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Pride – Winners’ Press Conference interview, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2015

8 February 2015

Winners’ Press Conference interview with Stephen Beresford and David Livingstone (Pride) for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

Winners' press conference interview with Stephen Beresford and David Livingstone (Pride) in the Outstanding Debut category

Q. Just for the purposes of the people who work for radio, if you could identify yourselves, please?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE: I am David Livingstone.

STEPHEN BERESFORD: And I am Stephen Beresford.

Q. Fantastic. And for want of a cheesey opening line, gents, put them down.  They are quite heavy. 
You must be quite proud?


DAVID LIVINGSTONE:  We are very proud, yes.

Q.  Stephen, this began with you, didn't it?


Q.  Could you tell us where you found the story and the journey you undertook to get it to the big screen?

STEPHEN BERESFORD:  I was told about the story about 20 years ago, and I was told the details of what happened, that a group of gay and lesbian activists supported and bank rolled basically an entire community in Wales for the whole year of the mining strike and how that community reciprocated in a most incredible way and how that led to so many of the civil rights that LGBT people enjoy today. 

So it seemed to me like a Harvey Milk story, an incredibly important story about the civil rights, but a story that nobody knew. I didn't believe it when I was told it.  I said: I don't believe that's true. And it took a little bit of research and I found that it finally was the case. But it really was, I think. I often describe it as a lost story, and it ‑‑ many of the people, the real people involved, said to me: we all thought this story would die with us, so bring it to the world and, you know, their achievement to the world is a marvellous feeling.

Q. David, when did you get involved with this story?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE:  Stephen came into my office and told me the story. Being less thorough than him, I immediately believed it was true. And the exciting thing was, we immediately ‑‑ we set sail and Stephen went off and investigated all these characters in Wales and the characters in London, and ‑‑ I shouldn't call them characters, these real people.  And the story just got richer and richer and better and better.  And each little phone call was: I have discovered the truth about Hefina, and it would be so exciting when we discovered ‑‑ and, you know, the real story about Cliff. It was a real joy.

Q. How did you go about melding that into a screenplay, these people lives, the historical events that took place over many months?  How did you do that?

STEPHEN BERESFORD:  It was quite a long process.  The longest process was finding them because it is a pre‑Google story.  It was very difficult.  There was no internet trail.  Finally I found the most amazing ‑‑ like David says, it was like unearthing bits of Tutankhamen's tomb. Every day I would be so thrilled to find it.  And I found they made a video of themselves, that was the breakthrough.  And being sort of, you know, amateurs in the best sense, there was no ‑‑ none of the disciplines of documentary film making, nobody put a name on the screen when anyone spoke, so I had no idea who anyone was.  But at the end of the video they had all their names in a list.  So I froze the screen and I looked for the most unusual name and I went on Facebook, and I thought: there can't be two Reggie Blennerhassett, and there was a man who corresponded to the age.  He was in his 50s. I thought this could be him. 

So I sent him a Facebook message and I said: were you in Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners? The message came back.  He said: I haven't been asked that question for 30 years.  What on earth do you want?

NEW SPEAKER:  Hi, gentlemen. Huge congratulations.


NEW SPEAKER:  So thrilled for you both. I have to say, this is an interesting time to have made the film, 30 years after the events.  What do you think you gained from 30 years ago, with hindsight? Are there any events in the last few years that you feel have made this film particularly resonant?

STEPHEN BERESFORD:  That is a good question.  I think there are two questions answers to that, really.  I think the journey of civil rights for LGBT people in this country.  It is remarkable that while I was writing the film, in fact while we were making it, the Equal Marriage Act was passed and a Conservative prime minister flew the rainbow equality flag above the Cabinet Office of 10 Downing Street on that day.  That was something which was inconceivable in the days of Thatcher's Britain, so for that to have happened is part of, I think, why this story is possible to tell now. 

And also I think Sian James, one of the characters in the film, is now a Member of Parliament.  She said to me during the time of the strike everything was very black and white, and 30 years allows her to see some of the grey.  And I think that is necessary for the story as a dramatist.  It is necessary for the story to be able to see that it is a complex story about a hugely seismic event that I think we only just are starting to realise what the miners strike and, you know, what was lost and gained and how the world changed at that period, the 80s, that period in ‑‑ not just in this country, but in the world.  So you need a bit of that distance, I think.

DAVID LIVINGSTONE:  Yes. I would also just say it is such a big headline story, the miners strike. It takes a long time to trickle down, to find the small human story. So I actually think before even Stephen got his hands on it, Mike Jackson, who is one of the leaders of LGSM, had been approached before.  But you know, all of these things never came to anything because it was not the big story, and now this is just a beautiful individual story that Stephen discovered.

