Colin Vaines has had an incredible career in film, encompassing five decades. Beginning his career as a journalist, he transitioned into running the National Film Development Fund in the UK, being a consultant for British Screen, and developing and producing films for Harvey Weinstein, Graham King and David Puttnam, before becoming an independent producer. In part two of our interview we talk about making MISS POTTER (2006), THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2009), MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011), his mentoring of THE GUARD (2011) director John Michael McDonagh, working with Weinstein, King and Puttnam, his views on the current state of the film industry and his hopes for the future.  

Part 1 can be read here.

How do you deal with the projects that have disappointed you?
There are a couple of films that I've been involved in that I haven't actually watched. I'm not going to say what they are. You just have to live with disappointment. Other producers, like Puttnam, also have their little collections of films like that. As ever, the ones that don't work or are disappointing to you for whatever reason, are nine times out of ten the experiences that you learn the most from.

Can you talk about your experience making MISS POTTER?
MISS POTTER was a classic Harvey acquisition, in that we bought the film but didn't see a cut until they had finished shooting. It was clear it needed a lot of work, and I have to say, to blow my own trumpet, that working on a film in post has always been an area in which I've excelled (I blush to say that, but it is true!). Chris Noonan and the producers were great in taking on board some really substantial changes, including creating an almost entirely new third act - in particular, David Thwaites, who is now working closely with Harvey on a number of projects, is an outstanding creative producer who wants to get things right. He was brilliant in post. It's a shame that most films simply can't afford to do what happened on a fairly regular basis at Miramax and The Weinstein Co (and which is par for the course for most high-budget films - to go back in and not only do some recutting, but also additional shooting to clarify things, or improve character development, or make the film simply more emotionally engaging. A similar thing happened on THE YOUNG VICTORIA, when I was working with Graham King. Jean-Marc Vallee, who has been doing some amazing work in the last couple of years with DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013) and WILD (2014), and the writer, Julian Fellowes, really threw themselves into a major additional shoot that made the resulting film so much stronger, improving the love story out of recognition and helping anchor the film strongly around Emily Blunt's performance. As the old saying goes, a film is developed, made on the floor, and then made again in the cutting room, and it's truly a blessing when there is enough money in the budget of a film to allow for pick ups and even fresh sequences to be shot after you've had the chance to review the initial cut.

How was the experience of making MY WEEK WITH MARILYN?
Working on MY WEEK WITH MARILYN was a fairly surreal experience - we shot on the same stage on which they shot THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957). Michelle Williams' dressing room was actually Marilyn's while she was shooting the film, and once Ken Branagh was fitted out with his prosthetic chin dimple, he looked so much like Olivier in the original that it was thought the great man had actually stepped off the set each time! Ken loved working with Simon Curtis, and paid him the supreme compliment (as a fellow director) of writing him a fan email at the end of the shoot! My one great memory of the shoot will be the day I visited Rob Marshall, a friend from the days of shooting CHICAGO (2002) at Miramax, on the set of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (2003) which was on an adjoining sound stage at Pinewood. I went on the stage expecting to hear great stories of their shoot, but ended up surrounded by Rob, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ian McShane and Johnny Depp all wanting to know what it was like to be shooting on the same stage THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL  had filmed on!

Can you explain your 'thanks' credit on THE GUARD?
I "discovered" John Michael McDonagh when I was doing my screenwriting programme, PAL. He had a script called 'Harpers Ferry, 4am' about the abolitionist John Brown, which I thought was the most cinematic thing I'd ever read out of the UK. A mutual friend, Neil Richards, forwarded it to me. I was so impressed that I got John European Script Fund money to write something for me, which was a script about the turn of last century anarchists The Bonnot Gang. He then had a long series of disappointments, with scripts he wrote for others never getting off the ground, or when they did, like NED KELLY (2003), being poorly rewritten by the director. Through it all, a young producer called Chris Clarke stuck by him, and eventually they got THE GUARD made (and went on to make CALVARY, 2014, and have a third film in prep). John very kindly gave me a thanks on THE GUARD for recognising his potential - and also because I think I laughed like a lunatic all the way through the first, longer cut of the film at a time when practially everyone around him other than Chris was saying it wasn't working!

