Monday, 22 December 2014

amazon gift vouchers..extra value

Give your Christmas Gift voucher presents more value..

The Chelsy Swann.

The Stack  by RJ Dodd.

Maginty's Quest  by Chelsy Swann.

The Fiddler  by RJ Dodd

All four great stories written by the owners of this blog site and all available on amazon in your part or the kindle form or paperback.

Merry Christmas and a very Prosperous New Year.

If you dont celebrate Christmas then still have a nice time.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Got the Paddle..where's the canoe?

Did I ever tell you…Of the time I was working down at the very tip of India, in the state of Kerala.
We were staying at the Kovalum Beach Resort.

In those days, mid seventies, it was a very rare and attractive hotel that sprawled down a gently sloping cliff face and every room and large terrace had a view over the fantastic Kovalum beach which curved away into the distance to finally be obscured by the foam from the breakers.

There were a number of very active, and for India, seemingly prosperous fishing villages dotted along the beach and one was just outside of the hotel compound, a short walk from the hotel bar down the well guarded path.

One evening the crew were as usual propping up the bar knocking back a few beers and getting quite merry when pandemonium broke out.

 The hotel staff were running around doing a bit of weeping and wailing and calling for divine help.
Apparently one of the fishermen from the village had gone missing during a fishing trip and everyone presumed he was a gonner..including us.

 We returned to the bar and continued with our hobby, getting drunk.

Some thirty minutes or so later the noise of weeping had diminished a little and we were a little more drunk..The Manager appeared and apologised for the scene we had witnessed as it must have been a little embarrassing for us.

 The problem was that the missing fisherman was from our local village and nearly everyone employed in the hotel was a relative of his
We asked what sort of rescue operation had been set up to search for the man..”None” he said…”we don’t have such a thing, his fate is in the hands of The Almighty” And with that he left us.

The producer on this particular trip had a slight fetish, he saw himself as the archetypal Englishman. He never travelled anywhere in the world, no matter how hot or dusty or tropical, without wearing a black pinstripe three piece suit, plus collar and old school tie and Oxford wing tipped shoes..

And that’s what he was wearing now as he said to me in the words I will never forget “We cannot let this happen, just sitting here getting drunk when a poor chap might be dying for want of some effort” or very near to those words anyway....

And so it was a few minutes later that both of us were down on the beach pushing a canoe out into the Indian Ocean.

What we had failed to spot in our very drunken state was the fact that the canoe was the only one left down near the waters edge…very much on its own., but it seemed to float very nicely so we hopped aboard. and grabbing a paddle each we headed off into the pitch black night……..


At this very tip of India the two oceans from either side meet and to put it mildly, collide.
This causes the water to churn on the surface and heaven knows what type of strong currents are running deep underwater.

We were to find out.

After vigorously paddling for some time we hit this maelstrom of water .It was rough. and it suddenly got very tough..

The canoe we were riding in departed..without warning it serenely sank beneath the Ocean waves and left us floating, with just two small wooden paddles. It happened so quickly that we didn’t speak for a few moments and during that time we both got very sober.

Here we were bobbing about. The hotel lights were fading in the distance very fast and in a short while we lost sight of them completely. The current was strong and we could actually feel it towing us further out.

We locked the two paddles together and contemplated our fate, or rather our imminent demise.

This was how it stacked up.

A long way South of us, several thousand miles, was Antarctica, immediately to our left was Malaysia and just beyond that Australia, again, several thousand miles and many days of floating along clutching our paddles.

 It would never happen, this was the Indian Ocean which is apparently stuffed with man eating things called sharks.

The thought that in a few hours time we would be shark shit did not make us very happy and we both went very silent, each with our own thoughts.

We floated for a very long and sombre time, waiting for that first strike. I did keep my legs up as much as I could and never let on

Do you believe in miracles. I never did .The parting of the Red Sea, the Five loafs and Fishes, Turning water into wine. That was just great storytelling and total myth to me.

And then a miracle turned up.

Way out there in the Ocean, having almost given up hope, a small canoe came out of the darkness, at great speed. It almost went straight over the top of us.

We both desperately grabbed the outrigger that those canoe’s had and it came to a sudden stop.
Had it been twenty or even ten feet away we would never have stopped it and I feel sure the fisherman onboard wouild not have stopped..would you..

The man on board must have been near a heart attack as he looked down and saw two white faces peering up at him,grinning wildly.

White sea monsters..

I have often wondered what his thoughts were as we struggled aboard. Two Englishmen and one wearing a complete Saville Row outfit. I bet his grandkids think he is nuts.

He did manage to keep his cool as we requested he drop us off at our hotel.

Two happy endings to this story. The fisherman took us to our beach and kindly dropped us off and on returning to the Hotel bar we were told by a bemused but delighted manager that the “Lost” fisherman had been found .

Moral of the story..If you ever steal a canoe, stay sober and make sure the bugger floats..

Saturday, 13 December 2014

THE FIDDLER, a new novel,and a famous actor.

The Fiddler, a novel adapted from a film script and now published on amazon ...worlwide

As some of you may know throuogh reading these blogs the main character in the story is a young Italian,Dante Gabriele, who was raised on a family farm in Southern Italy in the late 1700's
Dante had been taught to play the violin by his uncle, the parish priest and he was quite adept.

A chance encounter with a group of musicians tempts  him to leave his family home and go on the road to try and seek fame and fortune as a musician.

