Archive for the ‘channel 4’ Category

All 4 one

goggle box tv series channel 4

Was up at the Edinburgh TV Festival at the end of last week – very much a Channel 4 flavoured one. Channel 4 was named Channel of the Year 2014.

C4’s Chief executive David Abraham gave the opening MacTaggart lecture (the first one by a C4 chief exec in a dozen years and it’s been four years since any UK broadcaster has been invited to speak). It centred on championing British creativity and the unique climate of creative freedom and risk-taking that we have in UK public service broadcasting. He highlighted how important it is for the broadcasting and media industry, politicians, regulators and the public to robustly defend and build this outstanding public service system at this particular juncture, when it is under assault from without (especially US multinational corporations) and within (short-term thinkers and profit-takers). He concluded with a call to action for the next generation of media creatives. It was a generous speech, acknowledging both BBC and ITV’s role in the very special TV ecology of this country.

At the Festival awards, Channel 4 also picked up the award for TV Moment of the Year for Mushi’s speech in Educating Yorkshire and won the Programme Innovation category with The Murder Trial. There was further recognition for C4’s current affairs film Children on the Frontline, with Marcel Mettelsiefen picking up the Debut Producer/Director Award.

Such a whitewash of the awards is almost without precedent at Edinburgh and reflects a revived creative spirit at Horseferry Road after the annus horribilis that was 2013 both for C4 and the BBC. For me personally, the new focus on short form video which has come about this year enables the happy surfing of this wave of new energy. Here’s one of my first commissions in that area from a young British director, Umut Gunduz, who I met at Google HQ in St Giles a few months ago – the series is called Double Vision and the first episode is Cycle of Love.

double vision first date cycle of love

Dear Dear Dickie – 4 ways to remember Richard Attenborough

The Great Escape (1963)

This one (from the year I made my debut on earth) is for me his most memorable role as an actor – as Bartlett, who can forget that tragic end, machine-gunned in a field by the heartless Nazis alongside his stalwart Scottish buddy, MacDonald (played by the ever dependable Gordon Jackson)?

The Great Escape poster Richard Attenborough

 

In Which We Serve (1942)

His fresh faced debut, already a screen presence to be reckoned with. Directed by David Lean and Noel Coward, a suitably English place to start.

In_Which_We_Serve richard attenborough actor

 

Chaplin (1992)

My hero well captured by the talented young Robert Downey Jnr. under the assured direction of Dickie.

richard attenborough chaplin robert downey jnr director

 

Cry Freedom (1987)

I remember this one opening my eyes to the outrages of apartheid South Africa back in my university days. Denzel Washington was powerful as Steve Biko and first came to international prominence under Dickie’s direction.

cry_freedom_denzel washington kevin Klein steve biko donald woods

Richard Attenborough was instrumental in the establishment of Channel 4 – Deputy Chairman from 1980 to 1986 as it got on its feet and Chairman from 1986 to 1992 through its golden age.

He was also a key leader in BAFTA, associated with the Academy for 30 years and President for over a decade.

richard-attenborough oscars academy awards

I interviewed Lord David Puttnam about him recently for my book, When Sparks Fly. I was thinking of including him in the Film chapter (Choose Life) which focuses on Danny Boyle. With its central theme of the creative rewards of openness and generosity, Attenborough struck me as the cinema embodiment of British public service values. Channel 4 and BAFTA are just two of many appointments which demonstrate his prodigious energy and unfailing commitment to public service media/arts, from the brilliant Chickenshed Theatre to the Mandela Statue Fund.

