Archive for the ‘coincidences’ Category

Coincidence No.501

film set rehearsal lighting shoot deptford laban studio

Rehearsal & pre-lighting

Today one of the first dramas I’ve produced in a good while began shooting in Deptford, SE London. It is a sci-fi story set thirty years hence.

The Coincidences

I am producing a short drama for Red Bull Media House. The director casts a particular young British actor known from both movies and TV.

I met that actor three years ago through this very blog – he saw something I wrote about the performance movement pioneer Jean Newlove and contacted me to find out more.

The first location is found for the drama by the producer – it is a building called Studio Laban beside the creek in Deptford. Rudolph Laban was a pioneer of modern dance. He taught Jean Newlove who became a follower of his.

A producer from ITV is knocking on the doors in our street. I answer. She is looking for a place to launch a camera drone to film Jeremy Corbyn’s allotment which is behind our place. I offer our garden. One of the two drone operators is Phil.

The director of the sci-fi short choses his Director of Photography. He is Phil. I’ve never met Phil apart from the day of the Corbyn drone shoot, our first encounter.

Leaving the set tonight I head back to the West End to see A Taste of Honey at the Trafalgar Studios. The play was written by Shelagh Delaney, who sent it as a 19-year-old to Joan Littlewood who recognised her natural talent and staged it at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1958. Littlewood employed Jean Newlove as the movement coach of her theatre company.

The performance involves an on-stage drummer, George Bird. George trained at Trinity Laban College where the set is.

jean-newlove

Jean Newlove

Coincidences No.s 290 & 291

I’ll come clean – the numbers on these coincidences are completely random, but I noticed yesterday’s one (No. 288)  was the same number as the one before that, which I wrote on 25th September (No. 288). Which is odd as on both occasions I was trying to chose a totally random number. Why would my brain pick the same random number on two consecutive occasions separated by nearly two months? No wonder it’s so hard to win the Lottery.

Episode-288

No. 290 Lance on the boil

I am listening to the boxing match between YouTube creators KSI and Logan Paul on Radio 5. Steve Bunce is co-presenting with Calum McDonald. Bunce gets McDonald’s name wrong, calling him both Josh and Lance. “Where on earth did I get Lance from?” he asks.

I turn over to Radio 4/BBC World Service. A man called Lance is talking about cybersecurity for robots and automated hotels.

ksi-logan-paul boxing

No. 291 Nazis on the loose

I am talking to Enfant Terrible No. 1 about a Holocaust denier he met travelling on a car-share journey to Bristol the night before last. He paid this dirtbag £12 to get a ride down there.

I switch on Spotify as we are talking. I’m listening to some album called Classical Chillout – I wanted something to write to. The track that it resumes on is the theme tune to Schindler’s List.

Schindlers List liam neeson

 

 

 

 

Coincidences No.s 288 & 289

No. 288 – Matt A: Locke

I am in half-sleep early this morning thinking about a presentation I am doing next week at the University of Westminster on Public Service Media and about the fact that my old Channel 4 colleague Matt Locke is also speaking that afternoon.

I have the radio on in that half-sleep and I hear the (place)name Matlock (in Derbyshire) just after I think about Matt Locke. And then in the traffic report the fact that the A6 is blocked by floodwater in Matlock comes up. And then in the news a short while after the death of a woman in Matlock, drowned in the flooding river Derwent, gets mentioned.

Matlock Mercury floods 2019-11-09

Today’s edition

 

No. 289 – Matt B: Lenehan

This one is typical of the type of coincidence where you haven’t thought about something or heard a word for ages and then it comes up twice or more in 24 hours. 

I am at a seminar on James Joyce’s Ulysses at Senate House, University of London. We are talking about the Sirens chapter and the character of Matt Lenehan who in his diminutive creepiness reminds me of Peter Lorre’s character in Casablanca (Ugarte).

