Riverside Cinema creates that film festival feel down by The Deben
Neil McGlone has always had a love of film and now he is in the fortunate position of being able to interview his heroes on stage as part of a season of film-night events at The Riverside Cinema in Woodbridge.
Among the star names sharing their experiences of film-making are director Mike Leigh, writer and actor Mark Gatiss, film historian and restorer Kevin Brownlow and silent film composer Neil Brand, as well as upcoming writer-directors like Kieran Evans and Ben Wheatley. He is also hosting an Indian film night with musician Talvin Singh, who has worked with acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, Madonna, Bjork, Duran Duran and Massive Attack. As well as answering Neil’s questions, Singh will be providing live musical accompaniment to a film of his choice.
Neil became involved with The Riverside when he was approached to help them celebrate their centenary last year, when he interviewed film director Paul Greengrass on stage before a screening of his Oscar-nominated film Captain Phillips. “I also programmed a few films with local connections, a few films that hadn’t been seen for a while, and then, following the success of that, they asked if I would interested in programming a series of events for this year and I said I would be delighted.
“As the Paul Greengrass question and answer format worked well, I thought I would do something that followed a similar format. I thought I would get some well-known faces down to do an evening.
“The speakers I have invited are people I know and are friends with, so it has been relatively easy to get in touch and get agreement to do it, but we are still tying down dates for some people as they are really busy.”
Neil, born and raised in Woodbridge, describes himself as a life-long film fan and is thrilled to be able to work within the business. He worked as a researcher alongside acclaimed documentary-maker Mark Cousins on his The Story of Children and Film project. He is also hoping to work with him in a similar role on another film-related documentary later this year.
He also writes for the BFI film magazine Sight and Sound, as well as researching and programming a couple of European film festivals. “I work for Midnight Sun film festival and Il Cinema Ritrovato, a film restoration festival in Bologna, Italy, and the London Nordic Film Festival, which runs every November. Also, I have just been appointed a consultant at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, which is the leading film festival in Eastern Europe. So I will be working on programmes with them and those are the festivals which keep me busy throughout the year.
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“I work on producing retrospectives as well as programming works by new, upcoming directors. At the moment I am researching Argentine Film Noir from the 1940s. It was quite a thriving genre and I am thinking perhaps this is something I can do something special with. I love the contrast of the job. I love the opportunity to shine a light on forgotten classics or forgotten film-makers and then being able to help give a new film-maker their first big break. That’s always been quite exciting – being there at the start of someone’s career.”
He has no time for those who maintain that creative film-making is dead. “Funding is not always easy to come by but film-makers are determined people and they invariably find a way; and, if you look hard enough, there is a wealth of lively, interesting films out there.”
He loves attending film festivals because they are the perfect place to encounter new talent and to see something intriguing and unusual, as well as being re-introduced to old favourites, frequently in brand new prints.
He has been attending the London Film Festival since 1990 but is dismayed that the public perception of the event is now more about who is on the red carpet than which films are being shown.
His series of Riverside Nights events is a small attempt to bring the attention back to films and film-makers.
“It was good that Mike Leigh said yes. He was at the top of my list as someone who would be a recognisable name and would be good value to audiences in a question and answer session. I met him for the first time last year at The Midnight Sun film festival in Finland, where he was a guest. We got chatting and stayed in touch. Everyone knows a Mike Leigh movie, whether it is Abigail’s Party or Nuts in May or Life is Sweet, Topsy Turvy or Secrets and Lies. He doesn’t do too many of these events. He’s not over-exposed, so it has real value.
“He is currently in pre-production for his new film Peterloo, so we may get an insight into how he goes about making films.”
The ultra-busy Mark Gatiss had been a friend for many years but finding a slot for him was proving incredibly difficult. “He said ‘yes’ straight away but finding a slot for him hasn’t been easy. He said himself that if he’s not writing Sherlock, Doctor Who or one of his film documentaries, he’s acting in film, television or on stage. He’s an incredibly busy man. He has so many hats – which is what makes him interesting – but, on the downside, you have to accept that he’s not going to have a date free in the near future. At the moment we are looking at sometime in August but we haven’t been able to tie down an exact date yet.
“He loves Suffolk. He knows Aldeburgh and this area and he’s keen to come. He’s just got to finish shooting the new series of Sherlock first.”
When he was putting together the list of potential speakers at The Riverside Nights, Neil wanted a mix of different types of film-maker, covering a wide range of film-making experiences. “I didn’t want a series of encounters which were pretty much all the same. I didn’t want a series that comprised of the same type of directors. It was crucial to have a bit of diversity in there.
“With Mike Leigh and Mark Gatiss you know pretty much what you are getting, but with Kieran Evans he’s a new voice and although he’s not as well known, he will have something to say about the industry today.
“He won a Best Director BAFTA for his first feature film, Kelly + Victor, in 2014. He also makes documentary films. He’s a complete cinephile, so he knows his films and I think audiences will get as much from the evening as they will get from the Mike Leigh event.”
At the other end of the spectrum Neil is very excited to be introducing film historian Kevin Brownlow to Suffolk audiences. “Kevin is an absolute hero of mine. He was responsible for the restoration of countless classic films. He produced the Thames Sllents releases as well as The Hollywood series and the Unknown Chaplin, pictured far left, and countless one-off documentaries.
“For the Riverside event I will be showing clips from the Hollywood series and he can tell everyone about some of the legends he got to interview over the years. He spoke to the people who shaped the film industry and he has done more to preserve their legacy than anyone I know.”
Neil McGlone interviews Mike Leigh, followed by a screening of Vera Drake, at Riverside Cinema
on February 26.