Coincidences No.s 359, 360, 361 & 362 – Back in the Old Country

first edition ulysses james joyce 1922 paris book novel

A snip at €30,000

No. 359 – 06:12:17

I am packing for a trip to Dublin to address the board of RTÉ, the national broadcaster of Ireland. There is one area of the subjects I am covering which I’m not feeling 100% confident about.

As I take stuff out of my work bag to make space, an old copy of Broadcast (the TV industry trade paper) surfaces. It’s from late September. Two pages have become detached from the centre. They are about exactly the subject that was niggling me.

No. 360 – 06:12:17

I am at Luton Airport in the queue to get on the plane to Belfast (I have a meeting at BBC Northern Ireland before heading south to Dublin). The plane is heading to Belfast International / Aldegrove which is north of the city in Co. Antrim.

My phone goes while I’m in the queue. It is Home Counties-based Northern Irish radio broadcaster Peter Curran. We almost never talk on the phone – we do face to face and use email/text to arrange getting together. He tells me he is recording a programme in Antrim and something he saw made him think of me. I tell him that that’s a bit weird as I’ll be in Antrim in about 55 minutes.

lemon soap sweny dublin james joyce ulysses

A snip at €5

No. 361 – 07:12:17

I go to a reading of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ in the old pharmacy (Sweny’s) near Merrion Square where Leopold Bloom buys his lemony soap in the novel. (I’d seen a copy of the ultra-rare 1st edition a few streets away earlier in the afternoon – see photo above.) People show up ad hoc and each person reads a page from where the group had last gotten to – the reading goes round the attendees for the duration of the session. To make it feel just right an auld drunk fella showed up to take advantage of the warmth and light. The section they are reading today happens to be my favourite in a 733 page book.

I go to turn my phone to silent before the reading starts. My phone shows 19:04 – the year ‘Ulysses’ is set in these streets of Dublin.

Earlier in the afternoon I drop into the old pharmacy (now run by Joyce volunteers) and buy a bar of the lemon soap in a facsimile wrapper.

As we read we read the line “To wash his soiled hands with a partially consumed tablet of Barrington’s lemon-flavoured soap”. A couple of pages later we read: “in Lincoln Place outside the premises of F. W. Sweny and Co. Limited, dispensing chemists”. Between we read:

“What reminiscences temporarily corrugated his brow? – Reminiscences of coincidences, truth stranger than fiction…”

(I have just noticed Sweny’s intials – F W. I came to the reading directly from the National Gallery of Ireland, 3 minutes away. I had been at an exhibition of F W Burton (Frederic William) called For  The Love of Art.)

lorraine chase campari TV advert

Lorraine Chase

No. 362 – 02:12:17 & 09:12:17

The name Lorraine has been following me around this week.

At the start of the week (last Saturday) I am directing a documentary about cycling. I go to interview a couple in Birmingham. The wife is called Lorraine and is an ex-church minister – I have pictured her as a thin white sticky woman, influenced I think by Lorraine Chase, the woman made famous by the Campari TV ads in the 80s (catchphrase: “Nah, Luton Airport!” – see No. 360 above).

As it turns out the interviewee is a substantial black lady.

At the end of the week (yesterday, Saturday) I go to a screening of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, the feature documentary by Raoul Peck about James Baldwin and Black Lives Matter (from the 40s to the 2010s). I sat next to documentary veteran Peter Dale, my old colleague from Channel 4. During the film I noticed in the archive footage a sign for a diner in one of those southern towns like Selma, I forget which: it is called Lorraine.

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The Fetishisation of Storytelling

I’ve noticed the increasing fetishisation of the terms ‘storytelling’ and ‘stories’ in the last couple of years, especially in commercial media. Everyone’s a storyteller now, even if your ‘story’ is about baked beans. Many indie producers’ websites single out skill in storytelling as their USP. When I see the word “storytelling” now I view it with scepticism and take a moment to assess if what’s being said is meaningful or fashionable hype.

This morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the Thought for The Day was about the need to rehabilitate the children of Isis extremists by introducing them to new stories. They have lost their innocence to one perverted story.

