I know this sounds like a sponsored advert but I love Snapseed. It's a great photo app I have on my iPhone. It's got more controls than Instagram and is really easy to use. I like it much more than Adobe Photoshop's app which is great news as I have a real problem with Adobe. In my experience they have the worst customer service I've ever encountered and any competition that threatens to break their stranglehold on the market of digital image manipulation is good news. Above is a picture I took through the window of a plane over NYC last week and worked on with Snapseed. Below is the original picture.
The second series of Gold Rush is now the top show on Friday night in the USA. It is a fantastic achievement for the mining crews, Discovery and Raw TV. I'm so impressed and seriously proud of how hard everyone's worked to make such an epic series.
Below is an adbrag running in US newspapers and magazines.
As a storyteller I’ve talked to many people about how they see the world and what they see as being important. Clanging name-drop coming up: I interviewed David Byrne years ago who said that when he was making music with people from other countries it was cultural confusion and mistakes that added new dimensions. The Soup: Condensed Soup Dec 17 (from 1.20)
And so it has been that cultural confusion around the concept of a ‘glory hole’ has added a further dimension to ‘Gold Rush Alaska’. In gold mining, a glory hole is a subterranean cache of gold nuggets. The Gold Rush miners spent an entire season desperately trying to uncover an elusive glory hole in Porcupine Creek.
The Soup: Glory Hole Glory Feb 11
Obviously, as worldly-wise producers, we were aware that the phrase glory hole had other connotations, however we didn't realise using the term would lead to such creative outcomes.
Twitter erupted with every utterance of the phrase, and there were many, often associated with phrases like "I'll take it wet or dry". Our show was a gift to The Soup on E!, who clearly couldn’t believe their luck and returned to "Alaska: Gay Edition" no less than three times.
The Soup: Glory Hole "Gold" Feb 25
It also inspired mashups that moved from innuendo into the literal. SFW, but viewer beware.
My work life has always involved travel. The past year has been epic and the last month even more so. LA three weeks ago; Portland, Oregon two weeks ago and last week, filming in the far north in minus 35C. I’m not at liberty to say where we were but it was awe inspiring, savage and unbelievably beautiful.
Still, as I head into the dusk on my way to my Dad’s 91st birthday and I peer through rain-streaked train windows at black Scottish mountains, I am minded to hang up my cowboy boots for a while. Stationary living appeals, domestic experience to be embraced, a little inertia welcomed.
How weird my world is at the moment. Last weekend I flew back from LA after a few days at the TCA press tour. This is a conference of the USA’s top TV critics held in the stunning Langham Hotel in Pasadena. Twice a year the TV networks gather there to promote new shows. I was attending with Jack and Todd Hoffman, the two leading characters of Gold Rush Alaska, to give interviews and insight into the show. At present the series is the #1 show in America for men and Discovery Channel have really got behind it.
I saw Oprah Winfrey, who was launching her new network, OWN; Mike Tyson, who spoke about his love for pigeons; and Jennifer Aniston who walked by looking serene. I probably should have spotted a host of other stars that to my wife’s despair I didn’t recognize. The reception, hospitality and access that was laid on by Discovery was amazing. And to cap it, each night when I went back to back to my bedroom there would be a new surprise awaiting. One night a cool bloggers bag; the next, three ingots of Gold Rush Alaska chocolate and on the last night, a hand carved didgeridoo...a fitting end to a weird and wonderful adventure.
So this is what has been obsessing me for the last year and why most of my friends and family haven't seen me for ages. I've been producing 10 x 1 hour documentaries for Discovery Channel in the US. The series is called Gold Rush Alaska. You can see the promo here . The show follows the fortune of a gang of unemployed men from Oregon who head north to Alaska in search of gold. It's been a rock-n-roll shoot and edit but there's a good buzz about the series. The subject has genuine and profound jeopardy and with gold prices going through the roof , unemployment rising and the recent swing to the right in the US it's very current. I hope it does well not least as recognition for all those who went above and beyond to get it on the screen against all the odds. It premieres on Friday the 3rd of December at 10pm EST on Discovery in the US. It's a Raw TV production of course.
It’s nearly a year since I first flew into the wonderland of Alaska. Just the fall and big snow to come until the season is complete and the circle closes. It’s been an intense encounter with a truly amazing part of the world. I'm always so busy when I'm on the ground that it seems that it's only whilst I'm in the air I can find time to take a snap. And it is snaps I take. I'm less and less interested in Cameras these days because I can't find one that's invisible. The closest I get to it is my Blackberry. There's little consideration of settings, lenses etc, only aquisition. Recently, when I was looking at my father's often two dimensional photographs, I worked out that he took pictures to capture places as trophies and return to friends and family with evidence of his independence. He made slide shows, I make a blog. We are trophotographers.
