Archive for the ‘coincidence’ Tag

4 things Kubrick predicted in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

2001 a space odyssey kubrick movie

I have been reading a slim volume on documentary-making this week and in it it had a resonant quotation from John Grierson’s wife, Margaret. The book, by the magnificently surnamed Patricia Aufderheide, got me thinking a lot about the film/video camera as a machine.

Intermission: Coincidence No. 669

3 minutes ago I had a text from director Mike Christie (director of the brilliant Jump London) asking whether I was still in Bath as he is going to be there this evening with Brett Anderson of Suede for a book event. I explained I was not in Bath, it’s just that Instagram seems to think my house is located at “Roman Bath” so I now use it as a codename for Home.

2 minutes ago I was double-checking Margaret Grierson’s name and Wikipedia pointed out that, although she was born near Stirling (where I am going later this month for Focus on Scotland to talk about the future of Documentary)  she died in Bath.

…actually, my bad, it was that other “father of documentary” Robert Flaherty’s wife Frances who said it:

“Our problem is how to live with our machines. … we have made for ourselves an environment that is difficult for the spirit to come to terms with.”

She was reflecting on Nanook of the North, Flaherty’s first film, and how the Inuit people, like the Polynesians, had a better balance with their environment and technology.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) famously opens with a sequence of ‘the Dawn of Man’ taking us up to the point where our furry ancestors discovered tools and then morphed them into weapons. Always a fine line between tool/weapon. Even when technology was a bone it was problematic for our kind. The bone is thrown into the air after the first simian Cain & Abel type murder and cuts to a space station turning in the black void.

2001_space station kubrick movie

A third father of documentary was Dziga Vertov. Coincidentally his name (pseudonym) means “spinning top”, like Kubrick’s space wheel waltzing through the darkness. Vertov’s masterpiece was Man with a Movie Camera (1929) which fetishises the movie camera as a machine eye, telling the objective truth. I first came across the film when I was studying Avant Garde literature, painting and film at university. On the other side of the room where I am writing I am charging up my not-often-used iPad ready for a story structure course I am attending at Ealing Studios (which date from 1902) this weekend – 21st Century Screenwriter with Linda Aronson. On the back of my first&only iPad is a quote from Vertov:

I a machine am showing you a world the likes of which only I can see.

The full quotation (in a different translation) is:

I am an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I’m in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations.

Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you.

How unbelievably resonant that is of 2001!  the machine – show you a world – freed from human immobility – in constant movement [that whirling space station] – manoeuvring – freed from the boundaries of time and space – all points of the universe – the creation of a fresh perception of the world – the world unknown to you.

Vertov founded one of the first Documentary groups, Kino-Glas – Cine-Eye. This famous still comes from Man with a Movie Camera:

Man with a Movie Camera eye 1929 movie dziga vertov

And this is computer HAL 9000’s eye in 2001:

hal 9000 eye 2001 space odyssey movie kubrick

HAL becomes increasingly threatening but when he dies our empathy turns on a sixpence and we feel sorry for him in seconds…

I’m afraid.
My mind is going.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
My mind is going.
There is no question about it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I can feel it.
I’m a …fraid.

So the mechanical eye, the movie camera, is it a tool or a weapon? Does it empathise or is it cold as steel?

This is one of the greatest scenes in Cinema:

 

Now those 4 things I promised. I went to watch 2001 two nights ago at the Prince Charles off Leicester Square in 70mm with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (the cinema shows it every so often so well worth taking the opportunity). The projection suddenly stopped just as the glass falls off the table and smashes, near the end. They got it back up&running for the enigmatic ending.

1. The iPad

So this 1968 movie shows two iPads on the table when Dr Dave and Dr Frank are being interviewed for TV from Earth. iPads came out in 2010, nine years after when the movie is set.

ipad 2001 space odyssey movie tablet pc

ipad 2001 space odyssey movie tablet pc

2. Skype

Dr Heywood Floyd makes a video call to his daughter for her birthday.

videophone 2001 space odyssey movie

videophone 2001 space odyssey movie

3. TV Screen in the back of aircraft seat

When Dr Floyd is travelling up to the space station at the beginning of the space section he falls asleep in front of a movie in the shuttle:

2001 space odyssey video screen aircarft shuttle

And here’s what’s great about the internet.

