Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Unexpected Appreciation !


Synchronicity is quite wonderful - it takes you by surprise!

I reside in Govan, an area of Glasgow that has had more than its share of neglect and de-industrialization over the past forty years. The high street
has seen better days, but not recently.

However, there are wonderful changes afoot here. The BBC and Scottish Television have moved over to the south side of the River Clyde, twenty minutes' walk from Govan. The former Govan Town Hall municipal building - a proud and s
turdy dame in red sandstone - has metamorphosed into "Film City" and now houses many film and television production companies - not to mention the most up to date dubbing theatre in all of Europe - Savalas!

There are all sorts of amazing initiatives and events springing up in Govan. And one afternoon a couple of months ago I rounded a corner to find a young man with a broadcast quality video camera shooting GVs - general views - of G
ovan.

I asked him what he was up to and he mentioned a documentary for the BBC. I said that he ought to think about doing a documentary on the subject of Mary Barbour, the courageous woman who led the Glasgow Rent Strike in 1915, when landlords raised rents on struggling households headed by women whose husbands were off defending the Empire in World War One.

I mentioned that I'd recently made a documentary of my own - " - a gay art house movie for the whole family! "

"I'M making a gay art house movie ! " he declar
ed.

His name is Jeremy Jeffs, and he is busy making Bette
Bourne - the Movie with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill.

Some weeks elapsed and Jeremy got in touch. At his request I sent him a DVD of U & ME & TENNESSEE and today I received the most wonderful response from him. I don't feel that it is at all self-aggrandizing if I share it here. It shows that there are those out in the world who "get" U & ME & TENNESSEE, who understand and and even appreciate how I made the movie, the choices I took, how they've turned out, what I was aiming for.

"What a great film!

I sat and watched it yesterday morning and loved every moment of it. Konrad is a fascinating character and talks so beautifully and theatrically but what really gripped me was the story telling: a sign of a deft and confident director.

My wife, Gaby came in half way through and without me explaining what was going on, was gripped too and sat and watched the rest of it with me!


I may have mentioned to you that Mark referenced My Dinner With André when we were planning Bette's film and your film shows how a clear story, simply told with a single character can hold the viewer's attention in a way that most of what's on TV just can't.


I think you made some brave and bold decisions in the way that you shot it, in sticking with (almost) a single location and clear, strong camera work without any tricky distractions. Shooting on 2 cameras was a good choice and it's making me regret my single camera approach! Your choices paid off filmically and meant that as a viewer I was able to engage and concentrate on the story.


Great work."

Actually we used 4 cameras on the main conversation!

Thanks so much, Jeremy - Your comments and reactions are deeply appreciated. I know Konrad would be absolutely delighted with them - Thanks !

Photo of Paul Birchard & Konrad Hopkins by Alan Wylie
copyright 2006.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Boutique Screening !

It has been a little over a year since our dear friend Konrad Hopkins passed away, in Paisley, Scotland - the town where he worked and resided, and where he touched the lives of so many people - encouraging, exhorting, admonishing even! - all who came within his orbit, to reach out of themselves and be bigger - to be the very best they can be! He did this with charm, wit, trenchant persistence and often - with cash money...!

As a timely tribute, as a fond backward glance at this remarkable man, there is a screening o
f

U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...

at the Ashtree House Hotel in Paisley, just up the hill from Konrad's stomping ground near the Paisley Library & Museum, and the University of the West of Scotland.

Screening time: 2:00 p.m. Sunday, 26. June, 2011

My thanks to the kind proprietors of the Ashtree House Hotel, who generously host a number of local poetry and music events, always well attended by a substantial, lively and creative group of men and women. And also to Bill Kelly, one of Konrad's protegés, who became a real son to him.

It will be good to see Konrad Hopkins on a big(ish) screen again - and to see how this remarkable, open-hearted and honest movie affects a new audience who knew Konrad, but did not know the full story behind his 1950's romance with
Tennessee Williams.

As my dear friend the late Lindsay Anderson used to sign off: "Onward!"

