Tag Archives: The African Queen

Interview: David Hughes on cutting classic film trailers

West Side Story

Film critic, journalist and author, David Hughes, cut his teeth in the advertising business as a copywriter and producer with London-based agency The Creative Partnership, before moving to Picture Production Co as a writer/producer. After spearheading literally hundreds of campaigns, from Trainspotting to Pulp Fiction, he left to form his own movie marketing company, Synchronicity, in 2006, which he continues to run out of Soho.

Hughes has to date created four theatrical trailers for Park Circus – Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Boudu Saved From Drowning, The African Queen and West Side Story.

With his latest trailer for the company, West Side Story, now in cinemas ahead of the film’s 16 September re-release, Jonathan Melville spoke to him about his passion for cinema and about what makes the perfect film trailer.

Jonathan Melville: When did you become interested in cinema?

David Hughes: Probably, like many people, when I saw Star Wars at the cinema in ‘78. I was 10 at the time, so science fiction was probably my first love – even though I didn’t realise at the time Star Wars wasn’t science fiction at all, but fantasy.

Which trailers inspire or enthuse you?

Ones that do something completely different, or something old in a new way: the backwards trailer for video game Dead Island is brilliant, but although I admire the trailer for David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you can draw a direct line between that and Stanley Kubrick’s hand-cut trailer for A Clockwork Orange – and that’s 40 years old!

When did you first get involved in making trailers?

I started in 1990, and I’ve been privileged to work on ground-breaking trailers for films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, Amelie, Schindler’s List, The Blair Witch Project, Trainspotting, and countless others. Trailers tend to be a bit more formulaic these days, but only because most of the best ideas have been used up by the 500+ films released each year in cinemas (and many more on DVD!).

I got into the business, by the way, through the copywriting route: in those days, most trailers were caption or voiceover-driven, so the written word was the foundation of most of the trailers you saw. These days the audience is more sophisticated, and they bring more to the table, so you don’t have to hold their hands quite so much. It’s more about the concept of the trailer, the music, and the mood. And we no longer use the word “Starring”!

The ones I really enjoy, though – and I’m not just saying this – are the trailers we’ve made for some of the older films, like The African Queen, West Side Story, From Here to Eternity, Psycho and All About Eve. There’s something magical about bringing modern trailer techniques to older films, especially the real classics.

Is there an art to making a film trailer or rules you need to follow?

There is an art to it – but my business depends on keeping it to myself!

Do you feel an added responsibility when you’re dealing with a much-loved classic?

My first reaction was yes, but actually at my company, Synchronicity, we treat every film as if it’s a future classic. You can’t just say ‘Oh, it’s just a kids movie’ or whatever – every film has the potential to be somebody’s favourite film, and that’s a metaphorical sign above each of the edit suites while we’re working: EVERY FILM IS SOMEBODY’S FAVOURITE. Even if it’s just the director’s! There’s no such thing as a ‘minor’ film while you’re working on the marketing for it – they’re all important. But the “much-loved classics” you mention are, often, the ones that give you the greatest job satisfaction!

Your first trailer for Park Circus was Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Did you have to work to a brief?

Not really…I think the trailer suggested itself from the film itself. It was so beautiful to look at, and had such a distinctive colour scheme, we knew exactly what the captions should look like, and as soon as our editor saw Ava Gardner singing at the piano, he knew he wanted to use that music piece for the trailer through-line.

It’s little touches like that which come more easily when you’ve been making trailers a long time: you have an eye for exactly the right shot, an ear for the right music, a feel for the correct tone… and what the Germans would call a “fingerspitzengefuhl” for the whole thing. And with a film as glorious as Pandora, the copy for the captions seems to write itself. It was a sublime experience, from start to finish.

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Now Showing: Friday 22 – Thursday 28 July

Park Circus supplies films for public screening around the world, with titles for the next four weeks listed on our Now Showing page. Each week we highlight a selection coming up in the next seven days.

It’s fair to say that we’ve gone a little film noir crazy this week, with the re-release of Gilda at selected cinemas – London’s BFI Southbank and Curzon Mayfair, Edinburgh’s Filmhouse and the Irish Film Institute – taking over on Twitter and Facebook.

