Author Archives: Matt Simmonds

Desert Island Flicks – Episode 3: Mike from Midland Movies

midlands movies

Based on the popular Radio Two show, this takes into account film lovers and what they’d need if they ever ended up on an island with only a Beach Ball for company, an ice skate for a tool and an un-opened package they need to deliver.

What eight films would you simply have to play on your waterproof, solar powered blu-ray device?

This week Mike from Midlands Movies shares his Desert Island Flicks.

FILM 1

The film you’ve seen more than any other

back to the future

Great question! At a guess it’s probably Ghostbusters or Weird Science as a friend and I watched them almost daily back in the 80s/90s. I can also add in Back to the Future 2 – which is a film I can quote more than any other – and more recently it’s been The Force Awakens which I saw 5-6 times on the big screen. I have to add that none of these are my favourite films of all time – more probably just fluke the amount they’ve repeated in my life.

FILM 2

The Classic you’ve never seen

I can answer this one very quickly – The Lion King. As I was 14 years old on its release, it wasn’t something I was massively interested in – along with a lot of the 90s Disney films in fact. Over time I’ve sadly never caught up with it.

lion king




FILM 3

The film that will definitely give you a lift

this-is-spinal-tap

I think I go straight for comedy and one of my favourites is This Is Spinal Tap. As a musician who’s done a bit of touring, it’s so spot on – even after all these years – that it makes me laugh and remind me of my own good times with my band mates ‘on the road’. Whilst I think of it, Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous can be added here too.

FILM 4

The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit

I’ve got quite a few of these but will opt for a very controversial opinion. I’m the biggest sci-fi fan of all time yet I’ve never been huge admirer of Blade Runner. I watch it about once every 2-3 years though and with the sequel out this year I definitely need to give it a re-watch – hopefully on the big screen somewhere.

blade runner

FILM 5

The film you wished you’d made

For entirely selfish (and quite un-cinematic) reasons I’m going to choose Ocean’s Eleven (Soderbergh’s remake) and be an actor on set. A great group of respected actors (and Scott Caan, lol) hanging around in Las Vegas whilst playing pranks, talking film, giving OTT performance as well as getting to work with a great director seems a pretty fun experience.

FILM 6

The film that had the biggest effect on you

I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind resonated with me greatly, not just for echoing a relationship I was in at the time but it showed that film can still be magical, innovative and original. The idea of past relationships and things like memories that you always take with you – a bit like a desert island if you will – is intrinsic to all of us and shapes who we are. Plus it’s funny, clever and has two great performances from actors playing against type.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE COEN BROTHERS

FILMS  7 & 8

Wild Cards

As I’ve not picked any of my regular favourites yet I would reserve a place for Terminator 2: Judgment Day and JFK. T2 was one of the first really exceptional films I saw and realised I didn’t just like fun movies but movies with great stories and deeper meanings (well, as deep as a 12 year old can fathom at that time). JFK has so many layers and techniques that Stone has created a really remarkable cinematic movie by taking hundreds of story strands to piece together those days in Dallas and the subsequent trial.

terminator 2

THE ROGUE DISC

The film you wished you’d never seen

I’m going to stick with the theme I’ve been talking about in all my answers and recollect my distant past when I first came to the realisation that not every summer blockbuster was good. Batman and Robin was hired from my local video shop, stopped halfway through and returned the same day. Didn’t even rewind it for them! I became a man that day. LOL.

BatmanRobin

Thanks to Mike from Midlands Movies for taking part. Check them out at Midlandsmovies.com

Fancy sharing your Desert Island Flicks? Leave us a comment below showing your interest and we'll be in touch!

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Desert Island Flicks – Episode 2 Giles Logan

Inspired by the popular Radio Four show, we take into account film lovers and what they’d need if they ever ended up on an island with only a Beach Ball for company, an ice skate for a tool and an un-opened package they need to deliver.

What eight films would you simply have to play on your waterproof, solar powered blu-ray device?

We’ve given you some rules though to help our castaways shape their choices.

Episode 2 is with Giles Logan, Editor of Birmingham Wire and Brum Cinema Addicts.

FILM 1

The film you’ve seen more than any other

Napoleon Dynamite. This is such a perfect film. So hard to get the right balance of humour and storytelling in ‘quirky’ films and as I rule I usually hate them. Not a lot really happens, but it doesn’t happen so well if you see what I mean? There’s not a bad bone in the film, even the school jocks are likeable. I love every second; the stunning scenery, the cool soundtrack, every character is delightfully off kilter and the final scene with Napoleon and Deb playing ball always makes me cry. It does have a strong personal resonance as my son who passed away in 2011 loved it.

