Shane Meadows on Gavin Clark: ‘He was naturally gifted and I was faking it’
The Living Room, a 2007 film about Meadows’s singer friend, will be screened ahead of an upcoming Dublin gig. It shares something with the director’s film about the Stone Roses
Shane Meadows, whose 2007 film The Living Room, about musician Gavin Clark, is ‘about our friendship and relationship and seeing him trying to overcome a massive demon and perform live solo for the first time’
Gavin Clark. Photograph: Paul R Bednall
It’s time to take a look at one of Shane Meadows’s back pages. The English film director may be best known for such dark treasures as Dead Man’s Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass, as well as This Is England, which begat the television series of the same name, but there is plenty of work from Meadows’s past that deserves another airing.
Today, Meadows is talking about The Living Room, a film he made back in 2007 about musician Gavin Clark, which will be screened for the first time in Ireland this month. The musician – who has worked with bands such as Unkle, Clayhill and Sunhouse – and the director go back a long time.
“I first met him at a party when we were both working at Alton Towers,” says Meadows. “He was selling chips and I was painting faces. We were both 16 or 17 years at the time. I was in a band with Paddy Considine and Nick Hemming, and I thought I was going to be this big success as a musician.
“Not long after meeting him, Gavin played me this song he’d written and it floored me. He had such a unique voice, and when I heard that coming at me, I realised this guy was naturally gifted and I was faking it really.”
Music’s loss was film’s gain. Meadows found his way to a camera via a photography course and began making films like they were going out of fashion. Looking back now, he sounds a little amazed at how prolific he was at the start.
“The film-making was accidental, but I found I’d a knack for doing it because I was training myself. My aim at the start was to make a film a month to get good at doing it and to try to turn something half-decent out.
“I made 13 or 14 films in my first year. It didn’t seem quite that fast at the time – they didn’t seem fast to me; it felt like they were quite far apart – but by everyone else’s standards, it was pretty unusual. You get people now who might make one short every five years.”
If Meadows had a DIY approach to film-making, the same modus operandi applied to screening the finished work. “I set up my own film festival called Six of the Best in Nottingham to show these films. My aim was to show one of my own films and get other people to put stuff in. Nowadays, you have YouTube and downloading, but back then the internet didn’t exist so you needed somewhere to show that work.
“I did everything on really rubbish video tape, and most people would only show film. People would ask did you shoot it on 16mm or 35mm and I’d go, ‘It’s shot on tape from Boots’, so I had to set things up myself in this seedy cinema which used to show pornos. It’s still running, it’s called the Bang! Festival now, and its legacy goes right back to those films.”
His work with Clark is not the only time Meadows the music fan has come to the fore. Last year, he directed Made of Stone, a documentary about the Stone Roses’ reunion tour.
“The Stone Roses film and the Gavin film share something, in that there’s unfinished business to both stories. The Roses were my idols, and I’d always wanted to see them play live, but you got a sense that they never fulfilled their potential. Gavin had been doing that singer-songwriter thing back in the late 1980s when it was not the done thing, so he was ahead of his time and missed out.