Jim Loach - You need to be interested in people in order to make a good filmWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
British director Jim Loach is a son of much respected and acclaimed director Ken Loach. He arrived to Zlín Film Festival between shooting just for 17 hours during which he managed to open screening of his film Measures of the man ........and gave us and interview. We didn´t know about his existence up until about month ago when we saw his movie Oranges and Sunshine, which we liked very much. But we fell in love with Jim within 20 minutes since he is very modest, nice, friendly and approachable and we liked his attitude towards filming.
You studied philosophy and wanted to become a journalist. Does it mean that what your father has done didn´t interest you at all and you wanted to get onto your own feet rather than be” a son of a famous Ken Loach”?
I didn´t really want to be a film director. We weren´t encouraged into film business,to be honest we were encouraged to other things. But father thought I should be an architect or something like that since being a director is a terrible job. I was very interested in stories but I was not actually sure about directing. After I left university I started to make research and made documentaries for BBC and that built in me a passion for story telling. People want to get into film story telling from different angles and me personally is very interested in characters, who they are and what their essential dilemmas are and that is for me a starting point beyond the story. I am interested in people and I think you need to be interested in people to be able to make films. You know I wanted to be a journalist and work as a war reporter. I was very much influenced by war photographer Don McCullin, his pictures were truly amazing and very powerful so that influenced me. I was excited about that humanity aspect in them. We weren´t a film business family at all. Obviously at home we talked about film making a lot but also talked about politics, book, football and art.
What was the turning point that you decided to get into film industry and become a director?
I think it was making documentaries myself. I was always a cinema lover but when you are young you are cautious and worried about certain things and when you grow older you realize what you really wanna do. It´s hard question to answer in one way, it´s complex of things.
I am still trying to working it out.
Do you have any film education or basically you picked up all you needed from your father and cut your teeth in real action?
I had to learn as I went along so I don´t have classical film education. Before my first job my father wrote me on back of the envelope ten rules of film making? I remember some of them and I wish I had kept that envelope but I stupidly threw it away.
Were they useful to you or you crossed them off one by one, saying ”bullshit, bullshit”?
No, they were useful. The one I followed the most which seemed as the most useless at that time and I didn´t know what does that mean, was a line saying” Just tell the story”. When you are young you want to know where to put the camera what to tell people looking at you and then you figured that out that telling the story is THE thing.
So when you made your first movie and showed it to your father, ways his first reaction ” Where is that fucking envelope I gave you”?
Ha,ha,no, it wasn´t.
When you were young did your father take you on the set and told you ”Jim stay here and look at the actors, look where is the camera?”
We talked about film and film making a lot. We did go to the sets when we were kids but not very often.I think my parents wanted to keep us quite separate from film business, cos it can be quite destructive and misleading and they wanted us to have a normal childhood whatever that means.
It is very difficult to crack it into film business with lack of money and not knowing anyone. Did it help that your father is respected film maker and he knows the ropes and important people and he helped in that department or you made sure you did all by yourself from scratch to earn everything on a merit?
It is a double edge sword. It didn´t help in my case you know, it does help to meet someone but it doesn´t make him to write a cheque for me to make a film, cos they just wouldn´t do that.
Did you realize you wanted to follow your father and make socially conscious films with human and social aspects rather than digitally animated movies for kids?
You have to follow your heart and you have to know within yourself what story you want to tell and what story are you instinctively attracted to. You can only answer that yourself. Animation and stuff like that never held any interest for me. I found superhero film unbelievably boring, they are all the same and tedious. I think I am probably less political than my dad and he hit onto some subjects which we have seen differently which is obvious because we are all individuals. One think I inherited from my parents was the responsibility that comes with film making. It´s fantastic and it´s privilege to tell the story by your film but with it also comes a massive responsibility to bring the contribution in any kind of way, big or small, cos we don´t live in vacuum.You can try and close the gap between rich and poor contribute with story about saving your environment. So what ever you say by a film must be a part of that, cos as I said we don´t live in vacuum.
Don´t you find it unfair that your films and films of your father which are really about something and have strong message and may help society, have difficulty to find finance while Hollywood films which say nothing at all, get dozens of million dollars and earn hundreds of million dollars?
I wanna keep working so I have to choose my words carefully ha, ha. Ultimately you tell the story you wanna tell and cinema can do all these different things, they can be fancy, they can be amazing, they can be digitally animated, they can do all those movies. But they also should tell the stories that are important to all of us. It has to be in real world as well.
How did you pick up the theme for brilliant film Oranges and Sunshine? Did somebody approach you or you read the book, bought the rights and made it as your debut? What was the response for that and did it surpass your expectations or you hoped for more?
Well I just read a small piece in newspaper about a woman who was depicted by Emily Watson in the film. I went to meet her in Nottingham and I told her I wanna make a film about her life, about this and about this and she said “absolutely NOT”. She was rightly very cautious getting involved in the film since it is often misled. So after few years we got talking about it again and started exploring it and wrote a script.I felt great responsibility to do it right since it was very touchy story. Catholic Church was powerful, government was powerful and children were weak.It surpassed our expectations since after that film was made and screened and fact revealed, British and Australian governments apologized to all those people and the question of compensation was placed. The fact that the film was part of that was great, since those people were real and government acknowledged what has happened.
So governments apologized to all those people and then said to you ”Jim Loach, watch your steps, you are never gonna make another film in UK, right?
Ha, ha. No not really. You wouldn´t want to overplay that because the person the film was about-Margareth Humphreys campaigned years and years to get governments to acknowledge that.
So did any of those people portrayed in the film thanked you for what you have done and film achieved?
Yes. We became great friends with Margareth and also be got to know other two main characters very well. They were very moved by the film and were very comfortable with the way film told the story. They wanted the film be made.
Did you show your debut to your father and asked him for his opinion or you filmed it unaided but subconsciously asked yourself” what would father do and say about this and that”?
No, you can´t do that. I just did what I thought. He just came to cutting room and gave me some advice.Then I don´t think he saw a movie until the premiere and we joked that I had my homework marked.I just take him as my dad and he happened to be a film maker.
Did you or will you set up your own production company or you join forces with your dad in Sixteen Films Productions?
My next film will be made under the umbrella of Sixteen Films Production. So I know what I am doing next year. The script is beautiful, so beautiful.
Do you toy with idea of directing a movie with your father as a producer and your sister Emma acting in it?
Definitely not, not in million years.Family is too close and it´s not a fun to work that way.
Thank you very much
Vítek Formánek and Eva Csölleová
Photo: Imdb.com, Eva Csölleova