The best special effects ever

GollumI love really good special effects in films, but the more tech takes over, the more difficult it can be for actors. According to this article, acting with invisible people (who would be added later in post-production) in the new Hobbit movie pushed Iain McKellen to the brink! He said “Pretending you’re with 13 other people when you’re on your own stretches your technical ability to the absolute limits. I cried, actually. I cried. Then I said out loud, ‘This is not why I became an actor’. Unfortunately the microphone was on and the whole studio heard.” And Skyfall has a really interesting mix of CG and real effects as this article explains (look out for the spoilers though).

Here are a few of my favourite classic effects from the movies:

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The REAL exorcism of Emily Rose

The devil has all the best illusions

How about a spooky story for Halloween? Remember a film called The Exorcism of Emily Rose that came out a few years ago? Scary, wasn’t it? Well, this is worse…

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The most realistic horror ever made

I was really excited to hear that the BBC are going to show a behind-the-scenes documentary about “Ghostwatch“, that terrifying mockumentary from the 90s where Sarah Greene and Mike Smith investigate a poltergeist. This show scared people so much it was banned from being repeated!

This hallowe’en will be its 20 year anniversary, and it’s said to have inspired everything from Derren Brown’s Seance to the Blair Witch Project.

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Get over your fear of heights

Have you seen Man on Wire (not to to be confused with Man on a Ledge or Man on Fire)? It’s a superb documentary and an absolutely incredible story. Acrobatic performer Philippe Petit pulled off what’s been called the ‘art crime of the century’ – back in 1974, he actually managed to walk a tightrope between New York’s twin towers.

It’s mindblowing in so many ways, but it’s not the only amazing highwire feat. Italian performer Maria Spelterini was the first woman to cross Niagra Falls, and did it a number of times: blindfolded, shackled, baskets on feet – everything. The Flying Wallendas are a wire-walking family troupe known for dangerous human pyramids, and if you Google Image Search modern daredevil Eskil Rønningsbakken you’ll find some really unbelievable pictures involving bicycles and hot air balloons.

Have a look at this trailer from Man on Wire – and watch the film! Continue reading

How pickpockets work

Bresson’s Pickpocket had panache

I’m playing a pickpocket in a film that’s coming out soon called Get Lucky, so I thought I’d share a few tips to help you to stay vigilant against these opportunistic thieves.

1. Don’t make it easy for them. Thieves are looking for an easy mark – they’ll spot a wallet poking out of a pocket or an unzipped bag from a mile off.
2. Beware of Beware of Pickpockets signs! Thieves know that people self-consciously pat their pockets when they see these signs; it gives the game away immediately. Similarly, if you hear someone shout “I’ve been pickpocketed”, don’t touch your wallet!
3. Be vigilant against people who bump into you or spill things on you. Both are classic misdirection tactics.
4. Take extra care in busy areas and around ATMs. Fitting in, and looking like you know where you’re going will make you less appealing to thieves.
5. If you see a £20 note on the ground, ask yourself who’s watching. Whenever you bend down to pick up money, or help someone with dropped shopping, make sure you know where your valuables are.

I’ll be writing more about Get Lucky as we get nearer to the release date, but in the meantime, I really love this trailer from the old Robert Bresson film, Pickpocket.

How to make anyone trust you

Go and see master imposter Frederic Bourdin’s amazing story

I went to see The Imposter the other day. It’s a fantastic documentary so I won’t give anything away if you haven’t seen it (you should), but as you can probably guess, it’s about someone pretending to be someone else.

The Imposter of the film, Frederic Bourdin, exploits the human instinct to protect and in fact con artists can often seem vulnerable. They make you trust them by showing how much they trust you – just like when a magician hands an audience member a prop to examine. They’ll make you feel special or helpful… and before you know it you’re handing over the money.

You can’t go through life being wary of everyone who needs your help, though! Trust, but verify. Victims of cons don’t dig too much even when they are suspicious, because they strongly need to believe that they’re doing the right thing (for a great aunt, or whatever the story is). Always check out claims that seem too good to be true ­– they usually are.

There are lots of neat little ‘short cons’ in the excellent David Mamet film House of Games. This one has it all: watch how he gains trust and rapport.

Ancient Astronauts

A religious artefact, or evidence we’ve had some advanced visitors?

I was just reading about this very intriguing theory. If you’ve seen Prometheus, the latest Indiana Jones one, or even Transformers you’ll already be familiar with the theory that thousands of years ago, human evolution had a helping hand from “visitors”.

Some people believe that amazing ancient constructions like the pyramids and stonehenge were constructed with extraterrestrial assistance, and that civilisations like the Mayans might have had some help with their maths and astronomy. In most religious texts, strange UFO-like beings with superior knowledge are always descending from the sky in balls of fire. But were they really based on aliens? It’s an exciting idea, isn’t it?! I’m going to check out ‘Chariots of the Gods’ by Erich von Daniken, meanwhile, have a look at the pictures below and judge for yourself. What do you think?  Continue reading