Monday, 15 January 2018


Unless you're a relative, a close friend,  famous yourself, or better yet, all three, making a documentary about someone who is even semi-famous, means dealing with their minders.  After 'Chasing Esa-Pekka'  (at the time conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and 'Frank & Alvar' (architects, Frank Gehry & Alvar Aalto) we said never again.  The Talent was fairly easy but the Minders were armed guards at the gate.  Nice, polite but fiercely demanding.  Esa-Pekka had a PR company guarding his image. They wanted him to see every foot of material before the edit – we had 51 hours.  And made us edit a great line.  I asked him if there were any rough spots in his charmed life after he replaced a conductor in London and got rave reviews. He said, 'There were girls, I was eating, drinking and fucking around.' Bing! But our commissioning editor kindly asked us t to delete it.

Thought I was cured.  But an article in the New York Times about the chefs of San Sebastian (in the Pays Basques hooked me. The town with 187,000 inhabitants in Northwest Spain has earned 16 Michelin stars, the most per capita in the world. It's become a foodie's mecca. What made the story land on the front page was an unlikely twist: instead of competing, the chefs were friends who helped each other. Led by two old hands – Juan Arzak and Pedro Sobijana. The Shark (LMP story editor) loved the idea. I made the reservation for three at Arzak. I told them we had a film company in Finland and were interested in making a documentary for YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) about the food culture in San Sebastian.  When we got to the restaurant they gave us the royal tour. The kitchen with its 30 chefs, the wine cellar, and the lab. Juan Arzak came out and gave us all a kiss on both checks and we took selfies. Then we went to lunch.

Art food (rye bread, sausages and ketchup). 

Lunch was six courses of edible art. We drank extra dry sherry and lots of wine. It was great fun and perfect film material. I called my contact at Arzak to thank her and told her I'd like to come back and do a short test film. She sounded excited about the idea and asked me to email a synopsis. The story we wanted to tell was how Juan and Pedro, after their three-star restaurants were a success, encouraged young chefs to get on board and make Basque cuisine famous. We wanted to include something about the Basque history, one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Europe. Then the ax fell. Arzak thought the documentary should be about them. Juan's daughter Elena is taking over from her father and has got lots of media attention. But one thing we've learned:  a one-hour documentary needs a ton of material.  One three star restaurant, no matter how great, would not do the trick. We passed. T.S. Elliot said, 'Between the idea and the reality falls a shadow.' That says it all.

Next wee: Mining for  MOVIES: Youtube GOLD

Re: AI SHRINK: Erkki thanks for the info about Eliza. But she's not a German Shepherd and I'd have to go online and blah-blah into the whatever-sphere.

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