Archive for Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Copyriot in Cell Block 6

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , on March 28, 2015 by dcairns


One day before the screening of LET US PREY, the spectacularly bloody horror film Fiona and I co-wrote, at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (a lovely fest: fond memories of seeing my other blockbusters NATAN and, er, CLOUD ATLAS there), the movie leaks all over the internet like a geriatric dog passed out on a modem. Prompting thoughts about cyber-piracy and what to do about it.

The producers of LET US PREY were actually pretty careful about piracy, as they were duty-bound to be — not only do they stand to lose money if the film is available free, the various participants, cast and crew, who deferred parts of their salaries to get the film off the ground, will lose out on the money they’re owed. Profit points mean nothing if there’s no profit. So, for instance, Fiona and I don’t even have a legit copy of the film we can use to show off our achievements, chop up for a showreel, or screen for prospective employers or agents. I was able to get a link to an online screener to show one interested party, after a little back-and-forth. So they’re being pretty diligent, and rightly so.


But the film is out on DVD and Blu-ray in Germany, and with an English language audio option. Basically, that meant inevitably it would be pirated, and those who are so keen to see it they just can’t wait now have the chance to grab it from a torrent site at zero cost. I can’t say I blame them for choosing the fast, free option.

I’m not a distributor or publisher of DVDs, but it seems to me that if I were, I would tackle piracy by coordinating the film’s release so it comes out everywhere at the same time. Of course, I have no idea how difficult this would be in practice, but it seems like it ought to be possible. That way, honest film buffs are not punished for their honesty by being forced to wait for a release in their country, of to pay extra to buy the thing from abroad. I mean, *I* haven’t bought the German DVD, despite it’s really bitchin’ cover art, and I co-wrote the bloody thing.

Instead of doing this, movie companies petition for harsher penalties and probably impractical policing of the web. And circulate bogus statistics about how much money they’re losing, statistics which assume that everyone who downloads a piece of video or audio illegally would pay to do so if the free version were removed. Which is clearly ridiculous. I mean, one of the joys of the virtual wild west raging online is that you can grab far more stuff than you could ever afford to buy. But I’m sure billions are indeed being lost. This is to some extent an inevitable result of technology, of moving the industry to a place where all its product is composed of little ones and zeroes, digital information which can be copied exactly with relative ease. So why doesn’t the industry do something itself to minimise the loss?

If a film opens everywhere at once, you can maximise publicity on the internet instead of co-ordinating a series of campaigns for different territories at far greater cost. You can allow people to buy the film as soon as they hear about it and are enthused, and before they have a chance to read a lot of negative reviews. You remove one of the advantages of illegal downloading, its ability to deliver the film ahead of the official release date in your territory. Your other advantages, the nice packaging and reliable quality and extras, start to gain ground in this environment.

This will in no way solve the problem, but it doesn’t look like anything will, totally. We should concentrate on more serious internet crime ahead of movie-ripping. But this ought to save quite a lot of money.

The attitude of the industry at present strikes me as equivalent to a small-town pensioner complaining of the days when one could leave one’s door open all day without getting robbed — while leaving its door open.

Sitcom The IT Crowd adroitly mocked the industry’s bathetic response to piracy.

Meanwhile, whether you are watching LET US PREY legally or illegally, I hope it gives you some kind of sick pleasure, And watch out for the bit with the fingernail. Ewww.

Bottom Left Hand Corner

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by dcairns

knuckle 020

I took this picture of the curtains of the Savoy, Dublin, while waiting for CLOUD ATLAS, the new film from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, to start. Little dreaming that I would be standing up there three hours later —

Here’s what happened: Fiona and I were in the audience as ordinary punters, but also curious to see how much of my work ended up in the movie. Line producer David Brown, a friend, had contacted me about the idea of getting students from the Edinburgh College of Art film course to shoot additional material for the movie. We agreed a deal whereby the students would get paid, and I volunteered to take part too.

At a certain point in one of CLOUD ATLAS’s six stories, Tom Hanks, playing a London criminal who’s authored a book, throws a literary critic off a roof and his memoir suddenly becomes a best-seller. My students and I were shooting material that would be incorporated into a splitscreen montage showing the media sensation this causes. We were never exactly sure whether any of our stuff would wind up in the movie, but to our pleasure we heard that some of it had.

A whole five seconds of the bottom left-hand corner! I was delighted.

(It’s possible that the DVD contains the unexpurgated versions of our films, I’ll get back to you on that.)

So, the film (to be reviewed later) finished, and then I was thrilled to see my name in the credits — hadn’t been sure that would happen. And then festival director Grainne Humphreys took the stage with one of the film’s stars, James D’Arcy, for a Q&A. D’Arcy is terrific in the film, in all his roles, and it was fun hearing from him — he seems really nice. And then the audience had their questions, but I couldn’t think of any. Fiona was nudging me, saying “Are you going to ask a question?” And then they asked for one last question, but the audience had run out. So I stuck my hand up.