Napoleon Dynamite

FILM 2

The Classic you’ve never seen

Satantango. I’m actually desperate to see this and have been for years. I have a pile of films which are my ‘watch next’ movies and it’s been in that mound of discs forever. I love Bela Tarr but want to watch it in one sitting without interruption or distraction, finding a 432 minute window is not very easy.

Satantango




FILM 3

The film that will definitely give you a lift

Laughing Gravy. I always default to Laurel and Hardy when I need a lift. The 21 disc box set is such a treasure chest I’d love to take them all but have narrowed it down to Laughing Gravy. It’s such a perfect L&H film. Two decent and unfortunate men always trying to get by and do the right thing and always thwarted by the cruel vagaries of fate and life. There’s such beautiful innocence about them and no matter what befalls them, they pick themselves up, dust off their hats and get on with it. Particularly poignant as in this film Stan is given a way out of his difficult circumstances to a life of great wealth and privilege but only on the condition he dumps Ollie. A great lesson in friendship and loyalty, when the chips are down you don’t just walk away, that is for the weak willed.

Laughing Gravy
FILM 4

The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit


Last Temptation of Christ.
I’ve tried hard to like this because apparently it’s a classic but I just find it silly and overbearingly dull. Also I just can’t stop thinking about Life of Brian when I watch it which doesn’t help. I find films with ‘wise’ character’s in annoying, all that ‘he is the chosen one’ (see Matrix) cobblers. I know Jesus should possibly be taken more seriously because he’s like well, the messiah and stuff, but I find him irritating.

FILM 5

The film you wished you’d made


Withnail and I.
What a film? Quintessentially English and I love that the rest of the world will be mystified by the whole thing. Hilariously potent dialogue and characters with each line crafted to pure perfection. Must be an actor’s dream to have a script like this.  It’s not just drunken high jinks though, beneath the raucous behaviour is a subtly moving story about growing up. Another film with an ending that will get the old tear ducts pumping.

withnailfilmDM_428x269_to_468x312

FILM 6

The film that had the biggest effect on you

If… I was a teenage anarchist, no really. Lindsay Anderson’s film really connected with me in a big way. Films were more than entertainment, they could energise, agitate, educate and send you to the barricades. Malcolm McDowell’s Mick Travis was an anarchist too and whilst I never had to put up with buggery, fags and elitism in a public school, Travis’ battle with the system and the incredible final sequence resonated with me in a big way. I love the anarchic way the film is shot too, with random black and white sequences appearing throughout giving the whole film an edgy dangerous feel.

FILMS 7 & 8

Wild Cards


Faust
(Jan Svankmajer) When TV was good you’d get films like this all the time on BBC2, nowadays there’s a horrible over saturation of absolute rubbish. I randomly came across this one evening and have loved it ever since, all his film in fact but this was the first one I saw. Utterly chaotic mix of puppetry, stop motion and live action that is jaw droppingly mental throughout. Svankmajer creates beautiful otherworldliness in all his films where nonsense makes sense.

El Topo. The daddy of the exploitation film. Jodorowsky is untouchable when it comes to creating surreal and bizarre worlds that unsettle and disgust in equal measure. There’s a singular ugly beauty to his artful vision. There is no other film maker like him and there is no other film like El Topo.

El topo

THE ROGUE DISC

The film you wished you’d never seen

Bridget Jones. I had the unfortunate experience of having to sit through this shoddy piece of crap with a girlfriend. I also had to pay a new release premium surcharge for the privilege. Horrible from start to finish, a ridiculously stupid storyline, vapid unsympathetic characters that made me wish it would turn into a Friday the 13th film and Jason would disembowel them all, an irritating you should laugh because it’s true thread aimed cynically at women, ‘it’s funny because I have periods too’. Bridget even goes to Glastonbury and she’s so like wacky and stuff, the vomit reflex usually reserved for hangovers haunted me throughout. Worst of all the cinema was packed and everyone was laughing, I really am out of kilter with this world.

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#18 Interview with Zoe Cunningham

zoe cunningham outward film networkZoe Cunningham is an award-winning technology professional and currently Managing Director of Softwire Technology, one of the Sunday Times “Best Places to Work”. In 2013 she was named as one of the 100 most influential people in Tech City, selected by the BBC as the Brightest Woman in Britain and she accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron on his trade delegation to China. Zoe also works as an actor, recently playing the lead role in Marianna Dean’s award-winning short film Symptoms and an award-nominated role in seasonal short The Christmas Movie. Zoe has published three books, her most recent entitled “An Actor’s Life” detailing her journey as an actor.

