Making ‘Drama…’, 2. The Interviews

21st September 2020

Ken Loach with clapperboard

John Wyver writes: this is the second of a series of posts, which began here, in which I am chronicling the making of our BBC Four documentary, Drama Out of a Crisis: A Celebration of Play for Today. The 90-minute film will be broadcast in mid-October to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of this important strand of single dramas that ran on BBC1 from 1970 to 1984. As before, although there is nothing by way of a narrative spoiler, you may prefer to wait to see the film before reading this.

Any such film about the history of television and film almost inevitably features both archive extracts and interviews, and there is a long tradition of such productions in which innumerable small variations in the use of both elements have been employed. I’ll discuss our use of the archive in a couple of future posts, but here I want to muse about our filming and editing of the interviews, including with filmmaker Ken Loach, above.

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Sunday links

20th September 2020

John Wyver writes: welcome to another clutch of links to articles and videos and the occasional Twitter thread that have engaged me over the past week; thanks, as usual, to those in my social media timelines that selflessly share good stuff that then finds it way here.

• Buying myself back – When does a model own her own image?: maybe you’ve read model and actor Emily Ratajkowski’s essay already, but if you haven’t get to The Cut right now (where it is illustrated with the image above) – it’s a compelling contemporary tale about copyright, consent and control.

On constructing the “ideal” woman: … and this is a fascinating response by medieval historian Eleanor Janega, with some remarkable images.

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Making ‘Drama…’, 1. Starting Out

18th September 2020

John Wyver writes: Illuminations has delivered to the BBC our 90-minute documentary Drama Out of a Crisis: A Celebration of Play for Today which marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Play for Today series. (The header image is the main title card, created as part of the film’s graphic design by Ian Cross.) The first Play for Today was The Long Distance Piano Player, shown on BBC1 on Thursday 15 October 1970. Some 300 single dramas followed over the next fourteen years, and all but 37 still exist.

The documentary, which features interviews with some of those who made the series together with a veritable cornucopia of excerpts, will be shown on BBC Four around the time of the anniversary. Other planned activities in a full programme of events include repeat screenings of a number of the plays on BBC Four, a Radio 4 documentary, a BFI Southbank season from mid-October to the end of November, the release of seven titles on a BFI Blu-ray box set, an online academic conference and more.

While I’m cautious about self-justification and/or vainglorious puffery, I think that the documentary, which I have written and directed, and which has been brilliantly edited by Todd MacDonald, has a number of interesting and innovative aspects. To start a discussion of those, I am going to write a series of posts over the coming couple of weeks that explore different aspects of the production process, including working with archival elements, our distinctive graphics, and the edit and visual language of the film. I’m not sure it’s possible for there to be spoilers in such a chronicle of how a film was made, but you may prefer to take a look at the documentary first (which will be on BBC iPlayer for a year after transmission) and then return here.

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Sunday links

13th September 2020

John Wyver writes: we’re in the midst of the online edit for Drama Out of a Crisis: A Celebration of Play for Today, to be seen on BBC Four in mid-October (and watch out for more about that here over the coming days), but there’s time to breathe and to compile this week’s links – thanks, as usual, to those in my Twitter who share great stuff.

The descent into political insanity: no apologies for kicking things off with Chris Grey’s latest, endeavouring to make sense of an extraordinary week through the #Brexit looking glass:

This represents a very serious moment, not just in the history of Brexit but in modern British political history more generally, and it is vital not to be inured to its significance by the continual outrageous acts of the Brexit governments. 

The right’s culture war is no longer a sideshow to our politics – it is our politics: such an important piece from Nesrine Malik for the Guardian:

culture-war skirmishes… are how rightwing electoral prospects are now advanced; not through policies or promises of a better life, but by fostering a sense of threat, a fantasy that something profoundly pure and British is constantly at risk of extinction. 

“Liberalism’s future now rests on a single question”: terrific Q&A at New Humanist with the excellent William Davies, author of This Is Not Normal: The Collapse of Liberal Britain.

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Sunday links

30th August 2020

John Wyver writes: links to articles and videos that have engaged and interested me over this last week of summer; thanks, as ever, to those in my Twitter feed who have highlighted good stuff.

Boris Johnson – the anti Prime Minister: exceptional writing from Jonathan Lis from Byline Times: ‘corruption at its most decadent: botching a crisis or destroying a national infrastructure not for political gain, nor even for financial reward, but ultimately for pure personal sport.’

Night and day: for New York Review of Books Fintan O’Toole is predictably excellent on Joe Biden and America today.

The bland, boring visuals of the Republican National Convention: this good piece by Emily VanDerWerff for Vox is as much notice as I’m prepared to give to RNC2020.

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Sunday links

22nd August 2020

John Wyver writes: apologies for missing last week, but here’s a new collection of stuff that I’ve found interesting and, in the case of the videos from #DNC2020, inspiring. Thanks, as always, to those in my Twitter timeline.

How the pandemic revealed Britain’s national illness: if you click on only a single link here, make it this one to Tom McTague’s brilliant analysis of our woes for The Atlantic.