See you there!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ENVOI...

Well, it had to happen one day, and it has happened, and the day was last Thursday, May 13, 2010.

Konrad Hopkins slipped away to "the other side" at 9:14 p.m. BST at the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Paisley, Scotland, the town he made his own for over forty years, and which he supported and cajoled and awakened each day of those many many years.

His passing was peaceful. He was attended by Bill and Beth Kelly, who really were his adopted family, and every man or woman close to Konrad had either visited him in the days and weeks prior to his "graduation" or they had conveyed their love and thoughts via e-mail or friends' greetings.

I visited him twice - on Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday afternoon - and the atmosphere was lively and full of laughter, the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold playing on the CD player beside his bed. Although Konrad was "on the hard stuff" to lessen any physical pain he was experiencing, his eyes would open sometimes and he would speak occasionally. He was certainly present, and aware, and let us know it ! - with an upraised eyebrow, a shrug, a lip curled in skepticism, amused condescension or agreement.

Though he didn't speak of it to most people, Konrad was clairaudient and I believe clairvoyant, and he spent a lot of his waking (and probably sleeping!) hours 'in touch' with "the other side." Based upon our conversations over the last five years, I believe that he considered much of his actual work was approached from and accomplished through "the other side," so physical death per se held no terrors for him.

Konrad actually alluded to his experience of "the other side" during our movie -
U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...
when I observed, regarding his phenomenal output as a letter writer :

"You wrote to everyone! You were a writing fool !" and he responded:

"Living or dead, it didn't matter. In fact the
dead were the easier ones to write to!"

"
When We Dead Awaken..." I interjected - quoting the title of Ibsen's final play.

"And you know I go to a spiritualist and I say: 'Any news for me? Did I get an e-mail today?!' "

Konrad was most anxious that those on whom he focused his considerable attention and help, should prosper, flourish, receive recognition and assume their proper place in the scheme of things. It thus felt "altogether fitting and proper" that I received a call from my agent as I sat at Konrad's bedside Thursday afternoon, with news of a job! Here was one more thing he didn't have to worry about!

Konrad's physical remains are now buried in Paisley, "without ceremony" as he requested, and there will be a get-together or more properly a "memorial service" to celebrate his remarkable life and work, sometime in early June.

I'm writing an obituary for THE INDEPENDENT newspaper, and if it is accepted, I'll post a link to it on this blog.

Meanwhile, our movie, which has called forth a lot of time, care and attention over the past five years, is not dead - It will soon be available online and people all over the world will be able to experience the fascinating blend of love, acerbic wit, encyclopedic knowledge and fearless courage that was our dear friend Konrad Hopkins.

The great director Lindsay Anderson used to quote lines from the movies of his favorite director, John Ford. One bit of dialogue that he uttered many times in my presence was the exchange between John Wayne and Mildred Natwick in SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON:

Wayne: "I'll be saying good-bye, Matty..."
Natwick: "You'll do no such thing, Nathan Brittles!
'Good-bye' is a word we don't use in the cavalry.
'Til our next post, dear."
Photos copyright Alan Wylie - All Rights Reserved.
Text Copyright Paul Birchard - All Rights Reserved.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

"A BOOK AT BEDTIME" - TENNESSEE WLLIAMS NOTEBOOKS


Well...! It has been a quiet - a looooong quiet - patch since my last post, and no recent screenings of U & ME & TENNESSEE - sorry to report ...
*But* -
A lovely thing happened a little over a month ago. I got a call from Sarah Langan, a Radio producer at the BBC, asking if I'd like to read some extracts from TENNEESSEE WILLIAMS's Journals for BBC Radio 4's "A Book At Bedtime" show...
( " *WOULD* I ?!!" ) -
I was even at that moment standing in a wonderful bookshop in Charing Cross Road in London, just about to buy a copy of........TENNESSEE WILLIAMS's NOTEBOOKS !
Cosmic, or what ? ! !
And as Fate would have it, standing nearby eavesdropping on my phone conversation with Sarah Langan was my old friend MIKE CARLSON ( his blog is: IRRESISTIBLE TARGETS and it's - irresistible! ) As I hung up Mike sauntered over to me, drawling out:
"I have always depended upon the kindness of researchers!"

