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I went to a meeting this week debriefing after a survey a few producers conducted with a view to feeding into the BFI's research pre-emptive of launching the next Vision Awards in 2019.

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It is clear that it is super tough for UK emerging producers. And the things they are battling are quite hard to explain without sounding bitter. We work within an industry that by and large expects Producers to be self-funded (well because most of 'em are as highlighted by this survey!). One way or another - their role is to do whatever the job takes unconditionally and be fuelled somehow by osmosis. Unfortunately this also contributes to undermining their status within the eco-chain. As more than anything else producers are seen to be the "business entity" of the filmmaking partnership. Emerging producers who don't yet have great big long track records, serious money at their finger-tips, gatekeepers in their phone contacts or power more generally are therefore perceived as weak and of little value. Equally the fact that most films are totally unrewarding for the producer who waves their fees and overheads 78% of the time, and receives profits from the pot about .3% of the time - this also implies a deluded entrepreneur driven by vanity pursuits.

The same might apply to their untried-untested writer-director counterparts, but no, in their case - at least to some degree - it's all about potential... and the future is bright.

So why is the creative role of the emerging independent producer so underestimated? Their totally invaluable role as researcher, inspirer, creator, corrector, engine, coraller, fanner of fires, trouble shooter, innovator ... so invisible - undervalued and so frequently actively undermined?

It isn't useful. It isn't healthy.

In my experience when these fragile budding teams are broken up, the projects frequently die. The directors who are generally seen as the engine, sputter and fail without their partner. Film is the result of team work. Writing, directing, producing can all be lonely isolating destabilising work. Together teams are stronger and more viable.

Because producers are juggling so much. Because they are so frequently navigating complicated delicate situations saddled very often with unreasonable narcissistic teammates, the ones who are resilient enough to get through a couple of short films and still embark on feature film development full of optimism and enthusiasm, these people are some of the most wonderful amazing people I know!! I love producers!! I am in awe of the grit, resourcefulness and sheer positive determination I have witnessed time and time again.

So, I was super psyched when I caught up with Ben Roberts at an LFF BFI Network do, and he mentioned that the BFI are canvassing opinions, doing some research to see how things can be improved and making plans for 2019...

So what can they do? Is it all about the money? I think the money thing does matter, but it's rarely just that...

Is the financial set up at the source of all the disrespect? Or is it because people come to producing from all walks of life? You don't need a degree, you don't even need any experience - there are countless examples of different types of producers associated to films. And of course this contributes to another source of disrespect - what exactly did you do? Justify yourself! Are you just a parasitic presence who has latched onto the talent, got yourself a credit? Yeah, we've all used credits as currency... When you need something from someone you can't afford to pay, you share your credit with them. Always the producer credit, never the writer or director credit... But generally if people get a credit, it is because they have done something that the film needed. But anyway...

Whatever it is, there are a million assumptions that are propagated through schools and workshops, through agents and the media, through patterns of behaviour within the industry at large that promote a contagious irreverence and a lack of understanding of what an emerging producer needs and what they contribute.

This leads to producers being confronted with these feelings over and over again:

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Like all these things in self-perpetuating cycles of abusive behaviour, there's an element of chicken and egg conundrum. Where does one start to improve things? Educating? Financing? Validating? Well they're all important, and any one of those methods could help - but what I hope they will see is that you've got to hit all of 'em to really be effective.

Teaching more meaningfully that film is a collaborative work at film schools and in training labs. Industry recognising that the full core team is the beating heart behind any film - should be recognised for their accomplishments. Not cherry picking the director out of that (I know - is there any way to discourage Film4 from constantly doing that? Possibly not). I have been told off over and over again for saying that my films have won awards, my directors have won awards - not feeling that transfers over to me, that I too as producer have won the award. Industry recognising that fanning teams is more effective than fanning individuals, strengthening bonds by showing that everyone is valued and respected equally.... Will lead to better working practices, I am sure. But it runs deep so it will take time and 360 thinking.

