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TV Preview - TF6 Big Gold Dream

Just a few days before underground music documentary Big Gold Dream airs on BBC Two, creator Grant McPhee shares what inspired him to start and (finally) finish this decade-long project. Big Gold Dream started long before any of the BBC Four documentaries on record labels or indie scenes. It was a long way from the first, but if there was a starting point for us, our major inspiration was a documentary called Made in Sheffield, about electronic bands from the city. It was well made, but you could tell it was not made by a large TV company, and that caused something to click with me. Inspired by the independent spirit I knew a little about the bigger bands interviewed (like The Human League and Heaven 17) but what really interested me was how they interconnected with the less well known groups, most of whom I didn’t know at all. Overall, that film painted a city full of pioneering characters and heroes – renowned, unacknowledged or unfairly overlooked, but all central to making great music together. I thought that every city must have its heroes like these. A lot had been written about scenes in Manchester, Liverpool and, obviously, London but very little on Scotland and its cities. The Glasgow-based, independent record label Postcard Records was fairly well known, even then, and – like most indie music fans – I’d owned records by Orange Juice. Struggling to make an idea reality After watching Made in Sheffield, I had vague notions about making a small film on Postcard, and showing what Scotland had to offer. Not really knowing how to make a film and the then very expensive cost of doing so pretty much put that idea to bed. “This is a film that shows people what they can achieve when they break the rules.” The final nail was a few days spent emailing anyone I vaguely knew in the film industry to see if they could help. Only two people got back, but could only wish me luck, so that idea really ended there. Until I met Mani. Not Mani from the Stone Roses, but Mani from the Edinburgh band WIN. Filmmakers can learn a lot from musicians My only knowledge of WIN then was that Mani used to be in them. I hadn’t even heard any of their records, actually – which, I later discovered, was my loss. Mani gave me a job helping him make music videos for a band he managed, who were a pre-Young Fathers. One day he asked me if I could make anything, what would it be? Caught unaware I said ‘A Postcard documentary’. I learned a very important lesson that day – musicians think and operate differently from filmmakers. They are less interested in CVs, track records or the amount of funded work someone has made. They come from a world where someone can just pick up a guitar and make some noise, or start a record label from their living room. David McClymont (former member of Scottish post-punk band Orange Juice) is interviewed in Big Gold Dream (Photo: Big Gold Dream / Grant McPhee) Now, more than ever (especially with cheaper access to equipment) this philosophy should be taken on board by filmmakers. Without even a blink, Mani was on the phone to Malcolm Ross (guitarist from Postcard Records bands Josef K, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera) and had arranged for me to meet up with him to discuss the film. And that’s where the film really started. Without this level of support from the musicians we’ve spoken to, Big Gold Dream (and likely any other films I’ve made) would not have happened, so I’m eternally grateful to them. Unearthing a musical secret “People forget that blogs or other aspects of social media are not new – they are just modern versions of fanzines.” There really was a whole scene I’d not been aware of. I learned about bands like The Scars and Fire Engines, and discovered that the record label I’d associated with Joy Division and The Human League (FAST Product) was actually from Edinburgh. In fact, Edinburgh had once had one of the UK’s most exciting music scenes, which was based mostly around FAST Product. Not a history of Scottish punk Despite its billing, this film is not a history of Scottish punk or independent music. It’s not really even that much about Scotland. It’s about young people taking control and expressing themselves creatively, without seeking permission from anyone in authority first – it just happens that those young people in our films chose post-punk music. There are reasons why we feature Dave Carson and James King and not Richard Jobson or Jim Kerr. I like The Skids and Simple Minds (they are incredibly creative people) but our film is not an encyclopedia, and they did not fit into this story. Fire Engines are one of the many bands McPhee discovered during the making of Big Gold Dream (Photo: Hilary Morrison) Of course we’d love to have included bands such as Restricted Code and many great associated others, but we also had a limited running time. This is a film that shows people what they can achieve when they break the rules. “Edinburgh had once had one of the UK’s most exciting music scenes.” It’s part of a jigsaw that, when pieced together with all the other similar scenes around the UK, shows a genuine revolution. Disenfranchised youth, many from working class backgrounds, getting together and forming a completely alternative record industry that became as powerful as the might of the then existing one. I think anyone creative today should listen to what they have to say and take note. Big Gold Dream airs on BBC Two on Saturday 15 April at 9pm Read more at:

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