Archives for category: The Benefit of Doubt

Followers of Beg Steal Borrow will be pleased to hear that our film, The Benefit of Doubt, recently enjoyed two screenings in the USA, including one at the Oregon State International Film Festival in Corvallis, Oregon, and one at East Tennessee State University at Johnson City, Tennessee.

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The Darkside Cinema in Corvallis, Oregon, where The Benefit of Doubt played on 4 April 2019.

Both screenings were accompanied by talks given by director William Brown, with the movie being warmly received.

ETSU Screening

Nick (Nick Marwick) does an impression of Al Pacino for Ariadne (Hannah) Croft) during The Benefit of Doubt – taken at the screening of the film at East Tennessee State University on 10 April 2019.

Many thanks to all those who helped to arrange these visits, including Mila Zuo, Sebastian Heiduschke, Matthew Holtmeier, Chelsea Wessels and Lange. We are delighted always to reach new audiences – wherever that may be in the world.

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A poster for William Brown’s talk on digital cinema and low-budget filmmaking at Oregon State University. Poster designed by Mila Zuo.

Meanwhile, final touches are being put to This is Cinema, which should enjoy one, maybe more, preview screenings in the summer, with editing about the begin on The New Hope 2.

This will take place simultaneous to preparation for a new film, Mantis, which will be shot in the south of France in the summer. Meanwhile, we are also planning towards various films in the autumn and into 2020 – with Beg Steal Borrow regulars and with new blood alike.

William has also just completed the editing of Golden Gate, a short essay-film about the role that the Golden Gate Bridge has played in film history. This will enjoy a premiere at the Film-Philosophy Conference in Brighton in July.

Finally, we are pleased to announce two new posters for Beg Steal Borrow films, both designed by the hugely talented Angela Faillace.

The first is for The Benefit of Doubt:

BoD Poster

And the second is for our experimental documentary, La Belle Noise:-

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Many thanks to Angela for her wonderful work on these!

 

 

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So, it looks as though 2019 might be a productive year, as we have just completed – finally – The Benefit of Doubt.

This follows hot on the heals of the completion of Vladimir and William and La Belle Noise, and surely precedes by a short while the competition of This is Cinema and The New Hope 2, meaning that we should have 5 (five!) new feature films to present within the next few months.

A mood trailer for the film can be seen here:-

And hopefully there will be screenings of the finished film to follow (after some preview screenings over the last 18 months).

About The Benefit of Doubt
Made for a mere £4,000, The Benefit of Doubt tells the story of Ariadne, a young woman who travels to Nice in order to rediscover herself after the end of a 10-year relationship.

In Nice, Ariadne meets first frustrated actor Nick and then hedonist nomad Greg, fellow travellers with whom she explores the city and its surroundings, as she learns once again to smile.

In its tale of a lonely woman who encounters a performer and a bon viveur, The Benefit of Doubt is a reworking of the myth of Ariadne, discovered by Dionysos on the shores of Naxos – as famously painted by Giorgio di Chirico.

The film takes visual inspiration from Jean Vigo’s classic city symphony, A propos de Nice (1930), reworking various of the themes that Vigo explores in his classic text (sport, leisure, overlooked workers, the infrastructure of tourism). What is more, the film sees the characters wander around Nice and its environs in a manner that recalls the French practice of flânerie.

Furthermore, The Benefit of Doubt lies tonally somewhere between Eric Rohmer’s The Green Ray and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, while the film also takes in various of the museums in Nice and its surroundings – including the Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence.

Ariadne is played by Hannah Croft, one of rising comedienne duo Croft & Pearce, and the star of En Attendant Godard (William Brown, 2009) and The Repairman (Paolo Mitton, 2013). The film also features performances from Nick Marwick, Greg Rowe, Mark Hodge and Lucia Williams.

In addition, the film’s soundtrack includes music composed by David Miller (responsible for the film’s main theme), Amy Holt, Alex Fixsen and Sam Pauli & Reiver.

Regular Beg Steal Borrow cinematographer Tom Maine is responsible for the images of the south coast of France, while the film is written and directed by William Brown, who has made some 15+ no-budget feature films since 2009.

 

 

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.

Apologies for the relative silence on the Beg Steal Borrow front.

However, we are delighted to mention various screenings that have recently taken place featuring Beg Steal Borrow movies.

Firstly, The Benefit of Doubt screened at B-Film at the University of Birmingham on 12 January, before Selfie screened on 23 February at Coventry University – where there was a large and lively audience.