That is the kernel of the story.

Where did the idea come from for the story?.

We all now live in the age of rapid and personalised communication, most in the advanced countries can access almost any electronic messaging system, talk ..with added pictures.. to our friends and contacts all round the world in there is the constant stream of TV which keeps everyone informed of world events almost a soon as they take place and we also see it as perfectly I got to wonder how it must have been for someone born into Dantes wedge of history..absolutely no communication systems whatsoever, anywhere.

So how did the word spread that a certain orchestra needed were the concerts publicised, almost no-one could read, so posters were out of the question, no newspapers. It could only have been by word of mouth  and that word would have been carried on the speediest form of transport available,a horse.

Given that here were very few formal road systems it figures that the horse would take a long time to get the info that would be conveyed by the rider would have aged somewhat by the time it reached its destination.....and so it was that Dante's chance meeting gave him so much info that he felt compelled to take the opportunity presented and enter the brave new world of music.

He was never going back to the farm.

OK..  So Dante is off on his adventures..where he mets all manner of folk..some good..some bad..and none of them seem to care about him.

That's where the famous actor comes in.

As I wrote the script and then the novel one character kept placing itself right in front of me...arms folded across his chest on  and staring...what started off as a small character part began to grow and grow..soon this character became the essential all of the scenes/chapters he appears in he plays a pivotal part in Dantes life...for both good and evil.

That characters name is Giacomo Grande..Giacomo is an entertainer in the high society world of that period.

Giacomo is a dwarf.

That dwarf can only be played by one person... a brilliant actor.
Peter Dinklage.

So I now have a book that is beginning to sell well and a script that the book was adapted from...and I would love to get one version or the other to Patrick...but no-one seems able to find the name of his Agent...not even the many contacts I have in the movie business.

So what do I do..I ASK YOU.

If any of you know the info I seek then please contact me at my e-mail address

I would be very grateful. Thank you.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Fiddler

The Fiddler is now available worldwide on kindle and paperback from all branches of amazon.
A novel from a screenplay ,written by Cinematographer Richard Dodd.
A film waiting for a Director/Producer.
Check it out and read the first five chapters for free at    or any other amazon outlet.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

the Fiddler

The Fiddler
Great news....The Fiddler is now available on kindle...worldwide from amazon.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Fiddler

The Fiddler
RJ Dodd
Yep, thats me..RJ Dodd..not the fiddler, I am completely tone deaf and unable to play any instrument at all..but I always wanted to be a Rock n Roller..oh woe..
The Fiddler is a new novel which will be published within the next two weeks and it explores the murky world of the Rock n Rollers of the 18th century, particularly the ones in Italy..which is a good idea as the story is set in Rome,Venice and a mysterious nunnery way up in the dolomites.
Why Rock n that period of history?.. Well I have always subscribed to the idea that musicians of any era including the headbangers of today are very much the same basic breed of people..extroverts, headbangers, talented, hedonistic and ruthless pursuers of all that is naughty, bad and great fun in life..yes, including imbibing all of the goodies of their time.
That is why the sub title of the book is called  "Sex,Drugs and a String Quartet"
Nothing has really changed in the world of music for centuries. Travellin musicians were always welcomed in medieval Europe and beyond, but they were always regarded as being somewhat to the side of what passed for civil society in those days and were often encouraged to leave the vicinity after theuir particullar gig was over..and then the locals would count how many chickens had gone missing and how many daughters were impregnated.
The origins of the Fiddler began some years ago with the simple thought..How did people who lived in remote areas of Europe,and elswhere , in the days of complete absence of any form of communication, except word of mouth, ever get to know what was happening in their world.
In this instance I placed a young man who worked on the family farm some distance from Rome and who was a talented natural violin player in the path of a travelling orchestra that was passing through his area on its way to Rome.
The accidental meeting changed his life forever.
The story started out as a two page synopsis for a screenplay, which we sold to a USA film production company.The deal was done, we were pleased with the contract and terms, the movie was going to be made.
Then we had a letter from the comapmaie lawyers sayingb they wanted to chanfge the their favour.
After some cross Atlantic messaging and the involvement of contract lawyers we decided to pull thye story and we reluctantly consigned it to a drawer.
Some years later we dug it out again and wrote a screenplay, which involved a modern rock band interweaving with the orchestra from long went for that idea so the heavy metal boys were dropped..CLANG..and we moved onto a single strand storyline.
No-one ever read the script because we never sent it to market..
Some years later (honest) the script was dug out of the drawer,again, and we decided to turn it into a novel..tricksy stuff.
Two years in the writing, I was busy doing other things, like shooting some TV Drama series, the finished article is about to be unleashed upon the world....and it is more filmic as a book than it was as a script.
We hope you like it.
It will be available from amazon worldwide..I will post the release date here on the blog.
PS: the cover of the book is from a very old engraving someone gave to me as a present, it came from America and is titled  The Fiddler

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Deafening Sound of Silence

One of the most evocative lyrics to emerge from the partnership of Simon and Garfunkel and a major hit for them.

Mary Lou and I have, over the past month, endured one of the most stressful things that humans can do, we moved homes.It was an appalling experience.

I won’t dwell on the details too much but almost everything we worried about came true.

