Coming soon to a screen……...…in Canada!


Gary and Gail has been selected from hundreds of entries as one of ten finalists in Canada's SHORTSNONSTOP competition!

This means the film will be shown on mobile phones throughout Canada!

Gary and Gail
CLICK ON THE IMAGEgrey triangle (points right)

shorts nonstop
SHORTSNONSTOP is a year-round online mobile film festival that you can experience anytime or anyplace. A showcase of short films produced for mobile and online platforms, the running time of films cannot exceed three minutes.

SHORTSNONSTOP is part of the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival.

It’s been presenting the best in short filmmaking from around the world for more than 13 years. SHORTSNONSTOP is a natural extension of this legacy – and thanks to TELUS, one of Canada’s leading mobile carriers, the festival celebrates innovative short films, produced for the mobile screen.

So MASSIVE THANKS to the team that made
Gary and Gail!

G&G Cast&Crew
Storm HDFelt MusicAudio Network
The Cruet Company
Manike Music


So what about the Oscar targeted film,
Happy Birthday?

Well the film hasn't gone away! And I haven't run off with the kitty.

To date, some £7,000 has been donated. I was hoping to add to this, bringing the total to £18,000.

But the current financial climate is proving too tough to forge ahead with this project AT THE PRESENT TIME. However, rest assured, we will pick up the film once recession eases and more funding becomes available.

Again, a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed so far to
Happy Birthday. Your money is safe.

But given the unforeseen recession and it's lingering effects, I want to move ahead with a different plan.

Happy Birthday on hold, until raising enough money becomes more feasible, I am developing a shorter script which will cost less to make. I will let you know more about the story as soon as I can.

It will help me to know that you are happy for me to spend the money raised so far (for Happy Birthday)
on this new film, rather than on it's originally intended purpose. In this way, we can get on and make a film sooner rather than later. Please let me know if you have any reservations about this, and I will respond.

Thank you for your patience with this project. It is a painful aspect of all filmmaking: long waiting times before anything happens. But we will get there!

And the good news about
Gary and Gail is a small beginning, but a result non the less!

To view the film, click HERE

Don’t forget to visit the Gary and Gail Facebook page to Like and Comment!
G&G Facebook

Thank you for your interest in this fantastically exciting journey to see a movie made.

It’s great you’re coming with us!

Steve Bookbinder
writer and director

2 Minutes. 1000 Films. 211 Cinemas. One Winner...

Three weeks ago I saw news on Twitter of a short film competition from Virgin Media.

Virgin Media Shorts is unique in its challenge and its promise. The challenge: the film you enter must be no longer than
2 minutes 20 seconds; the promise: 12 shortlisted films will be shown in 211 UK cinemas for a year.

VM Logo
Most short films play only in film festivals; they cannot be seen by the cinema-going public. People pay to see full length movies, not those trying to get there by making career calling card films.

So, although
Happy Birthday remains my goal, I realised the Virgin competition was too good an opportunity to pass up. Exposure in cinemas - and therefore among film producers - is not to be sniffed at. And one winner receives £30,000 funding towards their short film.

It’s a tall order. When the closing date fell last week, there were around 1000 entries. That means a little over 1% (12 films) will be chosen for the 12-month cinema run. Add to that the difficulty of telling a story in two minutes or so with no budget and very little time, and you can see the odds are tough.

So, I wrote a script and called on many from the
Happy Birthday team to see if they were up for the mad dash necessary to make
Gary and Gail - our two-minute entry to the competition. To my delight, they threw their full weight behind it, relishing, like me, a fantastic opportunity!
Gary and Gail

G&G pull
Here’s the film, its paint still drying (click on the image or the link below). We finished it just in time for the deadline.

Take a look, see what you think.

Please click the
Like button, top right of the blog. And if you’re not on Facebook, leave a comment on the Virgin site.

These Likes are not a desperate desire for back slapping; they really do help expose the film to a wider audience, some of whom are involved in commissioning films and looking for directors, scripts, ideas and talent.

Crank up the sound!  (there’s a great music score) Enjoy the film.

And the winner is...

The 12 shortlisted films are selected in September for UK Cinema screenings, and Virgin TV & online outings.  Then the public vote for the runner up, before the big winner is chosen by the judges in November.  

