Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wednesday 13th of March

Hello everyone. Greetings from 35,000 feet above Kansas, USA.  I’m on my way from Washington DC to Santa Fe for a few screenings of various films. My main pre-occupation right now is that I am absolutely starving and I’m in the last row – I may expire before the stone-age trolley reaches me.  I knew I should have bought a snack in the airport but I always have this problem that there are so many food outlets that I can’t bear to enter any of them. Silly really. I’m only two days in to this latest mini-tour and one does have to remember to look after oneself.  My last few hours have been pretty typical: rushing around New York to meetings and press interviews, then a dash to Brooklyn followed by another dash to Long Island for a screening (sold out which was great). Then – and this is frankly a bit unusual – a 3am train from NYC to Washington DC. Pretty comfortable actually if you don’t mind body-swerving the dazed and confused in Penn Station. A 7am arrival at Washington’s magnificent Union Station is a great start to any day – a glorious sunrise over the Capitol.  A 8.30 breakfast meeting at the NationalGallery of Art was interesting, fun and productive and then the long & expensive taxi ride to Dulles ($65!) to the inevitable ‘sorry, sir, your plane is delayed. We can reroute you through Denver instead of Dallas and it will only add three hours to your journey….’ . Fast-forward to hunger pains in Seat 37F.

Extraordinary country outside: one minute I’m looking down snowy plains, and then the next it’s sunny farmland  People who think the USA is just NY or LA really have no idea what they are missing: it’s not surprising there are ‘weather events’ every day in the USA.  Indeed the day I arrived in NY there was an almighty downpour and immediate minor flooding.  Still, it was better than the chaos I’d left behind. One inch of snow had caused the most almighty disruption in southern England. One friend spent almost 12 hours getting home a couple of dozen miles in his car. Total madness.  I had to catch a late train to London and stay in a hotel at the airport or I’d have never caught the plane.  And watch out for the Hilton that claims to be Terminal 5 – it’s a twenty minute bus rise away which you have to pay for!  Anyways…you don’t want to read about my moans. I would hope you were a bit more interested in our super-duper projects.  So….the big news is that EXHIBITION: GREAT ART ON SCREEN has launched and launched well. It has been an extraordinary effort over the past six months necessitating the dodging of all sorts of slings and arrows with only a few flesh wounds…  On the one hand has been the need to make a great film about the Manet exhibition from the Royal Academy.  In all the contractual haggling and publicity seeking, one must never lose sight of the fact that ‘the film’s the thing’.  The film is what you have to sit in an audience with in ten years time and still feel proud. The film is what needs to be the best film of its type ever made about Manet. We have certainly given it all we’ve got – a long, complicated, expensive edit has followed the shoot in January but I am delighted with how it has turned up.  Many, many lessons were learnt from LEONARDO LIVE. Some stuff I didn’t like because of the ‘live’ nature of the show and some I just felt we could have done better had there been less interference from TV-types who think, wrongly, that our audience has the attention span of a hyperactive child.  This time we have held shots of the paintings much longer, edited interviews to get the best material, made longer & better biographical film inserts, kept the speed of presentation down, etc.  We actually had a press review yesterday where the journalist wrote the film is actually better than going to the exhibition. I don’t want to promote that idea because I want people to go to the galleries and see these wonderful paintings face-to-face but I certainly believe we have made the next best thing.  And of course for those folk in Santa Fe that I am about to see tonight, 99.9% of them would have no liklihood of getting to see the exhibition so this is certainly bringing them into a gallery they would never ordinarily visit.   That leads on to the other area that has been gulping up my time – press & publicity.   We’ve had the idea and we’ve made the film.   All well and good but it might still play in empty cinemas.  That, for us, would be terrible.  (We still haven’t found a sponsor if anyone out there works for a big organisation and would like to help!!)  Thus we worked hard on the press launch recently - which did go very well indeed.  Plus getting the posters out there, the flyers, the social media, and all that.  We had nice pieces in the UK’s Daily Mail and Telegraph and an AssociatedPress report popped up in papers around the world. The Toronto Star and Wall Street Journal have done reports and word is spreading. Ticket sales in the UK are steady and we’ve still 4 weeks to go…..but until I see sold-out cinemas, I remain a ball of nerves.     Every morning and night in my hotels on this trip I find myself checking sales, answering enquiries, and firing off emails…endless, endless emails.

Of course I need to get to my hotel first….and here we are (LATER THAT DAY) …so, back to the joy of American internal flights.  OK, I’ve written before about the lottery of actually getting where you want to go and on time. Today was special: I arrive at Denver airport (half way on my trip) and turn up at the Great Lakes desk to get my boarding pass for the onward Denver to Santa Fe flight only to be told ‘there’s a small problem but we’ll sort it right out’.  American Airlines had issued me a revised ticket ok, all the way through to Santa Fe but hadn’t correctly confirmed to Great Lakes that they would be paying. So my seat is on the screen, I have a ticket in my hand but Great Lakes won’t issue a boarding pass until they receive confirmation from American. ‘No problem, Sir, take a seat and we’ll sort it right out’. Jump forward three hours and the gate is shut, the plane is ready to leave (the last of the day) and I still have no boarding pass. I won’t bore you with my efforts and arguments but suffice to say that in the end there were 5 Great Lakes staff all battling computer codes to issue me a ticket that I was forced to pay $438 for!  Chaotic, and sadly rather typical….  American airlines these days (for sound economic reasons) increasingly use their hubs – and flights get routed between them even if that means flying in the wroing direction for hours.  Worse though is that tickets are issued which involve making connections that are virtually impossible, especially if you care about your luggage or you’re not an Olympic sprinter.  Where possible, drive or take a train.  Where not possible, study the flight schedules very, very carefully.  It’s worth it.    But anyway, here I am for the first time in Santa Fe and has been worth every minute of today’s stress. It is stunningly beautiful and the cinema is packed with people who have come to watch a double-feature of In Search of Mozart and In Search of Beethoven.  And those are two films I am always happy to watch with a few hundred new friends….

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