Giles Alderson welcomed producers Tracy Jarvis & Steve Jarvis to the podcast this week. They chatted about leaving their jobs to pursue a career in film, how they’ve made their films, and found the money to do it. And more.
Tracy had wanted to be an actor when she was growing up but was convinced by her mum to focus on a career in banking so never had the chance to follow her dreams.
Her move into filmmaking happened during a career break while being mum to Harry and Ella. Harry was in a school play when a local agent saw him and asked to rep him. When the local talent agency closed, some of the film people that Tracy had met at auditions and on set suggested that she set up an agency, which she did.
“About five or six years ago, we started the production company. I was getting sent scripts and asked if we were interested in producing. And there was one film that had cast one of our actors and Harry, and some of their money dropped out. I didn’t have the experience, but I’ve thought you can do anything in this life, you’ve just got to learn how to do it. So I looked into how you set an agency up and I just learned from people around me.”
How Steve Got Involved
Although Steve was running a telecoms company at the time that Harry and Ella were acting, and Tracy was running Beresford Management; he was aware of the ins and outs of their experiences.
“As Tracy mentioned, where one of her actors and Harry and the film fell through and Tracy said, do you think we should get involved in this? I thought I run a telecoms company, it’s not really where I’m at. But I was selling the business. So I became an exec producer.”
But the film became a nightmare and “the promises that were made never came fruition. It was a tough time, but we both wanted to succeed. We wanted to do the right thing by people, but it was the most intense film school that anybody could ever go to. Often good things come from bad, provided you keep a positive can-do attitude and want to make it work.”
Anna and the Apocalypse
Their first credit as a production company was Anna and the Apocalypse. “Marcus (Harben), who sadly passed away, and was the director of Followers recommended that Naysun, one of the producers from Blazing Griffin, meet with me. He pitched this script and he had me at ‘a zombie musical set at Christmas’. I was like, yes, I’m in. And he said he had so many people who said it’s not going to work. Whereas I was like, yes, let’s do this.”
After working on the script together, and changing parts that weren’t suitable, they brought in casting director Sophie Holland and held auditions in their home. Anything to save some money.
“And because we filmed it in January, we were getting Christmas trees at a pound each. We personally invested in it as well, so we were very invested in the film. Pretty much all of it was private equity, apart from an amount that Creative Scotland put in as tax credits.”
EIS and Investors
“We did it as an EIS (enterprise investment scheme) so that the investors would have a tax advantage but it’s still not been passed. We’ve got our own EIS company, but this was purely for Anna and The Apocalypse, so it’s a completely different EIS and SEIS they’re still trying to get passed at the minute.”
Giles mentioned that EIS is “basically your opportunity when speaking to investors to offer a percentage back, from the government, because they’re investing in something British.”
For Tracy, “because of my finance background, I think investors are the golden chicken. Without money, you can’t make your film. I have the utmost respect for investors because they are giving their hard-earned money to you to make your film.”
She went on to say that EIS is a good way for investors to mitigate their risks, though, because they can claim 30% back of what they’ve invested, straight away. And the thing about film is that most of the people that have invested, have done it because they want to invest but also because they love film, and they want to be on that journey with us.”
After their experiences working on Anna and the Apocalypse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and A Gift from Bob – listen to the podcast for more on these topics, Steve and Tracy chatted about their experience on the set of Followers – which is out now in UK cinemas.
Tracy was contacted by Marcus because he had written a film and had Harry in mind for the lead role, so was hoping to reach out to him. “Harry came on board and Marcus was going out to other producers and then came to us and said, would it be something that you’d be interested in producing? Long story short, we came on board, it was Marcus’ first feature, so we really wanted to be able to help him make that.”
They were surprised when some of their friends were interested in investing. Their neighbour and his wife became financiers after a friendly game of pool. And other neighbours also got involved, “because we were filming pretty much over the road from our house.
“But they didn’t come on board, necessarily, because of the tax breaks. They came on board because they wanted to be a part of this. There are all these people who really just wanted this film to be made, including obviously ourselves. And so the budget’s all been raised.
We could have done a lot differently but we were restricted by money. What I would say is that the crew were amazing and without them, we would’ve been in real trouble. It’s important to really respect your crew. We had this whole team pulling together to get this movie made.”
Last Words of Advice
Tracy’s “biggest piece of advice is to make sure you are working with the right people, the nicest people and the most trustworthy people. There are so many good people out there. And so many not good people. I do really think it’s about who you work with and getting the right script.”
And Steve joked saying “if you can work with your wife, that’s quite a good one. There’s no travel time to meet for meetings.” You just need to make sure to switch off from work.
For more from Steve and Tracy, listen to the podcast with them here.