Christopher Nupen

Christopher Nupen was one of the best directors of music documentaries. His career started in 1962 at the BBC Features Department. In 1966 he made his first film, ‘Double Concerto’, with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Daniel Barenboim, and received awards in Prague and Monte Carlo for this masterpiece. Since then, he has founded his own production company, Allegro Films, for which he has made an impressive series of films of unparalleled quality. Remy Franck made the following interview with the now deceased film director in 2011.

« To make a good documentary film, » Christopher Nupen points out, « you have to approach the subject with honesty and modesty. Then, and only then, can a project evolve according to its own needs, find its own path and develop its own style. The moment you try to impose your own personality on the project, the film loses its essential qualities. »

Another premise is that you have to « really want to make a subject. It has to matter to you, it has to matter to the director to treat the subject in the best way possible. You need time, you need the craft and you need the money. If any of these elements are missing, you probably won’t reach your potential. And that’s the problem. TV stations don’t give us the time or the money and, more importantly, they don’t give us the slots to reach the audience. And those who work under such conditions usually don’t have the necessary training either. Today’s television is the opposite of what television was in the old days, when the medium had real importance and value. »

Christopher Nupen receiving his ICMA Award in San Sebastian (2016)

So television is not important to him? His answer is unequivocal: « The audience is there, certainly, it’s there even for the TV channels that dare to program quality films at times when the audience is available. Unfortunately, the number of these channels is reduced, and in the generalist stations, the availability of the officials to program a program is decreasing with the increase of the quality of the film. The better a film is, the less likely it is to be scheduled. A BBC official said that the audience for classical music films no longer exists. This is not true. What is true is that if you give classical music fans poor quality films, they turn off their TV sets. Station officials are underestimating their audience. »

This observation led us to ask Nupen if, in his search for other ways to reach the audience, DVD or blu ray is a good niche. He answered with another profession of faith: « If I want to make a good film for television and subsequent exploitation on DVD, I have to find sponsors. The budgets of the TV stations do not allow me to make good films. And if I don’t find a sponsor, I don’t make a film. I’m not going to betray what I’ve done for 40 years. I’m never going to make a cheap movie and then make a bad movie. I don’t want to say that with the necessary budget my film will necessarily be a good film, but I must at least try to give the maximum. Three times I started a project that, in the end, didn’t work. In one of the three cases I was able to make the necessary corrections and additions within a space of two years, in the second case I took ten years to complete the film and we won an award with it. »

Christopher Nupen has died

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