Nov 112019

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen Voice first interviewed actor Declan Michael Laird in June 2012, when he was a determined, optimistic 18-year-old trying to break in Hollywood.

Quite a few films, commercials and experiences have gone under the bridge since then. This catch-up seemed quite overdue.

“I believe that if things are meant to be, they’ll be” he said at the time – while putting in the hard work to make what he wanted to happen a reality.

Glaswegian Declan started out as a rising footballer, playing for Greenock Morton FC on a youth contract; football runs in the family. His brother Stefan is Aberdeen Football Club’s Academy Head and owns his own coaching company, SJL Coaching.

A combination of circumstances, accident, curiosity, luck, and mostly talent led Declan off the pitch and in front of the camera.

“It was all amazingly sudden,” Declan explained in an earlier Aberdeen Voice interview of his first brushes with acting,

“I went to the first filming and decided this was what I wanted to do – the cameras, the actors, being on set was amazing.  Football, which had been my aim for 10 years, suddenly fell to the back.  I did a few short films back home with independent filmmakers.” 

Determination and drive saw him attend the prestigious Stella Adler school on a full scholarship (the previous person on a full ride to the famous school was Robert DeNiro).

Fast forward to our present talk, which comes on the heels of the film ‘Hot Air’ debuting on Amazon Prime Video.

Hot Air is the latest from the inimitable, incisive Steve Coogan. Laird has a supporting role in the film, also starring Neve Campbell and Taylor Russell.

Before I knew Declan was in this film, it had my attention.

Coogan plays a far-right wing, bitter, manipulative, cynical shock jock à la Bill O’Reilly: a man who plays his perpetually furious, far-right wing listeners like a violin, creating ratings from fomenting their anger.

He has some great lines indicting the kind of journalism that is now poisoning American minds in particular (a disease spread by the likes of Breitbart and Kate Hopkins).

As someone who was on the O’Reilly Factor show some years back, I wanted to see if the dirty tricks, psychological games and ruthlessness would be captured.

They were.

Coogan’s radio talk show host is emotionally wounded and the cuts have festered over time. The Dei ex Machina appearance of his niece (Taylor Russell), child of his damaged, addicted sister provides a way to see how he wound up so twisted.

He gets some killer lines (‘How do you sleep at night?’ Is answered by him with ‘On a mattress stuffed with cash and the broken dreams of Hillary Clinton’), climaxing in his soliloquy damning politics and far-right media near the end.

This movie has a lot to say, and I like how it does it.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role

It was great to see Neve Campbell as the love interest. You can see in her face her conflicting emotions – fondness, perhaps love for the rather unlovable DJ, and turmoil when he gets things so wrong at different times.

If you remember Trump’s preposterous recent pronouncement that instead of a wall we should have a moat, he may have picked that up from this film 

But there is humour, not least supplied by Declan’s character – a trustafarian young Russian man who lives in Coogan’s ultra-exclusive Manhattan apartment building who takes Taylor Russell out clubbing, to Coogan’s chagrin.

Declan does an impressive turn in this supporting role, from his accent, his movements from his hands through his fingertips.

I asked how he got his accent honed.

“I was always the guy doing impressions and mimicking people growing up – it came naturally to me. I did study dialect at Stella Adler as well; there were two years of accent training.”

“I asked the director ‘Do you want me to play it straight or do you want caricature?’ and he said ‘Well, we’re going to put you in an Adidas tracksuit with a thick gold chain.’ – so that told me all I needed to know.”

He was surprised to see Taylor Russell as a fellow actor on the project – he had met her before.

“It was the craziest thing – I met Taylor about three years earlier. We got introduced by a friend of a friend. Then she was in Lost in Space for Netflix.”

He saw her name on the scripts and that meeting came back to him.

“It’s funny how it’s such a small world.”

Ms Russell is in the acclaimed Waves, and has just had a 2020 breakthrough actor nomination for her work on the film in the Gotham Awards.

I didn’t ask Declan the predictable ‘So what was Steve Coogan really like?’ question, but I did ask what it was like to work with him. To many, Coogan is Alan Partridge; to others like me, Alan Partridge is a small part of Coogan’s work.

