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The second series of Gold Rush is now the top show on Friday night in the USA.
Below is an adbrag running in US newspapers and magazines.
I am sitting on the plane again, heading back to location. On the flight over the North Atlantic, I’ve reviewed two edit scripts, nailed my task list, planned my week (as much as you can on this job) and sorted the overburdened A’s in my Blackberry contacts.
It’s two months since Dad died and I feel now like I’m back in the land of the living. Rest, love and time have no doubt helped me recover but there is also another reason that I’m firing on all cylinders again. For some time, Jen has been evangelising about ‘Getting Things Done‘, a book by David Allen she read that teaches us how to be more productive and less stressed.
For my birthday she bought me a gift that others have said is a strange token of affection. She gave me a day with Curtis from ‘People Who Do‘ who taught her how to ‘get things done’.
As arranged, at precisely 9:30am on Wednesday morning there was a knock on our front door. I greeted the trendily dressed and well groomed Curtis. He carried a small, neat leather school bag. It contained an iPad, and some very thin brown books. In the books were measured words on productivity, beautifully printed by his partner on an antique letterpress. Everything about Curtis looked planned but he appeared to be friendly too. First, he listened to me for possibly longer than he would have liked. At 10:45am he politely suggested it was time to get things done. Over the rest of the day, (with an hour off for lunch) he helped me collect, sort and build a system to deal with the deluge of paper and email that floods our lives.
The basic principle of GTD is that if you don’t have a reliable system of collecting, storing, prioritising and reviewing all the things that assail you then your mind will never be at peace. If you aren’t confident that you can store, retrieve and act on tasks when you need to, you become stressed as the mind tries to keep hold of too much randomly stored and unprioritised actions.
I’ve always been fairly anal, but in the past year especially, it’s been apparent to me that I had to find a new way of working. The three legs to my tripod of work, family/friends and fitness had become skewed. I needed a way of keeping or increasing my productivity at work but also wanted to find time to strengthen the other legs of family and fitness. Curtis held that his system, diligently applied would mend the tripod.
It was both a therapeutic and cathartic experience. When Curtis left at exactly 5:30pm as had been arranged, I was exhausted but exhilarated. It has been only four days since I started the new regime, but I am more in control and more relaxed. Although it does appear that I have shed loads of work, I seem to be able to get through it faster and more effectively.
And so having run out of power on my laptop as I fly over Greenland, I continue my new found efficiency drive by weeding my overblown contacts database on my blackberry. Sorting through the A’s I come across the name, Archie Maynard.
Five weeks ago, just after his funeral I returned to Alaska. An accidental encounter with his contact entry in a jet lag haze was the catalyst for the sudden dreadful realisation that my Dad had actually died. I fell apart.
I’m better now and on a roll but I hesitate as I consider pressing delete. I can never press that button no matter how productive I might be. Why? Because even though he’s not at the other end of the phone, you can never delete your Dad. You just have to pick up the pieces, remember how lucky you are and get on with it.
On Friday, someone who’d looked up my blog asked me why I stopped being a professional photographer and ended up a television producer. I’ve been asked that question many times and it always seems loaded, like there is a judgment in the question. My offpat answer has always been that I got lonely as a snapper in the Highlands and Islands.
Inspired by the question, I picked these pictures to illustrate the idea of my romantic isolation and then realized that apart from the canal picture, the other two are actually collaborations. The picture of Malcy Maclean on the beach was a joint project with his national Gaelic arts project in the 80′s. We made a series of posters attempting to highlight the perilous state of the Gaelic language at that time in Scotland.
The images of the Burka clad women in Kabul Market was taken for another collaboration. This time with writer Henry Naylor, when we produced a play called ‘Finding Bin Laden‘ (starring Nina Conti and Dave Lamb, now better known as Mr Come Dine With Me) at the Edinburgh Festival to draw attention to the conspiracy between the military and the media in Afghanistan in 2003.
So it seems that even as a photographer I’ve been drawn to working with others to create images and longer-form narratives. Looking back, the move into television – the business, the teams, the way moving images and words come together in scenes, shows and series – was inevitable but there is nagging doubt that I have betrayed a true love.
Recent pics from filming in -35C. Fun.
My work life has always involved travel. The past year has been epic and the last month even more so. LA three weeks ago; Portland, Oregon two weeks ago and last week, filming in the far north in minus 35C. I’m not at liberty to say where we were but it was awe inspiring, savage and unbelievably beautiful.
Still, as I head into the dusk on my way to my Dad’s 91st birthday and I peer through rain-streaked train windows at black Scottish mountains, I am minded to hang up my cowboy boots for a while. Stationary living appeals, domestic experience to be embraced, a little inertia welcomed.
