Absent from Our Own Wedding

Absent from our Own Wedding poster marriage documentary Little Dot Studios

My third commission for Little Dot Studios’ Real Stories channel went live this weekend. You can see it here. It is an exploration of what matters in marriage through the quirky story of a Proxy Marriage in Montana.

It was directed & produced by Debbie Howard and executive produced by Gillian Mosely.

Absent from our Own Wedding

What really matters in weddings and marriage?

Jasmin is in Southern Italy. Aaron is in Wiesbaden, Germany. They’ve just been married. Even though they are 863 miles apart. And the wedding was in Montana, USA. Montana is a state where ‘proxy weddings’ are legal. You can get married without your spouse being in the room. In fact neither of you need to be there and that’s what ‘Absent from Our Own Wedding’ revolves around – a ‘double proxy wedding’ where both the bride and groom have proxies standing in for them as the ceremony is performed.

The observational documentary, shot on location in Montana by an all-female creative team,  features the stories behind a number of proxy weddings carried out by the fascinating husband and wife team at Armed Forces Proxy Marriages, who have the process down to a T. We see it from the first incoming call to the mailing of the fancy marriage certificate.

Because the proxy ceremonies are batched and not scheduled with the couples, often the bride and groom only realise they are actually married when the email comes in. Sometimes therefore they can’t even say exactly where they were at the moment they tied the knot.

Many proxy marriages involve people in the armed forces who need to get married swiftly to secure their rights as a military couple (to housing etc.) But just because they are sometimes functional doesn’t mean the love and commitment aren’t there.

The roots of the proxy marriage laws in Montana are back in the days of the Wild West and these are explained by Tom, who officiates at the ceremonies, which often involve his own wife, Teresa, as a proxy. That’s why Teresa, technically, has been married thousands of times!

absent from our own wedding real stories thumbnail

Jasmin & Aaron



Coincidences No.s 208 & 209

13.ii.18 Theatre503

I meet the Creative Accountant, Sydney Levinson, for tea in Mayfair (Little House). At the end of the meeting he has to head for home to get ready to see the play of a friend of his at a small theatre in Battersea – Theatre503. I’ve never heard of the place.

I leave the tea with Sydney to go to a special preview screening of a documentary I’d recently commissioned, Sorry I Shot You. The screening is in Bermondsey in a back-street cafe run by an ex-offender. The director of the film, the protagonist, and various people at the gathering are also ex-cons. I meet an interesting and pleasant man called John who has done time in Liverpool for armed robbery. He is smartly dressed and articulate. He has recently written a play about his time inside which is about to be put on …at Theatre503.

10.iii.18 & 14.iii.18 Wildwood

I am walking from home to Crouch End through a string of woods. When I get to Queen’s Wood I read the information board at the entrance which explains that the woodland which covered England until 5,000 years ago was known as ‘Wildwood’. Not a term I have ever heard but I know a road called Wildwood near where I live, beside an island of woodland. I explain all this to my friend Roddy over breakfast at Banners.

An email comes through this evening about a newish band I’ve never heard of: Wildwood Kin.
A family trio – two sisters and their cousin – Wildwood Kin formed four years ago while in their mid to late teens. Their extraordinary debut album Turning Tides entered the UK charts in the top 40 and whilst it borrows from early folk influences, not least in their hypnotic three-part harmonies, it delves deeply into other genres, featuring both electric and acoustic instruments and boasts inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics.”

I’m listening to their inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics (out of Exeter) as I write this and it’s not unpleasant. Though I’d sooner have the band I saw last Monday (5th March) at the Imagining Ireland gig at The Barby, Saint Sister, a harp-keyboards duo (out of Derry & Belfast), not actual sisters but with a sisterly vibe. 

saint sister irish band

Gemma Doherty (Derry) & Morgan MacIntyre (Belfast)

Here’s a really striking song they performed, Corpses:


The State of NME

joy division nme newspaper magazine cover 1980 ian curtis tribute

Ian Curtis tribute edition (1980)

You never listened to a word that I said
You only seen me from the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been to the colour of my hair

Public image you got what you wanted
The public image belongs to me
It’s my entrance my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye

Public image
Public image


Today the last printed edition of NME is being published. It played a vital role in many British teens’ lives at a certain point, especially during the dynamic days of Punk and Post-Punk. In many ways it was our internet.


