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Q&A: Shane Meadows and Mark Herbert on Made Of Stone

Made Of Stone

As the Film4-backed music documentary The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone hits UK cinemas,'s Michael Leader talks to director Shane Meadows (This Is England, Dead Man's Shoes) and producer Mark Herbert (Four Lions, Submarine) about making the ultimate fan film for their favourite band.

Made Of Stone is out now, and it’s taken almost two years of work, so could you take us back to that first day and tell us how the project came about?

Shane Meadows: I was on my way to the Dinard Film Festival in Brittany, and it’s our favourite festival. I remember the first time we went there, we didn’t have a title for the film Dead Man’s Shoes, we had awful versions of titles, and we landed there, sat with a cup of coffee, and we were sitting with [Producer] Peter Carlton and came up with the title Dead Man’s Shoes. There’s a statue of Hitchcock there, there’s something about the place that’s a bit magical for me and Mark. And I’m on my way to East Midlands airport on a drizzly, grey day, and the phone rings. And it’s Ian Brown! I remember thinking ‘bloody hell, I’ve not spoken to Ian for a long time, please let it be a pop promo or something like that!’

And I picked the phone up: ‘I know you’re a big fan of the Roses, Shane, I just wanted to let you know that we’re getting back together. You can’t tell anyone, because we haven’t done the press conference yet, but I wanted you to know, and wondered if you’d be interested in filming it.’ And I thought ‘does he mean make a film about the whole thing?’ But either way, I said ‘look, I promise I won’t tell anybody, but I’m just about to meet Mark, who’s a massive fan as well, like me, and I wouldn’t be able to go 3, 4 days without mentioning it to him, because if anything comes of it, I’m going to want to do it with him.’ And he said, ‘yeah, tell Mark, but keep it under your hat.’

Mark Herbert: It’s the hardest secret... because that was, like, three weeks before the press conference. I remember going out with my best mate George, who’s a massive fan as well, and it was the hardest secret to keep. You know, when they say ‘what are you doing next?’. But we did, we kept it secret. Then, cut to three weeks later, I’m getting texts saying ‘have you heard? The Stone Roses are getting back together!’ and somebody went ‘oh, I’ve just seen you on Sky News!’.

So, Mark, is your role as the producer to stay logical when a crazy opportunity like this comes up?

Mark Herbert:
We’ve got this shorthand, because we’ve worked together for ten years. I’m trying to look at the worst possible scenarios. The way I could describe it the best, is that if Shane’s thinking about today, I’m thinking about tomorrow. So all the time, you’re looking at ‘what if this doesn’t happen?’. We’re going to go to Warrington, what if we don’t get an interview with the band? What if we don’t do this? What if they split up? So you’re always trying to cover the worst case scenario. So, by getting a great archive producer, you know that, after Warrington, that we have 45 minutes of great archive. So you’re constantly looking for, ultimately, ‘can I deliver a film to Film4?’. That’s the job, I guess.

Mafe Of Stone

"I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, but it has to be me."

How early did Film4 get involved in the production?

Mark Herbert: We’ve got a deal [at Warp Films], and Tessa [Ross] has been a great supporter, but literally we had no time. It was like, ‘are you going to do this film?’ and we were still making This Is England ‘88. And I had to give the band’s management, SJM, an answer by the end of the week! So I rang up Film4 and said, ‘we’ve got this film, I don’t know what it’s going to cost, it’s going to be over a million, but hopefully below two; I can’t go to a distributor yet, I can’t go to a sales agent, but will you back us, and can you let me know by the end of the day?’ And they rang me an hour later and said ‘we’re in!’. They were great, and the support for Shane and me has been unbelieveable.

The finished film is part-archive, part-gig footage, part rehearsal, and there’s a lot of interviews with fans of the band too. How much of that structure was planned ahead, and how much was it informed during the shoot or the edit?

Shane Meadows: Basically, with this, I was dead honest with the band at the beginning. We’d just locked This Is England ‘88, got in a car, drove up from London, straight to the band’s rehearsal centre, this little secret location, in the middle of the night. And they were just finishing a rehearsal, and I sat down with them and said ‘look, I can’t profess to be a documentary filmmaker, I’ve made dramas. And I can’t tell you what the story’s going to be because I’ve never made one before, but ultimately I’m the only person, I think, for the job. I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, but it has to be me.’

