Me and Mr Stephen Woolley

Me and Mr Stephen Woolley


I’ve noticed something. Stephen Woolley, the British Film Producing legend, has been appearing at significant points in my career to sprinkle magic on it. I’ve never worked with him, probably only exchanged a few sentences with him in the space of 21 yrs and yet he’s played a part in a number of the highlights. Has Stephen got special powers?…


Anyway, here are the markers in mine and Stephen’s relationship


  1. In 1990 I made my first film – a half hour documentary about the Scala cinema (aka Sodom Odeon) in London’s King’s Cross. Stephen was one of the founders of the cinema and therefore responsible for its distinctive programme and all night culture. He’d moved on to Palace by 1990 but kindly gave an interview to a very nervous young director.


  1. Cut to 2004. Stephen was a panel member for The Turner Classic movies shorts prize. They gave my short film ‘Brown Paper Bag’ third prize in the competition. Although we didn’t win, the resulting exposure almost certainly helped raise the film’s profile in the run up to the BAFTA’s which we most certainly did win!


  1. 2010 After years of development hell and unfulfilled expectation created by the BAFTA wins, myself and the producer of Brown Paper Bag, Natasha Carlish decided enough was enough, we were gonna ‘just do it’, a decision which led to making ‘Turbulence’, my first feature film. It just so happened that Natasha had been able to secure Stephen as her mentor (I had no part in this) on the guiding lights scheme at that very same time. She showed him the rough cut I’d mostly put together (no money for an editor), which was painful but turned out to be extremely useful. Stephen declared the film to be not at all his cup of tea, then went on to say something like the following (I wasn’t there you see)



‘but its not really about me, who is your target audience? Show it them and see what they make of it’


We went away and set up test screenings for Turbulence, there were none in the pipeline before this moment. I’ve written some blogs about them and the experience of that. Let’s just say it was a total revelation, not only one of the highlights of making the film, I’d go so far as to say it has completely shifted the way I see the film making process. I had no idea that was coming. Its too early to say what the result will be of this particular revelation but it feels significant.


So, Mr Woolley, I thank you very, very much and look forward to seeing you for the first time in seven years at this Saturday’s ‘Scala Forever’ event at the Cinema Museum in London this Saturday 17.9.11. They’re showing my documentary and there’ll be a panel talking about the cinema’s legacy and what not too. Cant wait!

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