I’d never seem anything like it. As a spectacle it was epic. I’m in Wadi Rum, Jordan, looking into an infinity of space about to spend a night in this vastness where there is no sound and you can hear yourself think.
It’s a reminder that nature got here first overloading our sensory points, but where possible, you should do epic. So many reasons to, and so many examples I can’t begin to choose from, but here goes…
If you want to leave a lasting memory, go epic. When Hollywood director George Stevens first saw Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will his heart sank. He marvelled at the spectacle and the ambition, but also thought the war was all but lost and Hollywood had to respond.
When the UK saw what Beijing achieved in its 2008 Olympics, they gulped. Britain would host the Olympics in 2012 but they couldn’t get anywhere near China’s $40bn spend, but knew they had to go big in other ways.
There’s a difference between doing epic when you don’t know you’re doing it, and doing epic with full conscious awareness. The latter should scare you to death. Your heart should be pumping out of your chest when you realise what you’ve set yourself, and then you get into your stride and your ethic, “I/we-can-do this” kicks in.
Academy award winning actor Denzel Washington talks about freezing, unable to leave his trailer when he had a crucial scene to direct in Antwone Fisher (2002).
Before I get to externals, this is for everyone who has watched their charge, the people they love, flourish and grow. One minute R and J (we abbreviate their names) are young boys, next they’re doing their own epic. R’s performing before crowds, prepping for Rambert Dance. J’s finishing second year studying SFX, recreating a Black Panther narrative.
Reason №1. Do epic and the first lesson here is the Wisdom of Crowds. Epic often involves team work. That means you don’t have to be perfect in what you do, but become comfortable with facilitating spaces for people to shine.
People providing and receiving something epic remember it. It provides them with a myriad of somethings that creates totemic memories they later draw upon.
This, below is from 27-years ago, when I was a correspondent covering South Africa. The radio doc/podcast I made with my producer, Joy Hatwood and selflessness of four amazing young talent was called First Time Voters: the Successor Generation, I still get reminded of today.
It took 6 months to make and was played on the main radio channels of the BBC. But then the South African authorities heard and it and one day before their epic historic all-race election played in on their national radio. For many people this reminds them of a bygone South Africa. The participants were stars then, today their statuses are stratospheric.
Reason №2. Epic doesn’t just mean size, but meaning. Once you acquire an appetite to do epic, you can’t let it go. It’s an interminable drug because you’ve witnessed what it brings you and those around you: joy, wonder, more questions and it can inspire many spin offs.
This is a film I made call Tahrir Memento in Egypt, just after their 2011 event. I played a segment of it at the UK’s Sheffield docs and then in Tunisia. A journalist in Tunis wrote something like it was strange dream-like film and made comparisons to French new wave circa 1960 !!!!!
Reason №3 Building alliances. Doing Epic brings you into contact with like minded people who want to change the status quo or create legacies. You build this orbit of people and you sate each other’s addiction by coming up with more ideas and projects that keep you thinking.
Take my friend Prof Shirley Thompson MBE. She wrote and conducted President Obama’s 100 days at the Royal Festival Hall South bank and asked if I could create the live visuals for the event. With two days to go and nothing; that pumping chest moment returned. Then a friend put me onto someone who rang me and left a message directing me to what I needed. It was The White House official (President Obama’s) photographer Pete Souza. Shirley’s production got a rousing reception.
Reason №4 Sharing and the rewards. If you’re used to epic, you can, on occasions, have collision moments with others. In my case it’s students. I get to witness their no holds bar experience doing epic. Working with MA students, we’d go down what I call the “rabbit hole” building platforms, launching and eventually pitching to the BBC or Google (below). It’s hugely satisfying and rewarding for everyone. We turned the students work into a format show called The Angel’s Table. That was some years back, but today students in our LAB continue to create epic projects and shout about them.
Reason №5 That moment when you find yourself a quiet moment in the corner and whisper “Bloody good on ya!”. Below is Avinash (right) in lectures about to enter the Rabbit Hole, circa 2010. Today he’s a successful media entrepreneur, who among many other things, runs one of the most epic journalism conferences in India. Previous guests have included Snowden, and Washington Post columnist, MSNBC analyst and author Eugene Robinson.
Reason №6 Change the way you and others interact with form. We had an idea influenced by that iconic epic Jazz photo A Great Day in Harlem. So we brought some of the UK’s most talented black and brown producers together. We put on a show, a school of contemporary dancers from Sutton influenced by Alvin Haley wowed the audience. The University said it was their highest turnout on a day for a gallery exhibition. The department of media and The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) thought it was pretty unique.
Reason №7 Epic is standing on the shoulders of giants. Those moments we reach could not have been made possible if not for those before us. Epic should instinctively remind us of the past — even when we don’t possess the knowledge to hand.
I’m reminded by the presentation at that epic creative gathering in Austin Texas, SXSW, where I was due to present on advance videojournalism. Do Epic s*** said the presenter, which I shot a personal 2 min film
Reason №8 It was epic 90 years ago, my grandfather remarried my grandmother. They both have incredible stories. He would become one of the first railway men in Cape Coast and I’m told was the train driver (and has a plaque for it) behind the train that ferried Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Ghana. My Grandmother’s name was originally Palmer. She came from Bavaria.
Her father had come from Germany to work in Ghana as an accountant. My mother was brought up in a convent. She would marry my father a police officer and they were one of the first wave of Ghanaians to move to the UK after Ghanaian independence where they made a life for themselves and a family.
Dad entered business and was an entrepreneur considering Ghanaian politics. Mum worked for the NHS. These historical stories that are generational are truly epic. In my archive of beta tapes is the last recording of Reverend Pearson whom working with the king of the Ashantis Nana Prempeh built one of Ghana’s most successful colleges, Prempeh College modelled on Eton. There was a major difference. This would be a school where the boys would work for their country rather than believe they were owed a living. That story, courtesy of Michael Donkor and Jose Velazquez, soon.