A story which turns a herd of cows into unwitting moo-vie stars is making a big screen appearance in Newcastle in a triumph for grass-roots film-making.
The Moo Man, a documentary that proved a surprise hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is hot-hoofing it to Tyneside Cinema where director Andy Heathcote will be explaining the tale behind what’s been the most challenging film of his career.
It tells the story of the life of farmer Steve Hook who breaks from the big dairies to set up his own doorstep delivery service of organic milk. He faces a battle to keep afloat the family farm – owned by the Hook family for generations – and to control his unruly 55-strong herd.
The film took four years to make, most of which saw Andy, also the cameraman, lying on his stomach in a damp field surrounded by inquisitive cows. His indie film is now charming the socks off viewers.
Scotland-born Andy, whose previous work includes The Lost World of Mr Hardy, a study of traditional fishing tackle-makers Hardy’s of Alnwick, said: “The film started out being about one farmer bucking the trend by not going down the big numbers route.
“In the end, though, what came across most strongly were the cows’ characters. They’re just beautiful animals.”
Especially Ida, the film’s leading lady: a shapely Friesian Holstein clearly happy to show off and described as Steve’s secret weapon as he pulls out the marketing stops for his solo business.
And, yes, Andy is milking the opportunities too. The film has certainly got people talking and, after a screening of it at the cinema today, the filmmaker will be present at a second showing tomorrow during a Q&A session.
He has Ida – believed to be the first cow ever to star in a movie – to thank for the current short tour as it’s paid for by public subscription; 565 fans having raised more than £27,000 to put Ida’s name in lights.
Set on the Pevensey Levels in East Sussex, the film also throws the focus on our relationship with food, the environment and the most important person involved in both – the farmer – caught up in a situation driven by supermarket economics.
Along the way audiences can expect a heart-warming and often hilarious account of night-time calvings and dawn milkings – all carried out with huge passion by the cow-loving Steve, even when his herd is at its most uncooperative.
Co-produced by Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier of Trufflepig Films, The Moo Man can be seen at Tyneside Cinema at 11.25am today and 6pm tomorrow. Visit www.tynesidecinema.co.uk and the-mooman.co.uk