Wallflower Dispatches

Wallflower Dispatches header image 2

The WD Interview: Col Spector, Film Director

July 2nd, 2008 · No Comments · Cinema, The WD Interview


Amidst the vast offering of bland cinema blockbusters that have been funded on a budget that would please any self-respecting South American Dictator (the average Hollywood film currently costs just over $100mio to make), it is a challenge to find real cinematic gems these days. But try hard enough and now and again one is rewarded. One such treasure was the 2007 release “Someone Else”, a wry look at the love life and relationship problems of a thirty-something photographer.


Written and directed by Col Spector and produced by Radha Chakraborty, the film won The Variety Critics’ Choice of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic last summer.


With a background in directing documentaries for BBC and Channel 4 (notably ‘The Real Alan Clark’), Spector has been working hard to fulfil his ambition of becoming a feature director: “All the time I was making those documentaries I was writing feature scripts and short film scripts, just writing, writing, writing, trying to learn how to write a distinctive style.” In 2003, Spector shot a short film (New Year’s Eve) with Keira Knightley and Stephen Mangan, which was reworked in the movie.


His inspirations are varied: “A little bit of Woody Allen, a little bit of (the 1996 US film) Swingers, a lot of European Cinema and a lot of American Indie Cinema such as Raising Victor Vargas; and films that are made on a small budget.”


Central to his filmmaking however is the importance of dialogue: “Another inspiration is French film director Eric Rohmer because his films are quite dialogue heavy and have their own wry comedy to them,” explains Spector. “It is always relationship stuff with a comedic bend, not ‘ha-ha gag’ based funny, but more character based funny.”


How much did the documentary film making influence his feature films? “My documentaries were always quite controlled, shot almost like dramas in some ways,” says the director. “They weren’t always observational documentaries. I like naturalism, I like truth; I like to catch small details, small observations.”


In contrast, he says his films are looser and lighter: “I don’t always easily buy the conventions of fiction filmmaking. I am trying to work out my own language of shooting drama.” This is evident in his treatment of David, the central character of “Someone Else”. “I wanted to keep removed and keep a distance from the hero, watching him dig a hole for himself. Rather then having music I wanted to turn it into that slightly awkward thing – where the camera holds back and doesn’t help the guy. ‘The indifferent universe’…the universe isn’t helping him but just stands by and looks on.”


Spector’s seriousness as a filmmaker belies the fact that “Someone Else” was made under less than perfect conditions. Made on a budget of £160,000, he called in lots of favours with friends and family to work on the film. He trawled film festivals until a distributor finally chose ”Someone Else” for general release in the cinemas. “The distributor who picked up my film made their money on it,” he says happily.


Col Spector repeatedly cites the American Indie film model: a story with a certain kind of humour, realism and cinematic sensibility: “What motivated me to make this film is an American Indie model which sits between our depressing gritty films and the slightly frothy “Love Actually”. There is a whole other genre of Indie films that are intelligent, entertaining and funny and we don’t have that here (in the UK). I like the idea of making films in that kind of tradition.”


So what did come out of the success of “Someone Else”? “I have met a lot of very good people and they are all waiting for my next script – it’s taken a long time to get there, to write it. I am very slow writer and it takes me a long time to write something that is good.” His new film is a neurotic Jewish comedy set in New York. “It’s about three friends trying to work out the new rules of love. It seems to our hero that while men want commitment, women are not so bothered anymore. He baffled as to who rewrote the rules.”


Spector is not averse to directing other people’s material: “I would like to, but I haven’t seen much. I think I need to be more established to get good scripts.”


So if he could wave a magic wand…? Says Spector: “For myself I would like people to like my script and give me money to make it. For the industry: be more open to wider remit of films, copy the US Indie model so that there are more films that exist between the two UK extremes.”


All those we enjoy intelligent cinema entertainment hope he is wishes are granted.

Tags: ······