There are seemingly sh*tloads of documentaries made about the British Drinking culture. Or Booze Britain. Or whatever words you enjoy sticking a hashtag in front of and calling it a thing.
I get maybe one request a month from production companies wanting to do some filming about alcohol abuse specifically for a documentary. I always say no. Because the people making the film never have a f*cking clue what they are talking about. And nobody should make a film about something they don’t know about, unless they are making it because they want to understand the subject better.
Here’s a hint to the the types of words people use when they don’t understand drinking problems and don’t want to understand; shocking, gripping, crisis.
So when I got my monthly documentary request (not that impressive I know, what can I say?) from De Cauze films I placed my carefully manicured trotter on the “trash” button and prepared to delete, when I finally saw the word that I never see but always hope to:
Turns out the two young filmmakers didn’t have a drink problem, had never had a drink problem, but they wanted to know why so many Brits do and how it feels.
Ok, now I’m listening.
They don’t want a lot from me. Just a small chat and to film it. So we do.
It’s the hottest day of the year in the summer of 2013. I’m sweating my ass of in Regents Park -Geordies are truly unaccustomed to such extremes in temperature that go upwards-and we really can’t wear any less clothes than we do in the winter so we are f*cked in the summer temperatures. Obviously. It’s uncomfortable as hell but it doesn’t matter because Ilove these two young people. They are brilliant,
True to my initial hunch they don’t ask any of the usual bullsh*t questions. These are the usual bullsh*t questions people ask when they don’t understand drinking problems and don’t want to understand;
•when was your rock bottom?
•why did you start drinking?
•did you used to sleep around loads when you were p*ssed?
•did you look the same back then?
•do you ever drink now?
They just wanted to listen. And they did it very well. And bless them because I sat in that bloody park for hours and talked at them.
It’s a weird thing when someone asks you to speak the stuff you usually only write down. Or are used to only speaking it at people from a stage. It’s different when you do it sat down together like a conversation. You feel more exposed. The memories you are describing feel much more real. Far more vivid. It’s quite unnerving.
I assumed I’d hold back on some things. Because when you write? You can. You can break it into the littlest parts and deal with the pieces one at a time. This was totally new.
Maybe it was because they didn’t push me to. They weren’t interested in making it more interesting than it was. They just wanted to hear what a decade of destructive drinking felt like. What stopping felt like. How I feel now.
It wasn’t just me. That would be a very boring documentary indeed. It’s people you’ll have actually heard of. Like Russell Brand. Like Professor David Nutt. And more. More people who also speak this language. Who understand because they’ve lived it. Or have learned because they really wanted to understand.
I said yes to A Royal Hangover because it’s honest. An honest film made by honest people. There’s not a lot of that floating about these days. That’s why so many people seem to have leapt on board with this documentary. People who don’t usually say yes just to be on the tele for yet another 5 minutes. Why Moby offered to donate the soundtrack for it. Why it’s still stuck in my head a full year after I filmed my bit for it.
So no. I’m not going to tell you to go watch A Royal Hangover this month when it’s released because it’s gripping. You won’t hear any blanket phrases being tossed about at all. What I will say is if you understand alcohol abuse, or want to understand. Then give it a go.
Because it really is the only documentary on drinking worth watching.