Anil Rao: Editing Globally
Filmmaking has been something of a roller coaster ride for Anil Rao, but when you have received writs from Warner Bros because you made your own award-winning Batman movie (for £300 from the Prince's Trust), had your graduation film described by Total Film magazine as 'British Cinema being in good hands' and have worked with Luc Besson and hung out with Quentin Tarantino, you can probably take anything in your stride. This is the story of the rise and rise of Shooter Anil Rao and how he came to edit "Half Life" and gained access to a completely new career experience as an international film editor and film music composer to sharpen up his own film-making goals, picking up a lot of tips and new experiences on the way.
In an extensive interview with James MacGregor, Anil Rao gives an insider guide to editing world cinema features, not only bridging cultures from Europe to Asia, but also editing dialogue in Tagalog, the language of Filipinos, of which he had no prior knowledge. That didn't stop the film ALA VERDE ALA POBRE from sweeping the board of Oscar equivalents in Manila, including a best editor award for himself. Anil went on to edit further features for the acclaimed Manila-based artist, director and producer Briccio Santos, all gaining local and then European endorsement at Rome. And it all kicked off with a notice on Shooting People's Filmmakers bulletin.
(Note: This interview was originally commissioned by Shooting People for Shooter Films. To learn more about Shooting People click here.)
You started out professionally by directing and editing corporate films I believe, but how did you get your filmmaking education before that?
I'm a self-taught and self-realised filmmaker. This began with my yearning to be like my childhood idols: James Bond, Han Solo, Batman and the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. That would be when my love of cinema began, at the tender age of two. Live and Let Die was my first film and I can fondly remember it made me feel euphoric, happy and giddy, like when you get your first crush or fall hopelessly in love.
However in an increasing effort to confront the social ills of growing up and having to deal with racism and intense bullying - I would offset those revulsions by immersing myself in my imagination, and in a world of fairy tales, Roald Dahl, Ladybird books and a lot of morality tales to be found in classical Indian folk stories. From the inner peace that they offered me I found I wanted to understand more about the human condition.
When you decide to turn and face your problems you see more clearly why they are there to begin with and more importantly what sustains them. This exclusion from society growing up only drove me further to want to understand why I had become a victim to it. Cinema for me at this time always offered hope and real places to want to escape to and stay. Unfortunately I had to come back to the real world when the lights came back on.
Collecting and absorbing any written material from those childhood films gave me a technical understanding as to how they were made. John Dykstra for instance is the chap who created the remote motion rig to allow a camera to replicate the same film camera move over and over and this info was in the back of the 1977 Star Wars Annual. That's what essentially drove me to have a greater understanding of filmmaking and inspired the storytelling within me.
Running parallel to all this was my father's love of cinema. There were clubs up and down the country in the 70s and early 80s revolving around Super-8 filmmaking and screenings and industry pros would be seen regularly offering advice and support at them too, as the principles of filmmaking were the same for both amateur and professional. My dad's second home would be The Widescreen Center in London. He made a lot of super-8 movies and I always acted in them doing passionate things for his film experiments, when I watch them now they come across as some twisted fusion of John Waters, Terry Gilliam and Benny Hill, ever so surreal, but also heart-warmingly go-happy real.
Religiously I would just go and see films, the cinema was my church, the screen my altar and I would watch, listen and absorb the sermons of the director. Like the little boy in Cinema Paradiso, my spirit would soar every time the lights went down and the sprockets began to turn. I am only truly content as a person when I am watching a film and now by making them too.
The real transition from imaginative dreamer to real filmmaker was achieved when I saved up money by working as a cinema usher in the West End to finance a trip to America just to watch an event film on opening day. Today that is a common thing to do for some film obsessives, especially if it involves a cult film, or a big audience inducing franchise. People wish to be part of the collective opening day life experience. In 1989 and aged 17 - and you had to wait months back then before a film came out in London - it was like "You're doing what!" "Are you mad?"
Nevertheless, in NYC basking in the glorious heat of 1989, I walked out of a theatre and screamed inside myself "I can do better than that" and that was it. This film letting me down positioned me on the pathway to knowing what I now wanted to do with the rest of my life, it felt so right, even more today. Stanley Kubrick who is my Yoda of film teaching said, "The best way for people to learn about filmmaking is to go and try to make a film for yourself and then you will learn what you can do and what you can't" I live for this statement and stand up for it.
Where did you go from there? You had quite a bit of success with scripts and short films too, including feedback from some big names - what can you tell us about all that?
I won my first writing competition when I was seven and I'm sure it had something to do with slaying dragons, rescuing a princess and saving a kingdom from evil. The first prize was The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl which is my favourite book of all time. I am really hoping that Wes Anderson doesn't screw up the upcoming film. It was a long time project that I had envisioned I would be doing in a Pixar-type fashion. It's a great metaphor for life, now if Aardman Animation or Nick Park were holding the reigns that would be a much happier place in my mind to be, however we shall see.
At 17 and having said I could make a better film than Tim Burton's ruinous joke Batman, I set out to do exactly that... I made my own Batman film. Ambitious as that was, when you set yourself goals that may seem impossible to others, well... see how far you get, and you might surprise even yourself. The idea that you should start by making something small with two people in a room is a counter productive and limited idea to me, it is filmmaking by the book and not by the spirit. Again it's about your attitude.
Another Stanley Kubrick sentiment is "if you can imagine it, you can do it." I knew what I wanted to do; I could imagine it and so set about doing it. Now I was effectively producing, and in knowing that the Burton film was highly insulting to the character that is essentially an intelligent yet haunted Sherlock Holmes in a cowl, I sought to adapt a story that grabbed me straightaway as being serious; this was Alan Moore's The Killing Joke. I loved the psychology and lost humanity at the heart and soul of the story. I began by adapting the story into a shooting script, omitting some large set-pieces, and keeping it lean and meaningful to what I saw was actually happening in the story and to what I knew I could achieve.
I was collecting all my locations, including a disused mental asylum and The Cuckoo School Charlie Chaplin attended and didn't have a good time. I used a London Monarchs American football padding system for the Batsuit, a local drama group, and found a BBC make up artist, to do the Joker prosthetics. Richard Glass, the best special effects contacts for eyes in the film industry made me two sets of complete white and black contact lenses in support. A top milliner lent me a special Voodo-esque top hat I wanted the Joker to wear; a black Lamborghini Countach became the Batmobile. I got my lighting, camera, sound, special effects guns from industry armourer Bapty and the best part...funding to make it.
I applied to the Princes Trust through the drama group and secured 300 GBP, however it was not easy. I had to attend three meetings over three months, facing three stern headmasterly faces each time. The panel was totally dumbfounded. "You want to make a movie?" they eeked. It was as if I was Oliver asking for more food. Yet at the third meeting, having showcased what I had assembled so far, they gave me the money... "Good luck!" they smiled as I left. I'm sure it is not like that today, I hope not.