The selections from Tenn's Journals are a lot of fun, especially his astute summation of André Gide, gleaned from that writer's own notebooks which Tennessee was reading during the try-outs for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in New Haven, Connecticut:

"Miss Gide seems to have been an old auntie all her life !
...I don't have the impression, from her journal, that
she liked anyone really very deeply except Miss Gide,
whom she pretends to deprecate but whom I think she
regards as a girl of destiny pretty nearly all the way through...
(She declares, at one point, that she spends 5 hours a day
practicing Bach and Chopin - That girl's ass and fingers must
have been something prodigious! To sleep she drinks a
"libation of orange water". Girl ! " )
Ah Tenn ! How wonderfully wicked - and perceptive - you were !
You can hear these selections on the BBC website at the "A BOOK AT BEDTIME" home page - for seven days from today, the 12th of February, 2010 - I hope you enjoy them !

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Friday, November 07, 2008

SCOTTISH PREMIERE - Responses !

U & ME & TENNESSEE had its Scottish premiere on "Bonfire Night" 2008, and while there were no sparks flying upwards, there WAS a tremendously warm feeling generated and shared by all who attended!

Alan Convery, president of the Glasgow University LGBT Society spoke before the screening about how delighted and proud they were to be hosting the premiere, along with Amy of the SCATS (the Student Cinema & Television Society) - supporting this local filmmaker (the guy on the left in the photo...) - the lights dimmed, and we were off!

This screening was far more relaxed than the London premiere at RAINDANCE, which I've written about below ("The First Reviews..."). The audience warmed immediately to the quick-witted, articulate and very funny man up there on the screen (the guy on the right in the photo above - Konrad Hopkins) and his tale of life as an unwitting Ganymede to the Zeus of Broadway. There were spontaneous swirls of laughter throughout - leavening even some of the more sombre, serious moments in the film, which reassured me, because I hope that U & ME & TENNESSEE engenders a compassionate and tender disillusioning in its viewers, and the wry chuckles at our Glasgow premiere testified to the desired impact.

It was a large crowd, and extremely diverse: many young gay and lesbian people, an ample contingent of the Future Filmmakers of Britain, quite a few seasoned actors and photographers, the former worldwide head of Dictionaries for Collins Publishers, a gentleman from Iraq, another from China, and a sizable host of middle-aged straight folk!

All of them "got" the movie - none felt alienated - though I daresay they were often surprised and disturbed.

But that is because U & ME & TENNESSEE is not conventional - it is original. And by offering a clear insight into Tennessee Williams's words and behaviour, the film naturally and effortlessly illuminates his artistic technique and intentions.

The audience response was totally positive. Carter Ferguson was extremely impressed by what he saw, and he has posted the following on the SCOTTISHFILMNET Yahoo Group:

"The film's ostensibly a conversation between Paul and Konrad, and is in turns illuminating, disturbing and fascinating. All in all I found it very enjoyable and a window into another world long gone. To actually hear the 1st hand account of the life and loves of such an incredible playwright brought to life without the necessity for "staged" dramatisation was entirely gripping. It is a frank and honest account told intelligently and stylishly."*

(*Carter's own new independent Scottish movie THE RAGE is now available to watch online! Carter wrote, produced, directed and edited it! )

My last post provoked a comment on the blog and an e-mail from Glasgay! assuring me that they were contemplating a Tennessee Williams festival long before I first voiced the idea to them. I must say that when we met initially and I floated the idea, I did get the impression that the notion of a Tennessee Williams festival was an intriguing and exciting new prospect to them.

But such an impression on my part may very well have been canny Scots caution on their part, so as not to disclose their own plans prematurely to a stranger (me), and I accept them at their word.

It was, as I say, an idea whose time had come.

