Monday, 21 December 2009

Cash and the new year

End of 2009 is now fast approaching so its worthwhile me updating you all on the cash crisis - which needless to say continues.

I've managed to eventually find one funding application I should be able to apply for, but its a tough competition and I have absolutely no faith that I'll secure the finances needed. And if I do, there's a good chance that that will cause more problems for me in terms of my other employment. I'll cross that bridge *if* I come to it.

As I'm still juggling finances I've had to cut back on some of the research work I wanted to do. There's still a few collections out there and archives I need to raid, which I hope to do between now and September 2010. Then with maybe one or two additions I plan on simply writing and finishing my draft thesis for the 2010/11 academic year. Unless of course I stumble upon a new archive collection or something...

My attempt to raise funds via fundable was a mixed success. I had quite a bit pledged, but as I didn't reach the target it was never processed. Although one of my pledgers did very kindly donate via paypal directly  - money which was swiftly used on some vital digging.

If you do feel like donating, there's a paypal donate button on this page, and everything is welcome. I'll keep to my promise of copies of the thesis for big donors, and regular updates for anyone that gives to the fund.

I've a pile of paperwork culled from my last research jaunt to London to go through over Christmas - some of it very juicy, and fascinating. Fingers crossed I can make sense of the partial records.

Monday, 12 October 2009

New structure... new domains...

First of all, thank you to those who pledged support to the PhD last month. We didn't hit targets so I didn't collect any money however :(

Over $300 was pledged, which would certainly help pay for a few research trips to Dublin, or a day or two of work in London! A couple of peeps have donated directly, and you still can - just use the donate button on the blog to the right, or drop me a line by email if you want to send cheque or other method of payment. I'm still desperately in need of finance to keep going, and juggling cash is getting harder and harder. Why can't I find a sponsor?!

On to other things...

I've restructured the PhD project this week, which is helpful. Waiting for feedback from my supervisor, but have bullet pointed the main chronology and the areas I want to look at and topics for discussion (as well as some of my theories). The emphasis is much more on the 1930s and 40s now but should still be taking in material from 1911 through 1966 and a chapter on the present day. Rather than regurgitate old material I'm trying to incorporate as much of the new material I've found so far as possible. Is certainly a challenge but I'm fairly hopeful - gives the project more meaning. I'm just hoping I can find the right linking devices as the piece comes together.

As part of that I've decided to try and write a couple of articles with a view to journal submissions, and then expand them for the thesis. The first is something of a revisionist approach to Hammer history which should challenge a few expectations. The second will be an examination of some of the orphaned films - Exclusive/Hammer films which have been forgotten. I have a list of something like a dozen so far which I'm 75 - 95% certain are Hammer/Exclusive films, but which have gone unacknowledged for years.

I'll let you know how I get on... and with some more detail.

Been spending a fair bit on books lately too - can't even indulge in material for pleasure. Nine out of ten purchases are directly linked to the PhD at the moment. Expensive, but is too difficult to get down to Dublin and raid Trinity Library, or I find other material which needs constant use. I'm writing to people I can find who might be able to shed light on material too - trying to secure data, leads and interviews. Painfully slow process.

As for new domains - well, I've now got several domain names bought for use on the resulting research website(s). You'll already know about (sorry folks, nothing really there yet), but I've picked up a couple of others too rather than let them go to waste. I hope to be able to build a real collaborative information source through the PhD, but you'll have to wait a while yet before I can start publishing the content. The problem with these sorts of projects is that things need to be published the right way if you want your work to be counted and accredited. One or two might even hold until the post-doc project. Yup. I already know what that should be, and if feeds straight into this one :)

Back to the grindstone. More letters to write, and books to read and articles to prep.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Voices from the past

I've been quiet on here recently, but I can assure you all that I've been kept incredibly busy at the same time. The summer loomed and I took every chance I could to get caught up on some research - fitting it in alongside some other work I was doing. I've been plundering archives across the UK and Ireland, turning over many stones and finding more than I could ever have bargained for...

