I’ve been involved in two very different media projects recently, both to be premiered in the upcoming Easter week broadcast-fest. One is with BBC1 and the other for National Geographic – working on them at the same time has given a chance to get a ‘feel’ for how the two approach the job differently.
At one level, the two web announcements say it all. BBC1’s The Mystery of Mary Magdalene takes a classic topic – who doesn’t love Jesus’ girl-friend from Jesus Christ Superstar and The Da Vinci Code? – and promises a culturally literate treatment. The National Geographic’s Jesus: The Rise to Power evokes violence, extreme sports (something about that mountain-at-sunset shot!) – and Barack Obama. This one promises drama: ‘The story is EVERYTHING…’ – and of course it has a great story to tell.
My brushes with the BBC recently have revealed an organization that is both more playful and more serious than I might have imagined. Everything is done on a shoe-string, with an eye on saving the tax-payer’s money, but the people involved make a good game of trying to defend what is important, and they seem charmingly aware of the fact that what they do is a life-line to the world of ideas for a large part of the population.
I haven’t seen either film yet. It’s always slightly edgy when you know what you tried to say but you haven’t yet seen where your pearls of wisdom landed in somebody else’ picture. So much less anxiety-provoking to write books! (Especially the nice, old-fashioned kind that are printed on paper.) My only real complaint, so far, is that the London basement where my part of Mary Magdalene was shot was bitterly cold. In the rushes it looked remarkably like the medieval pilgrimage site it was meant to look like. The camera-man promised that on-screen, the fact that I was wearing two cardigans – while pretending it was springtime in Jerusalem – would not be visible. Fingers crossed!