I'm also regretful if any of my remarks caused Glasgay! annoyance or hurt, and I apologise unreservedly if such was the case. I am not attacking Glasgay!. I am simply stating the fact that they passed on U & ME & TENNESSEE, and noting some of the implications of this decision.

The irony is that Tennessee Williams thought Konrad Hopkins worth talking to and worth writing to, for four and a half years, but Glasgay! was not able to put itself into Mr. Williams's shoes and try to imagine just why he might have felt this way.

By ignoring U & ME &TENNESSEE, Glasgay! deliberately deprived Glasgow of the knowledge of its own genuine, living, cultural, gay, human connection with the late, great Tennessee Williams.

But Glasgay! is not alone in this. The Edinburgh International Film Festival also chose not to screen U & ME & TENNESSEE - and the same results obtain, but on a wider scale.

I can't help feeling disappointed for the people of my adopted nation at these turns of events.

On the other hand, U & ME & TENNESSEE did get its Scottish premiere, and I again express profound thanks - from Konrad Hopkins and myself - to the Glasgow University LGBT Society and to SCATS for their belief in the movie and their unreserved, full-hearted support.

Looking ahead, London will get another chance to experience Konrad Hopkins, but this time in the flesh, not merely onscreen! The British Library has invited Konrad down to speak about his experiences with Tennessee Williams this coming April, 2009.

And we continue to get requests from film festivals all around the world to submit our movie - so watch this space!

Photo copyright Alan Wylie 2006 -all rights reserved.
Text copyright Paul Birchard 2008 - all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

At LAST ! The Scottish PREMIERE ! ! !

Well- I knew it would happen SOMEDAY - but today is the DAY!

U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...

is finally being screened in its nation of origin, in the city where it was made - indeed only a few yards from the very place that graciously allowed us to film our unscripted, no-holds-barred conversation about TENNESSEE WILLIAMS in the first place!

Wednesday, 5th November, 2008 -
U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...
Glasgow University
8:00 p.m.

It has been a long time coming. The better part of two years ago I went to Glasgay! and suggested that 2008 would be a great year to devote the entire Glasgow festival of Queer culture to Tennessee Williams - after all, this would be the twenty-fifth anniversay of Tenn's death, and he was a towering artist whose work is still unfolding and touching people - gay, straight, in-between - worldwide.

"And if you DO decide to make a Tennessee Williams festival, I hope you'll include our movie, which features the only man in Scotland who actually knew Tennessee (in all senses of the word), who has a stack of letters from him that no one has seen before, and who has made this very candid, very moving portrait of their relationship and its impact upon them both."

Well, Glasgay! took the idea of a Tennessee Willams festival and ran with it - it was an idea whose time had come - but the cultural commissars, the self-appointed gatekeepers of gay culture in Glasgow, decided to ignore the only genuine link between Scotland and Mr. Williams. Incredible, but there it is.

A dear friend of mine, Rodger Parker, a gay man who recently tied the knot with Stephen Hubbard, his partner of thirty-five years (great wedding, by the way!) remarked to me:
"I mean, who is Glasgay! supposed to be for?!"

What's that they say about a great idea or revelation? First they ignore it, then they ridicule it, and finally it is accepted a a self-evident fact. U & ME & TENNESSEE has certainly had its share of the first stage of this process!

Happily, young people are not as hidebound or blinkered in their perceptions as their more established older brothers and sisters. The Glasgow University LGBT Society and the SCATS - the Student Cinema & Television Society have both wholeheartedly embraced our movie, and arranged for its Scottish premiere at the Gilmorehill G12 Cinema!

We filmed the original conversation that forms the largest part of our movie, in the Glasgow University Visitors' Centre cafe - so it's fitting that the project comes full circle and receives its welcome back where it all began on International Gay Pride Day in June, 2005.

Thanks to Alan Convery, and Didge, of the LGBT Society - and to SCATS - for their awesome support!
Photo Copyright Alan Wylie 2006 -All rights reserved.
Text Copyright Paul Birchard 2008 - All rights reserved.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL/DOKFEST, Leipzig !