For the moment I can't talk about some of the best finds - I need to gather more material first, and put my thoughts into coherant words - but there are some real coups! Hammer afficianados, and anyone who like me has an appreciation for the Exclusive films will really be excited (I hope!).

When I started the project I was told that there proba
bly wasn't much left to find, but over the last year I've found enough material to fuel two PhDs and now the problem is simply to decide which bits to leave out of my current project focus. I
have every intention of using everything in due course, and making it all available to researchers and the general public - there's no point in any of it otherwise. The project thesis though is being led in large part by the material I've uncovered, and a slight change of emphasis is on the cards, with the project allowing more of the Hammer history to come through into what was seen as an exclusively Exclusive piece.

[photo, left to right: Renee Glynne with Spartacus, me taking the photo at the Serpentine, Hyde Park, 27 July 2009]
Over the last few months I've started my first hand oral history research, attempting to contact
those still left with us who worked on or knew the people involved in the earliest Hammer/Exclusive Films. I've found this to be enormously helpful and shedding some valuable light on proceedings. During the last month or so I conducted two interviews whilst in London - fitting them in whilst over on research for another project. The worst thing is reaching the end of your paid work for the day and then having to skip tea or rest, and grab a train or taxi to conduct your own research. The agony!

At any rate, I spent a very pleasant evenin
g with Renee Glynne over a delightful supper and a bottle of the old vino collapso talking about Exclusive at her home outside London. Renee worked as the continuity person as far back as Man in Black in 1949, and worked for the company on and off (both as Exclusive and Hammer) until Shatter in 1974. Her recall and experience of working conditions was crucial to get on record and I'm delighted she consented. Renee has promised a follow up in the near future which I'm very much looking forward to.

[photo, left to right: Jimmy Sangster and myself at Bray Studios, 4 August 2007]
I also finally interviewed Jimmy Sangster formally. I've known Jimmy slightly for a few years. We were meant to record some commentaries for some of the Exclusive pictures a couple of years back until logistics prevented it, and we both appeared in the same dvd documentary Hammer Horror: A Fan's Guide last year, so this was a real pleasure.

Jimmy's the first to admit he doesn't recall much about Exclusive, but it was again very useful. He also came to Hammer in 1949, as a first assistant director, moving up the ladder to become a very successful writer as well as occasional producer and director. Sixty years later and memories are hazy, but incredibly useful and my thanks to Jimmy too for his time.

I've another return interview to do with another Exclusive contributor, but I'll save that name for another post... it was another treat!

If by chance you know someone or indeed were yourselves involved in the making of the early Hammer / Exclusive films (so pre-1962), then please get in touch, as I'd love to talk with you. I'm also gathering stills and memorabilia relating to the period, so anything at all that you can share would be very welcome. Similarly anyone with information or memories of either Will Hammer (aka. Will Hinds) and Enrique Carreras... I'll be sharing some of my research on them in a future blog.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Help support my PhD...

I'm just about to start the second year of my PhD at Trinity. I've made good progress during the first year, uncovering some fascinating material (including several 'lost' films) and working well towards my goal. I met with my supervisor a couple of weeks ago and there's some slight revision of the project to come to manage it within the confines of the PhD, but I've already decided on the post-doc project thanks to the material I've uncovered (there's probably enough gathered for two PhDs to be honest).

But, self-funding is a struggle. Its over £3,500 per year in fees, plus my research expenses (travel, and materials -bear in mind I live in Belfast, and the research is mostly in Dublin and London), and then I have to live. Increasingly I'm having to take on more paid work in order to get by, and that eats into the time I have to reasearch. I've put myself through my BA and my Masters, and the first year of the PhD, but the various loans, and debts I've juggled are getting too much.

If you have any advice on funding sources, or would be willing to help (however small that may be) either through donations or sponsorship then please do. I've set up a fundraising page on the advice of a friend to see if I can raise $1000 or more in the next few weeks - which doesn't go near paying for everything, but will help. Especially if I can get more.

For details go to (you can also donate directly using the donate button on the right).


Saturday, 30 May 2009

Recovering lost films

Just before I started work on this PhD project I was told by several experts in the field that there simply wasn't any material left to be uncovered on Exclusive. Hammer researchers (remember of course that Hammer Films is the sister company and the two go hand in hand) felt that the well had been drained dry.

