A Shape Odyssey – a guest blog by Andy Robinson

“Timo Peach’s idea nearly incinerated my Sunday roast.

As will later become apparent, this is in fact the highest compliment – and perhaps the
benchmark by which I will judge all ideas presented to me in future: is it a roast-killer?
The bar has been set very high by his latest project…

A Sunday afternoon Skype conversation on Feb 14th 2016, would mark the start of my
official involvement on this mission. By this stage I had been blessed to collaborate
with Timo on 2 short film projects. We’d been introduced 18 months earlier by
Illustrator & mutual friend, Simon Brett, who was contributing to a charity anthology of
stories called Seasons of War. It’s editor, Declan May, had come up with the idea of
exploring the character of the War Doctor – the forgotten incarnation of Doctor Who, so
brilliantly played by the late John Hurt in the BBC’s 50th Anniversary story. As we were
only to see him the once, the War Doctor’s presence in the canon only created more
questions than he answered – something that Declan wanted to explore. He assembled
a brilliant selection of writers – some with close connections to the TV series – to
contribute.

Simon contacted me as he had an idea to help promote the book by commissioning an
online promo video. He’d seen one of my short films, which had a strong SF-vein, and
I’d inflicted a rough cut of my Twilight Zone-inspired feature film on him, so Simon
very kindly thought of me for the Seasons of War project.

He’d originally pitched it to me as something that would be 30 seconds long – perhaps
a tracking shot past objects associated with the Doctor. I’m not sure how long I
entertained that idea, but I was already carried away with something much more
ambitious by the time I replied to his original message…

What Seasons of War the promo film became was effectively a 5-min Doctor Who
episode, which the notoriously difficult-to-please fans of the show seemed to have
really embraced. Made for around £350, and the incredible goodwill of the people
involved in Declan’s project, one of its biggest strengths is Timo’s score: Bold,
propulsive, with a fitting other-worldly quality to it. But most importantly, it nailed the
sad emotional core at the heart of this mini-story – of connections made and broken. Of
expectations met then dashed. It did all the things a film on its own can never quite do.

This was the start of what has become for me an incredibly fertile creative partnership.
Sometimes you just click with someone – creatively, or socially – in this case, both – and
it has been truly invigorating. When you ‘get’ what their work is about, and vice versa,
that can be such a sustaining thing – because so many on this journey will not get what
you’re doing. Cherish those relationships, and encourage all those you believe in.

Needless to say, I asked Timo if he would compose music for my next short film.
Based on fellow filmmaker Wend Baker’s brilliant idea, Two Feet Tall, conveys in Groundhog Day-like structure the everyday trials and triumphs of an office worker – told
entirely from the level of her feet. This was in effect pure cinema, where visuals drove
the narrative, and harked back to the silent era in terms of performance. But silent
films were never really silent – they had music – and Timo’s delightfully surprising,
idiosyncratic score perfectly complemented this unusual tale, and again, gave it heart
where it was needed. Part of the score is now the ringtone on my phone – guaranteed
to make me smile when someone calls.

It was towards the end of the scoring process with Two Feet Tall that Timo let me in on
his latest project – that fateful Sunday, while my roast was cooking. Something, it
seemed, had been cooking in Timo’s head too. And over a Skype call he began to
outline his basic thesis: Science Fiction – that wonderfully enjoyable genre that no one
treated seriously, or thought particularly worthy – had in fact been quietly preparing us
for the future challenges now on our doorstep. Timo wanted to explore this in his
unique, playful musical way – not only as the basis for his third studio album under his
music moniker, Momotempo – but as part of a live music event that was also part
caberet, part art installation. He asked me to help create an on-stage short film that
would be interspersed throughout the show.

The name of this album/event? – The Shape of Things to Hum. The wordplay on a
classic SF title was pure Momo, and instantly put a big grin on my face. Of course, he
had me at ‘Science Fiction’, as we and almost all our friends share an abiding love for
the genre – but then Timo delivered the deal-closer. He outlined the subject matter for
the on-stage film – pitched in the form of a simple question:

“Why would NASA send an artist on the first manned mission to Mars..?”