You've worked with producers like David Puttnam, Harvey Weinstein and Graham King. What qualities do you believe they all share? 
They all have absolute conviction about what they're doing, and real integrity. They're very committed to their ideas and to the talent they're working with. But if something feels off, they'll jump on it.  They don't suffer fools gladly. They're very clear about what they're going to do. They also have a great knowledge in all areas, so they're able to talk about things in an informed way. They're not operating out of fear. If you work with producers or directors who start projects off living in a state of fear and consumed with their own ego, you're going to get into trouble quickly. I've realised I can't work with people who are worried about how whether you know more than them. I am very hands-on and collaborative. If I'm not able to be involved then you shouldn't be working with me.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the film industry?
I'm dissatisfied at the current time with the stuff that gets made, and how difficult it is to get the things that I think are interesting financed. I'm very lucky that I've been able to work with producers like Harvey Weinstein and Graham King who have enabled me to work on interesting projects that are challenging to people. I hope I've been able to continue in that vein in my independent career. I think we live in a fear-based climate at the moment where decisions are often made on what has gone before and the hope people will like to see it again. That's the worst reason to make a film. You're just constantly looking over your shoulder, second guessing someone else. The great old school moguls like Harry Cohn made films they wanted to make, rather than something research suggested they should make. Even if he didn't entirely appreciate the artier projects like FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), Cohn could still see the talent of Fred Zinnemann, appreciate that it was from an award-winning book and that it was something that should be made. He made decisions from his gut. The minute you're second guessing your choices, you're in trouble.

Do you feel the quality of scripts is deteriorating?
In big films, I think the quality in general is appalling. There was a comic book movie that was massively successful not so long ago which had so many plot holes in it and even had two scenes where the villain caught the hero only to leave him so he could escape. Surely you can't have scenes like that anymore?! I'm a creature of the old school and my heroes are people like Billy Wilder. We do get good films during Oscar season, like ARGO or TRUE GRIT (both 2012), which to me were shining examples of what we ought to have on a regular basis, but there's just so much drek out there.

Do you feel it is all bad?
Well, there's always going to be decent films made with one eye on the festivals and Oscar season. And if someone has an interesting, original idea,  it has never been easier to make a film because anyone can now pick up a digital camera and make a ninety-minute film. However, the problem is that you can't sustain an industry like that, and certainly as a producer, where you've got to earn a living somehow or other, there is a limit to how many $90, 000 films you can make if your fee is likely to be only a few thousand dollars. 

How do you feel about the size of budgets on big films?
I've seen so much waste on films and really been horrified. Every project I work on  I look at it in terms of ''Is there a unique selling point to this film?'' or ''Is there something that will be of interest to people, beyond me?''. And then I consider what the film should be made for. On a film like CORIOLANUS (2011) the budget was initially way too high for what it was. It had to come down by more than half because that was the only possible way you could make it. I am very proud that we could make it for the budget we ended up agreeing on, and achieve what we did.

How has the landscape of film production changed since the '70s?
The pressure to produce a handful of expensive films that rely on things people think they know audience will want has become overwhelming. If you look at how many original films were made in the '70s, even if the likes of  WHAT'S UP, DOC? (1972) were referring back to screwball comedies of the '40s, they still felt original in their own right. If you're in a landscape where the great majority of people who are in the positions of financial power only want to make a title because it has been made before, or it's a sequel to something that's already been successful, or is based on a comic book, that's fine ... as long as there are also many original pieces being made alongside them. But that's not happening enough. The most daring stuff is being done on television. 'Breaking Bad' could never have been made as a movie. It wouldn't have gotten past the first pitch.

Do you feel it's important to keep your feet in the British film industry?
I have to be a 100% honest and say that it never enters my mind. I'm just interested in making interesting films. I'm doing something with Barbara Broccoli that takes place in the UK and US, and is a wonderful, unusual May/December love story. I'm working on another film with the brilliant artist Shirin Neshat about a great Egyptian singer, which we're going to make in Arabic. It's going to be financed with a mixture of Middle Eastern, French, German and Italian money. There's not going to be a penny of English money in it. But she's a brilliant filmmaker. She made the film WOMEN WITHOUT MEN (2009) that won the Silver Lion at Venice a few years ago. The subject matter of the new project is so powerful and relevant to today, even though it's about a woman who died in 1975. It speaks volumes about what's happening in the Middle East at the moment. The politics are fantastically interesting,  but what I care about is the character and this extraordinary woman's story. Those are always the fundamental things for me - do I find the characters strong,  and is the story emotionally engaging?

