Couch Talk 169 (Play)
Guest: Sam Collins & Jarrod Kimber, Death of a Gentleman
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. The guests today are Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber, makers of the coumentary, Death of a Gentleman. They talk about their four year journey in making the film, the various hoops they had to jump through, cricket’s misadministration and what they hope to achieve, amongst other things. So, it was 2012 when we last spoke. It is 2015, take us through the journey.
Sampson Collins (SC)– It has been a really long 3 years trying to make a film people would watch, trying to make a developing story, trying to persuade people to talk to us on the camera so that they could talk to us something other than here say and rumour.
Jarrod Kimber (JK)– As much as anything, work on our story, trying to work out how we show it to the people, trying to make a film that is not just for a cricket fan, but for everyone.
SC– Trying to make a sense of it as a documentary rather than… when I say documentary, I mean a feature documentary, we are going to make a theatrical documentary. We are trying to tell a story that is elevating it above something above television. It takes a long time to do that.
SJ– Obviously, when you try to do something like this, where you are making pointed argument against people in power in the establishment, there is going to be quite a bit of blow-back. What are the things that you guys had to go through to where you are now?
SC– There has been plenty. We have had a couple of stories in the newspapers last couple of days where we offered to show the film to the MCC and their members for free. We felt this was a film about how cricket is run is an important issue and we tried to take the pulse of the organisation that we considered to be the independent voice, the keeper of the game. Sadly, they can’t show the film to their members because it might upset the England & Wales Cricket Board, which is very disappointing. In the past we have had situation – ECB had refused us to speak to some of their employees; Claire Connor – the most prominent female voice in the game, which was a real shame. We wanted to represent the female voice in the game in the film and we weren’t able to. Jarrod has also encountered various difficulties.
JK– Yeah, rumours had started about me. my press accreditations were taken, I have lost work at Times. We also lost key interview sets. We lost some with the ECB, Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLC), Cricket Australia (CA).
SC– We couldn’t even get the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
JK– We couldn’t get Wally Edwards in the film. A lot of efforts are at the low level. Some of the men involved are the wealthy billionaires who don’t like it when the people stand up to them. There could be further ramification down the line.
SC– Or it just could be that their press offices aren’t very good.
JK– Realistically, we are making the film. If all that happens is all that happens. They can’t stop us from enjoying the game. That is all that kind of matters. If we have made any dent at all, the bad treatment of us is the only thing that the newspapers are interested in anyway.
SC– Let’s get this straight. The story is not glimpsing and glancing at the minor difficulties in putting a film together. The story is the fact that the second biggest sport in the world is being run terribly, being run to the ground, shrinking under the watch of the men in charge, and we need to do something about it. That is the story.
JK– This is a sport, for everyone listening to this podcast, this is our sport, and it is being run horribly and we are trying to show people how it is happening.
SC– We need all of you to understand whether it is through watching the film, or it is just through reading about this, or seeing the campaign that we are about to start, following that, through listening to people/journalists who are writing about this to understand that what is happening with cricket is wrong has to change. And you guys, as fans, need to start helping us do that. If we sit back and let this happen, if we sit back and let the administrators do what they have been doing, we won’t have any cricket to have in 5 – 10 years’ time.
SJ– We have a question from one of the listeners, from twitter – James – will the movie be watched by the people who are already drinking from the well who are dissatisfied with how the game is run and are aware of it? Are you hoping that you will be hoping to change the mind of an average cricket mind who is not that interested in the minutiae of cricket governance?
JK– There are quite a few kinds of people who are going to watch this film. There are people who don’t know anything about cricket, who have seen it and have outraged about it. There are people who are casual cricket fans, who knew nothing about this before and I think we have already changed minds, even though only a few people have changed it. And, there are people like us -there are plenty of them on twitter – who are passionate about the film because they want that story to come out. Our film is for everyone, it is for even those who don’t understand cricket because this isn’t just about cricket. This is about how powerful men think they can run things and no one is going to call them out on it. That is not a cricket story, that is a life story.
