God Help the Girl is the Jean-Luc-Godard-by-way-of-John-Hughes story of Eve, a young songwriter recovering from an illness and coming into her own over the course of a dreamlike summer in Glasgow, Scotland. The film was written and produced by Stuart Murdoch, the frontman for indie-pop band Belle & Sebastian, who released the film’s music as a 14-song album of the same name in 2009. (via Musical Accompaniment :: American Way Magazine)
Interview: Stuart Murdoch
Tell us a bit about God Help the Girl and its relationship to Belle and Sebastian (B&S)
God Help the Girl started as an outlet for me to write songs for other voices. I started hearing pop songs in my head with female vocalists. So I put the songs aside until I got time to record them.
When you conceived God Help the Girl, was film always part of the plan?
The ‘girl’ songs I was writing were coming from the same character, so when I got a chance, I sat down and started writing a story for her, and two other characters. That’s where it started.
When did you become interested in film making – is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Around 2000 I started getting an urge to write a film. Stevie (guitar, B&S) and me used to talk about developing it for the group. I always wanted to base a story round the ‘Grosvenor Cafe’ which closed around that time. I couldn’t stand that it closed, so that was a surrogacy thing. I wanted to keep all the characters with me. But, I got busy with music again and never took it forward. It was at that time that I became entranced with film the way I used to be entranced with music, and took great comfort in watching favourite films over and over. So it was probably inevitable I’d get into it.
How did you get the film project up and running?
Barry Mendel, producer of Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums (directed by Wes Anderson) got in touch around 2007. I was already well into the script so it’s like he was reading my diary or my mind or something; he said if B&S were ever to make a film that he’d like to help. So that was it - easy. He became my business and creative partner.
Music’s a driving force in the film-making process for directors such as Quentin Tarantino – can you explain if there was a similar crossover for you?
I think the music is the absolute driving force in my film, the absolute reason for making it. Furthermore, it is a film ‘about’ music, about the creation and veneration of it. Though Tarantino uses music better than pretty much anyone, I’m sure story, dialogue and character come before music for him. Maybe not. You’d have to ask him!
Can you tell us about any creative challenges you found in film that you hadn’t encountered in music?
Eh, all of it! I loved writing dialogue, but that’s a long way from a finished script. That was hard. Casting, blocking, acting, lighting, shooting – all new to me. I’m slightly more at home in the edit.
Were your experiences as a musician transferrable?
The ability to guide a whole process from start to finish, to direct large numbers of people, to know that it was all going to be ‘ok’ - probably. That’s what I got from B&S.
Belle and Sebastian have a very distinctive visual style - you clearly have an interest in design and creating images with words, which comes across in much of what you do. What or who would you describe as your main influences in this area?
Ha! good question. When me and Andy Symington did the first LP, we knew it was going to be photo-based. I already had the picture, but we didn’t know what we were doing. So we got out his Blue Note Cover Art book Volume 1 and pored over that. Our effort came out looking like a Smiths record sleeve, which is not suprising. So I’d say, The Smiths and Blue Note.
I’m also tainted with the brush of having made a thousand club and gig flyers and posters in the 80s, so the limitations of cut and paste and photocopy is in me. So I’d say 80s indie posters, record sleeves and fanzines are right there. Then you can take that a step back to children’s book design and illustration in the ‘classic’ age, 1940 – 1970 perhaps?
Penguin books in general, arty magazines from the 60s – I love trawling though the piles in old bookstores. Junk shops – I usually go to ‘Retro’ off byres road when I’m doing a new record sleeve, just to get me going.
I love the way Scotland used to be portrayed in old guide books, just a flavour of Scotland in the past, all the kitsch and tartan, hiking, lassies dancing. Postcard Records loved that stuff, and I do too.
Edit the film… lots of music still to do for the film, stick the film out, then get the band back together next year.
Interview by Laura Laville
New God Help the Girl article and photos! http://www.weared8.com/magazine/vol5/index.html#p03_3 Thanks to Hannah Murray News!
New God Help the Girl still
Yesterday I got to see the latest edit of God Help the Girl for the first time, in the Glasgow Film Theatre. Having only been involved with a small part of it, it was very interesting to see it in full, it’s a great film, can’t wait to see it again once it’s released next year!
January 12, 2013:
it’s a beautifully calm saturday. dave and i have been back editing for a week or so after the holiday break. the break was useful, cleared the head. i walked a lot, let the film wash over me, and a picture of how we should proceed emerged.
talking about editing is a little like talking about paint drying though. we enjoy our work, we try new things out, we watch clips online to inspire us and to relieve the effort, and we try and find good soup everyday for lunch. not exactly scintillating to tell about, but it’s good fun to do, and it can be really creative.
i feel like dave and i are at the coalface somewhat. every four weeks we emerge and show our work to a different bunch of people. we’ve shown the film twice now, to friends, to execs, to other film people, to strangers.
we showed it in glasgow, we listened to the crits, and we went away and worked on it some more. then we showed it in london just before christmas, and that takes us up to today. in a couple weeks i’m going to take the film over to LA, and i’m going to screen it with barry for his friends and colleagues, then we’re going to screen it to an invited audience in LA. finally, in february, we’re going to screen it in glasgow again. then we’re going to lock the picture.
locking the picture means that the edit doesn’t change from that point. that’s the film ‘done’. we continue to work on it though. we take it to the sound lab where they spend some time finessing the film for finished sound. then we go to post production for ‘grading’, where the colour and contrast, etc is balanced for each frame. and there’s probably a bunch of other stuff that happens to it too after that..
so that’s where we’re at. it’s tuesday, i’m back in with dave. i come in with a bunch of fresh changes and suggestions. barry called him at home last night, late, with a truck full of HIS ideas and suggestions. dave sighs,
‘editing a feature is like no other process i’ve been through. it’s so much harder.’
truer word was never spoken!
God Help the Girl Update: According to this article, it’s possibly premiering at the Glasgow Film Festival in February (same month as Summer in February) or the Edinburgh Film Festival in June!
STUART’S TALKING ABOUT GOD HELP THE GIRL AH YESSS