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Who you gonna call?
I’ve discovered that wearing my Ghostbusters jersey (or sweater, as Americans call it) and t-shirt are fast ways to getting people to smile at you. That, and shout out the phrase, “who you gonna call?”
This week’s episode of The Rundown is in honour of the original movie, and a throw-forward to the new one, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. I had actually been working on this route for a while – I thought of it last year and just didn’t have the time to put it together. Now that I’ve seen the new film and it’s being released this weekend, the time is right to bring it all together.

There’s been a lot of vitriol and negativity from certain corners of the Internet because the reboot exists with four women in roles once occupied by men. I’m not a huge fan of reboots, but I enjoyed this one – it was funny, I liked the homages it paid to the original and Kate McKinnon is a delight to behold on screen. Plus I’m excited for what the film will do for younger girls who go watch it and how excited it will make them to want to do cool things with their brains. This is one such article that articulates why it’s so important.
The original changed the game for its core creative team – director Ivan Reitman, Billy Murray, Dan Ackroyd and the late Harold Ramis. Over 30 years ago, when they were in their ’30s, it released, catapulting their brand of comedy into popular culture. I look forward to seeing more from McCarthy, Wiig, Jones and McKinnon (so much more from McKinnon!), and similarly, seeing them become more and more a part of pop culture.
Here is the route:

GhostbustersRoute

 

Like so many friendships made in our time, I first met Ray Hailes on Instagram. He was part of the week 2 group of runners who took part in Nike’s Montauk Project, a life-changing couple of days that a handful of New Yorkers got to experience in East Hampton.
I was part of week 3, the final week, and in the days and weeks preceding my trip, I’d seen posts featuring the hashtag, #MontaukProject, many of which came from Ray’s IG, along with others who’d been sharing pics of the epic training sessions, runs on the beach and latest Nike shoes they’d scored. Ray and I, along with the others who were lucky enough to attend, bonded over this experience that left such a great impact on us (so much so, he and his friend Eric got tattoos of the Montauk co-ordinates), knowing that we’d be forever changed by the insight and lessons learnt, rather than all the cool free stuff we got.
In this episode of The Rundown, Ray talks about how running shaped his early life in NYC, moving here ten years ago from Texas by way of Chicago. He talks about having sickle cell and how that impacts is running. Along the way, he takes me on a route that starts at the famous Brill Building, where many a hit song was recorded back in the day, (and still is home to studios and labels), to the place where he met his best friend and fellow Resident Runners co-founder, Eric Blevens, at West NYC.

For more on Ray and Resident Runners, visit their site, and join them on Thursday night runs – or one of their monthly taco runs!

“I go out every day. When I get depressed at the office, I go out, and as soon as I’m on the street and see people, I feel better. But I never go out with a preconceived idea. I let the street speak to me.”
I love these words by Bill Cunningham, who died at the age of 87 last weekend after suffering a stroke. It’s an outlook on life that endeared him to so many, and its evident in his photos. Beyond enjoying seeing his pics in the Style section of the New York Times every Sunday, I enjoyed hearing his raspy voice talk about the sights he’d seen out on the streets that week.
The great fashion and street photographer, originally from Boston, made NYC his own. While I was never the subject of his lens, I do know a few people who were, and I did run past him outside the Met Museum one day, which was quite a thrill! He was described as “a living landmark,” and became an indelible part of the city. So that’s why I wanted to take in some of the spots that made up Cunningham’s NY on this 3 mile run.

If you want to run the route too, here are the details:

billcunninghamny

And check out the fantastic documentary, Bill Cunningham New York.

 

