Mission to Lars


Written by Kim Wilson
07 Monday 07th May 2012

So, without wanting to apply the pressure – when will the film be ready?

We have a tentative cinema release date for around June. We are hoping it will coincide with Metallica headlining Download, craftily, we’re thinking perhaps they’ll make it to Hackney Picturehouse for our premier.

We are currently at the stage where we have a film but a whole load of other hurdles to jump until we can see a finish line. In fact, having seen so many false finish lines, I’m beginning to doubt there is one and we’ll just be making this film for the rest of our lives. I think once we’ve got it on television in a few different countries, I might be able to stop stressing – a bit.

Can you tell we are first time filmmakers? I mean, I had made a few things for Channel Four (Superskinny Me, Superbotox Me), but nothing compares to making your own film. It’s thankless hard work, self-inflicted slavery, but you just can’t help yourself. We just had to do it.

How long did it take to make?

Ages... We first had the idea in 2008, and spent nearly two years trying to get funding and backing then there was over a year editing it. The actual filming took us less than two months, that was the easy bit. Not really!

How was it funded?

We were unknowns. I tried to pull in every favour I could - I seriously begged, borrowed, wheedled and whined. The recession had just kicked in - nightmare. We thought we would find a production company or a TV channel to back us but it doesn’t really work that way when you are unknowns. In the end, Will, my other brother [and director] went to see Passion Pictures, probably one of the most important serious documentary production companies in the UK at the moment - they're incredible. They suggested making the film we wanted to make and then finding a broadcaster. That was a real turning point and it gave us a great sense of freedom.

Some people invested a few thousand, we came across a man who had been affected by Fragile X, which is what my brother has in a different form. He was a very successful banker who was now dying of the syndrome. He gave us a break, and he gave us some money. In the end we raised a third of our total budget throwing massive parties. We held two auctions, Giles Deacon donated a wicked dress, Kasbian signed a guitar, Sophy Rickett donated some valuable work, we auctioned off a part in a porn film (that sold really well). The grant from the Wellcome Trust came after we had shot the film and was fantastic, it was a real sign of validation. I would love to pay back our investors. Hopefully…I’m not sure how much money there is in the documentary to be honest.

What is it like have a brother with a learning disability?

Fragile X Syndrome shows itself in many different ways, it’s easiest to describe it as autism. As a child, games were limited - our favourite game was fighting. He’d always get obsessed about things - often lead singers of guitars bands, though he went through a Grant Mitchell/Ross Kemp stage. But when he got into Lars [Ulrich, drummer with Metallica] we never heard the end of it: I want to meet Lars, I want to meet Lars, I want to meet Lars, when when, when….One day I just went, alright then, we'll try to make it happen.

What inspired you to make the film?

Will and I had long had this dream of going on a roadtrip with Tom - just the three of us on the open road. When we were growing up, we didn't spend that much quality time together - he went to boarding school and now lives in a home - Will and I had bonded as adults when he moved to London, we wanted that opportunity...that experience with Tom. We wanted to document our journey as something to look back on. Also, let’s be honest, it would have been difficult to have gained access to the band without a purpose. Going on this magical, bloody mental, mystery tour genuinely did start out being about making Tom happy.

What were the greatest challenges with filmmaking?

Getting as many people as possible to see your work and getting funding - there is no money in making films like this - you really have to have a love of what you're doing. That's why that company is called Passion Pictures - they produced Project Nim, The Age of Stupid, they’ve got Oscars and they still know, without passion, your average independent documentary maker is a bit screwed. I want shitloads of people to see this film, like it, and talk about it.

What was your role within the film?

In a way I had very little creative input because Will and James [Moore, co-director] were directing and that was really fucking frustrating - it was so personal and I was trying to care for Tom, make the action happen, get to Lars, find money, make contacts, all that stuff and yet I had little or no say in the direction. So as someone who sits at a desk all day, mistress of her own tiny universe, taking orders from my little brother and James was hard.

What do you think the public's response has been?

We’ve had a few low key screenings, like, at Latitude last year, and a couple in Soho for crew and close friends and investors. People really like it. A few very important people have seen it, and love it. But you know what, until it’s on TV, in cinemas, getting bums on seats, I ain’t resting on even a millimeter of laurel.

Do you think women are adequately represented within the film industry?

There have been some really good documentaries made by women - really deep rich and thought-provoking films. Molly Dineen, Margaret Brown, Kim Longinotto. Some of the most important documentary commissioning editors at the BBC and Channel Four are female, in the US HBO docs is run almost entirely by formidable women. The Bird's Eye View festival celebrates women filmmakers. Women are not represented enough in the documentary world, but it’s better than it is in movies, which are dominated by male directors.

What can be done to support learning disabilities?

This film wasn't made to lecture people. If it helps people reconsider their opinions about disability than that would be good. Tom is a human being as valuable as any other, as emotional as any other, and often people with learning disabilities are not treated as such. Also, its rare to see learning disability in fictional movies or documentaries dealt with well. I love what Jerry Rothwell did with Heavy Load, about a learning disabled punk band.

Find out more about Mission to Lars here.

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