Martin Spence 0:00
Okay, this is a British Entertainment History Project interview with Penny Woolcock. It's the 24th of April 2019. We're at Penny's home in north London.
Camera's being operated by Nick Gilbey. Interviewer is Martin Spence. And the interview is copyright of the British Entertainment History Project. So could you start off by Penny just by giving us
however, false it may seem, by introducing yourself by name, and just telling us when and where you were born.
Penny Woolcock 0:36
So I'm Penny Woolcock. And I was born on the first of January 1950. in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Martin Spence 0:44
So you are a child of the middle of the century, you describe yourself in those terms?
Penny Woolcock 0:48
Absolutely. The middle of the century, yeah.
Martin Spence 0:53
And and I think I know the answer, but does your family - prior to your own career - does your family, or has your family, had any connections with film, television, the area of work in which you've made your your life's work?
Penny Woolcock 1:09
I I've had no family connection whatsoever with the film industry or the TV industry. As I say I didn't even grew up here. We didn't have a television when I was young.
So I guess I've always felt like somewhat of an outsider.
I did have an uncle who I love very much, who's a cartoonist. And although that's not really connected, he and I had, we wrote letters to each other - and he died when he was about 90 - as "dear fellow pauper" because, although we're the only people in family, who weren't somehow involved in banking.
We were both very cheerful.
Neither of us regretted that we'd chosen a different path.
Martin Spence 1:59
And how did you get from from Buenos Aires to the UK and to the work you've done here?
Penny Woolcock 2:06
Well, I think, you know, when I was little, I loved to read. And I grew up in a very conservative, stifling, expatriate community because not many people are aware of it, but there was a massive amount of emigration from all parts of the United Kingdom to Argentina. From the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, there was 60,000 people in Buenos Aires who spoke English at home, there was a kind of network of private schools that we all went to and country clubs in which we entertained ourselves at the weekend. And, and it was very mercantile community and very different from Australia, where you had a lot of working class people who emigrated and immediately became integrated into the culture as all the other Europeans who went to Argentina did. But the British, it was a sort of very specific kind of mercantile immigration. So they set up the stock exchange and the tanneries and the meatpacking plants, and the railways, which ran on the left until we built the railways. And so, you know, almost all of the people I knew, if not all of them, father, including my own father, actually, were accountants or lawyers or involved in business in some way. But my father loved to read and would have loved to be a writer. So there was definitely something in the air, you know, there's a quote, which I've never been able to substantiate, which is "there's no more powerful influence on a child's life than the unlived life of a parent." And so to some extent, I feel I was living my father's unlived life. So I always knew that I wanted to be an artist, even though I didn't really know what that was because I'd never met one. But I knew they existed because I read about them in books. So as soon as I got to be about 16, I just went off into Buenos Aires, looking for artists until I found some.
Martin Spence 4:12
And what happened then?
Martin Spence 4:15
Was that with your family's support or horror?
Penny Woolcock 4:19
I think my parents were kind of bewildered by me. And I think my father was always rather, sometimes in an unspoken way and sometimes not so unspoken, rather kind of proud of the fact that I was going out and doing these things that he hadn't quite dared do. And my mother was just baffled. You know, she really wanted me to get married, which is what I was brought up to do. And we really didn't have a lab in my school because we were brought up to become wives and mothers. And I was very determined that that - I did become a mother but I've never been a wife - that wasn't what I wanted. So, yes, I went out and I hung around art galleries and I went to... is this too much detail?
Martin Spence 5:13
...in how you...
Penny Woolcock 5:14
Yeah, how I sort of Yeah, well, you know, I sort of literally wandered around Buenos Aires peering into bars and seeing if I could find some artists and I saw, I came across this bar, which I've never been able to find since called El Bar Moderno, which is The Modern Bar. And there were all these people in berets and paint splashed clothes, and I thought, 'that's it'. So I went and sat there and kind of eyed them up. And one of the men, the young men at this table, you know, noticed that I was looking at them and offered me a biscuit. And I thought, 'that's it, it's got heroin in it, and I'm going to collapse and be taken off to Morocco to become a sex slave.' And so I said that I was horrified (laughter). So you ate half of it. And then I was too embarrassed, so I ate the other half and sat there, of course, they just went back and ignored me. And I thought, well, 'all of that is bullshit', you know. So in some ways, it kind of gave me a false sense that I could do anything, which has sometimes led to quite a lot of trouble, but, and then what you know, I bumped, met somebody on a street corner invited me to audition for a play called "Liberty and other Intoxications". It was during a time of dictatorship in Argentina. I was in this play. And I think quite often people write about me and say, I began in theatre, but it was just this one, really bonkers performance. And I was arrested briefly along with everybody else. And it suddenly felt that I'd taken a tiny little step out of this very, sort of narrow life that I was supposed to have. And that the tiniest step, which I think if I'd been in London at the time, would have meant nothing, immediately led to these, you know, very dramatic consequences. So my parents then decided that they would pay for me to leave the country and come to England because I think they were fearful and and in fact, there was then subsequently a dictatorship in which people like me were killed, you know. So I, and by then I'd fallen in love with somebody. So we ran off and I had a few years sort of traipsing around Europe, I was painting and writing but I didn't really have any connection to the art world or anything, you know, at that time, but I was just being an artist, I suppose.
Martin Spence 7:45
And so what got you started with filmmaking? I mean, documentary filmmaking is sort of where you came in.
Penny Woolcock 7:53
Not really actually, yeah. Because, I mean, it wasn't till sort of early 80s. And I'd live this quite sort of marginal, peripatetic existence, I was a single mother, I painted, I was a member of Trotskyist revolutionary organisation for a while, and it was all really, I was skint, we had no money whatsoever, but it was a very happy time, you know, in which I felt, very lively and connected. So it was kind of, and I always painted at home, and then, and I had jobs, so even though most of the time I didn't earn enough to get out of income support, it meant I wasn't actually on Social Security, which for me, was important, I wanted to contribute, to be connected. So, you know, I worked three and a half years in a kitchen in a hospital as the shop steward for NUPE as it was at the time. And that was a very interesting time where I was on an equal level with people who had a very different kind of education and background from me. And we respected and learned a lot from each other. So it's really important time for me. And subsequently, where a lot of the work that I've done, which we're going to talk about is with people in marginal communities who don't have any money and so on - I have actually been there which is unusual for a middle class woman, for quite a long time, I mean there were at least a dozen years, if not more, where I was absolutely, you know, impoverished, financially anyway. And I think that enables me not to be condescending, actually, because I respected myself at that time, and I respect other people. I don't assume that they're somehow diminished, you know, that their capacity to live their lives is is curtailed by not having money. So, and one of the jobs that I then got was, I then got, an Arts Council grant. And I could take some time off to work - just to do my own work. And then I somehow randomly got a job doing some art with teenagers on what was then called a YOP project, Youth Opportunities Programme, that was during the Thatcher time. And because I'd been, you know, a rather delinquent teenage myself, I found that I could really connect with teenagers and I wasn't afraid of them. And so we started doing lots of things, there were bands and a magazine and some plays. And then these girls said, 'well, we're fed up with doing plays'. And I said, 'well, let's make a film for Channel 4'. And I knew nothing about making films, I didn't know you were supposed to get a commission (laughter). I just thought, Channel 4 had started then, it's very hard to kind of remember back to when there were two channels, then three, then four. And suddenly, there was a channel that seemed to be having things that were made by people who were more like me, sort of not that mainstream, and some of them weren't very well made or anything, it's just that it became a possibility in a way that I'd never thought, you know, that, that there was before, you know, looking at the BBC, and so on, you know, and in those times very, very difficult to get into TV, you had to have a union ticket. And most of the directors who were working at that time came through something called a TAPs scheme, they got first class degrees at Oxford, or Cambridge, went into the BBC on this fast track programme. And that's how it all ran, you know. And then suddenly, there was Channel 4, and it seemed, I don't know, I thought, well, people seem to be making things so I can probably do it too. So, I borrowed some equipment from a local film workshop in Oxford, and persuaded somebody who I'd met, to shoot it, telling everybody I was making this film for Channel 4, which, of course, I believed myself. And with a group of girls, we made an improvised drama, which is one of the things that I've actually, you know, one of the strands in my work I've carried through ever since. And then somebody from Channel Four randomly saw this film - which I have to say was not my finest work - thought it had showed promise, and then I was a director.
Martin Spence 12:35
So you were making a film for Channel 4, I was making a film for Channel 4. You shouldn't have been saying that you were but actually you were,
Penny Woolcock 12:41
yeah, I was, that's where it ended up. On "The Eleventh Hour", it was called, though it's late at night. And it went out. Yeah,
Martin Spence 12:50
so we're talking 83, 84 something like that?
Penny Woolcock 12:53
Yeah, something like that, 84 maybe, yeah. Yeah. And, and actually making this little film where in which I made every mistake known because, you know, I'd never assisted anybody, or done any other jobs. So I really didn't know what I was doing. I remember we shot very long sequence in one shot and a howling gale obviously, we then, it was very difficult to cut. But I just didn't know any of it. So I was completely out of my depth. But it was like falling in love. I just thought 'everything that I love to do is in this', so there was the visual side, there was connecting with people, there's a period which is much more solitary either with editing you know, I like, I don't like routine at all, actually. And so something about the kind of the, the roller coaster changes that you have to kind of go through with a film really suited me. Yeah. So sometimes you're on your own and sometimes you're around a lot of people and and either with, you're working with actors, either actors who've done it before, or actors who haven't, or with the documentary people, you know, you're trying to make a space for those people to be the most authentic version of themselves. And, you know, I really enjoyed that.