Having skipped home with the good news, I made a pact with myself not to go over budget. £300 doesn't exactly cover a lot, yet it is money I had to spend wisely. Less is more and I wanted to make the money work for me. A large part had to go the prosthetic materials. The rest went on stuff you don't consider at the time, the biggest one being feeding people and batteries and gaffer tape. Having planned every shot from visiting my locations I was now ready.
I love Cinemascope; for me the wider the screen the better. It heightens the senses and makes the viewing more dramatic, more exciting, and more fantastic. Think Leone and Lean, Kurosawa and Kubrick, Laurel and Hardy, Peckinpah and Mann. Now how was I to shoot in scope? I mean real Cinemascope. Here I was shooting on Video 8, and the most plausible suggestion was to matt the viewfinder, for me this was just a total betrayal, so I went to the person I should have gone to in the first place, my dad. He had dug out all his Super-8 gear and using all manner of camera rings he was able to attach his scope lens to the video camera. Now I could shoot video as film, way, way, way before anyone else was doing it. However in Super-8, you then must take the lens off the camera and attach it on the projector to un-squeeze your footage. So all my tests were done with everyone squeezed looking thin! I then went to an industrial post-production house and they un-squeezed the footage leaving me with the 2:35 ratio I wanted. Now I could shoot exactly as I had envisioned; like the big boys and no money spent... sweet.
It was a fast shoot which had a few hiccups; notably one actor who left to go work at Our Price music store. At the same time the guy I was borrowing the camera from didn't like the cold, so wanted to go home and take his camera with him. I had to solve this crisis, so I let the actor go off to work in the record store, told the camera guy I wasn't happy with the other guy's acting and that he should take over as he was more suited, so he was happy and agreed the other actor was lousy, the camera stayed on set and the film was in the can.
I then acquired a three-machine edit suite with an Abekas vision mixer which I was able to use after some hours of practice. At the weekend I locked myself in for two weeks to finish my comic book epic. With the film complete I was ready to screen it. I had lived the Kubrick sentiment and made the journey into the unknown for myself, I had also totally enjoyed every aspect of the entire process. I had discovered I could do everything and enjoyed doing everything. I was extremely happy, but now had to go forth and conquer, not realizing the Dark Knight would fall.
I entered the film right away into a filmmaking competition, desperate to see if I truly have what it takes. People were convinced I shot on 16mm, thanks to the lens and my lighting. They loved the dramatic film noir lighting -- all guestimated. I simply put the lights where I felt it was right, everything had been done by instinct. I won the top prize which was £500; ‘Holy never saw that one coming Batman'. The fall from grace came next when Warner Bros got to find out and I wasn't allowed to accept the money. I was threatened with a Cease & Desist order from their legal department for copyright infringement. They told me not to show it again, ever, or enter it for anything again. At first I thought cool, they were going to ask me to do the next one maybe and I still dream of making The Dark Knight Returns. That may have been a smarter move on their part, but alas not. I guess I did something right though, for them to be threatened by my little film.
Was it at this time that you enrolled at film school? Why did you decide to do that?
After the twists and perils of the Batman project, I was poorly advised and made to think that I would only be taken seriously by the industry if I came from a notable place of film study, so I did three years at film school and was dumbfounded at what I had to endure. Essentially it was film school for dummies. It was like listening to someone read out a Fisher Price catalogue; "This is a film camera and this is what we use to film things with." And this place had a half page write up in the BFI handbook as one of the key places to learn film in Europe! I had taken a huge step back, I mean I had already gone through the baptism of fire all by myself and defeated the Medusa at the end and survived, knowing that I wanted to do it all over again.
I knew in the second year - this was 1994-95 - that I had to make it happen for myself, having been ‘blacklisted' in the first year for wanting to be a commercial, business-minded filmmaker. The business of film was something never mentioned at film school...go figure! I began looking for a project I could sink my energies into that could have me leaving film school already in pre-production, rather than go job-hunting.
A book I had just read called Yardie excited me; it was like a Black Scarface set in the UK. It was also a story I knew the UK doesn't believe we could make here and it read 'like a ketamine-fuelled bull in a china store'. I got in touch with the publishers and arranged a meeting. Sadly, they told me the BBC had acquired the option. It has now gone back to the publishers and there are further rights issues to be resolved now. The publishers were independent and had gained a huge following having sold Yardie from the boot of a car, as no publisher wanted to publish it. They wanted to know more about me.
With the relationship open, I read a few more books from their stable and found a story about injustice that again had a gritty street realism to it. Injustice of any kind has always stirred something in me, so I went back to them only to find another hurdle; someone from Edinburgh and the NFTS had also enquired. Not wanting to lose the opportunity I asked them to give me £300 and I would shoot a trailer on film --no digital back then-- selling them my vision for the film and get back to them in a few days to show them. They agreed and less than 36 hours later they were watching my 16mm trailer for the film.
Next morning they phoned me up very excited and said they wanted me to do it. They had watched it over and over again that whole day. They said the trailer had reminded them of a film that had just opened called La Haine. I immediately rushed to see La Haine, and two things happened; I was so miserable as it was the sort of visualization I had envisioned for my own film, poetic and fluid, "Somebody else has made my film!" screamed inside me. I also loved it, and made it a well-repeated watch, well at least until Michael Mann's Heat came out the following year. The next five years began an up and down period of development hell.
As my final year was approaching, I needed to complete film school with a graduation film. Filmmakers too often forget that film is a business and that your product, your film, your expression, must meet the business criteria, as well as being creatively fulfilling and entertaining.
With all that in mind I fashioned a mini-thriller that could have easily become a feature film. It was a simple story inspired by an article about blaggers in The Evening Standard. The story involved a con artist and a small-time gangster pulling the same job, each unaware of the other. The mess unfolds when their paths finally cross. I needed a piece I could take to anyone in the industry to showcase my commercial viability as a business-minded filmmaker, one with a creative voice and a cinematic punch in the face of all these TV-looking movies the UK had fallen into making and still are - films with no big-screen vision. The Score was a 45-minute Super 16mm colour short I completed for £2,000. I had set a budget of £4,000 including post, but the companies I posted at supported my endeavours and waived all fees. It played to an over-subscribed Metro West End screening with people sitting on the stairs at Raindance 96. I think it's always a good sign when you see people taking down the posters and scarpering with them. I have a sizeable collection of vintage film posters so I choose how to market my films and design the posters as well.
Total Film magazine got very excited. The review surpassed what I thought they might write. They featured it in their independent section and surmised that "British cinema is in good hands" "Stunning widescreen cinematography". Despite this and the audience approval, the UK industry was regrettably again insular and not forthcoming, with statements along the lines of "We don't make those kinds of films here..." and "Go to America..." which I've been told many times in both a good and a bad way. Doors that were opening slapped back at the same time.
