Archive | January, 2014

So You Think You Might End Up On The Telly…

28 Jan

Within the last couple of days the BBC released pictures of Peter Capaldi in costume as the Doctor, our first glimpse of what his Doctor will look like. The reaction so far has been positive – it’s a classily nostalgic combo of Hartnell and Pertwee without the former’s funny little hat and the latter’s abundance of ruffs, cuffs and crushed velvet.

There may have been other influences.

There may have been other influences.

I imagine the reason they released the image is that this week the Doctor Who crew have taken to the streets of Cardiff to film outdoor scenes for the next series, so sooner or later some silly, walking cliche of a fan would have posted a blurry pic of Capaldi via Facebook or Twitter…

This is the one I took.

This is the one I took.

Yes. That’s right. I was there to see a bit of it. Or, more accurately, I was able to watch them film a scene between Capaldi and Jenna Coleman from the “comfort” of a cycling machine in my gym. Having this eagle’s eye view of the shoot was great. I hadn’t known they would be filming there this morning, so it was all a surprise, and seeing Capaldi step out of the TARDIS, in costume, gave me actual goosebumps, but as anyone who’s ever worked on a film or TV show will tell you, filming is a long, arduous and very boring experience, so as fun as it was, I didn’t really get to see much action.

Or, at least, I didn’t see much action that will end up in the show. What I did see, and what had my chuckling as I pedalled and sweated like the undignified and slightly overweight man I am, were bystanders, and not just bystanders, but that specific breed of people you see whenever anything’s being filmed: The ones who think they’ll end up on the telly. They fall roughly into the following three groups:

The Wavers and Face-Pullers

These are the ones, usually male, usually aged between 11 and 50, who whenever they see anything being filmed lean into shot and wave or pull a face. As with all People Who Think They’re Going to End Up On Telly, this only ever works during a live broadcast, and there are plenty of It’ll Be Alright On The Night clips dedicated to that particular genre.

Here's a recent example.

Here’s a recent example.

That doesn’t stop the Wavers and Face-Pullers from trying it on when they come across a movie or an episode of Casualty being filmed. They see a camera, then wave and/or gurn, because they don’t for one second think an observant director or AD or cameraman will spot them and say, “We have to go again. That c**t just gurned at the camera.”

The Saunterers

Craftier than the Waver, the Saunterer has every bit as much desire to end up on telly, but feigns nonchalance. They’re too clever to succumb to the Waver’s vanity, and they know not to look directly into the lens. Instead, once the camera has been spotted they slow right down so that they walk through the shot as slowly as possible… while glancing occasionally at the camera to make sure they’re in shot.

Like the motion picture equivalent of this guy.

Like the movie equivalent of this guy.

But that doesn’t matter, because surely if you only glance at the camera for a split second it doesn’t matter. Well, actually… yes it does. On the off chance that you make it into the background of a shot in a TV drama or film, and the director sees you looking into the camera, you’ll end up on the cutting room floor. Where you belong.

The Joggers

These are my absolute favourite, because unlike the Wavers & Face-pullers or Saunterers, they really don’t want to end up on telly. What’s more, they really don’t want to waste the director, cast and crews’ time by ruining their take. That’s just how considerate they are. That’s why, to prevent both themselves from ending up in shot and the cast and crew from wasting their time, they glance right into the camera like a startled hare, before breaking into a jog to get out of shot as quickly as possible. Because nothing says “naturalism” like a random person in the background stopping, staring right through the fourth wall, and then for no apparent reason breaking into a jog.

Eric Gill and the Bad Man Conundrum

15 Jan

Blog Pic

No, this blog post isn’t the first episode in my bid to write “the next Harry Potter” – it’s about the sculptor Eric Gill. For the uninitiated, Gill was an artist, a stonecutter and a typeface designer, famous now largely for having given his name to a well-known font.

Oh, and he raped his own daughters and had sex with his dog.

