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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.

 

 

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…

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…!

Beg Steal Borrow Films is delighted to announce the launch of a crowd funding campaign to finance their new film, This is Cinema.

Running until 3 June, the campaign is being hosted by LiveTree, and is hoping to raise £3,000 to support the production of This is Cinema, the 11th Beg Steal Borrow feature.

If you are interested in supporting the film, then please sign up to the campaign here.

The film 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.

Slide1

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. And if you are interested in supporting the film, then please take part in our crowdfunding campaign, a link to which is available here.

I have been meaning to write about the progress of Circle/Line for some time now.

In short, editing progresses not necessarily apace, but steadily.

There have been some frustrations along the way. First and foremost is that it appears that we have lost the video files for one interview conducted at High Street Kensington, all of the interviews that we conducted at Gloucester Road, and part of the long interview that we enjoyed at South Kensington (the very final interview that we conducted).

I guess these things happen – and we still have the sound files, so not all is lost; but this might mean that to include those interviews in, say, a finished film, would mean having the sound over other images, which might seem odd with regard to the look of the rest of the film.

Either way, though, having been through all of the footage it is clear that we have numerous wonderful interviews with numerous fascinating people – all talking about happiness in lots of different ways/approaching it from lots of different angles.

How to arrange it now becomes the big challenge.

I hope that the ‘film’ will in fact take several different shapes.

Firstly, I would like to edit together a film in the traditional sense, which includes footage from a range of the interviews conducted, although not necessarily all of them. I shall return to this shortly below.

Secondly, however, I hope also to create a website with all of the interviews (at least in part) uploaded – in 27 instalments, with one shorter film for each stop on the Circle/Line.

This not only will provide a space for visitors to browse far more of the footage than I can ‘reasonably’ include in a single film (unless watching six and a half hour films is your thing), but I would also like to make the footage available for download, so that visitors can then use the footage potentially to edit a completely different film to the one that I put together.

Finally, more ambitiously and more unlikely, I’d love to find a space where I could mount 27 screens, one for each station, and then allow visitors to come and browse the films at their leisure – for as long or as little as they would like, with each monitor (as per the website) screening footage from that particular station.

Obviously, a yellow theme as per the Circle Line’s appearance on the standard London Tube map, perhaps with a ‘yellow brick path’ around the space, might also be good.

Now, I am editing both the 27 short films and the feature film simultaneously – and what is quickly apparent is that it is very tough to know what to include and what to exclude, in the feature film at least.

It is clear that various themes emerge over and over again: the weather, sport, comparisons between London and other cities – both in the UK and abroad, and so on. I shan’t be able to include all of these, and it becomes clear to me that I am editing a more ‘political’ film, in which issues like the cost of living, work, religion, housing problems and other issues are explored, than I am necessarily editing a ‘feel good’ film (although I hope that the film conveys a lot of the optimism of the people that we interviewed).

Tom Maine – with his customary elegance and sensitivity – has captured absolutely beautiful portraits of the people whom we have interviewed, and so I generally feel happy with the look of the film and in a sense edit more to what people say.

However, sometimes one also edits not only because of what the interviewee does in terms of gesture or facial expression, but sometimes one also edits because of chance events that occur in the background.

I am still undecided as to whether it will make the final cut, but Tom has done shots for example through a taxi that pulled up between him and me/an interviewee at Cannon Street – and which look absolutely fantastic.

In addition, small things like a moving crane also can provide visual attractions that do not necessarily belong to the interview. The vertical framing does, in my humble opinion, work very well – and so the point is that while Circle/Line is a vox pop film, in that it features people talking, it is also – I believe – a very visual film.

Indeed, we set out to create a portrait of London – or at least of London’s Circle Line, the people that pass through and/or inhabit it, and a sense of the relationship between the two by staging the interviews in the street, near public transport, and with an emphasis on the vertical in order to see the human figure in relation to the giant buildings that surround her.

I hope that others consider the film to be successful in presenting not just a series of portraits of people interviewed in London, therefore, but also in many respects a portrait of the city. In the spirit of Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s film from which Circle/Line draws inspiration, I hope also that the film is a ‘chronicle of the summer’ of 2015 in one of the world’s most vibrant cities.

The next time I post, I hope that it will be to announce that a cut of the film is ready. But everything continues enjoyably and hopefully with the result of producing a watchable and engaging piece of work.

