My day at Filmspot: Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari

Hello, dear reader! My name is Kathrin and I’m 22 yrs old, and come from Germany. Through my internship here in Brighton I came to know Rachel Hunter, who runs ‘Filmspot’ with her partner Rob Cunningham. It was an honour for me to accompany them to the screening of ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ in Eastbourne and to have an insight behind the scenes. Here is a little report about the day I had my first encounter with the ‘touring celebration of cinema’.

“It looks like a doughnut that has sunk into the ground.” Well, actually this is a pretty accurate visual description of the Redoubt Fortress in Eastbourne that hosted the screening of ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ on Friday 26 September. I didn’t have any idea of what that fortress would look like, nor had I visited one before. But there is always a first time for everything!
In bright daylight, the fortress looked quite harmless. Imagining it as a sunken doughnut, as Rachel suggested, helped me to overlook the slight spooky atmosphere that lurked behind the closed doors. It is a little bit odd but these plain doors, that faced each other in a round circle, reminded me somehow of ‘Alice in Wonderland’: do you remember the room with the vast number of doors in different sizes and shapes? Basically they have nothing in common, but because there were so many of them in one space I could easily imagine various rooms and places hiding behind them – like in Wonderland. Sorry, moving on from the doors!

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‘Our’ room, served as our little cinema for the evening, was the perfect location for the screening of such a thrilling film. The narrow walls and covered windows conveyed the perfect feeling of being trapped – with nowhere to escape. Not a good thing when it’s dark and you are at the mercy of Dr Caligari.
But one step at a time – we were still in the phase of setting up the cinema. While the Filmspotters unloaded their kit, I was entrusted with a single-lens reflex camera to take some photos of the event. Just like that! Oh my God! I felt like I was carrying the crown jewels. I wouldn’t have dared to let it out of my sight or out of my hands. Forgotten was my small pink digital camera which I loved dearly up to that day. It was the first time I held something that precious in my hands and I could somehow understand Rachel’s fear of hanging up the projector – the most important part of their kit. It was a huge joy to spend the whole afternoon practicing and familiarising myself with the camera and taking pictures of everything and everyone around me. It was nice to have an actual task and to feel like a part of the crew. There was always something to do. The main aim was to set up the projector and adjust its height and angle as well as to test the picture on an actual screen. This might sound like no big deal, but it’s quite time consuming when you see the amount of equipment that is essential for these processes. The hours went by faster than I could have imagined.

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Not long after us the musicians arrived who were responsible for the live soundtrack during the screening. A big applause for ‘Partial Facsimile’ is in order at this point. Their whole performance was amazing, not only their focus on detail, but also their wonderful costumes. For a start there were Laila (who didn’t dare to catch a breath during the whole day) and Steve, both guitarists. I was amazed by the amount of stuff they brought into that little room. At some point I had real doubts that there was still space for the audience in the end.

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It was great fun to test my camera skills now on more than two people (I hope Rachel and Rob didn’t feel harassed by the constant clicking of me pressing the camera button, I swear I would have been). Taking pictures of moving people is harder than I imagined before, but it was definitely great fun catching people off guard and documenting their working process.

Time for the lunch break! Fish and chips are always a good thing to fill your stomach, especially when you had just a small breakfast and are rushing around all day. The break gave us a nice time to sit down and to get to know each other a little bit more. Steve is from Liverpool and composed most of the music as well as playing the guitar. The same applies for Laila. She was so engaged with the set up and preparation for the screening, she would not have a proper lunch. I know that feeling so well. When you are excited and stressed out at the same time, food doesn’t seem like a good idea. After lunch the remaining musicians arrived –Ben and Andy. Ben’s task for the screening was the impersonation of Dr Caligari himself (more about that outstanding performance later), while Andy was responsible for a beautiful bass.

At this point I’d like to stress the kindness of the people at the Redoubt Fortress. They were very friendly and quite excited to see the film themselves. Also, when I visited the Fortress’s museum, I got a very detailed tour of small, specific features the visitor may overlook. They had always a sympathetic ear for us, and were there whenever we needed a hand. Thank you!

