Friday 19 October 2012

Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble - The Full Story

I was asked "Why have you made a new film about Barnet?" today. There are many reasons, but perhaps, if I tell the full story it may be easier to understand. Many readers will know that in March, Charles Honderick and myself unleashed "A Tale of Two Barnets" on the world. Although Charles and myself are immensely proud of the film, we were in many ways unhappy with aspects of it. The reason for this was simple. When the film was first conceived, it was going to be a short film on Youtube, giving an outsider (Charles is from Florida) view of Barnet. Charles motivation for making it was to experiment with a new movie making format (he'd previously made corporate films in the USA and pop videos). My reasons for becoming involved were because I have a deep love of Barnet.

When the project started, our aims were modest. Shoot a few interviews and make a short and interesting documentary. When the interviews started, it became apparent that there was a bigger story and that it was more interesting. Before we'd finished, we had been offered a premier at the Phoenix in East Finchley and a screening at the House of Commons. Barnet Alliance for Public Services had also arranged dozens of local screenings.

We had the task of editing footage shot over six months, in a variety of locations into some sort of order. We'd not had a pre defined narrative, so the whole thing was a bit of a mish mash. Charles is a brilliant editor, so we managed to turn a lot of people filmed in difficult circumstances and turn out something which was quite watchable. Many people have speculated that because I'm a well known blogger, my role was more than "producer". This does a huge disservice to Charles. He doesn't know the issues, so I have spoken  more about them at screenings etc. Charles was interested in the film making aspects and "telling the story".  We both watched the footage and both had input into the clips used, but in general it was fairly obvious what was good and what wasn't. We didn't tell people what to say, so the direction was all about getting people to feel comfortable and open up. Charles is brilliant at doing that.

After the film was made, both of us had a feeling that we hadn't told the whole story. We hadn't really shown what the people on the rough end of the council polices were going through and we hadn't really explained why the councils policy were not only causing misery but were fundamentally risky and dangerous. People approached us and suggested we make a follow up. Then they started offering to fund the filming. As I own a video recording studio, we decided to film the interviews on site where possible, so the issues with sound could be avoided. We also decided to agree the format beforehand..

The filming and editing has been a nightmare. This has been becasue the story has changed so many times as we've gone along. Firstly the leader of the Finchley traders gave a fascinating interview about her campaign against Brian Coleman in the GLA elections. After the filming, Brian Coleman was arrested for an alleged assault and the footage became potentially prejudicial, so we made a decision to not use it. Then we filmed Friern Library. The Council had closed it. After we filmed, Occupy London reopened it and a court case was set for last week. We couldn't finish the film without this, but had to wait until we knew what happened to do the interviews. The events superceded the original footage. Then the CEO of Barnet, Nick Walkley resigned. It is entirely unclear what is going on.

We actually finished editing the film yesterday. I watched it this morning. I am pleased. It is a much better film than A Tale of Two Barnets. It is a shame that Nick Walkley declined the offer to be interviewed as did all of the Conservative Councillors. Local politics should be a very boring subject, I think we've brought it to life.  It isn't perfect, but on a budget of £2,500 it was never going to be. You will hear some tragic stories and I hope you will be moved. Some of the scenes are funny, some are shocking. Charles Honderick has a superb eye for detail and many of the interspersed clips are staggering.

I sincerely hope as many people as possible come to the Phoenix to watch the film on Monday and come to the other screenings.

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