Can you talk about the new documentary you appear in, THE LAST IMPRESARIO (2013)?
The film is a documentary portrait of the great British producer Michael White. A mutual friend introduced me to the director, Gracie Otto, and I was, to be honest, honoured to be asked to be in it. When I started as a young journalist at Screen, I remember meeting Michael, discovering his amazing track record in theatre and film with stuff like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975), and then watching in amazement at the way he led his life as the ultimate party animal. "I'm having what he's having" was pretty much my thought at the time - the man was a huge inspiration and a truly great producer who has been somewhat sidelined and neglected over the years. As I get older, the urge to say thank you and pay my respects to people who've done great stuff in this business just grows and grows. I will be eternally grateful for being at Cannes the year of THE KING OF COMEDY (1983) and being able to go over to an elderly man, wearing a heavy woollen three piece suit in the sweltering heat, and say "You're Michael Powell, and you're the reason I'm here". He teared up and so did I!

What would you consider to be your career goal?
My career goal is just to make decent films and work with interesting people. At the moment, outside of the "mainstream" films I have on my slate, I am working with artists like Shirin and Jake and Dinos Chapman. I'm getting enormous pleasure from working with people who are so visually literate and who come at things from a different angle, but at the same time are very open to input and are wanting to reach an audience. I never want to make anything that doesn't appeal to an audience. I'm not interested in making something just for myself and a few friends. At the same time,  I want to make things that which affect people in some ways. It's all about emotion. And that's what I miss from most films. Even in a big superhero film you should get emotionally engaged. I love what I do. I'm still essentially the happy kid watching A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH(1946) thinking ''That's what I want to do for the rest of my life.''   

I spoke to Colin by phone on 28th August 2013 and via email during October 2014, and I would like to thank him for his time.

Thanks to Ricky Barnett at IIWYK.


Directed by Samantha Fuller. Featuring Sam Fuller (archive footage), Jennifer Beals, Robert Carradine, Joe Dante, Bill Duke, James Franco, William Friedkin, Mark Hamill, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry, Perry Lang, Tim Roth, James Toback, Constance Towers, Kelly Ward, Wim Wenders. 80 minutes.

2014 marks the 65th anniversary of the release of I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949), the first film directed by Samuel Fuller, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 85.  A new documentary directed by his daughter Samantha and produced by his widow Christa, A FULLER LIFE, through staged readings selected from Fuller's autobiography 'A Third Face', tells the filmaker's unique, extraordinary and inspiring story. 

 The son of Jewish immigrants (Russian on his father's side, Polish on his mother's), Fuller began his journalism career as a newspaper copyboy at the tender age of 13, becoming a crime reporter at the age of 17. (One of his best films, and his personal favourite, 1952's invigorating PARK ROW, is set in the newspaper industry.) By the age of 24 he had sold his first screenplay to Hollywood, the musical comedy HATS OFF, filmed as a major movie in 1936 by the Russian director Boris Petroff, which began a lucrative and extensive career writing (and ghost-writing) Hollywood screenplays, including the likes of SHOCKPROOF (1949) for Douglas Sirk, CONFIRM OR DENY (1941, written over a weekend with Hank Wales, whose life inspired Hitchcock's FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT) and GANGS OF NEW YORK (1938), which was based on the same book by Herbert Asbury that Scorsese based his 2002 GANGS OF NEW YORK on.

At the age of 32 he could add published novelist to his resume when his first book 'The Dark Page' (1946) came out.  (It was later filmed by Phil Karlson in 1952 as SCANDAL SHEET.) Fuller was smack bang in the thick of the defining part of his life, serving as a WW2 infantryman when he heard the news of the book's publication. He saw a lot of action in the infantry division nicknamed 'The Big Red One'. He used his experiences for the brilliant 1980 film of the same title that he wrote and directed, featuring Lee Marvin in his last great role. For his services in the Army (which included being involved in the landings at Africa, Normandy and Sicily, fighting in Belgium and Czechoslovakia, and helping to liberate the concentration camp at Falkenau), he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Heart and the Purple Heart. Upon his return to civilian life, he made the transition to directing with I SHOT JESSE JAMES in 1949 with the help of producer Robert Lippert, who agreed to let him direct the three scripts he had agreed to write at no extra cost.   

