Behind The Scenes: Jon Spira (Director Of 'Anyone Can Play Guitar')

on Thursday, January 27, 2011
Behind The Scenes is a series of interviews and guest blogs, where artists give us insight about their work in a specific industry. Here, documentary film-maker Jon Spira discusses his project 'Anyone Can Play Guitar' and the quest for funding its release. A quest which needs your help.

Poster: Joseph Wilkins

I'd always had the idea to somehow document Oxford's music scene. Although I didn't know the depth of the story before I started, I knew that any 30-year-strong community that had given the world Radiohead, Supergrass, Swervedriver, Ride and Foals (along with the incredible bands who didn't get famous – The Candyskins, Dustball, The Nubiles, The Mystics and so many more) was deserving of a documentary.

Technically, a project like this would need at least £30k to get going, the obvious choice was to pitch it as a concept to a broadcaster or distributor... but I knew that wouldn't work. The industry is a mess and an unknown filmmaker is unlikely to raise a budget and even less likely to come out of the experience the other end having made the film they intended.

So, I borrowed cameras and lights from the non-profit film workshop where I teach and just started interviewing people. Long interviews. Getting their whole stories. I knew that if I approached the bigger bands at the start of the process, they'd say no – a no-budget film by an unknown filmmaker. Instead, I worked my way up to them.

Everyone in the Oxford scene knows everybody else and people vouched for me along the way. I've spent many years here filming gigs and making music videos for local bands. So, word spread, by the time I approached Radiohead, they were expecting me, seemed excited about the project and were really supportive.

After filming over 40 interviews and assembling a huge archive of video, photos and music, I set about editing. The edit took the best part of two years and the sanity of three editors. It was a huge project to do on no money. Once we were happy with the final cut, we were screwed. With no budget, we couldn't complete the film to a professional standard. It needed a professional sound mix and picture grade. The distributors and broadcasters we showed it to rejected it as a rough form and told me the subject matter was too "niche".

So for a year, nothing happened. Then I heard about Indiegogo a resource for raising funding for projects. I cut a trailer and offered limited edition copies of the DVD as a reward for anyone who would donate to the cost of finishing the film. And nearly 500 people have taken it up to date.

We just finished the sound mix last week (done by the now Academy Award and BAFTA-nominated team who worked on 'The King's Speech') and we're about to finish the picture work. We need a bit more money to pay off the costly clearance fees for using certain music and footage but we're well on the way and the people who have made that happen are the "niche" who this film was always aimed at.

If you're part of the niche, check out the trailer above and donate if you'd like a copy of the DVD at



Further details of Jon's efforts to make the film, clips of the films, and notes about the bands appearing are available on the film's website.

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