Big Picture Film Club recently held its latest Big Picture Talks event featuring none other than investigative journalists, Ben Zand ( BBC’s World’s Most Dangerous Cities) & Seyi Rhodes (Channel 4’s Unreported World).
You can watch parts 1-7 of the event where both of our guests discussed a variety of topics, from their biggest challenges to ethics when making a documentary.
Fresh from its debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, we caught up with French filmmaker, Jenna Suru to discuss her latest film L’Âge d’Or (Golden Age). L’Âge d’Or tells the story of a French-American producer who meets an ambitious French theatre actress in Paris and decide to undertake an artistic project together.
Presh: What was your inspiration for the film? Are there any direct influences from your own upbringing?
Jenna Suru: My upbringing had a major influence on “L’Âge d’Or”. I started acting when I was 8 years old in Paris and 17 years old in Los Angeles. Then I made my final commitment to become a filmmaker and tell stories that will inspire the audience. I opened my feature film company Belle Epoque Films in France in January 2015 as moving to London, where I stayed and produced movies for about 2 years. I’ve put all the best of these inspirations in “L’Âge d’Or”. The film is a period drama set in 1967, a tribute to artists who went to Saint-Tropez in South of France in the 60s to change that world that didn’t work for them.
Saint-Tropez was a very important inspiration to me as a filmmaker to create “L’Âge d’Or”. Discovering this village that used to be a small fishing harbour and became this internationally famous point of gathering has touched my heart. It’s a village like none others, where such great artists from the UK, the US and over the world gathered to create masterpieces, where such movies as “God created women” starring Brigitte Bardot were shot. Filming there and in the 35 exceptional locations of the film was one of the deepest experiences of my artistic life.
The film makes references to the socio-political climate of the time in both the United States and France in the late 60s. How do these pressures affect the decisions Sebastian and Angèle make?
There were many pressures and tensions indeed at the time: the Vietnam war, racism, riots in America and Europe… These pressures tremendously affect the decisions Sebastian and Angèle make in the film. Sebastian and Angèle are a modern tribute to the artists that involved in May 1968, Woodstock, Isle of Wight… to change that world that didn’t work for them.
Sebastian is a penniless Franco-American producer living in Los Angeles, who returns to France in his mother’s footsteps to flee the Vietnam War. He’s convinced that art will enable him to change his life, in this world turning upside down. Angèle is an ambitious theatre actress, who plays in small Parisian theatres in front of empty seats. She’s more ambitious than what the world she’s living in has to offer her. As a woman, she feels she’s mainly asked to become a decent mother rather than pursuing any artistic purpose.
Both desperate to change the world, they decide to embark on an artistic project together, ending up in a little village in the South of France: Saint-Tropez… In this village tinged with artistic revolution and music, the experiences they have together will soon force them to face up to their choices. How far are they willing to go to change this world that doesn’t work for them?
During the 1960s Saint-Tropez had become the go-to destination for the very rich, but also acted as a hub for artists at that period of time and is an important location for the film. How did you go about recreating the feel of 1960s Saint-Tropez?
One of the main key parts of recreating the ’60s was to find the ideal locations for filming. I wanted the locations to be authentic to restore the atmosphere of the 60s. After a lot of research and location scouting, we managed to shoot in the locations that were at the very top of my wishlist. We shot in about 35 exceptional locations across France and USA for the film, including the Bir-Hakeim Bridge near the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Saint-Tropez harbour, etc.
Costumes, hair and make-up also needed to be picked up precisely to match the feel of the 60s. We did a lot of work on props and set design. The house where interior scenes (bedroom, living room, bathroom) and scenes in the garden or pool were shot, was also carefully dressed. Cars were chosen very precisely, all the cars you can see on screen are vintage cars: police car, sports car, 404, DS or Simca, the oldest of them, a Simca Presidency, dating from 1957.
You cited Blues and early Rock & Roll influences like Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed and event the Rolling Stones as key musical influences of the film. How did you go about developing the music for the “L’Âge d’Or”? Will we see some of there music included as well?
Developing the music for “L’Âge d’Or” was a big challenge as the Saint-Tropez of the 60s can’t be recreated without music, which holds a very important place in the film. For “L’Âge d’Or”, I chose songs from the very best artists from that time including Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed… Those who will watch the film will see how important music is, from beginning to end! I created a British band composed of a singer, a guitarist, a drummer, a bassist and a pianist. We recorded the soundtrack in a studio, making sure the musicality would correspond to the musical universe of the film, including the use of Gibson’s guitars from the 60s.
What were your favourite moments of filming?
Filming around Notre-Dame Cathedral for the opening of the Film was very moving. It holds a very special place in my heart, and the Cathedral is specifically mentioned by Sebastian and Angèle in the film. I feel it’s important for us filmmakers to contribute to keeping the memory of those wonderful places, especially considering the recent events.
One of my favourite moments is also the dancing scene in the bar of the Sube Hotel, a privileged place in the harbour of Saint-Tropez since the 19th century. This exceptional location takes us back to the hectic atmosphere of dancing at the time, here on great English rock. There were quite a few dancers involved in this scene which is a tribute to the importance of dancing in the ’60s. The period station and train, where Angèle and Sebastian arrive from Paris, are also very inspiring and authentic. They restored the atmosphere of the vintage railway stations, with a real train from 1967 and a real stationmaster.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
I hope “L’Âge d’Or” will help the audience find answers to their questions about changing the world on their own scale. The film suggests some ideas of how you can bring change as an artist, which is a tough journey and also often requires putting aside your personal success. The Beatles perfectly exemplify how artists managed to bring change in the 60s, for instance when they refused to perform in front of a segregated audience in Jacksonville in the USA in September 1964.