The next morning (today) I am finishing Patti Smith’s entertaining Year of the Monkey (her new poetic memoir, which revolves around semi-sleep states as in No. 288). It it she mentions that her late brother Todd’s favourite movie was The Beast with Five Fingers starring Peter Lorre.

I could feel the insidious fingers of memory rustling through the underbrush like the dismembered hand of the pianist scrabbling toward Peter Lorre’s throat in The Beast with Five Fingers.

(Good sentence!)

the beast with five fingers movie poster

 

4 things Kubrick predicted in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

2001 a space odyssey kubrick movie

I have been reading a slim volume on documentary-making this week and in it it had a resonant quotation from John Grierson’s wife, Margaret. The book, by the magnificently surnamed Patricia Aufderheide, got me thinking a lot about the film/video camera as a machine.

Intermission: Coincidence No. 669

3 minutes ago I had a text from director Mike Christie (director of the brilliant Jump London) asking whether I was still in Bath as he is going to be there this evening with Brett Anderson of Suede for a book event. I explained I was not in Bath, it’s just that Instagram seems to think my house is located at “Roman Bath” so I now use it as a codename for Home.

2 minutes ago I was double-checking Margaret Grierson’s name and Wikipedia pointed out that, although she was born near Stirling (where I am going later this month for Focus on Scotland to talk about the future of Documentary)  she died in Bath.

…actually, my bad, it was that other “father of documentary” Robert Flaherty’s wife Frances who said it:

“Our problem is how to live with our machines. … we have made for ourselves an environment that is difficult for the spirit to come to terms with.”

She was reflecting on Nanook of the North, Flaherty’s first film, and how the Inuit people, like the Polynesians, had a better balance with their environment and technology.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) famously opens with a sequence of ‘the Dawn of Man’ taking us up to the point where our furry ancestors discovered tools and then morphed them into weapons. Always a fine line between tool/weapon. Even when technology was a bone it was problematic for our kind. The bone is thrown into the air after the first simian Cain & Abel type murder and cuts to a space station turning in the black void.

2001_space station kubrick movie

A third father of documentary was Dziga Vertov. Coincidentally his name (pseudonym) means “spinning top”, like Kubrick’s space wheel waltzing through the darkness. Vertov’s masterpiece was Man with a Movie Camera (1929) which fetishises the movie camera as a machine eye, telling the objective truth. I first came across the film when I was studying Avant Garde literature, painting and film at university. On the other side of the room where I am writing I am charging up my not-often-used iPad ready for a story structure course I am attending at Ealing Studios (which date from 1902) this weekend – 21st Century Screenwriter with Linda Aronson. On the back of my first&only iPad is a quote from Vertov:

I a machine am showing you a world the likes of which only I can see.

The full quotation (in a different translation) is:

I am an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I’m in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations.

Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you.

How unbelievably resonant that is of 2001!  the machine – show you a world – freed from human immobility – in constant movement [that whirling space station] – manoeuvring – freed from the boundaries of time and space – all points of the universe – the creation of a fresh perception of the world – the world unknown to you.

Vertov founded one of the first Documentary groups, Kino-Glas – Cine-Eye. This famous still comes from Man with a Movie Camera:

Man with a Movie Camera eye 1929 movie dziga vertov

And this is computer HAL 9000’s eye in 2001:

hal 9000 eye 2001 space odyssey movie kubrick

HAL becomes increasingly threatening but when he dies our empathy turns on a sixpence and we feel sorry for him in seconds…

I’m afraid.
My mind is going.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
My mind is going.
There is no question about it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I’m a …fraid.

So the mechanical eye, the movie camera, is it a tool or a weapon? Does it empathise or is it cold as steel?

This is one of the greatest scenes in Cinema:

 

Now those 4 things I promised. I went to watch 2001 two nights ago at the Prince Charles off Leicester Square in 70mm with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (the cinema shows it every so often so well worth taking the opportunity). The projection suddenly stopped just as the glass falls off the table and smashes, near the end. They got it back up&running for the enigmatic ending.