Declan said:

“He was kind of a quiet person, very polite. He thought I was Russian. When he asked me where I was from and I answered ‘Glasgow’, we got talking more. He was a great person to talk to and had lots of good advice.”

It was a bit odd how Declan landed the role – it was via one Skype call. He had done a reading of one scene with only one read through, and no input came back from the director – which can be very good or it can mean they’re not remotely interested.

“Forty-five minutes later my agent called and said I got it.”

“It was funny… I went to see it in a theatre with my girlfriend and this couple looked at me, and the man did a double-take. I heard him say afterwards to his partner, nodding in m y direction, ‘That’s the guy who was in the film!’ And she said ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’

“I laughed.”

Declan tells me about his girlfriend – they met in New York; she went to NYU and plans to direct and did casting for Netflix. I ask him if he has any interest in directing.

“Directing doesn’t interest me. I look at acting, writing, producing, and she talks about shots, cinematography, lightning.”

What’s next seems to be more acting and some producing.

“Zak Kadison has taken me under his wing,” Declan says of the producing side.

Acting-wise, he will be appearing in Green Fever next year.

Green Fever is a tale of a marijuana farm in California at a time of transition, directed by Gerard Roxburgh, written by Danny Acosta and Paul Telfer.

It is based on true events, but as Declan puts it

“My role is the only real fiction in it; I play a younger brother of a farm owner. The focus is on politics around the time weed was made legal. It’s an action/thriller/heist film.”

I cheekily ask whether the cast are taking the method acting approach to the project; Declan laughs and replies:

“There was a strong talk from the director to everyone about not smoking!”

A Scottish coincidence arises in the film’s crew;

“Gerard’s (the director’s) family come from down the road from my family in Greenock, and Telfor’s roots are in from Paisley.”

By this time, we’d talked politics, Trump (inevitably), earthquakes, San Francisco, football and more, and before I talked him hoarse, we wound up the call.

It is wonderful in such a time of upheaval and problems, and frisson between generations to see someone like Declan whose mature and hard-working beyond his years getting closer to the nearly impossible dream of Hollywood stardom.

If anyone can get there though, it’s him. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be in a further nine years.

Jan 212016

Boxing drama Creed continues the Rocky series as its seventh instalment, both a sequel and spinoff.  Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson was there the day of its UK release.


Michael B. Jordan plays ‘juvenile tearaway’, Adonis Johnson.

There were maybe just over a dozen people at Cineworld at Queens Links during the Friday midmorning showing; which would be about right, given it was a weekday and many would’ve been
It borrows a lot from the preceding films in the series, but the repetition is slightly more artistic symmetry than aping years gone by and merely being lazy. It’s not entirely a masterpiece, though.

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is a tearaway in juvenile hall, who happens to be the lovechild of deceased boxing legend, one of Rocky Balboa’s fiercest rivals and closest friends, Apollo Creed.

Creed’s widow takes him under her wing, and the boy becomes a man that feels as if something in his life is missing.

Partly inspired by his father’s success in the ring, he goes to seek out Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) as the trainer to propel him into the boxing limelight and title glory.

Antagonist-wise there’s real-life boxer and Liverpudlian Tony Bellew, who serves as Creed’s English opposition, Ricky Conlan.

Between training montages and the like, Tessa Thompson serves as Creed’s love interest, Bianca.

There aren’t many of the original characters reprised in this film, and many maybe crestfallen than it’s not just Adrian who isn’t on the go anymore.

Positives of the film include the soundtrack, though much of it in that sense are reprises from previous films. There’s no denying, however, that chill as you hear the tolling of the bell; that the real training has begun. Or the pounding of the drums as he races up that stairwell.

Negatives, though, centre around Adonis. For someone who’s meant to be the blood of Apollo, he appears to have little of the charisma which gave his father such stage presence. To be out acted by a full-time boxer in Bellew, who plays a good villain in the piece, is daresay not very flattering.

Something else, which has carried on from Rocky Balboa, is the believability of the film. Now, this isn’t concerning the much derided fight scenes of the first five in the series. That aspect has definitely caught up with the times, and is far more based in realism than it used to be.

