Walthamstow director Barry Bliss on his new film Art Is... and the funding fix you can be a part of (From Enfield Independent)
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Walthamstow director Barry Bliss on his new film Art Is... starring Emily Beecham, Paul McGann, Sean McConaghy and Gary Kemp, and the funding fix you can be a part of
Lulu, the protagonist in Walthamstow director Barry Bliss’ latest film Art Is..., is an artist approaching her first solo exhibition. In doing so she faces the ugly truth of the art world: that it is a business like any other, ruled by money over creativity.
Faced with a pushy agent, outside pressures and wracked by self-doubt, she exclaims in one scene: 'I thought I could just paint all day'.
It’s the same story for films. Independent filmmaker Barry knows that as well as the creative side of making a movie, the process also requires money.
“Lulu has all the doubts: is my work being compromised? Am I selling out? And, of course, am I any good? Is anyone going to want to buy my work? Every self doubt that artists and everyone else goes through is encapsulated within the movie.
“Everyone in the creative world is faced with the same pressures.“
It was late last year, with cast assembled, location booked and crew ready to go, that Barry and his team faced a hard truth. They had enough money to shoot but not finish their film.
“The funding did get strained. We were in a position where we had to decide if we were going to go ahead with it or postpone the whole thing, which really meant – kill the film. Too many projects get postponed and never happen.
“We had a major heart to heart with everyone involved. We told them straight – we can just about shoot this film but we’re going to be struggling after that.“
They went for it. Now, with the scenes all shot, the team have turned to a new source to fund the post-production work – the general public. Crowd-funding, as it’s known, is when a cause appeals for small amounts of money from the public. In return, the benefactors recieve a thank you in the form of their name in the end credits to dinner with the director, depending on the amount donated.
This week, the film was well on its way to raising the required £5,000.
After 20 years making films it will be the first time Barry, director of Godard & Others, Voice From Afar and Poppies, has used the fledgling financing system.
“You’ve got a lot of people hunting a very small amount of money. The downside is you end up trying to tap your mates and relatives – ’how to lose friends and alienate people’!
“As an independent filmmaker you become quite adept at sourcing money, the irony being two doors down the street there was probably someone who would have sawn their left leg off to be involved in a film, even just giving a tenner, to say I helped make a film.
“Now you can tap into a reservoir of good will. It becomes an incredibly democratic process.“
The film stars 28 Weeks Later actress Emily Beecham as Lulu, an up and coming painter standing on the brink of fame. Success comes at a cost as Lulu battles her father (Paul McGann) lying ill in a hospital nearby, her uncompromising filmmaker boyfriend Daly (Will Bliss), and her agent Simon (Sean McConaghy) who wants something from Lulu she’s unable to give. Gary Kemp plays the mysterious Collector who is desperate for one of Lulu’s works. Oh and one more thing – it’s a musical.
“The idea of a musical shook everyone to their boots!“ says Barry. “I loved that idea of saying to audience, actually this is a film. Some movies are so realistic they’re like drama-docs, but you could never be confused about someone walking along a street and belting out a song.“
With music by Doug Berwick and featuring a ballet sequence, it’s certainly ambitious. But that’s the thrill, says Barry.
“It’s always been the great paradox in filmmaking,“ he explains, “that it's as difficult to make a bad film as it is a good film. It’s as difficult to make a boring and uninspired film as it is to make a work of note and credit – so why not try and make something that’s going to be worthwhile?
“If you can’t stand back and say I’m proud of what we’ve done, I do wonder why people put themselves through the torture of making a film, because it can actually be pretty gruesome!
“In the UK we don’t have much of a film industry,“ adds Barry, “but we do have an enormous wealth of talent and enthusiasm and good will. Without these people none of us would be making films.“
You can help get Art Is... finished. Details: www.artisfilm.co.uk
The real artist behind the art:
When your main character is a painter, you’ll need to show some of their paintings. For Art is... Barry was adamant Lulu’s works would be by a working artist.
“I didn’t want the art department to knock up some pictures,“ explains Barry, “because they always look like what they are – props. I wanted a working artist’s work – there’s an authenticity to that.“
But where to find a willing painter? The answer came close to home from Walthamstow artist Sharon Drew.'............../.
As well as lending her work to the set she gave actress Emily Beecham a masterclass in her painting methods.
“The one thing that kills me in films about art is when you have an actor pretending to paint,“ says Barry, “and they dab on the same square inch of the canvas, terrified of going beyond that. So you have a terrible scene where they’re tapping away with their paintbrush on one tiny area. Sharon was extremely generous on many levels and it really adds to the film.“
“It has been a fascinating experience to be adopted by the film world,“ says Sharon. “It truly is a parallel universe; I am the painter but the film is not about me. Seeing the film crew in action was captivating, especially those moments when everyone connects, when magic happens.“