As Edwyn Collins once said: "When you mention Vic Godard, everybody still goes 'who'? Only the real cognoscenti know who he is." And in 1977 or thereabouts, Joe Strummer - in a enthused, almost teen-like fashion, said they were his "Number One" band. Then, oddly, there was Alan 'Fluff' Freeman who championed him way back when; more recently Keith Allen was spotted on The Wright Stuff in a Subway Sect T-Shirt, and so many others. Essentially, Vic Godard is a truly great songwriter. A musical innovator. A one-off.
And that in a nutshell is why I decided to make a film about this endearing and enduring musician, and hero to many. Although, initially, I'd just got a job working in an arts centre and - despite pitching it here and there - knew I couldn't devote any real time to the project. So I was content with merely being a fan.
But Vic wrote back and said he'd be prepared to wait until me (and my colleague at the time, musician Phil King) were ready. I assumed his fervent support for the project was because he'd seen my previous documentary about the 'one-man art movement' Billy Childish (which was nominated for a British Independent Film Award, as I famously never mention). He hadn't, I learned later. He just thought I seemed like a trustworthy person. He'd later change his mind on that point.
At that time his encouraging words inspired me to pick up my camera again and do the whole thing on my Jack Jones - exactly what I swore NEVER to do again (as Phil King was unable to do it). Eventually I left my arts centre job and focused on the film - as well as looking after my dad, who'd been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimers and has Diabetes.
It's probably important to let people know a little bit about Vic and what the appeal was. Vic Godard was the frontman for the Subway Sect, a band who were formed in 1976 and managed by Bernie Rhodes of The Clash. Their music was worlds apart from the 'Chuck Berry chords' of the Pistols or the rock star swaggering of The Clash and they were soon to be the influence to many famous bands we know and love today: the Jesus and Mary Chain, Belle and Sebastian, Orange Juice & Edwyn Collins, The Pop Group; even Pete Doherty, I believe, is a fan.
Their motto was we oppose Rock and Roll! And they embraced notions of art, vulnerability, and a keen love of French New Wave cinema - very different from the shtick of their safety-pin wearing colleagues.
This was a band that fascinated me in my teen years, and their songs were exceptional - like a cranked-up version of Television. And Vic, of course, is still making LPs, collaborating with others, and performing with various line-ups. His energy is extraordinary - seeing that he combines everything with being a Royal Mail Postman, his humble day job. He's also more relevant than ever.
We got on brilliantly and were almost always on the same wavelength for the duration of the shooting. The only real argument we had was when I said he should make some money out of this film and he insisted he didn't want any. He even once asked me to join his band - though not being able to play an instrument proved to be a bit of a problem!
So, it was a pity that in 2012 after Raindance Film Festival and The Barbican saw a cut of the film, loved it and were both in a hurry to screen it..........the film was suddenly pulled.
And then the film entered a kind of strange, frustrating limbo that filmmakers know only too well as Production Hell. A legal person was called in. For three years, emails went backwards and forwards. Every few months or so, I'd expect an agreement to be reached but time - in its mean, customary fashion - moved forward with indifferent pace, and the film was left on the shelf - unseen.
It all seems like a blur now and I guess creative differences and opposing points of view were the main reasons; but the unresolved situation didn't help with my domestic matters or, indeed, my general day-to-day sanity. Still, I managed not to put a gun to my head, or do anything stupid: though I did actually listen to a record by Arcade Fire and thought about voting for the Lib Dems. I was very confused.
But people, the story ends on a high note. A limited audience can now actually see the film - called Derailed Sense - as it has a one-off screening on 14th August at the BFI. And the film is more or less intact. A few cuts were implemented. Compromises on both sides were made. Together, we finally agreed to get the film out there.
This is something I'm very proud of, and all the associated problems are eclipsed by seeing it in on the big screen. If, as a filmmaker, you want an easy ride, best not make a film about a wilful and idiosyncratic cult legend. Stick to Elton John.
Derailed Sense: a film about Vic Godard & Subway Sect features appearances from Irvine Welsh, Luke Haines and Viv Albertine, and is screening on Friday Aug 14th @ BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.45pm as part of the London on Film Season/Sonic Cinema.
Special Guests include: DJs Andrew Weatherall & Andy Lewis (Paul Weller band). Plus a very Special Guest Performer.
Here's a link to the BFI: http://bit.ly/1f2YiJJ