A lot of fun doing Idex in the UAE this past month.... perhaps our next show can be a from a client like a natural yoghurt brand doing a retreat in a green and leafy country estate!
Had SO much fun with James Corden and his dancers putting this little sequence together at London's Excel this week. Totally professional cast and crew - and a beautiful Production Company too - Set Live! - First time I've worked with this team, and I sincerely hope it's not the last.
The whole thing took four days for us to choreograph and put it together on site. It was only filmed professionally for an internal audience - so I'm glad I found someone posting this from FOH since I was backstage during the performance and had no idea how the thing ultimately turned out.
My favourite moment? - The dinosaurs of course! - I even got to keep a costume afterwards. Totally gonna wear it out somewhere soon. Essential part of my costume wardrobe!
A great honour to be working on this project. I will now be relocated for all of January in Denmark as Senior Stage Manager to oversee and deliver this beautiful ceremony that is truly designed from the heart. Watch out for the People's Opening on the 21st January when we parade an event with 6000 participants through the streets of the city of Aarhus.
So of course, it was only a matter of time before I showcalled a sequence with a Mannequin Challenge. Not sure it was the best one I've ever seen, but hey it was at 'The Albert' and it was kinda meant to be full of star studded A listers.... see if you can spot one or two here. Someone cut my voiceover off at the end... no stardom for me as usual!
I've directed the Fashion Awards now since 2009 and, although this event is always tense and last minute in terms of the demands on all production crew across the whole project, I'm actually pretty attached to this sparkly fashion extravaganza!
They say if you want a good clean show, never work with children and animals.... well how about Bear Grylls, a helicopter, a purpose built 'River Thames' a flying horse, a Lego Tower Bridge and a bunch of stunt drivers? - Yup. Nailed it!
I helped to launch this new phone yesterday at 1 Marylabone, London.
We had lots of fun..... we used some great projection and laser stuff - and the whole place was very beautifully decked out thanks to Inca Productions.
I showcalled the gig. I never fully worked out why, but Leonardo DiCaprio showed up - and he brought his dog along too... so we weren't expecting that. Also adding weight to the occasion was Tom Hardy and lots of models milling around etc.... so I think that means the phone is amazing!
You want one? - It's called the Solarin - available from Sirin Labs. £11,400 or thereabout.... and no, I didn't even get to hold one, let alone a show freebie!
I guess it's okay to share some of the distant past from time to time..... Here's an old thing I chanced upon as I was archiving today - it's a comms recording from an event I had the pleasure of showcalling back in 2006 that I might say was a little under-rehearsed....
Until the comms channels get tweaked, it's a total noise - in fact, you might deserve a prize just for trying to listen to it... but actually, once it calms down in the first 30 secs, especially for those in our "industry", this is a real peach of a comms recording! -
We were 'doing' Michael Jackson et al for a well known televised music awards ceremony and things were not going well at all - mainly because all the celebs were deciding everything last minute, the venue were imposing a curfew ruling for our finish time and there were some other things happening that I can't really write about! - Anyway, there was no event director backstage to sort all this. As a result, the crew (IE us) just made it up as we went along.
The main voices are me - Spike Allibone the showcaller, Iain the First AD for TV (Doing a senior floor manager / SM / Everything job) and Rachel and Sarah who were getting the acts on and off including Lindsay Lohan and other presenters who also had no idea what was going on.
The show only got recorded from about halfway through once a very savvy sound tech realised that someone might enjoy or perhaps even learn from listening to what happened "on cans" that day. What had happened before he hit record is sadly lost - since it was utter chaos!
Iain deliberately left his headset mic on during some of the negotiations happening backstage so that the rest of us could hear the nightmare he was having. Some of the real gems you have to listen hard quite hard for.... the actual time span of the show was much longer so I guess you could call this a "highlights" edit.
The company I was working for disappeared after this.
There are just some things you just tend to frown upon when you gravitate to professional show production.
Things like bunting and balloons for example.
To unpack this sweeping and offensive (to some) statement, let’s first start with bunting.
When I see a village street take on this adornment during some kind of fete or festival it’s often two things to me. It’s a quaint local tradition which I love…. but this otherwise lacklustre 'lamppost bondage' is also a warning sign that people who don’t understand how to make an original impact are around.
That’s the thing with the concept of tradition…. it’s just something you do - because it’s always been done. It simultaneously brings colour to your drab high street once a year (for no cost) and it also shows a total lack of imagination.
I live in a small Scottish village and we put ours up every year for our spring gala… and I love everything (and photograph everything) that this great community event brings…. including even the bunting…. I don’t own any… but I guess I’d help put it up if I was on the committee.
In my professional life there is a fairly long list of things which I would tend to avoid for most of my clients. For example, and in no particular order… Comic Sans font, Tina Turner's ‘Simply the Best’, prawn vol au vents, clip art and of course balloons.
What do balloons tell you? - They say ‘we’re having a celebration…. we’re having a good time!’ - but do they REALLY? - Yes they add colour… and colour is good - I obviously don’t want to be seen as a party popper or be criticised as an over inflated snob but balloons, as an aesthetic, sort of exist as a staple add-on that people reach for without imagination. They’re not original but they are garish, they are not classy but they are cheap.
