With all the discussion around the reconstruction/restoration of Palmyra, I thought I’d share some pictures of this amazing site long before the vandalism of the civil war in Syria. I was lucky enough to visit Palmyra while making a documentary and the cameraman and I were literally the only visitors. Wandering around the monumental ruins inevitably conjured up a kind of romantic speculation. Ancient stones positively demand narrative, and with their purpose so lost in the distant past, we are inclined to dress them with our imagination. Perhaps that’s why sites like Palmyra seem so precious, so potent. Its not the archaeology, the false sense of continuity they evoke, but their power to connect with our innate hunger for story. We recast them in fantasy because they are so adrift from the present, so pliable. Now Palmyra has been so scarred by the tragedy and vandalism of war, no restoration can expunge the living memory. It has been dragged rudely into the present and its meaning recast for generations.
A few years ago I was privileged enough to spend an afternoon with George Martin at his recording studio in Belsize Park in London. I was there to interview him for a DVD on the UK Film industry, Britain: The Big Picture. The DVD involved more than one hundred interviews with prominent people throughout the industry, and its fair to say I experienced a colourful and ofttimes challenging range of characters. However, true to his reputation, George was charming, affable and impressive without a taint of ego. Here’s the resulting film, with just a small sample of the interview and the added bonus of watching another great talent, Jerry Goldsmith, recording the sound track for The Mummy.
I’ve recently been researching background for a TV series I’m writing, set in 1987, and discovered the difficulty of gathering information about the relatively recent past. Video sources on the internet are mostly limited to music videos, TV commercials and a very sparse amount of news. On-line articles aren’t much better, and the photographic record is thin on the ground – try finding a pictures of Docklands construction. So its back to books and The British Library’s excellent newspaper archive. Paradoxically, its seems easier to work with earlier periods, where our imaginations are largely guided by preexisting fictions. No matter how deeply we research, is it even possible to write about WWII for example, without tainting the narrative with other writers and film-makers fictions? When the past is truly another country, aren’t we always inclined to add dragons, just by way of interest.
I’ve just completed my new short film Spot. Its a modern take on the traditional faery tale, and features Smari Gunn and newcomer Christina Ulfsparre. Filmed over the course of one day in some nearby woods, the finished short can be viewed via the media page on this site, or directly on YouTube and Vimeo.