We are delighted to announce that William Brown’s short film, Clem, will be screened as part of Besides the Screen, a festival-cum-conference that will take place at the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo in Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil between 9 and 12 September 2019.

The screening will take place at 20.00 on 12 September 2019 as part of the final session, which focuses on Consciência Corporal (‘corporal conscience’). Clem will screen alongside work from Belgium, Brazil, Iran, Norway and the USA.

Besides the Screen

The full program for the festival, which has an especial focus on essay-films, can be found here.

Clem is a short essay-film about William’s cat, Clem, while also being a self-portrait that considers the role of the self in relation to others in the contemporary world.

The film consists of original and ‘found/appropriated’ footage from filmmakers as diverse as Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Laura Mulvey, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jordan Peele and more – while also featuring artworks by numerous painters and sculptors, especially Gustave Courbet.

The screening is the second screening of William’s work in Brazil, following a screening of En Attendant Godard at the Universidade Tuiuti do Paraná in 2016.

Besides the Screen follows promptly on from the World Premieres of Golden Gate at the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival in July and of La Belle Noise at the Fest Film Festival in Espinho, Portugal, in late June.

7DBB9419-00A4-4B80-A69C-E7CB243F8EE2

Guy Farber (sound) and Tom Maine (cinematography) relax in between scenes during the London leg of Mantis in July 2019.

Furthermore, William has been busy during the summer shooting his new fiction feature film Mantis, which took place in London and Collioure, France, while also helping out on the production of short film, Kin, which he co-wrote with director Mila Zuo, and which was shot in Oregon in August, with Frank Mosley playing one of the leads.

William is also working on the post-production of The New Hope 2, while also hoping for imminent screenings of his other films. Stay tuned for more news here…

Beg Steal Borrow News, Clem, Festivals, Short Films, Uncategorized

First things first.

Pre-production
We are still working on all manner of projects, including a possible sequel to The New Hope, a film about a group of university friends holding a reunion in France called Mantis, and a film about members of a singularity cult who decide to blow up server farms called How to Get Killed in the UK. This is not to mention our unnamed musical project about London’s French community. Hopefully one or more of these will get made in the next few months.

Production
Recently we travelled to Portugal, where we did the principal photography for an experimental film about actors and acting called La Belle Noise. The movie stars Beg Steal Borrow regular Dennis Chua and newcomer Colin Morgan in the lead roles. Alya Soliman and Guy Farber helped out on the production, which featured numerous contributions from participants at and around the Fest Film Festival in Espinho, just south of Porto.

Fest provided the backdrop to the film, with William Brown also delivering a masterclass on zero-budget directing at the festival.

Post-production
We are continuing post-production work on This is Cinema and The Benefit of Doubt. Imminently our collaborative epistolary film with Macedonian filmmaker Vladimir Najdovski will be completed and will enjoy a screening in London. Keep an eye out for this!

Exhibition
William’s recently completed short film Clem, which is about one of the cats that lived with his family during his childhood, played at the 2018 Film-Philosophy Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was generally well received.

On a separate note, though, Circle/Line was accepted into the Jogja International Film Festival in Indonesia, where it received an International Award of Merit.

While this sounds like good news, there was no actual screening of the film, since the organisers of the festival insist that all filmmakers be present if their film is to be screened – and William could not afford the cost of the airfare to Indonesia.

Failing the presence of the filmmaker, one can pay a local representative to be at the film, while the festival also only accepts films that have been burnt to DVD/BluRay by the local designated company. Oddly, the festival does not accept file transfers.

The combination of these quirky policies has led William to question whether the festival is really one aimed at getting the filmmaker to spend money locally in Indonesia, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but which does reaffirm the way in which many festivals are not screening stuff because they really like it, but for other reasons, perhaps here economic.

This prompted William to survey his festival submissions over the past few years. Looking at FilmFreeway alone, William has submitted his projects to a total of 128 festivals.

There have from this been 11 acceptances, 113 rejections and 3 submissions the outcome of which has not yet been decided. This means that less than one in 10 submissions has resulted in an acceptance.

Of those 11 acceptances, two were for film scripts (or rather, for the same film script, namely Kiss & Make-Up – at the Oaxaca FilmFest and at Scriptapalooza respectively), while six acceptances were for films that ultimately did not have a screening (with those screening-less festivals being the Beijing International Film Festival, the Stockholm Independent Film Festival, the UK Monthly Film Festival and the Barcelona Planet Film Festival, which supposedly accepted three of our films at once).