It was the place to find out about gigs, get the latest band news, find upcoming talent, get hold of the most desirable records, get insights into the musicians that mattered.


It also nurtured a generation of writers from Paul Morley to Danny Baker, from Julie Burchill to Nick Kent. My friend & former colleague from Channel 4, Stuart Cosgrove, was among their ranks. His latest book ‘Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul‘ has just this week been shortlisted for the Penderyn Prize for Music Book of the Year, which the NME dubbed “The Mercury Prize of Books”. It’s the second book in the trilogy that began with ‘Detroit 67’ – he’s currently writing the third, ‘Harlem 69‘. It’s up against Cosey Fanni Tutti’s ‘Art Sex Music‘ which looks like formidable competition (though I haven’t read it yet).

Cosey Fanni Tutti was in Throbbing Gristle. I saw a then unknown Marc Almond perform a 15-minute version of the Throbbing Gristle song ‘Discipline’ at Hammersmith Odeon, supporting an emerging band called The Cure and headliners Siouxsie & The Banshees. Years later, down the road at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I saw Marc Almond (son of Leeds) perform Wendy Rene’s ‘After Laughter Comes Tears’, a Northern Soul classic. Stuart is an aficionado of Northern Soul, it’s from that passion that ‘The Soul Trilogy‘ springs. These are the threads that made up the text and texture of NME in its heyday when it was ENeMy of the state and friend of new musical expression.



Changing of the Guards: The Pistols meet The Dead – May 1977

The original NME Cover of the Clash from April 1977 By Chalkie Davies

The Crossroads: The Clash meet Fleetwood Mac – April 1977

keith levine guitarist public image limited PIL NME cover

The Tangled Web: Keith Levine of Public Image and The Clash – 1980

undertones nme cover

The Threads: The Undertones meet Siouxsie meets PiL

nme cover the slits

The Slits – September 1979 (one was married to PiL’s John Lydon)

the specials nme cover two tone

Two Tone: The Specials – August 1979

The Casting Game No. 366

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

The Emperor


Elvis Presley

elvis presley singer young

The King

4 paintings visiting London

Here are some paintings I saw on the way to work this morning courtesy of The Collection of Peggy & David Rockefeller, a selection of which is currently being hosted at Christie’s, London in the run-up to the sale in New York to benefit a range of charities. {These paintings are copyright of the Rockefeller Collection}

Odalisque couchée aux magnolias – Matisse (1923)

Odalisque couchée aux magnolias - Matisse (1923)

A very alluring painting executed in the South of France and more redolent of there than anywhere Oriental. What’s strange about it is that the figure is barely prioritised over the rest of the design, from the still life bowl of fruit to the floral wallpaper. Luxe et volupté.

Fillette à la corbeille fleurie – Picasso (1905)

Fillette à la corbeille fleurie - Picasso (1905)

Exquisite palette from the rose period. Her face is fascinating (this photo doesn’t do it justice, it’s much finer than it looks here) – she clearly has roots somewhere far from Paris.

La Vague – Gauguin (1888)

Gauguin - La vague (1888)

Takes its cue from Hokusai’s Great Wave and the Post-Impressionist love of Japanese prints. The red of the beach is much the same hue as Gauguin’s ‘Vision After The Sermon’ (in the National Gallery of Scotland) – and the colour I chose for our front door. Strikingly eccentric composition.

Camille assise sur la plage à Trouville – Monet (1870/71)

Camille assise sur la plage à Trouville - Monet (1870/71)

The face of Camille Doncieux/Monet is remarkably modern looking, like a 50s fashion magazine illustration. The whole painting has the freshness and energy of being executed there and then on the windy beach. My favourite of the four.

The tour of which this quartet is a part continues in Paris, LA, Beijing and Shanghai until early April. The sale takes place in May at Christie’s, Rockefeller Center, New York. You can see these top-drawer paintings in London until this Thursday (8th March 2018) at Christie’s in King Street, St James’s. Well worth the trip.

Sorry I Shot You

Sorry I Shot You Real Stories Original documentary stana grime rapper

‘Sorry I Shot You’, the second of my commissions for Real Stories, Little Dot Studios‘ documentary channel, went live last night. You can watch it here. It’s a fresh, moving look at Restorative Justice.

He shot a cop. Did his time. And now wants to make amends.