Below are some stills – from interviews at (clockwise, starting top left) Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Embankment, Edgware Road, Notting Hill and Bayswater.

And also keep an eye out for a trailer and a poster somewhere in the pipeline, too!

Long time no blog – for which apologies.

But there have been some interesting/exciting Beg Steal Borrow developments over the past few weeks – with even more brewing – so keep a look-out for future events, too – since there hopefully will be screenings of SelfieUr: The End of Civilization in 90 Tableaux and The New Hope to announce in the coming months, both in the UK and further afield.

The script

Let’s start with the script. William Brown’s screenplay, Kiss and Make Up, is in competition for six awards at the Oaxaca FilmFest in Mexico, which takes place 9-17 October 2015.

The script, a comedy that tells the story of a man who disguises himself as different people in order to stalk his ex-girlfriend, is one of the screenplays selected for the Global Script Challenge. And at Oaxaca, William will hopefully be meeting other writers and film people in order to be inspired.

Circle/Line shoot completed

While this blog does not constitute a final diary entry for the film per se, it is to announce that cinematographer Tom Maine and director William Brown finished shooting Circle/Line just before the end of August – and in spite of heavy rain that often made stopping people in the street for an interview next to impossible.

We did a mid-July shoot at Edgware Road, meeting in particular a couple of former students from Kingston University who are engaged in trying to do charitable work in the Middle East, before then filming in late August at Paddington, where we had a fascinating interview with a somewhat distraught and unemployed man, who feels hopeless with regard to being able to turn his life around – particularly in relation to finding a job.

There followed a rain-soaked interview Bayswater with, amongst others, a man from Sicily who talks to people about God, and a very chilled-out/relaxed guy from Australia who seemed to know the formula for happiness.

At Notting Hill Gate, we met some visitors from Germany and a student from Italy, before at High Street Kensington chatting with another German woman and a man on his way to watch the Arsenal play.

At Gloucester Road, we spoke in particular to an Argentine lady who is hoping to find a way to stay in London, a city that she feels that she loves. And at South Kensington, our final location, we chatted to two men, one French and one British, who are working on an app that is designed to help people to maximise happiness.

Given that the topic of the film is, with a hat tip to Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer, about how happy people in London are, this seemed a most appropriate interview with which to finish principle shooting. For, the final interview combined not only people also engaged in happiness, but also an Anglo-French effort to achieve it.

Now, for the edit. More news to follow when the film is ready for preliminary screenings.

The Benefit of Doubt

But, before that, Beg Steal Borrow are also set to shoot a new fiction film, The Benefit of Doubt, which retells the myth of Ariadne after she has been abandoned by Theseus in France’s Nice.

Starring En Attendant Godard lead Hannah Croft in the Ariadne role, the film will also feature performances from Beg Steal regular Nick Marwick, and Greg Rowe, who makes his second film with us after a small, but memorable role as an R2 unit in The New Hope.

Filmed in Nice, The Benefit of Doubt hopefully will also pay homage in part to Jean Vigo’s À propos de Nice, one of the great short films that was shot by Dziga Vertov’s brother, Boris Kaufman.

More news will certainly follow after the shoot, which takes place from 1st to 9th October, with Tom Maine taking up his regular duties as cinematographer, and with Andrew Slater also returning for production duties – with help from Annette Hartwell and Lucia D. Williams.

Day 11: Sunday 14 June (Victoria)

It is quite surprising how most people whom we interview are very cagey about revealing not only where they work, but also what they do for a job as a whole. I am not sure if people are always worried about what judgements they think that others will make once the nature of their work is revealed, but few people seem willing to say the area of their work.

With regard to naming the company for which they work, the reluctance to name a company speaks surely, meanwhile, of a lack of job security in the current climate: if X interviewee says Y thing about Z company, then Z company might have good cause to sack X interviewee. Indeed, anyone who is in work clothes (from Transport for London employees to Big Issue vendors, both of whom we have interviewed) has in fact been trained not to talk to people in front of a camera. In this instance, the company is also afraid of a lawsuit, since if X interviewee says Y thing about Z company, then W viewer of the film in which the interview takes place might sue Z company because they take offence at X interviewee’s comment/Y thing.

For me, this has two effects. Firstly, it makes me sad that we live in such litigious times, in which people are running scared the whole time, and in which we fundamentally live in a condition of bad faith because no one trusts anyone else.

