Archive for the ‘channel 4’ Category

Missed Call smartphone doc wins AHRC Award

AHRC Research in Film Awards 2018 at BAFTA

Missed Call, one of my Real Stories Originals commissions, a documentary made entirely on an iPhone X, a story which revolves around smartphones, their media and communications, picked up a distinctive and prestigious award recently. It won the AHRC Research in Film Award for Social Media Short, one of just 5 categories. As veteran documentary-maker (and my mentor) Roger Graef pointed out on the night, it is not often Research gets centre stage and yet it is the vital underpinning of all great docs.

AHRC Research in Film Awards 2018 at BAFTA Sophie Morgan Channel 4

Channel 4’s Sophie Morgan revealing the winner

The award was presented at BAFTA to director Victoria Mapplebeck and her teenage son Jim, the protagonist of Missed Call, by Channel 4 presenter Sophie Morgan (Rio Paralympics 2016).

The following day Victoria and Jim appeared on ITV News in this item about children reconnecting with their estranged parent – video is at the bottom of this page (click here).

itv news report missed call documentary

AHRC Research in Film Awards 2018 at BAFTA Sophie Morgan Channel 4

Advertisements

Let people talk about what they want (Michael Apted)

Michael_Apted young director

Michael Apted back in the day

Yesterday evening I went to see documentary & movie/drama director Michael Apted speaking at MIA (Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo) in Rome – where I have been speaking on short-form video. He was in conversation on stage with an Italian journalist, Marco Spagnoli. A big focus of the interview was the Up series, the longitudinal documentary series from Granada which started with 7 Up in 1964 and gets to 63 Up in May next year on ITV. He has been filming with the same cohort (and largely the same crew) for 54 years – shooting with them once every 7 years. It is unique in the history of documentary film, enabled by starting in the right place (Granada in the era of World In Action) at the right time (a golden age for British factual TV). It couldn’t happen now. It was actually a World In Action colleague who had the idea to revisit what was originally a single doc 7 years later and then the snowball got rolling…

michael apted up series documentary 7 up

The Up series

Michael Apted director

Michael Apted now

The most important thing he has learned over the years is to go into the interviews, not with a list of questions, but ready to talk about what the contributors want to talk about. He does jot down his key questions but he leaves them back at home and just as a rough mental checklist against the free-flowing conversations.

Stardust 1974 Still david essex

Stardust (1974)

I asked a question about Stardust, as I remember it making a big impact on me as a teenager, a really freaky strange world (and I always liked David Essex as both an actor and singer).

And after the session I got to have a chat with him. He had talked about how he once, as a young director, saw Pasolini in a hotel lobby in Rome and froze, didn’t exchange a word. So I wasn’t going to do a Pasolini – we spoke a little about Charles Furneaux who was a 7-year-old contributor in 7 Up and a fellow Commissioning Editor with me at Channel 4 when I started (he must have been 46 at the time). He talked about his generation at Cambridge, which included Stephen Frears and the Pythons, and how motivating it was to feel part of that movement.

thunderheart movie 1992

Thunderheart (1992)

Whether he’ll make it to shoot 70 Up is probably a bit touch & go but for all his extensive filmography from Bond to Thunderheart (which was shot by my ex-boss Roger Deakins) without a shadow of a doubt his legacy will be Up. In 2005 the Up series topped the list of the 50 Greatest Documentaries in a Channel 4 programme.

I walked to the Apted session along the Via Veneto from the Villa Borghese gardens. I was sitting on a marble bench there dealing on the phone with a casting problem on a documentary I am currently working on on prejudice against facial and neck tattoos. It is a follow-up to In Your Face which did very well on Real Stories channel earlier this year (over 50 Million views). While I was on the call, which was addressing the fact that one of our contributors had gone AWOL, a heavily tattooed couple sat down beside me. I took a surreptitious picture of them and sent it to the producer on the other end of the line saying as a joke “Shall I book these two?”

Jessica Rebell tattooist Melbourne

Jessica Rebell of Melbourne

After the call, as the couple got up to go, I decided not to do a Pasolini and asked the woman if she got any gip over her neck tattoo, a high collar of leaves. She said in Rome yes, noticeably, whereas it was all par for the course in Melbourne where she lives. Rudeness, aggression and dismissiveness have all been visited on her in the Eternal City. London and Paris nothing worse than a bit of staring. Both Jess and Stephane are tattoo artists working at the same Melbourne tattoo. We had a long chat during which I flagged up a few of my 50+ tattoo docs for their viewing pleasure.

It was one of those chance encounters which makes la vita dolce.

