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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.

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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!

 

We are delighted to say that This is Cinema has so far raised £2,395 – or 80 per cent of its £3,000 target on LiveTree.

This leaves us with just £605 to raise in the 8 days that remain of our crowdfunding campaign.

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All support is extremely welcome as we put together the latest Beg Steal Borrow film, which offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of the people studying and working at a small London university.

Starring Beg Steal Borrow regulars Alastair Trevill and Dennis Chua, This is Cinema will also feature performances from a range of newcomers to the Beg Steal Borrow fold – with stalwart cinematographer Tom Maine also lensing the production.

The campaign comes in the middle of the production of our short film, Sculptures of London and just before our documentary, Circle/Line, plays at the East End Film Festival in London.

If you want to support truly independent filmmaking, then please pledge your support for This is Cinema! The campaign also features all manner of goodies depending on how much you pledge.

A huge thank you to everyone who has so far helped in the backing of This is Cinema, the new film from Beg Steal Borrow and which will be shot in July 2017.

As of Friday 19 May, we have raised an impressive £2,240 of the £3,000 that we are aiming for through our crowd funding campaign on LiveTree. This amounts to just shy of 75 per cent of the desired money raised, leaving us with £760 to raise to meet our target in the next 15 days.

This is Cinema tells the story of Ben, a university lecturer who is grieving the loss of his wife and child. One day, his brother-in-law, Dennis, unexpectedly arrives on his doorstep with Radhika, a homeless woman who is fleeing an unhappy marriage.

Slide1Meanwhile, Latoya is a diligent and popular student taking one of Ben’s classes. Her brother, Wilhelm, is also in Ben’s class, but he hardly attends, preferring to sell weed on campus in a bid to finance his musical aspirations.

Things become complicated when Ben and Latoya get a match on a dating app while Ben is on a drunken night out. Furthermore, Ben’s world also unravels when he is threatened with redundancy for not being productive enough.

Tensions rise, then, as Dennis struggles to rearrange his life after losing his own marriage and falling into drink, while Latoya wrestles with depression and Wilhelm a mounting debt that sees him turn to dealing cocaine.

As Ben tries to work through his grief, and as all of the characters try to find meaning in their lives, This is Cinema explores the lives of two very different families as worlds collide in contemporary London.

The film is thus about those who desire intimacy and trust in a city where neither is easily forthcoming, and where traditional barriers must perhaps be broken down if trust is to be found.

Set against the backdrop of the neoliberalisation of British university education, This is Cinema will partially be shot in the areas of London where François Truffaut made his 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s famous 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451. In this way, the film’s setting will echo Truffaut’s use of south west London spaces in order to investigate how in addition to politics, the very architecture of the city plays a role in placing the freedom of thought under threat.

Starring Al Trevill as Ben and Dennis Chua as Dennis, This is Cinema is set to feature performances from various Beg Steal Borrow stalwarts, while also featuring performances from brand new collaborators, including Radhika Aggarwal as Radhika, Cherneal Scott as Latoya and George Morgan as Wilhelm.

Shot by stellar cinematographer Tom Maine, we also look forward to sound recording from Julio Molina Montenegro, as well, hopefully, as musical contributions from many of our long-standing collaborators (Radhika is the drummer in Extradition Order for whom we have shot a couple of music videos).

This is Cinema thus looks set to be a wonderful addition to the Beg Steal Borrow canon. And if you are interested in supporting the film, then please take part in our crowdfunding campaign, a link to which is available here.

Our campaign to raise money for This is Cinema may be in full flow – having surpassed the 50 per cent mark, with £1,305 left to raise in 18 days – but there is no rest for the wicked as cinematographer Tom Maine and I headed out on 15 May 2017 to start work on a new short essay-film, Sculptures of London.

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Tom Maine shoots some sculptures in Knightsbridge.

Sculptures of London offers the collective image that the city’s sculptures paint when we put them all alongside each other in a film. What is the story of the city and its people that the the city’s sculptures tell?

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A map showing the locations of all of the different sculptures that we are going to shoot for Sculptures of London.

Having gone through thousands of sculptures in preparing for this film, we have narrowed the film shoot down to images of about 200 different pieces of work – dotted all over London. And so yesterday, we had our first day of filming, starting over in Southall Park, where we shot Rachel Silver’s Sculptural Mosaic Globe.

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Rachel Silver’s Sculptural Mosaic Globe in Southall Park.

We then headed to the Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush area, where, among other things, we were saddened to see the Elliott Brook’s Goaloids had been removed from Shepherds Bush Green. We shall research what has happened to this sculpture!

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George Frederick Watts’ Physical Energy.

