Simon Moorhead produced the award-winning feature films Mirrormask, written by Neil Gaiman & directed by Dave McKean and Luna, written & directed by Dave McKean. Simon has been associated with many award-winning TV projects including A Different Drummer, Jigsaw, Threads, The Life and Loves of a She Devil, Widowmaker & the ITV series Chimera.
After Luna, Simon took the decision to move full time into producing audio drama / theatre.
Since launching The Other 1% Podcast channel has commissioned 92 original scripts, created over 40 hrs. of drama with over 150 paid roles for actors and writers. With an audience listening from the USA to the Ukraine, our target in 2021 is to continue to build and grow our online community through the channel and social media.
TO1%: You started as an assistant floor manager for the television film of “Threads”, the documentary style film of a nuclear bomb attack and aftermath in Sheffield (England); what did you actually do in this position on the film?
SM: One of the faults of IMDB is that it often does not paint the full picture. My television career started at the BBC in Bristol in the post room after working in theatre at the Bristol Old Vic. From the post room I moved into role called a TVO or television operative – we used to put up and take down the sets in the studios and dress film sets under the supervision of the designer.
My first job as an AFM was on a film called A Different Drummer directed by a wonderful man called Norman Stone. So Threads was actually my penultimate job as an AFM in the BBC.
The AFM is part of the production team and is a role that doesn’t really exist any more. The job broke down really into two parts. One part was about looking after the actors – the role which is now called the 2nd AD on drama productions. The other part was a role that was about liaison between the production team and the design team. I was responsible for all of the props that the actors touched. For example – the designer and his team would be responsible for dressing a kitchen, but I would be responsible for the newspaper the actor was reading or the food the actors were eating.
This was the role I had on Threads. On the one hand it was one of the hardest jobs I have ever done and on the other one of the best films I have been involved in.
TO1%: What qualifications had you obtained to gain that initial role as the assistant floor manager?
SM: The qualifications for the role really was experience. I had experience of working with actors in theatre and experience of working with production and design teams from my days as a TVO. Working in film and television is all about experience. As a producer, if a designer tells me that it is going to take two days to dress a set and I know I can do it in half a day – them words are exchanged. It is difficult to do that if you have never dressed a set.
TO1%: How did you make the move from an assistant floor manager (on “Threads”) to the location manager (“The Life and Loves of a She-Devil”)?
SM: After Threads, I was still working at BBC Bristol. The production managers on the film kindly recommended me to the Head of BBC Drama in London and the opportunity opened up for me to get a job in the drama department. My very first job for the department was She Devil and my boss rang me up and said “your starting on this date, and by the way your the location manager”. My reply was “what’s a location manager?”
TO1%: What does the position of a location manager entail?
SM: When asked this question – my reply is the job of the location manager is to protect the public, including the location owner from the film crew. The location manager finds locations that not only provide the visual context for the film but are practical for filming.
Anything is possible. One challenge, I remember, was to film a high speed chase on a motorway for The Bill. It is normally one of those things that are impossible – however as it was The Bill and because the storyline was about one of the characters who was being trained in high speed driving – we filmed the episode at Hendon, the police training ground.
Part of the normal police training involves driving at high speed on the motorway. So we simply used the trainers from Hendon as the drivers, assembled a fleet of vehicles that were required at a service station driven by stunt drivers.
They set off followed by our action vehicle and three other cars then followed. On cue the three vehicles at the back spread out and blocked all lanes driving at around 50 mph. As the traffic in front of us cleared the staged vehicles got into position and then the police driver was able to take his cue from the director and the chase began at around 120 mph. We achieved the shot in the first take and once filming stopped the vehicles at the back simply moved over and allowed the traffic to pass.
TO1%: What three points would you recommend, to future location managers, when talking to land owners or land managers?
SM: Never lie. Never enter negotiations unless you are prepared to walk away and find somewhere else. And remember you have to protect the public from the crew – not the crew from the public.
TO1%: With reference to the Internet Movie Database, it looks like you had a break in your profession between 1993 to 1997. Is this true and if it was, how did you get back into the profession after 4 years?
SM: Actually, during that period I was working as a location manager on The Bill. I think I worked on over 80 episodes of the series in those years.
TO1%: What was the first film that you saw that made you think you wanted to work in the film industry?
SM: It wasn’t really a film. At school, an inspirational English teacher took it on his shoulders to start a drama group putting on end of production plays in the school gym. I became involved with the lighting and general building of sets etc. – even to the detriment of my exams.
TO1%: The film The Week Before must have been quite different from the television projects you had worked on before, did the work as a producer differ as well?
SM: It would be usual for a TV drama to have a production team of around 50 people on a production. A feature film could average out at about 350 people involved in the production.
The Week Before which is a 22 minute film had a crew of 8 including cast.
TO1%: Would you agree with the concept that the role of producer can be described as a shepherd as it watches the inception, the development and then the release of the project?
SM: I would say that was a pretty good description of the role. My definition of the Producer is the person who has the responsibility of delivering the final film to the financiers – be it studio, Uk film Council, TV station or private financiers.
TO1%: Who are the producers and the other film creatives that you admire or have influenced your work?
SM: I think there are a few people who have had a defining influence on my career. Mr. Firebrace, my english teacher from school, director Norman Stone, director and producer Clive Doig, director Mick Jackson, executive producers Lisa Henson, Martin G. Baker and Mike Polis and of course Dave McKean.
TO1%: As a producer, you have to be a juggler of so many concepts, objects and problems – on one project, what has been the easiest and the hardest to juggle?
SM: Always the hardest thing to juggle on any production is the finance.
TO1%: Out of The Week Before, N[eo]n and Mirrormask, which would say is your favourite film within your role as the producer and why?
SM: Each film is different, there was an innocence to The Week Before, N[eo]n was a complex story and of course Mirrormask was a Hollywood Studio picture.
TO1%: Can you name three parts of the role as producer for Luna that you found challenging or inspirational?
Pain, stress and frustration!
TO1%: The production of the film “Luna” to completion has been quite a long affair, partially due to the global economic crisis, how do you keep the interest level high for you and the rest of the crew over such a period of time?
SM: Sheer belief in the story – I think Luna is a beautiful film. This is not hype or a marketing line by the producer. I genuinely believe it to be a very special piece of work. It is very, very different from Mirrormask. Whilst everyone is excited by the images that Dave produces – Luna demonstrates his skills as a writer. Luna is a wonderful story full of twists and turns and multiple layers. Also there are some great performances from the cast.
TO1%: After Luna you chose to move into Audio. Why?
SM: Yes. In my view around 2011, the British film industry changed. By 2014, it was and still is, almost impossible to raise money to make independent films. Since Covid 19 it has become even harder.
As audio has always been a part of my life. I decided that instead of spending years taking meetings about raising money to make films, I would spend the time working out how to create and generate audio drama.
One of the frustrations that I have of the Film & TV industry, is the sheer lack of opportunity for the majority of the industry to gain work. So, part of my mission with The Other 1% was to create a vehicle to promote local (South Coast) writers and actors to a global audience.
When we started, the focus was on telling stories that fell into the paranormal / horror genre. However with Protect & Survive and The Boleyn Brothers I started to explore other stories and moving into 2021, the tag line for the channel has become Audiobooks with Attitude.
Based on the South Coast of England, THE OTHER 1% was created by award-winning producer SIMON MOORHEAD, whose production company TBC AUDIO creates and distributes original, full-cast audiobooks with the aim of promoting local actors and writers to a global audience.