I often think about all of those who just like me are reading the news in the morning and are reminded everyday of how crazy this world is turning. The film suggests some ways to bring change through the characters of Angèle and Sebastian and encourages the young generation to take action.
L’Âge d’Or will be released in France and UK late 2019
Independent British comedy, I Love My Mum tells the story of mother and son who inadvertently get shopped in a container from their UK home to Morocco. Without money or documents and still in their pyjamas, they need to find a way back to the UK. The film is produced by the growing independent company, Camelot Films, the team behind 2018’s indie-thriller Winter Ridge alongside Amunet Productions. We spoke with Alberto Sciamma, the film’s writer & director, to find out what fans can expect.
Presh: The film takes the viewer through Morocco, Italy, Spain & France. What were your favourite locations to film in?
Alberto Sciamma: All of them were great locations; the sea and port in Italy, mountains and gorges in the Pyrenees, all the way from Marrakech to Tanger, even shooting in Tilbury was great fun. Each location presented a different set of challenges, but I was lucky to be working with two fantastic Producers; Alexa Waugh and Matt Hookings. Alexa coordinated all the shooting and travelling etc, and she managed to make it all work – it was nuts.
But the real beauty was that in each place we worked with great actors. In Spain with Aida Folch, who plays the ‘love’ interest to Ron; she is a natural and very incisive actor. Dominique Pinon and Tim Downie in UK; both such great actors and with very different styles of comedy. And Frank Laboeuf and Sara Martins in Cataluña, both brilliant at improvisation and both great to be with.
We shot all the time as we moved from place to place, it was non stop, always chasing the peculiar or the unexpected, we invited accidents to happen, so we could get the spontaneous feel I was after.
The movie is explosive and raw, and to capture that energy the shoot had to be the same, and it was; we were running away from the police in Morocco as Tommy French forgot his driving license in London, had accidents with the old Mercedes car he had to drive — and Kierston endured hours of cold water and jellyfish stings…
To captured some moments it was just me and Fabio Paolucci, our DOP, climbing endless mountains to get a few seconds of footage.
I guess each of us in the team remember one of the locations with special love — depending on where we got ill.
At one point in Morocco, everyone was down; how we managed to get those scenes done, well, that was a miracle — I mean; an actor had to hold the boom, sound had to assist the director of photography, and I believe our little dog was focus pulling… it got feverishly crazy.
How much of Ron & Olga’s journey is a metaphor of British peoples relationship with Europe? Or was that not a consideration in making the film?
Ok… that’s a big question, and I would rather go to Alton Towers… but here we go:
Sometimes we talk about Europe as if it was a single homogenous entity, and it’s not. Europe is fragmented and diverse. Just look at Spain where I was born, opinions and views and attitudes change from region to region. Europe as a solid entity does not exist, or does it?
Ron and Olga are out of their comfort zone, they are fish out of water; dropped from their British made sofa into a new universe. They have issues communicating and adapting to their new surroundings — but at the end of the day they don’t care, they plough on. That sense of self-absorbing attitude fascinates me — and let’s be real, you just need to go to Magaluz (Magaluf) for a few days to experience it, or hear plenty of politicians talk about the ‘continent’; that world outside that does not speak English.
But that same attitude is everywhere, it’s not British owned. That intrinsic animosity is universal, each country tends to look at the rest with that same sense of occasional mistrust. Regardless how much we hide it behind a veneer of worldliness and sophistication… we all can be prattish; insular people with the same preconceptions and insecurities.
But for me Ron and Olga are heroic! Protected by their Teflon like skin they walk the world, like crusaders, and I just bloody love it… it’s stereotypical but so what? Stereotypes are signals, basic iconography that simplifies the world outside; regardless of how ‘far-off mark’ such iconography may be – it tell us which toilet to use.
So, to answer your question. It’s their journey a metaphor for how we view and communicate with the ‘world outside’?… Benidorm anyone? Let’s go get legless, I’m paying…
Ron (played by Tommy French) & Olga’s (Played by Keirston Wareing) relationship is key to the plot. How did you go about getting the right chemistry between lead actors?
The chemistry happened naturally, it was there from the start. First, we contacted Kierston, she is utterly fresh and strong and very gutsy. Then, knowing Kierston was playing the mum, we looked for a Ron – and we found Tommy French. Or God sent him to us…
We put them together in a room and a second later I knew I had Ron and Olga. I remember I asked them to sing ‘Always Blowing Bubbles’ together… they did. It worked perfectly as they both sounded like strangled seagulls- that sort of high pitched sound they do… so I smiled, they were Mum and son!
You’ve mentioned how your own experience of growing up in Spain but living in England for most of your life serves as a lot of the inspiration for the film. Did you feel you identified more with Ron & Olga or actually the people that Ron & Olga meet as they travel throughout Europe?
I am Ron and Olga. I remember when I first came to England, many many years ago, I fell in love with the place, maybe because I couldn’t understand a single word and that sense of not belonging was actually quite precious, and still with me. But the character I identify more with is the little fluffy dog. He yaps and yaps drinks too much and drowns in the pool – only to be resuscitated by Olga at the end. Yep, I certainly identify with that little lost creature…
In ILMM there are no good guys and bad guys, it’s a naive movie, simple in its core and I hope sincere in its absurdity. I believe my experiences are embedded in all the characters, but not even intentionally, it just happens as you write it and shape it.
