With the upcoming release of “Gary Numan: Android in La La Land”, we got a chance to speak to one of the Directors, Steve Read. Hi Steve, can you introduce yourself to our audience….
Art Director, turned Photographer, turned documentary film director, I’ve been an avid fan of observational documentaries for as long as I can remember. My favourite films are probably Depeche Mode 101, Cracked Actor, Hoop Dreams and When We Were Kings. I love that you can offer a window into someone’s life that the viewer can imbed themselves in, immerse themselves into this world for 90 mins, for me it’s the most honest portrayal, the most real experience…
Of course it helps if it’s someone interesting, doing something interesting, at an interesting juncture in their lives. I’m not into reality shows about people that are having issues at the airport check in desk, because they’ve missed their 3am flight to Fuerteventura.
We like reality films or shows that balance out the interesting stuff with an honest subject too. What first attracted you to the Gary Numan project?
The film came about quite by chance… I’d gone to check out Gary’s show at the Hop Farm Festival in 2012 and was blown away by his performance. I wouldn’t have classed myself as a huge Gary Numan fan previous to that, in fact I hadn’t really heard anything of him for twenty years or so, I mean Gary had been putting records out consistently and touring for years but was completely off my personal radar. So I loved the show and by chance bumped into him backstage after the gig and got chatting.
It didn’t taken long to work out that he was a very interesting and engaging character, plus his wife Gemma was by his side and I could see they had this enormous chemistry together, funny as hell and a great double act… The scene ended with me blurting out “Gary, I want to make a film about you!!” “What about?!” he said. “No idea but would really like to find out!” I then ran off into the night, his phone number scribbled on my wrist.
I phoned co-dierctor Rob Alexander the next day and convinced him to come on board.
Gemma was/is Gary’s no.1 fan, asked as a teenager by her careers officer at school what she planned to do when she left school, her answer was: “Well I don’t need a job, I’m going to marry Gary Numan!” Thankfully of course, she did.
Android in La La Land is as much a love story as anything else, Gemma and her story is as important as Gary’s and their three daughters Raven, Persia and Echo, also play a an important role. Lastly Wilbur, their dog, can take some credit for his cameo appearance, he shows some impeccable comic timing.
The film is part music doc, part love story, road trip, part therapy session and has something for everyone…
It’s a film that has a lot of crossover appeal, you don’t need to wear black nail varnish and guy liner to enjoy Android, you don’t even need to like Gary Numan really… Although if the audience response so far is anything to go on, you probably will.
Nice to hear, having more than one focus should add more to your film. Now, what got you started in Film? What drew you in?
I’ve always loved film, I’ve always worked with imagery in one form or another, starting out with graphic design and typography as a magazine Art Director, my first career, then photography and now film. I would have worked with moving image much earlier in my career actually but I was having way too much fun, art directing Loaded Magazine, which created quite a stir back in the mid 90’s.
Working for loaded led (oddly) to being offered a staff photographer contract on US magazine TALK, at one point, I shared the masthead with Patrick Demarchelier and David Bailey, I went from shooting Jack Dee and Joanne Guest to shooting Hollywood A-listers and Hip Hoppers like Eminem, 50 Cent, and Ray Liotta.
I used to play around with 8mm film, splicing, looping etc as a kid but only really started to take it more seriously when I moved to L.A.
It was a huge buzz watching my directorial debut Knockout Scousers on the big screen at DocFest in 2012, touring this film has been an amazing experience.
Congrats, sounds like you have had a journey of a career. Working on lots of projects and with your career behind the scenes, you must of meet a lot of different people. For this project, what is Gary like in person?
I’ve met a lot of famous people working as a photographer and I’m happy to say that 99% of the time it’s been a positive experience, meeting Gary certainly was, although I didn’t expect to end up spending so much time with him, I guess you’ve got to get on well with someone if you’re to go on holiday with the bloke.
Because I really didn’t know much about Gary, I had no real expectations about him, I guess I would have thought him to be a little moody and a pretty serious character… I mean, he can be moody but he’s also really funny and very welcoming. Documentary making is a lot about trust and access, the more trust you get the more access you get. The level of Gary’s candour in the film is certainly its strength and something we never expected, it’s hugely refreshing to see someone of his stature open up like this. I think that by the end of Android In La La Land’s 85 mins, Gary and Gemma will have won you over.
As a director, you probably get to see lots of films from a different angle from us “fans”. What was the last film you saw and what did you like about it?
The last film I watched was I Am Ali, just last night, actually I could watch anything on Ali, an incredible icon, would love to have met him. It uses some really interesting content sources. The filmmakers had access to hours and hours of home reel to reel and answerphone recordings, which give the the viewer a unique insight into the man and his relationship with his family. I’m always looking for other sources, pictures on the wall, telephone recordings etc etc.
The shape of a film is often dictated by what you have to work with, we didn’t have a budget for hours of Gary’s TV archive, most of which fans have already seen anyway but we did have a huge amount of access into Gary’s life, so the film is very much ob doc in style and it’s become its strength.
To bring it full circle, what is the most interesting part of filming this Gary Numan film?
The narrative was unfolding around us, we were finding out stuff as we went so that was certainly an interesting part of the film making process, much like the audience is does. The film starts off as a music doc but develops into something more complex, more multilayered, I think their story and their openness seduces you, editor Ollie Huddleston has done great job for us and working with him was very rewarding, I learnt a lot from Ollie. Being on stage filming the shows was a huge thrill, it’s not hard to understand why they do it.
Perhaps the most interesting part for me though would be the interview sessions Gary and I had on his troubles with depression and anxiety attacks. Men find it hard to talk about mental health issues, the idea that someone is having a midlife crisis is often seen as a bit of a joke, whereas it’s anything but and can ruin lives, so the fact that Gary is talking so openly and highlighting these issues, is something I’m really proud of.
For those of us intrigued by the story of Gary Numan, what should people expect and not expect from the film?
They should not expect a conventional music documentary…
I think they should expect to be entertained, there are plenty of laughs in the film, alongside heavier themes such as mental health issues and Aspergers Syndrome…
They should also expect to be humming Cars or possibly I Am Dust, on their way home from the cinema.
Thanks for your time and good luck with the film. Gary Numan is an intriguing character on the stage and hope it comes out well in film.
For More Info:
GARY NUMAN ANDROID IN LA LA LAND is in UK & Irish cinemas from 26th August. For cinemas visit: www.numandroid.com