Dean Stanbury aka Stana was a bad-boy gangster and grime rapper growing up in East London. Then one fateful day in 2006 he shot and wounded a police officer. Dean was running away and fired over his shoulder. He did 8 years in jail, coming out a changed man. He now wants to track down the officer he shot and express his remorse and regret, check he is OK, and apologise to him face to face for what he did. Will Dean be able to find him after all these years? What will the policeman say, how will he react? In the process Dean re-visits his past to work out how he became the man capable of pulling the trigger that day.

Dean now has young children of his own. He has changed his lyrics, which were shockingly violent, to reflect his new values and discourage young men like he once was from glamorising guns, crime and life on the street.

What makes this film stand out is that it is a tale of Restorative Justice told from the inside (as opposed to TV people pitching up and looking in on this world). The director of ‘Sorry I Shot You’ (Nicole Stanbury) was involved in gang-related and organised crime which lead to her serving time in Holloway and other women’s prisons before finding her way back to the straight and narrow, including directing this her first film. Because she is a close relative of Dean Stanbury and has his full trust, the film is astonishingly intimate.

‘Sorry I Shot You’ is an uplifting documentary about redemption and second chances gratefully seized. Its protagonist is unusually honest and open, making this a very revealing and insightful film.

It is one of the first original productions from Real Stories (and the first ever commission for Underworld.TV) and has the feelgood vibe and overcoming of adversity which is part of what characterises this fast-growing documentary channel. ‘Sorry I Shot You’ [a 29 minute watch] went live on 2nd March 2018 on the Real Stories YouTube channel.

4 of the best international dramas

I’m a big fan of Walter Presents, the reservoir of sub-titled drama on Channel 4’s All4 VOD platform. It’s the brainchild of Walter Iuzzolino, a fellow Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 (we did The Sex Education Show/Sexperience together, for example), and it comes from a really genuine place, he loved Italian soaps growing up (watched with his granny) which is the root of his passion to seek out the very best of international TV drama.

Here are the 4 I’ve most enjoyed recently:


Sexy bike, sexy sea, sexy photographer, hairy journo

1) Maltese

The only one in the Walter presents pot from his native Italy. Set in the 70s on Sicily (1976) and created by the team behind ‘Gomorrah’, writers Leonardo Fasoli and Maddalena Ravagli. The scenery was a delightful mind-trip, the language was a joy to listen to, and the story and acting were well up to par. Perfect for dull grey British fag-end of winter.

paris drama sarah-jane sauvegrain actress

Sexy scene-stealer

2) Paris

The show is stolen by Sarah-Jane Sauvegrain playing Alexia, a transgender woman at the heart of a wide cast of characters whose paths are interwoven across the 24 hours of the story (spread across six 45-minute episodes). These characters are from the political realm and the underworld, interconnected in many ways. Seemingly this portrayal of a transwoman was a landmark on French TV (of the kind represented by the first lesbian kiss on Channel 4’s Brookside). Sauvegrain plays the role with a fascinating mix of femininity with the occasional flash of male physicality – mesmerising and moving. The whole thing is a delight.

hotel adlon drama

Unsexy OCD

3) Hotel Adlon

A family saga centred on Berlin’s famous posh hotel beside the Brandenburg Gate. The three 95-minute episodes cover much of the 20th century, starting in 1904. More of an epic feel about it due to the long episodes, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable mix of aspirational luxury and fairly accurate history (culminating with the Nazis of course).

le_mystere-du-lac vanished by the lake drama

Sexy detective, sexy lake

4) Vanished by the Lake (Le Mystère du Lac)

Like Maltese, it’s as good as a holiday hanging out by the lake in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France. A teenage girl goes missing by the lake in a town where two other teenagers had gone missing before, 15 years earlier. A classic whodunit plus Provence landscapes – what’s not to like? How come there are so many sexy French detectivesses? Real-life or just a drama conceit? Who cares – fun to watch.

The Oscars: What do they know?

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, it’s a good moment to keep things in perspective. I am a big fan of 1970s Hollywood, a golden age in movie-making, and whilst the Academy honored ‘The Godfather’ in 1972, ‘…Cuckoo’s Nest’ in 1975, and ‘Annie Hall’ in 1977 with the Best Picture gong, some of the other collective decisions across that decade look very dubious with the distance of hindsight. Actually they probably looked pretty dubious at the time in the same way that, for example, ‘Birdman’ (2014) and ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) did.

