25 November 2019

Behind the scenes of a unique Andy Murray documentary

Resurfacing, a documentary chronicling what turned out to be the most difficult period in Andy Murray’s life is released by Amazon today. The film’s director, Olivia Cappuccini reveals to Roundup how what had been intended to be sixth month tale of triumphal return from injury became the account of a “deep and dark battle” that lasted two years.

“The idea of documenting an elite athlete at his lowest striving to get back to where he left off was all Andy's,” says Olivia Cappuccini who makes her feature length documentary debut with Resurfacing. “But I know for certain he did not anticipate that my camera and I would live alongside him for the last two years. No one knew how deep and dark his story would be.”

It says a lot about Andy, often considered one of our more private sporting heroes, that he contemplated giving a film crew access to such an intimate moment of his life and career in the first place. But it says even more that he didn’t pull the plug when it began to look as if he might never play at the top level again.

“Originally I was meant to document his recovery from surgery early in 2018 through to an almighty comeback at Wimbledon 2018. It was meant to be a fun six-month project but it turned in to a two year battle."

Olivia was approached on behalf of Andy by his wife, Kim Sears. The couple have known Olivia for several years and Olivia is engaged to Kim’s brother. Trust was clearly important:

“There was a lot of optimism and hope within the first month of filming, the original surgery was perceived to be successful and Andy's initial rehab  was progressing quickly. He hit his first bump in the road as soon as he started hitting on court properly, then came the second, and then the third. It became a really sensitive space when the one thing Andy so desperately wanted, to play tennis again, was the one thing that was giving him the most pain, that the original surgery might not have been the thing to fix Andy, and his future in the sport really was unknown.

“We all liked the idea that we could keep the filming environment very intimate and private. I'm not attached to a big media entity so if at any point someone didn't want to continue with the project, we could just turn off the camera and that would be it. It was important to me that Andy led the project, that he would be happy with me turning up everyday and sitting in on everything that was going on. He never asked me to leave the room even when things became incredibly sensitive and I will always be grateful to him for letting me witness and film the hardest and darkest moments of his life.”

“As the material I was filming became more sensitive, it was important to continually assess what we were trying to achieve. I remember sitting with Andy and Kim and questioning if I should keep filming and we agreed to keep going without any idea of what would come of it. It felt important to finish what we started. I thought that was really brave of Andy, his family and his team at the time as the film shifted from being an uplifting tale of an elite athlete as he seamlessly rehabs back from a surgery, to a film about a man continually being knocked back, waking up the next morning (still in pain) and trying to find a way to move forward. To cut a long explanation short, yes it was Andy's idea to show what it's really like for an injured athlete to get back to the sport they love, but no one knew how deep and dark his story would be, and only until recently did it turn out good. It was at that point that I stopped filming!”

From today, Amazon Prime viewers will have the chance to see for themselves the results of this remarkable collaboration. Andy only saw it in full for the first time this week at the film's premier event...

“Andy had no directorial input at all, and he felt really strongly about that. I sent him a finished cut about a week before it was locked and he managed to get halfway through. I think it was really difficult for him to sit through what he would consider the hardest two years of his life, and he also felt that if he offered an opinion then it wouldn't be an authentic storytelling experience."

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Olivia was “how stoic and patient Andy is".

"This film doesn't really touch the surface in terms of all of the research Andy and his team did, all the specialists that Andy had to see and explain himself to, all the times he'd be prodded and poked and analysed, only to have his hopes dashed time and time again. I never saw Andy lose his temper and he had every right to at times. That was surprising, but that's also what sets him apart.”

If Andy is a pioneer - and not only on court - Olivia is also finding her own way into filmmaking. After university she set up her own company, Scenes of Reason, originally with a mission to "decode the news" to young people. Now embarking on a career as a more general filmmaker, was this something she hoped still to carry forward into her work?

“I'm going to be controversial and say that in this current climate I'm not sure it's possible. The market is over-saturated, and I think rather than add another voice, maybe there's a different way. The way I approach projects is always the same no matter the subject, and I like the idea of coming back to tackling social and political issues; but I'm really enjoying learning how to tell stories that have an impact on a different level.”

When it comes to sporting documentaries of which there is a long and venerable tradition, she is clear on her approach. “I am a fan of sporting documentaries that draw in audiences that know nothing about the sport and create fans. I'm hoping this film is one of them,” and Olivia admits that she got emotionally caught up in Andy’s journey.  

“How could you not. If Andy could get up everyday and keep moving, the least I could do was capture it for him. Everyone around him - Kim and his team were in it, enduring it - and nothing would compare to what Andy had to go through. But both his pain and determination were infectious.”

What’s next for Olivia?  “I have few exciting projects in the pipeline, but nothing set in stone yet,” she says, though is certain she would like to work with the same team. “If I didn't have such a great post production and editing team, I never would have had the confidence to produce something like this.”

As Andy will soon be family, Olivia admits he’s not likely to escape her, but what she won’t be doing is following in Andy’s on-court footsteps. “I’m a fan of tennis now but I'm dreadful at the game; Andy's coach can vouch for me on that.”

Andy Murray: Resurfacing is available from today (29th November 2019) via Amazon Prime membership