We’ve taken the opportunity to sing the praises of Pulse Film’s best filmmaking duo Fred&Nick before when they made the astounding promo for Laura Marling’s recent album. Now they’re back with something much less whimsical yet no less haunting, a documentary set to be aired on Channel 4 entitled PAYDAY. The Croydon-based program “delves into the finances and wallets of four 20-somethings that came of age in the financial crisis, a generation blighted by debt as well as overwhelmed by consumerism.” Fred&Nick were kind enough to answer a few questions about the making of such a timely and important piece of film.
What made you feel the need to make this film?
We wanted to find a voice in the mainstream public arena as much as possible and felt excited about putting something unusual or surprising on the television. The lines in TV documentary are blurring, audiences are more intelligent and we were looking for an opportunity to have a go. We tried our best and PAYDAY was the result.
In terms of the topic when developing a film around finances in the contemporary world, we felt there was plenty of discussion about the causes of the recent economic climate but not much that uncritically looked at the generation that have come of age during it. Our focus was always on personal worth and hope for the future; the principles we live by and the decisions we make at an age when you start to deal with the cards you are dealt by childhood, upbringing, education, poor choices as a teenager etc.
How did you go about finding the subjects?
There was a decent wedge of pre-prod time on this project as we knew we needed to properly infiltrate Croydon to discover a cross-section of individuals. We had a great team researching at the early stages (Max Gogarty and Fatima Shafiq) and then we went through a month or so of meeting as many people as we could. Croydon’s one of these places where significant connections open up pretty quickly.
We felt after a while there were lots of stereotypes and character traps that we could fall into so we wanted to find people who were as interesting, surprising and unexpected as possible, even if their stories were in some way familiar on face value. The subjects had to express themselves in a physical manner as we didn’t want them to perform all in the same way. We wanted their moments of performance to be them at their most vital, so in the end that led us to a singer, a dancer, a boxer and a machine operator.
Tell us a little about the process of making this documentary
We knew from the start that we wanted to self-shoot, marking a clear return to the kind of intimate filmmaking that we started our documentary careers on. We only had budget for 20 days shooting at three hours per-day, for a period of roughly six or seven weeks. We initially thought we would just do one month between traditional “paydays” but then we realised that approach was irrelevant to our eventual cast as they all get paid in different time scales.
It was really a case of little and often – trying to catch up with them at interesting times and filming them observationally as they went about their lives. We decided early on that instead of writing pre-prescribed interview questions we would try and take a more psychotherapy approach to it all and start a conversation about a topic relevant to what was happening and see where it went from there.
What did you learn from the making of this film?
We learnt more than ever that you need to tread carefully on people’s lives, their homes, and their dreams and ideals, and that holding a camera up and not judging was the best way to go about it. We also learnt that the great majority of people always find a way and have an entrepreneurial spirit that manifests in odd ways and helps them survive.
What do you hope others will take away from watching it?
We hope it’s received well enough for us to have the opportunity to make another film for TV. We hope that people understand we’ve tried to tell a tale, not an essay. And we hope that we have found a balance between style and content which people feel is fresh and exciting in the format.