After my visit in the museum it was my time to head out to a work-related appointment while the others were getting ready to welcome the audience. To my relief, I made it back in time to take photos of the visitors before the lights went out. The appearance of the room we had prepared in the afternoon completely changed – not only because of the darkness that conquered every corner of the Fortress, but also the vast quantities of equipment had vanished. The musicians wore their theme matching costumes and had covered their faces with white colour – a perfect addition to the whole composition of this wonderful location, the upcoming film and their very own soundtrack.

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The room was filled with people and I used the remaining minutes to the start of the film to take pictures of the audience and the whole ambience. The Filmspotters did an amazing job of installing subtle lights in forms of candles and background lamps in different colours to create a haunting atmosphere.
I have never seen ‘Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari’ before, so I was quite excited about it as well. While Rachel went to the front and welcomed everyone officially, Rob and the musicians got ready to start the movie and the soundtrack in the exact same moment. Their efforts definitely paid off in the end, because it was essential for the synchronicity of both elements.

I won’t talk much about the actual movie itself because I think everyone should watch it for themselves. As much as I can say is that it was gripping and fascinating at the same time. You don’t need voices to be sucked in that haunting story. You would sit at the edge of your seat, not entirely sure if you are able to stand the intensity of the close-up shots of Dr Caligari combined with the live soundtrack. But not only the soundtrack gave me the chills, it was Ben’s impersonation of Dr Caligari as well. His deep breaths, his laughter – I was genuinely scared of him, I hope he is satisfied. I almost forgot to take pictures at this point!

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At the end of the film I just sat there on my chair, dwelling in the post-film atmosphere, before I took some last photos.
One day with Filmspot actually reawakened my longing for watching classical movies again and my interest for touring cinemas. Not only because of the screening itself but also seeing the effort and love behind the scenes, seeing how much everyone have put into this project to make the best of it.
It was so much fun to be part of that team for one day and I would do it again immediately. I hope to be back again, maybe as photographer or just as part of the audience, we’ll see.

But I will be back.

P.S. Okay, that sounded like a threat, of course it wasn’t meant that way . . . or was it?

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STOP PRESS: Chariots of Muppets descending upon Eastbourne this weekend – and Willy Wonka report

Hello Filmspotters – lots of news for you in this blog, so I’ll just plough straight in!

Filmspot have helped to organise films for Eastbourne Borough Council’s Great British Weekend, this weekend. The events will take place at the Wish Tower Slopes, and are completely free! The films are to complement two fantastic live events, shown on a big screen, organised by the Borough Council.

On Saturday 8 September, the celebrations kick off at 4.30pm, with a screening of The Muppets [2011], followed by the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms, featuring music from Delius, Verdi,Puccini, Dvorak, Richard Rodgers, John Williams Olympic Fanfare and theme and the traditional Henry Wood Fantasia on British Sea Songs together with Edward Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem orchestration.

So, to whet your appetite, here’s a splendidly ridiculous musical moment:

On Sunday 9 September, we will all be getting into the 2012 spirit with Chariots of Fire [1981] at 4.30pm, which will of course be followed by the London 2012 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony at 7pm, including the parade of athletes, the extinguishing of the Paralympic flame and the passing of the flag to the next host city of Rio de Janeiro, along with musical performances headlined by Coldplay.

Here’s a taster of Sunday’s iconic offering:

There will be a bar and refreshments for both evenings, and dressing in red, white and blue is definitely encouraged! It promises to be a really fun, lively weekend.

For further details, please see www.visiteastbourne.com or call 0871 663 0031.

….and in other news: WILLY WONKA A HUGE, ROUSING SUCCESS!

