Archive for the ‘channel 4’ Tag

Moon Shots

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission resonated strongly for me. I consider Neil Armstrong’s foot touching the moon one of the two most significant events of the 20th century. The other is the explosion of the atom bomb in Hiroshima.

I watched the moon in our back garden on the eve of Blast Off + Half-a-Century – it looked full, technically one night off I think. It was slightly yellow, the surface patterns visible from the suburbs of N2.

the moon london 15th July 2019

The moon, a eucalyptus and our garden shed

During the night I caught a bit of a BBC World Service podcast on Radio 5 – in the morning I started listening to the 11-part series, 13 Minutes to the Moon, presented by Kevin Fong.

But only in London, before the day was out, would you by chance cross paths with not only an Eagle lunar landing craft, but also a Saturn 5 landing capsule.

neil armstrong portrait photograph NASA

At 09.32 on 16th July, the time of Apollo 11 lift off, I published a photo of Neil Armstrong from the Wall of Honour in our downstairs loo. It is a signed photo, the smudged signature proving it is an actual individually signed document. The smudge was made by Mark Reynolds’ auntie in Leeds who thought it was a printed moniker so wet her finger and wiped it through in 1969. She was wrong. Mark Reynolds was my trusty editor in the 80s. We made a documentary together about the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman. I swopped the photo Mark wrote away for in his childhood for a signed Damned single from Loppylugs in Edgware. One of my better deals. I’m reflected in the moon in the photo of the photo.

In the evening I went to a screening by Netflix of the documentary The Great Hack about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica outrage, coming out on 24th July on a data-driven, aspiring monopoly digital platform near you. It was an interesting evening which included taking a leak next to the CFO of Cambridge Analytica and bumping in to an old college contemporary of mine, Chris Steele, author of the notorious Trump-Russia dossier. A chat with Riz Ahmed. Sitting in front of Brittany Kaiser, the protagonist of the film.

But the highlight of the evening – in the Dana Centre of the Science Museum – was walking out past the lunar lander on the left, covered in the crinkly gold foil mentioned in Episode 1 of the podcast, and the re-entry capsule on the right. Not something that remotely crossed my mind as I enjoyed that first episode some ten hours before and ten miles away.

The replica Apollo Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), in the London Science Museum.

Apollo Lunar Excursion Module (LEM)

Apollo 10 Command Module | Science Museum

Apollo 10 Command Module

On the tube home from South Kensington I was sitting chatting to Dr Kevin Fong’s agent – Kevin had been at the Netflix screening unbeknownst to me.

When I walked up my street on the way back home I looked up and caught the moon, now fully full, between two suburban rooftops and the disc was halved by the shadow of an eclipse. Wondrous.

As I write this it is Day 3 of the mission. Little Dot Studios where I have been working the last couple of years has brilliantly produced a marathon 6-day live broadcast on the notorious Facebook and the dubious YouTube bringing us the transmissions from Apollo 11 and Mission Control from NASA’s archive, courtesy of my previous employer, Channel 4. Moon Landing Live. (I proposed this programme in 2014 when I was still at C4, a bit ahead of the curve.) If you shoot for the stars, you may hit the moon.

 

Square Root of Instagram

In 2006 at Channel 4 (London) I commissioned a mobile-centred website called Big Art Mob. It enabled users to publish photos of Public Art (from sculptures to graffiti) from their mobile phones. In other words, it was basically Instagram 4 years before Instagram was invented. It was created with digital all-rounder Alfie Dennen (father of We Are Not Afraid) using a photo-publishing platform he had developed with partners named Moblog. I had been experimenting with Moblog for 18 months when a TV project about Public Art (The Big Art Project) came over the horizon and it struck me as an ideal place to apply Moblog technology.

The main difference from Instagram is that Big Art Mob’s photos were not in square format.

Today I went to see the Klimt / Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. I have been a big admirer of Schiele since I heard about him from David Bowie on a radio programme around the time Lodger was released (1979). At the time the Austrian painter was little known outside cognoscenti circles (eg the Marlborough Gallery in London). I was taught a little by Frank Whitford at Cambridge who wrote the Phaidon monograph on Schiele. And I won a travel scholarship at Girton to go study his work in Vienna around 1984. Last year while working at ORF in Vienna I got to do a bit of a self-shaped Schiele tour to mark the centenary of his death which I wrote about in On The Trail of Egon Schiele. I even had a stab at a Schiele in a painting class I recently attended locally:

adam gee copy of egon schiele painting

The exhibition was excellent, bringing out the contrast between how and why Schiele and his mentor Klimt drew. Along the way it reminded me of Klimt’s distinctive adoption of the square format in his portrait painting. Which got me thinking about which other artists went square.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt, completed between 1903 and 1907. The portrait was commissioned by the sitter's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1903-1907)

Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is 1.38m by 1.38m. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer, husband of Adele. The painting was notoriously stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at Schloss Belvedere in Vienna, until being returned by the Austrian courts to Bloch-Bauer’s heirs in 2006 at which point it found a new home in New York. It is considered the zenith of Klimt’s golden period. It uses Klimt’s trademark technique of cropping the figure top and bottom to create a pillar through the canvas, here set slightly right to allow the bulk of the patterned dress or aura to balance the composition.

Square and portraits reminded me of the excellent Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year. The square format works particularly well in the double portraits which were the beating heart of that show.

My Parents 1977 by David Hockney born 1937

My Parents by David Hockney (1977)

The emotionally resonant My Parents is 1.83m by 1.83m, even more epic than the Klimt, yet with the most down-to-earth subjects. Each parent occupies their own half in a very different way – attentive mum, square on, in her own space; pre-occupied dad, at an angle, overlapping the furniture – subtly capturing the difference in parent-child relationship.

Hockney was born on 9th July 1937, eight days before my dad. Nine days later another German Jew, Gerda Taro, died in Spain. She has the tragic distinction of being the first female photojournalist to have been killed while covering war at the frontline. This evening I started watching My Private War for this year’s BAFTA judging, starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, a latter day Taro. Recently, also for voting purposes (BAFTA Documentary Film chapter), I watched the feature documentary Under The Wire, likewise about the life and death of Colvin (killed in Homs, Syria by an Assad regime air-strike). Taro was killed during the Spanish Civil War in a tragic accident involving a reversing Republican tank.

republican woman 1936 gerda taro

Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona by Gerda Taro (1936)

Taro was another stand-out squarist. She was partner of Magnum photojournalist Robert Capa. (Capa was introduced to the world by Picture Post in 1938, where my maternal grandfather worked. The Hungarian Jew, who famously lived out of a suitcase for most of his adult life, co-founded the Magnum photo agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson and others.) I saw Tara’s first ever US solo show at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2007. Capa picked up the habit from Taro and there are a number of square photographs attributed to Capa which are widely thought to actually be the work of Taro.

These days I find myself photographing square by default. I’ve enjoyed using Instagram for years as a platform for photography only (none of the Stories bollocks or video). Initially it was an excellent way to syndicate your photos across your social accounts (when it was linked to Flickr – the monopolists must have disconnected on account of Yahoo’s ownership of Flickr I guess). Square poses its own compositional challenges which by and large I enjoy rising to – there are not that many shots I take which can’t be accommodated in the stable, equal-sided space. It encourages the use of diagonals which can be dynamic. Here’s one of my favourite of my square compositions:

statue of george orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London)

Statue of George Orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London) March 2018

The square is stable enough to carry the two dark figures on the right side. Orwell’s statue is characteristically smoking, hence the appeal of the BBC smoker – both are fag in hand. Of course Orwell like Taro was a graduate of the Spanish Civil War but he made it home to the BBC and to die in the relatively civilised surroundings of UCH (University College Hospital, established by two of my distant ancestors on the Picture Post grandfather’s side, and where both my boys were born). Orwell’s house (at 1 South End Road) is along the same road in Hampstead/Parliament Hill where my dad grew up. He was a child of refugees from Nazi Germany.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

To round off these square stories, Taro was given a funeral, attended by thousands, by the Communist Party of France. She was buried at Père Lachaise on 1st August 1937 (what would have been her 27th birthday) in a grave designed by Alberto Giacometti. On the tomb is written, in French and Catalan

So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016 – an open-air display of Taro’s Spanish Civil War photos was included in the f/stop photography festival in Leipzig. Leipzig is where my dad was born in July 1937 in the shadow of the Nazi fascist regime, a swastika and eagle on his birth certificate. When f/stop ended, it was decided that the display would become permanent. This was partly financed through crowdfunding. On the night of 3rd/4th August 2016 (two days after Taro’s 106th birthday), the display was destroyed by being daubed with black tar-like paint. This dark act of destruction was widely suspected to be motivated by anti-semitism or anti-refugee politics. A further crowdfunding campaign more than raised the €4,000 required to restore the vandalised photos. The equal and opposite forces of creativity and destruction, light and dark, squared up to one another.

Be there and be square.

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.

