A catcopter, a sharkjet, a radio controlled flying rat: Matt Rudge’s new doc on modern taxidermy, All Creatures Great and Stuffed, features some unusual hybrids.
But as both a Bafta-nominated doc maker with credits like The Autistic Me and House of Surrogates to his name and also a regular on the stand up circuit, he’s an unusual hybrid himself. It’s not a career mix that many combine. “Although someone told me Morgan Spurlock once tried stand up.” But, he says, the two jobs are “closer than you’d imagine. When you write a stand up show it’s an hour-long narrative weaving themes in and out. It’s not that dissimilar to a documentary.”
Except stand up places all the focus on the storyteller, whereas Rudge is rarely in the camera’s glare on his documentaries. “On the projects I’ve done so far, I would have got in the way. It would have to be required by the film instead of me being plonked in front of the screen to present.”
And there’s more than enough to focus on visually in Get Stuffed. The modern resurgence of taxidermy made it an obvious subject for documentary. “People don’t know how to react to it. Perhaps that speaks about our attitude to death. Also, I’m not going to lie, there were things like a radio controlled helicopter cat!” And there was bound to be a rich seam of characters, he says. “I don’t think the average person looks at a dead lamb and thinks, ‘I could do something with that.’”
And it’s those characters that are ultimately the focus. “When I was toying with the original concept I thought ‘could we invent the scalpel camera? or use a mini rig above where the taxidermists work like a camera in a mortuary?” But more kit and crew “would have reduced the time I could spend with each character.” And that’s key. “I self shoot as it’s all about the relationship with the contributor. When you get to know these people they open up. There’s a back-story that is quite sensitive. It’s difficult to get that relationship if you turn up and say the crew is just unloading.”
All Creatures Great and Stuffed, Mentorn for Channel 4: Wednesday 10th September
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