SC– This is why the film has taken a long time to make so that we can make something that can go to a wider audience. This documentary, fans, “Death of a Gentleman” is pretty much the same template as Virunga, pretty much the same template as The Cove. What we are talking about sis something precious, something important, something that people care about being destroyed by the pursuit of money. That is a universal story.
SJ– I want to talk a bit about your journey itself. I wanted to leave the content of the film itself to the viewers. You started when you started out in 2012 when you had a particular idea of what you wanted the film to be and hence the title and all that. But, it has transformed into something much larger which has made you make the movie into something that much longer as well. what were the points and what was the timeline like where you went through the metamorphosis where you start from Eddie Cowan to dying of Test cricket to where you see that there is a real problem of how cricket is run?
SC– I think what you are asking is – at what point did you realise you didn’t have a film and at what point did you realise how to try and salvage a film? We understood that Test cricket, or cricket, was a very rich area. If you are in a rich area, then you might stumble across things when things happen. Eddie Cowan getting picked for Australia – totally by chance our one friend in the game getting picked to play his Test debut the week we started making our film that we had been planning for months – that is the kind of coincidence that makes you think this is fated. But, I suppose we came back from our original tour and realised that Test cricket was in trouble, but the question then is – how do you make a satisfying film out of that? How do you make a narrative out of that – something that gives people something to build towards?
JK-There are a lot of documentaries that came out just before the financial crisis before we knew about it. They are really good films. They say, “Watch out guys, this is going to happen.” For the longest time, that was the film we were making. We knew everything was happening, but we didn’t have smoking guns, we didn’t have people in the backroom telling us, we didn’t have the people there telling us that there was something massively wrong happening here. While trying to make this film, the longer we did, the more the things came out. Some of that is just dumb luck….
SC– Our own incompetence, we became very lucky.
JK– Yeah! Essentially, we went from making a film like, “Ohhh! This is about to happen. Everyone watch out.” To be fair, it just probably would be watched by people who are massive cricket fans. When it is about a public scandal…. When we are using the journey of the game, and we are showing people what has happened and how far this has gone, we were incredibly lucky. I remember for the first year – year and a half it was a film just about Test cricket. And this is a film about something important to a billion people on the earth and something has gone horrible wrong.
SJ– When you do a documentary about something that is very active – where things are changing day by day, hour by hour sometimes.
JK– (Lalit) Modi tweet by Modi tweet.
SJ– Perhaps retrospective documentaries are easier to make…?
SC– That was a lot of fun.
SJ– True, that was a lot of hard work, too. When you do something like this, when you are three years into the movie and the ICC revamp hits the scene, and you can’t just ignore that aspect. How do you tie it all in?
SC– We were lucky. If you take a look back, we started off – I am going to use a metaphor here – filming a car for a little bit, and after a little bit of time realise the car is driving to the edge of the cliff and we watched the car drive off a cliff. My point being that, when you ask how do we adjust, it wasn’t that much of an adjustment, it was a natural obvious consequence of what we had witnessed and the way we were making the film before. Would it have helped with, bearing in mind that we interviewed 80 people trying to find a story, doing so much research, so much footage, what this all helped is shaving off all the great people… If i tell you the list of people who are NOT on the film – guys like Andrew Strauss, Subash Chandra, Steve Waugh, Graeme Swann, Michael Atherton, George Bailey.
JK– Even people like Rahul Dravid, Kevin Pietersen had camera flashes in this film. We have got really long interview with some of these guys, but it doesn’t fit the story. W could have easily made a really different film and included so many famous people. But, realistically, what we have done is the opposite of that and made a film which is just as good as that and gone, “forget who the people are, we are just trying to tell a very important story here and this is what the story is.” If Steve Waugh doesn’t fit that story, or if Sourav Ganguly doesn’t fit that story, ____ is full, boys!
SC– In a slightly less arrogant way…
JK– “But, thanks for your time.”
