Welcome back, my friends. This is the 13th year of Means of Production and my 12th sales trip to the Old Country (one year missed for Japan and Korea). I hope you’ll enjoy yourselves as much as I did. I couldn’t do it without you! A very big thank you to all my hosts and guides! And remember, if you click on an image it gets bigger!
This year I’m starting in Paris and flying with with Air France. These folks have the BEST safety video ever. Worth the price of admission. And the amenities are biodegradable! Can’t wait to use my shoehorn in the garden compost. Viva les légumes!
I am one of the luckiest fellows. My friend Sylvaine Mella has offered to take me on a tour of Normandy (it’s important to get acclimatized before starting to sell. All the pros know that). So... land in the morning after a refreshing sleep in my pod, train from Charles de Gaulle airport to the Gare du Nord, metro to Chateau Rouge, climb up the hill to Montmartre, get her apartment keys at a café (Sylvaine was at her charity until noon), quick clean up, Hello Sylvaine!, hop in the Mini, and we’re off.
After mass (we left when the organ music stopped), coffee, croissants and a couple of excellent little museums, we're off to the beaches of Normandy to see where the Canadians landed on June 6, 1944 (returning Champlain’s favour).
Canada has quite a good museum here. And it’s right next to an excellent oyster shop. It rained a bit and I nearly slipped and fell on the boardwalk. I could almost feel what our toops went through that fateful day. Psst, if any of my Canadian friends have bilingual teens they can apply to work at the museum. Fun!
Above is where the allies created an artificial harbour to bring in supplies after the invasion. You can see bits of it still out there in the sea (don’t forget to click!).
On our last night we’re staying at Sylvaine’s friend’s 16th century chateau! 20 bedrooms! 32 fireplaces (even one in the kitchen)! And only the three of us. Unbelievable. I heard ghosts.
I must be a little careful about revealing details about the chateau. The castle was recently burgled and the owner (such a wonderful guy and “a friend of Ludwig”) doesn’t want too much attention. So apologies if I can’t tell you more. After helping out by stacking much needed firewood we headed back to Paris and work.
My AirBnB was slightly smaller than the chateau but conveniently located in the 10th Arrondissement. Many of the companies I’m visiting are just around the corner. Charles, the owner, warned me in advance that the front door had recently been set alight.
Over the next two days I met with Yannick & Gäelle at Henry (everyone in Paris is talking about the Ubisoft spot), Helen at Bandits, Thomas at Moonwalk, Jerôme at Le Pac, Romain at Wanda, and a quick hello with Christophe Nader at 75. All VERY informative! For example did you know that Electricians in Georgia are 20€ a day? Yikes.
Charles recommended an affordable brasserie nearby. It get’s very busy, he said (after 7pm the line up can be 2 hours long). On my last night I was seated with two Irish communist ladies and a former chef and painter. Her name was Michelle (After 30 Years she’s had enough of cooking and only eats out). Once the reds left Michelle told me about her life in Catalonia and how she met Salvador Dali. She called him Le Grande Mastibateur. Apparently he never touched another person after his dad showed him graphic pictures of venereal disease. See! This blog can be educational!
At dinner I was attacked by a traitorous Alsatian sausage. Points for markmanship! Michelle said it looked liked art and I must never wash my shirt again. Maybe I should check out her paintings.
Now it’s off to Dresden!
Dresden is really beautiful. I think they have more museums than all of the rest of Europe combined. Most of the city was rebuilt (even the churches and castle) after the allies bombed the heck out of it in 1945. Frau Merkel wants to build up the former East so they feel equal to the former West. Have a Karstadt, Dresden!
I’ve found a new appreciation for porcelain. Who knew how creative the artisans could be? Who knew people would would want to buy it? Anyone see the movie (or read Kurt Vonnegut’s book) “Slaughterhouse 5”? It was partially set in Dresden near the end of the war and during the bombings. Porcelain played a fateful role for one of the characters. I kept my hands in my pockets.
The communist main library reminds me of the old library, now a Victoria Secret outlet, in Vancouver (without the Kalishnikovs, of course).
I went to a concert in the Catholic church (some Saxon guy built it so he could be king of Poland. That’s how things worked back then). Handel and Mozart. It was outstanding !
My Berlin host, the director Manu Werner, picked me up at the Main train station. We dropped my stuff off at the apartment and went hunting wild boar with Sara and Leo (Leo’s a bit of a wild boar poop connoisseur). Beautiful day and good eating.
