Archive for Conversations

Coventry Conversations – Trevor Beattie

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , on May 14, 2010 by Adam Broome

If you’re wondering why I’ve posted this days before a 101MC deadline… just let me explain…

I did attempt to see Jon Snow in a ‘Masterclass’ session a while back. I got up at 9am to see him at Graham Sutherland. He did not turn up. I don’t mind that so much, these things happen. But how was I to know this? Worse still, it even said the session was still on ON THE DOOR. Then, I go to another conversation, where a lecturer from another university was coming to do a talk on Marxism. No show again. I turn up with some mates I’d dragged along for the ride, and there’s just a lecturer standing there like ‘wtf mate?’. The poster’s on the door of the lecture theatre, and he hasn’t got a clue. In simple terms, if anyone reading this has any influence over these matters, sort it out people. Please. Had Trevor Beattie also done a no-show, I probably would not have had the third conversation. Just out of protest, I would actively lobby against myself going onto a podcast and writing up something, trying to pass off that I was there.


As a media-related conversation finally gets the go-ahead seemingly for the first time since Tom Hunter, I sit and watch in awe as perhaps one of the most important marketeers of the UK stands up. His appearance in not unlike Tim Burton… but without the ‘goth’. Big black bushy hair, reminiscent of Jonathan Creek (a look I myself had for a while). Tie undone at the top, white shirt and suit, but in no way smart. More like a man trying to find his way home after the last call.

To say this talk was marketed about his career in advertising, he didn’t talk all that much about it. The first slide assisting his presentation set the tone for an altogether different matter – ‘ideas’. Still relevant to media luckily, as the talk verged on ‘extremely political’ at times. Trevor asked what is ‘The Big Idea?’. Then subsequently answered it by saying there isn’t one, and that it was better to have many little ideas than one big one. He told us to worry about the little things, and emphasized how important they are. Then he challenged us to try and prove otherwise, and us students LOVE a challenge!

On the first tangent of many, he says that the invention of the wheel was a big idea. Cleverly avoiding religion, he follows up by saying the internet is also a big idea, albeit an idea made up of many smaller ones. At this point, people looked bemused. This was a surreal one – that point was clear. He then advised us to avoid the ordinary, claiming that our generation was blessed with the internet. It was quite refreshing to hear someone speak highly of our generation for once. Apparently, since this generation of students are the first wave wave of internet-users, we get first-mover advantage over all our successors. This is true. Trevor spoke of opportunity, and that we should make the most of it.

Then, on another tangent, after a few humorous slides played for laughs, Trevor brought on the idea of balance, and how a work / life balance does not exist. Unless, of course, you live your work. He also showed us a picture of Earth as a tiny dot, and said the big ideas were practically equal to the small ideas, considering how big the Earth is compared to the universe (you wish you’d turned up now, don’t you?). The surrealism and humour in the talk made this one everyone seemed to tune into. The theatre was quite involved at this point, if only to see where he was going with this stuff.

But this is when it got political, and he started talking about Murdoch supporting Cameron, and how much he hates the Tories. I do quote, during his entrance speech:

“No, but seriously I am quite ill today. Did anyone vote Lib Dems last week, just so the Tories didn’t get in? Yeah… that’s how I feel.”

He did manage to drag it back to advertising though, bringing it all together with his theory of ‘continuous advertising’. That is, his own predictions and thoughts about the advertising of tomorrow (i.e. ‘little ideas’). Continuous campaigns will be more beneficial in the future – even with things such as movies. In an example, he thought about making fictional blogs for movie characters, so that people could perhaps communicate with the characters within the films. Several examples have already occurred (e.g. Cloverfield), but I liked it nonetheless. If people could ‘talk’ to Tony Stark, perhaps it would add a little something. And, as Trevor also mentioned, perhaps it would mean less time would be needed in the film for CHARACTERISATION, so more time could be spent on the story. People would already know the characters via the blogs, before the film’s even begun. This has potential.

Regarding the internet, Trevor began to conclude by saying that the response to ideas will always outweigh the actual idea itself, but that we shouldn’t be afraid of that fact. He said phrasing was still important, and a catchy phrase will still go a long way in marketing, regardless of the internet. But with the internet, it is hard to just be a marketing person nowadays. In marketing any idea, you may also become a scientist or a political activist or a journalist, or even a producer, as Trevor himself found out first-hand. He answered a few labour-party-orientated questions, before calling it a day and inviting everyone to the pub. Good ending to a solid conversation. At under 90 minutes, it was short and sweet, to-the-point, and darkly humorous. He plans to be back again next year, and I’ll certainly be around for it.


Coventry Conversations – Tom Hunter, Photographer

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , , , on November 28, 2009 by Adam Broome

After turning to up the talk an hour late due to an error at the train station, Tom Hunter entered the lecture theatre and got straight to it. He is a photographer, most notable for his work photographing his squatter friends in in the town of Hackney (see Being Opinionated About Photographs). The talk followed a biographical structure, taking us through Tom’s life, including his inspirations, his challenges, and his most prided achievements.

Tom began by talking about his childhood. He was born in Dorset, and commented on the lack of culture that was around when he growing up. He was initially influenced by the ‘punk’ movement – namely The Sex Pistols – which influenced his early photographs. At 21, Tom moved to London and got a job as a tree surgeon, where he began taking his first photographs.

