Archive for the ‘addiction’ Tag

Story Snippet: Harrison

Three of us are having a late night summer wander around the backstreets of Hampstead. We come to St John-at-Hampstead church. As we walk through the churchyard there are two winos sitting on the bench in the yard. I acknowledge them and keep moving round the side of the church – I have something I want to show my two companions. As we walk down the side path between the building and some graves there are three teenagers sitting on a bench smoking weed. I acknowledge them and move past. Just beyond them is the object of the diversion – the tomb of John Harrison, a key contributor to the measurement of time, the inventor of the marine chronometer, and a self-taught clock maker and repairer. Born in 1693, his claim to fame is that he worked out how to measure longitude at sea, vital to global navigation. He won a £20,000 prize for his efforts, although getting the Board of Longitude and Parliament to honour the award proved difficult and drawn out. We read the lengthy inscription which tells Harrison’s story as best we can by phone light. 

We head back to our main course past the weed-smokers and back into the church yard. There one of the winos asks, to our surprise, “Did you see the Harrison grave?” I confirm we have, taken back a bit by the fact he has any knowledge of or interest in the relatively anonymous tomb. The other one pipes up that he is actually George Harrison. (18th century John  Harrison was also, as it happens, expert in the technicalities of music, given his mathematical genius.) The jolt from the first one’s question reminds us once again that winos, street people, addicts, burn-outs, bums and the like are human sons/daughters, maybe parents, friends, certainly relatives. Too easy to lose sight of. 

One of the nominees in this year’s inaugural SMART film festival, our international Smartphone film festival, helps underline this same realisation – José Rocha Pinto’s ‘In the Depths of the City’

And on the subject of addiction and drinking, our Amy Winehouse film for MTV and Paramount was announced this week. ‘Amy Winehouse and Me: Dionne’s Story’ plays on the 10th anniversary of Amy’s trip to the great stage in the sky (23rd July 2011 – in the UK it TXs  Mon 26th July at 10pm on MTV):

 

In contrast to the predictably grim Mirror piece, our film (on which my focus was story and script) is constructive and substantial, showing a process of grief over a decade finally coming to its crux. It centres on Amy’s godaughter, singer Dionne Bromfield.

Here’s the trailer: play

 

Social Media Addicts Anonymous

social media addicts anonymous documentary film Poster real stories

The fourth of my documentaries commissioned for Real Stories (Little Dot Studios) went live last night. The full film is here for free [26 minute watch]. I collaborated with director/producer Simon Goodman of Showem Entertainment on this light, entertaining doc – we’ve been working on it since late 2016 so it emerges at an interesting moment in the evolution of Facebook and social media (Cambridge Analytica, betrayal of trust, abuse of personal data, #deletefacebook, etc.) It is our third collaboration after ‘Naked & Invisible’ and ‘Young Swingers’. All have a light surface but carry substance. This one plays out thus:

Six social media junkies put themselves in the hands of a psychologist specialising in digital addiction to try to break free of the clutches of social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. As a first step, they agree to have their accounts frozen and go cold turkey for a week. How long can they survive without their fix? What difference does this forced abstinence make to their lives?

These self-confessed addicts agree to ditch their virtual lives for some real-world truths by participating in a course of ‘shock treatment’ under the guidance of Harley Street counselling psychologist and cognitive behavioural therapist Dr. Becky Spelman.

The addicts range from 39-year-old Jill who says her social media usage is a marriage wrecker (“I use Facebook to avoid having sex with my husband”) through 20-year-old Freddie whose addiction to Snapchat has landed him three written warnings from work and who admits his smartphone usage makes him “become a bit of a psycho” to 30-year-old fitness model Tracy Kiss (2.6M Facebook followers) who says that her online activities are affecting her relationship with her kids to the point where if she doesn’t change soon “things will probably implode”.

The initial week-long programme raises all sorts of questions: What will they discover about themselves by going offline? How will they fill the online void in their lives and will the process create rewarding experiences for them? Can they find ways to stay connected to their friends and the world at large?

Through this group’s stories the film explores the wider issues for the generation now living in a world where they gauge their self-worth by the number of likes, favorites, or retweets they receive.

The final film was influenced by a comment made publicly by Sean Parker, the first President of Facebook, late last year: [about Facebook]

“It’s a social-validation feedback loop… exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

As the film entered the edit in February 2018, James Steyer, CEO & Founder of Common Sense, launched the Truth About Tech campaign, driven by the employees of social media platforms and other big players in Silicon Valley:

“We are into the appropriate and balanced use of technology. We are calling out the industry for their excesses and their intentional effects to manipulate and addict.”

120M Views 2017-05-24 Naked and Invisible video facebook

‘Naked & Invisible’ – 120M views in 10 days on Facebook

 

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