This more concerns how protagonist and antagonist weigh in against eachother. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky squares up to a comparatively rake-like Mason Dixon and so doesn’t look to be in the same weight division.

The same applies when muscular Adonis faces off with Ricky Conlan, though funnily enough the latter is indeed, as in the film, a light heavyweight in real life. Perhaps they elected for how good an actor was for the part, than any issues that may arise concerning body presentation.

All in all, it manages to come to a reasonable enough conclusion to encourage the viewer to stick around for the rumoured parts two and three of a spinoff trilogy. The parallels between this first Creed film and the original Rocky debut are definitely by design, and not accident.

Dec 172015

The American epic space opera Star Wars began again with its seventh instalment, The Force Awakens. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson was there the day of its general release.

vuepicsqThere were maybe just over a dozen people at Vue on Shiprow during the Thursday midmorning showing; which would be about right, given there were midnight and crack of dawn showings preceding it.
Generally speaking, with films of this nature, and magnitude, it can go one of two ways. This being faithful to the originals; or overcompensating lack of good storytelling with supreme focus upon special effects, fight sequences and otherworldly landscapes.

This however, seems to straddle the two. It’s not mind blowing; yet not too bad, either.

Basically, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and the Resistance (what used to be the Rebel Alliance) are seeking him out for help against the odious First Order (what used to be the Galactic Empire). The latter has all but one of the fragments of data detailing his location, and the good guys have that one last piece of vital information.

So far, so good. This is the kind of solid underdog tale that the series has so successfully relied upon since its debut in 1977.

Though the best of the original characters are reprised with the same actors and actresses as before; the two or three main protagonists of the film aren’t so long in the tooth.

You’ve got Daisy Ridley as Rey, who’s basically this generation’s Luke Skywalker in the female form. She’s a scavenger and quite self-sufficient. There’s also rogue Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who’s integral to the Resistance standing a chance of defeating the First Order.

On top of all that, Oscar Isaac plays ace pilot Poe Dameron with all the attributes of a non-greying Han Solo. Everyone else in the film more or less plays a supporting role to these three, including Harrison Ford (the aforementioned Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa).

Antagonist wise, there’s the triumvirate of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). This could also be read as the Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Governor Tarkin equivalent of the film.

Come the end of the film, there are a couple of surprises. There’s yet another father and son divide, and someone of stellar importance to the series dies. The former might anger people. The latter, however, could definitely be very contentious among Star Wars fans.

All in all, it manages to come to a reasonable enough conclusion to stand by itself without the remaining two sequels. On the other hand, enough happens and enough is left unresolved to urge the viewer to watch the next instalment.

Nov 062015

The found footage supernatural horror series Paranormal Activity has now reached its sixth and final instalment. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson reviews The Ghost Dimension, more or less a sequel to Paranormal Activity 3.

ParanormalactivityNot many people came for the Tuesday midmorning showing at Union Square’s Cineworld, the film having being released almost a fortnight ago. It perhaps serves to prove that this franchise has run its course. Though not hackneyed in the sense it shows cupboard doors flapping of their own free will, it’s largely predictable.

Having said that, the you-know-it-is-coming moments frighten because you can never totally anticipate that split second they’ll make you jolt; though that’s the case for just about every horror film, good or bad.

Plus points, however, include when the besieged protagonists explore the nature of the demonic presence they seek to be rid of.

The plot itself generally revolves around father Ryan Fleege (Chris Murray), wife Emily (Brit Shaw) and daughter Leila (Ivy George). Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) joins the family for Christmas after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Suspicions regarding the house are roused when family friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) comes on the go. She’s somewhat of a Feng Shui expert and her comment upon its ‘energies’ validate what soon takes hold.

Whilst preparing the house for the festivities they find a box of tapes they’ve never seen before. Out of curiosity, brothers Ryan and Mike view some of them not realising that they’re family videos belonging to the previous family that lived there.

In fact, the current house is built upon the site of that very family’s house, which burnt down. The footage, which is not only weird and potentially satanic, references the current householders despite being recorded years ago; describing them in great detail.