U & ME & TENNESSEE on its way !

In the past few months a LOT has happened for U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...

We were invited to the DIGITAL DOK MARKET at the DOKFEST LEIPZIG, where the movie was viewed by commissioning editors, cinema programmers and fellow film makers from all over the world. Our posters were right on the front door - proudly announcing:


"A gay art house movie for the whole family!"


and we stealthily placed others throughout the main DOKFEST area at the Museum of Modern Art in Leipzig.

It was a fascinating, stimulating, invigourating week. The highlight for me was a screening of THE BATTLE OF CHILE by PATRICIO GUZMAN. Senor Guzman attended, along with the film's editor PEDRO CHASKELL - two giants who, along with their late cameraman and a small, dedicated team, managed to sharply and poignantly document just what was happening in Chile in the months before the democratically elected government of President Allende was overthrown by Pinochet and his grisly gang.

I got to meet a colleague from the Docu-Link online group - FRANCESCO UBOLDI - visit his website! - and I spent a very interesting hour chatting to PAUL WATSON, the DADDY of British documentary film makers.

Another treat was a spontaneous invitation from Woijech Szczudlo to attend a sceeening at the Polish Cultural Centre of two delightful new documentaries - KREDENS by Jacob Dammas, and NOTHING TO BE SCARED OF by
Małgorzata Szumowska - We are hoping to bring them to Scotland for a screening in Glasgow!

All these movies would have delighted Tennessee Williams, I am sure (provided he was reasonably sober!) with their frank, touching and sometimes humourous portayals of democracy in action, the aftermath of death and the mischievous, unforeseen consequences of ethnic cleansing in Poland in the late 1960's and early 1970's .

But the best news recently has been the AUSTRALIAN premiere of U & ME & TENNESSEE!

DAVID PEARCE
of QUEERSCREEN e-mailed a few months ago asking to see the movie - and his response was encouraging:

"I really loved it - it was surprising and not really what I expected...He (Konrad Hopkins) is such a great subject and the story he has to tell is fascinating. You possibly get more out of him than he wanted to tell. I really like the film a great deal!"

- and this led to an invitation to be an official selection at the MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL!

The SYDNEY STAR OBSERVER made us the lead article on their film page!

"ONWARD!" as Lindsay Anderson used to say.
Photo copyright Alan Wylie 2006 - All rights reserved.
Text copyright Paul Birchard 2008 -All rights reserved.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

THE FIRST REVIEWS...

Well - the world premiere of U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance... took place in London on Tuesday the 2nd of October as part of the RAINDANCE FESTIVAL - and I was - frankly, um...how to put it? Overwrought? Nervous? Fried? Exhausted?

It was the first time I'd ever screened a feature film that I had not only produced and directed, but also appeared in. What would happen? Would the friends and colleagues who turned up have to "make nice" afterwards, or damn the whole thing with faint praise? Would everything go smoothly - or would glitches materialise from nowhere?

My dear friend COLIN STINTON - a superb actor - showed up early to hold my hand (and BOY was I glad he did !). Colin was kind enough to share a story about DAVID MAMET's first premiere as a writer/director (on HOUSE OF GAMES). Apparently SIDNEY LUMET (director of THE VERDICT - a Mamet Script - and also of THE FUGITIVE KIND, a Tennessee Williams script) phoned the Mamet household late on the afternoon of the premiere. LINDSAY CROUSE, star of the movie and at that time Mrs. Mamet, answered the phone.

SIDNEY LUMET: Hello, Lindsay? This is is Sidney. How is David? Is he sick yet?

LINDSAY CROUSE: Oh hello, Sidney - Well YES, he IS !


SIDNEY LUMET: Don't worry. That's how it is on your first premiere !

I knew how Mamet must have felt...