3 VM Judges
The judges include actor, John Hurt; Director, Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93, Green Zone) and new British Director, Mat Whitecross (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll). Click on a judge to see more.

And for the record, please be assured that not a penny of your money was spent on
Gary and Gail - that is firmly held in the
Happy Birthday pot!

On that note, apologies to any whose cheques have still not been banked. I’ve been head down on the Virgin film and I hate queues! But I will bank them soon.

THANK YOU if you’ve recently sent your pledge in. The fund is slowly accumulating in readiness for production. We are getting back to
Happy Birthday planning, now that the Gary and Gail dust has settled. We just had to have a go. It could give Happy Birthday a huge push!

Don’t forget to visit the
Gary and Gail Facebook page to Like and Comment!
G&G Facebook

Thank you for your interest in this fantastically exciting journey to see a movie made.

It’s great you’re coming with us!

Steve Bookbinder
writer and director
happy birthday logo small

No, I've not gone to Hawaii!

OK, so it’s been 3 months since the last blog entry.
I’ve been doing one of the following:

a) pouring a magnum of champagne from my Virgin Islands’ beach house
b) running off with your money and living it up in Vegas
c) conducting high-level talks with Universal about my next $80m blockbuster

I wish. Well, about (c) anyway!

I have in fact just been busy on the day job. But I’ve also been buried in the script. Scripts evolve draft by draft, and the best films avoid going to set before the script is ready.

So, the BIG news is that 12 drafts later, I think we’re there.
This baby’s ready to give birth!

The even BIGGER announcement is that we now have a PRODUCER, which is fantastic news!

J Binks
Joe Binks is a producer at Jack Morton Worldwide - a brand experience agency with offices in Asia, Africa, the U.S. and London.

Click on the 60-second film below to see an example of their terrific work.

Joe is thrilled to be part of the team.
‘After reading the script, I knew I had to throw my hat into the ring. The opportunity to work with the talented crew already assembled excites me.’

The powerful themes in Steve’s script will no doubt translate to a compelling film.

‘I believe that we can really achieve something with Happy Birthday and I’m really dedicated to help Steve achieve something special.’
Joe Binks, Producer

So, with a producer in place and a script ready to go, it’s time to push the film into pre-production.

So it’s now time to send in your pledge!

Let me say again a huge THANK YOU! to everyone who’s getting involved and supporting
Happy Birthday. Thank you to those who’ve already donated to the film, and to those who have generously pledged an amount.

We’ve now around £8,000 and with a loan I’m taking, we should have about £18k towards the target of
£25,000 needed to make the film.

That means I’m now asking, please, for all those who’ve pledged an amount to make that contribution as soon as possible.
You can do this in the following ways:

by bank transfer: (preferred means, if possible)
Please see your email invite to this blog for bank details.

by cheque:
made payable to:
Red Rag Pictures Ltd

by Paypal (this is possible, but the least effective because Paypal charge a commission which reduces the amount we receive)

join us!
get involved

This is not about any financial return; short films don’t make money.

It’s really about investing in a dream, and by seeing it come to life, sharing in the success.

But anyone who gives money to the film will be a special part of this exciting venture. You will have an on-screen credit in the end roller as an Associate Producer. The movie will open at a West End cinema, (which we will blag for next to nothing!). You will be invited to the premiere and to the party that follows, where you will meet the cast and crew.

ceremony textless
If we do get Oscar nominated, we will host a special Oscar Party where we will watch the Oscars live and prepare to celebrate, should we win. Of course, you will be invited.

Every pound will be spent on bringing this film to the screen. There will be no profit. No one in the main crew will be taking a professional fee, only minimal expenses - the bus fare and a sandwich if they’re lucky!

It’s ambitious, but we really believe in this film, and we think you will too as you see it come to life.
press me

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Please pledge now by pressing the button (you confirm later) or make a donation, using one of the methods in the yellow box below.

And check out the earlier blog posts below if this is your first visit.

Looking for Josh

We are about to go out to cast, which means the casting director will be looking for the best actors to fill each role.

