This was our last full day in London (tomorrow, we’ll spend the majority of our remaining time in Heathrow, which isn’t the most exciting prospect) and it ended up being non-stop gogogo.
I’ll admit, I was up way too late last night watching The Spirit of ’45 but the documentary just gripped me. It’s not one you just go in half an hour and call it good because you feel like you’ve got the gist. The film kept me awake for all ninety-plus minutes, and when it was done I felt like I ought to run out into the street and shout about how much bullshit capitalism is, quite possibly while waving a flag.
So yeah, didn’t sleep too well, and then I had to drag my butt out of bed a little more than four hours later so I could go pick up a couple more SD cards for the cameras; we were getting short on memory, and we had three interviews scheduled.
Our first interview was with Ken Loach, who is really a legend of British film. Quite literally everyone we interviewed up until today mentioned his name as a British filmmaker who had inspired them. We were all excited and a little bit terrified to meet him, I think. But as soon as he walked into the room, I felt like any subconscious expectations turned on their head. He was quiet, self-effacing, and rather grandfatherly. You can also sense in him a solid love of people and devotion to truth that plainly moves him to tell the stories he does.
For all his (mostly) soft-spoken words, Ken was quite impassioned when he spoke about the stories of ordinary people and their importance. He had quite a lot to say about what he sees as the problems in current American cinema (which often features a “pornography of wealth and a pornography of violence”), and questions of class (“don’t call them ‘Lord,’ it’s bad for them”). The only time I heard him raise his voice at all (which is really to say he spoke a bit louder; he certainly didn’t shout) was when we asked him about the negative reception some of his own movies (eg: The Wind That Shakes the Barley) received when they were perceived to show the ruling class in a negative light. Through it all, in listening to him speak I felt the same spirit that animated The Spirit of ’45.
There are really no words to express the profound respect I feel for Ken Loach and his art.
After speaking with Ken, tea was necessary to calm down a bit. All the good the tea did was quickly reversed when last minute we were able to arrange to speak with someone from the BFI… unfortunately at the same time we were to be interviewing Nev Pierce. Two unit transformation, go go!
I stayed at the flat with Sherie to interview Nev, who was delightful. I regret I didn’t fully enjoy his company until the interview had officially ended, because I was too busy trying not to soil my shorts in terror at having to not only monitor the sound, but also be in charge of the big camera. I don’t think I brought shame on my ancestors, however.
Nev was just generally charming, and a bit different to speak with because he’s not a producer or director (most of the people we’ve talked to so far are one of the two). Nev is Editor-at-large for Empire, so he’s got a bit of a different perspective. What I found most interesting, however, was when we asked him which British filmmakers he’s found inspirational. He said that the reason he knows as much as he does about British cinema is because the love that American directors have for it really motivated him to learn more. It’s an interesting thought, and one that we’ll hopefully get a chance to discuss with some Americans in the near future.
And then I got to speak with Nev about superhero movies because why not. Since that isn’t relevant to the documentary, I’m just going to smile smugly to myself about it.
The first unit got back to home base not long after Nev had to hurry out the door (we made him late with our talking, I’m afraid) and let us know that the BFI filming went well. They pretty much focused on the good cultural work BFI does in restoring and archiving British films. I’m looking forward to seeing that footage at some point.
Then, finally, it was time for our last interview of the day and of the trip. We had Dan Poole, who is an actor and just co-produced and directed a documentary called Muse of Fire. (It’s about Shakespeare and I want to see it, appropriately enough, like burning.) Obviously, his experience with putting together a documentary and bringing it all the way into distribution was of relevant interest to us. He also had a bit to say about the torturous path of trying to get anything financed, which sounds like a never-ending nightmare.
After bidding Dan a fond farewell, I wish I could say there was champagne and partying to celebrate the official end of our filming in London: In just ten days we filmed 15 interviews and 4 red carpets. But to be honest, we’re all too darn tired to expend the energy on feeling victorious. We managed to get ourselves packed up and fed on some excellent Indian take-out. Now I think the true reward will be an early and hopefully peaceful night, since it’s off to Heathrow bright and early tomorrow.