What I learnt from Michael Apted

Director Michael Apted on the set of ‘Enough’ (2002) [ (c) Columbia. – courtesy of the Everett Collection]

It was sad to hear of the passing of Michael Apted on Saturday. His ‘Up’ series is one of the great achievements of documentary film and could never be replicated in the industry and the world as it is now. This is what I learnt from him when we crossed paths in Rome two years ago.

Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart (1992) with Sam Shepard & Val Kilmer

Bowie revelation

 

Listening to lots of David Bowie music over his birthday weekend (Friday was his birthday, 8th January) I had a bit of a revelation. One of my favourite LPs of all time – The Talking Heads’ Remain in the Light – I suspect was very heavily influenced by Bowie’s Lodger. I remember the release of Lodger, his third Berlin album, well, him explaining on some BBC radio show the background to the world sounds drawn from Turkey, Africa and other diverse places. Lodger was released in May 1979 (one of the great years for music) and Remain in the Light in October of the following year. The connection should have been obvious because both were produced by Brian Eno and he has proven himself one of the creative greats of our times.

Eno’s impact on Bowie’s work on Lodger and the other two Berlin records is very well captured in David Bowie: Verbatim, the archive programme made by my friend Des Shaw at Zinc in January 2016, which was repeated last night to mark the 5th anniversary of Bowie’s passing in that month – you can listen to it here

The Casting Game No. 227

Glenn Close (in ‘Hillbilly Elegy’)

AS

Robin Williams (in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’)

 

 

Best of 2020

The boldest film of the year – Lovers Rock

Film:

Lovers Rock

Babyteeth

Nomadland

The White Tiger

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Queen & Slim

Le Corbeau, Vertigo

Last year: Joker, Mid90s

Foreign-Language Film:

The White Tiger

Les Miserables (2019)

Last year: Parasite.

Documentary:

Crip Camp

Dick Johnson is Dead

Last year: Rolling Thunder Review

Male Lead:

Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger

Tom Hanks – News of the World

Ralph Fiennes – The Dig

Last year: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Female Lead:

Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit

Eliza Scanlen – Babyteeth

Kate Winslet – Ammonite

Jodie Turner-Smith – Queen & Slim

Last year: Elizabeth Debicki (Virginia, Vita & Virginia)

Male Support:

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Mauritanian
Mark Rylance – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Last year: Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin in Joker

Female Support:

Helena Zengel – News of the World

Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy

Saoirse Ronan – Ammonite

Olivia Coleman – The Father

Last year: Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart

Director:

Steve McQueen – Lovers Rock

Shannon Murphy – Babyteeth

Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

Last year: Todd Phillips (Joker), Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Writer:

Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

News of the World – Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin (though I don’t generally like him as a writer, too many words)

Rita Kalnejais – Babyteeth

Last year: Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Editing:

?

Last year: ?

Cinematography:

Andrew Commis – Babyteeth

Paolo Carnera – The White Tiger

Dariusz Wolski – News of the World

Hoyte van Hoytema – Tenet

Last year: Roger Deakins – 1917

Film Music:

Lovers Rock

Last year: Rolling Thunder Review

Single/Song:

Long Tailed Winter Bird – Paul McCartney

Reborn a Queen – Naughty Alice

Kunta Kinte Dub – The Revolutionaries

Last year: Lately – Celeste

Album:

McCartney III – Paul McCartney

Letter to You – Bruce Springsteen

Last year: Ghosteen – Nick Cave

Gig:

Sarah Jane Morris – Ronnie Scott’s

ROE – The Waiting Room

A Bowie Celebration – Empire, Shepherd’s Bush

Last year: Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets (Roundhouse)

Play:

0

Last year: A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios)

Art Exhibition:

London Calling (Museum of London) – the only one I got to this year 😦

A Surge of Power by Marc Quinn going up on the base of the deposed Colston statue, Bristol

Boy & Bear – Brandon Hill, Bristol (thanks to Dylan on my birthday)

Last year: Van Gogh in Britain (Tate B)

Book:

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free – Andrew Miller

The Plague – Albert Camus

Summer – Ali Smith

Last year: A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell; The Quiet American

TV:

Lovers Rock (BBC)