Martin Spence 14:23
And storytelling too, you talk about storytelling,
Unknown Speaker 14:26
yeah, on your website?
Penny Woolcock 14:27
Yeah. Because I think it's very easy to underestimate the importance of stories and and the stories that we tell and that we believe are what make and break communities and create change and so on. I mean, I've thought this for many years, but recently in, in Sapiens, or Homo Deus that Yuval Harari, you know, where he's saying, you know, money is just a story. It's just that we believe it. I remember about 20 years ago having an argument with the head of the Bank of Santander saying we could decide anything with money or, and and he was truly horrified. But it's just a story. And so you can have stories that are saying people who are different from me have a different skin colour are bad and they're going to ruin our lives, or you could say 'how fantastic, let's welcome people who are different because it enriches all of us'. And those are both stories. And you can, I prefer the one that's embracing to the other one, but but both of them are stories, and both of them can find evidence, I suppose, you know, for why one then true or not.
Martin Spence 15:45
So, we're not going to spend long on Trade Films, but sometime soonish, after your breakthrough with Channel 4 you, you joined Trade Films in the northeast of England and were there for, I guess two or three years or so.
Penny Woolcock 16:00
Yeah, something like that. I mean, looking back,
Martin Spence 16:04
was that was that a good or a necessary or a helpful phase? Or?
Penny Woolcock 16:10
I, for me, it was, it was a very, very difficult and fraught time. So, Martin, who's interviewing me, worked at Trade (laughter) and knows how, kind of obstreperous I was during that period. But I learned a lot. So I was taken on to direct something called Northern Newsreel. And the idea was, it was soon after the miners' strike. And they'd had these miners' tapes that had circulated and they were talking the days where there was VHS, obviously you didn't have mobile phones, or any, any other way of distributing anything. And the miners' tapes, told the story from the miners' point of view, and circulated quite widely and people were encouraged by them. And I still think that that way of actually using the stories that we tell, and not just having them broadcast on television and film or even on your laptop, but actually taken into communities where you can actually have a discussion about what is being talked about is very powerful, again, it's how do we change the story? How do we contribute to the story? So Northern Newsreel was that. And really, I didn't know that much, but I thought I knew quite a lot more than I really did. And it was a brilliant opportunity to try different things. Because in each little cassette that we sent out, there would be four or five pieces, 10 minute pieces. And then we had an another little section, which was good news, where we promoted things that trade unions had actually won to make people's lives better. And, and I just tried lots of different techniques, and trying making things as little dramas and as kind of rather formal talking heads interviews, or, you know, just trying different ways or following people around and using things that I'd seen on kind of Channel 4 youth music programmes or whatever. And so it was a wonderful way of actually learning how to make things. And, and also, I had to edit them myself. And again, this is on VHS. So those bits, I mean, remember, you couldn't, once you'd made an edit, the only way that you could change it is to dump the whole thing onto a new tape and start again, you had to put your in point, your out point, and build the thing, watch it and then you could change it. So it was it was very, very laborious. And and we're working completely crazy hours till two, three in the morning. I got an ulcer because I forgot to eat and things, you know, is it, but it was you know, it was just because I was so absorbed in it. So it was very, it was very useful in terms of building up and learning how to work with crews, as well, you know, we did actually work with a sound recordist and a camera person. And then somebody would come and do the kind of fine edit at the end. But but the offline edit, which was the essential thing that I had to do myself, you know, so it was a sort of very intense way of, kind of in a way like, film school, I suppose, you know.
Martin Spence 19:45
But the newsreel thing really wasn't what you wanted to do. I mean, it was like a hothouse learning experience.
Penny Woolcock 19:51
Yeah, well, I think after a while it became rather limiting. You know that to making things about water privatisation (laughs)... which I remember you really wanted to do so we would have to trade, where I could do some sort of bonkers... MS: that's right we did trade offs didn't we? PW: I think one of the things that did work, which you reminded me of the other day was, you know, because it was an area of very high unemployment. And this is the period where they'd been the shock, deindustrialisation, and people were just left virtually from one day to the next, with nothing. And who had always assumed that their lives would be kind of down in the pit or in the steelworks in Consett, and I remember going to Consett and there was, there was a radical project there of an interesting guy's name, I've now forgotten, who was suggesting, you know, who wants to go down that pit? And working in the steelworks? Was, it really boring mechanical work, and it's not bringing the best out of people? And I was very, very affected by him, John, something. MS: Is that the guy, you mean? PW: Yeah. And, and I thought, you know, he was quite a visionary in a way, because this is where we are now, you know, and you're just thinking, 'Well, you know, maybe we're better than that, you know,' I don't go down a pit, and I work all the time, and I do things that I really enjoy. They're creative. And I'm not the only person who's capable of doing that, you know, we all have ways in which we can express ourselves. So there was him. And there was also quite a thriving National Front movement there. So, as ever, places with zero immigration tend to believe these sort of scare stories more than anyone else, because they have no experience of anyone apart from possibly an Asian person in a corner shop who's hardly a threat to anybody's employment. And yeah, I remember you being a bit surprised, I decided, I want to go and talk to the National Front. And I still stand by that actually.
Martin Spence 22:03
Yeah, yeah. And, and you should, it was, it was, I mean, I'll come on to this, because there's other stuff you've done since, it was the physical threat, that spoke to me. Not not not should we even be engaging with you? Because you have to. But it's a scary thing to do. And it was just the way you just went and did it anyway.
Penny Woolcock 22:24
Yeah. I don't remember being afraid, that's the thing. MS: No, that's the trouble you weren't. PW: No, you know, I think you said 'Is it about bravery?' I think you're brave when you're really frightened. It's not that I'm don't get, I do get frightened sometimes. But mostly, I don't really feel it, my curiosity kind of overwhelms everything else. And, you know, we're so protected, really, you know, as kind of white middle class people. It's so unlikely, you know, that that we would be a target, because, you know, even then, you know, something would happen to me that the person doing it would have been hunted down, you know, so they have to think very seriously about whether they want to spend 25 years in jail, you know,
Martin Spence 23:12
Consett was also ... that leads on to When the Dog Bites? Yeah. Which was your big step away? Yeah. From really, well into, what I perceive is in a sense your own programme of work
Penny Woolcock 23:26
That's right, yeah. So it was going to Consett and being very, kind of intrigued, well, more than that, you know, of, so there was steelworks, and the town had been built, to give people places to live to work in the steelworks and almost from one day to the next they just levelled it, closed down the works. And this town was there, and nobody had anything to do. And so people were trying to invent their way out of it. And I, I thought that that there was something really interesting about that. And I didn't really understand what it was. And I think it was partly a reaction to the newsreels having to be, you know, in a way, quite kind of prosaic in the way that they presented the message. And I think I was so desperate to kind of break out of that, that I sort of leapt into doing something that I still think is probably the most radical film I've ever made. You know where it had absolutely no regard for any kind of narrative in any way that you could put your finger on. MS: It was formally radical? PW: Formally radical, yeah. So on the one hand, I still you know, watched again, a couple of years ago with one of my students I thought, Oh, that's really interesting. Yeah, shot in black and white and colour and I didn't really kind of even know why. You know, the camera system will say is this black and white or colour and I go... 'colour'... and somebody wrote quite a long chapter in a book about it, doing an analysis that seemed to suggest that I had really thought about things in a much deeper way than I really had. And they were, there was an escapologist, of rather heavy handed metaphor, you know, when I think about it now. And this woman who's selling knick knacks, and this guy who, then - these little drama inserts of this couple where the man was always imagining that he was going to be able to do something that actually, in reality was probably out of his reach, you know. And the thing that I have never done before, no - not never done before - the thing that I've never done since is I think I was very cavalier about the people who I was filming, because I was so keen on being really clever, and doing these sort of wonderful shots, so that I thought, yes, let's not have people sitting on their sofa, as I am now. Let's have them swimming in the swimming pool. And we built a scaffolding tower in the pool, and then put a little aquarium and put the camera in the aquarium so you could see this boy swimming up, half of his little tattooed body, talking about lack of employment in Consett. And the thing is that when we showed the film, people laughed, and they laughed at the escapologist. And they were laughing at them. And that had not been my intention. But I hadn't been mindful, really of that. And so, I'm, subsequently I've, you know, not immediately actually, became more and more careful about, you know, these are people's lives. And it was, it was, I was, I was kind of having too much, too much fun without thinking about, you know, other people, although, occasionally once somebody in it will contact me on Facebook or something, you know, they don't seem to bear any ill feelings, but, we finished the film. And then there were two screenings that happened. One was at the Tyneside in Newcastle. And I was still very excited, I was thinking this is fantastic, you know, and I walked in at the end, and there was no applause. This was a special screening for councillors and people in Consett, and so on. And as I walked in, I heard someone shout, "Shoot her", and someone else went "Bang!". And I thought, 'Oh, this isn't going well', and walked up to the front. And I think the person who shouted "Shoot her" stood up and invited me to crawl back into the gutter where I belong. And I've never forgotten (laughter). And I was really, really shocked. And I was still, and then the filmmaking community out there as well, Trade and Amber, also didn't like the film, and there was a screening at The Side, and I went, I was thinking now it's going to be all right, you know, people will think, 'yeah, you've done something really interesting'. And everybody launched into me and said that I was perverse and I think somebody actually used the word disgusting, actually. And I
just remember going home and just crying, you know, I put a brave face on it but I thought 'I've got to get out of here'. So it was, it was a very intense time. MS: Yes.
