London calling

Wonderland is a definitive film about life in contemporary London. Director MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM explains how and Why. Words: Miles Fielder

‘A lot of people write about Wonderland being ironic, but it’s not intended as an ironic title in the sense of how horrible London is.’ says director Michael Winterbottom. ‘lt’s actually exhilarating being among a crowd of people: the noise, the energy. You’ve also got this awareness of one person among this crowd of strangers: you're passing through millions of people’s lives and none of them you know. That can be quite strange and the only thing that makes it acceptable is having your own network of people that you do know. That’s what all the characters in the film are trying to do, to find

- enough people they have some kind of contact with

that they can somehow keep afloat in this sea. That’s the atmosphere of being in a city.‘

Wonderland was filmed in the streets of Soho and south London guerrilla-style, with a minimal crew using hand-held cameras, natural lighting and non- actors in place of extras. The strategy has enabled Winterbottom to get across a real sense of the city as opposed to an artificial one. ‘I wanted to capture what those places were really like.’ explains Winterbottom. ‘but if you close a bar or a cafe down and put a load of different people in it. it isn‘t the same place. How the film works is when you walk outside of the cinema and everything is exactly the same. Somehow that makes it all seem fresher.‘

Far removed from the documentary style these techniques might suggest. Wonderland is visually

22 THE LIST 7—20 Jan 2000

'You're passing through millions of people's lives and none of them you know.‘

Michael Winterbottom

Rough cuts

Lights, camera, action . . .

THE DIGITAL CINEMA revolution continues in Scotland with the first- ever digital screening of a film north

of the border. One Life Stand was

written, photographed, edited and directed on a micro-budget by May

' Miles Thomas. Described by the

filmmaker as a 'camcorder epic', the film stars Maureen Carr, John Kielty and Gary Lewis and tells the story of

an ambitious, but deluded mother who pushes her son into a career as a male escort.

Where Bernard Rudden's recently wrapped digitally shot feature,

Daybreak marks the beginning of a new era in filmmaking, the

screening of One Life Stand heralds a similar step forward in cinema

exhibition. An Elemental Films production, One Night Stand is being screened at the GFT in conjunction with electronic projection systems company Digital

; Projection.

City life chronicler: Michael Winterbottom 1

lavish and crowned with a majestic score by Michael Nyman. ‘lt's an observation of quite small details of

people’s lives, set across three days,’ continues i

Winterbottom. ‘Key events can be as trivial as someone getting their hair cut. What happens isn’t exactly what the film’s about: it’s more what the characters feel about things, their emotions. But I didn’t want it to feel like it was therefore necessarily a small subject.’

Extending his working method to the performances, Winterbottom encouraged improvisation from his cast: Gina McKee, Molly Parker, Shirley Henderson, Ian Hart, Stuart

Townsend, John Simm, Jack Shepherd and Kika

Markham. ‘We had Laurence

let scenes carry on for five or six minutes, then stop and talk generally about what the characters were doing, what the important things in the scene were. Then let them do it all over again, but with different dialogue and letting the actors do different things. Then, in editing, instead of choosing between ten different versions of the same scene, you‘d be choosing between ten different scenes, some of which were truer or more interesting.’

Dipping into the lives of an exploded family, Winterbottom’s portrait of London is one of urban alienation. It’s a bleak vision for the most part, yet for Winterbottom Wonderland is about connections: ‘These are people who are only briefly in contact, if

Coriat’s script, but we would .

MOONSTONE INTERNATIONAL HOLDS its first Screenwriters' Lab outside of Britain and Ireland at Ulvik, Norway 2-8 May. Up to twelve European screenwriters will be selected for the Lab, where they will work with experienced writers in a series of one-to-one meetings. Modelled on the Sundance Institute work shops, 71 projects have been developed through the Moonstone Labs since 1997, including Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher, Peter Moland's Aberdeen and Sara Sugarman's Untitled Wales - the latter pair are currently in production. Screenwriters wishing to participate should submit a feature length screenplay in English by 31 January. Further info: Tel. 0131 220 2080.

SMALL WONDERS HAS been launched by Edinburgh’s Film And Video Access Centre (FVA) as a new scheme aimed at encouraging first time filmmakers. Funded through the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Awards, Small Wonders will

w provide money and facilities for

at all. and yet the film is finally about the

relationships between them. You get a kind of

accumulation: from each character you learn about all the other characters. So you’re watching one person, but you’re also thinking about three other people.’

Next up for Winterbottom is an American period epic about the Gold Rush. He also plans to take a trip to 803 Manchester to make a film about Tony Wilson and Factory Records, 24 Hour Parry People.

Wonderland opens Fri 14 Jan. See review.

new low budget productions. Awards will be made on a quarterly basis with the initial project being selected in 7 February. Further info: Lou McLoughlan, FVA 0131 220 02201477 4529.

Digital cinema: One Night Stand