Archive for the ‘short films’ Tag

In Your Face wins Best Documentary in Lockdown Showcase

As mentioned in the recent Teach us rightly to number our days post, In Your Face, a mid-form documentary I conceived and commissioned for Real Stories/Little Dot Studios, directed and produced by my friend & colleague Simon Goodman of Showem Entertainment who worked his usual magic on the format, won Best Documentary in the Lockdown Short Film Showcase run by London Short Film. The standard of the showcase was very high with such excellent films as The Call Centre and UB-13.

Best-Documentary lockdown short film showcase

Here’s a short Q&A I recorded in lockdown for the showcase:

[8 min watch]

 

 

Athena Skates

This is my 2nd commission for Red Bull Media House. Athena Skates is an uplifting film spotlighting a new generation of empowered Athenian women.

Athena Skates short form still red bull media house

As Athens tentatively emerges from a decade of chaos, a group of young female roller skaters are fighting for space in their city. This new generation of Greeks grew up with few opportunities – but this taught them a valuable lesson: if you want to follow your passion, you have to do it yourself. While support and infrastructure for young people fell victim to the crisis, the girls are using roller skating to create their own community and express themselves.

Athena Skates is a filmic journey through the hidden skate spots and urban wastelands which punctuate this ancient metropolis. In the process, it shows what it means to be a young woman in Greece today and why finding a way to do what you love – despite the challenges – matters now more than ever.

At a time when so many are stuck indoors, Athena Skates is a liberating, dynamic film revelling in the freedom to move through your city and create your own space within it. The film opens in the spectacular location of the abandoned Hellinikon international airport as the sun sets over the Saronic Gulf. The skaters set off on a high-energy journey across the gritty concrete jungle that is Athens, culminating at the top of Mount Lycabettus, as the sunrise ushers in a new day – and a new generation.

Athena Skates was produced by Hijra Collective, London for Red Bull Media House, London & Salzburg – part of an initiative I have been running focused on excellent storytelling applied to human interest documentaries. Athena Skates is directed by London-based Elliott Gonzo, an outstanding young voice, distinctive and original, working in the realms of commercials, drama and documentary.

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

 

 

The Golden Envelope

Exactly this time last week I was at the Festival Hall, London entering the auditorium for the Television BAFTA Awards. Our film ‘Missed Call’ was nominated alongside three BBC productions and, while I had faith in the quality of the film, I didn’t have high hopes of a win. It had been shot entirely on a smartphone. No broadcaster was involved at any point. It was fully funded by a privately-held UK indie (Little Dot Studios).

The team assembled in the afternoon sunshine in an urban garden on top of the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Hall. On the taxi ride in I’d noticed our table number was 007 so I was feeling positively Bond like in my John Pearse jacket. John I suspect is the only Savile Row-trained tailor cum filmmaker in London.

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At the appointed time we dropped down onto the red carpet and shuffled along. Greg Dyke was just in front of me. He soon gave way to Rob Brydon and Lee Mack.

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Once inside I found myself chatting to a man from BAFTA’s marketing company – he proved an important character in the night’s drama. Let’s call him X.

Oiled with champagne, I talked to various colleagues from the industry, many from my alma mater Channel 4. I entered the hall behind David Mitchell (who was talking about how we all pretend not to care about awards – but can’t help but care when we win) and Victoria Coren-Mitchell (who was talking about women not wearing pants). I had a brief exchange with Steve Arnott from ‘Line of Duty’ – he turned out to be Scottish, who knew?

As Graham Norton kicked off the show I felt increasingly like we had no chance. Until the Live Event award was announced and a Remembrance Day programme beat the Royal Wedding – at last, an underdog. I put in a small prayer for help from up there to my dad. I had bought a Farah shirt for the night the day before to invoke his spirit – he used to wear these very conservative Farah “slacks”. Apparently some how (Christ knows how?!) the make is becoming trendy again (again???).

