When's the 201 AS (UK) exam? Exams start on the 16th - the G322 exam: Thursday 19th May, 9am. Yr12 Study Leave begins after ? May (Yr13 from the ?)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Film student on impact of meeting Meadows

Remember the journals kept in the Lib?! They're packed with useful material for both halves of your Media exam - they are written specifically for Media and Film Studies students!!!

A man once visited my class at college. He was not Jean-Luc Godard or Martin Scorsese. He walked and talked and looked like a plumber from Nottingham, or any other ‘real life’ person that you could expect to meet. But he’d brought some short films in to show us; films he’d made – which made him a filmmaker. And they were good, too. They didn’t have any graphic matches, or symbolic meaning, or Odessa Steps, but they were affectionate, funny, moving and simple; makeable, even. The filmmaker’s name was Shane Meadows.
This is taken from an article ("Somers(town))" written by a final year degree student on the influence an encounter with Shane Meadows has had on him (MediaMagazine28, Dec 2008)
part of your exam asks you to reflect on your own consumption of film - and the whole issue of how British our cinema is, and to what extent it represents YOU, also comes into play here. The article raises some useful points which should help you to prepare some revision notes on this: your film consumption and how you feel about the representations of Britain/Yorkshire etc in British cinema.
[Meadows developed] familiar and welcome signatures: the presence of the diverse and excellent actor, Paddy Considine, the calm and unpretentious shot simplicity, the appreciative dedication to actors, characters and therefore stories, and the Big Arty Production company title that appears in the naïve Final Cut fonts to make me smile before each of his films begin. 
...here was a man – and not just any man, but a Bloke – who had made a film that was entirely natural and comfortable in its own low budget, digital, do-able and British body. Something that had seemed so far removed from my slick inspirations, now so easily rivalled them in impact, making me question what it was I really loved about the films I said I loved, and why I would want to make such films.
Meadows had expressed, with the casual openness of a man who isn’t sitting in front of twenty Film students, how his jaunt into the British mainstream with his third feature, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, had left him disillusioned, pissed-off and eager to return to the guerilla-shoot days of his first feature, Twenty Four Seven.
...
Then, last year, came This Is England (see MM 21). No hiding the emotion this time, on either the first or second trip to the cinema. This Is England, after Meadows’ matured but vengeful return to creative success, was a cut that had been getting deeper since the start of his career and, in coming closer to the bone than ever before, resulted in his most accomplished, personal and, ironically, commercially successful film to date. It seemed to solidify everything good about Meadows’ films; the affection and awareness he has for real life as he knows it or knew it, and his uncanny dedication and ability to portray it, whether through actors or setting, in such an ‘as it is’/’as it was’ way.

...
So I thought about my list of moments and reasons for loving cinema, and the bag of memorized cool that would one day make me Quentin Tarantino, and I realized that, while cool is cool, telling an honest story about something you understand seems to make for the most affecting and timeless of all films. The moments that demonstrate the appeal of these films are harder to define. Not the thrill of a gun-fight or a famous line but a feeling of memory and empathy, triggered by something between a mother and her young boy as she tries to convince him to buy smart shoes instead of Doc Martens. Hard to define and harder to capture, but worth it if you can do it. And perhaps that’s why these films and these directors seem to stand out. Meadows made Dead Man’s Shoes because Clarke made Scum because Scorsese made Mean Streets because Truffaut made The 400 Blows. Each probably tried to be the other, but if you take your cues from a personal, honest and emotional filmmaker, your films are bound to end up, if not like theirs, at least personal, honest and emotional. And anybody can relate to that. 
...Although still described as the young hope of British cinema, at six features in, Meadows could be said to be reaching veteran status.
... Perhaps, due to its seventy-minute running time or its close proximity to recent successes, Somers Town has received a slightly more mixed response than Meadows’ other recent films, but I think it’s refreshing for an organic filmmaker like Meadows to allow projects to come to fruition how, where and when they feel right. A skinhead he may look like, but a bit of a hippy is what I think he really is. Better that than a yuppy, on a crane shouting down a megaphone at the latest car-chase-gun-fight-swear-smoke-sex-camera-angle…


The full article can be found below:



Somers(town)

Student Owen Davey, now in his final year of a Digital Screen Arts degree, looks back to his first encounter with his personal hero, Shane Meadows, and pays homage to the man and his movies.

