about the film's Writer, Producer & Director:
‘One of the up and coming filmmakers of the next generation’ - BBC 2, Moving Pictures
‘A filmmaker to watch out for in the future’ - Variety
‘U.K.’s answer to Robert Rodrigues’ - Screen International
‘Teton is a newcomer of considerable promise who not only has a real eye
but is also determined to seek out present realities in an original and daring way.
Clearly a filmmaker to look out for’ - The Guardian, Derek Malcolm
‘Teton works wonders with his ludicrously low budget’ - The Star
‘Dark Summer bodes well for Teton’s future in film’ - Ms London
‘One looks forward to Teton’s next movie’ - Philip French, The Observer
My story so far :
Born in England of English and Canadian-French extraction, I left school at 16 to act in theatre productions of ‘Kes’, ‘Forty Years On’ and ‘Marathon,’ at The Redgrave Theatre and the Young Vic. It didn't take long to realise that maybe acting wasn't my born vocation; I was incredibly shy at the time and that sort of immersion therapy didn't really help. I used to freeze-up just as I was about to deliver my only line in the play. It was a total nightmare. I finally came to my senses when I tried to enter drama school, coached by a sadistic instructor who insisted that I sang ‘I'm Burlington Bertie, I rise at ten thirty’ at the auditions, instead of a more James Dean, brooding character. I would go completely blank after the first verse. I still cringe at the thought. My heart definitely goes out to the staff at R.A.D.A. for watching my terrible audition and to all actors for what they go through.
Deciding to save the world the agony of having to watch me act, I went into public relations, becoming one of the many assistants to Mercia Watkins at M.W. Publicity. Mercia was reportedly the model for ‘Patsy’ in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’; the alcoholic one, so you can imagine what it was like.
A few years later I followed my passion for photography by becoming a freelance assistant to fashion photographers in London and Paris, working with the likes of Albert Watson, François Lamy, Steve Silversteen, Marcus Tomlinson, Roger Eaton, Carol Latimer, Pat Booth and Adrian Bradbury. Deciding to start up on my own, I moved to Milan, Italy, for three years to build up my portfolio. The Art Directors in Italy are great; you call them to say you've got some new picture and they want to see you straight away. In total contrast, when I came back to London and made appointments, the attitude was, ‘Yeah great, I can see you in six months.’ Go figure.
Fortunately I was asked to gaffer on a no-budget B/W feature film called ‘Malevolence’, set during the big storm in England in 1987. For three weeks I worked 18 hours a day and slept on the kitchen floor with a wonderful dog called Digby. I loved it, well, not the dog part. I ended up shooting a lot of the night footage, because the cinematographer had prior arrangements. For me it was a massive learning experience, and one which I didn't want to stop. When the shoot had finished, I asked the director, Marcus Thompson, if he needed a hand editing. Thankfully he did, and my baptism into the film industry began. I stayed in Surrey for a further two years, learning how to sync-up rushes, edit on a Steenbeck, lay sound FX, ADR and Foley. I ended up grading the movie for two days with the head grader from Bucks Laboratories.
Doing anything legal to buy a 35mm Arriflex 2c camera - Clockwise: 2 weeks on the back of a motorcycle filming the Honda Pan European Rally; Sound Recordist for a week in Lapland, Antarctic with Marcus Thompson and looking like a right plonker but very warm.
Insatiable for more knowledge of the film-making process, I continued to work on anything I could, paid or otherwise; from runner, assistant producer, assistant director, spark, gaffer, sound recordist to lighting camera. I'm proud to have worked with Derek Jarman before he died, a truly great independent film-maker.
Encouraged by my mentor Marcus Thompson, I began writing a script called ‘Dark Summer’, based around my personal experience with a girlfriend who suffered a miscarriage. At the same time I started working nights as a waiter and cocktail barman in order to buy a 35 mm camera, the venerable Arriflex 2C, along with a Canon K35 25-120mm macro zoom lens. With a rough script in my hands, suddenly fate seemed to be on my side when I was given a truck-load of tungsten lighting which was to have been thrown away, and also when I managed to acquire 50,000 feet of assorted 35mm short-ends and re-cans.
