Jonathan Sothcott interview for White Collar Hooligan
July 7, 2012
We caught up with one of the UK’s busiest film producers, Jonathan Sothcott, to talk about his latest release – The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan. The film is in the shops now, having been released earlier this week.
WhatDVD.Net: Being a film producer in the UK seems like a really difficult job, particularly in the current climate. How difficult is it to raise finance for your projects?
JS: It isn’t easy but then if it was everyone would be doing it! Of course it helps to have had a success – that gives people faith in your commercial judgement. My company CHATA Pictures generally isn’t concerned with tax-driven investment – we are making films so they’ll be successful, not so that people can cut their tax bills. We’ve also learned the lesson of not making the films we want to, but instead making films that will do well. Film like any other investment is a risk but we try to mitigate the risk for our investors by screwing our budgets to the floor and running a strictly commercial enterprise.
WhatDVD.Net: We know you’re a big horror fan with a list of horror credits to your name, but you’re making the transition into more mainstream action/drama – what prompted this move?
JS: Yeah it goes back to what I was saying – I do love horror films but I have realised that maybe I’m not that brilliant at making them! I made this film called Stalker directed by Martin Kemp, solid little psycho-thriller, won some awards, but no Saw-style carnage and it didn’t really do the business. Films like Devil’s Playground and particularly Dead Cert were just generic video filler. And the less said about Strippers Vs Werewolves the better! And in a way SVW was a turning point for me – it gave me an opportunity to either be ‘the guy who makes films like Strippers Vs Werewolves’ or leave all that baggage behind and go and make quality films. I’ve decided to go and make quality films and that’s why Simon Phillips and I set up CHATA Pictures. We have known each other a long time and I think we’ve both paid our dues as producers, assembling considerable bodies of work but never quite having that movie where everything works. White Collar Hooligan is that film and I’m particularly pleased that Simon has such a big part in it which shows exactly what he can do as an actor.
None of this is to say that I’ve left horror films behind forever, but I won’t make another one unless I know its one I’ll be proud of.
WhatDVD.Net: Which of your films are you the most proud, and why?
JS: White Collar Hooligan. It was never going to win a BAFTA, it’s a Ronseal film – it does exactly what it says on the tin and does it well. I’m very proud of our next two as well – Riot, which Simon directed and which is a timely and intelligent cop thriller with the backdrop of last year’s troubles. And we’ve just wrapped our take on the Rettendon rangerover murders, tentatively titled Once Upon A Time In Essex. That one is very personal because I came up with the idea and developed it extensively with the writer Stephen Reynolds and I think we came up with a fresh spin on an evergreen story which will surprise people who think they know everything about those gruesome events.
WhatDVD.Net: What attracted you to the script for White Collar Hooligan?
JS: Everything – it was an incredibly easy read and it was refreshing as it wasn’t you standard gangster script with big bald thugs calling each other cunts and slags on every page. It was pacey and had a wit and I thought the credit card fraud angle seemed fresh. Also I liked the characters of Mike and Eddie, Paul had made them ordinary, funny lads like the guys in Lock Stock or The Business and that’s important in this type of film.
WhatDVD.Net: WCH seems quite very ambitious, particularly for the budget, but what difficulties did you have getting the film made?
JS: We made a decision early on that if Nick was going to carry the movie we needed a few of the ‘ususal suspects’ from that genre to give audiences that comfort factor. I had a word with Ricci Harnett, an old mate and much underused since Rise of the Footsoldier and he popped down for a bit. But filling the Scotty Robinson character was not so easy – Simon wanted Billy Murray, who’s an old friend of mine too but didn’t really fancy it. We tried a few other of the old guard but they were all off directing their own films or after fortunes and Bill was the logical choice. Billy and I have done half a dozen films together and he usually takes a bit of cajoling but this time he was adamant that he didn’t want to do it. So he and I rewrote all his dialogue to his specification and eventually I talked him into it.
Also when you’re making these films on the hoof, permits and permissions aren’t always top of the agenda… the Paris constabulary took a dim view of two actors running down the Champs Elysse dressed as gendrames… and the Eurostar scene was what you might call unofficial… but this is why Simon’s such a brilliant producer because he pulls off all these brilliant tricks but makes it all look so slick.