Q. This is obviously a BAFTA for outstanding debut.  Puts a lot of pressure on your next movies.  What are you working on next?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE:  My old joke was that I was going to be like Harper Lee and only do one novel. That has all completely fallen apart, hasn't it. 
There's a whole series of things.  Some would be somewhat similar and some which are wildly different. And really you are always slightly in the hands of financiers as well, agreeing with your taste.

STEPHEN BERESFORD: Yes, yes.  I am doing more ‑‑ another film with Pathe, a bit of TV, bit of theatre. I mean, the thing is, the wonderful thing is, you know, nothing ‑‑ in a way, you just keep rolling on writing, writing.  Just sitting in a room on your own, staring out of the window and watching Bargain Hunt. But I have got ‑‑ this will sit next to me on the sofa while I watch it.

Q.  Making you do voices.

NEW SPEAKER: I know with films it is always very difficult to get made, but is it frustrating that it is still so hard to get funding for film, and what can happen to change that, do you think?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE: Well, it is hard to get funding.  It's easier to get funding for the easy choices, in a sense. So if you walk in the footsteps of ‑‑ I am sure everybody is going to be saying: I have got a film that's, actually, we are going to shoot it over 17 years now, because there's something that's preceded it that's successful. So ‑- but it is easy to ‑‑ easyish, I would say, to get money for the more obvious choices. That is what everybody is looking for.  It is very difficult to find money for the right choices, and that's why, you know, the BBC and BFI, as well as companies like Pathe, are so important, because you wouldn't be able to just fund this by going to a studio, not this sort of film, and, you know, hopefully this is one of the more interesting sorts of films, as opposed to a big CGI smash.  But yes, it's always been frustrating.  It's always difficult.

NEW SPEAKER: Promoting the film in America attracted headlines.  What's the reaction been like from fans and critics in America?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE:  You are talking about the DVD cover?  Well, it is a tough one to answer that and we probably have differing points of view, but, you know, slightly different points of view on it.  You know, you would rather ‑‑ what I want to do is to get the film the biggest audience it can possibly get.  And I think most DVD covers are quite reductive in terms of what they say, and really I think the motivation for what they put on the cover in America was to try and make it sound like a great big crowd pleaser and to, like, reduce anything that could put anyone off.  And I don't think ‑‑ you know, you have to remember as well, CBS Films bought this film on the open market.  They didn't put money into it in upfront.  They saw the film.  They knew what they were getting into and they acquired the film 100 per cent, knowing exactly what the story was. 

So I feel it is a shame that they ‑‑ there was the criticism.  I understand the criticism at the same time, but they are the people who put their money down on the table and said: we want this film.  So I am you know.  Mixed feelings. But certainly not, we are not on the warpath.

STEPHEN BERESFORD: I would say David and I in our first conversation talked about how the film is a Trojan horse. It is important for me I said many times when I tried to get people interested in the story, they would say: do it on the radio, do it as a play and you would just get the story out there. But I felt very strongly it should be a mainstream film, and as such, you have to accept certain things. It is just the way it is. 

If it gets more people to see the film, I don't care if they put Kim and Kanye on the cover, I really don't. Because what matters is that people see the film and learn the message of the film, and it is much easier to get people who are friendly to gay and lesbian people to watch a movie like that, and it is much harder to get somebody who doesn't think that they're inclined to. And we find that so often in testing the film, people who thought: I would never have been the kind of person that thought I'd go and see what you might call a gay film, but that's the most wonderful story.  And of course, remember 50 per cent of the story is about heterosexual people.  It is not so yes.  I feel kind of the same, really.  Although I do think it was very clumsy.  It was clumsily done, but there we are. It is a very difficult thing to do. I am glad I don't have to do it.

Q.  I think I can see the American remake, Kim and Kanye.

NEW SPEAKER: Congratulations again, guys. I think following from that, you mentioned your ambition is to have as many people watch your films. How important do you think a validation of films like this is in reaching out to those audiences that those (inaudible) being made to try and (inaudible) audience this watching a brilliant piece of film?

DAVID LIVINGSTONE: I think nobody goes to see a movie because of one there is not a TV ad that will make you go and see it, and there is not a review that will necessarily make you go and see it. It is 100 small steps, which is what I used to do: create marketing campaigns. So this is an important part of the campaign, and certainly will be in terms of getting people to purchase it on DVD.  And I hope they do, not from a monetary point of view, but I think people, when they see the film, you know, we were getting reports of standing ovations around the country for the film.  And this isn't me giving it hyperbole. It really was the case. 

So you know, you just have to hope that this will be one extra reason for them to go and see it and really enjoy the film.

STEPHEN BERESFORD:  Yes. I echo that.  I can't add anything to that, really.

Q.  A good note on which to end. Congratulations once again, David Livingstone and Stephen Beresford. Thank you.