Originally adapted from the short story by Gogol, Diary Of A Madman chronicles the life of Poprishchin, a delusional and low-ranking Russian civil servant whose gradual decline into madness is both absurdly funny and heartbreakingly tragic. This highly successful stage production, created by Paul Morel and John Horwood (for our previous Company The Splinter Group), toured extensively in the UK, had sold-out runs in London and Edinburgh, and was invited to present a one-off performance at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in aid of MIND.
We have long been wanting to create a film version of this extraordinary story. Those of you who follow our occasional Facebook posts and blog will know that we were hard at work for most of March creating our wonderful little set, and in early April, we finally got down to shooting it.
The piece is made up of 20 diary entries, each one shot in a continuous take and lasting between 40 seconds and 6 minutes. An incredible challenge, not just for Paul to perform, but also for our cameraman (Teo Ormond-Skeaping) to shoot, wearing a steadycam harness and working with (almost) completely natural light (paraffin lamps and candles – extremely ‘authentic’ including the appalling smell).
We are thrilled with the way it’s turned out and will be submitting it to festivals and organising screenings of the finished piece later in the year. BUT, in the meantime we felt the diary structure lent itself to the ’webisode’ format and decided it would be great to release it as a series. Mental Health Awareness Week seemed like a very appropriate week in which to do it.
So, starting today with October 3rd… we will be releasing one diary entry a day for the next 19 days….
We really hope you will watch each one as we release it and share with anyone you think may enjoy this wonderfully absurdist but ultimately heartbreaking tale of one man’s descent into madness and the inhumane treatment he receives…
Diary of A Madman episode 1
We have been hard at work these past few months preparing to shoot our adaptation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman, and last week we finally shot it! Adapted from a stage show that Paul created many moons ago (in our previous incarnation as The Splinter Group, and directed by John Horwood), this piece is an absolute corker and we have felt for a long time that it would make a fantastic film.
Working in collaboration with the artist and filmmaker Teo Ormond Skeaping and his partner Lena Dobrowolska we shot the piece on a tiny set using mainly paraffin lamps and candles to light it. Each diary entry (there are 20) had to be shot in one take as there are no cutaways. Teo shot the whole thing with a steady cam – for those of you who have never seen one, it’s a spectacular harness and robot arm affair that allows the camera to mirror the actor’s movements - fantastic for the end results but exhausting for the cameraman!
We managed to shoot the whole thing over five days and are thrilled with the result. Decisions are still being made as to how we will present this work so keep an eye on our Facebook page and sign up to our mail outs for further news of how you can get to see it… In the meantime, here are some screenshots of the extraordinary Paul Morel at work.
A fantastic response to A Penny For Them at it’s premiere screening in December as part of the 2 Short Nights Festival in Exeter – we are really pleased with the way it’s turned out and are busy submitting it into International Festivals hither and thither. It just got into it’s first one, Goa International Festival in India – lets hope that’s the first of many. Meanwhile, Mrs Lustleigh’s Fancies has also been selected for a Festival in France later in the year which is rather jolly!
More news soon, in the meantime, here are some stills from the finished film….
A HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported our Crowdfunder Campaign. It has been really successful, hitting and then going over the target by the deadline. We are now hard at work getting everything together for the shoot which is creeping ever nearer! so much to do…
The Vikings, although seen mostly silhouetted against the sky, still need to be kitted out in as authentic a costume as possible. As they feature in the dream/nightmare sequences we decided we’d like them to look a little more ‘magical’ than your usual helmet and horns imagery. So, inspired by the incredible work of our friend the artist Barbara Keal who makes beautiful sculptural headwear out of felt, we have been hard at work fashioning these Viking headdresses using fleeces from our farmer neighbour. With a lot of help and the lending of tools from the lovely Roz Barker – it’s been a time consuming but enjoyable process! Here’s a photo of the first one to be finished.
