Monday, 15 May 2017

BAFTAS and EUROVISH

Eurovision never ceases to amaze me. There must be some crazy-assed formula at work which is defined by musical tastes and crazy diasporas across Europe, because it always ends up roughly the same way. There's always a firm favourite before voting begins. It's usually from the old West of Europe and more often than not a perky pop song with a strong gimmick. Last year it was Australia. This year it was Italy. Then suddenly, on the night, a song comes charging down the inside lane which is quirky. Different. Off-the-wall in a way that British people don't necessarily understand. It might be ethno-pop. It might be a veiled protest song. It might just be the most simplistic, honest tune which everyone overlooks until they see the performer in action and fall in love. And this is what happened with Portugal last night. Salvador Sobral is a highly charming performer. He seems to feels the music in his finger tips, and takes himself into a different world whilst performing. Portugal have never won the contest despite entering almost every year since it started. The fans always like it when a country like this has success. Sobral endeared himself to even more viewers by seeming humble and gracious when he won, and then delivering an impassioned speech about the importance of real music. As if that wasn't enough, he then brought his sister onto the stage, who had written the song, giving her the nod which she absolutely deserved in a way that I suspect no other performer in that contest would have done, perhaps with the exception of our Lucie Jones, who was, in short absolutely brilliant. Sobral proceeded to encore his song, sharing the lines with his beautiful sister, who, we then found out, had sung in for him during many rehearsals because the poor guy had a heart defect. You really can't make these stories up. I haven't cried as much at Eurovision since Conshita bellowed, "we are unity and we are unstoppable." Be still my beating heart.

We had a fabulous party. There were, I think, fourteen of us, which is about as perfect a number as you could hope for. I made nachos and potatoes, a salad and some pizzas, and we sat around happily watching the show whilst drinking wine and nibbling on the food. A giant scoreboard was made and decorated by Abbie, Nathan and Tash in the afternoon, and the rest of the guests came from about 7.  I had two godchildren there, three university friends, two Rebel Chorus members, one MD, three actors, a Jewish film specialist, a bass-playing mate from back home in Northamptonshire and a lovely knitter called Tina. Almost everyone was a musician or singer of some description, so the howls of laughter and screeches of horror when some of the acts went for notes they couldn't reach were almost hysterical.

I watched the TV BAFTAs this evening, and I think the cat is now out of the bag and I can reveal that I was one of the judges this year. I was given the task of judging the specialist factual category, which is where Nathan and I were nominated for the wedding. Our shortlist included two films by David Attenborough, a piece about the extraordinary playwright Alan Bennett, and Grayson Perry's All Man. We voted secretly, so none of us knew who had actually won until tonight. It turns out it was the turn of David Attenborough. I actually think all four films were incredibly strong and voting wasn't easy at all. It was a real honour to be asked. I was slightly confused by Sue Perkin's almost obsessive desire to point out what a difficult industry TV is for women. She opened with a statement which appeared to bristle with irony, which confused me enormously; "how strange" she said, "to have a woman presenting an awards ceremony." I genuinely didn't know if she was serious or not. Sue Perkins actually handed me my Grierson award two years ago because she presented those awards as well. I'm sure there are still areas of TV which are very male-heavy (certainly the technical side) but in the fifteen or so films I've made in British television, I've only ever had three male commissioners, one of whom answered to a woman, so my personal experience of TV is that it's actually really strongly female-heavy. That may just be me. Yes, the very top echelons are still very male-heavy, but I think, within a generation this will no longer be the case. I should point out that I adore Sue Perkins. She is a wonderful comedian, and a brilliant person. She is also one of the nicest celebrities I have ever met in the flesh. She presented the BAFTAs with great aplomb, and if she is the first female presenter of the BAFTAs, then this is something we genuinely need to applaud. On the equality front, it was good to see two of the four main acting awards going to BAME actors and I was deeply proud to hear my old boss Shaheen Baig being thanked by one of them. Casting directors so rarely get mentioned in award ceremonies.

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