Notes from a lost decade

I recently hit 61 and am aware that I haven’t completed a film in 10 years, for various reasons – cancer being the main one.

So what follows are a few thoughts and reflections on what some people might see as a lost decade…

Ever since I picked up a second-hand super 8 camera as a teenager, on a council estate in Gillingham, Kent, I’ve been making films. And I do mean making films. Not just talking about them, or pitching them in the wind to disaffected TV commissioners at Euro-vision vetting circuses, but actually making films.

Although I was lucky enough to have benefited from a state-funded Art school education – which is a thing of the past now for council estate kids – and was seen as an escape-route out of the “poverty of the imagination” that is a symptom of the British class system and despite ending up with a 1st class honors degree, I soon discovered that it meant very little when I went knocking – or rather kicking – at the door of the Royal college of Art in 1982.

But instead of just accepting the rejection of a bunch of uptight queens and man-hating feminists, and just “knowing my place”as we chirpy proles were meant to do in such situations, rather than give in to the embittered queens of the RCA and their in-bred class prejudice, what I instead did was to just do what I’ve always done: Make films.

Most of my education and technical training since art school has been the result of an auto-didactic/independent and hands-on process, rather than through a formal academic or privileged/establishment film school education. But it’s a learning process which -because of the way the system is loaded – will inevitably result in failure, no matter how “good” what you do is.

In short you might be lucky enough as I’ve been and get a nomination for BAFTA’s etc, but you know you’ll never get to win a prize. But then there’s a lot to be said for the “cult of failure” Because despite all of my “class warrior” ranting about how self-entitled “bright young things” with the help of a curling club of older lecherous old men mostly, always manage to win – both in the UK and Denmark – and end up getting the best gigs, I admit that I have been lucky enough to at least get a chance to try and do what I want.

And even if it did end up getting me into trouble most of the time, I also found myself in places I wanted to film, and at least try and do what we’re meant to do as truth seekers, which is: monitor power and hold it to account, and as a result have made a few films that I care for and am proud of.

Being independent and doing it for ourselves, is also the reason why our production company in Scotland was/is called Autonomi (and before that: Pictorial heroes) and why now here in Denmark we’ve chosen the name: Northern Souls – not only as a homage to a kind of music that we love, but also as a celebration of resistance and a free spirit that fights against Janteloven.

I’ve written elsewhere over the past 5 year or more, about why I’ve been off the radar for almost decade now, but I have been working away – and just making films. Working on real projects which – to be arrogant, justified and ancient – I think are far too good for what TV’s become now, which is basically a life-style garbage can for z-list celebrities with mental health problems and a platform for lying right-wing politicians.

So as I can start to see the the end of my life, film-making is still something that I just do anyhow.

As I’ve always done.

I get up in the morning and I make films.

But the really big part of my 10 years off radar, has also all been about being human and dealing with cancer, which – because of infections – almost took me out of this world completely on more than one occasion.

As for life in Denmark?

Well dealing with the Danes and the laws of Jante haven’t been easy – especially in the film and TV scene (and I thought the UK was bad – even after receiving BAFTA nominations) But – in the true spirit of punk and the DiY culture that I came out of, autonomi and “northern souls” – I’ve decided to just carry-on making films.

Which is the easy part.

Because although film-making now is something we can all pretty much do every-day with a decent mobile phone, finding an audience and the distribution, exhibition and marketing are the hard part. Because in short they’re now the domains of the very bastards/fuckers/control freaks who in the past – because they controlled the means of production – tried and often failed to prevent you from making films.

And if the workers now control the means of production then the bosses/PR fuckers control the means of distribution.

Which I guess means that, that’s where the challenge ahead now lies for anyone who makes films.

So perhaps we should start by just treating TV now as another app – rather than as a gatekeeper that allows risk-averse film commissioners to get off the hook for their flakiness and bang on about their responsibility to a nebulous industry?

Because they forget it is we – filmmakers – who are that industry – and not the circuses and markets that they spend far too much time at…

And perhaps we should start to treat and edit cinemas as one among a number of other spaces, platforms and screens that we can use to show the world what we’re made of?

So now, as well as getting older and just getting on with making films – which on my slate at least, still include a project called Minefield – while the other project I’m working on (I don’t do development) Legacy of an invisible bullet has also taken me back into my archive to explore not just the footage I’ve shot and films I’ve made, but also the approaches I’ve taken to film-making since I first picked up a Super 8 as a teenager.

Hitting 61 I know that time is running out now.

And although I hate birthdays – along with any other form of celebration that we have imposed upon us by our Gods or leaders – I do feel I have something to celebrate. Because living with the crab means that every day is special and matters now.

So with that thought in my mind – and rather than just seeing all my films just waste away in a Glasgow archive, I’ve decide as both some hype and a spoiler for: Legacy of an Invisible bullet that will include extracts from many of my films – to also start uploading all the films that I’ve made onto social media every few weeks.

And they’ll be free to watch, download and comment on.

Alternatively, you could just visit this website: where you’ll find everything anyway, right back to my early experiments and art-films from the late 70s onwards.

And so I thought I’d kick things off by putting the boot in with: World of skinhead which was a channel 4 commission and although not my first TV gig (that was called: Glittering Haze and was a C4 TV schools series on the satanic world of advertising) it did allow me to apply the punk and DiY aesthetics and attitudes I’d been exploring and developing in the art world and as a “street” filmmaker to a subject that I knew more than just a little bit about.

Although in the end it is a portrait of a much maligned sub-cult it’s also something else: A film about the beauty of youth….