Fuller's films are incredibly rich, fullblooded experiences. If anything, he was a great storyteller in the spirit of Mark Twain. Fuller knew how to tell a great yarn, grabbing the audience's interest from the outset, something he learned from his time as a journalist. They have the spirit of adventure, the love of travel and foreign cultures, of friendship, of experience, of humour. He was able to make personal, uncompromising films under the auspices of the studio system up until the '60s, something his friendship with Darryl F. Zanuck enabled to happen. Despite being of great quality and with things to say, his films are not precious or stilted. They were designed to entertain audiences, and succedded greatly, reflected by the popularity and profitability of most of his films.

Once Zanuck left 20th Century Fox to become an independent producer, it became harder for Fuller to make the films he wanted to make under the studio, and he had to secure independent financing from then on. Although they are seen as classics now, SHOCK CORRIDOR and THE NAKED KISS shocked and perplexed certain people in the industry, and Fuller entered a more difficult part of his professional life, with one setback after another, and far too few films made. Even the release of his dream project, THE BIG RED ONE was fraught with disappointment when the film was heavily edited down for release. It has since been released in its original director's cut. Undoubtedly the happiest events of this period were meeting his second wife, actress Christa Lang, and the birth of their daughter Samantha.

He was also one of the bravest, edgiest and innovative filmmakers of his generation, tackling taboo subjects head-on, pleading for tolerance, open-mindedness and fairness and using tabloid techniques and styles to bring immediacy and emotional truth to his pictures. Note the intensity of his choice of close-ups, the off-kilter use of the frame and the jolts supplied by his editing choices. Quentin Tarantino has spoken about the brilliance of the tracking shot that leads out of a newspaper office into the street in PARK ROW. He routinely gave strong roles to women and actors of different races at a time when the industry was very Anglo-Saxon and male-centric. His first film, I SHOT JESSE JAMES, has an ending that hints at Jesse and his assassin, Robert Ford, possibly being gay lovers (''I'm sorry for what I did to Jesse. I loved him.'') The film marked the arrival of a major directing talent, as influenced by Carl Dreyer (the intense close-ups) as he was by Twain in the storytelling or his love of democracy in the way his films talked like people in a democratic nation should be allowed to, free of oppression. THE STEEL HELMET (1951) was the first film made about the Korean War, and was made when it was still ongoing. On one level it's a stirring, gritty war picture, but it also tackles racism, makes the first-ever reference to Japanese-American internment during WW2, and has a scene where a sergeant shoots a prisoner of war, its inclusion angering the US Army who had provided stock footage for the film. Anticipating his last American film, WHITE DOG (1982), some three decades later (where he was ridiculously suspected of racism) he came under fire for being the actual opposite of what he was: reporter Victor Reisel calling him ''pro-Communist'' and ''anti-American'', and critic Westford Pedravy alleging he was being secretly bankrolled by ''the Reds''.  

The wonderful noir picture PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) has a scene where Richard Widmark's character responds ''Are you waving the flag at me?'' when another character appeals to his sense of patriotism. It was a scene which  infuriated J. Edgar Hoover. THE CRIMSON KIMONO (1959) has an American woman choose her Japanese-American lover over her American one. SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963), set in a mental situation, has a black inmate who believes himself to be a Klu Klux Klan member. THE NAKED KISS (1964) the central character of the reformed prostitute who becomes a nurse in a small town eventually learns her new wealthy fiance is a child molester. WHITE DOG (1982) is the story of a black dog trainer and a white woman who attempt to cure a dog that has been trained to attack black people. The film was shelved in the US by Paramount Pictures who feared the film might be deemed racist (given the fact the film was a plea for racial tolerance this was not likely to happen) after Willis Edwards, vice president of the NAACP Hollywood chapter described the film as ''inflammatory'' and questioned why it had even been made. Fuller, who could count the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Steven Spielberg, Dennis Hopper and Wim Wenders amongst his admirers and friends (he had acted in films for all of them); the esteemed and influential filmmaker loved by the French New Wave filmmakers; the great democrat, the great patriot, whose films had fought for racial tolerance and had just made a film pleaing for the very same thing, was forced to decamp to another, more open-minded and rational country (France) with his family, where he made his last three films.