That’s maybe why we also decided to shout about a screening of another classic film noir, 195o’s In a Lonely Place, at Austria’s Filmarchiv Vienna on Sunday 24 July. It features one of Humphrey Bogart’s finest performances as writer Dixon Steele and bears up to repeated viewings as a complex story unfolds involving Gloria Grahame’s Laurel.

Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre will be screening another memorable Bogey performance between Sunday 24 and Wednesday 27 July, in the recently restored version of John Huston’s The African Queen. Shot on location in Africa, the film centres on river-boat Captain, Charlie (Bogart) and his new passenger, Rose (Katharine Hepburn). Bogart won an Oscar for his performance and audiences around the world have been finding out why during the film’s recent return to cinemas.

Featuring a stunning cast of horror greats – Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre – alongside a certain Jack Nicholson, Roger Corman’s The Raven swoops into Amsterdam’s Eye Film Institute Netherlands on Wednesday 27 July. As the trailer shows, nobody was taking themselves too seriously during the film’s production:

Finally, back in the UK, the Bo’ness Hippodrome in Scotland will be showing the Frank Capra screwball comedy classic, It Happened One Night, on Thursday 28 July. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star as the couple thrown together when she runs away from her father’s choice of husband. Initially thought to be a disaster in the making by Colbert, the film turned out to be a hit and won five Oscars, including Best Actor and Best Actress for the two leads.

Use our Find a Screening search to see what’s showing near you.

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Now Showing: Friday 1 – Thursday 7 April 2011

Park Circus supplies films for public screening around the world, with titles for the next four weeks listed on our Now Showing page. Each week we highlight a selection coming up in the next seven days.

Use our Find a Screening search to see what’s showing near you.

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Angela Allen relaunches The African Queen in Glasgow

Fiona Maxwell and Angela Allen help Park Circus relaunch The African Queen at the Glasgow Film Festival

Fiona Maxwell and Angela Allen help Park Circus relaunch The African Queen at the Glasgow Film Festival

Last week saw the Scottish premiere of the newly restored version of The African Queen at the 2011 Glasgow Film Festival (GFF).

To celebrate the event, our friends at the GFF invited Angela Allen, continuity girl on the 1950 shoot of The African Queen, to the city to introduce the screening and speak to members of the press.

As well as appearing on this week’s BBC Radio Scotland Movie Café to share her memories of working with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, Ms Allen also spoke briefly to the GFF for their video blog, which you can watch below:

Find out where The African Queen is showing in the UK.

Visit the official Park Circus website for more information on current and future releases and to see what’s screening near you.

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Behind-the-scenes on The African Queen’s restoration

Humphrey Bogart The African Queen (Image courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment)

Humphrey Bogart The African Queen (Image courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment)

Academy Award-winning romantic adventure, The African Queen, has been extensively restored and is back in UK cinemas from today, 4 March 2011.

Humphrey Bogart won the Best Actor Academy Award for his role as disreputable riverboat captain Charlie, who forms an unlikely alliance with Katharine Hepburn’s straight-laced Rose. Directed by John Huston and based on the novel by C.S. Forester, this wartime romantic adventure sees the pair forced to travel together down a hazardous East African river.

We spoke to Fiona Maxwell, Director of Operations at ITV Studios Global Entertainment, about the reasons for the The African Queen’s restoration and the process involved.

Park Circus: Why did The African Queen need a restoration?

Fiona Maxwell: The original three-strip negative had faded and shrunk and in some cases the colour on the master went to black and white. The existing cinema prints were suffering from registration errors that caused fringing of red and green around the figures on screen and there was a lot of degradation with dirt and scratches on the emulsion.

What restoration technique was used on The African Queen?

It was necessary to digitally scan each reel at high resolution and recombine, using computer technology to get each frame into the correct registration, remove the dirt and repair the scratches. The scanning of the original negative was carried out in London under the supervision of ITV Studios Operations team.