Having pretty much bombarded everyone from lo-end to high-end companies and with three black folders of rejection letters, I needed to stand back, recharge and re-evaluate my objectives. My friends have often said I have been way too ahead of the game. The right place, but the wrong time, perhaps. I started to get calls about some film called ‘Lock Stock' a couple of years later. After watching it, I could see why. The Score was very similar in a lot of areas; style, look, characters, a card game and pace, but in truth both films are worlds apart.
I had burnt myself out, so I found myself recharging by being offered a film editor job by one of the companies that supported me during my educational endeavours. They saw how hard I had worked on my own films and without even an interview I was sitting on my first professional editing job with the vice-president of corporate finance for one the biggest banks in the UK. I rose very quickly to a prominent position with all my clients and grew a reputation that in 10 years is without fault. I was also concurrently developing the ‘injustice project.'
I believe at one point you had strong interest in your script from Paramount, what happened there?
In the early hours one day I was putting together an internal promo film for a large consumer electronics group, when I get a call from reception stating that a lady called Sherry Lansing is on the phone for me. I politely excused myself from my edit and rushed to the other suite and took the call. Was this for real? Yes it was. It was indeed THE Sherry Lansing: Head of Production at Paramount Studios, with her soft spoken "school-marm" type voice she thanked me for a letter and package I sent to her and would have someone in her team read my script and get back to me, she wasn't rushed with me and took her time. I thanked her for calling and I awaited the next call.
Five minutes after I got back to the suite, I had to excuse myself again. My clients were cool, I told them "Paramount is reading my script", and I think they were more excited than me. Then I got a call that had to be heard to be believed for the sheer speed of what was said. It's a dude from Paramount's classics division. He says he's going to read my script, it's been logged in and he'll get back to me. It took all of three seconds.
Now here's my golden rule... I purposely remove the last page of my script, so when these readers tell me they've read it and that it's not right for them I know they are talking rubbish. Paramount dude calls me again after speed reading the script to ask me... "Where's the last page?" Now that's being a professional.
We progress for a while at Paramount, they loved the story, the vision and what not, yet however I couldn't agree to change my vision to fit an American city. Truthfully, I didn't want to. Martin Scorsese said you should always be true to what you know about and if you don't, it shows. He said that when he stepped aside from directing Clockers and got Spike Lee to do it instead. My story is a British one, setting it in an American city would have diminished the culture it is seeking to explore, unravel, and confront and ultimately provide some better insight and understanding.
The next biggie was writing to Luc Besson, a filmmaker I am very passionate about. His work is ethereal; with a heavy personal slant towards understanding the emotion we call love. Often heralded as style over substance, which for me showcases that love is a crime in the West and the emotion behind it something to imprison for lack of understanding, rather than rejoice and embrace, I had met Luc at the wrap party for the completion of principal photography on The Fifth Element at Pinewood.
He was very kind, and asked about me and what I was about and doing with myself. I told him of my hardship at trying to find any common ground at film school; he then told me he never got in to any film school as they all shunned him. The French are the most elitist when it comes to cinema... Obviously we had something in common. As a professional Luc went on to confront all the naysayers and is in a position to put out what he likes, and has a dedicated loyal global audience to sustain that. That's where vision, belief and not conforming can lead.
A year later and having gone through a turbulent post on The Fifth Element, I was waiting first in line at the Empire Leicester Sq for the pre-Cannes premiere for the cast & crew of The Fifth Element. The film doesn't start for a couple of hours, but Luc is in the foyer, he looks out and comes straight over to me and asks "Did film school get any better?" I almost fell over; someone once told me that Luc never forgets people.
After this meeting I decided to write to him seeking some emotional support, advice and direction. To be honest I didn't really expect a reply back; I sent him my scripts, my showreel, and a letter conveying my thanks and needed audience to present myself. This was in the summer of 97 and I left it at that. Having received no reply in months I just continued my march.
Where did that lead you next?
1998 was a good year; I visited Takeshi Kitano at his office in Japan. A tip to any visitors to Japan; take lots of Chocolate Digestives with you and give them to people who help you, they go hoopla for these biscuits and you will witness unbelievable gratitude. I also got to hang out with Martin Scorsese , another filmmaking hero of mine, on the New York set of Bringing Out The Dead. He found the time to chat and invited me to hang out at other locations of filming. I was also in this time continuing my cinematic hustle whilst editing and now also managing, the post house I was working at.
Then in November 1999, I was out and about and a missed an important call, it was from Leeloo Productions in Paris. Leeloo!!! That's Milla's character from The Fifth Element. He didn't forget, yes two years later!!! So I found myself in a telephone box outside Thames Ditton Station in pouring rain, listening to Luc Besson's producer, (now wife) Virginie Silla, telling me for what seemed like 20-40 mins straight - more money in the slot! - that "Luc loves your script", and he now has the time to see me. Better late than never, eh?
It was another two months until I got the call to come and see Luc in Paris. His offices have now moved to a posher area, but when you walked into his old ones, you went up some spirally stairs and came face to face with the actual Fifth Element statue. Again he was pleasant, made a funny comment about my hair, which was now blond - don't ask! He was mentally in a heavy work mode as he was editing at the same time. He sat me down and watched my showreel. I remember he was really deeply concentrated, observing all that was screening in front of him. I was trying to tell him about some things on screen that I did and he turned to me and went "shhhhhh! I'm watching the movie". My showreel was a ‘wham bam thank you mam', more promo-infused than a selection of drawn-out scenes. He then watched it again, turned to me and said, "Good, good, good, you can shoot, you can edit, you have style" (his exact words) "but I see no real acting, no drama".
Then tasks me to write him three short film scripts, he will pick one and I will make that for him. He then grabs a book, scribbles something inside and hands it to me, it reads "until the next time, Luc," He then leaves to face a mountain of people screaming his name and wanting his time. I asked Virginie "so how did that go?" and she replied with an air of positive satisfaction "Very, very good". I arrive back in London buzzing to begin the task of writing three short scripts.
I fashion a story about two children who are very sick and who manipulate against each other in the conversations they have. Another was about a sexist man who gets himself undone by a witty lady who reverses traditional sexism making the man feel small, and a feel good tale of a lady who gets shot in a stick-up. Whilst being operated on, she inspires the medical staff to save her in a different way. Having wrapped them up pronto, I send them back to Luc.
Luc's assistant got back to tell me that he had selected a script, and that I was to shoot it in Paris with a crew that was doing pick ups from one of his other major productions. Knowing I was going to be like a fish out of water in Paris and having heard those legendary stories about French crews, I suggested I shoot it back in London the only way I know how to; guerilla style.
