Thursday, 26 November 2015


So I should first of all say happy Holidays to all my friends across the pond in America on this, their Thanksgiving Day.  With all that is going on in the world with terrorism and the mounting refugee crisis, I have been noticing on social media people posting comments comparing the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in America in 1620, to that of the refugees. These comments state that like the refugees, the Pilgrim Fathers were escaping religious persecution.

This is in fact incorrect. They were a radical Puritan faction known as the English Separatist Church. In 1607 after splitting from the Church of England they settled in the Netherlands, but it was because of financial difficulties that they set sail for the New World. It would be others who followed later that were escaping repressive policies because of religious nonconforming under king James 1st.

 But I love the tradition of Thanksgiving in America, and as I do every year, after wishing all my many friends across there, best wishes, I wish for myself to one day experience it first hand and enjoy the feast with friends.

I was entertained this week by a feast of a different kind. I'm not one for spending much time on the internet, but my close friend Pauline brought my attention to a video that had been posted on Facebook. It is of a hamster, all wrapped up in a cozy cover, happily feasting away on a piece of carrot. I could not help but smile.

And finally, my attention has turned to thoughts of dusting down, for it has gathered much, my bicycle that has not been ridden since the accident in Wyoming in July. But first things first, I need to buy a new helmet. All of them are produced to an exacting quality and regardless of price must meet a required standard. The more expensive ones tend to be for funky decals or fancy shape. It goes without saying that the thought of coming off my bike again and hitting my head fills me with anxiety, so I have been conducting research to see if there are in actual fact, safer helmets.

I have discovered one made by a company called Poc. It includes a revolutionary system called MIPS, which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It also includes a programmed chip that links to an app on your cell phone. In the event of an impact it activates an alarm. If this alarm id not deactivated it automatically sends out calls to emergency services with GPS coordinates of your location. That, I must say, is very clever.

MIPS, in simple terms it contains a second independent layer that sits against the skull and in the case of impact it acts like the first membrane between your brain and the inside of your cranium, thus, they claim, significantly reducing the effect on the brain. It was this very effect that has caused me so many problems.

At £250 I'd like to be sure, but at the moment I can find no evidence to say this actually works as it says.

And I'd rather not be the one to test it.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


I'm back in my comfort zone . . . making movies.

Last Saturday the young students started to shoot their stories, which they hope will turn out well enough to enter into a film festival next year. First day was tough, and the performances were not great overall. However, it takes a while to get into it. The added challenge is that due to time restraints the students are only able to film for an hour each Saturday, so that all six groups get a turn. That presents logistical nightmares, especially for me. In January they'll get a three-hour run at it, so hopefully we will achieve success overall.

They should be very proud of themselves. A single page of script generally works out at one minute of screen time. On average, with a professional crew, I would look to shoot three pages in a 10-hour day. These kids are shooting seven pages in the equivalent of four and a half hours!

They're a bit daunted, but I reminded them all last week, that just 12 months ago they had no idea what a dolly and track were, or what an Extreme Close Up was used for. Now, here they are, shooting a short story that they developed, into a film to enter it into a festival. If they are selected they'll end up on the red carpet in Leicester Square in London next August.

If they finish it that is.

But even if they don't, they'll have learned a great deal. And a lot of creatives are notorious for not finishing a project. I can count myself among them.

I met with a colleague last week for a catch up, and we discussed this very subject. Why do we go on about ideas and projects, yet after only a few weeks of developing the idea in our heads, we abandoned it?

Making a film is a massive challenge, and we deduced that the large potential to fail puts us off, especially after we have told others what we would like to achieve. We also get stuck on the big picture, pardon the pun. Rather than seeing it for what it really is, a sum of very small parts, we can't get away from the overall larger project.

But this doesn't just apply to film makers. We could say this about any idea or project we all come up with but fail to bring to fruition. Maybe it's a desire to impress, but once that initial reaction has passed, you're left with actually doing the thing.  And setting the bar too high can destroy the momentum.

There's  an old saying in film making, that writers have the best decorated house; because they'd rather do anything but write.

Friday, 13 November 2015


Who would have thought that a small bicycle accident, lasting just a few seconds, could cause so much inconvenience.

I'm certainly on the road to recovery, with this weekend marking eight weeks since the cranial procedure, and the headaches have not returned. The cause was discovered by a CT scan, and just last week I received a copy of the images. I took all 188 "slices" of my head and animated them into one flowing movie. It is quite a remarkable image, clearly showing what is, without doubt, a massive haematoma.

Anyway, I don't think you can squash your soft brain tissue to two thirds of its size and expect to get away with it scot-free.

There are other things now happening in my body, that may well have been there in a mild form prior to the clot, but have been exacerbated by the effects as the brain tries to spring back into its normal shape.

One thing that's been going on is an all over trembling. It's fairly slight most of the time, but its there, and its infuriating. The cause, they think, seems to be connected to my thyroid gland, which controls your metabolism, producing too much hormone into my system. The trembling, I'm guessing, is the body trying to burn off this excess.

I'm waiting on a specialist but I've been told that medication will bring it back under control. Now I've never been a fan of putting chemicals into my body, but less so on this occasion when one of the possible drugs is radioactive iodine!

So I'm going with the theory that if my body put this gland into overdrive, then it's feasible that it can reverse it. With that in mind I started my own research and discovered that increasing my protein intake, omega 3, and eating lots of berries, can help.

On one particular day I ate nothing but protein for one meal. For another I ate three punnets of berries, and for the third meal I upped the omega 3 intake.

The following day I was symptom free.

That kind of diet is hard to stick to, and it's not balanced. Plus this time of year berries are out of season and very expensive. But it's a step in the right direction. I expect to see a specialist by the end of the year, so it will be interesting to see if I can bring it under control naturally.

Friday, 6 November 2015


A suitable creative arts title to the blog this week.

For well over a year now I have been enjoying teaching young people, from the age of six to eighteen, how to make movies. The true title of my class is "Film & TV", but I have to admit we primarily concentrate on film.

It has been a fairly progressive process for the students, as it should, but they were getting quite relaxed about the whole thing. Well, that has all recently changed, as I've challenged all six classes to make a short film that I will enter into a film festival next April.

This is in part to see just how much they have learned. Some have already shown great promise. When I look back to a year ago and those students that are still with us, they have regularly amazed me by just how much they have taken in. To think 15 months ago none of them knew one end of a camera from another, and now they organise Foley and ADR sessions, and run a crew during a film shoot. It is very satisfying.

To give them the best chance with their film entry, I wanted to give them tools to improve the production values. One way would be for them to have tracking shots, which would mean track (similar to a miniature railway) and a dolly (a carriage that sits on the track that the camera attaches to). However, the "real McCoy" comes in at thousands of pounds and generally takes hours to set up.

What I needed was equipment that is low cost and quick to set up.

So I decided to build it myself.

After numerous drawings and trips to B&Q to purchase various plumbing pipe materials, and eight skateboard wheels, here's what I came up with:

At a little over £100 in materials, and about 10 hours to construct, I feel I have a very usable working dolly and track. And the added bonus is it takes about five minutes to set up. and makes use of the existing tripod.


I surprise myself sometimes!