Archive for the ‘short films’ Category

The Golden Envelope

Exactly this time last week I was at the Festival Hall, London entering the auditorium for the Television BAFTA Awards. Our film ‘Missed Call’ was nominated alongside three BBC productions and, while I had faith in the quality of the film, I didn’t have high hopes of a win. It had been shot entirely on a smartphone. No broadcaster was involved at any point. It was fully funded by a privately-held UK indie (Little Dot Studios).

The team assembled in the afternoon sunshine in an urban garden on top of the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Hall. On the taxi ride in I’d noticed our table number was 007 so I was feeling positively Bond like in my John Pearse jacket. John I suspect is the only Savile Row-trained tailor cum filmmaker in London.

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At the appointed time we dropped down onto the red carpet and shuffled along. Greg Dyke was just in front of me. He soon gave way to Rob Brydon and Lee Mack.

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Once inside I found myself chatting to a man from BAFTA’s marketing company – he proved an important character in the night’s drama. Let’s call him X.

Oiled with champagne, I talked to various colleagues from the industry, many from my alma mater Channel 4. I entered the hall behind David Mitchell (who was talking about how we all pretend not to care about awards – but can’t help but care when we win) and Victoria Coren-Mitchell (who was talking about women not wearing pants). I had a brief exchange with Steve Arnott from ‘Line of Duty’ – he turned out to be Scottish, who knew?

As Graham Norton kicked off the show I felt increasingly like we had no chance. Until the Live Event award was announced and a Remembrance Day programme beat the Royal Wedding – at last, an underdog. I put in a small prayer for help from up there to my dad. I had bought a Farah shirt for the night the day before to invoke his spirit – he used to wear these very conservative Farah “slacks”. Apparently some how (Christ knows how?!) the make is becoming trendy again (again???).

Then it was the moment – Short Form Programme. They showed the clips, including one featuring Jodie Comer, the hottest of properties thanks to ‘Killing Eve’. Then two beautiful young things, boy and girl (still not sure who they were as I’m in my silver fox period and phenomenally out of touch) opened the golden envelope and said the words “Missed” and “Call”. There began a week-long buzz I can still feel. Our director, Victoria Mapplebeck, and me had a moment – made all the more beautiful by the fact that Jim, her son and co-star in the documentary, was on her other side. As we walked down to the stage I passed Andrew (Moriarty) Scott clapping with genuine enthusiasm and in front of him Phoebe Waller-Bridge being equally generous. That moment was both humbling and perhaps the highlight of the night for me. On the stage Victoria did a beautiful speech, Jim getting very well deserved applause, as did the iPhone Victoria brandished as the main tool of her trade. Hearing my name in that context was of course a kick. Victoria and I had started the project as a BBC3 series (which they rejected) just before I started at Little Dot Studios and I took advantage of the new job to realise one episode which became ‘Missed Call’, a high risk 19-minute unscripted piece whose ending we didn’t know when we embarked (would Jim get to meet his long AWOL father?) Watch the film here to find out…

The other thing that really struck me was how enthusiastically our win was greeted. Jim’s 15-year-old presence will have helped a lot. But so to did X because he promised to make a noise if we won and he whistled so loudly his wife smacked him.

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When we shuffled off in a lovely daze we went through an efficient assembly line of photos, signing for the individually numbered BAFTA mask, being interviewed. Victoria, Ananda Murphy (our stalwart producer) and I were the named individuals representing the winning production team. The next day I took the heavy bronze award into the Little Dot offices, holding it aloft like the FA Cup, and these are the massive smiles it lit:

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Eventually we were reinserted into the hall in our original seats and tried our best to concentrate, while texting our mums, spouses, children.

Then a bit of a shock which put it all into perspective. The memorial section in which, to my dark astonishment, the name and face of Anthony Owen appeared. I had no idea he had passed away. I checked after and he had texted me three days before to congratulate me on my new job at Red Bull Media House. Everyone used to envy his job title at Objective – Head of Magic. He got my kids tickets for Derren Brown, always generous and warm. I last saw him at The Story conference in February. A total shock. (You can help his family here.)

