‘Joe Cornish In Conversation’ at Somerset House

Joe Cornish talks Attack the Block as part of Film 4’s Behind the Screen event at Somerset House

On 30th July Joe Cornish sat down with Film 4’s David Cox to discuss Attack the Block and answer questions from the audience.  I’ll be posting links to any official clips and photos of the event if and when they appear but I thought I’d say a few words about it in the mean time.

Fresh from L.A, where the film is now on limited release, Joe spoke about about their approach to the U.S market; with no print advertising budget they are relying on social media and word of mouth alone.  It was released on the same day as big-budget, star-studded Cowboys & Aliens and The Smurfs, on only 8 screens, and yet has received many positive reviews from the likes of VarietyThe Los Angeles Times  and USA Today. Peter Travers for Rolling Stone  describes the film as ‘hot, fierce, funny, vicious and ready to bite’, whilst Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times writes, ‘the largely inexperienced leads effortlessly engage. Their patois may be impenetrable, but their ragtag courage is as clear as day. ‘  It appears then that their decision not to dumb down to American audiences and refraining from using subtitles (yes, subtitles – a genuine American in the audience even asked about them) has paid off. In fact, as Filmcritic points out, one could argue that Attack the Block is doing pretty well against the likes of  Cowboys and Aliens and The Smurfs  (current residing at number 1 and 2 of the U.S Box office chart, opening on 3,750 and 3,395 screens respectively ), as  ‘in each theater they were in, the films made just slightly on opposite sides of $10,000. Attack the Block made $17,000 for each theater it was in’. It is currently sitting at number 32 in the chart.  As for whether or not the reviews and ticket sales will result in a release across more screens we will have to wait and see. In the mean time we in the U.K have the DVD release to look forward to.

Cornish claimed he’s a fan of the good “old-fashioned” making of and it sounds as if  Attack the Block  (DVD and Blu-Ray released on 19th September) will feature a long one. It will also feature 3 commentaries: one “junior” commentary, one “senior” commentary and one executive producer commentary (featuring Edgar Wright). I’m a sucker for commentaries so I can’t wait for this.

If you’ve followed any of the promo for this film you will no doubt have heard Cornish talk about his many cinematic influences. Something that struck a chord with me was when he spoke about watching sci-fi/fantasy and adventure films set in quintessentially American environments (such as Gremlins or E.Tand wondering what it would be like to see such films set in his own (albeit urban) home town of London. Obviously there are plenty of genre films shot in and around London, and films such as  A Clockwork Orange and TV’s Misfits, make good use of social housing developments such as the Thamesmead Estate, but there is something about the use of The Heygate Estate and surrounding areas (also used in Misfits and countless other TV shows) in Attack the Block that I just loved. This is largely because I went to school in the area and my friends lived on the estate. I know parts of it like the back of my hand and am therefore painfully biased. I will refrain from getting too mushy, but I did feel like the estate was an extra character in the movie and also that it was treated with a lot of love and respect. Aliens crash-landing outside my school dinner hall? This movie would have blown my tiny mind if I’d seen it as a young teen. For better or for worse the Heygate Estate is currently being demolished which makes it all the more poignant for me.

Other highlights of the talk included Joe talking about the process for creating the monsters, using CGI to take out the detail rather than to add it, and also about his writing process. During writing (which lasted many years) he said he stopped watching TV altogether (apart from Freaks and Geeks. Yes, I think I am actually love this man) missing classics such as The Sopranos and The Wire (at which point I resisted shouting out to ask if he’d seen Six Feet Under or Dexter etc., etc.) in favour of watching films. He didn’t want to be influenced or distracted by the TV format in which story arcs last many episodes or even seasons.

These were the moments of the talk that stuck out for me (to be honest, I think I covered most of it).  It was also great to see the Black Squadron and Pod Cats out in full force to support Joe and we all left with big smiles on our faces.
GS Reporter: Alexis

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