Jack Gold: Independence is freedom to execute in personal style

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 Jack Gold is British film and television director. He was born on 28. 6. 1930. After leaving University College London he began his career on BBC programme „Tonight“. Later on he became a freelance filmmaker and also made dramas as a platform for his observations on social and political field. He made a debut with feature film in 1965 and it was called „My father knew Lloyd George“. But his most known films are „Aces high“, „The Medusa touch“ and „Escape from Sobibor“. He also directed versions of Shakespare classic „Mackbeth“ and „The Merchant of Venice“. He worked with such stars as Gene Hackman, Glenn Close, Anthony Hopkins, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Burton, Lino Ventura, Lee Remick or Elliot Gould.

What was it like in your young days to start directing films? Was it more free and independent then these days or it was more tied up by rules?

The first film I directed was an experimental short for BFI called „The Visit“. It lasted 40 mins. I had a totally free hand subject to budget. While a BBC employee as an editor and director, I made many, many films with great freedom but subjects to programme requirements. Sometimes the subjects were initiated by me. I was aware of parameters but had great freedom of execution.

Do you think that some directors call themselvs independent only to look interesting but they still use same strategy as „mainstream ones“? Or being independent is stiff matter of principles and personal belief?

I do not know the motives of others but for me independance is an ability to choose subjects and freedom to execute in a personal style.

When something is independent it can become a fashion, more popular and obviously it then becomes mainstream. Do you think there is a set line what is independant or is it individual in director´s head?

I partly answered it in previous question. The rest is a game of categories for critics and marketing.

What would you suggest young, focused and dedicated filmmaker who has guts, ideas but no money?

Keep making films or whatver size or budget is…Practice your craft.

You made success films with top actors. Did you have everything under control or you more or less had to do what studio told you?

The studios never told me how to make the film once the script, budget and principal cast were agreed. Very, very rarely was there any dissagrement on final cut.

British cinematography was once rated as the best in Europe along with French one. Now, we thing it became the offsping of Hollywood production. How do you view British film industry of 21st. century.

I would begin with stating that making films is big risk. Nobody knows beforehand, how he will succeed both artistically and commercially. One American producer told me, that from 10 films they make in studio, 6 are commercial flop, 3 break even and only 1 earns enough for studio but NOBODY knows, which of these films it will be. So that is of commercial aspect. From artistical point of view it is very difficult to talk about current British industry since there are many ways how to make film, how to distribute them and screen them.But  more over there are lots of great talents not only directors as Ken Loach, Mike Leigh but also Shane Meadows and Andrea Arnold.

Don´t you think that these days many seques of successfull films are made but almost no original topics. Are the directors lazy or producers coward since they are affraid to put money into risky projects?

It´s all the question of money. Making the movie is the risky business and studio must be sure that film won´t loose money. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn´t. New project can show up as great topic or as big flop but noone knows it before hand.

Have you ever had some ideas you wanted to film, or you dreamt about filming them but never had a chance or money to do it?

There are three movies I wanted to make. „Story of an African farm“ failed due to lack of funds.Second movie was „JR“ from William Gaddiss, which was great satire at capiitalism, we again didn´t get the funding and there was „Darkness at noon“ from Artur Koestler, we didn´t obtain the rights.

Would you like to be younger and make films with current digital technology or you are happy you could have made films at time when you could?

Technology and mainly the current one doesn´t interest me one bit. It´s not the basic assumption of  the films which I like, on contrary.


Your film „Escape from Sobibor“ is interesting one about holocaust in concentration camp. How much were you interested in WW II. crimes and have you been personally in Auschwitz, Birkenau, Mauthausen or Dachau to get that feel „under skin“ before you started to make film?

Firstly I refused the idea to make film about holocaust. I don´t think there is any way how to depict the horror that were showed on documentary movies or in SHOA documents. However Sobibor was different. That showed aspects of Jewis experience which was in direct contradiction to version, that Jews are subversive victims. I haven´t visited any of those camps but I was in close contact with those who survived. I also read a great deal of material and seen lots of documents. Maybe, subconsciously I was afraid that these visits would prevent me from filming, it´s hard to say.

„Aces High“ was great film about heroes of WWI. Unlike some of similiar films from these days, you didn´t work with animation. Was it difficult to film dog fights and how did you obtain planes from WWI? Did you only try to pay tribute to those heroes or you liked the topic?

It was very difficult to obtain those planes. Sometimes we used models or archive footage. Action sequences in the air were very difficult to make and they were also very much tied with story. I had great assistant in Derek Cranknell and great specialist for special efffects. As you correctly say, there was no animation. Why did I choose this topic? That was innocence, extreme youth, marred lives of these pilots who knew they are going to die.And we could show not only chivarly  and bravery but also the fear.

Have you ever been to Czech Republic and which of your films do you like the most?

I have been to Karlovy Vary festival where I won a prize for film called „The Sailor´s return“. I like the most movie called „Naked Civil servant“.

 Foto: theguardian.com, www.tech-ops.co.uk