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Selfie screens at Coventry University.

Then The New Hope screened on Sunday 25 February at the Countdown Theater in Brooklyn, New York, as part of the Bad Film Fest – as well as at the University of Roehampton, London, on 29 March.

Bad Film Fest

Finally, Circle/Line screened at the University of St Andrews on 11 April, while Sculptures of London will enjoy a screening at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton on 10 May.

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Circle/Line screens at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, Scotland.

Many thanks to all those who have shown and who continue to show support for our endeavours.

This is Cinema is coming along slowly but surely, and we hope that there are more similar screenings soon.

Disappointment is a common feeling at events where filmmakers talk about their path into ‘the industry.’ For a start, no filmmakers really ever talk about luck (or, if applicable, connections) as helping them to get into ‘the industry.’

What is more, it generally strikes audiences as disappointing when the filmmaker simply says that you have simply to make films.

But even if they are not going to share their connections or admit their luck, these filmmakers are not wrong.

Indeed, filmmakers cannot explain to others how to get into ‘the industry’ (perhaps especially when they got in through luck and/or connections) because there is no set path (except perhaps via luck and/or connections, with the former appearing relatively randomly, while the latter you either have or you do not).

[To note: you can make your own luck, but you do this simply by carrying on making films, i.e. following the filmmaker’s advice. And you can create connections, but you do this simply by making films and showing them as wide a range of people as possible, i.e. by following the filmmaker’s advice.]

I would speculate that the general sense of disappointment stems, then, from a desire for people to know how to make the ‘right’ connections – which reveals the lie that they do not so much want to make films as want to have power and/or glory. Making films and having power are two different things – even if culturally we regularly conflate the two.

In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, a priest recounts to Josef K the story ‘Before the Law,’ in which a man from the country seeks to gain access to the law. He is told to wait outside the door of the law until called. He is never called, in spite of trying to bribe the doorman – who of course takes his money and does nothing.

In a recent class, it struck me when a student was talking about wanting to get their project ‘green lit’ about how waiting for the green light (therefore about how waiting at a red light) is basically akin to the country bumpkin in Kafka’s story: if you sit around waiting for the light to turn green, it won’t. If you sit around waiting for permission to enter the law, you won’t get it.

You simply have to start doing it, and whatever happens after that does not matter. You are a filmmaker. You do have power. And the last person to tell you that you do not and/or that your films are not ‘real films’ is yourself – because there’ll be lots of others doing that for you as they seek to impose power over you by making you feel that somehow your own work somehow is not legitimate.

Don’t get me wrong; I have had many people say such things to me, and I am prone to believing it at times… and then I remember that I do not want to make films, which strikes me as a relatively banal and modest ambition at best. What I want to achieve is to change the very institution of cinema. And it is through the very illegitimate (‘bastard’) nature of my work, that cinema’s bloodline can change – because it certainly won’t via the nepotistic circles and/or via the processes of cinemas of conformity (people who make films that like pre-existing films, rather than people who make films that do not look like pre-existing films – even if my own films engage very consciously with their relationship to other films, e.g. by consistently having references to the work of people like Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Vigo, the Lumière brothers and the like – or what I might consider at times to be a lineage of bastard filmmakers whose work I want not simply to recreate but to take from behind).

Nonetheless, my relationship to film sound is at best ambivalent.

I may be completely wrong, but I suspect that my films would have reached far wider audiences if they had better sound. And I am torn consistently between wanting to reach and to please wider audiences than I do (since not to reach wider audiences gives one a sense of illegitimacy – and I have numerous tales of failed, fucked up and disappointing screenings that only reinforce this, even if bloody mindedly I will not stop making films).

And so if I am to reach wider audiences – if I am to appease my vanity rather than await the era when people want simply to listen to the sound of traffic and/or wind instead of dialogue – I feel compelled to strive for ‘better’ sound.

This, then, is my dilemma: should I strive for ‘better’ sound, or should I keep going as I am, with my films not just wearing their tiny budgets on their sleeves, but also in a different sense register having it audible for all to hear?

Hito Steyerl talks of the importance of the poor image, but she does not mention anything similar in relation to film sound. People will tolerate a movie shot an iPhone – as long as it sounds okay. But as soon as a film sounds cheap, then audiences run a mile.

Because if cinema aspires to be anything, it does not aspire to be cheap. It does not tolerate poverty, even if it pretends to by occasionally tolerating movies with ‘rough’ images – but very rarely movies with rough sound.

