Friday, 24 June 2016

A WEEK OF FIRST

Well, I can't really avoid saying it: the UK is screwed!  Yep, the lunatics finally took over the asylum and we have now, in all sense of the word, become an island.

For the first time in the EU story, a strong member state has narrowly decided to leave. Just as when Scotland had a referendum the margin was a very close few percent.

Amazingly, as the map on the left clearly shows, Scotland unanimously voted to stay a part of Europe. Scots have the honour of inventing a large proportion of history's great innovations, and we can be proud today, among this battlefield, that we had the common sense and vision to realise we are part of a global community.

The demographic of the vote was on a very distinct sliding scale. The older the voter, the higher the vote to Leave. Unfortunately I am in that older demographic, but I voted to Remain. It smells of a Rule Britannia, crusty ethos.

There is already chatter about Scotland having another referendum to vote on remaining or leaving the UK, and I suspect it would be a different outcome next time.

Time will tell.

In a few weeks time I had planned to return to the United States with my bicycle, a year after the crash in Wyoming, to give a talk during Adventure Cycling's 40th anniversary of Bikecentennial in Missoula, Montana. But I made a decision a few months ago not to go. The thought of a solo bicycle tour again so soon was unnerving me.

So instead of talking live at the event, they gave me a 12 minute slot where I could send them a film of my adventures. In order to make the short film hang together, I had to record what they call, Pieces To Camera, and for the first time I created a small film set in my garden. The end result looks pretty good, and shortly it will wing its way across to the States. I'll be uploading it to YouTube soon and will post the link in next week's blog.

But the highlight of my week has to do with another moment of filming, this time in a major theatre here in Edinburgh. I have been working solidly for the past month on a really great project with special needs schools around the capital, and the finished films were shown in the theatre as part of a bigger, live performance by the school students. It was heart warming to see the effort these kids put in, and the joy they got from it, in front of a thousand people. But one boy, all on his own, blew everyone away, including myself.

For protection reasons I can't tell you his name or show you his image, but here's a small part of the recording of this remarkable 12 year old boy. When you listen to it, bear in mind that just one month ago he had never performed in front of anyone, and usually asked his tutors to turn away. This is him in front of almost a thousand people.
video
It is a cover of Adele's song, Hello. I think she, like everyone there that night, would shed a tear. I felt immensely privileged to have filmed this first performance of this great talent.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

THE RED CARPET

One of the pleasurable parts of my job is that I must go to the cinema on a regular basis to see all manner of films. However, it's not often that I get to see work that I have played a major role in on the big screen. And when I say big, boy, I mean big!

For the past two years I have been gradually leading a group of young minds, from around 6 years old all the way up to 18, on a journey, in how to understand film, how films are made, and ultimately to then make their own film. In the past 24 months they have completed several movies, the most recent collection of which have been submitted to a film festival in London. We will find out if any of the six entered have been nominated by the end of July. If so, we're off to the Odeon, Leicester Square at the end of September.

But feet firmly back on the ground for a moment. Last Sunday it was time to showcase all the work the students have done in their time under my wing, to their parents and friends. We decided to kick off the event with photographs on the red carpet, complete with a seven foot high Oscar statue! The young students looked the part, and some were already versed in posing for the photographers in different directions. You could tell who loved the camera!

The students had put in an enormous amount of work over the past year on their festival film entries, and it was a thrill to watch them work over the months, as they put into practice their newfound knowledge. To say I felt very proud of them doesn't come close. Once we wrapped the shoots it came down to me sat in front of the edit suite, for three whole months, to piece their work together, and then to assemble everything into a memorable screening event for Sunday.


It's all about the kids of course. Their sheer joy at the whole event said it all.  You can't repeat those moments.

London would be the second red carpet event. They say everything happens in threes, so I guess that just leaves LA for the Oscars!


Thursday, 9 June 2016

PROGRESS

If you're a regular reader you'll know that I have been on a long health and fitness recovery. Part of that has been dealing with the effects of hyperthyroidism, a symptom of which is rapid weight loss.