I wrote this story for the Sunday Times, originally published on June 26.
You don’t have to ask Steven Spielberg about the movie he felt the most overwhelmed to make in his 40-odd years in the film business. He offers up this information – about being $4.5 million over budget, 104 days off production schedule, and filled with all sorts of worrisome fears that troubled him on his first big blockbuster film, Jaws – with very little prodding. And just when you think he’s done reminiscing about days long gone by, he’ll offer up anecdotes about a more recent time in his career when he felt the same way. A time as recent as just last year, when making The BFG.
Taking on the film version of a story beloved by so many generations – over 200 million copies sold worldwide and published in 41 languages, with a 24-foot-tall central character, proved to be no mean feat for Spielberg. Add to that, it being his first film for Disney, and the 3-time Oscar-winning director will tell you he was apprehensive even before filming got underway.
“When I first walked onto the sound stages and I saw the different levels of complexity and the technology that was required to realize even a single shot, I was for, the first time since Jaws, completely overwhelmed,” he says, sitting in the Sir Sean Connery suite of the Carlton Hotel in the south of France, ahead of the film’s international release. “I wasn’t sure exactly how to pull it off.”
For someone who’s built his very name on the ability to take a story from the pages of a book to the scenes on a big screen for over 4 decades and in countless hit films, it seems incongruous that a director as well established as Spielberg should still battle the kinds of demons that made him first pick up his Dad’s 8mm video camera as a shy 12-year old, growing up in Phoenix, Arizona.
And yet Spielberg’s willingness to admit that he’s still fearful of the unknown, with every new motion picture he takes on, makes him rather a lot like the creature at the centre of his latest movie, the Big Friendly Giant. He is both big, in stature, yes, and a giant – a titan – of show-business, but far more approachable and, even, endearing when you get up close, and find out he’s probably, well, just as scared of you as you are of him.
It’s thanks to a laugh shared over the azure blue tie he picked to wear that picks up the colour of the ocean outside the hotel window that the ice is broken when we first meet. In a poetic tie-in, Spielberg returned to the Cannes Film Festival with The BFG, which came out on bookshelves in the year that the director’s own beloved story of an extraordinary friendship, ET, the Extra-Terrestrial, debuted at the famous film festival.
Like ET, The BFG has won over fans across multiple generations, making it a classic with a certain kind of responsibility attached to it. “I can relate to it, because it it took me right back,” Spielberg says, through his trademark glasses, his eyes completely engaged. “I was able to relate to the book when I read it to my own children because BFG is the loneliest giant in history – until he meets Sophie – and I felt like I was the loneliest kid in the world, growing up. Not because I didn’t come from a loving family, but because socially, I was isolated and I was never included in anything. For a long time. In elementary school, in junior high – it was not a good time for me. I know what that feels like.” The video camera became Spielberg’s Sophie, and this “friendship” took him from being an imposter running around on the Universal studio lot as a shy but plucky teenager, to a TV director, and then fully fledged filmmaker, when he was given the chance to make his first feature, The Sugarland Express, and then, Jaws.
But the personal attachment Spielberg felt to Dahl’s story is one of the reasons for the trepidation in taking on the film. Like Spielberg, generations of readers of The BFG have all found within the rummytot (“nonsense”) of the book’s gobblefunk language their own resonance. The responsibility of this was not lost on Spielberg, nor on his lead character, Mark Rylance, who plays the giant. Rylance’s close friendship with Spielberg, who says he doesn’t readily make new friends on film sets, helped ease the stress of the production.
“Mark was also in the same place as me growing up; too shy to express himself and make friends. Just like me. He also knows what it’s like to be one of the invisible millions,” says Spielberg. Rylance, who earned this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, and has two more films lined up with the director, was born in Kent, in the UK, and had already distinguished himself in the theatre before working with Spielberg. He came to the production familiar with the kind of scrutiny that comes from playing Shakespeare characters for 30 years.
Yet despite having an actor of Rylance’s calibre, Spielberg still had the mightiest challenge to overcome – creating a motion picture that would draw film-goers into the world Dahl created. “Getting the audience to forget that any special effects went into the making of The BFG,” he says. “That was my biggest challenge.” Spielberg has never been one to shy away from new technology – from choosing to use CGI over claymation in Jurassic Park to using performance-capture techniques in The Adventures of Tintin. Though he may be eager to use the latest technology, Spielberg is utterly concerned with making the audience forget they’re seeing anything that’s been constructed specially for them.
“To get the audience so involved and so consumed by the characters, and in their relationship, that once they were used to what BFG looked like, they would forget how BFG was created and just go with the story – that’s what I wanted,” he says. And that was the speech he gave at the beginning of the film’s four month shoot at Weta Digital, the visual effects company in New Zealand, co-founded by Peter Jackson. The production required a new hybrid style of filmmaking using a blend of live-action and performance-capture techniques to bring the story’s fantastical characters to life, all on real sets that were built specifically for the film.
“The most important thing about movie-making is can you forget who made the movie?” asks Spielberg, rhetorically. “Can you forget everything but the movie itself? That’s all I want,” he continues. “For people to forget everything except what they’re experiencing.” When he gets it right, even Spielberg himself gets lost in the moment, as he did many times while witnessing Rylance and 11-year-old co-star Ruby Barnill, who plays Sophie, work together. “It’s those moments where I forget to say cut, because there is such truth in the scene. On BFG, I remember it happened specifically in a white room, without a set, where Mark had on just his wet suit and the dots on his face, and he’s explaining to Sophie what her dream means. Every time I filmed it, I got lost in it,” he smiles broadly.
But, those moments, he says, have to be earned. As did the approval from the Dahl family. “That was the one phone-call I was waiting for,” he says. Spielberg and the late screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who also wrote ET, made their own interpretations of the story in the way of adding to the plot. Changes, Spielberg says, that were made with the support of the family. “They are absolutely head over heels in love with the film, and that’s what matters to me most,” he says.
Spielberg will take on more books soon, like Ready Player One, and his company Amblin Entertainment has also bought the rights to South African literary duo SL Grey’s The Apartment, so the almost-70-year-old director is not done taking books from print to film. But he does find himself looking to new sources of inspiration to help him. Lately, he’s been binge-watching TV shows like The Night Manager and The Girlfriend Experience. He believes TV has some of the best story-telling right now, and so, busy as he is, he makes time to watch, much to the chagrin of his “handlers.”
“Great writing – great stories – inspire all of us. We’re better if we have more inspiration,” he says. “If the stories aren’t good, then we’re not good. There has to be a kind of renaissance that gets people excited about telling better stories.” Whether it’s on TV or in a book, you know Spielberg will be taking it all in, ready for his next challenge.

**Shortly after posting this, President Barack Obama declared The Stonewall Inn the US’ first national monument dedicated to gay rights.
This week’s Pride activities in New York, and in other parts of the world in the wake of the Orlando gay club shooting, have been even more poignant. In honour of the people and places that have helped knock down barriers and defy preconceptions, I decided to head to places that have significance in the LGBT history of the city for this week’s episode of The Rundown.

I took part in the Nike BeTrue run earlier this week – such a great show of camaraderie in the face of an attack that left this whole country – indeed the world – reeling. I know the running community has been standing strong, just as many others have, with those who were affected by the mass shooting.
Here is the route I ran, and also a mention of the stops.
For more info on The Stonewall Inn, click here, Cherry Lane Theater, here, and for more on the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, go here.
Also, as the police officer in the video so noted, the LGBT Community Centre on 13th and 7th Ave is a vital source of comfort and care for many people – so donate if you can, or just spread the word!

pridemap