Rango a worthy winner

I love that Rango won the best animation oscar. Finally a worthy winner! (no, I’m not bitter from this time last year). We managed to catch Chico and Rita   and Kung Fu Panda 2  as well as Rango in the last 3 days. Chico and Rita is worth seeing for the music alone; beautiful, soulful and so evocative of a period. Personally, it isn’t my favourite technique for animation, I prefer the more classic kind found in The Cat in Paris, another nominee. Or indeed, the great, passed-over-for-Toy-Story3!- The Illusionist . (I believe in this movie, our artists created something really beautiful, that I haven’t seen done so well in a long time, The Secret of the Kells, being another lovely example).

But Chico and Rita was not my favourite, neither was Kung Fu Panda, not because the animation wasn’t amazing, but in the latter case, the story just wasn’t original, too many set pieces – we’ve seen it before. The Cat in Paris is hard to find in the US, so I’ve not seen it, neither Puss in Boots, which appeals, but again, I think we’ve seen it before.

I think animation Oscar winners should push the boundaries a bit, be exceptional in their technical ability, which all nominees were, but have that little bit extra, that bit that makes a movie resonate. Although Rango was predictable in one sense – a hero goes on a journey and eventually makes good – its dialogue, voice actors and storyline all brought that something extra special for me. And certainly, it kept my, Justin’s and Wee Man’s attention for 107 mins, which is a rare thing in our household and a huge feat for an animation production.

But all in all, it’s great to see  that there is a good variety of great animation being made, with 5 great movies being nominated, 2 of which weren’t from Hollywood, another great sign. Looking forward to what the next year brings.


Top Award for Norman Stone


Congratulations to Norman Stone (my former boss), and all at 1A Productions (of which our guest blogger Kate Efomi plays a key part), for the winning of the $100,000 Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring TV Program of 2011, at the Movie Guide Awards, recently held in LA. Well deserved for Norman and the team, for his drama-doc on the story of how the King James Bible came into being, starring John Rhys-Davies of Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones fame.

GUEST BLOG:Coffee in the Blood

“A Yorkshire lass living in Scotland and married to the great grandson of an African chief who would eat people if they caught him having a bath. My husband prefers showers… and chicken. I’m a TV bod, script supervisor, production manager, writer, swimmer, believer, wife and full-time working step-mum to two fantastic girls (11 and 8) who are my stylists, my daily cheer and my reasons for cleaning.”

I had my first cup of coffee when I was 5 years old. Dad had a new percolator. Proper 80s swish. The 70s Teasmade had died its passé death, relegated from the bedside table to the local dump. Ground coffee was the new thing and my early love affair with the liquid black gold began right there as I watched the bubbles, listened to the gurgles and saw the clear water transfer from its see-though container to appear as if by magic in the waiting coffee pot next to it. Drip by dribbly drip. The smell was divine. The taste was not…

… Not for a 5 year-old anyway. But somehow a Saturday morning ritual had begun: coffee with my dad in the kitchen as he made my mum her morning porridge in bed. I piled in the sugar and sipped at the tiny cup with pursed lips. Half was always left. The taste was bitter, thick, an unexplained adult delicacy. But I liked the social aspect. Just chillin’ with my dad in my PJs.

Cut to 27 years later and I still remember that percolator as I screw on the top of my Bialetti espresso pot each morning, preparing my morning mug of the stuff, understanding now better than ever the adult allure as my bleary eyes beg for the thick voluminous ‘shot’.

I have a problem.

That is until last week, when I decided to do something about said problem, addiction, dependency, caffeine crutch… whatever you want to call it. It wasn’t really a voluntary thing. In fact it wasn’t really a voluntary thing the last time I did a coffee detox either. In fact both times have been necessary due to my job.

The first time was when I was observing true detox bravery. That of the heroin kind. We were filming a documentary about an astonishing detox tool called NET (www.netdevice.net).

Perhaps I first realised I had a problem when we were watching Barry shoot up for the last time in a cold barn. In silence he tightened his tourniquet. I clasped my coffee mug tighter. As his syringe sucked up the concoction, I supped at my cup.

How terrible to have such an addiction, I thought. Then I looked down at my empty cup. Oh.

A while later as part of a follow-up documentary I found myself visiting a detox farmhouse where no stimulants were permitted. Including coffee. That was it, I thought, if these girls can go through heroin detox, the least I could do is support them by detoxing from coffee. The girls found it very amusing.

In the morning  I’d come in and would walk past the living room of hot-water-bottle-hugging girls all dressing gowns and smudged mascara and I felt like I needed to join them.

‘How are you feeling, Kate?’ they’d croak.

‘My pee is orange and my head hurts’. I’d answer, irritably.

They’d crack a smile. I struggled too.

Now, to confess, that was just withdrawal from coffee. I was still drinking tea (which I’ve never really liked as much as coffee) but the withdrawal was still pretty painful. More recently, however, it’s been both.

This time I’m off to Zambia to film an amazing Scot called Donald MacDonald who moved to Zambia to lead a comfortable expat life… only to end up fostering 30 street kids in his own home – a farm known locally as Old MacDonald’s Farm.

Last time I was there researching the story I was bogged down by the malaria tablets clouding my head. This, coupled with the restricted access to caffeine, made my head spin. So this time I’ve decided I’m going to go without such a dependency and get used to it before I leave. The irony being that there’s still a tin of Zambia’s finest ground coffee right next to my redundant percolator. Grrr.

And so I have stopped, dead. ‘Dead’ being the operative word.