Martin Spence 28:38
Wow. Well, rather than just follow through chronologically, can we just in terms of other documentaries, I mean, you've made a lot. And we can't go through all of them. In terms of your approach to documentary factual material - have they, would you say they're all your projects? I mean, do you tend to be the initiator? Do you see something that you think needs to be addressed? Or, or do they find a way of coming to you or
Penny Woolcock 29:07
It really depends, actually. And mostly, I've initiated them. So, I remember there was a year where I had been desperate to make a film about adults with learning disabilities. I have a cousin in Argentina. And, and I wanted to do it in a flatshare. So that there wasn't - the film's called The Five of Us, it was a Cutting Edge - and it doesn't say at any point "here are some people with learning disabilities", it's obvious, you know, three or four of them have Down syndrome and so on. It was just a year in the life of that, of these five people sharing a flat with a certain amount of support. And I went out of my way to find a really good flat because I didn't want it to be "Oh, these victims of abuse or whatever", actually they were living their lives and they had the same, you know, people were squabbling about sharing biscuits or going on holiday or who was in love with who in the way that we all do. And that was something that kept being turned and turned down until I got somebody to agree to do it. And I was very determined to, and then I've made, I guess, two films, one called Wet House and, and On the Streets were about... Wet House was about the street drinkers in a wet house, where they're allowed to keep drinking and On the Streets about people actually living on the streets. And those were things that I, you know, fought to, to make. But there have been other times that people have suggested things to me, there was a series called Century Road, about roads that were built at the beginning of the 1900s. And went out to the - there were several Century Roads, I can't remember maybe 20 of them or something - and found these two streets, and of course, all human life is there. So I think you know anything that you look at really carefully, is fascinating, you know, making generalities is less interesting. It's one of the things I always say to students, you know, it's not interesting that, you know, whether there is racism, or whatever it is, you know, find something specific and explore that through. And people, if you're respectful, will give you everything. And even if you're not, as I think I probably wasn't with When the Dog Bites, you know, you connect with people, they'll trust you. And you have to be worthy, I think, of that trust, you know.
Martin Spence 31:52
It seemed, going through the, all the projects you've worked on, on your website, and I had a look at IMDb as well, you know, which I always take with a pinch of salt, but it is what it is. It seemed as if there was a period from about 2002 to 2010, when you didn't do any documentary work? You did, you did fiction work, you did your opera work. Is that just the way things?
Unknown Speaker 32:21
Martin Spence 32:22
there wasn't, there wasn't a decision on your part, to, to focus on other stuff?
Penny Woolcock 32:28
No, I don't really have a plan. That's the thing, is one thing sort of leads to another, you know, I get interested in, I mean, there's that series of films that - and, and I'm still involved with those people very much in Birmingham - where I got mugged in Tufnell Park, and I thought, well, I don't want to walk around looking over my shoulder, being afraid, I need to get to know some robbers. And so through, and that also connected with seeing little bunches of flowers around the place. I knew there was something happening that young men, almost all, you know, many of them young teenagers has been killed on the street on the streets where I lived, and I didn't know what was happening. So, you know, I went, and then I was also very interested when I come across groups of boys around, you know, a couple of push bikes, and they were rapping, you know, doing freestyling, and I thought 'what are they doing?', you know, 'what is this?' So, I got very interested as well, in - which I had sort of known a bit about - sort of hip hop. Again, it's a narrative form, you know, and, and grime, you know, which is the more English version of it. So all these things are interesting. And then I sort of researched them, made a feature film. As a result of doing the feature film, some of the people involved in that film, asked whether I would help them to get a truce going between the two big gangs in Birmingham, and that became a documentary and then it became a sort of channel, YouTube channel, that they're still working on. And I'm writing a script with one of those guys now, which is back to being fiction again. So it's sort of... work comes out of other work. Isn't it, if you don't do anything, nothing happens.
Martin Spence 34:22
But that's, I mean, you, we've moved on to your fiction work. Yeah. Where again, it's, you know, I saw '1 Day' at the Ritzy in Brixton, which was packed, and people loved it. But I know the same wasn't happening in the West Midlands where the film was actually, where it's actually filmed. I mean, could you talk about 1 Day a bit, because I think it's a really interesting project.
Penny Woolcock 34:51
1 Day, I yeah, I'd heard of because I made a documentary called Shakespeare on the Estate, in 94, in Birmingham, and, and I was aware then, there were two big gangs called the Burgers and the Johnsons. And I remember at one point, we had some trouble and somebody said, Oh, he's the guy that you need to go to. And somebody sorted something out for us. And I think, well something, you know there is obviously a structure here that I'm not understanding. And then I did a version of Macbeth there, and again, you just hear these stories. So when it came to, what was this, 10 years later, you know, 2000 and? well, a bit more than that, actually, 6 or 7. And I thought I wanted to make this gang film. I thought, 'oh, well, they're these two big gangs in Birmingham', I think what I hadn't realised is that they were the most notorious gangs in the country. So to this day, oh Penny, the Burgers or the Johnsons I wasn't, I didn't realise quite what I was getting myself into. So for some reason, I thought that they were going to be very happy to talk to me (laughter), and my assistant, Lucy, sort of sauntered off and wandered around Aston trying to talk to the Johnsons, who are on that side. So there's the B6 and the B21, which is Handsworth - don't make those signs - the wrong path turns, bad idea, but, and nobody trusted us, obviously, because we were these two random white women. And we were interested in all the same things the police were interested in. So everybody assumed that we were working with the police, which of course had happened to me earlier with Tina Goes Shopping as well, which was, you know, a whole other thing, but... And I met one, one of the Johnsons, Shabba, who, he just believed me, and also he'd seen a film I'd made called Mischief Night, and he'd really liked it, because his dad sold dodgy DVDs. So he trusted me, nobody else did. And one of the main guys was on the run at that time, and they thought I might be working with the police to track him down. I mean, there were all these things going on, you know. And then at a certain point, I remember there was this night, because part of it, it's not really bravery you need it's tenacity. I remember just sitting and we've spent about two months, which I mean, that's a long time to be failing every day of your life, you know, and sitting in this really shitty hotel room and Lucy and I started laughing about how ridiculous it was that anybody was ever going to trust us. And we laughed until we actually started crying, you know. And then we were almost at the point of giving up. And then somebody said, 'oh, maybe you should meet this photographer guy. And he has a nephew', I don't know. So we sort of wandered across the front line. And in this pub, I met Dylan Duffus, who, as soon as I saw him, I knew he was the real thing. And he always says "as soon as" he said, "I looked into your eyes, and I knew that you were telling the truth."
Martin Spence 38:10
What do you mean by the real thing? Well,
Penny Woolcock 38:11
he was involved because what happened was, he'd, his uncle Vanley Burke. I mean, this is really... so Vanley Burke is absolutely brilliant photographer. He's been photographing the Jamaican community in Birmingham for 40 years or something. And it's his stills that are in John Akomfrah's Handsworth Songs. And I somehow met Vanley because I knew John Akomfrah. Vanley knew that I was really a filmmaker, his nephew... he said he has this nephew that was interested in film, and I only really met him because I thought I should do a favour to Vanley but I thought, you know, 'I don't really need to meet somebody who wants to go to film school, you know, that's not what I'm doing'. But I met Dylan and I thought, ah yeah, he really was interested in making films but he knew about everything else. So, he, we've been, there's quite a lot of staring that goes on, like when you're five and you stare at people and whoever looks away is basically [undiscernible] So I got very good at keeping up the stares. So quite a funny occasion with the main guy on the Burgers where we had to do a staring competition in Handsworth Cemetery and I, I could feel Dylan behind me going 'Don't look away' (laughter). He was in this big car, and then eventually he went and drove off and then we were all right. But anyway, with, with Dylan, he just, he trusted me. So I started to ask him questions about how things worked. And he told me stories. And then I had promised everyone - and I'd said this as well on the Johnson side - I said if - because I'd been commissioned to do the research by Channel 4 - I said that if we get the film off the ground, I will come back and cast it here. And everybody will have a chance. I'm not saying you can have the part, you have to audition, you know, and the music and everything was going to come from the community, given that I was making it from their stories. So we got the commission, of course Channel 4 was very worried and going, 'Oh, you've got to cast, you know, Ashley Walters, or, you know, one person that anybody's heard of', you know, and, and I said, 'No, no, that's not what we're going to do'. And they said, "Well, if you don't find the right people", I knew I could find the right people because, you know, if you live a life that's on the edge, you're having to act all the time, you have to act to the police, to all your various baby mothers, in court, whatever, you know, you get very good at that. Not everyone can do it, I personally cannot act. Somebody asked me to walk across the room and film me and I start doing pretend walking, because I'm very self conscious, you know, you have the gift or you don't. And that's whether you've been to drama school or not, you know, so I was pretty confident. But obviously, we had a problem because we couldn't cast it from both sides of town. Because it was on site at that time, which means that people are killing each other, if you're in the wrong place. So because I'd had more success on the Burger side, we then had the auditions in a taxi office on the Soho Road, which is deep in Burger territory, knowing that that meant that only people who felt safe to be there, were going to come to the auditions, you know. So it's a very easy way. If we've had it in town, even though town is dodgy, I think it would have been potentially much more dangerous. So that, that was, you make these decisions based on what you know. And we had local guides, and we had hundreds of people, we sent out flyers, but flyers went to places like Dixie Chicken, you know, which is where people are hanging out at the time. And we did improvisations in this taxi office. I mean, we had hundreds of people, it was absolutely exhausting. And then we also had Urban Monk, very good composer. And he had some beats, and if people came in and they were MCs, they wanted to rap, they would choose a beat, and then they would perform. And so, I, that's how I kind of pulled the cast together. And, and actually Dylan was meant to, I'd said to Dylan, 'you don't want to be an actor, you want to be me, you know, so you'd be much better off being my assistant.' But Dylan kept having to be in the improvisations. And at the end of it, I said, 'I'm sorry, but you just have to, you have to be in a spot' and he was going 'alright then'. Which was better for him. I mean, he's not the most organised person, but he's very talented. So, yeah, there. It's very exciting sure.