The removal men were great, very professional, but their truck was too small and what was planned as a two journey move turned into a four journey one and we finished up stacking remnants of the contents into our car, not to mention the logistics of keeping a highly stressed cat away from the main activity area…we locked her in a bathroom for two days, with food and water of course, plus the occasional hug and some soothing words as we passed from an inner city apartment block into a house in a very remote farming village at the foot of the Italian Dolomites.

We had then to wait for the famous Italian beurocratic machine to creak into action and grant us leave to actually purchase domestic supply gas from a provider, that took two weeks for someone to sign and stamp a piece of paper.We are almost thawed out now, but hey it was worth it.

We now reside in a small but perfectly formed farming village with stunning views of the mountains and at the bottom of our very long garden we can step through a garden gate and almost into the local supermarket which just happens to be next door to the only bar in town…Idyllic..

In more ways than one and which brings me back to the title of this article.

It is silent here….for the first time in years we are surrounded by almost total silence for long sections of the day..It makes a powerful noise.

Last night I lay awake in the early hours and revelled in the fact that I could hear nothing, no vehicles, motorbikes,chatter from the odd drunken group making their way home, the very noisy street cleaning machine, bakery delivery trucks etc,and the complete absence of near neighbours carrying out their bathroom ablutions.

Silence is an abomination on mainsteam is abhorred, banned, almost totally eliminated, why?

Some of the very best feature movies of recent years have joined the telly noise makers, the soundtracks are at earsplitting levels and in my opinion totally detract from the scene on the screen..

I am in the fortunate position of being able to view, for judging purposes, the entrants in the BAFTA Foreign Film section.
The difference is quite marked…these foreign johnies certainly know how to keep quiet when quiet is called for.

Sometimes a situation between two actors is carried out by looks, glances, small body movements etc, and its not because the scripwriters are being paid by the word and the producer has a limited budget but because they know how to use silence….and they let silence become a dominant player, it becomes the conduit, it crosses between the characters and conveys all manner of information.

We do not need the spoken word at all times and at all costs, keep the crashing music away, let the receiving sensors in our overstretched brains enjoy the very loud and crystal clear Sounds of Silence.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Maginty's Quest.
The Stack
The Sandrunners
Now all on kindle from amazon   worldwide.
Written by Mary Lou Brown and Richard Dodd,,(Pen name ..  Chelsy Swann)

Saturday, 13 September 2014


This is a short tale, but it sticks in my memory so maybe you will also enjoy it….
A day out on the ‘USS NIMITZ’ you will see from the picture this is one Mother of a ship…one of the biggest tonnage vessels in the USA Navy.

I was sent down to Naples in Italy with a crew to do a short documentary on this naval titan as it set off on a patrol around the Gulf of Libya…in those days the Libyan state, controlled by Col Ghaddafi, who was not considered to be a friend of the Western world and it was constantly monitored by Allied navies.

After an eventful night in Naples..(Another story) we were picked up at the dockside and transferred to the Nimitz which was moored out in the bay.

Once on board we were shown to our quarters and invited to the Officers mess to meet our press liaison Officer. We all enjoyed our welcoming drink of a cola.

Yep.. all USA Navy vessels are dry. .no alcohol whatsoever, ever, nada, zilch.. this was a three day trip but it already stretched out ahead of my near alcoholic crew like a lifetimes sentence.

OK, So, parched, alcohol free and already showing anxiety levels akin to those who go cold turkey on any addiction we set off on a filmic tour of this leviathan of the waves.


A one point I was able to stand at what can only be described as a crossroad of gangways, one in each direction. they all dwindled off into the distance for what seemed like hundreds of bulkhead doors.

Then there was the storage and engineering deck.

 This is immediately below the flight deck, its like several football fields joined together and it is stuffed full of aircraft, of all shapes and sizes but mainly fighter attack planes as one would expect, but the thing that really amazed me was the number of engineers who live down there, it seemed like thousands of them, all beavering away on engines and broken bits.

When we talked to some of these men they all said they had never been on the flight deck, they were on board for the two year mission and their aim was to work, pump iron in the vast gymnasium, eat, pass exams, eat some more, pump more iron and SAVE MONEY…these were serious people..and they had a lot to be serious about.

On our mission there had been a dog fight with a couple of Ghaddafi’s Migs out over the Gulf and both of them had been brought down.

Time for a modest celebration in the Officers mess, modest it certainly was as we downed copious amounts of Coca Cola, but for these steely eyed Top Gun boys it could have been the best champagne or beer in the world.

The operation of Jets taking off and landing seemed to be a 24/7 task as jet after jet catapulted off the flight deck and the incoming hit the deck with a thump and were then taken down to the maintenance deck for a mechanics rub down.

We met and interviewed the Captain of the vessel, this man was a USA Hero going back to the Vietnam war, it was reputed that he had been shot down on two occasions behind enemy lines and fought his way back with just a small hand gun, a tough cookie indeed, if it were me then one time being shot down would have sufficed.

The interview was arranged to be filmed on the flight control deck, the Captains Bridge, that’s the tall spiky tower in the pic.

  All was set up, the skipper arrived and we began, except we couldn’t..

Every time we started the interview the sound man would shout “Cut”…he had a problem with his recording machine, in those days it was a Nagra, A state of the art recorder and a reel to reel ,very reliable, but this one would only turn round in short bursts of a couple of seconds. It didn’t take long to work out that the signal from the large rotating radar dish, just above our heads was sending out such a strong magnetic field that it actually stopped the recorder from working.

