Autumn, Winter Collected thoughts 2014….oh and a bit of 2015

I’ve been a bit lazy about blogging, or rather busy doing other things so I have returned to this incomplete blog from a couple of months ago which as well as being highly informative perhaps lets you know I am (mostly) available!…..

It’s about a week since the screening of Alasdair Gray, A Life in Progress in Oran Mor with live music from Scott Twynholm and friends. It was, retrospectively, a great event with good ticket sales, a rumbustious Q and A from Alasdair quizzed (wrangled?) by biographer Rodge Glass and good record sales for the soundtrack (currently available on De-Fence records in a beautiful hand screenprinted (by label boss Gavin Brown) limited edition of 300).ALifeIProgress oranmor alasdairphoto by Paul Cameron

There was lots of press attention in the run up to the event with spots for myself and Scott on Scottish Televisions Riverside Show and Radio Scotland’s Culture Cafe and an item on MovieJuice. I made a little film of the band rehearsing..

Alongside all this I have returned to working with the Youth Engagement Programme in Lochwinnoch and Kilbarchan, fresh from picking up first prize and a “Leafie” from the St Andrew’s Green Film Festival for our previous production “Loops and Cycles”.

I’ve also started a project with Education Scotland looking at creative solutions to problems in education which is planned to premiere at the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas in June 2015.

and….I’ve also been popping into universities doing a bit of visiting lecturing with students on the new filmmaking postgrad at Glasgow Uni and students at Strathclyde as well as Napier Uni.

So after a fairly slow start to the year….always a bit scarey for a freelancer…this is where I left off 2014…

It was a quite intense third of the year to close 2014 with more public screenings then I probably had in my working life to date, workshops, and TV projects. Fittingly my last working engagement, technically, was on December 27th, in bed watching an hour long cut of the Alasdair Gray film on BBC2 Scotland dosed up on Benilyn and supping from a bottle of wine whilst, excitedly, watching the feedback roll out on twitter. Downstairs I had been upstaged by an anime offering on netflix.

greig tweet

A few days before this went out I had, for me, the rather odd experience of seeing two programmes I had finished editing, a matter of weeks before, broadcast on BBC Alba. The first of these, Am Balach MacCuidhein (MacQueen of Scots) was a revealing and charming portrait of the fashion designer as viewed through the lens of his fascination with his island ancestors. Editing the documentary (by indie Solus Productions and director Tony Kearney) was a hugely enjoyable experience and an opportunity to immerse myself in a world of fashion of which I knew nothing. One of the key successes of the programme was describing the process by which MacQueen brought his ideas to the catwalk with a depth and integrity that other artist rarely manage. The second, “An Oidche ron Nollaig”, was a short by Sealladh TV and producer Morag Stewart, aimed mainly at children, about the night before Christmas.

For me both projects were challenging in their ambitions in what felt like a very tight schedule and as ever there is learning learning learning….something that was a focus for another project for Artworks Scotland which was completed, looking at different pilots for creating learning exchange between learning providers (teachers) and creative practitioners (artists).

and jumping back to the near past…28 drawings later popped back again into my life where I continued to terrify people with pictures of my washing and hand made selfies. day19a Day6


oh yes, and we got another mouth to feed…in the form of a cat. Here she is escaping from a post operative check up…cat




Great review by Thirza Wakefield of A Life in Progress in “Sight and Sound”

Since the intricate, scenic workings of his ticker-tape mind do not always make it out intact, Cameron’s documentary is a rattled, embattled, uneven attempt at filming the artist’s interiority. Bizarrely, it’s effective: a sideways film, it moves on a sliding scale from the most recent footage of a 2012 radio-roundtable about the potential for Scottish home rule to the earliest, in 2000, which sees the wallpapering by redevelopers of Gray’s private-house mural of Jonah and the Whale, with all dates disordered in between.

In a sense, the film is itself a trompe l’oeil, expressive of Gray’s imagination – which, as he says, holding Harmsworth’s Encyclopedia, knows “no separation […] between the adventures of science and space… and the fantasies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.” There’s unity in euphony – in the neighbourly relation of all things in the resourceful, imaginative mind.

