Art, addition and the attributes of dyslexic film-making.
If you’re a long time reader of The Codpast, you may recall that back in January I predicted that 2015 would be one hell of a year for Dyslexics in Film. Now I’d hate to be one to bask in the glory of saying, “I told you so.” But with Focus (Starring: Will Smith) John Wick (Starring: Keanu Reeves) Jurassic World (Executive Producer: Stephen Spielberg) Mission Impossible 5 (Starring, Tom Cruise) Magic Mike XXL (Starring: Channing Tatum) and more dyslexic made films already gracing our screens, it’s only right for me to say… “I TOLD YOU SO!” Goodness…. that felt, gooood!
Back in Jan, I also mentioned some home-grown grassroots dyslexic filmmakers. They were crowd funding a short film written by Dyslexic play and screen writer, Dean Stalham. Fast-forward 8 months and the film, Bueno Key, has been fully funded, the gruelling four day shoot is in the can and the edit room wizardry has been cast. On Tuesday 15th September the first public screening will be taking place in London. Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to a test screening and I can report back the team behind Bueno Key have created a pretty moving peace of cinema.
Bueno Key follows the Story of drug dealer Danny, his wife Jade and Jonas, an acting coach. The three characters are trapped in a world of addiction, drug dealing, drug taking, and risking it all on the horses. Bueno Key explores the theory that with all its airs and graces, no matter who you are or where you come from, art can offer refuge and a safe place to connect with and express the core of our being. Now this might sound all touchy freely but this film is anything but fluffy. The vehicle to convey this theory – the therapeutic power of art – is the films main protagonist, Danny; a hardnosed Cocaine dealer.
Obsessed with old black and white movies Danny is prompted to take up acting lessons. Acting allows Danny to shed the shackles of his macho drug dealing outer shell and connect with his inner child and memories of a more innocent life. This story line is juxtaposed against the realities of his life outside the sanctuary of his acting classes. Namely his wife Jade’s cocaine addiction.
Drug in the Media
Much media portrayal of cocaine centers on the glamour of the drug. But Bueno Key gives an authentic portrayal of what ensues when the party ends and addiction starts. Rather than the ‘Trainspotting’ style theatrics, Bueno Key hones in on the desperate, monotonous and helpless world of the Cocaine addict.
The look and feel of this film is unmistakably British and that grit and realism provides a wonderful backdrop for Dean Stalham’s semi-autobiographical script. ‘That story actually happened in the mid-nineties, I reckon that’s probably what I looked like’ Dean continues, ‘I spoke to the founder member of narcotics anonymous and he said, ‘you captured addiction perfectly’”
The Look and Feel
By all accounts the directors of this film have got the aesthetics of addiction spot on, which is a testament to their research when you realise the writer had no input into the look and feel of this film, Dean explains, “I haven’t seen it since I wrote it, I gave the script over…and the one brief I gave them was I want weird, I want strange, I wanna capture addiction and they did exactly that”
Lennie Varvarides and Kazimir Bielecki (Kaz) AKA Bielecki & Bielecka (the directing duo behind the film) took deans brief and ran with it. What they have created is a film which hovers somewhere between a gritty Ken Loachinan drama and an art house installation.
Lennie and Kaz are also the pioneers behind Dyspla, produce the work of dyslexic story-makers, they champion and they celebrate our beautiful world of dyslexic artists. So for a pair that champion the work and world of dyslexic artists, the lack of any openly dyslexic characters in this film seems strange. For Kaz though, this makes perfect sense.
“We’re a company that celebrates creatives and dyslexic creativity, but we don’t need to shout out, ‘we’re dyslexic and there was a problem when I grew up, there’s very little difference between someone who is dyslexic and isn’t dyslexic.”
Kaz feels that rather than making the overtly film about dyslexic characters, it’s the dyslexic process that shines the light on the attributes dyslexic creatives bring to the table. ‘We can tell the same stories but the way we tell them is likely to be different.’
Directed by Dyslexia
In ‘the movies’ it’s often enthused that iconic locations like New York or L.A. become characters in the film. With Bueno Key the same could be said of dyslexia’s contribution to the production process.
Lennie recalls some of the shoots challenges. “Limited resources, limited funds, limited time, we shot this film over two consecutive weekends, we were on set a 8am and left at 12 midnight…a lot of things happened on the shoot that at the time caused a lot of stress.” Although at times this was nerve racking, Lennie recalls in the edit suite the nonlinear attributes of a dyslexic way of thinking took those difficulties and used them to enhance the direction the film took during post. “When things go wrong on set it may work in your favour…you get a new story when you sit down in the edit and are having to put the story back together from scratch.”
The team behind Dyspla see dyslexia as a means to an end, a process and a way of working rather than something that needs to be pitied or fixed. This methodology did not go unnoticed by the Lexic (non-dyslexic) talent on set. “what I found was there is a real determination; there’s a need to get things right and done in a certain way.’ Jade Asha (Jade in the film) felt there were huge advantages to working with a mainly dyslexic crew, “we had to do everything step by step, we had to go through lists and tick it off so everything was getting done properly, nothing was getting missed out. They were just very thorough about everything… so no needing to go back and do pickups.”
Dyspla moving forward
Film production is a bit of a departure from Dyspla’s theatre based roots but Lennie feels this is a logical direction for the brand. “This is the biggest turn out we’ve ever had, Dyspla’s growing and Bielecki & Bielecka are launching themselves tonight. This is our debut as fiction directors.
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