We quickly found another venue for our chat but it did give me food for thought that if the signal was that strong it could stop the recorder …what was it doing to the personnel who spent hours working on that deck every day…just a thought.. They all seemed quite normal..

OK..we did the usual documentary stuff for a few days , nice pics of the aircraft taking off and landing, some little escapades and near accidents but it all went relatively smoothly.

And then came the day of our departure.

The ship can stay at sea for over two years without re-fuelling and personnel rarely got to go on shore leave but for those in an emergency they can be flown off.

Not many volunteered.

At the appointed hour my crew assembled at the detailed departure point on the flight deck.

All equipment boxes securely fastened and stacked neatly, Navy style.. Then I looked around the deck. It was completely stuffed with fighter planes, row upon row of them, dozens of them, it was all you could see..

What I couldn’t see was a flight deck for my plane to trundle along to take off.

And where was our transport plane. .nowhere in sight.

Then a huge hole in the flight deck opened up and like the Phoenix from the ashes our twin prop driven aircraft arose. Its wings were folded up like a broken bird. They were soon flattened out and now it looked as though it was capable of flight…except.. there was no runway.

Then it dawned on me.

These lunatics were actually going to catapult us off the deck.

And we were lunatics for agreeing to it…not that we were ever asked.

They were really going to sling us off the very short flight deck on a catapult..

Most people today have flown, the plane taxis to the end of a VERY LONG RUNWAY..

They then run up the engines to high revs and start rolling down several hundred yards of concrete runway. .at a certain speed lift is achieved and the aircraft powers serenely into the blue yonder..

As aircraft went, ours was quite small, but it was much larger than any of the fighter planes that we had filmed taking off, these massively powerful war planes had been hooked up to the sling. Run their engines up to max power permitted, held back on their brakes and when ready the deck man would give a signal to both pilot and the catapult man and the combined forces of engine and catapult would throw the plane into the sky, an awesome operation.

Best seen from afar as a spectator.

Like sheep unto the slaughter my crew were herded across the deck and quickly kitted out in flight survival jackets, flight helmets, goggles.

Then we were boarded on the rear of the plane, the seats were all facing the tailgate ..we were told to take a brace position on take off and we did. The gear was stowed. The door was locked and now there was no escape.

The plane was trundled over to the end of the catapult section and attached.

 Looking out of the very small window I noticed we had attracted quite a crowd of onlookers.

Dozens of Navy folk were standing around peering at us, thumbs up signs etc were in abundance. I had the feeling that I had suddenly been invited to go into a big stone circular ring with some hungry lions licking heir lips at the other end.

I watched through the small window at the deck control man who I had filmed many times over the last few days giving his usual signals to the pilot, it normally consisted of spinning his index finger at ever growing speeds.

 This digital movement was copied on board the plane by the engines being revved to ear splitting level, the plane was threatening to tear itself apart as the engines reached maximum revs and then came the executioners moment.

The deckman stopped his murderous spinning and pointed forward with what I thought was a flamboyant gesture .At that moment I hated that man.

But I had no time to dwell on how I wanted to kill him as I was being propelled into the air at a limb wrenching speed ..and suddenly we were airborne, we soared away from the deck which I could see rapidly dwindling in the small window..

Brilliant…no doubt this was an exhilarating moment.

And then we stopped flying…

Apparently this is normal. .But I didn’t know it.

As we went rapidly down towards the ocean the aircraft made a valiant attempt to reach airspeed, it transpired that the catapult actually throws the plane off the deck at a much higher speed than the plane can fly at and it really just starts to fall into the sea.

The screeching from the engines was now overwhelming and the plane appeared to resemble a million rivets flying in loose formation.

The glistening ocean was fast approaching and I made all of my prayers, in Urdu, Hebrew, Christian , Rastafarian and all of the rest…this was it, the end. The Big End…it was just a few hundred feet away and arriving quickly.

 Bye Bye life, Sex, Boozing, Watching Footie, and then as we were about to impact we started to lift.. we were actually flying… we seemed to just skim over the top before we began a stately ascent to a safer altitude.

Now it became clear to me why all those big body building, gluttonous, money saving mechanics never left the ship on its two year cruise.

 This was the only way off.

They should all retire as rich men..

Two short footnotes to this story.

The Cargo master who had flown with us told me they had lost two of these aircraft recently and it always drew a good audience of ghouls on the Nimitz to see if we could make it. He happily confessed that he had a death wish… Thanks fellas.

We were landed at an airbase on an Italian island, Sicily I think, and we were transported to our hotel by a Navy driver who had a big blue bus.

 On the way into the town, in the local rush hour we were struck a number of times by other vehicles.

 Our driver seemed completely unfazed, I asked him why. He said “Its always like this, none of these guys have ever learned how to drive, they have been driving like this FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS and aint got the hang of the motor car yet”

I guess he didn’t graduate with a major in history from his high school..

Still, as usual was a pleasure to have completed another little adventure with the American Forces.

Superstar to Old Age Pensioner

Superstar to Old Age Pensioner

This might turn out to be a difficult item to write, mainly because it is based on rumour and my own hazy recollections but the idea for it came from this weeks cover on The Hollywood Reporter which features six famous actors who seem to have been around forever

Ed Asner
Larry Hagman
Debbie Reynolds
Eva Maria Saint
Betty White
Mickey Rooney

All of them have had astonishingly successful careers and are fortunate enough to be still employable, and therefore able to make some money.