1. The iPad

So this 1968 movie shows two iPads on the table when Dr Dave and Dr Frank are being interviewed for TV from Earth. iPads came out in 2010, nine years after when the movie is set.

ipad 2001 space odyssey movie tablet pc

ipad 2001 space odyssey movie tablet pc

2. Skype

Dr Heywood Floyd makes a video call to his daughter for her birthday.

videophone 2001 space odyssey movie

videophone 2001 space odyssey movie

3. TV Screen in the back of aircraft seat

When Dr Floyd is travelling up to the space station at the beginning of the space section he falls asleep in front of a movie in the shuttle:

2001 space odyssey video screen aircarft shuttle

And here’s what’s great about the internet.

Question: Which movie is shown during Heywood Floyd’s travel in the Pan Am starship? (posed by a certain Brian Hellekin [it would be a Brian] on movies.stackexchange.com )

Answer: (by Rob Manual who, weirdly I know from my Channel 4 days):

The footage was made specially for 2001. According to Creating Special Effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Douglas Trumbull

The movie being shown on the TV set in front of the sleeping passenger was a little more complicated. Kubrick wanted shots of a futuristic car, and close-ups of a love scene taking place inside. A crew was dispatched to Detroit to shoot a sleek car of the future which was provided by, I believe, the Ford Motor Company. The exteriors were shot in 35mm, but the interiors were shot without seats or passengers, as four-by-five Ektachrome transparencies. Using these as background plates for a normal rear-projection set-up, on actor and actress were seated in dummy seats and Kubrick directed the love scene. Shot on 35mm, this was cut together with the previous exterior shots, and projected onto the TV screen using a first-surface mirror.

There’s a colour photo of the actors and the car at http://www.iamag.co/features/2001-a-space-odyssey-100-behind-the-scenes-photos/

future car 2001 space odyssey

End of answer. Gotta love the Web.

4. AI

AI in the form of HAL 9000 is the big one. Back in ’68 Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke captured many of the key issues that are obsessing us today about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – “how to live with our machines”, how ‘the spirit comes to terms with such machines’.

dave hal 9000 2001 space odyssey

Dave killing HAL

It was not until Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2013 (which of course owes massively to 2001) that anyone got near Kubrick’s movie creatively and visually. What struck me most about watching 2001 again after so many years (I was about Enfant Terrible No.1’s age when I last saw it) is how resolutely cinematic it is. It wouldn’t play well on a TV screen. In the back of an aircraft seat. On a phone. Pure cinema of the highest order.

Coincidence No. 288

To mark the 13th anniversary this week of Simple Pleasures Part 4 here is a top-class coincidence.

Last night I go with director Victoria Mapplebeck to a screening of shorts at Samsung KX in King’s Cross organised by Time Out and Shorts on Tap. The fifth of six films is The Night the Wind Blew, a very good mid-form drama written and directed by David Alamouti. It features two young Anglo-Turkish brothers played by non-professional actors, actual brothers.

I vaguely recognise David’s distinctive name. And his face rings faint bells. I look him up in my phone – his number is there, we met at Sheffield DocFest in 2014 when I sat on a panel he was producing. We chat after and walk back to the tube together.

This morning I go to do a talk on media careers at a London secondary school in Leytonstone (Hitchcock’s manor). I am talking to one of the students and as we finish I turn to my right and there is a young Anglo-Turkish teen who seems oddly familiar. “Were you in a short film?” “Err, yes – how do you know?!” “I saw it last night!” He plays the bullying older brother (his name is Mujahid Guven). About 15 hours separate seeing the short and meeting the young star of it.

the night the wind blue short drama film

 

 

Coincidences quote

Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.

 

I’ve seen this quotation attributed to both Albert Einstein and Doris Lessing (the former seems to have the consensus). It links to my vague sense of being a Pantheist.