 

Superhumans v Ability

On the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Paralympics, it’s interesting to contrast the UK television marketing of London 2012 vs Rio 2016

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2012: Meet the Superhumans

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2012: the week between the Olympics and the Paralympics

 

3

4

channel_4_paralympic_ellie

2016: Ability

channel_4_paralympic_david

So long and thanks for all the fish…

An extract from an article in Broadcast today. {courtesy of Broadcast}

 

 

Senior digital commissioners depart in C4 shake-up

 

Channel 4 commissioners Adam Gee and Jody Smith are to leave the broadcaster after more than a decade as part of a restructure at digital video service All 4.

The broadcaster is shaking up All 4’s editorial team, scrapping genre commissioning in favour of recruiting an overarching executive who will be responsible for curating, acquiring and commissioning programming.

As a result, Gee and Smith’s respective factual and entertainment multiplatform commissioning roles will close. It also follows the departure of shorts commissioner Isaac Densu, who left to join youth music brand SBTV in February after a year.

Around half of All 4’s 15-strong editorial team of online producers are also understood to be at risk of redundancy as a result of the changes.

C4 offered a clue to its plans in late April when it advertised for a Collections commissioning editor to help with the “transformation” of All 4.

Digital departures

Gee and Smith, who are expected to leave over the summer, have worked at C4 for 13 and 10 years respectively.

Factual multiplatform commissioner Gee was responsible for Embarrassing Bodies’ multiplatform output, Hugh’s Fish Fight and music amnesty campaign Don’t Stop The Music. He has collected an array of Bafta, RTS, Broadcast Digital and Emmy Awards.

He has commissioned over 25 short-form series since All 4 was established including My Pop Up Restaurant and Naked and Invisible, which has notched up over 6m YouTube views. He has also overseen digital shorts including Tattoo Twists, which led to E4 format Tattoo Fixers, and Drones In Forbidden Zones, the inspiration for C4’s Hidden Britain By Drone.

“I have loved every minute at Channel 4 and couldn’t respect its values more,” said Gee. “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to help establish Channel 4 as the world leader in TV-centred multiplatform; to set up and run the innovative and impactful IdeasFactory creative talent scheme when I first arrived; and most recently to get the channel’s short-form originals offer up and running with a distinctly C4 voice.”

 

Davidson-Houston thanked the pair for their “huge contributions to Channel 4’s reputation for innovation” in a note to staff. “They have boldly gone where no one has gone before,” he added.

The broadcaster will be looking to build on strong foundations. After launching All 4 around 12 months ago, digital revenues have rocketed to £82m, up 30% from 2014’s figure of £63m.

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For Fawkes’ Sake

[6.xi.15]

guy fawkes guido mask

As I left Channel 4 for York yesterday the taxi driver avoided Whitehall due to “something going on down there” – it was the now annual gathering of a ‘million masks’ to march against Capitalism. The masks are those Guido Fawkes masks beloved of everyone from left-field comicbook artist Alan Moore to right-winger Paul Staines. Guido is the name Staines uses when fighting Socialism. Guido was the name Guy (Fawkes) used when fighting for the Spanish.

I missed my train north by a minute but luckily the guard on the next one was short-sighted and missed the invalidity of my ticket. On arrival in York I walked along the city walls and into the quaintly English in an ecclesiastical sort of way city centre. Dumped my Wigan Casinoish moddy bag at Middleton’s hotel and headed for the opening of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, a BAFTA-qualifying shorts fest at which I spoke today to an audience of 180 young’uns in a steeply raked lecture theatre at York St John University.

At the opening gathering I bumped into Revolution Software’s Charles Cecil, a games geezer descended from some notorious Elizabethan Cecil (Robert I think). I used to see him regularly at the annual b.tween cross-platform conference. We watched 5 opening short films in the City Screen auditorium, of which 3, possibly 4, were too long IMHO. Good production values and well made (mostly dramas) but not truly taking on board the aesthetics and dynamics of the online video age.

Later in the evening I wandered the lanes of York, eventually finding myself under this sign for the Guy Fawkes Inn:

guy fawkes inn pub york

So it’s 5th November. The masked men in the West End by now had started setting fire to police vans and taking on the pigs. Across the rest of the country fireworks are exploding. And I’m standing on the streets where Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 – under one of those masks. I didn’t even know he came from York until I found his inn.

Thursday 5th November 2015 - London

Thursday 5th November 2015 – London

I wandered on around the tranquil Minster, no-one much around, too late for firework noise, a gentle drizzle in a diffuse sodium light. Past the stone workshop where 21st century men carve stone components from the very same stone in which the monumental building was originally constructed, to repair its ancient fabric.

