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49 UP Continues The Award Winning Film Series

Thursday, October 5----Certainly one of the most unique film series of all time has been the "UP" series of documentaries that have chronicled the lives of 12 protagonists at age 7 through to their current age of 49.

The series, which began with the landmark television documentary 7 UP, made by Granada Television in 1964, and continues with the newest entry 49 UP, has been the on-going obsession of UK director Michael Apted. He worked on the first film as a researcher, but starting with 7 PLUS SEVEN (also known as 14 UP) in 1971, he has been filming his subjects every seven years for the past 35 years.

The UP series has become a contemporary classic, providing a mesmerizing and provocative study of English society and, more universally, the ups and downs of life as experienced by his expressive subjects.

The latest installment, 49 UP, screens this evening at Alice Tully Hall, with the director Michael Apted and one of the film's subjects, Tony Walker, present at the screening.

Yesterday afternoon, both gentlemen participated in a Press Conference, following the press screening of the film. What follows are excerpts from that provocative session:

Michael Apted

Question: One of the subjects in the film sharply criticizes you and your techniques. You chose to leave that in the film. Do you agree with her comments?

Michael Apted: Yeah, I do. I’ve always felt that documentaries can get off the hook. Documentaries can be manipulated as much as anything else. I’ve tried to correct this, trying to avoid projecting my own insecure middle class ideas on to the film’s protagonists. That’s why I thought it was important to include her objections to my methods in the film. I guess any filmmaker has expectations of what they want to happen in a scene, and it's important that I be reminded that these are real lives I am playing with, not just a fictional screenplay with professional actors.

Question: A question for Tony Walker....what was it like in the intervening years between the films?

Tony Walker: I always knew that there would be another segment coming up and be just around the corner. I always know that pretty soon I would get a call on the phone from Michael or his assistant. But I never felt that the pressure that I needed to accomplish something so that I had more to say. I just tried to be honest about where I was at any given time. A lot people have asked me about being so open on my marriage problems, but that was what was happening at the time. I tried to give a true reflection and personal interview.

Three Participants in 49 UP

Question: Mr. Apted, how has this project affected your life and career?

Michael Apted: Well, I like to think what I would have been liked at seven years, and if you could tell how I would turn out. I don’t think so, since I was very quiet and cowardly. I can reinvent myself if I want to, but the people in the film can’t…they are there on film. It has changed my professional life. The series has created a basis for my documentary career, which in turns has been a calling card for my feature film career. I think the best movies I’ve done have been more documentary based. I think it’s the single most important piece of work that I’ve done, and it has had a huge effect on my professional life.

Question: Do you allow the participants to have editorial control?

Michael Apted: I don’t really have a choice. If they want the editorial control, they do get it. One or two of them want to see the film before it is locked up. If they insist on not showing something, then it is hard to argue with them. I have to respect that, especially if I want to have their continued cooperation for the follow-up films.

The UP Series on dvd

Question: This film was shot digitally. How did these new technological tools affect the process of the filmmaking and the outcome?

Michael Apted: This is the first one I did digitally, the others were done on film. We can do much longer interviews with less obtrusive equipment, which is important for the final outcome, since the film is based on the interviews that I can get. If the takes run longer, I can get more details and get the subjects to relax more. But even thought it has been shot digitally, I do enjoy seeing the final product on a big screen at a film festival or a movie theater. I think it is much more involving that way.

Question: Tony, do you and the other people who are profiled in the film get together off the set and gossip or strategize?

Tony Walker: Yes, we’ve become friends during this experience, some more so, some less so. We get together often and talk about how the film has effected our lives. We all seem to agree that it’s been a great experience to be apart of English television and film history.

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Online Dailies coverage of the 44th NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL September 29 – October 15, 2006

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