Jeremy Wooding Q&A for his film Burning Men at ArtHouse cinema Crouch End
PUBLISHED: 16:40 07 March 2019
The Crouch End director has made a very British road movie with an uncanny twist
From Camden Market to the East Anglian fens and the wild Northumbrian coast, Burning Men is a very British road movie that blends the supernatural with a backwoods tour of England’s lesser known attractions.
Co-written by ex NME editor Neil Spencer and Crouch End film maker Jeremy Wooding, it sees down on their luck band mates Ray and Don trying to flog their vinyl collection to get to Memphis.
When they steal an “uber-rare” Black Metal album from a Camden record fair, it sets them on a journey to bury the “devil disc” on holy ground.
Partly shot in Hornsey Town Hall and Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End, as well as Stables Market, Wooding says it’s “great to be able to walk out of my front door and go to work”.
“Everyone around here is always brilliant about filming. Stables Market gets very hectic after 11am so we had to choose our times well. It was quite an experience.”
Other locations include a creaky chain river crossing in Norfolk, Great Yarmouth’s slot machines, the Angel of the North, and Holy Island in Northumberland.
“A UK road movie is really about detours,” adds Wooding.
“It’s all about reasons for missing their turning like being sleep deprived or a little bit high. Mapping out the route at home to see where these guys might go, I felt the Eastern side of England - the Fosse Way over the Yorkshire moors - has a really strong atmosphere, but has not been explored that much by film makers. It was about dipping into the unsettling weird otherness of that countryside.”
Central was the idea of the duo leaving “the vibrant chaos of London” - pursued by two fearsome Norwegian bikers.
“When that falls away, you end up in isolated areas where it’s quiet and a bit eerie. Your old life disappears in the rear view mirror. All you can do is keep going and see where you get to.”
There’s a romantic element in the budding relationship between Ray and Susie, the hitchiker they pick up. And as with all good road movies, music and landscape blend in a bluesie atmopsheric soundtrack by guitarist Justin Adams. The film’s “supernatural edge” involves Ray’s disturbing visions including a spontaneously combusting scarecrow, a hooded monk and Viking Warriors.
Easy Rider and Village of the Damned were influences, but fans of low budget Brit flicks might find some Withnail and I and American Werewolf in London there too.
“I really like the tropes of the horror movie, but it’s quite difficult to get it right,” says Wooding, who started out in the 1990s making a trilogy of London love stories including a Vampire comedy horror starring Sadie Frost. He went on to work with Derren Brown, the feature film Bollywood Queen and werewolf western Blood Moon..
“Spooky things an be quiet or unseen. That journey into the unknown intrigued me.”
Burning Men is the first movie shot entirely using multiple Points of View - playing on the diffrence between what Ray sees compared to his two travelling pals.
Wooding worked the same trick for the pilots and first series of Mitchell and Webb’s comedy series Peep Show.
“It wasn’t my idea but I was asked and I’m always up for a challenge. We made two 15 minute pilots and I had to make the visual language of the POV work; discovering a grammar to it that the audience would accept and wouldn’t turn them off.”
Naturally he’s “delighted” that Olivia Colman, who played Sophie scooped best actress Oscar for The Favourite.
“My favourite scenes to shoot where always the on-off love story of David Mitchell and Olivia Colman. They knew each other so well. I had known her primarily as an actress rather than a comedian but underneath those layers of bonhomie, there is a serious, talented actress. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.”
Burning Men takes the point of view further but as Wooding points out, younger audiences are increasingly used to it in Virtual Reality and gaming.
“It’s not just about looking through someone’s eyes, it duplicates how the brain sees things. We look at something in 180 degrees and focus in on details. Our brain is constantly editing and creating our own film.
“With his history of cannabis abuse and mental health issues, Ray’s head is playing up again. What he sees they don’t see. We play that alongside Don’s sceptical point of view
“It’s not just a gimmick, it’s a visceral, experiential way of getting into the heads of our sleep-deprived guys out there on the road with a lot of jagged edges. Of how they are perceiving their off kilter world and there is this story unravelling as your car goes through the landscape.”
Burning Men is released in select cinemas on 1st March, with a Q&A at ArtHouse Crouch End on March 9 at 3.10pm. For more information, please head to http://bit.ly/BurningMenTour