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“By then my delusions of grandeur were kicking in, I started to think I really was Orson Welles. With some sort of eating disorder perhaps.”
Following the success of his directorial debut, an apocalyptic Situationist documentary, man-about-town Steve Manford found he had a taste for filmmaking. On the eve of the premiere for his latest opus, he tells The Mix Manchester about literary inspiration and cinematic heroes.
“My first film, Year Zero: The true story of Phase 4, happened because I was reading a biography of Orson Welles,” Manford recalls. “I’d read it a few times, and it always inspired me especially the bits about the Mercury Theatre – all the stuff he did with John Houseman. I was reading about War of the Worlds, and thought, ‘Wow – how could you do it now, with no money, no talent and no equipment?’ So Year Zero started off life as a fucked up little art project in my head, and the more I wrote it, the more it started to resemble a film script.
“I tried to get a director friend involved, but he was busy. He said ‘Why don’t you it?’ So I got Kirsty Bloy who works at the Workers Film Association (WFA) involved and Sid Simon, who used to work in advertising. I rang up Tony Wilson to provide the Situationist overview. The casting was all done at the bar at the Temple; Guy Garvey, the lads from I Am Kloot, and Scott Alexander. We could only do it bits at a time, depending on availability. So we started in October and finished shooting in December. Then we had to wait ages while Kirsty got a G5 with Final Cut editing software on it. We premiered the film in May 2005 and that was a right old laugh.
“I wrote The Paper Trumpet based around a chapter of The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. It’s one of the chapters that didn’t get into the 1979 film version, set in a bar where Oscar plays in a jazz trio. It’s a big metaphor for West German post-war guilt. Oscar drums, and takes everyone in the bar back to their childhood and they all pee themselves. And I thought this is great, this is Greg (aka musical master of disguise Lord Mongo). So I wrote it round him.
“We did the filming in Club V. Matt Norman who does the Doves videos, and Mark Thomas from Soup Collective, who works with Elbow, got involved. They were interested because they do loads of music videos and this was off-its-head nonsense. They insisted that they use cine-film and I was like ‘Yeah!’ I wanted it to look like it was shot in 1919 anyway. By then I was starting to obsess about FW Murnau and Fritz Lang. I’d been watching The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and M and all that shite. So I wanted it to look like Eastern Europe to fuck.
“It was huge for me. We shot it over two days. Used a lot of stunt piss, which was fun and games. Well it was black and white so we’d just add water, any non-specific liquid.”
As for Manford’s filmmaking inspiration? “I could rabbit on for days about Orson Welles and what a God he was. And how I’m really fucked off he’s dead so I can’t go and talk to him. Like that amazing scene in Ed Wood. Wood is another filmmaker I feel a lot of kinship with. Though I must admit that I do not go for angora. Cashmere, not angora.”
The Paper Trumpet world premiere, plus live music Sound of Confusion and The Fremen, 8pm- late, 28th March, Night & Day. £5/£4 with Flyer. www.sskproductions.com