Andy Mundy-Castle has developed to become an innovative filmmaker, and has become the first person to contact for in-your-face documentary films such as “Bronx Tales” in the wake of the Netflix series “The Get Down”, “A Very British Religion” as well as special corporate projects for Channel 4 and BP.
“The Fade”, is the latest documentary film from Mundy-Castle. However, being the first point of contact for corporates allows him to offer advice for other aspiring filmmakers who want to pursue documentary films. Already, his new film about the life of barbers across three continents has already sparked international success for a breakthrough in these challenging times of humanity. His documentaries “African Masters”, shows the new emerging Africa in its relation to art, but it’s about embracing and showcasing the essence and sense of diversity with Mundy-Castle, as his first work “Ramandan Reflections” was in celebration of the Muslim season Ramandan. We can’t even talk the amazing the campaign he did with the Invictus Games for the BBC, describing the former army soldiers as Warriors.
Mundy-Castle looks into the importance of bringing positive imagery to African Disaporians through his work; especially when it comes to Black men. He also talks about the importance of recognising talent from the underground and the entrepreneurial spirit of Black barbers. Plus, he talks about the films that have influenced and inspired his creativity.
Interview after the jump.
1. Andy, you’ve become one of the groundbreaking filmmakers showcasing at B.U.F.F who’s done a host of documentaries on unspoken, yet interesting topics. What made you decide to place an insight into the life of barbers as well as the men’s haircare industry with your new documentary “The Fade”?
I’d like to see the ground I’ve broken, it could be a safety hazard for those walking behind me. Joking aside, the barbershop is just a natural canvas for a good story. You have characters, endless drama, humour and a precinct / location. I like to tell stories about everyday people. I am hugely interested in the African diaspora and I wanted to talk about black men in a positive light. Often you don’t see a full three dimensional picture of black men as fathers, business men, friends, role models, all the clichés to the predominant negative stereotype. So I decided where better to start than with barbers.
2. The documentary follows the lives of four men across the UK, US, Jamaica & Ghana. Do you think there’s a sense of an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes being a barber?
100 percent, I will defy anyone to show me a business that is fully managed, owned, supported and run by black men on a global scale. Although most are independent, by and large they are all “successful”. You rarely see barbershops closing. They keep modest prices, little advertising / marketing, but they still survive and exist. It truly demands the hustler within. In the film I wanted to explore this throughout the diaspora. More importantly for as long as we live, people will always need their hair cut.
3. Everyone knows about films such as “The Barbershop”, which gives an insight into a business in Chicago as well as the classic British show “Desmond”. However, behind the fun and drama…there seems to be a goal or message that you want to give across with “The Fade”. Describe that message in one sentence but also explain why this is important to you.
The barbershop is a cultural institution and it has to be regarded and documented as such, otherwise it will easily be laughed off as some menial cornerstone of society, when it is far greater than that.
4. A film documentary is different for an average film because it’s all about creating awareness, giving insight & raw truth. What has been the biggest obstacle when producing your film documentaries and how have you overcome them in order to secure a finished masterpiece?
Correction – Documentary films, to be honest I see no difference because all good films also give you a raw truth and some kind of awareness. But I understand that the general perception of documentaries is that they are more ‘intellectual’ or ‘educational’. The main obstacle as opposed to something scripted for instance is the lack of control and the overwhelming possibility of the unknown. Documentaries are really made in the edit. So you shoot a lot more than you may need and then go digging for gold. I overcome the obstacle of the unknown, by being confident in the strength of the story and knowing that everything will be fine in the edit.
5. Since your show “Bronx Tales” is airing on 4music, what are your thoughts about the homegrown talent now and how the corporate world is more accepting/willing to infusion this style of music with their nationwide message? You’ve featured some legends as well as the hottest new stars that are/have contributed to the new found British music that celebrates the raw British urban talent. Especially with the success of certain artists contributing to many of the corporate brands in terms of consumption (Stormzy’s with Subway and footballer Progba, Skepta x Levi Music)…
It is only so long that you can deny real talent. I think this period in urban music and film to a certain extent is very inspiring. I think it is important for everyone and anyone to capitalise on whatever suits their brand and ideals. We, black filmmakers need to pay close attention to how the music world has capitalised on what was once considered ‘minority/special interest’ without losing integrity. I respect that.
6. Name your four top films of all time:
Tough one (In no particular order):
1.City of God
2. Paris is Burning
3. Gladiator (simply because I’ve watched it so many times and it always feels as fresh as the first time)
4.Jason’s Lyric – (would creep in there too)
b) What makes them stand out from others (if there was a message in the film that they wanted to share then please state).
c) How have they inspired your production and execution as a filmmaker.
City of God – it was simply a master piece. From the casting – to the style, the editing. It was flawless. I saw it in the cinema ten times. Each time I took someone different. Also it put Brazilian cinema on the map and that is game changing.
Paris is Burning – The first documentary that I saw and thought WOW, I want to make that kind of film. It exposed you to a sub culture that I never knew about, It felt intimate and raw. The characters were larger than life so it was an experience. I liked how the filmmaker seemed to be part of the community. So it gave you a real first hand insight into the life of those featured.
Jason’s Lyric – was the first film I saw in the cinema that really caught my attention and made me think about filmmaking as a career. It was just a beautiful love story well told.
7. Is there any possibility that you’ll be looking to do another follow up to “The Fade”? Or is this project a closed chapter?
This is a closed chapter for me. As soon as I release the DVD. That will be the curtain call. On to the next – to the left to the left.
8. Not only have you produced film documentaries, but you’ve also done countless projects for corporate such as BP, Nike and Channel 4. Is there a different avenue when producing a special visual for these corporations (as in do they send you a brief outlining what they want for the campaign at that time)?
You have to align your thoughts with their brand values. There are much more stakeholders involved and the budgets are significantly larger. I have been fortunate enough that good ones have fallen on my lap.
9. You’ve decided to make documentaries that shine a spotlight on the comfortable as well as the uncomfortable issues that affect either the Black Community and the society as a whole e.g. “Battyman”, “A Very British Religion”, “Giving Up Weed” etc. Have you experienced any controversial circumstances when directing and producing these subjects? And if yes, how have you dealt with them?
Fortunately nothing controversial, just ‘out there’ stories. I suppose when making a Very British Mission, I watched a devotion, in which people where up till 4 am in the morning casting out evil spirits. It was very strange, I deal with them by staying behind the camera. my next documentary about a south London urban legend I hope will be controversial.
10. What are the top three things, you think an aspiring filmmaker should consider when creating a film documentary.
Study! What makes a great documentary. Watch documentaries.
Access – This is key, do you have the kind of access that will allow you to tell the best story possible.
Be surgical, upturn every stone.