And secondly, it reveals as in some respects untrue people’s claims to be happy, especially when they relate their happiness to their work situation (which is the first thing that people mention in the majority of cases). For, if they were happy at work, they why not sing from the rooftops what work it is that they do, such that others might be inspired by these claims and thus want to work in the same, happy-making industry themselves?

Nonetheless, at Victoria we meet a TfL employee who does mention his place of work. I am not sure whether I shall include any such mentions in the film – for fear of getting our interviewee the sack! But they seem happy both with work, and to talk to us for a few minutes into their shift. He also speaks about his family, which seems spread all over the world, as a source of happiness as he works on his music.

Across the road from Victoria, in Grosvenor Gardens, we also meet two young chaps who are up in town after their exams. They are studying at a private school outside of London, and are about to break up for the summer – heading back to their respective homes in the north of England and Hong Kong. And we also speak to two young Bulgarian women, one of whom has been in London for a few months now, and one who has arrived today, and who is in transit towards Edinburgh.

In particular, these women speak of how the perception of Bulgarians in London is that they are here to nick jobs from ‘proper’ British citizens. However, from their own perspective, they are just young people looking for a bit of a change of scene. Both hope to make it to New York at some point.

At the end of the interview, the one woman who has lived in London for a while suggests that there are too many black people in the area of London where she lives (Stratford). I am sure that the comment speaks more about an unthinking cultural prejudice, rather than a considered, conscious evaluation of a race of people. Nonetheless, after a pleasant and informative conversation about being young and Bulgarian in London, this seems disturbing, if out of character.

Furthermore, the comment is unjustified given the wonderful conversation that we then have with Egbert, a Dominican Rastafarian who has been living in London for many years now. He speaks of living in the moment and embracing a loving attitude towards others that is inspirational and cheery-making.

Finally, we end in Victoria with a conversation with Lini, a Malaysian cleaner who must be about 60, and whose English is very limited. She smiles broadly, though, exudes a warmth and pleasantness that, while making for a not particularly successful interview, means that she has a memorable face and persona.

Day 12: Monday 15 June (Tower Hill)

Since Grosvenor Gardens proved a successful hunting ground for interviewees (surely the fact that people are sitting down and not rushing is key), Tom and I decide to start out in Trinity Square Gardens, just opposite the entrance to Tower Hill, which otherwise is undergoing works.

We speak to Alex, who is studying history at Queen Mary, University of London. He says that art and other wishy washy things along those lines do nothing for him with regard to happiness, but that he instead is made happy by things logical. We then speak to George, a West Ham fan who is in the area to see a concert at the Tower of London. George is in particular good to speak to, because he is of about retirement age (I would not like to speculate on a precise age) and thus represents a demographic – over 55s, let’s say – that we have had trouble convincing to speak to us up until now.

And then, like the proverbial London buses, along come Mark and Dennis, both of a similar age to George, and who also talk to us. Mark is down from Lancashire on business. Having been involved in the London 2012 Olympics, he still does some work in London, but it seems as though his passion is (beyond his family) playing and training others to play rugby.

Meanwhile Dennis, an Irish-American New Yorker who has been travelling the world of late (he has just touched down from Malaysia), is one of the most enlightened interviewees whom we have met: the oldest of 12 children, he was the senior male in his family after the death of his father in his early teens. He tells us that struggling to raise the family was great shakes compared to the struggles that the average young person faces today, but he does not lord this over anyone. Instead, he is humble and suggests that seeking happiness is today is the only worthwhile philosophy in life – even if it is a philosophy that took him many years to cultivate.

Day 13: Wednesday 17 June (Great Portland Street)

I am always worried when I turn up at a station that I am facing another Moorgate: a station where no one will stop to speak to us because they are too busy. After a couple of false starts, however, we do manage at Great Portland Street to speak to a woman, Sarah, who has worked in housing for many years, and who tells us about the problems with housing in London at the moment.

There are, she says, not enough houses for the growing population, and with too many people snapping up houses that remain unoccupied – a fact also reported in our media. Space, Sarah is convinced, is key to happiness – and without space, it is harder for people to be happy.

We also speak at Great Portland Street to a nurse, Michael, who was born in the UK, grew up in New Zealand, but who returned to the UK as an adult (he still has a New Zealand accent). In what seems like another serendipitous coincidence (three more senior men at Great Portland Street, two people who work in issues relating to social welfare), we discuss the National Health Service in the UK and the role that it, too, plays in ensuring the happiness of as many people as possible.

