Sunday, 13 July 2008

General Pictures

Between 1997 to 2003 I filmed a hell of a lot of sport. As well as the year long series "The History of Football" produced by Freemantle Media, i freelanced for Futbol Mundial and Trans World of Sport, part of the IMG group which took me around the world countless times. I filmed all kinds of sport, football tournaments and most of the worlds top sportsmen. These are some of my pictures and videos that don't have a category in my blog.

Some shots I did in Iran a few years back for "The History of Football" a 13 part 1 hour TV series. While filming the "large mural of soldiers with traffic in the foreground" a secret police vehicle spotted us and had us arrested by the local constabulary. We were held and questioned for six hours to make sure we weren't spies! It wasn't a pleasant experience, but that didn't change my feelings for the country and its people, some of the friendliest and hospitable on this planet.

Some clips from my journeys around Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Cuba and an interview with Maradona.

In 2000 I was one of the main cameramen on the documentary series "The History of Football" that took me around the world filming interviews with many greats of football, both past and present: Pele, Zico, Socrates, Bobby Charlton, Paolo Rossi and the list goes on.

Of all the interviews though, it was Maradona’s which proved to be the most difficult to pull off and the most exciting to film.
At the time he was trying to kick his coke habit in a rehab sanctuary in Havana, Cuba.
He had been hounded by the press after having fired a gun at journalists through his garden gate so the last thing on his mind was to give an interview, let alone to "British" TV.

The Executive Producer of the series, Guy Oliver, through past contacts, had managed to get hold of Maradona's agent, Guillermo Coppola. They wanted to be paid though and a fee of around £30,000 was agreed and wired to a Swiss bank account.

We had all heard of a story where the BBC had paid Maradona a similar amount for an interview a couple of years earlier, the crew arrived in Buenos Aires only to find Maradona had skipped town thousands of pounds the richer and the Beeb were left with egg on their faces.
Not sure how true it was, it was more than likely to have been a bit of a chinese whisper which had been greatly exaggerated.

The stumbling block was importing the camera from Britain to Cuba. It was complicated, it meant a lot of paper work and we didn't have time to wait. There was and I think there still is a treaty between Argentina and Cuba so it was arranged that a cameraman from Argentina fly to Havana with a camera kit but as I knew the style of the programme and spoke fluent Italian I would go out and film it together with a Anglo-Spanish producer, Luis, and hope that Maradona, whom we had been told had an aversion against British press, would be charmed by our latino mix.

As soon as we landed in Havana we called Maradona's agent, Guillermo. There was no answer. We panicked. We re-dialed his number every hour or so and eventually the next day he answered. He told us he was waiting for the money to clear and he would call to let us know when and where we would meet.

Talk about nerves! The BBC rip-off story flashed through our minds. “He’s going to do the same to us”, we thought.

There was nothing to do but wait, kind of. We did the usual touristy stuff around Havana, marveled at the architecture, the beautiful 50's cars and trucks and the complete lack of advertising, no corporate branding flooding your senses which was so refreshing. I suppose that’s the one good thing to come out of a communist/ socialist state. Once we set one foot outside the hotel though, we were pestered by touts, drug dealers, pimps offering anything to suit our tastes. Capitalism at its best! The locals were hungry and they had nothing. Shops had one price for locals and another for tourists. Considering the Cubans couldn't afford anything it really made no difference. They each receive a daily food allowance from the government of eggs, flour, bread, sugar, salt and milk, It was like being back in another time, another place during the cold war.

