Rome International Cinema Festival

I’m here attending the festival on a last minute decision as a Producer and am grateful to be recognized as one worthy of giving a last minute pass to. It wasn’t easy though, there was a lot of paperwork involved in getting a last minute pass but it reminded me of that familiar old lesson- doing the paperwork mostly pays off. That goes for funding opportunities, artist residencies, festival submissions and more. Putting time into the paperwork and doing what needs to be done can help to open doors to the expected and the unexpected.

Now here and midway through this festival, feeling a need to start blogging… if nothing else to keep track of all that I am seeing and learning and doing this week.

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I kicked off the festival by watching the sunset on the rooftop of The Bernini Hotel, where many people in suits had gathered to say hello to each other. It’s always a bit intimidating to go to a party unsure of knowing anyone there but I am getting accustomed to rocking up to events on my own and just looking around at people’s energy. Within moments of stepping onto the rooftop I got into conversation with a major Israeli film distributor and a French film sales agent. We swapped cards and were abruptly interrupted by a Producer who wanted to tell me about a very big budget film he has been developing and is seeking a co-producer for. I had to let him down gently and say that I was probably not that big player Co-Producer he was looking for but that I would love to read his script. He turned on me and asked “Why should I let you read this script?” and I replied “because you just came up to me and started pitching it to me and the only thing I can offer to do is read it. When I read it ideas and connections may pop into my head and if I like it and can help you make it I will.” He told me about the director he wants to attach and as it happens I have met that director a few times and he immediately offered to cut me a deal if I could get hima meeting with that Director. It was such a whirlwind and I found myself thinking “Why have I got myself into this schmooze game…I really find it all kind of bullshit”. Though I coached myself out of negative thinking and announced that I had to go and attend my first of many film screenings, the premiere of Italian romcom “Soap Opera”. We swapped cards and as he walked away an even better suited Director for his movie popped into my head so I sent him a quick email about that- 4 days later and he has not replied to my email so I am glad I didn’t waste my time getting involved in his slightly paranoid way of operating and in reading or become somehow involved in the goose chase of trying to help attach a big name Director’s to his script.

Here’s the trailer for “Soap Opera” it was cute and full of very modern Italian clichees and subversive dark humour which I felt good to be able understand. It’s something like an Italian take on a “four weddings and a funeral” or an “Almodovar” film with hints of “Shallow Grave” and “Delicatessen” in the art direction, set and costumes. I’m not sure if it will reach a large audience though but definitely Italians around the world would enjoy it and fans of European cinema.

I wanted to go to Asia Argento’s book launch because I really like the thought of making a film in Italy with her, but I couldn’t leg it over to the other side of town in time for that as I had to get dolled up and head over to another huge auditorium cinema for the red carpet European premiere of “Trash”. I gulped when I arrived and saw just how big and long the red carpet parade was (apparently one of the biggest red carpets in the world!) and just how many paparazzos and fans had gathered for it.  I have walked up red carpets before with friends to celebrate their work on big pictures but this was my first walk alone and I looked for another way in before being told to walk up the red carpet- much less painful then waking a plank obviously but still pretty intimidating… I took a deep breath and stood up straight before stepping onto the carpet, half pinching myself that this was really happening- that I was dolledup and walking alone like Alice in Wonderland at a glamorous movie premiere. I love it when life gets wierd in a glamorous way!

I met the Director, Stephen Daldry on the red carpet, maybe he thought he knew me as he said hi and we shook hands and I congratulated him for all his great films and told him I was taking part in a masterclass with him the following day. And then I stopped for a moment as a ton of flashbulbs went off around us, I felt a bit dazed and confused by it all. The film was incredible, also to see it on a huge screen. I felt on the verge of tears a few times throughout. The three young stars were incredible and the story was an interesting mix of a brilliant screenplay and improvised authentic documentary footage. I learnt more about this process and concept of fusing documentary and fiction in the masterclass. IT made a lot of sense to me as I have made both documentaries and fiction and it was inspiring seeing the two forms fused so powerfully together on such a big scale. See this film if you can. It will do for Brazil what “Slumdog Millionaire” did for India. I think the best part of the evening was seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces when the entire audience gave a standing ovation at the end. I felt stunned as I left the screening, I had been hit by an epic and important film- a movie with a social message that was also gripping and entertaining. It definitely gets my vote for The “Best Foreign Film” Academy Award.

Here is the trailer for “Trash”:

The masterclass with Stephen Daldry was insightful, to learn more about how he works, to learn tips about brining the best out of child actors, to learn learn learn and soak up his knowledge with space to ask questions and to give him my buisness cards. I would love to do a “making of” “behind the scenes documentary” on one of his films, but I learnt that his next project is a tv series called “The Crown” so it could be some time before I might get to do a “making of documentary” on one of his films.

