Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Baftas: My big night with the A-listers

Belfast writer Glenn Patterson, who was nominated for an award for co-writing the Good Vibrations movie, tells what it's really like at one of the year's major film ceremonies

Belfast writer Glenn Patterson co-wrote the Bafta-nominated screen film Good Vibrations
Belfast writer Glenn Patterson co-wrote the Bafta-nominated screen film Good Vibrations

I spent last Friday in London doing what I have done nine times before, promoting a book (it's called The Rest Just Follows – that's me promoting it again). Saturday morning I spent talking to the critic Edmund Gordon who is writing a biography of the late and very great Angela Carter, my tutor at the University of East Anglia almost 30 years ago.

I told him the story of my first London publishing party – to promote a 'list', not a single book – a couple of years after I finished at UEA, at a restaurant-cum-nightclub in Covent Garden.

I told him how completely overwhelmed I felt – half the people there seemed to be from marketing and seemed not to care what it was they were marketing, so long as it made money – and how drunk, as a consequence, I got. Plastered, in fact.

I phoned Angela at some ridiculous hour blubbering about hating the whole publishing world. She invited me round to her house, sobered me up, and gave me a bed for the night. (She had a very young son and a very forbearing husband.)

The next day she took me to the reception for the Guardian Fiction Award where she introduced me to Liz Calder, Margaret Busby, and other independent and independently minded publishers. 'Always remember,' she said, 'that there are people who do this because they love books.'

Angela died a couple of years later. I actually drove past the spot where we said goodbye that day (the last time I saw her alive) on my way back to Covent Garden, with my co-writer Colin Carberry, his wife Shirley, my wife Ali, and our producer Chris Martin, on the way to the BAFTAs.

Robert our driver had given us some idea what to expect: the closed-off street, the security, the cameras and the people waiting to catch sight of people who weren't us ... the carpet; but the carpet was more like a runway, we could barely see the end of it, while on all sides stuff was going on – or maybe I mean off...

If I was reminded of anything it was of the closing credits of Dad's Army, the mix of bemusement and terror-only-just-held-in-check in the expressions of John le Mesurier, Ian Lavender, Arnold Ridley and the rest as they walk through the countryside on military exercise.

There was nowhere to go, but on – on!

And then we were inside the Royal Opera House and there was the very nice young man Bradley from BAFTA, who had been emailing for the past month about arrangements, and there too was Andrew Eaton, originally from Derry, another of our producers, with Linda, his wife, who was saying that if the men had to wear the dresses and the heels the carpet might have been a damn sight shorter. Linda, like Andrew, had been here before. Andrew has been producing films for nearly 20 years. Last year – as well as his involvement in Good Vibrations – he produced Rush, inspired by the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, directed by Ron Howard.

Good Vibrations had been nominated in the Outstanding Debut category. Rush had picked up four nominations including Best British Film.

In terms of budget and profile it is a much bigger film than Good Vibrations, yet it has always been clear to me from the way Andrew talks about it – from the way he talked again last night, to us and to other people – that he is as proud of the one as he is of the other. It is the pride taken in the well-made thing, whether you make it on twenty million pounds or a little under two.

In fact, as the night went on – inside the Opera House and later at the dinner in the Grosvenor House Hotel – that was what struck me most: the film world is full of people who actually love making films.

Some of them happen to be very famous and some of them wealthy beyond imagining, but the fame and the wealth are not – I am pretty sure – what got them started, or even principally what keeps them going.

Because the other thing that struck me was that whether it's your first one or your 10th, film is a very, very risky business.

All those people jumping to their feet and hugging and kissing when the name of someone in their circle comes out of the golden envelope, they are doing it because it has taken them all so long to get to this point.

The same with those embarrassing, breathless speeches: they are a gang.

We only had a small number of our own gang there last night, but believe me, had our names come out of the envelope we would have been hugging and kissing with the best of them.

In the end the name that came out was that of Kieran Evans, who wrote and directed Kelly + Victor and who – I hadn't realised until I heard his exclamation of surprise at the announcement – had been sitting in the seat in front of Ali all night. (He still looked to be in shock when he finally returned to his seat after the backstage photos and interviews. At one point there was a thump as he dropped the trophy. I leaned over and told him I would take it for him if it helped.)

Out of the four awards it was up for, Rush won one, for editing. Ron Howard, who collected it on behalf of his editors, Dan Hanley and Mike Hill, looked as pleased as Kieran Evans.

At the beginning of next month he and Andrew Eaton are off to the 86th Academy Awards – the Oscars – with Rush, as is another of Sunday night's winners, Steve Coogan, star, producer and writer of Philomena, whose old school friend (Steve's, not Philomena's) Ged Armstrong is a mate of mine.

As with every other field of endeavour, some people go a lot, lot further than others, but they all start off somewhere most of us would recognise.

Stephen Fry the host of the BAFTAs said something to this effect as he brought the awards ceremony to a close. He pointed into the camera (at least from where I was sitting in row R that's what it looked like he was doing) and addressing any young person still watching at 11 o'clock said you have to remember the film world is not a closed world. If you have an idea, a desire to make something, then try. That's what all the people collecting awards on Sunday night had done.

People asked Colin and me before we went had we written our acceptance speech and we answered truthfully, no, we hadn't, because it hadn't really seemed quite possible to us that we would win.

And anyway there was a line from the film that had always struck me as a good fallback in any situation where we were at a loss for words.

It was an even better fallback because the line wasn't one of ours, but was straight from the mouth of Terri Hooley himself: 'Good Vibrations isn't a record shop, it's not a label. It's a way of life!'

I think film might be a bit like that."

Award for Philomena

While Good Vibrations failed to pick up any awards, there was one gong for a movie partly filmed in Northern Ireland – Philomena (top). It is based on the true life story of an Irish woman's search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption. Played by actress Judi Dench

Other winners included:

Best Film: 12 Years A Slave

Leading Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years A Slave

Leading Actress: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

Director: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips

Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle

Fellowship: Dame Helen Mirren

Outstanding Contribution: Peter Greenaway

Outstanding British Film: Gravity

Original Screenplay: Eric Warren Singer and David O Russell for American Hustle

Original Music: Gravity

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