Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Sammi J Hewitt

Back in 2009 I was busy putting together a film called Bright Blue Button. The basis of the film was all about swapping. We started with a two inch wide bright blue button, then via a website offered it up for swapping for something of higher value, perceived or intrinsic. Whatever we ended up with one year later would be sold for charity. We launched the website and the first offers started to come in and we decided to go for a first edition of the cult comic 2000AD. But we had one problem. We needed a presenter.

We tried everything from asking friends, to amateur dramatics to dreaming up a Britain's Got Talent auditions for students. Nothing. Then one day a friend called to say he knew someone who was very talented and was the lead singer in his band. We set up a meeting. 7th April 2009, enter Sam Muirhead. Both myself and Alastair, the producer, were knocked off our feet. Sam was 22 years old, 100% pure energy, bouncy and happy with a grin to rival Julia Roberts. There was no audition necessary. Sam had the looks and the energy and, being mad as a brush, was up for anything. She loved the idea of the film. I had to laugh a couple of days later when I received an email from Sam apologising. She had left our brief meeting having taken the decision herself that she would be presenter. Any doubts that we had chosen the right person or not were dispelled on the first shoot. She was a natural, rising to the occasion and ad-libing perfectly. For various reasons the film never went on to completion, and Sam had decided to move back to Australia with her husband Dale. We stayed in touch occasionally through the ubiquitous Facebook. Not long after returning to Australia they had separated, but Sam being Sam picked herself up and enrolled in University in Tasmania and pushed her singing forward making showreels and demos. There was no keeping her down. She was now going by the name Sammi J Hewitt. Then came the 21 March 2011. That evening, in Hobart, Sam was murdered by her boyfriend, who then took his own life. The effect of this rippled round the world. Sam had touched many lives with her positive approach to life. She lived and breathed every second of it. The circumstances of her death were horrific, and I can't put that together with the image I have of Sam. It seems fictional. This is the first time I have ever experienced such a thing happening to someone I know. We have all seen such things on TV and the movies, but when it gets this close it brings it home just how horrible such a thing is. Newspapers on both sides of the world ran the story, and I'm glad people are talking and telling stories about her. A rising star extinguished all too soon. Rest in peace Sam

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Guest blogging

This week I am away doing a guest blog on my friend Pauline's site.

As some of you may know she is cycling round the world and is currently nearing the border of Bolivia in northern Argentina.

So you can read my blog for this week by following this link:
The Bicycle Diaries

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Birthday boy

The arrow of time moves swiftly forward and yet another birthday has been ticked off.

I knew in advance that, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I would be on my own for my birthday this year, therefore it was going to be an entirely self-indulgent day. Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that it would centre entirely around the consumption of food.

Out of the door at 9am, the first destination for the most important meal of the day could be none other than Browns Brasserie in George Street. No need for the menu as I am a creature of habit and know exactly what satisfies me: eggs benedict with extra b├ęchamel sauce on the side, a stack of various toasted breads, freshly squeezed orange juice and lashings of tea. Very content, I passed the first two hours of my day surrounded by this gastronomic miracle, occasionally watching the world go by and reading my favourite BBC magazine, Focus.

By midday I was sat comfortably in the Cineworld cinema waiting for Matt Damon's latest offering, The Adjustment Bureau, to start. Due to the early hour I had the entire cinema to myself and settled back to be entertained in my personal cinema. The film had been billed as "Bourne meets Inception". Well, I guess it starred Matt Damon, so there's that connection, and it was a little confusing, so there's the Inception angle, but that was about it I'm afraid. A cheap marketing tactic to get bums on seats I reckon. The film was, well, fun I suppose, but that was about it and Hollywood still can't do endings.

Back out into the brightness of the day and to Starbucks for coffee and cake. Not the greatest coffee in the world but the closest coffee shop to my next destination, the Odeon cinema.

