After his latest film THE KRAYS DEAD MAN WALKING rang the bell on DVD recently, we sat down with leading independent film producer Jonathan Sothcott to talk about the challenges of making an old school product in the Netflix Era.
What’s your take on the Netflix revolution?
The most interesting thing about it is perception. To my kids, being on Netflix is way cooler and more important than anything other than a bells and whistles widespread cinema release. As a family we buy the odd blu ray but on the whole they watch their films and TV on Netflix and VOD platforms. This is the norm now. Calling a series ‘a Netflix show’ is a compliment in the way that when I was a kid, referring to a show as a ‘BBC drama’ meant that it was proper. The marketing brains at Netflix have done an amazing job and I can’t think of a new platform that has done such an amazing job of market penetration. They have eclipsed Channels 4 and 5 and most other channels. So there is no doubt about it, Netflix is the future.
Your Krays film sold really well on DVD where generally the market appears to be flagging. Why?
I think it’s a combination of things – I have a bit of form making these films so made a film that I thought the fans would actually want to see. It had a great cast, lead by the marvellous Rita Simons and supported by genre stalwarts such as Chris Ellison, Josh Myers and Nick Ball, we ran a very good marketing campaign – we told people it wasn’t just another Krays biopic. You have to make people films they want to see – if you build it they will come. The DVD market hasn’t gone away, people are just fussier. And rightly so: they have been (mis)sold so much shit over the years with ‘Hooligans’ and ‘Essex Boys’ plastered on the cover. The geezer movie punter is more discerning than you might think.
Would you ever look to move into TV/Netflix rather than making films for home video?
Yes of course. Its something I am actively doing. I have been close to getting a couple of shows commissioned by major broadcasters. But TV is a bloody hard nut to crack. I won’t give up. I have a good feeling about 2019 and television.
What about piracy?
Piracy is killing the film business. It is that simple. And now its mostly online its not just perceived as a ‘victimless crime’ like people selling snide DVDs in pubs, its an invisible crime. Nobody outside the industry cares. So nothing is going to get done about it. And without education and information you almost can’t blame kids for being ignorant to it : they don’t see these pirate sites as any different to Netflix or Youtube. But if people don’t buy their content all we’re going to be left with is youtube videos and snapchat pranks and that won’t seem half as entertaining when its all there is. Film piracy needs a short, sharp shock or it is going to become utterly unmanageable and start impacting peoples’ every day lives. But by then it might well be too late.