WhatDVD.Net: How do you go about raising finance for a film such as WCH?
JS: Generally we prepare an investor document and send it out to a pool of contacts and see what they come back with. Sometimes you find one guy who’ll do the whole lot. Sometimes 40 will do ten grand each. It takes a lot of meetings and discussion and it usually takes us about 6 weeks. More recently we’ve made films where distributors come to us with an idea and ask us to make a bespoke movie for them, which is obviously easier and eliminates the search for an end user!
WhatDVD.Net: How does WCH compare against other football hooligan films, such as The Football Factory?
JS: Well WCH isn’t as much concerned with football hooliganism as The Football Factory. The title alludes to the fact that these guys behaved like hooligans in the financial sector, causing mayhem and smashing the system… they’re football hooligans at weekend to reinforce the analogy. But I think that if you like the Football Factory you’ll enjoy WCH. I’m a huge fan of Nick Love and TFF is a bona fide classic, an iconic film for a whole generation. Of course Football Factory made Danny Dyer a star. Danny’s a very close friend of mine and I have watched his career go up and down over the last few years. He’s had a few turkeys but he’ll be back on top soon, his audience hasn’t gone away, they just don’t want to see him in rubbish. Anyway, Danny is still referred to as “that hooligan actor” even though he’s never played another one which shows you how much passion there is for the genre – and hopefully WCH will find its place in that pantheon over time too.
WhatDVD.Net: You’ve had a number of collaborations with Nick Nevern, WCH being the latest; what qualities does he possess as an actor and how far do you think he could go in the business?
JS: Nick could go all the way to the top – he was introduced to me by a mutual friend, the actor Leo Gregory, who said he thought he’d go far. Nick and I hit it off, particularly when we found out we lived round the corner from each other in West London. So Simon and I gave him a small but good part in Strippers Vs Werewolves and we enjoyed working with him – we looked at him and decided we thought he had what it took to be a movie star, so WCH was constructed as a vehicle for him and we’ve built on that in Riot and the Essex Boys film. I think he’s a very modern film star – he’s a good looking chap but he’s also quite street and has this dark, brooding quality on screen. A few months ago I took him to my tailor to get him suited and booted for a photoshoot and he scrubbed up quite well – so he’s not going to be limited by playing thugs and coppers. He’s a diamond in the rough but a diamond nonetheless.
WhatDVD.Net: Working in the film industry seems particularly glamorous, but what do you most like about your job?
JS: Sure it is glamorous and there are nice lunches, premieres, fun people and so forth and let’s be honest, even at its worst its not like we’re down a mine or being shot at by the Taliban. I’m very lucky in that I have a nice life, I live with an exceptionally beautiful girl who I love very much and we have a lot of good friends. The buzz though is working with talent and bringing great work to the public. I’m very lucky that I’ve worked with so many talented and brilliant people in the last year – Ray Winstone, Kierston Wareing, Alan Ford, Kate Magowan, Jaime Winstone, Steven Berkoff etc – that’s a huge reward in itself. I’ve also had a real buzz this past week snooping round HMV listening in on people saying how good White Collar Hooligan looks – that is truly priceless.
WhatDVD.Net: Adversely, what aspects of your job do you least enjoy?
JS: All the nutters who’ve never met me and just add me on Facebook. In fact no, all the nutters who’ve never met me (or her) but try and add my girlfriend on Facebook. Always blokes that look a certain way and I just find it odd… and a bit creepy. I know they’re actors/writers/whatever but it seriously isn’t the way to build your career, quite the opposite!! In fact I find the internet frustrating across the board, particularly people who hide behind it. Those gutless little keyboard warriors who slag you off in the comments section but would run a mile in real life because they know they’d get a smack in the mouth!
I also think that, for the first time, really, all of us on WCH have taken the critics a bit to heart. I’m the first to put my hands up and say if one of my films stinks – I apologised for Dead Cert to the audience at Frightfest – but the kicking a section of them gave WCH was unnecessary and stuck up. That twat Mark Kermode’s Guardian piece wasn’t even a review, it was another bitch about Danny Dyer and while I never expected a good review in the Guardian it would’ve been nice if he’d been a bit more imaginative. But as I say, it isn’t like we’re down a mine so I can’t really complain!!