Television

"We try not to be part of the movie publicity bandwagon"

One of BBC World’s entertainment shows is Talking Movies. As the name suggests the show reviews the latest film releases. Presented by Tom Brook the programme can be seen on Fridays at 1 pm and 7pm.

The New York based Brook joined the BBC in 1976 as a news trainee. Brook has also reported extensively on cinema throughout his broadcasting career. From 1985-1998 he was the US correspondent for the BBC's flagship cinema programme Film with Barry Norman.

Needless to say Brook has interviewed leading figures in contemporary film - most of the top Hollywood stars and directors. He has attended nearly all the Oscar ceremonies in the past fifteen years and closely monitored new trends in mainstream and independent cinema. He also maintains a keen interest in the arts and media in general. Through email sent by Indiantelevision.com’s correspondent Ashwin Pinto Brook spoke about the different aspects and challenges to film journalism:



Have there been any changes and additions to the format of 'Talking Movies' over the past couple of years?

We have tried to widen the scope of the programme to generate more of our own stories. We try to avoid relying so heavily on studio press events.



How much time and energy goes into making an episode?

A lot! The show is on 52 weeks a year. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we spend writing, shooting and editing. On Thursday and Friday we schedule and research

and plan. Then on the weekends we very often go to press events.

Could you talk about the size of the production team and how the editorial process works?

The production team is small. Basically just five people put the show together. Ideas come from each of us.

We then look at new releases and decide which films warrant coverage. Then we go about making it all happen.

"Basically just five

people put the show together"

How much research do you do before tackling a subject like Movieoke?

Each subject is very thoroughly researched. We read newspaper and magazine articles, make phone calls to gather more direct information.

We also make up a list of possible interviewees. Another challenge is deciding how to put the story together.



While Hollywood is important why doesn't 'Talking Movies' cover trends happening in global cinema?

I would like to reiterate that Hollywood is important. It is one of the most dominant cultural forces in the film world. However we do want to cover global cinema much more.



Are you planning to film a 'Talking Movies' special in India sometime soon where viewers will get the flavour of the Bollywood industry?

Yes we would love to do a talking movies special from India. I think it would be great.

All that is stopping us is our tiny budget but I am sure that won’t hold us back..

In general do you travel a lot in a month while covering film festivals like Sundance and film premieres?

Yes we do. Sundance is in Utah and there are lots of premieres too which we cover in New York.

Then there are several pre Oscar events in different places. So yes, we do have to move about quite a lot.

 
"Cinema is unique! It involves engaging many of our senses"

When you came down here a couple of years ago you had mentioned that one of the things 'Talking Movies' aims at doing is filtering out the hype. How do you achieve this?

I think we take an independent stand on cinema. We try not to be part of the movie publicity bandwagon and we aim to make sure that our coverage is not too celebrity driven.

It is more to do with the tone we adopt and not suspending the normal rules of journalism in covering cinema..



I would like to take you back a bit by asking how you got your start in film journalism?

I have always loved cinema. I began working at the BBC as a news producer and reporter. Then after moving from London to New York twenty years ago drifted into movie journalism.

I started reporting for the Barry Norman programme and it just continued from there.



Besides 'Talking Movies' are you making any film documentaries and other specials for BBC World?

I have just done a HARDtalk interview with Christopher Reeve, a very inspiring man, and that will be broadcast very soon. Prior to the Academy Awards I had interviewed Alec Baldwin who had got his first nomination.



Earlier you used to work with Barry Norman when he hosted the 'Film' series. that did you learn from him that you were able to imbibe later on as a show host?

IBarry is a great writer. I have always admired him for that and for his dry but very human sense of humour.

I am not sure what I have imbibed but I do think of him quite a bit when I am working so he has had a big impact on me.





When you have to film an entire episode as a special like you will be doing at Cannes what are the main challenges you face?

I am in Cannes right now. Our budget only permits us to be at the festival for just a few days. Therefore we cannot cover everything we want.

So the main challenge is to report on non-English language cinema. Another challenge for us is to not let the strong Hollywood presence overwhelm our programme content.





I once read that one of my favourite actors Daniel Day Lewis is media shy. Was he easy to interview for 'Gangs of New York'?

He is a very engaging and quite intense actor. I get the impression that he is media shy.

From the press point of view he gives elliptical and very intelligent answers to questions. Some journalists find that frustrating because they want pithy quotes..

"We would love to do a 'Talking Movies' special from India.

All that is stopping us is our tiny budget"

Could you dwell on how the advent of the Internet has affected the nature of film journalism?

The Internet has totally changed the way we work. It means that our audience has become much more cinema literate and they often know much more about movie developments than we do.

It is great because the internet also means we have common cultural reference points. Therefore we can all be thinking and talking about our responses to the same film at the same time wherever we live.





As a reporter what according to you was the single biggest trend that happened in cinema over the past year? I suppose that viewers taking a greater interest in the documentary genre would be one.

That is hard to answer. But yes you are right the documentary is really enjoying a great renaissance. I as a lover of non-fiction narratives really welcome it.

Could you give me an idea of the contests that you run from time to time? Are you planning to introduce one that will involve participants making a short feature?

Our young filmmaker competition was very successful. We are discussing whether another might be possible. Our first competition yielded some fantastic films so I hope we can repeat it.

Finally for you what is unique in covering and reporting on film compared with other subjects that you worked on earlier in your career like business, finance, sports?

Cinema is unique! It involves engaging many of our senses. It can stimulate our fantasies, force us to confront harsh realities and makes us value the wonder

of the human spirit.

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