Thursday, 30 April 2020

National Séance 2020 — 6 Month Countdown To Our Tenth Annual Event!

Greetings, Ghostwatchers!

Understandably, we’ve been receiving just one or two more messages than usual lately regarding the long-hoped return of the documentary in some shape or form, after its inaugural run on DVD quickly sold-out, so long ago.

Not one to get your hopes up, as there currently remains No News On This As Yet, but seeing as I'm also not one to give-up either, I can also assure you, that regular efforts have been ongoing since the film was completed, in terms of seeking distribution [this year marks close to seven years' worth]. As you probably already know, the doc was not crowd-sourced, instead fuelled by happy little clouds, life savings, puppy dreams, glitter, kindness, and the like, and as such, the process of getting the film physically out there to be watched, wasn't/isn’t as easy, as it might sound.

Not least of all, as [deep breath] I’ve been dealing with a handful of persistent health issues, over the past four years. Nothing life-threatening thankfully, but very much ball & chain type affairs, that to date, remain unavoidably ongoing. #woeisme #idemandsympathy

Ideally, a television broadcast and/or willing streaming platform could solve this niggling home media deficiency in one deft move. I mean, you'd think distributors would be clambering for new, exciting content in these difficult times; bombarding Lawman Productions with emails detailing how we could stand to make a whole tuppence per hundred-thousand views, biannually. Across the board however, any legitimate, and to be fair, mostly-optimistic messages that have come our way seem dependent on Ghostwatch itself being re-screened alongside the doc, which would of course be ace, but seeing as I’m currently not the DG, also something impossible to predict, in terms of scheduling.

And so, with today marking the official six month countdown to National Séance 2020 — our tenth annual tweet-cast, in which fellow fans across the globe, drop everything on Hallowe'en Night, just to bang-on about how great Kevin Tripp’s cheese’n pickle sandwich is — tonight, at around 21:25, may I please ask that all you glorious Ghostwatchers make some noise on Twitter, directed to whomever you feel would be best placed to bring the doc, and eponymous Hallowe’en Hoax back to the telly box, ideally sometime later on, this year? Who knows, it may actually turn some heads.

In the interests of fairness, I’m not going to pre-empt you on Twitter handles. Just go with your gut. And, do please copy in @Ghostwatch so we can keep track! I promise I won't ask this of you, again. You've already done more than enough, for me to remain eternally grateful. I owe so many drinks by now, I could start a micro brewery called, Fears. You know, like Cheers? Or, how about, Pipes' Place? Okay, The Rotten Cabbage? No? The Bent Spoon? Uhh... Intense Cold Shots? ... Okay, forget it.

At the very least, it would be useful to know why the doc has yet to find a new home since the untimely close of BBC Store. Say what you will, but the piece wasn't shot using a potato, it boasts a professional sound-mix, and I'll have you know, Sight & Sound worthy-of-note, Vis-FX. It is curious as to why BtC remains in distribution limbo. I'm possibly too close to see the obvious, but feel free to enlighten me, if you have any ideas.

Granted, the Industry may be as cut-throat as ever these days, but even my renowned patience, in attempting to carve a path in the cryptic world of the single lens, can't last forever. When 'The Plan' comes together, the resulting work can nothing short of blissful. Aside from the promise of oodles of moolah, that's the true, lasting appeal of working within the creative arts. When it doesn't, you tend to count the milliseconds of resulting defeat, as you intermittently notice your peers' well-earned careers continuing to soar, albeit to thankfully-declining ratings [insert echoing Machiavellian laughter here]. And before you scream, 'schadenfreude', these inexplicably-likeable types to whom I refer, are still getting paid at least, or so they keep telling me.

In addition to which, although the doc includes some noteworthy revelations concerning the production and aftermath of its parent drama, there isn't a great deal at all that I would flag as even potentially troublesome; least of all, as neither did our solicitors, prior to release. It's all good to go, Coach. Just let us onto the field.

I often say, ‘team-effort’ is the mantra that helped not only engender the creation of the doc, but also very much brought water to its mill. The project simply couldn’t have progressed without your kindness, good-wishes, and generously-shared research, consolidating into a meaningful exploration into what has already gone down in history as one of the most important, and [encouragingly, increasingly-discussed] British television programmes ever produced.

