No Distance Left To Run

The directors of the intimate Blur documentary take us behind the scenes of one of this year's greatest love stories

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Personally, I want to take the word 'bromance' out into some quiet, deserted parking lot, put a black plastic bag over its head, pull out a bicycle chain and release a little tension, which is why I would rather describe No Distance Left To Run – the exhilarating, uplifting and intimate inside story of one of Britain's greatest bands – as a love story. Directed by the audaciously talented up-and-coming directorial duo of Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, this has to be one of the greatest non-fiction films about friendship, break-ups, rivalry and reconciliation ever commited to celluloid. Sure, the live performances are amazing, and it's a beautifully shot and brilliantly-crafted nostalgia trip, but what makes this life-affirming film so relatable, and gives it so much genuine heart, is the universal (ahem) story of two best friends burying the proverbial hatchet once-and-for-all. We took some time out with Southern and Lovelace, to find out what it was like to capture the reunion of one of this country's all-time greatest songwriting partnerships, and most innovative indie bands.  

Dazed Digital: How did it all come togther?
Dylan Southern:
 We knew the reunion was on the cards, so we put some ideas together and took them to the management company, and that got us through to the band. That led to a very surreal moment where we walked into the rehearsal studios and they were all sat around waiting for us, which was quite a strange experience. We very awkwardly told them what we wanted to do and I think Damon was a bit apprehensive at first, as he has just been the subject of six years filming for the Gorillaz movie. He sort of talked himself round during the meeting though, because during that first meeting they all got quite nostalgic, and Damon went from being kind of anti the idea to warming to it. Then we got a call two weeks before the first rehearsal saying it was on.

DD: So you were there right at the beginning?
Will Lovelace:
 They were already rehearsing once a month, their schedules permitting, and they had done few of those. We were there for all the intensive rehearsals and we watched it all unfold. We didn’t want to make something that was after the fact.

DD: Were you quite nervous at first to be so close to the band? It’s quite rare to be able to watch a band rehearse from inside the inner circle…
Will:
 Yeah, I certainly had a Blur poster on my wall when I was a kid. It was interesting during the rehearsal, developing that idea of who each of them actually was. Witnessing the reconciliation process was amazing, because it sort of happened through the music.
Dylan: At first it was quite awkward. On the first day we were there, there was a conversation where Damon was like, ‘Well, I suppose we are going to have to play Country House at some point.' Obviously, that was a bugbear for Graham in the past, but when the bass kicked in on "Country House", it was an amazing moment. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time in the film to put all of those moments in. It was fantastic to see them play a lot of songs that they didn't even play live in the end.

DD: Do you think it would have been different if you weren’t there?
Dylan:
 Maybe they wouldn't have just got on with it in the same way. At first, Graham was having a bit a trouble with the guitar part to "Out Of Time", which he didn't play on in the first place, and Damon was saying, ‘Just relax, because if you get tense, I'll get tense.’ The first one they played with us in there was "Battery In Your Leg", which was the last song that Graham had played on. It was sort of like they had subconsciously decided that they were going to do the hard stuff straight away really. People who have seen the film seem to have responded best to Graham, just because he is just such a lovable guy. I love it when he makes sure there are going to be ‘a couple of Crunchies’ in the band’s rider.

DD: It’s almost a love story between Damon and Graham in many ways…
Will:
 Yeah. We knew we wanted it to be about friendship, but when we were planning it out we were looking at the kind of genre conventions the story might fit into, and it was all a bit more macho at the beginning.
Dylan: We pictured it sort of like a Western, where these four guys get together one more time, but it sort of developed into a love story. The strongest friendship in there is obviously Damon and Graham, and it's also the most universal theme really, because everybody has that friend they have fallen out with, and been through that awkwardness of not being able to put it right. I guess the only difference is that those guys worked every day seven days a week with their best friends for years, and that is bound to get too much, eventually.

DD: So what was your favourite show?
Will:
 I really liked the Rough Trade show. It was Damon's idea to have it, and it was a very last-minute secret gig. I think there were only 150 people. It was probably the first time there had ever been crowd-surfing at a Rough Trade gig.

DD: And you deliberately steered well clear of the “war” with Oasis…
Will:
 We felt that everyone already knew that story already, and even though you can't tell the Blur story without including that, we didn't want to make a film about Britpop.

DD: It certainly feels very intimate; there are no pundits…
Dylan:
 From the beginning, we wanted it to be just from the point of view of the band. That thing of having people talking about them is just so annoying. The interviews were all quite successful really. I think they all made the individual decision to be very open.

DD: What influenced the way you shot the film? Some of the slow-motion parts are incredible. 
Dylan:
 I suppose all of the stuff in Colchester and at Walthamstow Dog Track was influenced buy Martin Parr’s photography. We always knew that we wanted the end to be really beautiful and slo-mo, and I think we actually wanted it to be a little bit like Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Originally, we just wanted them to walk out on stage at Hyde Park at the end, and just stop it there.
Will: The slo-mo idea really came from The Wild Bunch where they all get shot at the end. We shot all of Hyde Park on 100 frames per second so that was never intended to be coverage of a gig; it was always intended for the bar to be raised, to be a little bit valedictory, and very beautiful to look at. 

DD: It’s quite evocative of a certain notion of Britishness...
Dylan:
 Yeah, I think in the end, those ideas became quite a cosmetic thing, because it could have been so many different types of film. There's a review that was critical of us for us not mentioning Tony Blair and so on, but the friendship story just became so much stronger than anything else. The British identity thing is a big part of what Blur are and we wanted to work it in, but it doesn't take over at all. 

DD: Much has been made in the red tops of Damon’s mention of heroin, which he is pretty cagey about at best…
Dylan:
 Yeah, we got as much from him as we were going to get on that one. After the premiere all the tabloids immediately latched on to just those few lines from Damon about not really wanting to talk about it, and manufactured a whole story about heroin destroying Blur.

DD: And where do you think it all came together. During that incredible performance of "Tender", where the audience started to sing it back to the band?
Will:
 Yeah, I do think that’s just such an amazing moment at the Glastonbury show. On the bus afterwards, Damon was like, ‘We've done it now, that was the moment.’

DD: And you have just shot the "My Propeller" video for Arctic Monkeys. Are you going to stick with music-based projects?
Dylan:
 Working with the Arctics has been great, but I think we would like to do some documentaries that are really character-based next. I don't know whether it could become a bit of a cul-de-sac to do too many music-orientated things in a row. My favourite documentaries are by the Masel Brothers who do cinéma vérité stuff. I think something along those lines could be on the cards for the future.

No Distance Left To Run is currently playing in selected cinemas nationwide. Below is clip from the film, please visit blur.co.uk to find out more
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