Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017

Highlight of Doc/fest for me this year was meeting the legendary Walter Murch, sound designer and editor, who created the picture and sound editing magic of ‘Apocalypse Now’ and the Oscar-winning sound montage of ‘The Conversation’. He gave some real insights into the practice of editing, from overarching comparisons to architecture and choreography to frame-level detail in search of the perfect cut.

Apocalypse Now fan

The link between the ceiling fan and the chopper sounds suggested itself when shots between were removed

Another highlight was an energetic, extended conversation in the wake of ‘You Have No Idea How Much I Love You’, a documentary by Pavel Lozinski – or is it? (a documentary) On the way out of the Showroom Cinema I accosted a fellow producer and asked her whether she’d had the same reaction to the end of the film (basically a punch to the guts). We were then accosted by Amir Bar-Lev, director of the new Grateful Dead doc ‘Long Strange Trip‘ (just released on Amazon Prime) who had the same question. Between the Showroom and Exchange Square with stops along the way the three of us had our own Q&A discussing the ethics of shooting therapy sessions and how they can be shot in an ethical way which doesn’t disrupt the therapeutic benefit. I’d gone to see the film in the first place because one of the films I’m currently working on, ‘Love Lies Bleeding‘ (w/t, directed by Leslie Lee), includes scenes of this kind. Leslie and I spent the week before Doc/Fest working with the wise, seasoned expertise of the likes of Peter Symes and Jihan El-Tahri at Documentray Campus on the story structure.

You_Have_No_Idea_How_Much_I_Love_You

You Have No Idea How Much I Love You (Poland 2016)

More Sheffield adventures to follow soon…

 

A past Doc/fest: 2015 (rock, Kurt Cobain, etc.) ; Shorts ; Black Panthers ; Drones.

 

Coincidence No. 403 – Flamingo Club

17/5/17 Parque natural de las Lagunas de La Mata y Torrevieja, Spain

My Other Half & I were watching flamingoes from a hide. They were white apart from under their wings which had the intense pink we know and love.

17/5/17 La Mata village, Costa Blanca, Spain

I was reading outside a cafe after our walk in the nature reserve. The book was Evelyn Waugh’s novella ‘The Loved One’. I came across this sentence (on p.78), not the most likely of sentences:

Now was the time to watch the flamingoes and meditate…

natural-park-of-las-lagunas-de-la-mata-torrevieja

Down Memory Lane

In a few minutes the last ever match at White Hart Lane, home of Spurs for 118 years, will kick off. Although the new stadium will to some degree encompass the one we grew up with, it is nonetheless the end of an era.

Tottenham_Hotspur 19_April_2017

I first went to Spurs with my step-dad Maurice (who was a season ticket holder) when I was about ten. It was the era of Pat Jennings and Glenn Hoddle, then Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. We would sit next to a fat man with an unlit cigar and a highlight was always a cup of hot Ribena. An annoyance was Mo’s habit of leaving just before the end to avoid traffic – goals were always scored.

I got my grandfather Nat to take me once to see Tottenham V Leipzig in the EUFA Cup. He was not a regular at First Division  football, preferring the sidelines of Wingate alongside other emigres in camelhair coats with fat cigars. But this was special. Leipzig was his place of birth (and my dad’s) and he still felt an allegiance despite the impact of the Holocaust on his family. He landed in Croydon in May 1938 one step ahead of the Grim Reaper. My dad was an Arsenal supporter who followed his favourite goalie to Man U who Spurs are playing in 14 minutes in this last match there.

On the other side of my family, my other grandfather’s brother, Henry, had a beautiful death starting at the Lane. He went to a match for the afternoon with his son. Headed for home after a victory, did a bit of gardening (his profession), sat down in his armchair, and fell asleep forever. Way to go…

I did a bit of work once at Tottenham Hotspur Learning Centre beside the ground. It was in my early days at Channel 4. The digital project for Culture Online involved the telling of the story of Walter Tull, Britain’s first black outfield professional footballer and first Black army officer to lead troops into battle (during WW1).

It was around that time that I got to go on the pitch and touch the sacred grass, as well as seeing the dressing rooms. It was on a tour related to the Learning Centre work.

Quite often I have enjoyed the cafe lunch before the game as much as the match. When I go with my step-dad the banter is lively as he brings a touch of the old East End to the proceedings. On occasion I have met fans from Northern Ireland who fly over for every home match – how much does that cost a season?!

The last time I went was with Enfant Terrible No. 1, using my younger brother’s season tickets. I always love walking across Brucecastle Park from the car to the Lane. On that last time we walked back along the edge of the park past some beautiful old ecclesiastical buildings bathed in the late afternoon sunlight, a reminder that there’s more to the Lane than Arsenal toilet paper and mindless tribalism.