The new documentary A FULLER LIFE, which was two years in the making, has twelve well-known faces (friends, collaborators, fans) who have been affected by Fuller's films reading extracts from his autobiography, 'A Third Face'. The extracts are further dramatised by recently found 16mm footage of Fuller's location scouts, home movies, time on the front lines in WW2 and heartbreaking footage from the Falkenau concentration camp he helped liberate. There are also clips and stills from his movies and a look at the room where he wrote, which has been left untouched. A FULLER LIFE covers a lot of ground in its brief eighty minutes, and is a perfect way to celebrate Fuller as an artist and a man. That the words are coming directly from Fuller make it all the more immediate and vibrant. The guest readers include Monte Hellman, Mark Hamill (THE BIG RED ONE), William Friedkin, James Franco, Jennifer Beals (Fuller's MADONNA AND THE DRAGON, 1990), Robert Carradine (THE BIG RED ONE), Joe Dante, Bill Duke, Buck Henry, Tim Roth, James Toback, Constance Towers (SHOCK CORRIDOR and THE NAKED KISS), Wim Wenders and Tim Roth. The eclectic array of guests is indicative of the breadth of Fuller's influence and the world he created around himself while he lived. Fuller comes across as a driven man with a lust for life, a stubborn man who fought for himself but also for others, a man who believed in sacrifice, honor, personal freedoms and democracy, and who wasn't scared of shining light on darkness. In his career he was alternately understood and misunderstood, loved and discarded, and worked in both the mainstream and in the independent sector. Hopefully, this film will lead to Fuller's legacy being more fixed - that of one of the most important filmmakers of the last century. A FULLER LIFE tells you about the man behind the films and will put a smile on your face. If  you're a filmmaker, it will enoble you. For lovers of film, it will inspire you to discover the films that inspired the passion and love that created this absorbing documentary. Because, as Martin Scorsese wrote in the foreword to 'A Third Face', ''If you don't like the films of Sam Fuller, then you don't like cinema.''    

A FULLER LIFE opens at the Laemmle NoHo 7 cinema in Los Angeles from 24th to 30th October 2014. You can see the details and the film's trailer here.    

The film's website.

You can order 'A Third Face' by Sam Fuller with Christa Fuller and Jerome Rudes here.

My interview with Christa Fuller about Sam.


Colin Vaines has had an incredible career in film, encompassing five decades. Beginning his career as a journalist, he transitioned into running the National Film Development Fund in the UK, being a consultant for British Screen, and developing and producing films for Harvey Weinstein, Graham King and David Puttnam, before becoming an independent producer. In part one of our interview we talk about the origin of his love for movies, his various capacities in the world of film before going independent, and working with Ralph Fiennes, Martin Scorsese and Anthony Minghella.  

What is your earliest childhood memory regarding movies?
For some reason I was always mad about films. I don't know why because my parents weren't particularly keen. They'd take me to see a James Bond film or a Carry On film occasionally. I remember very distinctly that when I was five I was passing a poster for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) and I said to my mum ''I really want to go and see that film.'' I've no idea why. I guess the images on the poster just appealed to me. A Jungian would say it was at some mythic level!  I saw that film so many times as a kid. As I grew older and learned more about movies, I recognised that, alongside the great Harryhausen stop-motion, much of the success of the film came down to Bernard Herrmann's amazing score, which adds colossal value to the movie.

Was there anything in particular that you think deepened your love of movies?
When I was ten years old, our English teacher read us, in daily installments, a book that we all enjoyed. On the last day of term he fired up a print of Powell and Pressburger's A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946), and we realised it was the film of the book he had been reading (although it turned out it was actually one of the first films to be turned into a novel, rather than the other way round). That was my Road to Damascus moment. After I saw the film I thought ''My God, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I don't know what this is but I want to be involved in it.''

