Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pinewood Studios is a place rich in film history and so it was going to be interesting getting the chance to see what they'd set up for Kick Ass the movie for my set visit to Pinewood on Thursday. Visiting the Warner Bros lot was a pristine experience with everything in its place and very clean and bright but Pinewood's Paddock lot where Kick Ass was shooting on its rather nifty New York set was muddy and rather chaotic, the way I'd imagine most film locations are. I went there to do interviews for a Sci Fi Now piece and to gather content for our TRIPWIRE Superhero Special and it was a really great day. We got interview time with director Matthew Vaughn, screenwriter (and Mrs Jonathan Ross) Jane Goldman plus three of the key players in the cast: Aaron Johnson, who plays the lead Dave Lizewski,Christopher Mintz Plasse who is the Red Mist in the film and Chloe Moretz, the super-intelligent 11-year-old who is Mindy/ Hit Girl on screen. The set is fantastic and even includes a mocked-up comic shop, a newsstand and a tattoo parlour. We got to see a little bit of shooting, which was fun. Mark Millar, who wrote the comic, couldn't make it on set. I also got to meet John Romita Jr, who obviously is the artist on the series, and his wife and son. John was very nice and we've cemented his place in Studio Space Volume 2, which we're very close to locking down. We weren't allowed to take photos on set but here are two photos I took of John Romita Jr in the hospitality marquee at Pinewood. Happy Thanksgiving to the American visitors to this blog…

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I went to two more Comica events over the past four days. The first one was Comica Comiket, which was basically the London Underground event which takes place at Camden market transplanted to the ICA.So it had the usual Cmaden crowd selling stuff like Dave Baillie, Douglas Noble, Daniel Goodbrey and quite a few others. It was a valiant attempt but it didn't quite work as I heard that the rest of the building didn't know it was happening. I also went to the Art Spiegelman interview and that was more of a success. He was interviewed by Posy Simmonds, a very talented and intelligent cartoonist in her own right, and Spiegleman, who has a new book out, Breakdowns, came across as likeable and self-effacing. In the audience was Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who we have interviewed twice for TRIPWIRE but I have never met or spoken to. So I accosted him briefly and introduced myself. I took a photo of him outside the ICA in the cold London night. Comica ends on Wednesday and it's been another mix of talks and screenings so it's likely there'll be another one. It is turning into one of the best comic-related events of the year in London. So here are a few photos including the one of Groening…

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

I've been going through my photos to enter a Nikon Photo Contest International, and I'm pretty pleased with the four I've selected. One of them is the Tim Kring shot I put up recently as part of my LA posts but the other three are a photo I took of the canalside at Bristol back in May at night without my flash, a photo near Hampton Court by the river with this strange ominous cloud overhead almost like a blanket and a photo I took of Nelson's Column at some point earlier this year (can't remember when). I take a lot of photos (not as many as Gary but still quite a lot) so I forget what I've taken and sometimes I do take some good shots. Here are the three I've entered into this competition…

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Annual Comica festival has started at the ICA on the Mall in London. I wanted to go to the Dave McKean talk on Sunday but I was too lagged. I did get to see Ian Rankin talk on Monday at the ICA. Rankin is best known as the creator of the successful Rebus crime novels but he's writing a 210 page Hellblazer original graphic novel and he's a huge comic nut. So he discussed his love of 2000AD and then talked a little bit about the Hellblazer story which apparently is about a reality TV show set in a house and the house takes on a life of its own, so Constantine is called in. He was interviewed by fellow author Toby Litt. I got to give him a copy of Studio Space and the Annual afterwards and it turned out that Orion's head of marketing Anthony Keates is a longtime TRIPWIRE reader. He even won a Hellboy competition we ran years ago and he also got Studio Space for Christmas, which was quite funny. Rankin was a really nice guy, very down-to-earth, and if all goes to plan, we'll have him in next year's Annual. Comica is a worthwhile event to attend and while Rankin has already happened, there's a Gilbert Shelton interview this Sunday, an Art Spiegelman interview from Posy Simmonds next Monday 24th November and lots of other events. Check out organiser Paul Gravett's website for more information. Here are a couple of photos I took at Rankin's interview…