Don't get me wrong, it was kind of nice to be down to the weight I was as a teenager, but then to keep going down, well, that was something quite different.

So for the past five months I've made gradual progress to correcting this symptom, taking a special medication to combat it. Two days ago I returned to the endocrinologist consultant to discover that the drugs have had a very fast and positive effect. In fact too good. I've now slipped the other way. I had been puzzling for a month or so now why, given that I mostly eat healthily, my weight was continually creeping upwards. As a result the meds have been cut in half again, and though it is usual to be on them for a course of 18 months, the consultant is hoping that I will be off them well before Christmas. Half the normal course. Here's hoping so I don't have to have needles jabbed in my arms for blood every 6 weeks.

Progress has also been made this week in completing my responsibilities to the performing arts academy I regularly teach Film and TV at. This Sunday sees a red carpet event, when all the students films over the past 2 years will be screened to an invited audience of over 500. The pressure's on though. Just a couple of days to go when today at the rehearsal three of the films didn't play correctly. Of course, as the responsibility of the whole show rests firmly on my shoulders, I'm now quite nervous as there are no more rehearsals.

They do say though, bad rehearsal, great show. Tuxedo at the ready. Can't wait.

Progress on the car front too. After last weeks scare of those badly worn tyres, I find when I make progress along the road now I am being more cautious than usual going over the speed bumps in the road, in case I knock the wheels out of alignment again. That was quite a shock to see those tyres.

Jeez! All things considered, I think I may well have used up my 9 lives this past 12 months!

Hopefully I won't die of nerves at the screening on Sunday!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

ALL CHANGE

At last the cold temperatures are changing and seem to be getting pushed out as the wind shifts from a north easterly to more from the south, raising the temperature gradually. The warmer, sunnier weather definitely puts a smile of people's faces and everyone seems to be getting busy.

This week I've been completing a film shoot for the Festival Theatre, and thanks to the improvement in the weather for the better we have been able to shoot outdoors. That changes the script slightly, but you have to be adaptable in this business.

There's change happening at home too, as the end of an era is upon it. After spending the majority of the past 20 years sharing a home with my best friend, it's all changing as she moves out and into her own place. There's lot's of work to do, and stressful bureaucracy to deal with, but it's an exciting time. There's an edge of sadness knowing it's all changing permanently, but she's not moving far away. In fact, if she makes a noise I'll just bang my foot on the floor of the living room to the apartment below!

If you read my blog on a regular basis you'll know that I have been making big changes in my garden, creating a high, woven-wicker fence, primarily to keep the neighbours cats out. Three weeks on and I can report that my garden, despite being surrounded by nine felines, is now cat-free. Before I started the major refit I had read that cats are creatures of habit in where they go for their toilet requirements, and once they have created a new habit elsewhere, they're gone for good. Fingers crossed.

The new fence has dramatically changed the environment and dynamic of the garden as well. During construction a lot of over-growth, especially that of the ivy, was stripped out to gain access, and this thinning has allowed other plants to get more light. But it's the birds that have changed the most. They've gradually realised that the garden is now a safe and protected environment, and every day the numbers seem to increase. Their behaviours have changed as well. Those that would normally stay high, are now coming down and pecking around the ground, clearly aware that there are now no cats lurking in the bushes.

The final change, without sounding melodramatic, has probably saved my life. Last week I was aware that my small car was not gripping the road very well. In fact it felt as though I was driving on an oily surface. I pulled into a service station to check the tyre pressures. When I parked up I had turned the wheels so the front tyres were fully visible. I was horrified to discover that a third of both tyres, on the inside edges, were perfectly smooth! Yesterday, these tyres were replaced, and the cause, the wheel alignment, was corrected. Then one of the mechanics showed me one of the tyres. I could see the fabric base layer, and he said he had no idea how I hadn't had a blow out!

So, a week of changes. Hopefully the new neighbour will be easy to get on with. She doesn't take sugar in her tea, so I guess I won't be popping round to borrow a cup anytime soon.