Ian Woodward's Film and His Take on Love and Friendship
Updated: Jan 24, 2020
English filmmaker IAN WOODWARD was formerly a show business correspondent with a speciality in in-depth interviews with big-name stars of stage and screen. He appeared regularly on the BBC as presenter of Radio 2’s “Jazz in Britain” from the stage of London’s Camden Theatre. He was Arts contributor to Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour”, among other BBC shows. He is Associate Producer of the US-made 3D animation cartoon film “Raegan and RJ Save the Day”, a Christian-inspired space adventure and sequel to the multi-award-winning “Raegan and RJ in Space: First to Mars”. He has also penned 30 books which have been translated to multiple languages across the globe. We connected with him about his solo Romantic Short, I Love You Truly! Here are the questions and answers to them by the veteran film-maker.
After Hour : How does cinema influence the minds of young audience?
Ian Woodward : In my view, films are especially influential to young people because, while going directly into your heart, they can also indirectly manipulate you in a way that may not be advantageous. That presents a great challenge for the filmmaker. And, along the way, that “influence” become a part of you...which you may not even discover until sometime later. I think what works really well in films targeted at today’s young audiences is the sheer humanness that radiates from them, be it in science fiction or romance or humour or horror. I believe most new films seen by young people tell the truth in a hard-hitting, uncompromising manner. A young audience consumes this truth, albeit unknowingly, as it penetrates deep into their hearts.
Having said this, the impact on a young audience is also dependent on how such people interpret what they see on the big screen. If watching “good” can change our minds in a good way, then watching “bad” can similarly change our minds in a bad way. It is all governed by how our minds behave and the sort of lifestyles we inhabit. Films made in the last decade can be distinguished from those made in 1990s in that they are lack a certain moral base where bad is shown more than good. Research done on the impact of violent (or “bad”) movies reveals a palpable relationship between watching violent movies and acts of aggression in real life – but, thankfully, only for a small percentage of young adults.
After Hour : “I love You Truly” is a romantic short, what is your favorite genre as a filmmaker?
Ian Woodward : Being a sucker for books based on and about historical characters, my first love in the cinema is the biopic...and if that embraces an element of love and romance in all its manifestations, then all the better. Examples of this genre which immediately spring to mind are “The Passion of Christ” (with Mel Gibson in the title-role), “Gandhi” (Ben Kingsley) and “Laurence of Arabia” (Peter O’Toole).
So as a filmmaker I am drawn to such real, flesh-and-blood characters, such as the composers Tchaikovsky in “Love Song” and “Tchaikovsky in Love” and the Czech Republic Smetana in “From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields”. As an aside, I think genre is important for audiences because it allows them to know what kind of film they are going to see and what they can expect when going to see a film.
Also, certain audiences prefer certain genres, so the genre allows the audience to choose what type of films they like to watch. Films are broad enough to accommodate practically any film ever made, although film categories can never be precise. By isolating the various elements in a film and categorizing them in genres, it is possible to easily evaluate a film within its genre and allow for meaningful comparisons and some judgments on “greatness”.
It is perhaps worth taking into account the fact that films were not really subjected to genre analysis by film historians until the 1970s.
After Hour : What kind of message do you like to give through your films and why is it important to you?
Ian Woodward : All the films which I have written and directed have sprung from a message I wished to convey through the vehicles drama and music. To me, a film without music is like a pie without a crust or a waffle without perfect blueberry syrup.
My film “Too Many Ghosts”, for example, is a fictionalised commentary on the folly of war. This message is clear and strong from the opening shot of odious Hitler rallies. Set in Europe between the last five days of the Second World War and a few days after the end of hostilities, it is told against the musical backdrop of England’s iconic national composer, Sir Edward Elgar: his patriotic 1st Symphony and “Land of Hope and Glory”. This is music is bursting with an arousing message declaring that “evil will not and cannot triumph when confronted by all that is good and decent in the world”.