Problems? Yes, a few. Some weird sound distortions at the ends of words for the first few minutes only - annoying but not overpowering - Thank God ! Aspect ratio? Well - THAT wasn't quite right for the first ten minutes or so, when I finally realised "Well, you don't ask, you don't get!" and had a word with the Cineworld manager.
She was standing by right there to make sure everything ran smoothly, and in less than a minute the onscreen pictures assumed their proper proportions ! Ahhhh.......

Laughter? Yes - for the first ten or fifteen minutes - but deepening silence as the picture rolled on...

I couldn't bring myself to laugh at the spontaneous quips and gags that had emerged naturally between KONRAD HOPKINS and myself as we'd conversed on camera (as a pointer for the audience - something neither Tennessee nor Konrad would have had the slightest difficulty doing !) No. This audience was composed of professionals - renowned actors, documentary directors, writers. It would be an insult to their intelligence and an imposition on any friendship I might share with them to try and torque their natural reactions...

And so the quiet grew more profound...I was naked here in the dark. My soul was up there onscreen visible in the entire production, and so was Konrad's in his unflinching, un-selfpitying tale of life as Ganymede in the vortex of the Zeus of Broadway in the early 1950's.

End credits rolled - lights came up. ELLIOT GROVE, founder of RAINDANCE, had taken time from his jam-pacled schedule to watch the entire movie, and then graciously introd
uced me afterwards to field questions or comments.

But it wasn't until after that that I was able to get a sense of the true reaction to our film.

And it was overwhelmingly positive. People were genuinely and deeply moved, delighted with the production values, unaware of the editing (just the way you want it to be !) and entranced, moved to ponder, to talk to one another, to see the world from a wider perspective because of the awakening nature of what they'd experienced.


Whew!

Comments? SIMON CALLOW was there, and called out "Fantastic!" as the lights came up. He e-mailed a few days later, describing it as: "A real illumination of the ruthlessness of genius. Konrad is a fascinating study himself: so elegant, so charming, so perceptive...Well done. Really fascinating."

My friend Derek Guthrie, a very experienced factual producer/director - who I have to say sometimes offered faint encouragement over the past many months, no doubt concerned on my behalf in case this project which had consumed so much time, care and attention should prove, after all, little more than a visual radio documentary, was unstinting in his praise:

"It was fantastic. You were absolutely right to make it as you have done! Konrad is everything you said he was. It's a work of art. I was crying in it, I was so moved !"

Paul Sutton, editor of LINDSAY ANDERSON's DIARIES, has written a review on his blog
CAMERA JOURNAL - I quote:

"More than a thousand documentaries were entered for the fifteenth Raindance festival in London, but this, with its grinningly brilliant tag-line — ‘A gay art house movie for all the family!’ — was one of the nine accepted — and no wonder — it’s terrific!"

Sofia Dastur replied to Paul's review - "This is a very brave and a very funny film...What a conversation !...the movie is just so humane and honest..."

Some people watched it online, at the Tiscali.co.uk - Raindance Festival website.

Rich Darvey, who works for the highly respected Hollywood firm R.C. Baral (we met when I was acting on 1408, and he was troubleshooting on behalf of The Weinstein Company) e-mailed to say: "I've got one word for you - Outstanding. Konrad was so wonderful to listen to. There was nothing sensationalized about the interview. I liked the graphics, inserts, etc. Music was very good...The production work was great...I'm really glad I was able to view it. This was a great story to be told !"

Ines Wurth, the dynamic actress and producer whose solo stage show I MISS COMMUNISM has been astounding audiences all over America, Ireland the the U.K. over the past two years, cut short a visit home to Zagreb to catch the premiere, and she simply said: "I LOVED it!"

It's been very encouraging. A major broadcaster currently has the movie and is mulling over acquiring it - and I'm off to Leipzig to the 50th annual DOKFEST and DOK-MARKET to see if other film and television companies around the world will be interested in our movie - which Konrad Hopkins refers to as:

"Tennessee Williams's final work."

Photo of Paul Birchard & Konrad Hopkins copyright Alan Wylie 2006 - All rights reserved.

Text copyright Paul Birchard 2007 - All rights reserved. 

