It might not seem like there would be a huge market for a film about young adults competing in the Irish Dancing World Championships, but director Sue Bourne’s Scottish import Jig was one of the first films at Hot Docs to go almost immediately to rush tickets. Focusing on children, young adults and parents from around the world, Jig is a film full of good will and a fighting spirit with some of the most articulate children ever to be seen on camera. In addition to playing one more rush only screening at Hot Docs (on Wednesday, May 4 at 4:15 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre), Jig opens in wide release this Friday in the United Kingdom. Sue Bourne sat down with Criticize This! and talked about the challenges of making a film about children and having to be sold on an idea before fully committing to it.
Andrew Paker: How did you get drawn into this world that you really knew nothing about going in?
Sue Bourne: A journalist came to me who had seen all my other films and asked me if I knew that the Irish Dancing World Championships were happening in Glasgow and I said no, but I wasn’t sure if I was that interested. But then I sent my assistant to Philadelphia to the Worlds and she phoned me up and said, “Sue, you really got to see this.” And it’s even more brilliant because no one has ever been allowed in before to do filming. Getting to look into a world that no one has ever had access to before is even better.
There was always all sorts of reasons why they never let cameras in or photographers. Even parents aren’t allowed to photograph the kids.
AP: I’m actually surprised you got a shot of the judges, it seems like they were really protective of them.
SB: Strictest security. We even asked once if we could get pictures of them and they said no. I think because it is a real life competition they don’t want cameras affecting it because that really would cause an uproar. Also, they didn’t want any of them being followed by the cameras so we had to stay well away. But then we started the process of getting access. It took quite a long time, but we got there.
AP: How hard was it to film because you had to go to a lot of different countries and all over the UK? What kind of time frame were you working with? Was it a full year?
SB: Two years. I think the journalist came to me in February and we finished the edit run in October of last year and even now we are still sort of working on it to try and get it out into the cinemas.
AP: How accepting were the parents of these kids and how hard was it to gain their trust that you weren’t possibly going to be giving away any kind of training secrets or anything of that nature?
SB: I think they were wary of us and I think that was because a lot of them had seen the films that I had done before and that in a way persuaded them that I made good films. We spent a very long time getting to know people before introducing them to the cameras. So by the time we started filming them, they knew us very well. They were very comfortable with us and relaxed and trusting. Good filmmaking is often about trust and you could see that the cameras were really in their faces at critical moments and they acted just as if they weren’t there.