Interview with acclaimed producer ALASTAIR RAMSDEN
The Healing Power of Creativity
Originally from the UK, film and television producer Alastair Ramsden is one of the army of brits currently taking Hollywood by storm. With an impressive list of credits to his name and an extensive number of projects in the works, I sat down with him to discuss one that is particularly close to his heart.
So tell us a little bit about your background
I spent many of my professional years working in continuing drama, where high episode turnover consumes story at an incredible rate, leaving almost no room for error. I find it an absolutely exhilarating way to work. As an assistant director, and now moving on to the heady heights of becoming a producer, I think my experience so far has served me pretty well. I also had the good fortune to work on some truly great films and some prestigious TV dramas for the likes of BBC, ITV & Channel 4.
What made you decide to make the move to LA?
ITV Studios pioneered an international talent program and I was the pilot case. In September 2015 I was seconded to ITV Studios America to consult on high volume scheduling practices and how the crafting of story can create a more streamlined and efficient production workflow. At the end of my six months here, I had fallen in love with Los Angeles and in love with a woman and made every possible effort I could to stay here. Luckily, I had the good fortune to become employed by Little Engine, a production company under ITV Studios producer portfolio. Since then, I’ve learned a vast amount at an incredible rate and I continually look to add to my experience and development.
How did you come across the project you’re working on right now?
During the frequent cursory glances one takes at Facebook on any given day, it’s not often that you see something that not only pulls on the heart strings, but yanks at them like a giant tug of war. Recently, I came across the story of Edward Hardy on the news channel Vice. Ed had been suffering from Dementia for a few years and the nursing home he resided in offered him no engagement. He was lost to the illness, barely able to glimpse the man he was yesterday, let alone a year or decade ago. When Sam Kinsella, a twenty-something aspiring musician started working at the home, the unlikely couple bonded over a mutual appreciation for music. Playing old jazz records to Ed helped Sam establish a connection and with it, gave Ed a renewed passion for the art. When Ed tells the story of how he used to play in a band as a younger man, Sam brings in a dusty old keyboard and presents it to Ed. Nervous at first, muscle memory soon returns and Ed’s efficacy and skill is plainly there to see. This inspired Sam to reach out and find the people Ed used to play in his band with. Miraculously, three of his band mates respond to the online advert and the quartet are reunited. They play a heart-meltingly beautiful performance to friends and family and to this day, Ed’s spirit remains lifted thanks to his love for music and Sam for reintroducing it to his life.
So what made you want to re-tell this story?
This story stirred up such a deep range of emotions in me: the enduring and resilient nature of the human spirit; how love, loss and hope can be shaped by the simple enjoyment of an expressive art and at it’s core, the lengths we go to find someone lost in despair or anguish. I loved how Ed and Sam were the unlikeliest of friends in some ways, but found a bond that transcended age and generation. Unlike the story told in Awakenings where Robert DeNiro’s character is freed from catatonia through medication, Ed’s own awakening was through art, creativity and real human connection. A huge part of me believes that if I only ever made this film for the benefit of those caring for men and women suffering from Dementia or Alzheimers, then my job has been of purpose and I can move on knowing I did my best to serve them and the story itself.
So what can we expect to see from you in the future?
My goal and focus right now is to see this film get made and showcase this incredible story to a much wider audience. There are so many incredibly talented and focused people in LA and I am always looking for ways to partner with like minded and forward thinking individuals. TV is such a competitive space commercially and it’s true that the cream always rises, but there’s no doubt that everyone benefits from a dose of luck from time to time. My focus will be on opening up my exposure to these opportunities, work hard and trust that luck will be in my sails for the foreseeable future.