Archive for the Films Category

Air Guitar

Posted in Films on March 28, 2011 by timlafferty

United Breaks Guitars is the ultimate revenge by a passenger who received poor customer service and I challenge you to watch it and not think “well done you.”  Dave Carroll wrote a song about his experience on United Airlines and the video went viral – 10 million people have watched it on You Tube in the past year and they all now think their luggage isn’t safe with United. It’s a salutary lesson for companies in the age of social media – no matter how good your marketing is, you can totally lose control of the message if you disappoint your customers.

On the subject of managing the message there has been a move by airlines in the last couple of years to try to engage passengers more in their on-board safety videos. Air New Zealand’s is perhaps the most extreme with camp aerobic instructor Richard Simmons doing a cheesy 1970’s routine. It might be novel the first time but is surely a discouragement to be a frequent flyer with them – it’s not something you’d want to sit through twice.

On the other hand, the one they did with their staff wearing nothing but body paint needs to be viewed several times to ensure you, um, know where the lifejackets are stowed. It’s hard to concentrate on safety and you have to think they’d be cold if the aircraft had to ditch in the sea. Some of them already look cold, if you know what I mean.

Virgin America’s on-board video has an animation, with a tongue-in-cheek voice over which seems to try to convey the message that “we think this stuff is boring as you do, but hey, we have to do it.” The problem with that is, they really shouldn’t find that stuff boring – that’s our job. It’s also a bit condescending but does have its moments, such as “For the 0.0001% of you that have never operated a seat belt before, it works like this….”

And finally – an entertaining airline steward, at SouthWest, who raps the safety briefing. He’s pretty cool.

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Heard the One About the Actress?

Posted in Films on November 9, 2010 by timlafferty

There’s an old joke about an actress who goes to Hollywood and is so desperate to land a part in a particular movie that she’ll sleep with anyone who can help her get one. But she’s so dumb, she sleeps with the screenwriter. Movie screenwriters have similar status to the scum at the bottom of a Beverley Hills swimming pool, unless you’re JK Rowling who, according to the Sunday Times Magazine last weekend, is worth £519m, compared to the mere £42m that Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) is worth. If that desperate actress had been a little smarter she’d have slept with JK, who wrote the screenplays for the Harry Potter films, right? Nope. Those, with the exception of The Order of the Phoenix, were adaptations of the books done by Steve Kloves. Who?

I bet you can’t name five movie screenwriters (and I’m only going as high as five because I know how well-informed and intelligent the readers of my blog are!). I reckon the average person on the street couldn’t name two (not counting those who are also famous actors, like Emma Thompson, Sylvester Stallone and Matt Damon). But they could name hundreds of actors and probably a few directors. It’s odd, in a way, because a movie usually needs a script, and a script is unique to a particular writer, whereas any number of actors or directors could bring it to life (in their own unique ways of course). The truth is, although one writer probably wrote the original script, once the option has been bought, other writers are usually brought in to polish it. Sometimes the person who wrote the original script doesn’t even get their name on the credits.

TV writers get a bit more credit – you’ll have a slightly better chance of naming more than five TV writers, whereas you’d probably struggle to single out many TV directors or producers. But again it’s the actors that most people associate with a particular show. Novelists who are fortunate enough to find a publisher are much easier to name than screenwriters; they generally get the limelight they deserve because there aren’t as many people involved who can steal it. So, in mathematical terms, the credit a writer gets is inversely proportional to the number of people involved in the final product (especially if some of those people are good looking and charming like George Clooney and Julia Roberts). Going back to JK Rowling, her novels are what made her successful; if she’d pitched Harry Potter as a movie script in the first place we’d probably never have heard of her and she’d still be struggling to pay for the coffee she drank while writing in an Edinburgh cafe.

Given how poorly writers are valued (my daughter says she’s embarrassed to say that her Dad is a writer), it’s ironic that probably the only profession that, on average, pays worse than writing is……acting. Given these insights, I’m writing a novel which I’m then going to adapt as a film. I must get back to it now – I’m thinking of giving my main character a wand and special powers. Failing that, I’ll try to sleep with JK Rowling.

Dog Bites Writer

Posted in Films on September 21, 2010 by timlafferty

I wrote a short film script called Saving Ernie in which a small, innocent dog comes to a sticky end (his ears catch fire). It was done in good humour and it was short-listed in a national competition last year (no actual dogs were harmed during the writing of the script). But I’m starting to wonder if dogs can read and if perhaps they didn’t like my script, which might explain why I was attacked by a pack of three of them last week. I still have a bite mark on my ankle as evidence. I thought normal film critics were bad enough.

In my previous blog I probably alienated all my Catholic friends by gently mocking the Pope. This time I need to pray for forgiveness for what I’m about to write, and I expect my dog-loving pals will go walkies. Don’t get me wrong I like some dogs, namely guide dogs, sheep dogs and any that might bring me brandy if I’m caught in an avalanche. I’m less keen on those that I think might bite me, which is most of them. I understand why someone living on their own could find a dog good company. But for other people, I don’t get it – why take on something that’s demanding, messy, destructive, expensive and often smelly? They must be barking. Even going out for a day or two can raise the inevitable question: “what will we do with Schwarzkopf?”

My ankle-biting incident happened while jogging on the local Common. Ask any jogger, postman or milkman what they think of dogs and they’ll lift a trouser leg to show you the scars. I know a postman who made fun of a dog which was barking at him through the front window. Moments later the dog ran round from the back of the house (the back door must have been open) and bit him on the arse. So now he has to drop his trousers to reveal his scars (that’s his excuse, anyway).

On a balmy summer’s day, the Common smells like a warm dog’s toilet, and there are few things that smell worse than doggy do-do. Some owners are considerate enough to clean up but here’s a weird thing: there are plastic bags of dog poop hanging from the trees. What’s that all about? Someone will go to the trouble of poop-scooping but then can’t be bothered to carry it to the nearest bin (there are special receptacles for that stuff – I don’t envy the person who has to empty them).

The term “walking the dog” seems to be a slight exaggeration. Most dog-owners I see on the Common are standing around talking to each other while their dogs are straining at their leads, trying to attack me. It’s more ‘dog talking’ than ‘dog walking’. I imagine the opening line of conversations is often something like “Oh he’s lovely; what is he?” A little shih tzu who wants to bite me, that’s what he is. God gave dogs teeth for a reason, and the reason is me.

That’s the end of my little rant about dogs. If they really can read, once they see this I’m dogfood.