Build your own film night:

Last week Flatpack: Assemble hosted an evening masterclass in Birmingham’s Impact Hub to inspire a new generation of cinephiles to create their own film nights.

After Cocks & Docs I am more interested than ever to continue organising film nights in the West Midlands. I want to do this because I love the idea of bringing people together in a cinematic space to share exciting content and to build a community of creative, like minded people in my home town. Film nights also give people an excuse to actually leave the comfort of their own house and socialise with new people.

byofnm3 They explained that at their core, film nights consist of three elements. Films, Places and People. You can control the films, you can control the place but you cannot control the people. You need to make the event special in some way to encourage audience members to attend. This can be done by showing content that can’t be seen anywhere else, holding the screening in an unusual venue or having an interesting mix of people/entertainment (such as dancers/musicians etc.)

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Here are some of Flatpack co-founder Ian Francis’s top tips on hosting your own film night:

  • Keep distractions to a minimum eg. natural light/noises from the venue
  • Don’t over programme, make sure you schedule intervals.
  • Make sure the audience are relatively comfortable
  • Think about the trajectory of the evening and the mood and tone of the films you screen.
  • Clear all the rights and licenses for both the venue and the films
  • Seamless presentation is important. In a later post I will break down some of the advice the Flatpack team had to offer about screening conditions.

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I’m so pleased to see Flatpack Festival organising more events across the year and reach out to people in the West Midlands, encouraging them to engage with film. If you don’t follow them already, you should…@flatpack

Flatpack Film Festival 2014 Trailer from 7inch cinema on Vimeo.

Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine is celebrated for his surreal films based in enhanced realities. He is arguably one of the boldest filmmakers currently working and ‘Spring Breakers’ ,despite being his most mainstream work to date, certainly doesn’t disappoint. Spring Breakers is noticeably different to his past lo-fi provocations (eg Gummo, Trash Humpers). Fans of Korine’s work understand he is a creator of art films and his productions are not made to gratify all audiences. In some ways the trailer for the film is pretty misleading. It looks like it would follow a similar structure to Project X, but the nature of Korine’s non-linear approach to the narrative makes the viewer’s experience more of a vicarious candy coloured dream. Intoxicating visuals were to be expected considering Benoît Debie was the film’s cinematographer. His unique take on cinematography has transformed the look of many other notable works including  Gaspar Noe’s ‘Enter the Void’ and ‘The Runaways’.

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The film follows a quartet of college girls as they embark on drug fuelled hedonistic pursuits. The girls dream of leaving their boring hometown to ‘find themselves’ on an unforgettable holiday in Florida. Having saved up all year for their vacation they are disappointed when they fall short of the amount of money they need. Out of sheer desperation, they devise a plan to make up the total. Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson’s characters don pink Pussy Riot-esque balaclavas and arm themselves with water pistols and go on to rob a chicken shack. The girls ‘pretend it’s a video game’ and much like if it were a game of Grand Theft Auto, they get away scot free.

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From this point onwards it’s an intoxicating neon blend of debauchery, bikini-clad girls and hustling. Korine stated that he did not want to work introspectively, which could explain why at times the characters seemed shallow and underdeveloped. They were more representations of ideas the director wanted to illustrate. The quartet ends up in jail after one of their drug fuelled parties. ‘Alien’, a local hustler portrayed by James Franco, posted their bail.

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Faith, Selena Gomez’s role is crucial to the narrative of the film; as a practicing christian she is the first of the group to throw in the towel. After ‘Alien’ bails them out of jail, Faith begins to feel that something bad is going to happen, which is inevitable given the circumstances. Throughout the film you do have to wonder how her character really fits into the group of wild girls despite the fact  they have supposedly been friends since kindergarden. Her phone calls to her grandmother are repeated during the film. She talks about the amazing people she’s met which is juxtaposed with insane party antics and sexually explicit scenes.  For Faith, Spring Break was an opportunity to reinvent herself and rebel from the expectations set upon her as a result of her christian upbringing. When the casting for the movie was released Selena Gomez was by far the biggest surprise. Seeing the Disney channel princess drinking, smoking and getting put in jail will certainly change the public’s perception of the squeaky clean star. Gomez’s character was at the centre of the promotional campaign for the movie so when she left well before the major action of the film took place it was somewhat anti-climactic.

The remaining trio leave behind ‘Spring Break’ as they begin a dangerous flirtation with gangster culture. James Franco’s portrayal of Alien is incredible to watch. If I hadn’t been told it was him, I could have never guessed. This is not only due to his astounding physical transformation (Franco’s hair was cornrowed, he wore a grill throughout and was covered in tattoos) but also as a result of the charismatic yet sociopathic persona he embodied throughout the film. His sidekicks, the ATL twins were contacted by Korine after they jokingly said in an interview they wanted to have their own reality show. Korine wrote a part for them in the script after telling them not to do a reality show. The ATL twins are as bizarre and wild in reality as in the film and although their part in the movie was not a driving force. Their character really shone.

Spring Breakers is unlike anything Harmony Korine has made before but certainly makes for enjoyable viewing, however you decide to interpret it.

Take me to the Blank City

As part of the Flatpack Festival The Birmingham International Film Society screened the 2010 documentary about the short lived but influential underground scene, No Wave. It explores filmmakers living in 70s New York when rent was cheap, drugs where accessible and there was a feeling of ‘anything goes.’. The movement righted the commercial elements of the New Wave genre which was popular at the time. It was an eclectic mix of filmmakers, abrasive musicians and artists. It was heavily influenced by funk, jazz, blues, avant garde and punk rock.

Director Céline Danhier showcases the filmmakers guerrilla tactics and drug-induced creativity, interviews with the prominent figures in the ‘No Wave Cinema’ movement narrate the film and give the audience an insight to what the filmmakers,artists and musicians have gone on to become.

Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Micheal Oblowitz, Nick Zedd, Amos Poe, Fab 5 Freddy, Jim Jarmusch…are just a few of the big names that are part of the documentary. It really inspired me to look into the lives of these ‘DIY’ filmmakers. I think it was because they were part of a group of like minded creatives the content they produced was so amazing. They were able to bounce ideas off each other and weren’t afraid of taking it ‘too far’.

Nick Zedd’s work in particular stood out for me, his experimental films pushed the boundaries of what was accepted. His films have been shown around the world and have been banned, admired and inspired many.  His work includes ‘They Eat Scum’  and ‘Thrust In Me’. The latter was particularly shocking because Zedd played both of the necrophilic male lead and the suicidal female lead, the film depicts his two characters having sexual intercourse. It was incredibly controversial at the time and he was nearly arrested.

Nick Zedd worked with cult musician Lydia Lunch, who he dated for a while. During their break up he followed her to London and made a film about her ‘The Wild World of Lydia lunch.’ You can sense the musical influence in his and the rest of the movement’s films. The chaotic, underground music was often used as the soundtrack to their films.

Amos Poe’s work was also really inspiring. He co-directed one of the earliest punk films called ‘The Blank Generation.’ He is still part of the film making industry having recently written the screenplay for Amy Redford’s film ‘The Guitar.’ He manages to evoke strong emotions in his audiences and at the same time challenge them. I can’t wait to watch the whole of his feature film, ‘The foreigner’ and ‘Unmade beds.’

To be continued…