Film on Fortune Green: Easy right?

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

Watching a film is a great communal experience. Watching that film outdoors surrounded by your friends and neighbours is even better. But it doesn’t happen by accident. As well as taking on the role of editor of West Hampstead Life, I’m also involved with the Friends of Fortune Green (FoFG). This is the fifth year of FoFG’s outdoor film screenings, so here’s a behind-the-scenes peak at putting on the outdoor film screening of Brooklyn this Saturday (June 4th) at 9pm (doors ‘open’ around 7pm).

First decision: what film? This is the judgement of Paris. Whatever we choose some are happy, others not. But be aware, dear reader, there are several factors that limit the films we can choose. We can only start screening at sundown, which at this time of year it is c. 9pm. If the screening has to end by about 10.30pm that means the film can be about 90 minutes long. This first screening starts later (sundown in August is 8pm), so it is aimed at an older audience, but it still needs to be suitable. For example, I’d forgotten the language in the Blues Brothers (our September 2013 offering) was, well, rather blue. It prompted Javi (aged 8) to comment with a smile the next day, “it was a bit rude”. Recently we realised that  films are available for public screening more quickly than when we started back in 2012. You, the people, seem to like recent movies, as we get bigger audiences so more recent films are to the fore. Hence, Brooklyn

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

However, it’s not just a question of ‘putting on a DVD’. To show a film legally we need a public screening licence, which costs c. £300. We also need to hire equipment, a decent projector, a good sound system and a big enough screen. It’s not cheap, but working with the more community-minded suppliers the hire cost is c. £400. If we get the popular cycle-cinema guys back for the August screening (not promising) that will cost a bit more.

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

On top of that, we have to pay Camden £100 for putting on an event on the Green. Yes really. In all fairness it does take officer time to monitor events taking place in parks across Camden (and they are seeking to raise revenue). They also need to review our health and safety form – we have to submit one of those too. As well as that, we have to apply to Camden for a TENS (temporary events licence). It’s a cumbersome seven page on-line form to fill in. So in total around £800 to put each screening, which is why we are really grateful to the local businesses that sponsor them. Thank you Benham & Reeves! (FoFG do ask for donations at screenings, as this adds to the pot should the day come when we can’t get a sponsor and we have to self-fund and also to help fund other activities and events).

So that’s everything? Not quite. We have to publicise the films! This involves leafleting the houses in the surrounding streets with 500+ flyers , time-consuming but not too bad if you do with someone else, as well as putting up posters and sending out e-flyers. Leaflet, e-flyer and posters all need drafting and copying. On the film night we have to set up the (heavy) equipment, steward the event and at the end pack the equipment up again – in the dark. The stuff on the night is the bit most people see but it’s just final one of many steps.

Finally, not forgetting the great British weather. From about ten days in advance we keep a beady eye on the long range forecasts with anxiety levels rising and falling along with the barometer as we get closer to the date and the forecast changes. Latest update – anxiety levels have fallen since this morning’s forecast for Saturday night is OK! Might be a spot of rain early evening but on the whole it’s good and warm(ish). Phew. See you at Brooklyn in West Hampstead.

So there you are: how to put on a outdoor film screening. Not quite as simple it appears, but worth the effort.  It’s not just me, it’s a joint FOFG committee effort but if you would like to help at this or future screenings don’t be shy, speak to a steward on Saturday.

Local filmmaker sheds light on Great Train Robbery mystery

Simon Howley, a West Hampstead film maker, has spent two years producing a new documentary about the Great Train Robbery.

A Tale of Two Thieves features interview footage with one of the last surviving gang members, Douglas Gordon Goody, now 85 years old and living in Spain. He reminisces about the notorious 1963 robbery that shocked the nation. More than £2.6 million was stolen (the equivalent of almost £50 million today), and the train driver was badly beaten.

Simon, who has lived in West Hampstead for 20 years, travelled regularly to Spain during the production of the film to meet Goody and gradually built up a relationship with him. It wasn’t the original plan. “We set out to make a TV series about a rock legend, which never happened, but through our meeting with his management team we were introduced to Gordon Goody.”