I've been away from the blog for nearly two months now; consumed by another adventure. I'm making a new series for Discovery that I can't write about; but I can write about Alaska. Last winter I visited for the first time and was blown away by the grandeur, scale and savage other-worldliness of the place.
This time we arrived mid April as the snow was melting and the greening had begun. Snowy peaks soar above fronds of silver rivers teaming with salmon that are preyed on by bear and eagle. Everywhere you look is drama. We hope to be here until the fall. What a privilege it will be to follow the seasons and cycles of this extraordinary world.
We are just back from a trip to the States, despite the anxiety over flying we had a ball. We visited New York (including seeing Andy, Yula and and the three-day-old Liam), Boston and Maine (with Laura and clever James; staying in the fab Lindenwood Inn). I'll write more about our trip later, but here a few photos of NYC. It is just such a crazy city, I think they speak for themselves.
We flew back from Boston earlier this week after a great holiday on the east coast with friends. Traveling six miles high through the night skies, my head against the window, I tried to remember how many times I’d made this journey over the years. I lost count, and thought how ubiquitous air travel had become since I first visited the States in the late 80s.
At first I thought it was a reflection in the glass of the porthole. But this bright triangle of white and red lights didn't move when I moved. There, right under our starboard wing was another plane; silhoutted against the moonlit clouds below it seemed impossibly close. I looked around, no one had noticed it. I woke Jen, she seemed unperturbed. Gradually the lights overhauled us. They must have been very clearly visible to our pilot.
Is there just so many planes in the air now that we have to fly in tight formation across the Atlantic? God knows how many miles I’ve traveled through the air but for the first time in years I felt vulnerable in an aircraft.
The rest of the flight was listless. We tried to stay awake when we got home but ultimately fell asleep listening to Radio 4. I woke with a start “Air France flight 447 is missing in the Atlantic with over 200 passengers and crew feared dead”. I’ve listened to headlines like these before and always taken refuge in statistics. But there I lay; unsettled by the news of an air disaster in a way I’d not been before. I felt an enormous sympathy for these poor travelers so far from help and their loved ones waiting. I held Jen’s hand and felt the confusion and lucky guilt of a distant survivor.
It seems strange that I haven't mentioned what has been pre-occupying a huge amount of my time for the last year and a half. I’m right in the middle of producing another series of ‘Locked Up Abroad’ for the National Geographic Channel, (it’s called ‘Banged Up Abroad’ in the UK). You can watch the trailer here.
Last season I produced thirteen shows from around the world and this year I’m doing the same. They are action-packed drama/documentaries that recreate the true life testimonies of people who have found themselves imprisoned in far-off places. In some cases the contributor has made a stupid attempt to get rich quick, while in others they've have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But either way, most of the films attest to people’s inner strength and resilience in extreme situations. The shows are a bit like 'Midnight Express' on speed except as a rule we make more of the dilemmas and decisions that lead to the subject's capture and less of their incarceration.
The series gets great reviews and a really good audience ("One of the most compelling and riveting series TV has ever provided" - New York Post). This season we’ve found a new range of incredible stories in Iraq, Cuba, Sierra Leone and as many other far flung locations we dig up to test our tight schedules and preposterous ambitions.
Producing this series with all the possible permutations for problems is a rock n roll journey but it’s one I make behind a desk in the East End of London. My home is a five minute cycle ride from Raw Television who makes the series, and the edit suites at Envy (where they are being cut) are a fifteen minute cycle ride from Raw. I love my job and living in London, but having been the director sent off to the far-flung place many times before, I do get a touch of adventure-envy when I hear the experiences of my teams when they return from filming.
The new series is broadacsting just now in the US on Wednesday evenings at 10pm EST, but its also available on Video on demand from NGC's site (and the last series is on Hulu - watchable only in the US).
It was fantastic to watch the inauguration this week, hearing the leavened President Obama being so publicly scathing about George Bush and his legacy. I know everybody talks about how impossible the task ahead for Obama is, and how he can't live up to expectations, but it would be hard to imagine that he won't make a vast improvement on the mess that Bush has left behind.
This image is from the Stop the War march in London in 2006, protesting against the bombing of southern Lebanon.
On a related topic, I've just heard the news that the BBC has refused to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee's appeal for Gaza, on the grounds that it will jeopardise their impartiality. What has got into them? They've broadcast previous appeals for peoples around the world that have been devastated by military action. Why is this different?
Donate to the DEC Gaza appeal.
In the week of the historic inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama, I can't help but feel a little nervous. It is such an enormous responsibility to take on the mess left by the dreadful Bush; he carries so much weight on his shoulders. I thought this picture was somewhat apt.