I have suggested affordable "surgeries" at the BFI. External impartial experts available for consultations at a subsidised hourly rate at the BFI and regional agencies (or Skillset building). Offering mentorship, mediation, training - on a one-on-one basis. I have suggested industry agents and gate-keepers be encouraged to play their important parts too. Not being the enemy... Respect, collaboration, information, transparency...

I know it all sounds a bit naive, but here you go... another blue skies optimistic still-emerging-after-all-these-years producer!!

In any case well done to those producers who put together the survey and I will watch this space with febrile impatience.... See where we land in 2019!

BFI LFF 2018 - Films

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The time for the LFF came round again and this year I was in town and having delivered the Pantene job successfully at the end of September, I was able to see a fair few films!! Yay. So here is write up review which helps me as an aide-memoire (if nothing else).
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Here is what I saw and what I thought:

Petra: Spain 2018 Dir & Wr. Jaime Rosales (co-pro with Jerome Dopffer - Sales Film Factory). The film begins by introducing us to Petra, a young artist who comes to the family home of a famous veteran artist (Juame) as his mentee - some sort of residency. Upon arrival, the first person who greets her is Juame's wife - who doesn't seem to be quite expecting her, and immediately seeds a sense of intrigue and "artistic" temperaments lie ahead. We piece various narrative threads together - both past and unfolding, in a non-linear broken way. Petra doesn't seem to know who her real dad is, Juame doesn't know who he has fathered, abuse, intrigues, secrets and lies... Petra marries and has a baby with Juame's son, and questions are raised whether or not they are brother and sister. The melodrama unfolds thus, amping up gradually, and leading to unhappiness and tragedy... I thought it was interesting but the non-linear storytelling is demanding and so occasionally I dozed off, and it was confusing picking the thread back up again - and I don't think I felt as much empathy for the characters as I should have... This film had great word-of-mouth reviews in Cannes, and the performances were very good.

Widows: UK/USA 2018 Dir Steve McQueen (prod Iain Canning / SeeSaw - Dist: 20th Cent Fox - based on the early 80s TV series of the same name by Lynda LaPlante; scr Gilian Flynn w/Steve McQueen). This hotly anticipated adaptation by McQueen is a female & diversity tour de force. Viola Davis leads as Liam Neeson's widow, having to pull together the other widows of her dead husband's gang, whose failed fatal heist leaves the mobsters who hired them wanting their money (which disappeared in an heist exploding van). This is a good action-packed mainstream film really. A well played-out thriller with intrigue and heart - betrayal, double-crossing and lots of grit.

Colette: UK 2018 (co-pro w/France & Hungary) directed by Wash Westmoreland (who co-directed Still Alice with his partner Richard Glatzer who died shortly after they delivered it) and produced by Number 9's Elizabeth Karlsen & Stephen Woolley. I see Richard Glatzer has a credit as writer here too although so does Rebecca Lenkiewicz who might have done the bulk of the legwork since Number 9 came on board. Dist: Lionsgate. Well this is a lovely and enjoyable vehicle for Kiera Knightley who excels at the spunky boyish but beautiful costume drama. Did I see another film about Colette out this year? Something in the air? In any case, Colette has somehow escaped my readings, so I did enjoy this film (very similar storyline to the WIFE of course). I thought it was interesting to see how they dealt with the French-English thing, doing all the speaking in English, but keeping the writing in French. I thought Dominic West played a good Willy and I enjoyed the film, sans plus.

Girl: BE 2018 (Dir & wr. Lukas Dhont prod Dirk Impens of Menuet Producties & co-pro J-Y Roubin of Frakas - UK Dist: Curzon Artificial Eye). I really enjoyed this film. It captures an amazing young person (Victor Polster) who is transitioning into a young woman and who wants (more than anything!!) to become a ballerina. We follow this character within the bosom of her family - where her transgenderness seems to have caused problems in the past (moved, changed schools, go to counselling etc) but seems to be accepted unconditionally by the father and the younger brother, who perhaps welcome this female presence in an otherwise motherless family. We catch an intimate glimpse of how it feels to be wanting to be like everyone - but not. Desperate to just have the operation and be done with it - the hormone treatments don't work fast enough... Wanting to be accepted and wanting to find love. Extraordinary to have found this beautiful 15 year old, filmed her with sensitive unintrusive yet intimate photography, which is what really makes this film more than anything.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: USA 2018 (Coen Brothers). This is a compilation of old western short stories. All dark, violent and loveless - a la spaghetti western. A bit of dark humour and cruel irony - all beautifully shot and very clever. The one story with a female interest was by far the most engaging and the only one with human warmth (excellent Zoe Kazan).

