Sore shoulders and how to pitch to a dead fish

Some people like to remind me that I’ve always had what in the UK we call:

“A chip on my shoulder”

But now my shoulders are usually just sore for other reasons….

As I sit and write I’m waiting for the compressed file of my concept/screen-test reel for Legacy of an Invisible Bullet to render which is always a slow process even with a faster than your average hacker’s laptop.

I’m also suffering from an old surfer’s complaint: “Sore-shoulders” and that’s due I know to my lack of surf fitness and a body playing the age card after a cold Spring surf in the Oresund up at Ålsgård: A not very well-kept “secret surf spot” when the wind is from the North-West, and a place where the North Sea and Baltic meet in a stretch of water that is – tragically as much as it is geopolitically – as close to Sweden as many Asylum-seekers will get in their search for a new life.

And with the Spring finally turning into a Summer of sorts, it’s also time to deal not only with sore-shoulders more regularly, but also with the cabin/edit suite-fever and self-imposed winter of discontent/creative exile that I imposed on myself.

I’ll readily admit that even if I have been as “gobby” and critical on social media as anyone about the state of independent filmmaking and what many of us regard as the over-institutionalisation of a subversive art-practise called Documentary, that I haven’t for various reasons which I’ve written about elsewhere had too much to say as a filmmaker for a long time now.

Perhaps too long….

As a result both of illness over the past 3 years and of having one-too many projects spooked and scunnered in the past decade (some of which I’ll be mentioning here) I pretty much took the decision to start again as a filmmaker and out of necessity have gone back-to-basics with the tools that I’ve had at my disposal to do this :

A battered but much-loved SONY EX1, a Nokia HD mobile phone, a number of Go-Pro’s – which I regularly trash – and more importantly: a Body, a Voice, a Bike and an Idea called: Legacy of An Invisible Bullet.

However before I continue to talk about that and other new ideas here, I should also mention that I intend – which is singularly the most magical word in the English language btw – to complete a project I’ve been working on as a labour-of-love for more than 2 decades: Minefield

But what follows in the rest of this blog are a few sketches and notes if you like rather than pitches – of where I’m at now, and the projects, stories and worlds I’m exploring – along with others projects that I see as unfinished business namely:

A Documentary/Drama about Lockerbie Flight 103 with investigative journalist (a rare breed now) Steven Raeburn called: The Perception Filter  and the inside-story of Scotland’s first-ever convicted Islamic Terror suspect: Atif Siddique and the attempts by the state to traduce his Muslim Human Rights Lawyer Aamer Anwar called: A Boy from Alva is a story which resulted in a guilty verdict being overturned as a miscarriage of justice – something that we believed all along – which neither the Scottish Legal system or mainstream media (who should have had more bottle) wanted to know about because of their collusion in the original guilty verdict with the security services.

For the most part the sad/mad/bad and good people who run TV and Film Production companies are a lot less melancholic or fatalistic than I am about what it is I do and am talking about here – even if they are paranoid/secretive and precious about ideas in a way that I will never be – and refer to what I’m posting here as a “slate” (which is usually written-up on a whiteboard with a felt-tip pen rather than on a blackboard) A wish-list of their cherished projects which they will nurture and eventually “pitch” either at a diminishing number of jet-setting TV Executives who sadly these days would rather that you came along to them with a skip-full of lifestyle and cookery TV formats, rather than burden them with existential-angst films about life and death; Or alternatively they will chase state-funding and seek meetings with other equally overworked and underpaid – and in Scotland’s case underfunded – public-sector servants who are known as Film Officers or Consultants.

These Film Officers/Consultants – who mostly use to be Independent Producers themselves but decided they wanted a roof over their heads – also have “slates” But unlike the Production Co’s slates their’s instead mostly consist of something they call “talent” which they “develop” and which is mostly made up of folk from Film schools, rather than of self-taught sore-shouldered fuckers/surfers/filmmakers who are mostly to be found on different kinds of lists these days – usually to do with health risks rather than their talent.

As much as I like the idea of getting paid to focus on my own projects in the time I have left in this world – and believe me after the last 3 years I know just how precious life and time is – and  without resorting to what my fellow independent filmmaker in exile May Miles Thomas  calls: “X-factor film-making”,  the whole idea of spending precious life pitching ideas – or more to the point being “vetted” to see if I’m still the right-stuff at a Pitching forum/circus like a show-pony is beyond the mindset of a cynical/pragmatic mule like me.

