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Four Lions

Event Transcript

Q&A and talback session with director Chris Morris (CM) and producer Derrin Schlesinger (DS)

Question 1 - What made you think that following a group of Jihadists would be a good setting for a film?

CM: Well I didn’t sort of wake up one morning and think, you know, terrorists are hilarious it was more that I was reading about it to try and understand the subject and I kept bumping into stories that were unexpectedly funny and the first one I just thought was an exception, it was in a very good book called al-Quaeda by a journalist called Jason Burke and it was about these Jihadis who wanted to blow up an American war ship by ramming it with an exploding boat and they got as far as assembling it. They were there at 3 in the morning on the quay side putting their launch in the water, filling it with explosives and it sank and I thought these guys are a bunch of mugs and I wish I knew who said what to whom because there would be an argument wouldn’t there. You watch your booty sink to the bottom of the harbour – someone is going to be cross. And I would keep coming across these stories – there was a bunch of Canadians who wanted to assassinate the Canadian prime minister but they forgot who he was. The guys who, the reason we have to hand in all our products at the airport and go through and take your shoes off and all the rest of it where people who were going to, or thought they were going to, blow up airliners with fizzy drinks, I don’t know if you remember that. But their chief weapons hider, it was found on his computer that he was put in charge of how to hide their gear and he had gone onto google and googled how to dig a wholes so sometimes you are not dealing with the sharpest tools in the kit. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all terrorist cells are stupid but even the ones that are bright, odd, funny things happen and the more people I met, you know I met people who had been to training camps and they all had these funny stories of being thrown off the training camp for knicking someone else’s honey or somebody was shooting at a snake and accidently shot someone in the foot and all these kind of clutsy things which are never part of the story that you read about in the papers and it started to dawn on me that the funny things described something that was real and at that point I thought you could make a film that describes something that it real that makes you think about these things in a different way. By the time you are going to the high court you sit in the public gallery and you watch a bunch of guys sitting in the dock and all this evidence comes out, all their conversations have been recorded and they are talking about rubbish. We tend to think from reading the stories in the papers that they are all sitting there rubbing their beards and saying ‘we must kill the infidels’ but they are not. They are saying ‘did you see Jeremy Clarkson last night, he’s hilarious isn’t he’ and ‘yeah but I wasn’t watching Jeremy Clarkson because I was watching Johnny Depp’ and then it’s ‘is he good though I think he might be gay’. ‘Is Johnny Depp gay, yeah but he’s cooler than Bin Laden’. And then one of them said ‘I’ve only been watching the news for the last 6 months, has Bin Laden done anything other than the twin towers’ and so you have a random rubbish conversation that just sounds like a bunch of stoners and again you think there is something here, there’s something to work with so that was the long answer… Sorry!

Question 2 - In pre and post production where there any problems that you faced and if so were they overcome?

CM: There is a problem every day if not every hour of varying scales. The whole production becomes about solving problems and you could describe the average day as solving problems couldn’t you. Getting out of bed in the morning is solving a problem, you know, whatever you do… But there are kind of things like how are we going to do this. How you are going to make this work for the money is probably the biggest problem. You see films that are apparently made for the small amount of money and that is where is bets really interesting because you see someone who has made aliens on their laptop and you start to think well maybe I could do something like that if I bunked off for an afternoon and I’m quite good with my computer maybe I could do that. So I think that kind of problem solving is sort of within reach and I think most of the thing on a film like this where you don’t have a large amount of money are to do with how do you make that work within the limits. Occasionally there are other things, someone might kick off about something they don’t want to happen, some actor who you want to shave their head might not want to because their wife doesn’t actually know that they are bald anyway and they wear a wig – you get into quite complicating factors like that. Two people who are working on the film have a fight that can be a problem and again Derrin comes in and deals with all that sort of thing both by being very kind to them and quietly crushing their egos so there are all sorts of problems. In post production I think the biggest problem apart from spinning the money out is how to sort of keep going when you have already spent what seems like a surreally long amount of time kind of marshalling 90 minutes. So it’s the tail end of running a marathon by that stage and it’s sort of paying as much attention at the very end as you did at the very start. Disagree?

DS: Probably you could describe my job as problem solving so if I went through all the problems we could be there all day but just to carry on from what Chris said about when you get to the end you then encounter something that you have never really thought about when you are making the film was that there is a whole year after that where you have to market it, publicise it, get it into the right festival and I don’t think I had really thought that through and how much the problems would continue and it would carry on for a long time after the film had been locked and produced and finished, yeah that was another set of problems in itself.

Question 3 - How difficult was it to fund the film?