The last two weeks there’s been a Colombia thing going on in my life. It is not a country I have much personal connection with nor any experience of.

columbia wharf london river thames

columbia wharf horn stairs 1937

1937

As I was travelling along the Thames yesterday morning on the way to Ravensbourne university/media school to do some work on their MDes course, a postgrad masters programme which is kind of an MBA through the lens of Design, I passed Columbia Wharf, some way east out of the centre of town, on the south bank. This reminded me of, among several other manifestations over the last few days:

  • a documentary I am working on set on Tierra Bomba, a small island off of Cartagena
  • another documentary I have in the cutting room about Colombian BMXers
  • meeting a charming producer (in Waterloo a few days ago) from San Andrés, a small English-speaking island which belongs to Colombia but is much nearer Nicaragua – it was the stronghold of Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan, who was a thorn in the side of the Spanish and regularly ransacked Cartagena
  • several more minor sightings of Colombia and Colombian in shops and other places
Captain Henry Morgan

Captain Henry Morgan

colombian skull

Update 5/8/19:

model boat columbia

  • a model boat beside me at breakfast this morning in my hotel in St Ives, Cornwall is called Columbia
  • I turned on the TV in this hotel room the night before last and ‘Long Lost Families’ was on (one of my favourites) – the first story was about a UK woman being reunited with her birth parents in Colombia
  • the Tour de France finished a couple of days ago – the winner, the first non-UK one for a few years, was a young Colombian, Egan Bernal
  • I was at a play a few days ago, ‘Sweat’ by Lynn Nottage – it has a line where a man, Oscar, is assumed to be a Puertorican and he retorts: “Well, I’m a Colombian and I don’t know” (the question was do you know a fellow Puertorican who could burn my house down)

See also: 4 Pantheist Quotations including two more from Einstein

Coincidence No. 678 – Carpe Diem

patrick melrose benedict cumberbatch actor bath phone

Seize the fucking day

Monday: I am sitting watching UK dramas and International dramas as a judge for the Edinburgh TV Festival Awards in those two categories – I am taking a short break to write this. I am currently watching ‘Patrick Melrose’. Benedict Cumberbatch has just said the line: “Well it’s time to seize the fucking day.”

patrick melrose benedict cumberbatch actor bafta award

(At the TV BAFTAs last month, when they were taking a big group photo of all the winners, I was standing directly behind Benedict Cumberbatch. He had just won Best Actor for Patrick Melrose. He was hugging his colleagues with tears in his eyes, clearly very emotional about this first BAFTA win for him.)

adam gee 5 bafta awards

The morning after the TV BAFTAs – no sleep had: Carpe Noctem

Sunday: I catch the tail-end of ‘Something Understood’ on Radio 4. Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand is exploring immortality and the desirability of life eternal. She concludes with the line: “Momento Mori – remember you are mortal – can help me focus on the limitations of mortality and also the idea it is our greatest gift. But to that phrase I would add: Carpe Diem – seize the day – for who knows when we shall cease to be and what lies on the other side of mortality.”

Saturday: My Other Half and I are walking down the High Street. She is telling me about some deaths in the family of her best friend. I say: “You can only come to one conclusion: Seize the Day.” just as I say this two boys walk past in the opposite direction. One is wearing a red T-shirt with the words, in black: Seize The Day.

carpe that fucking diem tshirt

 

Coincidence No. 677 – 12th June

I am sitting in the kitchen reading an article about Anne Frank by Bart Van Es (author of the excellent The Cut Out Girl, the protagonist of which was married to one of Anne’s school friends).

anne-frank- c.1940

c.1940

On the radio was Robert Elms on BBC Radio London discussing the Chelsea Drugstore in the 60s.

1980 robert elms

1980

In walked my wife to talk about the moths eating her jumpers.

Anne, Robert & Una are all born on 12th June.