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

The Crown – S4 (Amazon)

The Romantics and Us (BBC2)

The Bridge S1

Last year: After Life (Netflix)

Podcast:

Heavyweight

Adam Buxton

The Happiness Lab

Last Year: 13 Minutes to the Moon

Sport:

Spurs 2 – Arsenal 1 (11.7.20)

Dance:

Mam (Sadlers Wells)

Last Year: The Red Shoes (Sadlers Wells)

Event:

Statue of Edward Colston being chucked in Bristol harbour

The Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Ireland

Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties

Dearly departed:

  • Andy Taylor (with whom I worked at Little Dot and Channel 4)
  • Albert Uderzo
  • Jimmy Cobb
  • Alan Parker
  • Terry Jones
  • Carl Reiner
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Sean Connery
  • John Hume
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg
  • Terence Conran
  • JJ Williams
  • Nobby Stiles
  • Nicholas Parsons
  • Tim Brooke Taylor


The only film I saw in the cinema after Lockdown

Best of 2019 and links to earlier Bests Of

Winter Solstice at Newgrange

In this era of video streaming here is a particularly brilliant (literally) application – sharing the Winter Solstice at the Newgrange passage tomb in Co. Meath, Ireland. I first went there in the early 80s when there was no visitor centre or formality and the nearby tombs of Knowth and Dowth were largely overgrown. Now it is (very deservedly) a World Heritage Site and this morning’s live broadcast via YouTube was brought to the world by Brú na Bóinne / World Heritage Ireland and Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí / the Irish Office of Public Works (OPW). Starting as the sun rose over the horizon behind the loop of the River Boyne we were enabled through live streaming to witness the entrance of the sunlight into the passage of this neolithic tomb and watch its advance down the passage to illuminate this house of spirits and mark the rebirth of the sun after the darkest days of winter. Particularly resonant of course this year.

The live commentary by two authoritative and warm Irish experts explained that this area is an”inland island” being separated by a huge loop of the river. The whole area is rich in neolithic remains and traces. They showed some aerial photos from 2018, enabled by that other important new camera technology, drones, revealing crop marks and patterns in the countryside in drought showing the presence of huge perfectly circular constructions (a henge) on a grand scale, unknown until that driest of summers.

The ability to share in real time sights which are not otherwise accessible to the world at large is one of the fundamental benefits of streaming video.

08:48 Just before the sun emerged over the horizon
08:55 view from the ‘light box’, the aperture into the tomb
09:00 the line of fog marks the River Boyne
09:03 the light in the tomb from above on the sandy passage floor
09:05 the sunlight enters the passage into the tomb
09:06 the passage starts to be illuminated
09:07
09:12
09:16
09:16
09:17
09:20
09:31

Wishing Simple Pleasures Part 4 readers and the world at large light after the darkness and Simple Pleasures galore in 2021.

Andy Taylor – Little Dot Studios

Some cherished memories of an exceptional man who played a big part in my career, first at Channel 4, then at Little Dot Studios. Above all he was a mensch (the highest any of us can aspire to).

2019
2019 before the TV BAFTAs
2016 on a panel together at Royal Television Society, Andy as Little Dot, me as Channel 4
19th May 2019

Bald Apes

“We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.”

― Tom Waits

Barbara Windsor

I interviewed the East End actress Barbara Windsor when I was writing about Joan Littlewood in 2013/14 during a sabbatical I took from Channel 4. This is a summary of the conversation:

Today I did an interview with Barbara Windsor who was one of the third generation of Joan Littlewood’s acting ensembles doing Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1959, before transferring to the West End, as well as Oh What a Lovely War on Broadway in 1965 (where Barbara was Tony-nominated). It was fascinating to hear how tricky Barbara found Joan’s loose, improvisational approach after a training in the West End where the script was the script and you did exactly what the director told you to do. But what emerged from the experience ultimately was the actress getting more in touch with her real self, after years of playing down her East End background. Joan really admired her work in EastEnders – and thought she was the only one with a decent Cockney accent. Barbara learnt from Joan during Fings at the Garrick when she was drifting into artifice and over-blown performance, too Judy Garland, not enough Bethnal Green, and carried that lesson forward for the rest of her career.

with Joan Littlewood in 1964

She told me a story about how she was first cast by Littlewood – something about getting mistaken for a cleaner in the theatre. I can’t quite recall it without digging out my notes.

