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Hi! I'm Helia. Blog boss at We Are Cardiff, I mostly love culture, travel, reading, writing, and riding my bike. Cardiff, Wales, and the world!

Hiatus

A brief note to apologise for the hiatus in blogging. I’m currently moving house, which means all non-critical activities are being paused so I don’t go into meltdown. I’ll be back in July. Meantime, please keep commenting on the blog – I read all your notes and am taking them on board for when we go into production.

If you’ve a mind too, follow me on Twitter in the meantime: @phoenixlily.

30 ways to put the community into film

I follow the very useful Media Trust on Twitter (Media_Trust, if you’re interested), and noticed a link they posted to this article on the Community Media Activist blog. I guess I hadn’t thought about film as being a community film, but it definitely is, considering the subject matter and the small, close knit nature of the subject I’m covering. Everyone knows everyone in Cardiff, and you often find people who are involved in a number of different projects. It’s a beautiful thing, one of the things I love about the alternative music scene here.

I’ve listed the questions in the article below, but you should check the blog – it makes for an interesting read. Does my project answer yes to any of those questions? Probably most of them – and it’s given me food for thought in how to structure it.

Continue reading →

Names, names and more names

I contacted a few people on the recommendation of Lisa from the Welsh Music Foundation, and have had pretty positive results from everyone so far. Jon Gower declined the invitation for interview, but has put me onto Gareth Potter and John Williams instead (not a bad trade off, really). Andy Fung has agreed to chat and I’ll be heading to his studio in Canton next week. Noel Gardner (one of my raving partners at Bloc this year) has also agreed.

Chatting to James McLaren made me think a lot more about the backstory to the documentary. He mentioned parties run by the Plastic Raygun boys, rock nights in the Philharmonic, and LAmerica and Time Flies when they were jusst starting out as niche, underground club nights. It made me realise the background research is going to need to reach a whole lot further than I’d originally planned. Funny really – a couple of years ago when I was working at Catapult I thought at the time how good it would be to do a documentary on the club scene in Cardiff. The Hippo had just closed, the Emporium was going strong, Vision 2K (or whatever it was called) was hosting huge names – it’s now the shiny, glass walls of Primark – think about that next time you’re underground in the men’s department there picking up some shiny silver Y fronts. At least those stories will be documented now – and like James said to me – otherwise they’ll just stay forever as the stories we tell to our mates in the pub.

A lost day…

I don’t know what happened in between Monday and now, but somewhere, I lost a day. Potentially this has to do with a 9.30am bedtime on Sunday. We’ll let that slide. Between then and now, the lovely Hannah Waldram (the Guardian’s Cardiff Beatblogger) gave this project a little publicity on the Guardian’s Cardiff blog (which I am very grateful for), which has resulted in over two hundred visits to the blog! Welcome to all those folks who Hannah sent this way, and to those of you who have subscribed to the blog, I hope you find the rest of the posts entertaining and hopefully a little interesting too.

A lot of people commented on the blog, and some of the comments require answering:

  • I already have a list of people I want to interview and bands I want to feature, and that list has very little to do with either universities or the BBC – these were merely places I was heading to try and recruit volunteers or beg kit.
  • Truckers of Husk, the excellent Cardiff band whom I identified as RIP, as risen from the grave and have a new album due out soon! Actually they were never RIP, apparently they were only ever having a hiatus. Trust, I shall be bothering them to be featured in this project verrrrry soon.
  • THANK YOU to everyone who has volunteered themselves or their kit. I really appreciate it and will be in touch with you all soon.

On to other things that happened this week.

I met up with James McLaren a couple of days ago. I’ve known James for a long time – since the early 2000s when he was editor of Sound Nation, the Welsh Music Foundation’s (now defunct) magazine. I think I had to write up a Welsh Music Awards Ceremony, perhaps? Who remembers. I was working at Catapult Records (an excellent dance music record shop in the High Street Arcade in Cardiff) at the time (Catapult is a store I plan to cover in the project, along with Spillers, the oldest record shop in the world, of course). James now works as a web geek at BBC Radio Wales, looking after the online content (along with an ex-Kruger colleague, James W Roberts).

We chatted about Bethan Elfyn’s recent documentary “Start Something – The Story of South Wales Rock” (which is a great listen and highly recommended), and James suggested that rather than diving and trying to film all the interviews straight off, perhaps I’d be better taking a dictaphone or audio recorder and recording the interviews that way, then listening through and pulling out strands of a story from what I’ve heard, and perhaps filming those bits. It makes all sorts of sense – it’s far simpler, I’ve recorded hundreds of audio interviews, I don’t need anyone to help me do it, and it means I can create more of a structure for the piece before heading into filming territory.