Perhaps the most challenging role to fill will be that of Josh. I am looking for a black boy of around 8 years old to play Josh. Children are always difficult to cast; their experience - of both life and acting - is inevitably very limited.

But somewhere out there there’s a great young actor who will be amazing in a film. And I want him to be in
Happy Birthday!

If you know of anyone who you think might fit the bill, please get in touch.

They’ll be more news as it happens; it won’t be another 3 months! Please click the
Like button at the top of the page - it all helps to spread the word and build support!

Thank you for your interest in this fantastically exciting journey to see a movie made.

It’s great you’re coming with us!

Steve Bookbinder
writer and director
happy birthday logo small

Never mind the glitz and the glamour; this is a game-changer!

More on this weekend’s little bash in a moment.

First - where are we up to on the money?

We now have
£7,500 in donations or pledges. That’s a fantastic amount after just one month since launch!

A massive thank you to those who’ve given or pledged to reach this amazing figure in so little time!
press me

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You can still give by pledging any amount here. See the join us section above to see what’s in it for you.

To date, we’re almost a third of the way to our budget of
£25,000. We’re now looking at widening the campaign.

If Rome was built in a day, film financing takes a long weekend.

It has to be said that the journey to making a good short film is a long one.

That’s because it takes time to raise the money. Having reached £7.5k from family and friends, I am now looking at funding from people I don’t know. But this will take time.

The government have abolished the UK Film Council - up to now a major source of short film financing. The role is passing to the British Film Institute, but the transfer will be gradual, and funding decisions are on hold.


There’s no free lunch in business. Any potential sponsor needs to see a return. And that makes short films a poor bet - they don’t make money because they can only play at Film Festivals, not in cinemas with a paying audience.

The alternative ways of funding require full campaigns launched across various online platforms. They eat time. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the rest.

So we may be in for the long haul. They’ll be setbacks among the successes. But hey, be sure of this. We will make this film. And even if it’s later rather than sooner, you’ll be at the Premiere seeing it on the silver screen!

So - Sunday night sees the biggest event in the movie calendar.
Picture 5

Live from the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the great and the good, along with those we’ve not yet heard of, will tread the red carpet to see those rewarded with the industry’s highest honour - a 13.5-inch gold-plated britannium knight holding a crusader’s sword - otherwise known as an Oscar.

3 candles
If you see any of the ceremony, remember this is where we want to be next year to collect the Oscar for Best Short Film. Not for the party, but as a way in to making real movies. That is my passion and longing, and I believe I can do it.

hello, are you famous?

But it’s not the trophy or even the Hollywood razzmatazz that’s enticing. I’m really quite uninterested in everything celebrity. I thought Heat magazine was the publication of the Association of Radiator Installers.

I was once in London’s Groucho Club when a friend pointed out Jude Law. I’d probably just been at the urinals with him, but I didn’t notice.

Picture 14
No, the real power of the Oscar is in catapulting your career.

When former short film and EastEnders’ director Tom Hooper walks off with the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday for
The King’s Speech, he will be guaranteed his next big budget film.

decent return

Movies cost a lot, so to the big studios like Universal it’s all about reducing the risk on their investment.
The King’s Speech cost $15m to make. It’s taken to date $236m at the box office. A 220 million-dollar profit will probably warm most studios to Tom Hooper’s next idea.

Those takings are
boosted hugely by Oscar nominations. One quarter of a film’s overall take can come from the period between the Academy Award nominations and the ceremony.

The power of the Oscar to change lives and open doors to making movies is no less a reality with short films.

Picture 8
Director, Ian Barnes is, like me, making programmes in his day job, but with an eye to directing films for the big screen. He will be sitting nervously on Sunday night to see if his Oscar nominated short film, Wish 143 wins the prize that will open the doors to make the dream possible. He will probably already have had interest from LA agents and the like. If he wins, you’ll probably see his feature film at a screen near you in the next few years.

That’s the power of the 8.5lb statue they call an Oscar. And that’s why I’m aiming so high with Happy Birthday.

Take a look at
Wish 143, up for the Oscar on Sunday. It’s a funny and moving story of a young man desperate to come of age before time runs out.

Will it win? There’s some stiff competition this year, but who can call it? Good luck, Ian!