Yeah. But it was cast from the Burgers' side,
All from the Burgers' side, yes. And then the Johnsons are everywhere on the recce, suddenly realised that I had been telling the truth, and that this film was happening, and called up and said, "so what the fuck are you doing? Why aren't we in it?" I went "Well, you didn't trust me". And they said, "well, we're going to come and shoot up your set." (laughs) Yeah, on the, yeah, and I was on the phone. They were recruiting the recce, going to various locations, which also, we had to be very careful about where we were shooting, you know. And Amy Flanagan, who is one of the producers, she turned around, I was saying, "don't shoot up the set, shoot me. You know what I look like, I'm the one that's responsible, if that's what you think you have to do, do it."And then once you say that, because one thing I've learned is that if people are going to shoot you, they're not going to talk about it before, you wouldn't even know it's happening, you know? So it's not, it's not that brave, saying 'Why don't you just do it then' (laughs).
Martin Spence 44:19
But were the crew all right? I mean, the crew knew about these tensions.
Penny Woolcock 44:24
Well, not, you know, not really, some of them, like Graham Smith, who is the DoP is lovely. He doesn't want to know, and because I remember at the beginning, saying "Do you want me to tell you what's going on or not?" And he said, "Just tell me what you think I need to know." Whereas of course, I'd be desperate to know everything, you know, it's a different... so 'no'. And we had, you know, the the floor runners and that were all local and connected, so they knew if we were somewhere that we shouldn't be or you know, if something was happening, and would go "I think we'd better get out of here", you know, so you just kind of, you can never, if you're filming in areas that are not, that you don't come from, you just have to be respectful and you have to use local knowledge and also employ local people. So everybody has an investment in it. And you have to get essentially the the say-so of the people, because law and order is not really the police in those areas. So you have to find out who does that, and make sure that they're cool with you filming there. And that they feel that you're not disrupting their business or, or that you haven't got any intentions of, you know, grassing them up, or whatever the thing is, you know, so yeah, it's just about working, being careful, you know, you can be brave, but actually don't be stupid. You know, I wouldn't walk into places with a camera without knowing what I was walking into. And actually, even with On the Streets where we didn't have a crew, it was just, you know, I was mainly doing sound and one of us was doing camera, there were times when we were in areas, and some people didn't know us, and they'd start, you know, saying, "I'm gonna smash your camera on your head," the other homeless people would go "No, no, no", you know, "it's fine". And I remember one of the people who always defended us and said, "I told her, I didn't want her to film me and she hasn't done it". You know, and so you have to get people locally to stick up for you because nobody else is going to do it. But also, that's right, you know, you're filming in their area. So yeah.
Martin Spence 46:50
So how was it? How was 1 Day received and who got to see it?
Penny Woolcock 46:55
Well, the problem is when you've got a little film you haven't got a budget of gazillions to have billboards on sides of buses and so on. And there was one big mistake, which is that it came out the same week as Borat. Obviously, Borat had all the billboards, so in many cases, I got a better review, but it was in the small section. And the big film, even though it was being slagged off with the picture was, was Borat. So that was one. But the other thing is that the police were very... I mean, to this day, I don't really understand it because I honestly believed that it was malicious, that they see the people who they see as troublesome - as their enemies, as the ones that they're trying to get one over of and arrest and so on - doing well. And uniformed police officers from the West Midlands Police went to every single cinema in Birmingham, Coventry, Walsall, Wolverhampton, even as far as Leicester and told them, if you show this film, there's going to be trouble in your cinema. 'Well, who needs that? - pull it and put something else on', you know. So it wasn't, it was shown in one cinema in West Brom, and it was packed out with queues around the street. But West Brom is on one side. So sure enough, after a few days, there was an incident or somebody hurling a fire hydrant or something and they closed the film down. But if the film had been on in the cinemas, in the areas where people have gone to see it safely, themselves, it wouldn't have been a problem, you know. So what we needed was for it to pack out in the Midlands, and this was before kind of social media really took off, you know, but you pack out somewhere, that word of mouth goes through communities. I mean, I love to hear that people, obviously in Brixton did know it was happening, because everywhere else, people afterwards were saying 'when was it on?', you know, so after a week, it's pulled, because you have to get that, that week. So it was, I was very, still to this day, gutted actually, on my behalf and on behalf of all the other people who invested so much in it because I haven't been able to make a feature film since and that's over 10 years ago, because it was seen to be a flop, nobody got their investment back. And so... and the thing that nobody realised was that in those days it was pirate DVDs, the pirate DVD was everywhere, so, and on YouTube, it kept reaching a million hits and Vertigo would take it down I was going 'Well don't take it down, at least people can see it'. But that level of, you know, that audience is not an audience (that has) any kind of positions of power in the film industry. So you know, nobody knew. So, in that sense, it was very disappointing.
Martin Spence 50:08
but it led to One Mile Away. PW: Yeah. It also MS: It was continuing.
Penny Woolcock 50:13
Yeah, they, I was in Oxford, you know, not so long ago with, with my art show. Everybody knew 1 Day and were quoting things from it. People who were, like, 10 when it came out, you know, so it did, it was a British film that was doing something that was authentic, wasn't pretending to be American, and people rapping in English accents. And you know, I, and there was humour in it. I mean, I always liked seeing where the granny comes along and all these guys are hiding their guns behind because people are very polite to old ladies, which is another thing I see quite a lot. Not that everybody's always polite to me, because I'm not polite to them, either. But yeah, there's, there's the, it's not, it's not just thug life, you know, it's more complex and nuanced than that. And then, a few months after, oh, because when the thing happened with 1 Day, and I got this phone call on the recce, I said, 'If you get a truce, going', I said, 'I'm not the one that setting up, telling you to kill each other. If you get a truce going, I'll just cast the best person, I don't care where you come from.' It wasn't just one phone call, it must have happened over a few days. But it was just shut down immediately. We tried on both sides, people just wouldn't know. But it plants the seed. And once that is there, it's like, 'oh, maybe you know'. So how long after that? It was only a few months actually. And, and Shabba, who I originally knew from the Johnson side, phoned me and I was in my kitchen and said that he'd wanted a drink the night before. And he was in an area of town that was more kind of Burger. But he thought 'it's really late, it'll be fine'. He went into this off licence, or whatever it was to get a bottle of brandy. And there were a load of Burgers in there. And he just thought 'Ough' and one of these he put out a hot little youth killer started doing it's gonna fish out this knife or whatever, to fuck him up. And Shabba just had this epiphany. And he just looked at this boy and he said, 'You know, I don't know you. And you don't know me. I didn't wake up this morning thinking I wanted to kill you. You didn't wake up thinking you wanted to kill me. If you think I've done something to you go ahead. But if not'... And one of the other people there was somebody who he'd been cool with in jail, which can happen and he just said, 'Let him go', which is cool, giving someone a pass. So the next day, instead of just being relieved, Shabba called me and he said, "you know, maybe if I can get a pass, maybe other people can too, you know some of the people on the other side, will you help me?" And I really didn't hesitate. I just went "Yeah, of course", you know, and I called Dylan who is that my closest friend on the Burger side. And I said, "Look, I've had this call from Shabba" I mean, it's the same community, often people even related, they go to same primary schools, their grannies go to the same churches, and then sort of somewhere around year seven and the beginning of secondary school, it separates out. You're the enemy. Yeah. They call the boy dem, or the geezers.
Martin Spence 53:47
Depending on where your family home is? PW: Yeah, yeah,
Penny Woolcock 53:50
yeah, that's it. Yeah. That's it. It's completely territorial. And it's, it's not to do with, it's just here to where we're sitting now. You know, I'm on more or less the frontline between the Cally and the EC1s, you know, and the rest of us just wander around. That's fine. So I called Dylan and Dylan went "Pfff" (intake of breath sound). Dylan was one who had, we'd tried a little bit to see if we could get something going, and kind of, a bit of an intake of breath. And then he thought, 'Okay, you know, let's try and do this thing' And then I don't know initially I really, I mean, I knew it was a serious thing. But I don't know it just somehow seems so obvious. And I...
