Berlin diary entry 8

Thursday 26th May 2005 – The bus home from work (Manchester)

I’ve just had my first day back at work. It has been a wrench to put the Berlin vehicle back in the garage after it had taken us on such an adventure. Ho hum.

We had just the morning in Berlin to tie up some loose ends. We decided to visit the East Side Gallery for cutaways and incidental stuff. The East Side Gallery is the longest stretch of the Wall still standing. It’s about a kilometre long and has served as a public and free art gallery since reunification. Artists of diverse styles and nationalities were invited to use sections as canvasses.

About half the works are now flaking away but the other half has been recently restored. It’s a grey area (no pun intended) but another problem for the gallery seems to be graffiti. Berlin is covered in graffiti. Complete buildings are covered with the stuff – some on a staggering scale, some at remarkable height. The Berlin Wall was, from photos I have seen, covered in graffiti so it’s hard to criticise the graffiti at the East Side Gallery. I mean the opportunistic tourist kind of stuff – not the artistic graffiti across the rest of Berlin.

I saw ‘Free Scotland’ and ‘Michael Jackson Inocente’ scribbled on there with marker pens. It seemed as naff as the crappy souvenirs at Checkpoint Charlie to me. A free Scotland and the trial of Michael Jackson may be big issues for some but I couldn’t get them to stretch to Cold War proportions.

When we got to the end, we did a final piece to camera and used the last 3 minutes of tape to record walking back along the Wall. I’ve not played it back properly yet but it seemed a good idea for end credits.

Now that I’m back home and back at work, I can’t help but look back longingly over the week. I miss Berlin like mad. Just writing or saying the word ‘Berlin’ feels special.

I haven’t yet played any tapes back because I am almost afraid to do it.I’m worried whether it will look or sound any good. I know we tried our best, and I’m going to have to make the most of it, but the prospect of being disappointed is just too much right now.

My first night back in my own bed was plagued by external disturbances – phone calls, car alarms etc, but some internal ones too. I think I’m adjusting to not being in Berlin, living and breathing this project. My activities there felt real, my activities here feel the opposite.

I also have this nagging feeling that I wasn’t able to realise the film completely. The interviews were great but I don’t think I got enough of the variety needed to make a film watchable. It’s all a learning process, and I’ve learned so much so far, but I feel I may have lacked some vision.

Maybe its too much to go away for six days and expect to get a complete film in the bag? Maybe I put too much emphasis on interviews rather than other stuff? I dunno. Either way, I now have the job of cataloguing the footage and piecing together a narrative. It’s a great project, and I can’t wait to do it but maybe I’ll give myself a bit of time first. A bit of space to gather my thoughts and digest what I have learned.

So that’s about it for this diary. Stage 1, get the project off the ground, arranged and ready to film – done. Stage 2, go to Berlin, conduct the interviews and get the footage – done. Stage 3, make something watchable – to do.