I wanted to attend a masterclass with Wim Wenders and the screening of his documentary “Salt of The Earth” but again that event was far on the other side of town and public transport is slow in Rome so I knew I wouldn’t make it. I walked instead to the Bernini Hotel to attend a pitch session where 20 young Italian screenwriters had received funding to develop scripts and were pitching them to Producers hoping to go into production. It was interesting to hear some great ideas written and developed by writers under 30. I may have found one or two I’d like to work with on an idea that has been bubbling in my head every time I come to Italy, for a film I’d like to make in Italy…maybe with Asia Argento.

I heard very good reviews of the Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribero Salgado co-directed documentary “Salt of The Earth” and was a bit sad to have missed it so I will definitely try to see that when it is publicly available.

Here’s the trailer:

I then went to the screening of a Japanese film that just happened to be premiering at the cinema on Piazza Barberini shortly after I left the script pitches so I thought why not just watch this film- there were a lot of people linedup to se it and one of the benefits of a Producer’s pass is being able to just walk in and watch any of the films (other then the big red carpet Gala premieres which have to be pre arranged or invitation only). The filmmaker Miike Takashi had been awarded the “Maverick Director Award” as he has made over 100 films in Japan, many of which are live action manga adaptations and very stylistic violent films. Italy also has a track record of producing stylistic violent films and there is definitely an audience for gore- although it is not my genre of choice to create or to watch.

Here’s the trailer for “As The God’s Will” :

This Japanese film was very surreal and very violent, I don’t like watching violence or gore particularly but this was mostly done in an over the top or artistic way; such as red marbles pouring out instead of blood when people got killed… at the beginnig at least. It just got darker, gorier and more twisted as the film went along. It was like a live action version of a wierd manga cartoon. It felt like a social commentary on voyeurism, reality tv, violent video games and the sort of Japanese schadenfreude gameshows where someone is being chased by a giant bowling ball afraid for their life yet laughing hysterically whilst being sprinkled with giant evil giggling kitsch killer toys and a jpop all star looking cast of beautiful and talented young Japanese actors. God in this film is a man locked into his bedroom coding scripts for these teenagers to act out like they are his puppets and writing dark games for them to play where inevitably someone dies at the end of each game or test. At one point during the film I scribbled a line down on a piece of paper, about how they were all being tested on their intelligence, fitness, imagination and luck. I know I am going to have some crazy dreams after seeing that nightmarish film. It was definitely too long at 2 hours. I found myself squirming in my seat feeling tortured by beeing forced to watch the violent and sadistic “killing games” they were playing over and over again and considered getting up and walking out but nobody in the cinema left their seats and I was kind of both disgusted and fascinated hoping it might resolve itself have a deep moral story and a happy ending… I’m sure it will be banned in America for it’s violence and killings in a highschool setting and it’s not a film I feel people will benefit from seeing. However, it does have all the ingredients to become a cult film appreciated mostly for it’s wierdness, art direction and violence that particularily video gamers, horror/gore and Japanese Anime/Manga cartoon fans will appreciate.

Tomorrow morning I have an early start with Italian grammar lessons yuck I really do not enjoy studying grammar but it does make me a better speaker. Then I’m going to do a couple of back to back skype coaching and creative consultancy sessions before dressing up in a vintage and New Romantic-inspired look for another walk down that long red carpet and the European premiere of “Soul Boys of The Western World” about Spandau Ballet The Movie.

I have taken a lot of meetings with international distributors here to discuss my Guerrilla fiction feature film made in London and the documentary I have been independently producing and filming this year in Indonesia. This seems to be a market for more mainstream yet still experimental films- people are definitely signing deals her to international distributors and it’s been great to connect with so many, especially the ones who are known for purchasing film rights early before a project gets popular! It also gives me new energy for future projects- to be able to run them by and possibly get a distribution deal before going into production- even to finance the production… this could take filmmaking to a new level for me and so it makes it seem worth the while to go to festivals and connect with distributors for everything I have already made and everything I will go on to make- it’s also good to meet people face to face and look for real connections that will be energizing and have longevity rather than dealing with emails and anonymity.

