Having started out directing music videos for Blur, Coldplay and Dizzee Rascal, Jamie Thraves' latest feature film looks at a man who abandons his family and starts living on the streets of London
A sweet black comedy, Treacle Jr follows the ever suffering Tom (Tom Fisher) as his escapist fantasies are humbled by the cold cell of reality. Fleeing the turmoil and pressures of work and family, he aims to shed his identity and takes up the life of a bum. All romantic notions of the travelling life are soon beaten out of him, then he’s faced with his worst nightmare: Aidan (an absolutely stand out performance from Aidan Gillen), an incessant stream of childish consciousness served with a gratingly nasal voice. Despite Aidan’a infuriating habits, Tom develops an almost fatherly attachment to the chirpy Irishman.
Director Jamie Thraves made a name for himself when made the Radiohead video for Just, and then went on to shoot videos for bands such as Blur, Coldplay, Blind Melon, Death Cab for Cutie and Dizzee Rascal. Rather bravely, Jamie funded Treacle Jr entirely with private money, borrowing a large amount of money from his sister and even re-mortgaging his house to foot the costs. Dazed Digital met up with Jamie Thraves to talk about his career and the benefits of funding your own film.
Dazed Digital: Were pop videos stepping stone to feature films?
Jamie Thraves: I don’t know if they were actually. When I started making music videos there weren’t actually many feature film directors I knew of that had come from pop videos. I really started in short films, my initial idea was to use short films as a stepping-stone to features, Martin Scorcese and Jane Campion had made great short film then gone straight into features, so that was my plan. For the Radiohead video for Just, I just made a short film over someone else’s music and it was the best platform I could possibly have, it got seen a great deal more than any of my other short films
DD: Was Treacle Jr. quite a personal story?
Jamie Thraves: There was an element of fantasy about it that I’ve heard other people describe as an AWOL fantasy, where you get those moments where life gets on top of you a bit and your going home and you’re in a car and you suddenly don’t take a turning you’re supposed to or don’t get off at the stop you’re supposed to.
There’s moments I’ve felt that at times. I realise from speaking to other people that it was something other people would identify with. Just that moment when you just want to escape who you are, with all the ties that you’ve got, and that moment where you just become anonymous again. I just wanted to see what would happen to me if that happened.
DD: The film’s quite open to interpretation, did you have an overall message or meaning in the ending?
Jamie Thraves: That’s how I like to work really, I don’t like to spell things out, I like people to be able to project. The best stories for me are the ones where you can’t spell it out, pin it down or put it into words, but you can feel it, the best novels are like that. In a way, if you can pin something down, then it’s almost a bit dead. I like the fact you can keep talking about something endlessly, for me that’s the most interesting kind of work.
DD: Why did you decided to fund the film privately?
Jamie Thraves: I didn’t even attempt to get money for it. I probably could have found funding, but I didn’t want to spend two years doing that. I wanted to make it when I wanted to make it and on my own terms. We had problems with financers pulling out of my last film and it ended up taking five years to make. I just didn’t want to do that again, it’s not a healthy way to make a film. I wanted to know what it was like to film where I had full control. We shot it very fast, and I think all that energy and spirit carries on into the film.
DD: How did working with Aiden come about?
Jamie Thraves: Aiden and I made a film together ten years ago called The Lo Down, which got really good reviews at the time and is quite a cult film in the UK. We become really good friends very quickly and remained good friends and have been talking about making another film for the past ten years.
DD: Where did Aiden’s character come from?
Jamie Thraves: It’s loosely based on a guy who’s a Dubliner who Aiden’s really good friends with. It’s inspired by this guy, it’s not his life story by any means. It’s inspired by his optimism; he’s an incredible character.
Treacle Junior is out this Friday