Director: Sarah Lewis
TV Producer: Nic Tuft and Michael Kopelman
Location: Cuts, Soho
NO IFS OR BUTS is a feature length documentary, filmed over the course of 20 years at Cuts hairdressers in Soho London. The film explores 30 years of UK street culture but ‘It’s not just about the haircut’... it’s got love, sex, death, drugs, prison, breakdown and finally resurrection. At its heart is a friendship between freewheeling business partners James Lebon and Steve Brooks, who met when one was a rockabilly and the other a New Romantic. ‘Cuts’ was founded during the Post–Punk, New Romantic era in the early 80s, and it began its life in a tiny stall in the basement of hip Kensington Market, where a heady mix of creative society meshed to form a movement that included contemporary musicians, photographer, artists, DJs, filmmakers, designers, and fashion types.
‘Ken market was quite mental; you had all these sort of freak shops like Martin Degville, and lots of characters who worked there, Scarlett, Fat Tony, you had CUTS, it was like a community center for weirdos.’ – Boy George
Like the Oscar winning movie, Boyhood, ‘NO IFS OR BUTS’ shows society and its values evolve through the people who visit the low key but famous hair salon, tracing profound and often tragic personal developments within the 'barbarista’s' lives and the wider context of immense change in the UK’s political, social and cultural zeitgeist.
‘It was my home... If I went West End ... I went CUTS, the stomping ground, a hive for bees like us...” – Goldie.
The Cuts salon is still thriving in Dean St Soho. The venue may have changed over the years, but the spirit has remained the same for well over 30 years. Sarah Lewis is an international filmmaker known for working with the likes of Tony Kaye Films; she produced & directed the documentary Crowded House for Channel 4 as well and wrote, directed and edited The Staring Girl, a 10-min. fiction film which got picked up by many festivals around the world. She recently completed an MA Artists’ Film and Moving Image at Goldsmiths University. Go & See noifsorbuts.co.uk & dobedo.co.uk/cuts-book . And here is our short GoSee interview with persistent Director Sarah Lewis who thinks and works in decades without ever losing her sense of humor:
What took you so long? 20 years?
Funding! And the film seemed to have a rhythm of its own that was quite untamable. We were making the film, and by this, I mean that we were going out and filming despite having no funding, but the whole energy of CUTS seemed to dictate the process of the filmmaking. It was finished when it was ready to be finished – despite our best efforts to do 'a year in the life' of CUTS salon in Soho, London.
What is the difference in your perception of London now and then?
It was a very different time in London; places like Cuts existed as physical spaces where people could go and hang out, meet people and exchange creative ideas. There were no mobile phones and no social media – believe it or not – so there was no other option than to 'Get Physical' as Olivia Newton John so eloquently sang about in the early 80s.
What did you feel the moment you realized: “It’s over”?
Every year for a decade, I had hoped that this was the year that I could complete the film. NO IFS OR BUTS was invited to screen at the BFI London Film Festival in 2017, but we were unable to access funding. And then time ran out for the edit. So in 2018, it was once again invited, and we knew that we had to take this opportunity to complete it, whatever it took. Also Steve Brooks, who is the main character in the film, came back from living in Cuba, and I was able to film some other footage of him with his adopted family. And it felt like it was finally finished from a narrative point of view.
Will there be a sequel? (shame on us, we could not resist a little harmless teasing ;-) )
Not in my lifetime!
Do you have another project in the pipeline? And if so: How many years have you been working on it?
I have another film that I have been working on about an ex-child soldier from South Sudan, a very different subject matter. And that has only been for the 8 years so far...
Do you run out of the room if someone mentions hair, hair dressers, anything related... to you?
Yes... accompanied by psychotic screaming...!
Any recommendation for the ‘Cuts 2018’ salon in London for our readers? Anywhere?
'We Are Cuts' of course – still running in Soho after 40 years.
About the book : CUTS. DoBeDo is proud to announce the launch of Cuts; a joint publication between Gimme 5 and DoBeDo! CUTS is a 500 page book of portraits shot by Steve Brooks in the ‘90s and ’00s. Steve was the co-owner of ‘Cuts’, the iconic London hairdressers founded by James Lebon in Kensington Market in 1978. These casual triptychs were displayed as enlarged 35mm black & white contact sheets in the window on the Soho shop, replaced only when the next roll was developed and then forgotten… until now! Recently rediscovered by Sarah Lewis, the director of ‘No Ifs Or Buts’, a 20-year-in-the-making documentary about Steve, James and Cuts – premiered at the London Film Festival in October. CUTS, the book, is a valuable record of the institution and its Soho clientele from a significant era in London’s cultural history.
PUBLISHER: Gimme5 and DoBeDo Books . DETAILS: 512 pages printed in black & white, case bound . Photographs by Steve Brooks, edited by Mark Lebon, designed by Edward Quarmby . First Edition of 500 . 50.95 GBP/each . dobedo.co.uk/cuts-book