Question: Which movie is shown during Heywood Floyd’s travel in the Pan Am starship? (posed by a certain Brian Hellekin [it would be a Brian] on movies.stackexchange.com )

Answer: (by Rob Manual who, weirdly I know from my Channel 4 days):

The footage was made specially for 2001. According to Creating Special Effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Douglas Trumbull

The movie being shown on the TV set in front of the sleeping passenger was a little more complicated. Kubrick wanted shots of a futuristic car, and close-ups of a love scene taking place inside. A crew was dispatched to Detroit to shoot a sleek car of the future which was provided by, I believe, the Ford Motor Company. The exteriors were shot in 35mm, but the interiors were shot without seats or passengers, as four-by-five Ektachrome transparencies. Using these as background plates for a normal rear-projection set-up, on actor and actress were seated in dummy seats and Kubrick directed the love scene. Shot on 35mm, this was cut together with the previous exterior shots, and projected onto the TV screen using a first-surface mirror.

There’s a colour photo of the actors and the car at http://www.iamag.co/features/2001-a-space-odyssey-100-behind-the-scenes-photos/

future car 2001 space odyssey

End of answer. Gotta love the Web.

4. AI

AI in the form of HAL 9000 is the big one. Back in ’68 Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke captured many of the key issues that are obsessing us today about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – “how to live with our machines”, how ‘the spirit comes to terms with such machines’.

dave hal 9000 2001 space odyssey

Dave killing HAL

It was not until Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2013 (which of course owes massively to 2001) that anyone got near Kubrick’s movie creatively and visually. What struck me most about watching 2001 again after so many years (I was about Enfant Terrible No.1’s age when I last saw it) is how resolutely cinematic it is. It wouldn’t play well on a TV screen. In the back of an aircraft seat. On a phone. Pure cinema of the highest order.

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Coincidence No. 288

To mark the 13th anniversary this week of Simple Pleasures Part 4 here is a top-class coincidence.

Last night I go with director Victoria Mapplebeck to a screening of shorts at Samsung KX in King’s Cross organised by Time Out and Shorts on Tap. The fifth of six films is The Night the Wind Blew, a very good mid-form drama written and directed by David Alamouti. It features two young Anglo-Turkish brothers played by non-professional actors, actual brothers.

I vaguely recognise David’s distinctive name. And his face rings faint bells. I look him up in my phone – his number is there, we met at Sheffield DocFest in 2014 when I sat on a panel he was producing. We chat after and walk back to the tube together.

This morning I go to do a talk on media careers at a London secondary school in Leytonstone (Hitchcock’s manor). I am talking to one of the students and as we finish I turn to my right and there is a young Anglo-Turkish teen who seems oddly familiar. “Were you in a short film?” “Err, yes – how do you know?!” “I saw it last night!” He plays the bullying older brother (his name is Mujahid Guven). About 15 hours separate seeing the short and meeting the young star of it.

the night the wind blue short drama film

 

 

Adventures in the Writing Trade: Day 5

Monday morning. The boat’s coming from Malahide to collect us at 10. It’s like coming back from space or returning from some fantasy land through the mirror. A touch of tristesse but more, a sense of a jewel of an experience coming to a natural conclusion.

lambay whiskeyYesterday I worked mainly on the structure and scope of the book. I took a break from writing to watch a video recommended to me by a friend I met through one of my oldest friends. The video was Margaret Heffernan’s Super-chicken TED talk.

Commercial Break: Coincidence No. 477

I ask my online circles for the answer to this question: “What makes a good Collaborator?” One friend sends a video recommendation via Facebook – Margaret Heffernan’s Super-chicken TED talk.

The day before Jonathan Gosling, the writing retreat leader, asks me if I know Margaret Heffernan? I say the name is familiar for some reason. (The video recommendation has come in earlier that same day). Jonathan asks because he and another participant both work with her at the Forward Institute.

After watching the video I go look at Margaret’s website and books and pick one I fancy reading. I go to Amazon to buy it. It says I ordered it in 2015.

This year I occasionally catch a glimpse of a red spine on my bookshelves and think what is that (Margaret Heffernan) book?

In 2015 my mentor, Roger Graef, recommends a book by Margaret Heffernan in relation to what I was thinking and writing about at the time – the role of collaboration and the collective, of openness and generosity, in human evolution. Put another way, the limitations of competition. That’s what Margaret’s book with the red spine is about.

For my one-to-one with Jonathan we opted for walk&talk – we wandered along the coast talking about publishers/publishing strategies and he gave me some really useful perspectives on getting the book I’ve already finished – When Sparks Fly (title stolen from my as yet unfinished book) on online creativity. I’d been in discussion with academic press but he persuaded me to go more commercial. While chatting I also had the idea of me and my co-writer keeping diaries of the making of our book to capture the meta dimension – collaborating to write a book about collaborating. How would that look from each side of the collaboration?

