A ROAD TO SOMEWHERE:
THE STORY OF BLUEJOHN PRODUCTIONS
Bluejohn Productions was created in the summer of 2013 prior to making our first production, Autumn Drift, in September of that year.
In the late 1990s I was made a co-producer of Avalanche Productions, through which we made a couple of short films, including the BFI accredited, Hat and Coat (2002). After ending my tenure with Avalanche, I soon fell in love with writing and thus began attending regular screenwriting seminars in and around London, eventually enrolling on a screenwriting course at Goldsmith’s University. I subsequently teamed up with co-writer, Russell Elleswei, with whom I began co-writing both feature length and short screenplays, occasionally entering them for national and regional screenwriting competitions. In 2002 our screenplay, Small Fortune, got shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
Bluejohn productions became a registered company in 2017. Actor, John Gannon, and myself had decided to make a short film. I came about the idea of Autumn Drift years previously, and therefore ended up making the three and a half minute short film on a shoestring budget. Fortunately, John and I managed to find an excellent production team and the film took two full days to shoot. From then on Bluejohn short film projects became a regular occurrance. Autumn Drift was shot as a silent film, so the next project strived to be something lengthy with dialogue. I came up with Winter Will (2014).
Filming Winter Will in Greenwich Park (2014)
The story was adapted from a personal experience, so I thought I could make it into something both entertaining and amusing. Pre-production for Winter Will took around two months, and the filming itself lasted four days in total. I remember it being a very cold experience with lots of exterior scenes. The film was completed in the autumn of 2014 then released onto the festival circuit thereafter, but unfortunately Winter Will did not gain the acclaim it deserved. However, it had given me the impetus to plough on, so we decided to embark on an even larger project, which proved to be a far more ambitious one.
I came by this surreal idea from the British film entitled 'Journey to the Far Side of the Sun' (1969). The names of the protagonists Iro and Casper derive from the mythological Greek hero ‘Icarus’. Once completing the screenplay of The Flight of Iro and Casper we realised that we were in for a real challenge. We were aware that this project was going to encounter countless hurdles, as I sought to capture a sense of timelessness, surreality and off-beat humour throughout this picture. We began pre-production five months prior to shooting, but seventy-two hours before filming we discovered we were short of funds. I had even written the email notifying everyone of the project having been cancelled, but miraculously everything came good due to a collective determination from the team.
Shooting Iro & Casper, London (2014)
Miraculously shooting began on schedule in September 2014 and the production took a week. Throughout the filming we faced countless challenges and I was frequently concerned that the film wouldn’t look as impressive on camera as I had originally envisaged. However, the completed film certainly exceeded expectation, especially after having seen it for the first time on the big screen at the Glasgow Blueprint Film Festival in August 2015. The Flight of Iro & Casper gained substantial acclaim on the festival circuit, winning two awards for best short film. Also, dealing with the challenges of making Iro and Casper taught me so much about the art of filmmaking. I can do nothing but look back at our entire journey, from script outline to post-production and feel very proud of our efforts at creating a totally original movie.
After the success of The Flight of Iro and Casper, making our next two short films seemed like plain sailing considering how much we had learned from previous projects. In early 2015 Bluejohn expanded its team to three permanent members, all of whom had contributed enormously to our previous film projects. The English Lesson (2015) came from my own experiences as an English teacher in the midst of a profession currently rife with zero-hour contracts, dwindling educational standards and steadfast profit-making. I felt that we had to make something that encapsulated my own dystopian vision to where modern teaching and learning were heading. Pre-production lasted two-months and most of it was to be filmed at one location, which was a London English school. We wanted to create a setting that was grim, bleak, intimidating, as well as Orwellian, something through which we could reflect common sentiments expressed by those exposed to modern education, so fortunately we found an excellent costume designer and set designer, which helped capture the mood and tone on screen. Then in the following year we made a couple of smaller shorts. I had always wanted to write and produce comedy, so in 2016 I came up with Air Tax, a comedy sketch, shot at the beginning of 2017. Also, later that year, we teamed up with London rock group, Reptiles, and produced an experimental music video of one of their hit songs: Bridges.
The English Lesson (2015)
I became responsive to the shenanigans of Donald Trump, especially regarding his approach to Middle Eastern trade deals, which frankly appalled me, so rather than express matters factually, a role for the modern journalists or media correspondents, I strived to create something allegorical, so Vegetable Crushers came to mind. I wrote the screenplay in a matter of weeks with the intent of producing something visual, comical, satirical with limited dialogue. The initial days of pre-production were challenging for us, as it was proving more difficult to find a suitable location, in this case an allotment, but thanks to a work colleague we were put in contact with a committee member of an allotment in West London and from there onwards producing the film was relatively straightforward. For this project we wanted to take a giant step forward regarding meeting industry standards, and as we had assembled an extremely talented team of crewmembers and actors, which were able to transfer my original vision onto the screen, something we hadn’t quite achieved so effectively in past projects. Making this particular film had not only marked our growth as a production company, but it had made me realise that my experiences of making short productions had, thus carved me into the more proficient filmmaker I am today.
Vegetable Crushers, London (2019)
Due to the global pandemic both our future projects and festival screenings for Vegetable Crushers were unfortunately put on hold for most of 2020, like so many other productions around the globe. However, 2021 promises to be a busy year for Bluejohn Productions with two more projects on the cards: The development of a feature screenplay, entitled 'Chilled', as well as the production of a short film called 'The Tryst'. Pre-production has just got under way, and filming is due to begin in late August 2021. This will be Bluejohn Productions eighth short film project in total.