DS: Very, very difficult.
CM: Yes, it was difficult because you set a target and our target was, and this may sound like a lot of money because effectively it is a lot of money, our target was around 2 million – that’s a lot of money. But it is not a lot of money compared to a lot of films that are made and it is easy to guzzle it up, that doesn’t sound right does it? To use it up in the production process rather than shove it up your nose but basically the process was sort of easy because you get sympathetic people at the start and then hard because to complete it, to get to the target you need, you can imagine the sort of the conversations that you have about this were just zigzagging all over the place. Usually, you’d fine a split committee two of whom were for it and two of whom who couldn’t go anywhere near it and so you’d always end up with a measly mouthed “we’d love to have this happen in Luton but there are health and safety issues” so that is why you don’t get that regional fund. But I suppose there are two good things about money, I mean this film that I was talking about Black Pond I believe was made for a think $40,000, and the other thing is that there are increasingly sort of novel ways of making money. So it depends – is your question because you want to make your own film and you are wondering how the heck you raise the money? (Audience – No.) Oh, well maybe I have answered it all wrong then. Well a film like this you are going to end up having pretty silly conversations and because there is always going to be somebody who is, normally prejudiced. I mean the number of times, half way through a number funny conversations that I would be wanting to say the sentence you know, I have spoken to loads of Muslims and this is what is what they said or this or what I found and I would get no further than the word Muslims because I swear on 3 different occasions the person I was talking to said “oh yeah, no sense of humour” and you think – are you seriously sitting there and telling me that these 1.5 billion people on the planet categorically have no sense of humour? But people do just have an automatic thing which is rubbish but you can’t just rewire their emotions overnight so there are frustrations there too which are still slightly evident I’m afraid.

Question 4 - When you thought about your target audience who were they and what did you want them to learn?

CM: It’s a good question that because I think the answer might be a bit disappointing because I am pretty sure the best way to aim something is not at anyone except really yourself and that’s not quite as horrendous as it seems, it’s just that if you say “Hmmm, I’ve noticed that this bunch of people over here really need to be told this then you are almost certainly going to sound preachy in some where whereas if the feedback is more to do with following your own interests to get to a discovery and that is reflected in the film then if you can make it interesting, because this came out of interesting, then other people might be interested. In terms of a single message, you know, if you just have a single message tweet it, don’t bloody film because that is the least effective way – there are so many other ways of interpreting a film and it is very time consuming. There are all sorts of thoughts that you have along the way and you want to be consistent to those thoughts, like the one that you said about, I think the first thing that you said, about all Muslims not being terrorists, well that’s might seem like a seemingly obvious statement at times you might have wondered, particularly in the way the press have handled it, that maybe we are being put in a decision where quietly we are being caused to think most Muslims are terrorists and you will actually find people who blog something like that so if you discover that that is not actually the case then just merely in reflecting what you discover you are going to be pushing up against certain things and again what you said about people being easily led again if I was stopping people in the street and saying ‘do you know something, people can be easily led’ they would say ‘that isn’t even worth me stopping for one and a half seconds to hear but if it sort on in a particular context whereby it’s not that you are trying to discover that people are easily led but I think people being easily led is part of what happens in a radicalised cell and its being easily led for all sorts of reasons often reasons that bizarrely were the right reasons so Waj is easily led but he has a sort of romantic idea that at some level he is sort of, which is why the Lion King is in there because the Lion King is the sort of story about good and bad and so long as you see yourself as Simba and not Scar then you can use the Lion King as a sort of analogy about the way that you might be kind of called to fight in defence of Muslim act so there are sort of threads in there but they are not fully formed messages to take away, I think it is more a visceral thing.

Question 5 - Were you afraid that the film might offend some Muslims or that it would reinforce stereotypes for other people?

CM: Well, I kind of felt, just on a kind of instinctive level because I don’t know how many people I have met, maybe 200 people from all over Britain, all ages but mainly young guys. I thought the fact that I met so many people and I made so many friends, I liked even people that I profoundly disagreed with – there were very few people that I didn’t like so I thought that would come through without trying to do that because there is a separation. I think its important to like people who are not liked by the media so if you find yourself naturally doing that you’re in a position were you are not going to be writing jokes that say – you’re bad because you are brown. You are not going to be making all those short cuts. We don’t think he’s letting off a bomb is a good idea but it’s why people often ask about Omar and his wife and kid and the scenes at home but you think why wouldn’t you. If this guy was a soldier and fighting and supposedly on the right side you wouldn’t think twice about a scene where he had a home life so I think those kind of things inform, they make you understand more – it’s harder to understand but they make you understand more I think.