That said, under a year into my research and I'm delighted to say I've uncovered more than enough material to keep me going for the next 12 months. I'm having to look really hard, but archives and chance connections have brought all sorts of surprises to the surface, supporting some of my early arguments, and changing the way that Exclusive should be viewed. Am I overselling the project? I don't know... but I'm still on a voyage of discovery, pulling sources together like any good historian would. I hope that my spin will be different and people will want to read it. Certainly I hope that people will learn something from my research - and I'm constantly indebted to those who paved the way and who have provided the basic groundwork.

Of course, any researcher lives under the pressure of having to be original, and for an historian that can depend on unseen source material. I'm trying to find material which has been missed, but what if someone else manages to turn up the same material and bring it to publication before my thesis is submitted? My work would then be redundant. And it is always a possibility.

That's why the website database isn't online yet, I want to complete the first stage of my work before I start posting material there. In fact I'll probably just issue teasers for now, with the actual main content going live once I've submitted. That way I can be accurate, thorough, and comprehensive. That's also the reason I'm rather oblique when I post here - this is too much of a work in progress to publish great detail for the moment.

The last week has been perhaps the single most productive and exciting on the project so far (and the last month itself has been enthralling). I stumbled upon a reference which forced me to re-examine some notes I made before the project began, and to revisit an archive. In the process I'm rethinking my stance on a couple of films - going back to the 'Is this a Hammer Film' question I outlined at the conference in Trinity in September.

We're reclaiming these orphaned titles, or lost films. Recovering films which have been neglected or forgotten.

Ah... film recovery. I first really got into that idea during the 1990s when I became aware of all the Doctor Who episodes that had gone missing. There's a very public hunt for lost episodes, which has turned up one or two prints in the last decade. More overlooked are the sheer number of films - shorts especially - from studios which no longer seem to exist in the archives. Hammer and Exclusive suffered along with everyone else. There are so many of the short films which seem to be missing, but which I've found myself increasingly drawn to. A huge number of the films still exist, although getting access is always tricky. 

Eventually the project will include details of prints which still exist and where they can be found, so that future researchers can take advantage of the knowledge for their own access. I'm not a believer in hoarding information. 

Take for example the still which accompanies today's entry - its a section from Chase Me Charlie, a Charlie Chaplin film which was re-edited and re-released by Exclusive in the late 1940s. Effectively its a 'lost' film. Forgotten and neglected by nearly everyone, other than as an entry in a filmography. A curio. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Publish publish publish

I've heard it said so many times, as I'm sure any of you working on PhDs or similar first steps to academia, that it becomes something of a mantra and a frightening reminder that you always need to be working with a wider audience in mind.

I'm about eight months into my formal work on the project now, and gathering together my plans for the summer for research. More archival work beckons, and I'm sure by the end of it I'll regret having ever started. Trying to put everything into some sort of order let alone the criticism needed, takes some work.

For most of us, adapting our work for conference papers, and journal publications is a way of structuring our research and aiding the writing of huge chunks of the thesis - at least I think I'm right in that. Publications early on and during the thesis work probably do more favours than anything else when it comes to the dreaded job applications. I'm acutely aware of all of this right now - my girlfriend is in the final stages of her PhD and so the talk of job prospects is a regular topic at home.

So far I've not anything published since the start of the PhD, bar a couple of (largely) unrelated magazine pieces, and one article on Exclusive for the official Hammer site. I've been asked to put in papers to a couple of conferences and trying to come up with a couple of ideas now, which is easier said than done (I don't want to shoehorn my project so it fits with the brief of one).

On a possibly slightly more positive note I've been planning a reference book to go alongside the research, which I'll pitch once I've a bit more done. Some of you will be aware I'm also still finishing off my book on Hammer Films which was contracted long before I started my PhD. I've also been approached about editing another book, which if it happens should be quite interesting. I've got the time set aside in my schedule to do it, and am discussing another book with publishers at the moment. Early days and none might happen, but I think its important to think of these things this early on in the project. None are directly related to the Exclusive project, but there is a connection to be found in each.