We stopped to observe the seals. Lambay has the largest colony on the East coast. I suddenly appreciated the contrast between the way they look like big fat maggots on land (I’m being a bit harsh) to being slick and nimble in water (and cute with those soft eyes). A seagull was pecking at a fat white dead pup. Feck, nature is tough. It was a great walky talky session and really interesting to find out a little more about him. He is looking at the world from the perspective of an imminent collapse and what would be needed for the species to survive it. That’s a heavy load. I think about that kind of shit when, for example, watching the first Terminator last week with Enfant Terrible No.1. Otherwise not so much. Unrealistically optimistic about the bald ape’s ability to pull himself out of the nose-dive. (Who am I kidding?)

The afternoon workshop was centred on readership. The pattern of workshops had some kind of psychoanalytical underpinning, establishing the system in which the text exists and all the people who interact with it working outwards from the writer. It was a useful session as I wrestled with the taxonomy of our readers / different ways to slice the audience. It also helped better define (slightly broaden) the scope of the book.

At the end of the day I donned my earphones and, as I was walking around the island, listened to a summary of Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. which I bought from Audible yonks ago. My old boss recommended it highly and tried to implement some of the guidance at All4 e.g. sharing early cuts of films broadly among the team. I’m about five chapters in – so far, so banal. I’m sure the summarising and the flat voice of the reader isn’t helping any. I listened walking above the beaches of the North-West coast to the top left corner of the island. The landscape merited a better audiobook – or none at all.

marmite jar

The Last Supper with my six fellow participants was jolly – a lot of contrasting of US/UK language & culture as three were American, two Brits, one Finn. I haven’t written much about them but the whole experience afforded on this fabulous island revolved around having a harmonious, generous and bonding group of writers. I want to retain their privacy so let me capture them anonymously with the help of Tarrantino and Cluedo (as I’m a lover of colours)…

Mr Orange is from Wisconsin, a healthcare professional drawing to an end a ten-year writing project. We got on really well and he gave me a signed copy of one of his previous books, on meditation.

Mrs Plum hails from Oxford and is writing a PhD thesis on leadership in environmental groups. She says she doesn’t like writing – everyone else professes to love it. She was particularly helpful in the Readership workshop, highlighting our assumptions.

Ms Pink is from Maryland and was putting together a Fulbright Scholarship application to teach business at university in Surinam. I very much encouraged her to apply as she was wavering at the beginning. Her accent had an exotic touch of the Southern states.

She was with her friend Ms Peacock who was focused on studies of the dynamics of credit card transactions. She exuded considered and thoughtful in her speech.

Reverend Green is an elderly Finn, a psychoanalyst and academic. He observes calmly and expresses his thoughts slowly and deliberately. He may have thought half of us were crazy.

Last but not least, Mr Brown runs an Institute to help leaders become more responsible. He makes a habit of arriving last to everything but I think this is to throw us all off the scent. Turn your back for a moment and he is to be found half-way up a mountain with his noise-cancelling headphones propelling his running. He was writing mission statement type texts.

So lots of colours, lots of different forms of writing, all united by a single motto: “Crack on!” The Americans, particularly Ms Pink, were tickled pink by this exotic British turn of phrase. Is it anything to do with crack, the drug? No. But to add to the complexity, in Irish Craic means fun. “Crack on!” “Apple crumble!” “Jumper!?” “Posh!” “Marmite!” The craic was ninety. Fuelled by Baron Badassière wine and Lambay own brand Whiskey. “Crack on!”

baron Badassiere-Carigan-Label wine

The trips across the water were a key part of the experience. Arriving at the small stone harbour in bright autumnal sunshine was magical and welcoming. On board the big, sturdy Shamrock. We left bouncing across choppier seas on the Fionn Mac Cumhaill, a cheeky little RHIB, crashing into the waves, speeding just above the surface of the energetic September swell. We left full of energy to come back out of the mirror, re-emerge from the magical wardrobe, wake up from the loveliest of dreams. And then (after our concluding workshop on dry land) we drank Guinness before noon in Gibney’s pub in Malahide and blow me, it was not a dream after all.

Adventures in the Writing Trade: Day 4

Friday ended up as a frustrating feeling day. A lot of loose ends. Nothing finished. Including my relatively short To Do list. Saturday (yesterday) by contrast finished with me hitting send as a fired over three useful documents to my co-writer, Doug Miller. A mark-up of his outline. A set of notes collating the helpful, considered responses to my online call-out. And a response to Doug’s initial thoughts on how best to collaborate in practice. A satisfying, rounded-off feeling to conclude the day.