I had just discovered this new network for filmmakers to come together easily online to make films, called Shooting People. In its infancy it had a sort of collective art-squat vibrancy about it. Within one day of posting I had received over 400 replies. Shooting People had come through exceptionally, for the most part I was congratulated for what I had achieved and this helped me a lot in moving forward.
The people I eventually selected were outstanding in their attitude and capability. The whole shoot went as clockwork, I couldn't have asked for anything more. Premiering the film in Leicester Square before the Besson-produced film Kiss of the Dragon; I knew I had the audience in my hand... I could just feel it and after the film, many people came up to me and said that during the main film all they could do was to think of my film. I must admit it was an atmosphere of agitation. I had envisioned an audience-capture piece, to make people think or leave wanting to know more or asking what the hell that was all about? My folks still ask me to explain the film and I refuse. Like asking Leonardo to explain the smile of the Mona Lisa, just take from it what you can, or revisit.
Paul Auster the screenwriter of Smoke and Blue in the Face has said "a good film raises questions, questions you want answers to, which is why you go back and revisit those stories over and over again." One of the conditions Luc had set as a prerequisite was for me to make the film in the opposite way to how I would naturally have made it, kind of like shooting Die Hard as Remains of the Day.
I decided very naturally to go all David Lynch and so I can now add weird and obscure to my resume. Terry Gilliam allegedly described it as "a Lynchian nightmare" and Harmony Korine became a fan too. Other screenings in Paris and a prize-winning one in Japan followed. Unfortunately the film was a bit too high-brow for Luc to digest personally. The film was called The Window and he was more perplexed by why he never got to look outside the window... I told him he had missed the point entirely, but I wasn't going to explain it to him. It is quite strange considering his Le Dernier Combat is my favourite film in his canon and was one of my key influences in how to look at presenting something in a different way. Nonetheless The Encyclopedia of Fantasy Film and Television wrote: "There was more wit, imagination and energy on display in Anil Rao's 15-minute short The Window, this haunting and energetic short, shows many multi-million dollar productions how it should be done. Filmed in a disorientating lilac-tinted monochrome, it features dizzying camerawork and a genuine atmosphere of unease that marks out director Rao as a talent to watch for."
Now that's more like it, I thought. Alas my feature script that Luc had raved about, had got lost in the mechanics of the new studio he was involved in setting up, called Europa. He apologized for it very unexpectedly and embarrassingly when I saw him in Cannes a year later. He has an entourage that bow before him who deal with his affairs and they had been responsible for letting my project slip. Now, with many other projects on the go, I was left on a shelf no one could see. He asked me to resubmit to his team who were now in place to deal with things better; however I knew the moment had passed. I was quite content with this in hindsight. Once again I had learned a lot and it was all good from my point of view. One of my cinematic heroes had made time for me which he never had to do to be honest. He had told me straight up that he liked what he read and he liked what he saw. However the key thing I took from Luc was his disbelief that I had no support within the UK. He made a point of this when explaining Nil by Mouth and how Gary Oldman had also found it irksome trying to get his film made here.
It was time to march on again, so I got back into my corporate gigs and then whilst shooting a ‘best of the city' documentary in Istanbul I had watched a programme about the Berlin Talent Campus on BBC World. Later I had been sent an email about the Berlin Talent Campus and remembered it from the programme I had watched. After the good feeling I got from that show about it, I made my application.
I sent a clip from a film I had made as part of one of those shoot a film in 24hrs competitions and was pleased to learn I had been selected to be part of the 2006 alumni. A little later I was told that the feature script I had submitted had also been selected for the co-production talent market. This was very good news as 13 companies turned up wanting to know more, and I had a certain film council calling me up to know why I hadn't come to them!
The talent campus is something I would have no reservations in recommending people to attend. Unlike Cannes, the Berlinale has a sense of purpose when you are there and the talent campus is a good way to meet like minded, passionate, people from all around the world. I had a great time doing that and when I was informed that my action script had reminded the selectors of John Boorman's classic 60s thriller Point Blank...well, that was the icing on the cake! I have since attended all the Berlinale's based purely on the feeling I had embraced there the first time around. Again, the organizers take care of you and always stay in touch to see how you are progressing.
How did you come to get the gig of editing in Manila?
It was thanks in part to former Shooting People Filmmaker bulletin editor Simon Tzu, I immediately honed in on one post from a daily listing and it stuck out as it had been given its own section, I contacted Simon and asked him about this, he informed me that he had been moved by this email out of the blue and felt it deserved this. So I replied to this blind email as I felt the same way.
Briccio Santos informed me that over 50 people had replied to his mail, however surreally his wife picked out my email. I don't remember anything other than probing to know where and what needed to be done to provide a solution to his dilemma. Briccio needed more steering in his direction than just an editor, as he had lost his way, something which can happen at any point to any of us. Jerry Bruckheimer the big US producer says it's usually about 20-30 days in when he gets back to the set as he knows this is when a director often shows the signs of confusion.
Briccio Santos is a European-schooled artist who has maintained a consistent adventurous and experimentalist approach in the various media he has worked on. He is an internationally acclaimed artist, poet, photographer, sculptor, painter, and author, who has made films from the early 70s. When we first met, we clicked right away; it was also in his jack-in-the-box manner when he was showing me all these amazing rushes. I could see he was a giddy as a school boy about his love of art and how to utilize it to confront and deconstruct social ills and injustices. It was, to put it bluntly like looking in a mirror thirty years forward.
Do you understand the Philippine language?
They speak Tagalog in the Philippines and no, I cannot speak any Filipino language. However one thing we all can understand when we wish to confront it, is the human struggle which is represented in all of us, as we all are, at the end of the day cut from the same emotional cloth.
What does Ala Verde Ala Pobre mean and what is the story of the film?
Ala Verde Ala Pobre translates itself to mean Half Life, half of life, that we never fulfill a full life only struggle against one half with the other. The film centralizes and concentrates on the themes of poverty and corruption, two problems prevalent in Philippine society.
The film depicts the often outrageous twists and turns in the fortunes of Manuel and Jessica, a young couple who live in the "Riles", a hustling community of less fortunate people who live in one of the communities that have sprouted along the railroad tracks. Manuel is a former communist rebel who turned his back on the party after a purge among his comrades. He works as a janitor for a recruitment agency Glow, specializing in sending Filipinos to Japan to work as entertainers. Jessica is a former Japayuki. She does her best to be a good housewife who unwittingly becomes a drug dealer to make ends meet. With dreams of having a child, Jessica now pregnant, wants to start a new life away from the slum. When Jessica is confronted by Manuel's discovery of her drug dealing, she applies for a contract with Glow; she is groomed and then raped by the firm's big boss. With the police now informed of Jessica's drug dealing and Manuel's struggle with local gangsters, who taunt him about his former life, the walls of reality come crashing down around them and the consequences are fatal.
