Archive for the ‘stories’ Category

4 stories from Songlines

Shane MacGowan

Songs move from generation to generation like lighting fagbutt with fagbutt

Songlines is a project I’ve been doing for some years recording the answer to the question “What song or piece of music means the most to you and why?” from all kinds of people. I feel a new burst of recordings coming on so now’s a good time to gather a few of the already published ones…

MC Hammer – Hammertime (the recording only)

The Blues (the recording)

Dayenu (trad.) (the recording)

The Pogues – Rain Street (the recording)

Channel 4 and Digital Participation

One of my current projects is Alone in the Wild. Cameraman Ed Wardle has gone into the wilderness of the Yukon to film himself and how he copes with 12 weeks of total isolation. Each morning, as part of the safety protocol, he has to send an “I’m OK” message. He does this by sending, from a semi-disabled sat phone (can do outgoing SMSs only), a short message which is posted on Twitter www.twitter.com/aloneinthewild . He’s just started his third week out there – you can see some of the early rushes here and here, more to follow tomorrow [he leaves off his tapes in a dead letter box-type drop-off from where they are later collected by helicopter or float-plane once Ed has moved on, so no human contact] – and already after this opening period, it is clear that Alone in the Wild is bringing new people to Twitter/microblogging as these screenshots illustrate:

Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 1Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 2Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 3Alone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 4Aitw TwitterAlone in the Wild twitterAlone in the Wild Twitter screenshot 5This is a good, clear illustration of how Channel 4 inspires Digital Participation aka Digital Media Literacy aka Being Digital [Digital Britain report] by providing a purpose or mission or story. “Inspires” is the key word – it is what is sometimes lacking from social networks and platforms, and it is what Channel 4 consistently offers – Inspiration is a rare commodity. Even Twitter is basically a tool in need of a task or purpose, it is only as good as the things people find to do with it. Alone in the Wild provides clear guidance on how to join in the conversation on Twitter, part of Channel 4’s commitment to helping drive Digital Participation. But Ed’s “awesome adventure”, his inspiring story of courage and endurance and an unquenchable desire to do the extraordinary (he has been up Everest twice, been to the North Pole, every year he tries to do a new extraordinary thing, but never has he done one in isolation like this, a whole new challenge, as much psychological as physical) his inspiring story is the real energy which is motivating people to have a first go at digital social media.

Can’t kid a kidmapper

cover by NC Wyeth (1913)

cover by NC Wyeth (1913)

Follow the Kidmapper: a literary blogumentary from Tim Wright

From 30th June to 25th August, Tim (who wrote MindGym with Ben Miller and me) is following a route across Scotland from the south-western tip of Mull to the outskirts of Edinburgh, as charted in Chapters 14–27 of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’.

You can follow his travels & travails at Kidmapper.

Tim considers ‘Kidnapped’ a fantastically exciting book – “the story of David Balfour running for his life across the Highlands, sometimes accompanied by tough and rebellious Alan, sometimes pursued by the English army, seemed so visceral and exciting to me that I wanted to try it for myself. So that is exactly what I am doing.”

From the blog you can read and discuss the book itself, listen to extracts being read out in the places the book describes and keep in touch with where Tim has got to each day.

“Perhaps there’s something you’d like me to do or think about whilst I’m walking. Perhaps you’d like me to visit specific sites and film them for you. Or better still, perhaps you’d like to come out here and join me for a walk, add your own responses to being on the Kidnapped Trail and have an adventure of your very own.”

If you want to start from the beginning, the first episode is on Tim’s YouTube channel and you can find him as ‘kidmapper’ on most popular web services.

So this is the latest chapter in Tim’s on-going exploration of web narrative, which incudes the outstanding In Search of Oldton whose launch I had the honour to host at Channel 4 way back when.

I’m feeling inspired now to handcuff myself to a blonde and run across the heather-strewn glens of ‘The 39 Steps’.

We seem to have a bit of a Hitch here, darling

We seem to have a bit of a Hitch here, darling

And on the subject of following…

You should follow me on Twitter here

Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) should follow Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) there

The English army should follow David Balfour there

Why all the following?

Medicine Chest

There was a rather jolly illustrated piece in yesterday’s Independent derived from my latest project, Medicine Chest.

cobweb

The online version sadly has none of the colourful visuals but you still get the idea…

When Nature Knows Best

The aim is to gather and preserve for the benefit of future generations traditional remedies and folk know-how in the realm of health and healing. I’m doing the project with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, where my old compadre Mike Saunders is now Director of Digital Media (we first worked together back in 1996 on MindGym in the red ant infested HQ of NoHo Digital).

