The Making of ‘Red Riding': a Trilogy of Murder, Corruption

“We try to talk about how it’s all going to hang together, but we don’t really want it to — we all want to do our own thing”

Last Updated: February 16, 2010 @ 12:50 PM

Who would have thought that anyone would turn up to watch these three films.

It started with a phone call from Andrew Eaton. He was planning a three-part crime-movie project called "Red Riding." He wanted me to direct the final film: "1983." The other two would be 1974 and 1980.
 
“Hi Anand, it’s Andrew. You wanna come to Leeds for four months, it’s quite cold and wet, it’s all about serial killers and child abuse and epic corruption. There’s not much money, but we’ll all have a great time.”
 
He was right. We did have a great time.
 
I lived in a gleaming glass and steel new build, on the Canal. Very chi-chi. John Dawson would have been proud. (You have to watch the three films to get the reference. I’ll drop a few more in just to be annoying.) Lots of leather and chrome, a brave new world.
The Credit Crunch hung heavy over all the for rent/ to let signs. A Starbucks was a 10-minute walk across this Brave New World. Past a war memorial and a lot of building works with no builder in sight. I loved that Starbucks. Grande Extra Hot Latte.
 
I remember 1983. It was the year I arrived in the U.K., big dreams and a very bad haircut. The Human League, Stranglers, Kajagoogoo. It’s frozen like a particularly intense and weirdly disappointing Hockney in my mind’s eye.
 
At dinner with the other two directors, James Marsh and Julian Jarrold, we try to talk about how it’s all going to hang together. But we don’t really want it to, we all want to do our own thing, so we talk about mutual friends and have a good old gossip and go back to the steel and chrome towers for some kip.
 
Art Department buys a load of rubbish to make Stainforth Green look like what we thought it should look like in 1974 — old cookers and fridges and armchairs. Next morning some of it’s been nicked and the security guard has been beaten up.
It feels like the desperation of the ’80s still runs under the surface here. Or is that just a southern media wankers philosophical spin on things.
There always has been poverty; there still is poverty. For all the gleaming new building going on (or not) 25 miles away, it feels very elemental here. Everywhere you look, great big pylons, power stations, huge old mines and collieries, some working, most abandoned.
If Lowry had drawn Texas, this is what it would look like.
 
The gear is all super duper digital shiny and new, cutting edge, the beautiful Red Camera. 4K of resolution to make dirt and desperation and decay look, well, suitably decaying. And I can’t help wanting to make it all look beautiful, the light flat but soft, David Higgs (DP) tutting over lenses and composition.
 
And in the middle of it all the cast, wandering in and out from Julian’s "1974," having a cup of tea with us before going off to play with James, all keeping it together, and, I suspect, having a better idea of how the whole thing hangs together than any of the three directors.
 
"1983" was one of the best scripts I had ever read. I didn’t read the others, didn’t see the films until all were done and dusted, one night at the National Film Theatre on London’s South Bank, universes away.
As I sat there in the dark, feeling the first two films take their snaky dark and terrible grip in my mind, I realized just how f—ing brilliant writer Tony Grisoni is. From first word to last over three films, he seems to have ingested David Peace’s books, and turned them into some giant Blakean vision. “To the North! Where we do what we want!”
Next to me some poor cineaste is fast asleep as "1983" draws to a close. He’s been in here for almost seven hours. It’s almost too much to bear.
 
But what fun.