Archive for David Cairns


Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by dcairns


Fiona and I debated the merits of this shot in Milestone’s THE RED PONY. She at first admitted it was striking. The she said it was silly.

I argued that it’s practical. It’s not just a decorative Sid Furie flourish. The framing, while tricksy, gives us two performances for the price of one. In the Colonel Custer beard is Louis Calhern (Ambassador Trentino AKA the Walking Fontanelle), and the shot obviously shows his attitude by displaying his facial expression, or that part of it that manages to fight its way past his whiskers. With her back to camera is Myrna Loy, as beautiful as ever if you could see her. “You can’t see her performance,” says Fiona. No, but you get her attitude.

When I went looking for Milestone images online I immediately found this, from MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY ~


Not the same shot, but again, an image that gets more value that an over-the-shoulder would. A shoulder rarely gives you much character. This angle gives sex.

The OS shot, seemingly invented circa 1919, possibly by Maurice Tourneur in VICTORY, is so fantastically useful it should only be used as a last resort. In my first short film, I didn’t have any because four of my six main characters were hunchbacks (the film was called, logically enough, THE THREE HUNCHBACKS) and the actors had pillows stuffed up their shirts to raise bumps that completely hid their heads from a rear view. So rather than a head and shoulder creating a convenient corner to frame another actor in, the camera would simply have seen obscuring mounds.

(I was coming home from the last day of shooting carrying the pillows, which came from my parents’ house. I didn’t have a bag for them, but pillows sort of ARE bags, so I just carried them by their corners. A drunk stopped me. “Can I ask why you’re carrying those pillows?”

“Well, I’ve just made a film about hunchbacks.”

“Fair enough.”

Yarn-Bomb Paris / Phantom Filmmakers Over New York

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2014 by dcairns

In Paris –


Our friend, Shadowplayer Marvelous Mary was touched by NATAN, the documentary Paul Duane & I made, and by the thought that there’s no memorial at La Femis, the French film school, to mark the fact that the studio it’s built from was founded by Bernard Natan. Now, Mary happens to be in Paris on her hols, and this woollen banner appears overnight — I’m not saying you should draw any cause-and-effect relationship to these two facts. Not at all.

But it’s a Great Thing.


Meanwhile, or actually a little later, NATAN will screen at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York on Sunday, Jan 19th — please buy tickets and attend, New Yorkers. The screening is part of the First Look event, and we hope you will get your chance for a second or third look if and when we get wider distribution, but for now, this is your only guaranteed shot at seeing the movie, so please, SEE THE MOVIE. Paul, by happy chance, will be in New York and will attend the screening for a Q&A and in hopes that someone will buy him a drink.

A welcome thumbs-up from Richard Brody in the New Yorker.

Also, write reviews/previews, tell your friends, make it an EVENT! If you’re interested in writing about the film ahead of the screening and need to see it, get it touch below.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 15, 2013 by dcairns

Picture 38

The Winter edition of Cineaste has arrived at the Shadowplayhouse. Have you got yours?

Maybe you should — this splendid mag contains an article about pre-code state-of-the-nation address HEROES FOR SALE, written by Daniel (The Chiseler) Riccuito, Tom (If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger…) Sutpen, and yours truly. One of the most pleasant collaborations I’ve experienced, and one we’re all preparing to repeat ASAP.

Picture 41

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