Remarkable Pompey tale given the film treatment

Documentary makers have been focusing on Pompey since March 2014
Documentary makers have been focusing on Pompey since March 2014
Ian Darke

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A story without conclusion, a sentence without full stop.

The fall and rise of Pompey lacked convention. Similarly, a lone voice will not be employed to impart a remarkable tale to be left open-ended.

Remy Martin and Barney Fox once observed from afar, yet a desire to catalogue the demise of the first Premier League club to enter administration lured them close.

Since March 2014, under the guise of Zanda Films, the duo have revelled in unfettered access to pull together a documentary focused on the Blues.

Those interviewed numbered 40, among them protagonists and prime movers in ensuring the continued existence of Pompey.

Others to have contributed include those often vilified, perceived to have plotted the demolition ball’s trajectory with Fratton Park.

By arriving on the south coast untarnished by preconception, Martin and Fox have sought to create a film without agenda.

And the pair have pledged the 90-minute documentary earmarked for release in 2018 will let its viewers deliver their own judgement on what unfolded.

Martin said: ‘What we have seen is there isn’t one story, there’s not one perspective to take on this, not everybody agrees on what should happen to Portsmouth.

‘The views aren’t always complementary, sometimes they’re contradictory, but the voice of the film isn’t ours, it’s many voices from people involved in all sorts of ways.

‘Our job is to tidy it up and present in a concise and compelling way for a wider audience to understand just how complex and how remarkable the whole story is.

‘We turned up with a camera and let people speak, that has been our research.

‘The club have been very welcoming and let us hear these diverse voices, and that is credit to them, the access has been unprecedented.

‘We don’t have an agenda, we don’t have an answer, we didn’t come with a particular angle of what we made of the whole situation.

‘Any good documentary should be deep and thorough, the story should emerge from the content and people involved.

‘We have allowed the film a voice which is not two filmmakers, but the voice of a city and those around the club.’

It was Fox who was struck by the concept while visiting Fratton Park with a friend to watch an encounter with Notts County.

That January 2013 fixture was declared a wash-out 90 minutes before kick-off, briefly delaying the plummet towards League Two.

Barely three months later, with Pompey’s future secured following victory for community ownership at the High Court, the Arsenal supporter decided to act.

He approached the ubiquitous Colin Farmery at Pompey and, effectively, the third member of the team was recruited.

Steadily, the interviewing process began.

Fox added: ‘The scary thing, as a filmmaker, is we have learnt the Portsmouth story is not one you think you can understand by going to a couple of games and chatting to a few people.

‘The narrative to what happened is just vast – and it’s incredible.

‘We have chatted to key players in the whole process, such as Mick Williams, Mark Trapani, Ashley Brown and Iain McInnes.

‘There are some of the more militant people, like Bob Beech, while we’ve talked to long-standing club employees Debbie Knight, Kev McCormack and Roger McFarlane.

‘Others include Trevor Birch, Mike Dyer, Micah Hall and Ian Peach.

‘Peter Storrie gave a fantastic interview, he was very open and honest. To be fair, he gave up a lot of his time to provide a really honest account.

‘No matter their view, we have seen people who want the best for the club, their connection with Portsmouth is deep and meaningful.

‘Even if they have different views, there is a genuine desire to have the club’s best interests at heart. Some are more mainstream than others, but there is a commitment to doing what is best for the club.

‘It became emotional with people at times, with tears and moments when we almost had to lift them.

‘Myself and Remy are human beings and when people say marriages were lost and personal issues came about because of what was going on at Portsmouth, you cannot help but be emotionally involved.

‘I don’t think Portsmouth fans will be disappointed with the characters we have managed to get involved.

‘Although, we have to be careful how much information we divulge this early on because we want to keep it a little bit of a surprise.’

There is an unmistakable allusion to the potential inclusion of several controversial figures.

Certainly, Fox admits some of those approached declined to appear to camera, although were able to steer the story through off-the-record chats.

Regardless, with more than 80 hours of footage garnered, it is understandable the initial completion target of autumn/winter 2016 has proven unrealistic.

With big ambitions for the finished project, Zanda Films are determined not to risk quality for the sake of a swift outcome.

‘It takes time, there’s no short cut. We have one chance to get this right,’ said Charlton fan Martin.

‘Of course it will be of deep interest to Portsmouth supporters and the city, but we have a wider audience in mind.

‘This is the story of modern football and how this community ownership thing is not easy. It has not been a one-track, one-way thing in which everyone has been on board. That was not the case.

‘It took a remarkable amount of work and energy to get this club to where it is.

‘Just listen to the voices of those who really know.’