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Interview: Allan Niblo

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You may not know the name Allan Niblo, but you will be familiar with his work. As an award-winning film producer and founder member of film company Vertigo Films he has made serious waves in cinema as producer of films such as Human Traffic, Monsters, It’s All Gone Pete Tong and StreetDance 3D.

Allan NibloTNS caught up with Niblo at the Soho Hotel screening rooms in his other capacity as one of the judges in this year’s Short Stories film-making competition sponsored by Relentless Energy Drink.

Now in its second year Short Stories attracts film-makers from all over the world, who aim to create a film that embodies Relentless Energy’s ‘No Half Measures’ attitude.
This year’s theme is ‘Focus’ with the subjects being taken from the worlds of core sports (skate, surf, snow, BMX) and music (rock, metal, dance, punk, drum n‟ bass) and motorsport (road racing).

For Short Stories 2011 a selection of 30 film makers were invited to provide a treatment for the Story they wished to tell. From these treatments, eight directors were selected to make their film.

Talking to TNS Niblo explains his involvement in the competition, his career and how young film-makers can get noticed.

Why did you get involved with the Relentless Energy Short Stories competition?

For me it’s all about working with new film making talent and I have a certain passion for extreme sports, like Skateboarding. Back in the day I was a Scottish Skateboard champion , way back in 1985. The chance to watch movies and extreme sports together is perfect.

What made you make the move to film?

There wasn’t a lot of money in skateboarding at the point, it did go through a craze and become a cool, cult sport. When I got back from California I picked up a video camera and started making videos for bands – local talent. I went to film school. The first big film I worked on was Human Traffic.

What do you think of the films you have seen for the competition?

It’s really exciting, and it shows what can be done with very little. There’s some really diverse subject matter like the crowd-surfing documentary, I think there could be a feature film made from that idea. With the crowd-surfer I felt they really captured something . The one that won it last year was really beautiful, really poetic – it captured the spirit ‘one life, one dream, grab it while you can’.

What do you look for in a film pitch?

We’re are looking for originality, obviously. A film that stands out from the crowd. Having a distinct voice is very important, what is that person saying and how are they saying it – that is the 100% unique thing we are looking for. For example, Monster – he came in and immediately we knew he was going to do something different with the sci-fi genre.

How hard is it for young British film-makers to get noticed?

There’s a lot of film around but there aren’t that many that are really, really distinct. I mean with Monsters after two weeks of releasing that Gareth (Edwards, the film's director) was in Hollywood meeting Tarrantino, he had Spielberg on the phone all within two weeks. So if you have the right product, the buzz can spread like wildfire, it really can. But you have to have that thing that stands out from the crowd.

What do you think about British film at the moment?

I think we are going through a vintage period. With movies like The Inbetweeners, The King’s Speech, One Day a lot of really brilliant films.

Who’s been the most interesting person you have worked with?

The whole thing has been interesting, I worked in banking so this is really great working with directors, actors and studios, jetting all over the place to Hollywood and Cannes. Every step has been fascinating and interesting.

How did you get from banking to this? Was it just luck?

Well the point of all of this is to ‘follow your dreams’, if you believe in something enough you can achieve it. I worked my way up – I went to film school and then worked as a cameraman on lots of big commercials and Scottish TV things. I then ditched all that and moved into film working on some short-film and progressed to our first feature film, which was Human Traffic.
The problem is, there is a lot of people trying to get into the film industry. When I went to film school there were 10 film schools in the country now there are hundreds. Courses that attract students get more funding, so there is a proliferation of film students every year. But you have to be honest and ask ‘can I make a living at it’ – I would never say to not follow your dreams but you also have to be diplomatic, if you are not going to make it treat it as a hobby, and learn more about it.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had made it?

Yes, my first film. Sundance Film Festival, even more so than Cannes is the coolest film festival in the world and I went there with my first film and got Harvey Weinstein, at his height when he was running Miramax, buying me drinks. It was an incredible high to get that with my first film.

For more information: www.relentlessenergy.com/shortstories

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