How weird my world is at the moment. Last weekend I flew back from LA after a few days at the TCA press tour. This is a conference of the USA’s top TV critics held in the stunning Langham Hotel in Pasadena. Twice a year the TV networks gather there to promote new shows. I was attending with Jack and Todd Hoffman, the two leading characters of Gold Rush Alaska, to give interviews and insight into the show. At present the series is the #1 show in America for men and Discovery Channel have really got behind it.
I saw Oprah Winfrey, who was launching her new network, OWN; Mike Tyson, who spoke about his love for pigeons; and Jennifer Aniston who walked by looking serene. I probably should have spotted a host of other stars that to my wife’s despair I didn’t recognize. The reception, hospitality and access that was laid on by Discovery was amazing. And to cap it, each night when I went back to back to my bedroom there would be a new surprise awaiting. One night a cool bloggers bag; the next, three ingots of Gold Rush Alaska chocolate and on the last night, a hand carved didgeridoo…a fitting end to a weird and wonderful adventure.
Tonight’s the night when Gold Rush Alaska premiers on Discovery Channel. It’s already causing a stir. The Washington Post said it is ‘ Almost Homerian‘ whilst the Wall Street Journal calls it ‘Jaw Dropping TV‘ but possibly not in the nicest of contexts.
It’s an odd old life at the moment that doesn’t lend itself to blogging, or much else outside of work or travel for that matter. My summer has consisted of long days and nights in the edits intercut with sharp sojourns to Alaska. Crazy commutes to location are part of the job but this one is a classic. It’s three flights and two days to get where I’m going in SE Alaska.
Also known as the Pan Handle of SE Alaska, is actually on the west coast of continental North America, (confused?) check it out here. Being on the west coast, the weather is unpredictable. After a flight north from cool Seattle, the final leg is up the coastal canal from Juneau to Haines, skirting glaciers and overflying whales.
The journey should be on a small single prop plane on ‘Wings of Alaska’. But often the weather is so changeable that I end up taking alternative methods of transport. I’ve taken a fast cat, cessna, chopper and slow boat so far. I head back to Alaska soon. Who knows, I may get to kayak home yet.
One recent diversion took me back through LA for the premiere of a show that’s part of ‘Locked Up Abroad‘ , a long running TV series that I look after at Raw TV. In this episdoe called ’The Real Midnight Express‘, Billy Hayes re-lives being incarcerated in a Turkish prison in the 1970s. His story inspired Alan Parker and Oliver Stone to make the film ‘Midnight Express’.
It took Billy an enormous amount of courage to take part in this film. He had to stand by his life-changing and costly mistakes in front of a theatre of TV critics, friends and subsequently a national TV audience. When it aired, it rated off the scale. I was delighted for Billy and the teams at Raw and National Geographic.
Wrapping the edit up at the wonderful Envy after nine months and leaving everything shipshape was harder than I imagined. But in the end I was really pleased with the series. It’s been doing well in the US and is going to go out soon in the UK on five. The upshot of this final push was that I left the show more than a tad tired after some very late nights.
And then there was the actual last night itself when I should have done what any mature and sensible man would do and that is go home and fall into the arms of his neglected wife. But not Sammy, no, instead after a couple of pints at the Toucan we headed to Zoe Brewer’s 40th party.
Now anyone who knows the Brewers knows that a night there, never mind a night as big as a fortieth, is going to be (how should I put it?) an occasion for celebration. Consequently we lived up to our joint expectations, did our very merry duty by Colin and Zoe and returned home a little after 6am. Again, most sensible people would have spent the day in bed but I had to clean the flat before my grandaughter and her mum arrived off the train from Scotland for a week’s entertainment in London.
We had a brilliant time but the days were busy and the nights were late as we saw the sights and talked the talk into the wee sma hours. When Jen and I finally boarded the Eurostar for two weeks in the South of France the omens weren’t good either. The carriage suddenly filled with many uniformed red Americans ‘doing Europe’. They were all very excited about going under the English Channel and getting a good seat, (to view the darkness I presume).
However my fear of uniformity proved unfounded (I had a tough time in the Scouts); our American cousins were models of decorum. After arriving in Paris, yoga in the Jardin du Luxembourg, a pit-stop in our favourite Cafe Tournon (expensive, non? Charcuterie, fromage, pain and cafe creme – 50 euro/nearly quid – but well worth the experience), a mad dash across the city to Gare de Lyon, a whisk on the TGV and a thirty minute drive we found ourselves at the amazing Mas Dagan. It’s been a complete delight since then and exactly what a holiday should be, nothing and everything.