East Germany, Tunnel 29 and no toilet paper

This is not Tunnel 29. The original YouTube video here has been taken offline and this is the only image I had on file of a tunnel!

A couple of years ago, I listened to a fascinating BBC podcast called Tunnel 29.

Broadcast thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in this podcast producer and presenter Helena Merriman tells the extraordinary true story of a man who dug a tunnel from West Berlin into the East to help friends, family and strangers escape.

Continue reading East Germany, Tunnel 29 and no toilet paper

Sunspring—a sci-fi film script written by AI

What if you were to feed a long short-term memory (LSTM) recurrent neural network (essentially, a deep-learning artificial intelligence engine) a bunch of science fiction screenplays and set it to work writing an original screenplay.

Then what if you gathered a cast and crew for one day and attempted to film the result.

The result is Sunspring (2016). It is a thing of beauty. You can read the script at docdroid. And watch it on YouTube.

Continue reading Sunspring—a sci-fi film script written by AI

Peat Reek—a short film I supported on Kickstarter

In mid-August 2013 I received an email from a chap that I’d helped on a forum, it was something to do with his O2 Orbit mobile phone crashing, and seemingly I’d managed to help him out.

Brian’s son Mike was running a Kickstarter campaign to raise some money to make a short film that he’d written called Peat Reek and he was asking if I could help them reach their goal of £3,300.

I think I sent him £25, which got my name in the credits and a copy of the DVD.

The DVDs were released in October 2014 and sure enough my name is in the credits. This week Peat Reek became available for free on YouTube.

Peat reek is illicit whiskey that’s been distilled over a peat fire, and so his film was about whisky smuggling in 19th century highland Scotland.

If you have 26 minutes, give it a watch. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Hunt for Gollum

Tolkien

I first encountered the writings of English writer, poet and academic JRR Tolkien, as I suspect many other teenagers did in the early 80s, when I received a copy of The Hobbit for the Commodore 64 back in 1983.

My copy of the computer game (on cassette) came bundled with a copy of the novel. I still have it—it’s a rather loose-leaf copy now; it has a cover price of £1.50. The game cost £14.95, which was more than twice the price of an average music album in those days, and took around 30 minutes to load.

As an aside, as I’m sure many other are, I’m keenly looking forward to seeing The Hobbit in the cinema next December.

It wasn’t until nine years later, in my final year at the University of St Andrews, that I discovered The Lord of the Rings, and years after that The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and various other collections of his works documenting the history of Middle Earth.

The Hunt for Gollum

The Hunt for Gollum is a British fan-made, unofficial prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy that documents Aragorn’s quest to find Gollum. And it’s really rather good, for a film shot in high-definition video on a budget of GBP £3,000.

The story takes place 17 years after Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party following Gandalf the Grey’s investigations into the original of the One Ring and he fears that Gollum will reveal information to the Dark Lord Sauron about Bilbo Baggins.

The film lasts just under 40 minutes.

Will – trailer for my cousin’s new film

In 2005 my American cousin Zack sent me a draft screenplay for a film he and his girlfriend were working on. In short, it was about a football-crazy schoolboy, Will, who travels half-way across Europe to watch the cup final in which his favourite team are playing.

Well, the film has now been made and that’s the trailer for it (above)!

I still have the two early drafts of the screenplay which Zack sent me to see if was British enough, and to enable me to do some research for the film, which was great fun to do!

Jane and I caught up with Zack last year in London just as filming was about to begin. Casting had just finished with Damien Lewis (Band of Brothers, Life, Dreamcatcher, etc.) and Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hook, Brazil, etc.) taking lead roles.

I just heard today that the film—now called simply Will—will be screening at the Cannes Film Market (Marché du Film) this week.

Good luck Zack, we’ll be thinking of you.