In The British Guide To Showing Off, Loved the world over by celebrities and misfits alike, British artist and living legend Andrew Logan, takes us under his glittering wing and inside his outrageous, anarchic and spectacular costume pageant, the Alternative Miss World Show. Logan describes it as a fabulous living sculpture that spans both his own life and 40 years of underground arts & culture. Artist David Hockney judged the first one, musician David Bowie couldn’t get into the second, film director Derek Jarman won the third and fashionista Zandra Rhoodes designs Logan’s host/hostess costume. Raucous, liberating and sexually charged, this feature length documentary, filmed over 5 years, charts the mounting of the 2009 show, interwoven with the history of both the event and the artist at its center. Starring Andrew Logan and featuring contributions from Brian Eno, Ruby Wax, Grayson Perry, Zandra Rhodes and Richard O’Brien. Fot anyone who has ever wanted to break out – or longed to be free, this documentary speaks to the outsider in us all.
Bijan Tehrani: How did you come up with the idea of making The British Guide To Showing Off?
Jes Benstock: I got a call in 2004 from club promoter and friend Matthew Glammore. He was helping mount the Alternative Miss World Show and needed someone to film the event. I said yes immediately as I had seen eye popping and mind bending footage of the show on off beat arts TV programmes. But when I met Andrew Logan I realised there was a much more interesting film to make than just a document of a show. I’d expected him to be a svengali figure – but instead he was this terribly nice English vicar. I knew of him as a gay icon but he seemed to have a lovely relationship with his family. I didnt know the film would be end up in cinemas as a feature length doc – but I knew it was a great subject.
BT: How much time did you spend on studying the subject and doing research for it?
JB: I dived straight in at first and filmed solidly for three weeks in 2004, learning as I went. But when I came to making the feature I slowed down my process and became a part of Logan’s extended family – which as you can imagine was a hoot! The picture research was some of the most fun. Logan has about three hundred large photo albums in his own archive and dozens of people took photos of him and the show over forty years. It was a treasure hunt which made us all cross eyed after a while – especially when boxes of home movies on video and super8 started appearing…
BT: Did you have a detailed story outline or was The British Guide To Showing Off mainly shaped in the editing room?
JB: I knew the themes i wanted to cover when I was filming. And because it is an event I had a pretty good idea of the start and end of the story. But so much of it is animation and archive that the film was definitely fashioned in the edit. And the structure was a very fine balancing act that took a long time to get right.
BT: How challenging was making The British Guide To Showing Off?
JB: The film took almost all my patience and tenacity. Throughout the process Logan was full of surprises and unexpected happenings – sometimes frustrating sometimes gold dust. The show itself was postponed for months and threatened to be in Russia at one point. And once the film was completed the producer, Dorigen, had to climb a mountain of rights clearances, with hundreds of people appearing in the film and more than a hundred people and sources contributing 40 years of film, video, photos and music to the film.
BT: What has been the reaction of the artist portrayed in the film, after watching the completed film?
JB: Andrew watched the completed cut for the first time at the premiere in Karlovy Vary Film Festival. It was a packed house and the audience laughed a lot. But when we started the Q&A Andrew was speechless for a moment, then said he felt humbled. The film isn’t how he would have made it, but he is enjoying the renewed attention!
BT: What has the reaction been with your audiences? Have they met your expectations? Any surprises?
JB: The reaction has been fantastic, surpassing all my expectations. I really thought it would split audiences more but we have had loads of great reviews. And non-English speaking audiences have enjoyed the film much more than I thought they would.
I guess the most surprising moment was the first time I screened a cut to an audience. It was only then that I realised Brian Eno’s cat was destined to become a superstar.
BT: Any future projects?
JB: Yes I am developing a couple of little films and a couple of bigger films.
They include an experimental piece about sight and the mind, a Glaswegian Jewish surrealist existentialist detective story and a film diving deeper into one of my favourite difficult subjects – holocaust tourism…
BT: What kind of input did Andrew Logan have on the creation of the film if any?
JB: Some people have asked me if Andrew Logan did the animations for the film – but no, he didn’t work on the film at all.
He understood as an artist that everything that went into film was to be my decision. But of course we took our inspiration from his works in style and colour.
And the film is packed with 1000s of photos and scans of his work. I wanted to make the film feel like meeting Andrew or going to one of the shows, so I’m happy when people think that Andrew might have been involved creatively.