Yep, that's right, movie number 2. This time it was to see Never Let Me Go, based on an original story by Kazuo Ishiguro, who gave us Remains Of The Day. The film was directed by Mark Romanek who had previously written and directed One Hour Photo, starring Robin Williams in one of his best performances. This film was another winner, with outstanding performances by Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield Carey Mulligan, who in my humble opinion are the megastars of the future, and this is the film we'll remember them all being together in at the genesis of their careers. The film follows the three main characters in the first ten years of their life and from beginning to end is one of thee most enjoyable films I have seen in a while. The main story, a controversial subject of live organ donation, is used as the backdrop to the unrequited love between Mulligan and Garfield. It superbly manages to find the right balance between the love story and, well, the elephant in the room. This makes for a chilling and emotional end. If you're not feeling in a positive mood then I'd wait until you're feeling a bit more chipper before seeing this.

My self indulgence continued with a little retail therapy, first buying bits and bobs of outdoor gear in Tiso and then treating myself, again, to a bottle of my favourite wine, Penalolen.

To round my evening off perfectly I spent it in the company of one of my best friends, Andrew, and you guessed it, more food. This time in the form of Chinese crispy duck with all the trimmings while watching my 3rd film of the day on DVD, an Angelina Jolie film called SALT. All I can say is, oh dear, Angelina, what have you done?! Aptly named, it left a sour taste in my mouth and I can only imagine it was just a pay-cheque to Ms Jolie. However, sometimes you need to see the rubbish to appreciate the gems.

Altogether now: "Happy birthday to me".

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Nobody knows anything

In May of 2009 I successfully pitched for a film project with the NHS and by Alzheimer Scotland. By August of that year the script was written and filming began.

I recall writing a blog about the experience at the time and of how pressured and difficult the overall shoot was. Prior to this the script had grown in size due to the enormity of the task of getting across all the information.

By April of 2010 it was through post production and many translations into various languages were produced. I was then distributed and even found it's way onto YouTube, split into its various parts. There was great relief all round when we finally reached the end. Though it had been a fascinating journey into the world of people with dementia, the production itself had been an enormous challenge.

Fast forward almost a year and I am pleased and proud to announce that the IOIC (Institute of Internal Communications) gave the film its gold award for best film. The trophy ceremony takes place on 17 June.

At no time did any of us think that the film would be considered in this way, and apart from the fact that it is a fantastic and valuable tool for carers looking after people with dementia, it is a great that it has received this recognition. It was William Goldman, writer of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, that once said, "nobody knows anything", meaning you have no idea when making a film how well it will do with your audience.

A friend of mine was involved in his first feature film last autumn and to say it had a low budget is an understatement. However, it is now nominated for a BAFTA for the writers as best newcomers.

Certainly the award for the dementia film is not a BAFTA but it means a great deal to me and all those involved. Hopefully it will also bring the difficult plight of the carers further into the light as well.

Well done to one and all.

"I'd just like to thank my agent, my producer and of course my mum, without who..."

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

I'm alive!

This blog was inspired by an email I received from a friend recently and was reminded of earlier this week.

The other day I overheard a conversation in my local coffee shop of two mothers talking about the urgent need to buy their 9 year old boy his first mobile phone, just so she could reach him and know he was safe. It got me to thinking how on earth I'd made it through my first 50 years without this attention to my whereabouts.

When I was 9 I would leave home in the morning and play all day long and as long as I was home when the street lights came on that was fine. No one could reach me all day, yet I was OK.

I used to get up to all sorts of mischief: building go-carts and crashing them into bushes, racing my bicycle with little or no brakes, falling off Tarzan swings, and the likes. But I lived to tell the tale.

I ate loads of cakes, Mars bars, white bread, real butter, bacon and drank juice with real sugar in it, and yet I was as skinny as a bean pole. Could it be I was always outside in the fresh air, playing all day and burning it off?

I drank water coming out of the garden hose and shared my juice bottle with all my friends and yet, believe it or not ,no one actually died from this. There was no such thing as childproof lids on medicine bottles or childproof locks on doors, and when I rode my bicycle the wind was going through my hair, unimpeded by a helmet.

I didn't have a Play Station or Nintendo DS, there were only 3 channels on the TV, no CDs or DVDs and no computers or internet chat rooms, and certainly no mobile phones. Instead I had friends and we were outside playing!

Myself and my friends would eat worms and make up games with pointy sticks, yet we didn't die of food poisoning and we all still have our eyes.

We had freedom, experienced failure and success and had responsibility and we learned how to deal with it all . . . before we were even teenagers!

Wow! To think, I survived all that without a mobile phone!

Kind of makes me want to run through the house with sharp scissors!