A teenager with only months to live is granted one wish from the Dreamscape Charity. But David doesn’t want to go to Disneyland or meet Gary Neville; he just wants an hour alone with a naked woman.

Thank you for your interest in this fantastically exciting journey to see a movie made. Don’t forget to check out all the latest news on the right.

It’s great you’re coming with us!

Steve Bookbinder
writer and director
happy birthday logo small
pledge or donate

You can still pledge or donate whatever amount you can by using the payment box here, or clicking on the pledge page. Thank You!

by Paypal or with most major debit/credit cards.
You don’t even need a PayPal account. Just press the donate button now and choose the amount.

by bank transfer
Email and we will send you the bank details.

cheque made payable to Red Rag Pictures Ltd.
Email and we will send you the postal address.
Please keep in touch.
Post a comment by clicking on the
Comments link here.
Spread the word on Happy Birthday!

Never work with children, animals or...

Can you complete the sentence?

Hello and thanks for opening the blog. Welcome to the second post about my new movie I’m making this year to try and break into feature films by winning an Oscar.

On the right hand shaded area, there’s an update to the film’s progress, including the latest on where we stand with our target of reaching £10k by February 14th.

If this is your first visit to the blog, check out the first post to see what it’s all about.

More about working with children in a moment.

But first, why the new title?

happy birthday logo small

In a word, nature. Or more precisely, leaves! It’s hard to say when we’ll be in a position to start filming - it depends largely on having enough money. But filming anytime after March means they’ll be leaves and blossom on the trees.

If February 14th remained the title, meaning the film takes place during the course of that winter’s date, there should be no leaves seen on the bare trees. And we can’t achieve that by filming in April or beyond. The strange evidence of Spring (in February) would prove a distraction.

Picture 6
Okay, should have thought of that.

But did you know that the original title for Casablanca was Everybody Comes to Rick’s, proving that a title change is usually a good thing!

Spielberg would paint out the trees in CGI. Bookbinder can’t afford that paint brush.

In fact,
Happy Birthday is a far better title. Its irony is striking, as I think you’ll agree when you see the film. So forget February 14th, Happy Birthday it is. I promise it won’t change again. Any number of leaves are permitted on your birthday!

So - working with children.

finding Josh

Josh is the name of the 7 year-old boy in Happy Birthday. I'm looking to cast a child between the ages of 7 and 10. The older he is and the younger he looks, the better. Older to cope with filming; younger to pass as 7.

The film centres on the Miller family: Kate, Adam and their son, Josh. It’s his Mum’s birthday when the main events of the film take place. An ordinary day turns into anything but for Josh and his parents.

The film requires Josh to be funny, likable and frightened. But above all, real. There’s nothing worse in a film than a precocious kid who seems to be vying for the limelight, or simply to be a poor actor.

Picture 3
Alan Parker famously took six weeks to find his Young Frank in Angela’s Ashes. The performance of Kodi Smit-McPhee as the Boy in The Road was one of the most extraordinary from any child actor I have seen.

Click on the image to see a terrified Kodi on the run with his father. (warning: explicit)

Picture 5
So how are we going to find the right boy to play Josh? Or indeed, a girl. If I thought I’d found a brilliant girl to play the child, I will give the Millers a daughter instead. But for now, they’ve a son.

We don’t have the money to tour the country looking at schools and drama groups to find the right boy, but Jane Anderson, our Casting Director, is now on board, and she will be using her experience to uncover a strong shortlist of possibles.

do you know a budding child actor?

Click on the images for more

Picture 7Picture 9
Of course, you may have seen the next Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Spiderwick Chronicles) or Daniel Radcliffe (some movie about magic - it’ll never catch on).

Children under 12 with a gift for acting are not always found in drama clubs or school plays. If you’ve overheard or caught sight of someone you think has some special ability, do let me know. Just click
here. We could discover the next Robert Pattinson or Emily Watson.

Picture 11
It’s not a ridiculous possibility. It was a chance meeting at a party for Andy Hamilton, producer of the BBC’s Outnumbered when he came across Ramona Marquez, the familiar face of the flawlessly played Karen, who can now be seen playing a young (Queen) Elizabeth in
The King’s Speech.

