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Give us a brief history of Silver Films Janey.
OK, Silver Films is five years old this month, it was originally based up in Manchester and produced commercials for the games industry, large live events and product launches. It was very successful, lots of money and lots of fun but I always knew that I wanted to produce films, that films was to be my vocation. It was about four years into Silver Films and I thought that I'd been prudent enough with the money to be able to take a year off for research. Not earn any more money from the company and to work out how to move from commercials into feature film.
That's a big move.
I'd realised that moving from 30 seconds to 90 minutes was too much of a leap and I also like the idea of working with teams of people rather than just the one off film, I like the idea of developing new talent. I knew that I'd be classed as a new producer also that I needed to learn a hell of a lot before the industry would accept me as a producer, including writers, directors and crews etc. The film industry is so completely different from the commercials industry, both might shoot on film with similar production processes but the basics are pretty different really. I've been working with some really good writers and directors who are experienced in their fields but who'd never done feature films before. The writers worked on soaps, dramas, radio and plays and the directors came from the commercials background - all award winners in their own right but never moved into features.
I decided to make some short films with these directors in particular and to then move into features with them, so I had to know that these people had feature projects in mind and ready for me to option in the first place.
Who were these people?
I picked up two scripts, one from a writer/director called Simon Fellows - I've just produced a short film called Jump with him and we'll hopefully talk about more projects to move on to. I've also just finished another one called, About a Girl with a writer and a director from Manchester and I've just optioned a feature film from them, that'll go into production in 2002.
I basically knew that I had enough funds in the company to keep myself going and to pay for the basic administration and costs but I needed to raise production finance for the films. I'm never one to trust funding, the Lottery and the like because I never seem to fit into the remit.
Why is that do you think?
Well you need to film in a certain area or you have to do this and that - I just want to make a really good short film that I enjoy and be in control of my own money. I decided to raise my own finance by finding private investment, not into the shorts them selves but into Silver Films. I found this in business angels that would invest in the company long term, I sold equity to raise cash, I set up sponsorship deals and product placement to get enough money for my productions.
Tell us about the sponsorship deals.
The sponsorship actually came from an ex client of mine called 3DO, I used to work with them in the games industry. From a marketing side the games industry is very aware of life style and the like - game players don't just play games, they listen to music, watch films and they like fashion and sport. They were doing a thing called In Development where they'd sponsor four areas of life style, they sponsored a racing car driver, a band that had just been signed up and they also wanted to sponsor a filmmaker. Because of my relationship with them in the past and moving from commercials into films production, they suggested that we work together, link the web sites up etc. On Jump they T-shirts with their logo on the back, they sponsored the company and they paid for the premier.
Where was that?
Planet Hollywood in February.
What are you doing with those films now?
Both of those films are going around the festival circuit, Soho Shorts, Cannes and all the upcoming fests. I've got a feature treatment - I like to work from treatments rather than scripts because I like the whole development process - I've got this final treatment from the 23rd of April. So I'll be able to go and talk to people about raising development funds and raising investment into the company - I set one up for each film.
Is that common?
Yeah, It's kind of a good thing to keep all the films separate and it's a good way of getting funds together from private investment as well - if you can get a slate of films together it allows the investors choice on what they want to put their money into. They may dislike foreign films for example so its nice to have a range of films on your slate, there's a lot more slate funding out there through the Film Council and other organisations that appreciate the slate over the individual film. It adds to the longevity of production companies and of the industry. It lets people hedge their bets! (laughs) Out of five films maybe one will be OK. (laughs)
What's your personal background?
I've been in the industry for about 13 years, started in a post production facility in Manchester but I realised that it wasn't for me because I wanted to find out what happens from the very beginning.
Did you always want your own company?
I realised early on that I wasn't good at working for someone else and I was quite opinionated - I like to have my opinions (laughs). I found it quite difficult working for other people and also that there were quite a few people I didn't like working for - I wanted a choice of whether or not to work for them and working freelance gave me that choice.
So about 13 years ago I set myself up on the Enterprise Allowance which was a government scheme to encourage people to set up on their own. You got £40 a week, your rent paid and everything you earned you kept.
What was the catch?
No catch, the government wanted people to go it alone because it was quite difficult to find a job, they wanted us to look after ourselves. I went freelance as a production assistant and researcher, I worked on pop promos, did research for TV, I did magazine programs and sports programs for Channel 4 and Granada. It was more like the TV and video side than the film side but I was then offered a job in a production company producing commercials called Percival Smith Associates. That was when I first met Brian Percival who directed About a Girl and will hopefully direct the feature that I've just optioned.
So I got a job with them as a production co-ordinator I guess, started learning about the industry and working on film. After about a year and a half I went freelance as a TV producer and then set up Silver Films.