Week goes: phones, birds, speaks, tunes, scribbles, listens

This is the first image from The Dead Phone, a stageplay I’m writing for the Inbetween Time Festival 2010.


It’s been a scattershot week. Good and productive for it. But to give you a picture, woven in and around the day job, I’ve had -

Thursday: Writing the first drafts of The Dead Phone. It’s a series of conversations, conducted on a stage, empty and blank but for 1) a table 2) a succession of performers and 3) a telephone connected to the afterlife. Currently drafting an extremely upsetting and foul-mouthed exchange, full of violence and regret.

Friday: reviewing Forced Entertainment‘s Spectacular for Venue Magazine. An amazing show – succinct, unexpectedly affecting, totally focussed. Remarkable in that it even survived constant interruptions from a self-obsessed tosspot of the highest order (the link is for Ed Rapley’s description of the event — I have to stress, Mr Rapley is by no means the tosspot in question.)


VHS: diary one, the script

With the first European screening of all my dreams on VHS due in Romania this April, I thought I’d jot down a quick diary of its production for anyone remotely interested.

Erica watches TV

Come with me now to the heady, giddy days of November 2006, when you could still buy a pint for less than a limb, and the speedy collapse of civilisation appeared slightly less likely.

It’s sometime during those halcyon days that I first chat to George Chan. Along with Deep Sehgal and David Olusoga, George is a founder of BBC Film Lab, an organisation run by BBC staff in their spare time and dedicated to producing short dramas. To date Film Lab has been making “short shorts”, 90 seconds long for the most part, within the parameters set by the annual Depict competition. George mentions that they’re looking for slightly longer, script-led works. He gives me the brief: around 10 minutes in length; minimal cast and locations; no car chases, werewolves, or daisy-chain-explosions of the minor moons of Jupiter that subsequently knock the Earth off its orbit thereby sending our fragile planet spiraling, screaming, into the sun. That sort of deal. Have I got any ideas that might do the trick?


Man posts to internet: tumbleweed


The image above shows the artist Claire Blundell Jones introducing tumbleweed to the Finnish landscape. Picture by me, taken on a cold misty morning in the town of Kuopio.

Posted for why? Fuh’pause I have uploaded some WRITING to the INTERNET, and you can find it hey-orr, or by clicking on the “Sample: writing” link elsewhere on this page.

I hope to chuck more PDFs online as time goes by, but for the moment there’s a screenplay, some critical writing, an exercise in pop music-based masochism and an account of attending the wonderful festival that the pictured Ms Blundell Jones was part of in 2007.



Encounters: lists

Auf der strecke

Above: an image from Auf Der Strecke (On The Line), director Reto Caffi, and undoubtedly the best film I saw at this year’s Encounters short film festival. A testament to the magic that can happen when excellent performances are shot impeccably in the service of an engaging story, and nothing else gets in the bloody way. Looking at the programme afterwards I was astonished to read that its runtime clocked in at 30 minutes. It felt like half as long.

Anyway, the significant other and I spent two full days at Encounters, and saw 81 films (one of them twice, as a result of a free screening leaping upon us unexpectedly after lunch.) Alongside Auf Der Strecke, I’d say the standout films were Pop Art by Amanda Boyle and Love You More by Sam Taylor Wood. There was, of course, some appalling shite as well, but that goes with the territory.

So what, if anything, have 81 short films taught me? As a film maker you can’t help but watch some things with an eye on your own work… although the best stuff had me wide-eyed and slack-jawed, ignoring my preoccupations completely (I remember Richard Dreyfuss describing how, when he watched Jaws for the first time, he completely forgot he was one of the actors on screen.) Here’s a quick list of some STUFF I noticed, and the odd resolution arising.


Piano: story


I spent most of last Thursday in a state of giddy bliss, playing a gorgeous Broadwood grand piano at the Angel Tech studios. The ‘studio’ is actually a soundproofed room in the basement of Doug’s house, a grotto of techy toys and blinking lights; the grand piano, meanwhile, is one he inherited from a Great Aunt. A condition of the inheritance is that a portrait of his esteemed ancestor should hang, at all times, overlooking the keyboard. And here she is:


Normally I’m a foul-mouthed, slouching and generally uncouth individual in recording situations. But as you can imagine – with Doug’s Materera Magna looming over my shoulder I tend more towards zipping my lip and sitting up straight.

The piano itself has led a life best described as ‘cinematic’. It was originally shipped to Jersey, installed in a home which was commandeered by the occupying German Army during WWII. Upon retreating from the Channel Islands the Nazis destroyed most of what they left behind as a matter of course; and sure enough, they kicked the crap out of Doug’s ancestors’ house, even going so far as to take a chainsaw to the staircase. However – they didn’t so much as scratch the piano.

Which then leads us to a few years ago, and Doug is examining the condition of the instrument before undertaking the complex task of shifting it from his Aunt’s home in Surrey, down the M4 to Bristol. He clambers beneath with a torch to check out the underside of the woodwork; it brings back feelings of nostalgia, because as a child he would use this sheltered space to play in. And what does he find in the torchlight, hiding beneath there for decades?

German soldiers.


VHS: bloody hell


The precariously stacked cassettes pictured above are part of All My Dreams on VHS, a short film I’m writing / directing at the moment. I’m hoping it will clock in at something like 10 minutes long. And I say ‘hoping’ because at the moment we’re editing, and about to record and compose the score (yup, in that order. I’m aiming to get some cut-and-splice results that sound a little bit like The Books.)

So we shot the film in early July, in and around a flat in north Bristol, with two truly excellent, inventive actors and a marvellous crew who gave up a whole weekend to be there. Everyone worked astoundingly hard: normally you’d be lucky to get through three pages of screenplay a day… in our case we battled through six.


Archive: skulls, godzilla, etc

So I’ve been trawling through a bunch of old chemical photographs; you know the type… from the days before everything was Jeepigs squeezed through a USBtube onto a Macflap. Scanning, tagging, bundling online, that’s me — here are a few favourites for your eyes.

(Click on each image to see full size and not bunched up like a concertina or something.)


This is from Matara in southern Sri Lanka, close to midday with the sun at its hottest. Who wouldn’t be drawn to a three-wheeler named “Godzilla”?


Time Out: interview

Questions, questions, questions.

So here’s my emailinterview (einterview?) with Time Out, all about DVD addiction (Deevadeection?)

PDF of the actual item here: Time Out DVD interview

And below, the full unexpurgated version of the original Q&A, unedited due to reasons of space.

How many DVDs have you got? And how do you organise them?
This question is blatantly an aide for potential burglars. I’m not answering it. Plus: I don’t organise them.

What do you tell people your favourite DVD is? What is it really?
The films of Yuri Norstein, animation genius.

Tale of Tales

If I lost it I’d scream like a toddler. Wanky but true.


Astronaut: descent pattern

How to fake an astronomical image with 1) a profile spotlight and 2) my big bald heed:


Little. Furry. Planet.

Yeah, so, Astronaut at Battersea Arts Centre? It all went very well, thanks for asking. The BAC is an immensely pleasant place to perform in, lovely people, great vibe… even with the rather spooky remnants of Punchdrunk‘s production of The Masque Of The Red Death hanging around here and there, prompting the feeling that Vincent Price might be stalking the corridors, just around the corner, about to glide towards you with his HAUNTED EYES.