The main debate with this is whether this girl with her eyes closed in the video is picturing the future, or is in fact viewing these viewers in some sort of spiritual plain within the present. Being honest, it seems a tad reminiscent of the girl coming out of the screen of the television in The Ring.

Leila starts acting up, though it begins innocently as what they think is her talking to an imaginary friend. It turns out that this imaginary friend seeks the young girl in a bid to take a physical form.

Things escalate to the point where they call in Father Todd (Michael Krawic), a priest. Despite being bitten by Leila during a fit of rage, he doesn’t think that she’s possessed.  He therefore elects for a cleansing, and not an exorcism.

Concern had already grown for Leila, and they’d placed a camcorder in her room in a bid to get a handle on what’s going on. During another very active night, Leila is seen via this surveillance walking through a passageway that has appeared in a crack above the headboard of her bed.

Perhaps this is the same spiritual plain within the present in those family videos, ‘the ghost dimension’.

One thing you cannot knock these films for is a lack of unhappy, and in turn conceivably realistic, endings. No psychics battling spirits of the netherworld, at least not this time round. Just feeble, mortal men and women clinging onto life; logic and reason leaving them as panic overtakes them.

Oct 292015

Spy thriller Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond. It’s not as good as the previous Skyfall, though even that wasn’t particularly remarkable. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson watched the most expensive Bond movie yet in its second day in cinemas.

vuepicThere were just over a dozen people at Vue on Aberdeen’s Shiprow during the Tuesday morning showing, which was probably good given that most people were at work at that time of day.
Casting-wise the composition of its starring actors is interesting. Much time was spent placing the voice of main antagonist Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Indeed Christoph Waltz is best known by many as Jamie Foxx’s sidekick in Django Unchained

He’s very soft spoken like Bond’s previous adversary, Skyfall’s Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).

Anyway, the film primarily revolves around Bond and his main love interest Dr Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux. She’s the daughter of a man with serious links to a shadowy organisation called Spectre.

Basically Bond starts the film following the death wish of M (Judie Dench). Her assignment from beyond the grave lands him in some serious trouble. It turns out that new management at MI6 wants to steamroll the ‘00’ project, and 007’s transgression justifying this process.

He goes rogue anyway, and tracks down Swann’s father. Upon revealing his daughter’s location, someone to help Bond in M’s search for answers, he urges him to protect her before killing himself.

This is amidst the new setup of the British intelligence services, soon to turn global, warring with the old guard like the current M (Ralph Fiennes). The latter is, of course, in favour of the ‘00’ project.

When Bond seems certain to die, inextricable links are made between himself and Blofeld. The revelation concerning Bond’s childhood almost makes enduring some of the film’s less watchable moments worthwhile just for this alone. Of course, looking back it was Bond’s upbringing that made Skyfall intriguing.

However, barely a couple minutes of key dialogue within a film clocking almost two and a half hours is a lot to ask. Highbrow types maybe wouldn’t have the patience.

The fascinating detail revealed is seemingly the one of few things of substance revealed in the duration; the rest just cars, combat and explosions. The whole “Bond, James Bond” routine early on in the film in this particular outing is meant to be brooding and sexy, but just comes off as corny.

Yes, despite how more serious Bond has become in the Craig-era there are, thankfully you suppose, some lights moments; the third ‘c’, comedy.

Overall it’s typical of most Bond films that have preceded it: spy thriller slightly more intelligent than your average exploding action film. Shaking, but not too stirring.

Apr 032015

I watched Fury (Saving Private Ryan with Tanks) starring Brad Pitt as something of a howling sh*t tank commander at the weekend and while the CFG special effects were great and the tension sky-high the plotline was distinctly iffy, opines ‘Voice’s Dave Watt.

Brad-Pitt-in-Fury-Movie-poster-featThe Better Educated Young White Middle Class Hero Who Usually Survives in a Hollywood Movie – like Corporal Upham in ‘Saving Private Ryan’  or Corporal Sledge in ‘Pacific’ he is the team intellectual who, in this case, is thrown into a tank crew having been a clerk for eight weeks.

