27th Raindance Film Festival | 2019
"It wasn’t a straight forward opportunity to make a film, but I felt it was one I couldn’t miss, even if it meant funding part of the project myself."
My View: Clem Burke | UK Premiere
Dir. Philip Sansom
THE BEATS THAT DROVE BLONDIE An access-all-areas documentary with Clem Burke, a look back at 40 years on the road and performing with one of the worlds most iconic bands.
Hey Phil, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Everything is going great thanks. PHIX is going well - we're doing some exciting new projects and are in post on another documentary.
With this being your UK Premiere for My View: Clem Burke, are there any nerves ahead of your screening run?
The film was made and screened for SKY Arts so it has been out already and feedback has been really positive, so I am just amazed and excited to get some festival exposure too. Can't wait for people to see Clem in action.
What does it mean for you to be at the Raindance Film Festival?
I think Raindance has always held a really significant place as one of the Premiere UK festivals. It's one that I always hoped to have my short films play at - so getting my first feature doc nominated is really incredible. It means a lot to have the hard work and effort recognised by the UK film community and having Raindance play it is definitely a career highlight.
Tell me a little bit about My View: Clem Burke, when did you first meet Clem Burke?
The first time I actually met Clem, he was picking up Silver Clef award with Blondie ahead of the gig at Hyde Park in London. We got a very brief interview on the red carpet and it was all a bit of a whirlwind - I kind of wondered what I was letting myself in for, to be honest. Blondie was on the bill for the Phil Collins concert that evening - when I eventually got introduced, Clem was in his trailer doing some rudiments, talking with some fans, wearing a neck scarf and dressed all in white linen. He was relaxed and in good spirits and instantly made us feel right at home. Totally Rock 'n' Roll.
What was it about Clem Burke's life and work with Blonde that inspired you to want to make this film?
Well, I’ve been a drummer since I was 14, I grew up playing the drums and always listened to Blondie and New Wave NY music - to me Clem is a living drumming legend. His story is an integral part of what made Blondie a success and not only Blondie but also the Eurythmics and a long list of other incredible musicians and artists he has accompanied. A lot of people won’t know the name Clem Burke - but just play one bar of a Blondie track and they will be dancing, that’s Clem. I really wanted to put his side of the story out there to inspire people with his incredible work ethic and positive attitude to life.
Did you have any apprehensions about making this documentary?
I had a lot of apprehensions to be honest, not about the concept mind you that was solid. There was just a lot of unknowns and no guarantees of any access to anyone in the film. The budget was tiny, the time frame for delivery was insane and there were a lot of contractual obligations that all landed on my company to deliver. It wasn’t a straight forward opportunity to make a film, but I felt it was one I couldn’t miss, even if it meant funding part of the project myself.
What has been the most challenging part of making this film?
There was a moment that Clem decided he wanted to pull out. I had already signed contracts with SKY so that was bad news for me. I decided to fly to LA and meet him in the Fox & Hounds Pub, we drank pints until I managed to convince him that it was a good idea to take part after all. The next day we were on a flight to New York.
Making a film like this requires a lot of detective work, tracking down archive material, getting contacts and numbers of people to talk to. We shot a lot of days in a lot of locations, so I guess that physical filming was definitely a challenge. However my work up until this point has been predominantly in Commercials, Music Video and Short Film, so once I got into the edit it quickly became apparent that the biggest challenge on a documentary is the editing process.
There was a scene on the roof in Brooklyn where I had a drum kit delivered to film with Clem at sunset.
I had hired an AirBnB with a roof terrace so I could use it as a location, however, the elevator was broken and the drum tech delivering the kit only had one arm. Clem went for a walk while we carried the kit up 10 flights and set up before we lost the light. That almost killed me after a full day filming but I managed to set up my cameras in time for some sunset lens flares whilst Clem played to a crowd of amazed tenants form the apartment block.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always loved making films. Even on our first household VHS recorder in the 80s I would be constantly shooting something. I loved watching movies too and at Art College my work moved fro painting into video installation, eventually creating a film for my degree showpiece. I think the moving image is just an amazing thing - it's magic.
"It's a story of dedication and passion and an unwavering commitment to music."
How much has your approach to filmmaking changed since your debut film?
My debut film… it's tough to know what that was exactly, but since making this film I've learnt a huge amount in the process. You always learn from every project you undertake and there is never any end to what you can learn. Putting a documentary together has made me really respect filmmakers even more.
I guess my approach is still driven by a passion to tell a story, even against to odds - but the practicalities to get me there filming are now something we understand as a company much better and we have developed a great team to help plan and develop projects I want to undertake. I think you still need a sense of recklessness to take on a film project. There are no guarantees anyone will watch it - so you really need to make it for yourself first.
What five words best describe My View: Clem Burke?
Thwack, Thump, Crash, Bang, Wallop
Do you have any advice for any up and coming directors?
Get out and shoot. Find stories you want to tell and bring them to life. Mobile phones have amazing cameras so there’s no excuse now. A number of shots in My View are from my iPhone.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?
I hope they learn something they didn’t know about Clem and the music he’s produced. It's a story of dedication and passion and an unwavering commitment to music. But this incredible work ethic that Clem has, and his ability to find time for people whether fans or fellow musicians is a lesson to us all. Being a good person can take you a long way, but you have to work damn hard too.