DEVELOPING THE STORY
Tell us more about Briccio Santos, the producer and director you were working for; how did you find working with him?
Briccio Santos is a man I have come to be very fond of. His whole family more than welcomed me, and in fact they are my second family. I would state that if you took Che Guevara, Walter Herzog fused with Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now mode, and the artistic over indulgence of Terry Gilliam and maybe even Van Gogh, mix them all up, and then add a true passion for art in whatever form of expression you take, you would get Briccio Santos. After all this is a guy who went to Russia during the fall of communism to write a book, and stayed there for three years making a film, hiring full army units with tanks for cheeseburgers and swapping his watch for a car he needed to crash and then deciding the car was too nice to crash so that he wrote that part out of the film. He then when returning home had to face the reality of having to woo back his wife and life...how could you not love this guy. Art works, like love, when it gets a hold of you; you are totally at its mercy, until it decides to let you go.
How easy was he to work for?
He was very, very, easy to work for. I feel that way because I understood him right from the start, his intellectual reasoning and evaluations of life are inspiring and akin to my own: the pursuit of truth to understand each other better, to find a better way rather than recycling past failures day in and day out. We had conversations that went on for hours and this is what shaped and helped the film find its way. I truly believe it was a significant life gesture that had both our paths in life converge to come together to do this. Creative people at best are very hard to understand by those who are not, because true creation is not a product it is an idea. Some people trying to understand about the unknown are appeased only when they discover it can be found in a book, a product, or on a shelf. It needs to be solid for them to believe in or understand. Small minds discuss people, average minds events, but great minds discuss ideas.
GETTING READY TO SHOOT
What sort of briefing did you have to get you started and what editing facilities did you have available to you?
There was an understanding between us more than anything as formal as a brief, I had viewed material in London that gave me a flavour of what to expect, but that was all I needed. The journey is not fixed and editing is where you discover what narrative you are to tell. I did have Briccio explain the story to me and his thinking, so I could get deep into his mindset to find a partnership for me to move forward from. I needed to be him but with the ability to shape his direction to the objective from the moment he had got lost with it all. As far as facilities go I was working on an Apple G4 set up, we had to go that route as the G5 which was fresh at that time kept breaking down or would clash with other devices.
You told me once that the director's eight hour first cut was like Gone with the Wind, but you thought it needed to be fast and furious like City of God. As you didn't even have the language, how exactly did you figure that out?
It was instinct led, or as Obi Wan Kenobi would say "you must do what you feel is right", It was actually having to take an enormous epic like Gone with the Wind, and to refresh it via Trainspotting, for a modern audience. His film was set in the favelas of Manila and the energy to be found there was very much like City of God. I realized that what had fazed Briccio overall, was that he had made a film in which every character was a main character. By having given them all the screen time needed for their respective stories to mature, he needed a lot longer than two hours, which was the duration he wanted to achieve. He didn't foresee that aspect, when he came to assemble the film himself. Also the events that take place were locked in his mind as being needed in their entirety for his original vision to take place. I must stress at this point, that the two main leads play three characters each and that both leads had given themselves in such a passionate way that Briccio found cutting them to be hurting both his idea and their performance-giving.
The process in the first few days had me throw up the ideas that either he releases his films like Kill Bill, in a two- or three-step fashion, or that he allows me to decipher his mind's puzzle and cut out what was not viable, in order for us to find out what was. I didn't want him to sacrifice any of the effort he had passionately collated in all his rushes; however I asked that he should allow my point of view to bring together what he originally wanted. I began this by picking the most important characters to focus on, building their story first and working the others who interact around them. Now we had a structure to work and move on. In all fairness, every character's story was absolutely valid and we had to cut out some amazing stuff. Briccio was trying to fit four movies in one.
Going back to what I said earlier, about the emotion of love being expressed as an emotionless state of mind, almost a weakness in the West, is the total opposite in the East. Eastern cinema in general puts emotion first, the struggle, the sorrow, the pain and men often express how they feel and are not afraid to cry. The action is the character's emotions. I understood that, but my western cinema sensibilities can find a common ground in telling that. How we communicate in cinema is too formulaic and that we have only touched upon discovering new ways to assemble our linear through being non linear. A lot of World cinema gets too stuck up in its own preachy-ness of the obvious and has become tiresome. How you hold an audience is just as important as what you are holding them with, and editing is the blueprint of that. Every break and join is an invisible construct to your audience reaction.
I told Briccio he needed to up his game. What was formulaic had to become radically engaging or it's just like anything else out there. He agreed and so I let the footage dictate the pace and reinterpreted a lot of scenes with some new styles. With this free-flowing experimentation the film found a greater voice, fresh and original and was moving intelligently towards something. I did nothing that wasn't guided by how we felt about each scene, and again by using what the scene was about in Briccio's mind, I could discover how to express it in a new found way. There were aspects where we were too "out there" and we had to step back. Briccio, even in his evolving understanding, wanted to know if the audience would get it and was worried. In the end, any concerns he had were all put to rest. The audience never once questioned anything and praised how it was presented. It was like taking a very deep melodrama and adding a powder keg to it, watching what happened and finding out that it was even more alive without any dramatic sacrifice. I had also created colour codes and themes for areas of the film and enforced sound design to new values unseen in this kind of cinema. I also composed music for the film, which I hadn't done before, and gave it a European flavour.
You said earlier that you don't speak Tagalog, the language of the Philipines. It must be a little trickier cutting a narrative together when the narrative is in a completely different language from what you are used to - how did actually you cope with that?
I totally agree, in fact it is daunting now to know I had agreed to this before facing that question, it never came to my mind. However I find those kinds of fears come after the fact. Cinema is a universal language that is beyond words, it's about what you see and feel first. Watch a film, any film from around the world, watch it with the sound down and then tell me what it was about. Chances are you will have pieced together something that is probably right on the money --and how did you do that?
That's exactly how I cut this film. Every couple of nights Briccio would come in, see what I had done and rush to bring in others to watch. The same question was always asked, apart from the big smiles on their faces, they were fazed. "How did you understand what they are saying". I'd answer simply "its cinema." When cinema is the blood you just know how.
There were times when I would ask many questions, and have certain things explained to me and sometimes when the writer would visit, he would say that this person in their position in society wouldn't say this, if they were from a particular area, or class. Then I would have to undo, or rework the scene, however most of the film was edited just by having a feeling for it. Phonetics helped me and the tone of voices is another feeder, or a good indicator.
Time often seems to run at an entirely different pace in the East compared with what we are used to - what was your experience of this in Manilla?
Tell me about it; it probably helped me. Coming from London I had this fast attitude; however it became an obstacle later and the steaming humidity also has an effect on you. In the Far East and in LA, the pace is very at your own leisure, the total opposite to London, where the want it all now attitude has us running in every way but the right way. After I spent six weeks in LA it took me a month to get back into London thinking. We are far too rushed for no reason in the UK, in the 70s it wasn't like that. I prefer the ‘at your own pace' approach to managing one's own time.