Gray is abashed before the camera, like he doesn’t believe in it – so Cameron’s camerawork is self-trivialising; has to be. The film’s anecdotal centrepiece, catching Gray off-guard “at a moment of crisis”, finds the painter in a muddle over a lost portfolio, containing two months’ work toward his Hillhead Underground mural, and misplaced after a heavy night of drinking. In this instant – albeit with no thought to framing, with scarce eye-contact and lowered head – Gray appears a little more accepting of the process of filmmaking, which he’s heard elsewhere to dismiss (“No doubt it would be extremely better without filming me at all; just having a sheet at a time with my voice over”). In fact, in this sole extended to-camera fragment, Gray’s aberrant appeal to the lens proves true measure of his worry, which his outward behaviour makes woollen with giggling and ebullience. His uneasy relationship to film becomes tablature for tacit emotion.

Gray’s surprising voice is the sure star of the film: ululating, undulating, ascending and descending, risen in song – a baritone, a bugle reveille, the wee squeak of storybook mice before sleep. At the film’s opening, the soundtrack samples Gray’s declarative voice, recognising that this is his instrument. Given the sacrificial art of Cameron’s specific task (filmmaker as faithful supplicant), the film might be alternatively titled His Master’s Voice – with Gray the gramophone.
Like The 50 Year Argument, Cameron’s film isn’t concerned with story as chronicle – but with the unruly, untidy, pedestrian individual: a work in progress.

Sheffield Doc:Fest 2014: literary champions abide | Sight & Sound | BFI

4 months and 28 days later…

I’ve been spurned into updating my blog by a call from the BBC about Grierson for the Radio programme Cafe Culture, the film has recently screened at the Glasgow Film Festival and a researcher from the show arrived here…so a little bit of evidence that someone has been reading it. Hurrah.

The last 5 months has mainly been dominated by family stuff which, if I was of a business mind, and were it not so common place,  and had I been a national journalist….would probably have recycled as an ongoing series of articles in the Guardian (I like to imagine it being lauded as by turns humorous, angsty and touching).

Beyond the home front though I have been otherwise involved.

One of the bigger projects that I have been undertaking is research work around participative practice with Artworks Scotland. The results of this will be published in various forms in early summer.


This has brought me into contact with some really striking work being done in the field of Education in four of Scotland’s local authorities. I will be blogging more about this later in the year.

In particular, and as a spin off from the research work, I have done a spot of work with Di Naylor and Paul Collard of Creativity Culture Education. A bit of an experiment was conducted with Paul and Di in using video as a feedback tool in evaluating creativity. This was carried out as a nail biting day long session in the offices of Creative Scotland in partnership with Education Scotland where six two minute films where made on the spot to be played back to the subjects of the filming. The stills, directly above and below are taken from a couple of these films. It was a useful reminder, to me anyway, of how quickly things can be turned over where this is a requirement, and how technology has finally caught up with its initial promise. CSpic

Throughout December and up until the present I have also been making work for Crossroads Caring and Real PR. Initially planned as two 5 minute films, we now have arrived at five 5 minute films, with a variety of case studies and overviews of the kinds of services that the charity offers. Its been quite amazing to see how people cope with life at its most challenging and has been a real privilege to see how people care for their loved ones in need, often with very little back in return in terms of interaction. I’ve been shooting mainly on a canon 7D for this project and using a slider which allows for short tracking shots. I’ll be posting some moving image material from this soon, but until then here are some stills which shows the variety of situations I’ve been filming in.  Working in small spaces with vulnerable people, in the past there would have been something of a compromise between quality of image versus intimacy of material – again the technology has allowed filmmakers to move moved beyond these concerns.  SEN Club 01351419 SEN Club 01202105 lily2betty colour balancedjenny and betty compressed shots  01092318 early cuts banchory Copy 01013601 diane and lewis 01185420 banchory3I’ve also been doing some camera work for Media Co-op – it has been great to be part of an actual crew with call sheets, scheduled breaks and even someone on sound!


Back on the domestic front I’m pleased to say I’ve also completed the challenge, 28 Drawings Later. This participative project was initiated by painter and former employee of Hopscotch Films, Victoria Evans, and invites people to submit a drawing a day across the month of February. I like to think across the 28 days I had something of an improvement in my drawing…but am still tethered to in a style which could perhaps be categorised as Late 20th Century Higher Grade Comprehensive! It is great to actually participate in an arts project, albeit remotely, and reflect on what some of the terms that pop up in the Artworks research: creativity, engagement and of course risk. Kevinday25small
day22 day24 Kevinday20-2 day26

Jam, Jute, Journalism meets Pioneers, Practice and Professionalism

We’re off to Dundee take part in the Artworks Scotland Conference 2013. In 2012 I was filming it, which was good, but a tad frustrating as it not done to leave your post and join in the debate! This time I have the luxury of not working but joining in.

