffer in such circumstances; it’s not easy, filmmaking. It’s a battle. But today, we won and it’s prudent to ensure criticism (of self and from others) is contextualised and given some appreciative perspective. There must always be respect in the team and a willingness to support. An understanding of everything that’s being done and the magnitude of what’s being attempted. I think everybody accepts that this movie is not an easy win. 

So, onwards we go, picking up next weekend. We all need a break. The cast and crew worked hard for a solid 12 hours and gave it their all. Apart from anything else, we’ll have memories of a fun day with lots of laughs and lots of perseverance. We have momentum. Promising. Well done team.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Hokum Filming Begins and Other News


A lot of work and activity has occurred on Hokum, which is due to begin filming over 7 days, spread across three months, from today.

So far, three sets have been built out of raw materials and I am excited to see what can be created for the screen and if they work.

This is a big undertaking and as the project has gained momentum I, along with the cast and crew have been getting more and more excited. It’s tiring, so everyone’s enthusiasm has really helped on those days when I’d rather just stop, relax and do something less stressful. I’m hoping it’ll all be worth it and we have a great movie.

For now, we just need the weather to be kind, as our earlier shots all take place in exterior locations – just in time for the change in weather!

In other news, we have had a raft of festivals accept our movies The Cold Caller, Waxworks Owner Fumes at Closure and Switch. A Sort of Burial, which is, by my own admission a disappointment, was a runner-up in the Best Screenplay category at the Out of the Can Film Festival. This further proves that the writing and story was sound, but it was just the technical aspects which were lacking. Anyway, there’s no pint dwelling. Hopefully, lessons have now been learned and Hokum can be a much better, more technically accomplished movie.

Exciting times.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hokum - Donnie

Hokum officially begins filming on 23rd, although the first major scene is due to be filmed on the 26th. A tricky scene which will involve a lot of creativity and strong sound design to successfully depict the unfurling chaos and establish the movie’s main characters. From this date we are filming in order, initially, and a lot of useful character exposition will be delivered entirely by their actions in this opening scene. A great weight is being placed on the actors and I am confident I have the right mix of talent to successfully deliver the script and really convey the story. However, the first scene was never the original opening, but the story was developed, quite significantly and has benefitted from a useful back story which will take us the original starting point. Now that was an opening! So, including this scene, whilst still impactful and stark, means it must step up and hit like a sledgehammer. There will be decisions and options, and many will be made at the edit. As it stands, I have a script and a movie which is powerful, linear and unrelenting in its use of symbolism, chaos and violence, but things may be switched around. I still have the option to use the original opener and all of this excites me.

On the 23rd, it’s all the fun of the fair, with a local fair coming to town for 10 days. The script originally had a fairground location, however, the reality of securing such a location and getting it to fit into everyone’s schedule was looking unlikely, until discussions with the council and an understanding of opportunities was properly realised. It’s detail like this which will elevate the story and imagery, as I’ve struggled with these elements in previous productions.

There is no doubt that this whole world and the characters who inhabit it could be used in a feature. The script is already long, probably too long for a short intended for festivals and will run for approximately 22 to 25 minutes. However, this is a time of risks and rising to the challenge.

I met with Jim Low (Donnie) last week and his enthusiasm for the movie and his character imbues a sense of safety and galvanises confidence. I am sure I have the right man for the job, despite some slight consternation from others. Jim, ‘little big man’; a Scot, hailing from Dundee, has a seen a lot and is aware of the personal trappings, frustrations and unrelenting anger that Donnie experiences. He will draw upon his own experiences; people he’s known and will fully inhabit the character. I have no doubt about his capabilities and Jim was my only Donnie, right from the get-go.

The movie focusses heavily on the Major Arcana (Tarot) as part of its mythical conceit, with ‘The Fool’s journey’ being a loose template for Donnie’s chaotic machinations. The Fool clearly being Donnie’s card. I am creating Major Arcana Tarot cards especially for the movie, all of which will be showcased as part of the final production. It really has become a useful and quite often a coincidental template. Each character will have his/her own ‘card’ and the Major Arcana serves as a useful thread to hang everything on. 

Essentially, although there could conceivably be two or three protagonists in this movie, the story is, in my opinion, effectively Donnie’s. An interesting character from which to base the whole premise, perhaps. He has no redeeming qualities and if he’s been coloured correctly, he will be despised by audiences.

I have wrestled with my mixture and potentially meddling combination of distinctive folklore. Tarot, Native American Indian beliefs, demons, shamanism and apparitions all feature. This is truly a creative risk, not least of all as the movie is ostensibly set in England and obviously, not all the imagery present is of Anglo origin.

Invariably, this could be confusing and, in many respects, I don’t fear the reaction. I make things which have an oneiric vibe and can feel slightly off kilter, so it serves. All of this is highly deliberate. This, if worked well, will convey a memorable and intriguing world, which has the capacity to make the viewer feel uneasy and slightly uncomfortable. Conventions are being displaced but in a distinctly atypical way. This is part of my own excitement with it all.