It’s important to live with mess, loose ends, even chaos in the writing process, indeed in all creative endeavour. It’s getting over that hump, bringing back some order in the face of the most out-of-control prospect, which usually marks where the creative achievement lies.

view from the summit of Lambay Island County Dublin Ireland

View from the summit down to the harbour

After lunch we headed up to the summit I had visited the day before. This time it was as a group, led by our hostess who is one of the two prime-movers on the island. I had a lovely chat with her on the way up, quite deep for a modest walk. At the triangulation point on the top there was a real sense of a cohort, a group bonded across very different experiences, backgrounds and personalities. Two of the Americans asked me to explain what we were looking at so I pointed out Howth Head as the North end of Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains as the Southern limit; Rush and Malahide opposite; the small islands of Skerries looking North, and at the limits of our view the Mourne Mountains, faint in the distance, where my Other Half comes from. The panorama was epic, a beautiful subtle palette of blues and greys and delicate purples in the autumnal sunshine.

view of Howth from Lambay Island County Dublin Ireland

View of Howth Head from Lambay

On returning to the white house we did our second writing workshop with Jonathan (Gosling) on Style. Clarity; Pace; Engagement were the factors we considered. I focused on the opening of my as yet unfinished book When Sparks Fly, on the creative rewards of openness and generosity – a subject closely allied, it turns out, to the book on Collaboration Doug approached me about (the focus of my efforts this week). It was a helpful exercise and I could see at least a couple of things to improve – too long sentences in a quest for fluency/flow and questionable assumptions about how Digital Culture is perceived by many people.

The day before our first workshop was on our relationship to Writing. By using two observers as we spoke concisely about writing’s role in our lives, one recording facts, the other emotions, we quickly got some real insights into our work and ambitions. A really useful technique I hope to deploy in some other context soon. Probably starting with the MDes course on Story-telling I am teaching at the end of the year at Ravensbourne university/film school.

After the workshop I made a bee-line to the harbour to take advantage of the strong late afternoon sun. Donning my new Finisterre swimming trunks I strode into the September sea and dived in. It was …fresh. Envigorating.

Commercial Break: Coincidence No. 477

I am out for a walk in St Agnes, Cornwall during my summer break a few weeks ago. It’s a bit rainy so I head up from the cliff top inland towards where I’ve been told (by Joya & Lucy of Surf Girls Jamaica, both locals, hence my choice of St Agnes to sojourn in) there is a small business estate where there’s the HQ of a great surf clothing retailer called Finisterre. I eventually come across it, go in and buy some swimming trunks, shirts and a lime green recycled plastic water bottle. As the shop assistant is wrapping up my stuff he explains a bit about the business, how well it is doing, where the branches are, there’s even one up in London. Oh, where’s that? Earlham Street.

I work at Red Bull at 42 Earlham Street. I’ve never noticed Finisterre.

I have the harbour to myself, except for sharing it for a few moments with a black Labrador. The tide is out, the sand is smooth, the water cold (colder than Donegal a couple of weeks ago) but bearable, soon really refreshing. After the swim I feel amazing. I chat to a couple of Dubs from Howth over for a nature walk day trip. The wife shows me on her phone a photo of their view of Lambay from Howth village.

IMG_7492 lambay island harbour white house cottages county dublin ireland

I finish the day tying those loose ends on the lawn, my spot du choix. I also connect the lady-boss of the island to an old colleague & friend of mine who lives on the Isle of Eigg. Eigg has done an amazing job pioneering green energy & sustainable living, and my friend Lucy has been enthusiastically involved in driving those efforts. The Lambay Trust has similar ambitions. I’m glad I made the connection during our walk&talk.

Creativity, in my view, revolves around Connections. This includes the people connections offered by a writing retreat like this. And the factual/conceptual connections such as Lambay is a proto Eigg.

I bought myself a book from the island on Friday – it was my birthday present to myself. From my family, I asked for a new walk as a gift.  The book is In Praise of Walking by Shane O’Mara. Mara is Irish for sea. John of the Sea. It explores the science of walking and why it is good for us. I am convinced it is very good for Creativity, hence my early morning walks every day on Lambay. Here are a couple of quotations on Walking I recently gathered.

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”

Steven Wright (US comedian)

Coincidences quote

Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.

 

I’ve seen this quotation attributed to both Albert Einstein and Doris Lessing (the former seems to have the consensus). It links to my vague sense of being a Pantheist.