Once he’d decided photography was for him, Tom took an A-Level course in art and design, and had to become a squatter in the London borough of Hackney (‘squatting’ was very popular at the time). Hackney was seen as a run-down and rough place, full of no-good people. Tom defended Hackney through his photos, seeing the improvisation going on around his as a form of ‘true culture’. Subsequently, his photos became very political, as he was determined to show a different side to ‘squatting’ – beyond that which the media had already stereotyped (poor, rough people living in run-down and broken houses). Some people (such as government officials) were worried about these photographs – possibly afraid of the politics that were pushing them. Tom succeeded in promoting the lives of his squatter students, and managed to save many homes because of the publicity his photos had made. These series of photographs are called ‘Persons Unknown’, and are perhaps the works Tom Hunter is best known for.

After leaving college, Tom became a part of a new movement – the ‘rave’ scene of the early nineties. Again, he took photos of people in their homes, similar to his student friends in Hackney before. Again, the media had portrayed the rave scene in a bad light, and Tom was out to show a different side (possibly a ‘true’ side) to the scene that he was attracted to because of it’s cultural significance  (as Tom described, DIY culture). This was followed up by his ‘Tower Block’ project, which involved taking photos of people in their homes within a tower block which was about to be demolished. These ‘factory homes’ were yet another form of culture that Tom was drawn to.

Tom concluded by talking by talking about his more recent works. He is currently interested in doing a project on migration, which would again be influenced by the culture of the people in his photographs. In all of his work, Tom also mentioned that he has been influenced by older paintings and images. Tom mentioned the Pre-Raphaelites as one of the stronger influences in his later photographs. As it stands, the last ‘commercially successful’ exhibition he created was the exhibit called ‘Living In Hell’ (again shot in Hackney), which caused much controversy upon release due to it’s strong sexual undercurrents. Currently, Tom has ten exhibitions touring the world.

In the post-talk questions, Tom said that he understood the importance of where his photos were exhibited. The National Gallery often show his exhibitions – which is a good way to promote the photos, given their strong political messages. These messages are conveyed through the individual stories captured in each of the photographs – another factor that Tom considered very important. Tom did consider being a writer in his early career, but has since realised that his talent is in photography. He commented on that fact that social impact was hard to gage, and that every project was essentially a gamble, as the predicted response is not always guaranteed. However, photographic art has given him a ‘voice’ by which to communicate with people. A voice which he uses with gusto, and intends to use in years to come.

Coventry Conversations – Adam Torel, Third Window Films

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , , , on November 18, 2009 by Adam Broome

Adam Torel is a distributor of Third Window films – a company that aims to bring unreleased and unknown Asian cinema over to this side of the world. It’s uncommercial, it’s low budget, and it’s proud of it. Ahead of the viewing of ‘A Piece Of Our Lives‘, Adam Torel gave a brief talk introducing himself, the film, and the company as whole. The talk lasted about forty minutes. Adam claimed he was ‘bad at giving speeches’, which prompted one of our fellow lecturers to give a sort-of interview, which led the conversation.

The first topic Adam touched upon was the current mission he was on – to use Third Window films to introduce new genres to a Western audience, beyond those which has become almost stereotypical of Asian cinema (namely, ‘hair horrors’ and surrealist films). I did immediately wonder about the comedy genre, as this is the most difficult genre to disperse through different cultures. Only a few weeks ago my class were given the chance to watch a small extract from a film called Yatterman. People were laughing nervously in confusion, which goes to show how much our infamously ‘British’ sense of humour differs from everyone else’s.

Adam Torel used to work for Tartan, which have become to main distributors of Asian cinema in this country. Tartan are possibly responsible for such stereotyping of Asian cinema in the name of profit, which is one reason why Adam left – Tartan were neglecting less-obvious genres and films. As he put it, they had ‘destroyed their own market’. Adam is definitely one for more unusual, low-budget films, that focus more on acting and scripts, rather than doing what has already been done before. From this, we can assume Adam Torel is definitely one of those risk-taking entrepreneurs, who are willing to back anything up as long as they are convinced it has a market. Adam did say his main focus was always on the audiences and the markets, and introducing them to Asian culture through film. To be honest, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on audiences who watch less-obvious Asian films, as clearly it is a niche market, and the customers you get are likely to be long-term, but harder to come by.

Adam reflected on whether he thought awards led to sales. He was certainly more interested in the rating of films rather the awards it won, although he clearly understood the importance of winning awards, and how this can increase popularity for a company such as Third Window. As he focuses on the less mainstream, it is wise not to think too big in terms of awards – but certainly, ratings are the way forward, as there is many a cult film that has won little awards (take Troll 2, for example). Adam also mentioned the importance of finding out societies such as the one here in Coventry, and using them as a distribution channel, and as a way of introducing films to as many people as possible, in order for the films to achieve such cult statuses.

The only film Adam wished he’d picked up at Third Widow was a film called ‘The Pastures’. After answering a few more questions from students, Adam promptly left, leaving our lecturer to introduce the film (see A Piece Of Our Lives Review).