The Fall documentary: my (very minor) involvement

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith – closing titles

After the recent death of Mark E Smith, tonight BBC4 are repeating The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith. I’m reminded of a fortuitous encounter in 2004 that led to my (very minor) involvement and credit for ‘archive’ on the documentary.

I was at the ResFest, a festival of experimental film-making at the BFI. I’d got talking to a woman about my favourite band, The Fall and mentioned I’d compiled and directed some videos and sequences for the Beggars Banquet VHS8489 video compilation. This had led to a couple of drinking encounters with Mark E Smith and subsequently the making of an unofficial promo for the White Lightning single I’d filmed from side of the stage at 1990s Reading Festival. I’d told her I’d also tried, unsuccessfully, to make a documentary about The Fall back in the early 90s. To my surprise she said her flatmate was working on a BBC documentary about the band and she’d introduce me to her but I thought this might be just merrymaking talk.

A short while had passed without any word from her freind. In the meantime John Peel, the Radio DJ and champion of The Fall, had died in October 2004. His death was a shock. Eventually a researcher at BBC Music rang and told me they’d managed to interview Peel before his death, probably his last and asked if I’d meet her at BBC TV Centre. I was down to supply ‘archive material’, but in reality, apart from the low budget videos I’d made, it was just memorabilia I’d collected and a passionate obsession for the band.

Their appreciation of my seemingly minor contribution was impressive and extended to an invite to the pre-broadcast press preview. They didn’t use any clips from my videos but, to my surprise, the production team give me an ‘archive’ credit at the end the documentary. A kind gesture given my limited input. However for me, it didn’t end there. In May of 2005 The Fall were guests on Later with Jools Holland and the production team invited me to the studios for the recording. Amazing.

I’d had to wait a long time to see a documentary about this extraordinary group, The Fall. Probably only BBC Music could have done justice to Mark Smith’s creative legacy, even if The Fall project was constantly changing and still had another 12 years to run. Maybe now is time for them to make an update. 

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