Make Me Up: - FABULOUS! Rachel Maclean's film!! (Experimenta as it is called at the BFI) Experimental rather than pure narrative but clearly demonstrates what Rachel can do!! Funded through the 14-18 NOW - with this one focussed on women getting the vote (very very loosely of course!!)

Journey to a Mother's Room: (Dir scr: Celia Rico Clavellino. I liked the premise very much: Mother and daughter, getting over the recent death of husband - father. Daughter having to leave to find her way in the world. Lots of silences and focus on clothes making (mother is a tailor) and bother mother and daughter concerned for each other. Very intimate, really well portrayed but also very quiet and slow and I have to confess to have dozed off too often to be able to give it a proper review... Oops again (old age...)

Suspiria: (ITALY 2018) Luca Guadagnino - Sales Film Nation. A remake of Dario Argento's cult classic with the GREAT soundtrack etc.. by the guy who made "Call me by your name". Weird film to choose to remake - particularly for this director. Big stars, weirdness - sexy witchy horror with a touch of dance and glamour - set in Berlin with a recurring sense of importance attributed to the Baader-Meinhof activities but I'm not sure what it adds... I don't see much point to this rather lavish expensive remake! (why bother? Not for me I'm afraid)

Sunset: (HUNG 2018 - Dist Curzon Artificial Eye - Playtime (François Yon, Nicolas Brigaud-Robert & Valéry Guibal Sales & co-pro) Lászó Nemes' film (was at Torino with us developing this) - I hadn't expected to like it. Partly because at TFL, I couldn't get it during their pitching. It sounded deep and intellectual, but unintelligible and like it would go right past me. But actually I really loved it - I found it totally compelling - and it stays with me. I wasn't so fond of Son of Saul. I loved the short film Lászó made that it was based on and the photography itself, the choreography and production design were amazing but it all felt very aesthetic, and focussed me on process and filmmaking - and its human story left me cold (which seems almost impossible!!). So why does Sunset work for me here?! I'm not sure but it really does. Maybe because it's harder to understand what's going on, and this adds to the thrill - following this young woman into danger with a weird sense of turmoil, bravery and innocence in a time and place (end of the Austro-Hungarian empire) corrupted and about to be overturned. Another great female driven film - where our main protagonist played brilliantly by Juli Jakab is at the same time utterly vulnerable and powerful.

Madeline's Madeline: (scr & dir Josephine Decker USA 2018) - This had such a great write up via Sundance and sounded so interesting, great trailer but... It was an experimental loose piece - very Miranda July (who is in it). I went to see it because it also has lots of interesting comps with The Girl from the Estuary. The main protagonist an adolescent misfit wanting to be an actress in a theatre play and getting delusional and mixed up as she gets deeper in. And a scene which reminds me of a scene we have in our script which works pretty well here. But all in all it didn't pull me in. The young girl was great (Helena Howard) and probably someone to watch. And the film has Miranda July and Molly Parker in it, but no... meh. Feels like a first feature, but it's a third. The director is also an actress. She met the main girl when she was panelling a teen arts festival. Helena Howard was doing a monologue of Blackbird (David Harrower) - Blackbird seems to be referenced all the time at the moment! Josephine Decker found it so moving she cried and they've been in touch ever since and this film was written around her.

The Chambermaid: (scr & dir Lila Avilés Mexico-USA 2018 - Sales Alpha Violet) - This is one of those small films that will stay with me a long time, like Lelio's Gloria did, Michel Franco's After Lucia, Lucía Puenzo's XXY and Bille August's Best Intentions did ... Quiet but perfectly handled, very human and weirdly mostly Hispanic!! Except for Bille August. This is about a luxury hotel chambermaid getting on with her difficult job and her interactions with guests, colleagues & bosses. It's very internal - a bit like Sunset, you are with the main character (Eve) the whole time and just following at her heels as she gets through her days, missing her ride home to her family at night, covering for colleagues, dreaming... You wouldn't think it would make for a great film on the basis of that, but it is one my favourites from the festival!!