....to just try. But it was it was really, really, really stressful. And there were times where I just thought 'I'm gonna start a bloodbath and it's on my hands', you know, because I was so naive and I went 'Oh yes, let me help you', you know, without really understanding what was going on. But the powerful thing about it, and the thing that always saved it from being an outside intervention was that it was Dylan and Shabba at the centre of it. And all I was doing was sort of wandering around in between. And from the beginning because I'd said to Shabba "look, I'll help you in any way I can. We don't have to film it". And he said, "No, no, we have to document it". Because, because then they know that it's us who've done it, because something like 200 million quid been spent over, in a very short period, to try and resolve this gang problem, to zero effect. And that's the other thing where you say okay, 'stories'. What we did during that period, I sort of realised in retrospect was change the story. So initially, the story that everybody was so angry about was that we were so fucking stupid. We were mad, we were, 'who did we think we were?' obviously especially me as I'm not from there, but 'who did they think they were?' because neither of them were like top men in that they were kind of quite, you know, I don't know how you'd put it, it's not a literal hierarchy, but there are people who are more or less influential, neither of them were seen as that; they were very connected, they knew everybody. And in a way maybe that also was a good thing, in that we weren't so much of a threat. And gradually, so it immediately started a very animated discussion in which sometimes I would call them and I could hear this yelling going on the background, I knew that weapons were being pulled and everything, you know, and I just thought, 'Oh, God, you know, I'm going to get, I'm going to get them killed'. But this, getting involved in this, is, and you know, and there were times, there were a couple of times, I was also frightened. I thought, you know, 'I'm going to...' especially when some guy got into his head that I was a member of the Illuminati, you know, this, this conspiracy theory that I'm some shape shifting Cyborg, you know, and I thought, I don't mind, not mind, you know, if I get caught in crossfire, because I'm trying to do something, well, so be it, but being killed for being a shapeshifting Cyborg (laughter)... it's, it's not something I really feel that my son and my granddaughters and people that love me would go 'Yeah, it was worth doing' (laughter), you know. So it was yeah, it was very, very, very, very difficult and, and very dangerous, and also not supported by anybody. Because at one point we went because James Purnell got involved in it. And he got, very early on, he was one that was getting bits of money for us. And we were staying in a convent because these nuns thought we were doing a good thing. So we had free accommodation in the convent (laughter) We'd bring all these gang guys into the convent, and they'd all be yelling their heads off, and the nuns... quite a lot of stuff we couldn't film, actually. Sometimes really funny, but quite surreal, you know. So James, said "Doyou want to meet Jonathan Powell?" And I went, yeah, I thought, well, he, he knows about this. And he was really helpful. And took, took it very seriously. And he said, basically, his first thing - this was after a couple of months - when I realised that actually, it was, that it was dangerous. For, particularly for them. He said, "You cannot get off the bicycle, you have to keep pedalling, because if you do, what will happen will be 10 times worse than what happened before because there's been the prospect of something" and he was drawing the comparison with Stormont and that people had been set up with a false expectation. And actually, the violence had gone really out of control after that, this is like 'oh god', I remember sitting there (laughter) I didn't really know, you know, but we, you know, we kept going and it never turned into what we'd hoped, which is suddenly the Birmingham mayor, was going to be there and everybody just shaking hands. What happened was people coming into the same music studio, people were talking, to this day, that, amongst the people who are trying to kill each other there are friendships that are more solid than people that have on their own side. And for a couple of years there was no firearms incidents, and there was a reduction in violence of
I think 70% on one side and 50% on the other, something like that, it was done properly by the Boston Consulting Group. So yeah, so it was a remarkable absolute thing. Yeah.
Martin Spence 59:53
But, but the way you describe it is it starting to... is the tension?
Penny Woolcock 59:59
Yes, not with those guys, but the younger ones have started up again. Yeah, yeah.
Martin Spence 1:00:07
So there's maybe a generational aspect to it?
Penny Woolcock 1:00:09
There is. Yeah, there absolutely is. But in the past, I mean, those people had been doing this thing for 20 years, you know, they were, it wasn't, it wasn't just the young ones acting, and they were enabling it. So how, you know, how you replicate that - because it's so random, you know, someone, a middle class filmmaker in North London and these guys - is that it has to come from within, and then you can,
Martin Spence 1:00:38
but there's also something isn't there about, you know, you talked about storytelling? PW: Yeah. MS: And the instinct, I can't remember whether it was Dylan or Shaba, but one of them saying, "No, you've got to film it" PW: Yeah. MS: You've got to have... the story has to be told and be seen to be told. PW: Yeah. Yeah. MS: That, I mean, it is a really, I think wonderful counter example to what so often happens with the media, of a crew parachuting in to an issue, maybe with the intentions of telling stories and genuinely wanting to do that. But you come in, you film it, you tell the story, you disappear. PW: Yeah, MS: That's it. PW: Yeah. MS: I mean, this is almost almost pushed to a ridiculous level. PW: Yeah. MS: a counter example to that is,
Penny Woolcock 1:01:23
and it was ridiculous. The
Martin Spence 1:01:24
And the fact that you are a filmmaker. PW: Yeah. MS: was clearly important. PW: Yeah. Because MS in your role, you weren't just a nice woman who could act as an intermediary.
Penny Woolcock 1:01:33
No, MS: You were a filmmaker. PW: Yeah. And a professional filmmaker. Proper. I remember quite early on, actually with 1 Day where people were saying to Dylan "you're a fool to trust her she doesn't really work for Channel 4". And I said to Dylan, "why don't you just come to London with me? We'll go to Channel 4." And he said, "No, no, don't worry. I trust you" I say "I know you do. But I think you need to go there. And I think you need to kind of come back and say, 'Yeah, everybody knows her'." You know, we went and luckily kept bumping into people I know. And obviously, Jan Younghusband, who was commissioning it, was there and we went to her office. And, you know, we met Dorothy, who's the head of current affairs, and that, so it was... Dylan was able to go back and go, "No, you know, this, this is this is real." You know, the ridiculousness, and actually, it was the one time I felt very uncomfortable making a film because usually, the film is the thing, I want to... I like to sleep at night, I like to have an interesting life. I like to make friendships across a range of different kinds of people. But I'm gonna make that film. And I'm ruthless about that, you know, the film has to be good. And that is, because nobody is going to turn around and say, 'well, it's a bit shit, but you're nice', you know, I think you've you've got to kind of raise the bar. But in this case, the film for me wasn't the most important thing, you know, because it.. and that was, that was a very weird, uncomfortable feeling that I didn't really enjoy. I thought, 'What am I really doing?' Because I don't know anything about conflict resolution. And I'm a filmmaker. You know, what am I, what am I doing? And half the time, we're wandering around we couldn't even film anything. Most of the most interesting things that happened, we couldn't film because, you know, it would have put people's lives in danger. Well, we couldn't have done it. So... I wouldn't be here now. So it was weird. But, you know, I got a request this morning from, actually from a Birmingham community project asking to show it again, which of course, you know, people can show it wherever they want, you know, and for a period afterwards Brit Doc, now Doc Society, funded a Burger and a Johnson going to screenings in, all over the country, actually. And because they are very notorious, just seeing two guys from - and we always made sure that we had one from each side - at the screenings, they were, it was really powerful.
Martin Spence 1:04:16
Could we just talk, there are other strands of work that you've done in terms of fiction? There's the Tina films? PW: Yeah. MS: There's the Shakespeare on the Estate, Macbeth on the Estate. There's Ackley Bridge PW: Yeah, MS: so I mean, I definitely want to talk about Ackley Bridge. But is there anything, I mean, all these projects are really interesting. I mean, what got you into the Tina films? What started
Penny Woolcock 1:04:40
I mean, that really, that was 'How can I tell this story?' Because those of us on the left and I think very much that was the thing, that the ethos of Trade and Amber and the workshops was that, you know, de-industrialisation was a terrible thing. And they were all these really decent people who are just longing to go back to having proper jobs again. And, and there is rather kind of sentimental, romantic attachment to actually often really mindnumbingly boring work that we wouldn't like to do ourselves, you know, and, and also that people are trying everything you know, in order to, you know, on the straight and narrow in order to do it, I don't know, there's something about those films that, well, I think they're a lie actually is part of it, you know, it's not really able to look at the truth. And sometimes the truth is a bit more unpalatable. It's definitely more lively and more interesting than, you know, trying to sort of bathe it in some sort of romantic gloss. So what I discovered when I was making Shakespeare on the Estate, I was working in Bristol, at the BBC, and they wanted me to make a film about the teaching of Shakespeare in classrooms. And for some reason, I was very affronted by this. I mean, I think it was really interesting. I thought 'how dare they tell me how to do my job' (laughs). What I want to do is something on a council estate, where we try and engage people with Shakespeare, I don't really know what the hell I thought I was doing. But anyway, I was quite determined that that's what I wanted to do. So I fought to get this proposal through and kept being knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, I thought, I don't want to film in a school. I don't want to do this. And I was under contract. Anyway, eventually, actually, with the help of my researcher at the time, Nick White, he pointed out in some big meeting that this whole season you know the BBC used to do, these seasons of Shakespeare, was not diverse in any way in terms of either race or class. And I think it's Roly Keating was the head of things at that time. And he went, "Oh, what can we do about it?" And I went, "well!", so you need a bit of luck, but also this tenacity thing, you know, this has been going off for months. Anyway, he said, "Yeah, sounds great. Do it". So then, and then I thought, what is it that I'm want to do? I just got really frightened. And I said this before, but I really, it was so impactful. Peter Symes, who is one of the commissioning people in Bristol, at that time, met me coming down a corridor, and I obviously looked completely terrified. And he said, "What's the matter?" And I said, you know, "I've won this battle now, and I don't know what I'm doing". He took me out to dinner, and he said, "Look, if you do what they want you to do at best, it'll be all right, and at worst, it'll be all right. If you do what you want to do, at best, it'll be fantastic. and at worst, it'll be a disaster." And that was really good advice, because it's honest, it's not going, 'it will be fine, whatever you do', because it's not. So that was sort of empowering. Anyway, we went off, we persuaded Michael Bogdanov, at some point he was going to come down and engage with people; went around the country, found this estate in Birmingham, which partly I chose, because it was mostly people from, you know, either the Asian subcontinent or the West Indies, whatever, tend to live more in inner cities. And then it's white, impoverished and working class people on the estates. On this particular estate - on the edge of, while it's actually very close to the city centre - Ladywood, was actually mixed, you know. And I thought, Oh, that's interesting. And what I discovered while I was there, even though I was making this film about Shakespeare was that there was this alternative economy. And it was,
I remembered during the World Cup, and there were a lot of, there were a lot of Irish people on that estate, and these boys had stolen all these Romanian football shirts, because they've got the colours a bit confused (laughter), which they find it very hard to even give away. And I was seeing these boys coming back from town with these shopping bags, old timers. What is it that these boys seem to do a lot of shopping? And then one of them explained that they were actually professional shoplifters and said to me "Look, Penny, you know, you go into town, pick out whatever you want, and we'll pinch it for you. And you pay us 50%." I thought 'oh, is you know, is that how it works'? And actually a line that I put into Tina Goes Shopping was that I said to him, "is there anything that anybody's picked out, you haven't been able to get?" And he said, "Well, somebody wants a grandfather clock." (laughter) He said, "I don't know how we're gonna do it, but we'll do it." And that is the last line or something of Tina Goes Shopping. But I thought, 'Gosh, well, this this is interesting. There's not a hole, in the way that literally there was in Consett where the steelworks has been, there's something else happening.' And that is interesting. And I'm not making a judgement about it. Most of it is illegal, because what else were people meant to do? Just sit there on benefits? So there's, there was obviously, drug dealing, and shoplifting. And, and I also think, it might have even been the first day that Nick and I arrived, and we went to this pub and this family came in. And they had their benefits that they'd got, the whole family, and they proceeded to blow all of it in the pub. They got drunker and drunker and drunker and drunker. And it was completely sort of sort of Rabelaisian. And the pub owner said "it happens every other Tuesday". And the question for me was, 'so what happens now? You know, how are they surviving?' And I never met that family again. But, you know, it started (me) asking those kind of questions and then I tried to make it as a documentary in South Wales. But I don't want to stitch people up so it ended up being another miserablist film with nobody having a job (laughter). Because all the stuff that I knew, was illegal. And I remember this girl Wendy who was a shoplifter and when, she was heading off with her baby. And I said "Do want me to look after the baby while you go and do your thing?" And she said "No, no, I need the baby", because she was putting all the stuff you know under the mattress or whatever in the in the, in the, in the pushchair. So yeah, anyway, that's... Wendy would have let me film her shoplift. But why would I do that? And then what - she goes to jail and her children get put in care? And what are the options for her, you know, that wasn't what I was gonna do. So in the end, it looked like nobody was doing anything. And then I thought, okay, maybe the way to do it is as a fiction, where I get people to perform versions of themselves doing these things, but not as they're actually doing them. And
Martin Spence 1:12:24
so it is it is, in a sense, the people themselves, it's not, it's not professional actors, and actresses? PW: No.