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

WATCH US ONLINE ! ! ! !

The premiere is approaching!

U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...

has its first public screening at the RAINDANCE FESTIVAL on Tuesday afternoon, 4:30 p.m. at the Trocadero Cineworld right near Piccadilly Circus in London.

Remember to get there a little early to be
sure you get a ticket!

However, for those friends and colleagues around the world, and thanks to a partnership between Raindance and Tiscali, the phone/ISP company, you will also be able to watch the movie on the day of its world premiere at the Tiscali.co.uk website -

BUT YOU MUST START VIEWING BETWEEN 9:00 P.M. AND 10:00 P.M. G M T -

THIS MEANS BETWEEN 1:00 - 2:00 P.M. FOR ALL U.S. WEST COAST FOLK, BETWEEN 4:00 - 5:00 P.M. FOR EAST COAST TYPES - MOUNTAIN TIME? I GUESS BETWEEN 2:00 - 3:00 P.M. AND BETWEEN 3:00 - 4:00 P.M. FOR CHICAGO-ITES AND OTHER STRATEGICALLY PLACED MIDWESTERNERS !

Click on this web address for the online premiere!

In case you don't know anything about it, and haven't got time to read this entire
blog, or our website, here's the blurb:

"He wrote a letter to Tennessee Williams.
The reply was a thunderbolt from Zeus!"

"Actor/Director PAUL BIRCHARD's delightfully distrubing portrait of the 1950's romance between playwright TENNESSEE WILLIAMS and KONRAD HOPKINS. Hopkins is a real find. A gay art house movie for the whole family !"

Hope you can catch it !

Thanks for all your support, one and all!

Friday, August 24, 2007

We've Been Accepted for RAINDANCE !

THE STORY OF HOW WE MADE THE MOVIE...

Well - it's amazing - and a great priviledge - we've just heard that our movie -

U & ME & TENNESSEE - an American romance...

has been accepted in the RAINDANCE Film Festival in London, taking place between 25. September - 2. Oct. 2007 !

Raindance was started some fifteen years ago by Elliot Grove and Suzanne Ballantyne.

I first heard about Raindance in 1992, and wandered into their old office
near Chelsea Wharf one afternoon, where I met Elliot for the first time. I was in London pursuing my day job - ACTING - and I'd been in town for an audition or work.

Here is another production still from the movie, shot by Alan Wylie - Copyright 2006 Alan Wylie.) --------->

The next year, spurred on by continued (inspiring) contact with Elliot and Suzanne, I made my first short film, PANTS ON FIRE, which played Raindance in 1994 (as I recall...) and attracted an investor for my second short film CHRISTMAS CONSCIOUSNESS which we shot around Christmas, 1995, and in early January 1996. CHRISTMAS CONSCIOUSNESS was accepted and played in Raindance in 1997, but family responsibilities prevented me from really capitalising on that opportunity.


And that has been the story for the past decade...

Let us be clear: DIY / Low Budget Moviemaking is not solely the province of the young !

There are many for whom the need to juggle family responsibilities has proved an impediment to making their next movie. But now we've caught the wave !
It's time to premiere our first feature film !

I had no idea I'd ever make - or want to make - a documentary. But when I met Konrad Hopkins I realised that the only way to really capture the story of his experiences with TENNESSEE WILLIAMS would be to forget my preconceptions, my desires to make a conventional feature film, to pay proper homage to this profound story which had crossed my path - and just make it !

Thanks to IAIN THOMSON (who is editing the movie), we are almost there.

And please visit the website for an amazing film - TO TOUCH THE SOUL - which I just discovered and which has just won a prestigious award which should make its wider distribution a welcome reality.

Back to the edit suite ! Time waits for no Filmmaker !

(Copyright 2007 Paul Birchard - All Rights Reserved)


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Newly Discovered Photo of Tennessee Williams!

The Story of How We Made the Movie...