A bit rough and ready but will hopefully do a good job. It’s made me appreciate even more the incredible skill and hours of work that go into Barbara’s beautiful pieces – take a look at her website and be transported!!
Our Crowdfunder campaign has been tearing along, 80% funded already. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, we so appreciate it! To give the Campaign a boost and to gently remind those who intended to pledge but forgot to get round to it, we have made a couple of wee promos… here is the first, A Message From Dr Anna Solv – Take a look.
We have launched a Crowdfunder Campaign to help fund our new film A Penny For Them… !
We have lots of great rewards to encourage you to support us – including playing a VIKING in the film ! if you don’t fancy yourself in hessian, maybe you’d like a lovely limited edition print inspired by the storyboard, or a day out on the Moor hunting Treasure in the form of a ‘Seolfor Penning’, a Viking Charm to bring you good fortune, Magical Runes or maybe you fancy being an EXECUTIVE PRODUCER… all these things and more are available at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/A-Penny-For-Them - please do take a look and support us if you can.
Back in February, we put in a little idea to the Phoenix Bursary scheme for a short film called A Penny For Them – It’s the story of an uptight English businessman who is troubled by reoccurring nightmares of endlessly running for his life through a foreboding wilderness whilst being chased by some dark and malevolent force. Distraught and exhausted, he goes to see a Skandinavian psychotherapist specialising in sleep problems. She hypnotizes him in an attempt to get to the root of these anxieties, and what she discovers takes them both on a journey of unexpected consequence. Featuring Ancient Britons, marauding Vikings, the beautiful Dartmoor wilderness, and a large number of ‘Silfor Phennigs’ * – this darkly comic psychological thriller with a twist in the tale will hopefully bear all the hallmarks of Oddbodies’ previous work – a compelling story shot in intriguing settings, beautifully drawn characters, imaginative art direction and scrupulous attention to detail, all brought together with a highly distinctive and originally composed soundtrack…
After a a rather gruelling interview (a panel of 8 big adults and one little baby) we were a bit surprised and extremely pleased to be given the Crowdfunder Bursary. This means Exeter Phoenix Digital will give us part of the money on the proviso we raise the other part through a crowd funding campaign. So, we are currently in the process of putting together our campaign and planning our film – shooting promos, finding locations, making runes (more about this later) sourcing ancient silver pennies, fine tuning the script, pinning down crew, thinking about costumes, logistics, schedules, budgets, etc etc etc
It’s been a while since The Nature of Angrove, and it will be great to get some of the key members of the creative team behind that project back together again for this (slightly twisted) tale of greed, fear, vikings and taxes…
There will be more details about the film coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s an image of a Lydford ‘Sifor Phennig’* (*silver penny) which plays a significant part in the story…
Just looking over the website today making plans for a bit of updating, I was struck by the image we use on our workshop page. It is a photo of a very young Ruby taken by Tim Nunn for the BAC’s publicity material for our show The Rake’s Progress. I can’t remember exactly, but I think this must have been back in 2004. Now this doesn’t seem a million years ago to me, but seeing this in connection with our most recent project has really brought home how fast the last 10 years have flown and how much we’ve crammed in to that time…
Just the other week we roped Ruby into getting in front of the camera for us yet again, this time to shoot a little video for the first track from the forthcoming Ma Bain album Poor Fool… (more news about that coming soon). The song is called Blanket of Snow. We were due to shoot the whole thing at Castle Drogo (which is currently wrapped in acres of white tarpaulin and the insides all put away behind tissue paper and hardboard) but unfortunately the weather did for us. High winds had blown the scaffolding into dangerous shapes and on the morning of the shoot, no one was allowed within 40 metres of the place. Our intrepid DoP the marvellous Christopher D Jones Esq had already got hold of a slomo camera for the day, so we made the decision to go ahead and shoot anyway, improvising something in our local village hall which they very kindly let us have at the last minute.
