Films – Seeing is believing

When I worked in publishing and created still images for magazines like Skin Two and surprisingly, perhaps, Nursing Times, someone said to me, ‘you should make those images move’, something I had never, ever considered. Film, although I loved it as a media, was a closed book to me, something that I had never considered as an option. But I liked the idea of making a film and was beginning to get excited by the concept of filming something and so, inspired by some obscure symbolist writings, I came up with the idea of making Axel.

Axel would be an eight minute short shot on 16mm and filmed mainly in the cellars of an old warehouse in Wapping. I had help from just about everyone I knew at the time in 1986, including my then girlfriend artist Holly Warburton, Garrard Martin, Nick Turvey, Sharon Robinson and the Mataxa brothers, Nick Syms and Tony O’Brien and a German girl called Saskia. I mention all this because, having spent a fair bit of money making Axel, I could see no purpose in just having a ‘film’ which I could screen at the odd ‘art’ event for a few months and then put away. So being a good monetarist I decided to release it commercially.

I had the film put onto video, submitted it to the BBFC where it was granted an ’18’ certificate and duped up, sleeved and boxed 50 copies. I then had to sell them. I had absolutely no idea about distribution or anything so decided to walk into the Virgin Mega store in London’s Oxford Street and see if they would buy them and, much to my amazement, they did. They took ten copies and even though they didn’t believe that anyone would buy a ten minute film they were prepared to chance 10 copies. They paid me £6.25 a copy, paid my invoice in cash from the till, and put it on the shelf. Amazing really and unfortunately something that just couldn’t happen today.

I went back two weeks later and they had sold out so they took another 20 copies and gave me a list of all the Virgin buyers at each of their stores so that I could send them copies and so on. Unfortunately HMV buyers were tougher but at least this got me started in film. Next came Visions of Ecstasy, a ban and the beginnings of what would be Redemption.

I will write and add more to this over the coming weeks and months but wanted this section to be not just about my films and work but also about the kind of films I like, the titles I have released on Redemption, Jezebel and so on. The directors and actors in them and the genres that excite me.

A lot has happened in the 23 years since I walked into that Virgin store.In particular, film has become a much more accessible media and the distribution business has, through the internet, meant that almost any film or product is available anywhere at any time. This is both challenging and exciting and means that people can create and make great films for very little money; Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, and distribute and market them themselves building up the films appeal until such time as a studio is ready to do a deal.

I will be using this section as my own film project though I am not right now totally sure what direction it will take?