My other local team (in an allied sport) yesterday won the European Cup – Saracens in rugby union. I have been working in recent months at their new stadium quite a lot, including shooting a pilot live programme there. They used to be based at Southgate, not a million miles from White Hart Lane; then moved to a soccer stadium in Watford; and now reside in a revamped and enlarged stadium at Copthall, Hendon, North London. It was where my school sports days used to be held when I was around ten. The last home match I saw was against Glasgow Warriors a few weeks ago and the vibe was festive. Glasgow fans outside the stadium were sporting fezes (a Saracens tradition) alongside kilts. The one Scottish fan in our section passed round his hipflask of whiskey whilst playfully bantering with the Sarries supporters. After the match the kids ran on to the (artificial) pitch as usual and a spontaneous game of rugby started among the grown-up fans. I wish such a vibe of sportsmanship, friendliness and family on the new White Hart Lane.

 

Story Snippet No. 400 – walking backwards

We are sitting as a family at a spontaneous lunch outside of Amici on the high street (East Finchley). A man walks by. Backwards.

At first we all worry about collisions and him hurting himself, walking into a pole or tripping on an obstacle. We watch him cross at the traffic lights. People turn to watch him wherever he goes.

We are talking about mental health. Enfant Terrible No. 2 wonders if the fella gets a physical kick out of it like the elderly man in the short film Slo-Mo. This backwards walker is getting on in years. We all already know the compulsive runner with a backpack who used to run along this same high street, though has been spotted much less in recent times. And I’ve shown the family one of my favourite shorts, The Edgware Walker by Lee Kern, about another compulsive runner in my childhood high street.

He walks back past us backwards, disappearing down the hill, still turning heads.

 

Amici East Finchley

Update 18/5/17 Torrevieja, Spain:

From the balcony of the fourth floor apartment where we were staying I was watching the world going by first thing in the morning. Two Spanish schoolgirls were walking to school together. The one behind, dressed in red and yellow (the Spanish colours), was walking backwards, watching herself reflected in the windows of empty shop units, taking pleasure in reversing the norm.

Coincidences No. 401 & 402 – time & place

I leave Mint Digital’s offices in Farringdon to walk to the launch of Sheffield DocFest near Russell Square. I walk past a plaque marking the birth of “Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield“. This spot is 26 miles from Beaconsfield. I was working in Beaconsfield the day before at the National Film & Television School.

18193044_10155074839690867_4979884499563393200_o I’ve been working in Finland recently and kept getting confused by the two-hour time difference – my phone was on one time, my laptop on another. So I decided to dig out an old watch I’d had for years – an art deco style one with two faces so you can operate in two time zones. I got a new pair of batteries put in at Stockmann’s last week, the big Helsinki department store. I’ve been wearing it since. I bought it a long time ago in a small shop in Bedfordbury, Covent Garden – long since gone. It was called Simon Carter (after the maker of the watch).

As I turn off Theobalds Road (where the brown LCC Disraeli plaque is) into Lamb’s Conduit Street I walk past the current iteration of Simon Carter‘s shop. (One of the producers I work with has her office and home in its basement).

Coincidence No. 400 – of Paramount importance

I am heading over to Channel 4 for a meeting from Tottenham Court Road. As I come up to the Circle & District platform on changing at Embankment tube I turn round and spot my friend Scott from Aspen. He is in town for one day only on Paramount Pictures business, flying back to Colorado from somewhere in Northern Europe via London. We get two stops together and mainly talk movies. Small world.

embankment_station_sign_by_uponia-da3iff7

When I get to my C4 meeting – at The Regency Cafe, one of the best things about the Channel – I join the queue whilst waiting for my old colleague Thom to arrive. I notice just behind me in the line another Tom I know, the son of one of my old college friends. (He lives nowhere near there and doesn’t work in the area when last I heard.) Small town.

 

Story Snippet No. 399 – news commentary

In my local coffee shop, Maurizio’s aka Amici, there is a man who goes in early every day and annotates in biro the cafe’s copies of the newspapers, in particular the Daily Mail, both text and photos. Rumour is he’s a former journalist. By the time I get there the next wave of activity is under way. People are sitting around debating the daily annotations, their author long gone. This morning two middle-aged local women were connecting over the phenomenon, one sitting in the enigmatic author’s habitual window seat. I joined in. The non-window woman referred to the cafe as a “community centre”, celebrating the fact that, prompted by the annotations, you can discuss the news there freely without fear of offending or being offended whilst remaining lively.