To rate movies by how rich or poor they appear, and in particular by how rich or poor they sound, is not to rate movies, but to rate wealth. If only the wealthy are deemed legitimate, then this is because we live in a society that elevates wealth above humanity – and wealth above cinema – such that only the wealthy are human and only the wealthy films are real films. In short, then, this is to worship money as humans believe that cinema is a god to which one can only enter when granted permission (when ‘green lit’). You do not ask permission; you storm the building, or you burn the light down, or you break the door, its lintel, you throw down the doorman, you burn the money you offered him, and you realise that there is no law.

I gave a talk recently in Abu Dhabi to a group of ‘young Arab media leaders.’ The talk was on propaganda and how media create a sense of power.

At the start of the talk, I refused to use a microphone, even though I have a relatively quiet voice and even though I was speaking in a large room in front of 100 or so people. For me, if you want to hear me talk, then don’t sit at the back of the room. And if you want to hear me talk, then listen.

The point is not about people expecting things to come to them (here, my voice) rather than making the effort themselves to come to me.

Rather, I did this gesture of refusing the microphone because the microphone gives the impression not that my voice comes from my body, but because of the surround sound speakers that my voice comes from everywhere.

In effect, the microphone disembodies my voice. And as soon as my voice does not have a body, it becomes less human and more divine (it is a voice that comes from nowhere – like the voice of God).

In effect, then, the microphone empowers me – and in conferring to me a sense of power, it induces in others a sense of deference, and as a result it functions through its form – amplified and as if from nowhere – as the structural basis upon which propagandistic contents can then be spread.

In short, propaganda relies as much on the seeming authority with which it is spread than it relies upon the actual messages that are conveyed. Propaganda begins by making you believe that what you are going to be told are the words of someone with power and thus someone to be believed – long before they actually tell you what it is that you are supposed to believe.

My practical exercise in some senses fell flat on its face. I was heckled to use the microphone because indeed some people at the back could not be bothered to sit in any of the fifty or so chairs that were empty next to the stage.

In other senses, though, the call for me to use the microphone proved my point. My point being not that some people want/need amplified and disembodied voices in order to listen – i.e. some people want propaganda, they want their own subjugation, they want to be at the red light. Rather, my point being when a voice is embodied – i.e. when it comes not from a god but from a mere human being – people generally are not interested.

I often feel this in my everyday life. It is a semi-regular experience that when I achieve anything of note, someone will come along and express disbelief that I could have done it. It is not simply that in the flesh I am a deeply unimpressive human being – even if this is the case for many people. It is also because these people know me in the flesh, i.e. as having a body, that – be I impressive or otherwise – they cannot take me for a god.

In other words, when we physically know someone, it is harder to confer on to that person any great power; when we do not personally know them, they are a disembodied image and/or voice, and thus we are prone to defer to them as being powerful. As a result, the disembodied person/voice can be granted god-like status, while we knock and disrespect the embodied person, even if they in fact are equal.

Now, my narcissistic tendencies towards megalomania do in some senses want to convince others that I am a god of sorts. But at the same time, I want to explode the entire structure of god-making through disembodied media.

You do not need money to make films. I am a human with a body. And my films do pick up random street sounds, buzzes, hums and other things as record sound live in real locations.

However, so much does ‘bad’ sound (noise) make films seem embodied and/or as taking place in the real world (as opposed to the amplified and disembodied nature of ‘good’ film sound, which contains little to no noise, and which thus take place in a fantasy realm – even if all films are mediations and thus fantasies to some extent), that I do feel at times as though I am coming up against a brick wall. Films that do not sound like god do not get listened to, since sound is god in cinema.

I recently did some additional dialogue recording (ADR) for my film, The Benefit of Doubt, even though I am trying – and very slowly succeeding – to edit This is Cinema (which is not to mention that I am also hoping to re-record the voice over for Sculptures of London).

But in doing this ADR, in some senses I felt as though I was betraying my aim to destroy the hierarchies of cinema – even if that aim is quixotic, easy to laugh at, definitely the work of an embodied human being, and likely to end repeatedly in failure – and perhaps definitively so as my work is simply forgotten, ignored and eventually corrupted by time, rather than seen and heard by people as in some senses I of course want it to be.

My dilemma, then, is whether I continue to use this new sound, and perhaps even record more. Or whether I embrace poverty and the derision that the poor of cinema face in the same way that the poor of the earth are derided, too. Perhaps to want audiences and respect is hubristic – and we must instead embrace failure. But if no one will listen, maybe one does have to amplify one’s voice into a technologised shout.