1964

1964

 

 

History Boy

the dawn of time universe sun big bang

I’ve been coming to DocFest (formerly the Sheffield International Documentary Festival) since the dawn of time. I’m sitting cross-legged on the hill of Howard Street, on a black marble seaty-thing, as I write this, buddha-like. The hill runs up from the station towards the city centre and is one of the best bits of urban regeneration I’ve seen in this country. Overlooking this spot is an Andrew Motion poem written on the side of a Sheffield Hallam University tower block addressing travellers arriving in the city (Andrew Motion in part inspired Simple Pleasures part 4). After my many years coming to the festival I came up with a good strategy involving this hill yesterday. Instead of relentless regular blocks of formalised meetings crowding out the day I arranged no meetings – just sat on one of these black marble blocks and waited for people I knew and wanted to see pass by me. It worked very well – I got to chat with more people and the chats were the lengths they needed to be.

howard street sheffield docfest 2014

I am now on the train pulling out of Sheffield. I leave behind a very satisfying couple of days’ experience. It began as I got off the other train the other way on Sunday evening. I dumped my stuff at the hotel and went out for dinner just out of town with Colm O’Callaghan, a colleague from RTE in Dublin. We chatted about all manner of stuff, centred on Ireland and music, and most excitingly discussed the possibility of doing a collaborative historical project next year. We headed back to town to meet  at a bar the speakers in the session I was to chair the next day. We did a judicious amount of preparation (mainly a quick chat to reassure them we’d be talking about stuff they know well and don’t have to think much about and ascertaining what video material they’d brought with) then oiled the getting-to-know-you wheels with alcohol.

robert capa d-day landings

The session the next morning entitled ‘Interacting with the Past’ focused on interactive and multiplatform TV in the History genre. Joe Myerscough, Producer/Director from the excellent Windfall Films, represented the superb D-Day: As It Happens project from Channel 4 in 2013. The delightful Elizabeth Klinck, a super-expert Canadian visual/archive researcher, added an interesting perspective. And my Channel 4 colleague, Online Producer Marie James, focused on The Mill, a historically accurate drama set in 1831. We managed to range across a lot of territory around what interactivity brings to History TV and from a lot of perspectives (indy producer, broadcaster, support services, commissioner), driven by questions from the audience, so it felt free-flowing, flexible and practically useful. Went down well, felt good.

Andre Singer

Andre Singer

At the other end of the day I went to see a new history documentary, Night Will Fall, directed by Andre Singer. I can’t write about it yet beyond what’s already in the public domain but suffice it to say it’s a very impactful film about the filming of the Holocaust. It will be showing on Channel 4 in January coming. One unexpected aspect of the story is that Alfred Hitchcock was involved in this filmic recording of the Holocaust by Allied troops. I chatted with Andre and his wife Lynette, who wrote the commentary for the film, on the way out. Also the producer Sally Angel, who I first met last year through an online project via my friend Steve Moore. We had a lively discussion about what age is best to first introduce young people to the imagery of the Holocaust. I believe it should be 16+. The person from the BFI thought younger was OK on the basis that kids get to see horror films (not an argument I buy – the documentary footage in Night Will Fall is another world from scripted drama).  I first crossed paths with Andre and Lynette when I was starting out on my career and they ran an outfit in Covent Garden called Cafe Productions (that name’s just come back to me after all these years). I went on a bus ride with Andre last May (2013) to Yad Vashem when he first told me about the film. It’s been nestling in the back of my mind since then.

So a day steeped in History.

Brilliant creatures rebels of oz documentary howard jacobson germaine greer

And today started out in similar vein. I went to see Brilliant Creatures: Rebels of Oz, a 2-part BBC/ABC documentary about 4 Australians who made good in London in the 60s, bringing a fresh perspective to a country only just emerging from the War. The Creatures in question are Germaine Greer, writer Clive James, art critic Robert Hughes and comedian Barry Humphreys. Jacobson considers Germaine Greer the most rebellious and radical of these. It’s a fabulous story – woven together by novelist Howard Jacobson (who himself wrote startlingly about the Holocaust in the brilliant Kalooki Nights, which sits on my Shelf of Honour).  I had a brief chat with him after, mainly congratulating him on pulling together such an illuminating story. He said he was in search of the secret to the Oz “zest for life”.

