BILL UPDATE … AND THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE REBRANDS WAR!

Just to relate, for those not receiving backers’ updates, that BILL THE GALACTIC HERO has been in preproduction for five weeks now. We have five spacesuits and five more on the way, plus various space vehicles and a robot band. We’re still waiting for the return of our camera tests to determine whether we shoot on Kodak or Orwo black and white stock.

The floods in Boulder caused the closure of the CU campus and our auditions were postponed to the coming weekend. Otherwise we’re still on track, I think.

But the main point of this post is to share with you an article which appeared in yesterday’s Guardian reporting that the British Ministry of Defence is concerned that the English aren’t keen enough on war. In order better to promote war, the unnamed military mandarins propose a five point plan: 1. to ensure that the public is exposed to a “positive campaign narrative” in time to drum up support for the next war; 2. “reduce the profile of the repatriation ceremonies” (till recently dead British solders were given a short parade out of the airfield to which they were returned, draped with the Union Jack. This is to end); 3. “discredit the notion that serving in the armed forces is just another job” (Not just a job! It’s an adventure!); 4. “reduce public sensitivity to the penalties inherent in military operations”; and 5. “indicate an attitude that the service may involve sacrifice and that such acts are knowingly and willingly undertaken” (translation: the damned squaddies are getting paid — they shouldn’t bitch if they get their guts blown out).

You can read the eight-page public schoolboy control fantasy here (the link to download a text version is currently broken).

It’s depressing to see public servants whose salaries are paid by the British public trying to drive their country into further financial ruin, to say nothing of the deaths, torture, and environmental devastation. It’s outrageous to observe their utter disdain for the young men killed by their pernicious tomfoolery. And it’s both salutory and frightening to contemplate points 1. and 4. Just how exactly will the “positive campaign narrative” and the “reduced public sensitivity” be achieved? Via the media. There is no other way. The Army could put up billboards alongside the motorway, I suppose — “Don’t Worry! They’re only Ragheads!” Droney the Drone could visit primary schools and boy scout camps. More likely, the wreck of the British film industry will produce a patriotic flick or two, extolling British military virtues while reminding us that soldiers are little better than mercenaries, and that we shouldn’t worry all that much when they get killed – nor concern ourselves about who they kill in the process.

A corking plan, what? It was devised last year, and just made public via a FOIA request. Can we expect  even less coverage of the war in Afghanistan on the BBC and the other TV stations; no visuals whatsoever of victims of war, on either side; some cute documentaries showing the humanitarian benefits of Predator Drones (identifying sources of water for the refugee camp! Saving FIFA World Cup slaves lost in the Arabian Desert); and maybe even a rolicking miniseries (with a guest American director, ideally), about the S.A.S. or a private mercenary company?

 

 

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SHOOTING ON FILM: THE FATE OF SUPER 16mm

The BBC have told producers that they will no longer accept delivery of programmes shot on Super 16mm film. This is more serious than it sounds: I would imagine it’s been years since the BBC took delivery of anything on film – producers deliver on tape, or, in a pinch, on hard drives. But the broadcaster isn’t just rejecting film as a delivery medium: it’s rejecting anything shot on Super 16mm: which includes many British and independent features and TV shows, and a couple of my own features.

That these are dire days for film is no secret. The last manufacturer of black and white 35mm film is bankrupt. Kodak still makes monochrome stock. But for how long? Of course, broadcasters rejected black and white as a medium long ago (if you make a show for broadcast on the BBC or Channel 4 or the IFC or PBS you make it in colour!) but rejecting film as a medium seems arbitrary.

Image  Perhaps part of the problem is that Super 16mm is harder to shoot with than 35mm. Financiers never believe this, imagining that a cost saving on stock and processing means cost savings everywhere – rejoice! But it is not so. The comparatively small area of film exposed translates into a need for lots more light. So what the production saves in one area it spends elsewhere: on more lamps and grip equipment, on extra crew, and on time wasted as lighting setups become more critical. You can “run and gun” an independent feature shooting on 35mm. It’s much harder on Super 16mm. So maybe indy productions shot on Super 16mm are tending to look under-lit and grainy. Still, one feels the BBC should not reject drama on the basis of film grain (especially when video producers often add “grain” to make their output look more filmlike), or make arbitrary rules proscribing all the work made on a good, if difficult, medium.

Image  Rumour hath it that Alan Yentob, former BBC arts supremo, will intervene to grant Super 16mm a reprieve – at least for drama (does anyone still shoot documentaries on film?). Let’s hope so: otherwise films as diverse at THIS IS SPINAL TAP, LEAVING LAS VEGAS and MARCH OF THE PENGUINS can ne’er again be shown. The small pix accompanying this article are from my own film THREE BUSINESSMEN, shot and edited on Super 16mm. They’re taken from DVD screengrabs, not the original 35mm blowup, which would show considerably more detail. They look nice to me. You just need to shoot in daylight, or spend the time lighting!