“General, the machine has locked us out. It’s sending random numbers to the silos.”

wargames
The above quote, as those of a certain age might remember, is from 1983’s WarGames, wherein a teenage hacker, played by a suspiciously old looking Matthew Broderick saves the world from nuclear annihilation after unwittingly starting a game of Global Thermonuclear War with a super computer that can set off nuclear missiles without human interference.

Last Friday evening cultural agitator and all round good cove, Bonnie Prince Bob, launched his latest satirical film, ‘Jeremy Bernard Corbyn: What Was Done’ at the dopey masses. Following the unparalleled success of his earlier venture ‘James Francis Murphy: Saviour of the Union’, expectations were high, if not a little tremulous by the fact that the budget for this production was approximately midway between diddly and squat.

In a report from the future, Bob as narrator, looks back on an imagined history, where the people used their democracy to remove the venal, nepotistic, Tories and installed part-time allotment botherer Jeremy Corbyn as Prime minister, who in turn created a nirvana of social justice, publicly owned utilities and free education for all.

The 30 minute long film played to a rapturous audience at Neu Reekie and was launched simultaneously on Bella Caledonia’s webpage.

By the following morning the YouTube page had amassed a couple of thousand views and praise for one of the most incisive pieces of satirical insight into British politics, was gathering pace. Despite a sensible reluctance to engage with the behemoth of social media, the intrepid Bob was persuaded to put together a Discontent page and launch the video on Facebook. In a ten hour period the video had over 11,000 plays and several positive comments. Then something happened…

The following morning Bob received word from FB that the image he had used wasn’t quite clear enough to see his face. ‘No problem’ quoth he, ‘here’s a clearer image.’ Facebook replied stating that the account was disabled immediately and a decision on its future would be made in the next 72 hours. Not Big Brotherish at all from the worlds favourite purveyor of prevarication.

How odd that a truly gigantic corporation, who have recently received justifiable flack for leaving online, a spree of vile videos of human beings doing unspeakably bad shit to their fallow sapiens, should act so hastily in disabling a video that pokes fun at the establishment, the monarchy and of course big business.

wwd

This morning, after an exhilarating mug of Java, I ventured on to Twitter to peruse whatever horrors had been carried out in the name of democracy as I slept the sleep of the innocent. Pondering how the views for ‘What Was Done’ were doing, I ventured on to Bella, clicked the video and was met with the all too familiar “This video is unavailable”. Intrigued I headed over to YouTube to see what was occurring. Hmm no evidence of the video there, in fact at the time, there was only a few of the young Bob’s videos in his archive, a revisit 30 seconds ago and all 34 videos appear to be missing from his Discontent account…

I decided to message the Prince-ling to determine WTF was happening, fearing our floppy fringed situationist might have foregone the acclaim for a decent nights kip from constant notifications, only to discover his Twitter account had mysteriously vanished.

A call was placed long distance from my current Northern abode to his urban pied-à-terre. Barely out of his scratcher, an air of befuddlement was in the young warriors voice. He could not get into his Twitter account, Twitter was rebuffing him with something about the ‘wrong password’…

At this point, I’ll just wrap an additional layer of bacofoil around my head and hazard a guess that the young gallant’s accounts have undergone a full Matthew Broderick hacking. Someone or various someone’s, I would imagine are pissed off at some Scottish oik, ripping the absolute piss out of their political party, their lineage, their old school tie, their political machinations, their predilections for paedophilia and their innate corruption.

As ancient Roman top bloke Cicero might have put it, before his head was lopped off and his tongue stabbed by Flavia’s hairpin,  ‘Cui bono’, who benefits?  Which party benefits from removing every trace of a satirical agitator’s finest rib tickling  words and imagery?

wwd3

As I type this, I’m chatting with a few friends, we see either an orchestrated attempt to silence a significant voice, or perhaps a bedroom dwelling lone wolf cub, sitting in Pepe embossed underpants.
wwd2

Thankfully all of His Bobness’ work remains on various hard drives and will in time be put up across as much of social media as can be mustered. A wee reminder to the hackers, nothing drives the will to see something, quite as much as those films and songs that ‘they’ tried to ban.

In the interim, until such time as order is restored and a defiantly impossible password is re-secured here is ‘Jeremy Bernard Corby: What Was Done’. Enjoy and do share.