Then it was the moment – Short Form Programme. They showed the clips, including one featuring Jodie Comer, the hottest of properties thanks to ‘Killing Eve’. Then two beautiful young things, boy and girl (still not sure who they were as I’m in my silver fox period and phenomenally out of touch) opened the golden envelope and said the words “Missed” and “Call”. There began a week-long buzz I can still feel. Our director, Victoria Mapplebeck, and me had a moment – made all the more beautiful by the fact that Jim, her son and co-star in the documentary, was on her other side. As we walked down to the stage I passed Andrew (Moriarty) Scott clapping with genuine enthusiasm and in front of him Phoebe Waller-Bridge being equally generous. That moment was both humbling and perhaps the highlight of the night for me. On the stage Victoria did a beautiful speech, Jim getting very well deserved applause, as did the iPhone Victoria brandished as the main tool of her trade. Hearing my name in that context was of course a kick. Victoria and I had started the project as a BBC3 series (which they rejected) just before I started at Little Dot Studios and I took advantage of the new job to realise one episode which became ‘Missed Call’, a high risk 19-minute unscripted piece whose ending we didn’t know when we embarked (would Jim get to meet his long AWOL father?) Watch the film here to find out…

The other thing that really struck me was how enthusiastically our win was greeted. Jim’s 15-year-old presence will have helped a lot. But so to did X because he promised to make a noise if we won and he whistled so loudly his wife smacked him.

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When we shuffled off in a lovely daze we went through an efficient assembly line of photos, signing for the individually numbered BAFTA mask, being interviewed. Victoria, Ananda Murphy (our stalwart producer) and I were the named individuals representing the winning production team. The next day I took the heavy bronze award into the Little Dot offices, holding it aloft like the FA Cup, and these are the massive smiles it lit:

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Eventually we were reinserted into the hall in our original seats and tried our best to concentrate, while texting our mums, spouses, children.

Then a bit of a shock which put it all into perspective. The memorial section in which, to my dark astonishment, the name and face of Anthony Owen appeared. I had no idea he had passed away. I checked after and he had texted me three days before to congratulate me on my new job at Red Bull Media House. Everyone used to envy his job title at Objective – Head of Magic. He got my kids tickets for Derren Brown, always generous and warm. I last saw him at The Story conference in February. A total shock. (You can help his family here.)

After the awards/programme recording concluded, a big photo of all winners was taken on stage. I was standing right behind Benedict Cumberbatch who was clearly very emotional about his first BAFTA win. To my right was Fiona Shaw who is an acting idol of my Mrs and Joan Bakewell. I had a brief exchange with that other underdog Huw Edwards (of the Remembrance programme).

On the way down from the hall I bumped into my old Channel 4 colleague, John Yorke, then Head of Drama. We discussed how I apply his book ‘Into The Woods’ (of which I am a huge fan) to documentaries, applying story structures more often discussed in relation to drama and movies.

Next a very nicely presented dinner with my team from Little Dot and ‘Missed Call’ and wafting around in a delightful daze. At one point I was accosted by a charming older couple who wanted to cop a feel of the mask. They did and we got chatting and it turned out they were the parents of Ruth Wilson. ‘Mrs Wilson’ was one of my favourite contenders for this year’s awards and I voted for it for everything possible. The gentleman was one of the son’s (Nigel) of Alexander Wilson featured in the drama. They introduced me to Ruth and we had a long chat, including about the fact I’d made a film about another Ruth Wilson last year ‘Vanished: The Surrey Schoolgirl’.

Ruth_Wilson_tv bafta awards 2019 actress

A whirlwind of chat and booze until 3am. I bumped into these delightful colleagues from Little Dot who had arrived from BAFTA’s offices at mudnight, having clipped up the broadcast for YouTube – small world.

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After two and a half hours sleep I got up to go deliver a lecture at Ravensbourne film school. “The bad news is this is the first lecture I’ve ever done still a bit drunk. The good news is I have a great excuse…” Pulls out heavy, shiny mask (from the unglamorous plastic bag I was using to take it into the office after).

 

 


Winner’s acceptance speech by Victoria Mapplebeck for Missed Call in the Short Form Programme category

Oh my god!  I just want to say thank you to Adam Gee who commissioned this.  He is at Little Dot Studios, commissioned it for Real Stories. This was a tricky film, as you can see, because I’m both director and parent to the fantastic Jim, and that meant I needed ongoing support from this fantastic dream team of commissioners and editors and producers.

I think it’s proof… I hope the film is proof that small is beautiful, because I shot the whole thing on that phone, and when we needed an end credit composer, Jim took his phone out and composed the end credits, and even better gave me the rights for a pair of trainers.

So, yes, I just want to say — I think you deserve it every bit as much as we do.  Jim is the star of the show.  It’s hard being in a film at 15 and he did brilliantly.  So thank you.

