Thursday, 13 October 2011

A real Bessler documentary on the cards?

Wow! You guys have been busy, it's taken me an hour just to catch up on all your comments. I hate to interrupt the flow with a blog but perhaps you can continue here or on the previous blog?

I'm back after a delightful week in sunny Spain, and among the emails awaiting me, I received an interesting one from an Italian documentary maker, who wishes to produce a film about Johann Bessler.

They say that they would use me as the main narrator (God help them!) and intend to film in the Trivulziana Library of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Interestingly for me, somebody on the Bessler forum kindly brough to my attention the existence of another copy of Das Triumphirende which is held at that this particular library.  I was able  to obtain high definition copies of their portraits from the library. This is the only other example that I'm aware of which includes the double portraits with the hole in one as did my own copy, which I used to have but which I passed on to another, safer pair of hands.

I assume (at this early stage I have no details) that if we are to film in this famous library, that I shall be able to see and examine this copy and I am delighted at the prospect.

The company, FarmStudioFactory, are an Italian film and television production company, but appear to make films for other people so it will be interesting to try to get some background on this to see where the idea originated.  I scraped up a few details on the library as I was so interested in it and this is what I found:-
"Along with the Cathedral - Milan's most famous and much beloved monument - the big Castle is linked to the vicissitudes and dramatic events that the city has experienced over the past centuries. For many years, in fact, it has represented a symbol of the power in the hands of the Dukes, as well as of the foreign dominators. Only at the beginning of the 20th century the Castle assumed its distinctive role, becoming a place of culture, which hosted numerous Lombard art collections. The Castle was named after Francesco Sforza, who transformed it into a ducal residence in 1450. But its origins date back to the second half of the 14th century, at the time of Galeazzo II Visconti.
Hosted inside the Castello Sforzesco is the revered Trivulziana Library. The library can be accessed to examine parchments, documents, records and prints. The Historic Archive preserves all the acts of the Municipality of Milan and of the Duchy dating back as far as 1385."
I also would like to know the history, the provenance,  of this particular copy of the Das Tri and how it came to reside in Italy. I have always believed that the other countries of Europe might hold some further accounts of Johann Bessler and it seems to me that a documentary about him could engage the attention of the right people to bring such information to the surface.

I'll tell you more when I know more. I should not get too excited as this kind of thing has happened to me before, more than once, and the project has always gone out like a damp squib!

JC

11 comments:

  1. Well John,..You have nothing to loose and every thing to gain!You might even be able to play the one producer against any others once it becomes public knowledge.

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  2. That is exciting, John. Welcome back and good luck with the documentary.
    I'm wondering why the double portraits hold so much interest for you.

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  3. Welcome back! I think it's a great idea, hopefully it will push though! Now, for this movie, you have to gain some weight and practice your best Churchillian-voice imitation, of course:

    (somber and resolute voice)

    "...we shall fight the countertorque on the beaches, and in the hills, and on the physics grounds... the wheel shall rotate... whenever that may be... We shall never surrender!"

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  4. Time to return to planet Earth.

    I just ran an English translation of Farm Studio Factory's Italian website and found this paragraph:

    "With this philosophy we succeed to guarantee to our customers services maintaining under control the costs and therefore the price of our services."

    That's right, this is the audio / visual equivalent of a "vanity publisher". If you want them to make a Bessler documentary for you, they will be happy to do so...for a PRICE that is!

    They are probably looking, at a minimum, for hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a low budget documentary. If you want it publicized and distributed to media outlets, the price will soar even higher.

    I long for the day when there will be enough general interest in this Bessler stuff for a medium to large film studio to invest their OWN money in making a quality film that will tell Bessler's intriguing story and will use a "name" actor in the lead role.

    Somehow I don't think that will happen until AFTER his wheels have been duplicated. I wish I could be more optimistic.

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  5. It is possible for enthusiasm to trump money in filmmaking, but it's very difficult.

    I refer to the Finnish "Wreckamovie" approach, which inverts the usual rules of filmmaking.

    I've been following their latest effort "Iron Sky," now almost finished (there are some trailers on Youtube). It looks quite good, but only because of a great amount of enthusiastic, dedicated hard work.

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  6. @ JC

    If one wants to go the "low / no budget" route, one can always rent a digital video camera and become a one man production crew. Travel to the towns Bessler lived in, show his unfinished windmill, interview the locals, etc.

    Then edit it all on your own computer, add some narration, public domain music (like Stanely Kubrick, just use classical music for this), and perhaps include an animation showing how the wheels may have worked. When finished burn it all onto DVD's and market them on your website.

    It will be on the crude side and the chances of any television network actually airing it will be next to zero, but at least it will be available for those that are truly interested in his story.

    But, to have an actual biographical film about the man with actors, a script, and props is going to cost some "serious" money. It would show viewers the real passion of the man for success where all others had failed, the many sacrifices he had to make, and the esctasy of his final success. Aside from the mechanics of his wheels, that, IMO, is what people would really want to see depicted.

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  7. Actually, there has been a lot of interest in the past years in historical movies. Look at the success of the Gladiator and Spartacus movies, and many others similar. Of course these are grand spectacles, but indeed Techno has a good idea for a low-budget approach. Good documentaries (like the ones on Discovery channel, History Channel and so forth) are always in high demand.

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  8. This documentary was comissioned by the TV station RAI Due. The FarmStudioFactory srl, is an Italian film and television production company, who make programs for several TV channels as well as competing for contracts for any company seeking new advertising. They have offered to cover all my expenses and as long as they do so and it doesn't cost me anything I shall be more than content.

    I have considered making my own film but so far I haven't - there is so much planning to be done and too many thing to go wrong which would end up costing me money I don't have.

    I don't know how you arrived at the conclusion that this was a 'vanity publishing' company, technoguy, but that expression refers to book publishing and requires the author to buy copies at inflated prices. This has nothing to do with the scam you refer to.

    The BBC, for instance, has a documentary commissioning team whose sole aim is to find companies who can offer the complete production of a program - infact here is a link to their commissioning advice page - http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/briefs/tv/browse-by-genre/documentaries/
    Farm Studio Factory is a similar set up.

    I had considered pitching an idea to the BBC at one point and I think if the Italian project does not take off I might just go for it.

    JC

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  9. @ JC

    Well, my opinion of Farm Studio Factory has just shot up several notches.

    If an Italian tv channel is paying for the documentary and it costs you nothing except your time, then this is DEFINITELY something worth getting involved in. You get a free vaction, interest in the Bessler story is promoted, and, maybe, they'll even mention your English translations of Bessler's writings! Nice if you got some PAY for your time, though. I mean, afterall, narrators and consultants are usually compensated for their time and knowledge.

    Speaking of translations, I assume that this documentary would be in Italian and anything you narrated would be then be dubbed or subtitled into Italian. Maybe, it would even be possible for you to get permission to make the original English narration version you do available on DVD which you could then market on your website. That would be nice so those of us who don't live in Italy can see it.

    Let's hope this one does not turn out like the past efforts at making a documentary did. Somehow, I feel this time it will be different!

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  10. Err,..John getting back to the subject,it looks like it's going to take 25% of input force to get 75% out.I don't think this is a coincidence, since it ties in with what Bessler stipulated in order for the wheel to turn.

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