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article imageJoe Stephenson discusses 'McKellen: Playing the Part' documentary Special

By Markos Papadatos     Oct 29, 2018 in Entertainment
Director Joe Stephenson chatted with Digital Journal about his new documentary on Sir Ian McKellen called "McKellen: Playing the Part."
On this documentary, Stephenson said, "It came about because he was writing an autobiography. He was a fan of my first film, Chicken, so we went for dinner and he was telling me about his childhood and I was captivated. The next time I saw him, he had stopped writing it and decided not to do it. So I asked him if he would perhaps let me find a way to tell it on film instead, just sit down for a few days on camera and talk, and he agreed."
"I would recommend it because it is the story of one of the most generous and kind individuals I know," Stephenson said. "I would recommend it to humanists, to people who have a passion for the arts, to cinephiles, to theatre fans. We should be listening to each other and learning from peoples journeys all the time, especially with what is happening in the world today."
Stephenson continued, "I wanted this film to educate and entertain you and take you on an incredible journey the way fiction films do. I hope it is accessible to people of all walks of life. You don't need to be an expert on Ian McKellen, or on acting, or on theatre, hopefully, there is something for everyone."
On working with Ian McKellen on the documentary, he said, "Since we already knew each other, the interview was two friends talking on camera, so it was easy. He was incredibly trusting and didn’t want to be involved in the edit at all. His view was always 'this is your film,' which was a dream, but also meant I carried a huge responsibility since I had to correctly assess what the most important things to him were. What to include and what not to include was in my hands. I would only show him the photos I intended to use so that we could make sure we named the correct people."
Regarding his future plans, Stephenson said, "I have a slate of projects that I am developing, but my next film is a horror film. I am excited to start shooting. I like new challenges, my first film was a drama and my second a documentary, so doing a horror felt like a good way to shake it up."
Digital transformation of film and TV industry
On the impact of technology on the film and TV industry, Stephenson explained, "Well, that is a big question. In short, technology in film-making has only made it possible to dream bigger, while technology at home as meant the industry has had to stay on its toes and keep re-evaluating its business model. Both are good things ultimately, even if the shift can sometimes make it feel like things are going south, the appetite for stories in the visual medium will always be there."
Regarding his use of technology in his daily routine as a director, Stephenson said, "I am a bit of an Apple nerd, so I am app'd up with my watch, phone, iPad, and computer. I am excited about technological advances because when I was a child I was certain I would get to live in the Back To The Future 2 future. So I will adopt any technological advances I can into my daily routine. I am still waiting for the self-drying jacket though."
His advice for aspiring directors is as follows: "Only go for it if it is the only thing you can contemplate being happy doing. It has to be your everything because it will require your everything. If that is true to you, then go for it and don’t look back."
Stephenson continued, "Don't have a back up, because if you do that's what you will end up doing. Fight to tell your story on your terms, make your film for less money than you think you need to make it, and seek out talent in every area because your film is only as good as the talent you surround yourself with."
For fans and viewers, Stephenson concluded, "I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired. Knowing Ian McKellen is inspiring, and I hope I have translated some of that privilege to the medium successfully, and share it. This is a truly independent film, please do help people discover it and share his message of acceptance and passion."
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