I grabbed some time with White Collar Hooligan producer and general nice guy Jonathan Sothcott.
Can you tell us about your next project?!
My next project is White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away which starts shooting in Spain on August 6th. The first White Collar Hooligan film, released here by Momentum, was a huge success but we deliberately left the ending open for a sequel (despite pressure to kill off Nick Nevern’s character in the final scene ala Layer Cake). This time out there’ll be more mayhem, a darker plot and everything will just be that little bit nastier – we’re pulling out all the stops to make it even better than the first one, which we’re all very proud of . Paul Tanter is back in the director’s chair and Nick Nevern, Simon Phillips and Rita Ramnani are all back in their roles from WCH. It is very rare to be in the position to sequel a low budget indie UK film within a month of its release but the DVD numbers were very strong indeed and the demand is there. It is very rewarding seeing Nick Nevern flying so high off the back of White Collar Hooligan too – he’s a great actor and deserves to go all the way to the top and I’m proud as his friend and as his producer of how well he’s doing.
What is the best part about your job?
I’m not going to lie to you, its all pretty bloody brilliant. But it isn’t endless parties and Page 3 girls. My favourite part is starting a new project that has a great idea at the core – there’s so much enthusiasm and passion at that stage and everyone is full of hope and aspiration. Four months later when you’re standing in the rain in a muddy field in Dagenham at 3am and the lights blow it seems decidedly less hopeful. When you get that ‘Eureka’ moment when you feel the balance shift and you know that a project is a go, that’s a real buzz. It is also fantastic discovering new talent both in front of and behind the camera – I like working with really GOOD people, people who are brilliant at what they do – and I get to a lot, which is very rewarding.
What does an average day look like for you?
I start late because I am always up till 2 or 3 in the morning. The first thing I do is look at the previous day’s DVD numbers as that informs everything we do. Every morning my producing partner Simon Phillips and I have a phone call to catch up on what’s going on – we check in at least twice a day and we generally see each other 3 or 4 times per week. Simon is the best hands on producer in London, nobody can get more bang for your buck than him. We each have our own little stables of projects that we lead creatively. For example, recently Riot was his and the Essex Boys film was mine. We both work closely, very closely, with the respective writers. Then when we’re happy with a project we open it up to discussion. Generally I deal with the distributors, and I’m in constant touch with them all in order to track the constantly evolving market, and Simon deals with the crew and, if you like, the business affairs side of things. We say that I sell them and he makes them but there’s a bit more crossover than that. Since I stopped drinking 6 months ago I’m out and about in Soho a lot less than I was and now try and cram a whole day’s worth of meetings in if I’m over that way. I’m lucky in that I live pretty Centrally in London so I’m only 15 minutes away.
If we’re not in active production or pre-production and I don’t have meetings then I’ll be hacking away at my backlog of script reading, which is currently at about 300 screenplays. We get sent an insane amount. I try and have a break between about 6 and 9 and spend time with my fiancé and have dinner etc then I’ll be back to work for a few hours once the Americans are awake. Simon and I have a final catch up at about 1am and that’s it.
Sometimes Simon and I will go abroad to meet foreign distributors, we were in Germany last week – that’s an important market for our stuff and of course we go to the big film markets like Cannes. But nowadays we’re not out there partying and hanging round. This year we did Cannes in a day – it was an early start and we were knackered but we worked hard and sealed a major deal there which is more than a lot of people manage in the whole fortnight.
What can people expect from your canon of films?
Hopefully good, solid, populist entertainment. I have very mainstream sensibilities – I like horror and gangster films and I think that is reflected in my output. I made quite a few bad film and I’m sorry that the public had to suffer through my leaning curve – but although I’d made a couple of decent films before, making White Collar Hooligan was a bit of a turning point as I now don’t feel I can make another poor film – once you’ve set a standard you can’t let that slip. I think the titles of my films are pretty straightforward and they do what they say on the tin.
How difficult is it to raise finance for your projects?
It isn’t that difficult any more – since Simon Phillips and I set up CHATA Pictures and got rid of a lot of the human baggage we had around us, everything is pretty straightforward – we have a strong track record and we deliver our films on time and on budget. The distributors like working with us and give us repeat business and having a strong relationship with your end user is always of great comfort to investors. We don’t generally finance our films on a tax-avoidance basis for investors – we make films that make money – we don’t take commercial risks. In my early days it wasn’t so easy and I feel like I’ve met every con man in London, all of them allegedly millionaires with money to invest. I think there’s a factory where they make these crooks to order and they are magnetised to the film industry. I’ve been burned many times with dodgy financiers but you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and crack on.
We also make films on very tight budgets now – we’ll cut every bit of fat off to minimise the risk without compromising the quality. Advances in digital technology have meant there are huge savings to be made.
Which of your films are you the most proud, and why?
White Collar Hooligan because, as I say, it is a genuinely solid film and has done very well. I’m also proud of my first feature as a defacto producer, Stalker – I thought Martin Kemp did a great job directing and I had a brilliant time working with him. Martin is one of my closest friends, he’s done a lot for me in this business. Sometimes personal familiarity can breed professional contempt, but he and I worked very well together. I thought the cast and crew all did a great job on that one too, particularly the two leading ladies Jane March and Anna Brecon who worked really hard and delivered great performances. Airborne I’m pretty proud of too as it has the highest production value of any of my films and is a good, honest old-fashioned B movie which I think people will like. There have been good and happy bits in almost all of the films – I loved being able too put together Elfie Hopkins for Ryan Andrews and lovely Jaime Winstone. We never stopped laughing making Just For The Record – which is probably why it was so fucking awful. But White Collar Hooligan is definitely the one.
Anything you want to get off your chest?!
Ah I’m always ranting away on twitter about how badly we treat our film industry in this country – you can check it out there by following @sothcott but to be honest I haven’t got much to complain about – I have a nice life and my movies are doing well at the moment and there isn’t much more you can ask for, is there?