Film producer Simon Howley (right) with Douglas Gordon Goody

Film producer Simon Howley (right) with Douglas Gordon Goody

Through meetings with Goody, the truth behind another kind of legend was uncovered – the identity of the man known only as “The Ulsterman”, the insider who passed vital information to the rest of the gang that enabled them to carry out the robbery. Goody broke a 50-year silence to name The Ulsterman as postal worker Patrick McKenna. The film production team hired a private detective to track down and identify the man in an attempt to piece together the missing elements of the story. It turned out McKenna had died some years earlier.

Simon says he and his team were not initially drawn to the project, thinking that the Great Train Robbery had been covered so many times that it was “old hat”; but upon meeting Goody “we realised that there was actually lots of life left in the story and a very strong new angle – first naming and then finding the mysterious insider.”

The film’s UK release was last Friday. No local screenings are slated as yet, but the documentary is available to buy on DVD from Amazon, or look out for it when it airs on TV in the new year.


Godzilla – Opening night screening event

Up from the depths, 30 storeys high…. breathing fire all over the sky… Ballymore. GODZILLA


Thursday May 15th is the opening day of Godzilla and before the screening sells out completely we dived in and got the best 24 Odeon Premier seats in the house for a Film Club special opening night screening at the Swiss Cottage IMAX. Read on for more on the film and how you can join us.

West Hampstead Life‘s film correspondent Mark says, “Godzilla is a huge icon of Japanese cinema and hopes for this latest incarnation are sky high. With an excellent cast including Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and with red hot Welsh director Gareth Edwards at the helm – this should be the blockbuster of the year.”

The plot synopsis is basic enough: “The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence”.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the general Godzilla concept, either from the 1980s cartoon series or the original Japanese films from the 1950s. Godzilla – originally devised as a metaphor for nuclear war – has fluctuated between being the outright enemy, the hero and sometimes the lesser of two evils.

It’s relatively unusual for a mainstream action film to have such an ambiguous character at its heart and it will be interesting to see whether Edwards is able to stick to his aim of capturing the essence of the original Japanese Godzilla while satisfying a contemporary blockbuster audience.

As you’ll see in the trailer, this 2014 reboot leans on the backstory, which is encouraging, and Legendary Pictures has a good track record with the Christian Bale Batman films of understanding the light and dark that makes all the best fictional characters interesting.

This will be the fourth of our #whampIMAX premiere nights after Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall and Man of Steel.

We all meet for a drink in the Odeon’s upstairs bar first and we’ll be talking to the cinema about arranging snacks etc. as well, which they’ve provided before. Then there’s plenty of time after the film to head back to the bar to dissect, criticise or heap unconditional praise on what we’ve just seen. Or talk about the weather.

To get your hands on tickets for the May 15th 7pm screening, simply mail with your name, mobile number and whether you’d like 1 or 2 tickets. The tickets are £20 each and I’ll contact you regarding payment. This is strictly first-come-first-served.

Film Club March 9: Grand Budapest Hotel

GrandBudapestHotelWes Anderson is one of those directors whose films you can spot without even a glance at the credits.

His trademark elements: meticulously detailed perfectly composed shots, a timeless retro ambiance, quirky characters and dialogue, and Bill Murray.

If you check all those boxes you’ve got a Wes Anderson film. What his films don’t necessarily have is lots of action. But now Wes is back with Grand Budapest Hotel which has all the above, plus a gun fight, chase scenes, even a jail break.

With a spectacular cast (Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton to name just a few) and equally spectacular reviews (currently 91% on Rotten Tomatoes) – this looks like it could be the most accessible (and profitable) Anderson film to date.

But what will NW6 Film Club make of it? Is it as perfect as his beautiful composition, or as imperfect as his flawed characters?

To find out, join us at the Tricycle Cinema on Sunday March 9th at 8:30.
As usual, we’ll meet in the bar from 8.

Everyone is welcome, and you can book in advance or turn up on the day (it pretty much never sells out on a sunday night). Book Row G if you want to sit with the rest of us (you don’t have to).

Afterwards we’ll head to the Black Lion across the road for a drink and discussion.

Hopefully see you there,

Nathan, Mark and Jonathan