Welcome back, everyone! I hope you’re as excited as I am about my 13th (!) sales trip to Europe. This year the tour will include London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, and Hamburg. Fun!
Heathrow > Paddington > Brown Line > Blands.
Ben has a series of exciting events planned. To begin it’s off to a very fancy dinner party in Kensington with some of the highest members of London society. James, following in the footsteps of Laird Fergus, had a painter on-hand to capture the moment. I had to help the servants wash-up so unfortunately I’m not portrayed. Can you spot James?
The next morning Ben came downstairs, climbed up on the kitchen counter and shouted “Siri, play Star Wars” at a bit of plastic. The day had begun. After breakfast the car (or Ben) drove us out to the country and SOHO Farm House (according to the neighbours SO NOT A Farm House, says Sybille) for a bit of fresh air and a Mother’s Day organic feast. It’s astounding that they can teach robots to drive on the wrong side of the road! I wasn’t terrified at all. On arrival James explained that only media types are welcome (bankers, for example, have to settle for small countries not country clubs). Later we learned (on PoshTV) that the Ruling Class’ favorite Spice Girl was also present (the Bekhams have a little gallosh-à-terre up the road). She must have been in the centre of one of the Dragoon Squares loitering about the spa as we didn’t see her ourselves.
James and Sybille hit the shops and left Ben and I in the Kid’s Kompound (children are discouraged at The Farm). We were scheming-up an escape plan using a zip-line made from stolen umbrella ribbing and moustache wax when we met a woman from Kamloops on the other side of the razor wire (Her Brazilian husband heard me say “aboot time we got out of here, Ben” and introduced us before calling the guards).
We were released for a bit of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and then it was time to hit the road.
As James dozed at the wheel and the Communist Chinese software captained us down the M40 at 120 mph we listened to Brexit Talk Radio. In between Brexiters explaining how the rain will turn to ale and Remainers extolling the virtues of duty-free Moët government sponsored ads advised the citizenry on the proper way to stock-pile essential items of survival. Serious stuff!
When in London I try to attend the theatre. “All About Eve” with Gillian Anderson was playing at the Noel Coward. Excellent. Directed by the groundbreaking Ivo van Hove. Also starring a favorite of mine, Monica Dolan - watch “W1A” on Netflix! Music by PJ Harvey. “One of those ‘I was there’ moments” according to Time Out. A few pokes at my phone and I had the last ticket, row 12, centre!
It was a rather long show with no intermission and for some of the play I might not have been entirely ‘there’ but otherwise I had a nice time (industry types: they incorporated a MOVI with live-feed and projection) watching great performances. The woman sitting next to me was from Poland and did not speak English well. Through sign language she was able to communicate that she’d seen the movie so many times she’d know what they were saying.
When I returned to Ben’s I had a little trouble decoding the 13 locks on the new door (nothing like my foggy 3:00 am return to Fergus’ so many years ago, thank goodness. Sigh, my last stay at the Brown’s).
A free and unfettered (I thought they liked fetters?) Britain is coming tomorrow! Or maybe the day after. Next week for sure. You have my word. Halloween? Absolutely guaranteed. Regardless I’d best get out of town. Thanks, Ben! It was a visit to remember but I must be going before they pull up the drawbridge. Don’t want to over-stay my welcome. Visitors and fish and all that... See ya around and good luck!
Now it’s off to Paris where I hear the Yellow Vests have burned the last of the Michelin 3 star restaurants and are resting before moving down to 2 stars.
I booked what looked like a decent and conveniently located hotel and upon arrival was pleased to learn I’d been upgraded to a larger room (as the rest of the hotel was being renovated - using explosives, apparently). The nice lady led me through a door, pointed to another door (“Voici la porte!”) and then scurried away. Hmmmm.
My first stop, after a shower, change of clothes and defibrillator was Excuse My French (Smuggler/Fergus connection) where Constance opened no less than two bottles of fine French wine (!) and I met Jèrome, Céline, Claire, and Aymeric (who we bid Renault with a few weeks ago when he was freelancing at Quad) and a Canadian director from White Rock, BC, Jaron Albertin! What an arrival! Vive la France!
Last year we bid yet another Renault job with an up-and-coming company called SOLAB. They have a very cool office inside a parking garage and with a great elevator ride. And they can park right outside their office door on the 4th floor! Brilliant. Their first big job was for Air Canada. Renault went to Slovenia 😢.
In Paris I also saw the lovely and welcoming Claudia and Beatrice at Quad, the wise Jérôme at Le Pac, our good friend Romain at Wanda, and the gang at Frenzy (still waiting on a final script for Rémy Martin Deuxième Partie!). Everyone says "Hello, MOP friends!"
I had Saturday night and all day Sunday to explore this beautiful city. My friend Marc recommenced a tapas restaurant and I ordered the green onions (I've been eating a lot of brown and beige so far). A man sitting next to me leaned over and said “Bravo!” (???).
I met with Toni at MAMMA TEAM (thanks, Nic!). Super guy. And Rose at Blur. So friendly! All Very informative and kind people. Barcelona is mostly a service town, like Vancouver, and we often bid against it. It was helpful to get a sense of the place and maybe encourage Canadian city planners to emulate the weather, architecture, and proximity to other European countries.
As you may know Barcelona is a city in the Spanish Region of Catalonia. There was a bit of a Québec-style independence thing a couple of years ago (sans kidnapping, bombings, bank robberies, murder, and martial law). But the spirit is still alive in the flags and banners hanging from some of the apartment balconies (“free the political prisoners” it says, and the Catalonian flag, and how you should have voted in the referendum). At first I thought there were a lot of very agreeable Puerto Ricans seeking asylum from Trumpland.