SJ– You said 200 hours of film? How do you cut it down to 90 minutes?
SC– You spend 4 years on it. You find out what your story is. So, the biggest thing has been to find a device to tell the story in a satisfied way so that the audience thinks they are watching a movie. The moment your audience, the people are easily manipulated by television. But the moment we sense that we are watching doesn’t fit the parameters which we associate with television, we switch off, we lose our interest. We have had so many people who come out after watching the film and said “They should have done this, they should have done that….” But, it is not that simple. It is an incredibly simplex thing to work a narrative to work over 90 -95 minute.
JK– Even if you get a narrative, it took us so long to crack the basic story. Then, it takes a long time to crack the little stories that you want to tell. Then you need to work out the narrative arc, the details, the emotions. Once you have done that, you have to ask if that has explained it enough? The level of detail and just simple explanation. Most people, even some cricket fans, who watch it, have no idea about it. Most cricket fans don’t know how the ICC works. And we are making a film far more nerdy than that. We have to explain it in an entertaining way and make it.
SJ– That was my next question, actually – how do you reach to a person who is not tuned in or interested in what is happening?
SC– Sometimes you have to speak in brush strokes. I am sure the cricket fans will look and say that there is not enough detail here. Go and read the detail. What we are making is an emotive story, something which is a human story about the principles that I talked about earlier – something important being pulled apart by greed, by the pursuit of money at all costs. The details, to an extent are irrelevant. That is why, one of the things as filmmakers, we tried to surround ourselves by people who don’t care about cricket, or those who care about cricket but from far. They are filmmakers who put stories together for a living. Their advice has universally been – do not try to make an inside job for cricket. Do not go into that level of detail because you will lose people. For where you have to take the story to, you are making a story that the people care about it. Obviously, the challenge is – I used Virunga and The Cove as examples; when they want to make you care, The Cove flashes out a dolphin in slo-mo gliding slowly.
JK– We tried to do that with Eddie Cowan.
SJ– He is your dolphin?
SC– The biggest problem that weirdly we had – if Eddie Cowan is our dolphin, and the fans are our dolphins (they are the people who care about it, the Test cricket) the story is so complicated that everybody within that understands that the Gorillas or the dolphins need to survive . Test cricket is so much more complex – it doesn’t make money for so many people. Certain countries aren’t interested in it. Instantly, we are getting into the how the biggest problem with the film and simplifying the story is how many grey areas are there in the whole thing and how you push that to an audience who have no idea about what this thing is.
SJ– The title of the movie, “Death of a Gentleman”, was supposed to indicate Test cricket in the beginning, and now it’s just cricket that’s the Gentleman?
JK– That came from my mind, a little bit. It’s such a nonsensical thing, the “gentleman” thing. It never really did exist, and the actual “Gentleman” were the people that got us started on this terrible journey of how cricket is run. I suppose what we were trying to do was to grab people’s attention to there is something going on here. It is about cricket, it is about individual fans, and it[s about people’s love for the sport. You can die from this.
We use cricket as an escape from life. It is very hard to do when it’s in the Supreme Court. It’s very hard to do when a nation as great a story as Afghanistan is shunted to the side, and it’s very hard to do when Sri Lanka and West Indies cannot afford to play Tests any more. We want the game to be beautiful again.
SC– That’s an interesting point there. What you are talking about is following sport as being escapism. The problem then is that, too many of the fans, and i’m talking about the ones listening to this podcast here, and I’ll happily say this to anyone willing to listen that, too many of the cricket fans are failing cricket by switching off from the issues, by saying, “The sport is a form of escape for me, and I’m gonna watch the game, take it for granted, and it will be there for me and I’ll pay my subscription.” Fine, then don’t complain in ten years time when we are not watching the same sport. Do something. Help us do something about it if you care about the sport.
We are not making this film to sit here and say we are clever in piecing this narrative together. We’ve produced the film because we care about the sport, to raise attention to it. As journalists, that’s our job. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we just sat in the press box writing match reports, or things like everybody else. Gideon Haigh’s already writing about this. The film was the only medium for us to take it to the people.
