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A few weeks ago I noticed that my garden pond had some frog’s spawn lodged by some garden centre water grass, for some reason or other it was an exciting moment (I am 54). My garden pond is inhabited by four large goldfish – they started out small but seem to have doubled in size every year. The largest is called Rustem Bay after a character in in Louise de Bernieres’s excellent novel Birds Without Wings – the other three don’t have names. There are also at least thirty Sticklebacks who I think are pretty ravenous and probably more intelligent than the Goldfish. Every morning for a few days I went out to see how the Frog’s Spawn were getting on – after a few more days I could see their number was diminishing. I decided to intervene and took a jam jar full into the house and plonked them into a larger Kilner Jar (google it!)
I am pleased to say that some of them seem to be thriving – over the last two weeks they have sprung legs and arms and started to look like frogs. On the advice of my son George (22) the newly amphibious critters have been transfered into an old aquarium and now have a slip-way they can get up on and observe the world above water level.
At some point I will have to re-introduce them to the dangers of the pond, we’ll keep you posted.
Posted by proudblog on April 30th 2009 at 4.33pm
If I’m awake I’m working
A few years ago we tried to develop a TV programme about the ‘Slow movement’. Contrary to popular belief, living slow is not only, or even primarily, about the pace of life. At proudfoot we always say if we are awake we are working. I know that if my family heard me say that they would grimace, we’ve never been workaholics. Often on shoots there are moments when we are not filming that are more important to the resulting film than moments when we are. Ensuring that we don’t flog ourselves and leaving time to think and look without pressure is vital. This is what ’slow’ is about (I think). Not filling your time for the sake of it so that you can get more from life and maybe even give more to work. During my ’slow’ time on shoots I often take pictures of the crew. Sometimes we are in places that demand that you stop what you’re doing.
Posted by proudblog on April 30th 2009 at 12.42pm
I’ve been looking at Avedon’s “In the American West” again, prompted by Laura Wilson’s excellent book about her time traveling with the great man taking the pictures. Some wonderful anecdotes about how Avedon got his subjects to be at ease and how he worked fast to make sure the precious, magic moment didn’t pass. There are some informative pictures of him and his two assistants setting up the shots with a huge large format camera in front of a piece of white paper Gaffa taped to whatever was convenient. Avedon is usually seen chatting with his subject inadvertently copying the physical posture of the person he is about snap. His approach was unfussy and geared towards getting the real person onto the neg; no flash, minimum equipment – we can probably all learn from him.
Posted by proudblog on April 29th 2009 at 4.03pm
Michael Proudfoot has many qualities, as all right thinking folk know. His ability to appear without warning in the most surprising places is finally being recognised as one of his greatest talents. In recent years he has popped up on TV (in the celebrated daytime show ‘Flog It’), as an unpaid extra in a VW commercial and now as the only face not blurred on Google Streetview, captured quite innocently in his office in Farringdon.
Let’s hope that the camera’s uncanny ability to spot Proudfoot doesn’t land him in trouble – it would be terrible if he was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Posted by proudblog on April 29th 2009 at 10.57am
The Ghost bike, of course, is a symbol of finality, a memorium – it is most certainly “an ending”.
I’ve been thinking about sequences and how we as documentary makers create stories out of seemingly endless hours of rushes. In the old days of film we thought a decent shooting ratio was twenty-to-one, this meant that you used about a minute for every twenty shot. As a “film” maker in those days one became acutely aware of the shooting ratio because a roll of sixteen millimetre film plus processing cost a lot of money and only lasted ten minutes. These days a forty-minute Digi-beta tape doesn’t cost very much and directors have the luxury of forgetting about the “off” button. But how do we get the right material to make sequences and create many options for beginnings, middles and ends when it comes to the edit?
Here are some tips:
Every shot you take should have a beginning, middle and end.
The interview material you get should contain the potential for beginnings, middles and ends.
Sometimes the environment surrounding your subject contains symbolic messages that can assume greater importance than might appear at first. Keep looking and record things that might be useful in the edit.
Create opportunities for the editor to make a film out of your rushes – look for suspense – look for beauty – keep the camera moving – don’t be afraid not to move the camera.
Keep asking questions, be spontaneous…………to be continued
Posted by proudblog on April 28th 2009 at 10.32am
As all our friends know we all use our bikes to get to work. From our vantage point above the junction of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street we can clearly see that the number of cyclists in London is continuing to rise. That must be good news for the city but it is terrifying to see how many people fly across the junction when the lights are red, scattering pedestrians as they go. It is one thing for ‘professionals’ such as couriers to do it – their life expectancy is short anyway – but most commuters seem to treat each bike journey as if it were a suicide mission. The ghost bike that appeared outside Proudfoot HQ a month or so ago is a tribute to a cyclist that died at this spot. She was apparently drinking a cappucino when she was hit. You would hope that such a powerful reminder of our fragility would act as a warning to other cyclists; I can’t imagine a more pathetic waste of life than to be killed on the way to work. I think the unofficial, underground ghost bike campaign should be given a much higher profile. It is probably breaking one of Camden’s thousands of byelaws but the council have allowed it to stay put so far. But now this strangely beautiful object is gradually being trashed. Several hefty blows have bent the wheels, someone has tried to take the tyres off and at least one person, presumably smashed after a big Smithfield night out, has tried to steal it. Crazy and slightly sad days.
