Though myself and Directors Notes’ Editor-in-Chief MarBelle agree about a LOT of things, a love of football is certainly not a shared passion. So when friend of the site Lewis Arnold got in touch about his new lyrical short Sunday Sunday – a nostalgic ode to Sunday league football – it only seemed fitting that I talked to the National Film and Television School graduate about his football-focused film and why he’s going back to ‘grass roots’ with his filmmaking.
Last time you spoke to Directors Notes we were discussing your NFTS films Echo and Charlie Says, we’ve been following your career closely, but for those reading this who haven’t…what have you been up to in that time?
Since graduating from the NFTS I’ve been really fortunate to find myself working within television drama. I got my break on the last series of Misfits through Producer Nick Pitt and Executive Producers Petra Fried and Murray Ferguson. I owe them quite a lot for giving me the opportunity, as since Misfits I’ve had the pleasure of working on both series of AMC and Channel 4’s show Humans and I’ve also recently just completed an episode of Broadchurch series 3, which airs on Monday 3rd April.
Today though we’re not here to talk about your increasingly impressive TV work, but a new lyrical short you’re releasing Sunday Sunday – where did the idea to make this ode to Sunday League Football come from?
I had wanted to do a super short film that was a departure from my short films Echo and Charlie Says since finishing Misfits at the end of 2013. It had to be something with warmth that would also be short enough to sit on my commercial reel too. This is where the poem came into play.
At the time, I was directing a no budget music video for DJ Wookie, focusing around music and identity, and as part of the project I was put in touch with an artist called Dennis Just Dennis.
Dennis is this incredibly cool Liverpudlian whose also a very talented poet. He runs the open mic nights at The Railway in Tulsa Hill and at the time he was helping me to source some local punks for a music video. It was during one of his Sunday night gigs in The Railway, that I first heard him perform Sunday Sunday.
I just immediately connected with it, that love of the game away from the money and the turnstiles of the professional leagues. Grassroots football, the bags for goal posts game I grew up with at school. It took me back to playing at university, the fun and love of the game with all your mates against all that testosterone and male competitiveness.
I knew immediately I wanted to bring it to life visually within a short form piece. However, it has taken me three years to finally make it happen.
For me the film brings back some vivid memories of Sunday football (I was often that guy vomiting at the side of the pitch), what are you hoping an audience will take-away from the film?
Yeah I remember doing that once or twice myself after a boozey night out at university, but that’s what I love about the reality of Sunday league football. There are so many characters within that set up. The guy who thinks he’s Messi, the guy who is always stuck in goal, the overly competitive player and sore loser, all of them playing for the love of the game.
So I suppose I just wanted anyone who has ever played football or who enjoys the game, to be able to relate and recognise themselves or their team within both the visuals and the poem.
The kind of film that sparks conversation and memories between friends about their Sunday morning teams. Funnily enough, I haven’t played since the first year of being at the NFTS now, so for me I watch it and I end up reminiscing and missing playing. However my problem is, as much as I love football, I can’t play well at all, I’ve always been better at managing, a Mourhino type.
Can you tell us a little about the production of the piece? How long did it take to film, how big was your crew, what camera kit did you have at your disposal?
It was one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs I think I’ve done to be honest, as we needed to rely on such a big cast and I had zero money to do it.
Luckily I’d been trying to make it for the last three years, so had ended up pitching it to various crews and cast members on the TV shows I was working on. By 2017 I had built up a list of names of people I knew would be up for it or who I felt I’d be able to bribe with a pint to help out. Actors Dan Jilings and Andrew Knott both went as far as calling in other actors, from their own football teams in Manchester and London, to help me pull together a cast and crew of football enthusiasts. It even ended up being a real family affair, with my Dad playing the referee and poet Dennis getting involved to play one of the goalkeepers (the one in green). I’m still so overwhelmed by how many people gave up their free time to stand in the freezing cold and support the film. It was such a great group of lads, all of which have become quite good friends through the job, which was great to see.
We ended up shooting over two days, as the winter light meant we only got 7 hours to film within, with a crew of about 13. I also managed to get some of the Echo team back together including DoP Alfie Biddle and 1st A.D Ben Burton. We shot on the Alexa mini using Alfie’s Movi rig to help us get amongst the action and allow the game to flow.
What are you working on next and can we expect to see you dipping your toes into the short film arena again anytime in the near future?
I start production on a new TV show called Clean Break in July, which we’re currently writing and developing at Sister Pictures. I don’t have any plans to do another short film at the moment as I’m trying to focus on developing feature projects but as footballers say when asked about a possible transfer, you never know what the future holds.