At what point did Passion Pictures, HBO and Alfonso Cuaron step into the process?
Tarn: It was very late. I had a rough cut of the film and I knew Alfonso socially because he lived around the corner when he was in London making Harry Potter [and the Prisoner of Azkaban]. One night, I gave him a DVD and said, "Here you go. Just have a look at it. I'm curious about your comments." He didn't know that I was making a film. Around the same time, I had given the film to John Battsek [Producer & Head of Film at Passion Pictures] who had won an Oscar for One Day in September. John was a friend of a friend who asked to just give him a call. We went and had lunch and talked about it. John loved the film. He offered to help because I didn't know much about distribution or film festivals or how the whole process worked. I knew up to the point of making the film but after that was a bit of a mystery. It was great to have somebody who was at the top of their game and come in and give it a little stamp of authenticity.
Similarly, when I told Alfonso that John was on-board, he rang me and said, "If there's anything I can do to help…" In fact, Alfonso and I spent a few evenings going through the film scene-by-scene on a DVD just before he started filming Children of Men. We had about a week to get together and he gave me a lot of useful notes and comments, most of which were things that I hadn't noticed because I had been too close to it. Little edit things. It was really useful having a filmmaker that I respect look at it. No one else had given me any real feedback, apart from friends who'd say, "Oh, it's really good." It's very nice of your friends to say, "It's really interesting; it's not what we expected," but I needed somebody to be a little more tough. It was fantastic to have John and Alfonso's support. Without them, perhaps it would still be sitting on my hard drive.
Tarn: It's possible. It's quite possible. It's all very well to do something on your own but, at some point, you need to spread it out to the world and make it a bit bigger. A lot of that comes down to who you know to open doors. HBO came on much later. BBC bought the film, we sold it to quite a few other markets and that was after we premiered at Toronto. Then the London Film Festival and Tribeca. That was around the time that people started getting interested in picking it up.
What was your experience premiering Black Sun in Toronto at a festival that embraces unconventional work?
Tarn: Toronto is an amazing town! The festival takes up the whole city. Every single shop has some poster in it. The screenings are absolutely sold-out for even the most obscure film in the most obscure venue It's great just to sit in a room and watch the film, to see the film in a completely different way, with an audience. We had a great experience in Toronto. We had fantastic press out there. People were really waiting for something. I remember getting off the plane and the first morning I was having breakfast and they showed me the festival paper and we had the front page and a lovely, lovely review. It was all very exciting.
You revisited a number of the same locations that are described in the voice-over but it's definitely not from a tourist's point-of-view.
Tarn: I think that if you travel somewhere with a 16mm camera, you're not a tourist. The camera actually gives me a reason to go somewhere. I'm not a very good tourist.
Neither am I.
Tarn: I love picking my 16mm camera up and having to go somewhere. Often, the prices of traveling are a great catalyst for getting things to happen. You're moving around and seeing things...
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