After the awards/programme recording concluded, a big photo of all winners was taken on stage. I was standing right behind Benedict Cumberbatch who was clearly very emotional about his first BAFTA win. To my right was Fiona Shaw who is an acting idol of my Mrs and Joan Bakewell. I had a brief exchange with that other underdog Huw Edwards (of the Remembrance programme).

On the way down from the hall I bumped into my old Channel 4 colleague, John Yorke, then Head of Drama. We discussed how I apply his book ‘Into The Woods’ (of which I am a huge fan) to documentaries, applying story structures more often discussed in relation to drama and movies.

Next a very nicely presented dinner with my team from Little Dot and ‘Missed Call’ and wafting around in a delightful daze. At one point I was accosted by a charming older couple who wanted to cop a feel of the mask. They did and we got chatting and it turned out they were the parents of Ruth Wilson. ‘Mrs Wilson’ was one of my favourite contenders for this year’s awards and I voted for it for everything possible. The gentleman was one of the son’s (Nigel) of Alexander Wilson featured in the drama. They introduced me to Ruth and we had a long chat, including about the fact I’d made a film about another Ruth Wilson last year ‘Vanished: The Surrey Schoolgirl’.

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A whirlwind of chat and booze until 3am. I bumped into these delightful colleagues from Little Dot who had arrived from BAFTA’s offices at mudnight, having clipped up the broadcast for YouTube – small world.

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After two and a half hours sleep I got up to go deliver a lecture at Ravensbourne film school. “The bad news is this is the first lecture I’ve ever done still a bit drunk. The good news is I have a great excuse…” Pulls out heavy, shiny mask (from the unglamorous plastic bag I was using to take it into the office after).

 

 


Winner’s acceptance speech by Victoria Mapplebeck for Missed Call in the Short Form Programme category

Oh my god!  I just want to say thank you to Adam Gee who commissioned this.  He is at Little Dot Studios, commissioned it for Real Stories. This was a tricky film, as you can see, because I’m both director and parent to the fantastic Jim, and that meant I needed ongoing support from this fantastic dream team of commissioners and editors and producers.

I think it’s proof… I hope the film is proof that small is beautiful, because I shot the whole thing on that phone, and when we needed an end credit composer, Jim took his phone out and composed the end credits, and even better gave me the rights for a pair of trainers.

So, yes, I just want to say — I think you deserve it every bit as much as we do.  Jim is the star of the show.  It’s hard being in a film at 15 and he did brilliantly.  So thank you.

 

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David v Goliath

adam gee victoria mapplebeck bafta awards nominees party april 2019

This is Victoria Mapplebeck, director, and me tanked up on free Taittinger above the Thames, overlooking the dome of St Paul’s, the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheesegrater and other great London landmarks. It is the Nominees Party for the BAFTA TV Awards which this year are in at least one respect a landmark in themselves thanks to a new award being presented in two weeks’ time.

It is significant that the newest category for the TV BAFTA Awards is Short Form Programme, marking the passage of online digital video into the mainstream of television. This year is the second year of the category and the first year Little Dot has entered. (Last year I was involved in the judging of the inaugural awards because I knew I might well have conflicts of interest thereafter).

Also significant is the nomination we were delighted to receive at the end of last month in this category for our Real Stories Original ‘Missed Call’. The rest of the nominations list is filled entirely with BBC productions. So that’s a broadcasting Goliath up, not against another broadcaster, large media owner or brand, but a privately held UK indie which invested its hard-earned cash in original unscripted content.

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To date Little Dot has commissioned two dozen factual originals (that was the task I was brought in to do) and they are starting to make their mark in a rich mix of ways.

As well the BAFTA recognition, ‘Missed Call’ won the Social Media category of the AHRC Research in Film awards, one of only five categories. These spotlit the critical role of research in film-making, a vital aspect which rarely gets the limelight. The 19-minute documentary premiered in London’s West End at Open City Docs where it was nominated for Best UK Short Film. It was selected as a Finalist at the iPhone Film Festival, reflecting the fact it was shot entirely on an iPhone X, the first professional documentary made on the device. It won the Best UK Film Award at the Super Shorts London Film Festival, and has shown at a variety of film festivals.