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in MASH (1970)

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in ‘M*A*S*H’ (1970)

In 1970 ‘Patton’ beat ‘M*A*S*H’ which tells you a lot about what was going on in the world at the time, particularly from an American perspective.

1974 was a singularly tough year with ‘The Godfather II’ up against another Coppola, ‘The Conversation’, and ‘Chinatown’. They made Godfather 2 an offer it couldn’t refuse which is justifiable but you could still have a pretty good debate about that one.

But 1976 is the real aberration. The Academy picked ‘Rocky’ above ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Network’ and ‘All the President’s Men’. Really?!??!!! ‘Taxi Driver’ is an absolute masterpiece. The other two are both very fine works which have and will stand the test of time. ‘Rocky’ is a reminder that the Academy is largely composed of American men which for some reason brings to mind the famous misquote of H.L. Mencken:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

What the great journalist/satirist actually said was:

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Not as neat but the point relates – ‘Rocky’ is a real “great masses of the plain people” decision.

The decade is crowned with another humdinger. 1979 saw ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ triumph over ‘Apocalypse Now’. Who even knows what ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ is now? It was enjoyable at the time and well made but no masterpiece for all time. In my eyes ‘Apocalypse Now’ is the greatest film made in my lifetime. Even its flaws are fascinating and right.

So when the Best Picture is announced this Sunday, and if it’s not Martin McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ , we can chalk it up to the long heritage of fallibility and short-sightedness of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences…

  • 2015: Spotlight beat The Big Short
  • 1994: Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction
  • 1983: Terms of Endearment beat The Big Chill
  • 1948: Hamlet beat The Red Shoes

I’ve seen some of the back end of this as a voting member of BAFTA and of EFA (The European Film Academy). The process, the screenings, the marketing/lobbying, the demographics of the membership, it can all skew the collective judgment. Like when BAFTA failed to notice ‘Selma’ in 2014 (even though it was subsequently nominated for the Best Picture Oscar). Or take this year’s BAFTAs – how did the performance of Bria Vinaite in ‘The Florida Project’ fail to get noticed? (Or of Brooklyn Prince for that matter, the lead kid in Florida Project.) And what about Mary J Blige’s outstanding performance in Dee Rees’ ‘Mudbound’? Instead we got for Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney’s monotone caricature in the joyless ‘I, Tonya’.

Bria Vinaite & Brooklyn Prince in 'The Florida Project' (2017)

Bria Vinaite & Brooklyn Prince in ‘The Florida Project’ (2017)

There’s no accounting for taste. Or maybe there is.

Robert Duvall in Francis Ford Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

Robert Duvall in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)




Principles of Adult Behavior

John Perry Barlow, Internet rights pioneer & visionary, went virtual on Wednesday this week, aged 70 after a long illness. Barlow was co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

John Perry Barlow, Internet rights pioneer & visionary

Bob Weir, one of the founding members of The Grateful Dead, said of him: “John had a way of taking life’s most difficult things and framing them as challenges, therefore adventures.” John wrote some lyrics for the Dead. He also wrote ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace‘ in 1996 (on February 8th as it happens, so its anniversary lies between his passing and the publishing of this post). It opens:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

so something of the Ginsberg/Howl thing about it. It concludes:

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

John drafted a set of ‘Principles of Adult Behavior’.

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Pretty wise and a number really resonated for me.

5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change. – particularly useful in the age of Trump & Brexit

7. Tolerate ambiguity. – I’ve become increasingly conscious in recent times of the polarised tendencies of the ways humans think, drawn constantly to black and white rather than grey

16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun. – I’ve become particularly conscious of this in the realm of politics – listen out for those “I”s and you’ll be struck by how common it is and how much it makes you doubt the speaker

17. Praise at least as often as you disparage. – a little praise goes a long way from my experience

19. Become less suspicious of joy. – I’ve become fascinated by the word Joy in recent years. My daily motto is: I will enJoy my day. Many things that would benefit from a bit of Joy often are devoid of it for no good reason.

All 25 give food for thought. On the subject of which, a parting shot from JPB:

…in the years to come, most human exchange will be virtual rather than physical, consisting not of stuff but the stuff of which dreams are made. Our future business will be conducted in a world made more of verbs than nouns.

John Perry Barlow at the Bar Cross Ranch

JPB at the Bar Cross Ranch



The Casting Game No. 134

James Norton

james norton macmafia actor



john f kennedy JFK President USA


John F Kennedy

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