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Directors Oliver Clark and Blair Macdonald on 'Team Khan'

17 Nov, 2018    added by : Paul Hansen








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Team Khan, a dynamic new documentary about British boxer Amir Khan, opened this weekend in Los Angeles and select cities. Directed by Australians Oliver Clark and Blair Macdonald, and filmed over the course of two years, the documentary offers a behind the scenes look at Khan’s stunning career, including his quest to fight the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr.

ScreenPicks posed some question to Oliver Clark and Blair Macdonald about the making of the documentary which also was their first feature.

What led to your decision to make a documentary about Amir Khan?

It was actually almost by chance. In early 2014 we were looking to develop a feature-length project and stumbled across an article about Amir Khan in the newspaper. It was looking like he would face the unbeaten boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. that year. We didn’t know that much about Amir, nor the sport of boxing, but it sounded like it was going to be an interesting year for Amir so we decided to reach out to him. It was a cold call, we filled in a form on the contact page of his website and then much to our surprise heard back from Amir’s uncle the following day. We discussed our ambitions to create a fly-on-the-wall documentary and within about 3 weeks we had started filming.

How did you divide directorial responsibilities in the making of the documentary?

For the majority of the time filming Team Khan, we were a two-man team. We were directing, operating the cameras, recording the sound, as well as producing. It was a huge undertaking, 79 shoot days in total where we captured more than 400 hours of material. There wasn’t any formal divide between us, more a combined hustle! Asad Faruqi also deserves a special mention – he was our cinematographer on the ground in Pakistan. He did a fantastic job and we couldn’t have made this film without him.

This was your first feature film. Were there any unexpected obstacles or lessons that you learned from the process which you will apply to your future projects?

This was a real baptism of fire and we learned an incredible amount during the making of this film. We initially planned and budgeted to film for a year, following Amir on the road to a Mayweather fight. However we soon learned that boxing is a very unpredictable sport, there are no guarantees. After the first year of production there was no end in sight, no Mayweather fight, so we had to keep finding ways to stretch the budget to allow us to continue to film. As fledgling producers, it was a real challenge for us to know what to spend and when throughout a production period that ballooned to over 2 years. So the lesson for us was to better analyze a project in the initial stages. Look at the variables and potential scenarios, so that we can be as informed as possible, and better know what we’re getting ourselves into!

What advice would you have to give to those who would like to pursue careers as film directors? What was your first break into the film industry?

We never went to film school or had any formal training so our advice would have to be just get out there and start shooting. Get into the habit of making. Enjoy the process. As filmmakers, we love being immersed in a project, tangled in the mess of it all, that’s the really sweet part of what we do.

Are there any filmmakers that you particularly admire?

Yes, plenty. As Australians, we’d like to shout out a few homegrown favorites: Andrew Dominik, John Hillcoat, Jane Campion, Peter Weir, Ivan Sen, David Michod, George Miller. Also some documentary directors we really admire — Werner Herzog, Asif Kapadia, Liz Garbus, Matthew Heineman, Jim Jarmusch, Errol Morris.

Is there anything, in general, you’d like to tell audiences about Team Khan?

It’s quite rare to get this kind of access to an elite athlete in their prime. Most professional sportsmen play in a team, in a league, so there’s often a lot of restrictions and it can be difficult to get proper access to them. Boxing is different, each athlete essentially creates their own team around them, they get to call the shots. Amir really wanted this film to be made, and so that meant we got no holds barred access to him. The result is a true insight into his life and the sport of professional boxing at the top level.

Would you like to share with us what your next projects will be?

We’ve been exploring some ideas, both documentary and narrative for our next project. There is a particular project we’re really excited about, which we can’t say too much about at this point, other than it’s something entirely different from the world of Team Khan.

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