Oh and as Joshua the super computer in WarGames discovered the concept of futility and no-win scenarios after a string of draws playing tic-tac-toe, the only way to win is to not play.  Fancy a game of chess?

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One of our Sundays is missing…

After a four year gap, I decided to visit the Indyref rally in Glasgow on September the 18th  aka the second anniversary of 2014’s Independence referendum. Anticipating some of the sheer joy and exuberance of the 2012 Edinburgh rally, when probably the best part of 15,000 smiling, cheering folk walked/danced from the Meadows to the bandstand on Princes Street, (Lothian & Borders police obviously minimised this to 5,000) to hear a succession of literate, considered voices share the hopes and aspirations for what Scotland might yet become. I headed over to Glasgow, rather suspiciously found a car park spot right next to the Green and ambled in to find maybe 1,500 supporters.

green

I was a bit taken aback that the numbers appeared to be so low and that organisation had made it difficult to hear the speakers, what with a stall blaring out music in competition with the speakers P.A. and the occasional biker emphasising his Scottishness by revving his bike to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Nevertheless, I wandered around, looked at the stalls, took some snaps and made my way into the crowd to listen to some of the speakers. That was when my mood started to drop.

A succession of speakers of all stripes and abilities took to the microphone, some made quietly pertinent points, others appeared to feed off and whip up a bit of fervour via the negative energy of the lies of the Vow and the uncertainty over Brexit.

green1

Speaker after speaker, repeated the same theme, Vow lies…Brexit…Vow lies…Brexit. At each mention a roar of approval and affirmation from the crowd. Throw in an additional growl about the Tories and Thatcher and the response a declaiming bellow of approval. Detecting anything truly positive or expansive from the speakers and seeking an escape I sought salvation in the exit only to be saved the utterly gloomy drive home by the somewhat surreal appearance of a busking  flamethrowing bagpiper.

piper

I stopped off at a chumrades place for tea and vented my frustrations. He expressed similar concerns and referenced the preponderance of nationalist cosplay supporters who exhibit all the tact of the  Braveheart McGlashan’s, but none of the self-awareness. I had to agree with him.

In conversation with another friend late last night, I managed to begin to articulate my concerns and finally located the cause of my ire.

We have shifted from a movement of possibility, hope and relentless optimism to a reactionary one. By that I mean that the current dialogue is based around slapping on some face paint, retweeting each other’s pithiest anti-Unionist put downs, wave a Saltire and roar indignantly about the lies the pro-Unionists told.

It’s not enough. The no voters we need to convert will grudgingly see the lies and obfuscations of the Union side as being acceptable to their cause. It’s what they would expect of pragmatic politicians protecting their privilege and the status quo of a country that suffered through two world wars and is currently facing the impending horror of the monetisation of the Great British Bake Off…

Just because we are outraged at the obvious lies of the Better Together cartel, doesn’t mean that everyone else is and most importantly the actual issues that deterred that six per-cent of the ‘don’t knows’, that we required to scrape the bare minimum victory, from voting Yes and instead turn them into soft No voters, have quite simply not been resolved.

Issues and questions around currency; trade deficits, transport infrastructure, housing, pensions, benefits, LAND REFORM (in capitals because we already have the devolved power to do something about it!) health, employment, all seem to have been laid aside to focus on the potentially easy momentum shift of appealing to the EU nationals who previously voted No and playing up the ‘hard done to’ angle of Brexit.

The fear of the EU dilemma has shifted with Brussels bureaucrats, gently lifting their skirts and giving us the ‘come hither’ look. Yet, we really have to consider the barely spoken about, sizeable number of SNP supporters who voted Out; whether from some fear of giant unions (note the irony there), the idiocy of being pro-Indy for Scotland but being kind of UKIP lite on immigration…and finally those Machiavellian coves who saw the long game of voting Out as a means to hasten the demise of this disunited state and push us into another Referendum. Will the SNP Brexiteers vote for Indy over continued EU status?

