Posted July 8, 2012 by Dan Clay in Features
 
 

Producer Jonathan Sothcott


With Airborne out on DVD this week, Dan Clay caught up with one of the film’s producers, Jonathan Sothcott, to chat about strippers, werewolves, Luke Skywalker, and why he and Independent British Films are going places.

With Airborne out on DVD this week, Dan
Clay caught up with one of the film’s producers, Jonathan Sothcott, to chat
about strippers, werewolves, Luke Skywalker, and why he and Independent British
Films are going places.

What attracted you to Airborne?
Mark
Hamill (Main Picture). To be honest I came on board when my friend (and now business partner)
Simon Phillips called me and said “I have a £100,000 hole in my budget and need
to fill it in 24 hours or the whole thing will collapse.” He was half way
through filming. I took a deep breath and opened my address book and 24 hours
later everything was all right. I couldn’t have Simon not make a film with Mark
Hamill! – he’s Luke bloody Skywalker!

What makes it stand out from other
British horror movies?

Well
it has a very international sensibility – 90 percent of it takes place on a
plane so it doesn’t feel very British to be honest, it feels more American. It
is also very glossy, very tightly edited and it has big production values. It’s
a really fun ride and very enjoyable. It reminds me a bit of that great John Lithgow segment in Twilight Zone The Movie (great film).
If you enjoyed that, you’ll like Airborne.

Mark Hamill, famous to many Sci-fi fans
as Luke Skywalker, makes his first British film appearance in the movie. How
easy was it to persuade him to come on board?

Well
that’s down to the director, Dominic Burns – he is always getting these genre
icons over from America! He’s had Zach
Calligan
, Jean Claude Van Damme
and now Jay or Silent Bob, I’m not really sure which. Mark was a delight
though. He and his wife came over for a week and we had dinner with them in
Wheelers one night. He’s a really cool guy and he really engaged with the
material. His Star Wars stories are,
of course, brilliant beyond belief … and in fact we gave him a new one … the
night we shot his last scene at the Space Museum in Leicester we were under
pressure to wrap before 6pm as the location had been booked for a private
party. I was in Mark’s caravan with him when he finished and as we walked out
to the car literally dozens of Storm Troopers, Jedis and Wookies filled our
view – it had only been hired for a Star Wars themed party. He looked at me
like he was on Candid Camera but then just laughed. Imagine if all those people
knew Luke Skywalker was there …

Similarly, you’ve worked with star
names Robert Englund and Ray Winstone. Do independent British films need that
advantage?

Honestly?
Not at all. The Brit indie scene is all about genre rather than cast at the
moment. It was of course great to have Robert in SVW (Strippers Vs. Werewolves)
and I’m a huge Nightmare fan, but I got a thousand times more press from Lucy Pinder (appropriate, really, given
the nature of the film). Ray, of course, is an icon and he certainly gave Elfie that lift it needed but I think of him as the cherry
on the casting cake really. I think we have learned that quality storytelling
and credible performances are much more important than celebrity casts.

You have quite a history with fusing
genres in films such as Dead Cert and Strippers Vs Werewolves. What do you
think is the appeal of that?

In
those two cases not much. It is a great idea though, isn’t it – it’s like
Neapolitan ice cream. Don’t just have strawberry, have strawberry AND
chocolate. Dead Cert was an abomination of course, but it was a great idea and
it had the potential to be From Dusk Till Dalston but sometimes these things
don’t work out. I wouldn’t be against trying it again, but you can’t pull the
wool forever and punters can see past a cool sleeve that masks a festering turd
of a film within. We were going to do Strippers Vs Vampires but the reaction to
the first one just didn’t justify it and I don’t think the world needs another
crap vampire film.

You’ve recently set up your own
imprint, Jonathan Sothcott Presents. How did that come about?

I’ve
done a couple of pictures with a great little indie distributor called 4Digital
and I brought them this film Mindflesh which I thought was great. They figured
that if my name was on it, it would help promote it to the horror crowd. It
worked out quite well and we’ve done a half dozen others. Sometimes they ask me
to endorse the film, sometimes I bring something to them.

How will it benefit you, the British
Film Industry and fans?

It
benefits me as I get to meet and work with new filmmakers I might not otherwise
meet. It benefits the film industry because I can help filmmakers get a
distribution deal and promote their film in a way that might not be obvious to
them. And the fans … well, look, I’m a fan myself. I have 3,000 bloody DVDs at
home. These are films that I’d buy in HMV – that’s always my benchmark. And I
get to see a lot of movies the public don’t, so if I can grab a fun one and get
it before an audience on DVD then I will.

Which project have you got coming up
that you are most excited about and why?
Probably
our Essex Boys film tentatively titled Once
Upon A Time In Essex
. I came up with the idea, developed the material
extensively with the writer and cast the movie and in doing so I made a deliberate
decision not to use any of the ‘usual suspects’ in the gangster genre. The
result is a sophisticated crime drama that really doesn’t look the same as all
the others, populated with an army of the best up and coming screen acting
talent out there, real quality actors. White
Collar Hooligan 2
will be bloody awesome too.

If you could collaborate with any
director, who would it be and why?

Tough
question – my business is very much a producer-controlled one. It is the only
way that I can make so many films, so I think a lot of directors would clash
with me, particularly as it is no secret that I fire ones that step out of
line. My business partner Simon Phillips recently made his directorial debut
with our film Riot and he was a
dream director for me. On the one hand, he’s highly film-literate but on the
other hand he knows when not to fuck about and just get the shot.

One
of my regular actors, Nick Nevern,
very good actor, directs as well and I’d like to do something with him, As a
filmmaker he definitely has a voice. He made this film Terry about chavs fighting in car parks or something and I know he
has a lot more to him than that. It’s just a case of finding a project, but
Simon and I both like working with him and hopefully he’ll be with us on our
side of the camera soon.

I
get a lot of directors who come to me thinking they know about costs and
budgets because they’ve done a course or read a book and its all bollocks –
they haven’t a clue and they should be focussing on telling a great story, not
how much the rigging costs.

One
guy I’d love to work with is the American director Jim Wynorski. The guy has directed about 9,000 movies – he’s so
prolific he makes me look lazy – and all of them boobs and beasts B-movies. Jim
and I talk about making a picture together often and he was so obviously the
right director for Strippers Vs Werewolves. The end result of a
Sothcott/Wynorski collaboration might not be a classic, but I know we’d have a
lot of fun making it!!

But
if I wasn’t making films within my system I’d love to work with Richard Curtis, because you know it
would be so bloody funny. I’d also like to do something with Noel Clarke because he’s such a
powerful storyteller and I really admire his get up and go.

Finally, you’re renowned for producing
a large number of films each year, do you get a chance to watch many and if so
what’s been your most enjoyable film so far this year?

I
don’t get to the cinema as much as I’d like to, but we went to the premiere of
the Woman In Black, which I thought was
absolutely fantastic. We sat just behind Jane Goldman and Susan Hill and they
must have been so proud. I have a big TV at home and a bottomless pit of DVDs
to watch, but I love old favourites so much and sometimes you just fancy a bit
of Rocky 3 or Jaws don’t you?

Airborne is released on Mon 30th
July.


Dan Clay