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

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