Manu and I talked about film and politics for 3 straight days. Fun! But I may have not gone to as many meetings as maybe I should have. Sorry, Berlin! Saw Tobias and friends at Anorak (he says hello, Ed!). Went to a gallery or three. Next day a little side trip to Potsdam. Why not!
It turns out most museums in Potsdam are closed on Tuesdays. Mein Gott! But I did see the Film Museum and Sans Souci (which I learned does NOT mean “without mice” as I used to believe).
Then another (!) delicious dinner with Sara and Manu.
Before catching my train to Hamburg I had a super nice time with Stefanie Schüster at the Berlin Soho Club (Pedro: I started with a delicious butter lettuce salad. The clubhouse sandwich was heavy but tasty. Next time I might choose something lighter like fish). See! If you write to me with a request I’ll include you in the blog!
Stefanie just got back from a holiday in South Africa. She is such a happy person!
The great Marc Bierer picked me up at the station and had my usual room ready just the way I like it (sometimes he goes a little too far, don’t you think?). This is normally his daughter Frida’s room. She’s away. Thanks, Frida!
Charlotte Gainsbourg happened to be in town that night at the Mojo Club. Jerôme at Le Pac is working with her so I bugged him for backstage passes (sorry Jerôme, I’m new at this!) but eventually Marc found a nice scalper. Afterwards a little traditional currywürst and bed.
Thursday started with Tempo and a fun chat with the warm & welcoming Stephan Brockman. And after 12 years of visiting I finally met Vera Pörtz, one of the owners (with her husband, Alexander). Hoorah! And hello Gunnar!
After Tempo it’s off to lunch with Marc and SABINE LIPPERT (!!!) at the Café Eisenstein. It’s been so long since we saw each other. Maybe 9 or 10 years! She sends lots of big hugs back to Canada.
Then to Anne Hoffman’s new place at the agency Freudenhaus where I met Thor and Willy, a couple of the big bosses. Thor is a fan of Canada and Willy can’t wait to work with our friend Elliot Rausch. Anne is also one of my favourite Happy Germans. We did VW together in Alberta many years ago. One for the books! “Hello James! Hello Fergus!” says Anne.
On Friday I visited Markenfilm at their new offices and saw so many friends and acquaintances (great to see you again Johannes, Cornelius, Acki, and Marc) plus some new faces and familiar voices. Good visit! Nice building! Everyone seems to be doing very well but the kids are playing too many video games, they all agree. Watch more commercials, silly! Visiting at the same time was a service production guy from Latvia. Eek. Europe is looking east!
Next off to meet with Volker Hannwacker (we bid a ZDF Olympics project with him years ago). Fine fellow. Then a quick stop at a photography show: the best of new German talent (really? The best? Ugh).
I took a plane to London and got a free (!) upgrade to “Good Class”! 2 cm of extra space between the seats. Free! I could tell everyone was jealous as they walked by to their tiny legroom seats.
Last time I was in London I stayed with Sybille and James Bland at their palace in Brent. But this time they are away so they gave me the whole place to myself! Paradise. Wish they’d left the servants, though. That was a big lawn to mow.
I’m afraid London’s been a bit of a bust for meetings. I planned it all carefully (sort of) but by the time I arrived most people were suddenly busy shooting (they said). I did have a marvelous dinner at the Groucho Club (they’ve never asked me to join) with my bosom buddy Fergus and a nice chat with Ben Roberts at Hungry Man. Grasping to give purpose to my visit I decided on a heavy schedule of plays, galleries and museums. Know thy client, as the Greeks used to say.
I spent quite a bit of time at the usual (free) haunts, The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain, the British Film Institute (watched an excellent 70’s Mike Leigh movie with very young Tim Roth and Gary Oldman), and the Imperial War Museum. But the highlight was definitely the Andreas Gursky show at the Howard Gallery. Outstanding (even though I think he does tend to copy my photography style). Did I mention this is all important research?
I saw “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” with Jeremey Irons and Leslie Manville (she was Daniel Day-Lewis’ sister in “The Phantom Thread”) and ‘the best play of the year’, “The Ferryman” with a bunch of happy, whisky drinking, tortured Irish (and a goose). Great stuff. Who knew the Irish didn’t like the British? Or that the British audience would pay £100 to be told that in very rude language?
Later that night, around 3am, the radiator in my room started a one hour monologue. This briefly turned into a dialogue but then I forgot my lines and fell back to sleep.
Well, that’s about it, really. Before the trip is over, and so that I’m fresh and relaxed from my demanding labours when I return to family and business, I’m off to the Cotswolds to visit with Tania and her husband Nick for a few days. Then, finally and happily, home. It’s been one of the most pleasant trips ever. Hope you enjoyed it, too.