This then leaves three festivals alone as having taken our work and actually screened it – with one of those being a screening of The New Hope at the Bad Film Festival in New York, where there was an audience of zero people (although this number has not officially been confirmed). Otherwise, Letters to Ariadne played at the Validate Yourself Film Festival in New York (where over two thirds of the audience walked out and where the festival organiser himself tried to clap the film off the stage), and Circle/Line played at the wonderful East End Film Festival in London.

This means ultimately that 128 submissions have led to three film screenings, a hit rate of less than one in 40. And it means that a sum of roughly £1,500 has led to about 100 people watching our films. In order words, we are paying about £15 per head for people to watch our films.

(This is not as bad as the £400 paid to a cinema in London recently to show a preview screening of The Benefit of Doubt, and to which 10 people turned up. A simple case of mathematics: for that screening we paid £40 per person to be there!)

A couple of things follow from this, the last of which will be a typical performance of self-deprecation.

The first is that if you want to make some easy money, we suspect that you could do worse than to set up a film festival that never actually runs, or which if it does run, plays only one or two films from among those ‘selected.’ All you need really to do is to give to people ‘palms’ (if that) so that they can put them on their poster to give their film the air of having had ‘festival success.’

Charging a small fee in order to attract those filmmakers who do not have the money to foot £75 entry charges, I imagine that you would have a steady stream of 50-100 submissions each month (especially if you create a ‘rolling’ festival, like the UK Monthly Film Festival). At, say, £10 a pop, that would make you between £500 and £1,000 per month, minus your fee to Film Freeway. It would certainly help with the rent and/or to pay for one’s own creative projects – including the hire of a venue at which to the screen your own work (something that William has also spotted some festivals as doing).

The second point is that such a low hit rate would suggest that our/my/William’s filmmaking is shit – since no one wants to watch it (we have to pay people to watch our work).

Even after a high profile screening of Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival, not a single door has been opened in terms of giving to that film a further festival life – in much the same way that no festival screening has ever in our careers led to further festival screenings, with none of our 14 feature films having played at more than two festivals (and with none of our shorts having ever been selected for a film festival at all).

This compares very negatively with numerous other filmmakers, whose work seems to enjoy a ‘run’ of 30 or 40 festivals with a single film.

Perhaps one day we’ll work out what it is that we do wrong. But certainly we are just wrong, or we just get it wrong the absolute vast majority of the time. We certainly very rarely get it right – in terms of not just having a screening, but also in terms of people actually liking what it is that we do.

I guess, however, that we carry on – even if it is to the displeasure of those who wish that we would just give up, and even if it is to the displeasure of those who enjoy having a good laugh/bitch at our expensive when our work is mentioned in conversation.

Because if we didn’t carry on, then the feeling of not being right would become overwhelming, since it also is linked with not being right for this world. And the logical thing to do for someone who is not right for this world is to remove oneself from it.

Awards, Beg Steal Borrow News, Circle/Line, Clem, Festivals, Kiss and Make-Up, New projects, Prizes, Screenings, Scripts, Short Films, The Benefit of Doubt, The New Hope, This is Cinema, Uncategorized

Last weekend saw both the completion of our crowd funding campaign for This is Cinema and the screening at the East End Film Festival of Circle/Line, our documentary investigation into whether people in London are happy.

IMG_8408

A poster for Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival screening.

We would like to offer our thanks to all those who helped to organise and who came to the screening (especially the team at the EEFF!) and to those who pledged money for This is Cinema via our campaign with LiveTree.

IMG_8411

Circle/Line screens in Old Spitalfields Market.

But this is not a moment to sit still, but a moment to carry on…

And so since Saturday 3 June, I have been doing some work on an essay-film, #randomaccessmemory, while Tom Maine and I went out on Monday 5 June to shoot more sculptures for our short essay-film, Sculptures of London.

The fourth day of our shot, Tom and I started at the Emirates Stadium, where we took some shots of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, before then heading to the site of the old Gainsborough Studios in order to capture images of the giant film reel that sits in Shoreditch Park and a curious bust of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock himself.

IMG_8436

Hitchcock on the site of the former Islington/Gainsborough Studios.

We then travelled down to Liverpool Street and the surrounding area, where we saw Fernando Botero’s Broadgate Venus, Xavier Corberó’s Broad Family, and one of the Kindertransport memorials created by Frank Meisler and Arie Oviada. The last of these commemorates the effort of the British to take in nearly 10,000 Jewish child refugees in the build-up to the Second World War.

