Here We Go Again

Regular members of The Readership will recall my posts late last year on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, and it’s attack on free speech as pertaining so called “violent pornography”.

Well, as expected, that bill passed and is now being used to protect us against something else that isn’t a threat.

And this time it’s really personal.

The fuckers are going after comics.

The problem arises around this Bill used in conjunction with Section 49 of the Coroners And Justice Bill, currently being reviewed before making it’s way to the Lords. Take a look:

It is an offence for a person to be in possession of a prohibited image of a child.

A prohibited image is an image which—
is pornographic,
falls within subsection (6), and
is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

(3) An image is “pornographic” if it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.

(4) Where (as found in the person’s possession) an image forms part of a series of images, the question whether the image is of such a nature as is mentioned in

subsection (3) is to be determined by reference to—
(a) the image itself, and
(b) (if the series of images is such as to be capable of providing a context for the image) the context in which it occurs in the series of images.

(5) So, for example, where—
(a) an image forms an integral part of a narrative constituted by a series of images, and
(b) having regard to those images as a whole, they are not of such a nature that they must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal, the image may, by virtue of being part of that narrative, be found not to be pornographic, even though it might have been found to be pornographic if taken by itself.

(6) An image falls within this subsection if it—
(a) is an image which focuses solely or principally on a child’s genitals or anal region, or
(b) portrays any of the acts mentioned in subsection (7).

(7) Those acts are—
(a) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with or in the presence of a child;
(b) an act of masturbation by, of, involving or in the presence of a child;
(c) an act which involves penetration of the vagina or anus of a child with a part of a person’s body or with anything else;
(d) an act of penetration, in the presence of a child, of the vagina or anus of a person with a part of a person’s body or with anything else;
(e) the performance by a child of an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive or imaginary);
(f) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive or imaginary) in the presence of a child.

Got all that? Anyone see the problem yet?
Well, as with the CJIB last year, the issue is with the distressingly vague terms with which the terms are couched. That old chestnut “must reasonably be assumed to” creeps into the text on more than one occasion. And of course “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.” That really ties it down, don’t it? My idea of grossly offensive is, I will bet you anything you like, different to my neighbour, the nice lady at the petrol station or the average copper who has to try and make sense out of this lax, lazy attempt at anti-child porn legislation.

In fact, it gets almost surreal. Please, reread section 7, subsection (e) and (f). And then shed a tear for the unicorns.

Let me make it simple for you. A drawing of a child is not a child. A drawing of a character that looks child-like is not a child. A drawing of that character engaged in pursuits and endeavours of an adult nature is still not a child. Tell you what, you tell me. How old is Astro Boy?


How about Princess from Battle of The Planets?

(incidentally, this pic was hosted on the BBC Cult website, which described it as… oh, see for yourself).

One more, as noted on the Comic Shop Voice website when mentioning the even more bothersome Section 52, which states:

(6) Where an image shows a person the image is to be treated as an image of a child if the impression conveyed by the image is that the person is shown as a child.


and for comparison…


(which I ganked from the Daily Mail website, who seem more than happy to print this kind of pic. Actually, linky to the whole page for more pics with kid actors underneath, which viewed out of context could be seen to be highly inappropriate.)

So, yet again, another piece of badly thought out, poorly examined and potentially ruinous legislation from a government that is passing laws that seek to criminalise me with every passing month.

Seriously. I own a copy of Lost Girls. Under the new laws, that makes me a criminal. God only knows what that makes Alan Moore.

Links for you to read include Comic Shop Voice who have a more detailed and much angrier version of the argument, and The Comic Book Alliance, a force for good in the industry. The Register have a very good (ie effing terrifying) version of events here.

There’s a big meet in Brighton about the whole situation this Monday. Bleeding Cool have the details. Worth lending your support.

Daily Bread

BDDA2F02-E437-47F0-860E-749FF0D33D82.jpgI love making bread. I’m a sucker for the fug of a fresh-baked loaf, especially when I’m together enough to get the breadmaker going overnight, to be woken by the warm, yeasy scent drifting up the stairs. Regardless of what the day has in store, that has to be a good start. Experimentation has led me to create my own loaf, a white/wholemeal mix that, while not especially innovative, is entirely delicious and exceedingly versatile.

There are those, of course, who claim that I’m not really making bread at all. By using a breadmaker I’m simply replicating at home scale the worst excesses of commercial bread production. If I truly cared about the holy loaf, I’d be getting my hands mucky in a bowl.

And I do, on occasion. And it is incredibly rewarding. I get a real sense of pride from sliding a cracly-warm dome of deliciousness out of the oven, just holding off from tearing into it with my bare hands until it’s cooled enough to eat safely. I haven’t bought bread from a bakers or supermarket in years, and I’m thinking locally in terms of ingredients as well. My favourite flour is ground at the watermill at Mapledurham, five miles down the road, which is the last working waterdriven corn and grist mill on the planet.

And I’m trying to branch out a little too, as summer creeps closer and I feel the urge for flatbreads and pizzas outside. One of my dreams for the refurbished back end of the garden is a wee wood-fired oven I can use to indulge my artesian fantasies. Pizza All Hallows will be a wonderful thing. I can already taste it.

A fascinating article in The Atlantic has just popped up online, regarding the intellectual property of recipes, and what happens after bakers break up. It’s got some interesting things to say about the often complicated machinations and relationships that go on behind the creation of something as simple as the daily loaf.

I promise success will not change me…

A sunny Friday afternoon in Cambridge. Thinking Girl’s Crumpet Clive and I are in town for the Super 8 festival, where for reasons that remain pleasingly unclear, Code Grey is in competition.

