It’s been quite hard to concentrate on the project this past week or so. The elections have happened, and another project I’ve been involved with for six years sadly bit the dust. I have attempted to make contact with a few people – Hannah Raybould, who is a big cheese at Screen Academy Wales, and also with some of the tutors that teach film at the University of Glamorgan’s Atrium campus. No-one has got back to me yet, which I take to be a sign that I need to work more on the script and structure before I can progress further.
I’m a big believer in random acts of fate. Meetings, paths crossing. Small world. Perhaps it’s because Cardiff is small place – you end up randomly meeting people from here halfway across the world in Thailand or at airports in Canada (it happens).
What’s the point? Here’s the point. Last week I was at Cardiff Central, waiting for the train to Paddington. I stopped on a bench on the platform and glanced at the front page of the Guardian, which I’d bought to have a nose at on the train. A woman carrying very heavy bags came and stopped on the bench next to me. Grey Converse, blue jeans, iPhone, Guardian. She looked friendly, so I smiled and she smiled back. We got on the train and sat on seats opposite each other.
I got out my laptop to start work on the structure of the documentary. She pulled out her moleskine and made notes. What does she do, I wondered, surmising she was probably a writer or something else creative. I offered her a Marmite rice cake. She declined politely. I decided to strike up conversation with her before the end of the journey to worm out what she did for a living.
As it turns out, she had an even greater sense of curiosity than me (and no wonder). She leaned across her chair and apologised, but said she was dying to know what I was working on. I told her. She was very excited about the project, then told me she had been in charge of the New Media department (2001-2007), then was responsible for cross platform projects in the commissioning team, working closely with the Factual Commissioner. Currently she’s doing research for UWE on collaborative community documentary film making (unassailably cool) on CollabDocs, planning for a project called The Happiness Project. Her name is Mandy Rose, and I suggest you look up what she’s doing, as it’s pretty damn interesting.
As she was telling me about CollabDocs, I had very eerie sense of deja vu. I’m also part of a collaborative art collective in Cardiff called hack/flash, and about a month earlier we had had a message on the hack/flash blog from a Mandy Rose, telling us about the Happiness Project she was planning and asking us if we wanted to be involved.
She almost had a heart attack when she realised who I was. I guess I was less surprised – it’s happened to me so many times that I fully expect to be shocked by the connections that exist between people, halfway across the world, or people that just live next door. Having worked at the BBC she also knew old buddies of mine, Lisa Heledd (who worked in Digital Storytelling at the Beeb for sometime) and James McLaren (long time music head who also currently works at the Beeb in new media/web stuff, and who I’m due to meet on Tuesday for a chat about this project). Small world.
Mandy was very helpful. Gave me some pointers and told me to approach the BBC to ask whether they’d be interested in making a contribution to the project or perhaps being partners. After all, she said, you’re planning to make it anyway – you won’t lose anything. She gave me a name, but warned me to take someone with me who knew about legal stuff (like licenses and screening rights).
I also mentioned that I was after some technical people – a cameraperson and a live sound person – but that I was approaching universities trying to recruit students (to work for free in exchange for experience). She mentioned that she had interviewed the ubiquitous Carl Morris about Sleeveface (a project he co-founded some time ago that had got itself a book deal), and that he had mentioned to her that she should hook up with the guy who made the Sleeveface promo, Ewan Jones Morris. If you haven’t seen the Sleeveface promo, check below. Very smart.
I came across one of Ewan’s videos a while back actually, a music video for Cardiff band Truckers of Husk (RIP).
As Mandy was looking into large scale collaborative groups, I suggested she look up Just For The Love Of It. I also suggested she check out Candy Chang’s blog for more interactive community art projects. Candy is a city and urban planner, but also interested in galvanising communities. She is pretty inspirational, and maintains one of the most interesting blogs I know of.
Just goes to show what can come of offering someone a Marmite rice cake. I’ll carry them everywhere from now on.