Hello, what have you been up to today?
It's only just after 11am and I have spent the last two hours reading Mr. Men stories to my six year old who fell off his skateboard this morning before school and smashed his lip open. Little man - he's alright though. I fed him juice and pancakes and he's perked up a lot.
Why have you decided to re-visit your documentary about Glastonbury?
It's such an amazing festival and so much part of our cultural DNA that it seemed right to go back to the very roots of the original festival spirit and do what I could to show people how festivals were. It wasn't really that long ago, but it seems like another age, and the original film was never felt quite finished to me. I was a different person when the first film was made and now, with the benefit of hindsight and a lot more experience as a filmmaker, I felt that if I made a new film based on the same material it would serve its subject a lot better. I think I succeeded. The national press reviews last week were quite amazing. It took me by surprise to see so many respected critics understanding what I was trying to do with the film.
One key thing about the movie is that we shot it on CinemaScope which is an incredibly high resolution movie format. The one that was used and still is used by some of the world's greatest filmmakers. Apart from the original 35mm prints from the first film, the material only existed on low resolution standard definition TV. Now that digital cinema technology has caught up with us, it would have been crazy not to have made the most of the beautiful cinematography.
I'm not sure whether the film will ever be completely finished we keep finding the little bits and bobs that through time have become more and more significant. And now that everything is digital it is so easy to just nip and tuck, add new brushstroke, a little trim here and a little shimmy there. Film has become a lot more like what painting used to be like in the Renaissance. Not that long ago, when you finished a film that was that. It was locked off and it was very hard to make any changes. Now it is a much more plastic medium and no filmmaker ever feels that their film is finished.
Has going back to your original tapes thrown up any surprises or stand-out moments that you didn't use before?
One really interesting thing is returning to the stage performances that we shot at the time. Some of the bands seemed very much out of bounds to us when we were editing the original film. For instance, The Orb and the Stereo MC's didn't make it into that movie. Negotiating with their labels and management were too daunting for us at the time. In this instance it was a couple of phone calls a lot of enthusiasm from their end and now they're in this version. Another big surprise that has just happened, something that strongly suggests to me that I need to return to the edit, is that I have only just discovered six cans of 35mm that have been sitting undiscovered in storage. They contain a loss of the extended coverage of the people who became subjects to the film. I'm quite excited about weaving their stories more intimately into the movie. Back to the drawing board I guess.
How did you end up making the documentary?
In 1993, which is the year we shot the film, we had just come back from Cannes where we had premiered another feature which was called The Punk. We had made a few sales, had a bit of cash and at one of the press screenings a Dolby engineer who was tweaking the cinema told us that he ran the massive outdoor cinema field at Glastonbury and would we like to show The Punk there. We jumped at the opportunity and then had the idea of shooting a film while we were down at the festival. It snowballed into a huge rush of enthusiasm and ended up with 40 of us camped backstage behind the Jazz stage with three CinemaScope cameras, six TV cameras, several 16mm setups, loads of DAT recorders and a 16-track studio in the back of a camper van. Oh yes, and a huge debt by the end of it.
Were you camping on site with all of the equipment? Sounds like a nightmare...
Yes, we must have been a bit nuts taking all that incredible gear down there. At that time Glastonbury was well known for its anarchy. Interestingly people were very respectful of us once they realised what we were trying to do. That we weren't just some bog standard TV company trying to take the piss out of the festival. A lot of our camera people were pretty hefty blokes too.
What were your aims when setting out to make the film?
Most of us had been to Glastonbury and knew what it was all about. To us it was a very special event and at that time very poorly documented, if at all. The only cameras you would see on site, around those times were local TV companies try to do some sort of naff expose of what they saw as the dark-side. We wanted to create as true a representation of festival culture as we could. To create an immersive uplifting experience, a first-person journey that leads the viewer through what it must be like to spend three days at this incredible event. To make the United Kingdom's version of Woodstock.
How much do you think the festival has changed in the years since your documentary and what are the reasons for this?
Its health and safety gone mad! Not really. The authorities weren't going to allow that free spirit to go on forever. The establishment has become stronger willed and Michael Eavis almost lost the licence. The fence went up, less and less people got in free and hence less and less colourful people were on the site. It has become more controlled and less self-administering. It was inevitable I suppose. The larger that it got the more eyes were directed towards it and the more eyebrows were raised. It couldn't really go on forever like that. Or maybe it could.
Why is Glastonbury Festival such a special place for so many people?
I guess you need to ask them that. I think there are a million reasons why the festival is special to people. I think it possibly all boils down to connection and communication. In everyday life we all float around like islands connecting closely only with our nearest and dearest. The structure of society is such that we protect our emotions and inner-selves do most people. By the second or third day of the festival everybody is so levelled out and on the same plane, experiencing the same thing, that we undergo a revelation, we realise that we are all just the same and it's a very fundamental and cleansing feeling. A lot of festivals don't have this kind of vibe, they are essentially just bands playing in a field. But Glastonbury for whatever reasons is a true festival and people can come out of it feeling genuinely changed.
Do you really believe that lay lines run through the site?
I don't believe, I know it. It's common knowledge. I think there is very possibly something in it. and it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about the vibe coming out of the ground. I can't really comment on it that much further but the fact that the area is a magnet for spiritual and forward thinking people must have something in it.
If you were given a blank cheque to make another documentary about any music festival in the world, which one would you pick and why?
Wow. I would have to think long and hard about that. Burning Man, Rio Carnival. I'm not sure really. It would take a lot to top Glastonbury. The old-school Glastonbury anyway.
Do you still go to music festivals?
Not really. I’ve got a couple of small kids, that's not really an excuse for not going to festivals but I try to give as much time as I can to them when I’ve got it. A lot of the good stuff of being at the festival you can get just by camping or being in the countryside in general. And we always take musical instruments with us and make our own gonzo festival when we do.
What tips or advice do you have for any budding documentary makers who might be reading this?
Now is the time. This is the heyday of documentary making. When we shot Glastonbury the Movie the equipment and film stock was so prohibitively expensive that very few people had that kind of opportunity. There are cameras out now that are as good as the ones that we used that you can buy for a few thousand pounds. All of the equipment is there at your fingertips at a fraction of the cost that it used to be. Persevere, follow your dream, focus hard and obsess.
Any final words?
I hope the cinema in Nottingham plays it loud. We got the very best sound engineers to tweak as much as they could out of the track. And it sounds amazing when it's cranked up. I just want people have a really good time watching it. I've had so many people tell me that they've gone out and partied till dawn after seeing it. I think there's a real spirit of festival magic that comes through.
Glastonbury - The Movie in Flashback is showing at Broadway 13 - 19 July 2012. Click here for further information.