Stardust and revolution“I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me for a member.”
‘The Brits are coming’ was the early 80s battlecry, on the back of the twin success of Ghandi and Chariots Of Fire. Yet the book ‘My Indecision Is Final’ (Jake Eberts) charted the rise and fall of British based Goldcrest Films, resulting in its staggering $53 million deficit. Its buyer, the successful Brent Walker, was attracted only by the unprecedented losses, enabling it to lower its own tax bill.The promise of a UK industry bristling to rival the US studio system fell foul of failed investment, not so much to do with bad movies as with market judgement. Big money and high stakes requires a combination of great decision-making and a little luck, and when you don’t get both in full measure you will often live to regret it. Egos and reputations took some battering and provided a lesson for all. Knowing your way around the industry is a pre-requisite for having any chance of achieving success and Andrew has spent his life creating his own road map to help others navigate their way through the production and distribution maze.In his public roles, Andrew has helped develop the critical mass without which the UK film industry would not be able to compete. On the ground, he espouses the immense home grown technical and creative talent which is globally recognised as world class. The biggest ever media event in Cannes was co-ordinated by Andrew in 1987, its 40th anniversary, in his role as Deputy Chief Executive of the Film and Television Producers Association. In an amazing coup, the event was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Working day and night for three months, Andrew and his team worked tirelessly to create a magical two day itinerary, with the royal luminaries at the centre of all activity. The Gala Dinner that year was the hottest ticket in town, with Charles and Diana alongside industry ‘royalty’ like Sir Alec Guinness and Pierce Brosnan. Yet Andrew was distracted prior to the arrival of the VIPs by a call from security. A barking French female gatecrasher was reported to Andrew as causing a disturbance. Expecting a local ‘crazy’, Andrew was taken aback by the lady in question literally ‘barking’. Beneath a bulky coat, the madamoiselle denied hiding her dog inside, despite the continued and increasingly loud barks begining to fill the marquee. His hapless pigeon French not persuading the woman to give up her canine companion, Andrew called on the help of a band of security heavies to physically lift the lady in her chair (around which she had by now wrapped her legs) and remove her from the pavilion. During the process, the head of a large black poodle emerged from the lady’s coat and left some incisive teeth marks on the strong arms of the removal team.The bite marks faded but the success of the concept was permanent. The idea revolutionised the way in which international business was done for British companies at film festivals for years to come. Creating a magnet for UK companies, small and large, to meet, attend events and seminars, negotiate co-production collaborations and engage in the networking which has subsequently become a key driver of getting film projects off the ground. Andrew rightly reflects with pride on his part in this pioneering initiative.It is no coincidence that Andrew was subsequently invited to become the first CEO of the British Film Commission, the development of which he masterminded under the auspices of the legendary first British Film Commissioner, Sir Sydney Samuelson. Andrew and Sir Sydney remain great friends to this day.