Some of the Real Stories Originals have played well in online realms, such as ‘Sorry I Shot You’, a documentary on restorative justice in action, which was in the Official Selection of the Webdance Film Festival; ‘Finding Fukue’, a co-commission with CBC in Toronto, which won Best Film at the National Screen Institute of Canada Online Short Film Festival; and ‘Travelling on Trash’ which won a Gold Award at the Spotlight Documentary Film Festival.

Others have enjoyed an on-the-ground life across the globe in festivals from Queensland, Australia (‘Through the Eyes of Children’) via Oakland, California (‘Black Star’ at Black Arts Movement (BAM!) Film Festival) to Sheffield, England (‘Surf Girls Jamaica’, which picked up a Best Women in Adventure Film award).

One of the most pleasing pieces of Real Stories Original silverware was winning the Best British Film gong at the London Surf Film Festival. Who knew? London’s got plenty going for it but the pounding of the waves is but a distant dream. Now that BAFTA is a not so distant dream – the ceremony is on Sunday 12th May (on BBC1 hosted by Graham Norton) and whether it’s David or Goliath’s night the Real Stories team will enjoy the ride…

bafta tv awards 2019 short form programme nominations missed call

Missed Call was directed by Victoria Mapplebeck and produced by Amanda Murphy (Field Day) :: Sorry I Shot You was directed by Andy Mundy-Castle (DocHearts) :: Travelling on Trash was produced by Deborah Charles (The Distillery London) :: Through the Eyes of Children was directed & produced by James Lingwood (Big Pond) :: Surf Girls Jamaica was directed & produced by Joya Berrow & Lucy Jane (Right to Roam) :: Black Star was directed and produced by Sameer Patel :: Finding Fukue was directed by Daniel Roher & Edmund Stenson and produced by Felicity Justrabo.

The time machine in your pocket

Real Stories Original Missed Call , shot entirely on an iPhone X, has been nominated in the Social Media Short category at the AHRC Research in Film Awards 2018, which take place on 8th November at BAFTA in London. Extracts from a related article championing smartphone filmmaking in this week’s Broadcast:

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The time machine in your pocket

The intimacy and ubiquity of smartphones make them ideal for telling personal stories, argue Victoria Mapplebeck and Adam Gee

Missed Call

Production company Field Day Productions
Commissioner Adam Gee, Little Dot Studios
Length 19 minutes
Producer/director Victoria Mapplebeck
Executive producers Amanda Murphy; Alex Hryniewicz; Andy Taylor

Making the most of the smartphone

Adam Gee
Commissioning editor, Little Dot Studios

I commissioned Missed Call partly because I am a massive advocate of smartphone filmmaking. I also consider Victoria’s 2015 film 160 Characters a pioneering work in this territory.

What’s so special about what is effectively the prequel is that not only was it made largely on mobile phones, but also the narrative is derived from the contents of one old mobile in particular. It contains a resonant text thread that captures the story of a key love affair in the life of the director-cum-protagonist.

Missed Call similarly revolves around mobile phone content – video, photos, emoticons, animations, texts. The aesthetic of the film is rooted in this content, which gives it an original feel.

Between the old Nokia of the first film and the new generation iPhone of this second, the technology has advanced, the details of the graphics evolved, so the look & feel has moved on.

Because the commission coincided with the noisy launch of the iPhone X, I thought we might as well take advantage of the coincidence and be pioneers with the new tech.

I’d seen Michel Gondry’s scripted short Détour, which was shot entirely on iPhone 7. That planted the iPhone seed and I asked Little Dot to buy the then brand-new iPhone X for Victoria to use.

She complemented it with a decent mike (Rode SmartLav+ Lavalier) and a stabiliser (Lanparte 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal) and then got the ball rolling. She started by using it for audio-recording conversations with her son Jim, to make sure he was comfortable, eventually segueing into video recording.

Intimacy and ubiquity

The power of Smartphone filmmaking is intimacy and ubiquity. The kind of intimate conversations Victoria and Jim managed to capture in a natural way were the result of the camera-phone being small and unobtrusive, with no crew attached – part of everyday contemporary life.

And it’s in your pocket all your waking hours (and not uncommonly beside the bed even in your non-waking ones, as we see in Missed Call).

Between this distinctive pairing of characteristics, a whole new highly accessible realm of film-making opens up.

