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How La La Land came to be

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Misha Manson-Smith | 17:20 UK time, Friday, 21 May 2010

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Brendan sets out to become the first 'right-wing Michael Moore'.

Director and Executive Producer of La La Land, Misha Manson-Smith, writes...

I first got the chance to work with Marc Wootton on My New Best Friend. I'd never really met an actor quite like him and don't think I have since - he's brilliantly funny, fiercely intelligent and uniquely talented in a way that just can't be learned... you either have it or you don't, and Marc is one of a handful of actors in the world who do. Along with his writing partner Liam Woodman, we clicked over a mutual passion for character-driven comedy, as well as a fascination with themes of fakery and making stuff that collides fiction and reality. After My New Best Friend, we started talking about doing something much more ambitious in this area. Something long form and narrative that would be funny and dramatic and emotionally engaging and maybe in America, because that sounded like fun.

We worked on our own projects and reunited to make the BAFTA nominated BBC Three series High Spirits With Shirley Ghostman, but it wasn't until 2007, in the wake of Borat coming out, that US broadcasters suddenly switched on to the potential of what we wanted to do. We'd had our champions in the networks who knew and liked our work, but now the people at the top, who greenlit stuff, were taking notice.

But for us, half the point of doing it was to break new ground and we basically balked at the idea of embarking on such an epic undertaking, only for people to ultimately go "they ripped off Sacha". Of course one can always point to Marc's work in this area that predates Ali G, or to the history of the genre, going back through Dennis Pennis to Norman Gunston, or remind people that it is indeed a genre, not something one person invented, but you just sound like a bit of a bell-end. All you can do is create something that is so good it stands up on it's own, whether you're perceived to be first off the blocks or not.

So we decided to go for it, confident we could still break new ground, as there were some fundamental differences between Borat and what we'd been planning. Whereas Borat tells its story through a series of self-contained scenes that were typically shot in a couple of hours, we wanted Marc's characters go on journeys with real people for extended periods of time, days and weeks, so you see the peaks and troughs of a real relationship - more like a drama, than a prank show.

Of course it's incredibly difficult to pull off and a big gamble, as if somebody called "bullshit" or threw in the towel at 9.15 in the morning, suddenly a $30,000 filming day has gone down the drain. There just wasn't the budget to line up backups, we had to pull it off every time and, bar a couple of occasions, it worked.

La La Land continues on Tuesdays at 10.30pm on BBC Three. Read more about the making of La La Land.



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