Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Lost In Europe?

Trapped on the mainland? This week, our short musical It's Nick's Birthday, that soaring cloud of gaseous Englishness, will congeal at the 7th Brive Festival of Cinema to choke the eye engines of natives and exiles alike:

It's Nick's Birthday @ 7th Brive Festival of Cinema European Medium Length Film Meetings

WHERE: Cinéma Rex, 19100 Brive, France

WHEN: This Thursday, 22nd April 2010 , 17.00 & Saturday, 24th April 15.00

COST: €3.50

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

UNIVERSAL EAR at Nexus Art Café

This May-June, L’Institute Zoom will begin reconstruction of the infamous lost adventure serial, UNIVERSAL EAR. Occupying Manchester’s Nexus Art Café studio, the Institute will create an open film set to which all are invited to observe and contribute.

The original UNIVERSAL EAR was an adaptation of the memoirs of Harley Byrne – arch-explorer and former postman – with each instalment recounting another of his adventures through space, time and sound on a mission to capture and make available for download “all the world’s music, ever.” Every week in May will see the (re)production of another episode, from Harley’s tussle with over-amorous humming killbots in 3000AD to his trip to the bottom of a teacup for The Song of the Biscuit Crumb Algae.

The Institute’s production schedule will be kept updated on the notice board in the entrance foyer of the café and at Café customers and curious cineastes alike are welcome to come through to the studio and hold a boom, paint a set, audition for a plum rôle or heckle gently from the sidelines. Various one-off training sessions and quasi-Redestructivish creative workshops will also be advertised in advance, and the production will be launched on the evening of May 6th with a grand Lumpenbal (rag ball) at Nexus Art Café.

For further information, please email info [at] The production will be documented publicly in the Nexus Art Café and online: (#UEar)

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Known to cineastes as one of filmmaking’s greatest follies, Francis Dove’s UNIVERSAL EAR is a rare and epic serial of which few can truly claim to have glimpsed, and none to have seen in its entirety. Shot in Manchester, 2012, with Harley Byrne starring as himself, traces of the original have been discovered by the Institute’s Future Films department using their modified 2D Quantum Propaganda Engine – a machine for dredging up cinematic artefacts that have not yet been created – and pieced together into a blueprint from which to start again. The ‘prehabilitation’ team, including director Graeme Cole and leading man Stewart Lockwood, will attempt to embody the spirit of the original 2012 crew in order to (p-)replicate the work as accurately as possible, whilst working with a fraction of the resources available to Dove and Byrne in the future.

In fact, the team will not even have the comfort of working on familiar terrain. Future Films’ lab at the Institute will be strictly off limits this summer while one of the major search engine companies maps the dynamic emotionality of the premises for its latest online cartography resource, an as-yet unnamed psychogeographic atlas of the known universe. Working instead from the studio of the Nexus Art Café, the production will actively seek support from the public in the form of voluntary participation and donations of obsolete clothing and objects to be re-imagined as costume and set. In return is offered the opportunity to train in the esoteric arts of Redestructivishm and to see the finished works broadcast to potentially hundreds of millions of people in art spaces, festivals and across the internet.

The permanent UNIVERSAL EAR crew also includes producer Nathan Povey; starlet Tuesday Betts as Byrne’s nemesis, ‘Being’; Peter Easterbrook as Harley’s brother, Santiago Byrne; Elly Strigner on Production Design; and Physical Welfare Enforcer, Fran Higginson; and intinerant Executive Producers Mick Sugden & Anselm Burke.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Leaked Future Films correspondence

I received the following in my inbox today; although it in fact seems to have been intended for the actor Stewart Lockwood and not myself, I assume its author - my boss Graeme Cole - sent it to me so that I might publish it here.




Thank you to the high heavens once more for your inquisition into the reconstructed screenplay of A Flea Orchestra In Your Ear, and the opportunity it has given me to fill some of my abundant free time addressing it.