How does everyone else cope with article submissions etc.? I'm very cautious about putting my work out there at the moment. I've been burnt before with a publication project, which has kept me away from certain areas in the interim.... 

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Marketing materials

Just a quick post - I've been gathering marketing materials as part of the research for the Exclusive Project, some of which you won't have seen before. I'll be uploading scans and photos of items from my own (modest) collection in the hope that others who have material will also be willing to share. I'm talking with a number of private collectors at the moment in the hope of sharing images on the eventual database.

As a teaser, I've been cleaning up an image of a quad for Rocketship XM, an American science fiction film produced by Lippert and distributed in the UK by Exclusive. A very stylish and attractive image - and now free of wrinkles and other flaws!

Is there much interest in this line of research? Well, poster collecting can be big business, and film is a visual media, and I believe in looking at the way a film was visually represented in advertising. What damage does it do for original posters to show repros? Nothing - the real value is still in the original items, like having the original Mona Lisa rather than a well produced reproduction.

Anyway, hope you enjoy. A larger version will eventually appear on the main site.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Dracula sojourn

One of the reasons for doing the Exclusive project was that it allowed me to continue working with Hammer's output, but take me away from the horror films which seem to interest everyone else, and which I'm not sure I have that much left to say about (well, I might..., but didn't want to study it academically for three years).

And yet, this month I've taken a little side step and a week out of research fully to concentrate on one of Hammer's horror films, the rather brilliant 1958 version of Dracula.

I was approached a couple of months ago (via my supervisor) by someone from the Irish Film Institute as they were putting together a weekend of films on Dracula to tie in with Dublin City Council's One City One Book festival this year, which was all about Stoker's vampire novel. I've been working with Hammer for a decade now in one form or another, so we soon got talking about plans.

Ultimately, rights costs and print sourcing problems prevented some of the proposed screenings, but Hammer's Dracula was screened from the new digital print, and the rather dull (and unrelated) Countess Dracula aired as well, alongside Nosferatu, the Lugosi Dracula, Blacula and more. I introduced the screening of Hammer's Dracula at the IFI, Saturday week ago. And it was woeful. I completely dried after being distracted by latecomers, shuffling, mobile phone noises, and a member of the audience who opted to wave his arms around at the wrong moment.

Frankly embarassing, and anyone who saw me there must wonder why I was asked at all.

Sunday morning was by contrast much better. There had been talk about doing some sort of talk or educational element, and I was keen to preserve this as the original organiser left for a new job. So, I put them in touch with the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies at Trinity, who in turn roped in Kim Newman for the proceedings. Alongside Kim, were vampiroligist Sorcha Ni Fhlainn, Stoker biographer Paul Murray, and chairing the whole thing was author and vampire expert Brian J Showers.

We sat down on a long table in the screen 2 at the IFI, and talked between ourselves for 90 minutes on Stoker's classic novel and the various film incarnations and vampire mythology. The session continued after the talk over lunch, and could easily have gone on longer. A rich, and stimulating discussion, which is far beyond my remit for the PhD but allowed a new slant to my existing research. Thankfully I was more coherant, more alert and considered in my responses than during my intro. Face saved... I hope!

I've recorded the session, and a transcription will be made available in due course. If I can get the audio tweaked (as you can see from the photo, I'm on the left, not quite on mic), we'll podcast it too.

I'd happily do more of these, but we'll see...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Possible project...

I need to get down to writing, regardless of the state of my research now. I'd been holding off putting too much into prose form until I'd exhausted research in various areas, archives and so on. Potentially there's nothing worse than writing several thousand words crucial to your thesis and then go and discover you were completely wrong!

As it is, I've turned up a good deal of new information and I'm getting a structure in place. I think perhaps the best thing is to start putting it down, and if I do find anything else then great. 

Its all tied into the great money pit problem. With finances in dire straits, and feeling the pinch with more fees to come and no sponsor, I need to get through this as quickly as possible. I can barely afford to spend three years on this never mind four, at least not without some sort of financial return.