What or who was it that inspired you into a career as an actor?

I was working as the CEO of a tech company and I read a book called The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, for unblocking creative people. I didn’t think I was a creative person (or blocked) but… With The Artist’s Way, you do exercises and read essays each week and on week 8 they asked “what do you really want to be doing?” and BAM I realised that I wanted to be a film actor.

Are there any actors that influenced your approach or style?

I find that acting is quite an internal process so I try not to watch other actors and mimic them. The actors I respect most are those who are versatile and draw your attention.

What’s the best bit of acting advice you’ve been given?

Oh my goodness, there is just so much. I think the best is the one that I am always trying to strive for, which is to “not act” but instead to let the work “act you”. It’s an extremely risky, terrifying and hence difficult way to go about it but you get results like nothing else.

Zoe Cunningham Look of Love

Zoe Cunningham in Look of Love.

What do you look for in a director?

I started acting in theatre and worked with two incredible directors, Peta Lily and Jeremy Stockwell. They both pushed me a long way out of my comfort zone, while only challenging me with what I could cope with. It’s really easy to either “break” a new actor or to let them be lazy about stretching themselves so I appreciate what a difficult job it was for them to get this balance right for me. In film I have a fantastic working relationship with the award-winning female director Marianna Dean. She has this unbelievable vision for the films that she directs, which means that as an actor you look great because you fit into a well-orchestrated whole. She also has a lightness of touch in directing actors. She will get the performance that she needs by working with you, not by fighting you. Every actor I know loves to work in this way.




What do you look for in a script?

Selecting scripts is a tricky business. I’ve read a lot of scripts now and things that immediately put me off are poor spelling or grammar, unrealistic dialogue or tasteless use of difficult subjects (you’d be surprised…!). Having said that it is also very personal, so anything that hits my personal passions (sci-fi, fantasy and strong female leads) can get away with a lot more J

zoe cunningham outward film network

You have experience in both acting and producing, how do you find balance within these roles during production?

Producing fits well with acting as a role. I know some people who act and direct in the same film, which seems impossible to me as I can’t imagine being both in front of and behind the camera at the same time. Production is mostly done in advance of the film starting, so prep is quite stressful but once I am on set I can hand over to a line producer and just focus on acting.

An Actors Life For Me zoe cunningham outward film networkYour third book ‘An Actors Life for Me’ is available from April. What motivated you to write the book and how did you find the experience?

My third book was inspired by my acting coach Jeremy Stockwell. He couldn’t believe that I was starting to learn to act, aged 35, without giving up my job and going to drama school. Drama school followed by a sole career as an actor is increasingly an unfeasible choice for many people, and Jeremy saw the potential in working my way, alongside a day job. He encouraged me to write down what I was doing in order to help a wider audience.

You’ve found a healthy relationship working within both technological and creative environments. What’s been the key to successfully maintaining this balance between roles?

Technology is a fantastic environment to combine with a creative one. Jobs in technology tend to be modern (the company I work for didn’t exist 20 years ago!), well-paid and flexible. Creative work is poorly paid and you are often called on to do something with very short notice. At Softwire we have many creative people as well as me, including semi-professional musicians, authors, games designers and graphic novel writers. Balance really is the key word here – you need to make enough money that you are not drained by the lack of it (so many artists quit their art because the living conditions are just too draining year after year) but dedicate enough time to art that you are fulfilled as a person and not let all your energy get sucked into your day job.

Is there anything you’d change in the film industry?

Oh goodness yes! But I’ve just started re-reading The 7 Habits of High Effective People by Steven Covey and one key principle is to work within your Circle of Influence rather than your Circle of Concern. In a nutshell that means you will achieve more by focusing on what you can change rather than fretting about what you can’t. I don’t have enough clout to impact the film industry in general, but I can make fantastic feature films featuring kick-ass women, so I’m going to focus on that instead.




Would advice would you give to any young actors starting out?

Have another way to earn a living, and make it a career, not just a side job. I get so many more things from my job than just money – connections, self-esteem and knowledge and skills. If I’d started as an actor in my 20s and waited tables to make ends meet I wouldn’t have had the chance to develop any of these skills. Don’t rely on acting for your income and make the time you spend in a second career count for you.

Website: www.zoefcunningham.com

http://bit.do/anactorslife

Twitter: @zoefcunningham

Facebook: facebook.com/zoecunninghampublic

IMDB: www.imdb.com/name/nm6147111/

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