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BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival

The 67th BFI London Film Festival is set to run 4 to 15 October 2023


Interview with Giles Borg

Equally at home filming Death in Vegas on stage or Tom Jones for a
commercial, there isn’t much musically that Giles Borg hasn’t captured
on film. He’s won acclaim worldwide for his short films, showing at
major festivals around the globe, and now you can catch his charming
feature debut. 1 2 3 4 follows bespectacled cardigan-wearer Stevie as
he learns rock 'n' roll doesn't always come with the sex and drugs

How has the London Film Festival been going for you so far?

It’s been great, it’s been very bizarre. When we started making this
film, the idea of doing the cast and crew screening was slightly
terrifying, and so being able to have our world premiere at London Film
Festival was just more than we ever hoped.  It also helped a lot in
that, because we’re a very low budget film, we had enough money to get
the shoot done and get to a rough cut edit, and then ran out of money. 
And getting accepted off a rough cut by Michael Hayden, getting
accepted by the LFF, just changed everything and allowed us to go and
finish the film, and some of that is just because we would go and say,
‘Oh, we’re in the London Film Festival’.

What made you want to make a film about a band?

When we were starting up, we looked at what we thought we could
reasonably raise as a budget, and then we looked for stories that could
be told within that budget.  So we weren’t going to work outside that…
There’s no point doing something for tenth of the budget because you’re
just going to be competing with things you can’t compete with.  Which
is fine because that’s the sort of film I like anyway, I’m more into an
art-house sort of cinema.  And one day while I was working, I just
suddenly started thinking about bands… I’ve always been in bands, and
I’ve always loved bands, I used to do music videos and used to work
backline with bands… So it was something I know and I just thought,
‘God, of course, that’s what I should be doing!’ It’s a small scene,
it’s a niche market, it’s something I know and something I absolutely
love and something I hadn’t seen on screen in the way that I recognised.

It struck me while I was watching the film, that I’ve seen
several music documentaries over the last few years, but not a film
about being in a band in London.

Yeah, I mean Spinal Tap obviously is the godfather.  It’s uncanny,
almost a documentary.  It’s just so accurate, it’s terrifying! But
there’s that level four rungs below it which I’ve never seen properly. 
Something that’s always annoyed me is that when you see films with
bands and they come on stage and there’s a roadie handing them a
guitar, and I just thought, ‘I spent my whole life being in bands, and
that never happened to me!’  That’s why there’s a big scene where the
band carry their equipment on and plug it in themselves.

Yeah, if you’ve seen a lot of bands, those scenes are really evocative.

Yeah, those sounds, the reverb!  The band I’m in at the moment were
supporting a band called Hey Colossus in this horrible pit and the
dressing room was tiny and smelly and covered in graffiti.  And I was
watching Hey Colossus at the side of the stage and I just thought, ‘I
love this so much!’  And obviously a lot of other people love it too,
because that’s why they’re all in bands and that’s why they all do this
circuit.  And I wanted to show that world for what it was, but also
show it as being attractive, without making it glossy Hollywood.  I
wanted to make it authentic and real and show why it was great, why
people give up every Saturday to go and rehearse and then get in a van
and drive, and are late for work the next day and really tired because
they just drove to Manchester to go and play in front of four people
and their dog.

1 2 3 4 look like a real band.  How did you go about finding them?

It was really tricky.  We saw a lot of people. There are some great
actors in this country and we saw a lot of really good ones.  But what
was important was getting the right four together.  I’m sure it’s the
same for any film to get the cast, but I felt it doubly so in this,
because they had to fit together believably as a band.  I saw a couple
of people who were fabulously good actors, and the dynamic between them
and the others would have been brilliant, but as a band, you just
wouldn’t have bought it.  So there was a lot of putting pictures
together – Does this work? Does that work? – and the strange thing was,
the band we ended up with was my first choice band.

