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The Children’s Shoes
Last week Simon and I had a lunch with quite a senior person in one of the cable/satellite channels. She is a charming, but pretty forthright sort of person, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and may even be described as “tough”. It just so happens that she was at the Dubai event at which our films for the Rolex Awards For Enterprise were being shown last November. This lady is not the first person to have mentioned to us that Eddie’s film about the AIDS orphans in South Africa had her in tears.
The film is centred around Andrew Muir, an amazing guy who runs an holistic training programme for young people affected by the AIDS crisis in South Africa (because of AIDS, SA has a huge amount of child-headed households). The country’s burgeoning eco-tourism industry needs skilled workers and the young people benefit by having stable incomes. Andrew has set up the training scheme, Umzi Whetu to make the link.
For the first time in a long time at a Rolex event I was not running around worrying about the projection being in focus, I was sitting at a table having dinner and being part of the audience. Eddie’s film from the first viewings in the office had brought a lump to my throat so I wasn’t surprised to see less jaded souls than I with tears streaming down their faces in Dubai. The film is only four minutes so there is a lot of information to get across and engage the audience emotionally with the subject.
I found myself thinking the other day, “what was it that moved people so much in this little film and why is it so efficient at drawing people onto the subject matter?” Firstly there is a music track which is one of Muir’s trainees singing an improvised song at a slightly out of tune piano. There are some aerial shots of a township – one storey homes stretch far into the distance. Then we are on the ground in the township and can see these are very basic dwellings. We move inside one of the homes and see their simple interiors, minimal furnishings, soft toys on beds. All the while Andrew Muir is telling us in voice over about what the AIDS crisis has done to families in South Africa. The sequence is very carefully edited by Andreas Torner who cuts back to the trainee singing at one point and a piece of Andrew’s in-sync interview. Then there is a shot that is neither beautiful or epic; no fancy pulling of focus or clever panning or tilting – its even a bit gloomy lightingwise. The shot is a close-up of a pair of children’s sandals carelessly kicked off beside a bed – for some reason this is the one that always tips me over the edge, it’s somehow deeply symbolic whilst being brutally real. I’m not sure if Eddie said to our excellent cameraman Mike James – “look over there, some children’s shoes, somehow deeply symbolic whilst being brutally real” or whether Mike just saw it in his thorough harvesting of the scene. Either way, “the children’s shoes” are one of the big moments in the films we made last year.
You can see the film here
Posted by proudblog on May 27th 2009 at 3.11pm
Bank Holiday Moustaches
The Proudfoot Company spent their bank holiday weekends growing moustaches.
Posted by proudblog on May 26th 2009 at 1.32pm
I imagine that lo-fi indie rock, post-punk, and doom metal probably aren’t the first things that spring to mind when you think of Butlins, but for a couple of weekends a year the seaside holiday resort becomes a Mecca for alternative music fans when it plays host to All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival.
This weekend at All Tomorrow’s Parties: The Fans Strike back in Minehead, Somerset, it struck me (ahem) that this apparent mish-mash of cultures actually makes a lot of sense. Although most of the largely young, trendy middle class crowd would no doubt turn their noses up at spending their summer holidays at a British coastal holiday camp, ATP offers some pretty appealing advantages over other festivals. While the accommodation may have been “basic”, the addition of a roof, bed, heating, hot water, cooker, fridge, kettle and tv is certainly a step up from traditional festival slumming, and there wasn’t even a glimpse of any sludgy brown stuff in any of the three indoor venues with their clean, flushing toilets.
But it seemed to me that a large part of the appeal of ATP was the “quaint” little Butlins touches. There was something quite refreshing about seeing pretty girls in vintage floral dresses and skinny boys in tight jeans totally immersing themselves in playing on 2p machines, visiting the waterpark, playing bingo or (in my case) stuffing their faces at the all-you-can eat Pizza Hut buffet. What Butlins essentially offers is the chance for everyone to act like a big kid and have some good, clean, simple fun. And regardless of your age, class or taste in music, no one can turn their noses up at a round of ten-pin bowling or a ride on the waltzers. Plus I’m sure I saw Beirut munching down on what looked suspiciously like a battered sausage. It’s not every weekend you can say that.