Finally, Tom and I speak – in our longest interview yet (40 minutes; most are between 12 and 20 minutes, though some are of course shorter) – to two artists, Lyndon and Toby, who have just been putting up stands at London’s Taste Festival.

Lyndon is about to start teaching at a school in Suffolk and is worried about leaving London – although he recognises that the capital is also a hard place in which to eke out happiness as a result of the swelling of its population and the seeming lack of job opportunities.

Toby, meanwhile, is staying in London, where he runs an illegal psychedelic ice cream van that sounds like a sort of installation/performance art piece that he drives around London (getting told regularly to move on because he does not have a license to sell the generic ice creams that he stocks).

The pair also work on party-event-installations, the last of which sounds stupendous if crazy: everyone came in costumes designed by other people attending the party, which had as its theme something in equal measure amusing and bizarre (although my poor memory – I write eight days later – does not recall).

After some early noes, then, Great Portland Street works out well.

Day 14: Monday 22 June (Sloane Square)

Sloane Square itself seemed likely to prove a good place to talk to people – and yet most refused to speak to us. I hate the tone of voice that people adopt when, after I have spent a few minutes explaining what we are doing, a lack of trust remains, a thin smile crosses the would-be interviewee’s lips, and they explain that they do not want to take part. It’s not so much that it is a no, but more what I perceive to be insincere friendliness.

I am sure that in this I am wrong, because there is of course a camera present, but I cannot help but feel that to say no to someone who wants a conversation is unfriendly, and so to try to be friendly in saying no is insincere. The presence of the camera: why does this affect people’s decision not to talk? Because they are wary of their appearance, perhaps. But this speaks of how we are all supposed always to look not like ourselves but ready for a camera, or cinematic. Or perhaps they say no because they are worried about what they are going to say and how it will be portrayed. Again, understandable, but to experience someone’s general lack of faith (they do not trust others) is hard not to take personally (they do not trust me). Clearly I am not good enough (cannot be good enough) at explaining/demonstrating to people that I am, or hope that I am, trustworthy.

And yet, Sloane Square is also the venue of the most annoying interview yet – an interview in which someone does agree to speak to us, and then proceeds to spend 20 minutes being as vague as possible in their responses, resisting right up until the end the invitation to say anything interesting about themselves. Furthermore, the man in the end refuses to sign our Letter of Release, insisting that he gets a cut of the film before we do anything with it because, in his own words, I might put him in a porn film.

While to get rejected is frustrating and a cause of self-doubt, to get accepted – he agreed to do the interview – only then to film 20 minutes of ongoing rejection, which ultimately I am unlikely even to be able to use – just seems to be obstructive and destructive, as if the man took pleasure in wasting my and Tom’s time (in his defence, the man did start by saying that he had nothing to do, so why not do the interview – i.e. he had some time to waste).

The man runs a watch company and has lived in Sloane Square all of his life, except for two years in Westminster, which apparently were awful, although there was a fantastic flat on offer there, so he had to take it. I ask him whether working with watches has changed the way he thinks about time. No. How did he think about time before he started working in watches? He didn’t. How did he get into working with watches? You can do this several ways. Which ways are those? There are several of them. Which one did he do? With some seeming regret he says that he got trained – as if it were an embarrassment to admit that anyone else might have helped him in making his fortune… The interview is painful and, ultimately, unpleasant.

Thank heavens, then, to meet Luke and his friend Ivan. Luke is a writer who writes stories for people for money. He is a traveller and has an uncontrollable laugh and smile – full of the joys of the universe. He cheers us up no end before going off to a Beethoven concert in Cadogan Hall.

Finally, outside the Royal Court we talk briefly to Paul, an actor who, despite wearing shades**, speaks candidly about how most people who tell you that they are happy are liars, and that he is not. I like Paul. I like Luke. I like Ivan. I guess you cannot like everyone.

