Filmmaker Dave Lee has entered ‘Dean world’, and thanks to Back to Ours invites us all to take a glimpse of Hull’s ‘fourth best poet’, Dean Wilson, right on our sofas.
“I don’t think Dean realises just how much people adore his stuff,” said Dave.
On the face of it, Dean’s world looks unsophisticated, naive in the truest sense of the word. We see just a poet living below the expansive skies of Yorkshire’s east coast, a small house to call home, and a growing collection of pebbles picked from daily walks along Withernsea’s beach.
Dean’s poetry can, at first read, reflect a simplicity too.
“I’ve always found naive poets like this to be incredibly moving,” said Dave. “Some of the daftest verse, like by Ivor Cutler or Spike Milligan, it can be very silly, but it can also turn in a heartbeat, and be incredibly moving, and I think Dean’s is the same.
“That’s what I love about Dean’s work. His work is him, and he is his work.
“As a person Dean’s just lovely. He’s just as funny in real life as he is on stage, and his life is funny,” said Dave.
The two men, filmmaker and poet, have been producing films together since early 2019.
“It was in that slack period between Christmas and New Year,” said Dave, “when you’re full of port and Quality Street. I was reading Dean’s second book, ‘With’, and I suddenly had an idea for a film of one of the poems. I phoned Dean, and he agreed. It’s that one with him on a cliff edge with a mic stand, expounding to the sea. That was the first film I shot with him that got finished and got seen.”
This year Back to Ours, Hull’s Arts Council England funded Creative People and Places project, commissioned Dave to film a series of Dean’s poems to present as part of their Right On Your Sofa strand.
Two strong characters, arguably one more vocal than the other, and both as skilled as each other in their particular craft, one wonders who takes the lead? Does Dean direct Dave, or does Dave direct Dean?
“Dean trusts me, that’s the important thing. We have to have an idea. Sometimes he has it, sometimes I have it. Often it’s the location that comes first, and we send each other pictures, then we’ll wait till we’ve got the right poem. Usually it just clicks, that location works with that poem. Then we go, immediately, and film it, and bang it on twitter.
“It’s great. These days when he writes a poem he sends it, if he thinks it’ll make a film. I’ll get a text at two in the morning,” said Dave. “Once we’ve decided on it, Dean leaves the production to me.”
Dave explained that he has a very simple set of rules when filming Dean and his poetry, the first being “do no harm.” The films must do no damage to the words of the poem, not distract or detract from the meaning of the words.
“Most of the time with Dean’s poetry you don’t need to interpret, you just need to give him a location that suits the words.”
Dave’s second rule for filming in Dean’s world is that “nobody else is ever in the films.”
In Dave’s mind, he’s creating comic-strip glimpses into a world where only Dean exists.
“You used to get these comic-strips in newspapers, like Andy Capp, Asterix, and Tintin,” said Dave. “They’d start as a three-panel comic strip every day in the paper, and at the end of the week you’d have a full page, at the end of the year you’d have a full book. You’d go into Tintin world, and only see him through a square. I wanted that to be what Dean world is like, it exists in one square, and you don’t see what’s going on outside the frame.”
Knowing Dean just a little through the imagery of his poetry, we do, however, get to know there’s a lot going on beyond the boundaries of the frame! Dean’s world is by no means two dimensional.
Dave confirmed: “We’ll sit down in a pub, and within 30 seconds he’s told you something entirely indiscreet and hilarious.”
So, it can’t be the case that two artists just get on, creating work after work together in blissful harmony, an artistic ‘bromance’ even. There must occasionally also be disagreement and conflict?
“Dean never says ‘No’, he just isn’t enthusiastic,” explains Dave, about times when the two of them have differing ideas about a piece.
Dave and Dean have worked together to film six pieces for Back to Ours’ Right On Your Sofa series, and they’re being released as the Dean Wilson Film Club, after the 9pm watershed, on Back to Ours’ facebook page, on the last Thursday of each month.
The Back to Ours audience, like other audiences Dean reaches on social media, love him to bits.
“Dean’s enormously popular with Nanas, the Nana factor is enormous in Dean’s world,” said Dave, adding that for younger audiences “if there’s double entendre in the content, they’re not going to spot it. And if there’s swearing, it’s done in a humorous way they’d recognise from life around them.”
Dean, famously, describes himself as the fourth best poet in Hull. What does Dave think now Dean has helped elevate him to Hull’s fourth best filmmaker?
“I know, I know, I just enjoy it.
“When we started we just thought this would be a nice idea. I love what we’re doing because I get to have a laugh with a mate.
“Creatively it’s satisfying, because we don’t answer to anybody.
“The only boss is the poem.”
See the next instalment of the Dean Wilson Film Club, 9pm on Thursday, on Back to Ours facebook page.
[Jerome Whittingham @photomoments – for Back to Ours]