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Shane Meadows Takes to the Road

Shane Meadows Takes to the Road (photo)

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Write what you know, the old chestnut echoes, and that’s precisely what celebrated British filmmaker Shane Meadows has been doing since his 1997 feature debut “TwentyFourSeven.” Meadows’ naturalistic, working class dramas all seem to be at least partly based on real-life experiences, from the drug-addled friend who was bullied into suicide — the inspiration behind his revenge thriller “Dead Man’s Shoes” — to the violence-prone skinhead pals from his youth that turn up in “This is England.” One of the films is even entitled “Once Upon a Time in the Midlands,” which is precisely where the BAFTA Award-winner was born, raised, and still lives today.

The rare exception to Meadows’ typical small-town locales, then, is his latest, “Somers Town,” which still features what film buffs might call kitchen-sink realism, but is transplanted to the titular neighborhood in central London. In a second collaboration with young Thomas Turgoose (who stole the show in “This is England” as an impressionable hooligan), the wonderfully warm “Somers Town” stars the brash, baby-faced teen as Tomo, a runaway who’s made his way to the capital city in search of something other than the dead-end life he foresees for himself in his home town. Alone and broke, Tomo finds an unlikely friend in Marek (Piotr Jagiello), the introverted son of a Polish immigrant, and together the two become partners in crime. Stealing and selling laundry, falling in love with the same Parisian waitress, and getting drunk together makes living in a rundown ‘hood all the more palatable. (The film has an unusual financial backstory: Eurostar initially funded the project as an abstract promotional tool, but had nothing to do with the script or production.)

Having already finished his next feature, “Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee,” Meadows was hard at work on yet another film, but was generous enough to take time out to answer some questions about “Somers Town,” already one of the year’s must-sees.

Thinking about Marek and his father, when was the last time you felt like an outsider?

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider. I came to filmmaking via a very unconventional route and have never had formal training. I started helping out a local film co-operative (mainly because there seemed to be a lot of girls working there) and I used to “borrow” their equipment on the weekends and make short films that I wrote, directed and acted in. I learned so much about filmmaking and storytelling, but always on my own terms. I think my best work comes when I stay true to my own way of working — in fact, that’s the only I will work now.

So from the film industry I am a bit of an outsider (although it was brilliant to be recognized and win the BAFTA for “This is England”), and I’ve always lived close to where I was born and brought up, which again is a long way — in every sense — from the media hubs of the UK. I think most of my work is about people who somehow find themselves on the outside of what we think of as normality, and how they manage to form important relationships which see them safely through their lives.

07162009_somerstown2.jpgHow early on in the brainstorming of this project did you know you wanted to work with Thomas Turgoose again, and do you foresee a lengthy career collaboration with him, à la François Truffaut and young Jean-Pierre Léaud?

Funny you should mention Truffaut, because I rewatched “The 400 Blows” a few months before I made “Somers Town” and it influenced the way I shot the film. As soon as I read the outline for “Somers Town,” I had Tomo in mind for the part — although we did audition a number of other kids as well. I know what Tomo is capable of and did like the idea of working with him again — he’d grown up a lot since “This is England” and he brought a whole new quality to the part.

I can imagine the challenges inherently presented by both working with child actors and working in a language other than your own, so instead: are there any advantages to either or both?

It was weird, because when we went to cast the Polish leads in Warsaw, we obviously had a translator working with us, but within a few minutes, I’d stopped listening to the translator and was just watching the performances. It’s about so much more than just words. It really didn’t seem to matter that I couldn’t understand what was being said.

From either a logistical standpoint or merely with a cinematic eye, did you have any personal revelations shooting in London for the first time?

It was really hard. The constant background noise of traffic, sirens and aircraft were a horror for the sound department. I also found that people are generally much more film savvy than in other cities like Nottingham, so it seems as if everyone wants to be paid not to clean their windows on a Wednesday morning or not to park their car in a particular space. I really liked the architecture of “Somers Town” and the people who have lived there for a long time were great and it’s surprising what a sense of community there is still there. From the outside, big cities always seem like big sprawling anonymous things, but once you get in there you realize how it is just made up of a lot of quite distinct separate smaller communities.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.