On a brighter note, today was a good day for being reminded the rich weave of stories that thread through daily life. My day began chatting to a taxi driver cum news cameraman, half-Korean half-Russian, born in the bit of Russia nearest Alaska; grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; studied in St Petersburg; moved to Helsinki sixteen years ago. It ended chatting to a roast chestnut seller from Innsbruck. I’ve spent a total of €12 in a week in Helsinki – on two bags of chestnuts.

Between these bookends I received this text exchange – ‘Osama Loves’ is a multiplatform documentary project I commissioned a few years ago at Channel 4, some months before the Big Bad O, ObL, got terminated.

text exchange about osama loves

Great story…

 

channel 4 osama loves website screenshot detail

detail from ‘Osama Loves’ website

Real Stories hits 1m subs

real stories one million subscribers documentary channel youtube

Here’s an update by Little Dot Studios Co-Founder, Andy Taylor, of the progress of this online documentary channel for which I have been commissioning the first original content.

This week at Little Dot Studios, we are celebrating a major milestone. Our documentary channel, Real Stories, has hit 1 million subscribers.

Real Stories is only two years old, but is now running at over 700,000 views per day. It’s become a major success in a small window of time, leading to big projects and investments in the brand. But the launch of the channel was not the product of strategy reviews, business cases or investment committees – it was a small number of employees from different departments who developed their insights into ideas, and then had the initiative to see them through.

The history  

Two years ago, our ContentID team – the team overseeing YouTube’s copyright management tool – kept telling us that documentaries were big on YouTube. They were ‘claiming’ over 40,000 television shows for our production, distribution and broadcaster clients and kept finding that full-length documentary content was attracting significant viewing. In came our Insights team, who pulled all our viewing data and put videos into different genres: comedy, kids, entertainment, factual/documentary. The data showed that factual was the second-most viewed genre in our portfolio (after pre-school kids). There was an opportunity to create a genre-specific YouTube channel for full-length documentaries.

This was a novel idea at the time. Most people at this point still viewed YouTube as a short-form platform for ‘viral videos’ – certainly not the home of premium, long-form documentaries. But the data was on our side, so we opened a page called Real Stories, and our partnership managers went to all our clients to see if they would license us full, one-hour documentaries for use on YouTube. Within 3-6 months we had around 1000 documentaries.

Two years later, we have a phenomenal success story, all born from data, insights and people not being afraid to put ideas forward. A brand that didn’t exist two years ago and a channel for which we haven’t yet produced an original video now has 1 million subscribers. And we’ll pay out c.$1m to our partners this year. The prospects for 2018 are exceptional.

The evolution:

In August, we committed to two initiatives. First, to launch Real Stories on Facebook. It was always going to be tough because the brand is unknown on the platform and we have long-form content, while the platform demands short, snappy videos. 4 months later, Real Stories has over 200k Likes and achieves 200k views almost daily. On good days, it hits 1m views and has hit highs of 10m a day. We re-edit and repurpose one-hour docs for the Facebook audience and have licensed content from Vimeo and other platforms to bolster the content output. One of those videos has done 6m views. We’ve also run competitions and ‘live’ broadcasts to experiment with the Facebook algorithm. 

Second, we’ve been commissioning Real Stories ‘Originals’. We’ve brought in Adam Gee from Channel 4 (where he headed Factual Commissioning for All4) and within 4 weeks he’d signed off nine commissions. These commissions have gone to a range of new, emerging talent – different voices to the usual with a huge platform on which to tell their stories. We’ve subsequently signed off a further two and they’re all now in production. They’ll go live on Real Stories in January and, with a bit of luck, we’ll then be able to sign off more films.

Looking forward:

Looking even further forward, in Q1 2018 we’ll be launching Real Stories as an app on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku and other devices in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. It’ll be a ‘beta’ launch to learn about these new platforms and to continue to build the brand beyond YouTube. For us, it’s another step into the unknown for a brand that keeps pushing us out of our comfort zone.