Warner Brothersʼ MPI in the States carried out the digital work under Paramountʼs supervision. The audio tracks also received the digital treatment with restoration by Audio Mechanics in Los Angeles. The files were then output to 2K Digital Cinema files, HD Video tape and also a new combined 35mm negative was made, combining the best of digital and photo-chemical techniques.

How long did it take to restore the film?

The campaigning to fundraise and bring the rights holders together at the right time took Fiona Maxwell, Director of Operations at ITV Studios Global Entertainment, seven years, but the actual restoration was a 12 month process once Paramount Pictures, ITV Studios and Romulus Films were all on board with the project.

Who contributed, financially and/or creatively, in restoring the film?

Financially, Romulus Films contributed to saving and preserving this film, in addition to Paramount and ITV Studios. Creatively, in addition to the in-house expertise at ITV Studiosʼ Perivale Archive and the Paramount team, were Cinesite for the UK scanning, Warnerʼs MPI for the digital picture restoration, and Audio Mechanics for the filmʼs soundtrack restoration.

What was the final restoration cost?

The total restoration, including the protection elements and distribution deliverables for Paramount, ITV Studios and Park Circus, were in excess of $650,000.

What was Angelica and Danny Huston’s involvement in the restoration of The African Queen?

Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen (Image courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment)

Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen (Image courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment)

I first approached Anjelica Huston over five years to ask for her support to publicise the restoration work on her fatherʼs film. Anjelica immediately agreed and was true to her word when the work was completed.

When her schedule was not able to accommodate travelling to the Cannes International Film Festival for the world premiere, Anjelica made the introduction to her brother, Danny Huston, who happily agreed to introduce the film in Cannes. He had wonderful reminisces of his father and was also very generous with his time for the press in Cannes.

Anjelica was then able to support the UK premiere by giving interviews to the UK and world press and appearing on ITVʼs This Morning to speak about the restored film, her memories of her father and working with him as an actress during her own career. Anjelica saw the restored version for the fist time at the star-studded UK premiere at the BFIʼs Southbank cinema complex.

Both Anjelica and Angela Allen, who was the script and continuity supervisor on the film, appeared on stage for a Q&A following the film, and were thrilled with what they had seen.

Who were involved in the restoration process and what were their tasks?

I oversaw and championed the project from the early years of inception, working with Barry Allen of Paramount to interview and film Jack Cardiff, the filmʼs cinematographer, and get his grading advice back in 2004. Keith Tufano, Steve Hilton and Mark Stanborough of ITV Studios Film Services team oversaw the original film inspection and elements research, as well as working with Mitch Mitchell of Cinesite, to meet the technical scanning requirements and oversee the file deliveries to the States.

Daphne Dentz of Warnerʼs MPI was the contact for the digital picture restoration work with Warnerʼs Jan Yarsborough, doing the colour grading, and Valarie McMahon, MPIʼs digital artist. John Ploito of Audio Mechanics was the engineer, who worked on the digital audio re-mastering and Paramountʼs Ron Smith was the restoration supervisor.

Did anything surprising, or particularly interesting, happen throughout the restoration process?

The main challenge was around pulling the project together financially and co- ordinating the many technical partners. Working with Paramount and Warnerʼs MPI was a great joy and we built up a great relationship over the years. When the process began, we hoped to use photochemical technology, but this was not capable of solving the problems the negatives threw up for us. During the time it took to bring the project partners together, technology had moved on and Warnerʼs were able to offer the best solution.

What was the audience reaction when the restoration premiered in Cannes?

The film received a wonderful round of applause, and it was clear that some of the audience members were watching the film for the first time. Danny was particularly moved to see his fathers work looking as fresh as the day it was shot. We were also lucky enough to have the Mason Cardiff, the son of the filmʼs British cinematographer, the late Jack Cardiff, as our guest. He too loved the film and watching it back on the big screen, as it should be seen.

Thanks to Fiona Maxwell

Watch the new trailer for the restored version of The African Queen:

Find out where The African Queen is showing in the UK.

Visit the official Park Circus website for more information on current and future releases and to see what’s showing near you.

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