It is certainly not what we’d planned, but the end result, if a little meandering, is very beautiful and rather mesmerising. So, here she is again, the marvellous Ruby Morel - a little older than she was in the BAC flyer, but definitely just as compelling. Here’s to the next 10 years…
Some months ago we were asked by the Arts Officer at West Devon Borough Council to give a little presentation to a gathering of local creative business folk on the subject of crowd funding. One of the aspects of the campaign that attracted the most interest was the little virals we’d made to promote our it. One guy in particular was really keen, and asked us make one for him to promote his website business, a Company called 2Day Microportals (www.microportals.co.uk). After a few meetings and some back and forth finding a suitable location, we finally shot this little Ad last week at the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock. They could only allow us to film after 9 O’clock at night for obvious reasons. The Hotel was fairly quiet, but there were still plenty of guests wondering about giving the new ‘Receptionist’ a bit of a curious once over and Paul’s pain-in-the-bum guest a wide berth. The pressure was on, and with our micro cast and crew of 4 we managed to set up and shoot the whole thing in less than 2 and a half hours, (thanks mainly to the wonder that is Chris Jones and the marvellous Tom Barwood). And, with the magic of Final Cut Pro X, we had the film pretty well done by the end of the very next day. You can watch the finished Ad here
By the way, the little bit of music we used is by Ma Bain our incredible in-house composer (Paul, in other words) who has been really hard at work these last few months writing and producing an entirely new album of beautiful songs – we are very excited about this project and we will be writing more about this in the next few months…
Some years ago we produced and toured a theatre show called ‘See Them Cows? They Don’t Know Nothing About London’. It was a very physical and fairly abstract devised work that told the story of the city from it’s bucolic beginnings through to modern times – rather ambitiously cramming 2000 years of history into 80 mins. Atmospheric soundscapes were created with a strange array of implements hanging from an old clothes rail, and a number of weird and wonderful characters popped up to tell their tales and give a brief glimpse of London during their particular era.
One of the oddest scenes was a 1950′s boarding house populated by a bunch of eccentric residents each with a story to tell. None more colourful than the posh old landlady fallen on hard times (‘Mrs P’ – beautifully played by Paul in a pink headscarf!) who worked her way up the house introducing all the residents to the newest lodger on the way. Among them was ‘Mary’ a chirpy cockney saucepot/’school teacher’ who could be heard giving ‘correctional instruction’ to her ‘uncle’ who turns out to be a High Court Judge. ‘Jones the Professor’ a welsh opera singer with too much charm and too little talent. ‘Moose’ a giant monosyllabic bruiser who probably ‘worked’ for the Kray Twins but who adored his tiny pet canary. We found them all hilarious, slightly grotesque and definitely a little larger than life. But just recently we came across this incredible little film on the BBC archive , exploring exactly the kind of house we’d had in mind when putting our show together. It was like finding some footage of old friends – making us realise that, compared to the real people, the characters we’d created were far from being over the top.
The film is a very early short from Ken Russell and tells the story of an old town house in Bayswater populated by a disparate bunch of folk all introduced to us by the extraordinary landlady who bore more than a passing resemblance to Paul’s creation. It ‘s an astounding little film – capturing a moment in history just before it disappeared for ever as all those beautiful old houses, so crammed with character and ‘characters’, were being pulled down to make way for the new high rise blocks of the future. It’s really worth a watch – The wonderfully enthusiastic yet slightly tragic dance teacher who appears to have only one pupil. The ‘art’ photographer who makes his living snapping girls in bath tubs on the roof. The pigeon loving spinster who’d once been a ladies’ maid in New York, and the amazing landlady with her long white tresses and an eye for a bargain, still optimistic that one day she might find a new husband amongst the treasures on the Portobello Road. It’s like looking through a tiny window into the past, and a little reminder of the old saying that fact is usually stranger than fiction – funny, nostalgic and inspiring, I recommend you give it a watch… A House In Bayswater.