Again, as the writer-director of “Adoration: A Natural History”, the underlying message, while being far less complex than that found in “Too Many Ghosts”, is nonetheless compelling, I hope, in its honesty and sincerity. It is, quite simply, a clarion-call for humankind to stop damaging the environment.
I can think of no greater example of a filmic message than that which shines so brightly in Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born”, starring himself and Lady Gaga. This tragic love story between a breathtakingly talented woman and a troubled rock star is a raw, powerful piece of art that makes a momentous leading role for Gaga. It will most probably leave many young cinema-goers emotionally exhausted and a little heartbroken. Beyond this, it should leave the audience with a strong and relevant message about how we function in today’s society and the marks we each give to the world.
The film addresses a number of significant subjects including gender, alcoholism and addiction, but what stands out for me is the way the story’s message is used to subtly question how our lives have become focused in modern society. All in all, Bradley Cooper has come up with an attention-grabbing film which tells the story and gets the message across in an informative and entertaining way.
After Hour : What inspired you to become a film-maker?
Ian Woodward : For a period, before being waylaid by more pressing distractions, I studied composition (harmony and counterpoint) and at the prestigious Watford School of Music & Drama, near London. From early childhood I was gripped by the magic of cinema. My mother loved to tell the story that, when I was five years old, I would look through the empty spool of a toilet roll and pretend I was a film cameraman!
However, my family regarded the film world as insecure and morale-crushing, and I suspect they were right, and so they guided me towards the family “trade” of authorship and journalism. But this never for one moment dulled my appetite for filmmaking and in my 20s I was making move “epics” on 8mm and 9.5mm film stock. I won my first award aged 22 for my black-and-white documentary, “An Island of Birds”, about a bird sanctuary off the coast of Wales. This really whetted my appetite for things that were yet to come. I began making films with 0.50-inch-wide Betamax tape using a JVC camera, and then the smaller-width and commercially cheaper VHS format, before embracing mini-DV, HDV and full HD formats.
I am a storyteller and so I took to filming like a pig to mud. As the great French-Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard once observed, “A story should have a beginning, middle and an end…but not necessarily in that order.” A good philosophy, as in some of my films I have begun with showing glimpses of the end of the film. Woody Allen went further: “If my films make one more person miserable, I’ve done my job.” I don’t subscribe to that ambition, but it does make me chuckle.
After Hour : Let us know your thoughts behind “I Love You Truly” and what inspired you to make this film?
Ian Woodward : The inspiration came to me, as it usually does, because I wanted to explore a theme that explores an element of romance in all its manifestations: not just the agony and ecstasy of love but more crucially everything that bridges the two extremes of the psychology of emotion. With this in mind I set out to write “I Love You Truly” as a simple story of two young people – an American woman from Boston, Massachusetts, and a man from Scotland based in London, England – as they strive to discover and build trust in their quest for the perfect life-partner.
And, with an aspiration to provide that relationship with an extra dimension, I wrote the screenplay entirely in verse.
Real love is composed of rapture and torture. Neither condition is immune from the other because love doesn't bring and never has brought total happiness. On the contrary, it's a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield, sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we're doing the right thing. On top of this, as an extra layer, it is an abiding Christian faith and a love of God which, from the very beginning, guides and comforts the Young Man and the Young Woman on their soul-searching journey.
The film stars the acclaimed young English actors Charlotte Frost and Richard Mark as the young couple.
After Hour : Any special memory from the film set?
Ian Woodward : Richard Mark, who has a degree in music, is an accomplished pianist. Between takes during the church scenes, he’d entertain cast and crew by tickling the ivories on the grand piano which stood in one corner the nave. I vividly remember hearing him play one day the exquisite opening moments of the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Who can forget the powerful moment in “Immortal Beloved” where Gary Oldman, as the nearly-deaf composer, plays the same notes forlornly while leaning head-down over the top of the piano?