The dream ...

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a filmmaker.

Cue the triumphant opening horns of Tony Bennett’s Rags to Riches and a swooping close-up onto my face in the sickening red taillight glow as I shut the bloody Billy Batts in my murder-scene trunk ...

Okay, so it’s not my face, it’s Ray Liotta’s. And it’s not filmmaker, it’s gangster. And we all know it’s boot and not trunk. But it is true that I’ve grown up wanting to be a filmmaker. And it is true that just saying so triggers a narcissist’s recollection of one of the many moments in cinema that have shaped such a desire. The moment – the climax of Goodfellas’ opening scene – is a common choice amongst aspiring youngsters. We love the bravado of cinema. We love violence, sunglasses and steaming manhole covers. We love Drill Sergeants, Terminators and women smoking cigarettes. We love editing, colouring and camera angles; twist contests, taxi drivers and Russian roulette. High heels, high noon and what we think is High Concept.

These things inspire us, certainly, and we think we want to be them, want to be in them, want to make them. But that is why we are not really filmmakers – and probably never will be. We are fantasists and geeks, at best.

The personal back story

A man once visited my class at college. He was not Jean-Luc Godard or Martin Scorsese. He walked and talked and looked like a plumber from Nottingham, or any other ‘real life’ person that you could expect to meet. But he’d brought some short films in to show us; films he’d made – which made him a filmmaker. And they were good, too. They didn’t have any graphic matches, or symbolic meaning, or Odessa Steps, but they were affectionate, funny, moving and simple; makeable, even. The filmmaker’s name was Shane Meadows.

In truth, I had seen one of his feature films before, late night and barely advertised on the telly, and recognized the filmmaker (minus a comedy wig) as the chip-shop owner in that film. Other details also distinguished this likeable, relatable-to filmmaker from the rest of us, and would later, upon repeated viewing of his previous and future films, become familiar and welcome signatures: the presence of the diverse and excellent actor, Paddy Considine, the calm and unpretentious shot simplicity, the appreciative dedication to actors, characters and therefore stories, and the Big Arty Production company title that appears in the naïve Final Cut fonts to make me smile before each of his films begin.

The film that he was in town to screen was his fourth feature, Dead Man’s Shoes. Despite having been moved and impressed by the short films that he had shown us, and the late night screening of A Room For Romeo Brass on the telly, I regrettably submitted to my appetite and made the long slog home for my tea after the lesson’s end, rather than attend the screening in town. I say regrettably because a couple of months later, whilst working in a video shop like any real clichéd film student should, I swiped Dead Man’s Shoes from the catalogue and took it home to watch after my shift. I wished, as the end-credits rolled, that I had seen it in the cinema.

Thankfully, I was alone in the dark in our family sitting-room as those credits rolled, allowing me the guilt-free privacy to absorb the type of emotional impact I had only ever experienced from the likes of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Dancer in the Dark or Mean Streets.

Meadows: the man and the movies

Mean Streets, as it happens, is my favourite film, and one which the director Shane Meadows cited as a personal inspiration that afternoon in my Film Studies classroom two months previously. Perhaps if our ideas of what constituted the best film of all time were the same, then there was hope for me yet. Because here was a man – and not just any man, but a Bloke – who had made a film that was entirely natural and comfortable in its own low budget, digital, do-able and British body. Something that had seemed so far removed from my slick inspirations, now so easily rivalled them in impact, making me question what it was I really loved about the films I said I loved, and why I would want to make such films.

