[SIC] Blog

Cult, Alternative and Independent Film

The second day of the Derby Film Festival was headlined by a Q&A with Quad's first patron, the legendary John Hurt. But before that, there was another fine supporting programme. [SIC] contributor Tom Morton returned for more. More. MORE!

Saturday 9th May 2014

Day two kicked off with Marcus Clarke's Puppetry for the Screen Masterclass. Marcus is one of the UK's premier puppeteers, having worked on popular TV series for the likes of CBBC and Channel 5, and he got his big break in the industry after manning the Audrey II plant in the Little Shop of Horrors stage show. After Frank Oz attended the show, he recruited Marcus for the 1986 film version, which also allowed Marcus to get work with Jim Henson's Muppet company.

picture: @DerbyFilmFest

picture: @DerbyFilmFest

Marcus' speech was a rambly, informal talk about his years working with puppets that has covered work with many iconic figures, including tonight's special guest John Hurt. Surrounded by a collection of his favourite puppet work, he chatted and demonstrated his craft for an enjoyable hour-and-a-half, taking great care to tie his talk into the weekend's theme of technology. An engaging figure, his talk seemed to lose a little focus at times but he was quick to get the crowd back onside with a little audience participation and plenty of props handed around for closer inspection.

With the puppets put away, Marcus returned to introduce the screening of Little Shop of Horrors. The programmed version was the Director's Cut (or the Intended Cut, as the credits call it), which swaps out the studio-mandated happy ending for an awesomely, hilariously bleak destruction of New York. It's an incredible feat of animation and it was a fantastic treat to see the film as it was originally intended. With catchy songs and a still-unrivaled parade of scene-stealing comedy cameos, Little Shop continues to age well, and was enjoyed by an audience of all ages.

After a short break, the next film was Wizard's Way, a low-budget mockumentary from three Manchester-based filmmakers. It follows two budding documentary-makers as they investigate the lives of two ultra-nerdy online gamers, and how their lives change when the game they have spent years playing is shut down. With a cast plucked from their friends and a largely improvised script, Wizard's Way is a textbook example of how to create an entertaining film on an extreme budget. The story has some unexpected twists, and the cast are consistently funny, especially Socrates Adams-Florou as Barry Tubbulb, a man who lives in a bathtub and is always ready with a tribute to a well-made hamburger.

Two of the creative team hosted a short Q&A session after the film and happily shared the details of the film's production, with some great anecdotes about their extremely lo-fi methods and the exciting news that Jack Black has expressed interest in remaking the film. They also confirmed a few details about their next project, Journey to the Centre of the Moon, which sounds like a promising follow-up - [SIC] will be watching their progress with interest!

The night concluded with the headline event, John Hurt in Conversation. With Quad's largest cinema full to capacity, it was an absolute delight to hear the room hanging on John's every word. Journalist Tony Earnshaw provided a series of intelligent, probing questions that - unlike the bombastic Brian Blessed event a couple of years ago - really did feel like a conversation. The most exciting bit of news revealed during the event was that Terry Gilliam has asked John to star as Don Quixote in the long-delayed, oft-cancelled film of the same name, and hopes to start filming this year - but with a guest as engaging as this, there were words to savour with every question.

picture: @DerbyFilmFest

picture: @DerbyFilmFest

With time constraints in place there was unfortunately very little time for audience questions at the end of the event, meaning [SIC] didn't get to ask about the bizarre-sounding and impossible-to-find version of Romeo & Juliet from 1990 that starred John Hurt as the only human being among a cast of feral street cats. This couldn't put a damper on a truly special night though - Mr. Hurt is one of the best British actors of all time, and to hear him reminisce about his wonderful career was an absolute pleasure.

Festival directors Adam Buss and Adam Marsh surprised John at the end of the event with their first Hero of Cinema award, which they hope will become a regular presentation at future Derby Film Festivals. On the strength of this event, we hope so too!