Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.
After Nick Shymansky discovered jazz singer Amy Winehouse when she was 16, he became her manager until 2006. As a friend and confidant, he intervened when Winehouse eventually spun out of control, inspiring her song “Rehab.”
Recently, Shymansky donated 12 hours of footage to director Asif Kapadia to be featured in the biopic “Amy,” released last Friday. Shymansky spoke with the Texan about the film and his memories of Winehouse.
The Daily Texan: What positive things do you hope come out of the film?
Nick Shymansky: I hope Amy is understood as more of a human being than a huge tabloid wild-child. Maybe she’s considered a bit more of a real person than a lot of people would have seen her as in the last few years of her life.
Most importantly, I hope that there’s a bit more consideration over depression and mental health. For all Amy’s bombardment of paparazzi, no one ever stopped and asked “Is this a publicity stunt? Clearly not. So what’s going on?” Obviously there was something very wrong.
DT: Do you think there’s been a change in how the media’s perceived her since her death?
NS: I’m a realist, I know it’s not going to change overnight. But this is the first time that I’ve ever seen warm and positive commentary from journalists and people online. It feels like there’s a warmth in the air toward Amy off the back of people seeing this film. There’s a new side to Amy that people are seeing. It’s nice that people are realizing that she was really funny, really bright, and she was really the real deal.
DT: What is it about the film that you think allowed people to see her as a person instead of a tabloid headline?
NS: I just think humanizing her. Most people kind of know Amy from just after Back to Black, when it became this very dark and twisted story of someone. It’s quite interesting if you ask someone, “Do you know Amy Winehouse?” They’ll say, “Yeah, she’s great. The voice, the beehive, Back to Black — I know all about her.”
Then you actually start asking them some questions, and they realize they don’t know anything. People are realizing when they see the film they had no idea about the real person. You really get an understanding that for Amy; it was all about the music. She never really cared about getting a check or being famous.
DT: Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse, recently withdrew his approval of the film. Do you think the director placed too much blame on anyone in particular?
NS: I have my view on everyone, but one of the best things about this film is it’s not about anyone’s view. It’s about Amy, and what Asif managed to do is not really make a big judgment. He’s just raised questions, shown you insights. I think it should remain that way. He’s done a good job of showing a lot of factual things. Real footage, real things people have said, real moments.
I don’t think Blake [Winehouse’s ex-husband] takes the blame or Mitch. You can’t hide away from the fact that bad decisions were made. I don’t blame Blake. I think if it wasn’t him, she would’ve found someone else. I think your core around you needs to be strong when you’re thrust into the limelight like she was.
DT: A lot of the film is made up of your footage. How does it feel re-watching those videos, knowing how it all ends?
NS: It's all surreal, watching the film. It's never going to bring her back. It’s never going to change how the story ended. It’s a very painful thing to watch. Something I heard Asif say, that I totally agree with, is this film is all about her eyes. If you really want to get into what happened, just look at her eyes. They start off beautiful, green and young. She’s really striking.
As the film goes into a more lost direction, her eyes start getting darker and sadder and toward the end it’s just a lost glare. Seeing that youthful happiness again, her energy — it takes me back to a really happy time in my life, an amazing time. It changed so drastically, so quickly.