How fat is too fat?
Dad is still wondering who uploaded a photo of him on Youtube, while Karen questions Gran on women’s sizes.

child’s play

But getting back to the old adage of never working with children, why is it said? What is so difficult about getting children to act? Shouldn’t it be second nature to them? After all they are always playing at being another character; they are good at pretending.

The problem probably lies in the nature of film making. It’s slow. Very slow. Children love spontaneity and immediacy. Shooting a film invloves neither.

It is the norm for a 12-hour filming day to produce about 3 minutes of finished material on screen. That’s a slow pace for anyone, never mind a young child. Actors are used to it: waiting. They read books, tweet, play cards - anything to pass the time while the crew light the scene, the set designer adds a finishing touch, the sound recordist places the mics. Two hours later, the set is ready for them to do a 20-second take. Again. And again.

You get the picture. That makes it very difficult for a child to stay focused and patient, to see the end they’re aiming for, and to do the sixth take as if it were their first.

So a child actor who can cope with all the frustrations of filming AND produce a natural, riveting performance is a rare skill indeed.

great shot, but...

Another challenge of working with children is that a director may well be asking them to do something or to show an emotion which is simply beyond their experience.

I remember one of my first encounters of directing children. I was filming for a BBC drama-documentary about the true story of a young mother held hostage by her estranged boyfriend. Imprisoned in a bedroom, he held the mother of his 5 year-old son at gunpoint for four days.

In one particularly traumatic scene, the perpetrator had to point the gun at his 5 year-old son, in order to scare the police who were trying to persuade him to give himself up.

The shot I needed was of a terrified 5 year-old’s face as the gun was pointed at him by his father. I explained carefully to him what was going to happen, but I didn’t rehearse it for fear of losing the moment and not capturing it on film.

The camera rolled and ‘Action’. I had told the lead actor (the hostage taker) to really go for it and shout at the boy to scare him. This was a considered judgement as prior to this, the actor and the boy had been getting on a bit too well, laughing and playing together - a bonding of actors that often happens in the waiting time - but that you don’t want reflected in the performance if the two are to be scared of each other.

be afraid, be very afraid

What I had underestimated was the sheer impact an angry actor might have on an unsuspecting 5 year-old. The hostage taker pointed the rifle at Ben and at the top of his voice yelled at him to 'get the f**k out of here, before I blow your head off.’ He wasn't requesting a moment's peace please, if he didn’t mind.

Ben's face was a picture, every director's delight: a moment of terrifying realism captured on camera. The shot was perfect; it said it all for that moment in the film.

I called 'cut', and showered Ben with 'well done' and 'that was brilliant!'. But despite the encouragement, and the actor's hug of 'didn't mean it, mate', we couldn't help but notice the trickle of urine coming through his trouser legs and on to the floor.

I think he was scared.

It’s a lesson I won’t forget - to be careful with handling child actors.
I used the shot though!

As far as I know, Ben’s therapy is going well and the nightmares are not every week now. I’m joking, but the episode is etched on my mind as hardly the proudest directing point in my career.

oscar nominated

Picture 4
Here’s a treat of a short film, starring (almost single handedly) an 8 year-old boy,
Karl Beattie.

It reached the Academy’s final five best short films, achieving an Oscar nomination in 2010.

Luke Doolan's film has a lightness of touch in it's direction, which hides a subtle darkness to the story.

Miracle Fish
proves that short stories can work on the big screen if they are as well crafted as this.

Grab a coffee, turn down the lights and crank up the volume.
It’s worth it.

happy birthday logo small
Thank you for your interest in this fantastically exciting journey to see a movie made. Don’t forget to check out all the latest news on the right.

It’s great you’re on the journey with us!

Steve Bookbinder
writer and director
pledge or donate

You can still pledge or donate whatever amount you can by using the payment box here, or clicking on the pledge page. Thank You!

by Paypal or with most major debit/credit cards.
You don’t even need a PayPal account. Just press the donate button now and choose the amount.

by bank transfer
Email and we will send you the bank details.

cheque made payable to Red Rag Pictures Ltd.
Email and we will send you the postal address.
Please keep in touch.
Post a comment by clicking on the
Comments link here.
Spread the word on Happy Birthday!