How did you get involved in film journalism?
My best friend's father was a Fleet Street journalist, James Nicholson. He was a very exotic character, always jetting off around the world. He was always dressed in black and covering these really lurid crime stories. His nickname on Fleet Street was 'The Prince of Darkness'. I thought ''I want to do this. This guy's so cool!'' I had the idea that if I became a journalist I could become a film critic, which was the pinnacle of my ambition at eleven or twelve years old. From that point on I was really committed to becoming a journalist. At the school I went to you could jump a year if you were considered bright enough and go into a program they called 'The University Stream'. I did that but I knew I didn't want to go to University - I wanted to get into journalism. By the time I was eighteen I had left school and was on a training course in magazine journalism. After that I managed to get some work on Time Out Magazine. I applied for a job replacing one of the senior reporters, and after the interview, Duncan Campbell (now the senior crime reporter at The Guardian) called me and told me ''We can't possibly offer you the job because you have no qualifications whatsoever. But we were so astounded by your chutzpah in applying for this job that we are going to give you some work anyway.'' That was my start in journalism.

You went from there to Screen International. How was that experience?
My sister was working at Paramount Pictures on Wardour Street, and she saw an ad in Screen International for a junior reporter. I think I got the job because the publisher, Peter King, liked the cuttings I brought to the interview from my time I was studying journalism, and because I knew a hell of a lot about film. But I think the thing he liked most was that I was dirt cheap! He couldn't believe how little I wanted to do the job for. I probably would've paid to do the job. I joined Screen when I was nineteen and stayed there for over seven years, eventually becoming co-editor. That was really my film school, absolutely brilliant. I'm probably the world's worst film journalist in terms of breaking stories and delivering scoops and all of that stuff. At that time Screen was quite an eccentric paper. It had only become an international trade paper a few years before. We had huge production pieces. I visited EVERY film set because the studios invited journalists to each and every film, no matter the size of the movie. I remember visiting the set of ALIEN (1979), for example. I interviewed everybody. Some of them were fairly obscure people, but some of there were fairly major. I spoke to Scorsese at the time of RAGING BULL (1980). We started the interview at his hotel, and because he was enjoying it so much we continued it in the car driving to the BBC.    

How did you make the transition to actually working on films?
Working at Screen was a great education but the more I worked there the more I realised that I didn't actually want to be a film critic - I wanted to make films and be involved. At the end of my time at Screen, Mamoun Hassan, who had become a friend, was running the old National Film Finance Corporation, which was the precursor to the BFI. He called me in one day. I thought I was going in to interview him, but he said ''No, I don't want an interview. The person that's running our development fund is leaving and I want you to put your hat in the ring''. At that time I had only read about two scripts in my life so I asked him ''Do you really think that's a  good idea?'' Mamoun thought I could do it. From that experience I've taken the philosophy that if I meet the right people and they're not properly qualified, I simply listen to my gut. The brilliant thing about running the development fund was that I could choose my consultants from the film industry, and so I went to people I admired and liked such as Alan Parker, John Boorman (who had been like a father figure/ mentor figure to me), Richard Lester, Stephen Frears, the writer Allan Scott and the producer Mark Shivas. Every now and then you could change people around. I had this incredible body of people who were really smart and clever, and I learned a lot. We had to pass judgment on treatments and whether they'd be given development money or not.

What skills that you had accrued as a journalist helped you when you started working in film?
The great thing that journalism teaches you is that you have to have an opening paragraph that grabs the reader's attention, then a second paragraph that goes back and starts to develop it, and after that you develop the story in the third paragraph and onwards. What better way of describing writing a film? When I do a synopsis or prepare a pitch, my journalist side kicks in and I'm asking questions like ''What's the story? How strong is it? How long can it sustain? Who are the characters that are going to intrigue and interest the audience? Is there a story that can begin in a strong way and be developed?'' A lot of the skills I developed in journalism have definitely come to bear on scripts and so on. I always carry my skills around with me. As a producer, when you're pitching and selling your ideas, it's a great discipline to be able to bring a story down to three paragraphs. If you can't grab people with the beginning of your pitch, you might as well give up.

Was it a regular occurence at the time for film journalists to transition across to the film business?
Yes, it was a very traditional route at that time, which was in the 80s. People who'd worked in the trade press tended to go into any discipline that they were writing about. So a lot of music journalists went into the music business as A&R men or producers or whatever. I think it's now become increasingly difficult to make that transition but at the time it was the most normal thing. The nature of the trade papers has changed. The reporting has become much more hardcore, factual and journalistic compared to what we were lucky enough to be doing back then, which was along the lines of ''Oh, Billy Wilder is at Cannes. I'll interview him.''