Which brings me to the other development this week (well there might be a third, but I'm holding it off for a week or two). After much deliberation I finally formalised a proposal for a related book project, and it looks like there's an initial green light. Now, we have the nightmare of trying to secure a publisher and a suitable deal (an advance would be nice...). I reckon I could have it compiled in six months from contract signing date which is good, but depends on them. If we could get it ready and published quickly it might at least offer me some revenue to help with fees for the next year or so. Once its contracted and work has begun I'll let you know, but not before.

I gather we've got a couple of meetings planned already with publishers, and I should know more by the end of the month. I can wait those few weeks.

Of course, I could also do with some prudent tax advice. I don't know if I'm entitled to any special discounts or claim backs or anything else. 

Help, anyone?!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Money Pit

Ever since the economy started taking its nose dive the prospect of me supporting myself through the PhD has been harder and harder. It doesn't help that Trinity have some very rigid policies regarding the implementation of fines.

I got a letter today asking for more money as my last chunk of fees didn't make it in by the due date. They were about two or three days late because the bank couldn't process the international transaction any quicker, and I don't have an Irish bank account.

Taking head and impacting it against a hard brick-based surface.

So unless something miraculous happens that's my Easter research trip out now. Just can't afford to do it and pay penalties. And I need to find another £2k for the end of September. Am starting to wonder how quickly I could write up the material I've dug up already and how far off finishing I would be.

On the plus side, I've located another archival collection of material from Exclusive in the early 50s which I'm thinking might be useful for a chapter looking specifically at the day to day business model of the company with individual cinemas. A case study within what is essentially one great big case study.

Over the weekend I also caught Sliding Doors for the first time on Film4. According to the new Exclusive website, it is one of the archival properties acquired by the new version of the company. Well, at least its British and fairly low-budget, which is much more in keeping with the old Hammer/Exclusive model than some of the things I've heard recently.

Friday, 13 March 2009

New acquisitions

A slight distraction from actual writing, but I acquired a few new bits of visual material related to the project this week. Rather unexpectedly I got offered a set of stills from Perils of the Jungle which was an American b-movie from 1953 that Exclusive distributed in the UK. I've not seen it yet myself, but a little thrill to see the Exclusive name on each of them. I'll add the images onto the website in due course along with the first batch of material for it. 

Trying to get the balance between posting material for the online database now, and properly collating it before making any of it live. A proper CMS and datatbase would probably be the best way to present it. Any thoughts or requests on what I should include and what you want to see?

I've also been chasing up a lead on some more research material through a couple of library collections. Trying to weigh up whether it would be more cost effective to travel around England and make my notes and photocopies myself or to pay for them to dupe it and send it to me. Just as I start to plan a research trip I find its been moved to another location in another county. Like looking for a needle in a haystack!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Interviews pt1

A short interview this morning via phone with an actor from several Exclusive projects, with a follow up planned for a few weeks time after I've sent some additional material their way.

The paucity of recollection is fine, I'm interested in memories and instant thoughts rather than lengthy considered responses in the first instance. We are talking 50 or 60 years ago after all! I do think that stimulating memories with written or visual material from the time is a great help and should be employed wherever possible.

Some subjects aren't that interested, and I've spoken to a few who have said no to wanting to see their work again. Others are delighted when the opportunity arises. I'm having to employ both strategies with this research at the moment. I'd still rather sit down with my interviewees too. You nearly always get more out of them face to face than over a phone line where both of you can be easily distracted. 

The usual rant about needing funds to support the research trips should be inserted here! 

I need to spend a couple of weeks in England this summer interviewing and visiting places if I want to do this properly, never mind more time in the archives of various places. Sometimes it would be easier living somewhere other than Belfast, but it suits me to come back here and write. 

Going to see about heading over to London next month for a couple of days to do some more interviews in person. Its crucial to support the extant paper material.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Connecting with the past...

One of the biggest challenges with my particular project is its particular historical basis. Essentially I'm looking at the Hammer group pre-1956 when they moved into horror projects with the commencement of The Curse of Frankenstein. From there on, the scholars that have gone before me have largely covered the entire period in great detail, perusing every available document (well... maybe, I'll come to that again in a latter blog), and speaking to just about anyone who worked on the films.