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Victoria Mapplebeck
Producer/director
Reader in digital arts at Royal Holloway, University of London

How do you reconnect with a father who’s been absent for over a decade? What do you write, what do you say? Add to that dilemma a teenage boy and the realisation that this private journey would very quickly become a public one. There were a lot of sleepless nights on Missed Call, the first commissioned short documentary to be shot on an iPhone X.

The doc is a sequel to 160 Characters, my first smartphone short, which I made for Film London. It brought to life a three-year SMS thread between myself and my son’s father, charting the story of how we met, dated for just a few months, broke up and subsequently dealt with an unplanned pregnancy.

Missed Call explores my relationship with my now fourteen-year-old son Jim. His father came to see Jim a handful of times when he was a baby before deciding that he didn’t want to be involved. Last year, Jim decided he wanted to meet his father and asked if I would make contact with him again.

Executive producer Amanda Murphy helped me navigate the many compliance and ethical issues we faced throughout production. Our aim with Jim’s dad was to preserve his anonymity and to protect Jim in an uncertain unfolding narrative. Squaring the circle of being both filmmaker and parent made this one of the most challenging films I’ve ever made.

For Jim, being filmed by his mum with an iPhone X was no big deal. When he looked into the lens, all he saw was me.

But in my 25 years as a self-shooting director, the camera I film with has gone from needing a bag the size of a small suitcase to one that fits in my back pocket.

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Our phones are like time machines

There’s a great scene in Mad Men when Don Draper is meeting with the team who invented Kodak’s Carousel. As he clicks through his own family album in a darkened boardroom, he begins his pitch:

“In Greek, ‘Nostalgia’ literally means the pain from an old wound, it’s a twinge in your heart… It’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards, it takes us to a place where we ache to go again…”

Our mobile phones have become our time machines. My vintage Nokia lies at the back of my kitchen drawer, holding that all-important first text message from Jim’s dad. My new iPhone X can access that devastating last email from him before he cut all contact a decade ago. It also contains the first text I sent him after 12 years of radio silence – and 13 days later, his reply.

My phone contains good memories too: 26,000 photos; 3,000 videos; and the jokey texts Jim sends me from bedroom to living room, requesting another five minutes on the Xbox.

You may love your phone, you may hate it, probably both, but hold it close. It’s your own personal time machine – it connects you with your past, your present and your future. It holds the traces of all your time travel, all the stories that shape you, the good and the bad… forever.

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{extracts courtesy of Broadcast – full article is here}

 

Tampere, Finland

This week I had the pleasure of visiting the first place I’ve been to in Finland outside of Helsinki. I’ve worked with the Finnish state broadcaster YLE for some years now, usually in their offices at Pasila towards the north of the capital. On Wednesday I gave a talk on Short Form Video as part of their FutureZone series at their Tampere offices (Mediapolis). Tampere is 160km north of Helsinki, the second or third largest city in Finland (depending on how you are measuring) and the largest inland urban population in the Nordic countries. It is situated between two large lakes.

The event was delightfully hosted by YLE news anchor/journalist Milla Madetoja who presents the regional news nightly. Finland is divided into 9 regions which become larger and more sparsely populated as you head north.

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Selfie by Milla Madetoja

At lunch I was asked by the Head of Current Affairs to explain what was going on in the UK with Brexit. I couldn’t.

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Tervetuloa! / All welcome! poster

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Robot camera in news studio

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No-nonsense regional news studio (one of a pair)

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Photos of famous old Finnish stars around the Mediapolis auditorium

Oh Geno (Gee Knows)

screening of oh geno at curzon bloomsbury 23 october 2018

Curzon Bloomsbury 23 October 2018 – Dalton Deverell (Prod) Sophie Shad (Wr/actress) Onyinye Egenti (Dir) GENO Washington ??? (Ram Jam Band bass player)

On arrival at the Curzon Bloomsbury on Tuesday evening to see a drama-doc short ‘Oh Geno!’ I was greeted with a lovely surprise – the director Sophie Shad welcomed me and explained that the film had come about because of me. I had no idea. But was delighted. Here’s how it happened…

I was introduced to Sophie through a fellow trustee at the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley, the oldest purpose-built cinema in the country (which is about to join the Curzon group – there’s a Company Members’ meeting going on as I write but I’m 8,000 feet above Finland so unfortunately can’t be there).