The documentary itself marked one of two impossible goals in my professional life, to hopefully one day personally contribute. To this day, I remain thunderstruck that I had the good fortune to somehow be part of either, at all. You know the other one, as it's the only other thing I ever talk about. No, not chow mein — Red Dwarf. You see? I just mentioned it, again. Even though, I doubt my dream of physically working on the latter's cosmic set will ever come to pass, which at one time I'd have merrily settled for buffing on bended knee, using my own toothbrush.

The feeling of somebody insisting on shaking my hand following a rare screening of the doc remains impossible to equate. To even exist, Behind the Curtains had to be made on its own terms, and also at that precise moment in time. If Lesley and I had waited any longer, two of the most memorable and important interviews I have ever headed, featuring the wise words of much-missed friends, contributors, and boundless raconteurs, Richard Broke, and Mike Smith, would have been lost forever. I remain so proud of the piece as a whole, and its wholly Independent roots, and would like nothing more than for you to check it out — particularly, if you haven’t yet had the chance! I also cannot say enough for the contributions made by the Holy Trinity of BtC, Arfon Jones, Ian Evans, and Danny Stephenson. In my mind, truly, artistes beyond compare.

The irony is also not lost on us, that the retrospective follow-up to Ghostwatch is now arguably even harder to get hold of, as was its progenitor in the early nineties. One copy of the doc was recently going for £70 on eBay, if you can believe. Before this cruel coronaviral chaos descended upon us, plans were afoot to more appropriately celebrate this year's decade-long milestone for National Séance 2020, in October. Can't say too much, as with a Glory Hole full of luck, the... thing still may go ahead, as planned. But, I'll keep my fingers crossed, in any event. And no, it's not the themed cruise, as once promised.

Sending you all my love and thanks, as always. Couldn’t think of any other pictures to include in this article other than my personal, favourite keepsake from the production as seen above, so here’s a photo of my old GameBoy Color that I recently stepped-on, scrubbed, and dutifully modded during lock-down. Turned out nice again, heh'ay.

... Actually, I'll leave you with this shiny penny of a true, though ostensibly-unrelated story. Might as well. Not much else to do. Years ago, I was asked to work on a pilot for somebody I hugely respected. It was an honour to be head-hunted, and I unthinkingly leapt at the chance.

Shortly ahead of time, I was informed care of the wonders of mobile telephony that I would not be paid for the gig [a solid week's work, as lead stills photographer], that I would need to find my own transport, accommodation, and food, but if I played my cards right, I could very-well find myself being hired for something else, something much bigger, down the line. Suffice it to say, this constituted a far better offer, than usual.

Fortunately, it turned out, there was room for me at the inn after all, including my own plate of hot grub [sorry, 'casserole'] waiting for me, after each remarkably-long day of filming, to which I remain very grateful. Regrettably, just moments after being welcomed on set, my first assigned task was to make everyone a cup of tea. It was at this point that I realised my poker hand was probably not as strong, as I had first hoped [not least of all, as I truly cannot stand the archetypal, nay chemically-addictive, British Cuppa], but also, as in that very moment, I was able to rather impressively foretell, that my actual chances of taking even a single photograph during the entire production were practically slim-to-none. And, wouldn't you know, for once, I was proven exactly right. Though, I did sneak one snap of the copious camera kit unceremoniously lumped into a pile between takes, in mind to later drop into a written article I had also been asked to put together, chronicling my experiences, that ultimately also never saw the light of day. Cor, Showbiz, eh?

That solid week's graft would prove unforgettable to me, for, ooh, loads of reasons. Ultimately, I probably wasn't quite right for the gig. In some respects, I often felt like a fifth wheel. In others, I felt I could probably run creative rings around certain of the higher-ups. I'm sure it didn't help things when the cast would occasionally loudly request that I be present during certain takes, as I'd spared a moment or two to rehearse with them, on down-time; mostly, as they were collectively not only a good laugh, but also extremely talented, to boot. It was an effective learning environment, to be sure. That said, by no means am I blaming anybody for my distinct lack of progression. Sometimes, those tumbling Tetris blocks just don't stack up, exactly the way you'd prefer. Plus, I can be an annoying little shit, sometimes.