Donnie’s wardrobe is important. All wardrobe is important. Wardrobe and production design is important to me and I have taken great time and considerable expense (out of my own pocket – this movie has no external funding) to pull it together. Again, much of this will undoubtedly be subliminal; barely noticeable, but I’ll know it’s there and an audience would miss it if it wasn’t. This movie needs bold, but decidedly understated sets, and this is what it will have. I am creating all of this myself. It’s a big responsibility. The scenery and setting is an additional character and a major one. That sense of foreboding will be supplied by the walls around each character. We also have a lot of woods. That feeling of being lost in the forest; tangled branches; simulacra in trees. All perfect for Hokum.

Because I think a lot of this production might be taken for granted, despite the massive undertaking, I will attempt (along with everything else!) to document the process of Hokum. Everything created will be showcased on the official website as a kind of ‘Making of…’; a BTS.

It’s begun and it’s about to catch fire.

Here is Donnie’s promo, played by Jim Low.

I will also be updating the official website here

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Sort of Burial review and where I'm currently at...



A review of A Sort of Burial, which isn’t too bad, considering my misgivings about it. It has only been given a restricted festival run on the strength of my feelings about it. It was something different - a big learning curve on this movie. I think it’s important to share details of anything which doesn’t quite live up to expectations and use it as a fulcrum from which to attain higher goals. People only tend to see the successes – perceived or otherwise, but that, I guess, is largely because ‘people’ don’t tend to ‘air them in public’. I am grateful to anyone who watches the films I make, and especially to those who take further time to critique and review. 

Filmmaking is a lot of hard work and endeavour (for me at least!) and, with that, a lot can go wrong. I find it a massive challenge and not every aspect is entirely enjoyable. I alluded to a lot of the negative experiences and issues encountered on the ‘Burial’ in my recent blog posts and, unfortunately, these were still evident and, in some ways, exacerbated on Switch, which followed. So, I’m not surprised by the comments in Sam’s review about the technical side of things, which are fair and reasoned. In retrospect, those two movies were filmed too close together. The performances in both movies were fantastic, though – that should be stated emphatically. And I take full responsibility for ‘problems’ in other areas, even though I didn’t make it easy on myself by taking on and overseeing so much.

I’m always happy with the script, as I work tirelessly to shape, hone and check it before working it as a full-fledged movie. Fortunately, there is usually ample time an opportunity to do this. However, the technical execution of my movies has been a problem for several reasons. Hopefully, these have now been fully realised and will be addressed in future productions. Problems will always exist when filmmaking, it’s inherent and I know that. However, with an honest, objective understanding of pitfalls already experienced, previous shortcomings should now be properly mitigated.

Hokum is our next movie and it’s a big one which will rely heavily - not only on the script, but also the technical aspects. Expert technical execution will be seriously important as the movie will hinge on its look and feel a great deal. If people don’t like it because they simply don’t care for it, then that’s great and I’m entirely comfortable with that. It is not a movie which will appeal to everyone. My movies are very ‘eclectic.’ That said, if it’s disliked because of any technical failings, then it’ll be a massive shame and unforgiveable. Pressure is on.

The one thing I have enjoyed so far on Hokum is getting back to creating ‘art’, even though I’ve had to ‘undo’ my ‘style’ in order to create what is required effectively. I always enjoy the writing, which to me, is always the easiest part and I think we have a great script and a unique story.

I guess a lot hinges on this production, really. It’s a big gamble, but then that’s essentially the movie’s conceit – gambling on fortune; failing, being tormented by things both real and imaginary; life, death and re-birth. I hadn’t realised how prescient it all is, but yet again, the movie is about prescience as well.

And so, although I’m frustrated, I continue with fresh enthusiasm and high hopes. 


Stay tuned!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Hokum - Press Release


Hokum


Hokum, a new movie from Lee Charlish is currently in pre-production and scheduled for a late 2019 release.


The movie is an ambitious project which is being entirely self-funded by Lee, who will produce and direct his original screenplay. As with most other Lee Charlish projects, the setting and time is deliberately ambiguous, with great emphasis placed on creating ‘a world in which things seem out of place; awkward or decidedly unfamiliar’, leading to an oneiric and distinctly unsettling feel. This will be helped by the movie’s subject matter which involves the spiritual world, mysticism, tarot and demons; both real and imaginary.


The story has developed significantly and quickly since the early drafts, with new characters and situations organically presenting themselves; all in the confines of a non-existent budget. Lee says, “It has steadily evolved into something even bigger than the original premise which was larger than life already. Thankfully, despite having no discernible budget or funding, it has been written with an appreciation of what’s realistically achievable without compromising its unique style and premise.”  


There is a possibility of the movie being developed into a feature, as it has the scope, although as a short it is tight and packs a sufficient punch in its anticipated 18-minute run time. 


Tagline:

When you sell your soul for money, there’s always hell to pay.


Brief Synopsis:

Ash is tormented by demons and believes he must rid himself of the ‘blood money’, acquired through treachery and violence, to obtain redemption from the angered spirit world. Donnie, his violent and thuggish accomplice, is desperate to lay hands on the illicit cash and will stop at nothing to obtain it, even if he must sell his own soul.