The last two weeks there’s been a Colombia thing going on in my life. It is not a country I have much personal connection with nor any experience of.

columbia wharf london river thames

columbia wharf horn stairs 1937

1937

As I was travelling along the Thames yesterday morning on the way to Ravensbourne university/media school to do some work on their MDes course, a postgrad masters programme which is kind of an MBA through the lens of Design, I passed Columbia Wharf, some way east out of the centre of town, on the south bank. This reminded me of, among several other manifestations over the last few days:

  • a documentary I am working on set on Tierra Bomba, a small island off of Cartagena
  • another documentary I have in the cutting room about Colombian BMXers
  • meeting a charming producer (in Waterloo a few days ago) from San Andrés, a small English-speaking island which belongs to Colombia but is much nearer Nicaragua – it was the stronghold of Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan, who was a thorn in the side of the Spanish and regularly ransacked Cartagena
  • several more minor sightings of Colombia and Colombian in shops and other places
Captain Henry Morgan

Captain Henry Morgan

colombian skull

Update 5/8/19:

model boat columbia

  • a model boat beside me at breakfast this morning in my hotel in St Ives, Cornwall is called Columbia
  • I turned on the TV in this hotel room the night before last and ‘Long Lost Families’ was on (one of my favourites) – the first story was about a UK woman being reunited with her birth parents in Colombia
  • the Tour de France finished a couple of days ago – the winner, the first non-UK one for a few years, was a young Colombian, Egan Bernal
  • I was at a play a few days ago, ‘Sweat’ by Lynn Nottage – it has a line where a man, Oscar, is assumed to be a Puertorican and he retorts: “Well, I’m a Colombian and I don’t know” (the question was do you know a fellow Puertorican who could burn my house down)

See also: 4 Pantheist Quotations including two more from Einstein

Coincidence No. 678 – Carpe Diem

patrick melrose benedict cumberbatch actor bath phone

Seize the fucking day

Monday: I am sitting watching UK dramas and International dramas as a judge for the Edinburgh TV Festival Awards in those two categories – I am taking a short break to write this. I am currently watching ‘Patrick Melrose’. Benedict Cumberbatch has just said the line: “Well it’s time to seize the fucking day.”

patrick melrose benedict cumberbatch actor bafta award

(At the TV BAFTAs last month, when they were taking a big group photo of all the winners, I was standing directly behind Benedict Cumberbatch. He had just won Best Actor for Patrick Melrose. He was hugging his colleagues with tears in his eyes, clearly very emotional about this first BAFTA win for him.)

adam gee 5 bafta awards

The morning after the TV BAFTAs – no sleep had: Carpe Noctem

Sunday: I catch the tail-end of ‘Something Understood’ on Radio 4. Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand is exploring immortality and the desirability of life eternal. She concludes with the line: “Momento Mori – remember you are mortal – can help me focus on the limitations of mortality and also the idea it is our greatest gift. But to that phrase I would add: Carpe Diem – seize the day – for who knows when we shall cease to be and what lies on the other side of mortality.”

Saturday: My Other Half and I are walking down the High Street. She is telling me about some deaths in the family of her best friend. I say: “You can only come to one conclusion: Seize the Day.” just as I say this two boys walk past in the opposite direction. One is wearing a red T-shirt with the words, in black: Seize The Day.

carpe that fucking diem tshirt

 

Coincidence No. 677 – 12th June

I am sitting in the kitchen reading an article about Anne Frank by Bart Van Es (author of the excellent The Cut Out Girl, the protagonist of which was married to one of Anne’s school friends).

anne-frank- c.1940

c.1940

On the radio was Robert Elms on BBC Radio London discussing the Chelsea Drugstore in the 60s.

1980 robert elms

1980

In walked my wife to talk about the moths eating her jumpers.

Anne, Robert & Una are all born on 12th June.

 

Coincidences No.s 723-729

No. 723 The Music Machine

Music Machine camden town london 19/04/78 Advertisement siouxsie and the banshees

19/04/78

I am walking through Mornington Crescent with my brother and we pass Koko under scaffolding. We discuss what it was called before being Koko. He says Camden Palais. I reckon he is getting mixed up with the Hammersmith Palais and it was the Camden Palace. In my head I am trying to remember what it was called when I saw Siouxsie & The Banshees for the first magnificent time there. I can’t. It was the Electric Ballroom at the other end of the street (where I first saw The Clash). What the hell was this one? Can’t recall…

It was The Music Machine.

The next day I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party. I am introduced to a woman called Heather by Alex MacQueen, Neil’s dad from The InBetweeners. Heather explains her production company is based behind Koko and makes a reference to Camden Palais. Palais or Palace? I ask. Whatever.

No. 724 The Slits

the SLITS punk band

I meet my friend Des Shaw from Zinc Media for lunch in Kentish Town. We talk a lot of music as usual and I mention my recent conclusion that The Slits were one of the most significant bands of our times. I have sent Des a podcast early that morning featuring Neneh Cherry in which she discusses living with Ari Up back in the heady punk days. Viv Albertine also gets mentioned.

That evening I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party with Victoria Mapplebeck and Debbie Manners, my colleagues on Missed Call which is our nominated film. Victoria mentions that her animators live next door to Viv Albertine of The Slits in a row of houses in Hackney that they somehow managed to acquire cheaply after a fight with the local council.

No. 725 Bros

matt luke goss bros

Matt & Luke Goss then & now

I meet my friend Des Shaw for lunch in Kentish Town. He mentions he has been approached to make a documentary about Bros in the wake of the BBC4 one: After the Screaming Stops.

That evening I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party with a woman called Heather from the indie production company that made After the Screaming Stops. We discuss the ethics around the documentary (which Des and I have debated earlier in the day). She explains the advice the company gave the protagonists about how to play things after the broadcast.

No. 726 Rory 

rory sutherland alchemy book

I am out in the garden, stretched out on a picnic rug in the Easter sunshine, reading Rory Sutherland’s new book, Alchemy, about not over-relying on the rational in creativity and innovation.

An email pings in as I open the book. It is from Rory about the Red Bull example which opens the tome. See Alchemy post.

No. 727 Fulwell

alex macqueen inbetweeners neils dad

I am at the BAFTA Awards Nominees party where I am introduced to a woman called Heather by Alex MacQueen. She is a Senior Executive from the indie TV production company called Fulwell 73. (Her and Alex were at the National Youth Theatre together.)

The next day I meet producer Matt Diegan in Camden Town (within a stone’s throw of the Electric Ballroom). He mentions that he has taken his football documentary project to Fulwell to make. He was the first person to ever mention the name Fulwell to me a few months back.

No. 728 Handmade

email about handmade films documentary bt amc

Before meeting Matt I meet the producer Kim Leggatt (in the same place at the same table from which you can almost see the Electric Ballroom). Kim tells me about the feature doc she has just made about Handmade Films and George Harrison for AMC which is carried in the UK on BT TV.

That evening an email comes in from BT TV offering advanced access to an “exclusive HandMade films documentary”.

accidental studio email about handmade films documentary bt amc

No. 729 Anni

I meet a distant cousin of mine, Josh, at a closer cousin’s house round the corner from me. He is an American film-maker over from Berlin where he now lives. We talk about the fact that our only surviving relatives in Germany live in Hamburg, the eldest of which is Anni, not sure exactly how old but must be really getting on some.

The next morning Facebook pings up a notification – it is Anni’s birthday, her 95th.

Aerial view of the bomb shattered ruins of Hamburg 1945

Hamburg 1945

Coincidences No.s 285-290

No. 285 Geno (16/4/19)

I am sitting outside Bar Italia in Soho talking to actress/producer Sophie Shad and her business partner Dalton Deverell. We are talking about their drama-documentary film Oh Geno! which is now available on Real Stories and which I wrote about in this post in November.

At the exact moment the topic comes up a Twitter notification arrives on my phone:

Liked by Geno Washington

twitter notification geno washington oh geno

 

No. 286 Riding House (17/4/19)

I am emailing Lauren Laverne about a project we discussed a couple of years ago and I remind her of the meeting at the Riding House Cafe on Riding House Street, close to BBC Broadcasting House.

I am at my book group and the friend next to me is talking about his recently deceased dad’s history – he was in the GB Basketball team at the 1948 Olympics and he had a furniture business based in Riding House Street.

1948 olympics GB basketball team lionel price

1948 GB Olympic basketball team

 

No. 287 Airplane (18/4/19)

I am reading Rory Sutherland’s book (see No. 284 above) and he uses an example of where you don’t want creativity or irrationality:

I don’t want a conceptual artist in charge of air traffic control, for instance.

A couple of minutes later I get a LinkedIn notification on my phone flagging up a post by consultant and author Mark Brown with whom I made a few films on creative thinking including The Blue Movie. His post uses much the same illustration of where you don’t want creative empowerment (an example featured in The Green Movie from 1994):

When you or I are about to land at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle or John F Kennedy, which of these values do we like the pilot to fly by? ‘Get it right first time’ please. And certainly please don’t experiment with a bit of ‘Continuous Improvement’ or ‘Innovation’ thank you.

the green movie cover design video

The Green Movie (1994)

 

No. 288 Corpus (11/4/19)

I get on a tube at East Finchley and the woman sitting next to me is reading a paperback entitled Corpus by Rory Clements. I reckon it’s a relatively obscure book, a Robert Harris read-a-like, from a couple of years ago.

I pull out of my bag a second-hand hardback of Corpus which I am currently reading for some easy diversion. We strike up a conversation about the book, Rory Clements and Robert Harris.

Corpus by Rory Clements book cover

 

No. 289 Amy (11/4/19)

I go to the last day of a photography exhibition in a church in Hampstead of rock/music photos by Danny Clifford (one time official photographer of Bob Dylan) – Rock Stars Don’t Smile. I chat to Danny for a bit and end up buying this photo:

amy-winehouse-by-danny-clifford

Amy Winehouse backstage at the 4th BBC Radio Jazz awards held at the Hammersmith Palais, London in 2004. Photo: Danny Clifford / FilmMagic.com

I really liked it because of the naturalness of the look, just the hint of tattoo, no mention of Blake in sight (unlike Danny’s big hair Amy on stage shots) and the colour of the dress matches her grave (which is a few yards from my dad’s so it’s a train of thought back to my old man). I’m a bit worried about breaking the news of the purchase to my Mrs as we don’t have much wall space left.

As I pluck up the courage to mention the photo purchase in our kitchen the next day Back to Black comes on the radio.

I’ve had radio coincidences like this before. Two days ago I met up with my old friend Ash Baron-Cohen at Bar Italia (straight after the Sophie & Dalton meeting in No. 285 above). I got my first cat, Woof, thanks to Ash who was about to chuck it in a river in a sack with rocks in. I offered to take her off his hands. To get her home a mutual friend offered me a lift in his car. As we got in and switched on the engine Love Cats by The Cure came on the radio.

 

No. 290 Dinner (12/4/19)

I go round to dinner to my cousin in Hampstead Garden Suburb. My Mrs has told me about the invitation earlier that week and said there was us and another family invited who my cousin and his wife didn’t know well. My other half has a ticket for a dance performance and my sons are out and about so there is only me going. I do a talk at the National Film Theatre for the BFI & Radio Times TV Festival then make a bee-line for the dinner.

tv in the digital age careers talk bfi and radio times television festival 2019

As it turns out I arrive on time, the first guest there, then a few minutes later I hear others arrive. As I wander towards the hallway a face appears framed in the doorway – “Hallo Adam!” It is the wife of an old interactive TV colleague from way back when. And then his face enters the frame. The other not well known family turns out to be someone I’ve been working with for the best part of two decades (and still do via the AHRC and Royal Holloway) and his wife who I’ve also known a long time and two of their children.

 

 

 

Coincidences No.s 277-284

No. 277 Re-righting

weebles wobble but they don't fall down

6/4/19 (Norway)

I am listening to an episode of the BBC podcast ‘Only Artists’ featuring the film composer Debbie Wiseman and the TV director Peter Kosminsky. Peter (who I knew a little at Channel 4 but I think I cheesed off because I disagreed with a cultural boycott he put his name behind) talks about how he guided Mark Rylance to play Thomas Cromwell in ‘Wolf Hall’ – “low centre of gravity” – and mentions those toys that bounce back up.

Six days ago (London)

I am watching a TED talk on YouTube featuring a consultant who lives in my neighbourhood and is currently close to death. A few months ago he did this talk, knowing that he had a terminal cancer diagnosis. He and his speaking partner – it is a two-hander, both psychologists – present 8 tips for being resilient. In one he links the tip to the toys with weighted bottoms that re-right themselves always. He reminds us of the name (Weebles) and the strapline from the TV ads (which I still remember without prompting) “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. He champions the idea that we should recognise the wobbling as a part of our condition and allow ourselves to experience it without shame or guilt. I haven’t thought about Weebles for years and only knew them from the telly.

 

No. 278 Dried Cod

dried cod

4/4/19 (Trondheim)

Straight after a workshop on Short Form Video I am doing at the ISAK cultural centre in Trondheim, Norway for the MidtNorsk Filmsenter (a regional film fund) I walk down to the nearby fish market, the start of a guided tour of the city by my host, Line. She points out, for some reason, on the fish stall the dried cod.

1/4/19 (Trondheim- Oslo)

I get a message from my Norwegian friend, Hanna (who works at NRK, the public service broadcaster of Norway), which suggests what we might do on Sunday afternoon when I will be staying with her in Oslo, where she lives. “me and two friends Bente and Jan are having our first ‘spring meeting’ Sunday afternoon, planting a few seeds, drinking some wine, and me: making a nice bacalao (one of my specialities, with Norwegian dried cod).” I have never come across dried cod before.