Sophie had just produced her first scripted short ‘Kitty’s Fortune‘ (2016), a story set in Auschwitz, and came to see me at Channel 4 about next moves with her producing partner Dalton Deverell. They were thinking of following up with another holocaust story. During the course of the chat it came to light that Sophie’s grandfather is none other than Geno Washington, the soul singer (who I first came across through Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ eponymous song).

That man took the stage, his towel was swingin’ high
(Oh Geno!)
This man was my bombers, my dexys, my high
(Oh Geno!)
How the crowd, they all hailed you, and chanted your name

I gave the opinion that at that particular juncture a holocaust story might be especially challenging to get off the ground and perhaps the Geno connection was a more joyful route for the times and a better use of weapons in their young armoury.

We discussed a short form documentary series in the wake of that meeting but it never quite came together, I left Channel 4 and our ways parted (largely because their focus was on scripted).

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A few weeks ago an invitation arrives for the screening and I am surprised and delighted the Geno project came off. What I hadn’t realised was that it was on leaving that initial meeting at Horseferry Road that the pair of them determined on making a film about Geno.

Sophie kindly explained my role in the genesis of the film in the Q&A after the screening to 150 delighted audience members. Besides her and Dalton on the panel was the director,Onyinye Egenti, and the great man himself, Geno. Geno bantered with me in the audience, saying I was to blame, with his crazy infectious laugh.

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The film is to debut at Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York next month. It is a really well scripted piece focused on the meeting of Geno and his wife-to-be, Frenchy (Sophie’s grandmother) in a London club in the mid-60s. He was just out the US Air Force, getting to love Britain. She was a Jewish refugee from France, a single mum and feisty club manageress. Sophie plays her own grandmother – which has a certain resonance – with a beautiful stylishness (the camera loves her). The moment zoomed in on is just right to capture the essence of an extraordinary couple. And the ending is pulled off with aplomb – avoiding the common pitfall of the punchline-type ending of short dramas (it has the punch-line dynamic but it is subtle and judged just right).

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Sophie Shad plays Frenchy

At the screening I found myself sitting beside the young actor who portrayed Geno, Edward Nkom. He captures the physical charm of Geno well.

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Edward Nkom plays Geno

It will be interesting to see if this nugget develops further and into what – scripted, drama-doc, it could go in various directions. I’d love to see it evolve into an iterative project centred on this fascinating couple.

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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).

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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)

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A random still from Tattoo Fails

Travelling on Trash

My fifth commission for Real Stories is ‘Travelling on Trash‘. You can watch it here (14 mins). It was made by The Distillery London.

travelling on Trash Poster real stories little dot studios

An epic adventure sailing down the Mississippi on a raft of plastic bottles

Six friends sail down the Mississippi, one of the most polluted rivers in the world, on a raft made of plastic bottles, to explore how plastic and other pollution is affecting America’s iconic river.

The raft, constructed from used bottles and other repurposed materials, travels down the second longest river in the USA for 56 days. Enthusiastic but inexperienced, the crew of young friends are battered by extreme weather changes, an infestation of bugs, boat breakages and the realities of finding shelter every evening in time for nightfall.

Their epic journey takes them from Minneapolis, through the confluence with the Wisconsin river and then the Ohio. They stop in Baton Rouge to have their river water samples tested in the labs of Louisiana State University. They carry on past New Orleans to finally reach the sea at the Gulf of Mexico. But the destination is not as important as the friends’ experiences along the way, above all their contact with the locals who share their first-hand accounts of how pollution and plastic is affecting one of the world’s great rivers.

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
Extreme Unicycling
Crazy Sexy Cool
The Male Body Handbook
Young & Minted: I Won the Lottery
What Women Really Want (pilot ep)
L.A. Vice
The Bizarre Fetish Handbook
The Bizarre 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]

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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

A cool 100 Million

One of my last commissions at Channel 4 – made with Simon Goodman of Showem Entertainment. Scored over 100,000,000 views in 5 days. Been going up a million every 3 hours today. This cut-down looks like it’s been edited by a monkey but WTF, you can’t have everything. And of course we don’t entirely believe Facebook numbers but 102,000,000 is really big as bogus numbers go.

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Naked & Invisible – the green grocer episode butchered

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