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netribution > features > interview with ben blaine > page one
Ben & Chris Blaine are the Joel and Ethan of a Short movie outfit called Charlie Productions. They are 21 and 19 years old respectively and are in that truly enviable position in their creative lives where they can do whatever they damn well please. These young chaps are cowboy filmmakers with the balls of a mountain ram. Honest, benevolent cowboys that is, like Henry Fonda before he did Once Upon A Time In The West, clean living, well groomed folk with their neighbours' best interests at heart.
But, sitting here with my leg cast incidentally erect like some shameless white phallus, I've a dilemma. I'm looking over what was said, wondering why I didn't get all dictatorial on Ben's prosaic arse. The piece is free with hyperbole, youthful, witty, humble and unabashed, in essence it defies the unwavering grain of my style in a manner that would normally prompt an introduction of such gross pomposity as to render this licentious. What's worse, I'm clean out of Bourbon and my editing scissors are blunt today. I shall leave it, it works and I like it.
If you have the patience to read on through this turgid mist of literary indulgence (me, not them) you'll discover that they've just shot a great little short on the London underground called Russell Square for under £1000. (You all know how protective the LU are about that rank sewer) The members of the production team have an almost incestuous relationship with one another and I'd freely quit cigarettes for their enthusiasm.
Now don't get stroppy, I'm finished

| by tom fogg and nic wistreich |
| photos by tom |
| in london |

Tell us about Russell Square.
Well, according to the hundreds of entry forms for Film Festivals I've spent the past month filling in...
"When misanthrope Russell falls beneath a speeding tube train he thinks that his troubles are over, however when he finds that he has fallen out of reality into a weird nowhere called the Gap inhabited by an Angel called Islington he realises his troubles are only just beginning..."
Although what the Bolivians will make of "misanthrope" I have no idea. The English version of the Colombian film festival website tells you that no film can be screened in a room that has been autopsied. More usefully, Russell Square is the latest short film (except it isn't, it's the latest short video but that sounds daft. Latest short perhaps or has film now become a word with a deeper etymology than just a layered strip of light reactive celluloid?) from Charlie Productions. It was shot for a pittance on the London Underground and stars the fantastic Jo Harper and the fantastic (in a different way) Keith Malin.

How was the idea conceived?
I was sitting on the tube last November, the doors opened and the charming voice said "This is Russell Square" and I thought gosh wouldn't it be funny if that was a name of a bloke and then my filmy head kicked in and I saw him standing in the doorway and it opens and the arrow pops up and I felt all clever all the way home, which was nice.Really though I've always loved the underground. I love the names of the stations. I love the map which is the first ever map in the world to be designed on a philosophical rather than a geographical basis. I can't explain it. Ever since I was a child the underground has been a magical place where exciting things happen and where the movement of people speedily from one side of London to the other is only a step away from a spell.
How many were involved in the project and where do you know them from?
Me (Ben Blaine). I've known me for about twenty-one years, depending upon when you think self awareness starts. Chris Blaine. Chris is my younger brother and I've known him for
nineteen-years. We run Charlie Productions and we did most things. This isn't meant as a boast, it's just the way things go when you can't afford to employ anyone else - if something needed to be done, we'd do it. Any job not mentioned below was done by us.Keith Malin plays Russell. Keith is an old school friend and I wrote the part for him to play because he complained so much about not having been in any of our shorts. Keith is actually a musician and runs a pro-audio shop in Barnet where he employs Tom Lloyd (who will occur later).Jo Harper plays Islington (see below). We didn't go to school with her. We didn't meet her in a pub. She is in fact a proper actress who answered an ad we put up in the actors centre. She's really really good.Zee Ahmad. Sort of co-produced with me. He's really done more of the finding us places to show the film rather than getting it made type stuff. We went to school with Zee and his band (Miller) used to rehearse at our house (in fact their two CD's came out on our invented record label). Zee also sings in the film, but you mightn't notice it.
Sophie Jonas is a jewellery designer who made the angel's wings. She works from our house (don't ask it's complicated) and I've known her for, oooh, twenty-one years. She also walks out of a lift in the film.Linda Jonas. Is her mum. She repaired the angel costume.Chris Ward went to our school. He did the photography (he's read a book on
it).Phil Cleare recorded the sound. I met Phil when he used to engineer the bands who played at the Duke of Lancaster in New Barnet. He worked on our first ever short and most of the others since. Phil is actually a musician.Katie Lloyd was 1st AD for most of the shoot. She also plays the girl on the escalator. Katie is the younger sister of my old friend from school Tom, who works with Keith in Barnet. She worked on some of our other shorts a couple of years ago.Alex Turner was Shirley Wood (the girl at the end) and also carried things about a bit. Alex is my brother's girl friend and an animation student who never wanted to act and only did so to help out Chris. She's really really good though, largely because she isn't trying to "act".On certain days we also got help from Robin Kirkly and Jim Waller. Jim is an old school friend who has been fantastically helpful on almost all of our films. He's brilliant, he just does stuff, he doesn't argue. He's great. Robin is a long story. He ran a studio in Barnet. He's Keith's fault. He's mad as hell and I think he's now working as a pimp.
You will also see Tom Lloyd (who went to school with us, used to work with Keith, although he's now gone to America for six months, and who is the older brother of Katie Lloyd), Pat Ward (who might well be related to Chris Ward) and Louise Malin (who is definitely the younger sister of Keith Malin who plays Russell, wrote the music, employed Tom Lloyd, went to school with us and works in a shop in Barnet.)Adam Waine plays guitar, but again you mightn't notice it. He went to primary school with me and lives down the road and was in Zee's band.So that's about what? fifteen, sixteen? Out of whom the vast majority went to our school. Creepy huh? Mostly these are people like Phil who work on most of our films (and generally not on anyone else's!) and who we feel we can depend upon. Chris refers to them as the Charlie family and when you work out how we all know each other it starts to feel a bit like we are a family.
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