PULP Fact: Florian Habicht on his new Brit-pop band doc
Midway through Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets, Florian Habicht’s documentary about the Brit-pop band, we find out just what motivated singer Jarvis Cocker to first form the group. He admits he was “shy” and figures that a band would be a “calling card” to help him to meet women. “That’s okay,” he admits. “That’s a reasonable excuse for starting a group.” Pulp would become much more than a way to get dates. Habicht documents the band’s broad appeal as he chronicles preparations for the group’s farewell show slated to take place in its native Sheffield. We meet a nurse from Atlanta who appreciates the fact that Cocker sings about single mothers, a drag queen who feels a connection to the music and lyrics and an elderly librarian who reads the lyrics to “help the aged.” The film features a balanced mix of concert footage, man-on-the-street interviews and staged sequences, living up the claim that it is “as much a testament to the band as it is to the city and inhabitants of Sheffield.” Habicht phoned us from overseas to talk about the movie. It screens at theaters across the country on November 19, 2014.
Talk about your interest in Pulp. I take it you’re a fan?
I was born in Britain but I grew up in New Zealand and when I was at art school in Auckland I lived in a big house with six others. One of my flatmates was a dancer and she showed me a solo dance she was rehearsing. The music she used to inspire her moves was a Pulp song. “Bar Italia.” It was a good way to get introduced. She gave me the whole album because she could tell that I really liked it. I saw them maybe that year in New Zealand because they came and gave a concert.
The concept for the film is credited to both you and Jarvis. Talk about how it came about.
The crazy thing is that we both had the same idea before we even knew each other. It wasn’t like we came up with it together. We both had the same idea in our heads. When we met in London, we just started talking about our ideas and they had the same spirit. I think that was the only reason why we were able to make the film in such a short space of time. We didn’t know each other and they were playing the Sheffield concert in less than two months. We had to get a crew together and get funding in a short amount of time. We were on the same page from the beginning. We were looking for funding while we were shooting. It was crazy. We didn’t have a script so I fabricated a completely fake script just so we had something to show investors. It was a trick. We were shooting with no script and editing on site so it was evolving by itself. That was a new approach.
What was it like doing the man-on-the-street interviews?
I really love meeting strangers and going and hanging out and talking to them. If I have a few drinks, I’ll do it. When it goes well, I feel really alive doing that kind of thing. I think it comes down to one of my beliefs that we’re all one big family as humans on this planet. When we think differently or we act selfishly, which are also human things, that’s when problems happen. When we do get together, it’s a beautiful thing. That’s what I love about music and concerts. The film is about how music can bring people together. Talking to strangers on the street is a similar thing.
The band members seemed very accommodating. What was it like to interview them?
All of them are super lovely. They’re a pleasure to be around. It was my first time as a filmmaker interviewing celebrities. I’ve collaborated with artists before and that’s what made me feel at ease right from the beginning because I felt like I was making something with fellow artists. Jarvis is a lot of fun to have on a set. He’s a bit like a child. He’s always joking. He never had a bad take. He’s a total pro. He gives everything 100 percent. I’m proud of Candida [Doyle] because she was the most honest and generous out of the whole band. She had never really talked about her arthritis before.
Talk about the concert itself. What was it like to shoot it?
On one hand, it was nerve-racking because we only had one shot at it. I give the credit to our core team. We had worked together before and our DP orchestrated the whole thing. It was daunting because we only had one shot. There were lots of surprises. Our cameras had a lot of storage but Pulp played for three hours and wanted to play even longer. We had 12 cameras all running out of space before the last song of the concert. A friend of mine on the team came with his laptop and was dumping off cards while there were fans jumping up and down. I couldn’t bear to think about it. We had 12 cameras film but one little hard drive recording the audio. If it had some fault, what good would 12 cameras of footage be with no sound?
Did you get the last note of the concert?
Yeah. That’s the song that we end the film with—“Something Changed.” They finally make it snow [in the venue]. Jarvis said they managed to make it snow indoors which makes him feel like there was nowhere else to go now.
What was the deal with the flat tire that we see him changing?
He had just had a flat tire a month ago and he knew exactly what to do.
How much extra footage do you have?
We’ve got six concert tracks and Jarvis’ sister singing “Something Changed.” It will be on the DVD. We have more interviews with the band and the Sheffield people. The hardest thing is losing things you really love. For example, we also had the song “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” which is this amazing anthem but it didn’t work having that and “Common People” in the film. That was the hardest thing. We wanted to please the non-fans and the fans. Walking the tightrope — that’s the hardest part. The fans would like more songs but you might lose the interest of other people.