Meadows had expressed, with the casual openness of a man who isn’t sitting in front of twenty Film students, how his jaunt into the British mainstream with his third feature, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, had left him disillusioned, pissed-off and eager to return to the guerilla-shoot days of his first feature, Twenty Four Seven. He told funny stories of his childhood, of his ill-conceived and short-lived career in petty crime as a young boy, and of his unexpected and ongoing career in filmmaking. In the short time he spent chatting with us that afternoon he conveyed the anger, the humour, the experience, the appreciation and, most of all, the ability to relate to people and tell stories that seemed, as those credits kept rolling in that dark family sitting-room, to crystallize in my head into reasons why someone would truly want, and be able, to make a film like Dead Man’s Shoes: a film by someone not too different from myself, about people and places and stories not too different from my own.

This is England: empathy and emotion

Then, last year, came This Is England (see MM 21). No hiding the emotion this time, on either the first or second trip to the cinema. This Is England, after Meadows’ matured but vengeful return to creative success, was a cut that had been getting deeper since the start of his career and, in coming closer to the bone than ever before, resulted in his most accomplished, personal and, ironically, commercially successful film to date. It seemed to solidify everything good about Meadows’ films; the affection and awareness he has for real life as he knows it or knew it, and his uncanny dedication and ability to portray it, whether through actors or setting, in such an ‘as it is’/’as it was’ way. And, as a film fan who once would never have thought of including the name Meadows in my top-ten list of directors, I was happy to see many others finally appreciating this bloke named Shane as they walked out of the cinema.

So I thought about my list of moments and reasons for loving cinema, and the bag of memorized cool that would one day make me Quentin Tarantino, and I realized that, while cool is cool, telling an honest story about something you understand seems to make for the most affecting and timeless of all films. The moments that demonstrate the appeal of these films are harder to define. Not the thrill of a gun-fight or a famous line but a feeling of memory and empathy, triggered by something between a mother and her young boy as she tries to convince him to buy smart shoes instead of Doc Martens. Hard to define and harder to capture, but worth it if you can do it. And perhaps that’s why these films and these directors seem to stand out. Meadows made Dead Man’s Shoes because Clarke made Scum because Scorsese made Mean Streets because Truffaut made The 400 Blows. Each probably tried to be the other, but if you take your cues from a personal, honest and emotional filmmaker, your films are bound to end up, if not like theirs, at least personal, honest and emotional. And anybody can relate to that.

Or, at least, that’s my current hypothesis for directorial success. The trouble is that Meadows makes it look so easy. His most recent feature, Somers Town, which scooped the big prize at Edinburgh and numerous accolades for the young leads, Piotr Jagiello and Thomas ‘This is England’ Turgoose, is a short, sweet and mature film. Although still described as the young hope of British cinema, at six features in, Meadows could be said to be reaching veteran status. The experience shows in Somers Town which is keenly shot in black and white in that familiarly understated style, and refrains from the dramatic crutch of violence that has always been present in previous films, allowing the director’s instinctive and always enjoyable tradition for comedic flourishes – and the actors – to step quietly and confidently into the limelight.

The story, which sees Turgoose, a runaway from Nottingham, and Jagiello, a bored Polish migrant-worker’s son, form an unlikely friendship amongst the quiet weekday concrete of an inner-city London council estate, flits casually between Polish and English without alienation. I think it constructs a rare story of optimism and acceptance within our increasingly child-and migrant-phobic society.

Perhaps, due to its seventy-minute running time or its close proximity to recent successes, Somers Town has received a slightly more mixed response than Meadows’ other recent films, but I think it’s refreshing for an organic filmmaker like Meadows to allow projects to come to fruition how, where and when they feel right. A skinhead he may look like, but a bit of a hippy is what I think he really is. Better that than a yuppy, on a crane shouting down a megaphone at the latest car-chase-gun-fight-swear-smoke-sex-camera-angle…

So, if you find time to peel your eyes off YouTube (or Smegbox or Peehole or whatever it is us kids are watching these days), go and support your local (bankrupt) arthouse cinema and watch a film by a director who should, according to the law of averages, be churning out mediocre studio projects or floundering in his post-premature success by now. And, after that, rent The 400 Blows, then Mean Streets, then Scum, then Dead Man’s Shoes, and just have a long hard think about that little list of yours.

Owen Davey is completing a degree course in Digital Screen Arts at the University for the Creative Arts, Surrey.

This article first appeared in MediaMagazine 26, December 2008.

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