Penny Woolcock 1:12:31
And some of the people in those films have gone on to have careers as actors, because they are actually acting and it is a gift. But, but I thought it felt less exploitative than going and getting actors to black out their teeth or look like they've had 10 children when they haven't. So, and it also felt, again, sort of fair that people are going to tell me all these stories, and it's their stories, it's their material that they should have a chance to, to shine. So, you know, again, with that it was very, very fraught at the beginning, everybody thought I was working for the police. I lost all my researchers, Nick, who is one of them said, "I think you're playing into the hands of the Daily Mail, you know, in whose interest is it for you to be telling this truth? You're just going to go, people go, look, see, they're all scroungers." I said, "I think I can do it without doing that." And he said, "maybe you can, you know, I don't want to take that risk," which I, and then there were three others who got frightened and left and I just ended up doing it by myself, the research and then making the film, I had no idea whether it was gonna work or not.
Martin Spence 1:13:47
And was this still for the BBC?
Penny Woolcock 1:13:48
This was for Channel 4 MS: Channel 4. PW: Yeah. And, and I had been turned down by the BBC and turned down by Channel 4 with this idea. And then Peter Dale, who was a documentary filmmaker in his own right, got to be Head of Documentaries. And instead of going to the fiction people, I went to him. And, again, you always need a bit of luck, but is also perseverance, you know, Peter had tried and knew, because as a filmmaker, he'd been on some estate in Glasgow, he'd seen all this stuff, and he couldn't film it. So he knew what I was trying to do. He understood it. So he just said, "Do it." And I'm still shooting on film and you know, 16mm, Super 16, and there was, yeah, attempts by Tim Gardam at one point, said "Oh, I don't, I don't agree with this. I'm going on holiday for two weeks." It was on the Friday before we were due to start filming. And I thought that's it, everybody's gonna go "She was lying." So I just said "we have to film" and Blast! films were really good, just, I just carried on. And I had some other plans, I was going to kidnap him. Which reassured me (laughter), but not anybody else... I don't know quite how that was gonna make things any better. But anyway. Yeah. And then it was really successful, as Shakespeare in the Estate had been, but both of them I really didn't know beforehand, I had some really, you know, shitting myself.
Martin Spence 1:15:30
And Ackley Bridge, I mean, surely that's because of it. I mean, is it, is it fair or accurate to call it a soap?
Penny Woolcock 1:15:39
I think it's called continuing drama. So I think soaps tend to be, there's more of them, more days of the week, you know, but I mean, I wouldn't mind it being described like that, but apparently that's not what it is.
Martin Spence 1:15:51
OK, in terms of the way...
Penny Woolcock 1:15:53
Continuing drama, or something. So each one is like a little film. And well, they're the the series, you know, and we have, yeah, there's a lot more kind of care. I think, in soaps, they shoot something like 40 pages a day or more, I think, you know, so it's all frontlit,
Martin Spence 1:16:12
there was a learning process, you, you committed yourself to something and, and then sort of, sort of worked your way, worked your way through it. Ackley Bridge must have been different from that just because of it's the nature of the beast. PW: Yeah. MS: I'm guessing. So how did that start? PW: I mean,
Penny Woolcock 1:16:29
I suppose I always like to do things that I haven't done before. And that are a challenge, and I'm not sure I can pull off, you know, otherwise, it's not very interesting. But so, the thing with Ackley Bridge is it's a series, which I'd never done before, at eight o'clock, I mean most of my things tend to go out much later than that. And for a very broad audience, you know, and again, I suppose things like The Five of Us or those Cutting Edges, you know, those documentaries were watched by actually quite big audiences back in the day, you know, but this is really for kids who are coming back from school, for young teenagers, old people who watch a lot of TV in the day and, you know, people who, families who watch something together so it was doing something, well, there could be no swearing, no violence it's a very, in some ways, quite sanitised view of the world. But it grew, in a way, out of the Tina films because I did the first one, Tina Goes Shopping, then Tina takes a Break, then Mischief Night. Mischief Night was a feature film that was, I was really, really proud of, it's really good, I think, 2005. And that was on the same estate with the Tina character. But across the park is where the Pakistani heritage community live. And so Mischief Night is this night where everybody goes out and does naughty things, that, it's a tradition. And during that night, there are various relationships that happen across the park between the Pakistani community and the white community. And I did that for George Faber Company Pictures. And he's the person with Forge Entertainment, who's doing Ackley Bridge. So when Ackley Bridge came up, even though I'm not the obvious person for a mainstream TV series, because they all watched Mischief Night, they liked the mix of, it was kind of quite tough in a way, but it was really funny. And so that mixture of kind of rather ribald humour, and also people who don't have any money and are dealing with, you know, the reality of coming from a small provincial town in the north of England. He said, you know, they asked whether I'd be interested, and I just thought, wow, you know, eight o'clock to be doing something that has 50% Muslim cast in it, when none of them are terrorists, none of them are paedophiles. It's not politics, with a big 'p', but it's kind of politics that really interests me, because I think, again, in terms of stories that we're telling, I think, so important. And I know, you know, one of the main girls is Muslim, and she's gay. And I mean, the amount of feedback that we've had from young gay Muslims, you know, who've never seen themselves being represented before. The other thing that we forget is that if people are only seeing themselves represented, either as as terrorists, all of the male actors or Asian actors who came in for parts, and that's all they get offered, is being a terrorist. Or there's colorblind casting, which is usually the sidekick of the police or whatever. But who could be anybody. There's no cultural specificity, and I'm all for that. But I think there's a place for 'this is a Muslim community, people wear hijabs they have certainly, you know, they, they don't drink alcohol or if they do they do it surreptitiously, you know, that is saying, this is this community. And this is how we're representing you.' And so many people just go. "Thank you", you know, it's so, so that's been I've really enjoyed it, I've done it for three series and I won't do it again and, and it was very nice bringing in, I like to work with that kind of restless handheld camera, following the action with the actors very much at the centre of it, rather than, you know, I do want it to look beautiful and very careful about locations, finding stunning locations and how you frame things. But but it's, it's not about, you know, multi camera, little kick in the side of the eye, you know, nobody moving, hitting their marks here, because a lot of the kids we street cast. So people pick things up very quickly, but haven't done it before. So it's been, I've really enjoyed doing it.
Martin Spence 1:21:06
And might it carry on? You, you're quite clear that you are now, this, this is it now, you're PW: Yeah, this is it.
Penny Woolcock 1:21:13
I think you know, it's... MS: Might it carry on without you? MS: Yes, yeah, there's absolutely no reason why not. And so it's coming out in June. And then I think it depends, you know, if it's held its audience, and it gets recommissioned then. Yeah, absolutely.
Martin Spence 1:21:27
I mean, you're the person as much as anybody else at the heart of it. And at the heart of its story, won't that be a wrench?
Penny Woolcock 1:21:32
No, because I think things have their time, you know, and I'm happy for other people to come and take over and do things the way they want. And other directors have worked differently from me anyway, you know, because I don't direct every episode. So you just have to, I just don't, I, I don't try it, I genuinely don't worry about what other people are doing. And I think that's again, it's one of the few good qualities that I have, that's saved my life is, I don't compare myself to other people, you know, it's like, 'this is what I'm doing, and I don't need to be, yeah, doing what other people are doing'. It doesn't bother me if people think I'm doing better or worse than them. Yeah, it's fine. MS: Okay.