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To round off my LA week, Thursday was a pretty packed day for me. Because Andy G felt better, we went to Hollywood to a Thai/ Sushi place near Sunset-Gower Studios to meet a number of people for lunch: Guy Dyas, a production designer who I have interviewed a few times but never met, his wife/ partner Dominique, storyboard artist Trevor Goring and yet another ex-pat Mark Berry, a photographer from Bristol who lives in LA. Also there was Colin Grant, a concept artist and another ex-pat but he left soon after myself and Andy G got there so I didn't get the chance to chat to him. Dyas has worked on lots of big movies (Superman Returns, Indiana Jones, X-Men 2) and Goring has also become a mainstay of Hollywood for around two decades now, so it was a very interesting and entertaining lunch. We discussed lots of stuff that I won't be sharing about film, which was pretty enjoyable, but I will say that Trevor has a huge book of Storyboards out from Hermes Press next Autumn. This book includes storyboards from The Birds, Aliens and tens of other films and looks like an amazing book. We'll be doing something on it for next year's Annual.
Once we finished lunch, after taking photos at the Arby's restaurant sign (apparently an LA landmark), Andy drove me all the way to Duarte, where he lives with his wife Susie and her mum. I had never been out that far so that was pretty cool and I took a few photos out there. When he told me there were black widows where he lived, that freaked me out a little bit. But Duarte is at the base of some foothills, so there was some dramatic scenery and it's always a pleasure to catch up with Susie. So after doing some planning for TRIPWIRE and other projects, Andy drove me back to Sherman Oaks, where Andy Suriano, our neighbour at San Diego Comic Con, and his wife Carlyn, came by for dinner. We ate at an Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks which was very nice.
So now I've bored you with my week in LA, normal service is resumed. Here are photos by Arbys including one of me showing off my double chin, photos of Andy G, his wife Susie, roses in their back garden and the foothills. I left just before the fires got bad and I am hoping that Sherman Oaks continues to be unaffected…

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The Wednesday of my trip I went to see DC writer Geoff Johns for lunch where I interviewed him for the TRIPWIRE Superhero oneshot. We went for lunch to a Mexican place in Sherman Oaks where predictably the waiter claimed he was a stand-up comic rather than a waiter so presumably the cliche about LA is true (that everyone who works as a waiter or waitress is either an actor/ actress or comic).

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On Tuesday of my trip, I went to see Tim Kring and Mark Verheiden at the Heroes backlot at Sunset-Gower Studios. Unfortunately Jeph Loeb had been let go from the show so I wouldn't be seeing him there. Kring was a good interview as ever, talking about the future of serialised TV, and Verheiden was also a decent subject as we got onto Battlestar Galactica as well, since he used to be on that series. He has also written for genre TV and comics for years so it was useful to get his perspective on the current genre boom. The Kring and Verheiden stuff will be in the Superhero oneshot from TRIPWIRE out next March. Because Andy didn't feel great, he dropped me at the studio and our friend Pat McGreal and his wife Carol were kind enough to come and grab me and we had lunch at an Indian restaurant on Melrose and popped into comic shop Golden Apple. In the evening, I went with Joel (Bagelman) to see Jenji Kohan, the creator/ showrunner of the TV series Weeds being interviewed at Writers Guild of America West, which was fairly interesting. So here are some photos…

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So as promised, here is my first post about my week in LA. The weekend was uneventful because Andy Grossberg wasn't available so I went to see Ridley Scott film Body of Lies on Saturday and Sunday, my mum's friend Adele and her bloke Joel, who I was staying with, had her son Simon and daughter Joanne over, which was very pleasant. So Monday, Andy drove us to the Warner Bros backlot in Burbank where we went to see Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies). I took my camera but we weren't allowed to take any photos so that's why this post is photo free except for a couple of shots from the show. The backlot was a lot grander than Sunset Gower, where Heroes is based, with its water tower and loads of different sets including the hospital for ER. Fuller was exceptionally nice as was his assistant Loretta Ramos, who took us around the empty sets for Pushing Daises but there was a bonus: they were filming at the Ranch, which is further down the backlot, so myself and Andy got to sit and watch Lee Pace, Chi McBride and others shoot a scene for the last episode of the second season of the show, which may be the last episode of the show ever unless it's picked up again. So my first work-related day of the trip was a lot of fun and Fuller has agreed to be in a book project myself and Andy are working on (more on that as/ when it develops)…

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Friday, November 14, 2008

As I write this, I am about to leave LA to go home to Blighty. It's been an amazing trip and I've met lots of interesting people and even got to go to Duarte to see Andy and Susie yesterday. Where I've been staying has had no wireless which is why I haven't posted any photos. It's looking like there might be a couple of book projects thanks to this trip. I'll put a proper post up when I'm more compos mentos at home but this was just to tell everyone I'm still alive. Bryan Fuller was a really nice guy as was Mark Verheiden, who told me he heard about the Power List and his place on it from a review Steven Grant had done of the Annual at the end of September on his column. I wouldn't have even known he'd reviewed it unless Verheiden told me. Here is that very review...

