So, several months after upgrading to a Nikon D7000, I’ve finally made something with actual moving pictures. This is a video for “Good To Be”, the first single from Piefinger‘s new album “A Countryman’s Favour” which will be out on 1st November, 2011. It was shot in full HD, so crank up the YouTube settings on the embed as high as your system will allow:
This is intended to be the first of two promos for “Good To Be”, the second will feature people listening to the song on headphones. That’s still a work-in-progress at this time…
For those with a technical bent, the video was shot on a Nikon D7000 using some very old lenses; a 135mm dating from the late sixties (It’s the one my dad used to take baby pictures of me!), an 85mm from 1974 and a 105mm also from the early seventies. The whole thing was shot in my living room, in available light (because I’ve never had to light my own shoots before and the learning curve was a little too steep for the time allowed) and then edited and colour-graded on Final Cut Pro X, which worked like an absolute dream.
I went for a very simple idea because it was my first solo effort but I think the end result is pretty effective.
Hopefully there’ll be more where this came from over the coming months.
I haven’t been here for a LONG time. I’ve been dicking around with Posterous quite a lot, which I like, but I haven’t really put anything useful up there. I’ve also been posting a lot of photographs to 500px. I’m getting the feeling I should blow the dust off the Brain, though; spruce her up and take her out for a spin again.
It’s late now, but the idea is in my head. I need to get a proper handle on WordPress and jazz this blog up.
And I need to get into the habit of writing stuff on here, even if it’s just inconsequential late-night bullshit like this.
Tomorrow, there may well be a new video here – the first thing I have shot and edited by my own hand. There may also be news. Meanwhile, here’s a photograph:
Saturday 26th March 2011. So-called “anarchists” ran amok in London, off the back of the march against public sector cuts. They occupied Fortnum and Mason, broke the windows at The Ritz and trashed a Porsche showroom. Bless. If only it was still 1986, the Establishment would have been shitting itself. I’m looking forward to next week’s poll tax riot.
You want to fuck with people’s heads? Hit The Guardian, a Buddhist temple and a branch of Planet Organic; force the Establishment to defend its enemies and turn the whole thing on its head.
Talking of fucking with people’s heads, allow me to commend “The Invisibles” to your kind attention… Very occasionally you read something that profoundly alters your view of the world. In September 1994, DC Vertigo published the first issue of Grant Morrison‘s “The Invisibles”. I was hooked from issue 1 and devoured every one of the subsequent 58 issues as soon as they were published. The Invisibles is a hand grenade tossed into Western culture, an epic story that ties together every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard and re-examines them through a prism of occult theory, Chaos magic, quantum physics, time travel and meta-fiction.
“The Invisibles” has a story and a pretty good, if convoluted and contradictory, one but that is almost beside the point. Grant Morrison isn’t telling you a story so much as he is giving you an experience; a work-out for your brain, an irreversible expansion of your world-view. The seven volumes of “The Invisibles” are a seven-step process towards enlightenment. I shit you not.
“The Invisibles” is a spell, a chaotic sigil designed to hack the software in your brain and make it process the world in an infinitely more interesting and rewarding way. “The Matrix” would never have been made without “The Invisibles” and you wouldn’t believe how heavily the movie cribs from the comic book. The idea that the “real world” can be hacked and bent to your will is central to both stories but “The Invisibles”, and the tangential research it inspires, shows you how.
Every frame of every page contains something challenging, something to make you stop and think, something that will have you firing up Google and expanding your mind. Referencing everything from arcane and contemporary magic to quantum theory, time travel, religion, politics, sex, the nature of death, parallel universe theory, UFOs, martial arts, Eastern philosophy, history, literature, movies, linguistics (terribly important, linguistics – a 26 character alphabet may seriously limit our ability to perceive all the facets of the universe), the nature of consensus reality, the nature of rebellion… The list goes on and on.
Everything you know is wrong. You are living a lie, a lie you don’t even understand.
“The Invisibles” is life without a perception filter, reality without consensus.
