The Adequately-Clothed Philanthropist
North Staffs TV aims to feature as many films as possible made by local people. This week we have been speaking to local film maker Richard Steele about his film The Adequately-Clothed Philanthropist and also find out what got him into film making.
The Film Maker – Richard Steele
We asked Richard what got him into film making and how long he had been making films for “I got into film making with a friend in my twenties as we would absorb loads of films and became convinced we could make better films than some of them!. A group of us started out in 1999, but I’ve been making films solo since 2002. There are a number of local film makers who make far better films than I, and more often, I’m just interested in the idea – I usually do one about once a year. I started out as an editor first and foremost – I still feel like the directing part is only a formality to get to the edit suite!”
We asked him if he is big film fan himself and what sort of films he likes to watch “I love films – as long as the idea is good I’ll give anything a go! Though I’m more interested in film theory; I see myself as a theorist first and practitioner second. I used to be a media lecturer and I always tried to get my students to apply the theory in their work rather than just go out and shoot random things. I’m a fan of British social realism, from the Free Cinema Movement in the 1950s up to Shane Meadows and Ken Loach. In fact I’m writing about the representation of the working-class in contemporary British cinema for my MA dissertation. I also like anything philosophical and challenges the nature of memory and reality – I studied a lot of Baudrillard!”
The Film – The Adequately-Clothed Philanthropist
The film is about a Trade Union leader who goes undercover in order to find out how the state of modern business operates within traditionally public, state-funded services.
Richard got the idea for the film watching a few episodes of The Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss. He always thought that a few grand from a millionaire for a charity doesn’t solve anything in the long run, despite their good intentions. So he thought what if the system could change? After all, the same system allows for such parity between rich and poor in the first place. So it was a reversal – An average guy going ‘undercover’ with the representatives of neoliberal capitalism. As for the ideas for what the main character is up against, these were all based on articles he read in the press beforehand – companies like Argos and Poundland did agree to take on benefit claimants as working for their benefits, and PFI hospitals are always looking to drive down pay and conditions.
The title of the film is a humorous spin on the title of Robert Tressell’s excellent novel ‘The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’, about the reality of being working-class in the early part of the 20th Century. The draconian conditions and unsteady work seems to be resurging today with zero-hour contracts etc.
In regards to the filming altogether it took about 2 weeks, although not every day. It was shot out of sequence to accommodate the actors’ availability. In total it was about 3 months or so, from mulling over the idea to finished edit.
Richard toyed with the idea of making it into a series, as there are so many other aspects of modern society that could have been highlighted through satire – particularly the issue of forced academization of schools, but in the end he decided to focus on the NHS and workfare. It was just a case of breaking it up in the script and trying to emulate the type of reality shows he was imitating.
For the film production there was Richard and his actors Rob Bateman, Kerry Sirrell, Rosemarie Gibson. He also talked local film maker John Williams into taking a part too. As it was his first film in 4 years at the time John also gave him some guidance in pre-production.
Cost wise, there wasn’t that much to buy, just a litter grabber and a set of scrubs for the nurse but that was about it! For locations he asked Burslem School of Art and Newcastle Baptist church for permission to film there to give the impression of many different locations.
We asked Richard what tips would he give to anyone thinking of making a film “As well as the cliché-ridden platitudes of filming what you know, I would also say that on low/no budget it’s always useful to get round problems creatively – that’s what I enjoy about the process anyway. For example I approached a few hotels to let me film there as originally I wrote for Nigel to stay in a hotel (in contrast to the squalid conditions the TV millionaires stay in), but I couldn’t get permission, so changed the script to a B and B and used my uncle’s house. There’s always ways round things, you just have to find them and adapt. Also, technical knowledge and showy effects are no substitute for a really good idea. Though if you’ve got both you’re a better film maker than I and I’d love to see it!”
You can watch the film below. Do let us know your thoughts on this locally made film.