The Pure Vision of John Hicks – Interview with The Smalls
We tend to forget that the sport of boxing is inherently lonely.
The fighter – even though with an opponent, and surrounded by supporters, fans, and detractors – is really on his or her own journey.
John Hicks’ ‘The Hardest Fight’ looks at a former champion in the autumn of his life, and we can almost reach out and touch the solitude of this quiet hero:
The use of voice over further enhances the atmosphere of this beautifully put together film. While his body may only be a shadow of its former self, it is still formidable, and incredible to watch. With Dave Payne’s own weathered voice narrating as he trains by himself in a warehouse, we gain incredible insight into his background, drive and state of mind in a mere three minutes. Kudos.
An award-winning DoP and film director, John Hicks continues to stun us all with his sharp eye for story and character. We asked him to share a little bit of himself and the story behind The Hardest Fight.
” I started out in photojournalism before realising that the cut and thrust world was not for me and then moved into a very successful commercial career in fashion and sport advertising. Along the way I dabbled in film but wasn’t able to get seriously into it until the Canon 5D burst onto the scene. Before that video was not a cinematic option and 16/35mm film was just so expensive and involved such a big team that I couldn’t dedicate myself to it along with my photography career. So to have a professional level film option like the Canon 5D in the camera that you use for stills and to be able to employ the same lenses to create amazing quality HD footage just made filmmaking accessible to anyone with a camera and a computer.
Technology helped me get back into film, but my photography already had a very cinematic style. I’ve always like to shoot stills on the horizontal because and I’m known for shooting motion capture on location so all this combined to make my move from stills to film that much smoother. I think my background in photography is a strong element in my style of film making and the way my eye sees the world. I want to tell visual stories and the first short film I made was the story of Dave Payne – a 70 year old champion boxer and bare knuckle fighter.
First I set out to find a location because visually I wanted to avoid the cliché of the gym or the ring and to look beyond the brutality and violence associated with a sport like boxing. I found the abandoned warehouse and one of the first things that struck me was the incredible light it gave – it was almost cathedral like. It seemed like a lonely place – a place where a man like Dave would go to train and instinctively I knew straight away that I would film the solitary figure skipping from that high observer vantage point as the intro to the film.
I made up a storyboard – which is something I always did as a stills photographer and that really helped with the edits. I knew I wanted to film certain sequences but it was the work I put into the storyboard that enabled me to piece it all together like a jigsaw.
At first I made the classic mistake of working like a stills photographer but I soon realised that to tell a story it’s not enough to simply record the action. You have to create drama and suspense by moving the camera, you have to involve the viewer emotionally as well as visually and you have to get as many interesting angles of the same shot as you can to sustain interest.
So primarily I worked the images because I’m visually minded, then the edit pretty much followed the storyboard and finally I worked on the narration and music. I knew from the outset that I wanted a voiceover but Dave was reluctant so I just got him to talk by asking him a series of questions and recorded his responses. When I asked him about the hardest fight he ever had his spontaneous reply sent shivers down my spine and I knew I had my title and a killer quote.
For me it’s a very personal, honest film and I made it because I wanted to so I was surprised when it received such a great reaction – first from the Converge Film Festival 2011 where it was selected as one of only 3 finalists to be shown on the big screen at the British Film Institute and then again at the London Short Film Festival 2012 and just recently at The Smalls Film Festival 2012.
Because of its success and the emotional response it gets I’m about to embark on a fund raising campaign to source finance to make ‘The Hardest Fight’ into a full length feature film. The brutally honest true life story of a boy born into East End post war poverty who survived bullying, cruelty and rejection before finding some kind of redemption through the noble art of boxing and the journey that it took him on is a fascinating account of one man’s trials and ultimate triumph over adversity.”
a musical collaboration between filmmaker John Hicks and musician Mark Baynes of Lady Winwoods Maggot
In a world dictated to and dominated by the selling of product it’s empowering to see ‘The Somnabulists’ a self financed film directed by Richard Jobson.
Enraged by our general apathy towards the war in Iraq the film is a dramatization of events inspired by the testimonies of British servicemen and women who were directly involved in the conflict in Basra.
Challenging and thought provoking it gives voice and life back to those that have lost theirs in the hope that we will waken from our slumbered acceptance of the untold damage and consequence of war.
Numbed by media saturated images and increasingly shocking content this film is simple, stark and bold in the message it conveys. As each ‘soldier’ talks about their experiences the camera glides into the lives that might have been and the people they left behind to paint a visual and emotional picture that remains with you long after the final harrowing scene.
As Jobson says ‘Like many people I was angered by the Iraq war and like most people did nothing about it. This is my response to that apathy. In the film although it appears that the speakers are the ghostly presence it is, in fact, we the audience who are the Somnambulists. It is us who were sleep walking in the build up to the war and its tragic aftermath.’
Meeting up with Richard Jobson I’ve been privileged to preview this film several times and I urge you all to go to
The World Premiere of THE SOMNAMBULISTS on Friday 14 October with additional screenings on Saturday 15 and Monday 17 October at the 55th BFI London Film Festival 2011
delighted to say that I made the top 3 films with ‘The Hardest Fight’ as shown at the Converge Film Festival held at the British Film Institute down on South Bank, 1st & 2nd March 2011.
Gutted I couldn’t be there to see it in person but apparently it was very well received by the audience and held up well on the big screen…Still can’t quite believe that this, my very first short film, is getting such great feedback from the HDDSLR community. Thanks so much guys – really appreciate it!!!!
Congrats to all and I feel honoured to have been included in such highly respected company!!!
Special thanks to James Stoneley for keeping me updated. Cheers mate!!!