Archive for the ‘Filmmaking’ Category


I can’t watch Star Wars anymore. I do not like it. That is a massive admission for me. As a cinema manager, film maker and a film lecturer I am often asked why I like film so much, and that wonderful trilogy was always the answer.

For three decades I have, at various points, collected the stickers, purchased the toys, played the board games, the computer games, the card games. I quoted the films and used them as a source of strength and comfort when life became hard. I even proposed to my future bride with a line from Star Wars.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side … and you, are a good blaster, and I want you at my side for the rest of my life”

So what went wrong?

Of course the new films did not help, but I feel Simon Pegg summed up our feelings on that subject in Spaced.

I also hated the tinkering. The added special effects and the whole Greedo shooting first fiasco.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith used humour to point out the racism and the injustice of Star Wars. Just how many innocent plumbers and catering assistants died on the Death Star?

But what actually killed my passion for Star Wars was fandom.

The first time I noticed this was the last time I watched the trilogy. It was in Blu-Ray with surround sound, which was an amazing experience, but I did not get immersed as much as normal.

The reason for this is that I kept seeing and hearing the many parodies and satires, rather than watching the films.

Family Guy is a big culprit, but it is Vaders loss of villainy that has been the most damaging. Freddie (Nightmare on Elm Street) should not Rap and Darth Vader should not dance to M.C. Hammer.

There are videos of Vader being a jerk and being re-voiced by Arnie, but it is the video of him voiced by a character from Snatch that has changed the way I look at one of cinemas greatest villains.

All of these videos are funny and were never meant to be taken seriously. I laugh at them and share them, as I am doing now.

But it all seems like sunshine and giggles until you come to watch the original source material and realise that you can no longer see past the fandom.

As Danny says in Withnail and I –

“If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man.”

Star Wars has become a joke to me, and I am letting go of the rope.


One of the challenges I face as a lecturer is to get the students to realise the value of experience and to link that to how their ability is improving. It is not always easy to identify that we are getting better at something unless we get given a pat on the back or a certificate of some kind.

Last weekend I helped my friend Ed Cooper film a concert by the award winning folk band Bellowhead. I gave Ed a hand producing (which is my usual role), but I also used the opportunity to develop my skills as a camera operator. It was at the 02 Academy Bournemouth that I realised I was improving.

Among the crew of 20 we had three student filmmakers on the shoot, and on the way home I asked if it was worth it. They replied that it was fun, but they were vague on what it was they had actually learned.

I wonder if this is because of the instant reward of computer games. Online gaming is particularly great for these reasons:

You will immediately find people to help you on your mission / quest
You will have many opportunities to win
You will have regular fanfares and rewards for doing well
You may gain skill points to distribute to make your character stronger
You face very few real consequences for making a mistake

After the shoot the students (and I) could not access new weaponry or challenges, or see a league table which states how well we had done. But those fanfares were happening.

They may be broad transferable skills:

Making small talk with strangers +2
Lifting heavy things + 4
Working in a professional manner +5
Following instructions +4
Working as a team +6
Working to a deadline +2
Dealing with stress +3

As well as the more specific:

Using camera equipment + 7
Framing an image +5
Responding to music cues + 3

I am sure there are many more too. It is hard to measure these achievements and we often do not recognise them unless we get a qualification or grade at the end. When the cinema was threatened with closure and I was looking for work I realised that even though I have good I.T skills, unless I have a little piece of paper quantifying my ability then employers would over look me.

It sometimes seems that the pieces of paper are taking over and making it difficult for us to recognise the achievements we make in every day life.

My advice is this: Go get those pieces of paper and be proud of them, but don’t forget to recognise that every day you learn, improve and develop.

So give yourself a fanfare – you deserve it.

Further Reading:
You can buy Bellowheads first concert DVD, also by Ed Cooper (and friends) at Amazon

This is a music video Ed Cooper (and friends) did for them too.