By Christopher Roberts
Each month sound recordist and film buff Christopher Roberts talks to one of our members about ‘Their Favourite Film’
CHRIS : Hi everyone, and welcome to this month’s ‘Their Favourite Film’ and we now have hit our one-year mark since I started this blog with EFC. I can’t believe how time has flown by so quickly, but here we are. Honestly, it’s been tough, and I’m still trying to improve myself, but I’m so happy to come this far, stick to it, meet all these people and watch the films they love. I’m looking forward to the following year and the films that are yet to come. So with this month’s blog, I have director and writer James Wilsher. James is the mind behind numerous independent short and feature lengths films, with his latest film, How To Survive The End Of The World, which was two years in the making, now being shown at the Southend Film Festival. However, despite the hard work he put in for this film, he doesn’t take a break from filmmaking and instead has made several other shorts which are now doing the rounds in festivals, including Curiosity and The Man Who Wouldn’t Die. As you read this, however, James will now be moving up to London to pursue his career, but before he does, we’ll let him have a chance to talk about his favourite film, one that impacted not only his life but mine too.
JAMES WILSHER – PULP FICTION (1994)
JAMES : I guess it’s an obvious one, especially between filmmakers, but my favourite movie is Pulp Fiction. I remember seeing it on its home release -on cassette tape- with the hype surrounding it as the ‘coolest film of this generation’. This is usually the term that takes any cool away from something immediately, but upon seeing this, I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to make films.
I won’t go into the plot, as it’s not the story but the storytelling that sets this film aside from the other indie gangster movies of generation X. It could be said that Pulp Fiction set the bar for 90’s indie films. Before Pulp, indie films were on the fringes of Hollywood, but the success of Tarantino’s masterpiece put indie films front and centre and gave birth to a bunch of filmmakers and made this style of filmmaking highly commercial as well as exciting.
But back to the film itself and why I love it so. Firstly, it oozes style. It’s cool, colourful and quirky. The soundtrack is bold and hip whilst also being retro and familiar. The casting and the characters are spot-on, just the right side of outrageous or unbelievable. In fact, never before have hitmen, corrupt boxers and petty criminals been so relatable, due not only to their nuanced performances but the brilliant writing. Conversations about religion, cheeseburgers and foot massage etiquette have never been more engaging and empathetic, and goddam its funny.
When discussing genre with this film, it’s usually described as a crime drama, but I’ve always seen Pulp Fiction as an underrated comedy. Every scene has humour (usually dark), and again the cast seems to be having a whale of a time delivering engrossing monologues or quippy one-liners. While we’re on the topic of the cast, I think it is one of the best ensembles ever ensembled, with Sam L. Jackson, John Travolta and Bruce Willis putting career-best performances. Even the impressive supporting cast shone, and pretty much every performer went on to have great Hollywood careers on the back of this movie.
But the MVP is Quentin Tarantino, the captain of this ship, not only the writer but the laser-sharp director who walks the thin line between homage and invention, from its wild editing, and exciting camera movement to the overall aesthetic of the film. As a highly impressionable teenager, watching this set a fire in me, and surely most people who saw it.
I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen for the first time a couple of years back, and the love it has with fellow movie geeks nearly 30 years on it a testament of its place in movie history, and I wouldn’t love film as much if it weren’t for Pulp Fiction.
CHRIS : Let me tell you how excited I am to get a chance to talk about this film; like James, this is a film that made a big impact on my life and how I perceive films. I’ve always loved films since I was a kid, but before watching Pulp Fiction, I only saw them as one dimensional, not really thinking about the work behind them and mainly watching films that follow the same pattern many films follow. However, that all changed when my Dad suggested Pulp Fiction and introduced me to the genius that is Tarantino. Watching this, I experienced a film unlike anything I had watched before; this wasn’t about Good vs Evil, no damsel in distress or people going on grand adventures and falling in love. This was something different, something new. It had morally grey characters, all separate, each dealing with their own shit but still connected and, with what I have to say, some of the most random yet entertaining dialogue I’ve ever heard. This added with the fantastic cast to portray this unique bunch. An iconic soundtrack chosen from Tarantino’s own collection and his taste for over the top violence made one of the most iconic films in the world that shook the Hollywood industry.
This wasn’t some big blockbuster with over the top action scenes, CGI and an insane budget. This was a film with a small budget, directed by a man with only one other directing credit to him and with mostly a group of actors that were unheard of at the time. Yet this film not only changed how we see independent films but how they could be made. Its use of unconventional storytelling, sharp dialogue and stylisation of gratuitous violence can be seen as the inspiration for so many filmmakers after that, pushing them to make something that hit the same note, Like The Usual Suspects and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Both are great films with their own reasons for being such cult classics, but you can argue that these may never have the chance to be made if it wasn’t for the success of Pulp Fiction.
This kind of film inspired so many others, including James, to want to be a filmmaker, and it’s what got me more into movies. Shortly after watching Pulp Fiction, I went into a deep rabbit hole, wanting to see what else he has done and how they were made. This grew into a fascination with how other films were made, which soon made me understand filmmaking on a deeper level, giving me a whole new appreciation for it all. Then finally, I learned about who Tarantino was, and it gave me a greater appreciation for him. He is, above all else, a film fanatic through and through, someone who spent his young year working at a video store and watching every movie he could get his hands on; it’s a passion that he still has all these years, and it was the type of love for film that led him to want to make films and soon later Pulp Fiction. It was the type of love that I recognise in myself and so many other people in the industry have, and it is what I wanted to show when starting this blog.
my favourite TRIVIA
It’s said that Tarantino films are shared in the same universe; a good example of this was that Vincent Vega’s (John Travolta) brother is Mr Blonde (Michale Madsen) from Reservoir Dogs. At one point, Tarantino was even considering making a movie starring both characters.
James Wilsher is a writer and director from Southend-on-Sea
Chris Roberts has worked on many film projects across Essex as a boom operator and production assistant. Chris is a full time film trivia expert!