While I was helping out students at the Royal College of Art, one of the tutors, David Jones, knew I was desperate for stock and called me while I was working on another film in Liverpool, telling me that a load of film was now in a skip outside the college and if I wanted it I'd better get there ASAP. I immediately called my mum and her boyfriend Mike and asked them if they could go and rummage in a skip for me. Being the troopers they are, that night, with the help of David Jones, they unloaded the contents of the skip into a van. I'll never forget what they did.
-When I returned from Liverpool, there wasn't anything to stop me making a feature film. I had the camera, the stock, a rough script and I had met many friends on the Liverpool shoot. I grabbed my courage by the balls and went to see Rank Film Laboratories, Zonal, makers of sound stock, and two camera equipment rental houses, Sammies and Technovision. I told them all exactly what I wanted to do, which was to make a 35mm anamorphic movie on a macro-budget, despite the fact that I hadn't even directed traffic before. They all agreed to help. Rank gave me a great deal and tested the stock from the skip; 75% was OK to use. Zonal gave free 1/4 inch sound stock for the Nagra and 35mm mag stock for the edit, and Sammies and Technovision. rigged the Arri 2C camera into a sound proof blimp and loaned me a prime lens and a set of tall/short legs for the duration. It was only later, at the film's premier, that I found out that most of them thought I was crazy when I first walked in.
Clockwise: Talking to the lead actors, Joeline and Steve on the beach; the massive Arriflex 2c Blimp & O'Connor 200 head; shooting the beach sequence and finally directing Steve and Bernie Deasy with the blimped Arriflex 2c in foreground.
So everything set, I loaded the Land Rover with my few belongings, the camera, stock, lights and headed for Toxteth in Liverpool. There I stayed for eighteen months and with the help of many friends, shot the movie. When I ran out of film stock, the late Peter Dimbelby, from Agfa, God bless him, heard about my plight and donated another 15,000 ft. to finish the film.
Whilst still shooting, I ordered a Steenbeck and Pic-Sync to start editing. We only just managed to get it though the front door and set it up in the living room. Learning all the time, John Morgan, my sound recordist, and I synced-up the rushes in about a month and started editing. Fortunately the London Film Festival heard about the film and requested a rough cut. After seeing that, they faxed saying they definitely wanted to premier the film at their festival.
With this news panic set in; we only had a month and a half to shoot the rest of the film, fine cut, sound dub and deliver. Still paying for everything by working at night in a restaurant, I managed to get a very small grant from the North West Arts Board, which still wasn't enough to finish the film. Luckily a friend introduced me to a production company called Activate Productions, who saw the rough cut and agreed to loan me the rest of the money I needed to do the final sound mix. It was touch and go; both John and myself fell asleep during the final mix at Shepperton Studios.
Two hours before the film was scheduled to be premiered at The London Film Festival, we were still waiting for Rank to deliver the final print. When it turned up, I was arguing with Sheila Whitaker, the festival's director, who wanted to pull it from the first screening, but I knew Rank wouldn't let me down. The premier went really well. So well, in fact, that another three festivals in Europe immediately booked the film. The party afterwards was great and everyone was there; lead actors, crew, sponsors. It was a chance to thank them all. Also both my parents were there after not seeing each other for 17 years, it was good to see them talking together, if only for a few hours.
For the next year I was flown around Europe and the U.S. to about 10 festivals including Rotterdam, Götenborg, Emden, Bradford, Birmingham, Cherbourg, Oldenburger, Annonay and New York. I had a few offers from sales agents, but having heard nightmare stories, I wanted to make sure I got a UK sales agent I could keep an eye on, or a least take to court if they didn't pay up. On my return to London I did some research to find out which company was the best and most honest; it turned out to be Mel Gibson's company Icon Entertainment International, but with my feet now firmly on the ground, I knew that unless the film received a theatrical release they couldn't do much with the film. So after learning every other facet of film-making, and with the film being too small for other UK distributors, I decided to become a distributor myself.