Are there personal stories from your own childhood and relationship with your parents that influenced the direction of the film?
All experiences affect what you write. I was once living with a friend of mine in his house, he lived there with his mum – he was in his forties. Circumstances of life took me there; from my house in London to a lovely inflatable bed on the floor, for quite a few months…
I remember arriving very very upset to their house, I opened the door and got in; in front of me stood his mom. Seeing me all shattered and sad and teary she stepped towards me (and please take into consideration she is a very large lady) and she said:
“you want to be sad about something you little prat?! Have a look at this then!” Suddenly I saw an endless landscape of Rubenesque flesh wobbling as she removed her nighty, like a magician revealing a rabbit. My sadness disappeared. I was saved. I realised I had met ‘Olga’ for the first time… Life’s a comedy, so I wrote it.
The film is intended to be a light-hearted comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with this in mind, how did you also go about referencing the current ‘refugee crisis’ within Europe in the film?
Ron and Olga suddenly become reverse-immigrants, utterly lost and trying to find their way back home, but Ron and Olga don’t look at the world with any Intellectual curiosity, they could as well be sitting at home arguing about silly stuff.
There is a scene in the movie in which Ron an Olga must cross from Morocco to Spain in an immigrants dinghy. It’s a difficult scene, a scene that walks a moral knife edge — but I felt it important as the scene is somehow a mirror to our attitudes. We tend to act as Ron and Olga do; we want to help but create chaos instead. The scene is as pathetic as our approach to such matters.
We need a concerted global effort to resolve such devastating human crisis, but you look around and you see a lot of posturing, here and in Spain and Italy and everywhere: as individuals, we talk about it, feel bad for a sec… and then go for a pint.
I Love My Mum is out in cinemas in the UK on 31st May 2019
Jules Brook sat down with Paul Laverty (Writer) & Icíar Bollaín (Director) to discuss “Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story”, a movie based on Carlos’ incredible journey from Cuban ballet prodigy to a globally revered ballet dancer.
Big Picture Film Club’s Jules Brook sat down with legendary Cuban ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta to talk about his incredible journey from Cuba to England and his film “Yuli”. Based on his autobiography “No Way Home”, “Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story” is a film inspired by his life story.
“Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story” will be in cinemas Friday 12th April.
Flatshare is a new comedy-drama series by James Barber. Brought to life by the award-winning director, Grant Taylor. It’s an LGBT series that follows the trials and tribulations of four housemates living in Peckham, exploring issues such as sexuality, gentrification and identity. The show features some of the brightest emerging acting talents in the UK including Shaun Cowlishaw (Fools Gold), Andrew Rowe (Great Expectations), Ani Nelson (Brothers With No Game) & Nic Bernasconi (The Man from U.N.C.L.E).
We spoke to James Barber, Flatshare’s writer and creator, to talk about how the web series came about and what we can expect from it.
Presh (Big Picture Film Club):The series deals with multiple themes, from gentrification, sexual identity, class and ethnicity. How have you juggled these different elements in the show’s creation to give each of those issues enough space and time to be addressed?
James Barber (Writer & Creator): It definitely was a challenge exploring all of these themes in just 4 episodes. As a black gay man, I wanted to create a show which was about people who live between the intersections of different identities, the challenges that come with this as well as our ability to thrive within these intersections.
How much of your own personal journey is in these characters?
JB: Writing Flatshare for me was definitely a way of making sense of my own personal journey. It’s so rare that I see people who look like me, who are messy, complicated and flawed on screen. And with Flatshare, I wanted to create a space in which I could exist in my fullness.
We have seen in recent years an increase in more filmmakers choosing to directly distribute their web series’ digitally, on platforms like Youtube, rather than first pitching to a TV network. How did you weigh up the pros of having full creative control over developing the series, versus the cons of not having the resources of a TV network behind you?
JB: I pitched the script to a few production companies who expressed some interest but chose to sit on the fence. For me, the most important thing was getting it made at any cost. As the executive producer, I had lots of creative control, which enabled me to make the show how I wanted to make it without compromise. It took over two years to make due to not having all of the resources I needed, but I was still able to make a show that looks better than some of the things I see on TV.
You successfully crowdfunded to allow you to produce the series. How was the response to the campaign? Despite setbacks in other areas of creating the show, did that give you confidence that people believed in this series?
JB: The campaign did well because I used it as a platform to share the personal reasons why I wanted to make the show which resonated with people. Running the campaign, as hard it was, taught me that what people connect with is a human story which at its core is universal.
Comedian, Lenny Henry recently delivered a petition to parliament calling for a greater number of BAME (Black & Minority Ethnic) writers, producers, directors in UK television, given how underrepresented those groups are within TV production. What barriers would the industry need to overcome to allow for better representation of black writers, producers and directors on TV?
JB: I commend Lenny Henry for raising this issue, because all too often, the focus is on-screen representation, which in my opinion is just window-dressing. I personally would like to see the UK adopt something like the ‘Inclusion Rider’ policy to fully commit to ensuring that we have diverse writers, producers, and directors behind the scenes, otherwise I don’t see much changing. The industry needs to be held accountable. It’s time to shake things up!