Howard Jacobson, Greg Sanderson (BBC), Germaine Greer

Howard Jacobson, Greg Sanderson (BBC), Germaine Greer

I got close to having a chat with Germaine Greer but it didn’t quite happen. I wanted to talk Frank Zappa with her as the BBC recently released a wonderful radio documentary she made about him. There was a great clip in the film of her hanging with Robert Plant and Led Zep.

germaine_greer 60s

Over breakfast this morning I had a great plan-hatching session with a couple of documentary makers (one from Leipzig where my dad was born) which was also a kick.

So it’s been a couple of days with a heartbeat of History. I had to give it up as a subject in formal education after O Level (apart from a small burst of it as part of my German/Modern Languages degree) but at heart I’m still a History Boy.

evolution denied ape to man

 

The Factory Factor

Intensity - with glasses

Intensity – with glasses

Early on in my career I directed a shoot in a plastics factory in the depths of South London. It was that morning, as I watched the mundane, repetitive jobs people had to do, that I recognised how privileged my work was, above all in its variety and creative fulfilment. Now it’s the end of a long day, thirteen hours without a break, quite intense activity,  which I look back over with that same perspective – that was a really satisfying one.

The first bit at home on rising was just tying up some loose ends of the week, a bit adminy. Then the rest of the day rolled out along the Northern Line.

First stop Borough – a meeting involving a Countdown personality to develop a project focused on words and language. The project seemed to go up a gear or three during the conversation and I’m really excited about it.

Next stop Angel – another creative development meeting for a series about the future, which again made significant headway through a lively and illuminating conversation with the presenter and two producers.

Back to East Finchley for some tough wrangling on a Music education project, really difficult to pull off but really satisfying in its objectives.

Then to round off the week the main person I’m hoping to interview for the Business chapter of my book came back with a positive response.

Popped back to Islington in the evening for some R&R in the form of Nick Lowe at the Union Chapel, which culminated in a rousing rendition of  (What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?

Jesus of Cool

Intensity – before glasses

 

A cool million

Tonight we hit a cool million tests taken on My MindChecker, my first project post-sabbatical at Channel 4. That’s in just 8 days – it launched with the new (4th) series of Embarrassing Bodies: Live from the Clinic last Tuesday.

Today it made the front page of the Mail Online.

Today's Mail Online front page

Among the unembarrassing bodies on today’s Mail Online front page

I like the last line of this coverage in the Evening Standard:

Evening Standard 15.iv.14

Evening Standard 15.iv.14

And here’s a neat little piece from The Sunday Times:

Sunday Times 13.iv.14

Sunday Times 13.iv.14

The Autism Test we featured in last week’s show was done 63,000 times during the hour of the show and by 11pm (3 hours in) that had reached 100,000. The total now stands at 350,000 completed tests. These anonymised results will go to the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge for their on-going work at the cutting edge of autism spectrum disorder research.

Spirit of SEX (Day 34)

Dr Pixie in run up to Health Freaks TX

Dr Pixie in run up to Health Freaks TX

I’m writing this one from BBC Media Centre while getting ready for tonight’s broadcast of Health Freaks, a new series I have been working on, the only Channel 4 work I have carried in to my sabbatical.

Malcolm McLaren hanging out on the King's Road

Malcolm McLaren hanging out on the King’s Road

I have spent most of the afternoon writing happily away outside a cafe on the King’s Road, Chelsea within spitting distance of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop. May the spirit of Punk rub off on me. I’m writing away at the Paul Arden chapter and in his contrariness is at least something of punk appeal. In a distinctly non- punk vein, for mid-October a remarkably mild afternoon which I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out in.

Prior to my writing burst, I was round the corner at The Chelsea Arts Club interviewing an advertising photographers’ agent, David Lambert, who worked with Paul Arden from 1974. As I walked into the club I saw a notice on the board announcing the death of Carolyn Cassady, who had been a member – reminding me of my lesson from Carolyn: strike while the iron’s hot when it comes to interviews.

While sitting outside the cafe at the Bluebird I organised a meeting with actress Gaye Brown who, apart from working with Joan Littlewood, was in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (in that magical year, 1971).