The Favourite: (Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos) - Prod: Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday. Scr: Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara. Fabulous period piece by Yorgos which they've been developing for ages apparently - since before Lobster. With Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne & Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone fighting it out as her favourites. Amazing to see the leap Yorgos has made and how good he is with British actors and big budgets! I really enjoyed this one a lot. And I knew nothing of Queen Anne before this and I always love a bit of a history lesson - again lots of interesting women-led films this year!!

If Beale Street Could Talk: Final one... (USA 2018 - Scr-Dir: Barry Jenkins) - The follow up after Moonlight... And another James Baldwin adaptation. This was very enjoyable and I think always good to have more work on the screen that illustrates how awful and insecure it is just trying to live a normal life as a black person in the western world. But it wasn't mind blowing - quite mainstream, a bit forgettable maybe because the main protagonists were all a bit too nice, but good entertainment, with really good performances, some great family scenes between the two families - and a story definitely worth telling.

Sad to have missed:
Roma of course! But will no doubt see it in the cinema v soon.
Ray & Liz - which Dan Landin lit and Joe line produced & is most probably a very interesting piece. Marcello said it was the best thing he saw in the whole festival.
Holiday - was meant to be really haunting & good (more Sopranos / The Bridge scandi style noir thriller)
Border - Also meant to be really haunting & good (Dark & weird Scandi style)
Irene's Ghost (doc reconstruction) - I will see it at some point but would have been lovely to see it there. (Becky's film)
Happy as Lazarro - I missed in Cannes too where it had good reviews.
Dogman - Matteo Garrone's latest film, also people said it was great.
Joy I missed and it won the best film award. Hopefully it means it'll get distribution here...

We have just finished shooting Mercury and we are now focused on raising the rest of the money we need to edit and complete post production of the film. This is Lily's first fully fledged right from the beginning film project through Life to Live Films and I wanted to share some of her experiences through her production blog:

Mercury is a short film project by Kyla Simone Bruce and Life to Live Films. The story began with an idea from Kyla. She wanted to explore her own past, question the decisions she made when she was younger. She wanted to see the intimate conversations between friends on screen in a way that we're often not permitted to see. In collaboration with Gorana Jovanovic, her fantastic writing partner, she was able to make a script that captured the way that in serious moments girl talk and chatter can happen with tension bubbling under the surface.

It was these ideas that drew Ohna Falby to the project initially, and attracted Shorts TV who backed the project after hearing Kyla's 60 second pitch at Cannes 2017. Thus began the development process for 'Mercury' and 'The Cockatoo Inn'.

Mercury Development

Skipping over the development process and going straight into the shoot.

DAY 1

First day of production was a shock with 4 am rises for everyone and a few last minute tweaks on costume and hair and fake tattoos for Harriet and Izzy. We drove our brand new hero car, the Nissan Bluebird called Gregory, to our first location, The Broadwater Farm Estate, in Tottenham.

When we arrived at our first location it was just getting light and there was a thin layer of mist covering the location, which meant that we looked like we'd invested in a very expensive fog machine for the first few shots!

Behind the scenes

The first big shot involved a car rig. This was set up by Giovanni Mattei, our super grip, who made sure none of the equipment would come flying off half way through shot.

We were mostly on the Broadwater Farm Estate on our first day, and we had lots of extras with us. Corin Silva, Aiden and Bud Brennan Williams, Azi Brown and Ozonna Soludo were part of the team. We also had the fabulous Gloria Price, who played the flamboyant fan lady.

DAY 1 Lily's Blog

By the end of the day we had attracted quite an audience, with a lot of the locals gathering around to see what was going on. They may have been disappointed to find out we weren't shooting the next Star Wars movie, but they still stayed quiet enough that we managed to get our last few shots.

Little icons

I had a fantastic experience going down to Polegate yesterday on my "Ohna and Perry go large" adventure.

