It was back in 1996 that director Robin Mahoney first released Glastonbury The Movie, now sixteen years later he has reworked the movie for a new generation and audience.
I caught up with him to talk about why he decided to return to this project and what the original filming experience was like.
- Glastonbury The Movie In Flashback has just been released into cinemas so can you tell me a little bit about the film?
It’s a ninety two minute feature film about Glastonbury Festival; we shot it in 1993 believe it or not. The key thing about it to me was we shot it on this amazing format Cinemascope as we wanted to create a film that had resonance and something that could have a life and be part of British cinema history.
Glastonbury itself has now become such a gem in our cultural crown, Danny Boyle has decided to use the Glastonbury motif in his opening ceremony at the Olympics; he has got Glastonbury, cows and a mosh pit.
The material is nearly eighteen years ago when we filmed this but I have always had this burning ambition to produce something which fulfils my original intentions when we filmed it.
Essentially what has happened is digital cinema technology has caught up with traditional cinema and this format is almost like a latent… it was almost like a gold or diamond mine that had been shut way back and that still had a rich number of gems to mine out.
I started work on it a couple of years ago and then got totally obsessed with creating an absolutely new film for a modern generation, it’s the kind of film that the eighteen or nineteen year old festival go-er would go to now that may have been conceived at the very Glastonbury that we shot at.
It’s also something that a dad can take his son to see and thankfully we have a 12a for it. I really wanted make a family as you have represent all the different sides of the festival and hopefully we have achieved that.
- You are in the director's chair for the movie so what made you want to return to this movie? And what was it about Glastonbury that interested you the first time around?
When we did shoot it the first time around and approached it the first time around there was a lot of us and it was a big collaborative effort amongst a whole host of filmmakers that I knew - I took the reigns and but it into shape.
Everyone has their own viewpoint as to what a festival was like and at that time Glastonbury was known but only amongst a certain type of forward thinking utopian individual.
All it represented was peace, love and unity to us and the way that people should be and the way that they should live their lives and look forward to the future.
It just comes out of that tradition of peace festivals and those hippie ideals which didn’t just start in the sixties; festivals like Glastonbury have been going on for centuries in the West Country.
We did because it was special and it was something that had to be done and we had the opportunity. They talk about Glastonbury being full of coincidences and synchronicity, all these weird things that happen and weird links that happen; those that know about it know what I am talking about.
Coincidently we had a bunch of people who were eager to do it and we had the option to get some materials together such as the cameras as the film stock, we had a really good credit line with a lot of suppliers as we had just come off another feature film, and it was just a big snowballing of enthusiasm really.
- What was it like going back to the material again and looking over it after all of this time as you tried to piece together a new film?
It was fascinated to me but strangely it just seemed like yesterday, it just seemed we were sitting down and approaching it from the beginning again.
What is exciting about it is I have loads more experience and I think I know now better than I did then what does and doesn’t work.
We stripped it apart and started again but there will be some sections, by their very nature, that are similar but being able to hone them and just be able to get it right to make it work better than it did in the first place was just so rewarding and so much fun.
- Did you feel things needed to be changed when you looked back over the original film?
I think what is happening now is audiences are a lot more sophisticated and they can handle a lot more imagery and a high impact of images, sound and sensory experiences so we have really picked up the pace of the film.
But also with the modern technology that we have now the sound mix is just fantastic as we got these top Dolby engineers to mix it and it just sounds a hell of a lot better than in the first place.
Everything about it is different and better and more in tune with a modern audience I guess.
- With this movie you've presented in as a split screen, what was the thinking behind that?
Similar as a lot of the split screens you will see stuff that is related and I just think audiences are much more sophisticated than they were and they are expecting a different experience in the cinema.
We have had nearly fifteen years of cinema history since then and the kind of film that we made then was a much more laid back art film that was dipping its toes into the sixties like Woodstock and those slow reflective outlooks on an event.
But with this film we wanted it to be this completely immersive, in your face, no holds barred, take no prisoners, grab your audience by the scruff of the neck and drag them through these through days of mud and mayhem - although there was no mud that year we had the sunniest festival in history apparently.
