Ten Years of Mono Media Films

In early 2012 I had the idea of making a film. ‘I mean’ I told myself ‘How hard  can it be?’ 

This idea had come to me by noticing the films that were NOT being made by established broadcasters and film production houses and I felt there was a gap in the market. Only, I had no idea, how technically to fill it. But I was determined I’d find a way. I sounded out a couple of filmmakers I had met when I worked with bands, but they quickly said it was not for them, citing it was very tough and expensive to do. In truth, what they said, didn’t put me off, and perhaps it should have, but I was determined to give it a go, somehow….

Then in the same year, the band Stone Foundation contacted me to see if I could get the actor Calum McNab up to Tamworth to appear in a video they were making. Calum had previously met some of the band during the making of the film ‘Outside Bet,’ in which certain members appeared as extras in crowd scenes. Calum agreed and we drove up to Tamworth and  we were soon making the video. It was to be directed by a young fella called Lee Cogswell, who quickly impressed me with his knowledge and technique. When we had finished for the day and before myself and Calum shot back to the smoke, I spoke to Lee briefly about my idea to make a film. He told me he knew me as a bloke who got things done, so felt it was possible and we should talk.

We exchanged emails and I told him about my idea to make a documentary on the one-time UK jazz star Tubby Hayes. Tubby was a name that had fell off the culture radar somewhat, but I was fascinated by him and his music. Thankfully, Lee was looking to branch out with his filmmaking and suggested instead of just employing him to make the film, why don’t we set up a film company going forward. I hadn’t really thought of that, presuming that I’d only make the one film ever, but I think he sensed this might be the start of something, so we agreed to give it a go.

Very soon, our defined roles within the company were quickly established. Lee would take care of all the technical stuff, cameras, lighting, sound, editing, websites etc. and I’d come up with the main ideas, raise the finance, find locations, contact interviewees and do the PR to then sell the films once completed. With hindsight, it is the perfect set up, but at the time in 2013, I think it fair to say we were just winging it, with neither of us really sure what a journey we had started on.

Anyway, we then started filming what became ‘A Man in a Hurry,’ funded by some money  I had managed to find ‘down the back of a sofa.’ But within a few weeks. It was all gone. We were in effect stuck, but having started, we had shown people in the ‘industry,’  that we were serious in an effort to make a film.  I was then contacted by mates in the film world offering some logistical help and by others, who were offering money to keep it in the road. Now I could name names here, but they know who they are, and they certainly didn’t help me and Lee as a vanity project. They simply said, go and make your film.

I’ve always been decent in getting deals done and then taking certain informed risks to get things finished. Call it a naive bravery if you will, and I was soon well out of my comfort zone if I’m honest, but I think that’s how you learn things in life. Before long I was talking to film archivists,  licensing people, distributors, and most scary of all, media lawyers. The most sobering aspect was the cost of film and music archive, which is staggering in most cases and the reason, many films never get made. For example, we got landed with a bill for using BBC footage, which came to something like 17K on its own. As I’m wring this , I’m still not sure really, how we got to the end of the Tubby film , but we did.

In total, it took two years to finish ‘A Man in a Hurry’ and we launched it in October 2015, to tie in with what would have been Tubby’s 80th year. We had a launch organised as part of the London Jazz Festival at Foyles the book shop, on Charing Cross Road, which thankfully, quickly sold out. 

The response to the film was amazing and a little crazy. We had  countless people telling us, they had been waiting for a film on Tubby and as a result we attended an array of film and jazz festivals, big and small, all over the UK and the film was shown in the US, Japan and many parts of Europe too. As it proved to be a success, our thoughts naturally turned to maybe making another one. We were bitten by the bug. We began to pay back some of the money we had borrowed, but in most cases we were told, to keep the money and simply go and make more films. 

We have some wonderful people around us.

However, as with all these things, they are never plain sailing and breaking into the film and TV industry from our starting point, was always going to be a challenge. But, despite a global pandemic, we’ve kept creating and have had some fantastic experiences in making various films on various people, and each one has been a learning curve of one description of another. 

We’ve made for large companies like Sky Arts and we’ve made films that went straight on YouTube. But we’ve kept grafting. I bumped into a TV producer recently, who commented after they had  looked at website – monomediafilm.london by the way – that he couldn’t believe the amount of work we had done in just a decade.  

All I could say was that we’ve never really stopped. Somehow, some way, we’ve continued to make. Plus, we’ve never been short on ideas – money, yes –  ideas, no. 

Actually, hearing his comment, made me take stock and think about what we had achieved. 

As I looked through the body of work, I thought one thing. 

We certainly ain’t finished yet and here’s to the next ten years.


The Mumper of SE5

Read The Mumper’s other weekly musings on the The Speakeasy Blog page




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