My Inspiration – Jonathan Sothcott, producer, Black And Blue Films

Friday, February 11 2011
My Inspiration – Jonathan Sothcott, producer, Black And Blue Films

As a spotty teenager, before the movie business called, I fancied myself as a film journalist. Enthusiasm made up for experience to a degree and while everyone else wanted to be a rock star or a footballer I wanted to find out how films were made. I was writing for a horror magazine called The DarkSide, interviewing veteran film-makers from the Hammer age, enjoying the history but not really being inspired to start making films. And then I met David Wickes. His ratings-topping mini-series Jack The Ripper had made a big impression on me when I was 8 and I was surprised it hadn’t gained more of a cult following on video, but Wickes was a busy and private person and had spent a great deal of time living in California. So when he agreed to an interview, I really thought I had landed my first coup. Little did I know it would shape my career!

David wasn’t what you’d call a ‘veteran’ film maker – he was in his 50s (but looked 40) and was a serious player, even at home in his swanky Queensgate apartment. Trim and handsome in a Savile Row suit (I had never seen a jacket on which the cuff buttons undid before) he was instantly engaging and decidedly charismatic. He was frighteningly erudite on every topic the (mammoth 8 hour) interview covered and his background was far from typical – his father had been a world-famous magician, David himself had seen active service in the army in Africa and, most unusually, he’d been entrusted the screen rights to all of Barbara Cartland’s books by the notoriously fussy Dame herself. He was instantly my hero.

What struck me about him as I got to know him better was that as well as being a film-maker he wore two other hats – those of businessman and showman. As a businessman he was at ease with stock brokers and wealth managers. And as a showman he realised that his work wouldn’t sell itself. In addition he was – and remains –the perfect gentleman, a commodity rarer in the film business than a guaranteed hit.

David became a very real and active support through my brief stint as a journalist, was thrilled for me when I blagged myself the Head of Programming job at The Horror Channel in 2004 and when I’d had enough of that and decided I wanted to become a film producer, he took me on for a year and showed me the ropes. What I learned – and continue to learn – from him was simply invaluable.

My business partner Billy Murray and I had lunch with David at Sheekys a week ago. As shrewd, switched on and debonair as ever, he was tickled I’ve now got ten movies under my belt and, I think, even more so that my girlfriend’s a magician like his father was. There aren’t many men of David’s calibre in the film business any more – and that’s a real shame.

• Jonathan was a journalist for DarkSide & Fangoria, then recorded over 30 DVD commentaries (many for Anchor Bay) and produced Making Of documentaries. He became Head of Programming at Horror Channel in 2004, then broke away to become a full-time producer, making Wishbaby in 2006. He formed Black and Blue Films with Martin Kemp in 2007.  Future films include Stalker, Bulla, How To Stop Being A Loser and 7Lives.
Elfie Hopkins, starring Jaime and Ray Winstone, starts shooting on March 10.

•HMV’s My Inspiration is about the artists, actors and directors we love, sharing with us the lyrics and songs, poetry and dialogue that have inspired them. The journey began in 2006, when David Bowie became the first artist to take part, selecting Syd Barrett’s Gigolo Aunt as his inspiration. Since that time, many of our greatest icons and best new artists from the world of entertainment have featured.

We at the Raygun are asking the UK home entertainment trade for the films, people, or even songs, that inspired them to become part of our business.