Archives for posts with tag: This is Cinema

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.

Shooting over 60 sculptures in a day for our Sculptures of London project is exhausting work – as both Tom Maine and I can testify. And yet this is what we achieved on Sunday 11 June 2017 – before immediately heading on to rehearsals for our forthcoming fiction film, This is Cinema.

In some senses, the day constitutes a sort of miniature version of the story told by the sculptures of London in general: it was defined by a large number of statues of figures, many monuments associated with war, and yet it also involved a series of abstract sculptures, and many of which invite interaction from passers-by.

Two works by John Maine perhaps summed up both of these strands of London sculpture: his ring-like war memorial on Islington Green and his Arena on the South Bank.

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Islington Memorial by John Maine

The war memorial suggests war, but not in a celebratory or heroic way – with a phallic statue. Instead, the ring that is the memorial’s centrepiece suggests something much more subtle, its twists suggesting pain as it resembles a wreath, while at the same time having a weight and beauty of its own. What is more, the way in which the ring becomes something like a Möbius strip also suggests the infinity, perhaps, of memory.

But where the Islington Memorial remains a monument that one looks at, Arena, on the other hand, is a piece that invites people to walk and to climb, maybe even to skateboard over. Set outside the National Theatre, it is a key feature of London’s South Bank, and it presents the kind of democratic and equalising vision of the city that we might think is fitting in the venue of the 1951 Festival of Britain.

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Arena by John Maine

Rather than being a ‘monumental’ sculpture, then, Arena perhaps even stops being a sculpture at all. Maybe it is better considered to be landscape design or just masonry. But even in challenging the border of sculpture, Arena reaffirms what art can do best, which is precisely to challenge borders, and to get us to rethink space and how we act in and with it in a city that otherwise is often defined by barriers and fences.

In some senses, then, London is on the one hand defined by statues, most often of men, whose lives are associated with a history of nation-building and/or national defence, i.e. war, and which stand on plinths that assert power and which do not let us touch or even approach the figure. And on the other hand, London has very approachable sculptures with which we can even interact.

Indeed, they ask us to touch them, as signalled in Lorenzo Quinn’s Hands, found on Millbank opposite the MI6 building and near Tate Britain.

If the statues are typically of men, it is also true that they are predominantly of white men. There are exceptions: in Parliament Square in Westminster there are statues of both Mohandas K. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – but here, too, it is perhaps significant that these two men, known for their democratic values and their bid to create a society of equals, are much closer to the ground than the men who surround them, including Robert Peel (the founder of the police), Benjamin Disraeli and former South African leader Jan Smuts.

These latter figures enjoy much grander plinths than Mandela and Gandhi – with the contrast between Mandela and Smuts (who endorsed racial segregation in South Africa, even if apartheid only came into being after his term) being perhaps especially telling.

(My aim here is not to belittle Smuts unnecessarily; his achievements are numerous, and he might be considered a great liberal, even if he also had disagreements with Gandhi.)

If there is a seeming correspondence between plinth size and race, then there seemed to be a tendency on this day of filming to find it hard to film sculptures of women. We did find and shoot the sculptures of Emmeline Pankhurst in Victoria Tower Gardens and Edith Cavell at 10 St Martin’s Place, a fiery Boudica, as well as the bust of SOE officer Violette Szabo on Lambeth Palace Road.

But we also found that we could not film statues of Elizabeth I (because Little Dean’s Yard is in Westminster School and thus private), Mary Seacole (because one cannot film on the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital without a permit), and Anna Pavlova (because the Victoria Palace Theatre upon which she lives was under scaffold).

Beyond that, the Women in World War II Memorial on Whitehall, together with the Suffragette Memorial in Christchurch Gardens do not actually feature any women, but instead seem to reference them through their absence.

There were plenty of sculptures, however, of animals, including men riding horses, lions at the feet of men, sphinxes at the base of Cleopatra’s Needle, a lioness hunting a lesser kudu, and a heron in a pond in Victoria Embankment Gardens.

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Jonathan Kenworthy’s Lioness and Lesser Kudu

(Queen Victoria herself looms large in London, but while there are various statues of her, significantly more things are named after her: Victoria Tower, Victoria Embankment, and so on.)

Finally, Oscar Wilde does not stand, nor even sit, but lies, almost as if in a coffin, by Charing Cross on Adelaide Street. It seems ironic that in contrast to the phallic Nelson whose column stands around the corner in Trafalgar Square, here we have a queer icon not pushing himself upwards, but lying in the gutter, looking at the stars.

Somewhere between monument and abstraction, Maggi Hambling’s sculpture also seems to embody the tension between the city’s imposition of hierarchies of power and its democratic impulses; it is a working embodiment of the story that is told us by the sculptures of London.

With one day left for filming, and half a day required to do the film’s voice over with brilliant actress Lissa Schwerm, sculptures of London is shaping up nicely. We shall wrap up with our final diary entry in the next few days…

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!

 

As we near completion of our crowd funding campaign for This is Cinema with LiveTree, shooting continues with Sculptures of London, a short film that asks what the story is that the sculptures of London tell us – about the city and about life more generally.

William Brown and Tom Maine spent Monday 29 May shooting some more sculptures for the film – after a brief meeting with the organisers of the East End Film Festival ahead of the screening of Circle/Line with them on Saturday 3 June at 5pm at Old Spitalfields Market.

We started at Mile End, where we shot the statue of Catherine Booth, co-founder with her husband William of the Salvation Army.

Catherine and William Booth

Catherine’s hand is held low, William’s held high; where Catherine reads, William declaims; where William is made of bronze, Catherine is made of fibreglass.

We then proceeded to Three Mills Park, where we saw Thomas J Price’s Network, before heading down to Docklands to shoot Les Johnson’s Landed and Eduardo Paolozzi’s Vulcan.

A quick trip down to the Woolwich Arsenal allowed us to take in Assembly by Peter Burke and Nike by Pavlos Angelos Kougioumtzis.

And we ended the afternoon’s shoot with a quick trip to Canary Wharf via East India, where we filmed Maurice Bilk’s Renaissance, Kim Bennet’s Domino Players, Eilis O’Connell’s Sacrificial Anode, Richard Rome’s Pepper Rock, Giles Penny’s Two Men on a Bench, Jon Buck’s Returning to Embrace, Lynn Chadwick’s Couple on a Seat and Bob Allen’s It Takes Two. The last four in particular suggest a strong theme between couples of Canary Wharf…

We might be hard pressed to film all of the sculptures that we would like between now and the end of the shoot, but we are making gradual and definite progress!

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?

Sculptures Map

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…!