What makes ‘a story about happiness’? Heavy Load producers Jonny Persey and Al Morrow talk about their involvement in the award winning documentary.
How did you first come across the idea for the film?
Jonny We’ve been working with the director, Jerry Rothwell, for several years and he had come across the band in Brighton. Al and I thought the concept of Heavy Load was just so brilliant -a band who played everything with such love and vivacity that they were wonderful even when playing badly. It’s a brilliant concept for a feature film. The characters are so cinematic: the lead singer is forever using words that are entirely inappropriate for the song he is singing; the drummer is desperate to be the lead singer but really can’t sing, and they have great stories in and out of the band. There’s a fantastic set of tensions between the characters that plays itself out in real life and we capture
it on film.
Al I think that deciding to make a film about Heavy Load was easy because, it’s completely unique and although we didn’t have a narrative for the film -we didn’t know where it was going -the characters are so extraordinary and so much fun to be around that you know something wonderful is going to happen. And it did.
When did you first meet the band?
Al I first met them at Metway Recording Studios in Brighton about two years ago when they were recording their first studio album and they were everything I had imagined. I spent the next year and a half trying to go on every single shoot because it has just been so much fun hanging out with them -they literally do make you feel happy.
How did the film evolve from what it was originally intended to be?
Al In the beginning it was going to be an observational documentary and we hoped that something was going to happen during the two years that we were filming. We made a decision quite early on to film the band together as a unit and to film each of them separately in their home lives and that gave a real structure to the film and gave us the beginnings of a story. Luckily they all had things going on in their lives and that made for a good film.
Jonny I remember the first time Jerry came up with the tagline ‘a film about happiness’: I was privately surprised because I hadn’t realised that was what it was but watching now, that is exactly what it is. At the beginning we knew it was a fascinating concept but we didn’t really know the emotional impact that the story could have. I think it found it’s emotional truth as it went through the process.
Did you find Jerry’s decision to involve himself in the film odd at the start or did the idea evolve?
Al Jerry had his own reasons for being in the film which I think were very relevant, and, certainly, financiers appreciated it so we just let him run with that. For me watching the film Jerry’s just another character and he’s a great character to watch. His journey from real heartache and depression to happiness at the end is really lovely and dramatic. I can’t imagine the film any other way -I can’t imagine Jerry not being a part of it now.
When you were first pitched the idea did you have any concerns that it could be exploitative?
Jonny I did have concerns at first because Jerry and Al, two sensitive people I have worked with for years, were suddenly proposing a film about disabled people that was going to be funny. But as soon as we started to talk about it properly and as soon as we saw the first images it was clear that it was actually going to be a story about people, individuals who had very important journeys and those journeys were defined both by their disabilities and our perspectives of them, and by their perspectives of the world. It became a fascinating, insightful, touching, and at the same time funny movie. So my concerns went away as soon as I got beneath the surface of the concept.
How did the way the film was funded affect the creative process?
Jonny We actually made this film by giving away rights only to North America and Finland, and so we had the space to develop the idea, to go into production and to come up with a pretty advanced cut before we even had to share with anyone else and for us it was a fantastic model. The support and advice that we then got from the financiers was fantastic and came at the right time. It is the way I want to carry on making films from hereon in.
What are your hopes for the film now?
Al I just want as many people to see it and love it as possible. It premieried at South by Southwest festival in Texas in March 2008 and I think it’s got the potential to be huge. I just want it to get the attention and find the audience that it deserves.
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