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Swan Films garners more nominations for Grayson Perry series

Swan Films has had an incredible start to the year, with nominations and accolades for their documentary series 'Grayson Perry - Who Are You?' coming thick and fast. Swan Films is a production company founded and run by BAFTA-winning producers Neil Crombie and Joe Evans, specialising in documentaries and quality factual programmes. Swan Films has called Hackney Downs Studios home for just over a year, and in that time their creative output has been unrivalled.

After hearing the good news about their recent nominations, we decided to sit down with co-founder Joe Evans to learn more about their recent success and upcoming projects:

How did you find the process of developing the Grayson Perry project?

JE: It was commissioned by Channel 4 soon after the transmission of the last series we made with Grayson – ‘All in the Best Possible Taste’, about taste and social class. That one got a terrific reception and went on to win a BAFTA. The next big subject that Grayson wanted to tackle was portraiture. Portraits were originally intended to define someone for posterity – to encapsulate someone’s identity in a single image. Grayson wanted to explore what a portrait means in an age when we all have cameras on our phones, and thousands of images exist of us all.

Finding the subjects for the portraits then took some time. We wanted people who were at a major cross-roads in their lives; people who were having some sort of identity crisis. Their stories had to be compelling, and allow us to try to get to the bottom of some of the most important questions about who we are, from gender to sexuality, memory to age and ethnicity.

Our ambition was also to represent the range of identities in contemporary Britain. After all, why shouldn’t a young transgender man from South London (one of our contributors) have a portrait in the National Portrait Gallery next to all those old, white, upper-class politicians? After the filming it then took Grayson another 18 months to make all of the artworks, so the entire series ended up taking more than two years to complete. It’s still on 40D by the way here.

Your Grayson Perry project has been recently nominated for a Royal Television Society and a BPG Award, how does it feel to be recognised by your industry in this way?

JE: It’s an honour, and great to feel that you’ve made something that stands up to the judgement of your peers. What’s also thrilling is the response we’ve got to the shows from viewers. There’s a lot of love out there for Grayson – and quite right too!

What projects are you currently working on that are exciting you?

JE: We’ve got a documentary on Bipolar Disorder – ‘Being Bipolar’ - which is on C4 on 4th March. It’s taken a year to make, and charts the lives of three people living with this serious mental illness. We’re also just finishing the next Grayson Perry documentary, about a house that he’s designed in Essex as a tribute to the women of that great county. We’ve been shooting that on-and-off for the last couple of years, so are looking forward to finally getting it on TV.

Finally, your inspired storytelling has got us wondering if you should do a piece on our studios! What form do you think this could take?

JE: I’m thinking perhaps a Rock Opera.

Sounds good to us...

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