Some people say they are fun. But I would say, unless you’re a young child, I would love to see how much fun you can really have with a balloon. Do they lift your spirits? I mean really?
A Balloon archway at your wedding. Woop, woop. Some helium and they can attach to your table centrepiece…. now we get the party started!
THE KITSCH EXCEPTION
I suppose Kitsch is a respectable genre when it’s celebrated within its boundaries. Most festivals for the masses like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Hen Nights and Valentines etc all belong to the world of cheap plastic things from China - and I guess this could be a similar exception to the same traditional purposes surrounding my bunting comments earlier.
But when a client approaches me, they never say ‘I want a show that just looks like every other show please - don’t make any special effort’. It’s my job to pull off proper ‘wow’ and class.
Whenever we start the creative process, we would just never entertain the idea of balloons for a second. And yet, they just keep cropping up!
AND THEN LAST NIGHT...
This picture shows the moment (last night) when I cued a 500 pink balloon drop on Will.I.Am and friends at the Albert Hall.
I wasn’t the creative behind the decision, but I was directing the show. I needed them to come down on him and his band during the second chorus. Which means I cued them toward the end of the first chorus, coz the Albert Hall’s ceiling really is quite high up!
In the end, as they floated down on to the stage and the crowd danced and cheered…. I ended up really quite liking the whole thing.
So, I don’t take back my earlier diatribe - but I guess I need to bite the bullet here and say that, at Night Train, I might occasionally entertain the idea of balloons on a show… but there are no shortage of caveats surrounding this statement.
And please note, despite this small compromise, I absolutely refuse to allow Comic Sans to show up in any invite, signage, slide, logo or document. It’s contractual!
This was great fun to watch.... there's always more to learn about how the markets work. Let's do this again sometime soon!
Gotta tell you, this guys seriously needs to reconsider his carbon footprint. Not sure he puts environmental concerns at the top of his agenda.
Killing it in New York!Read More
For those of you following the work we were doing in Tbilisi, here's how the opening ceremony turned out.
Just back from London where we produced a somewhat healthy sized International Congress for the Salvation Army... 10s of 1000s of them.
Was a little too busy from time to time to photograph all the very beautiful costumes and performances that showed up from around the world but here's a quick snapshot of some of what I did capture...
More images can be found here (opens in new window)
I've loved going out to Georgia to work with the crazy people putting together the European Youth Olympic Festival.
Tbilisi is a great city and the people there are lovely!
Many of you will have seen the news about the flooding there over this last weekend, and it's sad since 12 people (or so) and lots of zoo animals died when a normally quite small local river burst its banks in the city centre.
My friend and colleague is out there at the moment working on the Opening Ceremony and he sent me this short YouTube link..... there's no doubt about it, things are pretty nuts out there currently. This isn't a sight you normally see!
I'm off in a week or so to London to do a massive show at the O2. It's an event that has spared no expense and will be attended by thousands of delegates from around the world.
I'm working principally as producer..... but I'll also be showcalling..... plus a bit of directing..... and, because of my silky voice and beautifully crafted RP British accent, I will no doubt be doing a bunch of voice over announcements too.... it's not that the client aren't prepared to spring for a professional and dedicated voiceover artist... it's more that we can't really justify the cost and infrastructure required... it really is best that I do it.
That's why I carry one of these in my kit bag.
Below is what happened in 2004 when I introduced Prince Charles to Wembley Arena WITHOUT a 50p foam pop shield on my mic. Just found this video on Youtube last night and although I'm kinda proud of the moment, I'm not too impressed with how many times I popped the microphone - about 40 seconds in. Shan't happen again!
Why would you spend 2:24 seconds watching this? - Well that's the question we ask ourselves too as we plan out a televised athlete's parade and the journey they take across the stadium "field of play". Here I run backwards in the wind filming Nina and Nini (yes really!) - behind them by ten paces are the next athlete team represented by Nuki and Nino (I am not joking!) Once you've watched this I need you to imagine the crowd cheering and lots of flags etc and then I'll think you'll get the full picture.
So Pete and I headed up to a few Scottish Water installations with our esteemed client yesterday to shoot some 4K footage with one of SkyPod's drones...... a very pleasant and sometimes quite beautiful way to shoot water treatment works, dams and bridges.
Just back from my first stint in Tbilisi, Georgia.
They are hosting the European Youth Olympic Festival - and they've hired me on the team to deliver the Opening Ceremony.
Lots of fun - Normally I have to keep things like this secret - which isn't too good for my blogging habit, but in Georgia they don't mind. I guess the press there are significantly less brutal than they are in the UK.
Ever been to Georgia? - You should! - It's beautiful, culturally rich and with the loveliest of people. Below are some of my shots from my time there in May. The Opening Ceremony is on July 26th 2015.
Remember The Hoog!? - We designed, produced and owned this show for three years running here in Edinburgh. It was the largest public indoor Hogmanay party in Scotland with three stages, six bars and tons of entertainment and dancing all night .... Yay!