The last credit at the end of my film “The Criminal” (2000) reads “The Criminal was shot entirely on location in the UK. It was made with real money and no public funds whatsoever”. If that sounds like sour grapes, that’s probably because almost all of the grapes contained in the statement are at least a little way past their sell-by date. Our experience with the arts council funding bodies at that time (a previous incarnation of the UK Film Council) was discouraging to say the least. The film was apparently “too commercial” (although box office receipts would ultimately prove that to be incorrect) and we were told that funding is only given to those films that would not otherwise be made. The movie was about an innocent man who finds himself on the run from the police and the victim of an all-powerful quasi-government conspiracy. Perhaps, it was helpfully suggested, said innocent man might be given some kind of disability, to allow Arts Council funding to be forthcoming?
The following decade provided myriad other experiences of piss-poor development instincts, broken promises, missed deadlines and bureaucratic incompetence on the part of what had by then become the UK Film Council. These were not smart people. There is an aphorism concerning public defenders in the legal system: who would trust his life to someone who wasn’t smart enough to succeed in private practice? And perhaps this can be countered by the argument that people have higher aspirations; that public service is its own reward. But this is not the legal profession we’re talking about. Nor the medical profession, nor teaching or policing or putting out fires. The film industry (also theatre, dance, writing, art etc) is a commercial profession; you create something people want to see in order that they buy tickets in sufficient quantities to cover the costs, pay the participants and, hopefully, seed money into the next project. We would rightly assume that someone who entered the oil industry with the intention of not making a profit would be missing the point. Likewise the employee of the public arts fund.
So I am not going to miss the UK Film Council and I am certainly not going to be signing any petition or “liking” any Facebook page in a hopeless and misguided effort to stay its execution, regardless of my personal feelings about the government that axed it or their transparent anti-cultural agenda. And I’m frustrated by the narrow boundaries of the questions being raised, which seem to amount to “if the UK Film Council is not to administer public funding for British films then who should?” The real question, surely, is more fundamental than this: should the arts receive any public funding at all?
I don’t doubt that, for every one of my infuriating experiences with arts funding, there was another film-maker jumping for joy because his or her dream project had been made flesh by the very same people who had frustrated me. There are certainly a lot of examples of films that, it is claimed, would “never have been made” were it not for the UK Film Council. But really, if you honestly believe that the participation of the UK Film Council provided your only hope of getting your film made, you need (like those authors given to self-publishing) to take a long hard look at why no one else in the world was interested in investing in your project. And if you’re going to give up because the UKFC can’t or won’t fund your film, then you should find another profession post haste.
The Facebook page dedicated to battling the government’s decision name-checks Christoper Nolan and Ridley Scott as examples of fine British film makers (which they are) and implies a connection that simply doesn’t exist on any level between their success and the existence of the UK Film Council. The plain fact of the matter is that these are film-makers with determination and tenacity, who get their films made by hook or by crook. They didn’t need the UK Film Council, whether they in fact received help from them or not. (Worth noting, also, that both Nolan and Scott are invoked as British film-makers in this argument by the same arts funding apologists who more usually dismiss their work as glossy commercial studio product.)
Looking at the bigger picture, public funding for the arts has, time and again, demonstrated a cancerous effect on creative output. Those with the most success at securing this funding are not those with the best ideas, but those with an aptitude for completing application forms and for ticking the variously required special-interest boxes that are an integral part of those applications. In time, those people rise to be the heads of their production companies (because who wouldn’t promote the rain-maker?) and thus the company’s output becomes entirely that which is designed to appeal not to an audience but to a funding body. And so British film (and British theatre) becomes something which is paid for by the public but which wilfully fails to appeal to that public. Just how is that a desirable outcome for anyone other than those whose salaries depend on such ever decreasing circles of self-interest?
The British film industry, we are told, was in rude health until the government made their fateful decision to axe the UKFC. I think it probably was. And I think it probably still is and will be. Because the British film industry is not a handful of small Soho production companies growing fat on subsidies, it is a broad spectrum of talented, hard-working artists and craftspeople whose mortgages have rarely been paid from public funds but by productions like “Harry Potter” and “Pirates Of The Carribean” and “Prince Of Persia” and “Sherlock Holmes”; studio-funded product which shoot over here, fill our studios and create thousands of jobs and opportunities for training. The resurgence in scripted television will provide more opportunities for writers, directors and actors over the coming years than the Film Council ever could. Any producer smart enough to secure a good script, a good director and a good cast will always find the money from somewhere to make his or her film and that film, if it is successful, will reward the participants handsomely; creating more jobs and paving the way for those who come after. As it ever was, so shall it ever be.
