Thoughts from the airport

Late August 18 years ago I found myself alone in Heathrow’s terminal 4. I was 18, it had been a great year so far, Arsenal had won the double for the first time in 25 years, I won 50 quid on France winning the World Cup, I’d finished school and was about to got to Australia to live and work and learn about life. But I found myself feeling lonely and a little bit scared, or perhaps apprehensive would be better. To put those feelings to the back of head I used the public pay phone in the departure lounge to call the only person I knew who was guaranteed to pick up, and that was because they were the only I person I knew who owned a mobile phone. Rob O’Reilly. He answered, he was playing James Bond on the Nintendo 64. He wasn’t hugely interested in my chat about feeling lonely. And I only had about 50p for the pay phone anyway. It was a short chat.

Today I am again sitting Heathrow’s terminal 4 awaiting a flight to Kathmandu, there are no phone boxes, I’m charging my very own mobile phone and writing this on my wifi connected lap top – I didn’t even own a computer that time I was here! Its also been a good year, Arsenal haven’t won anything, but team GB have done well at the Olympics, Oliver is starting school and Minty Films seems to be motoring along quite nicely. But I do feel a bit lonely and apprehensive. Lonely because I’ve left behind my family, which I’m feeling terrible about. Oliver has given me one of his cuddly toys, so security have scanned “Carrot Bunny” and took a second glance at my Tupperware box of breadsticks which were lovingly snuck into my bag by the 4 year old.

airport pic
Carrot Bunny and I enjoying depart lounge!

And apprehensive because I’m going to meet some desperately poor children, surviving conditions Oliver could not even imagine. And that of course that is the point of the trip. Not to educate Oliver specifically, but to make a film that highlights some of the issues facing those in deepest poverty.

People have wished me a good trip and told me to have fun. I don’t know that being away from your family (which makes you feel pretty bad) and then being immersed with those living in the most shocking of conditions is going to either be “fun” or “good”. But its an important trip, and similar to that trip 18 years ago, its one I never thought I’d do.

Yesterday’s News

YN flyer

Now, I’d like to invite you to a new exhibition I’m involved with. It runs from the 8th to the 11th of June (2016) at Platform Gallery in Southwark (right near the Young Vic).

Platform is a new art and performance space. Once derelict and empty, the ex cork warehouse has been taken over by a collective of artists who not only provide a temporary project space for the local community but also have a remit to encourage and promote groundbreaking art, music and performance.

The exhibition is called Yesterday’s News and brings together the work of three photographers, documenting three major disasters, across thirty years: Chernobyl, Bosnia and Nepal. Despite detailing three very different tragedies, all the work shares an interest in examining how people live in the wake of catastrophe.
There are a series of mixed media immersive events going on as part of the run. A panel discussion featuring Jane Corbin (of panorama fame) and Tony Barber of the FT is on the 8th – I have the great honour and responsibility of chairing this discussion but despite that I’m sure it will provoke an interesting debate as we explore what the concept of Yesterday’s News means in today’s context. Please contact us if you’d like to attend the discussion.


I’ve made a short film called ‘A Trilogy of Portraits which gives an insight into each photographer’s inspiration and motivation. It will be shown as part of an installation by set designers to create an immersive journey for viewers. The photographers present their work in collaboration with other artists and the experience intends to create an atmosphere that engages all of the viewers senses. A bespoke sound design which is mirrored during the introduction and ending of the film will fill the room and visitors will be invited to become involved in the textures of the three dimensional installation.

The film as always was good fun to make, I’ve tried to tap into each photographer’s soul – unearthing what makes them tick and why they express themselves through the medium of the lens. Each individual portrait follows a loose format where we meet each of them on a shoot and in their private workspace, and the whole narrative is interspersed with smatterings of their own work.

A Trilogy of Portraits

For a full run down of all the events, artists and speakers involved in the exhibition take a look at the Platform website here or the YN facebook page here.

Big Love


Eventing (with a film)

Not the sort with dancing, leaping horses. I mean the type where you wine and dine guests


Image from John Harwood’s flickr  page


under the thinly veiled guise of a not-to-be-missed high profile social occasion which of course we all know is really about selling or fundraising.

But your event doesn’t have to be a soulless sell out. The swell of emotion that can grow in a room of people reacting and experiencing something together as they feed off each other is extremely powerful if harnessed and used positively.

The importance of an exclusive shared experience that can be generated at such events shouldn’t be underestimated, and how better to create such an atmosphere than through screening a film.

