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Guy Campbell

"Let's go to Mars!"

July 10, 2016 / Yana Papaya / 2 comments

Words and story by Yana Papaya.

Edited by Maryana Kirakovskaya.

Photos made by Katherine Brook. 

Almost every girl dreams of becoming a film star and walking along a red carpet. Every boy who is interested in the cinema imagines becoming an actor or a film director. We grow up with a passion for the cinema, a constant desire to watch movies from all around the world. At least that is how it was in my family. I still remember how our family used to spend evenings during autumn and winter, gathered together, grab a cup of tea and a handful of sweets and jump on the sofa. We would switch off the lights and sit in silence, patiently waiting. We were waiting for another movie premiere or a well-known comedy to appear on the TV. We were so excited back in the day. We are still relatively excited to see a new movie with Johnny Depp or a classic black and white movie like “Some like it hot.” We can’t deny, we love movies and any thought that makes us think that we can become a part of that film industry makes us shiver.

Being far away from a real film industry we hardly know what usually happens on a set or how much effort and how many tears were shed while working on his or that Oscar nominated movie. This story will give us a chance to gain more knowledge related to a nature of the film business as we talked with a young professional who is passionately involved in the film production process.

Get familiar with the film industry from inside-out by reading inspirational, interesting thoughts by Guy Campbell, a British film assistant director as he tells us about movie life from a different perspective, which is pulsing out behind the scenes. He moved from the UK to New Zealand to discover a true balance of work and life and do more things that he purely enjoys, photography and cycling. In a typically-British modest manner, Guy shares his experience of working on such big movies as “Anna Karenina”, “Belle” and “Captain America”, putting up a charming smile on his face. Talking about working moments he takes a moment to think it over, you can tell that this job means a lot and takes lots of himself, as it requires much patience, organisational skills and sacrifices.

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Guy Campbell is a mysterious and at the same time very open-minded, friendly person whom I am still learning about. I feel that I am at the beginning to find out what truly lies behind those eyes. At that point in time I noticed much hidden curiosity that usually kids look at the world with. Guy gives you such a penetrating look that offers you more than just a conversation, he is keen to share the experience with you, his deep thoughts or concerns about modern age. You like what you see in his eyes because somehow it brings you back to a childhood. And then you can easily go back in time and picture two of you running across the strawberry fields, catching cubes of a fresh air on your way and thinking about how many scoops of ice-cream you would have for lunch.

Luckily, he shared a childhood memory with us as his soul is gently filled with a feeling of nostalgia, Guy likes to reflect on times when he was a kid and things were different.  Aside from young years, Guy has an opinion on why Great Gatsby movie didn’t get the Oscar or what the independent movies have lack of, what he especially likes about New Zealand and what he strongly dislikes about this modern age.

When I was a kid I didn’t really like films. I was a great reader back then. I always loved news and for a while I had a part time job as a paperboy. I was always the first one in the shop in the morning but the last one out, as I wanted to read all the papers. I used to get complaints because I would sit on the wall outside someones house and read their paper! As I got older, I saw a couple of movies that switched my thinking towards movies and suddenly I understood that the film can give you much more than just a pure entertainment. One of them was “Do The Right Thing” by Spike Lee that was set in Brooklyn in 1990 that for a 15-year white boy from England I had no reason to connect with it. For me the film director was an angry young black American filmmaker, who represented a direct correlation “this is what I see, this is what I am saying about my culture and this is what’s happening”. The other film that influenced me was “Empire Of The Sun” by Spielberg.

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When the film industry becomes your career, it’s hard to stay in the independent scene as usually those non-mainstream movies don’t have enough funding and film producers can’t afford to pay you much, if at all. When you are involved in popcorn blockbuster movies, you can be sure that you will be paid better, as well as be a part of some amazing filming experiences. So from my perspective some of the movies might be not very intellectually rewarding in terms of going to the cinema to watch, however I really enjoy the experience of being involved in the movie making process. But you are never going to turn down a film made by Scorsese or Spielberg!

I worked on a movie called ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ directed by Thomas Vinterberg – he is a lovely talented guy, but it was a hard filming process. He comes from the Danish industry, which is smaller, and much more fluid. His style of directing is unpredictable and things are changing all the time with everyone trying to catch up. When you are looking at his movie from the screen you are amazed by him as a director, but when you find yourself on the set working 18 hours a day, rescheduling your work all the time, because the director’s ideas are changing all the time, it’s quite frustrating and very tiring. But hopefully rewarding.

All fun working in the film industry depends on the people you work with. It’s an overused cliche, but yes, people you work with become your family. You spend more time with them than your family!

My whole personality is kind of fixing problems, helping people and being a person to make everyone’s day possible, so we can achieve what has been planned. I have worked a lot with crowds. My job is to put people into the right position and place within the movie. Select the right faces for scenes, to help tell the story outside the main actors. To plan everything and then to re-plan everything as things change. Sometimes it’s very hard to deliver. Sometimes I feel like my job and personality are so far apart, that’s why it’s challenging.

I also have a very short memory, which in this industry is helpful as you can easily forget how hard and crazy your rhythm was a week ago and move on, then do it again!

Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat with my comparativeley tiny of responsibilities and try to think how is  director feeling?

