I oversee production and acquisitions for Arrow Video and Arrow Academy, so firstly I acquire the titles for distribution and then with the producers commission extras and artwork, assign authoring companies and designers, market the films and work with PR to get each release as widely visible as possible.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
By chance I started working in accounts for a cinema company. I soon discovered that I didn’t want to do accounts, but that I could use my passion for film as a job, which was something I hadn’t considered before. The company was (rarely, I later discovered) almost entirely employing cinephiles and so I learnt a lot from the staff and the kind of films we showed. From here I started working in events and one of my proudest events was programming a Romero triple bill of Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead which ran from midnight til the early hours; we had gore make-up artists in attendance and played grindhouse trailers in between the films and everyone had a great time. After working in events I made the jump to home entertainment where I started working on Arrow Video and then later started Arrow Academy.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE FILMS AND EARLIEST FILM-RELATED MEMORIES.
Of course I like all your regulars and I suppose I am quite an auteurist, but I would say I tend towards the more surreal spectrum. I like Bunuel and Lynch but I also like talky films like Rohmer’s. I like film noir and gangster films but overall I enjoy films from Italy and Japan most, favouring the 60s and 70s, broadly speaking. I’ve left off ‘obvious’ choices, in a bid to try and get more personal tastes across (in alphabetical order)…
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
The Comb (Brothers Quay, 1991)
Death by Hanging (Nagisa Oshima, 1968)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
Mujo (Akio Jissoji, 1970)
Silence Has No Wings (Kazuo Kuroki, 1966)
Stolen Kisses (François Truffaut, 1968)
The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973)
The Mattei Affair (Francesco Rosi, 1972)
The earliest cinema experience I can recall is seeing The Little Mermaid for a friend’s birthday but I remember being very comfortable with the cinema experience and can recall having been before, I just can’t remember what I saw before 1989… Whilst I didn’t love the film, being a six-year-old boy at the time, I do remember just being happy to be in the cinema! Cinema-going was a regular and joyous experience but I was also a VHS nerd from a young age, collecting and recording from TV and building my own library (something I inherited from my grandfather); watching highly inappropriate films for my age and rabidly seeking out more films. I connected immediately with Arrow Video when I joined in 2010 (the label started in 2009) from those days and the covers reminded me of the delight I found, as a kid, in exploring not only my video shop but a comic shop in London which stocked all kinds of cult and weird films, but it was the lurid Godzilla covers which caught my eye!
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ARROW RELEASES? AND DO HAVE A FAVOURITE ARTWORK OR EXTRA?
Since I acquire all the titles I have a fondness for everything since I’ve seen each from the beginning to fruition. I’ve enjoyed putting together all the De Palma and Bava releases since they were something I developed from the start (apart from A Bay of Blood) and I got to build to a satisfying level with a number of releases for each. Though I enjoy Romero and Argento they were really other people’s projects. I’d love to work on those director’s works more and develop them further but it’s about availability and sadly we’re kind of stuck right now (no more to acquire, materials and licensing issues). I do like the idea of director collections and there’s a few filmmakers I’d like to develop further… My favourite release to date is really tough as nothing really stands out ahead of anything else but I really enjoyed working on and am very proud of Black Sunday, Phantom of the Paradise, White of the Eye and Branded to Kill. I think because each of these projects went really well with what extras we could secure, how the masters turned out and the artwork we got. For me they represent the pinnacle of the label, though of course I am biased, I’d be very happy if our producers said the same of any release.
Favourite artwork, again, is a tough one but as a stand out I remember being pretty floored by Lifeforce by Gary Pullin. White of the Eye by Nat Marsh, as well, I think is pretty stunning. I am really proud of how consistently good our artwork is, I don’t think we’ve really got any duds but I am sure many will disagree; it’s a very subjective thing.
Favourite extra I would be forced to split in two since I am personally really fond of films as extras so I am thrilled we have the Riccardo Freda/Mario Bava film I Vampiri as an extra on Black Sunday and it works really well with the main feature and you can see Bava’s craft developing. But as a newly created extra I really enjoyed the one hour doc on The Burbs by High Rising Productions.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT AT ARROW?
My proudest achievement probably has to be winning the Guardian label of the year award for the first time, at that time though we were getting great coverage, largely due to the tastes of Phelim O’Neill who wrote that column and chose the winners, but I didn’t think that a little cult label could win such a prestigious award from a paper whose core audience probably aren’t the biggest cult film fans. The award really let us know that we were being appreciated on a greater level (rather than the core audience) and I think everyone, whether they know it or not, is into cult films (whether that be Withnail & I or Zombie Flesh Eaters). But I am consistently proud every time I see our fans getting pumped for future releases and being happy and overwhelmed by what we put together. However I think this will all be eclipsed when our Borowczyk box comes out, it’s been a huge labour of love for all involved and though I am not directly involved in the production, the scale of the project, the rehabilitation of virtually an entire career, the new restorations, the gargantuan book (350 odd pages), I will be surprised if it’s not on everyone’s personal ‘top releases of all-time list’.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY FILM THE ARROW VIDEO TREATMENT, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
When interviewed in the past I’ve always said Eraserhead. I absolutely love the film and having seen it on 35mm you get an idea of what it might look like as a deluxe package, with the boosted quality levels; superior picture and audio and the supplements don’t bear thinking about, I could listen to David Lynch all day long! But since I’ve discussed that one in the past I’ll offer another dream, one of my favourite films listed above, The Holy Mountain and anything else by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Having recently seen Jodorowsky’s Dune it just set off everything I love about Jodorowsky again, his mad sensibilities and visuals would be amazing to capture in new restorations, new supplements, artwork, and packaging. It’d be amazing to find out what Jodo has in his archive, to think about the approach to new artwork for such iconic films, new interviews and who knows what else!
Francesco can be found on Twitter @Frangipane13