Going back to my roots

BBC Scotland asked a number of top international directors to make their own film self-portraits on a shoestring budget: surprisingly several of them agreed. Alan Morrison talks to John Archer, the man behind the audacious Director ’3 Place project.

A few years back. an audience assembled at the Venice Film Festival settled down to watch the latest documentary by Nagisa ()shima. the celebrated Japanese director whose previous work includes In The Realm ()j‘l‘lre .S'enses and Merry (‘lii'is/iims, Mr [xiirreirce When the title caption llashed up. a murmur ran around the auditorium: ‘A Nagisa ()shiina Production for BBC Scotland'. it read implausibly. In fact. the film was the first in The Director is l’luce series of autobiographical documentaries commissioned by executive producer John Archer.

‘Soine directors were much more willing to talk to me because it was an approach from BBC Scotland than they otherwise would have been.‘ Archer admits. ‘There‘s a little bit of a check eleruent. writing from BBC Scotland. asking them to do this on a small budget [typically around the ii i 2.000 mark]. so they've got to think hard about the challenge. There was also a sense that an approach from BBC Scotland was perhaps going to give them a little more l‘reedorn.‘

Several critically renowned directors did respond to this artistic challenge Bertrand Tavernier. Susan


John Boorman's highly personal tilm with John Hurt. lDreamt I Woke Up

Seidelman. Dusan Makaveiev. John Boorman and Lindsay Anderson make up this first series. while offers are being considered for the future by lstvan Slabo. David Mamet. David Byrne and Bill Forsyth. It‘s an international line-up of which any production house would be justifiably proud.

The germ of the idea came about around fifteen years ago when Archer was working as a director on

the li’rilers Ani/ l’liices series for the BBC in London.

Some time later. he realised that giving film directors an opportunity to make an original work would carry more insight than a Sour/1 Bunk Slum-style profile could ever achieve. ‘lf you go to a director.’ he points out. ‘and ask them to make a personal. autobiographical statement. they're not going to turn in something that they're unhappy with. They‘re going to put in much more value than you can actually buy.‘

This first series of The Director is Place is the culmination of several years of nurturing and commitment. It opens with Is That All T/It’l'é’ 13.". an intimate and revealing portrait by the late Lindsay Anderson which contrasts the mundane nature of his

, latter day-to-day life with the film posters for If. . .

and () Lucky Man that cover the walls of his simple London borne. Listening to the news. receiving visits for friends. Anderson is well aware that he comes across like a Vi: stereotype of a Grumpy Old Man. The film ends with him and his colleagues scattering the ashes of actresses Jill Bennett and Rachel Roberts into the Thames. Anderson‘s own unexpected death last week puts the broadcast in a different light. but this is no sombre obituary. rather a spikey self— portrait.

‘It was always planned that this one would go out first because. as a film. it says what the series is about.‘ explains Archer. ‘There's a lot of self-

'3 knowledge in there. Lindsay could be a bit crusty . with people. and he put me through a few tests before 5 he relaxed and we became friends. He recognised his

own tendency to meddle a little more than is perhaps 2 best. I'm sad that l'm not going to have the

conversations with him about how badly l’ve promoted his film. how I've failed to give it enough attention. Because that is what he would have said to me . . .

Is T/luf All There Is." begins The Director '5 Place series on INK? on .S'ulurilrrv /7 September at 8pm.

Reagan into a junkie. And, in turning his tire and brimstone invective on

An array of entertainment luminaries from both sides of the Atlantic (chat

Comedy of terrors

‘The world is like a ride on an amusement park . . .’ and Bill Hicks is up ahead, switching the points, readying to help us jump the rails. Or he would be, it he wasn’t dead. We would do it tor ourselves, too, it we weren’t dead-heads, numbed by a system that does its best to soma the senses with 57 channels of American Gladiators, adverts tor Cod, and gory glory-coverage oi the latest American- spurred goo-political killing frenzy. For Bill Hicks lite was like that: there to be subverted, dissected and ridiculed. The Texan comic fought the system on its own terms. ills rabble-

rousing cult of personality would have got him elected in any town with a sense oi irony and a taste tor the truth. You would almost believe his pro-drugs spiels could turn Nancy

America’s religious kooks, he drew on his own Godly upbringing in the South - a background that, neatly enough, spurred his first appearance on stage, at church camp, aged thirteen.

it’s Just A Ride is a tribute to the 32- year-old who died in February this year oi pancreatic cancer. Childhood iriends tell of the titteen-year-old high school kid who would sneak out oi the house to perform at Houston’s newly- opened Comedy Workshop, packing the place and wowing the adults. llicks’s teachers were obliged to let him take the class tor live minutes at the start oi lessons, so he could get his rants out at his system and settle down. ‘Then,’ his mum recalls, ‘one of his teachers called me and asked it i could help her get her class back trom Bill.’

Even then, he was that compelling.

show kings Leno and Letterman, Eric Bogosian, Thea Vidale, Eddie lzzard, Sean Hughes) are tulsome in their praise of the only American comedian/commentator with the wit and perception to satirise and improvise with equal thought- provoking, gut-busting aplomb. ‘lie was like John lennon,’ says Jay Leno. ‘He always wanted to be a rock star,’ says a teenage buddy. ‘It was Jesus that Bill wanted to be,’ says another friend. ‘lle wanted to save us all.’ Blinking owlishly, piggily, up in nirvana, Bill Hicks is probably thinking, ‘liell, Jesus wanted to be me.’ (Craig McLean) It’s Just A Ride is on Channel 4 on Saturday 10 September at 11.05pm, tollowed at midnight by Revelations - llicks live on stage at london’s i Dominion Theatre in 1992.

The List 9—22 September 1994 65