Filmmaker Interview - Oliver Sunley, Director of Spoilt Ballot

11.07.2013 14:55

Internet Video Magazine Interviews Oliver Sunley, Director & Co-Producer of the independent British documentary "Spoilt Ballot".

See the trailers here



What is your film about?

Spoilt Ballot is a funny,short documentary about the relationship between stand-up
comedy and politics. It looks at the use of comedy from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to
contemporary political satire to see if there is actually any lasting weight to political
comedy. It’s a fast paced, humorous documentary that really just touches on the political
comedy platform: questioning the power of satire through others’ voices rather than
preaching any kind of message.

Oliver Sunley, Co-Producer & Director of Spoilt Ballet, a short and humorous documentary that explores the relationship between stand-up comedy and politics.

Why are you doing it? What is your message?

I approached Spoilt Ballot because I was interested in protest voting and political sway.
The protest vote’s been doing scarily well at the moment. During any difficult economic
period in history, the protest or reactionary vote’s always had a lot of power and thats been
very evident in Europe.

! There’s an enormous amount of power in comedy. Not just stand-up but on panel
shows or programs like The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. I wanted to see just how much
sway comedy actually has: when a comedian makes a joke at Cameron, Hollande or
Monti’s expense does it actually end up changing people’s opinions and affect elections?
On the other side you’ve got people like Boris Johnson and George Galloway who’ve used
comedy for political gain and PR campaigns built around using comedy to improve a
politicians image. Spitzer v Weiner for New York Comptroller should be an interesting
campaign- it’d take Saturday Night Live’s entire writing team of to clean them both up.





Who are the producers/director/editors?

The entire project was very much co-produced between myself, the film’s editor, Abigael
Crowe, and director of photography, Emily Hickmott. Abi’s cut material for BP and Emily’s
worked with music videos but we’d only ever messed around on tiny shorts together before
beginning Spoilt Ballot. Both have very different eyes- one clean, the other more unusual which
I tried to utilize to give the film a rough-polish aesthetic and mimic stand-up’s
rehearsed spontaneity. The soundtrack- looking back on Dr. Feelgood- was composed by
Drew York, Richard Spink and Max Newton.

Who is in it?

Spoilt Ballot stars Michael Smiley and John O’Farrell. John used to write jokes for Gordon
Brown and Tony Blair’s speeches and used to script a lot of satirist TV shows like Spitting
Image and Have I Got News For You. Michael worked in stand-up but he’s largely an actor
now. He’s in Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England at the moment and worked with him
before on Kill List.

We were also lucky enough to get the Canadian comedian Tony Law involved. I fell
in love with his surrealist style of comedy after I’d seen his show in Edinburgh last year
and just had to get him into the film. All the other comedians who appear- Steve Hughes,
Ian Moore and Doc Brown- were just kind enough to agree after The Comedy Store in
London gave us permission to film in their club. They were all playing on the same bill so
we managed to get all our stand-up footage in a single night.

How much is it costing and how did you raise the money?

Everything was entirely independently financed but we did manage to get a lot for free.
None of the contributors, venues or London boroughs charged us. I’d say the final cost
probably stood around £500 but most of that came from licensing the Charlie Chaplin
footage and paying for petrol to transport equipment.

What gear are you using? Cameras, mikes, editing software?

The film was predominantly shot in progressive high-definition using a single Canon XLH1
camera, though we had a two-camera set-up for the stand-up footage in The Comedy
Store. Mikes ranged from Sennheiser boom and shotgun mikes to having the audio feed
fed directly into the cameras in The Comedy Store with one channel being linked from the
comedian’s microphones and the other from mikes dispersed in the audience. We only
had one light- a terrible old fresnel lamp that kept overheating- so largely went with natural
lighting. The whole thing was edited and graded on Final Cut Pro 7 and the composers cut
the soundtrack together on Cubase.

What is your distribution strategy?

So far we’ve been trying to get the trailer out to as wide an audience as possible and all of
the contributors have been enormously helpful putting the link out on their twitter feeds.
We’ve also had some great people like Francine Stock- one of the head film critics at the
BBC- The London Short Film Festival and Russell Brand’s mother getting interest in the
film on social media so it’s really just been about getting the trailer to as big an audience
as we can before taking the it to festivals. From that point I’m just going to see how far I
can take it but at this stage its really just about the exposure.

What is your next project?

There are two lined up but both are at incredibly early stages. The first is another short
documentary: a study of the buckles in the French relationship with immigration in the
south and the north. The second, a feature, is more fleshed out and under the working title
‘Coded Sentence’. It’s about the rise of a black middle class in South Africa but both are in
their infancy.