Richard Bracewell. Photo by TF April 2011
Identity of a Filmmaker
Quite apart from being filmed in London and using a British cast, Richard’s film, The Gigolos, has something quintessentially British about it. The subtle humour and documentary style is reminiscent of The Office, while the slightly understated story-line feels a little like Gregory’s Girl or Withnail And I. Nevertheless, Richard does not see himself as a part of any British film-making movement.
“I am making English films because they are all very personal and we are intimately involved in making them. So I think they are inevitably about familiar places and experiences. Certainly the things we are working on at the moment are all very recognisably English.
“I didn’t think about it at any point during The Gigolos; it was just shot in London because that’s the story. We didn’t try to make anything particularly English and English films are not the ones I watch over and above any others. I like a lot of British filmmakers but I also like a lot of French, Italian and American film directors.
“The question about nationality in film is so multifarious. The King’s Speech, for example: is that a film about being English? Geoffrey Rush helped produce it, a lot of it was financed out of Australia and it was filmed all over the place. So is it a British film? I don’t know. I think it is very difficult to say in the UK because so much American cinema is shot and created here by British writers, directors, producers, performers. I’m not sure there is such a thing as British cinema in the same way as there is Spanish or French cinema, where there is a subsidy and someone has tried to define what it is and decide how they are going to support it.
“In order to do that we’ve got to name it and identify it, but I don’t think there is such a thing. The tax breaks in the UK are set up in such a way as to help indigenous filmmakers, but a studio coming into the UK and shooting Batman Begins can take advantage of the tax breaks as well. The cast and crew may also be seventy or eighty percent British, but does that make it British? I think it is impossible to say if there is such a thing.”
Although Richard cannot deny that his work in television gave him invaluable experience of working on a budget, to deadlines and in a variety of situations, he does not believe that the experience affected his style of filmmaking.
“When I was let lose making documentaries or entertainment shows for TV, in my mind I was making a movie. I used to make them for Channel 5 and that was my favourite job. Anything for channel 5 was great because although you had a really small budget, nobody interfered with what you were doing.
“The production company would provide the money and the brief and you’d go off with one assistant and make this documentary. I worked with this guy who has since become a successful commercial’s director, so he and I were working with barely any money, but treating it like a feature film.
“Channel 5 commissioned us to make a show called Bizarre Ways To Die for which we did recreations of six really weird stories from the news. We went the whole hog with just a tiny camera and some lights, and in our minds we were filming Ben-Hur! So we delivered this thing to Channel 5 and they were saying ‘Oh my God, how much did we pay for this?’ They couldn’t believe what we’d done.”
For Richard, film directing might just be the perfect job, for it brings together his interests in music, writing and performance. It may have been a long time coming, but it seems as though being a filmmaker was quite possibly his destiny all along.
“I am a frustrated writer, musician and composer, but being a filmmaker is like doing a little bit of all those jobs,” he confirms. “You can do the music by working very closely with a composer and feel quite pleased with yourself for briefing them in a fairly musical, literate sort of a way. A lot of directors like Mike Figgis and Clint Eastwood, for example, write scores for their own films.
“The same is true with all the other disciplines. I like photography but I’m not good enough to be a professional photographer. But I am proficient enough to be able to work closely with a cinematographer or director of photography and tell them what I want.
“I also wanted to write but wasn’t proficient enough to be a journalist. Screenwriters are not nearly as proficient as journalists; they don’t tend to work on such tight deadlines and can hide behind the notion of writing when the story finds them.
“Fortunately the job that I can do is direct, which is a job made up of all these elements. As a director, you lace all these lovely elements together, and hopefully, if you are any good, make something which is just a little bit better than the sum of its parts. That sum can be something really special.”
The Future of Punk Cinema
Although Punk Cinema has only released two feature films to date, the team have been hard at work on several more which will soon see the light of day. Of course, as Richard was quoted as saying at the beginning, it takes years to bring a film idea to market, so the projects are in various stages of development.
“At the moment we are working on a script for a fantastic redemptive love story. The writer and I have talked about working together for a long time but he suddenly told us this idea and said he wanted to start writing it.
It’s not going to be a big film. It’s going to be much more on The Gigolos size. But simultaneously, we are raising the finance for what could be as big as a 10 to 15 million pound movie. That’s The King’s Speech size. I think that cost around 10 million pounds, which is very cheap considering how well it has done. In the context of film production that is not actually a large figure. Our film is a caper comedy about a Russian billionaire who goes on the run, and is something we’ve been thinking about for a while. So we are working on two very dissimilar projects but both have really interesting stories. The motivation is working with writers who have interesting stories to tell regardless of the size of the film, or even if it is a film at all.
“There’s something I worked on recently that started off as a film idea. We shot some material for it, but it is possible that it won’t end up being a film or a TV show. It’s something completely different but still has the potential to be a really great story. It may be something that we can publish in five-minute chunks on a YouTube channel.
“I don’t think the medium really matters, it’s still the idea that counts. But, personally, I love watching films and want to make films because of my feeling for them. What I’m interested in are stories that I can tell as 90 minute films and then watch in a cinema. It’s always about the story and if the story is great then I am motivated to tell it, as was the case with The Gigolos and Cuckoo. Cuckoo was made in very difficult financial circumstances just as the whole financial world was caving in on itself. We sweat blood to make it happen and are very involved and committed to what we do.” TF
Part 1 of Richard’s interview can be found here: Part 1