On a happier note, for Pompey fans anyway, the past week has seen our old rivals Southampton sink further into trouble. The prospect of a third relegation in only a handful of years now surely looms and we can even hold out hope that they will go bust and disappear altogether. Great news.
Posted by proudblog on April 27th 2009 at 3.53pm
All this talk of ‘fixies’
All this talk of ‘fixies’ has reminded me about the fixer we hired on a recent shoot. Nearly every time we film abroad (and sometimes even in Britain) we hire a ‘fixer’ to help us. Usually they recommend hotels, drive us to locations, know where we can get food that won’t have us crapping through the eye of a needle, advise us on picturesque places to film, make sure we are safe, translate, entertain us with stories, help us carry equipment, tell us about local culture, knock on our doors when we sleep through our alarm and generally make sure we hit the ground running when we arrive in a strange place. In other words, they do a lot and they are very important.
It is intended entirely as a compliment when I say that these fixers have many similar characteristics. They are organised, practical, and very good with people. I don’t know whether it is the impeccable instincts of our producer Simon or just the natural order of the world, but they are always very good at what they do. So, introducing the latest of our fixers, this time from Honduras. Jorge Flores. He’s your man.
Posted by proudblog on April 24th 2009 at 2.34pm
Cycling and “Fixie knobs”
Those that know us will be aware of our pro-cycling stance in London. I give full credit for getting me on a bike to one Patrick Uden. To this day Patrick can be seen majestically cruising the streets of London on his strange Danish (I think) cycle. When you first start cycling in London there is a tendency to think that in order to “beat” the traffic and stay alive one has to break the rules of the road. It has to be said many cyclists never mature out of this stage and some of them are now dead.
Each day I cycle to our attractively appointed office pondering the events of the coming day, composing the lyrics to hitherto unheard of Country songs, thinking on the creative problems of our clients, sometimes solving them and marveling at the beauty of the world and the people who walk the streets of London. The cycle ride to this place of work is life-affirming and even allows me the luxury of thinking I have exercised. My cycle ride is also practical, it gets me here in exactly the same time-frame every day and it costs next to nothing.
You may be wondering how does he do this “thinking” with the ever present danger of “White Van Man”, seemingly unaware bus drivers, angry black cabbies and mums on the school run? It’s simple, obey the rules of the road in London and your mind and eyes can go on a journey of their own. Cycling is actually relaxing if you are not worrying about being hit by a lorry because you have just jumped a red light. Each day I see the most amazing antics by fellow cyclists, mainly jumping the lights at dangerous major junctions or turning left on the inside of articulated lorries. I know that one day I’m going to see something very bad but in the meantime my message is simple to all cyclists in London; you WILL arrive quicker than any other mode of transport in London EVEN if you stop at all the red lights and adopt the courtesy of stopping at pedestrian crossings. And to all you fixie riders, I know its important to appear cool while on the way to Clerkenwell but there is nothing less cool than bent fixie and and squashed geek in the road.
Posted by proudblog on April 24th 2009 at 1.48pm
I'm going to get medieval Honduras
Proudfoot’s shoot in Honduras went very well last week. It’s a land of booty shaking, dangerous driving, echoing gun shots, and pirate radio stations. I’ve taken a bit of time to acclimatise back in Hackney.
Posted by conor on April 23rd 2009 at 1.11pm
Posted by conor on April 23rd 2009 at 12.43pm
So welcome to the Proudblog, the first thing I’m going to do is ask Eddie how to change the font because it doesn’t comply with the Proudblog Visual police rules of font. That’s better, Eddie tells me this is not black but a sort of grey which is, as we all know “The New Black”.
As a company that makes documentary films we tend to go to some quite interesting places and meet extraordinary people. We want to tell the world about this outside the confines of the finished films and also give anyone that cares an insight into our ever changing, ever improving creative processes. This may include some material that some of you will find hard to relate to the business we are supposed to be in but our moto is: “if we are awake, we are working” so everything is fair game and from this moment on I formerly and informally invite my colleagues, friends, suppliers and clients to join in.
Posted by conor on April 23rd 2009 at 12.19pm
Proudblog is here!
Come back soon for Proudfoot’s new blog.
Posted by conor on April 23rd 2009 at 11.48am