Bros documentary directors say the brothers have set an example for men

The best music documentary in years talks to our turbulent times according to Joe Pearlman and David Soutar

“When will I, will I be famous?” asked boyband Bros in catchy synth-pop fashion. Well, for a spell in the 1980s twins Matt and Luke Goss were granted their wish before they spectacularly fell out of fashion, and then fell out themselves, barely talking to each other for years. But now the sleeper hit of the Christmas TV schedules Bros: After the Screaming Stops has made them famous again. Starting off as a straightforward documentary about the run-up to their first concert in 28 years, it quickly turned into a comedy and tragedy of Shakespearean and Spinal Tap-ian proportions. With more dates and a musical comeback on the cards, directors Joe Pearlman and David Soutar from production company Fulwell73 explain how they made TV magic happen.

The Big Issue: How do you feel about making Bros famous again?

Joe Pearlman: I think we both feel totally honoured to be able to resurrect their career. The UK forgot about them in such a massive way.

How did your original plans for the film compare with the end result?

JP: Initially it was more of a retrospective, the boys looking at their past, building towards the gig at the end. But from the first time we met them we both knew that they were much bigger characters. The first thing I filmed was Matt in Vegas giving a tour of his house, learning about his bulldog, the ‘conversation corner’ and his chess obsession. We knew very early on that we had something special.

David Soutar: We never knew which way it was going to go until we started rolling a camera. We had our hopes for the film but that was the first time we thought we might be able to shape the film that we wanted it to be.

Were you Bros fans to begin with?

DS: I knew them from when I was a kid. People were singing their songs in the playground. My sister made kooky versions of Bros T-shirts for me and my brother and made us dance around the house singing their songs. When we said we were going to be making the film, everyone had such a strong reaction to it and shared memories they have of them, unless they were under a certain age and didn’t know who they were.

JP: I had absolutely no idea who they were. I’m 30 so I completely missed out.

DS: We didn’t want to make a film for the fans, that’s not what we ever set out to do. Part of the problem at the start was actually getting them in a room together. Then as soon as we did, because of their relationship at that moment, there would then be fireworks, which
as filmmakers we were pushing to see.

How much pushing did you have to do?

JP: There was some pushing.

DS: Gentle nudging, not pushing.

JP: That is them. They couldn’t be more themselves, to be honest. As filmmakers you have to take them on a journey but also let them play it out for themselves. There’s a lot of conversation off-camera that builds to what you see on camera. When they fight at the This Morning studios, on the way in that day, Matt was telling me about what had happened with Luke. Instead of going, ’Well you should go have it out!’ I said, “If that was my brother, this is what I’d do,” and that set the ball rolling. We weren’t leading them down any paths but we were instrumental in making sure they got their feelings out.

What lessons could we learn from Bros in these divisive times?

JP: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I think a huge part is not letting things go unsaid. You have to communicate with the people who love you regardless of anything that’s gone on in the past. These two people who are almost exactly the same but completely different, they’ve been through so much, and modern men aren’t that good at expressing their feelings. Matt and Luke certainly expressed their feelings.

DS: Absolutely. There is a thing at the moment, we’re not going to say men have it tough, but they’ve been tested recently and one thing they haven’t done is speak openly. Like Joe says, there’s something to be said for men opening up a bit more.

When the brothers were sharing some of their words of wisdom, how did you manage to keep a straight face?

DS: Genuinely, there’s a scar on one side of my tongue from just biting down.

When they were fighting, did you ever feel a responsibility to step in, like a wildlife cameraman saving a turtle from a fishing net?

JP: Short of them punching each other, I think it would be wrong to intervene.

DS: Let them have it out. It’s different with animals. I think I’d try to protect a dog.

You didn’t even correct their assertion that you can’t play conkers in the UK?

JP: That’s their opinion!

Bros: After the Screaming Stops is available on iPlayer