Ed Gibbs and Rubika Shah

As their latest short doc begins its festival journey, premiering in Sundance this month, and heading to Berlin next, we ask London-based filmmaking duo Ed Gibbs and Rubika Shah for their film highlights.

What’s your connection to the British Council?
Mainly through the Shorts Support Scheme and travel grants, which have been invaluable. As independent documentary filmmakers, we would not be able to attend festivals and support our films without it. We are truly grateful!
RS: The great thing about the grants is that they also give you access to the Shorts Support Scheme and its series of film events and screenings over the year – which really feels like ongoing development.

Any possible future collaborations in the pipeline?
EG: We are working on a pair of feature documentaries, which expand on the themes and eras explored in our doc shorts White Riot: London and Let’s Dance: Bowie Down Under. We are also developing other projects, separately: for me, other music-related pieces, both long- and short-form, plus some commercial work to pay the bills!
RS: Several other projects, both factual and music. Watch this space!

What are you working on right now?
EG: A feature documentary about music, punk and politics, which we’ve been developing with Creative England. The late 1970s in Britain is a fascinating period in popular culture and social history – and has incredible resonance and relevance with today’s landscape, particularly given the political upheavals of the past 12 months (which are ongoing, of course).
RS: That and the Bowie doc – which is a wider exploration of some of the themes in the short, and of popular culture at the time.

What/who originally turned you onto film?
EG: As a young kid, watching British classics like The Ipcress File and The Italian Job on TV when I wasn’t supposed to! John Ford westerns featured heavily, too. Later, when I was studying film, the possibilities of storytelling expanded even further. Jarmusch and Spike Lee were both important in my cinematic development. When We Were Kings and One Day in September turned me onto docs.
RS: For me, a more recent film, Little Miss Sunshine, is one that I keep going back to. For story and structure, it is perfect. In terms of learning the craft of filmmaking, this came after I had worked in the music industry (at Universal). I had been writing scripts for quite a while and finally, in 2011, I took the plunge and took a course in filmmaking. I followed this by a stint in the South Pacific, tracking venomous snakes for National Geographic. Hardly a text-book way into the industry, but there you go.

What has been your career high so far?
RS: Attending Sundance is a great privilege. It is also a huge validation of all the hard work and sleepless nights we have had with this film (and our other films). Another major highlight has been meeting Robert De Niro, at Tribeca last year.
EG: Without a doubt, attending Sundance as a filmmaker/producer. I have been covering Sundance (and other festivals) for many years as a critic, journalist and broadcaster – and been fortunate to meet and interview some truly amazing people, like Martin Sheen, Catherine Deneuve, Spike Lee, Robert Redford and many others. ­But to be going with a film is something else entirely. I’m still pinching myself.

What was your first job in the film industry?
RS: I used to edit music and news videos for a number of newspapers and TV channels, so a video editor, I suppose.
EG: I made the switch to filmmaker/producer about five years ago, having been a critic and journalist for many years. I still review, of course – but storytelling comes first!

If I knew then what I know now… 
EG: Hard work and persistence pay off. The film industry can often feel elitist, even intimidating – but if you have good ideas, are a people person and work hard, you can find your way through. Story is always king.
RS: Perseverance is key for me. If you have a story to tell – whether it’s yours or someone else’s – you have to stay focused and look toward your goal. It can be challenging, daunting, upsetting and even infuriating at times, especially when you come up against hurdles, but you have to find a workaround and move forward.

What is your favourite British film? 
RS: A tough question. So many films spring to mind, particularly some of the more recent ones: Man on Wire, Trainspotting, East is East, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Slumdog Millionaire, AMY, 28 Day Later, American Honey and so many others. I am going to pick Four Lions, though, as it was one of the funniest films I had seen in a long time – and it didn’t compromise on depth and meaning.
EG: Incredibly difficult to pick one – but I’ll say Don’t Look Now. Nic Roeg is one of my favourite British filmmakers, and it was made during a golden age of cinema.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be? 
EG: Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison doc, Living in the Material World. It’s such an elegant film, on so many levels – and given the depth of Harrison’s music and points of view, you’re left wanting more. Which is testament to a truly great artist, of course. Both for Scorsese and Harrison.
RS: Brett Morgan’s Crossfire Hurricane is the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll music doc for me. It’s a rollercoaster of a film that just keeps delivering, beat after beat.

What’s the first film you remember seeing? 
EG: In the cinema? Probably E.T., when I was a kid. Seeing movies on the big screen was a revelation for me. It opened up another world.
RS: A re-run of E.T., when I was four or five. When I was 11, we moved to Saudi Arabia, where we didn’t have access to cinema like we do in the UK. I missed out on that part of film culture as a teenager.

What’s your favourite line or scene from a film? 
Michael Caine marching outside, stark naked, with a shotgun in his hand (in Get Carter) after a busy night. It’s funny and alarming at the same time. Only someone like Caine (or Ray Winstone) could pull that off.
RS: Bowie’s opening scene in Labyrinth.

Favourite screen kiss? 
EG: Too many! Pass.
RS: Has to be Ingrid Bergman with Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.

Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
EG: Sean Connery as Bond. We would all like to be that cool.
RS: David Bowie in Labyrinth.

Who would play you in the film about your life?
EG: Ask Rubika!
RS: For Ed, maybe Ben Affleck? For me… Maybe Salma Hayek, as she could pass as Asian (with lots of make-up).