TRIPWIRE ANNUAL 2008 ed. Joel Meadows ($14.95)
Back again for another year, TRIPWIRE is, aside from an indicia page desperately in need of graphic design, slicker, richer and more focused on general pop culture than ever. DR. WHO and SUPERMAN are the twin cores of this issue, but there are also good articles on PRIMEVAL (currently my favorite sci-fi show), the FUTURAMA movies, HEROES, and the Brit sequel to LIFE ON MARS as well as a good interview with the enormously influential sci-fantasy author Michael Moorcock, a perceptive piece on how 1968 Marvel changed the course of comics art, lots of comics and comics reviews, and even humorous silly features like the Comics Power List 2008. (No offense, but Tom Spurgeon? And citing Gilbert Shelton, whom I'd love to say is a power in the business but, because WEEDS is successful on Showtime? My friend Mark Verheiden, who's a great guy and a terrific writer and everything but, as a bigger power in the business than Frank Miller, Dan Didio or Joe Quesada? Really? Who's smoking what here?) Considering the ground they cover, the intelligence of the writing, and the professionalism of the design (mostly), TRIPWIRE might be the best franchise culture magazine going today. Too bad it's only an annual.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

This will be my last post for a little bit since I am off tomorrow morning to LA for a week. I'll be visiting the Heroes backlot again, meeting up with Bryan Fuller on Pushing Daisies and going to see Geoff Johns. Planning for interview trips is a pain in the arse because I have to make sure my iPods are with me, my camera is with me as is my laptop and that everything is charged.
Anyway, Changeling is Clint Eastwood's latest film as a director (around the 28th film he's helmed himself, which is pretty staggering) and it's a period piece set in 1928 about Christine Collins (played by Angelina Jolie), a single mother whose son Walter lives with her. One day, when she goes to work, he disappears. A little while later, the police bring her a child that they claim is her son returned. But she is adamant that this boy is not her flesh and blood and so begins a campaign to discredit her, a campaign that opens up a can of worms that brings down the Los Angeles police department at the time. I am not going to reveal too much as the pleasure of Changeling lies in the twists and turns of its plot. Eastwood is a magnificent director: who else in modern Hollywood would make a Second World war film from the Japanese perspective (Letters From Iwo Jima) or adapt a modern crime classic like Lehane's Mystic River, investing such emotional power in what could have been a step up from a made-for-TV movie? Changeling, written by J Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) is a blistering journey through the heartbreak of Mrs Collins, played superbly by Jolie in what is arguably her only performance of real depth in her career to date, and it also exposes the corruption of the LA police force at the time while making for some truly harrowing viewing as the true fate of her son and others comes to light. Jolie's vulnerability is sometimes painful to watch and the sympathy you feel for her character is immense. Eastwood is not a director who uses visual trickery or cheap stunts to make his point and Changeling is an understated and elegant look at one of the more shameful moments in the city's history, based as it is on a true story. John Malkovich is activist Reverend Gustav Briegleb, one of the few characters here who comes out with any dignity and he is such a versatile actor that you would have to look closely to realise that this is the same man that the Coens employed in their Burn After Reading earlier this year. The rest of the cast are less familiar than Jolie and Malkovich and this is one of the film's strengths. He has picked a cast because they are appropriate to the production rather than being there to attract a certain kind of audience. Eastwood is unique in today's Hollywood and he should be lauded, as should JMS, for bringing such a work of rare beauty and emotion to the cinema screen, a work that never descends into maudlin sentimentality or manipulation. If Changeling isn't in the Oscar nominations next year, then there's something very wrong with the nominating process…

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's strange that when one huge event happens, any other news is totally eclipsed. News about the US election has swamped everything so I didn't know one piece of pretty big news that had nothing to do with the campaign. On Tuesday, it was announced that world-famous writer Michael Crichton had died of cancer. As the creator of ER, Westworld and Jurassic Park as well as Coma, he was one of the most important mainstream writers of the late twentieth century. I didn't know until tonight. It makes you think.

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And here's another 19 photos from Hampton Court…

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