Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Third hand venison

Today it became apparent that I'd need to reshoot the male voice choir section of the symphony. It’s a horrible decision to have to make but we looked at the footage again and again and every shot was either badly lit or slightly blurred. It comes back to the whole steady-cam hell which has plagued us on this shoot. A word of advice to all budding film-makers out there; think incredibly carefully before using steady-cam. It is not a cure-all and it can go horribly wrong. Steady-cam, for those of you who don’t know, is a complicated harness made up of various weights and heavy duty springs that a specially trained cameraman wears around his body. In theory it should enable the camera to glide through the air. Unfortunately, if you underestimate the weight of the camera, everything goes wrong, and instead of beautiful gliding shots, you get lumpy, strobing shots that look like they were filmed on the worst kind of cam-corder. Worst still, if the harness goes wrong, the tension is so high that it can break a cameraman’s back! I think they should probably be banned...
Anyway, we’re heading off to Sheffield first thing tomorrow morning with nothing but a tripod and a camera, to get some beautiful static shots of the wonderful faces of the male voice choir. That’s all this film ever needed. I was just being greedy...

As you can imagine there were some pretty gruesome scenes in the edit suite today. At one point I thought Alison was going to attack me with her bare hands. She’ll no doubt be thrilled when I’ve left Leeds and her life can begin again. Still, whenever there’s a viewing, people seem impressed, and there’s all sorts of interest in the piece from all kinds of different places including, randomly, Newsnight. If Jeremy Vine tries to interrogate any of my musicinas, I’ll have a word with my autocue mates and screw him over for the next 20 years! (A little known fact about me is that I used to be an autocue operator and on one occasion messed up Mr Vine’s autocue so badly, live on air, that there was an on-screen silence which lasted 8 seconds whilst he flicked through his scripts and slowly turned the colour of a ripe nectarine...)

This evening I did the longest interview in the world for the BBC4 “Making of” team. This involved me sitting in a recording studio talking about every stage of the project, and at one point I thought I was going to keel over. I bored myself almost rigid. Heaven knows what the poor crew made of my emotional ramblings. “I love life” I trilled “I love my job and I want everyone in the world to join a choir or a folk band and I want no one to be lonely and everyone to smile at their neighbours and tell their friends and family how much they mean to them...” Mortifying. It felt a bit like a ghastly charity appeal for Children In Need. The bottom line is that I’m now so tired I've entirely lost the ability to filter my emotions, or indeed the language I use. I laugh hysterically when something is funny, cry like a 4 year-old when something is sad... or happy and have no control over the words that come out of my mouth. Today, for example, when the cameras came in, once again, to film me in the edit, at the end of every sentence I said the word penis, which I’ll wager was funny the first time...

Soon it will be imperative for me to return to London. I don’t think Nathan is looking after himself properly and I’ve started missing all sorts of people rather badly. Furthermore, the clothes that I've been hand-washing for the past 2 months are beginning to smell a little bit odd. They need a boil wash, and I need a bloody bath...

It was a typically busy day for Pepys 350 years ago which involved a morning’s work at the Navy office followed by lunch at his parents’ house, where an unfeasibly large number of people ate a pasty made from the third-hand venison which Pepys palmed off on his mother a couple of days before. What comes around, and all that... Amongst the diners was his cousin William Joyce. Pepys always considered the Joyce’s to be social climbers of the worst kind and he’d heard that, in their time, they’d been rude to him. He wrote: “I did this time show so much coldness towards W Joyce, that I believe all the table took notice”. Claws back in, Gentlemen, we're British.

One final thing... The following blog came in today from someone who missed the boat yesterday... So I am adding it as a special bonus today, because it has such an important message...

From Jim:

I couldn’t catch up with the blog the last few days because I’ve been working all hours, but hope this late submission for the big 200 is still valid. I’m Ben’s friend Jim – namechecked only once so far I think for the dubious accomplishment of creating his Eurovision scoreboard, but rather proud of that cameo nonetheless. I’m lucky enough to work with some of Britain’s most talented young musicians (doubtless a Yorkshire symphonist of the future among them) in the National Youth Orchestra. We’re in the midst of an epic month of activities: Bernstein’s MASS with players from four continents at the Southbank Centre, ten of our players somewhere in deepest Brazil touring with their superfunky Youth Orchestra of Bahia, ten more at Aldeburgh fusing their western musical sensibilities with those of their young counterparts from the South Asian Music Youth Orchestra, then this weekend we kick off our main summer course in Birmingham with lots of rehearsals ahead of the BBC Proms and also a lot of encounters with local young people. I’ve spent a lot of this morning finalising plans to put a handful of NYO players on the roof of Birmingham Town Hall and the council buildings opposite to captivate the everyday people with a tiny little taste of the orchestral wonderment they’d never usually find because it’s all sealed up in concert halls. What I know from the National Youth Orchestra is this: if you’re a musician and you’re even half-talented, you have to pass it on. You read about some people who own famous artworks and, rather than lend them to galleries, they keep them on their drawing room walls. You just can’t do that with music. Music is for sharing. Music’s nothing without an audience, without ears. At NYO we’re having an extraordinary year busting out of our box and sharing our passion, zeal, lust, joy, excitement and affinity for music with the other people of Britain, hoping it may fuel them to try harder on the violin they’ve been scratching at for a year, or to reach for that bassoon they’ve squirreled in the attic, or simply to encourage them – from the example of 165 tireless teens – that they too can achieve anything they put their mind to. I’ve seen, and marvelled at, all of Ben’s filmed musicals and know that this is the spirit they invest in everyday people too. I can’t wait to see the next bunch enlarged, emboldened, empowered by the opportunity to express themselves collectively through music. Such sentiments power me through on days like today where I’m bogged down in the logistics of making it all happen with email after email after email. It’s worth it. It’s so worth it. Happy 200th everyone, and keep loving and sharing the music you make.

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