Jonathan Sothcott is an independent film producer based in London, England. Sothcott has also moderated DVD commentaries for cult films, including The Wild Geese, Dr. Who and the Daleks, Summer Holiday, and many horror films. (Source: Wikipedia)
Hi, Jonathan! Congrats on having one of the leading production companies in the UK! You recently produced a film called We Still Steal the Old Way. According to IMDB, “The Archer Gang are back and doing a daring heist in London. Remanded in prison, they will try to break out their old friend Briggs.” Tell us about the production of this film.
We Still Steal The Old Way is the sequel to We Still Kill The Old Way, a successful urban revenge movie that I produced back in 2014. The film was about retired London gangsters reclaiming the streets from a vicious post code gang. We got a great cast together including Ian Ogilvy, Steven Berkoff, Alison Doody, Red Madrell, Chris Ellison and Adele Silva.
The distributor asked us to make a sequel and another revenge film immediately after felt a bit contrived so we opted for a prison break film with a twist! I have always wanted to make a prison break film, they are so much fun. Its also a great way of keeping the budget sensible because you’re essentially stuck in one location! For this sequel we added British film icons Billy Murray, Patrick Bergin, Julian Glover and Vas Blackwood to the mix.
It was a fun experience and has been very successful on DVD here in the UK – it was the number 1 straight to video title in the country the week it was released. We’ll be doing a third one this summer called We Still Die The Old Way. I’ve refreshed the creative talent on the third one so that the franchise keeps evolving and I think it’ll be the best one yet.
Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back, or tell a particular story?
No. I make films that tell unashamedly populist stories that people want to see. As whichever Hollywood mogul once said, leave delivering messages to Western Union. One of my pet peeves about the British film industry is the strange snobbery that applauds ‘worthy’ failures, but sneers disdainfully at simple mainstream success. I grew up in the 80s on a diet of action films, comedies and horror and that informed my career as a film maker. The responsibility of a producer is making movies other people want to see, notself-indulgently for themselves.
Which character from the film really resonated with you?
I think Ian Ogilvy’s character, Richie Archer. Ian was a favourite of mine growing up, both in reruns of The Saint on TV, and. also, in various horror movies. such as Witchfinder General. When we were casting the first movie, Martin Kemp suggested Ogilvy and I got onto his agent. There’s an old saying about actors making parts their own and Ian certainly did that with Richie – he has that twinkle in his eye, never a hair out of place. A proper old school screen hero. Ian’s portrayal certainly resonated with me and, thankfully, with a lot of other people!
Was has been your favorite part of the process in producing We Still Steal the Old Way?
My favourite part was talking Billy Murray into playing the villain. Billy is beloved by UK audiences for memorable long running roles on TV shows, especially The Bill and Eastenders, and he has really helped and supported me in my career, pretty much from the beginning. He has done small parts in several of my previous movies, including Stalker, Airborne, and White Collar Hooligan, but this was a big meaty villain role and I was thrilled when he said yes. He and Ogilvy really sparked off each other.
Let’s talk Bonded by Blood 2. It’s been about seven years since Bonded by Blood released. It’s a new set of criminals in the roles. How were you able to fill in the timeline?
Yes. The original was about the infamous ‘Rangerover Murders’ in Essex. There have been many successful films made about this including Rise of the Footsoldier, my one Fall of the Essex Boys and of course Bonded By Blood. However, I think that particular story has really been done to death. Bernard O’Mahoney had written a book called Essex Boys: The New Generation, which looked at the gang culture in Essex in the wake of the Rangerover murders. I liked it, but wanted to give it some weight. Bernie himself had been played in Bonded By Blood by Johnny Palmiero and this seemed like the perfect linking device to bridge the two films. I approached Terry Stone, the producer, and we struck a deal over a lunch to make it as Bonded By Blood 2. We also got a couple of actors to reprise their roles from the first movie, including Terry Stone himself, Rebecca Ferdinando, and Chris Ellison. So it is quite a different movie but I think audiences will enjoy it.
The sequel promises to have a more chilling effect. Obviously, technology has improved since the first film. Are you using any cool techniques to tell the story, such as equipment and visual effects?
In this instance, quite the opposite – firstly because we were making a period movie sent in the 90s and secondly because the director, Greg Hall, brought a very naturalistic, gritty approach to the material, which demanded no fancy tricks or special effects. This is a very stripped back, down and dirty British gangster film which really delivers for audiences.
In your opinion, how has crime stories evolved over the years?
Well the British crime film genre really became a ‘thing’ in the 90s with the Nick Love and Guy Ritchie movies. Prior to that they were few and far between (albeit sometimes magnificent – The Long Good Friday is one of my favourite films). After that, Rise of the Footsoldier demonstrated that box office success was not a prerequisite to profit – the success of that film on DVD effectively kickstarted a second tier market revolution lead by the distributor Revolver (City Rats, Dead Man Running, Pimp, Bonded by Blood et al). So now the market for these films is predominantly home entertainment, a sector of which they are the only home grown staple really. I find it frustrating that more and more seem to be made quicker and cheaper than ever before. They rush them out with misleading covers then disappointed audiences are reluctant to buy the quality films (and as the film critic establishment is so snobby they rarely review these straight to video genre films, good or bad)… or even worse they download them illegally!
Thus far, what has been the best experience working in the film industry?
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of being on set, while a film’s being made. If a producer’s done their job properly, the set should run itself really and you just become a dead body sat on the dining bus praying for wifi. I’m just not that guy. I need to be out there getting things done. The exception was Vendetta, a film I made a few years back. The writer/director Stephen Reynolds and I shared a vision and had an amazing rapport and going to set every day was a joy. The film was made against the odds – everyone told me our star (a pre-Eastenders Danny Dyer, riding a trail of flops) was toxic, I couldn’t get a pre-sale… it really was kick bollock scramble to get that ship to port. But we did it – just – and once we cut a trailer there was a bidding war… we had a hit movie. It snowballed into the biggest UK indie film on DVD in 2013 which was amazing. Everything about that film was a joy.
Do you have any upcoming film projects that we haven’t mentioned?
As I said earlier, we’re doing another ‘We Still…’ film, this time We Still Die The Old Way. We’re doing a couple of clever US-set Blumhouse style horrors, Tormented and Pentagram. There’s an action film in America too, Assault on Hazard Rock which if you love 80s action movies like I do will blow your mind. We’re diversifying too – there’s a Shakespeare, a biopic of a war hero and a remake of an 80s comedy on the slate. We’re moving into TV, both the company and me as an individual – I’ve written a TV show with a big player in LA which the networks are looking at (a rare foray into creativity for me!). We’re also expanding into publishing – we’ve had film novelisations published in the past but we’ll open this up further with graphic novels and so on, maybe even a magazine. Sensible print runs for the collectors. The future is very bright indeed.
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to do anything I want, I would do ___________.
I’m already doing it. All I ever wanted to do is make movies. I’m 37 and I’ve produced over 30 movies along with documentaries and that makes me incredibly lucky. I make a living from my passion, I work with talented, creative people (and try to avoid the wankers) and there really isn’t a better feeling than people appreciating your hard work. I read every tweet I get, good bad or indifferent and always try to reply because without the people who buy the movies there wouldn’t be any movies to make.