 

Coincidences No.s 723-729

No. 723 The Music Machine

Music Machine camden town london 19/04/78 Advertisement siouxsie and the banshees

19/04/78

I am walking through Mornington Crescent with my brother and we pass Koko under scaffolding. We discuss what it was called before being Koko. He says Camden Palais. I reckon he is getting mixed up with the Hammersmith Palais and it was the Camden Palace. In my head I am trying to remember what it was called when I saw Siouxsie & The Banshees for the first magnificent time there. I can’t. It was the Electric Ballroom at the other end of the street (where I first saw The Clash). What the hell was this one? Can’t recall…

It was The Music Machine.

The next day I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party. I am introduced to a woman called Heather by Alex MacQueen, Neil’s dad from The InBetweeners. Heather explains her production company is based behind Koko and makes a reference to Camden Palais. Palais or Palace? I ask. Whatever.

No. 724 The Slits

the SLITS punk band

I meet my friend Des Shaw from Zinc Media for lunch in Kentish Town. We talk a lot of music as usual and I mention my recent conclusion that The Slits were one of the most significant bands of our times. I have sent Des a podcast early that morning featuring Neneh Cherry in which she discusses living with Ari Up back in the heady punk days. Viv Albertine also gets mentioned.

That evening I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party with Victoria Mapplebeck and Debbie Manners, my colleagues on Missed Call which is our nominated film. Victoria mentions that her animators live next door to Viv Albertine of The Slits in a row of houses in Hackney that they somehow managed to acquire cheaply after a fight with the local council.

No. 725 Bros

matt luke goss bros

Matt & Luke Goss then & now

I meet my friend Des Shaw for lunch in Kentish Town. He mentions he has been approached to make a documentary about Bros in the wake of the BBC4 one: After the Screaming Stops.

That evening I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party with a woman called Heather from the indie production company that made After the Screaming Stops. We discuss the ethics around the documentary (which Des and I have debated earlier in the day). She explains the advice the company gave the protagonists about how to play things after the broadcast.

No. 726 Rory 

rory sutherland alchemy book

I am out in the garden, stretched out on a picnic rug in the Easter sunshine, reading Rory Sutherland’s new book, Alchemy, about not over-relying on the rational in creativity and innovation.

An email pings in as I open the book. It is from Rory about the Red Bull example which opens the tome. See Alchemy post.

No. 727 Fulwell

alex macqueen inbetweeners neils dad

I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party where I am introduced to a woman called Heather by Alex MacQueen. She is a Senior Executive from the indie TV production company called Fulwell 73. (Her and Alex were at the National Youth Theatre together.)

The next day I meet producer Matt Diegan in Camden Town (within a stone’s throw of the Electric Ballroom). He mentions that he has taken his football documentary project to Fulwell to make. He was the first person to ever mention the name Fulwell to me a few months back.

No. 728 Handmade

email about handmade films documentary bt amc

Before meeting Matt I meet the producer Kim Leggatt (in the same place at the same table from which you can almost see the Electric Ballroom). Kim tells me about the feature doc she has just made about Handmade Films and George Harrison for AMC which is carried in the UK on BT TV.

That evening an email comes in from BT TV offering advanced access to an “exclusive HandMade films documentary”.

accidental studio email about handmade films documentary bt amc

No. 729 Anni

I meet a distant cousin of mine, Josh, at a closer cousin’s house round the corner from me. He is an American film-maker over from Berlin where he now lives. We talk about the fact that our only surviving relatives in Germany live in Hamburg, the eldest of which is Anni, not sure exactly how old but must be really getting on some.

The next morning Facebook pings up a notification – it is Anni’s birthday, her 95th.

Aerial view of the bomb shattered ruins of Hamburg 1945

Hamburg 1945

Coincidences No.s 285-290

No. 285 Geno (16/4/19)

I am sitting outside Bar Italia in Soho talking to actress/producer Sophie Shad and her business partner Dalton Deverell. We are talking about their drama-documentary film Oh Geno! which is now available on Real Stories and which I wrote about in this post in November.

