British Realist Filmmakers

British Realist Filmmakers
Ken Loach
Table of Contents
1) Who is Ken Loach
2) Mimetic Realism and Referential Realism
3) Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
Ken Loach
Our concept of reality is subjective, anyhow,
and any reporting of actual events tends to
dispense different values and interpretations.
Ken Loach
Ken Loach
• Born in 1937
• Entered BBC in 1963 as a trainee director
• Earliest directorial contributions - Z-Cars
(BBC with Sir Hugh Greene as DirectorGeneral and Sydney Newman as Head of
• Launch of the Wednesday Play (Loach
made six dramas for this slot)
Ken Loach at BBC
• Up the Junction (1968)
Groundbreaking for its
elliptical style.
A controversial issue
• Cathy Come Home
A docudrama about being
homeless as a social
Ken Loach at BBC
• Cathy and Reg fall on hard times when Reg injures
at work. The family slides into poverty, debt and
homelessness. Cathy and her children are
separated from Reg and admitted to a care home.
Cathy causes a trouble with the authorities. They
are kicked out from the care home and eventually
her children are forcibly taken away by social
welfare officers.
Ken Loach at BBC
Based on Jeremy Sanford’s stories about
homelessness partially published in newspapers
and on the radio.
The first draft was a three-page outline backed
up with press clippings, transcripts, tapes and
(Semi-) improvised acting and dialogue
Mixing real people with carefully chosen actors.
Location shooting
Feature Films of Ken Loach
• Poor Cow (1967)
First feature film
Scripted by Nell Dunn
(Up the Junction) and
starring Carol White
(Cathy Come Home)
Shot entirely on
location in naturalistic
and documentary style
(transitional work)
Feature films of
Ken Loach
• Kes (1969)
The story of Billy Casper, a working-class lad
from Barnsley, alienated from school and with no
prospect but working as a miner, finds a sense of
personal achievement in teaching himself how to
train and fly a kestrel
Feature films
of Ken Loach
• Masterly study of a working-class childhood in
Northern England
• School children are found in Barnsley
• Dialogues almost entirely improvised as filming
Feature films
of Ken Loach
• Entirely shot on location in Barnsley by Chris
Menges, with great delicacy and sensitivity
• A narrative film with a real sense of place and
Feature films of
Ken Loach
• Compare how high schools are represented
and how the education systems are referred
to in Peter Weir’s Dead Poet’s Society
(1989) and Ken Loach’s Kes.
Feature films of
Ken Loach
• Family Life (1971)
Study of schizophrenia and
medical inefficiency
Radical political dramas for
TV in the 70s
• The Rank and File (1971)
About the strike of
Pilkington glass workers
• Days of Hope (1975)
About the politicization of
a family around the time
of the Great Strike in 1926
Ken Loach in the 80s
• Loach in the 80s - a difficult decade with
little work and miscalculated projects
• Questions of Leadership (never shown)
Four part documentaries about trade union
and trade unionism
• Fatherland (1986)
About immigration in Europe
Ken Loach
I think I'd lost my way a bit - and lost touch
with the kind of raw energy of the things
we'd done in the mid-sixties and with Kes.
The films I was making weren’t incisive
enough. I wasn’t getting the right projects
and I wasn‘t getting the right ideas. And so
that’s why I tried documentaries not long
after the big political change occurred in
Britain. Ken Loach
Ken Loach in the
90s and after
• 1990s - A renaissance in
his career
• Hidden Agenda (1990)
A political thriller set in
N. Ireland and about the
British army’s shoot-tokill policy
• Riff-Raff (1991)
A comic drama on
workers in a building
• Raining Stones (1993)
Ken Loach in
the 90s and after
About an unemployed Catholic
who desperately tries to find
money for his daughter’s
• Ladybird, Ladybird (1994)
About the difficult relationship
between a working-class British
woman and an Uruguayan
• Land and Freedom (1995)
Struggles inside the Republican
fighters in Spanish Civil War
Ken Loach in
the 90s and
• Carla’s Song (1996)
A love story between a
Glaswegian bus driver and a
Nicaraguan refugee.
• My Name Is Joe (1998)
Drama about a reformed
alcoholic trying to run a failing
football team
Ken Loach in
• Navigators (2001)
the 90s and after
Response to the privatization
of the British Rail
• Sweet Sixteen (2002)
About a Glaswegian single
mother boy whose dream is to
live with his mother in their
own home when she comes out
of prison.
Ken Loach
• Sweet Sixteen - a teenage boy resorts to drug
dealing to gain money to escape the poverty of
housing estate and start a new life with his drug
addict mother.
• Shot around the council estates of Greenok in
economically depressed Glasgow, the film
reflects the uncompromising and grim reality
Ken Loach in the 90s and after
• The role of Liam is played by a nonprofessional Glaswegian youth, Martin
Compston in naturalistic manners.
• Scripted by Glaswegian, Paul Laverty, who has
a deep inside knowledge about Glasgow and its
social problems. Keen ears to the local
• The hardships of people at the bottom of the
• Sense of location and reality of characters
Mimetic realism and referential realism
• Mimesis = copying the appearance of
situations, events, people or objects.
• Referential = referring to actual situations,
events, people or objects, which are outside
a film.
Mimetic realism and referential realism
• In mimetic realism a film copies people,
objects and events which exist or are likely
to exist in reality, and presents to the
spectator its verisimilitude or replica.
• In referential realism a film points the
spectator's attention to people, objects and
events which exist in reality.
Mimetic realism and referential realism
• Impact on the spectator / the spectator’s
• Mimetic realism – marvel and wonder
• Referential realism – leave practical effects
on spectators and raise their consciousness
for the issues referred in the film
Mimetic realism and referential realism
• ‘… the most effective drama on contemporary social
and living conditions ever shown on BBC.’ Alan
Rosenthal, The New Documentary in Action
• Cathy Come Home had more impact than any other
drama of the decade
• Issue of homelessness debated in the parliament and
Shelter was established.
• Referencial realism can change.
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
• Avoiding generic narratives and formal
virtuosity in favour of a plain visual style
• ‘Quiet shots’ – normal camera angles or
compositions, normal 35-50mm lens,
natural lighting, subdued colours
• Without detailed scripts or storyboards
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
• 'The thing about working with Ken is
that you learn very, very quickly that he
wants a very sensitive quiet camera that
isn't going to impose a style on the
actors or the script. It should quietly
observe.' Chris Menges
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
• Storyboard - ‘… I find that very sterile. In a
storyboard, you are stuck with what you
draw. I would never do that. I think it's
very sterile and it works against the actors
and against improvisation.’ Ken Loach
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
• Open-endedness - no simple resolution
• Un-idealized characterization
• Naturalistic acting (no make-up, no wardrobe,
no cast trailer)
• Filming in continuity and in real locations
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
• Rather than selecting main characters
because we might like or admire, the films
described as 'realistic' choose characters that
are often difficult to like. Ken Loach on
Ladybird, Ladybird
• 'The trouble with your films … is that
people might believe them. Look, we want
actors to look like actors, we want it to be
clear.' Tony Garnett (BBC Manager)
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach
• For the first scene of Bread and Roses which is
set in the Mexican boarder, American crew
objected to go to the actual boarder and suggested
to shoot in a location which looks like the boarder
• Fake it? Why take any thing when we have the
real thing?’ Ken Loach
• ‘Ken wanted to shoot in continuity order, even if
it meant moving in and out of locations …’ 1st
Assistant Director for Bread and Roses
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