Anyway, as I was saying about this being everyone else's fault, I vividly recall, during the tail-end of my final, and [for a number of frankly unbelievable, and entirely avoidable reasons] most-taxing day, the weather was glorious, yet only a deep sense of melancholy pervaded. Despite my initial, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasm, I had come to feel almost totally disconnected from my colleagues; who practically from the-off, seemed to look upon the project with, not entirely jaded, but certainly more pragmatic/professional eyes. By now, my own bloodshot peepers had somehow auto-corrected the perfect blue, cloudless curtain above, relentlessly beckoning me home, rendering the resulting paradise all around me, practically day-to-night.

I remember being promised a present worthy of a collector, for working so hard, which I dutifully waited weeks for, only never to arrive. Even so, I was gifted a partial travel refund, which I accepted with thanks. All in, without being told outright, I implicitly knew that I hadn't made the sizeable impression I sorely needed to ensure a reserved slot for my name, in the Rolodex. And, in the blink-of-an-eye, that was my big chance evaporated. Eagerness just isn't enough in this game. You need to evenly-radiate confidence, ability, resolve. You must demonstrate your usefulness when required, but also adequate levels of subservience; which is a concept, I never have, or likely ever will, fully grasp. Praise too heavily, and you're a creep. Not enough, and you're regarded, as not being a team-player.

Also, I still can't help but occasionally recall the pissed-off look on the Guv's face, when their beloved, and very characterful pooch instead trotted over to me for a loving pat on the head, despite my not having been the one to call its name. "Oh, thanks a lot..." this well-known person muttered into their coffee.

Routinely-deposited at the nearest local train station to commence my laborious trek back to Sunny England's mid-west, I realised that my crumpled return ticket was now a couple of stops short. With the figurative lump in my throat ever-swelling with a painful sense of unrecoverable defeat, I gently enquired with the man behind the glass, and he kindly allowed me to purchase a short-hop ticket to bridge the missing stations for just a few extra quid. Nice guy.

As so often before & since, my heavy shoulder bag finally slipped, landing somewhere between each aching ankle, and I waited singularly on the solid, grey platform, hoping that an affordable time machine might soon be landing on Aldi shelves, nationwide. My considerate nervous system began registering fresh bruises slowly settling atop their young predecessors, stretching calve-to-thigh, mostly borne from many days' worth of lugging heavy equipment I had still been learning the names for, on repeated trips up-and-down-and-up-and-down uncountable flights of stairs [these were mostly, "C-Stands", and they're bastard heavy, I can tell you].

On boarding the train, a short while later [design-wise, itself something of a late seventies throwback], I easily found a seat; as no doubt, given the time & place, other than myself, there was hardly a soul about. Then, unexpectedly, and for some profoundly unknown reason, I felt more than a tad uncomfortable. So much so, that I promptly got-up to find a new place to rest. And another. And another. There was just something about that first carriage that didn't sit right with me. I still can't explain it, but I do recall uncertainly making my way down to the next, in search of a better option.

Following an unlikely number of failed attempts to take the weight off my feet, at last, my eyes locked-on to an altogether-unremarkable pair of thickly-upholstered cushions somewhere between one-third and half-way up the second carriage, residing on what I can only describe as the train's port side. On exhaustedly collapsing into place, I remember feeling the hot sun streaming relentlessly through the glass, soaking into my skin, magnified like a greenhouse. Still, 'this is the seat for me,' I nodded assertively.

With luggage stowed, I unthinkingly glanced ahead, as you do. Then, unconsciously, but somehow intentionally, my right hand reached out to the cream-coloured release clasp on the moulded tray table built into the back of the seat, now facing me. Likewise, I'm not entirely certain why all this transpired; all I can promise you, is that it very much did. As the glossy ledge smoothly floated down into place, a small, folded-up square of lined note paper, until now completely hidden within, stared back at me. After a moment, I curiously picked it up, and unfolded it. Again, and again, and again.

What I ultimately saw, was this. I don't know who made it. I cannot presume their intentions, other than by simply leaving it there for someone to find, this signified some sort of kindness between strangers. A brief encounter, you might even say.

But I've carried it in my wallet, since. Because, it's worth remembering, that it usually isn't long, before things start to get better. Then, the train guard nearly threw me off the carriage, because he couldn't understand why I had two tickets.

Until next time, Ghostwatchers... try not to have sleepless nights. Take care. x

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