Described as a - ‘Fantasy chiller with elements of the real, the ethereal and surreal’, it will start like a ‘haphazard howitzer and ratchet up to an unflinching end’. 


Lee says, “It’s a big project with lots to go at and there’s plenty which could go wrong. However, there’s been a real buzz and lots of engagement with local, exciting talent who have volunteered their services since seeing early promotional material or have answered casting calls.”  


This increased involvement and ‘help’ will address the failures of earlier efforts by lightening the load somewhat and creating less restrictive timescales. I’m thankful that everyone attached to the project has fully embraced the need to take our time and film over several, carefully planned days, including the actors. I’m also appreciative of the offers of help and that the cast and crew are working for free and/or for significantly reduced rates because of their excitement and dedication and to the project. 


Attached early on were Korky Films stalwarts Adrian Annis and Jim Low, who are described by Lee as the “superlative dream team”. “These guys are immense and really carry a scene. What’s important is that they completely get my style and the vibe I try to create and immerse themselves wholeheartedly into the mouth of madness! They are also both great fun without ego, which is important.”


Adrian Annis, a Cambridge/London based actor, has an impressive CV in both film (feature and shorts) and TV. He will play Shepherd, the Shaman. Full of intrigue, mysticism and danger, the enigmatic Shepherd is enlisted to offer counsel and a helping-hand to Donnie when he encounters a difficult situation.


Jim Low, a diminutive Scot known as ‘little big man’ by Lee, is a commanding presence on the screen, which is important as the movie’s ‘baddie’ - Donnie. Although there’s a few to choose from in this story, as most are blighted or afflicted in some way or another. Jim describes the script as, ‘Great, creepy and ultra-violent.’


Recruited via Facebook casting calls are Elaine Ward, from Birmingham but now residing in Warwickshire, who will assume the role of The Clairvoyant and Peter James from Leicester who will take the role of the ‘troubled’ Ash. Elaine has been in her own short film, Tea for Two which premiered at the Birmingham Film Festival in 2018. She has appeared in other short films and many stage productions. Peter started his acting journey with the Blaby Drama Group starring in a number of plays; before he went on to join Whetstone Drama Group. He has been actively involved with the Leicester based filmmaking group, Seven Five Productions, and has been in several productions. One of his own films was screened at The Short Cinema Film Festival. Elaine says of her part in Hokum: “I’m so excited to be playing The Clairvoyant and I can’t wait to get my teeth into creating her character. Mysterious, intriguing, otherworldly and slightly sinister, what’s not to love?”


Completing the cast are Alex Kapila from Stratford-Upon-Avon as Fortune, the drug-addled acolyte of Shepherd and Hannah Hargraves from Leamington Spa, as The Hostage. She appears at the start of the movie in a frenetic and explosive start and in later scenes with Ash.


Crew members attached include Damien Trent as the Director of Photography. A filmmaker in his own right, he has worked with Lee on the short films – Scarecrow, The Cold Caller, A Sort of Burial and Switch. He will be assisted by Mark Hancock on camera. Mark has completed his first experimental short this year and he too has been involved on previous Korky Films movies – The Cold Caller, A Sort of Burial and Switch. Ryan Clarke will be the movie’s sound recordist. All are Midlands based and all come from Coventry.


Chris Pemberton returns to score the movie. A role which Lee describes as being “pivotal to accent the whole movie.” Lee is a long-time admirer of Chris’s compositions after he has provided the music to each of Lee’s last four live-action films. Chris is an accomplished keyboard player who has toured and worked as a session player for many, well-known performers. 


Joining Korky Films’ crew will be Lewis Clements of Elsy Pictures who will assist Lee as First AD. Lewis lives in Solihull and is a graduate of the BA (Hons) Creative Arts degree at Oxford Brookes University. He has written several films and has also directed and even acted in local films. Benjamin Clarke, from Coventry, is currently a filmmaking student at Solent Southampton University, studying film and he will be a Production Assistant.


The movie will benefit from local Make-Up Artists. The MUAs will create a lot of the movie’s “nastiness” and will assist with the practical effects utilised throughout. 

To fulfil the movie’s ambitions, Lee’s vision will incorporate extensive production design elements and wardrobe to adorn the unique characters contained within the story. This will take time but will be a fun experience. It is likely that individual ‘sets’ will be purposefully built for each interior scene and ‘striked’ before another set (and scene) is built and filmed.


Lee says, “The visuals will be lavish and extensive, and in some cases, extreme, vibrant and yet grungy. It will be uncompromising and visceral. There are violent elements which will probably make audiences uncomfortable, but they are completely beholden to the story nonetheless and never gratuitous.”


“Whether we can successfully pull it off is yet to be seen, but I’m excited and confident with all attached so far. There will be a powerhouse effort to get his made and in a way which does the story and script justice.”


The movie will be ‘art heavy’ and incorporate lots of interesting artistic flourishes which will accent the quirky and unique feel. It will include an abundance of mystical symbolism and draws upon myths and folklore to weave a compelling narrative.


The official Hokum movie website is here - https://leecharlish.wixsite.com/hokum It is a work in progress and will be updated with new content as the movie develops.