Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Film Quiz with Andrew Collins

Andrew Collins is a writer, broadcaster, editor, blogger and one half of Collings & Herrin, the hilarious podcast double act which he records with Richard Herring and who will be playing the Dukes on the 8th December. Andrew took time from his work on I LOVE 1984 to reply to my questions:

What is your favorite cinema in the country?

Living in London, I am inordinately fond of the Curzon Soho, as it's my arthouse hub, and behaves as any cinema should: it's friendly, approachable, assumes intelligence and adulthood, serves fresh coffee and alcohol, and keeps its actual screens in the basement, allowing the ground floor and mezzanine to exist exclusively for refreshments and sitting around in sofas. They chalk the names of the films up above the doors to the screens. The toilets have regularly-replaced film posters up in them. It costs a little more than the average multiplex, but they show films that aren't on at the multiplex, so it's a surcharge worth forking out. I am not a cinema snob - I do the bulk of my cinemagoing at multiplexes - but I cannot adjust to the idea that certain among the younger generation go to the cinema to chat and text, rather than, hey, watch the film. When I was a kid, having enough money to go to the cinema was a big event - there's no way I would have wasted it by talking during the film. We've lost that church-like respect for the film. At least at the Curzon, the type of films generally attract grown-ups who like films. And you can take a beer in!

What is your first memory of moviegoing?
My grandfather took me to the Odeon in Northampton on the Market Square - a cinema that was turned into a bingo hall while I was growing up; quite a shock - to see The Jungle Book, sometime in 1970? I was about five. I know I loved the film, although the darkness freaked me out a bit. I was bought the 1967 Disney soundtrack album, which you followed in a storybook contained within the gatefold sleeve - this was my first ever record - and I learned every word off by heart, including the lyrics. I still love the film, although the regular trip to the cinema - the ABC on Abington Street, after the Odeon closed - to see the latest Disney cartoon punctuated my childhood. Another early memory is when my Dad rented a cine film featuring clips from The Aristocats and showed it on a projector we'd borrowed, at a birthday party. I couldn't believe we had a Disney film in our front room!

What is your strangest/weirdest/scariest experience at the movies?

Strangest was the only time I have ever willingly left the auditorium during a film - it was in 1984, and while watching Stephen King's Christine with my friend Kevin, I had to rush to the toilets to vomit. All I remembering thinking was, "I'm missing the film!" I returned to my seat and picked up where I'd left off, but Kevin was kind enough to come back to the cinema at a later date so I could see it in full. What devotion to King! I clearly remember seeing Blade Runner, the second time around (which is what cinemas used to do in those days before video really set in), and there was a man in there who laughed, loudly, all the way through it. He was clearly a bit touched, but it spoiled the film somewhat. Nobody complained, it being England. I remember vividly my first ever cinema experience in New York, seeing LA Stories, ironically, on my own, one rainy afternoon - it really cheered me up. I also remember seeing Oliver Stone's U-Turn in New York and being dismayed by how much noise the audience made. Incidentally, my first ever date, 1978, aged 13, was to Star Wars at the ABC in Northampton. Jackie was her name. I was too engrossed in the film to even attempt to put my arm around her.

What film or film-related project are you proudest to have been involved in?

The Radio 4 series Back Row, which I was the launch presenter of in 2000, a job I kept for almost three years, before handing over to Joe Cornish of Adam and Joe, the Jim White, if I remember correctly. The show was later rebranded as The Film Programme and it's presented by Francine Stock. During the years I hosted it, every week without a break, I interviewed so many fantastic film people, from David Lynch and Robert Altman to Woody Allen, Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, Ernest Borgnine, Joel Coen, Peter Fonda, William Goldman ... however, it was the legends of British cinema who remain among my most cherished interviews: Ronald Neame, Lewis Gilbert, Sir John Mills, even Robert Donat's son Brian who gave such great insights into his famous father. The programme was a golden opportunity to speak to those who actually make, or made, movies.

What is one thing the film industry in the UK could do to be more successful?

Work the scripts harder. I'm not going to name any names, but I see so many British films whose screenplays appear to have gone through hardly any drafts. When I worked on EastEnders we used to have to write up to seven drafts of an episode. In Hollywood, as we know, scripts are rejected and rewritten and passed to other writers and fine-tuned and table-read and polished and gagged up and script-doctored to within an inch of their life. I know this costs money, but sometimes, the final product would be worth it. I think it was Alan Parker who first pointed this out as a weakness of some British films. As a TV scriptwriter I am doing myself out of a job by observing this, but there's a huge difference between writing for TV, especially a series, and writing a single movie script. Writers can't be expected to make that leap without a lot of help and a lot of editing. While I love the fact that there's a fine tradition of "authored" pieces in this country, in TV and in film, the industrial approach of Hollywood can bear fruit.

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