Whether you’re pursuing a career mainly in theatre, television or film, gaining a foothold in the world of acting is notoriously hard and competitive. Long and often unsociable hours and lack of consistent work can lead increased stress and anxiety, so how can emerging actors persevere in such an environment? We spoke to Welsh actor, Richard Goss, to discuss his career in front of the camera so far, mental health & advice for fellow emerging actors. With a resume that includes roles in The Rise of the Krays & Wrath of the Titans, alongside a slew of short films, Richard Goss is a name to watch out for.
Presh [Big Picture Film Club]: “Breaking” into the film industry is notoriously difficult, what have been the most important lessons you’ve learned in helping you navigate in the industry and build those necessary connections?
Richard: Perseverance. You have to persevere through all the challenging times in this industry with no one replying to your emails, no phone calls, no castings, working in day/night jobs you hate just to survive between acting roles. You need to have a burning desire and a belief in yourself which surpasses all of those negative aspects, keep working relentlessly and applying pressure to be seen. Always be professional and courteous to everyone you meet, whether on set or auditions or workshops. You never know who will be in a position to help you in the future and likewise, you must help people in return.
BPFC: With that being said, organisations like ArtsMinds have highlighted the prevalence of mental health issues within the film industry. Are there steps that you’ve taken to look after your own mental health in a stressful industry? And are there any tips you would suggest to actors?
Richard: That’s a good question as the mental health aspect is often overlooked or not discussed openly. Personally, I found concentrating on my physical fitness and physique has helped my mental health. It enforces discipline and commitment and honestly, I just feel fantastic after a good workout. I train 6 nights a week, a mixture of bodybuilding and martial arts. I’ve trained in Krav Maga for eight years and boxing several times a week which releases anger and stress. It’s healthy to have other hobbies outside of acting. I love video games (obsessed with Red Dead Redemption II and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey!), reading, travelling. Also learning other skills which can be useful for acting such as horse riding, archery, martial arts, music, etc. If you live in London, it’s always good to get the hell out of there for a few days every now and then too!
BPFC: From acting in a war film (The Final leaves of Winter) to crime drama (Rise of the Krays), you’ve had varied roles, but also parts that are very distinct to a particular time period. What is your process for getting into character? How does this change with varying roles?
Richard: The process changes from role to role but always begins with the script. You develop an idea in your head from the page of what the character is going to look and sound like, you start practising in your room and building the character, the mannerisms, the voice, the accent. And you have to research the time period, the cultural setting, social class, the characters overall arc, does he change and grow throughout the course of the film? And ultimately does it serve the directors vision for not only that character but the film itself? You can’t get caught up trying to show off a character, it has to serve and respect the script. I hope all of that doesn’t sound too pretentious! For some roles, I will stay in character because it’s easier to maintain an accent or mannerisms that way, but there are some which luckily are easier to switch on and off.
BPFC: Short Films have seen a surge over the last few years, particularly with platforms like YouTube and Vimeo acting as their primary distribution platforms. As an actor, how have those platforms shaped how you are able to promote yourself?
Richard: You know, I’m behind the curve with a lot of social media platforms, I grew up in a time before anything like this even existed. Dial-up modems were just becoming a household accessory when I was a teenager. Jesus that makes me sound old. But I’ve discovered some great filmmakers through YouTube so I’m learning! I also think it’s interesting to see if YouTube’s original content will be able to match the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime, who put out so many good shows, it’s insane. Truly a great time for series and content.
BPFC: Finally, what films are you currently working on?
Richard: I’ve wrapped roles on two films this year: Straight Lines, directed by my longtime friend (and housemate!) Josh Crooks, starring Kacey Ainsworth from Eastenders and Grantchester. That was a really fun shoot as I got to perform an American accent on film for the first time whilst sharing scenes with Kacey and I also had a stunt scene. The second is “The Prince of North West” which is an indie crime thriller, directed by Todor Tragmar, I play an ex-boxer and enforcer for a London criminal gang. I believe it’s going to be black and white, a real film noir style. Both films are currently in post-production and from what I know will be aimed at the festival circuit before a general release which I’m really excited about! Aside from those, I’m developing my own script and I’ve just auditioned for two major US TV series so….fingers crossed!
POSSUM is the debut feature film from writer/director Matthew Holness, co-creator and writer/star of the cult TV series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.
The story follows disgraced children’s puppeteer Philip (Sean Harris), returning to his childhood home of
Fallmarsh, Norfolk, intent on destroying Possum, a hideous puppet he keeps hidden inside a brown leather
bag. When his attempts fail, Philip is forced to confront his sinister stepfather Maurice (Alun Armstrong) in
an effort to escape the dark horrors of his past.
We had a chance to chat with writer / director, Matthew Holness, to talk about his debut feature film, his inspiration behind the film, it’s unique soundtrack and much more…
Big Picture Film Club: What were your influences in developing the film?
Matthew: Possum was originally a short story, it was never really the intention to develop it as a film, but I was really interested in a lot of the old silent horror films from the 1920’s – German horror films like Nosferatu, M & various others. I fell in love with those films because they seem to be able to deal with characters with extreme psychological states. A lot of those films are about the First World War, there are so many things going on in those films, but at a level below the surface.
I just thought how could you make a silent horror film for a modern audience. What kind of film would it be? And would it be possible to do that? I knew I had this story I had written called Possum, which was about a character that had gone through something so traumatic that he really couldn’t talk about it. He just constructed a puppet to deal with that trauma and that felt to me like a classic scenario for a silent horror film.