My goodness the Spanish love their ham. It’s a science and an art with all sorts of methods and ingenious devices. Like the French and cheese. The Scots and whiskey. Indians and curry. Canadians and... jerky?
It was a busy week for everyone in Barcelona (they said) so I didn’t get a lot of meetings. All the more time to wander and discover. And shop! Above is the Early Picasso Museum where I picked up a few paintings. Business is good at MOP! Load ‘em up, boys! Take that Charles Foster Kane and the garden shed you call Xanadu!
An excellent museum. They have a full-sized replica of a galleon from the Battle of Lepanto and lots of history of the port. For some reason the first thing you see when you enter the museum is a ship’s toilet. Speaking of toilets did you know that during their 10 year sentence the guys rowing NEVER left their place at the oars? Apparently surprise attack was impossible: you could smell the ship before you saw it. Reminds me of Zone Z on my plane-ride over here.
I loved Madrid! And I had a very nice hotel with a huge bath. And an elevator! And breakfast included! Fruit juice! It may be a stretch but I could somehow empathize with how those rowers felt on their first day of freedom after 10 years of gruel, the lash and poor hygiene.
In Madrid I saw Elena at Lee (a very, very knowledgeable person), David at MAMMA TEAM (he sent us a board and tried to steal Clay when he saw our MOP bid presentation), Inés and Assaf at Primo (Audi), and MasterCard Maria (formerly at Landia, now moving to Barcelona with her film professor husband, Pancho) and Juan at Brownie (thanks again, Nic). Juan and I had an enlightening chat about the business. Another super friendly Spaniard. Juan is also a fan of Chinese Socialist Realism and so I showed him a photo of my painting (see China blog). He’s going to get one.
I had a marvelous lunch (Spanish Thai) with Assaf and he explained how the world works and we talked about many important things. Such a good guy. “Hello Heinrich! Hello everyone from the Audi shoot!” says Assaf.
A night out with Maria!!! She took me to all the old bars and tapas places in the city centre (that’s Obama having what looks like a Guinness at our first stop. I had Spanish vermouth. You’re so uncool Barack). Maria is quite the Spanish patriot! I’m not sure how she’ll get along with all those Catalonian independence folks. She says I have to see a bull fight (they don’t start for a couple of months - so not on this trip). I didn’t know they still did that! Some people say bull fighting is wrong but they like the clothes. Maria says “Hi” to everyone in Vancouver, especially Tai and Angela.
While traveling I’m passable in my native tongue, OK in French (if you talk to me like I’m a two year old) and in Germany most people speak English or communicate in frowns. But I have almost no Spanish. For some reason everywhere I go in Spain people start talking to me in English before I even open my mouth. Maria says it’s because I’m blond (!).
In Berlin I had planned to stay with my director friend Manu Werner but he had to be in Hamburg for a pitch. Must find a hotel before the plane takes off! I’m sure there are better ways to do this than kumfeehotelsinberlinemittethatarenottooexpensiveforsurereallywewouldntlie.com but I was in a hurry. All the hotels I found near my meetings were sold out! Yikes! Finally I found a place. During the payment process the site kept warning: “You agree and understand that this is an adult-only hotel” (what’s that mean?). Too late! I needed a bed in 3 hours. Booked!
The grizzled taxi driver had never heard of the place and started to laugh when we found it. Once inside it didn’t seem that different and everyone was very professional (no frowns). Then I went up to my room.
In Berlin I saw Iconoclast (Jan, Julian, Tim, and Swantje), Volker Hannwacker (freelance producer), Big Fish (Oliver, Ben, & Kathrin - new boards!), Markenfilm (Tommy, Desiree, Kristin, Brian, Dominick - too many to remember!), Cobblestone (Tom & Juri very briefly as he was in a conference call), and Uli at Tempomedia (lots of good info!). Great to see old friends and lots of new producers (Thanks, everyone! Remember MOP!).
The new places to shoot are Georgia and Kazakhstan. But Kiev is even cheaper and Serbia gives 20% tax breaks. Sad face.
I had dinner with the warm and caring Steffi Schuster. It was a perfect evening. Great home-cooking (Asparagus) and conversation you can only have with a good friend.
Now off to Hamburg on the InterCityExpress.
I’m staying at Marc Bierer’s place in Hamburg but he’s “busy” this evening so I got the keys from his Persian, did some laundry, borrowed his toe-nail clippers, rifled through his personal belongings, took pictures of the good stuff and waited for what the night might bring. Happily my most excellent friend Nic Mirbach invited me to a White Asparagus dinner (no, that’s not code for an AfD rally).
Germans are CRAZY for asparagus, especially white (or as they call it, pale) asparagus. The harvest is in so I had asparagus soup, asparagus pasta, asparagus juice, asparagus toothpaste, even asparagus made to look like pork sausage (for those Germans that won’t knowingly eat vegetables - and there are a lot!). You can imagine what everyone’s urine smells like (well, you can now that I’ve mentioned it).
Monday was a busy day of meetings and I only managed to screw-up a little bit (Sorry Lenny and Rabbicorn, the wheels are starting to come off!). Today I saw Justin and Günnar at Tempo for cupcakes, Acki, Tatjana and Stephan at Markenfilm for a yummy Italian lunch, Steffi & Holgar for cookies, and then back to Marc’s for a little lie-down.
Tuesday is a light day. A visit with our former intern André (now an assistant producer at Markenfilm!) and the folks at Wanda (thanks for the Indian referral, Matthias!). Then dinner with Marc’s friend Izzy (see pix below). Wednesday it’s lunch with Nic (Asparagus). Then dinner with Sandra (a fantastic friend!). Thursday is lunch with Marc’s friend Hans (Asparagus) and then maybe (or maybe not) a BBQ with Marc and his Bavarian countrymen.