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Cinema Paradiso: Growing Up in a World of Film...


The original Dumbo animated film caught my imagination as well as films like Dot and the Kangaroo, which had been gifted to us children from an aunt in England. Who can forget the psychedlic elephant dance or the dreaded bunyip from Australian mythology? Since these were the '80s, the days before Pixar dominated the home entertainment of most family homes, Disney still ruled. There were regular TV shows like G.I. Joe, Dino-Riders and Gummi Bears, as well as He-man, Bravestarr and Ghostbusters from Filmation... shows that were influential to me growing up. I remember the fortified town's emergency mode from Bravestarr being the inspiration for many drawings. A friend of mine named Evan and I were both very into our art, allowing our imagination to spill onto the page, whether it be drawing knights (possibly an inspiration from my medieval Lego sets) or heavily fortified buildings with gun turrets. These were the days when you actually had to use ink and paper.

These shows of fantasy and high adventure, some with a science-fiction element, were revered and entertained us as impressionable kids. While the episodic nature, formula and enjoyability kept them popular, the VHS tape with Dumbo and Dot and the Kangaroo got plenty of replay value too. It was a big step up from watching local kids TV shows like Pumpkin Patch and Wielie Walie, which had their place but were no contest for the dream actualisation and storytelling ability of the Filmation series.

growing up in a world of film

I can remember hearing the theme tune to shows like Twin Peaks and Dallas echoing through the passage as my parents switched to more adult-themed TV series at roundabout 8:30 on weeknights. The big thing at that age was trying to watch shows that you weren't allowed to, constantly being intrigued by the VHS covers at the local video store, displaying the titles and images of films that were not for young eyes. The Fright Night VHS cover was particularly nightmarish, enough to give you the chills even just looking at it. I remember the cover for It, where Pennywise has elongated monster fingers peering from up on high in an equally frightening scenario. Powerful images like the one from Platoon where Sergeant Elias is gunned down also left a mark.

I remember watching films at a friend's house where the odd sleepover often resulted in catching an M-NET movie in the 2-16 age restriction category. The most infamous of these viewings was Child's Play, about a possessed doll named Chucky who "just wants to play". Being a toy, there must have been some curiosity but I must say that the scene involving the actual possession did linger, reinforcing that striking Ster-Kinekor and FPB advert where images from a horror movie are flashed across the boys face as he sleeps.

The biggest mistake was probably watching Stephen King's It when the M-NET movie guide was giving it the 2-10 age restriction, which subsequently went up to 2-12, 2-14 and 2-16 with subsequent TV guides. I remember watching It in my parent's bedroom, alone probably because no one else really wanted to watch it. The anticipation must have been incremental since I had been counting the days until I turned 10. Nevermind the dreams of being shunted down a dark passage of doorways until a scythe from one of the empty doorways before pulling me in. Once again, 2-10 still seems quite low for that TV miniseries, which probably haunts some viewers today even if they were older than the required viewing age.

All this is to say that film has had a considerable influence, which started in my childhood and has remained, allowing me to cultivate my fascination and love for the medium into my adulthood. The power of dreams, the ability for filmmakers to take you to other worlds and the knack for capturing your emotional state and engaging with you on an intellectual level, it's one of those rare things that entertain and compels viewers. Isn't it funny how many of these shows and films have been remade for modern audiences... probably by people who were also influenced growing up?

The human mind is complex and film is multifaceted, from integrating various art forms to relaying hundreds of messages about culture, style, politics, gender, sexuality... the list goes on. Most, time capsules for the age, it's very revealing in the way the medium is controlled by those with the power at the time. This gives it a certain level of undercover honesty, which you'll experience when watching old Bond films that have a lot to say about the ideals of masculinity at the time.

We really don't realise the influence that film has over us, empathising for villains or operating on a much more subconscious level. It's no wonder that film has often been the first choice for propaganda, controlling the viewpoint and in so doing trying to realise an agenda. This is probably why horror films don't scare me as much as the ulterior motives of those making the film.

Having always found inspiration in the creative pursuits of English and art, it seemed like a natural progression for me to try and combine my passion for both fields into a pursuit that requires an understanding of both, film criticism. I hope that I can continue to watch films, from the perspective of enjoyment and analysis well into my old age. While they can be dangerous, intoxicating and subversive, they are equally dreamy, inspiring and powerful in bringing about positive change.

 
'The Three Wells' Podcast featuring Vicki Bawcombe


The Three Wells podcast is based on the principles expressed in Matthew Kalil's book, The Three Wells of Screenwriting. Working screenwriters, film professors, first-time screenwriters, adaptation writers, TV writers, commissioned writers, script editors, playwrights, novelists, songwriters, journalists, documentary writers... anyone looking to break into their next idea or overcome writer's block can benefit from this practical screenwriting aid.

With Spling as the host of The Three Wells podcast, Matthew gets to the nitty-gritty of what it takes to be a writer, how to find inspiration and how to apply The Three Wells of Screenwriting methodology through the lens of the films, TV shows and novels of screenwriters and authors.

