25 years ago, Warwickshire cricketer Brian Lara racked up the highest ever score in first class cricket at Edgbaston cricket ground, the fabled ‘501 not out’. Pleasingly, it’s fallen to Birmingham based production company Iconic Productions to produce the definitive record of that glorious day for Midlands sport in the form of brand new documentary 501 Not Out, which has its world premiere at MAC this month. We talked to Iconic founder and director Sam Lockyer about a project that’s very close to his heart.
What was the genesis of 501 Not Out?
I first had the idea to make this film about five years ago. As a child my Dad took me to watch cricket in the mid 90s and I remember queuing for Brian Lara’s autograph. I was in awe. He was - and still is - a massive legend of the game. For me, 501 Not Out is a local story with a big hero of mine at its heart, and Lara’s ascent to greatness in 1994 had a worldwide impact on cricket. He became one of the first truly global superstars of the game. He transcended the sport.
What's been the biggest challenge in telling this story?
Probably deciding on the direction I wanted to take the film in - both from a storytelling perspective, but also in regards to the visual texture of the film. Initial budget restrictions also meant that we had to think quite creatively about our approach to archive, what with that being such a key element in terms of transporting the audience to both Trinidad and mid 90s Birmingham. Archive licensing and acquisition is an incredibly complicated process and can be really expensive. ITV have been hugely supportive in this regard, giving us access to their Central News and Sport library. The team at BBC Midlands Today have also been very helpful.
Tell us about your experiences with Brian Lara. Has he been supportive of the project?
After initial conversations with Brian Lara’s manager, Brian was happy for the film to go ahead, but initially chose not to be involved in the project. But…well, without giving too much away, it is fair to say that our filming trip to Trinidad in April was a huge success and has helped to elevate the story to a more compelling level. More importantly, I’d like to think that it has also built some important trust between Brian and myself as a filmmaker and fan. Brian very kindly invited me to his 50th birthday party at his mansion in the Port of Spain, so that was a truly amazing night that I will never, ever forget.
Beyond the premiere screenings in Birmingham, what are your hopes for the film beyond this summer?
We’re currently exploring the possibility of a screening at Lord’s cricket ground. There’s also interest in a screening in Trinidad and we have a number of great contacts in the Caribbean, India and Australia where we feel that the film will go down incredibly well. It’s early days, but Sky Sports have also expressed an interest in the film, which is obviously great to hear.
Is it hard to find support in the Midlands - whether financial or otherwise - for projects like 501 Not Out?
We started out with an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign last year and, although challenging in the current climate, it proved to be a great way to raise some initial finance for the film. It also helped to create a real buzz around the project, which led to some fantastic national press and radio exposure. Warwickshire County Cricket Club has been supportive from the outset in helping us with access to players and locations for a number of shoots at Edgbaston, and more recently, Marston’s Brewery came on board as our headline sponsor. Alongside the financial help, they’ve also provided PR, branding and social media assistance, as well as support for our world premiere at MAC. Without those initial crowdfunders and the support of Marston’s, 501 Not Out just simply would not have been possible to make.
501 Not Out premieres at MAC on Saturday 17th August, with an encore screening on Wednesday 21st August.