Yes, apologies for taking a while to post these photographs, but it has taken a few days for the Filmspot team to come back to reality after entering a world of pure imagination at Newhaven Fort over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

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Martyna Dawidowska created a fantastic short animation, especially for the event, which was projected in the Eastern Magazine and at the beginning of the screening

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Two of our wonderful volunteers, Sophie Halas and Alexia Lazou, helped to greet the audience

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….and everybody in the audience enjoyed a Wonka-themed treat – delightful Wonka-esque marshmallows, sourced by Sweet Moments in Seaford, and quirky cake pops

It was a sell-out show!

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Designer-maker Adam Prior did a fantastic job on the brilliant props for the event – even Willy Wonka himself seems to approve!

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As ever, veteran Filmspotter Lukas looked the part! This time, seeming to channel the spirit of Wonka himself!

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So here’s the team (L-R: Alexia, Sophie, Filmspot Co-Directors Rob Cunningham and Rachel Hunter, Designer Adam Prior and Magician David Girt

This great musical has a dedicated following – we had lots of interest in the event, and you may have seen/ heard some of the local media coverage. We were featured on  BBC Radio Sussex and in The Argus and Sussex Express. We’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who came along and all our helpers – you all helped to create a really magical atmosphere!

….so that’s it for now! I hope you’re now all off ransacking your wardrobes for your best red, white and blue – and we’ll see you in Eastbourne!

A fantastic CMP Festival!

 

We had a wonderful time at the CMP Festival last week for our first ever film-draw event. We had a fantastic audience, who seemed to enjoy the films and drawing sessions equally.

They were welcomed by David Girt, Filmspot‘s favourite pierrot!

David Girt, our pierrot for the evening

He entertained and amused with a combination of origami gifts for members of the audience, slapstick gags and magic tricks…

On arriving at the church, we were amazed to discover that one of the festival volunteers, Marion, had known Lotte Reiniger in the 1950s. She gave a delightful speech at the beginning about meeting Reiniger and her husband, Carl Koch.

…and then the audience settled in for the first of the Reiniger films

Watching Lotte Reiniger fairy tales at St Nicholas Church

Throughout the course of the evening, we watched four charming Reiniger short films: Snow White and Rose Red; The Magic Horse; Thumbelina; and Sleeping Beauty. The films were shown with 15 minute drawing sessions in between, with three different fairytale themes: Little Red Riding Hood; Rumpelstiltskin; and Rapunzel.

Jake Spicer, head tutor for DRAW, talking to the audience during the Little Red Riding Hood drawing session

Rumpelstiltskin drawing session

We were really pleased to see so many people drawing – it would have been great to see if anybody was inspired by the silhouette films!

Jake Spicer, Head tutor at DRAW, with Rachel Hunter and Rob Cunningham, Co-Directors of Filmspot

…so that wraps it up for another CMP Festival! It was a great event, and we’re so grateful to Jake Spicer and DRAW, who put in a wonderful effort, and really added to the fantastical feel of the evening. We hope to revisit drawing and film at a future date, so watch this space (or the Filmspot website) for future announcements.

In the meantime, though – we have a great screening coming up at our home from home, Newhaven FortOn Sunday 26 August, we will present Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2pm). It promises to be a really memorable afternoon – we will temporarily transform the ‘Romney Hut’ into a magical chocolate factory.

Tickets cost £6 adults/ £4 children and concessions, including entry to the Fort Museum and a special themed snack pack’ – available from Newhaven Fort (01273 517622). More information coming soon!

 

 

 

Event report: Lotte Reiniger Fairytales at Eastbourne Redoubt

The Filmspot team had a great time in May at Eastbourne Redoubt‘s ‘Museums at Night event’.

Cinderella silhouette animation

Drop in screenings for Lotte Reiniger’s fairytales took place throughout the evening

Three Little Pigs shadow puppets

Visitors had the chance to try their hand at shadow puppetry, using cut outs for ‘Three Little Pigs’ or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.

There were some interesting approaches to manipulating the puppets, including the many-legged wolf, who became known as ‘Octowolf’…

…we were surprised at how many alternative versions of the fairytales were performed. There were many wolf-eating pigs – and ninja grannies!