When I first saw them rehearse, I said to Mark, ‘even if all we got was access to these rehearsals, there’s something really special going on here’. And then they announced Warrington, and Warrington was the first point where I started to realise not only could I make a good documentary, hopefully I could make a great documentary that still feels like one of my films, because when I got those interviews with the fans, those people could just be characters out of This Is England. They were amazing! Some of the speeches... There’s a beautiful speech, where a guy says ‘there’s a reason why I’ve never worn a tie, there’s a reason why my hair still looks like this, and I listen to that album every week and it still makes me tingle’. If I was sat trying to write that stuff... It was exquisite, and when I went to that first gig at Warrington, and when you realise that you’re not the only fan in the world, there were millions like you, I realised that was going to be the heart of the film. And that was probably truly the first point in time where I actually thought ‘I know roughly where I’m going now’. It was definitely improvised up to that point.

Made Of Stone

"So I rang up Film4 and said, ‘we’ve got this film, I don’t know what it’s going to cost, but will you back us, and can you let me know by the end of the day?’ And they rang me an hour later and said ‘we’re in!’"

And how much of making the film governed by good collaborators, such as Archive Producers and DoPs?

Shane Meadows: When Laurie [Rose, DoP] came on board, it was a massive step forward. Initially, I was going to shoot it myself, and my friend Dean Rogers was going to do the cinematography, but he had a really bad accident. And once we started to shoot the rehearsals, I said to Mark, ‘we really need someone, because this could be, and needs to be, beautiful’. Because I didn’t know what film I was making at the beginning, and I didn’t want to get in the band’s way, but I realised that it had the chance to be epic, and to make it epic, you needed someone who knew what they were doing on the camera.

Mark Herbert: Sam Dwyer was the archive producer. She archive produced Senna and Marley, and that was really good, just to know that there was somebody there, literally just scouring the world for photographs and bits of material in not the obvious places. That was a massive thing. Any film’s a collaboration, it’s as big as the sum of its parts, and from Dean Rogers to the production team, we made a big film with a really small team. And they were just fantastic.

The premiere in Manchester was as big as you can get...

Mark Herbert: Yeah, mind-blowing.

Shane Meadows: And the closest we’ll get to playing Wembley, I think!

Now, I’ve got to ask this: what are your favourite Stone Roses songs? Shane, you’ve said ‘Waterfall’...

Shane Meadows: It was the other day, yeah. This morning it was ‘Going Down’. It changes. To put it into context, my mum went to the premiere and she said ‘you’ve got to get me some of that stuff, what should I buy?’ And I said ‘look, let me make you a compilation’ - and I could only whittle it down to 34 songs! Now, most people don’t realise they’ve made 34 songs, and that was my cut-down version. So I’ve sent my mum a CD with about 34 tunes on, so I’m probably the last person you should ask about my favourite tune...

Mark Herbert: At the moment, ‘Breaking Into Heaven’. I just love the intro. It’s spine-tingling. I can’t wait to hear it live and see what they’ve done.

Made Of Stone

"I realised that it had the chance to be epic, and to make it epic, you needed someone who knew what they were doing on the camera."

Everyone’s talking about a follow-up film, but here’s a suggestion. Of course, the Stone Roses are back together and they’re touring, and they now need someone to open for them. Why not get Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee involved?

Mark Herbert: That would be a dream!

Shane Meadows:
I’ve been wanting to bring Le Donk back for ages, and Paddy’s gone off directing stuff now, he’s in America. And I’m trying to talk him into Le Donk Does Derby, but it’s not working. So maybe if we throw that element in there, so The Stone Roses Meet Le Donk... Or ‘v’, like Alien Versus Freddie Kruger...

Mark Herbert: The Roses Versus Donk!

Shane Meadows: Fantastic!

The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone is out now. The film will premiere on Channel 4 on April 19th, 2014 at 10.50pm.

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