INTERVIEW: Film-maker Barry J. Gibb (New short film: Carol Grimes The Singer’s Tale)

Film-maker Barry J. Gibb has just made public a short film about singer CAROL GRIMES, entitled The Singer’s Tale. Gibb has written about the film: 

“The Singer’s Tale takes us on an emotionally powerful journey through Carol’s life. Beginning amidst the bombs of World War II, Carol’s life has been a tempestuous journey, from emotional abandonment and mutism to one of love and singing. The Singer’s Tale explores this journey, peeling away the layers of a hugely creative soul as she confronts the struggle we will all face one day – to remain relevant in the world as one’s youth fades.” 

Sebastian interviewed the film-maker by email:

LondonJazz News: What is your film-making background?

Barry J Gibb: I’m a self-taught filmmaker. My first career was as a research scientist (neuroscience) but I fell in love with filmmaking and resigned from science to make films full time. I read books about film directors, like David Lynch and Darren Aronovsky, went to film festivals and soaked up as much as I could about the craft from documentary greats, like Albert Maysles or John Grierson. The closest thing I had to film school was making a series of 3 Minute Wonders for Channel 4 and Mosaic Films (Life After Coma), under the steady gaze of producer, Andy Glynne.

That was quickly followed by making a series of short films featuring comedian, Katherine Ryan, for an award-winning project called Routes. For several years after that I worked at Wellcome, a charitable foundation that funds research, making films to help breathe life into the science it supports. When I wasn’t filmmaking, I was writing and wrote The Rough Guide to the Brain. Now I’m freelance.

LJN: What are the origins of this project and how did you get to know each other?

BJG: Every now and again, I look for a project that’s entirely my own, free from a commissioner and a brief – mostly to try and push myself as a filmmaker. One day I was working with the actress Pip Mayo and she mentioned her ‘amazing friend’, Carol Grimes. Documentary filmmakers are always looking for incredible characters and the more Pip spoke about Carol – her jazz singing, amazing past and involvement with a choir for people with a range of neurological conditions – I just thought, “yep, I need to make a film about this person”.

LJN: How did you first approach Carol to make this film?

BJG: I wrote to Carol, in an attempt to explain who I was. That I was interested in making a film about her, that I love to make poetic films about people, hope and life. Essentially I tried not to scare her off! Next, we spoke on the phone, chatted through what I thought we might be able to do and, importantly for me, helped Carol understand that these films are a collaboration, rather than something that was going to be done to her.

Next, I went to see Carol play at the Vortex Jazz Club – I needed to see her, hear her. And I was not disappointed! I came away from Carol’s show knowing that her Singer’s Tale would be the heart of the film – a story of her life.

LJN: Where is it shot?

BJG: It features The Quarterhouse venue in Folkestone along with its wonderful beach and also Deptford, London, where we took a trip through Carol’s memory lane and former lodgings as we made our way towards the bank of the Thames.

LJN: And over what period ?

BJG: The film was shot over a period of about three months with five shoots.

LJN: Have you worked in archive footage? Where did that come from?

BJG: Carol was incredibly generous with her archive photography – a real gift that helped me build a picture of her personality across the various phases of her life.

LJN: Any interesting/memorable locations ?

BJG: I especially loved filming Carol by the Thames. The fact that she’d said she imagined having her ashes left there made the place feel emotionally powerful. And, as she sat by the edge of the water, Carol opened up in a way I hadn’t expected – touching on her life as a woman, the downsides of ageing in a youth-obsessed world and the profound need for creativity in her life. It was an incredibly moving moment.

LJN: Has your view of/respect for Carol developed as the film has progressed

BJG: Absolutely. In the beginning, I knew Carol was amazing but only from another person’s perspective. By the time we’d finished filming, I saw Carol in this amazing light – as a woman who had consistently championed women’s rights and fought racism for decades, as an incredible talent in the singing world, as a remarkably funny and dynamic person and, finally, as one of the most driven, creative people I’d ever had the fortune to meet.

LJN: How long is the film in minutes ?

BJG: 13 minutes.

LJN: What ideally will happen to the film ?

BJG: The film did well on the festival circuit and now I’m doing my best to get it out there, to bring Carol’s infectious and fun way of seeing the world to as may people as possible. It’s also a calling card, a means of highlighting the type of film I love to make – observational films with fascinating people at the heart of them, films with humour and sensitivity.

LJN: In the meantime where can people see it either complete or as trailer/excerpt?

BJG: People can either see the complete film on my website,  or directly by following the Vimeo link HERE.

For the one minute trailer, people can see it here:

LINK: Review of the first performance of the autobiographical show which has become The Singer’s Tale

Categories: miscellaneous

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