Any thoughts on the topic are welcome.

Beg Steal Borrow’s William Brown was delighted to attend the World Premiere of Letters to Ariadne at the Validate Yourself Film Festival in New York on 2 September 2017.

The film was warmly received at Hotel RL by Red Lion in Brooklyn by a dedicated crowd that included regular Beg Steal Borrow collaborator and screenwriter, Alex Chevasco (who has a small part in the forthcoming This is Cinema.)

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Ariadne prepares for Hallowe’en in Letters to Ariadne at RL Hotel by Red Lion in Brooklyn, New York, on 2 September 2017.

In other news, William is for the autumn of 2017 a Visiting Associate Professor of Film at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), where he is teaching a wonderful creative set of students who are making their final-year graduation (‘Captstone’) films – as well as teaching a course on Concepts in Film and New Media.

And Beg Steal Borrow is delighted to announce that there will be a preview screening of both Sculptures of London and The Benefit of Doubt at NYUAD before William leaves Abu Dhabi at around Christmas-time. More details will follow shortly!

Meanwhile, our short film, St Mary Magdalen’s Home Movies made the First Selection of the International Short Film Festival Kalmthout Belgium – although the film alas will not enjoy a screening there.

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St Mary Magdalen’s Home Movies made the First Selection of the International Short Film Festival Kalmthout Belgium.

And Circle/Line was selected by both the Stockholm Independent Film Festival and the UK Monthly Film Festival – although again these selections have not seemingly led to any actual screenings (the rise of ‘fake’ film festivals is a topic to discuss on another occasion).

And otherwise William continues to work on a series of films, including #randomaccessmemoryThis is Cinema and Vladimir and William, a series of letter-films that he is developing with Macedonian filmmaker Vladimir Najkdovski.

The Straight Jacket Guerrilla Film Festival is this week showing four – yes, four! – Beg Steal Borrow films as part of its programme.

Straight Jacket

The Straight Jacket Guerrilla Film Festival.

The online festival, which specialises in underground, cult and experimental cinema, runs for a week, with a Beg Steal Borrow film playing on each of the festival’s first four days.

The running order sees our punk Don Quixote meets Star Wars film The New Hope playing on Tuesday 15 August.

A manifesto for the film can be read here: The New Hope – A Manifesto.

The New Hope is followed on Wednesday 16 August by Roehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016), a compilation of short films made by the titular group of guerrilla filmmakers and curated by William Brown.

Then our art house zombie homage to the Lumière brothers, Ur: The End of Civilization in 90 Tableaux, plays on Thursday 17 August.

And finally on Friday 18 August, the festival is showing Selfie, an essay-film about selfie culture comprised uniquely of moving-image selfies featuring William Brown.

We are completely delighted to be featuring so prominently as part of the festival, which is run by guerrilla filmmakers extraordinaire Fabrizio Federico and Laura Grace Robles.

The festival will culminate on Saturday 21 August with an awards ceremony at the Alamo Street Eat Bar in San Antonio,Texas. The ceremony runs from 9pm to midnight, with the Beg Steal Borrow films competing for Most Creative Feature Film. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Tune in to the Straight Jacket website in order to watch the films.

And click here to read an interview with William Brown about guerrilla filmmaking.

The Straight Jacket screenings come ahead of the World Premiere of Letters to Ariadne at the Validate Yourself Film Festival in New York on Saturday 2 September – and follow hot on the heels of the World Premiere of Circle/Line at London’s East End Film Festival in June.

In the meantime, we have also enjoyed preview screenings of The Benefit of Doubt at the Roxy Bar & Grill in London on 17 June and of Sculptures of London at the Film-Philosophy Conference at the University of Lancaster on 4 July.

We have also very nearly finished all filming for This is Cinema, the principle shoot of which lasted between 10 and 23 July.

So… all in all a busy summer for Beg Steal Borrow. Let us hope that we have more screenings in the near future. But in the meantime… please support our work by checking out our films!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

We are thrilled to announce that we have reached the £3,000 target for our crowd fund campaign with LiveTree for This is Cinema.

With three days left on the campaign, though, any extra money raised will certainly help the production – while also seeing money donated to Tender, the arts charity that works with young people to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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The campaign for this This is Cinema  comes at the same time as we shoot Sculptures of London, and just ahead of the world premiere of Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival. This screening takes place at 5pm on Saturday 3 June at Old Spitalfields Market – and the screening is free!