He has never been in a tank before and he is the assistant driver?

There are no expendable ex-elementary school infantrymen who would be glad of an internal transfer?

Come on, if you’re that determined to waste a qualified clerk at least put him in the infantry where he can step on a Schu-mine and clear the way for a real infantryman. Play the game, HR.

The Crew – You simply don’t have to behave like Bluto to be part of a Tank crew. It’s not necessary to be eight foot high and covered in red hair with attitude – you’re in a metal tank with a 3″ thick armour and a 76mm gun for God’s sake!

You might as well be a shy, unassuming, five foot three trainee librarian with an interest in macrame. Perhaps the screenwriter found a couple of old Sven Hassel paperbacks holding up a table leg somewhere. Who knows.

I don’t know if tank crews in the Yank army really behaved in this posturing macho fashion towards new crewmen but British ones certainly didn’t if WWII tank crew like celebrated author Ken Tout and Michael Green (author of the Coarse Rugby books) are anything to go by.

Needless to say, following the approved Stephen Spielberg formula, as the film goes on the crew become a lot nicer and border on the maudlin and the downright mawkish if not schmaltzy by the end.

Bluto encounters a Tiger tank  – Even at this stage of the war the German tankies were doing a minimum twenty week training course and the cardinal rule which would have been drummed into them every day since 1940 would be –  ‘You do not fire when you are moving’.

1) The Tiger – opens fire and promptly brews up Tank #2

Brad Pitt orders the rest to put smoke down in front of the Tiger.

2) Bearing in mind the Tiger has the Shermans considerably outranged it has three choices :

a) Move back a couple of hundred yards behind the smoke and wait for the shooting gallery to appear through the smoke (best)
b) Stay where it is and wait for the shooting gallery to appear through the smoke (next best)
c) Advance through the smoke and fire while moving while reducing the firefight to a melee. (absolutely the worst – and because it’s Hollywood, what the Tiger does).

The mission – the tank squadron is ordered to guard a crossroads with no infantry, artillery or air support. Unusual. Very unusual as it’s April 1945 and by this point the Allies have air and artillery support coming out of their ears. However, by the time the tanks get to the crossroads there is, courtesy of the Tiger, only Pitt’s tank left which promptly runs on to a solitary mine.

Finding that they are about to be attacked by a battalion of SS infantry (apparently SS infantry Uruk-Hai as they didn’t seem to mind casualties one little bit) and only having the disabled tank the crew sensibly decide to vote with their feet before Brad shames them into staying.

Bugger the fact that it’s April 1945, what’s left of the German army is totally screwed in the west, the Soviets are in the suburbs of Berlin and this will make very little difference to the outcome of the war anyway. Brad does his High Noon shtick and the crew actually decide to stay, the idiots.

I remember once being in an office and (being the only ex-serviceman in the place) a guy had seen some film that involved some John Wayne type figure asking for volunteers for the heroic rearguard and him asking me if that was the case in real life and myself bursting into rather coarse laughter with the equally coarse words “F**k me, they wouldn’t get many fu**ing volunteers”, and pointing out that your unit would simply detailed as rearguard by the commanding general and your views on the matter were not generally canvassed.

Hollywood has a lot to answer for.

Anyway the SS Uruk-Hai repeatedly charge up to the disabled tank and are shot down in droves but eventually they overrun it and almost everyone dies heroically but quite picturesquely considering the mayhem which has preceded it. The exception is the young intellectual who presumably goes on to live a full and happy life teaching Ethics at Illinois University.

Roll credits.

For the benefit of those who may want to climb on their high horse and say I’m dissing WW2 tank crews – it’s okay, it’s only a film.

However,  I sat inside various Chieftains courtesy of Four Guards Armoured in my army days and thanked various dieties that I was in the Signals. You can’t see a bloody thing from inside a tank and if you are a tankie you’re always convinced there’s some bugger farting around under your armpit with an RPG-7. Not good.

For further reading – see a surprisingly good article in the Telegraph.

Jan 242014

Horror flick Devil’s Due promised much, given its interesting premise, but simply lurched from one supernatural shock to the other.  Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson comments upon a film simply going through the motions.

vuepicVue on Shiprow was lightly sprinkled with cinemagoers on a usually busy Thursday night for the High Street.