Richard Serra’s Fulcrum then followed, a statue that we shot in a style that rhymes with a similar shot of Bernar Venet’s Neuf lignes obliques in The Benefit of Doubt. We shot The Benefit of Doubt in Nice, France, where Venet’s sculpture lives. The film is a retelling of the myth of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos abandoned on the beach by Theseus and who then meets (in our film, two versions of) Bacchus.

Next we viewed Jacques Lipschitz’s Bellerophon Taming Pegasus. As Tom and I discussed creativity, I wondered (cheekily perhaps) that the City location of this sculpture about the mythical slayer of monsters capturing the monstrous chimera seemed somehow to symbolise the way in which the world of work also captures and hinders creativity – with creativity being the creation of monsters, in the sense that creativity brings into the world things and beings that have never before existed (maybe this is why we call children little monsters).

IMG_8446

Bellerophon Taming Pegasus

Looking at Antanas Brazdys’ Ritual in front of the Woolgate Exhange, I also wondered how this particular sculpture also seems very meaningful given its location and the material from which it is made.

This stainless steel piece offers distorted reflections of those who walk in and out of the building, thereby making us look again at, and perhaps question, the daily ritual that is the commute into and out of work. Why do we do this? Is there reason to doubt the ritual?

IMG_8447

Ritual

There followed shots of Karin Jonzen’s Gardener, John Birnie Philip’s Peace and Michael Ayrton’s Minotaur by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the Barbican.

Given the difficulty that we had in finding the Minotaur, which had moved since when we used it for a shot in En Attendant Godard in 2009, it seemed as though this minotaur really did live in a labyrinth – until a very helpful man called José helped us to locate it by leading us through the Guildhall’s staff-only area.

In En Attendant Godard, the minotaur is used to represent a bull – the form taken by Jupiter in order to rape Europa, in the film represented by Annie, who is played by Hannah Croft.

En Attendant Godard refers repeatedly to the mythical Rape of Europa – with images of François Boucher’s Rape of Europa featuring early on, before we then see Alex Chevasco’s character, Alex, being slain as a bull by a torero (Tristan Olphe-Gaillard), before Alex re-adopts bull horns and poses with Annie (who has now changed her name, although we not sure to what) by Lake Geneva.

At the time, we felt as though these images allowed us to investigate visually a link between the Rape of Europa and the concept of Europe: to be European means to be wide-eyed (from the Greek eurys/wide and ops/face or eye). In other words, it means to be open, to look others in the eye or in the face; it is a sign of respect. But perhaps Europa suffers for her wide-eyed openness as Jupiter descends to abduct her.

Further tying this myth to Beg Steal Borrow’s productions, Europa was the mother of Minos, the father of the minotaur, from which the afore-mentioned Ariadne, daughter of Minos and sister of the minotaur, saved Theseus by giving him the spool of thread that he used to make his way out of the labyrinth.

Ariadne is the name of the character that Hannah Croft again plays in The Benefit of Doubt, which is based on the myth of Ariadne, but here picking up the story from after she is abandoned by Theseus on the beach of Naxos (here, Nice) and then discovered by Bacchus (in The Benefit of Doubt represented by two characters played by Nick Marwick and Greg Rowe).

Ariadne is also a key figure in Letters to Ariadne, a film about which I shall blog shortly, and which is an attempt by me to help my niece Ariadne to make sense of the world.

Often life feels as though it is a labyrinth: a puzzle from which we can find no release, except perhaps through an act of love or kindness (as José gave to us at the Guildhall). I wonder (immodestly) that this is something that I try – in my limited way – to explore in my films (or at least to ask if to doubt, if not to know and yet to be open and wide-eyed – or in an etymological sense to be European – can benefit us).

And as in a labyrinth, where being lost we keep returning to the same places to try to make sense of them, so it is with Sculptures of London that we find ourselves returning to the same myths and themes from our other films, haunted by the same questions about what life is, and what the story is that the sculptures of London can tell us.

Indeed, as mentioned in an earlier blog, various of the sculptures that we shot in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park also feature in The New Hope, while other sculptures that we have shot and are yet to shoot for Sculptures of London also appear in Circle/Line and Common Ground, about which more later.