-Armed with my knowledge of public relations, I formed a company called United Independent Pictures Limited. I got a deal with Robin Cinemas, who own about 25 theatres around the country, their main one being ‘The Prince Charles’, Leicester Square in London, got a ‘12’ certification from the B.B.F.C., pleaded with Rank to make a further two prints and spent the next six months sending press packets out and wooing the press.
I was nervous as hell waiting for the reviews to come in, but they did and about 70% of them were good.
‘A highly coherent and controlled film... an impressive debut’ - Sight & Sound
‘Truthful and believable’ - Derek Malcolm
‘Fresh and sincere’ - The Independent
‘Honest and unpretentious’ - The Big Issue
‘Beautifully shot in Cinemascope, Dark Summer is unpretentious
and uncompromising’ - Film Review
‘A very impressive film’ - Premiere
‘The ring action is arguably the best ever recorded’ - The Voice
‘Makes the inane trash usually passed off as boxing drama look like a farce.
The film is cliché free and the punches hurt.’ - The Guardian, Sport
(A complete list of reviews, script, credit list and production info. for 'Dark Summer' is available here. Alternatively you can watch the Movie Trailer, 11Mb\2min 30sec below or view 64 of my favourite Stills taken direct from the 35mm Anamorphic print.)
Inexplicably, the one magazine that should have been the first to review Dark Summer, ‘Sight & Sound,’ refused to. I was hopping mad. This is a magazine, run by the British Film Institute, set up by the government to help independent and alternative films in the UK. Yet we'd got over forty reviews from the likes of Premier, Film, Review, The Times, Independent etc., and major TV coverage, and they refused to review the film on the grounds that it wasn't being distributed by one of the majors. So after getting support from the Evening Standard and telling the BFI's Director what I thought, all of a sudden they came out with a review. I still don't understand what the problem was, probably some petty internal political struggle inside the organization. Vertigo printed a story on the whole episode which you can read here.
It's kind of ironic that this BFI book came out with me in, given ‘Sight & Sound’ initial refused to publish a review of Dark Summer. So with reviews in hand and the film still playing in London, I went to see Icon Entertainment International. They liked the reviews, saw that they could sell it and took it on. Finally, after four years from beginning to end, I could rest knowing that the film was being taken care of.
Pretty much straight away I started pitching to French publishers to get the film rights for both Georges Bataille’ ‘Story of the Eye’ and Alina Reyes' ‘The Butcher’. Both very difficult films to make, if you want to be true to the book. Unfortunately I was too honest with the publishers, telling them that to make the film true to the writer's vision it couldn't be a Hollywood star vehicle; they both needed to be made along the lines of a ‘Hairdressers Husband,’ one of my favourite films. The publishers disagreed, and the rights of ‘Story of the Eye’ were sold to an L.A. based company who have been sitting on it for the last four years, and ‘The Butcher’ was sold to an Italian company, who completely changed the story and made it into a soft porn movie. I heard later that the writer was very unhappy, I have sympathy but maybe if publishers in general looked at how the films where going to be made rather than simply sell to the highest bidder it wouldn't happen. Anyway, I know now to add four zeros to any figures I give to publishers next time.
White Light, which had been churning around inside my head since before 'Dark Summer', became my next project. It was a very complicated movie which I didn't really want to tackle until after I had made another film.
After an interlude as second unit director and cinematographer on Marcus Thompson's second feature film ‘Middleton's Changeling’ shot in Spain and a few other jobs, I started work on the script of 'White Light' by taking two years out to research the Bible and all the associated written material surrounding it, Another two years, three writers, about twelve draft and numerous revisions later, I was ready to start shooting.
Shooting 'White Light' was truly massive compared to my first feature film. with over eight hundred extras, shooting in multiple locations with Soviet tanks and helicopters, took over six years to film principle photography, From camping out military style for two weeks with the crew and hundreds of extras in Dorset, hiring out the whole of the biggest ship yard in the UK in Liverpool for £75 a day, thank you Cammell Laird for that, amazing! To landing in Mississippi on 9/11 to recce and shoot some basic scenes, crazy times, to shooting multiple scenes at Battersea Power Station, thanks to the Met Police for that, to a week shooting in the Isle of Skye, it's been a wild ride.