At this point, were I a fish, not only would I have been hooked, but reeled in, landed,
and pan-fried with a little butter. A great idea comes with its own rocket fuel to propel
it into the wider world – and enough in the reserve tanks to light a fire under your
imagination. Mine was certainly ignited.

InstantIy, I thought of how artists were central to scientific explorations in centuries
past: the voyages of Captain Cook and Charles Darwin (which then were the equivalent of
a journey to Mars), needed illustrators to create an accurate record of their
discoveries. The British Antarctic Survey has a rich archive from the artists who have
accompanied them on their expeditions.

But in the age of the camera, the artist’s role shifted away from just recording what
they saw. Early on in the space program, there was an acknowledgment that highly
trained individuals such as Astronauts, could only give the world a fairly narrow
viewpoint of their experiences. I came across a quote from Buzz Aldrin: “We need to
have people up there who can communicate what it feels like – not just pilots and
enginners”. What better reason to send an artist to Mars?

In Timo’s head his Astronaut/Artist was a woman – which just felt right for this
particular story. In fact, by the end of our chat, I had the perfect surname for our main
character: Bonnestell, after Chesley Bonestell – the US artist who helped popularise the
concept of space travel in the 1950s with his beautiful illustrations of Rocketships
and Space Stations, published in Colliers Magazine.

Only one thought, buried at the back of my mind, was nagging me – my roast dinner in
the kitchen was probably burning. I could have asked for a pause in the conversation –
hell, the Skype call was taking place on A MOBILE DEVICE – but I couldn’t bring myself
to break the flow in any way. I was captivated.

And I have been ever since.

Thankfully the call soon came to a natural end, and dinner was saved, but my mind
was blown – or perhaps more accurately, expanded. I could certainly feel it had been
stretched – and, in a strange way, reawakened – because the strands of my life had
been gently guiding me to this moment for decades: without my conscious knowledge,
I’d been training for this mission to another world. Timo’s thesis was playing out in my
own life. But it wasn’t only science fiction, but science and art that had been working
its background magic.

I had forgotten just how much of a geek I was as a kid, and also how much science,
but in particular Space Exploration, meant to me. My first memory along this path was
collecting PG Tips picture cards buried in a box of tea bags. I’m not sure if the
company still do these, but as a kid growing up in the 1970s, this was almost a second
strand of education for me. The cards, once collected, could be glued into little albums
that you could send off for. And eventually you would have your own illustrated book.

Over the years there were lots of albums they produced – titles like Transport through
the Ages, and The Sea – Our other World. But the one that captured my imagination
was The Race into Space – 50 moments that charted our progress into the high
frontier. Collecting for this was a frustratingly slow process, because sometimes you
would get duplicate cards, and things weren’t helped by the fact that I didn’t drink tea
as a kid. But eventually I got my album completed. One of the final cards inside was a
glimpse of a proposed Apollo-style Mars mission (for the early 1980’s!!!). Maybe a
seed was planted back then…

I found my mind journeying back to other moments that now seem formative. Libraries
and Television were my Internet, with information gleaned from TV science
programmes – never to be seen again (as this was pre-video recorders). As well as the
required viewing of Tomorrow’s World, and Horizon, there were more
thought-provoking programmes from presenters like James Burke who gave us
Connections and The Day the Universe Changed. I think I can honestly trace the
development of my enquiring, analytical mind back to absorbing those series.

But my sense of wonder about the exploration of our universe came from another man:
Carl Sagan, and his sublime Cosmos series. The poet laureate of science invited me to
leave my living room, and climb onboard his dandelion-like spaceship of the
imagination. He showed me around the inside of the long-destroyed Library of
Alexandria, then demonstrated the ridiculous length of the googleplex number. And he
gave me perspective on just how brief human civilisation has existed in the great
scheme of things – the last 10 seconds of the last minute of the cosmic year. Perhaps
most importantly – though I didn’t truly appreciate it then – Carl Sagan outlined the
crossroads that we as a species found ourselves at:

“We are the legacy of 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. We have a choice – we can
enhance life, and come to know the universe that made us, or we can squander our 15
billion year heritage in meaningless self-destruction. What happens in the first second
of the next cosmic year depends on what we do.”