….there were some interesting pairings, too, including a surprise waltz between he wolf and the wood cutter!

Rachel and Rob, Co-Directors of Filmspot, with some of their creations.

We were so pleased that so many people joined us for this fantastic evening – and we thank everybody for their entertaining shadow puppetry performances. I’m sure Lotte Reiniger would have been proud of all of you!

…keen Filmspotters will be excited to learn about our next two upcoming Filmspot events.

We are very pleased to be working with the CMP Festival for the third year. This year, we will present two films at St Nicholas’s Church, Brighton.

7th July, doors 6pm (film 6.30pm): A Tale of Two Cities [1958]
This year, to celebrate Charles Dickens bicentenary, the CMP Festival will present ‘A Dickens of a Day’ – an entire day of Dickens-themed fun, including our Filmspot screening of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

Directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Dirk Bogarde, this adaptation Dickens’ novel is one of the most faithful to its source text. Made in 1958, it was shot in black and white because the Director felt that the book ‘was written in black and white’. Set during the French Revolution, a disillusioned lawyer, Sidney Carton (Bogarde), finds his life is turned upside down when he chooses to make a sacrifice for the woman he loves.
Crepes and galettes will be on sale prior to the film, by The French Revolution. Tickets: £7 (£5 concessions)

15th July, doors – and life drawing from 6pm (film 6.30pm): Les Enfants du Paradis [1945]
We are delighted to be presenting a very special screening together with DRAW, the Brighton Life Drawing Sessions, headed up by Jake Spicer.

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Marcel Carne’s classic melodrama is set in the teeming theatrical world of Paris of the 1830s. The three main characters are all based on historical figures – the brilliant, moonstruck mime artist Baptiste Debureau, the womanising actor Frederick Lemaitre and the murderous dandy Lacenaire. Each falls in love with, and is briefly loved by, Garance, a beautiful actress who leaves them when her freedom is threatened by their attempts to possess her. Filmed in German-occupied France, the feature is in two parts, because the Vichy government restricted film length to 90 minutes or less.

To complement the screening, DRAW will invite the audience to participate in 30 minute themed drawing sessions prior to the feature and during the interval (materials provided). Models in theatrical costume will create beautiful tableaux inspired by the film. DRAW aim to provide unique, dynamic and exciting opportunities for people to learn to draw – from the complete beginner to the professional artist. For full details, see The Draw Brighton website.

Crepes and galettes will be on sale prior to the film, and during the interval, by The French Revolution. Tickets: £7 (£5 concessions)

For full details of the CMP Festival, please see the CMP website
For tickets, contact the Brighton Dome Box Office: 01273 709709 or visit the Brighton Ticket Shop

Shadows and fairytales after dark!

Firstly, we were really delighted to see so many people at our screening of ‘A Very Long Engagement‘ (Un Long Dimanche de Fiancialles) at Eastbourne Redoubt in April. Thank you to all of you who came along and enjoyed a really lively event with us!

We are very excited to be revisiting Eastbourne Redoubt this coming Saturday evening (12th May), to contribute to their upcoming After Dark at The Redoubt event.

Filmspot will be screening a selection of charming short silhouette fairytales by pioneering animator, Lotte Reiniger – and there will be the chance to try your hand at shadow puppetry with the Filmspot team.

Films on view will be ‘The Magic Horse’, The Ant and the Grasshopper and ‘Cinderella’ [all 1954] – wonderful fantastical stories, just right for bedtime! As well as the Filmspot activities, there will be atmospheric torchlight tours of the museum and free astronomy on the gun platform. It promises to be an evening to remember!

We will be at Eastbourne Redoubt from 7pm until late, this Saturday 12th May. For full details, please see Eastbourne Redoubt’s website: http://www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk/ 

So, in keeping with the theme of bedtime stories, we thought we’d come up with a few other suggestions for fairytale films!