Before that, the concensus appears to be a) there simply isn't enough material in existence to justify the research and b) there's no-one left alive who can tell us anything anyway.

As I'm not interested in getting into a great theoretical discussion about the films under the Exclusive banner (you could arguable about some of them, but as a whole, that would be much too complex) then I need to find as much as I can in hard records and memories. It can be a painful process, wading through hundreds of pages just for a couple of relevant sentences. I guess no worse than doing a theoretical-based project.

This week I start conducting interviews for the project, something I'm looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. In each case I know I'll want to follow them up again with more questions, and hopefully most of my subjects will be willing to do that. That and we're talking about films made 60 years ago or more - B features that surely aren't that significant? Well I guess I'll be able to tell you more in a few days.

I've lined up two absolutes, and 1 probable so far. Trying to talk to people from both sides of the camera. It strikes me a little more like journalism than research, but oral research is an important aspect of an historical project. If we don't record the memories, then in the absence of paper records, everything is speculative or forgotten.

I challenge anyone to argue against the scholarly nature of Wayne Kinsey's books on Hammer - his histories of the Bray and Elstree periods centre themselves fully on oral history and are a crucial research tool. I certainly use both in my researches.

There's also something rather humbling about talking with the people who worked on the films that I'm looking at - and so enabling me to properly connect with the distant past. I spent a week in the summer of 2007 driving around the English countryside with a friend following on from the Hammer at Bray III event, visiting the various sites of the Exclusive/Hammer studios and locations. Walking the roads that the filmmakers and executives had before me, getting a feel for the space and indeed the spatial relationships between the sites. I know the approach doesn't suit everyone, but for me it did allow an understanding of sorts.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

When research pays off....

As most of my research at the moment is historical, I'm hugely dependent on original source material, of which there is really very little in Belfast.

I know others have gone through the history of Hammer and Exclusive before in great detail, but I remain convinced that information remains out there which has so far been missed. So I'm flitting between libraries and archives in Dublin and London primarily, though unable to spend long periods in either city owing to my current funding issues. Which is doubly frustrating as my trips have not been without merit.

For me, I simply have to re-read every paper again myself, particularly as the Hammer group's make-up is so complex. It was more than just Hammer and Exclusive, and any number of other companies from within the group are relevant. Unweaving the story is another challenge again.

Yesterday I took the first train down to Dublin and split my time between the Irish Film Institute library and that of Trinity College. I've been using the material in the IFI for a few years, but only started making use of Trinity within the last month (despite having been a student there since October). So, already I'm looking at books telling the story of British cinema which ignore completely both Hammer and Exclusive. A book I picked up last week on Black cinema was more useful as it had lengthy sections on Paul Robeson and his film Song of Freedom ( incidentally, does anyone have a copy of Proud Valley on dvd as it seems to be the only title omitted from Network's Robeson collection dvd set).

Spent the whole day between Trinity and IFI, with only a brief respite when walking alone Dame Street between them. Had to skip lunch just to get enough done in my time, and ended up eating wretched cheeseburgers from McDonalds on the way to the train going home (feeling cheap and dirty as a result). Not even time for my preferred break in Porterhouse for a lunchtime read and a pint. And uggh, the atmosphere in those libraries is stifling. Musty old books and dust heavy in the air... I'm sure this isn't doing my health any good. That, and I should have gloves to handle the stuff from Trinity - very dirty papers indeed.

At the start of my project I stated a couple of aims and theories, something which I cemented with my conference paper from September. I think understaning the history and development of Exclusive is key to understanding the development of Hammer and its later success. Secondly, that there exist films which are technically Hammer but which are currently orphaned or forgotten. Films that the company had an involvement in either as Hammer or Exclusive or a subsiduary, but which have been neglected. I've stated an expectation that there are a dozen or more such titles (including shorts). As a side of my research I'm hoping to reappropriate some of them.