The conditions under which the Flea Orchestra script was pieced together were not ideal. The signal came through in the middle of the night when, although by chance two young Future Films technicians were in the lab and able to deal with it, neither they nor the modified 2D Quantum Propaganda Engine were appropriately wired up: they being quite drunk and having attempted to reconfigure the Engine as some kind of cross-time DJ booth. When they realised they’d stumbled upon an apparent hip-hop interpretation of the original 2012 screenplay for Flea Orchestra - some kind of novelty number prepared and performed by its creator, Francis Dove, for publicity or personal amusement, or simply a crossed signal between him reading the script and an entirely independent hip-hop performance of the future? – the first lab hand quickly put his ear to the dimly rapping speaker and relayed what he heard to his colleague who, having located apparently the only biro in the workshop chained to a desk some five or six metres away, attempted to transcribe the script by proxy. The inclusion of various inappropriate sketches on this new manuscript indicates the lab assistant’s state of mind at the time, and closer inspection of the doodles has further indicated some deep-rooted emotional issues that he is now having dealt with over in Psych’, and which there is not room here to examine more closely.

Anyhow, the script was later verified and illustrated through the usual channels, but nobody knows more about Byrne and Dove than you and I, which puts us in a perfect position to correct any elements of the script which we consider to be inaccurate, if you see what I mean. If you see what I mean. I shall address your concerns about the screenplay presently:

  1. The use of “Stampys” private postal workers club as the location for Byrne’s introduction to each episode was a conceit of Dove’s: the set was fabricated from scratch. Dove convinced Byrne that this acknowledgement of his roots would convey Byrne’s loyalty, down-to-earthness, his sense of tradition and ritual. Dove must have been aware there was a melancholy aspect to this weekly return to the vocational womb. As a post vet, Byrne would have had a lifetime membership to the club even having left the service – however, there are indications that he was barred from the premises unconditionally shortly after his contract was terminated.
  2. We have no information as to how it ‘really’ would have looked when Byrne arrived back in 2012 from each journey through time. Neither did Dove. Santiago swore his brother to secrecy regarding the techniques of the Temporal Cubists. The ‘falling through time’ device was Dove’s, and should be considered in the context of his directorial technique
  3. Of course, that should read Nineteenth century rather than Eighteenth. I think we can put this error down to one or other of our drunken colleagues at the lab.
  4. I see what you mean. It would be both economic and a dramaturgical improvement to excise this element of the script. I think Dove would agree: and no-one need ever know it existed.
  5. Again, I feel it would be appropriate to ‘tidy up’ Byrne’s description of the Orchitron. The confusing nature of its present state suggests what we found was an early draft of the script, from before Dove had finished cleaning up Byrne’s prose for the screen.
  6. The signal apparently failed during the acquisition of this section of the script. Due to constraints on Future Films’ resources, we have had to contract in a specialist for the reconstruction of this scene. It will be with you shortly.
  7. The wolf was the Real Nola Luna’s pet; as the story is all reported from Byrne’s perspective we cannot be sure how his nemesis, Being, came to tame the creature. But living things seem to like her.
  8. Does Being know about electronics? The more I learn about her, the more I suspect she may have had a background in information technology. As the chatter in this scene is for the most part conveyed through silent “rhubarb rhubarb”, we cannot be sure exactly what depth she went into with Byrne; he seems convinced, but then what does he know about electronics? It is notable that neither in the script nor the original prose does he transcribe exactly what she said on the tour: a cynic might claim this is because it went completely over his head. Is Being intelligent? It would seem so; dynamically intuitive might be a more accurate term.
  9. The use of the word “mutilated” appears to be Dove’s attempt to ensure the meaning of the sequence ‘Byrne sees the wolf, we see Byrne’s old injury, Byrne decides against taking the wolf on’ – is recognised by the viewer later, but not by Byrne during production. Being a former documentarian, Byrne knew nothing of the construction of new meaning, only the transparently mediated recording of absolute reality. As such, Dove had to find a grammar that would allow him to shorthand his intentions – the suggestion that Byrne’s previous encounter with the canine form has not only physically but mentally scarred him – whilst protecting Byrne’s ego. The hand is not, in fact, hideously mutilated, but would have been lit and shot as an expression of Byrne’s inner terror. Being a south-paw, when he was attacked back on his Manchester postal route, Byrne would have had to defend himself with his right hand whilst protecting the letters he was carrying with his left. So he has no little finger on his right hand anymore. He instead wears a leather finglet, stuffed with whatever he might need in a given situation, and various personal effects.
  10. Several weeks. This is all it says in the script. Yes, Being looks after the imprisoned Luna the best she can. The banging continues throughout.
  11. The iPod has a selection of songs from 2012 Manchester on it. Byrne carries several with him to use as offerings or to barter in exchange for provisions or information. He has not thought beyond the immediate appeal of the iPod, how it might run out of batteries if used in a time before the taming of electricity. He just believes that everyone wants an iPod. And don’t we?
  12. It is not love at first sight with the fake Nola Luna, but a love which flourishes over weeks of shared company in the thin mountain air. On some level he is perhaps responding to the subconscious recognition of his disguised regular rival, for whom he has unresolved feelings. Byrne has been in love many times before, without ever sustaining a long-term romantic relationship. When he goes on adventure, he sort of assumes he will fall in love with someone. I believe the psychology of this was examined at length in the hit movie, Speed.
  13. If Byrne – you ask – is a time-traveller, how is it possible for him to ever keep his employers waiting? Byrne is a passenger of time, not a pilot or engineer: his understanding of time-travel is intuitive, spontaneous, and frequently wrong.
  14. I rather think he just got ahead of himself.
  15. a) we don’t yet know; b) we don’t yet know; c) Dove did not “make up” Byrne’s nemesis, ‘Being’, although he may well have restructured her somewhat in the cause of dramaturgical rhythm.
  16. Yes.
  17. See Answer 7.
  18. One of Byrne’s ‘special powers’ is his hardiness, his thickness of skin and skull. Being’s plan is flawed, because by delaying Byrne from recording the Orchitron legitimately, she allows him time to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of him recording it illegitimately, viz. Alexandru Ioan Cuza Byrne is initially ‘wary’ of the wolf, but over the weeks they develop a mutual respect for each other, which finally outs itself when they fight – and tie.
  19. When Byrne dispatches the fake Nola Luna and rescues the real Nola Luna, he acts upon two instinctive assumptions: firstly, that the fake Nola Luna’s impersonation was so accurate that of course he would be in love with the real one; and secondly, that when a woman is rescued she expects to be kissed.
  20. We can look into this, but I sort of like the enigma at the moment.
  21. Consider the thin mountain air; and his malleable conception of how time travel works. I suspect when Byrne felt impatient, he would imagine that even a time-traveller could be late; when he wants to hang around, he imagines Santiago can fix things later. When we are in love, we bend the laws of physics that our micro-universe might flourish.
  22. This is not verbatim dialogue from Byrne’s memoirs, but an expositional device added by Dove to clarify the story. It’s clumsy, yes, but Dove’s clunky writing has absurdist undertones both intended and unintended. This particular phrase works along the same lines as the classic --