And what of this public money? What of these tens of millions of pounds that “should” be administered by the likes of the UK Film Council? Well, what if that money was ploughed instead into schools? What if ordinary schools all over the country suddenly received funding for their arts and creativity programmes that would allow them to take pupils to see great plays and art exhibitions and ballets? What if those schools could mount their own productions and train their pupils in the means of production? What if that money could at least help to radically change how we educate our children and send them out into the world with a degree of creative confidence they currently lack?
Would those kids be happy to collapse in front of soap operas and reality television at the end of the working day, or might they demand something a little more challenging from their entertainment and, in so doing, change the face of mainstream culture and render commercial that which, back in the mists of time, required funding from the UK Film Council?
£10.25 per ticket, which couldn’t be purchased at the ticket office because that was closed, so had to be bought from the concessions stand and therefore involved a lot of angry people missing the start of their movies because they were queuing behind people who were buying tubs of popcorn…
…But not hot dogs, because they’d run out of hot dogs by 7.40pm on a Thursday night.
Usually the projection at the Vue cinemas is woeful (out of focus, out of rack etc) but this was a digital projection, so they couldn’t fuck it up…
…Oh, except that the projector was a little weaker than it should have been given its distance from the screen…
…Although the weakness of the image could be attributed to the fact that the cinema refuses to bring the house lights all the way down at the start of the movie for “health and safety reasons”. There was therefore a mis-aligned spotlight shining onto the right hand side of the screen for THREE HOURS.
Before the movie started, we were treated to several stern lectures and warnings about film piracy. Apparently it’s a crime to be taken very seriously because it’s destroying the entertainment industry.
Is. It. Fuck.
Cinema exhibition is dying because the big cinema exhibitors are greedy, arrogant, incompetent shitstains who care more about flogging snacks than showing movies and who have been butt-raping the public too hard and too long.
Last night’s outing cost about £30 (double that if we’d needed a babysitter).
Regardless of the quality of the movie, the quality of the cinema experience was shit.
The Blu-Ray will be out in a couple of months and will cost £15. I can watch it at home whenever, with whoever and as often as I want.
Cinema (the place, not the form) is indeed dead. But it wasn’t killed by pirates, it was fucked to death by fat sweaty middle-aged white men who weren’t smart enough to keep one of the simplest business models in the world ticking over.
I have no real interest in directing music videos. Never have had. But if Amanda Palmer came calling, I’d direct anything she wanted free of charge. You love Amanda Palmer too, even if you don’t realise it yet.
The original idea of this post was that I would write a load of semi-eloquent prose explaining my current fascination and enthusiasm for Amanda Palmer. But the last few days have seen me struggling to articulate exactly what it is about the woman and her work that I like so much (an encouraging state of affairs for a professional writer!). I trawled articles, blog posts, video clips and listened to her albums and it finally occurred to me that perhaps the best way to present the subject would be through an aggregation (how very web 2.0) of those.
This post, then, is a kind of mash-up of the best and most interesting bits of Amanda Palmer’s songs, videos, interviews and performances. If you haven’t come across her before, this is a pretty solid introduction. I hope it inspires you to delve further.
If you know Amanda Palmer’s work, I hope you can at least find something here you haven’t seen or heard before or that you’ll just enjoy seeing it again!
The biographical details of Amanda Palmer’s life are very well documented by Wikipedia so, with your kind permission, I have excerpted these wholesale and intercut them with video clips and some thoughts of my own. You’ll get the most out of this post if you take the time to watch the video clips as they crop up….
“And who needs love, when the sandwiches are wicked and they know you at the Mac store”
WHO THE FUCK IS AMANDA PALMER?
One half of Brechtian punk-cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, Amanda’s recently been touring her solo album “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” (produced by Ben Folds). She’s a prolific blogger and twitterer and she’s about to release a coffee table book of photographs to accompany her album, the text for which has been written by none other than Neil Gaiman, who also crops up now and again on stage with her and reads prose pieces in between songs.
