WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR JOB AT ARROW?
I work as a producer on a freelance basis for Arrow which means I’m allocated a freshly-licenced title for either the Arrow Video or Arrow Academy range, given a budget and told to create as definitive an edition as is possible. I then go away, research the film (or films) in plenty of depth and set about commissioning the new artwork, the booklet and the extras. I’ll also look into what’s already out there and consider the possibilities of licencing pre-existing video and print materials – whether it be an interview, a commentary, a short film, a documentary or what-have-you.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
Eleven years ago I submitted a review to the DVD Times website and things gradually grew from there. As well as writing hundreds of pieces for the site (now The Digital Fix), and later overseeing its film section, I was also contributed to a range for outlets from the Quietus and the Guardian to MovieMail and the BFI website, as well as the occasional book chapter or DVD booklet. During this time I also got to know a number of future colleagues – fellow producer Michael Brooke was also writing for DVD Times over a decade ago, while James White’s restoration work had been the subject of a number of articles, including a piece for the Journal of Film Preservation. All of which would eventually lead to Arrow getting in touch last summer.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE FILMS AND EARLIEST FILM-RELATED MEMORIES.
The VHS tape is most likely responsible for instilling a passion for film in me. My first cinema experience was going to see Moonwalker with friends, which I remember finding incredibly strange and which didn’t spark any real enthusiasm. The videotape, however, meant I could amass my favourites each birthday and Christmas and so an interest became an enthusiasm became a genuine love. Soon I was reading as much as I could (first VHS-themed mags like Video Times and Video Today, then Empire, then Sight & Sound) and sampling as much as possible on television. I was fortunate to get into film at a time when the major channels were still showing strange movies and arthouse fare: so you’d have a Bergman film on a Saturday night, a Satyajit Ray on a Sunday night, plus Alex Cox-era Moviedrome on BBC2 and Midnight Underground on Channel 4 – all of which shaped my tastes. And my appetite has yet to wain; if anything the arrival of DVD and Blu-ray has seen it grow.
As for favourites, this isn’t a definitive list but here’s ten utterly magnificent works in chronological order:
· Horse Feathers (1932)
· Love Me Tonight (1932)
· La Régle du jeu (1939)
· Long-Haired Hare (1947)
· Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
· Ordet (1955)
· Vertigo (1958)
· Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
· Performance (1970)
· Die Zweite Heimat (1993)
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ARROW RELEASES? AND DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE ARTWORK OR EXTRA?
At any given point your favourite titles are always the ones you’re currently working on. As I write this I’m in the middle of working on Withnail & I and it’s a real thrill to be able to work out the possibilities for this release and to tick things off the wish list. Fingers crossed that I’m able to get everything I want.
As for discs that are already out there, it’s wonderful that Arrow have been issuing so many films that I first discovered on late night television: Knightriders, for example, which blew me away years ago when it shown in the Moviedrome slot. Occasionally there’ll be a release of something I’d never gotten around to seeing, such as Christmas Evil or Superbitch, and that same thrill would be recreated. And the Arrow Academy range is wonderful too. I strongly suspect the upcoming Walerian Borowczyk will become a favourite once I get my hands on it; I’ve been aware of developments over the past few months, of course, and I’ve had a full read of the accompanying book, but it will be wonderful to just sit back and enjoy the set like a normal punter.
Artwork: sometimes I see the finished article and my jaw drops. Gary Pullin’s The Incredible Melting Man prompted such a response, as did Nat Marsh’s art for The Killers and White of the Eye. Other times I get a buzz from seeing things come to fruition. Being able to see a Graham Humphreys’ piece develop from initial sketches to a final sleeve – as I’ve done with Mark of the Devil – is a wonderful thing, especially as this is someone whose work I was first introduced to via the back page of those video magazines and his sleeves for Palace’s horror tapes!
Extras: there are a few things I’m currently at work on which will be my favourite ever extras if we’re able to pull them off, but I don’t want to jinx things. So I’m going to say Double Negative, the 1986 short by Sam Irvin that appears on The Fury. One of the things I love about DVD and Blu-ray is its ability to ‘rescue’ these little films that would otherwise be completely forgotten – little more than a barely-visited entry on the IMDb. Without The Fury would anyone have seen Double Negative again? Certainly not in the numbers that now can.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT AT ARROW?
We went a different route with the Koyaanisqatsi + Powaqqatsi double-pack insofar as we didn’t commission a new artist. Instead I went through the HD masters to both films, took a screengrab of each and every shot and then worked with Obviously (the wonderful folk who put together our sleeves, booklet and on-disc art) to create something a little special. This meant hundreds of images at our disposal, and hundreds of possibilities, which also translated into plenty of aborted ideas and lots of hair-pulling. But things began to fall into place and the final package looks beautiful: a striking main image, two lovely looking Digipacks on the inside and a beautiful booklet. Sometimes you can spend so long working on these things that you lose objectivity – so it’s always fulfilling to hear from the fans (and your colleagues) that you’ve done a good job.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY FILM THE ARROW VIDEO TREATMENT, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
I’ve mentioned Moviedrome a few times now and one of its showings, Nothing Lasts Forever, has pretty much disappeared since it aired all those years ago. I understand there are rights issues preventing it from appearing on disc, but I would love to have a hand in its eventual release. The films of Paul Morrissey – not just the two Andy Warhol/Udo Kier horrors (imagine a fully-restored Flesh for Frankenstein on 3D Blu-ray!), but also the likes of Lonesome Cowboys – would be great too. As the Borowczyk set will hopefully demonstrate very soon, these kind of releases really can help in re-introducing people to forgotten films and filmmakers. Just to pick three titles from the nineties, wouldn’t it be wonderful to reacquaint folk with Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger or Kwang-su Park’s To the Starry Island or Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Tilai?
The real dream project, though, would be an Arrow Academy boxed-set bringing together all of those remarkable animated shorts that Channel 4 have had a hand in over the years: Skywhales and The Village, the works of Phil Mulloy and David Anderson, Joanna Quinn and Erica Russell, the list goes on. The logistics behind it would be daunting to put it lightly, but just imagine if you could it pull off. Just imagine…