Last night Minty Films was proud to have played a small but hopefully significant part in a fundraising exhibition, ‘Aftershock’ by photographer Chris Gravett. The private view at Espacio Gallery kick started a week long exhibition of limited edition prints which detail the work of small charity Kidasha.

Copyright Chris Gravett
(Other notable works by esteemed documentary photography Chris Gravett include the aftermath of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh and the documentation of life in a small American town dubbed the Heart of Hometown America.)


Kidasha is an incredible organisation that works to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children and families in Nepal. After the earthquake exactly one year ago yesterday, their work was impacted heavily. The risks the children they were already supporting increased dramatically, and moreover a whole load of new families suddenly were in need of the organisation’s assistance.

So last night saw a big fundraising push to keep the post earthquake aid flowing. Minty Films was asked to produce a film primarily using the stills produced by Chris, intercut with an informative yet impassioned interview with Kidasha CEO Janice Miller.

But here’s the thing, how best to use the film?

It could be been shown on a loop in the corner.

It could be put in a dark room with headphones for individuals to watch at their leisure.

It could just be on a website and a link provided in the brochure.

Of course had this been the case, most probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it.

To turn the mini screening of the film into an event within the main event is key. Its no coincidence that at many high profile charity events the charity auction is held directly after showing a short film. Fresh in the minds of the captive audience are the real reasons they’re there.

And often a short film will be shown at an event after or preceding the keynote speech.

A film can galvanise an audience, get them on side, tap into their soul and subconsciously they feed off each other’s reactions. Ultimately it’ll help them dig in their pockets a bit deeper.

A number of prints were sold last night with all profits going to Kidasha, the silent auction seemed to be getting wildly competitive and it doesn’t close until the end of the week!  The Exhibition runs until Sunday 1st May and the film (above) can now be viewed across various social media and websites and of course can be seen on a loop in the gallery for quiet private digestion!


aftershock poster

A Christmas Dinner Message

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Lemn Sissay is a poet. He is the chancellor of Manchester University, he has an MBE. But perhaps most importantly he grew up in care and I expect it is this that has influenced and shaped his life, and it is this that motivates him to put on this incredible event.

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Here he is being a Poet
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Here he is at Manchester

I don’t know Lemn personally but I’ve been privileged enough to be ever so slightly involved in an amazing project he has been running for the last few years.
He has put on a Christmas Dinner for care leavers. To understand what that means and why such an event is needed, just close your eyes, rid yourself of all family memories and imagine for one minute you have no family. No Family to go back to, the idea of going home for Christmas is alien. I’m 35 but every single year (except for the one spent in Kuala Lumpur Airport, and the one spent in a very strange restaurant in Bermuda, oh and the one where the cows in Auckland came to listen to the brass band playing carols on the veranda) I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to go home for Christmas. And even those ones abroad have been spent visiting friends or travelling with family.
Now, not all of us want to go home for Christmas, worse sometimes we have to go to the in-laws, but all this is a familiar comfort and we wouldn’t be without it. But what do you do if you’ve never had that. Perhaps you grew up with various foster families or in an institution – what on earth do you do on Christmas Day and who cooks your turkey and stuffing?

Well this year in Manchester, Leeds and Hackney at least, there is a huge family of volunteers putting on a fabulous Christmas dinner at exclusive locations (not some chilly dank scout hut that’s been given up for free) for young adults in exactly this scenario.

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Volunteers at the Manchester Christmas Dinner (photo from Lemn Sissay FB page)

Lemn is friends with Sally (Abbott), she lives down the road from me. Sally is a writer, you may have seen her name crawling up the credits of Eastenders, Casualty, and most recently The Coroner. – BBC1’s new original daytime drama of choice, and many more.

Sally has been helping Lemn collate Christmas Greetings from those in TV & Soap land. The messages will be played at the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.
Now Sally is a script writer and Lemn is a poet. What does a script writer and a poet do with this footage? Well its obvious of course. I edit it, turn it into a little film of Christmas joy. No messages from men on the moon, no fancy graphics, no mogs, nothing too flashy. Just a simple editing job and one I’m very happy to have been part of.


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If you think you’d like to be involved in organising or donating towards a Christmas Dinner next year then get in touch with Lemn now!

Merry Christmas.

PS I can’t share the film here because it has been especially created for those at the Christmas Dinner, but I hope you enjoyed a few of the screen grabs from it above.
Photos of Lemn from his FB & Twitter pages other stills from film.