If you Google Tennessee Williams you'll get pages and pages of hits, but it's not often something new turns up. As we've made U & Me & Tennessee we've had access to the Konrad Hopkins Archive - run by the Konrad Hopkins Archive Charitable Trust - and the wealth of fascinating material stored there is really impressive.

For instance - this photo of Tenn, his dog Mr. Moon and his grandfather, taken in the early 1950's in Key West, Florida. I've seen other photos taken within seconds of this one, but never before had I seen this exact one.

Tennessee sent this photo to Konrad Hopkins after Konrad had sent Tenn some photos of himself at Tenn's request (see our website:

www.u-me-tennessee.co.uk/letters.htm).

Tennessee's description of the photo is charming:

"I'm enclosing a picture taken a couple of months ago in Key West, before I got into this hassle (the Broadway production of his play CAMINO REAL). The gentleman on my left is an English bull puppy five months old named Mr. Moon and the one on my right is my 96 year-old grandfather. At any rate he will be 96 in April. He is my only reason for maintaining any sort of residence in the States, as he is contented only with me."

- Tennessee Williams in a letter to Konrad Hopkins dated February 28, 1953.

The Konrad Hopkins Archive is mostly housed at the University of Paisley Library in Scotland, and in addition to a great deal of Tennessee Williams material never seen before, there is a substantial collection dealing with the late JAMES T. FARRELL (author of STUDS LONIGAN and many other novels, stories and essays - Konrad was a close literary associate of Farrell's, and he edited a number of Farrell's books and stories), BURT REYNOLDS, and the truly remarkable 19th century author WILLIAM SHARP / FIONA MACLEOD.

We have been extremely fortunate to have had unfettered access to the Hopkins archive, and this is one of the main reasons that

U & Me & Tennessee

is such a unique and completely new type of movie.

Copyright Paul Birchard 2007 All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who ARE Those Guys...?

U & Me & Tennessee
...an American romance
The Story of how we made the movie...

(All photographs in this post copyright Alan Wylie 2006.)
Well, the one on the left is me - PAUL BIRCHARD - my "profile" is over on the right there. The other gentleman is KONRAD HOPKINS - whose romance with Tennessee Williams is the subject of our movie.


Who is he, and why should anyone care about what he has to say...?

Well, for what it's worth, I believe Konrad Hopkins is a truly remarkable individual, one of the world's (mostly) hidden gems. This conviction in me only grows stronger as the days go by...

Konrad possess an intense passion for life, an iron-willed determination combined with a profound committment to create and to help others bring out the best in themselves - qualities rare enough in any individual, but breathtaking in someone nearing the close of his eighth decade.

Konrad's drive and strength of character may owe something to his lineage - a combination of German Swiss and Native American Choctaw. A self-confessed 12th century man, he hasn't watched television since 1964! - but he's in no sense isolated from current events. Possessed of a detailed and robust memory, he is nevertheless immersed in the present and focused on the future.

Oh, and he ain't pompous, neither...

He has had a lengthy career as a teacher of Humanities. A graduate of Harvard and Florida State University, he taught at the University of Iowa (Tennessee Williams's alma mater) where he studied with the legendary Marguerite Young (and took over her apartment when she moved back to New York), at FSU-Tallahassee (where he set Burt Reynolds on the path to becoming an actor and director), in Cuba, Vienna and for many years at the University of Paisley in Scotland.

His cultural interests are keen and wide-ranging: from the music of Korngold, Shostakovich and Janacek to the writing of William Sharp/Fiona MacLeod - and he has published books in many languages for UNESCO through his company Wilfion Books.

He was a close literary associate of the late James T. Farrell (author of Studs Lonigan and many other novels, stories and accutely observed essays), and he also knew Tennessee Williams, William Inge and Gore Vidal when he lived in New York in the 1950's and '60's.

Despite all the difficulties of making this feature film on a very tight budget, and all the delays that has entailed, we have had a wonderful time making U & Me & Tennessee - and these production stills will give you some idea of what's in store for you when you see our movie.






(...to be continued.) Copyright 2006 Paul Birchard
All Rights Reserved.