26th Raindance Film Festival | 2018
Alex Lockwood: "The aim of the film is primarily to tell a compelling story rather than promote a lifestyle. If people walk away having watched the film wanting to cut down on their meat consumption then that's great! "
73 COWS | Dir. Alex Lockwood | World Premiere
Beef farmer, Jay Wilde, struggles with his conscience every time he takes his cows to be slaughtered. Feeling trapped within an industry he no longer believes in, Jay decides to do what no beef farmer in the UK has ever done before - saving all of his cows from slaughter.
Hey Alex, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
A pleasure, and all going really well at the moment.
This is going to be your World Premiere, are there any nerves ahead of the screening?
There's definitely a few nerves. We've worked really hard on this film and we just really hope that people enjoy it! I literally have no idea what people are going to make of it, so it's definitely a little bit nerve-wracking.
What does it mean to be screening 73 Cows at Raindance 2018?
Screening 73 Cows at Raindance is a really big deal for me. I didn't have any funding for the film at all, and so for it to be premiering at such a great film festival is a real career highlight. When I found out that it had made the official selection it was an amazing feeling.
Tell me a little bit about 73 Cows, how did the film come about?
73 Cows isthe story of Jay Wilde, the 1st (as far as we know) farmer in the UK to swap beef farming for vegan-based organic farming. My partner told me about Jay's story when she read about it in the national news. I knew it would make for a great documentary but having had so much media coverage, I assumed that someone else would already have been producing a doc about Jay. I emailed Jay on the off-chance that I could tell his story and it paid off!
When did you first meet Jay Wilde?
Once they'd told me that they'd be happy for me to make a film about them, I drove out to meet Jay and his wife Katja at their farm, without any cameras, just to talk with them and hear their story first hand (and meet their cows). We ended up speaking for nearly 2 hours. I realised that there was way more to the story than I'd anticipated. I hadn't until that point fully appreciated the level of sacrifice Jay had made in order to send his cows to sanctuaries. I also hadn't appreciated the pain Jay felt for many years and the struggle he went through day by day. After speaking with Jay and Katja I was so excited to get to work on the film.
What was it about his story that connected to you as a filmmaker?
More than anything, the thing that makes Jay's story so great, is that he's shown true courage and selflessness. Whether you're a meat-eater, vegetarian, vegan or whatever...everybody can appreciate the level of courage Jay has had to show in order to change his life in such a significant way. Having a subject who had made such a bold move into the unknown, I knew would make for a compelling documentary.
What was the most challenging part of making this film been?
The most challenging part of making the film was trying to make a film which wouldn't come across as preachy or patronising, and which would tell Jay's story without pushing any kind of vegan agenda at the audience. The aim of the film is primarily to tell a compelling story rather than promote a lifestyle. If people walk away having watched the film wanting to cut down on their meat consumption then that's great! But my main aim was just to give an honest portrayal of Jay's amazing journey.
"So ultimately I see it as a hopeful film."
"People tend to stiffen up on camera in a way in which they don't if you talk face to face away from cameras."
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?
My biggest tip to other indie documentary makers would be to spend a lot of time before you even pick up a camera, getting to know your subject, your subjects motives, and to explore their feelings prior to interviewing them on camera. People tend to stiffen up on camera in a way in which they don't if you talk face to face away from cameras. And so having time to let your subjects get used to you and to opening up to you really helps. It helps you to understand what direction you should take your film down and what themes to draw out too.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I hope that when people watch 73 Cows that they really relate to Jay and the struggles that a lot of farmers must be secretly facing. Jay managed to completely turn his life around and do what he felt was right despite losing money, turning his back on his tradition and also going against the grain within his local community. So ultimately I see it as a hopeful film. Maybe people will watch it and feel like they can get over their own personal demons in the same way that Jay has gotten over his. That would be nice.