After a couple of days of waiting we got bored. A barman told us that Maradona had been sighted in a hotel gym downtown, so we jumped in our tiny little hire car and drove through the bumpy streets as fast as we could. Not sure what we were planning to do or say to him if he was there though.
After an extensive search around the back streets of Havana we found the sad and dilapidated looking hotel. There was no sign of Maradona and none of the hotel staff had seen him. A false alarm.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the city, in the evenings the restaurants were empty. We always seemed to be the only customers. One evening we were told to visit a secluded little eatery in the outskirts of town, which apparently served the very best in local cuisine. We were served an absolutely scrumptious dinner. During coffee a scruffy ugly-looking man with a limp walked in with two really stunning Cuban girls dressed up to the hilt in the latest fashion from Milan and Paris.
The waiters ran around, fussing over them, bending to their every will. It didn't make sense. They had a quick dessert, a coffee and then got up and left. As they walked past our table the scruffy ugly man, with a woman on each arm, turned and gave us the filthiest sneer and walked out. The waiter came over to our table, "Who was that?" we asked "That" he said with sweat on his brow, was Fidel Castro's son".

Nerves were on edge, we’d been hanging around for five days and we were bound for London the next day and we had nothing in the can. Eventually mid morning the all important phone call came like manna from heaven. The money had cleared and Guillermo was going to meet us at the hotel around lunchtime.
Guillermo Coppola was in his fifties, tanned with a thatch of long grey trendy hair, he resembled one of those 50+ models that wouldn't go amiss in an Armani commercial. Extremely charming with an even more charming fake smile. He told us to jump in our car and follow him. He bombed it through the streets of Havana, down to the coast along the riviera at 70 miles an hour, through red lights and without a care in the world and it seemed without a care for us either, as we tried to keep up with him in our pathetic tiny chinese hire car, overflowing with camera equipment and weighted down by three burly men.

On the outskirts of the city in a quiet, affluent suburb of Miramar and just past Fidel Castro's villa, sat the renowned Cira Garcia rehab clinic.
It was a very basic looking building with two british ambulances parked outside the main reception, still with their UK number plates. In the large and dilapidated gardens there was a row of around twenty small unkempt villas, one of which was where Maradona had been hiding for the past few months.

We waited in the kitchen of Maradona's villa while Guillermo faffed around. Lunch was prepared and served for us by the staff. We were joking and chatting when Guillermo suddenly left the kitchen only to return and tell us that Maradona wasn't in the mood to do the interview,  he was tired and would we mind postponing it until later that evening. In the meantime he showed us a room in an adjacent villa where we could set up the camera and lights to save time later on when we came back.
We were disappointed and thought it was a poor excuse by Maradona, we felt he was playing with us.
I had filmed enough footballers over the years to know they got their kicks out of taking journalists for a ride. Guillermo apologized with a smarmy grin.

We stopped by small store, bought some beer and crisps. We sat quietly in our hotel room watching dreadful Cuban TV wondering if this interview was ever going to happen, preparing ourselves for the worst and possibly canceling the return flight to London the next day and staying a few more days until we got what we came for.

At 10pm the phone rang: "Quick, come now!" shouted Guillermo.

The roads were pitch black. All the street lights were turned off. We got lost.

We arrived an hour late, Guillermo shepherded us into the living room. "Wait here" he said.
The room was anything but luxurious. It was simple with cane garden style chairs and sofa, a few photos scattered on the cheap furniture, Maradona with his son, Maradona and Guillermo with scantily clad girls, Maradona with a notable Argentinean player whom he was famously in cahoots with during his coke snorting days.
A giant TV in the corner of the room was showing a Boca Juniors football game.
Meanwhile music was coming from the bathroom upstairs and someone was crooning to it. It was Maradona. When the ballad came to an end we could hear him rewind the tape and play it again.
The more he played it, the louder his singing got. It was difficult not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Guillermo told us that Maradona was having a long hot bath and would be with us as soon as he was ready, which could even mean by early sunrise. Apparently he had become a night owl.

Half an hour later, Maradona burst into the room like a Tasmanian devil. His energy was incredible.
He’d certainly put on weight since we last saw him play at USA 94, when he was subsequently banned having tested positive for drugs. He was extremely overweight and swollen, breathing heavily, he had a thin black band tied around his head and despite the bath he was sweating. He spoke non-stop, asking us all questions, but never really listening to any of our replies. He commented on the game on TV while he talked about football, about Argentina, about women, all in the one breath. There are few people in the world who have such an indescribable charisma. The room was charged with his presence.  After a few minutes its like we were all best mates.