Always up for a party if nothing else, we’ve met up with Doco Domsy and set ourselves up with booze and grub. It’s the perfect afternoon for slightly beery chat about films and film-making, and the three of us indulge fully. At the back of my mind, the thought that there is a Q&A at the end of our screening that I maybe should not be head-dribblingly drunk for raises a tentative hand before getting shouted down. I’m far more eloquent after three pints or so. I’m a goddamn raconteur after five.

We wander through Cambridge, Dom taking photos for an imaginary press kit. I feel a little bit like a rock star, and a lot like a drunken twat. I can’t really give the camera love, but I do a mean growl. Which’ll do, apparently.

One last beer by the Cam, and I start to get the giggles. And I don’t feel drunk at all. Just nervous. But ready. This isn’t like a Straight 8 screening. I know exactly what’s being presented. There’s no fall back now. This is a film that’s had some hard work and a lot of heart and soul poured into it. It’s grown up now, and it’s ready to strut like a player.

I poke my head into the screening room a half-hour beforehand to announce my presence (resisting the urge to bellow “L’auteur est arrive” – alright, it was six pints by now) to be greeted by Simon, one of the organisers, who was so pleased to see me that he did a little dance. More people should do that. I might have to insist on it.

The room fills, and we settle in for the programme. Fifteen films, a strong European presence, and a fearsome sense of the quirky and surreal. Code Grey feels positively mainstream amongst the art pieces, documentaries and animation on display. We’re just a dumb little shuck and jive show with a neat little idea at it’s heart. We’re on last, and don’t quite get the reaction I was hoping for. Chuckles rather than belly laughs. That’s the problem if you make a comedy. There’s no such thing as an appreciative silence.

After the films, the Q&As. It’s a room full of directors, and they’re all erudite, amusing and interesting. I, on the other hand, have had six pints and am a twitchy mess. I gabble through my questions, pointing out Clive and trying to namecheck everyone, trying to crack a few funnies, and doing the one thing I really didn’t want to which was to out myself as a colourist. I don’t like to talk about the day job when I’m being a film-maker. Especially as I knew at least one person afterwards would make the joke about a colourist making a black and white film.

This did indeed happen, and the smile I gave was indeed as thin as you’re imagining.

Two minutes or an hour and a half later, depending on where you were standing, I sat back down. I was shaking faintly. But I was assured by Clive and Dom that I had indeed been charming, witty and erudite, and that people had laughed at my jokes. However, in a headrush of unprovoked egotism I’d given myself full credit for the idea behind Code Grey, which was all Clive’s.

I took shit for that for the rest of the night, and deservedly so.

Unfortunately, there seemed little opportunity to meet with the other directors after the screening, as the other bar at the University Student Union was hosting a members-only darts night, and seemed unwilling to let us stick around. Shame, as I’d genuinely wanted to congratulate the guys that made it down to Cambridge on a job well done. I’ll try and dig out some links to my faves over the next few days.

After the screening, there was little to do but eat and drink more, and chat about films and film-making until the early hours, which we did at the very excellent Cambridge Chop House, and our digs for the night, The Portland Arms. These places are both most worthy of your patronage.

We left Cambridge the following morning, Clive to his acting classes, me to the Reading Beer Festival, which was another afternoon of beer, food, and yakking. Really, I’m going to need a diet and a vow of silence after this weekend. Twitter has documented my feelings on that one, so check the status bar off to the right.

Turns out if we’d stuck around for the final night, we would have been around to receive our award for best UK film. I had the email with that nugget of good news while starting this post. It’s a result far above and beyond what I could have expected, and proof that there is life after Straight 8. I’m sending massive hugs out to everyone involved in the making of Code Grey, and urge you if you’ve not watched the film yet to check it out.

It’s officially worth your while.

Network Updataria

It’s been a busy few weeks, so I thought I’d let yawl know how things are standing for me and my network of fellow travellers as we move into film-making season. 

This Friday sees me and thinking girl’s eye candy Clive Ashenden in Cambridge for the third Super 8 film festival. Code Grey is the final film of the Friday night competition screening. If anyone’s around, and fancies saying hello, we’d love to see you. Hopefully we’re doing a Q&A afterwards, which should be fun in a nerve-wracking kind of a way. 

Before that, I have a drive to return to Simon Aitken with the finished version of The Making of Blood + Roses on it. This has been a solid learning experience for me, and well worth the struggle. It’s pushed me a bit creatively, which is always good. That ol’ spiritual kick in the pants that’s conducive to opening up the mental sinuses.

If you’re going to mix your metaphors, you may as well do it thoroughly.  

This is another step towards the completion of Simon’s feature, which is now starting to pick up heat following good reports on MJ Simpson’s blog and Zone Horror. I’m seeing him tomorrow, where I can hopefully pick up some pre-Cannes goss. 

Also going to Cannes this year, Michael Booth and Paul ‘Cop’ Coppack of Pleased Sheep Films, who’ll be toting round a rough cut of their second feature Bar Stewards. Their first film Diary Of A Bad Lad is doing really well at the mo, and will be out on DVD soon. Well worth a look if you like a bit of pitch-black mockumentary action. Bar Stewards looks like it’s gonna be a good ‘un too – although a bit less dark in tone. 

Congrats and a Short Film Corner appearance also go to the makers of  Sertoli Sertoli Sertoli, featuring the talents of Lewis Shelborne and Kiki Kendrick – most of our crew on this year’s Straight 8, Time Out.

Speaking of the 8,  we’re in that quiet period before we find out who’s made the grade, who’s got screenings, and which of us will be among the lucky 12 that get shown in a tent at Cannes. Nick Scott, Fiona Brownlie, me and DocoDomsy and hundreds of others are quietly gnawing thier fingernails down to the elbow and wondering.  

Next week, I shall be writing again, and not thinking about Straight 8. That way, madness lies.