Vicki Bawcombe is a screenwriter, script editor, story facilitator and arts practitioner, who has facilitated studies at AFDA, City Varisty, UCT and SAE Institute.

Pivoting around the metaphor of a well and finding your deep sources of inspiration, the concept deals with the External Sources well, the Imagination well and the Memory well. Kalil discusses how one digs into each of these wells in terms of what's been gleaned from pop culture, what the mind can fathom and how our experiences can be leveraged in the writing process.

An extension of the book, Kalil uses the podcast as a platform to discuss the writing process with renowned screenwriters and authors to unpack how they've come to rely on each of these wells in their writing journeys. Speaking about each of these wells and finding out how these screenwriters operate, you'll be able to get a better understanding of the core principles at play in The Three Wells of Screenwriting and hopefully be inspired by some of the ideas and concepts for your own projects.

Here's a review of Matthew Kalil's book, which will give you a much greater understanding and a veritable treasure trove of honest advice that has helped him and is worth revisiting.

This The Three Wells podcast was recorded at Fine Music Radio's recording studio at the Artscape in Cape Town, South Africa.

 
Spling Launches New Screenplay Service - reviewmyscript.com


Spling has been told by directors that they wish they had his review when they still had an opportunity to make changes. He's been approached by screenwriters and film-makers to provide feedback from the second draft to the first edit. Having years of experience in reviewing in what's been described as a "deep-dive" format, he's been able to offer insights and distil the essence of a film. This is where he derived the idea for reviewmyscript.com, the desire to assist screenwriters and ultimately directors achieve their vision by starting with the all-important foundation of any film, the script.

Spling has teamed up with The Three Wells of Screenwriting author/screenwriting coach, Matthew Kalil, and experienced actress/producer, Angelique Pretorius. Together they've crafted a unique set of screenwriting services that will help writers get a constructive outsider's perspective, overcome writer's block, breathe life into their screenplay and even have a professional and independent review to punt their polished final product to prospective film-making partners, producers and film studios.

By projecting the screenplay into realisation in his mind, Spling is able to imagine the screenwriter's work as if it were playing on the screen and offer feedback on where and how it could be improved. Praising the good, identifying the issues and detailing this in a comprehensive review will help you improve your script, leverage your work and create a number of compelling reasons as to why your screenplay deserves to make the leap to the silver screen.

Other useful and unique screenwriting services on offer include: The Three Wells Analysis, radio plays, live table reads, script editing and script walks. Visit us at reviewmyscript.com for more information on how we can tailor a solution to take your screenplay to the next level.

 
Short Film Review: Day Zero


Day Zero is a post-apocalyptic thriller from indie film-maker Stephen Nagel, written by Dean Ravell and starring Nicola Duddy, Megan Alexander, Caelan Curry and Brad Roman. Set years after government, scientists and authorities fail to solve a looming water crisis in Cape Town, a group of survivors must make their way to a safe haven pursued by a vicious hunter. In many cases, independent means shoestring budget or no budget at all as in the case of Day Zero. These passionate film-makers took it upon themselves to craft a short film using limited resources about a limited resource, water.

WARNING: Day Zero trailer features strong language.

The film's teaser trailer does a great job of foreshadowing the context of this thriller and probably would've served well as the film's introduction. In fact, it's recommended viewing if you want to make sense of Day Zero, which drops you in the deep end as a ragtag bunch make their way to an oasis. The plot, setting and styling of Day Zero has been directly influenced by Mad Max: Fury Road down to the hunter's mask as this journey unfolds. At first, appearing to be a wasteland slasher, we get snippets of back story as the hunter joins the hunted.

Day Zero is timely, following months after the #DefeatDayZero campaign, greater worldwide awareness with echoes of people saying the next war will be over water. Using many natural locations and ruins in the Cape metropole, they've managed to give the journey scope and setting it against many varied backdrops gives texture. The make up and wardrobe is fitting, adding some layers to the storytelling and transporting the audience to this post-apocalyptic vision of the future with little to no water.

While promising, it's constrained by its budget... probably not giving the film-makers enough time to develop the screenplay and forcing much of the film to be done on the fly according to availability and resources on the day. While it starts like a hot pursuit slasher, it fizzles out as the two parties converge in a rather disappointing anticlimax. Using flashbacks to create tension, there's just not enough exposition to anchor the characters in this world. The amateur ensemble look the part and seem eager to be involved, but perhaps the call should have been for naturalistic performances.

Inconsistency in editing, foley work and performances keep you at a distance. While there are some good ideas at play with some promising shots, the storytelling is a bit haphazard and choppy. You understand the basic outline and motivations, but Day Zero just seems to be a bit too ambitious for its own good struggling to develop one's interest in the characters or scenario. The passion is there, the film-makers are inspired by some edgy cinema but perhaps delving into their memory banks and confining the film to one or two locations would have given them more depth and control over the final product. The good news is that these film-makers are young and hopefully take the experience they've gleaned from this project into their next.

 
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