We got the Jazz

Lafayette Flying Corps

The other afternoon I had a fabulous chat over tea with director/writer Peter Kosminsky (Britz, The Government Inspector, Warriors) about a forthcoming scriptwriting project of his. It was refreshing for me because the conversation centred on stories which is not usually the focus of much of my work in the Factual arena. Stories are so fundamental to human culture and I came across the beginnings of a fascinating one today.

Like my earlier post Je suis un chef noir – Heart of Darkness, it’s a story involving France and Africa (in this case, indirectly through Afro-America) and racism (in this case, the prejudice of America not of France).

The protagonist is Eugene Bullard. The entry point is the Paris jazz scene between the wars.

The scene was based in the seedy quarter of Montmartre. Bullard, a black American born in Georgia or Mississippi [depending on what you read] in 1894, was programming Zelli’s Club, one of the key clubs in the area (set up in 1919 or 1922 [depending on what you read] by Joe Zelli, a London restauranteur or an Italian-American [depending on what you read] – guess he could have been both, a restaurant and club which dominated the scene til the 30s. The walls were decorated with movie star caricatures which were later emulated at Sardi’s in New York which is where I’m writing this post [in the city not the restaurant, that is]. I came across this story whilst reading about purposeless wandering around cities and today in my purposeless wandering around Gotham I found myself under the red awning of the Village Vanguard where, for example, John Coltrane played in 1961 – the year Bullard died in this same city. So all the skeins of this narrative have been weaving themselves together all day.) Bullard went on to own another hot jazz club, Le Grand Duc. Zelli’s, with its underground dance hall, was less upmarket than the Duc and regularly raided by les flics.

Back as a child in the deep South, Bullard had had explained to him by his father: “in France there are not different white churches and black churches, or white schools and black schools, or white graveyards and black graveyards”. His mother was a Creek Indian which makes the decoration of the biplane, above, all the more resonant.

When he was ten, Bullard stowed away on a ship and made first for Berlin or Scotland [depending on what you read], then London (where he was a boxer and music hall performer), reaching Paris in 1913. When the Great War erupted the following year, Bullard joined the French Foreign Legion. He won the Croix de Guerre for his role at the crucial battle of Verdun. He went on to join the Lafayette Flying Corps, a volunteer squadron who fought for France before America entered the war (the outfit to which the plane above belonged). He flew 20 missions and downed two enemy planes. So he was the very first African-American military pilot. His nickname was Black Swallow of Death. When the USA did enter the conflict in 1917, Bullard was transferred to the US Air Force and immediately grounded. He ended up back in the French infantry. He’d literally been “uppity”, thousands of feet uppity in the French skies.

Our hero died in poverty and obscurity in New York in 1961, having had a series of non-uppity jobs from perfume salesman to interpreter (for Louis Armstrong) to security guard, ending up as lift operator at the Rockefeller Centre (which I wandered past last night aimlessly).

Despite decades of obscure wandering in the aftermath of his Parisian heyday, Bullard was buried with military honours …by French Officers in the French section of the military cemetery in Flushing, Queens, New York. Two years before, the French had made him a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. By contrast, the Americans waited 33 years after his death and 77 years after his pioneering heroism to eventually make him a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Not the ending the story deserved.

eugene bullard

In the Beginning of the End (serpent mix)

 

jim morrison

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of everything that stands
The end, no safety or surprise
The end
I’ll never look into your eyes… again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free?
Desperately in need of some stranger’s hand
In a desperate land

In the beginning
God created
The heaven
And the earth

And the earth
was without form
and void
and darkness was upon the face
of the deep

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain

And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters

There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the King’s highway, baby

Weird scenes inside the gold mine

Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake
He’s old, and his skin is cold

And God said: Let the waters bring forth abundantly
The moving creature that hath life
And God created every living creature that moveth

Be fruitful and multiply

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind
And cattle after their kind
And every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind
And God saw that it was good

Now the serpent was more subtle
Than any beast of the field
Which the Lord God had made

The Lizard King

King of the universe

So God created man in his own image
In the image of God created he him
Male and female created he them

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the East
In Eden
And there he put the man he had formed

The West is the best
The West is the best
Get here and we’ll do the rest

The blue bus is callin’ us
The blue bus is callin’ us
Driver, where you takin’ us?

And God said: Behold
I have given you every herb
And the earth brought forth grass

And God said: Let there be light
And there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good
And God divided the light
From the darkness
And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Divide the light from the darkness

The killer awoke before dawn
He put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall
And he came to a door
And he looked inside
“Father?”
“Yes, son”
“I want to kill you”
“Mother… I want to… fuck you”

And God blessed them
And God said unto them
Be fruitful and multiply
And replenish the earth
And subdue it

C’mon, baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock, on a blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock, c’mon, yeah
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill

What have you done?

In the middle of the garden were the tree of life
And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

The voice of your brother’s blood
Cries to me from the ground!