Big Picture Film Club: How was it like working with the [BBC] Radiophonic Workshop? And how did their involvement shape the mood and tone of the film?
Matthew: They are part of the old BBC Radiophonic workshop, they’re not BBC now. They’re their own entity. They came on board during the editing process because my editor, Tommy Balding, and I had been putting temporary music tracks on the footage and the tracks that really worked well were old tracks by the Radiophonic Workshop (when they were the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). There were some old Delia Derbyshire tracks that we were putting over some sequences and they just really captured a mood and strange, other-worldly atmosphere that fits perfectly with Philip’s world. The geography of his mind just seems to come alive with this music.
I tried to license the tracks so we could use them in the film, but during that process, my musical supervisor, Phil Canning, said that that he knew the radio radiophonic workshop was looking to score a feature film, so he set up a meeting. They watched the film and saw what music that we were using as temporary tracks. Luckily, they found it was appealing enough to want to score it. I couldn’t believe it when I found that out, it was an incredible bit of news, but it kind of fit so perfectly. They were just the perfect fit for the film and the character of Philip – and his headspace.
Sean Harris as Philip in Possum
Big Picture Film Club: This is your debut feature as a writer / director, did you find it daunting stepping from in front of the camera to behind the camera? And from a production standpoint how did that transition feel to you?
Matthew: I’ve done three short films beforehand, so I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of directing. However, directing is always a nerve-wracking experience. I certainly get pre-production nerves, as I think anyone does, but actually, far fewer nerves than acting because I just inherently feel directing is more my thing than acting. So I felt far more comfortable directing and writing than I do acting. It was nerve-wracking, but it wasn’t daunting in that sense in that I had previous experience. Having said that the scale of a feature compared to a short, you don’t really get a sense of how different it is until you’re actually filming.
I would say in terms of pre-production it’s still the same level of intensity, in that you have to do all the same sorts of things, and in fact the amount of work you have to put in on a short film is not far off the same amount of work you have to put on to a feature. So pre-production [for a feature film] is not necessarily any more difficult than it is for a short film. Certainly when you’re actually filming then you really do encounter just the depth and length of the entire process; a 4-week shoot is far more than a 3-4 day shoot. You learn to pace yourself, you have to find physical and mental stamina that isn’t necessarily an issue on a short film. You kind of get into the swing of it after a few days, then it’s business as usual and all the nerves go away when you’re making the film.
Big Picture Film Club: A lot of elements of the film are quite spare, like the lack of dialogue or the environments chosen. This places a lot more emphasis Philip [Sean Harris] & Maurice’s [Alun Armstrong] relationship. How was it like building that dynamic between them and showing that sense of shared history together?
Matthew: First & foremost the film is about loneliness, as well as other things, but it was important to locate Philip in a space and in a world where he has no communication with anyone. Therefore he’s shot in very lonely places, those are the places he actively seeks out. The only real communication he with anyone is with Maurice and it’s a very unhealthy and tense relationship. What they say to each other isn’t necessarily what they’re thinking or feeling. It is a relationship that in its current state is out of sheer habit; it’s a very antagonistic, passive-aggressive, relationship.
When it came to actually put the two characters together on screen, the tension really comes from the fact the Sean and Alun didn’t communicate off-screen. Sean’s a method actor and part of the process for him was that he didn’t want to engage with the outside world at all. He was in character, he didn’t want to engage with Alun, so you’re really seeing them only get together as those characters. On-screen you’re really just seeing these two characters engaging in this fictional world, so that contributes to that intensity. It’s a very powerful method when it works like that, it’s interesting to watch, and very tense to watch and edit together. I think a lot of that comes from Alun and seans approach to the material.
Big Picture Film Club: Lastly, from its festival screenings, how have you found the reaction to the film? Were there particular reactions that you weren’t expecting that surprised you?
Matthew: Not really, you never know what an audience will make of something until you put it in front of them, so I was sort of apprehensive. I wanted two things to work: one, that they felt for Phillip despite him being an initially unlikeable character, I was very keen that they did feel for Philip. And two, I wanted it to be scary and there was no guarantee of those two things going in. Luckily, it feels that the audiences do empathise with Philip and they are interested in him. And I think they do stay with him and stick with him, there’s a kind of endurance test with Philip, and those who do stick with him and feel for his predicament I think really root for him and really like the film.
It’s about a very difficult subject and I think unless audience members feel for someone who’s gone through something like that it’s potentially not something that they can inherently connect to. I’m glad that audiences have come out and really rooted for him, to varying degrees, but it’s certainly a reaction I’ve felt from them. I’m pleased that it frightens people, it seems to get under peoples skin and that was always the intention. It’s a grimy, gritty sort of film, it’s not supposed to be nice, it’s not supposed to have a happy ending, because there isn’t closure for victims that have gone through an experience like that. It was important not to make it a cinematic happy ending because that wouldn’t be truthful to the subject. It’s an unpleasant film, it’s probably a film people won’t watch twice, but that’s the intention behind it. It is supposed to take you to a place where that’s covered up and brushed aside, that’s really lifting the lid off something unpleasant and that’s the point of it.