I wont detail the careers of these six extremely talented icons of the silver screen, we remember their performances, but what about the ones we have forgotten about, those famous faces of their day, never off the telly or starring in a movie, where are they and how do they exist

Every year I am invited to a re-union of my old film department, a gathering which takes place in a very nice hostelry in the UK..

We gather and swap stories, repeatedly, and to some of us boringly, but we do it and enjoy it.

Unfortunately, every year the group could meet in a smaller venue because someone has passed on.

Last year I talked to a colleague from those far away days and it took me some time to realise he had no idea who I was, and we had often worked on the same camera crew, I had lost my hair, gone bald, and he had developed Alzheimer’s.

Appallingly sad for him, all I had lost was hair, he had completely lost all of his memory, he even had a minder with him to make sure he made it home, and he is younger than me..

The point is that every day we all get a little older but when you are used to seeing someone on the screen be it TV or Cinema you tend to remember them with that image in mind. Unfortunately they are all humans too and they age just the same as us lesser mortals.

Some years ago I worked out of LA, had an apartment in Sherman Oaks, in the Valley as it was called.

Several evenings a week I would be at some vast party or gala evening, all very posh and black tie, great fun, all of the stars were usually there, some had not worked for donkeys years but were still Hollywood legends, they all looked great, had great vitality and zest for life, just as they had been when they performed on screen, they all seemed to have very deep pockets, all of these functions were money raising events for some charity or other, they were all expected to contribute, and I am not talking loose change here, these people donated thousands of bucks, and it could be several times a week. .serious money.

Where did they get it from?

I have no idea about the financial affairs of the six on the front page but they all seem to live very well, maybe they were shrewd and saved some of the dosh they got.

Stars today command much more than any of our cover stars so they do have a chance to invest for their old age or their inevitable fall from the spotlight…Not all of them do.

Think about the cost of being a Superstar
Personal Assistant, even models have those.
Fitness instructor
Gym fees Limo..

And then there is the house..

John and Bo Derek moved way out of Hollywood onto a remote Ranch, eschewed the Hollywood scene, must have saved a lot of money not attending those functions.

Another International Star lived on a quiet stretch of the coast road north of LA, in a modest house, for a star.

When I visited him the maid asked me to wait by the pool and our hero would join me out there.

A few minutes later a small man, with a humpback and dragging his foot like Quasimodo, carrying a tray with some drinks on it, made his way slowly from the house and set the tray on my table.

I stood up and said.”Hello Mr xxxxx, Nice to meet you”

He was not happy, he was an actor and had put on a performance for me and I had spotted the real person, not surprising really if you knew who it is am referring to. But this man too had moved out of Beverly Hills.

He explained that he was still regarded as an International Hollywood Star but he had not made a movie in years, he was not far from being short of cash…He was still expected to go to functions and spray cash around etc but he did not have the income anymore…So he moved out of town.

Another world famous star arranged for me to go her house in the Beverly Hills…It was a mansion…acres of grounds, all well attended.

I arrived and rang the doorbell, no answer, the door was slightly open so I pushed it further and shouted into the deserted and vast hallway, no answer, calling out “Hello, anyone there” I ventured further into the massive property.. Still no sound, then I heard a response from a back room that overlooked the enormous lawn..."Through the rear of the house."

There, in a darkened room was a little old man, sitting in front of a make up mirror, except it wasn’t an old man but the superstar without her wig on to cover her almost bald head.

She had no staff and had reduced the gardeners to short time.

"Why?" I asked.

“Money, sweetheart “ she replied, or rather lack of it.

So even the well known ones find it difficult to keep up appearances but what happens to the second billed actors in shows like Miami Vice…Hawaii Five O …Columbo etc, there must be hundred or even thousands of them that have never worked for years but who are all instantly recognisable.

Do they open corner shops, drive taxis, pretend they have dosh but run up massive debts…who knows, but it would be fascinating to find out .

Friday, 29 August 2014

A Cinematographers look at the Designer..

Cinematography-Film Through The Pan Glass Part 3

This will be an irregular and hopefully humorous look at the TV and Film world through the eye of a busy Director of Photography…Me..

Lets take a look at..

The Design Department.

We are about to enter a Fearful, Fantastical, Magical World.

Where everything is possible.


Above the door of every Design Department there should be a sign that reads…

I bet you think I am kidding…afraid not..!

As you enter the palace of design you will probably spot the holy one (The Designer) sitting at the far end of the hallowed chamber behind a huge desk which will be littered with scripts and various knick knacks, toys, catalogues, brochures, etc.

He will be surrounded and protected by the Praetorian Guard:

 The Assistant Designer (the right hand person);

 the Graphic designer; the graphic teccy person;

The Production Buyer and several hangers on from the construction crews and set dressing crews.

They tend to growl at you as you enter the perceived sacred space.

The designer will wait just a moment too long before he beckons you forward for your (Brief) audience.
 He pushes to one side some of the ten untouched latte cups that spread across his desk.

Me “Hi, just wanted to know what colour you are going to paint the main hall to the house”

Him (Pursing of lips) ‘Hmm, (looks across to the Assistant Designer) Haven’t quite got round to that one yet Dearie,..but probably navy Blue.’

Me ’Right….lovely… So very dark then?. And the door will have some glass panels?..Just to provide a light source…It is a major part of the scene…In the hallway…at the front door.’

