I’ve been writing diaries on and off since I was about seven years old. Lately, it’s been more ‘on’ than ever.
Not just because, under lockdown, there’s fewer distractions of people to meet or places to be, but also because recording stuff feels important right now.
Countless photographers, writers, artists agree – and so do social historians. I feel somehow happier knowing that they’re gathering people’s experiences of living through Covid-19 – for example inthis project from the Young Foundation, orthis one from London’s Museum of the Home. Universities, archives and historical societies around the world are doing the same, inviting details of the “deeply personal, political, or mundane“, as the US-based ‘Journal of the Plague Year’ project puts it. Ordinary lives in extraordinary times. Continue reading “Note to self”→
Before I get into the next project — and before descending too far down the inevitable path of hopelessness/doubt/boredom as illustrated by Austin Kleon — I’m trying to keep in mind the stuff I learned from the last one.
The last project turned into a 40-minute film, ‘Unladylike’, about women and girls who box. It was the first time I’d made a documentary and the first time I’d worked with my two co-filmmakers.
After venturing up to Glasgow as part of the World of Film International Festival, ‘Unladylike’ is coming back to its roots in London, and will be shown in Crystal Palace – “London’s coolest festival“, they say – next month. (We’re also up for a best documentary award – yikes!) Here’s the festival programme:
Find out more about the film and watch the trailer over on our website.
I’ve been doing some writing for the European Commission’s EURES website, which aims to encourage jobseekers to take up opportunities in other countries. The blog posts are for the (somewhat oddly-named) Drop’pin blog, which targets 16-30 year-olds in EU and neighbouring countries.
A fairly broad audience then – and, being based in the UK, the challenge is to tackle a topic in a way that’s useful not only to readers in this country.
Experience of living abroad makes you aware of things that are country-specific, though (e.g. appreciating that the charity sector isn’t necessarily as developed elsewhere). Working in international teams is perhaps the best training for writing in plain English – better leave out those dazzling turns of phrase or idioms. And language skills help too, of course – for example, getting speedy responses from a source in Berlin for a piece on accessing the creative industries.
It’s almost two years ago to the day that I sat in a living room in North London with two people I’d met a week previously and agreed to make a documentary together about something I knew nothing about.
Unladylike, the story of women’s boxing in the UK, is still in progress. Part of me is horrified that it’s taken so long; I probably wouldn’t have signed up to this if I’d known what a beast it would become. Part of me, though, is secretly proud that we’ve stuck at it despite (between the three of us) one birth, one bereavement, several career changes, multiple moving-of-houses, one major computer crash, numerous months in other countries/continents, full-time jobs – and a budget of roughly zero. Still many, many more weekend editing sessions to go till it’s done – here’s a preview in the meantime.
Seeing a TV set when boarding a long-distance bus in Tanzania usually made my heart sink. The music videos or the homegrown melodramas – the ones that take 10 minutes to tell you that our main character is upset, or one minute to show someone pulling into a driveway – never seemed to make those twelve-hour journeys pass more quickly.
So I understood Nes’s point, when I sat in on one of his classes in the slums of Uganda (I’ve written about that, here): be more subtle. To illustrate, the Ugandan filmmaker showed two shorts: powerful films with almost no dialogue that told a whole story without spelling it out. Western-made films, of course.
It’s not quite world-changing stuff, but you have to start somewhere, I guess.
I started with pugs. And learned a lot of unexpected, and probably not very useful, stuff along the way, like the fact that the crease on a pug’s forehead is supposed to be the Chinese character for “prince”, and that the pet cemetery at Hyde Park has three monkeys buried in it.
The LCC summer course in documentary photography, led by the endlessly energetic Anders Birger, gets you out shooting and putting together a photo story within two weeks. Sounds like plenty of time, but the hours just seem to evaporate. Before you know it you’re cramming in bits of text and agonising over which last image will make the cut. In a way, that’s the crucial bit. Which photos – and they might not be the most beautiful or the most technically perfect – tell the story you want to tell? And is it a story people can relate to? Will they care? Still mulling those things over – in the meantime, here’s my pug-inspired picture parade. Continue reading “And now, something a little different…”→
Two-and-a-bit afternoons of shooting, many more of editing, and some frustratingly slow file transfers all the way to China ended up with this (see below): a 7-minute clip about using dance for adults with disabilities.
Challenges? Not enough time to shoot, you might say – but there’s never enough (though I would’ve loved to film the dancers at home or around the city). Attempting to interview people with learning difficulties who spoke no English? With a good interpreter – once I’d clarified she had to translate my questions, not answer them herself – it actually worked out ok. The really difficult bit, the thing I hadn’t even really thought of till I was standing there, camera in hand, was pretty basic. How do I film these people? Continue reading “Like nobody’s watching”→
Just finished a first trailer for our short doc (watch it here). There are a few more stories and characters to be added to the mix. In the meantime, some things I’ve learned about boxing:
1. Interval training includes a spot of chess. Seriously – sprints, to a quick session on the chessboard, to the skipping rope. Turns out it’s not so much about pummelling each other as careful tactics (and then pummelling). Continue reading “Playing chess, and other facts”→