What sort of issues did you come up against in the edit?
Apart from fighting these blasted mosquitoes they have over there? They have these electric tennis rackets where the whole net is like an electric fence. When you swat a mosquito it fries and disintegrates in front of you, so if you get three in a row, you get three flashes with satisfying pops. Also the infamous Apple crashes --CTRL SAVE should be your every other key stroke!
Toughest was the thinking you need to do when you come across something that presents a headache of a problem and you are figuring how to solve it. Two scenes did this to me; one was a card game being played out in the Riles. It was an action scene and needed a lot of working out as there were so many rushes for it and it had to feel like a tantalizing exotic delight of the location and of the importance of what was happening there. So you have the tension of the card game, it breaks out into a fight, this all happening where trains are passing 4 inches from the actors heads, oh and the main actor was playing two of the characters at the card table. I put this crucial scene off until I had completed almost 90% of the film.
The other scene was a rape scene which starts off the final act, where an office worker Jessica is groomed, drugged and raped by her boss at the Xmas party. Once again there were issues I had to think around regarding what happens and how it will be interpreted by an audience, the first being that there is no way it should be presented as glamorous or, like in the film, Irréversible. I was thinking for three days on this scene, watching all the takes, going for walks to get my head around it and out of it. The start of one take found my entry point. Shame was what stuck out for me, that the character who is also pregnant has to now tell her husband what has happened to her and so I built the scene around this small off-cut of a shot where she holds her hand to her face in disgust at what has happened to her.
Both scenes were like putting together 10,000 piece jigsaws. I needed to find the right frame of mind to complete them, again for the integrity of the film.
How long did the whole thing take?
From start to finish took two months. At six weeks we had a friends and family screening, for the first assemble, which was about two hours and twenty mins. Then taking comments onboard and also viewing how they were reacting to it, we refined that to get to our ideal two hour running time.
TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
This is where we ask you to share some of the things you find work well for you in editing - do you have some tips to pass on?
I would start by saying that every one who edits has their own unique style, some are by the book editors, some are not and don't need to be, some log every single thing, some don't log at all. However when it comes to the art of the job in hand, it's ultimately about the essence, the spirit of the journey and the goal at the end of it.
For me the crucial understanding, especially in long form editing, is what is the goal and how do you get there? In my head I have often started with the ending and worked my way back. What we do is essentially mental arithmetic. We are not that physical in the process, we are much more the writers of the physical, the physical being what the director has captured. As an editor it is your job to get into the directors head and then edit the film. The golden rule is that less is more. If it isn't needed or viably justified to be included, lose it; trust me. Have an opinion and don't be afraid to voice it. As an editor your skills and thinking are being brought to the fore and that is what needs to be expressed at all times. You are not there to push buttons and if you are, you are not editing. You are cutting and pasting and anyone can do that.
Editing is like the writer, when he or she has used punctuation, except when we break a scene there is a reason for the break. Editing is a very powerful invisible language. Think of 2001 the cut of Bone to Ship. It's just a straightforward cut, however what Stanley Kubrick cuts out between the two points, is arguably the greatest edit of both man's history and of all time. It's so heavy, just enjoy the moment, otherwise your head will split thinking about it. Films by Sergei Eisenstein are also very significant to watch, to witness the development of modern cinema language.
Any other recommendations for editing tips?
It's only fitting that Christopher Rouse won both the Bafta and the Oscar in 2008 for editing The Bourne Ultimatum, as that is the part which gives the film its true energy and invisible success. All the other elements are absolutely secure, but the editing stands out as the real champion; a character all by itself. It drives the film forward to help us better understand the importance of time, and immediacy, on which the Bourne films thrive.
I would also recommend watching some films you like before you edit, or some scenes that grab you without you realizing it. I watch a selection of stuff to inspire me to what my own goals are and sometimes watch something out of my comfort zone. My favorite period of cinema is silent films, where the language of cinema was being invented as they went along. Observe how they worked it out. How did their cuts affect you and why? Try watching a film with the sound down, if you can get to the end of it without turning it up, then the cut of the film has worked. Cinema is a visual medium first and not an aural one. A well used classic is Kurosawa's Seven Samurai which is, to put a finer point on it, a film for filmmakers of all roles. However it has three important scenes when it comes to language of film. See if you can spot them.
Finally, remember the importance of silence; in my opinion the loudest sound effect of all. Think in LA Confidential and Minority Report where similar scenes use silence before juddering you. Horror films too, watch how they lead you through editing into uncomfortable spaces in your mind.
We are great manipulators as filmmakers. Also don't be afraid to experiment with something you feel needs to be done by way of experiment, think Memento. The struggle of human consciousness to construct meaning and tone is a very absorbing one and one that learns and yearns for new ways to understand. We haven't fully tapped the many ways we can construct information to demonstrate that. Clockwork Orange and Hana-Bi both showcase a moment when still paintings are used to dramatic effect. Moments like this that are incredibly rewarding emotively and mentally.
Today's ‘you tube' generation of editors are anything but; ask them what three-machine editing is or what a Steenbeck is and they'll look at you weirdly. Having cut in a traditional sense, you can appreciate what non-linear has opened up, but when the technology is put into the consumers hands, all that skilled and trained eye is thrown to one side in favour of the automated quick fix.
What software do you like best for editing?
I have cut with pretty much everything out there, traditional and digital, linear and non-linear. The post house I managed was a test site for many introductory platforms, from Quantel systems, Heavyworks, Lightworks, and Avid. I am an Avid Editor first; I work much faster with the shortcuts on Avid. Final Cut Pro didn't become valid as a realistic alternative till version 4 came out. All previous versions were seen as toy-like and not up to industrial needs.
I do like to keep abreast of all that is out there and the technology that is yet to come, but in my opinion nothing will ever beat the magic of having celluloid in your hand and cutting it, it's more organic, more about the craft, more skillful and definitely much more exciting. Saving time allowing for instant experimentation are the winning factors digitally speaking, but the ease of that has undermined both quality goals and an editor's worth in terms of the experience he or she has to offer. Final Cut Pro and its opposite Adobe Premiere have put the whole world of post production into the everyman's hands, but not everyman knows the true significance of how to make use of that and develop the skills required for the traditional ways, which demanded the right mentality from its practitioners.
GETTING IT SEEN
Ala Verde Ala Pobre did well at the Cine Manila International Film Festival - no awards there for editing unfortunately - but I believe it did quite well?