We then did a stint in Kensington Gardens, looking in particular at George Frederick Watts’ Physical Energy and Henry Moore’s Arch – two sculptures that already feature prominently in Beg Steal Borrow’s The New Hope (in which Dennis attacks Physical Energy, mistaking it for a rancor).

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Henry Moore’s Arch from across the Serpentine.

We then headed to Sloane Square, where we filmed some of the work in and around Belgrave Square and Cadogan Gardens. In the latter square, David Wynne’s Dancers and Girl with Doves sit in private gardens.

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David Wynne’s Dancers in their private garden.

This begs the question about whether this art is public or not, since one can see it from the public space of the pavement, but one cannot approach it to see it in detail unless one is with a local resident.

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Simon Gudgeon’s Search for Englightenment.

We then got in some shots of Jacob Epstein’s Rush of Green and Simon Gudgeon’s Search for Enlightenment at One Hyde Park, before heading around the park to Still Water by Nic Fiddian-Green, the horse’s head that stands near Marble Arch.

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Still Water by Nic Fiddian-Green.

Finally, we headed to Edgware Road and Paddington, where we got reacquainted with Allan Sly’s Window Cleaner, a sculpture that also features in Circle/Line, which you can see at its premiere at the East End Film Festival on 3 June 2017 at 5pm at Old Spitalfields Market.

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Standing Man and Walking Man by Sean Henry.

We then ended with a trip to see Paddington Bear himself inside the station – but not before going to see Sean Henry’s Standing Man and Walking Man by Sheldon Square.

We were sad to see that Jon Buck’s Family had also been removed. Perhaps the way in which sculptures can go walkabouts will merit another film at a later point in time!

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Paddington!

But we shall keep you updated with this and other projects as we make them. Please do support Beg Steal Borrow’s efforts to make different and strange films…!

The LiveTree crowd funding campaign created by Beg Steal Borrow Films to help produce This is Cinema has got off to a fantastic start, with over £800 of the desired £3,000 raised within 48 hours of the campaign’s launch.

Nonetheless, we still have plenty of ground to cover in order to reach – and perhaps go beyond – our target over the next 28 days.

This is Cinema tells the story of Ben, a university lecturer who is grieving the loss of his wife and child. One day, his brother-in-law, Dennis, unexpectedly arrives on his doorstep with Radhika, a homeless woman who is fleeing an unhappy marriage.

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Meanwhile, Latoya is a diligent and popular student taking one of Ben’s classes. Her brother, Wilhelm, is also in Ben’s class, but he hardly attends, preferring to sell weed on campus in a bid to finance his musical aspirations.

Things become complicated when Ben and Latoya get a match on a dating app while Ben is on a drunken night out. Furthermore, Ben’s world also unravels when he is threatened with redundancy for not being productive enough.

Tensions rise, then, as Dennis struggles to rearrange his life after losing his own marriage and falling into drink, while Latoya wrestles with depression and Wilhelm a mounting debt that sees him turn to dealing cocaine.

As Ben tries to work through his grief, and as all of the characters try to find meaning in their lives, This is Cinema explores the lives of two very different families as worlds collide in contemporary London.

The film is thus about those who desire intimacy and trust in a city where neither is easily forthcoming, and where traditional barriers must perhaps be broken down if trust is to be found.

Set against the backdrop of the neoliberalisation of British university education, This is Cinema will partially be shot in the areas of London where François Truffaut made his 1966 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s famous 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451. In this way, the film’s setting will echo Truffaut’s use of south west London spaces in order to investigate how in addition to politics, the very architecture of the city plays a role in placing the freedom of thought under threat.

Starring Al Trevill as Ben and Dennis Chua as Dennis, This is Cinema is set to feature performances from various Beg Steal Borrow stalwarts, while also featuring performances from brand new collaborators, including Radhika Aggarwal as Radhika, Cherneal Scott as Latoya and Femi Wilhelm as Wilhelm.

Shot by stellar cinematographer Tom Maine, we also look forward to sound recording from Julio Molina Montenegro, as well, hopefully, as musical contributions from many of our long-standing collaborators (Radhika is the drummer in Extradition Order for whom we have shot a couple of music videos).

This is Cinema thus looks set to be a wonderful addition to the Beg Steal Borrow canon. So if you are interested in supporting the film, then please take part in our crowdfunding campaign, a link to which is available here.

Monies raised by the campaign will ensure that the film’s significant cast and crew can be fed during the production, while also perhaps covering the hire of a gimble for interior sequences, ensuring that we have enough hard drive space to back up video and audio recordings, film festival submission fees, and perhaps even recompensing various of the many participants in the film.