Spinning wheels: The tricky post on ‘Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling’

Phil Liggett and Nickolas Bird.

Before the pandemic, tackling post on the feature doc Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling would have been a straightforward task for Eleanor Sharpe and Nickolas Bird.

The filmmakers spent a total of 11 weeks in South Africa, the UK, Australia and France to chronicle the 51-year career of Liggett, the 76-year-old English cycling commentator/journalist, as he faces retirement.

Adding pathos to the film, the 2019 cycling season was the first for Liggett since the death from a heart attack of his long time broadcast partner Paul Sherwen.

“This is not a cycling film. It’s a film about a man facing retirement, reflecting on his amazing life,” Bird tells IF. “It’s about grief, courage and ageing.”

Working from home, the current challenge for Bird and Sharpe is liaising with lead editor Tony Stevens and post production supervisor Darius Family.

The producers/directors did not want to rely on editing via the Internet so they adjusted their workflow and methodology.

They had to copy all 10 TB of their low-res Avid files and send them to Stevens on what is known as a duplicate raid. Also, they are considering moving their Nexus from their office to home.

The next challenge will be to access archival footage. They discovered there is a stack in a storage locker in Minneapolis which they can’t access until May because the owner is stranded on the other side of the country.

Meanwhile archive libraries are slow to respond because of reduced staff. Even so, they aim to complete the $1.4 million production funded by Film Victoria, the Adelaide Film Festival and Demand Film in time for the AFF premiere in October.

Demand Film handled the duo’s MAMIL (Middle Aged Men in Lycra!), which was narrated by Liggett and ranks as the platform’s most successful title with a global gross of $400,000.

The firm headed by David Doepel plans a traditional theatrical release for Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling in Australia as well as cinema-on-demand release in the US, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Germany.

Bird says: “Demand Film is our sales agent and distributor, which makes them very attractive to us. They had extreme success with our last film and we see them as the future in a shrinking, very closed, nepotistic market.”

Meanwhile Bird and Sharpe are developing a narrative feature based on MAMIL and working on a feature documentary about the special relationships between dogs and people.