‘Doing Thing Differently’ – The Christopher Nupen Films Philosophy
February 10, 2011
(A speech by Christopher Nupen delivered on Naxos Day, 22 January 2011, at the Eden Hotel, Cannes, during the MIDEM Conference)
The very much-loved English author, Laurie Lee, was once challenged in an interview with the provocative words, “Mr Lee, for a best-selling author, you have written rather few books. Why is that”.
And Laurie Lee, bless his soul, replied, “Yes! Rather few, but they ARE remembered”.
In some ways we like to think that we belong in that same category. Not on his level, of course, he was a genius, but we try to make things that will be remembered: things that people will want to own and keep and revisit, like a good anthology.
Why? Because film remembers our artists as nothing else can do. Audio may be able to do more for the music but, when it comes to remembering the artistic persona, which is such an essential ingredient in the magic, film does something that is more intimate, more personal, more revealing and in some ways more memorable.
So far so good, but we discovered along the road that it is dangerous, and sometimes painful to be pioneers—and doing things differently from other people.
We once received a review in Britain’s leading newspaper, The Times, no less, which described a film of ours as a load of misleading rubbish and, quite specifically, expressed the idea that the film should not have been made at all.
The problem was that it was just too new. The reviewer could not see what he was seeing. That film, The Trout, went on to become the most frequently broadcast classical music film in the history of television.
25 years after it was made, it received its eighth broadcast in Germany, and attracted the biggest audience of all music programmes on the Arte Network during the whole of that year—25 years after it was made.
But trying to make things that will have a long life has both advantages and disadvantages. First of all it means that we release rather slowly, more slowly than the boss would like.
We like to give people time to get to know each DVD before releasing the next one, and having won DVD of the Year Award three times in 4 years, it seems that we are doing some things right, at least.
Our DVDs are very condensed and I know of only two people who could get everything,—understand everything—at first viewing, Jacqueline du Pré and the heroine of our latest film, my 107 year-old girlfriend, Alice Sommer Herz.
This year we have two nominations for DVD of the Year Award; our two latest releases, Tchaikovsky and Everything is a Present which has so far picked up four international accolades.
It is also scheduled for broadcast on BBC 2 next week, on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January, but it is not a holocaust film, it is an antidote to the excesses of the holocaust industry, but, interestingly, neither of these two new titles is selling very well—and once again because they are unusual.
And so we have to try and get across to our public that these things are special, good, worth remembering and, happily, there are some glorious reviews to help us do it.
And there’s another disadvantage: most promotion and marketing of DVDs is focused on new releases. That is how it should be and it is inevitable, anyway, but it means that the evergreens are eclipsed in the process, for two reasons. The first is the unavoidable fact that they are NOT new and the second is that they tend to sell themselves anyway.
And so the gaps between our releases mean that we are mostly out of the limelight.
We have made epoch-making films in our time but we are still learning and these two latest releases—totally different from one another—are among the best things that we have done.
So, this is an appeal from me, to you, to think of our films as evergreens that are worth remembering and if you can think of ways in which we can communicate that idea to the public, please let us know.
We will do everything that we possibly can to help because that is what we live for
Thanks for listening.
Happy New Year!
© Christopher Nupen
The Christopher Nupen Films catalogue on naxos.com