To get inspiration for ideas I generally need to be out in the wild, to places that connect with me and very often I find myself drawn to the lost and forgotten landscapes of our countryside.
They're a common theme in my work. So yesterday i went off to a very strange place indeed - the Hoo Peninsular in North Kent. There are a couple of nature reserves there but I chose to head to its farthest point, the village of Grain and it's beach. This is a desolate place. surrounded by the trappings of industry past and present. It also a fantastic part of the Thames Estuary for bird life, which in the winter abounds.
Stretching out before me the mud flats were alive with curlew, dunlin, sanderling, oystercatchers, turnstones and brent geese. A classic set of estuary birds to enjoy. My son was with me, slopping about in the mud, and my wife was mesmerised by the beach that seemed to be made entirely of shells; cockles mostly with some oysters and muscles thrown in. This was a beautiful place, framed by the concrete, the iron, the decay and the brutality of the industrial underbelly of British life.
Why do I like these places so much? Well I guess they remind me of two things.
Firstly that the lovely cosy lives we live with flat screen tellys' central heating and double glazed windows all relies on the dirty, hard and brutal industry that wrecks the environment in which we live. Very few people visit places like The Hoo, because they feel depressing. Much nicer to go to Exmoor or the New Forest. But The Hoo and all it's industry is exactly who we are, it is the truth of what we are doing to the planet and the vast resources we consume day in and day out. I find it important to remind myself of that. I think we should all do that. Seek the truth. And act if we are not happy with it.
Secondly, I go to these places because so few people come here, and so the irony is that these places can often be very good for wildlife outside of the factory walls. A reminder that nature, against all that we throw at it, tries to find a way to survive, to battle the adversity we chuck at it. And I find comfort in that. Nature finds a way to live side by side despite us.
Looking at all the giant gas storage centres, towering cranes and concrete walls I wondered yesterday what is this all about. What are we as human beings trying to achieve, whats the grand plan with all this consumption of stuff we seem to need to survive? Where are we going? I don't think we know do we. But we march on anyway, mostly oblivious to the nature around us. And nature battles on, very aware of us. (And we are supposed to be the sentient beings)
So how did this trip The Hoo help me with ideas for the TV? Well, its reminded me that what I want to do is tell the stories of that edge between humans and nature, to tell stories of how we want to belong in the natural world, but must continue to find a way in which we can grow with it, not against it. Basically The Hoo reminded me of Who I am and the type of films I make and others don't or won't.
My films are often a far cry from the endless series about baby animals that BBC commissioners so seem to love, or pure animal behaviour that look stunning but tell us little about the truth of what is happening to the environment. But perhaps if I can be clever enough to combine these popular themes with the essence of what I am about, then maybe there is something fresh and new to explore.
(usual apology for spelling and grammar mistakes)