I was just 13 years old. I didn’t know it, but my die had been cast.

Time jump to the 49 year-old me (this essay is beginning to resemble a Christopher
Nolan film). It was Saturday 8th July 2017, and I was camping in a field near
Manchester, with Timo, his wife Caroline, and our good friend Lee Rawlings. The
shadow of Carl Sagan still loomed large in my life because we were at a festival named
in honour of one of his most influential pieces of writing: Blue Dot.

It was a double shadow really, but this second one was literal: we were camped within
a stone’s throw of the Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank – a huge 250-foot
steerable dish designed to explore the universe in spectrums invisible to our eyes.
Why have a festival here? Well, Blue Dot is no ordinary fest – it is the perfect fusion of
art & science, and the Lovell Telescope is a beautiful constant reminder. For every
packed out music act on the main stage or within one of the massive tents, there were
equally well-attended science-based talks, discussions & demonstrations elsewhere. It
seemed like someone had had a rummage around in my head, taken all my passions,
and strung them together in the form of a 3-day celebration. The biggest surprise was
that several thousand other people’s heads must have been filled with the same
things.

Timo and Caroline had made it possible for me to attend – an early 50th birthday present,
and I will be forever grateful, because on this particular Saturday, the gears of my own
personal universe meshed with the wider cosmos, and all the aforementioned strands
of my life – and perhaps those of my friends with me – seemed to converge on a hot
afternoon at Jodrell Bank across 2 seemingly disconnected talks.

The first talk, by Physicist and Blue Dot Curator Tim O’Brien, was called Hello Out There
and was about the Voyager spacecraft – launched in 1977 to conduct a flyby
exploration of the outer Solar System. Attached to each probe was a gold plated
record, which contained a compilation of music, sounds and greetings from across the
planet, as well as images that were encoded into the grooves of the disc. The idea was
that as the 2 Voyager craft would have gained enough velocity to escape the solar
system and head into interstellar space, they may eventually be encountered by other
specefaring species. With instructions on how to play the record, and our location
etched onto the aluminium ‘album cover’, the recipients would glean a small window
onto who we are. Think of it as the ultimate mixtape for aliens. The record was curated
by a small team of artists & scientists, headed by – who else – Carl Sagan, and it was
the record that was the subject of Tim’s talk.

Now the Voyager story holds a very special place in my heart, and its one that I am
passionate about telling on film some day. I was a child of Apollo – born 18 months
before Neil Armstrong’s small step took place – but was clearly too young to have any
real appreciation of its magnitude. As I grew up, the talk was of one thing as far as
manned spaceflight was concerned – the Shuttle, and I was genuinely excited to see
this reusable spaceplane turn the greatest feat of exploration into a routine event like
air travel (sadly, that never really happened).

We’d had Skylab, and the Viking landers had successfully touched down on the surface
of Mars – all incredible feats – but in the end it was Voyager that made a shy 13
year-old from East London with few friends put pen to paper & write to NASA. Just as
with Timo’s project, I was captivated.

I wish I had a copy of that letter – perhaps in a dusty filing cabinet of a NASA basement
the original still exists. I don’t recal exactly its contents, but I think I imagined Voyager
2 hurtling towards its encounter with Saturn – next stop Uranus in around 5 years – and
expressed my desire to know more about the mission. I’m not even sure how I found
the address to write to, but clearly it was the right one, because a little later, I got a
reply – and if it had been from aliens replying to the Golden Record, I doubt I could
have been more excited.

A fat orange-brown envelope dropped through our postbox from what to me is still the
coolest sounding address: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of
Technology – Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California.