 

Missed Call in The Sunday Times

From today’s Sunday Times:

2018-11-04 Missed Call Sunday Times Real Stories Little Dot Victoria Mapplebeck

Boy’s search for father shortlisted for film award

Missed Call, an account of a 13-year-old trying to track down his dad via a vintage Nokia handset, has been nominated for a short-film prize

James Gillespie

November 4 2018, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

A teenager’s desperate search for his father

Jim Mapplebeck had no memory of his father. The 13-year-old had not seen him since he was two. All he had to remember him by were the gifts he once bought and the modest digital footprint he left behind: two emails and some texts archived in a vintage Nokia.

It was enough.

Enlisting his mother, Victoria, to help, Jim went through the ancient phone and other digital sources until they had a number and sent a text.

As they were doing this, Victoria was filming the events on her iPhone, and this week the resulting documentary, Missed Call, is shortlisted for a prize at the Arts and Humanities Research Council awards at Bafta.

The touching film, which can be viewed on YouTube, shows the close relationship between Victoria, 53, and Jim, now 14, as they search. The clues were a pair of baby pyjamas, a Christmas card, the two emails and 100 texts.

Their initial attempts to make contact took an agonisingly long time.

Victoria sent a text last year – and there was no response. For 13 days they waited until finally the father came back to them.

“I’d given up. I thought it was not going to happen,” said Victoria. “I was so worried for Jim. I was trying to manage expectations – it might not work out. He [the father] may not respond.”

Jim was the product of a brief, eight-week relationship between Victoria and his father – “It wasn’t the love of our life” – and then she found out she was pregnant.

The first surprise was that his father had a second son by another relationship. After Victoria and Jim made contact, the father talked things through with his current partner.

After exchanging texts a meeting was finally set up in March this year.

Jim did not know what to expect. “I was worried, but I think it was the right thing to do. I had a stereotype view and I dreamt a lot of him. But he wasn’t the stereotype I had imagined. My mum had shown me a picture of him and I thought he looked like a California surfer dude – and he’s the total opposite.

“I missed having a father when I was younger but as I have grown older I don’t seem to miss it as much. When I was growing up, it was on my mind and I was confused by it.

“The first time I met him, I really enjoyed it and got to know him. The second time I felt a bit more discouraged— I don’t know why. I’m hoping to meet him again soon.”

The pair live in Camberwell, south London, and Jim attends school in Croydon. He is thinking of a career either in acting or counselling.

Victoria said she thought it was hard for Jim missing out on a relationship with his father. But now they have met, she added: “It’s tough working out how you build that relationship. There is no easy happy ending.”

Travelling on Trash

My fifth commission for Real Stories is ‘Travelling on Trash‘. You can watch it here (14 mins). It was made by The Distillery London.

travelling on Trash Poster real stories little dot studios

An epic adventure sailing down the Mississippi on a raft of plastic bottles

Six friends sail down the Mississippi, one of the most polluted rivers in the world, on a raft made of plastic bottles, to explore how plastic and other pollution is affecting America’s iconic river.

The raft, constructed from used bottles and other repurposed materials, travels down the second longest river in the USA for 56 days. Enthusiastic but inexperienced, the crew of young friends are battered by extreme weather changes, an infestation of bugs, boat breakages and the realities of finding shelter every evening in time for nightfall.

Their epic journey takes them from Minneapolis, through the confluence with the Wisconsin river and then the Ohio. They stop in Baton Rouge to have their river water samples tested in the labs of Louisiana State University. They carry on past New Orleans to finally reach the sea at the Gulf of Mexico. But the destination is not as important as the friends’ experiences along the way, above all their contact with the locals who share their first-hand accounts of how pollution and plastic is affecting one of the world’s great rivers.

