Keep Going

by Nev· September 02, 2016· in blog· 0 comments
Years ago, when I was a more prominent film journalist than now, a director wrote to me to complain about a review. I hadn’t written it, but he thought I’d edited it (I hadn’t been involved at all, as it happened) and, as we’d met socially, was upset at its sly and dismissive tone. He was right to be. The review was casually damning, misunderstood the film and gave the sense of sneering at the makers. It was, he said, among other things, “the reason I am going to stop making films after I finish my current one”. I hated the idea of this, so wrote back to try to dissuade him. With details edited to protect the guilty, here’s the gist: “Dear _____ I can imagine how frustrating and dispiriting it must be to see the film receive this treatment… I find it depressing that you are planning to stop making films. As you say, you have other reasons, but please don’t let ignorant reviews contribute to your decision – particularly not a review that so spectacularly misunderstands the point of your film. Kenneth Tynan once said something to the effect that ‘A critic is someone who knows the …
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Bond Bombshell

by Nev· November 09, 2015· in blog· 0 comments
Ten directors have hollered “Action” on a James Bond picture. And in 47 years and 22 movies, they’ve all been blokes. In the equal opportunity 21st century, this begs a question: isn’t it time Bond was directed by a bird?* Bond 23 is two years away. Regular writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been hired alongside Frost/Nixon scribe Peter Morgan to craft a suitably incendiary, continent-hopping action adventure. No director is attached. Used to be, they’d return for repeat business, but in the last two decades only Martin Campbell has sat in the Big Chair twice. John Glen holds the record, with five, and it’s 20 years to the week since his last outing, Licence To Kill, opened – nearly slaying Britain’s best-loved filmmaking series. The film itself is somewhat underrated: it’s a tense enough thriller and, hair aside, Dalton wasn’t a bad Bond. He was just a terribly grave one… all frowns and angst and inner turmoil. Daniel Craig take note: Bond needs to have fun. So, discount the rumours which suggest Bond 23 will have a drug-themed plot, with 007 returning to Afghanistan for the first time since Dalton’s debut, The Living Daylights. It would be spectacularly …
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Failure By Degrees

by Nev· February 03, 2015· in blog· 0 comments
I don’t like Any Given Sunday. At least, I don’t remember liking it. It felt long and bombastic (yes, I know it’s an Oliver Stone movie, but at his best he is truly great). And it’s about American Football. Except – and if I had a spare weekend to watch it again perhaps I’d know this for certain – it now seems to me to be, really, about failure. There’s a scene in it I’ve re-watched more than any other in any film. Yes, even more than the Patsy Kensit make-out scene in Lethal Weapon 2 when I was a teenager. In it, head coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) tries to gee his team up before they go out to do whatever it is American Football players do between commercial breaks. And… well, the glory of the internet is you don’t need to read my mangled recollection of it, you can watch it here. It’s something, embarrassingly enough, I sometimes listen to before professional challenges – whether it’s interviewing a film star or a great director or preparing to pitch for a screenwriting gig. And it works. At least it seems to. Buy me a pint and I’ll talk at length …
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Received a note the other day from a would-be journalist suffering from self-doubt, wondering if they could ever get over it and if there was a secret to doing so. So, here’s the secret: Everyone thinks they suck. Everyone. Those people who say they don’t ever think they suck? They’re lying. Or they’re awful writers. Self-doubt is not necessarily a harbinger of brilliance, but unalloyed arrogance is a harbinger of idiocy. Self-doubt is worse than others’ criticism – a lot worse – because it hobbles you before the race even begins. It stops you doing anything and therefore prevents either success or failure. And failure can be your friend: because if you’re failing, you’re learning*. In writing, the only thing that is guaranteed is that if you write nothing you will achieve nothing. If you are writing for publication – or for a living – then it is better to have 100% of something flawed than 40% of something perfect. As Bruce Springsteen told me on the phone the other day: “There is no right way, no pure way of doing it. There is just doing it.”** So, write and write and write. If it’s finished and awful, well, at …
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You’re reading this because you want to be a film journalist. Or, you’re really, really bored. Hundreds of people have emailed me for ‘How to…’ advice in the decade or so I’ve been writing or editing for movie magazines and websites. Finally, I’ve got round to writing here what I write to everyone, pretty much. Wish I’d done it sooner: would have saved days. So, you want to be a film magazine journalist… Why? Film magazine journalism is rarely well paid, the hours are long and if you’re lucky you will find it about 10% as glamorous as people think it is. You should only aim to be a film journo if you love to write – if writing is, almost, the only thing you can do. I Love To Write! Good. Do it. Over and over… As the old exchange goes: Tourist: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” New Yorker: “Practice, man, practice.” Simple, really. Acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell pointed this out with the 10,000-hour rule in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. But, really, he was only putting in grander terms what our mothers told us years ago: practice makes perfect. For practical advice on writing, read George …
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