singer-leisinger.com
Claudia Leisinger


NEVER MIND THE LOCK, STOCKS

A punk-style solution to corporate indifference. Nick Moran tells Leigh Singer how touring his new film can rock UK film distribution.

Spot the difference: a few months back, Nick Moran sat in this Soho café his face as dark as the December day. Wet London winters that seep into your bones are depressing enough, never mind that the film you’re proudest of is in limbo and your football team has just been soundly spanked in a crucial game.

Today, it’s a case of same place, very different times. The sun is threatening to peek through the April showers (hey, some things never change) and kitted out in a vintage Arsenal top, Moran’s buzzing not just that his beloved Gunners are poised to win both the Premiership and the FA Cup, but that his very own Double is now a very realistic prospect. His new movie, Baby Juice Express, his debut as star, writer and producer, is about to screen in Cannes; and, finally, Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry, his acclaimed but hereto almost invisible film, is set to see the light of day, thanks in no small part to Moran himself. If a rainbow shimmered into view, things couldn’t look rosier.

Such a flippant summary belies the ingenuity, with Moran as the driving force, that’s been required to get Malry onscreen. It sounds deceptively simple. You’ve done the hard work of actually financing, shooting and cutting a film, how hard can it be to get the damn thing playing at a few cinemas?  ‘The problem you’ve got is that every other film that goes theatrical has got a million pound P&A (Prints and Advertising) budget,’ Moran explains. ‘We’ve got a handful of prints, fantastic reviews but no money. Cinema exhibitors will turn around and say “Well hang on, why should I show your film when I can show something that’s got posters everywhere and ads in all the magazines?’”

For Moran, a solution came when he rejected the tried and preview-tested models used by the film industry, and hit upon strategies commonly used in other areas. ‘I toured with a play last year,’ he says, ‘and I got to thinking that if you’re a stand-up or a band on tour, you don’t need a huge P&A budget. Then it came to me – I had the image of a T-shirt with “Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry: The Destruction Tour.”’

film on tour. A T-Shirt listing dates and venues that instead of ‘June 1st London Astoria’ might read ‘Curzon Soho’. And not simply travelling screenings. Now Moran is really pumped up: ‘Every place we go, Luke [Haines – ex-Auteurs and Black Box Recorder maestro and Malry composer] will play an acoustic set where he can, and me or Paul [Tickell – the director] or [co-stars] Kate [Ashfield] or Neil [Stuke] will go and introduce and Q&A the film. It becomes an event.’

It’s not simply a rock and roll idea, it’s shot through with the DIY punk aesthetic that typifies the best in independent film, music or anything other art form. ‘If this works,’ he argues, ‘it could potentially revolutionise the way that British films are distributed in this country.’ Confidence aside, Moran himself was still highly cautious. 

‘I really thought this through and I spoke to Luke’s manager, picked his brain about how to do a tour, as well as to our distributor. We’ll try and get one print in rep at somewhere like the Prince Charles in Soho, one doing the rounds in London and one on tour, going to college towns,’ he reasons. ‘If we show this film for one night as an event, we’ll probably get more people coming to see it than if it was playing for a week.’

Moran has a point. The majority of smaller British films shown theatrically are basically shoved into the smallest screen at a given cinema and left to fend for themselves, like a guilty family secret. This way, it may be just for a one-off screening, but attention is pretty much guaranteed. ‘The venue wins because they advertise it as an event. You get the local press down, that takes care of that P&A budget, and then hopefully there’s a knock-on effect from venue to venue, just as you get on tour. And it’s all done on the same sort of money as on a touring play.’

Despite originating the idea, Moran is fully aware that this isn’t a one-man operation. {Distributors} ILC have been ‘fantastic - they had the video rights and when I put it to them that we go theatrical, thought long and hard about it and then said OK.’ So far, Malry has been confirmed as headlining an ‘anti-establishment’ film festival at the Metro cinema in London, over the Jubilee weekend, with further dates and venues to be announced (they’ve even approached Glastonbury). It’s the ideal launch pad for a film of such dark sensibilities – and black humour – and is both a natural extension of its personality, as well as clever piece of marketing. Just like punk.

In terms of media attention, Moran’s confidence in making a splash with his film is based on very real personal experience. ‘The way the media works in this country is pretty efficient – I know that because I’ve been slagged off in the papers. It can happen in seconds.’ This isn’t the time for recriminations however, now that a ‘happy ending’ is finally in sight. ‘Rather than just whinge about how unlucky we’ve been, we sat down and thought, right, how do you distribute a film on 1% of the money that the Americans do it on? How do you compete with Universal studios? The answer is, you don’t compete in the same game, you go straight to the people who want to see it. It’s the best idea I’ve ever had.’ 

Necessity, then, starring as not only the mother of invention but as the Big Daddy of learning curves. From being ‘merely’ an in-demand young actor, Moran has added a whole range of behind the camera skills and experiences to his repertoire, which he’s tried to apply to his new project Baby Juice Express and beyond. ‘I didn’t go to film school, I only know it through producing my own film and that’s stuff I learnt in a few weeks. I realise how jammy I am to be working internationally and to get experience through the shop floor, everything from small art films in New York to huge Hollywood stuff. You’d be stupid not to use that experience.’

Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry is showing on June 1st at The Metro cinema in London. Details for The Destruction Tour to be announced soon.


'© Raindance 2002. No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.'


BACK TO FILM JOURNALISM INDEX