James had a slightly different take on pitching the documentary: if you’re going to do all the hard work and the background research and running around, you should aim to have as many people see it as possible – and that means being broadcast on TV. It contradicted the thoughts I’d been having about just making the thing guerilla style, and as I left our little chat, I wondered about whether I should restructure it into a strong storyline, and pitching, and all the potential headache that might come with it.

It was these things that I mentioned to Ewan Jones Morris who I met later in the week. He works full time making music videos for bands and artists, so he’s too busy to commit to helping out permenantly. But he very kindly agreed to meet me for a pint to chat over plans and structure for the filming. Although he thought the idea was a good one, Ewan said he doubted any company or channel would go for the project as it was. It doesn’t follow one person overcoming an adversity, or any single strand of story – it’s a more informational, and as such, he explained, it would be nigh on impossible to pitch.

I know he’s right. And I guess it comes down to the question, again, of what do you want to make: something that you can sell, or something that you’re really happy with? Clearly any money I can beg or scrounge from anywhere will be welcomed, but I think I’ve already established that it’s going to have to be made on the kindness of strangers.

I have no problem with that. I’ve come across some pretty kindly strangers in my time.

He recommended keeping the final project to 25 minutes long, and also suggested getting it done in time to screen it during the Swn festival in November – not a bad thought, given I haven’t had an aneurysm or a nervous breakdown by then. He also promised to pass on details of Skillset Cymru, who have provided him with student staff to work on projects in the past when he’s needed them. And he was kind enough to offer help in the future should I need it.

There’s another week down. Next week Gethin Jones has kindly agreed to give me some of his time – and I will begin the first round of audio interviews. Eeep!

Hope you all have something glamorous planned for your weekends. Here in Cardiff there’s a 30th birthday party and a picnic in Bute Park awaiting me.

To finish off, I’ll leave you with something to celebrate the fact that the AWESOME Truckers of Husk AREN’T dead at all, merely hibernating. Here’s them playing my favourite Truckers song – Panther Party – live in Spillers last August.

Weird coincidences

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.

Get involved – nominate or perspirate

Having read all the guff about why I’m putting the project together, I invite you to nominate bands/promoters/DJs/producers/labels/collectives from Cardiff to be featured. I already have a working list and I can’t possibly include everyone, but I welcome nominations and will look through info about everyone that I’m sent.

At the moment, I’m also looking for :

– technical expertise (camera person, sound person),
– post production (editing). Like I said, I’m setting out to film and produce without any budget, so if you’re looking to be paid (and I don’t blame you – everyone’s got to get paid), I’m afraid you’ll have to look somewhere else.

If, however, you’re a film student (with an interest in music) who has little experience and is looking for projects to work on, this might be a great one for you. I’ll need to see some examples of other work you’ve done just to get a flavour.

Leave your deets/nominations in the comments below. If you know anyone who might be interested, then please pass this on to them.

And thanks! x

A little help from the Welsh Music Foundation

For anyone involved in the music scene in Cardiff (and of course the whole of Wales), the Welsh Music Foundation is a key source of information and advice. I’ll give you a little blurb from their website which will explain what they do better than I probably can…

Welsh Music Foundation is the first port of call for individuals, Small Businesses and Start-Ups who need information on the music industry in Wales. Let’s say you’re an artist looking for a manager, a manager looking for a record label, a record label looking for media contacts, or a TV company looking for an artist – you get the drift…? All this keeps us quite busy … but we are happy to point anyone in the general direction of people who might be able to help…

I’ve known of WMF for a few years now since meeting Lisa Matthews through Kruger Magazine (RIP). She’s currently their manager and is an all round Good Egg, TM. She agreed to meet me today to have a chat about the project and offer her advice on my now completely out of control list of potential interviewees.

She hacked the list down to a manageable size, gave me some excellent tips on potential filming locations (like the Boilerhouse in Llandaff North which has the longest legal graffiti wall in the UK – truefact!), plus some labels and collectives I hadn’t considered including. We also chatted through the possibility for a small Welsh language element in the documentary for one section (not with me in it though, fair play, my Welsh is pretty poor). She was also able to give me some technical contacts to help me chat through the practical side of the project – first up is Gethin Jones, who works for Bandit and Boomerang, and who I shall be bothering after the Bank Holiday and its related fun is out of the way.

We also chatted a little about the cashflow problem, but Lisa’s take on it was quite different from Jack’s. There’s very little money available to projects like my one at the moment, and it looks like the budget for the arts might be slashed by the Welsh Assembly Government next year (bad times). But no money doesn’t mean a bad end product. She suggested some ways I might be able to blag/borrow some professional kit, meaning all I would need was the skilled people to work it all…

It was a very productive meeting (in the lovely Herb and Ellie’s down in Cardiff Bay – they have a great organic store out the back which is perfect for last minute present-buying panics). And big ups to the Welsh Music Foundation, who always have time to listen to whatever project you’re planning or to whatever you might need, and point you in the right direction of people who can help.