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Ian Knox: Filming Pat Martino's World

By Published: November 4, 2008
AAJ: Did anything unexpected happen as you were making the film?

IK: Almost everything was unexpected and surprising but two characters stand out, both somehow characteristically Pat. Pat received an e-mail from a gentleman in Toronto called Stan, who heckled had him at a concert in 1976. He said that he'd carried the guilt of that act for thirty years and needed to apologize. I invited him to attend a gig that Pat was playing at the Iridium in New York with the intention of keeping them apart until the end of the gig, when we'd film the big "I forgive you" scene.

Of course, as we were setting up, Pat came right across the club, walked up to Stan, said "Hey Stan, I'm so glad you could make it," and gave him a big hug. After the gig, we shot them meeting, but it was awful. They'd had their moment and now they were acting it. We had Stan's quest threaded through the film through most of the edit, but it proved too great a distraction from the main story line, so we cut it. It was, however, a fascinating insight into how a seemingly insignificant incident can end up being an overwhelming part of somebody's life. The story of "Stan: The Toronto Heckler" is included in the DVD extras.

align=center>Pat Martino

On another occasion, Pat wanted me to interview his friend who is a kind of alternative health guru, who had played a key role in his recovery from a life-threatening condition. This impressive whirlwind of a lady arrived at Pat and Aya's place one afternoon, took one look at Paul Broks and set about treating him for a painful trapped nerve that was afflicting him. As she worked on him, she was observing Nyika, the cameraman's posture as he set up the lights, diagnosing correctly that he had a back problem. She laid Paul out on the floor and then set about giving Nyika treatment. At a certain point, I looked at my watch realizing that two hours had passed. We had not shot anything and my interviewer and cameraman were both incapacitated. So I picked up the camera, switched it on and said, "So, tell me about how you first met Pat." We did the interview whilst she worked on Nyika on the floor, but her words were gradually drowned out by deep, sonorous snores from my cameraman. To be fair, he was exhausted from jet-lag. Paul could hardly walk for days after his treatment.

AAJ: In the film your use of cityscapes to convey meaning and emotion is marvelous. What led you to emphasize urban imagery in the way that you did?

IK: Your cities are so beautiful and dramatic to the foreign eye. We wanted to tell the medical story without resorting to men in white coats and gratuitous medical footage. We used the city as a metaphor for the human brain. The film merges three cities on two continents into a generic whole. I loved shooting in New York because people were, on the whole, very helpful in their brusque New York way. They were curious and they like people doing their thing in their space, whereas Londoners just don't want the hassle. They're not interested unless you're going to pay them, which doesn't work too well in zero-budget film-making. Pat lives in South Philly, so we spent a lot of time there. It's a big-hearted blue-collar town and it felt like coming home each time we returned.

AAJ: Can you tell us a bit about the film's composer and what qualified him for the specifics of this movie?

IK: Milton Mermikides is an English guitarist and composer who Paul and I met through the Wellcome Trust, right at the beginning of the project. He was pioneering interesting experimental music, writing his own computer software to capture human brain waves to trigger musical sequences through MIDIs. He's a great fan of Pat's and offered his services with the suggestion that he could hook Pat up to his rig. This led to one of the most lyrical musical performances in the film, which we filmed in his London studio with Pat.

I knew that I wanted a score, independent of Pat's "sync" playing in the film, that would accompany the brain journey. Pat has experimented with symphonic music in the past and we talked about the idea of his composing the score, but his busy schedule was clearly going to leave him little time to work on it. At the back of my mind, I'd been thinking of Milton for the job, but it was in fact Pat who said he felt there was somebody appropriate already involved with the film who would be right for the score. He had listened to Milton's stuff and was impressed by it. It seemed organically the right way to go. That's how the score came about. It was a very fertile and happy collaboration.

align=center>Pat Martino / Ian Knox

AAJ: What have you learned about human beings in the course of your life and work?

IK: Mainly that there is no objective truth or reality. That's not to say that people are dishonest. Everybody has a unique story to tell but the contradictions and paradoxes that occur when you start looking at any story from multiple points of view are fascinating. That is the stuff of drama and art and maybe the clearest way to tell a story is through fiction. Paul Broks, who trained as a scientist, understands that very well, which is why I initially went to him with this project.

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