Sunday 24 January 2016

17. Censorship, what crosses the line is Shades Of Bad

Censorship is a huge issue, in Television it is often called Compliance. The rules are unclear, the guidelines confusing and the standards sometimes convenient.

Some things are obvious, graphic sex is out, graphic violence is out ... or are they obvious, and as the song says, Time, Time Changes Everything.....

So there was a time when 'artists kissing' was out, 'same sex artists kissing' was out, 'nudity' was unacceptable yet now all of those things are accepted. The line gets pushed, many many times rightly, sometimes with agendas. Often we see nude men and women in perfume commercials, just turned away. The rules are flaunted.

First and foremost the audience should be informed so they understand what they are watching, and with a title like Shades Of Bad, they should except bad. Hey, subscribe now. To be honest, we don't think our show SHADES OF BAD is bad, but it sometimes makes us think.

My career has been a constant one of clashing with sensors and compliance heads. I have spent 30 plus years as a director who specialises in action and choreography of the much violence for major broadcasters. The broadcast soaps know how far they can push, they know they want the headlines, and they know how many formal warnings they can accept a year. It is a bit like radio stations banning songs, sometimes it is the best thing for a song to be banned. Relax, Don't Do It.

We have got to episode 36 of Shades Of Bad and we have restricted it to be viewed by over 18 only, mainly because Wilma pulls a knife although she never uses it. The title says Shades Of Bad, the picture has her with a knife, the audience is told clearly. Trouble is afoot, don't watch if offended. Personally I find the predicament is more disturbing than the knife, so over 18 is fine. By the way I play the man leaving.... not that you see me.

Just having a weapon can be a problem. It is my understanding that you still cannot, within the UK have a poster where the gun points out to the crowd/ viewer/ audience ... did you know that. Look at all the cinema posters. You can hand a gun point sideways at a head but not out at the public.

In television the handling of a knife is always a problem, and one cannot hold it to the throat face or eye... unless that has changed.

Sure we can argue some of the most distributed of children's films are both violent and disturbing, none perhaps more so that a baby deer having it's mother killed. But animation and style of violence can change acceptance. Look at Tarantino's wonderful films and see the extreme of violence and of blood and how it becomes surreal and accepted by censors. I contrast that with issues like I had on my movie Devil's Gate which was about abuse in the home, and although it was never show the film was said to be so disturbing in it's performances from the wonderful Laura Fraser and the frightening Tom Bell, that the censors felt they had to give the end away, the huge reveal by stating on the poster, this film refers to and insinuates ...... blah blah. Devil's Gate was one of my many directorial outings where is was not violent but disturbing. Whilst I had less sex and abuse than one might consider was in Eastern Promises my film on sex trafficking again found me talking seriously to the sensors; Freight was deeply disturbing.

That brings me back to Shades OF Bad, it is a compilation of so many un made movie scripts lying on our shelves and does knock acceptable white collar crime and the acceptance of so much seen on the news or done in business. I just put it all in the female character of Doris Shades in a kitchen and it becomes unacceptable. Episode nine where she claims she has a child locked in the cellar is surreal, but if you try and take the show seriously it is horrid. However the direction and performances are such that lead by the title one should expect that nothing is real.

We thought long and hard about the effect of episode 9 on the audience so as well as the title we ran a notice on the front advising viewer caution and that it was not for young children. However, it should not be marked as over 18 for much of our audience is a mix of two groups; young students and a middled age group.... we would have thought middle aged women as it is a series about 3 rather odd women, but the group is fairly even, both women and men. We also hid the show and ran a program advertising that it was a little more sinister than the others.

Let us go back, Doris is a woman scorned and pledges to get her own back on her husband by killing him. That is just war of words. But she means it, it is real. A woman who wants revenge. It is a great premise to start a surreal series.

Doris Shades fails to kill her husband, fails to kill the mother in law and then sets the older women who begat the cheating husband to work in a brothel she runs from home. We avoided the footballer jokes and so much we could have done, but will Doris ever forgive her best friend and neighbour Wilma who was that woman and whom she continually persecutes? By episode 16 the brothel is in full swing and so much is discovered about Doris and the no remorse attitude she has to life like the suburban banks she has as neighbours who go off to the city each day to commit crimes that are never punished. (that is episode 2 of the 21 minute broadcast lengths)

The politics of the show are clear and hopefully amusing, but although Doris effectively sets up a business as a drug dealer, a brothel runner, and a serial killer from home, we never see sex, drug taking or violence. The common place visual of someone snorting a line of coke has no place in Shades Of Bad, we have other agendas.

