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A Stitch in Time - An Interview with Ben Battersby

Please tell us about your background. What made you fall in love with cinema? How did you become interested in filmmaking and what did you work on before making A Stitch in Time?

I remember the first time I stepped onto a film set, I was immediately taken away with the energy and urgency. All these people working together for the same end. I at that time was very interested in stills photography, I was taking a lot of street & travel photos but I was could never quite imagine myself as a photo journalist or fashion photographer or even commercial photographer. But when I saw the film set I just knew this was for me. I guess it was the idea of team work that got me. I love that aspect of cinema, its always a team, no matter how large or small. If I had to summarize id say its team work and storytelling. Stills had always struck me as a way of storytelling, you try to tell a story in one frame. With cinema you have 25 frames per second to tell your story, that’s a lot more real estate!

I worked in the Uk film industry in the camera department working on BBC tv series, documentaries, costume dramas and feature films. In 2009 I moved to Argentina where I stated to work as a DOP on Commercials and music videos and also shot my first feature.

I began to direct as a way to shoot the stories that I wanted to tell. As a relief from the restraints and compromises that commercial work all too often set upon you as a filmmaker. I shot a short film “Lugares de Encuentro” and music videos for a few bands before shooting A Stitch in Time which was my first attempt at documentary as a director.

Which filmmakers influenced you and your filmmaking? Which films, especially documentaries, have affected you the most?

Ive always enjoyed documentaries. As a kid growing up in the UK I absolutely loved all the Natural history put out by BBC Bristol. I religiously watched all of David Attenborough’s documentaries for example. The uk has a very rich history in documentary making and I would say that I am very much influenced by that, certainly in terms of approach as opposed to the more flamboyant styles that you might find elsewhere.

As an adult ill watch all sorts from investigative to natural history to more contemplative pieces. But as a filmmaker I enjoy docs that don’t forget that they are films not just a pieces of news reel. Im less interested in factual integrity & more concerned with the story. I like very much all work by Werner Herzog and his attitude towards documentary making probably best encapsulates what I think about them. They are films that are directed by someone in an attempt to tell a story in order to entertain & hopefully provoke thought in the viewer. That’s at least what I hope to be able to achieve with my films.

What are the themes/issues you try to reflect in your films? What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a documentary?

Well I guess that so far Ive gone with what interests me. If im interested in the story that I see then it’s a go. I’m very much attracted to human stories, Im not so interested in my films being encyclopedic sources of information , there are people who can do that so much better than me! I like to think that they can provoke ideas in the viewer, the why & what for. I definitely see that I gravitate to stories that reflect our experience of life, the choices we make the dreams we had when we were young, the paths we took, where they have taken us.

Where did the idea for the film come from? Was it from your own experiences?

Im an emigrant. As an emigrant you look at your adopted country with an interest and awareness that perhaps allude you in your native country, until you return that is. Any way I was walking down the street one day when I came across Victor’s shop. The first thing that struck me was the font of the sign, straight out of another time, another place. It reminded me of a working mans club in south Wales. Then I became away of the chaos within. When I took a closer look and saw Victor he look just perfect. He reminded me of the toy repairman in toy story. I guess it just seem so visually interesting to me, I wanted to get in there, to find out more. It was like time had stood still inside the shop whilst the world outside had galloped ahead 30 or 40 years. It was only latter as I interviewed Victor that I realized that he too was an Immigrant.

Please tell us about the production and your experiences of making A Stitch in Time. What are some of the challenges and difficulties you faced?

The biggest problem I had was that Victor wanted nothing to do with it. I popped into his shop to see if he’d be interested and he just stone walled me. No absolutely not im too busy, theres no space, ive got too much going on. He couldn’t get rid of me quick enough. That seemed to be the end of it. Then I was chatting to my camera assistant , Federico Casagrande about subjects for possible film projects and started to describe Victors shop. Straight away he stopped me and said your talking about Victor. I was like how do you know about Victor? It turned out that his girl friend regularly took her sewing and knitting machines to Victor for service and repair. What a coincidence so after talking with her she agreed to have a word with Victor on my behalf & she managed to convince him to let me in. He had his conditions, I had to come on my own and that he couldn’t stop working so I would just have to work around him. That was fine by me. In the end of course Victor got talking and it just flowed

What are the advantages and disadvantages of independent filmmaking and working with small budgets? Does it liberate the filmmaker or limit his or her freedom?

Ive work professionally in the film industry for years on project and budgets of all types. You know the bigger budgets give you access to more storytelling tools but they generally come with more constraints and compromises. The joy for me of projects like this is I get to do just what I want. I tell the story I want to tell. There no client approval needed. For me the key is to look for the achievable. If you’ve got no budget then don’t take on a project that needs one. Look for a story you can tell well with what you’ve got. Thats the fun of it. Ill leave the tecnocrane & the 10k lighting package for the car commercial. For this I just need a camera, a lens, an idea and a good eye.

Tell us about your festival run. Have film festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed?

The festival run for a stitch in time took place entirely during the pandemic. As such all the festivals were non presential. Even if there weren’t travel has been in many cases impossible. As such it all feels much more remote. Its not the same having a film projected in front of a crowd in a cinema and being in there and seeing the response. Online perhaps many more people actually see the movie and probably in many more countries but its hard to connect in the same way. The film seems to have been well received from what I can tell.

Please tell us about your future project(s). What are you working on?

Im always on the lookout for another project. At the moment im pretty occupied though with the finishing of a documentary I shot in Tierra del Fuego. It’s a story of immigration and adventure of change and expectation. Im hoping to get the edit locked and into the sound mix in the next month or so. Ive also been lucky enough to have my first commercial as a director go live this month in the US and am currently working on a new treatment for another one. But really im looking for a window to get out and shoot something for me, something personal


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