Wednesday 30 July 2014, 08:00
As an art historian with a strong interest in all of the different cultures of the world, I have been to some wonderful and fascinating places.
As for the painting, the sculpture, the architecture - well I hope anyone who watches Art Of China will agree that it is thrillingly strange, different from anything they've ever seen, and just breathtakingly beautiful in the way it is made.
I'd never been there before, so this was a real journey of discovery for me - and I really hope that comes across in the series that we've made.
The art of China has also been full of surprises for the Chinese themselves, especially in recent years.
So much digging and excavating has taken place, that they have made a huge number of stunning archaeological discoveries, often by chance.
Some builders digging new foundations had uncovered...
Wednesday 16 July 2014, 11:46
The plan was to fly from Florida to California, looking at the science of the skies.
But as well as scientists, there were plenty of other people on the team including three pilots, a ground crew of 14 that followed the airship by road and a full production team including two camera crews.
Not everyone could be on board at once – the airship would never have got off the ground!
But I was really fortunate to spend a lot of time on board and flew most of the way across the continent.
Exploring in three dimensions rather than being limited to making observations from the ground was a revelation to me.
The clouds in the tropics around the Gulf of Mexico are huge, and being in the sky with them really brought home the vast scale of the forces at work.Towering cumulus cloud in Florida
They are dense and heavy...
Tuesday 15 July 2014, 09:15
In addition to being hugely chatty creatures, scent also plays a key role in mongoose life. It actually allows them to identify each other.
They live in tight gangs - extended family units with distinct boundaries between rival territories.
One of the experiments that didn’t make it into the show tested the importance of scent in maintaining these boundaries and involved me standing in a mongoose latrine in the fierce midday sun collecting a bucket of fresh poop.
After a few minutes the mongooses themselves turned up en masse catching me red handed with a scoop of their poop in my hand.
They all stood up and looked at me as if I was nuts. Which was fair enough, I felt decidedly awkward being busted for such a peculiar theft.
I took the mongoose poo and dumped it in the middle of their neighbours’ territory.
The result was a frenzy of sniffing and chattering that suggested that scent is clearly very important for communicating an enemy invasion.
I discovered that the...
Monday 14 July 2014, 12:45
The Honourable Woman is an epic eight-part BBC Two drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as powerful businesswoman and philanthropist Nessa Stein, daughter of the late Israeli arms procurer Eli Stein. Newly enobled into the House of Lords, she is rocked by the mysterious death of a business contact and a kidnapping.
My role for The Honourable Woman was as special effects supervisor.
I work as a supervisor for live action special effects, this means that we provide all the special effects that are actually shot at the time the scenes are acted out and filmed with the camera, as opposed to generating and compositing stunts and effects with a computer.
The benefit of live action special effects for the actors and the director is that they have something to interact with when playing out scenes.
One of the effects I was asked to provide was for the scene where Ephra Stein (Andrew Buchan) and his wife Rachel Stein (Katherine Parkinson) are at a gala function and a protestor smashes a bag on the table covering them in fake blood.
The requirements were for a vessel containing...
Monday 16 June 2014, 08:04
Iconic comedian and actor Rik Mayall passed away age 56 on Monday, 9 June 2014. In an interview on The Stephen Nolan Show, television producer Paul Jackson looked back on what it was like working with him on shows like The Young Ones and Filthy Rich & Catflap, and recalled five major comic characters Rik created that have left a lasting impression on audiences:
The sketch show gave exposure to Rik Mayall's Redditch-based reporter and lead to a one-off mockumentary, The Man Behind The Green Door.
First broadcast in 1982, the anarchic sitcom revolved around four degenerate undergraduates living together in North London and brought alternative comedy to mainstream audiences.
Rik's cameo as the much loved Lord Flashheart in the classic sitcom was followed by an appearance as his descendant Squadron Commander...
Tuesday 27 May 2014, 06:30
When I announced I was off to Rio de Janeiro to film Welcome To Rio for several months, the reaction of my friends and family was a universal cry: “You lucky b------!”
“But look out for the favelas. They’re crazily violent.”
Favelas are the flipside of the Rio legend, the city’s infamous slums whose residents have forever been characterised by the 2002 feature film, City Of God, as a pack of smoked-out teenagers pointing their guns in our faces.
That's why the favelas were exactly where I was going. Because the Welcome To... approach is to venture into rough, crooked places to discover what lies beyond clichéd stories.
Favelas are the epicentre of Rio's street culture and dancer Breguete lives in Complexo do Lins
From the moment I set foot in the favelas, I fell in love with them.
I’ve rarely been anywhere in the world that’s so instantly welcoming.
Kids would come dancing after me asking cheerily whether I’d been born in the snow – was that why my skin was so white and I was sweating so much?
The only argument I ever had in a favela was with...
Thursday 22 May 2014, 10:36
To then open it and immediately have a personal connection to the events was unbelievable.
In 1996 I was living in Manchester training as a director with Granada TV and was walking towards the Arndale Centre when the IRA bomb went off.
I vividly remember suddenly being knocked off my feet, staring up at a beautiful blue sky and the complete silence all around, immediately followed by a wall of sirens, alarms and chaos in the immediate aftermath.
Having lived in the Manchester of the mid-90s I really wanted to accurately capture the feel of the period: the clothes, the fashion and most importantly the music.
This is recent history so although initially one assumes not much has changed, our production team quickly realised everything had moved on.
The cars, the clothes, the phones and the fashion were all of their era - so extensive research into the footage and photos of the time all fed into our recreation.
Friday 9 May 2014, 14:11
You don’t have to go back 500 years to find those who doubt women’s artistic capacity.
Whilst much has changed in the last five centuries, certain opinions seem to have evolved very little.
This is not, however, a series about critics. Nor is it a sorrowful tale of downtrodden women, victims of gender and circumstance.
Instead, we discover a long line of artists – painters, sculptors, designers – whose restless talent drove them to dizzying heights of creativity. Amanda Vickery standing on the edge of the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence From the Renaissance to the modern day, all faced obstacles on account of their sex, yet each produced works of stunning originality.
Delving through artists’ lives, we found ourselves irresistibly drawn into stories of luck, loss, penury, ego, attack and scandal – and that’s before we even got to the art.
The works themselves proved as compelling as they were varied, from the fearless brushstrokes of Artemisia Gentileschi, and...
Wednesday 7 May 2014, 12:04
If you work as a curator, as I do, at Hampton Court, you sometimes wonder if there might be more to life than Henry VIII.
Of course, he’s our biggest character at Hampton Court, and always will be.
But after our re-display of the Tudor palace in 2009, which was the 500-year anniversary of Henry VIII’s coming to the throne, I began to think it was time we turned our attention to the other, Georgian, half of the building.
It is just as extensive and impressive as the Tudor part but much less familiar.
My colleagues and I at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after Hampton Court, decided...
Friday 2 May 2014, 11:09
I prepared for series two slightly differently in that the second series kicks off nine months after the first, so I had to think about what Kieren’s life had been like in the months in between.
He feels lost and lonely. Again.
Only this time he's not seeking a way out of living, he's looking to somehow start a new life.Kieren (Luke Newberry) and Amy (Emily Bevan): Is Kieren doing the right thing by...