Making short films is such a funny thing. It's all-consuming because you have to eke out from within you everything you possibly can to get them made - and of course get it made WELL otherwise there is no point doing it at all. A real labour of love and passion. But you find yourself doing crazy things. Like asking total strangers for money and asking for favours from people you barely know - expecting people to go well out of their way to help you buy a car for instance!

I booked two return train tickets to Polegate (right next to Lewes) and prepared a picnic - for me and my neighbour's dad Perry, who good naturedly said he'd help me! A charming Northern Irish man from Belfast who has been in the motor trade pretty much his entire life - and therefore - a car expert! He mostly dealt with Porsche cars (he's retired now) but seemed to know pretty much all and anything you need to know about most brands of cars. Having met him at my neighbour's Christmas parties over the years, he was the one person I could think of who might help me in my quest to find and buy an old car that would serve us well for the short film and ideally next year for the feature film too (in any case ideally not turn out to be a money pit).

And so we went, with a little ad I found on Gumtree and some advice given to me by Dimitri, the action vehicles man. Having primed the seller we were coming, and arranging for him to meet us at the station to take us back to his to test drive and check the car, I of course knew that my negotiation powers were much reduced because the seller knew I had taken out a big chunk of my Saturday to go see the car, and that I needed it NOW. So we poked, and we drove the car, and we pointed out all the flaws (including a flat battery and leaking oil) - which isn't too difficult in a car which is 27 years old - but after a lot of discussion, shrugging, gesturing and being driven back to the station for fault of coming to an agreement' - we did eventually buy the car!!!

I was so grateful to have Perry by my side for the negotiations and the journey back - he had to do all the driving as I have no driving insurance of my own (having crashed my last car on the French motorway, and leaving it in all its bits and pieces behind me never to be replaced). Until now! I got the car taxed and Perry had to drive it the 70 or so miles back to London - we even got banged into along the way (tailgate accident) and what matters most I guess is the car drove us flawlessly, smoothly, purringly back to London and is now parked outside my house ready to go on Friday. 

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And I fell in love with her - a little old-fashioned Red Nissan Bluebird!! According to the expert, Nissans are actually very reliable cars that rarely go wrong. Now I have to just cross my fingers and hope he is right... 5 days to go.

Such a huge ask of someone I only really know from occasional parties, got plenty going on without my demands, including two lively grandchildren, and him having to drive for more than 3/4 hours back in the darkness of the open countryside, the motorways and then crazy congested London... With crazy people all dressed up for Halloween popping up everywhere. I loved hearing all his stories. Thank God he's a lovely man, a generous spirit and a tireless raconteur - a bit like another dad I know!!  Doing these crazy things can bring you closer to people too.

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Mercury (Short Film)

So we launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday for Mercury and hopefully we will raise £7,500 by November 16 2017 11:10am (not sure if that's GMT or USA time).

I know it's a lot of work getting people to back projects like these when there are so many similar crowd funding campaigns on the go and so many raising money for helpless desperate causes as well as these artistic endeavours. In any case we will keep the Mercury instagram feed alive with fun content, keep pushing and hope for the best! I'm really enjoying that it's making me get in touch with everyone meaningfully - as it's a big deal asking people for money.

So far by the end of Day 1 we had reached just under 19% of our target so I think that's really good.

On a prep front we have finished workshopping with our actresses now. We've started working out costume and props, we're locking down locations and searching for additional cast and street locations. We fell in love with St Thomas Hospital as our end location, and for where Al and Bambi start off, the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham (where the film is set) is amazing - so we hope to get permission there sorted and work out our street locations over the next few days.

Our challenge this week is to find the third hero of our film: THE DREAM CAR!

So more news on that when it comes in...

The BFI LFF came and went once again with me being too busy to go to much - what a shame!

I missed so many of the films I was hoping to see and the events I was hoping to go to.

I did manage to see three films - which is better than 0 films! I saw two fellow Torino Film Lab participants' projects. A first feature for Michael Pearce - Beast was the first press screening I saw, and the second was Sicilian Ghost Story a second feature for Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza - which I had missed in Cannes Semaine de la Critique. Both really good films I enjoyed. Beast was intriguing, building up intrigue in a Broadchurch style - death and brooding. Small neighbourhood, families and tensions. Interesting character studies - the bullying leading to bullies or tortured souls and revenge or bottled venom always near the surface.