JPL was the division of NASA tasked with designing and delivering all of the agency’s
deep space robotic missions. This group have explored every planet in the Solar
System from Mercury to Pluto (yes, Pluto – I’ll be having words with you one day,
International Astronomical Union…)

Inside the envelope, they had sent me glossy full colour photos of the Voyager
encounters so far – Jupiter and the recent flyby of Saturn by Voyager 1. I saw the
swirling clouds of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot up close, and fine detail in the structure of
Saturn’s rings. Things that no one on Earth had seen – until we went there.
Also enclosed were ‘Voyager Bulletins’ – mission status reports that gave a little more
of the science gleaned. They even packed in some images taken by the Viking landers
on Mars. This all came from their education and community relations division, and
boy, was I being educated. NASA has a remit to share scientific discovery with the
world – and they were living up to it. I wondered were there other kids around the world
who were receiving the same gifts as me through their letterbox?

For the next decade – in the years before the internet, I would receive regular updates
and photos from the mission. Like those directly involved with Voyager, my life was
bounded by the moments & milestones in its Grand Tour. It mapped not only the Solar
System – but my entire formative journey to becoming a filmmaker.

I started secondary school not long after Voyager’s Jupiter encounter. Already I had a
love of drawing and making things. From constructing crude electric motors in primary
school science club, to building balsa wood gliders at increasing levels of complexity
(aircraft were a parallel obsession – but that’s a another story…).

By the time of the Saturn encounter, and when I wrote to NASA, Art and later CDT
(Craft Design & Technology), became the school subjects I loved best – both fuelled by
passionate, encouraging teachers. I also discovered a love of Photography, learned to
process film & print in a darkroom – and went to my first photographic exhibitions,
which really opened me up to the power of the medium.

A fork in the road occurred for me around 1986 – and Voyager’s Uranus flyby. My
A-levels nearly took me down a more product design pathway, but my maths wasn’t up
to the job of pursuing it further. So I ended up on a BTEC Art and Design course, and
this is where I really connected with photography, and decided to study it at
degree-level – in the city that has now become my home – Exeter. What I also got the
chance to do was go to the cinema. A lot. A lifelong fan of Steven Spielberg’s work, I
recall one occasion where I saw his then latest Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade,
3 times in a week. I always loved films but this was where the notion of becoming a
filmmaker was planted – in 1989 – when Voyager made its final planetary encounter
with Neptune – before plunging into the perpetual darkness of interstellar space. It’s
cameras, though, had one last task to perform.

Carl Sagan asked that they be turned back to take a ‘Family portrait’ of the Solar
System. This had no real scientific value, and Sagan had a battle to persuade the
project managers to do so, but the result of this was that the Earth was photographed
at a resolution of less than a pixel. Barely discernible, this image became the iconic
Pale Blue Dot, where Sagan poetically described the Earth’s fragile beauty in the
cosmos, and how our petty selfish concerns threaten this oasis of life. The image that
inspired the festival I found myself at that fateful Saturday.

During the talk Timo and I looked at each other like excited kids, because there was
another layer of personal synchronicity with regards Voyager for both of us. Our
birthdays are only a month apart, and unbeknownst to one another, our wives –
Caroline & Lucy – had on order the same very special birthday present: a repressing of
the Voyager Golden Record in vinyl: the result of a highly successful Kickstarter
campaign. In fact my previous birthday present had been a record player – in
anticipation of this. The creation of the Voyager Golden Record is a story that cries out
to be dramatised – the perfect fusion of Art & Science – and perhaps the most hopeful
thing we have ever done as a species.