** I have a theory about sunglasses. Basically it runs this way: curious people look, but curious people also want to show that they are curious by also showing that they are looking. This is a means then to start dialogue, which can engender learning, which satisfies curiosity. Sunglasses are what one wears in order to look, but not to be seen looking (as well as being associated with ‘cool’ – with cool in most of its forms being associated with detachment from, rather than engagement with, the world). I’d much rather be and demonstrate the fact that I am enworlded, and that we are all entangled with the world and with each other than putting on some masquerade that somehow I am detached from the world and that I have nothing to do with it. People who tend to believe that they are simply the authors of their own destiny tend to be the sort of people who have lived lives of privilege, and whose greatest privilege is to believe that they were owed or won their privilege, and to forget the fact that they are enworlded, rather than remembering that all that they have necessarily depends on the contributions of other people.

We are happy to announce that filming has begun for Beg Steal Borrow’s new documentary, Circle/Line.

The premise of the film is to interview people at all of the 26 stops on the ‘regular’ Circle line of the London Underground (this does not include the stations that stretch from Edgware Road to Hammersmith and which now are part of a combined Circle and Hammersmith & City line).

We interview people about life in general, especially regarding whether they are happy, with the idea being to compile a vox pop film along the lines of two of the great documentaries from the 1960s, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un été, France, 1961), and Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme’s Le Joli Mai (France, 1963).

The rationale behind the film is to see how happy people are in 2015, with a particular emphasis on people in London. The reason for shooting at Circle line stations is because our hypothesis is that this will take in a mix of locations, at least within central London, while at the same time setting a natural limit on the film.

Meanwhile, given that I (this is William Brown writing) am not sure what happiness is, or if it can exist in the way that I think it could (everyone being happy), then I am intrigued by paradox, which ties in with the idea that a circle is somehow supposed also to be a line at the same time.

Tom Maine is shooting the film, but in portrait style. The idea is also, then, to film the architecture around the Circle line stations, and to see how organic and/or symbiotic is the relationship between the people whose portraits we take, and the buildings that surround them.

This post is intended not only to announce that we are making the film, but also to act as a journal of sorts about making the film. There may not be too many entries, but it can function as news about the production nonetheless.

Day One (Friday 1 May 2015 – Liverpool Street)

I am a nervous sort, in that I don’t particularly like approaching strangers to talk to them, and yet this is the basic remit of this project. Having hovered at Liverpool Street for a few minutes – during which time Tom and I bumped into Rosie Frascona, our star from Ur: The End of Civilization in 90 Tableaux – we finally decided to set up by Broadgate Circus.

And who should walk past for our first interview but my old friend Jonathan Stanley? He agrees to take part, and so suddenly talking to strangers feels very easy – if in fact we are only going to have to interview friends whom we bump into randomly on the street.

Buoyed by the luck of bumping into Jonathan, Tom and I then interview various other people for the next couple of hours, including a group of British lads who had been comically walking into the shot of and trying to sabotage the interview that we filmed with a couple of Spanish women. All seems to go well as we rack up several interviews in no time, with only one or two people actually saying no. Clearly filming in decent weather on the Friday evening of a bank holiday weekend is a good strategy. Most people seem happy.

Day Two (Saturday 2 May 2015 – Temple, Embankment, Westminster)

Tom and I meet at Temple and progress from there down to Westminster. Our interviewees include a devout Christian, a Big Issue seller, a couple of musicians who discuss Nietzsche and their baby with us, and more.

More people than not are saying yes to being interviewed, which surprises us still, while more significantly more people than not are saying that they are happy, which also surprises us.

We get our first unhappy person at Westminster, a footballer from Portugal who feels that he has not achieved his life goals. We get a few interviews at Westminster, but Tom and I think we’ll come back at a later point to do some more.

A few preliminary observations: most people talk about their jobs first of all, suggesting that work is the balance between happiness and not. Family comes second. No one has discussed love necessarily. And no one has mentioned politics. I feel that I need to devise some more questions in order to draw out different shades of happiness and how people feel them.

It also strikes Tom and me that perhaps only people who are going to say that they are happy are going to be drawn towards speaking on camera. Anyone who is not happy likely is to be unwilling to talk with us. This is interesting, but also problematic for the film. Can one truly get a cross-section of people to talk to us?

Day 3 (Sunday 3 May – Kings Cross, Euston Square, Baker Street)

Kings Cross is easy pickings, oddly enough. Lots of people waiting around, lots of people happy to talk given the good weather: a Danish-Vietnamese woman discusses leftist politics, we have our second person tell us he’s unhappy, a cheerful group of French tourists, and our first older lady talks to us. Tom and I are happy more or less about the mix of people that we are interviewing, but older people seem in particular wary of us.

