TNC Archive 2012
Still the Enemy Within is a unique insight into one of history's most dramatic events: the 1984-85 British Miners' Strike. No experts. No politicians. Thirty years on, this is the raw first-hand experience of those who lived through Britain's longest strike. Follow the highs and lows of that life-changing year.
In 2012 The New Current spoke to producer Sinead Kirwan about her upcoming film project Still The Enemy Within which went on to win the Audience Award at the 2014 Sheffield Doc Fest.
Hello Sinead, thanks for talking to us, how is everything going?
You've started your Kickstart campaign for Bad Bonobo's latest documentary Still The Enemy Within, how has it been going?
Really, really well we have nearly 6 backers and people are giving quite a lot in one go, which tells us the film means the film is striking a chord.
This is one of the newest ways filmmakers are finding funding, do you think that with all the cuts to the arts that collective fundraising like this will become the norm?
I think it is definitely on the rise but the problem is that the cuts to the arts are part of wider austerity. In the long run, this will mean people have a lot less extra cash to donate to projects like ours so it is not a genuine alternative. However, it is fantastic that at the moment it seems to be helping get new ideas off the ground.
Tell us a little bit about Still The Enemy Within?
The film will explore the 1984/85 miners' strike (the longest strike in British history) through the recollections of some of the thousands of miners who participated. It will speak to people who were involved in supporting the strike. Finally, it will look at how the strike changed those miners and their families, often dramatically, in the preceding years. In 1984 Margaret Thatcher called them 'the enemy within' as we approach the 30th anniversary, are they (still) the enemy within?
How did the film come about?
It is a bit of a family affair. Most of Bad Bonobo was born after the strike or were far too young to remember it but Mikes Simons, my stepfather, was a journalist during the strike. He has maintained contact with miners who were involved for many years and they were always around the house telling these crazy stories. When it was the 20th anniversary he produced a book with photographer John Sturrock about the strike. I was blown away by the images. Since then we have been discussing it and with the 30th anniversary approaching and the Tories back in again, we all decide now was the time to make the film.
How did Bad Bonobo start, was it always a pure love for film?
Yes and no, Owen Gower and Mark Lacey, have always been obsessed with film but I was more interested in the theatre though I was starting to study film at Uni. One year at the Edinburgh festival, we went to see a fantastic play called ‘and even my goldfish’, and our interests collided. They immediately saw the potential for a great short and asked me to produce, basically organise stuff. We had such a good time, we decided we had to carry on.
What are the biggest challenges you have had?
Without a doubt time and money. We have a thousand ideas but have to work for money, so can only focus on one thing at a time which is hard when you have so many different stories you would like to tell.
How did you get into filmmaking, has it always been something you have wanted to do?
Through friends and Bristol University. Working with Mark and Owen was really fun and it coincided with the opportunity to study film as part of my course. I then changed my dissertation into a film. That’s the great thing about uni you get to explore lots of different ideas that can change you forever.
What was your first project like, was it a steep learning curve?
Our first project together was ‘Goldfish’. For me, it was a very steep learning curve having only ever worked in the theatre before. We were really lucky to be working with an extremely talented group of people but I had no idea how long everything would take or how to keep people focused. I had to act as a bridge between the Theatre Company and crew, something that became invaluable as a producer.
Who was the first person to inspire you to become a filmmaker?
For me, it was a group of people-my lecturers at Bristol University. They were all so passionate about the film that it opened up a whole world for me. From crazy experimental films to the classics we watched and talked about it all.
"Just keep trying, every successful project is littered with lots of false starts or ideas that did not quite work out."
Have there been any mistakes or missed opportunities?
So many! We all wish we had made more stuff while at Uni where the equipment is free and so are you. We have also had a few great ideas that we have delayed and then other people make them first. You just have to keep ongoing.
What has been the best advice that you have been given?
Always feed people. Always shoot one extra take for luck. Keep trying
And finally, what would be the best advice you would now give to someone thinking about becoming a filmmaker?
Just keep trying, every successful project is littered with lots of false starts or ideas that did not quite work out. While studying make as much as you can. Finally, only work for free on things you are really, really into or might really learn something from, otherwise, the money will run out before you get to make your own project.