Edgware born Roann Ghosh is a filmmaker, presenter and creative with a passion for social good and environmentalism.
I came across his work while browsing Vimeo one afternoon in search of inspiring films about London. In recent weeks we have made the decision that People of London will be as much about other people's films, as our own. We are opening a category called “Guest Director” where we’ve invited others to feature their work with us, we host the film and then write about the creation, the director and their other projects if applicable. Apply Here.
I spoke to Roann this week to find out more about his life, the focus of his work and more importantly his desire to see transformation in society through a variety of channels.
Roann appeared on my skype screen and I could tell instantly that we were going to have a lot to talk about, our mutual love of storytelling in a intimate and personal way, is the reason I was drawn to Roann’s film.
The film centered around Food for Thought a London based vegetarian restaurant, that opened forty years ago in 1972. The aim was to serve healthy, wholesome food at a price a broad variety of people could afford.
What struck me first about the film was the way Roann told their story, he went up close to celebrate the life and times of what could be described as a “vegetarian institution” of London. I loved the frank nature of the owner Vanessa Garrett portrayed in her erudite and impassioned plea to the audience.
The film deals with a rather blinding example of independent retailers being literally sucked out of London. Every other week we hear about another institution be it a gay club, a cafe, a gallery or a store that has been around for decades having to shut up shop due to doubling of rent prices.
Garrett puts it quite succinctly at the end of the film “Greed is the one thing that really fucks it up everytime …”
For further information about Food for Thought, visit their website
Roann like many Londoners started out working in the corporate world, his impressive work history includes the BBC and ITN, where he worked as a broadcast journalist reporting and presenting across TV, radio and digital platforms including East Midlands Today, Midlands Today, BBC Asian network.
After many years he took the challenging decision to take a different track in life, this led him to focus on social good, though he was always aligned toward this. At the end of 2014 he decided to tap into what made him tick and instead of skirting around this new focus, he made it the center of what he was doing, so he could manifest his new goal. The documentary on “Food for Thought” came out of the process, it was shot in July 2015.
Roann and I laughed at just how widespread the lack of understanding about how much effort it takes to produce a good film. Many hours of planning, researching and editing. He said to me “I could shoot and edit and direct. But you get better results if you work with other people who can focus on their skills.” He prefers collaboration and working in a team. This allowed him to focus on the story telling, and to polish the final production. Roann has produced a variety of brilliant work, one such piece was for the bbc on the nature of being mixed race in the UK.
In 2014 it was time for something new, a production company, which then developed into a creative agency. The agency focus was making films for brands and building campaigns. Their team started out with clients they really believed in; huge NGOs, the World Economic Forum and even The Arts Council. The company ended up with large corporate international clients, Roann joked “In a way I feel like I lost my soul. The thing is that I didn't turn them down. And I ended up with client list that was more lucrative, but not really where I wanted to be.”
While at the BBC he was always encouraged to go after the big stories, specialise in big news, sports and celebrity, “you could interview top footballers” someone once told him.
But sticking to his true values and moral compass, Roann would always pick the wheelchair basketball story. The story of the underdog.
What really motivates Roann are the people who don't shout about what they do. “Dedication, Honesty, focus, those are the things that get forgotten. People who need a spotlight.” he told me.
A bit of background of his latest film Roann recalls, “I went to Food for Thought with my mum in the 80s. The place had never changed.”
“When I started going more recently, I loved how it had not changed, with it’s amazing portion sizes, and not giving a toss about decor, to the wonderful wholesome food.”
He was queuing up one day at the restaurant. He overheard that it was shutting down, and wondered where they were moving to. Roann soon realised they were not going to reopen. This was the moment knew he had to tell their story.
Roann isn't someone who stands in front of the bank of england with an occupy mask on, he loves to tell stories of the vulnerable, people who are too busy changing the world to tell the world what they are doing.
He wanted to ask the audience some key questions about ‘Food for Thought’ and the nature of gentrification in London:
Do you know this is going on? Is there space for everyone in this society? Are we making space for everyone in this society?
Roann approached Vanessa, owner of the restaurant, with an idea of not just slamming the corporate march, not to ‘go off on one’ or rant from the first second, but to go in celebrating the restaurant. There had to be no hint in the beginning and then halfway, talk about the fact that they are shutting down. He wanted people to feel something, moved perhaps.
We discussed the point on constructive journalism, and the importance of positive news, not just slamming a situation, I mentioned our connections with the wonderful Positive News Magazine, and its vision to create a world of positive news in a sea of negativity and moaning.
On the other side of the conversation, we should ask ourselves some important questions?
Do corporates just serve a need? Or are we missing something important? Are we just accepting what we are being given?
Over the months since the film's release, Roann has had so many people get in touch about it. There is a huge desire to do something. The thirst is there, but the question is ‘how to resolve this problem?’ and ultimately ‘is it a problem, if this is what people want?’
We spoke about the massive changes going on in London, places like Brixton, where rents are doubling and all forms of independent stores are quickly vanishing. People will shop at the corporate chains because of convenience and price.
What’s next on the horizon for Mr Roann Ghosh? “I am also involved with an international initiative called Green Monday, a sustainable eating organisation focused on helping people try to cut out on meat at least once a week”
Being a vegan that was music to my ears, now the discussion on animals is a vital one, it is not just focused on the ethics of animal eating and agriculture, but also the importance of understand the environmental impact of what people eat, this really seems to help people feel more strongly about their impact and drives change.
If you give up meat one day a week, you have can have massive amount of impact on the amount of CO2 you are responsible for. It's a simple premise. Roann’s focus is to bring it to North America and Europe eventually. Incredibly Green Monday has been born out of Asia a place where meat eating is a huge part of the everyday culture.
Green Monday is a focus on the positives of how people can make an impact. Roann will be launching film and media for Green Monday this year in May.
If you want to support Green Monday, please join Green Monday and take on the challenge.
A man of many talents and interests, Roann is also producing content for the school of practical philosophy.
He encountered it 3 years ago, where a ten week course on mindfulness and meditation, had a profound effect on him. These were all things he had scoffed at before. This course helped him to use ancient eastern philosophy in a way that he could use to shape his life.
One of the films that will be shot, is a piece consciousness, a short film, about a guy, his day in London. Five scenes in total. One scene is at the bus stop, another heading to work, the other in a meeting and going home to his girlfriend. Roanne had to wear a head rig to make it. Direct and shoot, so it was quite heavy on his neck. ouch! This kind of goes against his rule about not doing everything at once on your own.
The idea is to see life happening at the young man’s point of view and see him getting distracted, by all the things in this world, we see him attempting to multi-task. One of the visual devices is to show a ticker along the bottom which takes him away from what he is trying to focus on.
The point of the story is that the young man is simply trying to remember to bring his girlfriend a present, but because of all the distractions will he manage to do it? You will have to wait to see the film to find out.
All of this comes together across all of Roann’s other work, because he really believes that you can put out as many messages as you like, but if people are not receptive and fully present, no-one will listen.
You can connect with Roann Ghosh on twitter here
Director & Editor: Roann Ghosh| DOP/editor: Liam Martin | Music: Dan Pollard | Graphics/photography: Peter Beatty | Article: Robbie Lockie