The cast seem very natural together…

I talked a lot with cast about the idea that when you’re in a band
you’re going to have arguments, lots of arguments, but you can’t have
that sort of marriage ending argument unless you’re going to split the
band up.  Bands are great because it’s like being in the last gang in
town.  One thing we did ditch was that if you’re in a band, you
sometimes are so unpleasant to the other people in your band…

Like family!

Exactly, no-one else can do it.  We had to ditch that because it
just made them look really, really horrible.  You need a year’s worth
with these people or it just makes them look psychotic!  There were so
many scenes when they were all together, like a band, hanging out
together.  And the days in the rehearsal room when we had all the stuff
set up and they were playing, my God, the trouble was getting them to
shut up!

Were you looking for musicians as well as actors?

A great thing, and hopefully one that bodes well for the film, is
that almost everyone we saw could play guitar.  We did ask for actors
who can play as well, but it wasn’t a deal breaker, so we were very
lucky in that the three boys all played guitar.  Mathew [Baynton,
‘Neil’] did percussion as well, so he could drum.  Lindsey [Marshal,
‘Emily’] didn’t play at all, so we taught her bass.

It’s a very good performance by her [Lindsey Marshal].  When the
character first appeared on screen I thought we might be in for the
indie-chick caricature…

She was fabulous.  She was one of our first choices to approach
because the part of Emily was so important in that she had to be
vulnerable enough that you’d side with her, but she had to have a
steeliness, a determination that allowed her to go and do her own
thing.  And you had to believe both sides and as soon as we had that
character I thought of her.  That whole Riot Grrrl scene came out in
the ‘90s, with a lot of girls forming bands, and I wanted to get an
element of that.  I wanted to have a strong female character who could
stand on her own, who wasn’t just there to fulfil the indie-girl dream
of the lead singer.

Representations of London on screen seem to be in danger of falling
into two camps: Gritty and gangster-infested or a glossier version,
sticking to picturesque boroughs.  Did you think about how you wanted
to represent the city?

Absolutely.  And it signs back to the idea of being backstage and it
being horrible, but I like being here.  I absolutely wanted London to
look like the London I know and portray it authentically.  It’s a dirty
city, it’s full of rude people but, you know what?  That’s what I like
about it.  I’m not forced to live here, I like living here.  It’s the
same with doing these gigs… There’s something about it.  It was the
reason we went for Mike Eley as a DOP.  He knows that scene as well, he
loves that indie music scene and I know he’s so brilliant at making
things look authentic, look realistic but poetic.  The balcony scene we
shot entirely at magic hour, we had forty-five minutes to do it.

This was my first feature and on the one hand it was the hardest
thing I’ve ever done.  I mean I don’t want to say too much, because
it’s not digging coal, it’s not heavy lifting, I can’t make out it’s
really tough… But mentally you are just constantly thinking.  Every day
when you get there, there are people are asking you questions, and
they’re all valid questions… And I’d go to bed and I’d dream that I was
on set and I’d wake up and be really tired.  The first week was like
being hit by a train! Absolutely the toughest thing I’ve ever done, but
at the same time it was great, absolutely brilliant!  We hired
brilliant people, and I learnt going through how much to just let
people get on and do their thing.

Is there anything you’re hoping to see during the Festival?

Oh, there’s loads.  I’ve seen loads already, I abused my ability to
go to press screenings massively!  I saw Beautiful Losers, a new
documentary that I thought was just fabulous, really great.  Il Divo
was astounding.  I enjoyed The Baader Meinhof Complex as well.  I’m now
most looking forward to seeing RR, the James Benning film.  I remember
seeing his Los Angeles Trilogy at the Festival about five years ago and
being astounded by it and I cannot wait to his new film, especially
because he never releases DVDs so you’ve got to see it on the screen.

What’s next for you?

We’ve got a couple of projects lined up, and just trying to raise
some money for those.  Set in the South of France, but we’ll probably
end up shooting in Hackney… Put some sand down, you know…


Katy Fife, BFI


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Online Dailies of the London Film Festival
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British Film Institute


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