May 2011 Archives
1. 'I'll read it over the weekend'
Usually means 'I'll read it if I get the chance'. When you hear these words, get ready to chase. If you are the user of the phrase, it's a beauty. Should anyone challenge you with 'So did you read it over the weekend?', you simply answer with one of the following -
'No I had to attend to the kids/d.i.y/the dog/ Great Aunt Mabel'
'No I went out on a bender'
Really, any response is acceptable because you were having a life and therefore cant be challenged... at least on the first time of asking.
2. 'Let's run the figures'
'The industry' always wants an actor attached to a film in development who will 'mean something' at the box office. Problem is, apart from the obvious - e.g Jonny Depp, no one knows which actors 'mean something at the box office'. Even the really big names don't always guarantee a film, people see movies for all sorts of reasons, actors are a part of the mix. The conversations on this subject quickly stop making sense.
'So if we have Ben + Julie + Sandy, does that = a William?'
3. 'So which film does the film you are developing most resemble'
This is usually the opening gambit from biz types where you the film maker quickly become cannon fodder. Any film you name is WRONG! 'It failed at the box office' 'You cant compare yourself to such a classic' 'Its just a festival film, not big enough' etc etc etc. The beauty for the user is that any film mentioned can be dismissed as an example for one reason or another and the film maker can offer no evidence that you are wrong. Genius!
In my last column I reported on new funding for river management. Right on cue one of the midlands leading nature conservation organisations - the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust - has published a booklet about better ways of looking after rivers.
Called 'Fish Live in Trees Too!' the booklet advocates deliberately allowing fallen trees and large branches to stay in rivers, or where there are none to introduce them. This 'large woody debris' snags on banks and bends, affecting the speed and direction of the current and the depth of the water. A generation ago this would have been heresy amongst river engineers and statutory agencies. Then worries about flooding led to much straightening, deepening and removal of bankside trees. Main channels were cleared and kept clear of anything which might impede the flow of water. This sometimes worked for people living upstream, but often caused problems to those downstream as increased amounts of water arrived much faster than would naturally have been the case.
Awareness slowly dawned that flood management and control had to be about the whole river, not small stretches where there were problems. It also had to take into account the very dynamic nature of rivers and streams as well as their physical and biological characteristics. All of this in turn has to be related to human needs, especially with regard to farming, development and transport. The booklet summarises the results of thirty years of research around the world which shows that allowing rivers and their neighbouring trees and woods to interact naturally provides a cheaper, or at least a complementary, alternative to engineered flood control. It says 'The Environment Agency has begun to alter its management of rural watercourses...... Previously 'blockages' were removed as a matter of routine. Bankside tree with branches growing out over a river were also regularly cut back'.
Allowing woody debris to sit in the river provides many benefits: physically it acts to create pools, riffles and backwaters, as well as raising the river bed and trapping gravels and silts; biologically it creates an important habitat which provides both shelter and food for fish, freshwater crayfish and other creatures. There are some insects which specialise in living on woody debris, including the aptly named logjammer hoverfly. The whole river ecosystem system is improved and the risk of catastrophic floods is reduced.
The booklet describes the principles behind the ideas and reports on projects putting them into practice. These include work on the Rivers Dove, Trent and Churnet in Staffordshire. It can be downloaded at www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk/page/river-rehabilitation.
I am about to leave home to host the second session in a new season of 'TalkFilm' at the MAC, Midland Arts Centre in Cannon Hill Park. Thursday evenings 6.30 til 9.30. It's a fairly informal gathering of movie lovers in a book club atmosphere, where we watch and talk about film. My focus this time around is audience. How we and why we love cinema, what it is about the movies that keeps us coming back? I asked the group what it was about movies that worked for them.
Love of genre
Looking into others lives
Being in the dark with a cinema audience
Enjoying make believe
Enjoyment of movie facts and figures
I can think of a few more reasons why we keep coming back to the movies. Our love of stars, identification with them sometimes, our desire to be challenged, our interest in auteurs - directors and writers, and of course the simple but vital pleasure of entertainment.
I am a director. When you are making films it's easy to forget the above but they are vital. I think that alongside knowing what kind of film you are trying to make, you really need to know which of these pleasures you are trying to address. Every film maker was a movie goer once and most of us still are.
Amongst all the cuts there is welcome news that more than Â£100 million will be spent over the next four years improving rivers and wetlands. It will help with removing redundant weirs and dams, dealing with pollution and tackling invasive plants and animals. The money will be managed by the Environment Agency and Natural England, two key government agencies for protecting nature. Some funding will go to local projects, and Â£18 million will be used to tackle pollution caused by run-off from farmland.
It is debatable whether or not the benefits will outweigh the damage done by spending cuts elsewhere, but at least it is a positive move. It will build on recent work to improve the quality of our natural waterways in general, and the health of their ecosystems in particular, especially under the auspices of the European Union's Water Framework Directive. There is no doubt that over the last 30 years or so the quality, biological and chemical, of our rivers and streams has slowly improved. Evidence for this is provided by otters which severely declined in the fifties and sixties, but which are now present in nearly all of their old haunts. At the same time though water voles and native crayfish have died out in many places, demonstrating that all is not well yet. Dealing with invasive species should help both of those creatures: water voles have suffered from predation by mink, and native crayfish from disease carried by the signal crayfish.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said "The health of our rivers has come along in leaps and bounds, but we still see nasty invasive weeds and lifeless waters blight our blue spaces in our cities and countryside. With this funding, we'll help all our waterways and streams thrive by tackling problems that until now have been sitting in the 'too-hard' basket."
The local River Tame was the most polluted river in the country. It is the only main river that rises in an industrial area, it's source being on the Rowley Hills, and its main arms flowing through Wednesbury, Walsall and Oldbury before joining up to go through the Sandwell Valley and on to Perry Barr and Aston. Even so it is now in a much better state than it was fifty years ago, when it was little more than an industrial drain. Such a legacy is difficult to clean up: apparently levels of copper are measurably higher in the Trent downstream of its confluence with the Tame because of contamination in Walsall where there used to be copper works. Perhaps some of the new fund will go towards further work on this and other pollution hotspots in our area.