Click on the picture for photos from the event.
The winning ways continued and on Saturday I got the chance to attend a WORLWIDE exclusive screening of the highly anticipated new Avengers movie, somewhat ridiculously titled 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble'!
It's as if the marketing guys had a last minute brainwave to use the film's title as an opportunity to market the company behind the film! Can you imagine DC calling the next Batman film 'DC's Dark Knight Rises'?? ..Actually, I wouldn't put anything past these Hollywood types.
Just how did I manage to bag tickets to this exclusive event, which preceded the actual UK première of the film and the nationwide release by two weeks?
I'd like to say it was my connections, but in actual fact, it was once again my luck that came to the rescue. Sometimes I feel like the X-Men character 'Longshot', with an uncanny mutant ability for good luck (just proving my fanboy credentials with that reference folks!). Seriously, I have got many stories; not just about winning prizes either (even though I've won a shed load of those too!). I entered the Showfilmfirst draw, and as expected, won tickets. That simple.
Luckily (again) the screening took place in Bush (Shepherd's), a mere 12 minute tube journey from where I live (stalkers amongst you, take note, because that's the most info you're gonna get!), even then, my friend and I were pretty far down the queue. The doors opened at 6:15pm for a 7pm start. So at 6pm we're busy checking out the talent at Westfield, strolling through the crowds wondering where a guy is supposed to meet chicks as beautiful as these.. even though they're all around us.
I would've been happy to continue strolling until about half 6, and then bop down to the cinema for around 6:45, but luckily my accomplice had the sense to want good seats, so we got there around 6:20...
Man, did I ever underestimate people's eagerness to see this film! The queue was huge! The organisers had asked people to dress up as their favourite Avengers character, with prizes on offer for the best dressed. I think about 3 people dressed up in total.. Good for them though, 'cos they all won prizes!
The queue was very good natured, and we broke English queueing protocol (standing in silence & looking miserable) by actually talking to one another& joking around!! The guy behind us had travelled all the way from Yorkshire to be at the screening, and to top it all off, he was missing his daughter's birthday too!! That's dedication folks; the fact that he didn't even bring her with him incase she might distract his viewing pleasure shows that he is a true fanboy and deserves those tickets!
There was quite a rigorous checking of I.D. to see if the names on our tickets matched. After that we had to check in our mobile phones and any other clandestine recording equipment we might be trying to smuggle in. They make us check in our phones, and there's a full blown camera crew walking about? Anyway, their tiny bags weren't big enough for my DVD burner, blank discs and labels, so they let me take them in.. Kidding. Obviously. But I guess they had to take precautions.
My friend and I walked into the auditorium.. and all the centre aisle seats wre gone!! Dammit! Fortunately there was still a few seats left up top, so breaking one's neck by being sat in the front rows was averted!
No trailers, just a small speech from one of the head honcho's thanking us for coming and telling us how lucky we were to be part of a select few around the world to see the film so early. You're welcome dude; I'm sure we'd all be happy to come back for future world exclusive screenings!
The lights dimmed. The audience drew their baited breath. The film began.
Now I won't spoil it for you; nor will I do an exhaustive review to rub your nose in the fact that I got to see the film before you. But I will tell you what I thought.
It's good ('phew!' I hear you all cry).
It's funny too!
Iron man totally owns the film. The film comes alive whenever he's on screen, and that's thanks once again to the Robert Downey Jnr. charm. The guy's charisma just leaps off the screen; the good thing is, none of the actors he shares the screen with try to compete with him either. They let him steal the show, and the film is all the better for it, because lets face it, some of the other characters aren't that great (Hawkeye anyone?).
My major apprehension towards this film was the fact that there were too many characters. The film still suffers from having no central character, or central character arc, but I think Joss Whedon (co-writer & director) does a good job of handling that many huge characters and giving each a sufficient amount to do. Lets face it, it's a balancing act, and in a crew of this many super powered beings, what the hell are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) & the Back Widow (Scarlett Johansson) gonna be doing other than twiddling their thumbs? But they're both given pivotal roles.
The introduction of the characters and bringing them all together isn't drawn out either, and whilst this may please those fans that are eager to see them all 'assemble', I thought it was a weakness. A lot of great storytelling is to do with creating anticipation in the audience; playing with their expectations. Unfortunately, everything unfolds in a pretty standard manner; there's no wrong footing or misdirection. The way all the characters come together feels rushed, as if someone said 'Look, just bring them together, and then worry about what to do with them!'