• What happens if Donald Trump fights the election results?: for The New Yorker, Eric Lach tackles one of the most urgent questions of the moment – and not just for the States.

The plot writes itself: Sarah Churchwell on American fascism, in history and counterfactual, for TLS – terrific, but [£].

The Chicks – The Star-Spangled Banner: so much that’s great to share from 2020 Democratic National Convention, starting with this…

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‘Albion’ on screen

14th August 2020

John Wyver writes: Sunday evening on BBC Four sees the premiere of our screen version of the Almeida Theatre’s production of Albion. This is an Illuminations co-production with the Almeida Theatre and The Space for BBC Arts, and while the start time of 10.10pm is perhaps not the most congenial (the broadcast will finish at three minutes to 1am on Monday morning), the recording will then be on BBC iPlayer for 30 days. I recommend it warmly.

Albion on screen is an adaptation of Rupert Goold’s very fine stage production with Victoria Hamilton (above), Daisy Edgar-Jones and a dazzling cast of Mike Bartlett’s contemporary tale of memory, loss and identity. The screen director is Rhodri Huw, with whom we worked in 2018 on the Almeida’s Hamlet with Andrew Scott, and the associate producer is David Gopsill.

Paul Freeman is the camera supervisor and Andy Rose the sound supervisor. Sarah Hull is production manager, Morag Macintosh the vision mixer and Stephanie Rose script supervisor. The post-production edit was carried out by Steve Eveleigh at Bestlight Pictures along with David, the audio mix was done by Andy, and we worked with StormHD for finishing and file delivery.

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Sunday links

9th August 2020

John Wyver writes: more links to things that might interest you, or at least interested me over the past week – my usual thanks to those on Twitter who point me to great stuff.

How the pandemic defeated America: remarkable journalism from Ed Young for The Atlantic.

A historian of economic crisis on the world after COVID-19: Eric Levitz ranges widely in a conversation with Adam Tooze (whose compelling The Deluge: The Great War, America, and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 I’m reading at present), for Intelligencer; this is Tooze on task facing historians (and the rest of us) today:

Our job is to stay awake to that fact and to stretch our minds as quickly as we can to encompass what is going on in front of our eyes — not to distract everyone by saying, “Oh, well, this reminds me dimly of something that happened in the early modern period.” My impulse isn’t to tell you that we’ve seen all this before; it’s to say we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Getting from November to January: really good, important, and scary on scenario modelling the transition – Nils Gilman at The American Interest.

The inferno and the mystery ship: exemplary reporting from Beirut by Rami Ruhayem in Beirut and Paul Adams in London for BBC News, and terrific interactive presentation.

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Sunday links

2nd August 2020

John Wyver writes: another weekend, another bunch of stuff that I have found interesting, illuminating and helpful; my thanks as always to those who point me to good things via Twitter and in other ways.

Looking back – what was important?: a truly remarkable reflection by the educator and scholar Jan Blommaert in response to his diagnosis of cancer stage 4 in March.

The end of the world as we know it: a wonderful essay for TLS by the great Bill McKibben about Covid-19, climate catastrophe — and hope. [£, but you get a limited number of articles free each month]

My near-death experience on a Covid-19 ward: moving words from John Burnside for New Statesman.

Disinformed to death: Jonathan Freedland for New York Review of Books on how we might respond to the dangers of fake news and the perils of a post-truth world.

The sociologist who could save us from Coronavirus: Adam Tooze (who I am reading more and more) on Ulrich Beck, author of Risk Society published in 1986, the year of Chernobyl:

Beck’s contribution in Risk Society was to offer a compelling sociological interpretation of th[e] pervasive sense of undefined but omnipresent threat, both as a matter of personal and collective experience and as a historical epoch. But more than that, Risk Society is a manifesto of sorts, proposing a novel attitude toward and politics for contemporary reality.

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Sunday links

26th July 2020

John Wyver writes: another selection of stuff that has caught my attention over the past week, kicking off with four essential analyses of contemporary geo-politics – as usual, I am more than grateful to those on my Twitter timeline and elsewhere who, explicitly or not, offer suggestions for inclusion.

Whose century?: for LRB, Adam Tooze reviews four recent books about, broadly, China and America, while spinning a breathtakingly broad overview of postwar global economics and security.

[PS. the latest LRB, from which Adam Tooze’s article comes, is a bulging suitcase of brilliant writing from, among others, Frances Stonor Saunders, William Davies, Randall Kennedy, Neal Ascherson and Linda Colley; £, of course, but worth every penny if you can afford it.]

Pompeo’s surreal speech on China: Thomas Wright for The Atlantic brings bang up to date Adam Tooze’s.

A ‘new start’ built on old lies: meanwhile looking to our our own backyard, here’s another recommendation for the latest from Chris Grey’s ‘The Brexit Blog’ – immaculate, anger-provoking political analysis of the highest order.

The great climate migration: and then looking a little further out, although not much, this is an exceptional interactive by Abrahm Lustgarten for The New York Times Magazine, with photographs by Meridith Kohut.

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