Anthem for the Age of Brexit & Trump

Plus ca change. Better to laugh than cry…

There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner
(by Noel Coward)

They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent,
They’re dull in Hull
And the Isle of Mull
Is seething with discontent,

They’re nervous in Northumberland
And Devon is down the drain,
They’re filled with wrath
On the firth of Forth
And sullen on Salisbury Plain,

In Dublin they’re depressed, lads,
Maybe because they’re Celts
For Drake is going West, lads,
And so is everyone else.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Misery’s here to stay.
There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it’s no good whining
About a silver lining
For we know from experience that they won’t roll by,
With a scowl and a frown
We’ll keep our peckers down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread,
We’re going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead.

From Portland Bill to Scarborough
They’re querulous and subdued
And Shropshire lads
Have behaved like cads
From Berwick-on-Tweed to Bude,

They’re mad at Market Harborough
And livid at Leigh-on-Sea,
In Tunbridge Wells
You can hear the yells
Of woe-begone bourgeoisie.

We all get bitched about, lads,
Whoever our vote elects,
We know we’re up the spout, lads.
And that’s what England expects.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Trouble is on the way.
There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be,
There are black birds over
The grayish cliffs of Dover
And the rats are preparing to leave the BBC
We’re an unhappy breed
And very bored indeed
When reminded of something that Nelson said.
While the press and the politicians nag nag nag
We’ll wait until we drop down dead.

From Colwyn Bay to Kettering
They’re sobbing themselves to sleep,
The shrieks and wails
In the Yorkshire dales
Have even depressed the sheep.

In rather vulgar lettering
A very disgruntled group
Have posted bills
On the Cotswold Hills
To prove that we’re in the soup.

While begging Kipling’s pardon
There’s one thing we know for sure
If England is a garden
We ought to have more manure.

Hurray, hurray, hurray!
Suffering and dismay.
There are bad times just around the corner
And the outlook’s absolutely vile,
There are Home Fires smoking
From Windermere to Woking
And we’re not going to tighten our belts and smile, smile, smile,
At the sound of a shot
We’d just as soon as not
Take a hot water bottle and go to bed,
We’re going to un-tense our muscles till they sag sag sag
And wait until we drop down dead.

There are bad times just around the corner,
We can all look forward to despair,
It’s as clear as crystal
From Bridlington to Bristol
That we can’t save democracy and we don’t much care
If the Reds and the Pinks
Believe that England stinks
And that world revolution is bound to spread,
We’d better all learn the lyrics of the old ‘Red Flag’
And wait until we drop down dead.

A likely story
Land of Hope and Glory,
Wait until we drop down dead.

Coincidences No.s 355, 356, 357 & 358

No. 355

Graham Norton Channel 4 presenter chat show

In the morning I have a meeting at BAFTA with a director (Peter Demetris) I worked with on ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ to discuss a forthcoming commission I’m doing at Little Dot Studios to do with modern addiction. Peter reminds me he was studio director on Graham Norton’s first chat show ‘So Graham Norton’ on Channel 4.

In the afternoon I get an email from presenter Tim Lovejoy mentioning Graham Norton’s producer at So TV which of course was set up to make ‘So Graham Norton’.

No. 356

bible salesmen salesman

An old friend and gig-mate (another Adam) comes to stay from Amsterdam (aka A’dam). He has been working during the day at a famous University Press and mentions that he reckons a significant proportion of their revenue comes from bible sales.

The next day I am at the University of Surrey in Guildford doing a guest lecture. While I am there my old colleague, Jon Weinbren, Head of Digital Media Arts, out of nowhere mentions bible salesmen.

No. 357

blue star garage finchley road

A blast from the past – now buried under flats

My mum is trying to describe where an office she visits regularly is. She positions it relative to the old Blue Bird garage on the Finchley Road. I further triangulate it relative to an orthodontist’s surgery I went to once or twice as a kid with her. I remember the man telling me I had a “Polish jaw”. She can’t recall it at all.

A couple of days later one of my best friends visits from Aspen, Colorado where she now lives. We go to the National Theatre together and at lunch she mentions the very same orthodontist to whom she went as a girl.

No. 358

mercedes van I A Harris fruit vegetables

My grandfather was a research scientist not a fruit & veg man (he had a secret love of bacon)

I go with Enfant Terrible No.1 to visit the grave of my grandfather Ian Harris on his birthday (the same day JFK was shot – that’s how I know what I was doing on the day, I was at Pop’s tea party in a cradle).

