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Interview with Richard Elliot, Managing Director of 88 Films
By James Whittington, Saturday 17th March 2018

Recently I've been lucky enough to review some rather tasty Blu-rays from 88 Films. This company has been behind amazing releases of titles such as A Cat in the Brain, Anthropophagous and Don't Go in the Woods...Alone. So I decided to chat to managing director Richard Elliot about 88 Films and how they survive in a cut-throat market.

HC: How did 88 Films start?

RE: 88 Films started after James and I met working for another label and it was the usual "we think we can do it better than the boss" scenario. So we slowly developed an idea of what we wanted to do after work down the pub and after lots of head scratching and pork scratchings and some setbacks BE Movies was born... which quickly became 88 Films! From that point we've never really looked back, we both love working in the business and working to promote and market films every day.

HC: How do you decide on which movies you want to release?

RE: There are lots of factors that go into deciding what to release. Ultimately the main factor I suppose is "will anyone want to buy it?" After that we have to have an interest in the film, it has to have viable materials, it has to be available for a period of time and be at a "reasonable" price and we also have to decide if it sits well in our catalogue and whether we can give it 100%.

HC: What are your budgets for creating "extras"?

RE: If Calum is reading this... it is actually very small! He and Naomi Holwill have created some miracles for us. It actually varies from product to product depending on sales expectations and availability of talent/experts to talk about the films. We have produced some great feature productions with Naomi and Calum though including Eaten Alive which can be found on Zombi Holocaust and Me Me Lai Bites Back which can be found on our jammed release of Man from Deep River. And I believe they have a Category 3 documentary coming soon which fits in well with our Hong Kong range.

HC: Your use of original artwork for covers really recreates the glory years of VHS during the 80s, is this deliberate?

RE: Yes 100%. When you're dealing with straight to video titles from the 80's and 90's the artwork plays such a huge part of the experience and the memory. It was the only tool distributors had to make you pick up the box and take it to the counter to rent it. People might not remember or recognise a title of ours but when they see the cover it can jolt their memory. Plus so much 80's artwork is majorly cool it isn't it!

HC: Are there any releases from other labels you've seen, and you've thought "We could have done better than that"?

RE: Yes, but only from Screenbound.

HC: Which title has caused you the biggest headache to release and have you had any issues getting movies passed uncut?

RE: Oh dear, where do we start? We've had several titles cut over here, once for a child being involved in a murder - that was Spanish Chainsaw Massacre - but the rest of the time for animal cruelty which although its historical and attitudes were different back then from a personal point of view it's very hard to argue about too strongly. They cut cock-fighting from Man from Deep River even though it was filmed in Thailand where cock-fighting is still legal to this day. So go figure. I mean we wouldn't want to watch a cock-fight and we agree it is barbaric and horrible and cruel but we also don't think you can cut something when it is legal in another country and filmed out there... Not to mention this was 1972 for goodness sake. God help the BBFC if they ever go to the Philippines where there are cock-fighting arenas. I guess they will have to censor an entire country (laughs). Cut films definitely affect the sales though so we try to avoid films that might be cut where we can. In terms of Production nightmares we've definitely had a few but hopefully you can't tell at the end of it.

HC: In a world of downloads and increasing internet piracy, how difficult is it for an independent label like yours to survive?

RE: I would say running 88 Films and doing what we do is a lifestyle thing, we both love our job and going to work is never a chore, stressful sometimes yes but never a chore. We know we're never going to make any serious money out of this business but at the moment it's going OK and despite a bit of a downturn in the last few months we hope to be around for a long time to come. That's mainly why we concentrate on website exclusives because it helps us to build a closer and hopefully stronger relationship with our customers which we will need as the DVD/Blu-ray market continues to shrink.

HC: Do you find collectors like myself enjoy the physical product more?

RE: I certainly hope so. Personally, I completely get the user-friendliness and high quality of Netflix and Amazon Prime but would I want that to be my only way to view Lord of the Rings, Terminator, Indiana Jones, Star Trek V, The Toolbox Murders? Most definitely not! There is something so wonderful about being able to feel a product in your hands and display it in pride of place. I love the journey home from HMV with my new purchase and the anticipation of watching it when I get back. You just don't get that with digital, and you never will.

HC: What's your favourite line of 88 Films releases and what's your favourite release so far?

RE: I love the Italian Collection, I think it's our most consistently strong line and we've released a really great mixture of little known and notorious films that I'm very proud of (plus there are plenty more to come in the future) In terms of a favourite release, probably our multiple versions of The Toxic Avenger. The franchise sold really well and to get our little logo into so many homes is pretty cool. From a technical point of view, I'm really pleased with how our second attempt at Anthropophagous came out, we had great packaging, really solid extras and the film looked and sounded fabulous. But it's a downer Calum didn't want us to re use 42nd St Memories. We called him a kn*b for that (laughs).

HC: So, what does the future hold for 88 Films?

RE: More of the same hopefully, we're planning a deluxe hard box release for later this year in our wonderful Italian Collection with a huge book to accompany it which if it goes down well we will aim to repeat but beyond that we're going to continue to hunt down as many cool niche releases as we can... and we'll probably drink a lot of coffee doing it!

Richard Elliot, thank you very much.


Related show tags: A CAT IN THE BRAIN, BLOOD HARVEST, DOGS
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