The world is crowded with very good musicians who have nothing to say and people who do have something to say but lack the talent to back it up. Amanda Palmer is the best of both worlds; brave, outspoken and talented…
“In October 2000, Palmer met drummerBrian Viglioneand together they formed the Dresden Dolls. In an effort to expand the performance experience and interactivity, Palmer began inviting Lexington High School students to perform drama pieces at her live shows. Currently, the Dirty Business Brigade, a troupe of seasoned and new artists, perform at many gigs. The invited costumed characters mingle with the crowd before and during the show, and veteran groups sometimes join in with a choreographed stage act. Life-sized marionettes, coin-operated boys, living statues, and other undergroundlings greet fans while circus and burlesque draw the audience into the Dolls’ music, creating a participatory atmosphere that allows the audience to experience numerous types of art simultaneously.” (Wikipedia)
WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER?
Amanda’s solo album “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?” was released on 16 September 2008. It was produced by Ben Folds, who also plays on the album. Beg, borrow or steal a copy. To accompany the album, Michael Pope directed a series of thematically-related videos. I’ve embedded them all together below (move your mouse over the player to switch between them).
One of the recurring topics on Amanda Palmer’s blog concerns her disagreements with her record company, Roadrunner Records. Upon seeing the video for “Leeds United” (above) the record company requested that Amanda have shots of her “uncommercially fat” belly removed from the clip. (According to her blog, the exec in question said “I’m a guy, Amanda, I understand what people like”!)
In addition to this, the British music channels refused to screen the video for “Oasis” on the grounds that it was “making light of rape, religion and abortion”. The text of Amanda’s response is here. Meanwhile, here’s the video in question:
The ongoing battle with Roadrunner culminated recently in this impromptu live performance:
MORE AMANDA PALMER…
The Dresden Dolls’ albums; “Dresden Dolls”, “Yes, Virginia” and “No, Virginia” are all available on iTunes and Amazon.
“Who Killed Amanda Palmer” is a brilliant piece of work and is also available on iTunes and pretty much everywhere else.
To see more of the videos and a load of live stuff, visit Amanda’s YouTube channel
I leave you, finally, with one of my favourite AP clips; a ukelele cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”, performed at this year’s SXSW for a queue of people who were waiting in line for a panel Amanda was appearing on. Quincy Jones was over-running, so AP decided to entertain…
(If you want to see the same song performed in the back of a cab(!) click here)
In a previous life, I invested a more-than-reasonable amount of my time (and money) in Linden Lab’s virtual world “Second Life”. It took me a while to realise that this wasn’t, in fact, the future of the internet but it did reinforce my faith in human beings as inherently creative; the sheer breadth and scale of the landscapes, buildings, costumes, vehicles and gadgets on display in SL was staggering. And nowhere was more coherently imagined and brilliantly realised than the Independent State of Caledon and its neighbour-in-spirit, New Babbage…
Just watching that video tempts me back onto SL; so much has changed since I was last in Babbage, when it was little more than a building site.
Anyway, the point is that Second Life provided my introduction to Steampunk, an aesthetic and mythology that has fascinated me ever since.
Defined by Wikepedia, Steampunk is “a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or with a presumption of functionality.”
Steampunk is a glorious nonsense, then, on every conceivable level. It is a period in history that never happened, a future that will never be. We’re used to writers and film-makers creating our imaginary worlds for us but, although both groups have had their input into it, Steampunk is a product of the internet; springing from the consensus imagination of enthusiasts all over the globe. It is the first “open-source” fantasy world and it is just a mouse-click away. I recommend you take some time out to explore it for yourself; be amused, inspired and illuminated.
Steampunk Magazine is a beautifully produced, if irregular, publication dealing with all things Steampunk from fiction to interviews to costumes and design. You can download it for free in .pdf format. The illustrations alone are worth a look.
Brass Goggles is one of the pre-eminent Steampunk blogs and a great jumping-off point for further exploration, as is the Aether Emporium, a wiki-based resource. The incomparable Boing Boing also maintains a very comprehensive Steampunk section.
For practical applications, visit the fantastic Steampunk Home and Steampunk Fashion blogs and, to see true dedication to the cause, look at Steampunk Lab and The Steampunk Workshop. If after all this you, like me, are fascinated by the world of Steampunk but disinclined to wear the garb and lack the requisite craft skills to make the gadgets, stop off at the giftshop on your way back to the real world and grab a memento in the form of some free wallpaper from, you guessed it, Steampunk Wallpaper.
If you see anything on your trip you think might interest me, please let me know. One day, I’ll make a film about all this stuff.