I’ve just had a look online and found the anecdote. I got it the wrong way round – Barbara mistook Littlewood for a cleaner. Zoe Wanamaker seems to have played Littlewood in a 2017 BBC drama called Babs and she recounts that same story in her blog:

Despite mistaking Littlewood for a cleaner when arriving at a theatre in late 1950s London, the young Windsor dazzles the director with her raw talent. ‘Where have you been all my life?’ Littlewood wonders during the particularly memorable audition scene. Babs made clear that although Windsor didn’t always see eye to eye with her mentor, who favoured an unusual, experimental approach to rehearsing and staging plays, the director’s mixture of encouragement and tough love helped the starlet to shine.

with actor Murray Melvin (R) backing fundraising for the Joan Littlewood sculpture by Philip Jackson now in Theatre Square outside the Theatre Royal Stratford East

I met her in person one other time at Littlewood’s Theatre Royal Stratford East. She was in a foyer huddle with Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) at a performance of Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be  (I think, certainly one of the classic Theatre Workshop plays) around the same time.

The work she did with Joan Littlewood was probably the highlight of her career. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with a little Carry On…

Barbara & Sid James

Oceanic Global Film Festival winner

Dive Tierra Bomba Dive‘, the second film I have commissioned/execed directed by Joya Berrow & Lucy Jane, the dynamic duo who go under the name The Right to Roam, has been selected as one of the four winners of the Oceanic Global Film Festival. It is centred on a young woman who aspires to lead the fight to protect the marine environment of her native island off the cost of Colombia.

The film received a special screening (with director Q&A) on Earth X TV last week.

Lucy & Joya
Vimeo Staff Picked

The first film we worked on together was ‘Surf Girls Jamaica‘. It was recently spotlighted by The Guardian 

This Real Stories podcast is a good listen about the making of Surf Girls.

Coincidences No.s 291 & 292 – A London Boy

No. 291 All Things Must Pass

I go for my last run (of hundreds) in St Pancras & Islington cemetery. It’s only open on weekends at the moment due to Lockdown/Covid so this Sunday is my last opportunity. I am due to move house on Tuesday. I know every inch of this huge cemetery-cum-nature reserve and have deeply enjoyed the hours I have spent here running, walking and meditating. I jog listening to a BBC Radio programme (‘Archive on 4‘) about George Harrison’s first solo record ‘All Things Must Pass’. 

As I reach the gate coming out for the last time the narrator, Nitin Sawhney, reminds us that the record first came out in the UK 50 years ago on 30th November. This is 29th November. On the 30th I am packing up the house and home office of ArkAngel to move out. 

As I reach the side gate of the house at the end of the run George says (referring to the long recording process):

“…and it’s finished.”

No. 292 A New Dawn

I just received the following message (30 seconds ago via Facebook):

“Listening to it myself. Dedicating Nina to you. Xx”

It refers to this playlist, ‘Weekend at Home‘, created by my Best Man, and the track ‘Feeling Good’ (by Nina Simone). I’ve been listening to the playlist all morning on the first Saturday in my new home, where I’m sitting at my new ArkAngel desk.

About two minutes before the message arrived I got an email from a colleague/friend at Little Dot Studios. It was about somebody pirating ‘Surf Girls Jamaica‘ and at the end he asked

“How’s the new place?”

Exactly as I read the email these were the very words I heard from Spotify…

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

Yeah, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

And I’m feelin’ good

‘Feeling Good’ was actually written by two Londoners – Anthony Newley (Hackney) & Leslie Bricusse (Pinner) for a musical, ‘The Roar of the Greasepaint’ . As I finish off this post, on the ‘Weekend at Home’ playlist I’ve reached the track ‘The London Boys‘ by David Bowie. It was a 1966 B-side on Deram records which put out his early work. He sings it in a very Anthony Newley London style as Newley was a huge influence on Bowie when he was starting out. My move takes me back to my native postcode: London NW7

It’s a new dawn
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