To return to Day Four of the Sculptures shoot, though, we then shot the four feminised personifications of CommerceScienceAgriculture and Fine Art that live on Holborn Viaduct, while also taking an image of a lion covered in scaffold tarpaulin. This gave it the appearance of a sculpture modified by an artist like Christo, who is famous for covering monuments with cloth: like Ritual, the tarpaulin that hid the lion oddly also made it suddenly more visible than usual.

Wandering further around the City, we filmed images of Antony Gormley’s Resolution on Shoe Lane, the sculpture of Samuel Johnson’s cat, Hodge, by Jon Bickley (who also made the pig sculptures we shot on our last sortie), and St George and the Dragon by Michael Sandle and Morris Singer.

While we failed to find Stephen Melton’s LIFFE Trader, we did find J Seward Johnson’s Taxi! sculpture, before then shooting various more ‘monumental’ statues of the likes of Queen Victoria (on Blackfriars Bridge), Queen Anne (outside St Paul’s Cathedral) and the Duke of Wellington and James Henry Greathead by Bank.

IMG_8469

Taxi!

Outside St Paul’s, we created a shot of Georg Ehrlich’s Young Lovers that echoes a shot of Dennis (Dennis Chua) walking around the cathedral in Common Ground – during a sequence that we filmed during the Occupy London movement in late 2011.

Meanwhile, in front of the Wellington statue by Francis Leggatt Chantry, we came across some pro-EU protestors singing modified versions of protest songs (e.g. Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’) in the build-up to the next General Election. They very happily let us film them, and we chatted briefly about their desire for the UK not to leave the European Union (and their desire for Theresa May not to win the election).

IMG_8478

Pro-EU protestors before the Duke of Wellington

There followed brief visits to The Barge Master and the Swan Master of the Vintners Company by Vivien Mallock, and The Cordwainer by Alma Boyes on Watling Street. Interestingly enough, Tom and I marvelled at how – as per the latter statue’s inscription – shoemaking only really took off as an industry in the UK as a result of leather imported from Spain, with cordwain being a corruption of Cordovan, or things from the Spanish city of Córdoba.

If this European connection were not enough, it felt apt that the statue would find itself on Watling Street, which Tom told me was both the site of Boudica’s defeat by the Romans in cAD60 and the dividing line of the Danelaw in the late 9th Century. This latter event saw Watling Street become a boundary between Wessex and Guthrum – which in effect were thus two separate countries at the time.

In other words, the shoes that we wear to cross boundaries are themselves the product of materials crossing national borders, and which are made on the site of a place that itself became a national border and which played host to a battle about national sovereignty. It would seem that today’s disputes over national borders and boundaries have long roots in our past – which we can begin to discover by looking at the public art that surrounds us both in London and elsewhere.

After a trip to Aldgate to see Keith McCarter’s Ridirich, Tom and I popped by the Tower of London to shoot the Building Worker Statue by Alan Wilson, which was created to commemorate the lives of those who have died undertaking construction work in the city.

IMG_8485

Tom Maine shoots Ridirich

We then visited St Katharine Dock, where we saw Wendy Taylor’s Timepiece and David Wynne’s Girl with a Dolphin, a companion piece to his Boy with a Dolphin on Cheyne Walk and which we shot on our previous day of filming (as mentioned here).

In contrast with his Boy, though, the presence in Wynne’s Girl of a fountain that sprays up on to her body, and which spray darts around in the wind, lends to this particular piece a pornographic dimension.

Crossing the river, we then discovered that Eduardo Paolozzi’s Head of Invention has been moved – although we have not yet discovered where to (but it was not in Butler’s Wharf as we were expecting), while we could not find a bust of Ernest Bevin on Tooley Street, either.

We ended, then, with Jacob the Dray Horse by Shirley Pace in the Circle on Queen Elizabeth Street, and John Keats by Stuart Williamson in the Great Maze Pond by Guy’s Hospital in London Bridge.

It is apt that we ended in a maze – another sign that we are all in a labyrinth through which we struggle to find our way.

‘Sure a poet is a sage; A Humanist, physician to all men.’ In The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream, from which these words are taken, Keats suggests that the poet is on an endless quest for knowledge, which in turn means that the poet is plagued by doubts, never reaching the point of understanding, but always seeking, open-mindedly, to understand further.

Furthermore, in the poem, Keats suggests that humans should suffer and seek the spiritual, rather than follow or create the words of false poets: not those who create (poiesis), but those who destroy.

Filming these final two sculptures of the day in London Bridge, we came across a multitude of people, including many wearing Muslim Aid-branded clothing, taking part in the vigil announced by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan for those who died during the terrorist attack that took place at London Bridge on Saturday 3 June.