So Doris Shades, a good lady turned bad, where do we find references. Breaking Bad saw a good teacher turn bad, it was not a show that one would say was for over 18 only, but one that might not at this period in time make day time viewing without a warning although on Netflix you can watch at any time. There is more violence, shooting and weapon work on any of the police series found on television during the day.

So we reach episode 36. Now we have gone over 18. This is because Wilma pulls a knife on Doris and although she doesn't use it, we felt a self restriction was wise. Why? This is because YouTube do not have the same format of censorship; they have an off and on button, 'the over 18 or not'. We can't go, over 14 or 15 but we can help the viewer make a choice. If you are a viewer, and you have watched previous episodes then episode 36 will be understandable. If you are not up to date with the show I suggest you start at the fantastical almost Shakespearian wedding in the kitchen; episode 31 and use the click next buttons to run on.
'Is he a gangster?'
'No just a local councillor'.

....  beyond their over 18 they have viewer guidelines which we do not break. There will be a fight between the two women, but my guide line was keep it funny like Bridget Jones and excellent piece of work by the late Peter Brayham.

Again, sure video games are worse, much product on YouTube is worse, but we all have to have lines. Whilst we are on episode 36 and you may say the first dead body has been a long time coming, and one is coming, the broadcast length edits of the show mean this is still early on in the series.

Doris is now to be head hunted, she is introduced into greater crime and we will take the audience into areas that will cause concern and shock. Whilst there will be no sex and little violence the line will be danced around.

The author - Meet Stuart St Paul as he talks to James Whale.

Sunday 17 January 2016

16. Spin Off Shows - the character of Doris Shades builds as stars join as guests.

As we speed into 2016, Doris Shades now has two spin off series to Shades Of Bad, each have their own playlists on the TV Channel SHADES OF BAD TV, which is now on 5 platforms and with over 11,000 views in just 6 months on YouTube alone; ASK DORIS and DORIS VISITS. Having spent 26 years as a creative head of department on Emmerdale I realise how long it takes to build such a platform and fill it with product.

The veiwing numbers are a study in themselves, and sure if we made an abusive Christmas record we would get a larger viral response, but social media is changing as fast as methods and habits of viewing, so we are building a product base in a style for a third phase of social media use and future watching habits. The plan maybe risky but it is aimed at longevity. Shades Of Bad is designed to be edited into broadcast lengths and the first will be tested on YouTube soon.

We love it when we get great reviews so please tell us when you see something in print. Here is the Comedy Cake review.  We also enjoy being on the radio, here is a link to the James Whale Radio Show which has a very informative interview.  Here is a link to the USA We Love Soaps review.

As well as the spin off series and diversions to the main web soap Shades Of Bad, there is a great love for compilations, but one can only have a compilation if you have a wealth of product. Shades Of Bad has 35 episodes up (Jan 2016) and has not missed a week. Some of our episodes are fantastic works while one or two fall short and that is something else a series has to learn from. With a tiny crew of people who all have other lives and other filming and personality commitments the scheduling and the shot reservoir is something that has to be manned and watched. Now dealing with our biggest star yet, though we say

that every time we move up a notch, just finding the time when we can all meet to shoot is hard. Derek Redmond is a world star, athlete and olympian, so him joining the series for episodes just prior to the Rio Olympics is one of the many planning goals we try and achieve. Future planning is way in front of that and the day Shades Of Bad cannot improve is probably the day is takes a rest from filming.

The spin off series are there to build on, they are there to be added to in this timeless medium of download media and changing viewing habits. As we return from Courchevel where we shot the latest travel show, the ski lift map was an app and your position was tracked on your phone. The world is changing fast and we can only build ready for it.

The first is a PLAYLIST where Doris Shades fixes stuff. ASK DORIS. The first three very
different films made in 2015 to start the Ask Doris playlist is of fixing stuff. It is an experiment in itself and one we will continue and have plans for these films take time, they are by design and nature all very different and deliberately not obvious but are there to help people with problems, but are also amusing and short enough to be watchable media.
ASK DORIS, she can do anything, and does, is a good line. Obviously not true but the idea is to encourage, to look for answers and save money before being ripped off. That, as a message is in line with much of the underlining political message in Shades Of Bad.

