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By James Whittington, Wednesday 23rd February 2011
Starting as a journalist, Jonathan Sothcott was running a TV channel by the time he was 24, before changing gears and moving into feature film production in 2006 with the acclaimed urban horror movie Wishbaby.
Partnering with Martin Kemp in early 2007 he spent two years carefully developing four features – stylish thriller Stalker (written and directed by Kemp and starring Jane March), comedy Just For The Record, vampire/gangster action film Dead Cert and apocalyptic zombie blockbuster Devil's Playground. Jonathan found time in his busy schedule to talk to us about his busy career.
HC: At only 30 years of age you’ve already produced 8 pictures but did you always want a career in the film industry?
JS: I’ve actually done more than that, I’m on my 11th now… I have been a bit prolific of late! I don’t know about always wanting a career in the film industry because as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere I’m not sure I knew there was a film industry but I was always a real movie nut and was especially mad about horror films. When I was a kid I was a real Hammer Horror addict. I started out trying to be a journalist for horror magazines like The DarkSide and Fangoria and tried different bits and pieces and one of the people I interviewed, a producer/director named David Wickes, kind of mentored me for a while and I worked for him for a year, learning the basics of film production, which was just invaluable.
HC: How did the Wishbaby project come about?
JS: I had done a few bits and pieces with a guy called Simon Sprackling, who made the mad-as-a-bag-of-frogs arch horror/comedy Funnyman back in the 90s. He was producing a micro budget feature called Wishbaby and they needed some finishing money, which I helped put together, earning myself an Executive Producer credit. I was very excited. I think Wishbaby is a great little film and I think its sad that it hasn’t reached a wider audience.
HC: Is it true the BBFC re-classified it?
JS: Yes, it was given a 15. We were pretty surprised by that as there are some pretty strong scenes in it and to be honest as horror fans from the Video Nasties era we wanted our movie to have an 18! It, ahem, wasn’t a bad bit of publicity either!
HC: You formed Black & Blue Films with Martin Kemp in 2007, is the company’s remit only to produce urban horror or to eventually branch into all genre areas?
JS: In the last 6 months we’ve made a drama (7Lives starring Danny Dyer), a romantic comedy (How To Stop Being A Loser starring Richard E. Grant) and we’re currently filming a supernatural heist thriller (Airborne starring Gemma Atkinson, Julian Glover and Alan Ford) so no, we’re not confined to one genre. But I’d be being less than honest if I said my model for Black and Blue wasn’t Hammer and though they made One Million Years BC, Hell Is A City and On The Buses (!) they were and are known for their gothic horrors.
HC: The cast in your movies contains some of the best British talent around, how do you get them involved as the budgets you have aren’t huge?
JS: Well I’m lucky that they all keep coming back to me! I think there are two things – first they know we care about films. I am the biggest film buff around. I met Sarah Douglas the other week, who’s doing a picture for me in May, and I think she was a bit gobsmacked that I knew and loved all the genre sequels she was in, things like Conan The Destroyer and Return Of The Living Dead III. So we’re not your typical suits. Also, our films are fun – they’re not too heavy or worthy so people have a nice time. I really have been lucky to have had such stellar casts in little indie movies.
HC: Billy Murray joined the team in 2009, what has he brought to the company?
JS: Well if anyone has an accident at work that wasn’t their fault he’s always around to sort it out! Seriously though, Bill is one of the most credible Executive Producers in the business. Before he joined us he was on films like Doghouse and Rise Of The Footsoldier, which in terms of DVD sales is a bona fide blockbuster. Bill’s a calming influence on me – he’s the steady hand on the Black and Blue tiller where as I’m an enthusiastic lunatic always doing a hundred things at a time. He’s honest, which is rare in this business and very wise and pragmatic and I always go to him for advice. Nine times out of ten he’s right.
HC: Is Strippers Vs Werewolves as literal in content as the title suggests?
JS: Well there are strippers and they do fight werewolves but it is a very good script, total comic book comedy in the style of Kick Ass. Its knowing, smart and very, very funny – it has more (good) horror movie in-jokes than even I can keep up with and it will really deliver on the title (unlike, say, Lesbian Vampire Killers). If you want a comparable, its Vamp meets Kick Ass.
HC: What state do you think the horror movie industry is in at the moment?
JS: I think it is very healthy. I’m a bit tired of all these sh*tty CGI monster flicks that are knocked out for $3.99 like MegaWinkle Vs Giant Sea Anenome or whatever, and I am really over Twilight but there’s a lot of great stuff out there, particularly from Britain. I am always in HMV on Oxford Street buying horror DVDs, there are a lot of talented film makers out there.
HC: Are there any writers and directors you’d like to work with in the near future?
JS: Within the genre I am actively looking for projects to make with Jake West and Robert Pratten. I’d like to make more films with Dominic Burns, who is great to work with and with Ryan Andrews and Jonathan Glendenning. I really admire my pal Daniel Barber who made Harry Brown and would love to find something to do with him
HC: What can we expect from you in the future, would you like to make bigger budgeted movies?
JS: I’d like to make about 8 films per year – 4 horror, 4 outside the genre. I have a load more coming out this year, you can read all about them at Black And Blue Films and there are a couple of upcoming projects, particularly one called Hooligan, that will have bigger budgets. And I definitely want to make another vampire film, maybe a comedy one. I have also been asked to write a ‘Confessions of a Horror Film Producer’ column for the revitalized DarkSide magazine, which I’m doing. I like to keep my hand in with the writing, I did a piece for Esquire last year and really enjoyed it.
HC: Jonathan Sothcott, thank you very much.
JS: Thank you very much!
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