Idris Elba: Cut from a Different Cloth

Following the release of his new Netflix documentary with Idris Elba Cut from a Different Cloth we catch up with Director and Cheltenham local, Richard Terry for a behind the scenes insight…

So tell us, how did you get into the world of film?

I have been passionate about making film and television ever since, as a little boy, I glimpsed a movie being made near my home. At the first opportunity I began an apprenticeship as a lighting cameraman, gaining union status after a stint in a 35mm camera facilities house. At that point the BBC film unit was in its heyday and it became a burning ambition of mine to make it in that institution.

I am originally a west country boy from South West Devon and worked and lived in Notting Hill for 20 years. I came to live in Cheltenham when I started working on a contract for Superdry a few years ago. I worked behind the camera to direct, produce and film for the British clothing brand, ultimately putting me in the perfect position to produce the Netflix documentary Cut From A Different Cloth.

And just how did the collaboration and concept of the film come about before hitting Netflix?

The concept of the film came about early in the morning during an extended dinner at No.131 during the first high spirited meeting in Cheltenham of Superdry’s founders Julian Dunkerton, James Holder, Idris and his stylist Cheryl Konte.

The next morning, the four were due to start looking at samples and to plan the creation of a new premium clothing range with Idris & Superdry.  Idris said to me in a sleepy, gravelly voice “Richard, why don’t we film it…grab a camera and just start filming….”

This I did, after only 2 hours sleep and tried my best to keep everything in focus.  It wasn’t long before I suggested the idea of making it into a broadcast documentary that would not only tell the story of the collaboration but the history of a local success story, that of Superdry itself.

Idris Elba

We love Idris! Tell us more about him…

Idris like Julian and James is a workaholic and he has so many interests and passions. One thing to be clear about is that the creation of a clothing range was not a fad, or a reason to make another film. Fashion has always been something Idris has been passionate about since he was at school and I just happened to be in the right place, with the right people and at the right time to document it.

One personal boyish triumph I will divulge, is that I took great pleasure in beating him in an underwater swimming competition 3 out of 3 times….but if he challenged me to a fight I’d make my excuses knowing I wouldn’t stand a chance.

How would you sum up your style of filming?

Much of the film I shot myself especially the more intimate sequences. There were days when I had excellent cameramen who have a fantastic eye for composition such as on the Rankin shoot,  model casting and the final launch event. My style, I like to feel is both filmic, reactive and as unobtrusive as possible. A positive local story is that I also used a gifted young chap called Ethan Russell who was still studying film at Gloucester College. Ethan did such a good job that I took him with me for a few days to film the invaluable factory scenes in Turkey.

Speaking of Turkey, how did you chose your filming locations?

Most of the locations were determined by events needing to be filmed where they naturally happen so I had little choice. When in Cheltenham, Idris stayed at  No.131 repeatedly as he loved it and had his favourite room. There is a moment at the start of the film where we can see Idris trotting out of the front entrance of the hotel. He really enjoyed the food and always had time for the respectful and discreet staff. He also developed a taste for Dunkerton’s organic cider, as have we all over the years and this wasn’t just to please Julian who’s father created it.

Idris and his team often asked for it either at No.131 or The Wheatsheaf. After all, the filming idea was born under a haze of Dunkerton’s cider. I remember Idris asking me to send a phone snap of a pint held to the setting sun to prove that I’d made it from the Rankin shoot in Camden Town to Northleach before sunset.  I only just made it, but had to stand on a wall to get the shot.

I had a private screening of the film at No.38 The Park. It was for those who were in it, around 40 people. A lovely venue for a Christmas event with rows of studded leather chairs, candle light and mulled wine. The film started from conception and ended with the first viewing at The Lucky Onion.

What was your most exciting day of filming and why?

It’s hard to evaluate the most exciting of filming days as I get excited for different reasons…such as managing to achieve what I thought was lost or not achievable. It could be the glamorous large scale event such as the launch of the clothing range at Superdry’s flagship store in Regent Street. However,  I’d say that the most exciting day for me was less obvious and more intimate.

There is a sequence in the film where Idris was due to fly in from filming Star Trek to make last minute alterations or ‘Tweaks’ as he calls them, to the clothes. I’d decided to relocate from Superdry headquarters to Julian Dunkerton’s picture postcard country home in a hamlet outside of Cheltenham.

Apart from the logistics of people, clothing and tools to be moved, Julian had been tasked with persuading Idris to model for an underwear shoot in a makeshift studio. When Idris arrived, he announced that he’d damaged his neck whilst wearing heavy prosthetics for the movie. I took advantage of the unexpected events and contacted my chiropractor Karl Turner from Oakwell Health who agreed to treat Idris at Julian’s place.

Of course I filmed this unexpected sequence as Idris lay in his pants and the Superdry tech team and photographers stood around looking completely bemused. Meanwhile, Julian chose this moment to ask Idris if he’d model some boxers for a photo shoot leading to a memorable and extremely funny yet painful reaction from Idris.  Embracing the unexpected and turning events into a positive are exciting to me.

What’s next for Richard Terry?

I am working on a documentary series development idea with a Bristol film company whilst planning to continue work as a Director for broadcast documentaries with an open mind to also move into drama given the right opportunity.

Richard’s documentary ‘Cut From A Different Cloth’ can be seen on Netflix worldwide.

Idris Elba