1. The Singing Ringing Tree [Das singende, klingende Bäumchen] (1957)

This German feature-length film for children was originally shown in the UK when it was serialised by the BBC in the 19560s. It has a real cult following, and it’s easy to see why. It features many of the elements that gained some of the fantasy films of the 80s, such as Labyrinth or  Legend, their cults: colourful characters, surreal scenarios and wonderous fantasy landscapes.

2. La Belle et La Bete (1946)

Jean Cocteau‘s fantastical rendering of this classic fairytale is one of his finest films. Although in places the film does look a little creaky because of its age, if you can suspend your disbelief, it does conjure up a childish sense of wonder in the viewer. The haunting soundtrack and beautifully surreal visual tricks create a fantasy atmosphere.

3. Snow White (1937)

The first feature cel animation, ‘Snow White’ was not only a milestone in animation, it was the inspiration behind thousands of other beloved childhood films, such as ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It went on to be an unprecedented success, much to the surprise of a skeptical film industry, with many Hollywood insiders labelling the project ‘Disney’s Folly’ while it was in development.

4. The Princess Bride (1987)

In our opinion, this is the funniest combination of comedy and fairy tale committed to film. You can forget your oh-so-‘witty’ Matrix-style princesses and faux-Scots ogres – this screen adaptation of William Goldman’s book is, quite rightly, a cult classic. It contains sword fighting! giants! a very short Sicilian! rodents of unusual size! heroes being brought back from the dead! priests with speech impediments! Peter Falk! …and that’s just for starters.

5. Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

A musical? With Danny Kaye? As Hans Christian Andersen? Well, that had to make it onto the list! This delightful film reminds us of sleepy bank holidays, as only a big Hollywood musical can. All the well known HCA fairytales are here, in sung form. The ‘Ugly Duckling’ is a particularly catchy little ditty.

We look forward to seeing you this Saturday!

What we’re looking forward to!

Well, it’s exciting times for Filmspot at the moment. We’re putting the finishing touches to our 2012 events programme and will be announcing lots of upcoming events in our next blog, so watch this space.

In the meantime, though – we promised our most anticipated films for 2012, so…

The Muppets

After our Muppet-fest in Eastbourne in December, you’d think we would have had our fill of Muppets, but of course the fact is: you can never have your fill of Muppets! The new film has already taken America by a storm – and I’m sure the wait will be worth it when the film is finally released over here next week. It’s time to start the music…

Moonrise Kingdom

We’re big Wes Anderson fans here at Filmspot, so a new Anderson film is always good news – and from the trailer this looks like no exception. how could it possibly go wrong, from the Francois Hardy music, most of Anderson’s usual collaborators (although there is the notable absence of any members from the Wilson family), Ed Norton as a scout leader (an excellent piece of casting!) and bird costumes! Fabulous stuff.

The Woman in Black

The 1989 TV adaptation of Susan Hill’s classic ghost story is one of our Hallowe’en favourites, and I would be tempted to suggest that a remake isn’t really necessary, but this looks like it has been rather intelligently done. It’s the latest title to be released by the re-vamped Hammer Productions, and this has the potential to be a match made in heaven (if you’ll excuse the turn of phrase..). There are certainly a couple of spine tingling moments in the trailer alone. It’s always a pleasure to have a good old fashioned ghost story back in the cinema – a nice antidote to The Human Centipede and other such ghastly creations….

La Fee (The Fairy)

Last year, one of the Filmspot team’s most charming discoveries was Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s ‘Rumba’ – a delightful mixture of dance, (near) silent comedy and whimsy. This looks set to continue in a similar vein – with Tati-esque slapstick and endearing set pieces. It has had a couple of festival screenings over here – and we’re hoping it’ll get a more general release date for the UK soon!

The Pirates: In an Adventure with Scientists

Hot on the heals of ‘Arthur Christmas’, Aardman are back in familiar stop-motion territory with The Pirates. Looking at the trailer, it seems they haven’t skimped on detail (we are particularly impressed by the Blue Peter badge making an appearance on one of the pirate’s hats!).