Distributors look at my a bit blankly when I raise the topic of a documentary or tv series about healers and in particular sound healing. I have expressed how my interest is also on the varied journeys people have taken to become healers. One distributor suggested that it would be more interesting if I made an investigative expose film called “Shamans or Charltans?” to expose the dark side of lightwork: corruption, lack of integrity and money driven side of “healing” but that’s not the kind of work I am on a mission to make and that would also drag me down to investigate and expose corrupt healers. I am sure there are of course healers taking advantage of people who are troubled and or sick but I have been very lucky to meet so many healers who live and practise with heart and great integrity. I feel compelled to shine a spotlight on the good ones and currently feel some fusion of Anthropologist, Musicologist and Promoter of the concept and benefits of “Sound Healing” and and quite literally Sound Healers. The Sound of Healing : Project Page

A major TV Channel expressed an interest in the Guerilla feature film I made on a shoestring budget and very quickly in London. That film really needs one last edit, a polish, colour-grade and sound mix for me to feel good about sending it to a broadcaster for their consideration…although it is currently being submitted as a work-in-progress to festivals for a premiere. I’m hoping it will be accepted to a good festival and then I will be able to get the support to have these essential final stages of post-production carried out….and it would of course be incredible if it ended up being broadcast on television!

Ah life is fun with one foot in a platform heel and one foot in the lotus position!

To be continued…

Hi again so part two…

I thought to make this a separate blog but really it’s a roundup of the rest of the festival so prefer to pack it into one.

I attended the Spandau Ballet premiere, with another slow-motion walk up the long red carpet. Secutiry was tighter for this one and clearly Spandau Ballet are massive in Italy as the throngs of fans behind the barricades suggested. I wore a vintage balck and gold spandex 1980’s shoulder padded catsuit with my red recycled leather jacket and a lot of heavy eyeliner, hair backcombed and flipped over to one side. I was going for a New Romantic inspired look. It’s really so much fun to dress up for movies- especially when there is a theme. Getting ready for this premiere reminded me of going to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as a teenager and the imaginative effort that went into creating a look for that. It was exciting to see the whole band together again on the red carpet and as they made a parade into the auditorium to introduce and sit through the film the audience were screaming and going wild! The film was good, I particularly loved the archive footage from the early pre-famous Blitz Club days also featuring Boy George, Leigh Bowery, Steve Strange and Philip Sallon (who almost became my manager at one point when I was making music. I love that man!)

It was a moving story of a band of London teenagers suddenly hitting the big time, then breaking up and then making up. It was also interesting to learn about the rivalry and then strong friendships with Duran Duran. One quote that stood out from the film was “There are only three things that breakup a band- sex, drugs and ego” In their case, as in many cases it was ego that brokeup the band and the songwriter’s need to control that only he would write the songs “for fear that someone else might do it better than him”- which eventually meant that after years of handwork all the other band members got screwed by his ego. It was very humble of him to admit that awareness and ill possibly be a cautionary tale to current successful bands- not to let drugs, sex, money or ego breakup the band. It all got much more positive towards the end when the band decided to reunite and return to what they loved doing in the first place -making and performing hit songs and lifting the spirits of the audience. This movie and premier was also an announcement of their comeback tour.

On another note…

I am slowly getting over the shock of the terrifying events that took place in Ottawa and in Canadian Parliament. A crazygunman ran through Ottawa shooting and killing a soldier, then ran into Parliament shooting open fire, shooting several people with a big gunfight culminating in Parliament and ultimately the gunman being taken down. It was very scary for me as my brother is working in Parliament and he was in that building, instructed to hide under his desk through the gunfight. The entire building went into lockdown after the gunfight as they tried to assess if their were more gunmen around and then also to deal with the chaos of hysterical people being in lockdown all day. I was very afraid and just prayed hard all day to know my brother was in the building but not to know if he was ok. I am beyond relieved to know he survived the ordeal and my heart breaks for Cpl Corillio and his family who suffered a great loss at the hands of a crazy gunman. I hope that there will be some sort of ceremony of healing for all who spent a day in fear for their lives and lived through the ordeal as well as to heal the building itself- the space needs to be cleared of negative energy…how are people supposed to just return to work as normal without experiencing some kind of trauma/PTSD?

It also made me feel that I have no more tolerance for sensationalized gore and violence in movies. When this traumatic shit happens in real life and someone very close to me was forced to deal with that kind of reality, it just makes no more sense to me to be entertained by sensationalized violence. I suppose it is a part of life- the shadows of the world but right now it would only make sense to me in movies if there is an underlying moral message or is based on real-life events as a factual account- still not my chic of entertainment.

After this day of praying and feeling terrified…I lost a bit of steam for the whole film festival networking thing and most of my enthusiasm for geeing out to watch more movies…still it was quite a full cup and inspiring experience at this year’s Rome International Cinema festival.

My head is down now in right-brained Producer organizational mode as I lineup the final stages of post-production on my my feature film shot in London- aiming for a cast,crew and friends premier there before Christmas. Also, very happy to learn that a feature film my company Co-Produced a few years ago, finally has distribution and will be publicly released on November 11th- very fitting as it is about soldiers returning from war and suffering from PTSD.

Will be back soon with some hopefully inspired learnings and reflections.

I leave you with this funny rap about meditation and to promote the “21day meditation experience”:

“Happy New Now & Cowabunga Namaste”

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