At Euston Square we talk to an ethnomusicologist at some length. She is most interesting. As are some young men at school and a student at UCL. It strikes me that many people have wise things to say.

Tom and I skip Great Portland Street. e will be back, but our thinking is that the place is pretty dead at the weekend, and after spending a long time at Euston Square for few interviews, we decide to go straight on to Baker Street.

There we have a long conversation with a couple who talk Tom and I into going to watch an experimental short film in Shoreditch that night.

Day 4 (Wednesday 6 May – Aldgate)

The first of our weekday evening shoots. The time of day makes us think that less tourist-driven stops might work well at around the end of office hours. Aldgate is a relatively tough stop, but Tom and I get some interviews with some interesting people, including an Indian cricket fan and a chap about to get married.

Day 5 (Thursday 7 May – Farringdon, Barbican)

Thursday is the new Friday, it would seem, since Farringdon is busy and lots of people seem happy to talk to us, including an Irish construction worker, two ladies who work in fashion, an ambitious wannabe barrister.

Nearly everyone with whom we speak still seems remarkably to be happy. It being election day, we do ask people about their political happiness. Not many of those to whom we speak profess to care about politics at all.

Tom and I suspect that Circle line stations that are next to pubs work well, because we move along to Barbican – where suddenly it seems very difficult to get people to stop and talk to us. This surprises us, since we think that pre-theatre types going to the visually impressive Barbican might be interested in having a chat on camera – but apparently not. Without a pub, and being a bit of an in-and-out station with nowhere really to loiter, it’s not necessarily that good for interviews.

Day 6 (Friday 8 May – Monument)

Oceans of people wave past us, with barely anyone willing to stop to talk. This despite the fact that an entire office block has had a fire alarm and is loitering just by the station. However, none of them talk to us.

As Tom and I begin to get a few rejections, it is amazing how it knocks the confidence out of you. The suspicious look as the person you approach feels that you are going to sell them something, the head ducking down into the mobile phone, the ‘no’ and walk away before you have even opened your mouth to explain what it is that you’re doing.

Nonetheless, after some struggle – and this on a Friday, thereby scuppering our belief that it would be easier after Liverpool Street – we manage to interview three lads in sales, one of whom professes to have voted UKIP at the election (and who looks me up and down, sees my shabby trainers and hole-marked jumper, and remarks sarcastically that ‘you’re obviously doing all right for yourself’), and a lady who is studying for her accountancy exams and who takes the longest time out of anyone so far to think about how to answer the question.

Day 7 (Tuesday 12 May – Moorgate)

Our first washout. About 75 minutes at Moorgate station, asking maybe 50 to 60 people if they’ll talk to us – and every single one, without exception, says no, including a couple of ‘talk to the hand’ gestures that refuse any eye contact whatsoever.

Finally, we manage to speak to someone, Kai, who refuses to be on camera (or for us even to record his voice). He suggests that Moorgate is a bad place to talk to people because everyone is unhappy with their jobs, it is the end of the financial year, and the weather in May is too changeable for anyone to feel comfortable. It is a good conversation, not the first of the evening that would have been great for the film, but for the fact that the interviewee does not want to be recorded.

For, upon arrival at Moorgate Tom and I start chatting to Lulu, who is working a shift handing out flyers for a homeless charity. Her shift ends at 7.30pm, so jokingly we tell her we’ll collar her then.

Seventy thirty pm rolls around – and since we have had no joy whatsoever, we decide that we will collar Lulu, who packs up her charity stall with two of her colleagues. We’ve told them about the project, but not what our question is, since we like to keep responses unplanned to our first question (‘are you happy?’ – the only person to have heard the question in advance is Jonathan Stanley at Liverpool Street).

However, Lulu and her friends – who have been stopping people in the street to discuss charity – say that they are too busy to talk to us. I ask them what their charity is. Jehovah’s Witnesses, they tell me. ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have the time to talk to us?!’ I reply, and they laugh.

We then have a great conversation with these and other JWs who join them and in which we explain the project in more detail. Even though we talk for 10-15 minutes or so – easily the time required for an interview – they still don’t agree.

And so Tom and I leave Moorgate empty-handed. We are not sure whether to leave the station blank in the film (a black screen to indicate the lack of willing participants), or whether we shall return back soon to try our luck again, maybe on a weekend or at a lunchtime if we can.