I then dashed off to catch the start of the second talk – entitled Stone Age Cinema,
given by New Scientist Writer Catherine Brahic – which on the surface would seem far
removed from the technical wonders of the Voyager mission, but again this was of
deep significance to Timo & myself. Since our initial Shape of Things to Hum
conversation, I had written 3 drafts of what became known as The Martian Artist, and
a key theme was that our hero, Nina Bonnestell, as the first artist on Mars, felt a strong
connection with the first artists on Earth: cave painters. So this was a must-see talk.
Catherine began the talk with a piece string – spooled out and held by an audience
member. She wanted to give a visual reference of how far back in time we were
journeying – a little like Sagan’s cosmic 12 month calendar. Recent human industrial
activity would only occupy a tiny section of the string, but to go back to the time when
the first artistic marks were made, Catherine played out the string until it stretched the
entire width of the lecture room we were in: 40,000 years. Before recorded history – and
yet these cave-dweller paintings found in Spain & France were just that – records of
their world and what was important to them. But there was another dimension to them
that we were only just discovering.

Brahic informed us that palaeontologists now believe that what looked like preparatory
drawings of an animal like a horse in different positions layered on top of one another
were in fact the attempts to record the animal’s movement in stages.
In other words, animation.

Photographed as separate images and played back in a loop, the cave drawing of a horse
in different positions becomes a film of it nodding its head. A bison drawn with too
many legs becomes a galloping bison. It also seems that cave artists would also make
use of the flickering nature of a cave firelight (or stone lamp filled with animal fat),
combined with the curvature of a cave wall, to create images that not only moved, but
had a 3D appearance.

Here I was – a filmmaker realising that the medium I expressed myself in was not 125
years old, but 40 millienia. Cave artists wanted to represent their universe just as I did.
Like our Martian Artist, Bonnestell, I too felt a kinship and a visceral connection with
these fellow storytellers.

Epiphanies are things that happen to other people, not me. But as I emerged from that
second talk with my friends I truly believe that’s what I experienced, and I think they
could see it on my face.

In a field in Jodrell Bank, I found myself at the the exact mid point between the first
artistic marks made 40,000 years ago, and a time when Voyager, with its precious
cargo of art & science gets within appreciable distance of our nearest stars – 40,000
years hence. To be planning films about both of these things with my friends who were
also present made me reel from the heady collision of ideas that intersected me. Yes, I
was at a science & music festival, but also in a prehistoric cave, on a mid 21st century
mission to Mars – and experiencing the cultural offerings from a long-dormant
spacecraft. Somehow all my childhood passions for space exploration, science, and
my artistic training had become the means to link these distant points of human
experience. For me to tell this story. So forget London 2012 – THIS was my Super
Saturday.

Or perhaps it was mild heat stroke.

Blue Dot was, I believe, a turning point for Timo as well – or at the very least it
deepened interests that were already there. We both attended a sobering talk given by
Erik van Sebille called: Our Plastic Oceans. By now, there can be few who are not
aware of this problem, but to hear a first-hand account of someone who has tracked &
mapped exactly where this material ends up, and how it gets into the oceans in the
first place brought it home. And still (in response to Timo’s question), he felt that the
greatest threat to all of us was human-induced climate change.

After Blue Dot, I could see just from Timo’s tweets, that this was a more galvanised
person, who was drilling deeper into the issues that he wanted The Shape of Things to
Hum to explore. He became an accidental futurist, as I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his
aim when he started this project.

Timo had already put together in beautifully-presented book form, the working thesis
that he had given to me over the phone so many months before – and this had been
such a useful tool in many of his early discussions with people trying to convey the
scope of the project. But now he embarked on something much more challenging – to
actively start the conversation we all need to have about dealing with the here & now –
so we and our children can have the future we aspire to. The medium he chose to
deliver this in was the podcast – making the most of one of his greatest assets: his
wonderfully expressive voice.

Titled Unsee the Future: How to Encourage the more Hopeful, Human Tomorrow – this
is a 19-part odyssey that uses the United Nations Global Goals as a framework to
explore a variety of subjects – such as Health, Energy, Education, Sexuality, Justice &
Poverty.

Now you might be thinking that the above sounds dryer than a lawn that hasn’t seen
rain in 2 months (which as I write this, perfectly describes mine), but Timo manages to
bring his unique sense of irreverence and play to the proceedings. I like to think that had
Douglas Adams tackled these same issues, he may have had an approach that would
have shared the same DNA.

