Director Mat Hodgson spoke with K+S about the road to the English Premier League, the incredible cast of characters in the Queens Park Ranger’s boardroom, and the epic end to QPR’s 2011-2012 season.
The Four Year Plan is the closing night feature of the Kicking + Screening Film Festival on Saturday, March 14, 2015 8:00 pm
When billionaire owners purchased the history-rich but talent-poor English club Queens Park Rangers (QPR), they gave themselves four years to reach the Premier League. Mat Hodgson’s film, The Four Year Plan, chronicles the journey. The documentary bounces from the boardroom — where QPR’s leadership clashes with one another and fires coaches on a whim — to the field and locker room as the team attempts to return to the world’s richest soccer league.
Why did you choose to film QPR?
It wasn’t me that originally approached QPR. However, when the story broke that QPR had been bought by billionaires it was clearly going to be a great journey and therefore lend itself hopefully to good documentary.
I knew the angle to take would be on the boardroom as that’s where the club had something different, dynamic and exciting. They were the story.
You get incredible access to the QPR braintrust. Was there anything you wanted to see/film that you couldn’t?
Access was so key and I worked hard at everyone feeling comfortable with me around. I think the board deserve huge credit for opening their doors to me. No documentarymaker is ever likely to be 100% happy that they got everything. We saturated filming but still some events we didn’t cover or were restricted. I imagine that is pretty normal though? I think all things considered we can’t really complain too much with what we did and didn’t get!
Did you initially know that the QPR ownership and decision making committee were going to be such great characters or was that a happy accident?
A bit of both. The owners (Briatore & Ecclestone) brought with them a profile which you just knew was going to be conducive to strong characterisation. But I think I was fortunate that several other (at the time unknown) protagonists were so strong in their own right and offered something different: Amit Bhatia for his cool head and measured management style that develops, Gianni Paladini for his extraordinary drive and passion, and even Neil Warnock coming in to offer a new strong dynamic at just the right time. The melting pot of characters is kinda unique, diverse and creates fantastic dynamics. I think I was fortunate to that extent, yes.
Did you initially think the actual four-year plan was going to work (i.e. that QPR reach the EPL)? If not, at what point did you begin to believe?
I hoped! You can’t guarantee anything of course. What I would say is that I was lucky the board said it was a four year plan as I had a hook then. With that I could keep the film alive unless it exceeded the four years. Luckily for me it didn’t and they achieved it in four years. I am a football fan and a filmmaker, both of which rely upon being a bit of a dreamer. So when the two worlds collide your level of optimism, hope and dreaming are magnified. I did believe they would succeed ultimately yes, even at the lowest points. I knew it must not be given up on as a film, and am proud of the fact I kept going with it.
QPR barely survived on the last day this season. Did you watch the match against Manchester City? What was going through your head?
It was an epic day. I had friends over to my house for a day of food and football. The range of emotions were extraordinary. My friends couldn’t quite believe the level to which I celebrated QPR’s goals (I support Sheffield Wednesday), but it showed how I’d grown an emotional attachment to the club and I really cared that they stayed up. It would have been tragic to see all that hard work of last year for nothing. I was delighted for the club and it’s fans. Sheffield Wednesday achieved a promotion this year and QPR stayed up so it was a great season for me!
As for the way the EPL ended… I don’t think we will ever see anything quite like it again. Aguero’s goal was received with shocked silence amongst my friends and I before we all erupted in reaction as we processed what had just happened. It was a moment so dramatic that only sport can really provide.