It started when Doris mends her Health Rider exorciser. Then the second was by design when the Vacuum broke. The third, closer to home is how to hide a body microphone which the actors had problems with until they discovered this method from experimentation. Now getting good sound means post dubbing and they hated that.

The second spin off PLAYLIST is a travel site, simple and informal. It has t's own style and DORIS VISITS. The travel show should have been started years ago, we have talked about it at length as we genuinely travel. 2014 we were in Hungary, Slovenia and Austria working for HBO on the major show Strike Back, and if only we had shot some travel footage. 2015 we were on a world tour as celebrity guests for a cruise operator and travelled China,
Vietnam and Cambodia across to the Mediterranean up to Venice.  It was a cruise to Norway that we shot the first drama episodes of Shades Of Bad abroad. The Behind The Scenes Video shows glimpses of the filming and Norway and Barcelona. Now the playlist sits for itself as a list of travel films with many more planned this year. However the best laid plans are often changed and who knows where our stars and crew will be taken.

We also have other playlists on the Shades Of Bad TV channel which take you off to our previous films. The Bula Quo playlist is an example. We do have material to pull a new series together on that adventure in FIJI but again, time is our enemy.

We think we have nailed a format that the audience understands is our style. Shades Of Bad TV is beginning to have a style. In 2016 we should tackle the subscription to the channel. It is a misleading word as it implies details and fees, but all we ask is a subscription on YouTube which is no more than a follow. Then you get an email overtime we post a new video. Please subscribe to the channel and watch us grow.

We hope you find something in our blogs which is of interest.

Author biog here.

Friday 8 January 2016

15. VOTING for the big awards ....where are Jennifer Lawrence, Lily Tomlin and Seth Rogen?

T'was the night before nominations and all through the house ...... yes Christmas has been and gone, but the flood of films and marketing that started late November has not stopped. The night before the short list is announced I traditionally look at the pile of films I have not got to see and ask 'what have I missed?' Last night I binged watched although it was too late to vote. I was glad I missed 45 Years and sad I had not found A Bigger Splash ..... it happens.

Today, Friday 8th January it intensifies...... the shortlist of BAFTA FILM AWARD nominations is announced and the critics will criticise and us with the vote will look at the shorten list and watch again.

My favourites were Spotlight, The Big Short, Bridge Of Spies, The Martian, The Revenant, Steve Jobs, Beasts Of No Nation and Mad Max. They got most of my votes; were they in there? Yes.

So who at Shades Of Bad, a little home made web series gets to vote on the big stage and why?

Shades Of Bad, the weekly web series is made by two families ... wow that sounds like the start of Romeo and Juliet; so much in life is poetic. Both families have a voting member.

The Blackledge family; Young Buster directs Shades Of Bad (like us on Facebook please) as readers will know, but at around 20 years old (maybe 22, must ask) he does not have the stripes to vote in the awards. His father Mark Blackledge is a voting member in the 'composer chapter' and he offers the music in Shades and the post production. His inventive work on the pig farmer episode shows his confidence and skills. Mark who has worked on endless numbers movies and TV whether credited or not, has just started
a full on TV series for the Cartoon Network. His time will be precious and Shades Of Bad will have the begging bowl out for his time and may have to use previous music cues and mix in FCPX.

The St Paul family is Doris (actress Jean Heard) who also co-owns INDYUK that has made many films from The Scarlet Tunic, Devil's Gate, Freight and Bula Quo all without one cent of public or Lottery money. Stuart St Paul is the voting member there in the 'director chapel' and again Shades is far from his first morning call but is using many of his old scripts that have been hiding on shelves for years.

Four people is the total crew on Shades Of Bad, Stuart writes, Buster films, Mark post produces,  Jean Heard manages the show, the schedule and call times and also costumes and make up as well as art direction and props - then she plays Doris. FOUR PEOPLE! So where do all these award categories come from... and which ones do they never award...
The BAFTA AWARDS are huge and bigger now because they are just before the Oscars and hence there a huge influence. That influence has changed the, dare I say, somewhat old fashioned TV and very British lead voting the BAFTA's may have had many years ago, into what is now a award major force. There are awards every week of the year for film, TV and web, maybe every day of the year there is an award ceremony somewhere, but BAFTA is now a world leader.

