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Keep the Home-Fires Burning: an indie documentary project

Here is the second of my posts which has been suggested by my friend Philippa Toop. This is a really exciting project which the Beverley Folk Festival are participating in. The project involves local singer-songwriters from York and the surrounding area and is being run by a young  filmmaker called James Arden who is the founder and director of York Acoustic. James is producing the film on a low-budget and submitting the final film to film festivals. Capturing on film the likes of Boss Caine, Mark Wynn and Edwina Hayes, the project is an exciting mix and something which I am thrilled to be posting about!

York Acoustic

York Acoustic was founded in November 2011, collaborating with local bands and musicians to showcase their music through personal films. This new project Keep the Home-Fires Burningaims to shine a light on the talented music scene in York.” (Press Release for Keep the Home-Fires Burning).

The documentary is described by York Acoustic as “a  labour of love for all involved.” With cameras following York-based musicians on tour, it is a personal journey that heads across Britain, filming not only music at pubs and bars, but also festivals, BBC studios and behind-the scenes for album recordings. James describes the main aim of the project: “Rather than glorifying the lives of the musicians, we want to show the hard-working reality of gigging for a living…But it’s not just about the musicians – it’s also about the local venues, shops and individuals who support the York music industry every day.”

York Acoustic

And here is a bit of information about the filmmakers themselves:

Writer/Director – James Arden is a journalist and filmmaker who studied English at the University of York. As a student he founded York Acoustic and continues to direct the sessions. His latest short film has been screened at festivals in York, Leeds and London. James has worked on productions at Pinewood Studios and the National Film and Television School, and on the journalism side, Empire Magazine and Raindance Film Festival.

Director of Photography – Ben Bentley is a music photographer based in York. His work has been published internationally in NME, Vice Magazine, The Yorkshire Post and Northern Echo to name but a few. He has photographed Ian Brown, Liam Gallagher, Jake Bugg and many more. Ben has been involved with York Acoustic from the early days, collaborating as DoP on each session as well as taking stills.

To find about more about how the project started, I contacted James Arden to discuss the film in more detail. Here is the interview, enjoy!

York Acoustic

1. After being pointed in the direction of your project from a friend, I’ve really enjoyed discovering York Acoustic and the film you’re directing. It is obvious that you have a passion for music- if you could tell us a little bit about your love for music and where it all stems from and how it has influenced the work you do today.

I’m glad you enjoy the videos! I’m not a musician myself, so I think part of it stems from wanting to hang out with them to seem cool.  It’s hard for me to know exactly how music has influenced my work…I’ve got a fairly eclectic taste I think, so I’m sure all sorts of songs have inspired me in various ways.

York Acoustic focuses on acoustic singer-songwriters; Dylan, Young, Drake etc were some of my earliest loves, but I also love hip hop and electronic music. I think it’s important not to limit your interests. That goes for films too. I watch as many films as possible and listen to music all day. So being able to combine filmmaking and music for York Acoustic’s documentary is pretty sweet.


2. How did the idea for the film project begin and how did you gather everyone involved in producing the project?

I was at Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York last November, where a short I made was screening. It had been a few months since we’d done a session for York Acoustic – other commitments since graduating in July 2012 had made it difficult – but being back in York surrounded by filmmakers convinced me not to abandon what we’d built up. I also didn’t want to simply keep doing sessions, rather something more ambitious. The musicians in York are such great characters and ridiculously talented, so I knew a documentary could work. I spoke to musicians I’d never met before as well as those I knew already. Ben expressed his interest in being Director of Photography and I said ‘yes’ instantly. A few meetings with One&Other TV and hundreds of emails later, we were ready to launch the funding campaign and announce the project.

York Acoustic

3. There is obviously a wealth of musicians in York who have caught your eye- how do you decide who to follow for the project?

It was a tough call deciding who to include. I have a whole list of bands and musicians I would love to do sessions with in York, but with the documentary we have to be realistic about what we can cover given our budget. I also wanted to stick to acoustic singer-songwriters to ensure the film retains a specific focus. Ultimately I wanted a range of ages and to have a group of musicians I felt complimented each other. I’ve had suggestions thrown my way – some more appropriate than others – and I hope to film sessions with those we’ve been unable to include. Even within our announced line-up, the documentary will focus on some musicians more than others. Hopefully people will agree with the balance in the final film.


4. The city of York itself has a thriving musical energy. I lived in York for four years, and I can understand how a project like yours will have so much appeal. Is there any special reason you selected the York music scene to focus upon?

York is what I know! During my three years as a student I realised how much great local music was about and that’s why I started York Acoustic. I’m sure loads of cities have great scenes, but I still think for its size York harbours something special inside those walls. Having hundreds of pubs doesn’t hurt either.

York Acoustic

5. What is the main underlying reason you have produced this project?

I suppose if you had to sum it up, it’s to make a film that offers a real insight into music in York and the lives of gifted artists who are gigging and writing music day-to-day in order to do what they love. Some have already had big success, some don’t want it and some are pursuing it.  These aren’t people you’ll see on TV talent shows, but in my opinion they are infinitely more interesting.  In the process I get to hang out with musicians and fool around with cameras, so I can’t complain.


6. This current project is already gaining great interest- does this encourage you to pursue more music documentaries once you have completed Keep the Home-Fires Burning? Do you have any further projects lined up for the future?

For now, I don’t have any plans to make another music documentary once this is finished. I have a couple of short films that are in very early stages of development, so hopefully those will be my next projects. Until then, all my attention is focused on making Keep the Home-Fires Burning.

A big thank you to James for answering all my questions and thank you to Philippa for pointing me in the direction of this project!

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