Thursday, 6 January 2011

Filmmaking and Me Part I – The Formative Years

I may not be currently, actively making films, but in my heart I am still a filmmaker. My love of films and filmmaking began for me, with Batman.

That character has inspired me throughout my life, but that’s for another blog. It’s relevance here is Tim Burton’s 1989 movie ‘Batman’.

As previously mentioned I grew up on a farm in the eighties. The only time I ever saw a movie was on TV. The only exceptions to that was, ‘Superman’ in 1978, which was my first cinematic experience (my Auntie took me, I was three), ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ in 1984.

When I did see a movie on TV, it barely held my interest. I just didn’t have the attention span. I’d much rather watch, ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘The A-Team’, ‘Knight Rider’ or the ’66 Batman TV series.

The Batman TV series was really what made me a Batman fan and subsequently, a comic-book fan. Superheroes were a staple of my childhood. I recall being pushed around a trolley in a supermarket for the fortnightly grocery shop. My reward for behaving myself, if I was lucky, was a trip next door to the newsagents where they sold American comic books and if I was reeeeaaally lucky, I could get one.

More often than not I chose a Batman one, until I reached the age of about eight or nine, when I became a Marvel buff. I was even allowed to get a subscription to the British reprint of ‘Secret Wars’, a massive Marvel crossover.

When I went to comprehensive, the comic books stopped. “That was kid’s stuff” I thought. Then we moved and I had to go to a new school, when that happened, I found myself taking solace in comic books once again. My Marvel days were behind me though, what sparked my interest this time, was Batman. This came from seeing a British reprint ‘Batman Monthly’. This Batman was cool, he was grim and foreboding and he appealed to the dark and lonely thoughts of my (near) teenage mind.

Of course unknown to me at the time was the Batman movie that was shooting a mere eighty or so miles from where I lived. I became aware of it in early 1989. I was thumbing through a glossy tabloid supplement that came with the Sunday newspaper 'The News of the World' when I caught my first glimpse. 'Exclusive Spy Photos of BATMAN' rang the headline. Upon seeing these blurry photos I could feel my jaw getting slacker. The main photos had been taken by a photographer hiding in the rafters of the Pinewood soundstage that was home to the interior belfry set and were of Batman fighting with the Joker's back-flipping Goon. The hype had begun and after seeing these photos, I was hungry for more.

And more is what I got. After those initial spy photos, it seemed like an age before any new news came about, until the fateful day when I first saw the now infamous trailer. It was a weekday afternoon, just after school a children's news programme had aired it. I'd gotten in just in time to see it. I was utterly spellbound, at this point we didn't own a VCR, so I couldn't tape it. It didn't matter anyway, every frame was burnt into my memory.

I was now obsessed with the film, I sought out info wherever I could find it, which by now was plentiful. Bat-mania had hit and you couldn't turn your head without seeing a bat-insignia. I can honestly say that I haven't seen a movie since that has either equalled or surpassed the level of hype that surrounded the film. It really was something to behold.

I was now 12 and this was the first film of my life that I was absolutely desperate to see. Thankfully it was the first film in the UK to carry the ’12’ rating, or seeing it would have been a little more difficult. 

Finally the day came. I saw the movie on a Saturday afternoon in a fleapit of a cinema. The seats creaked, the projector rattled, but as Danny Elfman's now classic theme boomed through the archaic sound system and the first shadow-drenched frames filled the screen, it was if I was hearing and seeing for the first time.
My eyes opened to a different world, not just the world that was presented to me on screen. Now I wanted to know how that world was created and so began my love of films and filmmaking. However, making them myself, was still a far off dream. So much so, that it hadn’t even crossed my young mind that it could be a career choice.

From an early age I was good at drawing, my main subject of choice was superheroes, which naturally lead me to create my own comic-books and original characters. This was going to be my chosen career, that of a comic-book artist.

In 1992 my school life was coming to a close (yay!) and in my Graphic Design class we were given the opportunity to create our own design brief. For me it was obvious, I would come up with a brand new comic book character and that’s exactly what I did. He was Archaeologist, Nathan Bradley, who would later become the half-vampire known as ‘The Stranger’.

I created a back story, an origin, a villain and a whole slew of supporting characters. The story went something like this;

Archaeologist Nathan Bradley and the Pinewood Archaeological Society, discover the perfectly preserved remains of Count Dracula. Taking a blood sample (?) they return to the UK to find upon testing that the blood has restorative powers. The military finds out about this and wants to use the blood to create a super-soldier serum. Nathan, a committed pacifist goes on the run with his fiancé Vannessa after the Military kill the other members of the dig. They are involved in a car crash during a chase that kills Vannessa and badly wounds Nathan. Knowing that the blood sample will heal him, Nathan injects himself with it. It does indeed heal him, in the process giving him super powers, but it comes at a terrible cost, the thirst for blood. Nathan then decides to exact revenge on the faction of the military that caused his trauma and their leader, General Oliver Bamforth.

It was raw, but it was a start and it was a character that I would carry with me to Art College and that’s where everything changed.....

To be continued...


  1. I remember The Stranger really well :)

    Do you still draw these days? You were pretty good with comic art as I recall. I've just got a few books by Adam Hughes and Alex Ross and have an urge to do some :)

  2. You wait for the next part. Can you feel it calling in the air tonight? ;)

    I don't draw at all these days. I get absolutely no pleasure from it at all. Which is a shame. My son, though, there's a different story. Started drawing the moment he was able to pick up a pen and hasn't stopped since.