... Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, Haiti, Zaire, Nagorno Karabach...
Frontline News - The Agency
I was one of the original members of 'Frontline News' - a group of free-lancers that covered wars: From the Afghan 'Jihad', through the break up of Yugoslavia and the USSR. We provided a unique view of world events to the networks and our story is told in this book.
The bulk of my work (1991-1997) was in the former Yugoslavia, where I covered Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovar. I did stints in the former Soviet Union, primarily Chechenya and Nagorno Karabah but also filmed stories from the Arctic circle through to Khabarosk and the Don.
In 1994 I was in Haiti and later the Rwandan refusgee crisis in Zaire. Broke news of 2 big massacres in Croatia, Russian dope dealing grannies in Moscow, Siberian oil lakes and Czech child prostitutes amongst others. Iraq in 2003, 2005 and 2007 then Afghanistan.
Short Biography on Wars and SW9
1992, the war kicked off in Yugoslavia and I borrowed cash for a small domestic 8mm video camera, packed my bags and caught a plane to the nearest working airport. I spent the best part of the next few years covering the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo working as a freelance journalist/cameraman. I sold stories of massacres to ITN, Newsnight and many foreign stations, working with a group of freelancers called 'Frontline News'. Through lack of funds we were forced to live as locals did. No expensive hotels and armored vehicles; but sleeping on cellar floors, catching what remained of the local transport and dodging the bullets along with beleaguered inhabitants. We defied the major news stations and uncovered United Nations corruption, a particularly unattractive story to all the journalists who relied of the UN to get them in and out of a city under siege. On one occasion we dressed as Croat soldiers and were smuggled to the front-line, lead tiptoe through the minefields and into a Muslim enclave that had been cut off for 7 months.
It had its harrowing moments too: Like traveling into recaptured Croat territory with anxious civilians looking for relatives. Forty-nine old people had been hacked to death by the retreating Serb forces and we were literally picking up the pieces with hysterical family members. Another time I was stuck between front lines, on a half-mile stretch of road, mines at either end, when AK47 bullets started tearing through my car. A close shave that left my nerves in tatters and camera down for a week. I covered wars in Nagorno Karabach and Chechenya, and spent five years traveling the worlds hot spots for TV: Zaire, Albania, Kosovo, Czech republic, former Soviet Union amongst them.
Also in 1992 I shot and directed my first documentary. A zero budget effort where I blagged camera and edit equipment and followed a bunch of London based born again Christians as they exorcised the 'evils' of the capital. After it was bought and screened by Channel 4 in 93, I started directing TV documentaries, including two for CH4 about life on the front-line and another zero-budget effort, a dark and wry look at war journalism.
By 97 I slowed down on the wars and wanted to turn my attention to my own country. Also probably as a reaction to the heaviness of the last few years I'd threw myself into dance and drug culture. I directed 'Generation E' for channel 5, looking at how ecstasy and has affected British culture. The program flagshiped the start of the new Channel 5. Following on from that I directed 'Full Moon Party' for Channel 5, about backpackers in Thailand then Channel 4's 'City Stories', a 5-part series on the world of finance.
Desperate to move back towards my childhood dream of making a feature film, I then pulled in more favors, blagged equipment, got a bunch of actors together and made a 15 minute short drama about a drub-party enterprise, at Notting Hill carnival that goes wrong. This was the springboard that launched my first full-length feature film.
SW9 was a culmination of my experiences and insecurities from the previous ten years. From drugs excesses at home to adrenaline binges in wars. As I see it, the film describes a culture on the verge of enormous change, at the end of an epoch, and reflects my own aspirations and paranoias.