It was now nearly one am. We decided to make our way to the villa next door where we’d set up the camera and lights and get straight on with the interview. Outside was pitch black.
We didn’t have a torch; there weren't any lights from any other buildings or street lamps and none of us could see where we were going. I was talking to Maradona while he held my arm, when all of a sudden there was this thump and he screamed out and swore. He had walked into a tree! We all had to fumble around in the dark to make sure he was ok. He saw the funny side of it and laughed it off, thank God.

It was a fantastic interview, lasting over three hours, although towards the end he started breaking out in serious sweats. Every ten minutes or so he would excuse himself and disappear into another room only to return a few minutes later looking decidedly perkier and continuously sniffing. Obviously hadn't kicked the habit.

Despite the whole ‘Hand of God’ thing he was thoroughly amusing and polite, posed for photos and signed all eleven Argentina football jerseys that I had brought with me.  We drove back to the hotel in the early hours of the morning buzzing.

It's amazing what £30,000 will buy you!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Art of Combat

This promo was shot over ten days in and around Sao Paolo, Brazil. Filmed on a HD Sony 900, it was co-production between Red Earth Studio (my company) and a Brazilian production company called Canal Azul, who are part of the TRAFFIC Group.
Myself and Marc, one the our producers at RES who had developed the idea, flew out to Brazil to direct the promo, while Canal Azul helped out with production, crew, kit and post, which they had in-house.

We landed in pretty drab weather, actually Sao Paolo is always drab. It is when I'm there anyway, I always end up getting colds, flus or some sort of reaction to the pollution. Its not the greatest looking of cities, its skyline a jungle of tall buildings as far as the eye can see, covered in a strange gothic graffiti.
The production crew at Canal Azul were amazing and had organized some amazing locations and actors, so from the first day of the shoot to the end, apart from the post, but that story comes further down(!), everything went smoothly; I think they even had a hand in the weather, as the clouds dispersed and out came the sun tan lotion for the remainder of the time we were there.

Our first location was the beach in Guaruja, 100km south of SP, near Santos.
It was a stunning morning with a beautiful pink sky as the sun rose above the waves of the atlantic ocean. We filmed a young girl performing Tai Chi with a sword. The sunrise and water in the background made for an amazing picture and a promising start to the shoot.

We have so much beautiful footage, I'm gagging to make a second edit. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Marc resting during a short lunch break.

Later on that afternoon, a local capoeira club agreed to show off some of their skills, a mixture of dance and martial arts that came over to Brazil during the slave trade from Africa.

Marc and Joao discussing things during a break in shooting.

These two guys were pretty good. Especially the guy in red, he really thought he was a film star in the way that he carried himself.

The setting was amazing.

Brazil has the largest japanese community outside of Japan as well as a large chinese and asian community, which made filming in Brazil a hell of a lot cheaper than going to China and Japan.
With a great location like this temple, situated in the middle of a bush about 150km north of Sao Paolo, we couldn't go wrong.

The scariest part of the shoot had to be filming the scene of the Tai Chi guy on the rooftop of the Copan building, one of the tallest in Sao Paolo.
I don't know if you can see it in the photo, but there is a two foot wall around the edge, beyond that is a sheer drop to the traffic below.
It was harrowing and I had been worried about filming there for days. I kept having these nightmares of tripping over the edge.

I never did trip over the edge and after a while I got used to it; kind of!

This is where I forget the names of everyone and I am going to have to ask Marc who a couple of these people are. I'm crap with names!
Bottom right to left: Me, Marc, Grip
Top right to left: Joao (camera assistant-amazing, brilliant and a great guy), production assistant, Joana Fava, Lygia, producer and asst director (also brilliant and helped immensely) and the runner and general assistant