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Documentary Filmmaker Jay Martin on Redt'Blue: The Film that Examines Why Mansfield Turned Tory

3 June 20 interview: George White

After decades as a Labour stronghold, Mansfield decided to elect a Conservative MP in the 2017 General Election. The result, which came as a shock to many, led local filmmaker Jay Martin to make Red’tBlue, his upcoming documentary which explores why the ex-mining town turned Tory…

How did you get into filmmaking? 
I have always had an interest in storytelling, whether that was through films, novels or even music, so I eventually decided to study a BTEC in Film and TV Production at Confetti. I made two films while I was there. One was a documentary called NG2 on Nottingham’s first serial killer, Mark Martin (I’d like to emphasise he’s no relation to me), and another was a narrative film called Catharsis, which follows a businesswoman who struggles to deal with the loss of her daughter. Confetti was a really good place to study and I fell in love with filmmaking while I was there. 

Who have been your main creative influences?
Ashley Carter was a big inspiration for me, especially with his documentary Shaun Barker: One More Time. He showed that you can make high-quality local documentaries on a small budget, while keeping them approachable for the target audience. More broadly, I’m a huge fan of Nick Broomfield’s work. His run and gun approach is really interesting, and he has a natural ability to insert himself into his work without feeling intrusive. I was lucky enough to hear from him during one of Confetti’s Industry Weeks, which was great.  

What made you want to make Redt’Blue
I was born in Nottingham but I’ve lived in Mansfield most of my life, so I have a real connection to the area. The mining industry had a massive impact on the community, and the Clipstone Headstocks are like a ghost watching over the town. I was toying with the idea of doing a documentary solely focused on Mansfield’s mining history but I also have a strong interest in local politics, so I decided to combine the two. I think the shift from Labour to Conservative really expresses the change in the attitude of the town, as they feel they’ve been left behind as pits were closed and jobs were lost. I wanted to bring that to light. 

How did you come up with the name? 
Red to Blue’ was always the working title of the film, as it is a succinct way of telling you what the film’s about – and it perfectly mirrors the narrative arc of the movie. But I was in the pub with my mates and one of them had the idea to shorten it down, so it would better reflect our dialect. I thought that was a brilliant idea and helped to give the film more of a clear identity. 

I was toying with the idea of doing a documentary solely focused on Mansfield’s mining history but I also have a strong interest in local politics, so I decided to combine the two

Did you hear many interesting stories during filming? 
Absolutely. I had so many raw, honest interviews about what it was like down the pit and I formed a real emotional connection to everyone I spoke to. One of the interviewees talked about how her uncle lost his leg in an accident. That really highlighted how dangerous the work was. What was fascinating, though, was that lots of the former workers still spoke positively about their time in the mines, despite how difficult it could be. It was strange, really, because it was like they were talking about a different world; an era that’s almost been forgotten. You couldn’t imagine any of their stories happening now. 

Do you think more working-class stories need to be told on the big screen?
I actually think we are getting better with it. Places like Nottingham are becoming great hubs for filmmaking. There are now a lot of talented people wanting to tell working-class stories, such as Luke Radford, whose documentaries bring attention to things like the rise of food banks in the area. The BFI Academy at Broadway is also great for bringing through new talent in Nottingham. I will say that I’d like more people focusing on regions outside of the city, in places like Mansfield and Bulwell. I hope that movies like Redt’Blue can help to establish more of a filmmaking base within these smaller communities. 

Why should people check out the film?
One of our aims is to be educational. We want to let people know the real story behind the shift in voters’ decision-making in areas like Mansfield, and I think there will be interest in that both locally and nationally. The film is also a celebration of the town – we used a lot of iconic places in Mansfield during shooting. I think this is one of the first movies to focus on the community since the 1970s. It’s a place that’s often forgotten about, and can sometimes be the butt of the joke in Notts, but there are a lot of interesting stories to be told there and I think this is one of them. 

How can people support the project? 
We’ve launched a Kickstarter to help generate enough money to release the film. We’re looking to raise £2,500 to pay for our archived footage. The BBC has given us a generous rate, but without paying them we can’t bring Redt’Blue to audiences. I’ve already put £3,000 of my own money into the project but we need that little bit of extra backing to get over the line. Supporters on Kickstarter can get fantastic benefits, including digital posters and copies of the film, an album of the original score and an invitation to the cinema premiere and after party. 

facebook.com/redtbluedocumentary
kickstarter.com/redtblue

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