- The film focuses predominantly on 1993 so why did you choose this year?
1993 just happened to be year when we got the opportunity to do it but coincidently that was considered by many to be one of the best Glastonbury’s of the nineties.
The weather aside the acts that performed there were all ahead of their games and also it was at a very significant point, I think, in British culture as no one had an email address and no one had a mobile phone and the criminal justice act came in a year later and so this whole ideas of free parties and raving in the countryside was just about to have the lid put on top of it.
There was an enormous amount of optimism post rave almost 1968 style - the future is going to be rosy type optimism - but that led on into New Labour and the disappointment of the noughties. I think things go in cycles and 1993 was a natural cycle from the sixties.
Unfortunately all those positive, forward looking, utopian dreams that everyone had in the film haven’t quite materialised yet but there is a lot things being said in the movie, little asides that people make about their visions for the future, that have now become part of the mainstream and maybe it does reflect a positive outlook for society as a whole.
- How was the whole filming experience when you look back on it now?
It was pretty chaotic, that is another thing that is unique about it as no one would have dreamed of doing something like that at time if they weren’t a bunch of idealistic young filmmakers.
For a start Glastonbury was completely anarchic, it was a good anarchy as you don’t see anyone fight at Glastonbury, but there was a lot of small level petty thievery and we were in the middle of all this.
People were really respectful and they would come up to us and ask us what we were doing and once they realised we were trying to reflect the festival in a good light and promote it with a loving outlook they were only to happy to let us be amongst them.
What tended to happen at that time is you would get someone from BBC TV Bristol trying to do an exposé on whatever nefarious stuff that goes on there and your regular festival go-er at the time was very sceptical and suspicious of cameras.
Our whole aim was to capture the essence of it and to try and make you feel like you were actually at a festival, an immersive piece of pure cinema.
- There haven't been too many Glastonbury projects before yours so what was Michael Eavis' reaction when you initially went to him with the idea?
(Laughs) So many people go up to him and ask if they can shoot at the festival as it is a magnet for people with cameras and he just tends to take everyone’s request in his stride.
We had already established ourselves with another film we had created the year before that had premiered in Cannes and we showing it in their big four thousand seater outdoor cinema, The Punk had just done well within Cannes, so we were going to have a presence there.
But I think that he thought we were just going to be a bunch of film students, because we were young, and he said ‘yeah ok boys go for it.
He possibly thought that it was going to be a couple of video cameras but we really put ourselves on the line and do it the justice that it deserved.
But I think he is coming round to it now and I think he was a quite surprised in what we had done in the first instance in terms of the quality of the film and slightly miffed that he hadn’t though of it first.
He then went ahead and did something like ours a few years ago but it was more of a conventional documentary that was very good; it’s the one that has Paul McCartney and all the acts that he has the rights to.
And now this new version and this very different movie that I have made now I have shown it to them and they really like it and they think it really reflects what Glastonbury was like at the time - I think that they are going to give it the thumbs up to anyone who asks so that means a lot to me really.
- And how have you found the response to the new movie?
Well we got our first five star review today and that has absolutely made my month - you are in a bubble when you are producing this stuff and you have no idea what people are going to think.
Every press screening that we have had so far I have had people come out with exactly the kind of reactions that I was hoping so I just hope we will get a couple more decent reviews and the word will get around that it is a really good experience at the cinema.
And cinema is what it was intended for it wasn’t intended as a TV show of straight to DVD the massive soundtrack and the huge widescreen experience and sitting down and sharing it with other people it what we wanted to do so I hope it gets a good run in the cinema.
We are holding back on the DVD release for as long as we can to give people the chance to see it on the big screen.
- Finally what's next for you?
Probably a good rest for a few months. But I have a couple of projects on the go and there is a feature that I want to do.
I am in Hackney at the moment and there are an awful lot of interesting stories that go around here and it is a thriller set amongst all the multi-cultural communities of Hackney.
It’s kind of in the pipeline now and I will be trying to move forward with that in the next couple of months once all the dust has settled with this one.
Glastonbury The Movie In Flashback is out in cinemas now
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw