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A family affair

Journalist-turned-filmmaker Kate Spicer talks about documentary Mission to Lars.

On the surface, Mission To Lars appears to be a documentary about a learning disability – in this case, the relatively obscure Fragile X Syndrome – but in reality it is more about family and its inevitable ups and downs; its struggles and successes.

The film focuses on Tom Spicer, a sufferer of Fragile X, whose lifelong dream is to meet Lars Ulrich, drummer and founding member of Metallica.

For journalist Kate Spicer, it was as much a journey for herself and brother/director Will than their sibling’s quest to meet his musical hero.

“Will and I had this fantasy of hitting the road with Tom and recreating some of the magic of our teenage years cruising around in rundown cars, eating fast food and listening to heavy metal on the tape deck,” she said. “We thought it would be fun; a bonding experience. We wanted to do something good for our brother.”

Good intentions don’t necessarily lead to good results, however, and the ensuing journey across the pond was anything but straightforward for the Spicer family.

Countless obstacles presented themselves throughout their mission including evasive tour personnel, Tom’s condition and inevitable family frictions. “It was genuine chaos”, says Kate.

Even getting the film made presented a challenge to the family. Faced with dismissive comments about the nature of their film, the Spicers went down a less conventional route in order to fund the documentary.

“Aside from Metallica, we didn’t have a lot to get investors interested. So instead of hectoring my contacts and friends for investment, I threw big parties and had auctions.”

Auctions including such unusual prizes as walk-on (and fully-clothed) cameos in an adult film, which managed to raise a cool £4,000 for the film’s production.

Did the family find that by keeping the film’s funding independent, they managed to keep their story pure?

“My concern, always, was that by keeping it independent we were keeping it too pure, too indulgent,” says Kate. “But now, seeing how people react to the film, I think that purity was the right way forward.”

Lars Ulrich is often a divisive figure in the music world; a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy, but Kate found him to be “a very cool guy”.

“He talked to Tom, not via me as some people will,” she said. “He was kind and full of energy and optimism.”

Mission accomplished, then.

Mission to Lars opens in UK cinemas on June 8 with a charity screening on behalf of Mencap at The Gate Cinema and a special Q&A at The Ritzy, Brixton. It will screen at cinemas across the country throughout June and July.

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