Sue Bourne might not have had many initial supporters when they heard she was at the helm of a documentary which focused on the World Irish Dance Championships, but after watching the film, it’s easy to become a fan of her work. Smart, charismatic and touching, “Jig” is about more than dancing, it’s about the triumph of the human spirit, against not only adversity, but stereotypes as well.
In this interview with Bourne, she discusses her inspiration for the film as well as what projects she’s currently working on. Like her most recent project, her energy is ever present and passion for her work is obvious.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for the film?
Sue Bourne: A journalist thought I would make a good film about Irish Dancing and she approached me to let me know that the 40th World Championships were being held in Glasgow/Scotland. I had just started making films out of my company up in Scotland so this looked like it could be a really interesting project. We began from there looking into the subject, discovered no outsider had ever been allowed inside the world of competitive Irish Dancing (film-makers always Love being ‘the first”) and also as soon as we started our research we discovered what a fascinating, previously unseen world it was. It took us a long time but eventually all the critical pieces of the jigsaw (permission/access/funding) fell into place and it all worked.
Review Fix: What surprised you the most during filming?
Sue Bourne: I think there were many things that fascinated rather than surprised me… I did not expect to find children as young as ten working this hard for the love of dance. I also found it remarkable and admirable that all this amazing work did not have any financial benefit. On the contrary it all involved a huge financial outlay. And I found the dedication and sacrifice of everyone involved remarkable – and I suppose surprising. It made me ask all manner of questions about families, about parenting, about children, about growing up.
Review Fix: As in any documentary, editing material is incredibly difficult. What was editing that you’d really like to see in the final version?
Sue Bourne: As you do your research and then your filming you are building up the story you want to tell and ensuring that you get all the material you require giving an honest and fascinating account of the world you have entered. You cover all bases especially if you are doing a feature documentary – 93 minutes may not sound long but you need a lot of material to make that length of film work, and be gripping throughout. Editing is a long and involved process. You start with the long version of the story you want to tell and over the weeks you hone it down to the essence of each story. Some things are harder to lose than others. But by the end of the process you have gone through a process and you believe generally that you have made the right decisions about what stays and what has to go. It is never easy but you know why you have made those decisions. So I suppose the answer is that because of all these factors there is nothing really that I would like to see in the final version that is not there. 93 minutes is the time we had to tell our story… and that obviously means not everything can be there.
Review Fix: How long did it take to put this film together?
Sue Bourne: We first heard about the World Championships in February 2009. We researched all that year and got everything in place. Then we filmed from January through to April to the end of the Worlds. The edit took 18 weeks. We probably finished editing around about October. But there was still a mass of work to do on the film and to be honest we are still working on it now. So this is July 2011 – so well over two plus years in total. It’s a long, long process. Sadly not all of it is paid – I self funded the first 8 months of work on Jig and I have also largely funded the last few months of working on the release of the film as well.
Review Fix: If you could, what would you change about the film?
Sue Bourne: Nothing – not because I think it is perfect but because I made the film I thought was the best I could do in the time and with the material we had.
Review Fix: There are so many interesting people in the film- who was your favorite and why?
Sue Bourne: I do not have favourites really. What the film required was variety. Each story had to bring something different to the film. I could have made another film and only told the story of two or three dancers – and not included the Russians or Sandun from Holland – or not told the story of the three girls. But I wanted the film to reflect the internationality of Irish dancing and without all those stories I would not have reflected the whole story. So each story was there for a reason. And I have to say I love all the stories and all the elements each of those stories brings to the film as a whole.
Review Fix: What do you want the audience to take away with them after they see this film?
Sue Bourne: I want them to come out of the cinema with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. I want the film to take them behind the tans, the wigs, the makeup to the skill – the wonderful feet. From the hard, hard work that is involved, to the inspirational stories of dedication. I want them to be impressed and to think about these young children and how hard they work. And I want them to think about their own children and what they are doing with their lives and their skills. And, like i did I want them to think about parenting and what we do for our own children. And if there is more we could or should be doing.
But most of all I want to them to love JIG and tell all their friends to go and see it as well. To tell them that JIG is about much, much more than just Irish Dancing.
Review Fix: If you could describe this film in one word, what would it be and why?
Sue Bourne: Inspirational
Review Fix: What are you working on now?
Sue Bourne: I have just started work on what I hope will be my next feature film – GERIATRIC FASHIONISTAS.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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