At the exact moment the topic comes up a Twitter notification arrives on my phone:

Liked by Geno Washington

twitter notification geno washington oh geno

 

No. 286 Riding House (17/4/19)

I am emailing Lauren Laverne about a project we discussed a couple of years ago and I remind her of the meeting at the Riding House Cafe on Riding House Street, close to BBC Broadcasting House.

I am at my book group and the friend next to me is talking about his recently deceased dad’s history – he was in the GB Basketball team at the 1948 Olympics and he had a furniture business based in Riding House Street.

1948 olympics GB basketball team lionel price

1948 GB Olympic basketball team

 

No. 287 Airplane (18/4/19)

I am reading Rory Sutherland’s book (see No. 284 above) and he uses an example of where you don’t want creativity or irrationality:

I don’t want a conceptual artist in charge of air traffic control, for instance.

A couple of minutes later I get a LinkedIn notification on my phone flagging up a post by consultant and author Mark Brown with whom I made a few films on creative thinking including The Blue Movie. His post uses much the same illustration of where you don’t want creative empowerment (an example featured in The Green Movie from 1994):

When you or I are about to land at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle or John F Kennedy, which of these values do we like the pilot to fly by? ‘Get it right first time’ please. And certainly please don’t experiment with a bit of ‘Continuous Improvement’ or ‘Innovation’ thank you.

the green movie cover design video

The Green Movie (1994)

 

No. 288 Corpus (11/4/19)

I get on a tube at East Finchley and the woman sitting next to me is reading a paperback entitled Corpus by Rory Clements. I reckon it’s a relatively obscure book, a Robert Harris read-a-like, from a couple of years ago.

I pull out of my bag a second-hand hardback of Corpus which I am currently reading for some easy diversion. We strike up a conversation about the book, Rory Clements and Robert Harris.

Corpus by Rory Clements book cover

 

No. 289 Amy (11/4/19)

I go to the last day of a photography exhibition in a church in Hampstead of rock/music photos by Danny Clifford (one time official photographer of Bob Dylan) – Rock Stars Don’t Smile. I chat to Danny for a bit and end up buying this photo:

amy-winehouse-by-danny-clifford

Amy Winehouse backstage at the 4th BBC Radio Jazz awards held at the Hammersmith Palais, London in 2004. Photo: Danny Clifford / FilmMagic.com

I really liked it because of the naturalness of the look, just the hint of tattoo, no mention of Blake in sight (unlike Danny’s big hair Amy on stage shots) and the colour of the dress matches her grave (which is a few yards from my dad’s so it’s a train of thought back to my old man). I’m a bit worried about breaking the news of the purchase to my Mrs as we don’t have much wall space left.

As I pluck up the courage to mention the photo purchase in our kitchen the next day Back to Black comes on the radio.

I’ve had radio coincidences like this before. Two days ago I met up with my old friend Ash Baron-Cohen at Bar Italia (straight after the Sophie & Dalton meeting in No. 285 above). I got my first cat, Woof, thanks to Ash who was about to chuck it in a river in a sack with rocks in. I offered to take her off his hands. To get her home a mutual friend offered me a lift in his car. As we got in and switched on the engine Love Cats by The Cure came on the radio.

 

No. 290 Dinner (12/4/19)

I go round to dinner to my cousin in Hampstead Garden Suburb. My Mrs has told me about the invitation earlier that week and said there was us and another family invited who my cousin and his wife didn’t know well. My other half has a ticket for a dance performance and my sons are out and about so there is only me going. I do a talk at the National Film Theatre for the BFI & Radio Times TV Festival then make a bee-line for the dinner.

tv in the digital age careers talk bfi and radio times television festival 2019

As it turns out I arrive on time, the first guest there, then a few minutes later I hear others arrive. As I wander towards the hallway a face appears framed in the doorway – “Hallo Adam!” It is the wife of an old interactive TV colleague from way back when. And then his face enters the frame. The other not well known family turns out to be someone I’ve been working with for the best part of two decades (and still do via the AHRC and Royal Holloway) and his wife who I’ve also known a long time and two of their children.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: