Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Monday 27th February 2012.

Monday 27th February 2012.

Heathrow Airport. I never enjoy leaving home and I never enjoy sitting in the car-park known as the M25 but, here we are, at the airport ready to fly Qantas to Perth. After months and months of endless emails I’m finally at Day 1 of another cinema tour. Starting in Australia and then going via New Zealand to the USA. Before anyone reading this thinks ‘great idea, I must try that’, I say ‘don’t!’ It makes no commercial sense and involves 25 flights, thousands of miles of driving, 18 hour days, a gazillion emails, press interviews and post-screening Q&As. I’ve gone this route and don’t regret it but I wouldn’t advise it to anyone. One good conversation with a UK commissioning editor that results in a project being funded will be better for you or your company – and you can be home for tea. So why do it? Because I love showing my films to a live audience. I love bringing the worlds of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn to them, the Leonardo exhibition, or the life of a small boy growing up in post-Taliban Afghanistan. I understand the numbers – one TX can get 2 or 3 million. That would take me many lifetimes in cinemas but still….

Of course, any attempt at generating an audience involves a stab at winning awards. The BAFTAS and OSCARS have just gone by. Senna nabbed the BAFTA but wasn’t even shortlisted for an OSCAR which was won by Undefeated. We were one of the films that qualified for OSCAR consideration this year and I guess it is kind of refreshing that a relatively unknown film won. But anyone who thinks the best films make the final 5 is a fool. Small groups of largely white, middle class, older men initially watch their DVDs and make their decisions…partly on the film of course, but just as much on politics, buddies, favours, and there’s a certain style of doc that Americans like. Narrated, endless music, bold clear narrative. Yes, there are exceptions that have won but, by and large, that’s how it is (in my opinion, at least). So why do we invest the time and money to enter. I do wonder. Ego I guess. The hope that it will help sell or promote the film too. Last week my film THE BOY MIR won an RTS and was shortlisted and nominated in various other awards/festivals, as were two other recent films IN SEARCH OF HAYDN and LEONARDO LIVE. The laurels look good on the DVD case but I’m not sure if any award we’ve ever won has made the blind bit of difference – except when they come with a cash prize. No-one ever rings up and says, ‘hey, we saw you win that award and we want you to make your next film with us’. Maybe that happens to other folk…

While I’m on the subject of awards, let me state publically that I can see no earthly reason why the BAFTAS, having been dragged screaming into having a best doc award then only can bring themselves to have three nominations. Seriously? Ask Anna Miralis of True Stories or Nick Fraser of Storyville or any serious doc director (i.e the ones who actually bother to watch as many docs as they can) if they feel there were only three docs this (or any) year worthy of a nomination. Ridiculous and insulting. Therein lies a key problem for documentary production as a whole – it’s belittled, disrespected, looked down upon. We try to pretend otherwise but wise up, people. Compare where you are at as a 40 or 50-years with decades of experience with your buddies who are doctors, bankers, lawyers. I’ve been invited in Australia to give some masterclasses at the AIDC and one of the sessions is with young film-makers wanting to know how to ‘make it in the industry’. A colleague of mine summed it up: I have to tell them that 95% of them will fail and the rest will struggle from project to project. My BOY MIR film has won multiple awards, had great press and lots of TV & festival screenings - and yet I don’t think I would risk the mental strain of raising the funds to make another such film. I know there are lots of other film-makers now willing to go to Afghanistan and good luck to them but the mile steeplechase of endless funding hurdles is feeling too much for my ageing bones. I’ll be sticking to my art exhibition films for TV & cinema and my composer films, also for TV & cinema. They are a struggle too but, unless something goes really wrong while filming at the National Gallery or Barbican, I won’t risk being kidnapped or blown up.

On that note, I want to end this blog with a sad note to mark what I’m sure is a shared sadness at the death of Marie Colvin and the other journalists who have died - and continue to so - in Syria, as well as the thousands of Syrians. Beyond X-factors, Dancing on Ice, Big Brother there is a wicked, weird and wonderful world out there which needs to be reported – and it is shocking that anyone has to die as a result. That’s what journalists and film-makers are for: to bring that world to the audience. I just wish the industries we work in would treat us with a bit more respect.

Still, can’t complain: off to sunny Australia.

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