But the great thing about Unsee is that it also knows when it needs to be serious, or
impassioned, as Timo increasingly is towards the end of the series. There are no
simple solutions to the “Now of fearsome realities” as he puts it, and the podcast
doesn’t try to tie everything up in a neat bow at the end of each episode, but it does
attempt to furnish us with potential strategies – brilliantly referred to in the podcast as
“Seeing the hopey-changey bit”.

Ultimately, Unsee the Future is one man trying to get their head around the issues
affecting us now, but it’s intention is to make you think about your own life, and the
incremental adjustments that on a global scale might make a huge difference. As a
result of the podcast, I eat less meat, and I consciously look for the alternative to
plastic packaging when shopping. We have also got an electric/gas smart meter
installed. I’ve seen how the podcast has altered friends trajectories in positive ways.
So 2 years on from Timo’s phone call, where are we? What of the event that is The
Shape of Things to Hum? Well, like any major project, it requires a large amount of the
folding stuff which we don’t currently have. And the incredible enthusiasm of everyone
who has been involved, will only take you so far. But only so far, was just far enough to
create a pocket-sized version of the final product…

At the beginning of 2018, Timo conceived a scaled down test-bed production, that
would give a taste of what we wanted to achieve – called Five Songs to help us Unsee the
Future. He constructed a pure audio introduction of just the first few minutes of the
show to share with collaborators. Listening to this on headphones with eyes closed,
the combination of his spoken voice intro, sound effects and music – including the
opening number (the theme tune to the Unsee podcast), gave an incredibly vivid sense
of atmosphere, so it became a brilliant tool to set the tone of the event. We had a
deadline: to present this during Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe at the end of April
2018 – and Timo still wanted some aspect of the Martian Artist film included.

Oh.

There is a unwritten rule in low-budget filmmaking that you should really only build a
film around what resources you have or can get. Well, in depicting a mid-2030s’
International mission to Mars, I think it can be safely said we have trampled over that
one. Budget-wise we were flying on fumes – but that’s where I’ve made all of my films
to date. It’s almost a comfort zone.

So for this teaser film within a teaser show, I came up with a more oblique solution,
that didn’t involve filming the story exactly, but instead expanded the backstory of our
artist, Nina Bonnestell. We simply presented what her last day on Earth would be like,
as she says goodbye to all the sensory experiences that would be denied her on a 3
year mission to another planet: the taste of fresh food, air that hasn’t been recycled a
thousand times, the sensation of running water over your hands.

The actor bringing the character of Bonnestell to life is Veronica Jean Trickett –
someone who I met several years earlier in a filmmaking context, because Vee is also
an accomplished writer/director. And it was one of her short films that she also
starred in, which made me think of her for the role. Right from the get-go, when she
submitted a self-tape audition piece from a monologue that I’d written, both Timo & I
felt she projected both the strength and vulnerability that our Artist Astronaut needed.
We spent a very packed, but enjoyable day filming with Vee in Brighton, and got
inventive with our location – a house belonging to friends of Timo’s – that became not
only Bonnestell’s home, but parts of a Martian habitat – aided by a little sprinkling of
old-school camera trickery.

Together with some Mars surface shots created in my back garden of all places, a few
weeks later, we had a film – not the whole thing, but enough to give a flavour.
Meanwhile, Timo had the unenviable task of putting together an entire show which
was to take place in Talbot Heath Girls School, that for one night only would play host
to a neon caberet for the end of the world. He pulled in both regulars to the world of
Momo live performance, and new collaborators to help fashion this event out of sticks
& string, imagination and passion. Key onstage collaborator was Hazel Evans, an artist,
performer and spiritual explorer, who has worked with Timo many times. She would be
embodying the persona of ‘The Muse’ – playing opposite Timo’s ‘Ghost of Future
Shock’. Together they would be our guides through the evening – narrating, performing,
and facilitating the transition from live moment to my filmed content.