When you’re in the thick of doing work it can be difficult to reflect on what it is you’re actually doing and the quality of the interactions that are the basis for participative practice. It’s also an area where practitioners are prone to not identify what their skills are.

It was a nice little memory jogger making a showreel recently of the work that myself and Gillian Steel have been doing over the past few years.

A “remarkable profile” that could “completely redefine how Gray is perceived”…

It occurred to me that I hadn’t blogged about the (cue limahl singing), neverending story of A Life in Progress…so It is done, it has been dusted and was screened to a nicely appreciative, and capacity, preview audience at the CCA. There was some nice press too from Brian Ferguson of the Scotsman…which you can read in full here. The gist of which says…

“If I needed any further convincing about my new-found affection for documentaries, I found it at the CCA in Glasgow when BAFTA hosted a screening of a recently completed documentary about Alasdair Gray….Kevin Cameron has spent well over a decade with Glasgow’s best-known artist – and has produced a remarkable profile of him….It is no exaggeration to say it could completely redefine how Gray is perceived….”

We did a Q and A too, which was, quite rightly, hijacked by Alasdair, leaving the audience simultaneously cheered and enlightened.

I have recut the trailer too as the film is prepared to make the journey into the festival circuit.

In other news I’m starting a project with Crossroads Scotland and Real-PR which will be a nice change of pace, scenery and focus, as well as an interesting challenge from Artworks Scotland….more of this to follow…

Grierson…the creative treatment of actuality…and other catchy titles

To prove the truism of being in the right place at the right time, I was in the edit suite of Hopscotch films when John Archer, the producer there, asked me if I would like to spend a couple more days in the edit suite helping to finish a project about John Grierson. Of course I did.

If you don’t know, and you should, Grierson is considered the “father of documentary”. Indeed it was he who first used the term Documentary when talking about “Nanook of the North”, a film by Flaherty. The film has been made for BBC Scotland by Laurence Henson, who had been Grierson’s assistant during the period of This Wonderful World, a series made by Grierson and STV in the 60’s. Laurence’s film is a wonderful mix of archive and interview which restores the significance of Grierson, and goes some way to overturn Lindsay Anderson’s assertion that the key talent of the period was Humphrey Jennings. The genius of Grierson was to create the conditions for a flourishing of creativity and innovation inside government. There can’t be many other examples outside the early days of the Soviet Union or the New Deal in America of avant garde artists working to a public service ethos whilst continuing to break new ground.

It was wonderful to work with Laurence and hear some of his stories from his time with Grierson – their meeting in the ’60’s with Leni Riefenstahl, Grierson’s habit of frying fish on a portable gas stove in the edit suite.

The archive that is featured in the film is breathtaking in its diversity and much more risk taking than a public body would consider today…hand painted film to advertise a savings bank, er, I don’t think so.

Interestingly Grierson is more well known for Drifters, a film which has been criticised for making something of a fetish of labour. It is however a much more aesthetic and considered film than this would suggest. In the mid ’90’s I made a little film (oh how I rankled when tv people asked me how my “little” film was getting on) which was going to be called Drifting. It was the last thing I made which was entirely chemical and mechanical in its execution, being shot on a wind up camera and edited on a flat plate steinbeck, in the same manner as Drifters had been made 80 years prior. 

Are we there yet?

Progress of “a Life in Progress” is, er, progressing and I can report we are almost there. The online edit, where the picture gets a bit of polish and technical problems are sorted out, turned out to be a bit more problematic than was previously thought. Mostly this seems to come from taking material from so many different sources…the past ten years has seen a humungous explosion in formats, and wouldn’t you know it many of them passed through my hands as I documented Alasdair’s work. Much of the online has involved bringing up older formats to current levels. Its been a bit of a shock to see footage I shot ten years ago on a dv camera magically transformed into HD! Thanks to Chas Chalmers for that.

On the sound front, there has been a couple of days dubbing so far with John Cobban at 422 who I have worked with from the days when he ran his enterprise from his front room. As anyone who has worked with John knows, he combines that rare combination of technical flare with real creative input.

Scott has been continuing to build up music tracks as inventively as ever and sent me this pic of the recording of the drum track made, to my delight, with a bike wheel. The track that features was written to work with some rather nifty but simple animation of Alasdair’s Hillhead mural that have been put together by Russ Kyle. We are hoping that the music sessions develop into something else…what I’m not sure.


So there is one more day of dubbing the sound and one more day of grading the pictures and then its off to be made into something that can do the rounds of the festivals as well as bring the work of Alasdair Gray (and me of course!) to new audiences….hopefully.