A gets longer.

Him (very pursed lips now that slowly break into a forced smile)’Glass Panels?’. .Another look across to the Assistant Designer. ‘Don’t think so Dearie, thought it would be nice to have some Antique, hand carved, Thai temple doors, seen some and they are so divine, cost an absolute fortune, but they are so cute.. but bugger the cost… Unfortunately they don’t have glass panels..’

The Assistant Designer is now nodding so vigorously at this that she almost dislocates her head.

There is a murmur of approval from the now attentive assembly. The odd cough and the words  " fifties" can be heard.

Him (Cont) ‘Will that give you a problem Dearie ?’

Me. ‘Yeeess, probably..’

Him.’Dont worry about it I’ll think of something, maybe some Chinese candle holders on the floor in the corner… keep the oriental theme…or something…Ok ?.. Anything else Dearie.. Got to move on ..very busy..’

Me. ‘Thanks for your time. I am sure it will work out..’

It usually doesn’t..

More soon….

Richard Dodd is co founder of Reelshow International and a Director of Photography.

The Big Guessy Game.


A coupla years ago I wrote the following for Reelshow Mag.
The sceeners for next years Oscars will soon be winging their way over to of the great things about being a voting member of BAFTA...and the great guessing game begins.
See how accurate I was with my choices below 
Ok..we have had the rest now try the best..Its the BIG one


Male Actors.
Bardem….Beautiful….wonderful performance, as always. This fella can really act and is probably among the top ten globally.

Bridges….True Grit…Another screen giant he always seems to fill the screen with his personality and in this role he had a legend to portray..He did it as well as anyone could…Even Wayne.

Eisenberg….Social Network ,..A very difficult role with what should have been a very boring story, but Eisenberg made it something else…not an Oscar winner tho…maybe it had something to do with the SouthPark delivery.

Firth….The Kings Speech…Never been a fan of Mr Firth ..I always thought he was playing himself all the time. I was reluctant to watch this date I have seen it at least three times…Maybe Firth was born to play this particular role.

Franco..127 Hours…I never saw this movie so cannot judge but the accounts from other sources give Mr Franco a pat on the back.

Result….Firth…..He is bloody brilliant..

Leading Actresses.

Bening…The Kids are All Right….ok..but it did not grab me…no real highs or lows.

Kidman…Rabbit Hole same as above…forgotten the movie already..Usual solid performance from Nicole tho..

Lawrence…Winters Bone…didn’t see the movie.

Portman….Black Swan…If there was ever something designed to make me want to blow my brains out it is films about ballet dancers..this is a good example of that. Portman does it well tho..

Williams…Blue Valentine….I don’t think I managed to stay for the entire movie.

Result…By a country mile…Portman

Supporting Actors.

Bale…The Fighter…Bale was acting his heart out with this…and it showed…its not supposed to..

Hawkes…Winters Bone….Didn’t see the movie..

Remmer…The Town…cant remember him..

Mark Ruffallo…The Kids are All Right… He got lost in the crowd here..

Rush…The Kings Speech…Wonderful…simply wonderful..


Supporting Actresses.

Adams..The Fighter..Hmmm.

Bonham Carter…The Kings Speech…made the old Queen Mum quite sexy..Played it well.

Lee…The Fighter….Hmmm.

Steinfeld…True Grit….made the movie for me..

Weaver…Animal Kingdom…Didn’t see the movie..

Result…Steinfeld….by a short nose..


How to train your Dragon…Loved it..

The Illusionist….didn’t see the movie..

Toy Shop… usual..and therein lies the problem

Result…How to train your Dragon


Aronovsky…The Black Swan…Excellent work…made even ballet dancing seem entertaining…some nice sex scenes …scary stuff.

O Russell…The Fighter…Competent..just did not get to gonad grabbing level..

Hooper…The Kings Speech…This fella took a story about someone’s speech impediment…yes that’s what its about.. someone who cant speak properly..and has made a block buster out of it…How Fecking clever is that…and it looks brilliant..

Pincher…Social Network…very good movie..wrong year..

Coen Brothers…True Grit…why did they feel the need to bother..competently done as usual. but hey…go look at the original.

Result…The Kings Speech..Tom Hooper…for its sheer chutzpah..

The Academy may see things somewhat differently to me…surprise surprise..They won’t be too keen on another Brit film picking up the top awards so there might be a little partisanship creeping in..Thats OK its their festival…but we will be back…dadum.

Richard Dodd  D.O.P

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Cinematography, Through the Pan Glass, Part 7.

Cinematography-Film Through The Pan Glass Part 7

Richard continues his unique and hopefully humourous look at the film industry.

Ok . Lets see who we can insult this week..

Sorry,. that should read…

”Who’s Job can we define this week”

I know this will land me in a lot of trouble but hey..who cares…Eeny Meeny Miny Mo..


Have you ever been swimming in the Ocean ..not too far from the beach, and suddenly the water starts to bubble and froth up..shoals of fish appear on the surface..a place they would never normally be seen…what caused then to do this you may ask.

At this point you really know the answer but have abruptly gone into total denial.

It is something big and nasty and eats you…and you cannot see it.

The beach, which until a few moments ago was a leisurely swim away is now seemingly miles away and between you and its safety is a shoal of frenzied fish…trying to get away from a monster that you know is eyeing you up for lunch..and you know the day is not going to be a good one.