Sorry if that was all a bit much to take in in one sentence, and sorry if it was a little shocking, but if you know two things about Eric Gill, one is that he has a font named after him, the other is that he carried out incestuous affairs with both his sister and his own daughters and had an ongoing sexual relationship with his pet dog. Much of this didn’t come to light until long after Gill died in 1940, when his diaries – in which he confesses all – were made public.

Blog Pic

“Psst. Eric Gill bummed a dog. True story.”

These revelations were a cause for concern for those who run the many public buildings that are home to Gill’s work, including a large number of churches (he was a “devout” Catholic) and the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London. Indeed, Cardiff Museum (which is about 10 minutes’ walk from my flat) has in its collection, and proudly on display, a Jacob Epstein sculpture engraved by Gill. His work is everywhere.

The question, for admirers of Gill’s, is whether the facts of his private life should affect how we look at his work. The reason Gill came to mind was because right now the sexual misdeeds of famous figures are front page news on an almost weekly (if not daily) basis. Operation Yewtree seems to have gone from an inquiry into sexual abuse within the UK’s entertainment industry into the wholesale arrest of my generation’s childhood, and while it may be easier to accept the horror stories about Jimmy Savile (who, after all, hid in plain sight – looking, acting and sounding like a child molester throughout his career), there are others for whom I think we all, secretly, want the accusations to prove unfounded.

Say it ain't so. Say it ain't so.

Say it ain’t so. Say it ain’t so.

Many of these cases are still pending, so we don’t yet know how many of those arrested as part of Yewtree are genuinely guilty. The fact is, even if many of them are acquitted, that shadow of suspicion will – rightly or wrongly – hang over them for the rest of their days.

Over in the States, I imagine both R Kelly and Woody Allen thought they were in the clear, with almost two decades of distance between them and their own accusations, but with celebrity child abusers receiving such intense media attention on this side of the Atlantic, perhaps it was only inevitable that bloggers and journalists would revisit those cases. Many remain unconvinced of either man’s innocence, and yet that doesn’t stop them from working. Allen has just enjoyed his greatest critical and commercial success in quite some time with Blue Jasmine, while R Kelly is back in the charts with his latest album, Black Panties.

Because R Kelly passed through parody's looking glass in 2005.

Because R Kelly passed through parody’s looking glass in 2005.

Meanwhile, this year should also see the general release of Roman Polanski’s latest, Venus in Fur, a good 37 years after he fled the United States, accused of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. That accusation, never fully denied by the director, has had little to no impact on his career. Indeed, his film The Pianist scooped him the Oscar for Best Director in 2003.

My question is should we always judge – and maybe even boycott – an artist’s work based on what we know about their private life, and if so, when do we apply this? I’ve enjoyed Polanski films (I thought his 2011 movie, Carnage, based on the Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage, was excellent), and Allen films (especially, funnily enough, the ones he isn’t in very much), and I’m sorry, but the Glitter Band’s Rock & Roll Part 2 is an amazing track. Should I pretend these things don’t exist, or that I didn’t enjoy them?

And if so, should we stop listening to Led Zeppelin because Jimmy Page totally abducted a 14-year-old?

And if so, should we boycott all this because Jimmy Page abducted a 14-year-old?

I won’t pretend this issue isn’t without its thorns. Having been told that Allen’s Manhattan was a soaring, beautiful ode to the director’s hometown, I found the plot thread about his character’s relationship with a 17-year-old girl more than a little creepy, enough to spoil the rest of the film. Similarly, there are elements of Wagner’s Ring Cycle that are tainted by the composer’s notorious and rampant antisemitism, and despite having died 50 years before the Nazis came to power in Germany his work wasn’t performed in Israel until a Daniel Barenboim-conducted concert in 2000.

This post isn’t anything like my “final word” on the subject, because the truth is, I don’t know what I think. A part of me thinks we should perhaps divide the artist as a person from their body of work, and judge each one separately, but when so much of an artist’s biography – their emotional experiences, their personality, their political opinions – bleeds into the work itself, is this ever truly possible?