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Filming is all about constant learning.  I have learned about some interesting and strange things in this industry. I made a couple of friends through the film ‘Anna Karenina’ and suddenly I got introduced to this Russian community, a new culture for me. In this industry you have a special pass that gives you an extra access to places. Once you start embracing these sort of things as a bonus of your job, it becomes even more enjoyable.

Hundreds of Russians turned up church in London when we had a casting for ‘Anna Karenina’. There was one Russian lady who was married to a wealthy man. Playing a supporting role for her was more about having fun and doing something different as roles like that one are usually not paid well. And you understand that she was doing it for a different reason, she wanted to belong to that process. There were other Russian people who were so passionate about the book and the story,  that it made you think,  “Ok, now it’s time to read Tolstoy.” It was a fascinating job, a pretty cool process to get involved into.

The biggest kicks come when you find yourself standing in the middle of a film set that has been entirely built and constructed, such as ‘Captain America’. 1960’s New York was recreated, vintage classic cars were shipped in from America,  the streets of Manchester re built, removing everything modern, even adding steaming New York drains. Then on ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ when they created an 1840’s rural farm, covering the walls with flowers that changed in for the seasons, and creating a horse track across a field.

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‘Dallas Buyers Club’ movie was the one that deserved Oscar. To me It felt like a ‘real’ movie compared to something like ‘Great Gatsby’. It’s just has a kind of a reality and rawness. Dallas Buyers Club was one of the recent movies that drew me in. I also really liked ‘All is Lost’ – about a man being lost in the middle of the ocean. It’s a solo performance by Robert Redford, stranded on his boat in the middle of the ocean, trying to fix problem after problem by himself. His performance is fantastic. Just watching a actor performing for two hours alone requires a formidable talent.

Sometimes I don’t want to like a film, for example “The Lonely Man” directed by Tom Ford. Here was this fashion designer, making a movie. I imahined it would be all style, a vanity project. But then I found I actually loved it. I thought it was beautiful and I liked that kind of 60s Art Deco look. He did it in such a good way that I had to give up and accept that it’s a good movie. On the other hand, I think of Madonna’s movies!

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My brother and myself grew up in a small English village. I remember there was one very foggy morning, we were young, five or six years old maybe. We went outside in just our dressing gowns on. We walked all around the whole village in this fog, had a little adventure on our own and came back home to and sat down to watch Sunday morning cartoons. It felt absolutely normal and interesting. Now the idea that you have a 5-year old kid who gets up in the morning and leaves the house for a walk. It would make any parent freak out. I feel quite privileged to have had an adventurous childhood, when I could go out and seek out my own little adventures. And it would be OK and no one would question it. I like those old times when things like that one were allowed and no one would complain and it was socially acceptable.  

Nowadays the focus is so much on the entertainment and digital availability. Everything is getting democratised, there is so much content online. Previously going to the movies was an adventure, it was something very exciting and anticipated. You can watch a movie now at home, on your laptop, while surfing the internet on your ipad and chatting to friends on your phone. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Everyone’s attention span has become shorter, so it is harder to tell a story and deliver a message.

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When I was a kid people in general had cheap crappy cameras. Point and shoots. So if you had a proper camera, you were a photographer. Nowadays everybody has a photographer’s camera. If you are out there on the street trying to take a nice picture, you just look like any other idiot with the camera and you get treated like that.

When I travel around and I go out with my camera and find another fifty people around taking a shot at the same spot,  I lose interest in the photograph. It’s hard to stand out. Ten years ago if you were taking pictures of your everyday life, it was super interesting and you were considered unusual. Now with things like the Instagram App, absolutely everyone does it, and you are not doing anything new.

It’s still a learning experience for me living in New Zealand. I have never been an immigrant before, it’s a new role for me, as I am just a person who wants a job, a place to live. The things that are really nice about New Zealand also might turn out to be the hard ones. New Zealand looks and feels to me like England might have 20 years ago. And I see where it can grow and develop into. And I worry that it will lose some of the things that make it attractive.

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There is a lot to appeal to someone with the lifestyle here. People have much more time to spend the way they want to. It’s a laid-back and friendly life style. But it can be quite hard to get into that world, beyond people’s friendly exterior and into their lives. There are still many people here who have lived and stayed or come back to the same neighbourhoods all their life. While in London for example, and other big cities, people tend to change their city, career and explore the world. They are looking for friends, new people to share something with.

The things I miss about London are also reasons why I left. I miss the anonymity of going out and not meeting anyone that you know.  I like this kind of freedom. In a place like Auckland, you do bump into familiar people quite often. I miss the city buzz and an ability to walk down the street, watch the world and be left to your own thoughts. You don’t matter to anyone else.  However I am trying to learn to enjoy it, as perhaps now I would like to feel more like i belong.

Ideally I would like to have heaps of money and live in 1920s, so I can travel the world and discover it for myself. You would be the one who explores a new undiscovered place. Now, if you were to pick a place on a map, get a ticket and just go there, you will end up with ten Russians and five Germans and a old Chinese couple taking photos on an ipad.  It’s really hard to find a place now, which no one has visited, discovered and developed into a tourist destination already.  So Let’s go to Mars!

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