"I was very sad to hear of the death of the extraordinary film maker Terence Davies, he was a huge influence on me and the work of Told by an Idiot. For me, he was the greatest British film director since Michael Powell, and his acclaimed masterpiece Distant Voices Still Lives, is one of the finest post war movies. I first saw the film in Amsterdam as a very young actor on my first tour. It totally blew me away I was captivated and at times emotionally distraught. I had never seen anything like it, and in the weeks and days after as I continued to think about the movie, I began to realise why it had had such a profound effect on me. It really resonated with my own childhood in working class B’ham; but it wasn’t just that. I had never seen a film that had dealt with a working class experience in such a poetic way. Prior to this any TV or film depicting a working class experience was presented almost exclusively through the prism of psychological realism, as if somehow it was only the stories of the middle and upper classes that were worthy of a poetic treatment. This discovery felt quite revolutionary to me.

I devoured the rest of Terence Davies movies, and I remember seeing him giving a talk in the 90s at the French Institute after another screening of Distant Voices. He said something then that had a huge impact on the Idiots and how we thought about our work. Someone asked him about the beginning of Distant Voices and he replied that he always gave enormous thought and consideration to the opening 10 mins of any of his films. Wanting to establish the language he was going to be using and in some ways to try and put an audience at ease. This wasn’t about making everything narratively clear or explicit, it was more about him establishing mood and atmosphere through how he was using music and sound, the choice of shots, how they sit together and what the audience see and don’t see. The Idiots have thought very carefully about the first 10 mins of our shows ever since.

Terence Davies’ work has permeated my life in a variety of ways over the past 35 years. When my kids were little the songs I sang to them at bedtime were all Distant Voices songs such as I Get The Blues When It’s Raining, Barefoot Days and Because I Love You That’s A Why. When my dear departed pal Stephen Harper and I were drunk when young we would sing some of the more boisterous songs from the film at the top of our voices.

My most arresting memory of Terence was when he agreed to meet me for dinner to talk about a project. When Liverpool was chosen as European Capital of Culture for 2008 I came up with the ambitious/foolhardy idea of doing a site specific version of Distant Voices in the city where the film is set and where Terence was born and grew up. I was amazed when he agreed to meet and I left for dinner at Kettner's in Soho (his choice) more than a little nervous. After I felt I had slightly won his trust I started to ask him about his movies and those other than his own. His knowledge was extraordinary, from Douglas Sirk to the French New Wave and plenty of movies and directors I had never heard of. He was also frustrated and understandably angry, as it was a time after his adaptation of Edith Whartons The House of Mirth when he inexplicably couldn’t get his work made. He complained about some young Film 4 executive asking him what had he made! In fact I still feel that at times Terence was revered more outside of the UK than he was in it. Godard, often not a huge fan of British cinema, described Distant Voices as ‘magnificent’.

For a variety of reasons I never got the site specific version of the iconic film off the ground, but perhaps inspired once again by a master film maker I will give it another shot. Thanks Terence for changing how I look at things and I really hope you are somewhere chatting away over a nice cup of tea with Stanley Donen, Douglas Sirk and Gene Kelly in the company you deserve."

Paul Hunter
Told by an Idiot