Via Veneto in La Dolce Vita (1960)

Via Veneto in La Dolce Vita (1960) – Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee (Dir: Federico Fellini) [Photo courtesy of The Kobal Collection]

***

Some of my tattoo films/series (over 40 films just here):

 

In Your Face – Week 1

A cool 9 million views for this cut-down from the documentary ‘In Your Face’ in its first week, with high engagement – 5,500 comments; 65,000 shares; 52,000 reactions. Part of this success we have concluded is down to the likeability and charm of the protagonist, Jason – (it has outperformed other similar videos and the casting seems to provide the explanation).

In Your Face real stories facebook 2018-05-18

The full film of ‘In Your Face’ is here. The full film on Facebook/Facebook Watch has netted 1.8M views this week which is also a very decent performance and underlined that this is very much a Facebook rather than a YouTube subject, benefitting from viewers engaged through sharing and commenting and happy to pick the videos up in their stream rather than deliberately seeking it out in some way.

in your face real stories facebook 2018-05-18

I have now made 40 documentaries on tattoos including these series for Channel 4:

tattoo twists channel 4 all4

Tattoo Twists – my first tattoo series, inspired Channel 4’s Tattoo Fixers

my secret tattoo channel 4 all4

My Secret Tattoo – this man works with the Minister of Defence (with this hidden under his shirt & tie)

tattoo fails channel 4 all4

A random still from Tattoo Fails

Not the Usual Suspects

Social Media Addicts Anonymous still poster documentary film

Social Media Addicts Anonymous

Carol Nahra interviewed me last week for her documentary film-making blog Docs on Screens

Carol is an American journalist and documentary producer, who since moving to London in 1996 has worked as a producer, and as a consultant & writer for Sheffield Doc/Fest. She also teaches documentary film and digital media for Syracuse University’s London program and the Foundation for International Education. She regularly moderates Q&As and special events at London documentary screenings.

Taster of the interview

Little Dot’s Adam Gee: “I have made a real effort not to commission the usual suspects.”

 

In more than a decade at Channel 4 heading up factual multiplatform content, Adam Gee commissioned many multi-award winning productions, including Embarrassing Bodies and the Big Fish Fight. After a stint launching All 4’s short form video service, he is now commissioning for Little Dot Studios, who have earned astonishing viewing numbers with their flagship Real Stories documentary channel. A regular guest speaker for my digital engagement class, Adam excels at spotting trends and keeping ahead of the game in a dizzying, fast-changing media landscape. I chatted with him about his work finding new pathways for documentary filmmakers.

Carol Nahra: Can you tell me about your role at Little Dot?

Adam Gee: I was brought in last summer to commission the first original content for Little Dot’s Real Stories, their documentary channel, which is the biggest of their portfolio of channels. It’s a very pure form of commissioning in that I was given a blank sheet, a pot of money and instructions to fill up the blank sheet with stuff that would fit properly onto the channel. So I set about basing the brief on the data underlying the channel. The data makes it really clear both who your audience is and what they actually like. This does not constrict your commissioning, it just shows where the most fertile territory lies.

CN: What kind of films do you commission?

AG: One of the things that characterises Real Stories is by and large they are uplifting and inspirational and have a feel-good vibe about them. And that is probably to some degree a product of the time – I think people are quite up for hearing things which are uplifting about humanity. So I commissioned eleven documentaries in the second half of 2017. I’ve just started on the next five. They are very varied subjects which range from restorative justice to proxy marriage to social media addiction and all things in between. They also range from traditional observational documentary to things that are much closer to the border of factual entertainment. And to some degree they have been done in the spirit of experimentation, to see what fits happily onto the channel which has been built up on acquisitions, what people find an easy transition to if they’re watching the 60 minute, relatively high budget documentaries which are the foundations of the channel.

CN: What don’t you commission?

AG: YouTube is the core online presence of Real Stories and there are certain subject areas which are vulnerable on YouTube to being demonetised or slapped with an 18 certificate – in other words, are vulnerable to being made invisible. So I was careful to stay a long way inland from those borders so the investment wasn’t at risk in that way. There are plenty of places you can go to make documentaries about ISIS or fetishes and this doesn’t need to be one of them. My favourite part of the brief is the slide that says what we don’t want at the moment. And that reads pretty much like my Channel 4 job description – sex, drugs and rock and roll. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt and am happy to move on.

CN: Who have made the films?

AG: By and large these commissions have been done with small indies and individual filmmakers. I have made a real effort that they not be the usual suspects. So when I read down a list of the commissions to date, the first ones were directed by the founder of a new BAME-owned company (Andy Mundy Castle, Brittle Bone Rapper); a woman returner who’s coming back from a career break (Debbie Howard, Absent From Our Own Wedding); a woman who has been in Holloway prison twice for gang-related offences but is now on the straight and narrow (Nicole Stanbury, Sorry I Shot You).