SJ– This was a huge scandal obviously, with how power was concentrated to just three countries, and that cricket is shrinking etc., and the fans need to do something about it. You say the fans tune out because it gets in the way of them enjoying the game. Take for example the match-fixing/spotfixing scandals. People tune out of these because some of their heroes that got them hooked on the game may be involved in it…
SC– I’d say, without sounding patronising, we are trying to educate, and ask fans to recalibrate what corruption in cricket is. Match-fixing is inevitable in any sport. What we are talking about is a wider form of corruption that threatens the game actually far more than match-fixing.
SJ– What i’m saying is that it is common human tendency to tune out when faced with hard choices…
SC– Well, man up then. Do something about it.
JK– Woman up, Child up.
SC– Don’t complain then when in 10-15 years you don’t have something to watch.
JK– Cricket fans are brilliant at being massively passive about the sport while also complaining about every aspect of it. What we are saying is that they have contributed in cricket getting to this situation as everyone else has.
SC– We are all to blame.
JK– Yeah, we need to move on and we need to own our sport. Cricket fans have never owned the sport like the way fans of some other sports do. Administration was always going to be the last bastion. Other sports manage to get things changed but we don’t and we bumble on. We sit around and pontificate. This film is trying to launch a campaign that is actually trying to change the game.
SC– I have a better way to say it. When you, as a cricket fan, sit at home and talk about whether Kevin Pietersen should be playing, or MS Dhoni should be the captain of India and whether Alastair Cook should be shot because he played that horrific dabble [at Lord’s, 2nd innings], you are playing in to the hands of the administration. That is what Giles Clarke want you to do. He and the other guys running the sport want you to sit at home and moan about what’s happening on the pitch. They don’t want you to examine their decisions. Clarke says that to us in our film. He says that he wants fans to be interested in the national teams, county teams… “That’s what people care about”. We are saying, “No, we should be interested in how the billions of dollars that we as fans generate for the game is being used. So, when West Indies turn up [in England] and are not capable of putting up a contest because half their players are playing in the IPL, and when the game goes bust in a country a few years time, we are not saying “Why did this happen?”. We are not saying, “How is it that all this money the ICC misspent because no one was even asking to look at their accounts?” and, we are not saying, “how is it that IPL has expanded to 30 weeks a year and no Test series is taking place during that period?” To understand that, we need to hold these guys accountable.
SJ– What has been the feedback like, so far?
SC– We’ve got amazing feedback so far. Some of the die-hard cricket fans would give us feedback, instead of looking at the bigger picture, they would argue that cricket doesn’t need to be at the Olympics. They’d say it doesn’t need to be at the Olympics because we already have the World Cup. “Look at the bigger picture!”
Some one the other day, a prominent figure in cricket, said to us that the biggest problem in cricket is the bigger bats.
JK– For people like that, we have to step back from them. However, most people have got it. Especially the non-cricket fans. And most people that do not know much about cricket administration.
If you don’t know anything about this, and we lay this all out in front of you, if you look at it as a normal human being, you’d say to yourself, “There is something really wrong here.” We have so much legacy because we have been cricket fans all our lives, and it’s hard to get through to someone else sometimes. George [Dobell] and I had a fight on #PoliteEnquiries recently because he said the biggest problem in cricket is bad pitches.
JK– We cannot get through to every one. If we make the film so clear, so emotive and such an engaging story that we hope that everyone that sees it will at least go, “It’s worse than what I thought it was” or “It’s time I got involved.”
SC– There is a time for debate. What we have tried to do is to make something that will cause debate. What we are saying to cricket, its fans and the journalists is that, “Do not waste this opportunity to make this an issue.”
If it is one of those rubbish – or sometimes, quite brilliant – American sports movie where it’s all about the final game, after four years, we are entering that final bit where the final pitch is thrown. Let’s not waste this opportunity.