Overwhelmingly, it was the most talked about of all the films entered that year, which from my proud perspective seals what Briccio had freshly envisioned to begin with. It was also a raw experience and a fresh experience for a Filipino audience, who are used to these socio-realist dramas being all melodramatic and clichéd in their normal output. The audience really lapped it up, as did the competitive assessing panel which was judging the films. The success of Briccio's little film certainly woke up the industry especially when the Best Actor category went to the guy who was the film's make-up artist, covering for an actor who didn't turn up. He was doing the make-up on another film when his name was read out as the winner, but he was truly so good in the film. He has continued to act, as well as still do make-up for films. The film garnered most of the most significant awards that evening and it was a great moment to savour for those that gave to it.
My little moment came a little after that, which I wasn't expecting at all, when I was nominated in the Best Editing categories for their URIAN (their Oscars) and GOLDEN SCREEN (their Golden Globes) awards. I won the Golden Screen Award which out of the two, I am much happier about as it is chosen by the critics who provided some fascinating insights in their reviews of the film. The critics over there are more like the writers of Cahiers du Cinema. They are really deep in their criteria for assessing and debating cinema. The award was also a peace of mind offering to my folks as they could finally see some light in support of my ambitions.
However, it didn't end there. The film was selected for Rome's inaugural film festival in 2006, being one of only two films from the Far East that got in from the 200 submitted. Being fěted by the Italians was an incredible experience, as the festival was unlike any others. We were all very well taken care of and it was a remarkable ode to the love of cinema, made even sweeter when Martin Scorsese asked for a screener to be sent to him.
Ala Verde Ala Pobre was just the start of your relationship with Briccio Santos and his films because he had a trilogy in mind I believe. Can you take up the story from there? The next film was Ale Suerte Ala Muerte, what does that mean and what was that film like? Was it another Gone with the Wind?
Actually the next film I edited for Briccio was a commercial horror film Anino ng Setyembre (Karma) right after I had come back from the Berlinale in 2006. Let me explain, the success of Ala Verde attracted several mainstream producers who wanted to jump on the Briccio wagon while it was hot. Briccio entertained them and selected to do something bigger but still retained his core values as a storyteller of social responsible worth.
Using the same core Ala Verde crew and set up, Briccio shot a horror film that dealt with the dark period of martial law imposed by the Marcos era. Fashioning the terror of those times into the back-story of a modern horror film gave the film a meatier play than just being something without substance. Editing the film proved to be personally challenging. It was intended to be an audience pleaser and a populist genre I didn't particularly find any worth in, as I never get scared watching these sorts of films.
I had only a month to deliver a finished cut. I chose to look at fear and terror in the psychological sense and also, used nightmares I had as a child to create the atmosphere required. What I find more disturbing is the use of sound rather than vision, so this is what I concentrated on. Using what you hear as what you see and vice versa. I have to say, the effect was spot on. I used to have a recurring nightmare of footsteps getting louder and louder going up stairs. I tried to find that. Abruption is also disturbing.
The film hit all the right spots, even when the "I can see it coming" mentality is applied. I already know this, so I deliberately allowed action to continue so as to make them jump again right after their perceived audience jump point. The film had a great story and an even better ending. The re-make rights have been sold to the US, I believe. The film won ‘The best audience award' at Cinemanila 2006; however I think Briccio felt the whole exercise was a bit beneath him.
Briccio after that got back into more familiar ground. Back in ‘Ala' mode he shot the second part of his trilogy. However this time a new headache was presented to me. Briccio wanted to cut the film in two weeks to meet a Cinemanila 2007 slot given to him. I had to put a stop to that based solely on the fact that he shouldn't be cutting a film to make a festival slot but to tell a story in the proper way.
Then he found out that Quentin Tarantino was going to be the guest of honour for the festival and would be a judge for all the films. Once again I had to put on the brakes and question Briccio on the wisdom of this. I could feel the spirit of opportunity for Briccio being removed and felt like I had taken away his brushes and paint. So because I am a nice chap and because I always shout out loudly that the word impossible is not in my dictionary I told Briccio "Let's do it and let's see how far we get."
Briccio jumped for joy and I should really have had my head examined. When I watched his preliminary assemble, which I insisted he do before I got there, I was shocked to say the least. I don't want to go into the details but he had delivered a whodunit with the answer to the riddle given after five mins, which led me to condemn him with the question "Why on earth should an audience stick around for another 85 mins after this?" I was a bit Gordon Ramsay which isn't like me at all, but I won't back down from fighting to stand up for the best you can do.
Now we had only two weeks, so I decided that I would have to re-cut the whole movie blind. By ‘blind' I mean edit hoping I can make it work with what I had assembled quickly, as a different way to tell this part of the trilogy. In fact it was the only way left to tell this story and was a huge gamble on my part. However I was now there and if my name is going to be up on the big screen as an editor it's not going to be on a shallow piece of work. It has to have worth, so I effectively told Brix that we are changing his film into a different one, having discovered himself that it wasn't going to work his way. I would keep the story as we couldn't change that, but I would tell it in what I felt is the best way to honor his story and so not let him down. He could only agree or I was off.
In some way I got to the end of the two weeks. Structurally, I had Memento-ed the film to deliver the climax at the last point I could before the audience realizes what has actually happened. Astonishingly, I had all the footage to do it - barely. However I had no idea if it would work; I just hoped that it would. I composed the music as I was cutting and going a bit Michael Mann, I used a lot of mood films within the main story to empathize the feeling of loss and pain. We also conceived and filmed a new ending that again, uplifted us from the original one and made us all feel better.
With two weeks of mental torture and a fridge filled with Red Bull Extremes done and caned, the film again went down as a huge success, with Briccio playing the cut directly from his Mac at the screening -- we had finished only two hours before! Meantime, I was lobotomized on a couch back in the edit suite. I couldn't think straight for a few days and don't forget we had to put on subtitles for the selectors. Between four people, we had created a workflow that had achieved the possible from the impossible.
I woke up to find texts on my phone from some high society intellectuals who told me they never saw the ending coming at all and that everyone was shocked. I even got a text from the Mayor's daughter, who I had met previously, saying how much she and her friends enjoyed it, especially the lead female characters, who they all found affinity with. Nominated again for so many awards, the best actress category went to both lead actresses in the film. This was a direct result of how I cut the film. One actress wasn't very happy though --Whoops! Hanging out with Quentin Tarantino was good; we had a nice chat about old-school British films, especially the Oliver Reed thriller Sitting Target.
Whereabouts did this film take the story in the trilogy?
It comes a little after the events of Ala Verde Ala Pobre. Jessica is now obviously a young widow with a four-year-old son, Manolito, the son of Manuel from Ala Pobre, who lives with her in a crowded boarding house. They share a room with Linda, who dreams of being released from her own bondage to poverty by getting paid in dollars as an overseas contract worker in Europe, but who is desperately looking for work in the city in the meantime. This situation conveniently provides Jessica with an amah, a kind of nanny, to free her for work and not have to be shackled to the chores connected with a child and growing up pains. When the boy disappears one day whilst under Linda's care, the world starts to collapse for both Jessica and Linda. The mother's longing is for a son who has disappeared from view, carrying only his late father's name. This is the fate the mother and child have to endure.