On the drive home, as I’m talking to my son about his great-grandfather, we pass a commercial van parked in a drive in Hendon with the name I. A. Harris emblazoned on the side.

Cycle of Life

Anglia Television TV Norwich

Norwich

I heard one of those stories the day before yesterday that makes you despair of mankind. I was in Norwich to deliver a lecture on online video at NUA (Norwich University of the Arts). Actor John Hurt served proudly as its first Chancellor until his sad passing at the beginning of the year. The course leader (Film & Moving Image Production) who lead me through the charming city was telling me about the new yellow bikes that have appeared in the city recently as one crossed our path outside the lecture hall building. It is a city scheme which the students are testing out enthusiastically. He told me a new bank of bikes had appeared outside his house the day before. But when he came down that morning they were gone. He found them soon submerged in the river, chucked over the wall. Why would anyone do that?

As it happens, I’m working on a documentary about cycling, cyclists & bikes at Little Dot Studios which includes the story of a university cycle scheme. With a bit of luck the tapestry of stories will be nearer the uplifting end of the scale.

I’m writing this at Venue No.2 of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York (a multistorey bar), killing time before Evensong at York Minster. I went yesterday afternoon too – it’s pretty uplifting even if religion is not particularly your bag.

I served on the jury of this year’s festival, judging the Documentary category among others. I’m just out of one of the Docs screenings which concluded with a short entitled Dial-a-Ride about a minibus service for the elderly and remote of Brecon. It was the other side of the human coin, propelled by a caring driver who appreciated the rich mix of stories of his mainly elderly passengers.

And so the wheels of life turn…

York Minster cathedral

York Minster

Little Dot gears up for SVoD

The latest news about the commissioning of original documentaries I’ve been doing at Little Dot Studios over the last few months – from today’s Broadcast 

by Alex Farber | 26 October 2017

Absent from our Own Wedding video still Little Dot Studios

Absent from our Own Wedding

All3Media-backed firm steps up commissioning and acquisitions in run-up to launch of service

Little Dot Studios has kicked off a commissioning and acquisitions drive as it prepares to launch an SVoD service later this year.

The All3Media-backed business has appointed former Channel 4 multiplatform commissioner Adam Gee and Beyond Distribution head of acquisitions Caitlin Meek-O’Connor to spearhead the push.

Commissioning editor Gee has ordered his first slate of originals, including Underworld TV’s Sorry I Shot You, Big Buddha Films and Medialab UK’s Absent From Our Own Wedding and Showem Entertainment’s In Your Face as part of a £200,000 investment.

The factual films, all of which run to around 15-20 minutes, will feature as part of the Shoreditch-based firm’s Real Stories online channel, which is distributed via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

The shows, due to launch in mid-November, will also be used as the bedrock for a forthcoming direct-to-consumer app alongside a host of third-party programming.

Shared profits

Meek-O’Connor has begun striking deals with distributors, with around 2,000 hours of programming licensed to date. Many of these shows are picked up from suppliers for free, with the profits generated shared equally – Little Dot is set to return around £1.5m to distributors this year.

Co-founder Andy Taylor said he is looking to exponentially grow the firm he established in 2013. The business, founded by Taylor and Selma Turajlic, has doubled in size year-on-year. In 2016, it posted a turnover of £9.8m, up from £5.2m the previous year. Operating profits jumped from £300,000 to £1.2m in this period.

“Someone needs to put a stake in the ground and build a premium mid-form destination because the quality of content currently is poor,” said Taylor. “There has been a massive explosion in mobile video but none of the resource or investment from TV has leaked over. In the next three to five years, I need to build channels with massive scale, which house only premium content.”

Taylor added that he is eyeing a direct-to- consumer launch by the end of the year, with platforms under consideration including Amazon Channels, Apple TV and Roku.

“We need to be on those platforms because the monetisation opportunities are so much better. It’s harder to get reach, but they offer much higher advertising rates and we can experiment with SVoD too,” he explained.

Real Stories is being touted as a subscription forerunner, with launches for science and history themed sister channels Spark and Timeline also being weighed up.

