Monday, 19 March 2012

A Tale of Two Barnets - The big day arrives.

I can't believe it. It is almost exactly a year since the idea for A Tale of Two Barnets, the film about life in Barnet it 2012, as first mooted. The director, Charles Honderick plays in a great band called  "The Hamptons" who use my music studios. Charles made a music video for an artist I work with, talented Sudanese singer Connie Abbe. I was having a beer with Charles and we got to discussing reality TV and how it wasn't reality, as it always seemed to involve changing the reality. We mused on the fact that there were all sorts of ordinary people who had interesting stories to tell, but these never get heard. The name  A Tale of Two Barnets came about when Charles learned that the famous workhouse scene in Oliver Twist, was based on the Barnet workhouse. As it is Dickens 200th birthday this year, he mused on how Barnet had changed and how it stayed the same. Returning to the previous theme, he pointed out that Dickens novels in some ways were the equivalent of todays reality TV shows, such as secret millionaire.

Who but Dickens would have thought that one of the most iconic moments in both film and literature could possibly be about a small boy in a workhouse asking for a bit more gruel? Charles wanted to broaden his film making experience. He mused on whether it would be possible to interview a few people in Barnet about "life in 2012, the year of the London Olympics, and two hundred years after Dickens birth". Through my blog and my community contacts, I introduced him to a couple of people.

We started filming in October. The plan was to interview four or five people, shoot some images around the Borough and then submit it for a few documentary film festivals. I agreed to step in as producer, which mostly involved driving Charles around, helping him make arrangements and then helping promote the film.

Once we started filming, a strange thing happened. I gave Charles a list of five people, who I thought would be interesting subjects for the film. They were Fr Kevin O'Shea, Parish Priest of the Sacred Heart Church, Mill Hill, Mrs Angry - blogger from Broken Barnet, Bill Nugent, a friend who is quadraplegic, following I spinal injury on his honeymoon 18 years ago, Linda Edwards who is a parent carer and works for a disabled charity and David Attfield, the solicitor who spearheaded the CPZ campaign. We quickly added Mr Mustard, another Barnet blogger, when we found Barnet Council had tried to report him to the ICO and silence him.I took the decision not to appear in the film (although I do fleetingly in the interview with Bill Nuigent). I didn't want accusations that it was a vehicle for any future ambitions I may have (it isn't).  Anyway, as I said, a strange thing happened. Word got around that we were making the film and a whole bevvy of people asked if they could also contribute and tell their stories. With each interview, more followed. Then we got word that Ken Loach, the award winning British director wanted to say a few words. In other words, the film got momentum.

As we watched the early rushes, Charles became concerned. He felt that the film would be one dimensional, if we only told the story from one side. He wanted to get someone from the Council to add balance. Fortunately for us, the Leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius is an honest and decent man and readily agreed. He persuaded a somewhat more reluctant CEO Nick Walkley to agree. When we saw the footage, Charles was pleased. He wanted to show the huiman side of the council leader. Richard Cornelius is a good subject for a documentary film maker as he's honest and he's quite funny.

As we neared completion, we invited a select few people for a test viewing. None of these had appeared in the film (we didn't want people who were biased to comment). As a result, we got a phonecall from the Barnet Trades Council. Would we mind if they staged a Premiere at the Phoenix Cinema, as they'd heard about the film and were interested. Of course. Who wouldn't want a premiere at an Iconinc Cinema? Then we got another call. Would we be interested in a screening at the House of Commons? Again, what more could any film maker ask for. Last week, I got a call from the BBC. Could I come into BBC London this morning and do an interview for the Breakfast show? Again, no problem.

In amongst all of that euphoria, a small cloud emerged. Reports reached us that Councillor Robert Rams had banned promotional material from Barnets libraries. How on earth, could such an action be justified?  It couldn't. In a strange sort of way, it helped, because it got us more media coverage, but  to be honest, it was the last thing we wanted. To remove the leaflets from Libraries was petty and spiteful. When the BBC rang up about the arrangements for the interview this morning, they asked if we wanted to discuss the ban. I said "The film has taken up six months of my life and tells some really important stories. The ban is ridculous, I'd rather not if you don't mind". I was somewhat surprised by the response. They said "Oh, I'm so pleased yous aid that. I was worried that you'd spoil a great story with a rant about a silly ban".

So this morning I had a couple of minutes discussing the film on the breakfast show. As  I left I gave Gaby a copy of the DVD. She said "It sounds great, I really hope it is successful". Being dyslexic, I don't prepare for interviews, I just say whatever comes into my head. I'm always worried that I sound like an idiot. I sincerely hope I did justice to the people who's story we are telling.

If you haven't already looked, check out the film website.

Please come down to the Premiere. It is only £1 to get in. The film is well worth seeing and I'll be happy to have a chat with you. The actual screening time is 7pm, doors open at 6pm.

As we approach the big moment, I'd like to thank everyone who helped. Most of all though I'd like to thank Charles Honderick, for his vision and hard work. Charles previously had only made music videos and corporate films. I am sure he has a bright future as a film maker. I hope to |God that his next film has a producer who can give him a proper budget !

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