Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spotlight on screenwriter, Christopher Lovick

Screenwriting can be a hard gig, but Hollywood up-and-comer, Christopher Lovick has done the hard yards and now, his hard work is paying off.

With his infectious passion for screenwriting and all things cinema, he has recently had his screenplay, Monty Clift optioned by HBO and is working on several other screenplays that are gaining a great deal of interest.

We were extremely lucky to have the opportunity to talk to Christopher Lovick about his upcoming projects and the importance of and his love for film and writing.

When did you first develop your love for film?

I always loved movies as a kid, but it wasn’t until the summer after the 10th grade that I really became obsessed.  There was a store a block away from my house. BJs it was called.  It was one of those convenience stores that also rented videos.  This one summer I was in-between” social groups, essentially a loner.  BJs had a decent selection of films.  I’d rent anything Siskel&Ebert gave two thumbs up.  Stallone in Oscar and Mike Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days were highlights from this melancholic yet informative summer.  I realized the power of film.  A cure for loneliness.  I remember walking home from the video store and seeing the cool kids driving by in a jeep.  Top down.  There I was clutching a Snickers bar and hot new Stallone joint. 

So would you say that film is a medium which gives you an escape, but also adds to your reality and sense of self?

That’s a perfect way to phrase it.  I actually don’t think you can be more concise than that.  When films work, that’s what they do.  They transport you to a far-off land yet illuminate your own existence in the process.  It’s still the most powerful medium. 

Would you recommend teenagers who are trying to find their place in the world to immerse themselves in film the way you did?

Absolutely.  Watch as much good film as you can.  Find those directors and writers that speak to you.  I read a study recently, that we retain more when we trust and feel connected to the source of the information.  The filmmakers we love—we soak them up.  We remember their work because we trust them and so appreciate their specific vision of the world.

You have done a fair bit of work on screen as an actor.  Did a love of acting or writing come first?

I’ve always loved acting. Writing came later. When I was sixteen my acting teacher asked me what I was reading and I didn’t have an answer.  She demanded I read Catcher in the Rye.”  I was so fired up after finishing that book that I sat down to adapt it into a film.  Imagine, this sixteen-year-old kid thinking he can adapt the great J.D. Salinger.  The hubris of that mini-me.  But the fire had been lit. 

Do you still do a great deal of reading?

I do.  I’m reading The Master Algorithm” by Pedro Domingos.  It’s a great book if you’re into machine learning, and not too difficult.  Before that I read Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari.  Another incredible one.  I also read a lot of longform journalism.  I’ll send articles I find online to my kindle.  I read them later in batches offline.

Are books something you still draw inspiration from in your own writing?

Definitely.  I realize I haven’t mentioned any fiction writers.  I’ve read a lot of fiction.  I like the action writing in my scripts to be concise.  Reading the masters of fiction helps with this.  Lorrie Moore.  Richard Ford.  Joyce Carol Oates.  The Sympathizer,” by Viet Than Nguyen. These writers give me ideas as I read them.

Where did you learn the most of what you know about screenwriting and filmmaking?

Growth is three-dimensional.  We develop on multiple, intersecting planes.  I’ve learned from the act of doing (writing, photography, acting), the act of studying (school, reading), and the act of selling the product.  The last one is the hardest because there’s such a stigma to it.  Artists like to feel that if they build it, they will come.”  But we must learn to present our work and inspire others to get on-board. 

Have you found that the activity of screenwriting is a never-ending process?

That’s been my experience.  You think you’re done and put it down, then read it in a few weeks and there’s more to do.  A screenplay especially.  At the end of the day, it’s simply a blueprint to build on.  A screenwriter sets the stage for the artists to follow.  It can’t be about result. 

Your screenplay of the life of classic film star, Montgomery Clift, was recently optioned by HBO.  I imagine there was a lot of research required.  Can you tell us a bit about that process?

Lots of reading.  Not just biographies about him.  But books from the fifties.  Getting a feel for the language and the way people spoke.  Monty Clift is tricky person to capture.  He was a privileged child actor who did Broadway throughout his teens.  Then, in his adulthood, he became a huge movie star.  But he had secrets, and a piercing self-hatred.   I had to take chances.

What are you working on now?

I’m excited about my new script, Sidecar.  It’s about a man who takes on the life and identity of his recently-deceased twin brother.  It’s a personal story, as my father lost his twin as well.  But I’m also drawn to the metaphor of twinship.  As even us non-twins, are in a sense two people, constantly trying to embody our better half.  Another project I’m excited about is The Paris Quintet.  It’s about five men who live as one.  They wear suits and live together in a one-room apartment in Montmartre.  One is the cook, one is the tailor, one is the counterfeiter, etc.  They’re all in love with the same barista, who’s both charmed and put-off by the prospect of five suitors.  The fractured quality of self-hood, and the difficulty of bringing all your different sides together, is a theme I often find myself working with.

What advice would you give young writers starting out?