David was very generous with his time and stories, and seemed to be enjoying recalling these tales which linked one to another as he hauled them up from the 70s and 80s. He stars in my opening emblematic scene in the Advertising chapter so it was good to get the story direct from him. The version I’ve already written is very accurate it turns out, I just got one extra telling detail from the from-the-horse’s mouth version as well as the chance to compare notes on what it actually means.

The Chelsea Arts Club was a strange affair on a weekday afternoon. Some ladies who lunch, some ageing types with no pressing need to work, the ubiquitous newspaper reader. It felt full of heritage with people on the past chairmen list like Whistler, Philip Wilson Steer and John Lavery but I didn’t recognise any of the last decade’s lot and only Sir Chris Powell was known to me on the current officials photo- board. Not the friendliest place I’ve ever been – CAC? we’ll leave the jury out on that.

As I walked back down Old Church Street Adrian Dunbar rang to confirm arrangements for tomorrow’s trip back to the Littlewood archives. He wanted to bring Janet Behan with, Brendan’s niece (author of Brendan at the Chelsea), but the times wouldn’t work out so that will have to be a separate visit. These little chains of connection are fascinating and the root of the excitement of the project – as well as the very essence of Creativity.

Chelsea Arts Club (aka CAC) in more colourful times

Chelsea Arts Club (aka CAC) in more colourful times

Links for Orna

Some concrete examples of multiplatform TV (factual)

The Great British Property Scandal (case study video)

George Clarke Great British Property Scandal

Seven Days (case study video)

Seven.Days_48sheet_Version.B_HR2

Embarrassing Bodies: Live from the Clinic (case study video)

embarrassing-bodies-series-3

Big Fish Fight  (case study video)

hughs-big-fish-fight

D-Day as it happens (post-TX website)

dday

Foxes Live (post-TX website)

foxes_live

 

Health Freaks

My next multiplatform project is coming over the horizon. Here’s how it was reported in Broadcast the other day. It is my second experiment in transforming pre-recorded TV shows into live viewing events to make the experience more engaging for viewers whilst encouraging them to watch the live broadcast stream (and therefore the ads which keep the wolf from my door).

Dr Pixie Mckenna

C4 orders health series and latest Kirstie show

6 August, 2013 | By 

Channel 4’s features division has continued its string of recent commissions by ordering a health series from Outline Productions and a Kirstie Allsopp show from Raise The Roof Productions.

The 6 x 30-minute Health Freaks will put traditional home remedies to the test to discover whether they have any medicinal value. In each episode a series of people who swear by a particular treatment or cure will present their favoured remedy to a panel of three GPs: Dr Pixie McKenna, Dr Ayan Panja and Dr Ellie Cannon. The trio will then debate the remedy and, if they decide it needs further investigation, will send it to a lab to be tested further.

The series, edited by Chris Walley and executive produced by Outline’s Helen Veale and Ross McCarthy, will test treatments such a breast milk being use to cure infections and an oat bath being a good way to tackle psoriasis.

Veale said: “This show is a way of allowing ordinary people to have their remedies scientifically analysed – something they may have been unable to do previously due to the time and cost constraints involved.  We’ve already had some really interesting results.”

The series, which was ordered by commissioning editor for features Nick Hornby and will air in the autumn, also has an innovative multiplatform element.

Viewers will be asked if they have first-hand experience of the remedy in question [and whether they reckon it will succeed in its medical trial] and a live insert into the pre-recorded programme will feed the results of viewers’ engagement during the show back into the programme.

Channel 4 multiplatform commissioning editor Adam Gee said: “The interactivity of Health Freaks is effectively transforming a pre-recorded show into a live television event. This gives viewers more of a stake in the outcome, while encouraging them to watch the broadcast rather than time-shifting. It’s an early experiment in a largely unexplored area which benefits viewers, advertisers and the broadcaster alike.”

hughs fish fightThe first such experiment was in the second series of Fish Fight earlier this year. We used Twitter to put pressure on the supermarkets by whacking them with 16,000 tweets over a 3-minute ad break as see here:

Article extract courtesy of Broadcast

Play a long game

This project took two years to travel from Quotables, the website which inspired it, thought up in a cafe opposite Great Ormond Street back in 2010 with Andy Bell and some Mintfolk, to this primetime panel show playing out this summer.