Sicilian Ghost Story had a bit of a feel of Bridge to Terabithia to it. Strangely poetic considering it's in fact the grizzly story of a little boy kidnapped by the Mafia for 779 days before being strangled and body put in acid & thrown out to sea. The children ivolved are the main focus - and they are whistfullly bonnie and magical considering their surroundings.

And the third film was Lean on Pete - Andrew Haig's film shot in the USA. A story about a boy growing up in a dysfunctional trailer-trash single-dad family. Dad ends up getting himself killed so the boy finds himself on his own. The film is the boy's story (Charlie) who has to learn to look after himself. He's super sweet, so people take to him pretty easy, so even though he is in a harsh and desolate part of the States - everywhere he goes seems a bit modern-day Grapes of Wrath. What starts out as a story about a boy and a horse - how it might transform the boy in a coming of age-new-goal-for-moving-forwards-in-life kinda way, turns into more of a quest for a new substitute mom (at least someone to feed him and keep him sheltered): salvation comes in the form of his estranged (and hard to get to) aunt who he longs for. There were many lovely things about the film, and the actor playing Charlie was very sympathetic (Charlie Plummer), has a great face and is very watchable, I'm sure he'll do really well. There was a bit of a Dust-bowl They Shoot Horses Don't They vibe to the film. I think it was actually a quiet and internal portrait of Charlie with hard times, a horse, Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny part of the backdrop.

And the reason I missed out on the London Film Festival this year, was because Clara Van Gool managed to get the additional funding she needed for her feature film The Beast in the Jungle from Luxembourg and we were busy with taxi cabs and foxes shooting a few days in London to make Luxembourg look like the UK!

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Amazing to think we shot the pilot for that 4 years ago now - back in 2013, looking back on old posts. Such a beautiful film and so clever of Clara to think to work with talented dancers Dane J Hurst and Sarah Reynolds (both from Voices of Finance which we shot here this time 2 years ago) as the two mains John Marcher and May Bartram and Sam Louwyck as the Taxi Driver.

As ever with Clara and KeyFilm, we had to shoot a little à la guerrilla style - and we had a couple funny little hitches with the police! At one point where we were shooting outside the Ministry of Justice, a van pulled up and two high security police were deployed because we'd abandoned our very suspicious-looking 60s briefcase against the wall. I was amazed how quickly they came. All was well - though - and nothing got exploded, and no one got arrested!!

Lizzie Francke at The BFI and Simon Field at Illuminations Films have been great supporters of the project in development. The film is produced by KeyFilm in NL and co-produced by Amour Fou in Luxembourg.

Cannes 2017

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Very cool to be in Cannes again this year with Gaëlle and Nathalie with some excellent meetings for La Fille de l'Estuaire. Lovely hanging out with Robbie Ryan and friends and getting a chance to see excellent world premiere films. My favourite was Ruben Östlund's The Square. But I was most moved going to see Kaouther Ben Hania's La Belle et la Meute - which had a standing ovation at the end.

I had a great surprise when Kyla announced she was shortlisted for the ShortsTV Pitch competition in Cannes. I told her I couldn't think of anything I'd enjoy less than standing in front of people in the UK Tent pitching. But bless her she went ahead and applied all the same and she was shortlisted to go. With a week ahead of the pitch she called to ask if she'd be able to get flights, a badge, somewhere to stay... So of course she did and she was great and before you knew it - she only went and WON THE BLOOMIN pitching!! So we have a €5,000 prize towards making Mercury.

Very exciting!

Kyla wins a prize at Cannes

Back from Cannes now. Really great week on the Croisette. Awful news from Manchester while we were away. My heart goes out to them. We were reminded every day of the dangers with the Cannes Film Festival security guards ramping up security. They saved the day by taking Zorana and my tweezers away - lethal weapons that those are. We did find an amazing security guard who helped sneak Kyla's beer into the Palais and thus helped her win the competition. He was so lovely - one of a kind. I had to grab his picture.

Hero security guard

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