Again, some people might prefer it that way, but I would have preferred each introduction to have more weight. I mean for crying out loud, these guys were in separate films, and now they're on screen together! It's a big deal! Treat it that way.. not like Han Solo running into Indian Jones whilst buying a pint of milk in the newsagent. Actually that's a bit harsh. The way they come together isn't that bad, it just could've been done better.
Now what would necessitate the coming together of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?
You need a pretty bad-ass villain right?
I have to say Tom Hiddleston's Loki is pretty cool. He does well with the role, as any English man would. But it's all too 'Transformers', with both sides chasing Marvel's version of the 'All-spark'. I found that to be pretty weak.
Another MAJOR weakness was Loki's minions (I don't want to spoil it for you, but you know he's gonna have bad guys to do his bidding right?). Again, I don't wanna give anything away here, but they look proper menacing.. but they go down like stack of cards. Note to all story-tellers: A hero is only as strong as his villain; in fact the villain should be much stronger, otherwise where is the heroism in defeating him?
The bad guys in this film were all too easy to defeat.
It's a non stop action packed film; and if you love a film with non stop action, you will love this film! I prefer character lead action films. To my mind, Chris Nolan's Batman films are the epitome of this. So for me, 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble' is too action packed! The action begins early and does not stop. I would have liked it if there were moments to allow the characters (and the audience) to breath, and develop.
The climax was like watching someone else play a video game, and the bad guys went down easier than the locust in Gears of War.
So where does this film rank?
I'd say it's not as good as the first Iron Man or Thor films, but a lot better than Iron Man 2, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk.
Mostly, it's just a fun popcorn film. It's a million times better than the likes of Transformers or Clash of the Titans, or most other big budget blockbuster. The characters are good, the story is decent (sorry, as a writer/filmmaker and former comic book guy, I have to believe I could have done some things better, if not the whole film), it's funnier than you'd expect and the graphics are good. Also, this is the best Hulk we've seen on screen thus far (though I must admit to preferring previous incarnations of Bruce/David Banner).
If anything, it does leave you wanting to see more from these characters, and that's always a good sign.
Go watch it an make up your own mind!
PS. remember to hang around after the initial credits!UPDATE!
Check out the video of the event. I saw a camera and literally dived in front of it!! See if you can spot me!!
Click on the image to be taken to this page!
So I touched down in cold (Arctic!) grey (the colour of depression!) London the Friday before last, and what do ya know? I get struck down with an illness!!
Pretty sure it was dysentery. A going away present from India methinks (what a generous country!). I tried to ride it out for half a week, and to be fair, my stomach was much improved; but the nauseous sickly feeling remained. I was constantly knackered, but worse than that, I had a perpetual headache (not a Perpetual Monday! ..An in-joke for those of you that follow my films!) that just would not shift!
I tried blogging a few times, but it was too much of an effort to concentrate (isn't it always?); somehow whiling away the hours on Facebook was no effort at all.
Finally I went to El Doctorrr, and got me some antibiotics (I avoid medicines wherever possible, but my immune system has needed some help lately). My head is quite a bit better today, hence I'm finally back in front of the computer screen to make it worse again!
I'll reveal more about my travels another time; for now I wish to do a service to all the aspiring writers out there.. by letting you read my work! Haha, I jest, of course.
No, I wish to pass on the wisdom of a successful writer.. one that actually makes money!
Yes, they DO exist!! (I was as surprised as the rest of you)
So here it is:
On Friday 13th, I attended a Masterclass (check out their website here! They are a most awesome, if somewhat ageist (all their events are Free for the under 30's!!), organization) taught by the one, the only, Sir Lucy Prebble!
Yeah, my thoughts exactly.. until I took the time to read her bio! She's actually a very young & very accomplished writer; she's not bad looking either! If she was in a bar, I'd totally chat her up. I guess her most famous work is the West End smash-hit 'Enron'.
Anyway, I bowled up at the Theatre Royal Haymarket about 10 seconds before the talk began; for those of you that know how late I usually am, that is an impressive feat- which is why I'm mentioning it!
I'd never been to this theatre before; it looked very fancy & regal. Might have to catch a show here sometime.
About 99% of the audience must have been in their early twenties, if not younger. I'm guessing most were students or recent graduates; not veterans of life, like me. But there was an energy in the air. A spark that comes from being around enthusiastic people that still have that naivete of hope. It reminded me of what it felt like to be a young man filled with dreams and setting out on a fantastic adventure.. not knowing what ills await you, but only thinking of the successes. It felt good.
(Note to self: hang with more young people that don't know any better!)
