Ed Boase is co-founder of the Young Film Academy (the UK’s leading provider of practical filmmaking education to young people) and the sister production company Magma Pictures (delivering short and feature-length film productions for broadcast and cinema release).
Firstly, congratulations on 15 years of the Young Film Academy. I believe you set up this company with another OR, James Walker (1992), how did that come about?
It was around 2003/4. James and I were working together on films (our production company Magma Pictures), at the same time James was private tutoring via an agency. The agency had been providing a film course but the people responsible pulled out, the agency asked James if he would be interested. They already had 16 people signed up for a 4-days course at £500 each – it was a no-brainer. To think you can have an income from filmmaking when you start out is naïve, you have to diversify.
Our first course had a James Bond theme with the final day viewing the films at Mr Youngs Preview Theatre, an independent trade preview complex in London.
When you started this company did your vision for it match what it is today?
We had no plans at the start, it was such great fun working with the kids that we kept doing it. It gives me a fantastic outlet for creativity while engaging with young people who have a shared passion. Shortly after that we went into a Reading school for a filmmaking day, working with 60 girls. From then on it just grew. Today we help over 7,500 children per year complete their first film. We have in-house staff and approximately 20 to 30 freelance film makers.
You produced your first film, TABOO, when you were at school, with the late Desmond Llewelyn (1928). What was it about and how did you managed to get Desmond Llewelyn to be in it?
It was around Christmas 1996 when Tim Rice (former member of Radley Council) gave a talk prior to a film showing and his advice was ‘get the biggest star you can because you need one’. James Walker and I wanted to make a film and Richard Morgan, then Warden, suggested we went for it and ask Desmond Llewelyn. Fortunately, he agreed. He didn’t charge us his usual day rate, £30,000 per day, but £100 instead. He was the easiest actor I have ever worked with, very nice, extremely accommodating, and didn’t seem to mind filming in a drafty castle in Wales.
Desmond Llewelyn played an evil occultist who writes a letter to his grandson leaving a significant inheritance, but the grandson has to prove himself first by doing something horrid. The genre was horror, quite a dark film. It premiered at The Phoenix in Oxford in 1997, sponsored by a drinks company that had a drink called Taboo. Eon Productions, who make the James Bond films, came to watch.
Were there any teachers that particularly inspired you?
Max Horsey. It was 1996/97 and he had filming facilities that he was keen for boys to use to make their own films, rather than it sit around and only be used for filming plays and other events.
When you left Radley was your career plan to make films?
Yes, I was hooked. I went to London College of Printing which is now the University of Arts London. Then a BA in Film and TV production. The difficulty was how to start. You can apply for entry level jobs – I applied as a runner for Love Actually but was turned down – or you can start making films in which case there are no prescribed rules, but it is daunting. James Walker wanted to write films and I wanted to produce them, so together we set up Magma Pictures. We made a number of short films, 2 or 3 minutes long, and sent them to film festivals. You have to put yourself forward and accept that there will be lots of rejections.
Organisers of festivals go to other film festivals and if they see a film they like then you are invited to tour with them. Our most successful short film is One Small Leap made in 2002. We toured for 18 months, around the UK, Europe, Iran and Australia.
Do you have any films that you are working on now?
I had hoped to start one at the end of last year but with Covid it was cancelled. I’m thinking about making a documentary about the British film industry – filmmakers from the 1960s to the 1980s.
How do you manage your time between the two companies?
The quietest time for the Young Film Academy is over the new year and the following quarter. This is when we can start developing ideas for our own filmmaking.
Has Covid had a big impact on your companies?
Like everyone else we moved online which proved successful for the Young Film Academy. Obviously Covid has been a financial nightmare, and of course you are responsible for others, but there have been positives too. It has fast-forwarded development and creative ideas that we wouldn’t normally have had to time to do. The benefit of running your own company means we’ve had the flexibility and freedom to do what we want and not have to wait for others to make decisions.
What are your career highlights to date?
We won the Best Short Film Award at the Bristol Brief Encounters Festival. Also, the soundtrack for our film Blooded was written by the composer Ilan Eshkeri and recorded by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. The film (visual only) was playing in the background on a big screen at the same time. Amazing.
What would your advice be to current students who want to pursue filmmaking?
You can pick up the technical aspects of filming as you go along so a filmmaking degree isn’t essential. I would recommend choosing an English-based degree at the best university you can get into. Something that will help you with the writing of scripts, how to build characters, and storylines etc. All good universities are likely to have an acting/film club so you can hone your skills there. As a postgraduate you can then apply to a film school in the UK, or better still, in the USA.
Finally, any fond memories or stories of Radley you would like to recount?
I remember walking into Hall one lunch time with Desmond Llewelyn and the buzz of excitement from other boys. He was instantly recognisable as ‘Q’. It felt quite special. I also remember calling the company that made the drink Taboo from the payphone in Covered Passage, asking them if they would sponsor our film as it had the same name. We felt we had made such a hash of the pitch that we would be lucky if four bottles turned up. However, one morning I was summoned by Rob Holroyd to explain why a truck was making its way up the drive to offload boxes of alcohol. It was one thing to be caught drinking at Radley but quite another to be caught having booze delivered by the boxload.