Published on April 5, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Movies in the right direction
Great films and quality beer are a perfect partnership, as Alastair Gilmour finds out
An intimate and personal portrayal of Winston Churchill in the final few days leading up to D-Day in 1945 has been made into a film due for general release in June. A beer called Churchill has also been produced – and both of them have their roots in the North East.
Similarly with a biographical documentary about street fighter Lenny McLean who rose from a violent upbringing in 1950s London East End to win the boxing title of The Guv’nor and went on to star in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. The films were made by Salon Pictures, based in London, but financed largely by backers in the North East and Cumbria.
Guv’nor Brown Ale (5.0% abv) and Churchill Pale Ale (4.0% abv) were produced in the region for Reynolds Brewery with both beers brewed under the instruction of “hobby brewer” Ken Oliver.
The pair have been selling particularly well at The Schooner in Gateshead, which is perhaps just as well as Salon Pictures’ finance director Chris Reynolds is also a business partner of Adrian Marley, the two of them having owned the pub since December.
The founding partners of Salon Pictures – Nick Taussig and Paul Van Carter – were in the region to meet some of the people who have helped their projects get off the ground, at the invitation of commercial director and former banker Chris Reynolds, who is based in Newcastle.
“We have a group of people in the North East and Cumbria interested in investing in films; high net-earners,” says Chris. “They’re not people who are down to their last £5,000. Sometimes they want to be involved in a project and sometimes they don’t. Some come off and others don’t, for example, we made a film in and around Newcastle called Electricity with an all-local cast which pumped £1.2m into the local economy at the time. It could have made between £5m and £10m with good distribution… However, it’s a very enjoyable business to be in; it certainly beats working for the bank.”
Salon Pictures also made a documentary two years ago – recently sold to ITV – about the rise and fall of Paul Gascoigne, the region’s (and Britain’s) best-loved footballer, through the World Cup, injuries, and his fall from grace due to alcoholism.
“The human story is what interests us,” says Paul Van Carter. “Once we develop an idea we flesh it out ready to show people then go out to find the money. The end product has to be worked up and tested before taking it out to market.
“For Gascoigne (the documentary), part of it was down to Chris. There was a huge interest in the North East from people willing to support the project. We knew that Gascoigne would be perfect entertainment, good cinema and a colourful story. When we met Paul we didn’t know what to expect, but he was an absolute sweetheart, utterly charming, no trouble at all and very professional in all the time we were with him.
“Colourful life stories attract us, just like with Lenny McLean. He was just a family man trying to get himself up from the gutter.”
Chris Reynolds also highlights the loveable, scampish side of Paul Gascoigne – although admits that a beer named after him would not be appropriate. He says: “Our first meeting with him was in the posh Draycott Hotel in London for afternoon tea. The first thing he did was reach over, grab two buns, put them in his pockets, and said ‘I’ll have them later’.
“Apparently, Sir Alex Ferguson was a long way down the line towards signing him for Manchester United, then Tottenham Hotspur got interested. Both offered to buy him a house as part of the deal, but what clinched it for Terry Venables was that if he signed for Spurs they would buy his sister a sunbed. So he did. Think what might have been?”
Salon Pictures’ Churchill, starring Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson, is an intimate and personal portrait set in the final few days preceding D-Day in June 1945. The invasion of Northern France was something he was originally opposed to and he wrestled with thoughts of the consequences.
Churchill and The Guv’nor – the beers – have proved their popularity in The Schooner through their quality and basic principle of getting them right. It’s a bit like making a movie, as Paul Van Carter says: “You can have a great idea for a film, but if no-one’s going to buy it you’re going nowhere.”