KUBRICKS: Dean Cavanagh's Directorial Debut

Written by Matteo Sedazzari
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Dean Cavanagh is no stranger to ZANI. We've covered his film and theatre work with Irvine Welsh in the past and now he's taken a leap into directing. "Kubricks" is written and directed by Dean and his son, Josh Cavanagh, produced by Alan McGee and stars Roger Evans, Joanna Pickering and Gavin Bain.

ZANI - So, your first foray into directing film. What took you so long?

Dean Cavanagh - Mmm, probably the fact that I was never really interested. I've been on a few shoots when our scripts where being filmed and it looked too stressful to be honest. I would never have tried it without Alan McGee encouraging me. Also, I suppose, it just felt right. I've been letting my intuition guide me recently and this idea really pulled me in and energized me. The shoot turned out to be anything but stressful. It was a real pleasure and I got so much from it, I think we all did. Roger Evans, Joanna Pickering and Gavin Bain were great to work with. Roger's the most experienced of the actors but they all gelled.

ZANI - What is "Kubricks" about?

kubricks dean cavanaghs directorial debut matteo sedazzari zani 2.Dean Cavanagh - A couple of years back I got really interested in writers like Rob Ager and Jay Weidner and their interpretations of the films of Stanley Kubrick. Rob's website Collative Learning is well worth visiting. All of Kubrick's films, especially his later ones, were very layered and heavy in symbolism. I started to watch them again from a new perspective and then had the idea of dramatizing a character with a Kubrick obsession. It's quite a simple concept but its execution is unusual and experimental. A young Scottish guy called Tom Mitchell was our director of photography and he came up with some wonderful ideas. It was a tiny cast and crew but everyone contributed. It kind of directed itself in a way. Me and Alan wanted it to be organic and that's how it came out. The rushes look beautiful.

ZANI - I heard that the film deals with magic. Is that right?

Dean Cavanagh - Well, depends how you define magic. It's a non linear journey into the mind of an obsessive character. Me and Alan really dig gnosticism and synchronicity and I'm particularly interested in quantum physics so there is a definitely a metaphysical angle to the film. I never told the cast or crew what the story was about so when they turned up they were blank slates in effect. Things just started happening and we molded a loose structure around reactions rather than actions if that makes sense? I know the actors were really angry with me at the start and that's exactly what I wanted to get the necessary disorientation and anger bubbling up. At one point I heard that Joanna Pickering was planning on setting fire to the Mongolian Yurt I was sleeping in.

ZANI - Is it true that you had an on-set psychiatrist?

Dean Cavanagh - Chris Madden is a neurolinguistic therapist actually. I used to run Soundclash with him in the early 1990's. He's a great character and really brought something to the shoot. Besides having the cast and crew in stitches he was invaluable for winding everyone up and getting inside their heads. A real motivator. The whole shoot was a bit of a mind-fuck to be honest. Alan was on top form with way out stories and bonhomie. We managed to capture some pretty uncanny moments and I've no doubt it's because of the personalities we had gathered together. Alchemy.

ZANI - This is Gavin Bain's first acting role isn't it?

Dean Cavanagh - Again, depends how you define that word, Gavin's a musician from Aberdeen and lived as an American rapper for five years. Him and his partner got a big deal with Sony by pretending to be from California, so in my opinion he deserved an Oscar for his scam. Me and Irvine Welsh wrote a script based on his book "California Schemin'" but like 99% of all British scripts it never got made. So no, it wasn't his first acting role, it's just that this time his performance was captured on film.

Me and Irvine Welsh wrote a script based on his book
ZANI - Your son, Josh Cavanagh, co-directed. What was that like?

Dean Cavanagh - Cool. He was great at keeping it all together and reassuring the actors that they weren't part of some elaborate reality TV wind up thing. He thinks I'm a mad fucker for some of the stunts I pulled to get performances I wanted, but deep down he knows that I had a plan. I really wanted the shoot to be a joyful and enlightening process with strange inciting gestures thrown in to mess with everyone's perceptions of what they were doing. We think it worked, and besides, you can't make a film with Alan Mcgee and not push the envelope so everything eventually became integral.

ZANI - You've got a bit a reputation for not doing things by the book haven't you?

Dean Cavanagh - I can't say because I've never read this mythical "book". I think I'm just acutely aware that we've only got a certain amount of time in this illusion called life and I'm compelled to try make it as interesting as possible for myself. I've always been of the opinion that you should first and foremost entertain yourself and if others find it entertaining that's cool, but ultimately it doesn't matter. I've seen too many genuinely creative people bend over backwards to 'please' others and I feel they are misleading themselves more often than not. Fame, money and success are not things that interest me because invariably they become your prisons. I've absolutely nothing against people reaching for those things if that's what they really want, it's just not for me. I'd be more than happy to just modestly survive and keep creating on my own terms.

