Film interview: David Gledhill and Kerry Harrison on We’re Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time

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FIRST-TIME feature filmmakers David Gledhill and Kerry Harrison have vivid memories of shooting the title sequence of their film We’re Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time.

“The opening scene of the film is, in a way, our introduction to the Lake District,” explains 39-year-old Harrison, a professional photographer from Leeds. “It’s of a camper van at a distance winding down a treacherous Honister Pass.

Sam Allen as David and Kelly Wenham as Liz in a scene from the film We're Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time.

Sam Allen as David and Kelly Wenham as Liz in a scene from the film We're Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time.

“When we got up there I’ve never seen weather as bad, it was truly terrifying.

“It was a 60s camper van that was hard to control. We had to get down to the bottom first – we knew the camper van was never going to get up there again. The rain was pouring down; the road was like a stream. We filmed it with three cameras in different places.

“David was driving. The van had drum brakes. One of the guys [with a camera] drove to the top of the pass.”

“When I got to the top I realised how bad it was,” says Gledhill, 42, from Sheffield. “It was like the end of the world.”

“It was like being at war – and that’s no exaggeration,” Harrison recalls. “It was that dangerous.”

“I remember thinking I’m going to die,” says Gledhill. “I was thinking, ‘He better be filming’. At the bottom I was white as a sheet.”

To top it all, the Mercedes minibus that they’d hired to transport the small film crew was seriously damaged in the gale. “One of the doors was missing,” says Gledhill. “It had been ripped off in the wind.”

“It took six of us a long time to get it out of this stream,” smiles Harrison. “It’s illegal to drive with no door on your vehicle but we had to carry on filming.

“We broke the camper van as well. We pretty much wrote off two vehicles.”

“The only vehicle we had to get us all out of there was a Ford Fiesta. I remember thinking, ‘How are we going to do this?’”

Thankfully they all survived to tell the tale and, a year later, are ready to finally show their finished movie.

The story behind We’re Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time is as remarkable as the film itself.

Gledhill, a musician best known from Skint & Demoralised, a Yorkshire pop meets poetry duo who once signed to Mercury Records for £200,000, drew on real life inspiration for the screenplay about a tale of a man recovering from the loss of his soul mate.

The title itself was the “mantra” of Gledhill’s partner Tracey Wilkinson, who was born with cystic fibrosis. When the couple first met, in 1997, Tracey had recently had a double lung transplant. During the course of their 15-year relationship she was regularly treated at Leeds Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit for the effects of the condition, which slowly destroys the lungs.

Writing a screenplay, which follows the first year of bereavement for a character called ‘David’, was, Gledhill admits, a way of coping with the tragic inevitability of Tracey’s illness.

“As she was getting toward the end of her life she wanted to talk to me more and more about what she wanted me to do when she died,” he explains. “She wanted me to go out and to travel.

“Some of the conversations were funny – some were about getting a dog and a camper van.

“I was not coping really well with the fact that she was dying. I sat down at a computer and wrote a script about a bloke called David. It’s a piece of fiction. The story is based on conversations that we were having, but it’s more than that.”

In December 2011 Gledhill sent the script to Kerry Harrison, a friend he’d known since their mid-teens; they’d gone on to perform in bands. Harrison was now a professional photographer and maker of commercial videos and Gledhill he would make the ideal film director.

“I remember thinking if I don’t hear anything he doesn’t think it’s very good,” recalls Gledhill. “But he called me within half an hour or so.”

They arranged to meet at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield. Immediately, Harrison says, he “knew it was something I could really do, that I cared about”.

Nevertheless Gledhill was convinced finance would be an impediment. “As we were walking round I said, ‘We are going to need at least 50 grand to do this. Kerry stopped and said ‘Why?’ I thought, ‘I’ve no idea.’ He was always, ‘Why can’t we do this?’

“Because I had been doing videos I knew the industry had changed,” says Harrison. “I knew I could do it really cheaply without compromise.”

The pair funded the entire budget of £13,000 themselves. Harrison already had a £2,000 video camera; they allowed themselves a crew of just five. To save money, they relocated the film’s setting from the Scottish Highlands – a favourite place of his Tracey’s – to the Lake District and North Yorkshire. Tracey, who’d read the script and “loved it”, suggested alterations to the final scene.

Then, a few months into pre-production, tragedy struck. Tracey’s condition suddenly worsened and on April 17, she died aged 47.

In the difficult months that followed, the film project took on added importance. “Everyone involved in the film had a sense of, ‘We are going to finish this film and we are going to make it great,” says Harrison. “It felt like a dedication to Tracey.”

“Lots of people worked for nothing,” adds Gledhill. “They went the extra mile.”

Locations around Keswick were recced in a weekend. Says Harrison: “One scene was set in an old-fashioned petrol station – we found one that was owned by a guy who had helped with the shoot for Withnail and I.”