A number are first-time commissions. Taken as a whole, they are quite a weird and wonderful bunch that are really talented and have delivered without exception. At a tight tariff like the UK online video one, if you’re not going to take a risk on emerging talent then, when will you ever?

Sorry I Shot You documentary film thumbnail poster Real Stories Little Dot Studios

Sorry I Shot You

FULL INTERVIEW can be read on Carol’s blog here

My Short Form Video Commissions at Channel 4

This post is mainly for my convenience to refer to but might as well stick it here for posterity…

Tattoo Twists thumbnail Channel 4 All4 short form video thumbnail

Tattoo Twists

Tattoo Twists
The Black Lesbian Handbook
Drones in Forbidden Zones
Futurgasm
Daughters & Fathers
24 Hour Party Politics
Double Vision
Body Mods
*ipsters (Mipsters – pilot ep)
Oh Shit I’m 30
My Secret Tattoo
WTF is Cosplay?
Circus Girls
Crazy Sexy Cool
The Male Body Handbook
Young & Minted: I Won the Lottery
What Women Really Want (pilot ep)
L.A. Vice
The Weird Fetish Handbook
The Weird Fetish Handbook, Vol. 2
Rick’s Tricks of the Political Trade
Naked & Invisible
Head-hacks (pilot)
Young Swingers
SeXXXy Tats
Tattoo Fails
Body Mods S2
World’s Most Weirdest Sports (Extreme Unicycling – pilot ep)
The Casting Couch
My Pop-up Restaurant
The Black Lesbian Handbook: USA
My 1st Tattoo
In The Future
Home Truths
Guess Who (pilot ep)

[This marks the end of Year 1 – 9 Pilots, 26 Series – no wonder I felt shagged]

Drones in forbidden zones thumbnail Channel 4 All4 short form video

Drones in Forbidden Zones

The Superhuman Body Handbook
The Highs & Lows of the Weed Business
Cannonball Re-run
Driving Sideways (x6)
Young & Minted: I Love Luxury (pilot ep)
The Only Gay Bar in the Village (x1 Mid Form)
Pimp My Limb
The Unlikely Bikers
FutureCops (Police Drones – pilot ep)

Scrapbook – The Superhuman Body Handbook

Just found this from a commission of mine for the 2016 Rio Paralympics – a short form video series for Channel 4/All 4

the Superhuman body handbook short form video series channel 4 all4

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:

Maltese-Ep1-Rike-Shmid-as-ELISA-and-Francesco-Scianna-as-MAURO

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.

Coincidences No.s 388, 389 & 390

No. 388 Smith & Cosgrove

mark e smith the fall singer

Smith

I am sitting having dinner in Glasgow with my friend and former colleague Stuart Cosgrove. An alert comes up on his phone that Mark E. Smith of The Fall has died. Stuart interviewed Smith when he was at NME. This morning on the plane to Scotland I was reading Stuart’s book ‘Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul‘.  In the bit I was reading it mentioned the song ‘There’s a Ghost in My House’. It reminded me of an 80s cover version by The Yachts, a single I have but haven’t listened to or heard for years. As the plane taxied in I looked for that version on Spotify. Unusually couldn’t find it. The version that came up was by The Fall – Smith & co. would have known it from being in the Manchester-Wigan Northern Soul zone.

No. 389 Cosgrove & McCallum

james-brown-singer soul

Brown

I am waiting at City Airport when I bump into another old Channel 4 colleague, Neil McCallum, ex-Head of T4/Youth Entertainment & Music. He’s also on the 10.20 to Glasgow. When he was at C4 I used to call him “the hardest working man in showbiz” as he was always first in and last out of Horseferry Road. As I settle down to Stuart’s book on the plane, buffeted by Storm Georgina, the first sentence is about James Brown, using his “hardest working man in showbiz” tag, comparing his workrate to that of The Supremes (their’s was even harder, which Stuart shows lay to some degree behind their eventual split).

No. 390 Chopra & Chopra

Deepak_Chopra

Chopra

Last week Deepak Chopra, the American guru character, came up five times – once in Michael Woolf’s ‘Fire & Fury’ (which we are reading currently for our book group); once in relation to Princess Diana; once in the Finnair in-flight magazine; once in connection with an app his son is releasing. But the irony was receiving this text from my friend and colleague Professor Paul Moore at the University of Ulster about my interest in coincidences:

“Saw this with you came to mind…

Live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and you connect with the field of infinite possibilities. – Deepak Chopra

from Zen Moments”

A meta-coincidence of the most satisfying kind.

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

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.

%d bloggers like this: