Archive for the ‘nick broomfield’ Tag

Baa raa black sheep

frank gallagher

A pretty action-packed day by any standards. Just on my way home from the British Animation Awards at the National Film Theatre where we launched Channel 4’s new broadband animation channel – 4mations – in collaboration with Aardman and Lupus Films. What I liked most about the awards was that each award was a unique framed image made by an animation professional (including David Shrigley [Blur – Good Song, Hallam Foe titles], Darren Walsh [Angry Kid, Beck – Four Steps, Sony Bravia Play-Doh/rabbits] and Andy Martin [E4 Music, Kerrang! TV IDs] – you can see them all on the 2008 Prizes link on http://www.britishanimationawards.com) – unique images on the subject of sheep – BAA, baa, sheep, geddit? The whole thing was a celebration of the incredible talent across the UK in this tight-knit, ultimately for-love-not-money industry (not that it doesn’t make money but that’s not what drives its creatives). Happily, Shaun the Sheep picked up a couple of …sheep.

The wolves in sheeps clothing on this particular evening included Richard Morrison for the Sweeney Todd movie titles (produced by that blast from my past, Dominic Buttimore of Th1ng, convener of the annual Elvis birthday tribute at which an 8mm version of Blue Hawaii gets its yearly airing); Osbert Parker for Yours Truly, a thrillingly inventive film noirish animation made under the Animate scheme funded by Channel 4 and the Arts Council), one of three Channel 4 successes on the night; and Simon Tofield for the hilariously well observed feline dynamics captured in Cat Man Do – my favourite of the night.

Behind me in the queue going in was the venerable John Coates, creator of The Snowman and producer of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film. One of the nominees was an IrnBru ad parodying The Snowman [Phenomenal Xmas by Robin Shaw/Sherbet], in which the high-pitched kid gets dropped out of the sky by the soaring snowman who nicks his tin. Rightly enough, John was flattered by the homage. The author of the source book, Raymond Briggs, was altogether less sanguine last autumn about this derivative. The Snowman was one of the very first commissions by Channel 4, a quarter of a century ago, which leads us neatly into the other action of the day…

The other end of the day saw the launch of Next on 4 – the blueprint for the next phase of Channel 4 as it moves into its second quarter century. There were a couple of moments of magic that lifted the whole event from a corporate function to an inspiring vision for public service broadcasting.

The first was a video clip. Times are tough. Competition is fierce. The media industries are up in the air. The public service broadcasting model is falling behind the times. The regulator’s breathing down your neck. You’ve been known to upset the powers that be. The advertising revenue is disappearing into the maw of US corporates. The halcyon days of Charlotte Street, The Comic Strip and Max Headroom are a dim&distant memory. The enemy’s at the gate. The wolves are at the door. What do you do? Get Nick Broomfield to make a spoof documentary about the purposes of Channel 4 culminating in a slurred elucidation by none other than Frank Gallagher, just in the Nick of time before the Grolsched-out mainstay of Shameless passes out. “The point of Channel 4, Nicholush, is to maintain the salience of its remit in the new digital age.” Are you people taking this seriously? We are – because only Channel 4 would turn it to comedy (with substance). The medium is very much the message.

The second was a Churchillian moment from the Chairman, Luke Johnson. After struggling a bit during the opening address with the awkwardness that is those autocue systems with the smoked grey glass plates on bendy stalks , to round off the Q&A (hosted in the style we love him for by Jon Snow) Luke responded to the final question by reminding us all that Next on 4, this event, the debate around Channel 4 as Ofcom reviews our public service broadcasting, is all about the value of Channel 4 to UK society and the values and public purposes which drive it. Think Henry V. Think an authentic moment when the passion for an idea breaks through a breach in corporate decorum. Think raw not baa.

churchillfrank gallagher

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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.

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