I thought the film started well.  Lovebirds Samantha (Allison Miller) and Zach McCall (Zach Gilford) are a recently hitched couple spending their honeymoon in South America.

They decide to go for a psychic reading and find themselves pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the forecast.

However, things take a somewhat sinister turn.  Samantha’s told she’s ‘born of death’, and the psychic goes from lightly holding Mrs McCall’s palms to gripping her arms violently.

The whole film is shot with handheld cameras and CCTV footage, and the concluding recordings of their honeymoon show candlelit ceremonies and satanic symbols.

Once back from holiday, Samantha discovers she’s pregnant, and from then on her whole character changes.  It’s only much later on that her husband reviews what was caught on camera that fateful night with the psychic and the ceremony.

By this time Zach’s really struggling to keep abreast of his wife’s actions and plumps for the help of his family to get him and his wife through their ominous ordeal.  He finds it that there’s some sort of coven in his neighbourhood, and that they’re connected to what happened on their honeymoon.

This film, to its credit, manages to serve up some comical moments despite its mediocrity.  Watch out for clip of the supermarket surveillance which features a ravenous Samantha eating for two.

That is her and her baby – eating raw meat!  The sharp turn that her fellow shopper takes is a subtle show of not taking oneself too seriously.

All in all, not the best horror film you’ll see.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have its jumpy minutes.  I suppose in that respect the film delivered the goods.

Sep 142011

Scotland’s Parliament is gearing up for a special screening of the award-winning documentary You’ve Been Trumped today, but First Minister Alex Salmond has declined an invitation to attend, sighting ‘long standing ministerial commitments’. 

Also absent from the Holyrood event will be Scotland’s Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP.  In a statement, Mr Swinney’s office said he was unable to attend due to ‘prior commitments’.  Mr Salmond has previously declined invitations to several presentations of the film across Scotland, including the green-carpet premiere in Aberdeen and subsequent screenings in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

 Scotland’s Government was responsible for giving Donald Trump’s controversial golf development the go-ahead at the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.

However, a number of high profile politicians and key environmental figures have booked places for this evening’s jam-packed Edinburgh screening, including Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green Party Co-Convenor) Stan Blackley, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth Scotland and geomorphologist Dr Jim Hansom, University of Glasgow (who gave evidence to the Scottish Government inquiry on the Trump development on behalf of Scottish Natural Heritage).

Also present will be Menie Estate resident David Milne whose home overlooks Mr Trump’s resort.  Mr Milne said:

“It’s very important to bring this film to Parliament to emphasise to those who make the laws that it’s not abstract. It’s all about living, breathing, people who have a right to live unharrassed in their own homes, in a landscape that should never have been touched.”

Also watching the documentary unspool will be academics, golf writers and legal experts including Frances McCartney, whose client, 87 year old widow Molly Forbes, has been threatened with eviction and a legal bill of up to £50,000 by US billionaire Donald Trump.

Mr Trump’s office in New York has yet to respond to a personal invitation to the event.

Meanwhile politicians who have not booked their place are being urged to do so by Bob Ward, Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science who recently saw You’ve Been Trumped in London.   Mr Ward describes the tycoon’s efforts to build a golf resort on Site of Special Scientific Interest as ruthless in an article for The Guardian.

Director Anthony Baxter who will also be at the screening said, “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for Scotland’s decision-makers to see the film.  We await to see if any other members of the Government will attend today’s screening, to comment on what an international film jury recently described as:

“one of the worst environmental crimes in recent UK history.”

Today’s screening at the Scottish Parliament is being staged by the Take One Action Film Festival.

Aug 032011

Anthony Baxter takes time out again from promoting his film to update Aberdeen Voice readers.  Don’t look for the story in the Press & Journal.
Don’t look for any updates in the Evening Express.  Except for STV, Northsound, and of course the Voice – as far as the local press is concerned,

Traverse City, Michigan, USA:

The Scottish-made documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ scooped its second major film festival award in as many months after clinching the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s prestigious Traverse City Film  Festival, which has just drawn to a close in Michigan, USA. Oscar-winning director Moore was present for the awards at the City’s famous State Theatre – a renovated classic cinema dating back to 1916.