The successful completion of the crowd funding campaign also comes as the finishing touches are being put to The Benefit of Doubt, with William Brown also working on an essay-film called #randomaccessmemory and an untitled letter-film with Vladimir Najdovski, a filmmaker based in Skopje, Macedonia.

Finally, it looks as though there are forthcoming festival screenings for The New HopeUr: The End of Civilization in 90 TableauxRoehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016) and Letters to Ariadne – about which more announcements will be made soon.

So stay tuned for more news from Beg Steal Borrow!

 

Two new personnel have joined the crew of The Benefit of Doubt as post-production work continues with the film.

Francisco Janes, an artist and filmmaker currently based in Vilnius, Lithuania, has come on board to carry out a sound mix for the film, while Oliver Campbell, a Beg Steal Borrow regular, has stepped in as an executive producer.

Francisco’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Human Resources, AT1 Projects and the Kristi Engle Gallery.

Reminiscent of the work of filmmaker James Benning, Francisco in particular has a wonderful eye for form and space, as can be seen at his website here.

And for a sample of Francisco’s work, here is untitled (Last Chance Range, Benton Way), which Beg Steal Borrow’s William Brown first saw as an installation at the Cinema Camp in Gelgaudiškis, Lithuania, in 2014.

Oliver, meanwhile, has helped out on various Beg Steal Borrow films, perhaps most notably Common Ground, in which he acted the part of the missing brother of lead character, Dennis (Dennis Chua).

We are delighted to have both Francisco and Oliver on board – and are very enthusiastic about being able soon to show The Benefit of Doubt to viewers.

So look out for more news on the film’s progress here!

About The Benefit of Doubt

The Benefit of Doubt tells the story of Ariadne (Hannah Croft), a woman who finds herself single after ten years in a relationship, and who is now in her mid-thirties unsure as to what to do with her life.

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Hannah Croft as Ariadne in The Benefit of Doubt

Deciding to go on holiday to Nice, she drifts around before encountering Nick (Nick Marwick), an actor who has just taken, and who is about to start, a job teaching in order to supplement his attempts to break into the world of theatre and film.

Finally, she then also encounters Greg (Greg Rowe), a drifter who also finds himself in the south of France.

The three strike up an unlikely friendship as they walk around Nice discussing life, love and also their sense of doubt regarding their validity or worth in the world.

The film is inspired by the myth of Ariadne from Greek mythology. Having helped Theseus to defeat the minotaur by giving him a thread of wool, Theseus fulfils his promise to help her to escape from Crete and her tyrannical father, King Minos.

However, Theseus quickly abandons Ariadne on the shore of Naxos – leaving her alone and without support. Fortunately, Dionysus/Bacchus turns up and the two get married and have children.

And so, The Benefit of Doubt also features Nick and Greg as two aspects of Bacchus: one as the god whom most people do not consider to be a ‘true’ god (a struggling actor who is not recognised) and the other as a man of wine and the life Bacchanalean.

To be shot by Beg Steal Borrow stalwart Tom Maine, the film will draw upon both the numerous artworks and artists that are on display in or near Nice – from museums dedicated to Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Pierre-Auguste Renoir to nearby places dedicated to art naïf, modern and contemporary art and, in St Paul de Vence, the Fondation Maeght – as well as upon other films.

For, The Benefit of Doubt certainly takes inspiration from Jean Vigo’s classic 1930 experimental documentary, À propos de Nice, as well as from films like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Eric Rohmer’s Le rayon vert/The Green Ray, which sometimes is also referred to as Summer.

The film reunites various Beg Steal Borrow regulars, including director William Brown, cinematographer Tom Maine, actors Hannah Croft (En Attendant Godard), Nick Marwick (AfterimagesCommon GroundThe New Hope) and Greg Rowe (The New Hope), with Andrew Slater (Afterimages, Common Ground, The New Hope) helping on the production side of things, together with contributions from Annette Hartwell (The New Hope) and Lucia D. Williams (Common GroundThe New Hope).

The film will also feature some first-time contributions from Nice local Mark Hodge. And music-man David Miller (Common GroundUr: The End of Civilization in 90 TableauxThe New Hope) will be providing music for the score, together with original pieces by Amy Holt (who also did music for The New Hope and Circle/Line) and Alex Fixsen.

Filming is to take place in Nice between 1 and 9 October. Weather-permitting, we shall successfully finish what is Beg Steal Borrow’s ninth feature.