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend
The end
It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me

He made the stars also

Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of God
Wandering, wandering in hopeless night
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned
Immaculate

The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end.

What’s up doc?

 

kurt & courtney

Enjoyed the afternoon helping judge a Mediabox/FourDocs short documentaries competition. Also on the panel were Nick Broomfield (The Leader, His Driver & the Driver’s Wife; Kurt & Courtney; Biggie & Tupac), Molly Dineen (Heart of the Angel; The Pick, the Shovel & the Open Road; Geri), Peter Dale – Head of More4, and Patrick Uden (The Apprentice).

Media Box is a DCSF fund to enable 13 to 19 year old disadvantaged young people to use creative media to express their ideas and views, gain new skills and get their voices heard.

The winner was a real stand-out piece but I can’t reveal it right now as the film-maker hasn’t yet been informed. [I’ll come back here and update this once it’s officially announced.]

Nick was very generous in his appraisal of the films, spotting the seeds of talent in the smallest details. Molly was incredibly thorough and assiduous. Patrick chaired with his usual purist standards (thank God there are still some around). Peter also enjoyed the viewings, impressed by the finalists’ get-up&go. He set less store by the presence of narrative than me – he reckons that will come in due course.

I suggested that the briefing should consist simply of two bits of advice:

  • tell a story that matters to you
  • and that said, for the most part, show – don’t tell

Patrick sets great store on deconstructing other people’s films, especially really good ones.

It was a good fun, good will-filled couple of hours and, of course, a privilege to kick thoughts around with such seasoned documentary makers.

I first came across Nick Broomfield when he was making ‘Driving Me Crazy’ (1988). I was working at Solus Productions, a co-op whose partners included Roger Deakins (Sid & Nancy, The Shawshank Redemption, Brother Where Art Thou, etc.)). Nick knew Roger from the National Film School and wanted him to shoot the film (he didn’t in the end, Robert Levi did). ‘Driving Me Crazy’ is about a film project going tits up – a theme/device Nick has used throughout his career. Hearing some behind-the-scenes stories from a couple of the mentors on the Mediabox competition, it was evident some of the entrants had experienced that sort of documentary trial&tribulation. A film about a neo-nazi about to enter the British army turned into a parody wildlife film on chavs when he pulled out. A young woman’s film about the joy dancing brings her got hijacked by a specialist dance director. That’s the great thing about documentary film-making – the development and production is often a story in itself.

The Future of Drama?

Girl Power – current episode from Kate Modern

[click above to watch – Bebo embed code not working and what do I know about HTML?]

Girl Power

Marks out of 10 for acting?

Marks out of 10 for writing?

And who is stalking Charlie with a video camera? Why?

What do people feel, as a potential audience members, about this?:
“At every stage that a user is involved with the story – whether they’re blogging, uploading photos or simply watching the latest episode – there will also be the chance to be involved with the brands that take part in the story.

No, I’m not talking about traditional product placement but the integration of brands from P&G such as Gilette and Pantene, Microsoft’s Windows Live, Disney and Orange into the plot in a way that gives users a reason not only to remember the brand, but creates a long-term relationship with that brand.”
(from a speech by Joanna Shields – President, International of Bebo – at an Royal Television Society Dinner in June 2007)

LG15 it ain’t…

Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.
W. H. Auden

   
 
dont nobody give a fuck,dis shit stupid

S. C. Entertainment

Street Certified Entertainment Presentz

Making an interactive drama out of a creative crisis

 lonelygirl15

The debate over how to do interactive drama has raged for well over a decade – I can recall conversations and gatherings about branched narratives, multiple endings and the like peppering the years of my working life since the earliest days of interactive technology. I still hear those kind of conversations from time to time despite the ubiquity of games on- and off-line.

I had the pleasure last week of hooking up with Greg Goodfried, co-creator of Lonelygirl15 in Banff, Alberta. I’m a huge admirer of LG15 as a beacon of interactive drama – it perfectly exploits the fact that the wherewithal to tell stories in interactive video has finally come to be. Lonelygirl points the way ahead in its well judged, fully engaged exploitation of YouTube, networks and collaborative media.

The work Tim Wright and Rob Bevan, my collaborators on MindGym, did in the late 90s on their follow-up project Online Caroline (and subsequent forays into interactive narrative) was visionary and on the right trajectory, but without the benefit of the ideal tools now at our disposal. Caroline was very much the mummy of Lonelygirl.

How KateModern goes, LG15’s new commission from Bebo in the UK, will be fascinating to follow. What’s intriguing is that Kate will be part of the same immersive fictional world as Bree and the Hymn of One so there’s every chance the stories will meet and cross-fertilise somewhere along the line.

How the hand-crafted story and community weaving of LG15 scales up will also be very interesting to observe.

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