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The making of Rubble Bubble

When I look back on the birth and development of my own films I am often surprised at where the inspiration came from.

Once it was a word printed on a tee-shirt, once it was a quotation carved on a wall, once it was something that a local guide said to me.

Still from 'Rubble Bubble'. In the case of Rubble Bubble it was a single image which defined the final outcome. Rubble Bubble was filmed in Gdansk, Poland during the UNICA film festival in 2009. My previous perception of Gdansk was of a rather dull industrial shipbuilding port. That is totally unfair on a fascinating City. I was surprised and delighted by the beautiful mediaeval style town centre even though it was obviously a reconstruction following the flattening of Gdansk during the 2nd World War.
I quickly decided that this regeneration would be the underlying story of my film.
Still from 'Rubble Bubble'. This is how most of my films evolve. I rarely arrive with any pre-planned intention. I am inspired (if that doesn't sound too presumptuous) by what I see and what I feel about a place and it's people. As I walked around Gdansk I thought of titles about rising from the rubble. I looked for camera angles which would include both the elements of remaining rubble and the rebuilding going on all around. I took closeups of the weeds growing in the cracks of broken walls contrasted with the beautiful murals on house fronts. I was composing straightforward commentary links in my mind. I was anticipating a fairly standard documentary about a rejuvenated City.
But then I saw the man with a bubble. He was entertaining children in the market square with a simple act of creating large bubbles out of soapy water. His tools were basic but the results were beautiful and the children's reactions were timeless. I only took a few shots of him before I moved on. Perhaps I should have taken more but one was perfect. Most bubbles burst close to the ground but one rose gracefully into the clearest blue sky before bursting. Still from 'Rubble Bubble'.
Still from 'Rubble Bubble'. The idea of the rhyming title "Rubble Bubble" hit me.
It also set up a more reflective mood than my usual factual commentary style. In fact when someone in Gdansk asked if "Rubble Bubble" was going to be one of my usual travel documentaries I said "No. It feels more like a thought for the day". And that was while I was still there and hadn't written a word.
It is unusual to see an amateur film based on the philosophical response of the film maker. Perhaps it reflects Sam Goldwyn's view about films that "If you want to send a message, call Western Union," Perhaps I should have listened to him. Still from 'Rubble Bubble'.
My philosophical message may detract from the appeal of my film. I like it. I am satisfied that it says what I wanted it to say, but a judge thought it was wrongly entered in a club documentary competition because it was more of an opinion piece than factual. He is possibly right but perhaps that is a judgement on the strict categorisation of films in some competitions. Still from 'Rubble Bubble'.
Still from 'Rubble Bubble'. I am always very interested in audience reaction and have received some very positive feedback which suggests that perhaps my original intention has been satisfied. Some have even commented that they preferred this self revealing style rather than my "simply descriptive" documentaries. I have now been reassured by Rubble Bubble's success in larger competitions where it has been judged on it's standard rather than it's subject.
It may surprise those who think they know what to expect from one of my films. Funnily enough I have recently reminded myself that I am in danger of getting into a rut so perhaps this is my way out. Now . What next? Still from 'Rubble Bubble'.

- Michael Gough, FACI (M)

Rubble Bubble won a 4-Star Award at BIAFF 2011.

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Page updated on 01 October 2011
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