I returned along the cobbled quay by the Ouse to listen to Steely Dan and write about suffragettes. Now I’m listening to John Martyn on my newly acquired red iPod Nano and writing about another famous political militant on the train home.

As the ridiculous and slimy Tory discussions about the idealogical privitisation of Channel 4 continue at Prime Minister’s Questions this week (it costs the public nothing, it’s not broken and it doesn’t need private investment) I’m a bit sorry Guido didn’t manage to blow the mothers (of the mother of Parliaments) up.

V for Vendetta comic alan moore

Getting into your Shorts

Example thumbnails for Channel 4 shorts

Tattoo Twists series image

Tattoo Twists series image

Tattoo Twists episode image

Tattoo Twists episode image

Tattoo Twists episode image

Tattoo Twists episode image

Drones in Forbidden Zones

Drones in Forbidden Zones

Futurgasm series image

Futurgasm series image

Futurgasm episode image

Futurgasm episode image

24 Hour Party Politics Channel 4 shorts

24 Hour Party Politics

Don’ t Stop The Music – first campaign success

Don't Stop the Music - Channel 4 Multiplatform

Don’t Stop the Music – Channel 4 Multiplatform

A message from

James Rhodes, pianist & campaigner for music education

19 Mar 2015

Dear Supporters,

Thank you.

We have had our first campaign success with Don’t Stop the Music – and it couldn’t have been done without your tireless campaigning.

Ofsted have agreed to include a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ in their inspections of schools.

This is great news! It is the first step in helping ensure that children have access to a proper music education. It could not have been done without your support.

And on Tuesday night, I got to speak in parliament to members of the House of Lords and House of Commons about our concerns and what we need to do to protect music for future generations.

I had the opportunity to discuss our findings from the initial stages of Don’t Stop the Music; findings that gave me sleepless nights. Music education is in desperate need of support from the Government, and with May’s election fast approaching I need your help to make sure music education is not forgotten in the next Parliament.

We need consistent funding, not a post code lottery, opportunities for children to progress beyond their first musical experiences, more action from Ofsted, a trained teacher in every school, and school accountability measures (league tables and the like) which value music properly.

What I am asking your help with now, is making our voice as strong as possible.

If we have 100,000 people signed up to this campaign by the start of May, we will be able to make sure music education is not side-lined by a future Government.

So I am asking for your help, once again, to ensure more children have the opportunity to play musical instruments – please forward this message to your friends, put the petition link on Twitter and Facebook and get as many people as possible to sign up to the campaign

Thank you, thank you and thank you again.

Best wishes,

James

Sign the petition here (it takes literally a minute)

#DontStopTheMusic

In The Future

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IntheFuture_Series_2800_v2

IntheFuture_Asteriods_2800

IntheFuture_Toilets_2800

All 4 one

goggle box tv series channel 4

Was up at the Edinburgh TV Festival at the end of last week – very much a Channel 4 flavoured one. Channel 4 was named Channel of the Year 2014.

C4’s Chief executive David Abraham gave the opening MacTaggart lecture (the first one by a C4 chief exec in a dozen years and it’s been four years since any UK broadcaster has been invited to speak). It centred on championing British creativity and the unique climate of creative freedom and risk-taking that we have in UK public service broadcasting. He highlighted how important it is for the broadcasting and media industry, politicians, regulators and the public to robustly defend and build this outstanding public service system at this particular juncture, when it is under assault from without (especially US multinational corporations) and within (short-term thinkers and profit-takers). He concluded with a call to action for the next generation of media creatives. It was a generous speech, acknowledging both BBC and ITV’s role in the very special TV ecology of this country.

At the Festival awards, Channel 4 also picked up the award for TV Moment of the Year for Mushi’s speech in Educating Yorkshire and won the Programme Innovation category with The Murder Trial. There was further recognition for C4’s current affairs film Children on the Frontline, with Marcel Mettelsiefen picking up the Debut Producer/Director Award.

Such a whitewash of the awards is almost without precedent at Edinburgh and reflects a revived creative spirit at Horseferry Road after the annus horribilis that was 2013 both for C4 and the BBC. For me personally, the new focus on short form video which has come about this year enables the happy surfing of this wave of new energy. Here’s one of my first commissions in that area from a young British director, Umut Gunduz, who I met at Google HQ in St Giles a few months ago – the series is called Double Vision and the first episode is Cycle of Love.

double vision first date cycle of love

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