Bradford’s amateur filmmakers have been meeting for 90 years. Now They’re the Stars – iNews | Episode Movies

You’ll have to squint a little, but down a back alley south of Bradford city center is West Yorkshire’s very own dream factory.

Somewhere beyond the fly-speckled refrigerators and scrawled graffiti you’ll find Bradford Movie Makers. For almost 90 years, enthusiasts have been making and showing their own tirelessly imaginative no-budget films in the same building – a former hayloft converted into a private movie theater in 1936.

Now they’re one of the last amateur film clubs of its kind, and the cameras have been trained on them for a funny, moving, and deeply endearing documentary. A bunch of amateurs. The film’s promotional tour takes the club to a special screening at the BFI Southbank. Joe Ogden, who has been part of the club for almost three decades, finds it hard to believe. “When I see it up there, I’m going to be like, ‘Wow, yeah, we did it — that’s the thing,'” he says.

The Facebook algorithms brought director Kim Hopkins to the attention of the club in 2018. She saw a post by Ogden, now 59, describing his loneliness and discovered he was part of Bradford Movie Makers. Phil Wainman, one of the younger members at 49, became her way into the club.

“It didn’t matter what color your skin was, no matter what age you were, no matter what gender you were, they were just accommodating,” says Hopkins. “A cup of tea and biscuits are always there for you.”

It was less easy to invade members’ homes and lives. Hopkins’ previous film, voices of the sea, followed a young woman in a remote Cuban fishing village as she tried to flee to America. “Entering communist Cuba was easier than Bradford Movie Makers,” she says.

Wainman was always philosophical. “We’re this little club that’s running out of money and nobody’s heard of us,” he says. “If they completely ruin us, if we look like complete idiots, then we haven’t lost much – no one knows we exist.”

Bunch of Amateur Bradford Filmmakers Filmstill Provided by
Bradford Movie Makers was founded in 1932 as Bradford Cine Circle in one of the city’s barbershops (Photo: Supplied)

As things thawed, Hopkins captured tender, intimate moments: the wild Harry Nicholls, 86, playing the piano for his wife Mary, whose health is failing; the oldest member of the group, Colin Egglestone, who joined in 1973 and is now 90, carefully brushes his wife Shirley’s hair when he visits her in a nursing home for people with dementia.

Jeanette Wilson, Ogden’s girlfriend, took some time to adjust to filming. “I wasn’t used to being in front of a camera and I really struggled with it,” she says. “I’m getting there. Kim says you have to enjoy it and the more you enjoy it the better you’ll feel. So that’s how I tried to do it.”

Wilson spent much of the recent screening at Sheffield Doc Fest turning around to see how the audience reacted. She needn’t have worried. Her cheerfulness has made her such a hit that some fans have followed her to the restrooms after a recent performance, eager to meet her. “That scared the shit out of me, that’s what did it,” she laughs.

Bradford Movie Makers was founded in 1932 as Bradford Cine Circle in one of the city’s barbershops. Filmmaking was a costly affair back then, and the club was run, Hopkins says, by Bradford’s “Movers and Groovers.” The club is packed in archive films. Fat men in tuxedos and women in pearls applaud at a dinner, and the President presents trophies at an awards night.

By 2018, when Hopkins arrived, times had changed. She caught the club trying to scrape together his £300 monthly rent – on which he had been five years in arrears – and not break down himself.

By the time of the film, they have dwindled to about a dozen members, most in their fall years. Her filmmakers’ club is one of the few survivors, says Ogden. When Leeds Movie Makers closed last year, there were only five members left, one of whom was over 100 years old.

The film begins as an elegy and turns into a celebration of the urge to create art for its own sake (Photo: Supplied)

“Leeds are gone now, Wakefield are gone, Sheffield is still hanging by a thread. Halifax still has two members – they still meet up once a week to show each other their old films.”

By the time Hopkins began filming, Bradford’s rickety headquarters had a hole in the roof and dump trucks dumped fridges and cupboards into their driveway, while a series of burglaries forced the club to relocate its prized archives. These pieces of the city’s heritage, so old and fragile that they could no longer be risked on a projector, slowly crumbled in members’ garages.

But even against this seedy background, the members’ films are extremely ambitious. A 1963 film recounting Boudicca’s legend attempted to show her final battle with Roman occupiers, with four men in cloaks running slowly across a damp field while they were in a recent remake of the Oh What a Beautiful Morning” could be seen Oklahoma!Nicholls is transported via green screen from a slightly dingy back room of the club into corn fields the height of an elephant’s eye.

The gap between the filmmakers’ gargantuan dreams and what lands on the big screen is often very, very funny. but A bunch of amateurs balances Bathos with genuine admiration for the members’ tireless creativity and love of filmmaking. It’s not just artistically important either.

“Where social services have let us down, this club has really stepped in and done a job,” says Hopkins. She catches them occasionally bickering and snapping, then making up, slightly embarrassed. “They’re really tight.”

A Bunch of Amateurs balances Bathos with genuine admiration for the members’ tireless creativity and love of filmmaking (Photo: Supplied)

Wainman takes care of his brother full-time and the club has long been his creative outlet. “I only go out once a week,” he says. “We have a caregiver on Monday nights who helps put my brother Chris to bed … I’d be pretty isolated without him.”

He’s not the only one. Since filming, Nicholls has lost both Mary and his 52-year-old daughter. “When the film came out and I saw that Mary looked so ill, he [Wainman] put his hand on my arm and squeezed,” says Nicholls. “He has empathy for me.”

Whatever happens, the group’s commitment to filmmaking is unwavering. Even when Egglestone fell outside the club one night and shattered his shoulder, he encouraged Hopkins to keep rolling despite the disapproval of paramedics. “When Colin was put on the stretcher, they said, ‘What is this person filming for?'” recalls Hopkins. “And Colin said, ‘We’re a film club — we film everything.'”

Without giving anything away, the club gets its Hollywood ending. The documentary was picked up by the BBC and clubs from across Lancashire and Yorkshire attended the club’s 90th anniversary party this summer. The derelict building has been cleaned up, and now there’s also a studio, a scriptwriting group, and a fully repaired stairlift.

“There was a point where we feared losing members,” says Wainman. “But right now we seem to be winning them over.”

At the BFI, the group falters. Nicholls, a former magician, spends part of the Q&A doing card tricks. Egglestone shows the rotation he can achieve with his new shoulder replacement. Ogden films everything. Wilson enjoys her first trip to the capital at the age of 60. “I love it!” she tells the audience. “It’s exactly how you see it on TV.”

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In the foyer afterwards, Wainman talks to a couple of men in their early twenties who want to join in, while Hopkins gets Egglestone half a stock. “It’s the pinnacle, the BFI, isn’t it?” says Ogden, slightly disturbed.

Still, the group wants to do more. Hopkins says Wainman dreams of becoming a screenwriter in Hollywood and Ogden has taken on his first feature-length project. The film begins as an elegy and becomes a celebration of the urge to create art for its own sake. For Hopkins, Bradford Movie Makers are a joyful two-fingered for the idea of ​​slowing down and growing up.

“We go there, all of us,” she says. “And we want to know what it might be like when we get a little bit older, what we’re going to do.

“Can we still have fun? Can we still live and not just work to shed this mortal shell? They are certainly making the best of their lot.”

A bunch of amateurs is in cinemas now

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