A: Have you heard of Cliff Richard?

B: No.

A: Neither have I.

  1. He has to re-record the track using the appropriate settings and, yes, miking up each performer. Perhaps we will tidy this part up a bit.
  2. Not dressed like that, you won’t.

In answer to your other questions – Being wants Nola Luna’s Orchitron to thrive in the organic flux of physical space-time, so destroying it would not be an option; our reconstruction of it will be more in the approach of “Gus Van Sant’s Psycho” than “Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes”; I have seen only glimpses of the original Flea Orchestra, plus the script of course, but we’re looking for more. I’ve also managed to compile a little background on Francis Dove; I will send it to Psych’ so they can aesthetically profile him. Then it’s just a question of joining the dots on-set.

And finally, I seem to recall you questioning Byrne’s disrespect for causality somewhere or another: briefly, in the great imperialist tradition, Byrne considers his own time and place to be sacrosanct, and to be the definitive watchtower for all human history (and future). It is Manchester, 2012 where the definitive catalogue of all music ever is being created and consecrated. Therefore, if he drops the odd causality wrapper, leaves behind the occasional empty tin of paradox, well, people should just be glad he’s graced them with a visit and preserved their music forever – even if, on occasion, they themselves no longer have access to it.

I must go now, I’ve somehow wound up obligated into a squash date with Armend and my kit’s still at the cleaners.