That is the feeling I sometimes get when some stone faced harridan, clutching a monumental stack of files grumpily pulls up a chair beside you at your exclusive Director of Photography monitor and proceeds to settle in…within seconds your private and secluded space resembles a gypsy encampment, with apologies to most gypsies,..

The files are stacked on the floor, blocking your way, the ten scarves/sweaters are thrown over the back of the chair..the coffee cup…personalised.. is placed on top of the monitor and a mumbled statement that “it is impossible to sit with the Chatterati and do her very difficult job” is the excuse for this intrusion..

For Chatterati read Make Up , Wardrobe and possibly the Art departments, who have their own monitors. Which is also the place where the Script supervisor should sit.

Let battle commence…

Remove the coffee cup..A one pound/one dollar cup of coffee can destroy a $20.000 HD monitor in seconds..

Adjust the blackout curtain, which has been arranged for your own personal viewing.

Take a couple of her sweaters from the back of your chair and put them on the floor, out of your way, remove her pens and pencils from the place in the front of the monitor where you have carefully arranged your copy of the script/newspaper/novel or crossword.

Then introduce yourself..

This is also a good time to explain the ground rules..

Basically they consist of a number of bribes.

Coffee can only be near the monitor if it is accompanied by another cup for the D.O.P.

Chocolates are a given..and must all be soft centred.

If she wishes to join you under the viewing blanket during a take then a shower is a must.. on a daily basis at least.

No arriving smelling like a wet Old English Sheep dog..Hair must be dried in the morning.

There will be no recounting of the previous evenings revelries with the sparks and prop lads…that is not conducive to creative thought.or any kind of thought…And I do not want to know how much her new leather boots cost..

Be quiet.

Do not spit or chew baccy..

What is their job?

They seem to listen to the dialogue..a lot, onto the set waving a script..mutter about the timings, sharpen her pencils and scream abuse at the Chatterati in the next room for breathing too loudly when she is “Trying to do her Fucking job”..

This is of course my own prejudiced view..based on wide experience..some times the idea of being a sea monsters lunch is quite appealing.

Perhaps a real SS out there might like to give us another version of what the Script Supervisor actually does


It just doesn’t sound right does it..

We are used to hearing quite the opposite. “Lights, Camera, Action”

Those famous iconic words that signal to all concerned that a Take is about to begin. On the film set.

To the uninitiated that’s how it seems to take place, some magic formula has been swirled through the studio doors and everything just seems to happen… and in three exotic words it all unfolds.
Sorry folks. it aint like that at all.

Before we get to the Action bit let us just backtrack and delve into the mysterious world of the people who are concerned about the Lights part.

I will skip a number of the technical bits and probably leap over the hours spent in discussion with the Heads of the various departments who are concerned or involved in the shooting of this particular scene.

Let us move to the involvement of the person at the top of the Lighting Department
The Director of Photography.

This revered person is also known by several other names, they fall into two categories. The ones that are used within his/her earshot and those that are not.

The ones that are used within earshot are usually smarmy and nauseating but are music to the ears of the Boss….Guvnor….Sir….God….I want to have your babies and how many sugars in your coffee…

The others consist of some of the more rude versions of lack of parenthood or the child of some feral animal..or…well you get the picture….Just be careful you use the right ones in the right place.

Ok, So what does this person do?.

If a stranger walks onto a film set and is asked which of the many jobs he/she would like to do they will usually point to two people…the Director and the person next to him/her…the D.O.P.

Why? Because they are usually sitting down in comfy chairs with their own monitors, drinking copious amounts of beverage and waited on hand and foot..they never seem to do anything, except perhaps whisper into a walkie talkie and have their feet massaged by some unpaid slavering intern..

Fooled ya..

Like the Director most of the D.O.P’s work will have been done beforehand, reading the script, discussing it at length with the Director, talking to the Costume department, the Make up department, the Design department, gauging the look of the scene from reading the script and the input from the other departments.

 He/she will have talked to the actors concerned and listened to their wish list about how they want to be portrayed.

 He/she will have walked around the stage/set…If it is a studio he/she will have noted height and width…what scene is playing before this one, are they interconnected…and what scene follows..will it be a continuation….if it is an outside location he/she will already know where the sun rises and where it sets and at what time…he/she will have contingency plans if the weather is a little capricious.etc

Then he /she has to dive into the underworld and talk to the sub-humans..the Sparks..AKA the Electricians.

I have the fondest regard for this tribe of aliens, They all look like extras from MAD MAX …but they are all up to speed on what is required and will deliver something wonderful within minutes of their predicted time.

The leader of this ragtag band of scallywags is known as the Gaffer…never cross swords with the Gaffer..

The Gaffer is the physical enabler of the D.O.P’s vision…The right hand person….priceless.

So how does the D.O.P. get to this exalted position.

There really is no shortcut. .some are lucky at film school and produce great showreels that enables them to get an agent and away they go…some are destined to flog their way through the usual dross of TV and low budget ads..etc.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

You are 100% safe they said..they lied


Another nautical tale…

Many years ago I was filming a documentary on Air Sea Rescue operations at a Base in Scotland. The programme was eventually shown on ITV.
We did mock runs with the helicopters and fast rescue boats atc, and everything was going along quite well until a Royal Navy Officer suggested I should do the bird’s eye view of a rescue operation.
In this case he specifically meant the view a downed pilot would have as his rescuers, in the form of a helicopter and crew, would swoop across the ocean and pluck him from the jaws of certain death.