In September, Barcroft Media’s YouTube channel Barcroft TV launched an ad-funded TV app. However, Taylor is not turning his back on the digital giants and is putting particular focus on Facebook. Changes to the Mark Zuckerburg-run platform have meant that Little Dot video viewing has soared, from virtually zero to 150 million monthly views in just three months.

“The new Facebook”

From his 120- strong staff, Taylor has appointed eight Facebook-dedicated editors who are tasked with closely tracking the changes to its algorithm and reactively clipping and posting videos for maximum exposure.

“We are trying to grow the digital brands of the future,” said Taylor. “Our bet is that over time, the platforms have to favour premium content – because that is what advertisers demand.”

While people visit YouTube less frequently than they do Facebook, they tend to stay for longer and are happy to watch 15 to 20-minute videos. Facebook visitors prefer shorter clips. Taylor said that Instagram, which has three Little Dot editors assigned, is fast becoming “the new Facebook”.

Sport is another area of focus, with Sky Sports commercial manager Rory Rigney hired as senior partnerships manager to forge ties with rights holders to manage their channels. With talks under way with major football and cricketing governing bodies, the sports-themed channels will join Little Dot’s network of broadcaster and producer- owned channels, including ITV, Warner Bros, Discovery and Turner, as well as All3Media.

{text courtesy of Broadcast}

Coincidences No.s 270 & 271 – Eat Your Heart Out

11/10/17

I go in to Eat opposite my office to have a coffee with an Irish TV presenter I’m meeting for the first time. We sit at one of the only two tables in the branch, two two-person tables side by side. The presenter asks me early in the conversation where I live. I tell him and mention that Feargal Sharkey (Northern Irish lead singer of The Undertones) also lives there. I am about to mention other music-related people in the neighbourhood, striving for a moment to recall, when I sense the person sitting diagonally opposite me, alone at the other table, perhaps four feet away, has had their attention drawn to our conversation. It turns out he had overheard reference to East Finchley. Because that is indeed where he lives too. And he is the very person I was about to name because he was in the much admired post-punk band Gang of Four. It’s nearly four years since I last saw him (when I was writing my first book). The three of us ended up having a fascinating conversation about Catalunya as the musician splits his time between East Finchley/Fortis Green (home of The Kinks) and Catalonia.

gang of four band

Gang of Four

12/10/17

I go to see the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. I notice how he uses three parallel horizontal lines for E and think perhaps I’ll adopt that for my own surname.

downtown 81 basquiat E

I walk away from the Barbican and pop into the nearby Eat for a sarnie. As I walk in I notice a prominent display (Grill Club) that uses a three parallel horizontal lines symbol.

Eat Grill Club sign

Creative Accounting No. 265

nick-cave singer

Nick Cave = Dave Vanian + Neil Diamond

david__vanian_by_yaprina singer the damned

plus-sign

neil_diamond_singer hot august night

Coincidences No.s 268 & 269

28 & 29/9/17

cocktail shaker kaleidoscope judyth greenburgh

cocktail shaker kaleidoscope by judyth greenburgh

I meet an old friend of mine near the BBC in White City – she’s an artist from North London who now lives in Darwin, California in the desert. Recently she’s gotten really into making kaleidoscopes. One of the ones that most appealed to me was one made out of a cocktail shaker with pills/capsules providing the coloured pieces. I told her how I’d loved capsules since childhood when I was allowed to play with them in the back of my uncle’s pharmacy in Arnos Grove. I then showed her my capsule bracelet which I was wearing – a red-white capsule on a black band sold to benefit an AIDS charity.

capsule bracelet

I’m having a chat with TV presenter Tim Lovejoy and he tells me about some art he’d seen at a Soho exhibition the night before – it showed the work of an anonymous artist called Chemical X made of pills and capsules.

The Spirit Of Ecstasy by Chemical X

The Spirit Of Ecstasy by Chemical X

 

5/10/17

On my jog this morning I was listening to an episode of ‘Desert Island Discs’ featuring Caitlin Moran. For her final track she chose a song by Anne-Marie. I’d never heard of this singer and wondered who she was.

At 17:33 an email arrived from TicketWeb. It advertised an imminent concert by Anne-Marie.

anne-marie concert advertisement

 

 

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