I left after my emergency cappuccino and went back to the car, switching on Robert Elms’ bank holiday show on Radio London. He started playing ‘Shout to the Top’ by The Style Council. As the first notes played, especially the piano ones, it prompted this thought and subsequent email to Robert:

From: Adam Gee
Date: 1 May 2017 at 10:11:32 BST
To: Robert Elms
Subject: LA Style
Is it just me or did the beginning of this Style Council track sound like something out of LaLa Land? Do those Hollywoodfolk owe Weller?

Within 60 seconds he was reading it out and launching into his theory of the common roots of the band and the film soundtrack, as well as a brief evaluation of Paul Weller’s career. Always a kick. Gotta love London.

The Style Council

The one on the right shares a birthday with me and John Martyn

Update: 4/5/17

I got my second mention on Robert Elms this week. He wanted a suggestion for a ‘fourfer’, a quartet of tracks on a particular theme or by a particular artist which he plays every Friday. This was my suggestion:

From: Adam Gee

Subject: Fourfer suggestion

Date: 4 May 2017 at 11:53:49 BST

To: Robert Elms

Songs with bells in

Not little tinkly bells but full-on big ones

Think AC/DC – Back in Black or Pink Floyd – The Division Bell

He thought the category was too narrow and broadened it to ‘Songs with sound effects’

Artistic Devices: Hockney in London 2017

I was working at Chelsea School of Art in Pimlico recently and took the opportunity, after a meeting about a prospective TV programme, to nick into Tate Britain which is directly opposite and see the David Hockney exhibition.

To mark the occasion of this major retrospective, entertaining if a little rammed, I’d like to dig out my Hockney Picture of the Month, Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices, which is in the show of course.

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices - David Hockney

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965)

And to add an extra something to celebrate the exhibition I’d like to highlight some other artistic devices in evidence in this show. For the significance of ‘artistic devices’ I’ll quote from my earlier post:

The person portrayed is partly obscured by a pile of (obviously painted) cylinders. Above his head is a shelf on which are a selection of large brushstrokes. The cylinders are crude 3D representations, obvious devices or techniques, which stand out as abstract in a still figurative world of suits and rugs and shelves. The shelf is just a 2D line. The strokes on the shelf are more flat, abstract components of painting, exposing the technique and undermining the illusion. The pile of cylinders is actually painted on a sheet of paper glued to the canvas to leave the viewer in no doubt as to the artifice, physical materiality and flatness of the endeavour.

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Sunbather (1964) – water devices (although it’s complicated – Hockney had painted lines on his pool floor)

A Bigger Splash 1967 by David Hockney

A Bigger Splash (1967) – plant devices & more water devices

david-hockney-henry-geldzahler-and-christopher-scott-1968

Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) – glass devices

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970-1 by David Hockney born 1937

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1) – carpet devices

Coincidence No. 399 – Dictators

14/4/17 Screening of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ at The Barbican cinema, London to mark his birthday (16/4/1889):

Herring (based on Hermann Göring):

We’ve just discovered the most wonderful poison gas. It will kill everybody…

Adenoid Hynkel (based on Adolf Hitler, birthday 20/4/1889):

All right. Later.

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11/4/17 President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer at his regular press briefing at the White House compared Adolf Hitler to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

Sean Spicer (based on Josef Goebbels and/or a buffoon):

We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War Two. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.

If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.

Adolf Hitler

Screenshot 2017-04-14 01.49.19

Chaplin and Hitler were born the same year, same month, same week.

While Hitler celebrated his fiftieth birthday in April 1939, backing and speaking at the largest military parade in history,  Chaplin celebrated his birthday working on the script of ‘The Great Dictator’ which included a huge military parade and an extended sequence of a ranting dictator’s speech.

Both Chaplin’s Tramp and Hitler’s dictatorial scamp wore a toothbrush moustache.

Screenshot 2017-04-14 01.52.19

Coincidence No. 398 – dreamlife

I am in a cafe in Kentish Town with a Syrian refugee film-maker. We discuss my helping her get some job shadowing type work experience. I offer to contact a colleague at a particular documentary company. Within 60 seconds an alert comes up on my phone lying on the table indicating an incoming email from the boss of that very company.

We have been talking about dreams, half-dreaming, out of body experiences and premonitions. I mentioned my interest in coincidences in this regard – the unexplained, the patterns behind the surface world.

I suggest the best way to make a film of this film-maker’s dream-like experiences (which is her ambition) is through animation and a viable way of creating those animations might be by collaborating with students or graduates of the National Film & Television School. We talk about her recent interaction with the Head of the Film School and that he wasn’t feeling well the day they talked. Within 60 seconds an alert comes up on my phone lying on the table indicating an incoming email about the boss of that very institution who is stepping down from his role after 14 years.

Screenshot 2017-04-12 15.02.39

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