Big Picture Film Club will be holding a special screening of Possum on Thursday 1st November at Genesis Cinema, London. Tickets & Info:http://bit.ly/PossumFilm
Watch the official trailer for Possum. We are partnering with Bulldog Film Distribution to bring you a special screening of Possum, our pick for the best British horror film this year, on Thursday 1st November at Genesis Cinema. Info: Possum – Halloween Special
BankJob is the brainchild of filmmaker Dan Edelstyn and artist Hilary Powell who together run Optimistic Foundation –a multidisciplinary foundation organisation whose ambitious work spans film, social media, live events and public, participatory art.
Setting up their own community central bank in Walthamstow, East London, Hoe Street Central Bank aims to print its own money to fund local debt relief. They’ve currently raised just over £30,000 to buy back local debt. The documentary, Bankjob follows the journey of this community project and demystifying money…
We spoke with Dan Edelstyn to discuss Bankjob and financial literacy…
Big Picture Film Club: What have you found is the biggest misconception people have around money? And do we have a problem in our society regarding financial literacy?
Daniel Edelstyn: Yes – we believe that the misconceptions around debt and money are the driving factors of our entire lives – and that mass education in these areas could drive huge change.
97% of all money in circulation is created as interest-bearing debt – by private banks, the systematic deregulation of the banks has caused a huge increase in the amount of money – and therefore debt in circulation. Most of this money is created for mortgages – which is a non-productive economic asset, not creating more jobs etc – just creating asset – read house inflation – and boom and bust.
A group called Rethinking Economics have been amazing at demanding a change to the curriculums of the economics departments across universities in Britain – after they observed that none of their courses answered or spoke to the causes of the 2008 financial crash they were living through whilst at universities. It remains true that most economics courses are still based on antiquated ideas which have been largely agreed on to be out of date.
We’re at an exciting time though with economic literacy, there is a ‘new economics movement’ which seems to be sweeping across Britain – however, we’re still on the fringes. These questions need to seep into the mainstream conversation, as we believe that most of the population remain illiterate to the main economic drivers that affect their lives. They need to get over their fear of the subject – and educate themselves actively. Positive Money did a poll among politicians in Nov 2017 and found that a staggering 85% of them didn’t understand where money comes from – imagine what the percentage of normal – less educated people across Britain and in fact the entire world must be – but the story of where money comes from and the power to create it are what are effectively the driving seat of our political system..
BPFC: How did the idea for Hoe Street Central Bank [HSCB] come about?
D.E: We heard about the group Strike Debt, who had bought up and abolished millions of dollars worth of student and medical debt in the US. It was intriguing, they seemed like outlaws and there was something exciting about them – at the time, like most people, my only understanding of debt was that it was a bad thing to incur and that if one did get into debt – the only moral thing to do was to pay it. What Strike Debt did more than anything, was to challenge the received wisdom of what they called ‘payback morality’ and to shine the beam of enquiry up to the top. And to highlight the fact that the powerful economic elites never paid their debts, but that payback morality was, in fact, something always aimed at the people at the bottom, those least able to repay. One of the founding members of the group was Professor Andrew Ross, and reading his book Creditocracy was very inspiring – it was like a secret history of debt and indebtedness, and in it, he was arguing that our western democracies were being systematically stripped away and eroded. In the place of this, a new system was being built – a creditocracy – where access to the basic social goods provided under ‘welfare democracy’ was now being accessed by credit. The case seemed compelling to me, but I was worried by how fringe this all was, I mean it was of central importance to us all – but only being discussed by small indie publishers.
Anyway there was the basic nutrition or the compost – what then started to happen was more investigation, more reading, interviews, a trip out to meet Strike Debt in Los Angeles and NYC, and then gradually a cinematic and artistic response began to percolate and come together. At first, this was me with my director of photography Christophe – and Hilary was back in London working on her projects, but the film was amorphous. It was a feeling of anger that we were all being lied to, it was a set of encounters with victims of the system in the US educational system and the activists who wanted to help them but it wasn’t a film that was coherent – and it didn’t feel right yet, just reporting on something isn’t really my style. I felt restless, lost and anxious like I still hadn’t got to the heart of it all, and that the film I had shot so far was right out at the edges of the onion. I must stress that these things don’t necessarily just leap out fully formed and in this instance, the idea of setting up our own bank and currencies was something that took a lot longer, it really is a collaborative project. One of the major turning points in forming the structure and the identity of the film came when we uncovered the civil society group Positive Money and their critique of our financial system based on how money is created. It was quite mind-blowing – and we took that as the nucleus of the project – and could hang our critiques and our actions on that…
BPFC: Walthamstow is a diverse community, how receptive have the community been to your project? Has it been easier or harder than you imagined engaging with all groups within the local community?
D.E: The community aspect was tricky at first, I remember when I started going around Walthamstow asking the question as to whether it was a creditocracy, (using it as a microcosm of Britain) it was hard to gain access to talk to people. When we came up with the idea of bank notes we struggled to recruit people to go on them. It is a big thing, as it’s asking people to stand up to something a bit, to become a sort of figure of resistance. At the end of the day, this is Britain, and no matter how diverse the community may be, we’re all a little shy over here and we like to hide our lights under whatever bushels we can find etc. After a year or so, really going around meeting and talking to people we began to gain trust and then it became easier and easier – but really it is Hilary who is amazing at believing anything can be achieved and then organising things into reality.
BPFC: Waltham Forest Council has been supportive of your project. Do you believe the same political will exists in central government to address the concerns you’ve raised over our monetary system?