SJ– I have wanted to ask this question to administrators but never got the opportunity. You guys have interviewed quite a few of them, namely Srinivasan and Giles Clark. Have you had the opportunity to ask them how much money is enough money?
JK– I don’t know if we have specifically ever asked them. It’s a perfect question! And also, the funny thing I find about that is, when making this film quite a lot of people I think on Reddit and on Twitter were saying “well, it’s a business. That’s just what it is, you have to handle that. Can you imagine another company, like Pepsi or something, looking at themselves and going, “we’re the second biggest company on Earth, we’re not really doing all these different markets, we know we have a really good product and if we got it there we’d make a lot of money, but let’s not do that, and just contract ourselves to the markets we already have, and we’ll continue to milk them without ever growing another market. That’s not how business works! That’s not what multinational companies do. It’s a perfectly good example of this. I don’t think they’re doing good business. They’re definitely not doing good governance, and they’re not growing the game! So what exactly are they doing.
SC– But that’s the biggest point. It’s not like we’re sitting around here as guys who are saying…
JK – That’s an amateur sport!
SC – We understand that cricket is a business, we understand that cricket needs money to survive. But the job of being an administrator is to grow a game, make as much money for it as possible, take it to as many people as possible, to make sure that there are still people to watch it, and that there is still something for people to watch in twenty years time. And they have implemented a system of governance, they have wilfully obstructed attempts to give cricket proper governance, to allow it to deal withe the huge financial imbalances in the game, and they preside over a sport that is shrinking. They leave the game open to huge possibilities for corruption. Cricket could not be in a worse position at the moment. Given the inherent beauty of the game, and how valuable it is to television networks, cricket could not be in a worse position.
JK– That’s what Sam did to every single person we interviewed. You said “lastly,” and then you’re asking another question.
SJ– This is about… you have the screenings here in London on the 23rd and 27th. Is there a worldwide release? Are you going to go online, the Netflix way?
SC– We are putting that together at the moment. Our aim is to get this to as many cricket fans as we can, and hope that they tell their friends who don’t ‘even like cricket. We want to take this outside cricket, but also we want to take it inside cricket, cc Giles Clark.
SJ – Will it bother you if it is illegally streamed?
SC – No, not at all! Well, maybe. I don’t know how I feel about that.
JK– I don’t think it’s our biggest concern. It’s going to happen, it’s going to end up on Torrent, that’s how the world works now. But this isn’t really about us as businessmen, because that’s not why we started the film. There’s a great moment when we were dealing with the cricket board and they said “you’re just doing this to be rich and famous!” And we were like, “you obviously know nothing about documentaries.”
SJ– Plus you’re already rich and famous!
JK – That’s a fair point. So we’re realistically not doing it for that reason. If we were, we wouldn’t have made this film, we would have just made a Sachin documentary. There’s plenty of things we could have done. Every time we went into a meeting to try to sell this, you should have seen their faces! They were like, “dude, a film about cricket administration?” But we believed in it and that’s why we’re here. If every cricket fan in the world watched it, obviously we would make money, but that’s not what it’s about.
SC– We care about cricket. That’s why we are running the campaign to change the way cricket is run.
We are working on the distribution plan for Australia, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, U.S., On Demand, theatrical releases. If people want to do screenings, they can get in touch with us. As I said earlier, for people that watch this film or want to watch this film, do not miss the bigger picture here. This film exists to change the way that cricket is run. If you watch the film and think that what we’ve made carries an important message, spread the word, speak to your local M.P.s, whichever country you are in, speak to your local politicians, ask them to put pressure on the people running the game in your country. Become aware. Read more about it. Teach your children about it.
As a prominent U.K. Journalist said the other day, “I write about men in boots, and not men in suits”, that is the attitude we need to change. Because people like that are failing this game.
SJ– On that note, Sam and Jarrod, thank you very much. All the very best.
SC– Thanks Subash
Episode transcribed by Bharathram Pattabiraman