My earliest films on BFI Database

The-Green-Movie adam gee short film

The Green Movie

While I’m making lists I thought I’d add this one. I stumbled across a British Film Institute database which has a list of my first dozen or so films as director, writer and/or producer. Some of these are fading from my memory so glad to be able to save them for easy reference here:

Filmography

  • 2003 The Right Stuff (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 2000 E.asywriter (Co-Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1998 Live & Learn (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1998 Sounding the Alarm (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1997 The Red Movie (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1997 MindGym: Fit Thinking for Fast Times (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1996 Days of Change (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1994 The Green Movie (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1994 The Blue Movie (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1994 TTT (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1994 Conflict! (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1994 Memories Are Made of This (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1993 To Boldly Go (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1993 Ideas into Action (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1993 Budgeting Basics (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1992 The Good Old Days (Director/Producer/Scriptwriter)
  • 1992 The Best (Director/Producer/Co-Scriptwriter)

 

live and learn video adam gee

Live & Learn

 

My Short Form Video Commissions at Channel 4

This post is mainly for my convenience to refer to but might as well stick it here for posterity…

Tattoo Twists thumbnail Channel 4 All4 short form video thumbnail

Tattoo Twists

Tattoo Twists
The Black Lesbian Handbook
Drones in Forbidden Zones
Futurgasm
Daughters & Fathers
24 Hour Party Politics
Double Vision
Body Mods
*ipsters (Mipsters – pilot ep)
Oh Shit I’m 30
My Secret Tattoo
WTF is Cosplay?
Circus Girls
Extreme Unicycling
Crazy Sexy Cool
The Male Body Handbook
Young & Minted: I Won the Lottery
What Women Really Want (pilot ep)
L.A. Vice
The Bizarre Fetish Handbook
The Bizarre Fetish Handbook, Vol. 2
Rick’s Tricks of the Political Trade
Naked & Invisible
Head-hacks (pilot)
Young Swingers
SeXXXy Tats
Tattoo Fails
Body Mods S2
World’s Most Weirdest Sports (Extreme Unicycling – pilot ep)
The Casting Couch
My Pop-up Restaurant
The Black Lesbian Handbook: USA
My 1st Tattoo
In The Future
Home Truths
Guess Who (pilot ep)

[This marks the end of Year 1 – 9 Pilots, 26 Series – no wonder I felt shagged]

Drones in forbidden zones thumbnail Channel 4 All4 short form video

Drones in Forbidden Zones

The Superhuman Body Handbook
The Highs & Lows of the Weed Business
Cannonball Re-run
Driving Sideways (x6)
Young & Minted: I Love Luxury (pilot ep)
The Only Gay Bar in the Village (x1 Mid Form)
Pimp My Limb
The Unlikely Bikers
FutureCops (Police Drones – pilot ep)

The Black Lesbian Handbook nominated

The Black Lesbian Handbook was nominated today for the new Best Non-Scripted Online Short category in the Broadcast Digital Awards. It is up against David Attenborough, BBC3 and Vice. Winner announced at the end of June. It is the only All 4 original show nominated. A good one to go out on regarding me, Channel 4 and awards.

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I got a particular kick when the series was nominated at the Banff Rocky Awards recently (Digital Unscripted Series category). The shortlist read:

  • Cosmos
  • I Was There: Boston Marathon Bombings
  • Secrets of the Vikings
  • The Black Lesbian Handbook

I believe they call that bathos.

bathos

ˈbeɪθɒs

noun
  1. (especially in a literary work) an effect of anticlimax created by an unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous.

The Black Lesbian Handbook

Some feedback I just came across for this series while preparing a very dull document – background on the commission is here.

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RosyKat ‏@RosyKat  19 Dec 2015

Bit late to the party but #theblacklesbianhandbook is the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV @Channel4 #uklesbians

 

tawa ‏@TawandaFarai  17 Sep 2015

The Black Lesbian Handbook is brilliant. Storytelling at its finest.

 

vivi woo ‏@PeachesLenoir  27 Feb 2015Greenwich, London

I watched the black lesbian handbook, very insightful

 

Brooke ‏@BrukusMaximus  17 Feb 2015

@4oD just found the black lesbian handbook. Very interesting. Thank you. #BlackCulture #gay # blackgaytaboo #girlswholovegirls #stud #fem

 

SineadAlannah ‏@SineadAWrites  18 Dec 2015

Addicted to the Black Lesbian Handbook @Channel4 #fridaynightin

 

JustJoyxox ‏@soul_sistar  11 Dec 2015Croydon, London

I just watched the black lesbian handbook very interesting documentary I learnt a lot about the gay community here and abroad #LGBT

 

Sean ‏@PhantomDoor  18 Dec 2015

Watching Peep Show, keep getting ads for “The Black Lesbian Handbook” the most Channel 4 show imaginable.

 

DANNII ‏@MissDannitweets  9 Dec 2015

The black lesbian handbook docs on channel 4 is so fascinating!

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