“False pretenses,” I confessed, when the microphone got to me.” I just wanted to say that I directed five seconds of the bottom left hand corner of this film.”

“The fourth director!” cried Grainne, my new best pal, “Get up here!”

(In fact I’m one of seven additional directors for that montage, and we have to factor in second-unit directors who probably shot twenty times as much of the finished film as me, but it’s the thought that counts. And they weren’t there, or didn’t stick their hands up during the q&a.)

And that is how I ended up on the stage of the Savoy in front of the audience of the CLOUD ATLAS premiere. “It was a pleasure collaborating with you,” I told Mr. D’Arcy as I shook his hand. When I returned to Fiona, one of the women sitting next to me asked for my autograph. A moment of silly glory snatched from the jaws of oblivion.

Through a Glass Darkly

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by dcairns


I wrote an official obituary of my friend and colleague Scott Ward for Edinburgh University, and spoke about him at three screenings. I’m reproducing an edited version of what I said, partly for Scott’s friends, partly because you can’t talk about Scott without talking about valuable lessons, and so this material is of possible use to people who never met Scott, who never knew he was here at all.

University Obituary

Scott Ward (1966-2013), who died last week, was a cinematographer and a teacher of cinematography. He taught cinematography for both documentary and drama in Edinburgh College of Art’s Film and Television Department for close to ten years.

His two jobs, teacher and filmmaker, were quite contiguous: you couldn’t work with Scott without learning, not because he would lecture as he worked – he was far too efficient for that – more because of the questions he asked in advance and the conclusions he reached, and the sensitivity with which he put a plan into action.

Always calm, patient when he had to be, but briskly decisive when it was time, he made all his collaborators look good, by framing and lighting expressively, always taking the most interesting and courageous route but never overstating an effect or being guilty of the obvious. He raged – gently – against the problem of the “default film,” where decisions are made for reasons other than creativity. “You’re making a film so you think you need the latest camera and the best lights and the most expensive actors, but until you ask what the film is about, none of that can be assumed. You might not even need a camera at all!”

The whole film department at ECA is shocked at this sudden loss of an essential colleague and friend, somebody who could be consulted on any project, experimental, fiction or documentary, about any technical or creative question, and who had answers that were beautifully practical, that told you more about what you were trying to achieve as well as how to achieve it. And with enthusiasm, spirit and vision, generosity and humour.


Edinburgh College of Art Screening

If one were about to make a film — a crazy idea, but go with me — one would be looking for collaborators. And you would ask what sort of qualities an ideal collaborator would have? You would want them to be knowledgeable technically, aware of what could be done, but also knowledgeable historically, aware of what had already been done. You would want them to have good taste. You would want them to have that indefinable sensitivity that an artist requires. You’d need them to be hard-working and totally reliable. You’d like them to be pleasant to work with. You’d want them to be smart, not only so they could come up with ideas to help the project, but so they could understand your ideas swiftly, and make it clear that they’d understood. You’d want them to be able to do the job to a very high standard — and also to do it quickly.

Obviously, I’m talking about the ideal collaborator. But obviously I’m also talking about Scott.


Glasgow Short Film Festival Screening

You should all be so lucky as to work with somebody as good as Scott. And I don’t know realistically how that can happen now. The best chance is for us all to try to be more like Scott. This would mean being artistic without temperament. It would mean being brave without being foolhardy. It would mean being smart without being cautious. Scott said “You get rewarded for bravery, always.” So you have to figure out what it is you’re making, and make it the boldest, most exciting, most powerful version of that, that it can be. If we can all do that, then we’ll all have good films to watch.

Dublin International Film Festival

This premier is dedicated to Scott. He was already ill when he did our shoot, but we had no idea. When I heard he had died, I asked his partner if there was anything I could do, but she said, “You already did do something: you made his last shoot something about cinema and papier mache heads. He was so happy about that.”


The screening in Glasgow of CRY FOR BOBO was wonderful — the audience laughed at everything save the first gag (Nigel was right about that one — it IS too soon to get a laugh) and were generally appreciative, while the projection of our new HD copy of the film looked smashing. Glasgow audiences are known for sometimes being tough (one Music Hall comedian committed suicide after a particularly unsuccessful gig), and the last time BOBO showed there, in front of Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY, the audience was more interested in seeing the film they had come to see, which is understandable. (Though I did get a free ride through in an Edinburgh Film Festival limo, along with the gracious Mr. Cumming.) But this crowd, even though they were anxiously awaiting the results of the Short Film Fest’s awards, were very vocally responsive, in a nice way.

Thanks to Matt Lloyd and Morvern Cunningham for putting it on, and thanks to Brian Robinson and Simon Vickery for company. Thanks to everyone at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for our screening, and to Emma Davie for organizing the showing at ECA.