Sir Lucy walked on stage in casual attire and stood throughout the talk, despite the commanding throne-like chair in the centre of the stage. She was immediately affable and confident; cracking jokes and putting herself on the same level as her young audience. She didn't talk down to us or have the air of a teacher lecturing to a bunch of smart-ass students. It was just an informal talk.
Essentially the talk was Lucy telling us her path to success; from when she was at University all the way up to now, post Enron. No one can give you a formula for success, especially in the arts. All they can do is tell you what worked for them. So for those of you fascinated by how others manage to pursue a career in the arts and not end up penniless in some gutter, check it out!
She began with perhaps the most invaluable piece of advice for any undertaking, writing or otherwise:
'Someday's it's difficult, sometimes it's easy- But it's always about just carrying on.'
The amount of things I've started and never seen through to completion is ridonkulous! When thing's get tough, as they always do, it's often easier to scrap everything and just start on a new project; something that will lead to greater things than what you're currently working on... you forget that you initially felt the same way about your current project too! And by 'completion' I don't mean finishing a script, I mean making a movie and then putting it in the hands of an audience! I've written tonnes of stuff and done tonnes of artwork too; but are they finished if no one ever sees them or knows they exist?
Writing is there to be read. Art exists to be seen. A script is made to be filmed. The artist's job is only done when the audience sees his work.
She also said that she believes the point of all art is to make people feel less alone.
Lucy told us about how she studied English Literature at Sheffield University and made friends with some actors. She had acted herself, but found that it wasn't for her, although to this day, she still finds actors to be the most fun people to hang with and has an enormous amount of respect for them.
When I was at Uni, I found the drama clique to be the most arrogant & pretentious people on campus! I hated those mo-fo's!
I think they were just a bad crowd, because a decade or so later, having attended various acting classes and even performed on stage myself (I paid for the privilege folks.. but still!!) I totally agree with Lucy. Actors are a fun bunch and acting is indeed a brave & worthy art. As I've said on this blog many times, EVERYONE can benefit from stepping out of their comfort zone and should attend acting classes. I highly recommend it!
Anyway, back to Lucy Prebble's story. So there was this guy in the acting crew that she fancied, so to get in with that crowd, she wrote them a play to perform at the National Student Drama Festival. She got the guy, and major kudos from the event! (Another note to self: try impressing chicks by writing stuff for them to appear in..!)
She won the PMA Most promising Playwright Award, which was really something, considering she'd never read a contemporary play before! Her work wasn't weighed down by convention. It was fresh, original, some might even say naïve. The first two film scripts I wrote were like that. I didn't know what the conventions of film scripts were; I just wrote what I thought would make a good film. I have never sent those scripts out, or shown them to people... Maybe I should?
After graduating, Lucy did what all us creative types did; she bought The Guardian every Monday and scoured the media jobs section! This cracked me up, because I used to do the exact same thing! Except whereas all I got was a stack of demoralizing rejection letters, Lucy actually bagged herself a secretarial job at The National Theatre. Meanwhile she was sending out her play to agents and the like; again somewhat naively (she told us a humorous story about how she'd send the play out as separate attachments instead of a single file), but it worked for her.
Lucy enthuses over her time working at The National; being in any environment surrounded by creative people would give you a buzz, but working alongside the country's finest talent at the top of their game definitely would be something special.
I've only ever worked by myself, so I crave the company of others. Come Friday & Saturday, I'm busy hitting people up to see if they wanna go out, but as regular readers of this blog know, I'm usually sat at home writing this thing.
Working alone is a necessary evil for all writers; even if you write in partnership with others, chances are you started off writing alone. I would LOVE to work in a creative environment with like minded peoples.. as long as they don't interfere with my ideas!!
By day Lucy would work as an assistant or secretary to some great director (I forget who.. It wasn't me though) and by night she would write her play, 'The Sugar Syndrome'. It's obvious Lucy benefited greatly from working at The National; not only did she get to work with great talent and learn from them, but she also made valuable connections- connections that allowed her to place her play in the right hands, and eventually have it staged.
After that she says she didn't write for a while.
She was overwhelmed with being a writer and tried to write, but nothing took off.
During this time she got into 'Myspace' (bear with me kids, I know this was before your time, but try to imagine a social networking site before Facebook that was actually better than Facebook in many ways.. Oh whoops! I asked you to use your imagination; my bad. I should've asked you to imagine a time when people used their imaginations first! Sigh.) and blogging; she also made shortfilms with friends. It was basically a period where she did stuff simply for the pleasure of doing it, which allowed her to rediscover her inspiration.