You've worn a lot of different hats in your career. Do you enjoy the challenge of constantly having to pick up new skills?
Yes, absolutely. Often I have been put in a 'sink or swim' situation, and I have always managed not to sink! An example is when I was working with the parent body of the NNFC and became a kind of consultant. That turned into British Screen and Simon Relph took over. He officially made me a consultant for BS Finance as well as the Head of the Development Fund. Everyone that I worked with subsequently always gave me more and more to do. Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said ''If you're ever offered a job that you can't do, accept it immediately.'' That's a great philosophy to have in life. It's true of everything. Whenever you feel out of your comfort zone and terrified, that's when you're almost certainly going to do your most interesting work. I remember I had worked on a film for Miramax called B. MONKEY (1998) and it had not been a happy experience for anyone. When I did my interview to run development for Miramax later on, Harvey Weinstein sat down and said ''You're the last person I want to see for this job!'' We had had so many arguments and fallings out over the film. At the end of the half hour he said ''Well, do you want this job?'' I said yes, but on the plane home I was thinking ''What have I done? This is madness!'' I had no in-depth knowledge of American writers at that point and it just felt like a mountain to climb.  

Your first film as a producer was also Ralph Fiennes' first film, the TV movie A DANGEROUS MAN: LAWRENCE AFTER ARABIA (1992). How did you get involved with the project?
After I left British Screen I went to work for David Puttnam, and I ran development for him. He had always wanted to make a film about T.E. Lawrence and was looking to make a film covering his life. The first version of the film was going to be a much more expensive film, and had a different director. It was Clive Irving, a journalist friend of David's (he wrote 'Scandal '63' about the Profumo affair), who told him ''You shouldn't do his whole life. You should find the microcosm, the one incident, that can be dramatised.'' The one bit in Lawrence's life that had never really been done on film was his time at the Paris Peace Conference. The decision to cover this period was brilliant because it gave us tremendous latitude to develop a script that pondered what might have happened. Eventually, after developing that script for a long time, David asked me if I wanted to produce it. Again, I was being dropped in the deep end. With Ralph, when we were casting, a friend said ''You have to see Ralph Fiennes. He's absolutely brilliant.'' I went to see him at the RSC, where he was appearing in three plays, and was blown away both by him and his range; but he wasn't available because we wanted to shoot in Paris and he had theatre commitments. The film collapsed but it got resurrected later on and we made it for much less money. We were able to go back to Ralph because we were now shooting in a nearby environment to where he was working with the RSC.  I take enormous pride in taking Ralph out of the RSC and effectively launching a great film career - but somebody would have done it eventually, he was so good. He was ripe for picking. The great thing was that because of LAWRENCE and its exceptional reviews in America (it won an Emmy as best drama),  it sparked huge interest in Ralph, and I know he got SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993) and then QUIZ SHOW (1994) out of it.

What was the experience like producing Fiennes'directing debut CORIOLANUS (2011) almost two decades later?
It felt like closing a circle. It was a lovely experience. Twenty years after the Lawrence film, Ralph happened to be working with two producers on CORIOLANUS who were very good friends of mine, and for various reasons they all asked me to get involved.  CORIOLANUS was the biggest joy of my career because it was a film that was really hard to get made and people weren't actually falling over themselves to finance it. It was a very tough shoot. I had two great colleagues on that, Gabby Tanna and Julia Taylor-Stanley. Julia did a great job of pulling together tax deals from the UK and some other non-traditional sources. Gabby had incredible 'ins' with the Serbian government. Her father is Dan Tana, the restaurateur, who has become a legendary character in Serbia. Her connections opened all sorts of doors for us. The government let us use the Senate building, and supplied all the military vehicles and tanks that appear in the film, as well as the military police who worked on the film. It was great working with people who were such dedicated producers, but above everything else, it was great working with Ralph again because he's an artist and he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do. He was the hardest working man I've ever worked with. I would put the likes of Scorsese, Anthony Minghella and him in the same box in terms of attention to detail, commitment and absolute, rock-solid vision of what they want to achieve.