I’m sure there are plenty of others to look out for – what are your most anticipated films of 2012?

Check back on this blog soon for some important announcements for our upcoming season of events.

The Halas & Batchelor Archive

As readers of this blog will be aware, we have a very special screening coming up this Friday (22 July) at St Nicholas Church, Brighton. We will be presenting Halas & Batchelor’s Œ’Animal Farm’, with a short talk from the filmmakers’ daughter, Vivien Halas (booking details below).

In preparation of this, the Filmspot team asked Vivien to pick out three of her highlights from the Halas & Batchelor Archive, which she recently donated to the BFI. This collection of film prints, stills, scripts, papers and original cells, forms the largest single donation of British animation to the institute, and features many gems.

Automania 2000 (1963)


A satirical and prophetic short film, directed by John Halas and written by Joy Batchelor, Automania 2000 presents the future, as they predicted in 1963. It has turned out to be worryingly accurate, portraying consumerism gone mad. It won a British Academy Award and was nominated for an Oscar.

Symphony Orchestra (1964)
From a series of short films made for the BBC entitled Tales from Hoffnung based on the drawings of artist and musician, Gerard Hoffnung. Packed full of witty visual gags, it depicts an orchestra giving a performance to end all performances!
History of the cinema (1957)
Paying tribute to, as well as parodying, Hollywood tradition, this short was one of John Halas personal favourites. He co-wrote the film with Nicholas Spargo, who went on to pen Willo The Wisp. It was included in the annual Royal Command Performance.
All of these films are available on the DVD which is included with Vivien’s informative and richly illustrated book, ŒHalas and Batchelor Cartoons. It gives Vivien’s personal account of her parents, alongside critical insights by Paul Wells, Richard Holliss and Jim Walker, and includes a foreword by Nick Park.

FILMSPOT SCREENING OF ŒAnimal Farm (1954), with introductory talk from Vivien
Halas

Friday 2nd July, 7.30pm St Nicholas Church, Brighton
Tickets £7 (£5 concession)
Available from Brighton Ticket Shop (www.brightonticketshop.co.uk)
Part of the CMP Festival

Screenings at the CMP Festival 2011

We’re working with CMP Festival again this year. We’re presenting two films as part of their programme, at St Nick’s in Brighton: Animal Farm and The Prince and the Showgirl. Details will go live next weekend, but for now, here are the trailers to whet your appetite!

The Prince and the Showgirl, featuring the ever voluptuous Marilyn and former Brighton resident (oh, and screen icon!), Laurence Olivier:


Animal Farm by the British pioneers of animation, Halas & Batchelor:

We’re working on further screenings later in the year. If you have any special requests or suggestions for Filmspot events in the future, do get in touch.

Hello Filmspotters!

Welcome to our all-new Filmspot blog. I’ll be posting up plans for events, as well as news/ archives trailers/ features that could be of interest to fellow ‘Filmspotters’. To start us off, here is the story so far:

In October 2009, we ran our pilot event at Newhaven Fort, with a showing of Frankenstein (1931) for children (and the young at heart).

In the evening, we notched up the spook-factor with Guillermo Del Toro’s atmospheric The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – and were joined by some rather sinister characters (a rather sinister Victorian urchin, pushing a miniature ‘Rosemary’s Baby’-eque pram, an unpredictable zombie-beast and a ghostly trumpeter!)

We followed this up with our second event at Newhaven Fort, in July 2010, showing The Great Dictator, with our very own Chaplin (supplied by David Girt)

Also in July, we forged links in Brighton with the CMP Festival, helping to facilitate a screening of Barbara Myers and Paul Loman’s The Making of George at St Nick’s Church.

For Hallowe’en 2010, we put on an ‘indoor drive-in’, again at Newhaven Fort, with the ever-popular Rocky Horror Picture Show

We’re currently finalising plans for a busy Spring/ Summer season – and will be posting more details as soon as these events are confirmed. It’s all looking very exciting, so be sure to check back soon!

 

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