D.E: I think there is a great deal of concern across the political spectrum about the problem of debt after all the British have never been so personally indebted. I do believe that ministers probably are genuine in their belief that if they cut vital services they will save money that will ultimately help with reducing the national debt – post 2008 crisis. However, what has been shown by multiple Nobel winning economists is that when you cut public spending you add to personal indebtedness. So whereas the problem is something that politicians of every hue recognise, there’s no agreement on how to tackle it. Also, it’s our belief that without tackling the root cause of debt – in money creation – that things will not improve. Banks need tougher regulation but it’s not something that the public is really thinking about at the moment, in fact right now, there are so many urgent problems with Brexit and an ongoing plunging pound, faltering housing market that people don’t really seem to know where to start.
BPFC: How has the experience been like filming “Bank Job”? What do you hope the public takes away from watching this?
D.E: It’s very tough making indie documentaries, we made one before which was well received but it was a real struggle though we had money from Channel 4, an investor, and some foundations. This one has been even harder and it’s been very tough, to make these things take massive commitment and belief and it’s incredibly precarious. We hope that the public learns about money and debt, the deep structural problems within our economy and that with this education political will to make meaningful change happens. Right now we are working on a plan for impact distribution to maximise the chances for meaningful change to come about. If we can have a genuine impact and a mass distribution this will make all the risk and the hardship worthwhile and we will be able to go on and make more projects.
BPFC: What have been the biggest insights you’ve gained while going through this journey?
D.E: Some of the biggest changes we need to make are not even being discussed or understood.
We have learned about the distortion of narratives in mainstream media. Before we really looked into economics we didn’t really understand how badly the subject was being dealt with on BBC for instance, and even across other outlets that one would think were ok. The truth is highly political and it’s under strict control.
BPFC: Through HSCB you’ve highlighted flaws in our monetary system, how do we begin to rectify those flaws? And how do you feel a better monetary system would function?
D.E: Given the severity of the crisis, we believe that banks need to be regulated as per the Glass Steagall Act (repealed by Clinton in 1999) which was brought in after the Wall Street Crash – to basically stop banks from taking people’s savings and putting them on the stock markets.
We also really like Positive Money’s ideas around Sovereign Money Creation – so governments are no longer forced to borrow from private banks – they can create their own money backed by tax-payers. Right now in the UK, the government has to find £42billion in interest every year just to pay back to the banks before they can start funding our healthcare, education system and sort out housing, roads etc. Why not at least create some public projects with their own money – such as Abraham Lincoln did during the American Civil War with the ‘greenback’ dollar. We did have a government currency in the UK once before with the Bradbury Pound on the eve of WW1.
We also believe that austerity must end immediately. The cuts to the public spending are making the personal debt problems worse – and mean that as people are made unemployed etc. There’s less money in circulation in the real economy, meaning that the economy is being reverse stimulated.
We would like to see an end to the PFI debts of hospital trusts, schools and other public projects. The PFI companies have already been repaid many times over. Most are based offshore and pay no UK tax – yet they suck taxpayer’s money out of the economy – these debts should be subject to audits to ascertain the public benefit, how much has been repaid – and they should be closed. Debt Resistance UK is doing great work on this with local councils.
Finally, we believe in the right to debt-free higher education. It’s horrible to choose between debt and education and creates a terrible psychological burden to students starting out in life. Our brightest minds need to be able to contribute to our society moving forward, we have huge issues to solve together – and creating free higher education is a drop in the water.
Although funding from arts organisations within the U.K has reduced in recent years this hasn’t stopped an emergence of filmmaking creatives within the U.K self-funding their own projects and utilising available self-distribution platforms to release their work.
Producer, actor & director, Anthony Vander, is the founder of Distortion Entertainment. The London-based production company is among. Fresh off the back of releasing Season 1 of his web series Housemates, we caught up with Anthony as he gears up to release his debut feature-length film.
Big Picture Film Club: Creatively, how do you juggle being a writer, director and an actor on your projects?
Anthony Vander: It took some while getting used to. I’m still a work in progress in all those fields. I would say find a collaborative team of people who are as passionate about your vision as you are.
BPFC:With the success of internet web-series’ like Venus vs Mars, Brothers With No Game and more recently Dreaming Whilst Black, self-funded web series’ about different aspects of black British life have grown increasingly popular and have found a dedicated audience – what do you attribute this success to?
AV: The biggest attribution to this success would be content and representation. All the shows that you mentioned are of high-quality. They tell a story which is relatable and for the most part not always being shown on television screens this side of the pond. I also think one of the aspects of this success would be accessibility. YouTube and other VOD’s is the new TV. Most people watch YouTube more than they watch television.
BPFC:How has the reaction been to the Housemates web series, since it’s release in June?
AV: The reaction has been fantastic. I’m very humbled not only to the cast and crew but also to people who have given their time to watch our show. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and also questions with regards to season two.
BPFC:What can we expect from Housemates Season 2? Will it still take place over a single day like Housemates Season1?
AV: I’m playing around with a few ideas. Filmmakers on our shores (such as RM Moses, Sebastian Thiel, Monet Morgan to name a few) provided much inspiration for season one and their content continues to do so. It could possibly take place over a single day but nothing has been set in stone yet. Once we look at the character’s arch and explore lineage then we can start thinking about duration and setting.
BPFC:The film industry is going through a period of rapid change: from sources of funding to available distribution platforms. What are your current thoughts on the state of the UK film industry?