How was the experience of working with Scorsese on GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)?
Working on the film was an amazing experience. I doubt that I'll ever have an experience quite like that again. We built a set at Cinecitta that was two square miles. Just driving into the studio every day was mindblowing. I distinctly remember sitting in Scorsese's cutting room when we were editing the film. I was sitting underneath a poster for MEAN STREETS (1973) from the old Academy Cinema on Oxford Street, which is where I first saw the film. I had one of those moments where I was going ''This is really weird. I'm a kid from Croydon, and here I am with Scorsese and he's asking my opinions on scenes!'' GANGS OF NEW YORK was a really tough shoot. We shot for eight months and then it was nearly a year in post-production. We collaborated very well. He knew I really cared about the film and that I had read every single draft. He had picked up the book in 1970, and had started developing it in 1977. When I joined Miramax in 1999, Harvey had just acquired it from Disney. I knew all the drafts so well that sometimes when a couple of lines were needed for a scene I'd get asked to come up with something in their style. I loved the project and if you don't love and care about what you're doing, there's no point in doing it.

With all the naysayers surrounding the film during production, did it ever affect you?
Scorsese spent many years trying to get the film made. He told me he would go into these meetings about, say, a Rat Pack movie or something, and he'd say ''You know what I really want to do is GANGS OF NEW YORK.'' And they'd just stare at him. He'd describe it as a Western set on Mars, which probably wasn't the best way to do it I guess! Even within Miramax there were people who wondered if the film was a big folly. But I always knew the film was going to be remarkable. It certainly wasn't the film that people were expecting. I realised early on that this wasn't social realism but something operatic. Scorsese kept talking about not only THE WILD BUNCH (1969), which was an obvious influence, but also ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968). That Leone kind of influence knocked people for six a little.  I remember the first day of Daniel Day Lewis shooting his scenes. We saw the first dailies and he was already at 11! You thought, ''Christ, can this film sustain that?'' You had to have that commitment to make it work, and not be thrown. If it didn't have that massive prformance at the centre of it, you couldn't make it work in the way you wanted it to work. That was a conceptual decision. It must have been similar to the execs seeing the first day of Johnny Depp's rushes on PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (2003).    

What did you enjoy the most about working with Scorsese?
He was an asthmatic kid, I was a fat kid,  and neither of us were any good at sports. He was obviously from a different generation to me but we both stayed in and watched movies growing up. So when we get together we're like film nerds. It's such a total joy to be able to be with someone in that way. Scorsese has never surrendered to cynicism. There's not an ounce of it in him. Even when he takes on commercial projects like CAPE FEAR (1991) or THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986), he still approaches it like he does everything else. He's wildly enthusiastic. You can't not be around him. When you're on set and you see him with actors, you see why they love him - he just barrels across after a take, full of notes and ideas. He gives so much back to the actors. He's so constructive, precise and clear. Everyone is always up on his sets. I cannot understand film sets where everybody is depressed or down.

How about working with Anthony Minghella?
I have been very, very lucky to work with some astonishingly gifted directors, but of course I would put both Scorsese and Anthony Minghella at the top of the tree. Anthony was a very old friend from the business when I finally got to work with him at Miramax. He was one of the most brilliant, kindest, smartest men I've ever worked with. And like all brilliant people, he didn't live in ego. He was very clear about what he wanted to do, but he also wanted what he did to be the very best it could be, and if he liked and respected you, then your opinion would matter to him. And it didn't just have to be the opinion of a producer or movie executive. I remember like yesterday on THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY(2008) TV episode he directed, Anthony asking the maid in the hotel in Botswana her opinion of a pair of shoes he was going to ask Precious, the lead character in the story, to wear, to gauge authenticity - or perhaps, more precisely, to gauge what a woman from Botswana who had the characteristics of this fictional person would wear. He was a loving, giving man who gave of his time and experience freely. Joe Wright told me that, although Anthony was asked just for an opinion on the ATONEMENT (2007) script by the Working Title boys, he ended up giving Joe a kind of unpaid masterclass in writing that totally influenced how the film came out. I also loved Anthony's approach to adaptation - he'd read a book like 'Cold Mountain' (1997) a couple of times, but from that point on, the film had to be it's own "thing", and he'd never go back and try and shoehorn in ideas that were no longer relevant to the film he'd made. And if you talk to the authors whose work he adapted, they were all very, very happy with that. His death created a vast hole in the business that's not been filled to date in my view.

Part 2 can be read here.

I spoke to Colin by phone on 28th August 2013 and via email during October 2014, and I would like to thank him for his time.

Thanks to Ricky Barnett at IIWYK.