ZANI - We first met in 1991 when you were doing the Herb Garden magazine and we were doing Positive Energy Of Madness. What are your thoughts on those days?

kubricks dean cavanaghs directorial debut matteo sedazzari zani 4.Dean Cavanagh - I'd actually already got bored of the house scene by 1991. I'd been running clubs in the North for a few years by then and could see the scene getting sucked into the mainstream. I started The Herb Garden with Dave Gill and Nicky Muff. Muffy unfortunately got banged up and I was actually only involved in the first few issues of the mag. I do tend to lose interest in things when they deviate from the attitude of how they start. The Herb Garden was good fun for a while. It was simply a piss take but I still get people asking about it 21 years later. Yeah, the first wave of the House scene was really exciting. Besides Soundclash in Leeds with Andrew Weatherall and The Rootsman I really enjoyed doing Meltdown at a tiny club in Shipley near Bradford. I used to laugh when I'd read about Shoom down in London getting all the praise for being daring and experimental. We'd been mixing House, Soul, High Energy and Hip Hop with Rock and Reggae and whatever for ages at Meltdown. We also had a crowd that you couldn't invent: real villains, football hooligans and gypsies rubbing shoulders with townies, hipsters and boozers. The early club nights I ran always had an element of danger and to be honest I really enjoyed it. It actually got a bit too dangerous eventually.

I remember the night I realized I'd had enough of the House scene. Because we were pretty high profile we had the Drug Squad from Bradford and Manchester on our backs and I'd been threatened by some real hardcore villains. Funnily enough I could handle that, but we'd sold out a 3000 capacity venue and had a fucking "superstar" DJ putting records on and I was hating every minute. It had become a business and that was never the intention so I jacked it all in. The one thing that always pulls me back to the Northern/Modern Soul scene is the fact that it never sold out. It makes me laugh when I read about all these people saying they are "Northern Soul" fans. When you start talking to them about it you realize they haven't got a fucking clue. They've probably bought a 'Now That's What I Call Northern Soul' compilation from Asda and now figure they've got a hook on it. Same with all these "mods" that have crawled out of the woodwork lately. I don't remember any of them at the Scooter Rallies in the early 80's and in fact by then the cool "mods" were custom chopping up their Lambies and Vespas at Arthur Francis, wearing leather jackets, sporting flattops and listening to psychobilly. There's a hell of a lot 'lads' reliving a youth that only ever existed in their imaginations.

ZANI - I saw that Book Slam called you a 'cultural polymath' recently. Would you agree with that?

Dean Cavanagh - Huh, that means a person of great learning. I've never had an education other than the cultural one that I chose. I'm really not bothered what people call me as long as it's not slanderous. The older I get the less I'm interested in how I'm perceived. It's cool that some people are interested in what I do but I'd be doing it whether anyone was interested or not.

ZANI - What do you enjoy the most? Writing? Directing? Making music? Doing art?

Dean Cavanagh -I don't make any distinction really. It's all just creating. I think the best job I've ever had was a community service thing ran by Bradford Council in the mid 1980's. They took a load of us "dole scum" and let us run wild in the beautiful countryside near Ilkley under the pretense that we were fixing fences and generally cleaning it up. Most of the lads were fresh out of Borstal or Armley and we were out in all weathers, but mostly sunshine. It was like being in an Alan Bleasdale play, seriously. Six months of non stop laughter in the countryside illuminated by sunshine. Perfect.

I think the best job I've ever had was a community service thing ran by Bradford Council in the mid 1980's
ZANI - Have you never wrote about the experience? Never thought of dramatizing it?

Dean Cavanagh - It would never get made nowadays, especially for TV, it might have done in the 80s. It wouldn't fit the insulting working class stereotype of what TV commissioners want to produce right now. I don't think I could be arsed explaining all the subtleties, nuances and authenticity of 1980s working class youth to them. They'd want to turn it into a caricature. It's what they are good at and it gets them BAFTA's and keeps them in free taxies and salaries, which is fundamentally all they really care about.

ZANI - Is it true that your next film is going to be shot in a chapel that Alan McGee has bought?

Dean Cavanagh - Yeah, it's based around a cult trying to contact the Dog Star Sirius. We're trying to work out when best to film as it's in the middle of nowhere and we don't want to get marooned in the snow. Or maybe we do so we can form our own cult. Only joking...or am I?

Read 6140 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 November 2020 17:51
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Matteo Sedazzari

Matteo Sedazzari

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ZANI was conceived in late 2008 and the fan base gradually grew by word of mouth. Key contributors came from those of the music, film and fashion industry and the voice of ZANI grew louder. So, when in 2013 investor, contributor and fan of ZANI Alan McGee* offered his support to help restyle and relaunch the site it was inevitable that traffic would increase dramatically and continues to grow. *Alan McGee co-founder of Creation Records and new label 359 Music..


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