Deleted Scenes

When I was in the band Chumbawamba the process of writing songs for a new album was a pragmatic, democratic process. We would talk for hours about what we wanted the album to say as a whole, we would explore themes, ideas, moods, sounds, influences whilst discussing the current political climate, in fact we were probably debating what was “trending” but nobody used such a wanky term back then. We would come up with musical and lyrical ideas, attempt to turn them into beautifully constructed songs, collate enough of them and when we felt we had explored our given concept for that particular album enough we would call it a day and get on with the job of putting the whole thing together as a piece, a work of creative art,a collective statement that we were proud of and happy with but which also we hoped, would touch the listener on a variety of levels. We hoped it would communicate something emotionally, musically, politically and maybe inspire or move someone or just give someone an enormous amount of pleasure. Not much to ask.

But then there were the b-sides.

We would always end up with a few songs that didn’t quite fit in, that didn’t quite convey a message well enough, that weren’t as well constructed, were poorly executed, too twee, too obvious or just not that memorable. And we would sit in a meeting and eventually someone in the band would sound the death kneel “we could use it as a b-side maybe?’

And that was it; songs rarely recovered from being labeled as such, seldom did they spring back to life and end up being track one side one openers or live favourites. They were functional, not-as good-as-the rest fillers and they’d invariably end up on some obscure benefit album, given away for free to some unsuspecting worthy cause only re-surfacing when it was time for the obligatory Chumbawamba “b-side and oddities” compilation album. You get the picture.

jeremyminsterAnyway, I was reminded of that process whilst finally, finally putting this film to bed last week with our online editor, the very wonderful and talented Dave Austin. We were prepping the film for the final online and after masses of tinkering on my half and masses of tidying up on his we sat down to watch the film for one last time. It was at that point that we both had to grudgingly admit that one particular scene, as funny and informative as it was just didn’t work where it was. I’d become particularly attached to this scene; one where Jeremy and I go on a tour of York Minster, so we tried it somewhere else. It still didn’t work. There was a knowing silence in the room. Dave didn’t need to say anything and so with the brutality of a Channel 4 Executive Producer cutting a positive portrayal of one of the residents of Benefit Street I broke the silence and uttered the words “Take it out” So out it went and straight into the deleted scenes timeline, a timeline which is becoming a very, very busy timeline by now.

boakesteethWhat I’ve realised in all of this though is that these two processes are not the same. Some of the deleted scenes we have, which will no doubt appear as DVD extras one day, are cracking little scenes full of humour and pathos and revealing anecdotes but if they don’t help tell the story you want to tell, or merely reiterate an earlier scene or detract from the main narrative or make the film drag then you’ve just got to be brutal. So a hilarious scene with didgeridoo player Boakesy brushing his teeth before a gig has also gone. Terry John and Phil Nelson telling us about the wild parties at the Metway in the 90s; gone. Mark performing solo in a wonderful little record store in Lewes; gone. The list goes on and despite these scenes being delightful and amusing they failed the “overall narrative” test.

Don’t worry though; one day you’ll be able to see them all and maybe you’ll think “Why wasn’t that in the film?!” or maybe not. Either way, I’m sad that some of those scenes aren’t in the film but know that it’s for the best. You’ll just have to wait for the DVD release later in the year to see if you agree…

Dunstan Bruce

Brian & Sheila

So one day in December 2012 me and the uber-talented Canadian FCP editor-cum-cameraman Jim Scott set off to Crawley to film with Jeremy’s mum and dad, Brian and Sheila Cunningham. I was hoping that they could give us some back story into how Jeremy ended up doing what he did in his life and maybe we would learn something about his upbringing, his education and his early exploits.

In the words of Marti de Berghi, director of the greatest music documentary of all time, Spinal Tap, “we got more; much more”. From the moment we arrived at their secluded cul de sac when Sheila answered the front door it was apparent that they were “up” for the interview. Chaos immediately ensued. Me and Jim were shell-shocked.

brian&sheilaBefore we could even focus our Canons, check sound levels or even put our bags down Brian and Sheila launched into a detailed account of the first time they had ever seen the Levellers live (it was at Brighton Urban Free Festival if you’re interested).  It was a fantastic anecdote which immediately sent us pell mell into a guided tour of the bathroom which was full of Jeremy’s artwork, and the hall (gold discs) and to bear witness to the one centimetre diameter spot of black ink on the settee in the living room (where Jeremy spilt some ink whilst illustrating a poster for the band’s Albert Hall show).

The rapport between the two of them was amazing to witness. It literally was a case of lighting the blue touch paper and standing back – well back, because Brian, an ex-boxer, found it impossible to stay sat down. He bobbed and weaved his way through the interview, occasionally leaving the room and returning with some golden nugget from Jeremy’s childhood. Jeremy had made the wise decision to leave the house whilst we talked to his mum and dad as he was well aware of their propensity for embellishment and/or mis-remembering various events. Not wanting to spend his whole time pedantically correcting them he took the dog for a walk instead. Wise, I thought, very wise.

Brian and Sheila were on fire; they were in fact like an old married couple finishing each other’s sentences, correcting each other mid-flow, rolling eyes and laughing at each other’s inability to totally recall a tale. Their stories were priceless, their candidness revealing, their unconditional love touching.

Some will love Brian and Sheila in the film and inevitably some won’t but to me they are stars, absolute stars and they have brought an aspect to the film that I could only have dreamt of. When Brian, stood up and head out of shot, proclaims that Jeremy’s friends hugged him saying “You saved our lives more than once Mr Cunningham!” my heart melts whilst guffawing loudly every time. Who’d have thought that this loveable, irascible old man was responsible for keeping the Levellers alive when they were squatting in Brighton.

We salute you Brian and Sheila Cunningham!

Dunstan Bruce