I look down. Water.

I can see just water. A few small clouds below. But water, as far as the eye can see. I wonder where I am, I must have dozed off watching one of those films I never got to see in the cinema when they came out – briefly, like a whoosh, here, it’s here, then gone, suddenly gone, never to be seen of again. I don’t understand the film distribution industry but something is rotten in it. Religiously, I listen to Mark Kermode telling me all about the films I should watch (and more importantly, the films I shouldn’t) but of course many of the films he recommends, though he’s not flawless, not a bit of it, what exactly was going on in Free Fire? – but half the time the films don’t even make it to my local cinema in deepest darkest north Essex, 100 k’s East of London. Oh yes, they might be on (for a day or two) at an arts cinema, maybe in Cambridge (an hour away) or somewhere, but blink and it’s gone. Moonlight – that got a distribution, we saw that, but need to see it again. Gone. The Handmaiden? (not to be confused with The Handmaiden’s Tale, of course, a completely different thing, no this is a Japanese rendering of a Sarah Waters book and rave reviews it got)

– missed it – actually, I don’t think it ever came. I heard of one showing on a Sunday night in Aldeburgh but that’s over an hour away on the Suffolk coast, lovely place, but it was just not possible to get there and back.

Lion. That’s what I was trying to watch. Lion, the film people talked about, my wife saw it (I was away in Canada, preparing for Sibos.Of. Course.) With Dev Patel, from Skins, and another “True Story”. All the films these days seem to be “true stories”

– or at least “based on”. Got to be a bit cautious though, Fargo always says it’s a true story and we don’t believe that, do we, Messrs Coen…?

I get a bit annoyed. Hidden Figures – great film, loved it, and as a mathematician it really spoke to me. I even Googled Euler’s rather rough and ready Method (I did it at school but had forgotten it). The idea that clever black women helped the maths for the NASA moonshot is a fascinating one and the racism they experienced according to the film was a complete and sad revelation. Except, when you read Katherine Johnson’s account from real life, she said “I didn’t feel the segregation at NASA, because everybody there was doing research. You had a mission and you worked on it, and it was important to you to do your job…and play bridge at lunch. I didn’t feel any segregation.” Ohhh… As if they aren’t enough racist situations, real ones, to make films about, why make one up? Sully was another. Great film, and one more inevitable step in Tom Hanks’s transmogrification into Jimmy Stewart. But he gets a real grilling from the Air Transport Investigation court, who don’t seem to realize he was a hero, and it seems nasty, really nasty and personal. Oh, except. Except it wasn’t actually like that. “In real life, this process was far more drawn out and largely benign, as most such questions were routine”. Sure you wouldn’t have a film without changing truth, but both times I felt really let down. “True story” films, loved watching them, captivated, then came home, Googled and found out the truth.

Not right.

Maybe it was better before Google. Maybe I should Google the von Trapp family or Douglas Bader or The Great Train Robbery or Laurence of Arabia or The Bridge Over the River Kwai or Colditz (TV)…the real truth behind so many much earlier films whose narrative I had taken, ingénu as I was, as gospel. Best not. Anyway, I fell asleep during Lion. No doubt I have been working too hard (just saying that, in case my boss is reading this).

So, I wondered where I was. I turned on the “interactive map”. Black Sea! Never realized it was so big. I had been to its front door, so to speak, in the ’60s, when my parents took me to Istanbul. And of course the Black Sea is where Colchis lies, the home of the original Golden Fleece. My middle name is “Jason” so I always felt some affinity for the Argonauts and their trip to relieve Aeëtes of his prize possession (though the books never really portray them as common thieves).

I’m on the plane, on my way to India, for 8 minutes.

I will be there longer than that, of course. But the main purpose of the visit (though I have managed to cram in a client meeting on the Saturday afternoon) is an 8-minute stage performance. I’m quite excited.

We have a great new product – now hold your horses, I’m not going to go into selling mode, although I have to say it’s rather special and could turn business e-banking on its head but, that’s for another day, visit our web site, come to Sibos, wait for the launch.

Before we launch it, our wonderful Chairman suggested we should do a pre-launch at our own annual company event, great idea, and that’s what I am doing. “8 minutes” I was told.

Now it’s interesting how people react. I saw one email from someone else doing one who wept “8 minutes! Only 8 minutes?” but my reaction was “8 minutes? Wow, that’s long!” After all, 30 seconds is a long TV ad. Well, you have to make a statement, don’t you. So I have burned 25 seconds of those precious 8 minutes with an AV-style intro, a mélange of pictures about our clients’ clients, with a fantastic, stirring soundtrack, and some stunning visuals effects that will raise the roof and create a super emotional bond. I hope. Originally I had each image on the montage taking 4 bars of the frenetic, overblown flute music, but that was just taking too looooooong. So I chopped the FX down ruthlessly and the images, 2 bars each: 1.2 seconds for the complex effect and only 0.4 to see each amazingly rich image. That’s shorter than you should but hey, what’s the point of rules if you can’t break them? And, I have TWO screens! What a joy that is! So we’ve got mayhem happening on each of two screens at the same time. The audience won’t be able to keep up.[‡] Actually, I know that they will keep up. With the whole idea. Just maybe not each picture. Which is just fine. If it doesn’t get applause I will resign.

I’ll create even more emotion when I introduce our Digital Head – who has not only come up with this stunning product but also, before even the launch, got three large banks on board – so that he can show it off. And a finale, of a final 16 seconds. But it’s worth it. The “meat” is around 7 of the 8 minutes but it won’t have the impact without the wrapper.

Or so I choose to believe.

You can do a lot in 8 minutes. 20 TV ads or more. 8.9 times Chris Froome’s winning (smallest ever) margin. 220.8 kilometres the Earth will travel. 8 rounds of “Just a Minute”. 50 Usain Bolt 9.58 second World Records. 17,280,000,000,000,000 alpha particles emitted by one kilo of radon-226 (more or less). Fly across the Black Sea at 610mph and still not see land. And 1/12,933 of the time left before SIbos begins.



But, like Hill Street Blues showed, the first TV drama really not to wait for the audience. Don’t underestimate the audience. You don’t have to see every little element to get the big picture.

[§] It will. If only because I will plant someone to start the applause. I’m 100% confident it will be spontaneous, though. You know that feeling, when you’ve created something you just KNOW people will love? But just in case…it’s a funny thing but, with a crowd, if one person claps, everybody almost always will join in! I learnt this 17 years ago, at Risk 2000, where my then company was sponsoring the lunch. I was giving a 2-minute overview of the company and we had given everybody mints in a little tin box as a gift. Now, these mints were tricky to open: the trick was to press down on the lid in the middle and they would pop open with a little “clack”. As I explained this, half the audience (about 100 people) picked up their tin of mints and dutifully pressed them in the middle. 100 “clacks”. Well, 100 clacks sound like applause. At this, the whole audience of 200 started clapping furiously. I smiled, gratefully took in the applause, abandoned the rest of my speech, shouted “Come see us at our booth!” and sat down, a hero, learning a valuable lesson.

Relative to a notionally static Sun. Don’t go all Einstein on me.

At time of writing. You’ll be able to see the 8 minutes – well a slightly longer one – at Sibos, Open Theatre One, Tuesday, 5.00.