Kids, I cannot tell you how important inspiration is to the mind of a creative person. Without inspiration there is no passion, no impetus, no creativity full stop. Inspiration is the tiny spark that gives birth to something as powerful and huge as the sun! (erm.. just don't say that to a physicist!) If you're not inspired, then you're just going through the motions. Take a time out and get inspired; it's that simple.
Whilst she was focusing on blogging and rediscovering her passions, Lucy was exposed to the likes of Diablo Cody & Belle de Jour, before they hit the big time and became famous. It was in fact Lucy that took Belle de Jour's story to a production company which ended up becoming the TV series 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl'. So now we know who to blame..!
Lucy doesn't speak as fondly about her experience working in TV as she does about theatre; I think it boils down to control. Every writer has a vision of what their work should be, and when your voice is compromised, trampled on or ignored, you're gonna be peeved. Still, maximum respect for even getting that far! For every disgruntled writer that's been wronged by the powers that be, there's a million other writers wishing they had that same opportunity!
After that, Lucy got back into Theatre, and met 'Ben Power' which changed her life.
I just Googled 'Ben Power'.
This is what Wikipedia says:
'Ben Power is a British dramaturg and playwright. Ben studied English at Cambridge University. He often collaborates with Rupert Goold and his Headlong company.'
I then Googled 'dramaturg' because, honestly, it sounds like a cuss. Apparently a 'dramaturg' is 'a professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals mainly with research and development of plays or operas.'
Hmm. You learn something new every day...
Anyway that lead to the production of 'Enron' which was a huge hit in the West End and then transferred to Broadway... where it didn't do as well.
I think it was at this point that Lucy started fielding questions from the audience.
I didn't make a note of the questions, but just jotted down parts of the answers which I felt contained valuable advice.
One such piece of advice was 'Don't be afraid to copy'. Now we know how she won all those awards for her early work!
Seriously though, she pointed out that all your ideas are merely an amalgamation of existing ideas that you've been exposed to anyway. She also gave the example of Billy Bragg, who penned one of his great songs (I forget which one) based on the tune of some song he heard on the radio. It was only after he wrote the lyrics that he re-worked the melody. So from copying others, one can give birth to something new and great... I think that process is called 'inspiration'.
When Lucy came to writing 'Enron', she based it scene by scene on 'Macbeth', but by the time she was finished, one could hardly trace back the origins of her work.
Another piece of great advice was to seek inspiration from sources beyond your chosen art form. I totally concur. I expose myself to EVERYTHING!! The more stuff you add to your melting pot of a mind, the more stuff your imagination has to work with when concocting great ideas! That's also a key piece of advice from James Webb Young's seminal book/pamphlet on advertising.
Lucy's inspiration mostly comes from music, as does mine. When I'm dreaming up ideas for my films, I'm usually listening to movie soundtracks.. actually when I'm doing anything, I'm listening to music. Writing, drawing, editing, cleaning my room, you name it, there's music on. Even as I write this, I'm listening to the radio. She reckons most writers are just frustrated musicians.. if that's the case, then what the hell are frustrated musicians??
Lucy shared a quote from one of magic duo Penn & Teller (don't know which one) about his aspirations in being a magician. 'I never wanted to be the Harry Houdini of magic, I always wanted to be the Salvador Dali.'
So true. Whilst my initial inspiration in wanting to be a filmmaker was George Lucas, there's no way I could ever hope to emulate the path he took or make the movies he made. I'd always be nothing more than a shadow of him. Only George Lucas can do what George Lucas does (or doesn't do as the case may be these days). Similarly, I love Chris Nolan films; but could I ever hope to be Chris Nolan? Hell no. Nor should I want to be.
I'm me, and I wanna be the best me I can be!
Someone asked another question relating to the audience. Again, I totally agreed with Lucy's response. She said that when she writes initially, the first draft, she does so purely for herself and tries to treat it as if no one other than her is going to read it. This allows a writer to be more daring, to be less politically correct or appeasing towards whoever they imagine their audience to be. Writing to please the audience is a dangerous game, because you never know what will please them, and if you write something that doesn't please you, then nobody's happy.
In a way, it's sometimes a blessing that no one reads my blog, because that way, I still only write about whatever the hell I feel like writing about!
The stories that seem to get the most comments tend to be about my disastrous social life; and I won't lie, it's tempting to keep writing about that, just so I get an audience response; despite the fact that it makes me look like an utter fool! Friends that read my blog crack up because I tend to portray myself as some some shy Billy no mates, whereas the person they know is more of a manic party animal that makes friends of complete randoms on the street!