Because I’m just looking to do and finish stuff now.

While on a human – as well as a professional level – I was never really any good at “pitching” anyhow – nor at creating a good first impression on a speed-date between”talent” and “money” because I speak to fast/eat my words and look more like a plumber and football hooligan than I do someone with a PhD in pitching and trailer making….

Cinemagraph: How to pitch to a Dead Fish
Winter 2016 Helsingør, Northern Denmark (in homage to Joseph Beuys)

But then we all need to earn a living somewhere and some how if we’re to chase dreams and surf waves in our spare time….

And any filmmaker or producer who’s reading this would agree that you have to be that strange and volatile mix of pragmatist and idealist to get away with the kind of stuff I’m talking about as well as being a bit of a show person and master/mistress manipulator of people and their misery.

In the end – and to be both a pragmatist and an idealist here  – for many of us it’s never been just about the money anyhow because you can earn more money being a plumber; But about recognition for daring to dream and being respected for thinking the unthinkable or saying/showing/exposing the kind of things that power and the sad/mad/bad and super-rich 1% and their security apparatus don’t want the rest of the world to see or hear.

As for our cherished ideas, dreams and stories: “Our slates”?

Well I think they should always be shared with the world and not just pitched to a dead fish or at an elitist circus:

Da: sporene af en usynlig kugle/Legacy of an Invisible Bullet

You can watch the concept/screen test reel by clicking on the blue Vimeo logo below. Please contact me directly for a password which is due to the sensitive and at times explicit/painful content that’s included in this concept reel:

 

Da: sporene af en usynlig kugle/Legacy of an Invisible Bullet will be/is the product of a process of filmmaking I’ve been undertaking over the past 3 years both before/during and after my cancer/recovery.

And believe me the last thing I set out to do was make a film about cancer…

The starting point for the whole project is approx 120 short-films (for want of a better term) which I’ve shot and am currently editing, and which I had originally intended to go straight out onto the world-wide web as a “swan-song” and a legacy to life, filmmaking, cheating death and what’s gone wrong in the world, but which instead as time has gone on has evolved into a hybrid “Pocket cinema” feature project that I am developing in collaboration with the Actor: Charlotte Munck and the Avant-garde jazz legend and Writer: ts høeg/dane ts hawk

Da: sporene af en usynlig kugle/Legacy of an Invisible Bullet is a film about intimacy that explores what happens when you lose your armour as a Man/Filmmaker and you find yourself “between” Life and Death and existing in a state of “homelessness” – Which in my case meant being somewhere up in the air out over the Nordic Sea and in-between Glasgow and Copenhagen for the past few years.

It’s also what I would call a bad surf-trip movie and a Copenhagen Cycle-rather than Psycho-Geography, which explores the secret and hidden places of a city, and messes with reality, time and place, memory, gender identity, sexuality, language and the bodies we inhabit in the age of the “selfie” as both observers and the observed.

I guess also that in the process of working on this – which was a kind of therapy – it’s also the closest thing I’ve ever come to making a self-portrait as a filmmaker/artist  while also seeking answers to big philosophical questions such as:

What happens when an Observer becomes the Observed…?

The Scotiastan blog Volume 1:

interview

For more than a decade before and after 9/11,  I was involved along with Marie Olesen – my former Producer, business partner and life-partner at our production company autonomi – in documenting the social and political life and turmoil of a post-industrial city at the end of Europe and it’s people.

A place that we still call our real home: Glasgow.

It was a filmmaking journey which took us into the very heart of the Scottish establishment and out into the hidden and marginalized communities and “blur-zones” of Scottish society.

Scotiastan is a work of fiction because it’s an un-filmable Documentary.

But it’s also my attempt to deal not so much with all the things that we really did film – which was a lot –  but also with all the things we didn’t or couldn’t film but encountered at that time. Things which were “occult” and always away from a camera’s gaze and which challenged the reality we inhabited. But also things that I both imagined and have re-imagined in Scotiastan: The Large and the small conspiracies of life and politics.

So I see the Scotiastan blog which I’m writing still as the starting point for a project – which I like to compare with the Wire – but which may never actually become a film let alone a TV series idea. Instead it’s a kind of extended written/visual Director’s treatment and as much as I dislike the term: a transmedia project that tells the story of a group of ethnically diverse characters who are living in a post-industrial city at the end of Northern Europe, who find their lives and worlds colliding and changing forever after the murder of a Kurdish Asylum seeker on a housing estate in the weeks leading-up to 9/11 and after.

There are 3 volumes to the Scotiastan blog and I currently have the first draft of Volume 1 near completion.

Any resemblance to characters living or dead in Scotiastan is totally deliberate and intentional – and is usually justifiable on what would be called artistic license.

And I am an Artist – of sorts….

Waveland:

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There’s a filmmaking challenge I set myself a few years back while doing out-reach film work with Diversity Films that I’ve been thinking about for a long-long time after working-in and seeing the good/bad and ugly side of the places and cultures that inspired this idea:

How do you make a surf-movie on a Glasgow housing scheme….?

Or a film which unlike Da: sporene af en usynlig kugle/Legacy of an Invisible Bullet and my bad surfing, may well feature cameos from some real big wave surfers.

Well as proper as you can get baring in mind that the film is to be set on a concrete housing scheme.

It’s early days on this yet but I do have a strong-lead voice talking and a number of characters on the periphery who are starting to surface and wash-up on the concrete beach where I want to set the film:

Easterhouse, a place I’ve spent a lot of time in doing outreach film work.

At the moment  I’m exploring different ways of developing and making this but am particularly keen to use a cast of both professionals and local amateurs and develop the screenplay out of a series of community workshops in Easterhouse itself, that will also include surf lessons for all those involved – myself included.

Because it’s about time I learnt to do it properly rather than just talk about it and got sore shoulders…

So here’s a couple of log lines to be going on with:

“The lives of a group of washed-up youths are transformed by the return home from “A War” of a traumatized friend who sets about becoming a surfer on a Glasgow housing scheme….”

“A traumatized youth returning from “A War” sets about becoming a big wave surfer on a Glasgow Housing scheme..”

I keep thinking here of Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer and of how that unlikely plot-line unfolded and of Jim Cartwright’s play : Road

I’ve also got a pretty good ending in place already – which I guess is a start…and talking of endings:

A Town full of shouting Men (Gill-ing-Ham):

download

A story about the end of the world…..

Set in an End of the World kind of place…

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A filmmaker’s shadow lost in nowhere...

A filmmaker/Actor along with his Danish Producer/Actor and their film-crew, returns to his home-town where he has not lived for over 40 years to research, cast and shoot a remake of Peter Watkin’s The War Game. He is aiming to use where possible the same locations and towns (Gillingham and Chatham in Kent) that the original film was set in and – like Watkins – will use a local cast of amateur actors.

What unfolds however – rather than just being a straight-forward reconstruction and homage to Peter Watkin’s master-piece about the nuclear nightmare, is a story about the end of reality itself, reality television and a biting commentary/satire on celebrity culture, the survival of the fittest, austerity, the legacies of the neo-liberal experiment, the British class-system and the increasing division that exists between the rich and poor in UK society in the camera savvy: “Age of the Selfie…”

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In a Town of the Shouting Men reality TV collides with all that Peter Watkins stood for when he made War Game in a new film that’s as much about the end of reality as it is about the end of the world.

I’m more conscious because of the past few years that time has not only been passing me by but is also no longer on my side.

And that some if not all of these ideas and filmmaking dreams – my “slate” – may never go any further than this blog. But in the end it came down to a choice of either  sharing these things here with you while I wait for a file to render on a project I think and feel will happen: Da: sporene af en usynlig kugle/Legacy of an Invisible Bullet; Or just talking about them in a pub –  a place you’ll probably find stories that are far more interesting about life – as well as meet quite a few filmmakers working both sides of the bar….

I’ve always believed that there’s nothing wrong with shouting, getting passionate and “dreaming at the top of your voice” – in the same way that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to still be a surfer in your mid 50’s – even if you do end-up with “sore shoulders” rather than with just that “chip on your shoulder” that you’ve carried around all your life….