Fiscal struggles can’t hold back the latest in music documentary director’s successful saga.
Times are becoming increasingly more difficult when it comes to the funding of arts documentaries. Gone are the days of generous investment from television; for now one must look further afield to the areas of private business and governments according to the acclaimed British film director Paul Grabsky who took the time to chat from his home in Brighton where he is currently editing a film on Henri Matisse. Elucidating on this point, he goes on to say that even “Australia’s own SBS network will pay only $180 per minute! Gone are the days of government funding of the arts and one must search for funding wherever one can.”
In spite of these difficulties, Grabsky continues to make films and to seek financial support for them. His ongoing series of “In search of …” films on important composers, have proved to be very popular here in Australia where the first in the series, In Search of Beethoven has become listed amongst the hundred most successful documentaries to be screened in local Australian cinemas. Yet according to Grabsky, he “didn’t set out to make an ongoing series of films on composers. Others felt that I should have started with Bach and I do have three recorded concerts filmed which could be adapted to similar purposes. Similarly we have filmed a couple of excellent concerts with [pianist] Leif Ove Andsnes covering the complete cycle of Beethoven piano concertos, but ultimately it comes down to funding.”
“Not that long ago, films like these would have been made for television broadcast. However the interest and finances just aren’t there anymore.” And it is this factor which makes the success of this particular series of films even more remarkable with their well-balanced structures given over equally to biography, musical performance and musicology. According to Grabsky, the latest in the film series came about when he “was offered the chance to travel to Warsaw to film a concert wherein all of Chopin’s orchestral works were being played. And so this would form the musical basis to the film and we built upon this with solo piano performances. And here I knew which pianists I wanted for the job – Leif Ove [Andsnes] with whom I’d worked quite a bit, Pontinen and I knew that [Daniel] Barenboim was central to this task. And as I’ve already suggested, the orchestral works were recorded in Poland whilst some of the solo performances were filmed elsewhere. For example, Andsnes was filmed in concert at Britten’s beloved Aldeburgh.”
And whereto from here? “I already have much filmed but where to use it. I did want to make a film in America on Gershwin but found it difficult to find funding for such a project. Given the level of philanthropy on which US arts bodies survive, it may be worth a second approach?”, he laughs. I’m also making films on art as such and am currently editing a new film on Matisse as we speak. And then there’s the recently refurbished Moritshuis in Den Haag with its marvellous Dutch masters (Rembrandt and Vermeer). The ideas are endless; we just need the funding.”
In Search of Chopin is showing now in Cinema’s across Australia. For full details of participating cinemas is available on the Sharmill Films website.