Shades Of Bad crew try to influence it's two long time established chapel member voters like the bulk of marketing, but Mark and Stuart (me) both have film running in their veins and opinions enough.

Shades Of Bad though, to be honest, is one of the many (or few) incubators that is internally funded and from where tomorrow's stars are nurtured. Buster's first film is now in development and you will hear more about that. An ex olympian and TV celebrity is cutting his teeth as an actor.

So as Stuart and Mark are both long established vote holders here is a quick one line on how it works; in the prelim rounds they only get to vote for their 'chapters' plus Best Film, director and actors. After this morning they have a reduce field of films to consider (the nominees) but they vote in all categories. The run up to the close of the large list is manic with voters being invited to receptions and wined and dined, stars turning up to answer questions as touched upon in our previous blog. Old movie stars, new web stars......

Just as the public are wowed by the big names, the voters are too because we know that the system filters the good product by the best talent being offered and capable of choosing the best opportunities, hence delivering as whole the best films. Voting members meet, they know each other and are friends, and at Christmas they circulate. It is a perfect voting period but congested. There are films that they agree on and films like Steve Jobs which seem to dived people.

This mornings results to reduce the huge list to five nominations in each catagory are the work of these thousand or so industry veterans speaking out on films, and one can interpret the short list in many ways. Interpreting the list and what the critics say is always interesting. Film makers and the film 'experts' often differ.

I am not surprised that the only nod for Tarantino's Hateful 8 is for script, his three plus hours has proved too long and maybe too formulaic and predictable to be supported in bulk and maybe he will be disappointed. I offered one vote for Hateful 8 but mine went to Jennifer Jason Leigh as best supporting actress. It appears the rest of us were also split in a film we loved, admired and then equally did not.

Another interesting analysis is when the writer is nominated but not the director, as in Steve Jobs. Boyle did a great job but Sorkin gets the nod for the script which kind of singles him out as the real creator, rightly or wrongly. Personally I am a huge Sorkin fan and loved the movie and performances but I had wine with others over Christmas who did not agree with me about the film. Fassbender still nudges the best actor for me and I always like Kate Winslet whom I worked with a on Hideous Kinky.

Films do split people and there are two front runners at BAFTA this year in Bridge Of Spies and Carol both with nine nominations. I loved Spielberg's film and felt he was back at his best but Carol left me cold and looking at my second screen. Worth a special mention for Bridge Of Spies is colleague Mark Rylance whom I worked with on Grass Arena in the days when the BBC made Screen 1 and 2's and called them plays and did not take Lottery money as well as their other public funds to make television they call film.

Bridge of Spies
Best Film: Kristie Macosko Krieger, Marc Platt, Steven Spielberg 
Director: Steven Spielberg
Original Screenplay: Matthew Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen 
Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance
Original Music: Thomas Newman
Cinematography: Janusz KamiƄski
Editing: Michael Kahn
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo
Sound: Drew Kunin, Richard Hymns, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom 

I did not vote for Charlotte Ramplin in 45 Years whom some commentators felt was omitted from the best actress short list. The television film angered me for the money thrown at it by multiple free money funds whose lawyers and executives help add up to budgets that are hard to justify as an independent or in modern film sales. 45 Years like Shades Of Bad it is often two people in a kitchen, but they had millions not a crew of three total and a budget of zero. The true oversights from Best Actress was without a doubt; Jennifer Lawrence in Joy who was amazing, but sadly the film was not the best and my guess is not enough people had time to view it and an amazing performance from Lily Tomlin in Grandma which I can only image was not viewed by enough people as you do have to choose. There is always a danger that on a bad first scene or 5 minutes you swap to another film on the huge pile and a clunky unnecessary first scene in Grandma may have put off some people. Stay with it, it is a good movie.
None of us avoid the smaller films but I watched A Bigger Splash at 1am this morning and loved it, too late. Ralf Fiennes deserved note for a bold and unusual performance but when I look at my five votes I am not sure he would have squeezed anyone out.
Not only does the home team vote perhaps help British films a little on the east of the Atlantic but one might consider there could be a need to rubber stamp funding choices with a tick by voting for films that have had investment choices, and as you may see from the titles some films have more executive and funding bodies than crew. It will be interesting to see how many of these UK funded films find their way into the Oscar lists, again, just analyising as you would hope politicians do... but having watched The Big Short it is unlikely.