Spot the difference

Its no coincidence I publish this today, World Aids Day . And before I start I’d like to reinforce – “kissing and hugging don’t spread HIV, ignorance does”.

Today The Food Chain launch a film I made for them. Its already debuted at a gala dinner in London, which raised over £12,000 for this small yet essential organisation.

I hope the story of one young man, Luke, conveys the soul and the empowerment the work of The Food Chain gives to those living with HIV.

I’m not going to lecture you on the importance of their work, or praise their continued valiant commitment to the services they run. You can look at their website and watch the film to learn more about that. Rather I’m going to share with you what I learned about client relationships and managing the delicate balance between all stakeholders… No don’t go, it really did throw up an interesting conundrum.

Challenge 1 – representing the boring.

The Food Chain asked me to make a film that showed the impact of their work. The impact is kind of obvious when you meet their service users, but from a film making point of view I didn’t see them in their “before” state. And there wasn’t the resources to follow a new service user through their complete journey (if ever such a journey is complete).

Importantly the film should also show an example of each of the services they provide. The most boring, visually speaking, of these services being grocery deliveries. Yet, its one of the most essential and expensive services they offer. We all know what a Sainsbury’s lorry looks like turning up at your house with some bags of food in – and to be honest the importance of this is quite obvious too.

Challenge 2 – Funding verses ideas

The other detail to understand, this whole film making project is funded by The City Bridge Trust as part of a scheme called Telling Your Stories, facilitated by The Media Trust.

The Food Chain specifically wanted the film for their fundraising event and then for public launch on World Aids Day. The running time didn’t matter, the content did. As part of the deal with City Bridge Trust, Media Trust produce a compilation of the Telling Your Stories films for the Community Channel and for a screening at the Barbican, their brief has a strict running time of 3 mins per film.

A quick bit of maths (not my strongest subject) 3 services to cover, at least one case study and some vox pops (all content requirements from The Food Chain) led me to realise its going to be tricky to fit it all in and retain the all important impact.

Challenge 3 – collaborative creativity

The Food Chain themselves had their creative hats on and had come up with an idea to solve the boring grocery delivery problem –

-An abstract talking fridge-

Yes they had nailed it so they thought. I listened with interest. How on earth am I going to do this. Limited equipment, no lights, no real drama background (a bit of re-con on Crimewatch doesn’t really count) limited time, no art director, no prop store and a client wedded to the idea.

Well you’ve got to give it a shot, right? I didn’t have any better ideas and the point of doing this sort of project is for a challenge outside the constraints of the day job.

I revisited the section of my brain where A level theatre studies is stored, (arguably not my best subject either) what would Mr Kane do? And honestly it felt a bit like this, as I set up a scene in my building-site of a kitchen to create a dilapidated sad looking fridge. I visited my local pharmacy to buy some pots of pills and hid all the Waitrose branded products that lived in my fridge.

With little clue of how this was going to look I set the camera rolling.

Several scenes of the same fridge to denote the passing of time and grocery deliveries gradually filling it up – and then the money shot, the bright sparkly new happy fridge full of lush fruit and veg and nutritious gold! Yes It was going to be great.

In the edit, I panicked. It looked like an A level theatre studies project, a clever idea by a teenager, (Mr Kane would have been proud). But not a glossy charity promo – on reflection I began to feel a DoP with more style and experience would have been a better choice for this project.

But somehow it got the message across. It served as a punctuation mark between the documentary style sections. Although technically and stylistically I find it a little cringeworthy, there’s something about it that is a bit mysterious, its almost purposefully amateur, and I sort of like that.

With great apprehension , I sent The Food Chain a rough cut. They LOVED it. I was relived.

Media Trust however, did not. It was too abstract, and of course it was too long. Cutting the fridge scenes meant the film would run exactly to the three minute brief. Deep down I knew the fridge was frivolous. It would never make the final cut , what on earth had I been thinking. I’m not an artist or a dramatist or a stylish DoP. I should have stuck to what I know.

I’m happy with the three minute version, it will look good when its screened at the Barbican and it shows off what I’m good at, talking with people, listening to people and story telling. And it shows off what The Media Trust are good it, and next time I make a film with them I’ll know – no talking fridges.

But the version that’s on The Food Chain’s website today? And the version that helped them to raise over twelve grand? Yes you guessed it, the talking fridge.

Which cut do you prefer?

With Fridge

Without Fridge

Films produced, shot and edited by Jodie Chillery with Media Trust & City Bridge Trust for The Food Chain.