Urgggchhh. That’s all I can say about how I’ve been feeling this past week. I’ve not had the pangs of desire that I thought I might have, no kettle switching twitch, nothing like that… but the back pain, oh the agony! You may think this weird but as I lay awake at 3am, not knowing where on earth this pain had come from, I googled the only reason I could think of: ‘Coffee withdrawal and back pain’. And lo and behold, apparently the two are connected.  I just couldn’t lie down, couldn’t sleep for the pain. It really was a test of the will. I now have some understanding of cold turkey and wouldn’t want to go there. Ever.

The pain has since eased and a refreshing energy has replaced my permanent state of being wired to the hilt. I can honestly say it’s been worth it. I’m not sure when or whether I’ll start drinking it again. The dependency doesn’t half creep into your blood again. Something tells me it won’t be a permanent departure from coffee but perhaps I need to develop a more healthy respect for its potency.

Now here’s an odd twist and I never thought I’d say this in my lifetime but I am married to a man whose family own a coffee plantation. Not as Kenco-glamorous or Nescafe bean-rattling rah as you may think, though. It’s now sitting idle and unreachable after the change of regime and devastation in the Democratic Republic of Congo… I thought perhaps one day we could go out there and turn it all around. But guerillas and danger aside, I was very disappointed to learn that they didn’t grow Arabica beans there but the other sorts used more in medicines etc. Robusta beans, I think. Not likely I’ll ever be the Mrs Del Monte of coffee. But perhaps… you never know, maybe this can be the start of my new relationship with coffee: the stuff you can’t drink!

We come in peas

I’ve been sent this from a few trusted sources which makes me think this has got to be good.

And as I’m currently making a WW2 film,  Crew 713 , I’m always looking for interesting pieces from a similar time period. You know, work that is thoughtful, inspiring, aiming to bring a new and deeper resonance and emotional connection from our generation to a dark period of modern history.

Red Tails for example. A film set in 1944, based on the heroics of a small band of men, a marker in US aviation history and with a new story for our generation. Not unlike Crew 713.

But, then there is this! This is something else. Evil Nazis from the moon coming to take over the earth? Scary. But Sarah Palin as president. That is too horrific for words.

See what you think…This is Iron Sky

(the title is for my father – he loves a good pun)

Seven lessons from a bounce house

Our son is nothing if not a bouncer. Both in the sense that he is built like a tank and on one of his off days (today) he could stop anyone getting in or out of a nightclub, but also, in his exuberant joy at the simple act of bouncing.

So, I knew we would be up for some fun, when today we went to play at a bounce house (bouncy castle for the Brits), or rather, a bland space with lots of inflatables that are just pure joy to a child.

After being initially cautious, Wee Man jumped in with his usual enthusiasm. The greatest of all of these inflatables was a huge slide – at least 12 feet high. I could see that the veteran mothers knew this was the place to be, as most were sitting on the floor in front of this big beast, as they chatted, worked on their phones and read e-books.

After a flurry of excitement, Wee Man made his first attempt at climbing the steep inflatable steps of the slide. I was hoping he might have had a quick go, and seeing that it was too steep, he would go back to the smaller obstacles. Although there were one or two smaller kids, the majority were much bigger, faster and more impatient than my boy, and I knew that once he got away from the edge, I wouldn’t be able to reach in to help him, being a waddling whale of an expectant mum. And so a lesson in parenting began.

I encouraged him to go back to the other, smaller things, which of course he refused. Lesson one – why listen to your mummy when there are mountains to climb?

With eyes fixed, I watched him bounce along to the stairs, aware of the many other children also starting to gather in the small space at the foot of the stairs. Lesson two – sometimes all you can do is watch, then let them do it.

He starts to climb. VERY SLOWLY. The row of impatient, bigger kids is getting bigger. The mothers of the other kids don’t need to watch as their kids are older and don’t need so much supervision, so this means its just me, watching anxiously as the assault up the  stairs begins for my boy. Lesson three – my son will have mountains to climb that as much as I want to, I can’t do for him.

It’s seeming to take ages – although I’m sure it’s seconds – but my boy has created a long tailback and is still only half way up. One boy is getting inpatient and clambers up over him. I want to punch him. But my Wee Man is hanging on and keeps going. Lesson four – other people are going to hurt my boy. I will want to punch them but I can’t.

I know that he only has a few more steps now, but he’s never made it this high before, and may turn back and get fearful. I am willing him on with an intense stare. If he could hear me over the ridiculous rave music, he would know I was saying come on, come on you can do it. Lesson five – if a mother’s encouragement was enough, a child could do anything.

The queue to climb  is now down to the bottom the stairs and he has one step to go. My heart is beating, he can do it, he can do it. And, he does! As soon as he gets to the top, the big kids push past and whoosh down the slide, but I’m so proud of my boy that I could burst. Lesson six – My child is capable of many things without me. And more often than not, he will never know what I was going through as he does them. Even the most simple thing like climbing the stairs of an inflatable slide.

For a second, I worry that it is too high, and he might be frightened (he’s done that before), but no. In a second he is down with a huge grin on his face. He has achieved greatness today, in his own small way. I’m so proud of his perseverance and courage.

After that he goes up many times, and is more confident every time, although there is always a long line of kids behind him. I’m grateful that in many of these cases, an older girl has come up behind him and although she wanted to get past, didn’t push and let him do it in his own time. Lesson seven – I will have to rely on the kindness of others when I can’t be of help to him.

Like countless others before me, I knew from the moment he was born, that my Wee Man would bring some of the greatest challenges of my life. The conflicting desire to protect at all costs but to allow him to grow and discover is a painful but rewarding one, that I will of course have many more experiences to encounter. Today he did me proud. Today he made it. Next time, he might not be so successful. But my willing him to succeed will never go away.

On the way down. This is after many attempts...when I felt ok to get the camera out

Oh, and he also managed to get the first black eye of his life today. Bashing into a boy coming down the slide on maybe the twentieth attempt. But I guess you can’t win them all.