As some possibly leave, as a counterbalance we have the new ‘converts’. As welcoming as I am to people transitioning from No to Yes, I find of late, that I’m awfy wary of some of the arrivalists, who seem to have seamlessly moved from devout No to being fully welcomed into the Yes camp. I’m still profoundly Yes, but find I have a terrible disregard for many of the supposed influencers who seem to have slipped in and taken places of prominence with limited credence or ability…Call me jaded and cynical, but the appearance of former Labour MPs embracing Independence, has all the probity of a carpetbagger plying his secret elixir that will restore my hair and stiffen my tumescence. What is the price for their selective support?

Back to Sunday, I recognise that this personal foreboding, all this doom and gloom was ultimately kicked off by the torture of watching some of the speakers, who were bordering on the unintelligible, who incited their audience with predictable buzzwords and awaited the roar of approval. It felt as if intellect and hard thinking had been put aside for easy knee jerk responses… I’m sitting here with the full awareness that they reminded me of the triumphalism expected from Labour when they were in their cups. If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine…

Scotland’s Independence cannot be restored on the basis of current polls, there quite simply isn’t enough support. Until Independence hits 60% and North in the polls, our Scottish Government should simply focus on running the country efficiently with what we have and finally wrestling control of the countries local authorities from the last remnants of the Labour party next May. If Theresa May opts to go full term and waits until 2020 before sealing the deal on an enormous Tory majority (let’s face reality here Labour are out of power for a genuine generation) then that’s when the second Independence referendum happens. At a time when even the most belligerent No voter can see their choices are between the reality of a lifetime under Conservatives intent on completing Thatcher’s dream for Blighty and Empire and that of a Scotland devoted to bettering the lives of the all the people who choose to live here.

sadness

Scottish Miserabilism V the Scottish Six

Waitwhat

On Saturday night I was one of the few brave souls who threw caution and snow warnings to the wind and drove out to the Farr side of Inverness, also known as Farr Hall, to listen to a talk by film director, academic and horror consultant Eleanor Yule.

Her presentation was a bit rushed, beset by a dodgy laptop loading clips and a palpable desire from some audience members* to hurry up and get to the tea and magnificent blueberry cake awaiting us at the interval.

That would be me*

The talk was on the above mentioned Scottish Miserabilism, a term coined to exemplify the collection of Scottish film and TV drama that has somehow become the Scottish  identities sole commodified representation via the moving image medium.

Eleanor took the audience through the history of our bleak stories where our protagonists are all too often defined by poverty, illness, crime, booze, drugs and the all encompassing Scottish ‘hard man’ psyche. The clips were akin to a trawl through my seventies childhood. Just Another Saturday, Just A Boys Game,  all violent discontents poised for a life on the post industrial slag heap aided and abetted by a bottle of Eldorado and a Malky Fraser…

Eleanor spoke at length of Peter Mullan and how it appears that if you want a menacing, growling Jock to add some ball clenchingly scary moments to your movie, Peter’s the man to call. As an actor and a genuinely brilliant director,Mullan, it seems can not attract funding for his features unless they  focus on the above mentioned city hard man/bawbag with a tendency to lash out with fists, feet tongue and whatever handy jaggy bottle is about…

The talk carried on past our nation’s token Scotsman, Ken Loach by way of a diversion into Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Filth and back out again with a touch of Braveheart.

Being a smartarse both in person and formerly by profession, I had of course known most of this and nodded along like a parcel shelf dug as Eleanor hit off the bullet points with great aplomb. It was only when she began to talk about how others see us, via the Brigadoon’s of this world that my interest was piqued. We all know that Vincente Minnelli had visited Scotland and it didn’t live up to his imagination, so with some gaudily painted back drops, a collection of ‘Scottish’ accents that veered from Star Trek to Timbuktu, he presented his vision of Scotland to the world, in song and dance. He was an outsider, who was not interested enough to change direction away from the Harry Lauder kailyard stereotype. The same could be said for the diminutive Melvin Gibson and his documentary on William Wallace as seen through an overdose of shortbread and 1000 Caledonia clubs. He came, he saw, he waffled.

It was only when Eleanor, began to talk about New York born director Annie Griffin, who has chosen to live and work in Scotland, that my gander was firmly up. The tv and film literate among us will remember her excellent series on C4 ‘The Book Group’. Set in Glasgow, with a mostly aspirational middle class and diverse cast. Two series of exceptionally funny, poignant, of-the-moment comedy, sBAFTA winning drama that was light years removed from the forced acceptance of two decades of poverty porn for laughs Rab C Chuffing Nesbit.