“This is a huge honour and we’re delighted to accept this award,” said Anthony Baxter.

Producer Richard Phinney also attended the ceremony – the filmmakers were among a record 100 brought to Michigan with the help of a grant to the festival from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

The festival was founded by Academy Award-winning Director Michael Moore, who runs the festival and serves as president of its board of directors.

Other board members are photographer John Robert Williams and New York Times best-selling author Doug Stanton, both Traverse City residents, and filmmakers Larry Charles (director, “Borat”), Terry George (director, “Hotel Rwanda”), Sabina Guzzanti (director, “Viva Zapatero!”), and Christine Lahti (actor, “Running on Empty”).

The 95-minute feature documentary You’ve Been Trumped tells the story of the American  tycoon Donald Trump building a golf course resort on one of Scotland’s last wilderness areas north of Aberdeen.

Branded ‘a failure’ by the Trump Organisation, You’ve Been Trumped proved to be a sell-out hit at its World Premiere at Hot Docs in Toronto in May (despite claims from Creative Scotland that ‘nobody would watch it’).

The film has since played to packed cinemas through special preview screenings in major cities across Scotland in association with Take One Action and also as part of the acclaimed Stranger than Fiction series at New York’s IFC Center.  Further screenings are on the way (see last week’s Voice for listings).

Taking to the stage in Traverse City with fellow filmmaker Phinney to receive the award, Baxter thanked the hundreds of crowd-funders who had supported the film.

 “We were refused all funding to make You’ve Been Trumped and so I’d like to say a special thank you to the hundreds of people from around the world who enabled us to finish the film with donations from twenty countries.”

A tribute was also paid to Michael Moore for inviting the film to the festival along with dozens of other world-class award-winning documentaries – as well as to the 1300 volunteers who made the seventh outing for the Traverse City Film Fest was the biggest yet.

Other Traverse City Film Festival documentary winners included HBO hit Hot Coffee (The Documentary Everyone in America Should See Award) whilst Best Activism in a  Foreign Documentary went to BBC Storyville‘s Give Up Tomorrow. 

In the fiction category, award winners included Chris Morris’ Four Lions starring Steve Coogan (Best Screenplay in a Foreign Narrative Film) and the Academy Award nominated Incendies (Best World Narrative Film).

Nearly 130,000 people flocked to watch ‘Just Great Movies’ across the six-day Traverse City Film Festival where George Lucas gave special permission for crowd-puller Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to be screened in the open air for the very first time in front of thousands of film fans from around the world.

The Special Jury Prize for You’ve Been Trumped comes just a month after the film won Britain’s top environmental prize for documentaries with the Green Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Sheffield Doc/Fest).  Then, the international jury lauded the film for:

“exposing one of the worst environmental crimes in recent UK history.”

(No word yet as to whether the Press & Journal or its sister paper have discovered the existence of ‘you’ve been trumped.’)

The Traverse City Film Festival is a charitable, educational, non-profit organisation committed to showing “Just Great Movies” and helping to save one of America’s few indigenous art forms – the cinema.  The festival brings films and filmmakers from around the world to northern Michigan for the annual film festival in late July. It was instrumental in renovating a shuttered historical downtown movie house, the State Theatre, which it continues to own and operate as a year-round,
community-based, mission-driven and volunteer-staffed art house movie theater.  A full list of award winners can be seen here.

You’ve Been Trumped will now receive a special London preview at the Frontline Club (12 August) and will be screening for a week at the DCA Dundee later this month (19-25 August) before going on to the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama (26-27)
August.  The film will also headline the Edindocs film festival (16th September) and a screening is being planned for the Scottish Parliament.

Jul 292011

A month ago Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney attended the sold-out Aberdeen premier of their documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ at Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema.  If you don’t know, the film follows one year of (dramatic) events at the Menie Estate as Trump and his people change this part of Aberdeenshire forever.  What has Anthony been doing since those first Aberdeen screenings?  Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly catches up with Baxter as ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ captures world-wide interest.