Martin Spence 1:22:17
Can we talk about opera? PW: Yeah. MS: Which is, feels to me, like, completely different. But how did, I mean, how did it start? How did your engagement with opera, whether live or filmed, start?
Unknown Speaker 1:22:33
Penny Woolcock 1:22:36
I love music, I can't read music. I'm not particularly well, I'm not well educated, I mean I go to a lot of concerts, have some kind of grasp of western classical music, but I'm not part of that community, really. But I remember going into a record shop in Newcastle actually, when I was at Trade and hearing some music, and going up and going, "what is that?" And it was John Adams' Nixon in China. And I immediately bought it, you know, and listened to it. And then a few years later, around the time I was doing Tina Goes Shopping, I was, went to the Barbican with a friend, and we saw a concert performance of excerpts from the Death of Klinghoffer, which is based on some Palestinians who hijacked a ship. And in the course of this hijack - which nobody wanted to kind of take responsibility for - this elderly American Jewish man in a wheelchair was shot and thrown overboard. And the opera takes this event, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the death of Klinghoffer. And it does something really interesting, which is that it's at no point suggesting that this is something, anybody, that this is right, you know, but how do people get to the point where they do something like this? And the Death of Klinghoffer starts with two choruses, the chorus of the exiled Palestinians, and the chorus of the exiled Jews and you know, that's how, that's how it is, this is the background. And I, my friend, I was sort of in tears and my friend said, "Oh, you should make a film of it." And I said, "Yes, that's what I should do." I contacted, I think Janey Walker at that point at Channel 4. And she said "last night we were saying what can we do about opera?" because apparently they had some kind of contractual obligation to do opera on Channel 4 for certain amount. And they were filming these performances, you know, the camera and you see these little tiny people. I mean, nobody was watching it, and it's not the best way to to see something. So she was immediately intrigued. that somebody who is making Tina Goes Shopping should want to do opera. And then we contacted John Adams through his publisher, Janis Susskind and she said "Oh last night I was talking to John and he said 'why doesn't anyone make a movie?'". So sometimes things sometimes things are very, very hard. And sometimes they sort of plop into your lap. And that really did and
and then I did have my usual 'I can't read music. I don't know what I'm doing', you know.
And then I just thought, well, Jan Younghusband then got the job. I thought, well, she won't want to pick up somebody else's thing. She said "Yes, this is great!" (laughter) and she said, "What orchestra do you want?" And I said, "I'd like the LSO" because it was the only orchestra I'd really could remember the name of and she said "Yeah, that's a good idea" (laughter). So it was a bit, sort of, and then we hired a cruise liner. And because I suppose that mixture of sort of documentary it didn't occur to me that you could do the whole thing on a set. So I thought, well, we've obviously, we've got to hire a cruise liner and sail across the Med and hijack it (laughter). We did it and the reason that it got through Channel 4 is that they have something called the finance committee or something, I can't remember what it's called now. And Jan was worried because it was 2.5 million, which, for the LSO opera singers, the cruise liner, recreating, kind of Israel 1948 is actually not very much, but, you know, but it was still a lot for an arts programme. And it went through. And Jan was a bit surprised. So she went to Tim Gardam's office, he's now Head of Wadham or something, so this story won't affect him. And she said, "you know, Death of Klinghoffer went through" and he said, "I think it's great". Anyway, a few weeks later, we're filming. And she's got a picture of the cruise liner all across it and sort of panorama across. He said, "What the hell's that?" And she said, "well, it's the cruise liner... for Klinghoffer". He'd misread the numbers and thought it was 250,000. (laughter)
And that's how we made the Death of Klinghoffer. Occasionally, you get thrown a bone, you know, that was one of those but yeah,
Martin Spence 1:27:33
but you have to, I mean, it was written as an opera. PW: Yeah. MS: So it had to be rewritten. I mean, uh, someone had to produce a screenplay. Did you do that?
Penny Woolcock 1:27:41
I did it. Yeah, I did. And, and actually, when I looked at it, it's basically it's an oratorio. There's no story in it. And there, and there's no action or anything. So I somehow had to invent, how can I make a film of it because having achieved this and it all going through
Martin Spence 1:27:59
it's words and music. Yes.
Penny Woolcock 1:28:00
And the way that I kind of cracked it. I'm not suggesting as a general thing is that I was getting more and more anxious, because I really didn't know what to do is I, it was the New Year's Eve, I got really, really, really drunk. And the next day, I went for a walk, I remember I was feeling poorly, completely self-induced, and I had put my jumper on top of my head. And I went with my friend for some reason, thought it was good idea to go up the Edgware Road, I suppose it was a little bit Middle Eastern or something. And I saw something that I, and I knew how to do it. So sometimes I think you have to get off your head a bit, you know, to break out of ways of thinking, but if you carry on then you just become an alcoholic, but you know, on that day, I do think it helped me to, yeah, to figure out.
Martin Spence 1:28:58
But that then led, so you've then got a relationship with John Adams? PW: Yes. MS: And a name for doing opera, or working in opera. So what was the next operatic
Penny Woolcock 1:29:07
Yes, and then everybody loved the film and I you know, almost all of it was live, the singing, apart from the choruses obviously, and we used maybe 5%, we had recorded the singers in isolation booths. And it went down really well in the opera world as well as you know, I mean, it didn't get a massive audience or anything like that. But people going 'oh, here's a new way of doing something'. And then, yeah, a couple of years later, I got a call from someone claiming to be Peter Gelb's assistant who is the Artistic Director at the Met and I honestly thought it was a friend just you know taking the piss out of me and I did say a few times. "Who is it really?" Anyway it was him and asking if I wanted to direct Doctor Atomic which again is, is based on, based on the making of the atomic bomb, yeah, Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. And so then the first time I ever directed anything on the stage was at the Met... that was really stressful.
Martin Spence 1:30:11
First time since your YOPs drama anyway.
Penny Woolcock 1:30:22
That's right, in the youth club. (laughter)
Martin Spence 1:30:28
So, I mean, so how did you approach that? Because it's a completely different thing, isn't it?
Penny Woolcock 1:30:34
It is. And everything that has a limitation also then has possibilities that, so if you're making a film, and you're making a film about Manhattan Project, you shoot in the desert, when you have the scene where Mrs. Oppenheimer's singing in her bedroom, you go to a bedroom. On stage, you have this box, and everything: the desert, the bedroom, where they made, the bomb, the explosion, the the offices, the labs, all have to be in this box. And you somehow have to keep transforming it in some way to persuade people that they're, seeing something, and I hate naturalistic theatre, or opera, really, I'm very happy for people who love it, but I just sort of sit there and people sitting on a couch, pretending they're in their front room shouting at each other just makes me want to slit my throat, you know. So you, and obviously you can't create a desert, you have to be more inventive. So in some ways, it sort of forces you into a much more kind of dreamlike, delirious way of doing things, which is really exciting. And in the same way as in Ackley Bridge you're having to do something at eight o'clock, the kids can't be effing and blinding. If the dad is beating up a kid, you can't show it, you've got to think of some other way of doing it, which, the way that in 1940s movies, a cigarette, you know, would become, you know, a very, very sexual act, you know, and much more suggestive really than tumbling around taking place or so, I don't know, so there's something about that, that was really lovely. And, one thing that I've learnt is that if you don't bullshit, pretend that you know, things you don't know, people will help you, people who do know will help you. But if you don't do that, they'll just watch you, think, you know, and, you know, there are a couple of days, so I could see everybody was like, 'What is this gonna be really', you know? And then I remember the conductor going, "I can see what you're trying to do, and I'm going to help you". Thank you. Yeah. So it's, and it's an amazing thing, you know, you're in a room with people singing for you, you know, and sometimes I should stop them because actually, things have gone off the rails, where I can't bring myself to do it. It feels so rude, you know? So I've done it a few times now. And I don't, Yeah. And then I have another project coming up, actually, which is completely different with Wayne Shorter, who is a wonderful jazz, saxophone player composer and Esperanza Spalding and Frank Gehry is going to design the set. And that that was because they had seen Doctor Atomic 10 years before. Yeah. So things, things don't, they come out of nowhere. You know, sometimes where you're really lucky, or actually, I have really worked very hard (laughter). You know, it's not, but also partly, it's like, you don't have to be lucky, you don't have to be connected, you just have to do things, that's all, you know, it's nothing, there's no magic to it, really.
Martin Spence 1:34:01
Sure. But although you had to have the status, you had to be taken seriously enough at Channel 4 by people with clout at Channel 4 in the first place.
Penny Woolcock 1:34:10
Yes. But that was only because I had done these things. So for example, Peter Dale had really loved Shakespeare on the Estate. And that's why, MS: Yes. PW: he then said, "okay, you can do this." Yeah. So,
Martin Spence 1:34:24
PW: again, it's not MS: you never know how one thing will lead to another.
Penny Woolcock 1:34:27
No. And then the people who've commissioned you leave, and that happens all the time. It's like musical chairs. And then you haven't got anybody that likes you. And people either go, "Oh, she was so and so's" and then suddenly, you can be hot, you're not, you're hot, you're not. And don't get attached to either of those things, you know, because it's all bullshit, really. You just wait for your turn again, to keep doing things (laughter).
Martin Spence 1:34:56
And what about the art installations?