If you love it, hang in there.  Keep writing and giving it to people to read.  Once you get to a place, in terms of craftsmanship, where you feel confident, start making films and putting your writing online.  This is how you grow.  As a writer, it’s easy to keep things to yourself.  But you have to finish the circle.  You have to put it out there.  Not every one will like it.  Maybe no one will.  But if you keep writing through the humiliation, sharing your work in spite of it all, then something magical can happen.  You learn humor.  You learn when to pull back.  You find a voice and a process that works for you.  Then, who knows, maybe even some money starts trickling in. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Clarity (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director/Writer: Peyv Raz
Cast: Dina Meyer, Nadine Velazquez, Tony Denison, Maurice Compte, Dana Melanie, Lourdes Narro, Geovanni Gopradi

Clarity will be available on DVD and VOD on August 22 2017. 

Peyv Raz's Clarity is an extremely impressive feature film directorial debut which is intense, thought provoking, meaningful and incredibly important in so many ways with a truly explosive finale. 

With it's tale of two world's colliding to save one girl's life, Clarity deals with many issues and themes on social, political and emotional levels. What begins as a film that looks like it could be light and fluffy with a feel good ending, deceives everyone with it's dramatic tension and ability to make you question the things you believed you always had an answer for.

Clarity is extremely well crafted from the very beginning with it's visual comparisons of a privileged life in Las Vegas as opposed to the simple, but harsh and hazardous conditions of rural Mexico. This comparison is one that is vitally important to the story, as the film is undeniably a tug-of-war of love and power between 20 year old Maggie's (as portrayed by Dana Melanie) adoptive American mother, Sharon (Dina Meyer) and her Mexican birth mother whom she was stolen away from, Carmen (Nadine Velazquez). In other words, it is the age old battle of higher and lower socio-economic classes taking place, but in the name of love for a girl both women love and care for with all their hearts. The terrifying social issue of human trafficking is here seen in the most personal of ways and shows the awful effect it has on the parents left behind.

This struggle is one that is evidently one-sided at the beginning of the film, as Sharon holds the upper hand by tracking down Maggie's birth mother and reuniting the two. It almost seems deceitful, as we know her intentions are not quite as simple as they seem, but makes you question what you would do in her place. It is a mother's love that makes her behave the way she does, and the intensity of a mothers love can often neglect rhyme and reason.

This power tends to shift throughout the film, and this is when Clarity takes an intriguing turn. The second half of the film is superior to the first half thanks to it's unexpected twist, unpredictability and outstanding performance by Nadine Velazquez. Velazquez commands every scene she is in and her strength of character is magnificent, especially in the way she changes so greatly in a way that still remains believable and truthful.

However, it is the finale of Clarity that lingers long in your mind. It is completely surprising, but also shrouded in the most gratifying sense of mystery that brings out the cleverness of Raz's screenplay.

Clarity has the ability to make you challenge your beliefs and see a horrendous, layered situation from two equally important sides. A film which is as important as it is captivating and entertaining.


Clarity - Trailer from Peyv Raz on Vimeo.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Trip to Spain (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 115 minutes
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Marta Barrio

The Trip to Spain will be released in Australia on August 3 (Madman Films) and the United States on August 11. 

As the third film in Michael Winterbottom's television-turned-film series, The Trip to Spain delivers exactly what it promises- more glorious food, stunning locations and hilarious celebrity impersonations.

The great thing about walking into The Trip to Spain is that you know exactly what you are expecting, as long as you have seen 2010's The Trip and 2014's The Trip to Italy. Britain's favourite comedy duo, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon once again set off on another culinary tour, which this time takes them to Spain. Their latest venture is an absolute delight in the same nature as it's predecessors, with the exception of it's extremely odd and disappointing finale.

The Coogan and Brydon films are all edited from their original form of a six episode series made for British television. The films have never really been about the plot and while this may be a monstrosity in most feature films, it is an accepted and celebrated part of Winterbottom's films. There are themes and sub-plots moulded into the film which are welcomed and push the film along, but they are not the focal point of the film.

That being said, it does not excuse the extremely bizarre ending to this film. The unexplained last scene is so left-field and far removed from the tone of the rest of the film that it gives a sour last impression. This is such a shame as for the other 110 minutes, The Trip to Spain is as much fun as Coogan and Brydon have over their enviable lunches.

The partnership of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is, once again, comedic brilliance. The chemistry between the two is so natural and their conversational humour (which is largely improvised) is witty, smart, hilarious and completely unforced. As both The Trip and The Trip to Italy became infamous for the celebrity impressions Coogan and Brydon so frequently and accurately do, The Trip to Spain is stacked with these impressions. While many celebrities make appearances in the men's conversations that have previously been there (including Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Roger Moore), there are some new additions that are just as funny such as  Mick Jagger and Ian McKellen among others.

The culinary delights and stunning Spanish landscapes are also highlights of the film. The six restaurants the two men visit all have incredible cuisine which photograph so well that they easily induce hunger in the viewer. The beautiful urban and rural Spanish towns which they visit are also shot beautifully and capture the charm and intrigue of the country.

The Trip to Spain is incredible fun and a delight to the senses. The hilarious conversations are memorable and do not lose their amusement long after the film has been seen, but in the same way the confusion and distaste for the finale also lingers.