BL&F 16: ANDY BURKE INTERVIEW
Andy Burke played The Narrator and Rory Stamp in Django Away!
Hugh Moir: How did you meet Daniel Hutchings?
Andy Burke: Through Shaun McGowan. I've been friends with Shaun for years and he gave me a ring and said "Look, I'm doing this project with this crazy guy. Do you fancy getting on-board?" I kind of thought "Hold on, what's this about? What are you roping me into?" (laughs) Anyway, met Daniel in a coffee shop in Manchester and I really liked his thoughts and ideas on Django Away! and I thought "Yeah, I'm game!".
Hutchings added an Exifestern Narrator at the start of Rory Stamp's scene after being inspired by Burke after meeting him in person.
What was it about Django Away! that convinced you to work on it?
A couple of things. I think first was just being able to get the complete script for the film, going away and being able to read a script. Most of the work I've done, you do a specific character and you just get those few pages. So sometimes it's quite difficult to see how what you’re doing fits into the whole context. So in a way, it was just being able to have a script and go away and digest it, to see how my own personal feelings are of my involvement in the project. For me personally, I've got to have some kind of belief in a project to do it. I'm not really someone who wants to chase the money. It also fitted in with what else I was working on. I was in-between filming parts of Cucumber (Russell T. Davies' Channel4 series broadcast in 2014) and I really liked the contrast between that and doing Django. Plus I was quite fortunate that I'd just done an advert so that meant that money wasn't really an issue (laughs). So it was really quite nice to be able to help a young aspiring director. The other one is, being quite creative myself, I had an idea for a script so I thought "Right, if I'm doing this for free (laughs) then I want some payback later when it comes to developing a piece that I'm interested in doing and developing". But, in doing Django, I felt I'd found someone I could actually work with in the future and have no issues about expecting that call and not putting them on block (laughs). So I was quite happy to work on it because it was something I did believe in and it ended up being fun! Technically difficult (laughs) I've got to admit that because when you have an actor-director who's also the cameraman, who needs to run all the action for one set-up in one position and then move you to another position to then do other parts of the scene, it’s a challenge to keep in mind all the blocking as well as the dynamic of your performance because none of it's in chronological order. You have to do all your lines to fit in with that and then the other lines when he changes the camera angles. So technically it was challenging, but a good learning curve for me of how I need to look at different ways of approaching film. I really enjoyed the process and I think it's really helped me add a new skill, another dimension which I will then use in future projects.
Stamp attempts to talk Hutchings' language by using filming terminology.
What was your most satisfying moment on Django?
Actually seeing the end product because, as I said, the shoot was quite technical and how he managed to edit it together to make me look good was quite impressive (laughs). Because there were parts of the shoot where I was there scratching my head thinking "Have I got that right? Is that the right way of doing it?" But when I saw it edited together within the whole film and seeing it all together I actually thought "Yeah, that's pretty good. Makes me look good in it!" (Laughs) So from that point of view it was really satisfying.
After his Narrator character wows Hutchings, Stamp reveals another character in his chameleonic repertoire.
How did working with Hutchings' zero budget methods compare to other work you've done?
For me what was really quite good was that it puts everyone at the same level so we all kind of know that it's not about what we're going to get out of it financially but it's what we all contribute. And what was really great was that all the technical side of it, the folks who did the sound and so on, were there for the project and it was really fantastic to be involved with something like that. Whereas Cucumber was the other extreme where everything was given to you, it was there, which is nice (laughs). But the similarity between doing Django and doing Cucumber was the fact that everybody who came into it really believed in the actual project. The theme of Cucumber was paramount to everybody involved with it and it was the same with Daniel's project. Everyone came together because everyone wanted to be involved in it, for whatever reason. And for me, watching the final edit, I was quite proud knowing that we've all come together just to make sure the film got finished. When we all saw it for the first time, in that back room in Manchester, it was quite a nice moment for us all I think, being all together. And it just goes to prove that you don't need to have a big budget to do something that's satisfying.
Did Django Away! turn out how you envisioned it?
I actually think it turned out better than I'd anticipated. It's a risk you take when you do something like this but, at the end of the day, it was a calculated risk and I think it turned out really well. Just seeing it in its entirety, from A to Z, it made me feel proud to be part of the project because it was slick, it was well shot and looked clean in the sense that there was no "hair in the gate" (laughs) or any moments like that. So for me, it turned out really, really well. Much better than I anticipated.
Burke also appears in Django's flashbacks as a tormenting "Laugher".
What can films of this scale offer?
They serve as a way of moving up the scale of the industry and we need people like Daniel, who are being creative, doing it on a no-budget, fixed-budget, at this scale because what you concentrate on, as well as the technical constraints of getting it done, is the story. And if we develop a good story then that's the forward thinking that we need to take place in British film. I, and I think most actors, would rather do a good story than the usual stuff that’s churned out. So I'd be advocating for any actor who meets a Daniel or a Daniel comes up to you and says "I've got this idea. Will you give us a hand?" to just say yes! Because it's important that we constantly change the boundaries of our own industry. And we do need the Daniel's of this world, who've got crazy ideas of making a film on no money, and to be supportive of the creative process. Eventually, I believe, it will pay dividends. Not just to the Daniel's of this world, but to us as actors and the industry that we're in.
What are your favourite moments of Django Away?
I'm kind of lover of the old slapstick so I liked it in the scene where Django's digging, and digging, and digging and suddenly you realise he's got himself into a massive hole. I just like that kind of visual humour. It's not quite Laurel & Hardy but I just love that. It visually looks very funny and very comical. You just laugh at those moments because you're watching it, and you know where it's going to go, but you still laugh when you can only see his head poking out at the end (laughs). I chuckled when I saw that. Another moment I like is the poignant bit when he says he wants to make the world a better place one laugh at a time. I kind of feel, in a wider world, we need to have that kind of long term attitude. I mean, you're never going to be able to ignore what's going on in the wider world but I think sometimes we need to just stop for a bit and say "How can we make the world that we live in better?"
Extracts of this interview were used for the What4 Film Specials that Presents Inc made to promote Django Away!