BBC

Tag: BBC

Greece

I’m writing this quickly during a break in my day-tour of Athens, a 3 hour crash-course Greek history lesson before I head into the night and the bars for some real research – I have arranged a meeting with a great Greek singer called Ghannis who I am hoping has some good contacts and leads for me.

Last night, soon after arriving here, I met a wonderful sculptor called Costa, we talked about Greece, its history, the people, the financial situation, the future, and we shared some great wine to help me acclimatize, but it was while we were eating that it dawned upon me how much I missed the Middle-East.

My Yemen film (The Reluctant Revolutionary) aired on Japanese television last night and Atsushi my best friend in Japan sent me an email “They say we are going to be the next Greek tragedy, you should come and make another film here after Greece”, he wrote. But… I still have my Syria film to finish first – and getting to grips with Greece and the enormity of what is going on here, feels quite daunting.

Following Wednesday’s meeting at the BBC (after successfully getting this film commissioned) Nick Fraser and I were discussing what it would be like if it happened here “Do you think the British ever stop to think what they will do if Britain becomes the next Greece?” he asked me, “No”, I replied, “First, I don’t think most people here have the slightest idea about how bad things really are in Greece for the ordinary people, the television and the papers certainly aren’t telling them, and anyway, this is Britain, it might be bad, but that sort of thing could never happen to us.“

It’s only Television

15 June 2010

Before I returned to England a couple of weeks ago I made a trip to meet with someone whom I hoped would be an interesting character for a film I wanted to make. I didn’t mention anything about him in my blog because I wasn’t sure. When can we ever be sure for sure?

A few hours before I was due to leave I took a rental car into the Syrian countryside and went to meet him, and managed to film a little taster-piece for the BBC. I hadn’t got around to telling them that my previous film with Nizam had fallen through, I was worried that they may see me as being rather unreliable over these last few unproductive years.

How the years pass. It seems such a long ago since I finished the Japan film; and everything since then… it all feels like a series of failures.

Failed projects in South Africa that the BBC didn’t want, films the BBC did want in Dubai that I didn’t want to do but still gave (virtually unfunded) the best part of a year to trying to make work followed by a year and a half finding, and eventually failing to make, a film in Norway and Syria with Nizam.

I remember NHK my Japanese co-broadcaster offering me 100k for an idea I’d written about Damascus. But the BBC said they wanted Dubai. In my niceness I tried to persuade NHK to put their money to a more worthy cause – a far more popular film set in Dubai for (and backed by) the BBC.

And so I went to Dubai and over two trips lasting a few months found myself dying inside. Lost and without direction, the evenings became nothing more than a series of blurred bar scenes, I wanted to lose all my sensibilities and completely withdraw from that plastic nightmare hell hole.

So I found myself migrating from Dubai to Damascus to meet with Nizam; which began yet another mistaken adventure. But by this time the BBC had begun to show some interest in Libya, and, as Nizam was half-Libyan, his story would fit the bill. In the end they commissioned a story half set in Syria and Libya. But a year and a half had passed since I’d tried to persuade the Japanese away from Damascus towards Dubai and now here I was again trying to persuade them (NHK) away from Dubai and back to Syria with a little bit of Libya thrown in too.

Two years after their original 100k offer we meet at the prestigious Yamagata Film festival where my Japan film picks up two awards. I sense awkwardness in the NHK Commissioning Editor, something had changed and I wasn’t sure what, and in true (non-confrontational) Japanese spirit nothing is said. He takes my Nizam trailer and promises to submit it, 6 months later he finally submits it but by now rumours emerge that he is being moved to a new department and my project with Nizam is falling through. Could it be that I spent too much time fund-raising and not enough time filming?

And so it was, in the final hours of my time in Syria that I found myself making an impromptu trip into the Syrian countryside to find a new character. The BBC like him but they can only offer a small budget to make it and suggest NHK to co-fund it.

But it is now 2 and a half years on since their offer of 100k for a film in Damascus – money I couldn’t accept because the BBC wanted a film in Dubai – and things have changed, my man at NHK has moved departments and it seems the money is no longer there.

The motto of the story is never refuse money from TV!! Lie and cheat and tell them whatever it is they want to hear but never never ever refuse their offer of money, because, in TV, as with life, you never know what tomorrow will bring.

I can’t wait

14 April 2010

So here I am back in London in my local Weatherspoons soaking up their joyous beer festival and having a beautiful pint of real ale. It was about a week ago that I’d raced here whilst being filmed by Phil (a film-graduate friend) who has been helping me edit a ‘series trailer’ which would introduce people to all my films in one go.

We had the crazy idea of using me as the link that makes the films relevant to today’s world, so what better than the filmmaker relaxing having a pint. But then, just like now, as soon as my lips hit the beer glass I am finished for the day and all I want to do is relax, chat, and enjoy the drunks around me.

But today I am not being lazy, I am celebrating my ‘new’ film being commissioned by the BBC, though I still need to get more funding from other sources before they (BBC) will actually cough up their contribution.

As a result I’m hitting everyone in every direction. Today I have taken a small step by successfully completing ‘The Media Fund’ development application (worth 50k) form. The hard work wasn’t down to me though, it was thankfully the responsibility of my producer friend Fiona who is an expert in such matters. It has taken months to find all the required information, Fiona masterly made the application even designing a cute ‘Tenfoot Films’ logo in the process. Now the development application is in, we move onto making the production application. This is a big job in itself; forget filmmaking, I am now a full-time fund-raiser.

And, as well as fund-raising and form-filling I still had to get the ‘series trailer’ completed for my German sales agents who are pitching my new film (and my back catalogue) in Cannes this week at MIPCOM one of the biggest TV sales events of the year.

Plus I am also waiting to hear from the NHK, the Japanese broadcasters, they may be buying in on the new film; and if so I need to know when… All I want now is for another ‘funder’ to come on board and offer us a semi-serious wadge and hey-presto the BBC money will be released and before you can blink I will be out of here – lost to the Middle East again… I can’t wait.

St Sean, on the road to Damascus

15 July 2009

Bollocks. The BBC just cancelled the ‘North’ season that had brought me back to Hull looking for ideas. Actually I’m relieved… I am now in Sofia waiting for a Syrian visa so I can take my own ‘road to Damascus’.

I am looking for the conversion that changed St Paul on his road. I want to find a film there and the strength to persuade the BBC to accept an idea which they rejected back in December 2008.

I’d opted for their (dual) offer of two films, one in Hull, and one in Libya but now I really doubt whether I can get the access I would need to make a film there (Libya, not Hull).

Furthermore I’ve no real idea why I want to make a film in Syria I just see a fantastic colourful film set in Damascus full of fun fear and freedom. A place where contradictions play themselves out in widescreen. Stupid things like democracy versus dictatorship. A place where thousands of Iraqis apparently have fled their new found freedom for the ‘safety’ of a dictatorship, where partying hard at the weekend is seemingly as important as the Friday call for prayer.

Sounds amazing to me but sadly not the BBC. Not yet anyway. So on the road I go.