I think I've pinpointed three titles which need to be looked at and which may be "Hammer Group" properties. One of the hardest things at the moment is locating existing paperwork to support my theory. Much of the original paperwork no longer seems to exist, and this is a problem where the orphaned titles are concerned. Unless I can get into other corporate archives, or private papers I may never know.

However, I'm now confident that I've locked off the first of the orphaned titles. A Hammer film which has been forgotten about for fifty years. Part of the problem is now locating a print of the film in question, which seems to have vanished. It isn't in the BFI, or with Hammer (not surprisingly) or any other collection I've so far looked at. If I can locate more of the paperwork surrounding it, more publicity material and an actual physical print then I'll be very happy and will make a hoo-ha about it. Potentially I might even have an investor willing to stump up the money to have a new master print prepared and preserved. For now, I'm simply adding it to a list of other interesting films I'm hunting which have no Hammer/Exclusive connection at all.

Yesterday simply cemented the theory and confirmed what I already knew. So the painful page by page research helps. In time I'll publish most of the source material or information re. source material on the site.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Exclusive for beginners

Whilst I imagine most of you will know something about Hammer Films - British horror film company - I doubt the same can be said of Exclusive. That's part of the attraction for me with the PhD project.

Ironically, shortly after I officially started work on the project Hammer's owners announced that they were going back into film acquisition and distribution and so a new Exclusive was born. In the last month Hammer's parent company has changed its name from HS Media to Exclusive Media, mirroring the original corporate make-up from the 1930s. Exclusive was the parent company to Hammer, although the group of companies is better known as the Hammer group. Exclusive would also distribute films, as they do now... My project has unwittingly taken on an extra relevance and immediacy which will no doubt filter into my written work. Although this is primarily an historical study there is room for some speculation and critical analysis... otherwise this wouldn't be a PhD!

Anyway, I produced a paper for a conference in Trinity back in September, and gave it the day before I formally signed on for the course. That means it doesn't count for my current body of work, but thankfully I didn't do too much for it, and have left plenty of new material for the doctoral study. I turned the paper into a podcast (the first in a new series) so others could get a chance to listen to it. I might turn it back into a written paper at some point. If you're interested, you can get it on Itunes here.

I also wrote an article on the original Exclusive for the official Hammer Films when they announced the formation of the new Exclusive. "It's Exclusive" is a beginner's guide. I did a little consultation with them regarding their new logo and was delighted that they chose to go with something that pays homage to the classic imagery. I'm hoping to explore that with an article that's been provisionally commissioned soon...

Funding headaches...

In a bid to spur myself on with my research I thought I'd open up a blog. From time to time I'll drop by and update you on progress with the project. I already have a website in preparation which will contain some of the research material dug up during the project -

I'm a self-supporting student at the moment, working out of Trinity College Dublin, and some six months into my first year. So far I've failed to secure funding through the university, but knowing how competitive it is decided to plough on anyway. Fees alone are over £4,000 per annum - several hundred pounds more expensive than if I'd stayed on in Belfast.

This isn't meant to be a moan, but had I sat and really thought about the cost I'd probably not have started. I'm working part time at the moment, and have to take every additional shift I can get just to break even. Between rent, and food and fees I don't really have any spare cash now at all. The first few months were okay, but I'm feeling it now. It's so easy to forget about the expense of travelling between Belfast and Dublin, or Belfast and London in order to do the archival research which is so crucial to my work. Even more frustrating, it has been paying off and I've uncovered some very tantalising bits of information which are already altering my entire perception of the early Exclusive/Hammer and supporting some of my initial thesis.

When I do get away, time is incredibly short so I sit and work my way through as much as possible, and walk away armed with photocopies of periodicals wherever possible. Damn myself for working from contemporary publicity publications!

I just about managed to scrape together the £2k needed this month for the second half of this year's fees, but I'm looking at having to cut back on the research for the next few months simply because I can't afford it. If anyone has good suggestions as to how to get private funding (I'm assuming that attempts through the university will continue to fail), I'd welcome them. Even to get someone to cover my basic fees - so around £13k over three years - would make a huge difference. Far removed from my friends who get their fees covered and in the region of £12k per annum support...