I believe it was selected for Rome again, but something stopped it at the last minute - what exactly happened?
It was a real buzz to hear our work had not only been selected again to be officially shown in Rome for 2008, but was also this time around going to be officially in competition! Briccio however had even further ideas, and this is particularly useful if you are guerilla minded. He was going to use the opportunity of having cast and select crew in Rome to film a huge part of a back story for another ‘Ala' story! Yet nearer the festival's opening, the director had a family emergency to deal with. For reasons of respect, this took us out of the competition and then finally out of the festival as a whole.
However having been enamoured already with Briccio and with the success of their previous selection of ‘Ala Pobre, Ala Verde', Rome has told us that they may include it again for this year 2009, so we will have to wait and see. The Italians took a real shine to Briccio and his work. It's because his work covers the same issues found in classical Italian cinema, issues of real human worth and passionate struggle delivered in neo-realist fashion.
What happened about the final part of the trilogy?
The final part of the trilogy was something I passed on in the end. The simple reason is that I had burned myself out on the second part. I started it almost immediately after cutting the second one, however realized that it was a far richer and deeply heavier undertaking than the film I had finished within two months and which had a much easier navigation to work out. I also needed to get back to London for my own personal reasons and recharge what I had just given, and Briccio has a very persuasive way, yet I put forth to Briccio that having done the first two, this culminating story was dealing with such heavy material it really need to be done in a correct and not a swift way. I told him it would be three months at the least, as once again the maze he created was ten times bigger than the first. In the end I advised him to find another editor, which he did. However that editor couldn't handle the subject matter either. I believe Briccio went through three further editors without any success. Briccio went on to edit the film himself, where it stands it currently. Like the first film it needs to be refined to deliver and identify what is important to Briccio's cause. Having live crucifixions and other very deep religious issues is not something to be taken lightly.
You are switching now from editing and going back to developing your own personal projects again - what are you planning in particular?
Yes, my deviation from filmmaking to editing as a specialization was to hone and better understand what is crucial to show and what is not, especially in the long form, which is vast compared to promos and such. I also want to develop innovative new ways of communicating visually, something that I put into practice with the all the films I cut in the Far East. What moves a story and creates an audience reaction and what holds the story back? Even in my writing, I now write as a visual editor using the same principles.
With the ultimate goal of being a British hybrid of Jean Pierre Melville, George Lucas, and Luc Besson, meaning filmmakers with their own studio set up. I have a lot of projects in development, but two or three are at the ready to go stage and several at treatment stage. I always have new ideas turning in my head and in my mind I am probably on my 100th film and doing the marketing for the 150th. Highlights include a Samurai story which came to me when a friend was laid off recently, inspired by Robin Hood, to reinvest in people what being proud of your country actually means. Also an Alien story revolving around a haunting answer as to why people state they are abducted and an all- action franchise which I call my James Bourne series. Then there's my sci-fi epic which is my ode to 2001, Blade Runner, Baraka and Se7en.
I also want to reinvigorate British Television with series concepts and ideas that deliver successfully in the same cinematic way as The Wire and ‘24'. This kind of programming has radically altered the landscape of what can be achieved on television and all the talent is heading there right now, which from my perspective is aching to be accomplished here in the UK, --that is if the attitude can be found to believe we can also do it. I have been pushing to contact anyone from the ‘24' production dept in order to developing a UK version of the show and I am still waiting to anxiously to hear back from them.
The two film projects below are currently seeking an audience with like-minded cinematic spirits who cherish 60's and 70's cinema as much as I do, and who can become creatively objective production partners, and truly understand the finesse in raising production finance, so if you can help, inspire and enquire.
The Killing is reflecting the vehement outrage and disgust created through the state-sponsored execution of Jean Charles De Menezes and the aftermath of the failure of the law to act against those who behaved lawless and clandestinely. This story was developed years before the 7/7 bombings, touches on the dealing and pain that come with an injustice by way of an inventive and holistic look on the need for balance. First and foremost it's a question about the law itself, if law is the difference by which a society can live up to its core values and ideals then that law should defend those first who unwittingly become its victims, no matter who that law should fall upon. However law has a hierarchal constitution and ultimately protects three sets of people before all others. These are the ones who create the law, the ones who enforce it and the ones who break it. Everyone else is a victim and that everyone else includes you.
The Killing = The Limey x Taxi Driver, x La Haine.
It is a karma-based thriller surrounding the cover up of a person murdered, or maybe not, by British Police, and the subsequent haunting journey a now motherless daughter must take, once she uncovers the truth a year later.
The Villian reflects my belief that we could make an action film here to compete with the Americans or anyone else for that matter, however I find that the attitude you run into here is that we can't or shouldn't even attempt to go down that road... why? I say we are afraid to. If the Bourne series was financed by UK money then that means they are British films in the real sense, in the sense of the ownership and not just films made here with the profits flying back across the Atlantic a la James Bond and Harry Potter. It is not just, not having the financial impetus unwilling to invest in these kinds of films, it's because no one has any cinematic vision to be able to deliver a competent offering to showcase why we can make them. British films always look like Eastenders on the big screen. I want to change that, hence this action fest to turn things around which isn't gonna cost the earth to make the way US films are.
The Villain = Leon x Get Carter with a dash of Kramer v Kramer
Hate can kill, but so can love. An explosive action thriller which at its core has an embittered woman yearning for the custody of her child. However the situation is complicated as her ex-husband is an assassin for the Asian underworld, so she hatches a plot to use them against him with devastating consequences.
Sounds like an interesting slate. How have you found this experience overall -editing in a different language, different culture, third world country, mostly poverty-stricken - have you found it a useful experience as a film professional?
Overall and above everything else, it's the humanity that you find in these experiences that is the most rewarding, the soul to be found at root survival level that is lost at a higher ordered level, so it is not just as a film professional but as a professional human being that these insights have proven most useful. All peoples and their unique cultures are what make us special, and we need to understand one another. It is often used against us politically to ensnare us, however to embrace these things for yourself, for your own journey's peace of mind, is a reward no money can buy. The world will always have its problems, we cannot stop that, what we can do is to better understand why those problems are sustained as problems. That is where the power of cinema is at its most powerful and most truthful, in deploying that understanding.
If you got an urgent call from Briccio again to say he's in an editing crisis, would you clear your diary again for him?
Oh, most definitely, however certain conditions would have to be met -- the first being he never touches the keyboard, or the cut, without written prior permission from myself. He tells me his story and then allows for my sanity to make sense of his --and lastly that he never loses his core creative enthusiasm, or guerilla ‘lets make it happen' nature to get things done, because those two qualities combined is what I wake up for everyday.