Poet: Gil Scott-Heron

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron

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This prophetic poem by the late, great Gil Scott-Heron has been on my mind a lot lately. I went to see if anyone had ever made a decent video for it, and found this on YouTube (though I subsequently swapped in the production company’s own upload from Vimeo). It was produced in 2001 by Peter Collingridge and directed by Julian House as a video trailer for Scott-Heron’s collected lyrics and poems, Now and Then (Canongate Books). A link in the YouTube description took me to Collingridge’s Apt Studio, a British “digital consultancy to publishers,” where I found a page for the film, as well as the original Flash version, still live:

Apt MD Peter Collingridge worked at Canongate Books from 1997-2001. Whilst there he wrote a business plan for the Scottish Arts Council, titled “Pop Promos For Books”. The plan was to commission his film-maker friends to make pop video-length films inspired by books, and to host these films on the Canongate website, attracting more visitors.

One of the first films was for “Now and Then”, a collection of Gil Scott-Heron’s poems which Peter was editing at the time. There was only one option as to which poem to chose – Gil’s masterpiece, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

He teamed up with Julian House at Intro to make this promo, which has been seen over 750,000 times. The film uses archival images from Getty, and was launched in 2001.

The track “The Revolution Has Not Been Televised” has been edited for the promo.

Who knew that the idea of making video trailers for books of poetry pre-dated the creation of YouTube by at least five years! There’s also still a page for the video at the Intro website, which offers a reminder of how cutting-edge Flash animation was at the time:

The Intro moving image team has created a Flash movie to promote a book about music visionary Gil Scott Heron. The film, made entirely in Flash, is a dynamic interpretation of one of Gil’s most famous songs, ‘The Revolution Will Not be Televised.’ It features fragments of lyrics and images from the American 1970s mediascape. The promo was shortlisted at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, for best animation.

Do listen to the complete track, in all its glory, on the Ace Records YouTube channel.

I also found this snippet of an interview with Gill where he explains, very calmly and patiently, what he meant by his famous dictum:

“Shot by Skip Blumberg. Watch the full, unedited interview at Media Burn Archive.” This is raw footage for a TV series called The 90’s. The true revolution may not be televised, but fortunately Gil Scott-Heron was. Such a brilliant and original spoken-word innovator.