The house, which features in an important party scene, belonged to a friend of Gledhill’s from Sheffield. While out on an early morning walk in Keswick Gledhill happened to bump into him; his friend said they could use the house free of charge. It also served as the crew’s accommodation during the three-week shoot.

The fireworks scene was shot on Bonfire Night at a real display in what Gledhill describes as “guerrilla filmmaking”.

“We did not have any permission, we could have been kicked out at any time,” admits Harrison. “People were leaving the display. I remember thinking if we do not get this right we are going to have to pull this scene.”

The pub they used, in Driffield, had recently closed down. “They’d left everything as it was,” says Gledhill.

“Only one person charged us for a location,” says Gledhill. “That was a farmer who charged us £80 for his campsite.

“That’s the nicest thing about this film,” he adds. “It made people behave really lovely.”

Up and coming actors play the two main characters. Sam Allen, who plays David, is an American who has lived in England for the past 10 years. Believing he was “too handsome” for the role, Harrison made him grow a beard and “have a crap haircut”. “He looks like some bizarre fisherman from 1973,” says Gledhill. Allen recently landed a speaking part in a film with George Clooney; he’s also a body double for Johnny Depp in another movie.

Kelly Wenham, who plays Liz, the woman who befriends David after they meet in a layby, Gledhill remembered from an episode of the TV series Life on Mars. “She’s a bit like Tracey – very forthright,” he says. Before joining the shoot for We’re Here for a Good Time Not a Long Time she was making a film with Vigo Mortensen.

She also provided her Chihuahua to play David’s pet dog – saving the filmmakers the £500 a day cost of hiring a trained animal. “He was brilliant,” says Gledhill. “It was a mostly male crew but the instant the dog was around we all fell in love with it in about five minutes,” Harrison adds.

The film was edited by a friend in his loft in Meanwood, Leeds. After four arduous months of post-production, the pair say they have “a newfound respect” for the role of producers.

We’re Here for a Good Time Not a Long Time had a test screening at Hyde Picture House in Leeds earlier this month. They’re now looking for a distributor. It certainly deserves an audience.

Harrison reflects: “I hope we have not made a film that looks like art for art’s sake. We wanted to communicate something – to show that grief and bereavement is hard. The film is really honest about it.”

“In this country people don’t like talking about death or illness or bereavement but because of the age I am I’d like people to talk about it,” says Gledhill. “Most people have lost somebody. We tried to make a film that somebody would be able to relate to on many levels and not have to go through what I went through.

“The start of the film is quite bleak but it doesn’t stay there,” Harrisons adds. “That’s what bereavement is for most people.”

“Tracey would have loved the film,” believes Gledhill. “She used to say, ‘Your life is not over when I’m dead.’ Most people love the idea of living each day like it’s your last – Tracey said it was easy for her because she knew that. We’re here to have a good time, not a long time was her mantra.”

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Yorkshire artists on soundtrack

FOR the soundtrack to We’re Here For a Good Time Not a Long Time David Gledhill and Kerry Harrison turned primarily to West Yorkshire musicians.

Leeds band The Somatics are featured alongside Ryan Spendlove, from Gawthorpe, near Wakefield.

The score was composed by Andy Duggan, a 35-year-old multi-instrumentalist– and great-grandson of the Leeds United winger Harry Duggan – who formed the bands Albert Ross and the Otters, The Black Sea and The Mothers of God. For two years he played keyboards for the Pigeon Detectives.

Duggan had previously composed music for Harrison’s short films and fashion videos. When the director approached him with a rough cut of various scenes, he says: “I wanted to do it straight away. It looked beautiful and it’s incredibly moving.

“The thing I did before this was the theme tune for The Gadget Show [on Channel 5]. It could not have been more different. That was electronic, bleepy – it was the polar opposite. I had to approach this sensitive and emotional film and distil that into music.”

He’s succeeded remarkably, with a beautifully understated score befitting the tone of the film. There’s talk of it being released as an album. Duggan hopes it will lead to other offers.

Two days after Christmas he relocated from Leeds to New Zealand with his wife Laura Haughey and their 20-month-old daughter. Haughey, a drama lecturer, has landed a short-term lecturing and research job. “We’re not looking at emigrating,” says Duggan. “It could be forever, a long time or we could be back in six months.”

Having packed his drum kit, piano, guitars and mixing desk, Duggan is looking forward to recording a solo album in their rented house that overlooks the sea. Called Neither Work Nor Leisure, he says: “It sums up my musical journey so far – because I have to do it to pay the bills.”

Universal Music New Zealand have already shown an interest. Having spent 10 years writing for bands, he says: “I’m looking forward to doing it all myself. It’s maybe what I needed at this time in my life – to be in complete control.”

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