 

No. 279 M&S

open city documentary festival poster

30/1/19

An email comes in reminding me about an MA Graduate Screening I am due to attend at Bertha Dochouse/Curzon Bloomsbury, London from the Open City Docs team at UCL. It includes a timetable item: 10.30 – Screening starts, introduced by Open City Docs Director Michael Stewart.

 

The next email that comes in is from (a different) Michael Stewart, an old friend of mine from Toronto, wishing me a belated Happy New Year. We exchange emails very sporadically.

 

No. 280 Golders Green

golders green clock tower

13/3/19

I drop my wife at our nieces’ place in Trellick Tower and drive home via Golders Green to post some VAT documents into my accountant’s closed offices around 11pm. As I walk away from the offices I notice various notifications on my phone and decide just to return one call – the one from my younger son. I normally might not have bothered calling back immediately but he’s been on a trip to Prague with his girlfriend so my instinct was to respond despite the late hour.

 

My younger son picks up my call. He says he is in Golders Green, just off a coach from Luton Airport and has ordered an Uber home. I ask him exactly where he is right now. I let him know that if I had a handy stone I could hit him from where I am currently standing. He cancels the Uber and I drive them home.

 

No. 281 Joy Division

unknown pleasures LP record vinyl cover

24/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I am having breakfast in Copenhagen with Mike Christie, director, who I became friends with while at Channel 4 (he directed ‘Jump London’, one of my two favourite things made at C4 during my 13 years there), and Bernard Sumner, guitarist of Joy Division and singer of New Order – as one does. Bernard is in town, like Mike, for a screening of ‘Decades: New Order’, Mike’s excellent film for Sky Arts about a brilliant show the band created for the Manchester International Festival and a subsequent short European tour. Suede’s Brett Anderson, star of another of Mike’s films playing at the CPH:DOX film festival, comes by to bid farewell and we shake hands. Not your average breakfast. I say to Bernard that the last time I saw him in the flesh was at the Lyceum, London when Joy Division were supporting Buzzcocks. “You’re a big fan then” he responds with dry Mancunian style. “He really is a big fan” my son pipes up “he’s always wearing his Unknown Pleasures T-shirt”. This shifts the conversation onto that design and I confirm “You found that image didn’t you?” He explains how he found it in a library book about astronomy and after a while tells me about a related coincidence. I didn’t fully grasp the science but the gist was that by chance the frequency illustrated in that famous graph (reversed out of black by Peter Saville, originally black on a white background in the book) is the same as a 45 rpm vinyl single. This is something Bernard found out a good while after the release of ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

 

No. 282 Time

nick drake singer

20/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I am putting the finishing touches to my PowerPoint presentation for Documentary Campus Masterschool I am due to deliver the next day in Copenhagen. It doesn’t have that many words, being composed mainly of pictures as is my wont, but I am adding the word “Time” to a list.

 

As I type the word “Time” Nick Drake sings “Time”. I am listening to Spotify, returning to Nick Drake because I have been reminded of him by Jamaican writer Marlon James on his Desert Island Discs earlier today. The song is ‘Time Has Told Me’.

Time has told me

You’re a rare, rare find

A troubled cure

For a troubled mind

 

No. 283 Polar Bears

polar-bear

21/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I wake up early and listen to the radio. On Radio 4 is ‘IPM’ in which a mother describes her teenage son and then how she lost him suddenly. The story of his death comes out of the blue, shockingly. He is on an adventurous camping trip with a group of friends somewhere frozen, I forget exactly where, Greenland or similar, and he gets attacked in the early morning by a polar bear while sleeping in his tent, mauled, killed.

 

Later in the day I am listening to a feature documentary pitch at Documentary Campus Masterschool in a community/youth centre in a Copenhagen backstreet. The pitch mentions being eaten by polar bears.

 

No. 284 Presqu’ile

Peninsula-Papagayo-wide-aerial-shot

6/4/19 (Oslo)

I am walking through Oslo city centre with my friend Hanna Førland and we are discussing the geography of the city’s coastline. We are talking about a peninsula but neither of us can think of the word however I can recall the French word for the geographic feature, “presqu’île”. We met 36 years ago studying French in Savoy/Savoie, South-East France.

7/4/19

Hanna and I meet up with a third friend from Chambéry, Marit Kolberg (also of NRK). We have brunch at Marit’s house in the suburbs just west of Oslo and we are discussing Cuba and a peninsula Marit visited there recently. She can’t think of the word in Norwegian or English but uses “presqu’île” in lieu.

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