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        Tony Steyger





Working at the BBC in the 1990's was exhilarating, not least because no-one believed we could make television programmes from videos shot by members of the public. There were strict men in sandals working in the TV Centre basement who said it simply couldn't - wouldn't - happen.


Of course it did and the Video Diaries and Teenage Diaries were labours of love, wrangling hundreds of hours of unconventional footage into crafted full-length unfolding stories.




Nowadays, these projects might be shot on smartphones but then it was VHS-C format, small-ish tapes fitting into biggish cameras. Rachel is carrying one, seated at a campfire with her mother, who lived either in a horse-drawn wagon or a native American teepee. Rachel was quite embarrassed , I think, and always preferred houses.


Chris Needham, on the other hand, spent most of the time in his bedroom, riven by angst and asked the audience what his life is all about? He finds expression through some truly terrible but brave musicianship. Two teenagers, two ways of life, one common thread. Who am I?




Four years before the first Paralympics proper in 1988, there was the Seventh World Wheelchair Games in 1984, held at Stoke Mandeville. The after parties in huge marquees were something else. It's incredible what can be smuggled into the UK from Africa inside the tubular frames of racing wheelchairs!


Making a sports documentary on videotape involved a great deal of improvisation and luck in those days, carting around heavy 1" video recorders perched on customised shopping trollies and shooting the marathon precariously out of the back of a moving car with not nearly enough consideration for health and safety. They were dangerous but exciting times!




Lurch forward to Ryde in the summer of 2018, the Pride UK event was staged with nearly 20,000 people dancing to Conchita on the beach as the sun set. At the time, the popular weekend event was only the second LGBTQ+ celebration of any kind held on the Isle of Wight.


Like the ever-shifting sands and light on the Ryde shoreline, different every day, the whole island provides an inspiring canvas to work with, always as a character in the films, never as an incidental backdrop.




The slums of Mathare in Nairobi are massive, the second largest in Africa and there's just one toilet for every 500 people. Jeff Ochieng and others guide us through the sprawl, describing the area as a diamond in the rough where many people are happy and full of life.


Africa is a mass of contradictions and the phrase TIA became a useful shorthand for Greg Michael (camera supremo) and myself to understand how time moves in a different way. This is Africa, after all. The Last Taboo won awards have has been shown globally, and although open defecation is still rife, it's less rife.




My father, Leo, was stationed during the second World War at Wrottersley Park just outside Wolverhampton. He was part of the Dutch Free Army and there he met a teenage girl living locally, who was desperate to leave home.


Two years later he married my mother, Peggy, who became a qualified truck driver for the Dutch Red Cross. They criss-crossed the front line, meeting up on weekend leave, as the Allies recaptured Belgium and then Holland. The Love Without Borders project took years to make and I managed to interview my mum before she died.




Stranger Than Know: South Home Town (2015) was initially screened as an installation at the Showcase Gallery before being selected for the Independent Film Festival in New York. There were multiple screens and on one, a two minute drone shot high above the shoreline at Netley Beach, controlled from a boat following the coast in parallel for two miles. This was an early drone shoot, and the fledgling operator went out of business soon afterwards, convicted for a series of deceptions and theft.


The project was created with Steve Hawley and on a third screen were filmed messages (Calling Blighty) from the 1940's from soldiers abroad sent back home to their loved ones and screened in local cinemas. A kind of one-way Skype. At the Opening Night of the installation, members of that original cinema audience were reunited with the long-forgotten footage.



With digital kit came much more functionality. This meant less people doing more things. So, directing and producing often included second camera operation, and monitoring of the pictures could easily be done on a handheld mobile phone via bluetooth, which doubled as a notepad and location stills camera.

But smaller crews often made life more interesting and adding presenters into the mix, as was often the case with BBC's The One Show, meant lively banter. Hannah Stitfall was a joy to work with on natural history shorts, and they always had a sense of drama at their heart, especially with wild animals such as tigers and polar bears.

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