AV: I feel the UK film industry is on the rise. We have a lot of prolific filmmakers young and old. Like anything I always feel that there is room for progression especially within the UK film industry. The rapid change is one of ownership, which I believe is in the hands of the artist. A major key is not to seek validation but rather create and build your own vision. I learnt about the industry on the job. I went to acting school, not film school. I feel the funding is there but its accessibility is another factor altogether.
BPFC:You’ve just wrapped up your debut feature-length film: Scales. Can you tell us a bit about the film and How did it come together? When will Scales be released?
AV: Scales is a tense, claustrophobic drama that spends one evening with four characters, who are trapped in a combustible boiling pot of an apartment.
I always loved the idea of a single location film. Not just for budget reasons but the fact that we could create character-driven stories. When I approached Joe he was very excited about the possibilities and began writing. We managed to find an incredible director in Nathan Hannawin who took the film to a whole new level. We are currently doing the festival circuit then the film will have limited theatrical release during mid-2019.
BPFC:What other projects can we expect from Distortion Entertainment?
AV: I’m currently working on a short film Spar, which focuses on the challenges of female boxing and the overcoming of adversity. I have a few other ideas for other shorts. I also a feature film called The Tutor which I have in development, so hopefully, we get that made.
From Grange Hill to Top Boy, Ashley Walters is one of Britain’s most established actors. While he shot to fame as part of the legendary garage collective, So Solid Crew his work in front of the camera – now spanning more than 20 years – is truly one to be admired. With actors from working-class backgrounds being underrepresented in film & TV, Ashley also exists as an increasing rarity within the UK film & TV industry. It’s with this in mind that Ashley turned his attention to the next generation of actors and set up Kingdom Drama School. We caught up with Ashley to discuss his start in acting, his legacy and the future.
Big Picture Film Club: How did you get your start in acting?
Ashley Walters: It was unintentional, my mum was a chaperone for my cousin for when he would go out for castings. My mum took me along to one of his auditions when I was only six years old, and when we arrived, they asked if I could audition as well. Long story short, I got the part, and here we are today.
BPFC: So Solid Crew’s breakthrough into the charts was unlike anything we had ever seen before in music, although it wasn’t without its controversy. In regards to your acting career, did being part of that group help open doors to more acting opportunities or did some of the negative press surrounding the group hinder further opportunities at that time?
AW: No one wanted to touch me after I got out of prison. As far as the industry and the press were concerned, I was a gun-touting gangster. So the doors were very much shut. I was in a very dark place but I knew I had to make a transition, a choice I had made while I was inside.
BPFC: Did you feel an initial pressure to be typecast? How did you ensure you had a varied the roles you went for over the course of your career?
AW: I’ve been blessed to have Claire as my agent. We made a 15-year plan, and the early part of that was to play the type-casted roles. That is what the industry wanted from me. As time has passed, we have found opportunities to play more venerable characters and most of them have worked out.
BPFC: Which roles do you feel challenged you the most and took you out of your comfort zone?
AW:WAZ was the film that really took me out of my comfort when I chose to play for the first time a homosexual character. Being straight and coming from my community and my background created an extra pressure that I put on myself. In the end, after the film came out, I didn’t receive half the backlash that I was expecting and it gave the industry the opportunity to see that I can play more than just one role.
BPFC: Setting up Kingdom Drama School back in 2012 marked a change in your focus to help develop the next generation of actors. What inspired you to set up your own drama school and how has that experience been over the past 6 years?
AW: I wanted to create a drama school that felt like home for people who come from working-class backgrounds like myself. It’s been an amazing journey working with our students and unearthing their talents which would have been missed elsewhere. The passion at the school every Sunday is second to none.
BPFC:Particularly with actors from working-class backgrounds, have you found they are finding it harder to break into the industry in recent years? If so, what can be done to offer people from poorer backgrounds more opportunities to develop their craft?
AW: My advice to working-class actors struggling to break into the industry is to create your own work, partner with the right people who are also on your path, promote your work and build an audience. Focus on the solution, rather than the problem. There are people making award-winning films on their smartphones.
BPFC: Last year you set up your production company SLNda (pronounced Slander) with your business partner, Najan Ward. What can we expect from SLNda moving forward?
AW: We have four very different projects on our slate at the moment:
PIRATES is a fictional scripted drama based in the mid-nineties. The story is based on my experience as a 15-year-old kid coming up as MC on the illegal pirate radio scene.
COMMONWEALTH is an inspirational scripted period-drama starting in the 1950’s. We follow five very different families from Commonwealth member countries from all corners of globe arriving in the UK.
NAAN BREAD is a hilarious mockumentary based in Leicester and we follow an Indian family mixed with traditional and modern siblings. The business is going down the pan, and a nephew to the family is filming the whole ordeal for a school media project.
THE CHARLATANS is a scripted dramedy that follows 5 lawless students who get expelled from Manchester Unversity and double-cross one of the cities most notorious gangster. The escape to London and use their illicit skills to con, swindle and force their way into the capitals alluring entertainment industry.
BPFC: You’re more than 20 years into your acting career, and it seems like your going from strength to strength, with both your production company and film school established, what’s next for Ashley Walters?
AW: I have always had an itch for writing and directing. I’ve have been writing two scripts since the start of the year and after shooting TOP BOY, I have a small window to bring one of these scripts to the screen.
You can watch Ashley Walters on his new show Bulletproof co-starring alongside Noel Clarke, on Sky One, Tuesdays at 9pm.