Either way, I'm not going to write to please my imagined audience, and I'm not going to write to please my friends either. I write because I want to write, and I write about whatever I feel like writing about!
But then, Lucy Prebble is a paid writer, so she adds that sooner or later you have to invite the audience in, and what an audience will make of your work does become part of the process (I guess I have to learn this if I ever wanna get paid for my work!). She says she tries to retain the daring & spirit of the first draft, but sooner or later, you're going to be writing with others in mind...
She also stressed that you should WRITE EVERY DAY! Pretty obvious if you think of yourself as a writer, but remarkably so many aspiring writers don't. Hell, I consider myself a filmmaker, but I hardly ever make films! So there's a lesson there for all of us (but I do write every day!).
She let us in on a technique for writing dialogue, one which I reckon I'm probably gonna use, 'cos the idea behind it makes a lot of sense.
Saying aloud or recording what the character is going to say, and then transcribing that speech. Essentially acting out the character's dialogue before getting it down on paper. That way the dialogue precedes the writing instead of the other way around, if that makes any sense?
Basically if you've ever written a script or a play, and then had it acted, you'll know what I'm talking about. Usually the writer writes the dialogue, and then the actor has to make that dialogue work and seem as natural as if they were talking from the top of their head. But the act of writing words on a page is nothing like the act of speaking.
I can write eloquently on the page; my thoughts are lucid, my language verbose, and my meaning is precise. But if I was to express those same thoughts and feelings without the aid of a pen and paper, I'd be struggling. I talk like any other London cheeky chappy; with a limited vocabulary where every third word is either 'man' or 'like' or 'F**king' etc.
But were I to write the dialogue of a character that spoke like I do in real life, I probably wouldn't be able to do an accurate job by just committing the words to paper without speaking or acting out the dialogue first.
I think this is an excellent technique, and one I'm eager to try. If only the writer's of TV dramas were aware of this, especially the teenage dramas! Who remembers 'Dawson's Creek'? (I'm sorry, but I have to reference teenage dramas from a time when I was one myself!) The way the character's spoke in that was ridiculous! I mean what teenagers spoke like that?? With long highly articulate and loquacious speeches! Jeezus Jones, University professors don't even talk like that!
That said, one can't be a slave to accurately portraying the vernacular either. The point of all dialogue, especially in scripts, is to move the story forward. If you can say it without dialogue, then do just that. The less said the better!
Someone asked if it was true that all writing is re-writing. She said it was. After completing a first draft she recommended that you put it in a draw for 2-3 weeks and forget about it. When you come back to it, you want to be able to read it with fresh eyes; to have some objectivity. That's the whole point of re-writes- to get your work to a place where it's as good as it's going to be, and often, you can't see that place when you're knee deep in the writing of it.
Lucy ended the talk by saying that writing doesn't get any easier, but offered hope by adding that it doesn't get any harder either. Every person's life experiences are ALWAYS going to be fascinating to others, whether that person is 18 or 80. Humans are fascinated by other humans and their stories; that's never going to change.
She closed by warning us about the nature of the work, saying that writing is a dirty business and that she often has a conflict of conscience, asking herself
'Am I decent human being..? Or am I a writer?'
That drew much laughter and applause, and was a great way to end. Thanks very much Lucy Prebble and of course the 'Masterclass' organization. If you are interested in the arts, you would be well advised to sign up to their newsletters if nothing else.
It was a shame though, the way everyone just got up and left at the end. I mean here was an assembly of dozens of like minded individuals, all aspiring to do the same thing with their lives, and no one rubbed shoulders with one another. It would have been the ideal opportunity to network, to start something- I mean we were all so inspired by the end of the talk, and then to just leave??
It felt wrong. It felt like a waste.
If I have any advice for the organisers, it's this: encourage attendees to stick around or go to a local pub & network! Opportunities to mingle with like minded people are beneficial to everyone! The fine folks at Raindance never let opportunities to network go to waste, and it's a good habit to get into. Still, as you can see, I thought it was a great talk, and I benefited from it greatly! Hope you benefited from my note taking too!!
Before I go I just want to remind you to stay tuned, because on Saturday I attended a Worldwide exclusive screening of the latest superhero blockbuster 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble' (stupid-ass title; pretty cool movie though). The film has it's London première on Thursday and is released nationwide on the 26th. I'll be sharing that experiences next, followed by blogs detailing my partying in Mumbai and the making of my latest shortfilm!!
Thanks for reading & good luck with all your endeavours!!
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