The 35th anniversary of Phil Grabsky's film-making career
words by phil grabsky
Today is special – it is Tibet Day. I have never been to Tibet but the Tibetans that I have met, especially in Kathmandu many years ago, have been among the nicest people I have met anywhere. What a shame that their recent past is so full of darkness. But today is special to me for another reason – it marks the 35th anniversary of my film-making career. My first proper shoot was filming a Free Tibet demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy in London and the next day I filmed the same thing in Bern, Switzerland. So I never forget Tibet Day. How times have changed! That first filming was done on film using a clockwork Bolex camera and then was edited using a slicer and Sellotape to physically cut up the film as part of the editing process. 35 years in the life of our planet is nothing, a mere breath of wind but, for me, it has been a long, wonderful, exhausting journey of hundreds of films. One day I must attempt to write a book about the stories I have dived into, the people and places I have encountered, and the ins and outs of television and cinema. Fear not, there are enough funny moments to make it bearable, dear reader.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t busy and right now is no different. YOUNG PICASSO has been launched into the world and is doing just fine. There are plenty of countries that have yet to commence the screenings but those that have are reporting good attendances and, even more importantly in the long term, very positive reactions. It is a fascinating tale with the most wonderful artwork. I’ve been lucky too that Picasso’s grandson Olivier has been so generous with his time and is helping with his attendance at premieres and press screenings. Coming soon we will both be attending a screening at the superb Bayeler gallery in Basel as well as hopefully the press launch in Milan prior to its release in Italy. Also soon the film is screening in both Malaga and Barcelona film festivals – which is an honour and a treat. Someone at a recent screening suggested I move on to the next stage of his life – a Part 2 if you like. I don’t think even I have the energy for that though…
My colleague David has almost finished a gorgeous film that I know you’ll all enjoy. Entitled VAN GOGH & JAPAN it begins with the major exhibition of the same name held at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam but then travels to Japan to explore what was it about Japanese art that so influenced Vincent van Gogh. We’re busy on the last few days now of captioning, subtitling, crediting and so on. All these last Post-Production tasks are extremely time-consuming and all carry the dread of making a single mistake. For me, there is nothing worse than sitting in a screening of a new film of ours and seeing a subtitling mistake or a name missed off the credits. On my In Search of Mozart film I filmed dozens of live concerts and interviewed maybe 100 people – so the credits at the end were very extensive. Lo and behold, after its release I had a phone call from a singer I’d missed off one of the concert’s cast list. I vowed to try even harder for that not to happen again.