Post-production on the film literally took me up to the wire – only completing the day
before the event. We didn’t have the luxury (actually necessity!) of a rehearsal the day
before – having no access to the space until about 6 hours before the event – and
everything we needed to do had to take place in that timespan. I saw the pulling
together of a little creative community, literally conjuring a show from thin air inside a
school hall.

And what we pulled off on the evening of 29th April 2018 was a little piece of magic.
Words here won’t really do it justice – it has to be experienced – participated in. I was
helping to film the event on the evening, but that will still be a poor substitute for being
there. The combination of atmosphere, music, visuals, performance and message was
mesmerising. Everyone on the stage was in the zone – particularly Timo & Hazel, and
for me, it became greater than the sum of the parts that I had witnessed in the brief
rehearsal just before the actual event. I don’t think anyone present will forget that
evening in a hurry.

As I said to Timo, if The Shape of Things to Hum is Apollo 11 – full lunar landing,
stepping on the Moon – then 5 Songs was Apollo 8 – leaving the safety of Earth for the
first time to circle the Moon – a necessary trailblazer to learn from & prepare for what
was to follow. In that respect, she was a good ship, and I was so proud to be part of
the crew.

To be honest, it has been an odd feeling to find myself the other side of the event –
albeit a prototype – after more than two years of thinking about not much else. Like
Voyager, there was a long period of build up as the goal got imperceptibly closer each
day – then the sudden mad flyby of activity for the event itself – followed by empty
interplanetary space again until the next encounter.

Hopefully that next encounter will be The Shape of Things to Hum proper – with the
full-blown version of The Martian Artist. And we head towards that armed with some
pretty significant knowledge – the most important of which is that we’ve proved to
ourselves that Art is indeed the delivery system by which change can be effected. At
its essence, Art is communicating the story of what it is to be human. We (being
human, of course) respond to that story, so the end result of that process is change –
sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic.

We have been hard-wired for story from those first marks made on a cave wall. And
ancient myth was storytelling that shaped society. It is a cornerstone belief that both
Timo & I subscribe to – that ultimately everything boils down to “what is its story?” So
if we want to change things, we need new myths. We need to tell different stories. And
I include myself in this. When it comes to personal change, storytelling begins at
home.

50 truly is the age of reassessment in one’s life, and this project has reaffirmed that
visual storytelling is where my talents lie. As Spock said in The Wrath of Khan, my
“first, best destiny”. To anyone who knows me, that might seem like an obvious
observation, but family life & work (the kind that pays bills) created a frame that often
made me perceive filmmaking as indulgent hobby, getting in the way of ‘proper’ life
stuff. A frame that has most consistently been applied by myself, and compounded by
my frankly lousy ability to juggle the demands of all these elements. The end result is
guilt, and feeling conflicted about my aspirations – to the point where normally if I
introduce myself in a social situation, and am asked about what I do, I would never
volunteer ‘Filmmaker’, when that is clearly who I am at my core.

I feel there is almost a ‘Coming out’ process that I need to undergo. My work screams
who I am, and displays me at my most authentic, but the person I still have to come
clean with and admit to being, is me.

So my challenge is to find a way to rewrite my own personal story and acknowledge &
accomodate all the aspects that are truly important to me: Family and Filmmaking.
And when I use the term family, I include not only my wife Lucy & and daughter India,
but all the incredible friendships we have forged that have been energising and
life-sustaining over the last few years of this journey through life. It is creativity and
friendship, love & family that has given meaning and purpose to me – all need to be
honoured and celebrated. And the linking thread that has bound us together has been art,
or creativity of one form or another – whether that be films, local radio shows, writing,
painting or music. We have used it to explore the story of ourselves – even if we didn’t
realise it. To explore, learn, develop and grow. And it nourishes not only us but the
wider community.

We are already changing the shape of things – and for the better.”

Andy Robinson
Exeter, July 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *