We are delighted to see film festival favourite Jack Bond return to the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival with The Blue Black Hussar which will be screened in Edinburgh and Dundee as part of the festival. Filmed over the course of a year, Bond’s documentary follows Adam Ant as he tries to rebuild his career by playing small venues to help promote his sixth studio album. The pop idol invites Bond into his kitchen, his studio and into his life in this highly personal profile.
Where did the idea about making a film about Adam Ant come from originally?
The film wasn’t my idea to begin with. A producer that I often work with went to see Adam Ant in concert in London and she said he was absolutely extraordinary. I was intrigued, so I instigated a meeting and during our conversation his ambition to come back after his struggle with mental illness was immense. He really had a 50/50 chance at survival and I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to document his story. Adam is a fascinating, funny, alive and alert guy who was clearly ready for the fight. I knew this would make a great film.
What struck me most about the film was its authenticity. How did you go about building a genuine rapport with Adam Ant from the outset?
I think the authenticity comes from my observational approach. The last thing I wanted was for the film to feel contrived. We developed a strong friendship whilst we were filming as we spent so much time together and we bonded immediately. We used to take long walks in the evening and just talk. We could talk for hours.
Did Adam know a lot about your previous work? Do you think that made him more open to working with you?
I think it did, yes. He was aware of my Salvador Dali documentary, and it’s funny because the two men – Adam and Salvador, strangely remind me of each other. Both men brought a certain electricity to the filming environment and once you have that energy the film can come alive.
In this day and age, documentary films can sometimes feel the need to explain every minute detail. Whereas you allow the audience to make their own mind up about what they are watching. Has this been a conscious decision over the years?
Not really, it always just seemed to happen. This type of filming is risky, the ‘letting life happen’ attitude that I adopt could work against me. I am lucky that this hasn’t been the case so far. Throughout my life I have always taken risks. I firmly believe that trusting your audience is the key – they usually know more than the film makers themselves.
You are influenced very heavily by the French New Wave way of editing – what is it about this style that you are particularly drawn to?
I love the rhythm of French cinema – they definitely edit in a truly unique way. The rhythm of where to cut and the timing is so important to me. I saw my first French movie when I was 16 and I have been hooked ever since. My absolute favourite French film director has to be Louis Malle – we met for lunch one afternoon in New York and he said to me ‘Jack, you’ve been born in the wrong country.’ He was right.
Did you hit any controversial snags along the way?
Myself and Adam are both very volatile creatures, so disagreements were bound to happen. The controversy was always over creative control. As a film maker, you have to be in control. I told Adam that he couldn’t play the main character in this film and have creative control – he had to pass that to me, fully. He did and we moved on very quickly.
Is there anything you learned during this specific filmmaking process that you hadn’t experienced in your previous projects?
What is so remarkable is that each film you make can be so uniquely different. This difference is down to the characters you observe. Adam’s uniqueness and strength struck a chord with me. He is like no other person I have met in my life and I don’t believe I will meet anyone like him again. The fact he has just completed his US tour is utterly fantastic as he really did experience some dark times in the past. I absolutely believe he is on the right road and I know he will continue to be. I believe in him completely.
What were Adam Ant’s thoughts on the film?
Well, he watched it three times and loved it. Then he watched it again and phoned me up and said ‘Jack, do you think we could…’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’
Interview by Victoria Mackenzie