Posted by proudblog on May 13th 2009 at 5.26pm
Art, Fragrance and Excess baggage
The pleasures of filming on location seem to diminish with each passing trip. Last week cameraman Chris Morphet and soundman Paul Nathan and I flew to Berlin via Heathrow’s Terminal 2 and Tiegel airport. Terminal 2 is now about as glamorous as Doncaster bus station but not as efficient. At Tiegel passengers were herded through passport control in a way my father wouldn’t have allowed his cattle to be treated. We then waited thirty minutes while the single baggage handler got our luggage on to the carousel.
The reason for our trip was to film the japanese artist Masanori Handa and his mentor, the famous sculptor and performance artist Rebecca Horn. Masanori is living in the Turkish quarter of Berlin in what looks like an old music shop. Rebecca Horn arrived and we proceeded to film the two as they discussed Masanori’s work. In one room there was a huge decorated palm tree and in another a pile of waste cardboard up to the ceiling with a water sprinkler on the top – the water trickled down the side of the cardboard sculpture. Masanori expressed slight concern about the weight of the wet cardboard and the strength of the floor the whole assemblage was sitting on. After saying what a great piece it was Rebecca said that the smell of wet cardboard was quite overpowering, Masanori agreed and said this was all part of it. I asked Rebecca whether she had ever worked with smell, she said ”Not exactly but a well- known cosmetics company once asked me to develop my own fragrance….they came to my house in Spain and with a special fragrance catching machine captured the smells of certain plants in my garden….the perfume was never available commercially, I am the only person with a few bottles left”. Rebecca has worked in just about every medium from sculpture to performance and even feature films but I hadn’t expected the fragrance, she is truly a three hundred an sixty degree artist who continues to exhibit startling new pieces. Horn’s energy and continual wonderment at the world around her, keep on fueling the work. She confessed in our interview that she makes art mainly for her own enjoyment.
In the evening Rebecca very kindly invited us to dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant near Checkpoint Charlie, Sale e Tabacchi where we drank numerous bottles of her favourite wine with Gunther, the photographer, Patrick, her cleaner and her friend, the artist Kimsooja. I realised I had been in this same restaurant before with a miserable John Peel in 1996 (Liverpool had lost). Anyway all in all I shouldn’t complain about airports and travel, it was a pretty life-enhancing trip.
Posted by proudblog on May 13th 2009 at 1.47pm
Our new best friend
On a grey, damp London morning it is cheering to hear the news that Sotheby’s have sold the Blue Diamond (our Blue Diamond) for a record price – almost $10 million. A friend in the auctioneering game tells me that diamonds always do well in a recession – it’s something to do with them being easy to transport. They are probably a good way to tie up large amounts of cash in a very small object, too.
We always imagine that our films make a difference, however tiny, but in this case perhaps it is true; the diamond caused a real stir and our film found it’s way to a massive audience. It wasn’t just uploaded onto various websites, we also supplied footage to news organisations all over the world. The story ran on the BBC but also popped up on ABC, Reuters, South African TV, Genius (I don’t know either) and who knows where else.
And the result of all this publicity? A record price per carat for any gemstone sold at auction. Just call that the Proudfoot Effect. Either that or it’s a really beautiful, extremely rare thing.
Posted by proudblog on May 13th 2009 at 11.29am
I’m trying to write a script at the moment. With each word it gets harder and harder. Just to finish one episode takes a lot more work than I expected. The trouble is, I’m trying to think of a twist and twists, by definition, aren’t very easy. Someone suggested the ‘non-twist’ twist strategy the other day so I gave that a bash and it was even more difficult than just having a twist. I watched The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game, The Others, Old Boy, The Usual Suspects, The Empire Strikes Back, in an attempt to gain inspiration at the altar of ‘Great Film Twists’ ……..until last night when it came to me. I finished my 30 pages with a great, simple twist no one would expect. When I read through the warm, freshly printed pages I realised it was just the rest that was crap.
Posted by proudblog on May 6th 2009 at 4.56pm