Senna Masterclass

2 Apr

Yesterday afternoon (1st April) I attended a BAFTA-organised screening of Senna which was then followed by a masterclass with director Asif Kapadia and archive editor Paul Bell. Sadly Manish Pandey was unable to attend due to illness. The event was well attended, especially for a sunny spring afternoon in Brighton. I took my mum along who has never seen the film before and is not an F1 fan (especially after I made her sit through the Canadian Grand Prix last year!) and she was completely captivated by Senna’s story. Incidentally, Paul mentioned that when considering the film’s appeal to non-F1 fans, he thought of whether it would appeal to his own mother who hates F1.

Having run the last Senna Watch with Manish participating i was looking forward to hearing Asif & Paul’s insights (albeit after rather than during the film). They certainly didn’t disappoint. The two experiences were quite different and each had their appeal; the spontaneity of tweeting during the film with Senna Watch is fantastic, as was hearing Asif & Paul talk at length afterwards. Both clearly had so much to say & aren’t tiring of talking about it after all this time!

The masterclass lasted over an hour and I can’t recount all of what was said, but what follows here are snippets of what I found to be the most interesting.

The initial eight minute cut they created was done using YouTube footage. As many F1 fans will know, F1 footage doesn’t last long on YouTube; Bernie’s team have it removed as soon as they’re aware of it. Consequently the team had to be careful when dealing with Bernie. Several questions were asked by his team about how they knew certain pieces of footage existed, and the answer was inevitably YouTube. The team weren’t allowed to just rummage through Bernie’s archive at Biggin Hill; they needed to request specific bits of footage. The cost of paying for footage made it as expensive as actually filming an ordinary film.

Those helping the team by providing footage were often making assumptions about what they would or wouldn’t be interested in. For example, one provider assumed they wouldn’t be interested in the karting footage at the start and end of the film.

The team had to use quite extensive detection work to determine who would have some of the original trackside interview recordings & footage from the angles they wanted. This was often done by recognition of hands holding microphones & dictaphone under Senna’s nose. The team then had to contact reporters & broadcasters to see if they still had it.

The beautiful, evocative soundtrack initially had to be composed ‘blind’ by Antonio Pinto as they weren’t allowed to send him the archive footage they had obtained. The first piece composed was the music for the Brazil ’91 race. Pinto was determined to compose the music for the film as it meant so much to him.

A number of preview screenings were organised, and showing it to Ron Dennis & Sid Watkins was understandably very emotional – both were tearful throughout. Having Sid’s backing was incredibly important as he is so well-respected in F1, which is such a tight-knit community.

Prost was offered a number of screening opportunities but was always too busy. He says he has not seen it but also says he doesn’t like how he’s portrayed! Incidentally the film got savaged in France….

The production team talked to Lewis Hamilton for several hours at the MTC one Sunday morning, but didn’t use any of it as Lewis is not part of Senna’s story.

Many thanks to BAFTA, Asif & Paul for such a great session. I can highly recommend BAFTA events off the back of this, or indeed any chance to hear the team behind a film talk about its creation.

Next stop now is Senna Watch on 29 April. I hope you can join in with this unique opportunity to share the experience of the film with other fans.


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