Here’s an extract from Broadcast today…

 

Richard Ayoade actor director comedian Was It Something I Said

Same hairdresser as Elliott Gould and me

C4 panel show to feature Twitter playalong game

20 June, 2013 | By 

David Mitchell actor comedian Was It Something I Said

Channel 4 is hoping that the playalong game for forthcoming panel show Was It Something I Said? (WISIS?) will have as big an impact in the space as The Million Pound Drop Live.

The David Mitchell-hosted series, produced by Maverick TV and Mint Digital, will offer a playalong element hosted entirely on Twitter. Viewers will be directed to follow a dedicated account, @somethingIsaid, which will post questions, funny pictures and supporting content to coincide with the appropriate point in the show.

Players will be able to track their progress via a mobile-optimised website that will be closely integrated with the Twitter platform. C4 estimates that 80% of TV-related Twitter usage occurs via mobile.

Around 3,000 users will be sent personalised messages during each episode, with all the content produced designed to be shareable.

Separate Twitter accounts will also be launched to allow +1 viewers and those who watch the extended 45-minute repeat to also play along.

C4’s multiplatform commissioners Jody Smith and Adam Gee ordered the digital elements. The former said the broadcaster decided to host the playalong element on Twitter in response to viewer behaviour. “The interactivity around The Million Pound Drop has been hugely influential to other gameshows, and I’m expecting the interactivity planned for Was It Something I Said? to give the panel show genre just as big a kick up the arse,” said Smith.

The series is one of the first projects to have come from the broadcaster’s initiative to commission shows from non-traditional sources, and was inspired by the Quotabl.es website Mint Digital developed for C4 in 2010.

Micky Flanagan comedian Was It Something I Said

{Extract courtesy of Broadcast magazine}

Twitter storm at sea

This was an interesting experiment we tried recently on enlivening pre-recorded shows – in this case by calling out for a mass action over an ad break focused on three UK supermarkets which are unclear about the sourcing of some of their seafood (though no horse flesh involved …I think) and then presenting back the results straight after the break including an on-screen graphic featuring the number of tweets sent. In the words of the Twitter folk: “A great result around the show last night. We count circa 42K+ in the last 24 hours and a peak of 22K+ at the call to action – which is an equivalent hashtag spike to those Xfactor enjoys around its biggest moments! This kind of audience activation and live polling with Twitter is brilliant.”
The following extract is courtesy of Broadcast
hughs fish fight save our seas channel 4

Big Fish Fight hooks 20,000 tweets

5 March, 2013 | By 

Hugh’s Fish Fight saw a massive surge in Twitter activity – to over 2,200 messages per minute – after presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall urged viewers to message the UK’s biggest supermarkets.

Hugh’s Big Fish Fight (C4) 9pm-10pm
Total tweets: 22,151
Peak tweets per minute: 2,289

fishfight_3

Fearnley-Whittingstall’s call to action over sustainable fishing saw over 10,000 viewers flock to Twitter over the course of the 60-minute show, according to data from SecondSync.

The show was watched by an audience of 1.1m (5.3%) according to overnight data supplied by Attentional – a conversion rate of around 1%.

The viewer engagement spiked at just after 9.30pm ahead of an ad break as Fearnley-Whittingstall encouraged viewers to tweet the supermarkets’ official accounts after they refused to be interviewed on the show.

The figures represented a massive uplift on the 312 tweets per minute the show averaged across the 60 minutes.

It also dwarfed the total tweet volume of 3,300 and 1,500 generated by the first two episodes in the series – when no call-to-action occurred.

C4’s multiplatform commissioning editor of factual Adam Gee said: “Fish Fight represents the sweet spot of multiplatform – the TV prompts understandable anger and the digital means now you can do something about it.”

The social media campaign was managed by digital agency Keo Digital and audience participation experts Telescope Inc.

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