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Amsterdam Director's Blog

By Georgi Banks-Davies, Director
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Monday 2 p.m.: London

Me and my cameraman Andrew set on our way to Amsterdam, I'm excited and a little nervous to be honest -- I've always admired Anton Corbijn's work, and well I guess if I'm honest I'm a "bit" of fan (got that strange feeling that I'm 14 again and about to see Take That in concert!) We talk excited about Anton's work, what he'll be like.

Monday 4 p.m.: London

We board for our short flight over the sea to the city of debauchery. Andrew has problems sitting due to a back problem from a previous shoot. Outside I'm smiling telling him it'll be cool tomorrow ... inside I'm slightly concerned I'll be doing the filming...

Monday 6 p.m.: Amsterdam

We arrive in Amsterdam just as the sun is setting and the city is going through the amazing metamorphosis it seems to do between day and night. It's cold. I call Anton; he is on his way on a train from The Hague and agrees to meet for a quick chat about our plan to rock through the city tomorrow.

Monday 7 p.m.: Amsterdam / Hotel

Anton arrives, he is in the middle of a bad cold, but seems to be feeling a little better and ready for action. We talk about our plans, and a little about him and his work (he is currently preparing to shoot his first feature, I try to act cool, and like of course I'm not a "fan" at all) He leaves us to catch a play his friend is in. So until tomorrow ...

... The Take That concert has begun ...

Monday 10 p.m.: Amsterdam

My evening in Amsterdam: Nice dinner... explore infamous "red light district" ... chased by bouncer for taking photos ...drink ... guy in bar falls off bar stool and has crazy fit ... back to hotel ...bed ... love this city!

Tuesday 8.30 a.m.: Amsterdam / Hotel

Andrew's back has completely seized up nearly has Anton's nose! I tell myself it's going to be fine and give them both a Lemsip Max Strength.

Tuesday 9 a.m.: Amsterdam / The Water

With everyone dosed up on the wonders of modern medicine we jump onto a small private boat opposite our hotel, and set sail through the canals heading for the harbor. Anton tells us of the diverse art and architecture scene in the city, passing examples along the way. We hit the open sea and head towards one of the new islands. I begin to realize that Anton has a unique presence about him -- he is completely at ease with the camera, (and in fact acts like he has done this hundreds of times before) I get the sense he is at the same ease with himself.

We arrive at the island, and I am amazed at the array of architectural styles and diversity of what is essentially a new housing estate. (except for that fact that instead of a Ford Focus there is a boat parked outside each house)

Tuesday 10.30 a.m.: Amsterdam

We head back to the city center and Anton tells me about why he got into photography and how he is drawn into certain types of artist people: "People often think I photography celebrity, I don't photograph celebrities, I photograph artists I admire." (... For all those now concerned; Andrew has taken two more painkillers and is moving much more freely -- I worry about the focus...)

Tuesday 12 p.m.: Amsterdam

After a trip to the framers (to get some of Anton's work framed for an exhibition) and a much needed cuppa (it is still really cold!) We head to the photography gallery "Huis Marseille."

We didn't tell them we are coming -- it's cool -- we're with Anton Corbijn (Kind of weirdly I think he doesn't seem to realize how famous he is ... or maybe he does, but assuming he isn't makes him so likable). I ask Anton where his books are when we hit the bookstore section, he immediately pulls down a compilation and flicks to photo of De Niro -- it's part of his fake paparazzi series. I smile. We leave.

... Robbie Williams just crowd surfed over my head...

Tuesday 1p.m.: Amsterdam

We wonder together through the streets talking about the city, artists, and Anton's work. We are headed to his good friend Herman Brood's studio (who was Amsterdam's most famous rock star, an artist, and a junkie. He unfortunately committed suicide five years ago). I get the sense that it's really important for Anton that we go there and that this, above everything else, really is the best way for him to show us "his Amsterdam."

We arrive at Herman's studio, (which is above a restaurant); first we go to his mangers office just below which is also a small gallery where you can buy reproductions of Herman's art. There is an artist there trying desperately to get his work in our shot -- asking Anton if he will swap some of his photos in exchange for one of his artworks. I find this guy weird, and annoying, but amusing ... Anton only finds him annoying!

We head upstairs to Herman's studio (which is almost as it was when he died). Two things strike me immediately: the way "real" artists live, and Anton's love and passion for his friend. He tells stories of brothels, drugs, and music (all Herman's...). He tells us the story of how he introduced Herman to Bono on his 50th birthday. I look around and see photos Anton has taken of Herman and suddenly I grasp the reality of how amazing his life is, and the diversity of characters he knows and has photographed. I also realize from his manner why and how he is loved and respected by so many of them.

Andrew is flexing -- and feeling better (... he takes more pills!)

Tuesday 2 p.m.: Amsterdam

The rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur; we eat lunch and talk about his music videos and his feature. We realize the light is coming down, the airport is beckoning and there is still so much to see so we hit the streets -- bookshop, flower market, museum square, all very cool -- but quick! We then head to the bike park at the central station... a crazy place! It's like a multi-storey car park for bikes -- I have never seen so many! Anton climbs to the top storey, we follow behind.

Anton: "It's nice to be a parked bike in Amsterdam."

At the top we assess the city and talk back over the things we have discussed through the day. He talks in more depth about the city, its mix, its liberalism (and how ironically that is actually inverting back to conservatism with the youth.) He talks about art and artists and why he left Holland in search for a life that was "less easy" somewhere you could be more daring in art (Anton has lived in London for the last 26 years).

We all silently watch the bikes as they pass underneath.

...the encore...

We stand looking over the city -- it's photo time, me and Andrew, Andrew and Anton, Anton and me --

Me: So Anton, you gonna take my photo for me?"

A: "Sure."

Me: "Cool!" (Inside -- "GET IN! I'M ABOUT TO GET MY PHOTO TAKEN MY ONE OF MY PHOTOGRAPHIC HEROES!" ... God, I hope he is not reading this, I'm drastically losing creditability-- Anton, I'm still cool -- honest!).

Me: "So what should I do?"

A: "Jump up and down."

Me: (Whilst jumping on spot) "Now what?"

A: "Get ready."

Me: " What like a rock star?" (Bad line I know -- but I was jumping up and down on the spot like an idiot.)

A: "Yer -- one -- two -- three!"

I jump as hard as I can whilst performing a "Bill and Ted"-esque air guitar move mid-air.

He passes the camera back without even looking -- I look -- I have my own Anton Corbijn -- one shot -- it's good -- really good -- enough said.

We head back, stopping at a cool record store, a strange fast food joint, and a condom store on the way (the latter two just to look ... honest!). It feels like there is still so much to see and talk about that we could go do it all again.

We get back to the hotel, and say our goodbyes -- Anton promises to send me some photos of his work in Amsterdam for use in the film, I promise to send him some pictures of him that I have taken, and off he goes to the airport.

Tuesday 10.30 p.m.: Somewhere in the sky

We sit on our flight heading back to London (Andrew is now finding it hard to turn around) looking at our photos and thinking about our day. It was cool. I feel inspired.

... The concert ends... my dad picks me up... I go home... I become 27 again...

NB: for those of you who are still concerned Andrews back got a little worse after romping around Amsterdam all day (no ... I'm not that awful I did offer to take over shooting several times) but he is now on his way to recovery... and very bored sitting at a desk all day.


What's the best thing about Amsterdam?
Coffee shops
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