This is the point in my missive, where I veer off in another direction and hopefully get to the so far missing point.

Annie’s next commission was for a series set in Georgian Edinburgh, ‘New Town’. It had a fairly eclectic cast riddled with subtle satire and beautiful performances. BBC commissioned the eight part series. The pilot was played to great applause and ratings. Here was someone who chose to live among us, who ignored the hard man exceptionalism and found a host of characters to skewer in the Edinburgh world of minimalist architecture, estate agents, Western Isle waifs and Jonathan Watson as a somewhat sinister church jannie. All the elements of a great Scottish murder mystery comedy series with our own brand of magical realism thrown in. So what happened after the pilot aired? Nobody remember?

At this point I’ll let Annie Griffin take up the story and tell it straight. She wrote to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee  at the Scottish Parliament last year. I was living in Spain at the time and it completely passed me by, if you all know about it and I missed the memo, then I apologise for repeating the tale, but this is new to me and if I hadn’t attended Eleanor Yule’s talk, I’d have never known.

Her letter also touches on one of the most important issues surrounding the current cringe over the Scottish Six and the complete lack of balls shown by the senior management at the branch office BBC Scotland in their dealings with the bosses at  London HQ. Be it the chuffing weather map or our perceived lack of ability to look at the world for sixty minutes a night through Scottish eyes.

So the time has come for change, handing over editorial control of news and current affairs to the staff at the big shiny BBC building, then the keys to the drama department, set River City aside (if people really want to watch Eastenders with consonants let them crowdfund it…) Maybe then, can we start to create world class film and TV like we used to and as we still do to universal acclaim in other the other arts.

Of course, responsibility for Scotland’s creative moving image industry doesn’t depend entirely on BBC Scotland. STV remain pretty damn woeful,and given the number of people SKY employ in Scotland, wouldn’t it reflect better on their company to, Oh I dunno, start commissioning Scottish storytellers to create dramas for their global audience, boy did you guys miss a trick with Outlander… The elephant in the room of course, is the Scottish Government, soon to enhance its behemoth like status with just about every seat in the Scottish parliament. Gone are the days of minority government, when Patrick Harvey pushing the wrong button could fnurk up the Scottish budget, a majority 2011 -2016 and presumably  again 2016 – 202… You have the backing of the Scottish electorate to shape our devolved government into something many of us might quite like when Independence is ultimately restored.

Keep this in mind, we look to our Nordic cousins for the way ahead, the Danish government, fresh from seeing another Oscar nomination for ‘A War'(their fourth in the past five years)  invest approximately £50 million per year in Danish film making. The Scottish government  via whatever the hell is left of Scottish Screen invest circa …£5 million per year.

 

Here’s Annie.

SUBMISSION FROM ANNIE GRIFFIN

For Scottish Government – what it’s like  trying to be a filmmaker in Scotland

Annie Griffin

8th  January, 2015

I am a writer/director/producer, originally from the US.  I lived in London for fifteen years, and moved to Scotland in 1997. Having heard about Channel 4’s new Nations and Regions office, I thought the time was right to be able to have a career in TV and film and live in Scotland.

Initially, it went well.  The Glasgow Film Office helped me find office space for my company Pirate Productions. I hired an office manager, worked on some scripts and got a series commissioned from Channel 4. This was COMING SOON, a three part comedy drama.  This led to another series – two seasons/twelve episodes of THE BOOK GROUP, also for Channel 4.

I then made a feature film, FESTIVAL, with producer Chris Young. The new head of BBC Drama, Ben Stephenson, told me he liked my work and I developed a series set in Edinburgh called NEW TOWN, writing eight one hour episodes.

We produced a pilot for NEW TOWN in 2008, and this is where I started to realise that despite the network’s public commitment to spending more money in the regions, it was a real disadvantage to be based in Scotland. The Drama commissioners said they loved the pilot, but the new head of BBC1 didn’t like it, and there were no slots for one hour dramas on BBC2 or a sufficient budget on BBC4.  At this point, as I had the support of the Drama team, I thought BBC Scotland would step in and fight for the project, especially as no large- scale drama had been made in Scotland for some time. Based on the £850k budget of the pilot, the series commission for the additional seven episodes would have been at least five million pounds, all of which would have been spent in Scotland.