Penny Woolcock 1:34:58
Well, that again, goes back to when I was a little girl, you know, and drawing and painting when I was a teenager, I painted all my light bulbs with gouache. So they burnt but I thought it was pretty kind of interesting, very arty bedroom that I had, doing these paintings. And so it's always been kind of there really. And, again, that sort of came out of knowing this particular, the, the exhibition, well the one at the Utopia, which has a big installation at the Roundhouse, was because Marcus Davey runs the Roundhouse really liked One Mile Away, you know, and he just thought I could do something interesting. And that I could do something interesting involving the kind of people that they wanted to bring into the Roundhouse MS: So he approached you. PW: He approached me, yeah, yeah. And he didn't kind of say that I had to do anything but I you know, and if I decided to hire the professional people to do something, he would, he wouldn't have stopped me. But I knew what he was interested in, and also, what I'm interested in, you know, so I did something very much kind of based on research around in the area, building up this cityscape. And then Emma Ridgway, who was at the Barbican, we'd run a course called Art School Lab, a few years ago, and she knew my work and knew, particularly, I suppose, 1 Day, One Mile Away, and all those kinds of films and offered me the exhibition.
Martin Spence 1:36:42
So they've been successful in their terms.
Penny Woolcock 1:36:45
Yeah, well, I think nearly 30,000 people came to see it, got some good reviews and and a lot of young people came, it, apparently the the demographic was younger than they would normally expect. And people stayed for longer and watched things and felt spoken to, and I made one particular piece, Dreaming Spires 1 and 2, in one of them. these beautiful young Oxford students are sort of in slow motion walking through from the Radcliffe Camera to the to the Bodleian, with bits of Brideshead Revisited, and Alice in Wonderland over it. And then I got these two young rappers, one mixed race and one white, to take us on a tour of Oxford, which is very, very different. I mean, Blackford Leys is the biggest housing estate in Europe, I believe. So they're completely disconnected worlds. And because Black Jack and Side had had done that vision, they knew a lot of people, people came. And then because they'd, they'd been performing it on a commission to write this piece, people coming into the art gallery and rapping along with the music, and then seeing these other things as well. So it was, yeah, it's very stressful to do. Yeah, I keep saying that. But I take on too many things.
Martin Spence 1:38:24
We are coming towards the end. I'm sorry. Okay. So yeah. So I mean, I'm pulling things together a bit. I mean, is there, on your website. I mean, I think this is only one of the things that keeps cropping up. You talk about the 'undeserving poor, the bawdy resistance of the undeserving poor, I love them'. Yeah. Which, obviously, which, which does connect to the Tina films, and I guess connects to 1 Day, One Mile Away, and so on. I mean, it's not not not everything falls into that. It's not. But that's obviously a big theme that runs through your work, and also about young adults, it seems to me there's a big connection with young adults that runs through. Are they fair observations?
Penny Woolcock 1:39:11
Yes, you know, I sometimes try and analyse myself and go, why is it that I'm always drawn, and I actually am endlessly fascinated, the thing I'm writing now, again, you know, it's just, I never get bored of it, I feel there's always more to learn. And it's partly to sort of look at it more philosophically and say, I think you can learn a lot about the centre by looking at the margins, and a lot about our society by looking at the people that we throw away. I think that that, to me is is is where I understand the world you know and so there are kind of intellectuals, or a basis, there is an intellectual basis for it as well. But it's also, I always think probably is a product of my childhood, you know these things have to be very deep inside us, that when I was a kid and we moved to Uruguay and Montevideo, there is a carnival, and the carnival happened in February. And there is a black community in Montevideo, which in Argentina they were wiped out, which I'd always been told they were escaped slaves in Brazil. Apparently they weren't. They were descended from slaves in Uruguay, which is always trying to pretend that wasn't part of their past. But you know, and you would, you would then during this brief period, there would be black people on the streets. The drummers at night, these young men, without their tops on, drumming and I was desperate to be out there, you know, with them, oh, my parents going "wish they would shut up", you know, so they could go to sleep. Just thinking about that, I want to be there, you know, and Carnival was this time of sort of disruption that was always fascinating to me, you know, you can break the rules, you could chuck water at people, you could see these things that were terrifying but also really inviting. And, and there's a story that actually I tell in the art exhibition. When I was 14, I was at a boarding school, St Hilda's School for Girls in Hurlingham, which is in a Buenos Aires suburb, believe it or not. But anyway, we walked to church on a Sunday, completely covered from head to toe with hats and vests and shirts and ties and cardigans and blazers and tunics and sashes and socks held up by garters, and bloomers over our knickers so that whatever happened, nobody's ever gonna see your pants. And you'd cross this railway bridge and there was a shanty town below. And obviously, the boys in the shanty town knew when the St Hilda's girls were coming, and they would come out and sort of shout, lewd things at us. And I remember having this mixed feeling, on one hand just wanted to get out of there, because it was mortifying, but also thinking I wish I was down there instead of walking to church (laughter). And so that thing in it, I think it's really important not to kind of, you know, romanticise extreme poverty like that. I mean it, really... But it's also true, that there isn't a lot to admire about, you know, these wealthy communities, and somebody was saying to me the other day, 'rich people are really boring'. You know, they don't have to think about anything. It's Nietzsche, isn't it? The blonde beast, the warrior class, I mean, they're just stupid. ... You don't have to be reflective. And so, you know, I think there's, there's a lot of, a lot to learn from how people survive, around and on the periphery.
Martin Spence 1:42:57
And working with other people, I mean, do you have regular, you talked about some of the commissioning editors and producers you've worked with, are there regular collaborators. I mean, at whatever level, whether we're talking about producers, or writers or crew, cinematographers,
Penny Woolcock 1:43:12
I do get very attached to people actually, in, you know, not only through, but always wants to change DoPs. And so I've often worked with the same editor over a long period all the time. And there's two DoPs I've worked with on Ackley Bridge, Anna Valdez-Hanks and Robin Whenary who both were just a delight, and I'd love to work with again. I, you know, collaborating with Dylan in Birmingham now, and I know, four or five films, you know, he also presented a film I made about dogfighting and, and something I did for the BFI. So, I do but I, the thing that I've never had, which I think, you know, perhaps is something that, you know, I'd see directors like maybe Danny Boyle and Michael Winterbottom who have had a producer, who get their projects off the ground like that. And I've, I've not ever had that kind of producer. And I think they come, those relationships come out of film school. And, and in a way, that's one of the disadvantages of not having been to film school was I didn't have a set of peers, you know, I was very much on my own.
Martin Spence 1:44:26
Yeah. You've done that job for yourself effectively.
Penny Woolcock 1:44:28
Yes, yeah. Not always very well, because I'm not good at networking, and I don't know anything about money and I don't read my contracts and I don't understand budgets. So.
Martin Spence 1:44:41
So, are you an auteur?
Penny Woolcock 1:44:45
Well if that's somebody who does their own thing, I'm not a jobbing director. And the thing about auteur is that is, I sort of slightly baulked, because I think in this country, there's a strong kind of anti-intellectual bias isn't there and anybody who tries to do something original, or arty and being arty is seen as a terms of term of abuse, isn't it? I think yeah, I'll be an auteur. And and I'm an artist, you know, and I'm happy with that. And I think they're plebeian occupations. MS: Okay.
Martin Spence 1:45:24
And in terms of your relationship with television, when you know, not all of your work, but a lot of your work has come from telly, how has it, you know, you've had, you've been engaged with Channel 4, from the beginning of Channel 4, PW: yeah, MS: how have things changed? And could a young person starting out now, sort of replicate the sort of road that you've taken?
Penny Woolcock 1:45:50
I think things have changed a huge amount in some ways. But, you know, I'm not one of those people who goes, 'Oh, it was so great in the old days,' you know, it's like, this is where we are now. And in some ways, there are more possibilities, because obviously, all these kind of online kind of possibilities. And then these big platforms like Amazon, and Netflix, and Hula, or whatever it's called, that are commissioning work. So in some ways, it is a very fruitful time for young people to be doing things. And very often people think that they have to do things that have been successful because other people have done them. And actually, you know, a few times, I've found myself ahead of my time, and it's not a good place to be, because actually, nobody knows what it is. And then something happens afterwards. And you go, 'Yeah, but I did it before' You think 'well, so what, you know, it wasn't the right time for it'. Or it gets picked up by somebody with a more popular sense. But I think there's always, there's always a way, you know, and in the days before many channels, which then became completely homogenised, we thought it was going to create diversity, but it hasn't really, you know, but then something else happens and it pops up again. In the days before Channel 4, I wasn't part of it, because I wasn't part of the film world. But there were all these underground film co-ops and things, you know, and ways in which people were doing interesting things outside of TV. And the thing about TV - which is probably dying, now, I mean people don't watch TV live or not, not very much anyway, apart from these big sort of Love Island type things, which are significant and get huge audiences - is I've never been a snob about it. I think a lot of people who do film as well, are going, "eugh, telly", you know, as though it's something kind of a little bit dirty and beneath them. I think, you know, it's amazing., yu've got access to people in their own homes to choose to watch something that you're doing. And that's a really terrific thing. And it doesn't all have to be about film. You can... Alan Clarke, who is one of my favourite directors, I mean, his career is pretty much all on TV. And... he wasn't snooty about it. And I think that's a much better attitude, whatever it is. I suppose the thing that, I can't, I don't think I'll ever have a relationship with because I didn't really think in that way is these tiny little snippets of series on WhatsApp or Instagram or whatever, you know, I don't think I'll ever have the right kind of brain for that. So I try and kind of, because I'm interested in to keep in touch with what young people are doing. Because it's not really about age. It's about living, isn't it? Yeah, but I don't want to make three minute things. MS: Okay.
Martin Spence 1:49:03
All right. I won't make you. That, that's my lot. So is there anything else we haven't touched on?
Unknown Speaker 1:49:11
PW: I think I've... too much. MS: Great.
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