After he had been forced to ditch into the sea.

A good idea, very visual..

The Navy at that time were very pleased about a new pilot survival suit they had with a newly developed rescue beacon that was much more powerful and detectable than anything they had previously.

It gets better. The chances of a rescue for a downed pilot wearing this suit were almost 100%
Reassured, off I trot like the sacrificial lamb to get kitted out in one of these survival suits and some basic survival techniques where it was explained to me that the master plan would be to drop me off in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere off the coast of North Scotland.

The rescue services would then be alerted that there was a pilot down and be given a rough search area. With approximate absolute doddle…they said..

So far so good..

What a fool..

So…Kitted out with a natty flying suit and a waterproof camera I am whisked away to a remote spot on the globe and dumped into the ocean…The helicopter hovered for a few minutes to make sure I was ok and then off they went back to their warm officers mess for tea and biscuits no doubt..

Meanwhile I am now bobbing about ..quite comfy and absolutely safe in the knowledge that in a few minutes ..maybe thirty at the outside, I would be located and saved..with some good footage of the operation…back in time for the bar opening..

The sea began to get a little choppy.

The survival suit was beginning to chafe a little as I was tossed about on the surface.

After a couple of hours I was violently seasick.

After four hours I began to get a little concerned.

My rescuers were nowhere to be seen.

But wait..That is a Nimrod aircraft at zero level about five mles away..It seemed to be doing criss cross patterns across the sea.

 Occasionally as I rose to the top of a swell I could also spot a couple of helicopters in the same area.

Now I was cold, had nothing left to vomit and hey…the sun was about to set..

The massive golden ball was hanging just above the horizon and glinting across the water .

This is it I thought. How many hours did that instructor say the survival time was. How many hours had passed and how many were left.

Some business men on a flight from Northern Ireland were crossing over to Scotland for a meeting.

They were in a hurry and their chopper was flying low. They went straight over the top of me, continued for a couple of miles and then banked around for a closer look.

The chopper circled, the pilot waved and then they went on their way.

Within a few minutes my rescuers arrived. The winchman dropped in and looped me up.I got great footage and they were very embarrassed.

It turned out that the superdooper rescue beacon had “Malfunctioned” and they thought I was on my way to Nova Scotia or somewhere equally exciting.

The Navy were almost about to announce that they had just killed a film cameraman.

But they didn’t.

Moral of the story…There isn’t one really..these things just happen but don’t take the experts word as gospel every time and carry a back up beacon..or get a job as an accountant. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Magical World of ..What If..FILM STUDENTS,LISTEN UP!.

The Magical World of ..What If..Film Students, Listen Up!

It could also be the magical world of ”If only”

One is wishful thinking and the other is a lost hope..We all do it, every one of us.

What if I won the Lottery..If only I could win the Lottery.

You can apply the same thinking to everything in life, absolutely everything and everybody at some time in their life has had a thought along those lines..

Would it help in our personal ambitions if we could just forget those two rather forlorn thoughts and adapt a much more vigorous, robust approach to life..would it help us to achieve what we want in life.

I personally think it would.

An individual has to have some sort of personal need not be grand, it should be achievable though.

There are exceptions in every case of course, for instance take a couple of famous actors from the forties through into the nineties. Cary Grant and say Mickey Rooney.

Cary Grant was Tall (+) Handsome (+) Talented(+) Women around the world adored him(+) He became a Hollywood legend (+) He became immensely wealthy (+)

Mickey Rooney was very short, under five feet (-) Fairly ugly(-) Talented(+). Women around the world adored him, I believe he was married eight times(+) He became a Hollywood Legend (+). He became immensely wealthy, he needed to be with eight alimonies to pay.

One day as young men they both took a look in the bathroom mirror and declared “I am gonna be a great and rich actor in the movies”

I am not a gambler, I never bet but if I had been offered odds on only one of these two gents making it, which one would you put your dosh on..

I guarantee it wasn’t the little ugly fella.
So how did they both achieve that remarkable life result..

I don’t think either one was lacking in self confidence, quite the opposite..I suppose you might think that Cary Grant had an easier ride than Mr Rooney, not so ..Mickey started as a child actor and never really looked back, he just went for it and must have thought so many times “What a lucky bastard I am”

Whereas Mr Grant must have occasionally thought “What lucky bastards everybody else is, they all get to look at me”

OK..where is this going..We have examples of two very different people coming at acting from two very different angles with massively different attributes.They were both extremely successful.
I don’t think either one was much given to saying, “If Only”…”What if”

I don’t have any knowledge of the characters of the two fellas mentioned but they had burning ambitions and complete and total determination to succeed in a very tough business.

It is this quality that all film students must have.

If you are prone to be a “what if” or an “If only” sort of person then change and change now..

The only person in the world who should be your guiding light is …wait for it… got it…ITS YOU.

Change the “What if” into” It will”…and the” If only” into “It can and I can make it”

This slight mental change is immensely positive and it will seep into your subconscious over a very short period of time..

You can and you will succeed..Stop waiting for the lottery win or the mysterious parcel of money left on your doorstep.

C’mon, think Like Cary and little Mickey…both winners..they played to their strengths..find out what yours are and exploit them, ruthlessly..