How a painful chapter from his own youth revived James Gray’s passion for filmmaking
James Gray’s first feature film, “I Thought What I Said,” may not make a lot of money, but it has been a passion project for the last 10 years.
Gray’s film was a hit when it debuted at SXSW earlier this month.
“I thought what I said” was a documentary about his own early days in the U.K., as a teenager in rural Kent, England, fighting to put down roots and make a home for his family. He was a shy, self-contained kid with a huge chip on his shoulder.
As an adult, Gray found himself in a similar place when he was forced to relocate for his law degree; his parents left him and his three siblings, who are now in their 20s, in a London suburb. He’s been searching ever since to find his place among the crowd of young adults he now sees as his peers.
On a recent afternoon at New York’s prestigious Cinema Village, Gray gave an interview to film editor Ben Brantley about that path to his first feature, the challenges of making a first feature, and why he’s now a filmmaker.
How did you start your career in filmmaking?
I did. I was doing a bit of everything and then I got an offer from a university to do their first feature film course. I thought I was going to end up living in the suburbs with a nice house and a car. But my parents came to the UK and ended up taking me and my three siblings with them. So I did it all over again.
How have you dealt with the frustration that came with having to make your first feature?
I felt really angry and really alone because I had a difficult relationship with my parents. I had some very challenging times that were really hard for me. I had to move my whole life. I had to grow up in a different place. But I’m quite grateful for the