As Grimethorpe Colliery Band strikes up with the Brassed Off soundtrack at our live concert screening on 29 July, one member of the audience on Millennium Square might be feeling even more emotional than the rest of us. Mark Herman, who wrote and directed the much-loved film, looks back on his experiences on set – and forward to the first live concert screening of Brassed Off in Yorkshire.
“Anybody who was at the first Brassed Off Live at the Royal Albert Hall last year will tell you it was a stunning night to remember. For those of us involved in the film, in front of and behind the camera, as well as some of the band who were in the film, it was an extra, deeply emotional thrill.
I suspect that the audience in Leeds won’t be new to the film, nor will they be new to the music. What will be new to them, and what will surprise them, is the power of the mix of the two. It’s a film about musicians, and the musicians are there in front of you.
It was both an education and a privilege to work with Grimethorpe Band on Brassed Off, and as well as everything else, they have provided me with many fond memories. An early one is the weekend we spent in pre-production at Abbey Road Studios recording all the tracks for playback when shooting. I’d been to a couple of the band’s practice sessions up in Grimethorpe, but that still hadn’t prepared me for this.
As Sue Johnston’s character says in the film: “When you hear that sound, when you’re near that sound, it doesn’t half grab you”, and that weekend, wandering right amongst it in that studio, the hairs on the back of my neck reaching for the ceiling, I appreciated just how true that line is.
I was, and shall forever be, grateful for the many times the band put in shifts way beyond the call of duty. Most of them took holiday days off their work in order to partake in the film, and there were times, like outside the Houses of Parliament or playing Danny Boy outside the ‘hospital’, when we overran well into the small hours and some band members were due early to their work the next morning. There was a real spirit among the cast and crew, and the Band’s dedication to the cause will always be appreciated by me.
For Brassed Off Live, we’ve taken all the music off the film, and the band have just the one chance, there and then, to match it. It’s their ability to do this, without even a flicker of an eyebrow, that makes them, in my unbiased view, the best band in the world”.
Mark Herman was born in Bridlington and studied at Hull Art College before taking up animation at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University), and moving into film at the National Film and Television School, London. He followed the success of Brassed Off with Little Voice (1998) and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008).