My favourite film was Spotlight which sadly only got three category nominations, but then when taking on the church one can expect it to be avoided by a significant section of voters. At a wine and cheese party over Christmas I was with a fellow BAFTA voter who said he loved Spotlight and it had his vote but his wife refused to watch it. The point of the film is you should watch it and it is brilliant. Fantastic snappy script.

Best Film: Steve Golin, Blye Pagon Faust, Nicole Rocklin, Michael Sugar 
Original Screenplay: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo 

It is a sign of the times that an action film has got into the shortlist. There was a time when commercial films appeared to be shunned by BAFTA voters and large action movies still seem to be. The hugely important category of Stunts is till ignored by BAFTA yet there are sections for just about every other department and tea maker. Still as the industry says, the actors do all their own stunts and the directors direct all their own films ... having said that the scene everyone seems to talk about on The Revenant is Di Caprio's fight with the bear and I wonder who really put that together. So to see Mad Max in there is a turning point in film voting appreciation, and with seven nominations. But note, no nomination for the stunt coordinator ... go ask yourself what the film is made of!!!

Mad Max: Fury Road
Cinematography: John Seale
Editing: Margaret Sixel
Production Design: Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson
Costume Design: Jenny Beaven
Make Up & Hair: Lesley Vanderwalt, Damian Martin
Sound: Scott Hecker, Chris Jenkins, Mark Mangini, Ben Osmo, Gregg Rudloff, David White 
Special Visual Effects: Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Tom Wood, Andy Williams 

Star Wars also gets in there which when put into perspective is amazing because they never sent screeners to the voters, so only those who got to screenings would have voted. As the screenings we all over the busy Christmas period one has to say the film must be as good as everyone seems to say it is.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Original Music: John Williams
Production Design: Rick Carter, Darren Gilford, Lee Sandales
Sound: David Acord, Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Matthew Wood, Stuart Wilson Special Visual Effects: Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Paul Kavanagh, Neal Scanlan 

I loved The Big Short, the way the film makers just throw it at you, that this was some kind of major fraud for which no one has been arrested and even someone in a bubble bath with no banking knowledge can explain how stupidly corrupt this was. I loved it. There should be a film about the alleged frauds in some film making as the cases make the tax courts on a regular basis now.

The Big Short
Best Film: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt 
Director: Adam McKay
Adapted Screenplay: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph 
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
Editing: Hank Corwin 

I did like the movie Steve Jobbs and it's honesty about how they designed a product that doesn't work too well with anything outside the brand... sorry I got sidetracked. But as much as I love Idris Elba who will now get my vote as best supporting actor for his amazing performance in Beasts Of No Nation, I would have preferred to have been challenged with the choice of voting for him or Seth Rogen who I think is a huge star continually proving how broad his spectrum is. For me he has stepped into the shoes of the much missed and multi talented Robin Williams.

Steve Jobs
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin 
Leading Actor: Michael Fassbender 
Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet 

Brooklyn for me was great piece of TV but not a film, and it appeared to have been shot hand held then stabilised as the wall paper seemed to have turrets. Stabilisation of the most important part of a picture (person) has the effect of making the background dance and I was annoyed that 5 major funders and teams of execs seemed to have made that choice in post and not while shooting. The film obviously did not grab me beyond being a good old fashioned BBC Screen 1.
Similarly I have mixed feelings on the Danish Girl. I like it, and Redmayne was amazing, but I am not sure I felt he was stretched or it was equal to the other five I had as Best Actor.

I can't list everything, but take it from me, we have missed out on Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Seth Rogen in Steve Jobbs and A Bigger Splash plus a missing award section for stunt coordinator again when Mad Max gets 7 nominations and DiCaprio's fight with the bear is a talking point.
There are TV films whose corporate and lottery funding muscle have perhaps lifted them higher than they may achieve in LA in a few months time, but I could be wrong.

For the full list.  Visit the BAFTA site for a full list of films and their nominations.

And for a no budget web soap that hits the US / World top ten each week with no crew, no Lottery, and no money ... check out this weeks episode. Shot in RAW 2k and fully scored, which not all television can do with all the funding they get... The awards, a time to balance one against the other.

Maybe you can vote for Shades Of Bad... here. You get a vote...