I received no support from BBC Scotland whatsoever. In trying to understand why not, my assessment is that the only way people keep their jobs at BBC Scotland is by NOT challenging London.  The organisation is largely impotent with respect to network (across the UK) commissioning, and does not have the autonomy to challenge decisions made in London. Specifically, Scottish commissioners are not allowed to meet with Channel Controllers to pitch projects – rather, they have to pitch to London heads – who are themselves developing their own projects, and trust that the London commissioners will represent their projects well to Channel Controllers.  When TUTTI FRUTTI was commissioned, this was not the case.  Commissioning became very centralised in the 2000s. This has been disastrous for regional commissioning, and now is the worst time ever for Scottish scripted work getting network commissions.

The BBC and Channel 4’s strategy to spend more money in the regions has mainly meant transplanting projects from London and shooting them in Scotland.  This means we are not getting Scottish talent on screen.

In trying to run a TV and film production company here in Scotland, the worst problem I would identify is lack of network support. Channel 4’s support has been quixotic, and I believe the team in Glasgow finds it easier to work with factual based companies rather than scripted.  To develop scripted content, you need executives with specific experience there, and C4 has not had any Glasgow based drama or comedy development people.

The other problem is Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise’s lack of understanding of how to work with our industry. Pirate received support from SE in the 2000s to move our office from Glasgow to Edinburgh and hire a part time Business Affairs person. This was much needed and much appreciated, but happened at time when the company had a slate of commissions. Once things got harder, when we really needed support, the company’s turnover had fallen below Scottish Enterprise’s threshold for working with us.

It’s not difficult to understand that a TV company may have a multimillion pound turnover one year, when we’re producing a series, and then a fraction of that a year later, when we’re developing a script and not in production.  I have no trouble finding work – I directed two seasons of FRESH MEAT in Manchester, and have been offered two series for the BBC, both shooting in London, one after the other, this year.  But what seems near impossible is to develop projects in Scotland.

We need a Scottish network that answers to Scottish audiences.  We need specialist TV and film support by people who understand the industry. The best thing to come out of this bottoming out of the industry is the formation of IPS to represent producers’ interests.  Scottish filmmakers have realised we are in crisis, and we have to  work together to find solutions.

We need your support, Scottish Government!  Let’s make Scotland a film friendly place.  This has to start with the indigenous industry. There is so much talent here, and so little of Scotland on our screens.  Please work with us!  We need you!

Please find below Youtube links to the entire pilot.

New Town Part 1

New Town Part 2

New Town Part 3

New Town Part 4

New Town Part 5

New Town Part 6

New Town Part 7

 

 

Another Scotland

Sooooo, I’ve decided to return to the once barren world of the Scottish blogosphere. When last I partook it was all grass round here; the very notion that people would pay over hard earned coinage to support the various verbose Mr and Ms Rational and their sisteren and brethren, Monsieur et Madame Outraged, would have had you laughed all the way back to your Bebo page, trying to shake clear a head full of fanciful delusions. Sure you had the pushers of the niche interest, folk who were willing to toil away explaining their intricate devotions to the most specific minutiae of their really interesting past-time’s. Other’s on the Scottish roll call were a feisty mixture of the earnest, the deranged and the compellingly ‘at it’ piss takers. Some were just frustrated at the inherent bias within the upper bastions of the Scottish media world and wanted to cry foul, even if it was merely a fitful whimper in the dark.

Well, what drags me back? Boredom, the poverty of the mind and bank balance that comes from being overeducated dole scum, and that gnawing feeling that as pithy as I can be in 140 characters, sometimes subtlety is lost without the dot to dot of further illumination.

What to expect? I haven’t a scooby. I’ll write what I fancy, whatever gives me an opportunity to gently tickle the underbelly of Scottish politics, culture, society and otherism. I don’t anticipate hordes rushing to sit at my feet and nod their heads awed by my obtuse sagacity, in fact, I relish the occasional punter turning up to laughingly point out the translucence of my vêtements and how hand size really does correlate to the lack of enormity in both appendage and mind…

Righty ho, fasten your seatbelts this could be a bumpy ride. Hopefully no arrests will be pursued in the creation of this collection of vowels and consonants with the odd obscure photo thrown in for good measure.