It would seem that such horrific incidents haunt Beg Steal Borrow’s films. On 14 July 2016, there was an attack involving a truck on the civilians of Nice, where we filmed The Benefit of Doubt, while this attack took place just hours after the screening of Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival.

Such catastrophes are hard if not impossible to comprehend. London is a city full of paradoxes, just like a circle that is supposed also to be a line.

However, if the vigil can teach us anything, it is that above and beyond the stories that are told by London’s sculptures, London is a city full of loving, open-minded, wide-eyed and welcoming humans – of innumerable races, religions and other types of category that we use to define ourselves. Of the sort who I would like to think are open to taking in refugees, perhaps especially children, and even if the current government recently scrapped the so-called Dubs scheme.

With each other’s help and support, perhaps we can come to learn the benefit of not knowing all the answers and perhaps not knowing at all. If we not only learn the benefit of doubt, but also share our doubts with each other (by writing poetry), then perhaps we can also learn to be Humanists, physicians to all humans, and to give to ourselves and to each other the thread that will help us to find our way out of this labyrinth.

Beg Steal Borrow News, Circle/Line, Common Ground, Crowd funding, En Attendant Godard, Festivals, Friends of Beg Steal Borrow, New projects, Screenings, Sculptures of London, Short Films, The Benefit of Doubt, The New Hope, This is Cinema, Uncategorized

Introducing A Letter to Ariadne

Beg Steal Borrow News, Short Films

This is just a quick note to announce Letter to Ariadne #1: From Preston to Peristeri, a short film-letter that was shot on 30 June 2015 in Preston, England, and which takes the form of a letter from its maker to Ariadne, the maker’s one-year old niece.

From Preston to Peristeri was made ahead of the referendum in Greece on 5 July 2015 regarding whether to accept the bailout conditions proposed on 25 June 2015 by the so-called Troika of the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) to help Greece out of its current debt crisis.

Although the referendum is concerned with a choice made by the people of Greece, a refusal to accept the bailout conditions could/would effectively involve Greece’s exit from the European Union, which in turn might affect the future of that organisation, of the currency that many of its member states use, the euro, and of Europe itself. This in turn might affect geopolitics in a considerable fashion.

When the letter asks Ariadne to consider not excluding Greece, the idea is not to deny that Greece can and will take its destiny into its own hands. However, it is to ask Ariadne to consider the root of the Greek debt crisis, which to the best of the filmmaker’s understanding involves a role played by the richer countries in Europe, namely those which have most influence over the afore-mentioned Troika, both in the creation of debt and in the perpetuation of debt in Greece through its proposed bailout conditions – a debt that would through interest be greater than Greece’s entire GDP (i.e. unpayable).

Let us be clear. Greece borrowed money beyond its means, but those who lent it also were not checking with any particular care about whether those loans were sound. Here’s some free money, someone says to you. What? You mean, I can have that money and thus lead a life a bit more like yours, or at least what I perceive yours to be? Or more simply: what? You mean I can use this money in order to lead an easier life? Who would not say yes to such a tempting tibi dabo?

Families fall apart and what family is or means changes over time. Nonetheless, in a Union, we should support each other. This is the principle of Union. But when the Union is built upon mutual greed, exploitation and economic subjugation that is sold as economic liberation, then this seems less like a Union and more like use and the treating of the other as an object, as a means to an end, and not as an end in itself.

The human cost is great: unemployment, depression, suicide and the turn to extremism in desperation. Another place hollowed out for the purposes of profit. Humans are weak, but we should not hate each other for this.

So, in effect, the film asks Ariadne to consider never to exclude anyone from her life and to whom she owes many things just because they are perceived as being or materially are more poor than she. It also asks her never to perpetuate the perceived or material poverty of others.

The filmmaker hopes that the film does not come across as condescending, especially to the people of Preston and Greece, not least because he uses images of the former to frame discussions of the latter. He surely has grasped imperfectly the condition of Preston in the contemporary world, but on 30 June 2015, Preston posed for him in the fashion that features in this film-letter.

Although the filmmaker does not mention Peristeri in the letter, he likes the idea that a place in Athens might signify a dove (Περιστέρι/Peristeri means pigeon or dove in Greek), and thus by extension peace. May peace reign both in Preston and in Peristeri.

The music that features in the film is by David Miller.

Apologies for the quality of the sound recording on the voice over; the maker only had his laptop with him at the time of making the film.