Lights, Cameras, Rock Action

On March 31, Relentless Energy Drink are releasing a short film about Frank Turner as part of their filmmaking competition, Short Stories. Young up-and-coming filmmakers are challenged to bring to life the idea of No Half Measures, and over the year eight films from different disciplines will be released online.

Frank Turner may be the hardest working man in music – at least filmmaker James Henry thinks so. Turner’s punishing touring schedule and his efforts to carve out a new career and musical direction for himself after leaving the much-loved hardcore punk band Million Dead is the subject of Henry’s short film The Road. Named after one of Frank’s songs, this is a far less bleak viewing experience than the film of the same name based on the seminal post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy novel, and is the first short film to come out of this year’s Relentless Energy Drink’s Short Stories.

Now in its second year, the series aims to give a platform to both amateur and professional filmmakers, asking them to capture a particular quality or virtue in around five minutes of film. The theme for this year’s series is “focus”, a characteristic that Frank epitomised for James.

“I think it takes a lot to go from being in a hardcore band to then being on your own, with a guitar, standing up in front of people who might be familiar with your old material and be slightly confused about what you’re doing,” says James. “It’s about having the focus to stick to what you believe in and follow your own path. I think that’s an admirable thing. Frank didn’t decide to quit and get a normal job or whatever. He kind of ploughed through it and carried on touring. I think that’s the focus aspect.”

It must be a little odd, Hot Press suggests to Frank, to epitomise the idea of focus to someone else. Does he agree with James’ reading of him as someone with a particular drive to succeed?

“I’m not sure I would put it like that myself, because that would probably make me very, very arrogant,” Frank answers thoughtfully. “I think the thing is, people have said that about me before and I take it as a compliment. I just put my head down and get on with how I think I should live my life. I wouldn’t describe myself as such, but it makes me feel quite good about myself.”

But given that X-Factor wannabes, reality TV stars and people of that ilk are not short on self-belief either, where does an admirable focus end and sheer pig-headedness begin?

“It’s a hard one! I guess if you were doing it for twenty years and nobody’s listening, you’ve got a problem,” laughs James. “But that’s probably a question for Frank.”

“I don’t spend that much time considering myself day on day,” says Frank. “I just try and get on with things – just getting to the next gig or whatever. Occasionally I do try and take stock and look back at the last five years. The film is good for me in a way to see that yeah, I have kind of been… well, as you were saying, either pigheaded or focused.”

Like Frank, James honed his chops in the underground scene – initially making tea for people for a few years, he says – and then producing promos for “bands you’ve probably never heard of,” as he puts it, before graduating to work for fashion brands and magazines such as Dazed and Confused.

“I did one for a band called Fell Silent and a band called The Abner. They were quite good actually, but they split up about four weeks afterwards,” says James.

Not the fault of the video, one assumes?

“Well, I hope not!” he laughs.

Although Frank and James have a theory that they may have met before, the collaboration came about in a rather less punk DIY way, Frank notes.

“I initially got a call from my manager asking if I wanted to be involved in a short film for Relentless Energy and I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. I watched some of the films from last year, which gave me the impression that the standard was very high. Then I met James and yeah, he seemed to know what he was doing. He had have very firm ideas about where he was going and I was impressed with his vision for the whole thing.”

The Road follows Frank on tour and includes in-depth interviews. Was it difficult to have a film crew – albeit a small one – following him around?

“No, to be honest, quite a lot of the time people film my shows or whatever without telling me so it’s like, ‘Oh right!’ So it was kind of nice to be a bit more involved and meet the crew beforehand. When it comes to the actual shows I don’t really notice when people are filming gigs because I have so many other things to think about like putting on a good show. There’s always lots of people in the room before you go on stage anyway so it wasn’t an issue for me.”

For Frank the film allowed him to expand on the issues that are important to him – something that is often impossible in a world of soundbites and restricted interview schedules.

“I do a fair amount of interviews so it was almost nice in a way to have interviews that were a little more kind of… focused, I suppose would be the word. I got to talk more freely about my views on the world and that kind of thing which is nicer than getting asked ‘How’s the tour?’ and ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ so it was good.”

Having shot around twenty hours of footage, James then had to distill this down to around the five-minute mark. That must have been a difficult task.

“Uhm… I don’t know if it was difficult – it was interesting,” muses James. “We had to be quite brutal with the selection process. There’s some lovely footage which is sitting on a hard-drive in my flat and that’s where it will remain for now. It’s a shame, but when you have a five-and-a-half minute film you have to be quite critical about what you’re cutting.”

How did Frank find being the subject of a documentary?

“It is a bit weird. It’s hard for me to judge it in a completely unbiased way because it is about me – and what a total badass I am!” he laughs. “I’m glad it came out positively – it means I’m not a terrible human being!”

As a man more used to working by himself and following his own creative impulses was he at all worried about handing over control to someone else and how the final film would turn out?

“Not really. It was funny – I saw the film for the first time today before starting the press round and it had occurred to me as I was travelling here this morning – ‘What if I really hate it?’ That would have been terrible!”

This Short Stories film on singer-songwriter Frank Turner will be released online in March. View it at relentlessenergy.com.

 

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