‘Eighty Eight’ dir. Seb Feehan & Josh Bamford
C8: The film introduces us to Ralph Settle. How did you first meet him and at what point did you know he would make for an interesting documentary subject?
SF&JB: We were looking for an interesting subject to make a short when a friend from Cornwall told us all about Ralph, who was a bit of a local legend in the Truro/Newquay area. We were immediately drawn to his story, so went down to meet him in person. After spending some time with Ralph we soon saw the potential for an interesting doc.
C8: Some documentaries are shot over a few days and others over a period of years. How long did you shoot ‘Eighty Eight’ for and when did you know you had enough footage to make the film you wanted?
SF&JB: We spent a few days with Ralph before filming getting to know his story and gathering an idea of his usual routine. Once we had that sussed and had gained his trust, we then wrote out the structure of the documentary with all the different elements that we wanted to capture and the story we wanted to tell. It then took four days of shooting to get everything we needed.
C8: What were the hardest things about making this film? What obstacles did you come across, both during production and before/after
SF&JB: The filming actually went quite smoothly because of the time we had spent with Ralph before shooting, we knew what we wanted to achieve. I guess the hardest part was focusing the interviews as Ralph can talk for England, he has many fascinating stories, and some of them were quite long so we had to be selective.
C8: The film looks at several themes. Did the footage contain other possible angles and how did you decide to bring out the themes you have?
SF&JB: The film could have had a few possible angles because at 88 years old Ralph had achieved an extraordinary amount in his life, however we felt the overwhelming theme was that even though he faced tragedy he still had a thirst for life. Ralph saw age as a state of mind rather than excuse to stop living his life as fully as he could and that was what inspired us.
C8: You’ve made a number of documentaries and succeed in getting your subjects to reveal a lot about themselves on camera. How do you manage to do this?
SF&JB: We are very honest with our subjects, we make sure they understand our intensions and a certain amount of trust is built up before we turn on the camera. We are also genuinely very interested in our subjects stories, and I think that is enough to engage them in the interview and allow them to share their thoughts and feelings.
C8: You both co-directed this film together. Do you always direct together? And if not, how does your work differ when working separately?
SF&JB: This was the first film that we directed together, we found we had a really good working relationship where we both shared the same vision and understanding of our subject. Since Eighty Eight we have continued working together creating a strong partnership that we want to build on further, improving our work and growing as filmmakers. We often envision the film in a similar way and bounce off one another for ideas. Often when one of us is stuck on something the other can find a solution.
C8: How many people do you work with when shooting documentaries?
SF&JB: It all depends on the scale of the project. For our own shorts we have kept the crew quite small, so that there is only two or three of us at a time filming. This allows us to be quite intimate with our subjects and not too intrusive.
C8: What makes for a good collaboration?
SF&JB: An open mind, and the ability to share and discuss ideas freely to arrive to the correct conclusion.
C8: Your film has a very cinematic style, something that is being seen more often in documentaries. Are you ever concerned that creating stylized work can hinder the truth of your story, and how do you navigate this?
SF&JB: I believe that it can help tell your story. It can help create emotion and drive a story forward. Documentaries can be as cinematic as fiction, and sometimes more amazing due to the fact they are real life.
C8: Reality can sometimes be stranger than fiction, what is the thing you’ve encountered while making your films that has left the most lasting impression?
SF&JB: Connecting with another human being no matter what nationality or culture is something that stays with us every time, whether it be speaking to Ralph about his late wife or to a female graffiti artist in Saudi Arabia, there is so much to be learnt and shared that it drives us to continue documenting human stories.
C8: You currently work as part of Next Door Films. How did you get started as a filmmaker and what does your work focus on now?
SF&JB: We have started our own production company by the name of Next Door Films, this was the natural progression after graduating from Newport Film School where we studied Documentary Film and Television. We now make a variety of content for different clients from music videos to promos, however our real passion is documentaries and we in the research stage of our latest project that will focus on war photographers which has been truly fascinating. Overall, no matter what the project, we always try to focus on the storytelling, it is the most important thing in any film.
C8: If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry, who would it be and why?
SF&JB: James Marsh and Kevin Macdonald would be two amazing filmmakers to collaborate with. Their knack for storytelling has produced some of the best feature documentaries of the moment, and Macdonald’s ability to slip between fiction and documentary and produce such high quality work in both is very inspiring.
C8: So what’s next on the horizon for Sebastian Feehan and Josh Bamford?
SF&JB: We have been very busy getting our company off the ground and have just launched our brand new website (www.nextdoorfilms.co.uk). We have several interesting projects lined up for various clients. We are going to continue work on our latest documentary, with hopes of it being our first feature. We are also one of the judges for this year’s Student Doc Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest, which we were nominated for two years running, winning with Eighty Eight. We are very excited for the future and are going to continue working hard to achieve our goals.