Looking for Charlie – The Documentary Premiere
Three years and three continents. That is what it took to make a feature-length documentary about the dark side of the silent era. But, on May 5th, in the UK’s City of Culture, our long-gestating labour of love finally received its world premiere to a packed-house. Looking for Charlie: Life and Death in the Silent Era is finally beginning its journey out into the world – and we cannot wait for you to see it and share in our journey.
What started as a simple ‘summer’ project grew and grew, transforming itself from a simple 45-minute biopic into a feature-length study of cinema and human frailty. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are our star subjects but as we travelled further and delved deeper into the history and culture of performing arts we found others whose stories we wanted to tell. And, most transformative of all, we were forced to face up to our own depressions and anxieties.
The past three years have been quite the personal journey. My life has been reshaped in ways I could not have possibly imagined and, like my co-director, Brett Sanders, I have faced deep personal challenges. But those events, those feelings, coincided with a filmmaking process about depression, suicide, and despair; the opportunity to reflect and to use our own experiences to explore a more fundamental candidate for the truth was too rich an opportunity (in spite of how emotionally painful it was at times) to pass up.
Whilst there is a lot that separates me from, say, a circus clown who took his own life at the turn of the twentieth century – there is also an essential continuity which ultimately allowed us to understand our subjects better. To paraphrase the American absurdist Hunter S. Thompson, objectivity could only take us so far. To really understand our subjects, we had to get subjective.
The result is a film that is as much about how we come to terms with our own traumas as it is a study of depression and despair in the silent era. It is a documentary about a specific time and a specific group of subjects, sure, but it is also a documentary which looks far beyond its original remit – which seeks to understand the continuity which connects our time, and the lives we lead, to the very birth of cinema.
May 5th will, I think, always be a special day for myself and Brett. Our world premiere was an opportunity to share a story that has consumed us for years – but it is also the first chapter in a new story. Over the coming months the film will be screened in several locations around the world. And, of course, the film is due to hit Amazon Prime by the end of the year. Thank you for following us this far on our journey – we can’t wait to share the final product with you.