Anthony Baxter is in Trump’s hometown, New York City, where the documentary met great acclaim when it was screened earlier this month. A cursory web search for ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ comes up with an astounding 6 million plus results. Since those first UK showings, Baxter has been interviewed and quoted very widely; the film is being lined up for further screenings, and it is receiving the critical acclaim it deserves.

“I’m currently in New York – heading to Michigan tomorrow to Michael Moore’s festival which sounds great.  We’ve got excellent slots for the screenings”. Baxter advises.

 Michael Moore is one of the world’s greatest contemporary documentary film-makers.  Oscar-winner Moore’s successes include the documentary classic ‘Bowling for Columbine’ (a look at America’s deadly love affair with handguns) and ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.
For further info, blogs, book and film information, click here

Michael Moore chose ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ to feature at his festival this year; this selection is high praise indeed.  Moore is no stranger to controversy, and no stranger to Donald Trump.

Trump once labelled Moore with one of the worst labels a Conservative America can use: Trump called Moore ‘A Communist’. (Sources say Moore is holding up well despite this crushing slur).

Baxter is increasingly in demand, yet he and Phinney seem to be handling all of their international press, travel and booking arrangements themselves.  (By way of comparison, American CBS television flew several hundred of its staff to London to cover the Royal wedding, some coming several weeks in advance).  Baxter just keeps going forward:-

“I’ve done a guest column for TGO magazine and also an online interview with the European Documentary network which should be going online soon”.

Anthony advises that the film has undergone a small change. At one point ‘The Golf Channel’ was threatening him with legal action for using a clip of theirs (which Baxter fully credited of course).  Baxter and his legal team held fast.  As to the changes he did make:-

“Whilst here in New York I’ve done a new master of the film – we’ve basically made a couple of minor adjustments – one of which is adding the incident where David Milne is charged for a new boundary fence.   I’ve also been meeting with potential distributors and publicists as we attempt to get the ball rolling for distribution later this year.

“Also – you’ll probably have seen we’re screening the film at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Alabama which is good news.   But it’s clear we’ll need to get some further finance together to get the ball rolling on publicity”.

Funding for getting  ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ shown around the world was not raised from a far-sighted Scottish Arts board, but in part from ‘crowd funding’
See indiegogo for details here: Take-You’ve-Been-Trumped-To-Trump.
If you want to help ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ continue its ever-growing, world-wide tour, watch indiegogo and Facebook for further details and any upcoming announcements.
See: Youve-Been-Trumped-On-Facebook

Anthony is getting the film as wide a screening as possible before a probable, eventual DVD release.

There is good news for people who missed the film first-time around – here is an update on forthcoming screenings:

  • 26-31st July, Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival official selection (Richard and Anthony in attendance)
  • 12th August,Preview Screening + Q&A, Frontline Club, London (Anthony in attendance)
  • 19-25th August,Screening at the DCA, Dundee (Q&A event on Friday 19 August Anthony in attendance)
  • 26-28th August, Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, Birmingham, Alabama, USA, official selection (Anthony in attendance)
  • 11th September, 3pm, BFI, South Bank – London Premiere +Q&A (Anthony in attendance)
  • 14th September,Scottish Parliament screening, Edinburgh + Q&A (TBC)
  • 16th September,opening night headline film of the Edindocs Film Festival, Edinburgh + Q&A (Anthony in attendance)

Pencilled in but unconfirmed:

  • 30th September/1st October,Eden Court Inverness + Q&A
  • 2nd October-8th October,Filmhouse, Edinburgh
  • 13-17th October,Hamptons International Film Festival official selection, New York, USA (Richard and Anthony in attendance)
  • 27th October, Discovery Youth Film Festival, Dundee (Anthony in attendance)
  • 1 week in October, pencilled in at the Aberdeen Belmont Picturehouse but unconfirmed.

Updates will be posted in due course on Facebook (just search on ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ ) and most definitely on Aberdeen Voice.

The usually litigious Donald has been rather quiet of late.  Perhaps he will wind up being trumped  himself?  Time will tell.