By Damien Wilkinson
Monday 2 December, saw the worldwide premiere of the short film, ‘We Made History – the Fans’, at the Cubby Broccoli cinema in the National Media Museum.
Width of a Post was lucky to be amongst those present, and special guests included the Lord Mayor of Bradford, City’s Mark Lawn, Garry Thompson and James Meredith, and not to forget fan Charlie Murgatroyd, whose iconic arms raised and pointing to heaven salute, adorns the promotional posters.
The film, the brainchild of Bradford fan and musician, David Novakowski, depicts the culmination of City’s 2012/13 season and the epic Wembley play off victory, using mobile phone camera footage provided by fans.
At the time of City’s first Wembley visit last season, David had been touring the US with his band, causing him to unfortunately miss the League Cup Final. And after struggling to watch shaky lap-top footage of the match, had made a promise, should City return to Wembley, to capture the event in some kind of unique way.
The seed of a social media experiment was sown, and with the memories of the City fans singing and waving flags towards the end of the League Cup Final in his mind, the concept of capturing the event from the perspective of the fans was devised. Whilst the Bantams’ play off bid faltered, the idea also began to fade but it well and truly re-emerged, as David’s friends were quick to remind him, as they returned back from the momentous Burton second leg play off turn around.
Not wanting to go back on his promise, David was then faced with the unenviable task of trying to canvass as many fans as possible within a two week window, to agree to capture their experiences, primarily using mobile phones, of the Wembley final on May 18 2013. This was done through a blitz of emails, Twitter and Facebook campaigns as well as radio and TV publicity.
That David received over 1,000 clips of footage from this campaign was testament to his hard work and persistence, not to mention the increasing power of social networking sites. It did, however, then leave him with the nightmare of what to do with such a volume and varying quality of clips, even if some clips of people’s feet walking up Wembley way, or those uttering the immortal words ‘Is it switched on?’ were soon discarded!
Despite making some on-tour behind the scenes documentaries of his band, Scars on 45, which surfaced on YouTube, David had no other real experience of film making. Enter the Minneapolis Film School – whilst still based in the US, he approached the Film School and managed to engage the interest of one of their top students, Taylor Allen, who expressed much keenness to get involved in a ‘Soccer’ film.
Many, many hours of laborious editing and meticulous attention to detail then followed, as they both sifted through the footage, with David keen to stick to his original vision as much as possible, despite it been his first ever film. With the differing formats and quality of the raw output received, there were numerous technical problems, but David was also able to call on help from David Wilson, Director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film, for valuable advice and assistance.
Finally, after working through the night in August, the final editing was done, and with the footage whittled down to around 14 minutes, David left the studio at 6am, tired but jubilant. Only to find his car had been towed away!
Plans were then made to publicise and launch the film and it was eventually decided to do this at the National Media Museum – which brings us nicely up to this press launch tonight.
After initial introductions by David Wilson and then an understandably nervous, but proud, director the lights were dimmed and a surprise was unfurled as a number of members of the audience stood up and began to sing a very vocally proficient version of ‘Take Me Home, Midland Road’. It later transpired the singers were members of local choir group ‘Chordiality’, whose rendition also features in the opening sequence of the film. Unexpected, but it worked well as an innovative spine-tingling precursor to the main feature.
The film traces footage from the start of the day on May 18 2013 to the very end (and also includes footage from the open top bus parade in the City Centre the week after) with submissions from a wide range of City fans young and old, and those both on the Wembley trip or watching the match in more remote locations as diverse as Dublin and Hong Kong.
Whilst the footage is obviously not of normal cinema quality, it holds up remarkably well on the big screen, and actually adds to the raw emotion on display in many parts. Shaky, pixelated footage of the three goals, for example, followed by the outpouring of joy in so many different ways, remarkably captures the moments both beautifully and poignantly. It somehow exacerbates the spontaneity and significance of such emotions which definitely can’t be rewritten.
Whilst some of the usual suspects (Lenny the City Gent and the aforementioned Charlie) appear there is some endearing footage of some of the younger generation of City fans enjoying the day and debating who is the best – Wells or Hanson; together with lots of older fans shouting, singing, dancing around and generally going mental!
There is also some footage taken by the players themselves in and amongst the clips – the pre-match walk on the pitch, singing on the team bus on the way home and a seemingly riotous party when home, which certainly adds to the film and displays the emotions and joy of the team itself.
The various clips gel together remarkably to provide a well-paced and coherent account of the day, and reflect the many hours David must have put in to fulfil his initial vision, and capture the variety of emotions on show.
As the final credits roll, the film is fittingly dedicated to the memory of the 56 and the aim is for the Bradford Burns Unit to benefit from any future proceeds that the film may make, which is a fantastic gesture.
At 14 minutes, the film does not outstay its welcome or become too specific or unique to the fans supplying the clips, and is sure to become a vital accompaniment to the Club’s own ‘We Made History’ DVD recently launched. Given its length and brisk pace, I would imagine it holds up well to repeat viewings, particularly for those of a ‘spot the person you know’ persuasion. Longer term it will undoubtedly be a valuable and unique historical record of such a fantastic season.
The film will be subsequently shown at the Pictureville cinema at the National Media Museum on:
- Friday 6 December with the film, Nebraska (17.40).
- Saturday 21 December with the film, It’s a Wonderful Life (11.40)
- Thursday 26 December with the film, It’s a Wonderful Life (17.05)
David is planning to monitor feedback from the showings prior to making a decision as to how to take the film forward, be it future screenings (eg at City, or a DVD release etc) and it is to be hoped that the aim of benefitting the Burns Unit can be maximised as part of this.
Overall it’s a must watch memento of an unforgettable season and I would really urge City fans to give the film the support it deserves and attend the further showings, particular given that the big screen airings may well not happen again.
David set out with a vision to capture the fans’ experience of the conclusion to what was a remarkable season, in a unique and long lasting way. He has certainly achieved that.