If you haven't already seen it, I suggest you watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPf-xhJkx7U, student Kenny Fillingham's first attempt at a ten minutes long video documentary titled Destination Kirkby. Kenny is a Media Studies "Level i" second year student at Hope University in Liverpool. The film is a project for the module "Format and Factual." It was made with his friend and fellow student, Jake Mills, who also narrates and appears in it. Kenny is from Jersey, while Jake is a local. Both are strong Evertonians, so the proposed stadium move to Kirkby seemed a natural subject for them to cut their teeth on.
Kenny originally contacted the Blue Kipper website and my name was suggested for interview. He contacted me and I accepted the invitation. Which is why I found myself in the media studio of Hope University on Saturday morning, 25th April 2009, on the "wrong" side of studio lights and cameras. I was intrigued at how they would handle the subject.
Despite the tyro age of its makers the film made only three howlers in the first version - the wrong still of Peter Robinson (it was actually David Trimble, an Ulster Unionist politician!), misspelling of my surname, and wrong attribution of my opinions to Blue Kipper. All these mistakes were omitted after a few phone calls and emails. The overall length of the corrected version is 9 minutes and six seconds, or total 546 seconds. The times of interviews edited in seconds were: Ian Ross, Everton Football Club - 118 seconds (5 segments of 27, 5, 30, 11 and 45 seconds each); Dave Kelly, against the project - 147 seconds (8 segments of 35, 17, 18, 12, 19, 26, 15 and 5 seconds each, including 15 seconds of a 3D model fly over); and me, in favour of the project - 139 seconds (6 segments of 7, 45, 29, 14, 30 and 9 seconds each). Total interview time 404 seconds, or 6 minutes and forty-four seconds.
Of course, the subject has much inevitable but useless emotion attached to it. That is the way of football fans the world over. It never ceases to amaze (and often amuse) this supporter how football-related subjects parallel the absurdities of religious sectarianism and, not so funny, the worst of chauvinism and paranoia. This approach even pervades the agenda of mainstream broadcast media. The paradox is that it is this combination which is one - but ONLY one - of the drivers of the game's popularity. Hence my curiosity in the students' finished product. I wanted to see if and how they avoided obvious presentation traps. Really, they were on a hiding to nothing. They were about to lose their cultural cherry to a video documentary.
Try it yourself and see how difficult it is to explain the subject as dispassionately as you can in ten minutes. Then add the words, music and pictures, carry out the interviews and edit the final result, all of it bearing in mind you will never please all of the people all of the time. Moreover you have to accomplish the near-impossible task of trying to keep yourself out of the finished product. It's a bit like coitus interruptus, fine in theory but virtually impossible in practice. Or even more like the military truism that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Thinking on the move is all important.
Overall, I think they did a first rate job given their limited resources and time and relative inexperience. The main points for and against were covered and they even managed to present a synthesis which drove straight at the centre of all the chauvinist nonsense surrounding the subject. Oh sure, one could complain they don't show more detailed explanations from the interviews or look at broader implications. After all, every movie buff knows the majority of film ends up on the cutting-room floor. The subject certainly deserves a larger documentary stage. But there's no denying they managed to cram an awful lot into the available time. A longer documentary would have to use these main points for further expansion and explanation. In my view they succeed very well in their primary academic strategy.
If you agree with the notion that film and video are prime art forms of the 20th and 21st centuries then this film can be seen as the first slightly hesitant brush strokes of two young artists. It seems clear to me that both students will get much better as they gain more self confidence and experience. Which of course is one of the main aims of universities everywhere. The pity is we are unlikely to see sufficient development in our local media industry for these young men to reach the pinnacle of ambition. Probably they will have to move on after they qualify. I wish them good luck in their respective futures.
Nothing I saw or heard in the film has changed my opinion in favour of the stadium move. This opinion is explained in detail elsewhere, see here. The fans voted 59% in favour, considered a landslide by almost any democratic measure. It has now had the best debate of all in the cool form of an open planning inquiry. We await the result in due course, which may now be sooner rather than later. Whatever the result is, so be it. No amount of irrational chauvinism either way will change it. Only finance can do that. Let the chips fall where they may. Afterwards, whatever the decision of the minister of state, we get on with continuing to improve the fortunes of Everton Football Club to suit our circumstances. If we move on, it gives us a chance - nothing more than that - to improve. If we stay, the result is likely to be stagnation and/or a long, slow decline. That is the bottom line. You pays your money and takes your choice.
Meantime, you can see more of Kenny Fillingham's work on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDkHnyyPlP0&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di3B_Z4F33w&feature=related . The first film concerns the disturbing development in recent years of attacks on young students, one in particular in Liverpool. The other is a quite outstanding short surrealist study - almost Dali-esque - of the worst of human behaviour and instincts. Looking at both, you can see a lot of embryo talent. How it is fulfilled is a matter for the young men who made this admirable short film. In the meantime they have done every Evertonian a service.